Ivy and Viktor maintained their own little pattern during the two turbulent months following the Defiance job. As it turns out, no amount of lunchtime sandwiches, however tasty or lovingly crafted, are enough to keep that pattern from repeating itself all over again.

The pattern goes as follows: having just agreed to bury the hatchet, they enter into a brief period of reciprocal mollification- catalyzed in this instance by "the sandwich incident", as Rocky has pompously dubbed it. Ivy will eventually take to hovering about and pestering him with her incessant chatter like she used to, very much to their shared, if unspoken, delight.

There still remains some tension between the two, of course. Viktor gets teed off and hurriedly shoos her away whenever she drops by the garage while Freckle is around, which doesn't go unnoticed. Ivy also scolds him for supposedly working her boyfriend too hard, stating that between him and Rocky, he is always either too busy or too tired by nightfall to escort her down to the club. Freckle, for his part, appreciates this handy excuse to keep avoiding the dreaded dancefloor she has been trying to lure him into literally from the moment they met, and is glad Viktor seems to still consider it a disservice.

And of course, there are Ivy's numerous subtle efforts to dig into Viktor's long-estranged family. She knows better than to press too hard on the subject, but even the most allusive reference is enough to make Viktor glum and unresponsive, immediately bringing whatever lighthearted exchange was being had to an abrupt end. Ivy always regrets it, but never enough so to stop her from bringing it up again a few days later at the next seemingly auspicious opportunity, invariably to the same effect. It can't be helped; the battle against curiosity has always been a losing one for her.

Still, things are better. Good, even. They steadily warm up to each other anew and rekindle that unique chemistry of theirs, this weirdly endearing contrast of blunt, ornery grit and bright, youthful effervescence, to the point where their more seasoned colleagues almost forget there was ever a falling-out between them in the first place.

Then the next great altercation inevitably comes, and it all breaks down in a flash. All at once their rupture is back in full effect, hanging heavy over the speakeasy and causing varying levels of discomfort to its owner and remaining employees alike who now end up questioning that it was ever truly in abeyance. There's no shortage of stubbornness between the two, so it'll be another week before they speak again and another yet before their next honest attempt at reconciliation.

Fittingly, the pattern itself is fairly turbulent that way.

These cataclysmic arguments are not centered around Viktor's unsolicited intrusions into Ivy's romantic affairs, as one might expect. Her current boyfriend has been working with him for well over a month now and has reported no misbehavior (for it's been hammered into him from an early age that it's no good being a snitch), and while Ivy doesn't buy it, she can at least appreciate that a sort of shaky balance has been established between the two.

No, what sets her off every time is his mulish insistence that she should leave, distance herself from the failing speakeasy, its motley crew of half-competent miscreants and ideally St. Louis itself. Ivy waves off his importuning for some time, but there always comes the next bloody shootout, the next rumor of some raid in another part of town, of incarceration and criminal records and on-the-spot killings of bootlegging scoundrels, and among them all the next faint indication that their short-handed establishment may require her assistance again in one of its risky nighttime ventures; and then Viktor will begin to get pushy, preachy, desperate in his reproach and impossible to keep ignoring.

He worries about her. Ivy understands that, and doesn't hold it against him- how could she? But when advice turns to demanding and reasoning devolves to plain browbeating, she feels she needs to draw the line. At its core, it's the exact same issue she took with him chasing off all her college sweethearts behind her back: a question of boundaries, and of respect. She never argued that her continuing involvement with the Lackadaisy isn't a terrible mistake, as Viktor repeatedly avers; just that it is her mistake to make, and she has chosen to make it, and that's that.

So, Ivy lashes out; and Viktor, whose arsenal of non-combative retorts is admittedly quite limited, lashes right back almost by habit. And the pattern holds firm.


Freckle looks up despite himself, glancing across the garage at Viktor's massive, heaving back. It is evening and the Slovak is busy running a checkup on a freshly stolen motorbike, but is handling it so roughly that he may as well be dismantling it; and Freckle, himself not a stranger to the cathartic effects of bashing in inanimate objects, has resolved to keep his distance and let things run their course like they always do. But still, he looks.

He breathes out a sigh and once again buries his arms elbow-deep into the open car hood to fumble with this or that faulty compartment, hoping work will get his mind off a bad, stupid, horrible idea, but to no avail. He still hears the loud banging, and beneath it the stream of Slovak obscenities Viktor is maundering out under his breath, many of whom by now sound alarmingly familiar to Calvin although their exact meaning still escapes him.

Stupid girl must be somewhere in there, he reckons. It's the kind of thing a concerned parent would say about their obdurate child.

No, no. Head down, come on-

Because Viktor cares about her.

He's made it abundantly clear that he hates Calvin's guts, and Calvin can't say he's particularly fond of him, either. They're both fond of Ivy, though, so here they are in agreement: it would be for the best if she weren't aboard this rapidly sinking ship. Soft-spoken Freckle never pushed hard enough to get into an actual argument with her, but he did make her promise to at least try and steer clear of unnecessary danger outside her standard cashier work; and most importantly, to never let Rocky wangle her into any more of his dicey, harebrained schemes no matter what. The irony of this last request was somehow lost to him at the time.

