Badd motherf cker, p.18
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       Badd Motherf*cker, p.18

         Part #1 of Badd Brothers series by Jasinda Wilder
 
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  The game they were playing had the screen split into four quadrants, each showing something different. It was a shooter of some kind, but that was all I really knew. I'd never had time for video games growing up, although the twins and Lucian were addicted to them, and even Xavier to a lesser extent.

  I stood in the hallway watching. Canaan and Corin had shown up apparently, so now the living room was a howling den of cacophony. Baxter, Zane, and Xavier were squished together on the couch with controllers in their hands. Canaan and Corin were standing behind them, and Cane had a controller in his hands while Cor stood beside him, shoving him and shouting directions: "NO, you fuckin' idiot, over there--NO, the other direction, yes, right there, now go down that hallway--"

  Xavier was his usual quiet intense self, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth, rocking slightly back and forth as he navigated the fantasy world of the game--HALO, it looked like, probably the newest version, but what did I know? Zane and Baxter were both shouting too, elbowing each other, cursing each other out, roughhousing even as they played. Brock was sitting in the easy chair, a beer in his hand, watching the game, a content smile on his face.

  Then Brock saw me. "At last the wild creature emerges from his lair!" he said in a drawling, over-the-top Australian accent.

  Which stopped the game as six pairs of eyes turned on me. Canaan and Corin both moved at the same time, in that freaky instinctive synchronization they had. They dropped their controllers and came over to fling their arms around me and crush me in bear hugs.

  "BAST!" they shouted in unison.

  Canaan and Corin looked the part of the rock stars they truly were. They had my height, both of them standing near six-three, but they carried it razor-thin and lean. Canaan wore his hair long and loose and messy, and it was constantly falling into his eyes, and he had the beginnings of a beard going. Corin was the edgier of the two, sporting a severe undercut with the top left long and brushed back over his scalp, the ends dyed virulent neon blue. They both had full-sleeve tattoos started, blank spaces showing where future tats were going to go, and they were both dressed in tight jeans that sagged around their waists with holes in the knees and thighs, faded graphic print T-shirts and Sharpie-decorated Converse All-Stars to complete their looks. Individual styles that still somehow managed to almost-but-not-quite match, enough individuality that you wouldn't ever mistake one twin for the other.

  They'd played that game for a while, though, dressing alike and looking alike so you never knew which twin you were talking to. They used to fuck with the audience at shows, too, one of them playing lead guitar and lead vocals and the other doing bass and backing vocals, and then during a lighting change they'd switch guitars and mics. They even made a funny little gimmick out of it, tossing guitars back and forth while harmonizing, so you never knew which one was which. The label had cut that out of their act real fast, though. Which, in retrospect, had been for the best, as it had forced each of them to find their own niche as musicians, forcing them be more serious about the music rather than just showing off.

  "Thought you'd never come out," Canaan said.

  "She must be really something to keep you in there for seven fuckin' hours," Corin said.

  "Or, rather, for seven hours of fucking," Canaan said, grinning.

  I turned the bear hugs into headlocks on both of them. "Keep a respectful tongue in your damn heads or I'll rip 'em off, you little punk bastards." I punctuated this by squeezing until both of them started struggling and squawking.

  "FINE! LEMME GO!" This was Corin, the more vocal of the two.

  I released the headlocks then, but didn't let them go entirely. I spun them to face me. "Serious, guys. No bullshit about her. Got it?"

  Canaan eyed me curiously. "Who are you and what'd you do with my real brother?"

  I shoved him hard enough that he hit the back of the couch and toppled over. "It's really me, dumbass. I just found a girl I really like. Don't make big deal out of it."

  "It kind of is a big deal, though, isn't it?" Xavier asked. "Didn't I hear you once say love was for pussies who couldn't haul down ass like a real man?"

  I sighed. "Yeah, I think I did say something like that. But first, I was drunk when I said it, second, that was before I met Dru, and third, I was kind of an asshole back then."

  Xavier's lips quirked. "That was less than a year ago."

  "A lot can change in a year, kiddo."

  Baxter laughed. "A lot can change in a single day, I think."

