A/N: For Sam. Because this is entirely her fault. Or because I love her. Take your pick.
Also, I was giggling like crazy when you asked for help with Laura's BillCharlie because I was having the EXACT. SAME. PROBLEMS. So here it is, darling, and I hope you like it!
Finally, all my love to Cassidy for betaing this for me/helping me make incest happen; you're a lifesaver.
"Bill," Charlie says, and it's always got this sort of reverence to it, the sound of a young man who admires his big brother more than anything. "Bill."
"What, Char?" He sits up a little in the bed, bare shoulders exposed. His voice is tired and weary and Charlie can see the bags under his eyes.
"I heard you talking to Mum," he whispers into the fading light, afraid that their mother will somehow hear and rush in to give him a stern look and a twenty minute lecture on minding his own business. "Are you really going to Egypt?"
Bill turns to look at him, considering. "You hear more than you should around here, you know. Nosy git."
Charlie grins. "That's a yes, isn't it? How long will you be gone?"
He expects it will be a long time – weeks certainly, maybe months – but when Bill smiles sadly and responds, something in Charlie's chest turns icy.
"Few years, mate. They really need Curse Breakers out there."
"Years? But you'll - you'll have to leave us!" Charlie says, and all excited thoughts of Egypt and tombs and mummies and maybe we could visit die immediately, leaving Charlie feeling a little bit empty. "What am I going to do if you're not here, eh? The twins will do my nut and Mum, Mum will go spare without you around to control them! And what about Ginny? Ginny's just a child! How do we explain to her that Bill's gone forever?"
"Calm down, Charlie," Bill says, sounding resigned. "Look, Mum's not happy about it, but everything will be fine. You and Dad will just have to entertain the twins for her. And Ginny – well, it's not – not forever. I'll be back in a few years. It's not that long, Char, honestly. They'll all be fine."
"What about – what about me then?" Charlie asks. He is blinking a little too fast and breathing a little too hard. He might be embarrassingly close to crying, but he can't, not in front of Bill.
Bill stares at him intently, eyes narrowed slightly, and Charlie's chest flutters nervously.
"C'mere," he says finally, shuffling over in his bed and patting the empty space. "C'mon."
Charlie wants to say we're not children anymore, Bill or aren't we a bit old for that? or even there's no way we'll both fit in that bed comfortably, you git but he doesn't. Instead, he clambers clumsily from his own bed, feeling all the while like a little boy, but Bill's bed is warm when he crawls in, and Bill's arm lying straight down next to his is a strange but familiar comfort.
They lie in silence, two teenage boys awkwardly shoved into a single bed, and listen to the house breathing. There are doors opening and closing; people are walking up or down the stairs; the kettle is whistling in the kitchen.
After a while, Bill speaks.
"A few years isn't that long, is it?"
"Nah, mate," Charlie lies. "Not really."
But he's not really listening to himself; he's too busy imagining the sounds that the house will make when it is one person short.
Their bedroom is colder with Bill gone, Charlie muses.
The walls aren't quite as bright and the house is perhaps too loud – which makes no sense because there are fewer people now, but things don't always make sense, do they?
No, Charlie thinks, things most definitely do not always make sense.
And with that, he huddles further down into his brother's bed, smelling that familiar scent of pure Bill, and misses him more than he ever thought possible.
(It's not that bad though, because he's back at Hogwarts soon and Ron and the twins keep him occupied during the summers and, right after he graduates, he runs away to a foreign country of his own.
He almost wishes one of his little brothers would try to stop him.
None of them do, and Romania is a lonely place.)
"Bill!" Charlie says, and, if he strains, he can still hear that teenage wonder in his own voice.
It's been years since Bill's been in this room. Since either of them have been in this room. And now here they are, standing tall in their tiny bedroom in their parent's crumbling home in the middle of England, both with more exciting, more dangerous, more separate lives in places far, far away, and there is something not quite right about that.
They are men now – Charlie knows this. He sees it in the way Bill moves, how he holds himself, confident and strong. He can see it in the way Bill isn't that much taller than him anymore, in the way his own body feels suddenly foreign – he is stockier, stronger than the last time he saw Bill. Bill is leaner, his forearms poking out from the rolled up sleeves of his robes are taut and tanned, and Charlie realises he is staring.
(They are men, but they are still brothers.)
He looks away.
"Charlie!" Bill says, and then he has his arms around his brother in a hug so tight Charlie's ribs feel like they might crack but he's hugging Bill just as tight, and they're both laughing for no reason at all.
"I've missed you." Bill's words are soft. They tiptoe into Charlie's chest quite quickly, wrapping up his heart until its beats seem perhaps a little calmer. His chest feels lighter and he smiles because he never realised it was so heavy in the first place.
