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It'll Be You and Me Up in the Trees

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Prologue (of sorts)

 

“Hello, I’m Simon Amstell. You-“

 

“Hello, I’m Simon. I’m quite funny.”

 

“Hello, I’m Simon, and they once kicked me out of children’s TV for being unsavory. I have never felt more like a Fisherman’s Pie in my entire life.”

 

“Hello, I’m Simon, and I’m your new roommate. We’ll get along splendidly; my therapist tells me I need you much more than you need me.”

 

The doorbell rings.

 

“Ah, shit.” That natural moment of indecision while he ponders on the fight or flight response. Finally, he screws up the courage to cross over the living room and pull the door open.

 

The man standing outside the door is wearing an oversized cardigan, paired with crisp slacks and a grey shirt. Simon finds himself staring a little despairingly at the cardigan before the owner clears his throat.

 

“Um. This is Number 41, right?”

 

“Yes it is,” Simon replies automatically. His new roommate-to-be has blue eyes and perfect blonde hair. He’s passably attractive, but for no particular reason, he feels his tension drain away.

 

This man was very, very lucky. A high-strung Simon was, undoubtedly, a Simon not fit for society.

 

It’s just that Simon was expecting someone thinner.

 

“I’m Martin,” says the newcomer hesitantly. “I think I’m to be your new flatmate, but if this is coming as a complete surprise, communication isn’t what it used to be.”

 

Simon, when he laughs, sounds almost normal. It’s a miracle. “No, I was just debating whether to grab the chainsaw or not. I rarely answer the door without it.”

 

Martin –as it turns out- doesn’t give him any strange looks. He chuckles, blue eyes lighting up delightfully, and comes in when Simon invites him. He hasn’t got much with him –“My stuff will be moved later,” he explains, with enviable grace- and the duffel bag he has drops on the couch and blends in at once.

 

And really, Simon thinks, leading him around the decently-sized flat and coming to a halt near the bedroom that’s to be Martin’s, that’s all one could reasonably hope for.

 

(End Prologue)

*

"Your hair's getting in my nose. Oh God, I can't breathe."

"I happen to be very insecure about my hair."

"As you should be. It looks like a million cartoon doodles coming out your head."

 

*

Two years in, they have a perfectly heterosexual relationship. They bicker about laundry and grocery runs and watch reruns and eat pizza together. It's all very normal, except on the bad nights.

On nights like that, Simon can be found in the kitchen at three am, cradling a glass of orange juice and looking oddly lost. The first time Martin found him like that, he'd simply blinked (not being quite awake at that hour, he was human after all) and told Simon that if he was going to mope, he should do it with the lights off. Which had somehow evolved into an invitation to share his bed, and now, after bad days, Martin finds his bed invaded by bony limbs and soft curly hair.

Simon drapes himself all over Martin, but on the really rough days, he curls up on his side of the bed and doesn't speak.

Martin doesn't mind, per se. He's secure enough in his sexuality to not be threatened by the way Simon basically wraps himself around him and looks at him adoringly if a bit acidly. Simon's full of contradictions and unexpected jagged edges, but Martin enjoys the sensation without analyzing it too much. After all, he knows Simon does it more than enough for the both of them.

*

Interviews are generally considered bad days.

"You'd think you'd be better at taking them, being Britain's premier interviewer of pop stars and defenseless children." Martin observes one night, when Simon appears in his doorway carrying a box of cupcakes and their DVD of Brave Heart.

Simon makes a face. "It was BBC4. One solid hour of progressively more banal inquiries. And as if that wasn't bad enough, there was the ghastly repetition of the question you're quite cheeky, aren't you?"

"Well, it could be worse, think about that," Martin marks his place in his book, slipping in that ridiculous Bob the Builder bookmark that Simon had bought for him and thought was hilarious. "You could be on GMTV, admiring livestock."

Simon mimes banging his head against the door frame.

Martin follows him into the living room and settles on the couch, reaching for a cupcake. "I'm sure it was no better for the interviewers," he says placatingly. "I expect you were a terrible interviewee."

Simon turns his head to give him a dirty look. He then resumes fiddling with the DVD player until it surrenders in the face of his incompetence and the tray pops out of its own accord. Simon attempting to operate digital devices was always entertainment in its own right.

