James has one mission in life at the moment, and that’s to get through this damn play and be the best Louis Ironson he can be without losing his mind over the fact that he gets to spend half of his waking life making out with Andrew Garfield.
Only, as with all things about this goddamn monster of a play, that’s far, far harder than it looks. This is partly because Andrew is amazing and adorable and incredibly, surprisingly passionate and articulate about, well, everything. He’s passionately articulate about this play, and Prior, and the absolute vital importance of Angels in America in 2017.
And he’s passionately articulate about James — or at least about James’s acting. James knows this because of the number of times Andrew has gone into effusive rants, with or without James actually being present, about what an amazing actor he thinks James is. So, James usually goes onstage with confidence that his partner in all things believes in him, and it carries him through most nights with a buoyancy that works as a very nice countermeasure to the constant sense of emotional and physical exhaustion Louis leaves him with.
He’s tried not to obsess over the question of whether Andrew feels about him the way he feels about Andrew, and there are a hundred different reasons for that. Andrew looks at James like James is perpetually brilliant, but the problem is that Andrew also looks at everyone that way. He’s constantly trying to drink in the energy and light of everyone around him, like some kind of giddy human sunflower. It’s incredible that he doesn’t manage to set off all of James’s cynical settings, but honestly James just finds him… lovely.
James knows himself pretty well; he knows he’s on a razor’s edge when it comes to supplanting Louis’ feelings for Prior with his own feelings for Andrew. It’s impossible not to adore Andrew, just… impossible. But James would also prefer not to develop a deep, hopeless, one-sided crush on his straight (sigh) co-star, and James also knows that actors can often be hopelessly needy without returning the favor. Andrew at heart just wants everyone to love him; it’s his Achilles heel, and James has told him so often, but James also suspects the message is undermined by the fact that James likes Andrew so much.
But they’ve got a long, grueling performance road still to travel, and James has been burned plenty of times by assuming incorrectly that whatever bond he had with another actor would survive once the play was all over. So: he’s absolutely not endangering his heart by wasting time wondering whether Andrew’s beats only for him.
Or so he thinks; and then the kiss happens.
It’s Easter weekend and the crowds are out, so Andrew’s swamped signing autographs at the stage door. James has already finished — the crowds mostly flock for Andrew, and he doesn’t like to get in the way, so he tries to go outside early, sign a few autographs, and then clear out before Andrew and Russell make the rounds. Tonight, however, some of the cast is headed to Denise’s for drinks after the show.
“James, make sure you fetch Andrew and take him with you,” she orders.
“Why me?” James asks. “It’s bloody cold out, you’re a torturer.”
Denise rolls her eyes at him. “Because you’re each other’s appropriate adult,” she says. “Now go on, he’ll stay outside forever catching cold if you don’t.”
Andrew’s always immersed when James finds him outside the stage door, and tonight is no different. “Hi, love,” he says to Andrew, and he doesn’t intend for his touch to turn into a caress — god knows they’re too intimate as it is — but he slides his hand gently over Andrew’s back before he’s thought about it.
Andrew glances up.
“Some of us are heading out to—” He halts. Andrew’s looking at him expectantly, lips parted, and James’s brain actually grinds to a complete halt for a moment as the realization hits; he wants me to kiss him.
It all feels like slow motion, but can’t be more than a few milliseconds: James is tractor-beamed forward, tugged into the kiss by Andrew’s eyes and his gorgeous fucking mouth, and it’s barely a peck, but it’s Andrew and it’s them and it’s public and — Andrew just kissed him.
The thought bursts over him, right in chorus with the shrieks that erupt from the fans all around them:
Andrew likes him.
His grin is unstoppable, he can feel it splitting his face, and Andrew looks so smug and coy and James must look ridiculous but he can’t stop smiling. Andrew likes him, not just his acting, Andrew likes this, Andrew likes this thing and it’s their thing, they’re friends, and —
And James is such a fucking lost cause, honestly, who did he think he was kidding?
“You saucy minx,” he says, laughing and swatting Andrew’s arm.
“I knew you couldn’t resist me, I knew it all along,” Andrew says, clearly delighted.
James tells him he’ll wait for him in the car, and then he beats a hasty retreat so he can piece himself back together.
It’s not like they don’t kiss, they kiss all the time; performative physical intimacy on and offstage is the language of theatre, and James recognizes it for what it is — just that, a performance. But a gratuitous kiss in public, where anyone can see them…
No, ridiculous. it’s Andrew, he’s like this with everyone, James watched that Golden Globes Spideypool kiss on loop just like everyone else did, he’s only human. And actually the fact he even knows what Spideypool is should tell him just how much trouble he’s gotten himself in.
Get yourself together, lad, he orders himself. You’re here to put on a very important and prestigious play full of social commentary and trenchant political invective, you’re not here to obsess over your co-star or keep tabs on every other time Andrew Garfield has been flirty and metrosexual with someone who isn’t you.
He’s fully convinced himself of this when Andrew slides into the car next to him. “Hey, you,” he says, taking James’s hand without another thought, and James tries not to look anything like infatuated. “Thanks for waiting.”
James laughs as the car pulls out into the street. “Please, people wait on you hand and foot, the least I can do is hang out in a car for a minute or two.”
