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A Brother's Story

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2020

Parker tried to focus on completing his math homework, but the erratic noise coming from the television made it incredibly difficult to concentrate on calculus. 

 

“Tony,” Parker hissed, grasping his pencil with white knuckles. “Do you mind?” He turned away from the kitchen table and glared at the back of Tony’s head. 

 

His cousin shrugged from his reclined position on the couch. His feet were propped up against the armrest while his head rested on their grandmother’s handknit pillow. Tony twirled the TV remote in his hand, no doubt with a smug grin on his face. “Nope. You’re not bothering me at all.”

 

Parker groaned. He never wanted to be at Uncle Arthur and Aunt Elise’s house because his cousin would always get like this: annoying, idiotic, and a real pain. But he had not been given a choice in the matter. When his mother had picked him up from high school today, she drove straight to her sister’s home to drop Parker and his baby sister, Megan, off. His mom and Aunt Elise were going to the mall for a “girl’s day,” as Aunt Elise was going to have her baby soon. And as the oldest child in the group, the respectable age of fifteen, Parker was assigned as the babysitter for the day. 

 

Running a hand down his face, Parker grumbled,  “I’m trying to do my homework here.”

 

Tony paused his show and sat up enough to meet his cousin’s glower over the top of the couch. “Yeah, so?”

 

“So, can you please turn down the volume? It’s impossible to concentrate while you’re watching...whatever that is.” Parker made a face at the screen. Tony appeared to be watching a show about a group of teenagers getting stranded on a deserted island, and his cousin just happened to pause the episode right when the group was hunting a boar for food. One of the teens had his spear poised to fling at the unsuspecting boar. 

 

Tony nodded. “Of course, dude. No problem. Why didn’t you just say so?”

 

Parker felt his shoulders relax. Finally, Tony was finally cooperative. Maybe maturity was finally starting to take effect in the boy. However, just as he resumed his math problem, the episode started to play again. This time, the volume had been cranked up so loud, the speakers were shaking. The kitchen table rumbled. And no doubt, his mother and Aunt Elise heard the noise from upstairs.

 

“Tony!” Parker yelled, his hands flying to cover his ears.

 

Parker watched as Tony howled with laughter, obviously pleased with himself. 

 

Parker felt his face grow warm. He leaped up from his seat at the table and vaulted over the couch, attacking his cousin. The boys wrestled for control over the remote. Parker slapped Tony across the face. Tony elbowed his cousin in the gut. Parker kicked Tony’s leg. 

 

“That’s ENOUGH!” Parker’s mother shouted, coming down the stairs from the house’s second floor with a wide-awake Megan on her hip. Aunt Elise followed right behind her.

 

Immediately, the boys broke away from the brawl. The TV remote dropped to the ground. While Parker’s mom stopped at the bottom of the stairs, Aunt Elise strode into the living room. She huffed, looking down on the remote, and placed a hand on her very pregnant belly. 

“Tony,” she said.

 

Tony instinctively moved forward and picked the remote up from the floor. He handed it to his mother without a word. She switched the tv off and turned back to face the fighters.

 

“Must you boys always fight each other?” she asked in her soft voice that bordered on being a Disney princess. “Can’t you just get along?”

 

Parker’s mother had a different approach. She strode forward, Megan bouncing on her hip, and pointed an accusatory finger at the boys. “Boys! You know you need to keep the volume down on the tv.”

 

“But Mom,” Parker said, stepping toward her, “it’s not my fault! Tony started it.”

 

His mother held up a hand, silencing him. His baby sister watched their mother’s hand movement and mimicked it, holding up a tiny, pudgy hand at Parker too. She giggled as Parker’s mother retorted, “I don’t care who started it. You both are in trouble for fighting.” 

 

Parker bowed his head, giving his younger cousin a side-eye. He hated that he was thrown in with Tony’s lot all the time. Whenever Tony “forgot” to take his shoes off and tracked mud through the living room, Parker was blamed for not reminding him to take off his shoes. Whenever Tony “forgot” to rinse his dirty dishes and place them in the dishwasher, Parker got reprimanded for causing a ruckus trying to prove his innocence instead of tidying the dishes for his cousin. And Parker was always criticized for not checking on his baby cousin when Tony “forgot” to do so. All Tony had to do was check the monitor to make sure she didn’t need anything, but he couldn’t possibly bring himself to do that. Even though he was only thirteen months older, Parker felt as if a canyon of maturity stretched between them. He didn’t understand why his cousin felt the need to break all of the rules. Why couldn’t Tony just be normal like him and do what he was told and work on his homework in peace?