"Then again, BBC4 is like all your dreams coming true backwards." Martin muses.

"Fuck you, BBC4 is God."

"I thought you were God."

"BBC4 takes over when one has to be nice to America."

Martin times it perfectly; he gets the bland tone just right: "You're quite cheeky, aren't you?"

Simon bursts out laughing.

 

*

"Your cat is eating my phone charger."

"Oh, it's my cat when it’s a vandal, is it?" Afterthought. "Lure it into the kitchen, that works."

"With what? And anyway, it gets the devil in it from your side. I'm Jewish, remember?"

"Your people killed Jesus. And it's a cat, what do you think lures it out? Use some cheese or something."

"Cats don't eat cheese!"

"You clearly haven't met Toby, the easygoing omnivore."

"Oh good. Now it's chewing on your socks instead."

"Your cat’s dietary immorality shocks and appalls me. It should be shown the right path."

"You should be institutionalized."

*

The date with Stephanie doesn't go well, mostly because Martin can hear Simon's voice in his head giving commentary about the whole thing, and is unnecessarily defensive through the process of dinner. She's a bit young, but in no way deserves the reply, “Your choice sounds lovely, do they have adult-sized portions?" in answer to her polite question of what he'll be having.

In the end, he comes home after a surprisingly matter-of-fact blowjob behind the restaurant to find his roommate had taken over his bed.

"Oh, hello," Simon says, pushing his utilitarian glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Parent-teacher meeting over already?"

Martin makes a face. "She really wasn't that young, you know."

"No, of course not," Simon agrees affably. "She was, naturally, able to read the menu?"

"She had trouble with her v's and w's," Martin admits, feeling slightly uncomfortable with his treachery, but it's no more than a twinge of his conscience. He's ignored a lot more urgent pangs. When he first moved in with Simon, for instance.

"There you are," Simon says, grinning broadly.

"Why are you on my bed?"

"The light's shit on mine," Simon says, apparently unfazed by this change of track. He gestures at the stack of papers on his lap. "Writing."

"And, what." Martin shucks off his shoes and sits down on the edge, and Simon moves some papers around to make room obligingly. "Comedy genius Simon Amstell scorns mahogany desks?"

 

"See, that's what I dislike about you, Freeman," Simon's eyes are very bright, very blue. Martin realizes that he's in great danger of staring soulfully into Simon's eyes and hastily looks away. "You're such a conformist."

"Strength in numbers, and all that," Martin mumbles. He's suddenly feeling rather neglected, and subsequently guilty about it, because then it's like he's criticizing Steph's ability to give head, which in turn seems just rude. "I'm gonna have a shower."

"A cold one?" Simon asks, voice straining against laughter. "You pedophile."

"I'll have you know, she's quite proficient at giving blowjobs, for someone who just recently realized that her teachers weren't watching her every move anymore." Martin says, getting off the bed.

He nearly misses the expression on Simon's face entirely, but a chance glance backwards has him stopping on his way to the bathroom. "What?"

Simon had gone completely still, an odd expression on his face. When Martin speaks, however, he laughs and shakes himself. "Sorry," he says, the off-key on the first syllable belying that he wasn't being quite truthful. Martin is sometimes scared by how he can read Simon like a book, but it does come in handy now and then. "Just... wasn't expecting you to go the extra mile and actually be a pedophile."

Martin's eyebrows hike up of their own volition. "Simon," he says, his voice shot through with fine strands of incredulity and that inherent sarcasm that he's not really proud of. "She was of age, you know that."

Simon flushes. "Yeah, I know, God, I'm sorry." He looks miserable all of a sudden, all skin and bones and sharp angles. "I was being a prat, I'm sorry."

Martin gives him one last puzzled look, and smiles a little weakly. Simon smiles uncertainly back, and then it evolves into grinning, and then into laughter as they both crack up simultaneously.

 

*

 

Simon tells him, “I think I’m in love with you.”

Martin glances at him over the cartoons in the paper. “Care to elaborate on that? Unless you love me for my telepathic abilities, in which case I have to disillusion you.”

Simon glowers. “I’m being quite serious. It’s recently come to my attention that I’m probably in love with you.”

