It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Exciting, new, not like the same thing they did every other weekend. But now Jussi was lying face-down in a pile of clean laundrymostly shirtsand chuckling at a stupid joke his roommate Caj had just made about ducks. Just like every other weekend. Liv, Jussi's best female friend for the past year, and girlfriend as of two weeks ago, was probably rolling her eyes and finishing off the last beer. Jussi didn't like beer and had let her and Caj fight over who got to monopolize the six-pack. Everything was funnier when Liv was drunk, even if she was the only one who was.
The apparently good idea had been Caj's, but he'd been the first to fold on it, which was hardly surprising. He flipped a bottle cap in the air and caught it on his forehead. "What time is it, anyway?" His dark brown hair was greasy and standing up like a hedgehog's cousin, and his face was covered in small scratches from catching the bottle cap wrong for the past ten minutes.
Grunting softly, Jussi pushed himself up to look at the clock on the wall. He had a wristwatch, but he couldn't remember if he'd adjusted it for the change in Daylight Saving. Next to the wall clock was a shuttered window, and although the wall clock appeared to have stopped, a very weak sunbeam was poking through the shutters. Jussi flopped back onto the pile of laundry and announced, "Sun's up. It's morning."
"Damn, already?" Caj took a cigarette out from behind his ear and put it in his mouth, but made no move to light it. He usually did that. Jussi suspected that he thought it made him look cool. Sometimes it almost did. "You're so screwed, Liv."
Liv raised her shoe-less foot in the air and stared at it. "How d'you mean?"
"You're not supposed to stay here overnight," Caj said with a chuckle. He stretched out on the couch so that the poor fit of his third-hand pants showed worse than usual. "People will think Jussi's been canoodling you."
The comment made Jussi's ears feel hot, but he laughed. "You're just jealous 'cause no one's canoodling you." Liv, perhaps taking Caj's remark as some kind of suggestion, got up from the leaking beanbag chair to sit next to Jussi and his laundry pile.
While she twirled his hair around her fingers, she spoke through a half-repressed yawn. "Speaking of which, how is your sad excuse for a love life?" Ever since Caj had come out of the closet a month and a half ago, his dating activity had become a source of entertainment for all three of them. ...At least, Jussi assumed that Caj thought it was as funny as they did. He talked freely about it, laughed when they didand often when they didn'tand overall seemed much happier than he'd been at the start of the term.
Currently, though, he was apparently going through a dry spell. A 'special someone' had pranced into the picture, and Caj had been acting strangely about it ever since. He slipped his arms under his head and stared up at the ceiling. "About the same as ever."
"Which means...?" Liv laid back against the laundry pile and rested her head on Jussi's shoulder. "Come on, spill. We've just been up all night, now's the time for half-assed revelations and confessions about meaningful crap."
"Meaningful crap...that's deep." Chuckling, Jussi moved his head just enough to kiss her hairline. He was glad they were more than officially past all the awkwardness that had billowed around this subject, and doubly glad that Liv had never thought that Caj's sexuality had anything to do with him. They'd had enough obstacles without that.
On the couch, Caj was being so quiet that it was almost as if he'd gone to sleep. But his breathing was uneven and the cigarette hadn't dropped from his mouth. "I think it's time to give up and move on, okay? I hate saying stuff like that, but if you're gonna get the metaphysical tweezers to drag it out, I might as well."
One of the things that Jussi loved and hated about Liv was how the phrase 'give up' was completely missing from her vocabulary. "But you haven't even really tried yet!" She sat up and glared at Caj. "I thought he mattered to you."
"My pride matters a little more," Caj said, as if that ended it. Jussi sighed and pulled a fuzzy bathrobe from the laundry, then wrapped it around himself like a blanket. He knew both of them well enough to be able to give away the ending. They would argue about this for hours, until Caj gave inyet againand Liv could notch the victory on her wall. Then Caj would forget the whole thing and do whatever he wanted.
A knock on the door made him jump, nearly strangling himself with a sleeve. That was not part of the ending. Liv and Caj were already too involved in their battle to notice the door, so Jussi rolled his eyes at them and got up to answer the door.
Their apartment complex was small and cheaply built, but the roof didn't leak. They hadn't heard the rain either, but Arthur Pershing had obviously been in the middle of it. Ever since the awkward man had caught Jussi egging his garage several years ago, they'd shared a singularly peculiar relationship that could almost, but not quite, be called friendship. Even so, Jussi hadn't seen Arthur since his last trip home to see his parents.
That, combined with the fact he'd been up all night, accounted for the rude welcome he supplied. "What are you doing here?"
Arthur blinked behind black-rimmed glasses, and Jussi tried to remember when he'd started wearing them. "May I come in?" His beard and hair were dripping, and he was missing a shoe.
Although no one had ever accused Jussi of being particularly polite, he automatically stepped back and gestured the older man inside. Arthur, who was often accused of being ridiculously polite, wiped his feet on the abused mat that stated quite cheerfully, "Beware of Uni Students". He stood almost flush against the wall as Jussi shut the door.
Liv must have won the argument, as she was lounging happily on the floor, glowing slightly. She looked up and stared at Arthur, and Jussi realized with a start that he'd never even brought up his old neighbor. It seemed odd for some reason, worlds colliding. "Hello," she said, looking a bit shaken.
Arthur smiled weakly. "I apologize for calling at such an awkward hour, but I...have something important to tell you."
