It's late, and it's colder than it should be for a late evening in March. Rob is freezing, as he waits in the car, because he's not left the engine on, and the chill in the air has begun to transmit itself through the metal and into his legs, into his hands as they lie on the steering wheel. Rob's not even sure why he's waiting in the car – he doesn't have to, he can pop in, find the AD, ask for a cuppa. It's Pinewood, not Hollywood, and while he's never filmed there, it's not the first time he's driven out to pick up David after 'Would I Lie to You'. He knows he can just walk in, watch the filming, laugh his arse off.
But. That's not really the problem, is it? Actually, Rob's not entirely sure he wants to articulate exactly what the problem is, but it definitely has something to do with the fact that he's not always the one David calls to pick him up anymore. That Rob doesn't know who David does call. That when they do see each other, they bounce off one another perfectly well, they still write brilliantly together, they still make each other laugh, but…
There are too many buts. Which gives Rob a crazy idea for a bad pun, and a worse sketch, which he automatically dismisses. That's habit, they've just finished scripting the third series of 'That Mitchell and Webb Look', strange ideas float into his mind all the time, habit and being crazy tired, and thinking at right angles to the world. No, what makes him lift his cold hands from the wheel and tuck them into his armpits, is the worrying thought that, in his mind, it wasn't David reacting to the bad pun and dismissing it. No, it was Abigail. And that scares Rob a bit. It shouldn't be that way. Surely? He only got married – it's not like he threw David out into the cold, never to be seen again. It's not like he moved to Timbuktu, or burned him in effigy – it's not even like they were living together before, or anything. David is still his comedy partner. What the fuck has changed?
And it's a wrench, which it shouldn't be, but undeniably is, for Rob to throw open the car door, and let in a blast of even colder air. It should be like a dash of water to the face, waking him out of his fugue, a slap in the face for being such a wanker – which he's definitely being, he's New Man enough to recognise that, but somehow, it's also the hardest thing he's done for a long time. He could wait here, wait for David, text him to let him know where he's parked – he could do all of that. Or he can go in, try and sort this out. See if David has some clever ideas – see if they can… Fix this.
Rob gets out, shivering in his light jacket, and ambles along to the studio, easy to spot, the only one with lights, not to mention the security guard pointed it out, and then he looks for an entrance that doesn't have a red shooting light above it. Easy, really. He pops his head round the door, charms the expression off the AD who was beginning to frown, until she sees who he is, and that's nice, still a good frisson, because he doesn't get recognised in the street nearly as much as he thought he might do, once upon a time – not that he wants that, not really. Rob isn't a dickhead, whatever Abigail says, and he doesn't need that attention, he doesn't. He doesn't need… Oh, who is he kidding.
He gets his cuppa, slightly sterile from a machine, in a paper cup and cardboard sleeve. Rob stares at it and wonders if there's something they can do with Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and a Starbucks, or whether the Comic Relief sketches covered the sterility of instant coffee, with or without Ginger's added pee.
Rob watches some of the filming, just out of sight from the audience, behind the curtain at the edge of the studio. It's carefully done, because he doesn't want to be recognised. Which is funny really, it's not like the audience will even care if he's here – this is David's show. Well, David's and Lee's and Angus' – although Rob Brydon is chairing this series. Did David mention that? Rob can't remember.
Rob watches and he smiles, he wants to laugh. Lee is funny, there's no denying it. He talks more than David does, he keeps everything bubbling along, and the audience eats it up. It's funny, Rob would have thought David would be the chatterer, but his wit comes through in odd caustic shafts, that make Rob grin, even as they stab home. It's so familiar – there's a funny ache in his chest, under his breastbone, like he really has been stabbed there with something insanely sharp. How long has it been since the two of them have been like that? He doesn't want to think about it.
