exercises in gratitude (The Barclay Street Flood) - Chapter 16 - redeyedsheepskull (2024)

Chapter Text

“Why’d you kick out Dead Mal?”

Lawan blinked. “What?”

Mick stood in front of her, arms folded, trademark smirk gone. “You heard me. Why’d you kick her out?”

Lawan blinked again, then sighed and stood up. “Is this really the time for this?” She gestured in front of her. “I’ve too much work to do as it is, right here and now. So do you. This is a waste of time, Mick. Sit down.”

“Nope. Not in a million years.” He took a step closer, making sure to lean over a little bit to really accentuate the height difference between them. “Answer my question.”

She gestured around them. The two were standing in the center of the second-floor lobby, situated around the help desk, people situated all around them. A lot of those people weren’t paying all that much attention – wow, someone coming up to the help desk to argue with Lawan and lose, what a novel experience – but even so, the urchin just plain wasn’t in the mood for f*cking Mick of all people to start sh*t. “Mick, I am not going to be here making a scene with you.”

“Maybe you shoulda thought about that before you, oh, I dunno. Kicked her out?”

“I didn’t –” She pinched her brow. “I did not kick her out.”

“Yes, you f*cking did.”

“No, I did not.”

“She had to come sleep on Janko’s couch.” He shrugged. “Looks like she got kicked out to me.”

Lawan tried to lower her voice a little bit so the argument wouldn’t get out of hand too fast. “I didn’t. Kick. Her out. Okay?

Mick ignored this entirely. “Janko’s couch, Lawan. Her and Alive Mal both.”

Lawan raised her hands in surrender. “You’re accusing me of something I had no hand in, you realize. I had absolutely no input in what happened. I certainly never told them to leave.”

“From the way they put it, you never told them anything, funny enough.” Suddenly Mick’s hands were on the table and he’s leaning over and staring at her, the entire room watching them both, and Lawan realized then and there that yes, they really were doing this now, and it was going to be a lot more public than she’d hoped. “You just stared at her. Watched her go. Watched Malley grab her suit and storm out too.” He shrugged. “Dead silence. Gosh, Lawan, how noble.”

“I didn’t want her to get kicked out, Michael.

“Then you shoulda said something, Lawan.” His tone was taunting. The man was fighting a grin. Was this f*cker enjoying this?

Lawan folded her arms. “Okay – fine, let me ask you something. What was I supposed to say? That yes, I should let this stranger who climbed through my window stay here over the night? The stranger with all the weird tools and the lockpick kit in her bag?”

“Oh, what, you mean the thirteen-year-old homeless kid who’s spent all of today and yesterday trying to help as many people as she can? The one who’s been making sure that Mal doesn’t have a total meltdown, who’s helped her out this entire time?” He tapped his chin in mock thought. “Oh, huh, wow! Funny thing, actually - yeah, you do mean her. The girl who’s been the crutch of this entire operation – yeah, gosh, that’s who we’re talking about, isn’t it? Funny thing, isn’t it?”

Lawan ignored this. “She’s a stranger. A potentially dangerous one at that. What could I have done?”

“Oh, gee, lemme think. You could have, oh, I don’t know, helped her instead of treating her like a criminal, huh? How about that?”

Lawan barked out a fake laugh. “Ha! Like you have any right to talk about ‘being a criminal.’ You’re the one who got her to break into all the laundry machines downstairs.” Before Mick could interrupt her, she gave him a co*cky grin. “I wonder how much that made you then, huh? How’s telling a 13-year-old kid to commit an actual crime feel, huh? Must’ve felt great, you know.”

“That’s –”

You, Mick,” she jabbed a finger into his chest, “have been manipulating people for money this entire time, like that scam computer repair shtick you’ve been playing at. Let’s not pretend you’re some sort of saint.”

“Oh, yeah?” Mick leans in nice and close so she could hear. “Well, you’re the one who sends thirteen-year-old kids down to rifle through raw sewage. Don’t act like you have some sort of moral high ground here. Alright?”

Lawan raised her hands in mock surrender again. “This may come as a shock to you, but I never told them to go down there today. That was all you. You and Kosh both.” She turned back to the table and pretended to sort through some files.

