It didn't take long for Thea to start noticing that something was going on with her brother, but, to be fair, it had never taken her long to note changes in Miguel. She was just always observant that way especially when it came to him. In fact, when she looked back on it, she'd even notice something in the moment of their first reunion. She blamed her ignorance on her giddiness to have him home again.
Thea stood at the top of the stairs, keeping hidden around the corner, just listening. Her mother and stepfather's voices drifted up, but she didn't pay their words any mind. It was his words that captured her attention, his voice that stuck in her ears. It had been so long since she had heard that voice outside of her dreams. The sound washed over her like a soothing balm and Thea knew that she could wait no longer. She had to see him with her own two eyes. Only then would it be real. Only then would he truly be home.
She walked around the edge of the stairs on light feet until she stood at the top. Before she even had time to consider how this should happen, Miguel was stopping at the bottom of the stairs. How did he know I was here?
"Hey, sis." He said softly with a small smile as he looked up at her. His blue eyes shined with a restrained happiness and something…something she couldn't identify, but she had not cared to try. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him, real, alive and there. Really, truly there. Her breathing picked up as she ran down the steps.
"I knew it. I knew you were alive."
She wrapped her arms about his shoulders and held on tight. His solid weight was a physical reminder that this wasn't just another dream. It was actually happening. He was actually here; actually home. It felt like a missing piece of herself was finally back. She was on her way back to being whole, being real again. "I missed you so much." It was a whisper meant only for his ears. She smiled into his shoulder as she squeezed him ever so slightly closer and surrounded herself in his scent.
"You were with me the whole time." His tone was equally as soft as hers when he spoke and she could hear the smile in his voice. Home, finally.
The unidentifiable something in his eyes that day hadn't registered then, but it was the first clue to the puzzle that was her brother, but it wasn't the only piece. There was also the way that he looked at her.
Dinner was a taxing chore that night and, though Thea had started the meal willing to play the same game as everyone else, she had quickly grown bored of pretending. It wasn't until Tommy began to list off all that Miguel had missed that she snapped. It was ludicrous that everyone acting as though it was a normal night, like Miguel had merely been away at a resort or something for a long weekend. The silence that was the mind-numbing chatter of Tommy's conversation was simply too much to take any longer. Before he could choose another topic of discussion, Thea cut in, speaking up where everyone else was afraid to.
"What was it like there?"
All of the sudden, the entire room was tense and silence rang out, loud in the absence of any movement or rustling from the table's occupants. Thea, however, barely noticed any of that. How could she when her brother turned to look at her like that? There's something different in his eyes. Inexplicably, she felt as though she'd done wrong by asking the question and her stomach squirmed in worry.
"Cold." It was a simple answer, vague beyond reason really and Thea wasn't one to let things go, not when she really wanted to know, but the look in his eyes kept her from inquiring further. She smiled at Tommy as he once more took the reins of the conversation and steered them back to inane territory. Yet, she couldn't forget the something she'd noticed or the feeling of unease they'd inspired in her.
It wasn't just odd feelings and unusual looks that he gave her either; eventually, it was in what he said…or rather what he said, but meant for no one to overhear.
"My, how we are moving up in the criminal world." Thea stood slowly, letting the kinks in her back stretch out as she did so. They been through this over and over again and it always turned out the same. Nothing ever changed with her mother because the older woman didn't care, not like she should anyway. It used to bug Thea when she was younger, but now she was used to it. Hell, she'd been living this way for five years and, in all honesty, it was kind of fun to be able to do whatever she wanted.
"You know, when you pay off the store owner, you should check out the merchandise. They got some pretty killer outfits." She said, crossing her arms over her chest. She was aware that she was pushing the whole bitchy brat façade to its limit, but it wasn't like her mother was going to dig any deeper. No one cared who Thea really was so why not be what everyone expected her to be? It was just easier that way.
"Thea, go get ready for school."
Yeah, that wasn't happening. She'd been out all night, trying to keep her 'friends' from doing anything super outrageous, like setting a fire for the hell of it that would have burned down that whole shopping complex, and she was utterly exhausted. Luckily for her, she knew how to play this expertly. "Uh, you know, I was thinking of taking a sick day."
There was a moment or two of silence as her mother decided whether or not to waste energy on her wayward daughter. "Fine then go get some sleep." Thea smiled as she turned away from her mother and headed out of the room.
However, just as she was about to step around her brother who she noted had his hands clenched at his sides, she couldn't resist one last jab at him. After all, she had to figure out how close he was to becoming like their mother. Should I waste my time trying to make him care, trying to make him see me, or is he as lost a cause as all the rest? "You look like crap." She commented idly with a self-satisfied grin. She stepped around him, only avoiding touching him because he had turned slightly after she'd been excused to her bedroom. It was then that he said it, so softly that if she hadn't been so close she might not have heard him.
"If you were mine…" She froze for a half second before she decided that she must have missed heard him. After all that half sentence didn't make any sense.
That wasn't the only time she heard it that day either.
If Thea hadn't been high, she never would have thought it was a good idea to go talk to Miguel in the club. It was his fault she was grounded, after all. But Thea was floating thanks to the Cloud 9 she'd scored twenty minutes earlier so she wasn't really concerned with smart moves. He was her brother and she wanted to talk to him! God, did she ever want to talk to him!
