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like the blood in your veins

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Avon held the sword out in front of him, fighting an imaginary opponent. He watched his reflection in the window. He laughed. Gangster ninja, right there. But he still swooped it around a couple times anyway. He was almost never alone these days, busy marshalling for war. Might as well get all his silly out now.

But apparently he wasn’t going to be alone for long, because he could hear the snick of keys in the front door. But there was still time for some silly here. Avon kept his walk Ali light and slid into the hallway. He struck a pose, sword raised high. He was careful to pose so he would be reflected in the big ass mirror by the entry.

It took a moment for Stringer to catch notice. It was easy to tell, because Stringer jumped a full foot. When the fuck had he got that soft? He should have noted Avon’s presence far before, the basketball dropped on the console, the deadbolt left as open. But it wasn’t time to bring up any of that shit. Today wasn’t for fighting, Sunday truce and all.

So he just laughed. “Jesus, B,” Stringer said, as Avon lowered the sword. “When the fuck did you get here? And why?”

Avon ignored the question in favor of admiring the blade some more. It might not be stealth, but that shit was no toy blade, just lethal steel. “Maybe I should bring these down to the armory, maybe challenge Marlo to a duel, huh. Look cool, anyway.”

“Why you here, Avon?”

Avon walked back to the office and set the sword back down in its slot, surrounded by all them books. “I need a reason now?” he asked. Stringer was still just staring at him, keys still in hand. Like, what the fuck had he been planning to do if it hadn’t been Avon, lock him back in or something? Avon wandered out through to the living room. “Man, this room is some James Bond shit. I remember when I used to sneak into your house and your room was just a closet with a shitty mattress thrown down. Now you be living in a magazine.”

He had always had to sneak in, too. Stringer’s mama had been fierce, trying to keep Avon out like he was the game personified or some shit. But it wasn’t Avon who had reached out when they were just shorties– no, it had been Stringer coming to him wanting in.

Not that there was much to be in back then, just schoolyard politics and such. String had already been tall back then, but some people, they saw smart as soft, and had thought to mess with him. Rather than striking back, though, he’d walked right over to Avon and sat himself down. Hadn’t said hey or hello or anything, just ‘I think I can be useful.’

String’s mom never saw it that way though, that Stringer chose Avon, back then. And now look at them. Avon wandered to the window and looked out, removed from the world in this glass box. He watched Stringer’s reflection roaming, just quietly taking off that tailored coat and settling his keys into a strategically placed bowl.

Stringer walked up behind him, close enough he could feel the heat of his body. For someone who thought so cold, he sure ran hot. Avon caught String’s eye in the glass, acknowledged him. “I like this place better than that one. And not just cause we don’t have to whisper so my mom doesn’t overhear.” Avon turned to face him. It was easier to gauge his look that way, see the words coming. “Why you here, B?”

Avon turned and shrugged, letting the momentum of the movement carry him in closer toward the couch. “We gotta ball, baby. You and me and a basketball court for some one-on-one.” He headed towards the door, not knowing if Stringer would follow. Motherfucking prison. Avon didn’t know if it had fucked them up, or just Avon’s perception of them. Either way, it was some bullshit that now, after all them years, Avon couldn’t read Stringer.

“I got to study,” Stringer said as he crossed behind Avon, most likely aiming to get behind his desk, board himself up behind his books. But Avon wasn’t having any of that, not now. He was really fucking sick of Stringer hiding.

So he reached out, grabbed onto Stringer’s shirt with one hand and jabbed a playful punch towards him him with the other. “You too fucking soft to ball, String? We got’sta do something about that,” he said, laughing.

For one second Avon thought it might go bad, that String would make it real, or worse, just pull away. But then he laughed too, swang back. “Soft, I don’t even know the meaning of the word.”

“That surprises me, you being such an educated man and all, I mean just look at those books,” said Avon as they danced a little bit, back and forward, never more than a step apart.

Stringer threw a left that connected just a bit, no bite to it at all. “I’m not falling for that. Not looking anywhere but at you.” And he didn’t, either. Kept his gaze locked on Avon, who couldn’t help but grin.

