Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! You can comment or not, s'all good, but please click my MTT Valentine's adoptable! I've seen one of the later stages, and I absolutely need to see this one grow up. <3
"Coming to the dance tonight, aren't you, Bill?" Lisabet asks him breathlessly, handing over the coin for the cakes she's purchased. "And Tom, too?"
Bill laughs and shakes his head, and slips the worn silver coin into an apron pocket. "With only the two of us, we'll have to stay and mind the shop." When she looks liable to protest, he leans forward across the counter and adds in a secretive tone, "But you'll have your dance with Georg, I'd bet on it."
Her cheeks flush and she gazes at him in wonder, as though he's some kind of a prophet to predict what's to be. In truth, Bill knows that Georg will finally ask her for a Valentine's dance because Georg had been into the shop just as Bill and Tom had opened the doors, and Georg had paid coin for a cake with Lisabet's name across the top. Bill had lettered the icing himself, once Tom had brought the latest batch out from the oven.
Lisabet's too shy ever to ask for a cake printed with Georg's name, but she's bought three nameless pastries this year: two for her sisters, a custom between siblings, and one to give if she receives a cake from a man who's to her liking. Bill's guessed that Lisabet and Georg will be wedded by next season, now Georg's father has given him the mill for his own, and the day is proving his reckoning true.
"You think he'll ask?" Lisabet says in a whisper, with her eyes wide and full of hope. "Do you, Bill?"
Bill nods and watches her eyes light up, smile spreading over her pretty face. "Thank you. Give Tom my thanks too, please?"
"I will do. Have a fine Valentine's, Lisabet," Bill says, smiling back at her. She walks from the bakery with her head in the clouds, thinking of Georg and the dance she'll have with him, no doubt of that. He sees her twirl once she's on the street, and he laughs softly. Then he glances out to be sure they won't have new customers clamoring for more cakes too soon, and he slips into the back of the shop.
It's warmer here, and that's not only the oven's doing. Bill stops to gaze at his brother's broad back and wide shoulders as Tom mixes the next bowlful of cake batter. It's no trouble for Bill to picture Tom's look of concentration, though Tom's not facing him; Tom's brow will be furrowed, bottom lip caught between his teeth. Bill hugs his arms around himself, smiling as he leans against the doorframe and watches.
"Lisabet's gone?" Tom asks, glancing back at Bill. The corner of his mouth is tipped up, inviting Bill to him, and Bill goes.
"Mmhm." Bill wraps his arms around Tom's waist like the apron strings that circle both of them, keeping their clothes neat. "She said to give you thanks too, not that you've done much to deserve it." He's teasing, resting his head against the shoulder that's at just the right height for him
"And what've you done but gossip with her?" Tom retorts, meaning it as much as Bill does as he lays his flour-coated hands over Bill's. "She's sweet on you."
"On Georg," Bill corrects him.
"Now she is, now you've coaxed her that way." Tom turns in Bill's arms, and Bill chuckles to see that the tip of Tom's nose is powdered with white, and there's a touch in his hair, too.
He reaches and brushes the flour gently off Tom's nose, and Tom smiles at him. "Always making a mess," Bill chides. "It's a wonder you've any flour left for the cakes at all, with the way you dump it on yourself."
"Maybe I like you cleaning it off me," says Tom, fixing Bill with a curiously intent gaze. Bill imagines for a moment that Tom's telling him something beyond what he's said in words; there's a tingling at the back of Bill's head, the way there had been the day Tom twisted his ankle taking the shorter way home from the miller's. That time, Bill had known Tom was hurts, and found him before anybody else could, because Tom had been calling for him.
But Bill doesn't know why Tom would call when Bill's right here in front of him.
"Next time I'll just push you into a trough, and we'll see how you like it," says Bill, the reply too long delayed as Bill's been staring at Tom, trying to fathom what the look in Tom's eye could mean. He knows what he hopes, but he and Tom aren't like Georg and Lisabet. They're meant to be closer and farther apart than any courting sweethearts, both at once, and they know it. Still...
"You'd never," Tom tells him, still smiling but serious, Bill can tell.
Bill shakes his head. "You're too handsome to be shoved into a horse trough," he says, curling his floury fingers through Tom's hair, dusting it with more patches of white, like last season's snow that's just melting.
Business is good on Valentine's, as ever. Tom keeps a steady line of the traditional palm-sized cakes going in and out of the oven, and Bill frosts them with pretty patterns and names, when they're asked for. He's a steadier hand with the icing than Tom, but he burns himself every time he tries baking, so he works at the front and Tom at the back of the shop.
Bill knows all his customers by name, and which are likely to dance as a pair tonight. He chuckles with the wedded women, past their courting years and in to buy treats for their children. He soothes the boys, all of them thrumming with nerves over the girls they'll be presenting cakes to, and wards away the girls who try to coax him out for the dancing that'll take place in the evening.
