Chapter Two: Gifts and Curses
"Sorry my place is a bit messy. I was going to finish cleaning before you came over."
Mordecai allowed himself into his girlfriend's apartment, a chuckle escaping his beak as he surveyed the so-called "mess". A couple magazines scattered on the living room table, a blanket thrown near the couch...this hardly qualified as a "mess" in his mind. He did remind himself, however, of how neat Margaret was, and was flattered that she always wanted her apartment to be presentable for him. It was a really good trait to have.
"Don't be, you know I almost live here anyway," he joked, finding irony in that statement. By the end of the night, he hopefully would. She laughed in response, combing her head feathers back, relief spreading through him.
At least she didn't react badly, even if it was a joke.
"That's true, but I take pride in my home, even if it's this little apartment," she noted, crossing her wings in front of her.
The bluejay stepped closer to the robin, placing his wings gently on her hips, gaze gently meeting hers. "There's nothing wrong with that. You should be proud."
Their beaks met in a kiss as Mordecai pulled Margaret closer, closing his eyes. He would never tire of that feeling in his chest when they connected as one, the way his heart seemed to stop in that moment as time itself was suspended. He was a flightless bird, but in those kisses, he felt as though he could soar.
After a few moments she broke the kiss, giving a small hum of approval. The avian was secretly glad he had bones; he surely would be a puddle of melted goo by now.
"Looks like you enjoyed that," she smirked knowingly, and a faint blush of red darkened the jay's cheeks in response.
"Of course I do," he smiled faintly, embarrassment written all over his face. "Why wouldn't I enjoy kissing the most beautiful girl in the world?"
Margaret rolled at eyes at this, but beamed genuinely, wings on her hips. "Easy, Mr. Hallmark Card. Don't get too sappy on me."
Mordecai pretended to frown to this and gave his best puppy-dog eyed expression, as if almost pleading. "But you're everything to me! I can't help it!"
Her pleasant laughter echoed through the living room. "Save the puppy-dog eyes for when you piss me off; you'll probably need them more later than now."
"Fine, fine," he chuckled, holding up with wings as if to surrender.
As their laughter died down, the red robin took a seat on her couch, letting out a sigh of relief. She looked toward her fellow avian and patted the seat next to her. "Come here mister. I've been on my feet all day and I need to relax a bit before we head out."
He nodded and plopped down beside her, an eager wing curling around her waist. They kissed once more, a quick affectionate peck, and settled into the fabric of the cushions.
"So," the robin started, stretching a bit. "You wanted to tell me something, right? That's the whole reason you're here early."
"Yeah, oh...yeah," the bluejay coughed, obviously embarrassed. The charm of his female companion had flustered him, momentarily forgetting the task at hand.
"Well," he began, clearing his throat. "I...uh...it's about the future. Specifically my job."
The robin eyed him curiously, her expression unreadable. "Did you get fired?"
Mordecai coughed once more, his stomach churning. "No, no. Well, not exactly. The park is closing, and since we won't have our jobs, we have to move out of the rec house."
Margaret was silent except for a slow nod, finally looking away from the jay. "So, I'm assuming you don't have a plan B?"
A feeling of uselessness crept up on him in that instant, as if he were no better than a common hobo. This mess had just happened hours ago; what other options were there?
"I'm figuring this out, don't worry. I'm not going to give up because of this," he tried reassuring her, the grip on her waist squeezing softly, as if to confirm.
The robin sighed softly. "I guess this isn't your fault, I'm just...concerned. That's not wrong is it?"
Mordecai shook his head quickly, eyes widening. "No way, I'm just as concerned. That's why I wanted to tell you."
Margaret nodded again. "So, you'll have no place to go, right? Except for your parents' place?"
He swallowed and groaned softly, her reminder of that reality daunting. "Yeah, that's...one option."
The robin lifted an eyebrow at this, taken aback. "One? Where else would you go?"
Now or never.
