Chapter 2- The Morning After

A/N: Rough draft done at 4am. Please send me suggestions and leave comments. I'll be back to edit this after I've had some sleep!

Consciousness lept upon him before he could roll out of the way. He heard a rattling at the door. Someone's breaking in, his logical mind told him. He started a little and began to move his arms in order to push himself into a better vantage of the door, but the dessicated sponge that was his brain after the previous evening's fighting and moonshine told him to stay put in a voice like broken glass unless he wanted his head to explode and cotton balls left in there to scatter like dust in the wind.

A wave of nausea swept over him and his brain sloshed around like mercury in his head. He laid perfectly still, obedient and submissive, waiting for it to subside.

By this time, he could hear the key scraping into the lock. The sound was amplified, almost like he was underwater, and painful, but then, anything louder than the sound of his own breathing was causing a thunderclap to reverberate in his head. His brain was working slowly, rebuilding the burned out synapses from that home brew and connecting them in unfamiliar ways, but eventually it dawned on him that he was still in his dorm room and this was more than likely his sweater-vest and dockers wearing quarterback roommate dragging himself to bed after a frat party somewhere on campus.

At this point, he could care less if it were truly a burglar with a loaded sawed-off. The criminal could bust the door down and have anything his filthy crook fingers could carry as long as Raylan didn't have to move a muscle. If he felt like shooting Raylan, dying wouldn't be so terrible right about then, either, if it would quell the spots floating rhythmically behind his eyelids to the cadence of his pulse pounding in his ears. He'd give his right arm for a glass of water and half a bottle of aspirin. The vinyl window shade shot up with a explosion of sound that concussed Raylan's aching ribs and skull.

"Jesus Christ, Ray, don't chu got a test today er somethin'? You gonna sleep through class?" boomed Bryce with what Raylan thought was obscene volume and proximity. He'd always hated having a roommate and today he felt extra ornery. He also hated that nickname Bryce insisted on. Sometimes he'd vary it and call him the somehow worse still "Ray-Ray" or "Ray-man". If Raylan currently possessed the desire and ability to move, he'd have knocked Bryce's teeth through the back of his skull at this point, but one ass-kicking per jug of 'shine was his limit. Currently, Raylan possessed none of those things anyway and had the mental capacity of a stapler. Besides, Bryce was pretty big for a ironed slacks kinda fella, so Raylan sided with his shriveled sponge of a brain and laid still.

When he finally produced enough saliva to keep from choking on his thick, flypaper tongue, Raylan spoke slowly, as if speaking too fast would unleash the contents of his rumbling guts.

He croaked out in an odd, echoing whisper, "What time is it?" and peeled open the crusted together corners of his left eyelids. The ambient light felt like mace-coated roofing nails in his eye, so he quickly screwed them shut again.

When he got no response to his question, he rolled over, slowly and with a sigh, wiping with his hand the string of saliva trailing from his now parched mouth to his dampened pillow. He felt a breeze around his midsection and ghosted a shaky hand over his hip to check that he had pants on before rolling all the way over and showing Bryce the full Monty. Thankfully he was still wearing his jeans, although truthfully he couldn't remember falling asleep in them.

He wiggled his toes and found his boots were still on, too. His swollen eye bumped the corner of his chemistry text, still open on the bed from the previous night. He winced, but didn't pull back. He didn't dare move his head again just yet.

"What time is it?" he wheezed again, this time a little louder.

"It's 10 in the morning, Ray. Shit, what happened to you last night? You look like you've been drug through a knothole backwards. Another science geek figure out your secret home-made hooch formula and did you have to beat him 'til he couldn't remember?" Bryce quipped with a smug grin and giggle. Fucker was proud of himself for coming up with that all on his own, Raylan thought.

"You should see the other guy," Raylan whispered, "Dunno if they called him an ambulance or a hearse."

He sat up, and it was no small effort. He hurt all over, from the tips of his mussed hair to the boot-clad toe that nailed that kid in the gut last night. He cradled his head in his ragged hands and sat with his elbows on his knees for several minutes, breathing.

His mouth tasted like evil, wicked death. His neck was stiff and sore. He stood on wobbly knees and took a shaky step toward his shower supplies. His boot knocked over the empty mason jar by his bedside. The sound of glass on tile floor and the lid skittering across the room made his skin crawl and the nausea to come back with a vengeance. He didn't bother to bend down and collect the pieces of jar. He simply stepped over the broken glass and hobbled off to the bathroom to try and rinse the taste of acrid pig manure from his mouth.

He stood in the shower allowing the hot water to pound into his sore shoulders and neck. He steadied himself with both hands on the wall and let his head hang limp, his eyes closed to shut out the spinning room and drifting spots in his field of vision. His stomach lurched and grumbled. His head swam and the taste of bile crept into his throat. He vomited powerfully for what seemed like hours, until he could only dry heave on his hands and knees beneath the stream of now cool water splattering from the shower head.

When he felt well enough to stand, he did and got out of the shower to inspect himself in the mirror. The face staring back at him was almost unrecognizable. His right eye was a rainbow of royal colors; angry, puffed out and still swollen shut. He had an abrasion on his jaw in the shape of the class ring his opponent wore. He wondered if that other fella had tiny horseshoe brands all over his face this morning. The thought made him smile as he assessed the damage on his body. Nothing was broken, so far as he could tell.

He brushed his teeth half a dozen times and managed to shave nearly half of his face. No one would notice anyway, he figured, what with the shiner and all. He tugged his clothes on slowly, covering gingerly his wounds of war; the bruises, scrapes and hematomas.

He wandered back to his room, retching at the overwhelming scent of someone's cologne in the hall. He drank an entire gallon jug of water and downed a handful of Advil before fixing himself a meager breakfast of dry toast and a banana. He refilled the bottle from the tap and headed off to catch the bus. If he was lucky- not that he felt at all that way this morning- he could still make it to Organic Chemistry on time.

"Shit," he muttered as he climbed aboard the stinking, smoke belching, motion-sickness inducing bus and realized he left his keys and student ID on the desk in his room.