Stringer Bell. Avon Barksdale.
Notes: Stringer and Avon,
for better or worse. Spoilers through S3. Thanks to the fabulous Marinwood
for beta. Written for Robin N. in the 2006 Yuletide holiday gift exchange.
Highlight to view warnings: Character death
1. What Needed Doing
July 11, 2003—10:03am
D had to get got, so Stringer got
him. It's no more complicated than that. The problem is Avon.
Stringer remains standing until Avon is led into the visiting room. Avon
nods, and they both sit, waiting a beat for the guard to step back before
picking up their phones. Avon looks all right. Tired, still. A little
hollow around the eyes. Probably hasn't slept a good night since they
found D's body. Probably still beating himself up, wondering what he could've
maybe done different to keep the boy on track.
Stringer hesitates before leaning in closer to the divider. He keeps his
voice pitched low. "You getting everything you need in there?"
"Yeah." Avon nods, scratches his nose. He slouches back in the hard plastic
chair, looking easy in the way Avon always looks easy, even when everything
is fucked. He won't meet Stringer's eyes.
"Good. That's good." Stringer nods back, and they fall slient.
This crafty shit feels wrong. They
don't keep secrets from each other, it's one of the things that's always
made them strong. But there's no other way to play this one. Family is
Avon's weak spot, and he'd never have been able to do what needed doing,
not to his own nephew. He couldn't see, wouldn't
see the extent of the risk, especially not with Brianna all whispering
in his ear about how D could take it, how her boy could carry, do the
family proud. Family? Avon's the closest thing Stringer's ever had to
family. The real kind of family, the family you made.
D, on the other hand, was the kind of family that got you into trouble.
The kind you had to keep forgiving when they fucked up, just because they
D never had the heart for the game. One day (soon,
from the sounds of things) some smart cop, some prison counselor, would've
pretended to care just a little too good, and cracked D wide. Would've
pried right into his soft, guilty heart, his conscience,
and sent everything crashing down around them just when they were about
to turn the corner and become untouchable. If D rolled, they could've
lost everything they'd worked their whole lives for. Everything they'd
built. Everything they'd sweated, and struggled, and fought, and killed
Stringer's not about to let that happen. Not to Avon, and not to himself.
He clears his throat. "Business is going good. We're working shit out,
you're going to see."
Avon laughs and looks up. "What I see, is you got a better suit on every
time you come up in here."
"Only the beginning, man," Stringer says, smiling. Avon always notices
the little things. "As soon as we get those building permits? Sky's the
limit. Less risk, more money, it's all good."
Avon nods again, slowly. He still doesn't look completely convinced. But
Stringer knows that someday, when he can finally see the whole fucking
picture, Avon will understand.
2. Back in the Day
September 23, 1985—3:32pm
Stringer hears a shout, and there's a jolt of electricity in the air
as everyone in the toy store seems to realize what's happening all at
once. Then Avon is breaking for the fire exit and Stringer jumps to follow.
Avon is bone-ass skinny but fucking fast, even in unlaced Adidas.
Stringer's clutching the box holding the badminton set against his chest
and charging as hard as he can. If he can even halfway keep up with Avon
he’s gonna beat the hell out of any fucking rent-a-cop working down the
But this guy is younger and fitter than any security guard who's tried
to run them down before, and Stringer can feel his pounding feet behind
them. A wild fury wells up in Stringer’s chest—he is not
going to get caught on this shit, and why the fuck did he try to grab
something so big?—and he runs all the harder. Avon knows the streets and
alleyways better than anyone, so Stringer doesn't worry about where they're
headed, just pours all his concentration into keeping his feet moving.
They zig and zag and backtrack and sidetrack and still
this guy is on their heels.
Avon takes a corner hard, unexpected, and Stringer slips trying to follow.
He regains his balance, but crushes the box with the badminton set in
the effort. He can hear one of the racquets rattling around loose now.
The box is coming apart, he can feel with just the edge of his fingers
where the bottom flap is opening up. He can’t afford to readjust it now—he’ll
either get caught, or lose everything if he tries.
The loose racquet is clunking around in time to his strides, then Stringer
feels the handle hitting his thigh before the box flap gives completely
and the racquet falls clattering to the street. Stringer keeps running.
Behind him, the security guard gives a breathless shout, and Stringer
realizes he's finally giving up the chase. Three blocks and two cutbacks
later, about to collapse, Stringer takes the last corner and pulls up
to a stop beside Avon. Bent double, sucking wind hard, he drops the crushed
badminton set box onto the ground.
“What the fuck—“ Avon is gasping to catch his breath and laughing at
the same time. “You sent that Carl Lewis motherfucker on our asses over
a badminton set?”
Stringer looks at the tangled bundle of net and racquets—only three now—sticking
out of the bottom of the open box. The two stupid rubber-tipped… whatever
you called the things you hit, lodged in the webbing like plastic spiders.
“What the hell you even want with that?" Avon continues, wiping at his
eyes. "We ain't got no fucking yard,
in case you didn't notice.”
“Shut up,” Stringer says, kicking the box. But his face is burning because
he can see it in his mind now—skinny chrome stem and leather-wrapped grip
sticking out of a gym bag, lying on its side in the back of a brand new
Beamer 735 sportwagon three preppie white boys from the county pulled
up to the corner in, the day before. He flashes on their pastel flipped-collar
real deal Ralph Lauren fucking polo shirts and Vuarnet shades.
