september 18, 2021 — bingo scene — gigi stanich & beau leblanc

There were small ways that could’ve made the night go either from bad to worse or alright to best. Beau knew that it was just a flip of the hat and the hope that things didn’t get too out of control that he couldn’t reel it in if he needed to. He was lucky in the way that most of the time, it worked out for him. Even when it didn’t feel like it was. It double backed and found its way of working out for him at the end. He didn’t even just hold it off to how insane it felt like his life had gotten.

The evening chatter from the road ahead when all but twelve feet away the group of men had gathered behind a pawn shop while Beau sat on the steps while he scrolled through his phone with a bored expression on his face. He’d been invited because he felt bad for the one kid from the chop shop because it seemed like they were getting ready to dump the kid’s ass once they got what they needed from the store front. But that was just based on a hunch, the kid hovered behind most of the ‘players’ of the whole job. Trying to interject whenever he could his two-cents but honestly, he just looked happy to be involved.

It felt like a knife twisted in his gut. Beau had seen the same expression years ago but he had ignored it because he wanted to do something “better” with his life which seemed like a big joke when he was sitting in the alley. “What’s he going to do?” Someone finally spoke up and Beau knew it was directed towards him.

“I just like to watch, obviously.” He flashed a wide smile, winking behind his sunglasses. It earned a scoff from another who had already pulled a ski mask over his head as if that was going to stop attention being brought to them. Clearly this was the first time they had tried something like this and judging from one of their hands shaking...he really couldn’t put too much faith in any of them.

“Enough talk! Let’s just get this going.” Beau cringed as he moved from the steps as they started up the steps, waiting to come up from behind them and ignoring the kid’s nearly bouncing energy while he followed up the steps. It took all of ten minutes for them to get the door kicked open and none of them took notice of Beau cringing somewhere in the background. The standards were apparently low for them as they rushed inside and Beau lingered somewhere at the door entrance, listening to the clamor inside while he noticed someone had found themselves in the alley.

At least the alarm setting to the pawn shop was on ‘low’ or he was just used to it by now. “Bonjour.”

Gigi wasn't entirely sure why she was there. Or how, either. She'd been walking from work to get to the bus stop, mostly paying attention to her phone — she knew it was a bad habit, she should pay more attention to her surroundings, but too late — feeling a little prick at the hair on the back of her neck that had drawn her attention up long enough to make sure she was safe. And then it was like that feeling had steered her to now, standing in an alley. Alleys weren't exactly known for being safe, fun places, so she felt a bit more of a pit in her stomach as she realized where she was and the unsettled feeling of not really knowing how she'd got there. Or why.

But that voice was familiar, that drawl, which only prompted more confusion, because — “Beau?”

Stashing her phone in her pocket, still wary, she took a quick glance around before taking a step closer. At least Beau was familiar, a friendly face, tamping down the unsettled knot in her stomach. “...hi? What are you doing? What am I doing?” she added, brow furrowing as she let out a huff. “I think I got lost, somehow.”

On a walk she made all the time, work to the bus. The bus to work. All the time. But there she was.

The last time Beau had seen Gigi in person it was when he had snuck into her hospital room to offer gifts because he felt some sort of pull to be “kind” for the time being. Or get around to actually admitting that he cared about people other than himself. It’d been difficult to do so as of late when it came to having his father linger around his apartment. Even more so when it came to his alter life that he had been hiding from a majority of his friends. The only one that truly knew was Rami and she was the instigator of a fraction of the things he got up to.

Tonight wasn’t a Rami related incident, he just felt bad for a kid who was probably getting over his head. “Maybe...a short cut?” He assumed people cut through the alley all the time to get to places faster, he assumed that might have been the way to do it. Especially with how late it had been right now and the fact that the alley was fairly poorly lit with the exception of the light hanging over them at the moment.

Beau didn’t hide the concern etched across his face when she seemed confused as to why she was there. “Do you know where you were headed, chere? Maybe…” He looked over his shoulder at the open door. “I can walk you to your destination? Or half way there at least.”