“And you were more than happy to send them down there yourselves.” Mick pulled the files out of her hands and dropped them on the floor behind him. “You have your own suit. You have your own bags, your own gloves and boots, your own everything. But no, yesterday, you sent the both of ‘em down there and told them ‘hey, have fun.’”

Lawan tried to move past him. “I did not –”

He stepped in front. “What was gonna stop you from going down there yourself, exactly? You have your own protective gear. Hell - they’re wearing your protective gear. Both of ‘em.” The skinny man gave her a rather crude-looking mock pout. “Oh, what, you gonna say Dead Malley took that too? Along with, ooh, all the stuff that the kid stole outta your house when they broke in at the dead of night –”

“Mick, I swear to God –”

“– to commit the heinous crime of, oh, what was it again? Oh, that’s right, she stole an egg omelet and a fitful night’s sleep from you.” He snorted. “Oooh, an egg omelet, how scary. What was it, a family heirloom?”

Lawan gritted her teeth. She was not about to be dragged down to this level. “Listen. We gave her that omelet, for one –”

Mick slammed his hands on the table, startling the candy crab beneath it awake. “Malley! Malley gave her that omelet. Malley, coincidentally, is also the one who has been trying to help her. You know her? Malley? The girl who you also kicked out?”

Lawan snapped and jabbed a finger into his chest. “Hey! I never kicked out Malley! She left on her own!”

“Oh yeah? Why was that? Hm?” He made a mock pose, hand behind his ear, leaning in as if trying to hear something distant.

“Because she –”

“Can’t hear you, gotta speak up.”

“Would you f*ck off?” Lawan sighed bitterly, hands pressed to both her temples. “…because she didn’t like that this random stranger was going to stay by herself.”

“Yeah, the random stranger who –”

“Who broke into my house –

“– who’s been sent down, on the orders of you, into literal death water. Multiple times.” He shrugged and turned away. “But oh well, what a shame. Guess they’re just expendable.”

“Hey!” She grabbed his shoulder, unable to see the coy grin on Mick’s face from behind. “Nobody here is expendable. They both volunteered for that. Both of them. No pushing or prying from either of us, and you told me that they would be safe. I have checked with them every time to make sure they were okay.” Lawan moved around him and picked up her papers. “They’re both completely safe.”

He snorted. “Bullsh*t they’re safe.”

“They are completely safe.”

“Oh, bullsh*t, dude.” Mick turned around and basically laughed in her face. “Bull-f*cking-sh*t.”

“Mick, I swear to God –”

“You know what I think?” His glare suddenly turned vicious. “You should have gone down there, not them! You! You and Angie both, in those suits! You would’ve been safer! Hell – you and Donnie should have gone down there! Y’know, Donnie? Your girlfriend who keeps disappearing up into your little apartment?”

“My fiancé.

I don’t care.” Mick gave her a wide-eyed glare. “She should be down here. Not them. Her.”

Lawan shook her head. “She and I both agreed that letting the girl stay would have been a bad idea. She didn’t feel safe.

Nobody feels safe! We are in the middle of a goddamned crisis!”

Lawan slammed a fist down onto the table. “That girl broke into my house! Of f*cking course I’m not going to feel safe! Of f*cking course Donnie’s not going to feel safe! That’s my f*cking house! That’s the place where I’m supposed to go when I want to feel content. That’s my home. Why should I be expected to house someone who had to break in? How is that fair to us?

Mick sputtered. “She said it was an accident!”

“How am I supposed to believe that?” Lawan folded her arms. “How am I supposed to believe that she was just, what, climbing up the side of the building for sh*ts and giggles? How is that believable?”

“There was a flood coming! The street was already up to my goddamn ankles by the time I got here! I – listen.” Mick ran trembling hands through his hair. “Okay, from what little I know –”

“You don’t even know her that well!”

“– from what little – shut it! – from what little –”

“How the hell are you supposed to attest for an actual stranger that you don’t even know?”

