They were sitting in the great living room of the family's summer house. Their parents had gone on a formal gathering thrown by the senator and they relished in the fact that their presence wasn't necessary. Bash was sitting on the couch next to Mary, casually flipping through channels, not really in the mood for watching anything. All he wanted to do was breathe in her sweet vanilla scent and maybe wrap her lock of her silky raven hair in his fingers. It was heady, this feeling. The hot air, her smell and her proximity. If only he could have her attention. But he didn't.

Francis was sitting by the open window, a joint in his hand while he dreamily let out puffs of smoke in the night air. Mary was watching him as his face was illuminated by the moonlight, emphasizing his delicate features in shades of black and silver. Suddenly she sat up and went to stand by him, trying to take in the view outside the window. He seemed completely undisturbed by her presence, much more so than Bash could pull off. His hand however raised slowly and his palm traced her inner thigh, going higher and higher, beneath her white strapless dress until she gasped and slapped it away. Their gazes locked and her face, now just as illuminated as his, bore an expression that radiated anger, embarrassment and from the way her eyelids lowered, lust. Francis smirked at her unapologetically, completely confident in the effect he had on her.

Bash averted his eyes back to the screen, unable to watch another moment of that interaction. It had always been like this. He only had eyes for her. She only had eyes for his brother.

His earliest memory of Mary was in a white dress, similar to the one she wore now. A red ribbon in her hair and her skinny legs running until she sat beside him in the garden bench. He had a chocolate in his hand, that one of the maids gave him after lunch. He passed it to her without a second thought. He could never deny Mary anything. He was always nice to her and she was always nice to him. That's when Francis came out of the house and tugged on her hair. She let out a yelp and turned around to see him running away laughing. Her whole face twisted in anger and she stood up and chased after him, a wide range of silly childish insults streaming from her mouth. Bash had gone back inside to his room, after he realized she wouldn't get tired of chasing Francis all afternoon, until she caught up to him and pulled on his 'silly girly hair' …

They were fourteen and Bash sixteen when he saw them kiss for the first time. They were in the garden again and Bash was getting ready to go out with his friends when he heard her crying. He ran outside immediately. The tender spot in his heart, the one Mary occupied , had developed in a very serious crush. He always thought she had nice hair and a sweet smile, but now he was awkwardly focusing on her physique, her recently formed curves. It was embarrassing and he was becoming terrified of being to close to her, in case his libido became obvious. Now that thought evaporated as he stepped out of the door and saw them further down, near the fountain.

"Why are you being so mean? I did nothing wrong! All the girls in our class are dating!" Mary sobbed and looked at Francis, who was facing the fountain, his back to her and remained silent.

"Talk to me!" Mary demanded, desperation lacing her words.

Francis turned then, a pained expression on his face as he made his way to her in two large strides and crushed his mouth to hers. Bash had frozen on the spot, too numb to react to what he was seeing.

Francis' mouth was hard and unyielding on Mary's, kissing her with bruising force while she seemed too shocked to do anything but hold on to him. When his head lifted a few moments later, Bash saw the glazed look on Mary's face, her eyes fixated on his lips and her head leaning forward as soon as he started to pull back. That heated look pierced through him and it took a moment for him to be able to breathe and tear his eyes away from that scene.

Hewas nineteen and on his freshman year in college. Mary and Francis were juniors in high school. After months of begging Bash finally relented and let them come to a college party. Mary was so excited, she hugged him when he said yes, and the electricity he felt rushing through him, filled him with guilt and anger.

His stupid crush didn't subside as time passed. But he needed it to, especially since Mary had been dating his brother for two years now. He had lost count of how many times he'd seen them kissing, holding hands, cuddling. They would go out and Francis would casually throw his arm over her shoulder, around her waist. He would play with her hair or trail his fingers up her arm and whisper in her ear, making her blush. It was pure torture to see the ease with which his brother made these gestures and the ease with which Mary accepted them. Delighted in them really. She looked at him the way Bash looked at her. Like a person deeply and hopelessly in love. The only difference was that in Mary's case, her love was reciprocated… and then some.

Francis and Mary arrived a little while after the party had started, taking in with wide eyes the frat boys and sorority girls, the beer, the games and the weed that was being passed around. But, to Bash's surprise, they acclimated quickly and moments later Francis was playing pool with a couple of football players while Mary was talking training schedules with a group of cheerleaders Bash thought too conceited to approach. But they doted on Mary and even though Francis seemed like a fragile little boy next to the beefy students, they were all laughing and sharing drinks. It was amazing, Bash thought, their social skills. They seemed like they born to be the center of attention.

It was late when the party died down and they drove back home. Mary was allowed to spend the night at their house and sleep in Elizabeth's room, because her parents were out of town. Elizabeth was a year younger than Francis and Bash hadn't let her tag along that night. They said goodnight and went to their respective rooms. Bash was sober for the first time after a party, since he had to drive them all back home. He had been drinking plenty of water though and as he rose for the third time to go the bathroom, his hand froze on the slightly opened door. Mary came out slowly from Elizabeth's room, wearing nothing but a T-shirt and boxers. He stirred in his trousers at the sight of her shapely legs and her puckered nipples, obvious beneath the thin fabric of her shirt. No, he thought as he paid more attention. His shirt. The stamp on the back was the symbol of Francis' soccer team. Mary silently crossed the narrow hall and slipped inside Francis' room, shutting the door behind her.

