-1Disclaimer: I don't own Ralph, Bullet, Zero, Fixit, Bugler or Dark Angel. Blah blah Woof woof.
Spoilers: Bag 'Em
Setting: After Bag 'Em
Characters: Ralph, Bugler, Zero, Fixit, and Bugler
Summary: Ralph's thoughts about Bullet
Archive: Ask me first, Fine...
"You've got to keep the weight off it." I told him.
"I'm fine, Ralph. Would you cut it out?"
My new name seemed to roll so nicely off his tongue. And even though he was being his stubborn self and refusing my help, it just endeared him more to me. The brief contact when I tried to help him sent shivers down my spine. I remembered the moment fondly.
"Ralph? Hello. Pay attention, Ralph!"
I snapped out of my reverie and smiled a small apologetic smile at Bullet.
"Sorry." I said, "Come again?"
"I was asking if you know when Zero'll be back with Fixit and Bugler." Bullet repeated.
I shook my head, my blonde hair whipping across my face.
"I wasn't informed." I said.
Bullet stared at me oddly and slowly moved the hair out of my face and tucked it behind my ear. I looked down self-consciously. This was embarrassing. Suck it up, Ralph. You're a soldier. Soldier's don't blush. So what if Bullet's perfect? We were designed that way. Maybe we're not as top notch as the X5's, but...you're rambling, Ralph. Bullet's been staring at you for exactly two minutes and 37 seconds now. Say something. Say something, soldier!
"I should do another check of the perimeter." I blurted and ran out of the building like an idiot.
Stupid, Ralph! Absolutely idiotic! For one, there really is no perimeter to check. And two, it wouldn't need checking if there was one. Bullet must get a kick out of how dumb you are.
As a punishment for my own stupidity, I ran around the block twice. Of course, I remembered to check my speed. I didn't want to raise any suspicions. I might not be as fast as an X5, but I'm fast enough to get in trouble. By the time I got back, the old pick-up was parked outside; Zero, Fixit, and Bugler were home.
"Where's Ralph?" Zero asked.
"Behind you." Bullet said with a smile that I was sure was at my expense.
Zero glanced sharply over his shoulder at me.
"Ralph. Good, we're all here." Zero said, "We brought dinner."
Zero threw a large box of pizza down on the table. We had started a tradition of eating together at least once a day. Like we did at Manticore in the mess hall. And like the grunts we still were, we fell on the food like it was our last meal. Leftovers don't occur often around here. Especially not when I think back and remember before we robbed that store. Hunger pains that hurt so bad, but I was afraid to show it. I had meant it when I said that I would kill someone if I didn't get something to eat soon. Those Cheetohs had tasted better than anything I'd ever eaten before in my life. And as hungry as we all were, Bullet had made the others let me eat first. He'd been my favorite person in the world at that point and it hadn't changed since then.
Pizza gone and all of us content with our stomachs full, we retreated to our different corners of the room. Fixit went back to work on whatever it was she was making. Zero went to the window where he could watch the people outside. Bugler sat in the middle on the floor. I retreated to the corner instead of taking my normal spot near Bugler on the holey couch. I was surprised when Bullet took a seat next to me.
"Are you okay, Ralph?" he asked quietly.
I knew the others could hear, but they all pretended they couldn't. I decided to ignore them, too.
"I'm fine. What makes you think I'm not?"
Bullet didn't respond to that. Instead he changed the subject, which I silently thanked him for.
"Bet I've got more scars than you now, Ralph." he declared.
I smiled to myself. Scars had always been a thing in the X6 barracks. Yet again, we're not as good as the X5's at healing ourselves completely, so we do tend to get scars. Really, we're not as good as the X5's period. We're just grunts. Not that it should matter anymore. There is no more Manticore. So why are you still thinking about it, Ralph?
"I'll believe it when I see it." I replied.
"Chronologically, by size, or by pain?" Bullet teased.
"How about chronologically by year, but in the order of most painful to least." I replied, "Starting with most recent."
Bullet sighed and rolled his eyes, a habit I still suspect he picked up from Alec (X5-494) in our short time together. He rolled up his pant leg to expose the bullet wound.
"We all know this one." he said, running his fingers over the wound gently.
I reached my hand out tentatively to touch the scar.
"Does it still hurt?" I wondered.
"Of course not, Ralph. Don't be silly." Bullet replied, pulling his pant leg back down over the scar. Next, he lifted his shirtsleeve and pointed out a thin scar running along his arm, "This is from the razor wire on the fence."
"I remember that." I nodded, "But I still beat you."
"I'm not done." Bullet replied, dropping his sleeve and lifting his shirt up and turning his back to me, "On my back there's a scar from an exercise with an X5. I lost the drill."
Once again my fingers traced the scar and once again he brought down the material to stop me.
"Your chest." I reminded him, "You have two scars on your chest and one on your side."
"And one near the collarbone." Bullet nodded.
"So that's six?" I said.
"You forgot the one on my thigh." Bullet reminded me, "It's seven."
"Hmmm, well I guess you got me beat by one." I said.
Bullet smiled as if that were some sort of victory. I let him enjoy it. Truth was, I enjoyed it too just because he did. Everything reminded me of Bullet these days. Even my name: Ralph. I'd gotten that name because I hadn't been able to stomach the sight of Bullet's pain when they cauterized that wound. The actual sight of his red blood spilling, his skin torn apart by a bullet, had been too much for me. I'd had rather it had been me that got shot.
"You okay, Ralph?" Bullet asked, concern in his voice.
He put his hand on mine and looked at me. I smiled.