In fact, as Rob watches, he realises that Lee is… performing. Not that he shouldn't be on a show like this, what else is he going to do, after all, but he's not turning to the audience – in fact, as Rob watches, he realises that David isn't either. He hasn't spotted Rob, behind the curtain, because David's not looking round. It's like they're in their own world, almost, eyes for each other, as they make each other laugh. David's grinning to split his face, and Rob finds he's clenched his hands. It's not fair. Lee calls him 'Dave', like he knows him, like he's his best mate, like Rob never does, because David doesn't like it. David doesn't seem to mind. Rob wants to punch Lee in his smugly grinning mouth.
That's a shock. Rob's not a violent person. He's never been in a fight, except that once at school. He never fights with David, verbally or otherwise, they're almost pathologically careful around each other. When they're writing their stuff, round at David's flat, they go out of their way to say please and thank you, to manufacture social niceties. When Rob reaches for the biscuits, across the table, and he brushes David's knee, his hand, his elbow, Rob always says sorry. Carefully. He's assumed that David needs that – that precise care for the proprieties, the little rituals that order their world. David claims – sometimes – that he has OCD. Rob's not sure it's that specific, that clinically able to be determined. David's not that bloody bad, after all. He functions – he more than functions.
But here is fucking Lee Mack, mugging for the camera, except he's not, he's mugging for David, only David, and David's eating it up. It hurts. It… It's one reason why Rob should have stayed in the car.
The taping's nearly over, they're doing pick-up shots, and Rob wanders off for a bit. He's not New Man enough for this, for emotional revelations, stupid ones, that he should have picked up on before – that he had picked up on, but was in denial, was quite happily ignoring, thank you very much. And how dare his subconscious force the issue? Fucking hell.
He thinks back to the new series, all the time they'd spent writing it, daytime afternoons watching crappy tv, until Rob is called home by Abigail, texting him at five o'clock, or six. David sending him on his way from the doorway of the flat, leaning on the jamb, staring after him as he walks down the concrete stairs down into the darkness. Was there something different there? Was there something that Rob should have picked up on? It's not like the two of them are in each other's pockets – they've always had separate projects, done different things.
The sound of the audience leaving is a thunder above his head, and Rob realises that he's wandered off behind the makeshift plastic seating. Filming must be over, so he really should let David know that he's here. He hasn't even sent his usual text, and Rob doesn't particularly want David getting anxious, which isn't unusual, if things aren't going to plan. Rob will just have to have his manly existential crisis some other fucking time, which is par for the course, really, and will be in some kind of sketch this time next year, he just knows it.
Rob also knows where the dressing rooms are, so he heads for them, sad little corrugated iron things that they are. Pinewood can be anything, can be amazing, but only on camera. The buildings themselves are breeze block and wood, corrugated iron and concrete, cavernous and soulless. They have corners, and odd dead ends, and the lighting is bad. Rob stops before he gets to David's dressing room, because it's only polite, because he doesn't want to interrupt, and because he's been fucking poleaxed. His heart is hammering in his chest, his hands are sweating, his legs are rubbery. He's lucky, the bad light is his salvation, he can do all his freaking out in peaceful comfort. Good old Pinewood.
The door of David's dressing room is open, and David is leaning on the door jamb, harsh, white light giving him planes and angles where Rob never thought there were any. It's shining on his hair, giving it a glossy sheen, like an otter. His shirt is untucked, his jacket discarded. He looks almost alien, like a stranger, because David's not closed in on himself, there's none of the nervous tension that Rob expects, knows, that is as familiar to him as the taste of cereal in the morning, or the musty warm perfume of David's bedroom when they finally go in to write. The comforting smell of the sheets, that lingering scent of David himself when Rob goes to lie on them later, his feet on David's pillow, head hanging off the end of the bed. That scent is in the air now, Rob thinks, he can be almost sure that if he takes in a lungful, he'll know it, better than he knows his own name, be able to wrap himself in it, like pure comfort.
