Jamie and Kian were close once. Really, they were.

It all started when they were very little, because that's when everything starts, right? Everything has a beginning. Everything.

Let's start with…let's start with Jamie.

Yes, that sounds good.

Once upon a time, there lived a lady named Nora and a man named Nathan. Nora was free-spirited, always ready with a smile and regularly dyed her hair a fearless, platinum blonde. That's how people knew her, that's how others identified her.

That's who she was.

When she was younger, she had dreams of falling in love. Not just falling in love, but having children to tuck into bed at night and kiss on the forehead. Having children that'd grow up to be beautiful and fill the gaps in life. She wanted love. That was all.

Maybe the reason why Nora craved love so desperately was because the household she'd grown up in was particularly lacking in that respect. Her mother wasn't cruel, but she was cold. Tight lips, eyes always intensely focussed on anything, everything other than her only child. Nora's daddy…he hadn't been a very nice person. That's what she told her friends, when they asked in passing why her parents were no longer together.

He…he wasn't a very nice person.

And truly, that was the truth. He hadn't been a nice person.

Not at all.

Nora met Nathan at university. He always sat right at the back, in every one of his lectures – that's what Nora first noticed. The second thing she noticed was that he always looked so serious.

But he wasn't a serious person, not at all. She found this out after a series of events (the first of which was Nathan dropping his laptop on Nora's foot) and by the time she could say she really, well, did quite really know Nathan, quite well actually, she'd also realised that she was quite in love with what she knew. He couldn't fall asleep lying on his back or his front; before he finally drifted off, he lay curled up in a foetal position, breathing erratic, as if being torn between two worlds. He didn't enjoy anything that involved sitting still, and he was majoring in Environmental Studies not because he cared about the earth and its fate, but because he thought he should care about it.

When Nathan was young, he knew only three people. Those three people were also, coincidentally, the only people in the world he loved. Those three people were, as age follows: his mother, his Auntie Dee, and his grandma. Those were the people that taught him the traits that would define him when he grew: it does not matter how little money you are given; you must always pay it back, whether that be 50p or £50. It does not matter how disgustingly you are treated; you must pay everyone the same great respect. And there's this, which, for whatever reason under the sun, Nathan paid particular attention to: listen to what people have to say.

Nathan and Nora got married in the summer of a calm year where everyone seemed to be just fine. Just fine. Nora wore a dress that poured over her body like water. She looked beautiful.

They both did.

When it was over and they lay together, Nora asleep, in their hotel suite at Olive Tree Hotel, Nathan thought…well, he thought (as held her, blonde her sprayed across his chest, her nose tucked into his neck) that this must be a dream. Staring up at the ceiling, thinking…my god, this must be a dream.

It has to be.

But it wasn't.

Nathan, as was actually very common among people of his generation, fell into a career that had absolutely nothing to do with his university degree. He went willingly, though, recognising the opportunity (and the salary of course) and taking it. You have to grab all the opportunities that life gives you. You have to experience everything. That was something else he was taught, back when he small.

Nora fell pregnant just under two years after their marriage. This was a dilemma for the both of them for a few reasons.

The first reason being that Nora had always wanted to be independent. That's something she'd craved, from the time she was small and had realised that the radiator in the lounge did not actually work and that was why she had to wear all the jackets she owned when it was winter. The house she grew up in as a child was…was not one you'd showcase, shall we say. In Nora's eyes, things were the way they were because of her father, who was not around. Not anymore. Her mother was a 'homemaker' though really, she didn't deserve the word. When Nora's father had…gone, they'd had nothing.

They'd had absolutely nothing.

Nora swore to herself that she would never end up like her mother before she even realised she was doing it. Nora's plan was to go to school, finish university with honours and secure herself a good job that'd give her 'financially secure' status. The rest, she hadn't planned. But the rest, she knew, would have to fall around the main immovable building blocks that were in no circumstance going to change.

Another dilemma that the couple faced was the fact they both wanted their child to grow up in an environment where he/she felt loved. Nora remembered the cracks in her mother's face when she was young, how she wanted to fill them up. Nathan remembered the way he didn't really…didn't really feel right being a boy amongst a house of three fully grown women. Didn't feel right at all.

So of course, love overruled Nora's wish for independence.

She just wanted to love her child.

And Nathan…Nathan just wanted a normal family. He just wanted a wife and a kid and a nice job and a smile to wake up to every morning.

