Sibling Rivalry

This story was also cut from my upcoming anthology, not because I didn’t like it, but because it didn’t really work with the plot that had jumped out at me.  Actually, this story was one of the ones that was harder for me to cut because I liked it so well.  So, without further ado…

Apollo wearily climbed out of his Jaguar convertible, and climbed the front steps of the brownstone townhouse.  It had been a very long day at the university—the literature and music classes in the morning were a lot of fun, but the afternoon in the teaching hospital had turned a little tragic.  Half of the patients his small classes of young student doctors had seen were children.  They’d had a new young patient brought in that day—a toddler boy who’d been roughly shaken by a babysitter.  The child would make a full recovery, but the delay in treatment caused by the investigation into who shook the baby made his job harder.

He leaned his forehead against the steel-cored wood front door, fumbling through his pockets for his keys.  He jammed the correct key into the lock and unlocked the door.  He gratefully turned the key in the lock, then twisted it just a bit farther to open the door.  Just as he stepped inside, the sun broke below the cloud cover in a spectacular red, orange, coral, and gold sunset that painted the entire sky.  He paused for a moment, just to drink in the beauty, and gently pushed the door closed, refreshed.

He loosened his tie, unbuttoning the collar under it with the same hand, and reaching into the coat closet for a hanger with the other.  His favorite gray-blue tweed jacket with the gray suede elbow patches (the one he privately thought of as his literature professor jacket) lived in the closet down by the door, because he rarely thought to get a jacket from the closet in the bedroom when he dressed of a morning, and rarely had time to run back upstairs for one, when he finally did think of it.  And Kat, the girlfriend that had recently moved in with him, didn’t seem to mind.

He’d met Kat on campus, when she’d come to interview for an open position in the English department where he taught one section of Classics every semester.  Tall, slim, with gold hair, blue eyes, and long legs showcased in a pencil skirt and nearly-knee high riding boots, she’d immediately reminded him of the one that got away so long ago (stupid Eros and his stupid lead arrows).  So, he’d set about charming her.

Succeeded, too.  They’d had three dates before she’d gone to bed with him, and six months before he’d gotten her to move in.  Surprisingly, he hadn’t tired of her—in fact, he’d only gotten fonder of her the more he got to know her.

Maybe this one would last a little longer than the ones he’d been with before.

He headed toward the kitchen, wondering if there would be anything started for dinner, yet.  It didn’t bother him, if not—there was this new little Greek delivery place that had opened up a couple weeks back.  He’d gotten a menu and slipped it into the drawer with the other fast food delivery menus.  Sometimes both were too busy with grading to even think about cooking for themselves, and Kat didn’t like the idea of having domestic help.  He wasn’t sure if it was a class thing, or a privacy thing.

The stove was cold, but the coffeemaker’s on indicator light still burned green—the burner kept the coffee hot for two hours after the pot had been turned on.  There was still about two cups left in the pot, or about one of the giant mugs that both he and Kat liked for their coffee.  As he noticed the coffee and that it was pretty recently made, though, the light went off.

He shrugged, and reached for his mug, a tall, squared, black ceramic mug from their local big chain grocery/department store, hanging on the mug tree next to the coffeemaker.  He still had grading to do, even after the long day, after all; one mug wouldn’t hurt him.  A whole pot wouldn’t hurt, and if he found he still needed some after the first cup, he’d darn well make it.  He filled his cup and turned around, leaning against the counter and shuffling through the handful of menus in the drawer next to him.  The Greek place’s menu—and phone number—was in the top middle of the stack.  He tucked it under his arm, picked up his cup of coffee, grabbed the phone off the charger, and headed toward the living room, and the door to the study.  He rarely presumed to order for Kat.

As he passed the stairs to the second floor, he heard a soft, familiar moan drift through the air.  He stopped short, grinning, and set the cup of coffee, the menu, and the phone down on the table next to the stairway, and toed off his shoes.  He unbuttoned his cuffs and pulled his shirt off over his head as he crept up the stairs.

If she’d gotten started without him, it was only polite to not keep the lady waiting while he disrobed, after all.

He was down to his boxers and socks, shirt, undershirt, and slacks discarded on the way past the laundry chute, by the time he reached the master bedroom door.  His grin widened as he heard Kat’s breathing quicken and a more guttural moan escape her.  He quietly turned the doorknob and opened the door.

