Part Twenty Four
That night, as Brax made it home from Angelo’s, Heath got ready to head out for the night with some of the Boys. He was just waiting for Brax to get back before he left, since he figured that leaving the dynamic duo alone would only infuriate the big guy.
“But what do you think they’ll say?” Nash was asking him. He was leaning on the doorframe looking into the bathroom as Heath shaved.
Heath rolled his eyes.
“I’ve never had the cops called to school on me, Nasher,” the older Braxton shrugged. “Your bet is as good as mine.”
“They’re not going to arrest him, right?” Jagger yelled from the kitchen, where she was cleaning up the mess of Heath’s cooking them dinner.
“I doubt it,” replied Heath. “Not unless they really want to charge that other kid too.”
“They’re not going to go after him,” Nash crossed his arms. “Hallman’s his stepmum, she wouldn’t allow it. They’re gonna say it was all me, I know it!”
“Didn’t that cop guy already talk to you all?” Heath glared at the ten-year old through the mirror.
“But what if he lies?” Nash frowned.
“What if they bribe him?” Jagger added, coming close now that she had finished cleaning up. Usually, Nash would have to help her, but seeing her twin in the state of worry he was in, Jagger couldn’t really think to force him. Even waiting to have to talk with Brax wasn’t this bad.
“What if they send me jail?”
“Or trial him as an adult?”
“Alright, enough!” Heath snapped, turning at the wide-eyed duo. “How do you expect me to know the answers to all that anyway? If you twos really wanted an opinion, you shoulda asked before your brilliant plan. It’s a bit too late to come asking me about the hows and whys of how coppers think!”
“We never thought cops would be involved, though,” Jagger offered back.
Heath rolled his eyes. “That part is crystal obvious,” he walked out the bathroom towards his room to change, the twins a few steps behind him. “If you had any sense, you would’ve gotten the little sucker after school!”
“That’s a great thing to teach them,” Casey scoffed. He had recently entered the house, and the other three hadn’t noticed him. He was seated on the couch, which they had walked passed without even noticing him. Now, the three turned back and looked over to where Casey laid stretched out on the couch.
“Where’ve you been?” Heath frowned, glancing at his watch.
“Around,” Casey shrugged. Heath usually wasn’t too interested in his whereabouts, and as it was obvious that the second oldest was about to head out the door soon, he could usually avoid a full on inquisition. Heath wasn’t likely to delay his own plans for Casey. Not unless Brax told him to or Casey made it obvious that something terribly bad was up.
“Aren’t you in trouble from that cop thing last weekend?” Jagger wondered.
“What cop thing?” Heath frowned.
Brax had held that particular interaction from Heath per Casey’s request. Casey didn’t want Heath asking too many questions, and inevitably finding out about him and Ruby in the back of Xavier’s car.
“Nothing,” he rolled his eyes, hoping Heath would think it was no big deal. It wasn’t like Casey hadn’t been dropped off before by a cop, but it wasn’t often. And the last time he had been almost fourteen and it had just been to drop him off because he’d been caught out somewhere a bit deserted. Heath had thought that had been stupid, but Brax had still smacked him in warning of getting unwanted attention.
“Do you think I’ll have to go to jail, Case?” Nash asked instead, moving over to join the teen on the couch.
“For what?” Casey frowned.
“Blowing up the school,” Heath said, moving towards his room once more.
“What?” Casey sat up, staring at where Heath had stood.
“No I didn’t!” Nash shrieked.
“It was one hallway,” Jagger added. “And it was only smoke.”
“What are you talking about?” the teen insisted. “What happened?”
Heath reappeared, stuffing his wallet into his shorts’ pocket. With Casey there, he was willing to leave the littlest with the teen. At least, if they did get in trouble, it wasn’t on his watch.
“No one’s going to jail over something so incredibly moronic,” he stated walking past them and grabbing his keys from the kitchen table.
“You said you didn’t know!” Nash insisted.
“Well, who the heck is gonna arrest a ten year old for some stink bombs?” Heath scoffed at them. “Not even idiot coppers would go that low.”
“But you don’t really know,” Jagger reminded him.
