They’d been trying to find the time to have a proper, well-deserved, day-long session since they’d started filming (since they’d both been cast, more like), and nothing concrete had materialized yet. They didn’t have all that many days off in the first place, and the ones they did have had too many obligations already scheduled into them to make it any kind of worthwhile to even try and attempt it.
And so, as a result, here they were: Joe entering Rami’s trailer after a long day of shooting, when the sun was already starting to set, with his bag of supplies over his shoulder. He was a bit annoyed that they’d had to resort to this – trying to have a good session in only a few short hours, after they were both tired from filming, instead of having an entire day to unwind and refresh themselves, but he didn’t let it show on his face. It wasn’t Rami’s fault, after all. He needed a break every now and then as much as Joe did, and, with the way their schedules were lined up for the foreseeable future – disappointing but not surprising – a short session was probably better than no session at all.
Joe closed the door behind him, set the bag down, and blindly took his shoes back off. His eyes were locked on Rami, who was sitting on the edge of his bed hunched over with his head bowed and his hands clutching the sheets on either side of him. His phone was lying untouched on the bedside table, and he could hear him breathing harshly from here.
“Hey, hey, Rams, hey,” he said softly, moving over to cup Rami’s face in his hands and tilt his head up. His eyes blinked open, wet with tears, and his lips trembled. Oh, Rami. He must’ve needed to drop more than Joe’d thought. Damnit, I should’ve been paying attention– “I’m here, buddy, I’m here, it’s okay.”
Rami hiccuped, moving one of his hands to wipe at his eyes. “Joey...”
“It’s okay, Rams, you’re okay,” Joe reassured him, grabbing his hand and tugging him gently to his feet, making sure to keep him steady. Rami was always even clumsier when he dropped.
He sniffled, wiped at his eyes again with his free hand, and leant on Joe heavily enough for him to almost have to take a step back, but he was able to keep his balance. “Don’ feel good...”
“Well, I can fix that right up, you can count on that,” Joe told him confidently, tugging on his hand again to lead him into the tiny bathroom Rami’s trailer had. It was about the size of a shoebox, honestly – certainly not big enough for two grown men to stretch out comfortably – but he was gonna make it work if it killed him. “How ‘bout a nice hot shower with some fancy bubbles, and then I’ll get you dressed in some pj’s and we can eat the cookies I brought over for dinner, and then we can watch The Princess and the Frog before it’s time for bed, huh?”
Rami nodded a little slowly, staring at Joe’s chest, before stuffing the tips of his fingers in his mouth to suck on. Seeing as it wasn’t his thumb, and Joe had (stupidly) left his pacifier in his bag, he let it go. (For now.) Rami still looked far too teary for his liking, so Joe made quick work of stripping him down and blowing a raspberry on his tummy when it was revealed, which was met with a quiet giggle, so that was a relief.
Joe had to strip to join Rami in the shower, too, and it was a very, very tight fit. Certainly not as much space as an actual tub would’ve afforded them, where Joe would’ve been able to kneel outside of it to wash him up. Something else to put on the list: find a hotel room with a full bath. Rami didn’t seem to mind that so much as he did the fact that he had to stand the whole time, so Joe had to have one arm wrapped around his waist to keep him upright while he scrubbed him down with the fancy bubbles. (It was just the honey and coconut body wash Rami kept in his bathroom that he only used when he wanted to make a good first impression, but it also happened to make the biggest bubbles that popped and floated the best out of the three soaps he owned, so. Fancy bubbles. Rami liked them, anyway.) After Rami’s skin was pink from the wash cloth and squeaky clean, Joe moved on to his hair, shampooing, rinsing, and conditioning it just the way he knew he liked and making sure none of it got in his eyes. Rami leant into his chest and rested his cheek on his shoulder, almost nodding off as he did so, the way he always did when Joe washed his hair, and it was disgustingly adorable (the way it always was). He felt a little bad about shaking him awake, but he refused to let Rami fall asleep in this broom closet of a shower. Absolutely not.
