Note: This is Hot Fuzz fan fiction – done out of love, not for profit, and without permission, obviously.
Nicholas/Danny slash, rated G (with swearing).  Any feedback? Feel free to comment here at my livejournal.

Missing Out

Flared nostrils, a small twitch in his jaw, throbbing music... Keanu Reeves – an objectively beautiful man, although not at all a convincing FBI agent – locked eyes with Patrick Swayze in what Nicholas identified without difficulty from his dramatic studies as the secondary emotional peak before the A-plot climax. During his first viewing he had been too stunned by the giant rubber masks and procedural misrepresentations to take much in. That, and slightly confused by the presence of Danny, large and warm and smelling cheerfully of beer, wanting to share it all with him.

On this, their third time through it, Danny had forgotten to watch for his reactions, and was leaning forward, mouth open, completely absorbed in the scene. His face contorted slightly and he bit his lip in anticipation of the conflict to come. He was a good man, if a little simple and unguarded. Awkwardly, Nicholas reached over to pat his arm.

"I always think they're going to kiss," Danny said, eyes fixed on the screen.

Nicholas' hand froze just above Danny's sleeve. "What was that again?"

A sigh of tension released left Danny as the two men walked away from each other onscreen, and he said again, still abstracted, "Always think they're going to kiss." He'd raised his voice a bit, apparently thinking Nicholas hadn't been able to hear him.

Nicholas watched his hand rotate back to above his own knee and then drop with robotic stiffness. He looked up at the screen, his view cut by the bump of Danny's ear. "Why would you think that?" he asked, at last.

"Hm? Well, they love each other, don't they."

"Not everyone who loves each other – loves each other in that way," Nicholas said, wincing as the words emerged with a bizarrely parental ring. Although he did in some sense stand in loco parentis to Danny, having assisted in apprehending his father, Inspector Butterman, earlier that year. Not an entirely comfortable thought.

"Aw, yeah, but it's the sexual tension. You know." Leaning back into the seat and waving his hands, Danny contiued, perfectly matter-of-factly. "Homo-erotic, thing. Where they want to get off with each other but they can't, so they fight. And shoot people. It's really common in these."

Nicholas blinked. In front of him, a man's hand stroked down the length of a gun with unnecessary enthusiasm. Danny settled comfortably back so their shoulders were touching and picked up his beer.

"And that – doesn't bother you," Nicholas said, asking himself why, since he'd had months' worth of evidence that Danny was very fond of this type of film indeed.

"Bother me?" He seemed puzzled, but gave honest thought to the question. "Nah. It's nice, I mean... they all do it..."

Nicholas blinked again. Words flashed through his head, echoing in his ears: "But he can't shoot him, because he loves him so much..." Danny opening the cabinet, row on row on row. "Danny," he heard himself asking slowly. "Have you ever – had a girlfriend?"

"Oh, yeah, lots," Danny said, wiping his chin.

He hesitated, but curiosity drove him on. "Did you do much with them?"

"What, go to pictures, that sort of thing?" Danny glanced over and saw his expression. "Oh, you mean fool around." Nicholas relaxed, relieved of the need to elaborate. There was a brief pause while Danny thought back. "Not really, no. There was this one girl, Polly, who was always after it, but... tell you the truth, never could get too worked up. I mean, it was nice and all, but. Weren't all that exciting really. Have another beer?"

Nicholas was watching the screen, but he had stopped taking in the details of the film. Keanu Reeves was shirtless, again. "No, thank you, Danny," he said. "I believe I'd better go home now."

Danny pouted and groaned. "You sure," he protested, moving his own half-finished bottle under Nicholas' nose as if to remind him of the appeal. "I've got another pack of nuts I haven't opened."

Nicholas dodged this temptation and cut a swift path to the exit, pausing with a hand on the doorframe to look back over his arm. The dimly lit room looked like a rat's nest, disgraceful and comforting and cozy, a barren mess centered on the sagged-together spot on the couch where they spent their nights by the television. Danny was standing, his leg pressed to the cushion as if attached, confusion and disappointment writ large on his face, holding out the beer bottle and two packets of nuts.

"Yes," Nicholas said. "I'm sure."


"What, really?"


"Ah." Nicholas noted it down.