 

Aunt Elise shook her head as she rubbed her stomach. “When will you boys learn that you’re each other’s best friend?”

 

Tony and Parker looked at each other, both completely disgusted by the notion. 

 

Parker’s mom sighed, leveling a disappointed stare at her son. “Parker, you know better than to let Tony’s taunts get to you.”

 

“But, Mom, I wasn’t even watching the tv. I was doing my homework. Honest!”

 

“That may be, but you have to remember that you’re the older one. You need to treat your cousin with more respect.”

 

Tony nodded. “Yeah, cuz. Respect me.”

 

Parker moved to punch him. Tony flinched. 

 

Parker grinned and dropped his arm. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

 

Aunt Elise sighed as she breezed past the group, heading for the kitchen. She sucked in a sharp breath as she grabbed the car keys from a wrack hanging by the garage door. “Beth, I just don’t know when they’ll finally get along. I’d hoped it’d be when they’re both in high school…”

 

Parker’s mom shrugged, following her sister and leaving the boys in the living room. “You would think maturity would play a factor,” Beth said as she placed a comforting hand on her sister’s shoulder, acting like Tony and Parker weren’t still in the room. “That they’ll reach a certain age and finally be friendly toward each other. Guess that won’t be soon.”

 

Parker rolled his eyes. There she went again. For as long as he could remember, Parker’s mother was always going on and on about how he needed to be nicer to Tony because he was his only “brother.” Because Tony was an only child (up until thirteen months ago, so was Parker), Aunt Elise and Parker’s mother decided that the boys should always see each other every week. Then, they could play together and become the “best of friends.” Parker and Tony would be “brothers.”

 

And for a while, her plan had worked. Tony and Parker had been like brothers back when they were both in elementary school. However, when Parker got to middle school, he became more concerned about his grades than keeping Tony entertained. When Tony realized he wasn’t Parker’s priority anymore, he became an annoying nuisance, trying everything he could to mess with his cousin, like purposely turning up the volume on the tv set.

 

Tony crossed his arms and said, “I’d rather eat my shoe.”

 

Parker rolled his eyes as he turned back to the kitchen table. “Whatever. I still have homework to do.”

 

Tony huffed and went to collect the remote from his mother. But before he could, Aunt Elise suddenly doubled over. 

 

“Mom!” Tony exclaimed, his worried eyes raking over his mother. “What’s wrong?”

 

Parker’s mother raced to Aunt Elise’s side, quickly taking Megan back into her arms. “Is it time?”

Aunt Elise nodded, her forehead glistening with sweat. A strained smile broke across her face. “I think so, or it could just be braxton hicks contractions. Well, there goes ‘girl’s day,’ huh?”

 

Parker’s mom nodded. “Afraid so. Whether you’re really in labor or not, you need to go to the hospital and make sure everything's okay.”

 

Tony reached for his mom before he dropped his arms back to his side. “What? How can I help?” He looked over his shoulder at Parker who stood frozen next to his seat at the table.

Parker’s wide eyes could only stare at his aunt as she strode out of the kitchen, car keys in hand, toward the front door. 

 

“You’ll need to stay here with Parker, okay?” Aunt Elise answered.

 

“Stay here? Shouldn’t I come with you? Be there when my baby brother is born?” Tony offered, following his mother around the island counter. 

 

Aunt Elise shook her head. “I really think this is just false labor, Tony. You don’t need to come with me to the hospital for that.”

 

“But Parker got to be there when Megan was born!”

 

“Yes, I know,” Aunt Elise stopped next to the front door, turning back around to face her worried son. “But I need you to stay here. Please? Parker is going to need your help.”

 

“My help? With what?”

 

Parker’s mom stepped up to Parker and held out his baby sister. “Here, Parker,” she said.

 

Snapping back to attention, Parker shakily took Megan in his arms. “What am I supposed to do with this?” Parker asked, incredulous, as he struggled to hold Megan properly. 

 

His mother answered, “You and Tony will need to take care of Megan until I get back from the hospital.” She sprinted up the staircase before Parker could protest.

 

“Wait, you get to go?” Tony called after her.

 

“But Mom, I’ve never watched Megan alone before!” Parker shouted.

 

Aunt Elise’s face tightened from the pain and she took in a deep, sharp breath. “Wow, these Braxton hicks contractions are no joke.” She met her son’s anxious gaze. “Don’t worry. This will be good practice for you so you'll be able to help your father and me when the baby does come.”

