Charlie’s sudden departure left the impromptu picnic feeling somewhat strained. Blake returned after seeing his friend off, but conversation had become decidedly brittle, and the quagga soon excused himself as well.

That just left the girls.

“I wonder what that was about?” Melly said, going over the conversation in her mind.

“Iunno.” Becky shrugged. “The big one’s in one of my classes, but I don’t know a damn thing about the little guy that he didn’t say right here. Aren’t you the one in a class with him?”

“And that’s why I want to know what just happened,” the rat shot back. “If a landmine just went off, the last thing I do is step on another one when two dozen people are around.”

“Okay, okay.” The lizard held up her hands in surrender. “But it’s not like I’ve got profound insight into the masculine psyche or some shit like that.”

“You’re still another perspective. I’ve been going over it, and for the life of me I can’t see why he cooled off so quick. If he just didn’t want to talk about why he’s in the program, okay, but he did start to talk about it. And then he just… ran out of steam, and I don’t know if it’s something I said.”

You didn’t say all that much,” Becky pointed out. “Nothing that anyone could find fault with. Blake went a lot farther.”

“But they obviously like taking digs at each other. I don’t think that was it.”

“There is that,” the dragon said slowly. “Hmm. Hey, it looked like they were pretty close there, for a moment, on his way out. Maybe they’re fucking and Charlie’s not out of the closet? Taking the course for courage, convincing himself it’s okay to want some dick now and then, too?”

Whether it was the rush of coarse language from a near-stranger or something else that made Melly wince, the rat schooled it away in a hurry. “I don’t know. Maybe. If they’ve been friends for a long time, Blake might have been an easy person to turn to and trust with something that big – and you certainly don’t get much more guy-shaped than him. But I didn’t get that vibe – and you’d think it’d be easier to just say ‘I’m gay,’ or even ‘I’m bisexual,’ than to take a class that’s so much a girls’ thing.”

“Guys can be strange.” Becky shrugged. “Hard to say what’ll threaten male pride and what won’t.”

“’Profound insight into the masculine psyche,’ huh?” the rat challenged.

Another shrug. “Don’t need a Psych degree – or a boyfriend – to see that much.”

“You may be right,” Melly granted. “I don’t think they’re an item, but they could be. But no trying to fish details out of them, okay? Whatever it is obviously bugs him enough already.”

“It’s not like I really want to hear what they may or may not get up to in private,” Becky pointed out with a smirk.

That was probably the closest she’d get to a promise. Melly said a few words of thanks, then excused herself, gathered her things, and left, trying to put the incident, if not out of mind, at least to the back of it.