There is a brief period of darkness when he changes the channel for the seventh time in the last minute. Harry Block is not a happy man, and right now not even a rerun of his favorite Simpson's episode can cheer him up. His eye twitches as he changes the channel again to find another news cast about the new aliens.
"I'll be staying far away from you guys. No more aliens for me."
He changes the channel again, but a series of home order television and cooking shows try his patience. He'd rather face the music than get lost in that particular hell. He has the five-minute-roast-genie in his kitchen to remind him that impulse buying is not what he should be doing with his time. He refused point blank to get an account on e-bay when Ira told him about something he saw online. That's where madness lies.
Ira. The Kane Madness isn't just a bad reaction to experimental anthrax vaccine, it's sitting in your living room watching stupid TV when not ten feet away the beautiful Nadine lies sleeping in your bed. At least that's what it feels like to Harry.
"I didn't even look," he tells the TV, "Never even peeked." And he knows it's true because Nadine is naked under his blankets and she's drunk and he doesn't even know what color her hair really is. It's not blond though, he knows that because her roots are showing.
"Fuck propriety," he says, "Fuck doing the right thing," and he feels the pull.
Nadine wouldn't mind, she does like him. It isn't about grades because she graduated the night before and had the acceptance letter for the company, something hip and fashionable, in her hand when she came by to thank him with two bottles of champagne and alcohol on her breath. His bravado and big mouth aside, Harry isn't desperate enough to give in to this, not tonight at any rate.
He switches the TV off as someone tries to sell him pills to enlarge his breasts. Maybe if it had been for his dick he would have been interested enough to fall asleep on the couch, listening to the miracles of big cocks, and bigger cocks, and there is something important in that train of thought but he can't quite tell what it is.
The silence in the room is deafening after the low hum of inane chatter. Watching TV isn't really the way to drown out his anger and misery, but he'd been unable to drink with Nadine when she offered. For one, champagne just isn't his poison of choice and secondly, he doesn't trust himself too much when he's inebriated. Bad things happen when he's drunk, not the least of which has to do with madness and cocks.
He thinks of Ira and just like the devil comes when one talks about him there's a knock at the door that can only be one person. Ira's voice sounds loud and clear through the small apartment and for a moment Harry hopes it will wake up Nadine. She'll be sober and leave with Ira to some secret love nest or another party and he'll get to sleep in his bed.
But the real world doesn't work like that.
"C'mon Harry. Open this fugging door. Know you're in there."
It sounds like Ira, too, submitted to the lure of alcohol. His date with the pretty doctor must have gone badly then; it was the only reason Harry could think of for Ira to stand in front of his door. Otherwise he would be hiding away with her in a room with a bed until they were both too exhausted to fuck any more.
Harry wonders how long he can wait in his dark, quiet apartment before he will get up to run after his friend. Two knocks and a sound that resembles a sob and Harry is up and by the door in three seconds flat. Ira doesn't cry, he's not that kind of guy and even drunk he's never overly emotional. Cuddly, yes, but he doesn't say anything that he wouldn't say stone cold sober.
Harry isn't prepared for the sight that meets him. Ira looks like he's been digested by an alien life form and kicked in the balls by a beautiful woman. It's the kind of look that men only get when their lives are disintegrating in front of their eyes, the "I got fucked by the universe" look.
"C'mon, buddy, the floor is cold. I'll make you a coffee and then you can tell me all about what happened."
He grabs Ira around the waist and for once it's helpful that Ira latches onto anything and anyone when he's drunk enough. There is a fair amount of groping but Harry feels comfortable in the knowledge that Ira will have forgotten about it come morning. There won't be much he remembers with the monster headache that's sure to be his punishment.
Harry drops his friend on the couch quite unceremoniously, and there, too, is something important he should think about. But Harry isn't really in the mood for deep thought, what with the groping and the bit of self-restraint that's lying in his bed.
"I'm making you coffee, so don't move."
It's a silly thing to say, really. Ira doesn't look like he's going anywhere any time soon, which makes Harry realize that he's now in the undesirable position of having to sleep on the floor. He makes the coffee extra strong, hoping that it will wake up Ira enough for him to at least be asking for the couch.
Harry isn't used to playing the good Samaritan.
"So, Ira, what happened with the Ice Queen?"
He meant for it to sound funny and challenging, just the kind of banter a friend could expect, but instead his voice is scratchy and too deep. He feels the heat in his cheeks and he's getting an idea about the things he's been trying not to think about all night.