Except, it won't be the same. Rob knows that now. He should have guessed, he did guess, really. But it's different, having the reality in front of him. David looks good, pushed up against the door jamb by Lee. He doesn't look pinched, or hunched in on himself any more, and Rob should be happy for him, shouldn't he? That his best mate, best man at his wedding, is curled up to someone he obviously… has affection for. This isn't the first time, Rob knows that instinctively. Lee's hands are pushing into David's hair, dishevelling it, and Rob winces, and then swallows. David doesn't mind. He doesn't mind. David's hand are at Lee's waist, circumspectly, almost demurely, and Rob approves, until he see them creep lower, cupping Lee's arse, as the kiss deepens. Lee seems pushy, too pushy perhaps, and Rob might be indignant, on David's behalf, at the liberties being taken, if it wasn't for the sounds that David is making, small breathy noises, not quite moans, as Lee groans back into David's open mouth.
Rob should be happy for him, shouldn't he? David is notoriously rubbish at any kind of a personal life. It's not like Rob doesn't know that. It's not like he hasn't occasionally tried to set him up with friends of Abigail's, pushy girls on the comedy circuit, quirky girls, their sense of humour skewed towards David's own. It's not like he hasn't tried to do his best for him. But not lately, his treacherous subconscious mind offers, not since you got married.
Not everything changes when rings are shoved onto fingers. It shouldn't have made a blind bit of difference, but it did. Somehow.
Rob wonders if he should slip away. He wonders if he should wander off, find the loo, just throw up all the bile that's collecting in his throat. Something's choking him, anyway. He shouldn't be watching. He certainly shouldn't be feeling hot and cold chills down his back, and a gnawing in his stomach, and a stirring in his trousers. He shouldn't be spying on his best friend.
Rob forces himself to move, to back away, silently. He plans to come back in a moment or two, noisily, scuffing his way along the concrete, banging into the corrugated metal walls. He also plans on a certain amount of soul-searching. He hopes that he won't immediately be a paranoid wreck, won't second guess everything David has ever said or done. Like David's indignant refusal to even entertain the possibility of dancing with him for Comic Relief, beyond the obvious and irrefutable fact that David doesn't dance. David didn't previously kiss co-stars in doorways either. Rob can't start thinking like that, or he'll never stop. He won't know where to stop.
The niggling voices have begun already, because Rob is calculating all the things he knows about Lee Mack. He's a funny guy, he likes his beer. He's good on the circuit, ok to share a dressing room with, generous in a tight spot; a top bloke. Rob hates him. He's a family man. Rob thinks that's right. He has a wife and two kids. Rob hates him a little bit more.
He knows when they write now, when Rob turns up at David's flat, when they sit on David's sofa watching telly, knees knocking together gently, because David's flat is small and cluttered, and his sofa even more so. Rob knows that now he'll be thinking of this moment. He'll know that someone else's arse has more than likely been planted there, that there's a phantom imprint of David kissing some other bugger on that sofa. Rob will lie on David's bed, looking at him upside down as David sits in his black leather office chair typing away at the keyboard, and he'll know there's a difference, he'll know that he's not the only one who's ever lain on David's bed.
It's ridiculous, Rob knows. David's perfectly at liberty to shag who he wants to, he can pick a co-star, a bloke that makes him laugh. A married bloke who makes him laugh. It'll end in tears, in one way or another, Rob is almost certain, but he doesn't judge. He doesn't. He doesn't want David hurt.
Things change when you get married. There is more security, more safety, more contentment, and less passion. More love, less lust. Things change in other partnerships as well, apparently. Stuff happens, people grow. As the saying goes, change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
But Rob still has an ache in his chest. Because if David wanted someone to be his dirty little secret, if he wanted to have someone stretch out all that white skin of his, someone to hold him and fuck him into the mattress, smelling salt, and clean sheets, and David. If he wanted to mess around with a married man…
Rob is hurt, there's no denying it. If David had wanted any of these things… If he'd ever wanted any of these things… Well.
He should have looked closer to home.