|Augustus Bernard | ᛏ Tīwaz ᛏ (oathretractor) wrote in paxletalelogs,
@ 2017-04-21 23:51:00
the light it fidgets through
Who: Abel and Augustus
What: An odd duo gather for drinks during the chaos...
Where: Third floor, near the mead and the hearth.
When: Monday, April 17th, circa 9 p.m.
After the weird events from yesterday, Gus was glad to have purchased a sturdy 6 pack of Blue Ribbon Friday night, before they'd all been trapped within their homes. Plus, maybe alcohol would help fix the issue he was having with his right hand, which had become increasingly more painful throughout the morning and afternoon. Not even a few hits of the creepy dog weed had helped.
Especially because with each increase of pain, from mildly annoying and at times jarringly awful, the more stiff his hand gradually became. Even odder, despite a lack of visible circulation issues, the skin covering the hand in question was noticeably cold.
Augustus didn't want to think about any of this. He didn't want to deal with it, and he certainly didn't want to feel it; by evening his wish had been granted. With each hour that had passed, the feeling in his hand lessened, fingers stiff and slightly bent.
When Abel accepted his offer for drinks, it took an act of sheer will to grab the six pack from his fridge and head downstairs with it. The glowing hearth on the third floor greeted him like an old friend, and if he squinted his eyes and pretended like he had the patience for make-believe, it was almost like going camping. The strange tree roots encircling every wall helped with this fantasy. With a sound of annoyance, Augustus set the 6 pack on top of a large keg, pulling a bottle out and popping the cap off with the edge of his apartment key.
The cap landed somewhere in the low lighting, and with a bit of shuffling he found it, only to toss the innocent cap at a far corner of the landing.
His guest did not take long to arrive; Abel was in markedly good spirits, especially following his late morning rendezvous with Rafael. And now here he was, being invited to another social gathering with this young man. Wasn't he popular? He'd taken the time to at least change out of the clothes he'd worn earlier; now he was wearing mostly black, not an entirely conscious choice and more due to the fact that his supply of clean clothes was dwindling. All the same, he struck an imposing figure as he exited the stairwell door, a grin sliding over his face at the sight of Gus bent over something on the floor.
"Need a hand?" For the life of him, Abel had no idea why these remarks kept springing into his head around this kid. There was just something odd about him -- as odd as Nish, as Rafe. Something as seductively attractive that made him want to rip his head off of his shoulders. Somehow, it seemed worse around this young man -- as though he were a friend Abel was familiar with, someone who had been close to him, only to sink a dagger into his back in the end.
He let none of this wash over his face, instead moving toward Gus with the slow movements of someone who had not a care in the world.
He jerked slightly at the sound of Abel's voice. The bottle cap now banished, Gus stood and turned to face the man he'd invited for a cold one. If he hadn't been expecting company, he may not have known to look for the shape of a man assembling himself from the shadows and darker means. As it stood, he felt a trembling familiarity, akin to that which had arisen in the back of his mind when Abel had appeared from seemingly nowhere to hang upon his car door.
“Uh, no, but thanks.” He motioned towards the six pack, wordlessly offering Abel a drink. “Everything's messed up around here, so I figured I can't be the only one weirded out. Or like, wanting to pretend it's not happening.” Augustus moved closer to the fire, the flames warm and bright in the room. “Dunno how you feel about it, but. This is probably the only floor I like.” He wet his throat with the beer, the alcohol going down smoothly.
Abel helped himself after Gus' offer; soon his cap joined wherever Gus had tossed his.
"It is familiar, somehow," he agreed, his eyes roaming about the space for a moment before landing on his companion once more. Abel had wandered through a few floors already, and found himself drawn back to this floor time and time again. The timber of the walls ached like old bones, and he could just imagine an ice-cold wind rattling windows outside. That is, if they weren't in the middle of the hottest area of California. He tipped the beer into his mouth, frowned, and then squinted at the label.
"Really, kid?" He tapped one of the kegs, looking at Gus quizzically. "Wasn't feeling adventurous?"
“Do I look like I wanna be adventurous here?” He scoffed, pointing at the keg with his bottle of cheap, hipster-esque beer. “We don't know where that came from, and I'm not getting drugged by that front desk dude. You probably shouldn't drink from those.” Unsure if he should mention to Abel what he'd learned about this place from BB and Alice, Gus held his tongue on those matters. “And, like. Can you please not call me kid? I don't wanna call you Dad.” It was almost a joke, save for Gus’ disapproving frown.
