if you break some bones on landing Who: BB & Augustus; a brief interlude with Abel. What: A loving sister brings her younger brother a housewarming present. Where: #605; then the Pax Letale parking lot. When: April 4th, evening.
BB grabbed the handle of her 'gift' for Augustus, then headed out to the elevator. She rarely got to ride it that high -- living on the second floor had its drawbacks -- but once inside she spent the majority of the ascension playing on her phone. It was long past due to make an appearance at her brother's apartment, and since she was carrying what she thought was an appropriate housewarming gift, she hoped food might be in the bargain. The light for the sixth floor dinged; the door opened, and BB smiled wide as she made for the fifth door. They'd made plans earlier, but BB assaulted him with both a text message (outside LEMME IN) and three loud raps on the entryway to his abode.
It hadn’t been the greatest day for Gus. He’d slept through his alarm, and had been late to class. In the process of rushing to get out the door before he was any later, Gus had missed taking his pills. As a result, his hands had been steadily aching throughout the entire morning and afternoon, twinges of pain that lessened and intensified at various intervals.
Needless to say, he hadn’t come home in the greatest mood. Seeing a strange present on his doorstep had at first irritated him, and only once he was calmed down did it intrigue him. Upon unwrapping the mysterious gift, Gus had been pleasantly surprised.
Well, only after he’d swore a few choice words. The gift within the box was an ugly, horrendously formed cookie jar in the shape of a dog. He’d jumped back from the thing, reprimanding himself for his fright--but it seemed worth it in the end, because the cookie jar contained a hearty stash of God’s Green Leaf.
Maybe, if Gus hadn’t been in such a foul mood, he would have thought twice about smoking a gift from a stranger. But as it stood, his hands were killing him, and the evening was wasting away into nothing.
Might as well.
His apartment was hazy with smoke, most of it emitting from the living room, when BB’s knocks finally reached his cloudy head. Ambling to the front door, slowly, as if underwater, Gus opened it to let his sister inside. The stench of the mystery leaf wafted out into the hallway. A goofy grin stretched across Gus’ face, and he eyeballed whatever it was that she held in her hands.
“Heeeey, BB. I. Well. I kinda forgot you were coming by and all,” he said languidly, stepping aside so that she could enter. “Come in, come in.”
BB could instantly smell the pot; even if she couldn't, the look on Gus' face plus the slightly dilated look of his eyes were giant red flags regarding his current state. She shoved her gift into his hands -- a glittery, pink plunger that she'd gotten at Spencer's, the one stop shop for all things bizarre -- and welcomed herself into his apartment.
"Are you shittin' me, Gusgus? How do you toke up and not invite me? What've you got, and where did you get it?" She twirled on one heel, looking like a bloodhound who'd caught the scent, but couldn't quite place it.
“What? No, what is this...” He nearly mumbled, staring wide-eyed at the plunger in his hands. The glitter was ridiculously bright and cheerful, and he shoved his door closed with the plunger’s handle, vaguely feeling that he'd otherwise regret getting glitter on the doorknob. Gus turned to look at his sister, carefully cradling his gift in his palms, like an offering.
“I didn't. You know...I didn't ask for this. BB, you shouldn't have bought this thing.” He shook his head in disbelief before a low chuckle escaped. Gus ushered BB towards an end table that held the mystery stash and his appropriate paraphernalia. The offensive dog cookie jar had been rolled across the floor, and appeared to be in a self-mandated timeout in the corner by his cheap TV stand.
“Dunno who gave me this, but it's good. Really good. It's not like my prescription at all. Try it.” He toyed with the plunger now, small specks of glitter attaching themselves to his skin.
BB needed no other invitation, picking up the pipe and taking a long drag. It hit her hard, and her eyes went extremely wide.
"Holy crap that's good!" She put a hand over her mouth, coughing, then took another hit before putting the pipe down. "And yes I did, so now when mom and dad asked, I helped. In my own way." Her eyes swept around the room, eventually coming back to the table.
"Did they set you up with furniture, too, or is this all hand me downs from what people left on the curb?"
Okay, so sometimes his big sister could be really cool. Like right now. Well--at least until she asked about his furniture. Luckily for him, he didn’t really care three iotas about fancy schmancy decorating.
