• Keya Allen

The Wedding File

Title: The Wedding File Pairing: Byron/Graham Genre: Something adjacent to romance Word Count: 4925 Summary: It’s like falling in love, really. It’s also awkward conversations and going to Cancun. Author’s Note: I accidentally reminded Ore about Byron’s fate in the M&YG/Y timeline, so I wrote this AU to cheer her up. I had to restrain myself from carrying this on. It’s barely edited, so forgive me.

the wedding file.

Hilton Reid is getting married.

Which isn’t the strangest thing, really, considering he’s been stuck in an on-again off-again cycle with former head cheerleader, Sofia, since he got his freshman year locker assignment. It’s not strange at all that the self-confessed narcissist managed to find someone he likes half as much as he loves himself. Less strange was the engagement announcement, a call in the dead of the night when Byron had been considering shaving his hair, trying to find his phone in a blind panic to not wake up a Tiffany, or a Freya or a Leslie. He’d found it, chipped screen and all, answering in a whisper to hear shouts in the back, someone calling for champagne, a squeal that could have been Sofia, but possibly Ricky if he’d seen a spider.

“By,” Hilton said, laughing, choking on whatever someone said to him from the side, “I’m getting fucking married!”

“Yeah? To Anna?” That was Sofia’s thirty-something miserable ball bag of a sister.

“An—fuck off. To Sofia, of course.”

“Ye—God, congrats. So happy for you.” He pushed his hair away from his face, looking in the mirror and imagining himself bald. His ears weren’t too big that it’d look weird.

“T—Thanks,” he hiccuped, “wanna be my best man?”

“What? What about Ricky?”

“Ricky’s shit with that stuff. You like, lists and stuff.”

“Uh—” he’d never written a list in his life, “—okay. Yeah, sure.”

The strangest thing, when Byron wakes up the next morning, trying to figure out if the body next to him is likely to push for breakfast, or a conversation, or offer to do this again sometime, isn’t even the Facebook save the date notification. There’s too many emojis—typical from Sofia—and capital letters, and they’ve already set up their registry and Byron would be surprised at the number of drones listed if it wasn’t Hilton. It’s the group chat he’s dumped into starting with people he hasn’t spoken to since high school, going to who must be Hilton’s weird work people—it’s been a hot debate if running an anti-pyramid scheme group is even a job—and arriving at Graham Salvat.

God, it shouldn’t anger Byron the way it does, seeing his perfunctory as ever offer of: ‘Congrats, Hilton. Proud of you’, but he can barely stop himself from pressing to open his profile and squinting at the blurry picture. One of those too good to look at the camera ones, and he’s got glasses on the top of his head like some loser even though it’s clearly overcast behind him.

“Dick,” he mutters, scrolling down, seeing he’s already posted a picture of him and Hilton from a football game. The caption is something stupid about how they’re the best of friends—which is loud and wrong, everyone knows Ricky is Hilton’s best friend, and no one’s even seen Graham, in like, three years—and because they’re such good friends, he can’t wait to see him get married and that’s why he’s had to upload some second rate picture of the two of them in their football uniform. Hilton isn’t even looking at the fucking camera, so that goes to show how much that friendship means to him. Byron grunts, swiping back to the chat, where Hilton is offering thanks amongst all the exclamations of: ‘sick’, ‘can’t wait until the bachelor bash!!’, ‘the ball and chain about to get lockED’ and Graham, of course, says: ‘Can’t wait to meet up with all the boys again. Been too long.’

“Hey,” he’s nudged from the side, a press of cold fingers to his back, Tiffany or Freya or Leslie waking up, a hand slipping from his shoulder to his chest, hair scratching his chin, “what’s wrong.”

“Nothin’,” he moves, turning, locking his phone after sending a thumbs up, “my friend is getting married.”

“Ooh, nice,” she says, “I love weddings.”

“Cool.” He wonders if Graham will manage to worm himself into being one of the groomsmen, if Hilton will get that desperate to make up numbers to match Sofia and her no-doubt ever growing list of bridesmaids.

“Yeah,” she continues, speaking to Byron’s back, “they’re so romantic.” Byron’s gonna call his mom later, see if she’s got any pictures from his time in middle school in the garage. He’s sure there’ll be one of him with Hilton, where they’re both looking at the camera.