Something felt wrong, off, but not in a way Gigi could place. Late night, dark alley, of course it felt creepy, sinister, lots of different icky ways that she should have been hardened to after growing up in New York. Maybe she'd been in the bay too long. Except this was new, the prickly hairs standing up in a way that made her take notice. She didn't know what it was, and at that moment she didn't care. It could all be figured out later, once she was home and safe and not in a creepy alley where she knew she was lucky to run into someone who knew her.

Her symbiote had saved her ass before, she knew that, but she didn't want to rely on it. She didn't want to risk something bad happening if she did. As much as she'd been working on it, as best she could, she didn't trust it. The last thing she wanted was another blacked out gap in her memory and a potential path of destruction left behind. No, better than Beau happened to be there, which she could add to her list of things to think over once she was home.

“Um, yeah. Maybe that's a good idea.” Gigi frowned, hesitating. “I mean, unless you're busy. I can look it up on my phone, it's just my bus stop — I don't know how I missed it. You're probably busy, it's okay. It can't be that far, I don't think…”

Beau knew this alley wasn’t exactly a place for a girl like Gigi, or anyone really who didn’t want to get into too much trouble. Beau was always for some kind of excitement but this was a different kind that really toed the line of just being more trouble than it was with especially when someone he knew came across the scene. He really didn’t want any of those boofens to come out and think that they could pull Gigi into the job without much provocation or even wanting to listen to what she had to say about it.

He might have been just thinking about how his dad would see the situation as he imagined the clutter in the pawn shop as the group of men probably bumped into each other as they tried to break through the glass case with zero effort to try to hide their presence in the store. “I ain’t busy. It’s just ‘round the corner, oui? I can manage a little time away from…” He glanced at the broken door before turning his attention back to her. “Whatever that situation is.”

Beau motioned for her to lead the way with a gentlemanly motion, a wave of his arm and a quick bow.

The broken door was what kept drawing her attention, though Gigi was trying really hard not to look like she was paying attention to it. Clearly something was going on, she could hear the general racket happening inside, and she didn't want to get caught in the middle. Again, she was more worried about the potential of her symbiote causing mayhem than herself getting hurt, because that would be par for the course. Better to get out of there before anyone other than Beau saw her.

“Okay…” She hesitated a moment before offering him a glimpse of a smile, mostly because of that little bow, quickly turning to head back the way she'd come, only glancing back to make sure he was, in fact, coming with her.

Waiting until they were clear of the alley, back to what felt like the actual city and not the shadows of it, Gigi looked over at Beau and worried at the inside of her lip before speaking. “Are you okay? You're not like, in trouble or anything, right?”

Beau really...didn’t want to be there. He had a bad feeling from the jump that he was dealing with amateurs and that only meant that they would get overly excited when it came to grabbing something. Gone were the days of the regular smash and grabs, these guys were probably taking insta videos of the entire break-in as if they were going to get away with it. At most, they could at least run away for a short time. The CCTV in the alley would catch up with them all eventually and he was painfully aware of that. It was probably a good thing that he did wear sunglasses at night in this case.

He continued walking with her, thumbing something he had found in his pocket as they made it clear from the alley (and scene of the crime). It seemed less messy when it was like this. “Nah, this ain’t nothing I can’t wash my hands from.” He doubted they could actually pin him for anything if his name ever did come up. If it ever came up. At most, they probably would think he got cold feet and made a run for it when he had the chance. It wasn’t a good reputation to have but he wasn’t looking to end up in trouble for something not as well thought out as this.

“Nothing to worry over, they won’t even miss me.” Or they might, who knew at this point as he came to walk next to her. “Are you okay? You didn’t even know how you ended up in the alley, chere.”

His response didn't make Gigi less worried, but he didn't seem bothered by any of it. If anything, a bit too unbothered and casual, but whatever. At least the alley and whatever was happening in it was behind them, and she hopefully didn't have to worry about it ever again. Hopefully Beau didn't either.

“I'm okay,” she said quickly, offering him a smile as if to prove it. All things considered, nothing had happened, she was just fine. It could have been much worse. Not remembering how she got there, but being aware that she'd been conscious the whole time, wasn't nearly as bad as having a blackout. “I should have been paying better attention, it's my own fault. I know better than to be doing sudoku on my phone while I'm walking, especially this late.”

