dulcinea: Dean Winchester's back, featuring his leather jacket's popped collar ([SPN] Were you raised in a barn?)
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le tigre - les and ray

The hallways after it's dark always have a special kind of emptiness, one that Nadia has sometimes identified too much with, too cynically, too painfully; tonight, though, when she looks into the classrooms at all the empty desks, she sees Jason. And that's the problem, isn't it? She's been looking at something and thinking she saw Jason for years, when really all she's been seeing have been the empty spaces.

Her feet take her to the music room, and she doesn't argue. Her cello's back in her room, but she can borrow Zack's, and he can get over it. Besides, the cello might be glad to have someone actually know what they're doing.

At first she settles into what they've been learning, but then that doesn't feel right either; she doesn't want to follow what they've been going over here, what's been hammered into their heads, what's expected. She changes tactics, closes her eyes, follows her feelings. What comes out isn't pretty, but that's the point.

"I don't think you'll win first prize at the company talent show."

Nadia jumps, not because she's caught, but because she's found; Jason's in the doorway, smaller than he's ever been, even when they were kids and she hit her growth spurt first.

"Jason." She hates that she sounds scared, but she is. She's scared for him, for what he's lost with Peter, for what's going to happen with Ivy and the baby, for what their parents will say; mostly, though, she's scared that nothing will be different between them, and Jason will always be blank to her.

She'd thought, since Jason could look into her and see what their parents were doing, that the same must be true. Nadia is the disappointment; Nadia can't (won't) lose weight, Nadia can't (won't) fit in, Nadia can't (won't) let herself get swallowed up into the McConnell legacy, and Jason's always been right there through every fight and every shitty little comment and every Christmas present that was meant to remind her of what size she should be.

She remembers the little league games, every one Jason lost; she remembers the fight when he quit the golf team, gave up running after his father's title, and she thought -- she thought she was happy for him. He had his life together more than Nadia ever would and look -- he can even pick and choose the fights that matter to him, even if he only went from golf to basketball. Even if he never stopped wanting to fit into that suit his father had tailored for him since birth.

His smile is painful, and she wishes he'd stop. It's nothing like the charming thing she'd gotten used to, the one for everyone else, and it's nothing like the one for her, either. Is this Jason's smile for himself? Did he leave nothing for himself, in trying to be and do what everyone wanted for him?

He comes into the room, his steps quiet, until he sits in front of the piano, and Nadia's holding her breath.

She remembers this fight, too. They were just kids, and it was supposed to make Nadia more cultured, more ladylike, if she could play an instrument. She rebelled, purposefully played terribly, was horrible to their teacher; Jason took to the piano like he takes to everything, and he had a few months of lessons, a few months to put his fingers to the keys and play, and then their father met the neighbors.

"Do you remember when we were kids?" Jason's playing now, clunky and slow, the notes so far spaced that it's hard for her to pick up the melody.

"Les and Ray?" She remembers that, too. Jason nods, and she thinks she hears a small laugh. With all that's changed between them, all the years, they're still the twins they were then, holding each other with their ears against the wall, listening to the music coming from the next house. They always played after dinner, and dinner was always painful, a rundown of how Jason's triumphs weren't good enough and Nadia's were nonexistent, and then they'd be sent upstairs, and their music would drift through Jason's window.

Slowly, she realizes Jason's playing their favorite, though it's full of gaps and holes, what little he can remember of it, or at least of how to play it.

They had a few months of music lessons together and of music in the evening, until their father found out who was living next to them and complained, threw his money around, and got them kicked out of the neighborhood. When Jason cried, their father took him out of music lessons and put him in golf.

"Jason, I'm so sorry." For never noticing. For never asking. For… anything, everything. "Tell me what you need."

He plays on a few more moments, and then stops, half turns.

"I don't know what I need."

Slowly, he gets to his feet and walks to the door, pausing before he goes out into the hallway, until finally he looks over at her.

"Thanks, Nadia." He said it earlier, when she offered the same thing, but she thinks now what she thought then: he isn't really thanking her for that. This time, though, she thinks it's about everything else, everything before they got to this school, everything that they did for each other that brought them to where they are now.
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