“Oh.” And Martin genuinely has no idea how to respond to that. He makes do with putting down the paper. “Should I do anything about it?”

Simon shakes his head. His spoon is still in his hand, and it looks as if this is one of those mid-morning epiphanies that he liked to have sometimes. “You’re…okay with this?”

Martin blinks, and shrugs.

“I mean, I’m pretty certain,” Simon adds, not meeting his eyes. “I, uh, I’ve seen it coming for quite some time now.”

“Just to be perfectly clear, are you in love with me, or do you expect to be in love with me because I tolerate you? Because that’s not quite how it works.”

Simon makes a face, and stands up. His hands in his pockets, he comes over to Martin’s side of the counter and stands in front of him.

The kiss, when it lands, can hardly be distinguished as such. Just a gentle press of Simon’s lips against Martin’s, brief, elusive taste of Coco Pops, and then Simon’s a few feet away again.

Martin looks at Simon, eyebrows raised. “And?”

Simon’s blue eyes are very wide, shock coloring them brighter than Martin ever thought it possible for eyes to be. He laughs, and it’s shaky. “Yes, it seems that I’m very much in love with you.”

“Oh,” Martin says, uncertain once more. “And, um. What do you plan to do about it?”

Simon retreats quickly to his bowl of cereal. “Nothing, really. I expect it’ll go away soon enough.”

Martin eyes him, and Simon affects nonchalance by eating a spoonful of what looks like spectacularly soggy Coco Pops. He makes a face of distaste afterwards, and Martin can’t help his laugh.

Simon flips him off. “You’re so sensitive and nurturing, it’s a wonder I didn’t fall for you before.”

“I’m amazing in general, you were probably overwhelmed.”

And just like that, everything manages to stay the same.

 

*

 

"I think all your neuroses stem from a childhood of too much imagination."

"You shouldn't use the word neuroses when you're sharing a bed with me."

"You caught me, what I'm really trying to do is get you off without touching your dick."

"You so-called straight men and your closets. Pfft."

"What the Sun wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall."

"Probably a lot, because all they'll learn is your burning self-doubt and lust for me, and that's hardly new."

"Says the guy who talked his way into my bed for cuddles."

"I'm very sensitive! They referred to me as the cheeky Popworld host who made Britney Spears cry."

"I fail to see where the sensitivity comes in."

"I've made a career out of being rude to perfectly lovely people. It's really very damaging for me."

"If you're fishing for compliments, you should room with Matthew." Snicker. "Or one of the many fans who write fanfiction about your prowess at swallowing after giving head."

"How much am I going to regret showing that to you?"

"-Probably a lot. I have a lot of free time."

"Just go to sleep."

 

*

 

The rehearsals for Charles II begin mid-January, and by week three, Martin can hardly stand up straight afterwards, collapsing on Simon’s bed on top of the covers more often than not. Simon will wake him up to swear at him long enough for him to get under the covers, and he’s knocked out within ten seconds, exhaustion bleeding into the mattress and pillows.

By a nasty coincidence, Simon’s writing some sketches for some act or the other at the same time, which means that when they do speak, it’s brief and irritable and acerbic to painful degrees. Vicious sharp barbs fly over the couch (Martin) to the desk (Simon) and back to the couch again like miniature poison darts, the result of frayed tempers and sheer exhaustion.

At the end of the day, they will fall into the same bed, exchange a few muffled insults and snigger, and in the morning, Simon will be draped all over Martin and they will be quite, quite alright once more.

 

*

 

"I feel terrible."

"So do I, you're lying on my arm. It's gone completely numb. Tell that to the viewers."

 

*

 

Melinda is small and loud and wears bright colored clothes in the wintertime. "I like making my mum have to squint to look at me," she confides happily.

She's not really Martin's type. Ask him nicely and he'd say he prefers brunettes as tall as he is who look like they could take care of themselves. Hold a gun to his head and he'd admit to glancing Colin McKinnon's way more than he should when he was in the sixth form.

But he is, for all purposes, quite straight, but even so Melinda's a surprise. A pleasant one, but a surprise nonetheless.

"Ooh, crab," she says, eyeing the menu with enthusiasm. "Soooouuuup."

