"I didn't realise they were so close," murmurs Will, quietly, as if speaking to himself.
He's sitting with Ben, watching Skandar and Georgie from a distance during a break in filming. Skandar is sitting up, straight-backed, while Georgie lies across the bench they share, her head resting in his lap. They're chatting, but they're too far away for Will to make out any words. Every now and then Skandar strokes a stray strand of hair from Georgie's face, tucks it behind her ear.
"They weren't, always," Ben tells him. "It's...a recent development."
Will detects something in the way Ben says this that adds to his suspicions. "They aren't—" he says, but stops short, finding he doesn't actually want to say the words. "Are they?"
Ben considers this in silence for a moment, watching as Skandar stretches out his arms along the top of the bench and looks off in the other direction. Georgie is still gazing up at him. For a moment, it seems like Ben is going to say yes, but then he chuckles.
"No, no. That's just the way they are. I really don't think it means anything," he says. "I think they just miss Will and Anna. They're not used to it just being the two of them, from the original four, you know. And with different people around...a different format for this movie...I think they're just trying to cling to something familiar."
Will supposes Ben knows what he's talking about, being the son of a relationship therapist and a professor of psychiatry, but he can't help but feel there's something more to Skandar and Georgie's newfound closeness. He's been on set for roughly a month now, and nothing is going quite how he expected. It's not that anyone has been rude to him—he and Ben are getting on very well, and Skandar and Georgie are friendly—it's just that he sort of assumed they'd be spending more time together. Maybe that was presumptuous of him. But he knows how close the cast is, and he had secretly been hoping they would all become great friends and he would be staying over at their flats all the time and going out together on their days off.
They have been out for dinner a few times, but it was more of a convenience thing—a long day, everybody hungry and stopping for food at the first place they came across on the way home—with various members of the cast and crew in attendance as well. Will feels like he's getting to know Ben quite well, but Skandar and Georgie are still fairly mysterious to him. They seem to spend every moment of their time together, which makes Will more nervous about approaching them. He used to see them alone near the beginning of filming, but back then he was too nervous in general to think about going over and saying hi, and now they seem to be joined at the hip.
He still hasn't really had a proper conversation with them, just exchanged a few work-related thoughts with them about the set, or the scenes they happen to be filming that day. They're perfectly nice to him, so it doesn't seem right to complain about anything, but the second month on set has just begun and he's starting to feel sort of hollow, like this experience is almost a little bit of a let-down.
This is the first time he's even vaguely mentioned any of it to anyone besides his parents—whose advice has been to just suck it up and invite Skandar and Georgie out to do something, which he's far too shy to do—and Ben doesn't seem to get it. Will reminds himself that Ben is probably used to being on his own sometimes, being the eldest of a young cast.
"Do you feel like they're ignoring you?" Ben says, then, turning away from Skandar and Georgie and towards Will. "I wasn't sure how much time you'd managed to spend together off set."
Will is a little startled by Ben's sudden directness. "I—well, none, actually," he admits. He didn't realise that Ben might not know that. "I've only really talked to them between takes."
Ben looks genuinely sympathetic at that. "Oh, I'm sorry," he says, "I had no idea. Do you want me to talk to them?"
"No, no," Will says hurriedly, embarrassed. It would seem so pathetic, like he desperately wanted to be friends with them and had to ask Ben to help. "No. Thank you, but it's okay."
"Are you sure?" Ben asks. "Or I could invite them out to do something with us this weekend—oh, this weekend is Skandar's birthday, though..."
"Is it?" Will asks, surprised. He hasn't heard anything about that—but then, why would he? He glances back over to the bench across from them, and sees that Skandar and Georgie are no longer sitting on it.
"Yeah, I don't know what his plans are," Ben continues. "I think his parents were supposed to come but they can't for some reason, so maybe he'll do something with all of us instead." Will nods. "Listen, I'm really sorry if you've been feeling left out," Ben says then, looking Will in the eye, and Will blushes a little and looks down at his feet. "I will talk to them if you want me to. I can be subtle."
Before Will has a chance to do anything but stammer 'no' again, Michael's assistant is yelling them from a few feet away. It's time to resume filming.
"Have you seen Skandar and Georgie?"
Getting up and brushing themselves down, Will and Ben shout back that no, they haven't.
"We've been looking all over the place," Elena says. She seems stressed. "And Ben, they want you in costume."
Ben hurries over, Will trotting after him.
"When was the last time you saw them?" Elena asks.
"Oh, just a minute ago actually," Ben says, "I'm not sure where they went though."
"Right, well, off to the costume tent," Ben is hurried along, "and you can go look for Skandar and Georgie, I've got about twelve other things to do and this break ended five minutes ago."
It takes Will a second to realise she means him. "Oh, I—I didn't see where they went," he stammers. "I don't—"
"Well, you've got a better idea of it than I do," Elena tells him brusquely, and rushes off after Ben.
Will stands there for a moment, nervously, and then decides he'd better start looking.
He gets increasingly more anxious with each place he checks, popping into tents and scanning crowds. When he eventually heads around to the back of the tents, it's because he assumes that if they're this hard to find, they must have gone somewhere more private. And this makes his heart hammer in his chest. No matter what Ben said, Will still feels like there's something weird going on between them, and he's afraid he's going to find them kissing—or worse—up against a wall. He's actually a little relieved when he does finally stumble across them, hunkered down behind the craft services tent and sharing a cigarette.
"Don't tell," says Skandar, with a sort of sheepish grin, when they spot him. "We'll be murdered."
Will tries not to think about how those things will murder them anyway, and how Georgie is far too young to be smoking, and all the other instinctive thoughts that pop into his head. He's not a judgemental person, generally, but he's hated cigarettes all his life—even before he had to smoke those awful herbal things for his part in Son of Rambow. In the same way Ben's psychiatrist parents seem to have brought him up to analyse other people's relationships, Will's Dad, a professor of cardiovascular disease, has brought him up to despise smoking. And he supposes he's feeling a little bit resentful towards Skandar and Georgie today, anyway, and dwelling on feeling left out.
