He took a step, stumbled, fell, and was saved from the floor by Winters, who dragged him upright and hissed, “Get a hold of yourself, Nix, honestly—”
“Why don’ you getta holda myself, heh.”
“That’s enough. I’m taking you straight to bed.”
“Good. All that throwin’ up made me weak.”
“Nice,” Winters muttered. “Think you can make it upstairs?”
“Me? Nuh uh. I’d kill myself.”
Lipton stared from the study, unnoticed by either of the officers. He thought about saying hello but decided against it—Winters looked pretty annoyed and Nixon was in no shape to carry on a conversation.
He watched as Winters drew Nixon’s arm over his shoulders and helped him limp up the stairs. Lipton didn’t know how or why Dick put up with such reckless, unattractive behavior. Truthfully, Lipton didn’t know how those two could even call themselves friends with all their myriad differences. Surely they had at least one thing in common with each other . . .
He went back to his letter, trying to relocate his train of thought. Then he heard something.
It sounded like it had come from upstairs.
Probably Nixon falling down.
Lipton’s pen hovered above the paper, motionless, waiting.
There was a distinct pattern emerging, Lipton felt quite sure of it now.
And then, something new:
And so it continued, gradually speeding up.
Cree-thump. Cree-thump. Cree-thump.
Lipton sat riveted at the desk, counting, listening, trying to figure out what on earth was happening when—
“Nnhhaaaa, harder, Dick, harder!”
Lipton put a hand over his gaping mouth. No. No, it couldn’t be. That was insane. Winters wouldn’t possibly . . . And Nixon simply couldn’t be that drunk . . . could he?
The squeal of bedsprings and the thump of a headboard against the wall said that yes, in fact, he could.
It was awkward seeing them at breakfast the next morning. Winters seemed to be his usual self, chipper and ready for anything, but Nixon was a rumpled, hungover, sleepless mess. He looked as if he’d spent the entirety of last night getting royally fucked by a man with far more energy and sobriety than himself. Lipton decided to drop in and say hi.
“Good morning, Captain Nixon, sir.”
Nixon glared up blearily from his coffee and muttered, “Christ, Lip, it’s not even eight. Drop the formalities already.”
“Sorry. I felt it was necessary, considering.”
Nixon cocked an eyebrow. “Considering what?”
Lipton slid into the chair beside Nixon and nonchalantly reached for the sugar. “Well, considering your new position.”
“What new position? What’re you talking about?”
Lipton dipped his fingers into his breast pocket and pulled out a fresh, crisp cigarette. He offered it to Nixon, who accepted the unforeseen gift with some reluctance. “I didn’t know you smoked.”
“Oh, I don’t,” Lipton said cheerily, watching Nixon take a long sip from his steaming mug. “But I thought you might need one after last night. I know I did.”
Nixon blew coffee like a spouting whale and began to cough uncontrollably.