* * *
“Good morning to you, too. Coffee?”
“You’re certainly looking chipper this morning, James,” I greeted him, pitching my voice to twist the knife a little. “Enjoy yourself?”
James managed a roguish grin. “I h’d a dec’nt n’t.” His face, which until now had been barely managing to look human, suddenly took a turn for the Martian.
“Behind the couch.”
James made a dive, and the sound of thick, chunky liquid spraying into a bucket rose from across the breakfast bar.
“Feeling better?” I put a cup of coffee on the bench in front of James, followed by a large glass of water and a roll of paper towels. James sipped at his coffee warily, the half-full bucket sitting in lunging distance, and watched as I laid out four plates for pancakes.
“Well, I know you brought someone home. The American girl?”
“Yeah, but...” James’ prefrontal lobe finally discovered the subroutines for elementary mathematics. “Did you bring someone home?”
“Well, Hannah lives way out on Thompson Road, so I let her crash in my bed.”
“You... wait... ha! You finally got laid!”
“No, I slept on the couch. I’m not about to take advantage of a drunk girl.”
“You... oh man. You amaze me, Will, you really do. She’s single, on the rebound, in drastic need of serious comfort, and I happen to know she thinks you’re kind of hot... and you slept on the couch. Only you, Will.”
“Only Will what?” The newcomer – I vaguely remembered her name might be Mary – was standing in the doorway with the kind of casual pose you have to really work at, breasts filling out a borrowed bathrobe. She had other features, but neither of us noticed them for a good three or four seconds.
“Oh, uh, only Will could be up this early making pancakes,” James managed, memories of the night before finally floating up through the haze. I was worried about other things.
“James, do you want your pancakes fried extra crispy?” He stared at me like I’d gone mad, my hastily improvised code language blowing through the gaps between his alcohol-riddled synapses.