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Fraternisation

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"You called me Mike."

"Er -"

"You called me Mike over the R/T."

"Yes, all right, no need to rub it in." Alistair smiles. He looks ghastly, as though he's the one who's been bleeding.

Not a time for jokes, then. "I don't think anyone noticed," Mike says.

"I didn't care who heard. I thought you . . . and right then I didn't care about anything else." He uncrosses his arms and Mike settles against him, aching head cautiously resting on Alistair's epauletted shoulder. Alistair strokes the back of Mike's neck, ruffling hair that they both know is longer than it ought to be.

Alistair smells of shaving soap, boot polish, and wool pressed with a hot flatiron. Even after this long day, Mike can barely scent the body under it. He leans, inhales. "I'm all right."

"Yes. Thank Christ." Alistair sighs, with a note in it that is not only relief. "This is why there's a rule against fraternisation."

I don't care, Mike thinks.

Present tense. Not like Alistair, describing a momentary indiscipline.

I don't care about the rules anymore.

"You're shaking," Alistair says.

"Let's lie down." Which is no answer. He has no answer that Alistair would understand.