A/N: So even though Joanne is the Generation 5 heir, I’ve had storylines for Augustus and Gemma running through my head for ages, especially after I developed their characters some in Chapter 5.5: Home.
Now that they’ve aged into young adults (which you may have noticed last chapter), I’ve been wanting to write more of their stories, but my ideas were all a hopeless mishmash until one quiet 3 AM when I was struck by sudden inspiration and stayed up the rest of the night madly typing out this.
So here we go—more Augustus and Gemma!! This special takes place after Chapter 5.17: The Bat and the Cave, so be sure you’ve read that before reading this if you want to avoid spoilers.
Lastly, as this is the first time I’ve done a special for this blog AND the first time I’m writing in the third person point of view instead of the first, I would REALLY love to know what you all think of it!!!!
Happy reading ❤
A male with longish, dyed-purple hair and a big smile waved excitedly while the young man he was waving to, Augustus Winters, cringed internally. There was about a 95% chance that the upcoming conversation was going to be 100% awkward.
“Oof!” the purple-haired boy cried out, and he tripped over what Augustus sadly concluded was a slightly elevated lump of grass. Letting out a slow breath in the hopes that it would bring him patience, Augustus walked up to the face-planted boy and held out his hand.
“Are you okay?” he asked, admittedly concerned despite his frustrations.
The purple-haired boy, Patrick O’ Doherty, lifted his face from the ground, spitting out grass while his usually pale face flushed a deepest shade of rose. It might have been cute had a similar event not occurred at least once a week for the past three months. Augustus was genuinely surprised that the guy hadn’t landed in the hospital yet. Of course, there was always next week.
“Y-y-yeah,” the boy stammered in the way of a response, and then took Augustus’ hand. As might be expected, Patrick’s hand was sweaty and it nearly slipped from his fingers as he tried to help him up, but Augustus tightened his grip and soon enough the poor guy was back on his own two feet. “S-s-s-sorry,” the boy barely managed to get out, nervously sweeping aside his bangs to reveal granite-colored eyes.
“It’s okay,” Augustus said, and then gave Patrick what he hoped was a reassuring smile. Unfortunately, this only caused the young man to blush even harder and he began stuttering so badly that Augustus could no longer make out what he was saying.
“Wait, what?” he asked, and then winced because the guy looked on the verge of tears now.
“I-I-I,” he took a breath, though still seemed unable to look Augustus in the eye as he finally managed to utter, “I was just s-s-saying t-t-thank you f-f-for helping me up.”
“Well I wasn’t about to leave you in the dirt,” he replied with a light laugh. “So what’s up?”
“Oh um, that’s—that’s really nice of you. Or is it normal? I mean I guess m-m-most p-p-people wouldn’t leave a guy in the dirt. Or would they? Haha! I don’t really know.”
Augustus stood very still, resisting the urge to sigh heavily. If he sighed, then Patrick would for sure cry, and then he’d have to comfort him, which would most likely lead the poor fellow into having a panic attack or something. It was the worst case of anxiety he’d ever seen, and for someone whose own father was clinically diagnosed with having an anxiety disorder, that was saying something. Augustus had never seen his father stammer like this, nor sweat so profusely, nor look so much like he wanted to end his existence for even daring to speak. Maybe this is more than anxiety, Augustus thought, maybe this is some sort of severe phobia of humans.
“It never ceases to surprise me how blind you are to social cues, Patrick,” a young woman suddenly said as she walked up to them, one hand on her hip and a slight frown on her face as she looked at the now trembling boy before them.
“Isn’t it obvious that my brother isn’t enjoying his conversation with you? I mean if the intense look of concentration he has on his face wasn’t an indication enough, haven’t you notice the tense way that he’s smiling or the stiff way that he’s holding himself?”
“W-w-what?” Patrick asked, his face falling.
“Go. Away,” Gemma stated plainly, linking her twin brother’s arm in hers.
“I—oh—um, okay? Uhh, well, I’ll s-s-see you later then, G-G-Gus,” he said, and then fled as though he’d just been set on fire.
Now Augustus did sigh heavily. “You didn’t have to be so mean.”
