Out of the Frying Pan

Alan wakes up to the delicious smell of eggs and bacon - proper English breakfast.

Oh, it's so nice.

He stretches and smiles, curling up in the blankets that are still warm. The sun is shining through the windows, it's Saturday and today is his day off, and maybe he'll meet Eric later for lunch since it's his day off too.

He sighs happily, arching his back and stretching his entire body luxuriantly as he moves, and the sheets smell like musky cologne and oh but he's a bit sore and-

Oh god.

He sits up in bed abruptly and clutches his head.

Oh no, bad idea.

Slowly, he lies back down, trying to figure out whether the light is from the windows or the terrible pins thrashing at his brain.

No, it's definitely morning. Where in the bloody hell is he?

Oh sod it; it's Saturday, last night was a raucous after party, and he just doesn't damn well care right now. It's not as if anyone will mind.

He sighs, willing himself to grab the glass of water next to the bed and take a sip. Hm. Whoever he shagged must be quite considerate, due to the water, and since they're obviously making an elaborate breakfast.

On second thought, Alan smiles to himself - he hasn't completely lost it. He may not be the most promiscuous reaper on the plane, but he likes to think he knows what he's doing once he hits the mattress.

Yes, he feels quite pleased with himself. And judging from the feeling in his body, he was shagged more than a few times last night, in different positions.

Actually, he thinks, in some rather elaborate positions, given the ache in his legs and lower back...and...arms? Ooh, and jaw. Yes.

He's quite impressed with himself at this point, and decides to enjoy the rather lovely ache in all of his limbs, a prize of sorts that will remind him in days to come of waking up relaxed and happy.

He lets out a sated sigh and slowly starts to fall off to sleep again, when he hears something outside the door.

It's humming, surprisingly on key, and he smiles a bit. Hm, where is he? A cabaret? Oh, what a lovely dream.

He curls into the sheets again, inhaling. Alan's always secretly enjoyed a masculine smell, even if it's fragrant. It's rather nice.

But yes...singing? Alan laughs a bit. "Eric? What are you doing here?"

"You ever thought about being a performer?"

"Sod off, mate," Eric says as he gets his coffee in the break room, "I like to hum. Come off it."

"No, really. You're quite good."

"Listen Humphries, or whatever the bloody hell your name is, I don't like you. I don't want to be your mentor. So do yourself a favor, mate, and don't be annoying."

"Well, it's true."

A harassed sigh.

"Do you want coffee?"

Alan smiles at the memory, and he smells coffee brewing now. Mm...how nice.

Wait.

His eyes fly open.

The humming is not in his dream.

The humming is...coming from the kitchen.

Alan tries to laugh at himself, tries to shake his head (oh no, no very bad idea).

Oh, wishful thinking is it? his mind pipes up, chastising him. We've already discussed that, and it is in the past, you absolute idiot.

The door creaks open a few inches, and then a low, calm voice says, "You're awake."

No. It can't be.

Alan looks at Eric's head poking through the door; he's not wearing anything, and Alan squeaks in response.

Eric just raises an eyebrow and says, "Coffee's done," and shuts the door again.

This can't be happening.

Alan wrenches himself out of bed.

No wonder he was bloody well smiling - the bed smells like Eric's cologne, like Eric himself. And some other things...some other very distinct things that Alan can't deny.

That explains why his entire body is sore and... do not think of that.

He gets out of bed, falls really, and wildly looks around for his clothes. They are nowhere to be found.

"Oh bugger," he hisses, cursing. "What in the bloody..."

Finally, he sees his trousers hanging from the lampshade and snatches them up. As he's haphazardly pulling them on, he spots one of his shoes at the opposite end of the room, and after some searching, manages to locate the other one under the bed.

Shirt. Oh right.

The shirt is missing; he has absolutely no idea where it could be (perhaps it was tossed out the window...he wouldn't be surprised at this point).

Shutting out his thoughts at the cliche, he finds a rather large white shirt (undoubtedly Eric's), and throws it over his shoulders.

He does not stop to smell it, and does not want to wrap it around him more tightly, and most certainly does not want to collapse onto the bed and rub his cheek against it.

No. He does not.

He walks stoically toward the bedroom door and stops; on the other side, there's a spatula clanging around a pan, the sound of things frying, the smell of things being prepared.

He strides out, fighting his hardest to keep his face neutral, and crosses his arms.

"I apologize," he says clearly, "for getting so pissed last night. Thank you for letting me stay."

Eric looks at him as if he's insane, but doesn't comment, stirring at the eggs mechanically as he stares at Alan. At least he's put on trousers.

"I mean," Alan says, gesturing (and self-consciously pulling Eric's rather long sleeves up so they fit his arms), "I...well, you know. I'll be going."

"Don't you want breakfast?" Eric asks. "I already started."

"I suppose," Alan says, desperately fighting the blush he knows is creeping up his cheeks.

Eric turns back around, and if Alan isn't mistaken, there's a blush creeping up Eric's neck too; very subtle, but it's there.

"I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you and..." Alan coughs, "well, I certainly hope I didn't...wander into your bedroom...in the night...from the settee," he finishes lamely.

