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foul weather friend

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He sits there for a while - long enough that the evening shadows stretch across the lawn and the brightest thing in the room by far is the screen of his laptop. He dares a glance that way, every so often, just to see the same stark words: I want hundred fifty grand or I'm selling this. And below the words, a photo of him and Brian, grainy but unmistakable, pasted right into the email. More where this came from, the email promised.

His phone buzzes, and he nearly shoves it off the table, it surprises him so badly. He peers at the ID. It's Flower. There are two more buzzes, one per text, and then the phone falls still and silent again. Like Sid.

He can't breathe. He looks at the email again. A hundred and fifty thousand dollars - that's not so much, not even in US dollars, though the email doesn't specify. He can do that, easy. Easy to keep this quiet, keep himself safe.

Or not so easy. How do you send that kind of money? He'd have to liquidate a couple of investments, he'd have to talk to people - people who were not in the office at this time of day, for fucking sure. And they wouldn't inquire, because they'd know better, but they'd wonder, and he can't--

He can't breathe.

His phone buzzes again. He reaches for it this time. It's Flower, again. Mindlessly Sid opens the texts. They're photos of the Fleury women, all three of them. The last is just the line, coming to dinner tomr right?

Sid types out a message before he gives himself a chance to think. Flower won't mind him dropping by, probably. He hopes he won't.

Traffic is heavy. It's forty-five minutes to Flower's place, and only as Sid pulls into the driveway does he realize that Flower hads't responded. It takes him another moment to realize it's because he left his phone on the kitchen table.

He walks up to the house. Lights are on; someone's home, anyway. He knocks on the door, wooden, automatic, and it's Vero who opens it. She takes one look at him and ushers him inside. "Have you eaten? We already did, but there's leftovers--"

"I just want to talk to Flower."

She points him out back. Flower's there, scraping the grill. They had burgers for dinner, Sid realizes. he can smell them.

"Hey," Flower says over his shoulder, and then he stops, mid-scrape. "Hey. What's up?"

Sid thought of this. He doesn't know how--he can't say it. But he can show it. Carefully he sets his laptop on the glass patio table. He opens it, and as soon as it comes out of sleep mode, the email is right there. He scrolls to the top, and then he turns it so Flower can see.

It takes Flower a moment. "Holy fucking shit," he says.

Sid doesn't know which part of the email that's for – the photo, or the text. He stares at his hands. His left is gripping his right so hard the knuckles are white. He can't breathe. He startles at the touch to his shoulder. It's Flower, holding onto him. He's leaning around to peer into Sid's face. Sid can't make out his expression; the patio light has thrown black shadows across it.

"Sid," Flower says. He pulls Sid in, and Sid's being held, and somehow the strength of Flower's grip makes breathing easier instead of harder. "Fucking hell, Sid."

"Yeah," Sid says. It's more an exhalation than a word.

Flower pulls back. "How long--no. Wait." He raises a hand to forestall any answer Sid might have made. Fuck if Sid knows what it would have been. "Did you eat?"

Sid starts to laugh. All the Fleurys want to feed him. They just want to feed him, and he isn't even hungry. The laughter turns to something else, something wet that catches in his chest and won't come out. Flower's arms are around Sid again. Sid is getting Flower's t-shirt wet. At last he manages to say, "I don't remember."

Flower claps him on the shoulder. "That, we can fix," he said.

"But--"

"That, too," Flower promises, like this is just another implausible save he can make. He folds up Sid's laptop. Then he takes hold of Sid's shoulder and guides him towards the house, towards the lingering savor of hot dogs gone cold.

[end]