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I walk a lonely road the only one that I have ever known

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When Livia Blackthorn learned that everything she thought was being taken care of by her Uncle Arthur was actually taken care of by her older brother, Julian, she made herself one promise:

No more.

No more would Julian be left to take care of everything all on his own while his siblings lived the carefree lives of dumb kids. Livvy would be right there with him, helping as much as she possibly could.

She carried this promise etched into her soul as the Blackthorn siblings returned to LA where Uncle Arthur and their secrets awaited them, safe from the meddling of Zara Dearborn. Helen and Aline were re-banished to Wrangel Island, which meant that things were basically back to normal. Livvy tried to ignore how almost pathetically relieved Julian was.

Perhaps it was best if he was relieved instead of anything else, because things were only going mosty back to normal. The biggest difference was that Emma wasn’t returning to LA, and in Livvy and Ty’s opinions there was not a good explanation for why. Emma said that she was going to go on a tour of the different Institutes, but she wasn’t eighteen yet. Not to mention, when Shadowhunters went on their tours, they usually went with their parabatai . Emma was not taking Jules, she was taking Cristina, Mark and (though no one outright stated it) Kieran. It wasn’t right. When Ty had pointed this out to Jules he had just told him to leave it.

All this meant that not only were they back to their pre-return of Mark days, and Jules didn’t even have Emma to keep him grounded. Livvy was determined to pick up as much of the slack as she could.

The trouble lay in attempting to redraw the caretaker/cared-for lines that Julian had drawn after the deaths of their parents.

They had been back at the Institute for a couple days the morning that Livvy woke rather early to get a shower in before everyone else was up (at least in theory because she heard Ty and Kit talking quietly when she walked by Kit’s room to get a towel). While she showered she contemplated her gameplan for the day. Firstly would be to check in on how Tavvy was feeling. Dru and Tavvy had come down with the flu directly after returning to the Institute. Perhaps that wasn’t really surprising, Ty had said something about none of them having much immune system since they all pretty much hung out with each other and no one else. Everyone else seemed to be feeling fine, though, so far at least.

She climbed out of the shower and dressed before leaving her room. She ran across Dru on the way back to her room. The younger girl was looking slightly annoyed.

“What’s wrong?” Livvy asked.

“Tavvy was crying all night,” Dru grumbled. “It was so annoying.”

“He was crying?” Livvy asked. “Why didn’t you wake me? You can’t just let him cry!”

Dru’s face took on a look of afront. “For the record, I didn’t just ‘let him cry;’ I woke Jules.”

Of course she had. Old habits die hard. “ Dru… ” Livvy groaned. “I thought we’d agreed not to bother Jules so much anymore.”

“You would have had to wake him anyway!” Dru argued, hands fisted on her hips. “Tavvy was really upset and only Jules can calm him down when he’s like that!”

Livvy wanted to keep arguing, but she really couldn’t. She’d asked Dru to start coming to her for stuff she normally would have gone to Julian for, but she hadn’t told her little sister about Uncle Arthur and who was really running the Institute. Livvy had wanted to, but she figured Dru had enough to deal with without having to handle all that stuff. The problem was that meant that Dru had no idea exactly how much Jules already had on his plate and didn’t see what was wrong with piling on one more little thing.

Not to mention, Dru probably had a point about Livvy not being able to calm Tavvy down…

“Where’s Jules now?” she asked instead of saying something she might regret.

Dru shrugged. “I dunno. I was trying to sleep,” and headed for the bathroom.

“Okay,” Livvy said, then remembered what she should have asked at the beginning of the conversation. “How are you feeling?”

“Much better,” Dru said. “I’m going to shower now.” and she was gone.

Livvy whinced. This parent stuff was much harder than Julian made it look.

She crossed the hall and peaked into Tavvy’s room. The little boy was curled up in his blankets, fast asleep. Jules was nowhere in sight. She checked his room in the hopes that maybe he’d just gone back to bed, but that was empty too, though she was starting to realize that of course that was too much to hope for. She headed down the stairs towards the next most likely place to her find her big brother at this time of day: the kitchen.