"It's no problem," Eric mumbles, "well, you know...you were...on the settee until a certain hour. But..then you...well, I suggested..."

Eric is staring very intently at the stove.

"You seemed quite uncomfortable, and I suggested you take the bed, seeing as how I get up...early."

"You do not get up early," Alan says flatly.

"Well, this morning I did," Eric retorts. "Since you seem to think that I did."

Alan wars with himself.

You're being ridiculous and fickle and sentimental.

But...Eric Slingby shagged me.

No, you silly prat, you shagged Eric.

We shagged each other!

So why don't you say something?!

I don't want to!

Then stop acting like a bloody idiot.

His thoughts are interrupted by the scrape of a spatula.

"You seem to think that I let you 'stay,'as you put it," Eric repeats, making the pan rattle as he hits the bacon rather vehemently and stirs it around, "and now you're in too much of hurry to stay for breakfast."

Alan just stares, and for a moment, he thinks Eric might sound...hurt.

No, absolutely not. Eric shags a different person every night of the week; everyone knows that. He's broken more than a few hearts.

Alan's resolve returns, even as something in his chest aches. This is the exact reason he should've just climbed out the window and worried about explaining later.

"Well," he says diplomatically despite his churning thoughts, "I'm sorry to be impolite. You don't usually get up early, but I suppose I was mistaken."

Eric turns to look at him again, and says, "You're wearing my shirt, Humphries."

Alan's fists tighten, but he keeps calm.

"I apologize," he says through clenched teeth, and without ado, shrugs off the shirt and hangs it on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. "I have been unable to locate my own."

Eric turns again, and then to Alan's surprise, his eyes dart down to Alan's chest and back to his face, and the blush returns.

"I must have left it on the settee," he says pointedly, the annoyance in his voice barely restrained.

"Best go look," Eric replies.

Alan does go look, and heaves a few breaths once he's out of Eric's range of hearing.

The sitting room looks relatively untouched, and for one glorious moment, he spots his shirt and is relieved...

Until he picks it up, and realizes all of the buttons are torn clean off, not a single one to save his modesty.

Nevertheless, he throws it on and draws it shut. Thank goodness he at least has his glasses.

He walks back out into the kitchen, intent on leaving, when Eric says, "You forgot your tie."

"I don't need my tie."

Eric turns completely around now, abandoning the spatula in the pan where the bacon is almost done sizzling.

"I gave you that tie," he says softly.

Alan's face falls, and he crosses his arms over his chest defensively.

"Well," he says, trying not to sound cruel, "I'm sure it's here somewhere."

Eric grunts, and the hurt look disappears as he turns back around to tend to the bacon.

Then he says rather snidely, "Maybe you lost it at the pub. Or in the settee. Since those were the only places you were last night."

"Yes," Alan hisses, "they were."

"Particularly since," Eric adds, "I don't believe you were wearing any clothes by the time you fell asleep in my-"

"Keep the tie. I don't want it right now," Alan interjects resentfully.

He feels terrible as soon as he utters the words; and he feels even worse when Eric's shoulders tense. This time though, he doesn't turn around.

Normally, Alan is kind and polite. All of his his coworkers like him, he's good at his job, he's uncontroversial, and some even say he keeps Eric in line when he's being particularly cocky.

But sometimes, Alan lets his emotions get the better of him, especially when someone manages to get to the raw, tender places he doesn't let anyone near. At this particular moment, that raw place is the fact that he's harbored rather untoward feelings about Eric Slingby for a long time, feelings that he's tried everything he can think of to eradicate.

Now, it's become the worst thing he could imagine: he's fallen into the trap of being Eric's flavor of the night, and it hurts. He wishes fervently he had slept on the bloody settee, and then he wouldn't be in this mess.

"Very well," Eric replies, interrupting his thoughts. "It will make a fine gift for the next person who sleeps on the settee."

Alan's mouth opens and shuts, and then does it once more. There are no words.

His body aches, his heart aches, and he just wants to bloody well hit something. Or cry. But he's relatively sure whatever he wants to do, he should do it in private.

"Fine," he says simply. "Goodbye."

"Bacon's done."

"I don't care."

"Coffee is still ready."

"I'm quite alright."

"Would you like a kiss goodbye?"

Alan freezes; that was cruel.

"No," he says calmly, and then turns around. "I've heard that you're not fond of kissing."

"Oh?" Eric replies.

"No," Alan says in a neutral voice. "They say you're only with slags."

"That's not very nice, Alan," Eric rebukes, his voice completely placid.

"Well, I didn't say it, did I?"

"You just did."

"I'm only repeating what I've heard."

"So I've never kissed anyone?"

"Maybe," Alan ventures, scowling. "I don't know."

"Yes you do."

"I most certainly don't."

"Where are the buttons to your shirt?"

"I lost them in the bloody settee."

"With your tie?"

"Yes," Alan hisses, "another gift for your next slag, or whatever you want to say."

"Slag is a terrible word."

"Well, I didn't choose it."

"You repeated it."

Alan sighs. This is ridiculous.

"I'm sorry," he says finally, reclaiming his decorum, "for inconveniencing you. I didn't intend to insult your...nocturnal activities. Slag is a terrible word."

