There was the ticking of a clock somewhere in the dark room. The woman who lay on the couch was alone. The others, thinking her asleep, had left for the bedroom of the suite three hours previously, and only settled to sleep a bit ago.
Her eyes stared up at the ceiling. Sleep, she thought. Just sleep. But, like the night before, the night before that, and so on… sleep wasn’t forthcoming. There was sometimes a mind-numbing nothingness, her brain almost shutting down completely… but she couldn’t sleep. Her eyes were trained on the ceiling.
Tick, tick, tick…
She tried to think of something else, besides her lack of ability to sleep. The police had eventually come by, asking if they’d heard anything. And, like everyone else, nothing (except a lady down the hall, who remembered the sound Arana’s knife made as it thunked into her wall, but the knife and all evidence of it ever existing were gone, so the police just scratched their heads).
Tick, tick, tick…
She drew a slow breath, and tensed at the sound of movement. Then there was the sudden, almost blinding light of the fridge just ten feet away being opened (a mini-fridge, with a random assortment of food). She flinched away instinctively, a hand lifting to cover her eyes.
Tick, tick, tick…
“Oh shit!” Christoph muttered softly. The fridge door snapped closed. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, kiddo,” she muttered hoarsely. “I was awake. Nightmare.” The lie fell from her lips almost too easily, unrehearsed but as natural as breathing. When had she turned into such a creature?
“Hmm.” He paused, looking out the window before asking, “Feel like company?” He paused again and then waved his hand before she could reply. “I mean for talking. Er, sorry, females aren’t my area.”
She chuckled. “Even if they were, I doubt I would be,” she replied, teasingly, and sat up. “Sure, we can talk. Plenty of time.”
“Oh good. It gets boring staring at the curtains this time of night,” he replied delighted. “Drink? Ice cream?”
Her lips quirked into a small smile. “A drink would be nice, thank you.”
“Excellent. I have a red wine, a dark and a light beer, and I believe some kind of whiskey,” Christoph rose from his crouch by the mini fridge and moved towards the kitchen. “Preferences?” he asked from the doorway, features wide and smiling and didn’t even flinch when there was a thud from the bedroom.
“Goldie! That’s my whiskey!”
“Damn, guess the whiskey’s out,” Arana replied with a pout. She’d been about to say whiskey. “Dark beer, then.”
“Nonsense.” The blond frowned and strode over to the bedroom, popping open the door and glaring inside. “You gave her my smokes. So you will share your whiskey.”
Christoph shut the door on his lover’s soft whine, though he knew both of them were smiling. “On the rocks?” he directed back to the amused woman on the couch.
“Sure, kiddo,” she replied. “That sounds delightful. Haven’t had whiskey in nearly… well, a while.” She’d almost said twenty years.
Waving a hand, the tall pale man vanished into the kitchen, now talking at a regular volume. “I never drink the stuff. I don’t know why Svorak hordes it. You should see his stash! All types of bottles. Half of them aren’t even opened!”
There was a shuffling noise and Svorak ambled out of the bedroom bare-chested, scratching a hand over his scalp. He yawned. “Well, since we’re all up,” he muttered. “Gimme a glass.” He nodded at Arana and padded over into the kitchen. There was a yelp from the blond and a snort from the darker skinned man. Then the sound of an ice-cube falling and skittering over the floor.
Arana smile softened slightly, as she stared down at her lap. Memories… Always came at night. She shook her head and chuckled. “Mm, you know, I used to know a guy that had a place entirely made for different kinds of alcohol. He was always drunk, so he never knew it was called a ‘warehouse’…”
There was a low chuckle from the kitchen. “Sounds like my dad’s basement,” said Svorak from the kitchen doorway. “But he liked to share.” He moved into the living-room on quiet feet, nudging a round cardboard coaster to her side of the coffee table before placing her glass down. As he seated himself on the carpet on the opposite side, his lover emerged from the kitchen with two dark beers, one opened one still sealed.
“Just in case you take a sip of that and come to your senses,” the blond man teased, folding himself down onto the floor as well. The beers were set down on more coasters with dull taps.
Svorak snorted. “Oh shut up, Blondie.” And took a slow swallow of liquid amber.
She smiled at them. “You two are cute, you know,” she commented, and sipped the drink. “Oh… That’s nice…”
The taller man looked torn between snickering and frowning in disappointment. Svorak just smirked and gently nudged his partner in the ribs with a bare foot. “She’s entitled to her opinions,” he said smugly.
Sighing, the pale man shook his head and tipped back his own drink, though his lips tilted up. Though after a moment, he blinked and sat up. “That reminds me.” He turned to her. “Could I convince you to swap the cigarette? I noticed there are two missing from the pack, and you had one on your ear. I assume you smoked one in the hall at your job site.”
