Part Twenty – One:



Brax was outside, lifting weights as he heard footsteps approaching him. The twins were inside, playing video games after he had yelled at them to leave him alone for a bit. They had a way of always being underfoot, sometimes he just needed to breathe.

Still, he wasn’t about to send them away when he had just gotten home. They had eaten and he had already let them try their own hands at some of the weights that Heath and him used, but mostly the ten years olds were goofing about.

            “Ahem,” he heard someone clear their throat.

Brax glanced over to the unexpected sight of the uniformed sergeant standing there.

            “Sgt. Buckton,” he greeted, continuing his lift count.

Then, to his further surprise, he spotted a disgruntled looking Casey coming up behind her. Casey stopped to lean against one of the porch columns, seeing as he didn’t continue walking, Brax had to assume Casey had something to do with Buckton being there.

            “This afternoon, Casey, Xavier, and Ruby, took out John Palmer’s car without permission, to Deacon’s Point,” the sergeant went right into saying.

Brax lifted twice more without counting. He placed the bar on the holders and sat up. Casey? At Deacon’s point? Casey with friends?

He frowned, only partially because of the sunlight right in his face.

            “John doesn’t want to press any charges,” she continued. “But obviously, there’s still the issue of their driving without a valid license.”

            “I didn’t do any driving,” Casey inserted.

            “You were a party to it,” Buckton said over her shoulder to him, clearly not at all pleased.

Stupid kid, Brax thought. But that was not the kind of thing he was going to say with someone present, especially a copper.

            “I don’t see what the big deal is,” he said instead. “They’re kids.”

Brax stood up, walked over to his towel and bottle of water. He glanced too over at the backdoor. Inside, the twins were likely not in the slightest aware of what was going on, but he didn’t want them to rush out here, have Buckton seeming them.

            “Casey acted irresponsibly,” she snapped back, and Brax certainly had to agree. “He shouldn’t be able to just get away with what he did.”

            “Well, we both know you’re not going to do anything about it,” Brax challenged her, his glare a bit more intense than he might have normally tried on her, but again the Sun was right there. And maybe a bit tiffed from the fact that she recently had him arrested.

It felt like all she really wanted was to have all Braxtons end up in a holding cell.

            “If you charge Casey there, you’re going to have to charge Xavier and Ruby too. And no one wants that.”

            “Keep your brother in line,” Buckton glared at him. Worse than when he kissed her the other night. Worse still then when he saw her after getting out of the coppers’ custody. “And away from my daughter.”

That was something that Brax had certainly not expected. Sure, people had always stated that they didn’t want him and his brothers around, in particular if he was out with the Boys or Heath, but Casey?

            “What’s she got to do with it?” he asked, completely against his initial idea of getting rid of her as soon as possible. “I can’t tell him who to hang out with.”

            “They weren’t just hanging out,” Buckton spat. “I caught them, together, in the car.”

If the day could get any weirder. Brax glanced over at Casey, who was very poignantly looking at his shoes.

            “Casey?” How? When? This kid?

Casey shrugged.

            “Didn’t think you had it in ya,” he replied honestly.

Casey frowned over at the weights, at the fence, and at anywhere that wasn’t Brax.

Buckton wasn’t pleased.

            “What? You think this is a joke?”

            “Nah,” Brax smirked. When had the kid grown up on him? He couldn’t help but tease, and he couldn’t help the fact that a displeased Buckton looked plenty sexy. “Who am I to stand in the way of true love?”

            “I’m Ruby’s mum!” Buckton stressed. “And I don’t want them seeing each other at all!”

She turned, nothing else to say. Brax couldn’t catch the look she sent the kid, but he could bet it wasn’t a pretty one. At least Casey didn’t catch it either, his eyes fixed on the ground in front of him. The kid was trying and probably praying to be smaller than he was, disappear into the shadows and what not.

Brax groaned and shook his head. He watched as the troubled officer left, glanced over still again at the backdoor, and then finally at the squirming teen in front of him.

The kid hadn’t been so much trouble his whole life, and then suddenly sixteen and it was one thing after another.

            “Get inside!” he ordered, once he realized Casey wasn’t about to try and capture his gaze or talk.

With an eye roll that Brax was choosing to ignore, Casey turned and slowly walked over to the door, closing it behind him.

