“Hello,” Rob says quietly.
David looks up. Rob’s bowtie is undone and his collar is open, exposing his neck and the skin below. He looks tired and rumpled and once-smart, and David can’t stop looking.
Rob’s holding an empty cocktail glass and he’s halfway to hungover, David can tell. It’s a cool dawn. A light layer of early morning mist drapes itself across the Cam. Rob joins David in sitting, their feet hanging off the low wall and down towards the water.
“Not with the revellers?”
“I could ask you the same question. How did you know I’d be here?”
Rob coughed. “I didn’t. I just fancied a walk.”
“That’s sounds more like me than you. Wanting to get away.” May balls were for couples, really.
Rob sighs. “Penelope broke up with me last week. And she wouldn’t let me give her my ticket. Stuck with a few other people from Caius I know. Got horribly drunk and depressing earlier on.”
Of course they had gone to separate end-of-year balls: they’re both seasoned students now, had even taken a brief break from writing so Rob could take his final exams. They had separate lives. A week had passed between Rob’s relationship ending and David finding out, and doesn’t that speak volumes?
Sometimes David thinks they’re as close as two friends can be, and will carry on being so, just because they happened to meet and make each other laugh. He’s a fool.
“What did you think, then? Of yours this year? Don’t think I know anyone else who’s ever been to Peterhouse’s. Always seemed a bit posh.”
“I seemed to get everywhere a bit too late,” David tells him. “By the time the queue died down for the port and cheese, there were only crackers left. And I missed the fireworks.”
“Yeah. That happens. You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time.”
Neither of them says anything for a while as they look at each other via their reflections in the river, and for once David doesn’t feel like joking, doesn’t feel like breaking this comfortable, understanding silence.
There’s always a feeling in the back of his mind that he and Rob are on edge, on the edge of something. It must be what makes them work.
Both of their reflections turn, carefully, further towards each other. Rob’s fingers slip and the cocktail glass falls into the water.
David’s eyes follow its path as it calmly floats away. “You-”
And suddenly Rob catches his open mouth and they’re kissing.
Oh God. This is unexpected. What should he be doing? Anyone could see them out here. He can feel Rob’s tongue in his mouth and...actually, it’s the least weird he’s ever felt when kissing someone; David’s heads spins from this realisation, and he carries on letting it all happen.
Rob soon pushes him away from the river so that David’s lying on the dewy grass and Rob’s lying on him, soon inelegantly tugging at his bow tie to undo it, Rob’s fingers brushing against his throat for a moment before winding back around his nape.
The kissing is soft and deep and Rob’s holding the back of his neck like David might break. No I fucking won’t, David wants to say to him, but doesn’t.
And then Rob pulls away.
“Oh,” David says, staring at him with wide eyes. Rob no longer meets them.
“You’re barely moving,” Rob mutters, scarcely audible. “Christ, this was fucking stupid.”
I’m just scared, you bastard, David wants to say to him, but even though Rob might still be thinking about his ex girlfriend but can’t have feasibly done this just to shut David up or something, even though David’s quite sure he can feel Rob half-hard against his thigh, David thinks too much to act and cannot pull Rob back towards him, cannot make the bloody words come.
“Forget it,” Rob tells him miserably, kneeling back on his haunches then standing up. “See you at Fringe rehearsal later.” And all David is left to look up at is empty sky.
Fifteen years too late, David kisses back. Now they’re standing by the Thames at a cloudy dusk and, at long last reaching forward, David finds his hand in thinner hair.
“Even fucking stupider now,” Rob murmurs, forgetting nothing.