An 'Alternatives' fic.
Spoilers for 1x01.
Disclaimer: I do not own Primeval, and I am not making any profit from this work.
The Sixth of September
Stephen had never kept a diary. For most of his life, it just hadn't occurred to him. And he'd found the idea a little insulting when it was presented to him by one of his flatmates during his studies for his bachelors degree.
"It'll help you control your feelings and stop you getting all tangled up," she'd told him, and he'd snorted.
But she was an art student. What would she know?
Stephen supposed that there were, really, three definitive reasons why he'd never kept a diary.
Firstly, his cousin Lucy had kept one when they were kids, and Stephen and Lucy hadn't gotten along at all. He'd probably equated 'diary' with 'becoming a kitten-drowning sadist' and avoided them religiously.
Secondly, Stephen moved around a lot, especially after he got his first degree and had gone to South America. He could barely keep track of his keys, let alone something as personal as a diary. It was just asking for trouble to do that. Stephen nagged Nick about losing things and being disorganised, but if he was honest, it was only a trick he'd learnt himself in the last few years.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Stephen had a very good memory anyway. Nick kept a diary, because of his sort-of abysmal memory, but it was mostly full of birthdays, meetings, and drinks out with Nick's sister. Who would kill him if Nick forgot. Even Stephen was scared of Nick's sister. But Stephen had a good memory, and so didn't even warrant an appointments diary.
Stephen's memory approached the 'perfect recall' stage if the memory was important to him. He didn't know whether other people functioned like that too (Nick had given him a weird look when he'd asked) but if he actually gave a damn about the memory, it stuck like glue and never seemed to go away.
He remembered things like his mother's funeral, his graduation, his first South American leech and how they'd dealt with it (painfully), and, perhaps most perfectly of all, the sixth of September.
It wasn't every sixth of September. Just that one: just over three years ago. Three and a half, Stephen supposed, but it was an important one. It was the first year that he and Nick had not let the applications slide until the last possible second. Okay, so they'd only finished two weeks before the academic year was due to start, but that wasn't last minute. Not by their standards.
They'd gone to Nick's to watch bad telly and celebrate with a few drinks, because Nick's fridge was guaranteed to have beer, whereas Stephen's was not so certain. They'd sat with their feet on Nick's coffee table and ignoring the telly and snickering over the best (funniest) of the personal statements off the application forms. A guilty pleasure, but what admissions group didn't laugh at their applicants? Even Bastard Baker from Mathematics did that, and he was easily the most boring man in existence.
And it had been a normal evening. They'd done it loads of times before; they would do it loads of times in the future. Only Nick had changed the rules, on that sixth of September. He'd changed the rules, and maybe the whole game, and had left Stephen floundering.
Nick had put his beer down and turned to Stephen with a sudden air of seriousness that hadn't belonged in the room, and he'd said: "I'm going to do something that's probably unacceptable. And you're free to punch me if you want."
"What?" Stephen had said, a bit stupidly.
"I've wanted to try this for ages," Nick had continued. "And I think I'm just about drunk enough to go for it."
"Go for what?" Stephen had asked.
Nick had removed the beer bottle from Stephen's hand and plonked it down on the coffee table.
"Nick, what are you do-?"
And then Nick had kissed him.
Stephen had taken about three seconds to wrap his brain around that fact before his brain retired in disgust and left his instincts to handle the situation. Which, being instinctual and not remotely sensible, they had. By making Stephen kiss back. By not letting him knock away Nick's head when they suddenly appeared in Stephen's hair, cupping the back of his head and fingering the finer hair at the nape of his neck. By making Stephen lean forward and get hold of Nick's shirt, even though Stephen would usually have said that Nick's cotton shirts were nothing to do with Nick kissing your face off.
And then Nick had stopped kissing him, and Stephen's brain came back.
"-ing?" he'd finished, and Nick had chuckled.
"Kissing you," he'd informed Stephen helpfully.
"Because I wanted to."
"...Why?" Stephen had repeated. He was definitely missing something here.
Nick had pulled a bit of a face then, and finally said: "Because."
"That's not much of a reason."
Nick had shrugged and said: "I've wanted to do that for ages. And I want to do it again."
"So...?" Stephen had asked.
"And I know you've been checking me out," Nick had added, and he'd grinned when Stephen had flushed, even though that sentence coming out of Nick's mouth was just a touch surreal. Professors just didn't say things like that. "So why not give it a shot?"
