Mouse drops anise blocks into two mugs of milk before putting them in the microwave, bopping to music only she hears through her ear buds while it counts down. When it beeps she takes the steaming mugs out and stirs them vigorously, shuddering in happy pleasure as she inhales the rich licorice scent of home. Tucking her well thumbed copy of Don Quixote under her arm, she pops the spoon in the sink then carefully picks up the mugs and navigates the stairs to the common room.

Mouse sets one mug on the table in front of Amelia curled up on the sofa. Looking up from her own Don Quixote, Amelia smiles her thanks, not asking whose milk it is. Mouse settles at the other end and begins reading. Producing a pencil from behind her ear she makes margin notes now and again.

Mouse is just taking her own first sip of anise milk when she hears a thud from the stair door followed by giggling. Amelia and Mouse exchange glances. “I thought everybody was in already.” whispers Amelia.

“Seems not,” says Mouse, setting her mug back down, she stands and pulls her fuzzy robe tight and starts for the door. Amelia lays her book face down on the sofa to preserve her place and follows, curious.

The door creeps open as they approach and Amelia gasps– there’s a body on the floor. But then more giggling.

As they arrive at the door the “body” is revealed as an extremely inebriated Eric. The giggling comes in equal parts from Natasha and Liz.

“What happened to him?” hisses Amelia.

“Isn’t it obvious? This is one plastered puppy,” says Natasha, which encourages another round of giggling from Liz.

“Boris and I found him at Callaghan’s passed out in the back booth. The waitress made us bring him home.”

“Where is Boris?” asks Mouse.

“Putting away the car. When we got here Liz was on her way in so we drafted her to help,” says Natasha.

Liz giggles. “He was conscious then. I guess the elevator rocked him to sleep. It was all we could do to get him out.”

“He can’t stay out here in the hall, he’ll get in trouble. How about everybody grab corner?”

Natasha and Liz struggle to get Eric’s dead weight elevated enough so they can get a grip under his arms, while Mouse and Amelia each hoist a foot. They stumble through the door and manhandle Eric onto the sofa.

“Funny,” says Liz, “He didn’t look that heavy.”

“Thanks for your help, guys, but that’s it for me.” says Natasha. “G’night all.”

Liz yawns, catching the scent of licorice she notes the two mugs of steaming milk on the coffee table and in a blink decides to let it go. “I’m calling it a night too. Sweet dreams,” and she follows Natasha up.

Amelia and Mouse exchange glances.

“Well.” Amelia says, “We could move to the chairs.”

Just then Eric begins to snore. It’s a substantial sound, and Mouse shakes her head.

“Since the Incredible Hulk seems to have appropriated the room I think I will call it a night too.”

Amelia nods. “Like we have a choice.” She snaps off the reading lamp, and they pick up their mugs and start up the stairs. Amelia glances back at the sleeper. “I’ve got an extra blanket I can bring down for him.”

Mouse smiles at her. “You’ve a good heart Ami. G’night.” They separate at the top, heading to their rooms.

Amelia shares one of the big corner doubles with Liz, so she gives a quiet tap before entering. As she sets the mug on her desk she sees Liz is nearly asleep. Amelia pulls a fleece blanket down from her closet.

“I’m gonna run this down to sleeping beauty,” she whispers.

Liz mumbles something unintelligible and rolls over, so Amelia turns the desk light off and slips out with the blanket. Boris is just coming in as she comes down the stairs.

Boris asks, “He’s out again?”

Amelia grins. “Yup, and that was as far as we could get him.” Taking an end of the blanket, Boris helps her drape it over the sleeper. Eric takes a deep shuddering breath and snores profoundly.

Boris and Amelia both cover their mouths in an effort to keep their laughter from waking the dead, and Boris whispers, “I hope I get treated so nicely when I show up in that condition.”

“You?” whispers Amelia, “You’re far too cool to end up like this, Bo. Goodnight.”

Boris grins and gives her a courtly bow before he heads under the stairs on the way to his room. Amelia heads back up and is about to go into her own room when she realizes Don Quixote is still downstairs. And she’s not finished the chapter. Damn.

So much for a quiet night to catch up on her reading. Back down the stairs. She looks at Eric sleeping so peacefully. Where would the book be? She had been sitting at the door end, meaning the book is probably somewhere under his neck. What are the odds on getting it out without waking him or wrecking the book?

Giving up is not an option if she’s to finish the chapter and start the essay tomorrow. Gently peeling the blanket down she’s rewarded with a glimpse of her book tucked in behind the small of his back. She tries to wriggle it out but no go. Sliding her hand under doesn’t work, so she tries to roll him. A blast of beery breath in her face does not thrill her. Yuk.

Around the back of the sofa to try and get a hold of the book she reaches down and snags the corner, and is jiggling it to pull it out when Eric rolls off the sofa onto the floor.

Now Amelia’s book is free, but she feels guilty for pitching the guy on the floor. Still, there’s no way she is getting him back on the sofa by herself. Too bad Boris is gone.

Boris probably bench presses more than Eric weighs. He could pick Eric up easy. No way she can. She takes a cushion and wrestles it under his head. He snuggles in and looks so sweet.

Too bad he reeks of stale beer. Reaching over she pulls the blanket across him again before heading back up the stairs for the night.

Pulling the door closed she sets the book on her table, drapes her robe over the chair and angles it to block the bedside lamplight. She switches it on. Not a twitch from Liz. Good.

She can finish her reading here. Curling in with Cervantes, she finds herself thinking about Eric. She’s never seen him drunk. He always seemed to have it together Most of the other guys get shitfaced, just not Eric. At least not ’til now. Guess everybody takes a turn. Wonder what did it.

Elsie, probably.

Poor schmuck.

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