He shifts from foot to foot. "I was—I was sent to find you," he says.
Georgie shuffles aside, leaving a small gap between herself and Skandar, and she gestures for Will to join them. It's such an unexpected, friendly, welcoming gesture that he's startled, and he hesitates. He doesn't want to give anyone else on set more reason to come looking for them, and he doesn't want to sit around inhaling cigarette smoke, but there's just something about them—something that makes him want to do whatever they ask, something that makes him want to be their friend. This is what he's been wanting, after all—a chance to be alone with them, however pathetic it sounds.
And so he crouches between them, awkwardly, on the damp grass. Skandar offers him the cigarette, holds it out to him and twiddles it between his long pale fingers.
"Oh, er, no," Will stammers. "Thank you."
"Terrible habit, I know," he says, and takes a drag himself.
"I thought you said it wasn't a habit," Georgie says from Will's other side, tutting. "What did you call yourself? A casual smoker."
"Ah, and what did you say when you first saw me smoking?" Skandar retorts. "That if I didn't let you try it you'd tell everyone in a ten mile radius?"
Georgie makes a face, and Will is surprised to see that she's blushing, just a little bit, pale cheeks flushing pinker. He's staring, maybe, captivated or something because when he suddenly feels Skandar's elbow in his side he has to bite back a yelp.
"Hey," Skandar says, "if you're just going to sit here and silently judge us—"
"I'm not!" Will protests, "I'm not, I'm sorry, I just..." He wonders whether to tell the truth, but...maybe they'll think less of him if they know he hates smoking. Maybe they'll think he's really uptight and they won't want to get to know him better. At the very least, maybe he won't be able to sit with them when they sneak off for a cigarette, and so far that's his only way in.
"Whatever," Skandar chuckles, and then says something that catches Will completely off guard. "Hey, you should come round for tea tonight."
"Yeah," agrees Georgie happily, like this was completely expected. "And a sleepover." She shakes her head when Skandar offers her the last of the cigarette, and he grinds it out with the heel of his boot.
"Come round?" Will echoes uncertainly.
"Yeah, to mine," says Skandar, as though this is obvious.
Will picks up on the way the invitation is directed at him—only him—as though Georgie's presence in Skandar's flat goes without saying. It really is like they're a couple, inviting him round to their house. But that's not really the most important thing right now—the important thing is that he's finally getting what he's been secretly wishing for ever since he came on set.
So he says, "Yeah. Um, yeah, sure, okay."
"We can get to know each other better," Skandar adds, getting to his feet and offering his hand out to Georgie to help her up too.
Will follows suit, brushing blades of grass from his costume's trousers and feeling not entirely sure of what just happened.
Will shows up at Skandar's door later that day, waddling down the corridor with his arms full of his duvet and pillows, and a satchel draped over his shoulder. His Mum is overjoyed that finally he's spending time with his co-stars, and has gotten far too excited about the whole sleepover idea, suggesting he bring popcorn and scary movies and God knows what else. Will practically fought her off on his way out the door, as she wanted to come with him and drop him off. He had to remind her that Skandar's flat was only two doors away. She'd been acting like he was being so silly all this time, but clearly his on-set relationships matter much more to her than she's let on.
Will stands there, heart pounding nervously. He would have knocked right away, but he can hear the sounds of argument coming from inside, Skandar and Georgie bickering about something. He can't make out any words, so he just stands there, listening awkwardly, and then he becomes aware of a creeping feeling down his spine like he's being watched.
"Mum," he groans, looking huntedly down the corridor to see that his mother is peering out through a crack in his own door, grinning like she's watching him at his first school play or something.
"Sorry, sorry," she says, completely failing to keep her voice down. "HAVE FUN!"
She disappears back into the room and Will tries his hardest to refrain from banging his head against the door in front of him.
He knocks on it instead. It opens after only a brief moment, and then Skandar is there, leaning casually against the doorframe and grinning as he looks him up and down.
"There's spare bedding in the closet," he says, "but it's always good to be prepared."
Will feels stupid as he stumbles into the room and, upon Skandar's instruction, leaves the bedding in a heap on the floor between the sofa and TV. Georgie appears from the little hallway, and she looks even prettier than usual somehow, dressed in a floral blouse and a short brown corduroy skirt. Her hair is loose, and Will thinks it might be the first time he's ever seen it that way. It flows in loose, soft chestnut curls to her chest.
She has tights on, but has taken off her shoes, and Will wonders if he should do the same. He glances at Skandar—barefoot in jeans and a black polo neck sweater. He toes his shoes off a little clumsily, and picks them up.
Skandar grins at him again, that strange smile that looks at once mocking and sympathetic, and takes the shoes, crossing the room again to place them by the door.
"So, um," Will says awkwardly, when the silence is getting a little too long. "Hi."
"Hi," says Georgie, face breaking into a huge grin. She trots across the room and hoists herself up on the back of the sofa beside him, effortlessly perching there and dangling her feet. "We were gonna order Chinese. Is that okay?"
"Sure, yeah, absolutely," Will agrees.
Georgie exchanges a look with Skandar. "He's so polite," she says, giggling. She turns back to Will. "Is it really okay? Don't just say yes to be polite."
"I—I wasn't," Will stammers, taken aback.
"Good, because when she said we were going to, she meant we already have," Skandar says, giving Georgie a Look.
They talk a little awkwardly at first—mostly about the food, what they've ordered, what they like. The takeaway is coming from a local Chinese restaurant that Skandar says even has a wine menu, but he's decided against risking it. Apparently, it's only a couple of days to wait until he turns eighteen, and it's only then that Will finds out his actual age. He's a little alarmed by it—he thought Skandar and Georgie were much closer in age, but he knows that Georgie has only just turned fourteen, and now he wonders if it was silly to think they were in a relationship after all.
