For the first time in his career , Henry Higgs was at complete and utter a loss. Was there a PR strategy in existence that could even begin to address this situation? He didn’t even know where this disaster could possibly end, to say nothing of where to begin. Was it even possible to find a spin—let alone one he’d find remotely satisfactory—for all this? It seemed doubtful.
The realization bothered him more than it should have.
After all, there were more important things to consider. Like, for example, the fact that LA was currently being overrun by vampires.
(He supposed he should, therefore, be glad this wasn’t a professional obligation. Well, he certainly hoped it wasn't, at least. If it had been KinderKare Pharmaceuticals that was responsible for the outbreak of actual, well-documented vampirism, there would be no climbing out from beneath that marketing disaster. Thank goodness for small blessings, right? )
Well, what appeared to be vampires. Henry had yet to fully accept that this wasn’t all some elaborate fever dream and he’d awake in his bed at any moment.
The bruise on in his arm where he kept pinching himself, however, begged to differ.
So, too, did the numerous cell phone videos and pictures that had flooded the internet and his various timelines in the past few hours. Frankly, Henry wouldn’t have seen them if it weren’t for the message he'd received from Eliza early in the afternoon. Usually, when she sent him a link to something he just had to see—followed up by four or five reminders, to be sure he’d gotten it—Henry didn’t check right away. It was rarely ever important (though he would admit, to himself if no one else, to enjoying the video of the kitten falling asleep she'd sent him last week) and usually a waste of his time. Of course, ignoring her usually meant that Eliza would eventually come looking for him to make sure he hadn't turned off his phone again, which in turn lead to even more time being wasted. Not that Henry really thought that time spent with Eliza was ever wasted. It could be remarkably hard to get his work done when she was around, though.
Which was precisely why he'd come in for a quiet Saturday afternoon in the office. Without Eliza (or Larry or Terrence or Charmonique or Joan or Mr. Saperstein—it really was a miracle anything got done during the week) around, it was possible to focus on his projects.
Today, however, a quiet office all to himself hadn’t been the efficiency boost it usually was. Maybe it was the brilliant sunshine streaming through his window, just beckoning him out and into the beautiful day. Maybe some part of him knew that something strange—though he never could have guessed it would be actual neck-biting, blood-sucking vampires—was on the horizon. Most likely, it was Raj's report on KinderKare's new line of antiseptic sprays failing to hold his attention; Henry had already been idly swiveling back and forth in his chair for several minutes when Eliza’s text came through, and he’d leapt for the distraction.
A good thing, too. He’d been considering going home, but if there were hordes of vampires, or even just delusional weirdos who thought they were vampires, wandering the streets of LA—as the link Eliza had sent him certainly suggested—maybe it was better to stay where he was. There were worse places than a pharmaceutical company to wait out what could be the end of days.
It would be pretty lonely, though.
(Between learning that direct sunlight and crucifixes and garlic did not, in fact, have much effect at all on vampires—though wooden stakes evidently did—and discovering that Henry might, in fact, actually regret never seeing his colleagues again if the world were to end, it was apparently a day for all kinds of irony.)
Not for the first time, he looked down at his phone. The screen remained dark and notification-less.
Maybe cell towers had gone down or were just overloaded. That could certainly explain why Eliza had not responded to his last message telling her he hoped she stayed safe in her apartment. It was, at least, preferable to many alternatives.
He peeked out his window again. The street below seemed quiet, but he supposed that didn’t mean much. The street had been quiet all day; that hadn’t stopped gangs of bloodthirsty—literally—criminals from preying upon the public.
A clatter and a commotion arose in the hallway, cutting through what should have been the silent floor. No one was scheduled to come in; in all his time at KinderKare, Henry could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen another employee at work on a Saturday. Somehow, he doubted that today would be the day he'd need that sixth finger.
Warily, Henry rose from his desk and stared hard at the closed door of his office. He held his breath, listening intently. Were those footsteps? They sounded like footsteps. Oh, God, he really wished he had something, anything, with which to defend himself. Curse his minimalist, supremely efficient decor! Maybe the desk lamp?
Trying to tell himself that he was only being paranoid, there weren’t actual vampires in the hall and his heartbeat was thundering through his ears for no reason at all, Henry brandished the lamp over his head as the handle turned and the door creaked open.
The lamp thudded to the floor.
His heart still hammering away, Henry could only manage a strangled, astonished, “Eliza?”
In a blur, she launched herself at him, her long arms winding tightly around his neck to cling determinedly. The baseball bat she’d nearly swung at him dangled down his back and the pair of wooden stakes thrust through her belt pressed into his stomach, but that didn’t stop Henry from wrapping his own arms around Eliza's waist. Neither did his complete surprise.
More surprising, though, was the fact that her mouth found its way unerringly to his, laying a desperate, urgent kiss on him without any warning.
Just as Henry hadn’t kept himself from embracing Eliza, he didn’t stop himself from kissing her back either.
The world might very well be ending. His reasons not to kiss Eliza suddenly seemed far less critical than they’d been even two hours ago.
Given that the world might be ending, perhaps they spent too long in each other’s arms. Every time one of them began to pull away, though, the other reeled them back in. Neither Eliza nor Henry seemed to mind.
Finally, though, they needed to break for more than quick gasps of air. Henry rested his forehead against Eliza’s hair, pulled back in a plain ponytail. She pressed her face into his neck, her shoulders heaving a little.
Thinking she needed soothing, he rubbed her back, murmuring, “It’s all right.”
“It is not,” Eliza spat back, suddenly wrenching herself from his grip to shove at him with her free hand, baseball bat still dangling menacingly from the other, “all right!”
Her eyes were blazing, and in spite of the emotional whiplash, Henry was fully aware that he needed to tread very carefully. She really did look like she knew how to use that bat.
“Well, no,” he agreed. “Whatever this epidemic is—“
“This is not about the vampires, Henry!” she exclaimed, gesturing wildly enough to send a file organizer flying. Eliza hardly noticed, and Henry was not about to point it out. She jabbed one immaculately manicured finger into his chest. “This is about you telling me to sit at home on my ass—like I'm not the one who goes to kickboxing every week—while you were out here in God knows how much danger!”
“I wasn’t in danger.”
“Tell that to the bloodsucker I surprised in the lobby.”
Henry blanched. “In the lobby?” he repeated, faint.
His clear distress had Eliza softening in a blink. She leaned her baseball bat against his desk and drew him back into an embrace. This time, she was the one to rub his back and promise, “It’s all right. We’ll be all right.”
Somehow, Henry didn’t doubt her.
(He really didn’t doubt her when Eliza got the better of another vampire as they made their way to her car, losing one of her stakes in the process.
“You’re lucky you have me,” she said, grinning in a way that seemed somewhat at odds with the violence she’d just unleashed. “And that I watched so much Buffy.”
“Buffy?” Henry echoed, dumbfounded for what he suspected would not be the last time today.
“She had cute outfits!” Eliza defended. Then, her nose wrinkled. "Well, for the nineties.”
He laughed because what else could he do? Vampires might be overrunning the city, but at least he had a girlfriend who was really good at slaying them.)