Authors: Debbie and Lissanne
Disclaimer: We both own the full set of American and Australian HP books <g>. But Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling.
Summary/AN: Sequel to Separation. It's a year later and the twins no longer look alike -- how will they react? Thank you, Kel, for beta-reading.
Feedback: Yes please. Even short notes mean a lot. Again, we each wrote for a twin - let us know what you think.
**TWINCEST WARNING** If the very idea makes you cringe, leave now. Flamers will be laughed at; the only exception will be made for flamers who can explain, in a coherent fashion, the reason they insist on reading something they know they will hate.
I'm staring. I know I'm staring -- but I can't help it. I can't take my eyes off this stranger in front of me.
Where is my twin?
It's been a year since Fred and I were first separated. A long, lonely, painful year. I cared for Mum -- thankfully nearly recovered now -- and he went off to Egypt with Bill, to the Gringotts job we were both supposed to have. As a bottom-rung employee, he was not granted time off for holidays, so we had to make do with letters. Early on, there were also a few flame-blurred visits via fireplace, but since then, his odd hours meant he'd pop in Mum's fire at strange hours, while I was asleep in my -- our -- room. Our paths somehow never crossed, and it was very frustrating not to be able to see him at all.
But ever since he owled to say he was finally being granted a holiday, I've been counting the minutes. I couldn't wait to see his familiar face, to be the matching twosome we'd always been: the mirror-images, the same person in two bodies. We would be Fred&George again.
I was pacing around the living room when I heard the slight *pop* from the kitchen, followed by a familiar voice calling out in greeting. I rushed into the next room, eager to greet my identical match. But when I saw who was standing there, I stopped cold in the doorway. I feel frozen there, too stunned by what I'm seeing to move.
My first impression is that I'm looking at a younger version of Bill. The Weasley-red hair is long, pulled into a neat ponytail at the nape of his neck, and held with a leather tie. It's not as long as Bill's hair, since he's only had a year to grow it, but it's definitely much longer than mine. Fred is thinner now, too. He'll never match Ron's lankiness, but he's definitely much trimmer than before. Our normally fair skin has become tan on his body, and he's covered with about double the freckles. And are those glasses? Since when has he needed glasses?
He grins at me -- the smile, at least, I recognize -- and starts to rush forward, but I step back, uncertain. I don't know what to think. How can we be twins if we're so different now?
Oh my God. What the hell is going on? Did George just take a step back from me? The look on his face is enough to stop me in my tracks. I don't think I've ever seen him look at me like that before. It's like... it's like he doesn't know me. Like he's greeting an acquaintance, someone he's only met once or twice before. Not the twin brother who's thought of nothing else over the past year but him; the person who's been counting the minutes before he saw his George again.
I frown, trying to ascertain what to do next. Do I follow my head, and try to find out what's wrong? Or do I follow my heart and wrap my arms around him, pull him into my embrace and never let him go? It's been so long since we've touched. I've felt like I've been slowly dying inside this past year.... not being able to just reach out and know that my George is there has been unbearable. Like the most important part of my being was cruelly snatched away from me. The very essence of my soul just taken away without a second thought. And yet, now he's finally standing within arm's reach, he's backing away from me.
I know I must look a bit different. Egypt is worlds away from England. A whole different lifestyle. I know I've changed physically - the glasses being the most glaringly obvious. Not intentionally, mind. Just came with the territory.
I take another step towards him, and am incredibly pleased to see he doesn't move. He doesn't move towards me, but at least he's not taking another step back. I look at him, wondering whether I should risk it. In the end, I can't help myself. I reach out and place my hand on his cheek. The emotions that this simple gesture elicits are almost overwhelming. It takes every ounce of self control I have not to pull him close. The only thing that stops me is the look that's still on his face.
"George," I say, my voice unsteady. "It's me."
"Is it?" I whisper.
The hand on my cheek feels so familiar, almost painfully so. But I still can't reconcile his touch with his appearance. I've heard people say that motion sickness occurs when the eyes and sense of balance don't mesh. Maybe I should call this emotion sickness -- my eyes and my heart don't agree. He's telling me it's the same person I knew last year, but .
"What happened to you?" I wave vaguely in the direction of everything.
"What, these?" he asks, indicating the glasses.
"Well, I meant all the changes, but, yeah, that one too."
He grins sheepishly. "Some of us younger workers got together to play Quidditch against the Egyptian National Bank employees a couple of months ago. I got distracted by this really gorgeous Chaser and didn't see the Bludger; it hit me in the back of the head and knocked me out for a few hours. By the time I woke up, the damage to my vision had been done and there was only so much they could do to correct it. So now I wear glasses. As for the rest," he adds with a careless gesture, "I was too lazy to get a haircut, half the time too busy to eat, and a lot of our work was done on location, outdoors." He shrugs. "It's no big deal."
The words all make perfect sense when he puts it that way, I suppose, but my heart contracts at this final statement. We've spent our entire lives being The Twins. The same. I reach up and pull his hand away from my face, then stretch our arms out so our palms meet. His darker skin against my unhealthy pallor; his thinner fingers against my wider ones. Whereas he's spent the past year running all over the desert for Gringotts, I've spent the time at home, inside with Mum. Afraid to leave her, even for a moment -- few visits outside, and nothing even remotely athletic as Quidditch. And alone, so alone.
I close my eyes against the pain. "It's a big deal to me," I whisper.
My heart aches when I hear him say that.
It aches at the thought that I'm causing him pain. I can hear it in his voice; I can see it in his face. He thinks I'm not his Fred anymore, but I am. I can feel everything he's feeling. I'm trying to be nonchalant about the changes in my appearance, but it's obviously not working.