 

Parker couldn’t help but notice how pained his cousin looked. He could tell that Tony desperately wanted to go with his mom to the hospital, but she was asking him to stay here. But there was something else in his expression Parker couldn’t quite figure out. 

Before he could think about it longer, his mother raced down the stairs and into the foyer with a packed duffle bag in hand. As she passed Parker to help her sister, she kissed her son on his head. 

 

“It’s only for a couple of hours,” she told him, placing her bag down next to Megan’s diaper bag. She bent forward to pull on her shoes. “I just need to take Aunt Elise to the hospital and then, once Uncle Arthur arrives, I’ll come back to take over with Megan. Alright?”

 

“If Aunt Elise only needs a chauffeur, I can take her,” Parker insisted, gently holding Megan’s hand as she yanked on his hair. 

His mother shook her head. “No way are you driving. You only have your permit.”

 

“Plus,” Aunt Elise interjected, squinting at her phone screen. “I would prefer my sister to drive me. Arthur’s gonna be a bit as he’s currently driving all the way from Springfield.”

 

Parker’s mother nodded in agreement, accidentally grabbing both the duffle bag and baby bag. “Be good, boys!”

Parker sprung forward, waving an arm. “Wait, Mom! You have the--”

 

Before he could say any more, the front door had clanged shut with a resounding thud, leaving Parker and Tony alone in the house with Parker’s baby sister without any of the proper supplies they needed to take care of her.

 

For a moment, all was quiet in the house. Parker and Tony glanced at each other with mirrored expressions of shock and fear.

 

Then, Megan started crying.

 

Parker jumped and held Megan out away from him. “What happened?” he shouted over her screams.

 

Tony covered his ears, dramatically shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t know! She was fine just a moment ago! You must’ve done something.”

 

“I didn’t do anything!”

 

“Exactly! You should’ve known not to do nothing.”

 

“That doesn’t even make any sense!”

 

“Yes, it does!”

 

Parker rolled his eyes as he carefully ran back into the kitchen with a wailing Megan in his arms. “Okay, us screaming at each other isn’t going to solve anything.” He set Megan down in her high chair next to the kitchen table. The baby thrashed her arms around.

 

Tony followed his cousin, looking toward the stairs. “You’re right. So, you got this, and I’m just gonna go--”

 

“Oh no, you don’t!” Parker reached out and yanked Tony back by his shirt. “You’re not going to disappear upstairs and leave me alone.”

 

Tony swatted Parker’s hand away, glowering up at his cousin. “Well, she’s your sister. Plus, you’re the older and more responsible one. You don’t need me to help you.”

 

“But without the diaper bag, I--”

 

Megan screeched from her high chair, pounding on her tray with tiny fists.

 

Parker raked his hands through his hair, completely afraid of the current situation. He had watched Megan by himself before. He has fed her and changed her whenever his parents needed a break or a nap, but this situation wasn’t like the previous times. Now, he was trapped in a house with only his annoying cousin and baby sister without any of the proper tools he needed to take care of Megan. Sure, Aunt Elise and Uncle Arthur were expecting a baby, but they hadn’t bought all of the necessary things like diapers, towelettes, or baby food yet. Aunt Elise wasn’t due for another month. 

 

Parker sighed, trying to set his pride aside for the moment. He needed to take care of his baby sister, but he knew that he wasn't going to be able to do it alone. “Look, like your mom said, helping me take care of my sister may better prepare you to help take care of your baby brother. You’re excited to meet him, right? That’s why you wanted to go with Aunt Elise just now?”

 

Tony stared at his feet, his face turning a little red. He scratched the back of his hand, nodding reluctantly. “I guess.” 

 

Parker continued, “So, would you please help me to take care of Megan? I can’t take care of her without some backup.” Parker extended his hand to Tony.

 

Tony eyed Parker’s hand, skeptical. But after one look at his sister, he shook it. “Fine, I’ll help.”

 

Parker nodded and turned to face the wailing infant. “Alright. First things first. What does she want?”

 

Tony shrugged, eyeing the crying infant like she was a complex puzzle in need of solving. “Maybe she’s hungry?”

 

Parker made his way to the kitchen’s pantry. When he opened the door, he immediately became overwhelmed by all of the cans of sauce, lunch snacks, and cereals piled high on the shelves. His eyes scanned all of the treats lining the shelves, but nothing immediately jumped out at him, proclaiming that this is good for a baby to consume. “Do you have anything that would be good for a baby?”

