It was a rainy day in Australia.
That meant humidity and slick, muddy ground.
Joe, Rami, Martin and several other cast members were miserable. They were almost done with filming for the day. The thick, moist air made it seem like it would last forever. Everyone was sweating, and the fake mud and blood didn't ease it at all. Everyone just wanted to find a way to relax during down time.
Joe glanced between himself, Rami and Martin. The happy vibe between them was absent. There was nothing but silence. They were usually talking nonstop, with Joe telling jokes and looking longingly at Rami as he laughed. Maybe it's the weather. Joe thought as he wiped sweat from his forehead. He took a deep breath. The air felt heavy in his lungs.
“This heat is awful...” Martin commented, seeming to try to strike up a conversation. He was growing tired of the silence. “I wouldn't be surprised if someone had a heat stroke.”
“Yeah...” Joe's reply was half-hearted. He couldn't ignore how drained Rami looked. He looks so sad, Joe thought with a frown. I wish I knew how to make it better instantly. Rami was slouching, and he was going his best to avoid eye contact. His eyes looked tired and watery. He was distant from everyone else. It felt as if he was on the other side of the studio instead of sitting there with them.
Joe slid over closer to Rami, who moved a single inch away from him. “What's up..?” Joe asked. This won't get him to talk, dammit Mazzello. He gave Rami a concerned look. He faced his body towards him. He hoped it said we was willing to help Rami. He hated seeing Rami sad. He always wanted to see the smile that sent his heart racing a million miles a minute.
Rami shook his head. “'m fine...” His voice broke slightly at the end. He cleared his throat. He made sure to keep his eyes down. Joe didn't need to see the truth. “Don't worry about me.” He looked up at Joe with a forced smile. He then looked back down at his lap. Depsite the heat, he wrapped his arms around himself.
Joe remained quiet. He could see Rami shaking. He saw Rami's shoulders shudder with each breath. He looked so fragile, as if he could break at any second. I've never seen him cry before, Joe thought. I can comfort him, right?
He looked over at Martin, who looked back at him. Martin looked just as clueless as Joe. He bit his lip and looked down for a brief moment. He was deep in thought. He then looked back up at Joe. "Do I need to leave?" he mouthed. Joe looked back at Rami, then nodded. Martin nodded back at Joe, then stood up and walked away from them. He could run over his lines one more time before their break was over.
It'll be for the best, Joe thought. He and Rami needed privacy. They were the two closest friends on set. Whenever there was free time, they were together, talking about nothing in particular or helping each other with their lines. They had a connection unlike anyone else.
Joe slid closer to Rami. He was relieved when Rami didn't move away from him. He took a deep breath to help put his thoughts together. I can do this. If doesn't want to talk, I'll drop it. Simple as that. “Rami-” before he could utter another word, someone announced the break was over. Rami got up, and rushed away from Joe. It was as if he didn't see Joe there, or hear him.
Joe gasped slightly; he was taken aback. He's never done that before, he thought. Something has to be wrong. The thought of Rami hurting hurt him, too. He knew he couldn't let himself be offended. Everyone did things on impulse when they were upset.
Joe headed back towards the set, too. He ran into Martin, and they walked back to set together silently. Joe had to push his worries into the back of his mind in order slip back into character, into Eugene Sledge. He couldn't let anything - not even stress - keep him from working. Filming didn't stop because a relationship could be in jeopardy.
After filming was done for the day, everyone was dismissed to their own hotel rooms. Joe was the first one off set. He rushed to his room, showered and changed into casual clothes. No one could know his plan for later that night. Otherwise, it could get out and be ruined. He looked at the number on the key card in his hand. Thank goodness he gave this to me at the start of filming, Joe thought with a grin.
About an hour after later, Joe exited his room. He set off down the hallway. He remained silent. He would scan each door's number, and it looked like he was lost. I look like a fool, he thought. But a helpful, concerned fool nonetheless.
Tracking down the room Joe needed lead him to a flight of stairs. Why did they put us on different floors? He wondered with a shake of his head. He knew he'd be breathless by the time he finished climbing.
Fortunately, when he got to the next floor, the door he needed wasn't so far away. He checked the number on the key card one more time, then the number on the door. He smiled when he saw they matched. He smoothed out his clothes and took a deep breath, like he was asking someone to prom. I can do this, he thought. No running out of breath. He knew he would either have to deal with arguing or comforting. He hoped it was the latter. He slowly brought his fist up to the door, and knocked three times fast. He couldn't back out now. Please open up, please open up.
Joe's heart sped up as he heard footsteps on the other side approaching the door. He could feel his palms getting sweaty. Jesus, I'm asking if he's okay, not if he'll marry me, He thought. He didn't understand why he couldn't get his nerves under control. He had told he was great at helping others.
The door opened. A very exhausted looking Rami looked out at Joe. He didn't seem as closed off as he had earlier. He seemed to be more scared, like he wanted help. He ran his eyes over Joe's body once. He realized how nervous Joe looked. “Come in,” he said in a small voice. Joe stepped in, and he closed the door behind him. He refused to look into his eyes.
