Fighting was a way of life for the River Boys. From the moment they were born basically, they were punching and kicking to get the bare basics.
Heath probably enjoyed it a tad too much, but it hadn't always been that way. He used to cringe and jump away from fights. He used to hold his breath and pray when his father would started at him. Either he would pass out from not breathing or from the pain, but eventually Danny would stop hitting him.
He hated being so weak. Hated cowering behind Brax and watching his big brother take a beating. As they got older, Heath promised his brother he would have his back.
Brax would just grin and tell him he could handle it.
Still, when Brax's friend had offered to show him to fight he had jumped at the opportunity. And once Brax realized he was serious about it, he started taking Heath along to things, letting him learn and watch.
Soon enough, he was right there with the other Boys, taking as good as he gave. Brax never far from his side, cheering and watching him, giving him pointers into his ear or by hand signs. Brax would never really fight him, but it was enough just being accepted.
Now, even Casey and the twins were known to take a few boxing rounds with the Boys. Him and Brax were always watchful, cheering and coaching and hopeful that they never had to actually use what they learned.
It was his second day of school and Casey couldn't feel more out of place. And it wasn't just because of the uniform he hadn't received yet. He stuck out like a black sheep and he couldn't help but groan to himself.
All of his friends were at Mangrove, and he had no time to talk with them. Not only that, but Brax was mad at them because of the fight that had led to his expulsion. Casey hadn't said what had happened and that angered Brax.
He'd taken his spanking from his brother and had left it at that. Brax rarely brought things back up again if he didn't have to. And Casey was not going to give him any reason to.
Seeing that weird skinny kid with the camera was unnerving. Casey wasn't exactly a spectacle to video tape.
He tried to glare. By the look on the kid's face, he had looked less constipated and at least a little aggro.
He was not going to be making any new friends if he kept this up.
And then the teacher sat beside him. The Teacher that the blond one lived with. The Teacher that Heath had accidentally attacked.
Consequently, it was his English and History teacher, Mr. Miles Copeland.
The man’s warning was a bit laughable, but maybe that was more to do with his having skipped breakfast. The man was offering to be civil and it was more than what most people were willing to do.
No one seemed to care that he was sixteen. No one cared that he wasn't even allowed in a bar, let alone that he was not in Angelo's or at the fight.
No one would dare give Brax or Heath the looks they gave Casey.
Like that Romeo blond kid. They were sitting in history and he couldn't stop glaring at Casey from the corner of his eye. It was more than a little annoying.
"What's your problem?" he finally asked.
"Nothing." Romeo shook his head.
Casey scoffed. "You've got a real problem, you know that?"
"Yeah, and it's having you in this class."
"Casey?" Mr. Copeland called out to him. "Care to share?"
The whole class turned to look at him. Some had fear in their eyes. What did they expect? Him to jump up and let off fireworks or something?
Some looked amused. Some looked bothered.
Story of his life.
He had no idea why he decided to goad the blonde, but he heard himself muttering out like he was channeling Heath.
"I should've known you’d be a teacher's pet."
"Why don't you just crawl back into the sewer with your brothers?"
Casey felt that same warmth of anger starting in his stomach. Brat had no idea what he had been through. He thought he had it rough? From just sitting in the man’s classroom Casey could tell the man was competent. He probably didn't get drunk off his ass and start cussing Romeo for no reason or chuck things at his head because he couldn't find the liquor bottle he'd finished off two days before.
"Right, no no. I’ll make sure I tell them that."
"I'm pretty sure I said yesterday I wasn’t scared, so?"
Casey rolled his eyes. That's what everyone said, until they were face to face with an angry Brax. The most Casey had to worry about was getting grounded or getting his butt smacked enough that he would squirm for the rest of the day. His brothers would tear into the blonde like he was paper.
Not that Casey would really tell them. He didn't need them fighting, not his fights and not at all if he could help it.
"Pretty sure you were dumb enough to repeat," Casey shrugged. Summer Bay was a small enough town. Not only was his being there big news, but apparently the teacher’s pet was having his second time through for the year.
Casey was Braxton enough to bring such a thing up.
When Romeo turned away, Casey counted it as a victory, grinning to himself. And then, when Romeo stood up and went towards him, he couldn't stop from a full out smile.
"Casey did you start this?" Copeland asked, seeing his foster son's movements.
"No, I did," Romeo answered.
"Romeo," Miles sighed. "I know you've heard all of this before but nobody else has. So can you please shut up!"
Romeo moved back to his seat.
