During shooting, all their flats are in the same building, one-two-three down the second floor hallway. It makes a lot of sense, actually: they didn’t have to find their own places to live, for one thing, which is a huge bonus in Arthur’s book. They’re also that much easier to find when the producers need them, and the studio car only has to make one stop to collect them all before heading out to whatever remote quarry they’re using today. It’s really an excellent and perfectly logical idea.
Of course, even ideas that are designed to make life make sense can have unintended side effects. Tonight, for instance, is making very little sense indeed.
“If you were a vegetable,” Karen says, eating the last of Arthur’s Chocolate Inspiration ice cream out of the tub, “What kind of vegetable would you be?”
“What kind of vegetable? What kind of question is that?” Matt asks, incredulity oozing from every pore.
“Well, you come up with a better one, then,” Karen challenges.
“Arthur would be a head of lettuce,” Matt says.
“Why?” Arthur asks, genuinely bewildered. They’ve been drinking cheap wine from Tesco for a few hours, now, and he had started to let the conversation drift away from him, happy to be sprawled on the couch, his legs tangled with Karen’s, Matt’s feet on the cushion near his head. Now he’s being compared to lettuce, and he’s not sure it’s a compliment.
“I dunno,” Matt says, sipping his wine with a grimace. “Lettuce is useful? Bland, sort of,” he says, staring intently at nothing like he always does when he’s thinking hard about something. “But in a good way. It’s— it’s the basis for everything.” He raises his wine glass triumphantly at Arthur, nodding in a self-satisfied way. “You can build a lot of good things, starting with lettuce.”
“Okay, better question for you,” Karen says, jabbing her spoon in Matt’s direction. “Best band name.”
“Edmund,” Arthur says, loyal to a fault.
“Not the name of the best band,” Karen says, sweetly condescending. “The best name for any band. Hypothetical band.”
“That’s not a fair question,” Matt starts.
Karen cuts him off: “So my first question’s not interesting enough, then the next one’s not fair, why don’t you just come up with some questions of your own if you’re so picky—“
“It’s a good question, it’s a good question!” Matt says, holding his hands above his head like he’s afraid Karen’s going to throw something at him. Karen, who wasn’t originally planning on throwing anything, sees the gesture and chucks a pillow at his face just because. “But it’s not one we’re going to answer in a night,” Matt continues, expertly deflecting the pillow. “Best band name, that’s going to take a while to come up with something suitable.”
“Well, take your time, then,” Karen says, somewhat mollified. She sets the empty ice cream tub down on the floor and licks the spoon in a way that’s horribly distracting. Arthur can see Matt out of the corner of his eye, knows he’s watching too.
Sure, tonight isn't making a whole lot of sense, but it's a good night nonetheless.
“Finally!” Matt says, slinging a long arm around Arthur’s shoulders. “I thought we’d never finish with that.”
Arthur is shivering fiercely, half-naked under his huge winter coat. It hadn’t been so bad under the lights on set, but January midnights in Cardiff are not the ideal time to be running around without proper clothes on, and he thinks his nipples could probably cut glass right now. “You thought,” he says, indignant. “You’re wearing four different layers, and you weren’t even in the shot for those last twelve takes.”
“Yes, but it gets terribly boring, not being in the shot.” Matt’s smile is lopsided and snarky.
“Oh, you poor baby,” Karen says, cuffing Matt on the shoulder so that he falls halfway onto Arthur. “Look at me, I’m Matt Smith, being the star of a ridiculously popular television program is just not enough fame.”
“It’s like an addiction,” Matt says loftily. “After a while the usual amount of attention doesn’t even affect you anymore, you need more and more of it. It’s a real problem, you both should pity me.”
“Obviously,” Arthur says darkly, trying to shove his hands even deeper into the pockets of his coat. “Can we pity you in the wardrobe trailer, please?”
They make it inside, and Arthur shivers his way out of the boxers the lovely costume ladies had given him and into the boxers he actually wears, and then the rest of his regular clothes. The jumper over the other jumper over the T-shirt doesn’t seem nearly as warm as it did this morning, and he pulls his coat back on, wrapping his arms around himself.