“You threw a stink bomb?” Casey shook his head at his younger brother.
“No, there was a whole bunch of stink bombs and smoke bombs in this other kid’s locker,” Jagger started to explain.
“You can tell him later,” Heath stopped her. “You three stay out of trouble.”
“Brax didn’t say though,” Nash sighed, looking completely inconsolable.
“Say what?” Casey frowned.
“What he thought was gonna happen!”
“Nothing’s gonna happen!” Heath yelled, getting to the back door. “Unless you keep asking, then I’ll give you something to worry about! Now stop before you drive me bonkers!”
“Night Heath,” Casey rolled his eyes.
“Good riddance grommets!” Heath opened the door and headed out.
Jagger joined them on the couch, both twins frowning. Casey sighed.
“Alright, tell me the story.”
By the time Brax got home, Nash had worried himself to tears once and hadn’t been able to eat much of dinner. He laid on the couch, staring at the television without really watching it. Casey tried to cheer the duo up, but with Jagger waiting to get her own butt warmed and Nash without a clue as to his future, they just weren’t having it.
“You’re home late,” Casey sighed as his oldest brother entered.
“Long day,” Brax had to raise an eyebrow at the kid. “Why aren’t you in bed?”
Casey pointed over to the living room, where the twins were stretched out.
“Them too,” sighed Brax. Seeing them, he remembered what kind of day they had brought upon themselves. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to dealing with Jagger, but he needed the whole thing over and done with.
Brax walked over and took the remote control from Jagger’s lax hand. They were mostly asleep, while Casey had been doing some kind of school work at the table the kid was smart and a hard worker, but things didn’t exactly come easy to him. There were many nights that he’d had the teen going well past his bedtime doing his schoolwork.
“Alright you two,” Brax nudged the twins awake. “Time for bed.”
“Brax,” Jagger yawned. “You’re home.”
“Am I gonna get arrested?” Nash asked as he stood up, rubbing his eyes. “I don’t wanna get arrested.”
“I doubt it,” Brax sighed. “It’s not exactly the worst thing a kid has done, but I doubt you’re going to get off this easy, either.”
“I didn’t,” Nash frowned, rubbing at his behind.
Brax shook his head. “Not what I meant. Go and get ready for bed.”
Nash walked forward, pouting as he moved towards the bathroom. None of his brothers seemed to take his worry seriously.
“You with me,” he said to the other sleepy head.
“Aw man,” Casey sighed, gathering his things. He had heard the twins’ story and could figure that Brax was going to finish up what he hadn’t been able to earlier.
Brax watched him for a moment, glaring towards where Jagger sat, squirming.
“Hey Case,” Brax stopped him. “So your teacher let the charges drop.”
Casey smiled. “Off Heath? Really? Does that mean I can do the science competition?”
Brax had forgotten about that. He had been thinking that Casey would be glad enough to hear his teacher hadn’t been such an ass, and to warn him to behave in school, but he had forgotten that the man was pushing his own agenda for his brother.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on,” Casey groaned, happy face all gone. “I thought the whole problem was because Mr. Copeland had the charges out on Heath. No charges should mean no problems!”
“I’ll talk it over with Heath,” Brax shrugged. He couldn’t see Heath being happy with the arrangement either way, but he might be able to talk his younger brother from being too rigid.
“Heath? Why does he get a say?” Casey quibbled. “He’s never cared what I did before!”
“He cares what you do,” Brax frowned. “Your brother does actually care about you, so don’t go about saying something like that!”
“Whatever,” Casey groaned, turning back to the table.
“Casey!” Brax closed his eyes. He hated hearing that response, and the kid knew it.
“I don’t see why you sent me to this school, and you say you want me to do well, but then I go and actually do it, and you don’t want me to.”
“That’s not what I said,” Brax crossed his arms, leaning against the back of the couch.
Nash left the bathroom, slightly more awake and walked back into the room, frowning at his brothers. He looked over at Jagger, who shook her head at him. She didn’t want to interrupt; that would just make her the center of attention. Not the most ideal position for her at the moment.
