a/n : And I'd been so sure that 'Crossing Time would be my only WOWP fic :o Definitely one of my longest one-shots. And I haven't even seen the show that much or read fanfics. It's just odd! Anyway, I sort of screwed up realism and it's more flangst than anything else. :(
Disclaimer: Disclaimed (but if you're making a family show, try not to add dialogues like "you make me a better wizard".) I don't own Snow Patrol either. Or The Foundations.
The thing is; all those people who'll tell you that she'll never amount to anything in life because she doesn't care enough don't really know her. Her lecturers and her neighbors and that girl down the street with the perfect hair and perfect teeth who always looks at her clothes like they hurt her eyes; they haven't seen her when she's doing something she does care about. Like stealing Max's money or inventing perfect excuses for missing class or doing magic or tormenting Justin or anything.
If there's something that she's learned by living, it's that the world runs on desire. Hard, desperate desire. You can only get something if you want it badly enough.
(And all she's ever wanted? Is everything).
He lugs her bags in, stooping under their weight, "You do know you're not moving in, right? There was absolutely no need to bring your cupboard along with the clothes in it."
She looks around and doesn't answer and for a moment she almost can't because everything is so neat and dorky. And the stupid books are alphabetized and there's a huge work-chart stuck on the wall and it's all so lame and stupid and impossibly Justin. It's not like she's missed it, but…whatever.
"Pretty sweet, isn't it," he says, with that whole tone to his voice that she's categorized as failing-at-trying-not-to-sound-smug, "It's the scholarship money."
"Justin," she says, turning around, "the couch has more stuffing on the outside. And the walls are pea-green. Seriously. Pea-green."
He wraps his hand around the head-seat in a defensive gesture, that oddly makes her ache because it's like him with his stupid dolls again and she can't believe she missed this. Him. Not a lot but it was just a constant throbbing hollowness, like an irritating word at the tip of her tongue that she just can't remember as hard as she tries, "don't hate on my couch. I can't believe mom and dad dumped you here. Why couldn't they leave you with Harper? I don't get it, was I left on their doorstep or something? Why do they dislike me so much?"
"You've always belonged to me," she's already said it before her brain catches on that her mouth is in motion, "I mean…us. Unfortunately, you've always been a part of the family. You know I've never known life without you? You'd already lame-ified my world before I ever set a foot in it and if that's karma, then…"
"I missed you too. Sort of. Just a little."
The odd thing is- it's like they carry on conversations in parentheses. Where nobody actually says what they're actually saying but everyone knows it anyway. It's a little pointless, like gloves in summer and homework and forcing her parents to send her to him.
Justin in college is like…a backward idea. Something like a misogynist at a rally for equal rights or...or... Harper at a death metal concert. Just misplaced. She knows all about college. She's seen the movies, read the books, dated a college guy. It's about parties and alcohol and sex. And Justin's practically listed in the dictionary next to those things as an antonym.
She watches him closely for a day. His jeans are a little lower and his hair falls over his eyes a lot more and he impatiently keeps brushing it off with his hand, till she's clenching her own fists so that she doesn't do something stupid like brushing it back for him herself. She doesn't ask why he doesn't get it cut; maybe some college girl in a tight, cleavage-revealing shirt told him he looks good like that.
"Are you going to sit there and stare at me? It's disconcerting. Compensate for your visit, help me in finding my dictionary."
"Can't do that," she says, she'd not been staring, immodest much, "since you've obviously swallowed it."
"Alex," he gives her a half-smile and she hadn't missed that at all so she doesn't even notice.
"Oh, come on, Justin. It's been a whole day of the two-week visit and we haven't even stepped out. Where is the alcohol? The parties? Where is life? All I've seen you do all day is write your stupid term paper. Who cares whether the number theory uses the Eudaclian algorithm or whatever. You are officially the worst waste of college space I've ever seen."
"Euclidean." He says dryly, "and I can assure you college is not exactly what you seem to think it is. In fact if college is the north pole of the magnetic field, then your views are in the south. College just means more responsibility and opportunities and…"
She mimes yawning, dismissing him with a wave of her hand, "that's in Justinland of the geeks, where does Alex fit in?"
"Right here," he suggests, in a corny dramatic tone, "with me?"
"Physics," she says, because she has to say something, just to see whether she still can, "anyway is a load of bull."
"Of course," he returns sarcastically, "you would know, wouldn't you? All that time you've spent on not doing theoretical physics."
