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bogeyman

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"Psst, hey!"

Caleb blearily opens his eyes to the darkness. He sees nothing—only the wavering blackness that night brings, fuzzy and strange whether his eyes are open or closed.

"Hey, wake up!" 

There's that whisper again: the one that woke him, he realizes. He rubs at his eyes with the heel of his hand and tries to gather his wits, groaning. He's sweated through his pajamas and the sheets stick to his skin uncomfortably.

"I know it's the middle of the night—" There's a shuffling of feet on the hardwood and then the voice sounds much closer. "—but I need some company. Again."

"Philip?" he grumbles. He can't see, otherwise he would reach out to pull his brother closer. "Is that you? What…?"

And then Philip is climbing onto his bed, curling up under his chin like a cat. The body against his is warm and familiar, the breath against his neck ticklish and comforting. "Call me the other one, will you? Just…just for now."

It takes his mind a moment to catch up. "Amelia," he corrects himself. He says it in a whisper, quiet as a mouse. "Of course. My Amelia… Did you have a nightmare?"

"No," she says. 

She. It's still strange to think that somewhere, anywhere, there could be someone who is a woman the way he is a man. He'd believed so certainly that he was a fluke, a freak—he's God's first mistake. That she is real and she is here, tucked into his arms, sharing his blood and his heart, feels impossible, even now.

He kisses her forehead. He kisses her nose. Before he can kiss her lips, she pulls away, burying her face back against his chest.

"Why are you here, pretty girl?" he whispers. Her hair sticks to his sweaty neck, tickles his nose, gets tangled around his fingers. It's soft…

"...I was lonely," she whispers. Words meant only for him. "Felt sick."

A quiet panic rises in him. "Sick?"

"Like I do when I'm—when I'm a girl. You know."

Ah. The panic fades into a sad understanding. Caleb does know. He knows it especially with her face pressed into his unbound chest.

"I see," he says. "Is there anything I can do to scare it away?"

Amelia laughs, but it's a bitter sound. "I'm not a child. You can't just make yourself bigger than the bogeyman anymore, Caleb…"

"I suppose not," he despairs. Then he grins. "And a child you are no longer, you're right. You're a beautiful young lady now. My perfect girl."

Her nails dig into his arm. "You don't think I'm so pitiable, do you?"

Caleb swoops down and kisses her neck. Her throat is wet too, sweating beneath the dressing gown she's not yet grown out of. "No," he murmurs. He lets his tongue poke out to taste her. "I think you're incredible is what."

"That's quite enough." Amelia pushes him, but he pushes back. "Oh! You're acting unlike yourself!"

"Shh." He pins her to the bed and kisses her to silence her. "I have a pretty girl in my bed. How else is a man to behave?"

"We can't do this. Stop it."

"Why?"

"You know why."

That familiar anger rises in his chest. He's spent his whole life swallowing it, smiling around it, making it into love for his community—the community which has not earned him, which does not deserve his lovely sister. He feels it hot in his chest and kisses Amelia with all of it, pulling away only to speak.

"One day," he says fervently. "I'm going to find us somewhere we can be free. Somewhere I can make you my wife."

Amelia gasps. "Caleb…"

"One day, Amelia, I promise you." He kisses her, harder this time, gripping her arms tightly. She doesn't fight this time, letting her head loll back against the pillow, letting herself be kissed with a kind of reverence Caleb doesn't save even for church. "One day."

"One day," she breathes.