She rolled her eyes at herself, her hand coming up to rub at the back of her neck where she'd felt those tingling pricks before. They'd faded, practically disappeared by now. “Maybe it felt like I was supposed to be there for some reason,” she added quietly. Spidey sense, her brain supplied, a little too late to actually be helpful. “I’m okay.”

He was glad that Gigi wasn’t the one to pry in this case. The last thing he wanted was for her to start asking questions about why he was just hanging around in an alley in front of a busted door. Though the lie could have gotten convincing if he had to come up with something. The last thing he wanted was to lie to someone who had connections with people outside of his ‘hobby’ that he partook in a lot more often than he was willing to say as of late.

Her excuse didn’t seem to make him any less concerned about her well-being. If he was going to be honest, it made him all the more worried about her wandering the streets playing...sudoku. If one of the other guys had been on the outside, an interaction between them and Gigi would have probably gone a lot more different. The group he had found himself seemed…jumpy. Excited to do something that was as illegal as armed robbery but in reality it was just a B&E that could go south fairly easily if they were interrupted.

“Are you trying to convince me you’re okay, or yourself?” He made a little motion to himself. Beau tried not to be as animated when it came to talking to his hands, but it was a habit he could never pull himself away from. “Maybe it was to see my smiling face. It has been a while since we’ve seen each other. The last time was...the hospital, oui? You pawn off the diamond yet? It could pay your rent for a while but people get put off if someone just hands out cash.”

“I'm okay,” Gigi repeated, sounding much more certain that time around. She was, after all. No bumps, bruises, scrapes — that usually couldn't be guaranteed even on a normal day, and she hadn't run into anything while not paying attention on her way to the bus. It was a triumph, really. She didn't think she was clumsy, but it seemed like a family trait sometimes.

Beau’s mention of the hospital was one more reminder of how okay she really was. It felt so long ago, that time she'd spent in the hospital, unsure of what was wrong and terrified of the worst. Even now, knowing (or at least knowing as much as she could without really knowing much at all) what had been going on, why she'd been feeling so sick, it made her stomach feel twisty to think back on. This was much better circumstances to see him, even if said circumstances were questionable, and concerning in their own right.

“No, I didn't pawn it,” she said, nose scrunching up as she gave his arm a shove. It hadn't even crossed her mind, though she was starting to make connections, between that and him being outside a pawn shop when she'd come across him. “Was that what I was supposed to do? I thought you just didn't know what to give people when they were sick, not that I’m complaining. The teddy bear was a solid choice, but usually people go for flowers, not jewelry.”

Beau didn’t feel as convinced as someone would want him to but he also wasn’t the type to pry too much into something when it was being reiterated that they were okay. There were no secrets shared between the two of them, it wasn’t a tight relationship. Just friendly. Beau didn’t want to push buttons he wasn’t meant to push for someone that he just happened to come across.

But he often remembered how it was when he was in the hospital and the help that he received from the people he felt were important in his life. It wasn’t so much as going out of his way as much as he just felt like people needed a presence there. Even when they didn’t ask for it. He certainly knew he hadn’t when that monster had ripped his stomach open.

“Hey! I’m kiddin’ chere. I didn’t expect you to pawn it.” He was actually pretty glad she didn’t. It was the only thing he could come up with when he was faced with visiting someone in a hospital, which wasn’t typically common place for him. He would have gladly avoided it if at all possible. It would have been something he would’ve forgotten about all together. “I read somewhere you’re not supposed to gift people flowers because they die and you know the saying...diamonds are forever.” He laughed as he continued walking, really unsure if he actually wanted to stop at the bus stop or keep going and leave the gaggle of thieves behind to fend for themselves. People he hadn’t really thought too highly of since he was introduced to them.

But who was he kidding? He was there now. He made a commitment to...something. Even though it was a lackluster sort of something that he had committed to. Word would usually get out that someone just left in the middle of a gig and he didn’t want that following his reputation that was already shaky enough in San Francisco. “You seem to be getting on okay outside of the hospital thing. I’m glad. At least you didn’t escape like I did the last time I was in.” Something he hadn’t been remarkably fond of from the start but it did give something of a forewarning of how his life was going to be going forward.