Strange, but nice

 

*

Melinda, clad only in a sweatshirt, one pale shoulder exposed; "Have you got a wife tucked away somewhere in a quaint little cottage in Norfolk?"

Martin raises his head. Distracted; "No, why?"

He's checking his messages. It's been three days since he last set foot in the flat, but his inbox remains eerily empty.

"Because, you know, I went to the supermarket the other day and found myself looking at yogurt. No one but kept women look at yogurt for extended periods of time, Martin."

Martin shoots off a text I had a premonition our flat was set on fire. Is the cat dead? -M

Simon's reply comes instantaneously. h, so the elusive flatmate lives. Come over and see for yourself. - SA.

"And most suspicious of all," Melinda says, wrapping her arms around his neck and drawing him in, "is that mysterious flat of yours. Do you really share it with someone, or is it the headquarters of your prostitution ring?"

There is no tilt to her words, no hidden angle. She smiles, and when his phone buzzes with another text, she gets out of bed to see to dinner.

Martin Freeman's life is, for all intents and purposes, quite simple.

*

 

"I'm inviting Melissa over. I think it's time she got used to you."

"Oh God. And there I was, thinking that at least one of us had a legitimate love life. She'll leave you in two seconds."

"I like to be optimistic."

"You have a real gift for understatement. Will you be cooking?"

"I said optimistic, not suicidally reckless."

"You could make her soup. Women love blokes who can take care of them when they're sick."

"You recommend poisoning her first?"

"Only if you can get away with it."

"I'm not sure it'll work, though. It's been proven impossible to look sexy while eating soup."

"She seems to like you well enough, so maybe she's a freak of nature in all aspects. One can hope."

 

*

Martin invites Melissa over and introduces his flatmate before dinner.

After dinner, she breaks up with him.

"I'm not really your type, am I?" she asks.

They're in the living room in his flat. Martin can't stop thinking that Simon's going to walk in any second, sniff out the tension like a rabbit sensing danger, and trample over the situation all good intentions and awkwardness. He catches himself trying to hurry the process along, lest Simon came back. He tells himself sternly to cut it out.

It isn't nearly as ugly a breakup as he's used to. Melinda seems genuinely unsurprised by the turn of events and is quite happy to remain friends, something Martin had thought only happened in romantic comedies.

She leaves him with the remainder of dinner on his lap –chilli con carne, his sole specialty. That and telling Simon to behave had been pretty much the only preparations he'd had for this date, which, in hindsight, probably accounted for the speedy breakup- watching the rest of Brave Heart -what else?- alone.

When Simon thinks it safe to emerge from his room, Martin's already cleared away the dishes and the credits are rolling on the TV. For a moment, he looks utterly confused, mouth open and eyes very wide as he looks from Martin to Melinda's now-clean plate, and then asks, "She... Wow, that was...It was me, wasn't it?"

Martin shrugs. "Hardly."

"I see that my awkwardness has officially become contagious. I should be put away before I break something important." Simon looks as if he's about to cry.

Martin, who was always privately of the opinion that Simon was too harsh on his natural shyness, snorts. "Oh yes. I plan on shouting my love for her from the rooftops while I'm at it, because God forbid Simon Amstell's flatmate be subtle."

Simon grins briefly, a worried expression pinching his features immediately afterwards. "Are you sure you're... I mean, you seemed. You seemed to like her."

Martin gives him an appraising look, and he flushes a little. "Simon, I’m fine."

 

"Yeah?" He fidgets, and doesn't meet Martin's eye. "I mean, she wasn't really your type, so I thought maybe it would last. Reverse logic, I suppose."

"Why is everyone so convinced she wasn't my type?" Martin demands, choosing to ignore the latter part of the statement. "It's as if you had a vote: how long will it take for Freeman to fuck it up again."

Simon's eyes dart to his, large and scared, and Martin thinks vindictively, serves him right. He's feeling a sudden rush of belated anger, and it leaves him bewildered.

"It's not like that, Martin, it's just that,"

Martin exhales; sees what Simon's trying to say. "I know," he says. She looked like you. When she laughed, it was musical and tinkling and not big and ungainly like yours, and I kept thinking that she wasn't doing it right.