Karen comes up and throws her arms around him. “You look like a sad kitten out in the rain,” she says poetically.
“Have you seen my gloves? I could’ve sworn I had them this morning,” Arthur says. His teeth have stopped chattering, at least, and the warmth of Karen’s breath against his cheek is helping his spirits in a few different ways.
“Oh! You left them in the trailer at lunch,” Karen says, pulling the missing pair of gloves out of her pocket and handing them to Arthur. “I totally forgot I had them.” Arthur pulls them on gratefully, flexing his fingers to try and get some of the feeling back, then shoves his hands into his pockets.
“Are we decent, then?” Matt calls from the depths of the trailer.
“Dunno about you, but we’re fine,” Karen calls back.
Matt steps out, back in street clothes: a jumper in a hideously bright stripe, a chequered cotton scarf, tight jeans with a few strategically ripped spots. “Home sweet home, then. Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Homeward bound!” He thrashes his way into his coat and bounds down the steps of the trailer and across the car park towards his car.
“I don’t know why we put up with him,” Karen says.
“Yeah, me neither,” Arthur says, actually knowing perfectly well.
“So about your question from last weekend,” Matt says to Karen. “I have a few suggestions.”
Karen finishes her bite of spaghetti. It’s lunchtime, and they’re sitting near the edge of the set, having arranged three folding chairs in a rough triangle so they can talk more easily. “What— oh, the band name question. All right, hit me with it.”
Matt whips his smartphone out of his coat. He keeps it in the inside pocket, the same one where the Doctor keeps his sonic screwdriver. “Here we are,” he says, tapping buttons. “Solid Doughnut Fever. Needless Lemonade Revival.” He scrolls down, his forehead creasing in a slight frown. “Blue Flannel Testament. Aaaaand Pointless Microphone Design.”
“Those are just groups of three random words,” Karen says. “How are you coming up with them?”
“There’s an online generator,” Matt says, only a little bit sheepish.
“I thought of a good one yesterday,” Arthur says. “Pavlov and the Dogs.”
“Pavlov and the Dogs, I like it,” Karen says. “I like that, that format, with and the. Something and the whatevers.”
“Was that a suggestion?“ Matt asks.
“Actually I was just trying to make a fill-in-the-blank sort of model,” Karen says. “But it sort of works.”
“Something and the Whatevers, what kind of music would they even play?”
Karen finishes her own spaghetti and tries to steal a bite off of Matt’s plate. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t think they know,” Arthur says. “They sound a bit confused.”
“Yeah…” Karen’s efforts to co-opt more of Matt’s spaghetti are rebuffed, and she aims her fork at Arthur’s plate. He pulls it closer to himself, shielding it with one arm. “Took a few too many drugs in the seventies, I guess.”
“Or their parents did.”
“I quite like Pointless Microphone Design,” Matt says.
“That just sounds like they’re insulting their equipment,” Arthur points out.
“Well, maybe they’re acoustic,” Matt says.
“Nah, I think they like their reverb,” Karen says. “Probably too much.”
“Mm, maybe,” Matt says doubtfully, going back to the comfort of his mobile. “Wait, here’s a good one, Needless Pottery Dilemma.”
“Okay, that one is genuinely intriguing,” Arthur says, nodding slowly.
“Ha,” Matt says with a huge bite of spaghetti in his mouth.
“I dunno,” Karen says. “I think it still may be an open question.”
“I will triumph,” Matt says, swallowing his spaghetti and chomping down on a sizable piece of garlic bread.
“‘Course you will,” Karen says, reaching out to ruffle his hair. He fends her off with an elbow and a glare. Arthur smiles and takes another bite of spaghetti, enjoying the sweet-bitter taste of tomato sauce and friendship.
“New York City!” Karen says, punching the air above her head. She looks a bit groggy and befuddled from the flight, just like Arthur feels, but she’s better at masking it, dancing a bit by the luggage carousel and grinning from ear to ear.