“Yo, come on,” Avon says, calling him back. He pulls a brand new can
of Spalding's from the inside pocket of his denim jacket. “At least I
got us something we can use. Let’s
go down to the wall and play some before it gets dark.”
“Yeah,” Stringer says. He nods slowly, but his mood is lifting at the
idea of a couple of games of handball.
Avon grabs at his arm, shakes it and laughs, muttering, “crazy fucker,”
under his breath, and Stringer finally breaks into a real smile.
He gives the badminton set one last kick, and leaves it in the alley.
3. Living Like Kings
May 8, 2002—11:51pm
The day's take is finally counted and squared away when Avon calls Orlando
to send up a couple of the dancers with drinks. Stringer's been waiting
for a quiet moment and it looks like between now and when the girls get
here is going to be his only chance tonight.
"Check this out," Stringer says, opening his wallet and drawing out one
of the new B&B Enterprises business cards he picked up that afternoon.
"All right, I like it," Avon says, holding the card up to the light
and grinning. "B and B. Barksdale and Bell, now and forever."
"You know it," Stringer says, slipping the wallet back into his pocket.
He knows it, but it never gets old
Avon's still smiling. He's already high off the good count. "So, now
we're gonna start that empire you keep on telling me about?"
Stringer knows Avon's just having fun with him, but he can't help rising
to the bait anyway because Avon's always been a little skeptical.
"You wait and see what happens to the value of that waterfront property
when the Fed grants start rolling in to fix that shit up. In two years,
we're going to be making so much clean money in real estate, we won't
ever have to move another package again if we don't want to."
"Always trying to make me give up my livelihood." Avon laughs. He's in
a good fucking mood tonight.
"I'm just saying, it's time we started getting a little more Godfather,
and a little less Scarface around
here," Stringer says, hiding a smile.
"Don't even!" Avon half jumps out of his seat and jabs his finger toward
Stringer's chest the same way he has since 1983 when this argument started.
"You know Tony Montana was the shit."
"Montana was careless," Stringer corrects, jabbing back. "Michael Corleone?
Fucking smart. That's how you do
the gangster shit, right there."
Avon's mouth opens to snap a reply when there's a knock at the door,
and Rachelle and 'Nica come in on a thick waft of perfume. 'Nica's carrying
a tray with four scotch-on-the-rocks and she's still got a little sheen
of sweat on her from dancing her shift a few minutes ago. She's one of
Avon's favorites, and his eyes are all over her as he takes two glasses
from the tray.
"Here you go, B, drink up." Avon turns to hand Stringer a glass.
Stringer hesitates. Rachelle's fine, but it's getting late and he's tired
for starting a heavy party scene. "Ah, I can't stay. Got class in the
"Class." Avon shakes his head. "Damn, String, if you ain't the most striving
motherfucker I've ever known. One drink, right?"
"Yeah," Stringer sighs, knowing when he's beat. There's no such thing
as 'one drink' with Avon, and club girls, after hours.
"Us, baby." Avon grins and and lifts his glass.
Stringer drains his scotch in one cold fire gulp. He's half smiling even
before Avon can crowd in and grab his arm, whisper too-loud, "You know
you've gotta stay and get you some of that,"
while inclining his head toward Rachelle and 'Nica, who are leaning against
Stringer's desk, sipping their drinks in a nervous kind of casual.
Later, sprawled on the suspiciously stained sofa, Stringer feels the heat
pooling in his groin and marvels once again that a couple of skinny little
hoppers out of the Poe Homes are doing what they're doing: owning the
streets, making mad cash, getting respect, living like kings. All because
they stuck together.
He meets Avon's wide, dilated eyes over the top of 'Nica's head, and they
both burst out laughing.
4. Just Business
December 12, 2004--12:28pm
A long time ago, during a slow day on the corner, Stringer read to Avon
from a battered copy of Guns & Ammo.
An article about comparative muzzle velocities kept them amused for almost
an hour. Avon would look back over his shoulder to the rowhouse stoop
where Stringer was sitting, call out a make and model, and Stringer would
check the chart to see if it was listed.
The Walther PPK is James Bond's gun, so of course they looked it up, even
though neither of them had ever seen one in West Baltimore. Muzzle velocity
of about 1150 feet per second, under normal conditions. Not the most blasting
thing you'd ever run into, but plenty enough to get the job done. Stringer
remembers this, because he's always had a good head for numbers. He can
rattle off Eddie Murray’s batting average for every year of his career.
Back when he and Avon were still involved in the day-to-day, Stringer
kept the count mentally, and knew immediately when someone was trying
to fuck with them. He still remembered license plate numbers of people
who'd done them dirt years ago. No
special effort, he just remembered.
1150 feet per second is plenty enough. It figures that Brother Muzone
would carry something quirky like the Walther. Pistol of choice for bowtie-wearing
motherfuckers the world over, it seems. Omar's shotgun is overkill.
The two of them, Muzone and Omar together, is a message Stringer's brain
balks at deciphering. Instead, his head is filled with random fragments
of nonsense like the muzzle velocity of a PPK, and Eddie Murray batting
.260 the year he retired.
“Your boy gave you up,” Omar says. And Stringer believes it--Omar doesn't
lie--but he can't really believe
Because Avon would never do him like that.
But then... Stringer can imagine Avon's shrug, hear his flat inflection
on the same words the two of them have said so many times before to other
people: "Nothing personal, cuz. Just business."
Stringer looks from Omar's shotgun, to Muzone's PPK, and briefly closes
his eyes. He gets it now. Business is done.
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