"And what's a slag anyhow?"

"I don't bloody well know," Alan says, frowning, not knowing what Eric's driving at now.

"A slag," Eric says, sitting down at the table with a plate heaped full of delicious food, "is what others call someone who admits to not sleeping on the settee. Rather unfair, if you ask me."

"Well, I didn't invent the word, did I?"

Eric snorts, and tucks into his eggs.

Alan realizes how hungry he is rather suddenly, and his stomach gives him away. He feels fury begin to build again when Eric's lips quirk at the sound.

"I'd like some bacon," Alan says, drawing himself up to his full height self-righteously.

"Sorry," Eric replies, "only slags get bacon." Then he pops an entire piece of delicious looking bacon into his mouth in one go.

Alan growls in his throat and turns away sharply.

"I'll make my own sodding bacon," he mumbles, "in my own flat."

"You couldn't make bacon to save your life," Eric observes rather serenely, and consumes another piece. "And even if you could, that stove of yours wouldn't hold a flame for more than five minutes."

"Then I'll go without," Alan says, frowning. "I trust we'll never speak of this again. Goodbye."

He turns to walk out the door, angry enough that he doesn't care if anyone sees him with his ruined clothes leaving Eric's flat at an incriminating time in the morning, but Eric stops him.

"Alan," Eric says, his voice more serious.

Alan ignores him and keeps going.

"Alan," he says again.

"What?" Alan says, whirling around. "You've made enough of a fool out of me. What else could you possibly-"

"I made you an omelette."

Alan just gapes at him. Omelettes are, in fact, Alan's favorite.

"Come sit down," Eric says gently. "Eat it. I'm not going to."

Alan debates for a moment; it doesn't last long because he's starving.

He slowly approaches the table again with a cautious look, and sees the omelette in the pan. It's perfect, and fluffy, and exactly the way Eric always makes it.

"The plate's in the cupboard," Eric says easily. Alan knows very well where the plates are, but he doesn't say anything.

He frowns still, as he retrieves the plate and slaps the omelette onto it - or rather, gently lays it onto the plate so as not to break it into pieces - and finds the fork Eric's already laid out for him on the counter top.

He remains standing and takes a resentful bite of it, and oh, it's rather good.

Sod Eric and his cooking skills. How silly. Eric Slingby can cook...

Oh, but Eric Slingby can bloody well cook.

Alan almost moans as he's finishing the omelette it's so good. But yes, he'll take his leave afterwards, and save his dignity.

Yes, yes he will.

Eric gets up from the table to put his own plate in the sink and turns to Alan.

"Do you like it?"

Alan takes the last bite, rather guiltily since he's been so obstinate that he isn't staying, and says after he swallows, "Thank you."

Eric just looks at him for a moment, and then reaches out to brush his hair out of his face.

"You're so difficult," he says quietly.

Alan looks down, no longer angry, and Eric just takes the plate from him to lay it in the sink.

"I'm sorry I'm not like everyone else," he finally says, feeling suddenly ashamed and self-consciously drawing his shirt very tightly closed.

"Do you know how nice you felt?" Eric asks softly, and Alan absolutely blanches. He can't bring himself to look at Eric, can't even bear to look at the floor, so he closes his eyes.

"Your tie is on the bedside table," Eric adds, and Alan doesn't protest when he feels two strong arms wrap around him. "And you know very well you didn't stay on the settee."

He just nods, his face burning, but he doesn't draw away.

"Come back to bed," Eric says simply, kissing the top of Alan's head.

"Why?" he whispers. "It's just...another night."

"No," Eric says gently, stroking his hair. "It's not."

"But...we were so pissed, and..."

"It doesn't matter."

"Yes it does."

"No," Eric says resolutely, "it doesn't."

All of Alan's hard work is undone as Eric undresses him again, kicks off his own trousers, and pulls Alan under the sheets that are still mesmerizingly warm.

Eric stretches out behind Alan and presses against him, pushing his face against Alan's hair and wrapping an around him.

He makes a sleepy sound, and then says, very quietly, "Will you stay tonight?"

All of Alan's defenses wither; it's a lost cause, completely and utterly lost.

"Yes," he finds himself saying. "But..."

"I'll make pancakes."

"That's not a good argument."

"I didn't think I needed one."

Alan sighs.

"Alright," he finally says.

"Can we stay here today?" Eric asks, kissing the back of Alan's head. "Can we just...stay here?"

"That's silly," Alan says, frowning. "That's...sentimental and... yes. Yes, we can. If that's what you want."

"That's what I want," Eric says firmly, and turns Alan over so that they're facing each other.

"Alright," Alan says, words escaping him when he sees Eric's expression. He reaches up to touch his hair, and Eric closes his eyes and his lips curve slightly.

"I missed out on something last night," Eric says as Alan traces light, tentative fingertips along the texture of the braids.

"What could that possibly be?" Alan asks, blushing slightly.

"Kissing you."

"What?"

"Well, I think we might have, but not properly."

Alan looks down, his blush intensifying.

"Can I?" Eric asks.

Alan nods, and closes his eyes.

Pancakes sound delicious.