“ – from what little I know, Lawan,” Mick gritted his teeth, running another hand through his hair, “she is homeless. She didn’t have protective gear when she got stuck on Barclay.” He straightened up, counting down on his hands. “You know what I think happened? She sees rainwater rising around her feet, she gets desperate, the lobby doors are completely locked –”

Lawan raised a brow at him. “What, could some other place not have just let her in?”

“Would you? We all saw what she looked like when she got here. Hell, Malley thought she was her corpse the first time she saw her!”

She scoffed. “What sort of a question is that? We were all asleep. Nobody knew she was gonna show up. Would you have answered the door for a random stranger at 4 AM?”

Exactly! That is exactly my point! She doesn’t get a response, so she panics and tries to climb up to the roof!”

“How is that at all believable? That’s ridiculous!”

“This is Dead Malley we’re talking about.”

“I – you…” Lawan huffed for a moment, thinking in silence.

She sighed and put up her hands in mock defeat. “…you know what? I’ll – I’ll give you that one. That girl is completely bonkers.”

He scoffed to himself. “God. Absolutely.”

“Yeah, no, Malley was right the first time. She’s totally nuts.”

“Yes, exactly. Thank you.” Mick pointed off the facts on his fingers like they were parts of a list. “So. She climbs up the side of the building, right? You said there was a f*ckin’ – what are those things called, the dumb water pipe things –”

“The roof gutters.”

“That’s the thing. So, she climbs up the gutter pipe, and as she’s climbing –”

“No, that doesn’t – no, stop. She chose our apartment for a reason.”

Mick gave her the sort of look you give someone who has just said something very stupid without realizing it. “Why would she choose your apartment?”

“I don’t know! None of her story even makes any sense! All I know is that she broke into my house. She broke a window for God’s sake.”

Mick rolled his eyes. “She popped the window pane out and she put it back in. Your window is fine.”

Lawan ogled him in the same way he was looking at her before. “How is that fine? Nothing about that is fine. Nothing about popping out somebody else’s window is fine.

He shrugged again. “Who cares? She’s like an idiot kid! She’s 13!”

“YOU don’t even know what she wanted to do! You’re just trying to do the same thing that Malley’s doing, you’re pointlessly –”

“What, defend her friend?”

“They’re – they’ve been friends for all of two days, Mick. Not even that.”

Mick frowned and gave her a questioning look. “So what? You think Dead Malley’s gonna take advantage of her?”

Lawan gestured wildly. “Of course I do! I don’t know her! All I know about her is that she broke into my house!”

“Well, not intentionally!”

The urchin seemed to be in the middle of a fit. “How do you unintentionally break into someone’s house?!”

He shrugged and turned away. “I don’t know! Ask her!”

“She just deflects everything I ask!” She squinted at Mick. “Reminds me a bit of you, actually.”

Mick rolled his eyes very, very hard at that. “The reason she deflects everything you ask is just ‘cause she doesn’t trust you. I haven’t had anything to do with that.”

The urchin scoffed. “Oh, what, and she trusts you?

“Yes! Yes, she does! Because unlike you, we’ve both had to go downstairs through, again, literal death water, and we trust each other enough not to try and kill each other!” He let out an incredulous laugh. “Like, God, lady, yeah, I get it, you don’t trust her, and you want this stupid argument to just go in circles for eternity, whatever –”

“Would you shut up?”

“ – but seriously, her and Malley have done everything together from the start. They’re a better tag-team already than Mick and Kosh. They help each other carry sh*t all the time.” Mick scoffed. “She’s even helped Malley out when she fell over a few times. Like, I really don’t get –”

And all of a sudden, Lawan leaped up and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. “WHAT?!”

Mick jumped back. “sh*t, lady!”

“A FEW times?! She fell down a FEW TIMES?!”

“f*ck’s sake, lady –”


“f*ck off!” He pulled away from her, feeling his collar get ripped, and fell backwards on his ass, scampering away.

When Mick glanced back up, Lawan looked shattered.

The two of them were waiting in silence for the other to speak and neither of them were doing it.

The room was surprisingly silent.

Eventually, Lawan collapsed back into her chair, still in disbelief. She tried very hard to collect herself, deep breathing exercising. “What do…what do you mean, a - ‘a few times?’”

