Despite being the son of a man who could have been a soccer star in another life, Tyler had no real interest in the game. It was actually a huge point of contention between him and his father, because Justin couldn’t comprehend the thought that his own flesh and blood disliked a game he loved so much, but Tyler didn’t find it particularly entertaining to watch.
Tonight, though, he was doing his father proud. In an effort to lift school spirit and promote school unity, all athletes were attending all school athletic events for the next month, as long as they didn’t have competitions of their own.
Which is how Tyler found himself standing at the bottom of the bleachers at the beginning of that night’s soccer game, searching the crowd for a familiar face. The rest of his teammates were scattered about in the stands, sitting with various friend groups and he wasn’t entirely sure who to join, which was why he was relieved to spot Caroline Brewer sitting in the second row from the top.
She loved soccer, so she might have come anyways, but chances were she was following the unwritten rules and had come as a representative of the girls’ soccer team and dragged her boyfriend along for the ride. Brody Peters sat dutifully by Caroline’s side, his hand resting on her denim covered thigh as he watched the game through his black rimmed glasses, his expression reflecting that despite being in a relationship with a talented soccer player, he still had no idea what was going on.
Laughing softly to himself, Tyler shot friendly greeting smiles to people he recognized as he made his way up the couple who he considered to be family. Caroline grinned as he approached, scooting closer to her boyfriend and patting the now empty space on the bleachers to her left.
“Hey, Ty,” she greeted happily. “I figured you’d be here. I bet Uncle Justin is ecstatic.”
Despite her passion for the game and her close bond with Tyler’s father because of it, Caroline was well aware that Tyler preferred other sports.
“He kissed me on the cheek before I left,” Tyler admitted as he plopped down beside her. “I haven’t seen him that excited since I told him about the Olympics.”
“Congrats on that, by the way,” Brody leaned forward, reaching up with the hand that wasn’t resting on his girlfriend’s thigh to push a sandy curl from his forehead. “That’s massive, bro.”
“Thanks,” Tyler smiled softly, busying himself with adjusting his gray knit beanie over his dark curls in an effort to hide his flushing cheeks. The entire extended family was aware of the fact that he had been invited to begin training to be on the Australian national team in the next Olympics, but they hadn’t gotten a chance to celebrate the wonderful news just yet. He knew it would happen eventually. They always made an effort to be supportive of each other’s achievements.
He couldn’t hide his blush from Caroline, however, who chuckled lightly as she wrapped one arm around his shoulders and pulled him in for a tight hug, whispering “We’re so proud of you, Ty” before changing the subject as she let go. “Where’s Luce tonight?”
It was common knowledge that Tyler and Lucy were the best friends, so people often assumed that if Tyler made any sort of appearance at a social event, Lucy would be close behind. Plus, the fact that she was currently dating the soccer team’s goalkeeper made her absence at a soccer game even more noticeable.
“It’s grandma Saxton’s birthday tomorrow,” Tyler explained, recalling the conversation he’d had with Lucy between classes earlier that day. “I think they’re spending tonight and the rest of the weekend over there.”
“You know what?” Brody nodded, “I think I overheard Uncle Ethan say that when he was at our house yesterday.”
“Looks like you’re gonna have to cheer on Luce’s boyfriend for her then, huh?” Caroline teased, lightly bumping Tyler’s shoulder with her own.
Tyler rolled his eyes, his gaze settling on Jensen Maloney, who stood between the goalposts, watching the ball on the field with a look of extreme concentration. It was still a little strange for him to wrap his head around the fact that Lucy had a boyfriend. She was the youngest of them all and therefore deemed the most innocent, so going to her house to visit her and walking into her room to find her sucking face with a guy made him feel like he was in a parallel universe. Still, Jensen made her happy, so Tyler just decided to get used to having him around.
“He’s cool, right?” Brody asked. Since Kira was currently out of the country, he was entirely ready to step into the protective older sibling role.
“Yeah, he’s cool,” Tyler nodded. Truthfully, he hadn’t spent that much time with the guy. They were in the same year and Lucy wanted them to be friends, so they made small talk during geometry every now and then and sometimes Tyler ate lunch with Lucy and her boyfriend, but he didn’t particularly like being the third wheel, so he didn’t spend excessive amounts of time with the two of them.