Gemma looked over at him in mild surprise, her lavender-gray eyes flashing. Those eyes seemed so kind and caring on their father, but on Gemma they sometimes reminded Augustus of amethysts—beautiful, but hard. His twin sister was like though, he supposed. She was stunning and drew the longing gazes of every man on campus, all of whom she’d incidentally deemed below her level of intelligence, although she would sometimes deign to spend the night with one, to which she’d respond with a shrug that ‘Sex was a normal, healthy part of life.’ Of course, that brought Augustus’ thoughts back on-track to his second point: Gemma could be incredibly hard. Not that she was devoid of feelings; no—of course not, but sometimes she put up such a front that it was difficult to see this.
“I was under the impression that you weren’t enjoying Patrick’s company,” Gemma replied smoothly.
Augustus shifted uncomfortably, moving his arm out of his sister’s grasp. “I don’t know how I feel about him. I mean, one second he makes me want to bang my head against a wall, and the next—”
“You want to bang him?” she accused, looking unfairly unamused for someone who felt anything more than a one-night stand was a complete waste of time.
Augustus didn’t bother to respond to such a statement, instead looking vaguely off in the direction that Patrick had run. There was something appealing about him. He seemed nice and he was the artistic sort just like him, which he loved, but Augustus had not been able to hold even one conversation with Patrick without him devolving into a useless puddle of nerves and anxiety. He wondered how Patrick even managed to get through life like this. Then again, the purple-haired boy didn’t seem quite as uneasy when Augustus wasn’t around, which led him to wonder if he was really just that scary.
“Am I intimidating?” he asked his sister, turning to look at her. She narrowed her eyes, and he remembered with a flush that he had completely ignored her earlier inquiry.
“Not really,” she answered shortly. “I mean there’s no denying you’ve got Mom’s determination, but your heart’s soft—like Dad’s.”
She didn’t say this as if she thought that was a bad thing though. In fact, her face relaxed at the mention of their father and a sort of pride gleamed within her eyes at the mention of their mother. Augustus felt it too—both feelings.
“It sucks being away from them, doesn’t it?”
Gemma nodded, brushing away a few flyaway locks of chocolate-brown hair. That she also got from their father. Of all of their siblings, she looked the most like him, while Augustus…well, he was such a mixture of both their parents and his late grandfather that it was difficult to tell where he got any of it.
“Have you spoken to them lately?” she asked.
“No. I tried calling, but neither answered their phones. Tobias picked up though—he said they were very busy.”
“I got through to Mom once. We…talked for a little, but yes, they are very busy.”
The two siblings fell silent. They were used to so much more attention from their parents, for they’d hardly ever been away from the house when they were growing up, but perhaps because their children didn’t require as much attention they’d thrown themselves completely into their careers and it had left them with much less time to interact. Not no time, of course, just…less, and even though the twins were nearing 20 years old, this new trend still didn’t sit well with them.
“I have to go to the lab now. You’ll still have dinner with me tonight, right?” Gemma asked, looking up at her brother worriedly.
“Yes,” Augustus said, for as difficult as his twin could sometimes be, it made him feel anxious to be away from her for too long, and he knew that she felt the same way.
As if proving this point Gemma beamed and then kissed his cheek before hurrying off, which left Augustus staring once again in the direction that Patrick had run.
He loved his sister, yes, but he wished that she hadn’t chased him away because, Augustus realized now, he had never even found out what the purple-haired boy had wanted to tell him.
* * * *
Gemma Winters was deep in concentration, hustling from one lab station to the next as she jotted down observations to add to their team’s rapidly growing collection of data. Soon they would be able to input the information into SPSS and run statistical analyses. This was perhaps the most exciting part for Gemma, for there was a certain beauty in finding logical and predictive patterns in a seemingly unrelated jumble of data.
Finding harmony in discord; order in chaos. A delicious shiver ran down Gemma’s spine at the mere thought of it. She thought this was how some people must feel about love—that all-consuming, passionate desire to know. She saw it when her parents looked at one another. She saw it when Patrick gazed longingly at her brother—the hopeless fool. She saw it when her half-sister introduced them to her new boyfriend—and now fiancé.
Yes, that was love, and Gemma felt it about data. No, Gemma Winters felt it about science.
