Cardia always went to bed at 10:37. It was like clockwork, really. After all the months of isolation together, Finis had memorized her nightly routine, down to the very minute. Following a shared, silent dinner, which they took turns preparing, the girl would go to the study and write letters to the occupants of the Count’s manor. She stayed in there for what seemed like an eternity, carefully customizing the stationary with doodles and dotting her “i’s” with hearts. After that, she would go to the garden and give the plants their last watering for the day. Sometimes she would sing while doing so, her voice carrying tales of love and loss through the darkness. She then moved to the water closet, where she would bathe and further prepare for bed. Depending on the day, there would be slight variation in this evening schedule, but one thing remained absolute: she would always say goodnight to him right before turning in. He was usually in the parlor when this occurred, sitting on the sofa reading literature. Most of the time, he didn't even respond, but he noticed the gesture; he noticed everything about her.
Tonight, however, Cardia did not go to him. He heard the water running, smelled the familiar aroma of her flowery toiletries, even saw the bathroom light turn off when she presumably exited… but there was nothing more. His first thought was logical. He combed over the events of the day and checked for any abnormalities. He then tried to recall his own actions, curious if he himself provoked this response. His findings were ultimately inconclusive: it had been a standard day, complete with three quiet, square meals and plenty of cleaning. He once again peeked over his shoulder to check the hallway: empty. An exasperated sigh escaped his lips, signaling a break from logic and a leap into emotion.
She’ll come, Finis thought. By now, he had abandoned his copy of The Monk and sat cross-armed, tapping the ground with his bare foot. He was anxious, even irritated, and the emotional turmoil became more obvious to him as the seconds turned into minutes. He knew that his sister was a creature of routine, having been locked up for all those years, so it was only natural of him to worry. He wouldn’t say that he was worried about her, though. In fact, he hated her and was sure of it. It was more so a concern for her literal existence, as he felt obligated to protect his father’s quintessential work. All his life, Finis was conditioned to be proud of his family and the empire of scientific innovation they had built. Despite the horror and carnage, he still felt a sense of awe when reflecting on Twilight and what his father’s organization had achieved. He understood why all that needed to be stopped, but he nevertheless felt resentment towards his older sister for destroying what he and Isaac Beckford had tirelessly created. Even so, she had been the most important thing to the late man, as both a research subject and an offspring, and that fact distressed Finis. He truly felt like Cardia owed him for all the years he spent in her shadow. The idea of reparations alone made his heart race giddily. He despised everything about that silly girl, from the obnoxious sense of righteousness she inherited from her infernal companions to that puerile smile she flashed in awkward social situations. To think that she was making him wait on her now was infuriating.
At midnight, he decided he had been idle long enough and made his way to her chambers. He had no trouble letting himself in since locks were just not used in their house. This was something they agreed on upon moving in. The siblings believed they were a mechanism to keep each other out, when what they desperately needed was to connect without such barriers. That was what they had initially promised each other, at least; they certainly underestimated how difficult it would be to reconcile. He knew his uninvited entry was a violation of some unspoken rule, but his curiosity outweighed any shame.
The room was pitch black, but he could tell she was very much asleep from the rhythmic sound of her breathing. It was noticeably colder in here than any other part of the house. He softly walked towards her, careful not to be discovered. His eyes adjusted to the darkness with each step, and he began to see the details: the serene expression on her porcelain face, the thick, satin covers she had thrown aside amidst tossing and turning, the askew nightgown strap that exposed her bare shoulder. Finis’ eyes quickly widened. He focused on the slip, which was white with intricate blue flowers imprinted along the scooped neckline. The silk material was thin and slightly tight, the latter fact evident as Finis’ gaze traveled dangerously below her shoulder. He first saw the stones of the Horologium, then the easy, sloping shape of her breasts, followed by the protrusion of her nipples. At this intimate detail, he hastily looked away, and, in doing so, failed to see a snag in the thick carpet.
Finis was agile, but not agile enough to keep himself from falling. As he landed on the bed, Cardia conspicuously stirred. He held his breath. There was no further movement on his part, but his mind raced sporadically, weeding through excuses that would suffice for why he was in his sister’s bed. The truth was that there was nothing good he could say if he was caught, so he tried his best to remain undetected. Rigid and noiseless, Finis took the opportunity to again observe the girl in front of him. The expression on her face was no longer serene, rather twisting into a look of mild distress. He was all too familiar with that frown, as Cardia often looked this way when she was with him. Perhaps she was sad at the thought of being away from her friends or of being in their nostalgic childhood home. The past few months had not been kind to her after all.
Or maybe she hates you. The phrase echoed through his brain. It made his fists clench and his blood boil because he knew it was the truth. Finis had initially made a conscious effort to ignore all the complicated emotions when they escaped to Wales, focusing solely on their survival. As time wore on, however, it became evident to him that Cardia wasn’t happy. His presence in itself seemed to be the root of discomfort, even. It enraged him that she had the audacity to be unhappy after every awful thing that had happened to him. Cardia hardly knew anything of struggle and pain, but he wanted her to.
Finis cautiously crept his fingers along her arm. The skin was soft, warm, nontoxic. Excitement surged through his body as he realized just how defenseless she really was. He continued lightly up her arm to the top of her shoulder, stopping just shy of her neck. Cardia was breathing steadily now, her chest rising and falling as if on cadence, but he wished that she just wasn’t. His hands trembled slightly as he moved them towards her throat, a strange, perverse feeling bubbling in the pit of his stomach. Before he managed to make contact, however, her eyes opened.
