I Love You Twice: Truth Hurts
David Parrish left his room, intending to go downstairs, get something to drink, and maybe call his best friend Danny to see if he was doing anything on Friday. But he had barely gone down two stairs when he heard something. He wasn't sure of the direction, and he had no idea of the source, but it was definitely a sob. He frowned, all thoughts of his previous intentions gone. The only people home were his mother Sara and his sister Kelly, who also happened to be his lover (though he preferred the term 'girlfriend', since it seemed more official). Either way, he was concerned. He backed up onto the top floor, where the house's three bedrooms were located, and listened carefully. There it was again, definitely coming from Kelly's room. On the one hand, he would have been completely out of his depth trying to comfort his mother - he took a moment to banish certain suggestions from those online stories his sister found so entertaining from his mind - but on the other, it still meant the woman he was in love with was deeply upset for some reason.
Truth be told, he'd been giving Kelly some space lately, space which she silently appreciated. To put it delicately, she was experiencing 'routine feminine issues', and for Kelly this tended to include some pretty strong mood swings. But the thing currently bothering Dave was the fact that said mood swings tended towards anger, not sadness, so hearing her crying like this really hurt him. Not to mention that even if it was just a hormonal imbalance, maybe he could help comfort her a little. Abandoning the stairs, he walked over to her room, and hesitated at her door with his hand in the air, ready to knock.
What if it's nothing? She could be watching a sappy movie or something and bite my head off!
He quickly shook off the doubt, though.
Come on, Parrish, she loves you with a capital L, she's not gonna snap at you for 'hey, are you okay' no matter how many hormones have been dumped into her system. Besides, she loves when you get all sensitive like that.
Momentary doubt over, he firmly knocked on the door and raised his voice just a tad.
It was hard to read her voice from a single word through a door.
"Is everything okay? I, uh, I heard you crying..."
"Just... just go away."
Okay, she was definitely upset about something. He hadn't yet decided whether to quietly leave or press the issue when she called out again, telling him to wait. A second passed in silence and the door clicked and swung open slightly. The Maine coon's eyes were red and puffy, and she looked deeply bothered by something.
She stepped away from the door rather quickly, turning to face away from him, as if uncertain of how to address him. He closed and locked the door behind himself, more out of habit than anything else, and stepped up behind her.
"So what's wrong, hon?"
He'd thought out that last word much more carefully than one would expect. He wanted to be more intimate than just using her name, and while he wasn't sure what was bothering her, he felt that he should speak to her more as a lover than as a brother at this time, a unique balancing act they'd come to deal with since their relationship started, so he didn't go with 'sis'. On the other hand, he didn't want to be too "boyfriendy" in case she was upset because of him somehow, so he didn't use 'babe' or 'love'. 'Hon' was an affectionate, yet mild compromise. In not offending her, it seemed to succeed, as she didn't turn on him. On the other hand, he wasn't sure she'd heard him at all until she finally turned around.
"It's about us, Davey. I - I've been thinking about the future."
Dave shot down the immediate suggestion from the back of his mind. Now was not the time to make a joke about flying cars and robots.
"You mean college? We talked about this, Kels, I -"
"No, no, it's... it's everything after that. And before that. And..."
She sounded confused and upset, and he knew her well enough to realize that her confusion was only making her more upset. She probably would have been crying again by the end of the night as the cycle continued. Dave hoped he could prevent that.
"I don't understand, Kels, what are you talking about?"
She waved vaguely in the direction of her desk, which still had faded, peeling stickers of boy bands she'd loved as a child plastered on the sides. Her laptop was open on top, and it seemed a bit more likely she was referring to that than, say, the various beauty products to give her hair a lustrous shine and keep her fur looking young and healthy. Sitting down at her chair, he poked at the touchpad to bring it out of sleep mode. It was open to a website he was peripherally familiar with, an open community designed to facilitate debates, with rather simple editing tools allowing users to create their own debates, where they could add major points of conflict or questions, beneath which other users could add facts and comments on the "pro" or "con" sides. Dave had been linked there from Wikipedia once, but he was more interested in the parts of the Internet that had pretty girls or articles about videogames in them, so he'd only seen it the once. At first he thought the debate on this page was about whether the government should legalize "pack" marriages for canines, and was confused as to why on Earth it was bothering her, but then he realized he was looking at the "related" box at the bottom of the page, not the debate itself. Scrolling back up to the top he saw the real topic of discussion... and his heart sank. 'Debate: Legalization of Adult Incest.'
