Frank reached for his cigarette pack as Ben woke up. He took out a cigarette and placed it back in his blazer's inner pocket, and put the cigarette in his mouth. He walked over to Ben and pushed him down to the sofa, "Sit", Frank said. He rolled the cigarette to the side and looked at Ben, "Listen Carefully", he said as he snapped his fingers and a flame came out of his fingers, lighting his cigarette on fire.
"I never thought you would have this" Frank began explaining the situation to Ben, "But here it is. You can manipulate fire. So can I. But I must warn you before you set out to the world and turn it to ashes". Frank poured hot water into a disposable cup and sprinkled coffee in it. He put it on the table and sat down on a chair, looking at Ben. "You will burn. Your life will burn quickly and so will your memories. If you can't handle your past-", Frank stopped and looked away, taking the cup of coffee and handing it to Ben. "Then you will burn you a crisp. What you did earlier, a full body burn, is dangerous. You only got a haircut-", Frank points out the burnt hair on Ben's head, "-but it could have been much worse".
"Your past will haunt you. You contempt. Your anger. Your skeletons in your closet. If you can't deal with them, you can't be fully set ablaze.", Frank said, finishing his speech.
You didn't have a choice. He tried to kill you, and he would have killed the others too. It was you or him, that's not your fault.
Marcus forced himself to keep turning these words over in his mind. If he was going to stay focused, then he needed to be able to justify his actions to himself. Not only had his attack on the armed man been vicious, it had been sloppy. As soon as he had kicked in the door to Rafik's room, Marcus had lost control of the situation. He realized that now. Subconsciously he had become overconfident, believing that his healing powers would be enough to pull him through any situation, or expecting Frank to show up and pull their asses out of the fire all the time. Today had been a rude awakening. In trying too hard to appear in control, Marcus had shown just how out of his depth he really was.
"I think we lost them"
Adrian's words brought Marcus out of his meditation, and he breathed a heavy sigh of relief as he turned to head back towards the apartment.
The rest of the drive could have only been minutes, but to Marcus it felt like half a day. Time had slowed down after the frantic last few hours. Parking round the back, out of sight, Marcus turned to the other two.
"You guys go on up. I'll catch up with you in a minute."
When they had gone Marcus spent a long time looking at himself in the rear-view mirror. He looked positively deranged, spattered from head to toe in the blood of three different people. Popping the glove box, he withdrew the gun and held it for a second. It too had blood on it. A brief desire to press the gun to his own head and pull the trigger gripped him. Scared by his impulse, he disarmed the weapon and placed both parts back in the glove box. Next, he drew out the knife, the blade shining red. Before he'd quite thought through what he was doing, motivated by some primal desire to punish himself, to make himself feel the pain he felt he deserved, he brought the blade down hard into his own leg.
The pain was incredible, worse than being shot, more intense than anything he had felt in his whole life. As the tip of the knife hit bone it burned through his entire body, cleansing his mind. It was terrible, yet also a wonderful act of penance. Not until every fiber of his being screamed in protest did he withdraw.
Tim screamed in protest as his face was pushed into the dirt. The adults, observant as ever, liked to keep the more troublesome kids out of sight and out of mind, and so no-one thought to disturb this act of play. The injustice of all of it filled Marcus with a righteous anger that overcame his natural instinct to remain ignored. He marched over to Tim's tormentor with a cold fire in his eyes.
"You leave him alone!"
The boy, whom Marcus did not know well, leered as he relinquished his hold on Tim, who lay panting and whimpering, and turned to face Marcus.
"Or what?" came his slack jawed reply.
He was distinctly stockier than Marcus, perhaps a year or two older, Marcus could not be sure. Marcus did not answer verbally, but instead set his face, jaw locked, eyes full of hatred. His stance was perfectly balanced, ready to fight.
Something in the bully's expression faltered. He might have been bigger, but there was an unyielding determination the emanated from Marcus that spoke very clearly that he was not going to be intimidated, and that he would pull no punches were he forced to throw them. The boy's confidence waned, and he backed down.
"Fuck off, now!" Marcus said darkly, and the bully didn't need telling twice. When he was gone Marcus helped Tim to his feet.
"Th-thanks." stammered Tim, trying his best to stop sniveling and look presentable.
"Don't mention it," Marcus replied, still not quite able to look Tim in the eye. "That's what friends are supposed to do right?"
With the memory of happier times; times when he had stood up for what was right, and had been able to avoid indulging in violence with a single look, Marcus repaired his wound. Cleaning the knife on his already stained clothes, he flung it into the glove box along with the gun and slammed it shut. He didn't want to have to be around those instruments unless he had no other choice. The sight of them sickened him, and he would not take them back into the apartment. With his head in his hands, slumped over the steering wheel, Marcus wept.
