The drive back to Mirabelle’s apartment was genuinely the worst of Drew’s life. Aside from being woozy from Vicodin and bad Nesquik (she still held the flask in her fist and clenched it every time she resisted the urge to vomit), she had glass shards in her leg from the busted windows. They all rushed to get in and those on the right side of the car (Drew, who wasn’t thinking and Shay, who’d straggled behind and got stuck with a bad spot) had to angle themselves awkwardly until Mirabelle pulled over two blocks away and they could sweep the glass out. And all that wasn’t even mentioning the mood of the car: Mirabelle and Inez were openly pissed, clearly waiting to get home before the eruptions, and Shay seemed to be mentally bracing herself between her routine phone checks. It seemed that she was waiting on word from her girlfriend because that was a thing somehow.
Drew grappled with her feelings on that the whole ride. On one hand, her best friend had betrayed her entire team and put their lives at risk just to date one of three forbidden people on this earth. On the other hand, she was too high to be really mad. There was a lingering upset that would surely intensify after a good nap, but she wasn’t in the mood to feel it and go as sour as the other half of her team. She was never sour! But it was right around the corner, especially knowing Shay had lied to all of them, didn’t trust them, decided to be abnormally deceitful. And under all of this was some weird fidgety guilt that told her she was a bad friend for not seeing this and an even worse one for not being someone Shay was willing to confide in.
Mirabelle pulled into her parking spot and climbed out wordlessly. Inez and Shay followed, and when Drew got out she was able to take a proper look at her newly destroyed baby. The windows and side mirror were gone, the paint was scratched and blackened, there were bubbles in the bright yellow that looked like the car had gotten an infection from that old wreck Elvira was driving. Damn her, damn Solana, damn that grenade and damn their silly names for all the damage this car had been through. It was functioning, sure, but it was ugly as hell. She hung her head in mourning as she followed the team into the elevator for another worst ride in life, all silent and stormy.
When they entered Mirabelle’s apartment she wasn’t sure what they were going to do and awkwardly hung around the entranceway with Shay, who kept her eyes on the floor. Both Inez and Mira made a beeline for the kitchen and Drew watched Inez make herself another espresso as Mirabelle went straight for the liquor cabinet. She pulled out vodka and apple brandy, which in her book was comfort food.
“What’s with the coffee?” Drew asked Inez in the most neutral tone she could, though it came out slow from her minor disorientation.
I have a head injury, Inez signed sharply and met eyes with Shay, who’d looked up to catch her answer. I need to stay up tonight.
“I’m gonna go.” Shay said as quickly as possible and inched towards the door. With her back to her, Mirabelle lifted her hand and waggled one finger.
“No, no no, no you don’t.” She grabbed the cocktail shaker and moved to the freezer to fill it with ice. “We’re about to have the biggest argument in our gang’s history, you’re not missing out on that.”
From the fridge she grabbed a bottle of water and tossed it to Drew, who didn’t even raise her hands in time to catch it. It hit her stomach and rolled away, and Mirabelle gave her a look.
“You need to lie down?” Shay retrieved the water for her and handed it over with a worried look that was likely only partially for Drew: she was still so dirty from the warehouse Drew had to wipe the top of the bottle on her shorts.
“I’m good. I can’t even feel my shoulder.” Drew said, and took a swig of cold water. It actually helped a lot, and she gave Mirabelle a look of gratitude that she couldn’t see around the fire in her eyes.
“I can’t believe you, Shay. I really can’t believe you.” She shook her cocktail aggressively. “The enemy! The enemy? How could you?”
“You have every right to be angry.” Shay employed her diplomat strategies with as calm a look as she could muster. “And you can continue being mad at me all you want. But what’s done is done. I’m not leaving her so we have to move on to what’s next.”
Mirabelle surprised them all by nodding thoughtfully. “The challenge.”
“Yeah. Like, the reigning in of that.” Shay said, but Mirabelle instantly shook her head. “Come on Mira, it’s insane. Banishing a team? It’s not gonna work.”
“I agree, they’ll definitely come back.” Mirabelle frowned. Shay looked incredulous. “But someone’s foolhardy romance took murder off the table, so–”
“Mira! We can’t have a competition against my girlfriend’s gang!” Shay said. “It’s going to get half of us killed and stir the pot even more. Let’s just talk to them like reasonable human beings.”
You really think they’ll listen? Inez signed with flailing, angry movements and a harsh expression. After all we’ve done to each other the blonde still wants to take us down.
