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Best Man

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"Well," says Nick, as the Mutant Enemy mascot limps across the screen grr-ing and argh-ing. He presses a button on the remote, switching off the TV and DVD player.

"Well," says Simon. "Big day tomorrow." He gets up and sort of drifts towards the guest room, thinking how strange it is that Nick has a guest room. As strange as Simon's morning suit--bespoke--that hangs in the wardrobe.

"Don't be stupid." Nick points to the door opposite the guest room. "You're in with me."

"Yeah?" Ever since they decided he'd stay the night here he's been . . . not hoping exactly, but thinking they might.

"Yeah. Couldn't leave you all alone to brood about your impending doom, could I?"

It's been ten years, at least, which is a really long fucking time. The memory shines a spotlight on everything that's changed since then. Simon's become someone who brushes and flosses every night because he worries about gum disease. Someone who'll have to get up once or twice to piss even though he's not drunk.

Nick's bedroom is warm, carpeted, and smells of furniture polish instead of stale lager and mold like the old squat. The bed's about three times the size of the other one, which is good because Simon's back isn't up to the contortions of fitting himself and Nick into a single. Nick was thinner then, and Simon was a hell of a lot more flexible.

"Hiya," says Nick when Simon crawls in under the duvet. He's reading a comic--this month's Hellblazer--and that's just like it always was, except his specs are thicker.

Big, Simon decides, doesn't begin to describe this bed. If Nick's ever short of cash he could probably rent out a couple of sections as flats. Or offer the pillows to mountaineers for climbing practice. Simon tries to beat his into a less neck-challenging shape, but it springs back undaunted. He flops onto it and wriggles around a little, which seems to help.

Nick closes the comic. "Tired?"

"Mmm. How's John Constantine?"

"Depressed. Sarcastic. Covered in demon guts."

"The usual."

"Some things never change." Off go the glasses, out goes the light.

Simon feels Nick roll over, then settle. Once he stops moving, it's hard to tell he's there at all. This is a good firm mattress. The old one sagged, tilted him towards Nick. It always reminded him of science fiction, of how gravity warps space.

Right. Sleep. He has to get up in six hours. But when he closes his eyes he sees sparks of color, like fireworks. His shoulders hurt and he can't relax them.

"Fuck, this is all wrong," Nick says from three or four million parsecs away.

Thank God, thank God he felt it too. "I'm lonely over here."

"Well come here then, you daft bugger."

Some sliding from both directions and they meet in the middle. Simon's head on Nick's shoulder, Simon's arm across Nick's chest, the way they slept back when they didn't have a choice about it. When it was hold onto Nick or fall off the edge. He remembers how glad they were when he could finally afford his own bed. The comfort he feels in this now, years later when he usually shares his bed with the woman he's marrying tomorrow, and it's her head on his shoulder . . . that comfort has got nothing to do with what it was really like, back then. Those are just facts; this is, well, truth.

"Cold feet," Nick says, patting his arm.

"No. Not really. I'm happy, I want to get married, it's - "

"I meant literally. Your feet are bloody freezing."

Simon shifts his legs a bit. "Sorry."

"'S all right. You only want me for a hot water bottle."

"Sussed." It's half true, too. He feels thawed now, sleepier, his shoulders looser. "I think I do have cold feet a little. The other kind."

"Maybe we shouldn't have watched 'Hell's Bells.'"

The whole point of the Buffy marathon was to watch "Hell's Bells," but it's never been Nick's favorite show, so Simon doesn't expect him to understand the significance. The necessity. "I think the chances of demonic intervention at my wedding are roughly nil. I just . . . fuck, am I really ready to be a grown-up? Do I want to be one?"

"Who says you have to?" Nick's entire theory of life is in that sentence.

"It's just a lot of change. And then a lot of . . . permanence."

Nick kisses him on the forehead and hugs him until he can hardly breathe. "This is sounding really Shaun of the Dead. Maybe I'll bring my spade tomorrow, just in case."

"Male immaturity: the leading cause of zombie apocalypses. Or is it apocalypsi?"

"That sounds like a Caribbean band."

"I'll still love you best."

Nick laughs like an earthquake under Simon's ear. "I know, you twat."

Simon didn't mean to say it. It was supposed to be one of those obvious, taken-for-granted things that don't even need joking about. But fucking hell, here they are cuddled up together. They've never gone in for the unspoken, manfully repressed kind of affection.

"And," Nick continues, "I'll still love you best even when you're married and boring and never have time to make me watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer anymore."

"Thanks for that little prophecy." Simon catches Nick's hand, which is patting his arm again, and holds it. "You promise?"

"I promise. Drama queen."

"It's my sensitive artistic soul."

Another laugh from Nick, shallower, just a huff of his chest. Then quiet. He's not asleep, though; Simon can tell by his breathing. Nick really won't leave him alone to brood.

It might be nice to lie awake all night like this, hoarding minutes. Stocking up on old times. But Simon's knackered, and tomorrow is coming soon.