I was determined to try something new this week, however, so I avoided anything sci-fi or involving werewolves. And there are young men in this, but not bleeding. Unless you count contusions.
Please note that this has a hell of a lot of swearing.
"There it goes," Josh said as Gloria stomped into the apartment, slamming the door behind her. "The she-bitch of the Jones Avenue Sarbucks--leaving terror and non-fat lattés in her wake."
"Fuck you, fag," Gloria said. She marched into the kitchen without even turning to look at him. She still had her boots and coat on, so there was a footprint trail of melting snow right through the living room.
"Ooohhh," Josh rasped out. He was hoarse from coughing for nearly two days straight, but Charles was sure Gloria heard Josh anyway, because she started banging drawers open even more loudly.
"Cut it out, Josh," Charles said tiredly. He'd been waiting up for Gloria to come to his place after work, watching subtitled movies on the TV because the sound was broken again. But it was obvious she was in a bad mood when she came in the door, and Josh was just going to make it worse.
Gloria loomed in the kitchen doorway. "Who fucking took my cigarettes?" Her eye makeup was smudged, and her eyes looked puffy like she'd been crying, but that could've just been the wind.
"No one took them," Charles said, staring at her. "Why would you think that?"
Gloria ignored him. "Did you give them to one of your fag buddies again?" she snapped at Josh.
Josh just smirked. "None of them smoke that cheap shit."
"Can you stop calling him 'fag'?" Charles said.
Gloria glowered at him. "He calls me 'bitch' all the fucking time--why don't you tell him to stop that? Or doesn't being called 'bitch' count, because I'm a girl?"
"What?" Charles blinked. "No! That's different. 'Bitch' is, you know, universal. Everyone can use that."
Gloria snorted angrily and disappeared back into the kitchen.
"Yeah, bitch!" Josh called after her, then started coughing so badly that he sat up on the couch and doubled over.
Charles watched Josh coughing, wishing he knew what to do. He got out of his chair and went to the couch, then began pounding Josh on the back. Josh just shook his head, still coughing. Charles pulled his hand back, but he kept standing there, in case Josh keeled over or something.
"Is he going to puke?" Gloria asked. She'd found her cigarettes somewhere, since she was holding the red, crumpled packet in her hand. The warning picture was so big Charles could see the diseased lung from halfway across the room. There was a cigarette in Gloria's mouth, and she lit it right after she spoke.
"I don't know," Charles said, wondering if he needed to get the wastebasket. "Are you okay?" he asked Josh. Josh shook his head again, but Charles didn't know if that was because he wasn't okay, or just because he couldn't speak yet.
Josh finally stopped coughing and collapsed backwards so that his head was on the couch armrest again. "Fuck," he wheezed. "Fuck, that hurts." His lungs sounded thick and wet every time he breathed. He rubbed his chest, grimacing.
"That sounds really bad," Charles said. "I don't think you were wheezing so much yesterday."
"I'm okay," Josh said.
"Let me see," Gloria said, crossing the room. She was still in her boots and jacket. Charles wondered if she was getting hot--their building had mostly old people in it and the heat was cranked way too high most of the time.
"Maybe you shouldn't be smoking right next to him," Charles said. Gloria just shot him a glare as she knelt next to Josh, then puffed out a thick cloud of smoke. Josh's face screwed up, but at least he didn't start coughing again.
Gloria slapped her hand over Josh's forehead, then looked at Charles. "He's pretty hot. How long has he been like this?"
"Since birth," Josh wheezed.
"Since Friday," Charles said. He nodded at Josh's blanket. "He said he was cold, before."
Gloria grunted, then moved her hand to Josh's cheek, turning his head. "Did you get beat up?" she said to him.
Charles hadn't really noticed how pale Josh was until he saw Gloria's fingers next to his skin, but he was really, really white. The bruise on Josh's jaw hadn't healed yet, and it kind of looked like someone had painted a plumb on his face.
Josh gave her a sharp, bitter smile. "Me and a couple of guys had a disagreement about sexual orientation," he said.
