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Max is watching him again.

Trevor leans his arm further out the jagged hole in the wall to tap the ash off his cigarette. He can see Chris’ lip twitching as he (barely) restrains from yelling at Trevor for smoking inside. He knows it’s an argument he can’t win because Trevor is holding the smoking end out through the hole and into the outside air, therefore smoking outside on a very thin technicality.

He’s also frustrated because Trevor’s the only one who’ll be able to fix the hole.

Trevor takes another slow drag and looks around the room. Most of them are checking their phones, seeking out coffee, or complaining (Chris) or arguing against the complaints (Robert). Some of them are actually making an effort to go over the scene again. Sandra is despairingly trying to work with Max and Dennis. Dennis is holding his script so close to his face he’s barely audible, and Max is looking at Trevor. Their eyes meet as Trevor lowers his hand and exhales. Then Sandra is shouting at him to read his line and his attention snaps back to the scene.

Trevor absent-mindedly wonders if there’s something on his face. Max just keeps looking. Surely he’s seen him smoke before. It’s not as if he tries to hide it. A rush of self-consciousness hits him as he wonders if Max is judging him for it. He knows it’s a bad habit, but he doesn’t really care. But what if Max cares?

He ponders that for a while, and eventually decides that Max probably doesn’t care, since Max is bothered by very little. Max probably doesn’t even know what’s in cigarettes to begin with.

Trevor zones out, leaning in a ‘cool’ way against the wall as he distractedly watches Max practice. It’s a gripping scene (probably) but Max seems preoccupied, looking up at Trevor after every line but pretending he’s looking somewhere else.

It doesn’t matter, though. Max’s acting is fun to watch. Max is fun to watch. Trevor feels like he’s looking at Max through a haze, like the man comes with a filter that lightens up the room, or an inbuilt smokescreen with sparkly particles in it, like how the air gets all wavy over a barbecue.

The haze thickens. Trevor blinks. It’s decidedly less in his imagination and more in front of his eyes, which begin to water. That’s weird.

“Uh...is something burning?” asks Jonathan, hesitantly. Everyone stops and looks around, eventually zoning in on Trevor, who holds his hands up in genuine innocence. In doing so he remembers he’s still holding a cigarette. The ash of which has found itself into a wastepaper basket with all the discarded script pages. Which are now - not quite burning - but smoking vigorously. They all look at it as the smoke thickens.

Trevor drops the rest of the cigarette into it, before picking it up and flinging it out the hole in the wall like he’d been intending to. Everyone keeps staring.

“Been meanin’ to do that.” he says, as smoke wafts up behind him. There’s more silence, before Chris opens his mouth.

The fire alarm goes off.

 

---

 

Trevor shields the flame from the wind as he lights up, shivering a little. He looks back at the rehearsal room (currently the Cornley Polytechnic Box Lacrosse Team Training Hall) from his place of banishment to the corner of the grounds. He doesn’t think he’s that much of a fire hazard, but he’d been too tired to think of a decent argument this time.

He’s beginning to regret not bringing one of his two (three?) garments with sleeves out with him when he sees a figure exit the hall and begin approaching. It takes him less than a moment to recognise it as Max from the cheerful saunter and the four rabbit holes he trips into on the way over.

“Hi,” says Trevor, when he arrives.

“Hi,” says Max, his cheeks pink. It must be the wind. Nippy day. “Aren’t you cold?”

“Not really,” Trevor lies. “I’ve got arms of steel.” He’s not sure how warm steel is. But it seemed like the right thing to say. They stand in silence for a minute, and the wind whips Max’s floppy hair around and into his eyes.

“I just wanted to check on you.” Max says, finally. Trevor nods. Takes a drag. He notices Max’s eyes following his movements.

“‘M good.” he responds. The wind threatens to snatch all their words away, and Trevor thinks he can feel the rain beginning to spit.

