Eli did not know what he was getting himself into. He was cautious, of course, but he had no clue that this supposed “low-stress, boring job” was going to be anything but. He got his first hint when he had to input the code to get into the station. When Eli was being briefed on this job, he was given a small booklet that was about twenty pages thick and was filled to the brim with nonsense. He thought that it would fill the time while on his shuttle to the job site. But when he got to the entrance, which had a letter lock instead of a number lock, the real reason for that booklet hit him like a brick. The contents in that booklet were the passcode. He was expected to type in 20 pages worth of insanity into a tiny touchscreen keypad that had no delete button. How was he ever expected to leave here to get groceries or meet up with friends if… Eli chuckled to himself a little bit after his last thought. ‘Yeah, you just have tons of friends waiting to hear how your first day on the job went. They really wanna take you out for a celebration dinner at a Korean karaoke bar and sing till the night turns to day.’ He thought about the guy who turned him on to this job, his landlord, who had happened upon it in an online news bulletin and happily rushed it to him so his one deeply depressed late-paying tenant could finally get out of his hair. What else could Eli possibly be doing? This, at least, was getting him towards the goal of getting through the door, which would give him a short-lived moment of success. That was definitely enough. So he took the booklet out of his lightly packed travel bag and started slowly inputting the nonsense.
While on the shuttle over to the job site, Eli decided to do some research into where exactly he was going. The location had the outside appearance of a rundown space station and had the luxurious title of the Miller-Glassheart estate. Apparently, it was designated as a historical landmark and was constantly under repair. Eli’s job was to join a team of four people to basically house sit indefinitely and make sure that the station did not fall apart. A kind of conservation effort but for something nobody really cared about. Looking into the history, the station used to be under the care of Leopold Fanta, who found it while on one of his many space expeditions and wrote about it in the daily tribune. He had no experience in looking after such a large station and basically let it rot to shit until he died in 2132 due to Alzheimer’s. Real cheery story. To be fair, the only pictures available of the station were the exterior and the docking bay. Eli thought that maybe the inside of the actual station was a bit better taken care of. He decided to close his flip phone (the only phone he could afford) and look out the window of the shuttle that had absolutely no one else in it. It really added to the melancholic feeling that had already settled in the deepest pits of Eli’s heart. He was alone and nobody cared about him. All of his past relationships; Patricia, Frank, Cash, Robert, and Jane, had all either ended in a blowup or eventually fizzled out. He had no friends to speak of and this shuttle was a stark reminder of that. ‘Stop wallowing,’ Eli thought to himself, ‘At least you won’t be alone here.’
A blaring alert signified his defeat. He had spent thirty minutes typing in this time vampire of a passcode and failed. “Oh my fucking god,” Eli muttered under his breath. Was it a missing letter or a word he fumbled? What the hell was it? While he pondered, a high-pitched, pleasing tone came from an unseen speaker, and the doors he had spent so long meekly looking at swung open. Before he had time to question anything, a blonde-haired blur tackled him to the ground. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh! I can’t believe you’re finally here!” Eli opened his eyes and they finally adjusted on the cute as hell blonde girl who was now sitting on his stomach. He felt his brain fuzz over, having not one response he could possibly use. “Oh wow! Your face is all red, did you get a sunburn on your way in?” That last statement broke Eli from his daze. The blonde girl helped him up and interlocked her fingers in front of her, eagerly awaiting his response. “Oh no, it’s um- okay! I didn’t get a sunburn, especially since I was on a shuttle- actually I have a question.” While she led him through the double doors, the girl perked up at the word “question” and immediately interrupted him. “Is it ‘oh my gosh, how did you get the inside lobby so nice and clean?’ Because believe me, that would be my first question!” Eli looked around and was genuinely surprised at how well kept the other side of the doors were compared to the outside. “Actually yeah, this is really impressive- wait no! Distracting! Me! Why is the passcode 20 pages long?!” The girl gave an exaggerated sigh, (or maybe it was her real sigh, Eli had no way to tell) and leaned against the nearest wall. “It’s a… bit of a precaution.” Eli blinked. “A precaution.” “Yeah see, one of our members kinda likes to party hard and can cause a ruckus if he gets in here while he’s ‘under the influence,’ so James set up this passcode to get him to wait till he’s sober before he can get in.” Eli pondered this for a second, concluding that this sounded unusually cruel for the person who would be inebriated. He decided not to comment on it. “Well, okay… my name’s-” “Eli Harris! I read your file, well everyone on the team did. Sorry, now that I’m saying it out loud, with you here, it kinda makes it sound like a breach of security…” Eli wasn’t even aware he had a file. “No, it’s okay. If I’m gonna spend a lot of time here, I doubt there’s anything in there that y’all wouldn’t learn just by talking to me… Possibly… I actually wasn’t aware I had one.”
