In general, Saturday evenings were quiet in the Peters house. Piper was almost never home, out catching up with the friends she rarely got a chance to speak to during the week because she was also too busy with piano lessons or practice, and Brody wasn’t really the type to search for something to do. Not to say that he didn’t have friends, he just enjoyed his time alone, spray painting the walls of the garage that his parents had allowed him to turn into a home studio or using acrylics to create inspired pieces on canvas, much of which came as a result of thinking of the girl he’d been dating for two years.
Things between Brody and Caroline were so good that sometimes, he wondered if it was all just some fantastic dream. It was like getting to hang out with his best friend all the time, with the added bonus of sex and makeout sessions. He loved listening to her talk, and he could do so for hours because he thought everything she said was fascinating, but at the same time, he never felt afraid to speak his mind because she was always completely supportive and nonjudgmental.
The fact that their families were both so happy for them as well was also a huge plus. Which was why, when Brody felt a hand touch his shoulder and looked up from where he was squatted down, repainting a section of the wall, to see Jamie Brewer, he grinned.
Standing up straight, Brody removed the mask he wore to keep from inhaling aerosol fumes and reached over to turn down the stereo which had prevented him from hearing Jamie’s footsteps through the open garage door.
“Hey, man,” Brody greeted, setting down his spray paint can and holding out a hand towards his friend, thinking it was nice that he could think of his girlfriend’s brother that way. “Caroline told me you were home for the weekend, but I figured you’d be spending all your time with Kira.”
Jamie went to a college in a different city, so he usually only came home one weekend a month for family dinners, but ever since he and Kira had gotten back together after her return from volunteering overseas, he had found himself roadtripping much more often.
“We did have plans,” Jamie admitted, clasping Brody’s hand and pulling him in to turn the handshake into a hug. “But she texted like an hour ago and said the girls are having a sleepover. I assumed you got a similar message from my sister, so I figured I’d see what you were up to.”
“Oh,” Brody replied softly as he and Jamie dropped their arms, turning towards where his phone was lying on a nearby table he often used for sketching. He had been so zoned in to his current mural that he hadn’t really been paying attention to his text messages. Plus, he and Caroline hadn’t officially made plans for the evening, so he didn’t think it would be a big deal if it took him a while to answer. His phone screen lit up when he touched it to reveal that he did, in fact, have a message from his girlfriend telling him she was spending the evening and the Saxton’s house. He shot a sideways grin at Jamie as he replied to Caroline’s message. “Sometimes I wanna ask what they do at those sleepovers but I think it might be better not to know.”
“Agreed,” Jamie let out a laugh and dropped down onto the worn out couch pushed up against the wall, lying back and stretching out his legs as his eyes scanned the garage walls for new murals. “Your new stuff is great, Brody.”
“Thanks,” Brody blushed, because no matter how long he’d known the person delivering the compliment, it would always be difficult to accept. “So how’s college?”
Jamie’s lips parted to answer, but he got distracted by the sound of footsteps and both he and Brody looked towards the garage entrance to see a hooded figure approaching. Their lips began to stretch into grins as the figure got closer, stepping into the bright garage light and allowing them to see it was Tyler, but their smiles stopped short when he lifted his head and they saw his face.
His left eye was half closed and swollen with the oncoming of a bruise and his lower lip was bleeding to match the red droplets dripping from his nose.
“Tyler!” Jamie shot to his feet and stepped towards the youngest boy in the family, his instincts telling him to reach out, but he stopped himself short for fear of hurting him further. “What happened to you?”
“I, uhhh,” Tyler coughed before continuing, as though giving himself time to think of an appropriate response. “I was just having a conversation with someone.”
“And they decked you?” Brody asked, raising an unconvinced eyebrow and crossing his arms over his chest. “Must have been a rough conversation.”
“Yeah,” Tyler muttered, stepping around Jamie to plop down on the couch the older boy had recently vacated. “Rough for me.”
