Episode One: Brothers

What is happiness? Is it the feeling you get when your lover holds you tight and tells you repeatedly, "I love you."? Is it the feeling you get when you get into an accident and are lying on the hospital bed with six broken bones and your best friend comes to see you, concern written all over his face as he asks you how you're feeling? Is it the feeling you get because you realize that there's someone in this world who actually cares about you?

Happiness…is it something that can easily be found? Something that every normal person should experience?

"I hate you."

My breath catches at the defeated tone in Seth's voice as he utters the cold and bitter words.

I'm standing on the staircase, halfway down to the first floor because I was planning to go and get a drink from the kitchen. Because of the wall that cuts off at part of the staircase, they can't see me standing there…and watching.

But if I lean back a little, I can catch a peek of my two brothers standing on the level ground of the living room as they face each other, waves of hostility emitting from both of their bodies.

Then I wonder, what the hell am I doing, eavesdropping and spying on my brothers who are obviously having a fight? I just want a glass of Pepsi and tromp upstairs to mess around with Facebook. And perhaps blog a little.

I know that it's probably best for me if I either quickly push my way past them in the corridor and enter the kitchen, or just head back up to my room and pretend that I've never come across this incident, but I find myself rooted to ground as my eyes are transfixed on this very scene.

I came home from school only about twenty minutes ago, so I don't really know what went down with them earlier, but it's probably something really serious, because Seth was shouting at Jayden like he'd never done before and Jayden was looking at him contemptuously.

Jayden's bottle-blue eyes lands on the painful-looking bruise on Seth's left cheek and he looks at it, his eyes calculative. Out of my two brothers, I dislike Jayden more.

He constantly picks on me and tries to find opportunities for when our parents aren't home to use me as his personal punching bag.

Even though I'm standing so far away, Seth's left cheek is in my field of vision and I can see that the bruise is turning purplish-blue. It looks like it hurts. Bad.

"Does it hurt?" Jayden's voice holds no hint of concern, and Seth glares at him. Hard.

"What do you think?" Seth hisses, and Jayden smirks.

I hope that they aren't planning to have a brawl right here in the middle of the corridor. Not that I care, though. Why should I?

Even if they are my brothers, they've never been particularly nice to me or shown any brotherly affection. I tell myself to move my legs and head back up, but something in my mind whispers, "Wait just a while. If they break into a fight again, you can take pictures and get evidence and tell them onto Mom and Dad. Serves Jayden and Seth right for being such assholes."

"Good." There is no missing of the malicious glint in Jayden's eyes as he says that one word, and Seth narrows his eyes at him.

"Fuck you." I can hear the venom ringing in my ears.

Jayden turns his back onto Seth and heads into the kitchen, and Seth doesn't attempt to stop him. A few years ago, he still probably would've started into him, but a few years makes all the difference and although they both workout at the gym, Jayden is (for some reason) a lot stronger than Seth and if Seth tried to even hit the former, he'd be trussed up in a heap on the ground in no time.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, my inner voice groans, "Oh man. They didn't even shout at each other like they did earlier." My conscience instantly scolds me for wanting my own brothers to get in trouble.

Seth is walking in the direction of the staircase now, so I quickly and quietly back into my bedroom and lock the door. Just to be safe, in case he did see me earlier.

His familiar footsteps come stalking up the steps and I hear his bedroom door slam shut before I let out a sigh of relief. He isn't going to come and go after me.

:-:-:

Twenty minutes earlier

I fumble in my school bag for my house key, cursing in my head for not putting it in my pocket instead. Finally, I fish it out and sigh inwardly. I push it in the lock and turn it, but just as I do so, I hear Seth's voice yelling loudly enough that I can hear it from outside the house. What the hell is going on?

More out of curiosity than anything else, I push the door open as quietly as possible and peek inside. Seth's handsome face is red with anger, and he's shouting like I've never seen him done before.

Sure, Seth's shouted before, but never that loudly or that outraged. Something big must have happened, I figure.

"…I turn my head and you've got her all wrapped around your little finger!" He's shouting, and Jayden's leaning against the wall, his arms crossed.

