Post by fitz meyers, d3m . pogue on Jan 9, 2021 12:32:29 GMT -5
A U G U S T
It's the first Thursday of the month, which means it's the day of a hunt.
Butterflies in the stomach and the weight of a burden on shoulders that never felt strong enough, staring into the forest with the eyes of a snake and feeling the forest stare back, that's what he's come to expect from hunt days. The simulations had become more and more elaborate as they grew into the roles their parents set for them, charting complex paths through the forest and setting traps based off what their parents had encountered in their respective times hunting Wanderers. He'd grown used to the price of success and the price of failure itself, after all he had always been forced to weigh the two constantly. When he looks at Esra, though, he can tell his little Brother hasn't quite reached that point yet, fog still present in his eyes when they discuss things like this.
Dad always said that a foggy mind led to mistakes. When he hears Esra yelp and turns to find his little brother's foot caught in a spike trap he knows their hunt is over.
It's three hours later and their parents are dissecting the both of their performances, marks of failure and every mistake each of them made put up on the wall for them to gawk and stare at. His eyes are down, counting the number of spots in the wooden floors as his Dad begins laying into Esra, a verbal lashing they've been told is fit as the price of failure. He bites his tongue and holds silence in his bones like his life depends on it. After all, he's been on the receiving end of their disappointment before. Just hang in there, E, just bite your tongue. He thinks, begs.
Post by saylor bell d10m [nyte] on Jan 9, 2021 14:38:31 GMT -5
They pluck at him, sinew played like harp strings. It's all about breaking and resetting bones, raised voices that always manage to make him feel smaller than the last time he was reprimanded. He's careless by nature, a fatal flaw they've been trying to wring out of him with every new hunting simulation. A fatal flaw that ends with him falling on a shattered sword.
August is always telling him how to be better. The blueprint of perfection stands next to him now, eyes cast impassive even as their father's ire turns to him. Not that it's ever so scalding as what awaits Esra.
His foot throbs, not the worst pain he's ever felt but more than enough to leave him restless. At some point his father's voices turns to static and the storm building in Esta's throat swells to an almost unbearable size.
It's like his father knows what's too much. Like they all enjoy pushing him so far he has no choice but to break.
He tries to meet August's gaze, as he's always been the eye of his little brother's storm.
Not this time.
"I get it!" Thunder rolls and lightning cracks and, dear lord, has he always sounded this pathetic? Heat floods his cheeks, finally meeing his father's and flinching at the intensity of emotion contained within them.
His family has always been like this, plaster masks to hide the hellfire.
Esra spins on his heel before he can burn, hands gone clammy and hair standing on end. "Sorry." He mumbles it through clenched teeth, shoulder checking August as he leaves the room though he didn't have to.
He's stupid for not running right away, but he finds himself lingering outside the front doors hoping.
Post by fitz meyers, d3m . pogue on Jan 9, 2021 17:30:11 GMT -5
A U G U S T
Surviving a failure in the Marriano household was about tightening the defenses, building brick and stone and diamond around your heart and every chink in the armor you've ever found until the insults stopped hitting. And that's just the first thing.
Poison, venom, it's what they lace their words with and it eats at you, cuts deep into the bones and your bloodstream until there is nothing left to kill, nothing left to watch rot. It's about reaching that state of emptiness, cold and hollow and anything but breakable, a survivor.
Esra hasn't hit that point yet, carelessness still seeping into the borders and the armor every so often. It comes out as weakness, cracks in the glass and holes in the armor and everything their parents have told them to loathe and despise.
He can't tell if it's selfish of him to wish Esra never loses that carelessness, that last piece of him that makes him human.
Today is particularly brutal, wave upon wave of forgotten insult and poisoned arrows shot directly at Esra's heart because that's what they know will get him. He can practically feel his little Brother's heartbeat quickening along with his own, eyes glued to the spirals of the wooden floors and hands clasped so tightly behind his back that his fingernails are breaking the skin layer. He feels his brother's glance float towards him, feels himself ignore it. He thinks that is the last straw.