“Very true.” Mirabelle poured her appletini with barely a shake in her hand. “But for you, Shay, I suppose we can enact a no-killing-during-competition rule. Text your lady love and we’ll see if they agree.”
“Or we can just – Christ – not steal a cruise ship! Not sink to Solana and Elvira’s level!” Shay ran her hands through her hair like she was grasping at straws. Drew couldn’t help but believe she was reaching: even if Mirabelle agreed to keep the peace she didn’t know about the head-knocking Solana. What Shay had said in Little Haiti, that she didn’t know how to stop everything, it rung true here. There was too much momentum now.
“I’m not at Solana’s level! I’m on the highest rung and she’s trying to knock me off!” Mirabelle said. “Shay, I’m sorry to say this, but you’ll have to go fuck yourself on this one. Kindly, I mean.”
“Yeah, I felt the kindness.” Shay looked down at her phone again. She seemingly didn’t get a response and knit her brow when she looked up again. “You fuckers could at least be happy for me.”
“I dunno, maybe this girl’s a bad influence. When’s the last time you called us dumbasses and fuckers?” Drew asked, because it seemed like there was no way out of this mess of a conversation so long as she was standing there. Inez gave her a steaming look and raised her hands as if preparing to say the meanest thing possible.
“Don’t you even start right now.” Shay interrupted her. “I am so pissed at you.”
“So am I.” Mirabelle said with a swallow of her drink. Inez looked immediately defensive, and turned between the two as if deciding who to argue with. She settled on Shay and Drew decided to pull up a chair.
How are you mad at me? You’re the idiot – yes, you are – who got us into this mess! Inez slashed her hands in the air. Whenever she was angry her short, rhythmic motions turned to big, powerful swings that Drew would admire if it didn’t involve the whole group’s suffering. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice? You think I’m as oblivious as some people here?
“Gee, thanks.” Drew fidgeted. Okay, ouch, but she couldn’t fight it.
“And when you notice shit like this you’re supposed to inform the boss!” Mirabelle said. “You’ve hit word of the year, Inez – you’re complicit!”
You would have lost your mind, Inez signed impatiently. I was hoping it wouldn’t get this bad.
“I wasn’t skulking around, by the way. You make it seem like I planned this.” Shay cut in. “Obviously I didn’t get trapped behind a semi with her and say fuck it, let’s date, this won’t be an issue.”
“And yet.” Drew said, and Shay gave her a silent you’re-not-helping type look.
“Inez, you’re half as bad as she is. You should’ve come forward immediately, even if it were only suspicion.” Mirabelle said, then seemingly decided to make herself another drink.
Fine. When Drew gets with The Bat I’ll let you know, Inez signed flippantly. Drew screwed up her nose.
“Nightmare. I would never. And I think she and Solana are a thing.” She looked to Shay, who shrugged.
“Candy says they’re not. The vibes are intense though. Mira, are we done fighting for a sec? Wanna make me a drink?”
“Honey, I will always be there to supply alcohol regardless of personal drama.” Mirabelle doubled the drink she was making, then set down the shaker to tick off her fingers. “Let’s see. Secret affair, already got mad about, lying, I think we touched on, putting our lives at risk, noted. She was never at your place, right? Or the warehouses?”
“No, of course not.” Shay said smartly.
“And you were never anywhere sensitive, like one of their warehouses?”
“No?” She said faintly, and Mirabelle scowled. “Too late, we’re in competition, there will be no warehouse shenanigans.”
Mirabelle heaved a mighty sigh. “You could’ve at least given Inez her phone number.”
“So you could track her down and kill her, right.” Shay rolled her eyes and accepted the appletini handed to her. “Which is my biggest problem with you, Inez, and the reason I’m about to imbibe.”
“Oh, shit.” Drew said as she came to a realization. “Inez, were you gonna murder Shay’s girlfriend when you actually knew about her?”
Shay glared daggers at her and Mirabelle spilled a bit of her drink. It seemed premeditated murder of a loved one was a little too far for her, which Drew appreciated, though she wasn’t too thrilled that it wasn’t for Inez, who just crossed her arms defensively.
“She absolutely was, and she tried to prevent me from stopping it by collapsing a floor under me and trapping me in a gross, decrepit building! Which is why I should kick her ass.” Shay said with a rare degree of anger. It was her own special brand, the kind that elevated a teensy bit snooty into cold and haughty. Again Drew would love to see it if it weren’t for the whole suffering thing. “You understand that murdering your friend’s girlfriend is a bad thing, right? And almost breaking my goddamn leg when that floor collapsed is also not totally cool?”
