“So, you got a present for, whatever, Hunch’s kid?” Darren asks, from the couch.
“You’re going to have to call him Eugene if you’re going to the party,” I call back, and then rush to him at the sound of glass breaking.
“Shit,” Darren says, cradling his hand.
I walk over to the kitchen to grab the dustpan and start sweeping up the pieces of glass. “Did you cut yourself?”
Darren shakes his head. “No, fine, just a cramp. On the downswing now.”
“Fun times,” I agree, “at least the project’s over.”
Darren chuckles morosely. “Phase one, anyway. Might be back next month with a shiny new plan to ruin my life.”
“You might not get conscripted next time,” I tell him, trading the dustpan in for a towel to mop up the rest of the beer from the, fortunately, mostly empty bottle.
“Shit,” Darren says again, as his hand spasms.
I glance up at him. “They didn’t give you anything for that?”
“Oh, they did, but you know how stingy they are with the controlled substances.” Darren shakes his head. “I start now, I won’t have enough for the weekend.”
“I can cut them in half for you,” I remind him.
He waves me off. “I’m fine for now. Won’t get really bad until I should be asleep, anyway, and I’d really rather take something a little stronger for that one.”
“You forgot to renew your script,” I tell him.
“Shit,” he says. “I did.”
“Sorry,” I say.
Darren shakes his head. “You have some left over, right?”
“Yeah,” I say, “but you know they’re not the same kind, right? They might make you sick.”
“I’m already sick,” Darren grumbles, “or I’m going to be by nightfall.”
“They might be expired, too,” I add.
“You know it just means less effective, right?” Darren says, exasperated, “it only needs to be effective enough to knock me out.”
“I’m going back to the office and picking up your refill,” I tell him. And resist the urge to pat him on the head.
“I’ll get it myself,” he snaps.
I elbow him back onto the couch. “Like hell you’re driving.”
Darren groans in acknowledgement.
“Was it this bad last time?” I ask him.
He drops his head back onto the couch. “It’s this bad every time.”
“No, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this bad last time,” I tell him.
He shakes his head, and then just buries it into the couch cushions. I give him a minute while I go to wash the beer off my hands, but when I come back he’s still sitting the exact same way.
“Darren,” I say and give him a little shake.
“I’m awake, I’m awake, what the fuck do you want,” he says.
“Darren, honey, if you fall asleep now, you’re only going to feel even more like shit by the time you get up in the morning,” I say, and figure maybe I better not leave him alone until he’s ready to fall asleep. I message my team to see who’s at the office right now, in case one of them can grab it.
“Fine, fine,” Darren says, “tell me about the brat and his birthday extravaganza or whatever.”
“I just picked him up one of the alien artifacts,” I say.
Darren chuckles. “Attaboy, Travis, steal presents from the labs.”
I roll my eyes. “It was declared safe, and they were going to chuck it, anyway.”
Then my phone buzzes, because apparently Sass is at the office, and bored, and happy to do me a favor.
Right, I tell her, Darren forgot to pick up his refill, and he’s not looking so hot right now.
At the pharmacy, she tells me, a couple minutes later. What did he want, the Ambien or the Ativan? Oh, hey, there’s a beta blocker, too. He didn’t happen to talk to Amphetamine recently?
Sass, I text back.
Is that what you call me in your head? she responds almost immediately. Never mind, I’ll pick them all up. He’s going to need them.
“What’s he want,” Darren asks, shaking himself awake again, “with alien junk, anyway? I mean, if he did, couldn’t his dad just get him some, whenever?”
I laugh. “You obviously don’t remember what it was like talking to your parents as a teenager.”
“I didn’t,” Darren reminds me. “We tried to avoid each other as much as possible.”
“Well, you wouldn’t have asked for alien stuff, either,” I tell him.
He shakes his head and puts on the TV. “That’s true.”
We watch for a while, and I shake him awake every time he looks like he’s about to drift off. Poking him yet again, I say, “I know it’s a bad idea, but do you want some coffee?”
“God, no,” Darren says, “don’t tempt me. Don’t tempt me with any of your wicked stimulants, I’m onto your nefarious ways, coffeemonger.”
He jumps at a knock at the door, but at least the adrenaline started out in his system, and isn’t going to impact the withdrawal. Amphetamine’s power is polite that way. And at least he’s not liable to fall asleep while I go to answer it.
“Hey,” Sass says, holding up a handful of little white bags.
“Wow,” I say, ushering her inside. “That was fast.”
“Yeah, well,” she shrugs. “I may have walked a little faster than regulation.”
I laugh, looking her up and down. “Been cooped up a little? Because I don’t remember you developing speed powers.”
“As the crow flies? You’d be surprised,” she says, “also, stop checking me out, Travis.”
“Sorry,” I tell her. “It’s just. You look, you know, different, out of costume.”
“I know,” she says. “I’m not prone to wearing catsuits as casualwear.”
“That’s fair,” I say.
She hands over the drugs. “That’s all five of his, and one for you.”
“Me,” I repeat.
“I think the tired is catching,” Sass tells me, “yes, you, apparently you have a prescription for sleeping pills, too, that you never picked up. I did have to explain why I was picking up his meds.”
“Oh,” I say, “right.”
“Travis, introduce me to your friend or tell her to get the fuck out,” Darren says, “she’s interrupting the TV and I’m going to pass out if I can’t concentrate on it.”
“Hi,” says Sass, “I’m Ursula. You’re Darren, I just picked up your prescriptions, you’re grateful, and you’re only being an asshole to me because you’re coming down off the hard shit.”
“That about sums it up,” Darren agrees. “Nice to meet you, Ursula.”
Ursula makes a face. “This is why I’m always at work.”
Darren snaps. “Sassy!”
“Yeah,” Sass agrees.
“You’re sassier out of costume,” Darren says.
“Uh, sorry?” Sass says.
Darren shrugs. “Thanks for picking those up.”