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The Line

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Malik was fortunate enough to receive a job as a substitute teacher only a month after he had finished collage. Malik was lucky enough to find a small apartment in the same city where he got the job. He was lucky enough that owner of the apartment allowed him to postpone his rent until he got his first payment. He was a ruthless teacher, a ruthless substitute teacher that would not allow students to pass just on their looks; they needed to work for their grade. Everyone was impressed with the efficiency with which he managed to control students and actually make them learn something. Because of this, it was decided that they would allow him to stay there permanently as Math professor.

 

This new position would have to wait until next school year because paperwork would be much easier to deal with then. It was actually perfect; he would move to this city and start his life there. So he will use this summer break to better accommodate his apartment to his needs (since he did travel back home once every month), and to move his stuff here. Luck (bad or good, he was not sure yet) would have it that his lovely little brother (the family brat, but he loved him still) enrolled into collage in the same city. And, of course, his younger brother refused to stay in the dorm (partly because their Mother was too worried he would do something stupid, and partly because he wanted to bug Malik more – or so Malik decided to think).

So instead of enjoying his summer and decorating his new place, he was forced to go look for a new apartment – knowing his brother, his old apartment would not suffice for the two of them. And the job of finding the new place would undoubtedly fall on his shoulders, because his younger brother was too young to be exploring city alone (he will not he alone, Mother, I am here as well… and why did you not hold such concerns for me?!).

 

The school was over and Malik was forced to go apartment browsing instead of wasting his time drinking ice tea somewhere in shade. And the apartments were just awful; people tried to sell apartments with ridiculously low ceiling and as bonus they would leave all the furniture (which was custom made for that apartment and could not be taken out unless demolished). Some people decided that half-finished apartment was a perfects selling material. There was even one apartment where the dirt was supposed to be the floor – THE DIRT! One of the owners also mentioned that he would have to allow his niece to come and stay when she pleases. Shortly after hearing and witnessing all the stupid things people expected out of their apartments, Malik redeveloped a twitch in his right eye that he successfully suppressed ever since the New Year – when he gave up and decided that his students were complete and utter idiots.

 

The search for apartment was concluded with two possible apartments; one was on the outskirts of town (rather spacious one with acceptable monthly rate), and another was in vicinity of both Malik’s school and Kadar’s collage (but had a little flaw that Malik could live with, but would rather not). As most of the decisions in his family go, Kadar needed to approve of his choices and decide which of the two they would get; and Malik already knew the answer but decided not to press the matter.

 

Kadar was sent to Malik on Friday with all kinds of home-made dishes (that their Mother sent mostly for Kadar, but Malik would share the meals). He was tired after 3 hours trip (of course he was) and demanded rest, so they would need to go see apartments tomorrow.

Malik’s apartment only had one bed, which was given to Kadar leaving Malik to survive on the sofa. Unlike his brother. He could easily adapt to this change of comfort.

 

***

 

Malik got up at 8 am, and begun his morning ritual. First he made some coffee, and left it to cool off a bit while he is choosing his outfit for the day. When he is completely sure that his shirt goes with his pants, belt and shoes, he can sit down for some coffee. This time is usually spent reading about new events that occurred in the world using either newspapers, if he could be bothered to pick them up (he could not), or on his phone. This is a ritual taking approximately 30 minutes; that is enough time to get the general gist – people are crazy and they do crazy things across the world. He closes all tabs with a sight (to indicate how disappointed he is in this world), and then proceeded to the bathroom.

 

It is 10 am when Kadar manages to drag himself out of the bed with a frown on his face upon seeing Malik sitting at the kitchen table and impatiently tapping his fingers while waiting for his lazy little brother to get dressed. There is a silent growl and incoherent mumbling, as Kadar closes the bathroom doors shut. There is also a sound of things being knocked over and rather loud ‘fuck’ coming from behind the doors. Malik sighs and his fingers trace his temples as he already knows he will get a headache soon.

 

“I am hungry…” Kadar managed to leave the bathroom alive and half dressed (he had his shirt on, but forgot where he put his pants).