Nodding, Brody sighed. “Alright, I’m gonna get you some ice, and then you can tell us all about it.”
Tyler parted his lips to plead with Brody not to tell Uncle Nate, but soon realized the Peters boy would do no such thing and settled for letting out a soft, “Thanks,” as he watched Brody disappear into the house.
Under normal circumstances, the first person Tyler would have gone to was Lucy. But a few hours after his sister had disappeared earlier that afternoon on a mysterious mission to help Caroline, Tyler had received a text message from Jessamine telling him to let their parents know she was spending the night at the Saxton house. Seeing as his current state wasn’t one he wanted all of the girls, well, Piper in particular, to see him in, he’d gone to the next best person for help: Brody.
Brody Peters was quite possibly the best listener in the world, a fact Tyler was sure Caroline appreciated, so when Tyler ended up in his current predicament and didn’t have his best friend to turn to, he knew that Brody would listen to whatever he had to say thoroughly before doling out any sort of advice. Tyler hadn’t expected to see Jamie, though upon second thought, he vaguely remembered his father saying something about Jamie being home for the weekend a few days ago at the breakfast table, but Tyler figured having Jamie around could only be a bonus. Jamie was rational and would be able to think through the situation logically before jumping to any conclusions. Plus, as much as he loved his sister, Tyler had always wanted a brother, so he thought it was pretty awesome that he somehow ended up with two.
“Let me guess,” Jamie said, an amused smile kinking his lips as he plopped down on the couch beside Tyler. “This somehow involves a girl.”
That was in no way meant to be insulting. In fact, Jamie was oddly jealous of how easily Tyler seemed to flirt with literally everyone. Being charming and complimentary and intriguing just came naturally to Justin’s son and despite being several years older than Tyler, Jamie had watched the boy grow up and envied his easy way with the ladies. Jamie generally turned into a stammering mess around pretty girls. He still thought it was pretty miraculous that he’d managed to express his feelings for Kira at all.
“You’re good,” Tyler laughed, wincing a bit because it hurt to smile as he reached up to push back the Copeland of his sweatshirt and let it fall around his shoulders. “I did something really stupid.”
“Obviously.” Jamie’s smile widened and he brought one foot up to rest atop his knee, his arm stretched out along the back of the couch as he relaxed. “But you should wait until Brody gets back to tell us what it was.”
Figuring that was a good idea so he didn’t have to repeat himself, Tyler nodded, not left waiting too long, because Brody returned a couple minutes later with a bag of frozen peas.
“Sorry,” Brody said as he hurried over to place the bag on top of Tyler’s black eye, holding back a laugh when Tyler winced at the ice cold contact and pulling a tissue from the pocket of his basketball shorts to stop the slow dripping of blood from Tyler’s nose. Once Tyler’s hands had replaced Brody’s in the makeshift medical treatment, Brody pushed himself onto the work table across from the couch and swung his legs lightly. “So? Big night, huh?”
“Yeah,” Tyler replied, his voice sounding a bit more nasally than usual since his nose was partially blocked. “The short version is that a guy punched me because he caught me making out with his girlfriend.”
“And the long version?” Jamie asked, lifting an eyebrow, intrigued at how Tyler managed to get into that situation. Tyler was as flirtatious as they came, but he had rules about getting involved with people who were already attached. Apart from being morally wrong, it was also much too complicated.
Tyler really should have known he wouldn’t get away with being vague around Jamie and Brody, a fact he was silently grateful for, so he sighed as he settled back against the couch and began to explain. “It all started a few weeks after Lindsay and I broke up.”
Before Jamie could ask who that was because he’d been a bit out of the loop since going to college, Brody piped up. “Lindsay was Tyler’s girlfriend for a few weeks.”
“You had a girlfriend?” Jamie repeated, a mixture of surprised and saddened that he hadn’t known. “Didn’t think you were the relationship type.”
