Crossing The Line Ch 2:
Several months later:
Dex scuffed her shoes along the floor and squinted in the afternoon sunshine, taking a leisurely lick of her ice cream as she ambled back up the street, humming the chorus of Starships 'We Built This City' to herself. It had been stuck on a loop in her head since last night.
That damn tape deck had a lot to answer for.
As she rounded the corner of her street, the sound of running footsteps chased her from behind. A group of young guys with their hoods up ran past out of nowhere, their shoulders shoving her to the side as they dashed in front, yelling something unintelligible. They were up to no good, of that she was sure. Shaking her head, Dex stopped to retrieve her phone from her back pocket. Just in case.
Fumbling to pull it out of her jeans and juggle her ice cream cone at the same time, Dex was aware the shouting had intensified ahead of her. Looking up, she spotted the group that barged past her a few moments earlier. A couple of them were caught up in an intense scuffle, with another of the men trying to use a crowbar to force open the driver's door of a vehicle - HER vehicle - and then, in the centre of it all, she spotted Grey trying to take on two of these guys at once.
He wasn't the biggest or strongest of men, but Grey had learned how to handle himself pretty well growing up. He'd had to. More than capable of landing a decent punch, he also wasn't scared to fight dirty when needed. Dex noticed he had one of the punks secured in a painful looking wrist lock, a second pinned up against the passenger door, squirming uncomfortably as Grey tightened the vice like grip he had around his throat. Unfortunately, this also left Grey with no free hands to defend himself from the third guy who had appeared behind him with the aforementioned crowbar.
The ice cream cone in Dex's hand was instantly thrown to the ground, spattering the sidewalk with polka dot patterns she didn't even have time to appreciate as she sprinted towards her best friend in the vain attempt to intercept the attacker from inflicting damage.
It was too late. With twenty feet still left to run, Dex watched the third guy repeatedly slam the crowbar into Grey's arm to break his hold on the loser against the car. The sickening noise of metal landing on flesh was never one you got used to - the sound of your best friend crying out in agony, even less so.
"Motherfuckers, that's MY car!" She yelled, launching herself at the man with the crowbar, landing a swift kick to the back of his knee which saw him crumple to the floor before scrambling away. His friends followed, but not before one of them had thrown a parting punch squarely to the jaw of an already injured Grey, sending him crashing to the ground, hitting his head with a grunt of pain.
Dropping to one knee, Dex's eyes immediately caught sight of the blood on Grey's face.
"What the hell happened?"
Groaning, Grey scrunched up his eyes and slowly rose to a sitting position.
"I was just walking to your place, minding my own business, when those little assholes decided to try and steal your car right in front of me. Not only did they have NO idea how to jack a car, but they were clearly dumb as fuck along with it."
"So, what? You thought it would be a good idea to try and take them all on at once?!"
"I know how much you like that shitty car..." He shrugged.
"Well...that was dumb." Dex moved to kneel in front of him, ignoring his irritated frown "I mean, it was brave - nay - dare I say it: gallant of you...but, super dumb none-the-less."
"Hey - I had it handled, they didn't succeed, didn't they?"
"Not after I scared them off. Luckily for you." She murmured.
"I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that." Grey chuckled, wiping the back of his hand beneath his bleeding lip and wincing.
Dex stood and thumbed in the direction of her home.
"Okay, Chuck...let's get you inside. These sneakers are new and I don't want your blood all over them. Not good for my image, y'know?"
"Chuck?" Grey asked, gingerly getting to his feet.
"Yeah. Chuck." Dex confirmed, seeing the blank expression on his face "You know - Chuck Norris...it's what I'm going to call you after that little display." She winked, gently nudging Grey forward with her elbow as they walked up the road to her place.
Setting down a glass of water and some painkillers on the table in front of him, Dex perched opposite Grey.
"Those should help a little, but are you sure you don't want to get that checked out?" She nodded at his right arm, clutched tightly to his side "You took quite a hit."
"I'm fine." He lied through gritted teeth, knocking back the pills with a muffled groan.
"If you think I'm believing that bullshit, then your blow to the head has done more damage than I thought."
"Dex, I can manage. I've suffered worse scrapes, trust me."
"You can barely sit up straight!"
"I promised Ansel I'd be at his soccer game this afternoon."
"Ansel will understand, I'll explain..."
Grey's face darkened slightly and Dex sensed his muscles tense as he took a sharp breath in.
