"I didn't realise they were so close," murmurs Will, quietly, as if speaking to himself.
He's sitting with Ben, watching Skandar and Georgie from a distance during a break in filming. Skandar is sitting up, straight-backed, while Georgie lies across the bench they share, her head resting in his lap. They're chatting, but they're too far away for Will to make out any words. Every now and then Skandar strokes a stray strand of hair from Georgie's face, tucks it behind her ear.
"They weren't, always," Ben tells him. "It's...a recent development."
Will detects something in the way Ben says this that adds to his suspicions. "They aren't—" he says, but stops short, finding he doesn't actually want to say the words. "Are they?"
Ben considers this in silence for a moment, watching as Skandar stretches out his arms along the top of the bench and looks off in the other direction. Georgie is still gazing up at him. For a moment, it seems like Ben is going to say yes, but then he chuckles.
"No, no. That's just the way they are. I really don't think it means anything," he says. "I think they just miss Will and Anna. They're not used to it just being the two of them, from the original four, you know. And with different people around...a different format for this movie...I think they're just trying to cling to something familiar."
Will supposes Ben knows what he's talking about, being the son of a relationship therapist and a professor of psychiatry, but he can't help but feel there's something more to Skandar and Georgie's newfound closeness. He's been on set for roughly a month now, and nothing is going quite how he expected. It's not that anyone has been rude to him—he and Ben are getting on very well, and Skandar and Georgie are friendly—it's just that he sort of assumed they'd be spending more time together. Maybe that was presumptuous of him. But he knows how close the cast is, and he had secretly been hoping they would all become great friends and he would be staying over at their flats all the time and going out together on their days off.
They have been out for dinner a few times, but it was more of a convenience thing—a long day, everybody hungry and stopping for food at the first place they came across on the way home—with various members of the cast and crew in attendance as well. Will feels like he's getting to know Ben quite well, but Skandar and Georgie are still fairly mysterious to him. They seem to spend every moment of their time together, which makes Will more nervous about approaching them. He used to see them alone near the beginning of filming, but back then he was too nervous in general to think about going over and saying hi, and now they seem to be joined at the hip.
He still hasn't really had a proper conversation with them, just exchanged a few work-related thoughts with them about the set, or the scenes they happen to be filming that day. They're perfectly nice to him, so it doesn't seem right to complain about anything, but the second month on set has just begun and he's starting to feel sort of hollow, like this experience is almost a little bit of a let-down.
This is the first time he's even vaguely mentioned any of it to anyone besides his parents—whose advice has been to just suck it up and invite Skandar and Georgie out to do something, which he's far too shy to do—and Ben doesn't seem to get it. Will reminds himself that Ben is probably used to being on his own sometimes, being the eldest of a young cast.
"Do you feel like they're ignoring you?" Ben says, then, turning away from Skandar and Georgie and towards Will. "I wasn't sure how much time you'd managed to spend together off set."
Will is a little startled by Ben's sudden directness. "I—well, none, actually," he admits. He didn't realise that Ben might not know that. "I've only really talked to them between takes."
Ben looks genuinely sympathetic at that. "Oh, I'm sorry," he says, "I had no idea. Do you want me to talk to them?"
"No, no," Will says hurriedly, embarrassed. It would seem so pathetic, like he desperately wanted to be friends with them and had to ask Ben to help. "No. Thank you, but it's okay."
"Are you sure?" Ben asks. "Or I could invite them out to do something with us this weekend—oh, this weekend is Skandar's birthday, though..."
"Is it?" Will asks, surprised. He hasn't heard anything about that—but then, why would he? He glances back over to the bench across from them, and sees that Skandar and Georgie are no longer sitting on it.
"Yeah, I don't know what his plans are," Ben continues. "I think his parents were supposed to come but they can't for some reason, so maybe he'll do something with all of us instead." Will nods. "Listen, I'm really sorry if you've been feeling left out," Ben says then, looking Will in the eye, and Will blushes a little and looks down at his feet. "I will talk to them if you want me to. I can be subtle."
Before Will has a chance to do anything but stammer 'no' again, Michael's assistant is yelling them from a few feet away. It's time to resume filming.
"Have you seen Skandar and Georgie?"
Getting up and brushing themselves down, Will and Ben shout back that no, they haven't.
"We've been looking all over the place," Elena says. She seems stressed. "And Ben, they want you in costume."
Ben hurries over, Will trotting after him.
"When was the last time you saw them?" Elena asks.
"Oh, just a minute ago actually," Ben says, "I'm not sure where they went though."
"Right, well, off to the costume tent," Ben is hurried along, "and you can go look for Skandar and Georgie, I've got about twelve other things to do and this break ended five minutes ago."
It takes Will a second to realise she means him. "Oh, I—I didn't see where they went," he stammers. "I don't—"
"Well, you've got a better idea of it than I do," Elena tells him brusquely, and rushes off after Ben.
Will stands there for a moment, nervously, and then decides he'd better start looking.
He gets increasingly more anxious with each place he checks, popping into tents and scanning crowds. When he eventually heads around to the back of the tents, it's because he assumes that if they're this hard to find, they must have gone somewhere more private. And this makes his heart hammer in his chest. No matter what Ben said, Will still feels like there's something weird going on between them, and he's afraid he's going to find them kissing—or worse—up against a wall. He's actually a little relieved when he does finally stumble across them, hunkered down behind the craft services tent and sharing a cigarette.
"Don't tell," says Skandar, with a sort of sheepish grin, when they spot him. "We'll be murdered."
Will tries not to think about how those things will murder them anyway, and how Georgie is far too young to be smoking, and all the other instinctive thoughts that pop into his head. He's not a judgemental person, generally, but he's hated cigarettes all his life—even before he had to smoke those awful herbal things for his part in Son of Rambow. In the same way Ben's psychiatrist parents seem to have brought him up to analyse other people's relationships, Will's Dad, a professor of cardiovascular disease, has brought him up to despise smoking. And he supposes he's feeling a little bit resentful towards Skandar and Georgie today, anyway, and dwelling on feeling left out.
He shifts from foot to foot. "I was—I was sent to find you," he says.
Georgie shuffles aside, leaving a small gap between herself and Skandar, and she gestures for Will to join them. It's such an unexpected, friendly, welcoming gesture that he's startled, and he hesitates. He doesn't want to give anyone else on set more reason to come looking for them, and he doesn't want to sit around inhaling cigarette smoke, but there's just something about them—something that makes him want to do whatever they ask, something that makes him want to be their friend. This is what he's been wanting, after all—a chance to be alone with them, however pathetic it sounds.
And so he crouches between them, awkwardly, on the damp grass. Skandar offers him the cigarette, holds it out to him and twiddles it between his long pale fingers.
"Oh, er, no," Will stammers. "Thank you."
"Terrible habit, I know," he says, and takes a drag himself.
"I thought you said it wasn't a habit," Georgie says from Will's other side, tutting. "What did you call yourself? A casual smoker."
"Ah, and what did you say when you first saw me smoking?" Skandar retorts. "That if I didn't let you try it you'd tell everyone in a ten mile radius?"
Georgie makes a face, and Will is surprised to see that she's blushing, just a little bit, pale cheeks flushing pinker. He's staring, maybe, captivated or something because when he suddenly feels Skandar's elbow in his side he has to bite back a yelp.
"Hey," Skandar says, "if you're just going to sit here and silently judge us—"
"I'm not!" Will protests, "I'm not, I'm sorry, I just..." He wonders whether to tell the truth, but...maybe they'll think less of him if they know he hates smoking. Maybe they'll think he's really uptight and they won't want to get to know him better. At the very least, maybe he won't be able to sit with them when they sneak off for a cigarette, and so far that's his only way in.
"Whatever," Skandar chuckles, and then says something that catches Will completely off guard. "Hey, you should come round for tea tonight."
"Yeah," agrees Georgie happily, like this was completely expected. "And a sleepover." She shakes her head when Skandar offers her the last of the cigarette, and he grinds it out with the heel of his boot.
"Come round?" Will echoes uncertainly.
"Yeah, to mine," says Skandar, as though this is obvious.
Will picks up on the way the invitation is directed at him—only him—as though Georgie's presence in Skandar's flat goes without saying. It really is like they're a couple, inviting him round to their house. But that's not really the most important thing right now—the important thing is that he's finally getting what he's been secretly wishing for ever since he came on set.
So he says, "Yeah. Um, yeah, sure, okay."
"We can get to know each other better," Skandar adds, getting to his feet and offering his hand out to Georgie to help her up too.
Will follows suit, brushing blades of grass from his costume's trousers and feeling not entirely sure of what just happened.