"Here," he blurted out quickly, almost covering his beak with his wings, but kept going like a speeding train instead. "I mean, babe, we've been steady for a while, and I think it would be great! We could really learn more about each other, and-"
He stopped talking at once, sharply turning his head to met the robin's gaze. She stood up suddenly, crossing her wings across his stomach. "I...this is a lot to ask of me, Mordecai. A lot. I've been really enjoying my independence for once, away from family. I definitely consider you a huge part of my life, you're my boyfriend after all. But this...I can't. I'm really sorry. I can help you look for something, at least."
The bluejay's heart dropped into his stomach and he started to feel nauseous.
No, it wasn't supposed to go like this. Not at all.
"Margaret, I need you. Please," he almost begged, his wings shaking. "I don't want to go back to my old life."
She sighed. "Pull yourself together, Mordecai, this isn't the end of the world. Change happens and you have to deal. This isn't a break-up, not yet anyway."
A surge of anger passed through the bluejay, unable to comprehend the robin actually declining what seemed like the perfect idea in his mind. "I would have done the same for you if it was the other way around!"
"...But it's not," she said softly, disappointed. "I really think we should skip the movie date. You need to go back home and figure out a plan."
Mordecai finally stood up, fighting back a hot set of tears that stung his eyes. "Fine! You know what, that's fine!"
He stumbled towards the door, and the robin held it open for him, shaking her head. "Good night."
The bluejay left without another word, and from the view she had, he almost went crashing down the stairs but caught himself on the railing. With one last shake of her head, the melancholy robin shut the door with a click.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of town, an out-of-breath Rigby lay slumped and panting softly against the cool brick wall of the convenience store Mordecai and himself sometimes visited at night when the park's snack bar was closed. He had been running at full speed and was now trying to catch his breath, his chest raising and falling rapidly.
It was the end of the business day and rush hour was in full effect, commuters filing in and out like, ironically, an assembly line. The raccoon made eye contact with a few of them, reading a look of disgust on their faces. At first he didn't understand the blatant rudeness of these people, sticking their noses up at him, but it clicked in his mind soon enough.
"They think I'm a bum or something," he thought miserably, and forced himself to sit up straighter. The truth was, he was used to being looked down on by others, and not just for his size. Scenes of past experiences ran through his thoughts for a moment, of times where people had underestimated and doubted him, until he quickly shook them off. He didn't need to relive those times right now; he had a future to think about.
The future. It was so unclear that the ring-tail let out a small uncertain sigh, his breathing finally beginning to stabilize. Just yesterday his life had been pretty much going the right track for once, and now it was all derailing in a span of hours. Just what would become of him? Of Mordecai?
Rigby scratched his head and shut his eyes in shame, knowing he had screwed up yet again by running away from the avian and the finishing the workday. In that moment he had acted out without thinking, and truthfully the bluejay had not said anything that harsh.
He knew this deep down, that was certain, and the only conclusion he could make was that his best friend knew just the right way to press his buttons. Despite this, he never denied his luck to have a bond that was incredibly strong with someone such as Mordecai. People had often came and went in his life, but the bluejay had stayed all this time. He would apologize as usual, and hopefully the two of them could come up with some kind of blueprint for a way to continue on.
The raccoon ran his tongue along his lips and felt how dry they were, realizing just how thirsty he was from that high-speed run from the park. Man, he would kill for something to drink.
"Which wouldn't be a problem if you had money," he noted smartly to himself, looking down at his bare fur, sans places to carry cash, or anything for that matter. He whispered a curse and whined softly, knocking a fist against the brick behind him in frustration. Images of potential beverages ran through his head like a tempting catalog, which only made his thirst amplified.
Option 1: Go back to the park and get water or something from the house fridge.
And face a pissed Mordecai? Next.
Option 2: Beg people inside the store for money to buy something.
Images of the aggravated patrons flashed in his mind, and he simply just couldn't take that rejection again. Besides, he had been horrified of the idea of strangers thinking he was a bum; why give them confirmation of that? Next.
Option 3: Start a scavenger hunt for quarters and other loose change.
It was borderline bum activity, but it was easier on his pride to just find money on his own...if he could. Rigby cursed his lack of funds once more before deciding he had better get to hunting. It wasn't as if people were dropping coins around on purpose.