"And if you can't shut up, then leave."
Casey sat back, leaning his head against the wall. He liked seeing the guy kicked down a peg, and by his pseudo dad no less.
"You've got a week’s detention," Miles added as Romeo sat.
"Ack! Two weeks detention," he amended. "Everybody else, it you don't want to work, you'll be studying World War 3, with me. Get it?"
Spotting Romeo as he left the classroom, Casey decided to leave his 'Heathness' aside.
"He shouldn't of given you detention," he said, walking over to his locker. "The guy's a jerk."
"He's alright, once you get to know him," Romeo shrugged.
"Well, you live with the guy, you have to say that." he closed his locker and turned to Romeo, whose locker was behind him.
It was probably a good idea not to make an enemy so close. He would literally have to watch his back all of the time.
"Just like your brothers?"
Casey normally didn't go around dogging at his brothers, but he had to give the guy props there. His brothers were clearly a touchy subject. Still, Romeo kept coming back to it.
At his admission, Romeo seemed to lose his edge some. He might have even smirked at him. Maybe.
"Look, I just wanted to say thanks for not daubing me in." Casey walked away then, glad to finally have a conversation not end with aggressive tension. "See you in class."
She was cute. Calling her a skank wasn't nice and he wasn't doing himself any favors.
Taking another page from Heath. His brother never seemed to start treating anyone nicely, and yet he was never far from female attention.
Most of the girls in Mangrove already thought he slept around. The nice ones wanted nothing to do with him. The bad slutty ones would've gladly had him, but even Heath had told him in no uncertain terms what they would do to him if he even thought about sleeping with those girls.
Heath had probably already been there anyway.
Still, Ruby Buckton was cute and she wasn't intimidated by him. Not in a tough guy way like Romeo, but in her own way.
It was really cute.
Casey almost didn't return to school. School was hard and annoying and he missed his friends. Having no one to talk to made the day so much longer.
Brax would find out, he always did. And then he would rip him a new one. It wasn't worth it.
Already on the way to school from the diner, he had heard some whisper and seen glances turned quickly away. He felt like he was the last boy standing with the plague.
Arriving at the school, Copeland was quick to confront him. He knew Romeo hadn't started their argument.
"So what are we going to do to fix this situation?" Miles had his hands on his hips and was completely serious.
Casey had a slew of answers for the man, most of which would end up with him in the principal's office and a very angered Brax having to pick him up.
"You can start by not sending my brother to jail."
Casey had no idea where his lippy attitude was coming from. He was the quiet one! He wasn't the one to start trouble! But Summer Bay was just too easy. Everyone there was so simple and nice to each other. Maybe not to him, but still.
"That's not my call," Miles sighed. "And you need to leave this outside."
"Right, so I'm just supposed to forget about it, is that it?" Casey glared.
"Yeah!" nodded Miles. "You're supposed to forget about it. You know why? It's not fair on anybody else-
"Yeah!" Casey interrupted. "And it's fair for you to get in my face, is it? Give me a break!" Casey was yelling right at Miles, who was probably a few inches shorter than him.
The freaking hormones. Puberty had hit Casey again over the summer, though luckily his voice was no longer crackling unless he was extremely tired or upset. But now he was taller than either of his brothers, though he was bone skinny.
Still, it seemed to most people that his height announced his manhood. And with it, everyone assumed he was just like his brothers. A River Boy. No good.
Brax had made it quite clear that was not the case.
"Sixteen is sixteen. I don't care if you're six feet or sixty, you're my kid brother and I'll beat your ass if you give me a reason to."
He had said it as he was dragging Case from the school after his expulsion the week prior. Casey could attribute his red flushed face to anger or the rushing they were doing, but it was honestly embarrassment. Brax probably didn't even realize he was doing it, but Casey wasn’t going to point it out. He got in his brothers ute and kept his head down.
"Alright! Enough!" Principal Palmer came down the hall. "Stop right there. You people can keep moving!" She turned from the gathered students and back to Casey and Miles.
She did not look happy. Casey was having such a great day.
Bonding over detention. Now that was new.
Once they were done trying to hit each other, Casey found that Romeo Smith wasn't such a bad guy. He was open and honest, and Casey replied in kind.
Maybe it would keep him from any further detentions.
Just when things were getting a little calmer, they got weird again.
PeeWee and Rick had driven by him and Romeo walking home and had stopped to pick him up. They'd even said hey to Romeo. They were on their way to drop Casey off but they stopped at the beach.
And there was that skinny kid again with his camera.
Part Four ->