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The One with the Rooster

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It's common knowledge in Curahee Complex that when something strange is going down, it usually happens in apartment 2D. Sure, the other apartments have had their history of odd events, like that time Malarkey found Skip tied to his bed in his underwear and their new flatscreen missing.

(It took a long time for Skip to live that down.)

But everyone in the complex from Dick Winters to Ralph Spina knew that when something truly weird was happening, it was best to check apartment 2D before anywhere else. So it was no surprise that Joe Toye found himself standing in front of aforementioned apartments door when things this past week had come to a head.

It had started over a week ago, on his way to work. Joe was late for his shift, stomping out of his own apartment, one shared with Babe and Bill, when the door to 2D flung open and out waltzed George Luz.

Joe seriously doubted that Luz was paying attention when he almost ran into the other man, seeing as how his arms were full with a rather large basket of laundry and a pair of earbuds were lodged in his ears.

So he gave a start when he bumped Joe, shifting his basket of laundry just slightly and continuing on his way with an apologetic smile thrown at the taller man. Toye stood for a moment, eyes narrowed and giving a slightly annoyed but mostly fond sigh as George wiggled and dance-walked his way towards the stairwell.

"Now payback is a bad bitch and baby I'm the baddest," Luz sang, head tipped back and completely off key. "You fucking with a savage, can't have this, can't have this!"

It was only after Toye took a step forward and felt something soft underfoot that he looked down and realized George had lost a towel. Snatching up the article, he followed the other man into the stairwell, catching up rather easy since his stride was longer.

"Luz," He grabbed the man's shoulder, causing Luz to swivel around and pull out an earbud. Toye held up the towel in front of George's face, waving it slightly. "You dropped this."

"Hey, thanks!" George smiled, hefting the laundry basket into Joe's space. "Toss it in."

Toye dropped it in, eyes glancing down and catching on something strange. With a frown on his face, he plucked a feather from George's pile of laundry. "Luz, is this a feather? What the hell is a feather doing in your laundry?"

Eyes flicking from the feather to Toye's intense features, George spoke with the most serious expression he could muster, "I'm multing."

"What?" Toye gaped, looking at George as if he had a screw loose, a likely scenario considering it was Luz.

"You're gonna be late for work, Joe, if you don't stop picking through my feathers," Luz snatched up the feather and practically flung himself down the stairs. Joe wanted to pursue the subject, but George was right. He was already short on time and this had set him back even more. He had to get to work, feather incident or no.

 

By the end of the work day, Joe had completely forgotten about his run-in with one of the inhabitants of 2D. His back was aching from laying underneath cars all day and a feather in Luz's laundry was the last thing on his mind. So it was forgotten for that day.

It wasn't until two night later that something came up again, though it wasn't brought up by Joe. Webster, one of the inhabitants of apartment 2B, had come knocking on their door just after Joe had gotten off work.

Babe was taking his shift as bartender at Nixon's bar, Toccoa 506, while Bill had a date with Frannie, leaving Joe to his solitude in their apartment. His night of binging CSI: Las Vegas and downing a few drinks had been interrupted by the knocking.

With a huff of irritation, Joe pushed himself off of the couch and staggering towards the front door. In complete honesty, he was a few drinks in and beginning to feel the affects. Though, he was proud to say that his 'buzzed' would be Babe's 'drunk-off-his-ass'.

"Webster," Joe grunted when the door was open and he took in the features of the Complexes official shark expert. "What do you want?"

"This might sound weird," Webster started, taking a step back from the doorway now that it was occupied by an inconvenienced Toye. "But, have you been hearing clucking lately?"

It took a moment for his achohol addled brain to really catch what Webster had asked, but when it did a look of exasperation came over his features. "Clucking? Why the fuck would I be hearin' clucking? This look like a damn farm?"

Webster pursed his lips and nodded. "My point exactly. It's not a farm and, yet, I swear to God I am hearing clucking!"

"Well, get your hearin' checked 'cause there ain't no damn clucking," Joe shut the door in his face, clicking the lock into place and going back to his couch where he fell with a heavy thump.

Later, Joe would blame the alcohol for him not putting two and two together. He would also blame it for being the reason that he heard no clucking while Webster had, despite the fact that (like Webster and Leibgott), his apartment was right next to 2D.

 

Joe slept most of the next day, considering he actually had it off. But at around noon he forced himself out of bed and into some decent workout clothes. The boxing gym was always less crowded in the middle of a weekday, so he wanted to get there while he could and get some time in.

It was while he was brushing his teeth that he heard a bit of a ruckus coming from the hallway. Joe spit, rinsed, and left the apartment to investigate the noise. If Luz and Perconte were doing something stupid next door, he wanted to know so he could make preperations for when it inevitably went south.

Jerking the door open, he found George struggling to open his apartment door while lugging a bag of what Joe assumed to be bird feed. Toye approached and stood behind him, arms cross and eyebrow raised.