Brax sighed. He probably had a few hours before he had to deal with Heath coming back from Deacon’s drunk, or spend the night calling the idiot to make sure he wasn’t a in a ditch somewhere and instead at one of the Boys’ homes. The twins were home, however, and if he wanted to have an actual conversation – cripes even the conversation – he would have to get rid of them.

Brax followed Casey inside.

            “You two!” he yelled, not surprised to find Casey on the couch, and the twins already using him like their lounge pillow or something.

Casey had his arms around Nash, who sat on his lap, but leaned against a reclined Jagger beside him.

            “Old Lady Anderson said she needed some help in her yard. Get to it!”

            “Ah man,” Nash groaned, glancing over Casey’s shoulder at him. “Her yard’s full of cats and bird shits!”

            “Hey,” Casey mumbled out against the youngest’ language, pinching at his hip.

            “Is she paying?” Jagger asked instead.

            “Probably not,” Brax scoffed.

            “We’re likely to catch something awful from her,” continued Nash.

            “You’ll catch more if you don’t do as I say,” he stood there, leaning against the counter like he had earlier, but this time they at least acted like they were listening.

Honestly, if he couldn’t intimidate two little snot-nosed ten year olds that he had bathed, clothed, and diapered, what good did he have calling himself a tough guy.

            “Always with the threats,” Jagger muttered as she got to her feet and Nash hopped off of Casey.

            “Can Case come?” Nash tried tugging at his hand.

            “Not this time,” Brax shook his head.

            “Why? What happened?” Jagger paused, glancing from one to the other. “What is it?”

            “Move it,” Brax stressed. He didn’t want to discuss Casey at the moment, not when his behavior was so unlike the teen. He needed to handle these new developments delicately.

            “Are you in trouble?” Nash whispered at the teen.

            “Probably,” Casey muttered back.

            “Do I have to repeat myself?” Brax pushed off of the counter.

            “Keep your boardies on,” Jagger held up a hand. “Come on Nasher.”

Nash offered Casey a sympathetic look, gave Brax a weary one, and followed his twin out the backdoor.

Brax stood watching them walk until they were out of the yard, hoping over the fence into their neighbor’s. The “old lady” was probably in her fifties and she had been there as long as Brax could remember. She had been through five marriages and he couldn’t even recall how many boyfriends. She had even come onto him once, four, maybe five years back. She had been drunk, and she wasn’t bad looking, but the very real knowledge of how much she got around kept him from even thinking about it. He had enough troubles from their own mother.

Still, she was a good enough lady that the neighborliness wasn’t forced. She had mentioned her yard a few days back, and Brax had taken a look at it, but it needed a lot of work. Her last boyfriend had left all kinds of scrap metals back there, and she did have like seven cats. It was kind of creepy.

Brax walked forward and took the remote from Casey’s hand, shutting off the television.


            “There’s nothing to say,” Casey shrugged. His gaze now at the hem of his shirt.

Brax reached over and smacked his head. Casey hissed.

            “I’m offering you a chance to state your side here, don’t push me. You just got dropped off by a cop, Casey. I’m not taking it lightly.”

            “I thought you said, it wasn’t a big deal.”

            “Oh bullshit,” Brax shook his head. “You know that was for the copper! Don’t test me, boy!”

            “I’m not a boy!” Casey grumbled.

            “Yeah, I guess not anymore, huh?” Brax walked by him, smacking at his leg, hard, before he sat beside him where Jagger had just been.

Casey glared, reaching over to rub at the sting.

            “I sure as hell hope you knew enough to use some fucking protection!”

            “What? No!”

            “What?!” Brax snapped back.

            “Stop! Brax, it wasn’t like that!”

            “Were you not with Ruby, like Buckton said?!”

            “Well,” Casey looked away.

Brax reached over, grabbing his chin.

            “I am talking to you. You think you’re old enough for sex, you damn well better man up and be able to talk about it.”

            “I don’t want to talk about it,” Casey cringed. “I’m not Heath!”

Brax groaned. “I don’t mean I want the detailed playback!”

            “Besides, I already said, it wasn’t like that.”

            “It wasn’t like what?” Brax frowned.

Casey glared at him.

            “Boy, if you don’t think you’re a second’s blink away from getting over my knee, you are sorely mistaken. I offered you up a chance to talk, and I’m losing what little patience I have with you.”

Casey groaned, slumping down further into the couch.

            “This is stupid!”

            “I’m not playing, Casey, you better start talking, because what I’m hearing isn’t helping you!”

