James knew he was a romantic old fool, but there was something irrepressibly beautiful about Richard's smile when he was in the middle of mischief. As if he were Shakespeare's Puck, delighting in the chaos purely for the sake of itself rather than for the viewers, rather than for the creative repayment that would result. James almost didn't mind it even when he was the target, when he woke to discover that his stereo had been permanently jammed into playing ABBA on repeat, or that his bonnet had been decorated with a thousand intensely naff cat stickers.
Better, though, when he was invited into the moment, when Richard flashed him that smile and beckoned slyly with a wave of his hand, and they snuck out to the car park together with a can of spray paint or a bag of potatoes. James wanted to kiss that hand, that smile – had done for years – but the presence of the crew was more inhibiting even than Richard's own obliviousness. If they'd ever been alone in one of those moments, he thought he might have tried it. But once they were back inside, that smile always faded, and Richard's fey mood dissipated, and James' doubts came flooding back in. He'd end up as Bottom, like as not, his head showing him as the ass he truly was.
He wondered if he could be brave enough, someday. If he could bring himself not to worry about creating his own chaos. Maybe someday. Maybe. Maybe.