Yeah, but – Inez paused, knit her brow, and started again. Yeah, but –
“What? Go ahead, make an excuse. I’m all eyes.” Shay’s brows went sky high as Inez hesitated.
Okay, it was slightly evil.
But I thought it was best to nip it in the bud! She signed, her expression a bit desperate. Drew got the sense that hindsight was really doing a number on her.
“I believe it’s butt.” She not-really-corrected in attempt to soften the mood, but was ignored entirely.
“Inez, you can’t screw around with secrets and plans all the time. You can’t play politics.” Mirabelle said in as gentle a tone she could manage. Inez seemed to notice she was being talked down to a little and wasn’t having it.
If I didn’t play politics we’d have shit like this going on! She signed, then gestured vaguely around the room and very pointedly at the alcohol. We’d have civil war!
“Maybe if you trusted us a little you’d see that we’re not going to fall apart with every issue. We are sharing a drink after all.” Shay said, then tilted her glass in Mirabelle’s direction, a sign of good faith. Mirabelle nodded and lifted her own in turn. Drew marveled at it: they really were making up solely through fighting someone else.
Possibly your last, idiot, because we bet our lives on a cruise ship heist! Inez signed. It wasn’t their lives, only their lives in Miami, but everyone except Drew had been born and raised here and she understood how it may have felt one and the same. And her first five years in Venezuela did nothing to sway the fact that Miami was home to her, too. But she didn’t want to think of that.
“Oh, you’re a fool if you think Mirabelle won’t have another drink before then.” Drew said, and Mirabelle toasted her now.
“Stop calling me an idiot! I’m an idiot because I like a pretty girl? Everyone likes pretty girls, Inez, get your head out of your ass!” Shay yelled, and Inez looked taken aback. “You’re the idiot! Because you’re in your own head playing control freak hoping we don’t go into a nuclear meltdown!”
We ARE going into a – fuck, I can’t sign it, but you know what I mean! She signed with clear frustration. Surely being called an idiot again didn’t help. What happens if we leave Miami? Where will we go? Will we be together?
“Of course we will.” Mirabelle said sternly. “I won’t have my gang separated. And we’re not leaving Miami because we’re going to win.”
“And if not we can always find a town.” Drew suggested as brightly as she could. “Las Vegas is empty now. So is you-know-where. Or I bet we could take on those newbies in–”
This is speculation! It’s all ‘if!’ And you’re all just getting pissy with me to ignore the crisis, Inez signed, and with her facing the rest of the room it did look like they were ganging up on her. She sighed and looked out to the balcony, where the weather was pristine. Drew imagined she was getting as tired of this arguing as she was.
“This is not a nuclear meltdown!” Shay carried on obliviously. “We don’t have the capacity, we’re not fucking uranium! We’re just people! We can’t end the whole world Inez, we’re just four morons in a swanky apartment!”
Then why does it feel like it’s ending? She signed, and for the first time Drew saw fear in her eyes – anger, mostly, but fear beneath. Shay opened her mouth to fling a retort, but Drew rested a hand on her arm.
“We’re not your last gang.” She said firmly. “We’re not gonna do what they did to you.”
The whole room paused and stared at Inez, truly inspected her. With her hands still raised, set to argue, her usually neat coiled hair now frizzy and all over the place. She was the only one of them who’d worked with other people before this gang, and after one job gone very wrong she had been reluctant to join Mirabelle’s newly formed crew and even more reluctant to trust them. Drew understood why Inez (back in the days when they asked) couldn’t fully describe the accident to them, couldn’t get through her tears: she was abandoned, she was hurt beyond belief, and she was never able to speak again.
“No.” Mirabelle said quietly, almost to herself. “No, I’m never going to let someone hurt you. Not a single one of you.”
She set down her drink and beckoned Inez over. She took one cautious step, her head down, before Mirabelle tutted and walked over to crush her in a hug. Drew had half a mind to laugh at her bewildered expression, but when Inez finally shook herself and hugged back she only pushed Shay’s shoulder with an obvious expression. Shay gave her a soft look, nodded, and joined in, so Drew figured she’d further the crushing and completed the group hug.
“I’m still fucking pissed at all of you.” Mirabelle mumbled. “But I think we’re good.”
Inez rolled her eyes, but the crease in her brow disappeared and she pressed her forehead against Mira’s shoulder.
“Aww.” Shay cooed. “Wait, I haven’t argued with Drew yet. Do you wanna fight about anything?”