Really, that's all Nathan ever wanted.

So they had their child. A boy. They named him Jamie. When he was a baby, he laughed at just about everything; maybe he found everything hilarious, maybe he thought it all beautiful.

And when Jamie was not even one years old, Nora had found that she was pregnant. Again. Nathan didn't know what to think. Another child, though? Another gurgling baby to share smiles all around?

Well, why not.

And so Kian was born.

Juggling caring for both of her babies was something Nora found extremely difficult. But she refused her husband's proposal of a nanny; they were her children and so she would be the one to look after them.

There was less than a year's difference between Jamie and Kian. They got along fine as babies; loved to fall into each other and squeeze tight, loved to poke at the other's eyes until a frazzled blonde woman was left to deal with two crying babies who could only be calmed by a gentle lullaby.

It was on a starry night…

They got along just fine.

But there came a turning point, of course, because there do seem to be quite a few of these heckling turning point things that crop up when all is running smoothly.

When Jamie was fifteen years old, he got a girlfriend. And this was no casual, primary school thing that Kian knew people of his and his brother's age had. No, this was not that at all.

Kian knew it was not that at all because Anna came round the house. For dinner. All the time. Kian knew it was not like that at all because…ah, there was that one particular time.

Jamie had been teaching Kian how to play the guitar. Kian got easily frustrated because he was a fast learner, usually, and found that he could not pick up chords easily or remember finger placements at all.

Jamie found his younger brother's (because Kian was younger, despite the next-to-nothing age difference) irritation amusing. What he liked particularly was when Kian got so annoyed with the 'stupid guitar' (Kian's words) that he kicked out his feet and his lips would do this…this curious thing where they'd pout but in a tight way and—

So, yes. He'd been teaching Kian how to play the guitar.

There was this particular evening that Kian took the stairs two at a time because he'd had this revelation, this fantastic revelation that you can do anything as long as you put your heart into it, as long as you have the passion for it and as long as you can believe you can! And this revelation may have been spurred on by a certain Disney movie he'd been watching but oh well!

Kian didn't bother knocking on his brother's door; – I mean, Jamie never knocked on his door so it was only fair, right? – he just shoved straight in.

And stopped right short.

Kian did not expect to see his brother half-lying on top of Anna Hemsworth, but that's what he saw. He especially didn't expect to see him with his hand up her shirt which resulted in a stretch of her stomach on show – pale and smooth and taut.

He especially did not expect his brother's reaction.

"What the fuck?" Jamie snarled His hair was everywhere, his mouth firm. "Don't you know how to knock?"

Kian was frozen. God, he didn't know what to do. "I– sorry!" His voice was high and his eyes were upset and he swivelled around to hurry out the door and pull it shut after him.

Oh, God.

Jamie. He'd sounded so…so irritated, so annoyed. He'd glared at Kian like he'd truly disliked him in that moment. Kian knew that Anna had probably been looking at him in the same way but he wasn't looking at her, wasn't paying attention to her.

He could only look at his brother.

God, he'd sounded so…so angry.

Kian reeled his mind back over the past day, trying to identify something that he'd done wrong, some vital mistake he'd made, some misplaced word that'd caused his brother to take huge offence. But he couldn't think of anything.

Jamie wasn't the type of person to cry and get offended about everything. In all honesty, Jamie just didn't seem to care about all that much, and…and he could be quite…quite cruel sometimes to other people but he loved Kian. Jamie loved Kian. Kian knew it because Jamie told him sometimes and brothers can't not love each other, right?

Right?

Oh God, Kian hoped so. He really, really hoped so. Jamie was…Jamie was everything. Jamie made sure no one at school so much as touched him, made sure he never felt lonely, protected and warded off those particularly cruel ones with sharp words.

Kike. Faggot.

Jamie was his brother. His only brother. He cured boredom and…just about everything else, actually.

In all honesty tough, Kian wasn't sure why Jamie had snapped at him. Neither of them ever knocked, ever, and if locking the bathroom door weren't an inborn habit in the both of them, they'd both have experienced some…awkward things.

But…but maybe that's what girls do to you, Kian thought, eyes pained. He had, afterall, been in the middle of…yeah. With a girl.

God, Kian really needed to learn to knock.

Much as Kian fretted, however, he never thought the situation had bothered Jamie so much that he'd turn cold on him for…for a while.