A deep frown crossed Gemma’s face as she looked at the data print-out from this particular machine. The numbers were not adding up. These results were vastly different from the others, but were they outliers or the unfortunate result of human error? Gemma went to the computer screen, hastily typing in passcodes and scrolling through hundreds of lines of data, until she let out a shout of frustration because some moronic individual had screwed everything up!
“Is something wrong?”
Gemma’s heart leapt up in her throat while the rest of her insides seemed to collapse in on themselves, leaving her both gasping and mentally cursing herself for being so ridiculous. Her insides had not collapsed in on themselves. That feeling was a jolt of cortisol being injected into her system, heightening her perception of stress and causing her sympathetic nervous system to trigger her fight-or-flight response. If she focused, she could feel her blood rushing to her hands and feet in preparation for either option.
She spun around, looking up into light blue eyes behind black-framed glasses. Now her heart seemed to be collapsing too and she felt that she no longer had the mental capacity to correct her racing, irrational thoughts.
“There’s a fatal error in the data! Someone inputted the wrong command into the computer, rendering the—the subsequent results useless.”
Gemma flushed, feeling rather like kicking herself for stammering even in the slightest in her delivery of important information. The man to whom those eyes belonged frowned, squinting in concentration as he moved to the computer screen. Gemma watched his fingers dance over the keys, wishing that those same fingers would dance across her skin.
“Dang,” he muttered, pushing his blonde locks out of his eyes. “This is going to set us back at least a week.” The man sighed, briefly taking off his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose before replacing them and turning to her. “Well, I’m glad you caught it at least. Could you go through and dump all the inaccurate data?”
“Yes,” Gemma answered promptly.
“And then could you go ahead and restart the program? Maybe we can at least get some valid data from this machine before the day is up.”
“Yes, I can do that. It’s no problem.”
“Thanks,” he said sincerely, still sounding a touch put-off that such a grievous error had been made, but also clearly trying to remain chipper. “Good work today.”
Gemma smiled slightly, watching him go with a sinking feeling in her chest.
“Thank you, Dr. Saint,” she mumbled, and then turned toward the machine behind her as she reminded herself that wishing was both pointless and illogical.
* * * *
This particular young man with the blue and black framed glasses and the deeply tanned skin had been eyeing her for approximately two weeks. It had started when Gemma wore an obviously too-short skirt to the library, sitting down on one of the benches with her legs stretched out before her as she read. He’d been wandering the shelves in the characteristic manner of one who had never even heard of the Dewey Decimal System, but his sleeves were rolled up and the forearms they revealed were very nicely toned.
So she crossed her legs, the gesture perhaps a bit more obvious than it needed to be, and the young man glanced in her direction, as she knew he would. Gemma had pretended not to notice though, pretending instead to be deeply engrossed in her book and bringing her pen to her mouth in order to bite down on it just so. From beneath her long lashes she could see him tense and he took the slightest step toward her before deciding against it and walking off so fast you would have thought he’d just been enrolled in a race. Gemma had smiled to herself, already pronouncing her efforts victorious, and sure enough the next day at precisely the same time, the young man was there again.
Now there were days when he did show up and days when he didn’t, but today Gemma, half-heartedly perusing the internet, felt like a hollowness had settled into her chest cavity and she hoped that he would. She was dressed normally this time, but she felt like it would still be enough because Gemma was not stupid and she could see clearly that people found her very, very attractive. It had unnerved her at first, the double-takes she got and those raking patterns of people’s eyes over every inch of her face and body, but eventually she had grown used to it, and now she even saw it as an advantage.
People listened more to attractive people, liked them more. It was scientifically proven—show an individual a photo of an attractive person and a photo of a non-attractive person and the attractive individual is consistently rated as more intelligent, more fun, more charismatic, and so on and so forth than the non-attractive individual and all of this the subject deduces from looks alone. Gemma knew in her heart that this was an unfair reality, but it was still reality, and so she used it to her benefit.
A flash of blue caught her eye.
The mystery man had returned. He was slowly making his way down the line of shelves. Sometimes he picked up a book, flipped through it, and then put it back. Gemma tried very hard not to watch him, but still kept him in her peripheral vision as she waited for him to get closer.
When he reached the end of the row Gemma made her move, abruptly standing up and walking straight toward him with her head bowed.
She moved with determination, like one in deep concentration and clearly in a rush as she bumped right into him—precisely as planned.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” she cried, feigning being flustered because she knew that most men found that to be adorably appealing.
