Lucy and Steve exchanged looks. Steve knew from Lucy’s look what she was about to do and she knew from his that he was going to get out of her way. Just as he went to get up and leave, though, Joe quite literally came tumbling down the stairs and landed at the bottom with a great thud.
“Oh my goodness gracious!” cried Lucy, nearly spilling her tea as she jerked upwards in shock. She set it down quickly and clambered over Carter the human barrier to Joe, “What happened? Are you okay? Holy blooming wow!” Joe rolled over and groaned slightly.
“I’m fine, pretty much. Someone left a pair of shoes at the top of the stairs and I didn’t see them until it was too late,” he explained.
“Whose shoes were they?” asked Steve.
“I don’t know,” Joe told him, “but they were brown, ugly and apparently evil as well.”
“Those might be mine,” piped up Carter, “I was about to put them in Lucy’s room when I… forgot and went to make tea.” Everyone stared at him. You were so eager to interrupt any contact I had with Steve that you left them at the top of the stairs, you mean, thought Lucy. Steve got up and helped Lucy move Joe to the other sofa. Carter stayed where he was, watching them. Lucy looked over, saw this and sighed inwardly.
“I’ll go and move your shoes then,” she said to Carter.
“I’ll help you,” he volunteered, prompting scoffs from Steve and Joe who were trying to check for any injuries Joe might have sustained. Carter jumped up and went upstairs in front of Lucy, who looked back at Steve to let him know what she was about to do. Now? He mouthed, trying to convey how unsure he was about the timing. Or never, Lucy mouthed back. She had a determined look on her face that Steve had only seen a few times, and only for situations like this.
Upstairs, the shoes were gone and Carter had turned the light on in Lucy’s room even though it was still mostly light outside. He clearly thought they were going to be in there for a while. Lucy walked in and saw him sitting on the bed, totally at home. He beamed at her like a child being given a new toy as she sat next to his outstretched body.
“You know I like your friends, my sweetheart, but sometimes they just get a bit much. I’d much rather it be just us alone, the two of us, forever, with nothing to distract us but our l-“
“Yes, my sweet?”
“We need to talk.”
“Is there something you need to get off your chest?” he asked, seemingly oblivious to the shift in mood that Lucy had thought was obvious.
She looked at him seriously and sighed in a manner that she hoped would show him this was a grave situation. He clearly thought that she was going to say something that he had been waiting to hear for weeks. As the true nature of what she was saying hit him, though, his buoyant expression fell gradually. He sat up and paid attention. As she spoke she watched his face move through several emotions. The first was confusion as he tried to understand why this was happening. Then, all too briefly, there was sadness, though not any hurt. The last emotion took her by surprise, though. Anger. He stood up from the bed and looked down at her. She stopped talking but she was shocked by what he said to her. All the time she had spent thinking that he was sweet and kind, the time she had spent worrying about hurting him seemed wasted. His words were shocking, a mixture of nonsensical, pathetic and just downright cruel. She stood up. He walked towards the door, picking up his shoes in silence and avoiding her eyes. He went straight through the door and down the stairs, pausing slightly at the bottom but continuing straight on and out, never once turning back or looking up.
Lucy considered going downstairs but she decided against it, instead choosing to curl up on her bed and try not to cry. After about a minute, Joe and Steve came in. Lucy looked up and, seeing their concerned expressions, tears filled her eyes. Joe seized control of the situation, going into G-mode.
“Steven, go and call for pizza, cheesecake, Claire and Georgia.” Steve went to object but Joe cut him off, “Is now the time, Steven? Call her.”
Steve was grateful to be able to leave. Emotion was not his strong point, especially when it was Lucy being upset. It made him want to get very angry and do stupid things. He was protective, he thought of her like his little sister after everything they had helped each other through. He listened at the door while Joe was talking to Lucy.
“I can’t believe he would say those things to me!” she was crying, curled up in a ball with Joe’s arms around her.
“Oh my poor little chipmunk, if he was secretly that spiteful then he really isn’t the sort of person you want to be with.” Lucy looked up at Joe’s comforting face.
“Do you remember when we were five and the big boys wouldn’t let you on the trampoline so I pulled you up to sit with me and threatened to stand on their private parts?” she asked.
“You told me that you’d look after me now and I’d have to make it up to you by being your best friend.”
“I think you’ve made it up to me about a thousand times by now,” Lucy said, “Thank you, Joey.” But Joe didn’t reply, he just hugged her harder and they sat listening to Steve on the phone. The only time they spoke was when they heard Steve pause for a while after ordering cheesecake.
“Do it, for Pete’s sake!” Joe yelled. And Steve did it.