He doesn't look the least bit disturbed, but instead the expression on his face is nonchalant, like whatever Seth's shouting at him has nothing to do with him. If you don't know him, you'll probably think that it has nothing to do with him.

But I've been there every time Dad or Mom is giving him hell for all the bad shit he does, and believe me, the look on his face cannot be anymore indifferent. So I sort of understand why Seth sometimes looks like he wants nothing more than to sink his fist into Jayden's face.

"…the fuck was that all about? You know I'm crazy about Marissa, and there you were, fucking seducing her right under my nose!" I cringe a little at the harshness of his tone. But that's right. That's one of the most likely reasons that can manage to get under his skin and stay there.

Seth has always been insanely possessive about his girlfriends, and if I even looked twice at them he'd have me pinned against the wall in no time, with a threatening fist just inches away from my face.

Jayden doesn't care even if Seth warns him away from them, because he's physically stronger and often goes after his girlfriends and gets them, anyway. Seth always gets into fights with Jayden because of that even though he knows he's bound to lose, and I usually hear them yelling about these kind of things downstairs when I'm up in my room.

They don't know that I know what's actually going on, of course. Mainly because they know I'm a big tattletale and they try to keep these matters as far away from me as possible.

Even though I know they'll get all over my case and probably give me a lot of punches when they find out that I've tattled on them, but by then it'll be too late, because then they'll already have been grounded. So I don't mind exchanging one or two punches in the stomach or face just to get them grounded.

But I don't tell on them for arguing over girls.

I tell on them when I see them getting into fights, and they know it. So whenever I'm around, they'll try to lay off the anger a little, at least till I'm all the way upstairs.

I've never seen Seth get so angry over Jayden stealing one of his girls, though. I mean, sure, normally he'd be seething with cold fury and throwing punches all over the place, but this is actually the first time I've seen him so red in the face and shouting so loudly. It's a change, and I don't think I'll ever get used to this.

"She left you because she finally realized you were a pussy, Seth." Jayden sneers. I hold my breath, and it comes—Seth's fist flying in the direction of Jayden's face, with so fast a speed that it was practically a blur.

A quick flip is all that it takes Jayden to toss Seth on the floor, the latter breathing heavily as Jayden stares down coldly at him.

"What, you can't stand me telling the truth as it is? Obviously, Marissa saw that I was the better choice. I didn't need to seduce her; like you probably did when you tried to pick her up—she came to me."

Seth's jaws are tightening with rage and he's probably about to explode. "Marissa's not like that! Shut the fuck up, you bastard!" He yells, jumping up from the ground. My other brother can tell that he's going to start to try to hit him again, and the following sound that came just smacked of pain.

A loud, resounding crash reverberated around the house and Seth was on the floor, his left hand on his left cheek, his midnight black eyes shooting daggers at the boy who'd just punched his face so hard that he'd fallen. Mom's precious antique vase has broken, and I figure I'd better get into the house and make known my presence before anything else shatters or breaks.

The main door creaks loudly and I step in, looking up at my two brothers who've quickly whipped their heads around at the noise. Relief floods both Seth's and Jayden's face when they realize that it's just me.

Dad and Mom don't approve of violence in the house, and especially not among us siblings. So if they get caught fighting, that's it. They'd probably be stuck on toilet duty for life, as well as get grounded for a long, long time.

"You!" Seth semi-gasps out as he clutches his left cheek in pained agony.

Jayden's looking warily at me. We all stare at each for a long moment. Seth, lying on the carpeted ground, holding his already bruising cheek. Jayden, standing on the living room carpet, his bottle-blue eyes boring into mine as he stares at me in uncomfortable silence.

Me, standing in the doorway looking awkward in my frozen position.

Jayden breaks the silence first. "How long have you been listening in?"

In response to my stunned look, he adds, "Look, I'm not blind. I saw the main door move a little to form a small open creak. Just perfect for someone to peek in."

Seth shoots him an irritated look that said, then-why-the-hell-didn't-you-go-check-in-the-first-place?

Jayden rolls his eyes. "I thought it was nothing; like the wind or something that blew the door open."

