Zak had looked all over the house for Lee, checking every room twice until he heard the radio in the kitchen mention that
a storm was coming in over the city. Then he knew exactly where his brother was. Up on the roof.
Lee was stretched out on his stomach on the sun-warm tiles, chin propped on his folded arms, looking east over the bay, where
the clouds were piling up. "Just in time," he said, looking back over his shoulder. "Look, you can see the lightning already."
Zak sat down next to him, pretending to look at the moving storm clouds but glancing at his brother out of the corner of his
eye. Lee's eyes were half-closed, his face slack, his voice a little slurred. Their mother had dragged him back to the doctor
the day before, half-frantic, demanding something that would let her son sleep and eat and "relax, for just a minute
every day, that's all I want, he has to calm down before he hurts himself."
Lee hadn't argued; he never argued with their mother. He just obediently took the pills for a few days, until they didn't
work, and a month or so later the whole thing happened over again. It made the doctor and Mom equally crazy; they couldn't
seem to find anything that could convince Lee's mind and body to be calm.
"Wind's picking up," Lee mumbled, tilting his head over onto his shoulder to look at the clouds sideways. "Storm's moving
faster...now it's over the edge of the city. It's raining over there, but not here. Isn't that kinda funny, Zak?"
Zak just nodded and leaned back on his elbows, watching Lee watch the storm. This medicine wasn't going to work either, he
could already tell. Lee wouldn't like being fuzzy and slow like this, not when it wore off enough for him to be aware of
it. Zak could imagine the fight already.
"This works for everyone else, Lee. The doctor says there's no reason this generation of drugs should make you feel that
way!" "Well, I don't know what to tell you, Mom. We already know there's something wrong with my brain, but maybe I'm just
a total freak." "Don't talk like that. You know that isn't true. Damn it, Lee..."
The cloud-shadow fell over them, and Zak shivered as the wind picked up. "Lee," he said, getting awkwardly to his feet.
"C'mon, we'd better go inside, it's going to start raining."
"I don't care." Lee closed his eyes, tilting his head back, letting the wind run over his face and through his hair. "It's
just water, Zak, it won't kill you."
"Well, I'm going inside." He hesitated for a minute, but it wasn't his job to take care of Lee. "It's right there in
the regs, Zak," Lee would laugh sometimes. "Big brother looks out for little, not the other way around."
"Maybe we could watch a movie or something, later," he suggested, and Lee nodded a little, eyes still shut and face turned
away. Zak shrugged and hurried down the steps into the house. Lee was right, a little water wasn't going to hurt him, and
probably once he actually got wet he'd realize he was being stupid and come inside.
The kitchen door was open, and Zak looked inside to see Elise, the college student Mom had hired to clean up around the house
and cook dinner sometimes. She was singing along with the radio, a rentlessly upbeat Geminon pop song. "Hey, Zak," she said
with a smile. "Hand me that spoon, will you? You guys are getting pasta tonight." She lifted a box of noodles in the air.
"Whether you like it or not."
He shrugged. "Fine."
She reached over and turned the radio down a little. "Your birthday's next week, isn't it? How old are you going to be?"
"Fourteen." He reached for the bowl of apples on the table, waiting for her to tell him "not before dinner," and grinned
when she ignored him. Elise didn't really care about anything he and Lee did, as long as it didn't make more work.
"I bet your mom's going to want me to make a cake," she muttered, frowning at the pot of water on the stove. "Wonder if I
can convince her that's worth a bonus?"
"Probably." Mom felt guilty enough about having to hire people to work in the house at all; giving them extra money was practically
"You should go do your homework." She wasn't even looking at him; it was more of a theoretical statement than a command.
But for once he felt like cooperating, and headed for the door. "Where's your brother?" she called after him.
"On the roof," he said, not bothering to turn around at her surprised response. If she wanted to go out in the rain and drag
Lee inside, let her. Not Zak's job, after all.