"I'm not letting him down, Dex, so stop talking about it. You should know by now that if I say I'm going to do something, I follow it through. Especially when it comes to Ansel."
Ordinarily, his spiky attitude would have pissed her off a little, but she was willing to let it slide on this occasion, given that he was trying to deliver on a promise he'd made to her brother. His loyalty to that kid was second to none.
"Fine, if you're going to be a martyr about it, at least let me wash the blood out of your hair and clean you up before we go back outside. I don't want you scaring children and old ladies with that beat up face."
Catching sight of himself in the mirror over Dex's shoulder, a dried trail of blood on his temple and split lip on display, Grey huffed a reluctant agreement then followed her into the bathroom.
Dragging a small stool across the floor towards the basin, Dex gestured to it with a flick of her wrist and looked him in the eye.
"I'm not a damn dog."
"Well, I don't know - you both pee standing up."
"You are...insufferable sometimes."
"I know." She said proudly "Now, sit."
Grey shook his head and carefully lowered himself onto the little stool, cursing under his breath as his shoulder accidentally bumped against the counter, sending a jolt of pain ripping through him.
"Good boy." Dex smirked sarcastically, ignoring the glare he shot her in reply.
Rolling up a hand towel and placing it behind his neck, she gently guided Grey's head backwards towards the basin. Testing the water temperature, Dex began to silently wet his hair. She tenderly stroked her thumb along his hairline, removing all the dried blood. Grazing across his temple, but being careful to avoid the injured area directly. Her fingers raked themselves slowly over his scalp as she worked the shampoo into a lather, making Grey moan before he had a second to catch himself.
"Sorry, did that hurt?"
"No..." he cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably "uh...it feels nice, actually."
There was a brief pause before Dex returned to rinsing the suds from his hair without saying another word. Using a new towel, she dabbed at his wet skin and carefully dried around his cuts, placing some steri-strips across the worst one. Leaning closer, she wrapped the cotton material around her fingers to clean the dried blood from Grey's face, feeling him watch her intently as she cared for him, and catching his eye just the once as she reached over his body to put the dirty towels in the laundry basket. Her stomach resting fleetingly against his side.
"All done." She said, stepping away with a brisk clap of her hands.
He stood, trying to meet her gaze again, but Dex was already on her way back to the kitchen as she spoke over her shoulder.
"Don't mention it."
A bead of sweat gathered at the nape of Grey's neck and trickled between his shoulder blades, such was the exertion of concealing his pain from Ansel.
He stood on the touch line, holding his right arm under the elbow with his left hand, watching the game with the biggest smile he could muster plastered to his face.
When Ansel dribbled the ball past two defenders before taking a shot that landed right in the back of the net, Grey cheered the loudest of anyone in the crowd, despite the searing pain that shot right up through his arm and shoulder.
"D-did you see t-that? I scored, Dex!" Ansel yelled delightedly, completely out of breath after running back up the length of the pitch towards them.
"Sure did, buddy! You were awesome!" Dex hugged him tightly and ruffled his hair.
"I did what you s-said, Grey, I fooled the defenders and it worked!" Ansel beamed, trying to catch his breath amidst his celebrations.
"You did great, man. I'm proud of you. Now get back on the pitch before they re-start the game without you!" Grey smiled back through gritted teeth.
"Okay. I'm gonna try to score another one and win the game!"
Waiting until Ansel's back was turned, Dex spoke without looking at Grey.
"How ya holding up there, cowboy?"
"Yeah, you know - after your little rodeo earlier..."
"Sometimes, I wonder why we're still friends." Grey scowled, his eyes still following the action on the pitch.
"Ah, c'mon, you know why we're still friends..."
"Yeah? Why's that?"
"Because I'd help you bury the bodies, no questions asked." Dex shrugged, matter-of-factly.
"Hmm. You have a point." He tilted his head in acknowledgment.
"I expect the same in return, of course."
"Of course." Grey managed to smile.
As the second half was nearing it's end, Dex wandered over to Tookie's truck to get them some water. She was gone longer than intended - Tookie always had some big business plans he wanted to get her input on, despite her very clear lack of knowledge in the catering industry.
Chuckling to herself as she walked back towards the game, Dex's smile fell as she saw Grey leaning his weight heavily against a bench, like his legs had given way on him and he was struggling to stay upright.
Once back at his side, she could see the bead of perspiration beginning to form along his brow line with the effort of pretending not to be in pain.
"Grey? What happened?"