Stephen hadn't known what to do or say. Not only was the situation completely outside anything he had ever, ever imagined, but it was outside what he was comfortable with anyway. He just wasn't any good at relationships. People just didn't like Stephen. The last two relationships he'd had, he'd been used and dropped again the moment it was convenient for the women in question. They'd been disasters, and Stephen wasn't entirely sure he wanted to risk it happening again.
"I'm not..." Stephen had begun, then shook his head. "I'm crap with relationships."
"I'm not exactly fantastic myself," Nick had pointed out.
"People don't like me, Nick," Stephen had attempted, but then Nick had actually scowled at him, and Stephen had thought for a fleeting second that he was going to get shaken. Nick had shaken him a couple of times before, when he'd said or done something Nick had perceived as spectacularly stupid.
...Actually, when he thought about it, Stephen had noted that Nick had always been a bit over the top when it came to Stephen doing stupid things.
"I like you," Nick had said, still scowling at him. "I know your last one didn't work out-"
No you don't, Stephen had wanted to say, but wisely hadn't.
"-but I'm not out to use you. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but it can't work if we don't try."
Stephen had known that he was screwed then, because Nick was doing that thing when he ducked his head and looked up at you, and it made his eyes huge and stupidly blue, and Stephen had always been a useless twat when that look was directed at him. And Nick had always known that, the bastard.
So Stephen had haltingly agreed, and had gotten another one of those brain-cell-killing kisses, and then he'd gotten his bottle of beer back.
So, understandably really, Stephen always rememberd the sixth of September. Especially since now, three and a half years later, they were still 'giving it a shot'. It was turning out to be a bloody big shot. Olympic standard. Nobody 'took a shot' that took over three years to land.
And it was...way more than nice to be with someone who didn't get pissed off with him. Stephen had always been a bit moody, a bit standoffish, a bit of an arsehole. But Nick knew that. And hell, Nick wasn't exactly the world's friendliest man either. Their first fight had had Nick's elderly neighbour calling the police out reporting a murder.
But the making things right again had been even better.
Stephen had moved in to Nick's shabby house two years ago, and by now, it was like he'd never not lived there. He still put his feet up on the coffee table, only now he had to fetch his own beer. And Nick had finally gotten rid of the last of Helen's things when it became clear that trying to fit the belongings of three people into that house simply wasn't going to work.
Not living in Helen's shadow any more had done wonders for both of them.
Now, sitting watching the evening news and listening to the boards creaking as Nick came back downstairs from his shower, Stephen knew he'd finally found his niche. He didn't want to move - physically or mentally or emotionally or whatever-ally - from this spot.
"You look brain dead," Nick told him, dropping the towel he'd used to dry his hair on Stephen's head and going to sit on the other end of the sofa, putting his feet unapologetically in Stephen's lap. "What's happening?"
"Article about that hoax Connor wanted us to go and see this morning," Stephen said. "You should have gone. The news channels are taking it seriously. Looks like he got Farrell to check it out instead of you."
"The news channels would take you seriously, Stephen," Nick said, rolling his eyes. "What else is going on?"
"Charming. And nothing."
"Well, you do say stupid things sometimes," Nick said, shifting one leg to worm it behind Stephen's back and tug at him.
"Like what?" Stephen asked, giving in and crawling up Nick's body to lie prone on top of him. He wasn't sure why Nick seemed to like this position so much, but it was pretty nice, so he wasn't complaining.
"Like I was going to use you?" Nick teased, linking his hands in the small of Stephen's back.
"Maybe you still are," Stephen suggested. "It's just a really, really evil plot that's going to take ages to put into action."
"Nah," Nick said. "Change the channel."
"No, Farrell's going to be on soon."
"We should have checked it out," Stephen said. "It could be why Helen...what happened to her."
Nick went very quiet for a couple of minutes, and Stephen worried that he'd gone too far. He was about to apologise when Nick sighed and shook his head.
"I let her go, Stephen," he said in almost a whisper. "I don't need to know anymore. I'm not even sure I want to know. She's gone now, and I've moved on."
Stephen said nothing, drinking in the sensation of Nick's hands stroking the curve of his back lightly.
"Anyway, Farrell's an idiot," Nick added, and the tension dissolved.
"This'll be doing wonders for his publicity in the field," Stephen argued.
Nick snorted rudely.
"Fine, if you don't want to advance your career, be my guest," Stephen said, and Nick chuckled.
"I like it where I'm at," he said. "I've got a messy office, nothing that tries to eat me, a bone collection, a good paycheck, and you. What else do I need?"
Stephen pretended to think about that, before shrugging and saying: "You have a point."
Nick laughed, pressing a kiss into Stephen's unruly hair. "I know I do," he said. "Now change the bloody channel."