Chapter 4

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Reed's footsteps cease and Trip cranes his neck as he rides his bike to see what had happened. He presses on the brakes and throws down his legs to steady himself on the ground.

"Beck is your brother?" Reed asks.

"Yeah," Trip says and narrows his eyes. "What of it?"

"You two don't look anything alike," Reed says.

"He looks more like our mother and I look more like our father," Trip explains. "It happens."

Reed sighs. "Are you headed home?"

Trip nods his head and points to a small apartment complex with broken windows and bricks. "I'm home."

Reed raises an eyebrow at Trip. "You don't live with Beck?"

Trip taps the kickstand out with his foot and sets his bike down in the rack. He locks it up and turns to Reed.

"How do you know?" Trip asks. "And why are you so curious about him?"

Reed realizes his mistake and plays it off with a grin. He just came from Beck's home and wonders why the brothers live separately. But he cannot make it known.

He also questions the difference in the lifestyles between the two. Beck seems very well-off while Trip lives a beat-down life. But why?

Grinning back at the mysterious boy, Reed shoves his hands into the pockets of his shorts and shrugs.

"I'm a curious person, Trip," Reed says. "And I want to learn more about my teammate."

Trip places his hand on the doorknob as he plans to head inside. The heat is taking a toll on him and he thirsts for a large cup of water.

"Whatever," Trip says. "I'm going in now."

Reed smiles. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow."

"You better mean that," Trip says. "Gaze was pretty angry that you didn't show up today."

"She's always angry," Reed says. "I'm not worried about it."

Trip shrugs his shoulders and turns his back to Reed. He climbs up the stairs until he reaches his door and pulls it open. The old door creaks loudly and he collapses on his bed as soon as he enters his room. It was the only piece of furniture in there anyway. He didn't have sufficient space for anything else.

He looks up at his ceiling and breathes out a long sigh of exhaustion. Despite his thirst, he lazily stays in bed and refuses to get up. The mission from this morning was difficult and it surely drained him.

Soon enough, Trip drifts off to the sleep he so desired.

———

He awakes the next morning, his afternoon nap lasting longer than he had planned, and he groans loudly. The boy is still tired and it baffles him. Of course, he rolls over to the side of his bed until he falls off and lays on the floor for a few minutes. Not to worry, though, his bed is only a mattress so the fall isn't much of a drop.

He heads over to the bathroom to complete his morning routine and once he's ready, he practically runs into his tiny kitchen and sorts through the cabinet, hunting for something to eat.

He finds a half-eaten bag of crackers and grabs a banana from off of the table before he heads out into another summer day. He chews on a cracker and begins to peel open his banana before he unlocks his bike and straddles it. He uses his legs to bring the bike out and finishes the few crackers he had left.

He remains seated on his bike until he finishes his banana and throws the peel into the dirt below him.

He attempts to move his bike backward more but his wheel doesn't move and he looks behind him.

A wide grin is plastered on Reed's face as he holds the back wheel of Trip's bike and Trip jumps in shock.

Reed laughs and Trip places a hand over his rapid-beating heart as he mutters, "Jesus."

"That's not where your peel goes," Reed says and Trip narrows his eyes.

"It's for the squirrels," Trip says and waves his hand, ushering Reed to the side so he can get his bike out.

Reed laughs. "Sure."

"I'm surprised you've decided to show up," Trip says.

Reed walks beside Trip as he slowly pedals his bike.

"Of course," Reed says. "Yesterday was a one time mistake."

"We'll see about that," Trip replies and begins to pedal faster.

"Hold up," Reed says as he begins to run faster. "Can't I get a ride?"

Trip presses down on his brakes and turns his head to the side to look at Reed.

"Buy your own bike," Trip says. "I worked months for this at a different job."

"Why buy one when I can share yours?" Reed asks and grins. Trip curses but lets the other boy stand on the bars.

They zoom through the small town until they reach a tiny purple home. It's odd and it stands out like a sore thumb but the owner of it is a teenage girl who doesn't care.

She walks outside of her home upon hearing Trip and Reed's voices sounding outside of it. She's short and has purple streaks in her brown hair and she purses her lips when she sees Reed.

She's still irked that Reed hadn't shown up to the mission yesterday and had to complete it with Trip instead. And so, she walks over to him as he slides off of Trip's bike. Unknowingly, Reed sticks out his hand to greet his new teammate and wears that same smile he always does.

However, she never takes the hand in her own. Instead, she shoots her fist out and punches Reed on top of his head. He instantly grasps it and curses at the hot-headed girl who reminds him of a particular pink-haired ninja from a show he watches.

"What was that for?" Reed asks while Trip begins to laugh. And he can't stop.

Reed doesn't stay angry for long though, because he takes one look at Trip's smiling face and cannot hold back one of his own.

"Well," Reed begins.

"Let's get started on this mission."

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