You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away
[You are my sunshine - Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell]
“Working hard again, Andy?”
Andrew raised his eyes from his computer, casting a tired glance over the man in front of him.
“What is it now, Derrick?”, he asked dryly, in no mood for the other's shenanigans.
“Whoa, cold. Ever the ice princess, huh?”, Derrick remarked, laughing as the other man narrowed his eyes at him. “Relax, man. I was just wondering why you were still here, that's all.”
It's none of your business, Andrew thought. “I'm catching up on my schedule”, he replied instead.
“I see, I see! The old grouch has dumped all the work on you again!”. Derrick laughed again, the sound grinding into Andrew's brain like a drill, making him grimace.
That's cause you always slack up , he thought. “Shouldn't you be at your desk too?”.
“Oh, don't worry about it. I'll just catch up before the weekend”.
Andrew narrowed his eyes again. “Last time you said that, I had to come in Saturday to fix your mess”, he reminded him.
“Oh come on, still going on about that? That was ages ago, man! Come on, why don't you come too for a change, unwind a little?”, Derrick insisted, nudging him in the shoulder.
“Derrick, really, I don't have time for this. If I don't finish this part now I'll have to do it all over again tomorrow”, Andrew replied, putting his eyes back towards the monitor and his fingers on the keyboard, typing up another string of numbers in his spreadsheet. He completely ignored the other, pretending as if he was no longer aware of his presence.
“Hm, is that so...”, he heard him mutter.
Before he even knew it, his screen suddenly went dark, the whirring sound of his computer dying off as the power was cut from it. Andrew stared at it for several moments, frozen in horror, then his gaze trailed down to the plug on the pavement, stuck into the power strip on the floor, and on the tip of the other man's shoe which was still pressed on the switch.
“W-what... what have you done?”.
Andrew's voice was small, half-choked in his throat, as if he was about to cry. He stared in shock at the other's face, unable to process what had just happened.
“I'm freeing you from your self-constructed prison”. The fucker wasn't even slightly sorry about it.
Andrew felt a surge of rage rise up inside of him, but he pushed it back, letting himself fall limp against the back of his office chair. Hours of work, gone in a flash. He didn't even want to think about it.
“Wow man, you look terrible. Something tells me that you need a drink!”, Derrick commented, smiling like the devil.
Andrew didn't even have enough willpower to glare at him.
The last thing he wanted was to give him the satisfaction of going along with his plans, but the bastard was right. He did need a drink.
“Of course, of course! Well, first round, at least! Come on, let's get out of here!”
The sound of the music playing in the background of the bar was a welcome change from the monotony of the tunes played in the office. Always the same station. Sometimes, Andrew thought he was going to go insane if he had to listen to you are my sunshine one more time...
“Hold my beer, gotta pee”, Derrick mumbled, getting up and stumbling away before he could even say a word.
Of course, he went and got himself absolutely shitfaced. Typical Derrick. Andrew wouldn't have been surprised if the main purpose of why he had been dragged there was to be his ride home. He sure as hell wasn't going to let the other drive in that state.
Sighing at the thought, Andrew took a swig of his Cuba Libre. He guessed that had to be his last one, then.
He was so immersed in his thoughts that he barely noticed the man slipping into the seat right next to him until he spoke.
“You're here alone?”.
That voice was so deep and mellow, it almost fused together with the smooth music. Yet, Andrew could distinguish every single word.
“Nah I'm just... I'm just waiting”, he replied, feeling his own voice sound raspy and clunky in comparison. He cleared his throat, taking another sip of his drink.
“Ah, so you're with a friend?”, the stranger asked, tilting his head and glancing at the half-filled glass next to Andrew's. “I take it that's his beer. He has good taste”.
“He's not my friend”, Andrew snapped, realizing he had sounded way too rude than he had intended to. “I mean, we just... he works in my same office”, his lips stretched into a somewhat bitter smile. “He's the one who dragged me here”.
The other man smiled back. “I see, so in that case, you won't mind me stealing his beer right?”, he asked, grabbing onto it before Andrew could even reply.
He shrugged. Whatever. The prick deserved it. His bad for bringing him there to babysit his drunk ass.
“So who are you anyway?”, he inquired, staring at the tall figure next to him. His features were bland, somewhat nondescript, but his sharp black eyes seemed to cut straight into his soul. It made him kind of uncomfortable.
“Good question”, the man noted, his lips stretching in a wide smirk. “Let's say my name is, uhm, Alphonse. Nice to make your acquaintance, Andrew”. He raised his stolen drink and clinked it against Andrew's.
What a pompous na-
“Wait”. Even in his current state, it didn't escape him. “...how do you know my name?”
