No one blamed Glen, least of all Malcolm himself, later on, once he’d recovered. Everyone understood that a man can only be pushed so far before he snaps. Or a woman, for that matter, but in this case it was Glen, and a comment about sexual proclivities, and an office lamp that was to hand. And, of course, the memory of the punch to the nose that Malcolm had himself delivered not so long ago.
That merely resulted in blood. That the lamp would send Malcolm to hospital with a concussion surprised everyone, most especially Glen. That Malcolm would wake up with no memory of the last decade went beyond surprising to shocking.
Especially to Jamie. Oh, Malcolm remembered Jamie. Jamie was the only person in the hospital room whom Malcolm knew at all. It’s just that he didn’t remember anything important.
Jamie brought him home, a little shaky, head still bandaged, plaster on the back of his hand where they’d stuck in the IV. Just in fucking case. Because he’d been unconscious, and because they’d had him under observation. Cab from hospital to house. Jamie dealt with the driver. Malcolm fumbled with his keys, swore more quietly than could be believed, sorted them out, opened his front door. There was a moment of bewilderment, then his shoulders settled. Clarinet was familiar. Movies, books on the shelves familiar. Mostly. Malcolm wasn’t completely out of his depth.
He turned to Jamie and smiled. It was a little terrifying to see, because this was not a Malcolm smiling as he went for the throat, or a Malcolm smiling the way he did in private, just for Jamie. It was a polite smile. Polite, distant. Eerie.
“I appreciate the help,” Malcolm said, through that smile. “I hadn’t a fucking clue where I lived.”
“Yeah”, said Jamie.
“Shocked we’re still friends. What fucking year is it?”
“We fight every time we talk. At the paper. In Glasgow.”
Jamie shrugged. They had indeed. A casual observer would say that they still did. The casual observer might have missed what had started happening shortly afterward, however.
“A decade ago?” Malcolm’s hand went up and touched his head, just where the lamp had caught him. “Fuck me.”
“It’s all gone?” Jamie said. “Do you remember your mobile number?”
Malcolm blinked, opened his mouth, stopped. “Feel like it was on the tip of me tongue. Damn.”
“Don’t stress yerself. Doctor said it would come back. Give it a few days. Rest, for fucking once.”
Malcolm smiled politely again. “Speaking of rest. Don’t want to keep you. Now I’m here I should be sorted. You must have a home you need to get to.”
“Yeah,” said Jamie. “That’s the thing. I do have a home.”
Malcolm’s polite smile remained pasted on. Jamie’s heart was now more or less on fire. Burning like a fucking slag heap. Now he broke the news.
He said, “I’m home. Right now. Here.”
Malcolm’s mouth fell open. Snapped shut. He recovered fast, that was the thing about Malc. Fire a rock at his head and he’d be on his feet swinging a bottle at yours a second later. Or a lamp.
He said, “I don’t believe you.”
That hurt. Braced as he was for it, it still hurt. But he had to ride it out, the docs had said. Just show him the reality of his current life.
Jamie led him upstairs. Opened doors, showed him around his own damn place.
“There’s only one bedroom,” Malcolm said. Jamie refrained from mocking him for pointing out the obvious.
Jamie took him into that single bedroom. Showed him two chests of drawers, two sets of clothing. Suits in his size. Suits in Malcolm’s size. Evidence. Clear evidence. Malcolm stopped arguing. Give Malcolm credit, even with his head cracked open he was still the smartest man in the room. Twice as smart as Jamie anyway, not that Jamie would ever admit this.
Silence. Malcolm paced around, all high-tension electrical wire despite the gauze wrapped around his head. Eventually he came to a halt in front of Jamie.
“I’m having a fucking hard time with this.”
Jamie shrugged. “I’ll kip on the sofa until you remember how we got together.”
Malcolm shook his head. “I’ll fucking cop to thinking about it sometimes. But–”
“You switched to acting on it a few years ago. Not that you don’t still chase skirts now and then.”
Jamie bared his teeth in a the nicest smile he could manage. His Malcolm, the pre-lamp Malcolm, knew what Jamie would do if he strayed, with man or woman. Jamie didn’t care about which one he strayed with. And Malcolm would stray, occasionally, for the fun of it, for the change of pace, and for the fucking blood-pumping danger of provoking Jamie. It was a little game they’d play.
And this man didn’t remember a single moment of it.
“Look,” Jamie said. “I’m shattered. My partner got hit on the head and I spent a fucking day in A&E worried about him. Gonna kip on the sofa. Okay?”
