The closest Oz had come to brotherly together time so far during the summer was tagging along to the library so that Henry could check out several extra books on his card. That, and getting to sleep in the same room as him again. They were both such established routines that he wasn’t sure Henry even noticed them any more. If he did, it probably didn’t make up for everything else. Sleeping in the same room wasn’t even an act of anything except practicality, given the size of their apartment. And Oz wasn’t about to tell Henry that he would have shared with him even if he didn’t have to, because he didn’t know how to say that whilst also telling Henry to stay the heck away.
You’ve got your thing, and I’ve got mine, was what he’d actually said, pouring the pile of library books out of his bag and onto the sofa. I spend enough hours stuck with you in there, he gestured to their bedroom. Don’t go following me around, yeah?
And every day so far of the summer, he’d come home with a little less of the light that he had in his eyes when they were at Sonora. It wasn’t there all the time at school, but it was usually there when he’d spent time with Professor Carter-Xavier, or had had dinner with Henry. It was there when he landed a spell. It flickered back on when Mom came home, but the rest of the world around him seemed to be doing nothing but crushing the light out of Oz’s eyes.
As usual, he was out when a letter fluttered in through the window. Ordinarily, this would not have mattered. Letters usually waited around for the recipient to be available and then allowed themselves to be read at leisure. This letter had other ideas. Whether it was the general habit of such letters to start announcing themselves to the room, occupied or not, was anyone’s guess—or whether it was because, in this case, it had found someone of the right age and Spellmanness present. Even if wizards had been capable of going by DNA, that would not have been sufficient to steer the letter in the right direction. Overall, the odds seemed in favour of wizards just being loud and uninclined to think things through—there was, after all, a certain irony in a letter flying in through a window to warn someone about how noticeable their public use of magic might be.
Oscar Spellman, the letter intoned at Henry. The fact that it had made this mistake would probably be salt in the wound, if Oz came to know of it.
You are hereby reminded of the prohibitions in using magic during the holidays, especially in areas densely populated with non-magical people.
Healing spells in cases of non-emergency should not be used outside of school, and are ill-advised by untrained practitioners. We do understand this may have been accidental. Furthermore, as the spells used seem to have been self-directed, and unlikely to have been detected by the non-magical people present, you do not need to present yourself for questioning. However, any further breaches of magical law will be taken seriously.
We suggest you stay away from dangerous activities, as access to magical healing cannot be guaranteed, and any further attempts at self-healing, deliberate or accidental, will carry appropriate legal consequences, as well as risking unpleasant side-effects.
Department of Under Age Magic.
With that, the envelope dropped itself onto the counter. Presumably, it contained a written copy of the contents, which the actual recipient could read when he got home.
13Oz SpellmanYou are hereby reminded (Henry)151415
As usual, Oz had been out. As unusual, Henry had too. Well, it was more usual this summer for him to be out. He was old enough that he didn't worry so much about being on his own, especially now that he knew he could do magic if it really came down to it. His mom was gone, his brother was gone, and Henry wasn't going to just sit by anymore. He'd done enough of that for years and years and it hadn't ever gotten him anywhere. He'd only just gotten home when a letter fluttered in the window at him, and he jumped, thinking he'd been caught this time. He yanked shut the drawstrings on the bag he'd been messing with, hiding the items inside and slamming his knee into the bottom of the table. He swore and was rubbing his knee when the letter began its lecture and Henry's eyes widened significantly.
His mind raced through a series of thoughts, first wondering if they were about to be expelled (it didn't cross his mind that Oz might leave Sonora and Henry wouldn't, whether it was a ride or die instinct or his internalized expectation that they were lumped together) and then wondering what had happened to Oz. The fact that he had a bag full of items he didn't own and could never afford in his possession went out of his mind completely and he stared at the letter for a moment before there was a knock on the door that was distinctly his brother's. Ignoring even his bashed knee, Henry darted over to open it, glad to find that he was correct. He gave his brother a fierce once over, even going so far as to reach out and grab his shoulders to spin him and check him all over. It was a gesture their mother made often enough to be familiar to them both.
"Are you okay? Did you get hurt? What happened?" he demanded, stress raising the pitch of his voice.
OOC: Oz coming home at this time approved by his author.
Oz lay still, the pain receding. It actually receded faster and further than he expected it to. He gingerly sat up, but found he could move just as well as normal. The same applied to standing. He guessed they had an agreement about 'nothing that could land me in hospital' but he was very familiar with the huge range of pain that was still possible under that definition. Maybe he was getting tougher?