“Hey,” he says, his phone flashing with another notification, “you okay to see yourself out? Got all this, ah—wedding stuff to sort out. Y’know.”

Graham asks when the bachelor party is happening, because he’s just that excited—and can’t just pay a good thought forward without thinking of when he’ll benefit.

Byron [10.32am]: he proposed yesterday, bit early. give me a chance to sort it out

Graham [10.32am]: Why would you be sorting it?

Byron [10.33am]: i’m best man

The friend request comes in soon after. He almost declines but Byron’s all about good manners. He doesn’t reply when the girl says goodbye, already going through Graham’s instagram.

It isn’t like it’s hard to organise a bachelor party.

It just isn’t particularly easy, either.

Especially when Graham is always messaging him—increasing in frequency over the four months since the announcement—asking questions that start with ‘Hey, do you have the numbers?’ to ‘Hey, have you thought about this really expensive and stupidly dangerous thing that isn’t even really that enjoyable but looks good for the gram?’ Ok, so he doesn’t say that, but he might as well, with his beak always poking in to be helpful, leaving Byron to try to pin down whether he is either just this earnestly annoying, or if he genuinely doesn’t have faith in Byron’s abilities to plan a party.

And given his difficulties in receiving a response from a discount party bus company, it’s likely the latter. Another message comes in when he’s refreshing his email just to be sure that he still hasn’t heard anything—honestly, he was doing the place a favour even making an enquiry, judging from the state of their Google reviews, it’s the first one they’ve had in a while—something that looks innocuous but Byron always has to be on alert where Graham is concerned. ‘Hey, any luck? I’ve got some ideas.’

Byron [2.42pm]: going great

A week later, it’s the same thing again. Only this time, it’s three missed calls to a travel rep who promised they’d get back once he sent over fifty bucks. It’s too early to say it’s a scam, not everyone works all five business days. ‘Going great’, he sends again, hoping it’ll be enough to shake Graham off. He’s like a dog with a bone, only too happy to let Byron know that he’s here to help, and he’s got so many ideas he’s willing to share, and he doesn’t think they should worry too much about the money (Byron [1.15pm]: some of us are paying off student loans. money is something i’m worrying about), because aren’t they here to do something memorable and pretty fucking sick for Hilton?

To that, Graham says he’s happy to foot the bill (Graham [1.19pm]: I’m not that strapped for cash), because in those three years doing what looks like fuck all judging from his instagram, he’s not been blessed with any humility.

Byron [1.28pm]: sure. drinks on you, yh?

Graham [1.29pm]: You’ve sorted it out? Forward the details.

It doesn’t get better when the phone call arrives.

“Hello?” He’s kind of hopeful it’s the travel rep.

“Byron—hey.”

“W—Graham? How’d you get my number?” He’s certain he’s making a face, barely getting through rush hour on his way back to his apartment. He doesn’t have the patience for pleasentries right now when there’s a group of middle schoolers stood taking selfies in the middle of the goddamn sidewalk.

“Oh, Hilton passed it on. I had to tell him it was urgent,” Graham laughs like he’s made a joke, a sigh at the end, his voice as crisp as ever, “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all week.”

“You have?”

“Yeah. Why do you think Ricky has been sending you those messages for you to call me?” Byron doesn’t know how to let him know that all Ricky had been doing is sending him videos of him doing shots with vaguely attractive bartenders. Free of best man duties, he’s living it up counting down until the wedding. “Nevermind,” he continues, as though Byron actually made a response, “I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’ve sorted out the bachelor party dilemma.”

“Dilemma? I told you I had everything sorted.”

He scoffs, “You were scammed by a guy off Craigslist.”

“I—How—”

“I spoke to Hilton. Honestly, what part of ‘good vacation, very cheap’ seemed legit to you? If you hadn’t been putting off calling me, I’d have told you I’ve already planned the whole thing. D’ya wanna hear?”

“Sure,” he sighs, thinking about stopping to get his hair shaved. He thinks he might be able to pull it off.