Will shows up at Skandar's door later that day, waddling down the corridor with his arms full of his duvet and pillows, and a satchel draped over his shoulder. His Mum is overjoyed that finally he's spending time with his co-stars, and has gotten far too excited about the whole sleepover idea, suggesting he bring popcorn and scary movies and God knows what else. Will practically fought her off on his way out the door, as she wanted to come with him and drop him off. He had to remind her that Skandar's flat was only two doors away. She'd been acting like he was being so silly all this time, but clearly his on-set relationships matter much more to her than she's let on.
Will stands there, heart pounding nervously. He would have knocked right away, but he can hear the sounds of argument coming from inside, Skandar and Georgie bickering about something. He can't make out any words, so he just stands there, listening awkwardly, and then he becomes aware of a creeping feeling down his spine like he's being watched.
"Mum," he groans, looking huntedly down the corridor to see that his mother is peering out through a crack in his own door, grinning like she's watching him at his first school play or something.
"Sorry, sorry," she says, completely failing to keep her voice down. "HAVE FUN!"
She disappears back into the room and Will tries his hardest to refrain from banging his head against the door in front of him.
He knocks on it instead. It opens after only a brief moment, and then Skandar is there, leaning casually against the doorframe and grinning as he looks him up and down.
"There's spare bedding in the closet," he says, "but it's always good to be prepared."
Will feels stupid as he stumbles into the room and, upon Skandar's instruction, leaves the bedding in a heap on the floor between the sofa and TV. Georgie appears from the little hallway, and she looks even prettier than usual somehow, dressed in a floral blouse and a short brown corduroy skirt. Her hair is loose, and Will thinks it might be the first time he's ever seen it that way. It flows in loose, soft chestnut curls to her chest.
She has tights on, but has taken off her shoes, and Will wonders if he should do the same. He glances at Skandar—barefoot in jeans and a black polo neck sweater. He toes his shoes off a little clumsily, and picks them up.
Skandar grins at him again, that strange smile that looks at once mocking and sympathetic, and takes the shoes, crossing the room again to place them by the door.
"So, um," Will says awkwardly, when the silence is getting a little too long. "Hi."
"Hi," says Georgie, face breaking into a huge grin. She trots across the room and hoists herself up on the back of the sofa beside him, effortlessly perching there and dangling her feet. "We were gonna order Chinese. Is that okay?"
"Sure, yeah, absolutely," Will agrees.
Georgie exchanges a look with Skandar. "He's so polite," she says, giggling. She turns back to Will. "Is it really okay? Don't just say yes to be polite."
"I—I wasn't," Will stammers, taken aback.
"Good, because when she said we were going to, she meant we already have," Skandar says, giving Georgie a Look.
They talk a little awkwardly at first—mostly about the food, what they've ordered, what they like. The takeaway is coming from a local Chinese restaurant that Skandar says even has a wine menu, but he's decided against risking it. Apparently, it's only a couple of days to wait until he turns eighteen, and it's only then that Will finds out his actual age. He's a little alarmed by it—he thought Skandar and Georgie were much closer in age, but he knows that Georgie has only just turned fourteen, and now he wonders if it was silly to think they were in a relationship after all.
"Yep, it's pretty cool," Skandar says off-handedly when Will expresses his surprise. "I don't have to have my parents around all the time like you kids," he teases. "Then again, it might be nice if they could at least make it here for my birthday, but apparently work is more important..."
He starts in on a rant, and Will feels uncomfortable at the suddenly personal turn the conversation has taken. And then Georgie grumbles, "At least your parents aren't splitting up. Mine are too busy trying to tear each other to shreds to make it here," and it gets even worse.
Will has never been more thankful for the phone ringing, as reception calls at that very moment to tell them their takeaway has arrived.
Georgie skips off down to the lobby to get it, and Will and Skandar look at each other for a moment before Skandar sing-songs, "Aaaawk-ward."
Will laughs uneasily. It doesn't seem like things are going particularly well.
"She tends to just say stuff like that to total strangers," Skandar explains. "I mean—not that you're a total stranger, but you know what I mean. It's like...slightly too personal right now, Georgie." He laughs and takes a sip of his Coke.
"Is that—is that why her sister's here, then?" Will asks, uncomfortably. It's not a conversation topic he's particularly thrilled about, but it seems best to keep the talking going.
"Yeah, she's not kidding," Skandar says, lowering his voice a little. "It's World War III at the Henley residence. Rachael's here one week and gone the next, trying to play mediator, but Georgie wants nothing to do with it. She complains about her parents abandoning her here, but I think she'd rather not see them, to be honest."
Will doesn't really know what to say to that, but at least it goes some way to explain the way Georgie has been so attached to Skandar—better than anything Ben came up with, in fact, and he wonders if Ben knows about the divorce and wasn't sure if he should say anything. It makes a lot of sense that Georgie would need someone to talk to, and that she wouldn't want to be alone all the time when her sister's not around, and Will starts to feel a little more comfortable with the relationship between Skandar and Georgie now, like maybe he understands it. Skandar's just looking after her, like an older brother would.
"My parents, meanwhile, have no excuse," Skandar sighs, stretching back across the sofa. "Besides being workaholics. I guess having a son turning eighteen halfway across the world from you isn't that big of a deal."
Will sort of wishes he had some sort of dysfunctional-family anecdote he could chip in with at this point, but he can't come up with anything. His family are really quite annoyingly normal.
"Well, er," he says, lamely, "you've got everyone on set and everything..."
"Yeah, yeah," Skandar agrees, quickly, brushing it off. "And Will and Anna are going to bring their visit forward to make up for it, so I shouldn't complain really. It'll be good."
He grins brightly, like they haven't just covered the kind of ground you don't usually set foot on until much later in a friendship, and then the door swings open and Georgie comes prancing back in with bags full of food.
Throughout dinner, Will is surprised by how attentive the two of them are to him. He gets the impression that the dinner table has not been used for a meal for a very long time, judging by the mountain of stuff covering its surface that Skandar sweeps off with both hands. But now that he's here, they make that effort. And they don't shut him out, either, out of habit—he'd expected from their previous behaviour that he'd feel like a third wheel the entire time, but it's only a spare moment here or there that he gets left behind in their bickering or an inside joke.
Otherwise, they're perfectly friendly, asking him about other projects he's worked on, what his home life is like, even his favourite and least favourite things. Georgie starts the barrage of questions, putting down her chopsticks and resting her elbows on the table, chin in hands as she announces, "We want to know everything about you."
And so Will stammers his way through anecdotes from School of Comedy (which Skandar says he's caught some of, and Will blushes when he says he really enjoys it, and has to try and hide his red cheeks behind his napkin until they cool), and lists family members and favourite films until he's run out of things to say. Full and sleepy, they sit at the table in a surprisingly comfortable silence for a little while.
But then Skandar yawns, and sinks his head down onto Georgie's shoulder, nestling his face in her hair until it's almost hidden from sight. Will looks at them, licks his lips nervously, wonders if he should look away. It bothers him, his reaction. He's known that the group is very touchy-feely ever since he watched the DVD extras on both of the first two Narnia films, but remembering that makes him uncomfortable as he sits here in the company of two of the young actors now. He feels like a spy, a voyeur.
He wonders if this is what they did when Ben joined the cast, invited him for a dinner to get to know him better. He wonders if that's why Ben isn't here now. He sort of wishes Ben were here now, because as it is he feels a little lost, and an extra person might be able to help with that. But Ben seems just as nonplussed by Skandar and Georgie as he is, and less bothered.
"Um," he croaks after a moment that feels much longer than it probably is.
Suddenly, Georgie gets to her feet, practically shaking Skandar from her shoulder. She rounds the table, stops at its side, between the boys, and places her hands down on the surface decisively.
"Well, I'm tired out," she says. "Bedtime?"
Skandar's response is a stretch and a yawn, and Will is a little taken aback by the sudden wind-down of their conversation. But he's tired out too, from the work of today and the events of the evening, and so he nods in agreement.
"Night night, then," Georgie grins, and to Will's surprise, she ducks down and kisses Skandar on the lips. It's just a peck, so quick he can't be sure it happened at all—until she leans over and does the same to him. For a split-second her soft, warm lips are on his, and then they're gone, and she's straightening up, turning on her heel and heading off down the hall.
"Someone wake me before we have to go to set, okay?" she calls back over her shoulder, and that's it.
A pause. Will and Skandar look at one another. Skandar's eyes are dark. He's playing with his glass, turning it around and around in circles on the table.
"I'll set my alarm," he says eventually, and then abruptly stands, clearing the table around Will.
Will sits in silence as Skandar clatters about in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. He can hear water running in the bathroom, and he imagines Georgie getting ready for bed, and he thinks of her lips on his, and on Skandar's, and wonders what it means. If it means anything at all.