As expected, Julian was there getting things ready to make breakfast. Livvy paused in the doorway for a moment to study him. He was moving slowly, and his shoulders were slumped. He looked tired. Livvy wondered if she’d have noticed that even a month ago, and had to admit that she probably wouldn’t have.

“You know you didn’t have to stay up all night with Tavvy,” she said. “I could have done it.”

Jules jumped and whirled to face her. His face looked even more tired than his body language did. “Livvy!” he gasped. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Just a minute,” Livvy assured him.

“Do you need something?” Julian asked. She couldn’t tell if he’d forgotten what she’d said about Tavvy or if he was ignoring it. She wondered if the latter was something Jules would actually do. It didn’t seem like him, but she was realizing there were a lot of things Jules would do that she wouldn’t have expected.

“Dru said Tavvy was crying all night,” she said. “You didn’t need to stay up with him; I could have done that.”

“You couldn’t have calmed him down, Livs,” Jules said, not condescending, just stating the truth. “Not like he was last night.”

Livvy was a little insulted. Just because Julian wasn’t deliberately trying to put her down didn’t mean that he wasn’t inadvertently managing it. “Then at least go lie down now,” she half-snapped. “I can make breakfast.”

“It’s pancake day,” Julian said, raising an eyebrow.

Livvy felt her face fall. They made pancakes from scratch because Ty didn’t like the taste of the ones made from boxed mix. Livvy might have managed making boxed pancakes, but the homemade ones were something only Jules could do.

Jules turned back to the counter, no doubt assuming he’d gotten rid of her. Frustration boiled in Livvy’s stomach. Why couldn’t Julian realize that things were going to be different now that she and Ty knew the truth? Why did he seem to think that everything was going to go right back to the way it had been? Why did he think that Livvy would be content to let him care for her now that she knew he needed help? Why did he seem to think that her attempts to help would be easy to brush aside?

“Teach me then,” she said with perhaps a bit more force than would usually be used when asking to be taught to make pancakes.

Julian paused and looked back at her. “What?”

“Teach me how to make pancakes,” Livvy said as clearly as possible. “Then next time I can make them myself and you can rest. It doesn’t make sense for just one of us to know how to cook anyway.”

Jules stared at her, his face slightly slack with surprise. “You really want to learn?”

“Do you not want to teach me?” Livvy asked, putting her hands on her hips. She figured that if he wanted to argue he would back down in the face of such an accusation.

“I’ll teach you,” Jules said. “I’m just surprised. You’ve never mentioned wanting to learn to cook before.”

That’s because I didn’t realize that every single adult thing in this place was done by my seventeen-year-old brother before.  Livvy thought, but what she said was, “Well, it’s time I learned.”

“Okay,” Julian raised a hand and bit on the corner of one of his nails. Livvy noticed blood welling up as he ripped part of the nail away from the quick. Her chest tightened. She’d always known Jules bit his nails (it was impossible to miss), but she’d never really noticed it before, and never really thought about how painful it must be.

“You should wash your hands,” Julian said, then he looked down and realized he was bleeding. “And I probably should too.”

So they washed their hands. Livvy pretended not to notice Julian wince when soapy water got into the tiny wounds on his fingers. She wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure what.

“Alright,” Jules said, oblivious to her dilemma. He crossed back to the counter, wrapping his still-bleeding finger in a napkin. “First we start with the dry ingredients.”

Jules helped her measure the dry ingredients and then the wet ones. Neither of them said anything that wasn’t related to pancakes until they were beginning to ladle the batter into the skillet.

“You know,” Livvy said, deciding it was time to reopen the previous conversation. “There’s really no reason why I couldn’t calm Tavvy when he cries. After all, you’re Tavvy’s brother not his dad, and I’m his sister.”

Julian paused and stood there a moment, his hands braced on the countertop, shoulders hunched, staring down at the granite.

“Jules?” Livvy asked after the silence had dragged on long enough to be uncomfortable.

The silence went on for a while longer, before Julian shifted and reached for the spatula without looking at her.

“Tavvy doesn’t remember Mom and Dad,” he said.

“What?” Livvy wasn’t sure she’d heard correctly. “What do you mean, he doesn’t remember them?”

“It’s not really that surprising,” Julian said flipping one of the pancakes to reveal a perfectly cooked, golden side. “He was basically a newborn when Mom died and he was so little during the war.”

