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"Um--!"

The moment Alexander heard the exclamation he had a feeling that it was, probably, meant for him. Nonetheless, he carried on walking for another few paces, content in the knowledge that David couldn't see the small smile he wasn't quite able to help. Another step, another moment--

"--... A--... Alexander--?"

One more moment. "... How many times have I told you, David, 'Xander' is perfectly fine..."

"I--..." (Alexander turned around in time to see the expected awkward expression, though on making eye contact David did seem to relax at least slightly.) "... Right, yes. Xa--... Xander..."

Alexander closed the distance between them and clapped David heartily against the back of one shoulder, "It's been a while, hasn't it? We really should catch up sometime. They probably want me back in--" He pulled the sleeve of his doctor's coat back to check his watch, "... I don't know. In time, I suppose. How about you? Have you got any more to do, or...?"

"That's me done, actually. Just a quick one, today."

"A little cameo for the people at home, right?"

"... Something like that, I suppose." There didn't seem anything obvious with which to continue the conversation, and Alexander was a half-moment away from making his departure before David spoke again. "Um--..."

"Mm?"

"You're right, you know. I've not seen you for a while."

"Indeed. But, you know how it is, how time just seems to keep running away with--"

"Or Ben."

"Have you not? Well--..."

"Or you and Ben."

"... Right." A long pause followed that. Alexander watched David for a few moments, as if trying to figure out his motive (and supposing that David was doing the same to him in return). A hint of something that could almost have been a troubled expression crossed his brow fleetingly, before he took David by the shoulder again and lightly tried to steer him towards a cluster of chairs at the end of the corridor. "Here, let's... let's sit down for a bit, shall we? I'm sure you're tired, after all that recording you've been doing."

"All the recording I've been doing, lying in a hospital bed."

"Exactly! It's like walking and talking, harder than it looks." (They sat, again to silence. David sat first and Alexander took the seat next to him, taking the silence to mean that this method of distraction wasn't going to get him anywhere.) "... So, you wanted to say something to me?"

David looked up, as if Alexander realising this was some kind of shock to him. "It's not exactly--... well, I just wanted to ask--..."

Alexander had a feeling he knew where this was going. He sat back against the wall, motioning with his hands. "... Ask away."

"... I just wondered if you were going to need us for another series, that's--... that's all."

Oh. And of course, there was no need to ask who the 'us' in that sentence referred to, which almost made it worse. Of course. Of course. Alexander took a deep breath, netting his fingers together and thinking over his words. This was always going to be the hardest part - people they both knew, but not well enough for them to know. Somebody completely separate might not notice the difficulty taken in stringing together an appropriate lie and those close enough to care certainly already knew, but David - and Robert - were neither one nor the other. If they all saw each other more often, then maybe--... but they didn't, and maybe that almost helped except for in situations like these. Situations in which everything was one particular way right up until the point that it wasn't, and it seemed both unfair and unreasonable to try to hide the truth.

"... I'm... flattered that you would ask, David--... that you'd even think there'd be another series--"

"Did they cancel you!?"

"Well, it's... not so much 'cancel' as 'not yet recomissioned', but--... well, I suppose by now, it's all rather--..." (These words weren't falling together at all.) "The truth of the matter is, even if there were to be another series--... even if they were to ask for such a thing, I don't... think... that it's the kind of venture that Ben and I would be... pursuing at this time."

It felt odd to say and, from the way that David turned to look at him afterward, probably quite odd to hear, too. "I don't think I understand."

"To say 'Ben and I'... I suppose I should rather say that there is, really, no such thing as 'Ben and I' at present. ...Anymore. He and I, him and me, us..." Another deep breath. "... No. I don't think there'll be another series."

Alexander watched the truth - and surprise - dawn slowly on David's face. "... You've split up!?"

"You make it sound like a relationship."

"A double-act is a relationship, Alexander. ...And all that aside, don't think that you weren't being terribly obvious, because you were. Being terribly obvious, I mean."

Alexander smiled softly, caught in recollection. "You weren't supposed to notice."

"Well, I did. ...I couldn't talk for anybody else, though. And I did wonder, to think of it... was it just my imagination? Maybe I was, I don't know, misreading the situation. But your reaction just then tells me that I was correct all along, so thank you for that. It's nice to know I can read a mood, after all."

There's the David Mitchell I know and love. "And what kind of moods were you reading, to get you so self-righteous about them now...?"

"Ones I knew I shouldn't be getting involved in."

"You've got a head on your shoulders, I'll give you that."

"So what actually--... what actually happened...? If you don't mind me asking..."

Alexander shrugged, "Take your pick. 'It's not you, it's me'. 'No, wait, it's not me, it is actually you'. Needing time to ourselves, space apart, all of that sort of thing."