“Might as well be,” Casey muttered, taking his things towards his room.
“Hey, lose the attitude, mate!”
“Whatever!” Casey retorted, kicking his door shut with a slam.
Brax closed his eyes, willing himself not to follow behind the teen and pop him a few smacks on his arse. He had enough doing of that ahead of him, and truthfully he could see where Casey was coming from. But did the teen have to give him so much attitude?
Brax glanced over to where Nash was standing and sighed.
“You brushed your teeth? Set for bed?”
Nash nodded. He glanced over at his twin and looked uncomfortable.
“Brax, Jags didn’t really do anything today,” he tried to defend her.
“Don’t,” Brax held his hand up to stop him. “I’ve already heard the story, and I’ve already dealt with you. It’s late, get to bed.”
“What about Jags?”
“Nicholas,” Brax frowned at him. “You really want to push your luck tonight?”
Nash glanced over at Jagger and pouted. He didn’t like the idea of leaving her like that, but he didn’t have a choice. If anyone would be able to talk herself out of a sticky situation, Jagger could do it.
“Goodnight,” he mumbled, walking slowly and dejected towards his room.
Brax sighed again. If there was a limit to how often a person could sigh in their lifetime, he wouldn’t be surprised to have past that quota ages ago.
Turning he looked over at the last Braxton standing.
“Now you.” He stood up and walked over to where his baby sister was standing. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I had a better plan than Nash’s, and I think Miles had it coming to him. Oh, and I’m glad he got in trouble too. Nash’s notaplan-plan worked out pretty good.”
Brax reached over and flicked her ear.
“Except for the part where you’re not supposed to bring any kind of weapons to school, cause any trouble, or pick fights!”
“Smoke bombs aren’t like really-
Brax covered her mouth and glared at her.
“You’re in the wrong here. You might not have been the actual doer, this time, but what you two planned to do wasn’t any better than what happened. You seriously think that I would be happier if you had managed to get the smoke bomb into the classroom with that kid?”
Jagger looked down at her feet and shook her head. Brax doubted she was actually sorry. She was more likely to try and get him to feel sorry for her. Jagger had a way of talking her way around her brothers, and it was hard enough for Brax to get into the mindset of having to set any of their tales on fire without having to second guess his reasoning.
“I know you probably feel justified with what you wanted to do, I know you just wanted to look out for your brother, but what you two shoulda done was tell me. It’s my job to look out for my little brothers.”
“That was our next step,” Jagger insisted.
“That should’ve been your first step,” Brax growled back.
Brax sat on the couch and tugged the little girl into the space between his legs. Jagger rubbed at her tired eyes and Brax glanced over at the clock. It was just past eleven at night.
“I don’t want to drag this out,” he told her. “You need to get to bed and
“We can skip it,” Jagger nodded. “I understand.”
“That’s not what I was going to say,” Brax sighed.
Jagger pouted. “But I don’t want you to spank me. I didn’t even get in trouble today. It’s not fair!”
Brax opened his mouth to argue the point, but shook his head. He really would be there all night talking to the kid otherwise. Instead, he reached out and tugged her shorts down, taking her small hips to place her over his thigh. You would think he didn’t feed the kids, with how skinny they all turned out, but there was muscle in all of them. Tough little brats.
He couldn’t remember how many he had given Nash, so he set about for speed instead. He needed to have the kid asleep in bed hours ago, but he hated postponing punishments more. Besides, he doubted Jagger would be happy to wake up in the morning for one.
Jagger was quick to tears, the late hour and the guilt of having put her twin into a position he had made worse got to her. She tried pushing off of her brother’s lap, but it was fruitless. She tried instead to punch his leg, thinking somewhat stupidly that the pain might make him falter on dishing out his own on her.
“Knock it off,” Brax said instead, placing a particularly hard smack to the center of her red cheeks.
“Please stop!” she cried out, wiggling and kicking. No matter how many times she was in that position, and for the fact that it had been barely a week before since the last time, she never got used to it. And it always hurt worse than she remembered.
