Mike woke with his head pounding and his back twisted like the old gnarled fingers of an arthritic grandfather. He rubbed crusty remnants of sleep from his eyes as he tried, and failed, to straighten from his sprawled half-sitting half-lounging position. The sofa wasn’t comfortable enough to sit and watch television for any significant period of time, and it had never been his intention to fall asleep on it. He glared at the now empty skull-shaped bottle on the coffee table, briefly considering how much it might improve his mood to kick the offending thing to the floor. The action proved to be too much effort, and so he merely groaned and, shoving both hands underneath his ribs, righted himself against the arm of the sofa. He stopped there and waited for his head to catch up with his body.
Crandall appeared from the kitchen. He shoved a glass of water in Mike’s face. Mike blinked up at him, and raised his hand slowly taking the glass. Once he did, Crandall shoved a hand, palm up, under his nose. Mike wrinkled his nose at the three little brown pills he offered. “No thanks,” he mumbled.
“Take them. I don’t want to deal with you being bitchy and dehydrated.”
Mike frowned to hide the smile that threatened to break through his cotton-wrapped thoughts. “I’m not dehydrated. I’m hung over.”
“Same shit,” Crandall said.
Mike took the ibuprofen. Crandall waited until he popped them in his mouth and washed them down with a long drink of water. Mike opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue, showing they were gone. Crandall said nothing, but he cracked a quick smile before he resumed his everyday neutral expression.
With a grunt, Mike eased himself up, swaying slightly as his head swam, shaking his equilibrium. With an amused smirk, he wondered how his limbs worked when all of his blood was beating out a tribal rhythm behind his eyes. He forced himself to finish the water despite his stomach’s acidy objection, and then wove his way toward the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway, leaning against the jamb for support. He wondered if watching Crandall might redirect some blood from his over-liquored brain, but even the smooth movements of Crandall’s lean muscles did nothing to relieve the pounding vodka headache. His crotch took no interest, hiding from the pain for the time being.
Crandall filled a travel mug with coffee and added a splash of vanilla almond milk. He turned around and gestured Mike to the sink. “Drink more,” he said.
“I’ll be okay,” Mike said, and he half believed it.
“Ash is covering your ass. He said you have the noon yoga to make it up to him.”
Mike’s head swam, hearing the words but not making sense of the sentence. A moment later his gaze snapped to the clock on the stove. 10:34. Fuck. His classes were 8:30 and 10 today. The noon yoga was the one class they all tried to avoid. Various bets and dares lost helped Ash and Mike determine whose turn it was to teach it. The women there never focused on anything but hitting on them through the entire hour. Hung over or not, Mike didn’t think he deserved that punishment when Ash still had three weeks on his rotation for it.
“Sonuva… How long have you been up?”
Crandall glared at him as he sipped his coffee. “Since seven-thirty.”
“Thanks for waking me up,” Mike muttered. He walked to the sink, his feet cooperating a bit more than for the trip from sofa to door jamb.
“Fuck you. I’m not your babysitter.” Crandall started to walk away, but Mike caught his arm. His head swayed on his neck and Mike closed his eyes for several seconds.
“I’m sorry,” Mike said. He opened his eyes. “You don’t have to work today?”
“I called in.” Crandall shook Mike’s hand away, but leaned against the counter as if nothing happened.
“Maybe that’d cure the blood coursing through my brain at a million miles an hour.”
Crandall snorted, but the corner of his lips twitched in a repressed smile. “I have a shit ton of time built up. Though all this vampire crap is going to blow through that faster than I can earn it. We need a fucking paranormal benefits program.”
Mike laughed, but cut it short when it made his vision darken and his ears ache. “Yes,” he whispered hoarsely. He turned on the tap and filled his glass. “Or a retirement plan.”