1. That time when James gave him the crackers
“What is this?”
“Some of the guys said you liked goldfish.”
“The literal fish, not the crackers!”
“Oh. How did I not know you liked fish as pets?”
“I don’t, I like to watch fish swim at aquariums. And the like.”
“You’re saying if I bought you a fish, you’d kill it?”
“Just as much as you’d kill me with those crackers.”
“Oh. Right. The allergy.”
“You’re a dear, you know that?” And Robert pulls James down and kisses him on the cheek. Robert pulls away and misses the look of complete admiration on James’s face, but that’s okay. James wasn’t expecting the kiss, and he certainly wasn’t expecting to see the bag of goldfish crackers in a place of honor on Robert’s bookshelf years after the fact.
2. That time on Air Force One
President Washington is stewing over something in his cabin, and Ben has advised Robert to steer clear. It isn’t that Robert’s done anything wrong, it’s just that when Washington is in this mood, Ben and Billy are the only people who can talk him down.
Robert could pass the time talking to Abe, but he’d honestly rather parachute out of the plane, so he goes to the press side of the plane, because why not? Banter with the press doesn’t drive him as mad as talking to Abe does.
He forgot that James was on the flight.
And he forgot that James hated, hated flying. “You doing okay, Mr. Rivington?”
“I’m doing fine, Robbie.” But Robert can tell from James’s white knuckles and gritted teeth that he isn’t doing well, not well at all.
“Follow me, James.” And Robert walks towards a more isolated section of the plane, one where they won’t be interrupted. Robert puts his hand behind his back, and James grabs a hold of it for dear life, following Robert like a baby deer of some kind.
“You don’t have to do this.” James looks paler than usual and like his legs might buckle from beneath him.
“Sit. Breathe. This is one of the safest planes in the world.”
James obeys. “That is better.”
Robert sits down next to him. “The miracle of flight really isn’t all that bad.” And he pecks James on the cheek, quickly. Anyone who might have seen it, from that angle, probably wouldn’t have thought it a kiss at all.
3. That time at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner
Robert’s fed up. James can tell that from halfway across the room. Robert’s got a tightly wound fist, and he’s biting his lip, and James can tell that Robert’s on the verge of standing and leaving.
And that’s just because of all the small talk. The comedian didn’t get to Robert, not at all, it’s the small talk that kills the man. And Robert does end up standing, making excuses for leaving so soon. James can’t hear him, but Robert’s voice is surely strained and tired. But then again, Robert’s always tired these days.
James moves to follow him, and Robert acknowledges this with a curt nod.
They meet in the hotel lobby, James having brought his cocktail, Robert grabbing his coat from the coat check.
“You didn’t have to come,” James says, softly.
“Of course I had to come. I’m the Press Secretary.”
“Yes, but you hate these things.”
“I do, but that doesn’t mean I don’t show up and do my job. However briefly.” Robert shrugs his coat on.
“I can come with if you’d like.”
“No, no. You enjoy these things. Stay. Enjoy. Drink. Have fun. We’ll talk tomorrow, I’m sure.” Robert stifles a yawn, before going on his tiptoes and kissing James on the cheek. Then he breaks away and pats the man on the shoulder, before turning and going, looking happier with each step away from the dreaded party.
4. That time when James was Santa
Robert really wasn’t expecting James to show up in the briefing room, after such a long time away.
He really really wasn’t expecting James to show up as Santa Claus, with a big fake beard and the red suit and everything. “You’ve been a good little boy, haven’t you?” Rivington says in his best old man voice...which isn’t too far from his actual voice.
Robert feels himself blushing, and he hopes no one can tell. But they probably can. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Santa.”
“Oh, I think you do.” And James hands him a present. And Robert is pretty sure it’s not another bag of goldfish crackers, from the twinkle in James’s eyes.
“I’ll, ah...open this later. That’s the lid, folks. Happy Christmas.” And as the reporters scatter, Robert grabs James by white fur trim on the Santa suit and pecks him on the cheek. “Didn’t know you were back.”
“That’s the magic of Santa, little boy! You never know when he’ll be back!”
“Don’t call me little boy.”
James lowers his voice: “Fine, Mrs. Claus.”
And Robert can feel himself twinkling back, too.
5. That time after the assassination attempt
When Robert walks back to his apartment after the attempt on President Washington’s life, he is exhausted. Not just physically, but also emotionally, mentally, intellectually. It turns out being thrown to the ground by Abe in an attempt to stop a bullet from whizzing through his skull causes bruised knees and a bruised ego. He doesn’t tell Abe that he could have rescued himself, because he’s not sure he could have.
Ben is out of surgery, finally. He’ll be okay, after a while, the doctors said. Robert doesn’t know the exact specifics because his mind started to wander after they said Ben would be okay. That’s all that matters, really.
James wasn’t in the briefing room that whole night, and Robert has compartmentalized the idea that James might have been shot too--he was covering the event where Washington was speaking.
Robert stops dead in his tracks, though, when he sees James lounging on the snowy steps leading to his apartment building. “You’re alright,” he says, raspily. He hadn’t realized how tired his voice was, too.
“And you are, too.” James stands, and Robert can almost see tears in his eyes. James wraps him in a big hug, and Robert wants to say not here, not where a paparazzi could see, but Robert figures they’re all out covering the crime scene, not worrying about what an exhausted press secretary and an emotional pool reporter are doing on a cold winter’s night.
“You want to come inside?” Robert asks, realizing he hasn’t had James over since James started at the White House.
“I’d be delighted.”
They make it inside, and Robert feels his knees buckle from beneath him. He doesn’t fall on the floor, though, because James, bless him, catches him. “Sorry,” he mumbles. He looks James in the eyes, and this time, James is crying, and oh God, he can’t have that. So he kisses him. Properly, this time, for the first time since he broke the type piece. James doesn’t kiss him back, though.
“Mm... you’re tired, you need rest.” James helps Robert to his couch, and Robert collapses onto it.
“Come here,” he practically orders James, even if he doesn’t exactly sound or feel authoritative. But to his surprise, James kneels down beside the couch. “I thought you might have been...might have been--”
“I was gone by that point. Heard Mr. Woodhull saved you for me. For all of us.”
“Will be alright. That’s what the news reports are saying.”
“That’s what the doctors said, too. Oh, God...” and Robert can feel himself starting to cry, whether from exhaustion or sadness or sheer terror. James holds onto him, and they sit like that for a while.
“It’ll be okay,” James coos into Robert’s ear, and Robert cries a little harder.
Robert finally manages to stop his tears, looking at James. “I’m very happy you’re okay. That you weren’t there.” James just nods, solemnly, an odd look on the boisterous man. But that solemnity rouses something in Robert, and he kisses James again, really kisses him, in a way that he hasn’t since they were both in New York and Robert was young and stupid, and James was still old, and always stupid.
James kisses him back this time.
When they part, Robert sniffles a little, which he finds rather pathetic, but he knows James won’t. “Stay the night?” is all he says.
“I’d be delighted.”