Author's Notes: Written for Someone aka Me, who is amazing and wonderful, and whose dedication to Rodolphus and Rabastan never fails to bring me incredible joy. I hope you enjoy it!
Also for Lavender Flame's Girl Scout Cookie Competition on the HPFC forum, for the "Mango Crème" category – "Write a health/illness related story"
He's never going to get any stronger.
The Healers don't think the medicine is doing much good.
Rabastan could usually grit his teeth and listen to the morbid appraisals of his health that the Healers and his parents made so frequently, and that rarely predicted that he had more than a few months left to live. He had been given those for as long as he could remember. In fact, one of his earliest memories was sitting in bed and watching a solemn stranger in green robes tell his mother that he would probably not live to see his next birthday. Rabastan hadn't been able to understand exactly what that meant at the time, but he was frightened, and when the stranger left, Maria rushed to him and took him in her arms and held him so tightly he thought he would break. And that night, Rodolphus had been allowed to sleep in bed with him.
Rabastan had long since stopped being afraid of being told he was going to die. In fact, he became bored with Healers saying so. Death would almost be a relief from his mother's constant fussing. The only thing she ever noticed about him was his poor health.
Rabastan thought that he was no longer afraid of death.
He thought that until the winter he turned eighteen.
On the night after Halloween, he felt a little weak, a little sick. He didn't think much of it, for it was not much worse than usual, and he simply took his medicine and went to bed, hoping that he would sleep it off.
When Rabastan woke the next morning, he was dizzy and feverish, and his throat tight and swollen. His chest ached and he feared to move too much, terrified that his heart might give out if he strained himself.
And so he spent the day in bed, every breath a struggle, and it wasn't until late afternoon that anyone bothered to look in on him.
It was Rodolphus who did at last.
"Rab, are you in here? We're having dinner…"
Rabastan managed to turn his head and look at the door, but he hadn't even managed to croak out that he wasn't hungry before Rodolphus was at his side. His arms wrapped around him – strong, warm, safe, the only strong or warm or safe things in Rabastan's life – and Rodolphus whispered in his ear, "Oh Rab, oh Rab… I'll send for a Healer."
"No," Rabastan managed. He didn't want to be poked and prodded at, and he knew already what the Healer would do: tell him that he would be dead soon, and then leave. "Rod… please… stay here."
And so Rodolphus did. He crawled into bed with Rabastan and held him close with Rabastan's back against his chest – no concern for whether the disease might spread to him; if it were the kind of disease that spread, he would have had it long ago – and whispered that it would be all right, that the sickness would pass, that Rabastan was going to be fine.
Having his brother hold him this way was the only thing that ever comforted Rabastan when he was ill.
When he was like this, Rodolphus would so gladly do anything for him. He always had. From Rabastan's earliest memory, he recalled Rodolphus lying in bed all night with him, bringing him sweets to try to improve his mood, holding him close and promising never to let him go.
When Rabastan got older, it was only natural that he should start to test just how much his brother would do for him. And oh, how much he would do. Rabastan need only ask softly, pitifully, (please, Rod, please… it would mean everything to me…) and Rodolphus bent to his every will. His morals – morals driven into him by his parents, that in any other moment, he would have stood by no matter the cost – evaporated in favour of wanting his brother to be happy, in case these were his dying moments. When Rabastan was ill and the two of them lay in bed together, Rodolphus had no qualms about abandoning his responsibilities. Or about kissing him chastely when Rabastan begged him to do so. Or about touching him less and less chastely when every caress evoked a whispered, "Oh, thank you, Rod, I love you so much."
Rabastan never felt a shred of guilt. He never thought of it as manipulating his brother – after all, it was Rodolphus who allowed himself to do whatever Rabastan asked. He could stop at any time. What could Rabastan do to prevent that?
But Rodolphus never did stop.
He never left the bed if Rabastan asked him to stay.
He kissed Rabastan, and the tears that were ever leaking from Rabastan's eyes wetted his cheeks until neither of them could be quite sure whether Rodolphus was crying too.
He touched him in ways that brothers were never meant to touch each other, but that felt oh so much better coming from him than they would have from anyone else.
It was small comfort, but it was better than nothing.