Graham Salvat graduated high school and headed straight to college to study like, Art History, but he switched over to Philosophy two weeks in before contemplating something else ridiculously cultured. It’s all very confusing, following along with whatever he’s saying. Byron stops to make an appointment at the barber’s, reckons he can buy some pizza, head back and finally be done with the phonecall. He hums in the right places when Graham explains that he wasn’t too popular in college, not like he was in high school—which is debatable—he barely spoke to anyone on his ever changing courses because of the Salvat Thing, whatever that means. He was persona-non-grata for most of his first semester, fighting against the odds with each lecture, so very brave.

Until he was popular, and everyone wanted a piece of him. Settled into whatever major he decided, he was excelling, really, pulled in whichever direction the social calendar required of him. Just so fucking amazing, receiving constant praise as a student, dating whoever he remembered the name of, a protege in whatever field he was in at the time. So he’s like, a gift from God, really, to hear him tell it.

Right up to him dropping out.

“Yeah?” Byron’s stuck between pepperoni or meat fest, decides on chicken and hands over the ten bucks. “But you were so popular.”

Right!” Graham enthuses. “But I had to get serious, Byron. About what I wanted, the person I wanted to be. I wanted to do some good in the world, in my immediate circle, and popularity in college can only take you so far.” Byron would argue popularity in college could take you a lot farther than dropping out, but by then the story sweeps away.

Deciding to drop out of college was emotionally taxing, more so for his uncle who was paying his tuition, and was really disappointed. Not disappointed enough, apparently, as he had no qualms about funding his gap year in Cancun. He made friends, a lot of them, a taste for being number one in the circle, despite only knowing a rudimentary level of Spanish; but that’s just par for the course when you’re the one with the open tab.

“So you’ve booked Cancun for the bachelor party?”

“I—yes,” he sighs, “I’ve sent Hilton the details. Don’t worry about money or anything, I’ve got it covered.”

“I’m sure you do. Well,” he’s back outside the barbershop, “it’s been . . . a chat. See you in Cancun.”

“Uh—wait. That’s it? No thank you? Is that how you speak to all of your friends?”

“Usually it’s not an hour long phone call. See ya.”

He doesn’t look that bad with his head shaved, it almost suits him, and thank god he hasn’t got a funny head shape. He gets his nose pierced to even out the asymmetry of his face.

Getting to Cancun is an absolute disaster.

It starts with Ricky cancelling on being his ride to the airport, because he’s going with Toby who already has a full car, and breaking the law is one thing, but it’s another when it might get in the way of the copious amounts of drinking he’s planning to do. Ricky doesn’t want to drive his own car, he says, verbatim: “Drive my car for just the two of us? C’mon, man, that’s not good for the environment.” Byron’s response is: “If you haven’t got your shit taxed then just say it, don’t bullshit me.”

Ricky: “Ok, fair. Ask Graham.”

Byron, blinking: “Who?”

He would ask Graham, it’s not like he’s scared to or anything, but it’s the principle of the thing. If Byron had showed up for his driver’s test, he wouldn’t be bumming for a ride, and definitely not from Mr Moneybags Salvat. After that far too long phone conversation, they’ve been messaging every day—mostly Graham, about his commute to work, things that make him laugh, anecdotes of things that happened in high school, and often a: Hey, what happened to blank? even though the blank in question is always on Graham’s friends list already—and Byron really doesn’t want to be in a car with him.

Byron, recovering: “I don’t even like Graham, man. Remember high school?”

Ricky: “What about it?”

Byron: “We like, hated each other. Don’t you remember?”

Ricky: “Really? That’s not the vibe I got—and the guy’s been trying to reach you for like, two weeks. Won’t stop bugging me about it.”

Unwilling to even think about what possible other vibe Ricky could have gotten, Byron has been ignoring all of Graham’s asinine messages—of which there are many—and so the night before departure, he cringes during the phone call with his bank where he has to check his balance and make sure he’s got enough for the hefty Uber ride to the airport. He’s got enough, provided they don’t hit traffic, his driver doesn’t fuck around with the route, and they drive above the speed limit.