Joe didn’t even bother actually washing himself off; he could do that later, when Rami was sound asleep. For now, he shut the water off, stuck his tongue out at him when it made him whine, made him giggle at the face he pulled when he did it, and got them both out and onto the bath mat so he could grab two of the fluffiest towels he could find out from under Rami’s sink. With no room to dry themselves properly in the bathroom, he lead a yawning Rami, who was rubbing at his eye with his fist, after him to towel him off in his trailer instead. He only had to pull his thumb away from his mouth once in the meantime (which, as far as he was concerned, was a win in his book), and took the opportunity to blow another raspberry on his tummy when it presented itself. He earned himself a delighted squeal for his trouble, this time, meaning Rami was no longer on the verge of tears, thank god; he couldn’t stand when he cried, it was positively heartbreaking.
After towel-drying both of their hairs, Joe wrapped his around his waist and wrapped Rami’s around his shoulders to sit him back down on the edge of his bed. Rami bounced a little when he did, and giggled again, kicking his feet against the floor and wiggling his toes. Joe got his attention by tapping his cheek, smiling when Rami blinked wide eyes up at him. He didn’t really want to ask – Rami had already dropped, after all, and he didn’t wanna pull him out of it, especially not for something as trivial as this – but, they had an agreement. “D’you think you’ll need a diaper tonight?”
Rami mouthed a silent, “oh” and ducked his head, biting his lower lip. His cheeks, pink from the shower, grew a little more flushed, this time from embarrassment. (Rami always got embarrassed when Joe brought it up, no matter how many times he did.) His hand moved away from his towel to his mouth, and Joe snatched it up before it got there, rubbing his thumb into his knuckles. He had a pacifier for a reason. “Um...” Rami mumbled. “...Y-yes. Just–just in case.”
“You got it, Rams,” Joe said simply, leaning forward to press a sloppy, wet kiss to Rami’s forehead and leave him squealing, half-thrilled and half-grossed out. It knocked him out of the embarrassed funk he was going to sink into, though, which was his goal all along, so Joe just grinned at him before grabbing his bag of supplies and setting it down on the bed. “Lie back for me, buddy.”
Rami obediently flopped back onto the mattress, wrapping the towel around him tighter as he stared at the ceiling. He was already starting to squirm, but Joe remedied that easily enough by pulling a certain something out of the bag and holding her out for him with a smug smile. “Look, Rami – it’s Cocoa!”
Rami gasped brightly, and immediately let go of the towel to make grabby-hands for the blue and white hammerhead shark plush. “Cocoa!” She was just a little longer than two feet, and they’d gotten her (and about three other stuffed animals, including a squid that Joe had claimed for himself, thank you very much, as well as about a million mugs, t-shirts, and other memorabilia) on the trip they’d taken to an aquarium together something like six years ago now. To Joe’s surprise, Cocoa the shark had become Rami’s favorite. She was always the one he asked for when he dropped, even though Joe probably had ten or so stuffed animals in his house that were actually technically Rami’s, so Cocoa was the one Joe always made sure he had on hand.
Joe handed her over, and Rami snuggled into her well-worn fuzz with a hum. He was suitably distracted, now, babbling happily as he made the shark dance in the air for him, so it took all of two minutes to apply the baby powder and secure the diaper in place. After that, it was just a matter of wrestling his squirmy legs into some fluffy cookie monster sleep pants, his feet into a pair of thick green socks, and a soft striped t-shirt over his head. He probably could’ve put him in his baby blue duck-patterned footie pajamas, which were still neatly folded in the bag, but they were more fit for a day-long session, and these worked just as well at keeping him nice and cozy. (They were easier to change his diaper in, too.)
With Rami now dressed for the night and his attention still captured by Cocoa, Joe took the time to change into his own pajamas, some sweatpants and his own t-shirt. He cracked his back afterwards, and was just about to grab his phone to see about pulling up The Princess and the Frog when there was a knock at the trailer door.