Simon offers, "Manly cuddles tonight?" and Martin smiles.

 

*

 

Linda of the earrings shaped like radishes: “Simon fancies you a good deal, I think.” She taps a pen against her nose and her earrings sway rhythmically. Martin finds himself wondering what she looks like naked; whether she’ll wear those earrings when she has sex. “So much so that his type in men is, basically, you.”

Martin’s hypnotized by her jewelry. “That's rot, none of his boyfriends are blond.”

“Boyfriend is rather far from what they turn out to be, wouldn't you think? And anyway, it's not that obvious. You notice that all the guys he seems to go out with are essentially nice guys with a dry sense of humor. “

“That describes half the population.”

“Not when it comes to Simon Amstell. When it comes to him, it's either skinny people or ordinary people he'd like to fuck.”

“You lost me there.”

A regretful pout of the lips, and she picks up her script and kisses him softly before she leaves. “Yeah, I probably did.&rdquo

*

 

Ben Whishaw steals into their lives like a gale, knocking Simon off his feet and making Martin reach for their raincoats. Simon is wrecked and dark-eyed for days on end, and ticket stubs to plays litter the floor like confetti.

Martin goes with him once. They sit in the back row and are shushed by disapproving patrons when they get too loud, and Simon traces patterns on Martin's wrist the whole time.

When the Whishaw kid comes on, Martin's nearly too distracted to pay attention. The play's familiar; yet another interpretation of The Mousetrap.

The kid's good; his lines are clear and even while he's got a glint of homicidal good humor in his eye, he looks like some woodland creature summoned forth by a spell. Simon's enthralled. Martin can see why, though the irritation that first took root when Simon began playing absently with the sleeve of Martin's jacket doesn't quite subside through the entire production.

Simon doesn't gush on the way home, but he comes dangerously close; "He was like Romeo with a hatchet." He says, his fingers tapping an excited rhythm on his thigh. "Blood up to his elbows."

Marin makes a face. "Thank you for the image."

Simon is oblivious. "You're welcome." he stares out the window of the cab, a respite of daydreaming before he tells Martin all about the future.

Martin knows how this goes. There's a pattern to it, a cadence and a lilt that he hasn’t quite mastered yet but can predict from a good distance away; tonight, Simon will be a live wire, energy and enthusiasm and potential swallowing all the air in the flat, making it impossible to concentrate on anything else. In his head, Martin knows, Simon has approached and won over the skinny boy with the clear voice. He is unstoppable, he is life itself.

Tomorrow morning, reality will hit like a ton of bricks, and Martin will have to buy sympathy Froot Loops.

He seriously considers investing in a pair of clunky headphones to block it all out

 

*

“I ran into Melissa the other day.”

 

“Yeah? How was it?”

“Bloody awkward. Like being covered in banana peel.”

“Oh God.” A groan. “You spoke in big block letters, didn’t you?”

“How does one speak in capitals?”

“You’re the one doing it, ask yourself. This meeting of yours…were there any casualties?”

“Surprisingly, no. We made small talk and I told her I was buying a cucumber. Perfectly ordinary thing to be buying, cucumbers.”

“Yet I get the feeling I shouldn’t be lulled into a sense of security just yet by this mention of cucumbers in this story.”

“It seems not. She told me she hoped we were very happy together.”

“Oh.” Silence. “And what did you say?”

“I told her that of course we were, didn’t she know cucumbers were an international symbol of getting laid frequently.”

“Oh.”

*

 

Simon is declared the regular host at Buzzcocks, and in celebration, they stay in and watch Brave Heart.

“Which is really tragic, considering,” Simon says, and Martin nods, his attention on the torture onscreen. “Here we are, at the so-called prime of our lives, miraculously not in debt and getting paid for doing nothing in particular, and all we do to live dangerously is watch the same film for the thirteenth time.”

Martin blinks at him, then processes. “If you’re feeling adventurous, maybe we could watch The Patriot instead.”

Simon wrings his hands in a gesture of great distress. “Why do all your films have Mel Gibson in them?” He asks, his voice rising a handful of octaves.

“Because, Simon,” Martin explains patiently, “your aunt bought them for you as a housewarming gift and we’re both too lazy to buy anything new.”

