Knock knock knock!
Stefan jumped slightly at the sound, striking his bandaged hand against the hard wood of his writing desk. “Ah, fuck!” He hissed between clenched teeth as his swollen knuckles throbbed in pain.
“Who is it?” Stefan snapped impatiently. He rose quickly to his feet, and looked toward his bedroom door.
For a moment, he regretted his outburst, fearing it may be his little sister or one of Tobi’s children on the other side. The kids were the only people in the house who bothered knocking anymore, it seemed.
The bedroom door creaked open slowly. “Um… hi.” Tobi muttered awkwardly, crossing over the threshold.
Stefan tried to hold back the wave of guilt that washed over him at the sight of his brother’s scratched face. At least his nose isn’t swollen anymore. He thought to himself. The ER nurse thought it might be broken, at first. Tobi was relieved to find out she had been wrong.
Two of Stefan’s knuckles had not been so lucky.
“Hi.” Stefan replied at last, looking down at the floor and avoiding his brother’s gaze. How is it possible to feel so damn guilty and so ANGRY at the same time?
Tobi said nothing for a few moments.
Neither did Stefan.
“Look… Can we talk?” Tobi asked softly.
For a moment, Stefan almost wanted to laugh. That was almost exactly what Tobi had said to him the night before. And look at how well THAT turned out…
He just shrugged. “Sure.”
The brothers sat beside each other on the edge of Stefan’s bed, and his sense of déjà vu grew even stronger. Hopefully this won’t end with me breaking the OTHER hand… Stefan thought to himself as he studied his brother’s face for a moment.
“I think your lip’s bleeding again.” He muttered.
Tobi looked unconcerned. “It’s fine.” He said, smiling tentatively at his twin. “I hope these scrapes heal up soon though… Or I’ll ruin all of Diego and Rachelle’s wedding pictures.”
“Oh yeah, that’s next weekend, isn’t it?”
His brother nodded.
“Well, it’ll just level the playing field a bit, won’t it?” Stefan returned Tobi’s small smile. “I mean, how could any of the other guests ever compete with one of the…” He paused. “What was it again? ‘Top Ten Sexiest Footballers in Europe’?” He couldn’t help suppressing a small chuckle.
Tobi’s cheeks reddened. “I thought we agreed to never bring that up again! Oh my God, how humiliating…” The young man shook his head, but could not completely hide his amusement. “And, uh, for the record, I was number eleven… It was top twenty-five.” He corrected.
Stefan rolled his eyes. “Right, because that’s so much better.” He teased.
They both fell back into silence then. And when the silence returned, so too did the anger and shame. Stefan let out a soft sigh. I should have known it wouldn’t be THAT easy…
“Stefan?” Tobi broke the silence with a whisper. “I know I already told you last night… But I’m REALLY sorry.”
“And there’s no excuse for what I did.”
Stefan nodded in agreement. “You’re right. There isn’t.” He paused before continuing. “But… There’s also no excuse for me beating the shit out of you, so…” The young man shrugged. “Maybe that makes us even?”
To his surprise, Tobias laughed. “You call this beating the shit out me?” He gestured toward his scratched face. “Oh come on, Stefan. We both know you can do better than that.”
Stefan felt his face grow warm with embarrassment. He’d attacked his brother with all his might and, in the end, had probably hurt himself worse than Tobias. For a moment, he felt a wave of jealousy as he looked down at his twin’s strong arms. Stefan did his best to shake the feeling off, just as he always did. Don’t be petty. He reminded himself. He got the brawn, you got the brains, remember?
“I guess I held back a little.” He lied. “But why didn’t you just stop me anyway? I mean let’s face it, Tobi… You could probably snap me in half if you wanted to.”
Tobi was thoughtful for a moment. “I dunno… I guess the first hit caught me by surprise.” He confessed. “Then the second one, I figured I deserved for being such an asshole. Wasn’t expecting there to be a third, so I guess you caught me again.” He sighed. “I’m just glad there wasn’t a fourth.”
“Me too.” Stefan agreed, hanging his head for a moment. “I guess I couldn’t really control myself… I was so fucking mad, Tobi.” He paused, his expression hardening suddenly. “And I still am.”
“I know.” Tobi replied, his voice pained. “And I don’t blame you. But I don’t know what else I can possibly say that I haven’t already.”
Stefan let out a slow, deep breath. “I know.”
“And… I think tomorrow morning, it’s time to send that letter. For real this time.” A weak smile came to his lips. “You can even lock me in my bedroom til after the postman comes, if you want.”
Stefan studied his brother’s face for a moment before replying. He knows he fucked up… He realized. And so did I. It was still hard to believe that he’d actually attacked his own brother. Stefan had never hurt anyone before, let alone his best friend in the world.
I need to give him another chance.
“No.” He said at last. “I trust you this time.”
Tobi’s eyes widened in surprise. “You do?”
His brother nodded. “I know you’re scared, Tobi. I get it. I am too. But we both know we have to do this… We can’t put it off any longer. And no matter what happens, we’re in this together. Deal?”
“Deal. And… No more secrets.” Tobi said seriously. “I promise.”
“And no more throwing punches.” Stefan smiled. “Though I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere that chicks dig scars. Maybe you’ll break the top ten next year thanks to me.”
His brother rolled his eyes, ignoring the comment. “But, uh, if you do decide to use me for a punching bag again, do you think we can come up with a better story than ‘we fell down the stairs’ next time?”
“Oh, and you think you could come up with something better?”
“Sure! Uh… Rogue ninjas?”
It was a few minutes before their laughter had died down enough for them to continue their conversation.
“So.” Tobias continued at last, his tone serious once more. “Are you ready to send this thing? For real, this time?”
Stefan shook his head. “No.” He replied firmly.
“Just… hear me out, okay?” Stefan’s lips stretched into a small smile. “The more I think about it… I’m almost glad we didn’t send that first letter. I practically wrote that thing by myself.” He explained. “And it’s not right, Tobi. This needs to come from both of us… Don’t you think?”
Tobi nodded slowly. “You’re right.”
“So… I think we should write a new letter this time.” Stefan finished.