One day, after the twins come back from a joint session with Bee and they slam doors and growl and hiss insults at everyone that they so clearly mean for each others, Nicky realizes, this might now work.
Coming back to the USA, hoping in Neil and Katelyn, spending so many years away from Erik, they might all be for naught. He’d stared everything with the thought that he’d stay until the twins got their issues sorted out, until he could rest assured that if anything happened they would at least have each others even if he was on the other side of the globe. But maybe that will never happen.
Maybe it was wishful thinking all along, maybe he just deluded himself because he’s just a naïve dumbass. Maybe some siblings never get to love one another, and end up staring from afar to each other’s burning pyre. Maybe some siblings end up like Luther and Tilda, and the poison never heals.
It’s a bad shock, it’s a bucket of water down his back, it’s hands pushing his head under the surface of an ice bath all over again.
Maybe he failed.
And it hurts and he cries and when it’s over he looks out of the window and realizes that saying “I’ll stay for as long as they need me” might actually mean “I’ll stay forever”. And he’s not-… He loves the twins, he does, but…
He spent so many years in this godforsaken country he had sworn to never come back to. He’s so tired.
He calls Erik three days later and he promises, out of the blue, “I’ll come home after graduation.”
And Erik’s red flags pop up, all the alarms start blaring because Nicky never made promises like that, never gave a precise date, because it would have been unfair. He tries to prod, tries to understand, but Nicky doesn’t want to talk about it. Nicky says, “I’m giving up” and Erik shivers because he’s heard him say so one time in the best, when he had just arrived in Germany and was sitting on the edge of the bridge and looking down as if there was something tempting in the muddy water.
So Erik hangs up and he paces and he goes to his mother and he goes to his father and he’s fucking scared because what is going on?
Erik’s father takes a long sigh and says, “I think this might be the first time since he chose to come living here, that Nicky does something truly selfish. It’s not how his heart is wired, son. I think it’s hurting him to do it.”
Erik’s mother shakes her head slowly. “People like Nicholas, they’re easy to overlook. They’re always there, no matter what, no matter when, and before you realize you’re taking for granted that they always will. It’s not how it works, though.” She touches Erik’s hand above the table. “You can’t do anything about this, sweetheart. Either those boys realize they’re losing him, or they will. Nicky is right in that he can’t live his life for other people. He would consume himself.”
“He already almost did it before coming here,“ Erik’s father picks up, taking a drag from his smoke-pipe. “You’ve seen how well it worked for him.“
Erik did. Erik never wants to see Nicky getting that bad ever again.
He calls Andrew that night. Then, because Andrew doesn’t answer, he calls Aaron. Then, because Aaron doesn’t answer either, he considers leaving it be. Why should be bother if these brats lose Nicky? They clearly can’t be bothered to care.
But Nicky, curse his soft heart, loves them so much and Erik loves him so he crosses his fingers and calls Neil instead.
Neil’s phone is turned off and, really, Erik is a patient man but he’s starting to get seriously angry. Last time he did, in Nicky’s behalf, he wrote an whole letter full of insults and threats to send to Luther, and he only didn’t mail it because his mom intercepted him and reminded him Nicky wouldn’t want that.
He curses out loud, punches the wall and then calls Katelyn.
She answers after three rings, bless her. Erik loves one person in the whole expanse of Nicky’s family, honestly.
“I need to talk with the twins,“ he says, smoothing out his accent as much as possible and doing a great job in doing so. He’s still using British English, because that’s what he’s been taught, but it’s okay. “Can you get me on the phone with one of them? I couldn’t reach them otherwise.“
“Oh, yeah, they left their phones in the rooms. They’re out with Nicky right now, I can tell them to call you back when they’re back?“
Erik blinks, once, twice. “They’re…what?”
Katelyn hesitates for a moment. Erik hears rustling sound and a door closing before she sighs in the phone. “I guess you heard that, uhm, therapy is hitting a rough patch, right now,” Erik makes an affirmative sound. “Yeah, it’s been heavy on everyone, but on Nicky especially. I mean, of course Neil and I aren’t happy that they’re hurting too, but Nicky is kinda caught in the crossfire, you surely know it, so…”
“He told me some about it this morning,” Erik admits, still feeling kinda shell-shocked.
“I see. Well, he looked pretty dejected the past few days and today in particular. Aaron went to his room to fetch a book and then suddenly texted me he, Andrew and Nicky were going out for a drive. They left a bit longer than an hour ago and they’re not back yet. I think if they’re trying to talk it out, with how bad they are at communicating, it’s going to be quite longer before they come back. Do you want me to text you when they do?”
“That-“ Damn, is Erik in the Twilight Zone, now? “That would be lovely, yes. Thank you so much, Katelyn.”
“Oh, you’re welcome! Nicky covered up for me and Aaron lots, I’d like to see him happy soon. Have a nice day, Erik.“
It takes a bit longer for Erik to take the phone from his ear and put the pieces together. With the passing minutes, his residual anger melts and his lips lift just a bit.
He fixes himself dinner and indulges in a glass of wine because it feels like an occasion that should be celebrated. Later in the night, a rough four hours after he called her, Katelyn texts him that the Maserati is back and the cousins are hauling a bunch of bags and boxes upstairs.
Later yet, Nicky calls him and begins, excited like a little puppy, with “You would never guess it, Erik!” And Erik lets him go off about the twins, and sitting in a parking spot as they tried not to yell at each others as they tried to make him feel better, and having to move when a policeman came to ask what was going on. And ending up at Walmart buying literally everything the twins thought Nicky would need in Germany, including a coffee machine (yes, love, I know you think American coffee is an abomination and, yes, I prefer German espresso too, but listen, they were being nice, I didn’t feel like breaking that, okay?) and pillows and pots and under-pots and blankets and slippers (do they think we don’t have those in Germany? You do realize shipping all that stuff will probably cost you more than your own plane ticket?) and Andrew bought a sand neck pillow (Nicky, you hate those. - It’s not for me! It’s for himself! For when he comes to visit, Erik! He’s gonna come to visit!) and Aaron tried to get Nicky to buy more coats and scarves because apparently Nicky complains about cold too much.
Even later yet, he gets a text from Aaron, “Chill out, Erik, for fuck’s sake”, and one from Andrew, “Fuck you”, and somehow he bursts out laughing anyway.
Neil sends him a “???” message and Erik wonders if Nicky shouldn’t be more worried about him, than the twins.