            “Okay, look, I didn’t even mean to go out with Xavier, but he was out already driving the V8, and he offered me a ride. I didn’t even drive the stupid car! I don’t see what the big deal is! Nothing even happened!”

            “Except for the fact that that car is crazy fast and isn’t to be driven by small kiddies just out from their mum’s apron skirts!”

Casey continued to glare.

            “And, if you don’t fix your attitude right there, I’m going to be done listening and start a whole different conversation with you, catch me?”

Casey turned his glare towards his hands.

            “It was foolish of you to get into that car. Both of you. All of you,” Brax shook his head.

            “I didn’t drive though,” he repeated under his breath.

            “Wouldn’t matter whose in the driver’s seat in a car crash, idiot,” he reached forward to smack Casey on the head. “Mention it once more, and I’m smacking ya.”

Casey huffed, but said no more.

            “What else?”

Casey glanced up at him, his eyes maybe trying for innocent, maybe begging him to not continue this line of conversation.

Brax only wished he could.

            “What else?

            “Nothing, when we left Deacon’s the car ran out of petrol, and –


Casey sighed. He leaned forward and buried his face into his hands.

            “Brax, come on!”

Brax reached for his brother’s forearm and started tugging him towards him.

            “No, stop!” Casey tugged his arm back, but only because Brax allowed it.

            “You talking?’

            “Look, I was just talking with Ruby, alright?”

            “Just talking,” the older brother asked skeptically. “In the backseat?”

            “Well, no. Before that.”

Brax shook his head. Casey once again found his shirt more fascinating. He took a deep breath. If this was really Casey’s first time, well he wouldn’t want to talk about it either. Except, Brax had to know what kind of shit he was facing here. He hadn’t had this problem before, Heath hadn’t stopped bragging when he had lost his virginity. Brax had pulled him aside, more than once, and had told him about being proactive in his health, about how to not always jump at the possibility of sex. He had mentioned not believing every time a girl said she was on the pill, to always use his own common sense and carry condoms.

With Heath, it wasn’t so much a talk, as it was ongoing and continuous conversations.

But this was Casey, not Heath.

Casey was still a kid. Heath had been fifteen, almost sixteen, but somehow Heath at that age and Casey at that age were two different animals all together.

            “We didn’t have sex,” Casey groaned.

            “Excuse me?” Brax blinked, wondering if he heard the boy’s mumbling correctly, or if he just heard what he wanted to hear.

            “I said, we didn’t have sex,” Casey glanced at him, his eyes begging him not to have to repeat himself. “Buckton didn’t really believe us though.”

            “You didn’t?” Casey shook his head. “You’re sure?”

Casey glared. “I think I would know that.”

            “What I mean, brat, is whether you’re lying or not.”

            “Well, I’m not. We were in the backseat, and.” He stopped, scratching at his head and squirming in his seat.


            “Nothing, just, we didn’t have sex, okay? Can’t we leave it at that?”

            “Why does Buckton say you did?” Brax insisted, not even considering letting the teen off the hook.

            “Cuz of how she found us.”

Brax waited, but when Casey didn’t elaborate, he reached over and smacked his head once again.

            “Come on!” he groaned.

            “Casey,” warned Brax.

            “We were just making out,” Casey rubbed at his head.


Casey shrugged.

            “What’s just nowadays?”

Casey shrugged.

            “Were your pants on?”

Casey dropped his head onto his palms again.


            “Yes! Both of us! Pants, shoes, underwear. We didn’t have sex!”


Casey groaned, his head dropping further and his hands clasping at the back of his head.

            “Casey Braxton!” Brax stressed, shaking his head.

            “Okay, fine, no shirts. But Ruby still had her bra on! And I just got her shirt off, and then Buckton was there! Nothing even happened! She’ll probably never even talk to me again!”

It felt a bit wrong to say that he was relieved, but Brax couldn’t deny it. Not that he was preaching for the kid to be celibate or anything, he wasn’t trying to be a hypocrite either, but this was Casey. He was still carrying the kid around last year, taking him over to his bed when he’d fallen asleep on the couch, dragging him and the twins away from window displays and strapping helmets on their heads as they raced for the door.

Damnit when had the kid grown?

            “She’ll talk to you again,” Brax scoffed, slouching down into the couch himself.

            “No, she won’t,” Casey muttered towards his legs. “It was completely embarrassing!”

            “By her mum,” Brax shook his head. “If anything, she’s probably royally pissed off with Buckton and will see you again just to piss her off.”