“Yeah, yeah, if you say so.” Gus waved away BB’s declaration, plopping down on a faded and well-used arm chair. The plunger was plopped down, too, resting at the foot of the chair. “I found a lot of this myself. It’s fine. Like. Craigslist exists for a reason, BB. Plus, it isn’t like my old roommates are gonna miss an end table.” He shrugged, as if the means by which he acquired his living arrangements held no sway in his final assessment of the situation. “I have stuff to sit on, which is what counts.”
Leaning back in the armchair, he stared at what he thought might have been a small water spot on the ceiling. Even a highrise like this had its little secrets.
“So like, Britt. Dad totally misses you. He looooves you. You should call him.” He looked at his sister again, relaxed and more cheerful than he’d felt in ages. “Not tonight, though. Not tonight. What a bad idea.”
She made absolutely no attempt to hide her feelings on the topic of their mutual male adoptive parent. BB groaned, throwing her head back for full, dramatic effect.
"Please tell me that's not the only reason why you're here. Like, that's really weird and creepy that you're being his little messenger, Gusgus. If he wants to talk to me, he can fucking call, especially after what he said about my last article."
Granted, her last article (at least, the one before the scathing bit about her fellow Pax tenant Obed Brandt) had been little more than blind box speculation regarding some couples in Hollywood; in her father's mind, the lowest of the low. Why couldn't she apply herself to something worthwhile, like actual journalism? Why did she need to contribute to all the crap the U.S. was already mired in, especially after the last presidential election?
But to her mind, that crap was just appeasement, a distraction from the every day. Didn't people need that, too? Something that helped them not think about their own worries? So what if it happened to incite a little drama. Drama was the spice of life!
"Man, if you had to get stoned for this conversation, I feel hella bad for you. So where did you get this, even?" Her brows pulled together across her forehead. "Did you get it in a weird box this morning?"
Offended but too relaxed to respond with his usual ire, Gus firmly shook his head no. “Why would you even say that? I told you, my last living situation like. Fell through. Just like that. Freaking German Shepherds, they're like practically wolves.” He managed an annoyed frown. “Dad just wanted me to ask, is all.”
Gus willed himself to sit up in the chair, the motion a true act of effort, but one which had gotten slightly easier as the evening continued. He jabbed a finger towards the crude cookie jar in the corner.
“That thing. That's the thing it was in, BB. Just like. Sitting by my door. It's a present, maybe from the landlord?” He laughed, tossing his hands in the air for a moment in a gesture of ambivalence. “I don't know, but I'm not gonna complain yet. Nothing bad has happened.”
Squinting at his sister, Gus studied her as best he could. “Did you get something? How'd you know about my box?” There was no way this was a gift from her...was it? No way. She'd been too surprised. Plus, she'd already given him a plunger.
Her head bobbed, arms crossing loosely over her chest before falling to her sides once more, indecisive in their placement. She moved, eyes roaming restlessly over the interior of his apartment.
"Yeah I got some stupid DVD. Shark Night? I think it's a horror flick, probably about sharks, I dunno. It had ketchup or something on it, smelled awful. I think this guy Brent has it out for me because I beat him at pool this one time, he's a trash person, like, literal trash person, Gusgus, I am not making this up, you remember that thing from Fraggle Rock?" She brought her eyes back around to look at her brother, one hand in the air to point an accusing finger at her brother. "Just like that. But you don't know who gave you the cookie jar?"
Suddenly she crossed the room, fetching the cookie jar from its half-hidden hiding place and holding it up. It was kind of cute, in a mobid way. The cocker spaniel's tilted head looked lethargic, it's eyes nearly popping out as though someone were choking it to death. "God this thing is creepy." She brought it back over to sit on the table next to the bong. "You know, we should take it to one of those Art By U places, maybe give it a makeover. You need something to hold your cookies, and you shouldn't look a gift canine in the mouth, Gusgus."
His mind concocted the mental image of a traveling bag of trash, gangly arms and legs sticking out of it, with rotten apple cores and old gym socks peeking from its loosely tied top.
Damn, but this was some dank shit.
BB was saying something to him, though. He caught the last bit of it, the details quickly becoming vague new memory. “I dunno, BB. Maybe the trash person gave me this, too. He likes sharks and weed. What's wrong with that?”
BB leveled an annoyed glare toward her brother. "What's right with that?"
