Rome could have done it the easy way. He could have stabbed Dirty Henry in the back right there while he was asleep. It was what Quyloc would have done if he could have summoned the courage. But even then Rome’s sense of fairness would not allow him to attack another unsuspecting.
Rome kicked him in the back and yelled at him to get up. With a groan Dirty Henry rolled away from him and sat up, mumbling incoherently. “Get up!” Rome yelled again.
Now Dirty Henry’s mumbling was thick with threats of pain and violence. He pushed himself to his knees and slowly came to his feet. As he straightened, Rome dashed in and sank the knife in his belly, then darted back, still gripping the blade, even then his instincts telling him not to let go of his weapon.
Dirty Henry’s hand went to the hole in his gut and his face turned up disbelievingly. He screamed and staggered forward and Rome attacked him again, a slash across the throat. Dirty Henry fell to his knees, holding his throat, and the paralysis gripping Quyloc finally broke.
Screaming his hatred and fear he burst across the room and swung the club with all his might. He hit Dirty Henry square on the side of the head and dropped him like a stone.
Quyloc stood over the fallen man. Dirty Henry didn’t even move. Something in the way he lay there said his neck was broken.
Calmly, Rome looked at Quyloc and said merely, “I knew you would come, Quyloc. I knew I could count on you to watch my back.” And stuck out his hand.
Numbly, Quyloc stared at him, then slowly extended his own to grip it. Rome let go and bent over Henry, rolling his head back. “He’s dead, all right. He won’t trouble us anymore.”
And Quyloc almost told him, right then and there. Almost blurted out his shame and fear, how Henry had grabbed him and all he’d done was piss himself. But if he did he knew he’d lose Rome forever. Rome would turn away in disgust and there would be nothing left for him. So he kept his mouth shut and dropped his club and followed Rome back out into the dawn.
Rome was a hero after that. Surprisingly to Quyloc, he was too. Even more surprising was that Rome let him share in the glory, not once telling the other kids that after all, he alone had killed Dirty Henry, and all Quyloc had done was hit him with a stick when he was nearly dead anyway. From then on Quyloc stuck close to Rome, always right behind him, and for his part, Rome began to listen to him, to ask him for advice on things. Thus was a friendship born.
Almost two decades had passed since then, but Quyloc had never truly understood the confusing mix of love and envy that lay at the base of their relationship.