Stringer had never boxed, not like Avon did. But he had shadowed him, acted as cut man a couple times too. But right now there was no finesse on either side. Avon thought about backing up a bit, but fuck it, this was what he’d wanted, coming here. Wanted to see his friend again, not just the other half of his enterprise. Wanted him close.

He had fucking missed this, Stringer warm and laughing, their arm brushing with each playful jab, too close for any kind of leverage. Close enough to feel a gust of breath when Stringer laughed. Then Avon stepped in again and Stringer moved back too quick and went sprawling, tripped up by his thick shag rug.

“Fuck,” said Avon. He wasn’t was worried about Stringer’s health or hurt feelings. They were just playing, after all, no ill will to be had here. No, it was just– fuck. There was String, sprawled out his knees in front of Avon looking up at him and–

Avon wasn’t no fucking faggot like that cocksucker Omar. He wasn’t. Sure, when he was doing his time he let some fiending pretty shemale suck his cock, but he only did it the once. Avon loved pussy.

But sometimes he looked at String and he just wanted to be in him. Wanted to be under his skin, to be on his skin, rub all over him and mark him up in every way as Avon’s. Avon knew better than most Stringer weren’t nearly so pristine as all that, but damn, he looked at him and wanted to dirty him up. Everyone in the game knew they were linked, Barksdale and Bell, but he wanted that shit seen from space, random grannies to look at String and see he was Avon’s.

So now, looking down at Stringer at his feet, it was so fucking close to what he wanted. Especially because the way String was looking up at him, eyes hot, made him think he wasn’t the only one who was putting consideration to the matter. Like maybe if Avon put his hand on Stringer’s head he wouldn’t even have to push.

“Fuck, “ Stringer repeated softly. Then the fucker reached out, laid a hand on Avon’s hand. It was careful, deliberate. His eyes were locked onto Avon, assessing, like Avon was one of his school projects. Making the first move, just like back in the day.

Maybe that was the problem, those echoes. Because Avon had all the love in the world for Stringer, always had. And somewhere since he’d been away they’d gotten fucked up, no denying it. Shit, he a lot of the time these days he didn’t even like Stringer. But there was still all this love and business and history all tangled and twisted tying them together. Maybe if what they had was too fragile, maybe if they added in this it would put a fucking bow on it all.

Or maybe it would just break them fully. And Avon couldn’t fucking risk that.

Avon couldn’t help it, he broke their staring match, eyes darting away. He was marshalling up to say something, maybe reach out a hand and pull him up, but Stringer moved first, dropping his forehead to rest against Avon’s stomach. Avon was more arrested then when he was in handcuffs. He could feel Stringer’s breath through his thin t-shirt as Stringer said softly, “You really shouldn’t be here, B. This place is clean.”

Avon couldn’t move away quick enough now, and maybe that was Stringer’s intent. Hopefully it was because, “What the fuck, String?”

Stringer rocked back onto his heels. “Avon–”

No fucking way Avon letting Stringer explain that away. Not when he was so wrong, not when it was this fundamental. “No, you listen here. You can wear you suits and go legit, just work your real estate game all legit if that’s what you want. Be so clean you squeak. But you want to know what those business cards of yours will say? B&B, baby, you and me. You won’t never be clean of me.” Avon reached out a hand. “OK?”

Stringer took it, and didn’t let go once he was standing. “OK, B. I know that.”

“You better. I’m your history, man. You can’t get clean of that,” said Avon, dropping Stringer’s hand to hold out his own for dap. “Us?”

“Us,” agreed Stringer. “We cool?”

Avon turned away and sat down on the couch. He kept his voice light and said, “Maybe if you grab your schoolwork and come watch the Ravens with me since you too busy to go play ball.” Because he couldn’t just leave, though it might be the house gamble at this particular juncture. Not until he was sure they were right.

“Nah, I can take the time, watch with you,” said Stringer as he dropped down next to Avon, so close their legs were touching.

Not nearly close enough, somehow. But they would make do. They might be bent, but even some fucked up moment couldn’t break them. They were gonna make it through, the two of them, win the fucking game.