"Nothing." He breathed heavily "Just felt a little light headed all of a sudden. I'll be okay, just gimme a minute and I'll be fine."
Dex narrowed her eyes. He looked far from fine. The sag of his shoulders told her as much. As he raised his head to sip the water she'd held out to him, she noticed his skin was turning sallow, and that was enough to make her mind up.
"Hey, Tookie?" She yelled over the noise of the small crowd, waving him frantically over towards her.
"What's up, Dex?" Tookie approached a moment later, as quickly as him frame would allow.
"Can you do me a favour? Can you take Ansel back home for me once his game is over?"
"Sure." He nodded, glancing with concern at Grey "Everything alright here?"
"I'm fine." Grey tried to protest weakly, but even he wasn't really buying it anymore.
"Stop talking." Dex chastised "Okay, Tooks - I need to get this idiot some medical attention. Ansel has his own key, I might be a while so...I dunno, get a take out with him and use the cash next to the phone in the hall..."
"A take out? You insult me." Tookie shook his head, horrified "I will make that boy the best meal he'll taste all month!"
"I mean, sure...that works too."
"It's all he's gonna talk about for days on end, Dex. Trust me."
"Okay. Sounds good." Dex forced a small smile as she turned her concentration to the task of hoisting Grey to his feet "Call me if Ansel needs anything. Thanks Tookie, I owe you one."
"Several. You owe me several, Dex!"
Shuffling them both to her car, Dex leaned Grey up against the passenger door as she unlocked it, guiding him into his seat despite his objections.
"I don't need to see a doctor" he winced through the pain "I just need to go home and sleep it off, Dex. My head hurts, I need to lie down, please."
"Don't try to fight me on this one, Grey." She replied sternly "I parent my teenage brother - you will not win."
An older, red-headed nurse picked up a clipboard from the counter and skimmed over the patient details on the chart. With a weary sigh, she pushed her glasses back up her nose, glancing over to the full waiting area and heading to the door.
"Grey McConnell? The doctor will see you now. Follow me."
Grey rose from his seat, wobbling slightly. Dex automatically stood too, earning her a quizzically raised eyebrow from his direction once he'd gained his bearings.
She extended an awkward hand towards the treatment room in question.
"You, uh...you want me to come with...or, no?"
"No, of course not. I'm a big boy, Dex."
"Oh, I know..." she snickered to herself, just loud enough for him to hear.
Grey stared at her incredulously, as the nurse stood looking thoroughly confused in the doorway.
"Seriously? Just, please wait here..." He pointed back at her seat "...and maybe try not to cause a disturbance?"
"Can't promise anything." She muttered, lowering herself and picking up a magazine they both knew she was never going to read.
Thirty minutes - and three awkward conversations with other patients - later, Dex was relieved to see the treatment room door open, a heavily strapped up Grey shuffling back out towards her with a dopey grin on his face.
The nurse thrust some bottles of medication into Dex's hands, along with a whirlwind of information about when he must take them, and instructions that Grey wasn't to be left on his own that night due to the concussion he'd sustained. She was to take him back to the doctor in three days for a follow-up appointment.
"Okay?" Asked the nurse, already turning to leave.
"Uh. Okay...pain meds, follow up in three days." Dex nodded, glancing helplessly at Grey who seemed to be floating about six feet above ground on account of the painkilling injection they'd given him.
"And he must not be by himself tonight." The nurse called back "That's important. Can you do that, or do we have to admit him?"
Those words seemed to bring Grey back in the room and he shook his head furiously at Dex.
She got the message.
"Nope. Nope, that's...fine. We'll be fine. I'll take care of it."
After tagging Tookie out with profuse thanks and promises of repaying the favour, Dex went to get extra pillows and blankets from the cupboard for Grey. Her couch wasn't exactly a plush king-size bed, but it was pretty comfy for the most part and Grey had never complained when he'd used it in the past.
Walking back up the hall, she heard a loud crash followed by a muffled cry. Running back towards him, Dex found Grey in a heap on the floor having tried to take his shirt off one handed and causing himself to stumble over the side table on to the floor.
"I thought you wanted to stay out of the hospital, you dumbass."
He groaned, eyes screwed up as his arm began to throb again.
"I was...I thought I could...never-mind." Grey's head dropped back against the floor as he grunted in pain.
Dex had never seen him look so helpless before. He was always so self sufficient, taking care of himself was something Grey had been so used to doing for so much of his life that this was an unprecedented situation.