He sighed and glanced over his shoulder at Kelly.
"Let me guess, the Con people weren't too kind."
She was hugging her knees to her chest and not meeting his gaze.
"See for yourself."
Reluctantly looking back at the page, he frowned. This debate was separated into short, simple questions, and none of them were particularly likely to make her smile. 'Can adult family members engage in sexual activity from a position of equal power?' Dave felt somewhat self-conscious as he read an argument that older siblings might coerce younger siblings who were otherwise reluctant into sexual relationships. Another section argued that incest was inconsistent with evolutionary principles. Another argued that if incest was legalized, many siblings would take that as a sign of approval for them to experiment sexually with each other. He felt his hackles rise and his anger grow as he read an argument against the idea that consenting adults should have the right to engage in incestuous activities.
"Consenting adults have no right to engage in incest. Consent is not the only criteria for the legality of actions. Consenting adults do not have a right to act in ways that harm others. Much of the case demonstrates the harms involved, such as the risks for the offspring, for the family institution, and for social sustainability in general."
He wanted to make a nasty comment but one needed to be a registered member to add posts. "That doesn't even mean anything," he growled under his breath as he moved on. Further down the page, he saw people dismissing the idea that it was analogous to legalizing homosexuality, as well as the only argument he actually admitted had merit, which of course was 'Are the offspring of incestuous couples healthy or at-risk?'. He'd seen enough, though, so he turned again - and jumped slightly as he realized Kelly was standing directly behind him, watching over his shoulder. She didn't seem to notice his surprise.
"Look at the last one. The bottom of the page."
He returned the browser to where it had been when he got there, and what he saw made his heart ache as he realized why Kelly had been crying. Without looking, she quietly quoted the title question verbatim, the bitterness in her voice plain to hear.
"'Can incestuous couples really love each other?'"
"Oh, Kelly... I'm so sorry..."
Scarcely able to believe what he was seeing, he stared at the entry in the Con column.
"A sense of immorality undermines the "love" between incest couples. Incestuous couples often report, "I feel that I am in love with my sister, but I know that I am doing something wrong". While they may have convinced themselves that they are in love, something nags at them that diminishes their feelings below "true love"."
"That's not all, Davey. Look at the other windows."
He switched between the other browser windows and discovered they all had a similar theme. A news report; the home of a man openly in a relationship with his widowed mother in Germany was vandalized and attacked by angry neighbours who didn't want them living nearby. A human interest article; a brother and sister living together in - oh, fuck me - in Australia, of all places, tell a reporter that they wish people would just leave them alone, quoting death threats they'd received in the mail from angry religious types. Another article explaining how the careers of a man and woman in northern California had been ruined after it was discovered that they were actually half-siblings, not husband and wife. Every window was the same thing; doom and gloom and legal repercussions and angry misspelled rants in the comments section. He'd seen enough. Closing the laptop, he turned to face her. She was facing away from him again, anxiously fiddling with the end of her tail.
"Kels, I know it's not going to be easy..."
She whirled around to face him, pain and anger and sorrow fighting it out in her eyes.
"No! It's not! It's going to be impossible! Maybe if it was fifty fucking years ago, but people can't just disappear today! They can't just start up new lives!"
"But those people tried to force people to accept them, and that never works."
"Not all of them! Some of them were trying to hide it, just like we're planning to! What if we can't? What if we have no choice but to admit it? People still think it's freakshow behaviour, they'd write about us in the fucking news!"
Kelly rarely swore, so this made him genuinely worried about her.
"Davey, people are going to hate us. Hate us! Because we're in love. They don't need a better reason than that. Wh-what happened to 'Love is love'? How come we don't get an 'It gets b-better'?"
She was fighting tears, and it was starting to show through in her voice.
"I... I felt so, so screwed earlier, like I'd murdered someone and I'd have to face punishment for it eventually. It's already t-too late, there's n-nothing I can do to stop it... all because I love you. I - I want to be with you, Davey. That's all I want. But I'm starting to worry that we can't be together, that they won't let us... I..."
She whimpered, swallowing a sob as her ears rotated all the way back and flattened against her skull.
