“Listen, I’m so sorry to be late, I didn’t hear my alarm and Collette had gone off who knows where those ghosty folk go, so she didn’t wake me up like I asked her to, but luckily I woke up on my own, you know?” Nick laughs nervously and considers sitting down, then doesn’t. “Only I missed the tube and had to wait for the next one and really it’s quite a process, isn’t it? I’m just not cut out for mornings, I think. Sorry.”
Ben Cooper is staring at Nick from his Big Boss chair behind his Big Boss desk and… actually smiling rather fondly. Nick would describe that smile as fond, probably. That’s weird. This is weird. Nick is really tired.
“Sit down, please, Nick,” Ben says.
Nick sits. He’s rather nervous about this meeting, as he has no idea why they’re having it. There’s every possibility that there’s something he’s done that Ben is going to tell him off for, but he can’t think of anything specific. It’s too much to hope for that this would be about getting a pay rise, Nick knows that much for sure.
Ben pushes a folder of papers across his desk to Nick. “You’re probably going to have to get used to the early mornings,” he says.
“What? Why?” Nick asks. He eyes the folder suspiciously.
“We want to put you on the breakfast show,” Ben says.
Nick stares at him. “…me?” he says finally.
Ben starts laughing, which does nothing to reassure Nick that this isn’t a joke. “Yes, you. Congratulations. I assume you want it despite your trouble with the morning.” He winks, and Nick laughs nervously.
“I, yeah, no, I do. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Ben says.
“You want me to do the breakfast show.” Nick says it slowly, like he’s testing the words out. They don’t seem quite right in his mouth, but Ben is still nodding at him.
“We want you to do the breakfast show,” Ben agrees.
Nick feels like he might start crying and is absolutely horrified with himself for it. “The breakfast show. Okay then,” he says. It’s only his lifelong dream job. No big deal or anything. He just needs to act casual. He picks up the folder and flips it open, trying to get a hold of himself. “What’s all this?”
“The necessary forms and such for HR, plus a bit of other information, including some stuff about the people we want to be on your team. I’m running it by you first, but do try not to complain for any silly reasons. These are the best people for the job, I promise.”
Nick has no idea what counts as a silly reason, but he only vaguely knows the people on the list and assumes he won’t have a problem working with them, so he figures it doesn’t matter. “I trust your judgement,” he says. “Picked me, didn’t you?” He laughs at his own joke and then wishes he hadn’t said it.
Ben smiles, though. “That we did.”
Nick avoids his gaze by continuing to squint at the paper, then frowns. “What are these designations under their names?” he asks. “Wait, I recognize Wicciancy. Are all of them magic?”
“Not all of them,” Ben says. “Producer Matt hasn’t registered, and as far as I know, it’s because he doesn’t have any powers to speak of.”
“What do the others have? Not that it matters, I’m just wondering.” Try as he might, there’s no way Nick even wants to try saying ‘Beneafficereancy’ or ‘Discereancy’, much less actually knowing the definitions of them. The names for magical powers that the government comes up with always sound completely stupid, which is why no one knows what they mean except the people who have them. And doctors, probably. Nick assumes they take classes for that stuff.
“Laura-May can do simple charms and such like. Ian makes it so that your day goes well if you’re around him, and Fiona learns skills quickly. She can spend a minute with a new piece of software and know everything about it, basically.”
“Really? So in my childhood when I thought I could put books under my pillow and do better on the test and then absolutely nothing happened, she did it and it worked?”
Ben shrugs. “Probably, you’d have to ask her.”
Nick absolutely intends for that to be the first thing he asks Fiona. Or, well, maybe he’ll stick it somewhere after ‘how are you?’ just to be polite. “We’ll definitely do well with those three around, yeah? Or just in general, we’ll do well. Not going to let you down and all that jazz.” All that jazz, Nick repeats in his head and resists actually hitting his head against Ben’s desk.
He’s genuinely excited about meeting new magical people, though—he has a rather disproportionate amount of magical friends as it is. It makes for a lot of fun get togethers, though it’s also slightly annoying to be completely normal amidst people who always have better party tricks than you do. There’s really no way to measure up to being able to create endless alcohol. Nick’s privately relieved that Matt is non-magic as well so that Nick won’t have to be the only one.
“That’s the general idea,” Ben says. “You’ll keep doing the night show for the next couple of weeks, and then we’ll switch out and you’ll have a few weeks for meetings and holiday time before your first day on breakfast. Sound good?”
“That’s great,” Nick says. “Thanks, Ben.”
The last few weeks of the night show pass quickly, and Nick gets an email about their first team meeting sooner than he’d really been expecting. It’s on a Wednesday afternoon, and Nick makes it a point to be early. It’s an attempt to make up for his prior transgressions, which is pointless because Ben isn’t even attending this meeting. At least it’s a good first impression to make on his team. That’s what he’s telling himself, anyway.
As is his luck, two of the other four members are there before him regardless, and he barely has time to shake hands with Fiona and Ian before Laura-May breezes in, hair shifting between different shades of pink, and tells everyone to call her LMC. They’re all touching her hair when Matt shows up.
“Heya, Finchy,” LMC says. “You want a go?”
Matt arches one eyebrow. Nick is trying not to make any presumptions, especially negative ones, but he can already tell he’s going to loathe that eyebrow. “I think I’m good,” Matt says, sitting down. “Shall we get started?”
“We shall,” Nick agrees, flopping gracelessly down into the chair across the table from Matt while everyone else sits down more like normal adult humans. Matt is eyeing Nick, so Nick smiles brilliantly at him. Matt looks away.
“I just wanted to start by saying how pleased I am to work with you all on creating a new breakfast show. I trust we’re all going to have a great time together,” Matt says. “First— ”
“Wait a minute,” Nick says, reaching across the table and tugging Matt’s papers toward himself, “is this an agenda? Did I miss an email? I didn’t think this meeting was proper-like with plans. I thought we were making the plans now?”
Matt grits his teeth and takes the papers back. “No one else made a plan, so I did one up this morning.” The look he’s giving Nick makes Nick think that Matt assumed Nick would be the one making a plan for the meeting. Which he had. It’s just not on paper, because the plan had been a lot more laidback than bullet-point lists.
“I figured we’d just meet and greet, and then we could talk about how we want this to go,” Nick says. “Share our feelings, you know? Warm and fuzzy. Ian could take notes. You could take notes, right, Ian? Or no, we’ll all take notes, that makes more sense.” He’s just rambling uncontrollably now, trying not to crumple in the face of Matt’s stare.
“I really think— ” Matt starts, not breaking eye contact with Nick.
“I have notes I made on our general vision for approaching social media as a platform,” LMC interrupts. “We could start there?”
“Yes, let’s start there,” Nick says, looking away from Matt. “Do we get our own Twitter?”
They do, in fact, get their own Twitter, Nick learns. All the ideas LMC has for making their show multiplatform and really incorporating the listeners are fascinating, and Nick would gladly discuss them for an unlimited amount of time. Matt cuts LMC off after fifteen minutes, though, saying that they’ve hit the main points and can come back to it and then carrying on about demographic analysis and listening figures. Nick is immediately bored to tears.
“Can we not?” Nick asks when he spots a sheet of paper that clearly says Chris Moyles in bold print across the top. He doesn’t particularly fancy listening to whatever speech Matt undoubtedly has planned next about living up to their predecessors.
Matt frowns. “Um, no? We can’t just ignore who our listeners are.”
“Obviously not, but is that really something for right now? Can’t we talk about, like, the music?”
“Fine, but we’re coming back to this,” Matt says, looking extremely unimpressed. “There’s not much to say about music, anyway. Chloe Pearson is our music producer, she’ll make up the playlist for us based on the Radio 1 playlist that the team puts out weekly. We’re aiming for eight to ten songs per hour, and we have some leeway to add in some songs for features, but that’s it.”
“Wait,” Nick says, trying to take Matt’s papers from him. Matt glares and puts his hands down flat on top of them so that Nick can’t move them. Nick gives up. “That was all old news, but then I’m suddenly not allowed at least, like, one song of my own an hour? I don’t get choice from the playlist? My name’s in the title and all you’re giving me is features?”
“Yeah, that’s how daytime radio works,” Matt says. “If you don’t like it, maybe you’re not ready for it, Grimmy.”
Nick stares. He’s never heard his nickname sound so judgemental in his life.
“Okay!” Fiona says loudly.
“New topic,” Ian says. “Or, same one, but. Has anyone got any ideas for features? Music related or, er… not.”
Awkward silence reigns. Nick resolutely avoids looking at Matt.
“Right. Well, I think we could have a waking up song,” Ian says. “Like Greg’s got the going home song, yeah?”
“Oh, that’s good,” LMC says. “Callers or just texts?”
“Texts would be easier, less pre-recording for Ian to do,” Fiona says.
“So I’d just talk over this song?” Nick asks. “Not one where we get people to sing? Because I have the perfect song for it.” He pulls his phone out of his pocket and scrolls through his music library until he finds Pharoahe Monch. He makes a point of smirking at Matt as he presses play.
“We cannot play this on the radio,” Matt says flatly as soon as the first get the fuck up has passed. Nick rolls his eyes.
“Oh, come on,” LMC says. “It’s perfect.”
“I agree,” Fiona says.
“We can’t play it on the radio at seven in the morning,” Matt repeats.
“No, but we can edit it just fine,” Ian says. “We’ve already got a radio edit, and then we can just loop the beat as a bed for Nick to talk over.”
“See,” Nick says. “Ian thinks it’s a good idea.”
Matt purses his lips. It makes him look like a disapproving grandmother, and Nick has to stifle a laugh. “Fine, I guess I’m outvoted. What if we get guests to record little wake up calls? People on the text can request them.”
“That’s a good idea,” Fiona says.
The rest of the meeting continues along the same vein—namely, Matt trying to steer it one way, Nick dragging them in the other, and the other three trying desperately to keep the peace and actually get some work done.
Nick decides Matt just doesn’t enjoy fun, and that it’s going to have to be Nick’s job to poke at him until he either gains a sense of humour or goes away. Nick will bear this burden valiantly. He figures that, best case scenario, he can make Fiona, Ian, and LMC like him. Then if they’re all getting along great sans Matt, Big Boss Ben will replace him, and Nick can get on with having the show of his dreams.
At the end of the meeting Matt starts shaking everyone’s hands, which is rather serious for Nick, like everything about Matt. He considers trying to fistbump Matt when he gets to Nick, but decides not to at the last minute. He doesn’t need give Matt more reason to hate him.
“Well, that was a meeting,” Matt says as he grasps Nick’s hand, and Nick’s mind briefly goes blank. He has the distinct feeling of satisfaction, like something has just gone remarkably well, but he can’t quite pinpoint the source. The meeting hadn’t gone nearly well enough for this. Matt’s eyes widen the slightest bit and his grip on Nick’s hand tightens. The handshake stretches out for a weirdly long time, but Nick doesn’t feel particularly inclined to stop. He can’t be sure who lets go first, though they both look away awkwardly at the same time.