But this is different. This is akin to a familial dispute that he has no say in, so he shouldn't butt in. He should just stay quiet and work the rest of the shift away like usual.

That's right. Head down, head-

(Bang, bang)

Freckle knits his brow inside the open machinery. This is supposed to be a checkup; what's he even striking so hard?


And Ivy cares about him, too.

She wouldn't become this upset after every fight if she didn't. She wouldn't get chocked up with ire and teary-eyed, venting out her frustration at Calvin with long-winded rants on stupid overbearing gangsters whose stupid opinions really didn't matter, even though they clearly did. She wouldn't get this sad over it all.

It'd be nice if that could stop happening already.


Freckle shuts his eyes, grits his teeth, exhales. He should stay out of it. It isn't his place.

(Bang, bang)

It'd be dumb. It'd be awkward. Viktor would just get madder- madder at him, no less. Nothing good could come of it.

Yeah. Bad idea.


Just keep looking down.

(Bang. Bang)

They'll work it out themselves, eventually. It's their issue, their relationship. He's no right-


Freckle's eyes dart upwards. He'll break it.

He shouldn't do that.

Viktor bangs on for several seconds before noticing that the lighter clanging behind him has ceased. He glimpses over his shoulder at Calvin to find the boy still bent over the hood, arms lost deep inside the greasy engine but no longer moving and eyes fixed squarely on him. He doesn't speak, but the look he's giving him is very much deliberate.


"You shouldn't do that."

Viktor blinks at him. It's probably the first time that's ever happened.

"… Vhat?"

"She's not stupid," Calvin says flatly, firmly, without missing a beat. "She knows the danger. She's seen it up close, and she does worry. But she stays on, because-" He pauses, frowning at his own words like he doesn't really get it himself. "… because she really likes this place, I guess.

"Her mind's made up. She's not going to quit, and you can't make her. You'll only get her to cut you off for good if you keep this up." He allows his attention to drift back to the engine and shifts into position, ready to resume his work. "And you shouldn't do that.

"She really cares about you."

Freckle's arms begin to twist and jerk somewhere within the exposed bowels of the automobile, metal parts once again clattering under his touch, and he doesn't say another word. Like flipping a switch, on for a moment then off again in an instant.

Viktor, on the other hand, does not continue with his overzealous checkup. In fact, in the hour or so they have left before closing up for the night, he barely gets any work done at all. He simply glares. He glares hard, harder than he ever has before, and does not let up for a second. He glares Freckle back into submission, gets him feeling from uncomfortable to jittery to downright terrified, so much so that he too finds it impossible to concentrate and winds up with his own tasks half-finished. He expects to be chewed out over this, but disturbingly enough, Viktor doesn't even comment on it. He just keeps on glaring.

By the time they separate, Viktor is sure the boy thoroughly regrets ever opening his mouth. And well he should.

That night Viktor pulls out his bottle of Defiance whiskey again. He doesn't bother with a glass this time; he takes his first swig straight from the bottle then carries it over to the armchair, sits down with a grunt and proceeds to stare off sullenly into the darkness, half-lid eye resting on a random spot somewhere on the aged paisley pattern of his living room wall without really seeing it. There is nobody to glare at now, and his instinct has gone silent.

About halfway through the bottle, after mulling over things at length without reaching anything resembling a satisfying conclusion, Viktor suddenly recognizes an unbearable craving for some more of those heavenly sandwiches to go with the booze. He figures that to be his answer: he simply requires more sandwiches, and should try to get some come the morning. He cannot really do without them at this point, anyway.

Yeah. That feels right.

He settles back into the armchair with a throaty sigh, like a great weight has just lifted off him. Blissfully relaxed in this newfound contentment -and the inadvisable amount of alcohol coursing through his veins- he begins to doze off where he lays, and the last somnolent thought of the night springs forth amid his drowsy stupor.

She really cares about you.

Viktor knows this. He figured it out a long time ago, so long that it doesn't even surprise him as much anymore. He doesn't need some clueless greenhorn stripling telling him. Yet tell him he did, this one; this insufferable, inexplicably resilient and just occasionally bold inadequate who, against all odds and Viktor's own best efforts, continues to hang about his workplace two months later with absolutely no sign of leaving.

Viktor glares drunkenly at the half-empty bottle on his table. The Arbogasts' stuff is potent as always, rich in flavor, smooth and with a pleasant punch to it, a clear cut above the bathtub-brewed, watered-down pigswill he has gotten used to as of late. It really is some damn fine booze, especially in these dreadful times of Prohibition, and he glares at it for as long as he can keep his eye open. He knows exactly why.

No other inadequate has brought him good whiskey before. He doesn't think they're supposed to, either, just as he's not supposed to be taking advice from their sorry ilk. Surely no Chads, Claudes or Cecils would have ever dared try to give him any in the first place.

But this Calvin boy is, by far, the worst of the lot.