Joe froze, staring at it, and saw Rami stop playing with Cocoa out of the corner of his eye. He took a moment to wonder who the hell would come knocking this late in the day – what time was it? Six? Seven? – with no prior text or call or anything before Rami sat up and whimpered. Joe turned to him fully to find him hugging Cocoa tight to his chest, eyes wide with fear. Shit–
“Hey, hey, it’s okay–“ Joe rushed to his side, trying to head off any tears that might well up. He’d just gotten him happy and comfortable, what the hell, he was gonna give whoever was at the door a piece of his damn mind–
Rami hiccuped, letting Joe kiss his forehead and cup his cheeks, but he was shaking like a leaf. Joe could tell he was down too deep to pull himself up just like that, with absolutely no warning, and that meant he couldn’t talk to whoever it was because they’d know – which was what was causing the fright: the idea of having this be revealed to someone without him wanting it to be. “I’ll tell them to go away, huh? You don’t have to worry about it, Rams, just leave everything to me – I’m your big brother, remember? I’m in charge right now.”
Rami whimpered again, lifting a hand to rub at his eye, but he nodded anyway, and Joe felt himself sag a little in relief. “Good. Stay right here, buddy.” He pressed another kiss to his hairline and stood upright. “You have Cocoa; she’ll keep you company. I’ll only be a minute, I promise.” He wasn’t even gonna step outside, if he was being honest, but still.
Rami nodded again, and Joe turned on his heel, determined to get this over with as soon as possible. He reached the door in three strides and wretched it open just enough for his head to be visible, never so grateful for how Rami’s bed couldn’t be seen from that angle than right at this moment.
The duo on the other side made him blink in surprise. “Hi...” he drew out, looking between Ben and Gwilym with a furrowed brow that they returned. They both looked confused. “What are you two doing here?”
Gwilym snorted a little. “We should be asking you the same thing, mate.”
Ben slapped his arm as Joe frowned. “We were going to get you next,” he explained. “Rami’s trailer was just closer. We’re having dinner together tonight, remember?”
Joe met this with a blank stare. He very much did not remember agreeing to dinner tonight at any point in the not-so-distant past.
Gwilym coughed to cover a laugh, and Ben rolled his eyes. “It was in our group chat? Rami found that Japanese place a few miles down the road? Like two weeks ago? The one with the lobster?”
...Oh, yeah, that! “Oh!” Joe exclaimed. “Right! Uh...” He spared a glance to Rami, who had–
Put his thumb in his mouth, oh no you don’t, you little– “Uh – uh, gimme–gimme a second – damnit–“ He stepped away from the door, bumping it closed with his hip as he moved over to Rami, who had the sense to look moderately chagrined, if not to actually stop doing it. “What have I told you about sucking your thumb?” he scolded, digging around in his bag of supplies for his pacifier. The pacifier he should’ve gotten out ages ago, frankly. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Rami took his thumb out of his mouth and kicked his legs against the mattress, staring at the floor. “...Not to,” he grumbled. He didn’t sound on the verge of terrified tears anymore, which was a relief, but it meant he was wide awake, now, and Cocoa wasn’t gonna be enough to distract him.
“That’s right, not to,” Joe said, holding his pacifier out and watching his eyes light up. “It’s a bad habit, Rams, and you have a pacifier for a reason. Now open your mouth.” Rami did so obediently, and started sucking on it as soon as it was in place, looking immediately ten times as content as he did earlier. Joe sighed, looking at the door again. He didn’t wanna leave Ben and Gwil waiting for too long, lest they get suspicious, but… “D’you want your coloring books?”
At that, Rami nodded happily, so Joe dug back into the bag, searching for his crayons. “Batman or Spiderman?” Joe asked, and Rami tapped his arm twice, so Spiderman it was. That book was already half-full, mostly with every color but Spiderman’s famous red and blue, but hey, who was he to judge. Rami always liked to try and stay in the lines, too, which meant he’d be busy for however long it took for Joe to make up a believable lie and shoo Ben and Gwil off.