Jamie was not speaking to him.

Jamie would walk past Kian in the hallway after dishing out a cool, pointed stare, as if he didn't even know Kian. As if they weren't brothers that had been close their entire fifteen years of life.

Or they'd both be in the kitchen at the same time, Jamie would be making a sandwich and Kian would be going to get a drink.

At times like that, Jamie wouldn't even look at him.

But Kian knew, knew, that Jamie saw him and that he wasn't just some ghost because he noticed the tenseness of his older brother's shoulders, how, when Jamie's back was turned to him, it was completely still. He did not move.

And it was then that Kian began to suspect that it was not the lack of door knocking at an awkward moment that had made Jamie so…so goddamn cold.

Though he didn't know it, he was right.

The night that Kian walked in on Jamie and Anna, roughly three hours before, the young couple sat in Jamie's room, cross-legged on his blue-bedspread bed.

Anna said, rather abruptly, "So, what's wrong with your brother? No offence or anything."

Jamie wasn't comprehending. "What exactly do you mean by that? You tell me what's wrong with my brother."

He was getting defensive, as he always did when people brought up the subject of Kian. He couldn't help it, though; how could anyone having anything against Kian? He was the softest person Jamie knew. He was the nicest person Jamie knew, too. You could see that just by looking at him, looking right into Kian's eyes, so grey, so goddamn grey, and wide and…frightened. All the time, so frightened.

"Honestly, I didn't mean it like that." Anna's eyes were on the verge of panic. "I just mean…you two are so different. He's—"

"Because we're different people," Jamie interrupted. He leaned back against his wall, surveying Anna through narrowed eyed. She might be his girlfriend, but if it came to this, came to her being like everybody else, she was still just a girl. Just a fucking girl. "Just because we're related and the same age doesn't mean we have to be fucking carbon copies of each other."

"I know that," Anna said hurriedly, reaching over to put her hand on her rather moody boyfriend's thigh. "I really didn't mean it horribly. I just mean...well, like you said, you're the same age but…like, you treat him like a girl."

"What?"

Jamie stared at her, fucking stared because…what?!

"I can't believe you even…" Anne shook her head, wispy blonde hair flying out. "Can you really not even see it? It's like you're this protective older brother and he's your little sister. Like you won't even let anyone touch him."

Jamie just stared.

"Come on, you know it's true," Anna said, crinkling her brow down. "I mean it's not like you're together all the time at school, but when you are it's like you're guarding him. Does he have…" Anna hesitated, and her voice dripped lower. "Does he have a…disease? Or something like that?"

"What? No." Jamie could not even believe the conversation was even taking place. It was too surreal. "Jesus, no. Does he look like he has a disease?"

"Well, no, he doesn't." Anna shook her head and shifted closer to Jamie, so close she was almost sitting on his lap. "Is he…I know it's none of my business, I really do know that, but…is he…gay?"

Jamie said nothing.

For a long while, he said nothing at all. Just looked at his girlfriend, his hot girlfriend, with tits that were pretty fucking big and pretty fucking disproportionate to her waifish body.

God, what the fuck was there to say?

"No," Jamie said shortly.

But that was a lie.

Well…it could be. The truth was that Jamie didn't know what Kian's deal was. It wasn't something that…that he'd ever thought about. He tried, in that moment, to picture Kian with a guy. Imagined a guy without a face touching Kian's waist, kissing Kian's neck, making Kian's lips curve up in true happiness.

No. No, Jamie didn't like that. No.

But then Jamie didn't like the thought of Kian having a girlfriend either. A short girl, Jamie imagined. Down to earth with a quick, modest smile like his mother's. In Jamie's head, the girl was leaning onto her tip toes to kiss Kian's mouth. Kian's lips.

No.

Fucking no.

"Really?" That was when Anna slipped herself onto Jamie's lap, legs draping over his hips to straddle him. "He's not gay? Like…really?"

Jamie had really had e-fucking-nough with this subject. Really. "He isn't."

Then he grabbed her in a kiss.

Jamie just wanted to forget about any hypothetical boyfriend or girlfriend of Kian's. He wanted to forget that Anna was right, that he was protective over his brother, very much so, and he wanted to forget that maybe…maybe people looked at Jamie and then Kian and then back at Jamie and squinted and thought, hm, something there isn't right, something is off, something—

Oh, fuck, Jamie just wanted it all to vanish.

