had a dream
you and me
and the war of the end times
"We could go to the water park," Teá suggested. Tristan scowled, completing his perfect imitation of a cat. He even bristled like one. "Alright, alright. We won't do that." She sipped on her drink and poked at the wilted lettuce leaves on her plate. Tristan had bought her lunch, but it was his favorite restaurant -- selection was limited to a burger with one patty, a burger with two patties, or a burger with a patty so thick it might as well have been two. You could also order one of those with multiple patties. Teá had never seen the word "patty" so many times in one place. Eventually, in the corner, she'd discovered a side-salad. It was disappointing, to say the least.
"You should have gotten a burger," Tristan said kindly. He shoved some of his fries on her plate. Teá ate them gratefully. "We could see a movie." She shook her head. "Well what do you want to do? It can't be this hard to do something without those two numbskulls." He shoved the last of his burger in his mouth. Teá pretended to gag. "Funny," he said, tossing his greasy napkins into her lap. They left before they made too much more of a scene.
It wasn't that they couldn't do things without Yugi and Joey -- it's just that things were so...normal since they'd come back from Egypt. Teá had expected that she'd have to do at least a little bit of damage control, but Yugi was fine. She should have known that, really -- Yugi was stronger than everyone. He'd spent most of the summer toddling around the country on Pegasus's dime and competing. Joey went along more often than not, and Teá had only tried to avoid Tristan once before he was literally standing outside her bedroom door, cell phone in hand.
"Yeah, I don't think so," was all he said before falling onto her floor and babbling for an hour about absolutely nothing. It was nice, in retrospect. Teá wondered if she'd sound stupid for suggesting they just do that -- Tristan was a good friend, and he'd taken his share of blows for the good of the group. No one was about to forget that.
"Let's just hang out," she suggested. They were stopped at a crosswalk. Teá put her hand over her skirt to keep it from flying up. Tristan leaned against the button to change the light, watching her.
"That's fine." Teá stared blankly across the street. She turned back to say something, but found that Tristan's gaze had already shifted -- and an old lady with a cane had planted herself between them and was squinting at the "walk/don't walk" sign across the street. "You okay, ma'am?" Tristan asked, putting a tender hand on her shoulder.
"Blind as ever," she muttered.
"We're going the same way," Teá said kindly. "We might--" The lady peered up at her and frowned.
"I know damn well when I need to walk across the street little miss. Now scram!" Tristan bit his lip to stiffle a laugh. Teá opened her mouth to say something, feeling a sharp jab in her shin -- the woman was furiously swatting her in the leg. Jumping back, Teá felt Tristan's hand wrap loosely around her wrist and pull her away as the old lady raised her cane, shaking it after them as they scattered. "That's right! Get out of here!"
Tristan pulled her down the street until they couldn't hear the woman anymore. He let go, steadying himself against a light post and catching his breath. "It isn't funny!" Teá said. She felt ridiculous.
"No, it really is. We can't even walk an old lady across the street right. Look at us." But he was smiling as he said it, and Teá didn't feel all that silly anymore -- she couldn't even remember the last time she'd run away from something laughing. She'd been running for her life for so long, almost since she'd met Yugi. She watched Tristan straighten up, grin stretched across his face.
"When was the last time you remember feeling this safe?" It came to her suddenly, without very much thought. But she thought she was asking a good question -- she thought she was asking something they were both thinking about. Tristan frowned and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Sorry! Sorry, I didn't--"
"It's been a while," he finally said. He looked older than Teá could remember being. They weren't kids anymore, that was for sure. She took his hand in hers, because it felt right and she cared about him. Tristan didn't say a word, but there was a gentle pressure on the palm of her hands as they wandered up the street to her house.
Teá had been taking care of herself for a long time. She and her mother lived in a small house, not far from Yugi. Tristan had come over that summer more times than he had in the history of their friendship. He kicked his shoes off at the front door and sprawled out onto the couch. "Hey, make me something to drink."
"Get it yourself," she muttered. He sauntered over into the kitchen and took a theme park cup from the cabinet, teasing her about it while he poured himself some iced tea. They sat opposite one another at the kitchen table, until Teá could feel loneliness threatening to swallow her whole and she moved to the seat next to him. Their knees bumped together as the ice in Tristan's cup sloshed around.
"I'm sorry about everything that happened to you," she said quietly. Tristan frowned.
"It happened to everybody," he muttered.
"Teá--" He gave her a stern look. "When one of us gets hurt, we all get hurt. That's something you taught me." He finished the tea in his glass and stood up, going to the fridge for more. Teá hardly felt him leave. He was suddenly back at the table, sipping loudly on his drink. She pushed it away from his face. "What is it?"