He peered out of the alleyway, prepared to put on a show of limping and groaning if he saw any of Them, just in case they didn't think they'd got him hard enough. On finding the coast clear, he ran for home.
Normally, he stayed out a bit longer. Normally, he licked his wounds or tried to create the illusion that he was still out having a social life. Sometimes he still was. Once he'd paid in full, they were "friends" again.
He knocked on the door (he could not be trusted with keys), and Henry opened up. Oz had a big smile plastered on his face, ready to saunter in like he was just fine. After all, he was actually fine. He had managed to fake his way through all the times he wasn't, so given that he actually wasn't hurting, this should have been a cake walk.
"What?" he asked, mouth dropping open slightly at Henry's questions. The intensity and insistence was kinda weird, though Oz's main question was 'How did you know?' "Relax mom," he shrugged Henry off. "I'm fine."
Henry ushered Oz inside and locked the door, ignoring his dismissal and scrutinizing him further as he walked to make sure there was no limp. Oz did seem fine but Henry had seen enough to know that magic, for all its faults, rarely seemed to get things like this wrong. Obviously it had gotten the letter to the wrong Spellman boy but people without magic did that too. The fact that a literal friggin' bird carried mail to the right person with no address on the envelope was still pretty incredible. Plus the fact that this particular letter had read itself to him of course. Neither of those was particularly important in this moment though and since their actual mom wasn't going to be around for several more hours still, Henry was going to play that role. In this case, when magic was involved, he suspected he may be the more qualified of them anyway.
"You're fine now," Henry aconcepted, returning to the envelope. It was near where his sack was and a wave of panic tumbled over in his stomach. He grabbed the envelope and shoved it into Oz' hands. "You healed yourself." He hoped the distraction of the letter would be enough that Oz wouldn't worry about the sack and Henry planned to move it before realizing he didn't actually have anywhere to put it. He didn't usually have it around this long so he wasn't sure what to do now and merely stood in front of it, hoping to block the view. "You used magic," he added.
He had healed himself. He had used magic. Oz's expression shifted as the pieces slid into place. Oh.
But also oh crud because school had been very clear about them Not Doing That. He muttered a cuss word as he snatched the envelope from Henry's outstretched hand, ripping it open and steeling himself as he prepared to see just how absolutely dead he was. He plonked himself down on the sofa, and read it twice.
"I'm not in trouble." He half let go of the breath he was holding, though the word 'yet' bobbed about unpleasantly in his mind. He tried to push it back. Hadn't he been doing better? But even if the answer to that was 'yes,' it didn't actually matter. The kind of trouble he got in here was still capable of creeping in and messing it up. Or maybe it wasn't the trouble's fault. All that had done was hurt him, in the good old fashioned way. It was him who'd made a mistake by using magic to make it better. He tried to focus on the part where he wasn't in trouble. "Right?" he said, holding out the letter for Henry to verify, as it seemed too good to be true. Ordinarily, he would have been ashamed at admitting his mistakes, but Henry already-
"Wait a sec..." He frowned, and his fingers reflexively tightened, scrunching the paper slightly. "How did you know?"
"Right," Henry agreed, glad for both their sakes that Oz wasn't in trouble it seemed. He wasn't sure if it was the fact that Oz, inarguably, got in trouble pretty often, or if it was just that Henry didn't mind that about his brother, but the idea that Oz might've been in trouble only bothered him because of the consequences they'd face.
Henry shifted, still distracted enough by his own bad decisions not to worry too much about Oz' now that he knew that the latter was safe and well and cringed back a bit when Oz suddenly paused, the letter in his hand. He relaxed as Oz only questioned whether or not Henry had committed felony obstruction of correspondence by opening mail addressed to someone besides himself. That was much easier to explain since it had actually read itself out loud.
"It came in the window and started talking," he said. "It read itself out loud. Which is kind of stupid because if they're so worried about people seeing magic, they shouldn't go sending talking letters by friggin' owl through Phoenix. It thought I was you," he added, grimacing again since he knew that Oz would probably be anybody in the world but his own brother. Henry wasn't really worth being. "What happened though? How'd you get hurt?" He gave his brother another once over glance.
He wasn't in trouble. Henry had said so, and that made it real. Oz let go of the rest of the breath he was holding but it didn't take the word reverberating around his head with it.
