Nick is an understanding man. He helms a Liberal ship; finding his MPs in the clinches of passion is a depressingly common event. (Depressingly, because the MP Nick wants happens to be both Tory and oblivious.) A word advising the acquisition of a room generally produces the desired result.
Nick is also a patient man. Lord knows he has to be. (If there was a Lord, which there isn’t.)
But this. This. Is trying both understanding and patience.
He can deal with the Swinson/Hames romance – the course of true love never did run smooth. He can deal with Julian Huppert ogling Gove but never making a move, out of a caution Nick frankly thinks is misplaced. He can deal – just barely – with the studied blindness of David Cameron, and his own inconvenient fascination with a Tory.
He cannot deal with two of his troupe carrying out an obscure mating ritual on the front bench, directly in his line of sight. Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions are difficult enough without having to watch them smiling shyly at each other, without seeing the covert bumping of elbows, without biting back a sigh of exasperation as Jeremy’s head comes down to rest on Michael’s shoulder. He has work to do here.
Enough is enough. He pulls Michael aside on his way out. “Would you two mind keeping it out of the Chamber?”
Michael blinks at him. “Keeping what out?”
Nick raises his eyebrows. “The PDA. It’s distracting.”
“The PDA,” Michael repeats, slowly.
Nick would have expected Jeremy to have to think this long, not Michael. “The public demonstrations of affection,” he spells out, enunciating carefully. “With Jeremy.”
Michael blinks at him again. “With Jeremy,” he repeats.
“What are you, a fucking parrot?” Nick says.
Bercow, passing by, gives him a stern look.
“Sorry,” Nick mumbles. “What are you, a fucking parrot?” he asks Michael, more quietly this time.
Michael seems to have done a few rapid calculations while Nick’s attention was on Bercow. At least, he looks much more alert. “It won’t happen again,” he says, and smiles.
“See that it doesn’t,” Nick says, although he finds his impatience already slipping away.
“Excuse me,” Michael says, still smiling. It’s a soft smile, an intrigued smile.
As Nick watches, Michael slips away, to where Jeremy has just walked into the corridor. “Mikey,” he hears Jeremy say, welcome in his tone.
Michael puts a hand on Jeremy’s elbow, and Jeremy startles, looks up.
There’s a moment of stillness, the two of them frozen amidst the bustle of the Commons, and then Jeremy’s face floods with colour, and his mouth turns up shyly.
Nick is an understanding man. A patient man.
“Get a room,” he says, under his breath, as he sweeps past them, on his way back to his own cold, frustrating office. What is he, Yenta?
Michael grins, and slips his hand into Jeremy’s. “We will.”