"You don't need to give me excuses. If you don't want to tell me, then that's--"

"I'm not lying, David...! Perhaps I'm being somewhat facetious, but... that is, no word of a lie, pretty much exactly what happened. Too much time together, I suppose. So much time together. I'm not entirely sure human beings were designed to cope with the amount of time we were spending with one another. Once you're in something like that, I suppose you both just become ticking time-bombs. Something has to give, eventually."

David then sat back against the wall too, sympathy softening his expression. "You start to drive each other mad..."

Alexander smiled, somewhat sadly, and shook his head. "We were long past that point. Driving each other mad is one thing, but... once you start to believe that being apart is what will send you insane, really believe that... it's at that point, I think, that you have to just step back and take stock. Which is what we ended up doing. ...And here we are. Here I am."

David's gaze was serious. "... Did you really believe that...?"

"We both did."

"Did you believe it, though...?"

"Yes."

"Do you still believe it?"

"I--..." Alexander flashed David a too-quick smile. "I don't really let myself think about it, to be perfectly honest with you. We needed time apart, space away from each other... we've got both of those things, now. I just need to... I don't know. Acclimatise myself. Take it slowly. One day at a--..." He glanced away from David. "Step by step, you know. Pushing forward, ever onward--!"

He looked back to David, after that. Indulged himself the perceived need to try to smile, even though he knew that absolutely nothing about his effort would ring true. And they were silent again, but there was something awkward about the silence that charged the need for something to happen. Therefore, when David leant forward to press his lips against Alexander's, all Alexander could think was that while he had not exactly been expecting this, he was, at the same time, not in the least bit surprised. It was only brief and momentary, but definite and there. And David pulled away, keeping eye contact for all the full seconds that he dared, then looking to the side instead.

"... I didn't think you were the type to take advantage, David Mitchell."

That brought his attention back. "I--!... I didn't--... I didn't mean it like that, I--" (However he'd meant it, the various ways in which such an action could come across and be taken in seemed to hit him, all of a sudden.) "... I really didn't mean it like that, Alexander. I--... I'm sorry."

"It's a good thing I believe you then, isn't it...? Gosh, you must be a hit at parties."

"I said, I'm sorry."

"Oh, I know, I know, I did hear you, I'm just... interested, I suppose."

"... Interested?"

"Mm. I regale you with a tale of broken hearts, and you reply to that with a kiss." Alexander folded his arms, regarding David with curiosity. "How long have you been wanting to do that, David?"

"I--... I don't know what you're talking about."

Alexander continued to watch for a moment longer, contemplating pressing the issue further but then deciding against that, and dropping it. "Well, I suppose that's not a fair question to ask. Sometimes some things are just not to be known. Similarly, some things are not to be pried into. I'll let you keep your secret."

"I'm not--"

"Ssh, ssh. It's alright. I don't need to know."

Once more, Alexander couldn't help but feel a certain weight to the silence - he was perfectly happy to entertain that for as long as it lasted, still just finding himself interested as to what David would do or say. He didn't look to his side and didn't particularly need to in order to know what David was doing, to know how he was sitting there. Alexander leant back again, running his gaze across the lines of the tiled ceiling. Denial? Persistence? ...Something else? This needed, he felt, to be clipped in the bud, and quickly. If David was in any way sensible then surely he would realise that too... and thus, perhaps, the silence. An inability to continue, or to know how to continue. Alexander slapped his hands to his knees and stood, taking the half-step to face David.

"David? Look at me." (He barely needed to state this as a command, but felt a small and private satisfaction in correctly predicting the way that doing so seemed to set David's nerves on edge once more.) "I'm just so... tired, at the moment. I can't let myself think of it for too long, otherwise I really would exhaust myself. That, I suppose, is what has happened."

Surprisingly, David didn't look away. "... I am sorry, Alexander."

Alexander nodded, but couldn't quite let this one go. "... 'Xander', David. I've said before."

"Not 'Alex', then? Never thought that might be easier?"

A small smile. "It's not really a matter of what's easier, more just--... it doesn't really feel like me, I suppose."

"... Xander."

"Now you're getting it."

And there, just for a moment, was something like mutual understanding that Alexander knew he had to be either mistaken in or simply just projecting towards David. In that moment, it didn't matter - or, it did matter, because this all mattered, because there was the possibility that this was only the tip of an iceberg and Alexander felt quite keenly aware that David had, potentially, much more to lose in this situation than he himself did, but... David wouldn't have come here, said that and done that without the full weight of consequence on his shoulders to begin with, would he? To think of it in a childish way one could have said he started it--! but, while that may have been the case, it still didn't absolve him of everything.

Alexander kissed him again, because--... because he started it. Because perhaps it would make him realise what he wanted (which would ideally be not this). Because perhaps it would scare him away. Because perhaps it wouldn't. Because, because, because. Just because. He kept his hands on David's shoulders, pinning him down against the chair and finding himself almost surprised at the extent to which David seemed to reciprocate in this. If shyness was a barrier then David seemed to have scaled it, just for now. Alexander moved his hands to cup around David's jawline and felt hands at his wrists, fingers pressing over and alongside his own. This is, he couldn't help but think, starting to get quite strange.

