James Hathaway snored.
There were many wonderful things about James. There were many mildly irritating things about James.
Right now, the only thing about James that Robbie Lewis could think of was that the man snored.
Magnificently. Great, honking snores, with elaborate trills and arpeggios and warbles and flourishes and it really was verging on the operatic at times.
Robbie buried his head under his pillow but it did nothing. In fact, it made it worse because the snores seemed to echo around the mattress before being piped, resonant and unmuffled, into his ears. He put his pillow back underneath him.
He was half-expecting his neighbours to start knocking on the wall because James' snores were keeping them awake.
Finally, he poked James in the midriff in the hope it would make him roll over onto his side and maybe, just maybe, stop snoring.
It sort of worked. In that James did roll over. Towards Robbie, which wasn't normally a bad thing. And James didn't just roll over. James wrapped his impossibly long limbs round Robbie, somewhat like an overly amorous octopus.
Not normally a bad thing. At all.
However, James kept snoring. Right into Robbie's ear. Which not only meant that the snores were closer and, therefore, louder, but also that every snore tickled. Damp, warm breaths straight into his ear and Robbie screwed his eyes shut and prayed that James would roll away.
James just snuggled closer.
Before now, Robbie would have been hard-pressed to come up with circumstances in which having a tall, blond thirty-year-old - who he happened to love - wrapped around him was a bad thing. He was revising his opinion on that.
He'd read something, a few years ago, about sewing tennis balls into the back of a snorer's pyjamas, so they couldn't lie on their back. It was a logical idea but not one that would work with James.
For a start, he could apparently snore while lying on his side.
Second, he didn't wear pyjamas. In fact, he didn't wear anything.
Which made it even more irritating that having James wrapped around him was currently a bad thing.
He shut his eyes and waited for morning.
After work, he said, "Let's go to yours tonight."
James frowned. "We always go to mine. Last night was the first time I've stayed at yours."
"I like yours," Robbie said. "It's very… clean."
"Clean," James repeated.
"Minimalist. Not fussy."
Robbie shrugged. "I like it."
And if Robbie liked it, James reflected, Robbie got it.
Even if it meant that James spent the night staring at his ceiling and at the streetlights coming through his too-thin curtains and at the ceiling and streetlights reflected in the giant mirror at the foot of his bed.
(He suspected Robbie thought the giant mirror was some kind of sexual adventurousness. He didn't have the heart to tell him that it came with the flat and just happened to be opposite where he wanted to put his bed.)
Because Robbie snored.
Not in his own bed, apparently. Just in James'.
And he didn't even have the decency to snore properly. Instead, he let out irregular whistles and hisses and the occasional wheeze.
James was starting to think that the purpose of celibacy in the Catholic Church was more about ensuring priests got a decent night's sleep than anything spiritual.
Just when he thought Robbie had stopped for the night; just when James was starting to relax; just when sleep was beckoning; just then, Robbie's breath would rasp in his throat and there'd be a moment when James hoped that this time, this time, that would be all. The moment would stretch long enough that maybe, just maybe… And then a long, wheezing breath, followed by an even longer whistle, and James would be wide awake again.
Right the way through until the morning.
"Yours tonight," James said. And when Robbie opened his mouth to object, he said, "Your off-licence is better than mine."
"We could get a bottle of wine from mine and take it back to yours."
"Bit of a trek, isn't it?"
Robbie sighed. "Yeah. Yeah, I suppose it is."
James sent up silent thanks. He was going to get some sleep tonight.
Robbie contemplated going to sleep on the sofa. It was a bit short but maybe two doors between him and James would do something to muffle the racket. Probably not a lot but it might be enough to let him catch at least a few minutes of sleep.
Except it was snowing outside and he didn't have a spare duvet, so he'd be reduced to sheets and a blanket. At least in his own bed, he was warm.
"Yours tonight," Robbie said in the morning and watched James pause in the act of buttoning his shirt.
"About that," James said slowly. "The thing is, when you're at mine, you snore. And it keeps me awake."
"Oh," Robbie said tonelessly.
James looked anxious. "It's not a massive problem. I'm sure I'll get used to it."
"No," Robbie said. "It's okay. We'll stay at mine tonight."
James was off wrangling paperwork when Laura Hobson popped her head into Robbie's office and interrupted him mid-yawn.
"Is your better half keeping you up at night?" she asked, perching on the edge of his desk.
"Night after night," Robbie said. "It's killing me."
Laura made a strangled noise and Robbie looked up quickly, eyes wide.
"God, no. Not that. Though I've got no complaints."
Laura made another strangled noise and Robbie buried his head in his hands.
"He snores," he said desperately.
"Earplugs," Laura said promptly.
"They wouldn't do anything. It's like having a train going through my bedroom."
"Have you tried different pillows?"
Robbie sighed. "He doesn't snore in his own bed. Only in mine."
"Then sleep in his."
"I snore in his." Robbie looked up at her. "He said, very tactfully, that I keep him awake and he'd rather we slept at mine."
"And you haven't told him he snores at yours because…?"
Robbie shrugged. "No idea. I just can't."
Laura patted his arm sympathetically. "The path of true love never runs smooth," she said.
Robbie frowned. "How did you find out about us, anyway? Because I certainly never told you and I can't see James spilling his heart."
Laura hopped off the desk and was on her way out the door when she said, "Jean Innocent told me."
"How the hell does she know?" Robbie demanded but Laura was gone and Robbie collapsed back into his chair, wondering if he could sneak a nap before James came back.
He came back from lunch to find a gift-wrapped package on his desk.
"Secret admirer?" James asked.
"No idea," Robbie said and shook the package.
"Open it and see."
And when Robbie opened it, it was a 50ml bottle of Silence Anti-Snoring Spray. He made a mental note to give Laura a box of chocolates.
"Oh, that's clever," James said, picking up the spray.
"I'll try it out tonight," Robbie said. "At yours."
"I could have done with something like this at school," James said. "I used to snore horribly. Grew out of it, though."
"Oh," Robbie said. "That's good."