To say that it wasn't this clique of comedians or cabal of testosterone, Hugh had still found himself somewhat shaken when Frankie had left. Left the show, left them, left--... whatever that had been. The one thing that Hugh was not, however, was surprised. Not for that. Part of him was only surprised it had taken as long as it had and when it did, there was almost some sense of relief for ah. Now. I see.
In any other situation he'd have laughed to hear the old it's not you it's me, and Frankie had said as much at the time - his leaving didn't necessarily mean the end of them, but Hugh wasn't sure how it wouldn't. Because there was still some sense of something wrapped around that show, that had some comedians come on and then too afraid to come back, that had some refuse and denounce it in public - and it hadn't always been like this, had it? Still. This was how it was now. And there was Steve, who always looked at him with eyes that told of a concern barely beneath the surface. And there was Frankie, who had left with no animosity but with quite the sense of distance. There was the possibility of continuation, but distance could either be an obstacle to overcome or an excuse in itself and Hugh didn't want that to be the case, but--
(And - and and and - there was Stewart. Hugh hadn't wanted to pretend as if Frankie didn't know, but of course Frankie knew. Frankie knew and he accepted it all as they all accepted all of this, and there was Dara and Ed and Andrew and-- and Russell and Jon and Mark and--
maybe Frankie's escape was a sensible one. Hugh often wondered this.)
Hugh wasn't sure what part of this led to Chris Addison lying back on his sofa, blowing steam from his latest mug of tea as if this were the most natural place to be and the most natural position to be in. Hugh had opened the front door to see him there, had seen no reason to refuse him, and now he lay with his legs crossed at the ankles and to look at him Hugh thought, again, of Frankie's choice.
"Have you heard?"
It took Chris fifteen minutes to ask this question, and Hugh wasn't sure what he was referring to. "Heard what?"
"Check your phone."
The answer didn't seem to fit the question, but Hugh did so anyway. Off in the hallway, in his bag, where he'd left it from the night before. Nothing so important it couldn't wait until he had the time to deal with it. There, as predicted, lay a text message. From Dara. Four words. Again, the type to leave that twisting uncertainty burning through him but, again, not unexpected.
"Russell's not coming back."
No. Of course not. He wouldn't be, would he? This was different, but still similar. Russell's side of the dodecahedron was one he wasn't so acquainted with, but it still represented that distance. If this was entirely because of conflicting schedules then Hugh could understand that, he really could, but had a niggling feeling that that wasn't all it was. He didn't think any of the others would disagree with him, either - the 'others', as they now were. If they weren't all in on this together then somebody might even have made the accusation that if Hugh wanted anybody to leave then it might have been Russell, but not now, not like this - before Frankie, perhaps. Because there had been Russell and there had been Frankie and there was no room for jealousy in all of this, he knew this as much as anybody, but all the same--
It didn't matter, though. Frankie was lost to the wilds of Channel 4 and Russell to the distant lands of BBC3, and Russell wasn't as much anything to do with him as Frankie had been, but there was still that small and certain sting that endured all the same. Seeing it coming made it no less--... whatever this was. That crushing inevitability. Of course he's not coming back.
Chris stood in the doorframe; Hugh had been absent long enough to stir him from the sofa, it seemed. On sensing his presence Hugh looked up, mildly surprised, mostly confused. "I--... see. This is about Russell then, is it?"
"Sort of. ...You okay?"
Hugh smiled through his frown, "Why wouldn't I be? I mean, it's not as if--... what Russell does isn't really any of my business, to be quite honest. If that's his decision? Well... good luck to him. ...Can't really say I'm surprised."
"I know what you mean." Chris frowned himself for a moment, as if considering something. He reached forth with his palm upturned, indicating towards Hugh's phone. "Can I look at that a moment?"
"Oh-- if you like?" Hugh handed it over.
The screen was still on the message Dara had sent, which was as much as Chris seemed to want to look at. His eyes scanned the words before rolling up in indignation - the subsequent exaggerated limb-flail caused Hugh momentary concern for the well-being of his mobile phone, but Chris, mercifully, managed to keep hold of it. "OH for fuck's sake--!... Yeah, be all doom and gloom, O'Briain. Russell isn't coming back, this at least is true; the part all **some text missing** in this scenario would be the part where you've got a new teammate."
"And that would be..." (The way Chris smiled and indicated towards himself left no room for query.) "I see...! Well... welcome to the team, I suppose?"
"If we were in an unbearable American teen movie and we were roommates I could call you 'roomie', couldn't I? So, team-matey..." He punctuated this with a light mock-punch to Hugh's shoulder and then paused, reconsidering this. "Rest assured, I'll never call you anything like that again in the future."
"I think that's for the best."
Chris was not new to this, of course. Far from it. As far as the dodecahedron went, Hugh would have associated Chris far more in Dara's quadrant than anywhere else, but was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, Chris was here expecting - or in anticipation of - Hugh having already heard, and if that was something or nothing then Hugh thought it quite easy to interpret as something. And there was Frankie, and there was Russell, but there was now Chris, and--... he still stood in Hugh's hallway, folding his arms around his chest and smiling. As if waiting for something, or expecting something.
"You... just looked like you wanted something, that's all."
There lay the briefest of moments where Hugh wondered just how Chris would interpret that, until he wrinkled his nose and turned back towards the front room (and Hugh followed him, watching as he threw himself back down onto the sofa). "Not really. Just waiting for this to cool, really." He glanced at the cup of tea and then looked towards Hugh, "You didn't make yourself one?"
Hugh wondered just how it was he'd come to feel so awkward in his own home. "Oh, um--... well, you know. Being polite. Must have forgotten."
"Honestly, what am I going to do with you?" Chris hoisted himself up from the sofa once more, pushing past Hugh at the doorframe and making his way through to the kitchen. Once again Hugh found the frown on his face as he followed Chris, as he came to the kitchen in time to find him tending to the kettle, opening cupboards until he found what he was looking for, taking the mug and finding the tea and the sugar and the milk--
"You don't need to do this, you know."
Chris glanced up, as if this were the most ridiculous suggestion he'd heard all day. "No?" His expression softened. "Well, maybe I just want to. Teamie."
"Yeah, doesn't work either, does it? Well, we've got plenty of time to work it out." (He was spooning sugar into the mug before Hugh could tell him not to.)
There had been Frankie, and Russell, and (John and Rory and--) now, there was Chris. Chris, stood in his kitchen, smiling and offering him a cup of tea - although not in the cup he would have chosen, but all the same. Hugh took it, watching Chris tentatively for a few moments before finding it within him to relax. Because they were a team now, weren't they?... Hugh wasn't too sure how far he believed in that sort of a sentiment, but was willing to entertain the notion for as long as Chris felt the need. For as long as Chris would be there, with him, making cups of tea.
(And the tea was too sweet, but, still. Plenty of time.)