Finis was frozen for only a few seconds before suppressing Cardia. His right hand flew to her mouth, stopping the squeal that was bound to erupt from her vocal cords. The other hand was on her neck instantly. Knowing that he was smaller than the girl, Finis moved on top of her for leverage, straddling her hips and pinning her elbows with his knees. He looked down at her, panting, and smirked mischievously. Cardia’s eyes glistened, threatening tears.
“Don’t look at me like that, silly sister,” Finis said cruelly. She started to squirm underneath his weight and it made him feel more powerful. “I didn’t expect you to wake up, but now that you have, you can watch what I’m going to do to you.”
The grip on her neck released and Finis slowly drummed his fingers against her collarbone. He kept his eyes glued to her as he snaked his hand down to her breast, eagerly digesting the horrified look that he evoked. The touching was rough, demanding, and it only became more aggressive as she resisted. Finis felt himself harden and wondered what aroused him more: her body’s womanly nakedness or her face’s frightened expression.
“I know you hate me,” he muttered as he found her nipple. He pinched it between his thumb and forefinger, hard. Cardia’s eyes bulged. “I want you to admit it.”
The hand clamped against her mouth moved to her other breast. He squeezed them hostilely, causing the girl to cry out. Tears flowed rapidly down her cheeks but no words came. Finis impatiently pinched both of her nipples simultaneously.
“I said,” Finis started, leaning closer to her, “I want you to admit it.” He was near her, so much so that his breath tickled her nostrils and his hair fell over her jawline. As the distance between them closed, discomfort danced along the lines of Cardia’s face. The desire to kiss the girl prominently flashed through his brain.
“W-why are you doing this?!” she abruptly shouted, not allotting him the opportunity to collide with her mouth. Her limbs writhed, struggling to break free. She was still sobbing, speech breaking and lips trembling, but her eyes were somehow strong. They stared into his intensely, challenging and insolent and unforgivable.
A wave of wrath washed over him. The response he so craved was missing; he needed to push harder. He withdrew from her breasts and maneuvered lower, forcefully pulling up the hem of her nightdress to reveal tiny, white panties. There was already a small spot of wetness on the fabric. He glanced at her smugly and saw her eyes losing that strength. She proceeded to scream, additionally jerking her entire body in attempt to buck him off. While he wasn’t very heavy, she also wasn’t very strong, bringing about no solution to her predicament. Laughter erupted from his throat as he pried her legs apart.
“You’ve never been touched here before, have you?” Finis taunted, knowing the answer.
“Don’t,” Cardia begged. It was clear she was nearing the end of her rope.
“Do you want your first time to be me?” he pressed mockingly, placing one hand on the outside of her garments. He could feel heat and the outline of her lips through the material.
“Please, brother…” Her voice was small. The desperation provoked him.
He very lightly rubbed her, savoring the mortified look that plastered her face with each small movement. “I would say to imagine I’m Lupin,” he remarked, “But you’re going to look at me when I take you.”
Finis straightened and briskly unbuttoned his nightshirt, keeping watch of her all the while. She was now despondently looking through him, staring at some faraway point in space, but he wouldn’t allow it. The pressure needed continuous application.
“Look at me!” he commanded, his words accompanied by the grabbing of her delicate face. He held her at the chin, directing her face upwards. Instead of making eye contact, however, she was staring at his shirtless, upper half. A gasp escaped her lips and a surge of emotion lit up her eyes.
“Your body,” she stated painfully, reaching out to him. In the moment, he did not notice her right arm escape from under his knee. He quickly caught her hand mid-air, right before she touched his abdomen.
The boy looked down at himself and immediately wished he had stayed clothed. In front of the girl was a body hardened by abuse, covered in dozens of scars and burns from years of experimentation. It was a sight that he had seen a thousand times over, but this was her very first exposure to his past of mistreatment and destruction. It visibly pained her, but what he realized through this display was that it still pained him, too. Repressed memories of laboratories and scalpels and Father’s booming voice resurfaced in waves. The rage that had controlled him only moments ago seemed to dissipate completely, catalyzed by Cardia’s empathy. As she gaped at the damage, he gathered that she was more concerned for him than for herself. He wondered how she did it, how she selflessly forgot her own pain in order to tend to his. He was suddenly self-conscious and crossed an arm over his chest, blocking the worst of the wounds from her view.
“Did Father do this?” Her question caught him off-guard. The grasp on her wrist weakened. Without the restraint, Cardia slowly, tenderly grazed her fingertips against his stomach. Finis stiffened.
This was the first time a woman had ever touched him. It was vastly different from the way that he had just touched her. The starch contrast made him feel ashamed. In that instance, he wanted to apologize to her for the events of the evening, but his throat had grown tight. His vision was blurry; it was getting difficult for him to see clearly.
Cardia laid a hand on the arm shielding his chest. Her eyes were once again filled with tears, this time overwhelmed with sympathy for him. “I’m so sorry for what happened to you, Finis.”
Finis collapsed right then, letting out a gut-wrenching sob as he hit the mattress. Cardia gently embraced him, holding his head against her bare bosom. Torrents of shame and guilt coursed through the boy as he reflected on his actions. He found himself wrapping his arms around his sister, desperate for her forgiveness. For as long as he remembered, he had called her a monster, yet he couldn’t help but feel as if it was him all along.
“Loved by none. Needed by none. If my existence has no meaning, why am I here?” Finis murmured into his sister’s skin. These words were familiar to both of them, having been uttered in the same despairing tone ages ago.
Cardia shifted down until she was eye-level with her sibling. “You’re my brother, my only family. It’s just us now… And I need you.”
The words kissed his face. He felt an inexplicable warmth consume him, filling every crevice of his anatomy with affection. Finis shyly put his forehead against hers, his eyes downcast bashfully.
He could have sworn he loved her right then and there.