Kian really, really wished Jamie would stop ignoring him. Really, really wished, with all of his heart, with all that he felt. He felt so hurt. So hurt inside. Jamie had hurt him but it wasn't Jamie's fault. Kian had done something; there was no other option. Why else would Jamie be treating him so…so differently?

Kian's mother could see that her son was upset, and though she was concerned, she had to admit that she wasn't that concerned; Kian spent a lot of his time being sad over things. But that was just Kian. Her youngest child was a very sensitive and responsive person, and though it was endearing and made something in her heart swell like a balloon that seemed like it could lift her up, it was something you grew used to with time. Actually, it was a recent thing that Kian managed not to mope around the house for a solid two hours because Nora had brought home eggs that weren't free-range.

But that was just Kian. That's just who he was.

Once Nora saw that this was no common bout of upset for Kian, she tried to talk to him. Tried to rope out exactly what was up. In a lot of ways, Kian was still just a baby. And he would, of course, always be her baby.

But she got nothing.

Kian wanted to tell her. He really, really wanted to talk to his mother. In general, he was a very open person that liked sharing things with people. He wanted to talk things through with his mother. He wanted her reassurance. He wanted her to talk to Jamie for him.

But he could not deal with Jamie's more than likely backlash.

So he kept quiet. He didn't tell her that he felt like a part of him was missing and he didn't tell her how the house just didn't feel like home any more for some reason and he didn't tell her how whenever he looked at his guitar – the one he'd gotten for Christmas a few months ago – he himself felt so hollow.

God, he couldn't tell her any of it.

She had of course noticed that her two sons weren't talking to each other. This she found strange, but she knew better than to breach the subject. Something in her elder's sons shoulders, the tenseness around his mouth…she knew this wasn't a mere tiff between siblings.

Save from that time, she couldn't even recall a time Jamie and Kian had fallen out.

And Kian tried, only once, to talk to Jamie. To ask him what was wrong. To ask him what he'd done to upset him into silence. To get him to talk again.

So he knocked on Jamie's door. A slow, hesitant tap.

"Come in."

Oh, God.

Kian entered his older brother's room. It was blue, everything in there was blue but the pine furniture. A poster of a big-busted, topless brunette against a football backdrop dominated the far wall.

"Hi," Kian said, quietly, to his brother.

Jamie was sat in the centre of his bed, surrounded by heaps of crinkled paper, a camera, his laptop and piles and piles of CDs. He must be sorting; he did so every two or so months.

"What are you doing in here?" Jamie said flatly.

He wasn't even looking at Kian.

Kian had this urge to say but I knocked this time! but he had a feeling that wouldn't go down well. "I…" he began. His voice felt stuck. "What…" His eyes shifted to Jamie's floor so he could sift through the thoughts in his head and calm his nerves. God, why was he shaking?

Jamie's his brother.

"What did I do, Jamie?" It sounded so self-pitying, so…childish. He didn't sound like a fifteen year old; he sounded like a four year old who had angered his much older role model of a brother.

Him and Jamie weren't even a year apart.

"Don't know what the fuck you're talking about."

Kian flinched at his brother's cussing. It's not that he minded swearing; with a brother like Jamie, it was just part of the package. But he…when Jamie spoke to Kian, rarely did he swear. And the few times he did, it was never at him.

Kian supposed that this wasn't exactly at him either, but…it felt like it.

His heart felt shivery.

"You aren't talking to me," Kian whispered. Jamie still wasn't looking at him.

"Then what the fuck do you think I'm doing now?" Jamie snarled.

And finally, he looked at Kian.

The younger of the two actually stepped back. Jamie looked positively…furious.

God, he looked so angry.

Is that anger directed at me? Kian thought, and he was sure he could feel his heart tremble into pieces.

"I'm sorry," Kian choked, because he was going to cry any moment now, he knew it. "I'm sorry for whatever I did, I promise I didn't mean to make you angry or make you feel—"

"Just shut up." Jamie voice was cold and hard, and he turned away from his brother. "Shut up and get out."

That was when Kian started crying.

"Please," Kian whispered, and everything fogged with tears. Then he blinked, and his brother's face came into focus. "I'm s-so sorry—"

"No." Jamie sounded so fierce that it made Kian cry harder. "Get the fuck out of my room! And leave me alone!"