If Ira wasn't so cuddly, looking all pathetic and embarrassed on his couch, Harry may have been not quite so gentle in forcing the coffee down his friend's throat. Sure, it is hot and bitter and not at all the way Ira likes it, but Ira is sitting punch drunk in his living room and touching him in places he shouldn't and Harry thinks there's a justification for everything, even five-minute-roast-genies and MegaBreast pills.
His arm snakes around Ira on its own, with no conscious decision on Harry's part. He shouldn't draw the warm body close to him, but "shouldn't" doesn't work when Ira is drunk and touchy-feely and very much there.
"What happened with Allison?" Harry whispers into Ira's hair, breathing in the scent of cigarette smoke and alcohol, thankfully not something that turns him on.
Ira mewls, breaking Harry's heart in all the wrong ways. "Nuthin'"
Harry sighs, "But didn't you have this fancy date planned? All candle light and dinner and soft music?"
"'s useless," Ira says, leaning closer to Harry and slurring his words drunkenly, but no longer with the hint of sleep. Instead, there was a bit of sadness in his voice, a lost, forlorn sound that reminds Harry of all the things he feels and really shouldn't think about.
"She dump your sorry ass?"
Even in his state of abandon Ira manages to glare at Harry, making him feel like a complete moron as it always does. There is nothing new or even remotely scary about feeling dumb and useless. It's they way they always have been with each other, Ira the smart-ass, lying-about-his-past-by-omission, funny, sly and handsome scientist and Harry the loser, geology professor by default (and because there was no entrance level test for the courseandno one else was interested in the job afterHarry'sold Professor retired).
"Dinn't dumb me."
Harry smiled despite his grudge. Of course Allison Reed didn't dump Ira Kane, there had to be some more profound reason for him sitting almost in Harry's lap and drooling on his t-shirt. As much of an asshole as Ira tends to be, he has that kind of allure that keeps them coming back. Harry, too, if he really thinks about it.
They never had much in common, Harry just happened to be around when Ira first started teaching and he was the one sitting next to him during their lunch hour, making half-witted comments about their colleagues. At least it made Ira laugh, and when he laughed there were crinkles around his eyes and that was enough. Harry would never admit that he couldn't live without Ira but in the dim darkness of his apartment he knows itto betrue.
"What happened Ira?"
Ira's hair tickles Harry's nose, but he's not about to give up this illusion of comfort. There may only be one time that he gets to hold Ira like this and he tells himself that "Fuck propriety" is the only thing between him and insanity.
"'lisson got tha' new job. With the aliens."
Harry blinks. It isn't unexpected that Allison got the research grant for the new alien species that dropped to earth a few months ago. She had been far more adamant about her reputation after the first "alien invasion" than Ira ever wanted to be and it was her name that kept showing up in the papers and scientific journals.
"Good for her."
A dry, bitter laugh from Ira. "She booted me out, Harry. She dissected my theory."
"What theory are we talking about here?"
"Remember?" Ira asks, leaning back to glare at his friend, "Two down, one left?"
Harry can't help himself, he laughs out loud. "But that theory is bullshit, you told me so yourself."
More glaring from Ira. Harry grins.
"You said: `Oh Harry, don't ever believe a word I say. That theory is utter crap. I was more surprised than you when it actually worked.' And then I said: `But Ira, it was such a cool theory.' Then you looked at me exactly the way you look at me now, all reprimanding and stuff, and you said: `I thought we were all going to die so I made shit up.' Don't you remember?"
Ira looks genuinely hurt at the quite accurate depiction of their past conversation, complete with voice art and mimicry. "You can be a right asshole, you know that?"
Harry grins, "You tell me that a lot."
Ira blinks at that, his anger gone as soon as it had come. He smiles at Harry and snuggles close again, burying his head in Harry's shoulder. "Love ya, but you're still an asshole."
Harry doesn't breathe for a whole minute. He couldn't have heard what he thinks he heard, it isn't possible. Ira is just around because everyone else on the planet hates him. That had to be true, or else Harry would have to make a decision, a move, or at least an admission to himself.
Not tonight though, tonight is for cuddling up to the guy who always comes back to him, no matter what. Harry presses a kiss to Ira's temple, hoping against hope that Ira will remember something tomorrow. Either way, it doesn't matter because Ira is here, with him, and that's alright. He smiles and sits in the darkness, waiting for dawn.