“I’m not,” Tyler replied bluntly. “I learned pretty quickly after I asked her to be my girlfriend that a relationship wasn’t something I was emotionally ready for, so I broke up with her.”
“And then slept with her best friend a few weeks later,” Brody added, remembering hearing that tidbit of gossip from Caroline, who had heard it from Lucy. And remembering that when he’d asked Tyler about it at a family dinner later that week, Tyler had thanked him for giving him an extra condom, just in case, a few weeks before.
“Bro…,” Jamie said, because he couldn’t think of anything else more eloquent. It almost seemed surreal that Tyler was at a point in his life where he was having sex, because Jamie still thought of him as a baby of the family and remembered the days he used to affectionate gaze at the sleeping toddler in his crib while they were on tour.
Tyler winced, shooting Brody a glare that didn’t really mean anything because Jamie would have found out eventually. They didn’t keep secrets from each other. “I know, not my best moment, but it just kinda happened.”
Nodding, Jamie leaned back against the couch and spoke softly. “Was it your first time?”
“Yeah,” Tyler sighed, knowing that wasn’t something he had to be embarrassed to talk about; not with Jamie and Brody. “And to our credit, we both felt shitty about it afterwards, cause like, she’s Lindsay’s best friend and just because Lindsay and I broke up doesn’t mean that I don’t care about her, and so we ended up completely avoiding each other for a few weeks.”
“And then?” Brody prompted, sensing there was more to the story.
Tyler inhaled deeply through his mouth, removing the bloody tissue from under his nose and leaning over to toss it into the trash bin beside the couch, the peas still over his eye as he continued. “And then, Lindsay started dating Kyle Halverson, which is cool cause he’s a cool guy and she deserves that, and she was happy. Which was something Sasha and I talked about when we ran into each other in the school hallway a few weeks later and then the next thing I know, we’re making out in a supply closet.”
“Why do none of your stories sound like things that happen to actual people?” Brody asked, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “Like, how do you end up making out with a girl in a supply closet with no build up whatsoever?”
“There was build up,” Jamie pointed out, doing his best to keep a smirk off his lips. “He slept with her a few weeks before.”
With the one eye that was visible, Tyler shot both the other boys a quick glare before continuing. “Anyways, the hookups have continued fairly regularly since then. At some point, she told me that she had started talking to another guy. I didn’t really think anything of it, because it’s not like I wanted to or could be her boyfriend, so I didn’t ask questions, but it turned out I probably should have.”
“So this,” Brody gestured towards Tyler’s face, “Is a result of Sasha’s boyfriend?”
“He’s not her boyfriend!” Tyler replied a little too quickly. He may be a flirt, but he didn’t like wrecking relationships, which was why he generally steered cleared of girls who still had any sort of emotional attachment to someone else. Lowering the now room temperature bag of peas, he set it on the couch beside him and sighed. “At least, that’s what she said. That they were just talking and they’d hung out a couple times but it wasn’t serious and they weren’t exclusive.”
“Apparently the guy in question wasn’t under the same impression,” Jamie replied dryly. His first instinct had been to be pissed at anyone who tried to harm Tyler, but now that he knew the context and knew that Tyler was smart enough never to end up in this situation again, he could tease the younger boy a bit.
“Nope,” Tyler shook his head, leaning it back against the couch. “Hence the punching when he came to surprise Sasha at her house and found us making out on her bed.”
“Sorry, man,” Brody drummed his fingers atop his thighs. “Do you want Jamie and me to go beat him up or something?”
The question was only half joking. On one hand, Tyler knew that Brody was completely passive and wasn’t the kind to become violent, but on the other, Brody thought of Tyler as his younger brother and if Brody knew anything about family, it was that you stand up for them and protect them, no matter what.
“We could,” Jamie offered, a little surprised at Brody’s suggestion, but willing nonetheless. It wasn’t a particularly rational response, but this was Tyler, and when it came down to it, there wasn’t anything Jamie wouldn’t do for his family.