"Luz, what the hell are you doing?" His rough voice startled Luz, the man jumping slightly before craning his neck to look at Toye.

"Why, Joe, I am bringing my groceries into my apartment. Have you had your eyes tested lately?" George asked, turning back to jiggle the keys he had jammed in a doorknob.

Joe peered around him, finally reading what was written on the bag in his hands and having everything over the last few days come together. "Georgie, why do you have chicken feed? Do you have a chicken in there?"

"What? No! I don't even like chicken," George shook his head and finally unlocked the door with a 'click'.

Toye sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. He couldn't have gotten normal neighbors. It didn't matter that George was funny and kind of adorable, not when he was pulling shit like this. "Luz, you do know that pets are against the policy, right? Sobel will throw your ass out if he finds a chicken that ain't dinner in there."

George dropped the chicken feed on the floor inside the apartment, being extra careful not to let Joe in, and turned around to face the other man. He put on his most innocent expression, bringing up a hand to his heart in feigned hurt. "Joe! I am apalled that you would think I would disrespect Sobel and this Complex by bringing in an illegal animal! I'm hurt, Joe, really hurt."

"Uh huh, then what's the feed for?"

George cast a glance at the bag by his feet. "This is for Perco. He needs the fiber. Plumbings all backed up and I think I've heard about fiber in one of Doc Roe's many lectures on a proper diet."

"George-"

"Oh, gotta go, Toye. Bye!" George squeezed through the door to his apartment and shut it, clicking the lock back into place and leaving Joe standing in the hallway with all his suspicions still cast on George and apartment 2D.

 

The final straw came at four in the morning on a work-day, with most of the hall being roused from sleep by a sound that should only be inflicted on farmers and their ilk. It was a horrible crowing that made Joe finally lift his head from sleep.

He threw open his bedroom door, ready to shout at someone only to see both Bill and Babe making their way to the front door. They all exchanged confused and sleep-addled glances before marching out into the hallway.

Half of Curahee was standing in their hallway. Webster and Leibgott were standing outside their apartment, Leibgott leaning against Webster like he might fall asleep at any moment. Skip and Malarkey seemed oddly awake for the late hour, though their disheveled state might mean they had just gotten in from a night out at the bar, while Penkela was sitting on the floor, head bent forward as he fell back asleep. Carwood Lipton was standing, concerned, in an oversized sweatshirt at the end of the hall. Bull Randalman and Johnny Martin were missing, but Joe knew they were working security at a concert tonight. Spina had come out of his apartment and was making his way over to Joe, Bill, and Babe.

"What's going on?" He asked sleepily, his hair a mess and dark rings under his eyes.

"I got no fucking idea!" Bill snapped, shivering in the wife beater and boxers he used as pajamas.

"Where's Gene?" Babe asked, barely concious, but evidently that was enough to ask after Roe.

Spina spared Babe a quick glance. "He's on shift at the hospital."

"Jesus Christ!" Came an angered voice, accompanied by the angry stomps of one Lewis Nixon. He was flanked by Dick, Harry Welsh, and an especially murderous looking Ronald Spiers. Lewis stomped over to where the group had congregated, outside apartment 2D. His hair was sticking up in all manner of ways and a pair of polka-dot pajamas slipped past his feet, giving him the look of an overgrown and very angry child. "What the fuck is that sound? Is that one of you?"

The crowd simultaneously shook their heads, though Harry had an amused smirk on his face. "Wow, you're really not a morning person!"

"Hey, back off!" Nixon snapped, pointing his finger accusingly at Harry. Dick shouldered past the furious man, looking slightly more put together in his t-shirt and flannal pants.

"Look, we could hear the noise all the way upstairs. What's going on?" He asked in his ever-agreeable tone. As if on cue, the crowing noise came again, only this time everyone could distinctly hear that it was a 'cock-a-doodle-do'. Everyone turned their attention to the sound and felt no surprise to hear it coming from apartment 2D.

Nixon shuffled towards the apartment, raising his hand to bang on the door before Toye came forward. "I think I know what's going on. Everyone get the hell back to bed and I'll take care of this shit."

The crowd began to disperse, each sending out angry comments towards both Toye and the apartment.

"Assholes."

"Of course it's Luz and Perco! Who the hell else?"

"Get it fixed, Toye!"

Winters was the only one to stay behind, feeling the need to make sure everything was taken care of, as he always did. It seemed whenever there was trouble, Dick was always doing his best to clean it up and keep anyone from getting thrown out by their landlord, Sobel.

That was how Toye found himself standing in front of apartment 2D, knowing exactly what was going on after all this weird behavior. He raised his hand and pounded heavily on the door, his voice even rougher when he called out, thanks to the early hour and his irritation at Luz. "Get up! Get your asses out here! Come on, right now!"

The door swung open, revealing an equally tired looking George and Perco. Luz opened his arms in a questioning gesture, practically inviting Toye to start barking at him, only Dick beat him to it. "Guys, what is that noise?"