"Yep, it's pretty cool," Skandar says off-handedly when Will expresses his surprise. "I don't have to have my parents around all the time like you kids," he teases. "Then again, it might be nice if they could at least make it here for my birthday, but apparently work is more important..."
He starts in on a rant, and Will feels uncomfortable at the suddenly personal turn the conversation has taken. And then Georgie grumbles, "At least your parents aren't splitting up. Mine are too busy trying to tear each other to shreds to make it here," and it gets even worse.
Will has never been more thankful for the phone ringing, as reception calls at that very moment to tell them their takeaway has arrived.
Georgie skips off down to the lobby to get it, and Will and Skandar look at each other for a moment before Skandar sing-songs, "Aaaawk-ward."
Will laughs uneasily. It doesn't seem like things are going particularly well.
"She tends to just say stuff like that to total strangers," Skandar explains. "I mean—not that you're a total stranger, but you know what I mean. It's like...slightly too personal right now, Georgie." He laughs and takes a sip of his Coke.
"Is that—is that why her sister's here, then?" Will asks, uncomfortably. It's not a conversation topic he's particularly thrilled about, but it seems best to keep the talking going.
"Yeah, she's not kidding," Skandar says, lowering his voice a little. "It's World War III at the Henley residence. Rachael's here one week and gone the next, trying to play mediator, but Georgie wants nothing to do with it. She complains about her parents abandoning her here, but I think she'd rather not see them, to be honest."
Will doesn't really know what to say to that, but at least it goes some way to explain the way Georgie has been so attached to Skandar—better than anything Ben came up with, in fact, and he wonders if Ben knows about the divorce and wasn't sure if he should say anything. It makes a lot of sense that Georgie would need someone to talk to, and that she wouldn't want to be alone all the time when her sister's not around, and Will starts to feel a little more comfortable with the relationship between Skandar and Georgie now, like maybe he understands it. Skandar's just looking after her, like an older brother would.
"My parents, meanwhile, have no excuse," Skandar sighs, stretching back across the sofa. "Besides being workaholics. I guess having a son turning eighteen halfway across the world from you isn't that big of a deal."
Will sort of wishes he had some sort of dysfunctional-family anecdote he could chip in with at this point, but he can't come up with anything. His family are really quite annoyingly normal.
"Well, er," he says, lamely, "you've got everyone on set and everything..."
"Yeah, yeah," Skandar agrees, quickly, brushing it off. "And Will and Anna are going to bring their visit forward to make up for it, so I shouldn't complain really. It'll be good."
He grins brightly, like they haven't just covered the kind of ground you don't usually set foot on until much later in a friendship, and then the door swings open and Georgie comes prancing back in with bags full of food.
Throughout dinner, Will is surprised by how attentive the two of them are to him. He gets the impression that the dinner table has not been used for a meal for a very long time, judging by the mountain of stuff covering its surface that Skandar sweeps off with both hands. But now that he's here, they make that effort. And they don't shut him out, either, out of habit—he'd expected from their previous behaviour that he'd feel like a third wheel the entire time, but it's only a spare moment here or there that he gets left behind in their bickering or an inside joke.
Otherwise, they're perfectly friendly, asking him about other projects he's worked on, what his home life is like, even his favourite and least favourite things. Georgie starts the barrage of questions, putting down her chopsticks and resting her elbows on the table, chin in hands as she announces, "We want to know everything about you."
And so Will stammers his way through anecdotes from School of Comedy (which Skandar says he's caught some of, and Will blushes when he says he really enjoys it, and has to try and hide his red cheeks behind his napkin until they cool), and lists family members and favourite films until he's run out of things to say. Full and sleepy, they sit at the table in a surprisingly comfortable silence for a little while.
But then Skandar yawns, and sinks his head down onto Georgie's shoulder, nestling his face in her hair until it's almost hidden from sight. Will looks at them, licks his lips nervously, wonders if he should look away. It bothers him, his reaction. He's known that the group is very touchy-feely ever since he watched the DVD extras on both of the first two Narnia films, but remembering that makes him uncomfortable as he sits here in the company of two of the young actors now. He feels like a spy, a voyeur.
He wonders if this is what they did when Ben joined the cast, invited him for a dinner to get to know him better. He wonders if that's why Ben isn't here now. He sort of wishes Ben were here now, because as it is he feels a little lost, and an extra person might be able to help with that. But Ben seems just as nonplussed by Skandar and Georgie as he is, and less bothered.
"Um," he croaks after a moment that feels much longer than it probably is.
Suddenly, Georgie gets to her feet, practically shaking Skandar from her shoulder. She rounds the table, stops at its side, between the boys, and places her hands down on the surface decisively.
"Well, I'm tired out," she says. "Bedtime?"
Skandar's response is a stretch and a yawn, and Will is a little taken aback by the sudden wind-down of their conversation. But he's tired out too, from the work of today and the events of the evening, and so he nods in agreement.
"Night night, then," Georgie grins, and to Will's surprise, she ducks down and kisses Skandar on the lips. It's just a peck, so quick he can't be sure it happened at all—until she leans over and does the same to him. For a split-second her soft, warm lips are on his, and then they're gone, and she's straightening up, turning on her heel and heading off down the hall.
"Someone wake me before we have to go to set, okay?" she calls back over her shoulder, and that's it.
A pause. Will and Skandar look at one another. Skandar's eyes are dark. He's playing with his glass, turning it around and around in circles on the table.
"I'll set my alarm," he says eventually, and then abruptly stands, clearing the table around Will.
Will sits in silence as Skandar clatters about in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. He can hear water running in the bathroom, and he imagines Georgie getting ready for bed, and he thinks of her lips on his, and on Skandar's, and wonders what it means. If it means anything at all.
When Skandar's done, he passes by the table on his way into the bedroom and just nods curtly, and then he's gone too. All of a sudden Will is left alone, in the near dark, staring at a corridor that seems longer than his own and full of closed doors.