Always had been one. Always would be.
"Of course it did. Fricking wizards," he muttered, when Henry said it had read itself aloud. He almost smiled at Henry's point about wizards being hypocrites (even if Henry had used a different word, Oz was actually smart enough to know a big one sometimes). The whole situation was pretty ridiculous, and now he wasn't in trouble he felt like laughing. But then Henry said two things that really weren't funny.
"What?!" This time, his fist closed all the way, the sides of the letter splaying out from its scrunched middle like a bow. "They've got magic to help them! How fricking stupid can you be?" He wasn't sure what kind of magic vibe he and Henry gave off that had alerted the magic police, but apparently it was distinct enough that they knew it was him. Good. The whole point was that Henry was never, ever supposed to get in trouble for what Oz did wrong. And he hadn't, but only because Oz wasn't in trouble. What if he had been? Would the magic police have shown up instead of just a letter? Would they be smarter than a letter or would they just have started interrogating Henry? Or taken him away? Oz could feel each one of his heartbeats smacking against his ribcage. His tongue was all dry and too big for his mouth. It was the worst danger he could possibly imagine, and 'flight' was not an option because you couldn't outrun an idea. "WHAT THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE STOP MIXING YOU UP WITH ME?" He glared at Henry. He balled the letter up, and threw it at the wall. He couldn't stop people mixing them up. He couldn't stop screwing things up either. That left the only option being to keep as far away from Henry as possible.
His eyes briefly flicked to their bedroom. He was wondering whether his accidental heal-a-thon had really taken it out of him. A nap sounded so good. Being safe inside sounded amazing.
"I'm going out. I don't know when I'll be back." Because then maybe Henry would feel obliged to stay in, even if he wasn't naturally inclined to do so anyway. If Oz sulked in their bedroom like he wanted to, Henry would be uncomfortable. Maybe enough to leave, and try going to hang out at the library instead. Even though he had enough books here.
He jerked the front door back open, thinking through his list of boltholes and wasting-time places.
OOC: I am aware there are some inconaistencies in canon about how the trace works and whether it would have been able to tell the difference. But it felt too late to go back and edit. Feel free to fight me in chatzy.
Also, Henry can try stopping him or let him go, as you choose.
Henry flinched when Oz yelled at him. It wasn't a surprising sentiment but it had almost seemed like they were on the same page for a minute and then all of a sudden they weren't. And Oz was leaving. If the lights flickered, maybe it was the crappy apartment they shared, or maybe it was magic. Whether it was Henry or Oz didn't matter; if MACUSA couldn't keep them straight, why should the lights be able to? Or their emotions? They were two sides of the same coin and someone had flipped it. Coming up Henry or Oz? Maybe it would just roll around and around down one of those funnel things like at the mall, or get squashed through a coin machine until either or both sides were completely unrecognizable. Stamp on a wand and a pointy hat and call it good.
Henry didn't really notice himself reaching out for something to throw until a loaf of bread left his hand and landed between Oz' shoulder blades.
"HEY," he shouted. His voice was rough and angry but his eyes were stinging and the fact that he'd just drawn extra attention to the bag he'd been trying to hide by reaching inside and throwing the contents meant he was flushed too. "Would you knock it off? Look, I get that you don't like me, I get that I'm not good enough for you, but we're stuck together. People are gonna get us mixed up. If I could fix that for you I would, if I could give you a better brother I would, but we're stuck together, alright? And-- and I'm trying--" His anger faded, giving way to all of his grief and frustration and sadness and shame and it all bubbled up in tears that only brought him more embarrassment. He was too old to cry but yet, here he was. "I'm trying to help you and you make it really hard sometimes but you're all I've got. You and mom. And mom is better off without us. Please just let me help you."
22Henry SpellmanYou're not making it better. 151305
Blomp. Thud(ish). The projectile that Henry had launched at him hit him with… well, all the force that Henry himself was probably capable of hitting anything with. Oz had been hit harder. A lot harder, on a lot of occasions. But this hurt. Henry had thrown something at him. Oz had never thrown things at Henry. Okay, he had thrown things near to Henry. He had taken out his temper on pillows and pieces of furniture around Henry. When they were younger, he had played rough but since he’d been old enough to know the difference between playing and hurting, he had never hurt Henry. Not physically, anyway. Maybe he’d shoved or jostled him sometimes, but Henry mostly kept far enough away from him that even that wasn’t necessary. Now Henry had thrown something at him. Oz had made Henry throw something. He had made him snap, and made him behave like the worst side of Oz. The side of Oz that even Oz tried not to behave like, at least not with his twin.
