Mallrats On Parade!Submitted by DaBeast at 2008-09-08 18:44:31 EDT
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[NOTE: For earlier Mallrat Adventures, check out my profile - thanks.)
Mallrats On Parade!
I watched Det walk away and I felt satisfied. That's two birds out of the way and some mean justification.
Yes, I'm a bastard. Who clued you in?
"Wicked, wicked, wicked..." a voice murmured from somewhere behind me and to the left. "Such cruelty, Luke. You're the only one that I've ever known that could do something like that with a straight face."
Aw, shit. I knew that voice; I hated its owner. I kept my face blank and sat down on the bench again without looking around.
There came a laugh and a blur of movement and then he coalesced on the far end of the bench.
I reached down, grabbed the bag of video games, brought them closer to my side. "Hullo, Mike." Damn, damn, damn, damn, double-gawd-damn. I'll even throw a FUCK in for good measure but only because I'm not feeling the least bit generous. I felt a vein begin to throb behind my right eyeball.
To still that pain, I acquiesed to instinct and looked over at him.
Blonde windswept locks? Check. Dark blue eyes partially hidden by black lashes and brows? Check. A profile reminiscent of Michaelangelo's 'David'? Check. Partially unbuttoned white shirt revealing a sunkissed hairless chest? Check. Khaki pants with pressed creases that would make a Chinese laundress turn green with professional envy? Check. Dark brown Italian loafers crafted by small, underpaid, underfed children in some backwater ditch that cost the very Earth itself to obtain? Check. The bright pink shopping bag that sat against his side was the only new thing and I think it was a fitting touch. Mike always struck me as kind of a fruit.
"What do you want, Mike?"
He grinned, a blinding flash of thirty-two perfectly aligned pieces of enamel. "You're so evil, Luke. So mean, so base, so completely unnecessarily cruel."
"Moi?" I lifted my left hand to my chest and feigned a wounded surprise. "Mean? Never."
Mike laughed with his whole body, head thrown back, neck extended, ribs creaking with the emotion.
He always did take things too far.
Finally, he fell back to the grin. "Such lies you tell! Exquisite creations with just enough truth in them to make them wholly believeable and all told while wearing an earnest, honest, and straight face! I listened to the entire explanation and it was so contemptably, incessantly vile! It must be so much fun to be you."
"I just gotta be me." I changed my posture from 'geek slouch' to 'indolent carelessness' without changing expression. I didn't take my eyes off of him. Mike's wiley and unpredictable and only a fool would look away once he came into a situation.
His grin remained but his eyes sparkled with something sober and calculating. "What brings you to the mall, Luke?"
"Halo 3," I responded immediately. "Master Chief is the kicker of all ass. Haven't you heard?"
The grin remained but Mike shook his head. "More lies. Luke, I'm disappointed. Your stink coveres every plastic plant from this bench to the food court and most of the females in between."
"Jealous?" I gave him a smirk.
His eyes narrowed with contempt. "Of you? Don't be absurd."
"Oh, yeah," I murmured, "you like young boys. My bad." The smirk evolved into a knowing leer.
Contempt flared brightly into all-consuming hatred and his delicate nostrils flared as if at the scent of something truly awful. "You are disgusting."
"But I'm also funny."
He pushed himself off of the bench with a lithe movement. "Beware, Luke."
"Of what?" I grinned at him but I felt that vein in my eyeball start throbbing double-time. "Of you? Now, that's funny. The only people afraid of you are altar boys. Have you sampled from the choir yet? I hear the Viennese raise 'em fine."
Mike moved to loom over me. "You go too far." His voice had lowered and the pretty lilt had gone absent.
"Not yet I haven't." I jumped up and leaned forward until my nose almost touched his. "But you've gotta be here for a reason and since that reason seems to involve taunting me, then it's a safe bet that you're here looking for an ass kicking. I'm only too happy to oblige. Let's go, pretty boy."
Someone nearby cleared their throat.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a tall man with dark curling hair, black eyes, ruddy skin. He stood complacently and at ease in the middle of the corridor between two shops. Somehow, he didn't seem comfortable in the faded jeans and rough workshirt that he wore.
When he spoke, his words bore a definite accent. "This is neither the time nor the place." He seemed to address both Mike and myself at the same time.
"Uri." I didn't move and kept my eyes on Mike. "Fancy seeing you here. You got Nato with you or is he keeping the dogsled running?" If Nato was with him, then the nickname wouldn't please him at all. I was hankering to piss everybody off today.
I felt a mood like an approaching storm and I welcomed it, after all this time spent at loose ends.
