Felix rarely came to Freddy’s this early in the night. Usually, when he went, it was after midnight and he was obscured by the darkness of night.
Today had been far too important to wait. He had to know if the rumors were true, what damage Jack had done. He hadn’t heard firsthand what had happened—Wiishu and Sophie had told Marzia about it, and Marzia had told him about it. He had no idea if details had been missed or if things had been glossed over, but he had to find out.
It was odd, seeing things so quiet. Usually, Freddy’s was bustling, full of people ready for a drink and company. Now, there wasn’t anyone in the main room, the only sounds being that of cleaning and faint radio music.
Granted, the doors hadn’t officially opened yet. The Tiny Box had just barely closed its doors, and Ethan and Amy were cleaning up the kitchen.
“Felix!” Ethan greeted cheerfully, pulling a hand out of sudsy water to wave. “Hi! Cry, you too! It’s been a while.”
“Hey,” Felix responded, ignoring the feeling of guilt that crept up on him at Ethan’s innocent comment. “It has. Sorry. Investor meetings are demanding.” That was an understatement, but there was no need to mention that.
Ethan shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve got a business to run.” He looked over his shoulder at the doors to the main room, hesitating slightly. “You’re here rather early, though. I’m... guessing you’re not here for the drinks tonight.”
Felix shook his head. “No. Sorry. I... came to talk to Mark. About Jack and PJ.”
Ethan’s expression darkened. “I see.” He nodded towards the office door on the other side of the break room. “He’s in the office right now, going over the books with Kathryn. I don’t know when he’ll be done.”
“That’s alright,” Felix said, smiling gratefully. “I can wait. Don’t want to rush bookkeeping.” Especially not when you had to account for both the legitimate business of the Tiny Box and the rather illegal one of Freddy’s without letting the illegal slip into the legal. It was quite a feat, and the only reason Felix still did the majority of his own bookkeeping (despite the fact that it took quite a lot of time) was because he didn’t particularly care for hiring someone he didn’t trust to do it. You never knew these days.
Ethan nodded at the break room again. “Just sit over there. Listen to the radio, if you’d like, or ignore it. Either way.”
“Just don’t turn it off,” Amy said, placing the last of the cooking dishes on the counter next to the sinks. “We’ve got to listen to something to break the monotony of dishes.”
“You’re not even the one washing them,” Ethan countered. “You’re on surface duty tonight.”
Amy grinned at him, reaching for the bucket stowed next to Ethan’s feet. “You know it.”
Ethan scoffed as Amy walked to the far sink and put the bucket in, filling it with hot water.
“Is... there anything you need help with?” Felix asked slowly. He’d never cleaned up a restaurant before, but he felt weird just watching.
“The trash cans need to be emptied and washed out,” Amy called. “It’s not pleasant, but Ethan’ll thank you for it.”
“Yeah!” Ethan agreed enthusiastically. “Just leave one so we can throw the gross sink stuff in it when I’m done. We’ll get it last.”
“...Okay.” Felix turned to look at the trash cans, suddenly struck by the thought that he didn’t actually know how to do this.
Considering Cry’s soft laughter from next to him, he wasn’t the only one who’d realized that.
He glanced over at Cry, begging for help, and Cry just laughed harder, a fist pressed against his mask as if to muffle his giggles.
“The dumpster’s in the alley,” Amy added, deliberately ignoring Cry’s laughter and Felix’s lack of knowledge. “So’s the hose.”
“Thanks,” Felix said as if he had any idea what he was doing.
It took some doing, but Felix managed to get Cry to help him. Each of them dragged one of the three trash cans out the back door, leaving the third for Ethan’s use—at which point Felix learned that full trash cans were heavy and he needed Cry’s help to get it up high enough to dump it.
“You seem to know what you’re doing,” he grumbled at Cry.
“I’ve emptied trash cans before,” Cry said, sounding rather amused in a sad sort of way. “I’ve even emptied trash cans here before.”
“It’s nice of you to help around here,” Felix said, not catching the implications of that tone.