Nick clears his throat and decides not to mention it unless Matt does. “Erm, yeah. See you tomorrow.”
“See you,” Matt echoes. It takes another moment for either of them to move, but thankfully no one has stuck around or paid attention long enough to notice their weirdness, and even if they had, it probably wouldn’t have registered for them at all.
Nick feels off-kilter, though, which is probably just him being stupid. He’s one more strange moment whilst shaking hands with someone he doesn’t even like away from needing serious help.
Matt pours himself a glass of water in his dark kitchen and manages to get water all over the counter, which is clearly what he gets for trying to do it in the dark. His headache doesn’t seem to be particularly affected by light, but Matt is trying to play it safe and avoid it anyway. May as well have not, he thinks, staring at the puddle of water. He tries to leave it there, but he only gets as far as the doorway before he turns around and finds some kitchen roll to wipe it up with. He doesn’t want it to be his fault when one of his flatmates puts down a stack of important documents in the water.
His head had started to hurt around dinner time and has only been steadily worsening, despite the painkillers he’d taken. Matt glances at the clock and makes a disgruntled noise to himself; he can’t take anymore paracetamol for at least another two hours.
He makes himself a sort of nest on his bed with his pillows and sits there with his notes from the meeting that afternoon, determined to get some work done despite his head rebelling against him. The meeting had gotten off to a rocky start, confirming Matt’s suspicion that he probably should have emailed his proposed agenda ahead of time, but at least they’d managed to get at least some work done.
He’d thought Nick would be one of those flighty DJs who are mostly here for the music and not so much the show as a whole and therefore treat everything like a joke. Matt tries not to have high expectations. It generally works out well for him, and this case is no exception. Nick had certainly contributed ideas, which seems like it would be a plus, but Matt doesn’t know if he actually meant any of them. He’s not certain that Nick is taking the show seriously at all.
At least Nick cares enough to show up to the meeting—though in retrospect, Matt wishes he hadn’t. Everything out of his mouth was completely counter-productive, always changing the subject and going off on tangents. No one else had seemed to mind as much as Matt, which worries him. If the rest of the team like Nick better and don’t respect Matt, it’ll be really hard to ever get any work done. Matt doesn’t need people to like him, but he also doesn’t want every meeting to be the same horrible mess. This is where his low expectations come in handy.
Matt manages to turn his notes into something resembling sense and add on talking points for the next day, but it’s hard to think properly with his head hurting. He gives up eventually and decides going to bed early is the best solution. He can look at his notes again in the morning when he’ll hopefully have recovered.
He hasn’t recovered in the morning. If anything, it’s actually much worse than when he’d gone to sleep, which is just unreasonable. Sleep and time are supposed to heal all things. Matt’s pretty sure that’s a thing people say.
He drags himself through his morning routine anyway. He’s annoyed all the way through it, from snapping at his flatmates in the kitchen about them being in the way to giving people dirty looks on the tube because they dared be near him in general. Life with a headache is much too bothersome to deal with. Matt is contemplating the benefits of just turning around and going home to suffer in peace as he walks through the doors of the BBC, but, well. He’s here. He may as well get in the lift. He can always beg out of work early and leave the rest of the team to talk things over without him.
Miraculously, by the time he gets to the eighth floor, he actually feels a lot better. Like, standing isn’t such a challenge anymore. His head is only registering the wisps of a headache that’s passed, which is so sudden it’s startling.
“Good morning,” Nick says, walking past Matt in the hallway and then appearing to change his mind and turn around. Matt wishes he’d kept walking. He’s not in the mood to have an argument with Nick right now.
“Morning,” Matt says, realising he’d stopped in the middle of the hallway after getting out of the lift and just stood there. That must have looked completely normal.
“Do you have coffee?” Nick asks. “You don’t look like you have coffee, I don’t understand.”
“I, uh, didn’t bother stopping for any,” Matt says. “It seemed like a lot of effort.” He doesn’t quite know why it had seemed like a lot of effort two minutes ago and now it seems completely doable. He’s never had a headache disappear that abruptly in his life.
Nick frowns at him. “Well, come on then. I’ll get you some.”
Matt doesn’t really consciously decide to let Nick get him coffee, he just sort of… follows him. He convinces himself it’s because he needs coffee, but he’s also aware that that’s how he’s explaining it to himself after the fact and really he hadn’t thought about it beforehand.
He watches Nick putter around the little kitchen area from a safe distance, idly wondering if Nick is plotting to poison him, until someone wants to get by him and he has to step closer to Nick to get out of the way. Nick turns just after that and jumps, startled.
“Holy shit, don’t do that,” Nick says. “I didn’t know you were there. I hate being snuck up on, freaks me right out.”
“Sorry,” Matt says, making no move to step away from Nick. “I didn’t… I’ll make sure you know I’m here next time.”
Nick nods. “Just tap me or something.”
“Right, yeah.” Matt laughs nervously and taps Nick’s shoulder experimentally, trying to make it like a joke they’re both in on. It does make Nick smile, and Matt can’t help but smile back at him, wondering if Nick could possibly be feeling the same jolt of happiness that Matt just did. It’s so unlike anything in his experience that he’s at a loss of words to explain it—one second he was normal, the next he was on cloud nine, the next he was back to normal. Matt wants to put his hand back on Nick’s arm and see if it happens again, but he’s turned away and is pouring a mug of coffee, and Matt doesn’t want to disturb him.
“Here you go,” Nick says, offering the mug to Matt. Matt takes it and their fingers brush on the transition. It’s like actual sparks in Matt’s fingertips, which he always thought was just a thing people made up for the movies. Nope, apparently very real and very strange. He doesn’t even like Nick, he shouldn’t be thinking about romance cliches when he touches him.
“Thanks,” Matt says. “Is everyone else here?”
“Think I saw Fiona,” Nick says. “Let’s go see.” He takes Matt by the elbow and starts steering him around the office, waving hello to everyone they pass. Matt is too confused and happy to do anything at all about it. This has been a pleasant interaction with Nick thus far. Maybe he can work on putting a little more effort into trying to get along with Nick than originally planned.
They find Fiona and Ian chatting, and Nick immediately breaks away from Matt and practically hops over to hug them both in turn. They both look shocked and the slightest bit scared even as they pat Nick on the back. Matt can relate.
“All right, let’s get this show on the road,” Nick says, ushering them all into their meeting room. “I’ve been doing some brainstorming.”
Matt sighs and tries to open his mind to Nick’s ideas.
They start fighting five minutes later, which is pretty good, all things considered.
you awake????? :) :)
you’ll have to get up at this time five days a week soon
Nick squints at his phone screen in the darkness of his bedroom and makes the most disgusted face he can muster. No one should be awake at this time on a Saturday, much less texting anyone. Matt Fincham is bloody weird. Nick is choosing to ignore the fact that he’d woken up of his own volition only a few minutes ago and rolled over to see his phone, still set to silent, light up with a new text.
This behaviour absolutely cannot be encouraged. Nick refuses to text back, shoving his phone away and rolling away from it. He thoroughly tangles up his blankets and spends a good couple minutes getting untangled, then can’t find a comfortable position to go back to sleep, not to mention the underlying ache in his head that’s been hanging around off and on for the past few days. He sighs into his pillow and then maybe hits it a bit, just to show that pillow who’s boss. Serves it right for not being comfortable enough. He gives up and reaches for his phone.
and none of them will be saturday
never text me this early again, it’s unacceptable
Matt replies with the smug moon emoji, to which Nick replies that the moon still being out is the problem, but he just receives the same emoji in response. No matter what Nick says for the next hour, Matt sends him the smug moon emoji, and when Nick finally gives up on trying to get Matt to say something else and starts browsing Twitter, Matt spams him with the emoji until Nick throws his phone away from him and watches in horror as it freaks out on his duvet. When he cautiously picks it up again, all the apps are frozen and the screen looks like something out of the matrix. He ends up having to restart it completely.
you broke my phone
seems fine to me
oh, he can speak!!!!! with words!!!!!!!!! amazing. give the man a medal.
He gets the moon emoji again for that, but he would have been surprised if it had been anything else.
fucking hell are you really that bored??
Yet another moon emoji. Nick has a mind to call up Big Boss Ben and say he can’t work with Matt Fincham because he is unreasonable and possibly mentally unsound, but then Ben probably wouldn’t be too happy about that particular wake up call.
i’m going to come find you and BREAK YOUR PHONE
fine, you do that.
Nick is still staring at Matt’s latest text when another with an address pops up—Matt’s, presumably. What else would it be? Unless it’s directions to the man in the moon’s place. Who the fuck knows at this point.
is that an invitation to a playdate?
you’ll need to provide the toys
Nick snorts derisively, but he does get out of bed and start getting ready to leave his flat. It’s an absurd time to be up and about on the weekend, but it’s probably a better idea than lying in his bed all day being bored and taking ineffective paracetamol for his headache. At least, that’s the explanation Nick comes up with. He really doesn’t know why he thinks this is a good idea; he barely knows Matt and the few interactions they’ve had thus far have not been particularly positive ones. He probably shouldn’t sign himself up for more—but then, why did Matt even text him in the first place? Nick doesn’t usually text people he doesn’t like at absurd times on the weekend, and he assumes most sane people are the same.
Still, there’s something to be said with regard to his own supposed sanity. Nick decides to drive to Matt’s in order to kill time getting lost despite his GPS, and it’s almost a real time when he gets there. Not really, though, because it’s still before noon. He double checks that he’s got the right flat before knocking. A man he doesn’t recognise answers the door.
“Er, hello,” Nick says, resisting the urge to pull out his mobile and look at Matt’s text again. “Is Matt in?”
“Yeah, just a mo’,” the guy says before turning and yelling Matt’s name. Nick breathes a sigh of relief. “May as well come in, yeah?”
Nick nods and steps past the guy into the flat. He’s about to ask for the guy’s name, but he’s already ambled away, leaving Nick hovering nervously by the door. This is just lovely. At least his headache isn’t as bad anymore.
Matt comes around the corner and half smiles when he sees Nick, looking slightly more surprised than Nick thinks he should. “You actually came over,” Matt says in lieu of hello.
“Well, yeah,” Nick says. “You invited me.”
“I did,” Matt agrees. “Don’t see any toys, though.”
“Fuck off.” Nick rolls his eyes.
It’s both more and less awkward than Nick had pictured it being in his head. They fidget in the entryway for a bit, Nick trying to figure out what to say and failing, but eventually Matt leads Nick to the living room and turns on the telly. They end up having an argument about what to watch, but it’s as good a solution as any to the not knowing what to do problem.
They compromise by taking it in turns to pick what they watch, handing the remote back and forth silently. Matt’s flatmates wander through the room sometimes, saying a quick hello while Nick tries to look friendly, but eventually Nick is fairly sure all of them have left and it’s just him and Matt in the flat.