Abel gave out a surprised laugh. "Please, don't," he replied, resting his hand against the keg; the wood felt vaguely warm, though he attributed that to the roaring fire in the middle of the hall. "What makes you think Stephan is behind all of this? Seems a bit impossible for one man to have done this by himself, let alone in one night and without having anyone else run into him during the process." Abel hadn't honestly put much thought to why any of this was happening. It was strange, certainly, but he was less concerned with the how and why of the floors' changes than he was people's reactions to it. "So they remodeled; is it really that disconcerting?"
Gus didn't answer at first, his attention purposely focused on taking another drink. When he did answer, he did so in a hushed tone, as if someone else might approach the two of them and overhear. “Because he's keeping things from people that live here in a special room Or. Maybe the people used to live here. He's like a major hoarder. Why wouldn't he want to, like. Steal everyone's peace of mind, too?” It didn't necessarily make sense, even to Gus, but he didn't want to believe the other possible explanations for everything.
“Fuck, I don't really know. I mean. My floor isn't that bad. This one is pretty nice. But I think some of the others are… off . Probably not my problem, though.” More of his beer disappeared, and Gus switched the bottle from hand to hand lightly, which lasted all of thirty seconds before he nearly dropped it. He'd forgotten for a moment about the added physical issue he'd been dealing with, Abel’s lack of concern for the odd events holding his attention hostage. “None of this bothers you?”
"I wouldn't say 'bothers,'" he replied, though his mind was fastened on the other thing Gus had talked about. "What do you mean, he's 'hoarding' things? He's stealing from the tenants?" That was something to be worried about; Abel didn't keep anything from his victims in his apartment, but he did not relish the idea of someone intruding on his personal space.
Gus shrugged, not completely certain of the details himself. “Dunno. It's probably just like. Gossip. Which I shouldn't listen to, anyway. Besides,” he said with a sidelong look at Abel, “talking too much about these things isn't going to change anything.” He set the now empty beer bottle down firmly on the keg, pulling another out of the pack. “I don't wanna get involved with a hoarder, I just wanna mind my own business.”
Abel drained the rest of his beer, tucking away the small "gossipy" details that Gus had offered him for further inspection another time, when he was alone. He circled back to Gus' other assumption.
"There are worse things that a 'hoarder,' whether he is one or not, or even responsible, could have done to us," he started, watching Gus' movements in collecting a new beer. "We're locked in here. We might run out of food, or electricity, or who knows. All they have to do is wait, until you're forced to get 'involved.'" His eyes narrowed at Gus' face, trying to place him. A pang struck his chest, something one might call heartache, though Abel had never felt such a thing except for those few moments in dealing with his sister and the punishments their grandmother would visit on them.
"You're not wrong, though, that it's suspect that Stephan isn't even around to see his own handiwork."
“Are you saying that we're being...what's the right word? Sieged? Besieged?” Gus frowned, popping the cap off his second beer and flinging it away with his left hand. “Under siege,” he corrected himself, having recalled the correct term. “We could probably escape,” he added, forcing a confidence he didn't entirely feel--but that was what bravado was for, wasn't it? Either that or beer, which he avidly was imbibing.
He caught the odd look Abel was giving him. The light and the shadows from the fire were playing over Abel’s face in a manner that would have been deeply unsettling if Gus bothered to let it affect him. Which he definitely wasn't going to do. “Yeah, yeah if I were the kinda guy that belongs on a TLC special, I’d leave, too. But I’d leave a spare key for the people still here, ‘cause that's the right thing to do.” Proud of his assessment, he was caught off guard by the niggling feeling of apprehension which suddenly crept through him, urging in a voiceless whisper to take heed.
"Depends on whatever the end goal is for this whole... scenario," Abel replied, waving his empty beer bottle around to indicate the floor. He stepped back from the keg, eying it and his bottle as if making a decision. "For someone accused of stealing, this is a strange way to go about separating people from their belongings. And the doors are sealed - what's your plan for escape?" Setting the mouth of his beer bottle to the tap, he filled it with a golden liquid from the keg.
“Haven't made a plan yet. I kinda like the break from school,” he answered easily enough, a smile managing to find its way onto his face. He took a drink of his beer and nearly spit it out, noticing what Abel was doing. “What the hell? You don't know where that came from, like. That could be anything.” The smile was gone in an instant, replaced by a judgmental frown. “If you get sick, I can't carry you back to your place. I've got a busted hand, dude, so unless that's your escape plan…”
Abel lifted the glass up to his eye level, swirling it. "Can't be afraid to take a chance, kid," he replied, glancing at Gus with a smirk before taking a sip. He gritted his teeth, but didn't seem displeased.
"It's liquor, all right," he said. He took a longer drink, filling his mouth. "It's strong as hell. C'mon," he said to Gus, extending the bottle to him. "Don't be scared," he added, deftly applying a drop of peer pressure.