 

Parker stuck his head out of the pantry to look at his cousin. He watched as Tony placed his hands over Megan’s tiny fists, trying to keep the baby from toppling over in her high-chair. 

 

“I don’t know,” Tony answered. “I know we have things like Cheerios and bananas. Would that be good for her?” 

 

Parker nodded. “Yeah! That definitely works.”

 

Parker could’ve sworn he saw a hesitant smile flash across Parker’s face. “Alright,” he said, directing his cousin. “You grab the banana and I’ll get the Cheerios.”

 

Parker dove back into the pantry and rummaged through the cereals until he found the beat-up box of Cheerios. He raced to the cupboard and grabbed a plastic baby bowl from the bottom shelf. When he turned around, he saw Tony holding a peeled banana to Megan’s mouth. The baby squirmed in her seat, avoiding the giant fruit.

 

“Dude! No!” Parker barked, snatching the banana from Tony’s hand.

 

“What?”

 

“You have to cut the banana into slices. She’s not just gonna chomp off a piece of banana.”

 

“Well, how was I supposed to know that?”

 

Parker shook his head and held the Cheerios and plastic bowl out to Tony. He needed to keep his anger under control. Whether he liked it or not, Tony wasn’t the enemy here. “Right. I’m...sorry. Just pour this into the bowl for her, alright?”

 

Tony grabbed the box and bowl, annoyed. “Fine.”

 

Parker nodded and walked around the kitchen island to the utensil drawer. As he started slicing the banana onto a paper towel, he watched Tony place the bowl of Cheerios in front of the still-crying Megan. 

 

“Megs, it’s Cheerios! You like Cheerios! Right? Yeah, of course, you do.” He smiled and picked up one of the Cheerios. He threw it up in the air and caught it in his mouth. “Ta-da!”

 

Megan finally stopped her wails, and actually giggled at her cousin’s trick. She reached a pudgy hand into the bowl and took a small handful of the cereal. She threw it at her face and missed every single one. She let out an elated squeal as her brother applauded her. 

 

Parker couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face. “Not bad.”

 

Tony grinned, proud of himself. “Yeah? I’m an awesome babysitter, aren’t I?”

 

“I wouldn’t go that far just yet,” Parker replied, bringing the banana slices over to Megan’s tray on the paper towel. “You just went from an F to maybe a D average.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes. “Wow, what praise.”

 

Megan disregarded the rest of her cereal in favor of the banana slices as she gobbled each one down. When the banana slices were gone, she looked to Tony then Parker. 

 

Tony whispered, “You think she wants more?”

 

Parker shrugged. “Beats me. Why is she looking at us like that?”

 

Megan’s small face was scrunched together and turning red. She sucked in a breath and concentrated.

 

“I don’t know,” Tony answered, stepping to his sister’s side. He picked up the bowl of leftover cereal and held it under her nose. “You want this, Megs?” 

 

Then, Megan’s face relaxed and her natural color returned to her cheeks. She grinned up at Tony and held out her arms. 

 

Parker waved a hand, signaling for his cousin to pick up the baby. “Well?”

 

“Well, what?” Tony asked.

 

 

“She wants you to pick her up.”

 

Tony made an “oh” shape with his mouth. But just as he leaned forward to take her in his arms, he sprung away, gagging. He covered his nose with one hand and waved the air with his other. “Oh, man!”

 

“What?” Parker asked, surprised.

 

“She reeks!” Tony yelled, pointing an accusatory finger at his sister.

 

Megan beamed.

 

Parker put a hand to his forehead. “You mean to tell me that those banana slices went right through her?”

 

“Dude, I can’t even look at her right now.” 

 

Parker stepped closer and immediately caught a whiff of Megan’s stench. He reeled back in horror. 

 

“Well, now I know she’s inherited your awful stench. The poor baby,” Tony joked.

 

“Hey, don’t get too cocky. She’s related  to you too!”

 

“Not when she smells like that.” Tony came up to Parker’s side and held a hand out toward the baby as if he was warding off an evil spirit.

“Now what? Should we just try to put her down for a nap?”

Parker shook his head. “We can’t just leave her to stew in that.”

 

“You want to change her?!”

 

“We have to.”

 

Tony backed away. “Then, that’s a ‘you’ problem.”

 

Parker grabbed his cousin’s arm and dragged him back into the kitchen. “No, we agreed that we’re in this mess together.” He turned to face the grinning Megan, a baby bomb ready to explode at any given moment. “You have to learn how to change a diaper at some time, right?”

 

Tony nodded solemnly. “I guess, but what are we gonna use? Your mom took the diaper bag with her.”