He’s not sure why they’re hanging out, exactly. Boredom would be the easiest explanation, but when Nick is bored he generally has to actually do something. Sitting and watching telly, even with someone else, isn’t his idea of boredom relief, and that that seems to not be the case when he’s with Matt is really very strange. He thinks it might have something to do with the contrast between sitting at home with a headache and being at Matt’s, gloriously headache free and in a good mood. It’s certainly not anything to do with Matt himself. Nick even finds the way Matt sits on the sofa annoying.
Nick is unable to sit still for long even when he’s in a good mood, though. He reaches over and prods Matt in the shoulder.
“What?” Matt raises his eyebrows questioningly. Nick bloody hates the eyebrow raise thing .
“We’ve been sitting still for far too long,” Nick says.
“Speak for yourself,” Matt says.
“But Matty,” Nick whines, “I’m a guest in your home. Don’t you have to, like, feed me at least? I’m pretty sure there are rules for this sort of thing.”
Matt honestly looks conflicted, like he’s taking that one hundred percent seriously, which Nick finds hilarious. “Do you want— ” Matt starts, then stops and narrows his eyes when Nick starts snickering. “Never mind, you don’t deserve my food. Or anything of mine. Please leave.”
“Nope,” Nick says, making a show of stretching out on the sofa and putting his feet in Matt’s lap. “You’ll never be rid of me now.”
Nick expects Matt to push his feet away immediately, but Matt just kind of looks at them, eyebrows furrowed, and then appears to actively decide not to do anything about it. “I’m ignoring you,” Matt informs Nick.
“Sure you are.”
“Sure.” Nick pokes Matt with his toe.
“You’re insufferable. Do they teach that specially or is it genetic?”
“Can’t be genetic. My parents have been trying to set me right my whole life,” Nick says.
Matt scoffs and picks up the remote, flipping away from the tail end of the show he’d picked and starting to channel surf aimlessly. He lands on one of those competition shows where all the contestants have magic that Nick can never remember the names of until someone says it to him. “Oooh, leave that, I love this show.”
Matt puts down the remote and squints at the TV. “Is this the one where they work in teams or no?”
“I think it’s the teams one,” Nick says. “See, look, that caption thingy has a team name.”
One of the contestants sets fire to a set of ropes with her mind in order to make the next clue fall and nearly sets the clue itself on fire as well, to everyone’s dismay. “I always kind of wanted to be able to set things on fire,” Matt says idly. “When I was younger, like.”
Nick stares at him. “I can’t imagine you going around setting things on fire.”
“Well, I don’t think I’d just go around doing it. Aren’t there laws for that sort of thing?”
“Yeah, it’s called arson. Or murder, depending.” Nick laughs at himself and gets an unimpressed glare from Matt. “My friend can make things appear out of thin air,” Nick offers. “Only, like, there’s rules for that. Some science thing, I dunno.”
“The equivalent exchange principle?” Matt says like it’s obvious. Maybe it should be—Nick does think that’s vaguely familiar—but he bristles at Matt’s tone. Not everyone went to bloody Cambridge, for fuck’s sake.
“Whatever.” Nick waves a hand dismissively. “All I know is that it’s less cool than it seems.” He pauses, then adds, “Still cooler than nothing, though.”
“True enough,” Matt agrees. They fall silent, watching the show, until the purple team draws a handicap and has to swap out one of their team members for someone with Malafficereancy.
“With what?” Nick asks. “What language even is that?”
Matt sighs. “They’re not that weird of names, you know. They actually make sense if you— ”
“I don’t care,” Nick says. “What does it mean?”
“It’s the opposite of Ian,” Matt says. “So everything goes wrong around them all the time.”
“Well, that’s fucking shitty.”
“Yep, and this team is stupid for trading that guy who can manipulate people’s concepts of time, even if he is annoying. Now I don’t want them to win anyway.”
“Harsh. I kind of like them.”
Matt shrugs. “I don’t like it when people don’t use their common sense.”
Nick actually agrees with that, but he doesn’t want to say so. “How do you know all the gritty details about magic, anyway?” he asks instead.
“I took a class in uni,” Matt says. He shifts uncomfortably, disturbing Nick’s feet, and then actually takes the time to move Nick’s feet back where they were before, leaving his hand on Nick’s ankle. “And my family’s all magic, so. Yeah.”
“Really? And you’re not at all? That’s a bit weird, isn’t it?”
Matt winces. “Yeah, it’s weird. Thanks for mentioning.”
“No one in my family is even the slightest bit magical. I always hoped I’d be the special one, but it never happened.”
The TV erupts with sound before Matt can reply, one of the teams cheering because they won something, and then it cuts to the single-person interviews where they’re all talking about how one of them predicted the other team’s strategy by reading their minds and relaying the information to the rest of the team. Matt makes a face. “She must have really stretched her power to be able to do that,” he says. “Most mind readers can’t even tell who’s thinking what. Moyles always tried to pin literally every bad thought he picked up on me.”
Nick frowns. “That’s awful.”
“Yeah, well.” Matt shrugs. “It was a bit of a laugh.”
“Not really. Bit stupid, more like.”
“Yeah,” Matt says quietly, staring resolutely at the TV screen. “I’m glad I’m not the only non-magic one on the team.”
Nick nudges Matt in the stomach with his foot and grins when Matt shoots him a look. “Hey, if you’re trying to say you’ve fallen in love with me already, you’ll just have to come right out and say it. Not much for subtlety, me.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Matt mutters. Nick laughs.
Nick wakes up on Monday morning feeling like his head is splitting itself in half and in a lousy mood to boot. He snaps at Collette when she tries to speak to him whilst he’s buttering his toast, and she floats off to sulk in a corner. He can’t even bring himself to care.
By all rights he shouldn’t go to work feeling like this, but he’ll be damned if he stays home. They still have work to do if he doesn’t want to give up his trip to Ibiza with the gang, which he doesn’t.
He gets a taxi to work and slumps down at his desk, pressing his forehead to it. Maybe if he just stays here it’ll count as getting work done. At least the bit of nausea he’d thought he felt creeping up has gone away now. In fact, he might be feeling better. Better not look up just in case.
Nick can hear someone walk up behind him, and then he hears Matt say “Good morning,” before patting Nick on the back. It feels as if he just gave Nick a deep tissue massage.
“Morning,” Nick says, sitting up straight. “I think I might be coming down with something, are you ill? Did you make me ill?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Matt says, making a doubtful face. “I feel better now, though. I almost didn’t come in, but.” He shrugs.
Nick rolls his eyes. “Of course Mr Serious wasn’t going to let a little flu stop him from coming to work.”
“Indeed.” Matt raises his eyebrows. “I thought I might start feeling better, and I do, so. Not a big deal.”
“Sure,” Nick agrees. “Is everyone else in yet? Is it team meeting time?”
“Yeah, they sent me to find you. Thankfully you weren’t hard to locate.”
Nick winces. “Sorry, let’s go then.”
The rest of the team is sitting at their usual table on their phones. Fiona looks up when Matt and Nick walk in and gives them an unimpressed look. “You’re holding us up here, you two,” she says.
“We could be getting valuable work done, but no, you’re late,” Ian adds.
“We’re not late,” Matt protests. “You sent me to go get him!”
“Uh huh,” Fiona says dismissively.
“Took longer than I thought it should,” LMC says, winking at Nick. Nick tries not to let his confusion show. There’s something about a lady with lime green hair and a knowing look on her face that’s unsettling.
“Yeah, well, Matty and I spent this Saturday bonding. You wouldn’t understand,” he says loftily. He sits down next to LMC and smiles at everyone. “Let’s get started, yes? Finchy, do sit down.” He pats the chair next to him. Matt glares at him, but he does sit down, so Nick doesn’t much care.
“Have we got an agenda for today?” Ian asks.
“I’m glad you asked, young Ian,” Nick says. He makes a show of flipping through his notebook purposefully, then stops on a blank page and turns to Matt. “Finchy?”
“Yeah, I’ve made a list of valuable work for us to do,” Matt says, winking at Ian as he hands copies out. Ian makes a face at Matt, and then they’re off, brainstorming and fitting their ideas together into something that will hopefully resemble a radio show by the end of the week.
“Do you think we’re going to be okay taking all next week off?” Nick asks Matt when they’re taking a ten minute break to get more coffee.
Matt looks surprised. “Yeah, we’ll be fine. It’s only Monday.”
“Okay,” Nick says, sipping his coffee carefully. “I’m excited to go on hols, but I don’t want to compromise anything.”
“You won’t be,” Matt says firmly. “We’re all looking forward to the time off. Are you leaving straight after work on Friday?”
Nick nods. “It’s a late afternoon flight.”
Matt hums in thought. “Hopefully by then you won’t be sick at all.”
“Hopefully,” Nick agrees. “I feel fine right now, so I guess I’ll just play it by ear.”
“Make sure to take care of yourself,” Matt says, hitting Nick in the shoulder and smiling. Nick pretends to be in genuine pain, making Matt roll his eyes, and then Fiona is calling them back to the meeting room and the moment is over.
The sun is so bright in Ibiza on Saturday morning that Nick can’t even look out the curtains in his hotel room, which is exactly how he likes it.
“I’m going to get so much vitamin D while we’re here,” he tells Aimee.
Aimee snorts. “Yes, so much D. Good luck with that.” Thurston, her familiar, barks his agreement.
Nick hits her with his towel. “Shut up. Getting away from London is supposed to make headaches clear up, right?”
“Um,” Aimee says, looking skeptical, “I’m thinking that’s not what a doctor would say.”
“You’re no fun,” Nick says. “What do you think, Mossy?”
Kate shrugs. “London air is kind of toxic, isn’t it? Compared to Ibiza, anyway. And you’ve been working hard, relaxation will do you good.”
Nick grins, pleased and ignoring the nagging pulse of pain in his head. “See, Mossy gets it. I just need a break.”
“Well then, let’s get the fuck to it,” Aimee says. “Time to sit poolside for a few hours. I’m thinking mimosas, are you with me?”
They’re one hundred percent with her. At least, Nick is up for it at first, and it goes well for the first hour, but the longer he sits in one place, the more his head hurts and the less he’s up for anything at all. He tries to go for a little walk around the pool area, but that doesn’t help at all. This is the opposite of what he wanted.
“This isn’t what I wanted,” Nick complains.
Aimee and Kate eye him with concern. He thinks they do, anyway; he can’t really tell through their gigantic sunglasses. Even Thurston looks worried. “Y’alright, Grimmy?” Kate asks.
“No,” Nick says. “Someone come give me a cuddle, I’m pathetic and need love.”
“You said it, not me,” Aimee mutters. “I’m not trying to fit on that thing with you.”
Nick pouts. “Please?”
He succeeds in getting both of them to cuddle him, though it’s a bit uncomfortable and overly hot, and they only put up with it for a few minutes. It doesn’t help with the headache, either, but that would have been too much to hope for.
Nick sticks it out until Aimee and Kate are ready to leave, but once they start talking about getting some food and then going out somewhere, Nick begs off. There’s no way he’d be able to stand the club scene right now, and he tells the girls as much.
