His palms were sweaty. He kept wiping them on his pants but within seconds they were clammy again like the pores were trying to force out the anxiety. Shaky too. That he noticed when he slipped out for his fifth cigarette that morning, the flame from his Zippo struggling to reach the end of the stick. He wondered if he smelled. Stank of last night’s whiskey and today’s smokes, reeked of nervousness. Maybe he should run over to his trailer, have a quick shower and brush his teeth. Again.
It felt strange being back on set after three months vacation. They weren’t shooting today, wouldn't be for another week, just going over the plot and changes. Introducing the new players. Good old Mercedes with her big smile and blond hair. That annoying girl who had that aren’t-I-sexy smile that really went on his nerves. The guy who was going to be working mostly with Amy, he could never remember his name. Later on Adam would be joining them or so he’d heard whispered although Joss liked to keep his people on their toes, never cluing them in until the last minute. And then there was Him.
Four months since they were told he was going to be the booster for the new season. ‘We need to liven it up a bit. Bring in some comedy. Spark up the UST.’ Joss had smirked at that, deliberately looking at David and he’d felt his face go red. No one seemed to notice, in fact Amy giggled, perhaps thinking he’d meant her. Of course she hadn't been here when... None of them had. That night, after sitting alone in the dark, diving to the bottom of a bottle of scotch, his hand reached out and hovered above the phone for what seemed like an eternity before he withdrew it, shaking slightly.
You don’t just call people up after three years of silence.
Four months he'd had to prepare for this day and he felt just as shaky, just as terrified. He tapped his fingers nervously on his thigh while sucking the smoke from the cigarette cupped in his right hand deep into his lungs. Seeking refuge in the warmth as it slunk through his body, swirling around, painting him all black inside.
He swung around on his heel, snapping the cigarette in two between his cramping fingers, burning the inside of his wrist. Heart hammering so hard in his chest it hurt. All air leaving his lunges.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.”
“You didn’t…” He stopped, the lie ridiculous. “When did you get here?”
“About ten minutes ago.” James bit his lip. “Everyone is looking for you.”
He didn’t answer, just nodded, his neck so stiff he thought he might break it. The silence dragged out into an infinity of pauses.
“Look, David… I…” Now it was James time to stop, licking his lips nervously as he studied the tip of his toes before glancing up in that little boy way of his that made David want to grab him and… “It’s not easy for me either. But I need this job and as Hollywood as it may sound I think the fans need this just as much. Besides Joss won’t change-”
“I’m glad to have you. Here, I mean. I’m glad to have you here. It’s good. All good.” David took a step forward, then paused, wiping his palm once again on his jeans before stretching out his hand, willing it steady. “Welcome.”
James stared at it for a long time, then shrugged like he was shaking ghosts of his shoulders before extending his own, palm warm and dry, slender fingers bringing flashes of memories as they wrapped around him. “Thank you.”
They stood frozen as the heat from their joined fingers ran through nerves and muscles, up their arms and spread through their bodies. Like electricity in their veins, shooting through their whole system and jump starting their hearts. Dave exhaled, slowly, his breath shaky and tinged with smoke.
They simultaneously drew in their breath but before David could start again James blurted out, fast, “We need to get back in.”
David blinked. Then he reluctantly let go, his fingers freezing as the warm grip left them. “Yeah. Okay.”
James reached for the door and held it open for him. Dave hesitated for a moment before walking in, accidentally brushing his hand against James' thigh as they passed. He jerked it away, cradling it against his chest.
God, if he could just breathe. He really needed to breathe.
James came close behind him and he could feel his eyes burning into his back in the badly lit hall. Just a few more steps and they would be back with the others, sheltered by bright light and happy people.
He stopped. Stood paralyzed, not daring to turn around. No need to ask 'Why what?', they both knew, it was as obvious as the dark cloud of hurt hovering between them.
“I'm sorry.” His voice was hardly a whisper and still it echoed in the small hallway, bouncing of the walls as if mocking the inadequacy of the words.
A warm hand on his shoulder made him slump, shrinking inside until he felt like a small child.
“Then tell me why. I need to know. Just tell me and I'll leave it at that. Please.”
The narrow space was closing in on him. He felt dizzy, like oxygen was being sucked out of him, and he reached out to steady himself on the wall.
The hand squeezed his shoulder. “David?”
“Because I got scared. That's all.”
“That's a lousy reason.” James sighed, dropping his hand. The loss sends shivers of cold down David's spine.
“I know.” He blinked, resisting the urge to wipe at his eyes. “I'm sorry.”
“And now?” James's voice was so soft, caressing him with pain.
“Are you still scared?”
“Yes.” He breathed out the word, the 's' shivering. “More than ever.”
“Don't be. That's not what I came for.” He could hear James swallowing. “I don't expect anything from you. Not anymore.”
He bowed his head. He felt so cold. “What... what if I do?”
Silence. When James finally spoke his voice sounded too indifferent, like a calm sea you'd drown in. “Depends on your expectations.”
