“Hey, are you alright?” Wolf wrapped his arms around Jaimie’s waist, setting his chin on his shoulder, frowning at him.
They were currently sitting in class, a sort of free period so they could finish make up work, Wolf was sitting in his chair with Jaimie on his lap, and Jaimie was leaning with his elbow on the desk, chin in his hand as he stared ahead blankly.
“Hm?” he uttered, “I’m fine.”
“Really?” Wolf leaned back and pulled Jaimie with him so he was leaning against him, arm around his neck, eyes down, “Why aren’t you looking at me then? And you’ve been distracted all day,” concern flickered through his eyes, “Did something happen?”
“No, no, I swear, it’s... it’s just...,” Jaimie bit his lip and laid his head on Wolf’s shoulder, “Is it bad that I miss my brother?”
Wolfgang frowned more, leaning his head back and staring at the ceiling, “No, it’s not bad. I would too, even if they hurt me,” he lowered his head to see Jaimie better, “It’s natural to want to talk to him, Jaimie, to actually be brothers again. I’m a little uneasy about saying you actually should, but if you want to then I can’t stop you. That would be like you trying to keep me from talking to Pete.”
Jaimie sighed and nodded, “It’s even more tempting when I know he’s here at the school,” he played with the ends of Wolf’s light blue hair, frowning, “I really want to see him. I know what he did was... but I want to see him,” he sat up and met Wolf’s eyes, “Did you know he had a daughter?”
“What? Who? Brad?” Wolf looked shocked, “No, seriously?”
Jaimie nodded, “I saw her the other day,” he smiled, “She’s really cute.”
“He has a kid,” Wolf sighed, “That automatically means you need to talk to him.”
Jaimie turned to arch an eyebrow at his boyfriend, “It does?”
“Uh, duh,” Wolf rolled his eyes, “You have a niece? That’s something to look into if you ask me.”
Jaimie nodded slowly, looking at the front of the classroom towards the teacher before turning back to Wolf, “Cover for me?”
“You got it,” Wolf kissed his chin, and Jaimie smiled gratefully before slipping off of his lap and hurrying from the room.
It had been three years since Jaimie moved out of his house, away from Brad and his parents. The only time Jaimie saw Brad was during the physical education classes he took, but even then Brad tried to avoid him, never calling him out or telling him to run faster or try harder, though he did seem to enjoy pushing Wolf, but Jaimie figured he was probably a bit suspicious about their relationship.
They hadn’t talked, sat down to have a serious conversation, ever, and the most they’d say is a hello, or like the other day when Brad asked Jaimie and Wolf to keep the locker room clear while that boy calmed down. Jaimie recognized him, the same boy Brad had been kissing in the hallway the other day. Andrew or Adrian, he wasn’t sure. He was a year older than Jaimie, about the same height as Wolf, with golden blonde hair and intense green eyes that were actually quite attractive. Jaimie could understand why Brad was drawn to him, but it was still... well, shocking, especially considering the five year age gap between him and Brad.
Jaimie was thinking of this when he turned the corner, bumping into someone and taking a quick backstep before looking up, his body growing tense as his brown eyes locked with green. He shouldn’t have been surprised to see him, they went to the same school after all, but even so he felt a little taken off guard to see the boy who was kissing Brad.
He lifted an eyebrow, “Andy.”
“Oh,” Jaimie’s face flushed, and Andy pressed his lips into a thin line as his eyes raked over Jaimie.
“You’re... Jaimie Richardson, right?”
Jaimie nodded his head quickly, “And, uh, you’re....”
“Andy Watson,” came the reply, and Jaimie nodded again, slower this time, dropping his gaze as he fiddled with the bottom hem of his shirt, “Should you be out walking in the halls?” Andy asked, “Don’t you have a class?”
“Oh, um,” Jaimie looked up quickly, “R-right now is a free period, so I was gonna-,” he stopped, shifting on his face and looking down, “I, um, I needed to talk to someone,” Andy stared at him a long time, but didn’t talk, and Jaimie looked up at him, “What about you? Don’t you have any classes?”