“I’m really quite worried about you now,” Kate says. “Do you think you’re going to be able to sleep it off?”
It’s never worked before, so Nick doubts it, but he’s trying to stay optimistic. “I can try.”
“Make sure you eat something,” Aimee says sternly.
Nick waves her off. “Don’t have too much fun without me.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Aimee says. “We will.”
Matt wakes up much earlier than he’d meant to on Sunday morning, his head screaming at him. He tries to get up to get more water, because water and paracetamol are his go to failsafe, but one attempt at that is enough. He decides to stay in bed where he’s safe from nearly tripping into walls and feeling like he’s actually going to hurl all over the whole damn flat.
He still feels awful even lying down, is the thing. The other thing is that lying down is boring. He tries to read a book, but the book is boring, and he can only stare at the ceiling for so long. Looking at his mobile makes him even more dizzy, so his laptop is probably not the best idea either, but it’s that or actually go mad.
Feeling this awful is not conducive to being able to do anything on his laptop, though, including scroll through Facebook. Facebook is so white, and therefore unbearable to look at even with the brightness turned all the way down. Who came up with the colour schemes for these things? They need a smack in the head and a talking to.
It might be time to think about scheduling a doctor’s appointment, Matt realises. Unless he’s blowing a simple flu out of proportion, which he very well might be.
He does what everyone does in these situations: he googles his symptoms and ends up on WebMD to discover how he’s going to die.
At least the flowchart for diagnosing the cause of a headache is a soothing blue colour against a grey background. Matt can handle that. The first bubble asks him if he has any magical abilities just like a proper doctor would. Clearly the website is very wise. Matt begrudgingly clicks no.
Are you experiencing nausea? the next bubble asks. Matt clicks yes and tries not to think about it.
Do your symptoms worsen at certain times of the day? Matt dithers for a bit on this one, because the past couple days have just been steadily getting worse, but before that his head had definitely been worse in the evening, and that’s a longer timeframe to take into account and therefore more relevant. Probably. Matt assumes. He clicks yes, anyway.
Do you have any allergies? That’s easy. Nope.
Have you recently met someone new? Matt frowns. What would that have to do with being ill? Other than, like, germs, but those could come from a random stranger on the street, so why… oh no. He’s suddenly thinking about a paper he wrote in university on the chemical explanations for Soulbond Separation Disorder. But that… “That’s ridiculous,” he mutters to himself as he clicks yes.
You may be soulbonded to this person. Click here to be redirected to MagicMD.
Matt stares at the tiny bubble. It’s animated to bob up and down like it’s pleased about finding the source of Matt’s illness, which seems overly mocking. He clicks on it just to get it to go the fuck away.
That leads him to a whole new host of horrors, though. The page it sends him to reads So You Think You Might Be Soulbonded in large block letters across the top. “I do not,” he tells it on principle.
He reads the page, though, and with every perfectly described symptom his stomach sinks a little more and his head pulses, like they’re trying to remind him that yep, this is real. This is happening.
“Fuck,” Matt says. He would so like it to be someone—anyone—but Nick, and he tries to convince himself that it could be Fiona or Ian or maybe LMC, but he knows it’s not.
Matt clings to his fast fading shred of hope, though. The last subheading is Unsure Who You’re Soulbonded To? and advises that it’s best to check within your circle of friends or acquaintances for someone suffering the same symptoms that you are when nobody else is. It goes on about polyamorous soulbonds and how they’re possible but rare and something about a specialist, but Matt isn’t focusing anymore.
Anyone else feeling completely shit? Matt asks in the breakfast crew whatsapp group that he had somewhat optimistically titled Legends in the Making. He tries not to stare at it whilst waiting for responses, but he’s only so strong.
I’m feeling just fine, Fiona says.
Don’t come near me with whatever you have, thanks much, LMC adds.
No, sorry. :(((( That sucks, do you need anything? Ian asks.
DON’T GO NEAR HIM, Nick texts before Matt can respond. HE GAVE ME THIS TERRIBLE DISEASE. I’M NEVER SPEAKING TO YOU AGAIN, FINCHAM.
Matt doesn’t have anything to say to that. He can’t protest, because Nick isn’t technically wrong. They gave it to each other. That’s an awkward conversation Matt doesn’t want to have, like, ever.
MagicMD is obnoxiously purple. Matt angrily closes his browser, then opens it back up. Maybe the internet has advice on how to tell your coworker whom you don’t even like that you think you’ve been soulbonded to him for the foreseeable future. That is, until one of you dies. Matt already knows that no one has ever successfully reversed a soulbond. Unfortunately, Friday the 13th doesn’t count.
He sets to researching anyway. It never hurts to know what you’re up against, and Matt could use all the help he can get.
Nick gives up on getting over his illness enough to enjoy Ibiza on Monday, complaining loudly at Aimee and Kate while booking himself the soonest flight home. They hum sympathetically and seem genuinely concerned, but Nick doesn’t really care. He just wants to stay and have fun, and he can’t with this fucking crippling headache, constant nausea, and on top of that feeling anxious.
Lying on his sofa and feeling horrible is not an improvement over being in Ibiza and feeling horrible. Nick picks up his mobile, intending to text Matt and tell him how much he hates him again, but there’s already a text from Matt.
Did you come home early?
Yes :( Ibiza was not fun with this DISEASE you gave me.
Shut up. I’m coming over.
Nick stares at his phone, waiting for Matt to text back, but he doesn’t. It’s a miracle Nick can even stand to look at his mobile for that long, but it’s probably just because he’s desperate for someone to pay proper attention to him.
This is probably also why it’s comparably not as hard to drag himself off the sofa and answer the door. He does his best to look extra pitiful so that Matt will truly realise the pain and suffering he’s inflicted upon Nick. “Look what you’ve done to me,” Nick says in lieu of hello. He gestures at his ratty joggers. “Look what you’ve made me wear.”
Matt rolls his eyes. “Are you actually dying? Better get back on the sofa. Have you got a fever?” He makes as if to put his hand on Nick’s forehead, but Nick ducks out of the way.
“No, Mum, for fuck’s sake.”
“Would you say that to your mum?” Matt asks, shutting the door behind him and following Nick to the sofa. “Anyway, it’s not like I got off scot free. I had to have the disease as well in order to give it to you. Maybe you gave it to me.”
“Preposterous,” Nick says, sitting down. He raises his eyebrows at Matt and looks pointedly at the empty space on the sofa.
Matt sits down and clears his throat. “So, um. Are you feeling any better, though?”
Nick is, actually, feeling a hell of a lot better. He’s back to just a slight headache, all other symptoms having disappeared, and he’s at a loss to explain it. “Yeah,” he says. “Probably just a temporary reprieve or whatever.”
“Maybe,” Matt says. He looks distinctly uncomfortable, which is making Nick uncomfortable and really putting a damper on the whole suddenly feeling better thing.
“Still have a headache, though, so thanks for that.”
Matt sighs. “Here, my hands are cool, just let me…” He puts one of his hands flat on Nick’s forehead before Nick can do anything at all, and then Nick’s headache isn’t even a whisper anymore.
“Whoa. If I’d known that was going to work I would’ve made myself an ice pack ages ago.”
“Uh huh,” Matt says. His hand is still on Nick’s forehead. It doesn’t actually feel that cold when Nick thinks about—it’s slightly warm, if anything—but he must be misjudging it. He’s probably not misjudging how awkward this is, though. It’s really awkward.
“Um,” Nick says. Matt drops his hand.
“So, are you excited for the show to start? We’ve got great guests lined up for the first week, don’t you think?” Matt asks, apropos of absolutely nothing. It doesn’t make it less awkward, which Nick assumes was Matt’s hideously misguided intention.
Nick stares at him. “Yes,” he says, deadpan, “I’m as excited about Justin Bieber and Dr Radha as I was on Friday.”
“Right,” Matt says. “Me too.”
“I’m gonna turn on the telly now,” Nick says.
“Yeah, that’s probably for the best.”
Matt was starting to run out of excuses to hang out with Nick, so it’s definitely a good thing that they have to go back to work. Eventually Matt is going to have to bite the bullet and tell Nick about the soulbond thing, because having a headache every evening is no way to live, but at least he’s not forcing Nick to go out for drinks with him and his sister anymore. That had really been a last ditch effort, but it was probably the least awkward hangout. Hannah’s influence, obviously.
Dr Radha hosts The Witching Hour on Radio 1 every Tuesday at midnight, so they have her in on Tuesday to do promo. The point of her show is to help magical people, especially teenagers who are just discovering their powers, so they get people to text and tweet in questions for her.
“It’s like a little preview of what you get for a whole hour Tuesday nights,” Nick informs the nation. “I want people to try to be really ridiculous, though, just to see what she says.”
“We get weird questions all the time,” Dr Radha says. “Probably because magic is inherently very weird.”
“That’s true,” Nick says. “All you weird people with your weird magic.”
“Nick is, of course, kidding,” Matt cuts in. “Having magic is completely normal and—”
“Blah blah, yes, it’s a natural part of the world. Moving on. Eight double one double nine, send questions if you can be bothered. We’ve got one from Alex in Manchester already, he wants to know if it’s possible that he killed the neighbour’s budgie with a stray charm, as it’s rather strangely coloured and smaller now.”
“It doesn’t sound dead,” Dr Radha says. “It’s unlikely that your powers are strong enough to kill a living being, anyway. That’s rare even for skilled mages, and spells require lots of deliberate intention on top of that. Obviously you didn’t mean to kill the budgie, so you’re fine. And if you did mean to kill the budgie, that would be illegal, so don’t do that.”
“You heard it here first, kids. Don’t do illegal things,” Nick says. “We’re supposed to play some music now, so we’re going to do that. Keep sending in questions for Dr Radha.”
After a few songs, Nick reads out more questions. Dr Radha assures a girl with Clairvedereancy that she doesn’t have to tell anyone what their future is if she doesn’t want to and tells someone else that unfortunately there’s no way to turn any sort of magical power off, but Matt mostly zones out until Nick mentions Emily in Bristol.
“She says that she’s just found out she’s soulbonded to her best friend and doesn’t know what to do,” Nick says. “And then she’s just written ‘HELP’ in all capitals. Help her, Dr Radha!”
Dr Radha laughs. Matt tries not to look like he’s hanging off her every word. “That’s a very broad question,” Dr Radha says, “but I think the biggest things you have to remember when it comes to soulbonds are communication and honesty. Make sure you talk to your friend about it and keep your feelings out in the open. Remember that your health depends on being on the same page and managing your lives so that you don’t suffer because of the soulbond. You’re in each other’s lives for the long haul now, which I know seems scary, but I promise it’s not as bad as you’re thinking. Don’t be afraid to consult a trained soulbond counselor if you’re finding things difficult, either.” She pauses, looking between Matt and Nick, and Matt’s stomach drops. “That’s my professional opinion, but maybe Matt and Nick have more specific advice for you?”
