And The Fox Declared to the Hound…

Tuesday, September 17th

Tuesday, September 17th

I’ve been arguing with myself over going to breakfast for the past 20 minutes. I don’t know if I can face Julie and Scooter after standing them up last night and I sure as hell can’t face Adam. Not with all these thoughts screaming through my head. How am I supposed to act around him? How can I get through a conversation with him without the image of that damned little tube popping into my head? How on Earth am I supposed to think straight around him? A bitter chuckle escapes me. No pun intended. I bury my head in my hands and groan. I can’t do this. I just can’t. He’s the best friend I’ve had since Connie and I just can’t face him. What am I supposed to do?

In the end my grumbling stomach decides the matter for me. I need to get something to eat. As for what I’ll do when I get there… I just don’t know.

I finish putting food on my tray and start looking around the lunchroom for my usual table. Ah—there they are. Adam, Julie, Scooter… and Dean and Fulton?? Since when do they come down to breakfast? A moment after I see them, they spot me. Fulton gets half up out of his seat, a worried frown on his face, when he sees me hesitating. That does it. I can’t face all of them at once. No way. No how. I frantically search the immediate area for someone else to sit with. My eyes land on Charlie—huh? Why is he sitting all by himself?

I turn and walk towards him. He looks surprised when I put my tray down on his table and mildly ask if I can join him. He nods, still looking confused. I just smile and start eating. After all, I can’t let my Captain sit alone, can I? And whatever’s up, he’ll tell me if he wants to. If not… well, at least I’ve wormed my way out of that awkward situation with Adam and Fulton.

After a few minutes of silence, Charlie finally breaks, “So what are you doing over here? Don’t you usually sit with them?” He jerks his head in the direction of Adam and Julie’s table.

I shrug, “Who said these seating arrangements were set in stone? I saw you sitting all by yourself, so I thought you might want some company.”

He smiles. Even to my eyes that smile looks a little bitter, “I appreciate it. Linda and I… we had a fight last night. She didn’t want to talk to me after that.” He looks around the cafeteria and sighs, “I guess she didn’t come to breakfast. That seems to be standard procedure when you break up with someone around here.”

I can’t help my indrawn breath. It’s only been a few weeks since my own break-up and I have to admit that that one hurt. But what hurts even more is that I remember thinking that I couldn’t confide in Charlie because he was involved in a happy relationship with the girl of his dreams… and I didn’t want that shoved in my face. Talk about a guilt trip. I put a hand on his shoulder and grip it tightly, “I’m sorry, man. But, hey… one fight doesn’t always end a relationship. Especially not if you really care for each other. Don’t give up until you’re sure it’s really over.”

He shakes my hand off, “Somehow, coming from you, that’s a little hard to take, Guy. Maybe you should have listened to your own advice.”

I stare at him, not quite comprehending what he just said. It takes a little while for it to penetrate. Oh… I see. From his perspective, that’s probably exactly what it looks like I did. Gave up on the girl I really cared about after the first bump in the road. That isn’t what really happened, but since I haven’t been talking to him, he has no way of knowing that. The one thing I do understand, though, is why he felt the need to say it. I start gathering up my belongings as I speak, my voice quiet, “You’re upset. Believe it or not, I get that. You’re lashing out at me because I’m a convenient target. I get that, too. But your situation and mine are a little different and you know it. When you’re ready to talk without biting my head off, you know where to find me.”

I toss my bookbag over my shoulder, dump my tray in the nearest garbage, and head outside. I can feel Charlie’s eyes on me as I leave. I bet I can even predict what he’s feeling—guilt, remorse, and a vague sense of satisfaction for having been able to get rid of some of the pain. For his sake, I hope I’m right. He and Linda were a pretty solid item, so unless he did something really stupid, I’ll bet they can still fix it. At least I hope they can.

I hear the sound of running footsteps behind me and turn to look. I wouldn’t have thought that Charlie would come after me that—that’s not Charlie. That’s Adam. Oh damn, oh damn, oh damn. I look around frantically for somewhere to hide, but I was heading straight across the middle of the quad to get to my class and there’s nowhere to go. I brace myself to talk to the last person on Earth I want to face.

When Adam reaches me, he gives me a slightly unsure smile, “We missed you last night. You feeling OK?”

I shrug, trying to fight the blush that’s creeping it’s way up my neck, “I’m sorry I didn’t call you. That Chemistry homework was a little harder than I thought it would be.” At his concerned look, I can feel my cheeks start to heat up. With any luck he’ll assume it’s because I’m embarrassed about having trouble with my homework.

His smile firms. Oh good, one thing going in my favor this week… He throws an arm around my shoulders as we start walking again, “No harm done. You missed a good movie, though.” All I can do is shrug in response. I know I missed a good movie. I’ve been wanting to see MI:2 since the first previews came out. Now I’ll have to go alone or wait until it’s out on video. Damn.

Adam takes pity on me, as usual, and changes the subject, “So how’s our brave Captain doing? Charlie looked kinda down…”

His tone is teasing, but I can hear the concern underneath. He and Charlie were once best friends, after all. They do still care about each other, but the rift between them is wide enough that they can’t show it openly. Not for the first time, I feel a sudden desire to bash their heads together for their stubbornness. I move out from under his arm and shrug, “He and Linda had a fight.”

He winces in sympathy, “There seems to be a case of that going around…” Almost immediately after the words come out of his mouth, he freezes, eyes wide, “I am so sorry, Guy. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded…”

I just shake my head. What’s that method the shrinks use for getting you over phobias? Just immerse you in what you’re afraid of over and over again until you develop immunity? Maybe it works for emotional trauma, too. This time that didn’t hurt so much. Maybe that should worry me… “No sweat, Adam. I was thinking the same thing. I guess I’m starting to get over it a little.”

That earns me a genuine smile and another arm around my shoulders—this time with companionable squeeze. For the first time, I notice how often Adam does that, puts an arm around my shoulders, pats my back, grips my arm… he’s always touching me. He’s never been that touchy-feely with anyone else. So, what gives? Great. One more mystery to throw onto the pile. Maybe I should have a bonfire and torch them all.

The rest of the walk to class is in silence, and a very uncomfortable one on my part. I’m so confused, I don’t even know which end is up anymore. The worst part is… sometimes I don’t even think I care.

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