He pulled the book and box of crayons out, setting them on the bed so he could situate a giggly Rami up against the pillows and headboard. He had enough room to actually color, now that he wasn’t sitting on the edge of the mattress, and Rami dove right into it once everything was in his grasp. Joe left him there with another parting kiss to his hair, this time actually stepping out of the trailer and onto the steps leading into it so he could talk to Ben and Gwil properly. (He left the door open a few inches, though; it wouldn’t do for something to happen and him be unable to hear it. That would be a disaster.)
The looks on their faces were… odd. Not what he’d left them with, at least. Shit, they probably had gotten suspicious. He felt better about being taller than them on the steps, though. “So,” he began, putting his hands together. “Rami’s sick.” Nailed it.
“Oh…kay?” Ben replied, not sounding the least bit convinced. Gwilym’s eyebrows actually raised in surprise, and he crossed his arms expectantly.
“No, really.” Yeah, that’s gonna convince them. Damnit, you’re an actor, man. “He got food poisoning. Or maybe he was allergic to something he had in his lunch today? He’s, uh, not a hundred percent on that – the specifics, I mean – but he’s been puking his guts up for the last hour, had to text me to come over to make sure he wasn’t dying or something. Honestly, it might even just be a stomach bug, but he’s definitely not gonna be able to go out tonight, and I’m staying over to make sure he stays hydrated.” A pause, during which Ben and Gwilym exchanged unreadable looks with one another and Joe started to sweat just a bit on the back of his neck.
He cleared his throat. “You two can go out for all of us, right? Bring us back something? I know Rami was really excited about the lobster…” He was gonna be pissed tomorrow when he found out he’d missed it, but its not like the restaurant was going anywhere any time soon. They’d find the time to go at some point. (Sooner rather than later, if Joe knew him as well as he thinks he does. Which, he does.)
“Um…” Ben pursed his lips a little and cocked his head, putting his hands together the way Joe’s were as Gwil shifted uncertainly on his feet. “You, uh. You–you know you can tell us anything. Right?”
A beat of silence passed where Joe cocked his head right back. “…Yes…?” he said eventually, unsure where Ben was trying to go with this. “You – what, do you think we’re together or something?” Ben’s eyes closed, and he raised a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose as Joe continued, “I mean, I know it looks a little suspicious, me answering his door and all, but if we were we wouldn’t try and hide it from you guys–“
“We heard you,” Gwil blurted out, making Ben immediately whip around to punch his arm and hiss at him. “In Rami’s trailer, I mean. Talking to Rami, I mean. You, er, didn’t, uh, close the door, completely. Um…”
Joe felt something in his chest grow very, very cold, and suddenly anger and betrayal had overridden fear and caution as the most prominent emotion in his body. “You were eavesdropping?” His voice came out very venomously, and it made both of them wince. Good.
Ben spoke up as Gwil’s head ducked so he could stare at the ground, wringing his wrists; “It’s – we don’t care, Joe!”
“Don’t care? What d’you mean you don’t care?!” Joe was making a conscious effort to keep from shouting. It wouldn’t do for someone to overhear their conversation – or, worse, for Rami to overhear it. That thought made Joe suck in a sharp breath and let it out between clenched teeth.
“I mean it’s not like we’re going to make fun of him or anything!” Ben exclaimed, throwing his arms out. “For god’s sake, he’s our friend, too!”
Joe’s mouth opened, either to tell them off more or – or just tell them to get lost because he was not doing this right now (or ever), but he was interrupted by Rami calling from inside the trailer behind him, “Jo-ey!”
That stopped everyone in their tracks, and Joe threw his head over his shoulder to look at the door. Rami didn’t sound urgent, like he’d been hurt – more fussy than anything, actually – but… Shit, how long had he been out here? He said he’d only be a minute!