Casey glanced up, skeptical.

            “You think?”

            “I do,” he nodded. “Not that I think that’s a good idea, mind you. Sgt. Buckton certainly doesn’t like you.”

            “She doesn’t like you either,” Casey frowned.

            “I’ve noticed,” smirked Brax.

            “Did you really get arrested for kissing her?” Casey asked, lowering his hands completely without much thought. As the conversation strayed further away from the Incident, he was more willing to talk.

Brax rolled his eyes. “The Boys have a real big mouth.” He shook his head, but he wasn’t denying it.

            “Not as Big as Heath’s,” added Casey.

Brax groaned. “That’s one brother that needs a vocal retention. But, enough about me.”

            “Enough talking,” the teen groaned.

            “So, you want me to beat your arse?” Brax asked, not reacting to the comical widening of Casey’s eyes.

            “No!” Casey leaned slightly back, into the couch cushions, as if that would somehow help him get morphed into the furniture or something. “Talking’s fine.”      

            “Thought as much.” Brax sat back, watching the kid squirm and glance at him and not initiating any conversation.

            “Is there anything I need to add to this talk,” he stressed the last word, and caught the slight blush on the teen’s face just before he looked down again. His timid, shy, soft-spoken little man.

Casey shook his head.

            “I’m not mad at you,” Brax insisted. “It’s not the ideal situation, but you’re growing up, and I do realize that.”

Casey glanced at him, but didn’t speak.

            “Do you even own any condoms?”

            “Brax!” Horror pitched screech and his face was once again buried in his hands. Casey was muttering at himself, but Brax reached over and tugged one of his hands down.

            “Come on, kiddo,” he spoke softly, his own heart breaking at the adultness of the conversation he had not woken up prepared for that day.

But then again, he knew enough to know he would never be prepared for the things the kids would end up doing. The good, the bad, the crazy, and Heath. He smirked.

            “It’s just you and me, and this is important. I need to know you know enough to step into…that world. Rules are a bit, different.”

Casey frowned at him.

            “How?” he asked softly, not wanting to talk, but intrigued.

            “Well, sex is not just about you,” Brax started. “You really have to think about the other person too. And, as much fun as it can be, as much as you both can want to do it, you have to be smart about it too.”

            “Protection, I know,” Casey muttered.

            “Hell yes,” Brax shook his head. “No excuses there. Every time. If you’re going to have sex, you have to protect yourself. There’s a shitload of STIs and not to mention pregnancies.”

            “Brax, I’m not going to have a kid,” Casey frowned.

            “I should hope not,” Brax glared back. “But how many people actually plan those things? I wasn’t planned. You sure as hell weren’t. The twins?” Brax scoffed.

            “Heath was planned?”

Brax laughed. “Uh, well, the way dear ol’Mum would say it, Danny wanted another kid, and they had Heath, so yeah I guess so.”

            “Huh,” Casey turned to his hands again.

            “Regardless, you’re still a kid yourself. I’m not going to tell you that you’re too young to have sex, I was at your age. Heath was. Don’t think that means you have to either!”

            “I know,” Casey nodded. “You’re not going to tell Heath, are you?” Casey cringed.

            “Nothing to tell,” Brax shrugged. “But if you’re not comfortable talking about it, you’re probably not ready to do it.”

            “I can talk about it,” Casey shrugged. “Just, not to you guys.” He scratched at his head.

            “With your friends?” Casey shrugged again. “Case, I don’t want you getting your answers from some kids with barely more experience than you. You got questions, you ask me. And Heath will likely tease you, but he’ll answer you too. You just let me know if he gives you too much of a hard time.”

Casey rolled his eyes.

            “Heath giving me a hard time?”

            “He’s a lovable arsehole,” Brax shrugged.

            “I know that,” Casey shook his head. “But I still rather not.”

Brax nodded.

            “And we can just leave the twins out of whatever you’re going to do,” Brax added, moving to stand.

            “I don’t think they’ll care,” Casey watched him walking over to the fridge for a beer.

            “They’re incredibly observant,” Brax shook his head. “But I don’t want to get into talking sex with them just yet.”

            “Or ever?” Casey smirked.

            “That would be best,” Brax nodded. Nor would he have preferred talking with Casey himself, but he figured he shouldn’t bring that up when he was trying to convince the kid to talk to him. Not that he had had much choice with Casey.