"Because all that electron stuff doesn't make sense. Opposites attract?" she indicates him and moves her finger to point to herself, watching her hand draw an invisible connection between them in almost-fascination, "we're opposites and we don't attract."
Maybe somebody would say that she made a profound statement right there; as if she could just interpret the parentheses of her own words she'd realize something in the gone nanosecond, but the only thing apart from desire that runs the universe is denial. And she doesn't even know what that means.
"That is because," he raises his eyes to hers, as if she'd asked him a question that he had to know the answer to. Hadn't he ever heard of rhetoric. And did he have to know freaking everything? "We're family. Like repels. And I think here the like here cancels out the opposites." He gets up and ruffles her hair and in a moment of intense panic she thinks he doesn't even know and he didn't even get it…
Yes, she does polish his shoes with the butter later but that's because…hell, like she needs a reason. Family, right? This is what kid sisters do.
(It's not really a secret or anything but it just struck her while buying some strange looking beads with Harper that he's always been the only 'him' in her mind. So whenever someone generally says 'him', she thinks of him and it's all very stupid).
Figures that the first time he takes her out of the dorm is grocery shopping.
"That's not healthy," he says, as she picks up three packets of chips, and two bars of chocolate, "and you're not falling ill on my watch...what are you doing?"
"Checking for a pulse, obviously," she drops his hand as her own pulse begins rocketing.
He snorts indelicately, "It's like you didn't change at all while I was gone."
"I did, and I'll prove it to you," anyway it's not like she could have changed, his going away to some freaking university five hours away wasn't really a big deal. Anyway, Alex-without-Justin is much better than Justin-without-Alex, "See that girl there?"
"Where," he looks all around in the same dorky manner he always has, and it makes her clench a little with the familiarity and all the things she completely hadn't missed.
"There," she guides his head, "the girl with the blonde hair…she's interested."
"Interested in what?" he asks, and the thing about him being Justin is that he's serious.
She sighs, dramatically, "Interested in you, moron."
"What," he looks at her with renewed interest, "you're just making this up. How would you know?"
"Because," she sighs in frustration, "I'm a girl." And hasn't he realized this? All the times she was in his room with the door closed and his stupid soft music playing, in a barely there nightdress, and she's sixteen…that's not the point, "I know these things. Look, she's passed by us a number of times, and she keeps flipping her hair, and looking around constantly…"
And okay, so maybe not all of it is true. Or maybe none of it is true. That girl has been ignoring him spectacularly and probably hasn't even glanced over. Even her efficient-looking list and frigid expression screams 'not interested' but still. She's done this sort of build-him-up-just-to-let-him-down thing a lot of times, it comes with the territory.
"…classic signs of interest. It's the second oldest trick in the book. Trust me."
(And maybe it shouldn't mess her up that he does.)
And because he's…himself, it's completely obvious. The way he bangs into her, and uses a lot of these big words to apologize because he's Justin, which she's never heard or wants to hear because she's Alex. Which the other girl doesn't know about, because she's not family. And to her, he's just this guy with the hair you can run your fingers through because it keeps falling on his face.
And the strange thing is they're hitting it off. Frigid is now molten and almost impossibly, it's for Justin. The guy who actually took a hundred retakes to get his first kiss right and dated a werewolf and does homework for fun. But she doesn't know that. She doesn't know him.
And then she realizes- the pointedly not passing by, not looking, not hair-flipping, classic signs of pretend disinterestedness. And there's a pang of disappointment in her chest as they laugh. Obviously because she just missed the oldest trick in the book.
"But you didn't even know Sara was in your math course."
He sighs, "for the last time, Alex, I stay in after class to clarify my doubts. I just don't have so much interaction with the other students in that class."
"She used to be a cheerleader," and he just freaking met her. He's just known this Sara for four days, and he's known her all his life. She might not be as brilliant as he is at math, but it seems a pretty simple equation even to her.
"How does that matter?" And doesn't he get it?
"Do you want to be a movie cliché? The nerd who gets the hot 'chick'? I thought you were deeper than that?"
He laughs outright, "I'm not choosing her over you or anything. You're old now Alex, you can be left alone for a while during this study date."
"So you mean I can have all the phone sex I want with Dean, while you're gone?"
There are seven breaths between her question and his response and she counts the silence because her hands are unsteady and she knows she's crossing lines. It's hard not to when they're entirely made of shadow and light and they shift every time he looks at her. And maybe she doesn't care too much; for once she wants to be the car crash, not just the freaking traffic jam.
"Alex," he warns, finally. Except he's seven breaths too late.
"Actually," she says, like it doesn't relate to anything she's said till now, "go. It's alright. I'll find my own… entertainment."