"The door was locked," I point out, and he rolls his eyes again.

"Don't change the subject."

I consider telling him that I saw everything and that I was going to tell Mom, but the look of unadulterated fury in Seth's eyes as he glares at Jayden tells me this is something bigger than a fight over a normal girl.

Maybe for once, I tell myself, just for once, I'll cut them some slack.

I take a deep breath, and Seth suddenly shifts his attention from Jayden to me, his eyes uneasy. "Nothing," I say, "I saw nothing, I heard nothing, and I won't…say anything."

The two pairs of widened eyes that faced me showed nothing but pure surprise at my words, and I find myself feeling a little annoyed inside. Am I really that big of a tattletale that they think that it'd be a miracle if I don't say anything about this?

Slowly, Jayden turns his head away from me and looks straight ahead at nothing in particular. "Good." His voice is stiff, like he's extremely nervous. Weird.

Seth merely shoots me an unreadable glance, and nods in acknowledgement.

Biting my lip, I head upstairs, not bothering to stop for a while and ask Seth if he wants a tissue from my bag—his lips are bleeding a little. After all, he's just my brother. My asshole of a brother who doesn't give a shit about me. So naturally, I won't give a damn about him.

Won't give a damn about him…

:-:-:

Dad got home just a while ago and he's probably in the living room watching T.V. Mom's back from grocery shopping, and I curse at my bad luck. I'd wanted the excuse to eat out if she didn't get home by six, but now she's in the kitchen making dinner. Crap.

I'm blasting up the volume on my stereo and bopping my head along to the music that's pouring out of its speakers.

I don't even like the song or the melody, but all I want to do is drown out the things that have been harassing my mind non-stop. And this song is doing the job right, shoving all other things to the back of my mind. Yet I can't help but squeeze in a couple of thoughts, like how Dad's going to come bursting into my room and tell me to lower the noise or get out.

I pull out my sketchbook and start drawing with my 0.5 mechanical pencil. I love drawing with mechanical pencils, because they're so much easier to work with as compared to normal ones. The picture of a prison cell came to mind and I get to work, drawing the outline of the cell.

As I'm shading in the different hues of the gloomy and plain cell, a loud knock comes on my door and I figure that it's Dad. Time to turn the volume down now.

I let out a loud sigh as the person barges into my room, ignoring the fact that I hadn't even had the chance to say "come in".

"Okay, I'm turning the volume down now. Sorry for interrupting you in the middle of your T.V. program." I hastily twist the volume knob on my stereo. I don't notice that I'm holding my sketchpad till it gets pulled out of my grasp and a whiny sound escapes from my voice before I can control it.

"Dad—" I start, and turn around…to see Jayden.

He's looking at me with that sardonic look in his eyes and I can't help but wonder what exactly I've done wrong in my past life to deserve such a condescending brother. "Actually, I didn't come in here to tell you to lower the volume. Although it was bugging the shit out of me." He says, turning the sketchpad around to look at my drawing properly. "What's this?"

"Give that back to me!" I don't know why I shouted, but a surge of anger had gushed through my veins in that brief moment as I did, and I find myself lunging at my older brother for my sketchpad.

It doesn't contain sketches which are fantastically well-drawn, but it's a private item that is meant solely for my eyes and for me to hold. No one else should be touching it.

Jayden glances at me, startled at my sudden attack, but the lunge takes him by surprise and it's too late for him to dodge. Swiftly, I tackle him to the ground and try to snatch my sketchpad from him. "Give it back!" I insist, but he raises his eyebrows at my upset reaction.

"What the hell was that about? My back hurts," he hisses, and I worry that he's going to try to beat me up, but the concern of getting my sketchpad back is more important than getting beaten up—it's practically my version of a diary. "You drawn some porn in here, dude?" He almost seems to be teasing me, but this is more torture than teasing.

"That's my sketchpad! It's really important, okay? Give it back to me!" I yell, stretching my arm in the direction of my beloved possession.

Before he could reply, a voice sounds in the doorway—my doorway—and Seth's looking at us with a weird look. The kind that questions, just-what-the-hell-are-you-doing? "Dinner's ready—what are you guys doing?"