They were nineteen and Bash twenty one. After his older roommates had graduated and moved to other cities, Bash found himself temporarily homeless. Francis scoffed when he heard his brother rely his troubles.

"How is that a problem? I live all alone, two blocks from you and you are searching for a house? I'm surprised you didn't just drop your bags at my place the moment you moved out."

That would have been the obvious choice. But Francis didn't live alone. Not truly. Mary, who had also been admitted to the same college, rarely saw her dorm room. It was pathetic but Bash still harbored feelings for her. And to remain undisturbed while she and his brother went to bed together every night was a nightmare. But one he had to endure since he was left with no other option.

They were watching a game when the door opened and Mary came in. She was holding a box with the words "Susan's Pastries" on top as she approached them with a big smile on her face.

"Just got a little something to celebrate our new roommate!" she said gleefully as she opened the box and revealed a chocolate cake. She set it down and placed a big kiss on Bash's cheek. He smiled at her, feeling his chest ache.

"My new roommate. You don't live here, shrimp." Francis said his face still glued to the screen .

Mary huffed exasperated. Francis' nickname of her because of her skinny legs growing up, had followed her well into maturity.

"James Stuart will not have his only daughter, live with a man who is neither her husband nor her fiancée. He is old fashioned that way. He wants his little girl chaste and innocent."

It was Francis' turn to huff.

"That ship sailed a long time ago."

Mary slapped him upside the head and went into the kitchen to get plates and forks for the cake.

Bash was watching the game intently, hoping the screen would open up and swallow him. They hung out all afternoon, watching tv and cracking jokes. Despite Bash's personal drama, they had always been a team. Maybe this is what he needed, he thought. To watch them interact as a couple, the reality of which would force him to let go of his feelings.

That thought evaporated after a while when he returned from the bathroom and saw Mary straddling his brother, their mouths fused together as Francis' hands roughly cupped her ass. Mary gasped against his mouth and tugged on his hair, all the while grinding on him. Bash felt like he wanted to scream. Why did they have to be so public? He supposed they thought he'd gone to bed and they were still just a couple of teenagers. As soon as he cleared his throat Mary jumped up and covered her mouth. Francis got up as well and they said their goodnights.…

Bash was well aware they were sexually active since that night, years ago when he saw Mary sneak into his brother's room in the middle of the night. However, the thick walls and long hallways of the Valois manor shielded him from further detail. No such barriers existed in the modest apartment Francis had chosen to rent due to the proximity it had to the school. Not long after he had laid down, he heard her sighs and gasps, followed by her long moans. He could imagine them beneath the covers, bare bodies moving frantically together, breath mingled, hands intertwined. He didn't feel acceptance, he only felt the usual dull aching.

The next morning he came out of his room to find them in the kitchen, Mary sitting on his lap as he playfully fed and kissed her. His other hand was on her thigh and hers were buried in his disheveled hair. They were the perfect image of a young couple in love, Bash thought, although their relationship was nothing new. This march would mark their fifth anniversary.

Francis looked up and smiled at him, while Mary got off his lap, a blush gracing her cheeks at the position he found them in again.

He hastily said good morning and left the apartment mumbling something about apartment searching…

He met them later in the small pub near their house, deep in conversation about an essay they had due Monday. They had both chosen Political Science as their Major something which Bash never understood.

They smiled and waved at him when they saw him and he made his way over to them. After a quick chat, Mary grabbed Francis' arm and dragged him on the dance floor. He huffed and puffed the whole way there, though Bash knew that when it came to Mary, Francis was as powerless as he was. If she wanted to dance, he would dance with her.

Suddenly the chair Mary had vacated was taken by another girl. Bash turned to her to say the seat was taken and was a little tongue tied when he saw her face. She was gorgeous. Small lithe body and dark caramel skin and long coffee colored hair. She smiled at him and he found himself returning it almost unconsciously.

"This seat taken?"

"Not at all!" he said and saw her smile widen.

"Your friends aren't coming back?" she gestured to Francis and Mary who were moving together perfectly in sync, a feat that could be achieved only if you had intimate knowledge of your partner's body and the way they moved.

"My brother and his girlfriend will be on that dance floor for quite some time." He said.

Almost an hour passed and Bash found himself deep in conversation with the pretty girl, Kenna, as that was her name. she wasn't just attractive. She was smart and funny too, in a spunky kind of way he found very endearing. He completely forgot his companions until he received a text from Francis.

"We went home. Didn't want to disturb you, since you didn't seem like you wanted to be disturbed. ;)"

He smiled.

He was twenty five and Francis and Mary were graduating. He saw them as he made his way across the University's green lawn. Mary's hand was in the air as she took photos, Francis' arms around her, their faces radiating joy. She put her phone down as she turned to him and he covered her face with butterfly kisses. For the first time in his life, that image did not make Bash's heart clench. That was in large because of the lovely woman by his side. Kenna had slowly but firmly found her way into his heart, banishing everything she found there, replacing it with her warmth. He turned to her and captured her mouth in a reverent kiss.

That night, Francis called him ecstatic, barely able to get the words out.

"Mary and I are getting married!"

Bash sighed. He didn't feel pain. He only felt the joy in hearing his little brother so happy. He was overwhelmed with gratitude for the woman sleeping in his arms. The right woman. The only woman.