When Skandar's done, he passes by the table on his way into the bedroom and just nods curtly, and then he's gone too. All of a sudden Will is left alone, in the near dark, staring at a corridor that seems longer than his own and full of closed doors.
He doesn't move for a long while, so long that Georgie reappears in the hallway, now dressed in a vest-top and knickers, her hair tied in a messy bun. Will blushes, seeing her long bare legs. He can only just see her from where he sits, and she doesn't notice him as she straightens out the pile of her clothes in her hands, and turns the corner towards what Will assumes is the spare bedroom.
Another door opens, and Skandar joins her in the hall on his way to the bathroom. Will feels strangely embarrassed when he notices that Skandar is only in his boxers now, the dim light of the corridor dancing off his pale bare chest. It doesn't feel like they know each other well enough for this, for Will to be sleeping over, seeing them like this. The two of them murmur something to each other, something he can't make out, and Skandar pulls Georgie close, raking his fingers through her hair and pressing a kiss to her forehead before going on his way. Georgie watches him go, and Will gets that uneasy feeling again like there's something he's missing.
When Georgie turns back, her eyes meet Will's, and he tries to duck out of view, ashamed, feeling like he's spying on them. But he hears her bare feet treading softly along the wooden floor towards him and then she's standing in the doorway, looking fresh-faced and a little bit flushed.
"You okay on the sofa?" she asks, looking concerned. Probably wondering why he's just sitting there at the table still, all on his own in the dark.
"Oh, yeah, of—of course," he replies quickly, "I've got—my duvet, and stuff, so. Yeah. Thanks."
She smiles, broadly, but she's still looking a little bit questioning and curious. Like she's trying to figure him out. "Okay," she says, "sleep tight, then."
She turns on her heel and disappears off down the hall again and Will gets up. He gets ready for bed in a bathroom that seems to contain more things that look like they belong to Georgie than to Skandar, and then settles himself into a nest of duvet and pillows on the sofa, and tries to get his mind to stop racing.
He wakes up only an hour or so after finally falling asleep.
All the flats have a slightly different layout, and in Will's, the first door from the kitchen is the bathroom. So in his sleep-addled haze, padding around Skandar's unfamiliar flat in the dark, the door he pushes open is not the one he needs.
It takes him a moment to make sense of what he's seeing. First, he realises that the room is not a bathroom, and then he realises that it is Skandar's bedroom, and in his embarrassment at that he starts to pull the door shut again immediately. But something odd catches his eye, and he stops, and looks closer, blinking sleepily. In the eerie moonlight seeping in from a crack in the curtains, he can see not one, but two bodies sprawled across Skandar's bed.
His heart starts beating faster when he realises they're naked—stretched out together, half-in and half-out of the covers, discarded clothes hanging off the sides of the bed. Georgie is the one closest to him, but she's facing away from the door, facing Skandar, and he can see the soft curve of her bottom, the naked skin of her back. Skandar is facing her, too, and Will feels his face go hot as his eyes trace the shape of Skandar's body, the darkness at the juncture of his thighs. Their legs are intertwined, and he stares for a while, trying to figure out which limbs belong to whom, and gazing at the way their pale skin shimmers in the moonlight.
He doesn't know how much time passes before he manages to shake himself and continue on his way, pulling the door gently closed again.
Will is distantly aware of the sound of an alarm clock when he wakes, but it's too early and he's too tired, and he sleeps through it. When he wakes again not long later, he isn't sure why. But he can hear the sound of water running, and he remembers they're supposed to be on set quite early today, so he rises from the sofa and hastily dresses before stumbling down the corridor towards the bathroom, the source of the noise. The door is half-open, and so he assumes it's okay to pop his head in and let whoever it is know he's awake.
The first thing he sees, though, is the blurry shape of a naked body through the shower curtain, and he steps back again, startled. But then he spots Georgie, perched on the windowsill and brushing her teeth.
"Morning," she says brightly through a mouthful of toothpaste. She's wearing the vest-top and knickers again, he notices, and she has one leg stretched out, her foot resting against the corner of the bathtub. Will's eyes follow the length of that leg, skinny and smooth, up to where he can see a darker shadow beneath the thin white fabric that covers her crotch.
"Oh," Will says, rather stupidly, and he hovers in the doorway still, his eyes darting around the room, trying not to linger anywhere—not on the vest beneath which she isn't wearing a bra, and especially not on Skandar, his tall lithe form all distorted by the translucent shower curtain splattered with water droplets.
"Sleep well?" Georgie asks, leaping from the windowsill to spit into the sink. She grins up at him, then, toothy and white, and he feels rooted to the spot, sweating in all of his layers of clothing.
"Yeah, yeah, fine, thank you," he stammers, and he's about to ask her the same question, but then the image from last night revisits his mind, and he sees her sprawled out across Skandar's bed, naked, their limbs entwined. And he can't speak at all.
"You brought a toothbrush, right?" she asks.
He can only nod and gesture to where he left it last night—it lies between the one she's just put down, and Skandar's, and she picks it up triumphantly, twirling it in her fingers before proffering it to him along with a tube of toothpaste in her other hand. He busies himself with brushing his teeth as she returns to her spot on the windowsill, flossing.
"Morning," comes Skandar's voice, and Will looks up into the mirror above the sink, sees Skandar's face peering out from behind the shower curtain. The wet, semi-sheer fabric clings to one of his thighs, and Will's heart hammers.
"M-morning," he says, averting his eyes quickly.
But Skandar is finished with the shower before Will is finished brushing his teeth, and in the mirror Will catches sight of him stepping out of the bathtub. Briefly, Skandar is naked, with nothing to cover him, and Will blushes hotly, stooping over the sink and casting his eyes downward as Skandar wraps a towel around himself.
"You okay?" Georgie asks, then, hopping off the sill again and coming to stand behind him anxiously, peeking over his shoulder.
"Yep, yeah, fine," Will replies in a hurry, wishing his voice didn't sound so panicky.
Georgie puts her hands on his shoulders, gives them a gentle squeeze, and Will starts at the touch, almost dropping his toothbrush. Skandar approaches, a towel slung low on pale hips and an electric razor in hand, and busies himself shaving beside them, chin smeared with white. Will finds himself staring, in spite of his best efforts, at Skandar's bare torso, the pale skin still glistening a little with water, the freckles on his chest.
Georgie is on Will's other side now, pulling back her hair, spritzing something sweet-smelling into the air, but he is strangely transfixed by Skandar.
"You can use it, if you want," Skandar says suddenly, interrupting Will's daze.
Skandar is wiping his face with a flannel, but in his other hand he still holds the electric razor and is offering it forwards.
Skandar cocks his head, inspects Will closely. "You don't shave yet, do you?"
"Let me see!" cries Georgie, suddenly curious, bounding over to them and reaching out to caress Will's cheek. He shudders slightly at the feel of her soft, cool hand stroking his skin, and cowers back slightly from the two of them, feeling as though they're advancing on him. His back hits the hard enamel of the sink and to his embarrassment, he lets out a yell.
"Okay, okay, I don't shave yet," he cries, holding up his hands in defence.
They slink back, looking amused.
"It's okay," Skandar says with a shrug, "I barely have to, really. In fact, I'm thinking of seeing how much stubble I can grow, maybe it'll get Ben to shut up about his beard."
Will laughs, thinking of the little brush the make-up department have for Ben's facial hair. "You want a beard brush too?" he asks Skandar, grinning.
"Yeah, I think we should demand our own, the two of us," Skandar laughs, and it seems that the atmosphere is more relaxed all of a sudden. A little bit of tension eases out of Will's muscles and he realises he's still grinning goofily at Skandar, even as Skandar is reaching past him for the toothpaste.
"There's cereal in the cupboard beside the fridge," Georgie says, and Will snaps out of it, looking at her. She's smiling, a little curl of her lip. "You can grab something while we get dressed."
They arrive on set together, and Will thinks their scenes that day go better than all the ones they've filmed already combined. There's a more natural flow to it—even though he's being a total dick to them, as usual, as Eustace—and in between takes they smile and laugh, friendly, when before Will used to have to fight the absurd urge to apologise for his character's attitude.
They work late, and when they wrap, everyone goes out to a nearby pizza restaurant. Will sits between Skandar and Georgie, and feels strangely proud as they joke around together. This time, he's in on the private jokes—he even works up the courage to tease Skandar about how it's lucky that pizza is a meal eaten with one's hands, referring to Skandar's inability to use chopsticks that he discovered the night before. When Georgie informs Ben that the boys are considering demanding their own beard brushes, Will likes the way it feels to know that he had a conversation with the two of them that Ben was not present for.
He gets home to find his Mum watching Pride and Prejudice on TV and she practically leaps off the sofa, bombarding him with questions about how the sleepover went.