"I get it!" Esra yells and August winces, feels the silence seep into the same floorboards he's been in a staring contest with for the last ten minutes. His brother's words are fire and brimstone and burning so dangerously that when he meets his Father's gaze he doesn't know what is going to happen next. After all, the bite of a cornered snake will sting twice as much. He feels the poison break into his system as soon as Esra's shoulder hits his, venomous Sorry hanging dead in the air as his brother flees from the room.
The floorboards creak in their household, soft and almost forgotten but they are still there. When he only hears them whisper twice he realizes his little brother is waiting for him desperately, testing the same waters they are both drowning in. For a second he considers it, heart swelling in his chest and fingers curling into his palm and fist shaking. It's forgotten almost as soon as it slips into his mind, though, because he knows better than to act impulsively in this family. After all, losing your humanity in the Marriano household is just a growing pain.
"You weren't this much of a fuck up at his age." His mother starts, "Forget about him, he's a lost cause." His Father finishes and August snaps back into focus, eyes finally pulled up from the floor to meet the snake eyes of his parents.
"He's not a failure." He states, and he feels the rebelliousness in the words. You don't speak out of line here, lest you want to lose what shred of a voice you have. His Father moves to speak but August continues, a hand up to explain his point.
"Top of his class at the academy by a mile, better times in other simulations than I had at that point, intellect just as good as mine if not better."
It's a defense he doesn't know if they will buy but he still offers it, throws it on the table and watches them consider it through clenched teeth and poisoned soul.
"It's the impulsiveness that gets him in trouble. You- we, can train that out of him. Growing pains."
He gulps, his parents consider their options and for half a heartbeat he thinks his baby brother might actually be deemed a lost cause. Lost causes don't exist in the Marriano household, thrown out and forgotten and wiped from memory. He'd give anything to not have that happen, it's just that he doesn't have a lot to give.
"Very well. We double the training sessions starting next week, along with an extra simulation beginning at the start of the next month."
When they dismiss him he immediately nods, tail between his legs and head down.
Post by saylor bell d10m [nyte] on Jan 9, 2021 18:45:33 GMT -5
Blind eyes and deaf ears can't keep the rot out, running away like a coward doesn't keep him from caving in on himself. Esra can only imagine his parents say much of the same. It's almost comforting to know that every bad thing he's ever thought of himself comes from their lips.
He's less than good enough, Esra never stood a chance at falling into their favor. August has always been their son, first and foremost. Esra was... something else. A fail safe, clinical and practical in the ways he wasn't meant to be loved.
When he was younger he knows he yearned for the spotlight, stumbled after his brother on clumsy legs and mimicked his every move. He could only ever reach good enough, so close to perfection that his parent's lectures started to hurt more than if he hadn't tried at all.
Burnout is better than second best, at least it means his parents waste time thinking about him.
Home is not home tonight, so Esra finds a half-empty cafe and spends the better part of five hours nursing a cup of coffee. Time starts to blur after the first few hours, the only thing tethering him to consciousness a bitter chill biting through a gap in the door. It's hard not to think when silence reigns, but Esra manages.
He always does.
Twilight brings with it a sense of impending doom. He's pissed, mostly at his parents but maybe at August too. He's always knowing better, doing better, behaving. He stitches wounds after they've been carved, never trying to prevent the blow.
He's always loved August, his admiration for his brother might be the only thing that hasn't changed about the boy in recent years. Esra would jump to his defense in a split second, if he ever needed it.
Is it wrong to wish he had a brother who would do the same?
He's half-numb by the time he's reached homecoming, sweat-soaked gym clothes offer little warmth once the sun has retreated beneath the horizon. The house glares at him, looming like a dragon with bared teeth.
He just needs some blankets from his room, it won't be the first time he's slept in the junkyard.
It hurts to clench his hand into a fist, kneeling on the windowsill as his knuckles tap out a tune only August knows. He's not brave enough to try the front door, he's always been scared to burn.