Jules sighed and drummed the handle of the spatula against the counter, staring up at the ceiling. “People are always saying that I’m Tavvy’s brother not his father, but they never seem to realize that I was the one who changed his diapers and bathed him and read him stories and cleaned his scraped knees. I’m the one he screams for when he wakes up in the middle of the night convinced the monsters are going to come back and get him too.”

Julian sighed and looked back down at the counter. “My relationship with Tavvy is different than my relationships with you, Ty and Dru. I do all sorts of parent stuff for you three, but you all remember Mom and Dad and know that this family dynamic is abnormal. I don’t think Tavvy does. To Tavvy, this is normal; this is how family is supposed to work,” he paused and brought his thumb up to his mouth, gripping the stubby nail between his teeth. “When Tavvy’s says ‘Jules,’ he’s literally saying ‘Daddy.’”

Livvy just stared at him. Everytime she thought she’d finally grasped exactly how messed up her family was, she was bombarded with more. How much longer would this go on?

They lapsed into silence until footsteps sounded in the hall and came to a stop in the kitchen doorway.

“What are you doing?” Ty asked.

Livvy latched onto the distraction like a liferaft. “Jules is teaching me to make pancakes,” she said turning to face her twin.

Ty’s face lit up. “Cool! Can I flip some, Jules?”

Julian’s face creased in a gentle smile that Livvy had always thought of as a big brother’s smile, but she now realized was probably actually a parent’s smile. “Sure,” he said. “Come over here, Ty.”

Livvy stood back and used the time Julian’s attention was focused on Ty to think of something to say.

“Jules,” she said after several minutes. “Maybe we should tell the Clave about Uncle Arthur.”

Julian’s shoulders tensed, but he didn’t look at her. “We can’t do that, Livs.”

“Why can’t we?” Ty asked, his gaze focused on the pancakes. “If the Clave puts someone else in charge, then you won’t have to do so much.”

“That would only make our situation worse,” Julian said.

“How could that possible make our situation worse?” Livvy asked, able to hear the growing frustration in her voice.

“The only reason we’re allowed to live here together is because the Clave is under the impression that Arthur is in charge and raising us,” Julian said, he still wouldn’t look at either of them. “If they figure out that he hasn’t been, they’ll take the Institute away from him and split us up.”

“Why would they do that?” Ty asked, flipping a pancake very precisely out of the pan and onto a serving plate.

“If no one wanted us after the Dark War, there’s no reason to think anyone would want us now,” Julian said, he sounded bitter.

“What about Great-Aunt Marjorie?” Ty asked, which showed exactly how desperate he was; he hated Great-Aunt Marjorie.

“She likes it when we visit every once and awhile so she can pretend to be a doting aunt,” Julian said. “She doesn’t want us living with her.” He went to ladle more batter into the pan, but Livvy took the measuring cup from him and did it herself.

“That’s really frustrating,” she said. “It’s not like she’d need to do much for us.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jules said. He gone to sit down at the table and it looked like he was fighting the urge to put his head down on the tabletop. For the first time, Livvy noticed that he was a bit too pale on top of the tiredness.

“But we can’t keep this up forever,” she said. “Someone’s going to find out eventually.”

“She’s right,” Ty said. “Now that Malcom can’t make that potion, it’s only a matter of time before someone needs to see Uncle Arthur and we can’t provide him.”

“We don’t have to hold out forever,” Julian said. He didn’t look up, though he might have been studying the grain of the table. “Just until next year.”

“What happens next year?” Ty asked.

“I turn eighteen,” Jules said. “Once that happens I’ll be able to formally apply to become head of the Institute. The Clave gave Clary and Jace the New York Institute at nineteen, and I’m sure I can make a convincing case. Then I can openly run this place and become you four’s official guardian.”

Livvy imagined most seventeen-year-olds would sound excited at the idea of being head of an Institute, but Jules just sounded resigned and exhausted.

“Are you okay, Jules?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said, watching vacantly as Ty flipped the pancakes.

“You’re sure?”

“Just tired,” Jules said. He rubbed his eyes and then pinched the bridge of his nose. “And I think I might be coming down with Tavvy and Dru’s flu.”

