Posted in Character Stories

Brothers

More vampires are popping up everywhere. We have to expand. I got permission from my contact in the mayor’s office to move the tunnels this way, but their help stopped at bulldozing the area.

There’s a thick layer of dust over my clothes. The space around me still looks more like a work in progress than anything akin to a home. I already moved newcomers into the last of the open rooms as well as my own quarters, so I either have to get this finished or resort to sleeping in the halls. 

Footsteps thud down the hall behind me. Seth got plenty of muscles in his change from human to something more, but he never learned to be discreet. I smile at that small fact as his footsteps get quieter in his attempt to sneak up on me. 

Not going to happen, brother. 

He slinks up the corridor behind me on the balls of his feet like he’s trying to stay balanced on a tightrope. Even so, his shoes scuff along the littered floor. Bits of concrete scatter at his every movement. He’s only a couple of feet behind me now. 

I pull the can of spray paint I’ve been using to mark off doorways from my pocket. Wait for it. Almost. Now. 

Spinning backwards, I hold the can at stomach height and press down on the nozzle. Seth stumbles backwards, the yellow paint marring his bare arms as well as the white shirt he’s wearing. I laugh out loud. The look of surprise on his face is definitely the best part of my whole day. 

When he’s finally caught his balance, he scowls at me. “This is brand new, dude.”

I shrug. “Stop trying to sneak up on me. You were supposed to be back by Friday.”

Mischief lights his blue eyes. “I picked up something on my way back, so you act like you appreciate me.”

I roll my eyes. “Your budget is for necessities, Seth. We don’t have extra money for gifts right now.”

“It’s free,” he insists, waving off my concerns as he turns back down the hall and lets out a sharp whistle. 

My heart sinks. He better not have brought home a dog. We cannot handle another stray situation. He gets too attached too soon and I just do not have a space down here for an animal. 

A dark mass comes out from behind the corner. Not a dog. “What’s wrong?” I ask immediately, my eyes taking in the heavily embroidered vest on my youngest brother in comparison to my filth and the paint covering Seth’s shirt. 

His hands in his pocket, he shrugs. “Can’t I just come and visit?”

“You don’t answer my calls.”

Hands in his pocket, he winces at my sharp words. “I’m not a big cell phone person, Gideon.”

I shake my head. “It’s been nineteen years since we’ve seen each other in person. What do you need?”

Seth drops a hand on my shoulder. “Take a deep breath, Gid. Ashby isn’t trying to get one over on you. Let’s have dinner tonight before you’re at each other’s throats.”

I glance around the wreckage in this area. I’m as drab as a nightingale next to the fine plumage of a peacock in comparison to the brother that has just arrived. Ashby looks like he just stepped out to walk the runway. He was always so concerned with his appearance. I haven’t seen him outside of a waistcoat in a lifetime. 

“I don’t have extra rooms,” I finally say. “If you want to stay, you’re going to have to help.”

I expect him to walk away. As much as he won’t say, he’s here for something and he has no intention of helping with the project that has overtaken the majority of my life. There’s plenty of hotels in this area. I’m sure a resourceful guy like him could figure it out. 

However, he undoes the cuff links at his wrists and rolls his white sleeves up to his elbows. “What exactly do you need from me?”

I share a confused glance with Seth. “We’re building the walls to the rooms in this corridor.”

We all stand together then in an awkward stall. It’s going to take a lot of work to change the dismal state of this area. I don’t think he actually intends to follow through and I don’t have time to deal with his emotional meltdown when dust and paint ruins his outfit. 

“Well, tell me what to do or give me a broom, so I can clear some of this muck.”

He’s serious. Okay. We’re doing this. 

So excited to have the family back together, Seth grabs him a broom, already making plans to grill steaks for dinner. 

.     .     .

Ashby didn’t waver. He swept the floors and held all of the wooden beams in place for Seth and I to hammer into place. Between the three of us, we’ve assembled all of the walls for the rooms. There’s no doors, but at least we won’t be sleeping in an open space together. 

Exhaustion pulls at my bones. I haven’t slept in two days since I started this project alone. As is, I already have to go borrow a shower from someone else. Then, I have to survive a dinner with both of my brothers.

Seth has drywall in his hair and a huge grin across his face. “We’re a great team, aren’t we?”

Ashby murmurs his agreement, his dark eyes flitting everywhere but in my general direction. There’s a nervous energy underlining his busy actions. I can’t question him about it without risking him running off on me again, so I stay quiet and give Seth the response he needs before directing them to available showers. 

I take the halls in the opposite direction from them, making my way for my previous room. It wasn’t anything fancy. The same four walls and a bathroom I give everyone else. I did have art on the walls, though, and shelves full of mementos from my long life. Everything is stuffed into a storage closet now. I’ll eventually find time to catch up on building and running this place and be able to remake my quarters. 