This is not what Matt wanted to happen at all. There’s a very heavy silence in the studio. The sound of Fiona dropping her pen and it rolling under the desk is probably audible to the listeners.
“What?” Nick asks.
Dr Radha looks confused. “Aren’t you two…” She trails off. “Maybe not?”
LMC looks like she’s in danger of passing out with the effort it’s taking her not to laugh. Matt grabs Ian’s pen out of his hand where it’s frozen over the paper Ian had been writing on and scrawls ‘PLAY A RECORD’ across the nearest piece of paper, holding it up so Nick can see. Nick obeys, blessedly, and as soon as the mics are faded down the studio erupts in noise. Or, well. It’s mostly laughter interspersed with Nick trying to ask Dr Radha questions.
“Was that a joke? Is this just a joke I’m not in on?” Nick finally gets in during a lull. Matt wants to become a part of the floor. LMC is laughing so hard now that she just waves a hand at them and leaves the studio entirely.
“I wouldn’t have said anything if I’d known you weren’t aware of it,” Dr Radha says apologetically. “But it seemed so obvious that I honestly didn’t consider that possibility.”
“Obvious?” Nick repeats, looking lost.
“Obvious how?” Matt adds.
Dr Radha shrugs. “Little things. You both smile whenever one of you comes into the room or when you touch. You also touch more often than necessary, which is pretty typical of soulbonded partners.”
“I have, like, this thing where I don’t like to be snuck up on…” Nick says weakly.
“Sorry,” Dr Radha says. “I didn’t mean to shock you.” She looks at Matt when Nick’s not paying attention, an eyebrow raised, and Matt shakes his head. Clearly he hasn’t been doing a good enough job of looking like he’s surprised about this news.
“Get a grip, everyone, we’ve still got a show to do,” he loudly reminds them all. He goes around the desk and touches Nick’s wrist carefully to get him to look at him. Nick does, eyes wide. “We’ll talk after the show, yeah?” he asks softly.
Nick nods. “Yeah.”
Nick is still feeling slightly shocked after the show, so he doesn’t protest Matt leading him to one of the meeting rooms and scaring off anyone who looks at them weirdly by raising his eyebrows as if daring them to say something.
“No one has this room booked for the next two hours,” Matt says as he shepherds Nick into sitting down. He puts down the stack of papers he’d been holding and sits down across from Nick. “I checked.”
“Of course you did,” Nick mutters. “What’s with the papers?”
“Stuff printed off from MagicMD on how to deal with a soulbond. Plus stuff from a couple other sites, including the magic section of Yahoo Answers. There’s an academic article as well.”
Nick snorts. “Right.” He grabs the top paper off the stack and looks at it. It’s a bullet point list of topics to cover with your newly soulbonded partner, which seems very Matt. In fact, this is Matt’s handwriting, not something printed off. “Wait. When did you have time to do all this?”
Matt shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “Uh, well…”
Nick’s eyes widen as he realises, the haze of shock abruptly wearing off. “You knew. Why didn’t you bloody well tell me?”
“I didn’t know how!”
“How long?” Nick demands.
Matt at least has the grace to look chagrined. “Since the Sunday you were still in Ibiza,” he says.
“That’s more than a week!” Nick nearly shrieks, even as he thinks that this really explains a lot about Matt’s behaviour over the past week. Nick maybe should have figured that something was up by the time he was hanging out with Matt’s sister. “You couldn’t figure it out in that time? I don’t think saying hey man, I think we’re soulbonded is really all that hard!”
“You’d be surprised!” Matt snaps. He visibly takes a deep breath and calms himself. “I’m sorry, I should have figured it out.”
“Damn right,” Nick says. He eyes Matt speculatively. “How many of those pages you found list open communication as the number one important thing for soulbonded people?”
“Uh… most of them,” Matt says.
Nick nods. “Well, it starts now.” He looks back down at Matt’s list. He’s never been more grateful for Matt’s proclivity toward lists and rules, because without it Nick would have no idea what to do. “So first order of business is living arrangements?”
“Yeah,” Matt says. “We can’t keep on being miserable in the evenings.”
“So we need to move in together.” Nick imagines moving away from his flat and feels a pang of sadness in his chest. “Do we need a new place?”
Matt shakes his head. “I don’t really want to deal with property searching, do you?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, already reading it on Nick’s face. “I have more than enough flatmates, so I think it would be best if I moved in with you.”
The tension releases from Nick’s shoulders. “Yeah, all right. I’ve only got the one flatmate, and she’s not even usually corporeal, so.”
“Settled,” Matt says, reaching over to check off living arrangements on the list.
Nick reads off the next bullet point. “Ground rules?”
“That’s easy,” Matt says confidently. “We just do what Dr Radha said and keep our feelings out in the open. Honest communication, yeah? If something doesn’t work for either of us, we need to say.”
That’s probably harder than it sounds, but Nick nods anyway.
“There’s a lot of warnings about anxiety being a problem, so I think we need to tell each other where we’re going at all times,” Matt continues. “Or go places together, but that’s definitely not always going to be an option.”
“No, yeah, just knowing should work,” Nick says, thinking of all the things he does on a fairly regular basis that he wouldn’t want Matt to accompany him for. Which brings him to… “Um.”
Matt looks at him questioningly. “What?”
Here goes that honest communication thing. “Are we, like… allowed to date other people?”
“Yes,” Matt says immediately. “We’re not… dating. We’re not a thing. There are definitely people who soulbond who are just friends, I looked it up. It’s somewhere here.” He shuffles the papers, then appears to give up.
“Right, obviously,” Nick says, avoiding eye contact. He knows there are soulbonded partners who are just friends, but he knows that because he’s seen them on the news. It’s very rare, but if Matt’s not going to mention that, neither is Nick.
Matt clears his throat. “So, um. Next point. Touching, if I recall correctly.”
Nick nods. “Obviously we need to keep that up.”
“For health purposes,” Matt agrees. They’re still refusing to look directly at each other. Nick feels like he’s suffocating on the awkward. This meeting room is rather small.
“Do you think we can leave work early?” Nick asks instead of reading the next bullet point. “I mean, no one’s going to protest that after this shocking revelation, right?”
“Probably not,” Matt allows.
“We could get food and go to yours to start packing?” Nick suggests. “We can discuss the rest of the list along the way.”
Matt nods. “Yeah, okay. Are you going to read these?” He waves his research at Nick.
Nick makes a face. “Probably not.”
Matt sighs. “At least you’re being open and honest about it.”
Living with someone you’ve only just met is rather trying at the best of times. Being forced to live with someone you vaguely dislike and yet have the urge to always be touching—that’s a whole different ball game.
Okay, so Matt doesn’t actually dislike Nick. He thinks Nick can be utterly impossible at times, but that doesn’t mean he dislikes him. He just needs an adjustment period. Nick does too, that much is obvious. At least Matt had flatmates before. Nick essentially lived on his own.
“I always wanted a dog,” Nick says, apropos of nothing, while they’re sitting on opposite ends of the sofa one of the first evenings after Matt had moved in, clutching Chinese takeaway boxes and trying to pretend this is already their normal. “I figured it’d be good company, you know?” He pauses to shove some noodles in his mouth while Matt eyes him cautiously. “Guess I’ve got you now, though.”
Matt makes an indignant noise. “Fuck off,” he says.
Nick grins and turns up the telly.
Matt is trying his best to make light of this new situation—he moves his stuff into Nick’s flat, fitting it in between the things Nick already has in a way he hopes is unintrusive. The whole soulbond thing is pretty intrusive itself, so he figures it’s better to attempt to compensate. Collette is helpful, in that if Matt puts something somewhere she knows Nick will hate, she moves not only that thing, but Nick’s things as well. Eventually, nothing has a permanent home anymore, because Collette thinks it’s hilarious when they get angry that they can’t find something.
He takes the guest room at first, but they still have to share the lone bathroom, and after long nights spent in different rooms, they end up stumbling into the bathroom around the same time of the morning feeling hungover and awkwardly hovering near the sink, relishing the relief of almost touching. It takes up a lot of their morning routine time, and it only takes a week of that and one incident where they fall asleep on the sofa, feet entangled, for Matt to move himself into Nick’s room.
That’s the thing, really. So it’s awkward to live with someone new—try waking up every morning cuddling with them and then resolutely not making eye contact or talking about it beyond a quick “This is just for practical reasons, right? Great, glad we cleared that up.”
Despite their worst fears, it gets easier. Matt accidentally puts on one of Nick’s jumpers one morning (it was the same shade of green as one of his and it was on what kind of constitutes his side of the room, how was he supposed to know?), and it turns out that it’s a bit like touching Nick all day. Not nearly as good, but some temporary relief. They start swapping clothes on a regular basis after that.
Clothes sharing isn’t even one of their first compromises (that title probably goes to something work related), but it certainly slots right into a long list of them. The most difficult compromise to make presents itself early on, and it goes like this: Nick likes to go out with his many and varied friends a lot. Matt likes to sometimes go out, but mostly he prefers lowkey settings and if at all possible, staying home entirely. If they both do what they prefer, neither of them has a great time because both of their heads protest very sternly. Soulbonds demand nothing less than the most harmonious of emotions.
“You’re going to have to stop this,” Matt tells Nick tiredly on a Saturday night (or is it Sunday morning? Whatever). Nick has just stumbled in from a night out with Henry and Gells, head throbbing and already annoyed that his attempt to enjoy himself had failed miserably. All he really wants to do is wrap himself around Matt and just breathe, and it burns that he can’t even do that.
“I’m going to have to stop?” Nick asks incredulously. “Maybe if you weren’t so bloody boring, this wouldn’t be a problem!”
Matt’s face hardens. “Excuse me if I don’t want to hang out with you and your million friends every hour of the day. Some of us take life seriously!”
Nick scoffs. “Yes, you’re oh so serious. Believe me, I fucking get it. No parties for Mr Serious ever. Only bad telly and reading books and, what do you even do, knit? You probably knit.” He spits the word like a curse and puts a hand to his forehead, trying his best not to pass out.
“It’s not like getting drunk is vastly superior to knitting, which, for your fucking information, I don’t. Knit, that is.” He slams his book shut and drops it loudly onto the coffee table. They both wince at the loud noises. Matt heaves a sigh. “Fuck you, Nick,” he says, all the fight draining out of him, and he walks past Nick and into the guest bedroom, closing the door quietly behind him.
Collette materialises by the door and shakes her head at Nick before drifting toward the kitchen. Nick abruptly feels like an idiot.
He plans to apologise in the morning and gets ready for and into bed, but then morning refuses to come—no matter how long he feels like he’s had his eyes shut, when he opens them, the numbers on the clock have barely increased by more than five. He packs it in around four-thirty and drags himself and the softest blanket from his bed to the guest room, where he knocks softly on the door and tries not to hold his breath.
Nick can hear shuffling as Matt gets out of bed, and then the door is swinging open. Matt blinks blearily out at Nick, his hair flopping into his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Nick says. “I shouldn’t have said you’re boring, I was just… irritated.”
