(I'm sorry about the dry spell, you guys ;_; I could tell you that I've been busy, or that I've got writer's block, or that I bought Phoenix Wright for the DS and it's sucking my life away from me, but that wouldn't alleviate your lack of Penny Candy.

So instead, here's a snippet of PC before I'd fleshed out the characters and plot more.)

Marlboro Cakes

My apartment building is painted a color best described as 'post-apocalyptic nuclear ash.' This afternoon the rain's darkened it to gunmetal gray, lighter streaks falling from beneath the windows and balconies fighting to keep dry.

The stairwell leading up to my apartment isn't exactly dry; the carpeted stairs are somewhere between 'soaking' and 'unpleasantly squishy.' The air is thick with the stench of mildew.

Hate this place, I think bitterly to myself. Hate this place. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

I put my key into the lock, but the door pushes open on its own. I peer inside, the back of my neck prickling. A sugary-sweet smell wafts out, mixes with the mildew in the stairwell, and creates a sour taste at the back of my throat.

"Kaz?"

The smell of syrup had been my first clue; I've already come the rest of the way through the door, and I'm trying to pull my wet shoes off. "Here. You broke into my house to make pancakes?"

Lee's standing at the kitchen stove, a stack of deflated pancakes on the counter. As I watch, he leans down to light a cigarette on one of the gas burners, taking a drag as he does, then jerks back and coughs, patting a scorched patch on his stained white t-shirt.

I snort. "Moron."

Lee shoots me an unamused look and taps the ash off of the end of his cigarette onto the same plate the pancakes are on. White and gray flecks swim sluggishly in half-congealed syrup. "I made you dinner."

I pause in the kitchen doorway, taking in the bowls and whisks in the sink, the old frying pan on the stove, and Lee with his wary tomcat expression. I'm not sure what to think, other than that it doesn't seem like he's joking.

"I came to get in out of the rain," he says, turning away, shoulders hunching. He opens the fridge to pull out a carton of milk. "Knew you'd be home soon. Thought I should make something for you to eat when you got here."

"That's… sweet of you," I say, then, before I can stop myself, "pancakes with Marlboro garnish, huh?"

Lee shrugs. He pours milk into a glass, silent.

I watch his stiff back for a moment, watch him alternate gulps of milk with drags on his rapidly-disappearing cigarette. It can't be his first of the afternoon, and I wonder uneasily where the rest of the butts are.

The inside of my silverware drawer is dingy and lined with orange and pink flowers, peppered here and there with more of Lee's ubiquitous cigarette ash. A pick up a fork with one tine bent upwards as if in greeting, and, feeling Lee's eyes on me, cut into the stack of pancakes.

They're thick and sticky, tasting of powdered pancake mix and burnt butter. Batter oozes out of the middle of them like blood out of an open wound. I swallow with difficulty and take another bite, then another, pausing once to take Lee's half-consumed cup of milk from him and guzzle down what's left, cool and cleansing in my throat, before turning back to the plate again.

The syrup helps a little, but not much: the pancakes are soggy with it, drooping off of my fork and hitting the dirty linoleum floor with a sound like a meteor crashing into the ocean. The ash is bitter on my tongue, strangely gritty mixing with the too-soft pancakes. I have to stop to suck the batter off of my teeth, to clear room in my mouth so I won't choke on the thickness of it.

Finally the last piece is gone, leaving only a swirling pattern of white, brown and gray, and the abandoned bite on the floor that neither of us dares to touch.

Lee is staring at me, wide-eyed. Grinning, I hold the plate out to him. "More?"