They had been sitting in the car in mostly awkward silence for the better part of an hour. There weren't many drivers on the road, and all of those so far had been well-behaved. He would almost welcome a high-speed pursuit on a day like this, with Danny's sidelong glances wearing him down from the other seat.

How had this become uncomfortable? Simply doing his job, side by side with his partner? Suddenly he was conscious of every move Danny made, every shift in his seat or clearing of his throat. He felt tense, potentially ridiculous. Even Danny had come to notice that something was wrong, after three days of stiff silences and refused invitations.

"Got a new Jackie Chan the other day. Heard he breaks his leg in the credits..."

"I'm sorry."

Of course, he had always been a little disturbed by Danny's presence, but on the whole, he'd considered it positive. An edge kept you sharp, energized. Helped you focus; helped you think. Setting a good example was a constant motivation, as well. Danny made him a better officer, in fact, and the giddy warmth his friendship so often engendered made the days more bearable. No, more enjoyable. He hadn't enjoyed life quite so much before he came to Sandford, and, in retrospect, that should have been a warning.

A car went by. "32."

"Why not," Danny said, reopening the argument.

"I just feel we've been spending too much time together." Another car: Mrs. Harper and her daughter, on the way to the shops. "27. How old are you?" he asked with a sudden burst of something near outrage.

"About the same as you," Danny said, adding smoothly under his breath, "almost. Well, give or take a few years... five..."

"At least five, I'd say." But then, it would take at least fifteen years' difference to explain the flip book.

"Thanks a lot," Danny said, stung. "It's the air in Sandford, it's famous. 'S where I got my youthful complexion."

"That, and a daily diet of Cornettos," Nicholas said, intending to sound reproving, and just sounding fond.

"Yeeeeah, man," Danny said, nodding, good humour restored at once.

The radio crackled. "Angel, you there?" a familiar voice drawled. "Question for you."

"Yes, Cartwright?"

"Doris wants to know if you've signed Tony's birthday card, over."

"Regulations clearly state that the police radio is not to be used for personal purposes, Constable," he snapped. "And, yes. I signed it this morning."

"Well, lah-di-dah," said Cartwright's voice, with a nearby echo of "Oh, boo-hoo-hoo" from Sergeant Wainwright. "Sorry to disturb you, Inspector." "Uptight bastard." "Didn't mean to distract you from your very important work with a mere birthday." A rude noise sputtered in the background. "We'll just keep on wasting time here at the station being 'uman beings and shit while you go car-spotting on lovers' lane with your lapdog."

Nicholas ignored Wainwright's clearly audible coda of "wanker" and said coldly, "We're positioned off the main road, actually, Constable. And I don't own a dog." Click.

"He meant me," Danny said.

Nicholas regained his grip on his patience. "I know." He cast a glance over at Danny, really looking at him for the first time in days. He had a gentle, open face, youthful complexion or no, and he wasn't really as thick as all that. "I'm sorry. Don't you mind?"

"Mind? Nah. Forget about it. They're just jealous."


"Sure, because I'm the one gets to ride with you."

With a quiet shock, Nicholas realized Danny really believed that. He was stunned, and touched.

Danny sensed a thaw and brightened. "So, we on for tonight? Pub?"

Nicholas turned to face front again, snapping his notebook to a blank page. "No, we are not on. I told you. We work together, we're partners, there's no need to spend every waking moment together as well. It's excessive fraternization."

On lovers' lane... on lovers' lane... He flashed on an image of the future: Danny looking casually over and saying, "So what you thinkin.' Blow job?" No. Unprofessional. Unthinkable.

Danny whined. "But everybody spends time together outside the job. You've seen 'em. It's a small town, we all have to hang out with somebody. Might as well be somebody we like..."

Nicholas gave a frustrated sigh. "I'm not saying I don't like you, it's just that, well, there's a reason fraternization is considered a problem. There's a policy specifically against it. If you'll recall."

"There's not! Ooooh, oh. You mean, fraternizing, as in, frat-ern-izing. Like how PC Doris used to fraternize with Andy." He scratched his ear reminiscently and added, "And Andy."

Nicholas raised a warning finger. "I really didn't want to hear about that."

"Used to hang a helmet on the riot room door... Dad said at least someone was keeping it dusted... 30. But what's that rule got to do with anything? We ain't doing nothing we shouldn't."

"Aren't we?" Nicholas said gently, more to himself than Danny, knowing the younger officer wouldn't understand. "Aren't we?"