“History,” Andy muttered, “I’m a little late is all,” he face got a little flushed as he looked off to the side, “It’s fine. Um... it’s nice to meet you I guess,” he side stepped to move around Jaimie, who shot his arm out to grab onto his sleeve.
“Um!” Andy looked back at him, and Jaimie stuttered for his words, “Y-y-you h-hang around my... my brother, right?”
Andy tensed up, his face growing red, “What? No. Don’t be dumb.”
Jaimie smiled a little, “You do, you’re around him a lot. I just... th-thank you for staying with him.”
Andy’s head reeled, his eyes wide in surprise, and he slowly pulled his arm away from Jaimie, turning, “He’s a good person,” he muttered, “People don’t see it, they don’t bother looking past rumors, but he’s a good person, and he cares about people.”
Jaimie stared at the back of his head before nodding, “Yea,” he turned away as Andy looked back at him, “I gotta go. I’ll see you around sometime.”
Jaimie huried away from Andy down the hall, turning a few corners before reaching the gym. It was empty, quiet, but the office across the room was open, so Brad was most likely sitting working alone, so Jaimie walked quietly around the room against the wall, stepping carefully so he wouldn’t make noise, inching to the door and peering in.
Like he thought, Brad was sitting at his desk, pen in one hand and chin propped up in the other, a bored look in his eyes, and his little girl was playing beside the desk, a stuffed dragon in one hand as she colored with a crayon. She suddenly stopped and stared at the crayon, looking over at Brad before lifting the crayon and opening her mouth.
“Don’t even think about it,” Brad warned without raising his eyes from his work, and his little girl dropped the crayon, batting her pretty lashes.
“That’s what I thought,” Brad chuckled, setting his pen down and leaning back in his chair, “Crayons aren’t snacks, I’ve told you that right?”
“Didn’t Andy pack you something in your bag?”
“Eat your carrots then.”
“But I already ate so many!”
Brad just smiled and pushed his chair back, “Come on, I’m sure there’s other stuff in there.”
“Apple slice,” the little three year old opened her bag and started taking things out, apple slices and carrots, and a little baggy of nella waffers, “Can I eat the cookies?”
“Well they’re yours.”
“Do you want one?”
“No thanks. Not really one for sweet things.”
“As I recall,” Brad sat straighter, jumping in his seat and looking over at the door with wide eyes, “You always ate the cookies that were stashed away. You probably overdosed on the sweets when you were younger.”
Brad gaped over at Jaimie, lips sealed, and Jaimie just stood there looking down, hands folded behind his back, shifting on his feet, “Don’t you have a class?” Brad finally asked, and Jaimie rolled his eyes.
“Yea, study hall, it’s fine, I...,” he looked awkwardly to the side, clearing his throat, “... wanted to talk to you.”
Brad stared at him before looking away, “You sure Wolfgang would be okay with that? Or Cal?”
“Not their decision,” Jaimie countered, “Besides, Wolf is covering for me right now and Cal has a class, so it’s fine.”
“Right,” Brad tapped his knee, still looking down, not even attempting to look over at his brother, “So what do you need? Is it school related?”
“No,” Jaimie walked a little more into the room, closing the door, “Um... I just... you never told me you had a kid, first of all.”
“Chrystal,” Brad muttered, “There was never a reason to, and it wasn’t really something I planned or something you had to worry about.”
“How old is she?”
Jaimie bit his lip, “So, what, you’ve been raising her alone since your senior year?”
“Well... I was out of school when I heard she was born,” Brad admitted, holding his hands out for Chrystal, who huried over to him and crawled up onto his lap, “Since nineteen. She was born a week before I turned twenty.”
“She’s cute... you named her Chrystal?”
Brad nodded slowly, stroking back Chrystal’s blonde hair, “Yea... Chrystal Jamie Richardson.”
Jaimie’s head reeled, eyes wide and cheeks red, “Huh?”
Brad picked Chrystal up and set her down on the ground, “That boy is my little brother, Jaimie, you’re uncle. Go say hi, he’s nice.”
Chrystal peered over the desk at Jaimie, eyeing him curiously before wandering over to him and staring up at him, pointing, “Pretty brown eyes.”
