Gwaine grinned. He loved the play that he was doing at the moment, had been drawn to the writing and the witty dialogue, the high tempo of the first act and that he could portrait more than one character in the course of a single play, from the very first moment he’d read the script. The atmosphere at this theatre was fantastic, the work with the director wonderful and the people great.
That was probably the part Gwaine liked best. When you did a movie, you had only so many weeks to get to know the people and then it took ages to get a reaction as movies took forever to come out after the wrap. TV shows were a bit better, but if they only lasted one season, you had worked so hard for months and once again it took way too long. Gwaine wasn’t a man of great patience. He always had projects, needed to do something and was eager to see the finished product. Here, at the theatre, you rehearsed for 6-8 weeks and then it was show time. Every single night, sometimes twice a day you had to give your best and got an immediate reaction from the audience. You didn’t have to wonder if you got it right or wrong, the people who had paid to see you told you right away.
Press night had been a blast. Of course, Gwaine was always a bit nervous about what the press had to say, as it very often decided if the theatre-goer bought a ticket or not, but their reviews had been nothing but in their favour. The best thing however, was that Merlin and Elyan had shown up. He hadn’t seen them in quite a while and it was a very pleasant surprise; they just picked up where they had left off and it didn’t feel as if that much time had passed since they last worked on that TV show together.
Gwaine was in a good mood when he climbed the stairs of the tube, whistling a little tune. There weren’t any autograph hunters at the entrance today. He didn’t mind the fans but lately there were more and more of those people who made a living out of getting autographs at theatres and then selling them for a lot of money without even caring for the show or ever getting a ticket. Gwaine tried to avoid them, even though it wasn’t always possible. That there weren’t any now, made the day even better.
He entered the theatre with a cheery ‘Hello’. At least, he tried to. A mountain of a man in a black suit stepped into his way.
“Would you open that backpack, sir?”
Gwaine grinned. There were security checks in most venues these days and this theatre wasn’t an exception. Obviously the bloke was new and was so eager doing his job right that he hadn’t taken the time to look around as Gwaine’s face was on every flyer and poster and there photos of the production around the foyer. His grin widened when he obediently pulled the zipper of his backpack open and held it so the bloke could see what he was carrying.
The blond man took one look and nodded. “Thank you, sir. Have a pleasant evening.”
Gwaine smiled. “You, too.” He hurried towards the stage door to get dressed and warmed up; he was running a bit late already.
The show had gone well, the audience very responsive and captivated by their performance and the applause at the end had been ear-piercing and they had even gotten standing ovations. Gwaine couldn’t get the smile off his face as he pulled off the wig he was wearing in the second act.
“Are you going home right away?” Arthur kicked the shoes off that he hated so much. He only had to wear them for about fifteen minutes, but each time he swore that they were the most uncomfortable shoes this world had ever seen.
“Nah,” Gwaine shook his head and ran a hand through his longish hair. “I think I’ll check the mob at the stage door, if it’s not too bad, I’ll do it and then…”
Arthur laughed. “You spotted the new security guy, didn’t you?” They all new that the security people were supposed to stay until most of the patrons had left the theatre and since the stage door was basically right next to the entrance inside the building, Gwaine would be able to throw the new bloke a glance or two while he did the autograph thing.
“Actually, he spotted me.” With a wide grin, Gwaine told Arthur the story of how he had to have his backpack checked before he was being let into the building.
Chuckling, Arthur pulled his own t-shirt on. “I told you, you look way too dangerous.”
“You know, if there’s a night we don’t want to perform, we just bring something in that looks like a bomb or something and voilà, evening off.”
“Don’t let anyone hear that!”
They both laughed, knowing fully well that this wasn’t something to actually laugh about, the threat was real – just the other day one of the theatres had to evacuate in the middle of a performance due to a threat - but goofing off about it was a way of dealing.
“I’m sure he’d find it and deal with it immediately.”
Arthur’s eyebrow shot up. “Wow, he checked your backpack once and you already got the hots for him.” Shaking his head, Arthur finished dressing. “I think I’ll go for a drink at the bar.”
“Might join you later.” Gwaine toed into his shoes and looked up when Cynthia, who seemed to do most every job at this theatre that needed to be done, peeked her head in.
“About twenty.” She said.