He doesn't move for a long while, so long that Georgie reappears in the hallway, now dressed in a vest-top and knickers, her hair tied in a messy bun. Will blushes, seeing her long bare legs. He can only just see her from where he sits, and she doesn't notice him as she straightens out the pile of her clothes in her hands, and turns the corner towards what Will assumes is the spare bedroom.
Another door opens, and Skandar joins her in the hall on his way to the bathroom. Will feels strangely embarrassed when he notices that Skandar is only in his boxers now, the dim light of the corridor dancing off his pale bare chest. It doesn't feel like they know each other well enough for this, for Will to be sleeping over, seeing them like this. The two of them murmur something to each other, something he can't make out, and Skandar pulls Georgie close, raking his fingers through her hair and pressing a kiss to her forehead before going on his way. Georgie watches him go, and Will gets that uneasy feeling again like there's something he's missing.
When Georgie turns back, her eyes meet Will's, and he tries to duck out of view, ashamed, feeling like he's spying on them. But he hears her bare feet treading softly along the wooden floor towards him and then she's standing in the doorway, looking fresh-faced and a little bit flushed.
"You okay on the sofa?" she asks, looking concerned. Probably wondering why he's just sitting there at the table still, all on his own in the dark.
"Oh, yeah, of—of course," he replies quickly, "I've got—my duvet, and stuff, so. Yeah. Thanks."
She smiles, broadly, but she's still looking a little bit questioning and curious. Like she's trying to figure him out. "Okay," she says, "sleep tight, then."
She turns on her heel and disappears off down the hall again and Will gets up. He gets ready for bed in a bathroom that seems to contain more things that look like they belong to Georgie than to Skandar, and then settles himself into a nest of duvet and pillows on the sofa, and tries to get his mind to stop racing.
He wakes up only an hour or so after finally falling asleep.
All the flats have a slightly different layout, and in Will's, the first door from the kitchen is the bathroom. So in his sleep-addled haze, padding around Skandar's unfamiliar flat in the dark, the door he pushes open is not the one he needs.
It takes him a moment to make sense of what he's seeing. First, he realises that the room is not a bathroom, and then he realises that it is Skandar's bedroom, and in his embarrassment at that he starts to pull the door shut again immediately. But something odd catches his eye, and he stops, and looks closer, blinking sleepily. In the eerie moonlight seeping in from a crack in the curtains, he can see not one, but two bodies sprawled across Skandar's bed.
His heart starts beating faster when he realises they're naked—stretched out together, half-in and half-out of the covers, discarded clothes hanging off the sides of the bed. Georgie is the one closest to him, but she's facing away from the door, facing Skandar, and he can see the soft curve of her bottom, the naked skin of her back. Skandar is facing her, too, and Will feels his face go hot as his eyes trace the shape of Skandar's body, the darkness at the juncture of his thighs. Their legs are intertwined, and he stares for a while, trying to figure out which limbs belong to whom, and gazing at the way their pale skin shimmers in the moonlight.
He doesn't know how much time passes before he manages to shake himself and continue on his way, pulling the door gently closed again.
Will is distantly aware of the sound of an alarm clock when he wakes, but it's too early and he's too tired, and he sleeps through it. When he wakes again not long later, he isn't sure why. But he can hear the sound of water running, and he remembers they're supposed to be on set quite early today, so he rises from the sofa and hastily dresses before stumbling down the corridor towards the bathroom, the source of the noise. The door is half-open, and so he assumes it's okay to pop his head in and let whoever it is know he's awake.
The first thing he sees, though, is the blurry shape of a naked body through the shower curtain, and he steps back again, startled. But then he spots Georgie, perched on the windowsill and brushing her teeth.
"Morning," she says brightly through a mouthful of toothpaste. She's wearing the vest-top and knickers again, he notices, and she has one leg stretched out, her foot resting against the corner of the bathtub. Will's eyes follow the length of that leg, skinny and smooth, up to where he can see a darker shadow beneath the thin white fabric that covers her crotch.
"Oh," Will says, rather stupidly, and he hovers in the doorway still, his eyes darting around the room, trying not to linger anywhere—not on the vest beneath which she isn't wearing a bra, and especially not on Skandar, his tall lithe form all distorted by the translucent shower curtain splattered with water droplets.
"Sleep well?" Georgie asks, leaping from the windowsill to spit into the sink. She grins up at him, then, toothy and white, and he feels rooted to the spot, sweating in all of his layers of clothing.
"Yeah, yeah, fine, thank you," he stammers, and he's about to ask her the same question, but then the image from last night revisits his mind, and he sees her sprawled out across Skandar's bed, naked, their limbs entwined. And he can't speak at all.
"You brought a toothbrush, right?" she asks.
He can only nod and gesture to where he left it last night—it lies between the one she's just put down, and Skandar's, and she picks it up triumphantly, twirling it in her fingers before proffering it to him along with a tube of toothpaste in her other hand. He busies himself with brushing his teeth as she returns to her spot on the windowsill, flossing.
"Morning," comes Skandar's voice, and Will looks up into the mirror above the sink, sees Skandar's face peering out from behind the shower curtain. The wet, semi-sheer fabric clings to one of his thighs, and Will's heart hammers.
"M-morning," he says, averting his eyes quickly.
But Skandar is finished with the shower before Will is finished brushing his teeth, and in the mirror Will catches sight of him stepping out of the bathtub. Briefly, Skandar is naked, with nothing to cover him, and Will blushes hotly, stooping over the sink and casting his eyes downward as Skandar wraps a towel around himself.
"You okay?" Georgie asks, then, hopping off the sill again and coming to stand behind him anxiously, peeking over his shoulder.
"Yep, yeah, fine," Will replies in a hurry, wishing his voice didn't sound so panicky.