Pausing at my blue door, I raise my fist and knock twice. There’s no noise on the other side of the wall. There never is. With just under thirty vampires taking up space down here in my original plans, I made sure to soundproof the place, so we didn’t go mad from the close quarters and never ending noise. 

I could go somewhere else. Any of my occupants would be happy to let me use their shower, but I need to check on Connor anyway. It’s only been a few days since he got here. Seth picked him up in California and dropped him off here before he went back to his duties in the outside world, a job that did not include Ashby until today. 

I knock again. No answer. 

There aren’t locks on the doors here. There’s no point. They wouldn’t keep a vampire out. Connor’s probably asleep. I’ll just slip in and use his shower and then drag myself back out for dinner with my brothers. 

I slowly turn the knob and inch the door open. Connor is not asleep. He’s sitting on the floor with headphones over his ears and a glowing remote in his hands. Seymour is bent over the small television they’ve smuggled down here, trying to plug in cords as he rigs something I have definitely not approved. 

I clear my throat as the door shuts behind me. “Busy making renovations?”

Seymour jumps, knocking his head on the shelf he’s working under and scrambling to his feet. “Gideon. Hi. I didn’t realize you were doing room checks this week.”

Connor whirls to look up at me, carefully pulling his headphones and curving them around his neck. “Oh shit. Are we not supposed to do this?”

I have to work hard to suppress the smile pulling at my lips. “I’ve never made much time for television and virtual games. Will it help you feel more comfortable here?”

He nods immediately. “Feels a little more like home.”

Right. That’s the point of this whole project. I let my gaze move to Seymour.

“Do I want to know how many rooms you’ve updated?”

The older vampire shoots me a mischievous smirk. “Guess you should really start doing room checks.”

I shake my head. There’s enough on my plate. I trust my people. I’m not going to be their landlord and governess in this place. Most of them are adults by the time they make their way to me. They know how to make the right decisions and I’ll help them when things get messy. If they want televisions and video games, I’m not going to stand in the way of it. 

“I came by to see if I could borrow your shower, Connor?”

The large man pushes to his feet, tripping on the tangled bundle of cords as he scrambles to the other side of the room. “Of course, Sir. It’s right in here. I-.”

Seymour is the one to cut him off with a booming laugh. “This used to be his room, Con. I think he can find it.”

I step by the man while he struggles with that bit of information. Questions swirl in his light gaze. Another night I’d happy stay here to answer them all. Today, I slip by and shut the bathroom door. 

The water is running hot in a few moments. I peel off all of my clothes, raining drywall dust and other muck from our project onto the floor. I’ll come back tomorrow to clean it. Folding my clothes, I tuck them in the space between the toilet and the sink. I’ll come back for those, too. 

Stepping past the curtain, I let the hot water wash over me. Soap and shampoo follows. I’m clean too soon. Blowing out a breath, I stand under the hot water for few minutes, anything to relax and recoup before going back out to deal with my brothers. 

I didn’t bring any clothes with me, so I dry off and then tie the towel around my hips. Add this to the list of things I’ll bring back to Connor’s room tomorrow. Deep breath. I can walk down the hall to my storage closet and find a change of clothes and then manage to make it through the rest of the night with Seth and Ashby. 

My shoulders slump from the weight of that task. Seth isn’t the problem. He and I would have done this anyway. We were supposed to be together a few days ago to finish this task of building the new corridor. At no point did we discuss our youngest brother or the real reason he needs to come over. 

I’ll figure it out soon enough. The two of them have never been able to keep anything from me. 

With that in mind, I duck out of the bathroom, wish Seymour and Connor a good night, and then slip back into the hall. It’s a quick walk to the closet I’ve created to store my things. It’s odd that the door is cracked open, but not unusual. I don’t lock away my things and somebody new probably got lost looking for their room. There’s not much here anyway for someone to take. My life’s legacy is these grey, concrete walls. I don’t have much in the way of material items: a couple of outfits; all different t-shirts with grey sweats, a dresser full of important documents and my painting supplies, and stacks of notebooks and canvases that I’ve filled with pictures from my life. 

Closing the door as much as possible, I slip on a shirt and then let my towel drop long enough to pull on my pants. Dressed and as ready as possible, I move back along the halls to the kitchen Seth prefers, the scent of seasoned meats leading me there the entire way. 

I don’t expect to see Ashby actually helping cook, but that’s exactly what I find when I push the kitchen door open. My brothers are shoulder to shoulder, Seth taking up most of the small counter space by himself as he flips steaks on the stove and directs our youngest brother to cut vegetables for a salad. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ashby in a kitchen, not holding a knife or taking directions. He was catered to a lifetime ago when we weren’t superhuman and chose not to learn life skills after he became an adult, relying on money to solve most of his problems. 

This might actually be a good visit. “Is there anything you need me to do?” I ask as I step into the space behind them. 

Seth shoos me to the table. “Just sit. We have this completely under control.”