Ben listened to what Frank had to say, and nodded. Emotions, is that what he felt earlier? He never really had ever felt them before. Ben wasn't sure that he liked them.
Ben took the coffee from Frank, "Thanks, the three of us were going to go shopping for a few more things but..."
Ben trailed off, feeling the inklings of something. Was this slightly gut-wrenching feeling guilt? Ben pressed on, past the emotion, quashing it. He took a gulp of the coffee, feeling the scorching liquid pass down his throat. Composing himself, he looked at Frank.
"So I suppose we now wait for the others?"
Frank looked back at Ben. A trail of smoke from his cigarette left out of the window. "You are a very troubled boy, Ben. They told me you were a bad candidate. They said you lacked emotions. They said you couldn't handle the burden of it all. You would be a turncoat-", Frank moved his hand and placed it over Ben's. "You will want to burn it all to the ground. Everyone does. You have to resist. You have to remember the things you want to keep alive-". I couldn't say no. I had to burn it all. I had to make it all disappear. Make it all turn to ash . Frank moved his hand away and stood up. He turned back from Ben and walked to the door.
"This never happened. I will be here tomorrow morning".
When Frank left, Ben sat down on the couch in quiet contemplation. Unanswered questions raced through his brain.
Remember the things I want to keep alive? What things?
He thought about what Frank had said, slowly sipping his coffee, letting the time pass.
"I have nothing to care for, but nothing to hate either." Ben whispered to the empty room. He closed his eyes and started to meditate, focusing inwards, until the room disappeared from his concious thought. Until his head was in complete silence. Ben sorted through the questions, filing them away, compartmentalizing them to deal with later.
The sound of their footsteps seemed to echo through the stairway as Adrian and Mira trudged back towards the apartment. Not a word of protest had been uttered by either when Marcus had stated that he would stay behind with the vehicle for a moment. Adrian wasn't going to question another man's request for a brief amount of time alone, especially after everything that had happened in the past few hours.
Adrian glanced over at Mira as they moved. She seemed off in her own world, not having spoken a word or showed any sort of sign of emotion since they had run from the building. Adrian wondered what could be running through her mind right now. A small part of him wanted to ask her a question, just to easy the tedium of making this same walk that he felt he had made so many times before.
He felt like it would just be a lost cause though.
The pair entered the apartment. Ben was sitting there, drinking his coffee alone. Adrian glanced around and noticed a solemn chill over the apartment. Something was out of place, although he couldn't immediately put his finger on it. It was almost as though the residence was...hollow. He looked to Ben with a hint of concern showing on his face.
"Where are the other two?"
"Spencer is dead. Evey... I don't know what happened to Evey, she was taken somewhere, by someone."
Ben felt hollow saying the words, as if someone else was saying them. The echoed through the room. He had emptied himself during his concentrative efforts, removing the emotions that he felt. Frank had said it was dangerous, but Ben couldn't deal with them right now.
"It was sheer dumb luck that I wasn't taken as well. They must have missed me or something, I was left forgotten at the side of the warehouse."
Ben concentrated, a small flame lighting up at the tip of his finger. He focused on it, the flickering light consuming his attention. He looked up at Adrian and turned off the power.
"And I learned how to do that, though on a much larger scale, in the ensuing chaos. I would expect to see something in the evening news."
The words resonated in Adrian's ears but at first he was unable to grasp the full implication of them. He had watched Ben get his throat torn out by a giant dog. He had seen the blood from his jugular pouring violently over the floor and staining the carpet. He had seen Ben miraculously shrugged this off and come back to life before his very eyes.
So why was Spencer unable to do that?
And Evey was gone? How...why...?
Seeing Ben's manifested power barely even registered with Adrian. The news was weighing far too heavily on his shoulders for him to get too excited about something as seemingly trivial as a Ben causing a disaster with his new ability.
Finally, Adrian found his tongue.
"I don't understand...how were you able to revive and Spencer wasn't? It doesn't make any sense. And Evey...we need to figure out how to find her! Do you have any idea where they took her? We have to do something!"
"They brought me back by choice. They may not have for Spencer. I was told that I would recieve no rest, maybe it is different for Spencer. Maybe they just have him hanging out in limbo right now, I don't know. Evey, though, we can't do anything about. I'm pretty sure it was SWAT or the FBI or some other acronym run by the government that nabbed her. I have no idea where they would have taken her, and I'm pretty sure it would be suicide to go after her."