Georgie puts her hands on his shoulders, gives them a gentle squeeze, and Will starts at the touch, almost dropping his toothbrush. Skandar approaches, a towel slung low on pale hips and an electric razor in hand, and busies himself shaving beside them, chin smeared with white. Will finds himself staring, in spite of his best efforts, at Skandar's bare torso, the pale skin still glistening a little with water, the freckles on his chest.
Georgie is on Will's other side now, pulling back her hair, spritzing something sweet-smelling into the air, but he is strangely transfixed by Skandar.
"You can use it, if you want," Skandar says suddenly, interrupting Will's daze.
Skandar is wiping his face with a flannel, but in his other hand he still holds the electric razor and is offering it forwards.
Skandar cocks his head, inspects Will closely. "You don't shave yet, do you?"
"Let me see!" cries Georgie, suddenly curious, bounding over to them and reaching out to caress Will's cheek. He shudders slightly at the feel of her soft, cool hand stroking his skin, and cowers back slightly from the two of them, feeling as though they're advancing on him. His back hits the hard enamel of the sink and to his embarrassment, he lets out a yell.
"Okay, okay, I don't shave yet," he cries, holding up his hands in defence.
They slink back, looking amused.
"It's okay," Skandar says with a shrug, "I barely have to, really. In fact, I'm thinking of seeing how much stubble I can grow, maybe it'll get Ben to shut up about his beard."
Will laughs, thinking of the little brush the make-up department have for Ben's facial hair. "You want a beard brush too?" he asks Skandar, grinning.
"Yeah, I think we should demand our own, the two of us," Skandar laughs, and it seems that the atmosphere is more relaxed all of a sudden. A little bit of tension eases out of Will's muscles and he realises he's still grinning goofily at Skandar, even as Skandar is reaching past him for the toothpaste.
"There's cereal in the cupboard beside the fridge," Georgie says, and Will snaps out of it, looking at her. She's smiling, a little curl of her lip. "You can grab something while we get dressed."
They arrive on set together, and Will thinks their scenes that day go better than all the ones they've filmed already combined. There's a more natural flow to it—even though he's being a total dick to them, as usual, as Eustace—and in between takes they smile and laugh, friendly, when before Will used to have to fight the absurd urge to apologise for his character's attitude.
They work late, and when they wrap, everyone goes out to a nearby pizza restaurant. Will sits between Skandar and Georgie, and feels strangely proud as they joke around together. This time, he's in on the private jokes—he even works up the courage to tease Skandar about how it's lucky that pizza is a meal eaten with one's hands, referring to Skandar's inability to use chopsticks that he discovered the night before. When Georgie informs Ben that the boys are considering demanding their own beard brushes, Will likes the way it feels to know that he had a conversation with the two of them that Ben was not present for.
He gets home to find his Mum watching Pride and Prejudice on TV and she practically leaps off the sofa, bombarding him with questions about how the sleepover went.
"I'm not twelve, Mum," he complains, but he can't stop grinning, and he relents easily. "It was fun. They're...really nice."
Later, in bed, he still can't stop grinning to himself and he feels like an idiot for it, like someone who's just fallen in love or something—but it just makes him so happy to finally feel included, to feel like one of them, to be embarking on the type of relationship he hoped for when he took the part. He's too hyped up to sleep, and after a few hours of lying there grinning 'til his face hurts in the dark, he resorts to an old failsafe—spits into his hand, brings it down between his legs—
An image of Georgie floats into his mind, her long legs slightly parted as she sits on the windowsill, the slightly transparent fabric of her white knickers—his breath hitches and he blushes, tries to think of something else, but then the knickers turn into the shower curtain that clung to Skandar's bare thighs and he buries his face in his pillow, rolling over onto his front and frowning. He tries to shake the thoughts away but they come back fast and strong, and he loses control as he gets more excited—naked bodies intertwined in bed, the pert curve of Georgie's arse, the darkness between Skandar's legs, he remembers squinting in the dim moonlight and trying to make out the shape of Skandar's cock, all the while pretending to himself that he was doing no such thing—
He feels more disgusted with himself than usual afterwards, wiping himself off in the bathroom and calling to his Mum that he's getting some water when she asks if he's all right.
He's always had a bit of a problem keeping these sorts of things separate.
William Moseley and Anna Popplewell arrive that weekend, on Skandar's birthday. Will has met them only once before, at the leaving party that was thrown back in London a week before shooting began, and he's not surprised to find that they are much the same now—confident, intelligent, witty...it would all be much more intimidating if they weren't so friendly on top of it all.
What does surprise him, though, is the way that Skandar and Georgie's behaviour changes. Will notices, because he's still hyper-aware of the two of them and their interaction, seeing flashes of their tangled, naked limbs every time he blinks, jumping a little when they brush past him and thinking of the way they cornered him up against the sink in their bathroom. Just yesterday, he'd watched a sleepy Georgie resting her head on Skandar's shoulder between takes, and, once they'd wrapped, seen him pull her into a hug and press a kiss to her forehead when they thought nobody was looking.
But now, it's—well, it's different. It's not as if they're strangers, but the charged affection is gone completely. Georgie sits on William's lap and William jiggles his knees like she's nine again, and Georgie curls her fingers through Anna's hair and demands to borrow whatever product she's using these days. Skandar slings his arm over Anna's shoulder as they sit side-by-side on the sofa and she cuddles up close to him, and later, Will catches a glimpse of Skandar and William in the bedroom, embracing tightly, eyes closed, silent—and then he averts his eyes and hurries on his way, blushing despite the fact that they didn't even notice him.
But all night, Will watches. Through drinks and snacks at Skandar's, through the meal at the restaurant, and through the post-meal drinks and birthday cake back at Skandar's again. And he barely sees Skandar and Georgie even speak to each other. Maybe it's just because they're so thrilled to have William and Anna back, and all of their attention is on them, but he can't help but feel there's something odd about it. Especially when, on his way to the bathroom, he notices a distinct lack of Georgie's belongings strewn across the hallway—and then, he discovers, her toiletries have vanished, too, the ones that covered every available surface of the bathroom last time he was here. It's almost as if they're trying to hide the fact that Georgie spends most of her time here, though when Will plucks up the courage to mention the tidiness of the place (going for an approach that's at least slightly subtle, he thinks), Skandar just gives him a funny look and says something about cleaning up for guests.