The girl laughed and while she did Eli began to reflect on how absolutely wonderful his first impression of her was. Her laugh was goofy but not to the point of being outlandish and genuinely made Eli smile. She was wearing a white tank top tucked into some jeans and her past mannerisms struck him as adorably unique. He couldn’t tell if her hair was dyed or not, but decided not to ask so as to not reveal his sudden infatuation with her. The girl stuck her hand out which broke Eli out of his daze and he instinctively shook it. “The name’s Abbey, bee tee double ewe. You wanna get a tour of this place?” Eli nodded and Abbey gleefully skipped in front of him while holding his hand. This much physical affection was almost too much for Eli after being isolated for so long. He was worried it might affect how he interacted with Abbey since after less than five minutes he was basically half in love with her. He decided to take a deep breath and keep things strictly platonic and not let his idiot-brain misconstrue things. Based on his first impression of her, Abbey just didn’t adhere to personal space. He didn’t mind, (not in like an ‘ooh I’m taking advantage of the situation’ kinda way, Eli told himself, expecting this thought was just a half baked excuse) but wondered how the rest of the team reacted to it and how long they had spent time together. Abbey’s excited voice broke Eli’s thought process. “So, basically we have four main rooms here. We have the living room, dining room, art studio, and library. The second floor has all our rooms plus two bathrooms. Sorry, I know that’s a lot.” It was way more than Eli was expecting but he decided to suppress his surprise. “Oh no, it’s okay. Jeez, everything looks so extravagant.” Abbey produced a bright, excited smile. “I know, right? It’s like being in the castle from Beauty and the Beast but with a really icky exterior. Sadly, nothing we can really do about that…” Eli took note of the fact that that last phrase really seemed to irk her and wondered how one would make the outside of a decrepit space station look presentable. The thought quickly slid to the wayside however as he was taken aback by how absolutely gorgeous everything in this station was. There was an attention to detail that remained unmatched by any interior decor he had ever seen and seemed fit for loyalty. Abbey led Eli to the kitchen and pointed to the schedule on the fridge. “I feel like I’d go insane if everybody didn’t have their specific job at a specific time so I made this schedule for stuff to do around the station. I haven’t added you to it yet, but I will tonight! I’ve just been working on this bathtub for a while and all my attention has kinda been focused on that.” Eli gave a quick “Don’t worry about it!” and looked at the names that were on the schedule. Abbey, James, Yasmine, and Percy. He deduced that Percy must be the one who liked to party a lot and noticed that he had the least jobs. He decided not to comment on it since he was the new one there.