Cry just started dragging the now empty and very smelly trash cans a bit deeper into the alley, where a hose was wrapped up against the outer wall of the Tiny Box.
“What’re we doing now?” Felix asked.
“We have to rinse them out,” Cry said by way of explanation. “Otherwise stuff sticks and it smells worse than the Charles.”
Felix made a face. “We’re just dumping it into the alley?”
“Yeah. It looks like it’s stuff like lettuce and eggshells. Compost.”
Felix’s discomfort deepened, but he nodded and stepped up to the hose.
Five minutes later, Felix and Cry were dragging the now rinsed-out trash cans back inside, and Felix was distinctly hoping nothing had splashed on him despite the feeling that something had. It had just been water.
He was still going to get his suit cleaned when he got home.
“Thanks!” Ethan said as they entered. “Kathryn is helping Tyler with inventory now, so Mark’s available to talk to whenever you’re ready.”
“Thank you,” Felix said, ignoring the slightly squishy feel in his left heel. The rock he’d stood on to stay above trash water hadn’t been quite high enough to keep his feet completely dry.
Ethan flashed a grin at him and returned to washing dishes.
The office was dimly lit by a fading overhead light and a lamp on the desk, and the bookcases and filing cabinets filling the room seemed to barely give enough room to maneuver. Mark was looking over something that looked like a supplies order and quietly scratching down something that was probably the next order that needed to be done—at least the start of one, if inventory in the basement was being taken.
Still, Mark looked up as Felix and Cry walked into the room, a worn smile on his face that, while exhausted and sad, seemed to show genuine happiness to see them.
“You should sleep,” Felix said, taking in his friend.
Mark seemed more worn since the last time Felix had been in a week ago. He was sitting as if pained, too, leaning on his chair with one arm. His trademark pink suit jacket was thrown carelessly over the back of his chair, and Felix’s trained eye picked out a slight tear in the side of it—it had been stitched back up as neatly as possible, but being around Marzia for so long had rubbed off on him.
“It’s hard,” Mark admitted, gesturing for Felix to take a seat in the chair crammed in the corner. “Most of the time I hurt too much to sleep.”
Felix frowned. “I... heard rumors of what happened. Are you alright?”
Mark’s face tightened. “Ah.” He glanced at the open door. “Cry, would you mind?”
“Sure.” The Faceless closed the door and leaned back against it, preventing anyone from coming in.
“How’d you find out?” Mark asked, curling an arm around his ribs. “Did... Did Jack tell you?”
“I haven’t seen Jack since last time I was here,” Felix said. “No, Wiishu and Sophie told Marzia something had happened with Jack and PJ and Molly here, and she told me. PJ’s been avoiding my calls—I keep getting told he’s busy and will call me back when he has the time. Jack doesn’t even have a phone.” Felix leaned forward in his chair. “Are you alright?”
Mark sighed, letting his head hang back against the chair. “I... no. Not really.” He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. “It... it was a mess.”
“...Do you mind if I ask what happened?”
Mark shrugged. “I... uh...”
“What happened to your ribs?”
Mark scowled, putting his glasses back on. “Jack broke them.”
Felix sat up straight, blood running cold. “He what.”
Mark shook his head. “I’ll... Let me start from the beginning. I don’t know how much you heard, so...”
Felix nodded mutely, not daring to speak. He was far too angry at Jack to not have that anger leak out towards Mark, and that was something he very much did not want.
“It was the day after the last time you were here,” Mark said wearily, looking like he’d rather not be recounting things. “Jack came in early, though he didn’t say much to any of us, and we weren’t sure PJ was going to come in. Jack and Dan were fully prepared to two-man the band, though, so I... tried not to worry about it.” Mark shook his head, closing his eyes. “If I’d known...”
Felix remained silent, just listening. Mark had listened to him multiple times, after all. It was the least he could do.
“PJ came in just after opening.” Mark opened his eyes, and they were shining with unshed tears. “He looked... Felix, he looked sick, like he’d been sick for a while, like the responsibilities put on him were too much. And then he told me that... he’s not coming back to Freddy’s. He...” Mark leaned forward, burying his face in his hands. “He’s the godfather now, Felix. How did I miss all the signs?”