“It’s your bed. You should–”
“You’re the one with the stitches in his fucking head. Take the bed.”
Malcolm nodded. He looked lost. Jamie felt sorry for him. Wasn’t his fault he didn’t remember the last ten years. Was his fault Glen had lamped him, mind, and Jamie was going to laugh himself sick about that. Later. When his Malcolm was back. If his Malcolm ever came back.
The doctors had said it usually came back in a couple of days, assuming there was nothing the patient truly wanted to repress. Jamie wasn’t normally a fretful man, but something about this had him spooked. What if he was the thing Malcolm wanted to repress? He might be.
So. Snag his fucking robe and the book he’d been reading, head back downstairs to sleep on the sofa, hope Malcolm woke up to himself in the morning. What else could he do?
Jamie woke in the early morning with a start. He stared up for a second then remembered: he was on the couch, and a concussed and amnesiac Malcolm was in their bed. Except no, he wasn’t. He was sitting on the floor with his back against the couch, and his head resting against Jamie’s leg was what had woken him.
Jamie sat up and Malcolm started.
“Malc. What are you doing down here?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Malcolm said. “Came down to talk, but didn’t want to wake you.”
No obscene gibes about his snoring, and he’d hesitated to wake him. His Malcolm would have rousted him up and flung himself across his lap, demanding a cuddle like he was some kind of cat. That’s what he was, Malcolm, a cat, casually cruel and beautiful and affectionate to exactly one person in the world. Except now he was a a timid cat, touching the gauze patch on his head and looking like he was unsure of his welcome in his own home.
“What’s on your mind?”
“What’s my life like?”
Jamie scrubbed his hand over his face. Christ. What a question. “Gonna make us a cup of tea.”
He wanted something stronger for this conversation, but it wasn’t allowed for Malcolm. Tea it was, at three in the fucking morning. Tea sitting at the kitchen table, Malcolm looking even more haggard and gaunt and exhausted than normal.
“Why do you want to know? You should be remembering it all soon enough.”
“The doctors said some shite about how there are reasons for repressing in most amnesiacs. Temporary escape. I have no fucking idea what I might be trying to escape.”
“Yeah. They asked me that too.” He’d made some joke about escaping the utter idiot lunacy of the people he was paid to mind, but the doctors hadn’t understood it. This was a man who was important enough to have been sent a get-well-soon arrangement from the prime minister.
Malcolm clasped his hands around his mug. He hadn’t even tasted it, Jamie noticed. “Do we get on? They asked me that. I told them I had no fucking idea.”
“I think we get on. As far as I’m concerned, we get on. We fuck like rabbits.” Malcolm looked away from him and his face colored. Jamie shrugged. “When you’re home. And not dead on your feet from working.”
“I work a lot, then?”
“Media director for Labour. Fuck me. Do I like my job?”
Jamie shrugged. “You enjoy bollocking people. I think.”
“At least it’s in a good cause.”
“Yeah.” Leave out Malcolm’s private doubts about the party. Leave out everything. He’d remember it soon enough. “Look, Malc. I need sleep. I’ll be fucked off my feet tomorrow doing your job and mine.”
“Sorry. Sorry. Let’s-- yeah. Would you mind–”
Jesus, tentative Malcolm upset Jamie more than he could have imagined. “What?”
“Don’t go back to the couch. Come up with me. I don’t mean-- I just want–”
Company. Malcolm had always liked the company in bed. Jamie didn’t say it, just nodded. Stuck the mugs in the sink to be washed up later, banged at the light switch on their way out. He’d feel better sleeping with his arms around Malcolm. Not that he was going to admit it to him. Not when he was this stranger.
Jamie woke up aware that he was spooned up behind Malcolm, an arm over his waist. Malcolm was, as always, a furnace, much warmer than anything else in the bed. Malcolm’s thin hand was on his, pressing it against his heart. He was curled up and motionless, but Jamie could tell from his breathing that he was awake. Rain on the windows, gray light filtering in: another fucking dismal London fall day. Get up? Break the spell? No. Steal a few more minutes of warmth and rest before the hell of the workday commenced.
Would Malcolm remember anything today? He’d been confused and emotional the night before; that was what the doctor had said to expect before he recovered. Didn’t make Jamie happy, but it was normal for concussion. Brain injuries. Fucking Glen with the fucking lamp. He stirred, imagining what he was going to say to fucking Glen when he saw him. He’d have a word in private before Malcolm did. Maybe later today.
“You’re awake,” Malcolm said.