He fought not to turn around, both wanting to see and at the same time terrified of what he would find in those blue eyes. “Not so much expectations as... hope.”
Silence again. The soft sound of hesitant steps. Air brushing the back of his neck. Warmth so incinerating his own body felt even colder in comparison.
“And what are you hoping for?” Words whispered up his spine, stroking every nerve.
“Forgiveness.” He held his breath. Silence. “And...” He stopped.
“And what, David?” Like silk brushing his ear.
He swallowed. A second chance, that's what I want. “A kiss.”
This time the silence was thick as molasses. He instantly regretted his words. They sounded childish and flippant when their intention had been anything but.
“No. But that's all I dare hope for.”
He closed his eyes as James rested his head between his shoulder blades, the warmth from James's breath caressing him through the thin t-shirt. He shivered.
“What scares you, David? Why are you so scared now?”
“Right now, you petrify me.”
James stilled. “You're scared of me?”
“I'm scared of you hating me.”
“I don't hate you.” James shook his head, rubbing his nose into the knots of David's spine. “I could never hate you.”
David could feel the tension draining out of him, leaving him exhausted and weak. His legs ached to give away, to sink down to the floor. “Thank you.”
Warm fingers grasped his hand, finally turning him around. A palm stroked his cheek. He opened his eyes. James was looking up at him, eyes sad and beautiful. “David...”
“Don't say it.” Please.
“What am I supposed to do? Sit by the phone, waiting for your call? Again?” James shook his head. “I didn't ask you to leave her, I didn't ask you to step 'out' with me, the Big Gay Vampire Couple. I just wanted to be something more than a convenient fuck.”
David flinched at his words. “You weren't...”
“Yes, I was. Everything went by your rules, your schedule. You made me feel like I was just a hole for your dick. And when I said I couldn't go on like that you said, and I quote: 'I already have a girlfriend, Jimmy, I don't need another one.'” James clenched his jaw, then shook his head as if trying to free himself of the memory. “Your last words to me. I told you I needed to be something to you and you hung up the phone, never to answer it again. Never calling me. Well, now you have a wife and a kid. What am I supposed to be? You have no place for me in your life.”
His throat contracted, the lump blocking his breathing even more. “I can't give them up.”
“I've never asked you-”
“But I want you back. I need you back.”
“As what? I need more, David. Need to be something more than just an occasional fuck in your trailer.”
David blinked, his voice trembling. “You were never just that. God, you... I...” He was suffocating. Air! He needed...
James shook his head in defeat. "David..." Sighing he turned away.
In desperation David grabbed him, hugging him so close he could feel James's heartbeat slamming into his chest. “Please, Jim. I'm sorry, I'm so fucking sorry. I've missed you so damn much. Been so goddamn lonely." He blurted out the words, afraid that if he stopped talking everything would be lost. "Please, just don't... Don't push me away. Whatever you want... God, Jim! Just don't... don't..." His voice broke.
James's whole body was stiff, the tension radiating from him. Then suddenly he went slack, his arms hesitantly going around David's waist, hugging him close and David breathed out, burying his face in James' hair as he pulled him even tighter. Thank you. Thank you.
They stood still, lost in each other's embrace, eyes closed. Someone opened the door but they didn't move and within seconds it was closed quietly again. Time passed, minutes or hours. James kissed David's neck, leaving his lips pressed into the damp skin. David shivered, clutching him even tighter.
“I need you to say it. Please.”
James sighed, his breath stroking David's neck. “I forgive you, David. It's okay.”
“No buts.” James laughed softly. “I forgive you. We're all right.”
“And...” He swallowed. “And now?”
James pulled back and looked up at him. “Now?” He smiled.
The kiss was soft, brushing against his lips like velvet. A sob bubbled up from the pit of David's belly, echoing in James's mouth as he parted his lips and slipped his tongue into David's mouth. James's hands were stroking his hair and neck and David held him so tight he could feel his heartbeat echoing in James's chest. When James pulled away David twisted his shirt in his fists, refusing to let him go.
James sighed then kissed him again, a quick but tender kiss. “We have to go in. David? Come on.”
David only tightened his hold, staring at him in desperation. “But we're okay?”
Tilting his head, James smiled, then stroked David's cheek with a butterfly's touch. “Yeah, we're good.”
David slowly uncurled his fingers and stepped back. He breathed in, filling his lungs with air. It tasted sweet like summer.
“Good. That's...” He let out a short and shaky laugh. “That's good.”
“Can we go in now?” James quirked his eyebrow in the most Spike-like manner. “Before they replace me with some other presumably dead vampire.”
He laughed again. “Yeah. Alright. Yeah.”
When James turned to the door he caught him at the last minute, grasping his hand in his. “I never told you that I loved you. Before. But I do. More than I should.”
James stood still for a moment then looked up, eyes impossibly blue. “Yeah, you did. In every breath you took when you looked at me. That's why I could never blame you.” He opened the door and stepped through, his fingers slipping slowly out of David's grasp, hanging on for a second longer before letting go.
If anyone found it odd that David smiled through the whole meeting they didn't mention it.