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Familiarity

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"Just because you picked me up doesn't mean I'm going to have sex with you."

"What?"

Bro's grip on the steering wheel tightened. He looked down and to his right, where the kid he had just picked up sat. A buck-toothed boy, sixteen at best, whose glasses were held together with masking tape. Uneven, dark hair was wet and plastered to his scalp. It had been raining when Bro opened the door to the cab for the kid, but now it was downright pouring outside. Bro's eyes met his and the kid stared right back at Bro, his blue eyes wide and unwavering.

"I won't have sex with you just because you picked me up." He didn't look like he was accusing Bro of anything, more like he just wanted to get the facts straight.

"I didn't expect you to," Bro said, his attention returning to the street in front of him. He felt the kid's gaze on him for a minute longer. Eventually he turned away, pointing his face at the floor of the cab. There was silence after that. Bro took the opportunity to eye the kid over once more, taking in little details. The kid was thin, even for his age. Probably malnourished. It wouldn't be surprising if he had been on the road for a while. The only protection he had from the weather was a thin hooded jacket. He carried a small backpack with him, but Bro had a feeling it was probably empty.

"You got a name, kid?" His question was met with silence. Bro shifted in his seat. "You can call me Bro, if you like."

A smile spread across the kid's face. It looked unnatural on him. "You call yourself 'Bro'?"

"You makin' fun of me?"

"Yes."

"Big talk for a nameless guy."

The smile faded and the kid was silent again. Bro frowned.

"So am I gonna get a name from you or what?"

"Why did you offer me a ride?"

The kid was looking up at Bro again, his gaze boring into Bro, making him feel somehow vulnerable. It was the same discomfort he'd felt when he first noticed the kid twenty minutes ago as he was changing a flat tire; it was what had drawn his attention to the skinny boy with wet hair. There was something about his bony figure and ghostly complexion, something about the dark shadows across his skin that felt familiar to Bro. There was a sombreness there that drew Bro towards the boy; at the same time, it terrified him because he knew that darkness so well, recognizing it instantly.

"You remind me of someone," Bro answered.

"But I could be anyone, really," the kid said, "you don't know. I could have an axe in my bag. What would you do if I pulled an axe out of my bag and tried to murder you right now?"

"Are you going to try to murder me?"

"No, of course not."

"Then I have nothing to worry about."

"But if I was an axe murderer, isn't that exactly what I'd say?"

Bro lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug. "If you are an axe murderer, then so be it. I seriously doubt your scrawny ass could take me down, even equipped with an axe. But if you really wanna take me on, be my guest." The kid didn't reply; he only looked back down at his feet. There was a small quirk of his lips, just barely noticeable and it only lasted a moment, but Bro saw it. "So, what the hell am I supposed to call you?"

"Whatever," the kid said, shrugging.

"You want me to just call you 'kid'?"

"Whatever."

Bro stared incredulously for a moment before turning back to face the road. "Will you at least tell me which direction you're headed?"

The kid bit at his lip nervously, and he looked almost scared for a moment, before speaking. "East."

"Lucky," Bro said. "So am I. How far east?"

He shrugged again. "However far you'll take me."

"You got any money to take care of yourself?"

The kid gripped on to his bag tightly, hugging it close to his chest before shaking his head.

"How long's it been since you last ate?" Bro paused to wait for the shrug he knew was coming. "Do you even have an idea of where you'll sleep tonight?" Another shrug. "Some vagabond you are."

"Sorry, I didn't realize I was going to be judged. I would have brought my hobo stick with the little handkerchief attached to the end if I had known." The kid propped an elbow against the door and rested his chin in his hand, staring out the window. "Why do you care so much if I don't have every detail planned out?"

"You're a homeless child. Isn't that enough to warrant a little bit of concern from a stranger?"

"I'm not a child."

Bro sighed. "Fine, teenager, whatever. But I picked you up, so obviously I do in fact care at least a smidgen. Isn't that enough to prove that I give a shit?"

"I knew you'd pick me up, you know," the kid said, looking back at Bro. "As soon as I saw you, I knew."

"You did, huh? What made you assume I'd be so generous?"

The kid turned back towards the window, watching the rain pound down against the window. "I just knew."

Bro squeezed the steering wheel a few times as he thought to himself. "What would you say if I offered to buy you a burger?"

"I don't need your charity," the kid said sharply, his arm dropping as he turned to face Bro.

"You think so? Because I think I literally picked you up on the side of the road."

The kid glared at the road in front of them. "That wasn't a no."

Bro smirked. "I hadn't offered."

The kid turned his glare to Bro briefly until their gazes met. Then his eyes softened and he turned away.

"Hey, kid," Bro said. The kid looked at him from the corner of his eyes. "Can I buy you a burger?"

The kid shifted his feet and looked down at the floor. "Alright."