For The Very First Time

He knew something was wrong before he even opened his eyes.

First and foremost, Nick’s side hurt more than it had when he’d passed out. He’d been in agony then, and now that he had finally woken up, it seemed to only be worse. Aside from that, his head was killing him. He figured that perhaps he had been sleeping on his bad side for a few hours here and there, and it had just been seriously irritated by all the moving around, thus causing the headache. It seemed like a fairly roundabout explanation though, and he wasn’t betting on it at all.

He was still exhausted. He could hear birds chirping outside – had he slept all the way to the next day?

Well, blood loss will do that to a person, Nick. He reminded himself, rolling carefully onto his back. The pain in his side flared up much more than it should have with that sparse amount of movement. He was beginning to feel a fair amount of dread regarding his current physical state of being. He shifted slightly in discomfort, scowling up at his ceiling. It seemed like the pain was worse now that he was lying on his back.

Wincing with every motion, Nick propped himself up on his elbow and kicked the covers back. Immediately, the cool air from the rest of the room hit him like an arctic breeze and brought on an onslaught of shivering, which didn’t help the pain in either his side or his head. He gritted his teeth and did his best to control his trembling for the five seconds it would take him to check the status of his injury, and tugged his shirt up.

He did not like what he saw. It wasn’t as bad as it probably could have been, considering the unsanitary conditions of the bullet removal and stitching. But that did not for a moment mean that the wound itself was in perfect (or even good, really) shape. The skin surrounding the wound was stained a dark, ugly red, and it was swollen enough that the stitches had started to dig into his flesh. They would have to come out. He wouldn’t actually be surprised if he took out the stitches and a load of pus came spilling out of the wound.

He sat up further, flinching yet again as the pain flared up worse. With even the slightest bit of movement, an eruption of stabbing, searing pain shot through his side. He swung his legs out of bed, pushing down his body’s physical response to pain, and stood up. Immediately, vertigo washed over him, and he had to sit back down and wait for it to pass. His head pounded even harder than it had been, steadily working towards becoming an incapacitating migraine.

When he was finally able to stand up again, he noted with mild alarm that he was feeling worse and worse with every passing moment. He was sure if he had remained in bed, he wouldn’t be feeling quite so terrible. The fact that he was feeling progressively more awful indicated that his condition was worse than he had originally thought.

Nick wobbled his way down the hall, his face screwed up in pain. Walking was excruciating. He would have to try to avoid doing that in the coming days. The hall was quiet, and he didn’t hear any sounds coming from downstairs. Everyone was still retired to their separate bedrooms, it seemed.

He grabbed the scissors and rubbing alcohol out of the cabinet once he had made it to the bathroom. He felt a bit dizzy and fairly sick. He was probably a running a relatively high fever. He settled himself on the floor, leaning against the wall across from the door to the bathroom and took a moment to breathe and wait for the flares of pain in his side to die down.

Nick looked down at his hands, noting for the first time that they were trembling. He was going to have a hard time getting the stitches out without hurting himself with that amount of shaking. Perhaps he should call on someone to get them out for him. It’d certainly be easier than getting them out himself.

No, his brain immediately supplied. You can get them out. Just take your time.

He grabbed the scissors off the side of the tub where he’d left them and lifted up his shirt again. The wound was still sort of a nerve-wracking sight. He knew that if it got badly infected, he’d be dead. He’d need IV antibiotics and a hospital and a whole bunch of things that they just didn’t have access to anymore. He needed to take care of this quickly and he needed to be thorough.

He clenched his teeth as the tip of the scissors touched his skin, and he carefully started sliding one of the blades underneath one of the stitches. His left hand was clenched tightly as it held up his shirt. Just touching the wound was excruciating. He hadn’t realized how tender it was until this moment. If it was that sensitive, it had to be a lot worse than he had originally suspected. He cursed his failing luck and slowly closed the scissors on the stitch. It pulled and wouldn’t cut the first time, so he had to reopen the scissors and try again.