“Thanks, hon.” Not too long ago, they had made a deal that she would give him the number of fans hanging about, waiting for him and in exchange she got all the candy the fans gave him and she got the first pick at all the plush teddies he usually got. Gwaine would have given the candy away anyways and if he wanted to keep all the other gifts that fans gave him, he would need a much bigger house.
It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate that people went and got him something as…he never knew, a little extra thank-you for a good performance or something? He looked at everything and took the time to read every letter and every card, but if he ate all the goodies he wouldn’t fit into his costumes anymore and he had never been a big fan of plush toys, so why not make other people happy? He had a huge box at home, though, where he kept some of the things that he thought were really special and some of the drawings fans had given him actually hung in his mother’s house. There were so many talented people out there.
Taking a deep breath, Gwaine left the little dressing room he shared with Arthur to face some of those talented people.
Some nights, he didn’t feel like doing it. Especially after two performances, he was usually too tired or when there were more than those twenty people. Today, though, he was looking forward to the excited energy, the wide smiles and the sometimes nervous stutters when someone explained what they liked best or what they had brought them.
Equipped with two sharpies, he opened the door. “Hi, everyone.”
Cynthia obviously had instructed them well, so they didn’t crowd him too much. Still, there were lots of ‘Great show!’ and ‘Would you sign my program?’ and of course the ever popular ‘Would you mind a quick selfie?’
“You know what?” He gave them his widest smile. “How about we’ll start here on my left and I make my way through to each and every one of you?”
As the crowd nodded and murmured appreciatively, Gwaine beamed at Cynthia, who was standing next to the new security bloke and was easy to find in the crowd with her pink hair that she had put up in a messy bun on top of her head. The blond security had a slightly embarrassed look on his face, but didn’t move and just observed the scene.
Gwaine turned his full attention to the people waiting for him and signed and listened, commented, smiled for photos and thanked them for the gifts they gave him, depositing them at the box office behind him. Some days this was work, the smile on his face an act but today, he enjoyed it to the fullest. It always amazed him that what he was doing touched so many people in so many different ways. Once again, someone told him how they had met their significant other just because they both liked his shows and had met at a theatre foyer two years ago.
He didn’t even notice how time passed and that this had taken a lot longer than he actually had meant to when Cynthia came over. “Gwaine, we need to go over the wardrobe for the show tomorrow.” Each time this happened, she had a different crazy thing that she needed him to do before he left, it was her code for ‘I’m getting you out of this.’
“Uh oh! That’s why we call her Evil Cynth! She always has another job for us before we can leave.” Gwaine grinned. “Does everyone have their autographs and photos now?” He didn’t want to go without having made everyone happy. “Yes? Alright! Thank you very much for coming and have a safe trip home!”
The fans thanked him, there was the occasional ‘I love you’ which he answered by blowing the person a kiss and then Cynthia took him back to the safety of the backstage area.
“You were on a roll tonight.”
Gwaine grinned. “They are so nice, did you hear some of the stories they were telling me?”
“I did and you are right, it’s wonderful that so many people connect due to your work.” They had spoken about this a lot of times, so Cynthia had heard it all before. “But, you know, there are other people working here who can’t leave before you have left and you’ve been at it for almost an hour. We want to go home!” She pretended to break down and Gwaine laughed.
“Alright, alright. I get it, you’re tossing me out.” Gwaine grabbed his backpack. “But you can’t keep me away forever! I’ll be back tomorrow!” He pressed a quick kiss on her cheek. “Have a good night!”
Smiling, Gwaine left through the stage door again. Most of the fans had gone and the few still hanging about didn’t approach him again. The tall security was still at the door, too. Gwaine stopped and peeked outside. “Looks like it’s going to rain.”
“Should I call you a cab, sir?”
Gwaine looked up. “No need to call me ‘sir’, I’m Gwaine.”
“Percival.” The man replied. “My friends call me Percy and…listen…I’m very sorry about what happened earlier. I took over for Leon today and I should have prepared a bit better.”
“Percival.” Gwaine said it as if he tried the new name out. It felt good saying it. “Don’t worry about that, you were just doing your job. Will you be here tomorrow?”
“Yes, Leon needs a few days off.”
Gwaine knew the tall man with the curly hair, they had chatted a few times. “Is he alright?”
“Oh yes, he just gets his bathroom renewed, so he had to be there.”
They had talked about this before, Gwaine remembered. “Well, then, welcome to the team. It’s good to have you on board.” Gwaine threw Percy his brightest smile.