I look down for the first time and realize that Jayden's under me in a very…compromising position. My legs are between his and my right hand is on his left side, making it seem as if I'm pinning him to the ground.

But he's my brother, so that shouldn't seem wrong in any way, right?

I retort, "Nothing."

I quickly scramble off Jayden who suddenly seems annoyed. "Give it back to me, Jayden," I demand, and finally he rolls his eyes.

"Fine, you want your stupid book back, take it," he snaps, throwing it at me. It hits my head because I was caught off-guard, but I don't care. I'm just glad to have my book back. Even if it means getting hit in the head.

"Move," Jayden mutters to Seth, who shoots him a venomous glare as he moves out of the doorway and heads downstairs after Jayden. The bruise on Seth's cheek seems more obvious than ever, especially when it's a large patch on his face. Dad's bound to have noticed it.

Seeing as I hadn't heard any yelling downstairs earlier, he and Mom are probably saving the interrogation for dinner. A part of me strangely feels smug, and I have to refrain myself from smacking my own forehead for feeling this way.

:-:-:

As I walk past the living room, I notice that the shards of the shattered vase have already been cleared.

When did they do it? I vaguely ponder on the matter as I gaze at the spotless corner where the shattered pieces had been just a while ago.

I had been positive that Seth had gone back into his room while Jayden had gone to raid kitchen fridge. Unless Jayden had cleared the mess after he went into the kitchen. Odd.

Mom seems pissed as we all gather at the table, and we start the meal in silence. For a few minutes, all we hear are the clinking sounds of the utensils we're using to munch on our peas and chicken.

The atmosphere feels tense, and I peek warily at Mom out of the corner of my eye.

She's chewing on her peas, when suddenly, she swallows and places her fork down and lifts her head to face us three brothers. I can hear the splatter on the tabletop as a bead of perspiration trickles down Seth's cheek.

He's nervous, I can tell.

:-:-:

Nico Walker at age thirteen

"You can feel the pain now, can't you?" he sneers in my face, and I raise my bloodied face up to look at him defiantly. At the age of thirteen, Seth is what the girls at school define as hot. He's got this pair of dark, scrutinizing and unreadable midnight black eyes which they all call intriguing and mysterious.

His matching jet-black hair blends into the darkness of the night and I think bitterly of how unfair is it for me to be his brother and not have good looks like he does.

Everyone likes him. Or at least, they all did. Until Parker Chain came along. He's the one who broke Seth's perfect record.

Mrs. Ginger had introduced him to our class that morning and many of the girls swooned at his honey-brown eyes and the straight, brown-colored hair that he has. "Ten bucks that you manage to befriend him by the end of this period," Joel Meadows whispered conspiratorially to Seth, and the latter smirked.

"You're going to lose those ten bucks unnecessarily, you know," James Holman said, flipping a page of his thick novel. "Stop placing those bets with Seth when it comes to befriending someone."

Seth smiled, having received an ego boost by one of his best friends. "You're on, Joel. I'm always up to win a couple of bucks."

His friend rolled his eyes, and I doodled away on my black notebook on the other side of the classroom, completely and totally unaware of the conversation that had been going on between my brother and his best friends.

If I'd known what Seth and his friends had said, I'd have given Parker the cold shoulder or ignored him. I should've paid particular attention to the impish smirks on their faces then, or at least tried to eavesdrop on them, instead of not even bothering to look at them like I normally did, because I avoid my brothers like the plague.

When Parker decided to take the vacant next to me, I made the mistake of looking at him and he smiled at me. "Hey. What's your name?"

I hadn't noticed the murderous looks Seth had been shooting me then, and I made the mistake of replying.

I wish I hadn't been so stupid.

I wish I had seen his death glares then.

Maybe then I would've avoided making that mistake.

It's too late now, though.

"Nico Walker. Nice to meet you, Parker."

Even though I'm regretting it right now, I have to admit that it felt good to have someone pay me attention for once before gravitating in Seth's direction. Because everyone's forever swarming around my brother and because I'm always standing in his shadows, no one takes a second glance at me.