Jaimie blushed a little more and pointed at himself, “Thanks,” he squeaked when Chrystal wound his arms around Jaimie’s legs, smiling up at him. Jaimie patted her head, smiling back, and looked over at Brad, “Chrystal Jamie?”
Brad cleared his throat, folding his arms and sitting back, “I have no right to explain that to you... or to talk to you...”
“I’m here, aren’t I? Tell me,” Jaimie took a few steps forward, Chrystal holding into one of his legs, “Please. I came here because I wanted to talk to you.”
“Why?” Brad turned his head finally to look at Jaimie, and his eyes were full of regret and pain, “After what I did to you, why would you want to talk to me, or see my face at all?”
Jaimie folded his arms and shrugged, looking down, “You’re my brother... I don’t hate you for what happened, Brad,” he pulled one of the chairs out and sat down, holding his arms up in shock when Chrystal clambered onto his lap, instead of pushing her away he wound his arms around her, letting her play with his fingers, “I know you were in a lot of pain back then, and you dealt with that pain in unhealthy ways, and I forgive you-.”
“Stop,” Brad turned his head away again, grinding his teeth, “Don’t forgive me. Don’t you dare forgive me. After everything I did, I don’t deserve forgiveness, I don’t deserve to even worry about you. I hurt you so much...,” he dropped his face into his hands, shaking his head, “If you’re here, fine... I can tell you how much I regret everything, letting that happen to you, not protecting you, not acting like a brother, I’m so sorry.”
Jaimie frowned, watching Brad silently, until he turned to Chrystal, poking her side, “Hey. Is your daddy a nice person?”
Brad sighed and dropped his hands, “You can’t ask her that, she’ll just say yes.”
“Dadda is nice,” Chrystal nodded, “I love dadda.”
“Hm,” Jaimie looked up from Chrystal, “Kids are actually very intuitive. Usually when they like someone, that person is trustworthy and good,” he set Chrystal on the floor and propped his elbows against his knees, “I don’t care what you say, I think you’ve changed. Seeing you comforting that guy, Andy right? Seeing you comforting him the other day... you never would have done that before.”
Brad laughed, covering his eyes with a hand as he thought back to what Andy had said...
You’re right... people don’t change. You’ve always been kind, you just tried to hide it because of pain and inner termoil. I can’t even begin to comprehend how terrible it was for you. People said you were a monster, so you decided to prove them right.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, and Jaimie smiled softly, “I really am sorry, Jaimie. I wish I could go back and fix everything, but... all I can do is regret and hope you have a good life.”
“Dumb ass,” Jaimie rolled his eyes, and Brad pulled his hand away from his eyes to glare at him.
“There’s a three year old right in front of you, could you watch the language maybe?”
“Sorry,” Jaimie patted Chrystal’s hair with a smile before turning his attention back to Brad, “Just listen, okay? I know what you did was really wrong, it was traumatizing, I still have nightmares, but what you did wasn’t the only bad thing that happened to me at that time. Brad I was almost raped three times.”
Brad winced and looked away, grinding his teeth, hands clutched together, “I’m sorry... I should have protected you. I should have worried about looking after you rather than my own issues.”
Jaimie laughed a little, “You were a teenager, of course you were tied up in your own issues. I’m not angry, Brad, I forgive you.”
“I shouldn’t do a lot of things,” Jaimie shrugged, “I’m still going to,” he sat back and folded his arms, watching his brother intently, “So?”
“So what?” Brad shook his head, “What do you expect me to say?”
Jaimie frowned and sighed, standing up, “I just want my brother back,” he said softly, and Brad winced, gritting his teeth.”
“I was never a good brother.”
“Never too late to start,” Jaimie smiled and held his hand out, and Brad stared at it with wide eyes, “You better get up soon or it’s gonna start feeling weird just standing here like an idiot.”
Brad shook his head, standing and walking around his desk, pushing Jaimie’s hand down and enveloping him in a big hug. Jaimie was always rather small, he was shorter than Andy, and fit perfectly against Brad, who wound his arms tightly around his shoulders, face in his hair as he fought the tears threatening to fall. He failed in holding them back, and Jaimie smiled when he felt the hot drops on his neck.