"I'm not twelve, Mum," he complains, but he can't stop grinning, and he relents easily. "It was fun. They're...really nice."
Later, in bed, he still can't stop grinning to himself and he feels like an idiot for it, like someone who's just fallen in love or something—but it just makes him so happy to finally feel included, to feel like one of them, to be embarking on the type of relationship he hoped for when he took the part. He's too hyped up to sleep, and after a few hours of lying there grinning 'til his face hurts in the dark, he resorts to an old failsafe—spits into his hand, brings it down between his legs—
An image of Georgie floats into his mind, her long legs slightly parted as she sits on the windowsill, the slightly transparent fabric of her white knickers—his breath hitches and he blushes, tries to think of something else, but then the knickers turn into the shower curtain that clung to Skandar's bare thighs and he buries his face in his pillow, rolling over onto his front and frowning. He tries to shake the thoughts away but they come back fast and strong, and he loses control as he gets more excited—naked bodies intertwined in bed, the pert curve of Georgie's arse, the darkness between Skandar's legs, he remembers squinting in the dim moonlight and trying to make out the shape of Skandar's cock, all the while pretending to himself that he was doing no such thing—
He feels more disgusted with himself than usual afterwards, wiping himself off in the bathroom and calling to his Mum that he's getting some water when she asks if he's all right.
He's always had a bit of a problem keeping these sorts of things separate.
William Moseley and Anna Popplewell arrive that weekend, on Skandar's birthday. Will has met them only once before, at the leaving party that was thrown back in London a week before shooting began, and he's not surprised to find that they are much the same now—confident, intelligent, witty...it would all be much more intimidating if they weren't so friendly on top of it all.
What does surprise him, though, is the way that Skandar and Georgie's behaviour changes. Will notices, because he's still hyper-aware of the two of them and their interaction, seeing flashes of their tangled, naked limbs every time he blinks, jumping a little when they brush past him and thinking of the way they cornered him up against the sink in their bathroom. Just yesterday, he'd watched a sleepy Georgie resting her head on Skandar's shoulder between takes, and, once they'd wrapped, seen him pull her into a hug and press a kiss to her forehead when they thought nobody was looking.
But now, it's—well, it's different. It's not as if they're strangers, but the charged affection is gone completely. Georgie sits on William's lap and William jiggles his knees like she's nine again, and Georgie curls her fingers through Anna's hair and demands to borrow whatever product she's using these days. Skandar slings his arm over Anna's shoulder as they sit side-by-side on the sofa and she cuddles up close to him, and later, Will catches a glimpse of Skandar and William in the bedroom, embracing tightly, eyes closed, silent—and then he averts his eyes and hurries on his way, blushing despite the fact that they didn't even notice him.
But all night, Will watches. Through drinks and snacks at Skandar's, through the meal at the restaurant, and through the post-meal drinks and birthday cake back at Skandar's again. And he barely sees Skandar and Georgie even speak to each other. Maybe it's just because they're so thrilled to have William and Anna back, and all of their attention is on them, but he can't help but feel there's something odd about it. Especially when, on his way to the bathroom, he notices a distinct lack of Georgie's belongings strewn across the hallway—and then, he discovers, her toiletries have vanished, too, the ones that covered every available surface of the bathroom last time he was here. It's almost as if they're trying to hide the fact that Georgie spends most of her time here, though when Will plucks up the courage to mention the tidiness of the place (going for an approach that's at least slightly subtle, he thinks), Skandar just gives him a funny look and says something about cleaning up for guests.
Will feels a little guilty for being so suspicious, and distant because he's so caught up in this, but in a way he finds it a helpful distraction from the uncomfortable feeling he has all evening. As wonderful, friendly and welcoming as they all are, there's nothing they can do about the fact that they are a unit, that Will is the new guy, and that no matter how hard they try, he's going to feel a little left out now and again. And so he spends a lot of that night, and then the following week, on the sidelines. Watching. Taking things in. Quiet, blending into the background. It enables him to see a lot of things, to notice things about the five of them and their relationships that he doesn't think they'd pick up on themselves. He has the outsider's perspective, no matter how much they try to tell him he's not an outsider, not at all.
A few nights later, they're at Ben's, all six of them and Andrew, who William and Anna had insisted come along because they missed their old director and weren't getting to spend as much time with him as they'd hoped. And there's wine, and lots of chatting, and then Andrew produces some inconspicuous little discs which turn out to be full of old, behind-the-scenes footage of the films. They cluster round Ben's TV, and then huddle even closer around Ben's laptop upon discovering that the TV has no idea what to do with such a format, and Will perches on the arm of the sofa and feels increasingly more awkward as he watches the history of the group's friendship unfold before his eyes. Everybody laughs as little Georgie approaches preteen Skandar for a cuddle and gets pushed away, and maybe it's the wine (though he's only had one glass) but Will feels suddenly and profoundly out of place, like he has no right to be here. After all, he can't reminisce with them, and any heart-warming emotions the videos give him are overridden by his intense discomfort, especially when he sees Anna wiping away tears as she watches, and William and Skandar both cradling her into a hug.
When the videos end, and everyone disperses from the crowd around the laptop, Will hurries off to the bathroom. He doesn't need to go to the toilet, he just needs to get away from it all, to gather his thoughts. If he can. The wine isn't helping—sure, it was only a little bit, but he's not used to alcohol and it's making his mind feel swimmy, making everything about this seem surreal. He can hear everyone's voices drifting through from the living room, and he thinks of the videos Andrew showed them, remembers when he first saw some of those scenes, watching the special features on his The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe DVD when he was about thirteen. It seems completely insane that he's even in the same building as those kids right now, and he wishes he could remember what he thought of them back then, but now that he knows them, he can't.
He remembers talking about it a little bit with Ben, during one of their first meetings. Ben said those DVD extras made him sick. Will had let out a little startled laugh, and Ben explained that it all just seemed too perfect, like it was scripted, and he couldn't believe they could really be such a happy little family in real life. "Imagine my surprise," he'd said with a sly grin, and Will had laughed, and liked him a lot—he felt comforted by the story, because Ben knew what it was like to join this cast late, and Will didn't feel so much like the new boy at school anymore.
That feeling is back again now, though, and he splashes his face with some cold water like people do in movies when they're stressing out alone in the bathroom. Turns out it has absolutely no effect. He leans against the wall and tries to stop the little movie reels from playing in his brain. But as soon as he manages, other images spring to mind—Georgie's long bare legs again, kicking out from the bathroom windowsill or tangled with Skandar's in bed. Skandar's chin smeared with shaving foam. The lines of Skandar's hipbones, disappearing beneath a towel. Georgie leaning in to kiss him goodnight.
He wishes he knew the reason for this obsession.
Suddenly he becomes aware that some of the voices he can hear from outside have gotten louder, like they're right on the other side of the wall. He realises that they probably are, coming from Ben's bedroom.
"...just that, I assume," Will can hear Ben saying, "but it is a little bit weird, I agree."
"It's not a bad thing," comes another voice, that Will recognises as William's. "It just surprised me, is all."
They're speaking quite quietly—the walls are thin enough for Will to hear them, but they've obviously separated from the group to have this conversation in private and probably wouldn't appreciate the fact that Will can hear every word of it. He feels even more anxious, now, wondering how to leave without making his presence known, but then he starts to realise what they're talking about.
"They never really used to be that close," William goes on, and Ben is making sounds of agreement, "and it's weird, because it feels like—is it weird that I feel like they're trying to hide it? Whenever I mention one of them to the other one, they just get all—" he sighs, sounding frustrated, and then there's silence for a moment before a murmured, "I don't know."
Ben's response is quiet, too. Careful. "I don't think there's anything going on," is what he says, and Will feels his heart leap a little, simultaneously nervous about the nature of the conversation he's overhearing and relieved that finally, someone else is having the same thoughts he is.
"No, no," William is saying almost instantly. "No, ugh." He's laughing, but he really does sound disgusted by the thought.
The conversation feels a little bit awkward now. Ben is laughing too, but uncomfortably, it seems. "Sorry to put that thought in your head," he says, "I just thought you meant—"
"No, I just mean," William says, and then sighs again, "I don't know what I mean."
Will is surprised that William has even noticed a change in Skandar and Georgie's dynamic. The way they've been acting these past few days has given nothing away to him, despite the fact that he's been keeping such a close eye on them, and already knows how close they are. For William to have picked up on something, he either has to be incredibly observant (which could be true—perhaps he has the advantage here, knowing the two of them much better than Will could ever hope to), or Skandar and Georgie usually completely ignore each other and therefore just seeing them speak to one another is unusual.
"I think I'm just worried that it's fake, in some way," William says, then. "Like they're pretending everything's fine for my benefit—mine and Anna's, I mean—but, were things different before we got here?"
