"I know you're there," Carly said, her voice soft and rough with sleep

Title: (I Need You) Next to Me

Author: Janine

Fandom: House of Wax (2005)

Pairing: Nick/Carly

Rating: PG

Warning: twincest (fraternal, m/f)

Disclaimer: I don't own them.

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"I know you're there," Carly said, her voice soft and rough with sleep.

There was no response to her words.

Carly sighed and planted her hands on the mattress, using them to prop herself up, and then shifted so that she was sitting with her back against the headboard of her bed.

"I can see your shadow," she said, her voice weary though there was a tiny smile playing on her lips.

She liked to pretend that she was upset with Nick's 'over-protective-mother-hen' routine, but the fact was that she was actually touched by it, and perhaps more important, comforted by it.

Since escaping the horror show in Ambrose, Nick had been a constant presence in her day to day life. He had become like her shadow, or perhaps – she thought remembering all that he had gone through in Ambrose to protect her – more like a guardian angel, watching over her to make sure no more harm came to her.

"No you can't," came the gruff reply from outside of her room.

Carly smiled.

"You're right," Carly responded admitting her bluff. "You're also caught," she continued smiling. "Quit stalking me and come in."

"Nah," Nick said in his bad boy voice, still hidden out of view. Carly smirked picturing the supposedly badass sneer she knew he was wearing on his face, as he tilted his head to the side in a devil may care way. "I was just taking a piss. Go back to sleep."

"Nick," Carly responded, a definite whine detectable in her tone. "Just come in."

Again there was no verbal response to her words, but soon Carly saw Nick's figure appear in the open doorway of her room.

"Please," she said softly, watching him watch her. She knew that he would never admit to needing to check up on her, that he would never come in for his own good, but she was certain that he would do it if he thought that it would make her feel better. "I … I couldn't really sleep, and … I don't know, I just feel better when you're around."

"My room's just down the …" Nick began cocking his thumb in the direction of his room.

"When I can see you," Carly interjected before he could finish his stoic man's man routine. "When I can touch you," she continued softly, looking down at her lap. Her words were meant as a manipulation, but they were also true. "Just lay down for a while … until I fall asleep. Please."

Nick was still as a statue in the doorway for a few seconds, and then he released a mighty sigh and took a step further into the room, closing the door behind him. Carly had taken to sleeping with it partially open since returning from Ambrose, but he'd be damned if one of their parents walked by and saw the 'precious' sight of their twins snuggled up together. No way did he want to be greeted in the morning by his mother cooing and showing off a digital picture of her 'handsome knight' holding his sister. Sure, it was nice to no longer be the 'evil' twin, but he still had his dignity.

"Only for a little while," Nick warned as he approached the side of Carly's bed. "I'm not a damn teddy bear."

"I know," Carly said smothering down the urge to smile. "I appreciate it," she went on quickly, giddy with victory. "I'm pretty tired. I'll probably fall asleep soon."

"Whatever," Nick muttered coming to a stop by the side of the bed. "Are you gonna move over or what?"

Without comment Carly shifted, making room for Nick on the mattress. He was still kind of a dick, but she knew that he cared about her, and was just being, well, himself. His gruffness had bothered her before, she had taken it for genuine irritation or dislike, but she knew better now. He had jumped into the fires of hell for her. She could take a bit of surliness every now and then.

Nick lowered himself onto the mattress, and then stretched out, arching his back and pointing his toes before he settled back and relaxed. Once he stopped fidgeting, Carly slid a little closer to him and laid her head on his chest.

Carly sighed. She could hear Nick's heart beating, feel his chest moving up and down at a steady pace as he breathed softly, and all at once she felt a tension she didn't even know she was carrying around begin to dissipate.

"Thank you," Carly breathed out, her arm sneaking around his waist, holding him securely against her.

"Yeah," Nick breathed out, his arm jerking for a second before he finally moved it so that his hand was resting on the small of his sister's back.

They lay in silence for a while, pretending that they were attempting to sleep though neither of them even closed their eyes.

"Nick," Carly said, disrupting the quiet that had descended over the room.

"Hmm," Nick hummed in response, his eyes focused on the ceiling though his hand moved up and down on his sister's back soothingly.

"I don't know what I'd do without you," she said softly, keeping her head firmly where it was. They weren't exactly the type to share their feelings with each other, and having a real conversation with him left her feeling a bit vulnerable.

"You're strong," Nick said, angling his head down so that he could she the strawberry top of Carly's head. "And smart. You'd have found a way out of there. Hell, you were already halfway free when I showed up."

"No, I wasn't," Carly said shuddering as she remembered the way the leather cuffs and tape cut into her skin, and the sensation of literally prying her lips apart while covered in blood from her severed fingertip.

"But that's not what I meant," she continued, pressing on, forcing herself to think about something good instead of hell that psycho Bo Sinclair and his freakshow brother had put them through. "I mean, obviously for that too. I … I never would have gotten out of there if it wasn't for you," she went on hugging him again. "But I mean for this," she said rubbing his ribcage. "And for holding my hand in the ambulance, and handling Mom and Dad at the hospital, and being my chauffer around town, and looking in at me at night, and just everything," she said propping herself up onto her elbow so that she could see his face.