“Let’s wait until I’m not high.” Drew replied, but Shay gave her an oddly encouraging look. “Okay, well, maybe I’m a little upset you didn’t confide in me. I’m supposed to be your best friend – I’m practically your sister!”
“And what, force you to betray Mirabelle? To keep secrets from your boss? Like I’d put you in that position.” Shay said practically, always practically, and Drew softened. “And I’d never distract the finest gun-slinger this side of the Mississippi.”
“There’s a lot of towns this side of the Mississippi. But I can’t find it in me to disagree.” Drew smiled. “But Shay – I don’t know if I would have kept this from Mira. Like, not to be a bad friend–”
“You’re not a bad friend. Even if you knew and outed me to Mira, even if this went in a thousand other directions there’s no route in which you’re a bad friend. Not one.” Shay said, and that side of the group hug received extra squeezing. “You’re good. Everything about you, you’re good.”
“You are good.” Mirabelle reached over and tousled her hair. Drew took it with ease. “And you’re going to keep us good.”
“I’ve done a damn fine job so far.” Drew said, and truly couldn’t tell how much of that was sarcasm. “Anything to contribute, Inez?”
Inez’ hands were firmly stuck in the middle of a hug and she could only respond with a dry look. Mirabelle fondly raked her hair with long nails and attempted to smooth down any errant curls, Shay muttered something that sounded like ‘hopeless’ under her breath, and Drew couldn’t help but beam at all of them. Damn, what a team.
Shay’s phone pinged, and she broke the hug in a nanosecond to grab it. “Candy says she’s okay and they believed that she got mugged.”
“No way do they buy that, there’s no mistaking a long-range bullet.” Mirabelle said. “They’re lying to her, tell her to get out of there.”
Shay texted fervently and the hug split up fully with Inez looking grateful for her hands returned. And look at Mirabelle saving Shay’s girlfriend from prison! Drew was so impressed with all this courtesy.
“Can I go visit her?” Shay asked, and Mirabelle grew cross. Drew supposed courtesy had limits. “But–”
“‘But mother I love him,’ yeah yeah.” Drew cut in before another argument could break out. “Listen, don’t we have a cruise ship heist to plan?”
“Yes!” Mirabelle stood straight, her eyes suddenly bright with excitement. Shay gave up with a shrug and a fond shake of her head. “I’m thinking we want a small ship, something the four of us can handle.”
“We need a time frame. Too slow and they’re gonna get it done first, too fast we won’t be prepared.” Shay noted thoughtfully. “How long do you think to learn how to drive one of these, Inez, two weeks or so?”
For you guys, she signed ruefully. We need to look up fleet sizes and departure schedules, study ship etymology, keep eyes on the docks.
“We can do surveillance but we’re gonna need a stealthier car.” Drew said, then bowed her head. “My poor, dear friend.”
“Yeah, I don’t want just security footage on this one, we should go down there and get a feel for the docks. Maybe watch them load cargo, I think that could be a way in.” Shay hummed thoughtfully to herself as Mira patted Drew on the back.
“You’re alright with scheming against your girlfriend’s team with us?” Mirabelle asked, and Shay was quick to respond.
“What? I don’t give a fuck about them. I’m not letting you guys get kicked out. We’re gonna win this thing.” She channeled Mirabelle’s competitive streak in that moment, and Drew suspected that was why Mirabelle smiled so wide.
“Inez, laptop. Start researching.” Mirabelle commanded, and Inez went to the other room to grab it. “Drew, bed. You look like crap warmed over.”
“That’s barely true!” Drew crossed her arms, though she knew it was actually very true. Shay’s phone pinged again and she looked down. “Hey lovebird, don’t get distracted.”
“It’s our fed.” She said, and Mirabelle gave her a look tinged with concern. “She says she’s gotten wind of us bribing a street full of people to abandon the area for an afternoon, wants to know what’s up.”
“Don’t answer.” Mirabelle said as Inez returned with a newly cautious look. “It’s fine, it doesn’t matter. No one got hurt.”
No civilians, Inez set down her laptop to sign with a grimace. Shay still bristled, but it seemed she chose to attempt decorum and only gestured for Inez to sit at the kitchen table. Inez sat, cracked her knuckles, and watched Shay pull a face with maybe too much satisfaction. Okay, maybe even after all this talking Drew needed to continue keeping an eye on everyone. She would – she’d do everything in her power to keep everyone happy and safe, no matter what the consequences. Mirabelle bent over the laptop and clasped her hands together.
“Alright. Let’s steal ourselves a cruise ship.”