"Uh, him!" George gestured at Joe, apparently not as in the mood to joke when he was practically asleep standing up.

"George, I told you that you can't have a chicken in here," Toye rubbed at his temples, struggling to remain calm through the exchange.

"It's not a chicken," Perco protested. "It's a rooster."

"Reginald is having some problems, right now," George explained, putting his hand out in a placating manner.

"Reginald?" Toye narrowed his eyes.

Dick held up a hand, cutting off that conversation before it could get started. "It doesn't matter. There are no pets allowed here, guys. If Sobel finds out he will evict you and I don't want that to happen. Do you boys?"

Both George and Perconte shared a look before shaking their heads. There were two people in Curahee that managed to make everyone feel like they were children being scolded when they did something wrong, and that was Carwood Lipton and Dick Winters. Now was no exception, going by the looks on Luz and Perco's faces.

"Furthermore, that guy belongs on a farm where it can be freerange and taken care of properly. You need to find it a home," Dick continued, fixing the pair with his best 'disappointed father' look. Toye sometimes wondered if he did that subconciously, not even knowing it's effects.

"Give it to Malarkey, he'll take care of the problem and have dinner ready for us," Joe piped up, crossing his arms across his chest. George gasped in shock, fixing Joe with a disbelieving look.

"Guys," Dick drew the attention to himself again. "I'll make some calls in the morning and see if I can find a place to take it. But it has to go."

"Yeah, alright, Winters," George nodded sadly before closing the door on them. Dick squeezed Toye's shoulder before going back upstairs to his own apartment, leaving Joe to trudge back to his place and into bed.

 

The rooster was gone two days later and George had been in a state since. It never occured to Joe that Luz might have actually been attatched to the barnyard creature and was more than a little sad to have it taken away. The shorter man had sulked the whole day after it was taken from him.

Part of Joe felt responsible for the rooster leaving, even though it had clearly been Dick who ordered the animal gone, not that anyone else would have let Luz keep it. But seeing George so morose after it's departure left a heavy feeling in Joe's stomach that he didn't like at all.

So, on a whim, Toye spent a few hours scouring the web for the gift he needed for George. He even paid extra to have it shipped overnight, though he grumbled to himself the entire time he put his card information in.

The package arrived the next day, officially four days after the rooster had left. Toye came home from work to find it on the kitchen counter, brought in by Babe. Slicing the box open, he checked quickly to see if it was the right one before folding it back up and hauling the box over to 2D.

Joe spent a good five minutes outside the apartment door, berating himself for doing something so silly, before actually knocking on the door. George answered after a moment, looking better than before but still a little upset.

"Afternoon, Joe," George greeted, leaning against the doorframe.

Joe shifted from one foot to the other and gestured to the package under one arm. "Got something for you."

George's features shifted from sad to surprised, eyebrows raising to his hairline. "You got something for me? Why? Did a car fall on you at work? Do you have a concussion? Do you know where you are?"

"Funny," Joe scowled and shoved the package into George's arm. "Just open the damn thing before I change my mind."

George gave Joe a suspicious look before cracking the smallest smile and stepping aside. "Alright, come on in."

The pair stepped inside, Joe with his hands stuffed in his pockets and a weary expression on his face. He had never been inside apartment 2D for any legitimate reason. It was surprisingly clean, with posters of old movies and actors framed and hung on the wall. Comic books were put on the coffee table next to some travel magezine and one skin mag that he assumed belonged to Perco, considering it was filled with women. It was...nice.

"You've got a nice place, Luz," Joe told him, still observing from his spot in the middle of the room.

"Careful, Joe," Luz placed the package on the couch and sat next to it. "You keep being nice to me and I'll have to have Doc Roe come look at your head. Do you want a drink or something?"

Joe hesitated for a moment, wondering if he really wanted to extend their interaction after already giving the gift. Eventually, he resigned to it and nodded. "Sure."

Before getting the drink, Luz pulled the box open and reached inside, his fingers brushing against something soft. He gripped on and pulled out a rooster plushie, looking remarkably close to the real rooster he had just given away.

"Squeeze it," Joe instructed, watching as George squeezed the plushie. The room rang with a recorded 'cock-a-doodle-do' and George laughed, the reaction easing some of the heaviness in Joe. Toye reached a hand up to rub the slight stubble on his jaw, self-concious over the gift. "I know it's not the same, but I thought... I don't know. I thought it might help."

George smiled, setting the rooster plushie on the couch and approaching Toye. Joe could see it coming, Luz was a tactile person, but that didn't mean he was ready for George to hug him, or even ready for the warmth in his belly that came with it. With a put-upon sigh, Toye wrapped his arms around Luz's shoulders.

"It helps. Thanks, Joe." George's smile could be felt on Joe's shoulder through his shirt.

"Yeah, alright, Luz. Just get me a drink."