His eyes were watering. This was a lot worse than he had thought it would be.

Fuck,” he hissed, shutting the scissors again. It still wouldn’t cut. It had to be the angle he was holding them at, or they were just too dull. He couldn’t just rip the stitches out and he didn’t happen to have a knife on hand. He pulled the scissors back, flinching at the pain and jerking the cutting implement against the wound as a result. He let out a slew of quiet, muttered curses and yanked his hand back before he could do anymore damage to himself. The scissors rested on his thigh, his fingers curled around them, and he leaned his head back against the wall.

This was the worst.

He closed his eyes, inhaling shakily and waiting for the searing pain he’d caused to stop. He was going to need help with this, and it infuriated him.

No, you can do it yourself. Try again.

He let out a thin sound of discontentment and opened his eyes again, He slid the blade of the scissors back under the top stitch again and closed the blades around it. Once again, the suture twisted along the blade of the scissors and yanked on the wound, this time much harder. Nick clenched his teeth so hard he thought for a moment that they’d break, and slowly turned the scissors and squeezing harder on the stitch. It just wouldn’t cut. It had to be the angle he was trying to cut them at. It had to be.

He pulled the scissors back again, this time more roughly in his frustration. It only succeeded in yanking harder on the wound and he let out a thin sound of distress and dropped his hand to his thigh again. He let go of his shirt and leaned back again. The pain was making him feel more and more nauseous and his head was pounding so hard, it was close to blinding him.

He heard a soft sound, like rustling fabric and footsteps, and he opened his eyes. His stomach twisted as he took in the sight before him – Dal, dressed for bed, eyes wide in shock. Nick stared at him for a long time, watching as those bright green eyes (they aren’t as bright as they use to be) took in the scene in the bathroom. The scissors, the rubbing alcohol, the fact that Nick was sitting on the floor beside the bathtub.

“What did you do!? It was like Megan’s voice was echoing around in his head, even louder than it had been at the time of their last fight. He was amazed that she had been at all willing to help him remove that bullet after what he’d said to her. She had figured out that he had done something to chase Dal away, but she didn’t know what. He remembered how awful he’d felt, how terrible she’d made him feel.

He had almost forgotten about the whole incident. He’d only really looked at Dal for a short moment when he’d last been bleeding out in the bathroom. He hadn’t stopped to think about how he was going to talk to him again, if he was going to talk to him again. He hadn’t paused to imagine that Dal might or might not want anything further to do with him. He hadn’t thought of what to say, what to do, how to handle anything.

“You can’t just walk all over someone like that!”

The silence that stretched between them was growing to be awkward. Dal looked like he wanted to say or do something. He looked nervous, almost scared. He looked like he hadn’t slept well. Nick didn’t know what to do. He hadn’t expected to be confronted like this. He hadn’t expected the kid to just show up like a specter and make a face like that.

“Hey,” he finally greeted, his stomach twisting further. “Are your hands steady?”

His head was killing him. He watched as Dal slowly nodded. Nick lifted a hand and beckoned him over, and the kid nervously walked into the bathroom, fidgeting with his hands. Nick didn’t think he’d ever seen the kid express as much emotion as he was at that moment. Megan’s exercises must’ve been helping a lot more than Nick had realized.

“I need your help,” Nick said when the kid had crouched down beside his legs. “I need to take out these fucking stitches, but I can’t get the scissors to cut through them.”

Dal nodded mutely, didn’t offer any quizzical looks or anything. He looked dead serious, and the nervousness in his expression had faded. He seemed to understand that the situation was relatively urgent. That was a relief and a half. He handed over the scissors and lifted his shirt up again, watching as Dal took the scissors and moved to sit on his knees.

