"Who the hell listens to dubstep at midnight?"
Joe was laying on Babe's pull-out, having fled from his room and kicked Babe to the floor. The pillow over his head did nothing to stamp out the sound coming from George and Perconte's apartment.
"Besides drunk college students? Luz and Perco, apparently," Babe answered with no small amount of bite in his tone, obviously upset at having been kicked out of his own bed. He slammed his fist against the cheap pillow underneath his head. The carpet itched against his chest and the blanket Joe had thrown at him did nothing to stave off the chill of a late August night.
"Shit on a stick," Bill grumbled, throwing open his bedroom door and stomping into the living room. Wild haired, dark eyed, and scratching at his thigh through his boxers, Bill looked like a mess. "This is the third night in a row that they've been doing this! Some of us have gotta work in the mornin'."
"Some of us just got off work," Babe hissed, flipping over onto his back, throwing a hand over his eyes. "And someone, me, just got kicked out of their own damn bed!"
"Shut up, Babe," Joe growled, slanting his leg down off the pull-out to kick at Babe.
"Yeah, quit whinin'," Bill agreed, dropping onto the bed next to Joe's slack form. "We're the ones who gotta share walls with those assholes."
"Yeah, and now I'm grabbing floor. Someone's gotta do something."
Joe grunted, pressing the pillow further over his head as bass continued to shake the walls of the apartment. "I fixed the last shit in that apartment."
"You made Luz get rid of a rooster then bought him a stuffed one," Bill laid back on the bed, leaving a decent amount of space between him and Joe, though he did pull some of the comforter Toye had brought in over himself. "That ain' fixin' it."
"Hey, that rooster plushie cost me almost twenty bucks," Joe complained, tugging back on his comforter.
"Who the hell spends twenty dollars on a stuffed rooster for a grown man?"
"Someone who's got an affection erection for that grown man," Babe muttered, earning a laugh from Bill and another kick from Joe.
"How did this shit even get started?" Bill asked, flopping around until he got comfortable. It was understandable that he wouldn't be up to date on this weeks idiocy. For the past four days, he had been breaking his time down between extra hours at the factory and spending time with Frannie. He hadn't been forced to suffer the never ending loop of dubstep and thrash-metal.
Both Babe and Joe groaned, having been there for the incident that started it all. Joe neglected to explain, instead keeping his eyes closed and let Babe give the answer. "Perco's been moved to the night shift at the call center. So, to keep on schedule, he still stays awake all night on his nights off. Apparently, the noise is keeping Leibgott from gettin' his beauty sleep. So Leibgott decides if he ain't gettin' no sleep, then Perco ain't gettin' no sleep. Leibgott plays thrash metal all day when he's home so Perco can't sleep durin' the day. Now, Perco's been playin' dubstep all night to keep Leibgott awake."
"And between the two of 'em, no one is gettin' any sleep," Joe growled out. "It's been three days, someone's gotta stop this."
"You know what guys," Babe spoke again, lifting himself off the floor to look at both Bill and Joe, now comfortable on Babe's pull-out. "I got this. I'm gonna fix this."
"Shit," Bill groaned. "If Babe's takin' care of it, then we must be really bad off."
"Shut up, Gonorrhea!"
Joe flung his head up and bit out a growl, "Both of you, shut the hell up so I can get some sleep."
Babe liked to consider himself a reasonable man, no matter what Bill might say. So when he said he was gonna take care of this Perco-versus-Leibgott-music-war, he really meant it. Thus, the next morning he was out in the hall before Leibgott ran off to the barber shop.
"Hey, Joe!" Babe jogged out of his apartment, sliding in front of Leibgott before he could get close to the stairwell. "I need to talk to you."
"Hurry it up, Heffron," Leibgott spoke in his ever-annoyed tone, gesturing for Babe to get a move on. "I need to get to work."
"Hold up," Babe held up a finger and went to the door of apartment 2D, where he knew Perco was catching a few short hours of sleep before Leibgott came back and cranked up the stereo. After a few knocks, Perco answered the door with an uncharacteristic snarl on his face.
"What?" He barked, before eyeing Leibgott. "Now you're knocking on my door and waking me up, Leibgott?"