“It’s okay,” the young man responded, righting her. There was a slight accent to his words, though Gemma admittedly could not quite identify from what region it hailed. Middle-Eastern, maybe? Or perhaps Egyptian? Regardless, it was pleasant and his forehead was knitted with concern, providing some evidence that he was a decent person.
“My name is Gemma,” she said softly, slowly lifting her gaze to his.
“I—I’m Ashton,” he replied, sounding a little dazed.
Gemma smiled at this reaction, noting too with pleasure that his hands had not yet left her body, which meant that tonight, perhaps the hollowness would feel a little less vast.
* * * *
Augustus tried not to feel worried about his sister cancelling their dinner together, but he failed miserably because he knew there were only two reasons Gemma ever cancelled: work at the lab or a guy.
It was Friday night. This meant that the lab was closed.
Sighing heavily and painting a great gray streak across the canvas before him, Augustus then tried to remind himself that Gemma was an adult and thus at perfect liberty to make her own decisions, but that didn’t make him feel much better either. He felt like he was failing at being her brother, and this made him feel like he was failing as a person, for one of his key roles in life was being a brother.
He’d always thought he’d been good at it too: being there for his twin, chatting long into the night with Tobias who rarely talked to anyone, and playing all sorts of games with Thomas, who was a ball of boundless energy. He even took extra efforts to be nice to their half-sister, Joanne, even though he didn’t know her all that well and hadn’t since he was a kid.
Of course, Augustus did these things because he genuinely wanted to, but now for the first time he wondered if he should be going out of his way to do more.
Ugh. His painting, having started out so cheerful, was beginning to take on a much more depressing feel—the washed-out, ashen sky a stark contrast to the bright yellow sunflowers.
Just as Augustus began contemplating whether to continue the piece now or leave it for later, his cellphone rang and he hastily answered it without even looking at the name, thinking that it might be Gemma.
“Hey, Gus! I’m sorry I’m just getting back to you now. How is everything?”
Augustus felt all the tension leave his body at the sound of his father’s voice. “I—it’s okay,” he replied quickly. “I know that you’ve been really busy. Things are…going alright. I’ve got all A’s right now, so that’s pretty great and one of my works was chosen to be featured in the campus art show.”
His father’s praise, genuine happiness, and the subsequent discussion of his featured piece made Augustus feel even better, until swept up in his good mood he told his dad, “And I think there might be a guy, but—but I’m not sure.”
Augustus froze then, feeling all at once uncertain. Should he have said that to his father? He knew his dad was completely accepting of the fact that he was gay, but Augustus hadn’t dated much, and of those he had dated he hadn’t really spoken of to either of his parents. Not because he felt he couldn’t necessarily, but because those guys hadn’t really been significant, which also made Augustus wonder: So why was he bringing this one up?
“What makes you unsure?” his dad asked, sounding curious, and Augustus let out a breath of air he hadn’t even known he was holding, feeling silly for having worried in the first place.
“Umm, well, every time I try to talk to him he starts stammering like crazy or…or literally falls over. I’m not sure if there’s like…something wrong with him, or what, but he’s…he’s pretty nice, so I don’t know.”
“Is he always like that?”
“Oh uhh, no, I guess not,” he realized, wandering as he talked. “I mean I haven’t spoken to him much, but when he’s presenting his paintings at exhibitions he seems pretty relaxed.”
“So he’s only like that around you?”
“Seems so,” Augustus glumly affirmed, and then again voicing his private concern added, “Maybe I’m scary.”
His dad laughed and Augustus felt his stomach sink because he’d been dead serious and now his own father, who he thought could actually understand him, was laughing. “Augustus,” he began gently, “Have you ever considered that maybe the reason he falls to pieces around you is because he really, really likes you?”
Augustus blinked. Twice. Hard. He was not classified as a genius like his sister, but he was still rather intelligent, and yet this thought had not dawned on him. “But…but then….I mean, how am I supposed to get to know him better if he can barely even say his name around me?”
“I don’t really know,” his dad admitted, sounding thoughtful. “Maybe if you let him know you were interested too? Then he might not feel so nervous, you know?”