Gus paid better attention when BB shot across the room, moving far too quickly than was actually necessary. “Don't pick it up,” he managed to say just a second too late. Embarrassingly, he visibly flinched when the ghastly creation was placed on the table. “No.. The hell if I'm keeping that thing. Why don't you take it? Put your cookies in it.” Disgusted, he attempted his best glare, focusing it on the jar. “If you think I'm putting my Tagalongs in there, you're crazy.”
With a huff, he stood up from the chair, bravely stepping closer to the jar. “I'm throwing this thing away. Far away.”
Now, just to be contrary, BB clutched the cookie jar close. "No, if you're just gonna throw it out, I'll take it. Jesus, Gusgus, it's a cookie jar. It's not a real dog; this is way fucking different than having your roommates suddenly adopt a German Shepherd." She made small miming motions of petting it, cooing to the inanimate object that she wouldn't let big bad ol' Gusgus take it away.
Was she hugging it? Gus was stoned, but at least he wasn’t acting like that. BB could be so ridiculous sometimes that he liked to imagine--just once in awhile--that he was in actuality the older sibling instead of the youngest. This thought usually lasted as long as it took for him to roll his eyes in annoyance, which currently had just happened. He scoffed at his sister, crossing his arms defiantly; certainly, he was acting petulant, but he frankly did not care.
“Yeah, but freaking A, BB, it creeps me out. Have you looked at its face?! It’s like it stares at you. Watches you no matter where you go.” With a shudder, Gus stepped away from BB, maneuvering around the table to pick up his lighter and pipe. He’d rolled that cookie jar into the corner for a reason; if BB couldn’t understand, she didn’t have to understand. All that she needed to do was accept his judgment of the creepy thing. “Just. Let’s treat it like a White Elephant gift. Musical chairs or whatever, but with the cookie jar. Why not give it to Alice? She bakes.” The double entendre was lost on Gus as sat down on the threadbare couch to refill the pipe and light it, taking a drag with relief.
That little tangent certainly caught BB's attention. Her hold on the cookie jar loosened, but she did not put it down.
"Yeah, she does. So you guys found one another in the building? She didn't say anything to me about it." Alice's interactions with most men were enough to raise alarm bells in BB's mind, but this was her brother. Her younger brother, the kid that she'd pushed in his stroller until she got bored or tired of doing so and handed the responsibility off to her parents. Him dating her crush was as alien to her mind as pineapple on pizza. "You been to her cupcake shop yet? It's the bomb, Gusgus, little cakes and other stuff. It's so good."
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, I just said hi to her. Barely remembered her.” He set the pipe down, rubbing his right hand nervously with his left. Not that he had anything to hide. Not that he’d done anything wrong. Shit, maybe he’d just smoked too much of this mystery weed--that would explain the slight apprehension at BB taking such a sudden interest in discussing Alice.
But then again, BB had always seemed to have an interest in Alice. Not that he could blame her, truth be told, although for him the idea was still fairly new.
“I haven’t been but like. Now I wanna go. Man. Probably not open now, huh?” A part of him was somehow glad they were talking about Alice and baked goods, instead of the deranged cookie jar.
"Uh..." BB glanced down at the cookie jar in her hands, slowly setting it back on the table; she at least had the good sense to turn its creep-inducing face away from Gusgus, as though this might serve to calm him. "I don't think so. But you know, we could always call her, and see if she's got stuff in her apartment. You know, munchies? After this," she waved a hand at the bong, "we're def gonna need something to eat."
Gus nodded a bit too vigorously--or was it really at the speed of a snail?--in agreement with BB. The extra amount of smoke she added to the atmosphere of his apartment was thick and hazy. It was likely that the stink would never come out--but he hadn’t planned on giving their parents back the deposit money, anyway.
She wrapped a hand around its step and took another hit, breathing out more smoke to join the rest floating around the room. Still holding the pipe, she looked at Gusgus, her brows rising. Suddenly, she pointed a finger at him.
"Or! Or you know what we could do? We could Uber to Taco Bell." Both hands rose, palms up, making little circles in the air as she danced a bit, incredibly pleased with the idea. "Yeah? Yeah? Whadda think?"
“You’re a freaking genius, BB. ‘Cause Alice is probably asleep, ‘cause of baking things or whatever. For the shop. But Taco Bell is always open.” Dark eyes glassy, he watched his always-energetic sister with amusement, his goofy grin from earlier returning and claiming its rightful place. “I want like. Two of those quesarito things. Freaking delicious. I need food like yesterday.” Gus waved away some of the smoke collecting around him, peering around the room for his phone. “Lemme call an Uber, we can wait in the lobby.”