 

“Good morning to you too.” Of course he is hungry “There are some cereals somewhere.  I forgot which one you preferred so I got two random boxes.”

 

“Eeew! You bought the healthy stuff! That tastes terrible you know…” he grabbed the milk from the fridge.

 

“Stop whining and eat your breakfast. If you do not like it, there is fruit on the counter.” He got up to assess the damage that was done to his bathroom. The glass soap container was broken, which left floor messy and slippery, and the bottles of hair shampoo and other beauty products Malik enjoyed using for his long baths were spread everywhere; except for the place they should be.

 

“Even better… No thank you, I will take my chances with the cereals.” There is nothing a generous amount of sugar can’t fix.

 

“And please hurry, I have already announced us to the real-estate agents and they will be expecting us.” Malik liked to be punctual, a trait his brother definitely did not possess. And while Kadar enjoyed his breakfast (or just suppressed the sound of his hunger for better things), Malik cleaned the mess that his little brother was left.

 

“Yeah, yeah…”

 

It was noon before they left the apartment; Malik wore his standard scowl face, and his headache had kicked in. This was a start of a lovely day.

 

***

 

First place Malik decided to show Kadar was the apartment on the outskirts of the town. It was rather spacious with kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, two spacious bedrooms and a study room (which could be used as guest room). They also had a little porch since the apartment was on the ground floor. Malik successfully managed to contain his joy with the overall apartment.

 

Kadar did like the apartment, it had a lot of space and he could avoid his brother oh his especially grumpy days. But the problem was the distance; he would need to take 2 busses and leave an hour earlier to get to collage in time. This was a big minus in Kadar’s book; he insisted they see the other place. Malik was a bit disappointed, he really liked that one, but he knew that Kadar would insist on seeing the one that is closer to his college. He agreed to take them there.

 

It was a 30 minute drive (by car, with air-condition), and excitement could be seen on Kadar’s face. He was excited that there were couple of malls on their way there and he (probably) hoped that apartment was in walking distance to them. And it was.

 

“Why didn’t we come to see this one first?” Malik did see it, he was being forced to show it to Kadar. If it was up to him, he would have picked the other one. This one was not as spacious and there was constant traffic outside.

 

“Because we are expected to share this one.” It makes no sense; if they are paying for the damn thing, why should they share.

 

“Share? Are we going to have a roommate? Because I won’t share my room with anyone.” Kadar never shared; he refused to wear Malik’s old clothes (partly because he wanted new one, and partly because he hated Malik’s rigid style, or lack of it).

 

“No, we won’t have a roommate. We need to share the balcony with the neighbour.” He spat the words out.

 

“And that is it? Only the balcony? I can live with that.” because, who cares about the balcony anyway. And maybe the neighbour will be cool and smuggle him some beer.

 

“And please, do not be so direct in front of the agent, you know, like you was in front of the other one. He does not need to know how much we like or dislike the place.” He parked the car in underground parking lot of the building.

 

“I was not that direct…” he pouted as his doors slammed shut.

 

“ ‘Oh my god, Malik! Did you see the rooms! Oh, oh, oh! And the bathroom! And look at… No, no, no. This one is like 10 bus stops away from my college.’ ” his voice was higher than usual with his hands waving around in the air copying Kadar’s reaction, rather poorly.

 

“I do not sound like that.” he pushed and shoved his brother to stop with the pathetic attempt to copy him. But he may have sounded something like that.

 

“No, you sound more whiney.” He pressed the button to call the elevator. And Kadar was not amused.

 

The elevator came with a ding, and the interior of it had little bench for sitting. Kadar noticed all the floors that were there, and carefully watched as Malik pressed the button for 10th floor.

 

“How in the world can we afford this place?” Kadar was genuinely confused. This is obviously one of those elite buildings designed for higher class people.

 

“How can I afford it?” It needed to be stressed, Kadar was the one spending the money, not earning it. “And the price was lowered because of some accident, and the fact that contractor forgot to put separate balconies.” He just would not drop the balcony sharing thing.