“Oh.” Simon slumps. “In that case.”

Martin waves the DVD in front of him enticingly. “It’s got Heath Ledger in it.”

Simon looks blank. “So?”

Martin’s eyebrows rise. “You mean you don’t have a massive, soul-deep crush on Heath Ledger?” He flails a little. “Even I have a massive, soul-deep crush on Heath Ledger. You’re a terrible gay.”

“And you have terrible personal hygiene. Let’s just watch the bloody movie already.”

 

*

 

"No gays in this joint, this is God's pop quiz, this is."

"Or what, you'll shoot them queers with your shotgun?"

"I don't have a shotgun. But I do have a cat."

"There is no such thing as improvisation when it comes to being a redneck. You either have a shotgun or you name our cat Bubba. Let me give you a hint: if you change his name, I promise I'll buy the shotgun."

"You're so dramatic. It's making me feel tingly."

"Just go to sleep, Simon."

*

 

The kid's name is Toby. Martin is distantly amused.

"-and then he said, why bother, just go out with your mates and let's see if she keeps whinging," says Toby the Wondertwink. He's draped half over Martin, vodka sloshing occasionally from his glass onto Martin's cardigan. Martin keeps expecting to be jabbed by sharp bones, but Toby is softer around the edges, a warm, tipsy weight on his lap. Not too bright, either.

"But it's working, isn't it?" Toby says, and Martin nods agreeably. The bar is dense and crowded, and he honestly hadn't come here with the intention of seeking company. But now he found himself with a lapful of boy and he wasn't about to complain. After all, they did have an age restriction here. Toby the child had to be of age, unless Martin was spectacularly unlucky.

Toby says, "I met you, didn't I?" and Martin thinks of Melinda saying, 'm not your type. Toby says, "That proves it. I think." and Martin stops thinking, leans over and kisses him.

It's warm and sweet and a little sloppy, Toby's arms coming around him securely and that's nice. Toby kisses slow, drowsy, with an undercurrent of heat that means that this isn't the first time he's trying it. It makes Martin feel a little better, the knowledge that at least one of them knows what the hell he's doing.

Martin takes him outside and hails a cab. Toby hangs off him affectionately, nuzzling at the side of his neck like a puppy. Martin kisses the corner of his mouth and he makes a small, pleased sound.

Martin takes him to his flat.

Not unsurprisingly -Martin now refuses to be surprised by the sheer bad timing of the universe- Simon's sitting outside the door, huddled up with only his hair clearly visible. For a moment, he and Martin simply stare at each other.

Martin's pulse is racing, literally clawing to get out of his skin. This, he thinks, is where heart attacks come from. Too much drink and a sexually frustrated twink of dubious age and his best friend sitting outside his flat looking like he just took on a moving train. Just like that, he could drop down, dead.

He doesn't.

Instead, he says, "Anyone care for a spot of tea?"

*

Simon retreats to his room to unload his bag and Martin tells Toby, "I'm so sorry for this whole disaster. I'm not usually this terrible at being a human being."

Toby, rather than looking confused, blows on his tea with a secretive smile. Martin watches the pout of his lips, mesmerized.

Simon clears his throat. Martin starts. Toby laughs a little, and stands up.

"I should go," he says, and sways a little towards Martin. Martin steadies him and Toby gives him a suspiciously lucid smile. "Have fun, boys."

Martin's offer to accompany him back home in the cab is refused, "Now that he knows what I look like. He may hunt me down and stab me. Hell of a possessive boyfriend you got there, Michael."

Martin doesn't bother to correct him. He actually quite likes the thought of a gay promiscuous alter ego, one named Michael who slept around with flexible twinky boys and drank dry martinis.

As it is, he's stuck watching the cab pull into the traffic and going back upstairs to face his 'boyfriend.'

Martin sighs. There really wasn't a reasonable way of justifying this. The universe was out to get him.

*

"I wasn't aware that homosexuality was a stage of drunkenness. The teetotalers of the world would be scandalized."

Martin rubs a hand over his face. Confrontation is good, he tries to tell himself. Confrontation means they aren't ignoring it. Martin doesn't know how he would handle it if they ignored it. Most probably he wouldn't.