A smile so sunny that it took me by surprise spread across Parker's face as he took in my reply. "Are you having lunch with anyone today? Do you mind if I join you when lunch period rolls around?"

I stared at him. Here it was. The first time anyone asked me to have lunch with them. A golden opportunity for me to make an actual friend for once, someone who would treat me as Nico Walker, and not as Seth Walker's brother. Or Jayden Walker's, for that matter.

Both my brothers were extremely popular, and all I could do was walk in their shadows because there seemed to be no place for me to be myself in school.

"Sure, why not?" The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could even process what I was saying, and he beamed at my response.

The bell rang for lunch periods later, so I headed back to my homeroom, hoping that Parker was already waiting for me. And he was. But when I moved to approach him, I realized with a sinking feeling that he was talking to Seth. Oh no, I thought, not again. Parker, I was certain, was going to apologize to me and say he was going to have lunch with Seth the moment I reached him.

How many times had I come across this kind of scenarios? It was like Seth obtained sick pleasure from snatching my friends right out from under my nose.

Shit.

I hesitated, just meters away from Parker's table, wondering if I should just turn around and go to the library to spend my lunch break there instead, like I usually did. Before I could reach a decision, however, Parker seemed to have spotted me, and he beamed, the smile lighting up his entire face.

I was never more taken aback by his reaction, because I'd expected a sheepish grin from him before he confessed his betrayal to me. Well, not betrayal, but you know what I mean.

"Hey, Walker!" he yelled, waving his arm at me and beckoning for me to go over. Seth's brows furrowed at this action, but Parker ignored his weird look. Maybe it was because we had a same last name, but I'll never know.

When Seth turned around to see what the blond-haired boy had been waving at, however, his facial features hardened and he looked at me stonily as I walked numbly in the direction of my new friend.

Parker didn't seem to sense the hostility Seth was emitting, however, and he introduced me to him, "Sorry, Seth, but I can't have lunch with you because I already agreed my friend here to eat with him."

At this point in time, I was in a state of euphoria. I was so elated by this simple gesture of this friendship that I didn't see Joel and James raising their eyebrows when they looked upon this scene.

Seth looked extremely bad-tempered now, but I couldn't have cared less. What a big misstep that had been.

In his fury, Seth practically stomped over to Joel and James, steam almost coming out of his ears.

"Hey, Walker. Where'd you want to go? The cafeteria?" Parker asked me in a friendly manner and I felt my lips curve up automatically.

A friend of my own. Finally.

"Yeah, sure," I reply, walking ahead to lead him in the direction of the food haven, not feeling the glare that had been burning a hole in my back as we went.

"And Parker?" I added, "Call me Nico."

When I got home after hanging around Parker's place for the afternoon playing video games, Seth was waiting for me on the doorsteps in front of our main door.

I got nervous as I walked nearer and nearer because of the nasty glint in his black eyes.

Even though we're of the same age (I was born in January in the same year as Seth was born; he was born in December.), Seth's physically stronger than me, and he could easily beat me up.

"You." It was one word. But it was a word that got me trembling down to my very toes.

Whenever Seth spoke in that tone, it meant that he was seething in anger inside.

"Uh…" I started, and he threw the punch in my face.

In five minutes of just plain boxing each other in the guts and face, I finally found out the source to his anger; me agreeing to go with Parker in lunch.

Because of that, Joel and James couldn't stop laughing in his face earlier, and apparently, Seth was utterly humiliated and "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!"

I take a quick glimpse at my watch before blocking another hit from Seth, with the results of my left arm getting whacked. It hurts, I wince inwardly. Why is he getting all worked up because of this?

It's seven, and I wonder how I could've spent so much time at Parker's. But I did gobble down a lot of chips that he had when I was at his place, so that's probably why I don't feel hungry even now.

By this time, Mom should've already opened the front door and called Seth in for dinner, because she always does. The fact that she doesn't must mean that they must have started dinner early.

"From now on, stay away from all my friends," he warns before taking his foot off my stomach, and I instantly roll over, clutching at my wounded abdomen.