"August!" Hissed through chattering teeth, "It's me."
Post by fitz meyers, d3m . pogue on Feb 3, 2021 23:20:36 GMT -5
A U G U S T
Regret seeps in almost as soon as he leaves the room, running through his bloodstream like poison and settling heavy in his heart as he hears the voices of his parents fade into the distance with every creaking floorboard on the climb up to his room on the second floor. By the time he hears the soft click of his door closing their voices are no more than hollow whispers, words lost into the walls of their house yet disappointment still laced within the bones.
He breathes, heavy, let's it flow out from his lungs and feels it topple to the floor into the storm and the silence. It's not easy to watch his brother go up in smoke so often, to lose sight of him in waves of grey and black that sting the eyes and blind the vision and choke the lungs. Esra's always been one to play too much with fire, chew it up and spit it out until everything around him is nothing but smoldering ash. He's a vision of fury and flames but August has always been able to see beyond the dancing reds and oranges and spot the waves of blue beneath, how they seep into his little brother's skin every time their parents tell him he's simply not good enough. After all, he'd watched his little brother follow in footsteps too big for his feet for his entire life, forced to live in a shadow that their parents made sure was ice cold. He doesn't know that curse, to be born second best and reminded of it constantly. Selfishness tells him to be thankful, sorrow reminds him to be grateful, and it's all he can do but make sure to keep his ears alert when he sits down to read for the night, purples and reds of the evening sky giving way to the evening as he waits for Esra's return.
He has a fresh pair of clothes laid out hours before his little brother's knuckles rap on the windowsill, an old pair of sweats pulled from the back of his drawer and a light blue shirt with a design that's long since started to fade away to the elements. He'd caught Esra stealing it from his room once, left bruises on his little brother's arm when he'd forced him to give it back, then watched it give way to a memory he couldn't help but cherish as the years had come and gone. Now, the clothes complement the pillow and blanket laid out on the floor of his room, heavy heart still refusing to let Esra bury his sins and his sorrows in a night at the junkyard even after all these years.
The familiar tune of Esra's knocks stills echoes in the silence of his room when he pulls the window up and open, the cool night air flooding in and spreading ice across his fingertips. "Who else?" He mutters as his brother climbs into the windowsill, letting a half a smirk dance across his face as the nighttime sounds follow Esra in.
"Ripred, E. Ya smell like shit." He says quietly, wrinkling his nose at the smell of his brother before practically whipping the fresh clothes at Esra. "Get changed. I made a bed up for you and everything, you just gotta be out by early morning, alright?"
It's like looking into a mirror, knowing the smell of blood and sweat as it hangs from his little brother's skin in one part sorrow and all parts shame. That he can relate to, that he knows well from nights spent alone daring himself to stare into the mirror and be proud of what is staring back.
It's just the tears that he's never been able to relate to, the broken look that Esra gets when they tell him he's a failure for the umpteenth time and the way he can hear his brother's heartstrings tugged and pulled in the empty spaces between their words. He thinks that's why he's never been able to defend him properly, never been able to shake the chains from his bones that his upbringing forced into him. He'd never allowed himself to fall into that zone of unforgiving rebelliousness, not like Esra. Some days, he doesn't know if that's his greatest strength or his greatest weakness.
His eyes finally meets Esra's and he sighs, collapsing onto the bed. The silence drives daggers into his heart as he all but twiddles his damn thumbs trying to think of what to say.
After all, he only knows tracking of a target, not the tracking of a heart.
And he hates these moments, where he's forced to read between lines that had been pre-written for the both of them, forced to sputter and choke on his own words as he tries desperately to understand what it is that Esra needs in order for that fire inside him to not incinerate everything he has going for him, for his little brother to not swallow himself in that same smoke that seems so prevalent for him.
"They just- they just want what's best for you, E." He finally stammers out in awkward glory, tastes the poison of accidental salt in the wound as soon as they drip from his lips, as soon as he realizes it to be the exact opposite of what his little brother would ever want to hear.