“Do you need to lie down?” Livvy asked even though she was pretty sure Jules wouldn’t admit to needing to rest even if he did.

“It’s really just a headache,” Julian said, meeting expectations. “I’m fine.”

“Jules…” Livvy said trying to figure out what to say to have the right affect.

“I’ll take a nap after breakfast,” Jules said with a small smile meant to comfort her. “Which reminds me; I’d better go make sure Dru and Tavvy are up. Where’s Kit, Ty?”

“Shower,” Ty said, studying Julian out of the corners of his eyes.

“Alright,” Jules said. “I’ll be back, then.” He heaved himself to his feet and left the room.

Livvy and Ty watched him go. “He’s not okay is he?” Ty asked.

“If he’s getting that flu he won’t be in a couple hours,” Livvy said.

Ty nodded, biting his lip, but didn’t say anything.

~~~~

They had finished making the last of pancakes by the time Julian came back with Dru and Tavvy. Kit trailed in after a couple minutes, no doubt not wanting to seem like he was coming to breakfast when he was told. Sometimes Livvy found his attitude a little tiring, and she could only imagine how Jules felt about it because all his attempts at being caretaker rubbed all Kit’s authority issues the wrong way.

They all settled down at the table and dug into their food. They were part way through their breakfast when the doorbell rang. Jules, who’d been picking at his food and looking vaguely nauseous, lifted his head, eyes wide.

“Who’s that?” Dru asked.

“Can’t be anything good,” Livvy said. “Is there anyone we would actually like to see who would ring the bell?”

“No one who’s likely to show up anytime soon,” Julian said pushing his chair back from the table. “It’s probably someone here for Arthur.”

“Should I go get him?” Dru asked, so earnest and completely blind to the real situation.

“No, you, Tavvy and Kit finish eating,” Jules levered himself slowly to his feet and massaged his temples. “Livvy, Ty, can you come with me for a minute?”

Livvy and Ty followed him out into the hall. Julian didn’t say anything until they were out of earshot of the kitchen, then he stopped and turned back to them, “Can you two go up and wait by the attic stairs?” he asked. “I don’t think Uncle Arthur will come down--he never has before--but he’s been in a weird mood since the Cohort was here. Can you two just make sure he stays upstairs where he can’t contradict anything I say?”

“Sure,” Ty said.

“Good,” Julian said. His face had lost a lot of its color and he was actually looking sick. Dru and Tavvy hadn’t declined this fast and Livvy wondered if Jules had lied about how long he’d been feeling bad when they’d talked about it earlier. The thought that he might lie about something like that hurt, but she no longer thought it was something he wouldn’t do.

“What are you going to do?” Livvy asked.

“I’ll tell them that Arthur Blackthorn is out on business or something,” Julian said, he sounded so shockingly casual about the idea that Livvy couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it. “Then I’ll hope that whatever they need done ‘Arthur Blackthorn’ can do by mail,” he made air quotes when he said “Arthur Blackthorn.” Then the bell rang again and he hurried off towards the door without another word.

Livvy and Ty stood side by side for a moment. “Can you handle Uncle Arthur alone?” she asked.

He nodded. “Sure, go with Jules.”

Livvy nodded and darted off down the hall. She caught up with her older brother just as he reached the front door. Julian looked at her in surprise. “Ty’s keeping an eye on Uncle Arthur,” she said before he could speak.

He nodded and opened the door just as the bell rang again.

Linnett Ashdown was standing on the porch with her daughter, Paige. Mrs. Ashdown gave them a friendly smile, but Paige looked like she was judging them. Livvy was suddenly acutely aware that she was wearing a tee-shirt with Captain America’s shield on it, even though Shadowhunters weren’t supposed to know who that was, and Jules was wearing an old navy blue hoodie that looked like it probably needed to be washed. Livvy clenched her fists and her teeth. She’d never really like Paige Ashdown, but after her horrible prank on Ty, Livvy hated her.

“Hello,” Julian said with a friendly smile. If he was thinking about how Paige had treated Ty there was no way to see it on his face. “What can we do for you?”

“I’d like to speak to Arthur,” Mrs. Ashdown said. “I know it’s early but Francis and I have patrol later and I wanted to get this done first. Is your uncle available?”

Livvy’s stomach clenched even though the list reasons someone could be here that didn’t involve Uncle Arthur were slim. Julian’s pale face morphed into the perfect expression of guiltless apology. “He’s out of town right now on Clave business,” he said. “Is there something we could help you with instead?”

“I’m afraid not,” Mrs. Ashdown said with a kind smile, she was so different from Paige who looked like the news of Uncle Arthur’s “business” was a personal slight. “I wanted to ask Arthur if Paige could shadow him in his work running the Institute. She’s interested in the management side of Shadowhunter life and we thought that Arthur might be able to help her get some experience.

