Chapter 8

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Trip walks over to the pot of water that has now boiled and pours it into the cup of ramen as steam escapes atop it. He holds the cup in his hand and places it on the lone table in his kitchen that a drunken boy slumps at.

"It's late," Trip says, waiting for the three minutes required after pouring the water to pass. "What are you doing out?"

"Ha..." Reed breathes out as he watches Trip. "Whoever said romance is dead was right."

"What are you talking about?" Trip asks. "I didn't say anything about romance."

Reed slams a heavy hand on the table. "And you never should. It's twisted and unfair. It'll surely only bring you pain and heartbreak, Trip."

Trip sighs and peels back the lid on the ramen as more steam escapes.

"Did that guy," Trip starts as he points to his neck in reference to the hickeys that mark up Reed's, "Break up with you?"

"No," Reed says. "I'd been driving down a one-way street that finally came to an end. It was long, Trip. So very long."

"And?" Trip asks as he takes a bite of his ramen. "What was at the end of it?"

"Despair," Reed answers. "And loneliness too. But also a lot of anger."

"Then it's good that it's over," Trip says, wondering why he is entertaining the conversation.

"I loved him," Reed says softly. "And he only loved my body."

Trip finally sees where the conversation is headed and what must've happened to Reed.

"Reciprocation is an important thing in a relationship," Trip tells him. "At least I would assume so. And if the love isn't shared by both partners, why burden yourself through such a painful relationship that's destined to fail in the end?"

"Because," Reed says. "My mind lacks plausibility and thinks irrationally. I fell for a guy who couldn't and would never fall for me."

"Then give him up already," Trip says, slurping his ramen.

"It's easy to say that but hard to do," Reed says as he places his head on the table. "And to think I'm venting to his little brother of all people."

Trip releases his chopsticks and they float in the cup. "Beck?"

Reed breathes out but doesn't answer Trip's question.

"You're in love with Beck?" Trip asks.

"Unfortunately that seems to be the case," Reed answers, a smile tugging at his lips. "Your older brother is the one who held my heart in his hand and squeezed it until it broke."

"He's lousy when it comes to relationships," Trip says. "You know that. You see it with your own eyes. He'd rather spend the rest of his life with a woman he shares no bond with than marry someone he truly loves. Money has really warped his sense of reality."

"It just sucks," Reed says, his smile fading. "He's always in the back of my mind."

Trip finishes his ramen and sighs. "What're you going to do about it?"

Reed grins again and Trip doesn't understand how he can.

"Beats me."

———

After a few hours pass of the two watching a show on Reed's phone, he stands up and declares its time he heads home.

"You've overstayed your welcome," Trip tells him, though doesn't quite mean it. Part of him feels guilty on behalf of his brother's actions anyway and his hospitality attempts to make up for that fraction.

"Sorry," Reed says and places a hand on the back of his neck. "I didn't know who else to go to and I ended up here."

"It's fine," Trip says and walks Reed to the front door of the apartment. "But there's always Gaze. I'm sure she'd be all ears."

"I wouldn't doubt that," Reed says with a smile. "She's taken a liking to me."

"Lucky you," Trip says with a shrug.

Reed walks out of the door, still quite buzzed and loses his footing on the stairs. He grasps the railing quickly and Trip's arm is around his waist in a second, holding him up.

Trip releases him and Reed turns around, laughing.

"Thanks for that," Reed says. "I almost bashed in my beautiful face."

"Mhm," Trip mumbles. He knows Reed won't get home safely in the current condition he's in and curses.

Reed raises an eyebrow and stares back at Trip who makes his way over to him.

Trip then unlocks his bike from the rack and straddles it.

"Where are you going?" Reed asks. "Everything is closed."

"I'm bringing your sorry ass home," Trip says, a smile threatening to appear on his lips but he holds it back.

Reed flashes a wide grin at Trip and happily steps onto the bars and holds Trip's shoulders.

The cool summer night allows Reed to relax for a few moments of bliss as the wind from the bike ride blows his hair and he breathes in deeply before exhaling. Trip pedals slowly so as to not make the older fellow feel nauseous because he doesn't feel like cleaning vomit off of his clothes tonight.

Reed provides directions to his home every so often and slowly climbs off of Trip's bike upon arriving.

He stumbles a bit and reaches out a hand to which Trip grabs hold of his arm and pulls it to him. Reed falls into the shorter boy's chest and Trip softly pushes him off and steadies him.

"Jesus, you're still wasted," Trip says as he runs a hand through his dark hair that has become unruly due to the ride.

"Well yeah," Reed says. "I drank until I couldn't afford another beer."

"Maybe you shouldn't do that," Trip says. "Just a thought to keep in mind."

Reed digs his finger into Trip's chest, though not with too much force.

"You really do seem like the older one out of the two of us," Reed tells him. "It seems I've been relying on you lately."

"That's true," Trip says.

"I'll pay you back one day," Reed says as he unlocks the door to his home. "Get back safely now."

"Yeah," Trip says. "And don't think too much about my brother. He's a thing of the past. Focus on the present."

"You're wise beyond your years, Trip," Reed tells him. "I only hope you take your own advice as well."

"Of course. I'm not a fool."

———
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