“I suspect because he didn’t want you to know,” Felix said gently.
“Did you know?” Mark asked, voice muffled by his palms.
“About his involvement in the mafia?” Felix nodded. “I’ve known for years.”
“Years,” Mark groaned, head dropping until his fingers were running through his hair. “Did you know about Jack?”
“I suspected. He never confirmed anything, though.” Felix frowned. “I never thought he was so involved in the mob as he was, though. I was under the impression he was a card dealer and nothing more.”
“He used to be,” Cry said quietly, still leaning against the door, and both Mark and Felix looked over at him sharply. “It was how he got started in the mob. He worked his way up to their most popular hitman, though, with his uncanny accuracy with a sniper rifle. The old boss took a shine to him and declared him his successor, and he was popular enough in the mob to make it work.”
Felix squinted at Cry. “How do you know that?”
“There are Faceless in the mob, you know.”
“I... didn’t know that, actually.”
Mark quietly closed the accounts book and slid it to the side of the desk, grabbing a picture frame and staring down at it. “So there was never much hope, then. Their friendship, the five of us... it was always destined to end in failure. In bloodshed and violence.”
“No.” Cry said quietly, firmly. “Jack and PJ made their choices.”
“What happened, Mark, when PJ got here?” Felix pressed gently. “Did Jack immediately pull a gun on him? I’m fuzzy on the timing of things.”
Mark shook his head, setting down the picture, revealing it to be a copy of the one Felix had on his own desk, of him and Mark and Molly and PJ and Jack. “No. PJ had come to say his farewells, so he was walking around and talking to people. He’d... he was saying goodbye to Sophie when Jack saw him.” He shook his head. “I was on the other side of the room, shmoozing up some new customers. I didn’t see exactly what happened.”
“...Jack pulled a gun on someone saying goodbye?” Felix growled.
Mark nodded. “He... accused PJ of a lot of things. PJ... didn’t bother to defend himself from any of them.” Mark sighed, shoulders slumping. “Jack had PJ at point blank range. If he’d shot... There’s no way PJ would have survived.” He shook his head. “Jordan was there, of course, like he always is when PJ’s around. PJ didn’t draw a gun back at Jack, but Jordan did.” He stared emptily at the desk. “I didn’t know what to do. What could I have done? There were two guns in play, and Jack was so angry I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t shoot someone else if they interfered.” He swallowed. “And then Sophie stepped between Jack and PJ, and-” Mark buried his face in his hands again, shoulders beginning to shake. “Did- Felix, did I do something wrong?”
Felix leaned forward, putting his hand on Mark’s arm. “No. None of this was your fault.”
“But if I’d just noticed that PJ is part of the mafia and Jack is part of the mob... maybe I could have prevented all this.”
“What could you have done? You befriended them. You invited them to a safe place. You can’t make decisions for them.” Felix’s voice went hard. “You didn’t tell Jack to pull a gun on PJ, on Sophie.”
“But-” Mark cut himself off with a choked sob. “I should have done something.”
“You did everything you could, Mark,” Felix insisted. “You gave them both everything you had.” He set his jaw. “It was Jack’s choice to throw that away. Nobody else’s.”
Mark stared at Felix helplessly, then just started to sob, leaning forward and placing his forearms on the desk, hands bunched into fists, head cradled in the midst of it all.
Felix stood and walked around the desk wordlessly, then hesitated.
No, Mark had been there for him, no hesitations. He had called Felix out on his dumbness, of course, but he’d still been there for him.
Felix hugged Mark tightly.
Jack had a lot to answer for.
And as Mark’s sobs drifted into silence, Mark’s hands clinging desperately to Felix’s arms for comfort, Jack’s voice drifted from the kitchen.
Felix stood, allowing Mark to curl in on himself, and lifted his chin.
Jack had never been afraid to yell at him about things. It was time to return the favor.