Realization hit him, however, when he saw that it wasn’t in any of his usual spots (in-between the couch cushions, tossed onto an end table, left half-hanging off the other secondhand furniture). There was no way he’d left it on campus, right? Although it nonetheless seemed distant, he could sense an increase in his heartbeat as his mind sought for his phone’s location. His car? Yeah, his car. Sure. It had to be in there.
“Uh, Britt, I think. I think my phone’s still in my car. Should probably go get it. Can you call the Uber?”
BB snorted, rolling her eyes as she dug into a pocket for her phone. "Yes, I can, because that's what I'm always doing, Gusgus, cleaning up after you." She glanced down to her screen, then up to Augustus again. One hand unlatched itself from the phone and waved at him, encouraging him to go. "I'll meet you in the parking lot, OK? I need to stop by my place to get my wallet."
A few taps later and she grinned, then nodded at some invisible thing only she saw on her phone. "OK, it's coming, looks like 10 minutes. So hop to it!"
“Sure, sure .” He'd let that one slide, just for now. The urge to fill his stomach with some twisted brand of TexMex was stronger. Grabbing his car keys from the kitchen counter, he waved at BB. “See ya down there!” And then he was gone, ambling towards the elevator. A few button pushes later and he was deposited in the lobby of Pax Letale, pristine and clean despite the late hour. Seemed like someone else had been cleaning up other people’s messes.
He'd parked his scuffed mustang near one of the parking lot lights, which thankfully came in handy; scrounging around in the front seat first, he dug up a plethora of receipts and empty energy drink cans, but no phone. From the light’s glow, he could almost see something shiny in the backseat. Jerking the back door open, Gus started his search again, tossing aside a few shirts that needed a thorough wash, as well as a mass of school papers that'd haphazardly been thrown there.
The parking lot had been quiet and empty when he'd gone outside, and had Gus been entirely in his right mind, he would have been glad of it. This certainly wasn't the most graceful of car searches.
"You all right in there?" The voice came out of nowhere, the person it was attached to having a hand on the upper window frame of the open car door. Abel was out late for no reason other than an evening stroll on the beach; the building was quiet, this late, and being out of doors was a nice pick me up after the strange gift interlude a few days before. He hadn't met this particular Pax denizen, and as all good neighbors were wont, he decided to introduce himself. The light of the street lamp cascaded down over him, making his face look vaguely skull-like between soft, orange light and long, blue shadows.
Crouching in the small backseat, Gus startled at the sound of a stranger’s voice. He attempted to look over his shoulder for the source, temporarily forgetting about the shiny object he thought he’d spotted. The crunch of school papers as he moved backwards to edge carefully out of the car was eerily audible in the almost-deserted parking lot.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just lost my phone, is all.” Managing to finally extricate himself from the messy backseat of his car, he saw the voice’s owner--the man was right next to his car door. Gus stared wide-eyed for possibly a moment too long, stepping backwards so that he was standing aligned with the mustang’s back tires. It was probably the weed that was making the man look so damn odd. The weed and the lamp, that’s all. As if he needed some kind of solidity, Gus rested one hand on the trunk of the car; casual, this was completely casual. Was the mystery weed supposed to make him feel a little paranoid? “Thanks, uh. For checking up on me, though. It’s kinda late.” He peered at the other man, brows scrunching together in both curiosity and apprehension.
Abel shrugged. "Yeah, it is. And this is a nice car, so just making sure someone who lives there," he gestured at the apartment complex, "wasn't getting burgled. You a tenant? You look kinda young, no offense. Guessing parents are putting you up there?" It was an intrusive line of questioning, but the young man's response would be intriguing in itself. Abel plastered a thin smile to his face, one that did not quite reach the dark hollows of his eyes.
“I’ve got no reason to break into my own car,” Augustus responded with a shrug, his apprehension still strong. “And uh, yeah, I am.” He ran a hand through his hair--nervous, for some inexplicable reason. “They’re just helping me out right now. Anyway. It isn’t like I’m by myself,” he added. “I’ve got a sister here.” Slowly, the realization came to him that he wasn’t certain if this particular man even lived at Pax Letale. Shoes firmly planted to the ground, Gus’ chin jutted upwards slightly in a show of what he thought might be resilient defiance to whatever lies he might be told. This was a parking lot, after all, and the hour was growing late.
