But I have to turn away, we have to give it up
'Cause this is real life, it isn't cinema
And nobody can twist this plot
Not even Hitchcock
Bates posts the video, then waits. He knows he won’t be able to focus on anything, so he doesn’t really bother trying. The wedding video is out, for obvious reasons. YouTube is out, because no matter what he tells himself he’ll watch, he’ll probably end up watching their fight at Katie and Bink’s party (which was terrible), their fight at New Year’s (which was worse), or one of their old videos (which would be the worst of all).
He absentmindedly scrolls through Tumblr on his phone, mostly to give his fingers something to do while being able to ensure he won’t miss a call. Or a text. Something.
Because Gleeson has to be as sick as Bates is of fighting all the time. And pretending things are normal even though it feels like he’s going around missing his right arm? At least, it feels that way to Bates. But they were best friends. Gleeson has to be upset about losing him, right?
But with every second that ticks by, Bates feels his admittedly tentative hope wilting a bit more. There’s every possibility that Gleeson’s hostility wasn’t because he was hurt that Bates was moving on because he wasn’t over him. Maybe Gleeson just hates him now.
Bates can’t exactly blame him. He pretty much hates himself. For not being there for Gleeson, for not trying to fix things earlier, for not being able to hold on to what matters to him maybe more than anything else in the world even when he could feel it slipping away.
Sure, it’s not all his fault, but he and Gleeson were friends for years. He should have known what was wrong and tried to fix it while he still could. He should have tried to talk about it instead of pulling away more and more.
Bates is so caught up in his head that his phone buzzes three times before he realizes it’s ringing. With a phone call. Gleeson’s name and his smiling face are staring up at him, but it takes him a good ten seconds to put two and two together before he picks up the phone, hardly daring to believe it.
“Gee,” he says, simultaneously feeling insanely tense and indescribably relieved.
The silence stretches on for an eternity and Bates’s heart sinks, worrying it was a misdial, that Gleeson is doing just fine and has no interest in fixing things with a mess of a person.
But not knowing and not saying anything is worse by far, so he tries, “Have you watched my video?” His voice sounds weak and quiet even to his own ears. He remembers Gleeson commenting about how loud he is a million years ago.
But no matter how small his voice is, Gleeson’s is even smaller. “Yeah,” he almost breathes.
Maybe he does want to fix things after all.
Bates is sure Gleeson can hear the blood throbbing in his veins, or his racing thoughts, or his ragged breathing.
When Bates can’t take the suspense anymore, he prompts, “And?”
“Well,” Gleeson replies, voice a little more sure, “I’ll see you at the wedding, right?”
Something about the way he says it makes Bates realize this might end up okay, and he can’t stop himself from heaving this audible sigh of relief. They’ll see each other. They’ll talk. They won’t fight. They’ll try. And maybe, just maybe, Bates can get his best friend back.
“Yes. Yeah, we’ll–I’ll see you there.” Bates stops himself and tries to collect his thoughts. He feels like he could end the call, and they could wait until they saw each other in person to have their real conversation. But he doesn’t want to just leave it here. He doesn’t want to wait a whole week before starting to say what he needs to. So, before he can talk himself out of it, he starts babbling. “I’m so glad, Gee, you know, that video I made for Rosalind and Orlando would mean nothing without you there. I made it –” For you. The words echo in his head, but he can’t do it. It’s not fair to Gleeson, if he’s moving on, to drag him back in with Bates’s pathetic ass, which might love Gleeson until the day he dies but won’t hold Gleeson hostage against his will. “Well, you’ll see. Thanks, Gee.” It feels so lame, but Bates tries to put as much feeling into it as possible. Thanks for calling. Thanks for saying you’ll come. Thanks for saying we’ll talk. Thanks for being you.
Gleeson’s voice is soft, softer than Bates has heard directed at him in too damn long. “Alright. Bye, Bates. I’ll see you there.”
Bates closes his eyes and sighs, sheer relief that they’re finally on the right track. “Yeah, I’ll see you there.” His heart pounds in anticipation, even though it’s a week away.
Bates tries to sound chipper in the apology video he posts for the viewers, and it’s not even that much of an act. But he’s lying by omission, not saying that in addition to being excited he’s also nervous as hell about the video and Gleeson. And how Gleeson will react to the video. And how everyone will react to the video. But mostly Gleeson. But also everyone.
Bates gets to the hotel a bit early to make sure everything is set and ready to go with the person who’s in charge of the projector. He gives the girl one of his precious USB drives, holding onto his backup just in case. He chats with Bink and Katie and Milly in passing, but they’re all busy with photos and making sure their parents have everything they need, so he’s mostly left by himself. Which would be fine if his thoughts weren’t such a churning place to be.