Matt nods. “I shouldn’t have provoked you, either. You don’t have to stop going out, I just think we need to work out a way for us to not be miserable all the time.”
“Obviously, yeah,” Nick agrees. “Hug it out now and figure out what we’re gonna do in the morning?”
They’ve got their arms around each other before either of them really registers moving. Nick breathes in the smell of Matt’s shampoo and feels every tense muscle in his body relax. He feels like he could fall asleep standing right there, but they do somehow make it to the bed.
They decide that Matt will go out with Nick to various events, casual or otherwise, no more than three times a week, save special events that have been discussed, and that both of them will do their best not to complain about either being stuck inside or having to go out. Sometimes they struggle, but no one really expected them to be perfect.
It’s a process, but it’s one they settle into and learn to adapt as they go. Matt catches himself thinking that life with a soulbond actually isn’t, ultimately, all that hard to manage. (Then Nick burns his toast beyond recognisability and Matt has to spend a good few minutes waving a kitchen towel at the smoke alarm, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Everything is going so smoothly, in fact, that Friday the 13th just kind of sneaks up on them.
“Let me get this straight,” Collette says. She’s sitting at the kitchen table eating the last of what had been a very elaborate fry up. She’d refused to share with Matt and Nick, insisting that they got to eat all the time, and this was her ‘time to shine’. “You’re going to go do the radio like this? You thought this would be fine?”
“It’s not so bad,” Nick says, edging away from Matt even as he says it. “It’s only a little bit of a headache. Hardly anything.”
Collette laughs. “I’m coming with you. I can’t miss this.” She shoves the last of her sausage in her mouth, gets up, and promptly bumps into a wall. “Ah, right.”
They probably should have thought this through a little more, Nick thinks as they’re sitting in early morning traffic. Tina had made multiple announcements on the news to remind everyone that on Friday the 13th everyone’s powers were reversed, no exceptions, and that people should make arrangements to take the day off work or school or whatever as necessary. Big Boss Ben had even asked the team if they needed someone to cover for them, but they’d all decided it would be fine.
Judging by the way Nick’s head feels like it’s splitting in two because he hasn’t seen Matt in a week when they’re actually sitting next to each other, it’s not fine.
“I’m not sure I remember how to work a computer,” Fiona says when they arrive. It’s ten to six, and Nick feels like puking.
“I don’t think Nick and I can be in the same room.” Matt looks like he’s on the verge of fainting. “I need to go panic in the toilets, please don’t follow me,” he directs at Nick before running off.
Nick shows Fiona how to log in to her computer and open the programs she needs. They eventually decide that there’s no way Fiona can relearn everything in half an hour and enlist a non-magical team assistant to sit with her for the duration of the show. Matt still hasn’t returned by the time Tina is reading the 6:30 news, so Nick sends Collette to check on him and starts the show without him.
“Goooood morning! We’re currently one man down, and, well, we’re basically not functioning, and it’s only been three minutes. It’s Friday the 13th, Matty Fincham and I are in excruciating soulbond induced pain, and Fifi has landed herself a babysitter. Say hi, Amy.”
“Hi,” Amy says. She looks less than impressed. Nick can’t blame her.
“I had to show Fiona how to turn on her computer,” Nick says conspiratorially. “It was bad.”
“Hey,” Fiona protests, “I figured out how to turn it on! Just not… the rest of it.”
“Very reassuring, thank you, Fiona. It’s probably a good thing we don’t have too much besides the usual planned for today.”
Amy frowns. “I think that might be bad, actually.”
“Don’t be so negative, Amy. It’s gonna be a good show. See, here’s Tinie Tempah to start us off. Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!” Nick fades down the mics and puts his head down on the desk. “Where’s Matt?”
“I don’t know, Collette hasn’t come back,” Amy says. “Are you feeling any better now that you can’t see him?”
Nick supposes that maybe his headache has receded somewhat, but he’s more stuck on the fact that he hasn’t been away from Matt for more than five minutes in what could very well be a month or more. He’d thought that this day would be a welcome relief from not being able to leave Matt’s side, but so far it’s not living up to its potential.
“Yeah, a bit,” he says.
“Hm, we’ll have to figure out a way to let you guys switch off being in the studio,” Fiona muses. She and Amy start discussing it. Nick keeps his head down.
LMC gets in at seven on the dot. Her hair is brown, and she’s already laughing at them. “The show has been ridiculous. My cabbie really liked the bit where Nick literally left in the middle of the link because Matt walked in, and then Collette took over and kept knocking things onto the floor. Great radio. We should turn on the cameras.”
“We really shouldn’t,” Matt says sternly.
“Maybe we should,” Nick says from where he’s hovering by the door. “Might as well give the nation some entertainment, right?”
Matt huffs, but they do turn on the cameras.
Ian texts them on the group chat to tell them he’s already broken his microwave and the water in his building isn’t working, which could be unrelated, but probably isn’t. He’s worrying that he shouldn’t bother coming in, but they tell him to come anyway because the show is already a trainwreck in progress.
His mic stops working ten minutes after he arrives. They make him sit on the floor in the Live Lounge after that, and LMC takes great joy out of cutting the cameras to him pouting alone every so often.
“You’re all useless,” LMC says during the Nixtape. “I don’t know why we thought this was a good idea at all.”
“Next time let’s just take the day off,” Fiona says. “I don’t need to know how to do things to lie in bed all day.”
“Agreed,” Matt says. The worst thing, he thinks, about being in the same room as Nick right now isn’t even that it makes him feel sick. It’s that, despite that, Matt still wants to touch Nick at every available opportunity. They’ve been doing the casual touching thing for so long now that it feels unnatural to have to keep their distance. He can tell Nick is having the same problem—it isn’t obvious, but Matt had noticed him reaching toward Matt’s arm in passing before pulling his hand away at the last second, grimacing.
Collette laughs. “The people on the text think this is the best radio you’ve ever done.” She turns around and nearly takes down all the monitors on a desk. “Whoops, keep forgetting I’m still solid.”
“We clearly don’t set a very high bar for good radio,” Matt says, resigned.
Nick goes shopping with Collette after work, then out with a bunch of friends for dinner and drinks. Everyone asks after Matt and makes sad noises when Nick points out the date.
“He’s out with his old flatmates right now, I think,” Nick says, shrugging.
“It’s so weird not seeing him sitting right next to you!” Daisy says. “I don’t know when I got so used to it.”
Nick doesn’t know when he got used to it, either. He kind of feels like he’s missing a limb, which is not anything he’d ever thought would cross his mind. “Yeah, well, whatever. I’m just enjoying one night away from Mr Boring.” He laughs, half forced, and takes a sip of his wine. Everyone stares at him blankly until Aimee takes pity and changes the subject.
Matt is sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea and Goldfinger when the clock strikes midnight. The pain in his head hits full-force so suddenly that he nearly drops the tea. He sets it carefully on the table, pauses the film, and fumbles for his phone.
Where are you??
Just got in cab, 20 min??? sorry should’ve watched the time
Collette appears in the middle of the living room a couple minutes later and sighs loudly. Matt lifts the pillow he has over his face for a moment to frown at her.
“I had a good wine buzz going, and now I’m stone cold sober,” Collette complains. “But at least I don’t have to wait around for taxis to take me places. How are you feeling?”
“Horrible,” Matt says into his pillow.
“Yes, well,” Collette says. “I’m going to go take a nap.”
Matt has no idea if Collette is actually capable of sleeping, but he doesn’t question her.
It feels like an eternity before Matt hears Nick stumble through the door. Matt nearly falls over in his haste to stand, and they meet each other halfway. The instant relief when they touch feels like Matt thinks taking ecstasy might.
“God,” Nick mumbles into Matt’s shoulder, “I missed you today.”
Matt feels like he’s been flayed apart, his nerve endings exposed. Everything is too real, too much to take at once. “Missed you, too,” he says, because he can’t not.
Matt wants to live in this moment forever. It’s easy, touching because it hurts not to and missing each other because why wouldn’t they? It’s everything outside of this that’s hard, the wondering if they’re just getting used to each other or if it really is something more.
He’s never considered that it might be more, but a day without Nick that he thought would be a blessing was actually a curse, and it’s got him fucked up.
“I’m a bit drunk,” Nick says, stepping back from the hug but keeping his hands looped around Matt’s wrists. He giggles, then says, “Actually, a lot drunk.”
“I was watching Bond,” Matt says.
Nick snorts. “Of course you were,” he says with none of the scorn Matt would expect to hear. “Let’s go then.” He leads Matt over to the sofa and arranges them so that he can easily curl up into Matt’s side, his head leaning against Matt’s shoulder.
Matt hits play on the film and does his best to ignore the butterflies fluttering around in his stomach.
Nick is in Sainsbury’s getting milk on Matt’s request when he spots a vaguely familiar figurine in one of the displays. He’s about ninety percent sure that it was in the latest Bond film, which he’s seen at least once, in that Matt made him see it in the cinema twice and he fell asleep both times. (Matt says that doesn’t count as seeing it once, but Nick was asleep for different parts, so obviously it actually does.)
He picks it up without thinking about it, wanders away from the display, and then decides he may as well buy it. If he’s insane and it’s not Bond related at all, he’ll just pretend it was never his intention to give Matt a present.
“I got milk,” he announces, slamming the door behind him. Matt comes out of the kitchen to glare at him. He hates it when Nick slams the door, which is why Nick does it. Nick makes a face at him. “I also got you a present, just saying.” There go his loud mouth tendencies, ruining his Plan B.
Matt raises an eyebrow. “You went out to get milk and came back with a present?”
“And the milk,” Nick says, handing it to Matt. “I think it’s important to note that I didn’t forget the milk.”
“Congratulations, you can accomplish basic tasks,” Matt deadpans. Nick preens as if highly complimented, but Matt isn’t watching, having already turned around to go back into the kitchen. Nick pouts and follows him.
“Whoa,” he says, eyeing the multiple pans on the cooker. Now that he thinks about it, the flat does smell really good. “What are you making?”
Matt doesn’t answer, stirring a pot and avoiding eye contact, and Nick edges closer. Matt can sometimes get territorial about the kitchen, so Nick likes to be cautious.
“Is this the chicken thing Nigella made last week?” Nick asks, peering into a pan of sauce.
Matt clears his throat. “The one you said looked good but too much effort to make?”
“Yeah, that’d be the one.”
“Well, uh. Yeah, that’s this. Or. It’s my version, anyway,” Matt says. He’s still avoiding looking at Nick, suddenly self-conscious. “Probably not as good.”
Probably better, Nick thinks, because it’s proof that Matt listens to him and thinks about him and does things because of him that he doesn’t have to do. Matt has to live with him and talk to him and at least stand close to him, but he doesn’t have to make him dinner. Nick is going to feel so stupid about the damn figurine if Matt doesn’t like it. It’s the closest thing to thoughtful that Nick has to offer.