“I forgive you even if you don’t think you deserve it. That doesn’t matter, because with everything I’ve been through, I definitely do deserve it. I deserve my brother,” his hands curled in the fabric of Brad’s shirt, “You really are an asshole by the way.”
Brad just laughed, nodding, fingers of one hand tangling through the back of Jaimie’s hair, kissing his cheek and hugging him a little tighter, “So I’ve heard,” he agreed, petting back Jaimie’s hair, “Damn... you people make it really hard to avoid you and stay out of your lives.”
“I don’t want you out of my life, I never did,” Jaimie pulled back, “I just wanted you to feel better so you could go back to acting like you used to, not an ass.”
Brad just shook his head, wiping at his eyes and sighing, “Yea... it took a lot to get me right again. Chrystal helped,” he smiled down at his daughter, who was holding onto his jeans with one hand, hugging her dragon with her other arm, “I am sorry... heck I don’t think I’ll ever stop apologizing, so... you’ll have to get used to that I guess.”
Jaimie shrugged, “I figured,” he beamed, then reached down and picked Chrystal up, hugging her, “I can’t believe I’m an uncle though!” he admitted, “Who’s her mother? I know you’re gay, I saw you kissing Andy in the hall the other day, but who’s her mom?”
Brad blushed horribly, “Y-you saw that?” he covered his mouth, “Did anyone else?”
“Um, Cal did.”
“Right, great, of course he did,” Brad sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose before running his fingers through his hair to push it back, “Denise... is her mother.”
Jaimie looked incredulous, “You’re serious? How did she manage that? What, did she get you drunk and incapacitated and take what she wanted?” Brad stared at Jaimie with a blank expression, and Jaimie’s face paled, “She did?”
Brad stuffed his hands into his pockets, “It’s fine.”
“That’s so not fine!”
“I got Chrystal from it, so...,” Brad shrugged, “Besides, I don’t even remember.”
“So you’re saying you could’ve given consent but you just don’t remember?” Jaimie asked, and Brad nodded, “Like hell. I can’t believe that... that... a lot of bad words I can’t say in front of this child.”
“I’m not that surprised to be honest,” Brad admitted, rubbing his neck and setting his other hand on his hip, “Well, whatever. It’s over and done with, at least something good came of it,” he smiled at Chrystal, but Jaimie still didn’t seem happy.
“I can’t believe after all my close calls you’re the one who got... yea...”
Brad shrugged again, “I don’t remember it so it doesn’t matter.”
“I got it, I got it, you don’t care,” Jaimie sighed, “Well at least tell me she doesn’t have custody.”
“You’re joking,” Brad scoffed, “Of course she doesn’t have custody, I went to court three times to convince those idiots she was a neglectful wench. I recently learned she was far worse than even that,” he stepped back and leaned against the edge of his desk, folding his arms, “If Chrysta had stayed, she would’ve been abused in the future, and I will not let that happen.”
“I don’t like her,” Chrystal piped up, “She’s mean.”
Jaimie smiled softly, but frowned at Brad, “She needs a mother though...”
“I have a momma!” Chrystal said, and Jaimie looked at her in shock as Brad sighed and rubbed his forehead.
“Andy has been looking after her while I’m working, like a babysitter, and I guess she’s gotten it in her head that he’s her mom.”
“That’s adorable,” Jaimie giggled, “Besides, you were making out in the hallway the other day. Are you and him dating?”
Brad blushed, looking down and shrugging, “Haven’t talked about it...”
“Well, he’s mom enough if he’s kissing your face and babysitting your girl,” Jaimie decided, “You should probably watch around though, make sure none of the wrong people find out. It’ll be fine in a few months when he’s graduated, lucky he’s a senior, but right now if, say, the principal found out you were in a relationship, rumors would fly, and that wouldn’t be good. You could get fired.”
“Cal had similar concerns when he called me the other night,” Brad said, “Although he was more concerned thinking I was forcing myself on Andy.”
“I think it’s the opposite,” Brad admitted, rubbing his temples, “He won’t let me sleep.”
Jaimie burst out laughing, and Brad glared at him as Chrystal tugged at his jeans, “Can I stay up with dadda next time?”