That was something that Julian couldn’t do. If Paige came to in the Institute, there would be no way to hide Uncle Arthur’s condition from her. The Clave would find out.

She glanced at Jules. He was chalky pale aside from a splotch of red on each cheek. Fever. He had definitely been sicker than “just a headache” when they’d been cooking earlier. He coughed into the sleeve of his hoodie before he replied.

“I’m not sure how Uncle Arthur will feel about that,” he said. Perhaps his smile was slightly strained but Livvy didn’t think either of the Ashdowns would notice. “He’s very particular about how things are run. He doesn’t even let us watch him work most of the time. I’ll ask him, though, maybe he’ll change his mind.”

Paige sniffed and opened her mouth as if she meant to say something, but Mrs. Ashdown stopped her with a hand on her arm. “It would be great if you could ask him, Julian,” she said. “When will he be home?”

“Tomorrow, maybe the day after depending on how things go,” Julian said so smoothly that Livvy almost didn’t believe he was lying. “I’ll be sure to ask him as soon as he gets back.”

“Oh, don’t rush him,” Mrs. Ashdown said. “Tell him to get back to us whenever is convenient.”

“Okay,” Julian said. “Thank you, Mrs. Ashdown.”

“You’re welcome,” she said then reached out and lay a hand on Julian’s cheek. Julian stiffened visibly. “You’re running a temperature,” Mrs. Ashdown told him. “You should rest. Do you have someone here watching you all?”

“Our tutor, Diana,” Julian said. Another lie. Diana was off wherever she was when she wasn’t with them, but Mrs. Ashdown didn’t know that.

“Alright,” she said with a gentle smile. “Tell her that I said you should take it easy today.”

“I’m fine,” Julian said.

“Don’t be stubborn,” she said with a smile. “Go to bed and we’ll stop darkening your doorstep.”

The Ashdowns said their goodbyes and left. Julian closed the door and leaned against it, his head thrown back, breathing quietly through parted lips. He looked exhausted. Livvy took his arm, Mrs. Ashdown was right about the fever; she could feel his heat through his shirt sleeve. “Come on, Jules. Why don’t you take that nap now?”

Julian’s eyelids were fluttering closed and he looked like he was seconds away from sinking to the floor. “I need to clean up the kitchen.”

Livvy adjusted her grip on his arm and coaxed him into a fully standing position. “The rest of us can handle that. You should rest before you pass out.”

Julian sighed but let her lead him up the Institute’s stairs. When they reached the floor with their bedrooms they met Ty coming back from the attic. “Are they gone?” he asked. “Who was there. What did they want?”

“Ashdowns,” Julian was rubbing at his temples again. “They want Paige to shadow Uncle Arthur.”

“She can’t do that,” Ty said. “She’ll find out.”

“I know,” Jules said. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll handle it.” He coughed into the crook of his elbow again. Livvy felt him sway, and tightened her grip on his arm.

“Jules is going to lie down for a while,” she told Ty. “When everyone’s done with breakfast can you start on the dishes? Make Kit, Dru and Tavs help you. I’ll be down in a couple minutes.”

“Okay,” Ty said and headed for the stairs.

Livvy helped Julian to his bedroom and found a pair of pajama pants for him. She didn’t bother trying to convince him to take the hoodie off because he was shivering like he was cold even though he quite obviously wasn’t.

After he’d changed, Jules sunk down onto his bed. For once his face showed exactly what he was feeling and he looked so incredibly thankful to lie down it brought tears to Livvy’s eyes. She looked away before he could notice and found herself looking at the mural he’d painted on the wall. She’d looked at it hundreds of times before, but she’d never noticed how sad it was. She turned pointedly away; she did not need to learn even more painful information about her older brother, at least not right now.

She pulled the blankets over Julian only to realize that he was watching her with a slightly perplexed look. “What?” she asked.

“Why are you suddenly so into the idea of helping me take care of everyone?” he asked. “It used to be like pulling teeth to get you to even keep an eye on Tavvy for a hour or two.”

Livvy felt her face heat up. She was ashamed of all the times she’d complained about something Julian had asked her to do, now that she realized that all she’d been doing was piling more work onto her overworked older brother.

“I know what’s actually going on now,” she said trying to sound as grown-up as possible. “It seems wrong to just let you do everything now that you don’t actually have to hide anything from me anymore. Besides, you don’t even have Emma anymore; you can’t be completely alone.”

Julian’s face tightened into a complicated expression that Livvy couldn’t define. “Yeah,” he said.

