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James bursts out laughing when he sees Alex. He's got on a scarf which makes him look fucking ridiculous, it's not even a stylish scarf, it's just a plain wool winter scarf that he's wearing for some reason in the middle of summer.

"Why the fuck are you wearing a scarf?" He asks, it's not like Alex would care if someone saw he had a hickey, especially not in his own house so it couldn't be that. Alex looks up from his computer and scowls.

"Trying a new look," he bites out. "Fuck off. Go bother George or something." James raises an eyebrow.

"Someone's in a bad mood," he teases. Then in a few steps he crosses the room and yanks on Alex's scarf. He clutches at the fabric trying to keep it covering his neck but James pulls it away. James' eyes go wide. On Alex's neck are several conspicuous red bruises in the shape of fingers.

"Oh," James chokes out. Alex's face is turning red and he scrambles to get the scarf back on, which James doesn't see much point in. "I'm sorry." He says rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably. "Are you–are you okay Al?" He asks. Alex looks up at him furiously.

"Fuck. Off. James." He says. James thinks that Alex might stab him with a kitchen knife if he doesn't so he books it out of the kitchen and then out of the apartment even though he was supposed to film a video with George

James tries to stop thinking about it, but it keeps coming to the surface of his thoughts. He thinks about it all after noon and tosses and turns half of the night torturing himself. Some one must have assaulted Alex. James feels sick thinking about it, but how else could you explain those bruises?

...

By the next afternoon James has managed to work himself into a bit of a frenzy thinking about it. At around two he decides he can't take it anymore and goes over to talk to Alex.

"We were supposed to film a video hours ago, where were you?" George asks as he lets James into the apartment. James ignores him.

"I've got to talk to Alex," he says urgently.

"Uh... okay?" George says. "He's in his room." James walks purposefully towards Alex's room and bursts in, Alex, who is sitting on his bed looking at his phone looks up.

"What're–" James cuts him off.

"Who did that to your neck?" He demands. Alex stares for a moment.

"Well that's hardly any of your business, is it?" He says, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Of course it's my business!" James says indignantly. "I'm one of your best mates. You'd better tell me who did that or I swear to god–"

"Fine!" Alex says. "Jesus, it was George. Are you fucking happy? Why're you being so weird about–"

"George did that to you?" James says, quieter, dumbfounded. "Why would George choke you?"

"Uh." Alex says, looking up at James, puzzled. "Because I asked him to?"

"Why would you..." James trails off the realization hitting him like a ton of bricks. "Oh." He says, he's silent for a minute. "Well I'm a fucking idiot."

"What did you think was going on?" Alex asks.

"I thought some had attacked you or something," James mutters. "Looking back, I guess that probably shouldn't have been my first guess." Alex bursts out laughing.

"No," he says. "Probably not." And then James has another genius moment of realization.

"Wait," he says slowly. "So this means you and George are fucking?" Alex shrugs.

"It's not a big deal," he says. James feels something sharp in his chest.

"So you're not dating or anything?" He asks.

"No," Alex says. "It's just sex."

"Do you wish you were dating?"

"Shut up, James," Alex says rolling his eyes.

"Sorry, sorry!" he says, there's a brief moment of slightly uncomfortable silence "I guess I'd better go talk to him. I mean, uh, about a video we were gonna film. Not about this."

"This isn't going to make things weird between us, is it?" Alex asks cautiously.

"It might take me a minute to get used to," James admits. "But no, it won't."

"Good," Alex says firmly, looking up at him. James swallows, the moment suddenly feels too intense for him. He slips out the door.

Later, when he and George finally film the video together he realizes that he wants to punch George nearly as much as he'd wanted to punch the person he'd though assaulted Alex, and he knows that can't mean anything good.