“Okay, James is out getting supplies for some repairs he needs to do, which will probably take a while. You probably won’t be able to meet him today but I think Percy and Yasmine are in the living room!” Everything Abbey said seemed to be predetermined. There was not a misstep or deviation. ‘She probably just rehearsed this welcoming speech,’ Eli thought to himself. They made their way to the living room and at first glance, there was nobody there. “Huh, I thought Percy and Yasmine were in the living room.” Suddenly a bare slightly muscular arm rose from the couch facing away from Eli and Abbey and a tired voice broke the awkward silence. “Oh my god, is that Abbey Lockwood?” The voice yawned and Abbey ran excitedly to the other side of the couch as Eli hesitantly followed behind her. “Good afternoon, Percy! I thought midday naps were a thing of the past!” Percy sat up and made direct eye contact with Eli as if he knew exactly where in the line of his view he would be. He gave a flirty smirk, “And is this the fabled Eli Harris? My god, you’re even cuter in person!” Eli immediately felt like he could not breathe. He was suddenly face-to-face with one of the most attractive men he had ever seen in his life. His black hair was long and curly, his eyelashes were pretty as fuck, his lips were expertly glossed. “Your glasses are adorable, the fact that your face is as red as a beet right now is precious, and your eyebrows *mwah*! Y’know, Abbey. I think that bathtub still has some kinks that need to be worked out.” Eli’s eyes quickly darted to Abbey who didn’t seem to be gauging the current situation. “Oh my gosh, you’re so right. Alright Eli, wait right here. I’m gonna tighten some screws and then see if I can find Yasmine.” There was a part of Eli that was absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of being alone with this boy but the largest part of his psyche was completely stricken with gay panic. Before he could get a word in, Abbey zoomed away and he was left standing awkwardly in front of Percy.
Eli could legitimately not move. He felt like he was stuck between two panes of glass and was frozen in front of a mosaic. Percy’s flirty half-opened-eyed expression didn’t change and he tapped his fingers on the fabric on the couch. “So, you gonna keep ogling me, or are you gonna have a seat?” Eli quickly sat down on the seat opposite the couch that Percy was sitting on and tapped his feet anxiously. Percy stretched and made a suggestive noise before setting his sights on Eli again. “So I’m guessing that passcode gave you some trouble?” “Y-yeah! (Jesus, way too loud Eli.) I spent like… half an hour working on it! Do you have to sleep outside the station a lot?” He felt like he deserved a gold medal for getting that many words out of his mouth. Percy smirked and started digging around in his pockets. “I definitely did when it was first installed by the asshat named James but then I bought a little something while out clubbing that made it waaaaaay easier.” Percy finally pulled out a small microphone and played back an automated recording of the passcode being read at a ridiculously fast speed. Eli’s feelings of panic were immediately replaced with white-hot self-hatred. “You’re telling me that the passcode is voice-activated!” Percy laughed and put his hand out in a reassuring manner. “Oh no no no no no, don’t beat yourself over that. If I wanted to get in the fair way, I’d absolutely have to painstakingly put in the passcode on that dinky little touchpad. What that microphone does is create a frequency that is able to get past the mechanisms of word passcode-activated locks and puts through a kind of Bluetooth electrical wave… hybrid… Okay, I’m not exactly sure how it works but the short answer is, I play it and the door opens. So if I’m absolutely shit-faced or high out of my mind, it doesn’t make a lick of difference.”
‘He’s attractive and crafty?’ Eli thought to himself excitedly. His emotions had never flip-flopped so quickly before. “But anywho, I doubt I’ll have to leave the station anymore.” Eli cocked his head to the side in confusion. “Why’s that?” Percy leaned forward a bit. “I read on your file that you used to be a bartender?” Eli’s eyes immediately lit up. “Oh yeah! I love making drinks! It’s like my favorite pastime, actually more like a hobby. I’ve been workshopping a bunch of different combinations that I honestly wanna keep workshopping but-” He suddenly spotted the bar in the corner of the living room. Percy’s smile kept on getting wider as Eli’s words kept on spilling out of his mouth like a fire hose. “Oh. My. God. That looks so goddamn cozy!” He hurriedly stood up and ran over to the bar as Percy smugly followed behind him. Eli let himself behind the counter and started gazing at the bottles that decorated the shelves. “Jesus Christ!! The selection! The labels?! I feel like I just stepped into heaven… or I guess hell?” He turned to Percy who now had his arm on the counter. “Which probably has the better alcohol selection?” Percy without skipping a beat answered, “Probably hell if I had to wager a guess.” Eli continued looking through the bottles and took out a notepad from the travel bag that was still hanging from his shoulder. “What’re you gonna use that for?” Percy asked. Eli didn’t even respond as he was still absolutely entranced by everything about this bar. He started writing down possible combinations he could create and was writing so fast that he damn near broke the tip of his pencil. Percy stared happily at this display and tapped his fingers on the counter mindlessly. Eli soon noticed the silence and Percy’s Cheshire-like grin. “What’s up?” Percy took a small breath and said, “Y’know… the strongest bonds are usually made between bartenders and their customers…” He inched closer to Eli until he was practically touching noses, “So how about we have a drink later tonight? Just the two of us?”
