|Augustus Bernard | ᛏ Tīwaz ᛏ (oathretractor) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-09-03 18:47:00
|Entry tags:||apollo, tyr|
well I don't know why I came here tonight
Who: Gus and Lucas
What: Work and home stress don’t mix too well, leading to the act of unintentionally spilling the beans about a certain redhead to a (seeming) stranger...
When: (Backdated to) July 20th; Happy hour, but it’s not quite so happy… >.>
Today was a good day.
There are days when Lucas sometimes hates his job; when a patient dies, when he has to give bad news, when he makes a heartbreaking diagnosis, or when he had to give patients an impossible decision. But then there are the days, like this one, that fill him with joy, with pride in what he was able to do with his own two hands.
One of his patients had been under his supervision at the hospital for over a month, clinging to life as organ after organ started shutting down. The patient had been preparing for the end, and even he was starting to lose hope that anything could be done. Finally, after a stroke of inspiration, he managed to solve the puzzle of the patient’s condition, made the right call and today completed the surgery that saved her life.
After she was stabilized and out of recovery, he finished his day and headed straight for Muldoons for a well-deserved drink, sliding into the bar stool and ordering a pint of Guinness and a platter of pub food for dinner. Once it came he picked up a piece of popcorn shrimp, dipped it liberally in sauce and popped it in his mouth. He didn’t usually order such greasy fare, but he figured on this occasion, he would splurge a bit on one of his guilty pleasures.
Who the hell drank in the middle of the week and felt good about it? Judging by Gus’ calculations, it more or less amounted to middle aged people who hated their jobs and lives, and the overachieving frat boys that could be found, however infrequently, in some of his classes. But since he didn’t have to be on campus for another month, he found himself dealing primarily with the former when he stepped into Muldoon’s, sour-faced and cranky from the moment he’d first woken to the new day.
And judging by the hour--half past dinner time--his mood wasn’t likely to change anytime soon.
When he sat down next to the slim man with a heap of bar food piled in front of him, Gus ordered a house beer and let out a frustrated sigh. He stared straight ahead at the rows of beers on tap, and the various harder alcohols and mixers that lined the bar’s shelves. When the beer was placed in front of him, he motioned with his left hand for the bartender to keep his tab open, taking a drink of the stout concoction.
Oh, and wasn’t that another lovely piece of the shit-on-Augustus-pie that summer had granted him? Alice had been avoiding him like crazy, and their texts had gone from friendly and frequent to extremely short and rare...but then it happened again. Like when the apartment complex had turned topsy-turvy, Gus had lost the use of his right hand. Bitter tears had filled his eyes the first night it happened, despite how meticulously he took his medicine and sought further pain relief from physical therapy and medicinal marijuana.
But now, a good two weeks or so into the nightmare that was living without the use of his entire hand, he’d managed to cut back on the crybaby tears. Instead, he was drinking and working and reading and doing everything he could to not think about Alice or his hand (which, irritatingly enough, still ached from time to time, as if it was some sort of phantom limb bullshit).
Dark brown eyes narrowed at the man sitting next to him, Gus finally tearing his gaze away from the rows of alcohol. His right hand rested in his lap, dead and unmoving. “You know, shrimp is probably out of season right now. Or something. You think it was a good idea to order all of that food? Health inspections and stuff might object.”
Lucas looked over at his neighbour and smiled. “They’re probably frozen then,” he said, though he honestly hadn’t thought about it before ordering. “I’m sure they’re inspected by the Health Department regularly.” He picked up a zucchini stick and dipped it in the tartar sauce, taking a bite.
“I hope you’re getting that looked at,” he said before he could stop himself, glancing down at the man’s hand, “that must be painful.” Occasionally, though more frequently lately, he’d look at people and have a ‘feeling’ about some medical condition they had. It helped him at work, where it was his job to diagnose patients, but sometimes - like now - that strange knowledge just slipped out.
Gus blinked hard, having not expected such a nice reaction from the other man, if any at all. He had just been blowing hot air into the universe, half-assedly trying to start a confrontation that would take his mind off more delicate matters of the heart.