Ben's answer is, again, careful, somehow. "That...depends on what you mean." William offers nothing further. "They've pretty much been inseparable."
William sighs again. Will is surprised by how worried he seems. His voice seems to be alternating between sounding very close, and much further away, like maybe he's pacing the length of Ben's room as he speaks. "See, that's what I'm worried about. I don't want them to be ignoring Will. Leaving him out, you know." Will's heart does another little leap, and he suddenly feels very guilty, because somehow it's so much worse when the conversation you're eavesdropping on is about you. William's voice seems to get quite a bit more hushed, now, and Will has to strain to hear. "I've been worried about that this whole time, you know—"
At this, Ben says, quite loudly, "Oh, Will," and Will jumps. This whole name thing is terribly confusing sometimes.
"—no, really, I mean I know everybody said it was going to be fine, because it was okay with you, but—well, that was mostly mine and Anna's doing, wasn't it?" He pauses, reflecting on this. "I don't mean to sound—but it was, wasn't it? I'm not saying they were awful to you or anything, but...I just wasn't sure how good they'd be at, you know, welcoming somebody else in, without us there to guide them."
Ben's voice sounds hurt when he says, "I'm here."
"I know. Sorry." William doesn't sound surprised that Ben has taken offence to this, but he doesn't sound particularly apologetic either. He sighs again, and when he speaks his voice is so quiet that Will—in what, he'll admit, is not one of his proudest moments—has to cross the room and lean up against the wall to hear better. "Are they? Leaving Will out, I mean."
Will bites his lip. He's a little surprised that William is that concerned, and it's nice to know, but it also sort of hurts to realise that someone else has noticed. It's easier for him to tell himself he's imagining it, being a little paranoid or bringing it on himself, but deep down he really, really wants to be accepted by this group and having someone else acknowledge that maybe he's not makes it all the more real.
"Not—I don't—" Ben stammers, and then falls silent.
"I just..." William is pretty much whispering now, and Will feels awful, because they've clearly remembered that he's in here, "he seems to be doing okay, you know, generally, but tonight—"
"Those videos probably didn't help."
"You seemed okay."
"I'm used to it."
"Do you think I should talk to them? Get them to spend more time with him?"
"They were starting to...I think you and Anna arriving has just distracted them a little bit." A pause. "Honestly, Will, we're fine. Don't worry. If they start ignoring him, I can talk to them, and—well, there's four of us, anyway, it's not like it's a heinous crime if the two of them go off on their own sometimes."
William laughs. "I know that." Their voices are growing louder again, more relaxed.
The conversation seems to be drawing to a close, so Will prises himself back off the wall and goes to flush the empty toilet. He hates to draw attention to himself, but he can't stay in here all night and he has to pretend he was just going about his business and didn't hear a thing. He grimaces at his own reflection in the mirror, unable to hear anything over the sound of the toilet flushing and then the tap running, and by the time he works up the courage to leave, Ben and William are already back in the living room, looking only slightly shifty as they pour themselves some more wine.
"Hey, you all right?" Ben asks Will as he enters the room.
"Yeah, yeah," Will says, wiping his hands anxiously on his trousers, "did I miss anything?"
He feels a little bit guilty for that—putting them on the spot, as he knows that whatever he missed, they missed too—but it's the first thing to come into his head, and luckily then they're distracted by a cry from the other side of the room.
"Look at this!" Skandar shouts. "How is she doing this? It's like magic."
They wander over, curious, to see a little row of tiny, brightly coloured foil triangles lying on the coffee table. Georgie is looking smug, and fiddling with a crisp packet.
"You made those?" Will asked, impressed.
"I watched her, but I still don't understand how she does it," Skandar says defeatedly.
"Guess you're just not that good with your hands," William teases, and Skandar shoots him a Look.
The rest of the evening passes without event, to Will's relief, but that night in bed he can't stop replaying Ben and William's conversation to himself. It's interrupted, intermittently, with clips of happy playful children, and he thinks he can feel his heart slowly sinking as the time ticks by. He's spent a few evenings in the company of these people, out of their work environment. Those videos—those kids spent every second together. He's fooling himself that he could ever be on that level, that he could ever be a part of this group like this.
He's not one of them. He doesn't know how to be.
The next day, Will's Mum leaves. His Dad is taking over so that neither of them miss too much work, but he doesn't arrive 'til tomorrow night, and Will is fairly certain that this change-over could not have come at a worse time. He's already feeling like more of an outsider than ever before, and, wandering aimlessly around his seemingly huge, empty flat that evening, he thinks this is the most miserable he's felt since he got here. He watches snippets of things on TV; tries to read some of a book but has to keep rereading pages because he's not taking any of it in; attempts to make himself some dinner and burns it.
He ends up sitting on his kitchen floor with his head in his hands, trying as hard as he possibly can not to cry, when there's a sudden, and rather jaunty, knock on his door.
He jumps to his feet and sort of brushes himself down and wipes his face, trying not to look as though he's seconds from sobbing, and hurries towards the door. Greeting him when he opens it is two people who probably couldn't look in a more different mood if they tried.
"Hi," grins Skandar.
"Hi," grins Georgie.
"H-hello," Will says. His voice sounds hoarse and stupid, and he can't manage a grin just yet.
"We're gonna hang out at Ben's again," Georgie informs him. "Will and Anna went to see a movie. Do you want to come?"
It's slightly weird at Ben's, because it's just the four of them like it was before William and Anna arrived and they have to re-adjust slightly. There are board games and popcorn and wine, and as happy as Will is to have company, it feels like there's some sort of tension in the air. The more Skandar drinks, the more relaxed he becomes, and he starts to touch Georgie more than he has been lately, even lying down on the floor with his head in her lap at one point. Will wonders if it's just the alcohol, or if Skandar feels he can do this because the others aren't here to see it, and he wonders why that matters so much.
Later, Ben says he's just nipping to the loo, and the moment he's disappeared around the corner, Will is pounced on.
"Will," Georgie hisses, leaning closer.
"Oh, are we doing this now?" Skandar asks, interestedly, leaning in towards her.
"Doing what now?" Will asks anxiously.
"We have a thing we want you to do," Georgie tells him.
Will isn't at all comforted by this. He's noticed over time that this group is fond of games, and not just the board kind that they're in the middle of right now, but little competitive games, dares and bets and silly little challenges they make up for each other. He supposes it all started with the Pottymouth Bucket on the set of the first movie—this group has always had a penchant for taking each other's money, it seems.
He's never really known exactly what's going on, but he's seen them exchanging small change as forfeits and he's picked up on some things. Like—Ben regularly refuses to get involved, and so Will assumed it was another Skandar-and-Georgie thing, until William and Anna arrived. And now that it's all of them back together, he's noticed it happening all the time. Just little things. William betting Anna she couldn't get her sweet wrapper in the bin from a certain distance, and if she failed, she had to pay for his pudding at the restaurant that night—just something silly and small like that.
But no one has ever challenged him. Until now.
He looks nervously at Skandar and Georgie's eager faces staring back at him. He's much more nervous about this than he probably should be, in fact. Maybe they just want to bet him that he won't win this game of Trivial Pursuit, or something—although, in that case, Will is going to start trying about twelve times harder than he has been so far, and god, what if he loses? Will he just have to pay them a couple of dollars, or will they shun him forever?
This is ridiculous. He has to find out what it is, first, before panicking. "Wh—"
"It's something we've been wanting to do for a long time," Georgie interrupts, like she was actually waiting for him to ask just so she could cut him off. She's still being cryptic, though, of course, and Skandar leans his head on her shoulder, grinning and getting some of her hair in his mouth by mistake. "But we've been waiting for the right person to do it with."
"That's not quite true," Skandar interrupts, "it's more like we've been trying to find someone willing to do it with us."
"This sounds so dirty," Skandar laughs to himself.
"Don't worry, it's not dirty," Georgie adds, noticing Will's nervous expression.
"Anything is dirty if you want it to be," Skandar cuts in, and Will wonders how drunk he is.
"Shh, Ben's going to be back in a second, shut up," Georgie hushes him, giggling, as Skandar sort of wraps himself around her, clinging onto her flimsy blouse. It pulls down a little bit, exposing a glimpse of hot pink bra, and Will flushes and averts his eyes.
"Ben won't do it," Skandar says sadly. "He said he would, but not while Will and Anna are here. When they're around, he likes to pretend to be responsible."
"Yeah," Georgie sighs, rolling her eyes. "And Will and Anna actually are responsible, so they're a no-go. And we want to do it soon."
There's another pause, and Will feels like they think he's telepathic or something, and has already somehow received the message. "I'm sorry," he says, "I—what is it that—?"
