Chapter 17

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S E V E N T E E N

      RYDER LOOKED JUST as afraid as I was to glance through the window and see if it was safe to go inside Tyler's hospital room.

      "Do you, uh, just want to eat out here?" I bit my lip as I waited on an answer.

      He nodded and sent a weary glance to the door. "Unless you feel like knocking."

      "I'm good," I answered quickly. I pressed my back against the cold wall next to the window and slid to the floor. after a moment, Ryder took a seat beside me and opened his bag of chips. I did the same.

       The silence was slightly awkward, and something told me it wasn't just because of Tyler and Dakota possibly getting it on in the next room. Eventually, Ryder sighed and broke the silence—although reluctantly.

      "There's a party tomorrow." He leaned his head back against the wall and sent a sideways glance my way. "I'm sure one of the other three will invite you, so I might as well get it over with."

      "Is it at Tyler's?" I tossed a Cheeto in my mouth, absently rubbing my fingers together in an attempt to shake the cheese off and back into the bag before tossing in another one.

     Ryder nodded. "Tyler gets out tomorrow morning. He told us earlier this week he wanted to celebrate about it. I think it has more to do with him being excited about his new boyfriend than it does about a little bullet wound, but he would never admit that." He sat down the bag of chips and raised his arms above his head to stretch out his presumably stiff body. "The guys and myself are all staying the night. I assume you are, too?"

      "Maybe."

      Before either of us could say anything else, the door opened to reveal a messy-haired Tyler. It took him a second to find us in the ground, but he seemed pretty confused when he did. "What are you guys doing on the floor?"

      Heat rose to my cheeks. "Well, you were a little busy."

      Tyler's eyes widened as his face reddened. "We didn't—I mean, we just made out! I mean—"

      Ryder snorted and stood up. He balled up the empty chip bag in his hand and tossed it into the trashcan just inside the door. "Its cool, man. You do what you gotta do."

      Tyler's face went even darker—if possible—and Dakota's cheeks did the same.

      "Let's just, uh, go back inside," Dakota muttered.

•••••

      The rest of the night was spent teasing Tyler and Dakota, eating junk food from the vending machines, and continuously giving puppy eyes to nurses who were annoyed by our lack of volume control.

      It wasn't until around two in the morning that we were all ready to crash.

      "Who's sleeping where?" Tyler asked, the last word muffled and stretched out from his yawn. We all sat in a circle on the hospital room's floor. It was extremely unsanitary, but we were all too tired to really care. "I'm fucking slumped, man."

      Dakota shrugged as a response, reaching a hand up to mess with his gauges. "I can sleep in the chair, if you want."

      Tyler yawned again, this time bringing his hand up to cover it. "What about Ryder?"

      Ryder looked thoughtful for a second before answering. "I don't care to sleep on the floor." He sent a sideways glance at me. "Skye?"

      Tyler looked a little taken aback from the question, then chuckled. "Wow, I actually hadn't thought about it. I'm so used to Skye sleeping with me that it hadn't even crossed my mind for her to sleep somewhere else." At the utterly shocked looks on Ryder and Dakota's faces, Tyler held up his hands. "Not like that! We've never—she's like my sister," he scolded.

      I laughed as Tyler's face turned a dark shade of pink and he shivered in disgust. I unfolded my legs from under me and crossed my ankles, leaning back in my hands. "I've always been afraid of storms, so one of the times we all stayed the night at Tyler's, a heavy one hit. Each one of us had slept on different couches in the living room and in my fear, I went to the person on the couch nearest to me: Tyler."

      Tyler rolled his eyes with a grin. "You say it like you just lightly woke me up and asked to lay with me." He put on a mock thoughtful look. "I wonder if I should tell Ryder and Dakota about what really happened?"

      I shot daggers at Tyler as Dakota leaned forward in interest, his legs folded underneath of him. Ryder just sat there, relaxed as usual, one leg straightened out and the other pulled to his chest. One arm rested casually over his bent knee, while the other propped him up beside him like mine.

      "Don't you even think about it, shoeless."

      Tyler flushed red and sputtered out, "It was one time!"

      "I think this one sounds more interesting," Dakota admitted.

      "Skye leapt over at me and woke up both me, Jay, and Cyrus while screaming like a pansy!"

      "Tyler woke up and got ready for school, completely getting to put on shoes until I reminded him as he walked out the door!"

      There was silence after our simultaneous shouts.

      "Wow," Ryder muttered after a while. He shook his head in mock disappointment, but I still didn't miss his lips twitching with the ghost of a smile. "You guys suck at telling interesting stories. And insults," he added as a side note.

      "Guys," Dakota cut in with a yawn. "I'm almost out, here. You figured out who's sleeping where, yet?"

      "Tyler gets the bed, obviously," I answered, uncrossing my ankles and rising to my feet. I grinned as an idea struck me. "The chair's relatively wide, so I'm sure Ryder and I can fit if we squeeze in. Dakota, why don't you take the bed with Tyler?"

      Neither argued, simply blushed and nodded before Dakota climbed into bed with Tyler.

      I sent a glance to a seemingly annoyed Ryder and instantly regretted it. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was hellbent in setting me aflame with his eyes.

      It didn't work.

      I rolled my eyes as a response and made my way to the chair, watching as Dakota and Tyler snuggled up together. I'd never admit it out loud, but a part of me envied seeing other people in relationships. I'd never really had one outside of holding hands with a cute boy in elementary school, and even that didn't last more than a minute when I was constantly switching foster homes. If it wasn't for my short fling with Jay, I would have never even had my first kiss, not that I'd ever tell him that.

      I stopped when I noticed Ryder still sitting cross legged in the floor. "Are you coming?"

      "I'm fine here," he said simply. He slid his phone from his pocket and started tapping on the screen.

      I plopped down on the chair with a shrug and pulled out my own. "If you wanna be a little bitch about it, that's fine by me. Not like I care any."

      He didn't respond.

      I may not have known Ryder well, but I knew enough from finding places to crash in between homes that the cold hard floor would eventually get uncomfortable. He'd give in.

      He lasted a lot longer than I gave him credit for, but did eventually make his way to the loveseat, grumbling incoherently. "Scoot over," he muttered without looking at me.

      I snickered and sat my phone in the floor beside the loveseat. Ryder plopped down noisily beside me after I scooted as far to the left as possible. I nodded my head towards the lamp beside the chair and waited for Ryder to turn it off. "Thanks."

      I wasn't given a response as my eyes started to droop, not that I was complaining.

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