  "Truth," I said, and then had a realization hit me. "Wait. If I'm here, and all of you are here, who's working the bar?"

  Zane answered. "The committee decided to close the bar for a day. We've all spent the last several days traveling, and you were...otherwise indisposed."

  Corin raised his hand. "Plus, minor point here...none of us know what the fuck we're doing down there."

  "Who's the committee?" I asked.

  Zane waved at the room at large. "All of us."

  "And I'm not part of the committee?"

  Zane laughed. "Well, you are now, I guess. But when we made the decision you were balls deep in the missus, so you missed out."

  I growled. "Watch your fuckin' mouth, asshole."

  He raised his hands palms out and shot me a look that said he was having as much trouble recognizing this new protective version of me as the twins were. "A joke, man, it was a joke. Relax. I'm the last one here that'll talk shit about that chick, seeing as my balls still ache from her foot."

  Canaan and Corin swiveled on Zane and spoke in unison. "Wait...Bast's girlfriend kicked you in the nuts?" It was fuckin' freaky, how they could speak entire sentences in precise synch, including inflection and emphasis. I often wondered if they practiced doing it.

  "She's not my girlfriend," I snarled. Then the events of the last day and the things we'd said and shared earlier today rifled through me, and made me rethink that position. "Well, maybe she is. We haven't nailed anything down. Point is, yes, she's a badass, so fuck with her at your own risk."

  Zane shifted his weight on the couch and rubbed his crotch. "And I'm sayin' from experience...don't fuck with her. The kick to the balls was what laid me out, but the moves she pulled to get the kick out were as fast and precise as anybody I've ever sparred against."

  I felt pride heat me up from the inside out, hearing a hardcore badass like Zane talk about Dru so highly. Zane didn't hand out compliments easily--he was hard to impress, and very sparing with his praise.

  I gestured at the TV. "Where'd the monster TV and the game system come from?"

  Corin raised a hand. "That was us. We got here, saw your dinky little piece of shit TV from like the nineties or whatever, and the distressing lack of a PlayStation, and we had to rectify that poste-fuckin'-haste. That TV was so fuckin' tiny I don't even know why you even bothered. And no PS4? I don't think so."

  "Who paid for it?"

  Canaan answered. "We did."

  "World tour opening for Rev Theory, remember?" Corin added. "We got'chu, bro!"

  I rolled my eyes. "As long as it didn't come from bar funds, then whatever. It is a nice TV."

  "Nice?" Xavier said, sounding incredulous. "Seventy inches of ultra high definition picture, and you call it nice?"

  "Yeah, it's nice." I eyed the twins. "Is the tour done with, then? I sorta had the idea you had a few more shows left."

  Canaan shrugged. "We were supposed to play a couple more dates...which cities was it, you remember, Cor?"

  "Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon, I think. The original plan was to hook up with Beartooth in Paris and then do a double-headlining tour with them in the UK."

  My gut sank. "You had a headlining gig?"

  Canaan shrugged again; the kid had an entire language of shrugs. They could mean 'whatever', 'sure', 'why not', or 'who cares', plus a few more that were just sort of all around lazy I-don't-give-a-shit. This shrug was a whatever shrug. "Yeah. Not a solo headliner, though,
" he said. "Our manager was pissed at us for bailing, but family is family, right?"

  "Fuck, man," I groaned. "You gave up a headlining tour to come back here?"

  That had been their dream since they first organized a band when they were thirteen. They'd played gigs downstairs on Tuesday nights all through junior high and high school, and eventually those gigs had translated into playing at other bars around here in Ketchikan, and then in Anchorage, and then down along the Pacific Northwest in places like Seattle and Portland.

  Eventually a scout had caught their act in a shitty dive bar in LA. Man, they'd been so proud to have booked a gig in LA, and for good reason. It had been a big deal. One fuckin' show in LA, and they'd gotten a contract. That was during their junior year of high school, when they were just barely sixteen. They quit high school to move to LA, spent a year recording a debut album while finishing their GEDs--that was Dad's stipulation for letting them go, they had to get their diplomas before they could start touring.