“You are going to have to learn to leave some situations for others to resolve,” Brax lectured, taking a small pause in his task. “And I don’t ever want to hear about you taking anything to school that isn’t books or shit like that. You shouldn’t be having these revenge plots playing out. You’re ten years old for fucks sake.” Brax was tired and he just couldn’t get his mind around the kind of stuff the twins were doing. They were always the ones to surprise him. Heath was careless and now Casey was playing a bit on the rebellious side, but the twins always managed to completely floor him.
And they were only ten.
He set about finishing up, tilting her forward enough to get the final smacks to the back of her legs like he had hours earlier with Nash. The effect had her blubbering and her fighting stopped. Brax righted her up, slowly pulling her shorts back up. She wiggled at the bothersome fabric, reaching back to try and shove them off, but Brax just pulled her hand away and took her into his arms.
“No more MacGuyver Bond spy things for you, got it?” He stood up walking her over to the bathroom. “From now on, I want you and your brother to behave yourselves. No more trouble, I mean it!”
“Didn’t mean to,” she muttered into his shoulder.
“You didn’t mean to get caught,” scoffed Brax. “You definitely meant to have your brother’s back. And I can’t get mad about that.” He kissed her head and set her on her feet again. “But I can be upset with your methods. You, Juliette Braxton, are too smart for your own good. Brush your teeth, it’s past your bedtime.”
A few moments more, and he carried the littlest Braxton to bed. Nash was already asleep, though a few tear marks on his face let Brax know the kid had likely been awake for some of his twin’s ordeal. He tucked them both in and kissed their foreheads and watched them breathing and peaceful for a moment, even if they were both sleeping off their bottoms for the night.
He had no idea what was going to happen with the school, whether Nash would even be welcomed back to the premise the next day or not. Jagger wasn’t going to like going by herself, and if that Miles kid was in school, he would likely have a repeat of her acting up the next day.
Brax closed the door behind him and shook his head. Things in the Braxton household were never easy.
He walked over to Casey’s room next out of habit, expecting to find the teen well and truly asleep.
Which of course meant he wasn’t.
“I ought to smack you,” he growled at the sleepy, wide-eyed look he received.
“Why? I didn’t do anything?” Casey frowned. He was lying in bed, covered and stubbornly blinking back sleep. Brax knew the kid too well. If he was sent to bed when he wasn’t happy about something, somehow he thought that not sleeping would punish the brother – usually Brax – that had sent him.
“You’re supposed to be asleep already!”
“How was I supposed to sleep with you smacking Jagger?” the teen scoffed. “You weren’t being exactly quiet, you know.”
“I spanked Jags because she, like you as late, has been under the impression that you’re allowed to do whatever shit you want to. I’m in charge in this family, and you don’t have to like it, but you will respect it.”
“We respect you,” Casey blinked back his sleep. “And I haven’t been under any impressions of anything.”
Brax shook his head.
“You know what, I’m not having this conversation. It’s too damn late.”
Brax walked over, but Casey quickly flipped onto his back, keeping his butt off of target.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“You’re supposed to be sleeping, and I’m done arguing with you.”
“I’m going to sleep now,” Casey insisted. “Brax, come on, you don’t have to do that.”
“Five minutes,” he glared at the teen, feeling much more tired that he should. He could usually be fine at midnight, hours past. The day had taken its toll on him, and smacking a third kid wasn’t ideal. He would probably be miserable the next day for certain. And he had spent the better part of the last four hours setting up reservations and ordering things for the restaurant.
Brax really needed things to go well, both for the restaurant and his family. He hated things always taking a hit for the worst.
“I will,” Casey insisted.
“I swear, if you’re still awake if I check on you-
“I won’t,” Casey hissed. “Brax, come on, I’m not six years old anymore!”
“You’re the one that’s impossible to get up in the morning,” the eldest scoffed.
“Fine, but we can ignore for now. I’m going to sleep, I promise.”
Brax glared at him for a moment but then he sighed. Kids were taking years off of him, he was certain. He leaned down and brushed at the kid’s hair a moment before turning to leave.
Casey finally relaxed himself again, his face burying into his pillow. “Night Brax.”
