"Come on," Travis shouts, ignoring the stinging pain across his shoulder blades. Cheeks bruised and muddy, Connor held back a pitiful whimper, clutching his brother's hand desperately tight. Looming before them, resting atop the hill was a wooden gateway to something like safety; it read: Camp Half-Blood.
Connor didn't understand this feeling. This foreign intrusion felt like poison pumping through his veins. He didn't understand how seeing Travis kissing some girl could do this to him.
His last memory of her is the faded silhouette being closed off by the scratch-marked door. Connor's small hands clutched his arm painfully, an unfathomable question asked in his big blue eyes. "Where's mommy going?"
For months, Travis spent the night curled under worn-out sheets drying the tears of his inconsolable brother. It was everything he could do to keep from losing himself in his own anger. There was nothing he could say and there was nothing else to say about the fact that their own mother had left them.
After living your whole lives thinking you're less than dirt when your own mother doesn't even want you, there's something to be said at finding out you're actually part-god; a full half of it, at that. The dilapidated house was something the Stoll brothers were used to by now. It was the sudden mass of siblings that welcomed them wholeheartedly into the family that made their trademark blue eyes shine again.
Gold dust exploded with the monster's dying wail but it was the soft smack of parting lips that had them frozen in place.
He didn't mean to, he just... he thought they were about to die and then they weren't and then he just grabbed his brother and made sure he was safe and there and with him and -
"... You kissed me."
Travis' lips were flattened into a thin line as he laid the band aid over the cut on Connor's arm. Connor didn't say a word, grimacing slightly as the adhesives were secured on his skin. Only when everything was over, once Travis stood up to put the first aid kit back, did Connor's hand latch onto his brother – a blush high on his cheeks and a quiet 'Thanks' leaving his cut lip.
It was just the punch, Travis tried to tell himself, the punch they spiked with alcohol as per Luke's plan. It worked wonders to what would've been just another boring house party. Almost too well, Travis thought absently, taking a brief gulp of air before succumbing back into Connor's sweet kisses.
Connor wets his lips in anxiety, fingernails digging crescents into the flesh of his palm as he sat across Travis. The older one had his eyes narrowed, baby blue irises glinting as he inspected the package that fitted neatly in the palm of his hand.
"Just open it," Connor moaned, unable to take any more of his brother's teasing act; he'd spent enough hours debating about the perfect gift – he didn't need any more tense seconds wondering whether or not Travis would actually like it.
"Your curfew was fucking midnight, it's two in the gods damned morning," Travis shouted the moment the front door closed.
"It was a party and I'm not some bitching Cinderella needing to be home by twelve," Connor shouted back.
Defiant blue eyes clashed, holding on for a minute until Travis slammed a fist against the wall and walked away.
It's everywhere – the suspicious eyes and twisted lips. Connor bows his head in an effort to deflect the piercing gaze sent right at him. Travis reluctantly lets go of their laced hands.
Everyone expects them to be the comedians, being children of the trickster god and all, so people really have no idea how to deal with finding either one of the brothers in a slump. Then again, the Stolls don't exactly need other people to cheer them up, anyway.
Connor's eyes are closed, his head on Travis' chest as his brother rakes through his messy brown hair, humming a quiet tune from their childhood days.
"No really," Travis smirks walking a foot behind as his brother eagerly tugs at his hand.
"Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up," Connor's excited mantra fills his ears, joining in what were unmistakable sounds of a carnival.
"Well there's only so much a guy can walk while blindfolded, you know!"
Connor attempts a grin, whispering in a conniving tone that didn't really cover his apprehension. "Let's try not to get me pregnant, okay, T?"
His shoulders shivered and Travis leans in to mold their mouths together – drawing a little courage before the point of no return.
At the matching deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression on the two, Luke shook his head wryly, gathering a bunch of practice swords and tsk-ing all the while.
"You're welcome to join practice when you're done swapping spit" was all that he said before he left with enough courtesy to lock the door behind him.
People said the Hermes Cabin would never rise to its former glory. It did take a few months but the Flag eventually turned silver with a huge kerykeion at its center. And yes, that victory kiss in front of those snotty Athena brats was well worth the effort.
"Oh my gods, so they're like, together-together even if they're totally full-blood bros?"
It's the fact that the whispers weren't even trying to be discreet that grates on Travis' nerves. All of a sudden, Connor pulls him to a stop and there's a pair of smirking lips pressing against his jaw that effectively shuts up the throng of Aphrodite kids walking behind them.
"Hey C… Psst… Connor-o-brother-of-mine… Connie… Con-my-man… Concon Conconconconcon Concon Connie Connie Concon–"
When Travis started singing his name to the Cancan tune, the younger Stoll finally had enough. "WHAT?"
"What are you thinking of?" Connor murmured, his voice heavily laced with sleep.
Travis blinks, turning half-lidded eyes to the troubled face resting against his chest. "You," he replies, pressing a kiss to wet locks of hair sticking to his brother's forehead.
"I really wish you would quit doing that," Connor said with an annoyed cross of his arms, a misfired arrow caught in the branches of a tree some yards away.
From his position behind his brother, Travis rested his chin on Connor's shoulder, a loose unapologetic smile playing on his lips. "Sorry."
Travis' hands are shaking, Connor could feel every little tremor as he grasps those hands tighter to share what little strength he had himself. Warm breaths smelling of honey pass through the small inch between their lips and hooded blue eyes gaze unwaveringly forward. Travis squeezes his hand in reply and the first hesitant press of lips makes their hearts stop beating.
"Well, duh." That was the overall reaction from the Hermes Cabin residents when their current co-counselors came clean.
"Pushing your beds together is kind of a tell-all," Chris Rodriguez commented with a kind smile.
Travis opens his eyes to the rising sun, planes of light streamed through the high window and settled against the pristine covers of the circular bed. A pair of feet rested on the pillow beside his head as Connor snored against the mattress down south. Travis crawled over, fitting himself against his brother's side and letting sleep claim him once again.
Baby brother. An offhand term of endearment. How the Hades does Travis make that sound so filthy?
Even when she was an unclaimed under Cabin Eleven's roof, he already noticed her attempts at friendship and possibly something more towards his brother. He didn't like it then, especially her feigned confusion at handling weapons just so he'd help her out. Much less now, he thought, watching her enthusiastic wave as they passed by her newly-built cabin.
"You didn't have to take that attack for me…"
"Oh shut up," Travis ruffled his brother's hair, lifting the somber face with the puffy red eyes. "You know damn well that I had to."
As if the steep ridge of his brows weren't enough to display his anger, Connor had taken to tapping his foot insistently against the wooden floor as he waited for an explanation.
Travis breathed out thinly, running hand through his wet hair, his soaked shirt stretching with the movement. "Would you believe me if I told you I got mugged?"
"Holy Hera, who did you bribe?" Connor stared with utter wonder at the sight of the picnic table laid out beside the strawberry fields – candlelight, wine, and all.
Travis closed Connor's hanging jaw with a finger, smirking as he laced their hands together and led his brother to the table like a true gentleman should.
"What would you have me do?"
The wicked grin gleams even in darkness, sending goosebumps bursting over every inch of skin. It was almost too easy to exploit his brother being his biggest weakness.
Three words aren't enough. They could never be enough. As children of the god of communication, nobody knew this better than them.
It was nighttime, they had sneaked out to lay in the sweet grass and watch the famous meteor shower happening tonight. When that first streak of silver blazed through the dark canvas of sky, Connor turned to face him and Travis returned his hopeful smile. A single united thought passed wordlessly between them – I could never love anyone more than I do you.