The skinny man hesitated, then shook his head with a scoff. “Malley has – oh my God, she’s told you about this.”

“I – no? No, she hasn’t. I don’t… oh, dear God.” She took off her glasses to wipe at her face.

Mick was stunned. “…you’re kidding me.”

“I – God, I wish I was, I – I don’t…” She trailed off, exhausted, before looking down at her glasses in her hands.

After a moment, Mick climbed to his feet, sighed, brushed himself off, and then glanced around for a chair. “You tore my collar a bit.”


“You gonna pay for it, or what?” He moseyed over towards the wall next to the door and snagged a foldout chair. “Expensive stuff, this t-shirt. Toni Kensa and everything. Honest.”


“What, you don’t believe me? I’d never lie to… you.” Mick frowned.

Lawan was just staring at the papers on the table.

Mick shook his head and dropped his chair in front of the table, taking a seat in it. “…you wanna talk about it?”

She glanced up at him.

He shrugged. “I’ll quit f*ckin’ around now. Honest.”

Lawan stared at him a little longer, then sighed. She fumbled for a moment more before she spoke. “…I knew she fell over once. Once. That is the only time she ever told me – oh, my God, I’m gonna kill her. I’m gonna kill her when she gets back.” Lawan pulled at her hair-spines, still staring wide-eyed down at the table. Her hands shook from the effort.

She was furious, and she couldn’t even tell if she was angry at everybody else or just herself.

“I hate to be the asshole, here, but…” Mick folded his arms in disgust. “…it sounds like she doesn’t trust you all that much.”

“She’s supposed to trust me! I’m her legal guardian, for God’s sake!” Her tone of voice indicated that she was pleading. What that something was, Mick didn’t know.

He turned his gaze to the ground. “Yeah, well, she trusts the new kid a helluva lot more than you.”

“I – I know. I get that, I… f*ck.” Lawan buried her face in her hands.

He scratched at his face. “…hate to say it, but maybe she woulda trusted you more if you actually went down there yourself.

“I – God, don’t even start with that sh*t again.”

Mick rolled his eyes, but thankfully stopped.

Lawan huffed. “Listen, I know she would’ve been fine, alright? f*ck. We have respawn points open for this exact reason. But still, I… God, Mick.” Lawan looked at him with sad, wide eyes, and Mick saw that she was on the verge of tears. “I still don’t want her to get hurt.”

“I…” Mick stumbled back into a foldout chair, hand on his forehead. This was not his forte. “…sh*t, nobody does, Lawan. We’re all scared.”

“I know, and I know that she’s scared. I’m f*cking… God, I’m useless today, aren’t I?” She rubbed at her eyes. “…I would’ve never sent her down there on her own, Mick, you know that. If it wasn’t for the fact that they both volunteered to go, I would’ve gone down there myself. I gave her the choice to stay here or go downstairs. You know that.”

“No, I do, I get that.” He paused for a moment. “…I guess that means you trust us, at least.”

“…of course, I trust you.” Lawan smiled sadly. “You and Kosh both. You’ve been nothing short of helpful, even though you don’t have much reason to be.”

“I – hah, I’m just in it for the food.”

“Hah. Aren’t we all.”


Another pause. The two sat, recovering from their shouting match. The room around them sat in silence, enraptured.

Mick was the first to break the silence. “…does that mean you actually trust DM, too?”

“I…” Lawan leaned back in her chair. “…hell. I guess? Part of me wants to. It’s complicated, I…” She sighed.

Mick motioned at her to continue.

Lawan sat in silence for a moment, then pulled off her glasses to massage her face. “…lord. I don’t know her. And she still, y’know. Broke into my house and all. Broken record, yeah, I get it, don’t start.” She sighed. “I don’t even know her motives, but…at least I know that when she’s down there with Malley, she’s helping her out.”

“Well, they do both seem to care about each other.”

“No, they do, they really do. It’s strange…I can’t remember the last time Malley actually went out of her way to make friends with someone.” She scoffed lightly. “Figures it would be with the nutcase dead girl that broke into our house.”

Mick laughed, admittedly a little fondly. “…Malley’s a good kid.”