            “You really like her, don’t you?”

Casey blushed again. How this kid was even a Braxton, sometimes Brax had to wonder. He had two big brothers that would walk through hell for him, or the twins, but somehow that had allowed him to be much more sheltered.

            “I guess so.” Casey picked up the TV controller again, playing with it in his hands.

            “You’ve never really had a girlfriend before,” Brax said, walking back over to sit himself in front of Casey on the coffee table.

            “I know,” Casey glanced at him, his eyes wide and truthful and so young. “I really like Ruby. She’s wicked smart, and funny. She didn’t even take crap from Heath today.”

            “If she can already handle Heath, maybe you should marry her?’ Brax teased, enjoying Casey’s eye roll for once.

            “She’s cool,” Casey said instead. “I still don’t think she’s going to want to see me again.”

            “She has to think you’re pretty cool too, unless she’s constantly taking boys into other people’s car’s backseat?”

            “No!” Casey glared at him. “Ruby’s not like that. She just, she knows what she likes, and she’s not afraid to get it.”

            “I guess she must really like you, too.”

Casey smiled down at his hands. Brax stood up, smacking Case on the head as he walked towards the backdoor. He would need to check in on the twins, least they ended up sword-fighting with the scrap metals and/or scaring up the cats. Again.




The door knocked and Casey stood up to go answer it. He still had Ruby on his mind, and the sight of Miles Copeland startled him.

            “Mr. Copeland?”

            “Casey, good,” Miles nodded. “Just the guy I needed to see.”

            “Really?” frowned Casey.

            “Have you given the science fair any thoughts?”

Casey sighed. He had mostly forgotten about the stupid school and how they wanted to talk to his stupider mother.

            “Well, look, I’ve changed my mind,” Casey stated. Miles had talked to him about being tested. They thought that maybe he had some kind of learning disability and they wanted to help, but they needed Cheryl’s signature on things. Then he had had to go and do well enough on the science report idea that Xavier, Dexter, and himself were being offered a chance to join into the science fair competition.

That wasn’t going to happen.

Of course, he could get Brax, and his brother would find a way but Casey didn’t want him to. He didn’t want to have to explain his mother. All of Mangrove River knew what kind of terror she was, Casey had never had to explain her before.

This would be different.

            “What happened?” Miles frowned. “You were into it yesterday?”

            “It’s just not me, that’s all.” Casey insisted. He wished he could just tell Mr. Copeland to go away and fuck off, or something equally to the point. But he wasn’t Brax, or Heath. Not to mention, Mr. Copeland seemed to actually give a shit. About Casey.

That wasn’t something Case was accustomed to either.

            “Well, did your mum talk to you?” the teacher insisted.

Casey stopped himself from groaning. His talking with Cheryl would be a whole other issue; one he was certainly not going to be discussing with Mr. Copeland.

            “It’s got nothing to do with her, it’s more-” But how to explain? There was nothing that he could say that wouldn’t sound horrible. Not only did he have no idea where his mother was at the moment, he wasn’t allowed to talk to her! Brax would be pissed. “I’ve got a lot of stuff going down.”

Miles nodded, letting the kid have the out, but not liking it. He could tell that Casey wasn’t telling the truth, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. What kind of family wouldn’t want the best for the kid? What could Casey be hiding? Miles was more than just a little worried, and he kept his focus on trying to get Casey back into an overall progress, now that he knew the kid had potential.

            “Okay, fine,” said Miles. “Just promise me you’ll think about it.”

Casey would have liked to say yes. He would’ve liked even more that he wouldn’t have to worry about things like that. Soon enough, he’d be eighteen and he wouldn’t have to worry about people wondering about his parents; in particular his Mum.

He would’ve liked to say yes, but he didn’t even get the chance to say no. Because just at that moment, Heath started into the front yard, instantly angered at seeing the sight of the teacher.

It was common knowledge that Heath was being brought up in charges over a bar brawl in a restaurant in Summer Bay, as were some of the other Boys. But Heath in particular had something against Miles Copeland, and Casey wasn’t quite privy to all of the details yet.

Still, he knew enough to realize his brother was not going to be happy.

            “OY!” Heath glared, stomping over to the front door and Miles Copeland. “What’s he doing here?”

            “It’s okay!” Miles turned just as quick, calm as ever. “I’m just here to drop off some science competition forms off.” He held up the forms for a moment. “Maybe you can convince your brother to enter?”

