"maybe in the second take we could retrace our steps and make amends"
- "Hitchcock", Finn Anderson
Gleeson looks at himself in the mirror. Blue shirt, nice tie, jacket. He looks nice, he thinks, and smiles.
It looks weird on his face because it’s so genuine. For months now Gleeson hasn’t seen anything but a forced smile there, turning his face into something he barely recognized. Months full of high anxiety and the constant struggle to just keep going. Fake it ‘till you make it.
Maybe he finally made it.
“I want to talk to you again,” Bates says in that last video, and that’s all Gleeson has waited for all these weeks.
It takes him six tries before he finally manages to call Bates. What if he’s busy? his head keeps on saying, What if you misunderstood, what if he doesn’t want to talk to you? What if it was all just a show, all for the viewers? It takes everything to make his head shut up.
Who even still makes phone calls? his head still whispers when Gleeson finally manages to press that green symbol next to Bates’s name.
His heart beats heavy in his chest, loud and painful, while every dial tone brings Gleeson closer to just hanging up again.
“Gee,” there’s suddenly Bates’s voice, and Gleeson almost gasps.
He doesn’t know what to say, so he says nothing.
Bates sounds breathless. “Have you watched my video?” His voice is shaky, maybe a little hopeful?
But Gleeson might just be imagining things.
“Yeah,” he finally says. His voice always sounds so small next to Bates’s. It makes his heart ache in such a familiar way.
There’s silence, stretching, stretching.
Gleeson would say something, but he doesn’t know what, the moment seems too fragile, like anything he wants to say could ruin it.
“And?” Bates asks after a while. Maybe he’s scared, too.
Somehow, that thought calms Gleeson a bit, and it makes him brave enough to ask, “Well, I’ll see you at the wedding, right?”
It’s not much. He should have said more, he instantly thinks, instantly regrets sounding so distant, so vague, but before he can really begin to spiral downwards like that, he hears Bates breathe out, as if he had been holding his breath.
“Yes. Yeah, we’ll – I’ll see you there,” he says, and then, like something he knows he will regret, he blurts out, “I’m so glad, Gee, you know, that video I made for Rosalind and Orlando would mean nothing without you there. I made it –” But then he seems to catch himself, slows down. Starts again. “Well, you’ll see. Thanks, Gee.”
Gleeson’s head is spinning. “Alright,” he quietly says, and he’s almost smiling. “Bye, Bates. I’ll see you there.” He knows this is the third time they said that. It’s just so reassuring.
Bates huffs, or maybe he’s laughing. “Yeah, I’ll see you there.” A promise.
Maybe they have always gravitated towards each other. Gleeson thinks of that first time they met, that sad looking boy in detention that caught Gleeson’s attention in passing, someone he couldn’t look away from. Maybe there has always been this pull.
The moment Gleeson arrives at the wedding, his eyes find Bates’s in the crowd. He wasn’t even looking for Bates, at least that’s what he’s telling himself, but between dozens of people, they immediately find each other.
And it stays like that for the rest of that night. At the ceremony, Bates sits a few rows in front of him, and ever so often, Gleeson catches him turning around and looking at Gleeson. It makes his heart skip a beat every single time.
And then, at the reception, wherever Gleeson is, Bates is somewhere close. They’re not even actively seeking for each other, Gleeson thinks, but they always find each other anyway: When Gleeson is chatting with Katie and Peter at a table, he can see Bates with his camera out of the corner of his eye. When Bates is sitting down talking to Tom, Gleeson is just a few feet away, talking to Katie’s aunt Julie.
Then, the video. It’s beautiful. Those are his friends, everyone that matters to him, talking about everyone that matters to them. About how love is worth the struggles. How love makes you calm, makes you better, about how love can’t fix you, but it can make fixing yourself so much easier. And Bates’s voice connecting all these stories, making them into something greater.
“it would mean nothing without you there,” Gleeson hears Bates’s voice ringing in his head, and it’s almost overwhelming. As if Bates is finally saying all the things that Gleeson has wanted to hear for months.
When he looks up, Bates and his camera catch him off guard. He blushes, wants to hide his face. But for the first time in a long time, letting his guard down doesn’t seem like the scariest thing in the world.
And it goes on. Gleeson on the dancefloor, Bates passing by. Bates getting another glass of champagne at the bar, Gleeson almost bumping into him on the way to get some water.
Closer and closer they circle around each other. Not long, Gleeson thinks, until it’s finally time to really meet, to talk.
And then he sits down to catch his breath, watch the others on the dancefloor, when suddenly he notices Bates’s camera on the table.
He laughs, breathlessly. Bates and his ridiculous camera. For the longest time he got it wrong, got angry at Bates for hiding behind the camera like that. Now, after seeing the wedding video, he thinks he finally understands – Bates was never hiding. He was showing himself. He was using the camera as his language, as something he didn’t know how to say in any other way.
Now, Gleeson thinks, they’re on the same page again.
That’s when Bates is suddenly standing in front of him. Sits down and pulls his chair closer to Gleeson, and Gleeson feels like he’s about to overflow, spilling his happiness and his sudden trust in fate everywhere.
“I know we have a lot to talk about,” Bates says, and oh yeah. There’s that. The mess they made before, the one Gleeson is dreading, because obviously they need to talk about it, but talking about it makes things scary and fragile. He wishes they were already past this. But of course it can’t be that easy.
“I’m sorry, too,” he murmurs when Bates apologizes. It doesn’t seem enough, and for a moment, a million doubts are running through his head, telling him it won’t ever be enough.
Gleeson fights against that, drowns them out, doesn’t listen to that, listens to Bates instead. And Bates wants to fix things, wants to try.
And that’s what matters.
That’s what mattered all along.
“Because I –… I still care about you.”
It’s quiet, Gleeson can barely hear his own voice.
But Bates lets out a shaky breath, and Gleeson knows, Bates heard.
They’re both shaking a bit, Gleeson’s hand in Bates’s, when Bates leads him to the dancefloor, but it’s not because they’re scared. Gleeson isn’t, not anymore. He’s overwhelmed, he’s happy and hopeful, he’s content and longing for more at the same time, it’s all too much, and it’s all exactly how it’s supposed to be.
When he holds Bates, it’s like everything falls into place. Every movement from then on is like telepathy, easy and smooth and so familiar. Their foreheads touch. Bates comes closer, Gleeson wraps his arms around him.
They look into each other’s eyes.
And there it is, the thing he thought he was missing that whole time, the thing that felt like it was lost, that probably has been there that whole time. Gleeson won’t take it for granted ever again.
He kisses Bates.
And it happens, that magical thing that always happens with Bates: everything slows down, everything gets blissfully quiet. Everything else doesn’t matter anymore, because this, them? That’s real. That’s what matters.
And yes, they have a lot of things to talk about, and yes, Gleeson’s doubts and fears won’t just disappear. There’s ways they hurt each other that they never noticed were there, and never learned how to fix. There’s a lot of work waiting.
But now? There’s this dance. And this kiss. And this moment.
They must look nice together, in their nice shirts, leaning against each other and breathing each other in. Gleeson smiles.
He’ll be okay.
They’ll be okay.