“Mm,” Matt says. He has a hand on Arthur’s shoulder, leaning more and more weight on him with every minute that passes without their bags arriving. The jet lag always seems to hit him worst of all, for some reason. His head keeps nodding, dipping towards the side of Arthur’s neck and then being dragged up again through sheer stubbornness.
“D’you want to sit down or something, Matt?” Arthur asks.
“Nah, m’fine,” Matt says. His syllables are usually crisp; now they’re fuzzy around the edges. “Just need to get to the bloody hotel.”
“Here we are,” Karen sing-songs, and whisks her huge red suitcase off the luggage carousel as if it weighed nothing. “And look, boys, yours are coming round now.”
Arthur disentangles himself from Matt, propping him up against a convenient pillar (“I can stand up on my own, damn you,” Matt says as he slumps against the fake marble) and hoisting their suitcases off the carousel. He wheels them over to Matt, who grits his teeth and pushes off the pillar, accepting the handle of his suitcase from Arthur.
Karen is bouncing impatiently a few yards ahead of them. “Come on!”
“Someone’s going to meet us to drive us,” Arthur reminds her. “And we haven’t spotted them yet.”
“Well maybe they’re out here,” Karen says, striding through the automatic doors.
Sure enough, there’s a woman in a dark blue uniform standing just outside the doors, holding a sign that has their names on it. She welcomes them in a thick Brooklyn accent and ushers them into a waiting car, setting off for their hotel as soon as their bags are safely stowed in the boot.
The car is nice, roomy, with black leather seats and a wonderfully functional heating system. Arthur manages to get stuck in the middle seat, Karen’s jittery sleep-deprived excitement on his left and Matt’s bone-tired slump on his right. Matt’s given up the fight to not lean his head on Arthur’s shoulder, now, and Arthur can’t help himself. He reaches up and strokes Matt’s hair, fingers combing through his ridiculously long fringe. Matt sighs and turns his face further against Arthur’s neck. Arthur smiles.
Karen manages to tear her eyes away from the hustle and bustle outside the window long enough to glance over at Arthur and Matt. She smiles at Arthur and elbows him gently, rolling her eyes at Matt. Arthur rolls his eyes back at her, enjoying their little moment of solitude as car horns honk all around them.
At the hotel, Matt makes a beeline for his room, clearly intending to sleep himself back into coherence. Their breakneck schedule of interviews and appearances won't really get going until tomorrow afternoon, and Arthur suspects this scheduling was intentional, meant to give Matt enough time to recharge. Arthur finds his room – two doors down -- sticks his suitcase in the closet, and hops in the shower. After the hours stuck in that cramped tin can of a plane, the hot water is exactly what Arthur needs, and he sighs contentedly as he washes away all the grime and claustrophobia of travel. Feeling much more himself, he pulls on a clean t-shirt and jeans and ventures out of his room.
Karen’s hair is twisted up in one of the scratchy hotel towels. “Great minds think alike, eh?” she asks, pointing to Arthur’s still-damp hair as she lets him into her room.
“I’m not quite tired enough to nap,” Arthur explains. “But I don’t really think I’m up to exploring, either.”
“Want to see what’s on the Pay-Per-View?” Karen asks.
They end up watching one of those action movies where the hero has a five o’clock shadow all day long and likes to slowly walk away from exploding buildings. The villain has a British accent so bad that Karen laughs uncontrollably at every single one of his lines, and the hackneyed dialogue makes Arthur roll his eyes so hard it almost hurts. All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
They pause the movie halfway through to call down for room service, ordering two of the hotel’s signature hamburgers and a few bottles of beer. They’re just settling into the meal when Matt knocks on the door. His hair is bent every which way, and there’s a web of lines on his cheek that match up with the seams in the quilt on his bed: apparently he didn’t even bother to get under the blankets before passing out. He climbs up on the bed next to Arthur and steals a few of his French fries.
“What is this?” he asks after watching about five minutes of the movie.
“I’m not exactly sure,” Arthur says. “It was free.”
“Oh, you’ve noticed?”
Matt steals a few more of his fries and leans against Arthur, chewing loudly right next to Arthur’s ear. “There’s a whole beautiful city out there just waiting to be explored, and you’re sitting in the hotel watching this?”