Augustus felt his pulse increase slightly. Let him know? How? But it was a good idea, or at least, it was the best idea he had right now. “I think I might do that,” he said slowly. “Thank you.”
“Uh huh. Not a problem—I just uh, hope it doesn’t end up being bad advice,” his dad said with a nervous laugh.
“Either way I’ll learn something.”
There was a brief silence and then a little boy’s voice sounded from his dad’s side. Augustus recognized it as his youngest brother’s. He smiled at hearing it, glad that he would be able to see them all again at Joanne’s upcoming wedding.
Dad said something to him in response that was muffled and then he spoke into the phone again, “Hey, I promised Thomas I’d read him a story tonight, so do you mind if I shuffle off now? I could tell him to wait if you’d still like to talk.”
“No,” Augustus replied, shaking his head slightly. “No, I’m fine. You…you really helped. Thank you again.”
“Heh, no problem. Take care, okay?”
“I will. Good night, Dad.”
“Good night, Gus.”
Augustus hung up the phone, feeling better than he had in weeks. It may have taken a while for his father to get back to him, but once he did he’d been as kind and helpful as he ever was. I need to remember to appreciate that, Augustus reminded himself firmly, and then went back to working on his painting as he contemplated just how he was going to tell the purple-haired boy that he kind of…well, liked him too.
* * * *
Ashton had been unexpectedly sweet, something that (Gemma realized with some discomfort) she hadn’t actually encountered much thus far, but she hadn’t been looking for sweet. What she was looking for though, she didn’t quite know.
All she knew was that she was walking across campus (escaping?) before the sun had even risen, her clothes rumpled, her hair knotted, and her eyes dark with exhaustion. She also knew that she had a missed call from her dad and that this only added to the emptiness she felt inside, especially when coupled with the text he’d sent her late that night, “Sorry we missed each other. Better luck next time? Good night, Gem.”
Gem—his gem. His little girl. Gemma bit her lip, the briefest touch of shame infringing on her heart. What would he say if he knew what she’d been up to? Her dad knew, unfortunately, that she sort of wandered from guy to guy and she knew too that this worried him, but she doubted if he knew the details behind this and she hoped that he never would. Gemma liked being her father’s little girl and vaguely wondered when she had stopped being so.
When she finally reached the apartment on the south side of campus, Gemma didn’t go into her own room, but into her brother’s, where he was sound asleep buried underneath all the covers. Even if it was unbearably hot her twin piled all of his blankets on top of him. Preferring the cold herself, Gemma had never understood this.
Nothing—not even the faintest grunt of disturbance.
“Augustus?” she said a little louder.
Her twin brother slept on.
Gemma debated simply leaving him be, but she felt like something was trying to crush her flat and so instead she kicked off her boots and climbed underneath the covers too, clinging to Augustus as if he were her last connection to earth.
Her brother woke with a start as he yelped, “AH! You’re freezing!”
“I’m 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 37 degrees Celsius, but I suppose the surface of my skin does feel significantly cooler than that,” she mumbled, and then clung to him tighter, for she knew he’d been about to jump right out of the bed.
“Gemma….” he chided, face suddenly lined with concern, and she pulled his ridiculous bunch of covers over her head, unable to bear seeing her twin looking at her like that. “What happened to you last night?”
Gemma said something in reply, but Augustus couldn’t hear her because of all the blankets over her head. “What?” he asked, and she threw them all off in frustration.
“He’ll never love me, will he?”
Her twin knew. He leaned over to turn on the light and then turned toward her, looking at a complete loss for words because he knew. He knew everything. “What—what did Mom say?” he finally asked, because he’d realized now what their short conversation the other day must have been about.
“She said not to pursue it. She said I could get him in trouble.”
“I haven’t told him, and I won’t either. He’ll say the same anyway because it’s true.”
Augustus gave her hand a brief squeeze, but he didn’t argue this, lending even more weight to the fact that this entire situation was wrong and yet this fact did little to nothing to soothe the ache in Gemma’s heart. She had never been interested in anything serious before, but Dr. Oliver Saint was brilliant and there was something about that which broke every rule in Gemma’s book and she hated it. She hated that a mere person could make her feel as if her very world had been upended, and yet here she was—pathetic.
Her brother cleared his throat. “It isn’t…weird for you that our sister used to date him? That our sister likely slept with him?”