Heath glared at the man, barely registering the man’s words. He hated that the guy was being so calm and he hated that his mere presence was reminding him how much shit he could be in. Brax insisted he had nothing to worry about, but the truth was, he didn’t think Brax had any kind of plan to get him out.

He hated not knowing.

            “You’re kidding, aren’t ya?” Heath asked instead.

Casey was standing just behind the teacher now, but his focus seemed a thousand miles away. Heath barely spared his a second look.

            “No,” Miles replied. “I think your brother’s got a lot of potential and I don’t think we should let this opportunity slide by.”

            “In case you’re forgetting,” Heath gritted. “You dubbed me to the cops!”

Miles looked away from Heath and sighed. If he had been one of his teenagers, he probably would’ve rolled his eyes.

            “I could go to jail because of you!” Heath continued.

Casey stopped his back and forth pacing at the words. He hated the thought of his brothers in jail, but it happened on occasion. A few overnighters, maybe a few days if they were being particular asses. Heath had done a few stints in jail, a few months max, but he still didn’t exactly like it.

            “I should deck you right here and now for turning up at my house!” Heath continued, making himself more and more agitated.

            “This has nothing to do with what’s going down between us, alright?” Miles stated back. “This is all about Casey.”

            “And Casey’s my brother,” Heath stated, like that was the end of that.

            “Yeah, and he’s a smart kid!” Miles continued. “And he could really do something with his life.”

            “What? Not like me, huh?” glared Heath.

Miles’ eyebrows raised. “I did not say that! You said that.”

            “No,” Casey shook his head. He could already see Heath getting agitated and Mr. Copeland wasn’t backing down. He was completely dedicated in wanting to help Casey, except this wouldn’t help him with this particular brother in the slightest. Heath wasn’t too complicated. He had decided that he didn’t like the man, and that was that. Had it been Liam or any other teacher there, maybe Heath would listen. Or just carry on with himself and ignore them. But it was Miles, and Heath didn’t like a thing that the man was saying. “It’s cool, Mr. Copeland.”

            “No! It’s not cool, Casey!” Miles flipped around, yelling now towards the teen. “Now if what you aspire to, is to be a River Boy, that’s fine,” he continued to say. “Getting drunk and getting into fights and surfing all day, that's your call.” But it was obvious with the way that the man was stating such things that he didn’t actually think that was fine.

Casey kept his gaze low. He didn’t want to look at Miles’ face of disappointment, or Heath’s face or anger and disgust. He couldn’t imagine this scenario playing out well between the two either.

            “But if you want to do something different,” Miles continued. “If you want to make a change now, then just-

Miles held up the papers, and Heath promptly snatched them, tossing them towards the ground. Casey flinched at the action, but Miles’ attention and look of surprise was over his shoulder once more on Heath behind him.

He watched as the papers softly and slowly fluttered down at the grass splatted ground around them. He closed his eyes a second, recalling how Romeo had stated that the Braxton’s lives weren’t easy. He had to wonder how much of that statement was in reference to the bull-headed man before him.

Miles sighed, not knowing what else to say. Heath glared and Casey just glanced down at the ground, dismissive.

            “It’s your call,” he told Casey. But the teen remained silent. And sadly enough, Miles couldn’t blame him. The older Braxton was a force, and while Miles had no trouble standing up for himself, he didn’t want to make things worse for the boy.

Turning, Miles headed back towards the street, where his car was parked. He gave Heath a look, ignoring the hard look of anger there, and walked on.

Heath watched him go, and when Miles was a few houses down, he turned to glare at Casey, before finally heading inside.

Casey groaned. He should have known. Things could always get worse for him. How Heath thought that acting like that would help in the slightest, Casey couldn’t begin to figure, but he knew for certain that it did nothing in maintaining people’s attention off of them. If anything, now Miles Copeland was probably more determined to help him.

And that would probably make things worse off for Casey.

Casey set about picking up the pages. He looked them over and found that he had to stop before he got himself excited over something he wasn’t allowed to do. Heath was so adamant about his not doing it, that the thought of going behind his back would only make things worse.

With a sigh, Casey turned back towards the house, keeping the papers close and down. He looked to see if Heath was there in the living room or kitchen, but he could hear his brother instead over in the bathroom. Casey moved to get the papers back in his backpack, zipping it up just as Heath made his way back into the room.

            “You’re unbelievable, you know that!” he yelled at Casey.