He turned back to Ben and Gwil, finding them staring at the door guiltily, and glared. The anger he felt was melting away at the reminder that he had a certain someone he owed his undivided attention the rest of the night, but it was still there. Oh, it was definitely still there. I can’t believe they fucking eavesdropped. What is Rami gonna say tomorrow? Oh, oh, no, fear and panic coming back– “We are finishing this tomorrow,” he got out between gritted teeth.
“Joe–“ Ben began, but Joe just raised a hand to quiet him, and his mouth shut with a click.
“We are finishing this tomorrow,” he repeated, looking between the two of them expectantly. “I am not the one you should be talking to about this, and the one you should be is going to be very unavailable until tomorrow morning at the least. Is that understood?” It wasn’t really a question, but Joe got a quick nod from Gwilym and a much more reluctant nod from Ben anyway. “Good. Now go. Maybe actually go to dinner, as a matter of fact; I know Rami wouldn’t mind getting some leftovers, if you two’re buying.”
They both snorted, at that, and Joe left them exchanging looks with each other again as he moved into the trailer, shutting the door firmly behind him. (He may have also locked it for good measure. No more goddamn surprises tonight; not on his watch.)
Rami immediately bounced up and down on the mattress, waving his arms out for him and interrupting what Joe was sure would’ve been a good, long, hard brood. Cocoa and his pacifier were laying in his lap, on top of, from what he could see, the coloring book and about a dozen crayons, one of which was broken. “Joey, Joey, Joey!” he chanted, and Joe felt most of the negative emotions clinging to him leave in the next breath at seeing Rami so obviously upbeat and pleased to see him again. He chuckled as he reached his side, pulling him into a hug. Rami hummed happily, nuzzling into his shoulder until Joe pulled back to kiss his temple, which earned him a giggle.
“Hey, buddy, sorry I took so long,” Joe apologized guiltily, ruffling his hair. “It was Ben and Gwil; you know how those two are.”
Rami giggled again, squirming in Joe’s arms. “Si’wy!”
“Yes, they’re both very silly,” Joe agreed, feeling the rest of his anger leave him in a rush as he sat down across from him and started cleaning up the crayons. The panic was still there, on the backburner, close enough that he knew it would probably come back to bite him as soon as Rami was asleep, but he very deliberately ignored it for now. “So what did you need, short-stuff? Did you just wanna see my beautiful face?” He punctuated this by batting his eyelashes at him, and Rami squealed with laughter, clapping his hands.
“That’s right, I promised you some cookies, didn’t I?” Joe said, stuffing the crayons back in the box and grabbing the coloring book to put back in his bag of supplies. He then started digging around in it for said oatmeal raisin treats he’d grabbed from his trailer before he’d left. They were Rami’s favorite. “I’ve got a bottle of milk in here for you, too, buddy – the perfect combination, of course.”
Rami grinned at him brightly, eyes squinting with joy, and he squealed again when the cookies were brought into his line of sight, making grabby hands for them. “Ah, ah, ah,” Joe scolded, holding them away from him, earning him a pout. “You know the rules. What do you say?”
Rami’s tongue peeked out of his mouth in thought. He took a few moments to respond, and, when he did, it was with a gasp. “P-pwease?”
“Good boy!” Joe praised, leaning forward to kiss his cheek and get him to giggle. “Now, I’m gonna get you a paper plate so you don’t get crumbs all over Cocoa, hm?” Using Cocoa as a means to keep Rami from making a mess always worked better than using, say, Rami’s clothes or Rami’s bed.
Rami nodded rapidly to show he understood, and Joe was back in no time, letting Rami pick Cocoa up so the plate could take her place. Joe picked his pacifier up himself, making a note to wash it off, before he opened the bag of cookies he still had in his hand to dump half of them onto the plate. He’d brought over ten, so he had no problem with Rami eating five of them for dinner and him having the other five. Usually, when they had day-long sessions, Joe was able to take the time to actually cook, but this would have to do for now; there was no way he was going to try and run to craft services and back with two meals tonight - especially considering he’d already left Rami alone for too long as it was, as far as he was concerned.