"Right," Georgie says, nodding vigorously, almost businesslike but still childishly excited, "you know how we've only ever been on the boat when we're filming?"
Georgie has a rather adorable habit of referring to the Dawn Treader as 'the boat', as though it's a little canoe or something instead of the ridiculously enormous ship it is. "Uh huh," Will says, catching himself smiling, and he doesn't know if it's because of her or because their excitement is contagious.
"Well, how cool would it be," her eyes are practically sparkling, "if we were on there all on our own? When no one else is around?"
"I—" Will says, and then pauses, narrowing his eyes. He's not entirely sure where this is going; it seems best at this point to play along. "That would be pretty cool."
Their faces both break into huge grins. "Yes!" Georgie cries triumphantly, and goes to high-five Skandar, who completely misses her and high-fives the coffee table instead. Georgie doesn't even seem to notice. "I knew you'd be up for it," she effuses in Will's general direction. "Knew it."
"Wait, wait, what?" Will asks. He's still grinning, caught up in their joy, but—"I'm not sure what you're actually asking me to do," he admits.
Skandar rolls his eyes, impatient. "We're asking you to sneak onto the ship at night with us," he clarifies, and while Georgie was at least making this sound like kind of a big deal, Skandar seems to shrug it off like it's nothing.
"I—oh," Will says, his face falling. "Oh, I don't know about that. I mean—won't there be lots of security?"
"Not at night," Skandar shrugs, detaching himself from Georgie and sitting up properly, "and besides, screw security. We can do it."
Will frowns. He hates the look of absolute dismay that's come over Georgie's face, but this really doesn't seem like a good idea. The panic starts to set back in. He's already accepted that he pretty much has to do this—what will they do if he doesn't? They'll be disappointed, maybe mad at him...they might not want to spend time with him anymore.
"But what if we get caught?" he asks in a small voice.
Georgie actually grins again at that, shaking her head. "Well, don't worry, young William," she says mockingly. (Ever since William arrived, Michael has taken to calling him 'old William' and Will 'young William', something Georgie finds hilarious.) "We're not going to get caught."
"But what if we d—"
"Will," Georgie cuts him off, and she scurries closer to him across the floor with no regard for the half-completed game of Trivial Pursuit lying between them, sending little plastic pie pieces flying left and right. "This...is a test," she says dramatically, reaching him and looking at him challengingly. "Are you going to pass it, or fail it?"
Will opens his mouth, and suddenly gets a hand clamped over it in response, the metal band of a ring on Georgie's finger pressing into his lip.
"Be careful," Georgie warns, "a lot depends on how you answer."
Skandar is grinning beyond her, shaking his head and reaching for his wine glass. Just then, the toilet flushes, and Georgie springs back, fumbling with the game pieces and trying to get them at least roughly in their original places on the board.
"I was on the orange," Skandar corrects her, sliding his piece across a few spaces.
"P-pass it," Will says in a small voice, and they both look up at him, almost in surprise. He clears his throat. "Pass it," he says again.
They both look victorious. "Yay," Georgie says, careful to keep her voice quiet, but the immense joy is all over her face.
They can hear Ben padding down the hall. "Await further instructions," Skandar says darkly, just before Ben re-enters the room.
"All right, who's been cheating?" he asks, grinning brightly and obliviously at them all.
The following night, Will is awoken by the sound of—well, he actually can't tell what the sound is, just that it's enough to wake him, and then he lies there in a daze for a little while, listening, trying to figure it out. It's a sort of rhythmless pattering, and once he's woken up fully he realises it's coming from his window. He gets up and hurries over to it, yanking open the curtains, and peering out he sees Skandar and Georgie standing in the car park below, clutching handfuls of gravel. He blinks at them blearily. He didn't realise people actually did this outside of movies, and so it sort of feels like a dream. He wonders if it is.
They're gesturing maniacally at him, so he fumbles about for the key and opens the window, leaning out. "What are you—"
"Come down!" Skandar bellows.
"Shh!" Will hisses, looking frantically back over his shoulder. "Don't wake up my Dad!" He wants to mention that maybe it would've been more convenient if they'd done this last night when he was home alone, but he's not quite awake enough for such a long sentence and he doesn't want to criticise their decisions.
"Sorry!" Skandar replies in a slightly more muted voice. "Come down!"
"But I—what time is it?"
Skandar and Georgie exchange a mischievous look. "Dawn Treader time?" they say in near-unison.
Will stares at them for a moment, and then a longer moment after that. "I thought I was supposed to await further instruction," he calls down quietly.
Skandar smirks. "Yeah," he says. "Here it is: get dressed and come downstairs."
Will is still scared—scared of going out at this time just the three of them, scared of sneaking out of the flat without anyone noticing, scared of sneaking onto the ship most of all of course—but looking down at their bright, excited faces he just can't imagine letting them down.
He sighs, giving in. "Okay, give me a minute," he replies, and he can't help but grin when they start cheering triumphantly.
"We'll meet you round at the front!" Georgie calls up, and Will nods before pulling shut the window and curtains once again.
He puts a hoodie on over his t-shirt, some jeans over his boxers, and adds some socks and shoes. He stuffs his phone in his pocket, pausing briefly to check the time and marvelling a little at the fact that it's nearly 5am before creeping quietly out of the bedroom. He knows the flat well enough now to navigate it in the dark, but when he reaches for a room key from the dish on the kitchen counter, there's a loud clinking and he freezes, heart pounding. But he hears nothing from his Dad's room, and so he carefully lifts up the key and sneaks towards the door. Maybe it's a good thing that they chose tonight after all—his Dad has just survived the ridiculously long flight to Australia and will probably be fast asleep for a whole day.
Will unlocks the door and exits in slow-motion, trying to be as quiet as he possibly can anyway, and breathes a sigh of relief when it's finally shut behind him. But then he looks around, down the long, dark, utterly empty corridor, and a little chill runs down his spine.
It's spooky using the lift with no one around. It slides down past floors full of sleeping people—well, only two, but it feels like it takes a lifetime for it to finally reach the lobby. He's not surprised to see there's no one on the desk at this time of night, and through the large glass swing doors he can see Skandar and Georgie waiting excitedly, sitting on the stone wall out front and swinging their legs. He taps in the security code to open the doors and then he's out and the two of them are leaping up, and to his surprise, Georgie rushes to him and embraces him.
"Yay," she says in a small voice against his neck, "I've been wanting to do this since we started shooting."
For a moment Will thinks she means this, hugging him, and he flushes and starts to stammer something in response, but then Skandar is clapping him on the back and making noises of agreement.
"Yeah, thanks for not being a spoilsport like the others," he grins, and then Will blushes even more for misinterpreting.
It's a pretty long walk to set, but it's doable. They're used to being driven there every morning, and Will has never really paid attention to the route before, but Skandar and Georgie have clearly been planning this for a long time as they seem to know exactly which corners to turn. Will feels kind of dazed and sleepy—he's not sure he's ever been up at this time before, not outside at least, and everything feels quite surreal. It's so deserted it's like they're in a ghost town, no signs of life around, blinds and curtains shut in every building they pass. Owls hoot in distant trees, and every now and then there's a rustling sound coming from some undergrowth and Georgie insists they all stop and stay very, very still in case it's some sort of exotic nocturnal Australian animal.
It's quite chilly, but not as bad as Will expected, and it's light enough for the three of them to feel safe walking alone. The light is strange, actually—the sky is a sort of silvery-blue, with streaks of bright white, and as they walk it grows gradually pinker. It's misty, too—Silent Hill levels of fog obscuring the roads ahead, which makes Will feel quite nervous, but Skandar and Georgie are confident with their directions. It really does feel quite a bit like a dream, and on some level Will thinks he's already accepted that it is, and he's just going along with it.
Then Skandar elbows him sharply in the ribs and it hurts, so he must be awake. "Ow," he says, rubbing at the sore spot.
"You're off in your own little world," Georgie observes with a curious smile.
"I'm still half-asleep," Will tells her, and yawns as if to prove a point.
Skandar is rummaging around in his backpack, and Will hears rustling, and clinking of glass, and then he produces two Clingfilm-wrapped sandwiches.
"Weird time for lunch," Georgie says, laughing as she takes one, "but I'm starving. Did you bring anything, Will?" Will shakes his head. "Oh, we forgot to tell you to!"
"I'm okay," Will tells her, "please, eat, don't mind me."
"Aw, no, I'm sorry, have some of ours, here—" She's tearing the sandwich in half, ignoring Will's stammered protests that he's fine, really, but then his stomach rumbles rather loudly and she giggles and thrusts the food at him. He blushes and takes it, gratefully babbling thanks.
"And Skandar?" Georgie prompts.
"And Skandar what?" grumbles Skandar, munching away.
This time he's the one to get an elbow in the ribs. "Skandar."