“Good,” Brody replied, “Because if he’s not…”
“We know, babe,” Caroline laughed, squeezing her boyfriend’s thigh affectionately. “You’d mess him up.”
Tyler snorted with laughter, which earned him a glare from Brody before he realized it was probably deserved. Brody had never been much of a fighter, preferring to stay as far away from conflict as possible. Still, if need be, he would absolutely stand up for the people he loved, a list which most definitely included Lucy. They all protected each other. They were family, after all.
As the game progressed, Tyler found himself thankful that he’d chosen to sit beside Caroline, who could give him play by plays on if what was happening was good or bad and kept him in the loop. By the time the game ended, he’d developed a newfound appreciation for the sport his father loved so much and this wasn’t just due to the fact that the school team had won.
“This was fun,” Tyler grinned as he, Caroline, and Brody clapped and watched the opposing teams shake hands when the game was over. “I might have to come to more of these.”
Caroline laughed, squeezing his shoulders as she replied. “You know, if you say that to your dad, he’ll probably give you whatever you want for the rest of your life.”
Despite his laughter in response, Tyler knew that was probably true. Justin had always loved soccer and although he supported his children in whatever they wanted to do, the fact that neither of them were particularly fond of the sport had always made him sad, one of the many reasons why he had such a special connection to Caroline. As he’d coached her and played with her over the years, he’d gotten to share his passion for the game with someone who loved it just as much.
“Hey, maybe we should go congratulate Jensen,” Brody suggested, glancing down to where the players were dispersing to their respective benches on the side of the field.
It certainly was the polite thing to do, seeing as none of them had really made that much of an effort to get to know Lucy’s boyfriend thus far. If they wanted to make him feel like part of the family, which they all knew would make Lucy infinitely happy, the least they could do was try harder to actually interact with him. So Tyler and Caroline nodded in agreement before filing out of the row of bleachers and down the stairs to the field.
They had just stepped up to the sideline and were about to make their way to the home team’s bench, but stopped short at a horrifying sight.
Standing just next to bench and apparently not caring at all who saw him, was Jensen with his arms wrapped around a girl, kissing her rather furiously on the lips. A girl who was not Lucy Saxton.
Tyler’s lips pressed together in rage and his fingers curled into fists and he could practically feel his blood pressure rising as he let out a string of curse words, followed by a venomous, “Son of a bitch.”
Before either Caroline or Brody could hold him back, he took two large steps forward, pried Jensen away from the mystery girl and punched him squarely in the jaw.
“Tyler!” Caroline’s voice rang out in horror from behind him, not because she disagreed with the sentiment, but because she couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening.
He was kept from swinging again when Brody grabbed his wrist and pulled him backwards, holding him as firmly as he could. Despite being two years younger, Tyler’s swimming training had given him enough muscle to overpower Brody, who spent all his free time sketching and painting. So Tyler managed to free himself from Brody’s grasp fairly quickly, but Brody’s reflexes were just as fast and this time he managed to swing and arm around Tyler’s front and pin the swimmer against his chest, thankful that they were the same height.
“What the hell, man?” Jensen sputtered out, a few droplets of blood flying as he used his palm to wipe his mouth.
“Oh, please,” Caroline spat back before Tyler could retort, her hands curled into fists as she stood beside Brody, who was doing his best to keep Tyler restrained. “Did you really expect us to completely ignore the fact that you’re publicly cheating on Lucy? You’re an ass and you don’t deserve her.”
Not giving him the chance to respond, Caroline turned on her heel and nodded towards the parking lot, placing a gentle hand on Tyler’s chest, which was rising and falling heavily as he seethed with anger.
“Come on, Tyler,” she said softly, “Let’s go. He’s not worth getting suspended from the team over.”
Getting in trouble for fighting had been the last thing on Tyler’s mind considering how enraged he was that someone would betray his best friend in such a way, but he was thankful that Caroline, being an athlete herself, and therefore painfully aware of the rules, was there to keep an eye out for him.