Ben sighed, standing. It felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He needed to change this topic, it was more or less over anyway
"How did your guys' day go? Without a hitch?"
"How did your guys' day go? Without a hitch?"
"Have a guess." said Marcus as he entered the apartment, still spattered with blood.
He didn't say anything else. He had nothing to say to anyone right now. All he could think about was escaping from his exhaustion. Without waiting for an answer, he crossed into the bedroom where he got undressed, into the shower, and turned the water up high enough that he couldn't hear any of the conversation from the other room. Confident Marcus would have to wait until morning to return. Right now, he wasn't sure if he could look any of them in the face without revealing the very darkest parts of his soul. Right now, he was even more morally objectionable than the person who collected lethal cocktails of chemicals in the refrigerator like it was a hobby. The last thing he needed was for someone like Ben to see how he felt about himself right now. Marcus had no defense.
"I take it that it didn't I see. Marcus has the right idea though. I'm worn, the days events have taken a heavy toll."
Ben walked up and headed for the bedroom, collapsing on the cot, exaustion taking him deep into sleep. It had been a hard day, but sleep was always a good release from the events of the day.
"Help meeeeeeeeeee!" Evey screamed.
"Spin the Roulette."
The events of the day swirled around in his dreams. Was there no escape? Ben curled up in the fetal position in his bed, his sleep tortured by the memories.
With that, everyone else moved towards the bedroom. Adrian was left standing alone in the living room, unsure if he actually wanted to sleep. There had been so much that had happened so quickly. It was hard to believe that Spencer was actually dead. He had hardly known the kid but the loss had left a notable void in his gut. After seeing Ben come back to life, he had thought that they were virtually invulnerable. But this new development...it seemed to tie knots in Adrian's soul.
And what about Evey? Even if she was safe in government custody, she was not cut off from their source of life energy. What would happen when her time ran out? And what if she wasn't even all that "safe"? What would the agency that held her do to her if they already knew of the nature of their organization? Surely their activities were under some sort of surveillance. What if...
So many questions pounding in his head.
There would be no way to sleep. Not now.
Adrian silently opened the door to the apartment and stepped heavily down the hall. Tonight was another night for alcohol.
Mira had taken to the silence very well. React was all she could do as she was afraid to act. Afraid to awaken some other sort of demonic powers lying within her. She caught Adrian giving her careful looks and so did Marcus. She closed her eyes sometimes, thinking what else Frank in store for her. What else he had left to test her sanity.
"Spencer is dead. Evey... I don't know what happened to Evey, she was taken somewhere, by someone."
That hit her like a brick. How could Spencer be dead? And what of Evey?
She had seen Marcus rise from the claws of death so why not the others? Evey's fate racked Mira's mind more harshly as it was a fate that was unknown. Who knows what position she could be in at the moment and if she was alive or not.
Mira buried her senses in her hands, covering her ears and sitting on the couch. She was about to cry, again. Mira felt the warm sting of her tears, welling at her eyes. Her nose began to fill and her ears warm. She was on the brink of madness.
"How does he expect us to go through with this..." Mira whispered. She lifted her head up, red from her holding her breath because she didn't want to alert the others on her mental health status. But her feelings got the better of her. She let out a loud whimper, a sort of whimper that a dog would let out when it was extremely distressed. She needed to breath, to vent a bit. Her legs picked her up and moved her to the door. The narrow hallway echoed the slam of the door and her footsteps followed. Soon she was at the stairs leading out into the street. Mira wanted to leave, to be done with this. She wanted to take her chances, live it out without seeing the horrors that awaited her every passing day.
She took the first step but she stopped. Mira squatted down and sat there. She didn't want to leave solely because of them.
They were facing the same problems as her and at sometimes seeing the worst of it. Ben had to deal with the loss of both Spencer and Evey. Adrian with his internal struggles that she could see within. And finally Marcus, her helping hand. She didn't want to abandon them, especially Marcus. She would be selfish if she left so she sat there instead. Mira let her tears flow freely and she hugged her legs as it was the only thing present at the moment.
"David, I could really use you right now..."
When Marcus got out of the shower and got dressed he took a long hard look at himself in the mirror. Clean now, he looked somewhat less terrifying, more just tired. He tried to list all the life-threatening injuries he had sustained in the course of the last three days, but he kept getting muddled, unsure if he could even remember them all.
He couldn't even picture the murder. He saw flashes, the man's petrified face, droplets of blood dancing through the air...
'What's done is done.' spoke his voice of reason, having returned to him after a long absence. 'You need to find a way to accept it. They need you, and if you want to be there for them, you need to nut up. You're Marcus, Marcus never gives up remember?'
