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Alexander invites Richard back to the flat after the recording, because sometimes he is quite exhausted at the end of a day's recording but sometimes he isn't, and today is one of those days. Tonight, one of those nights. He asks Richard as they leave Television Centre, wording it carefully but phrasing it casually, because it is late, and Richard has his own life to lead. Perhaps he's tired. It's Friday night and the gates of the weekend are thrown open wide to them, but perhaps not to Richard; sometimes they record on a Sunday. Maybe Richard is working on Saturday. Alexander knows that he doesn't know, and can't know until he asks, but for a moment there is that piercing, keen feeling that just wants Richard to say 'yes'. And he agrees, without a second thought. Alexander smiles for the duration of the taxi journey, but won't tell Richard why.

The flat itself is Alexander's London hideaway, there to return to when the journey back home is inadvisable, through traffic or time or blocks of recording that need him in the city for days at a time. As a place to live, it still lies quite sparse, but for somewhere to go it is, nonetheless, perfect.

He sits by the window, leaning his elbow on the windowsill, looking out towards the city. It doesn't matter if he is tired or not, the city never sleeps; from the morning through to the evening and beyond, there will still be the steady stream of cars, the movement of those who have to move... and Richard is standing in the doorway, holding one of the bottles of wine he hadn't been sure if he'd still had waiting in the kitchen.

"I see I've not run out just yet, then?"

"Not yet, no. You'd surprise me by being unprepared, though. I mean, you don't even have a television in here yet, but the day I go to your kitchen and don't find wine? That's when I'm going to worry."

Alexander smiles, running his fingers against the open window's seal. "Well, sometimes I don't come back here for a while." He turns to face Richard. "Are you doing anything tomorrow?"

"Me?" Richard throws himself down against the sofa. "Nope. Not a thing. You think I'm going to risk coming back here and getting drunk with you when I've got things I need to be doing...?!"

"It wouldn't be the first time."

"You're right, but being a capable adult with the ability to learn from my experiences--" (Alexander fixes Richard with a gaze. He falters.) "--... Yes, well. As it happens, I'm not doing anything tomorrow. Why do you ask?"

"No, I was just wondering. I thought it might be nice to spend some time together, that's all."

"Because it's not enough that we've spent most of the week in that studio together?"

Alexander keeps his smile pleasant. "Maybe I like to see you outside of the studio sometimes too, though. Unless you want to be kept behind a desk and eight feet apart from me at all times, of course." He can't prevent the smirk in his voice. "Like some kind of challenge."

If there were to be any such challenge, then Richard breaks the rules almost immediately; having poured the wine to two glasses, he closes the distance between them and hands the glass over. Alexander accepts, reaching for it in just that certain way so that their fingers brush together, just for a moment. Just for a moment too long.

The week has been time spent together, but under glass. Watched, always. The floor crew, the gallery staff, the audience, the cameras. Time spent together but kept necessarily apart, marked by the desk and by the podium and the fact that nobody needed physical proximity to be able to host a quiz show. And Alexander turns to Richard after every question, but can do no more than listen. Listen, smile, nod, "thanks very much, Richard."

Richard hands him wine, and they have the whole weekend. He looks to Richard, believing his thoughts shared. Why else, after all, would Richard have returned here with him if they weren't on the same page? No commitments until Monday and there, in the flat, they were locked away from any and everyone. Alexander watches the city as he drains his glass, then stands and closes the window. The change is abrupt and noticeable; the sounds of the city lie muffled and somewhere beyond, and the room is dark, and Richard sits still on the sofa. Alexander lets out a deep breath as he approaches, as he places his hands on the back ridge of the sofa, his knees to the cushions either side of Richard's own.

"We didn't even turn the light on." He lifts his gaze from Richard's chest to Richard's eyes, just for a moment. "We must be in a hurry."

Richard brushes his forefinger beneath Alexander's chin, his thumb across his cheek.

Borrowed city light is enough for this.

 

--

 

Richard accompanies Alexander for as long as he can, as they make their way out of the building. He lets Alexander talk as they go, attempting to gauge Alexander's reactions. These recordings ran late and he was often tired, but they walked from the building to the carpark and he was still talking, as animated and enthusiastic as ever he was. This can only go so far, however; if Alexander wants to go home, then he has arrangements to make. If they are to go their separate ways, they are to go in very separate directions. Richard lingers until the last possible moment, until Alexander realises it the last possible moment, at which point he turns to Richard with that certain look in his eyes and that one innocent request: "Did you--... want to come back with me?"