  There'd been talk even then, before their first album was cut, of national and even international tours. They were destined for the big time, and always had been. A tour co-headlining with a fairly well known band like Beartooth could have really catapulted them into the spotlight.

  And they'd bailed on that to come back here.

  Brock's words from earlier came back to haunt me: the twins have to skip an entire year of touring...we knew we had to come back...wasn't really much choice, not for any of us...

  Fuck.

  The twins didn't need the money, they needed the touring experience and the spotlight on their talent.

  Canaan was the more serious of the twins, and it was Canaan who leaned against me and wrapped a wiry arm around my shoulders. "Listen, big brother. We've been touring for more than two years. I've lost count of how many shows we've done, how many cities we've been to. Cutting the tour short wasn't just about the will. It wasn't even entirely about being here to help you out, so don't get all caught up in feeling like some kind of goddamn martyr, okay? We were approaching burnout."

  Corin cut in without missing a beat. "We needed the time off. We recorded the album and then went right to touring and we haven't slowed down since. We needed a fuckin' break."

  I shook my head. "Bullshit. You guys were on the verge of really breaking out big. You need another album. You need--"

  Canaan interrupted me. "All respect, Bast, but shut the fuck up. Since when are you a music industry expert? You're not. This is our band, our career. And we choose to be here. If we're sacrificing a little momentum to be here, then so be it. We can get it back."

  Corin leaned in on my other side, sandwiching me between the twins. "Also, we've got a buddy who specializes in building recording studios. He's coming up to Ketchikan some time in the next couple months and he's going to scout a good spot to put in a studio so we can record our next album ourselves."

  "What about your contract? Doesn't that say when and where--" I started.

  Canaan took over, interrupting me yet again. "When we bailed on the tour, we bailed on the contract. It was only for one more album anyway, and they wanted to take our sound in a direction we weren't cool with. We had to give back some of the advance, but it's all working out. It was just money, and we've made plenty of that the last two years."

  "So wait, you broke your contract too?"

  Corin blew a raspberry. "Try to keep up, bro--yes, we broke the contract. The label didn't wanna let us go, and we aren't about to let some fuckin' suit and tie pussies in New York tell us what to fuckin' do with our lives or our music, so we told 'em where to shove their stupid contract, and then we came home."

  I groaned again, and rubbed both hands over my face. "What a disaster."

  Canaan, this time. "Bast, you're not listening to us. They were talking about our next album, how they wanted to us to sound more 'commercially approachable', meaning softer, closer to pop than hard rock."

  "We're going indie, bro!" Corin shouted. "We get to make this album ourselves, make it exactly what we want rather than having to cater to the dumbfuck label execs. This is about us, now. Our music, our lives, our time."

  "These days, there's just as much potential for recognition and gaining popularity by putting up videos on YouTube," Canaan said. "Our dedicated fan base doesn't give two shits about which label our music comes out on, they just want our music. We can do that here."

  I sighed. "Sounds like you two have this thought out."

  "We're not stupid, Bast," they both said at once.

  "We have no plans to abandon our music career--" Canaan started.

  "We're just taking it in a different direction," Corin finished.

  "Plus, family is family, and our brothers come first," they both said.

  "Enough talk," Baxter said, shooting to his feet. "I need booze and food."

  "I second that motion," Brock said.

  The brothers all trooped downstairs to the bar, and I hung back to check in on Dru, who was still conked out hard, letting out a cute snuffling snore now and then. I left her a note telling her we were downstairs and to join us when she woke up, then jogged down the stairs to fix food for my brothers.

  Bax was already playing bartender, pulling beers and pouring shots for everyone while Xavier was in the kitchen, firing up the fryers and the grill.

  I joined Xavier in the kitchen. "Know your way around the kitchen, huh, kid?"

  He dumped two full bags of fries into four of the six baskets, tossed several handfuls of my hand-breaded, locally-caught cod fillets into the other two baskets, and then started tossing patties on the grill. He shot me a grin while he worked. "I work midnights as a short-order cook at a diner back in Cali," he said. "I can only spend so much time studying, you know? And my electronics habit won't fund itself."