"We'll be tending the shop," Bill laughs, as he frosts a delicate cake in a pale shade of pink. "Liesl, Nathalie, you know it."
"But Bill, there's only one of you needed for it, isn't there?" Nathalie presses. She's been the most persistent of the girls after him, though Bill knows the blacksmith's son has been admiring her from afar since nearly before any of them could walk.
"Or you could close the shop down, just for a bit," Liesl adds, and they giggle as Bill laughs again and shakes his head, reaching a hand up to run it through his hair. He'd never leave Tom, of course, and never want to.
"What of the ones who forgot their cakes?" Bill reasons. "Or who buy at the last moment they can. It wouldn't be fair to them, when the bakery's always been open 'til ninth hour, every year before." There's always a boy dashing in once he's worked up the confidence to approach the girl he's been mooning over, or a mother in to replace a cake her child's dropped, or one of the dogs has gotten to.
"Oh, Bill, just ask Tom if he'd let you go? Just for an hour," Nathalie cajoles, letting her hand linger near his when she gives him her silver coin, taking the pink-iced cake in return. "I'd ask a name on the cake, if I knew you'd be there..." she trails off, the implication clear enough, and smiles coyly at him. Liesl lets out a gasping laugh at how forward her friend's been, and Bill just sighs, flicking Nathalie an amused look so she'll know he's not put out, but not going all the same.
They skip out of the bakery when another knot of customers crowds inside to greet Bill and trade all the latest gossip. Bill chats with them, serving each just what they've asked for, but his mind is somewhere else. Some seasons he's thought it would be a fine thing, to go dancing in the square on Valentine's.The trouble is, it's Tom he wants by his side, and holding Bill in his strong, warm arms the way he's done so often before. They've never been afraid to embrace one another, but dancing together would go beyond what they've ever done so far.
And Bill is patient. What they have won't fade, he's sure; it's only bound to get stronger, and one day be what they both want, and need.
Today he's wishing one day would come sooner, not later. He's lucky he can frost cakes and sell them off when he's paying no mind to what he's doing, because that's just what he does until the customers are gone, and Tom's voice and breath are at his ear. "Off in your own world?"
"Our own world," Bill corrects, and smiles back at his twin. "Cakes in the oven?"
"Mmhm." Tom moves to the side and leans on the counter, giving Bill a considering look.
"Now what's in your head?" Bill asks him, lifting an eyebrow. Sometimes Tom can keep secrets to himself for seasons on end, though more often than not Bill catches whatever it is Tom's hiding before Tom can tell him outright.
Not this time, though. Tom looks at the far wall that's painted in shades of yellow and blue, their mother's favorite colors when she'd set up shop. Then he speaks, "You want to go dancing tonight?"
"Dancing?" Bill repeats, all in a muddle as he thinks the question through. Tom can't mean what Bill imagines, but what other meaning can there be? They can go dancing in the square together, Bill thinks wildly. No one can think them strange for it, the Kaulitz twins who are never apart. The villagers have known them since they were no more than babies in their mother's arms, and Bill and Tom haven't once separated since then. None would look at them sideways for just a twirl and a laugh together, under the lantern lights hung for the young couples standing up to dance in pairs.
"I can mind the shop," says Tom, and Bill's impossible dreams crumble. "I know Nathalie and Liesl were asking if you'd go, and Lisabet too. You may as well, this once." Tom's worrying at his lip, keeping his eyes off Bill.
Bill blinks and swings his head slowly from side to side, no. "We'll have cakes still to frost and sell..."
"There won't be many coming in." Tom smiles, but his heart's not behind it, Bill sees that. "I can handle those few."
"Tom," Bill says. "I can't, not without you." Tom can't want him to dance with the girls, to find a wife as the other boys will be doing. It's the two of them, Tom and Bill, meant to be with each other forever, one way or another.
"You can," Tom insists, and Bill doesn't understand why he's pushing the issue when neither of them want it. "You'll have a good time, Bill, I know it. You can dress up the way you've done for Yuletide. You know you're beautiful then. More than you always are."
Bill's torn now, as Tom calls him beautiful and pushes him away in the same breath. Tom finally looks at him, and his gaze pleads for Bill to trust him. "I'll go," Bill decides reluctantly. He trusts Tom with his very life; how can he fail to trust him now? "I won't stay long, though, Tomi. An hour at most. I just can't-"
Tom catches Bill's cheek and draws him close, pressing his lips gently to the bridge of Bill's nose. Bill sighs and closes his eyes. "Now I'll have to clean a flour handprint off my face," he says, opening his eyes again to glance up at Tom. The tips of their noses brush.
"I'll clean it off for you if you want, Bibi," Tom says softly, and Bill nods in silence, mustering up a little smile for his twin that's returned to him, warm and secretive.
Bill does trust Tom, ever and always.