“Ah, that must be Derrick,” the other ignored him, looking up behind him. “Your friend here was telling me all about you”.
“All dirty lies and slander,” Derrick mumbled, trying to sit back on his chair without stumbling all over on the floor in the process. He looked about as graceful as a bull in a China shop, but at least he didn't spill anyone else's drink. For once.
“So you work together. What kind of work?”, asked Alphonse.
Andrew was still staring at him in confusion, wondering if he was going insane. Something was telling him that even if he tried to confront him the man would just escape his questions.
“Just regular office work I guess. Nothing special. I'm a data analyst, Derrick is my junior.”
“Anal being the keyword!”, the other commented with a raunchy laugh, so loud that it made several other patrons look towards them, much to Andrew's embarrassment. “This guy's a real workaholic I tell you. Some day he's gonna bust a blood vessel or something from the stress, if I don't do anything about it”.
Maybe if you did your damn job I wouldn't have to be so stressed, he thought, grabbing onto his drink and emptying it with a single gulp. To hell with driving him anywhere. He could very well walk home. See if he cared.
“Some people work hard, some hardly work. It's not easy to find a good middle ground”, Alphonse remarked, swishing his – or rather, Derrick's - beer around in the glass before downing it at once.
Derrick's eyes glanced at the now-empty glass in the man's hand, squinting as if he was struggling to see straight. “Hey, isn't that my...”
“Next's round on me. I recommend trying their Black Devil Martini, it's to die for”, Alphonse proposed with a tempting smile.
That immediately shut down Derrick's protests, while Andrew shrugged his shoulders.
Why the hell not?
It's not like that evening could get much weirder.
“ 'sawwright, I can walk, let me...uurk!”
Derrick crumpled up on himself, spilling the contents of his stomach on the sidewalk as Andrew grasped on his arm to stop his fall, grimacing as he felt the other's warm puke spray on his leg.
“Your friend doesn't look so good”, Alphonse noted, taking out a pitch black cigarette from his pocket and lighting it up.
A sickly-sweet scent drift up towards them, and Andrew felt himself getting lightheaded all of a sudden.
“I can drive you home”, the man offered, staring into him with such intensity that he felt it boring into his mind, not for the first time that evening.
“Don't worry, I can walk”, Andrew was quick to reply, trying to help his junior get back on his feet, with little success.
Alphonse chuckled in response, taking another drag before tossing down the still-smoking cigarette and stepping on it with the tip of his well-polished shoe.
“Maybe you, but not him”.
Andrew held back a frustrated sigh, knowing he was right.
“Let's get him in the car”. Alphonse walked up to them and grabbed onto Derrick's free arm, helping Andrew guide him back towards his vehicle.
“There we go, now let's get you in there”, Andrew encouraged him as he opened the door and helped him up, stepping in first to pull him inside
“...ssok, can... 'self”, mumbled the barely-conscious man, half-heartedly attempting to climb up as Alphonse pushed him from behind, until thanks to the effort of both of his companions he was finally laying down on his side across the back seats.
“I'd suggest you stay with him. If he starts to get sick again, tell me and I'm going to pull over.”, Alphonse proposed, holding out his hand. “The keys?”.
“Are you sure you should drive? Maybe we'd be better off calling a cab...”, Andrew replied, looking at him with hesitation. Sure, he seemed sober enough, but he had drank almost as much as him, and he didn't know if he had anything before meeting them either.
“You'll need the car to get to work”.
Damn. He was right again. Besides, Angela would have killed him if she knew he had left his car at some bar for the whole night. He had no choice.
“Fine”, he gave up, pulling out his keys from the pocket and handing them over.
“Good boy”, Alphonse murmured in his deep soothing voice, and he felt a shiver run down his spine.
There was still something that unnerved him about the man, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
There's no need to be paranoid, he told himself. The guy was just being nice.
“I'll stop by his place first, if you don't mind”.
Alphonse's voice brought Andrew back to his senses, and he batted his eyelids, looking around in in confusion. He must have fallen asleep.
He looked out of the window, and immediately recognized the street. Derrick's house was only a couple minutes away.
“How did you...”
“I saw his address on his license, before, when he tried to pay the barista with it”, the other replied before he could finish, throwing him a quick glance through the rearview mirror. “I've got a good memory for that sort of thing. It comes in handy”.
I'm sure it does.
“Do you think you could help me get him inside? I don't think he's gonna wake up till next morning,” asked Andrew, before grimacing at his coworker. “If he will wake up at all”.
He knew their boss would not be too happy if he ditched his work without warning, and that was putting it lightly. The last thing Andrew needed was for him to get fired less than a week before their deadline.
