“Nigel, if you finish off that can of whipped cream, so help me…”
“But I was only taking it out for later!” the younger Bottom protested. “Besides, you’re in the middle of cooking the eggs, so how’re you gonna stop me?”
Nick chuckled at his brother and raised a fist in mock threat. “I will let these eggs overcook if I have to! And I’ll make sure you get the crispy parts too!”
The two locked eyes in a bad re-enactment of some old Western they’d seen somewhere, Nigel firmly gripping the aerosol can of whipped cream, and Nick wielding a spatula. “There are two kinds of people in this world,” Nick started. “Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.”
“It’s a trap!” Nigel exclaimed in response, popping the lid off the whipped cream in a daring move.
“Oh come on. You know that’s from Star Wars.”
“For the last time, it’s technically a space western! You can’t deny that Han Solo was based off the traditional gunslingers of the genre!”
“But that doesn’t make it a western! It’s more of a space opera.”
A loud, mechanic pop indicated that the off-brand waffles were toasted and ready to be coated in a small country’s worth of syrup and whipped cream. As Nigel took them out and garnished them as such, Nick took the frying pan off the stove, and poured the eggs onto the two plates. Stepping back to admire their handiwork, the two brought the food over to the television, and set it down on the coffee table.
“So, what movie’ll it be?” Nick asked. “It’s your turn to pick.”
“How about Coco?” Nigel suggested. “It’s so perfect; you need to watch it! I mean, the story has that type of emotion that only Disney/Pixar does nowadays, and you can just swim in those colors!”
“Alright,” Nick said, popping the film into the DVD player. “As long as this one doesn’t end up with us crying. I want to have a nice, chill night in this time.”
“Well, if you ignore the part right before the end..”
Nick opened his mouth to protest, but then realized that if they were going to watch just about anything they owned, there would be an inevitable scene near the end where they would cry. That was just a fact of life, much like that the sky was blue, or that they were going to probably end up with diabetes from all this syrup.
As the logos flashed up on the screen, the young men dug into their plates of dinner-breakfast, quietly transfixed by the screen, and for the time being, fulfilling their intent of a nice night in.
The movie had began and ended, tears had been shed, they decided to pop in Howl’s Moving Castle, and half an hour in, Nigel had wound up slumped against the arm of the couch in a deep sleep. Nick, too, was having a hard time keeping his eyes open as he scrolled through his social medias absentmindedly.
So when he got a random call from a number he didn’t recognize, he didn’t think much of it. It was probably just a telemarketer. However, as the same number flashed up on his screen a second and third time, Nick decided enough was enough, and answered the call.
“Hello?” a familiar voice slurred on the other end.
“...Will?” Well, he wasn’t expecting that. Of all the people who could be calling him, he sure as hell didn’t expect it to be Will Shakespeare. After the fall-out they’d had in college, when Will had become kind of a dick in an attempt to become popular, he didn’t think they would ever talk again, at least outside of some withering insults at parties.
“...Yes?” Will answered in a poor imitation of Nick’s tone of voice, and snorted at his unfunny joke. “I need you to pick me up.”
“Nope. No way.” Nick stated. “I am not doing this. You treat me like shit and make me look like an idiot, and now you want my help?”
“Come on,” Will whined. “I didn’t have enough cab fare to get back, so my driver dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, and I didn’t know who else to call!”
The way the other man’s voice strained on the last phrase, in a sort of last-ditch effort to seem composed didn’t go unnoticed by Nick. He tried to remind himself of all the times Will had used him to become more popular, or acted like a smartass at his expense. And did it make him angry? Yes. But would he regret not doing anything? Not really.
Ok, yeah, he’d get a kick out of seeing the high-and-mighty Will Shakespeare get what was coming to him, but at the same time, a tiny little part of him would also keep replaying that broken desperation in his voice, and he didn’t really want to live with that.
“Fine. But you seriously owe me. Where are you, anyway?”
And that was the story of how Nick Bottom ended up driving through the pouring rain into the middle of nowhere, against most of his better judgement.
After some drunkenly botched directions, Nick eventually managed to find the small bus shelter where a soaked Will Shakespeare was located, and after hastily setting down a variety of newspapers and old sweaters onto the passengers’ seat (because there was no way he was getting his car seat soaked), he swung the door open and let his former friend in.
“Why didn’t your other friends help you out?” Nick asked, still half-bitter, yet at the same time, not particularly mean-spiritedly.
Will buckled himself into the seat and shivered. “They didn’t pick up.” he said quietly. “Y’know, sometimes I wonder if I could have done better. I guess here’s my answer.” He gave a tense laugh.
It’s a shame you didn’t figure that out before. Nick thought unintentionally blurted out.
“I guess you’re not wrong.” Will mumbled. “But I still don’t know if I’d change much if I went back. Life’s too short to regret that.”
“I guess that’s where we differ.” Nick stated flatly. “I try to change my tune when I act like an ass.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Will huffed. “The biggest difference between us is that I’m not in denial about my role in things.”
Nick clenched the steering wheel until his knuckles were white, just to keep from pulling over and kicking Will out of the car. He glanced over at the man beside him and saw no trace of the vulnerability he had seen earlier, now replaced by an insufferable smirk.
“That’s what I thought.”
“You want to know what your problem is?”
“Not really, but go ahead.”
