"It's probably easier if we all go down. Everything's already there and we wouldn't have to carry it all up the stairs," I said, hesitantly.

"Just fucking bring it up here. I don't even really want any anyway," he growled at me, his voice rising.

I was hurt, but agreed to go downstairs and get it. "Can you come help me carry it?" I asked quietly, disheartened by the whole situation and embarrassed that everyone was around to witness it all go down.

"No. You go get it. We're playing and it's my birthday. You're the one who's supposed to be doing everything for me today," he said, grinning slyly to his equally drunk friend next to him, who remained quiet.

"Dude, what are you doing? You can't talk to her like that," Landon chimed in, walking into the room and catching the back-end of our exchange. He wore an expression I had never seen on him before and hoped never to see again. I was not a fan of Enraged Landon overhearing Drunk Camden hurling abusive and misogynistic comments my way.

"Fuck off, mate. She's my missus and it's my fucking birthday. I'll say whatever the fuck I want," Camden said, perfecting the half-slur, half-snarl.

And that was the end of the discussion, because I grabbed hold of Landon's hand and dragged him downstairs before he could say anything back and make things worse.

Camden saying whatever he wanted and getting away with it was a regular occurrence, as was doing whatever he wanted, to whomever he wanted. Everyone was just so terrified of him, and never wanted to say or do the wrong thing in case he went off. They had all known him longer than I had, so perhaps in some ways they did know a little better what he was capable of. He had layers of scars on his wrists to prove it, and he had threatened me often enough that if I were to ever leave him, he would kill himself. I didn't want to believe him, but a very big part of me did.

Landon knew Camden was too far gone to reason with tonight, but he had also never heard him talk to me like that before. He had heard little snippets here and there, but nothing like the display he put on this evening. And this wasn't even that bad by comparison to some other nights.

He tore his hand free from mine angrily and stormed off outside, planting himself in a chair around the fire, throwing rocks at the flames and staring intently at the sparks flying up into the darkness. I waited a few minutes before I followed him out there.

Pulling a chair up right next to him, I said, "You didn't need to do that, Landon."

"Like hell I didn't! He can't fucking talk to you like that," Landon growled. Blind hatred made his gorgeous face suddenly much less attractive. It was even worse than the rage before.

"It's okay, really. I can handle him."

He turned to face me quicker than my tired eyes were able to follow. The smoke from the fire mixed with the festering menthol cigarette and dope cloud inside around the TV had stolen my ability to see clearly, but the fury plastered on his face was unmistakable. "He's done that before? Talked to you like that shit inside?" That was pretty much his standard way of talking to me, but my poor friend didn't need to be burdened with that knowledge.

"You know he doesn't really mean it. He's just drunk."

"Sadie, he's always fucking drunk. And regardless, that doesn't give him an excuse to be a fucking asshole. Stop justifying every shitty thing he does. We both know he's a prick," he spat angrily. "I just didn't know he was that much of a prick; and to you, of all people."

"He is who he is, Landon." He made a move to interrupt me, but I stopped him, physically holding a finger over his mouth to stop his flow of angry words bursting out like a fire hydrant that had busted a leak. "He is. And despite all his flaws, we both care about him, and you know that's true. I can handle him. He's not always like this. Sometimes he's just the person we both love."

"I don't doubt that, Sade. We've been mates for long enough for me to know there is good in him alongside the bad stuff. But you're my friend now, too — and a fucking good one at that — and I can't just ignore when someone is treating you like shit. It's not right. You deserve better."

"I'm just a person, Landon. I deserve no more and no less than anyone else, because I'm no different than anyone else," I said truthfully.

He closed his eyes where he sat, and didn't open them for a few seconds. When he did, he grabbed my hand and physically pulled me over into his lap. I hadn't been that close to anyone apart from Camden since Ruben, and my heart was racing not because I was attracted to him, but due to the unexpectedness of his actions and the terror I felt about what might come from this very affectionate display, which I knew very well could be seen from inside where Camden sat around the TV. Drunkenness brought out the worst in Camden, and if he saw Landon and me sitting the way we were now, he would flip his shit, and I wasn't sure which one of us — Landon or me — would be his first target.

I tried to just look at Landon, but was frantically glancing over his head through the window behind us, desperately hoping that Camden would be too engrossed in the game or a beer to notice what was going on outside. Thankfully, he was, and I looked back to Landon. He was waiting for me to cease my hyper-sensitive surveillance of Camden inside and refocus back on him before he spoke. "You have no idea how much more you are compared to everyone else, Sade."

He pulled me into a hug which I tried to break away from, still terrified that at any minute Camden would come out and beat both our asses. "You'll never be happy with him, Sadie; and one day soon you'll realise that and fly out of that cage he's got you trapped in. And when that day comes, know that I've always got your back, no matter what."


"Landon sounds like a wonderful friend, Sadie. And rather prophetic, it would seem," said Karen. "I'm very glad that you had him to stand up for you. That behaviour from Camden was very disrespectful and completely unacceptable."

"I know. I just didn't have the energy or care to do anything about it by then. But you're right: Landon is a wonderful friend. I couldn't ask for anything more," I said, proceeding to tell Karen about the conversation Landon and I had earlier that week about Tanner.

"I can understand why he would be a little apprehensive about a re-connection with Tanner given how close you were with him. But in how you describe your friendship with Landon now and the things you have been through together, I'd have thought he really should have more faith in you than that," Karen said.

"You would think so," I said, also a little confused by Landon's irrational fear of Tanner. "I had almost convinced myself that I would reach out to Tann, but Landon's reaction has made me second guess that a little."

I didn't want to put Landon in a position where he would feel uncomfortable or forgotten, which I know would never happen; but I also wanted to know about Tanner's life, and apologise for the way things ended between us. I owed him that.

"I'm sure that Landon would understand, and we both know that you wouldn't overlook him if you did get Tanner back in your life," said Karen confidently. "Martyrdom will ultimately get you nowhere, Sadie. We've been over this many times."

Abandoning my deep-seated martyr ways was proving more challenging than I anticipated, but I knew now that it was necessary. Landon would understand in time, and I've learned from my past mistakes with Tanner and Morgan. I wasn't going to abandon my friendships anymore. There was room enough for both of them. I just needed to know whether that's what Tanner wanted, too.

"So, what will you say to Tanner?" Karen asked, a wide, knowing smile spreading across her face.

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