And, sighing, he tipped his chin away and let his attention stray from the road, to watch the shadows of the clouds move slowly away across the peaceful green countryside.

"Nah, that rule's for people who are having it off," Danny said. Nicholas' eyes cut to him. "Y'know, having an affair. Kissing, holding hands, fiddling about, frottage, buggery, 69..."

"What? Oh." Nicholas let go of the wheel again and relaxed, retrieving his notebook.


"Danny, you do know what those terms mean?"

"O'course! I think. Mostly?"

"Then you're aware of... you're conscious that..."

Danny looked at him with the patiently confused attentiveness of large dog, waiting for direction.

"Never mind. Look. Let me put this in simplest terms. I cannot have a drink with you this evening. I need to water my peace lily."

Piece by piece, Danny retreated into sullen dignity and turned himself back to face the road. "Right then," he said. "Never did understand why that takes all night..."

"It just does."

As Danny's response was technically sotto voce, Inspector Angel chose to ignore it.

As a matter of fact, watering the lily took about fifteen minutes. And that was with extra care taken to let the water gently trickle down to permeate each quarter of the pot equally. And after that, a thorough dusting of the leaves. And another. And that was it – finished.

That left almost a full evening to kill, and Nicholas had done so for four nights in a row. He hadn't realized quite how necessary Danny's companionship had become to his daily existence until he tried going without it. How had he used to fill the empty hours? Had the room used to be this silent? The floor this cold? The walls this... blank?

Right now, Danny would be bumbling about his small flat, possibly watching movies by himself in the yellow light of the lamp, alone on the sofa, or fishing his nightclothes out of cardboard boxes. His window would be lit up still, as the rest of the row went dark. Nicholas stifled a pang at the image and turned his mind to useful subjects. However, studying the procedural manual or double-checking the week's paperwork had no appeal tonight. He couldn't concentrate.

He tried lying on the bed doing his hand exercises, but tonight it didn't seem as... safe... as usual. After the third time his fingers strained closed by his thighs, he swung off the bed and leapt up. He'd do some calisthenics. The carpet rose rapidly towards his eyes and away again as he pumped against the floor. Lovers' lane... lovers' lane.. He'd go for a run. Yes, that was it. Hopping to his feet, his eye was caught by motion, his reflection in the darkened window. He confronted it: a keen-eyed officer stared back. Also, a lonely, thin, sandy-haired man in pyjamas.

Admit it. Danny's constant affection had warmed him in ways he – frankly hadn't been prepared for. His eyes began to drift downward.

A, ah... a run, that's right. He was going for brisk night run. From the sound of things, it was starting to rain. Even better.

He located his trainers, hearing the panes crack as a burst of wind shook the old building. Bracing. Trading the pyjamas for running gear, he began to roll his shoulders and stretch, ignoring the machine-gun-like rattle of rain beginning to beat against the roof. Perfect. Despite the leisure of village life, he was still in top physical condition. He glanced out the window again, seeing a few branches and a shopping trolley go by, and set his lips firmly. Once he'd made his mind up, he... a hand on the door, he weakened enough to look over again in time to see a duck being blown through midair, honking mournfully. Oh, bloody hell. What was the point.

Nicholas dropped into the single chair and wrapped his arms around the peace lily, resting his head against the cool base of the pot. It was calm, still, firmly bounded. It spoke of permanence. You love that plant more than you do me, Jeanine had said. Nicholas wondered, for the first time, whether the plant loved him more than Jeanine had. It seemed unlikely.

Until you find someone you care about more than the job...

In his thin vest and running shorts, it wasn't long before he started to shiver, and the pot began to clatter a little, in time with the rattling of the windows.

Three long days and four sterile nights later, Danny turned up at his door at the hotel. It took only the sound of the knock to remind Nicholas that he had had quite enough solitude for one lifetime.

He made an effort, nevertheless, blocking the door with his body and leaving Danny in the hall. "I told you," he began. Danny surveyed Nicholas' pyjama-clad frame with mild and open interest.

"Are you losing weight? You don't look well."


The younger man nodded. "Never mind. I know just what you need."

"For the last time, I do not want to have a drink."

Danny cut in, clearly pleased with himself, brimming with anticipation. "Ah-ah, this ain't about beer. This is business." With a flourish, he handed over Nicholas' uniform hat and said darkly, "There's been a call."