“Y-y-yeah! That- that sounds su-super, super cool… just two guys… y’know- LIVING IT UP! Just having a-a-a-a-grand old time at the BAR! Hehe…he.” Eli’s brain had turned to absolute fuzz. He had never in his life swooned so hard for someone. He was glad that he hadn’t picked up any of the bottles because if he had it would’ve been in pieces on the floor. “Alright, sounds good! How does 8 tonight sound to you?” Eli felt like he needed to battle his mouth to get any resemblance of syllables out. “Yes… Yes! That sounds good! Good. Good. Good!” Percy chuckled and leaned back from Eli. “Great, I’m gonna go pick a good outfit then. Lookin’ forward to our date.” He then walked away from the bar and disappeared from the living room.
Eli needed to catch his breath. He had been in relationships before, and had definitely been flirted with and flirted before… but Jesus Christ. The fact that someone so suave and attractive had so effortlessly asked him on a date and then left, was mind-boggling. ‘I need to get ahold of myself,’ Eli thought while clutching his chest. ‘This is just an extreme reaction to affection after the absence of it. It is completely normal to have this kind of reaction but I need to calm myself down.’ He took some deep breaths and exited the bar. He decided to distract himself by looking at the beautiful interior of his new residence. When he first heard that he was going to work on a space station, he imagined blindingly white halls with corporate propaganda and a boring cafeteria. His brain definitely went to that stereotype when he saw the outside of the station. It was weird that the exterior was so drab and the inside was out of a fairytale. Maybe the team’s efforts of restoration were just goddamn good and that was why the difference was like night and day. Eli couldn’t reasonably juggle all of the thoughts that were racing through his head. He had a predetermined idea of how this job was going to be and it was shattered in the most positive aspects. Did his landlord know this or was this just a crazy amount of luck? ‘I need to stop questioning things,’ Eli thought to himself while aimlessly walking through the halls. ‘This is an amazing opportunity that I don’t wanna squander by overthinking.’ Suddenly he heard scratching sounds coming from a nearby air vent.
“What the hell?” Eli said out loud as he approached the source of the sound. When he drew closer, he heard more scratching and then muffled footsteps crawling away. Does this station have vermin problems? Wouldn’t that be one of the first things to look into? He opened the vent and squinted his eyes to see if he could spot what was causing all the noise. It was too dark to make anything out. “This a favorite pastime of yours? Staring at air vents?” Eli jumped at the sound of a person he didn’t recognize and quickly turned around to face who he assumed was Yasmine. She was absolutely beautiful and a lot to take in. She had brown skin with pink eyeliner, a black pixie cut, thick eyebrows, and large assets that were hardly being held up by the straps of her pink dress. Eli could already feel his cheeks reddening and felt extremely guilty for how he was appearing. Yasmine definitely took notice and called Abbey over. “Our new recruit is making a hell of a first impression, he’s a blushing mess at the mere sight of me!” She put her hand on Eli’s shoulder and winked, “Don’t feel too bad bud, it happens to the best of us. Thanks for the ego boost.” Eli felt shitty for how his first impression with Yasmine was handled. He felt like he didn’t deserve all of these positive reactions and attention. Abbey’s excited tapping on his temple broke him out of his thought process. “What’s happening up there? Let Abbey know what’s goin’ on!” Eli was taking note of how everybody’s personalities seemed to juxtapose. Yasmine and Percy seemed to be chilled-out individuals while Abbey, (and he assumed James) seemed to always be energetic and concise. “Oh! I just heard some kinda animal noises coming from the vent here.” Eli said matter of factly, expecting this to be normal for such an old station. Abbey looked immediately concerned which immediately pushed Eli out of his comfort zone. He wished he hadn’t said anything. “We all isolated to one room to flush the oxygen out of the rest of the station two days ago. I can’t think of any discernible reason why anything would be in here besides us.”