"I said to myself that I wished I'd never caught you doing the thing with my panties... that we'd n-never fooled around... and that I didn't love you. It makes me so hap... Hap..." Shuddering with the force of the emotions trying to escape, she forced herself back under some semblance of control. "Happy. I feel so complete when I'm with you, like nothing else m-matters... and I wished I'd never found that. Th-that's why I started... started... oh, God, Davey, I'm so sorry!"
The last syllable of 'sorry' stretched out into a wordless wail as she dashed forward and threw her arms around him, burying her face in his chest and sobbing openly, the tears she could no longer hold back dampening his shirt. Raising his arms, he squeezed her tight, feeling hollow inside. He was supposed to be strong for her when she was weak, comfort her when she was hurting, find a way to make her smile again. This was true whether you looked at him as the older sibling or the boyfriend. But for now he had no words, nothing to say, because she was right. The world would never understand them, and he didn't know what to do.
So he just stood there and held her tight. When she trembled and nearly collapsed against him, her knees almost giving way, he scooped her up in his arms (not as difficult a task as you may think at first glance, given that male cats have rather dense musculature and that Maine coons are about a third fluff) and carried her over to her bed, lying down and letting her lie against him.
"Shhh, there you go, it'll be okay..."
She wasn't sobbing anymore, but she was still whimpering, her shoulders heaving as she pressed her face against his chest.
"Oh Davey... it's so unfair... we'll never get to have kids, never get to get married..."
Dave knew that that second one was a major problem for her. Kelly had been planning her dream wedding since she was about six, and the idea that she'd fallen in love with someone with whom she could never get married bothered her a lot, even if she put on a brave face for him. For his part, he just lay there, thinking, as he ran his fingers through her hair, something she usually found calming, but it didn't seem to help. He hated this feeling. The woman he loved was hurting badly and there was seemingly nothing he could do to stop it. She was right. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't find a way around it. Barring a major social upheaval, the world would never be okay with a brother and sister in love. They -
That was it. 'They.' This nebulous They who seemingly disapproved of everything and everyone. Maybe he shouldn't try to go around the problem... maybe he should try and go through it.
"Kelly? Listen to me."
He took a deep breath, pulling the right words together. Then he gently tugged her up into a sitting position and then held both of her hands in his.
"I want to tell you something important. I love you."
She whimpered and started to tell him that they wouldn't care, but he cut her off immediately.
"No. You listen to me. Kelly, long before we became more than siblings, you were always there to support me. You were always there to look up to me, to tell me that I was the big brother who could do anything, to help me feel better when I failed. There were things I shared with you that I could never share with anyone else, not my friends, not our parents, nobody but you. And that was before we were even together. When I first realized how I really felt about you, I hated it, hated it about myself, even I felt like a freak. But I could never deny it, and when you ran from the room, when I thought you were rejecting me, rejecting my feelings... I wanted to die, Kelly. I lay in this bed crying like you were just doing, and I wished I would just die. And my feelings have only gotten stronger as time's gone on. That's how much you mean to me. You are my everything, Kels. Sometimes I just watch you, when you're talking to your friends, complaining about how unfair a teacher is, or laughing at a movie. And while I'm watching you, I'm picturing our lives together, how amazing we're going to be in the future. And when we're together, when we're just relaxing and talking about our days and watching TV or whatever, you have this way of making all my problems just melt away and not matter anymore. I don't care about my failures, I don't worry about my success, I just... I just stop thinking about anything but you. Kelly, when you smile at me, I feel like I just won the lottery. When you're hurting, I feel it too, right here."
He placed one of her hands on his chest, and held it there so she could feel his pulse.
"That's how I know for sure. That's why I am absolutely certain when I say this: Kelly Rose Parrish, I am in love with you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
To punctuate his speech, he lifted her other hand to his muzzle and kissed the back gently. For her part, Kelly looked rather stunned, and she was blushing like a neon sign. Recovering slightly, she gestured in the general direction of her laptop.
"No buts. Those people don't like how we feel about each other? Fuck those people. I mean that. If they can't see that this thing we have is beautiful, then I never wanted anything to do with them in the first place. If they don't believe that it's real, who cares? Have they ever been in love with a sibling? Who do they think they are to judge us otherwise?"