Will feels a little guilty for being so suspicious, and distant because he's so caught up in this, but in a way he finds it a helpful distraction from the uncomfortable feeling he has all evening. As wonderful, friendly and welcoming as they all are, there's nothing they can do about the fact that they are a unit, that Will is the new guy, and that no matter how hard they try, he's going to feel a little left out now and again. And so he spends a lot of that night, and then the following week, on the sidelines. Watching. Taking things in. Quiet, blending into the background. It enables him to see a lot of things, to notice things about the five of them and their relationships that he doesn't think they'd pick up on themselves. He has the outsider's perspective, no matter how much they try to tell him he's not an outsider, not at all.
A few nights later, they're at Ben's, all six of them and Andrew, who William and Anna had insisted come along because they missed their old director and weren't getting to spend as much time with him as they'd hoped. And there's wine, and lots of chatting, and then Andrew produces some inconspicuous little discs which turn out to be full of old, behind-the-scenes footage of the films. They cluster round Ben's TV, and then huddle even closer around Ben's laptop upon discovering that the TV has no idea what to do with such a format, and Will perches on the arm of the sofa and feels increasingly more awkward as he watches the history of the group's friendship unfold before his eyes. Everybody laughs as little Georgie approaches preteen Skandar for a cuddle and gets pushed away, and maybe it's the wine (though he's only had one glass) but Will feels suddenly and profoundly out of place, like he has no right to be here. After all, he can't reminisce with them, and any heart-warming emotions the videos give him are overridden by his intense discomfort, especially when he sees Anna wiping away tears as she watches, and William and Skandar both cradling her into a hug.
When the videos end, and everyone disperses from the crowd around the laptop, Will hurries off to the bathroom. He doesn't need to go to the toilet, he just needs to get away from it all, to gather his thoughts. If he can. The wine isn't helping—sure, it was only a little bit, but he's not used to alcohol and it's making his mind feel swimmy, making everything about this seem surreal. He can hear everyone's voices drifting through from the living room, and he thinks of the videos Andrew showed them, remembers when he first saw some of those scenes, watching the special features on his The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe DVD when he was about thirteen. It seems completely insane that he's even in the same building as those kids right now, and he wishes he could remember what he thought of them back then, but now that he knows them, he can't.
He remembers talking about it a little bit with Ben, during one of their first meetings. Ben said those DVD extras made him sick. Will had let out a little startled laugh, and Ben explained that it all just seemed too perfect, like it was scripted, and he couldn't believe they could really be such a happy little family in real life. "Imagine my surprise," he'd said with a sly grin, and Will had laughed, and liked him a lot—he felt comforted by the story, because Ben knew what it was like to join this cast late, and Will didn't feel so much like the new boy at school anymore.
That feeling is back again now, though, and he splashes his face with some cold water like people do in movies when they're stressing out alone in the bathroom. Turns out it has absolutely no effect. He leans against the wall and tries to stop the little movie reels from playing in his brain. But as soon as he manages, other images spring to mind—Georgie's long bare legs again, kicking out from the bathroom windowsill or tangled with Skandar's in bed. Skandar's chin smeared with shaving foam. The lines of Skandar's hipbones, disappearing beneath a towel. Georgie leaning in to kiss him goodnight.
He wishes he knew the reason for this obsession.
Suddenly he becomes aware that some of the voices he can hear from outside have gotten louder, like they're right on the other side of the wall. He realises that they probably are, coming from Ben's bedroom.
"...just that, I assume," Will can hear Ben saying, "but it is a little bit weird, I agree."
"It's not a bad thing," comes another voice, that Will recognises as William's. "It just surprised me, is all."
They're speaking quite quietly—the walls are thin enough for Will to hear them, but they've obviously separated from the group to have this conversation in private and probably wouldn't appreciate the fact that Will can hear every word of it. He feels even more anxious, now, wondering how to leave without making his presence known, but then he starts to realise what they're talking about.
"They never really used to be that close," William goes on, and Ben is making sounds of agreement, "and it's weird, because it feels like—is it weird that I feel like they're trying to hide it? Whenever I mention one of them to the other one, they just get all—" he sighs, sounding frustrated, and then there's silence for a moment before a murmured, "I don't know."
Ben's response is quiet, too. Careful. "I don't think there's anything going on," is what he says, and Will feels his heart leap a little, simultaneously nervous about the nature of the conversation he's overhearing and relieved that finally, someone else is having the same thoughts he is.
"No, no," William is saying almost instantly. "No, ugh." He's laughing, but he really does sound disgusted by the thought.
The conversation feels a little bit awkward now. Ben is laughing too, but uncomfortably, it seems. "Sorry to put that thought in your head," he says, "I just thought you meant—"
"No, I just mean," William says, and then sighs again, "I don't know what I mean."
Will is surprised that William has even noticed a change in Skandar and Georgie's dynamic. The way they've been acting these past few days has given nothing away to him, despite the fact that he's been keeping such a close eye on them, and already knows how close they are. For William to have picked up on something, he either has to be incredibly observant (which could be true—perhaps he has the advantage here, knowing the two of them much better than Will could ever hope to), or Skandar and Georgie usually completely ignore each other and therefore just seeing them speak to one another is unusual.
"I think I'm just worried that it's fake, in some way," William says, then. "Like they're pretending everything's fine for my benefit—mine and Anna's, I mean—but, were things different before we got here?"
Ben's answer is, again, careful, somehow. "That...depends on what you mean." William offers nothing further. "They've pretty much been inseparable."