He hadn’t been looking for medical advice, either. As if placing himself protectively behind a prickly shell, Gus visibly straightened and leaned slightly away from the stranger, brows drawn downwards in a tight line of confusion and wariness.
“I didn’t come here to talk to a wannabe doctor,” he said more than a touch derisively. “Anyway, it wouldn’t matter. This isn’t anything new.” Gus’ scowl formed a deep crevice on his face, and he moved his right arm closer to himself. “Besides, it’s just the top of the mountain. You know. When everything goes up shit’s creek without a paddle.” Gripping the glass in front of him, Gus smiled wryly before taking a drink.
Lucas was in too good of a mood to let an obviously upset man spoil it. Even the barb about a ‘wannabe doctor’ didn’t do much to phase him. He was obviously not in his right mind, either from pain or something else, and he was used to dealing with that from patients and their families on a daily basis.
Lucas nodded to the beer in the other man’s hand and matched his wry smile. “I guess you’ve been in that boat a while then,” he said, still keeping his tone friendly, if perhaps a little more subdued than before. People went to bars to drink, but they also went there to talk. Otherwise, they would take the far cheaper option of buying their own booze and drinking at home.
“Sort of,” Gus allowed, not even bothering to keep the suspicion out of his eyes. And yet, truly, would it even matter if he shot the breeze with this guy? It wasn’t like he’d ever seen him before, and besides, bar conversations were a dime a dozen. Or so Gus assumed--he’d never been overly social, and doubted this would be the first step towards his life as a shining socialite.
“Just. Women, you know?” There was a noticeable slump to his shoulders then, as if he’d been deflated just by saying the vague statement. But he still kept his distance from the other man--though the bar stools still offered a sense, however false, of confidentiality. Alice cutting off communication with him had hurt more than he wanted to let on, and he was too proud and self-contained to feel overly comfortable with discussing all of the issue’s nitty gritty details. “It’s, uh. Been a rough summer for me. You probably know what that’s like.”
Lucas smiled and nodded, “the two things a man at a bar most often try to drink away are women and work,” he observed, “though as a doctor,” he said, emphasising his actual job title, “I can’t recommend it.”
He picked up another zucchini stick and dipped it in the sauce, looking at it thoughtfully. “Although I haven’t had much in the way of female companionship in a while, I do understand the struggle. I guess lately I’ve been a little too focused on work.” It wasn’t exactly true, he wasn’t the workaholic that a lot of doctors seem to be, but he also hadn’t had an actual date in far too long. His time spent with Alice, in his mind, didn’t count as that. They were friends, nothing more, even though part of him would very much like it to be more.
Gus found himself scoffing at the other man’s clinical description of the opposite sex--so maybe the guy really was a doctor after all, though that certainly wouldn’t change anything. He held his chin up proudly, too stubborn to admit that his afternoon choice of entertainment had been chosen with those same intentions...but deep down, Gus knew he wouldn’t want to drink away every memory he’d made with Alice. That particularly unsavory thought stung too much, and he covered it with a quick grimace.
“She’s...she’s not that kind of woman. You know. That I want to drink away. The kind of woman that plays games or whatever. It’s just…things are complicated.” He let out a sigh, wishing it didn’t sound so damned defeated. “Like. You get it. Probably. Even if you spend your days jabbing people with needles.” The exaggeration in his choice of words rolled easily out, nothing more than habit. “But I mean. Being ghosted freaking sucks.” As if to soothe his frustration, he reached for the uncracked peanuts resting in a small jar on the bar counter, before reminding himself that cracking nuts would be ridiculously messy and difficult with only the use of one hand. Gus settled for another swig of his beer instead, not caring if he was drinking it too fast in front of a doctor.
Lucas picked up another piece of shrimp and considered it. “Without knowing what ‘ghosted’ means, It sounds to me as if you’re blaming her for causing your current mood. Which, without knowing your specific situation, sounds a little unfair.” He knew he was hitting close to the mark, but didn’t know exactly how. But like with his patients, he just knew what was wrong, without immediately knowing the details.
Were he able to visibly bristle, Gus surely would have done so. However, given the fact that he had not been born a hedgehog or a porcupine he had to make do instead with a severe glare at his current companion. His jaw set tightly, he didn’t respond immediately. Rather, he waved the bartender over and ordered another beer. While he impatiently waited until it was set in front of him but a minute later, Gus chewed over how to respond without letting the infamous Bernard temper get the best of him.