“I got you something.” Max blurts out. “I’ve seen you there- just once or twice - so - have this.” he pushes something small into Trevor’s hand and then darts off back towards the hall.
Trevor looks down at it, blank. He drops his cigarette and stands on it, then turns the card over in his palm. It’s a familiar shade of red. A Costa card. A Costa gift card. A Costa gift card worth- worth a hundred pounds.

He looks up. Max hasn’t made it far, but Trevor doesn’t know how he’s supposed to go after him - like when you say goodbye to someone and have to walk in the same direction. So he turns around and starts walking home. The light rain turns into hail.

---

Trevor is in Costa drinking coffee as black as his soul.

...is what he thinks, but he’s actually drinking a mocha, because it’s a miserable day and he felt like indulging. He has his headphones on, blasting Duran Duran as he scrolls through Twitter. There’s nothing too exciting happening, but it’s a good time to catch up on some choice ‘Animal’ of the Day posts he’s missed. It’s been so busy, preparing for their show next week. Only two of them are script-free, half the sound files Trevor prepared are corrupted, and they’d gotten news that a rogue light had fallen at the venue and they’d have to perform “around the dangerous hole in the stage, but it’s not that big, promise.”

Someone slides into the chair opposite him and he glances up, preparing to apologise for accidentally stealing someone’s seat. But it’s Max. He’s wearing a surprisingly nice button up shirt with a stiff collar. It has crease marks in it that make it look like it’s never been worn before and he’s sitting up straighter than should be humanly possible.

“Er,” says Trevor, sliding down his headphones.

“Hi!” says Max, smiling enthusiastically. Trevor reddens and wonders if it’s possible to tell a smile to quieten down. “I was walking past - I do that sometimes, you know, just walk, since it’s such a nice day and all-” Rain lashes against the roof and Max raises his voice a little. “-and I saw you here and since we’re going to be performing on Wednesday, which is so soon, I thought I’d come and say hello. Not that we have to talk about the show. We do that a lot, but I was just going past and all-”

“Great!” Trevor cuts in. “Great to see you. Nothin’ wrong with some company. I was just about to go out for a smoke though, so-”

“Oh, me too!” says Max. Trevor stares. “Not smoke. I’ll just. Come with you.” he corrects, clearing up very little. Trevor tells his brain to tell his head to nod, before standing and walking outside to find some shelter to huddle under.

As usual, Max watches his movements like he’s studying an animal, and looks like he wants to say something for about three minutes. Every time Trevor looks over and gives him an opening to speak, Max just smiles and glances around the rainy street like he’s never seen it before.

When there’s about three puffs left he suddenly says,“Can I have a go?”
Trevor looks at him, then realises, and gestures questioningly at the cigarette. Max nods with his usual enthusiasm, and Trevor doesn’t see a reason to say no, so he hands it over. Max holds it like it might fly away, and as he raises it to his lips Trevor realises they’re about to have an indirect kiss and nearly chokes. He doesn’t, though, because he’s very cool.

Max does choke. He sucks at the thing like he’s drinking a milkshake and presses his lips together, then sputters, sending smoke out through his nose. His eyes water and he starts coughing, dropping the butt on the soggy ground as he doubles over. Trevor realises he probably should have told him what to do and helplessly claps him on the back as he waits for the coughing fit to pass. When Max can stand again, they look at each other for a moment before bursting out laughing. That starts Max off choking again and it’s a while before they’ve recovered enough to calm down.

“It looks better when you do it.” Max finally manages to say, his voice a little rough. Trevor pointedly doesn’t think about other things that could roughen up his voice like that.

“It doesn’t really suit you.” he says, managing a somewhat smile. “Why don’t I buy you a strawberry lemonade to wash it down?” He remembers the card. “Or- I suppose it’ll be you buying it…”

Max beams. “You know my favourite!” Trevor pauses. Yes. Yes he does.

“Yes I do.” he agrees, and he takes Max’s hand to lead them back to their table. He can smell the smoke on his new shirt.