 

“I know. We’ll just have to improvise with what we got.” Parker clapped his hands, reaching to take his sister in his arms. “So, I’ll grab the baby while you prepare a place for her on the kitchen counter.”

 

“Like what?” Tony asked, heading around the island.

 

“I don’t know. Just something safe and comfortable for her,” Parker responded as he crept forward. He took a deep breath and picked his baby sister up from her high chair. She smiled up at him as she reached again for his hair.

 

When he turned around, Parker saw that Tony had pulled out a wok from his mother’s kitchenware and placed several kitchen towels inside. He waved a hand toward his setup. “Good?”

 

Parker begrudgingly nodded. “Sure, but remind me to never let you cook stir-fry.”

 

Tony rolled his eyes as he helped his cousin set little Megan in the towels. She looked up at them with curious eyes. 

 

“Okay, Tony, strip her.”

 

Tony grimaced as he reached toward his sister. “Alright, Megs. I’m just gonna slip this right off of you--”

 

As he peeled off Megan’s diaper from under her dress, the foul odor unleashed a new wave of torture. Both boys ducked away, groaning. Parker gagged, tasting his lunch for the second time that day. 

 

Tony was the first to recover. He snatched the soiled diaper and threw in the first container he found. He sealed it inside a lunch Tupperware box on the counter and smacked the lid shut. 

 

Parker watched him with judging eyes. “Oh yeah, good thinking, Tony. Keep it fresh.”

 

Tony waved a hand. “Hey, don’t judge me yet. This will be a good present to leave for our moms to find. That’ll teach them not to leave with the diaper bag.”

 

Parker rolled his eyes but decided against mentioning that his mom only took the baby bag by accident. “Okay, now we need to clean her,” he said instead. He glanced at the kitchen sink. “So, I guess you can hold her up and I’ll use the sink’s hose to wash her.”

 

“We’re going to give her a bath? We can’t just…use toilet paper?”

 

“We ran out of Charmin and I don’t think it’s safe to use single-ply. It could hurt her, so we’ll just have to...wash her off, you know?”

 

Parker sighed. “Fine. I don’t have any better ideas.”

 

Tony nodded and picked up his sister. 

 

Parker took the sink’s hose in one hand and turned the faucet on with the other. Water gushed out of the hose in a forceful stream, lacing the title floor with water.

 

“You’re missing! You’re missing!” Tony shouted. 

 

Megan giggled with glee at the chaos.

 

“Sorry!” Parker shouted, slamming his hand down on the faucet. The water stopped instantly and both boys let out a sigh of relief.

 

“Just so you know, you made the mess, so you’re the one who’s going to clean that up,” Tony said, eyeing a particularly large puddle by Megan’s highchair. 

 

Parker nodded.  “Yeah, yeah. I know.”

 

He turned the hose down into the sink’s basin and turned down the water pressure until it was a calm trickle. Tony held Megan up over the sink.

 

“Now what?” Tony asked.

 

“I guess I just… spray her bottom?” Parker suggested.

 

“Just until the…residue is off.”

 

Parker held the sink’s hose over the baby’s bottom and let the water stream down, cleaning her off. 

 

Parker glanced at Tony from the corner of his eye. His cousin had all of his attention focused on holding Parker’s sister over the sink, his forehead furrowed. He was watching Megan like she was the most delicate thing he’d ever been trusted to care for, and he didn’t want to hurt her. At that moment, Parker realized that for the first time ever, Tony was actually concerned for her. Just thirty minutes ago, his cousin had been acting like a jerk, blaring the sound from his tv show while Parker had tried in vain to complete his homework. Now, Tony looked like he was capable of caring for someone other than himself. Parker didn’t know what to feel about this startling revelation. 

 

When they’d cleaned off the residue, Parker turned off the water. Tony gingerly set Megan back down in the wok. She reached out her hands to Tony, asking to be picked up again.

 

“What will we use to dry her?” Parker asked, looking around the kitchen.

 

“Well, there’s a floor fan in the guest room. Air dry?” Tony offered.

 

Parker rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah, we’ll use that, then.”

 

Tony nodded and picked Megan up from the towel-strewn wok. Parker took both of her legs in each hand and together, the boys carefully moved the baby into the guest room down the hall. 

 

Parker flipped on the fan’s switch, and Tony slowly swung his baby cousin to and fro in front of the whirring fan. 

 

The baby didn’t look like she minded the unorthodox way her brother and cousin were using to change her diaper. In fact, she appeared as though she was actually enjoying the strange change of pace.