Nick watched, stiff with tension, and Dal carefully slid the scissors under the first stitch. From his angle, he was able to easily snip through the thread. He gingerly grabbed the end of the thread that had the knot on it and pulled it out. The sensation of the thread sliding out of his flesh was odd and painful at the same time. He clenched his teeth hard, not wanting to give Dal the impression that he was injuring the conman, lest he decide to stop out of nerves.

Dal didn’t even look up at his face, though. Instead, he moved immediately on to the next suture and did the same thing. It only took him about a minute to get all the threads out, and when he was done, he stood up and got a wash cloth and a small vial of something out of the cabinet. Nick watched him, exhausted from the pain in his head and side, as he poured some orange-yellow liquid on to the washcloth.

Oh, right, we have iodine. He blearily thought around his fatigue and the awful pounding in his head. Dal was pouring iodine onto the wound on his side, and he flinched at the coldness of the liquid. It made the pain flare up worse, and he couldn’t help the thin sound of pain he made. Dal still didn’t look up at him, following through with his task and pressing the iodine-soaked washcloth to the wound. He pressed down a little harder and Nick groaned, allowing his head to lean back against the wall and squeezing his eyes shut.

Nick was sure he passed out at some point. When he opened his eyes again, it was because Dal was shaking his shoulder gently. The light in the bathroom was bordering on blinding and he didn’t want to open his eyes, but he managed to lower his head and force his eyelids open anyway. He could feel the kid snaking an arm around his back and encouraging him to start the slow process of standing up and he really didn’t want to, but he allowed himself to be guided, occasionally grunting in pain. His side hurt a lot less, but his head felt like it would split open. He just couldn’t win.

He didn’t entirely remember the trip from the bathroom to his bedroom, but when he opened his eyes yet again, he was laying down and the throbbing in his skull was already starting to subside as a result. Dal was shaking his shoulder again, and Nick looked over at him, much more out of it than he felt he ought to be. He was definitely getting worse.

The kid was holding up a thick, pink pill, and he had no idea what it was at first. Probably penicillin, he eventually decided, and he took the pill from the kid and stuck it in his mouth. He accepted the glass of water that came next and swallowed down the medication. He then laid back in bed, sighing heavily. His eyes hurt less, which allowed him to open them the rest of the way.

Dal was staring at him, a strange look in his eyes. Nick didn’t know what to think of it, but he wasn’t sure he could think of much of anything at that point. The kid smiled awkwardly at him and turned away, and with a suddenness that sickened Nick and a surge of awful emotions, he wanted to apologize for chasing the kid away.

“Wait.”

Nick’s hand shot out and his fingers curled around Dal’s wrist, desperation swallowing him whole. He didn’t know what to say. And now that he had done something, he needed to say something. He couldn’t let the silence hang. He had to apologize. He wanted apologize. He was sorry for hurting the kid, he hadn’t meant to chase him away like that. He hadn’t thought he had meant that much to Dal. Nick didn’t meant that much to anyone.

The kid had frozen, and after a moment he slowly turned back around to face Nick. The conman didn’t let go of his hand. His words were so backed up in his throat, he didn’t think he would be able to say anything at all. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to do. How was he supposed to do this?

Where was Megan when he needed her?

“Dal…” He began, his throat tight and his heart hammering. It felt wrong somehow. He didn’t know why. He wanted to apologize, but he felt like… he felt like…

No. You can’t.

“If you won’t apologize, you stay away from him!

It was like everything was spiraling away from him. He didn’t understand why it felt like he was losing so much. It was just Dal. Just another human being. It wasn’t like he’d never lost anyone to his stupid personality defects before. It wasn’t like he’d never turned anyone away. It wasn’t like he’d never been turned away.

But for some reason, it felt like his whole world was slipping through his fingers.

“Just…” He trailed off into silence, and he felt sick. He had screwed up something that he had promised himself he wouldn’t screw up. And now that he’d ruined it, he couldn’t possibly even think to repair the damage. He didn’t want to ruin it again. He didn’t want to hurt Dal again. He hated himself for hurting the kid in the first place. He had promised he would protect him. He had made that promise, and what had come of it?

