Who: Samuel and Brighid What: Presents! Where: 707 mainly When: Evening, several days after this Warnings: Language, perhaps Notes: Now complete (10/18/10)!
After receiving his texted reply, Brighid slid her phone into her pocket, gathered up a mid-sized box and her keys and made her way next door to Samuel’s apartment, taking the time to stop and lock her own door behind her. She knocked twice on his door and called out before entering. “Samuel? It’s Brighid.” Moving farther into the flat, she set her keys down on the coffee table. “I’ve brought you something.”
In a moment he shuffled out into the living room, still in the process of pulling a fitted blue tee shirt over his head. “And what,” he asked, “might my favorite neighbor be bringing me?” He stopped shortly before her, glancing up to where Tropic Thunder was paused on his wide television screen. Grinning, he looked back to her, tugging the hem of his shirt down and into place. “I told you I didn’t make or buy those cupcakes. No repayment was needed.”
"Am I your favorite neighbor, then? Sure I thought it might have been someone a bit older, lives about four floors up, gets you to dance in public?" Samuel cut her a look as she settled onto his couch with a smirk, then held out the box wrapped in brown paper. “This has nothing to do with cupcakes. I told my da about ya’ and how ya’ helped me move things in last month. He sent this over special for ya’. Of course, if ya’ want it to be about the cupcakes, I wouldn’t mind keepin’ this myself.” Her hands moved backward, then, closer to herself, and the look Brighid gave him was full of challenge.
He shook his head at her, clicking his tongue in mock disdain. “You are baiting me,” he said, laughing. He slipped over the back of the couch, dropping down onto the cushion alongside her. “First off, I’d been drinking. And did you see what she was wearing?” He raked a hand through his hair, his broad grin somehow sheepish. “You’d have danced with her, too.” Her only reply was to laugh softly and shake her head.
He held out a hand toward Brighid and her mystery prize, clapping impatient fingers against his palm. “But this, then? The suspense is killing me.”
"You really are like a child, aren't ya'?" She laughed again and placed the box in his hand. "Open it up, then, Sergeant, and try to remember some of that pride that kept ya' from carrying any of those cupcakes upstairs." It was brash talk, but Brighid was secretly nervous about his response to her gift. It was illegal to send alcohol through the post, so her father had packed the bottle of whiskey in its special box along with a large hand-made armoire he'd decided she had to have and shipped them over on a cargo boat. It had taken four large men the better part of an hour to get the thing up to her floor and situated in her flat. Brighid sincerely hoped that the next time her da decided she needed something, it was of a more reasonable nature. At the present moment, she tried not to fidget while she waited for Samuel to react.
Samuel had been pleased with the weight of the gift now resting safely in his hands; so much so, in fact, that he had managed no greater reply to her mock insult than a pursing of his lips. He had never been overly fond of guessing at his gifts, however, and so the paper itself was quite quickly discarded. The box beneath was a sight to behold, its warm-grained wood emblazoned with a logo near and dear to his heart: Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, it read, neatly stamped and sealed and all just for him. He laughed as he opened the box, gazing lovingly down at the shapely green bottle nestled inside.
“Tell your dad I love him,” he said, heaving a happy, dramatic sigh. The pride she had mentioned had clearly fled him. Gingerly clasping the box, he leaned over to her, one arm scooping her into a brief but almost unbearably tight hug. “I’d say let’s have a glass to celebrate, but I won’t be a bad influence, especially now that I know I’d run the risk of missing out on gifts like this.”
Her relief had her sighing, and she stayed somewhat nestled against his side after the impromptu hug, drained of all her anxious energy. "Ya' know it's moments like this when I think I'm the one who's starkers for movin' to a country where I'm underage again." Despite her ruefulness, the smile she exhibited was delighted. Even Samuel laughed, distracted though he remained. "Da will be happy you approved of his gift. But don't ya' be expectin' me ta' do this on a regular basis. That's fine Irish whiskey you're holdin', Samuel, and if it lasts ya' the day, it should last ya' a good long while." She poked his arm with one finger to emphasize her point, then let her hand fall back to her lap.
"Have I thanked ya' yet for invitin' me to lunch the other day?"
“No,” he said, glancing up at her slight prodding. A sharp smirk tugged at his lips. “Strange bunch, eh? If I had to do that again I’d need a shitload more of this beforehand.” He tapped the bottle with one short fingernail. With one last, pleased look at his gift he closed the wooden box, leaning up to set it aside on the coffee table. “What did you think about all that? Mirrors and mythology and all sorts of shit. Hard to believe they were all still high from the party.”
“Strange is one word for it, aye.” Brighid frowned as she considered their neighbors and the assertions that had been made. “I’d not noticed anythin’ wrong with my reflection. Well,” she corrected herself, “I thought I looked a might pale, but then I reminded myself I’m an Irish girl in California - of course I look pale. I dunno about translatin’ that into bein’ some kind of deity, though. I guess I just didn’t understand quite what they were goin’ on about. Had you any ideas?”
“Nope,” he said. “It’s probably something environmental, even if the club was too long ago to have made a difference.” He laughed. “The cheap rent would make sense if we had some kind of chemical in the walls or the ceiling or something, wouldn’t it?” Too late, he realized how this might sound to his somewhat impressionable friend. He had no desire to scare her or to encourage her to move away, so it seemed a bit of a caveat was in order. “I don’t think that’s the case, though,” he added, shaking his head as he looked over to her. “They all knew each other, and we were strangers, basically. They were probably just pulling our leg.”