"Anything to keep your ass up, Perconte," Leibgott growled out, coming to stand beside Babe.
"Okay, no," Babe put his hands up. "I was the one who knocked. I'm here on behalf of all sleepers in Curahee. You two need to stop this shit. Ain't no one gettin' any sleep with your bullshit goin' on."
"Tell that to Leibgott," Perco pointed at the man in question. "He's the one playing shitty music all day."
"He's the one making enough noise to alert Alaska at night!"
"Both of you are bein' assholes," Babe bit out.
"I can't sleep when he's making all that noise. Who the hell plays Call of Duty at three in the morning? Besides high schoolers on redbull?" Leibgott scoffed.
Perco narrowed his eyes, crossing his arms over the Star Wars t-shirt he was wearing. "I have to stay up to keep my schedule right! How am I supposed to stay awake if I'm not keeping my brain going?"
"You're brain does tend to shut off," Leibgott smirked. Perco looked horribly offended, bringing a hand up to his chest in hurt. Babe had a feeling there might be a hallway brawl if he didn't speak up, and no one wanted one of those. At least not after that incident last February, when a very drunk Muck was mistaken for a burgeler and attacked by Malarkey. They did more damage to the hallway than to eachother.
"Hey," Babe barked out, getting between them. "You both need to knock it off. Unlike you two, I don't got a set schedule. Sometimes I work days and sometimes I work night. Between the two of you, I can't get any sleep. I want to sleep and I want my damn bed back! So both of you give it a rest."
"I'll quit when he stops making noise," Leibgott bit out before turning on his heel and leaving.
"I'll quit when he stops complaining," Perco shouted at Leibgotts back, turning around and slamming the door in Babe's face.
"Okay, assholes," Babe muttered, still staring at the closed door to apartment 2D. "You wanna keep it up, then I'm joining the party. Oh, it is on. It is on like Donkey Kong."
Joe was hoping and praying that Babe had somehow fixed it all before he would get home from work. He was tired and achy from spending the day under cars or bent under a hood. His day wasn't looking better when he came home and found Babe in his bedroom, setting speakers up facing the wall that Joe shared with apartment 2D.
"What the hell are you doing?" Joe asked, eyeing Babe as the red-head moved about the room.
"I talked to Perco and Leibgott," from the way Babe said it, Joe could only imagine how well that went. "Neither were willing to give up their bullshit. So I figured, I'd get on their level. I already did up the speakers in Bill's room."
"Where is Bill?"
Babe spared him a glance before shrugging. "He texted and said he's staying at Frannie's until we sort this out."
"Babe, you're making this worse," Joe dragged a hand over his face, cursing himself for ever agreeing to let this kid move in with him and Bill. "I didn't get any sleep before and now you've brought it into my room."
"You were sleepin' on my bed, anyway," Babe shot him a glare. "Besides, I talked to George and Web, asked how they've been dealin' with this. Apparently, they've been using earplugs and headphones together. So I got you some earplugs and you can use Bill's headphones."
"Jesus," Joe sighed, walking out of the room. Things were getting out of hand and Joe was one step away from washing his hands of this and running to a cheap hotel just to get a few hours of sleep.
"Now," Babe straightened up, placing his hands on his hips and smirking at the sight of the speakers. "Time to break out the Chumbawamba."
Curahee was in a state. It had been two days since Babe joined in on 'The Great Music War', and things had gotten a dozen times worse. Now, instead of only dubstep and thrash-metal, songs like 'Gangam Style', 'Cotton-eyed Jo', and 'Wannabe' had joined the mix. At one point, Babe had even played the Muppet song 'Ma Na Na Na' for nearly an hour straight.
Those who had remained unaffected by the noise, were now affected. Even some of the upstairs neighbors had complained. According to Babe, Lewis had been sleeping at the bar the last three nights. The only reason Sobel hadn't been alerted was because the man was gone, having went to visit/brown-nose his old boss, Meehan.
Dick had tried to talk the men down, but all three of them had somehow managed to avoid anyone in Curahee except their roommates. It had turned into all out war, with the weapons of choice being terrible taste in music and it looked like there would be no winner. Just when everyone was near the edge, it was an unexpected player who brought the game to a close.