So Kian did. Still crying, still trembling, still bearing the weight of an incredibly heavy heart, he pushed himself out of his brother's room and ran to his own. And he cried.

And he cried, and he felt like he would never ever stop.

And he cried.

He wandered out onto his balcony and let the wind stroke his face. Closing his eyes, he took a huge breath in. Oh, God.

Leave me alone!

Oh, God.

Just moments after Kian had left, Jamie's face had completely collapsed. His hands were clenched tight on the bed and…and he looked stricken.

Crestfallen.

His breathing grew quick and shallow and all he could think was Kian and no don't cry please don't cry I'm sorry I love you I'm sorry and I didn't mean to make you cry don't cry please please no please.

And that was when Jamie started to cry.

Kian's face. Kian's mouth, Kian's eyes, the way Kian looked at him. This is what Jamie imagined.

This is what made Jamie cry.

And cry he did. Cried so hard he stumbled into the bathroom and dry heaved over the toilet.

Kian, of course, could hear none of this; he was still out on his balcony. He couldn't hear the heavy fall that came from somewhere near the bathroom. Certainly didn't know they were Jamie's knees falling to the floor. He couldn't hear his older brother crying like his whole world had been torn apart, and then again.

And again.

Kian was too occupied with his own tears because they just wouldn't stop. It truly seemed like there was a waterfall hidden behind his eyes.

Oh, God.

The way Jamie had looked at him…his dark hair had been a mess, his eyes, so blue, avoiding him for so long and then WHACK. They were on his face and they'd hurt Kian because of how…how angry they seemed.

Please don't hate me, Kian thought over and over and over and over. Whatever I did, I take it back. Please don't hate me.

Please.

But Kian got the message. He got that this was what Jamie wanted. Jamie wanted Kian to leave him alone.

He'd just have to do that. However much it hurt, however much his heart felt like it was trying to pull out of his body, he'd have to listen to what Jamie wanted. Because Jamie was his brother and he loved his brother.

He loved his brother a lot.

So he stopped talking to Jamie. He stopped looking at him as well, but that was more because whenever he saw Jamie – noticed how tall he was, the surety of his stride, his cheekbones – his stomach felt like it had been knifed.

So he…he pretended Jamie just wasn't there. Tried. Tried so hard.

And Jamie…Jamie tried, too. God, did he try. When he found that his younger brother was actually…actually leaving him alone, he truly, truly wanted to hurt himself.

What the fuck had he done?

But then, he supposed, there was no other way. They couldn't…Jamie couldn't…not when Kian was so…

Oh, God. Oh, fuck.

Fuck.

At school, things were…things were grey. Jamie and Kian had none of the same lessons so they didn't have to play the ghosting game there. They didn't have the same group of friends either, so they could just…they could just be. But that isn't how things worked out.

Jamie's friends constantly asked him about what was wrong. Jamie only sneered at them to shut the fuck up. He never stopped staring some place far off in the distance. He was holding Anna's hand, but he wasn't thinking of Anna.

He was miserable.

Kian wasn't too different. Though where Jamie turned any external sigh of sadness into anger, Kian bathed in his misery. He couldn't be around his friends because he couldn't pay attention to anything they were saying. The grey in his stomach and heart threatened to take over at any moment.

He didn't want to cry in front of his friends.

So he retired to the library. He sat in the library, right at the back tucked behind the corner of a shelf where no one could see him. And he planted his face in his hands.

And he shook.

He couldn't focus on Jamie's face. He conjured it to his mind and pushed it away immediately. God, no.

No.

It was too painful. It hurt too much. So instead he focussed just on the grey and not what caused it. He wanted to cry it out. He wanted to tear it away from his soul and leave it tattered on the ground.

Kian didn't want it.

When he exited the library, it was with tired, flat eyes. He knew he was going to be late for class but for once in his life he just didn't care. He couldn't bring himself to care about much actually. Kian just wanted to curl up somewhere warm and just…just be. Without anyone there, without anything to listen to, just…just warmth. That would be, Kian thought wistfully, very nice.

It was just as he was thinking that, actually, that someone tapped him on the shoulder. Just a tap.

Kian turned around.

Oh, no.

Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

It was them. It was them. Xavier, Ben, Gregory, Soli and Matthew – the possessors of sharp words. Sharp words they loved to fling at Kian with masochistic pleasure.

Kian didn't know why. He didn't know why they liked hurting him so much. What kind of person likes hurting others?

