when you put your mind to something, we all know you’re going to do whatever it is anyways. You’re just like Faith that way.”
Faith laughed, and I looked from her to a smiling Hope and back again. I couldn’t help but smile, too.
“I love you, guys.”
“We love you, too, Blossom,” they said practically in unison and I felt better.
A rap came at the door, “Yo, Charity! It’s Radar, can I borrow your keys, Sweetie?”
Hope held out her hand and with a sigh I pulled them from my hip pocket, handing them over, a tiny knot of dread taking up residence in the center of my chest that grew with the guilt I fed into it.
Hope opened the bedroom door and slapped the keys into Radar’s hand, “Do what you need to do,” she said and Radar gave a curt nod before backing out of view.
“Don’t hurt him!” I called out before Hope shut the door.
I prayed silently, please don’t hurt him, and found myself praying that it would be enough.
I finished tightening the last bolt down on my bike, just as a hard knock came at my front door. Sounded like the guys were out and moving around. This was probably my call to the town clean up. I wiped off my hands with a rag and went for the front door, just as the next, more impatient knock landed.
I opened the front door to Radar’s fist in my gut.
“Oof!” I doubled over and hit the hardwood on my knees hard, trying like hell to suck air into my lungs thanks to my collapsed solar plexus.
“She alright?” I wheezed and Lightning got behind me, putting his hands under my arms and hauling me onto my feet.
“What do you care?” he asked.
“I care,” I said.
“Yeah, I call bullshit,” Radar said and clocked me one in the side of the face.
I deserved this. I’d hurt her. She’d gone back to the Captain’s house and whatever’d happened, had sent my brother’s over here to teach me a lesson. One I richly deserved.
“Captain sent us over here to school you, Nothing. It ain’t personal,” Lightning said, and he held me up for Radar to deliver another blow. I did what I was supposed to. I stood there and took it.
“The fuck it ain’t personal,” Radar said. “That girl is Hope’s sister. She’s one of us; she ain’t a random piece of ass passing through town. What the fuck were you thinking doing her like that?” Radar demanded. He hit me again and I saw stars.
“That’s the problem, I wasn’t thinking,” I groaned.
“No, you weren’t,” he agreed. “Club voted, you’re going to take this ass whoppin’, then you’re going to help with clean up, and then , you’re going to go apologize to Charity. You get me?” he demanded and lifted my head by the front of my hair so I could look him in the eye. I nodded feebly and took my schooling well, and to heart.
He was right. Charity was one of us, and she hadn’t deserved what I’d done. She deserved better than me. She deserved one of my brothers to love her and protect her from the shit I’d delivered… Why the fuck was it, that the thought of her with one of them hurt worse than the whoopin’ Radar put on me?
He rained blows into my midsection, but avoided the face for the most part after only one or two blows to it. Probably because my thick skull hurt his hands and he needed his hands for what he did as a bail bondsman. Not only for all of the typing he had to do, but for the take downs and arrests. Hard to manipulate handcuffs with your hand in a cast or fingers in a splint.
“Let him go,” Radar said with some disgust, and Lightning dropped me like a sack of potatoes onto my living room floor.
“Get your shit together, Nothing. Way I see it, that girl is a gift from god when it comes to you. Lightning, let’s go.”
Lightning stepped over me and went out past Radar, a grim look on his face. He hadn’t enjoyed kicking my ass. Neither had Radar, but Radar could shut that part of himself off. Divorce his feelings from anything he
Larry Niven, Gregory Benford