He started bouncing again in excitement once they were within range, making a delighted noise in the back of his throat as he snuggled into Cocoa, and Joe laughed. “Dig in, bud. I’m gonna heat up your bottle.” Rami didn’t need anymore encouragement.
Heating up the bottle of milk he’d had secured in the bag just-so to keep from spilling didn’t take very long, and Joe was able to watch Rami as the seconds counted down on the microwave on the other side of the trailer. He was very careful not to get crumbs anywhere but the plate, but he did share each bite he took with Cocoa, pressing the cookie to her sewn-on sharp-toothed mouth until she was apparently satisfied and he would take his next bite and then repeat the process. He was back at his side in no time, the bottle warm but not hot, and climbed in beside him – though, that didn’t last for long, because as soon as he started to join him Rami was scooting over to make room, and then clambering into his lap to cuddle up, cookies almost forgotten in his quest to take Joe’s attention all for himself.
Joe laughed, keeping the bottle straight in one hand and using the other to rearrange Rami in his lap more comfortably for both of them while Rami whined pitifully, trying to grab for the plate of cookies that had moved out of reach with the hand that wasn’t holding Cocoa. “Bottle first, buddy, come on.” Rami seemed to have forgotten about the promised bottle, as he immediately perked up at the word and turned to him with wide eyes. Joe held it up for him to see, and Rami gasped, reaching for it. Joe, knowing he’d be too clumsy to be able to hold it himself without spilling at least a little, lowered it to his mouth for him, keeping his hand on it, and Rami latched onto it and started sucking it down the moment he could. His eyelids drooped, and he cuddled into Joe’s chest further, resting his head on his shoulder.
Joe gently pulled the bottle away from him once it was half empty, and Rami whimpered, eyes opening fully to stare at it as it was set on the bedside table and squirming. “Hey, you still got some cookies to eat, bud, you can’t finish your bottle now.”
Rami let out an, “ooh!” as he remembered that he did, in fact, have cookies left to eat (two, in fact), and Joe chuckled again, shifting so Rami was properly settled with Cocoa in his arms and his legs folded up under him. It was just the right position to feed him. He leaned over to pick up one of the cookies. “Open wide, Ram-Ram, its coming right for you!” He made a falling sound effect, making Rami squeal with laughter, before bringing the cookie to his mouth and letting him take a big bite. As he was chewing, Joe pressed the cookie to Cocoa’s mouth, too, which got him exactly the giggles he was hoping for, and he grinned at him.
He got Rami to finish the rest of the cookies in no time, and, after the bottle was empty as well, Rami let out such a big burp that Joe actually said, "whoa!" out loud in surprise and Rami giggled so hard he nearly tipped himself out of Joe's lap. With the plate and bottle on the bedside table, Joe rearranged them again so they were lying down under the covers, Joe on his back and Rami on his side. He wouldn’t be lasting long, now; he was already letting out tiny little squeaky yawns that were just the cutest thing he’d ever heard and snuggling up under Joe’s chin, hugging Cocoa tight. He brought up The Princess and the Frog on his phone, anyway, kissing his forehead and running his fingers through his hair and up and down his back.
Rami was out cold and snoring delicately into Joe’s shirt in ten minutes.
Joe, who had been planning on finishing his shower as Rami slept, couldn’t very well try and slip away now. That would be just plain rude, leaving Rami there all by himself with no one to cuddle. (Well. He had Cocoa, but Joe liked to think he was a better cuddler than her, thank you very much.) So, instead, he settled in to watch the movie himself, humming along quietly to the musical numbers and finding himself starting to drift off just as Tiana and Prince Naveen were getting married, even though it was only something like nine o’clock or so.
Aw well. That was fine with him; he’d have a big breakfast to make up for not eating dinner tonight, he decided, shutting his phone off and setting it beside Rami’s before settling in. Rami snuffled into his shirt again as he shifted, and Joe shushed him softly, kissing his temple. “Sleepy time for Joey, buddy,” he mumbled, closing his eyes.
He was out cold and snoring a bit louder into Rami’s hair in five minutes.