He inhaled deeply. He couldn't take it back. But he'd make up for it, somehow, he had all the time in the world.
It was then that Marcus heard sobbing coming from outside. Whoever it was either didn't care about being heard, or was unable to silence themselves. Concerned, yet alert, Marcus went to the main door. Slowly, being careful not to disturb, Marcus eased open the door and peeked around.
It was Mira. Marcus was ashamed to admit that, amid the tension and her silence, Marcus had almost forgotten about her. It stung him to think that he might have put her in this state. Yesterday, Marcus might have closed the door and left her alone, but he felt that he needed to do something, something good. When all those people had confided in him back in school, he'd never realized that he needed them just as much as they had needed him. Right now, in this moment, Marcus wanted to turn the clock back years, and feel like his old self again.
"Hey" he whispered tentatively, moving to sit on the step beside her.
Mira poked her head up. She hadn't realized that all her sobbing must awoken the other group members but she didn't think that it would be Marcus.
"Hey..." Mira whispered out again. She wiped the tears off her face with her sleeve and wrapped them back against her legs. "Sorry if I woke you up... it's just that everything going on... I don't think I can handle much more of this..."
She talked slowly, recovering her breath from her crying.
"I wasn't planning on sleeping any." Marcus replied.
Although he had washed the blood off, Marcus couldn't shake the sense that it still clung to him. He needed, somehow, to explain, to justify himself. He couldn't take feeling so isolated anymore. It was strange. Marcus was no stranger to feeling alone, but this was the first time that the term had really carried any weight. For the first time, it hurt to be alone.
"listen. About today... I didn-, I don't-, I'm sorry. I've never lost control like that before. It was just like, every little thing that ever pissed me off just took control. I'm used to not feeling like me, to becoming something else, but before it was always me controlling it, not the other way around..."
Marcus sighed deeply, each excuse sounded more feeble than the last. Nothing overwrote his guilt.
"I don't think I can handle much more of this either."
"I... I wonder if this is what made the people we've... killed... run away. I remember Mr.Mark, he mentioned that he died too. He couldn't stand what he did for Frank and took his chances. I don't want to end up like him but more and more I want to run away. From this business and everything..." Mira said. The more she thought about their "business" the more Mira felt distraught about their line of work. Their lives hanged in the balance but there was no doubt that with every act of violence, Mira felt more detached from herself. Even if she didn't commit them, just being associated with it forced her to form a new, cold face. A new identity among all the bloodshed.
Mira hated it.
She didn't feel herself and it was hell bottling up those emotions. They simmered each day and today was one of the boiling points. Even with all her training, Mira always had a certain point. A threshold that bordered insanity. Mira was close today, she could feel herself slipping away when Marcus killed that thug. She felt it when she questioned that butcher. She felt it now.
Mira cleared her tears and looked at Marcus. He was young, at least few years apart. But in his eyes, Mira could see a mature soul formed by the trials and tribulations that an individual goes through. He was young but his chiseled face was already beginning to form lines cracked into his features by what these three simple days held. Grey eyes shot back a reassuring look. A comforting glance that told her that everything was going to be alright.
Mira turned and leaned forward in an instant. Mira's lips first connected with his and her right hand drew him closer with her other hand on the wall behind him supporting her advance. All her emotions bottled inside had erupted. This was it. She hoped that Marcus didn't mind. She hoped that he would understand. But what surprised her more was that Marcus kissed back.
It had been a long time, far too long, since Marcus had known this feeling. It was not that he had been starved for female attention, but for the last few years women had been little more than a recreational activity. A physical release that had helped him wash away the days disappointments. This was different. The world seemed to melt away until nothing remained but him and Mira. All that mattered was the feeling; the feeling of their lips touching, their hands on each other.
For a split second he thought of resisting, of being careful. Maybe there was something he should say, but no words would come, and he was unable to stop.
The kissing grew more intense. Marcus longed to lose himself, to wake up in the morning a new man. The dull, cold pain that had occupied his mind before was being burned away by a fire inside of him. He wanted this to last forever.
Mira and Marcus were locked in each other's figures. Moving about and small confined space in a symphony of gasping and grunts.
It was alleviating, refreshing. The pains of the past few days were no longer present and it was love on a whole different level. This display of raw love paled in comparison to her relationship with men in the past as she often clung onto the ones who filled her periods of respite in her adult life. Mira remembered that even the sex held less passion than this. With this foreplay, the intensity didn't decline or rise but stayed level throughout; as she preferred it.
Finally she found a grip and pulled herself away.