He looked down for a moment, shaking his head.
"And Kelly... you were worried that they wouldn't 'let' us be together."
When he met her eyes again, there was a surprising anger in them that the generally gentle feline almost never demonstrated; a fierce determination.
"I will fight anyone who tries to pull us apart. I will never let 'them' take you away from me. I want to be with you. Nothing else matters."
For a moment, she just sat there and stared at him. Then, with tears in her eyes that had nothing to do with sorrow, she threw her arms around him and squeezed him so tight that for a moment he couldn't draw breath.
She didn't say anything else. She didn't have to. Relieved when she loosened the pressure a little, he returned her embrace, really noticing the warmth of her body against his for the first time in a while, having gotten used to hugging her. Leaning down to nuzzle against her, really savouring the moment, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath of her natural scent, whispering to her words he had already made abundantly clear, words he would nonetheless never tire of telling her.
"I love you twice, Kelly."
"I love you twice, Davey."
Shortly after that they lay on her bed, on their sides, facing each other. Dave's hand lay gently on her side, rubbing softly up and down, making her purr quietly. His other hand was entwined with hers, as they looked into each other's eyes and talked quietly.
"Davey, I don't have a speech as awesome as that one, but I wanted to tell you... I was afraid after reading all those horrible things, but I never wanted to give up. That was never an option. I wanted to make that clear."
He leaned in and kissed his sister chastely on the lips, then nuzzled her cheek before she continued.
"When I think about losing you, it hurts, Davey. It hurts in my chest so bad that it's hard to breathe, hard to think. That's how I know for sure that I love you."
The handsome black cat grinned that slightly lopsided smile that always made her feel better, then took a deep breath.
"Kelly... I'm still working on the wedding problem, that'll be a big one, but... I know kids were part of the long-term plan for both of us, and someday, if it's really that important to us..."
"No, Davey, no... please, don't say that, don't tempt me. That's not fair. Not to me, not to... our baby. Even if our fairy godmother waved a magic wand and the entire world was suddenly okay with us being in love, you can't change our DNA."
She averted her eyes, but he cleared his throat, somewhat self-consciously.
"Kelly, I wasn't going to mention this because I don't have anything to back it up and I didn't want to get your hopes up, but..."
"I was reading a forum thread about incest a couple of weeks ago, and one guy said that the odds aren't as bad as everyone says they are, that cousins who have a kid together are only slightly more likely than two random people to have a baby with birth defects, and that siblings are at about the same level as cousins, uh, how did he put it, 'unless those siblings are themselves the result of inbreeding.' I never mentioned it because, you know, it's some guy on the Internet. He could have been wrong or talking out his ass or something. I was trying to find a study or something that backed that up, but the Internet is kinda big, and I haven't had any luck with it. Hell, you ever try to read a scientific research paper? May as well be written in Sumerian for all I understood. But there's at least the tiniest sliver of a chance that we could..."
"...That we could have a baby someday. Wow, feels weird to say it out loud like that."
"Thank you, Davey."
It was Kelly who leaned in this time, and kissed him on the forehead.
"You're right, that isn't much, but just the fact that you're trying to find out more, trying to find out if we could have a family... that makes me happy."
He pulled her into his arms and they snuggled for a bit, Dave moving in to kiss her the way brothers are generally not encouraged to kiss their sisters. But there was a funny look in Kelly's eyes that was impossible to hide in such intimacy.
"What's wrong, hon?"
She blushed rather deeply, avoiding his gaze.
"Well, I have this weird feeling, like... never mind."
"No, no, now you've got me curious."
She started toying with the sheet beneath them, curling it around her finger.
"M-maybe I've just been reading too many of those pervy stories online..."
"Man you're cute when you blush. But keep going, now I definitely have to hear this."
Naturally, she started blushing with greater intensity.
"Ohhh, Davey! W-well... I have this feeling like, I was in emotional turmoil and stuff, and you came along and helped me through it, and now I feel really close to you..."
The hand on her side began to rub her affectionately through her clothes, and the smile on his face changed from one of amusement to one of joy.
"...So I sort of feel like this is the part where I'm supposed to, you know, reward you... with sex. But I'm still, you know..."
Chuckling, Dave leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek.
"You're right. Unless it's magically cleared up? Maybe you should check. That sounds about par for the course."