 

“Mom will pay for part of it.”

 

“But that still does not put you in the paying grid.” And they reached their floor. “Remember, behave.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, bla, bla.” He weaved and stepped outside before Malik.

 

The real-estate agent was a woman dressed in a suit with a skirt, high heels, and her hair was immaculately pulled away from her face in a perfect bun. Her glasses were at the top of her nose and her expression was not a happy one. Yes, they were late to their appointment, and she had better stuff to do then wait for them. Kadar just offered a clueless smile while Malik fidgeted with an apologetic smile. She just took a deep breath as response and continues to lead them to the apartment. Malik pulled Kadar by his hand because he was aimlessly roaming the hall.

 

After the agent showed them to the apartment, she left to allow them to browse it on their own. Malik was already here and aware of anything that concerned the location of the apartment, its possible flaws, and the pricing. It was smaller than the previous one, did not have a study room, but it did have one hell of a view; it was overlooking a park with a pond in the middle, and a river on far side of it. Malik was generally not impressed with it (because the balcony had to be shared, and that included the view from it), but Kadar seemed like he has already chosen this one; he chose which room is his, he chose where the stuff will go, he chose where to put TV in the living room, he chose which seat at the table was his.

 

“So you want this one, I presume?” his face was mostly uninterested in response, and already unhappy with the answer he knew he would get.

 

“Hell yea!” he was checking all the cupboards and all the closets to see what was in there, and if anyone left anything interesting. Except for the eating utensils and a few spices, there was nothing to be found.

 

“You are not even going to consider the other place?” a sigh was all he could muster at that point. Of course Kadar wanted this place, and of course they were going to take this one.

 

“Nope.” He was on his way to open the balcony doors and to see what it looked like from outside.

 

“Please just… stay where I can see you.” He went to call agent back in so that they could make arrangements. There was simple furniture in the apartment that was left there to visually suggest the setting of the place, and they could be included into the apartment or taken out – buyer’s choice. Malik decided to keep the furniture since the price would not change significantly and they did need it.

 

Malik and the agent (Amanda), sat at the table and started to discuss the details; how much will it cost (precisely), what are his rights if he decides to buy the apartment, and what are his restrictions. She showed him the contract and pointed out some of the important points of it. He agreed to all the terms, signed, and made a deposit. He was further instructed to inspect the apartment before she returns with the stamped version of contract for all parties involved and actually takes the deposit.

 

It was then that Malik noticed that Kadar was no longer on the balcony, or any of the other rooms. He was sure he did not leave the apartment, since the doors never opened. After checking all the rooms again, including the bathroom, there was only one place left that was left – the balcony. But before Malik even managed to get close to the balcony doors, Kadar ran inside with the stupid smile on his face.

 

“Malik! Malik!” he almost collided with his brother before he managed to stop “You have got to meet our neighbour!”

 

“Kadar… where were you just now?” his voice was low and somewhat threatening.

 

“I was at his apartment! It was awesome! He has all this awesome stuff! His apartment if filled with amazing paintings, pictures, and sculptures, figurines or whatever! And he has this TV. It is like… The wall it the TV!” he got uninterested look from his brother. There is no way the TV could be that big. “Ok, not the wall, but it is huge none the less!” Kadar did say few more things that seemed to praise the neighbour and his choice of furniture, and the rant ended with “You have got to meet him!” while trying to push Malik out to the balcony.

 

“Kadar, I need to inspect the apartment before owner returns so I can report if anything is wrong before we move in.” he did not want risking missing anything that could potentially lower the price of the apartment. Plus, he wanted to see if he should tell the agent to call the repair man in case anything is broken or not working properly; which included checking if all the outlets were working and if there was any water in the apartment. The neighbour could certainly wait.

 

“It will only take a second! Come on, Malik. His name is Altair and he seems like a really cool guy!” Kadar was persistent, he probably wanted to comfort Malik that their (his) choice of apartment was not that bad. “Come on, Malik… You already signed, might as well meet the neighbour.”