Gloria looked at Charles again, exhaling smoke. "How bad was it?"
Charles coughed. "I don't know," he said. It'd seemed pretty bad when he'd brought Josh home on Friday, but it wasn't like he was going to take his friend's clothes off to look. He gestured at Josh. "He's right there--why do you keep asking me?"
Gloria looked at Charles like what he'd said confused her, then shrugged and turned back to Josh. "Did they kick you or anything? Do your ribs hurt?"
"A little, but I don't remember if anyone kicked me," Josh said. "I was drunk, okay?" he added angrily when Gloria's eyes widened, then he had to stop and cough for a bit before he could speak again. "I don't remember most of what happened." He touched his bruised cheek, then made a face. "I know I punched somebody's teeth in."
"Do you have bruises anywhere else?" Charles asked him. He sort of wished he'd checked, now. Maybe he should've taken Josh to the hospital, but Josh had kept saying he was fine.
Josh shook his head, then grinned. "I've got some bite marks."
"Slut," Gloria said. She stood up, pulled the cigarette out of her mouth and tapped it over the floor. "You need to go to the doctor," she said to Josh, speaking through the smoke. "I think you've got pneumonia or something."
Charles blinked at Josh then looked back at Gloria. "Pneumonia? Really?"
Josh rolled his eyes. "I do not have fucking pneumonia. I've got a cold. No big deal."
Gloria shrugged. "Have it your way, asshole. Drop dead for all I care." She handed her cigarette to Charles. "Hold this. I'm going to get this stuff off before I burst into flame."
Charles winced as he took the cigarette, holding it gingerly between his two fingers.
"What if she's right?" Charles asked. He glanced at Gloria, who was hanging her coat up on the overburdened hook on the front door. "Pneumonia is really bad."
"I don't have pneumonia," Josh said.
Gloria kicked off her salt-stained black boots and left them in a pile in front of the door. "Whatever," she said. She went back to Charles and plucked the cigarette from his hand, stuffed it back in her mouth. "You got anything to eat?" she asked around it.
"I think there's some peanut butter," Charles said. "And there might be one or two of the blondies you brought from work left."
"Great. Thanks." Gloria breathed more smoke out of her mouth and went into the kitchen.
On the couch, Josh started coughing again. Charles slapped his back more gently this time. He didn't think it helped, but at least it didn't seem to make Josh's coughing worse.
"God," Josh croaked when he finally stopped. "I think I just swallowed some phlegm." He wiped his forehead, then blinked at his wet palm. "How come I'm so cold if I'm sweating?"
"Because you've got a fever, dumbass," Gloria called from the kitchen. The cutlery drawer rattled open.
"I really think you should go to the doctor," Charles said.
Josh looked at Charles. He wiped his face with his hand, wiped his hand on his shirt, then pulled the shirt away from his body. It was damp with sweat. "You're really that freaked out about this?"
Josh huffed out a short, wheezing breath. "Fine," he snapped. "If I'm not better tomorrow I'll go to the fucking walk-in clinic, okay?"
Charles grinned. "Cool," he said. He flopped back into the ratty armchair, exhaling as he relaxed. The movie was still flickering silently on the TV. Charles had no idea what the plot was anymore.
Gloria came back into the living room. She had a white bread sandwich in each hand. "There's no more jam so I used the chocolate syrup," she said. She thrust one of the sandwiches at Charles. It dripped chocolate on his leg. "Here. I made one for you."
"Thanks," Charles said, startled. The chocolate was already soaking through the bread. He took a bite; it was surprisingly disgusting. He took another one.
Gloria went to the couch, biting different parts of her sandwich to keep it from dripping. "Move it," she said to Josh.
Josh sneered at her but raised his legs enough to let her sit down. He put his ankles on her lap.
"How can you eat that?" Josh asked. "There's no way I'm eating that."
"Good," Gloria said with her mouth full. "I didn't make you one."
"Bitch," Josh said.
"Diseased asshole," Gloria said.
"Stop calling her 'bitch'," Charles said. He sighed and changed the channel.