“Thanks. For staying with me last night. Must be hard for you.”
“No’ a bother.”
“You and me. We’re really together?”
He asked that even though they were in bed right now, cuddled up. Their bed, their shit on the dresser, their clothes in the closet. Their condoms in the drawer by the bed. He asked it, even though he had hold of Jamie’s hand like it was a lifeline.
Nothing to do but answer. “We go to fucking Party dos together. Got a fucking photo in the Sun once, in our boiled shirts and black ties. Makes it as real as it gets.”
“You said like rabbits. Do we-- is it–”
“Is it more?”
Jamie was silent. He could answer that many ways. There had been precious few nights when they hadn’t talked since that first night, and most of those nights had been spent together. He hadn’t gotten off with another bloke since he’d moved in. Malcolm fucked around sometimes, which was fine, because Malcolm also liked women and Jamie was not jealous about that which he could not give Malcolm himself. Not really. He might pretend to be because it gave Malcolm a thrill. Which itself meant-- Fucked if he understood what it meant.
At last he said, “You’ve never said one way or the other.”
Malcolm kicked his legs at that. “I don’t fucking know how it can’t be more. I can’t imagine moving in with somebody unless it was more. I’m fucking holding your hand because it makes me feel-- feel-- better. I don’t know who the fuck I’ve turned into if it isn’t something more.”
Jamie wasn’t going to lie to him. For one thing, Malcolm would know it when he remembered everything. For another, it wasn’t the way they did things. Lying led to messes like supporting opposing candidates, like fighting at Party events, like Malcolm nearly losing his shit to fucking Flemming.
“Malc. It’s more to me. I canna tell you if it’s more to you. You need to tell me.”
“I can’t fucking remember. I live with a bloke and I can’t remember it. Some stranger is living a life with my body and he’s fucking another man, a man I remember respecting, and I can’t remember if I love him or not.”
Now he was almost thrashing in the bed, he was so upset. “Fuck. I can’t. I fucking can’t. I can’t remember. Except something in me remembers. I know I’m fucking terrified right now and when you touch me I feel okay. Couldn’t sleep without you here. Not fucking letting go of your hand.”
“Hey, easy now, easy. Hush.”
Jamie pressed a kiss into the back of Malcolm’s neck, got his free hand on his shoulder rubbing. Trying to soothe him. Tight like a fucking drum as usual. Malcolm was a high-tension wire at the best of times. Right now he was fucking quivering.
“Shit!” And then he seemed to calm down again. “Sorry. Don’t know what the fuck is going on.”
“Concussion making you emotional. Doctors warned me. Pretty sure it’s in the pamphlet you refused to read.”
Malcolm turned in his arms then and got himself nuzzled up against Jamie, heads on the same pillow, noses touching. Malcolm’s legs were tangled with his. This was exactly the way a lot of evenings went, with them in bed like this, talking over the day. Sometimes it ended up in fucking. Sometimes they just fell asleep. But it was Malcolm’s thing, holding him like this, kissing him almost casually while they lay like this.
Malcolm was kissing him. Couldn’t remember being his partner, but was willing to kiss him. Or something.
Malcolm hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. Raspy chin, all snowy with a beard that was coming in whiter than it had the last time he’d had let it grow. Might look good. Was distracting, being kissed by Malcolm like this, exactly as if it was his Malcolm in bed and not a trembling weepy stranger with stitches in his scalp. His Malcolm, kissing him with intent, pressing their bodies tight. Malcolm liked kissing. Jamie could always kiss Malcolm to shut him up when he was being a pillock. Apparently concussed Malcolm liked kissing, because he was doing pretty well at it right now. Desperate, maybe, clingy, but he was doing his best right now, licking at Jamie’s lips, opening his mouth and getting sloppy. Long kisses, exactly the way he kissed when he was half-asleep, lazy and sweet, hooded eyes, and a look on his face that Jamie had always wanted to believe was love but was pretty sure was lust. Yeah, that was Malc’s prick pressing against his. He was hard. Rutting himself against Jamie like he was a fucking teenager.
“Fucking slow down, here. You’re in bed with a stranger.”
“No’ a stranger. Me best mate from before.”
“You just fuckin’ like sex. If you go three days without you start to run mad. Been nearly a week for us.”
Silence, then Malcolm said, “It’s no just that. I’m not fucking using you because you’re here. I remember–”
“Must have been our first time. We-- I was drunk. We were fighting. You kissed me and I went to pieces.”