 

“Ugh, fine. Make it quick.” It was obvious Kadar would not stop insisting until he meets this amazing neighbour of theirs. So he allowed himself to be dragged out to the balcony. He quickly inspected it; partly to see if it was damaged in any way and partly to see where the imaginary border between their halves should be.

 

Drawn by all the noise Kadar was making (because he was excited about the new apartment and amazing neighbour), said neighbour decided to grace them with their presence; and not just did he stepped outside, he stepped outside shirtless. In all his rambling, Kadar completely failed to mention that their neighbour is hot as hell. Malik turned to give Kadar you little brat face, and Kadar instantaneously gave him I know you have the hots for him face. This is why the little brat insisted on meeting the neighbour.

The neighbour, besides having the body of one of Greek gods, also had amazing set of eyes that shined gold in the sunlight. Only flaw, that Malik could see, was on his lips; there was a scar running across right side of them. It actually added to his charm.

 

“Hello. I am Malik. I am sure my brother informed you that we will be your new neighbours.” He managed to control his voice from breaking and kept his distance, respecting each other’s half of the balcony.

 

“Altair.” He stepped towards them with a smile and puff of smoke. There was a cigarette in his left hand (which Malik failed to see up until that point). Their handshake, or any kind of contact would have to wait until Malik was mentally prepared to deal with this person. First and foremost, the rules should be established.

 

“No, no. As I understand we share this balcony. Now I don’t like vague explanations, so we will make this clear. You keep to your half and we will keep to ours. If you want to smoke, keep it to your side of the balcony. If you want to drink alcohol, keep to your side of the balcony. If you have company over, please advise them that the same rules apply to them.”

 

Altair was not sure what just happened. He looked at Kadar who just shrugged his shoulders, this was first time he heard any of this. He was sure that Malik would just melt at the sight of a well-defined shirtless guy, but obviously he was mistaken. The rules did not seem so hard to maintain, so Altair raised his hands up, surrendering to the rule, and backed off further into his half, cigarette still lit in his hand. “Ok, I will try to remember that.”

 

“Now, if you would excuse me, I need to assess the condition of the apartment. Good day.” He turned around and went back in, mumbling something beneath his breath. For the next thirty minutes, he thoroughly inspected their apartment, making sure everything is in order. Only thing that was wrong with it was missing lightbulb from one of the lamps.

 

Kadar remained outside with Altair. Malik was not sure what they were talking about, nor was he interested in checking. He also failed to notice that Kadar was the one that broke the rule he so specifically made not that long ago, by going into man’s apartment using the balcony instead of front doors. All he was thinking about was when they will move their stuff from his old apartment to here. He would need to pay someone to transport their things along with a few furniture pieces. Scowling his brother would have to wait. For now.

 

***

 

Malik noticed Kadar disappearance after agent and he were done with the paper and money exchange. The apartment was now officially theirs (his) and he could decide what to do with it and how to redecorate it. They could stay here for the weekend (Kadar will probably be thrilled), but he would have to go to the store to buy them something to eat.

 

As he left the apartment and started to lock the doors, he remembered that something was missing. Something annoying and whiny. Kadar was not in the apartment. “That little brat…” there was no helping it now. He will get him when he comes back from the store. This will be a long summer.

Chapter Text

Over the years, Kadar learned that rules set by his brother (and his mother) are not to be broken. They were created for a specific purpose and they are to be respected. But this new balcony rule is just… well ridiculous. Who cares about where the middle of it was? Besides, the neighbour is hot; Kadar could bet Malik would overlook any transgressions if Altair just walked past him shirtless. Worst case scenario, this won’t be the first time his brother has yelled at him.

Altair actually seemed like a nice guy; he did not treat him like a kid, they had similar sense of humour, and there were several topics they found themselves agreeing on. So after Altair invited him over, Kadar all but yelled out in agreement. Kadar did not exit their apartment using front doors, nor did he enter Altair’s apartment using his front door; they were on the balcony and it was a much quicker way.