Babe was in the middle of switching the song from 'Barbie Girl' to Smash Mouth's 'All Star' when there was a beating on his door. He heard whoever it was go down the hallway, pounding on the doors of 2B and 2D as well. Babe looked at the clock, seeing that it was nearing five in the morning. He had just gotten back from his shift at the bar, only having time to slip off his sneakers and jacket before starting up the speakers.
The pounding came back to his door and Babe groaned, walking towards it and throwing it open. Looking down the hallway, Babe could see that Leibgott and Perco had both left their apartments. Both looked as disgruntled as Babe about having someone pound on their doors and force them out of the apartment at such an ungodly hour, even if Perco was already awake.
"Good mornin', assholes," A fourth person was in the hallway, speaking with an accent that Babe was whole-heartedly familiar with. Eugene Roe was standing in front of them, arms crossed over a pair of bloody scrubs. His face was marred with exhaustion and he looked beyond enraged.
"Doc," Babe started, only to recieve a harsh look from Gene. His mouth clicked shut and he took a sheepish step back.
"Do you assholes know what it's like to work an eighteen hour shift only to come back and not be able to sleep because it's too damn loud in my own home?" Roe's tone was as sharp as a scalpel, but not raised in volume. Somehow, it was far scarier than any yelling anyone could do. "Now, you three are gonna cut this out right here and now! I don't wanna hear one more lick out of any of you! This is childish and ridiculous. If you got a problem with eachother, then you sort it out like adults instead of going for this juvenile bullshit!"
"Sorry, Roe," Perco had the decency to look ashamed, reaching a hand up to rub at the back of his neck. "We didn't know-"
"Yeah, well, you oughtta!" Roe snapped, bringing up his finger to point at them. "You are grown men, you oughtta know! Perconte, just cause you gotta stay up don't mean you gotta make noise! Be considerate of others. Leibgott, quit whinin' and buy a pair of earplugs like Webster had done from the beginnin'! Edward," Babe visibly paled when Roe's finger pointed to him, "I don't know why you got into this, but I expected better of you."
Babe colored with shame, his eyes casting down at the floor while he bit his lip. There was no excuse, he shouldn't have gotten into this. He wasn't known for his maturity, but maybe Gene was right and he should have risen above this. Perco and Leibgott both watched Babe wilt under the doctor's words, some guilt and sympathy in their eyes.
Other had come into the hallway at the new ruckus. Webster was standing behind Leibgott, resting his chin on the barber's shoulder to peer at the situation. He looked tired, but lately, all of Curahee had.
Joe Toye had come out of the apartment and was peering at Babe's kicked-puppy look with a raised eyebrow. Across the hall, Lipton had opened the door to his apartment and was looking on in concern.
"Now, I want all of you to get back inside and you're gonna be silent about it," Roe crossed his arms and stared them down. "I betta not hear one peep out of you three."
They all retreated into their apartments, Leibgott ushering a tired Webster inside and Babe going with his tail tucked between his legs. Perco was the last to leave, but Roe stayed to make sure they all went. Joe watched as Roe visibly deflated, running a tired hand over his face when the other had gone.
"Thanks for that, Gene," Lipton called from across the hallway.
Roe raised a hand in reply before going down the hall and into his apartment. Joe and Lipton shared a look of relief and slight fear of the doctor before slipping into their respective homes. That night, for the first time in nearly a week, Curahee Complex was completely silent.
"Hey, Joe," Perco called as Leibgott passed him in the stairwell. Leibgott was leaving for work while Perco was just returning. The barber turned, looking up at Perco with less irritation and exhaustion written on his face. It appears that three nights of decent sleep had been good for the man. "Look, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so loud."
Leibgott blew out a breath and waved his hand. "Forget it. I may have overreacted a bit. Hey, don't tell Web I said that."
Perco put his hands up in mock surrender. The two shared smile before Leibgott claimed work and went down the stairs. Perco jogged up to the second floor, heading straight towards his apartment before something occured to him. Tired and worn out, he wanted to go in, but his heart won-out and he was on his way down to apartment 2F.