All of his efforts… All of his efforts to not ruin Henry’s life. To make sure his stupid toxic dumpster fire self didn’t pollute Henry’s existence. He hadn’t gone far enough away because now Henry was behaving just like him.
And then Henry started talking crap. Absolutely the biggest pile of it Oz had ever heard. And crying. Which was not fair because that was what Oz had been storming out to go do in private, and now he was going to have to choke those tears back down.
“Shut the heck up!” he snapped. “For the smart one, you’re being remarkably fricking stupid.”
It was all backwards. All the things Henry was saying were the things that were true about Oz. He’d never really considered running away before. Home was his safe place, it was where he wanted to be. It was the world, not home, that sucked. And he knew it would break mom’s heart. It wasn’t like he wanted to turn his back on existence, it was just that he wished for mom and for Henry’s sake that he had never existed. Now though, his first impulse was to go into his room and start throwing whatever he could find into a bag. He’d tried keeping far away from Henry, and it hadn’t worked. He was still ruining everything. Maybe the only thing was to get further away.
There were two problems with that. The first was that Henry would still be here, and Oz wouldn’t be forming a barrier between him and the outside world. The other was that Henry was being stupid, and would still think all these wrong things. Henry was supposed to be able to work stuff out. How could he not see that Oz was useless, when people who weren’t forced to spend multiple hours cooped up in the same shoebox-sized bedroom as him could see it so quickly?
“You know that’s not-” he started, but he could feel the lump in his throat getting bigger. “Get it through your head, there is no ‘us!’” he shouted, trying to channel what he was feeling into anger so it wouldn’t come out as tears. He picked up the thing Henry had thrown. Bread. He lobbed it as hard as he could at the wall near to Henry’s head. He knew that Henry knew that Oz’s aim was better than that, and if they were at a distance where Henry could make a shot hit Oz, Oz could have had that hit him square in the face if he wanted to. “Just cos something’s true about me, doesn’t mean it’s the same for you! You don’t get in trouble. You don’t break things and run up huge medical bills. You don’t get accused of cheating when you do well. So stop saying people are always gonna mix us up, because if they are, you’re screwed, and that’s not fair when you’re the one of us who actually has a future!”
13Oz SpellmanWhenever I try, I make things worse. 151405
Student House: Crotalus Year: 3 Written by: Turtle
Age in Post: 12
Author Needs CW For: Assault
No, whenever you give up on trying you make it worse.
by Henry Spellman
Henry's eyes stung, his face burned, his throat felt like acid, and his mouth tasted like blood even though he didn't remember biting his tongue or whatever he must've done. He'd spent a lot of time being angry in his life, especially over the past two years, but nothing made him as angry as losing the one person he thought he might be good for. Mom finally had money now that they weren't at home all the time. Heck, she probably had time to date now if she wanted, or go back to school or something. If nothing else, she could eat the whole slice of pie when work sent her home with something. But Oz? Oz had always let Henry be there to help him and had always needed it, albeit reluctantly. Now even Oz didn't want Henry around, and not just when it was for show. They used to be able to hang out when it was them in private and now Oz didn't even want that. Henry was pretty sure he hadn't changed, so the only thing it could be was that Oz finally was getting to see that he could live a better life without Henry too. Except now he had healed himself and Henry still didn't know what was wrong. He had the distinct urge to break things or to shove a bunch of stuff on the floor or to throw more stuff, things he rarely had had the inclination to do before. What was wrong with him?!
"Is that it then?" he shouted back when Oz said he was being stupid. "Is that what this is about? I'm not smart enough for you anymore? That's good to know because here I thought it was about the fact that you make friends easily and I don't, or you do magic easily and I don't, or you go out places easily and I don't. Glad to know it's just my big stupid head that you've got a problem with."
But then Oz said Henry had a future. That there was no 'us'. Henry swallowed hard and his lower lip trembled even though he tried really hard not to let it. "I don't care about my future. I don't want it if you're not in it because you're all I've got. So if you don't wanna be in it, then . . . then . . . I don't know." He balled his fists up at his sides for a moment, trying not to say stupid things that he didn't think he really meant anyway, and then turned to his bag and threw it on the floor. The contents - fruit and vegetables, some rolls of toilet paper, and some fancy silverware - spilled onto the floor with an obnoxious cacophony of thuds and clangs.
