Liam and Judah sat in the sand, out by the dying fire. Judah held a half-frozen bottle of water on his bruised knuckles. “Beth asleep?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. I-”
“I don’t think it was an accident.” Liam whispered into the dark night.
“Well no, it wasn’t an accident. I was pissed it was a-”
“No, I mean Mac’s cuts.”
Judah stopped and gave Liam a baffled look. “What do you mean? You think Mac did that on purpose?”
Liam cocked his head and gave Judah a knowing glare. “You were thinking it too; you just didn’t realize it.”
“What are you talking about? What didn’t I realize?” Judah opened the bottle and drank the water so the solid ice would sit closer to the surface of his skin.
“The way Macs been behaving? He knows this trip as well as you. He knows not to over drink. He knows the added risks with a new boat. He freaking knows you never barrel down the middle. Think about it, Judah. How many times have we done that rope swing? Mac is always the one to warn newbies about the shallow depths. You were the first to him in the rapids, the one to dive in after him at the swing and the one to take his boat at the twisted rapids and put him with Jay. You knew he wouldn’t risk Jay. Subconsciously you knew. And those cuts... he didn’t hit you back because he was inflicting those cuts. They’re perfect slices, holy hell, don’t sit there and look at me like I’m fucking nuts.”
“Judah, he’s self-sabotaging his freaking life.”
Judah sat stunned, letting Liam’s insight sink in. If he was being truthful, he’d felt it like a foreboding second site, since the ride from New York. He just couldn’t bring himself to admit it. “So what are we going to do?”
“You got Jay help. We will get Mac help, too.”
Judah shook his head and dropped his face into his hands. “Look how that turned out. I was wrong.”
“Bullshit,” snapped Liam. “Stop it. Stop beating yourself up for something that was out of your control. Not just Jay, but all of it. There’s only so much in this life we can control, Judah.”
Judah nodded, wiping at his eyes. He turned and made it look like the smoke from the fire was wafting into his face. Liam wasn’t fooled.
“When we get home, I want to take Mac to see a therapist. Will you help me get him to agree to go? Help me stay with him until he’s on his feet again?”
Judah’s jaw dropped. He gave Liam a disbelieving sideways glance. “I don’t know.”
“He’s our friend and yeah he may have fucked up, but which one of us hasn’t? We can’t let him down. We can’t lose him.” Liam pleaded.
“Fine.” Judah huffed.
Judah shook his head. “Come on, Liam. You’re a freaking task master, here.”
“You gotta let her talk to you.”
“She has,” Judah argued.
“Have you listened?”
“Gees, Evans, if I knew this trip was going to be a damned intervention...”
Liam smiled. His face looked eerie, distorted through the heat and flames. “Talk to Jay about that, this was his doing.” Liam got up and gave Judah’s shoulder a firm squeeze. “I’m headed to check on Mac and then going to bed. I’m pretty sure he will sleep the night through, but I’ll check on him periodically.”
Judah laid his hand on Liam’s and looked up to him. “I will too. You ready to do this tomorrow?”
Liam grimaced. “Nope, not at all. Good night, buddy.”
Judah stayed up, poking at the fire until only embers remained. His mind was crowded, between the trip, Liam’s revelation about Mac and the past, sleep wasn’t even on the fringes of his radar. He looked over to Beth’s tent. The moon was bright and he could see her windows and front flap were only zipped to the screen. “Beth?”
The sounds of people breathing in deep slumber returned to answer him. He got up from the sand and walked to her tent, hesitating at the entryway. With all his heart he wanted to climb into that pup tent wither and hold her through the night. His body ached to feel her against him. He missed her soft warmth, the smell of fresh air in her hair and the way she scrubbed her face before bed even though she rarely wore a stitch of makeup. Her skin always smelled of tangerine and lavender. Judah closed his eyes and inhaled. His nostrils filled with drifting smoke and damp earth. He stood there, silent, regulating his breath to her breathing as if it were the most natural rhythm. It took no effort on his part.
Mac tossed in his tent, mumbling incoherently. Judah peeked in on him. His arm had fallen from the pillows, and Judah could see the strips of fabric stained with blood. He tore up several more strips and crawled into the tent beside a restless Mac. Being cautious, not to further hurt Mac and trying not to wake him. He removed the stained bandages and re-wrapped Mac’s arm. Liam was right the cuts were clean slices, two directly crisscrossed over his inner wrist.
“Why, man? Why would you do this? You’re stronger than this. I know you are. We all know it. I’m not going to let you go down this road.”
Mac grumbled in his sleep.
Judah propped his arm back up. “As much as I hate you; I love you too. I don’t want to lose what we built. If it takes me coming back to the business and holding your damned hand every damned day to get you through this, that’s what I am going to do. We don’t quit. No man left behind.”
Judah shuffled backward out of the tent. “Don’t leave me, Mac.”