Elijah wakes reluctantly, squints past sticky eyelids, struggles for a few minutes in whimpering denial, and finally untangles himself from the Hobbit pile in the middle of the room. Somehow the Elf managed to take up the entire double bed last night. Elijah spent most or all of the night down on the floor with his face shoved into Billy's stomach, Dom's head resting on his back and Astin draped halfway across both of them, and beyond all that Elijah would just as soon not recall. Now Orlando has managed to be first into the shower. Elijah lurches half-blindly into the bathroom, flushes the toilet without using it and exits to the sound of sincere, if inelegant cursing.
Elijah staggers out into the hallway, aiming for the peace of the downstairs loo and promising his enthusiastic headache that there will be coffee as soon as he figures out how to work Viggo's coffee maker. How difficult could it be? His body reminds him that just now he is not at his best. Fragmented images of activities from the night before return to lend evidence. He moves carefully, so as not to excite the twining images in the brightly colored hallway carpet runner. Carpet runners can be dangerous when provoked.
He passes by Viggo's bedroom and halts at the closed door, hearing voices and experiencing a quick flutter of hope that someone older and presumably wiser is awake enough to start the coffee while Elijah works out how to negotiate the slick oak stairway when he still can't feel his knees. What the hell was Billy pouring into his glass last night, anyway? And why wasn't he paying closer attention? He ought to know better by now.
Speech is interspersed with laughter behind Viggo's door. The cadence sounds like someone telling a story, or a long joke. The smooth rumble of it must be Sean. His voice hitches and intensifies a little, the strain of a storyteller trying not to laugh. Viggo's snickering isn't helping. Elijah can't make out words, just the sudden end of the story, when Viggo barks in amusement and both men - yes, there's no other word for it - giggle. It's loud, then quickly stifled to low sniggers, a failed attempt at restraint that rises again to a boyish sound of pure glee, their two voices rising and falling together into a rhythm at once rounded and sharp, reminding Elijah of summer and school being out, and skateboards racketing over the sidewalk, moving fast toward no place he's obligated to be.
Elijah's body urges him forward. Truth be told, the coffee maker is calling more loudly than the loo, but business before pleasure.
Once the coffee machine is making preparatory noises, hiccuping and clucking in earnest, Elijah heads back upstairs, rightly proud of himself for having conquered modern technology even in his current state.
The giggling behind Viggo's bedroom door has stopped. There are other sounds now, intense, drawn-out and deep, and in spite of his youthful worldliness Elijah blushes. It's difficult now to tell where one voice ends and the other begins, they have blended so completely into a push-pull rhythm, where three really would be a crowd. The sounds are low, imperfectly controlled, like pulling punches, and Elijah assumes the noise level would be much higher if there were no guests in Viggo's house today. He wonders why discretion should be such a priority this morning, given the orgiastic riot certain hobbits were making together last night. He reconsiders. If not discretion, privacy then. Some things adults keep to themselves, between themselves, not for others, even friends. Elijah realizes that one day he will grow into that.
It occurs to him that the elf is out of the shower, and he seizes the opportunity, bypassing the twitching limbs of the slowly waking Hobbit pile and Orlando, sacked out again all over the bed, hiding his head under a pillow. Dom has opened one eye, and appears to be plotting something, if he can work up the energy.
Elijah and Dom walk down the hallway, Elijah moving slowly, waiting for Dom's hangover to catch up. The scent of a fresh carafe of coffee lures them on with promises of a happy head and at least a tolerance for a mild-mannered breakfast. Dom stops, raises a meaningful eyebrow at Elijah, cocks his head at Viggo's door.
Ruckus within. Discretion abandoned, whoops of laughter, full, loud, not giving a damn now who hears, who they wake, or whose morning after they offend. A sudden yelp of surprise, the sound of a solid, heavy body and its limbs landing on the hardwood floor. A moment of stunned silence. <em>Owwww.</em> Viggo. Sean's laughter, wild and helpless, a startled <em>Ey! Oh!</em> and a second body falls, or is dragged down onto the floor. A collection of percussive noises, which Elijah interprets as knees, elbows, shoulders thudding back and forth on the rug. Laughing grunts of contest, Viggo's triumphant cackle, a horrified <em>No!</em> rounded for emphasis by its Sheffield origin. <em>Nononono!</em> Howls of laughter, then breathless pleading, and the incongruity of a Yorkshire accent yelling, <em>Uncle! Yahh! Uncle uncle uncle!</em>
Dom shakes his head, moving toward the siren song of the coffee machine.
<em>Aaack!</em> The resonant thud and clatter of an overconfident monarch unseated and wrestled floorwards — of tables being turned. Rebellion. Thuggery. Impossible to distinguish whose laughter is whose.
Dom rolls his eyes at Elijah and intones, wise and weary, "Kids today. Where do they get that kind of energy?"
Elijah simply grins and steps carefully down the stairway after him, watching out for scattered little metal cars, plastic green army men, a tipped bag of marbles cascading noisily down; solids and calicos, cat-eyes and steelies.
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Story notes: Elijah wakes reluctantly, squints past sticky eyelids, struggles for a few minutes in whimpering denial, and finally untangles himself from the Hobbit pile in the middle of the room.
Prairie Fire series: Prairie Fire, Anam Cara, Cat-eyes and Steelies, Prairie Fire Christmas 2005, Prairie Fire Shorts: Vol. 1, Sticky II: the Haunting, The Capitulation of Fort Bean.