She was no Florence Nightingale, but Dex couldn't stand seeing him like that.
Tugging him gently by his good arm to get to his feet, Dex took a bottle of pills from her jacket and grabbed him some water.
"According to my instructions, you need to take these now. Which is probably good, seeing as you seem to be intent on injuring yourself."
"Thanks, nurse" Grey rolled his eyes.
Ignoring his sarcasm, Dex reached forward and started to undo the cuffs of his shirt sleeves.
"What are you doing?"
"Taking your shirt off."
Wriggling his arm free, Grey frowned "I can do it." He insisted.
"I'm not an invalid."
"You will be once those pills kick in, apparently they're pretty strong. So if you're going to undress yourself you'd better do it now."
"I'm going to!"
Dex crossed her arms over her chest and watched the inevitable unfold as Grey fumbled one-handed with the tiny buttons and got caught up with his sling, cursing in frustration.
"Give up yet?"
"Dex, I'm a fully grown adult, more than capable of_"
"Just shut up and accept my help, man!" Dex stepped forward and cut him off, reaching again for his sleeve cuff and refusing to relinquish her grip "God, why are you such a stubborn ass?"
"Takes one to know one." Grey muttered petulantly.
After removing his shirt, Dex re-strapped Grey's arm over the top of his vest, making sure it was sufficiently supported.
"Okay, all done. It's pretty late so I'd better hit the hay." She thumbed in the direction of the stairs "You know where I am if you need me."
Two steps away from the door, his voice called her back.
She turned, seeing Grey stood with a pensive look on his face.
"I need you." His gaze dropped.
Dex tried to hide the surprise from her voice, finding herself already walking back to him.
"It's a little embarrassing for me, but, I can't do this on my own."
She looked at him and found herself smiling, seeing his face soften in response.
"I'm not going anywhere, Grey. I know I don't say it much, but you know I'm always here for you, right?"
"I'm so glad to hear you say that." He grinned.
"Sure. Whatever you need."
"Great. Because I really need to use the bathroom."
"Oh." Dex replied flatly, stepping backwards "You're on your own there."
He frowned at her.
"What happened to 'whatever you need'?"
"Hey, we're friends and all but I'm not helping you to pee, Grey!"
"What?! No! Dex, I just need help with the buttons" He nodded to his groin "I can't manage it myself..."
"Oh. Right. Well...I guess I can do that."
Dex bent forward, popping the buttons of his waistband as swiftly as possible, both of them looking in different directions to avoid inappropriate eye contact.
"All set...there's spare toothbrushes in the cabinet, by the way..."
Laying on her back, Dex watched the moonlight dapple across her ceiling through the open curtains. She'd tried to sleep, but it wasn't forthcoming, and now she was restless. Being alone with just her mind for company was never something she enjoyed too much, especially at night when the silence outside seemed to amplify the sound of her thoughts.
Swinging her legs over the bed, she stood and stretched, pacing the floor of her room. She needed a drink, and not the kind that was in a glass next to her bed.
Tip-toeing past Ansel's room and down the stairs, Dex crept into the kitchen in the dark, not wanting to wake a sleeping Grey.
Pouring herself a hard drink, she sat on a stool and closed her eyes, letting the alcohol burn a slow and glorious path down her throat.
What a day.
Glancing over to the couch, she felt a smile tug at her face seeing a peaceful Grey with his mouth hanging open in blissful sleep.
She found herself wandering over to his side. This man who literally crashed into her life out of the blue, and for some unknown reason decided he was keen to stay when all others would have bolted.
He was a good friend.
Crouching by his side, Dex pulled his blankets back up over his body from where they lay at his feet.
She went to adjust his pillow, but cursed herself when he stirred and opened his bleary eyes.
"Dex...?" He croaked, voice full of sleep.
"Yeah, it's me. Just checking you were still alive."
"I think so..."
"Uh-huh. You're all good. Go back to sleep."
She went to stand, but felt his fingers curl round her wrist keeping her in place.
"Thanks for looking after me." Grey whispered "I'm lucky to have you."
He suddenly leaned forward and placed a tiny kiss on the corner of her mouth before she had a chance to register what was happening.
Muscles tensed, Dex slowly moved her head away from him, noticing with a flood of relief the fact that Grey's pupils were wide as saucers. They were so huge that his eyes were practically black...and that's when she calmly took a breath, smiled and nodded kindly at him before he slipped back into his slumber.
It was simply the medication.
He was high as a kite.
That had to be it.
That she could handle.