As if he could swing a punch right now, or at any time, without being left in more pain than what it was worth.
“It means,” he said slowly, gripping the new glass of beer, “that you stop responding to the other person. You just. Like. Disappear.” Gus stared at the froth resting at the top of his glass, the bubbles packed closely together. “Look, the thing is, this woman is a friend of my sister’s. And like. That makes it more weird, ‘cause we live...near each other. Close enough for it to be obviously weird.” He tripped over the details, unsure if they would even matter to a doctor eating fried food during his downtime. But if he was being hypocritical, then wasn’t this man, too?
Lucas nodded, immediately noting the sudden hostility towards him that was barely being held in check. “That is quite the pickle,” he said, thinking about the situation from the other man’s point of view. He had no siblings himself, so he couldn’t quite imagine what that would be like, but he knew enough that it was awkward. “So, she’s not responding, I’m assuming, to phone calls and texts. Have you tried going to her house? Trying to communicate without a smartphone?” he asked, trying not to sound condescending. It was the way of the world now, to do most communication electronically. But for some things, nothing took the place of face-to-face contact.
Gus bit back on a frustrated sigh by taking a drink. “Not really, because, like, it’s definitely over. There’s...I mean, we can’t go backwards in time.” He looked sideways at the older man. “Besides, she’s got a business to run. She’s super busy. All the time.” Gus made himself shrug, attempting to look more casual about the situation than he actually felt. “No time to date when there’s cookies and muffins to bake, right?”
Lucas’s eyebrows rose just a little at that comment, one person in particular coming to mind who fit that description to a T. He quickly guarded his expression though; sure, it sounded like Alice, but he didn’t know for sure. And besides, she was free to date whoever she liked.
Gus laughed; a bitter edge to the sound escaped, but he didn’t mind. It was clear the entire predicament was nothing more than a hot mess, and the more he stewed about it--and the more he talked about his issues to this stranger--the more he realized how pointless it’d probably be in a few months.
“Anyway. You’re a doctor. You’re probably busy all the time, too.”
Lucas forced a chuckle and nodded in agreement. “I am, though I don’t live at the hospital,” he added, as if defending his own lifestyle. He sipped his Guinness and then picked up another zucchini stick, dipping it in tartar sauce.
“So, my understanding is that women don’t just break things off out of the blue, for no reason,” he said, indirectly asking the question without coming right out with it. It gave Gus the opportunity to deflect, to tell him to mind his own business, without being rude about asking. And a few minutes ago, Lucas wouldn’t have even cared to know what happened, but a feeling told him that now he did. Now that it might have something to do with Alice.
He remained quiet for a few moments, mulling over what his bar companion had stated. As it stood, the guy wasn’t too far off the mark. Either he was highly intuitive or Gus was more tipsy than he’d thought. Given that he hadn’t yet finished his second beer, it had to be the former. He didn’t want to leave himself completely vulnerable to a stranger, despite the man’s generally amicable attitude. Besides, the wound from Alice’s avoidance maneuvers was still fresh, barely a month old. He wasn’t ready to slap a bandaid on it. Not yet.
“Yeah, like. I know. But it isn’t like I blame her,” he finally admitted, speaking quieter than previously. “Just that my sister is, uh, well. She’s her best friend. And she’s…” Gus tried to think of a word that would encapsulate the entirety of BB’s moods, her mannerisms, her entire firecracker personality. “She’s kind of unpredictable?” And possessive, he thought suddenly, bringing to mind BB’s actions whenever she spent time with Alice and he just so happened to be in the general vicinity. That hungry look in her eye, it couldn’t be--
He silenced that thought, not wanting to think about his sister’s potentially non-familial affections for a person they both knew. “And she’d probably kill me if she thought I’d hurt her friend. It’s probably why she ghosted on me, it’d be too awkward. Not with my sister always there, doing her thing.” There, that summed it up nicely--but why did he feel sheepish about the entire matter? He hid any warm flush to his cheeks by taking another drink; better to focus on it than his feelings.