That was accurate enough. Malcolm had gone to pieces and then the pieces had gone up in flames. They’d fallen into bed still fighting, but it hadn’t lasted longer than it took Jamie to get Malcolm’s trousers down. Jamie wavered.
“Jamie. Please,” Malcolm said, and what a thing that was to hear.
The docs hadn’t said anything about no sex. No drinking, but that was not a problem. Jamie was done in, but yeah, he was already hard and he hadn’t come in a few days either, and even if Malcolm didn’t remember him he would take the orgasm. Nothing athletic, nothing complicated, just get his hand down and around Malcolm, take him out, feel a moment of smug pleasure at how Malcolm faltered and caught his breath. Hand at the back of Malc’s head, holding him close, stroking him the way he liked it, prick against prick.
Malcolm’s hand slid down, clasped his arse. His breath was harsh in Jamie’s ear. Then he was saying something in a choked voice, begging for something, and going still. Another little sound and he was coming in Jamie’s hand, against their bellies. Always a fucking quiet lay, Malcolm was, even when he was being sucked, and always completely useless in the seconds after he came. While Malcolm breathed himself down, Jamie finished himself off. When he opened his eyes, Malcolm was right there, looking at him, and then kissing him. Looking self-satisfied while he did it, those hooded eyes, that little smile, the look of relaxation that Malcolm only had after he’d come.
Jamie wiped his hand off on his t-shirt and lay back on the bed. Felt a bit shit, a bit sad, a bit okay. Malcolm was clingy, as ever after sex, head on his shoulder, a hand slipped up under his shirt to rest on his bare belly. And then the sound of grizzling that meant he’d fallen asleep, right fucking on top of him so he couldn’t get up and change his fucking shirt. Jamie sighed. Well. The cunt didn’t hate him. The cunt was starting to remember. Jamie closed his eyes and let himself drift.
He was awakened by the sound of his cellphone vibrating on the dresser. Malcolm had turned away and was no longer pinning him down like the selfish cat he was. Jamie slid out of bed, tripped, swore, snagged the phone, and slipped out of the room. Sam. It was nearly eleven AM. He answered it and had a whispered conversation with her while he crept down the hall.
“Yeah, Sam, love, sorry, had a late night with him. He had a hard time sleeping.”
“Does he need to go back to hospital?”
“Fuck no, he’s okay. Moody, like the doc said. Fucking emotional. Starting to remember a bit.”
Sam went into some nonsense waterworks at him at that, which Jamie patiently waited out. He switched her gently over to talking over the day’s shite showers and what his schedule would have been for the day if he had managed to show up for the eight-thirty.
“Coming in?” she asked.
“A this point, naw. Let them fuck the nation unmolested for another day. Staying with him.”
“Take care of him for me.”
Jamie went back into the bedroom and set the phone onto the dresser. Found himself a clean shirt, pulled it on. When it cleared his head he saw that Malcolm was awake and sitting up. He rubbed a hand through his hair in a gesture Jamie had seen often, but winced when he touched the shaved part of his head.
Malcolm shrugged. He swiveled his skinny legs out of bed and stood up. He stretched. Fucking rail of a man, all blue skin and knobby knees.
He said, “You were talking to Sam.”
“You remember Sam?”
Malcolm nodded. “Stuff started coming back this morning. After we-- Yeah. Was afraid to tell you. Thought I’d curse it.”
“Got flashes of my life. Drinking. Stopping drinking.”
Jamie frowned. That had been a shite time; not something he particularly wanted to remember himself. Malcolm was standing in front of him now, and he looked as if he thought the same. Hangdog, a little cowed. He stretched out a hand. Jamie took it. Feeling confused, maybe, in need of knowing somebody was there.
“Then I remembered screaming at cabinet ministers for being stupid. A lot of that. A lot of fucking stupid people whom I’m supposed to bollock, constantly.”
“It’s what we do.”
Malcolm pressed his hand tight, then shifted and interlaced his fingers with Jamie’s. “It’s patchy. Can’t tell you the name of the prime minister, but I can remember walking into Downing Street like I own it. Fucking mad.”
He’d forgotten Tom. Jamie grinned evilly at Malc. Perfect. He remembered their first time but not the idiot they both worked for. “It’ll come back,” he said, hoping it wouldn’t. “You might even remember why Glen walloped you.”
“Fuckin’ harmless teabag, or so I thought until he clocked you. Anyway. I’m guttin’. Tea?”
A flash of a smile, and a squeeze of the fingers laced with his. “Fucking tea and toast with beans.”
Now there was his Malc.