            “I didn’t ask Mr. Copeland to stop by,” Casey insisted.

            “Yeah, that’s great. Just get all buddy like with the bloke whose trying to place me in the slammer? Real nice Casey!”

            “I’m not!” Casey sighed. “He’s my teacher. He’s trying to help.”

            “Help!” Heath scoffed. “What the fuck kind of help you need him for?” Heath paced, shoving at one of the chairs in the kitchen for it to slam into the table.

            “I don’t!” Casey replied.

            “Fuck you don’t!” Heath pointed at him. “He thinks he can come in like your little fairy godmother or something? He thinks he’s so much better than us!”

            “He’s just being a teacher,” Casey insisted. He wanted to say a ‘good’ teacher, but he didn’t think that Heath would like to hear that.

            “What kind of fucking school are you in, the guy’s coming over here to criticize your family and you’re defending him!”

            “He wasn’t,” Casey sighed.

This was getting them nowhere.

            “You’re not doing that stupid shit, you hear me!” Heath stood at the back of the couch, glaring at him.

Casey wanted to tell him off, tell Heath that he couldn’t dictate Casey’s life for him, but he was alone with Heath, and his brother was getting more and more agitated. He nodded, knowing there was nothing else for him to say.

            “I fucking mean it!” Heath declared, slamming his hand against the couch cushions.

            “What’s with your fucking yelling?!” Brax said, coming in from the back with the twins trailing after him. They were both covered in grease-grim and neither looked pleased.

            “Your idiot brother,” Heath muttered, still glaring at Casey. As if he had asked the man to press charges against Heath and then show up at their house.

            “I know that much!” Brax stated but he was looking at Heath.

            “Who was that in the yard?” Nash asked going over to the fridge for a cola can.

            “Jackass that wants me in jail,” Heath replied.

Brax frowned. He turned to stop Jagger from rummaging in the fridge herself and grabbed Nash’s drink from him.

            “Go shower,” he instructed them.

            “We did already,” Jagger groaned.

            “Go again,” insisted Brax.

            “That’s rubbish,” Nash groaned instead, glaring as Brax placed the can back into the fridge and didn’t let him have it.

            “Move it, both of you.”

They rolled their eyes, seemingly not interested in whatever was up between Heath and Casey – since there was always some issue between the two – and instead heading over to their clothes situated.

            “Explain yourselves.”

And Casey had to sit there, listening as Heath gave his exaggerated account of how Mr. Copeland was on their property, aggravating Heath for another beat down.

            “That’s not true,” Casey groaned.

            “And this one’s standing there, defending him. I’m your brother!”

            “Heath,” Casey sighed. “It wasn’t about that. He just came to give me some papers. For school.”

            “For a project shit he wants you to do!” Heath insisted.

            “He’s not the only one,” Casey frowned. Maybe if Principal Palmer had been the one standing there, or even Ms. Scott. Anyone but Heath’s latest number one enemy.

            “Casey,” Brax silenced him with a look.

            “And you’re probably going to side with the old guy too!” Heath exasperated.

            “No,” Brax shook his head.

Casey frowned at him. Brax was his last chance, and it didn’t seem like his brother was too interested in what Casey wanted at the moment.

            “Really?” Heath scoffed.

            “Yeah, really,” Brax nodded. “This seems to mean a shitload to you. And you’re right, the guy’s holding this accusation over you, and it wouldn’t seem right to just pretend to be on the friendly seas.”

            “This had nothing to do with Heath!” Casey insisted.

            “But it does,” Brax shrugged. “Casey, you have to look at the whole picture here.”

            “Mr. Copeland was just trying to look out for my future! He thinks this could help me. He wasn’t even interested in Heath until this idiot came around, shoving papers all over the place!”

            “Who are you calling an idiot?” Heath glared at him.

Casey scoffed. Heath moved towards him, but Brax reached out and grabbed his bicep before he could reach Casey. Casey stayed standing where he was, knowing his didn’t want to get closer to either brother.

            “Enough, Case,” Brax warned him. “And you, stop acting like a raging animal.” He released Heath’s arm, glaring at them both. “Casey, you’re not doing this thing, end of story. Heath, stop being an arse.”

And with that, Brax headed down the hall to his room and now Casey and Heath were alone once more. Heath glared at him, before he headed down the hall and into the bathroom, where one of the twins were showering and slammed the door behind him.

Casey slumped down into the chair and sighed. So much for that, lost before he ever started.



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