She made a soft humming sound as she considered his varying explanations. "But what about Lia, then? She doesn't seem the sort to make things up, but if the others were having a go at us were they her as well?" The idea didn't sit well with Brighid, but his other suggestion - that there might be some environmental factor - was even less well-received. Her gaze drifted from Samuel to his walls (still mostly bare, she noted), to the ceiling and back to him again. Her eyes widened inquisitively. "D'ya' really think they might do somethin' like that? Whoever 'they' is?" Unconsciously, she shivered, then ran a hand over one bare arm. "Whatever it is, Samuel, this building isn't quite turnin' out the way I'd expected, ya' know?"
He cut a sidelong glance over to her, a broad grin lighting up his features. “You’re not worried, are you Brighid?” He leaned into her, elbowing her in a decidedly good natured and brotherly fashion. “You’ve got me as your next door neighbor and you’re worried? I ought to be offended.” She gave him a grudging smile. His eyes followed the path hers had described, wondering at what precisely she was thinking. For his part, he had seen nothing out of the ordinary, aside from the aging elevator; he made a note to speak to the maintenance crew - should he ever lay eyes on them - and get their insider information, if possible. Even a small tidbit to ease Brighid’s mind would satisfy his sudden curiosity. But rather than dwell on this, he drew her back somewhere he did feel comfortable, to a point he might more easily defend.
“You’ve seen them on the forums, Brighid,” he said. “They’re always picking at each other, friends or otherwise. You think they’d be any different in person?” He shook his head, chuckling quietly. “Seriously, don’t worry about them. They’re just having a little fun.”
"Aye, and that may be," she sighed and looked down at her hands where they fidgeted with the inseam of her jeans. "But what about the other things, then? The police comin' to the building? That graffiti inside the lobby? Inside, Samuel." She looked back up at him pointedly, then her voice softened, became less accusing and more worried. "And the lass in the park. That was quite near here, yeah?"
“Well, sure, but look where you are,” he said. “This is a big city, and it wouldn’t need people like me if everyone in it minded their own business and followed the Golden Rule.” He grinned, hoping she’d buy an excuse even he didn’t fully accept. “Rest assured the silver spoon crowd in the tower and penthouses won’t tolerate undesirable behavior like that for too long. As long as they’re still here - and as long as I’m here, I’ll say again - you ought to consider it safe enough.” He reached over, giving her leg a friendly, reassuring pat. “Don’t worry too much over shit like that, or I might have to consider taking the low road and making you drink some of that whiskey after all.”
One eyebrow arched delicately, and the slightest hint of amusement made its way into her voice. "Well we can't be havin' that, can we? Who'll keep us safe if ya' get fired for liquorin' up underage girls?" There was a pause and then another, deeper sigh, broken up somewhat by his answering laugh. She tried to let her worries go with the same breath. His argument held some merit; she had plenty of experience with the "upper class" to verify that. And it wasn't as though there hadn't been any crime in Dublin. It was just that as a boarder at a private school, she'd seldom been exposed to more than just the stories in the news. Only at home in Belfast had the dark side of humanity actually reached out and touched Brighid and her family.
Thinking of Michael reminded her of something else she'd meant to bring up with her neighbor, and the change of subject was welcome. "D'ya' know a good place to buy a car, then? Lia took me to get my driving license and now I need something to drive." Brighid couldn't help it; her nose wrinkled the slightest bit at the thought.
“Lia did?” Samuel made no attempt to hide the amusement on his face; though Lia had never seemed especially unkind except when provoked, he would never have guessed she would be so deliberately helpful, either. He wondered if this was her way of apologizing for the unorthodox way the two of them had met, or if perhaps there was some more sinister, self-serving purpose behind it. His lips pursed against a smirk at the thought. “Sure, Brighid, we’ll find you a car. Did you have something in mind?”
"Preferably not a death trap. Da wants me to get somethin' nice, but I'm just not big on drivin', ya' know?" She made a face, thinking of the loving discussions she and her father had had regarding the matter. Brighid didn't have any specific reason why she didn't enjoy driving, she just never had. "It's just that the bus ride to and from campus is completely impractical. When Lia took me, it was about twenty minutes, and the bus takes nearly an hour most times! Completely impractical," she reasserted.
He nodded in full agreement. Though Corpus Christi’s rush hour had been nothing to totally disregard, SoCal traffic had been difficult to get used to on its own; the mere thought of having to suffer through it via public transportation was utterly unbearable. “I’ll put some thought into it,” he said. “We’ll go out one weekend and test drive a few things, see what you end up liking.” He grinned, cutting her an utterly impish look sidelong. “And don’t let Lia talk you into something flashy and easily crushed. God knows she’ll try.”
"Heaven forbid I should ever drive somethin' that comes half apart the way her car does," Brighid shook her head wryly, referencing Lia's convertible. "But yeah, I'd appreciate your advice. About this, at least. I'm sure there'll be other things Lia can help me with. Some things do need a woman's touch, ya' know, Samuel." She chuckled and turned her attention to the TV to forestall any further comments he might make about their neighbor.
"What're we watchin', then, hm? Somethin' bloody, no doubt." Despite any other fault she might find in him, Samuel already represented a sense of safety and well-being to Brighid, and she had no desire at this exact moment to analyze why that might be. She settled farther back into his couch, willing and ready to spend an hour or two soothed simply by being in his presence.