She nodded, leaning over, elbows on the table, chin resting on her hands. She liked talking about Malley a lot. “She’s a saint, through and through. Malley, she… she’s lived with us ever since she was, what. Nine? And she’s always been really sweet. Makes me coffee every morning before I go to work nowadays. Helps out around the house as much as she can. Hardly spoke a word when she first, y’know…” Lawan gestured vaguely. “…had to move in with us.”

Mick smiled. Not his usual smirk, but a real smile, something nice and warm and genuine. “She made us some coffee, too. Basically has Wabi in the palm of her hand, at this point.”

She co*cked an eyebrow. “Really? I wouldn’t have have believed the clownfish to be the trusting type.”

The smirk returned. “That’s the thing with people. You just hafta know whose back you gotta scratch to get ahead, and then you’re in business.” He shrugged. “Difference with Wabi is that’s taken a bit more literally.”

Lawan rolled her eyes, but there was no specific emotion behind it. She polished her glasses on the hem of her clothes, an old hoodie from college thrown over a beloved old cardigan. “…that’s part of the reason I worry about Dead Malley so much. I don’t know her, and as far as first impressions go –”

“Not exactly the best one, huh?”

“Oh, absolutely. But you are right. She’s been helpful with everyone. She’s been…well, kind, if not increasingly erratic and strange sometimes, but she’s been a genuinely hard worker. But, at the same time, I don’t… I don’t know.” She hesitated; her eyes were unfocused. “…I don’t want her to get hurt by her.”

“…well, first impressions aren’t everything.” He scratched his ribs again.

Mick suddenly snorted. “…I ever tell you how I met Kosh?”

“I don’t believe so.”

“He caught me in his dad’s shop. I was shoplifting a bag of chips.”

Lawan glanced up. “Really.”

Mick nodded. “Yep. I was fourteen, he was fifteen. He just got home from school, he’s getting’ ready for the night shift, right? Goes to put on his apron, rounds the corner – bam. Runs smack dab into me, big family size bag of chips stuffed under my shirt. Actually pops the bag open, too.”

“No sh*t.”

“Yep. So there I am, on the floor, big bag under my shirt, BBQ flavor chips spilling out the bottom, and I’m, like, about to piss myself, right?” Mick rolled his eyes, but he’s got a fat smirk on his face; he was in his element. “And he just looks at me and says,” his voice drops down to a mock gravelly impression of the other man, “‘please don’t spill that everywhere, I don’t want to have to pick it all up,’ and then just walks on past me to grab a broom.”

Lawan snorted. “You’re kidding me.”

“Dead serious. That’s retail for ya, amiright?”

Lawan raised her eyebrows, playing along. “Damn. What happened after that?”

He shrugged. “We started talkin’ and then that was that. Boom. Friends.”

Lawan shook her head. “Wow. That’s… wow.”

“Yeah.” Mick put on a mock pout. “f*cker wouldn’t let me keep the bag, though.”

Despite herself, the urchin let out a laugh, and Mick smiled.

They fell into a much more comfortable silence.

“…I suppose that’s why you’re so far in support of Dead Malley, then.”

Mick snapped his head back to her, and just like that, the comfortable air dissolved. “Huh?”

She gestured with her hand. “You, y’know…you sympathize with her, I guess.”

Mick pondered this for a moment. “…sh*t, guess I do.”

They stared the floor. Lawan rubbed her temple in slow, methodical motions.

“…I’m not having her stay in my house.”

“You putting your foot down on that?”


Silence. The bitterness was starting to come back.

“…the kid’s half your age.”

“You and Kosh can take care of her.”

Mick scoffed. “I’m not signing on to be her f*ckin’ dad, Law.”

“I’m not asking for that, Mick.” She gave him a baleful look; she couldn’t manage to be strict at the moment. “I’m just asking you keep an eye on her.”

“If you got questions for her, then you can ask her yourself. You can talk to her yourself.” He jabbed a finger at her.

“I’m not – Mick, I can’t push her into talking about what happened to her.”

“You’re an adult. She’s a kid. Kids can’t read minds. Talk to her.”