The raccoon managed to smile at the mental image from that, and began his search.
Business had been slow today for the man in the sharkskin suit. He would know of all people; once there was blood in the water, he would be the first one to sniff it out. He smirked silently, gaze unreadable behind the dark aviators that seemed to make his appearance all the more mysterious to any passerby.
Swim, little fishes, swim.
Oh, how he envied them. Each life as pointless as the next, swimming freely inside their glass bowls, concentrating on problems that truly had no meaning outside their borders. Ignorance could truly be bliss, unaware to the fact that if they actually chose to open their eyes and ears, past the physical sense, their petty problems would become wisps of smoke in the wind. That, however, would be bad for business. He had a reputation to uphold, and customers to satisfy, after all.
He rarely ended a workday early, but the lack of clientele would only waste his precious time, and time was certainly a valuable commodity. So as the sharp-dressed man began to close up shop, fate would have it that his eye caught a lone raccoon darting from spot to spot, very much a break in the monotony he witnessed for hours. He stopped, observing with a renewed interest.
"What do we have here?" he thought with amusement. It was moving urgently, meaning there was very likely a goal he was trying to reach in a hurry. Suddenly, he heard the ring-tail shout out in what seemed like a victory of sorts, holding...a coin? Judging by the size, most likely a quarter. The victory was short-lived, however, as the raccoon continued on, like a bloodhound on the trail of a scent.
A little beggar, it seems.
He was hoping for more of a challenge, honestly. But as they say, business is business.
About fifteen minutes had passed since his change hunt had began, but luck was on the ring-tail's side today, apparently. Rigby's eyes lit up as he found the final coin that would give him enough to purchase some much-needed refreshment. It was only a dime, but his total now stood at a dollar.
"Yeah-uh!" the raccoon cheered, pumping his fists upward into the sky, resisting the urge to dance around the parking lot. Rigby was a believer in enjoying the little things in life, no matter what those things may be, and this was no exception.
The raccoon jingled the coins in his paw, a smirk of satisfaction painted on his face as he entered the store, a musical chime ringing in his ears as the door closed behind him. The smirk seemed to falter, however, once he saw the patrons inside. Those same looks of judgment from outside were now here, intensified the florescent lighting of the store.
"What are these peoples' problems?" Rigby thought bitterly, sharply looking at the floor to avoid the gazes. Self-consciousness roared to life inside of him once more as he quickly darted into an empty aisle, feeling like a spy on an espionage mission. Forget these people, why should he even care what they think?
The ring-tail nodded to himself from that realization; he didn't need Mordecai there everywhere he went. He was an adult, able to handle his own. Comforted by his own rational thoughts, he walked down the aisle he had abruptly entered, glancing from side to side at the colorful wrappers of candies, snacks and other random items. He resisted the urge to grab a candy bar from the rack, knowing full well he didn't have the money for a snack AND a drink.
Stopping in front of the glass doors, Rigby looked up at the selection of drinks as the cooler's fans buzzed on, keeping them icy cold. The raccoon ran his tongue over his lips, the urgency of his thirst growing with every passing second. He made quick work of scanning the rows, letting out a contented "hm hm" as he selected a large can of iced tea, which luckily wasn't on a top shelf.
As he took his place in the now-receding register line, Rigby couldn't help but let out a small musical hum, his foot tapping to his own rhythm. Maybe things weren't so bad really; Mordecai and himself had resumes now, his own especially small, but it at least it was work history. Hell, even his GED wasn't a lost cause; the credits would probably be good anywhere they ended up going. Yeah, maybe this was the start to a whole new-
"Next!" a gruff female voice called out, breaking Rigby from his thoughts. He scampered forward in a hurry, almost slamming down his drink and the accompanying change.
"Just this," he mumbled, glaring back. He was definitely not in the mood to deal with anymore rude people today.
"Hmph. That'll be a dollar seven," the clerk demanded, and the raccoon's stomach dropped. Crap, he had forgotten the tax.
"Um...I...uh...don't have the extra seven," he stammered, his gaze meeting her own annoyed one, hoping the woman would show him some sympathy.
