There are moments in your life that will be defining as all hell, but you won’t realize it while you’re in the middle of it. Later, you will be able to look back and analyze it and understand that this phrase was maybe not the best, and that gesture not the most well thought out. But not while you’re going through it. Never when it would do you any damn good to realize that you’re about to step off the proverbial cliff.
I’m friends with all the guys, but Trowa and I are particularly close. I think we just mesh on a level that the others don’t always understand. We’d come from similar backgrounds of… lack. Trowa understood my odd religious almost-belief, and I understood him when he had something important that didn’t need saying. Being raised by mercenaries had probably been fairly like being raised by the Sweepers. We just ‘got’ each other most of the time.
I’d been the one he’d told when Quatre had accepted their first date, and he’d been the one I’d told when I’d started taking night classes. I’d bought the beers when he and Quat had their first argument, and he’d sat with me in the rain the day my cat died.
We did things together that nobody else was really into. We both had this affinity for dirt bikes for instance, that usually left the other guys rolling their eyes. I suppose there was a little bit of the adrenaline junky in the both of us, but we just liked to go out and throw our butts around in the dirt, and that sort of thing is always more fun with a buddy. Quatre had tried to come with us once, but I was kind of glad that he never took to it, because Trowa didn’t seem the same with him around. Like he couldn’t loosen up quite as much.
Their relationship was still kind of shiny and new though, and I always chalked it up to Trowa not wanting to look foolish in front of his new love interest.
Too bad we hadn’t talked about that sort of thing more… might have saved things later, if I’d had a clue.
Now that I think about it, it was the dirt bikes that sort of caused that last big blow up. Trowa and I had been out on the trails while Quatre was taking care of some sort of Winner business. The three of us were supposed to meet up at Trowa’s place that evening and we were going to fire up the grill. Trowa has awesome grill powers. The things the man can do with a pork chop are obviously beyond normal mortal abilities.
We’d ended up packing it in a little early when I ran across a bit of wet ground where there should not have been wet ground. I had somehow managed to reverse the normal order of things, and had finished out the curve with the bike on top instead of the other way around. Scared the piss out of Trowa, and he’d insisted we were done for the day. Wouldn’t even let me help load up the bikes, but made me sit in the front of his truck and wait. By the time we got back to his place, I’d really started to stiffen up.
‘Damn it,’ I groaned at him when it came time to climb down from his monster of a truck. ‘I told you I should have kept moving.’
He just chuckled at me and came around to give me a hand. ‘You couldn’t have been moving during the drive back anyway,’ he informed me logically.
I eased down to the ground, letting him make it a little easier with a hand under my arm, and tried not to wince. ‘All right, all right,’ I capitulated. ‘But I’m thinking about half a bottle of aspirin before we started the trip might not have hurt anything.’
That got me a faint frown and I flashed him what I hoped was a reassuring smile. ‘Duo, let’s just get you inside where I can get a better look at your back.’
‘I’m fine,’ I told him, rolling my eyes and following him up the walk to the house. ‘Just a little stiff. It’ll work out in a couple of days.’
He snorted, unlocked the front door and held it open for me. ‘Stop trying to be such a tough guy and admit that you went three rounds with a hunk of metal twice your size… and lost.’
‘We both walked away,’ I chuckled. ‘I call it a draw.’
‘Just get the shirt off and lie down over here in the light,’ he sighed, turning on the lamp by the couch and opening the drapes wide for good measure.
‘Uh… love to,’ I had to confess. ‘But I’m not sure I can get my arms over my head.’
There was an exasperated sigh and then he was there helping me. ‘You are such an ass sometimes,’ he grumbled and I laughed around the groan of pain.
‘Yeah, but that’s why you love me,’ I quipped and he growled at me, getting just a little rough there at the last, getting the shirt off.
‘Just shut up and let me…’ he stopped himself with another one of those sighs, as he got a good look at me.
‘What?’ I wanted to know, trying to look over my own shoulder and failing.
‘Just lie down,’ he commanded. ‘I’ll be right back.’
‘Ah man!’ I complained to his retreating back. ‘I hate right back! Right back means medical supplies and icky stingy stuff.’
His chuckle floated back from the other room and that was all. I muttered something unflattering about mud and dirt bikes and sadistic best friends and finally managed to get myself prone. When he came back, I couldn’t help trying to look at what he had in his hands with some trepidation. ‘What are you going to do?’ I asked suspiciously.
He snorted and squatted down on the floor beside me. ‘Don’t be such a big baby,’ he said and I tried to glare, but you can’t really do that while lying down. Then something kind of cold probed at my back and I couldn’t help the flinch.
‘What was that?’ I demanded and he smacked my ass.
‘Hold still before I skewer you!’ he snapped and held a pair of tweezers in my line of sight with a piece of gravel clutched in them.
‘Oh,’ I muttered sheepishly, not even sure what I’d thought he’d been getting ready to do. It made me blush .
‘You know I wouldn’t hurt you,’ he chided and the blush went up a couple of notches.
‘Not unless there was an audience and a practical joke involved?’ I tried, but it was lame. He let me off the hook anyway, just dropping another chunk of gravel into the bowl he’d brought for the purpose.
It was quiet for a few minutes, while he hunched over me and carefully picked rock out of my hide. ‘I think I got it all,’ he informed me and then there was a faintly amused tone to his voice. ‘Now this next part is probably going to sting.’
‘Oh boy,’ I groused. ‘The icky stingy stuff part.’
It made him laugh and he gave my hair an affectionate ruffle. I’d have grumbled at him about it, but the braid was already a little bit messed up from the roll in the dirt anyway.
‘Take it like a man,’ he teased and then was swabbing my lower back with something that did indeed sting like a mother.
‘I take the big stuff like a man,’ I growled, squirming under his hands. ‘The small stuff, I get to act like a baby over!’
‘Almost done, baby,’ he chuckled and I heard him set the bottle of alcohol aside, then his hands were tracing gently up my back. ‘You got a pretty bad case of road rash here and here,’ he told me, mapping it out for me. ‘And a couple of places that look like they’re going to bruise like hell here, here and here.’ His touch was light, making sure not to hurt the places he was letting me know about. ‘And I think you already felt where all the extra holes are.’
‘Oh yeah,’ I agreed, pushing myself up on hands and knees and trying to stand up without actually flexing any of those ‘here and here’ spots he’d been talking about. ‘I’m pretty sure they’ll be stinging to remind me for the next couple of days.’
He slipped an arm around under my waist and bodily picked me up and set me on my feet, stepping back to eye me critically. ‘You didn’t hit your head, did you?’ he asked, frowning down at me suddenly, and I just blinked for a second.
‘No,’ I replied, thinking about it. My head hurt a little bit, but it didn’t feel like impact pain so much as the tension from a back that was tied up in knots. ‘Why… what’s the matter?’
He caught at my chin and turned my head toward the light, his frown toning down to uncertainty. ‘Your eyes looked… darker than normal there for a minute,’ he murmured, studying them, but then seemed satisfied. ‘Must have just been the light.’
‘I did have my helmet on,’ I pointed out, and began working my way back into my shirt while he picked up the medical supplies and put them away. I was still easing my arms into the notion that ‘up’ was a direction they could handle, when he came back. Laughing at me, he finished the job of tugging it into place for me. ‘Baby,’ he teased and I stuck out my tongue, playing the part.
Quatre arrived not long after that and we went about the business of having our cookout.
Later, I would understand how certain things had looked through a picture window without the words to go along with it. At the time, all I remember thinking was that Quatre must have had a bad day, because he was awfully quiet and didn’t really eat much.