I basked in the sun in the mini plaza on a lounging chair beside 216894.  Chatter filled the little square as everyone at the apartment complex enjoyed the afternoon sun, the children splashing in the fountain at the center.

            “I think I should apologize to Leslie,” 216894 said abruptly, breaking the silence between us.

            “Why?” I asked, turning to him.  “You haven’t done anything wrong.  Leslie’s the one who decided not to like you. ”

            “I should apologize to him anyway.”

            “Them.”

            “Maybeialdkmaghewdsuiofaljgmnhaedsseiagncajlong.  Eyeldkadjioajgdchskfsnhhbout why he hates me so much.”

            I frowned.  216894 continued to ignore us whenever we corrected him about Leslie’s pronouns, almost as if he refused to accept it.  Though I also found it odd that he was careful not to do that when they were around.

            “Your adversary patty is text weak, right?” I heard 216894 ask.

            I blinked, glancing at his expectant face.  After a rather awkward pause, I gave up trying to figure out what he was asking.  “What?”

            “Your…anniversary party?  It’s next week?” he asked again.

            “Yes, that’s right,” I replied.

            He gave me a curious glance, then said, “I’ll apologize then since Ramona said it’d be at his place.”

            I smiled.  “All part of her plan.  She’s just using me as an excuse to drink.  It’s not even the right date, but they both insisted on doing this.”

            “Do you not want to celebrate your Outcast anniversary?” he asked just as Leslie appeared on the other side of the miniature plaza.  Wearing muddy military style pants and an equally dirty flower patterned shirt, they glanced at me and 216894 with a concerned expression.

            “Dax?” 216894 called.

            Without even bothering a wave, Leslie slogged up to their apartment, their boots seeming to weigh down each one of their steps.  They’d clearly had a rough day.  I wanted to talk to them, but we’d been ignoring each other since our fight.  Even with the party coming up, Ramona was the one making all the arrangements with them.

            Their apartment door shut as they went inside.  Maybe they wanted to sleep anyway.  I tapped on the arm of the lounging chair as I stared at the door.  I could at least ask how they were doing, right?  That wouldn’t start a fight…would it?

            “112628.”

            I spun in my seat; 216894 jumped.

            “Did you just call me by my number?”

            “Uh…no?” he replied, looking very confused.

            “I…thought I heard you…”

            “I never knew your number, Dax,” he replied with a scoff.  “You must’ve misheard me.”

            “Oh,” I said, settling back into my seat, glancing again at Leslie’s door.  Maybe I’d try to talk to them tomorrow.

            “How exactly did a former byte end up so close to the director of the Strokes, anyway?” 216894 asked after a pause.

            “Leslie just happened to be the first Outcast I met and…” I trailed off as my gaze wandered back to their door.  “I’m not sure we’re as close as either of us would like to be.”    “Interesting,” 216894 commented in response.

            We talked more for a while after that, enjoying the remainder of the sunny afternoon.  As the shadows stretched, the tenants of our apartment complex drifted inside.

            “By the way,” I said, just as we began to return to our apartments, “Leslie doesn’t know you’re coming to the anniversary party.  As far as they know, it’s just the three of us.”

            216894 paused, then gave me one of the widest grins I’d ever seen.  “That’s absolutely perfect,” he replied.

To be continued…

Episode 26