He did half a page of math problems and promptly got bored. He could finish the rest of it before class, probably, and even
if he didn't, one assignment wasn't the end of the world. He picked up the apple core and headed back to the kitchen to throw
He heard voices and hesitated outside the kitchen door, peering around the edge of it to see what was going on. Elise was
standing by the counter, hands on her hips, glaring at Lee but smiling at the same time. "You are dripping all over my nice
clean floor," she said, tapping her foot.
"Sorry." Lee grinned back at her, then looked down at himself. "Yeah, I got a little wet."
"That's what happens when you sit out in the rain," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "Well, are you just going
to stand there and drip, or what?"
"I don't know. Maybe." He leaned back against the counter, water puddling around his feet, still grinning. "What do you
think I should do?"
He was flirting with her, Zak realized. His tense, reserved, awkward brother was flirting with the housekeeper.
Apparently the new meds really did take his anxiety away. Probably more of it than he really wanted.
Elise was studying Lee's face, her smile twisting a little from amusement to something else. Zak didn't quite know what to
call it, but she was moving closer to his brother, laying her palm flat on his chest. "I think you should get out of these
"Before I catch my death of cold?"
"Yeah. Because then I'd get fired, and who wants that..." She laughed, kind of a funny breathless sound, as Lee obediently
tugged his t-shirt off, then rested both of her hands against his chest. "Feel better?"
"Still cold," he said, looking at her with a challenge in his eyes. She licked her lips and cocked her head to the side,
looking him in the eye.
"I could get in trouble for this, you know," she said, tapping his chest. "I could lose my job."
"I'll never tell," he said, making his eyes wide and innocent-- the blue eyes Zak had heard girls sighing over when Lee picked
him up after school. Apparently they appealed to older girls as well as younger, because Elise smiled, pressed closer, and
kissed Lee on the mouth.
Zak realized he should not be watching this-- he should either announce his presence or leave-- but he was frozen, hidden
by the half-open door as Lee's hands wrapped around Elise's waist. He was making strange, hungry sounds between kisses, and
tugging at her shirt until she stepped back and pulled it off. She fumbled with the zipper of her own pants, then Lee's,
and Zak realized that this was going to go far past the kinds of things that his own friends did when there were no parents
or teachers around.
She settled her hands on Lee's shoulders and jumped up on the counter, wrapping her legs around his waist. Lee made another
sound that Zak didn't have words for-- something low and dark and almost desperate-- and finally, Zak managed to move. He
hurried away from the door and back down the hall to his room, trying to push the whole scene out of his mind. Lee's face,
the sounds...he didn't recognize those as part of the brother he knew.
It took him a minute, lying on his bed with his arm flung over his eyes, to realize that he recognized the feeling twisting
up his stomach. He had been there before, fighting away tears, but before, Lee had been there with him. When Dad moved out.
The feeling was called being left behind.
For the next week, Zak raced home from school and locked himself in his room until Mom got home. The house was dangerous,
filled with the risk of stumbling across Lee and Elise on the couch, hearing them inside Lee's room. He couldn't stand it.
He got more homework done that week than he even thought he was capable of.
Then Mom took Lee to the doctor for the follow-up blood test on his medicine, the levels of something or other were found
to be way too high, and the dose was adjusted. Lee's eyes brightened, his mind cleared, and Zak had his brother back again--
serious but quick-witted, capable, reliable Lee. But one who could sleep through the night without pacing the halls, and
finish his meals without getting sick. So an even better Lee, really, and Mom was so happy, and it seemed to Zak that maybe
things could go back to the way they used to be...
So walking in on Lee and Elise one more time, and on his frakking birthday of all days, was just too much. Zak wanted
his brother back fully, and he wasn't letting the housekeeper get in the way, no matter how good she was at making chocolate
So he told his mother that Elise had been stealing things from the house, and that was the end of her. Lee sulked for a few
days, then shrugged it off in his level-headed way and went back to important things, like studying for the Academy entrance
exam and helping Zak with his homework. Zak half-expected him to start bringing home other girls, but Lee seemed content
to go back to the way things were. Zak approved of that. The way things ought to be.
After all, how could they really call themselves brothers if they were going to let a woman get between them?