"You're not the only one who can do things you're not supposed to," he said in a low growl. He pointed to each of the items as he explained them. "That's from Mr. Jenning's house, he bought up a bunch when there was a sale and mom couldn't get any; that's from Torrence's place, his whole family is out of town and they were going to let it go bad; and those are from some house I found with a Confederate flag outside." Sonora wasn't any safer from racists than Phoenix was but he did appreciate the general lack of pureblood pride flags at school. "I've been giving it to shelters. It's almost like you can do bad stuff and still be a good person," he suggested as such a novel friggin' concept. "Someone who looks a whole lot like me taught me that." Without waiting for a reply, he turned, plopped onto the couch, and stared at the TV, not aware enough of what was outside of the tumbling thoughts in his head to realize nothing was playing.
22Henry SpellmanNo, whenever you give up on trying you make it worse. 151305
I tried to keep you safe and now you're broken
by Oz Spellman
The stupid just kept coming. It was like Henry had just decided to chuck known facts and logical thinking out the window. Oz wanted to scream.
“Friends?” he snapped. That was the part that stung the most. “Friends? You want friends like mine? People like Archer?” Of course, Henry had had friends like that in the past. He had had exactly the friends that were Oz’s friends, until Oz had told him he didn’t want to share any more. “Who do you think’s responsible for me needing to heal myself? What fun and games do you think you’re missing out on, huh? We’re not little kids any more. You know the way people round here go. You know the kinds of things stupid kids who run their mouths and can’t keep themselves out of trouble end up mixed up in. Don’t pretend you don’t, or that you haven’t looked at everyone we used to hang out with and thought they’re gonna end up screwing up their lives and taking out everyone around them as collateral damage. You’re not like that. You don’t have to get dragged down with the rest of us.”
A growl built in his throat as Henry talked about not wanting his future. Like heck- but then anything he had been thinking was abruptly cut off by Henry’s revelation.
It took a lot to shut Oz up, but this did it. He stared. At Henry. At the contents of the bag. At all the good things that were supposed to happen in Henry’s life, and which were currently rolling across the floor in the form of an orange, about to disappear under the couch covered in dust and crud.
“Who the heck do you think you are, Robin Hood?” he burst out angrily. “This isn’t… Whenever that was. Cops will fricking bust your butt if they catch you going into people’s houses. CRUD HENRY.” The other part of what Henry had said caught up to him. The only person who looked like Henry… He meant Oz. But…? “I don’t- I’m not-” He wanted to say he didn’t do bad things for good reasons, but that wasn’t true. Mom gave him arcade money, and he knew she’d want him to spend it playing somewhere safe and keeping out of trouble. Handing it over to Archer felt like a betrayal. But if it kept Archer from touching Henry, it was worth it. And when he didn’t have arcade money, and he had to take the payback that was due to Henry…. But Henry didn’t know any of that. He wasn’t allowed to. That was part of their agreement. “Don’t try to be like me,” he advised instead.
He scooped Henry’s ill-gotten gains back into their bag, a steady stream of muttered cuss words under his breath as he did so. The food was one thing. Other people would eat the evidence. But the silverware…
“You can’t do this again. You’re smart enough to go to college. You’d get a proper scholarship and everything. You know you would. And if- if anyone comes for you over this, we’re just gonna tell them it was me.”
13Oz SpellmanI tried to keep you safe and now you're broken151405
Henry knew that he was supposed to be a Crotalus and that Crotalus students were rule followers and stuff but he suddenly felt a lot like punching rules in the face. Was puberty always this angry for everyone? He'd just scoffed at Oz' suggestion that Henry went around with his nose up in the air thinking badly of other people, mostly because he hoped that Oz didn't really think that of him, but now he turned to look incredulously at his brother over the back of the couch. He climbed over it and snatched the bag back from Oz.
"Give me that," he growled. "Yeah, there's loads of colleges after Sonora, I'm sure about it. Face it, Oz. We're not going anywhere. We're not doing anything. The only thing I can do is try to make it suck a little less for everyone who doesn't get to eat dinner at a magic feast every stupid night." People like mom. "And we're not gonna tell 'em it was you," he added, trying not to sound whiny as he did so. He thought it was stupid and not fair at all that Oz didn't like him when he was lame and didn't ever do anything wrong and now he also didn't like him when he was doing good bad stuff either. What was he supposed to do? Well, he could punch a rule in the face.
