They lay curled around each other, several blankets pulled up over them, the wool of the top blanket making Tom's neck itch. He raised his hand out from under the heavy covers and scratched at it, pushing the blanket down a little. He couldn't sleep because Barry couldn't sleep, or wouldn't, but both of them seemed too caught up in their own thoughts to pay much attention to the other.

Winter storms were worse this year than they had been in a long time. The tide was high and treacherous and Robbie forbade them from going down onto the rocks. They were sheeted with ice, and the sea was beyond cold. The rains had flooded their kitchen and entryway many times, seeping under the front door and making its way in through the windows. Their father muttered quietly to himself that he should have gone to the mainland to get new boards to fix them with while he shoved dish clothes into the cracks while Rob watched in the doorway with her arms crossed and the boys burned their mouths on the hot apple cider at the kitchen table.

Even now the wind shook the little window in their room that looked out towards the sea. The night was too dark to see it breaking and foaming against the rocks, but they could hear it, and it made Tom shiver. Bert had told them stories that evening, his face lit eerily from the lamp about sailors who were thrown into the sea, and how their ghosts washed up on shore… a floorboard creaked and Tom pulled in a breath as a shadow passed their door, blocking out the light from the toilet across the hall, but it was just their father going to bed. Robbie wouldn't be up for a while, and in the short lapses of time where the waves were sucked back into the sea and the wind ceased and it was quiet, Tom could hear her and Bert talking quietly downstairs.

He squirmed closer to his brother, one of his legs going over both of Barry's until Barry kicked him off and Tom felt his thin, cold arm come up between their chests, the backs of his fingers against his lower lip, and his sharp elbow pressed uncomfortably against Tom's side of the join. Tom didn't move. His brother was smaller than he was, at this age, barely thirteen, and his bones stood out sharper, whereas Tom was simply more awkward.

Barry's hand slid lightly down his brother's chest and stomach and Tom furrowed his eyebrows, disoriented. The light across the hall had been flicked out. What time was it? He felt his brother shift, Barry's breath against his shoulder in a soft sigh.

He could feel the rhythmic movement of his brother's hand down between his legs, making the blankets move very slightly and Tom opened his eyes. This had happened before, and it embarrassed them a little, neither one quite sure what to make of it. Sometimes, at the beginning, it felt good to press against each other, but then, sometimes, that wouldn't be enough.

It went on for a long time, that movement, faster and more desperate. A quiet moan passed his brother's lips. He was always slower at it than Tom, more unsure what to do with his fingers, his palm. Sometimes he watched Tom, when Tom did it, and he would try to ignore his brother's eyes, the way Barry tried to copy Tom's movements, but it never seemed to get him anywhere.

Tom wasn't sure what made him do it. Maybe he was curious, maybe he just wanted to go to sleep… maybe he wanted to make Barry feel good. He reached down and caught hold of his brother's fragile wrist, pulling it away and Barry whined and gasped at the same time, startled, pulling back.

"No, no, what?" he asked, twisting his hand in Tom's tryin to get away, and then, suddenly, he stopped moving when Tom's other hand slid around him, his eyes wide. It was different, touching Barry. He felt the same, but it sent butterflies to his stomach because it wasn't his own body he was touching. In a way, it was more than that.

Barry made a sudden sound, his lips parted and Tom wished he could see him. He knew, when Barry's hips started to move into his hand that he was doing it right, making him feel what he felt when he did it to himself… he cried out again and Tom said "shh!" and Barry ducked his head down fast. Tom felt his hair brush his throat.

He let go of Barry's wrist and Barry's hand automatically slid over his side, his arm slinging over his waist, pulling him closer until Tom was forced to push one of his legs between his brothers, still touching him.

He bit his tongue suddenly as Barry raised his head, hitting Tom's jaw, and then his mouth was on Tom's messily and wet and Tom didn't do anything, and Barry pulled away. For a long time there was only breath and movement and then Barry pushed his hand into his brother's hair and they kissed again. First kiss. Was it supposed to be like this? Their mouths moved together easier this time, and then Barry jolted and Tom felt warmth spill over his hand, his wrist.

The movement slowed except for their mouths moving together. Tom could feel Barry shaking. They didn't seem to want to stop. What would happen then?

Finally they pulled apart, and Tom wiped his hand on the sheets behind him. They held each other, just hands, and Tom slowly pulled his leg from between Barry's.

The sound of the waves registered again and Barry lowered his head, forehead against Tom's shoulder, but he didn't wrap his arm around him. Not until Tom's arm slid around his waist. "Barry," he mumbled, frightened, suddenly, of the awkwardness, but it faded away as Barry's hand slid into his hair.

The storm passed, sometime in the night, and everything was covered in a silvery frost, and they had their tea in the morning as usual.