Lawan sighed in discontent. “…fine. But I want the record to show that, no matter what happened, I didn’t kick Malley out. I don’t want DM in my house – fine.” Her eyes turned to steel. “But I never kicked Malley out.”

“I know.” Mick rolled his eyes. “God.”

“Good. Thank you.”


Lawan sighed. “…I’m sorry for shouting.”

He shrugged. “We both shouted. That’s why it’s called a shouting match. You shout.”

The urchin glared at him.

Mick rolled his eyes. “…I’m sorry for shouting too.”

“Good. I’d be nice if you could learn to act your age some time.”

“I could say the same for you.”

“I’ve been nothing of an adult in this conversation, piss off.”

“Yeah. Sure. Next, you’ll be saying you didn’t tell DM to beat it.”

“…God. Fine.” Lawan threw her hands up in the air. “I admit it. Donnie and I both sent her to stay with you, because she f*cking scares us and we don’t want to share a room with the person who broke through our window. Happy?”


“Too f*ckin’ bad.”


Mick scratched his chin. “…you should still talk to the twins about it.”

“We calling them the twins now?”

“Might as well. They’re attached to the hip.”

Lawan sighed. “…great.”

“I thought Donnie wanted them to be friends.”

“I don’t know what Donnie wants, Mick.” She started folding her papers again.

Mick took this as a sign to pry. “Where the f*ck has Donnie been, anyways?”

“I don’t want to talk about this.”

“I – what?” Mick leaned forwards in his foldout chair, flabbergasted. “What the hell does that mean?”

The urchin gave him an uneasy look. “…It means I don’t want to talk about her right now? Take a hint.”

“Why? Why the hell not?! She’s your fiancé!”

Lawan folded her arms and crumpled into her chair. “Yeah? So?”

“If I were you, I’d be f*ckin’ pissed if my fiancé up and ditched everyone without saying a word.”

She shrugged. “She’s taking care of Angie!”

“And yesterday, she was doing…what, exactly? Huh?” He gestured dramatically as if listening for a response. “You know, all cooped up in your apartment? What was she doing?”

“I don’t – listen.” Lawan pinched her brow. “I do not want to talk about this. Okay?”

Mick paused, staring at the woman across from him. “…did you fight about it?”


Hesitation. “…are you going to fight about it?”

Lawan glared at him in silence.

It was all the confirmation he needed. “Yeah, I don’t blame you.”

“Oh, f*ck off.”

He raised his hands in mock surrender. “No, I’m serious. I’d be pissed off, too.”

“What, if Kosh just stopped talking to you all of a sudden? If Kosh disappeared and then every time you saw him acted like everything was fine? God.” She stared at him in disgust. “Yeah, we’re going to fight about it. Thanks for prying that out of me.”

“Kosh isn’t my partner.”

She snorted. “Could’ve fooled me.”

“It’s not –” He clapped a hand to his head. “God, Lawan. It’s not like that.”

Lawan gave him a snarky, evil-looking grin, and for a moment Mick wasn’t sure if he was looking at Lawan, Dead Malley, or himself. “I’ve seen the way you two look at each other. It’s not exactly subtle.”

“We aren’t in a relationship.”

“Would you like to be?”

Yes. “Shut up.”

Lawan chuckled.

A pause.

The urchin scratched the back of her neck, not very good with romantic advice. “…you know, it’s…it’s mutual, between you two. Is, er, what I’m trying to say. There’s no reason to worry.”

“I know that.”

She blinked. “Is that so? Then why haven’t you, er… pursued him?”

“…I was going to, last night. But, looking back on it now, well…that would have been pretty sh*t timing, everything considered.”

“Looking for something more romantic, then.”

“sh*t, Lawan, you really think now’s the time for romance?”

She shrugged. “So what? My story with Donnie isn’t anything special. We met at her old job seven years back and managed to make that work.” The woman shook her head with a nostalgic smile. “Nothing super romantic about having your first kiss in a fish market. Trust me.”

Mick tapped his chin in mock thought. “Seven years ago, huh? That means you had your first kiss at age…what, 45?”

“Oh, f*ck off.” She started laughing.

“50? 52? C’mon, I know I’m close.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m five years older than you. Tops.”