Dal would better off if Nick just stayed away.

Slowly, he released Dal’s wrist. The kid was staring at him, he knew, but he couldn’t look him in the eye. He couldn’t gaze into those bright green eyes and tell the lie. A shock of cold, awful realization spread through him, and it shined a light on the incredible worthlessness of his existence. It showed the depth of his selfishness for the first time. It showed him something he didn’t want to see, and he couldn’t close his mind to it.

“Never mind,” he finally spoke, voice quiet. “It’s nothing. Just… let Megan know that I’m sick.”

For the first time in his life, Nick was putting someone else first.

It wasn’t fair.

I miss him.

It wasn’t fair that Nick could make Dal feel better and worse in the same breath . It wasn’t fair that Nick could do something as simple as grab his wrist to stop him from leaving right away and leave Dal with a stuttering heart and gasping lungs. He felt physically ill (not as ill as Nick). He had already been struck by thoughts he hadn’t wanted to hear from when he’d walked in on the conman in the bathroom. Nick hadn’t helped by acting meek and not finishing his sentences.

The bastard.

Part of his brain was happy that he had gotten a chance to interact with Nick again. The rest of him was having a nervous breakdown. There was the section that was flipping out because he’d drudged up every single awful thought he’d been repressing and it was filling him with more misery with every passing second (I’m sorry I didn’t mean to get sick). Then there was a piece that was melting down like a nuclear reactor over the Nick’s wellbeing (its not really fair that you’re allowed to get sick and I don’t get to be mad at you for it). The guy was sick. His wound was infected. Dal still didn’t know who had shot the conman (I’ll rip them to bits). It was nerve-wracking to not know.

Nick was so good to me for such a long time.

He tried not to think about all the ways that he was an awful human being ( I still don’t know what makes you think you have any right to even think about getting Nick to forgive you you’re nothing but a selfish piece of …). He tried not to think about the fact that Nick’s anger towards him was justified (I’m sorry). He tried not to think that maybe Nick was over it, that maybe he would come back and he and Dal could pick up where they had left off. He tried not to think of every bad thing he’d ever done to upset Nick. He tried not to think of the things he had done that hadn’t been bad but had still upset Nick (I’m sorry).

There were so many things he was trying not to think about, it would’ve left his head emptier a barren wasteland if he could’ve succeeded. He couldn’t contain the thoughts that were racing through his head. He couldn’t still his mind and forget about everything like he had been doing before. Ellis had cracked the dam, but Nick had broken it into a thousand pieces and he’d done it so easily, it was infuriating. Nick had taken down the massive, powerful, football-field thick dam that Dal had been using to hold back the things he didn’t want to think about, and he hadn’t even been trying.

All he’d had to do was change his mind about saying something. All he had to do was touch Dal, to grab his wrist and hold him back from leaving. All he’d had to do was ask for Dal’s help. And the dam was down now, and there was no hope of building it back up. His head was full of a storm of thoughts and he was trapped helplessly in the eye of the hurricane. The only thing he could do at this point was hold the emotions back.

If he could control those, he’d be fine. He was sure of it. Sort of.

He heard the sound of movement from upstairs, shortly followed by a door opening. Judging by the soft creak it made, it was Ellis. Dal wasn’t sure if he was still mad at Ellis. He knew he didn’t want to converse with the hick very much, and he knew he didn’t want to make himself vulnerable for the guy again.

He looked up as Ellis came meandering down the stairs, looking around and spotting Dal posted on the couch. He waved with a small smile, and Dal waved back. He then reached over to his speech board, figuring he might as well tell Ellis about Nick’s current condition.

Nick is sick,” he typed. “His wound is infected and I think he has a fever. He’s sleeping right now.

Ellis had halted at the bottom of the steps, and Dal looked over in time to see his blue eyes widening. The hick stepped over to the sitting area and sat in the armchair that Megan usually occupied (mom used to sit there all the time). He looked very thoughtful for a moment, and Dal awaited his reply.

