Jeremy wasn't built for coldness. Delight, amusement, tolerance, only-sort-of-ranting, blistering hot actual rage – all of these were familiar. But not this terrible icy expression, an emptiness which told James that he'd fucked up. Badly.
Jeremy kept walking. James put a hand on his shoulder, surprised when Jeremy jerked to a halt rather than throwing him off.
"Is it true?" Jeremy said.
"Is what true?" James was baffled.
"Are you leaving?"
"Am I— what? No!"
Jeremy turned at that, thawed a little. "I heard you were working up something about trains."
"Well, yes, but it's a side project. I'm not committing treason by writing a pitch for a show about model trains and Lego, for fuck's sake."
"Is that what it's about?" Jeremy said. "Only I'd heard—"
"It's going to have Meccano and, I don't know, plasticine maybe. I haven't got that far. Who's been telling you such rubbish?"
Jeremy muttered something inaudible, and James thought about chasing it but gave Jeremy's shoulder a careful squeeze instead. "I'm not going," he said firmly. "You'll have to haul me away on a stretcher, all right?"
It was beginning to dawn on him just how much Jeremy cared about them working together. The thought gave James a little flush of happiness.
"All right," Jeremy said. He was drooping, as if the ice had melted and he was only a wrung-out old cloth now. James wondered what else was going on with him. There must be something.
"Come back to mine after this," he said. "We can have a drink and watch something idiotic. It'll be brilliant."
Jeremy met his eyes; James did his best to hold the gaze.
"Yeah, all right," Jeremy said, and then, "Should've known I couldn't shake you loose that easily. I'm going to have to live with the sight of your terrible hair for literally ever." His mouth quirked into something like a smile. It was enough.
The moment stayed with James for years, through accidents and shouting and the Arctic and meetings of such intense administrative stupidity that he really had entertained the idea of walking out. But it kept him there until he came to his senses again, and he hung onto the memory even harder after that.
Later, when it all went to hell, when they were all three leaving for Amazon together, Jeremy was the one to bring it up. "I thought we'd have to haul you away from Top Gear on a stretcher," he said.
"I didn't mean the show," said James, "and you'd better bloody know that now. I'd rather hoped you knew it already."
"I did," Jeremy said. It was a confession. "I did, but I couldn't— and now, maybe—"
"Yeah?" said James, suddenly breathless.
Jeremy put a hand on his shoulder, gave it a careful squeeze just like the one James had given him years ago. "Yeah," he said, and the look on his face made James forget that he'd ever seemed icy at all.