“Why did she leave?” Livvy asked. “You two are parabatai , you’re supposed to go on tour together. Why didn’t she wait until you were both eighteen? I know it wasn’t because of her break-up Mark, because he went with her.”

Julian sighed. He wasn’t looking at her, but that strange expression was still on his face. “It wouldn’t matter how long she waited,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to go. I have an Institute to run and I will for probably the next thirty or forty years.” He really, really didn’t sound enthusiastic at the idea of running the Institute. Livvy wondered what he would rather do instead.

“So that’s why she went gallivanting around the world with Cristina, Mark and Kieran and left you here to hold down the fort?” Livvy asked. She didn’t want to be mad at Emma, but she found that thought filled her with some resentment anyway.

“Not…” Julian pulled a face. “Entirely.”

“Then why else?” Livvy asked.

Julian fiddled with the edge of one of blankets, chewing on the fingers of the other hand. He was obviously debating something. How much of the truth to tell her probably. She knew he was contemplating telling the truth, because if he was lying he wouldn’t have spent so much time planning what he was going to say. Jules lied effortlessly.

Just when Livvy was beginning to think that he wasn’t going to say anything at all, he cleared his throat and said, “Emma and I…” he took a sharp breath and then mumbled so quietly that she could barely hear him. “Emma and I love each other.”

Livvy wasn’t sure why that was something to get so worked up about. “Of course you do,” she said. “You’re parabatai .”

“Not like that,” Jules was still staring fixedly at the blanket. He would not even glance at her. “Emma and I are in love with each other.”

It took a second to sink in. “Oh,” Livvy said. Everything she’d ever assumed about Jules and Emma’s relationship reordered itself in her mind. They had always been close, even for parabatai , and Jules had never liked Emma’s boyfriends, even the nice ones. Even when Livvy had thought about setting Jules up with Cristina, the match hadn’t felt quite right. Now she realized that it was because on some level, she’d known that Emma was the perfect girl for Jules. “ Oh ,” she repeated.

Jules still hadn’t looked up, she was pretty sure she saw tears in his eyes. She hadn’t seen Jules cry since before their father had died. “I’m sorry, Livvy,” he said. “You must be so ashamed of me.”

“What?” Livvy asked. “No! Of course not. Why would I be ashamed of you? You’re Julian!”

“I’m in love with my parabatai ,” Jules looked up at her now. There really were tears in his eyes. It was terrifying. “How could you not be disgusted by that?”

“Why should I be?” Livvy said. “You’re my brother. I love you. You and Emma would be perfect for each other.”

“‘Would be,’” Julian repeated, sounding a little bitter. “Becoming Emma’s parabatai was the biggest mistake of my life, and I knew it was a mistake when I was making it. Emma doesn’t know that, but it’s true. I never really wanted to be her parabatai --I think even back then I knew on some level that my feelings for her weren’t platonic--but it was right after the Dark War, and we were a bunch of orphans. The Clave was going to seperate us and we needed each other. Becoming parabatai was the only way to make sure Emma could stay with us.”

He spoke so quickly the words tripped over each, like he’d been waiting a lifetime to get the words out, to explain. Livvy tried to choke back a sob, but failed. Before Jules could react, she grabbed him by the hoodie, dragged him into a sitting position and hugged him with all her strength.

After a moment, he wrapped his arms around her and hugged back. She could feel the heat of his fever radiating into her; his face burned like fire where it touched her neck. Still, this embrace was still something special, because for the first time in her life, she was holding Julian not the other way around.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered into his hair. “I’m so, so sorry.” She wasn’t even sure what she was apologizing for. She had realized in the last few weeks that Julian’s life was a fallout zone of mistakes and wrongs and injuries that most people didn’t even see through his facade enough to notice. She wanted to make things better for him, but she didn’t know how.

Eventually, they pulled apart. Livvy had a million more questions, but Jules was obviously exhausted. He was sick and needed rest more than anything else. They could deal with Livvy’s myriad questions at a later date. She eased him back onto his pillows and tucked the blankets around him. Then she went to the bathroom and got a wet cloth for his forehead.

Neither of them said another word, but Livvy sat with him until she was sure he was asleep. When he was deeply asleep, she let herself quietly out of his room and did what she always did when she was upset or needed to think.

She went to find Ty.