 

Since he is making friends, Kadar decided to also try to assess if there is any chance Malik would agree to date this guy; he seemed like his type. Well maybe their personalities would clash, and Altair is not too concerned with his health, and the decoration he chose for apartment is more adolescent than what a grown up would decide on, but he did have a nice body!

Kadar was instantly amazed by the décor of Altair’s place; it did not have much lighting, but it was oriented towards entertainment and there were all of consoles Kadar ever wanted, and all the games he could possibly want. To be honest those probably were all the consoles that at some point existed or still exist in stores; it was a heaven for someone who grew up with almost no technological entertainment.

 

“I didn’t know you liked games.” Kadar was looking at the book shelf that was filled, top to bottom, withal kind of games. And this monstrosity of a shelf took up the whole wall; Kadar was in heaven.

 

“Well they are a good choice for killing time.” He still had the cigarette in his hands; it was probably his third or fourth one. Smoking was bad habit and he was aware of it, but he is not going to quit it without any reason, it was after all his tool for relaxation.

 

“Yes, but when do you find time for all of these? There are like, a hundred games here.” He motioned at the whole of the shelf, not taking his eyes off of it.

 

“Well, I have a lot of free time. And there should be a lot more than a hundred games there.” He made himself comfortable in his favourite armchair, leaving Kadar to go through his collection of games.

 

“If you have so much free time, how can you afford this place?” his words slipped before he could catch them. Kadar was unsure how appropriate (or inappropriate) his question was, and he froze for a moment waiting for reaction. Thinking before speaking was Malik’s forte, not his. Kadar was more direct person, but that did not stop his mother and brother to try to implant their view of well behaviour onto him.

 

“Well, my jobs pay is good.” He shrugged it off, with a tone of laugh in his voice.

 

“Mind if I ask what it is you do?” that went well; might as well ask more, since he is testing the turf for Malik.

 

“You know all those dangerous jumps, flips and what not in movies?” he asked while smoke rushed out of his mouth, forming mist around him.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well I do those.” He smirked the answer.

 

“You are a stunt master? That is so cool!” he managed to be distracted by this long enough to look at Altair with admiration in his eyes. That must be why he looks so good; he needs to stay fit and agile if he needs to do that kind of stuff. This might give him few extra points in Malik department.

 

“So you find which game you want to try?” he finally put out his cigarette; his arm chair came with built-in ashtray. He was not allowed to smoke in the apartment, but he too often broke that rule to care anymore. It is not like anyone will come and check if he is smoking or not. Besides, there were more than enough times that he was seen smoking on the balcony to be a suspect.

 

“It is really hard to decide. I mean, no offence, but your collection is not exactly organized.” Another thing that would, without a doubt, bother Malik way more than it should. The games were not divided into any category. Games from different consoles were all mixed, games from different genres were also mixed together. To make matters worse, there were copies of the same game, but for different consoles, everywhere, without any order. It was chaos. “How do you find anything here? And the amount of games… Just, give me a few moments.” Kadar already had few games in his hands, unsure if he was trying to organise it, or if those were the games he wanted to try.

 

“It is like a creative chaos. I know where everything is, because I put it there. I don’t have a lot of visitors, so I am not obligated to organize anything.” He stretched, and the sight was very impressive due to the reason he still had no shirt on. All of his muscles lined out and he was a display of perfection. Kadar did not stare, but he did smirk at possible Malik’s reaction to such a sight.

 

“I found one. Can we play this one?” it was some co-op fighting game that Kadar heard much about. The comments were both good and bad, so he wanted to try it for himself to decide if he liked it or not. He will probably like it; not because the game is good (and the odds are 50/50 that it actually could be), but because this is the first game he could play that was not officially allowed by his brother.

 

“Sure. Are you sure your brother will be fine with you being here?” he took the box and opened it to take the CD. He was impressed with himself that he managed to put the game back in correct place - Or maybe he had never played it, and the opportunity to misplace it did not occur. Altair walked over and started the console.

 

“I am sure he will be pissed. I already broke his stupid rule and I didn’t actually ask him if it was fine for me to come here.” He dropped in one of the armchairs with a controller in his hands. He was already pressing the buttons and checking to see how it best fitted in his hand.