After a soft knock, the door opened and Ralph Spina greeted Perco with a smile. "Hey, Frank. Need something?"
"Is Roe in?" Frank asked, unable to stop himself from peering around the paramedic's shoulder.
"Yeah, hold on," Ralph nodded and turned back into the house. "Hey, Gene, Perco is here. Wants to see ya."
"Later, Spina," Perco waved at the man before he left and Roe took his place, leaning against the doorframe and drawing his eyebrows together.
"What'd you need, Perconte?" Roe asked, his eyes automatically assessing Perco for any damage. Usually, whenever someone sought him out, it was for something medically related. He still remembered the time that Guarnere had awkwardly come to ask him about painful urination. Though, Perco didn't seem to be waiting to ask something uncomfortable.
"Look, Doc, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry for all the noise. I was an ass, but you know how good Leibgott is at riling people up," Perco gave a slight laugh. "Anyway, sorry."
Roe kept his gaze on Perco for a moment, allowing the man to simmer in anxiety over the apology before taking pity on him. "I accept your apology, Perconte. Just don't let it happen again."
Perconte blew out a sigh of relief and made to leave before thinking better of it and turning back to Roe. "Oh, you shouldn't be so hard on Babe. He was only trying to get us to stop in his own irritating way. He thought if he out annoyed us then we'd quit. But, he asked us to stop first. Gave us his own watered down version of your lecture. We didn't listen."
Gene nodded, keeping his lips in a flat line. "Go to sleep, Perconte."
It was nearly a week later when Gene had managed to run into Babe, in the laundry room on the first floor, of all places. It seemed Babe hadn't been very eager to talk with him since the music incident, which was unusual, considering Gene usually made conversation with Babe at least four times a week in the hallway. In all honesty, Gene had missed seeing Babe's eager face when he had come back from his shifts. Sometimes, talking to Babe made the harder shifts just that much easier to deal with.
When he came into the laundry room, basket in hand, he noticed Babe sitting on one of the washing machines. Cross-legged, bare foot, and with his nose in his phone, Babe was actually a little adorable. His thumbs were moving rapidly across the screen as he typed out a text message. It seemed he didn't even notice Gene.
"Hello, Edward," Gene greeted, dropping the basket onto a washing machine near Babe, moving to open another one and dump his clothes in. It was all his dirty scrubs, since he, honestly, didn't wear much else.
Babe's head popped up, eyes immediately finding Gene before averting again. He offered a weak smile. "Heya, Gene."
Gene watched Babe go back to looking at his cellphone, now obviously fidgeting with it. He seemed uncomfortable and Gene felt the sharp pain of guilt to know he had made Babe, usually so joyful and bright, to be uncomfortable around him.
Running a hand through his hair, Gene finished putting in the detergent and fabric softener. He turned to face Babe, clearing his throat and gaining the red-heads attention. "Look, Edward, about the other night-"
"It's alright, Gene. I didn't help the situation, I get it," Babe was already shaking his head and waving his hand before Gene could even finish the sentence. Only, he then fidgeted and looked down, biting his lip like he was debating on whether to speak or not. It seemed speaking won. "But, Gene, the thing is, I'm always gonna be a little immature. It's not that I can't take things seriously, but it's who I am. I'd really like us to be friends, Gene, but you should know I'm probably not gonna change. And if you don't like that, I'm sorry."
Gene felt his frown deepen through the whole speech and he wondered if Babe really thought he didn't like him. Eugene stepped forward and put a hand on Babe's shoulder, giving him the softest smile he was capable of.
"Edward," Gene squeezed his shoulder, waiting until Babe met his eye. "I don't mind that you're a bit immature. It certainly makes things interesting around here. Guess it's one of the things that makes you, you. And I happen to like you."
"Really?" Babe brightened, perking up and looking at Gene with a smile brighter than any he had given before. Something settled in Gene's stomach at the sight.
"Really," Gene assured him. "I'd like to be friends, too, Edward."
Gene was rewarded with a shy smile and a bright blush traveling up Babe's neck and face. He squeezed his shoulder one more time and went back to his laundry, occasionally sparing a glance to the man sitting on a washer. If his own smile grew a little, well, that was okay.