“Thank you, s…Gwaine. I promised I won’t make that mistake again. Have a good night.”
There was an endearing blush on the tall man’s cheeks and Gwaine felt a little shiver down his spine when he saw the shy smile. “Err…Good night.”
Gwaine didn’t even mind the autograph hunters the next day. There were only four of them, so he signed and even posed for a few selfies before he turned towards the theatre. His smile was genuine when he spotted the tall blond again.
“Hi, Percy. How are you today?”
“I’m good. You?”
Gwaine opened his backpack dutifully and held it out. “Here. Nothing dangerous in there.”
Percy swallowed nervously. “There’s no need for you to…you don’t have to…I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding yesterday.”
“Hey,” Gwaine stepped a bit closer. “You’re here to check bags, I got a bag, you have to check it. Maybe I’m the one who brings in something that isn’t supposed to be here?” He winked.
Blushing slightly again, Percy just glanced at the contents of his backpack. “I know you’re not. Thank you.”
Gwaine smiled widely when he saw a small smile tugging at the corners of Percy’s mouth. “See you later.”
“So you’re taking him on every day now? For that little mistake he made on his very first day?” Arthur frowned. He had come in shortly after Gwaine and had witnessed the little scene at the entrance.
“I’m not taking him on!” Gwaine pretended to be busy with his costume, which was just a shirt and jeans, nothing to fiddle with like he did now. “It’s more like…a running gag.”
“Don’t you see that it embarrasses him all over again when you do that? And it’s the third day in a row. It stopped being funny after the first time, Gwaine.” Arthur looked up from where he was sitting in his make-up chair. “Oh…wait a minute! You have a thing for him!”
“No, I haven’t!” Gwaine said a bit too quickly. Each day he tried to come up with something witty to say to the tall man who was constantly in his thoughts. But Percy was so shy and so professional that all the lovely banter that happened in Gwaine’s head never really took place in real life.
“Oh my God, you have a crush on him! Why don’t you just ask him out?” Arthur eye-rolled. “It’s not like you to not just say what you want. What’s going on there?”
“I can’t just ask him out. Things would get really awkward if he’s not into guys or is in a relationship.”
Arthur stared at him open-mouthed. “Boy, you’ve got it bad. You never thought about the consequences. Don’t even try to tell me otherwise, I’ve known you long enough to know you’ll flirt with everything that’s got a pulse!”
“That’s not it…” Gwaine knew that Arthur was right. He was a flirt, but when he meant it, he could get really shy. Well, probably not shy, but shy in his very own way. Like now. He didn’t even know Percy but for the few words they had exchanged so far but he was already into him head over heels.
Cynthia poked her head in as she did before very show. “5 minutes to show time, guys.”
Quickly they adjusted the rest of their costumes and went out to wait for their clue.
When Gwaine opened his backpack yet again, Percy smiled widely. “I’ve learned my lesson now, there’s no need to…”
“Come on, take a look.” Gwaine’s heartbeat sped up once more. He had been nervous since he had stepped of the tube.
Percy blinked. “What…”
They both looked at a banana that had a tag on it. ‘Dangerous fruit’
“You said you have to remove everything from bags that is dangerous.” Gwaine tried to keep a straight face and give Percy his most innocent look.
“And you happen to carry a dangerous fruit with you?”
“Yes. And you have to remove it.”
“And destroy it.”
“Whichever way you deem necessary. You can toss it out, but you could also eat it.” The colour rose to Gwaine’s cheeks. Maybe the banana hadn’t been such a good idea, it was too suggestive, wasn’t it? But Cynthia had told him that Percy always had a few bananas along and at them while the show was on and nobody was in the foyer.
Carefully, Percy reached into the backpack and took the banana out. “Thank you.” He smiled.
Each day, Gwaine brought in more ‘dangerous’ things that Percy had to remove from his backpack. Bananas, smoothies, travel mugs with tea and other things that Gwaine found out Percy liked. Of course, Cynthia and the guys from the box office were an invaluable help with spying on the tall security man.
Every night, when Gwaine left the theatre, Percy was still there and they chatted and Gwaine really liked what he heard. Sometimes, they had security that just couldn’t hold any other job, but Percy had a good head on his shoulders and seemed to be a fun guy, too. Gwaine knew he needed to do something soon, as Percy’s days at the theatre were numbered. Leon would come back the next week.