The guy didn’t seem like the thoughtful type. When Dal had first met Ellis, the guy had been jolly and overexcited and he’d been surprised when he’d seen that Dal was wearing his hat. Then, with a few gestures, Ellis had been the one to decode his message – Nick is waiting for you at the last safe room. Dal had thought he’d seemed sort of stupid, but as time wore on, he’d learned that Ellis was naive like most people who grew up with little adversity. But that didn’t mean he was stupid or thoughtless.

It meant that his better qualities hadn’t been dulled or obscured by tragedy in his life. It meant that he was compassionate and considerate. It meant that he was honest and trustworthy.

It meant that he was overly helpful and sort of annoying at times.

“Man,” Ellis said slowly, “Should I wake up Meg, d’ya’ think?”

Dal thought for a moment before replying, “I don’t think so. I’ll tell her when she comes downstairs.

The brunette nodded, reaching up and tousling his hair, “Sounds like a plan. I’m gonna go make some breakfast. D’ya’ want some eggs?”

There was a pause as Dal considered that. He wasn’t really hungry. His encounter with Nick had left him feeling rather sick and the feeling hadn’t subsided (stupid Nick). So, he shook his head. Ellis nodded, looking only slightly disappointed, and headed into the kitchen. Once again, Dal was left alone with the speech board and his thoughts.

He concentrated hard on the sound of Ellis banging around in the kitchen. He wasn’t really banging around – it was obvious he was trying to be quiet, but Ellis was the kind of person who couldn’t truly be quiet. He just had a loud vibe. It wasn’t really something he could help.

The sound of sizzling eggs had just started to make itself known when he heard another door open. Only a moment later, Megan came down the stairs, looking less awake than Ellis had. She didn’t even notice Dal at first, walking into the kitchen. Dal heard the familiar sounds of coffee being made alongside the sound of Ellis’ cooking, and he waited. She would come back out into the living room soon enough.

Sure enough, Megan came back out of the kitchen and spotted him. She smiled tiredly and sat down (that’s mom’s chair), yawning widely. Dal briefly considered waiting until she’d started drinking her coffee before divulging Nick’s condition to her. In the end, he decided it’d be best to just tell her as soon as possible.

Nick’s sick,” he typed on the speech board. Megan blinked at looked over at him, brows furrowing in confusion.

“What? How? Why?”

His wound got infected. I helped him get the stitches out. He has a fever. I gave him penicillin and washed out the wound with iodine.” Dal returned on the board. Megan looked worried immediately.

“How infected was it? Was there pus?”

Yea, but not a whole ton,” was his answer. “It was mostly just red and swollen.

She nodded, silent for a moment. “We’ll have to keep a really close eye on that. It could kill him if it gets really bad.”

Dal nodded, deciding that he didn’t really have to say anything else on the subject.

“Meg, coffee’s done!” Ellis called from the kitchen. Megan looked over at Dal, smiling slightly before getting up and heading into the kitchen again. Dal didn’t stick around. He headed back upstairs, taking his board with him, and went into his room. The door remained open at all times, because he couldn’t stand being alone behind a closed door. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle it even if there was someone in the room with him.

Being behind closed doors by himself reminded him too much of home. It reminded him of his mom (you’re a wretched beast for not caring), and how she would drag him upstairs, lock him in his room, and leave him there for days on end. As he got older, the time he would spend locked in his room went from a few hours to several days at a time (she must’ve had a reason for escalating it like that). He had started squirreling food away in his room (disgusting), because whenever she would come in and he’d still be alive, she’d look disgusted and slightly enraged. He’d gotten the feeling she’d been trying to kill him.

She definitely wanted you to die in there. You have every right to be happy she’s dead.

I’m not happy she’s dead.

You’re a terrible liar.