These five. These five do.

Kian supposed that the reason they liked going at him was because he was an easy target. Not particularly tall, quite thing too, and eyes so eternally afraid.

Yeah, that was why they went after Kian.

"Hi there." Ben grinned at Kian. "Noticed your guard dog isn't around."

Kian's heart was…pounding.

He had nothing to say. No words for any of them.

"Cat got your tongue?" Xavier purred. His eyes winked bright in the sunlight.

His sidekicks smiled.

"Actually," Ben said, darting a look at Xavier. "We noticed you and your big brother haven't been speaking. All this week, actually. Lover's tiff?"

Kian knew he should go. Knew he should just bolt. Run for it. They were all standing in a secluded quad-like section of the school. People only ever came through to get to their classes.

And everyone was in class.

Everyone but them.

"Surprised you haven't fucked yet," Soli drawled, eyeing Kian like he was a piece of clothing. "Or have you?"

Kian was going to cry.

"But yeah," Gregory said. "We have something for you."

No.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Something flew out of the air and collided, bricked, into Kian's left cheek.

He went down like a soldier. Cracked his head against the floor.

He didn't pass out. At least, not right away. Of course he didn't. That would have been too easy, that would have allowed him to forget for at least a little while.

He stayed very much conscious. Saw the sky fly over his head. Saw it stay blue, so blue.

So blue.

The pain in his face made him retreat further inside himself. He didn't feel the cold of the ground, didn't even notice the bell ring whenever it did.

Kian just laid there.

Just shut up! Leave me alone!

Kian closed his eyes.

An eternity later, or what felt like it, he opened his eyes. He was staring at a ceiling with swirly patterns. Lying next to a radiator that was so warm he instinctively moved closer to it.

Oh God his face.

It hurt. Oh, God, it hurt. It felt like someone had stuck dozens and dozens of pins inside the left half of his face, and not carefully. Felt like they'd stabbed him with them.

Kian was going to shut his eyes, shiver up a breath to stop from crying and try not to think of Jamie, but a voice came through the door at the same time a woman in white uniform did.

Oh. Kian was in Matron's.

"Hi there Kian," Matron said softly. She looked at him and when she did, he could see the pity in her eyes. He bit down harder on his lip to stop the tears. "How are you feeling?"

Kian opened his mouth to answer, but then he shut it again. How did he feel? How did he feel? He didn't know. Oh, what would he know? His face hurt an awful lot but that wasn't…that wasn't what hurt the most.

Don't hate me please don't hate me please please please whatever I did I take it back I'm sorry please don't

"Okay," Kian whispered finally. "My face…"

"Yes," Matron said quietly. She sat on the chair beside the bed Kian laid on. "I've applied some salve so that'll do its job. Can you tell me, Kian…what exactly happened here?"

Kian let out all the breath he had in a whoosh.

"Someone hit me," he said, and his voice was so small and innocent that Matron just wanted to tell him that it would be fine, it would be okay, it would all be okay, but she didn't really know that, did she?

"I see," Matron said quietly. "Kian, would you mind sitting up for me a moment? I'll help you, here."

Matron helped shift Kian into a sitting position, and, rather heavily, Kian looked around the room. He was lying on the only reclining surface inside it, and there were a few baskets of clothes to the other side of the room. He knew this was a room that branched from Matron's main medical room.

A room for the more serious injuries.

"What I'm going to do, Kian, is I'm going to shine this light into both of your eyes." Matron held up a thin, finger-sized torch so that Kian could see. "It's just to check if you're concussed."

She shined the light in Kian's eyes and he blinked and jerked back a bit.

"That seems to be good." She tucked the torch away in her pocket. "Do you feel dizzy, Kian? Sick in your stomach?"

Kian shook his head and immediately stopped when his face roared in protest. "No."

"Does it seem a bit too bright for you in here? Is the light too much for you to bear?"

Again, "No."

"That's good then." Matron smiled at Kian. "You don't have a concussion."

Kian didn't really know what to say to that. He guessed that was good.

"Could you wait one second while I just phone home?" Matron asked, to which Kian nodded. "What's your last name Kian?"

"Field," he said. Oh, he was so tired. His mother was going to be extremely upset about what had happened but…oh, Kian was too tired to think about that properly.

Instead he watched the ceiling. And he pushed Jamie from his head again and again.

But Jamie wouldn't stay away for long.