But that being said, confrontation with Simon Amstell was only a fraction preferable to eating glass.

"We weren't drunk, Simon." He says, and Simon looks outraged, so he amends, "I wasn't drunk."

He meets his eyes square on as he says it, sees the slight widening of Simon's, the blue going a shade darker.

"So what?" Simon raises his eyebrows like he was unsheathing a blade. No wonder he made people cry on TV. Martin feels a tad apprehensive himself, and he's known Simon for years.

Years, he thinks, suddenly speechless. I've known him for years.

Simon says, "So what, you thought you'd have a little fun with the drunken teenager? That it?"

 

"Oh, for God's sake, Simon." Martin snaps, and blinks. He hadn't meant to say that. Was it possible that, after so long in Simon's company, his own mouth had decided to rebel at random unexpected moments as well? He decides to go with it. "Toby was of age."

Simon's eyebrows rise higher, so that he looks uncomfortably strained. Martin feels uncomfortable just looking at him. "His name was Toby?"

Martin fidgets. "I thought it was rather funny."

Simon slumps in his chair without warning, like his strings had been cut. "I suppose you would, wouldn't you?"

Martin looks at him sharply, but Simon looks far from mocking. He manages to take Martin entirely by surprise by looking like he does when he can't write, like he does when the commercials on TV insult his intelligence. Something like heartbreak, but finer, more pinpointed.

"Oh," Martin says.

Toby the cat comes over, benevolent as ever, butting his legs and purring loudly as Martin has his little epiphany. He stares down at it, and it looks back, unblinking.

Oh, Martin thinks again.

"That oh does not bode well for me, does it?" Simon asks, mouth twisted into a particular shape like the words tasted foreign in his mouth, bitter and distantly amused like that time he and Martin had eaten that massive bag of Sour M&M's.

"Depends." Martin says carefully, nudging Toby out of the way. Toby makes a little squeak of protest and bites his jeans, but ultimately moves away.

"On what?" Simon asks, suspicious. There's a little spark in his eye that means that Martin's not coming out of this alive if he doesn't play his cards right. "On whether your alcohol fueled epiphanies are any good? Because if you just realized what a huge cockblock a roommate is, you're not exactly on an untrodden path down there. What are you doing?"

The last is added when Martin, feigning nonchalance, takes another step towards Simon. He curses inwardly. "What are you talking about?"

"How you're about to say something groundbreaking about how we should have a system for when we have company," Simon says, flinging his arms out and gesturing a little. Martin takes another casual -for it is casual, he's practically whistling- step towards him. "Maybe an obvious but oh-so-subtle signal, like a 'Don't Interrupt, Getting Laid' fridge magnet. Or God forbid, a sock on the -for God's sake, Martin, what are you doing?"

Martin stops guiltily, just a hair’s breadth inside polite conversational distance for friends. "Um. What?"

"You're inching."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are- see, you're doing it again. Stop it, you're upsetting the homosexuals."

Martin smiles briefly. "Would it be such a bad thing?"

Simon's eyebrows hike up. "If the homosexuals were upset? Yes, it'd be pretty upsetting."

"No, I mean," Martin gestures. "If we- you know-"

It takes Simon about a millisecond to get it, and about half that time to leap away, knocking into the kitchen counter violently. His eyes are very wide, pupils dilated, his knuckles white as he clutches the counter.

Martin winces.

"No," Simon says, in a breathy voice that belies hyperventilation and possible hysteria. "Nonononononono. No. Just no."

Martin waits for an argument -perhaps in the form of more no's in immediate succession- but none comes.

"-Alright then," he says awkwardly.

He's about to turn away when Simon says, desperately, "It's not that I don't want it. Dear God, do I want it." He swallows visibly, and Martin's eyes dip down, inevitably, to his throat. Simon laughs, high-pitched and panicky. "It's just that it probably would kill me."

Martin blinks.

Simon bites his lip and looks back defiantly, but Martin's still completely at sea.

"Mate," he says helplessly, "you've got to-"

"I'm still in love with you, alright?" Simon snaps, rolling his eyes. "I thought I got over the whole phase, but it seems that falling out of love with Martin Freeman is as much of an illusion as anything else in the shambling wreck I call my life."