Andrew blushes. “Well, you don’t wait around for too many people,” he says. “I’m glad I get to be one of them.”
And there it is, again, the smile splitting James’s face without his conscious control.
“Look at you,” Andrew says. “God, you look so…”
James turns to him, startled by the note in Andrew’s voice. “What?”
Andrew… Andrew shivers. His gaze drops to James’s mouth.
And then his expression shifts into something hungrier; his eyes meet James’s own, and they’re dark with intent.
“If I’d known that all I needed to do to make you smile like that was to kiss you,” he says, voice going low, “I’d’ve had my mouth on you every night.”
All the breath leaves James’s body and all the air leaves the car at once.
They’re just crossing over Waterloo Bridge, and it suddenly feels to James as though he’s poised between a before and an after, between two radically different states of being and awareness.
He drags oxygen into his constricting lungs and tries to sound calm. “It’s not that I’m trying to hamper your self-expression or anything, Andrew, but is it not still the case that you’re straight?” He forces himself to meet Andrew’s eyes, which are still fastened to his, glittering and intense and unfairly earnest. “Because that’s one hell of a drug you’re offering, and I’d like to know how bad the withdrawal effects will be.”
And Andrew, because Andrew never makes anything easy for James, holds his gaze and leans in and murmurs, “Why don’t you kiss me again and find out?”
James’s mouth drops open, because he intends to put up a protest or say no, that this is a terrible, horrible, no-good dangerous idea and that Andrew’s inner Prior Walter is probably shrieking at him that he knows better, and why would Andrew toy with James’s sadly hilarious emotions when the play has already left them both feeling so vulnerable —
— but what actually happens is that he cups Andrew’s beautiful face and kisses him, deep and possessive and sure, the way he’s wanted to for months, and a delectable shudder rockets through Andrew’s entire body and he gasps and bends into James like he really is that fucking flower and James is the goddamn sun. He opens up to James and traces James’s mouth with his tongue and leans up to bite James’s ear.
“No, really not feeling very straight anymore,” he murmurs. “Really liking this new side you’re bringing out in me.”
“Oh, my god, you bloody infuriating harridan,” James rasps, pressing kisses against Andrew’s perfect throat. “I’ve wanted you for months and you’ve just been torturing me—”
“No, never,” Andrew says, suddenly tender. He pulls back and cups James’s face in his hands. “Just trying to work up the courage.” He swallows. “The courage to make this real.”
James goes breathless all over again, but this time the feeling is completely different. He wraps his arms around Andrew’s waist, wondering distantly if that’s just going to be a thing he gets to, to do now, just wrap his arms around Andrew like he has the right, like he has standing permission to touch and lay claim to Andrew’s perfect body whenever he wants?
And then he has the surreal experience of wondering, in exactly the same moment, how he’s ever going to survive it — and also how the hell he survived without it before.
“This is the realest thing I know,” he says. “But, Andrew, you and me together, it can’t be a fluke, it means too much, there’s too much at stake, I feel too much—”
“I know, I’ve told myself every day since I met you,” Andrew whispers, pressing a rough kiss against James’ mouth.”God, don’t you think I’ve been trying not to fall for you? But it’s like standing under a waterfall trying not to get wet, you are this daily deluge of, of beauty and talent and brilliance and fury and you-ness and all I think about is your fucking mouth and I, I can’t, James, I,” and then they’re kissing again, and Andrew hitches himself up and over James’s lap and grinds against James’s thigh like he was born for this.
“Jesus christ,” James yelps, because if Andrew is going to grind him right now they’re going to have to tip the driver a hell of a lot more and also probably skip Denise’s party altogether, and that is more than okay with James, but he needs, he needs ground rules, he needs boundaries, he needs to think.
“Hold on,” he tries, and Andrew responds by slipping his hands beneath James’s shirt and palming James’ skin. “Oh, god, nevermind, don’t hold on, terrible idea,” James murmurs, biting the underside of Andrew’s jawline.
“So I think I might be demi,” Andrew says. He’s so pliant and twisty and bendable and, okay, they are definitely skipping Denise’s party.
“If you’re demisexual,” he manages, vaguely surprised he’s this coherent with a squirming Andrew Garfield in his lap, “then that means you…you’re in—”
Andrew pulls back and smiles at him, a little wry, a little smug. His cheeks are flaming and his hair is completely demolished, James has dreamt about seeing him this way.
“Means I fall in love first, and the rest doesn’t matter,” he says. He grins, slow, at whatever James’s face is doing. “Don’t look so shocked, it’s all your fault.”
“I wasn’t even sure if you liked me,” James blurts. ”I wasn’t even sure if we were, the kind of friends who’d stay friends after this is all over, I didn’t want to assume you’d—”
“Baby, that’s because this isn’t friendship,” Andrew says, rubbing his hands over James’ chest. “You and me — we’ve been falling in love since the day we met.” He presses a kiss against James’s forehead, and then against his nose. “And that terrifies me,” he says, breath catching. “But not enough to make me want to stop.”
“Don’t stop,” James says, knowing he sounds plaintive, but meaning it more than he’s ever meant anything in his life. He slides his hand up over the curve of Andrew’s precious face and holds him there. “Don’t ever stop.”
“I don’t ever plan to,” Andrew replies, and he kisses James all the way home.