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Bruises and Distractions

Dawn OOC

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Keith glanced down the road toward the Walshs by pure chance, his eye caught by movement. His heart rate doubled as he caught the unmistakable shape of Quinn walking her horse away from the Walshs. He turned back to the breakfast table, sucked down half a glass of orange juice and leapt to his feet. 


“Kei--” his mother started, but the teen was already tearing through the house. 


“Goin’ out, be back later!” he shouted over his shoulder. His family watched as he cleared the porch railing in a pommel horse vault, barely stumbling as he landed on the far side of Skye’s rose bushes. 


“What’s with him?” Grant asked, turning back to the table.


“Quinn got to him,” Craig said with a grin.


“Quinn Hollis?” Skye asked, with a small smile. Grant frowned, no doubt picturing how many problems his rambunctious son could cause with their neighbors if he was pursuing Quinn. “She’s a sweet girl.”


“She’s… something,” Grant said with a shake of his head.


As Craig stole the rest of Keith’s breakfast, he said slyly, “Don’t worry, Dad, Keith doesn’t have enough legs to interest Quinn.”


Keith shot across the yard at an angle, ducked through the treeline, and found the old oak that overhung the road. He pulled himself up onto the branch, using the width of the ancient tree to hide his efforts. By the time he was easing out onto the branch, he was up in the foliage. Grinning, he pulled his slightly wrinkled and stained FFA shirt over his head and shoved it in his back pocket. Sucking in his gut instinctively, he waited patiently.


She was talking to herself -- or rather he realized after a moment, to her horse. She seemed to be apologizing to it, but that was hardly the weirdest thing he’d ever seen her do. Even more than her words, he listened to her footsteps, trying to time it right.


When she sounded about ten feet away, he hooked his knees around the branch and hung upside down, grinning brightly at her. “Hey, Qui--” He registered her tear-stained face and stopped himself. “What’s wro-- Hold on.” 


He curled himself up -- hoping silently that Quinn noted the ease with which he did the crunch -- and righted himself, dropping out of the tree with a grunt. “Hey, what’s wrong? You okay?”


“No!” She sobbed for a second and Keith went to her and put his arms around her. She collapsed against him as if she belonged, and he angled his hips away from her, just in case. She was clearly upset and even he knew that surprise boners were unwelcome. 


“It’s okay,” he murmured into her ear, letting her cry into his shoulder. 


~  *  ~  *  ~


Quinn cried herself out, too upset to check her outburst. Finally, she lifted her head from Keith’s shoulder, rubbing her face. Normally, she’d be so embarrassed right now, but she couldn’t care. “I’m stupid,” she bit out, then felt her tears start again. 


“No, Quinn, no, you’re not. You’re smart, you have to be to know all the horse stuff you know,” Keith said quickly. He was trying, she could tell, but she wasn’t sure he’d understand.


“I was riding Bey-bey on gravel, too fast, and she got a rock caught in her hoof.” Tears tried to rise again but she pushed on and added, “I got it out, but if she bruises… and she’s limping. She’s hurt because I was upset and careless. What if she’s lamed?”


“You already got it out,” Keith said, still smiling at her. He was close and she realized with a start that he had his shirt off and her arms were half-around him. It was the most bare boy-skin she’d ever touched and left her feeling confused and self-conscious. 


Swallowing, she took a step back. “I know, I know… What if I’ve hurt her?”


“Well, what would your dad say to do?” Keith asked.


The question cut through her worry. “Get the rock out, rest her for a few days, and ice the foot if you suspect bruising.” 


“Okay, so let’s go.” He pivoted so he was standing next to her. 




“I’ll walk you home, just make sure you’re both okay.” He gave her a gentle nudge with his elbow. “I’m a good neighbor.”


“Sure,” Quinn said, her thoughts sprinting ahead to what she needed to do. “Have you ever iced a horse’s foot before?”


“Heh, can’t say I have.” He glanced at her. “You’re going to fix that deficiency, I guess?”


“If you’re willing. Bey-bey doesn’t like to wear the icing boot, so I’ll need someone to distract her while I get it on her,” Quinn clarified. 


“I can be distracting,” Keith told her with a grin that made her stomach flutter. Quinn looked away from him, eyes on the ground in front of them. She was watching for more rocks. Yep, that’s all. After all, another rock could worsen any bruising.


“So what had you upset before all this?” Keith asked after they’d walked in silence for a moment.


“Oh.” Quinn toyed with the lead rope in her hand. “Silas and I… we had a fight.”