My mind races, trying to think of what I can do to prove to George it's still me. George. My George. The George I've had to live without for the last year - a long, slow, painful year in which my every waking thought was about him. As I'm standing here now, our palms together, I wonder how I made it through and retained my sanity.
I crave his touch so badly, but I don't want to go too fast, because I can sense he's still unsure, so I move my fingers to weave them gently through his. I study his face; his eyes are still closed, as if he's willing me to change back to the way I was a year ago when he opens them again.
With my free hand, I reach up and gently stroke his face. His head moves slightly to the side to lean into it. Like he's trying to forget how he sees me and feel me instead. His mouth curls into the smallest smile, and a sudden warmth spreads inside me. Obviously he recognises my touch, if not my appearance. This thought heartens me, and for the first time since I got home, I actually feel glad to be here.
But I still feel the gap. The uncertainty. It's coming off him in waves; I can read his body language like a book. Not hard, considering we're twins. He can't hide anything from me, no matter how much he might like to try. The conflicting emotions that he's fighting. I start to panic. What can I say? What can I do to make him realise that I'm still his twin?
Then it hits me - the one thing he won't be able to deny. The one thing he can't deny. The only thing that will prove to George once and for all that it's me - Fred. His twin. I quickly look around, then lean forward and give in to what I've been fighting since I Apparated back in.
My eyes are closed, but I can still somehow sense him leaning in toward me. Then comes the brush of lips against my own -- soft, gentle, and utterly, utterly familiar. A small voice in the back of my head notes that at least this hasn't changed, but then I forget everything else as my body reacts automatically to the feel of the kiss.
That sense of familiarity makes me want to weep - with joy. As my mouth remembers the feel of his, and molds itself into that well-loved pattern of closeness, I realise just how long it's been for us. It feels like a million years since we've last had this opportunity. How many nights did I lie awake at night, running my fingers over my lips in a painful and fruitless attempt to remember his touch? How much did I ache to be able to kiss his fiery image those few times I was able to see him in the fireplace? And now he's here, with me. There's no one else it could be. This moment is purely us -- no matter who else I've held close in my life, no one completes me like my twin. It is a homecoming for me, just as much as it is for him.
But no sooner does this thought flit across my mind than I bring my fingers up to brush through his hair. Like my response to his kiss, this, too, is an automatic gesture. But what I feel is not the same. Long smooth strands, bound into a tail, replace the careless tousle I'm used to. The difference startles me into opening my eyes again, and I pull away from his embrace.
Almost immediately I see hurt flash across his blue eyes and I turn away to hide my own pain. Instead, I stare blankly out the window; my breath hitches slightly, and my throat feels so tight it's almost like I've gotten a giant Canary Cream caught there. My senses just don't make sense. How can I reconcile what I see and feel and taste? All so different now. I'm so confused.
Fred's voice cracks, crushed into a whisper by the weight of his emotions; his pain is clearly audible, even to my conflicted senses. Before I can say or do anything, I feel his hand reach out and rest on my shoulder. The weight is familiar and, in a flash, I remember why -- the last time he did that was our last night together. Then, too, he was trying to reassure me, to tell me that the trials we were facing didn't mean the end of the world. Only this time, the touch is much more tentative, as if he expects me to push it away. Push him away. Oh, God. My heart contracts in realisation, and for a moment I can hardly breathe. That's what I've been doing, isn't it? How could I be pushing away the one thing I've wanted back for so long?
I turn back to face him, looking again into those deep blue pools I had shunned moments before. And I realise that beneath the unfamiliar metal frames and glass lenses, those eyes are the same as the ones I remember from a lifetime of shared glances. The ones I see in the mirror every day, only so much more.
It's all too much for me -- relief and fear and confusion, blissful familiarity and painful differences, and the end of a seemingly endless year apart . Before I can say a word, the lump in my throat suddenly gives way and tears tumble uncontrollably down my cheeks. Instinctively, I throw myself into Fred's embrace, burying my face his shoulder.
I can feel George's tears dampening my shirt, and I hear the sob he lets out - only to realise it's coming from my own throat. I wrap my arms around him tightly, wanting never to let him go again.
As I clutch him to me, I start to rock gently. This always soothes him; the feel of my arms around him, the gentle swaying motion. Whenever he was sick or sad, he would always come into my open arms and I would rock him gently. As I do this now, I feel him relax against me completely; the familiarity assures him. He knows deep down I'm still me.
I know he must have been surprised by my appearance when I first arrived, but I hadn't thought it would shock him so badly. I feel awful for not warning him; I try to imagine how I would have felt if the situation had been reversed and it was me who'd seen him like this. The thought constricts my heart and my instant reaction is to tighten my grip on my twin; I'm now holding him so tightly it must be hurting, but he doesn't seem to notice, or care. His tears have subsided, and he's now silent, except for the occasional sigh.
"I love you," I whisper gently in his ear, still holding him tight. Although I can't see it, I can feel the smile that spreads across his face. It's like he needed that one final reminder; that one final piece of proof that it's me. He gently disentangles himself from my embrace, and pulls back just far enough so he can look at me.
"I love you too, Fred. I've missed you so much," he whispers back. As if to reinforce his words, he leans in and gently brushes his lips against mine; the feel of them sending a small shiver down my spine. I feel the tears welling up in my eyes again; I'm home. I'm really home. It's really my George standing in front of me. My twin.
The being I love more than life itself. The one person I can't live without. The other half of my soul. At that moment, the past year becomes a blur, and I can't think of how I've lived through it without him. Without his laughter. Without his touch. Without his love.
As I stare into his eyes, the mirrors of my own, I see it. All the love and want and desire that flows through him, like it does through me. He wants, he needs to hear it again; how much I love him. So I tell him.
And tonight, I'll show him.
|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|