“God, you're acting like my sister, trying to goad me into doing shit.” Gus rolled his eyes at the notion that he was somehow afraid. He was sensible, unlike Abel. But the push was enough, and he knew he’d let himself fall for it. Swearing under his breath, Gus finished what remained of his beer, then practically marched over to take the bottle from Abel, setting his down on the keg.
He squinted into the mouth of the new bottle for a moment, as if he'd be able to see clearly the drink inside of it. “If I die, I'm haunting you,” Gus said with what he felt was enough conviction before he downed some of the mystery liquid.
Abel hadn't lied, it was stupidly strong, and almost sweet. It went down smooth, but still had enough of a burn that Gus felt the tickle of tears in the corners of his eyes. “Holy crap ,” he breathed, passing the bottle back to Abel. He wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand, eyes wide. “Maybe it's not poison after all.”
"Nope," Abel said, grinning toothily. He took the bottle back and passed it to his left, raising his right hand in the universal gesture for a high five. "Good job, kid, we'll make a man out of you yet."
“Yeah, uh,” Gus started to say, looking at Abel point blank. “I kinda told you already, I've got a busted hand.” He'd explained about his normal situation, sort of, to Rafael. But explaining the new situation to Abel seemed...pointless, almost. Unnecessary.
Not to mention shameful, although Gus didn't understand why. It wasn't like he'd woken up this morning and ordered his right hand to grow cold, nor egged on the pain until it obviously became too much and his hand stopped working altogether. Well, mostly stopped working. He could still move his fingers some, but it was a willful effort. The pain was still there, low and hiding beneath the surface of his skin, an inconsistent throbbing. As if Abel could hear his thoughts, Gus self-consciously rubbed his right hand with his left.
“Let's skip the high five.”
"Ah, right. My bad." The words weren't an apology; Abel was well aware that each time he drew attention to Gus' disability that he was driving some invisible dagger deeper into an old wound. As he did with many other things, he took deep pleasure in the other man's discomfort.
"So back to what we were talking about before, if you had to make a plan, how would you escape?" He tipped another lick of the mead into his mouth, eyes bright on Gus' face.
He narrowed his eyes at Abel, brows heavy with disapproval--and that utter feeling of shame, from the very pit of his stomach, filled him again. He sought to drown it in the mystery liquor, shrugging as if nothing was wrong when he turned to do so. “I'd double check the fire escapes,” Gus said, honestly unaware if they were unlocked or not. He managed to hit the keg handle with the side of his right hand, enough to let the liquid gold pour into one of his old beer bottles. Just managing to stop it before it spilled, he turned to Abel again.
Don't turn your back to him, came the strange warning again, a voice little more than the essence of a command.
“If they're not, like, functional, I'd break a window and leave. Plus, sooner or later someone would notice that all of the people here just stopped paying every utility bill ever. It would be weird enough that the building would be hit with an inspection.” He paused to consume more of the belly-warming liquor. It stung less this time when it went down, and for that he was grateful. “Or,” Gus continued, feeling uncharacteristically talkative, “I'd check the basement. What if Stephan had a secret escape door? Or another set of keys.”
"I wasn't aware this building has a basement," Abel replied, though his looked impressed by Gus' thorough rundown of options. He wasn't in any hurry to go anywhere, so watching people tick through a list of potential escapes, only to be beaten down as each was deemed unusable, would be good entertainment in itself.
"But good list. Your dad run you through emergency escape drills as a child?" He couldn't fathom what it might be like to have a 'normal' family, though he wasn't worried about it either. "And you said you had a sister living here too, right? I suppose the pair of you might make nice little escape artists if the pressure was on."
“Uh, sorta. Sometimes. I mean, you gotta know where all the exits are in case something happens. If you can't escape, you either didn't try hard enough to find an escape or like. You really don't have another option.” Gus shrugged, unbothered by his own admission of strict black or white judgment. “She's...around, yeah. Probably hanging with her girlfriend.” Gus smirked, the room seeming somewhat smaller around them. “We'd do all right, I think. She’s pretty smart. But,” he continued, brown eyes wide and inquiring, “what would you do to escape? Think you could do it?”
Abel's hand swung in a loose arc, going from the kegs to the hearth to the walls. "Anyone who went to this much trouble to make this happen obviously wanted to be sure we'd stick around to... I don't know, enjoy it. I really think they would've covered all their bases regarding us getting out." He took a sip, tongue bubbling over his lips to sweep up any last honey-colored beads. "No, the better question to be asking yourself, Augustus," he said, looking back to his companion. "Is what is it they're looking for us to do? Hm? Got any theories on that?"
He had a few himself, but he wasn't about to start sharing those particular secrets just yet.