Lucas frowned just a little. “Did you hurt her?” he asked, perhaps a little too quickly, too pointedly. He backpedaled then, trying to deflect any sort of suspicion that he knew who he was talking about. “I mean...you could do that without even realising it, right?” he said, forcing his expression to soften. “Say the wrong thing, or forget an important date...these things happen,” he said, as if that was the only way he could think of that a woman could be hurt.
The boy with the bruised heart nearly spat out his beer. “No,” he retorted emphatically, offended at the simple, and seemingly innocent, question. “I’d never hurt her.” Not intentionally, Gus allowed privately, within the safe confines of his own mind.
“But I gotta say, it’s dangerous getting involved with a sister’s friend,” Lucas added with a little grin. “If it doesn’t work out, it’s more than one relationship that could be damaged.” He had no experience with that per se, but he could imagine how messy it could get.
Clumsily, Gus attempted to return the stranger’s grin. He managed a half-hearted smile, still bristling from the proposed insult. “Yeah, yeah, I know. We got, uh, carried away. If my sister gets a whiff of us having gone on a few dates, she’d blow her casket.” He pulled his right arm closer to himself, as if protecting the hand he could no longer feel. “It was a dumb idea, anyway.” Bittersweet, too, given the current outcome of both of their decisions. Plus, just talking about BB made him feel like she could be zooming around the corner at any instant, her ears on fire.
“So uh, you probably didn’t expect to hear about this much drama,” Gus stated, not asking but rather telling the situation how he saw it. “Thanks, I guess. For listening, you know.”
Lucas didn’t like the sound of ‘carried away’, but he held his peace, letting the man finish his story while taking another sip of his beer. He chuckled softly when he finished, nodding. “Hey, that’s why people come to bars, right? Otherwise you’d be drinking at home alone. You needed to talk, and I have the time to listen.” He popped another zucchini stick in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, doing his best to dispel any thoughts of what might have happened between this man and maybe-Alice to drive him to a bar.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Gus conceded with a short laugh--less bitter than previously, the sharp edges of it softened to a dull curve. “You uh, want another drink?” Gus nodded towards the array of beers behind the counter, and then eyeing his own half-empty glass. “Before I close my tab. I don’t mind.”
Somehow, talking to this stranger had felt cathartic. The Bernards had not raised their children to be distant from their emotions, but Gus truly had never found it easy to discuss matters of a more delicate nature. He instead stewed on his thoughts and feelings, attempted to keep a stiff upper lip, whatever seemed the most practical option.
Perhaps it was the anonymity of the man sitting next to him that had made it easier. Or maybe Gus simply had been ready and desperate enough to talk about what happened with someone, anyone. Just to say it and get the weight off his chest.
Lucas grinned, “hey, I was about to ask you if you wanted something else,” he said, though he tipped his beer towards him. “I’m still working on mine, but feel free to get yourself another on me.” He glanced down at his plate, suddenly realizing that he’d ordered probably enough for three people. “You hungry?” he asked, sliding the plate down the bar a little to sit between them, offering an array of finger foods. As he did, he picked up a chicken strip and dipped it in the little pot of barbecue sauce, then took a bite.
Gus was quiet for a beat, wondering if it would be over-indulgent to accept the man’s offer. He’d already made him listen to a slew of what now amounted to regurgitated nonsense, vague bits and pieces of the domestic bliss mess that Gus had locked himself into without really meaning for it to actually happen.
But it wasn’t as if he had anywhere to go later today other than home. And the stranger hadn’t seem overly bothered to act as a listening ear. In fact, he’d seemed...almost invested in Gus’ confessions, in a way that Gus didn’t totally understand. Maybe the guy was just lonely--hell, Gus could relate. He shot a glance at his beer, condensation running down the glass and wetting the napkin it sat upon.
“Sure, why not?” he found himself saying, flashing a dark, Bernard-patented smile. He held up his good hand to motion the bartender over to the two of them, then shrugged one shoulder before choosing one of the heavily fried foods to eat. “I, uh. I kinda wondered why you had such a big plate. Figured you were waiting for someone. Or something.” Another shrug, and he bit into his selected classic bar appetizer. “...Are you?” Gus asked carefully, after he finished chewing. Not that he cared either way if he’d delayed the man, but it seemed like the polite thing to ask. It was something, he thought privately, that BB would never bother asking for propriety’s sake. But Alice would.