"Thanks... glad you understood..." Mira breathed, catching her breath. She grabbed Marcus' hand and squeezed it as she leaned in one more time to give him a peck on the lip. She nearly fell into the cycle again but she needed sleep for whatever was to come tomorrow. "Tomorrow...I promise."
Mira pushed herself from the stoop and went back into the apartment. She found the couch and quickly fell on it. It took her awhile but soon she fell asleep.
Night falls on the city and the residents of the apartment sleep innocently in their beds.
Frank slips into the apartment yet again in the middle of the night and assumes the same position as he did yesterday, sitting on the chair and waiting for dawn.
"Listen, chico. You need to listen", Jose tried calming Gulliver down but he kept trying to escape. Jose frowned as the man he saved spat at him. He raised his hand at him and pointed his finger at Gulliver. "I need you to do some work", he ordered him, "Can I trust you?", he asked.
"Fuck you", Gulliver shouted at the man. Klaus hit the floor with his cane but was stopped by Jose. His index finger erupted, letting out a thick piece of iron stretch away and penetrate Gulliver through his chest, only to be stopped in its place and broken off. Jose curled his upper lip as he picked up the rod of iron and let it melt in his hand and back into his blood stream. "Iron Boy", Klaus said as he walked behind Gulliver and untied the man. Sitting in the chair in shock was Gulliver, his heart pumping at unnatural speeds. "I want to go home, I want to see Jenny", Gulliver hesitantly said. "Bueno, Chico, but first I need you to help someone. His name is Marcus-", Jose gave Gulliver a thin dossier containing a picture, name and address.
He jumped from his seat and stormed off, going through Klaus without much trouble.
"Austrian, Relax. The boy needs to let off some steam".
Frank fell into a deep sleep and was yet again confronted by his past.
The soil is wet. The air is filled with gunpowder. I just want to hurl, but I must not move.
Bang. That was private Miller. He came from a small town in Washington, a bright fellow, he was supposed to study engineering after the war.
Bang. That was corporal Sterling. He was supposed to drill me back in camp but he insisted to join the invasion force himself. He thought he was still a good soldier, and a good soldier never abandons his fellow comrades on the field.
Bang. Jeremy Mark. My friend. My comrade. We used to talk to each other about home and what we did in Chicago. He used to be a bartender, but then he was drafted. Just like me.
I think Jimmy is up next. I look up and to my left. They can't see me. The three soldiers stand next to the officer as he shots at Jimmy but the gun won't fire. He begins searching his pockets for any left over clips. He then asks the other soldiers for any.
No, don't run. Please, Hank, don't run. Hank, for the love of christ, please don't run. They will shoot you. "Please", I beg him. He smiles at me. "You owe me", he whispers.
No, Hank, Please don't sta-Bang.Bang.Bang. A soldier shot his Gwehr. The officer smacked him over the head. He had found another clip. Hank is bleeding on the cold soil now. I want to hold him. Everything is going to be okay. My eyes begin to water.
Bang.Jimmy is gone. I can hear German in a terrible accent. Pvt. First Class Tenenbaom. He was our medic. I remember him talking about his Jewish relatives in Poland. They can't kill medics in combat, that's against the Geneva convention.
But they are already killing war prisoners. "Juden!", one of them cries out in what sounds like joy. I can't stand it anymore. I can't. My leg is still bleeding but I think if I get out now I can hid in that bunker. I have to try. Something is moving in the corner of my eye on my right.
Fuck, Timmy. They are going to see you, you have to run, you have to get help from the 11th batta-BANG.
This is going to be my grave. I know it. I'm going to die in this French ditch, half-way across the world from my Mom and Dad. From my brothers and sister. From my United States of Ame-
Morning comes, and Frank wakes up from his sleep, his forehead dripping with cold sweat.
Marcus awoke from a surprisingly easy sleep. It was as if the events of last night had lifted the world of his shoulders, and now Marcus felt taller again. He couldn't deny that it had frustrated him a little when Mira had pulled away, breaking the moment, but he wasn't going to spoil it by asking for too much too soon, and for now, it was nice to know that he had somebody who felt something for him among this disparate group.
Good things come to those who wait. Marcus reasoned.
He could tell that it was close to daybreak. There would be no point in trying to sleep more now. Marcus rolled out of bed and crossed over into the main room.
Mira was still asleep on the couch. Marcus smiled as he remembered how she had made him feel before. It was as if he had been awoken from a comatose state, and he was truly alive once again. He forced himself to snap out of his daydreaming. Right now, he needed to prepare himself for what lay in store for him today. People were relying on him to have his head on straight.