Mick made a fake gasp. “Really? Wow, you’re, like, ancient.”

“Feel free to shut your mouth any time you like.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Lawan sighed and stretched. “Are you going to get back to your tech repair gig in the corner there?”

Mick leveled her with a disbelieving gaze. “You gonna talk to em?”

She hesitated. “I’m planning on it.”

Mick slapped a palm to his head in exasperation. “Oh, my f*cking – okay, what the f*ck do you mean, ‘planning on it.’ Go f*ckin’ talk to ‘em. Call up Mal and tell her to wait in Janko’s and we’ll talk about it.”

Lawan turned away. “We don’t have to do this right this moment, Mick.”

“Quit bein’ a coward and f*ckin’ talk to ‘em.”

“Oh yeah? Or what?”

Mick leaned back in his chair and lit a cigarette. “Or me and Kosh walk.”

Lawan stared at him in a very genuine shock. “…what? Are you serious?”

“Trust me, it would take very little time to convince Kosh to walk.” This was such a lie.

“Over – over this?”


She narrowed his eyes at him. “…you f*cking would, wouldn’t you?”

“Yep. Sure f*ckin’ would.”

“…fine. You know what? f*ck it. The moment they come up here, we’re having a talk. Okay?”




Mick blew smoke at the ceiling.

They stared at each other for a moment in silence.

Rain beat against the windows.

Eventually, Mick smiled, and took another drag. “You promise you will?”

“…you gonna make me pinky swear on it or something?”

“What, you think I won’t?”

Lawan snorted, rolling her eyes… then thought for a moment.

“…actually, I think we all should. You’re right.”

Mick gave her a surprised look. “What, sit down and talk?”

“I’m supposed to be your manager, aren’t I? Can’t have everybody at each other’s throats.”

He snorted. “Especially yours.”

Especially mine. We have a lot of tension that we need to resolve. I need to settle things between me and the twins, and Dead Malley needs to come clean about her past.”

“Funny you should mention that.” Mick leaned forward in his chair. “She promised Janko she’d talk about her tragic anime backstory or whatever if he let her stay the night.”

She let out a laugh that wasn’t really a laugh, just an exclamation of air. “No sh*t.”

“Well, that and a bowl of soup with oyster crackers, but yeah.”

“Well, there you go. Two birds, one stone.”

He nodded, then tapped on the cigarette, letting ash fall to the floor. “…out of curiosity, what do you think her deal is, anyways –”

“You shouldn’t be smoking in here,” interrupted the candy crab from underneath the desk.

Mick got up with a start, nearly falling backwards out of his chair. “sh*t! When the hell did you wake up?”

“Since you both pounded on the desk? Like an asshole?” She folded her arms.

Lawan buried their face in their hands. “God f*ckin’ dammit.”

“Yeah, you guys really had a public-ass argument and didn’t expect people to, like, not be super weirded out about it?” a hammerhead shark called out from the lobby windows.

“Fantastic job cursing at the top of your lungs in front of actual kids, by the way, that’s a great thing to teach them,” his lobster friend muttered.

A bunch of people in the lobby joined in with a chorus of ‘yeah’s and a smattering of ‘nice going, assholes.’ The red snapper kid who nearly crawled down the staircase yesterday night ogled them wide-eyed, equipped with fantastic and terrifying new knowledge.

Mick grinned, stood up, and took a big bow. “Thanks, fellas, we’re here all week.” Several separate people told him to f*ck off.

Lawan, who had buried her face in her hands, suddenly burst out a quick screech muffled by her hands, snapped to her feet, grabbed Mick by the collar, and started dragging him to Janko’s apartment.

“Hey! Ouch! f*ck! What the hell are you doin’?”

“We’re finishing this f*cking talk in private! In private, for f*ck’s sake!”

Mick’s complaints echoed up and down the hall, followed by a chorus of people laughing them out the room, before conversation struck up again in full back on the second-floor lobby. Business as usual.

The candy crab just rolled her eyes and nodded back to sleep.


Some people. Yeesh.


exercises in gratitude (The Barclay Street Flood) - Chapter 16 - redeyedsheepskull (2024)


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