Skandar sighs and tears his own sandwich, proffering the (smaller) piece, and Will takes it, hesitantly. "You know you really don't have to—I should have thought to bring something myself—" he stammers.
"See? He doesn't even want it," Skandar snaps, snatching it back out of Will's hand.
Georgie gasps, shoving his shoulder. "Yes he does," she insists, grabbing it right back off him and returning it to a horribly-embarrassed Will, "he's just too polite to say so. Aren't you, Will?"
"Th-thank you," is all Will can manage, and he takes a big bite, staring off into the distance.
He's surprised to see the ship looming into view already, steadily appearing through the fog, huge and bright and high up on the gimbal.
"Aha!" Georgie cries triumphantly with her mouth full, and starts trotting towards it. "Success!"
It seems a little early to say that, but Will doesn't point this out. Instead, he just walks a little faster to catch up with her, and Skandar rolls his eyes and does the same. His mood seems to change pretty rapidly these days—he can go from pleasant and agreeable to almost childishly grumpy within the space of twenty minutes, and Will isn't sure why. He's not even sure if it is a recent development after all, or if he's always been like this.
Getting onto the ship is surprisingly easy, it turns out. So easy that Will wonders why it is that they're the first to do this, thinking that it's lucky the Dawn Treader hasn't ended up covered in graffiti and rubbish yet. He's almost tempted to suggest to someone that they increase security.
They have to clamber over a few fences, but even that's easier than Will was imagining. There are no alarms, and, as far as he can see, no security cameras. It takes them under ten minutes, Will would guess, and then they're on the deck of the ship, standing there in the hazy light and looking at each other in something like disbelief.
"Well," says Georgie, satisfied, sitting down on the steps, "that was easier than I expected."
Will laughs, and sits down too, and Skandar looks around for a further moment, sort of scanning the horizon like he thinks maybe it was too easy and they should be on their guard. But eventually, he sits down too, though he's still looking a little uneasy.
"Skandar, cheer up," Georgie snaps crossly, nudging him as he slings off his backpack. "We did it!"
"Doesn't feel like much of an achievement," Skandar grumbles, and then produces a bottle of wine from his backpack, placing it on the deck in front of him. "Drink, anyone?"
Will eyes the bottle uncertainly.
"Okay," says Georgie eagerly. Will remembers how no one would let her at any of the gathering during the previous week, how she'd only be allowed a sip or two from someone else's glass if she found someone drunk enough.
Will just nods, and looks off into the distance, watching the mist beginning to clear and the sun gradually rising higher up in the watery-pink sky.
"It's funny, the wine makes the whole sneaking-out-and-getting-drunk thing seem much more classy," Georgie giggles.
Will feels a little bit nervous when she says that—he doesn't think he's ever really been drunk before. His friends aren't big drinkers, so the most he's ever had is one glass of wine or champagne, with his parents or at the parties here in the past week.
But then Skandar says, "We're not getting drunk," still rummaging in his backpack and then producing three little plastic cups leftover from his birthday party.
He pours the wine, and they sip at it in a slightly awkward silence for a while. Will hasn't had any of the red kind before, and it doesn't taste how he imagined—more bitter than sweet, and not all that fruity. It's nice all the same, though—he likes the feel of it in his throat when he swallows, that slight tingle.
"We should do something," sighs Georgie in exasperation after a while of this.
"Like what?" Skandar asks. He's halfway through his wine already.
"Like—I don't know, play a game or something," Georgie shrugs. Will isn't surprised by this answer, but then she adds, "Truth or Dare. I don't know."
Skandar snorts derisively. "How old are we, again?"
"C'monnn," Georgie needles. "It'll be fun. Truth or dare?"
Skandar rolls his eyes, and takes another big sip of his wine as if to show he's in no particular hurry to play. Eventually, he says, "Dare, then."
Will is beginning to feel like Skandar and Georgie's entire lives are just one big game of Truth or Dare, and he's already starting to panic about what he should choose, what they'll want him to do and what they want to know.
Georgie says, "I dare you to leave proof that we've been here."
Will makes nervous noises. Skandar chuckles. "Do you want us to get caught?"
"No," Georgie replies, and then crawls a little way along the floor and reaches for one specific plank in the flooring. Will realises what she's doing—that plank is loose, it has been for a few weeks now, wobbling when anyone stands on it, and no one has got around to fixing it yet. She lifts it out, with a little difficulty, and then passes it across to Skandar. He just looks at her, eyebrows raised, and she reaches into his backpack and produces a Sharpie. Skandar grins, shaking his head.
When the plank is replaced, it's with the words S+G+W were here scrawled on the underside of the wood. And then, after Skandar—very childishly—dares Georgie to shout the word 'penis' at the top of her lungs, it's Will's turn. He knows that they expect him to choose truth, so he takes a deep breath and says, "Dare," and hopes he won't regret it.
Skandar raises his eyebrows and exchanges a look with Georgie, who smirks. "Down your drink," she says.
Will does so, grimacing as he gulps down the rest of the wine. He's relieved it wasn't anything worse, and, quite frankly, surprised.
"Truth," Skandar says, then, without being asked, as he starts to top up their cups from the bottle.
"Um," says Will, startled, still swallowing away the slight burn in his throat. He asks the first thing that comes to mind. "Do you—do you get homesick?"
Skandar laughs and rolls his eyes. "Of course," he says. "Truth or d—"
"No, wait, that wasn't it," Will blurts, feeling stupid. He really did just ask without thinking, and he supposes it was a question he'd been wanting to ask any of them for a long time, simply for reassurance. Skandar is looking at him expectantly. Will thinks fast. "Who do you miss the most when you're away?"
"Pointless question," Georgie sighs before Skandar has a chance to respond. "It's obviously 'old William'."
Skandar gives a sort of indecipherable smirk, a one-shouldered shrug, and then starts to fumble around in his backpack. "Truth or dare," he says to Georgie. She chooses dare again, and Skandar thinks about it as he locates a crumpled packet of cigarettes from the bottom of the backpack and lights one. Then, in a very calculated way, as he breathes out a little smoke from his first drag, he says, "Kiss him," with a jut of his head in Will's direction.
Will's mouth goes dry. He starts to say something, but whether he manages an "um" or just croaks vaguely, he has no idea.
"Ah, but I've already done that, Skandie-kins," Georgie says, brushing it off with a giggle, and Skandar wrinkles his nose at her, presumably in response to the nickname. "Very well, though."
She crawls over the short distance to Will and pecks him neatly on the lips while he stares like an idiot, and then, brushing the dirt off her knees, settles back in her place and takes a sip of wine. Skandar is looking at her, smirking again, in that way that Will can't quite interpret.
"What?" Georgie says.
Skandar shrugs, brings his cigarette back to his mouth. "Nothing."
"You're such a pervert," Georgie tells him affectionately. "More wine, please." Skandar grins at her and tops up her cup, and she looks to Will. "Will! Truth or dare!"
"D-dare," Will says. For a second he's just glad he's regained the use of his vocal cords, and then he starts to worry about what Georgie might pick for him; whether she'll want a follow-up. The game has been surprisingly tame up until this point and he has the feeling the stakes have been raised.
Georgie thinks for a long, long time, and Will grows increasingly more nervous, but then she flops back with a defeated sigh and says, "I can't think of anything." She looks to Skandar for help, and Will's heart leaps into his throat.
"I doubt that's true," Skandar says scathingly, and then, seemingly randomly, holds his cigarette out to Will.
"Um, no thank you," Will says, feeling awkward.
"No," Skandar is laughing, "it's the dare."
"Oh." Oh. Skandar gestures with the cigarette and Will hesitates. "Listen, I—I really hate smoking."
"Oh, come off it," Skandar says harshly, rolling his eyes. "I bet you've never even tried it."
"I have," Will replies defensively.
"You don't have to, Will," Georgie cuts in, a little anxiously.
"Yes he does," Skandar shoots back, "that's the rules. Truth or dare, or forfeit. And the forfeit's usually worse."
Will does not doubt this one bit, so he takes the cigarette from Skandar's hand while Skandar's still gesturing with it in Georgie's direction, and brings it to his lips. He tries to remember the technique he had for Son of Rambow, where he managed to make it look like he was inhaling properly so it would look real for the film, but he's trying to be too quick and too casual and he ends up just sucking in sharply and thrusting the cigarette back at Skandar, coughing a little as he exhales.
"All right, you don't have to get in a mood about it," Skandar grumbles, taking the cigarette back.
"Truth or dare, Georgie?" Will asks. He's not really giving Skandar the silent treatment, and he's not really that pissed off—in fact, already he's feeling sorry for making a big deal of it, making the atmosphere tense like this. He knows, somewhere, deep down, that Skandar is at fault too, but right now he just feels guilty.