"You too, Bill. We should visit more often, eh?"
"Yeah, Char. We really should."
And they're both smiling like boomerangs, like nothing could ever go wrong, like those smiles will always come spinning back.
Neither one of them anticipates the fall.
"Charlie," Bill says, and Charlie looks at him from over at the counter where he's pouring milk into his tea. "What do you think of being home?"
Charlie pauses, staring out the window over the kitchen counter. Ginny and the twins are playing Quidditch outside, Percy is writing something under the shade of an old tree in the garden, Mum and Dad are drinking tea at the picnic table and sharing flirty smiles, and Charlie wonders if this is what life looks like when he and Bill aren't in it.
"I think we might've been away a bit too long, mate."
Bill looks towards the window. From where he's sitting, Charlie knows all he can see are clouds.
"Put the kettle on again, will you?" Bills says, pushing his chair out from the table and standing up. He walks to the counter, stands right next to Charlie, and stares out the window too.
"D'you think we left when they were too young?" he asks, placing his palms flat on the counter and sighing.
Charlie sips his tea thoughtfully. "There was never going to be a good time to leave, was there?"
"No," Bill says. "I suppose not."
"Do you regret leaving then?" Charlie asks, but his voice is quiet, timid. He places his mug on back down on the counter carefully. His hands seem to be shaking.
"Regret it?" Bill says, turning to look Charlie right in the eye, so that Charlie's chest feels like it's numb and he shivers. "No, I don't think so. But I wonder what it would have been like...if I'd stayed."
They are staring at each other now, identical blue eyes locked.
"Do you, Char?"
"No," Charlie says. "I needed to – to get away."
Bill is still staring at him, so forcefully, so intimidatingly, but Charlie cannot look away from those blue, blue eyes that he is sure are trying to tell him something.
"Get away?" Bill asks, cocking an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Because – because you weren't here," Charlie says, "and I didn't realise how much I would ne- how much I need you, Bill. How much I..."
Two steps forward and Charlie's lips are on Bill's, hesitant but desperate, and there is a moment where the world stops and they are the only ones alive, mouths joined, hands roaming, fire in their chests and –
"We can't do this, Char," Bill gasps, pulling back, pushing Charlie away, leaning against the counter and staring out the window like it's his only escape.
Charlie watches him. His chest rises and falls rapidly. His lips shine in the light from the window and his eyes are shining, and Charlie wants to pull him close and make him forget again, if only just for a moment.
"Please, Bill," he says. "Just for tonight."
Bill breathes deeply, still looking out the window, and sighs.
"Tonight," he says. "Just tonight."
And then he walks quickly out of the kitchen and Charlie hears his footsteps on the stairs. His heart hammers. His mouth is dangerously dry.
He takes a look at his cooling tea, downs it in one mouthful, chucks the mug into the sink, and runs after his brother.
The steam from the still-boiling kettle fogs the window.
"Bill," Charlie says, and it's got this sort of reverence to it, the sound of a boy who loves another boy more than anything. "Bill."
"Char – we – we shouldn't -" Bill stutters, but Charlie is bruising his lips in a way that brothers never should.
(But they are not brothers here, not boys now, not at all; they are men and they are kissing and that is all that they know.)
No, no, this is not right.
But the singing in his chest tells Charlie that it is. It is as right as flying together and talking together and if they can do this together then they can do anything together and Charlie's head is screaming yes! even thought Bill is whispering no into his open mouth.
Bill's trapped between Charlie and their locked bedroom door, and Charlie's trapped between Bill and the thought that if he stops now, he'll never get another chance.
They both know that this kind of love is the secret that wives whisper to their husbands about the neighbours long after the children are in bed, this kind of love is the type that only flares behind locked doors and cloth-covered windows, this kind of love is a travesty.
But "Charlie," Bill breathes, and it's hard to think this is anything but right.
"Bill," Charlie says, and it's got this sort of reverence to it, the sound of brother who is jealous but proud. "Are you ready?"
"I love her, Char," he says. "I love her more than anything – I mean, not – not more than you – not more than the family, I mean, but -"
"I know, Bill," Charlie says. He's smiling, but it hurts. His face is a mask of brotherly pride and second-hand joy, but his chest is a cave that's caving in, a hollow hole that needs something so wrong to fill it that Charlie knows he's always been meant for emptiness, and now Bill is smiling that boomerang smile at someone who isn't him.
She is radiant as she walks up the aisle, starshine eyes and sun-kissed skin, and Charlie sees Bill's smile split his face.
Boomerang smile, he thinks, and he knows that it will always come back.
It has to.