Gus blinked in surprise, mouth falling slightly open only to close again and twist into a half-frown. “You're saying this is some kinda Survivor thing? Like the last one standing wins the vacation or a year’s supply of pizza?” He shook his head, full of disbelief. “It’s not like there's some kinda magical bonds of community being formed because we're all trapped together. I don't even have neighbors on my floor,” he scoffed. “Just people passing by that live up top.” And as far as Gus was concerned, things could stay that way. “What else would ‘they’ want us to do?”
Abel shrugged. "If we go by your 'Survivor' theory, kiddo," he replied, his grin sharp, "sounds like we oughta start picking each other off, don't you think?" His brows bobbed, and he took another drink. "Do I detect a little jealousy for those who live in the higher echelons of Pax Letale?"
The other man was likely joking. Had to be. “That’s not necessary,” Gus insisted. “Who would do anything like that? There’s no way they would’ve passed the background check to live here.” Although it took a second for him to realize it, he’d backed up a step, away from Abel. “And no,” he firmly added. “What the hell would I do with a penthouse?” It might not have been a good idea, but he took another large drink, as if steadying himself. Gus glanced towards the fire, eternally burning and yet giving off no smoke. What if they were trapped forever? What if they would have to kill each other to escape?
He had to still his thoughts. Maybe it was the liquor mixed with shitty beer, maybe it was the things Abel said. Or maybe it was the knot in his stomach whenever Abel looked at him--like he suddenly needed to look away, like he needed to pretend like nothing was wrong.
“No one’s gonna just up and kill their neighbor,” Gus murmured, the flames filling his vision. “Not unless they had a good reason.”
Abel didn't respond immediately; he watched Gus squirm, his discomfort with the situation and the conversation more than apparent. "You took that awfully seriously. Doth the lady protest too much?" He covered his laughter with a quick drink.
Gus whirled back around, nearly giving himself whiplash. “Are you saying that I would kill my neighbors? If I had any?” Indignation colored his cheeks, contorted his mouth into a grimace. His bottle was empty now, and he gladly added it to the top of the keg’s pile. The bottle rocked back and forth for a moment, but then it stilled. “Dude, you gotta just stop with that grimdark shit, all right? It’s just. Like now is not the time.”
"And you're clearly still in search of an inhaler, bro. Calm down! We're just talking in hypotheticals. I'm not trying to poke you one way or the other." His grin was wide, plainly telegraphing his amusement. Abel took another long, slow drink. "You know, if you're gonna be this on edge all the time, we're never gonna get very far in a conversation. Makes me think you might be, I dunno, a little scared of me."
“Hypotheticals about murder,” he said lowly, the look in his eyes harsher than he might have realized. “It’s not right to discuss something--something like that so casually.” Abel’s good humor about the entire situation was off-putting, and increasingly so. If Gus had hackles to raise, they would have reached the ceiling. As it stood, he attempted to blow off Abel’s claim, but the knot forming in his stomach grew tighter. “No, why would I be? You’re my neighbor.” He managed a smile of his own, although it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “And. And maybe I’m a little shit-faced here, but like. I’m pretty sure I already know you. Or something.”
And it bothered him more than Nish seeming familiar to him, or Rafael.
Abel regarded Gus with a strange look; he finished off the remaining dregs of whatever it was he'd taken from the keg. "There is a strange sense of deja vu, I won't deny it. Where're you from?"
“Washington. Like. Where the White House is.” Gus peered at Abel, his inebriated mind trying to place him, but failing to do so--just like when he met Nish. But not recognizing either of their faces didn’t seem to negate the strong sense of familiarity. He crossed his arms, letting out a troubled sigh. “This isn’t like the first time it’s happened here. I mean. Feeling like I already know someone. Do you...do you know what I mean?”
Abel's head bobbed in agreement. "Mhm. Couple of times. Who else have you felt this with?" Important to know; maybe there was some common thread between those he felt a kinship to. And yet, Rafe and Nish couldn't have been more different than night and day.
“Uh well, I met this lady yesterday.” He shrugged, remembering the oddness of the circumstances, and her incessant need to be rid of the exposed secrets. “She was worried about secrets. Something like that. I thought maybe I saw her before, like on the elevator, but...that's not it.” Gus held back from saying more, not wanting to include the sense of distrust he felt around the woman.
Abel fought to keep a smile from spreading across his face; without naming her, he knew exactly who Gus was talking about. Instead, he shrugged. "Maybe it was on TV; who knows. Maybe she just has a familiar face." Another drink, another question. "Just her? No one else?"
“Well. There was like, this one other dude. Uh, he was pretty nice. Kinda helped me out?” He half-smiled at the memory, his damp copy of Aristotle’s writings saved by the kindness of a warm-hearted stranger. That’d be one less extra book he’d have to pay for at college.