And froze.  Yes, his Kat was in bed.  Yes, she was in the middle of things.

She was not alone.

“Artemis, what the fuck are you doing with my girlfriend?” he sputtered.

Apollo’s dark haired fraternal twin sister looked up from where she was propped up on her left elbow, leaning over the beautiful blond in the bed, right hand busy between the other’s legs.  “What does it look like, dear brother?” she purred.

Kat screamed, scrambling for the comforter bunched beyond their feet, and yanked it up to her chin.  Tears welled up in her eyes—Apollo wasn’t sure if they were from frustration, embarrassment, regret, or something else entirely.

Artemis, on the other hand, was smirking like she’d just won a contest.  She hadn’t moved when Kat had, except to duck back out of the way as the blond had lunged down to grab the pale green comforter, and her right hand was now hidden under the comforter that Kat had just pulled over them.

Kat shoved Artemis flat onto her back, away from her, scrambling out of the bed and taking the comforter with her, and wrapped it securely around herself.  “You were using me!” she snapped.  “Weren’t you?  That look in your eyes and tone in your voice says it all.”

Artemis’s smug expression faded into one of mixed confusion and remorse as she watched Kat’s reaction.  “Kitty-Kat, it’s not just that,” she said softly.

“But it was at least a little bit, wasn’t it?”  Kat’s voice was soft, sad, and trembling.  “You were using me.”

Artemis’s smirk finally totally disappeared, and she sat up, reaching out for Kat, who stepped back.  Apollo reached out and touched Kat’s shoulder, pulling her into his arms and turning her away from the bed.  He kissed her forehead.  “That’s what I’d like to know,” he said, voice hard and glaring at his sister.  He could be mad at her for his own sake later.  Right now, Kat was hurting, and Apollo wanted it to stop.

“Maybe at first,” Artemis said quietly.  “I mean, you tricked me into killing one prospective partner, and have spent our entire lives making sure nobody gets near me.  So, yeah: I came up with this idea to try to get whoever you were currently seeing into bed behind your back.  Just my luck, it happened to be a woman.

“Something went wrong, though,” Artemis finished, looking down.

“I’d be willing to bet that that something was that you fell in love with her, and she with you,” Apollo said softly.

“Yeah.  We—I—have been keeping the relationship quiet.  I didn’t want you to know.  I wanted to stay with her, not just score to piss you off.”  Artemis inhaled deeply, then blew the breath out harshly.  “I may have started out using her, but it’s not like that, not now.”

Apollo twisted his chin around to try to look down at his girlfriend where she had her face pressed against his neck, but she burrowed closer and wouldn’t look at him.  He felt her shoulders quiver a bit, and realized she was crying.  “There’s something you didn’t know.  I think she was trying to work things around to bringing you out of the wardrobe, so to speak.  We’ve been talking about this for a while.  Kat’s bi, I don’t mind, and we were talking about a girlfriend for her, one that I’d know about, but wouldn’t necessarily join her with,” he said quietly.  “I think she was trying to pave the way to bring you in.”

“No, I didn’t know that,” Artemis said.

“Were you just using her to get to me?” he asked, rubbing small circles on her upper back and glaring at his sister.

“Like I said: at first.  Then, I started to like her, and then I fell in love with her.  We’ve been seeing each other for nearly as long as you guys have.”  Artemis sighed.  “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”

Kat hiccupped against Apollo’s shoulder.  Apollo sighed.  Usually about this time in the fighting over something, one or the other would try to destroy what they were fighting over, so that their sibling couldn’t have it.  He didn’t want that to happen to Kat, and for the first time in his life, was willing to share.  He studied his sister closely, and could tell that she felt the same.  “Well, sis, I think you have an apology to make,” he sighed.

“Apollo, I—”

“Not to me.  Her.”

Artemis climbed out of the bed, not bothering to cover her nudity, and walked over to where Apollo held their crying girlfriend.  “Kitty-Kat,” she said softly, touching the other woman’s shoulder.  “Hey.  I’m sorry.”

Kat twisted around in Apollo’s arms.  But she made no move to respond in any other way.  Artemis took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry; I want to try to make this right.  What can I do?”

“You can start by getting dressed,” Kat said flatly.  “I don’t want to look at you naked, right now.  You, too, Apollo.  I don’t appreciate being the rope in a tug of war.”  She pulled away from Apollo, and gathered her dignity with her comforter, and made her way into the walk-in closet in the master bedroom.