Well when he put it like that, the necklace almost made perfect sense. Gigi knew what he meant about flowers — they were pretty at the moment but inevitably they would die. Not that she'd ever say no to receiving them, she'd had plenty of flowers across her various hospital stays, but it was always sad when they started to droop and fade. Not to mention it was a reminder of time passing, watching them slowly die. She liked plants, had plenty of them (too many, probably, if someone asked Theo or Kit) and loved to take care of them, but they were alive rather than cut to be put on display.

“Diamonds are forever,” she agreed, bumping her shoulder against his arm. “So are teddy bears, so you made two good choices there. Not that you had to do anything,” she added, glancing up at him briefly before turning her attention back to where they were headed, gauging how close they were to the bus stop. It was what people did when someone was in the hospital, she knew that. There was a feeling of not being able to do anything, so gifts happened. Visits were difficult, hospitals weren't for everyone, so gifts happened. Never expected, but still nice. “But you did good.”

They weren't too far from her stop, and while she didn't need an escort she appreciated the company. It was extra appreciated after she'd wandered off course without realizing or knowing why. “I've never escaped, even when I've really wanted to. I’m mostly used to it by now. It's always better here on the outside, but when things are going wrong…” She waved her hands in front of her torso, as if to indicate said things. “Better to let the pros deal with it. That's what's kept me going so far!”

She turned on her heels when they reached the bus stop, offering him a grin. “I want to hear about your hospital escape sometime, for sure. Let me live vicariously through your adventure!” Her grin faded to more of a genuine smile as she looked up at him. “And thanks, for making sure I got here okay.”

Beau didn’t feel awful about gifting anyone diamonds. He probably would’ve done the same for anyone even though they might have asked a lot more questions than Gigi about how he could afford such lavish things when he was just...an assistant manager at a jazz club. Despite the fact that he did get paid pretty well, the amount of income plus the amount of spending didn’t truly add up when it came to what life Beau had been living recently.

“Sometimes, people just get better knowing there’s others around who’re worried about them. Or just want to see them break free from their tiny hospital rooms that might slowly drive them insane.” Beau laughed as he continued walking even though the bus stop was in sight. There had been a large part of him that didn’t want to return to the pawn shop where she had found him. The thought written on his face behind his sunglasses and friendly expression on his face. He didn’t want to say it out loud. But he didn’t think this part of the job was for him.

Mostly because it was so poorly planned out.

“Just give it time, maybe you’ll be an expert at escaping before you know it.” He offered up, even though he wasn’t entirely sure. Rami had helped him get out of the hospital before and it wasn’t advised seeing as he had been almost eviscerated by whatever had attacked Remy and Beau was left to pay the price for the smart mouth that Gambit was armed with. He nodded when she suggested that she should be able to make it the rest of the way there before he stopped. “Just...if you ever need anything you know to reach out right? I ain’t go--”

The night was suddenly filled with the noise of hooting and hollering coming from behind them as the ‘get away car’s’ engine backfired as it peeled out of the alley they had come out of and Beau didn’t bother to hide the look of disgust on his face. How unappealing. The car came to a sputtering idle a couple feet away from them as one of the guy’s stuck his head out the window. “C’mon frenchie, we’re not going to wait forever!” He could almost hear the men say something about how he was a terrible lookout but it wasn’t something he was pointing out or willing to confront them about.

“That’s my ride.”

“It does help a lot, knowing people care.” Gigi certainly appreciated any little signs of that, from random texts to others showing up unexpectedly, though the former was more likely to happen. While it might not have any actual effect on her feeling better, physically, it always brightened her mood. That was just as important as any medicine.

She paused when he mentioned she could always reach out, because they didn't know each other super well and even still, she had problems asking for help or anything from Theo, but it was a nice sentiment. Her smile faltered slightly at the sound of the car backfiring, the ruckus coming from back where they'd been mere moments before. Beau didn't look thrilled about it, but she wasn't going to ask questions — not about that, or the fact that a car full of… unsavory looking people pulled up right beside them.

“Hey, that goes for you too,” Gigi added quickly, reaching out and touching his arm before he could leave. Maybe she was small, and young, and got lost sometimes while walking to the bus, but she was sure there was some way she could help Beau, if he needed. She'd figure it out if and when that time came. “You can always reach out, you know. If you need anything.” Her gaze flickered to the waiting car and she took a step back as she looked at her friend one last time before letting him go. “Be safe.”