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding... but on the other hand..."
As he said this, his own hand was gently sliding down her side until he lifted it off her body once he reached her thigh - and carefully manoeuvred it under his sister's skirt without touching her.
"...I suppose anal is still an option!"
Just as he said the word 'anal', he extended a finger and pressed down on a certain spot beneath Kelly's tail, through her panties. She let out a delightful eeeep and jumped away from the offending digit, causing her to bump into her brother, since they were so close already. Impressively, she managed to blush even harder as her tail poofed up in agitation, and Dave's laughter was not diminished by the well-deserved punch to the shoulder he received.
Getting his laughter under control, he winked at her.
"I'm sorry, Kels, but remember the 'twice' part: I still love you as my little sister, and that requires a certain amount of teasing."
"Teasing, huh? Maybe I should cut off your sex privileges for a month, see how much you enjoy 'teasing' after that, hmm?"
His ears swivelled around to the back of his head and he put on the Sad Kitten Eyes, but she knew him well enough that there was never any doubt that he was just kidding.
"No fair, that's the Girlfriend Trump Card, I can't beat that!"
Kelly put on a haughty expression that Dave recognized as equally pretend.
"That's right. Gotta keep you stupid males in your place. And denying you the goods is the best way to do that."
They stayed like that for a moment, he looking crushed and pathetic, she looking arrogant and dominant, and then they both broke out into giggles.
Once they had calmed down, Kelly's face suddenly took on a serious tone that was anything but a joke.
"...Davey? I've been thinking... we have to tell Mommy and Daddy. About us."
Shocked, he started to say something, even if he wasn't sure how to respond, but she placed a finger on his lips to silence him.
"I don't mean right now, I don't mean today, probably not even this year. But someday. I've been thinking about it ever since I read some of those articles, because I realized something. If we keep this a secret from them forever and it works perfectly, we'll be happy but they'll think we're both single for life, without anyone special. If we tell them the truth, they might not be happy about it, they might even disown us - though I don't think our parents would do that - but at least they'll know we're happy."
There was a moment of solemn silence.
"You're right, Kelly, I never thought about it that way. They gave us everything, they at least deserve to know the truth. Though that's not a conversation I'm looking forward to."
The slightest trace of a grin appeared on his face.
"We should look up some of those coming-out guides on the gay lifestyle sites. Maybe we'll find something we can use, too."
Kelly took one of his hands in her own and squeezed it, smiling herself at the squeeze she automatically received in return.
"Yeah, maybe we could write our own guide afterwards. We should invent a phrase for telling people you're a sibling couple."
"How about 'coming out of my sister's bedroom'?"
Kelly snickered at that.
"We'll work on it."
Without either of them saying it in as many words, they both knew that that particular conversation was over, for now. It wouldn't be an easy topic, and they would need time to work their minds around it. So for now, it was back to lighter things.
"You know, that reminds me, there was a site I wanted to show you the other day that wasn't all doom and gloom. Had a bunch of inventions for couples. I really liked the bed made of foam bars you could stick your arms and tail and stuff between. I could sleep with my arms around you without the one under you falling asleep."
"I do like the sound of that... actually, that gives me an idea."
Dave pushed an arm under her and rolled her on top of him, face to face once more.
"Okay, so sex isn't happening, and I'm cool with that. How about you reward me with cuddles instead? It's been a couple days."
Smiling widely, already starting to purr, Kelly nuzzled against his cheek.
"I think that's a fantastic idea. I love you, Davey."
"Love you too, Kels. Always will."
She pressed her lips against his, and by the time they stopped kissing, both of them were purring at full strength, the sounds wonderfully synchronized, something they liked to say was a sign from the universe that they really were meant for each other.
As their hands chastely ran up and down each other's sides, rubbing and massaging and getting tangled in fur, the Parrish siblings kissed and nibbled at each other, and whispered sweet nothings in each other's ears. To no one's great surprise, a pair of felines who had just gone through a rather trying emotional experience and were now snuggling in a soft, warm bed soon found themselves drifting off to sleep, wrapped in each other's arms. But even as they slept, dreaming whatever it is they dream when they nap in the afternoon, the strength of their embrace did not falter, and the smiles on their faces showed that they needed no blanket to keep them warm; even if it had been the heart of winter, their love would do the job quite nicely.