I am posting the first part here so you guys can kick my ass to finish it soon. I think I can count on you?
It will make more sense, I suppose, if you've seen the movie, though I'll be changing a lot. If not, you can probably google a summary.
It’s not like he had an actual chance of winning, Nate thinks. There were three days in the middle of the campaign they were almost leading in the polls, but even then it was minimal, in the margin of a statistical error. Not that he hadn’t been warned he had no chances going against Matthews, not this year.
Probably not this decade, too. If he actually wanted to run again.
Patterson maintained this election was just a warm-up, a chance to bring up issues and then try again next time.
“Your decision, Nate,” Mike said, too lightly.
Everyone who has been with me on this campaign, for their unparalleled dedication and hard work...
He sounds wooden. According to the polls his speeches were what appealed most to the voters, his public appearances and the meet-and-greet’s. “Authentic” was the word everyone kept tossing around, that Patterson worked to keep in everyone’s minds. He looks into the mirror and feels like the biggest fraud ever, and he’s been around politicians for years.
Can’t say that anymore. He is a politician now, albeit not a very successful one.
It is a privilege, no, It is a great privilege, stress great, no, too much. He turns the flashcards in his hands and leans against the sink.
“Sounds like bullshit either way,” someone tells him. Tall blond guy in a tux, a wry expression of almost bemusement on his face. Nate probably should have checked the stalls before his impromptu rehearsal. “Sorry,” the stranger adds, shrugging, not apologetic in the slightest. “Couldn’t help but overhear. Great acoustics in the stalls.”
“Especially if one’s been sitting there quietly for, what was it, twenty odd minutes?”
“I needed peace and quiet to contemplate having a breakdown. Your speech almost pushed me closer to that. I don’t see the point anyway, it’s like hearing from all the four people who didn’t get the Oscar.”
He crosses the room and starts washing his hands, eyes sliding to meet Nate’s in the mirror. Nate finds himself smiling. It’s unexpected, he hadn’t felt that kind of sharp focus, of interest in months.
“Breakdown about what?” he asks. It’s prying and downright rude, but the stranger doesn’t seem to care.
“Speech of my own. I have been informed the best man is required to give one and it shouldn’t be on marriage being an antiquated custom that spawned a truly ridiculous industry rivalled only by the Christmas commercialisation.”
“Where were you when I was hiring speech writers?” Nate shakes his head. “The wedding upstairs?” he confirms and the man nods. Nate’s seen the flowers and the horse carriage outside and he’s inclined to agree on the ridiculous factor of this. It’s not the right weather for an open carriage, to start with. “Somehow I don’t see you agonising over a speech,” he adds, not sure where it came from. He doesn’t know the guy at all, and yet, he is certain there’s little hesitance in him, no qualms about speaking his mind.
“It’s not the speech, it’s more the getting over the unbearable awkwardness of everyone who listens to it knowing I used to be engaged to the bride,” the man offers. Something flickers across his expression, like he can’t believe he’s saying that to a stranger in a men’s room.
“And you’re the best man?”
“She’s marrying my best friend.”
Nate nods. “I feel much better about my day, suddenly,” he offers. It sounds glib in the way he doesn’t mean, but he gets a quick grin in return, a brief acknowledgment of how fucked up it is. “I should,” he starts. He should get back, they’re probably waiting for him already. He doesn’t want to, for all new reasons now.
The man reaches for a paper towel, his hands slow and deliberate, like he’s drawing the moment out. “I would have probably voted for you, if I was registered in this state,” he tells Nate. “Maybe not even because the other guy is a tool and a Democrat,” he adds. “But that speech’s bullshit. You know better.”
It’s safe and well written and it tested well. That should count for something.
The unflinching conviction in the man’s voice makes something twist in Nate’s stomach. Something buzzes under his skin, a sensation he felt from the beginning of this conversation growing stronger now.
“Here,” he says and steps forward, not quite sure why. He reaches out to fix the other man’s bow-tie, do it up properly. It was askew, bothering him, and that’s his explanation. If his fingers brush against his neck, it’s entirely by accident.