“He's gonna be fine. He's still at that age where his body can recover from pretty much anything”, Alphonse remarked, his amusement clearly audible in his voice. “I'd be more worried about myself, if I were you.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “I'm not that old”.
“Won't your wife wonder what you've been up to all night?”. Alphonse's gaze pierced into him again, with the same intensity as before.
Andrew quickly looked away, staring at the raindrops that had started trailing across the window.
“She knows I'm not that kind of guy”, he murmured.
“Oh?”, Alphonse smirked again, letting out a short chuckle. “What kind of guy?”
“The risk-taking kind”. He didn't know why he was even telling him those things. Maybe he really was drunk, after all.
“Sometimes it pays off to take a risk or two, don't you think?”
Andrew shook his head. “Not when you've got a family to take care of”.
“She doesn't work?”
“Kind of...”. Andrew let out a small sigh. “She's a freelance artist. Children book's illustrations, character designs, that sort of thing.”
“But she's not good at it?”
“No! I mean, yes! She's amazing. It's just... it's not something you can depend on to feed a whole family.”
Andrew sighed again. Why was he even giving explanations to a stranger? It was none of his business. He probably didn't even care.
“So you're stuck in a miserable job, under a boss that you hate, while she's out there living her dreams”, Alphonse commented, making him wish he had never opened his mouth.
Andrew glared at him. “I'm not miserable. I'm the best in our department. He knows that.”
“Does he ever acknowledge it, though?”, Alphonse insisted, chuckling again when he didn't answer. “Just what I thought”.
You piece of...
“Ah, we're almost there I think. Last house on the left?”.
Andrew looked out again.
“Yes, just behind the laundry mat. You can park there, it's the quickest path too.”
“Alright then. Let's get our sleeping beauty back into her castle”.
Andrew helped him carry a very unconscious Derrick up the staircase, struggling to one-handedly get his door open and to turn on the lights inside. The keys clinged in his hand as he blindly slapped the wall to try and hit the switch, letting out a small triumphant noise as a faint click confirmed his success before the light filled the room.
He kept casting glances behind himself as they brought him inside, treading past the minefield of scattered clothes strewn all over the floor. Finally, they hoisted him over a couch before Andrew went to collect a blanket from one of the clothing piles, wrapping it around the man's sleeping form, and a waste bin which he placed next to his head in case he needed to puke again during the night.
“You've done this before”. Alphonse was watching him intently as Andrew went to collect Derrick's phone charger from a cluttered table, plugging it in next to the couch before fishing the phone from the man's pocket, attaching it to the cable and placing it on the armrest.
“Yeah,” he murmured, browsing through the apps until he found the one he was looking for. Of course, there was no alarm set yet for the next day. He groaned as he made sure to add at least two, making sure that one of them would be repeating on all working days, and throwing in a third one for good measure. “He's just hopeless. I don't know how he survived this long on his own.”
“Can't be that long. It always takes a while to adapt after moving out from the family”, Alphonse commented, looking at the mess that reigned supreme in the room. “I'm sure he'll figure it out”.
“If he doesn't get himself fired first”. Andrew felt like he was already about to get a headache merely by thinking about how to get both of them out of trouble the next day. He was going to have to call him before work, he already knew it. “Come on, let's get going. At least one of us has to wake up in time tomorrow.”
The rest of the drive was spent in silence, also because Andrew kept drifting in and out of sleep.
“Hey, this is your stop”, Alphonse warned him, shaking him awake. “Should I park on the front?”
Andrew didn't even remember telling him his address, but he figured he must have done so while half-conscious since the other had no trouble finding his house.
“Yeah, that's fine”, he mumbled, unable to hold back a loud yawn mid-sentence. Man, he was knackered. “Ah, thank you, by the way. Sorry I couldn't be of much company”.
“It's alright. I'm sure we'll have all the time to talk another time”, Alphonse replied, patting his shoulder before turning off the engine, handing him back the keys. “Goodnight, Andrew”.
He didn't tell him that he seriously doubted they'd see each other again in the first place.
He was almost at the door before it occurred to him.
“Wait, how will you-”, he turned back to ask him, freezing in mid sentence.
Just like that, he was already gone.
He hadn't heard him move. Surely he should at least have been able to see him walk away, but the man was nowhere to be seen.
Did I just... imagine him?
He shook that thought from his head. He must have left in a hurry.
At least it saves me the trouble of offering him to stay. He knew Angela wouldn't have been happy to have some stranger under their roof, even if it was to repay a favor.
Speaking of which... he really hoped she was already asleep. Regardless of what he had told the man before, he still didn't want to have to explain why he was coming home so late without warning.