I can withstand the grouchiness. I've learned to weather it, these past nearly-three years. It cuts me, it wounds me, it sandpapers me, it gouges me, if I'm vulnerable and he grouches wrong -- but I'm used to that. It's the way he is. He was born a Cancer, and he's learned the defenses of a Cancer, doubly crabby. I've learned that he's dire and grouchy and any time he grouches, it's because that's the way he is, and after a few minutes of feeling hurt, there I am again, and I know better than to do that next time. It was more embarrassment and chagrin at having disturbed him, this time. But I meeped and got quiet, and instead of hanging up immediately, or letting me hang up, he got gentle.
Him, being gentle?
That, just now, undid a major section of defense, just as much as it would had he pulled the lacing from my bodice in one deft swipe. Carefully-armored parts of me are tingling, exposed to his touch...
It tells me that he cares about my emotions. More, it tells me that he's learning me, and knows he sometimes makes me hurt, and he doesn't want to do that.
Shawn would hurt me. Never physically, but sometimes it was deliberate, and sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes he just wanted to see how I'd react. Sometimes he was getting his way and he didn't care what got in the way of that. Sometimes he was just being himself. And if he noticed (sometimes he did) he rarely bothered to even try to make things better with me. I was hurt. I'd get over it.
BJ would visibly bend over backwards to make me feel better, but would near-inevitably manage to do it in such a fucking inept/Wrong way as to make me feel worse, and feel the worse for feeling worse when he was obviously trying to patch things over. Ungrateful. Mean. Petty. Why should I be the one to make him bend over backwards when he has a spine injury? I should really be the one bending for him...
River would bend over so far backwards he'd touch his heels with his head, and he was flexible enough to do that -- physically. However, if you accidentally stepped wrong with him, he wouldn't tell you so you could avoid it next time...
Darkside isn't Mr. Perceptive, in general. For the most part, he doesn't pay much attention to the people around him; he didn't even notice that he'd been hurtful when a good friend of his came in to the computer lab while he was working, and he gave a grouchy brush-off because he was busy. He was just absorbed, and it didn't occur to him that he might have hurt someone. If he'd noticed, he would have been sorry -- he didn't notice. And that was a good friend.
- He pays attention to my reactions.
- He cares about my well-being.
- Once he's noticed and cared, he cares enough to expose the soft animal inside his crabby shell enough to say something to try and make me feel better.
- When he's saying something, he's progressed from saying The Exact Wrong Thing to The Exact Right Thing.
- So he's been paying attention to my responses when he says the Wrong Thing, as well as remembering what worked and didn't work for him.
- My brain just broke.