Dal lifted up his mattress, reaching into the hole he’d made in the boxspring of his bed and pulling out a granola bar. He felt nothing but shame for hiding food in his room like this. He just couldn’t help it. He needed to have that security. He knew Nick and Megan and Ellis would never lock him in his room, and he knew that his mom was… was…

Nope.

But he needed to have that feeling of security. He ate in silence, one hand doing exercises while the other held the granola bar. It stirred in his stomach, and he almost felt like he’d be sick, but it passed within a few minutes. Dal leaned his head against the wall, switching hands with his exercises and sighing.

He sat in that corner of his room for what seemed like a very long time, drifting around in his own head. Whenever he caught himself drifting towards places he didn’t want to be, he’d pinch himself and concentrate as hard as he could on the sensation of pain. He’d try to describe it in his own head – sharp, throbbing, acute – and that seemed to help some. It certainly distracted him from those other thoughts.

You’re nothing but a mistake.

All he had to do was concentrate on other things. All he had to do was think about something else. Find something else to think about. Name every object in the room.

Lamp, desk chair, computer, clothes, pillow, blankets, pillow-top mattress, boxspring, frame, photographs, mirror, computer mouse, keyboard, monitor, closet, book shelf…

He knew it probably wasn’t healthy to be so deep in emotional denial, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want to feel it. He didn’t want to experience it. He just wanted it all to go away and leave him alone. He didn’t want to remember that his mom was dead. He wanted to be able to close his eyes without seeing her bloody, battered corpse. He didn’t want to think about Nick hating him anymore. He wanted to be able to still his mind without having to fend off bitter memories that he couldn’t look at with fondness anymore.

Be still, be still, be still, be still…

“Hey, Dal?”

He didn’t know what to think.

Megan had told him before he’d left the house that she was going to talk to Dal by herself. He’d been accepting of the idea at the time, but now that he was thinking about it, he was wondering if he had made a mistake. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Megan. That wasn’t it at all. It was simply that he was worried that Megan wouldn’t know when to back out and leave Dal alone. The kid had shut down extremely fast when Ellis had spoken to him, and he didn’t know if Megan would be willing to leave the room if Dal did that again. He didn’t know if the redhead would give up and leave, or if she’d try to make Dal cope with his problems the way she wanted him to.

Ellis was beginning to think that it would be best if they just left Dal alone. Eventually, the kid would have a breakdown, but that was what the rest of them were there for. To help one another. If Dal went to pieces, he would still have Ellis and Megan to be there for him. Maybe Nick would even come around in such a time of need.

The brunette didn’t know what had gone on between Dal and Nick. All he knew was that Dal had assisted Nick in his wound care and gotten him back to bed. He didn’t know if Nick had said anything to Dal, he didn’t know if Nick had given any clues as to how he was feeling towards Dal, he didn’t know if Nick had been grumpy the whole time… he just didn’t know how that whole scenario had played out. Dal hadn’t told any of the juicy details to him or Megan.

The kid hadn’t seemed very upset when Ellis had seen him earlier. He’d looked tired and pretty out of it, but that was it. The hick was guessing that Dal hadn’t been getting much sleep lately. It made perfect sense to Ellis. After all, Dal’s mother had been murdered right in front of him. Ellis wouldn’t have been able to sleep after that either. Especially considering that it wasn’t just a broken neck that had done her in – she’d likely been butchered alive.

He dodged around a car that had been sitting in the middle of the road and pulled over in front of the pharmacy. He wanted to get more iodine and penicillin for Nick while he was out. They could probably stand to have some stronger painkillers in the house, too. Glass crunched under his boots as he walked into the building, scattered all over the floor from whenever the windows of the storefront had been shattered.

He clambered over the counter to the pharmacy, searching through the alphabetized drugs for the items he needed. The penicillin was easy to find once he recalled that it was probably labeled as amoxicillin. Finding painkillers was significantly more difficult. He wasn’t well-versed in strong painkillers. He couldn’t quite recall the name of the ones they used to give Keith whenever he broke a bone (which seemed to happen at least twice a year). He knew it started with a “v.” Vi… Viva… Vicious… Visine… Vito… He couldn’t remember.

