Story:Brotherhood In Name Only

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Brotherhood In Name Only
Written by FinneganOtter


The shrill, high-pitched *ding* of an incoming text message echoed through the silent apartment, rousing Darion Baptiste from his sleep.

Cursing at himself for not silencing the phone the previous night, the tayra rolled over to pick it up, rubbing at his eyes as he squinted to read the message.

hey darion. still got a couple weeks til the season starts back up again. thought I’d come up to see you play a game or something

“Stephen?” Darion mumbled under his breath. “Okay then.”

yeah, sure thing. whenever.

btw it’s like 5:30 here and you woke me up. thanks

He put the phone back on the nightstand – making sure to silence it this time – and rolled back over.

- - - - -

“Your twin brother? Well, that’s pretty cool, right?”

Darion sighed as one of the Thrust’s assistant trainers, a young bobcat fresh out of college, taped up his ankle. “Yeah, kind of. I guess. We haven’t talked in a while, though. And I haven’t seen him in years.”

“Any particular, uh, reason for that?” The trainer stopped and rested a paw on the table.

“I mean, not really. He’s off doing his own thing. Our paths just don’t cross that much.”

“What’s he do again?”

“Pro soccer player, plays in Colombia.” Darion winced as he flexed the bothersome ankle he’d tweaked the night before. “He’s a goalie. Got called up to the national team and everything.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah.” Darion was silent for a few seconds. “We don’t have a ton in common, though. I guess I’m afraid it’ll just be awkward.”

“What do you mean?”

Darion sighed again. “I don’t know. Personalities, hobbies, all that stuff. He’s way different. And he’s usually the one who’s better at everything, even though he never tries that hard. For what that’s worth.”

“Sounds frustrating,” the trainer said in a distracted tone. “He at least, like, a nice guy?”

“Generally, yeah. We just kind of clash.”

“Hmm.” The bobcat finished taping up the ankle and shrugged. “Well, it’s only a day or two, right? Shouldn’t be that bad.”

“I guess.” Darion lowered himself off the training table. “I hope it goes well.”

“Me too, man.” The bobcat gestured towards Darion’s left ankle. “I hope the foot holds up, too. Good luck.”

- - - - -

hey man I talked to your team’s social media people and they gave me this awesome seat super close to the court. how cool is that

Darion rolled his eyes as he read the message. It was classic Stephen – he had to make his presence known and be the center of attention. Even back when they played youth soccer together, Stephen was always the loud, flamboyant one, flexing after big saves and getting into shouting matches with whoever was willing to jaw with him.

Now, of course, Stephen was trying to turn this little trip into a big deal too. He’d talked to the Thrust, gotten what Darion could only assumed was a front-row seat, and set himself up to attract as much attention – from the other fans, from Darion, from the rest of the team – as possible. Darion couldn’t think of anything that he wanted less.

cool. I’ll see you there.

Darion got to the arena a couple hours early, giving himself time to stretch and prepare himself physically and mentally. The locker room gradually filled up with his teammates and the coaching staff, chatting and joking as Darion sat in his locker, keeping to himself.

Soon enough, the team left the locker room for the pregame shootaround, exiting the tunnel to a hearty exhortation from the public address announcer.

“Please welcome to the floor……YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUR…………SAN JOSE THRUUUUUUUUUUST!!!”

The late-arriving crowd, not quite filling the arena, responded as best they could to the team coming out. Darion scanned the sidelines as he jogged past the Las Vegas players who had already started their warmup.

There he was – first row, right behind the San Jose bench. Even his physical appearance was attention-grabbing – dreads, a bright red jacket, jeans that Darion could only assume were designer, and a pristine pair of sneakers that matched the jacket perfectly.

“Dariooooooooon!” Stephen shouted, taking a step or two towards the court.

Darion gave his brother a courtesy wave as he picked up a ball. Within a few seconds, though, Stephen had made his way out onto the court itself and was trying to flag Darion down.

Darion got a couple strange looks from his teammates as he walked over to the sideline.

“Hey. Uh, thanks for coming. Nice seats.”

“Hell yeah. This is awesome.”

A photographer noticed the twins – Darion a bit taller, Stephen a bit thinner – and got their attention for a picture. Darion forced as genuine-looking of a smile as he could as the photog got off a few shots before scooting away.

“So these are your teammates,” Stephen said, gesturing towards the other Thrust players shooting. “Seem like a fun bunch.”

“Oh, you know it,” Darion fake-chuckled. “We have a great time.”

- - - - -

The game itself was unremarkable. Wildcards 98, Thrust 92. A few missed shots here, a couple turnovers there, and it was four in a row dropped for San Jose.

Darion ripped off his goggles in frustration as he walked into the locker room. It hadn’t been his finest hour on the court – four rebounds, sure, but just four points and a couple turnovers to boot.

Slowly, he got changed and collected his things. Waiting outside, a goofy smile on his face and what appeared to be a newly purchased Thrust jersey in his paws, was Stephen.

“Hey!” He put an arm around Darion’s shoulder. “You might have lost, but let me tell you, that was fun as hell.”

Darion pushed his arm off. “Yeah. Whatever.”

“Hey. Dude. Chill.” Stephen responded. “It’s just a game.”

Darion turned to face his brother. “No, Stephen, this is not just a game,” he sneered. “This is my job. This is my livelihood. It’s my dream.”

“I mean, I know, man,” Stephen offered. “You know I’m the same way.”

“No you’re not!” Darion shouted. “You’re not the same! Everything comes so easy to you. Even from way back when. You can goof off, you don’t always have to take everything seriously. You’re always partying or whatever and you’re still the third-best goalie in the country or whatever the hell you are. You don’t have to work as hard as I do.”

“Darion-”

“Why’d you even come here?” Darion gestured wildly as he spoke. “You have friends. You have a life. Why the hell did you come all the way to San Jose to watch your shitty twin brother lose a basketball game?”

“Darion. Chill the fuck out.”

“Don’t tell me to fucking chill! You’re the fucking golden child. You’re the fucking superstar. I don’t get to chill!” Darion planted his paws squarely into Stephen’s chest and shoved him into a wall.

Stephen shoved back. “Fine. I’ll fucking leave.” He took the jersey he had been holding and threw it at Darion. “I guess since you don’t want me here you don’t want me to keep this either, asshole.”

With that, Stephen turned and left.

Darion watched his brother walk away for a few seconds before redirecting his gaze to the jersey now balled up in his paws. He unfolded it and looked at the name and number.

Baptiste 55

- - - - -

Stephen,

I know nobody writes letters anymore. I think you know by this point, though, that the whole face-to-face thing isn’t my forte.

I’m sorry for everything. I was frustrated, I was angry, I was maybe a little jealous. And I snapped.

You didn’t deserve any of that. You just wanted to come and watch me play. You didn’t have any ulterior motive. That was just me, reading everything wrong.

It would be cool if you came again. I’ll be less of an asshole next time. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, though.

Maybe I’ll come down to Colombia. That would be fun.

I’m sending you the jersey that you bought. I’m sending a couple other jerseys, too. Thought you might want the full set – the home, the road, AND the alternate. I want you to have these. As a gift.

Again, I’m sorry.

Your brother,

Darion







Featured Characters

Darion Baptiste

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