Language Barriers

A/N: Companion piece to my story, Amongst the Silverweed. You don't have to read it to know what's going on:) contains spoilers for Chapter 2 of AtS.

Summary: When they were twelve, their parents signed them up for language classes. Ethan hates that he dropped out a year later, because sometimes nowadays he really can't understand what the hell his own twin is saying.


Ethan wasn't a bad student, he was just otherwise preoccupied, and while Justin patiently studied French grammar rules like he studied everything else that was boring, Ethan would look out the big glass windows of their study and wish that they were playing football instead.

This went on for a considerable amount of time, until their tutor, who couldn't bear how Ethan still couldn't form a proper sentence in the language, complained to their parents. There was a long discussion, and finally they let Ethan stop taking classes.

A few months later, Ethan was nominated as captain for their school's football team. Justin watched him practice from that same window sometimes, and Ethan half-hoped his brother would abandon language and go down to play too. Justin was a fast learner at everything, and Ethan was sure if Justin tried, he could get on the team.

But football season comes and goes, and Justin's still at the books. Perfect French becomes second nature for the boy, and Ethan listens to his brother and mother chatter away in French and doesn't understand a thing.

Years pass, and as Ethan races up and down the field, Justin sits indoors, reads, and watches from the window. There is a day when Ethan is too sick to play at a game, but doesn't want to let the incompetent Tom Finn take his place. Somehow, he convinces Justin to go in his place while he sits home nursing his cold and worrying. No one finds out, and Justin scores two goals that game. Ethan hopes that it means his brother will start taking an interest in football too, but no. Justin picks up a third language that year, and Ethan no longer tries to keep up with some of the things his brother says.

They sit at the dining table one evening, when their parents are not home, and Ethan tells Justin about football practice. Justin's engrossed in his Latin book, and after awhile, Ethan stops talking.

Justin looks up. "I was listening. Go on."

But Ethan storms off in a huff, knocking the book out of his brother's hands as he passes.


Ethan's always been considered as the twin who would be more likely to save a damsel in distress, but there's only one time that has happened to either of them, and it's Justin doing the saving. It's a story neither of them talks about much, but at the end of the day, Justin saved the girl and had broken two ribs.

As Ethan tries to drag his brother to higher ground, Justin starts murmuring in French and won't stop. The only French terms Ethan has bothered to learn since he'd stopped class were pick-up lines, and none of those pass Justin's lips.

So Ethan cannot understand a thing.

He sits with his brother until help comes, whispering words of comfort in one language while Justin replies in another

"What is he saying?" the paramedics try to ask Ethan, when Justin refuses to go quietly.

In the end, it takes a knowledgeable passerby to translate, and while it is mostly gibberish, Ethan starts to wonder if some of it wasn't. And he wonders if he's been missing something the whole time.


Whenever Justin is angry about something, he sometimes speaks in a jumble of both French and English. Whether it's because the French have stronger swear words or that Justin's simply lost touch with his mother tongue Ethan cannot be sure, but at least Ethan thinks he can understand most of it by watching his brother stalk around the kitchen, throwing silverware around as though hoping they would break.

Ethan listens, and thinks he understands, and says whatever he thinks may suit the situation. His words are usually very colourful nouns that can be used to describe whoever it is his brother is mad at.

He realizes how horribly wrong he may have been when one day, while Justin's off on a tangent again, their mother comes in.

"Darling, it's not your fault." she scolds him gently.

Justin continues to whisper in French as he curls into their mother's loving embrace, and Ethan hates himself.


The summer before they meet Erica, Justin falls sick while watching Ethan play football, although, it is debatable that Justin actually watched the game. The younger twin barely looked up from writing in his notebook all the game, and when the rain gets too heavy for them to even see properly, coach dismisses them and they all make a dash back to the locker rooms.

Justin sneezes as he waits for Ethan to change, but neither of them pay it any notice until Justin nearly passes out before dinner. It takes an array of doctors marching in and out before Ethan is convinced that his brother is okay. Ethan sits in his brother's room, waiting for their parents to come home from their trip, and prepares himself for Justin's inevitable onslaught of foreign tongues.

"I don't have to speak it, you know." Justin says, voice hoarse.


"I don't have to speak French. I know it upsets you. It's just more comfortable, but I don't have to speak it."

As the day progresses, Justin's cough gets worse and soon he's not speaking anything at all. Ethan watches his brother sit curled up on the king-sized bed wrapped in blankets, looking small and vulnerable. He reads the unspoken words in his brother's eyes, and gets whatever his brother needs without any words passing between them. They weren't twins for seventeen years without Ethan learning anything about his brother.

It's later that Ethan realizes something: when Justin doesn't speak, Ethan understands anyway. So he could've blamed it on the French all he wanted, but all this time he was just listening for the wrong thing.

"Can you-?" Justin begins, shaking Ethan from his thoughts. He gestures to his bag.

"Your bag? Seriously? Your fever probably fried your brain, Just, there's no need to try saving it." Ethan says pointedly.

"Just get it." Justin manages to say.

"Alright, alright. Keep your hat on. Somehow, I don't think it's a language problem anymore." Ethan says. "I think it's you. You're just way too weird, little brother."

Justin shrugs, and Ethan crosses the room to pick up the bag. As he does, he spots the little red notebook Justin had been scribbling in all day. It's still a little wet, so Ethan settles with prodding it with a finger.

"What were you doing during practice, anyway? What's in this?"

Justin looks up, confused, then smiles. "Your game strategy for the rest of senior year. Open it."

The writing starts out jumbled, and Justin strikes out a lot of things here and there. But Ethan understands this, it is football, and it is about his team. In fact, it's every story Ethan had ever told his brother about, analyzed and broken down for maximum output. Ethan stares.

"Told you I was listening." Justin quipped, before he starts coughing again.

That night, they make a pact. As soon as Justin feels better, they approach their football team's coach, and make a request. Less than an hour later, they're both in. The team loves it, because now their opponents are always confused as to which twin is which, and they're always hesitating on the field when approached by either.

And at night, when the mud has been washed away and they're sitting decent at home, Ethan studies French and catches up on everything he'd missed out during the past five years.

And by the time they meet Erica, they're both so used to speaking without words that they sometimes don't even bother saying anything meaningful with their voices.


"Look, Just, she has a rose garden."

Justin glances at the patch absently, more interested in the files he's holding. "That's nice, Eth. Did any of you see where they put her school information?"

The other two people who they've been teamed up with are no threat to Ethan, and he watches as the youngest one, Spencer, rummages through the files with Justin. The blond entertains Ethan, because he seems to be able to keep up with Justin, and he seems to like it. He's about as complicated as Ethan's twin, and to hear the both of them talk sometimes drives Ethan up the wall. Then there's Stephen, cold, emotionless, pokerface Stephen, who Ethan doesn't quite understand. But Ethan respects the young man, and Stephen understands everything even though he doesn't quite give a damn unless he has to. That's okay; they have time to work on it. Ethan smiles. Between the three of them, he's pretty sure they've got Justin pinned.


Erica becomes Ethan's girlfriend, and because Justin's brain is like a sponge, he is the one who reminds Ethan to get roses for the girl's birthday.

It's taken awhile, but Ethan's glad they finally understand each other.

I wrote this sometime last year, but never posted it. I couldn't tear myself away, so i kept on building stories, possible pasts, futures, alternate realities for the characters xD I don't love the way I wrote Ethan in this, but you know what, the past is the past, and he sure makes up for it in Silverweed :)

Let me know what you think, and if you haven't, do check Amongst the Silverweed out!