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Ton Meilleur Ami

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The late Beirut afternoon is hot and humid, so Nick is rather surprised to find that Kim still smells like soap. Well, soap and booze, obviously, given that the reason why Nick is within sniffing distance of Kim is that Kim is currently sprawled on the sitting room floor, piss drunk, and Nick felt it was his duty to make sure he was still breathing properly.

Every decent chap would have done the same, no question about that.

The thing that Nick would find slightly difficult to explain, if anything, is the fact that it’s been a couple of minutes, and he’s still crouching on the floor, listening to Kim snore softly, and breathing in the strangely pleasant scent of his warm skin.

Should he get him to his bed? No, he decides, the sofa. Impossible to drag a grown man all the way to the bedroom by himself, he reasons, with the precise intention of quashing a certain ridiculous nerviness that’s threatening to overcome him. Maybe he, too, could do with a drink.

Nonsense. On with it.

He begins by turning Kim on his back, which is easy enough. The rug has left an angry pink imprint on his rumpled cheek. Nick sighs, takes out his handkerchief and uses it to dust a few particles of dirt from his best friend’s face.

As much as he hates to see Kim like this, all things considered, there’s a measure of comfort in being able to shield him from some of the consequences of his less wise actions. Something about Kim — the exact scope of this something best left unexamined — begets such a sense of protectiveness that Nick quite suspects the man would be offended, rather than touched, if he were to accurately convey it.

I’m hardly a maiden in need of defending, Nicholas.

No, Kim wouldn’t be annoyed by his attentiveness, Nick decides. Amused, certainly, yes — which, if Nick is being honest, is both understandable and frankly welcome. There are few sounds in life he enjoys more than Kim’s laughter, few sights more comforting than his wry smile. Sometimes he’s reminded of poor Basil, and it almost seems impossible that he should have had two such friends in his life, two men of such outstanding...

He’s being ridiculous, again. Good thing Kim is out like a light. Enough with the sentimental drivel.

Kim is heavier than he looks, or Nick’s strength isn’t what it used to be, or a combination of both things, probably — the lifting manouver takes more time and effort than he would care to admit, but in the end he emerges victorious. Kim remains asleep through the whole thing.

Good old devil, thinks Nick affectionately. It’s impossible to think badly of Kim, even when his fondness for drink results in panicked intercontinental calls from Eleanor and ominously sore lower backs. A lock of hair, displaced by Nick’s ministrations, is hanging across Kim’s forehead.

Catching himself by surprise, Nick reaches out and brushes it back.

“Nick?”

Nick, embarassed, withdraws his hand. Kim is looking up at him, blue eyes slightly unfocused in the warm afternoon light, the ghost of a grin already on his lips. Nick averts his gaze.

“You gave poor Eleanor a fright,” he says, sinking into a nearby armchair. “It’s been two days. She thought you’d died.”

Kim gingerly lifts himself up to a sitting position.

“I’ll make it up to her,” he promises with a wink. “But it'll have to wait until my head stops feeling like it’s actively splitting in half. Not the sort of thing one would want to half-arse, now, is it?”

Nick, suddenly weary, gets to his feet.

“I’ll leave you to it, then.”

Kim looks surprised.

“Stay,” he says. “I’ll cook. Give me a minute, I’ll have a glass of whisky and-”

“I’m going,” insists Nick, firmly. “Call Eleanor. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Kim blinks a couple of times. He’s stopped smiling.

“Very well,” he says eventually, his tone brisker. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”