Three point four minutes later, they were in the car, safety belts fastened and lights on. Inspector Angel was fully dressed, down to the notebook. Sergeant Butterman was at the wheel. "Pedal to the metal?" he said hopefully.

Nicholas gave a tight nod. "Burn it."

The screeching reverse and fast driving down moonlit lanes that followed were probably not entirely necessary, but Danny enjoyed them. Somewhere in his soul, Nicholas took a certain secret satisfaction as well.

"Should we fire up the roof?"

"Best not... we don't want to wake these good people up. After all, we are here about a disturbance of the peace."

Danny took a hand off the wheel to tap his nose. "Good point."

"There." Their target came into view, large and lumpy and advancing steadily against the night sky. They cut the lights and stopped to consider. The sound of voices drifted on the wind. "Only one group. Moving slow."

"Shall we roll our own?"

"Smoke 'em."

Danny fired the engine up again and they raced forward, spun the car to a halt, blocking the lane, and jumped out to the sound of brakes and shrieking.

Nicholas ignored the groans and raised his voice, slapping the driver's license of the eldest teenager against his hand to get their attention. "And I suppose a quiet ride in the moonlight on a borrowed piece of farm equipment with a few good friends on a summer night is your idea of a good time!" he said.

"Wull – yeah!"

"It's an old Sandford tradition."

"Do it every year."

"Danny used to drive."

Inspector Angel shot a look at Danny, who looked sheepish.

"You're aware that this is a violation of local noise ordinances, driving without a license, right of way, curfew, improper care of hay, and what's more, it's a school night."


The array of innocent faces looked blankly back at him – friends and young lovers with their arms around each other, portable radios hastily hidden in pockets. No consciousness of guilt in sight. "You'll return this vehicle to its owner immediately and proceed to your homes?"

"Oh, yes, sir," they chorused, elbowing each other. "Yes, Inspector. Right away." The engine revved and the truck proceeded to trundle slowly off down the lane again. He suspected they were taking the long route.

Had he even begun in the slightest to convey to them a sense of... Nicholas flipped his notebook closed and put it away, lips thin. Smothered giggles drifted back to them on the evening breeze, and his head snapped up. Danny put a supportive hand on his shoulder and said, "It's over, Nicholas – it's over."

Nicholas sighed. Danny turned him around and guided him back to the car. "They're not laughing at you," he said, coaxingly, "they're just happy. It's safe to go cause a little trouble now that you're here. No more disappearances, no strange accidents... They feel good knowing they've got someone like you looking out for them. Everyone does."

"Do they?" Danny's sincerity was evident. Danny always had faith, in him and the job – Danny was his rock. And it was true, he had made a difference here. And the townsfolk had come to accept him in the last few months, he knew that. Something thawed in Nicholas, some kind of basic fear. He did belong here; he was wanted.

"Here. You're not sorry you didn't go back to London, are you?"

"I've never been happier in my life," he said honestly. His voice cracked, just a little.

Danny heard it and pressed the advantage with childlike cunning. "Then come to the pub?" he said.

A pint of lager crashed down in front of Danny, and Nicholas wrapped his fingers around a glass of...

"Cranberry juice? Ah, not that again," Danny protested. When Nicholas said nothing, he scooted closer and caught Nicholas' reluctant eyes. "Now, look. You ain't been the same lately. What's wrong?" He lowered his voice. "D'you miss her?"

"Who? Oh, my ex. Jeanine." Two people involved... signs of a struggle... a complete mess. "Jeanine was a mistake. In retrospect... quite a big mistake." Nicholas took a hasty swallow.

"So she wasn't the one. That's no reason to swear off all women," Danny said wisely. Nicholas choked on his juice.

When he'd done mopping up, eyes on the clinical middle distance, he said, "I don't think they're losing much with me, to be quite honest. I'm not very attentive, not romantic, I'm told I'm not even a very good lover."

"I bet you're fantastic," Danny said.

"Jeanine said I was a bit of a... cold fish."

"She didn't know you like I do," Danny said confidently.

Nicholas resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands. "Can we perhaps not discuss my love life tonight."

"Perhaps that's just what we should be discussing, and all!" Danny hunched closer again. "When's the last time you had a bit of fun? Maybe what you need's a lady friend."

Nicholas snapped, "I'm not interested."