“Rami, what's wrong?” Joe asked as he took Rami's hands into his own. Rami kept his eyes to the floor. He took note that Joe's nerves seemed to slip away as soon as he saw his expression. They were still standing just a few feet away from the door. Rami lead Joe over to the bed in his room. They sat down, their bodies facing each other, but not letting their eyes meet.
Rami could feel the tears in his eyes threatening to spill once again. He finally looked up Joe, who's eyes displayed pure compassion. He sniffled, “Filming...” He knew his voice would break at any moment. “I know it sounds stupid but... It's so stressful, some of the scenes are so fucking brutal I... It's too much sometimes.” He wouldn't let himself continue. He wrapped his arms around himself the way he did earlier that day. He felt so small in front of Joe, even though he was his best friend - or maybe more. He knew he wasn't good at being vulnerable.
Joe gently caressed Rami's cheek. His heart broke even more with every word Rami said. “No, that's not stupid,” he assured Rami. “It's okay to feel that way, Rami. Not every filming day is going to be all sunshine and rainbows, especially with this show.” He kept his voice gentle. He needs a hug, he thought. “You may have to talk to Stephen or Tom, and express your concern. I'm sure they'll understand.” They wouldn't "let him go" because of this, right?
Rami shook his head. “I-I feel so inexperienced here.” He sighed, and felt a few tears roll down his cheeks. Joe quickly wiped them away. “I've had a few small roles h-here and th-there but... Nothing t-too big. Then I get here, a-and, I can't do it.” Rami bit his tongue. He felt like he was rambling, and annoying Joe with his problems. He didn't want to to be a burden. He just wanted to cuddle up next to Joe, and listen to his heartbeat. He needed something that would calm him.
“C'mere,” Joe said softly. He opened his arms for Rami. Rami scooted closer to him, and felt into his arms. He hid his face in Joe's shoulder. He let himself cry. He could feel himself coming apart as he shook. Joe ran his fingers through Rami's hair and rubbed his back. He didn't like seeing Rami's body shudder with each sob, but it was for the best. Crying would let it all out. He kissed the top of Rami's head. “It's okay, you're okay, you're okay,” he whispered. “You're extremely talented and needed here, Rami. I love you, as a person, and as an actor. No one else would be able to do your job like you.”
Rami held onto Joe tightly, as if someone was trying to separate the both of them. He let out a small whine. He flinched when Joe shushed him gently. He took a deep breath, and listened to Joe's heartbeat and breathing. It helped him attempt to steady his breathing. He could feel Joe's gentle touches, and hear his words of encouragement. It all made him feel better. Safer. He knew Joe didn't judge him. He would be okay.
“It's okay to cry,” Joe went on. “It's healthy, normal, apart of life. I can stay here for the night if you want me to.” He felt Rami nod against his shoulder. Looks like we're having a sleepover, he thought. He continued to rub Rami's back and whisper positive things. He didn't want Rami to feel alone or bad for crying. He was sure plenty of other people in the cast felt similar emotions.
After a few more minutes, Rami pulled away from Joe slightly. He still laid against him. He felt drained, and his body and eyelids were heavy. He didn't want to do anything besides sleep. He settled down against Joe's chest. Joe could feel him going limp, so he laid back in bed. He made sure the two of them were comfortable enough.
“Sleep well,” he whispered to Rami.
“Thank you,” Rami replied in a soft voice. He knew if he spoke at a normal volume, his voice would sound broken. “Thank you for coming tonight, even after I treated you this afternoon.”
“Don't worry about it,” Joe said. “You were upset. We all do things on impulse when we're upset. Rest now, Rami. You deserve it.”
Rami nodded. He rolled off of Joe. He still curled up against his chest. Joe wrapped his arms around Rami. We're only friends... Right? There seems to be more. Joe pushed the thoughts into the back of his mind. He didn't have to worry about it that night. All that mattered was Rami was somewhat okay again. He got his problems off of his chest, and Joe was proud of him for it. They would have to cherish this time together. Joe didn't think they would ever have this much alone time together again.
Several years later, both Joe and Rami were cast for the same movie: Bohemian Rhapsody. They were around other for less than a week before they were slipping back into old habits. They were constantly together during breaks, talking, cuddling, or both, with some casual flirting thrown in at times. It was just like 2007 again.
Joe soon discovered the - confusing - feelings he felt towards Rami didn't go away. He found himself thinking about Rami all of the time. He would often blush like a teenager in love when he'd see him or hear him. When he noticed the way his heart would race around Rami, he couldn't deny it. He was in love with his best friend. He didn't think Rami felt the same way, though.
Little did he know, the feelings were mutual. Rami was all about Joe. He thought Joe was the cutest guy he'd ever seen. He'd rant to Sami about his crush over text sometimes. Sami told him to ask Joe out already, that Joe felt the same way, but he refused. Joe couldn't have felt the same way about him. In his mind, he wasn't good enough for Joe.