If this keeps on, Kian thought, I am going to fall apart.

Then he shook his head. I'm already falling apart, he thought. It's just a matter of time until there are no more pieces left.

When Matron entered the room again, she said, "I've phoned your mother. She's coming to pick you up right away. Actually, your brother is waiting outside. He said he'd like to see you."

Kian's heartbeat immediately picked up in pace.

Something flew out of the air and collided, bricked, into

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

"No!" Kian shouted. "No. Please. Please don't let him…" Kian was…no, he couldn't do it. He wouldn't be able to manage. He would truly fall apart then, if Jamie were to see him like this.

If Jamie were to look at him the way he'd done when he'd said leave me alone shut up leave me alone shut up shut up…

Kian would die.

"Oh." Matron looked rather startled. "But…I mean, he's your brother, Kian. Are you sure?"

Kian nodded vigorously. "Yes. Please."

Matron still looked rather concerned as she left the room again, presumably to tell Jamie that no, Kian didn't want to see him.

Kian did not want to see him.

Nora cried. She saw her youngest son's face, and she cried. Kian himself hadn't taken a look in the mirror yet and so he wasn't sure what exactly it looked like, but if it looked as bad as it felt then he had an idea. A clear, gruesome idea.

Are you okay, Kian? Are you sure you're alright, honey? It's okay to cry, you cry all you want. Who did this, Kian? Please tell me who did this.

His mother had every right under the sun to be frazzled with worry; the papers she had to fill out because of Kian's 'assault' were proof enough. But he just…Kian just couldn't cry. Couldn't bring himself to…to care about any of this. Inside he felt hollow.

So hollow.

His mother settled Kian down onto the couch and for a long while, she just sat there with him. Just looked at his face, her beautiful baby boy's face.

Who could do such a thing?

Kian wondered the same thing, but with less passion. Less fervour, less care. He felt like he was being dragged through time. Felt like being wasn't natural somehow.

God, he was tired.

So he slept.

It was a sleep devoid of dream, just sleep. Sleep as blank as it came. The kind of sleep that came softly and left with a pull. When Kian awoke, he just stared up at the ceiling, mind in a haze. And he thought. And he stared. And he thought.

"You're awake?"

It was a quiet voice that spoke, soft, cautious somehow. It was so familiar in every terrible way in the world that it made Kian freeze.

He'd thought he was alone. Of course, he knew his mother was here somewhere but…

Oh, Jamie.

Kian didn't say anything; he didn't know what to say. He didn't think he had any words left for anyone.

Instead he blinked up at the ceiling, and tried not to cry again. He'd slept but he still felt so tired. Tired to the bone.

"Kian." Jamie said his younger brother's name like it wasn't just a single word. It came out so horribly broken and Kian thought but that's who I am.

Oh, God.

"Did Xavier and his lot do this?" Jamie asked. Kian was looking at the ceiling and lying down, so he couldn't see his brother's face.

If he could, he'd see that it was pained.

Kian swallowed and linked his hands together. Xavier. His cheek. Oh, he didn't want to think about any of it. Energy can never be destroyed.

Why couldn't it all just go away?

"Please," Jamie said. "Please, Kian. I…I'm sorry."

I'm sorry. The apology hung limp in the air like a stale offering. Take it or leave it.

Please take it, Kian, please.

I love you. Please take it.

"I don't know what I did wrong," Kian said finally, slowly. That was when he sat up, finally looking at Jamie.

Flinch.

"But I'm sorry," Kian continued, softly. "I…whatever it was…I did, I'm so…so sorry."

How could Jamie say that Kian had done nothing wrong? How could Jamie tell his brother that he'd acted the way he had to…to protect him?

How could he ever explain to Kian how sorry he was that…that it had backfired?

There was a flame in Jamie's stomach. And it was dimming.

"Where's ma?" Kian quietly asked.

"At the school," Jamie said back, just as quiet. "There's some papers she has to fill out or something because of your…face."

Kian got up from the couch, which hurt more than he thought it would because his coccyx was bruised. After leaving the warmth and comfiness of the sofa, he realised he was cold.

"Where are you going?"

That was when Kian looked at Jamie. Turned around to face him.

Jamie stood there, and if Kian had to pick one word, just one, to describe the demeanour of his brother in that silent moment, it would be 'naked.' He looked as if everything of him had been stripped away. He looked at Kian and there was a plea in his eyes. He was begging him.