Tyler pressed his lips together to hold in a laugh as he assessed the seriousness of their expressions, but shook his head as he let it out and smiled, despite the fact that it still hurt. “Nah, that’s ok. I don’t wanna give him another excuse to pound on me.”
Jamie shrugged, secretly relieved. He may be tall and have some muscle, but he didn’t think he’d be particularly useful in a fight. “Well, the offer stands.”
“Thanks,” Tyler grinned, shaking his head once more. “Who would have thought that Sasha Jacobsen would be the reason I got punched for the first time?”
Brody snorted, finding it hard to believe that this was the first time Tyler had been punched, and parted his lips to express that sentiment, only to pause when he noticed that Jamie’s eyes had gone wide. “Jamie? You alright?”
“Did you say Jacobsen?” Jamie whispered, ignoring Brody’s question.
Tyler nodded, his eyes sparking as he remembered something. “Yeah, Sasha said she had a sister who was your age. Do you know her?”
Chewing on his lower lip, Jamie tried not to smile at the memory of getting very well acquainted with Jenny Jacobsen in the storage shed of the beach club during his breaks while he was lifeguarding a few summers back.
“Yeah,” Jamie replied softly. “I know her.”
Those words could have been considered completely innocent had it not been for the fact that Jamie was currently bright red and the corners of his lips were fighting extremely hard not to turn upwards into a smile.
“Oh my god,” Tyler said, his lips stretching into a slow grin as realization hit and he glanced at Brody, who had a matching wide smile. “Did you have a thing with Sasha’s sister? Does Kira know?”
“It was years ago!” Jamie protested before they could draw the wrong conclusion. “Before Kira and I started dating. And yeah, she knows, because I told her. Because Jenny Jacobsen was my first…”
Tyler let out a whooping laugh, no longer caring at all about his black eye and split lip. “Dude, our first times were with sisters? That’s crazy. Brody, who was yours with?”
He had asked the question simply to include Brody in the conversation, but it still took Tyler longer than it should have to realize his mistake. It was only after about fifteen seconds of awkward silence that he noticed that Brody’s perpetually flushed cheeks were redder than usual and that Jamie seemed to be averting his gaze to anywhere else in the garage.
“Right,” Tyler said hurriedly when he realized that Brody probably didn’t want to talk about his sex life in front of Jamie, seeing that involved Jamie’s sister. “Never mind. So what are you guys up to?”
Brody coughed, thankful for the change in subject. He knew Jamie was wholeheartedly supportive of Brody’s relationship with Caroline, but that didn’t mean the Brewer boy had any interest in knowing the intimate details. And Brody knew that Jamie appreciated that he had no desire to talk about his personal life in front of him either. “We’re just hanging out. Did you have plans tonight? Besides getting punched in the face?”
Tyler shot Brody a deadly glare, but was internally glad that they could move on from the moment without any more black eyes because as non-violent as both Jamie and Brody were, Jamie was protective of his baby sister and would have no problem resorting to punches if Brody had decided to brag. Thankfully, Brody wasn’t the boasting type, so the awkward tension soon fizzled into the relaxed comfort which generally existed between the three of them.
“Not really,” Tyler shook his head, settling back into the couch. “I think it’s safe to say that I’m not gonna have plans for a while, because Sasha and I should probably go our separate ways.”
“Probably,” Jamie laughed, uncurling his fingers from the fists they had been in as his cheeks faded from red. “But don’t worry, bro, you’ll bounce back. You always do.”
He still wasn’t sure how he was going to explain his bruised face to his parents, but Tyler figured he would deal with that when he walked home in a few hours. For now, not having plans sounded nice, and even if he didn’t ‘bounce back’, as Jamie had put it, he might not mind, especially if he was spending time with the closest thing he’d ever had to older brothers.
“Yeah,” Tyler smiled, accepting the can of silver spray paint Brody was offering him, silently asking if he wanted to add to the artwork on the wall. “We always do.”