Brody’s grip on Tyler’s shoulders slowly loosened as the swimmer proved he wasn’t going to try and hit Jensen again, instead shooting Lucy’s now ex-boyfriend a poisonous glare before turning and walking towards his car, knowing he’d never be able to enjoy a soccer game the same way again.
“Well, obviously, we have to tell Luce.”
Piper’s words were the first to break the silence after Caroline recounted what had happened after the game.
They had come back to the Peters house because they thought this was a situation which needed of all the kids. Seeing as Kira, Jamie, and Jessamine were currently off doing their own thing and Lucy was at her grandparents’ house, Piper was the only won available who had missed the drama.
The older Peters twin had been at dinner with some friends, but had cut the post meal hangout short when her brother had texted her, telling her to come home as soon as possible. This was a state of emergency and they now had to decide how to proceed.
“Yeah,” Tyler sighed in agreement, and not just because it was Piper who was speaking. He tugged his fingers through the front of his thick curls, pulling them upwards and then down into his forehead. “I just don’t really know what to say.”
It was assumed that Tyler would be the one to break the news because although Lucy would never think any of them would lie to her, he was the one she trusted absolutely. Their entire friendship was built on pure honesty, which meant that when he had to tell her that he’d seen her boyfriend making out with another girl, she wouldn’t question whether or not he was telling the truth.
“Direct honesty is probably the best approach,” Brody suggested, leaning back against the side of his bed. They were sitting in a circle on his bedroom floor, picking at the carpet and trying to make sense of their feelings.
“So what?” Piper replied, stretching out her legs and leaning back on her flattened palms. “He’s just gonna go up to her and be like, ‘Hey, Luce, I saw your boyfriend swapping spit with some other girl, by the way, how’d you do on that math test last week?’”
Caroline and Tyler held in snorts of laughter, immediately feeling guilty for thinking anything about the current situation was funny while Brody shot his twin a glare. “You know that’s not what I meant.”
“Hey guys, what are you all doing here?”
The four of them startled at the sound of a new voice, their gazes turning to the open doorway to see Nathan leaning against the frame, his brows drawn downwards in confusion and his fingers stuffed into the pockets of his black jeans.
“Hi, Dad,” Piper breathed out, smiling sweetly. “We’re just hanging.”
It was one thing to not keep secrets from the other kids, but they all knew better than to inform any of the adults about what had happened. There was no way Nathan would keep information like this from Ethan and if Ethan discovered that his baby girl had been cheated on, all hell would break loose.
Nathan quirked one eyebrow upwards because something seemed suspicious. He had been enjoying a perfectly lovely evening doing nothing much while his wife and kids were out with their friends only to realize that he wasn’t alone in the house. “It’s Friday night. I thought all of you had plans. Ty, Justin said you were going to the soccer game. And Brody and Care, weren’t you there too? And Pipes, weren’t you hanging out with some friends?”
It wasn’t at all surprising that Nathan knew of all of their plans. When their activities were entirely innocent and took place at appropriate times, his own kids didn’t lie to him about what they were doing and Justin had been so excited that his son was going to a soccer game that he’d texted the drummer multiple times as well as left two voicemails.
“Game’s over,” Brody called out, remaining calm and hoping his perpetually flushed cheeks didn’t give him away. “We figured we’d hang out after.”
“Yeah, and my dinner was awesome, but I was kinda tired, so I headed home early,” Piper added, her sweetest smile stretching her lips, which she soon realized may be suspicious.
“Alright…,” Nathan replied, pushing himself off the doorframe and stepping back into the hallway. “Don’t get into too much trouble.”
There was a tendency for chaos to ensure when more than three of the kids were together and although it was generally entertaining to watch, he wasn’t particularly up for handling it on his own.
The four kids let out a collective sigh of relief once they heard Nathan descend the stairs, returning their attention to the issue at hand.
“So you’re gonna tell her?” Piper asked, keeping her gaze trained on Tyler.
“Yeah,” he sighed, his own eyes glued to the slightly darker patch of carpeting beside his thighs to hide his rapidly heating cheeks due to the attention he was getting from the Peters girl. “I guess I’ll just break it to her gently.”
“We can all be there when you do if you want,” Brody suggested.
They were family after all, and family faced all things together, the good and the bad.
