When it happens it is surely the result of exhaustion but whose exhaustion Joe does not know. Is it Joe Mazzello, human being, who needs more than 4-6 hours of sleep a night, let alone every 48 hours, or is it Joe Mazzello, method actor, who sleeps only in two hours increments a night at best because that’s what they would have done or is it Sledge, finally spilling over from the script, is it Eugene Bondurant Sledge, finally taking over?
Joe does not know.
What he does know is that the knock on the door, when it comes, does not disturb him the way it ought. He has been sitting on the edge of his bed for nearly two hours, almost meditative in his exhaustion, mind turned calm and slow as he tries to will himself to get back up and take a shower. The knock pulls him back into his body and he stands mechanically, moves toward the door by staring at the ground and planning each step. He is not wearing pants but the person on the other side of the door will not care, may not even notice. Joe has no energy for pants. The thought should make him laugh. It doesn’t.
The knock is short and sharp and exactly like a Marine. Joe pulls open the door. Rami stands in front of him. Rami looks the way Joe feels, desperate, slow, sad, tired, and hovering on the edge of losing his mind to something, someone, else.
“Sled-uh,” says Rami. He closes his eyes briefly and shakes his head before opening them. “Joe.”
Joe blinks. Rami is wearing a tight white shirt, blue jeans, and converse without socks and when Joe realises that he’s cataloguing Rami’s outfit so he won’t lose him in the mess of men and dust on set, he opens the door wider. “Come in,” he says and if his voice slides towards the heart of the American South at the end, Rami doesn’t seem to notice.
Rami walks into the room. He looks around as if by rote and then sits down heavily, abruptly, on the bed, right in the place where Joe was sitting before. He looks up at Joe.
Joe says, “I’m going to take a shower,” because apparently all it takes is Rami showing up at his room at midnight for Joe to stand up and take a shower. Not the two hours spent staring at the wallpaper, trying to order his thoughts so he could order his limbs. No, all it takes is Rami.
He showers methodically. The warm water wakes him up some, but not much, and he realises lost the ability to determine how much is too much and how much is too little, so maybe the shower doesn’t wake him up at all. He wobbles slightly when he steps out of the shower, so whether or not he’s more awake ceases to matter. He forgot to bring clean clothes in with him so it’s back into his boxer shorts and the grey t-shirt he left the set in.
He scrubs his hair until it’s something close to dry and leaves the towel the floor. When he steps back into the room, Rami has his head in his hands.
Rami Malek, Joe thinks. He rolls the name around his tongue silently, first in Sledge’s accent, then in his own, then in some combination of the two. Rami Malek. Rami Malek.
Rami looks up, raises his head from his hands and says, “come here.” He sounds like himself, but Joe is starting to doubt that he knows what Rami sounds like at all. That he doesn’t sound like Snafu is what matters, Joe reminds himself. He doesn’t sound at all like Snafu.
“Please,” Rami says. “Please, come here.”
Joe walks toward him slowly, but Rami grabs his wrist when he’s within reach and pulls him close, pulls him so close that’s he’s standing between Rami’s legs. Rami holds both of Joe’s wrists now, thumbs rubbing circles around the bones jutting out of his wrists. He looks up at Joe. Maybe he sounded like himself before, but now he looks at Joe like Snafu looks at Sledge and Joe feels helpless because he’s not sure if he’s Sledge or if he’s Joe when he looks back at Rami.
They look at each other so long that Joe stops looking at Rami at all, sees only blue eyes, tan skin, curly hair, pale lips, sees only parts of Rami and nothing that makes a whole. So when Rami says “Joe” and the parts all come rushing back together, it surprises Joe and his legs give out. Rami catches him with an arm around his waist and instead of falling to the floor, Joe falls awkwardly between Rami’s legs, knees hitting the edge of the bed and pushing Rami onto his back. But Rami’s arm around Joe’s waist pulls him forward and Joe has to put a hand on the mattress next to Rami’s head to stop himself from falling on him.
“Sorry,” he says and Rami says, “no” and either his arm gives out too or Rami’s grabbed the front of his shirt and has pulled him down and either way it happened they are kissing and Joe whimpers in relief. Rami makes a noise that is either a laugh, a groan, or a man trying to breathe, and Joe pulls back. He can’t tell if Rami is Rami or Snafu and he can’t tell if he is himself or if this is Sledge who feels like his limbs are lighter for the first time in weeks. If Sledge and Snafu ever fucked, they went to their grave without telling anyone. If he and Rami fuck, they will probably do the same.
Rami, who has learned to read Joe’s mind the way Snafu can read Sledge’s, says, “if we try to fuck tonight, I will probably pass out.”
“If we try to fuck tonight, I’ll probably start crying,” says Joe, which is the first full sentence he’s uttered since he left the set. Rami laughs, Joe says, “bed,” and they crawl back to headboard together.
Rami’s back falls onto the pillows and Joe falls onto Rami and they kiss and Joe whimpers again because he has never known relief like this.
They kiss until Joe is half asleep and so relaxed that he is thinking of calling in sick so he can continue kissing Rami. It is then that Rami breaks the kiss and shoves Joe off of him and Joe can’t help if if he whines a little, because his body feels heavier now that it is not touching Rami’s. He doesn’t have the energy to be embarrassed when Rami raises an eyebrow; Joe just makes a face at him. Rami gives him a look, a look that must be Rami’s because it’s kind in a way that they’ve discussed and decided that Snafu can’t manage, and shimmies out of his jeans. Joe thinks this is interesting, thinks this is something he’d like to see again, but he still doesn’t have the energy to fuck. He opens his mouth to say so, but Rami starts pulling at the covers until Joe gets the message. They crawl under the duvet and settle together, bodies curved towards each other, knees almost touching. Rami takes Joe’s wrists again and maybe that’s a thing with Rami, maybe that’s what he does with lovers and partners. Joe thinks he’d like to find out. It doesn’t seem like something Snafu would do but hell, Snafu doesn’t get a sex scene, so maybe it is. But when Rami rubs circles around the bone, Joe feels himself fall so loose and relaxed because this, this relief, is all from Rami and belongs only to Joe.
“Thanks,” he starts to say, but Rami says “shh,” and kisses one of his wrists. If they sound a little southern, Joe is asleep before he has a chance to panic about it and anyway, in the morning, Rami says, “want to get breakfast?” like a man who has grown up in California and when Joe answers, “Yes, I’m starving,” he sounds like himself.