It was a day with two performances and everything seemed to go wrong from the very start. First, Percy was too busy to really appreciate the oh-so-dangerous croissant and fruit cup in Gwaine’s backpack as people started coming in early, then some moron had set off the fire alarm – probably Elena who had to wash and dry her hair during the interval, it had happened before – which made the first performance a lot longer as the fire department had to rush in and give them a thumbs-up before they could continue.
And then the little stunt Gwaine had to do at the end of the first act went wrong and he fell on something that wasn’t supposed to be there and he hurt his back. He hissed and cursed and knew that it was probably his own fault as well as he wasn’t really focussed on what he was doing. It wasn’t bad enough to not go on but Gwaine was happy that he didn’t have to move too much in the second act.
So instead of going out for a walk between performances, which he often did, and finally asking Percy out when he came back with a ‘dangerous’ letter in his backpack as he had planned, Gwaine was in their dressing room with an ice pack on his back to prevent the bruises from getting larger. What a stupid day.
“Are you sure you can perform tonight?” Cynthia asked for the umpteenth time.
“Yes.” Gwaine closed his eyes. “I’m not dying, you know?”
“You should have this checked by a doctor, Gwaine.” Arthur stood next to Cynthia. “An accident like this happened to a friend of mine. Turned out to be a minor fracture, like a fissure or whatever you call it. Took him out for months.”
“I’m fine.” Gwaine sighed and missed Arthur and Cynthia throwing each other a worried glance.
It was probably not the best action-scene Gwaine had ever done when the second performance came around and somehow the stage crew had managed to put a pillow where he was landing, which he was very grateful for, but they show went well and the applause was as loud as always.
“How many?” Gwaine asked Cynthia whom he met on the way to the dressing room.
“Difficult to say, seven, probably? Let me check again and come back to you. Do you need anything? I’ve put more ice packs on your desk. Are you sure we shouldn’t have you checked at the A&E?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I don’t need anything, I’m fine.” Which wasn’t quite true, his back hurt, but it was Saturday night and since they had a day off on Sundays, he would be fine and ready to perform on Monday night.
Arthur motherhen-ed the moment he came into the room. “Wow, that’s quite the bruise. Let me help you.”
Gwaine smiled. Arthur always seemed to be a bit pompous and cool towards reporters and fans, which has earned him a reputation of being difficult and the nickname ‘Princess’, but he was great to work with and a good friend by now. He felt responsible for those he liked and did everything he could to help.
“Thanks.” It was a bit ridiculous how Arthur helped him pull his jeans up and the t-shirt down and how he set down his shoes so Gwaine could just slip into them, but he meant well.
“Only five left.” Cynthia looked in again. “I’ll just tell them that you left already, alright?”
“Gwaine, you are hurting. If you’re so stubborn to not have this checked right away, at least go home, take some painkillers and lie down.”
Arthur nodded at that. “I can take you.”
“No need for that,” Gwaine took a deep breath and pulled himself up to his full height. “Five I can handle, it won’t take long. Let’s make the fans happy. Come on, Arthur, signing a few programs will raise your popularity and trust me, smiling for photos doesn’t hurt at all.”
The five fans turned out to be eight, but that was a number Gwaine could handle. He was probably not his chatty self tonight, but the fans seemed to be happy. Eight signatures and just as many photos were done quickly and Gwaine was looking forward to going home.
Actually, no, he wasn’t but it couldn’t be helped. He had about thirty minutes of train-ride ahead of him and Cynthia had been right, he needed to lie down. This would blow his chances with Percy but it couldn’t be helped. He could still try to contact him when Leon was back as they were obviously friends; his health was more important now.
He took his backpack and carefully shouldered it. As he made it to the entrance, Percy was still there. “You know…”
Just at that moment, someone called out “Night, Gwaine.” and Gwaine turned to see who that had been. Instead of sending a cheery “Night!” back, he felt a stabbing pain in his back that knocked the air out of him. He panted and tried to hold on to something as his knees gave way and little stars started do dance at the corner of his vision.
What happened next was a bit fuzzy in Gwaine’s memory. There were strong arms that prevented him from falling and a very skilled way of handling him and blue, worried eyes.
“What… Where…?” Groaning, Gwaine tried to sit up as he blinked to find out where he was. One moment, he was at the theatre, the next…the hospital?
