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not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

VI Someday he'll be taller

by Pen

there is a remix of this story here

Nick liked his Coke from a can. It wasn't the same when they gave you those stupid giant bottles because Kevin and Howie had threatened him with death if they ever caught him drinking right out the bottle, and when he poured it in a glass the bubbles bounced up into his nose and made him—

"Atchoo! Ow, atchoo! Ow!" Gah.

"Hey, Sneezy!"

Nick snarled. Brian gave him one of those looks he was getting used to now, one of those looks that said stupid kid or something like it, and handed him a straw.

Okay, the straw helped. But Nick didn't see why he should be grateful. It wasn't his fault they didn't buy proper Coke.

"What's up?" Brian sat down next to him.

"Doc," Nick muttered. It was just a reflex. After hearing Brian and AJ squeaking "What'sh up, doc?" at each other, like, every day last month, it wasn't his fault if it just came out automatically.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah," NIck said, then he thought, no. "No! No! I'm—how come I never get to choose stuff? How come it's always somebody else's call where we go and what we do? Just because I'm the youngest. It sucks."

"I guess it must feel that way. But you're getting older every day."

"It's not like I'm going to wake up one morning and find out I got older than Kevin," Nick pointed out. "Or even AJ."

"Okay, you got me there."

"So how come I never get to choose?"

"Probably because Kevin has older brothers who taught him a lot, so he thinks he knows exactly how to behave now he's the biggest brother. He kinda wants to take care of us all."

"Well, it sucks."

"You really think so?"

With Brian looking at him like that, Nick couldn't just insist that Kevin was a—a—something Brian wouldn't like him saying. Brian wanted him to actually think about it, and Nick didn't really want to think about it, he just wanted to be grumpy for a while.

It was impossible to be grumpy around Brian. Brian didn't let anyone alone long enough to be grumpy.

And, well. Yeah. Thinking about things that sucked wasn't a lot of fun, and it wasn't like the guys didn't pick stuff he actually wanted to do. Now Nick thought about it, they probably wanted to hang out in bars, and with girls, and stuff, and they mostly didn't because he was still way too young to get into any bars. If the only thing he could find to be grumpy about was that they other guys didn't leave him behind all the time he was... he was probably being...

"I'm just a dopey kid, aren't I?"

"No," Brian said, instantly. "You're not. You're not stupid, Nick. You just haven't had as long as the rest of us to make mistakes. Kevin and Howie and me, we've had time to learn what not to do."

And AJ's better at being sneaky, Nick thought, but he wouldn't say so.

"C'mon, we need to cheer you up. Wanna play some one on one?"


Nick was going to beat Brian someday. He knew this. Sure, Brian had mad skills, but Nick was already an inch taller than Brian, and he was going to get a lot taller, Kevin said, maybe as tall as Kevin. Nick hoped very much he'd end up taller than Kevin. Anyway, tall enough to beat Brian at basketball.

Brian was grinning as he bounced the ball. Brian was always happy, almost always, but right now it was probably because he thought he was going to kick Nick's ass again, and he was probably right because he always did kick Nick's ass. Not for much longer, though. When Nick grew to, like, a foot taller than Brian, no way would Brian's 'superior tactical skill' count for much.

Today was not that day. After a while Brian was five up, and he eased up a bit, not so much playing against Nick as giving him tips. Now Nick had cheered up he didn't mind telling Brian how good he was, and Brian fluttered his eyelashes and looked all bashful and made Nick laugh, and they went inside for more Coke, and this time Nick got himself a straw right off and didn't sneeze at all. And, Brian pointed out, he could have ice in the glass, which you couldn't really do with a can, and that meant you could crunch the ice up in your teeth and make it squeak.


Lying in bed that night, sleepy but not quite ready to zonk out, Nick thought about how things were now. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn't so bad it wasn't so bad having people around who'd already made mistakes so they could teach him, sometimes, what not to do. Having four new sorta big brothers (okay, three big brothers and AJ, who was mostly a pest) was actually... kinda cool.



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