It’s all for nothing when he sleeps through his alarm, gets cancelled on by three seperate drivers, and ends up in traffic for 20 minutes. His phone rings, again, Moneybags Salvat checking where he is. He almost declines it for the sixth time, but decides that he can’t ignore his best man duties much longer, and it could be worse: he could have gotten that lift.

“Yeah, I know I’m late,” Byron says in lieu of a greeting, sighing as the airport finally comes into view, the driver signals to get into the correct lane. “I’ll be there in like, 10 minutes.”

He gets there in 20, running through the airport to find the group of them standing around bored. They’ve got barely any time to check in and board the plane, and other than a hug from Hilton, a slap to the chest to press on a ‘BEST MAN’ sticker, getting onto the plane is a bit of a blur and Byron’s barely caught his breath.

Graham doesn’t look like a different person, but he’s far enough removed from what he looked like in high school that Byron keeps looking at him. Which is completely unintentional for the most part, but he’s sat next to Hilton—and everyone wants to talk to Hilton—and Graham will interject with things that aren’t completely pretentious. His hair is longer on the top, lighter at the ends, his eyebrows are darker, thicker. The scar on his face is still as gnarled, but it’s faded a touch. Then there’s the tattoos, up both of his arms—ironic given everything he had to say when Byron let Ricky give him a stick and poke in junior year—there must be ones on his chest, too, if the way ink peeks up from the neckline of his t-shirt is anything to go by. He’s absolutely not staring on purpose, Byron’s barely looking, honestly, only when Graham talks, and if he happens to be one of the loudest in the group, then that can’t be helped, really.

It’s two nights, three days.

Simple.

Easy.

Only Graham’s got this whole itinerary, so what was looking like a weekend spent drinking liberally and Byron ignoring the thought of how he’ll pay rent next month, is actually, like, planned excursions and the reminder that they can’t run too far off schedule and please, can everyone be gathered in the hotel lobby at 7 sharp for dinner.

“Jesus,” Byron says, blinking down at a menu he can barely understand. Graham sits to his right, down the table some, offering a butchered translation of the menu.

“Should we get some pico de gallo for the table?” He asks, speaking to no one in particular. Byron wants to know what having salad for the table will do when Ricky is already three drinks deep, but they’ve barely managed any words to each other outside of a brief hello.

They start with stories from high school—reminiscing about versions of themselves that they’d likely punch if they were unfortunate enough to still be in existence—heading straight for stories that are varying levels of embarrassing, that make Byron grit his teeth as he laughs.

“Hey, remember prom?” Hilton asks, laughing. Byron’s fork slides along his plate with a screech, throwing himself back into focus. “Did you end up with a date at the end, By?” He looks at Graham, who isn’t laughing to his right anymore, but looking back, straight faced. Byron swallows, remembering that prank and how it made him feel sick and humiliated, and ah, that’s why that message made him feel that way.

“Yeah,” he says eventually. “After all that, I did.”

“After all that?” Graham challenges. “I ask you to prom and you call it after all that?”

“You weren’t being serious. It was some stupid prank.”

He frowns. “I fucking was. You—you said you weren’t interested.”

“Toby was stood behind you laughing.”

Toby hiccups, a shine to his dark face, coming to attention from Graham’s left side, a slur tinging his words, “He spent weeks comin’ up with his speech, an—and he forgot like, half of it. It was serious, By.”

“Jesus,” Byron says, sitting back. It had seemed like a joke at the time, and he can remember an echo of how he felt, verging on hopeful that Graham had approached him. He’d been someone on the periphery of Byron’s high school existence—though, to have Graham tell the tale, a burgeoning secondary character in whatever production their junior and senior years had been—a friend of a friend, but don’t place any emphasis, none whatsoever, on them being friends at all. It’d been grunts and mumbles of a conversation, half formed, juts of chins if they caught themselves in the same room, and trying, painstakingly, to get along for the sake of Hilton.

Graham had said: “I know we don’t know each other that well, but I’m being completely sincere when I say that—”

Toby laughed.

Graham continued: “—I’d like to take you to prom.”

Byron’s throat closed up, an itching sensation at the back of his head. He looked first at Graham, who blinked, that earnest look on his face. Then, at Toby, who had gotten himself under control.

Byron: “I’m not interested. Sorry.”

