“Do not,” she barked, “pick me up.”
I leaned back. Eyed her critically.
“You twisted your ankle. And you’re drunk.”
She was about my size and a fighter. I didn’t want to get hurt, masculinity be damned, but it would be a miracle if she got up the stairs to her apartment on the first try, if at all tonight.
“I’ve done it before.” Then, after a moment’s thought, “maybe not both,” she conceded. “I’m good. I promise.”
I hesitated, skeptical, and in that moment she lurched at the icy stairs, more determination than coordination. Missing the guardrails, she slipped and headed face first toward the steps.
Somehow in that moment between surprise and panic, my body reacted and the last thing I remembered was her forehead slamming into the safety of my palm, crushing my guitarist’s hand into the edge of a step. Then darkness as my own temple struck hard.
The first few moments of wakefulness after that were blessedly free of pain. After that, though, I became aware of the massive swollen line crossing my skull and the throbbing headache that told me, in so many words, that I had engaged in a debate with a wooden plank and lost.
I pinched my eyes shut, trying to close off the pain. I breathed in, faintly smelling the scent of her hair, and guessed that I was in her apartment. I opened my eyes just enough to confirm that she was sitting on the floor next to the couch, head cradled in the cushion within an inch of my nose.
“Mmm…awake?” she mumbled.
I closed my eyes. The lights, dim as they were, hurt. “How did…your couch?” I responded. The buzz of my own speech hurt my skull, so I stopped.
“How did you get here?” she asked. A slight movement of air and sudden emptiness of scent and she was turned around, regarding me. I nodded in agreement, looking her in the eyes despite the pain.
“Picked you up.”
I made a small noise that passed for a response. My heavy eyelids shut of their own accord.
Thankfully, after a few minutes, I smelled her hair just beyond my nose again. Breathed in deeply, and