Chapter 9

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"Your eyes..."

Reed looks over at Trip through puffy, red eyes. He attempts to smile as if he's not in such an emotional state.

"Did you cry yourself to sleep last night?" Trip questions as he relaxes his back against Gaze's purple home. "After I dropped you off?"

"Me?" Reed asks. "Shed a tear? Ridiculous."

"Over what?" Gaze asks.

"I'd never cry over a guy who doesn't love me," Reed denies as Trip and Gaze fail to believe him.

Trip snickers and glances over at Gaze who begins to speak, realizing the situation. "You know, you're single now and... so am I."

"And?" Reed asks. "Your point?"

Gaze looks down and tucks a purple streak of hair behind her ear. She digs her foot into the ground shyly and it weirds Trip out. He's not used to seeing her look so soft.

"She's probably saying that she wants to date you," Trip says for Gaze with a grin who turns to him with a scowl. Trip just shrugs, barely entertained by the conversation.

"My head still hurts from when you punched me," Reed says. "I don't think I could put up with such a brute force."

Trip laughs at that and it's one of the rare times that he does. Gaze glares at Trip and strikes him in the arm hard. He grasps the pain with his hand and curses.

"My point exactly," Reed says as he smiles at Trip who bites his lip.

"Whatever," Gaze huffs and folds her arms. "I'm not interested in you anyway."

"Right," Reed says and smiles.

The three then get started on their mission and it doesn't take them long to locate the stolen van and return it to its owner.

Trip returns to his apartment and sighs as he jumps onto his bed. He ponders on what to do with the rest of his day as he's already succumbed to boredom. Perhaps he'll travel down to the lake a few blocks from his home and take a swim. It's surely warm enough anyway.

Trip changes into his swim trunks and hangs his t-shirt around his neck as he slides on a pair of flip flops. He exits his apartment into the beaming sun and flips open his mailbox before embarking on his walk.

He sorts through a few envelopes until he finds one sent from his brother. It's fancy—the letter inside, and he slowly pulls it out as he reads it with no hint of emotion.

It's an invitation to Beck's sham wedding. He's offered a choice of two different dinners and he mindlessly checks off the option for chicken piccata. Despite how opposed he is to the arrangement, Trip decides to be there for Beck. Even if he thinks it's bogus.

Trip slips the letter back into the envelope to mail back to his brother. He considers writing a few ill-mannered words out of spite but eventually decides against it. As long as his brother is happy.

Which of course, he certainly isn't.

Anyway, Trip trudges down the narrow road, dragging his flip flops on the ground, and keeps his head lowered. He occasionally kicks rocks that fall in his path and they jump down the street.

He hears a curse escape the mouth of a boy and lifts his head. The boy with blonde hair stands at a mailbox with a letter in his hand.

Trip curses to himself upon discovering Reed and attempts to sneak away.

"Hey."

Trip looks up slowly and walks over to his teammate.

"Your brother," Reed says to him. "Must be out of his mind if he thinks I'm going to show my face at his wedding."

Trip looks down at Reed's hands and recognizes the fancy letter. He sighs.

"He invited you?" Trip asks.

"It must be a mistake," Reed says. "Unless he's trying to screw with me one last time."

"It's not that," Trip says, not believing the words himself.

"Right," Reed says. "I'd assume you're invited too."

Trip nods his head. "I chose the chicken piccata."

Reed laughs. "Good choice."

"You won't go?" Trip asks him.

Reed breathes out a long sigh and runs a hand through his hair. "The only reason I'd go would be for the booze— I mean the party."

"So you can come stumble over to my door afterward?" Trip asks.

Reed lightly shoves Trip's shoulder. "Of course."

Trip shakes his head and removes the t-shirt from his neck. He wipes it across his forehead as he's begun to sweat from the heat and Reed watches him.

"What's so great about my brother anyway?" Trip questions. "He seems like a douchebag to me."

"I ask myself that all the time," Reed says with a wide smile. "Perhaps I'm into pricks."

"Well," Trip says and hangs his shirt back around his neck. "You don't deserve that."

Reed grins. "You don't know that."

Trip shrugs his shoulders. "I'd suppose so."

Reed tightens his grip on the letter. "Where are you headed?"

"The lake," Trip answers.

"Good idea," Reed says. "Maybe I'll meet you there."

Trip narrows his eyes. "Why?"

"I need a release, Trip," Reed tells him. "The lake sounds like a good place for me to calm my thoughts."

Trip doesn't say anything and stares back at Reed who raises an eyebrow.

"What?" Reed asks.

"Does it hurt?" Trip inquires.

"Does what hurt?" Reed says.

"Love," Trip says.

Reed answers almost immediately.

"Like Hell."

Trip takes a step toward Reed and places a hand on his shoulder.

"Sorry."

Reed smiles. "It's alright."

"Don't you resent me?" Trip asks. "Considering I'm Beck's brother."

"Nah," Reed denies. "I don't even resent him."

"Why not?" Trip says. He doesn't understand the concept of love very well.

"Because," Reed starts. "I think everyone deserves a happy ending."

Trip remains quiet until Reed speaks up again, though softly.

"I hope Beck finds his someday."

———
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