Danny shook his head. "I'm worried about you," he said, almost maternally. "So are the others. Everyone says you're turning into a terminally hardassed rulebound twat." Nicholas gave him a narrow-eyed rebuking look. Danny corrected himself. "Turning back into one, I mean." He leaned forward earnestly. "Doris says you've got to 'ave it off with someone before you pop."

Nicholas winced. So much for the respect of his officers. He had tried to instill a more professional atmosphere at the stationhouse, but it would help if the woman didn't giggle every time he said the word 'discipline.' "Does she."

"She might be right, hey? You need to get some proper action. I mean, the other kind."

"I don't think..." Nicholas jumped as Danny's hand landed on his knee.

"I can help you with that," Danny said, lowering his voice meaningfully and patting, with an extra squeeze at the end. "I know lots of nice girls. Set you up in no time."

Nicholas slammed his hand down on the table. Pint glasses jumped and rattled. "This is absurd."

"It's not," Danny protested, full of bovine hurt. "I do know lots of nice girls. Not saying they'd go out with me, mind, but you've got that... nice high forehead... penetrating eyes... smoky voice... loads of sex appeal..."

Nicholas – Inspector Angel – tossed back the rest of his cranberry juice rather desperately. "I think I'll go home now." He wiped his reddened mouth and added, "Alone."

Danny shrugged. "Right, then. I'll get my coat."

"No, I meant..."

It was pointless to argue.

And it felt good, walking down the lane with Danny at his side again. Talking about nothing, laughing, feeling their arms brush as they stumbled into each other, both slightly off-balance from drink. Or... well, cranberry juice didn't make you stumble. He tried not to think about that.

He wasn't sure how Danny had talked him into coming upstairs, but, christ, he couldn't avoid his own partner forever. Not and stay in Sandford. He had to learn to handle this – this. In a spirit of taking the bull by the horns, he accepted a drink (beer this time), sat down on the sofa with Danny's arm pressed to his, and agreed to watch The Fast and the Furious.

Once he could have sat through the entire sweaty spectacle with near equanimity. Now, every other scene made him clear his throat and become intensely conscious of the exact distance between his right knee and Danny's left. When Paul Walker handed over his keys to Vin Diesel, sudden memory flashed up to overtake him, and he clutched the cold glass bottle and hoped Danny wouldn't notice that his normally pale face had turned a deep and pervasive pink. Still, he made it through the rest of the film without incident, and, having dispatched two more beers in succession, agreed to stay for a viewing of Lethal Weapon.

It was well past midnight by the time the final climax approached, and they were both clumsy and emotional. Danny raced to the kitchen for another beer and, in trying to watch the screen, pop the top off, and sit down all at the same time, fumbled the bottle. They both snatched at it and after some frantic juggling got it safely settled on the end table without spillage. After a rudimentary high five, they went back to watching Mel Gibson and Danny Glover perform their unorthodox interpretation of law enforcement. Gibson, of course, was shirtless.

Danny said, "Would you hold me like that if I were shot?"

"I believe I did," Nicholas said simply.

A warm, happy look chased itself tentatively around Danny's face before settling in. "You did, didn't you?" He stopped mouthing "I've got you" and switched to "Hold on... hold on... it'll be fine..."

Nicholas felt a sense of comfort come over him, of peace and rightness. When all was said and done, they were partners. He glanced over at Danny and saw him about to set the beer down on the table again, too fast. Too fast! Time seemed to go in slow motion as Nicholas mouthed No! and then the base of the bottle hit the table, and VOOM, beer foamed up, exploding skyward above the precious pile of open DVD cases. Danny cried out in horror and staggered away from the sofa as Nicholas vaulted to the rescue.

"Towel," he snapped, sending the DVDs spinning onto the safety of the cushions with a swipe of his hand.

"Vest," Danny responded from the far side of some boxes, tossing it to him. Nicholas caught the soft garment and raised an eyebrow. "Laundry's closer than the kitchen."

"Good man." Whipping the undershirt around the foaming bottle several times without losing a drop, he barked, "Bin!" only to find it was already rolling to him. He chucked the threatening bundle in the wastepaper basket with dispatch and they watched it wobble, safely contained. Bringing his sleeve across the surface of the end table, he found that it was dry. The DVDs – and the glossy finish – were safe.