Her brows lifted, but she shrugged. “That’s fine,” she said boredly.
Svorak watched as the other male rolled to his feet. “You’re giving her the other brand?” he asked, a slight edge to the question.
“Still factory sealed, you paranoid git,” the blond assured him as he stepped into the kitchen. “Too many variables anyway.”
With a huff the darker man slouched back to the carpet. “Scientists,” he muttered.
“I used to be a doctor, does that count?” Arana asked sweetly, batting her eyelashes at him.
Svorak blinked as Christoph walked back in. “Chemist,” the tall man retorted, then frowned at the lack of response. “What did I miss?”
The merc on the floor shook his head. “Mystics,” he grumbled in much the same tone as earlier. Sure, the young woman on the couch could have been a doctor before… in a past life.
Her eyes danced in amusement. “So, you’re a chemist, mm?” she asked, turning her attention back to Christoph. “You like making things blow up too?”
Pale brows quirked. “Only on the cellular level.”
Dark brows drew down. “Too?”
She looked at him. “Yes, too. As in ‘also’,” she replied blandly. “Chemists deal with chemicals… and sometimes like blowing things up too.”
Svorak scowled, then grunted as Christoph cheerfully kicked him in the hip. “You can’t possibly get grumpy now old man,” the taller one teased. “You chose to get up.”
“Thirty-four is not old.” Sprawled out over the plush carpet, the other man huffed and offered her a sheepish smile. “Eh, sorry. Me and mystics,” he shrugged one shoulder, “don’t usually get along.”
“That’s an understatement,” the blond muttered, silently grateful that Svorak had put down his glass before falling over. The alcohol was a pleasant warmth, but it distracted him a bit. And a topless lover was even more of a distraction.
“Aah. Then I suppose you’ll be happy to hear that I’m not a mystic,” she replied blandly. And then let them chew on that one.
Propping himself up on one elbow, Svorak frowned at her. Now he just felt like an idiot. He had actually thought she was serious about the turning to toads thing. Huh. He turned his blue eyes to his lover and was met with a rueful smile.
Lifting up his bottle, Christoph toasted the woman on the couch. “Well played, Lady,” he said warmly, his eyes sliding over to Svorak. “It does explain the easy camaraderie.”
Sighing, the black man sat up, snagging his glass and mimicked his pale partner. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve been had. Shut it.”
She chuckled and lifted her own glass in reply. “Cheers,” she replied, amused, and chugged the rest of it. Setting down the glass, she beamed. “Don’t suppose you’d let me have more?”
Christoph laughed outright at the pained grimace that flashed over Svorak’s features. “Yes,” he answered for his partner.
The poor man grunted and stood up, holding out his hand for her glass. “I’ll do the pouring this time. Blondie will probably find a way to drain half the bottle into a tumbler otherwise.”
She smiled. “Thanks,” she replied. “Next time I’m in England, I send you a bottle of Scottish Black. It’s lovely whiskey.”
Tilting his head to the side, Svorak hummed noncommittally. “That’s one I haven’t tried before.” It was left unsaid that it wasn’t likely addresses would be exchanged. That was another thing they didn’t have anymore. It wouldn’t stop him from keeping an eye out for that brand though.
Deftly lifting the glass from her hand, the male padded back into the kitchen.
“You sure you won’t switch to the beer?” the other man wheedled, holding up the unopened bottle.
“Does it burn going down?” she asked sweetly.
This time the pained look was on the blond’s features. “Nope. But if you want burning, get Svorak to make curry. That’s the proper kind of burning.”
“Meh,” was the disinterested response. “I’ll try it,” she relented, referring to the beer.
Encouraged, despite the less than enthusiastic response, Christoph popped the cap from the beer and handed it over just as Svorak walked back into the room.
The darker man just smirked and walked over, watching her face on the first sip. Switching from his stuff to Goldie’s? Not all that exciting.
She carefully did not grimace. It tasted flat in comparison. “It’s okay,” she said.
Chuckling, Svorak leaned down and slapped his lover on the shoulder. “Give it up,” he advised the disheartened chemist, handing Arana the refilled tumbler at the same time. He took the beer back from her and placed it in front of his partner. “Look at it this way,” he began, taking his seat on the floor. “You get all the beer,” he nodded at the barely touched brew, “and she and I will drain away the whiskey that you hate.”
All he got was the woeful look of a kicked puppy.
“Oh, we are? I will take you up on that offer, then,” Arana inserted smoothly.
The kicked puppy look quickly melted into the brightest smile this side of night as Christoph beamed at her. Svorak on the other hand looked like he had swallowed a toad.
She grinned back at the blond, amused greatly.