A/Note: Partially inspired by Billie Jukes' "Through a Sister's Eyes", which got me to wondering about Jasmine and her outlook on life. FYI, in this one-shot, Jaz doesn't know about Danny's ghost powers. I'm not 100% sure she knows about them on the show, and for my purposes here it worked better imo for her not to.

A/Note2: By the way, the incident she refers to where "Doctors and technology CAN be wrong" is based on a rl-event- MY brother's birth! The year was 1985- a great year for time-travel and confusion in general.

As you undoubtably know, all characters are © to the great Butch Hartman.

---------------------------

The Habit

I can't help it, after all these years, I still pause by the door to his room and look in on him. Fourteen years of habit are a hard horse to break, I can tell you. I'm sure that one of my books on behavior would tell me that I still cling to this ritual as a way of denying the passage of time, or something like that. I really resent that in some way, it could be right to think that.

I can't sleep unless I check on him. I've tried, believe me I've tried. My record is six hours of restless tossing and turning before I finally succumb to the need to check up on my "baby" brother.

Fourteen years of ritualistic habit.

Okay, I admit that I partially blame Mom and Dad for this. I admit that when I learned that after a few short blissful "only child" years that I soon would have a new sibling, I felt hurt. The feelings of wondering why the way "things had always been" couldn't stay the same. Wondering if I wasn't "good enough". And increasing terror as every adult who made my increasingly apparently pregnant Mother's acquaintance just HAD to stop, just HAD to congratuate her, and then just HAD to turn to me and tell me how fun and exciting it was going to be to have a baby sister.

Yeah, sister. Doctors and all their technology CAN be wrong, you know. At least, they were this time. My "Sister" Danny was born at a ridiculously early hour of a rainy gray morning, and I was filled with dread. How could I trust this... this THING that my parents oohed and ahhed over? How could you trust him? The dishonest little toad wasn't even the GENDER that we'd been told he was going to be! I refused to come closer. Mom seemed a little surprised and maybe even a touch hurt when I didn't squeal excitedly and demand to hold my brother. I stayed across the room and watched him warily. If he hadn't been a girl like a professional medical staff had told us he would be, what other surprises was this... intruder going to pull?

I didn't want any truck with it.

So that's how it started. The first night home, long after Mom and Dad had shuffled off to bed to dream the dreams that only the outrageously exhausted can know, I slipped down the hallway and opened the door to his, to Danny's room. I crept in and eased close to the high-sided crib and stared, not knowing really what I was doing. He didn't awaken, and barely stirred in response to my presence, and finally I toddled back to my own room, satisfied that nothing weird was going on.

I've never considered myself a... a superstitious person, but somehow once I got into the habit of checking in on him, it was difficult to stop. Especially after I saw this movie when I was six. I think it was called Labyrinth. I really felt shook up by the story of a big sister who wishes her little baby brother away, only to undertake an otherworldly set of trials in an attempt to win him back from the evil goblin who'd stolen him. That being said, the movie also gave me nightmares for almost a month. To this day, I hate creepy puppet movies! HATE THEM, HATE THEM, HATE THEM!!

So that was another strike against my resolve not to monitor Danny's room on a nightly basis. I was practically a slave to the routine now, and I felt like the routine knew it. One night, Mom caught me as I slipped out of his room, and asked me what I was doing. The standard answer of 'Nothing' really didn't help me any. I knew that it wouldn't before the word even left my mouth. I'm not sure what I was expecting, a lecture on creeping around the house like a warped spector in the dark, maybe; but Mom took a peek in Danny's room and gave me a little grin. "I sometimes feel like I have to check on him too, Jazzy," she whispered to me. "It's okay if you want to see if he's okay. You're his big sister and you need to look out for him."

I was a little bit heartened and a little bit put out. Heartened because there was a reason at last for my behavior beyond just jealousy and suspicion, and put out because I didn't want to be my little brother's caretaker. As far as I was concerned, I did NOT need the responsibility of taking care of Danny. Taking care of kids is the job of their PARENTS, right? In the selfish mind of a former only-child, it seemed to be a very justified position.