The next morning, Brax was off early collecting an order from another business connection he had made years ago. He had no idea why he hadn’t thought of the restaurant business before, though it probably had more to do with how hard it was to open one than it was to keep one open.
Not many banks would be willing to do business with a Braxton.
Casey managed to get himself to school, and Heath was on twin duty, which left all three of them less than happy. He had no idea what to do there, but he had some clue as to what to do with the restaurant.
And the look on Angelo’s face as he laid down his plans, Brax couldn’t say he didn’t enjoy it. Sure, the price tag on the items was a little steep, but with all of the people that he had had make reservations for that day, as well as the suppliers and potential investors coming in, he was sure they would make the money back by the end of the week.
If only everything could remain so easy.
The good news at the end of the day was, no charges were brought on Nash. The other kid was placed on probation, and his parents were going crazy over that, but that wasn’t Brax’s problem. If they dared to turn any of it onto Nash, he would make it a problem.
In retaliation, of course, Nash was given a week’s worth of detention, but he wasn’t suspended. Hallman had wanted him expelled, but the school board had actually stressed the Miles kid’s actions as more grievous. It didn’t help them much that others were all too quick to point out how awful he was to generally everyone.
Jagger too had gotten detention, for one day.
The sad news for the town was that a sick child, the Reverend’s stepson, had died from complications of his heart surgery. He wasn’t much older than the twins.
The news came late, hearing it through the grapevine the next morning. Brax wasn’t affected himself, but then he was aware the community he was working his way into was.
Brax was listening to the general talk in the Bay; how well Angelo’s had been the previous night, and how unfortunate for the boy’s passing.
The waves were picking up, with the winds of a nearby storm, and the Braxtons were looking forward to a bit of a surf. The nighttime would render the waves unswimmable, but they lived for the waves.
Brax sat by his board, waxing it and looking over to where the twins were doing cartwheels and dashing in and out of the waves. There were at least ten of the Boys around, and Heath and Casey too. It was like a wolf pack, and they all looked out for each other. Brax couldn’t imagine his life without his brothers in it.
“Ugh,” Heath tossed a patch of sand towards him, smacking at the side of his head. “Stop making that monkey face!” his brother complained.
“What the hell is that?” Brax groaned, picking sand out of his ear. Little brothers were a pain.
“That stupid face you make when you’re thinking,” Heath rolled his eyes. “Your thinking is killing my fun, so stop. Right now.”
Some of the guys laughed, but Brax ignored them. They wouldn’t care about the kid’s death, as they didn’t much care about anything that wasn’t directly connected to them. But Brax couldn’t help but think about it. The boy had lived his whole life in poverty, and had made it there to try and get better, only to get the operation he needed but still died. How could he not think about that?
A part of Brax was always invested in helping others. Most of the time, it was the Boys and his family that got the most of his attention, but that didn’t mean he was blind to the needs of others outside his circle. He just wished there was something he could do.
“Can we go out now?” Nash asked, coming up to them as a few of the Boys got up to swim out.
“Do your boards,” Heath tossed them the wax.
Brax frowned. “Maybe you two should sit this out.”
Three sets of eyes looked back at him, two of them wide with growing disappointment while Heath just rolled his.
“Are you serious?” Heath scoffed. “This is Wilson’s Beach, they can surf this.”
“The water’s not bad at all, Brax,” Jagger insisted.
“We’re not scared,” Nash moved to grab his board. “We’ll be fine!”
“There can be an undertow,” Brax started, even as Jagger ran off to join her twin.
Heath frowned at his brother and Brax sighed. He was being a bit precautious, and not even a bit good at hiding it. He knew his siblings didn’t like it when he went all ‘over-protective’ on them or whatever, but he couldn’t help it. As far as Brax was concerned, Braxton genes were a magnet for bad luck.
“You’re being a goof,” Heath rolled his eyes, standing with his own board. “If something happens, we’re all here. You need a surf, bad.” Heath shook his head. “All that indoor air must be getting to you, big guy.”
Brax rolled his eyes as Heath left laughing.
Maybe the idiot was right. Maybe Summer Bay was getting to him. He wasn’t close to the people there, but having the closest bar in town certainly had a lot of people going in and speaking out their problems. It certainly left him with more knowledge than he needed.