They collapsed back onto the sofa, heaving sighs of relief. Turning to each other, drawn by matching triumph, their eyes caught. Nicholas could feel Danny's breath on his face, see himself reflected in the younger man's pupils. The moment stretched.

"Danny," Nicholas said reluctantly, "am I a bad influence on you?"

"Huh? Fuck no! That would have taken me weeks to clean up, in the old days."

"That's not really what I..." Danny's eyes were so... He was so... intense. Worshipful, even. Nicholas swallowed. He had never been very important to anyone, even Jeanine. He felt a not entirely unpleasant vertigo, as if he were standing at the top of the high dive. "Look, I'm... I'm completely out of my depth, here." His voice sounded weak, strange. "I've often thought in the past, well, that is, not often, but from time to time. That it might be a possibility. However it's never been convenient or seemed particularly advisable and well, frankly, I tend to prefer an emotional commitment in my relationships and I hadn't ever run across that special someone, and work keeps me fairly busy and so with one thing and another, it never came up before – here. Before Sandford. So I don't actually know."

Danny was still panting, studying his face. Nicholas swallowed and finished baring his soul. "I'm an amateur, Danny, and I hate that. I've always wanted to be good at what I do, and this is an area where I'm entirely at sea." His voice cracked again, just a minor squeak, but he'd reached the point where further embarrassment was almost meaningless. "Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?"

"...Not sure?"

Nicholas bit his lip and tried to think of a way to phrase it more clearly without having to kill himself afterward.

"Just kidding. I got it!" Danny said, laughing excitedly. Then he grabbed Nicholas' shirt front with both hands and yanked him over to plant an enthusiastic, but not unskillful, kiss on his mouth. Nicholas found himself off balance and slipping forward, and had to straighten up and regain his spot on the cushions when Danny released him. Around the overwhelming reverberation of tenderness and shock and shortness of breath he managed to say, "I thought you didn't do much with those girlfriends of yours."

"Oh, I didn't. But me and my best mate Ned, now, we spent a fair amount of time back of the barn on Saturdays."


"Yeah, just playing about, like you do. He moved away, oh, five years back? His wife said she didn't like the atmosphere. Bit claustrophobic, she said. Don't know what she means, best air in six counties. Can I kiss you again?"

Nicholas found some inner calm had taken over, the kind that could operate even when the rest of him was light and shaking from adrenaline. "Actually, I think it's my turn," he said. Bending forward with steely courage, he tilted his head and found himself giving Danny a kind of kiss he had never given Jeanine, or his peace lily.

A good thirty seconds later, he leaned back. Danny made a meaningless noise.

"Not too much of a cold fish?" Nicholas said.

"Are you mad?" Danny said. "That was like... it's like I got hit in the chest with a wrecking ball and tiny little bluebirds flew out everywhere."

"And that's – good," Nicholas said, beginning to smile.

"It's fucking amazing," Danny said.

Nicholas found he was still holding onto Danny's collar. He gave it a shake and said hoarsely, "Then I don't want to hear any more about your friend Ned."

"And what about fraternization?"

"What? Oh. Well, I suppose we..." He trailed off.

"You forgot, didn't you?"

The blush started again, not as painful, but almost as pink. He felt it go out to the tips of his ears.

Danny said with pride, "Why, Nicholas Angel, I do believe you've switched off at last."

In for a penny, in for a pound. "Actually," Nicholas confessed, both embarrassed and vaguely proud of himself, "I'm afraid I'm getting rather switched on."

Banter! Danny lit up with delight. "Not such an angel after all, are you?"

They chuckled together. "Feeling a bit of a devil really," Nicholas said, aware that he sounded like a complete prat, but willing to do his part for tradition.

Danny slapped at his arm. "Might as well call you Old Nick?" That one suffered a failure to launch, and Danny and he slowed down and considered, Danny tentative verging on anxious. "Because – devil and – age difference?"

"Erm... I don't like that one so much."

"Okay, go back to..."

"Go back to the one about not being such an angel."

"Yeah. Yeah. Right." Danny rearranged his face to the original laugh and they resumed where they'd left off, hands gripping each other's shirts, chuckling stupidly and leaning into each other until their foreheads touched, and their knees, and then. Then they might possibly have been kissing again, tentative and astonished and eager, as the rain poured down harder outside, the music got triumphantly louder, and, on the television, credits rolled.