William sighs again. Will is surprised by how worried he seems. His voice seems to be alternating between sounding very close, and much further away, like maybe he's pacing the length of Ben's room as he speaks. "See, that's what I'm worried about. I don't want them to be ignoring Will. Leaving him out, you know." Will's heart does another little leap, and he suddenly feels very guilty, because somehow it's so much worse when the conversation you're eavesdropping on is about you. William's voice seems to get quite a bit more hushed, now, and Will has to strain to hear. "I've been worried about that this whole time, you know—"
At this, Ben says, quite loudly, "Oh, Will," and Will jumps. This whole name thing is terribly confusing sometimes.
"—no, really, I mean I know everybody said it was going to be fine, because it was okay with you, but—well, that was mostly mine and Anna's doing, wasn't it?" He pauses, reflecting on this. "I don't mean to sound—but it was, wasn't it? I'm not saying they were awful to you or anything, but...I just wasn't sure how good they'd be at, you know, welcoming somebody else in, without us there to guide them."
Ben's voice sounds hurt when he says, "I'm here."
"I know. Sorry." William doesn't sound surprised that Ben has taken offence to this, but he doesn't sound particularly apologetic either. He sighs again, and when he speaks his voice is so quiet that Will—in what, he'll admit, is not one of his proudest moments—has to cross the room and lean up against the wall to hear better. "Are they? Leaving Will out, I mean."
Will bites his lip. He's a little surprised that William is that concerned, and it's nice to know, but it also sort of hurts to realise that someone else has noticed. It's easier for him to tell himself he's imagining it, being a little paranoid or bringing it on himself, but deep down he really, really wants to be accepted by this group and having someone else acknowledge that maybe he's not makes it all the more real.
"Not—I don't—" Ben stammers, and then falls silent.
"I just..." William is pretty much whispering now, and Will feels awful, because they've clearly remembered that he's in here, "he seems to be doing okay, you know, generally, but tonight—"
"Those videos probably didn't help."
"You seemed okay."
"I'm used to it."
"Do you think I should talk to them? Get them to spend more time with him?"
"They were starting to...I think you and Anna arriving has just distracted them a little bit." A pause. "Honestly, Will, we're fine. Don't worry. If they start ignoring him, I can talk to them, and—well, there's four of us, anyway, it's not like it's a heinous crime if the two of them go off on their own sometimes."
William laughs. "I know that." Their voices are growing louder again, more relaxed.
The conversation seems to be drawing to a close, so Will prises himself back off the wall and goes to flush the empty toilet. He hates to draw attention to himself, but he can't stay in here all night and he has to pretend he was just going about his business and didn't hear a thing. He grimaces at his own reflection in the mirror, unable to hear anything over the sound of the toilet flushing and then the tap running, and by the time he works up the courage to leave, Ben and William are already back in the living room, looking only slightly shifty as they pour themselves some more wine.
"Hey, you all right?" Ben asks Will as he enters the room.
"Yeah, yeah," Will says, wiping his hands anxiously on his trousers, "did I miss anything?"
He feels a little bit guilty for that—putting them on the spot, as he knows that whatever he missed, they missed too—but it's the first thing to come into his head, and luckily then they're distracted by a cry from the other side of the room.
"Look at this!" Skandar shouts. "How is she doing this? It's like magic."
They wander over, curious, to see a little row of tiny, brightly coloured foil triangles lying on the coffee table. Georgie is looking smug, and fiddling with a crisp packet.
"You made those?" Will asked, impressed.
"I watched her, but I still don't understand how she does it," Skandar says defeatedly.
"Guess you're just not that good with your hands," William teases, and Skandar shoots him a Look.
The rest of the evening passes without event, to Will's relief, but that night in bed he can't stop replaying Ben and William's conversation to himself. It's interrupted, intermittently, with clips of happy playful children, and he thinks he can feel his heart slowly sinking as the time ticks by. He's spent a few evenings in the company of these people, out of their work environment. Those videos—those kids spent every second together. He's fooling himself that he could ever be on that level, that he could ever be a part of this group like this.
He's not one of them. He doesn't know how to be.
The next day, Will's Mum leaves. His Dad is taking over so that neither of them miss too much work, but he doesn't arrive 'til tomorrow night, and Will is fairly certain that this change-over could not have come at a worse time. He's already feeling like more of an outsider than ever before, and, wandering aimlessly around his seemingly huge, empty flat that evening, he thinks this is the most miserable he's felt since he got here. He watches snippets of things on TV; tries to read some of a book but has to keep rereading pages because he's not taking any of it in; attempts to make himself some dinner and burns it.
He ends up sitting on his kitchen floor with his head in his hands, trying as hard as he possibly can not to cry, when there's a sudden, and rather jaunty, knock on his door.
He jumps to his feet and sort of brushes himself down and wipes his face, trying not to look as though he's seconds from sobbing, and hurries towards the door. Greeting him when he opens it is two people who probably couldn't look in a more different mood if they tried.
"Hi," grins Skandar.
"Hi," grins Georgie.
"H-hello," Will says. His voice sounds hoarse and stupid, and he can't manage a grin just yet.
"We're gonna hang out at Ben's again," Georgie informs him. "Will and Anna went to see a movie. Do you want to come?"
It's slightly weird at Ben's, because it's just the four of them like it was before William and Anna arrived and they have to re-adjust slightly. There are board games and popcorn and wine, and as happy as Will is to have company, it feels like there's some sort of tension in the air. The more Skandar drinks, the more relaxed he becomes, and he starts to touch Georgie more than he has been lately, even lying down on the floor with his head in her lap at one point. Will wonders if it's just the alcohol, or if Skandar feels he can do this because the others aren't here to see it, and he wonders why that matters so much.
Later, Ben says he's just nipping to the loo, and the moment he's disappeared around the corner, Will is pounced on.
"Will," Georgie hisses, leaning closer.
"Oh, are we doing this now?" Skandar asks, interestedly, leaning in towards her.
