A few weeks later I went to see Alex and Caleb. I hadn’t seen them in forever, since work and Sarah’s abuse had kind of been taking over my life, and I tried to ignore the fact that I was kind of beaten up. Alex let me in and Caleb jump hugged me, making me flinch a little. I knew Alex noticed it but he kept quiet and I hugged Caleb back.
"So what brings you here?" Caleb asked and I shrugged.
"Just thought I'd come see you two"
Alex smiled. "S'good to see you" he said and I smiled back. “We missed you”
"I missed you too. I've just been busy with work and Sarah and the kids, y'know?"
"Yeah. How's it going with Sarah these days?"
"Good" I smiled faintly. "I hope the ginger's not been causing you any trouble"
"Hey" Caleb pouted.
"Well, the kitchen looks like a bomb went off because someone wanted cookies, but y'know, he'll clean it up," Alex said, smiling at Caleb, "Won't you?" he said and Caleb pouted. "Why don't you bring some of them out? I could do with one after witnessing the mess in there"
Caleb kept up the pout, going off to get his cookies.
"So, uh, what's with the beaten up look, Hadley?" Alex asked.
"Hm? Oh, nothing"
"Get in a fight lately?" he asked and I shook my head. "Seriously Hadley, you've worried me. You went totally silent for weeks and suddenly you turn up without warning, looking like someone's done quite a number on you. I just wanna make sure everything's okay."
"I'm fine, seriously" I said, smiling when he still seemed kind of worried.
I was kind of taken aback when Alex wrapped me in a hug. See, Alex doesn’t exactly do touchy feely stuff very often. I hugged back, taking advantage of it while I could.
"I'm here to talk to if you need it, y'know" Alex said.
Alex pulled back, clearing his throat a little, and Caleb returned with the cookies. Alex smiled up at him, taking one when he was offered it. Caleb ate his own with a glass of milk and I sort of nibbled at mine, not all that hungry. The three of us chatted away, and Caleb accidentally made me flinch a few times. Alex did his best to stop Caleb from doing it, but Caleb didn’t seem to understand what he was doing wrong. Alex did his best to gently explain that I was flinching because Caleb was being to hyper or something, and Caleb looked up at him innocently.
"It's not your fault, ginger, don't worry about it. Just try not to be so bouncy, 'kay?" Alex said, kissing the top of Caleb’s head.
He played with Caleb’s hair as the ginger sulked a little, shoving another cookie in his mouth.
"Though, Bunny's free to tell us what's made him so jumpy" Alex added.
"It's nothing" I said and Alex looked at me. “What?”
He shrugged. "I just want to know what's going on"
"Nothing's going on"
"Then what's got you so jumpy?"
I was well aware of the fact that he didn’t believe me, and I nibbled at my cookie a little more. Alex dropped the questioning and Caleb put on a cartoon like he used to do whenever he felt left out. The three of us all watched whatever it was Caleb had put on and I nibbled at my cookie again, debating telling them about Sarah. Alex looked at me again when Caleb made me flinch again.
"What?" I asked.
"You're keeping something from us and usually I'd respect that, but it's really bugging me. What's going on?" he asked and I looked down, embarrassed. “Hadley?”
I let out a tiny sigh and stood up. Caleb was still staring at his cartoons and he looked up at Alex innocently when they were switched off.
"He can keep watching, it's fine" I said, wanting to go into a different room so Caleb didn’t hear anyway.
Alex sort of hesitated before putting them back on, following me out into the kitchen, where I all but smacked my head against the wall.
Alex hugged me from behind. "Now tell me what's up"
"Is she the one that beat the crap out of you?"
"Yeah" I sighed.
I shrugged. "Something pissed her off and she took it out on me"
"Does she do that a lot?" he asked and I nodded. "Told anyone else?" he asked and I shook my head. "You should let someone else know. Like the domestic violence helpline kinda people. I mean I'm happy to go beat the crap out of her for hurting you, but I'm guessing you won't want that" he said, smiling faintly.
"Not really" I said and he nodded, playing with my hair when I smacked my head against the wall again.
"Things'll be okay, Bunny. I'll help you however you need me to if you want" he said.
"Do you know how demeaning it is getting beat up by a girl?" I snapped, the tiniest bit frustrated. “Sorry”
"It's fine, I just don't wanna say something that'll make you feel worse" he said and I let out a sigh. "I just wanna help. I can tell you about how it's not as uncommon as you'd think, but I'm pretty sure that's not gonna make a difference to you, so just tell me how I can help you and I will" he said, leaning against the wall when I shrugged. “Sorry”
"It's okay, I'm being a dick"
"How are you being a dick?"
"Just am" I shrugged.
"You're not. I don't think so anyway"
He smiled. "You know I'm always around if you need me" he said and I nodded, earning myself another proper hug.