It was then that he saw Frank, looking as if he too had just woken up, and that whatever he had been dreaming about, it hadn't been pleasant. For some reason it surprised him that Frank had bad dreams, or that Frank had any kind of conscience of emotion come to think of it. Marcus hid his surprise behind a nonchalant, slightly cocky stance.
"Morning Frank." Marcus grinned ever so slightly. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Frank smiled at the sound of Marcus mentioning ghosts. "You don't even know what you are talking about, boy. You have something new for the day-", Frank pointed at the cupboard. "Since you're short on staff, I will come with you. Today we need to clean up other people's mess".
Frank rolled another cigarette into his mouth and lit it with a snap of his fingers.
Ben woke from a tortured sleep. The events of the previous day had plagued him even in his dreams.
As he got out of the bed, he heard Marcus and Frank talking. He shrugged his shoulders, burying the traitorous and torturous emotions under a cold mask.
"Morning Frank, Marcus. So we're all working as a group today? Alright." Ben paused, "Whose mess, and what does it entail?"
Ben walked over to the stove, turning on the gas. Ben pointed a finger at the burner, making a small spark above the gas valve. He headed to the fridge and grabbed the bacon out of the meat crisper. Throwing a couple pieces onto the frying pan, Ben put it on top of the now burning stove. Ben grabbed a cutting board, throwing a tomato and some lettuce from the fridge on top.
As the smell of bacon filled the room, Ben flipped the bacon over, letting it fry. He cut up the lettuce and the tomato, putting them on top of the bread. Finally, he put he put the bacon, fully cooked, on the sandwich and took a bite.
"BLT, anyone? There's still enough for another."
Marcus watched coldly as he saw Ben light the stove with just his finger, as he had seen Frank do with several cigarettes. So Ben had a power now, and it was control over fire of all things. Great, that was the last thing Marcus needed. He had thought Ben egotistical to the point of dangerous before, and now he was a human flame-thrower, Marcus could only see him getting even more so. Grudgingly, Marcus came to the conclusion that soon he was going to have to learn to trust Ben, or at least to make a better job of pretending to. They were all in this together after all; and as objectionable as so much of what he'd seen about Ben was, Marcus reasoned that he'd rather have the pyrotechnical mastermind as a friend than as an enemy. It also occurred to him that it might be a little rich of him to judge Ben so harshly. After all, out of the two of them, it was Marcus who was the killer.
"BLT, anyone? There's still enough for another."
"Yes please," Marcus replied. "I'm starving."
A groan could be heard coming from where Adrian was sleeping. The voices of the people going about their business had stirred him from his medicated rest. His brain was throbbing with what felt like a deep-seeded boom that made everything around him seem generally unpleasant. The juices in his stomach had turned sour from a night of trying to process the glorious poison that he had so willingly imbibed. Everything just hurt and all that he wanted was to go back to sleep.
But there would be no sleeping in today. Or probably tomorrow.
I'm going to need to invest in a better hangover cure if I want to keep doing this. Probably going to need to start using the hair of the dog that bit me.
He sat up on his bed and squinted at the others milling about the room. Frank stood in his standard morning post in the apartment. A trace of a sneer curled up around Adrian's lip as he looked upon the man that he associated with all of his problems. As quickly as it had appeared, Adrian was able to mask it with a forced smile.
"Good to see the sun came up again. How did everyone sleep?"
Ben looked at Adrian as the older man spoke. He looked like hell, eyes bloodshot, and more than a little disheveled. Ben twinged inwardly at the man's question.
"Enh, it could have been better."
Ben quickly put together a BLT for Marcus, then handed it to him. Ben clicked off the gas.
"I hope you're feeling better than you look, we have more work to do today. Apparently it's clean up duty. Because of the fact that we're...shorthanded, Frank's going to be joining us today."
Ben put the frying pan in the sink, turning on the water, hearing the hiss of water contacting a hot plate. He stretched out, hearing joints crack and pop. That felt better.
Marcus wolfed down his breakfast. It wasn't until now that he had realized just how hungry he was. It tasted wonderful. Adrian was just rising from his apparently uncomfortable slumber. The man smelled like a distillery. It wasn't so much that Marcus blamed him, everyone needs to drown their sorrows sometimes, and this group probably more than most; but he hoped that Adrian would know where his limits were. As the oldest of all of them, the last thing they needed was Adrian becoming a liability.
The news that Frank would be joining them today left Marcus with mixed emotions. On the one hand, he wouldn't trust Frank as far as he could throw him, and him leading them today could only mean that they would be facing even tougher challenges than before. However, it would be nice to have someone capable and experienced in this line of work accompany them. After yesterday, Marcus longed to take the back seat this time around. He didn't trust himself to play leader of the pack for a while.