"Doing what now?" Will asks anxiously.
"We have a thing we want you to do," Georgie tells him.
Will isn't at all comforted by this. He's noticed over time that this group is fond of games, and not just the board kind that they're in the middle of right now, but little competitive games, dares and bets and silly little challenges they make up for each other. He supposes it all started with the Pottymouth Bucket on the set of the first movie—this group has always had a penchant for taking each other's money, it seems.
He's never really known exactly what's going on, but he's seen them exchanging small change as forfeits and he's picked up on some things. Like—Ben regularly refuses to get involved, and so Will assumed it was another Skandar-and-Georgie thing, until William and Anna arrived. And now that it's all of them back together, he's noticed it happening all the time. Just little things. William betting Anna she couldn't get her sweet wrapper in the bin from a certain distance, and if she failed, she had to pay for his pudding at the restaurant that night—just something silly and small like that.
But no one has ever challenged him. Until now.
He looks nervously at Skandar and Georgie's eager faces staring back at him. He's much more nervous about this than he probably should be, in fact. Maybe they just want to bet him that he won't win this game of Trivial Pursuit, or something—although, in that case, Will is going to start trying about twelve times harder than he has been so far, and god, what if he loses? Will he just have to pay them a couple of dollars, or will they shun him forever?
This is ridiculous. He has to find out what it is, first, before panicking. "Wh—"
"It's something we've been wanting to do for a long time," Georgie interrupts, like she was actually waiting for him to ask just so she could cut him off. She's still being cryptic, though, of course, and Skandar leans his head on her shoulder, grinning and getting some of her hair in his mouth by mistake. "But we've been waiting for the right person to do it with."
"That's not quite true," Skandar interrupts, "it's more like we've been trying to find someone willing to do it with us."
"This sounds so dirty," Skandar laughs to himself.
"Don't worry, it's not dirty," Georgie adds, noticing Will's nervous expression.
"Anything is dirty if you want it to be," Skandar cuts in, and Will wonders how drunk he is.
"Shh, Ben's going to be back in a second, shut up," Georgie hushes him, giggling, as Skandar sort of wraps himself around her, clinging onto her flimsy blouse. It pulls down a little bit, exposing a glimpse of hot pink bra, and Will flushes and averts his eyes.
"Ben won't do it," Skandar says sadly. "He said he would, but not while Will and Anna are here. When they're around, he likes to pretend to be responsible."
"Yeah," Georgie sighs, rolling her eyes. "And Will and Anna actually are responsible, so they're a no-go. And we want to do it soon."
There's another pause, and Will feels like they think he's telepathic or something, and has already somehow received the message. "I'm sorry," he says, "I—what is it that—?"
"Right," Georgie says, nodding vigorously, almost businesslike but still childishly excited, "you know how we've only ever been on the boat when we're filming?"
Georgie has a rather adorable habit of referring to the Dawn Treader as 'the boat', as though it's a little canoe or something instead of the ridiculously enormous ship it is. "Uh huh," Will says, catching himself smiling, and he doesn't know if it's because of her or because their excitement is contagious.
"Well, how cool would it be," her eyes are practically sparkling, "if we were on there all on our own? When no one else is around?"
"I—" Will says, and then pauses, narrowing his eyes. He's not entirely sure where this is going; it seems best at this point to play along. "That would be pretty cool."
Their faces both break into huge grins. "Yes!" Georgie cries triumphantly, and goes to high-five Skandar, who completely misses her and high-fives the coffee table instead. Georgie doesn't even seem to notice. "I knew you'd be up for it," she effuses in Will's general direction. "Knew it."
"Wait, wait, what?" Will asks. He's still grinning, caught up in their joy, but—"I'm not sure what you're actually asking me to do," he admits.
Skandar rolls his eyes, impatient. "We're asking you to sneak onto the ship at night with us," he clarifies, and while Georgie was at least making this sound like kind of a big deal, Skandar seems to shrug it off like it's nothing.
"I—oh," Will says, his face falling. "Oh, I don't know about that. I mean—won't there be lots of security?"
"Not at night," Skandar shrugs, detaching himself from Georgie and sitting up properly, "and besides, screw security. We can do it."
Will frowns. He hates the look of absolute dismay that's come over Georgie's face, but this really doesn't seem like a good idea. The panic starts to set back in. He's already accepted that he pretty much has to do this—what will they do if he doesn't? They'll be disappointed, maybe mad at him...they might not want to spend time with him anymore.
"But what if we get caught?" he asks in a small voice.
Georgie actually grins again at that, shaking her head. "Well, don't worry, young William," she says mockingly. (Ever since William arrived, Michael has taken to calling him 'old William' and Will 'young William', something Georgie finds hilarious.) "We're not going to get caught."
"But what if we d—"
"Will," Georgie cuts him off, and she scurries closer to him across the floor with no regard for the half-completed game of Trivial Pursuit lying between them, sending little plastic pie pieces flying left and right. "This...is a test," she says dramatically, reaching him and looking at him challengingly. "Are you going to pass it, or fail it?"
Will opens his mouth, and suddenly gets a hand clamped over it in response, the metal band of a ring on Georgie's finger pressing into his lip.
"Be careful," Georgie warns, "a lot depends on how you answer."
Skandar is grinning beyond her, shaking his head and reaching for his wine glass. Just then, the toilet flushes, and Georgie springs back, fumbling with the game pieces and trying to get them at least roughly in their original places on the board.
"I was on the orange," Skandar corrects her, sliding his piece across a few spaces.
"P-pass it," Will says in a small voice, and they both look up at him, almost in surprise. He clears his throat. "Pass it," he says again.
They both look victorious. "Yay," Georgie says, careful to keep her voice quiet, but the immense joy is all over her face.
They can hear Ben padding down the hall. "Await further instructions," Skandar says darkly, just before Ben re-enters the room.
"All right, who's been cheating?" he asks, grinning brightly and obliviously at them all.