“So like. Let me get this straight. You’re like the security guard of this place, or something? ‘Cause I’ve been here a few weeks now, and I’ve never seen you before.”
Abel barked a laugh, looking equally parts amused and surprised. "Oh no, no no no. I'm a tenant myself. Abel Parrish, 507. I was just out for a stroll, and decided some civic duty wouldn't hurt. Citizen's arrest, that sort of thing. And you are?" He did not move away from his leaning against the car door, his invasion of Augustus' space well noted and implemented.
“Not making jokes right now,” came his immediate response. Abel, the man said his name was, like that old desert guy who got killed by his own brother. Augustus frowned, letting go of his car to cross his arms in front of his chest. By all accounts it was his attempt to puff himself up, rather like a territorial creature needing to defend itself--even if the notion was odd. This guy was a little weird, but he didn’t seem dangerous. Maybe if it was daytime, he wouldn’t even seem weird. Or maybe if Gus hadn’t smoked again with BB, none of this would seem weird.
He let out a breath he hadn’t been aware that he’d been holding. “I’m Augustus. I live on the sixth floor, but I don’t really like visitors, so it’s a good thing it’s practically empty up there.” It certainly made it easier to play his music loudly, and he had less people to worry about waking up when he came home late on the weekends. “My dad’s a cop,” Gus added. “Like. He’s actually a cop, so. I’m kinda on alert for that sorta thing.”
"You think maybe you should be on alert for an inhaler? Because you seem tense." Abel's grin had tempered only slightly throughout Augustus' varied and thinly veiled threats. His brows had also steadily climbed higher and higher on his forehead. "We're just having a friendly chat, or are you not much for visitors around your mobile apartment either?" He waved a hand at the interior of Gus' car, stepping back to remove his arm from the doorframe. "What're you looking for, anyway?"
He scoffed, clearly put out by the insinuation of his car being a home away from home. Not that it wasn’t, but he certainly wasn’t going to listen to someone else tell him what he already knew. “I’m looking for my phone.” Making an active attempt to loosen up, Augustus nodded towards the open back door. “If I needed an inhaler, it’d probably be lost in all that crap.” He’d almost made a joke. Almost. His frown lessened only slightly. “I don’t care if you’re here, I just want to call an Uber. I mean, in case the one my sister called doesn’t show up. Can’t drive under the influence and all.” Augustus waved one hand dismissively, as if it was beyond his understanding, but he’d play by the rules regardless.
Abel gave a slow nod, the amusement written into his expression never fading.
"Sounds like dad'd be proud," he remarked. "If he wasn't pissed off that his kids were... Hm, smells like pot? Were imbibing in the first place." He shrugged.
"But hey, not like I'm gonna tell him. What he doesn't know won't hurt him, right? And I bet there's a lot he doesn't know." He patted the door he'd previously been leaning against. "Since you don't seem to be in need of a hand Augustus, I'll leave you to it. But I'm in 507 if you change your mind. You need anything -- anything at all -- just stop on by." He took a step backward, smiling, his form all but disappearing into the darkness as he turned about and headed back toward the tall Pax building in the not too far distance.
Abel’s words gave him pause. His mouth dropped open in disbelief; the audacity of this man was what his father liked to call reckless beyond reconciliation, or maybe Gus had always heard Dad’s phrase the wrong way. Whichever it was, he couldn’t--not right now--wrap his head around this entire situation. “Yeah, yeah, maybe I will. Fifth floor isn’t that far away from me. But not tonight, ‘cause I gotta find my phone. ...Uh, bye.” It was a weak way to end the conversation, and Gus mentally kicked himself. But something had kept him from saying anything more crass, or more aggressive.
Furthermore, he had the strangest twinge of pain in his right hand as Abel blended into the darkness of the parking lot. It was red-hot for a brief instant, causing him to hiss from behind clenched teeth. Gingerly, he stretched his fingers, working flexibility into the stiffened muscles for a few minutes before returning to his phone search, noting with annoyance that he somehow had missed looking in the glovebox. Phone in tow, Gus locked his car and hurried back to the lobby, where BB was likely waiting impatiently for him.