In another part of my life, I would have taken over and made them leave the cooking to me. I would have said something about how his burner is too hot and the seasonings are burning to the pan faster than they can adhere to the meat. Today, though, I do as he says and slump into the chair closest to the door. 

Ashby glances over his shoulder at me. “Thanks for letting me drop by,” he finally murmurs after an awkward thirty seconds of sustained eye contact. 

I tip my head to him. He knows he’s always welcome here. I don’t have to say it again. It doesn’t matter what kind of fights we get in or how many times he walks away, I’ll leave the door open. 

The kitchen is quiet besides the aggressive sizzling in Seth’s pan for a few moments before Ashby clears his throat. “Did you ever get into that art academy?”

Yes. There’s a handful of acceptance letters shoved into a drawer somewhere. I don’t have time for those types of things and I’ve had far longer to sharpen my skills than most candidates. It’s not really a fair submission. There’s no point in taking away a spot from someone who needs it more. Art is a hobby that has kept me grounded for forty years, but this place is my whole world and all that will matter about my life if I ever get taken out of it. 

“Seth told me you’re seeing a girl.”

Red creeps around his neckline. “Yeah, it’s pretty serious.”

I don’t push for more information. We’re not at that point in our relationship and he doesn’t really want my existential outlook on this kind of union. There’s no point in settling with someone he’ll eventually outlive. I wouldn’t be able to survive that kind of pain and I won’t wish it on him, but I can’t stop him from making his own choices. 

Seth gets busy plating dinner as I come up with a suitable response. “I’m happy for you, Ashby.”

He shoots me something like a real smile and then ducks away from my eyes as his hand brushes his chest pocket. Seth barrels to the table with his arms full of food, so I let that gesture go. I’m too tired to ask why my youngest brother is acting nervous. At this point, I’d rather it bite me in the ass another time. 

The plates barely hit the table before Seth is gobbling his portion. I throw a handful of napkins his way. “Come on. We’re family, not animals. Have some kind manners.”

He rolls his blue eyes at me. “You got it, Mom.”

I snort. It’s not the first time he’s made the joke. It won’t be the last. One of us had to grow up to take care of the others and our mother was an extraordinary woman. I don’t mind being reminded of her. 

We eat in relative silence after that, all of us more tired than we would like to admit after the afternoon of hard work. Afterwards, I let Seth pile the dishes into the sink with the promise that I’ll wash them tomorrow. There’s so many things I’m going to do tomorrow. 

I then set them up with a sleeping bag and spare pillow, letting them choose their room in our empty corridor. My eyes are too heavy to fight sleep. I’m out before I even crawl all the way into the makeshift bed. 

.     .     .

I’m still tired in the morning, but better than before. Crepes sound like a good idea. Mom has been on my mind all night and I want nothing more than to sit around the table one more time with my brothers and feed them something she would have cooked. I’m sure there’s fruit in somebody’s pantry. I can have it thrown together before either of them are up. 

I take a moment to peek into their rooms. My heart sinks when I find that not only Ashby, but Seth is gone, too. 

There’s only one reason they would sneak out before I even woke. 

I stagger to the closet where I keep my possessions and yank open the bottom drawer. There’s two things I have left of my Mom, of ma mére: a table that I have stored in a separate storage area and her wedding ring. 

The box is there in the drawer, but I already know I’m going to find it empty as I slide open the black lid. 

Ashby met a girl. He’s going to ask her to marry him. He came here to steal our mother’s ring. 

We’re brothers, but we’re not a part of each other’s lives. 

Practically a stranger I let sleep in here, he’s out there with a piece of our mom, ready to throw his heart into the hands of a mortal woman. 

No gods can save him now. There’s no magic to heal him when this goes wrong. 

I’ll be here, though. I sigh as I slide the empty box back into its spot and lean back on my knees. When this goes terribly wrong and she dies, I’ll still be here with my door open.

Author’s Note

This was a really fun prompt and definitely a great way to pick up the general vibe of these pieces after the sad story last week. It is an absolute blast to craft these blog pieces from different characters. I’ve imagined this story a hundred times through Ashby’s eyes, but it’s really a different feel through Gideon’s. Still, all of this takes place before the main timeline of my novels, so keep checking in here to see all the behind the scenes tidbits I’m releasing before my novels are in the ands of the public.

As always, thank you for making it to this part in the post. It absolutely makes my day anytime I get a view or a like on these stories and gives me the encouragement I need to come back next week and do it all again.

Please be sure to check out Bridgette’s story about an unexpected visitor:

We’ll see you guys next week 🙂

Author:

Married. Writer. Dreamer. I have some obsessions with the supernatural, so look out for the upcoming vampires and syrens and more.

3 thoughts on “Brothers

  1. Such an interesting look at these brothers and the relationship between them. I was sad when he took the ring and left without saying anything. It felt real-that strained kind of family connection where you know the person wants something from you but you try and make the best of the rare moment together anyway. You always leave me wanting more!

    Liked by 1 person

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