Parker isn't your friend. He's mine. I want to say this to Seth, but he might lash out at me again and in my current condition I can't really afford to get him riled.

He backs off slowly, keeping his eyes on me as he does so. "You tell Mom and Dad about this, and I'll make sure you get a bigger bruise than the one you'll be having on your stomach right now," he glares, and I don't doubt his threat.

Jayden and Seth are on rather bad terms, but both of them somehow have something in common—they both dislike me. So if Seth wants to, he can easily ask Jayden to deal with me and my older brother will happily oblige.

That's the first time that I don't tattle on him, and I hate the fact that the reason I don't is because I was truly, thoroughly frightened by the look in his eyes when he threw the first punch in my face.

:-:-:

I eye Seth as he bites his bottom lip inconspicuously, and before I know it, the feeling of triumph creeps into me. I almost start to feel guilty again, but I remind myself of how I'm already doing him a favor by not telling on him and Jayden for fighting, and manage to fight the uneasy feeling down.

He's going to get in trouble.

A quick glance in Jayden's direction tells me that he's also very tense. He's clutching onto his fork so tightly that his knuckles are whitening. He must be worrying about the vase that's so obviously missing from the mantelpiece. As I've mentioned earlier, Jayden is normally nonchalant when Dad and Mom are taking turns to scream at him. But when it comes to Mom's antiques…

"Alright, boys. I want to know what exactly happened to my vase." Mom's voice is calm, but if you've lived in this house long enough, you'll be able to tell that underneath the calmness lays a raging river. "Why is it missing from the mantelpiece?"

Nobody answers her, and Dad takes one look at the look on his silently fuming wife and quickly excuses himself from the table, giving Seth's left cheek one more look as he goes.

The traitor.

I think he's going to question Seth later, and I wonder why Mom's asking about her vase instead of his cheek. Seth fidgets uncomfortably at Dad's gaze while it lasts, and looks very relieved when he finally leaves the dining room.

Then again, Mom loves her antiques like crazy. Once, when Jayden and I were really young, we almost put her porcelain horse in danger while we were scuffling and fighting, and she nearly roasted our asses. Figuratively, of course.

"I asked a question." This time, her tone isn't as cool and collected.

"I didn't break it," I blurt out, and her angry eyes dart to mine, the intensity of her glare deepening. It's like she's probing around in my eyes as if trying to determine if I was telling the truth.

Jayden takes in a short breath, and finally he speaks up. My body freezes at the following word he utters, "Liar."

Seth's eyes widen slightly, and as Mom's attention shifted from me to Jayden, it goes unnoticed. Something in those black eyes of him seems to flicker and he looks as if he had just caught on to what Jayden is doing.

Smoothly, he adds onto Jayden's bullshit. "Yeah, Nico. I'm surprised you're this good at lying; telling a lie without even batting an eyelid."

I want to shout the sentence right back at him, but just as I open my mouth, something kicks me in the shin and my eyes dart down swiftly to see Jayden's left foot on mine. His intense eyes peer right into mine, and I can just hear what he's thinking.

You dare to mention the truth and the fight to Mom, and I'll take care of you tomorrow after school.

Usually, this kind of thing won't faze me. After all, it's not like they're joining forces to attack me, so I won't get beat up…that bad. I look at Seth before I can think straight, and he's looking at me in the same way. Oh, god, no.

I hate being stuck in this kind of situation, and I hate my two brothers. Especially right now, when they're willing to unite and push the matter of Marissa aside to save their skins so they won't die. When Mom gets mad, she gets really mad.

I look sourly at Seth and Jayden adds, "We were there. Remember, Nico? You were pleading with Seth and me not to tell Mom about this."

He has dug my pit and Seth's standing behind me, ready to push me into the six foot-deep hole.

When this is all over with, I'm going to call Parker and complain about this. Fuck my life.

:-:-:

Author's Note: Was reading brothercest fictions on FictionPress when I was suddenly struck by an inspiration and I had to write it out because it was stuck in my head. Hope you liked this. :D

Review if you'd like, because I'll be very happy to listen to your opinions and thoughts on this. (: