Normally you'd have done your research. Maybe taken more than 5 minutes looking for a new place. But normally your apartment building doesn't come down with an epic case of bed bugs that perfectly coincides with your first day of your 3rd year residency.
There was no way you were going to jeopardize your top-of-your-class standing by wasting time being picky. An apartment’s just a place to sleep and store your textbooks anyway, right? So when you saw this place, you just took it. For simplicity's sake.
Normally, that would be fine.
But, as it turns out, your new landlord is anything but normal. He lives on the floor above you and he may actually be the worst human you've ever met.
In his early 40's, Marco has an aesthetic that can only be described as "greasy". He hosts Animal House-style parties 2-3 nights a week- complete with floozies clanging up and down the stairwell in 4" heals, trying not to vomit. He leaves his TV on, full blast, all day and night, even when he's not there ( and when you asked why, he said it was to keep his cat company). Most annoying though is the fact that he has also managed to ignore each and every maintenance request you've brought to him. Things like, "My window frame AND window just fell out of the wall", for example.
Nothing is worse than when Kimmi visits though. When his lady friend Kimmi (“that’s with an i, not a y, Darlin'), is there, they stay up All. Night. making the most ungodly sounds.
If he wasn’t the absolute scum of the earth, you might actually been impressed with his stamina.
As it is though, you're not impressed with ANYTHING about him. You're only in the apartment for about 5 hours total each day (4.5 of them for sleep) and each and every one of them have been awful. You should move out but you (hastily) signed a year lease and Fuck. Him. if he thinks he’s getting your security deposit for defaulting on it.
Tonight is the last straw though.
It's 2am and it sounds like the rave that he's been hosting since 10pm is being attended by buffalo wearing heals. Your last remaining window (you've taped a plastic bag over the hole in the wall where the other one was) is vibrating from the bass and little flecks of paint are raining down over your bed from the cracking ceiling above.
You need to get to sleep, now, so, you make the decision: He's either going to end the party, or you're going to end him.
You're out of bed in an instant and shuck on the first pair of shoes you happen upon. You’re ready to make a bee-line for your landlord's apartment, but when you throw open your door and launch yourself outside, you end up colliding with your neighbor who apparently had the same idea.
She lets out a soft “oof” as your head impacts with her sternum, and when you step back you have to look up slightly as she’s a good 5 or 6 inches taller than you.
“Well, hello.” She says, quickly closing the door to her apartment behind her.
“Hey,” you reply, because one syllable is all you have the patience for.
“Were you headed up to deal with…?” She points to the ceiling.
“The disgusting excuse for a human that is our landlord? Yes.”
“Me too,” she smiles.
There’s a pause as you both stare at the other, assessing. You frown as you catch the unabashedly slow and licentious way her eyes roam over your skin and you resist the urge to cross your arms. You’re not modest in any respect but you are definitely aware that your tank top and sleep shorts don’t exactly provide a lot of skin coverage (and the combat boots you slipped on are a weird addition for sure).
You can’t stop your own eyes from flitting down over her form either and have to repress as scoff. She stands in front of you in a set of matching pajama pants and a shirt - adorned with small cartoon sheep and the words “sheepy time”.
The outfit is, in a word, ridiculous and no grown woman should ever wear such a thing… but what’s more ridiculous is that somehow she’s pulling it off. The pajama pants are loose and comfortable but hug her thin hips just right near the top, and the flannel shirt is hangs a bit loose over her frame, allowing a suggestive hint at what might be underneath.
You must be sleep deprived, because somehow this woman is making the flannel monstrosity of an outfit almost attractive.
Your gaze lingers just a second too long near the undone button over her sternum and when your eyes flit back up, they meet hers and it’s clear that she caught you. Her lips curl into a slight smirk and one eyebrow arches suggestively as she asks, “See something you like, Doctor?”
You roll your eyes, and this time you do cross your arms- force of habit when you’re annoyed. “You look insane in those pajamas.”
Instead of dampening, her smirk only broadens. “Each to their own I suppose, but if you're done with your cursory physical exam, we should probably…” she motions toward the stairs.
“Right,” you say, happy to get back to business. “I’ll take care of it,” and you make your way to the stairwell.
It’s only a flight up but halfway you sense your neighbor is following still- right on your heels in fact. You stop midway up and when you turn to tell her to just head back - you catch her rather blatantly checking out your ass.
She looks up and meets your gaze once more, smirking, and not even TRYING to hide what she was doing.
Who is this woman?
You shake your head, and clear the next few stairs, turning your focus instead to the unassuming wooden door to 3A that’s practically thrumming from the sound. Even though it’s probably futile, you still knock, and wait to see if anyone comes.
You wait 30 seconds before upgrading from knocking to pounding with your fist a few times.
“You know, I’m not sure if-“ Your neighbor begins, before you shoot her a cold look over your shoulder, cutting her off. She holds up her hands in mock surrender, before leaning back on the banister, content to watch.
You turn back to the door and wait another 30 seconds. This time you opt for kicking the bottom of the door several times (what good are steel-toed boots if you can’t use them every once in a while?) leaving a sizable dent. After another long moment, you hear locks being unfastened and the door is opened a half a foot revealing your landlord’s puffy face.
Even his smile is greasy, and if the disheveled hair and half opened shirt weren’t enough to put you off, the obvious glazed look and blown pupils send you over the edge. “Ladies,” he drawls. “Come to join our little Slumber party?”
“Come to tell you to turn it the hell down,” you growl.
“Whoa, whoa, now. No need to get angry,” He squints, focusing on you, and little smirk forms. “Though you’re kinda hot when you’re angry.” He chuckles.
You are not amused. “Just turn it down. Some of us have to work in a few hours.”