 

Tony laughed at the baby’s content expression. “You know, I’m starting to think she likes us.”

 

Parker snorted. “Well, duh. We’re her family after all.”

 

“Yeah, but I’m her favorite because I’m her cousin.”

 

“Sure, you are.”

 

“No really, she told me herself."

“Get over yourself.”

 

The boys shook with silent laughter. Once Megan was dry, the unusual trio returned to the kitchen, looking for something to wrap her in.

 

Parker spotted the paper towels. “The towels!” He then proceeded to unroll a wasteful amount of paper out on the counter. When the paper was laid out, Tony and Parker carefully rolled Megan down the line, wrapping her up like they were rerolling an empty tube of toilet paper. 

 

By the end, Megan was swaddled in a huge supply of paper towels, looking at her caretakers like they were the most fascinating things she had ever laid eyes on. 

 

Parker slung an arm over his cousin’s shoulders. “We’re not bad babysitters, are we?”

 

Tony shook his head, looking pleased with their handiwork. “I’d say we’re the best.”

 

As they stood back admiring their handiwork, Megan stretched back and leaned into a big yawn. As she brought up a hand to rub her eye, Parker reached forward and swept his sister into his arms. She leaned into his hug, resting her head against his shoulder. 

 

“Looks like she’s ready for her nap,” Parker said, heading toward the stairs.

 

Tony followed right behind. “That makes two of us. Who knew taking care of a baby was so much work?”

 

At the top of the stairs, the boys turned into the in-progress nursery. The soft pastel blues of the room created a soft, calming atmosphere. While the room was still bare, there was thankfully a small crib set up in the corner, ready to go.

Parker carefully set Megan down on her pink, knitted blanket. At once, the baby closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. 

 

Tony watched the baby with a soft smile. Parker wondered what his cousin must be thinking. Did Tony wish that he had someone closer to his age or did he appreciate this chance to prepare for his future baby sibling?

 

He didn’t dwell on the thought too long, though, because Tony shook his head and shuffled out of the room, motioning for Parker to follow him. Once Parker exited the nursery, Tony carefully closed the door behind them, making sure not to make a sound.

 

With Megan down for the count and nothing else for the boys to do, Parker and Tony stood in the hallway, motionless. Parker didn’t know what to do. What should he say to break the silence? Should he even say anything at all?

 

Tony walked away, heading back down the stairs. “I guess I can now help Mom and Dad when the other one arrives, huh?”

 

Parker, surprised that his cousin was still talking to him, hobbled down the stairs after Tony. “For sure, dude.”

 

Tony stood next to the couch at the bottom of the stairs, staring at the TV remote in his hands. “Thank you,” he whispered.

 

Parker slipped on the last step, completely shocked by his cousin’s words. He, fortunately, managed to steady himself before falling flat on his face. “What?”

 

Tony cast him an annoyed glance. “You heard me.”

 

Parker shrugged. “I don’t think I did. I must’ve hallucinated because no way did you just say--”

 

“Thank you,” Tony said, louder.

 

Parker scratched the back of his neck. “For what?”

 

“For forcing me to help you with Megan.”

 

“You’re welcome?”

 

Tony groaned. “Dude, don’t make me spell it out.”

 

“Spell what out?”

 

Tony groaned again, obviously irritated. “For this afternoon, okay? For trusting me enough to help you with your sister and for… not being a jerk for once.”

 

It took Parker a moment, but when he finally realized what Tony was thanking him for, he couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. He stepped forward and playfully punched Tony in the arm. “You’re welcome. It’s not all bad to be a big brother, huh?”

 

Tony rolled his eyes but returned Parker’s friendly punch. “Yeah, whatever.”

 

Parker glanced at the clock hanging next to the tv. His mother wouldn’t be home for another hour. “Well, we have some time to kill before my mom gets back. Maybe, if you want, we can watch that show of yours.”

 

Tony’s head snapped up to look at his cousin. “Really? You’ll watch Teen Survivors? Don’t you have homework to do?”

 

Parker nodded, grabbing the TV remote and switching the tv on. “Yeah, but it can wait. You’ll have to catch me up on everything and make sure the volume is low enough that it doesn’t wake Megan.”

 

Tony beamed as he sat down on the couch, excited to share the show with Parker. “Yeah, of course!”

 

Parker settled into the armchair next to the couch, watching more of his cousin than the show. His cousin wasn’t that big of an idiot after all. Maybe he would even make for a good brother too.

 

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