Martin makes a hoarse noise, something between scoff and disbelieving laugh, that ends up sounding like one of his childhood asthma attacks. "You fucking idiot,- he says, and just looks, letting it shine through like holy light, willing Simon to get it, just this once-

"Oh," Simon breathes.

"Exactly," Martin says smugly. His heart begins an erratic, possibly unhealthy pattern, hammering away and stopping at irregular intervals. "Slow on the uptake as always, I see."

"Martin," Simon says, a note of wonder in his voice and Martin's voice dries up, all words falling away and lost in the vortex, Simon saying his name in that tone and knowing that he's in love with this ridiculous human being, but that's okay, because Simon, impossibly, loves him, too, and this staring's gone on for a little longer than Martin's entirely comfortable with, almost verging on daytime soap material and-

Simon kisses him.

It's less of a kiss than a collision of two people, lips first. Simon seems to regret it immediately, moving to pull away, but then Martin's brain kicks in and his hands curl in Simon's hair and drag him closer, and then, then it gets better. Gets bloody perfect, because goddamn, Simon can kiss. His hands come up to Martin's shoulders and rest there, just hanging on, and his lips are soft and insistent and his tongue, when it flicks out and runs a line along the inseam of Martin's lips, sends violent sparks down Martin's spine.

They break apart for air, Martin's eyes wide, his entire world view tipped on its side. Simon smiles, a little hesitant, and Martin says, "Fuckin’ hell. My flatmate's turned me gay," and dips in for more kissing.

Simon laughs against his lips, fingers curling tentatively in Martin's shirt.

Martin rolls his eyes, and hefts him on to the counter.

Simon gasps, his head falling back and his legs falling apart for Martin to step between them. Martin looks up at him, awe and amusement fighting for predominance.

"You're a pornstar when you're not hosting that terrible show of yours, aren't you?" Martin inquires, nibbling a line down Simon's neck and licking experimentally. Simon writhes in response, his hands twisting in Martin's shirt.

"Look-" Simon breathes, in between gasps, "-look who's talking. Very alpha male, that whole-" he breaks off in a long, drawn-out moan when one of Martin's hands find his nipples, stroking over it with his thumb.

Martin watches as he squirms and shimmies and tries not to get too caught up in feeling like he's won something momentous. His entire life, maybe.

"You plan on following this up, Freeman?" Simon asks challengingly, and ruins the act by dipping down to steal a kiss.

Martin smiles and chases his lips as they part. "It seems unbecomingly forward."

To emphasize his point, he tweaks the other nipple, and yes, that one's delightfully sensitive, too. Simon wriggles around on the counter, his legs clasping tightly around Martin's hips. Martin's breath catches.

"I've been waiting too bloody long," Simon says, raw edge of honesty in his voice.

Martin nods. "Fair enough."

Simon grins, a grin that Martin recognizes and never thought of in this context before. Another thrill runs up his spine. "Besides, we wouldn't want you to miss out on that little trick with the tongue that Italian twink taught me."

"No, indeed," Martin says fervently, and Simon laughs.

It's hardly epic poetry; this is exactly how Martin wants it to be.

*

 

(Can hardly be called an) Epilogue

"You're not very thin, are you?"

 

"I see that the era when a man knew what the hell his flatmate-slash-boyfriend was talking about has passed."

 

"Maybe you have bad metabolism. Maybe you're very thin at heart."

 

"Simon, this would be the point where you explained what's been going on since we stopped the episode last week.”

 

"I'm trying to make sense off why I'm attracted to you."

 

“I have a penis. I hear you like those.”

 

“I can’t believe you said penis. Have I corrupted you?”

 

“No, it’s more of a case of your twelve-year-old sense of humor rubbing off on me. I didn’t know those were contagious.” Pause. "And besides, you once got turned on looking at a cupboard. You're above nothing."

 

"I actually feel better. You're clearly an arsehhole, there’s no way this infatuation will last."

 

“Which leaves me wondering, why didn’t you figure that out two years ago?”

 

“You’re rather good-looking, I suppose that’s it.”

 

“Oh. So you’re just using me for my body?”

 

“Basically? Yes.”

 

“Great. Just bloody amazing.”