The Odd Couple, Part I
Frick & Frack
“Do they pay you to be so lazy after the shows?” the teasing voice of his roommate intoned.
Without bothering to peek from beneath his arm, Eddie gave him the finger. “Fuck you, Parker,” he said, but his tone held mirth as well.
Craig flopped down into one of the overstuffed chairs provided for the bands backstage. The fabric was old and stained with things he could only shudder to think of, yet it was comfortable just the same.
“Don’t you have to do an encore or some crap?” Craig asked, running his fingers through his short ebon hair with one hand.
Craig smirked. “No, it isn’t. You’re just too drunk to tell.”
Eddie peered at him from the cover of his elbow and grunted. “Fuck, your hair. . . it’s. . .short . .”
Craig smirked. “No, it isn’t. You’re just too drunk to tell.”
“Bastard,” Eddie chuckled. “You just want to look like me. Admit it.”
Craig emitted a short bark of laughter. “If I wanted to look like you, I would have to roll out of bed, not brush my hair for at least three days and grab the nearest shirt, which of course would be on the floor, and smell the pits of it to make sure it wasn’t reeking of pot and old ass.”
“Fucker,” Eddie said.
“You are so eloquent, Oh Drunk One,” Craig said, rolling his eyes. Leaning over the battered coffee table, he swiped the pack of American Spirit cigarettes from its mottled surface. Sliding one of the slender cigarettes from the box, he held it up as if examining it. “Smoking,” he announced, “is a disgusting habit.” Slipping it between his lips, he asked, “got a light?”
“Heh, freak. . ” Eddie snickered, tossing him the lighter that he kept within the pocket of his well-worn jeans. Clearing his throat, he coughed, the thin wisp of smoke that trailed close to him particularly aggravating. The cough turned into a rather rasping fit of several and he groaned.
Exhaling a cloud of white into the air, Craig arched one eyebrow in his friend’s direction. “What’s wrong with you?”
“I dunno,” Eddie mumbled. “I think I’m coming down with something. . . felt like shit all day. Been hacking and sneezing like a madman.” He sniffled wetly as if to emphasize this point.
Craig took another languid drag from the cigarette that dangled from between his slender fingers. “Stay the hell away from me, then. I have an audition in three days.”
“Are you wearing the pink dress or the purple one?” Eddie teased.
“Neither,” Craig replied smoothly, “I’m wearing the red one. Red says ‘look at me, I’m a tough bitch’.”
“Darling, you couldn't look like a tough bitch no matter what color the dress.” Eddie grinned and Craig flipped him off casually.
“You're just jealous because I look better than you in a
dress,” Craig exhaled toward the ceiling.
“What, no witty rejoinder?” Craig asked. Despite his light tone, he was a bit concerned about Eddie. He was unusually pale, even for him, and his eyes were ringed with dark shadows, as though he had not been sleeping.
Craig's voice snapped Eddie's attention back to his roommate. He shrugged. “Nah, no reason to defend myself. I know the truth.” His voice came out slightly hoarse and he took a long gulp of the water, finishing off the bottle. He sat up suddenly, facing the other man. “What are you doing now?”
Craig calmly took another drag off the cigarette, used to Eddie's mood swings and sudden changes of topic. “Listening to your bullshit and smoking.”
“Oh ha ha. Don't give up your day job... oh wait.. you don't have one...” But Eddie lightened the comment with a smirk.
“Hello pot... this is kettle... you're black.”
This time Eddie did laugh, just barely managing to keep it from turning into another cough. “Look, I just wanted to know if you wanted to go out for a couple of hours. I'm too wired to sleep and I don't really want to hit the bars by myself.” There was nothing he hated more than drinking alone. And he knew that if he didn't drink, he'd be awake all night.
Craig gasped in mock surprise. “You would actually honor me with your presence? You could find it in yourself to hang out without the rest of the band for one night?” He grabbed at his chest. “Wait, I think I'm having chest pains.”
Eddie tossed the now empty water bottle at him, hitting him in the arm. “They're busy. I think they want a night without me,” he made a face.
Craig winked suggestively at his friend. “Then it’s a date, sugar.”
The bars were beginning to look the same to Eddie as he strolled inside of the familiar haze of smoke and sweat. As usual, he ordered a glass of Merlot, instructing the bartender that he could just leave the bottle, for he was certain he could easily drain it within an hour, if not in less time.
Craig sat upon the stool beside him, sipping what he termed a “filthy martini”.
“That is such a gay ass drink,” Eddie commented, taking a gulp of the wine from the bottle the bartender had left for him. Glasses were, after all, for pussies.
His friend cocked a brow. “Are you insinuating that I am a fag?” he asked with a laugh.
“No,” Eddie replied calmly, “I’m flat out calling you one.”