“You alright?” he looked up to see Casey with his board in hand.
They were all in their wetsuits, except for the twins, who seemed to hate the things. He didn’t plan on letting them out there too long before he forced the suits onto them. The incoming weather always made for colder water. Those two, however, were something else.
“I’m good mate,” he smiled at the teen. Casey looked skeptical. “Go, have your surf!”
“I’ll watch out for them,” Casey said turning.
“You do that, and be careful,” he added with a sigh. Brax dropped his own wax onto his towel and stood up. He was in serious need of a surf, and there was just no good sitting there, thinking about it and fearing the worst of things.
Going to school was a bother on most days, but returning to the ‘scene of the crime’ was making Nash uncomfortable.
Hallman, of all people, was at the doors, glaring at him as he made his way in with the rest of the students. He was going to make it a point not to be anywhere alone that day, especially with Hallman.
“She’s going to make Ellis soup,” Jagger groaned, glancing back at the door as they walked down the hallway. Hallman was there, staring back at them. “I don’t think she’s blinked.”
“Don’t look into her eyes,” Nash offered back. He could feel Hallman’s gaze on the back of his head.
“Maybe we should head over to her house and leave her some water balloons of her own,” Jagger giggled.
Nash smiled at the memory. Cheryl shrieking as they pelted her with the six balloons was going to keep him smiling for years to come.
“Hush up,” Nash elbowed her. “You know we’re not supposed to talk about that.”
Jagger still giggled and turned towards her locker. “I bet she still went back to him,” she shook her head.
“I don’t know, maybe that other lady beat her up and they’re both in hospital.”
Jagger thought for a second before she shook her head. “Someone would tell Brax or Heath if she was. They usually do.”
“When she’s in a cell, but who do they know in the hospital?”
“Someone,” Jagger shrugged. “Probably.”
They left towards Nash’s locker, running into one of their school friends on the way, Lance. Lance was poor, like them, and he was funny, but he wasn’t as active as them and he couldn’t surf, so they didn’t see a lot of him outside of school.
“Did you hear what happened?” Lance stopped them.
“What about?” Nash frowned.
“Addington!” Lance turned, probably to see if Hallman was about to pop up somewhere. “He’s been arrested!”
“No way!” Jagger scoffed. “For the smoke bombs?”
Lance shook his head.
“For the whole loot?” Nash wondered.
“Then what, Lance? Talk already!” Jagger insisted.
“I’m not sure, but I heard something happened at home, and some neighbors had to call the cops and then Molly said she saw when the cops took Miles away!”
Jagger shared a glance at her twin. Could this mean that they were rid of the mean boy?
“Did his parents get him out?” Nash asked instead.
“I think so,” Lance frowned. “I didn’t ask. It was last night. I mean, probably, right?”
“Is he in school?” Nash continued.
“Not yet,” Lance shook his head. “And I don’t think he’s coming back.”
“Why?” Jagger glanced around, still no Hallman.
“Because the board has been hearing a lot of people complain about him. I was thinking you two should probably complain too.”
“I think the 6th graders have that covered,” Jagger shook her head. “And I don’t think we’d be allowed.”
Nash nodded. He couldn’t see Brax wanting to garner the cops’ attention with the matter. If they weren’t being charged, why bring up their involvement with the evil idiot anyway.
“Well, they’d have to tell you, though, right? Because of the smoke bomb thing?”
“The school board already called home,” Nash shook his head. “They’re not going to do anything because they think Hallman’s done a lot to make it look like Miles hasn’t done things.”
Jagger smiled. Maybe they would be able to have a decent enough day after all. Maybe Hallmann was glaring at them because of the new developments. It was very possible that Miles would find his own path to the cops’ attention. Perhaps it had nothing at all to do with them.
“Well, that part is true,” shrugged Lance.
With Addington out of the way, maybe school wouldn’t be so bad. It would make the whole smoke-stink bomb hall incident well worth it.
Brax would be glad to hear that they would have no further troubles in school.
Until something else popped up.