“That. That right there is your problem. You act like you’re a character in an ‘80’s movie, saying whatever you want, doing whatever you want, and expecting to get away with it, just because you’re the great William Shakespeare. Well, news flash: this is real life, and I’m not putting up with your shit anymore. So get out.” Nick rebuked, pulling the car over and throwing the passenger door open.
Will swung out of the car with an unaffected grace, which contrasted sharply with the feral quality in his eyes. “You really are something, Nick.” he stated, voice clinging to the edge of composure. “You harp on and on about how I’m some karmic-Houdini-style asshat who never deserved any of what I’ve gotten, completely ignoring the fact that I’ve worked for it. I’ve put so much stock into cultivating who I am right now, I’ve sacrificed things I wish I could have kept, and rather than cling to a childish obsession with a former friend, I’ve done things.”
“Oh really? So have I!” Nick shouted, getting out of the car himself. “I’ve found a decent, stable job, because unlike you, I have family to support. I’m not some sad loser who’s obsessively jealous, believe you me, but it doesn’t surprise me, with your inflated opinion of yourself and all, that you would think that!”
Will took a few steps forward. “Oh, please! Stop acting like it’s a stretch that you’re jealous of me! You have been since the beginning of this whole mess, when you started acting like a dick, just because I was spending more time with other people!”
“Well, I wouldn’t have acted like a dick if you hadn’t dropped me altogether, only to come back and act like everything’s still cool!”
“Sounds like the definition of jealousy. Because I wanted to stay friends with you, but you just had to make that impossible!”
Nick honestly couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was still mad after all these years of rivalry, but he no longer cared as much about arguing, and just wanted to get out of the rain and go home.
“You know what, I’m getting back in the car. You’re welcome to join me.”
For a while, the drive back was uncomfortably silent. Nick, wanting desperately to preoccupy himself with something, turned on the radio while Will slumped against the window, still very much awake, but trying to make it seem as if he wasn’t
Eventually, once the music started getting bad, Nick decided to break the silence.
“Come to think of it, I guess I was kind of a dick.”
“Yeah. And I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit of an ass.”
“So, why did the cab driver drop you off out here?”
“I didn’t have enough to cover the whole ride. Why’d you think?”
“How much did you have?”
“Well, about $20- no wait, $15!”
Nick glanced over at Will with a slightly incredulous smile. “You had a $20 before, didn’t you?”
Will shrugged and rolled his eyes before responding with a “yes”
“Alright, what did you spend it on?”
“Well, I went to the black market, and… Yeah, I’m kidding, I just went to Baskin Robbins.”
“Really? You spent your cab fare on ice cream?” Nick rolled his eyes jokingly.
“Well, I was really craving it! And it was good!” Will protested.
“I swear, one of these days, you’re gonna have to get your life together.”
“And it’s my job to prolong that for as long as possible, Nicky.”
Nick stopped for a second. They weren’t really fighting anymore, but hearing that nickname just felt… unexpected. Not bad, just... different. Especially since he wasn’t really sure where they stood now. Still, although he would never admit it to anyone, he really didn’t mind the pet name.
“Fair enough, as long as you know that the next time you do something stupid, it’s on you.” Nick laughed.
“Oh, please. I’m too charming to ever let that happen.”
“Oh, you’re charming alright. Charming enough for me to only laugh a little bit before I reluctantly save your ass.”
“Well, coming from you, that’s high praise.”
By the time they pulled up to Will’s apartment, Will had dozed off against the window rather adorably. Nick nudged his shoulder. “Will.”
No response. “Will!”
Dazed, Will blinked around a few times and let out a tired snort. “Hm?”
“We’re at your apartment.”
Will opened the door and tried to walk to the apartment, but tripped over the curb and faceplanted into the mud-soaked grass, before picking himself up again. The alcohol he’d drank earlier had definitely seeped further into his system, and he was clearly going to have a hard time getting himself into his apartment.
“You know what,” Nick said. “How about you just stay with us tonight?”
Will whipped his head back to face Nick. “Sounds like a plan.” he mumbled absentmindedly, before stumbling back into the car.
“We’re here.” Nick stated, getting out of the car and heading over to the passengers’ side to make sure Will didn’t fall over this time.
“I’m fine!” Will assured, before getting out, slamming the car door shut clumsily, nearly falling on the impact, and grabbing onto Nick.
“Fine, huh?” Nick snorted, looping Will’s arm over his shoulder and hooking his own arm around the inebriated man’s torso. In this fashion, the two men ascended the stairs and entered Nick’s apartment, where Nigel still sat slumped against the couch.
“Shit, you’re soaked.” Nick remarked, now noticing the contrast between the warm building and the freezing, wet fabric of Will’s shirt. “First thing’s first, you’re gonna get changed. Just… sit down or something, while I find you something to wear.”
Will shrugged and headed over to the other side of the couch, as Nick rummaged through his drawers in search of some pajamas. After finding a pair that would do the trick, he called Will in, being careful not to wake Nigel, and left the room to throw a blanket over Nigel and resume his social media scrolling. Soon enough, a creak of the door indicated that Will was done, but before Nick could head off to bed, he was interrupted.
“Y’know, you have a nice face.” Will slurred.
“You’re drunk, Will. Now get to bed.” Nick directed, making sure his compatriot had dozed off on the futon before crawling into his own bed.
As he started to doze off, Nick had to admit that while he was exhausted, slightly damp with rain, and a little bit sexually confused, life really was too short to regret any of it.