He withdrew gently, softly, keeping his hands in place and feeling the suggestion from David for them to stay there. He could feel the hitch in David's breath and could hear him, could hear his breathing low and quicker than before and that in itself was enough to stir something, but--... Alexander knew, in his heart of hearts, that he couldn't let this continue.

"... David...?"

"... Mm--... mm?"

Alexander stroked his thumb across David's bottom lip. "... We mustn't cross-pollinate like this."

"I--..." (Alexander leant back, enough to be able to look David in the eye. This action was not mirrored; instead, the resignation in David's expression was quite clear.) "... I thought you might say something like that."

"If it's true, then how could I help myself...? Betrayal begins in the mind and I can't help what you think, but... I've already broken up one double-act, I'd rather not be responsible for another."

"He doesn't have to know."

Alexander found himself quite surprised by that sincerity, misplaced as he felt it to be. "That's... true, I suppose. But you would know. You would always know, David. Such a thing could easily gain momentum. Do you really want to be carrying that with you?... Of course, I don't need to tell you this. ...Or, I shouldn't have to. I'm surprised I feel the need to. As I said, I can't know what's going on in that head of yours and if you've got it set there that this is what you want then I can't help that. ...I can't encourage it, either. If that hurts you, then I apologise. A little pain in exchange for avoiding something far greater, I think."

"... You're right, of course." (Alexander felt hands at his chest, simply for the purpose of pushing him away and gaining space. He quickly allowed David what he wanted.) "... You're right, Alexander. And I--..." David stepped up and away and then turned around to face Alexander, a few steps from him now. "I... I don't think I could have done. Not really."

Alexander wasn't too sure how far he really believed that, but recognised a barrier falling when he saw (or at least, felt) one. "Right. No. Of course you couldn't." Concern, nonetheless, flooded him. "... Will... you be okay, though...?"

A smile, for the sake of it. "Of course I will...! I don't know what you take me for. I'm not stupid, you know." That soon fell, however, for something more sincere. "... Will you, though...?"

Alexander walked to stand alongside David, one hand on his shoulder once more. "Oh, I dare say. I've made it through to now, haven't I?"

"Hm... well, you--... if you ever want to, you know, um, talk, then... you know where I am."

"Right." (Awkward, again. Alexander knew that there was essentially no way he was ever actually going to take David up on that offer, but appreciated it being there all the same.) "... Right."

"And... just so we're clear..."

"Yes?"

"We're definitely never mentioning this ever again, are we?"

Alexander couldn't help but smile at that. "I think that's for the best. See, I'm drawing a line under the whole thing--" (He mimed fastening the air in front of him between his fingers.) "--... and there. Line drawn, ideally not to be crossed. Yes?"

"... Yes." David drew his own line, with one finger. "Line... right. Yes."

And there was a silence that really did feel like the end of something, albeit in a comfortable, reasonable sort of a way. Alexander pulled out his watch once again, "Well! I should really be getting back. If they've not called me already then I'm sure they'll do so soon, so--"

"I hope you work things out with Ben." (That caught Alexander off-guard.) "... Really, I do."

"... Right. Yes. Well, that's--... I don't know if it's as easy as all that, it's--... it's quite complicated, to tell you the truth. I--... I appreciate the sentiment, though."

"And if you want writers for the next series, you know where we are...!"

"I'll keep that in mind. Thank you, David."

"Right. Well, I'll, um... I'll let you get on with your-- your whatever-it-is that you're doing."

"More being-a-rakish-doctor, I expect."

"Indeed." (And again, awkward.) "Well... I'll see you around?"

David started to make his way to the opposite end of the corridor, waving one hand. Alexander waved in return, "I'm sure you will." He watched until David was out of sight, then shoved his hands into his pockets and began to make his way back to where he needed to be.

He wondered about David, for a while. And he wondered about Ben, when he could. Between takes. He thought of the programme, and wondered when it would air. (The autumn, perhaps. Maybe the winter.) He wondered, in an off-handed sort of a way, if Ben would watch it - not that it mattered either way if he did or if he didn't, of course. He didn't have to watch it and he certainly wouldn't have any reason to view certain scenes with the thought, you have another man's kiss on your lips still--

On the way home, Alexander debated mentioning to Ben that he'd happened to see David - that it had been quite surprising, in a small sort of a way, to see him at the recording... and it had been a while, for both of them (apparently), and perhaps there was the offchance that he might be interested...

Alexander stared at his phone long enough to decide against it. There wasn't room between them for such idle chit-chat, not as things were at the current moment, and to mention that held risk of mentioning things further and more and--

(He switched his phone off, just to make sure.)