It had been a quiet night on the bridge. Clear skies, happy Bob, and no maintenance issues.
Roger and Bertie were watching a movie together. Bertie had been wanting to re-watch Casablanca for a while now. The girls had opted out and wandered off—if Bertie had to guess, he’d say that Kate was in the archives and Etta was with Bob—but Roger had agreed to watch.
Bertie couldn’t lie, he’d been hoping that would happen. He’d thought that Casablanca might be critically acclaimed enough to draw Roger’s interest but too boring for Kate and Etta to want to watch. Casablanca wasn’t boring, of course, but black-and-white love stories weren’t for everyone.
Not that anything was going to happen. Bertie and Roger were watching a movie together, sure, but it wasn’t a date. Bertie didn’t even want it to be. His feelings for Roger weren’t strictly platonic, but he didn’t think he was ready to start dating again.
Still, it was nice to sit on the couch with Roger, a little closer to him than strictly necessary, and watch people be in love. Bertie felt content.
About three quarters through the movie, Bertie heard a soft snore from Roger. Sure enough, when Bertie looked over he saw that Roger had fallen asleep. Bertie smiled and turned the film’s volume lower.
A few minutes later, Bertie felt Roger’s had slump against his shoulder. Bertie kept himself still, so he wouldn’t wake Roger up with any movements.
Roger slept through the end of the movie. Bertie debated whether to wake Roger up, but he decided that Roger probably needed the sleep. Besides, Bertie was enjoying the contact.
Bertie closed his eyes. Soon enough, he too had fallen asleep.
Bertie was woken up by the feeling of someone shifting against him. John must have—no, that wasn’t right. He was dead, and Bertie was alone. He was on the bridge—oh, right. Roger. They’d fallen asleep together after watching the movie.
Bertie felt a sudden pang of grief at John’s absence.
Bertie opened his eyes to see Roger shifting away from him, looking awkward.
Bertie couldn’t help but miss the feeling of Roger’s warmth against him, even though he’d woken up wishing Roger was someone else. Bertie felt guilty, like his thoughts were betraying both John and Roger somehow.
Bertie usually felt guilty, though, so it wasn’t hard to hide it. “Guess we both needed some sleep,” Bertie said lightly.
Roger’s expression didn’t change. He looked very unhappy to have fallen asleep on Bertie. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry.”
“Hey, I fell asleep too. It happens; no reason for either of us to apologize.”
“It was unprofessional,” Roger argued. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
“I think we can occasionally have a lapse of professionalism. Neither of us is on duty, after all, and I for one have no interest in being professional at—I actually have no idea what time it is, but it’s definitely too late for professionalism.”
Roger looked unconvinced.
“Anyways, do you want to finish the movie?” Bertie asked. “Looks like we both slept through the end.”
Roger turned toward Bertie, looking serious. “We can’t do this.”
Bertie didn’t bother playing dumb and pretending Roger was talking about the movie. “I know.”
“Not the movie—”
“I know,” Bertie said firmly. “We’re not--- neither of us came to the Bridge looking for a relationship. I know that I’m still not ready to start dating again.”
Bertie hadn’t meant to let the “again” slip out.
To Bertie’s relief, Roger didn’t ask. He just nodded. “I don’t date either. Haven’t for years, and not much even then. And I’m not looking to change that, even if you weren’t my employee.”
“So that’s settled. We won’t date,” Bertie said. He felt some mixture of relief and disappointment, but he was happy with their conclusion on the whole. “No reason we can’t finish the movie, though.”
“Alright. We shouldn’t do this again, though.”
“It’s too—you can’t deny that this wasn’t just a platonic movie-watching experience between friends. This type of thing blurs the lines.”
“If you’re uncomfortable with that, we can stop. But I think—maybe it’s alright if we blur them. Since we’re both aware that we’re not in a position where it’ll lead to a romantic relationship. So it’s not like we’ll get confused about mixed signals. This was nice, and we both enjoyed it. No reason we can’t do this once in a while without it meaning anything more.”
Roger looked like he was tempted by Bertie’s suggestion.
“No need to decide now. We’ll just figure out what feels comfortable and what feels like too much as we go,” Bertie said.
Roger nodded. “Let’s finish the movie.”
Roger insisted they go back to where Bertie fell asleep instead of making Bertie re-watch part of the movie. Bertie gave in and chose a point several minutes after Roger had fallen asleep.
Bertie re-watched the end of the movie, aware of Roger’s presence beside him.
When the movie ended, Roger stood up. He looked at Bertie for a long moment before briefly clasping Bertie’s shoulder then walking away.
Bertie imagined going after him. Asking Roger to do this again sometime, maybe, or even just asking Roger for a hug. Being close to Roger had been so nice, and he couldn’t help but long to feel Roger’s warmth against his skin again.
Bertie remembered how he’d felt, waking up and realizing that the person he was next to wasn’t John.
He watched Roger leave, then put his movie away and headed back to his own room.
He’d had his love story already; it was foolish to imagine that this could become another one.