(He stays. Obviously).
"I love this movie," (Sara would, wouldn't she). They're sitting together with their legs intertwined and she thinks she might choke on the cheesiness of it all. It's not a position you want to see your brother in with ano…any girl.
"I don't," she says because…she wants to, why the hell would she need a reason for everything, "it's too unrealistically romantic."
"Says the girl with a magical kingdom in her journal," he murmurs under his breath.
"Whatever, this," she points at the screen, "doesn't happen. Because there are boundaries, and duties and stuff. And there's a universal right/wrong and karma and shit. And in the middle of it there's some moron guy who won't know even if you tattooed a heart on your forehead." And she knows this all through personal experience. Riley and Dean and that college boy and maybe it wasn't love, and maybe she doesn't even know what love is, but it was something.
"Wow," Sara blinks, "that's way too old for a sixteen year old. You want to talk about the boy?"
She thinks about Dean and everything that's gone wrong and would it kill somebody to let her hate Sara in peace? Did she have to be nice along with being a Gigi look-a-like? "Not really."
Sara gives her a conspiratorial smile that distinctly excludes Justin and she feels a little sick because it's the classic 'brothers' older girlfriend' look and it feels awkward only because she's so used to Justin coming to her for love advice that this new Justin who plays footsie with his girlfriend under dinner tables and is perfectly at ease with his girlfriend dispensing advice to his little sister, is more than a little disconcerting. It's almost like he's a…guy…or something instead of her brother, "If you ever do…I'm right here."
She smiles, it's almost genuine, except he hasn't looked at her once and how is she supposed to give him her assessment of his moves if he doesn't look at her? "Thanks."
She sits through the entire movie, even though she's seen it thrice because she's curious and she wants to assess this new Justin for the new blackmail tactics that'll have to be employed. Because he's not acting cool, and he always acts cool when he's trying to impress someone. It's lame, but it's what he does. And now he's not doing it, and how the hell did he change so much while she wasn't looking?
And it takes her a while to realize that this curious hollowness in her chest, when she breathes is what losing might feel like. She's always been so used to winning.
He'd told her once- in a broken, lost, forgotten moment, in a middle of a forest, by the fireside where there was not blood and they almost weren't even related- that she was better than him at everything. Even magic. And he tried much harder, but she seemed to do it without trying and sometimes he hated her for it.
He'll never admit it, but his magic wants logic. It defies the known universal laws and he doesn't have to say it, she just knows by that crinkle between his eyebrows that magic puzzles him. He has to forget about the laws of gravitation and motion and time and space and everything that he's ever known and it's hard for him.
(But she makes him a better wizard. He had said that once too.)
He drops his jacket on the couch and looks at her, and she can almost see his big-brother protective armor clink into place, "Alex," and it always comes down to this; she always comes down to this, "what happened?"
"How do you know something happened?" It's a legit question, after all she's done crying, her mascara is not smudged and she almost looks normal, not like a girl who's been dumped by her boyfriend over a phone call and is stupid enough to still be thinking about it.
"Oh, please," he scoffs, "like the two tubs of Haagen Dazs' fudge delight aren't hint enough."
She shrugs her shoulders, because she's Alex fucking Russo, "Dean and I broke up, no big deal."
He looks at her in silence (and could he stop doing that?) because he knows her as well as she knows him and yes, yes it's a fucking big deal. And wow, she's becoming that girl who plays sad songs when she breaks up with a boy who's probably even now in a bowling alley somewhere, maybe with another girl. "Moron."
She doesn't ask whom he means because really, how does it matter? "I'm calling Harper. Go change or whatever."
He leaves and she stares at his number filling up the blank screen because he's the one she'd have called and he'd already returned. It's odd how many times she'd never even realized she was lost till he'd already found her
She's almost breathless, "the fridge door was closed."
He looks up from his book, "what?"
"The fridge," she states in between short gasps, "was closed. And you'd just entered. How did you know about the ice-cream?"
He seems vaguely embarrassed, and looks at her from beneath half-closed lids, "yeah, I guessed. You weren't wearing your necklace, the one which mom gave you on the Quinceanera. You always do that after...after a break-up. And then I guessed about the ice-cream," he looks at her and it's almost a shock when she can't read his expression, "you're pretty predictable Alex Russo, whatever you may think."
Her hand automatically wanders to her bare throat. She's never noticed. And nobody else would have either. Her mom. Harper. Her dad. Max. Anybody.