Having Arthur there felt almost like having a parent dropping in unexpectedly. Jussi wasn't sure how to act around two such disparaging parts of his life, so he divulged in cowardice and lead Arthur into the kitchen, closing the door behind them. Before the door shut, he heard Caj say something about Arthur's resemblance to a certain professor no one liked.
Thankfully, Arthur was nothing like that professor. "Oh dear... I'm dripping all over your home."
Jussi rolled his eyes. Only Arthur Pershing would call a crappy apartment a home. "It's fine, I'll mop later or something." Regardless, he handed Arthur a towel. "Do you want to borrow some clothes? Maybe take a shower?" Something was definitely wrong, but he couldn't imagine why this man would come to him for help.
Arthur was looking increasingly distracted, which, for him, was not that unusual. "No, no... I shouldn't stay long. It's just that II seem to have come into a large sum of money. V-very-very unexpected, you see."
"I guess. Why are you telling me?"
"Yes, I suppose that is quite odd. This must be very upsetting for you."
The puddle around Arthur's shoe and sock was growing slowly. Jussi bit his lip to keep from offering a change of clothes again, then sat on one of the counters. "Not nearly as upset as you look. What's going on?" He had to admit, he was intrigued, but beginning to get scared as well.
He slid off the counter and started making a pot of coffee. Liv and Caj would probably appreciate some coffee as well, and Arthur looked like he should have liked to bathe in it. The tall, bumbling man was shivering and trying to hide it. "The money. I-I...I don't want it."
Jussi dropped a spoon on the floor. He had been paying his own way through school and knew the value of money, had probably talked about how nice it would be to have more of it as often as anything else with Caj and Liv both. He stared at Arthur, dumbfounded, then almost smiled. Of course Arthur wouldn't want it. If memory served, the man was terrified of change, and if anything could change a life, money would certainly do it. Especially a lot of it. "So just...um, give it back?" Not knowing where this large sum came from, Jussi was unsure of what Arthur could do to refuse it.
"I wish I could do that, but it was my grandfather's...he's passed on recently, and I was apparently his sole beneficiary." Arthur took off his glasses and wiped them on his shirt. The wet fabric couldn't have done anything to clear the lenses, but he didn't seem to notice.
Even though Arthur was younger than both of Jussi's parents, Jussi had always thought of him as old. The idea that his grandfather could have died only recently made Jussi wonder just how old Arthur really was. "I thought you had a sister or something." It was a half-remembered fact from a years-old conversation, but still.
"Yes, but Grandfather disinherited her because of her marriage, years ago." Arthur accepted the cup of coffee without seeming to realize what it was. He didn't take a drink right away, but stared hollowly at Jussi. "I shouldn't be bothering you with this."
"No, it's fine." Jussi just wondered why he was the one Arthur had come to, and in this state. It was as if he'd been walking in the rain without a coherent thought. "I don't think I'm the best person for this, though..."
"I've thought about it. You are." Arthur drowned himself in the coffee for a moment. "It's been a few years since I came to live in this city, but I still don't know many people. My work takes me away so much." He frowned at his cup. "I probably shouldn't do this, but I want you to have the money."
Jussi almost dropped his own coffee cup. Fortunately, the need to clutch something real made him grip it tightly. "You what?"
"Of course, you don't have to take it, but I can't imagine anyone who could put it to better use." With the prospect of shoving the money off of his own shoulders, Arthur seemed to have relaxed a great deal. Although that might have been the coffee. "You're a good student, your parents brag about you so often. And you're young. Full of promise."
That had been a favorite topic of his, Jussi remembered. He'd thought that just being young and opinionated made Jussi the greatest asset to humankind. Jussi still thought this made him sound like a crazy person. Suddenly he found himself understanding perfectly well why Arthur wouldn't want this inheritance, his own previous thoughts about the good points of large sums of money notwithstanding.
He swallowed and stared across the kitchen at Arthur. "I can't accept it." Liv would understand it, possibly, Caj would yell at him and say he was insane, and his parents would be mystified, but stand by him. "I mean...it doesn't seem right."
Arthur slumped, which made him look very small. "Yes, of course you're right. It's highly inappropriate, I should not have"
"Why don't you give it to charity, or invest it?" Jussi felt a surge of inexplicable anger twist inside him. How dare this man try to put this kind of responsibility on his shoulders? They hadn't even spoken in months! And then Arthur decided it'd be a good idea to swoop in and dump an inheritance on his head? It was absurd. "Why me? It doesn't make any sense." It also made Arthur look like a weird old man, no matter what his age really was.
"I did explain that..." Arthur said meekly. He set the empty coffee cup in the sink, his shoes squishing as he walked. "But perhaps a charity would be best. I shall...look into it."
Jussi took several deep breaths as he refilled his cup and poured two others for his waiting friends. There would be questions, criticism over his decision. He felt his resolve begin to dwindle. "Maybe I...look, why don't you just get cleaned up here, sleep on the couch, and then we can talk about this when you aren't"
"Acting like a loony?" Arthur smiled wryly, for the first time showing the side of him that Jussi preferred. "That is a capital idea." He sighed, still smiling slightly, even though it looked a bit hopeless. "Where is the bathroom?"
Jussi got some towels and ancient clothes that Caj hated and couldn't quite bring himself to give away, then shooed Arthur into the bathroom. As soon as he heard the lock turn, he ran back into the living room and recounted the story, believing it less than either of his friends.