“Whoa, are you okay?” Keith asked, his voice becoming alarmed.


“Yeah, it was just stupid stuff, and I don’t wanna talk about it.” Quinn didn’t even know how to talk about what was going on between her and Silas.


“Okay.” After a couple of more steps, he asked, “So, how’d your family do in the races?”


That was a safe subject, and Quinn happily told him about the races her family had entered, ending with a detailed description of her father’s grueling Tevis Cup run. Keith listened, nodding and making the correct noises at the right spots, even when he was distracting Bey-bey while Quinn slipped her foot into the icing boot. 


“Well,” she said when the horse was in her stall, irritably shaking her foot, “thank you.”


“Anytime, Quinn.” The way he said her name had her stomach fluttering again, and tension filled the air. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but something was about to -- right until Beau poked his head into the barn. 


“Hey, Keith. Watcha doin’?” Though his words were friendly, his tone wasn’t. 


“Just leaving.” Keith smirked at her brother, then glanced at Quinn. “If you need to talk to someone, you can call me, okay?”


“Right,” Quinn said quickly. The siblings were silent until he’d left, then Beau opened his mouth and Quinn snapped, “Don’t. I don’t want to hear it. I need to talk to Dad.” She stormed away from her brother, wondering why boys had to be such irritating, confusing idiots.

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Silas was feeling. . .he wasn’t entirely sure what he was feeling walking back from the Clairburn place. Elated. Terrified. He said he liked me but I don’t actually know where we stand right now butterflies-in-the-stomach. The important thing he was feeling, though, was distracted. So when he got slammed into a tree trunk after crossing into his backyard he had no idea what was going on.

“What the hell did you do to Quinn?” Kieth demanded with a hard shove against the younger boy. 


“What the-” Silas winced as his head hit bark. He blinked at Keith. “What? Nothing. Quinn’s just bein’ stupid.”

His face suddenly exploded into pain and he crumpled down to the ground. He felt blood rushing down his face from his nose and when the world stopped spinning enough he could move he pressed his fingers to try and stop it. “Fuck, Kied, ya’ bwoke ma’ ‘ose!”

“Aw, fuck.” Keith heaved a deep sigh and pulled him to his feet. “Lemme see it.”


Silas tilted his head up, trying not to swallow too much blood. The swelling was already pooling around the slightly crooked bridge of his nose and under his eyes. “Why id ev’ry boy wid a cruj zo damn dupid?” he groused.


“Quinn’s not stupid!” Keith snapped pinning Silas to the tree with a shove that made his nose throb harder. “She’s smart and pretty and-- and, and stuff!”


“I daid you were dupid!” Silas said with a hard push back. At this point Keith was going to give him a broken nose and a concussion. “Why de hell did I ever ‘ave a cruj on you?”


Keith’s brow furrowed in confusion, then he backpedaled from Silas with alarm. “But-- but you’re a guy!” 


Silas froze. This wasn’t what Dylan had meant. Probably the worst way to out himself to someone. Especially while still bleeding down his shirt and dizzy from getting slammed around. He looked away from Keith, trying to push off the tree without losing his balance. “I need da go do de ‘ospidal.” 


“No, you don’t,” Keith said. “I’ll get one of Jo’s tampons and you’ll be fine.” He hesitated. “You’re not going to have girl issues or something if I do that, are you?”


Silas glared at the other boy. “Domehow I’ll condrol myself,” he panned with dripping sarcasm. “A dampon ain’ gonna det de bone, Keid.”


“No, but it’ll stop the bleeding, and we need that before I can put you in my truck,” he pointed out. 


“I ain’ ‘dicking a dampon up ma ‘ose,” Silas groused, pulling his already blood-soaked shirt over his head. He balled up the shirt and gingerly pressed it against the bottom of his nose before stalking out of the back yard towards the truck.


Keith followed him, adding, “Your shirt. Just be careful,because every bump in the road is gonna jam your hand into your nose again.” He spoke with experience, and Silas recalled that Keith had jumped off of a branch over the watering hole and cracked himself in the face with a submerged log. 


He helped Silas into the cab and then climbed in, starting the old truck with a guttural roar. “So. Are you at least gonna tell me why you made Quinn cry?”


Silas gave him a sideway glance, tipping his head back on the headrest to help with the bleeding and hopefully avoid the worst of the bumping impacts. “You dun wanna know,” he said with a mix of sullen and somber. 