The funny thing is, once you realise that you are partially responsible for their welfare, it's hard to shake yourself of the notion. Especially when you're the amazing, all-powerful big sister. The one who gets followed around everywhere. The one whose likes, dislikes, and opinions are heartily echoed by your newly acquired shadow. The one who ends up as a weird conglomeration of playmate, babysitter, and substitute parent. The one who throws herself into that role out of a strange sense of duty when she decides that the actual parents are too distracted to deal with REAL LIFE problems and calamities like skinned knees, name-calling bullies from down the street, and quality time because they're in the far-off land of "Working on this new patent, gotta pay the bills you know, Jazz! Watch Danny, won't you dear?"

In a way, I feel sorry for Danny. He never had the experience of having our parents to himself and getting to have the interaction with them that I did. Then again, Mom and Dad strike me more and more as just shy of absolutely NUTS these days.. Maybe he's the lucky one.

I wonder sometimes if this is how Sandy Johnson feels. Sandy, who was in almost all of my classes since kindergarten, but had to drop out of school last year to have the baby her ignorant jock boyfriend left her with. I mean it's not like I was the one getting up three times a night to feed Danny, even though his distressed crying DID wake me up without fail for each of them. I got off pretty light as far as early childhood care goes. Mom and Dad did take care of that much, at least.

But still.. Sometimes.. Just sometimes I feel like my childhood was eaten up in being Responsible. Being a Good Example. Being Mom for stretches of time when Mom was just too busy, too tired, or too something else to take care of Danny herself.

These feelings are normal, right? I wonder sometimes. I blaze through book after book on human behavior and psychology in amatuer attempts at figuring out if there's something wrong with me, with Mom and Dad.. with all of us. It sure LOOKS normal. Normal for workaholic parents who are obsessed with ghost hunting?

Scratch that. Nothing is normal. Normal doesn't even exist anymore in this house.

So that's where I'm left, out here in the hallway preparing to poke my head in my brother's bedroom at almost the exact same time as I do every night. I'm not even sure anymore what it is I think I'm protecting him from. Goblins? These so-called ghosts? The influence of Mom and Dad? I'm just not sure anymore.

I hear a thump, almost inaudible, from inside his room and feel my heart lurch suddenly. Is it THE THING that I've been trying to keep watch for all these years? I can't keep myself from shoving the door open and locking wide, blue-eyed stares with my startled little brother. We stare at each other for a moment, then another. And finally, the situation becomes so awkward that someone has to speak.

"I thought I heard something..?" I whisper, my voice barely audible even in the empty, dead air of a darkened house at night. Danny shrugs and then shakes his head at me, almost making a show of finding my question as ridiculous as the fact that I "just happened" to be right outside his door waiting for such a disturbance. I make an equal show of rolling my eyes at him and pretending to feel really put out by his ingratitude.

"Look, whatever. Just keep it down, okay Danny?" He yawns at me, and for the first time I notice the distinct chill in the air here in this one room as his breath curls lazily from his mouth in a small plume. I shiver and tell him to quit playing with the air conditioner that sits idling in his bedroom window. A speech about wasting electricity has already sprung readily to my mind, but I squash it down for the time being and settle for giving him a warning glare as I shut the door.

As I stand here, rubbing the goosebumps out of my forearms, I lean back against the door and wonder silently. I wonder what sort of boogeyman it is that my subconscious still won't let me forget that I'm supposed to be protecting my little brother from.

I wonder why this feeling of increasing ominousness has been making itself known lately every time I see his clumsy grin as he tries to explain away some accidental mishap. I wonder if there really is anything that I can do to protect him. I wonder if it's too late already and my brother has been replaced with a changling.

I wonder a lot of things as I stand here. I don't have any answers for myself or for anyone else.

All I know for sure is that I'll be back tomorrow night, looking in his room to make sure he's safe.

END.