They're still on BBC grounds and this could be dangerous, but even Richard is sure that nobody would think a thing of two people sharing a taxi. Perhaps they have a shared destination or a common split-point, perhaps any number of things.

Perhaps Richard has been waiting for this all week. Perhaps it has been longer. Alexander was tired last week, wasn't he? He knows that these visits can only be the exception to the rule and so he would never push them or even suggest them, but he would give Alexander every opportunity to offer them.

He remains quiet, as the taxi takes them to Alexander's flat. Alexander himself has drifted into silence, his thoughts causing him to smile; Richard wants to ask, but not now. Not here. Not yet. They sit apart on the back seat of the vehicle, hands resting close between them but not yet. Not here.

When they reach the flat, Alexander goes straight through to the front room. He goes to the window before he even goes to the lightswitch, pushing the window open. Even from the inside corridor, Richard can hear the difference. He goes to the kitchen instead, turning the light on there and finding what he's looking for almost immediately. He wonders if Alexander does this on purpose, leaving bottles of wine sitting out on the side like that. They don't need to drink, but it's the weekend and they've finished off a week of recording and these two days can feel so precious, sometimes. Monday will bring production meetings and lunch meetings and more recordings and Richard does love his job, but also loves these moments that are not quite like anything else.

They ask so many questions. Dry, but necessary. Demographics. Viewing figures. If this round works, if this style of question works, if this manner of communicating with the contestants works--. They talk about Alexander as the necessity that he is, that vital conduit between contestant and camera. They talk of people who enjoy the quiz elements, of the unexpected side-effect of those constant comments, we do enjoy the on-screen relationship between Alexander and Richard--. Alexander sometimes wishes that he could be the full-time host of Have I Got News For You, but Richard thinks that, after all this time, they are unlikely to settle now. And in those meetings, they ask about that sort of thing. Does he have any other commitments? Is he likely to take on anything else? We need him available--

Richard stands in the doorway, watching Alexander watch the city. He doesn't have to think about any meetings until Monday, doesn't have to consider Alexander a necessity but like an object, that thing we need in order for the programme to run-- for the entirety of the weekend.

Alexander talks, but Richard barely listens. It's like a routine, whenever they come back here. Smalltalk. Sitting in the front room. Why are we even in here? He leaves the light off. Pours the wine. Lets Alexander talk. Alexander likes his wine and does have a habit of buying the good stuff, but Richard hands the filled glass over and feels the purposeful brush of Alexander's fingers he knows is only there to drive him to distraction, and Alexander smiles and talks of distance and challenge like it's all just a game - and perhaps it is, in a way. Richard returns to the sofa, needing Alexander's touch but more than that, needing the wine to facilitate such things in the first place.

Prize Island airs soon. Richard has his own memories of those heady, tropical days, but it's down to the edit suite, now. Negotiations and requirements and broadcast times, deals for advert slots with other companies and those beaches, though. Those sunsets. When we sat on the sand and talked about nothing until the sky threatened to light once more--

Richard finds himself often asked things on Alexander's behalf. Would he be interested in this? Do you think he'd be willing to do that? Richard likes to think that Alexander can talk for himself, make his own decisions, but he's not here and you are, Richard. What would he say, though? What would he do? Tell us, tell us.

When silence falls in the flat, Alexander doesn't need to say anything. Richard could ask him these things, these many, many things, but those are worries for outside and beyond. And it feels so wonderfully final when Alexander closes the window; Richard tips his head back against the sofa as he watches Alexander approach, orange light from outside highlighting his right side until he comes close enough to the sofa for everything to fall into shadow. The space between Alexander's hands and Richard's shoulders feels almost unbearable. Alexander's thighs pressed over his own feels absolutely unbearable. And Alexander speaks again, but Richard hears only the murmured sound of his voice, too intoxicated to separate this into words, concepts, anything.

Everything has to be on Alexander's suggestion, though. Here, now, it's you. He touches fingers to Alexander's skin, as if barely even daring.

It's all you, Xander.

 

 

 

 

end