Fandom: 10 O'Clock Live
Pairing: Charlie Brooker/David Mitchell
Word Count: 1,000
Notes: Written for this year's picfor1000, Dressed to the Nines!
Summary: When Charlie's behaviour becomes odder than usual, David worries it's something he's done...
“Charlie,” asked David, mildly confused, “Why are you standing on a stool holding an umbrella?”
“Because it’s raining,” said Charlie, belligerently. Although it could be said that belligerent was Charlie’s natural state, and therefore not much of a marker to his mood, David knew better. Knew Charlie better. He peered more closely - the stool wasn’t even the kind of stool Charlie liked, being cheap and Ikea-looking. However that might explain why it was outside his block of flats - since he was hardly going to use a good stool for such a thing.
David cleared his throat. “Did you lose a bet?”
“Are you sure?”
Charlie gave him a Look. The sort of look that said I consider you both ignorant and annoying, and I’d like you to go away now, please. Only, perhaps without the please.
Then Charlie got down from his stool, and they shuffled off to dinner as though nothing had happened. And every time David went to ask about it, he got this quelling glance-and-frown routine, and so he didn’t. It didn’t stop him wondering though.
It didn’t stop him noticing things either. Maybe Charlie had just been more blatant that day, or maybe David really was that unobservant - but standing on a stool in the rain wasn’t the last odd thing he caught Charlie doing. They were leaving, after filming yet another 10 O’Clock Live, and David was wired, coming down off the usual nerve-wracking high that live performing gave him, all jittery and shaky - when he caught Charlie holding the green room door open. Just holding it, not moving or otherwise interacting with the world, just holding the door like his fucking life depended on it. He cocked a sardonic eyebrow when he noticed David had stopped, and his mouth shifted into that sucking-lemons frown Charlie was so good at, until David just carried on. Nothing to see here, moving right along. These are not the droids you are looking for.
David could do that. Of course he could. Who was he to throw the first stone in the glass house of idiosyncrasies? He was hardly the least offending candidate in that department. Ask Rob, for example. Who enjoyed sharpening his wit on anybody who suggested that David might be neurotic - unless it was he himself saying it.
But Charlie was a mate, and a good one, and there was an unwritten code about such things, wasn’t there? There certainly used to be, David was sure. Back in the mythical Good Old Days, when an Englishman could post himself like a letter and be counted merely eccentric. Oh, whoops, Johnson’s shouting obscenities at dinner and hiding all the orange peel again, never mind, has he thought about including the aardvark in his dictionary? That was how things used to be done, surely? David didn’t really see how Charlie’s little peccadilloes were any different. So he went on manfully ignoring such curiosities as Charlie’s weird habit of leaving all his cans of hairspray and other product out on his dressing room bench, scattered all higgledy-piggledy, however often his make-up girl put them all away again. Or the way he left folder after folder carelessly open on his netbook, not even saved, or even when they were, their blank icons would appear scattered randomly like seeds across his desktop in no order at all. Charlie definitely had his oddities. And most of them weren’t nearly as dramatic as stools and umbrellas - but once David had started to notice he found he just couldn’t stop. He couldn’t just ignore things. They niggled at him. He worried about it.
So David decided they should have a chat, man to man. Because even if he was rubbish at all that emotional shit, Charlie was no better. Therefore he made himself barge into Charlie’s dressing room before rehearsals one drizzly Thursday before he changed his mind.
“Right then. What is it?” David demanded, at last, dizzy with the enormity of an actual Confrontation.
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Charlie. Then. “Nothing,” he added, triumphantly, as though suddenly realising he could deny it all, and having David blink at him like a myopic and faintly irritated hamster didn’t actually mean torture was on the cards.
“But I’m anxious,” said David, plaintive, ”You didn’t use to have all these habits and tics. And we’re friends. Aren’t we? I just wondered what’s changed. If it’s bad. If a beer down the pub would help. Umm. That kind of thing.”
He trailed off. Charlie was pink-tinged, and staring at the floor. No, not at the floor. At the dressing-table... David looked down. His fingers were twitching the bottles of hairspray around, organising them in descending order of height, in a neat row.
He hadn’t even realised he’d been doing it.
“What?” asked David, faintly. “What? I don’t understand.”
“Look,” said Charlie, his voice gruff, “It calms you down, yeah? Fiddling with things. Pacing around. And I wanted to...”
“Humour the obsessive-compulsive.”
“Ease the way, maybe. Just like any mate would do. Are you telling me that Rob doesn’t make allowances for stuff? Because I don’t believe you.” Charlie frowned again. Almost inaudibly, he said, “And I like watching you.”
“You like watching me walk back and forth a dozen times checking the front door’s locked, while you hold an umbrella over my head.”
Charlie winced at the bitter tone in David’s accusations, but he nodded. He took a deep breath.
“I like watching you, ok? Fuck. I like. You.”
David stared at him, feeling poleaxed. “Oh,” he said, allowing himself to properly look back for possibly the first time. Red face, big hands, big hair - he loved it all. He possibly had for quite some time. Then David stepped forward and hurriedly kissed him, before anyone in the room could change their mind.
“You better not just like me for my bizarre yet acute intellect,” he whispered, eventually, into Charlie’s collar.
But Charlie only laughed.