Eli felt like the room had somehow gotten darker. The easygoing nature of his tour had quickly taken a nosedive into strong paranoia. He looked to Abbey for some kind of reassurance, but she seemed to be lost in her own internal questioning. Yasmine decided to clear the air. She wrapped her arm around Abbey and gave her a soft squeeze. “It’s probably a raccoon that was on Eli’s transit or something. I doubt it’s anything we should be worried about.” Though it was probably primarily meant for Abbey, Eli also felt slightly better at Yasmine’s quick and easy explanation. The shuttle he came here on was old as hell, and when the doors opened, all of them opened on both sides. So there was no way to tell if something had slipped out. He suddenly had a strong sense of responsibility. “Y’know, I could go check it out if y’all are okay with that. I had to deal with rodents and whatnot in my last apartment.” Abbey’s smile returned. “I’ll come with you! I feel a bit better knowing it’s probably just a mouse or something. Plus, it’s in my schedule to check the vents today anyway.” Abbey skipped over to Eli’s side and he breathed a sigh of relief knowing he wouldn’t have to traverse an unknown maze of vents alone, even though that’s what he’d just said he’d do. Yasmine seemed to notice his reaction and chuckled. “Yeah, y’all have fun with that. I’m gonna head back to my room, let me know how it goes.” Eli and Abbey waved goodbye to Yasmine and stepped into the vent. “Thank god this isn’t smaller, I definitely wouldn’t’ve volunteered to do this if I had to crawl on my stomach,” Eli joked. Abbey laughed and shoulder-tapped Eli to get him to look her in the eyes. “Y’know, it’s okay if you don’t wanna do this. This is kind of a high order for someone’s first day.” Eli was having second thoughts every passing second, but he felt he had some kind of obligation to see this through since he had called attention to it. He felt guilty whenever he had some kind of problem at his apartment and called someone else to do it. It was obviously their job so there was no real reason to feel the way he did, but he figured this was also a good way to show that he was serious about this job. “It’s okay, I’m curious to see what this thing is anyway.”
Abbey nodded and pulled a small flashlight out of her breast pocket. Eli went ahead and went in the direction he had heard the sound last. It had gone to the left and slowly began to get quieter the further down it went. They weren’t anywhere close to where it could be, Eli felt, so he decided to ask Abbey something he thought of when he met Yasmine. “So… are you and Yasmine dating? I didn’t want to assume anything, it’s just-” Abbey immediately interrupted him. “Oh no, me and Yasmine have just been friends for a while! I’m not actually into… relationships. I’m asexual.” “Oh. Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to- it’s just everybody here is really forward so I thought- I’m sorry.” Abbey laughed and gave Eli a side hug. “It’s okay, you don’t have to apologize.” They kept on walking through the vents in silence until Abbey gained a slow realization that led to a sneaky smile. “Though, based on your reactions to everybody thus far, I’d probably have to wager a guess on where you fall on the spectrum.” Eli immediately became beet red. He didn’t think Abbey was that perceptive but he guessed he wasn’t being very subtle. “W-What? No. That’s not, I just have a… sunburn.” Abbey giggled and pulled out a small phone for navigation. “Okay, where on this map do you think you heard the noise last?” Eli adjusted his glasses and pointed to the lower corner of the ventilation map. “Okay, that’s where we’re headed!” Abbey responded with a chipper demeanor. Eli decided to forge ahead and felt like he had only taken a couple more steps when he plunged down and fell hard with a loud clang onto the metallic floor. “Oh my god! Are you okay?!” Abbey called from above. Eli readjusted to his surroundings which were pitch black and called upwards. “Yeah! Nothing’s broken! Maybe I should’ve checked where we were relative to a big drop, huh?” Eli could hear Abbey breathe a sigh of relief. “Alright! I know a way to get down there on the other side! Just wait there, okay?” “Okay! Sounds good!”