Graham, blushing, unfortunately, not of a similar complexion to Toby: “Uh—”

Byron, twisting the knife: “I don’t want to go to prom with you.”

They walked away, Graham confused, Toby remorseful, and Byron finally unclenched his fist.

“Yeah,” Graham squints at him from across the table.

They continue drinking, getting excessively louder, and Byron does shots to try and make the guilt in his chest feel a bit lighter. He also drinks to try and stop himself from wandering down a path that starts at what if and drifts even deeper into what fucking if. Ricky mentions finding a bar nearby, they’ve got to go out one of these nights, go off the fucking script. “We can’t just leave it up to the goddamn itinerary,” is what he says, shouting to be heard as he searches for bars in the area on his phone, “this is a bachelor party!”

Toby excuses himself, claiming he wants an early night. Everyone else troops out to find the bar, and Byron absolutely does not linger at the back of the group to walk beside Graham. It’s a grimy place, where the floor is sticky and it’s dark and Byron blinks too much, but the drinks are cheap and they all cheer, and he plays the part of the best man and goes along with it.

He has to carry Hilton back to the hotel room, Graham following close behind and piping up in that very unhelpful way of his. Byron’s barely able to stand himself, leaning Hilton against the wall as Graham struggles to use the room key to open the door. “Guys,” Hilton says, a sigh in his voice, “I’m getting married.”

“Yeah.” There’s a moment where it all feels real, the evolution of their lives, when Byron has to take Hilton’s shoes off before he goes to bed. It’s when he looks up, Hilton’s beat up sneaker in hand, to have Graham stood staring at him. Hilton’s sleeping by the time they leave the room and walk down the hallway.

“Byron,” Graham says, just as Byron’s opened the door to his own hotel room, “wait. I need to ask you something.”

“It’s two in the morning.”

“I know.” He’s got that look on his face, stupidly earnest, bursting at the seams.

“What do you want?”

“Would it have been different if you’d have gone to prom with me?”

Byron’s not a stupid romantic type. He appreciates how big of a thing it is to be here for Hilton who’s about to get married. He can even look back at that moment back in high school and almost wonder what it would have been like going to prom with Graham instead of choking on the strawberry scented body spray of Idris’ twin sister. It might have been fun, they could have kissed and he would know what the scar on his face feels like. Byron could have had his first boyfriend not be a complete asshole like Spencer was in college. It really could have been different.

But it might have been exactly the same. It could have been juts of chins, barely able to get a word in with Graham going a mile a minute, trying to stay hidden in the crowd in their gymnasium and gulping down glasses of spiked punch. Byron’s prom night still could have ended with him passed out on a damp sofa at someone’s after party, Graham as his date or not.

“Honestly,” he says, “I don’t think it matters.”

“Right,” Graham nods, licking his lips, “right. Kiss me.”

Byron laughs, hushed, a scrape out of his throat. He knows he looks mean, he can feel his face changing in a way different to Graham’s one falling. “You’re out of your fucking mind.”

“What?”

“Go to bed.”

Day two barely fares much better.

It’s one thing to reject a guy in the middle of the night who was only too willing to let you know each and every detail about his time at college; it’s another to be in the back of a jeep in criminally hot weather when you’re hungover and much too awkward to even bark out a good morning. Graham doesn’t seem to be having that problem, having apparently woken up bright and early for the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast. He’s even fucking grinning, the mad bastard. Byron sinks lower in his seat, clutching at his water bottle.

“Hey, look, we’re just heading to some beach club with an infinity pool. I’ve been there before . . .” Yes, he has, he lets Byron know. Back on his gap year, which is an interesting choice of words considering he dropped out of college and didn’t return. Aren’t words just so interesting, he tells Byron—again with the glasses pushed to the back of his head, not looking like any less of a loser, even if the patterned shirt does suit his tan—and did Byron know that he even considered switching to be an English major? Not like he was that good in the subject, or even a big fan of reading.

He typically read romance, mostly, he liked when it was slow and it took a while for the characters to get their head out of their ass and smell the roses, but he was partial to a bit of angst, too, something to raise the stakes. What Graham likes most of all, from the last book he read six years ago, is when it culminates in a big, explosive confession of one’s feelings, and then there’s the dramatic kiss a—

“What?” Byron blinks, barely able to catch up with the conversation, taking a breath when they hit another big rock on their way up the hillside.