“Hey, so I got you this bulldog with a Union flag on it, and if there’s no significance to this at all then just know that’s what I meant it to be. Weird, I mean. I meant it to be weird. And not significant.” He shoves the figurine at Matt.
Matt stops stirring and stares at it, then at Nick. “This is from Skyfall,” he says. Nick mentally fist pumps. “You got it at Sainsbury’s?”
Nick shrugs. “Yeah, just saw it there, thought of you, you know. No big deal.”
Matt is smiling the slightest bit as he puts the figurine on the window ledge. It makes Nick’s heart flutter, which in turn make him confused, because he hadn’t bought the bulldog for fluttering heart reasons. At least, that had not been in the plans. “It can live there,” Matt says. “Thanks, that was nice of you.”
There’s a moment, then, where Matt is just standing there looking at Nick, and Nick feels like he should say something or do something, because this is different, right? It feels different, the whole doing nice things for each other and standing in the kitchen smiling at each other. Nick isn’t sure whether he wants to hug Matt right now because he’s been away from him for a few minutes or because he’s having unrelated emotions. It’s probably worth commenting on.
“Now you have to admit I watched the whole film,” Nick says, instead of since when are we nice? or I think something not platonic could potentially be happening here, yeah? or remember that communication thing?
“No, I don’t,” Matt says. “Still doesn’t count.”
“Get out before we break the no arguments in the kitchen rule.” Matt points with the spoon and gets sauce on the floor. Nick refrains from commenting.
“It counts,” Nick says from just outside the kitchen. Matt throws an oven mitt at him.
A couple of days later, Matt wakes up in the middle of the night feeling uneasy. He must have been dreaming, but he has no idea what it was about. All he has left is the taste of copper in his mouth.
Nick’s arm and leg are draped over Matt, his face pressed into his pillow. He looks dead asleep, so Matt chances slowly edging his way out of the bed. Nick mumbles a little and shifts over so he’s on Matt’s pillow instead, but he doesn’t wake up. Matt stands there looking at Nick for longer than he really means to; he’s still half-asleep, and he feels wildly fond and completely out of sorts.
He shakes himself and goes to the kitchen to get some water. It’s a funny thing, he thinks, sipping from his glass—so strange to like someone so much so quickly. He’s been thinking about it more over the past few days, now that things seem to be a little weird between them, not quite the harmonious rhythm they’d settled into.
There’s no way it can be natural. That’s the thing, really. It has to be some sort of Stockholm syndrome thing—he’s so used to Nick now that he can’t imagine anything else. Matt feels unbearably stupid. Nick is not the entire universe, even if it feels like he is.
He picks up the bulldog figurine and weighs it in his hand, staring down at it. He has the overpowering urge to smash it, this pointless representation of emotions that Nick could hypothetically have but definitely never would if it weren’t for endorphins rushing straight to his head whenever he touches Matt. Magic is just science, just chemicals. Life is not a fairy tale.
It feels like one, though. That’s what scares Matt. If he’s not in control of himself, if he can’t make his own choices, then what does he have anymore?
He’s been clenching the bulldog so hard that the lines are creased into his hand, bright flaming red, when he loosens his grip. He puts the figurine carefully back in its place, dumps the last bit of his water down the drain, and goes to curl back up next to Nick, because it’s not like he has any other option.
“I’m going out tonight,” Matt says. Nick looks up from where he’s been sitting on the sofa scrolling through Instagram. Matt already has his jacket on, clearly dressed up nice like he would for a club.
“Whoa, okay, where are we going?” Nick asks. “I need warning for these things, I—”
“I’m going by myself,” Matt interrupts. “We’re allowed to do that every so often, aren’t we?”
Nick stares at him, confused. They are, yeah, but it’s maybe not such a good idea when they’re already not communicating very well. “Oh, sure, that’s fine,” he says anyway. “I was just going to watch X Factor with Collette, anyway.”
“Okay,” Matt says. He seems to pause for a moment before giving a curt nod and heading out, but Nick thinks he might have made it up.
It’s barely been ten minutes before Nick reaches for the phone and orders his favourite curry for delivery, despite the fact that he already had dinner. Sometimes comfort food is necessary, and if your soulbond partner running off without telling you where he’s going isn’t one of those times, then Nick doesn’t know what is.
A few hours later, the curry is old news and they’ve moved on from The X Factor when the low grade headache Nick’s been nursing starts to pulse in his temples. He feels suddenly and completely nauseous, coupled with a prickling sensation across his skin, like something is going very, very wrong.
“Are you all right?” Collette asks, peering at him with concern.
“Matt,” Nick says, pressing a hand to his forehead. It’s cold and clammy and Nick desperately wants to throw up.
“Matt?” Collette asks, significantly more frantic now. “Is Matt okay? Do I need to find him?”
“No, he—” Nick takes a shaky breath, abruptly sure that he knows exactly what’s going on. “I think he must be hooking up with someone else.”
Collette looks appalled. “He wouldn’t do that,” she says. Nick closes his eyes and presses his fingers to his temples. The pulsing is only getting worse. “Would he?”
“Think he would,” Nick mumbles. “Doesn’t owe me anything. Not like that.”
Collette is quiet for a moment, and when she speaks again, she sounds quiet and resigned. Nick hates it. “Just lie down, hey? There’s a love.”
Nick wonders if Matt feels this horrible. He figures there’s no way he can, because it’s getting worse, and if Matt had stopped, wouldn’t it stop hurting? It would probably stop hurting. It’s never been so apparent how stupid Nick has been being—of course Matt doesn’t reciprocate whatever feelings Nick has been developing.
It’s barely been a full hour before Nick hears the door open and the tell tale sounds of Matt taking off his shoes and jacket. Nick’s maybe been slowly feeling better, but he has a suspicion that he’s feeling sick all on his own now.
He sits up to face Matt when he comes in to the living room, thinking that he’ll say something, but when he actually sees Matt, all the words fly out of his head. Matt looks miserable, the kind of miserable Nick thinks he’d see in the mirror right now. His hair is mussed and the top button of his shirt is undone, and his eyes are slightly red as if he’s been crying.
They look at each other, and they don’t say anything at all.
Eventually Matt shuffles over to the sofa and sits down. They curl into each other with the ease of practice, and it feels just as right as it always does. Nick’s skin sings everywhere it’s touching Matt’s, and still he feels sick. He clings to Matt tighter, and Matt tries to move closer than humanly possible.
They can’t leave it at this, both of them know it, but for now. For now this is fine. They’re fine.
Everyone can tell something is wrong at work the next morning. Matt knows this to be true because Fiona and LMC keep looking at them and conspiring in corners, and Ian keeps asking if he can do anything. Matt eventually just starts sending him to get food every time he asks, and Ian only does it twice before he catches on.
Matt’s just glad it’s Friday. He’s ready to go home and not get out of bed all weekend. He feels absolutely awful. In retrospect, it had maybe not been the best plan to go out clubbing and find a girl to go home with, but Matt had managed to convince himself it was the only way he could prove to himself that he could still make choices for himself.
He can, as it turns out. He’s perfectly capable of acting on whatever notion passes through his brain, no matter how stupid and painful it might end up being.
Now things are even more awful with Nick, and Matt has no idea how he’d even begin to apologise. Nick won’t look him in the eye, and Matt kind of doesn’t want him to.
The show goes well, awkwardness in the studio aside, and Matt is heading to his desk, making a mental list of the absolute minimum that needs to be done before he can leave, when LMC intercepts him. Her hair is the same shade of purple as the MagicMD website, and it’s been making Matt feel slightly sick all morning. She’s also tugging Nick along by the hand.
“Listen, I’m sorry, but we’ve” —LMC gestures to Fiona, who’s standing behind her— “decided that we can’t take it anymore.”
Matt winces. “Uh—“
“No, don’t speak,” LMC says, grabbing his hand. She closes her eyes and says a few words that Matt can’t parse, then puts Matt’s and Nick’s hands together. Matt feels a jolt not unlike the first time he shook Nick’s hand. “There, it should take effect in the next five minutes or so, if I did it right.”
Matt looks at his hand in Nick’s, slightly horrified. “What did you do?” he asks.
“I made it so that you both have to be honest with each other for the next twenty-four hours. We decided that was probably the best way to make sure you actually talked,” LMC says.
“Part of it compels you to address the issues that’ve been bothering you, targeting the most prevalent ones first, and once you start answering a question, you can’t leave anything out,” Fiona adds. “We did a lot of research into this.”
LMC grimaces. “If it works, it’ll be one of the more complicated charms I’ve ever succeeded in doing.”
When Matt looks up, Nick is avoiding his gaze. Matt drops his hand. “Thanks a lot for asking permission,” he says. “Did you find anything in your research about, oh, I don’t know, it being illegal to force people to do things with your magic?”
“That’s not technically ill—“ Fiona starts.
“It wasn’t your choice to make!” Nick interrupts angrily. “Maybe we didn’t want you to fix us!”
“So there was something to fix, then,” LMC says, seemingly unperturbed. “You’ll thank us later.”
Matt scowls. He opens his mouth to say something about bodily autonomy, but what comes out is “Nick, I’m so sorry.”
Nick actually looks at him, then, startled.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Matt says earnestly. He can tell this is kind of awkward, but he doesn’t even want to shut up. Telling Nick exactly how he feels seems like the honest, right thing to do. “I just wanted something for me.”
“Looks like it worked,” Fiona says. LMC looks pleased with herself.
“We’re leaving,” Nick says. “We don’t need to discuss this right here. We do need to discuss it, though.”
Matt manages to keep his mouth shut long enough for them to get a taxi, but once they’re actually in it, he can’t stay quiet anymore. “It was horrible. I don’t think either of us enjoyed ourselves. I thought it would be great to make a choice for myself, you know? Something away from this stupid magic thing. But I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
“I’m sorry, too,” Nick says. “I’ve obviously been keeping you from being with other people. I know that I can’t possibly be enough for you.”
Matt frowns. “I don’t know if I would say that. I might’ve yesterday, or the day before. I probably would have said that we’re not enough for each other because we both want romance in our lives, and we don’t even like each other. We’re just stuck. But now… I don’t feel like I’m stuck.”
Nick is fidgeting with his phone, flipping it over and over in his hands. “You don’t?” he asks. His eyebrows are creased just the slightest bit.
“No,” Matt says. “I think you’re enough for me, even if you don’t feel the same.” He hadn’t even explicitly known a minute ago that he felt that way, but the words don’t fall flat at all.
“I do, though,” Nick says quickly. “I do feel the same. You’re enough for me.”
Matt can barely breathe, he’s so overcome. He can’t do anything except look at Nick and feel like it’s completely miraculous that Nick is looking back. “I really want to kiss you right now,” Matt says.
“Wait,” Nick says, gesturing to their taxi driver, who keeps glancing in his rearview mirror like he’s concerned they might try to beat each other up or have sex in his car.
It can’t even be ten more minutes before they reach the flat, but it feels like forever.