Eli pulled out his flip phone to gain a bit of light and took some deep breaths. ‘Everything’s fine, I just took a little tumble. I’ll regroup with Abbey and we’ll just find a little rat causing a bunch of noise.’ He thought to himself. Suddenly, he heard slow footsteps walking towards him. He had low visibility due to the size of his flip phone, so Eli could not see what was approaching. He pushed himself to the back of the vent and grabbed his mouth to quiet his quickened breathing. He could feel the entire area where he was shaking with each sauntering step. Eli decided that since this thing was way bigger than he expected, he should close his flip phone and wait for it to pass. However, when he closed the screen, his sweaty, anxiety-ridden hands slipped and caused the phone to land with a loud bang. The steps became silent. Eli’s breath completely stopped and he tried to stay as still as humanly possible. This was almost akin to a nightmare. What the hell was taking Abbey so long? Though, this question could be completely unwarranted since time seemed to be passing at an alarmingly slow rate. Suddenly the steps took a sharp turn into a full-on sprint. Eli’s heart rate seemed to imitate the speed of the steps and he quickly grabbed his phone to get a view of the assailant. The creature came into the light and Eli’s heart fully stopped. It had pale milk-like skin, fully blue murky eyes, and resembled a malnourished adult human. Its chin seemed to be non-existent and its facial expression was frozen in a state of abject terror. The creature jumped towards Eli and pinned him to the ground with its sharp bone-like claws wrapped around his throat. He tried to hit the creature in the ribs but slowly his strength started to disappear as life was slowly being choked out of him. The creature lifted his index fingers and positioned them right above Eli’s eyes. “Oh my god!! What the fuck is that?!” Abbey’s terrified yell loosened the creature’s grip and it turned around to face her. With this brief reprieve, Eli coughed violently and got a view of how tall the creature was. This thing nearly reached the ceiling of the vent which was about 7 feet. Eli quickly kicked the creature behind the knee and it staggered, giving Eli the chance to run in front of it and catch up with Abbey.
“How quickly can you call everyone to get inside that room to cut off the rest of the oxygen?” Abbey thought about this for a second. “What if this thing isn’t affected by oxygen?” Before Eli could come up with a response, the creature tackled him again and this time they both fell through the vent and landed painfully in the lobby where Eli had entered the station. The creature quickly got back up and grabbed Eli’s leg, pulling him to the ground and causing him to hit his head which left a large bruise. The creature’s claws ripped into his leg creating a large gash and Eli instinctively kicked the creature to get away from it. Abbey jumped down from the vent above and winced at the pool of blood that was accumulating under Eli’s leg. She quickly ran into the creature and pushed her entire body weight into it to push it onto the railway. The creature fell onto the tracks and tried to get back onto the platform but couldn’t jump high enough. Abbey quickly ran to a nearby console and called a shuttle. Within seconds, the shuttle sped full force into the creature and a fine red mist was all that was left. Eli pushed himself up with a few painful grunts and gave a slight chuckle. “Well, that was some quick thinking! How did the shuttle get here so fast, anyway?” Abbey ran over to Eli and helped him lean himself on her shoulder. “That’s our personal shuttle that just stays in that tunnel over there. Are you okay?” Eli tried to apply some weight on his torn-up leg but gave a painful yelp. “Yeah, I think I just need something to hold me up.” Abbey nodded and walked slowly towards the open doors.
When Eli arrived at the bar with his crutch, He noticed Percy was already there with a full sparkling water. He turned to meet Eli’s gaze and then immediately looked at his wrapped-up leg. “Oh my god, what the hell happened since I saw you last?” Eli chuckled and slowly made his way behind the bar to a stool. “Something that I definitely want to drink to forget. What do you want to start off with?” Percy looked concerned but decided he’d better not ask about it. Eli, meanwhile, was absolutely distracted by Percy’s ‘drinking’ outfit which consisted of a brown jacket, dark jeans, fishnet undershirt, wifebeater, and a black choker. He’d almost forgotten how smitten he was by Percy’s overall appearance as well. He seemed to be almost in a daze until Percy snapped him back into reality. “Are you just taken aback by my outfit or is it a lack of blood?” Eli thought it was probably both and averted eye contact as his cheeks began to redden again. Percy laughed and reverted back to his mindless finger tapping. “I’ll take a French 75. Do you know how to make that?” Eli chuckled and responded in a smug fashion. “Do I know how to make that? I’m not an amateur, mister.” Percy put his hands up while smiling and responded, “My bad, I didn’t mean to insult your craft. How much are you gonna drink anyway?” This was a good question. Eli still was in a lot of pain due to his leg but didn’t wanna fall back on inebriation to get himself through it. “I’ll have one drink.”