“Yeah,” he says, smiling, the sun washing out the right side of his face and making his scar look shiny, skipping out on the whole ‘my drunken antics have me hiding in embarrassment until further notice’ thing, “it’s my favourite part. It’s always really emotional. I mean, I get why you said no last night. The stakes aren’t high enough yet.”

“Shut up.”

“What?” He taunts. “Scared I’m right?”

“Shut up.”

Graham isn’t even that attractive.

It’s not the scar, Byron can actually look past that, and it actually makes his lips look bigger and it’s barely a factor when Byron looks at him—which he’s only doing because he keeps yelling for more drinks, that are, of course, on him. Maybe it’s his chin, kind of pointy at certain angles, but squared at others, neither too big nor too small. He’s exactly the same annoying brat that he was in high school, speaking too much to the point of dominating the conversation, and it’s not like he’ll be saying anything interesting, either, so there’s no need for him to be stood talking to Ricky all focused like, for fifteen minutes.

None of that matters, when instead he can celebrate Hilton getting married, which is what they’re all there for anyway. So he drinks aggressively, really, enough so that he doesn’t even notice when Graham and Ricky’s conversation ends and they move to do a round of shots, laughing about whatever it was that had them huddled at the end of the bar for twenty three minutes. Not like he’s been paying too close attention to them, having to focus on refereeing Toby’s sad attempts at getting one of the bartenders to do bodyshots.

It’s not so much that Byron has to work himself up to make a move. It’s more like once the idea takes root, there’s not much else he’s able to think about. He pats Toby on the shoulder, turning in Graham’s direction. “I’m just gonna,” he says, trailing off when one of Hilton’s weird work people stop to ask if they’re interested in joining the fight against capitalism.

“Byron?” Toby asks from behind. “You ok?”

“Yeah,” he watches Graham flick through the drinks menu, though he’s been ordering mojitos since they stepped off the jeep—other than the six shots he’s done—so it’s not like he’s got much to decide on. “I—I’m gonna talk to Graham”

“You are?” The surprise in Toby’s voice fades out along with everything else when Byron makes his approach, likely blinking too much and looking almost as overwhelmed as Graham usually does.

Ha!” Graham laughs at the sight of him. “I’m afraid the offer of kissing you has closed.”

“I’m not—” he’s frowning. “I wasn’t gonna—I don’t. I wanted to ask you something.”

He shrugs, the bright yellow of his shirt stretching across his shoulders. Byron moves a hand over the fuzz on his head, wishing now that he hadn’t got it all shaved off.

“I—” He’s never had to do this before, on the other side of the awkward conversation, grovel for something that might be more than a conversation, want it to be more than awkward mumbles. “You were serious about prom?”

Graham frowns now, his scar twisted beside his right eye. “Honestly, I don’t think it matters.”

“Yeah, I know that.” Of course he does, because those words came out of his stupid mouth. “I just want to know if you were serious.”

“I tried to have this conversation with you yesterday.”

“It was two in the morning.”

“I thought I was out of my fucking mind.”

Jesus.

Graham steps closer, taking pity on him almost, if the smug smile on his face didn’t say differently. “Say I let you kiss me now,” he begins, his right hand reaching out to touch Byron’s arm. It’s wet from the condensation of his fourth mojito. “I don’t think it’d be fair.”

“It wouldn’t?” Byron blinks, his mind focusing only on the moisture barrier between true skin contact. If he had his wits about him, maybe he’d argue about Graham’s word choice.

“Hm,” he leans in closer, his hand falling away and back to his glass. “It’d be like cheating, really. Gotta think about the stakes.”

Byron nods, on autopilot and barely able to think with being in such close proximity. Even if it had been different, a disaster or otherwise at their senior prom, right now isn’t the worst thing in the world. Graham winks at him before plunging head first back into being the centre of attention at a bachelor party that most assuredly isn’t his own, and Byron rejoins Toby on the other side of the bar.

fin.

#AlternateReality #MeampYourGhost #mywriting #SlowMotion

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