Making Friends is Harder Than it Seems
“So why did you guys want that sceptre so badly?”
Cal looked at Joey across their campfire. “It’s worth a lot of money, I told you that.”
Joey chuckled, nodding. “Yeah. But really, what did you want it for?”
Cal glanced at Wes, who shrugged. He looked back at Joey. “So it could make us a lot of money.”
“I mean…” Joey made an agitated noise. “You can tell me the real reason. I’m not going to steal it, God.”
“So says every thief under the moon,” Cal reminded him. He looked at Sully, who looked like he wished they hadn’t drank all of their only bottle of wine. It hadn’t been a big bottle and there wasn’t much for each person with six of them. “Almost every thief under the moon.”
“Oh, shut it,” Sully grumbled. “Some of us prefer the straightforward approach.”
“The straightforward approach might have gotten you killed if you’d tried to rob someone less altruistic than me.”
“Oh, please. You only didn’t beat me up because you’re a vindictive bastard and you’d rather torture me over a span of years with terrible jokes and endless bitching.”
Mick snorted. “He’s not wrong. You do tend to hold a grudge.”
“Only when people deserve it.”
“I wonder how Beatrice is doing these days?”
“Who cares?” Cal asked, looking into his empty cup and also wishing there was more wine. “She’s awful. Hopefully she’s dead.”
“My point is made.”
“I have a legitimate reason to hold a grudge against her.” Cal scowled. He needed more wine for this conversation.
“You were holding a grudge against her long before you had a legitimate reason,” Wes reminded him.
“Did you forget about the time with the wolves?”
Joey giggled at them, leaning into Travis a little. “You guys are funny.”
“Don’t tell Cal that,” Sully grumbled, glaring at Joey. “He’ll believe it and then we’ll have to deal with it after you go away.”
“Consider it your punishment for being so mean to us,” Joey told Sully.
“How many knives did you get in your ribs in the last little while?” Sully challenged. “This is us being friendly.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you kind of suck at it?” Travis asked, sipping at his cup. He still had some wine, which Cal didn’t approve of.
Mick nodded. “Sully gets told that all the time.”
“The rest of us are very personable,” Wes added.
“Personable people would tell me what their magical dragon sceptre was for,” Joey disagreed, leaning back on his rock a little. Even now, he was totally covered in that cloak from head to toe.
Cal sighed. “How many times do I have to tell you, it’s for making a lot of money.”
“But what does it do?” Joey pressed. “It’s magic, right?”
“It makes money for whoever sells it.”
“You’re so annoying.”
“That’s more accurate,” Sully told him, looking at the fire now.
“What would I have to do to make you trust me?”
Cal looked at him. “You could start by not hiding under that cloak.” He saw the way Joey tensed at that. “But if you can’t do that, a good way to make us trust you would be to stop wanting to know stuff about us.”
“What?” Joey crossed his arms. “What should we talk about then, then, the weather?”
“I hope this winter is easier than last year’s, don’t you?”
Joey made another annoyed noise, but it was Travis who spoke. “Joey’s naturally curious about most things. He doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“And what about you?” Wes asked, and Cal let him take over. “It seems like it’s your job to explain Joey to us.”
Travis went a little red at that. “Seems like it’s your job to talk when Cal’s not being intimidating enough.”
Cal swallowed a laugh, but Sully didn’t, first snorting and then laughing so hard he fell off his rock. Cal was going to pour cold water on him to wake him up tomorrow.
“I had a bit of a sheltered upbringing,” Joey said, watching Sully. “Travis is a bit more worldly than me. So he helps when I’m bad at it.”
“Well, we’ll give you some free advice then,” Mick told him, pointing. He set his half-empty cup down and Cal swiped it. “Inviting yourself to tag along after people you don’t know and then asking them lots of questions about what they’re doing is going to make people suspicious, and then they won’t trust you.”
“So…” Joey had away of emoting without most of his face being visible, and Cal could tell he was frowning. “The best way to get you to tell me what you’re doing is to just…not ask?”
“That sounds right,” Cal told him.
“It’s the kind of back-asswards logic these idiots work on,” Sully said, leaning on his rock from his new place on the ground.
“You’re one of these idiots, you know,” Cal reminded him.
“Well, I didn’t say you were fucking wrong.” Sully looked at Joey again. “Besides, you guys are going to fuck off in a couple of days when we get back to the village, right? So who cares?”
“I guess…” Joey sounded a bit disappointed. “I was just curious is all.”
“Curiosity is dangerous,” Mick told Joey, giving Cal a bit of a look as Cal drank the rest of his wine. “Not to say you shouldn’t be curious. But be careful where you apply it.”
“Fine, but you guys not telling me about the thing isn’t because it’s dangerous, that’s because you don’t trust me or Travis.”
“And we don’t want to risk that your curiosity is going to be dangerous for us,” Mick finished.
Joey let out a long sigh, and Cal could see him thinking. “Okay,” he said finally. “I wish we could have been friends.”
“Me too,” Cal said, nodding. Joey seemed nice enough, and he was starting to wonder if his paranoia was starting to affect his judgement. Just because he’d decided Joey was hiding something didn’t mean he was right.
That seemed to get Joey’s attention, but he just snorted. “So, what do you guys think of this weather?”