“We would have gone out,” Arthur says pointedly, “But we’d never hear the end of it if we left without you.”
“Yeah, probably,” says Matt after a moment’s consideration. “But I’m here now, aren’t I?”
They leave the TV paused, the terrible movie frozen in time. As they walk down the street, Karen’s arm around Arthur’s waist, Matt striding along just ahead of them, Arthur really doesn’t care if they never watch another minute of it.
There’s a camera hanging around. True, Arthur can barely remember a day in the last year when there wasn’t a camera around, but this one is shooting nothing but Arthur for the next few hours, material for one of the DVD extras. It’s a little bit more pressure than doing a regular episode, especially since he’s having a hard time thinking of what actually happens in A Day in the Life of Arthur Darvill.
“So this is my trailer,” Arthur says, smiling at the silent, stoic cameraman over his shoulder. “It’s not all that interesting, but. Well. Come in.” He gives the camera the forty-second tour, since that’s about how long it takes to walk around the inside of a trailer and point out things like couches and fridges. The walls are mostly plain white, and the furniture looks barely used. “I don’t really spend too much of my time here, actually,” he finishes kind of sheepishly. “Just when I want a bit of alone time, you know? Er, like, sometimes if I’ve got a scene that I’m a big part of, it starts being a bit stressful having everyone fuss over me with the makeup and the costumes and the lighting — so this is a great place to come after that, and just sort of relax. But other than that, on normal days, this isn’t really where I spend my time.”
“So where do you spend your time?” asks the junior producer who’s been walking around with them. She is as chipper as the cameraman is taciturn, and has taken to asking helpful questions whenever Arthur falls awkwardly silent.
“Mostly in Karen’s trailer, actually.”
“Shall we visit there, then?”
“Erm—“ Arthur hesitates, not wanting to inflict his camera crew on anyone else.
As it turns out, though, Karen has her own cameraperson and junior producer following her around, working on “A Day in the Life of Karen Gillan.” “Hey!” she says, waving into Arthur’s camera. “I was wondering when Arthur would bring you round.”
Her trailer is brighter, happier, with colorful throw pillows on the standard-issue couch and an assortment of half-empty soft drink cans in the fridge. She gives Arthur’s camera her own forty-second tour, then flops down onto the couch, waving him down next to her. “So, what would you lovely people like to know?”
“What are things like behind the scenes?” Arthur’s producer asks. “What do you actors get up to?”
Karen leers at Arthur, elbowing him in the ribs. “What do we get up to, eh?” Arthur blushes, grinning somewhat sheepishly at Karen.
“Nothing much, really,” he says, pulling a face at the camera. “We play stupid games — ask each other questions, that sort of thing. Like icebreakers at a party.“
“Currently we’re working on the best band name,” Karen says. “Right now it’s, what, something about pottery…?”
“Needless Pottery Dilemma,” Arthur says. “Although I thought of one—“ he thumbs through the saved texts on his phone. “Boomerang Generation, that was it.”
“I like that, it’s fun.”
“More than Needless Pottery Dilemma?”
“They both sound like they have stories behind them, sort of. I like that in a band name.”
There’s a knock on the door, and Karen gets up to answer it, a spring in her step.
“Er, hi,” says Matt from the doorway. His cameraman-and-producer pair hover behind him, looking slightly confused. “Can we come in?”
They do another whip-round of Karen’s trailer, just so Matt’s camera can get it too, then retreat yet again to the couch. The three producers do some urgent whispering in the corner, and then Arthur’s and Karen’s cameras leave. “Aw, bye!” Arthur calls to his.
“It just doesn’t make sense to have a camera on each of you when you’re together all the time,” Matt’s producer explains. “We didn’t realize it was going to be so difficult to get the three of you apart. Anyway, carry on.”
“We were on about band names again,” Karen says at Matt’s questioning look. “Arthur’s just brought Boomerang Generation to the table.”
“Not bad at all,” Matt says. “But can you top—“ He lifts his hips off the couch, digs a crumpled receipt out of his back pocket, unfolds it dramatically. “Saint Vincent and the Grenadines?”