“S-s-so! I told him… *hic* HIM! That he was overstepping my trust and that *hic* he should be more honest with me… SO! Are you listening?” Eli was absolutely trashed. He did only have one drink to his credit, but that one drink combined with a huge amount of blood loss had sent him completely off the deep end. Percy meanwhile was absolutely loving every single second of it. “I’m listening. Please continue!” “Yes, SO! Th-the the, oh my god, the morning! There it is, after our disagreement, he just disappeared with 300 dollars of my money which *hic* is a lot for me, I’m not- I don’t usually *hic* make that much… and he’s GONE! Like why? I don’t get it. It’s infuriating!” Midway through the motion of getting another cup, Eli fell asleep on the counter and left Percy howling with laughter. “Man, that is the worst! I am so… sorry.” Halfway through his sentence, Percy noticed how soft Eli’s hair looked. He lay a hand on his head and felt shivers down his spine. Jesus Christ, he was so goddamn cute. Especially as a low-tolerance drunk. Percy knew he’d fit in just fine. “Looks like you’re really seizing the moment, huh?” Percy’s tipsy infatuation quickly turned to annoyance as he immediately recognized James’s condescending voice. He swiveled around to meet his gaze. “Funny how you can arrive at the butt crack of dawn and get zero shit but when I arrive a little after twelve it’s like I perpetrated a felony!” “It’s probably because they know I’m out doing something useful instead of going to nightclubs and sleeping with anybody who gives you a slight smile. Glad you changed your pastime to molesting the new recruit, though.” Percy stood up and strutted angrily towards James with his index finger pointed towards him. “Listen asshole, you don’t get to make assumptions about me just because you’re a boring do-goody piece of shit! You’re completely misreading-” James took a step forward, which was enough to stop Percy’s speech. “You have absolutely no business in talking to me like that. You barely pull your own weight around here. The only reason you’re still here is that Yasmine has some kind of fondness for you which honestly I don’t get at all.” Percy stepped back and cackled. “Oh yes, of course! Your queen! You know no matter how much you kiss up to her, she’s never gonna wanna date you again after your-” James took another aggressive step forward. “You don’t say another word. Not another one.” Percy crossed his arms and rolled his eyes. “Such a macho man. It must feel good, huh? Being able to talk this rude to me? It must turn you on to be so in control when you’re surrounded by women who are obviously stronger than you in every way possible. That pisses you off, doesn’t it?” James ignored Percy and picked up Eli who was lighter than he thought he would be. “Go to sleep, Percy. Try not to ruin another night.”
When James left the room, Percy filled another cup with straight liquor and drank it quickly. What a prick. He knew that James wasn’t sexist but wanted to somehow get a rise out of him. The fact that he wasn’t bigoted in some way just annoyed Percy more. It was harder to get at him if there was nothing glaring to attack. ‘God, I’m like a rabid animal. Just trying to find something to bite at,’ Percy thought to himself. That image of his hand on Eli’s head was probably going to be burned into James’ brain forever. He was never gonna let Percy live that down. ‘Whatever. He thinks I’m an irresponsible whore anyway, so what does it matter.’ He also wasn’t completely wrong, but Percy didn’t want to admit that. He filled another cup with liquor but instead of drinking it, he just stared at it. He then tapped his finger on it. The thick liquid wiggled around inside of its glass container and slowly calmed down whenever his tapping ceased. Percy stood up and left the cup on the counter. “It tastes like shit anyway.”