Uri grunted which is his form of a laugh. A serious, more sober person than Uri I had never known. "No, Nato is busy, as always. As are you, I see. Why do you do this, Luke? You know the outcome of such confrontation."
"Nothing's set in stone, Uri." The grin slipped into place and I let the glee dance in my eyes and voice. "You keep forgetting that."
Uri shrugged. "Da, perhaps. Or maybe you long to taste dirt once more?" Nothing about Uri changed, not his stance or his expression, but suddenly, there was a dark aura of menace flitting all around him.
Oh, yes. The situation sizzled and I felt it working on me the way it always had before. The flush worked its way across my skin and flame sang in my every sinew. I've always been a sucker for a good throwdown.
Mike lifted his arm toward Uri, palm facing out, eyes glued to mine. "No, Uri. We just want some information this time. As soon as we have it, we can be on our way without... disturbing... the mall public."
Uri remained rooted to the spot but, then, he hadn't moved anyway. Uri was a rechargeable steel-sprung can of whoop-ass that never sought the fight but gave it everything he had when he found one. He would give me pause. But Mike? No way was I gonna be intimidated by the Flaming Fruit.
"Ok, Mike," I parodied his move and lifted my arm to point beyond his right shoulder and down the concourse, "here's your information: the Toys 'R Us is that-a-way. Go get fucked."
Mike grabbed my arm and dug his fingers into the bicep. "I'll pardon that, Luke. Just for old time's sake and in memory of the last time that I kicked your candy ass. So, just tell me what you're doing here at the mall and we'll call it a day."
There was a crackle and a sizzle and the smell of something sharp and unpleasant.
Mike ripped his hand free with a hiss. The palm was red and it smoldered.
My shirt sleeve had a smoking, hand-shaped hole.
"Touch me again," I whispered, "and you won't even draw back a nub."
Mike seemed to swell, his skin became molten gold, his hair stirred by an invisible wind. Faintly, somewhere nearby yet far and far away, there sounded a single, soft chord. The floor quivered beneath my feet. Mike put both hands down by his sides, chin lifted, nostrils wide, and in his eyes there came a fierce glitter of boundless joy. "Yes. I long to smite thee once again and bring an end!"
"Bring it, bitch," I snarled and leapt at him.
A Doc Martin caught me in the ribcage and sent me into the wall before I could complete the move. Sonuvabitch!
I looked up, cursing.
Uri stood between Mike and I. If he meant his voice to be soft, it didn't help because Uri had a voice that naturally carried. "Nyet! Stop it! Your childish bickering impedes your reason!" Uri lifted one bearish paw and slapped Mike.
Mike's head jerked and came back with a glaring red imprint that was still less impressive than the rage in his eyes and the spittle upon his mouth. "It can end here, Uri! HERE! Right now! Just you and me, Uri; that's all it would take to end this!"
"Not fucking likely." I sprung away from the wall.
Uri caught me around the hole in my shirt sleeve and he held on even when the smell of his flesh cooking rose on the reconditioned mall air. "I said nyet!" He dragged me close and breathed sardine into my face. "Walk away, Luke. A favor. To me. For drinks we drank long ago and women we both knew."
Both hands full but composure still paramount, Uri held us as if we really were the children he accused us of being.
Yet, he wasn't the eldest.
I grabbed his hand and threw it away... but I hesitated.
For all of Uri's unquestioned allegiance to what I felt was the wrong side, he was still a decent guy. The few times I'd met him, I'd walked (ok, sometimes limped) away from the encounter with nothing short of respect for him. Honestly, I liked Uri. I understood all of the hard, cold, bitter edges of him and he returned a just regard.
We were alike. Mike would refute that as something obscene and impossible, but Uri... he'd understand the sentiment. Hell, he might even share it.
And this really wouldn't get me what I was after. Damn it!
"Ok," I spoke to Uri alone, "Uri?"
He waited, expressionless.
"Udachi. Do novyh vstrech. Da?"
Uri grinned. "Da."
I grabbed my bag of video games as I walked away. Uri spoke quietly to the still protesting Mike and I heard his calm tones as I strolled into Sears and out of sight.
My cell phone was in my hand when I hit the far end and stopped to admire a truly atrocious dress in neon green and fuschia. I hit the code and waited.
The line was picked up. "Thank you for calling Billiards N' Babes during Wet T-Shirt Sunday! We're sorry that we're unable to come to the phone right now but we are up to our eyebrows in Boobs and Balls! Hope to see you at Wednesday Evening Happy Hour and the Saturday Morning Social! Leave a name and number and we'll get back in touch with you as soon as we have a hand free."
I spoke into the phone for a few seconds and then disconnected.
With a sigh, I dropped the bag of video games into the hands of a grateful geek and walked away.
Game time was over.