: the answer is always the same
- Topsy, “Molly”
When the yank’ dies, she is there to pick up the pieces.
She’s well past the point of labeling life unfair: it’s been a bitch ever since she was thirteen and their beautiful mother left for home sweet home. Without them. Their life was pretty shit for a while but this puts the icing on the pear-shaped cake rather easily.
She wishes her brother were still small enough to tuck into her lap.
Topsy is left in a mess. It’s not quite obvious: he doesn’t wear his grief on his sleeves and he doesn’t cry. Not because it’s emasculating— he has always been secure in his male pride, even when she used to dress him up like a girl. So it’s not because he won’t, it’s because he can’t. Not anymore. She knows he wishes he still could. He doesn’t say as much but she knows he thinks it’d alleviate some of the constant grief weighing his lungs down.
He doesn’t sleep well, either. There are nights when she wakes up in the middle of shadows and silence and quietly pads down the hallway to the second door on the left.
There’s no noise from the restless body twisting on the bed and it hurts to see his strong hands desperately strangle the sheets in a white-knuckled death-grip. The same knuckles that are often mottled purple and brown, bruised daily and hidden inside gloves when he comes home, rumpled and roughened. He’ll gradually still under her hand as she strokes his forehead, smooths out his hair, and she keeps her vigil right until he wakes.
Rarer are the nights when she finds his bed empty, lonely under the cold street lamp streaming from outside his window. She goes back to hers and does not think about the third bedroom, where their flatmate sleeps and, in these moments of weakness, comforts her brother.
It’s none of her business. She’s just glad they get along very well. Topsy has few he keeps dear to his heart and, after Tegan, there are fewer still.
Neither sibling is particularly expressive but they can read each other like graffiti on the wall. On his, they rise like skeleton Dali skyscrapers, derelict concrete-and-steel monstrosities acid-etched on its frame with guilt. She reads the shame that drapes heavily like shrouds of dirty canvas, the self-disgust that darkens and pollutes the nooks and crannies. She quietly traces the self-effacing, grieving anger scrawled carelessly, indiscriminately everywhere, repetitive and coarse and wild.
And under it all, the heartbreak.
Maybe she should have said something. Maybe she should have involved herself more, made an effort to meddle before Topsy got too deeply invested. She wishes she had been more aware of the danger, more aware of the slow clusterfuck of poison eating away at Topsy. But he’d hidden it from her too well and she hadn’t known about his obsessive love until it was too late.
Fuckin’ eye. If only they had known when she had the butcher attach it. Even if the eye used to be human, it already wasn’t by the time Topsy wore it.
"There was no way to know," her brother tells her one time, when they try to talk about it. It’s almost a year later after the American’s death and there are shadows under Topsy’s eyes that might never go away. The right one is as pale as ever, its gaze perpetually sharp, and his faint smile is set to match. "You were just concerned, Molly."
Her brows dip in the middle, her mouth twisting unpleasantly at the sound of her alias. Molly. It’s a good, practical English name. She wishes she could stuff it down the throat of the person who had crafted their new identities. It was pretty damn illegal but with the waist-high shit they were getting into, it had been necessary to keep a secondary background around.
"And you’d have rather gone blind in one eye," she says, looking straight at him. Calling him out. "Instead of that happening. Maybe instead he’d still be alive."
He stares back because this is exactly what he thinks and he doesn’t try to hide it. “Not ‘maybe.’ He would.”
"You wouldn’t be lovers, though."
He shrugs. “Just friends. He wasn’t interested at first but, you know, I was obsessed.” She still remembers the horrid time when he confessed to her about the rape and hopes it doesn’t show up on her face— but she isn’t surprised when he catches it anyway and gives her a self-deprecating quirk of his lips. ”I think I still would have fallen in love with him but… I don’t think I’d have pushed him as far as I had.”
"You are the sort to pine," she sighs. "Quietly suffering while you vent your frustrations with some underground brawl, the little bastard none the wiser." She’s rewarded with a weak chuckle. They fall into silence for a while, stewing under the shade of a cafe awning while the morning rush bustle happens around them. It gives them a bubble of privacy.
"Would you do it all over again?" she asks, and it’s more of a confirmation than an actual question.
"Yes," he says, tired. That’s all there is to say on the matter.