Mike glared at the math homework with enough intensity to set it ablaze. The numbers were taunting him, laughing at him. The answer was teasingly out of reach; all he had to do was figure out why there were letters in with the numbers…
"Stop staring down the paper and do the problem," said Leon, picking up his pencil to point at number seventeen. "You can do this, just move the variable to one side and divide to get the answer." They had been sitting at the table for over an hour, and his legs were starting to fall asleep from the uncomfortable chair.
Mike let out a frustrated sigh and ran his fingers through his thick, blonde hair. He pouted at his brother. "I'm so sick of math. Can't you just give me the answers so we can be done already?" he asked, gesturing to the thin book of solutions next to Leon.
Aw, not the Look. Puppy dog eyes. The pouty lower lip. Leon looked away so he wouldn't be drawn in by his baby brother's cute act. He tried concentrating on the posters on Mike's side of the room. His eyes hovered on a particularly busty woman posing for the camera and he averted them quickly. "You won't learn anything if I do them for you," he said distractedly. He really wished Mike wouldn't hang such lewd photography on the walls. It was degrading.
"Puh-leeze? Dude, I'll even pay you twenty bucks if you finish this for me." Mike was growing desperate. He waved the cash temptingly.
Leon stared firmly out the window. Autumn leaves were piling around the tree outside. "You know I can't do that. You need to learn this yourself. I can't cheat for you." As easy as it would be to do so…
Mike huffed and crossed his arms. "Come on, Leon! Don't be such a goody-goody. Can't you do your favorite little brother this teeny-tiny favor?" He threw all of his mighty persuasive powers into the Look.
Leon felt his resolve waver when he spared a glance at Mike. Maybe he could get him through the rest of the problems. Just this once. Gah! No! Damn those baby blues. As his tutor, he couldn't give in. But still… "Mikey, what will happen when you get to the exam and don't know how to find the variable? You know you have to get a B or else you can't get that zombie killing game."
Mike moaned and dropped his head to the desk. He'd been eyeing that game for months. "I know! I know! I just can't get it. You know I suck at math."
Leon shook his head. "You're doing fine. You just need to concentrate. Now, look. Move the twelve to the left side. You'll need to subtract it. Thirty minus twelve is?"
"Uhh, sixteen, no, eighteen?"
"Right, now divide both sides by three. Then-"
Someone knocked at the bedroom door. Their father poked in his head, much like a bird, and said, "Ah, there you are, Leon. I need your help for a second. Just need to lift the air conditioner out of the window and take it to the basement. Won't take but a few minutes."
Leon's mind raced as he stood. Now was his chance! If he accidentally left behind the solution manual, Mike would surely grab at the chance to copy from it. Leon couldn't be held responsible, and they would be done with this ordeal once and for all! "Mike, you finish those last few problems while I'm gone. Don't start playing with your cell phone or anything. Stay focused," he said, disappearing down the hall.
Mike slumped in his chair. Stupid math. Stupid Leon. He just wanted to go play video games, not be stuck doing homework. He pulled out his cell phone and checked Facebook. No updates. So boring.
As he put away his cell phone, Mike's eyes fell on the solution manual. Leon had left it behind. Unguarded. Leon was gone. And the solution manual was here. With all the answers. Answers that would set Mike free.
Mike tiptoed to the door and glanced down the hall. Dad and Leon were busy lifting the air conditioner, so Leon wouldn't be back for a few minutes. Perfect. Mike snatched the solution manual and flipped to the index. Chapter four, page sixty-one. He skimmed the lines of problems and answers until he found the set he was looking for. Sweet, he thought. Copying furiously, he slammed the book shut and slid it across the table to its original place just as Leon appeared in the doorway.
Leon rolled his shoulders and sat down. "Man, seems like those things get heavier and heavier every time I have to lift them," he complained. He noticed Mike wasn't writing and glanced at his paper. Victory! "You get stuck?"
Mike shoved the completed paper at him and smiled smugly. "Done."
Leon looked closely at the answers and frowned. Something wasn't adding up here. "Mike, where did you even get these numbers from? These answers aren't even close."
Mike snatched the paper out of his hands and squinted at it. "What? Are you sure? I mean, I wrote it down just like… umm…" He lowered the paper and saw his brother staring hard at him. Mike chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his head, thinking furiously. "Just like… I calculated them? Hehe…"
Leon looked from his brother to the solution manual and back, then face-palmed. "Mike?"
"What chapter are you working on?"
"Ch-chapter four?" stammered Mike.
"Is that where you copied the answers from?"
Mike knew he'd been caught. He sighed in defeat, "Yeah."
Leon shook his head tiredly. "Your problems are from chapter five."
Mike jerked his head up. "What?"
"The problems you are working on are from chapter five, not four. You are an idiot."
Leon rubbed his temples, sure that the throbbing was developing into a full headache. Idiot brother couldn't even cheat properly.