Lucas chuckled and shook his head, “no, I’m not waiting for anyone,” he said, indicating to the summoned bartender that he should bring Gus another beer. “I’m celebrating a good day at work,” he said, then after a beat he smirked. “I guess I just got carried away,” he added, gesturing to the platter between them. He picked up another chicken strip and took a bite, studying his neighbour for a moment. From what he could tell, he was little more than a kid, but he seemed to have a bit of...world weariness to him. Part of him wanted to know more about him, but another part was vehemently warning him away from learning anything more - especially if he was indeed involved with Alice.
But he had always found it hard to keep from touching the hot pot handle. “So you live around here? Or are you getting a cab home after?” He was merely a doctor concerned with a fellow citizen’s health, nothing more.
“Saved a life or something?” Gus said wryly, more of a statement than an actual question. He tried to imagine what it would feel like to save someone, to save something, and then choose to celebrate this hard-earned victory with beer and peanuts--more or less.
It was a little hard to imagine, in the end.
“I took an Uber,” he admitted. “Didn’t want to drive if I’d been drinking.” He purposely left out the fun detail of his father being a proud, upstanding, law-abiding officer of the law. Sure, his dad might pull strings for him if he did get pulled over, but Gus didn’t want to risk it. He had to be smarter than his other siblings about these things. “I, live, uh...kinda by the beach. Big complex facing the ocean. It’s an okay place, even if I do still have to drive an hour to and from class.”
The bartender brought him another beer, and Gus thanked him with a nod, finishing off the last of his former glass. “I’ll get out of your hair soon,” he commented matter of factly. “But like, don’t tell me a doctor’s going to drive after drinking.”
Lucas smiled and put down his beer he’d just taken a sip from. “One beer isn’t enough to impair the average adult male, especially if they’ve also been eating,” he said, taking another zucchini stick as he said that. “It’s all about time and absorption. That, and I’m not going far.” He paused and looked at the man a little closer. “Big complex facing the ocean...that describes my building. You’re not from Pax Letale, are you?” he asked, though somehow, he already knew.
Gus started to retort a bullshit claim about trying to play things safe, nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction of the sort that seemed to be happening with increasing frequency the longer Alice wasn’t speaking to him. But then the man mentioned the apartment complex. His apartment complex.
“...Yeah. Yeah, I live there. I live there, too, I guess. Sixth floor.” He gave a short laugh of disbelief which Lucas echoed; as if things were not already uncomfortable, now he had the knowledge of realizing he’d confessed his personal drama to a neighbor, rather than a nameless, faceless stranger.
“Uh, by the way, my name’s Augustus. But I go by Gus.” Quickly, he amended whatever nicety should have occurred ages ago. No doubt this was another side effect of Alice’s friendly demeanor rubbing off on him.
Lucas smiled broadly and extended a hand. “Lucas, 1003, resident doctor and all-around charming young man,” he chuckled. “Wow, small world, yeah? It feels like I can’t go anywhere these days without running into a neighbour.” He finished his zucchini stick and then wiped his mouth on a napkin. “Tell you what, since I’ll be okay to drive in about twenty minutes,” he said, glancing at the clock over the bar, “and you didn’t drive here, why don’t you hitch a ride home with me?” he offered. “It’ll be a thank you for helping me eat all this food,” he said with a grin.
Gus might not have accepted had he not already spent an unexpectedly lengthy amount of time with the other man--correction, his name was Lucas, and they were, because Southern California could always get more and more weird, neighbors.
Well, what the hell. It wasn't as if he could complain about a free ride, considering everything else going wrong in his life.
“Uh, sure. That sounds great. Don’t want to waste any of that food, right?” Tentatively, Gus reached out and shook Lucas’ hand, finishing the required necessity for their proper introduction. At least he could comfort himself in the fact that given the amount of floors between them, he might not run into his neighbor as frequently as he ran into others. And there was always the glimmer of hope that Lucas would have no idea who Gus had been babbling about for the duration of their visit together.
That was the most important thing.