 

“So why is your brother such a stick in the mud?” he passed him a smile on his was to sit down. It seems that Altair noticed that his brother was not the best company, but did not hold it against him. That was actually something surprising. Most people that met Malik, and had the misfortune of speaking to him, found him too formal and rule abiding to be interested in any further interaction.

 

“My guess is, he doesn’t get any.” That little voice in his head, the voice Malik worked so hard on implanting, voice that warns him when he says something stupid was there again. Once again he forgot that he is a guest there, and even though they were getting along nicely, some things should not be discussed yet. This was one of those things. Kadar blamed his eagerness to finally find someone for his brother, who, in all honesty, could use some. “I mean…”

 

“I don’t think you should be discussing that with a stranger.” Although he was a bit amused by the statement, as well as Kadar’s slightly pink face.

 

“Well we are neighbours, and by the looks of it I will be spending a lot of time here. If… I am allowed?” he was looking at Altair for approval. He really wanted this game filled sanctuary that would save him from his brother.

 

“It is fine by me, as I already said. That still does not make us close enough to discuss that.” he was thinking whether or not he should light another cigarette. Probably best not to, Kadar did not seem like the kid who was used to the smoke. And there was the whole ‘no smoking inside’ policy.

 

“You are bound to find that out, sooner or later.” He shrugged. They were neighbours, it was bound to happen.

 

“Wouldn’t later be more appropriate?” there was that stupid smile again as he chose his character and pressed ready. Kadar took more time to choose his, even though there were not that many choices, but he wanted to consider all the possibilities.

 

The game was boring, at least to Altair who played it several times over, but Kadar was enjoying himself since he never had the opportunity to play it or any video game with anyone for that matter. This was like a bonding ritual for him. But he had to admit, game had boring story and only thing that was saving the overall experience was the combat system.

But the lack of storyline to follow gave him the opportunity to talk with Altair, although it was for the most part a monologue. Altair did pay attention to what he was saying, but his responses were limited to aha, uhmm, and several other vaguely understandable mumbles. This was partly because of Kadar’s ability to talk without being able to stop, and his disinterest in conversation at that particular point, together with his inability to do two things at the same time. The game seemed more important than following every word Kadar said.

 

“So are you gay?” this question came as a surprise to both, but Kadar was the one who asked it. He is not even sure how and why he did. This was the question that actually made him shut up for a moment. Even Altair stopped looking at the screen and looked at him with confusion. He was not sure what in this conversation led him to asking that question. Kadar was equally confused by the sudden appearance of it.

 

“No, I’m not gay.” He quickly turned back and continued playing. He was not angry, in fact, his lips curled a bit, hinting at a smile.

 

“Oh, sorry for asking.” That was kind of disappointing. But at least now he knew.

 

“Don’t worry about it.”

 

Kadar decided not to speak any more. It is obvious he could not be trusted with holding a conversation while playing, and Altair did not care one way or the other if they were talking or not. So the silence filled the room, except for the soundtrack of the game and theatrical death of the enemies (and Kadar’s character on few occasions). What interrupted this mostly quiet room ambiance, was a knock at the door. Altair paused the game and went to open the doors, much to Kadar’s dissatisfaction.

Both of them suspected who it could be, and they were both right. Malik was standing there, momentarily stunned by the sight of Altair wearing no shirt and giving him flirtatious smile. It took Malik few seconds too long to notice that he was staring at his lips, and his scar, not to mention those golden eyes once his sight lifted that high.

 

“I came to collect my brother.” There was a blush on his cheeks; it was either rage or embarrassment. Kadar would bet on the latter.

 

“He is not bothering anyone here, if that is why you came.” Altair was leaning against half opened doors, no doubt to give Malik a better view and to provoke him more. There also could be the possibility that he wanted to show him that Kadar was there, safe and sound.

 

“Dinner is almost done.” He was talking more to Kadar than to Altair, and he was not sure if he was staring or not. His gaze was somewhere in between, able to get glimpses of both his insufferable little brother, and the neighbour who was too liberal with displaying himself (not that he was complaining, yet).