“That’s a country,” Arthur says.
“But it sounds like a band name.”
“Yeah, but you’re not going to get far as a band when your name is already trademarked by a bunch of islands in the Caribbean.”
“Do countries trademark their names?” Karen wonders. “They shouldn’t have to, should they?”
“Okay, probably not, but that’s what people are gonna associate it with. All of Matt’s ideas so far have been somewhat unoriginal,” Arthur tells the camera in a confidential voice.
“Whoa now,” Karen says. “Tension rising in the room! It’s just a game, boys.”
“Yeah, sorry, Matt, that wasn’t nice.”
“Apology accepted,” Matt says, reaching over Karen to shake Arthur’s hand. “And I will try to have my hypothetical band names meet your high standards from now on.”
“See?” Karen says, slinging her arms around both of their shoulders. “That’s what I like to see, all of us getting along together.”
“This was pretty much inevitable, wasn’t it?” Karen muses. “I mean, given us, and all.” Her fingers trail lightly down Arthur’s chest, nails just barely scratching, leaving faint lines of pink on his skin.
“Yeah, probably,” Arthur says, and frankly he couldn’t be happier about it. Karen is kneeling over him, naked from the waist up, pale skin flushed and warm to the touch; Matt is behind her, kissing his way down the curve of her neck, long fingers tracing curvy patterns along her sides. He hadn’t known this was going to happen when Karen and Matt had knocked on his door earlier in the afternoon, not really, but taking a long view he doesn’t see how they could have ended up any other way.
“Definitely,” Matt says against Karen’s skin. He runs his hands around to cup her breasts. “And it’s brilliant.”
Karen laughs, arching her back to give Matt better access. Arthur reaches up and brushes his fingers over one of her nipples, and her laugh turns into a moan that catches in the back of her throat. Matt leaves Arthur to work on Karen’s chest and goes for the waistband of her skirt, trying to push it down her hips without undoing the button first. Karen scoffs at him and undoes it herself, leaning down over Arthur to wriggle out of it.
Arthur takes advantage of her proximity to kiss her, cupping the back of her neck. Then Matt loses his balance and they end up in a tangled pile of limbs and half-discarded clothing, and when they’ve rolled their way out of it Arthur is on top of Matt, staring down at that beautiful, wicked grin of his. Matt has the most clothes on of any of them, somehow, and Arthur’s fingers fly down the buttons of his shirt and make quick work of his skinny leather belt. Matt won’t stop moving, thrashing his way out of each garment as Arthur unfastens it until he’s just in his boxers, and then he squirms out of those, too. Arthur leans over him, kisses him hard, and Matt grabs Arthur’s hips and thrusts up against him. Arthur gasps and bites down on Matt’s lip. Karen strokes Arthur’s hair, murmuring little comments of appreciation.
“Enjoying the view?” Arthur asks Karen when he and Matt come up for air. His voice hitches halfway through the question when Matt rubs up against him again.
“Definitely,” Karen says. “But it wouldn’t be bad to have more of a hands-on role, yeah?”
Arthur groans a bit at the pun and shifts over, pulling her closer until they’re both sort of next to and sort of on top of Matt, all their legs overlapping in a jumbled pattern. Matt’s arm snakes around Karen’s waist, his hand sliding down her side, and Arthur tangles his fingers in Matt’s hair and kisses Karen, sweet and single-minded and one thousand percent sure this is where he’s meant to be.
It’s sunset outside by the time they’re done. The light filtering through Arthur’s blinds is dim, red, and it casts long shadows across their intertwined limbs. Matt snuggles his face into the curve of Arthur’s neck. Karen smiles, head lying on Arthur’s chest, and strokes Matt’s hair.
“Hey,” Karen says after a few quiet, perfect moments. “Boys.”
“Mmf?” Matt asks, half-asleep already. Arthur cocks his head to show he’s paying attention.
“Best band name,” she says, grinning a huge, cheesy grin. “If we were in a band — Karen and the Babes?”
“Yeah, that works,” Arthur says, and shuts his eyes.