Rocky narrowed his eyes, but Colt merely raised his brows and waited.
“Wind? You’re full of hot air, more like.”
“At least I don’t have rocks in my head.”
The familiar retorts relaxed them both enough to ease out of their stances and stand more normally. Rocky’s shoulders slumped slightly, as he ran a hand through his hair. “We got into a fight before we left for the summer. She was mad because I chose to go to Grandpa’s instead of staying here with her.”
Colt’s jaw dropped. “But…we’ve been going to Grandpa’s every summer since we were five!”
“Well, we’re fifteen now, and about to be freshmen, even though we’re still in junior high. This is year that makes or breaks our reputations, apparently.” Rocky said dryly. “And since I chose my brothers this year over supporting her trying out for cheer and drill team, she decided that she would find someone ‘willing to invest physically and emotionally’ in a relationship.” He shook his head as his brother rolled his eyes. “Also, dating Darren Jenkin’s little brother means that he and his goon squad won’t steal your bike or try to bully you out of your lunch money.” He grimaced. “Ethan called last night before we left to give me a heads up, otherwise it would’ve been news to me too when we drove by.” He had been watching for the couple as they drove up the street, knowing his ex-girlfriend couldn’t resist being out there to gauge his reaction. For that reason alone, he had made a point of not reacting, and enjoyed the scowl that marred her face as she glared at their retreating figures.
“That conniving, two faced, scheming little – ”
“Colt!” Rocky snapped, grabbing his arm, but couldn’t help the reluctant grin. “It’s done. Let it go.”
His brother glared down the street. “Aw, c’mon. Can I go short sheet her bed? I can get in and out, easy. Her parents are never home anyway. What about TP’ing her house? Or I know! I can go let all the air out of her bike tires. Let’s see her get to school on time after that!”
“C’mon, idiot. Let’s go.” Rocky rolled his eyes, turning away to grab his duffel bag. Colt watched him for a second before darting by him, jabbing him in the side on the way.
“Still too slow! Guess you’ve got rocks in your head and your feet!” he teased, taking off with his brother in hot pursuit.
Later that night, after the last ‘mom’ bed check, Rocky’s quiet voice sounded out of the dark.
Nothing else needed to be said. For all of their bickering and competing over the years, they both knew that they would always watch out for and protect each other, physically and emotionally – even when their sibling insisted that he didn’t need it. Of all the many lessons they had learned from their grandfather, this one was ingrained in them almost from birth, and had never needed to be vocalized.
The boys were up early the next morning out of habit, not eagerness to get to school. Well, Rocky and Colt weren’t eager; Tum was still bouncing and excited, literally riding circles around his older brothers as they got their bikes out of the garage. His enthusiasm was contagious, and within a few minutes the older boys had shaken off their pensive mood. Colt whooped and raced past his brother, darting into the fenced off construction area. Spurred on by the challenge, Rocky laughed and tore past him to the first improvised bike jump, catching a nice bit of air and enjoying the shock that ran through him as he landed. Tum was old enough to take the jumps on his own now, but he was still more cautious, bypassing some of them to come out ahead of his brothers as they went through the last set. It was a thrilling feeling, being free to do whatever they wanted, just the three of them.