“Half-sister,” Gemma reminded him, closing her eyes, and he snorted—a clear indication that he hardly felt this made a difference. Perhaps it didn’t, but it wasn’t weird for her. If anything it just made her jealous, which was bad because that would send her into a never-ending spiral. After all, although Gemma was careful not to let these feelings consume her, at the heart of it all she was bitterly jealous that her sister had gotten to be with him; bitterly jealous that she garnered so much attention from Dad without even trying; and bitterly jealous that Joanne had now found someone so deeply devoted to her.
Jealousy though was also pointless, and so Gemma pushed these unhelpful thoughts away, knowing logically that they were only borne out of frustration and thus should not be taken seriously.
“There are other intelligent guys out there.”
“Have you met any?”
“Nope—or at least, none on your level yet,” Augustus answered with a smirk, and Gemma couldn’t help but laugh a bit. She recognized flattery when she saw it, but she couldn’t deny that it made her feel a little better.
“I’m sorry I was so rude to Patrick,” she said, opening her eyes to look over at her brother. “I guess I was a little jealous and…afraid.”
“Afraid?” he inquired, raising one eyebrow.
Gemma rolled onto her stomach and buried her face in the pillow by her head, ashamed. “Yes,” she mumbled, her throat tightening. “I’m afraid that you’ll fall in love with him because he’s sweet and artistic just like you, and then you won’t have as much time for me anymore, just like Mom and Dad.”
As soon as Gemma said the words she felt her eyes burn, and she tried to think of something else to say—anything at all to keep them from falling, but she failed spectacularly because not even a second later she’d begun to sob.
“Gemma!” Augustus cried out in alarm, but she couldn’t get herself to calm down even if she’d wanted to. Instead she started to tremble as she cried, her fear so overwhelming that she finally identified it as the sadistic force that had been trying to smash her over the past few months.
After all, without her twin and her parents, who did she have? Gemma had never been good with making friends—had never been good at forming lasting connections. Escaping Ashton’s while he was still asleep even though he’d been sweet and not as unintelligent as Gemma had assumed was only the cherry on top of a mountain of proof.
“Gemma,” her brother tried again, gingerly placing his hand on her shoulder, “having less time to spend with you wouldn’t lessen at all how important you are to me; wouldn’t lessen at all how much I need you in my life; and wouldn’t lessen at all how I much love you! And it definitely hasn’t lessened the love Mom and Dad have for us.”
Gemma heard the words and she knew logically that they were true, but it felt like it took a long time for her tears to stop, and only then did Augustus’ words begin to truly sink into her mind. They softened her fear, but it was still there because she didn’t want to imagine a world in which there would be less Augustus and she’d somehow be okay with that. A part of Gemma knew too though that this had been bound to happen. It was part of the logical and predicative pattern of the vast majority of the human race, so why would they be any different?
“Does he make you happy?” Gemma asked, her voice muffled by the pillow.
“I’m not sure….He always topples over whenever I’m trying to figure it out.”
Gemma laughed. The sound was almost wrong after all her despair, but it was such a welcomed relief. She propped herself up on her elbow, reaching up with one hand to wipe her eyes. Her brother looked rather relieved too.
“Dad said that maybe if I let him know I’m interested too he might end up eating less grass.”
Another light laugh escaped Gemma—she couldn’t help it. “He’s probably right. So what are you going to say to him?”
“I’m not sure,” Augustus mused, and then the two played out a few different scenarios and conversations, each getting sillier than the next, until Gemma suggested he hire a skywriter to write “I’M INTERESTED IN YOU” across the skies in binary code, and then Augustus rolled his eyes and told her to go away.
Instead, Gemma closed her eyes and leaned her head against his, holding him close. “Thank you,” she whispered, and Augustus nodded slightly, already knowing exactly what for.
Less time didn’t mean less love.
* * * *
Later that same day Augustus met up with the purple-haired boy. He had a very cleverly planned out speech in his mind—a little long-winded maybe, but intelligent; a little scattered maybe, but effective.
The well-rehearsed words zipped easily through his mind, but when Patrick tripped on his own shoelace after Augustus had only said “hi” to him he forgot the speech entirely and instead…
…the only words spoken were the sweet, silent ones hidden in a soft, simple kiss.