The first thing she saw when she walked in was the bath, and the fact that it wasn't empty.
The bathrooms in the two stories of the hotel Whit had rented out for the evening weren't gender-specific, but no-one had answered when she knocked so she'd assumed it was empty. Far from it – a scruffy-looking man was in the bath, presumably naked but thankfully she couldn't tell for all the bubble-bath he'd employed.
"Hi." She stood so shocked it was a moment before she could reply, and even then the only thing she could stutter out was the exact thing he'd just said to her.
"Hi." He wriggled around a little bit and she suddenly realised she shouldn't be staring. "Don't worry," she blurted out, "I can't see anything you wouldn't want me to."
He grinned. "Babe, there isn't a part of me I wouldn't want you to see."
The automatic grimace came out, but she still found herself trying not to laugh. "Well, in that case, I can't see anything I don't want to see." The reason she'd entered the bathroom in the first place came back to her, sudden and urgent. "Um… do you mind if I just pop next door…" she gestured to the wall that mercifully hid the bath from the toilet and vice-versa.
"Be my guest," he said accommodatingly. She allowed herself a brief smile. "I'm Gordon, just in case you want to ask after me later."
"Oh, Gordon," she said, relaxing her smile now that the wall separated them. "Libby's cousin, right? I'm Stella. Nice to meet you – I'm sorry it had to be like this."
"I'm not," came the reply amid slight splashes. Stella found herself still grinning.
Stella looked around; Libby stood slightly unsteadily in front of her, a glass of champagne that was obviously not her first clutched in her hand. "Libby!" She hugged the other girl, being careful of the champagne and the fact that Libby had always been so skinny she felt like if she hugged her too hard she'd snap. "I'm having a great time. I think the highlight was meeting your cousin Gordon."
"Oh, you met Gordon? Where is he? I meant to keep an eye on him, but I haven't seen him in a while."
Stella smiled. "That's because he's in the bath."
"The –" Libby gave a silly little tipsy chuckle. "Oh, dear. Sorry."
"I'd leave him there if I were you, he looks like he hasn't had one in a while." Libby chuckled again and waltzed off, catching Whit's eye from the other side of the enormous room. "Oh, Libby?" she turned back, her dark eyes expectant. "Happy Birthday."
As Libby left, Stella turned around and caught the eye of a pot-bellied man standing awkwardly by himself by the window. She picked up a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and went to join him. "You look lonely," she commented happily.
"I did actually come here with a friend, but I bet he's already drunk so much he's forgotten I exist," the man replied. "Dennis." He held out a hand.
She took it. "Dennis Doyle? The Dennis that Libby nearly married all those years ago?" Dennis' face fell.
"Yeah. Dennis the non-committal asshole. Dennis the father of Libby's poor unfortunate child." She touched him on the shoulder.
"Jake's not exactly poor," she comforted. "Kids who love Lord of the Rings can't be poor." He laughed briefly. "Let me guess," she hazarded, "you came here with Libby's cousin Gordon?"
He looked up, surprised. "He was best man at Libby's almost-wedding. Put two and two together." Dennis shrugged. "And if he's shitfaced, he's in good shape," she added. "I saw him about ten minutes ago. He's in the bath."
"In the what?" They laughed together. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised at him anymore."
She was distracted briefly as Whit and Libby stood up on the stairs and Whit cleared his throat; but he started talking about himself and she soon lost interest. "Do you know this guy?" she asked Dennis.
"I've met him a couple of times," he said bitterly.
"Seems like an asshole to me," she replied. He looked at her in surprise.
"What did you say your name was again?" he asked. She told him.
"So what's Gordon like?" she asked. She had to admit she was interested; he'd been quite self-assured and almost rogueishly charming.
"He gambles all day and never wins, lives in a flat the size of a broom cupboard and sleeps on his own sofa," Dennis replied. Stella chuckled and turned back to the speech Whit was making over the pair of trainers he'd just given Libby. That sounded about right. She always fell for the losers.
Suddenly Whit pulled a ring out of a trainer and she felt Dennis freeze beside her. As he proposed, Stella felt like laughing again at the awkward look on Libby's face. "Oh my God," she whispered, "wouldn't it be awkward if she said no?" One look at Dennis told her he wasn't in the mood for humour. As she looked back at Libby, saying 'no' didn't seem so funny.
"No," muttered Dennis beside her. "No, no, no…"
"Okay," Libby said quietly. "Yes, Whit, I'll marry you." Stella found her heart sinking, while Dennis beside her seemed to be having some sort of fit.
"Asshole," she said with feeling, then decided she had to shut up and be sensitive or leave Dennis alone, so she shut up.