"It did hurt," she murmured. "Every bit of it. Every time."
"I know," he said. "I remember it."
She loved him, in that moment, infinitely and without inhibition. Her friend who had suffered so much and asked for so little from anyone at all. They had all gone through hell and back -- had it even been worth it? Yugi had offered them an out so many times. Atem had done the same thing. But each time, it was, "You go, we all go. We're a team." They were family in those caves and tombs and separate worlds. They were each other's everything. Even now, Teá could feel Yugi and Joey missing from her like bones pulled out of her arm -- she felt numb and rubbery.
"Hey." Tristan brushed a thumb across her check, sweeping away tears. I'm crying? she thought. "It's okay. You don't have to be so upset. It's over now. We're okay. We're here. I'm here. This is real." He brought her close and wrapped his arms around her, and Teá let herself buckle against him.
She's pretty certain she kissed him first, though what compelled her to do it was, in retrospect, nothing tangible, and she couldn't ever figure out why she'd though it was necessary at all. Maybe she thought he wanted it, maybe she thought she wanted it -- either way, her lips were on his and she could tell he was trying so hard to process this and so hard to make up his mind about what to do next. He kissed her back, one time, and they both drew away.
"Oh my god."
"That was awful," she said. Tristan laughed.
"It really was."
"Why did I do that?"
"Seemed appropriate I guess. For anyone else, it might have been."
"Not for us."
"Most definitely not for us," he said, finishing off his drink. "Now we know that it's a really awful idea."
"It never should have been an idea."
"I don't know about that," Tristan muttered. "I mean, Joey and Yugi, they're...you know. They're close. They spend a lot of time together. Folks might think, you know, that we spend a lot of time together." Teá was ridiculously unsure of what was being suggested here. "The point is that people might expect it to happen, and now we don't have to even think about it anymore. I mean, come on. You were expecting it, weren't you?"
"Even I was, and trust me, you're beautiful and I love you more than I could ever begin to describe, but--"
"I don't do it for you." He shrugged. "It's cool," she said. "I get it."
"But I mean, I don't do it for you either." Teá started, pinching the straw in her cup until the top split along the sides.
"No," she said. "Not at all."
"You know," Tristan began. "I was really just...I mean I was pretending that you were...someone else. Oh boy this is awkward."
"This is awkward?" she said, her voice reaching pitches previously unknown to man. "Dear God in heaven, Tristan, you--"
"I mean I was pretending you were Duke, but whatever." Teá blinked. "Please." He stood up and took her glass. "Don't act so surprised." There wasn't much else to say to that and she didn't see the point dragging it out. She felt oddly defeated, mostly because there was something that just didn't feel completely healed. "Don't cry anymore," Tristan said gently. He knelt down beside her and pressed his forehead to hers. "It's okay."
"I feel so strange," she whispered. "All the time, I feel like I just don't belong. Like I've gone so far out of the loop there's no way back in."
"Well..." She felt his warm, heavy hand on the top of her head as the other slipped into her own, linking their fingers together. "That's why we have to stick together. That's why you have us." He wrapped his arms around her again, murmuring against her ear: "That's why you have me."
They spent the rest of the evening lying on their backs in her bedroom floor, talking about nothing. She suggested they go to his place, but the idea was swiftly rejected -- Tristan's homelife was hectic, she knew that much. Teá wondered if he missed being away, if it was freeing, even when it was dangerous. She stopped herself -- she was projecting. It had been freeing for her, it had made her feel good. She had never asked about anyone else, not about family.
"Hey." Tristan fit his hand against hers and craned his neck toward her, smiling. "How about you buy me dinner?"
"I will heat up some raviolis, Tristan Taylor. I will not buy you dinner."
"S'only fair," he muttered, pouting. But his hand stayed in hers.
"Well why don't you heat them up?"
"I don't know where any of your pots are."
"I'll show you." He groaned and rolled over, facing her. "What?"
"Let's not be so domestic."
"If we're going to be friends like this, then you have to know my house and I will eventually have to know yours."
"Fine." He held his hands up in the air and rolled over again. They were quiet for a while after that. Tristan's breathing was so even, Teá thought he had gone to sleep. "Hey, Teá?"
"I meant what I said, you know. You're my friend, and I love you."
"I know," she murmured. "I love you, too." He gave a happy sigh. Then--
"Can we cook now? I'm starved."
"You are unbelievable."
"Predictable is a better word."
"Alright, come on." She pushed herself up and pulled him along with her. "Show me your mad cooking skills and tell me all about Duke while you're at it."
"Gladly," he said, grinning. Teá grimmaced.
"On second thought, I'd just like the raviolis. No Duke."
"Aww, but you don't want to hear about his toned forearms or his sultry phone voice or his beautiful--"