He marched over to the front door of the apartment again, opened it, and threw an apple down the hallway. "I stole that!" he shouted over the sound of it banging into the walls. He chucked some silverware too, determined to yeet whatever he could before Oz inevitably tried to stop him. "I, Henry Spellman, stole stuff! You can have it! Finder's keepers!"
When he was pulled back into the apartment, he was panting. "You are not a loser! Why can't you get it through your thick head that I want you around?! Is that the problem?"
OOC: Oz pulling Henry back inside approved by his author.
22Henry SpellmanYou got broken first and that's my fault. 151305
“Yeah, there are?” Oz frowned in confusion, wondering why Henry suddenly thought college wasn’t an option. Okay, maybe it was gonna be magic college, but there was like… definitely… something. Whatever they paid Mr. Row to tell them about when he wasn’t going on about feelings. Oz didn’t really listen because it didn’t apply to him, but there was stuff.
Before he had time to try and further that argument though, Henry was heading for the door. For a second Oz thought he was going to go storming out (rude, when he hadn’t let Oz) and he glanced around, wondering whether it would be fair to throw something at Henry at this point. But then it was worse. Well, maybe worse. Oz wasn’t sure their neighbours were really going to care, but it was still fricking stupid. He grabbed Henry, pulling him back inside and slamming the door.
You are not a loser! Why can’t you get it through your thick head that I want you around?
Oz swallowed. Hard. That was probably the nicest thing anyone had said to him in… a while. Okay, Professor Carter-Xavier sort of said similar things, and she said them without calling him thick headed. And mom said nice stuff, she tried to find reasons to be proud of him even when there weren’t many. But Henry… Henry was Henry. He was supposed to be Oz’s other half, and he was supposed to be a million miles away if he knew what was good for him, and yet… Here he still was. And he still wanted Oz there too.
Crap. They were both idiots.
Is that the problem?
No. Yeah. It was the problem, but Henry wasn’t taking any of this the right way.
“You shouldn’t want to be. I attract trouble, and you know it. Maybe I’m not “bad,” or a “loser” but I just screw things up. Every. Single. Time. One day, I’m gonna mess up real bad. I know it. I won’t bounce back, and I’ll let mom down, and I… You know how she’s always telling us to pull ourselves up, and be better than this place and work our way out? I’m not going to. I’m going to slip and fall and screw it up like I always do, and the one thing I can maybe do right is not take you down with me. Cos without me, you’d actually have a shot. And it’s not fair that you got stuck with stupid face. I just never, never want you to get the trouble that’s coming after me.
“I never thought you’d start screwing it up for yourself. You idiot.” But the sting of anger wasn’t in that accusation. Oz hadn’t managed to get more than halfway through what he was saying before the wave of tears had finally won out, spilling down his cheeks, causing his breath to hitch as he spoke. Making him sound what he was, what he had been for years – not angry, but afraid.
Student House: Crotalus Year: 3 Written by: Turtle
Age in Post: 12
Author Needs CW For: Assault
So we just...both coincidentally broke at the same time?
by Henry Spellman
Henry blinked. He was pretty sure he hadn't seen Oz cry in... well, almost forever. Not literally forever because they'd been babies at the same time and stuff but definitely almost forever. He was also wildly confused because last time he had checked, Oz didn't screw anything up. He wracked his brains, trying to think if maybe there was something he wasn't thinking of but nothing came to mind.
"What do you screw up?" Henry asked in a small voice. "So you don't get as good of grades as me." He shrugged. "No one's gonna care when we're old, like twenty or whatever," he said. "And sometimes you get in trouble, but usually it's not because you did anything bad. Just... maybe not the best sometimes. You don't have to be the best. You're already better than this place, Oz. You're a friggin' wizard, for one. But you're also a pretty good one. That's weird still but whatever. And I'm... an okay one. I'm a lot less worried about anyone around here taking my cards than I used to be," he offered with a weak smile. "I bet wizard court still has self-defense laws and stuff." He knew they didn't have TV but he did wonder a little if they had some equivalent of Forensic Files... maybe he could be a magic detective or something when he was old, like twenty. "No one ever stops me from doing stuff because of you. Teachers don't care. You haven't screwed anything up for me. And... well, I'd rather have you than teachers." That was high praise coming from Henry Spelman and he hoped Oz knew that.
