Stuart wakes up before the alarm because Vince is making a right racket in the kitchen. Quite what he’s doing in the kitchen at half six in the morning is beyond him, but he’s too tired to care. He has the world’s quickest shower, pulls on the nearest suit and goes to investigate. It transpires that Vince couldn’t sleep so he decided to make pancakes. Stuart laughs at his ridiculous mind and takes one covered in sugar. After a pancake and a quick discussion of their plans for the day, Stuart leaves for work with his coffee in a flask.
There’s a fresh mug of coffee on his desk when he arrives. Sandra made it in the hope that it would soften the impact of the massive pile of paperwork next to it. It didn’t. Stuart could’ve screamed when he saw it. He delegated as much as he could to Sandra, gave some to the new team of apprentices and put his feet on the desk, intending to have a nap. The phone began ringing as soon as he closed his eyes and seemed to ring again as soon as he put it down again. He predicted a long day.
The apprentices came back to Stuart at ten to five with the paperwork that they were given. It shouldn’t have taken all day and Stuart is already cross. He was hoping to go home at five and get some sleep before Vince came home at eight. He goes through the paperwork with the scared apprentices sat watching nervously. None of it is even remotely correct. Stuart bellows so loudly for them to fuck off that they practically run out of the office. Sandra watches them run past, sighs and makes Stuart another coffee. She thinks he’s going to need it.
Even though he doesn’t say it, Stuart is very grateful for Sandra. She has a husband and a kid but she stays late to keep him company and keep him in coffee. She helps as much as she can with the paperwork and listens to Stuart’s ranting about how all the apprentices should be killed and turned into dog food so they actually do something useful with themselves. Stuart is glad for her company and her good nature. He resolves to bring her some flowers tomorrow morning and take her out for lunch. He couldn’t do his job without her.
It’s gone ten when Stuart gets to the pub. He wonders when he turned into a sad bastard who works until ten on a Friday. He stomps in and pushes aside people who cross his path. He used to swagger in and cruise anyone nearby. The table he’s heading for used to be the place he started his nights. Now it’s where he spends his nights. He hears Hazel’s filthy laugh. Vince turns around. They’re in sync. Hazel smiles. They’ve got him a pint. He drinks and relaxes. He used to think he was happy. Now he knows he is.
Vince doesn’t know why he’s awake at six in the morning. He doesn’t have work until ten, although Stuart’s alarm usually wakes him at half seven. He watches Stuart sleep for a while and he can’t believe how lucky he is that he finally has him all to himself. As he’s up, he decides to make breakfast. Pancakes. Stuart likes pancakes. He’s noisier than he’d hoped, and soon Stuart emerges, already dressed with wet hair. He laughs at Vince and calls him ridiculous, but the affectionate smile he flashes and the pancake he wolfs down show he loves his ridiculousness.
He arrives at work dead on ten and is immediately collared by the girl on customer services complaining that she’s not had a break yet and she’s been on since six. Vince promises to sort something and rushes up to his office before he can be accosted by customers asking about the price of tinned peas. He normally spends some time people watching from the big window that overlooks the store, but today he is met with a huge pile of stock invoices to sort out. He can’t even have a late start without the place descending into utter chaos.
He ends up on a checkout for an hour in the afternoon. Apparently something in one of the cafeteria meals struck a load of staff down with food poisoning and they’re desperately understaffed. It reminds him of being sixteen and starting work here. It’s warm, but he is determined not to take off his suit jacket and he has made sure his ‘manager’ badge is prominently displayed. It is nice, though, to have some interaction with customers, and Vince takes the opportunity to chat to them and find out what they like and what they’d like changed about the store.
He checks his phone after work and finds a text from Stuart. It reads ‘I FUCKING HATE APPRENTICES. I’ll be here all fucking night now. x’ and so Vince doesn’t expect to see his boyfriend at all this evening. Boyfriend, the word still makes him feel wobbly in his tummy. He gets home and manages to eat a sandwich and take off his shoes before Hazel phones and summons him to the pub. While he’s on his way, he wonders how many other mums phone and demand that their sons meet them in the pub immediately. He assumes not many.
Vince sends Stuart a text to let him know where they are if he ever finishes work, then gets a round in. Just staying in the pub is a standard Friday night these days. They only hit the clubs occasionally. Vince receives a text from Stuart saying ‘thirsty’ and so on his next round, Vince gets a pint for Stuart. He senses a presence just after ten and looks around. He smiles when he sees Stuart there. Stuart takes a sip of his pint and starts to rant about the apprentices. Vince listens and nods. He likes their Friday nights.
They go home together, early. Alexander calls them a pair of soft old queens. Stuart only had one drink so he drives. Vince gets into his pyjamas and sticks an episode of Doctor Who on. Stuart strips to his boxers and puts the kettle on. He watches Vince from the kitchen, engrossed in an adventure he’s seen hundreds of times. Stuart makes the tea and puts some of Vince’s favourite crisps in a bowl. He joins him on the sofa and they squish themselves together under a blanket. They drink tea and watch Doctor Who until they go to bed.