Work Header

war paint

Work Text:

The problem was one that many travelers had to face up to eventually: they were running out of money.

Laura's accounts had been frozen upon her death. Salim had Ibrahim bin Ihren's cards, but no idea what Ibrahim bin Ihren's PIN was (Mad Sweeney's suggestion of '6969' had proven unhelpful). Mad Sweeney could pull gold out of thin fucking air, but, as Laura pointed out, most places didn't consider doubloons legal tender.

"They're not fuckin' doubloons," he snapped.

"Oh, okay, then most places don't consider whatever the fuck those things are legal tender."

She wasn't wrong.

They were down to half a tank of gas and five dollars when they started seeing billboards for a casino. "I could fleece that place if I had my coin," Mad Sweeney said from the backseat. He claimed he couldn't take a turn driving because of his luck, but Laura and Salim had conferred about it at their last pit stop and agreed he was just lazy.

"I could fleece that place without your coin," Laura muttered around a hangnail.

"Without my coin, you're a sack of meat, Dead Wife." Laura ignored him, and after a moment he asked, something between curiosity and hope creeping into his voice, "Really?"

A quick nod. "I used to be a blackjack dealer." She considered it for a while, and at the next billboard, which proclaimed the casino to be fifty miles away, she proclaimed, "Okay. I need to look less dead. Everyone looks half-dead in those places anyway, but I don't want to stick out too much." The spray job from the funeral home had come off in the tub back at the motel in that town that no longer had any living cops, and that had been a couple of days ago. She'd been getting increasingly weird looks while they were pumping gas or getting food for the members of the party who needed to eat. She glanced down at the heavy black stitches in her shoulder and added, "A shirt with sleeves wouldn't hurt, either."

And that was how Mad Sweeney and Salim found themselves in a place neither of them had ever imagined being: the cosmetics aisle of a Walgreens at 11 PM. Laura had taken a handful of coins from Mad Sweeney's hoard to a 24 hour pawn shop down the street, one with a sign in the window proclaiming they bought gold, to get them some seed money, and, "I feel as if these tasks have been handed out incorrectly," Salim said weakly.

"Corporate security," Sweeney muttered, as if that meant anything. Salim was pretty sure the clerk hadn't even looked in their direction yet. "You're gay, aren't you supposed to know about all this shite?"

Salim didn't dignify that with an answer. Laura had scribbled a shopping list on a napkin they'd found rummaging around in the cab, but it was short on specifics. Foundation, she'd said. Well, there were nine million kinds of foundation, each of which came in approximately fifty shades of orange. He picked one up at random and tried to imagine it against Laura's skin tone. Then he wondered if she'd had a different skin tone when she had been alive he should be aiming for instead. Salim put the bottle back. At least the concealer seemed to come in fewer colors. "Is Laura more 'light' or 'fair?'" Mad Sweeney looked at him as if he was the crazy one, and not the Irishman with 'mad' right there in his name. "In Oman she would be the palest person around by a long shot," he explained, "but I don't know if she looked different before she was..."

"Decaying?" Mad Sweeney suggested. Then he shrugged and said, "I'm from Ireland. She looks positively tan to me." He squinted at the display. "Get the medium. Can't go wrong with medium, right? That's like, average." Salim couldn't fault his logic. Medium it was.

It finally occurred to him to ask, "How are we paying for this? We only have five dollars." Maybe they were supposed to wait until Laura came back with the money from the coins?

Mad Sweeney just scoffed. "'Paying for it.' You're funny, you know that, Not-Ibrahim?" Oh. Mad Sweeney was wandering off, toward the end of the aisle. "Hey, d'you think she needs nail polish? Does she have blood pooling under her nails or any of that shit?"

Salim tried and failed to remember what Laura's hands looked like. "I don't know. Are they painted now?"

"Fucked if I know." Well, that made two of them.

"Don't they continue to grow after death? Her nails, I mean."

Mad Sweeney scoffed again. If Salim had had one, he would have offered him a cough drop. "That's a myth. Unless you're a vampire. She's not a vampire, she's just dead...still, chipped nails might look bad. I'm gonna get her some," he decided, and then Salim had lost him to browsing the racks of nail polish.

This left Salim with the entire rest of the cosmetics aisle to contend with. Right, then. Mascara, that was easy enough, it only came in one—apparently it came in more than one color: Brown Black, Black, Mystic Black, Blackest Black. Salim was so surprised he took a step back, then muttered, in Arabic, "What's the difference?" Eventually, hesitantly, he reached out and grabbed a tube of 'Black.' Just plain 'black,' that seemed safe enough. He didn't have a basket, and apparently they were going to be stealing everything anyway, so he stuffed it in his pocket and consulted the list. Mascara, check. Concealer, check. Foundation...he would just get something from the 'medium' range again, that would surely work well enough. There were still a surprising number of items on the list. Blush, bronzer, whatever that was, eyeshadow, and..."Lipstick." Salim took two steps to the left to put himself in front of a display of lipstick, and looked up. "Oh, Allah help me."

Eventually, Mad Sweeney, his pockets suspiciously bulging, abandoned the nail polishes and rejoined him, still staring at the lipstick display. "Why would anyone want their lips to be fuckin' matte?" he wondered. Salim just looked helpless at him. "Get her like a normal color," Mad Sweeney suggested, as if Salim was supposed to know what he meant by that. "Or red. Everybody likes red lipstick, yeah?" Salim had never liked red lipstick, but then, Salim was gay. Maybe that had something to do with it. The leprechaun wandered back off toward some eyeshadow. Fat lot of good he was, Salim thought, and started trying to pick out a 'normal color' lipstick.

Then, quite suddenly, Laura was there. "Hey, dipshits. Aren't you done yet?"

"We still need blush," Salim told her apologetically. "And, uh, bronzer?" Was that really a real thing?

Laura rolled her eyes and, with about ten seconds' thought, snatched two compacts off the shelves and went to pay for them out of the money from Mad Sweeney's coins. Salim looked bewildered at the display, trying to remember which she'd gotten and wondering if they were the two he would have chosen. She made it look so easy. From the door, Laura looked back at them and said, "Well, come on, let's go." The alarm went off as Mad Sweeney stepped through it, but the clerk just waved them off without looking up from her magazine.

Back in the cab, they spread their loot out on the dashboard, where Laura looked at it in dismay. She picked up the foundation bottle and said, "I just want to ask in what possible universe do you assholes think I'm 'caramel' colored.'" Mad Sweeney and Salim looked helplessly at one another, and then back at her. Mad Sweeney shrugged. "Mascara's okay." Salim beamed. "But then, it's hard to fuck that up." She had no idea. "What—what is this?" She held up an eyeshadow compact. "Who thought this was okay?"

"What? 'S got green," Mad Sweeney pointed out. "I like green." He dug two more nail polishes out of his pocket and reached one long arm between the seats to add them to the collection. There had to be at least a dozen.

"I guess I can make the other colors work," she said begrudgingly. "And you forgot lipstick." Oops. Laura sighed and gathered up the foundation and concealer. "I have to go back in."

Mad Sweeney lunged through the gap between the seats and grabbed her arm before she could finish opening the door. "What, are you gonna fuckin' return what we just shoplifted all considerate-like for ya?"

"She won't notice," Laura scoffed.

"She might. No point pushin' your luck."

"As you keep pointing out, I've got your lucky coin." A glaring match ensued, which Laura apparently lost, because she subsided into her seat with a sigh and a, "Fine. Take us across the street to CVS."

Here we go again, Salim thought, and started the cab.