He scuffed his shoe on the floor, feeling a bit hesitant at the instinctive response that was rolling around in his belly. Deciding it was better to verbalize than act on outright, he looked at his brother a bit and cocked his head. "Do you want a hug?"
22Henry SpellmanSo we just...both coincidentally broke at the same time?151305
No, I broke everything cos that's what I do
by Oz Spellman
Oz felt his stomach tighten as Henry talked about him. It felt good, but the kind of good that he had to squish down and ignore because it was going to lead to him making bad decisions - or rather, good decisions for himself which were bad decisions for Henry. Henry was describing the old Oz. Pre-arm-break Oz, who wasn’t a bad kid, who just did stupid stuff sometimes because he didn’t think, but was capable of doing better when he had someone being a good influence on him. He had pushed as hard as he could, trying to snap the stupid tether that bound Henry to him. And here he still was, offering Oz a hug. He shrugged moodily. And then fell forward, laying his head on Henry’s shoulder, in a way that was gonna be way more weird and awkward if his twin didn’t put his arms around him than if he did.
“I broke my arm,” he pointed out, latching onto the biggest concrete example he had of how he’d been an idiot. His voice cracked as he said it.
He still remembered coming home from the hospital, his arm in plaster, and trying to glue toilet paper all over Henry’s arm so that they wouldn’t look different. It was the last memory he had of wanting them to be identical and indistinguishable. Until that point, his and Henry’s behaviour had distinguished them from one and another. It wasn’t like no one had ever known which of them was which, or like Oz had never heard the remonstration of ‘Henry knows how to behave’ or ‘Why can’t you be more like Henry?’ But they had had wiggle room. They had been able to play the game, to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Oz had had the ready excuse ‘How do you know it was me?’ For those few weeks, everyone had instantly known. He couldn’t switch seats with Henry, and get five minutes of the teachers looking at him with approving eyes, expecting to hear a correct answer or a thoughtful comment, before he inevitably messed up and made them realise. Not because he didn’t know what to say. He could be every bit as smart as Henry when he was playing him. It was funny how that got forgotten as soon as he forgot himself and played up or got distracted or started laughing, and the teachers put him back in his place. For the weeks that he’d had the plaster on, he’d been stuck being no one but himself. Gone were his chances to be the good one. Gone was his plausible deniability when he was the bad one. Gone was the possibility, amongst their “friends” that Henry wasn’t Henry but was Oz just pretending…
It had been eye opening.
“It sucked so bad being me all the time.” There was a weariness adults had when they dealt with him, like he was trying their last nerve. He’d always thought it took a while to set in. That it wasn’t him, it was some cumulative annoyance with the world. It was shorter when his arm was in plaster, and he realised it had all been borrowed time. When people reserved judgement on whether they were pleased to see him coming or not, when they took a breath before getting truly angry, it was because they were working out whether he was the good twin or the bad twin. “I got into so much more trouble.”
His face was now sitting in a definite damp patch he’d made on Henry’s shoulder. He tried taking deep breaths of Henry’s t-shirt. They all used the same shower gel. Oz’s buttheaded need to be different had always been tempered by the practicalities of a tight budget. Anyway, shower gel didn’t matter because no one was going up and smelling them to see which was which. That would be weird. Henry smelt like family, with less dirt and sweat than Oz worked into it, and less fryer grease than mom. He was the one who didn’t end up all messy.
“The little stuff adds up. I don’t get second chances when I mess up. And if I do too good…” He shrugged off the end of that sentence. ‘People think you helped me.’ He didn’t want it to somehow seem like it was Henry’s fault that there had been a limit placed on what Oz was allowed to achieve. “No one except you and mom thinks I can do anything. And now Professor C-X.
“It’s sort of okay at Sonora. Except Billy’s a grade A idiot, and I’m stuck with him. But then we come back here, and there’s Archer and everybody trying to drag me back down. They’re all messed up, and they’re gonna get me into trouble. But if I walk away…” He hesitated. He had never wanted Henry to know. But Henry thought he could go strolling around like it was safe out there. Henry thought Oz didn’t let him hang out with them because he wasn’t enough. “...they’d come after you. There’s a reason you don’t get hassled like the other nerds do. Why your cards never got nicked… I’m the line between you and them, cos all I ever wanted to do was look after you, and apparently that’s another thing I’ve screwed up cos now you think you’re not good enough. You’re the best. I’m just messy, and I attract so much dirt, and it’s not fair if its stink ends up on you too.”