He wished Mira would wake. Marcus was increasingly getting the feeling that she was the only person he could trust.
Frank's cigarette continued to burn as he inhaled the smell of pig sandwiches. He stood up and walked to the cupboard, then bent down and took out two large brown envelopes and tossed them on the table. "I'm going with Adrian and Ben. We will meet a friend of ours, Francis Sinclair. A journalist that wants to be left alone. We had found a corpse and we suspect he committed the act. We get in, wake him up and question him.", Frank picked up an envelope and opened it, handing it out to Ben. "The others will go and deal with some old friends. Mister Mark liked to brag about things, and some people want the same deal. We can't let this be known. Get to Larkin's firm and find out who is looking for us".
"Consider it done." Came Marcus' airily flippant reply. He liked the sound of this new mission. All they had to do was lie their way in, no violence required. It seemed to have been tailor made for him. He opened the envelope and, as usual, it contained the required address, as well as the location of Edgar Larkin's old office. Doubtless the lawyer had kept details of his clients in there; the only challenge would be getting in there alone and out without raising anyone's suspicions.
All that was left to do was to think of a plan while waiting for Mira.
Ben took the envelope, nodding at Franks wording.
"Should we expect the Russian Mafya to beat the shit out of us again, or is it safe to say that it's clear." Ben said acidly. He could feel the bruises smarting up and down his torso.
Ben opened the envelope, inside contained the basic information of what the job entailed. He passed the contents to Adrian so he could read it. The man probably needed several glasses of water, judging from the state of his eyes. Ben headed to the sink and filled a glass up with some tap water, handing it to the suffering man.
"Here, drink up."
Mira awoke to the sounds of talking and the smell of freshly made bacon. She opened her eyes that rested fine for the first time. Last night was something special. She felt refreshed, invigorated even. Soon she caught sight of Marcus and the others but most importantly Frank.
"Good morning..." Mira said before a yawn went over her.
She pushed herself from the couch to freshen up in the bathroom. Once that was done Mira went back into the cramped living quarters. She sat next to Marcus, peering over his shoulder at what they had to do next.
"Seems easy enough..." Mira whispered.
"Here, drink up."
Adrian looked into Ben's eyes and widened his unnatural smile as much as he felt possible. He would have appreciated the gesture had either of the other two remaining survivors offered him the glass. It would have probably been an action motivated by altruism and compassion from one of the other two. But not from Ben...he was far too utilitarian. This act of kindness was motivated by nothing more than pragmatism.
Still, Adrian had no reason to refuse the water. Even if Ben was more worried about utility than kindness, there was no denying that water would have been the first thing on Adrian's agenda for the morning. He took the glass and drank deeply of the metallic liquid that had plagued the pipes. Though he still hated the flavor, Adrian noted that his body didn't recoil anymore by the mere taste.
He lowered the glass and nodded at Ben.
"Thanks...just what the doctor ordered."
His eyes shifted back down towards the documents that had been placed in his lap. Although the job seemed easy enough to handle, Adrian knew better. Easy wasn't a thing anymore. The only advantage today was that he would have Frank along for the ride...but that was little comfort to Adrian. Frank would certainly help the day move along more smoothly but the idea of his company did not fill Adrian with excitement.
He finished his glass and began moving towards the sink. Re-hydration was this morning's top priority.
"I hope so," Marcus responded "but recent experiences don't inspire optimism. Still, I reckon we can get inside to get what we need easy enough. The tricky part will be getting out again home and dry. Mind you, I'd take a robbery over another hit any day..."
He gave Mira a furtive smile. He was a little nervous being around her while the others were also present. Last night had been great, but now Marcus wasn't sure where he stood. He didn't know exactly what Mira wanted from him. Did she just want a physical release, or something more? If the latter, how much did they want to reveal to the others? With them all living under the same roof it would be unrealistic to expect any secrets to be kept for long.
If nothing else, Marcus hoped that these questions would be the most he'd have to worry about today.
"C'mon." he said to Mira "There's no point in waiting around. If we can get there early there might not be too many people to get in our way."
With that, Marcus left the apartment, feeling ready for whatever the day had to throw at him.
What a hectic day this was turning out to be.
Therese Thatcher waded down the cramped stairway, trying desperately not to get bowled over by her larger coworkers or drop the Styrofoam cup of coffee she carried. Hampton & House, the law firm that Therese was currently working for, was quite busy today. People did all but run back and forth delivering case notes, files, bottles of water, coffee, good news, bad news, and everything in between to whichever attorney they had been assigned to. Therese was on her way down, assigned to pick up a large file of case notes regarding the previous failed case and give it to her boss, Raymond.