Once Peter gets there and Katie categorically refuses his help with anything (insisting in her own stubborn and very sweet way that this is her mum), he keeps Bates company as they wait for people to arrive. About fifteen minutes before the ceremony is supposed to start, Bates sees familiar motion out of the corner of his eye: Gleeson, obviously. Their eyes lock and Bates has to look away before he does something stupid, like run into his arms. He stays hyperaware of Gleeson, though, for the rest of the night. He tells himself it’s so he can figure out the best time to go over and talk to him, but he knows that’s not quite true. Bates has never been able to take his eyes off of Gleeson.
During the ceremony, Bates sits closer to the front than Gleeson, but he can acutely feel his presence away to his left. Bates can’t tell whether it’s the feeling of Gleeson’s gaze that makes Bates turn around so much, or if Gleeson is only looking at him because he keeps (not very subtly) turning in his chair to look over at Gleeson. But he can’t help it. Hearing all the traditional words about loving and honoring forever, he hears echoed in it Gleeson’s breaking voice talking about how he mourned the future they could have had together. It took Gleeson actually breaking up with him for Bates to realize that he mourned it, too. That while he didn’t know with absolute certainty that he and Gleeson could have lasted, he wanted them to last. But he couldn’t communicate it. So Gleeson left.
Bates forcibly shoves away this train of thought. Gleeson clearly cares enough to try and fix their friendship. He’ll get a chance to talk, to say what he needs to. If only so Gleeson understands.
At the reception, Bates divides his time between filming everything and trying to work up the nerve to talk to Gleeson. He tells himself it’s not cowardice not to tap him on the shoulder and ask for a private word, Bates just doesn’t want to be rude and interrupt his conversation. He tells himself it’s not cowardice when he decides to wait until after his video has played. When it does, he pans over the crowd’s reactions, if only as an excuse to look at Gleeson and see what he thought. The sound of applause dims when he sees Gleeson smiling at him, honest to God smiling. He looks down, and back up, still with that look on his face that scares Bates shitless because he hopes it means what he thinks it means but he can’t really believe it.
He wants to find Gleeson right after that, but Rosalind and Orlando find him and thank him profusely with hugs, and he gets detoured by people wanting to tell him he did a great job. Which is nice and all, but he can’t get Gleeson’s smiling face out of his head. He’s lost track of the camera in all the hubbub, but he barely spares it a thought as he looks around the room for Gleeson. Finds him sitting alone watching Katie and Peter and Bink and Annie slow dance.
Heart slamming against his ribs, he says, “Hey, Gee,” getting his attention and pulling a chair closer.
“Hey,” Gleeson responds carefully, shifting slightly in his seat to better face him. Bates gets that feeling again that maybe they can get some of what they had back.
Bates feels he has to start talking, or he’ll never get it out. He’s not good at expressing himself, especially not off the cuff, and despite rehearsing this conversation over and over in his head he’s unprepared for the real thing.
“I– I know that we have a lot to talk about.”
Gleeson smiles and nods. It’s weird; he seems so calm compared to Bates. Maybe there’s not as much on the line for him. But he pushes the thought aside and pushes on.
“I just want you to know that above everything else… I’m sorry.” He tries to put all his emotion behind it, to make Gleeson understand that maybe he’s not the best with words, but he’s trying.
Gleeson looks serious and sincere when he responds, “I’m sorry too.” In a moment that feels like an eternity, Gleeson’s beautiful blue eyes hold his gaze until he has to look away.
Bates takes a moment to gather his thoughts. “Maybe we won’t be able to fix everything, but I want to try. Because I…” His voice breaks off, his heart pounding. He wants to make sure he communicates the enormity of the situation and of his desire to make amends without making Gleeson feel there has to be romance involved. “I still care about you.”
Gleeson’s voice is thick with emotion when he says, “Same here.”
A giant weight lifts from Bates’s chest. He’ll worry about the rest another time. But for now, he knows Gleeson cares enough to miss him. To want him back.
The pressure from Gleeson’s hand feels so familiar as Bates leads him to the dance floor, just like the feeling of his arms around him and their foreheads touching.
And then they’re kissing without Bates really knowing what happened, and his heart aches with the thought that it might be just hormones and habit and the setting and the champagne. Because for some reason it feels like an ending. He pulls himself desperately closer, determined to memorize this feeling and make the most of it while it lasts.
If this is their last kiss, if this is their last dance, Bates thinks he can live with it. Because it’s real life, not cinema. But it’s enough.