With the desire to do so flooding her system at a rapid pace, Thea skipped across the room over to him. He seemed to glow under the blue lights of the club and for a second, a pout flitted across her face. She never glowed like that! Never commanded attention like he did. She never stole anyone's breath like he stole hers. How is that fair?
"Big brother!" She shouted as the pout faded and she held onto his shoulder. Physical contact was the best way she'd found to distinguish real people from their drug induced doubles anyway. "Oh! I am so wasted right now. There is…there is two of you." She slurred, pointing at him as if he would not know who he was. Maybe he didn't though. There was something seriously off about him these days and Thea…oh, I want so badly to know.
"I thought you were grounded." His face was incredibly endearing as he said that, his tone so confused, that she was almost tempted to forgive him for convincing their mother to 'ground' her. Almost. But even the drug couldn't erase the hurt she had felt at being so betrayed. Once upon the two of them had shared nearly everything. Miguel had known all of her secrets and been her best friend and now…
"I am," she said simply, head tipping slightly back as she continued to point in his direction for no reason at all. "And thank you for that, by the way." How could he have just given her up like that? What happened to keeping each other's secrets and all that shit they used to agree to? Hell, she'd kept more secrets for him then the CIA kept for the President when she was younger. Once she'd even let him hide his stash among her teddy bears when he'd been given an ultimatum. Yet he'd turned her over to their mom without a thought. What the hell?
Her answer wasn't the right one apparently because, as she watched, his expression closed off and he stepped closer into her space. It was his words though that really pissed her off. "You're done for the night." So absolute…like he ruled her or something? Hell no! This is my life, damn it! He can't come in here and demand I be someone I'm not!
"Oh," she said, "what are you going to do? Tell mom?"
"Thea!" His expression was utterly frustrated, which yes she did take a perverse pleasure in. At least now, he had a taste of his own medicine. She'd been frustrated trying to figure him out for three weeks now. He gritted his teeth and suddenly his expression chilled. "You are hanging with the wrong people."
Thea was a bit disappointed. She wanted to know what he was thinking, what he would have said. Why is it so difficult for him to be honest with me? For that matter, why was it so difficult for me to get people to care? Am I really the spare that no one needs? She shook off that thought because it was too deep a rabbit-hole to go down.
Instead, she laughed a little at his words, Cloud 9 making it easier to focus on the amusement instead of the creeping sadness. "You're one to talk." Thea countered because it was so obvious, "How much do you know about your own so-called friends over here?"
Tommy interrupted then and she really should have seen that coming. He didn't deal in awkward confrontation very well. Of course, he didn't want their torrid secret coming out. But Thea was tired of this. Tired of being prosecuted for being like Miguel once was. Tired of being judged. So what if I get high? So what if I drink? So what if I break into stores? It is not like it matters! All I want is some relief…what is so wrong with that?
"Tommy," Thea cut him off, "I think your BFF has a right to know." Her tone was soft, but her words were biting and she was oddly pleased at the uncomfortable look that Laurel sported. It served her right for being so…
"Thea," Miguel interceded suddenly and her attention was back on him, "let's go."
"Well, I guess they never told you," Her face bore and expression of mock sympathy, but her tone was sincere. She'd never approved of Tommy and Laurel's relationship and she'd never made any secret of that. In her eyes, the two of them being fuck buddies was a betrayal of her brother. No arguments that Tommy or Laurel had posed had changed her mind on that. She didn't care if they believed he was dead or that he'd cheated on Laurel with Sara. Thea was loyal to her brother…even if, as it turned out, that loyalty was not returned. "that they've been screwing," There was extra emphasis on the final word, spewing the hatred she felt with them over it in one singular term, "while you were gone."
There was no outrage on his face or upset or anything she expected. In fact, for a few seconds, it was like Laurel and Tommy didn't even exist. Miguel's blue eyes were locked on hers and Thea couldn't breathe under such intense focus. She broke the odd moment by turning to Laurel, shooting her a look that Thea thought the elder woman deserved for treating Thea's two favorite men like party favors. It isn't right, damn it.
"Look man, I-"
Miguel cut off Tommy's apology before it could even truly begin. It was a shame too; Thea kind of wanted to hear what Tommy would say to explain his actions away. Quickly Miguel turned back to face her and she turned up her glare. Doesn't he care about anything?
"You and me," he said, gesturing between them as if she were unaware of who was whom. I'm not that high. Damn. "We're done for the night." He grabbed her arm then and started to pull her out of the club. Who does he think he is? Walking around, pretending to give a damn about me when I know he doesn't?
"Take your hands off of me." She hissed, pulling her arm out of his grip and shoving him with her other hand. The hair on the back of her neck stood up again, screaming at her to be weary, but she was far too pissed off for that. "You're not my father." She reminded him, biting the words off angrily, "And you're barely my brother." She said as they stood shoulder to shoulder.
Before she could take more than two steps away from the silent group of friends, Miguel was back again, his hand tighter on her arm then it was previously thus forcing her to abandon her rather spectacular dramatic exit. The beat of the music was loud enough to cover whatever he was about to say from being overheard and hissed in her ear, "If you were mine…" Without elaborating any further he released her arm and she stumbled away, mystified and oddly conscious of everything. What did that mean?
After that it was just a bunch of little things. He was never home and, when he was, he was evasive and quiet. After a while though, Thea couldn't explain it away anymore. Something had to be done. I have to know.