When Therese reached the bottom of the stairwell she took one quick look around, and set out for the office closest to the door, where the files were being prepared for review. The reception area was fairly clear, actually, and that surprised Therese. It seemed the majority of people were upstairs, aside from those that worked at the reception desk and the few offices down on the first floor.
Upon reaching her destination, she took a short sip of her coffee, and knocked on the door.
"Mr. Wilhelm? It's Ms. Thatcher, assigned to Mr. Raymond. I'm here to pick up the files regarding case 722."
"Ah, Mr. Thatcher, come in!" Came the gravely, old voice. Therese opened the door and smiled as she looked at the old man, wrinkles covering his face and hands, but working as diligently as the rest of them. Upon sighting Therese through his thick glasses, Jeffrey Wilhelm stood up from his desk with a wide, beaming smile on his face and extended his hand. Therese reached forward and grabbed his hand, shaking it heartily.
"Strong, good grip you've got on you, Ms. Thatcher." Jeffrey chided. "Not very ladylike, you know."
Therese smirked and chuckled. Therese was told she was the picture of beauty by many people, even several of her co workers. Her skin, a healthy, fair complexion complemented her blonde hair and womanly figure well. Her hips were well formed, her breasts decently sized, and her face was clear of blemishes. But the way she acted was hardly that of a young, beautiful woman in the big city; her grip was strong, her thoughts were on work, and she dressed in a way that was borderline cross-dressing. A white collared button up shirt, a black blazer, black slacks, and black dress shoes. And a red tie. Can't forget the classy tie.
"Oh, whatever, Jeffrey," Therese said with a warm smile. As much as she liked the older man, she needed to get back to work. "Are the files ready?"
A glint of light in his eyes served as his recognition. "Ah, yes," he said in his gravely way, bending underneath his immaculate desk and picking up a two-inch thick file. "Here you go."
Therese groaned and frowned when she saw the massive file. And she had to carry that monster back the to end of the hall on the second floor. "Sometimes, I think Mr. Raymond does this to me to purposefully rile me up."
Jeffrey waved her comment away and sat back down. "Oh, stop blaming other people and get to work, kiddo." he said, laughing and dragging over a piece of paper.
Therese smiled, picked up the file, and said, "Thank you, Mr. Wilhelm. I'll see you later," and closed the door behind her.
Therese nearly dropped the file and her coffee when she saw who walked up to her.
Victoria, her roommate, broke into a wide smile and picked up her pace when the two girls' eyes connected. The two looked almost like polar opposites; Victoria was the more endowed of the two, with very wide hips and large breasts, wearing her hair black and loose and wearing as much of a "secretarial" garb as she could. Blouse and skirt, add high heels. There you go.
Victoria, incidentally, was the only person Therese felt nervous around, And Therese had a pretty good idea as to why.
"Hey, Terri!" came Victoria's happy and high pitched voice. "On more grunt work for Raymond, eh?"
"Yeah. Just gotta pick up this file." Therese said, hefting the over-large file in one hand, putting on a face people make when they pretend to be strong.
Victoria put a hand to her mouth to cover a giggle, beaming at Therese. Victoria, the only one whom Therese could rely on, tell her secrets to, and cry to.
Yeah, Therese was pretty sure why she was always so nervous around Victoria.
Therese bit her lip, trying to organize her thoughts and decide what to do. Her feelings for Victoria... Were more than certainly romantic. She'd never experienced it before, but she'd seen enough of the cheesy movies and the like to verify her feelings. She only had to wonder...
"Hey, Victoria?" Therese said in a shaky and unsure voice. Oh God, what was she doing. Was she willing to possibly throw away her friendship with this woman for something more-
"What's wrong, Terri?"
Of course Victoria would know when something was wrong. She'd only lived with her for the better half of the last decade.
"I... Have a bit of a confession to make." Oh God. She's really doing this.
Victoria looked at her with a raised eyebrow and expectant eyes. Therese could feel her face warming up.
"I... Um..." Do it already dammit! "I like you!" She spat, hands shaking ever so slightly.
Victoria seemed confused. "I know you like me. We've been best friends for years."
Oh. My. God. Why couldn't this be a little easier?
"No... Vicki... I... Want..."
Victoria put a finger to Therese's lips and laughed.
"I know, Terri, I know. It's not like it isn't obvious."
Therese's mind was blank. She... Knew? She knew? She knew and she didn't say anything? Then... Did that mean she didn't-
Victoria leaned forward and kissed Therese lightly. A split second, that was all, but in that time, Therese was happier then she could ever remember being.