~~~~

Ty and Kit were sitting on Ty’s bed. Ty had a book open on his lap and was rambling about something with a content smile on his face. Kit looked up when she opened the door and his face pinched with annoyance. “There you are!” he said. “You could have helped us with all those dishes.”

“I was talking to Jules,” Livvy said. “He’s not feeling well.”

“You know that means the three of us are eventually going to get that flu too,” Ty said turning a page of his book.

Kit threw himself violently back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling. “Great,” he said. “Just what I need.”

“That’s what happens when you have a lot of siblings,” Livvy said. “If one of us gets sick, eventually we all do.”

She thought she was doing a decent job of sounding like nothing was on her mind, but Kit pushed himself up on his elbows, one eyebrow raised. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

Ty lifted his head. “Livvy?”

“It’s a long story,” Livvy said. “Don’t worry about it, Kit.” She didn’t say anything to Ty. She would tell him about Jules and Emma, she couldn’t not, but Jules had taken her into confidence by telling her his secret. He’d no doubt assumed she’d tell her twin when he’d decided to trust her, but he probably hadn’t assumed she’d tell Kit. Kit was extremely nice and Livvy trusted him in most things, but he was still an outsider and there was no reason for him to know Julian’s secrets. She would get Ty alone later and fill him in.

Kit was still looking at her skeptically, his lips pulled to the side as he studied her. She needed to change the subject.

“What were you two talking about?” she asked.

Ty explained the conversation and Kit eventually got into it as well, though he was obviously trying to make it seem like he wasn’t actually interested in whatever they had been talking about. Livvy wasn’t sure why he bothered and at that moment, didn’t particularly care. She’d figured that she’d just wait to get Ty alone and then tell him, but now she knew she couldn’t. The new information about Emma and Jules was eating a hole in her stomach. She needed to talk to Ty now ; she needed to get Kit to leave.

“Kit,” she said. “I think I hear Tavvy calling. Can you go see what he wants?”

Kit looked affronted. “Why me? Why can’t you do it?”

“You’re not interested in this anyway,” Livvy said. “I am. Why should I be the one to go?”

Kit’s mouth opened and closed as he grasped how his feigned nonchalance had backfired on him. Livvy watched him try to decide which was worse; going to check on Tavvy or admitting that he’d only been pretending not to be interested. After a minute, pride won out and he got to his feet. “ Fine ,” he sighed dramatically. “I’ll be back.”

He left the room. Livvy climbed to her feet, crossed to the door and locked it behind him. There , he was gone.

She turned back to find Ty looking at her in confusion. “I didn’t hear Tavvy calling,” he said.

“He’s not,” Livvy admitted.

“Then why did you say he was?”

“I need to talk to you about something. Without Kit.”

Ty bit his lip, looking uncomfortable. “Did Kit really think that what I was talking about was boring?”

“No,” Livvy reassured him. “He’s really interested, but ashamed to admit it because he thinks it will ruin tough guy reputation. I just needed to get rid of him for a while.”

“Okay,” Ty said slowly. “Why?”

Livvy went back to the bed. She sat down across from him and sighed. “Jules and I were talking about some pretty heavy stuff,” she said quietly. “He told me something really important about him and Emma…”