"No sale, beat it punk!" she spat, drops of spittle hitting his muzzle. "This ain't no charity!"
That was the last straw; the ring-tail growled deeply from his throat, almost seeing red. "Look here, it's only seven freakin' cents! What the hell is your-"
Rigby turned to the source of the voice, a tall, sophisticated man grinning brightly back at him and the nasty employee. In his gloved hand was a quarter, almost sparkling between his fingers. "I believe this should cover it. Keep the change."
"You look way too nice to be in this part of town," the raccoon noted a few minutes later to the human beside him, taking another sip from his can. The tea was refreshing and sweet, possibly the best tasting drink he had ever enjoyed. "Are you lost or something?"
The tuxedo-clad gentlemen gave a polite chuckle, shaking his head. "Quite the contrary, my procyonid friend. I know this town like the back of my hand."
"Pro...sigh...need?" Rigby questioned, an eyebrow arching.
The man let out another chuckle. "What you are. Raccoons are part of the procyonid family. Biology is splendid, wouldn't you agree?"
"Uh sure..." the ring-tail politely smiled up at him, not wanting to seem rude to this stranger.
This guy is a little wacko, I think. Better be careful.
"Well, hey, thanks a lot for helping me out there. I better get going, have a good one," Rigby thanked the man, and started to walk back towards the street.
"What's the rush?"
The raccoon froze, and slowly turned around to face Tuxedo once more, unable to quite look him in the eye. "Well, uh, I'm actually on a break from my job and-"
"Uh, I completely understand," the man nodded, that grin never faltering. Rigby felt shivers running down his spine. Why was he feeling paranoid anyway?
"Here," the man suddenly reached down to him, holding a small rectangular card between his long fingers.
"Um, what is it?" the ring-tail questioned, hesitant to take it.
"Just an extra scratch-off lottery ticket I bought inside. I figured by your...situation, you could use a little good luck today. Am I accurate?"
Usually one to hide his emotions, Rigby was genuinely touched by the gesture, and let his defenses down. He took the ticket and nodded. "I...I guess I could. You're really cool for this."
Examining the ticket further, he noticed it was covered in flames, a pair of red dice adorned the middle, each sporting devil horns. The top had big block letters that were also adorned in flames, rich reds, oranges and yellows popping out at him.
"The Devil's Dice," he read out-loud, now giving a chuckle of his own. It was a pretty cool theme.
The man continued to smile, his extremely white teeth almost glowing even in the sunlight. "Enjoy it. If you win a couple bucks, enjoy some dinner somewhere. Treat yourself."
"Thanks so much, for everything. You really made my day!" Rigby smiled honestly, extending a paw. Tuxedo shook it firmly in his own grip. The two parted after a quick goodbye, each walking their separate ways.
A few moments later, the raccoon realized he hadn't even gotten the man's name. As he turned back around again to catch him, he was only greeted with the same rows of buildings, a breeze blowing through his fur.
"Uncover two devil dice, win the prize listed," he read out-loud to himself, and rolled his eyes. He was now at a crosswalk, waiting for the streetlight to change.
Might as well while I wait.
Rigby used his nail to scratch into the first play spot, and discovered a small "X". Nothing. His nail glided to the second, scratching until he had noticed it was, believe it or not, a die.
These things ALWAYS give you one to lead you on.
Shaking his head in disbelief, he moved to the third. Nothing. The fourth? Nada. The fifth? Zip. As he began to scratch the sixth and final play spot away, he couldn't believe what he was seeing: the other die. Just as the instructions had said, a pair of dice meant he was a winner. Of course, the "prize" spot was still uncovered.
I might get lucky, five bucks wouldn't be so bad.
Another eye roll from the raccoon signaled his distrust in this ticket. There was no possible way it was going to be some, well, jackpot. As he began to uncover the "P", and then the "R", however, he realized with each zero how wrong he was. So very, very wrong.
Nope, I didn't die! Life caught me by surprise and I had virtually no time for months to update. If I get enough feedback, i.e. reviews and follows, I'll keep going with this story, and update before 2012 is over. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!