The strangest thing about magic is that it can't stop global warming or fight terrorism or cure broken hearts. And she thinks she might have liked to be a normal person for one day, and believe that magic can actually do anything. Maybe all those people who've never seen a spell-book have a lot more magic surrounding them because they can believe a lot more. And she hates the fact that she's the girl thinking about the-mysteries-of-the-universe. Did breaking up turn people into brain-dead freaks?
She's almost out of the door when he speaks, "what's an almost brother?"
"A brother you wish had never been born, you," she says automatically, before she's even registered he's spoken.
"Funny," he deadpans, "I guessed it was something about an adopted child or something. Like it was supposed to be deep. You've often pretended to be deep." They both have.
"What are you talking about?"
"Nothing," he goes back to his book, "the song you were listening to."
It actually takes her ten seconds to realize, "you mean 'almost lover', moron."
He looks up again, surprised, "that's what it said, I thought it…"
"…I know," she says, and starts to move out because there's that strange feeling of missing something important in the equation, like she's done the whole factorial and division part and then messed up in addition, "you're stupid."
(She listens to the song thrice and for something that sounds nothing like it, it sure sounds a lot like it).
(And sometimes when she looks at her parents, holding each other way too tightly, with identical silly grins on their faces, completely ignoring Justin and Max's impressive gagging noises; she thinks she might understand why somebody would give up everything –even magic- for love. Not that she would ever do something so stupid. Obviously.)
She's starting to realize she has a very vivid imagination that bursts into glorious Technicolor and surround-sound whenever they're locked in his room together. She stares at his door, and even beneath closed eye-lids she can see Sara and him and it really, really sucks. It's like he's taken over her brain in a hostile takeover bid and this was really not supposed to happen.
So she does it. It isn't like she's done anything other than what she's always done- ruin Justin's life. He's her older brother, isn't ruining his life worth a gold star in the 'big book of kid sisters' or something?
She can hear Sara raging about it, and it's so stupid. It's Justin. And if she'd known anything about him she'd have known that he wouldn't…he couldn't…he's Justin.
And when Sara's gone and she can almost feel the silence, he enters the room, holding the delicate pink bra that she's planted in his bed. And maybe it's the fact that she's ashamed of her prank this time, or maybe it's just the fact that he's holding it. It all depends on what you choose to think.
He leans against the doorframe, "I really liked her." And it's the way he says it, without any particular inflection, like he's talking about the weather or something and it's so unlike him and she's leaving tomorrow and he's her brother and he's in college and he likes Sara so much that he can say he likes her like it's the easiest thing in the world and sometimes she really, really…
"…love you." She clears her throat, and a full-scale orchestra meeting wouldn't have been out of place to drown out her words. And knowing magic didn't even prepare her for the almost-profound moments of life. And it's so weird that there's this epiphany she's waited for all her life and it's already passed her because her life doesn't have a soundtrack and background music and fuck maybe somebody could have just told her.
And she's sure that the scene itself drowns out any logic because she's in his dorm and he's holding out her bra that she'd just planted in his bed because she'd known his girlfriend would never believe that it belonged to her because she didn't know him at all and…and…almost lover sound like…whatever.
And quite suddenly, his unreadable look breaks and his lip curves, "are you trying to bribe me with a compliment? Because it's working. I love you too, crazy kid."
Okay, so maybe the epiphany has so completely passed them by that it hasn't touched her at all, and he still doesn't know. He doesn't even know that her bra in his hand has already conjured up images that are making her flush uncomfortably. And it's absolutely, completely ridiculous.
But he's with her and even when she'll leave he'll still be here and there'll always be this girl who knows the oldest trick in the book and there'll always be that locked door and boys who break up with her over the phone but in the end it never matters. Because in the end, it's always them, sitting together in a room fighting and making up, with magic surrounding them and in the end he belongs to he…em and that's something no one else will ever have. She messes up and gets him into scrapes more often than not, but she makes him a better wizard. He'd told her that once.
So what if it's wrong and abnormal and they have all these horrible names for this and a lot of medical syndromes and they write books on these things or whatever. The point is when she doesn't even know the words, they doesn't really matter. And anyway, it's not like she's ever believed in symmetry. Or damnation or morality or anything.
And maybe someday his door will be locked, or she'll be in his pea-green-walled dorm again and he'll hold that only girly bra of hers but in a totally different way and then she won't even have to close her eyes to capture those images.
But for this moment, he's here and she's here and there's love, and even if it has all these different names it's still love and maybe all the while they haven't even needed an epiphany at all, because how can you realize something that's always been this way?