I hugged back, burying my face in Alex’s neck as he kissed the top of my head. I sniffled a little, feeling my eyes well up. I sniffled again as he hugged me a little tighter.
"It'll be okay, Bunny" he said soothingly, but I didn’t believe him. I mean, how could it be okay? "You can report her to social services for hitting her kid if you don't want to have to tell anyone else about this. That should be enough to get her out of your life"
I shook my head. "She'll know it was me"
"And she'll have to go through me to hurt you again" he said and I looked up at him innocently. "I'm not letting her hit you again, Hadley"
I nuzzled his neck, sniffling again as he kissed the top of my head again.
"Did I miss something?" I heard Caleb ask and looked up to see him arching an eyebrow at us.
"He's on his period" Alex said.
"Give the poor guy a hug, he's all hormonal"
"Don't get blood on me" Caleb said, hugging me and making me laugh a little.
"It's okay, I gave him one of your tampons" Alex said and Caleb frowned.
"I do not have tampons"
"Well it wasn’t mine"
"Sure it wasn't" Caleb glared.
The two of them had a little glaring match and Alex hugged me a little tighter, still glaring at Caleb.
"My friend" Caleb said, stealing me from Alex. "Look at that loser over there with no friends" he glared, making Alex sulk. "What a sad little life he must lead. Bet he never gets any sex, either"
Alex laughed. "Well you would know all about that"
"I get plenty of sex, thank you"
"People who aren't losers with no friends" Caleb laughed and Alex laughed.
"What?" Caleb asked innocently.
"Nothing, ginger spice. Nothing at all"
"You don't think I could get anyone I wanted?"
"I know you can, but I hope you won't" Alex smiled.
"Unlike you, who is obviously too old" Caleb smirked.
"Wanna bet?" Alex asked and Caleb nodded.
Alex glared and Caleb grinned at him.
"Fine. We'll go to a bar later on and see who can pull the most people" Alex said, still glaring.
"You're on. Is Bunny joining in too?"
"Uh..." I trailed off.
"Up to Bunny" Alex said and my gaze shot to the floor.
"I don't think Sarah'd be too happy..." I said and Caleb rolled his eyes.
"Screw Sarah, I haven't seen you in forever"
"Bunny can come another time if he wants" Alex said. "If he wants to spend his night with Sarah, he can"
"No, it's fine" I said, biting my lip slightly.
"It counts if I hook up with Bunny" Caleb said excitedly.
"Then it counts if I hook up with him too" Alex said.
"But you won't hook up with him"
"And why not?"
"Because he only likes people his own age now" Caleb said and Alex tutted. “What?”
"Sure. I think that's up to Bunny"
"Yeah, but it's bros before hoes, and since Bunny's my bro and you're my hoe, I think we can see how this one works out"
Alex arched an eyebrow, looking at me.
"Don't get me involved in this" I said.
"Because you're both my friends and I think Caleb would kill me if I took your side over his" I said and Alex pouted. “What?” I laughed.
"I can't help it. I was going to at least get a kiss out of you"
"Oh were you now?" I asked and Alex grinned.
Caleb all but forced a French kiss out of me. "You're already behind, old man" he said and Alex spanked him. “Hey!”
"We don't start til tonight"
Caleb rolled his eyes and Alex grinned at him. Caleb went off to sulk and soon enough, the evening rolled around. Alex stole a quick kiss with me in front of Caleb, earning himself a glare.
"Get off my baby" Caleb warned.
Alex’s hands gripped my hips, and I couldn’t help being amused that I was still their plaything after all these years.
"Get off" the ginger glared, but Alex just kissed my neck. "Get off or I won't sleep with you til next year"
"You wouldn't last that long"
"I was a teenager, remember? I'm used to long periods of time without sex"
"I still have no idea how you didn't fuck everything that moved as a teenager"
"I had Bunny" he grinned and Alex laughed.
"You missed out"
"Blame my straight school" Caleb smiled.
"Good. Now get off my Bunny"
Alex did as he was told. "I'll just have my way with him some other time" he winked and Caleb glared at him again, kidnapping me and getting me all dressed up in a tight shirt and a pair of skinny jeans.
"What's the prize for winning?" Caleb asked once we were all dressed.
Alex thought about it for a while. "I hadn't thought about that" he said and Caleb waited. “Um... you get to gloat?”
"Not good enough" Caleb said, poking his tongue out.
"Sex with Bunny"
"Wait, what?" I said, trying to ignore the eager look on Caleb’s face.
"Deal?" Alex asked.
"What happens if I win?" I questioned.
"You won't win. You're hot as fuck, but you won't win" Caleb said, making me frown.
Alex laughed. "He can choose who he has, how's that?"
"Fine" Caleb said.
"Why wouldn't I win?" I asked and Caleb pointed at the wedding ring still on my finger.
"That certainly won't help you" he said and I frowned.
"Don't be a dickbag. Let's go" Alex said and the three of us headed out.