“Rami, do you ever think about the Pacific days?” Joe asked during a break one day. He and Rami were relaxing offset, cuddling and watching a few of Queen's performances. He was hoping to lead into the topic of his conversation. He could feel nervousness creeping up in the back of his mind, and the pit of his stomach again.
“Yes,” Rami replied. “All the time. Those days were so grueling, but amazing... What about you?” He looked over at Joe, and felt his heart skip a beat.
“I do, too,” Joe said. He felt his heart rate speed up as his face heated up. He knew a nervous sweat could be on the way. He couldn't act normal when the man that was making him act like a teenager again was leaning against him on the sofa as Love of My Life was playing softly in the background. Joe felt as if he could laugh. Perfect timing, Queen.
“Do you still talk to anyone on the cast, besides me? Y'know, Martin, Jon, Ashton?” Rami asked. He tried to focus on the screen in front of him, to make it look like he was just asking absentmindedly. He didn't need to look like he was hanging on to every little word Joe said, too.
“On occasion,” Joe replied. “But I mainly think of... You and me.” Joe's heart rate picked up even more. He wanted to hide. I can't believe I just said that. He pushed the blanket that was over himself and Rami off of him. It was too hot. He is going to be the death of me. “I think about how... Strange? How strange you made me feel some- sometimes.” I sound like a fool.
Rami was facing Joe now. He couldn't believe his ears, and the fact that his little brother could be right. “Really?” he asked. He couldn't believe Joe thought of him, and maybe even shared the same feelings as him. “What do you mean by strange?”
“You made me so, so unbelievably happy,” Joe said. “You make me feel things I can't even put into words properly.” He laughed nervously. I can't believe I'm spilling my guts like this, yet I'm so tongue-tied at the same time. John and Mary would get a kick out of this. “I... I like you, Rami, a lot.” He felt his face burning with both embarrassment and love. He wanted to slap himself for saying 'like' instead of 'love'.
Rami smiled; he still felt like he was in a dream. All he could think about was Sami being right after all. “I like you, too, Joe.”
“So, will you be my- my boyfriend?”
“Yes! Of course!”
It was like a dream come true. Rami hugged Joe tightly. He told himself he would never let go. He couldn't believe Joe had asked him to be his boyfriend. He couldn't believe he was officially dating the guy that he had such a big, dumb crush on for years. The guy Sami would tease him about, because he knew just how much it got under his skin. He was so scared Joe didn't feel the same way he did for too long. He just hoped he would be good enough for Joe.
Joe couldn't believe it, either. If this is a dream, I better not wake up. “We're dating,” he said out loud. “You are my boyfriend.” He liked the sound of it; it made it easier to believe. He put an arm around Rami.
Rami hid his face in Joe's shoulder with a big smile. He loved being called Joe's boyfriend. His mind never made it sound the way Joe said it. He couldn't think of anyone that made him happier. Almost a decade of flirting, and they finally did something about it, Sami would say.
Joe raised an eyebrow as he looked down at Rami. “You do that a lot.”
“What?” Rami asked as he uncovered his face. He looked up at Joe with one eye. He still rested his face against Joe's shoulder.
“Hide your face in my shoulder. The left one, specifically.”
Rami thought about it for a moment. He thought about the years, and he did do it plenty of times. It didn't matter if he was happy or sad. One memory that seemed to jump out at him was the first time Joe saw him cry. He cringed slightly at it. He pushed the memory away, and looked back at Joe. The awkwardness went away immediately. “It's my spot.” He closed his eyes, and nuzzled Joe's shoulder. “You make me feel safe.”
Joe could tell he was grinning like an idiot. There was a warm, fuzzy feeling in his chest. “You're adorable,” he whispered. “I want you to always feel safe and comfortable around me, even if that means calling me out for something.” Especially if it means calling me out. He found himself running his fingers through Rami's hair. It was an old habit that remained unbroken. Except this time, Rami's hair was quite short, as Rami had finished filming Mr. Robot not too long before.
Rami didn't say anything. He simply rested against Joe, in his spot, as they watched more of the Queen performance. They were on a different performance now. It was at Forum de Montreal in Canada in 1981. Somebody to Love was being performed. Rami peeked up at Joe. He knew he had his someone to love. He was thankful a casting director thought he was the perfect man to play Eugene Sledge, and then John Deacon years later.
I guess whomever is in charge of casting can play matchmaker, Joe thought as he noticed Rami looking up at him. He smiled down at him. I gotta thank the casting directors for The Pacific and BoRhap someday. He was excited to see how their relationship went. Being around Rami was as easy as breathing to him. He assumed it would be amazing. Even if they had to remain a secret for awhile. They couldn't risk being bombarded by paparazzi more than they already were. It would also be the first time he was open about being in a gay relationship. That would only spark more interest.
As the hours drifted by, Joe wondered when Ben and Gwilym would be back, looking for him and Rami. He didn't stress over it, though. They had the rest of the day off. All that mattered to him in that moment was cuddling up next to Rami while Queen played softly in the background. It was all he would ever need.