Please.

Please.

Kian had to tilt his head up to look into Jamie's eyes.

So blue.

"Up to my room." It didn't sound like Kian's voice; it seemed so far away, and so foreign. "Thank you for watching after me while I was sleeping."

No.

Jamie grabbed Kian just as he was about to ascend the stairs. Took hold of his shoulders and easily spun his small frame around.

Kian blanched, almost stumbled back. Jamie was…he was right there.

His cologne, the colour of his hair, his hair in his eyes, his lips. Jamie.

"No." And if Kian had thought Jamie had broken his name, it was nothing when put up to that word. No. "Don't." Jamie's voice was soft and perfect like a feather. It wisped over Kian's collarbones.

Kian looked up. Looked up into doves of eyes. Soft, soft eyes.

"Don't."

Kian's heart was accelerating, and his back felt uncomfortably hot. Jamie was moving forward imperceptibly but then he was just there, so close. Oh God, so close. Kian's back was flush against the wall and Jamie was almost flush against Kian. His brother.

When Kian looked at Jamie, something inside him trembled. Jamie's cheekbones were high and defensive, and they held his eyes prisoner. Kian looked into those eyes and he caught something small. He caught something flying in the buckets of Jamie's eyes, and when he opened it up and looked at it, he froze.

Oh, no.

How could Jamie tell his brother that he'd acted the way he had to…to protect him?

He didn't have to. Not now.

Kian understood.

"I…" Kian didn't know what to say. He didn't know this situation. He didn't know that look and even though he'd gazed into those eyes so many times before, the pair in front of him looked so, so unfamiliar because he was looking at them in a new light.

Oh my God.

Jamie. Oh, Jamie.

Jamie's hand came up to press against Kian's waist. Pressed against the fabric, through his skin and to his bones. And he looked at Kian, and he thought…he thought this had to be the first time he'd felt ashamed of anything in front of his brother.

Kian closed his eyes. If he shut them really, really tight, so tight so that he saw stars, he could pretend he was melting into the wall. Melting in and through. In and through, in and through.

So he didn't know what it was that pressed against his cheek. But he knew it was warm. So he didn't know what it was that strung across his eyelids like a web. But he knew it was light. So he didn't know what it was that stroked down all of his neck. But he knew it was slow.

And when he opened his eyes, all he felt were the tingles from all of it. The leftovers.

When he opened his eyes, Jamie was biting his lip.

And when Kian walked up the stairs, the carpet shuddering warmth through his body, his footfalls light and slow, he held his brother's secret in his heart.

...

Kian was listening to music.

That's what Jamie heard from his brother's room. Music.

It felt comforting, almost. The music drifted like wind from Kian's room to his. From Kian.

I think I made it very clear.

Jamie's brother was stuck inside his head like his very own song. He was confined to the roof of Jamie's head. All thought turned to Kian. All thoughts rose to the roof of Jamie's head like smoke and dissolved into Kian.

His shoulders.

Kian always had an…odd way of standing. Hunched over but never tense. Eternally trusting of a world that whipped him over the back, endlessly. Jamie could almost see the slashes.

Is that supposed to be enough?

Jamie's eyes closed in a blink. It was night outside.

Dark in his room.

Jamie was curled on his bed like a ball and all he could do, really, was stare into his wall. Eyes wide open, completely unaware of anything but himself, and his thoughts.

His black thoughts.

It was Kian, all of it.

If you still care, don't ever let me know.

Everything was Kian the roof of his mind the wall he stared into the backs of his eyelids when he fell asleep when he walked out of his bedroom door in the morning and Kian smiled at him the small of Kian's back his shoulder blades the droopiness of his eyes because the past week he'd seemed so tired the jut of Kian's lip when he was sad when Jamie had made him sad Kian's hands which were so, so small, Kian's eyes which were the girliest he'd ever seen, ever, the way Kian said his name, the way Kian said nothing at all, the way Kian had looked at him downstairs when his eyes had widened and his lips had parted just a little bit because he'd

realised.

Jamie could hear the softness of a guitar now. The strumming. Kian was playing, or trying to. If Jamie hadn't stopped talking to Kian, he would have known the basic chords by now.

But Kian didn't, because Jamie had left him cold, so Jamie listened through the wall as the strings meshed together in a clumsy line. Jamie listened.

And he said nothing.