  I did some mental calculating. "Hold up, X. You're in school full-time, on the varsity soccer team, work in the robotics research lab, and you work midnights? When do you sleep?"

  He shrugged, a lot like Canaan's why does it matter? gesture. "I only need a few hours a night."

  "What does 'a few' mean?"

  "Four or five, max. I've never needed a lot of sleep, Bast, you know that."

  "Yeah, but you're crazy busy, you can't--"

  "All of the most successful, most intelligent people in history are the same way. Tesla, Einstein, Jobs, Edison, guys like that rarely slept more than a few hours at a time."

  "Okay, I'll give you that, as I've heard similar stories. But why work a short-order job? With your brains--"

  He gestured at a stack of plates. "Start plating buns and tartar, would you?" He flipped burgers and replaced the presses, checked the fries and the fish, and then started separating slices of cheese while talking. "I like the work. It's mindless, and fast-paced. It gives me time to think, you know? It's all automatic, I just kinda zone out on the rhythm and let the rest of my mind wander. I do most of my homework in my head while I'm working, and then I just have to go home and write the answers down later."

  I laughed. "You do your homework in your head? How does that work?"

  "Eidetic memory," he answered. "I read the problems and then I've got them in my head, and I can just...think them through and come up with the answers."

  "What's--that thing you said...eidetic memory?"

  "It's what most people are thinking of when they talk about a photographic memory. My brain basically takes a snapshot of everything I read--math problems, physics equations, books, sheet music, schematics, whatever. If I look at something once, I can bring it up in my mind with perfect recall."

  "So that's why you're so damn smart?" I said, lifting the baskets from the fryers and shaking the grease out.

  He tilted his head side to side. "It's more of a...symptom of intelligence, you could say. The fact that I have an eidetic memory isn't the cause of my intelligence, but rather is more of a by-product of it." He grinned a little sheepishly. "You know, just...clinically speaking, I mean."

  "H
ey man, as wicked smart as you are, I think you get to be a little smug about it sometimes."

  He paused in the act of sliding a patty onto a bun. "Smug? You think I'm...smug?"

  His expression was so concerned I couldn't help laughing. "Dude, chill," I said. "No, you're not smug."

  He went back to plating the rest of the food. "I can't rely on raw intelligence. If the smartest person in the world is a lazy bum with no drive or ambition, nobody will ever have heard of him because he won't have ever accomplished a single thing. It's wasted potential. I'm not going to waste my potential. Doesn't matter what my IQ is or what my SAT score was if I'm not pushing myself. That's all useless horseshit if I don't actualize my potential and turn it into real world accomplishments. Working as a short order cook just keeps my body busy while I'm unable to sleep, and lets me earn money while my mind is busy doing other things. I solved an equation in my head while flipping burgers that my professor was stumped on for six months--and that's less a brag on my smarts than my efficient use of time."

  "I guess that makes sense," I said, feeling distinctly overwhelmed by my baby brother's intelligence.

  I knew for a fact all of my brothers felt the same way if they spent too much time around Xavier. The brute force of his intellect tended to dominate everything. His mind was never at rest, ever, and neither was he. Even while studying, he'd be doing something with his hands. I remembered watching him read a history textbook for class once while he was standing up at the kitchen table idly tinkering with bits and pieces of electronics and a laptop. He finished the entire textbook in a single two-hour session, and when he was finished he'd built a four-legged robot that would totter around like a drunk dog, then stop, tip forward on its forelegs, then keep walking around doing handstands. It didn't do anything other than that little trick, but it wasn't meant to. He'd stuck pieces together to keep his hands and the rest of his brain-space busy while reading, and the robot was what he'd ended up with as an accidental by-product.

  Honestly, it was hard not to feel a little inferior around him.

  When all the food was plated up, we carried all seven plates out together. The others had shoved a pair of tables together and were playing some crazy drinking game that involved playing cards, and a lot of shouting, and a bottle of Jameson that had been new and unopened less than half an hour ago and was now nearly half empty. I had a feeling my liquor overhead was about to go up exponentially.

 
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