“Don’t.” A strong hand on his shoulder held him back. “Stay where you are.”
“Percy?” What was he doing here?
“The one and only. Lie still and try to relax.”
“That sounds naughty.” Gwaine chuckled, but even that hurt.
“If I say ‘breathe with me’ now, you’ll only re-hurt yourself laughing, right?” Percy grinned.
“Most likely. Even though I’d like to ‘breathe with you’ while I relax…” Oops, he probably shouldn’t have said that, but he was sure that the drip contained some meds and Gwaine closed his eyes.
“Not until we know you’re alright again.”
“What’s wrong with me? Why am I here?” Gwaine looked at Percy. “Why are you here?”
“Looks like you’ve got a pinched nerve. The injury you obtained during the play might have something to do with it, we don’t know yet, we’re waiting for results.”
“We?” It was nice to see Percy here but he didn’t need to do this. “Shouldn’t you…be at home or something?”
Percy smiled. “I took leave to help Leon out at the theatre. In real life, I’m a…doctor.”
A doctor. Gwaine stared as a real doctor…a doctor doctor…someone in a white labcoat came in, looking at an Xray and ultrasound pictures and Percy went over to discuss them with him. Percy was a security guard, he couldn’t be a doctor, could he? But if he had taken leave to help out a friend, he could as well be a doctor. It would explain that he immediately knew what to do when Gwaine had basically fainted right in front of him. He could as well just be someone with some good first-aid skills?
Percy stepped back and let the real doctor explain something about ‘indeed a pinched nerve’ and ‘luckily no fractures’ and give him a lecture about having stuff like that checked right away.
“Can I go home now?” Gwaine had never liked hospitals and he wouldn’t stay longer than he needed.
“I’ll take care of him, Sean.”
The doctor looked from Gwaine to Percy and then sighed. “Alright, Smitty.” He turned to Gwaine. “I’ll release you into the capable hands of Dr. Smitherton. You need to follow his instructions.”
“I need to be on stage again on Monday, will that be possible?”
“If you do exactly what he says and come back on Monday morning, there’s a good chance that you can do that.”
There had been more procedures of checking out and getting pain killers and muscles relaxants and obviously Percy knew the drill so he had them out of the hospital in the shortest amount of time possible, but not before Gwaine took a selfie in his bed and tweeted that he was alright. “The fans…you know?”
Later, Gwaine was in his own bed, a bit numb from all the meds he had taken and utterly exhausted from the cab ride that had been a lot bumpier than he remembered.
Percy, who had immediately found his way through Gwaine’s place as if he had been there lots of times, put a glass of water on his nightstand.
“So, you really are a doctor?”
“Paediatrist, to be exact.”
Gwaine smiled tiredly. “A kid’s doctor, just what I need.”
“Well, it is pretty childish to not admit to an injury like yours and to go through another full performance with the same stunt, so yes, I think you found the right doctor.” Percy sat down in the big rattan armchair Gwaine’s mom had insisted on getting for his bedroom and pulled a foot underneath him.
“I need to perform, I’m an actor. I have to be back on stage on Monday.” Gwaine insisted.
“I know and you are a very good one. We’ll see about Monday. Seems like they already worked on that block in your back, but you need to give this time.”
Gwaine smiled sleepily. “You sound so totally different.”
“What do you mean?”
“At the theatre you seemed all shy and nervous, at least at first and not saying much and now…”
Percy chuckled softly. “At the theatre I tried out something new. I didn’t know how to act and what to say, I hoped I didn’t need to do something and intimidate wrong-doers with my sheer size. Now, I’m back on familiar terrain, this is my home turf, I know what to do and how to react.”
They were silent for a while.
“You don’t need to do this, you know?”
“I know. But I want to.”
Gwaine smiled in the half-dark. Percy had no obligation at all to spend the night here and take care of him. It felt nice, though, that there obviously was something between them that made him want to do it.
“You know…” Percy started.
“From all the oh-so-dangerous things you ever brought into the theatre, I think you are the most dangerous and I really need to keep an eye on you.” He chuckled.
Gwaine grinned but felt as if he couldn’t keep his eyes open much longer. “Not like I pictured our first night together.”
“No, not what I had in mind either. But hey, we can work on that some other time.” Percy got up and switched off the little lamp on the nightstand. “Sleep now. If you need me, I’m out there on your couch.”