Apollo and Artemis watched her walk away and then looked at each other.  “I really blew it, this time, didn’t I?” Artemis asked.

Apollo sighed, moving over to the dresser that held his at-home clothes.  “I really hope not, sis.  This is the first time I’ve been this happy.”  He fished out two pair of sweats, two pair of socks, and two tee-shirts.  He raised an eyebrow and held up one set of clothes.  Artemis nodded, holding out her hands to catch the clothing Apollo tossed to her.  “If you’ve screwed this up for you, you’ve screwed it up for both of us, and it’ll take me a long time to forgive you for that.”

Artemis sighed.  “It really doesn’t seem like the grudge I’ve been carrying over Orion is as big a deal as I always thought.” She glanced at the door to the walk-in closet.  “Come on, little brother—she needs some space right now.”

He walked over to the closet door.  “Kat, we’re going to go get dressed elsewhere.  Just come out when you’re ready.”

There was no response, but neither Apollo nor Artemis expected one.  He followed his sister out the door, and they split in the hall, Apollo heading toward one of the spare bedrooms, and Artemis heading for the guest bath.

Apollo heard the shower start as he was leaving the guest room, and headed downstairs to make another pot of coffee.  He snagged his mug, the phone, and the menu on his way into the kitchen, and stuck his cooling coffee into the microwave to heat back up.  It beeped as he was rinsing the carafe to refill the reservoir.  He finished setting the coffeemaker to brew, and took his coffee to the kitchen’s four person breakfast nook.

He heard the shower in the guest bathroom stop, and the one in the master bath start, and stared into his coffee, waiting for his sister to appear.  When she did, he nodded toward the coffeemaker and the mug tree beside it.  She didn’t say any more than he did, just helped herself to mug and coffee before drifting over to sit across the table from her younger twin brother.

Together, they listened to the sounds Kat made as she finished her shower, dried her hair, and got dressed.  Apollo glanced up at his sister, and blinked.  She hadn’t bothered drying her hair, but the wet ends dangled at least an inch above her shoulders.  He was used to her hair reaching halfway to her waist, and tied up in braids.   “When did you cut your hair?” he asked.

Artemis’s upper lip twitched.  “You’re just now noticing?” she asked.

Apollo rolled his eyes.  “Well, sis, that didn’t seem really important when I came in.”

Artemis blushed and sighed.  “Look, I thought you were going to be a lot longer—she let me hear the message you left on her voice mail about the little kid.  By the way, how did that go?”

“Kid’s going to be okay.  One of the cops is going to have to recover from a bruised ego, though.  Thought his job was more important than mine, and didn’t want to let me take care of the kid before he was done with his investigation.”  Apollo shook his head.  “I don’t get some people and their priorities.”

“Neither do I,” Kat said from the kitchen doorway.  Both twins looked up and Apollo stood to go to her.  She waved him back into his seat, and headed for the coffeemaker and her own mug.  She ignored the twins as she poured her coffee, then headed for her special flavored creamer in the fridge.  Apollo winced as he noticed she reached for the chocolate creamer—the one she saved for when she was really upset.  She took her time adding the creamer, the sugar, and adjusting each to suit her mood.  Then, she turned around and leaned against the counter behind her, facing the breakfast nook.

“I kind of suspected, on an unconscious level, that you were that Artemis.  That he was that Apollo,” Kat began.  “Not on a conscious level—it’s hard for someone who was raised Catholic, even if they’ve left the church, to believe that you guys exist, and I never really made the connection between the two of you.  That said, you’re so much like him that it felt right, like I wasn’t cheating on him.  It makes sense—how I fell in love with you both, and how both of you, who are more alike than either of you want to admit, fell in love with me.

“What I didn’t suspect was that you were using me.  I don’t know if I can forgive you for that, but I can try.  You are going to start to try to make up for using me by having dinner with us.  We’ll talk—all three of us—and we’ll go from there.”

Apollo and Artemis blew out a breath in a relieved sigh.  Both stood up at the same time, and converged on Kat, wrapping arms around each other in a three-way hug.  They stood there quietly for a moment, then Apollo’s stomach growled, followed by Artemis’s.  Kat giggled.

“Supper time,” Artemis said, looking between Kat and Apollo.  “Are we staying in or going out?”

“Delivery Greek okay?” Apollo asked, holding up the menu.

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