He can feel the quickening pulse under his fingertips, his own heartbeat responding in kind. It’s too much and it’s almost deafening and he needs to take his hand back, except it’s caught in the other man’s grip, somewhere between them. The moment stretches and Nate’s holding hands with a stranger in a hotel restroom.
“Nate, it’s time,” Patterson says, sticking his head in. The fingers around Nate’s wrist let go and Nate feels the loss acutely. “Sorry.”
“I’ll be right there,” Nate offers and takes a step back. “It’s been a,” he starts and laughs nervously at finding himself at a loss for words. He’s about to give a speech, it’s the perfect moment for going non-verbal.
“Yes. They’re probably wondering when I disappeared too,” he says and takes a somehow reluctant steps towards the door. “It’s still a godawful speech,” he adds dryly. Nate finds he can’t stop himself from smiling.
“I’ll try to do something about that,” he offers. The stranger gives him a mock-salute and leaves, and Nate stuffs his hands in his pockets and stares into the mirror.
He doesn’t look tired anymore. He doesn’t feel tired either, he feels energised, ready. Like he did at the beginning of the campaign, when they knew he didn’t have a chance but it didn’t matter.
“I don’t think I need these,” he tells Mike two minutes later and hands him the flashcards. Patterson seems worried, but Mike gets it instantly, nodding.
“Seems like we’ll be doing this again,” he concludes.
Nate grins. “Only next time, we’ll win.”
“And we’re on track,” Walt announces, closing the book with a snap. He puts the leather strap around it, because he always worries something could happen to it.
Ray just tosses his own into his backpack. It’s not like it’s possible to lose it. “I don’t know what it was about with the whole hand holding kumbaya shit, but hey, whatever works.”
“Admit it, you were worried about Fick.”
“Nah, homes. Always knew he wouldn’t chicken out, he just needed a little push. In the form of yours truly.”
“And Colbert,” Ray agrees. “I take back whatever I said about emotional repression. Though no about sticks up asses, because...”
“I swear, if the next thing you say is an anal sex joke, I’m putting in a request for transfer.”
“Can’t help it if I speak the truth,” Ray shrugs and waits for a beat. “Could have given them a little more time, they could use a handjob or two.”
Walt groans. “I’m pretty sure a sex scandal involving Congressman Fick and an active duty Marine Sergeant in a public restroom on the election night wouldn’t cause any ripples whatsoever.”
“Details,” Ray waves the concerns away theatrically. “Also, there is a wedding upstairs and we have some time. There’ll be bridesmaids, Walt.”
“If this is your way of suggesting we should follow up and check up on Colbert, I might agree with you.” There were too many fluctuating points in the book, but that’s not exactly what Ray said.
“I mean, there’ll be bridesmaids, Walt. Itching to get out of the fugly fuchsia dresses,” he points out, then sighs. “They’ll try to find each other. I see days of missed connections and changed numbers. Shitty few days ahead.”
For everyone involved. Ray doesn’t question the plan. He used to, maybe, but that never leads anywhere pretty but Godfather’s office, and Godfather can be pretty fucking scary when he puts his mind to it. Besides, it’s the plan. You don’t question it.
Even if in the opinion of this humble guardian, Colbert and Fick seem to fit too fucking well for two people who are not supposed to meet ever again.
“You ever wonder...” he starts and looks at Walt, who regards him with his head tilted to the side, blue eyes questioning. “You ever wonder what the fuck?”
“I find it better not to.”
In the upcoming years, Ray will come to the conclusion it would be much better if they could not. Not wonder, not question, not interfere.
He’ll blame Brad, but really, it starts now, when he looks back at the podium where Fick is giving his speech. Or not giving a speech, as it is, the carefully worded and prepped speech went out the window. He’s just speaking, and the crowd is spellbound.
Fick looks around the room, and for a briefest of seconds, it seems like he’s looking straight at Ray. That’s not supposed to happen, no one is supposed to notice them.
That’s the moment where rules stop applying.
“Let’s go, Ray,” Walt prompts him, hand on Ray’s shoulder as the doorknob turns.