He was funny, that was the most important thing. The fact that he was also painfully young, painfully skinny and with hair gelled up into fantastically grotesque shapes was something else again. Trying for a Russell Brand kind of look, maybe? David wasn't sure what it was about Jack Whitehall, but there was something, he was certain.
They got chatting before the show, and David noticed his fingers danced as he talked, and he made David laugh. Just a casual thing, styrofoam cups of tea in hand, reminiscences of Edinburgh, sleeping five to a room, and someone in the bath. A lot of years ago for David, this coming summer for Jack. It made him ridiculously nostalgic.
Jack was in a pair of jeans so slim-fit David decided he could almost see his bones jutting under the denim. He couldn't imagine wearing anything like them, but they suited Jack. He allowed himself to acknowledge that they looked good, in a detached sort of way.
They went in to do the show - Would I Lie to You, series three, with Lee as usual, and Rob Brydon, just for a change. It went well, David knew that, it was funny as hell, hopefully, with taping running late as usual, but at least they didn't need many re-takes. He was conscious of Jack beside him the whole time, as he rarely was of other people in quite that way. Unless he was embarrassed. But Jack… Jack kept leaning forward, almost into David's space, but it didn't make David uncomfortable at all. He could smell him, even, sometimes, musky with a hint of incense perhaps. David couldn't decide if he was making that up or not, projecting a student kind of scent onto this stranger, this boy, when it wasn't really there.
Jack being slammed down onto the podium in front of him in a wrestling move had him staring. There were gangling limbs everywhere, ankles in the air, David wanted to wince, couldn't decide if that would be funny or not. He couldn't even tell if he was on form himself, or rubbish, because he was so distracted. Lee too seemed quieter than usual. David thought he might be coming down with a touch of something. Obviously, that must be it. Something going round.
They had a break before re-takes, and the director came out to confer with Brydon as David wandered off backstage, just to stretch his legs. Then suddenly Lee was there, bumping his shoulder, and David gave him a look, as he took in Lee's smirk.
"He's a bit posh, isn't he?" said Lee, "Like you. Not a lot of arse on him though."
David blinked, even as he opened his mouth to reply. As non sequitors go, that could be a prize-winner. He wanted to say, Jack's actually posher than I am – I only went to Cambridge. But he didn't.
"Do I really want to know what you mean, or is my sanity better saved if I just nod and smile?" asked David, belatedly.
Lee snorted. "There's nothing but a handful there. You'll cut yourself."
David spluttered out something suitably sarcastic, but he was on dodgy ground, and they both knew it. Lee clapped him on the shoulder, and his eyes went twinkling away like some ridiculous uncle in a seventies Disney film. David felt the sting of Lee's approval all the way through re-takes, it was sharp, like his own guilt. But when they'd finished, and they were on their way back to the dressing rooms, it didn't stop him from trying to chat to Jack, even as he hated himself. David told him all about the upcoming series of Peep Show, casually, deprecatingly, mentioning his award, how surprised he'd been. His ears were going pink, he was sure, at the barefaced gall of it, and his stomach felt congealed, like curdled milk. He was hilariously bad at this, of course, but when he invited Jack in for a drink – the good whisky that he kept in his dressing room – Jack didn't say no. It was as much as David ever expected.
He felt safer once the bottle was down by a fifth. There was a warm glow in his heart, and in his cheeks. Jack was bright-eyed and his limbs were sprawled all over the furniture, he seemed to be made up completely of skinny, flailing limbs. His socked foot - trainers thrown in a corner by the door - brushed David's ankle. David allowed himself to lean a little, across the ratty sofa, a forgivable amount if things weren't going the way he clumsily hoped they would. Jack leaned towards him too, and then slipped, laughing, into David's lap. Jack licked his lips. David's mouth was dry.
There was a certain amount of hero worship going on, David thought, or at the very least some respect for having made it, for having slogged away at it, and not given in or fallen by the wayside. There was also a certain amount of calculation, he supposed. Maybe David could help Jack's career. It was possible. He'd be more well-disposed towards him in the future certainly. All these things were a reasonable man's assumptions, given the dubious attraction of the package Jack was getting in return.
David groaned into his mouth. Jack tasted of whiskey and warmth and youth. He wrapped himself around him like a spider, his hands quick and hot, and David pushed up, desperate for friction, for something more, before it was too late, before he ruined things. Jack whispered filthy words in his ear as David gasped.
It would be over too soon. A fumbled encounter in a dressing room that David would despise the next day. But really - how could he have resisted? When they had chatted, before the show, David had heard cut glass vowels, a deadpan wit, and discovered a mind as sharp as a needle. He'd learned Jack had gone to school in Oxford, and they'd swapped embarrassing stories of growing up amongst the dreaming spires. He'd listened to Jack's ambitions, and he'd made him laugh.
It was a narcissistic thing, perhaps. Or nostalgia. Or bloody-minded self-torture. He'd choose one the next day, when he analysed every word, every gesture, picked it all apart in a glorious orgy of self-loathing. But he defied anyone to fault his lack of willpower. This boy, this young man, so skinny, so clever – so like David, Lee had as good as announced, this posh young man… was nothing like himself. Not really. Jack made it all look effortless, although it was probably an act. Jack was cool, gave every impression he'd always been cool. And that, at least, was one cross that David had never had to bear.
But there were superficial similarities. He remembered Cambridge, the excitement, the talent, the challenge of putting the world to rights. He remembered being picked up, more smoothly than he'd ever managed with Jack or anyone else, by a super-cool older boy, as sharp as a knife, slim as a whip, his blue eyes laughing, his hands dancing. David remembered feeling so lucky, so privileged. He'd never really stopped.
Robert had never slept with him again, but he hadn't dropped him either. David counted it a win.
They faced everything together, and they made people laugh. Rob had married, had a child. David talked to reporters about how he wanted to find a nice girl and settle down. It was true, up to a point.
He palmed Jack's hipbone, sharp through his jeans, the material splaying open at the flies. Jack's cock, red and damp with anticipation, stood proud from its thatch of dark hair, rubbing lightly against David's still buttoned shirt. He slid his hands around, spanning the narrow hips, pushing red marks into the exposed flesh of Jack's belly. He moved to scrape his thumb along the exposed large vein, watching Jack twitch, hearing him moan.
David did want to settle down, he'd said so more than once. He was uncomfortable with the rut his personal life seemed to be stuck in. But he could be disingenuous, and if necessary; he could be judicious. He'd always looked for partners on the comedy circuit, that was right. But honestly?
Thanks to Rob, it couldn't really be said that David had ever lost his taste for one night stands.