Tyler raised his chin to sweep his eyes around the three figures seated on the floor around him. “Do you think that would be weird?”
He’d appreciate the moral support. It wasn’t as though he had a problem being honest with Lucy, but telling her something that he knew was going to make her sad would be extremely difficult. Seeing Lucy Saxton cry was like finding out the world was going to end.
Caroline shrugged, smiling supportively in Tyler’s direction. “I think she’ll like the fact that we’re all there for her. Like always.”
They decided to tell Lucy at family dinner on Sunday night because the fact that they were all going to be there anyway was both convenient and less suspicious. Still, Tyler was a bundle of nerves. It wasn’t every day you had to break your best friend’s heart.
The Saxtons had spent the weekend with Ethan’s parents, so they were coming straight to the Brewer house for dinner before going home. The rest of the kids were already gathered in the basement when the Saxtons arrived, mentally preparing to handle the upcoming conversation.
Lucy bounded down the stairs to the basement as usual, a wide smile on her face and her green eyes alight as she came to a stop to the side of the couch where Caroline and Brody were lounging, Brody’s arm thrown casually over the back. Tyler and Piper sat on the floor on the other side of the coffee table, suddenly feeling as though all the air had been sucked out of the room.
“Hey, guys!” Lucy beamed, as sunshiney as ever.
“Hey, Luce,” they all replied at the same time.
There was a moment of tense silence where nobody spoke, which caused Lucy to raise an eyebrow suspiciously. She may be naïve and innocent, but she could tell they were hiding something.
“What’s going on?” she asked, placing her balled up fists on her hips. Her gaze immediately settled on Tyler, who she knew would never lie to her. Not that she expected that any of them would, but Tyler was particularly bad about hiding things from her. “Ty?”
Inhaling deeply, he twisted his fingers together as he spoke. “Luce, we have something to tell you.”
“Ok…,” she replied slowly, suddenly feeling uneasy.
Tyler’s lips parted and pressed together twice before he could actually get the words out. “Jensen was making out with another girl at the soccer game on Friday.”
Her eyes widened, her gaze shifting to the other people in the room to find Caroline scrunching her nose apologetically as she nodded. “Brody and I saw it too. I’m so sorry, babe.”
Pushing himself off the floor, Tyler took two large steps towards his best friend, wrapping both arms around her shoulders and pulling her in to a tight embrace. “Are you alright, Luce?”
Lucy was silent as she stood against the length of Tyler’s body, her eyes wide as she processed this information, so he hugged her close and swayed her from side to side for a good two minutes before stepping away to allow the others to participate in the consolation. Caroline, Brody, and Piper all took turns hugging her, pressing kisses to her cheek as they pulled away and Piper stayed close, helping Lucy to take a seat on the couch next to Caroline and stroking the younger Saxton girl’s hair comfortingly.
“How you feeling?” Piper asked softly, resting her chin on the top of Lucy’s head and holding her close. “There’s no wrong way to feel. Like you can be sad or angry or upset or whatever. It’s all valid.”
“I know,” Lucy replied, her voice getting stronger with each word. “Mostly I just feel like I should have seen this coming.”
“What?” Brody raised his eyebrows in surprise, echoing all of their thoughts. “Did you know?”
“No,” she admitted, squeezing Piper’s hand gratefully. “It’s not like ever caught him doing it, I just always had this feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I never really trusted him. No one can be that charming, right?”
“So you’re ok?” Caroline asking, reaching over Piper’s lap to squeeze Lucy’s shoulder. “Cause it’s totally fine if you’re pissed.”
Shrugging, Lucy inhaled and exhaled deeply, wondering if it was strange that she wasn’t more upset. Her initial reaction had just been one of shock but once she processed Tyler’s words, all she could think was, that makes perfect sense. “I mean, it sucks, mostly because I can’t believe I wasted my time on a guy like that, but yeah, I’ll be ok.”
Smiling softly, Piper squeezed her shoulders again, holding her close as Tyler squatted in front of her and patted her knee, his eyes fierce with determination. “Don’t worry, Luce. Someday you’ll find someone who actually deserves you.”
“Yeah,” Brody agreed, a smile stretching his lips and his hazel eyes flooding with adoration. “And if not, you always have us.”