Down the stairs behind the happy couple as she watched came a figure in a white bathrobe with a towel over his hair. "What did I miss?" Gordon asked, picking up Whit's full glass of champagne and taking a swig. Stella laughed and turned to point it out to Dennis, but the other man had already gone.
"Honestly," the man slurred in her ear, "who gets pissed from champagne?"
Stella looked past Gordon and the pint of lager in his hand and caught sight of Libby in a gap in the crowd. "Well, I don't know how many Libby's had." Gordon made a dismissive gesture that only just managed to stop lager from flying everywhere. "And I think that should be your last beer," she added.
"I'm not that drunk," he insisted, but after he'd downed the last swallow, he didn't immediately call for another. He looked down at her – he was about half a head taller – and frowned slightly. "You're really pretty," he said loudly, "has anyone ever told you that?"
She allowed herself a self-conscious little smile. "No-one I care about."
"Do you care about me?" the thing she'd discovered in the last two hours about Gordon was that his odd kind of charm was entirely disarming, and even though she wanted to impress him with a witty snap-back, she also just wanted to agree with him.
"I met you two hours ago when I walked in on you in the bath at your cousin's birthday party."
He grinned and shrugged. "I'm different. "
"You certainly are." He reached out a hand and stroked her hair; she didn't resist. "Dennis also says you live in a flat the size of a toilet and sleep on your own sofa."
Another disarming grin. "Better than sleeping on someone else's." He went to wave down a waiter for more beer, but she gave him a stern look and when the waiter arrived he smiled sheepishly. "Glass of water, please?" His hand left her hair and he stared at her again. "You want to come back to my flat after?"
He was bold and self-assured, everything she'd never liked in a boyfriend but found sexy in film stars. She shouldn't have had to think about it, just said no straight away, but there was that look in his eyes, and those eyes themselves were so… "Will two people fit in your flat?"
"Probably. We wouldn't be able to lie down or anything." He gave her a winning smile and she couldn't help returning it. Stella decided impulsively that she really did want to spend the night with Libby's cousin Gordon.
"We could go back to mine," she said casually. "I live with a few other people but I don't think any of them are there at the moment." She saw surprise in his eyes and grinned. "You didn't expect that?"
He returned her smile with his crooked, rogueish one. "I'm so used to hitting on women who think I'm disgusting."
"Well, I'm not exactly accustomed to inviting strangers who sleep on sofas back to my flat, but…"
"We're not strangers," he replied quickly. "You've seen me in the bath."
She smiled again. "Well then."
The first kiss from his chapped lips was enough to confirm her rash decision to take him home. Her whole body was on fire as she pressed him to her; he finally tore away from her and muttered into her shoulder amid smothering kisses, "Let's go."
As Stella opened her eyes she saw Dennis standing behind Gordon. "Uh, Gordon… um…" he stopped kissing her neck and looked in her eyes concernedly. She nodded her head towards Dennis. He looked.
"What do you want? I'm busy."
"She's going to marry him, Gordon. I was too late." Dennis looked so ultimately wretched that she wanted to go and hug him, but Gordon was still holding her too tight.
"Oh, come on. She hasn't married him yet. You're still running, right?" He sounded suddenly worried and Stella giggled, knowing that Gordon had bet more money than he owned on Dennis finishing the marathon.
Dennis sighed. "I don't know." Stella touched Gordon's cheek; it was hot with sudden anger.
"Come on, Gordon." The easily distracted man turned from his despairing best friend and kissed her again. "Worry about it tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay," he mumbled into her cheek. She took his hand and led him towards the door, leaving Dennis looking thoroughly sad and alone.
As they neared the door, Stella turned back to see Libby near them. "Libby, we're leaving," she said loudly. The birthday girl turned and slipped on her stilettos. "Congratulations. I guess now's not the time to tell you I don't like your fiancé…" Gordon put his arm around her and went to pull her away. "But you won't remember it in the morning anyway," she finished. "Enjoy the champagne. Don't get up."
She didn't, and Stella allowed Gordon to take her out the door and into the night.
A/N: I'm not going to apologise for the lame ending because this whole fic was a mis-concieved afternoon-on-the-couch two-days-before-exams drabble anyway. Dylan Moran is my new comic hero.
I'm not going to carry this fic on (nowhere to go) so please don't ask. I've had that before, when I say it's a one-off and people are like "carry on!". Gets a bit annoying. I just should be studying but you know how it goes, so I spent yesterday watching What It Is and Black Books This fic is dedicated to the author of the other Run, Fatboy, Run fic in this category that I read and enjoyed this morning but can't remember the author's name. Sorry. Also dedicated to future writers that may at any stage be inspired to write for this category. I'll read it if you do, know that. Aand that's about all you needed to hear from me... Hope you enjoyed it, please review.