Vulnerable or not, he deserved to see how much she meant what she was saying.

"In a way the crisis was easy, adrenaline and just pure fucking fear kept me going, but after," she went on shaking her head, blinking against the sting of tears. "After, I would have just … I would have fallen apart without you."

"Ssh," Nick said, reaching up to cup her face in his hand. "You have me," he said, guiding her head back down, wrapping his arms around her as she buried her face in his neck. "You've always had me. I'll always be here. I promise," he said, his voice forceful with conviction.

He tilted her head up so that he could see her face.

"I promise," he repeated staring at her, something hot and unfathomable in his gaze, before he leaned forward and pressed his lips against her forehead. "I would never let anything happen to you. Ever," he went on, hugging her tightly once more.

Carly shivered, her eyes blinking rapidly as she felt Nick's body tremble has he held her. He tried to be so strong for her, for the world, but he was just a man – a boy – a human like everyone else, and he wasn't immune to what they had been through. She had known that from the way he had taken to looking over her, that his actions were born of fear, but she hadn't realized how much pain and anxiety he had been holding inside until that moment.

"Nick," she said softly, struggling in his embrace, trying to pull away so that she could see him.

Reluctantly Nick relented, loosening his hold, allowing her to move.

"Nick," she repeated reaching out for him, stroking her thumb across the blond stubble that covered his cheek. "I know," she said nodding as she spoke, her eyes beginning to sting with tears once more. "I know," she repeated, stroking his cheek again. "I love you."

Nick stared up at her, blinking rapidly, and then turned his face to the side to hide the tears that began to leak from his eyes. She needed him to be strong for her, to protect her, not to cry in her arms like a little girl.

"I love you," Carly said again, knowing that he wanted to hear it, that he needed to hear it, even if he didn't want her to see him cry. "You're my hero," she whispered, voice quivering with emotion.

Nick kept his head angled away for a few more seconds and then took a deep breath.

"I love you too," he said.

The words were strained, but he said them and Carly beamed. She knew how hard the conversation they were having, and especially the words he just said were for him, and she appreciated them more than she knew how to express.

Carly leaned down and brushed her lips against his cheek, and then his nose, and then his other cheek, stopping with her lips poised above his. Her eyes tracked up, watching him then, wondering if he was going to pull away, if he was going to tell her not to, but he just lay there staring up at her, that same unfathomable look back in his eyes.

Carly lowered her eyes, and then lowered her head, pressing her lips against his, shivering a little at the contact, ready to pull back almost immediately when she felt his hand at the back of her neck, holding her where she was.

They lay like that for a few moments, their lips resting against each others, stock still, and then Nick moved his lips against Carly's and she sighed, kissing him back, her hands gripping at his tank top as strong, calloused fingers tangled in her hair.

Finally, long moments later, Carly felt Nick's hold on her head loosen and pulled back slightly so that she could see his face. One of her hands migrated up from his torso to his face, her fingers tracing perfect lips that were now damp from her kisses. Below her, his chest rose and fell rapidly, but he remained otherwise still as she traced his lips.

Carly bit down on her bottom lip, her eyebrows furrowing together, and then she dropped her eyes and released a long, loud sigh. Nick tensed beneath her, but when she looked back up at him, she was smiling, one of those large, happy Carly smiles that he had tried so hard to put on her face when they were younger, and he smiled back.

And then they were laughing, and biting down on their lips, and pressing their hands against each others mouth to stifle the sound before their parents heard and came in to investigate what was suddenly so funny in a house that had been in mourning for over a month.

Long minutes later, Carly collapsed against Nick, her head coming to rest on his chest once more, and she clutched at his tank top with her hand.

"We're going to hell," Carly whispered, burying her face in his chest, hesitating for only a moment before she pressed her lips against the material under her head, kissing his chest.

"We've already been there," Nick responded, smiling up at the ceiling. "We got through it okay."

"I'll never be a hand model," Carly replied, a small smile still playing on her lips.

"I don't know. Your other one's pretty nice. Maybe they'll only want you to hold one thing," Nick said looking down at the top of her head. "It's called hand modeling, not 'right hand' modeling."

Carly laughed, and swatted him on the stomach. "You're stupid."

"Yeah," Nick breathed out, pretending to have been winded by the hit. "But you love me."

"I do," Carly said sincerely, lifting her head so that she could see his face, hesitating for only a moment before she pressed her lips against his once more.

"I thought you were tired," Nick said when she pulled back. "Go to sleep."

"Yeah, but … shouldn't we talk about this, or something?" Carly asked looking down at him.

Nick shook his head. "No," he finally murmured shaking his head as he did. "Talking … complicates things," he continued, leaning up to press his lips against Carly's.

Carly nodded and then shifted, settling down against Nick once more. She suspected that they would have to talk about it sometime, what it meant, how far it would go, if they wanted it to go any further, and a host of other things. But she was tired, and she didn't want to think about anything but how good it felt to be in Nick's arms, so she let it go.

"Carly," Nick said as Carly's eyes began to close. "I do, too."

Carly smiled, her arm tightening around Nick's waist before she drifted off to sleep.

The End