“Now, now, Eddie. . .that isn’t very nice. ‘Flaming queen’ is much more creative.” Craig sucked an olive from the toothpick with a rather lurid pull of his lips. “Need I remind you of that picture of you kissing What’s-His-Name?”
“Oh fuck off about that. I was drunk,” Eddie whined.
“Suuurrre you were….”
Eddie started to retaliate, but a sudden rather sharp prickle raged within his sinuses. At first, he considered battling it into submission, but knew it would just come back later, and possibly with reinforcements, so he snatched a napkin from the bar in white flagged surrender. The bright blue of his eyes blurred with tearing anticipation and his chest heaved slightly. “Hehiiisssshhhhuh! Issssshhhuh! Heeehhh. . .isssshhhh!” he sneezed rather wetly into the napkin, allowing the force of it to wash over him with a shudder.
Craig held up his fingers in the sign of the cross and leaned back into the stool’s wooden frame, eyeing Eddie with an ominous stare.
“Oh fuck off,” Eddie grumbled, tossing the wadded napkin onto the floor amidst the other various pieces of trash.
"That always happens to me when I drink red wine. The first swallow makes me sneeze."
Craig just raised an eyebrow, not needing to say anything more. Both men knew what was coming, and all of Eddie’s protestations meant nothing. It was not the first time Eddie had gotten sick after a long run of gigs and it wouldn’t be the last. But it was the first time since they had been living together. Craig was not pleased that it was happing right before his audition. He could not afford to screw it up – it was a call-back for the biggest role he had yet landed.
Eddie frowned into his wine bottle, taking another long swallow. At least this time the tickle did not return. For the moment. He scrubbed the back of his wrist under his nose and hunched his shoulders into his jacket. He wasn’t nearly drunk enough, he still felt like shit. “So Parker, tell me all about this audition that’s got you in such a yank.”
There was a long silence, and finally Eddie looked up from his scrutiny of the green bottle before him and realized Craig’s attention was focused elsewhere. He followed his gaze across the crowed room to a small table in the corner where a man with long blond hair was drinking a bottle of beer, alone, and staring just as intently at Craig. Go figure. They always seemed to stare at Parker wherever he went, straight or otherwise.
Craig had not expected to cruise, his intentions were fully honorable, get a couple of drinks with Ed and head home together. But when his glance caught that of the tall, blue eyed blond in the corner, he couldn’t help but stare. And when his stare was returned, ideas began to filter in… and none of them were good. Eyes, blue as Eddie’s, blue as a summer sky, crackling with desire, calling to him. He cocked his head at the blond, who shot him a quite evil grin motioned for him to join him at the table.
Eddie caught the sudden rise in electric tension in Craig’s body and sighed. He took another drink of the wine, finding the music in the bar suddenly too loud, the chatter of those around him too inane, the smoke and stink of sweat and old beer too cloying. He needed to go. He finished off the bottle of wine in one long gulp and clapped his hand on Craig’s shoulder, smirking when he jumped.
Eddie nodded toward the blond. “I can see you’re busy. Why don’t you get up and go over there, if he’s so interesting? I’m feeling like hammered shit… the day was too long. I think I’m going to head back to the apartment.” He coughed harshly into his fist. “I need some fresh air. The cigarette smoke in here is killing me.” He was too tired to be witty, too tired to keep up with the banter. It all took effort he could no longer scrape up.
Eddie watched as Craig took a thoughtful sip of his martini, glancing over the rim of his glass at the blond. Eddie wrapped his arms around himself, waiting. What he really wanted was for Craig to come back with him. He wasn’t sure he could sleep, and watching old movies with a friend beat staring at the ceiling any day. But he was not about to admit that to Parker.
Craig drained the rest of the martini in one languid sip. Although the man was appealing, Craig was not one to be very forward. Only Eddie knew of his tastes for the same sex, yet he had never brought anyone home when Eddie was there, for, as open minded as the singer was, walking in during a couch seduction session may not be the most pleasant thing for either of them. Besides, Eddie looked to be a bit on the weary side along with being quite plastered and driving alone was probably not the best idea.
“I think I’ll pass tonight,” Craig said, giving the man a barely perceptible wink from behind the rim of the glass before he set it down. “There’s no way you’re getting behind the wheel of car.”
Eddie smirked. “Good thing because I didn’t drive anyway. Was gonna call Jeff to come get my happy ass.”Squeezing his eyes shut, he drew a sharp breath. “Hisssshhhhhuh!” he sneezed suddenly, the sound harsh and strained.
That was most certainly not the wine, Craig surmised. Eddie was bearing a striking resemblance to a Nyquil commercial with each passing minute. If he wanted his friend to make it home in one piece, he definitely needed a ride and perhaps a good dose of cold medicine. Sliding from the barstool, he offered Eddie a hand which the singer deliberately overlooked. Leave it to Eddie to refuse even the slightest gesture of assistance.