 

“Be there bro. Just need to kill this. Ok, you can go away now.” He was impatiently rocking in the armchair, waiting for Altair to un-pause the game.  His fingers were pressing all the buttons of the controller; not that they did much, since Altair had the main controller and was the only one able to unpause it. Malik just huffed at the whole situation, and left with displeased look; more displeased than usual.

 

“Well… later.” Altair was kind of disappointed when he closed the doors. “I think your brother is mad. Or he hates me.”

 

“Both, probably both. But don’t take it too hard, he is always mad. Few more minutes won’t make any difference.” Kadar was used to this, he had a lot of experience with Malik and his mother lecturing him on proper behaviour. Almost nothing stuck; he was well aware of what it was, but he decided not to use that knowledge.

 

“If you say so.” Altair unpaused the game so they could finish it.

 

***

 “That was awesome!” Kadar was absolutely thrilled when they finished the game on normal setting. The story was still awful, but the final battle was absolutely amazing; at least for Kadar, Altair was unimpressed.

 

“It was not too bad.” He lit another cigarette, although he did not intend to do it, it was an unfortunate habit. He had played many games with much better endings so this one had left him unimpressed.

 

“What do you mean not bad? Did you see my moves here? I was awesome!” Kadar was not awesome; he managed to hit correctly on a few finishing moves, but Altair was the one that did the most damage and carried the game. But he was not going to tell that to Kadar.

 

“Yes, your moves were really… something.” He got up and walked to the little bar he had set up near the kitchen, and poured himself a shot. Another unfortunate habit Malik would hate. Not that it mattered anyway.

 

“Hey, can I try that?” Kadar never had the opportunity to actually try any alcohol. Not because of the religion, he was never that dedicated, but he never had the opportunity to try any because of his ever present mother or brother. Malik was not into religion, at all, but he respected their mother’s wishes and made certain that Kadar never got anywhere near alcohol.

 

“You sure you are allowed to?” it was a valid question. Kadar seemed like a person whose overprotective brother would forbid such a thing; and if he was there he probably would.

 

“I am of legal age, I can drink if I want to!” this very sentence was said so many times, and every time it failed to persuade his brother to allow him to do it. That did not stop Kadar from arguing it every time.

 

“We both know that is not what I meant.”

 

“Malik? He won’t find out.” He will. Kadar had no idea how, but Malik possessed the uncanny ability to always know when Kadar did something he was not supposed to do. Good thing is he did not run to tell their mother, and instead dealt with it himself. In retrospect, maybe he would have been better off if mother did the punishing instead of Malik.

 

“How about we don’t risk your brother coming here and trying to kill me.” He saw disappointed look Kadar gave him. “At least wait until he is less angry with me.” Or less angry in general; which ever came first. Both were equally improbable at this point.

 

“I might as well give up now.” He was joking as he threw his hands in the air accepting the inevitable. They were interrupted by the sound of doorbell. “I don’t think that is my brother.” Malik would probably just come over and knock at the doors; doorbell meant someone was in the lobby.

 

“It is not. I will need to ask you to leave now.” He seemed polite about it, maybe a bit frustrated at the bell. Altair put out his cigarette and removed the alcohol.

 

“Oh, sorry if I am bothering you. I didn’t know you…” Kadar felt like he was intruding. It is true that they just got here, and he accepted Altair’s invitation on a whim. Maybe he should have paid more attention at the time. And now he started to worry about Malik, and how late he actually was.

 

“You aren’t. Seems like my date is early. Feel free to use the balcony. If your brother asks, tell him I insisted.” He gave him a wink as he went to open the doors. And the chances are that Malik will ask about the balcony and why was it being used instead of perfectly functioning doors; not to mention his explicit rule about not crossing the balcony like that.

 

“As you say. See you tomorrow?” he stood up and turned towards the balcony doors. He will not miss an opportunity to come back here, since Altair did not seem to mind him there.

 

“Yeah.”