13Oz SpellmanNo, I broke everything cos that's what I do151405
Henry wasn't sure when it had happened, but it seemed that they'd suddenly switched places again. All those years ago, it was just about their hair and their smile and the fact that one of them was clearly way more excited about fooling people and one of them was clearly way more excited about being mistaken for the cool twin. Now, it was about who was protecting whom. In this moment, as Henry extended his arms around his brother and wished really hard to make some sort of magic happen that could make everything okay, he felt like the protective one, even despite what came out of Oz' mouth.
Initially, Henry stiffened, worried that Oz meant he'd broken his arm again today. That didn't seem to be the case though and Henry listened as his brother went on. He scowled at the floor as he remembered that time though.
"People stopped laughing at my jokes and I realized none of them had ever thought I was funny. And then they stopped encouraging me to do a good job and just expected that I would. I wasn't ever allowed to fail. I had to hide it when I did. You and mom have always worked so hard to help me and if I messed up . . . so I stopped messing up. I stopped doing anything that I might fail at. Everything I do now, I do alone. Cards, guitar . . . because if I'm alone, then no one can't be proud of me. No one can not-- no one isn't-- whatever. You get it." He sniffled, tried to pretend he wasn't, and sighed. "I never thought you were a screw up. You're my big brother," he said with a wry smile. "I want everyone else to be proud of you too, whether I help you or not. They can shove it." He did give into a laugh at Oz' assessment of Billy, agreeing wholeheartedly there, but the sound died in his throat as Oz continued.
Oz was protecting him by taking the hits, literally, for him. Oz thought he was the best. Oz didn't not want him around maybe.
"Dude," Henry said, a bit dumbfounded. "I think you're the best. Also, we're literal wizards. I'm really not worried about what Archer's gonna do. You and me both could literally turn him all pink or make his legs stick together. I bet wizards have self-defense laws. He hurt you? Maybe turn him inside out instead of just pink then." He gave his brother a squeeze. "I'd rather have you in one piece than my cards," he added quietly, feeling like he'd said too many words. Just because it was way more words than he usually said didn't make it too many though; Oz was the only one he'd ever been able to really talk to and say much to and maybe his mouth was just catching up on all the lost hours of time with his best friend.
Henry wasn’t allowed to fail? Well, duh. He was the good one. He didn’t fail, and why would he want to? Except he seemed to be sort of saying that. Except with a load of double negatives, and he was talking a real bunch of crap, and then telling Oz that he got it. Oz tried really hard to get it because it seemed like it was important, even if it was stupid. Henry didn’t have as much fun being just Henry as he did being half of Henry and Oz? Oz was pretty sure that was just because the former had involved Oz being really nasty to him, not because it was better. But he didn’t think Oz was a screw up. It was very tempting to tell him he just hadn’t been paying attention, but he’d tried that a few times, and Henry was sticking to his story.
“You’re a real stubborn butt sometimes,” he grumbled, poking Henry in the stomach, still nuzzled into his shoulder. “Trust me, being a failure isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t try it out.” He pulled back to look at Henry seriously. He really hoped this whole ‘maybe I don’t want to be the good twin’ thing was a very short phase that was going to go away really soon. “Take some advice from your smart older bro, ‘lil one,” he added with a grin, because the rest of it was way too serious and also it had been a while since he’d felt entitled to play the Big Brother Card, and he’d missed it.
Henry thought he was the best. Again, he clearly hadn’t been paying attention. Part of Oz had no idea what he’d done to earn that from someone he’d been growling at, snapping at, and pushing away for years. But he did understand loyalty. He’d had Henry’s back, even when he’d pretended not to, and having Henry still care about him now made him feel like every punch he’d taken had meant something. It didn’t make it easy to take the compliment though. His head was automatically shaking before he’d had time to think.
“I’m not. But…. I try.”
Henry’s suggestions to turn Archer pink and inside out were not comforting. Okay, they were a very satisfying visual, but this was not the kind of sensible, well-planned solution Henry typically came up with. Oz had specifically never let Henry in on what was going on because he would want to solve it together, and together put him back in harm’s way, but he had at least expected his suggestions to be incredibly nerdy and rational.
“I’m on thin ice already,” he reminded Henry, nodding to the crumpled ball of paper. “Can we just not?” Not do that. Not get in trouble. Not talk about it now. “Come on, we can watch murder shows until mom gets home. Or play cards. Whatever you want.”