A/N: Thank you to my awesome Beta Archer28 :)
There is no place on earth worse than a high school cafeteria. I swear, there's probably one of these in Hell and you get to spend eternity looking for a someplace to sit. Luckily I have a place; in the back of the room at an otherwise empty table. A few people notice me. Some pity me. Some laugh aloud at me but secretly thank whatever gods might be listening that it's not them.
One thought about me is particularly strong so I'm ready for the spitball that's aimed at me as it wobbles through the air, dripping saliva in its path. At the last second I move my head to the side and it flies harmlessly past me, planting itself on the wall.
"Sorry about that Kit." I hear my older brother, Dean, say. "I told him not to." Dean's sitting a few tables away at the 'popular jock table'.
"Have I mentioned recently that your friend is an asshole?" I relay back to him. No one else can hear our conversation. We're not even looking at one another."So? Just get him back," my brother challenges me.
I know my brother was actually the one who convinced Zeke to shoot the spitball. Fine. Challenge accepted.
I get up and start to walk my tray to the trashcan in the corner of school cafeteria. I pass the table where Dean, Zeke and the other jocks are sitting and I nod my head and Zeke's fork. It's loaded with spaghetti and tomato sauce but it goes flying out of Zeke's hand and into my brother's chest, splattering with his t-shirt with spaghetti sauce.
I hear Dean cursing. Some of it's out loud and some in his head. Some of it's aimed at me. His friends are laughing and Zeke is stuttering apologies while in his head he's worried that he has some kind of weird hand twitch that could ruin his chances at a football scholarship. Whoops, sorry Zeke.
"What the hell was that for?" Dean thought messages me directly, after he's calmed and reordered his thoughts well enough to control them. I'm walking back to my table.
"You told Zeke to hurl that spit ball."
"But it missed you!"
"Make him think less loudly next time. I could practically hear you in his brain."
I feel my brother close his mind to me as he mulls over this information. Before he closes his mind I see that it bothers him that I was able to hide from him the fact that I knew he was the one behind the spitball. I used to not be able to close my mind to him at all. I reach my empty table and reopen the book I had been reading.
My brother and I might both be telepaths, but aside from that we don't have much in common. He's a popular jock, and me, well, I'm that 'weird girl' who sits alone at lunchtime and spends most of the day with headphones in her ears not talking to anyone.
I think the difference in our powers has something to do with it. We can both read minds, but he's better at opening and closing his or focusing on one person. I have a much harder time tuning people out, especially if they're particularly upset or emotional. He can make people do things too, influence their actions or their thoughts. I can make objects move though, which he can't do.
I spend the next few minutes attempting to read my book and trying to block out the sound of one hundred teens thinking angsty and insipid thoughts, but the thoughts leak through the words of my book, and the effort is giving me a headache. Most days I don't eat in the cafeteria, but Dean's convinced that we both need to practice our powers, and I need to practice blocking out people's thoughts.
It's no use. The harder I try, the louder the noise seems to get. I try to push back against the wave, but I've been here for twenty minutes already and I think I'm nearing my breaking point. The spitball battle was more exhausting than I let on.
The lights above me flicker a few times as I try to close my mind to everyone's thoughts racing through my brain. There's a moment of silence in the cafeteria as everyone notices the lights, and then me sitting under them. For a moment I breathe but then the thoughts come back full force and now several are about me. Now all the lights in the cafeteria flash.
"Kit, meet me by the locker room."Dean tries to keep the urgency out of his voice.
I don't say anything back but try and get out of the cafeteria as fast as I can without it being noticeable.
Outside in the hallway it's instantly quieter.
"Twenty three minutes, you did better today." Dean says, gently touching my arm. I look up at him and want to hug him, but he's covered in spaghetti sauce.
"I can't do it."
"Come on, I have to go to change." We walk in silence over to the men's locker room. Dean is careful to shield his thoughts from me and I'm grateful for the silence.
I wait outside the boy's locker room while my brother changes into an extra gym shirt he has in his locker.
"You just need to keep practicing,"Dean says, trying to soothe my frazzled nerves. I know he must feel the tension riding my thought streams.
"I can't, I just can't keep their thoughts out of my head. I'm sorry."I rub my temples; the headache is better but not gone. At least the hallway is empty and quiet. There's no one within thought radius.
"Don't apologize to me. I'm not the one with the headache."
"It's better now but I won't say no to that Advil."He had noticed a bottle of Advil in the corner of his locker.
"You're getting stronger." He tells me.
"But my control sucks. And it could be dangerous right?"
"I'm starting to have more trouble keeping my thoughts from you."
"I can't keep my thoughts from you."I remind him.
"Yeah, but I can't see your thoughts when we're talking like this. You know that. But you can see mine."
It's true. The only way I can keep Dean from seeing what I'm thinking is by opening the link between us. And I didn't used to be able to see what he was thinking during these conversations, now I see everything. Even the things he's barely conscious of thinking. Like the Advil. He'd only glanced at the bottle.
Dean suddenly has a better idea than the Advil.
"Dammit Dean!"I say, when he emerges from the locker room and offers me a flask.
"It works,"he reminds me.
"I can't show up to class drunk."
"Just take a sip and then here."He pulls out a pack of gum.
I sigh and accepted the proffered flask and take a long swig. The whiskey burns my throat and I choke for a second. Getting drunk, while it doesn't exactly help my control issues, it does dull my senses. I hear less after a few sips of alcohol. I don't like doing it though. A few sips too many and I totally lose my grip, and things go downhill fast. Right now though, I relish the little fire that's been lit in my belly and the headache recedes slowly from the sides of my brain where it had been pounding.
"Thanks brother." I say aloud. I want my head to be clear. I want him out of my head. Sometimes he can read my mind without ever looking inside it. He slides his mental shield into place and keeps his mind at a distance from mine.
"Sure lil' sis. I'm just going to put this away, okay?" He gestures at the flask and I nod. He disappears into the locker room and comes back out a moment later. "Come on, I'll walk you to class."
"Aren't you worried about people seeing you with you psycho sister?" I tease him.
"Nah." He shakes his head and gives me an affectionate squeeze with one arm. I think because of our telepathy, Dean and I are really close. We freak people out sometimes, especially when we were younger because we would just stare at each other for a really long time. No one realized we were communicating. Now that we know it freaks people out, we try not to make direct eye contact with one another when we're doing it.
"What am I going to do without you next year?" I ask him.
He shrugs. "You'll be fine."
"I could just get drunk every day for my senior year. I think lots of people do that anyway."
He sighs. "We'll keep practicing the cafeteria thing. And the control stuff. Maybe you'll even be able to make a few friends before the school year is over."
I doubt it. Dean is my only real friend. I can't stand people being to close to me. Their thoughts get so loud. And when they touch me, it's physically painful because I don't just see their thoughts; sometimes I see their memories too. That much information pouring into your brain, just doesn't feel good. But I don't need to tell Dean any of this, he already knows.
We walk in the silence and I appreciate every moment of it.
I think the silence is what I will miss most about my big brother.