He stares at you a moment longer before sliding his gaze over to your neighbor and running casually and openly letting that gaze drag up and down the length of her as well. Once finished perusing, he turns back to you. “You got it boss,” he chuckles, before moving back in and closing the door behind him.
Your neighbor is still casually leaning against the banister there, behind you, continuing to watch the whole interaction go down. You don’t bother looking to her again though, opting instead to move past her and back towards your apartment. She follows silently anyway, and you already have your hand on your door to go back inside when you hear it.
That bastard turned the music up LOUDER.
“You gotta be-“ You pivot and begin stalking back towards the stairs until something stops you.
That something turns out to be your neighbor’s grasp on your forearm. You quickly wrench it back out of her grip. “What the hell are you doing?”
“There’s no point in going back up there, Sam. You should probably just cut your losses and try and sleep through it.”
“How the fuck do you know my name?” You growl, absently touching your own arm where her hand just was. She’s surpassed just mildly irritating and now has your full attention.
“It’s on your mailbox downstairs. Where I’m from, people get to know their neighbors. You should try it.”
You don’t like the way she’s smiling, and make sure the look you’re giving her leaves no doubt about that. “Yeah, well, you’re in New York now, and we don’t do that.”
“So it would seem,” she sighs. “Unfortunate. Still, I don’t think someone like him,” she gestures to the ceiling once more, “is going listen better a second time. Why not let me take a crack at it?”
You’re skeptical, and you can’t help the way your eyebrow arches, showing it. “You think he’s going to listen to you instead?”
“I have a way of not being ignored…” And yes- that look she’s giving instills a certain curiosity in you… But not one you’re willing to explore at when you have clinic in 2 ½ hours. She continues anyway, “Why don’t you go work on that beauty rest, Sweetie. Let me take a crack at it. It can’t get worse right?”
You glare for an extended moment before resigning. As much as it pains you, she’s probably right and even though you didn’t say it out loud, she continues to smirk like you did.
“Fine. Whatever,” you end, before turning back into your apartment, and slamming the door shut behind you.
You swing by the bathroom and, against your better medical judgement, take a swig or two of Nyquil right from the bottle. You figure when all else fails- a little pharmacological help can’t hurt.
You return to your bedroom and hit the bed hard. You’ve just finished arranging pillows over your ears, for maximum sound blocking, when it stops.
The music upstairs stops.
All the noise upstairs stops, in fact, and the quiet comes so quickly it’s almost jarring.
You’re up again in an instant and you open your apartment door just in time to see her round the corner from the stairwell. She smiles widely when she sees that you’ve returned and part of you is oh-so-pissed that this willowy stick figure in goofy pajamas has succeeded where you’d failed.
You have to ask. You need to know. “What did you do?”
Instead of answering, she advances slowly toward you until she’s standing just a bit too close for your liking. You glare back and don’t retreat, even as she leans in and whispers close to your ear, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
Her breath is warm and its absence is pronounced by the nip of cold left in its wake when she retreats back a few inches.
The action piques a very different form of curiosity and you repress the unbidden shiver that threatens to show it. You clench your jaw a bit tighter too, because it really pisses you off that she- in those fucking pajamas- has managed to affect you. “He’s just going to start back up in a second, you know,” you say, hoping it pisses her off too.
She shrugs again, and the movement draws attention to the body underneath her pajamas more than you’d like to admit. “I really don’t think so…” she says lightly, and this time when she moves to step closer, you step back. The hard surface of your apartment door braces your back as she stops in front of you, toe to toe. “In fact,” she adds, “I’d be willing to wager say... dinner, on it? What do you say, Doc? ”
You say nothing, of course. You don’t agree to the ridiculous bet and you certainly don’t say ‘thank you’ or even ‘goodnight’. What you do is simply turn and head back into your apartment, making sure to use an appropriate amount force when closing the door in her face.
You hope smacked her right in her pretty, little nose.
You return to bed, get comfortable once more, and wait. You wait for the music to start up again. You wait for whatever stupid little trick she used to backfire. You’re still waiting, even as the clock on your bedside rolls over to 3am and your eyelids finally slip shut.
When your alarm goes off at 4:30am, you feel like your head’s going to split open- but you recognize that some sleep is better than none. You’ve functioned on less.
Deciding on a quick run to clear your head, you throw on your gear and head downstairs. You pause at the mailboxes before exiting the building though. In addition to the mystery of how your neighbor stopped the noise, there’s another point that’s been nagging at your brain. A quick check next to “2A” confirms that your mailbox does say ‘S. Shaw’ but nowhere does it say that your first name is Sam, and definitely not the fact that you’re a doctor. You frown again. When you check the name place next to 2B. It just says ‘Root’.
What the hell kind of name is Root?
Normally, you wouldn’t care.
Normally, the overt come-ons and absolutely salacious way she ogled you would be enough cause to actively ignore her until your lease is up... but you can’t help appreciate someone that can get things done. Especially so quickly and efficiently. Especially in those PJs.
You resist the urge to let your thoughts wander to what other wardrobe choices she might make, in different circumstances, and instead focus that there’s still the matter of figuring out what exactly she did last night that was so effective. Did she threaten him? And with what? It must have been something fairly substantial, though from what you tell it didn’t look like she had a weapon hiding anywhere on her -not that you were looking that closely, of course.
There’s no denying that you're curious about whatever it was she did. It's bothering you, and you’re going to need to pry it out of her. And (practically speaking) doing so over a meal would be as good time as any, so you make the decision that if she presses you about going to dinner you might just consider letting that happen. Maybe. And only if she buys, of course.
Normally, there's no way in Hell you'd go to so much trouble (or any, at all) to get to the bottom of such a small mystery... but normal people don’t succeed where you fail. Yes, it’s looking like your neighbor is anything but normal. It's definitely something worth getting to the bottom of.