“I do, I mean, I don’t need to know now since,” he waved at Silas’s nose. “I’m curious is all.” They drove in silence for a bit, before Keith ventured, “So… ya homo?”


Silas made the mistake of trying to snort. After the coughing and lancing pain receded enough to think again, he sighed. “‘Lide girls doo.”


“Well, yeah, girls are awesome,” Keith said with a grin. “But guys… not so much. Too much hair, not enough soft bits.” 


Silas arched a brow at him. Later he’d blame adrenaline and endorphins. “Know from edperienze?”


“What? No! You can tell by lookin’,” Keith insisted shaking his head vigorously. “I mean… Are you sure you like girls? Maybe that whats-her-name was a bridge or a fluke? I mean, are you crushing on me-”


“Dno,” Silas said emphatically and sighed again. “I dike girlz. I jus’ aldo dike boyz.” He smiled without realizing he was doing it and said softly himself, “Boy.”


“Heh, hey, Silas?”




“You said you dike girls.” He snickered for a moment. “So were you and Quinn fighting about your being hom-- I mean bimo?”


He didn’t snort this time. He’d learned his lesson. “Juz bi. Bizekchual. An’ dno. Quinn dnapped at a guy fer dno readon an’ I cald ‘er on id. She dinks it’z juz ‘cauze I like Dylan”, he took a moment to say both properly, “inzead a’ cauze she wad rude for dno readon.” 


“So Quinn snapped at this Dylan guy? Is he a cute guy?” Keith asked. Silas blushed hard enough that Keith just nodded. “But not friends with you guys, really.”


“I guezz not. Yet. He juz moved ‘ere,” The blood flow was finally starting to clot up and Silas gingerly took the shirt from his face. The hospital was still a little while away and not having to smell sweat and copper the whole way there was a relief. Still working on getting all his consonants back, Silas said, “He workz for Mr. Clairburn.”


“So… Quinn snapped at him and you called her on it? In front of him?” Keith shook his head sadly. “Silas, Silas, Silas… you dun fucked up.”


Silas frowned at Keith. “How’d I fuck up?”


“Bros before ho--” Keith’s face scrunched up in thought. As Silas waited expectantly, Keith shrugged and said, “You picked pu-- Damn, this is hard. You picked dick over friendship.” He shuddered a bit.


How?” Silas asked in exasperation, scrunching down in the seat in annoyance. “She wad rude. She jus’ snapped at him and then Hank jumped in on bein’ paranoid. And Roach - well, she’s preddy much always rude. Jo was the only one not actin’ like everyding was Dylan’s fault and he weren’t even dere until after.”  


“Whoa, this ain’t about who’s rude, or paranoid, or even right,” Keith insisted. “It’s about you siding with the guy you want to, well, do things I don’t wanna think about with, over Quinn and your friends.” 


“You got something against kissin’? Gonna be hard to keep a girlfriend,” Silas said with a deadpan look at the older teen.


“Ain’t touchin’ that one,” Keith said firmly, “ain’t thinking about it, either. So. Now you can apologize and Quinn can be happy again.”


“I ain’ ‘pologizin’ ta Quinn. I didn’ do nothin’ wrong and she did. She can apologize to Dylan for bein’ scared an’ takin’ it out on him jus’ because he was there an’ she didn’t expect it.” He gave Keith a flat look. “I ain’t tryin’ to get in her pants. I don’t have ta put up with her bein’ crazy an’ not call her on it.” 


“Wow, you’re a shit friend,” Keith said with a snort -- one that Silas noticed bitterly didn’t cause him pain. “Call her on it in private, sure, but in front of the guy? Man, I changed my mind. Don’t apologize. She’s better off without you.” There was no hostility in Keith’s words, just sincere belief, which made it worse somehow.


There were several minutes of cold silence. When they turned into the parking lot of the small hospital, Silas finally responded. “Quinn doesn’t need to be coddled, Keith. She’s not delicate and she’s not weak. She calls everyone else on their crap the moment it happens and she’s right to.”

He slipped out of the driver’s side seat, standing with the door open as he finished, “You want to be the man she chooses over her horses? Don’t treat her like she can’t handle life. It’ll just show her you can’t handle her.” He pushed the door shut with snap and made his way to the entrance, waving Keith to stay in the truck. “I’ve got this. Go home.”


“Friends coddle, Silas.” He shrugged. “I may be too much of a gentleman, though. Take care.”


Silas’ wave turned into a lazy flipping him off as the teen disappeared inside the hospital.

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