He headed over to the appropriate part of the shelving units, searching through the medications that started with “v.” Eventually he was sure he’d recognize one of the labels. And, sure enough, within a few minutes he spotted a bottle labeled “Vicodin.” It was the same medication he’d been given when he’d had his wisdom teeth taken out. He grabbed two bottles of the stuff and shoved them into his pockets with the amoxicillin and made his way back out of the pharmacy. It didn’t take him very long to find the iodine – which he grabbed a dozen bottles of – and soon enough he was back in the car.

He sincerely hoped he wasn’t going to return home after he was done at Walmart and find that Dal had murdered Megan or something. He just didn’t think she would be willing to stop at Dal’s boundary line. He didn’t think she’d know when to quit. It usually took a bit of doing to get Megan to drop a topic, unless it was something she didn’t want to talk about. Knowing her, she’d keep at it unless some outside force came in and made her quit. Ellis didn’t know if Nick would do that while Ellis was out of the house.

He just didn’t know what to think about Nick at this point. So far as Ellis knew, Nick hadn’t apologized to Dal, but he had interacted with him civilly. Ellis supposed that counted as progress, but he didn’t know if it actually meant anything. For all he knew, Nick had been sick enough that he hadn’t been quite himself, and had thus been willing to accept anyone’s help at that point. For all he knew, Nick had just been being nice so that Dal would help him.

Nick ought to know that Dal would be willing to jump off a seven story building for him, even now. It was both depressing and sort of infuriating that he didn’t. Ellis was sure that Nick didn’t realize just how much he meant to Dal. He was sure that Nick didn’t understand the depth of Dal’s emotional dependence on him. He would actually be willing to bet that Nick didn’t know what emotionally dependent even meant, or what it looked like. The only reason Ellis knew about it was because Megan had told him.

Megan and he usually spent a bit of time talking in the living room after dinner. He’d learned a bit about her thanks to that, and he’d taken the knowledge to heart. She brought up the fact that she was a control freak rather frequently, and it had led Ellis to imagine that she had been told that a lot when she’d been younger.

He didn’t think for a second that she was proud to be a control freak, and it was becoming steadily obvious that her controlling behavior was going to become a huge problem between her and Nick in the future. It wasn’t that he had no faith in her; it was that he was sure she wouldn’t think of herself as “trying to make Nick behave like an upstanding citizen.” She’d probably just think she was helping him grow as person.

Right up until he punched her, of course.

And then there was Dal. Ellis had been the one to bring up talking to the kid about Nick and his mom, but now he was sorely regretting it. Megan had now taken it into her head that she was going to get Dal to talk about his feelings and cry on someone’s shoulder. Only she probably couldn’t. Ellis had tried, and he’d gotten absolutely nowhere. He didn’t think that his method was at the level of an ex-cognitive therapist like Megan, but he doubted that mattered. Dal didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to feel anything regarding it. He was so completely ignoring the whole thing that Ellis found it positively amazing. He didn’t think he could ignore something that completely when it was constantly staring him in the face.

He wished he could accurately predict whether or not he would have to step between Megan and Dal to prevent the latter from becoming violent with the former. Dal didn’t have a violent streak like Nick did, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t hit someone when provoked far enough. He’d only seen Dal angry less than a handful of times, and of those few times, he’d only seen the kid throw a punch once – and that blow had been directed at a wall instead of Nick’s face.

Dal was an immoveable object, and while Megan wasn’t an unstoppable force, she was certainly stubborn enough to be close. Ellis was sure that, whatever the outcome was, it wouldn’t be pretty. He knew that Dal would never hit Megan on purpose – especially because of how strong he knew he was – but he also knew that even the kid had an end to his fuse.

He would just have to try and get home before things got ugly.

Next Chapter

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