“I hate that you leave your shoes by the door all the time,” Nick says, pushing the door of the flat open. “Ugh, I don’t know why I said that.”
“Honesty,” Matt says, smirking. “Where would you rather I put them?”
“On the rack like a normal person?”
“Mmmm,” Matt hums. He pushes the door shut behind them and kicks off his shoes in front of it. “Maybe if you put your dirty socks in the laundry where they belong, that could be arranged.”
“Probably not going to happen,” Nick says. He steps toward Matt, trapping him against the door. “You were saying something about kissing?”
Matt doesn’t bother answering; he just closes the distance between them. It starts pretty soft, as kisses go, like they’re just testing the waters, but it feels like being hit by a tsunami, like hugging each other after hours spent apart only in triplicate.
“Jesus, we should have been doing this the whole time,” Nick says after a minute, breathless.
Every part of Matt’s body feels like it’s been set on fire, if fire were pleasant rather than painful. He’s not too sure he’d be standing if it wasn’t for Nick holding him up against the door. “This doesn’t feel real,” he says. “Kiss me again so we can be sure.”
Nick does. The results are inconclusive, Matt thinks, until Nick pulls away to say, “I feel like a horny teenager, snogging in the hallway.” That’s definitely real.
“We’ve got a bed,” Matt points out.
“So far,” Nick complains, not moving.
“Lazy sod,” Matt says, shoving Nick away and immediately following after him.
“Don’t want to stop touching you,” Nick says. “I haven’t wanted to in ages.”
Matt grins and this time he’s got Nick trapped against the wall when they kiss. “I don’t know, though,” Matt says. “When you start doing that thing you call singing I wish I could get as far away from you as possible.”
“Ouch,” Nick says, even as he’s undoing the buttons of Matt’s shirt. “I’m— a rubbish singer. Wow, I really can’t lie right now.”
“Best keep your mouth occupied with other things,” Matt says, kissing Nick again. He doesn’t think he’s ever wanted to kiss someone so much so often before. He feels drunk with it.
“That just made me think of sucking you off,” Nick says. “Have we made it to a bed yet, or are we owning this hallway thing?”
“I was being patient, enjoying the moment, you know? But if you’re going to suggest things like that then I’m absolutely inclined to get to the bed immediately.”
“I’m glad we had this discussion, Matt, really.” They’re stumbling awkwardly toward the bedroom now, having trouble walking properly when neither of them will allow more than an inch of space between them and they keep trying to take each other’s clothes off.
“That really works better in movies, I think,” Matt says when they’ve made it to the bed, both of them down to their underwear. “I’m amazed that we managed it. Who’s going to pick all those clothes up later? I don’t think anyone thought this through.”
“Why are you still talking?” Nick asks, shoving Matt back into the pillows and climbing onto his lap. “Is this how you feel when I won’t wrap up a link when you tell me to?”
“Probably,” Matt says, sliding his hands down Nick’s sides and relishing the feel of skin on skin.
Nick shivers slightly and starts kissing down the side of Matt’s neck. “Anyway,” he says between kisses, “I’ll pick them up, because God knows when you try to clean you never put away anything right.”
“I think I know where clothes go,” Matt protests. “At least I actually clean, rather than just leaving post-it notes that say ‘sorry!’ on things I mess up.”
“I usually intend to clean those later,” Nick says. He’s working his way down lower now. Matt’s only half listening to what he’s saying. “But you’re too much of a control freak to let it be.”
“Sometimes,” Matt says, instead of the false rebuttal he’d like to give. He tries to nudge Nick closer to dick territory to no avail. “Are you going to do anything useful?”
“This is useful,” Nick says, right before sucking a red mark into the dip of Matt’s hip just to watch him squirm.
“Nick, can you please just—“
“What?” Nick asks, grinning up at Matt.
Matt makes a frustrated noise. “You are such a twat, and I have no idea why I like it.”
Nick’s grin gets wider. “Well, since you asked so nicely.” He tugs Matt’s boxers down and gets his mouth on Matt’s dick faster than Matt is prepared for, making him moan and slide his fingers into Nick’s hair.
The honesty mostly turns into a litany of praises from there, both of them too caught up in the moment to discuss each other’s failings.
Well, mostly. There’s definitely some comments about Matt squeezing the middle of his toothpaste tube and Nick folding towels incorrectly and no one ever doing the washing up, but the rest is mouths and touching and firework metaphors that nobody is going to admit to uttering later.
(“Who knew that having sex with your soulbond partner was going to be so mind blowing?” Nick asks. They’re tangled up in each other, having lost track of where one of them ends and the other begins a good few hours before.
“Literally everyone,” Matt says. Nick hits him with a pillow and then kisses him and kisses him and kisses him.)
“Good weekend, boys?” Fiona asks on Monday when Matt and Nick get into the office. They’re not holding hands or even standing any closer than usual, but there’s a definite comfortable air around them that they’d been lacking.
“You could say that,” Matt says. Nick smirks.
Everything comes up roses for the next few days, which is why Matt can’t really be surprised when he gets an email from the bosses about a training conference he’s supposed to go to.
“How are we going to cope with you being away for three days?” Nick asks.
Matt frowns. It’s nothing he wants to think about, but things have been going well lately, so there’s a chance they’d be able to handle it. He says as much, and then adds, slowly, “Plus there’s this thing I think I remember reading about. Let me see if I can find it.”
He does, and Nick is quiet while he reads it. “We can do that,” he says finally. “LMC owes us.”
“That she does,” Matt agrees.
LMC eyes them doubtfully, but she does agree to do it. “These instructions are so weird,” she says, scanning the page. “Do you both have a piece of jewelry you’ve owned for awhile on you right now? We could just get this over with.”
They exchange a glance and each pull off a ring. “We’re good,” Matt says.
“Okay, so now you guys have to tell me about your relationship,” LMC says. She scrunches up her nose. “I think I know too much already, but all right, hit me.”
“Um,” Nick says just as Matt is about to start. Matt turns to him. “I guess I’ll just say that I’ve never been so crazy for anyone before. This is exactly the kind of obsessive love I’ve always dreamed of, y’know? I think that’s why we’re soulbonded.”
LMC looks a bit like she wants to throw up. Both of them ignore her. “I think we would’ve gotten to where we are now even if we hadn’t been soulbonded,” Matt says. “Like, that was an effect, not a cause, even if it went a little backwards.”
“Please stop, do not snog,” LMC says. “We have to do a blood ritual thing now, let’s do that.”
It’s all a bit anticlimactic, really—they each put a drop of blood on their ring, LMC says some words, the rings glow gold and the blood disappears, and that’s it.
“I have doubts about this helping with the separation,” Nick says, putting Matt’s ring on his right hand and staring at it.
“It’ll be fine,” Matt says, twisting Nick’s ring around and around his finger as if it’s already a nervous habit.
“Yeah, it will,” LMC says, rolling her eyes. “I’m great at magic, didn’t you know?”
“I miss his face,” Nick complains. He’s sitting on the sofa, telly off and Collette hovering just above the coffee table looking annoyed. It’s evening, and Matt has been gone since after work the day before.
“I’m just grateful for a little peace and quiet,” Collette says. “Are you two ever going to stop having sex at every opportunity? I’m tired of staying at Sadie’s, the kids are exhausting.”
“Those kids are adorable,” Nick says. “And no, not if I have anything to say about it.”
Collette sighs. “How are you feeling?”
Nick shrugs. “Not bad, actually. I’ve got a bit of a headache, but nothing so terrible as it usually is. I guess these things really work.” He waggles the fingers of the hand with the ring at Collette.
“You know, you are allowed to call him,” Collette says, floating over to sit next to Nick. “You didn’t get them so that you’d be able to just ditch each other.”
“But what if we did?” Nick whines.
“If I could hit you upside the head, you’d best believe I’d be doing it right now,” Collette says. “Unfortunately, I’m not having a particularly solid day. Call him, Nick. You’ll feel better.”
Nick huffs, but he does get out his mobile and ring Matt. Matt picks up on the second ring with a cheerful, “Nick!”
“Hey,” Nick says, smiling despite himself. “How was your day?”
“Long and boring, if I’m honest,” Matt says. Nick can almost hear him rolling his eyes. “But I’m learning useful things, of course. How are you? Did the show go all right?”
“It was good, yeah, and so am I,” Nick says. He hesitates, then adds, “I miss you, is all.”
“I miss you, too,” Matt says immediately. “I don’t want to die from pain, so that’s good, but I would still much rather be at home with you.”
Nick isn’t sure if it’s the way Matt hadn’t missed a beat with his response or if Nick had been working himself up to this on his own, but he suddenly has the absolute, certain feeling that this is what true love is like. Matt is it for him, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
“I’d rather you were here, too,” Nick says, trusting that Matt will know what he means and they can save the real words for when they’re face to face. He pitches his voice down lower in an attempt to sound sexy. “What would we be doing if you were here, do you think?”
“Oh, no, don’t tell me you’re going to have phone sex,” Collette screeches. “That is not what I meant for you to do.”
Matt is laughing on the other end of the line. “Is that Collette? Say hi for me, tell her we’re not having phone sex.”
“We’re not?” Nick asks. He makes his saddest face at Collette. She doesn’t appear sympathetic.
“No,” Matt says. “I have plans for you.”
“Well, all right,” Nick says. “I like the sound of that.”
They stay on the phone for a long time, just because they can.
Matt has no idea what kind of flowers Nick likes. He doesn’t even know if Nick, in fact, does like flowers. He doesn’t realise this until he’s already standing in the florist’s contemplating a bouquet of daisies, though, so by that time it’s too late to back out.
Sometimes it’s scary how much more he still has to learn about Nick, but in this moment it’s just exciting. They have the rest of their lives ahead of them, and Matt can’t wait.
Matt lets himself into the flat, carefully balancing the bouquet of assorted flowers that had been half-off in one arm and carrying his overnight bag in the other. He drops the bag by the door and calls out, “Hello?”
“In here!” Nick calls from the kitchen. “I was trying to make you a welcome home dinner, but honestly I couldn’t decide what to make, so I was thinking raincheck on that? We can go out somewhere? Oh, you’ve got flowers!”
“For you,” Matt says, holding them out to Nick. Nick takes them, looking slightly perplexed. “I realised while I was gone that if we were doing this backward, then the next step was the wooing process.”
“Do you often woo people, Matt Fincham?” Nick asks, sniffing at the flowers.
“No,” Matt says honestly. “But I figured I’d like to try it. With you.”
Nick puts the flowers down on the counter. “That’s a bit silly,” he says.
Nick nods. He steps up to Matt and hooks his fingers into the loops of Matt’s jeans. “I’m already wooed, aren’t I?”
Nick pulls Matt in and kisses him. Matt melts into it like he always does, his hands flying up to the back of Nick’s head.
“I am,” Nick says eventually. “In case I didn’t make that clear.”
“Not clear at all,” Matt says. “You’re going to have to keep convincing me, I think. Every day. Constantly.”
“Challenge accepted,” Nick says.