My lungs burned and my muscles screamed at me to stop in horrible bursts of pain. I paused in the vertical climb to take a breather and to survey the surroundings. Above me, Johnny looked down. “Hanging in there?” he grinned sarcastically. I flashed a half-hearted smile in an attempt to dispel his amusement. He swung out and lowered a hand but I ignored it and pushed past him, putting all my focus into the nearing platform above us. He stifled a laugh hearing my grunts and groans as I struggled upwards. Laugh on, asshole, I thought. I channeled the anger and irritation into my resolve for reaching that platform without his help. I have had enough of his “perfect timing”, of his “unlimited strength”.
Through gritted teeth and painful everything, I smacked the edge of the pedestal with a delirious exclamation of triumph. I struggled a bit more to pull myself wholly up, but Johnny suddenly grabbed hold of my dangling foot and pushed me upwards, pitching me straight onto the platform. Before I could utter a curse, his pack came sailing in, barely missing my head as it landed heavily on the plank wood floor. I would have sat up and shouted, but the climb took too much out of me. Probably using that stupid superhuman strength of his, he jumped the last few rungs and landed just clear of my lump of a body. He leaned back for a bit to catch his breath and flashed me another stupid grin. Too exhausted to retaliate or even hold up a finger, I grunted and rolled away from the ladder.
The sun dipped below the horizon as we rested, barely moving from where we settled. I fought the lull to fall asleep, lest I lose precious travel hours or time I could use to do a supply check. I tried to stretch my worn out arms out. Bad idea. A cramp locked my left forearm painfully. I gnashed my teeth together at the sudden jolt and doubled into a fetal position, squeezing my arm. Hearing me curse out, Johnny sat up drowsily. “What’s up with you?” he queried, noticing my self-battle in the corner. “Cramp,” I muttered. I could almost hear him snigger at my condition. Suddenly, I was pried apart and my cramping arm pulled out. “Three fingers,” Johnny held out, and started to rub my muscles out. I flinched and tried to pull away, but his grip on my wrist was firm.
The pain eased and I wiggled out of his grasp. “Thanks,” I mumbled. “Y’know, it wouldn’t hurt to maybe, I don’t know, get along?” he shrugged. “Oh? And are you saying we don’t?” I snarkily replied. He shot me a smug smile. “Well, between me… hauling your ass… out of situations and you so amazingly shouting me out of some, maybe we can find some kind of compromise which doesn’t end in either of us going “What the hell’s your problem?” and tuck in for once without wanting to shoot each other in the back?” he summarized. He was very careful with his words around the ‘hauling my ass’ part.
“What makes you think I’m gonna shoot you in the back?” My turn to smile smugly. His eyebrows shot up. “Right. You’ll probably slit my throat to save the bullets,” he said thoughtfully. “Oh so beheading does work on werewolves?” I quipped. “Beheading works on pretty much everything, I would think,” he continued to tap a finger in his chin, mocking a thinking pose. “Ha. Ha,” I answered sarcastically. “So what about it, Spitfire? We cool?” he asked. My mouth twisted in consideration. “But if we don’t scream at each other, we might not talk at all,” I cooed. He scoffed but smiled. He sucked in a breath. “We’re not screaming at each other now,” he remarked. I sneered. “Please don’t start. This radio tower was enough for today,” he sighed and plopped down onto the floor.
“Sorry,” I said softly. I didn’t think he heard me. I turned to face the other wall, away from him and lay down quietly. “I’m sorry too,” came a reply. I was so surprised I sat up. But the evening had dimmed to night and I couldn’t see his face, yet somehow I had the feeling he was smiling. “Goodnight,” I wished. “G’night, Sarah,” Johnny responded. For the first time in a long while, I think we finally went to sleep facing each other.