"Um," says Georgie in a small voice. "Truth."
Will wants to come up with something light-hearted and fun, but for some reason, all he can come up with is, "What did you think of me when you first met me?" and immediately he feels stupid for it, blushing a little. He's relieved when he doesn't hear Skandar snorting with laughter.
Georgie is smiling, toothy and genuine. "Aw, well, I thought you were very sweet," she says, and to Will's surprise, she reaches out briefly, touches his hand. "I thought you seemed nervous, but that was understandable of course, and then when we started doing the read-through I was just really amazed at how talented you were." She laughs. "Are."
Will blushes deeper, shaking his head. "Oh—stop—I—"
"Hey, it was a truth, I had to be honest," Georgie interrupts. She turns to Skandar, who is looking off into the distance, lighting another cigarette. She tuts at him, and he sticks his tongue out at her. "What about you, Skandar? What did you think?"
"Is this a truth? I don't believe I specified."
"I chose for you. Don't avoid the question."
Skandar lets out an exaggerated sigh. "I thought he seemed really nervous. Like, so nervous it was almost painful." He's not looking at Will, and he's not looking at Georgie either—just off at the horizon, the sun still rising. "But then when we started I was impressed. I guess."
"You guess," sneers Georgie, batting him on the arm. "Be nice."
"Sorry," says Skandar, not sounding sorry at all, "I'm just getting bored of this. Let's go back."
Will fidgets nervously. Georgie pouts and says, "One more, okay? One more round."
Skandar sighs and slumps back. "Fine. Truth or dare?"
"Me?" Georgie asks, because Skandar hasn't said a name and isn't even looking at anyone, concentrating instead on pouring the rest of the wine into his cup.
"Will," he says, still without looking up.
"Tr...uth," Will says slowly, uncertainly.
Skandar puts the empty bottle back in his bag and then takes a long drink of his wine before saying anything. And then...
"What do you think about when you—?"
Skandar finishes the question with a crude hand gesture, cigarette between two fingers, and Will stares at him in shock. He feels his face go hot and he looks to Georgie, expecting her to reprimand Skandar for such a question, but she's just looking surprised and grinning, like it's all a joke.
"You do wank, right?" Skandar goes on, puffing out a lungful of cigarette smoke in Will's general direction. "I mean, supposedly everyone does, but you...it's like you might not even know how."
Will's face burns. "I know how."
Skandar grins. "So what do you think about?"
And Will knows the rules, knows that he's supposed to tell the truth, but how can he, when the truth is that ever since that first night at Skandar's he's been unable to get off without thinking about Skandar and Georgie? He swallows uneasily, trying to think about what he'd think about if he were a normal sixteen year old boy; what celebrities he's supposed to fancy.
"Jessica Alba," he blurts eventually, feeling like an idiot.
Skandar seems satisfied, but Georgie leans in, inspecting Will's face like some kind of detective. "He's lying," she announces.
"Well, I figured," Skandar scoffs, leaning back and taking another drag from his cigarette. "But I was going to let him off." Georgie looks apologetic, and Skandar goes on, "So who is it really?" Will is silent. "Wow, you really don't want to say. Is it someone we know?"
"Oh my god, is it Anna?" Georgie cries suddenly.
Will has pretty much lost the ability to speak by this point, and Georgie seems to take his continued silence as a confession.
"It is," she squeals. "I wondered if you fancied her. You're always blushing and getting all clumsy when she's around."
Will is dismayed to hear this—he knew, of course, but he blushes and gets clumsy around both Anna and William, purely because he's kind of intimidated by them. Anna more, perhaps, but only because she's so pretty. But he never fantasised about her, and he'd hoped his admiration wasn't the kind of thing that other people noticed.
"Don't tell her," Will begs, because Skandar and Georgie believing this is bad enough but if Anna knew—he can just imagine the two of them telling her through their giggles, and Anna laughing too. Thinking he's pathetic.
Georgie draws her finger over her lips like a zipper and Skandar just takes another drag of his cigarette and makes a noncommittal sound. "She is waaaaay out of your league," he says casually. "Just so you know."
Before Will has a chance to respond—not that he has a response ready—Georgie is cutting in, trying to reduce the tension. "Okay, maybe we should—"
But then suddenly the words are coming out before Will has a chance to stop them. "All right then, who do you think about?"
Skandar is taken aback; he laughs in the middle of blowing a smoke ring and it disintegrates into a cloud. He coughs.
"You have to say," Will implores. "You made me."
Skandar fixes him with a stare so intense Will starts to feel nervous, quickly losing whatever small burst of confidence he had. Skandar's eyes are dark and wicked. "You," he says, and then leans back, taking another drag of his cigarette.
Georgie laughs, high-pitched, a startled reaction. Will is speechless.
The silence stretches on and then Skandar shrugs and adds, "I don't know, anyone, anything," and Will can't tell if this means he was joking before or not. "It's not like it's the same every time," he says, "I have an imagination."
"We should really go back," Georgie says, smiling but still nervous, agitatedly brushing Skandar's cigarette ash into cracks in the wood. "Doesn't shooting start in like a couple of hours?"
The walk there was much better than the walk home, Will thinks to himself after they've clambered back over the obstacles and are trudging back to the flats in awkward silence. Georgie—bless her—tries to keep the conversation going, but it peters out again and again and eventually she grows tired of trying. Will is tired too, over the excitement of the excursion and wanting to be back in his bed again. It's late enough now for people to be getting up; cars rush past and the three of them maneuver past people walking dogs. It's jarring to Will for some reason, like re-entering the real world.
The walk seems longer, too, and the three of them yawn repeatedly. There is tension, but it's a vague sort that Will does not know what to do with. He longs to apologise, but he's not sure what to apologise for, and he feels like he would only face Skandar's mockery and hostility in response. He trots along like a scolded pet instead beside Georgie, who walks between the two boys, a willing buffer.
They part with mumbled goodbyes in the corridor, and Will sneaks quietly back into his room without waking his father. He feels tipsy, and tired from the walk and lack of sleep, but when he clambers into bed he feels suddenly wide awake. He lies there, tosses and turns, eyes wide open, brain racing a hundred miles an hour. He thinks of Skandar's irritability, and wonders why he doesn't resent it but instead feels responsible for it. He knows, logically, that Skandar sulks and is sometimes unnecessarily cruel, but instead of disliking him for it, Will just wants to know how he can make him feel better.
He thinks of Georgie, bright-eyed and sweet, wanting to sneak out and drink and play games. He thinks of her lips on his, replays that split second over and over and over. He thinks he could feel Skandar's eyes on them. He remembers the way Skandar and Georgie looked at each other afterwards. He can taste wine and cigarettes on his lips and when he closes his eyes he can see the sunrise and the beautiful majestic ship spreading out around them.
This is what friends do, he thinks suddenly, the words coming unbidden. They're his friends. He thinks of S+G+W were here and the way they greeted him when he came down—Georgie's warm, tight hug and the way Skandar clapped him on the back. He rolls over onto his front. He's hard, pressing a stiff weight against the mattress. He rocks gently and hides a smile in his pillow as he thinks of Georgie yelling penis at ear-splitting volume and collapsing into giggles afterwards. He thinks of Skandar's hand gesture, the cigarette dangling from his fingers and trailing smoke as his hand shook up, down, brisk. It's like you might not even know how, Skandar says in Will's ear as Will takes himself in his fist.
He thinks of the intensity of Skandar's gaze and the way he said you, and he thinks of Georgie's wine-stained lips and cheeky grin, and he thinks of sunbursts and dragon heads and he comes, hard, whimpering weakly into his pillow. And then he lies silent and still, waiting for the sickness to come, to wash over him in waves.
Will gets maybe twenty minutes of sleep before his alarm is going off and he has to start the day. Really start it, or re-start it, or continue it—he doesn't know, and his brain hurts and clenches and he feels dazed and sore, unsure if last night was simply a vivid dream until he sees himself in the mirror, his eyes darkly circled and his lips deep purple in the cracks. The clothes he took off when he got home are lying in a heap beside his bed and he can smell cigarettes on his fingers.
He showers even though he doesn't really have time. His Dad doesn't even wake up as he's getting ready, and for some reason this hits him in the gut, makes everything feel worse. He doesn't know why. Ben is in the lift when he reaches it; he holds it for him.
"Morning," he sing-songs, and then, when Will gets closer, "oh wow, are you okay?" He places a comforting, concerned hand on Will's shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah, I just slept badly," Will replies. His voice is like gravel. He clears his throat.
The lift's doors begin to slide shut again when Skandar and Georgie appear from around the corner, and Ben hits the button again, laughing. The two of them look pretty awful, too, worse in the bright mirrored lights of the lift perhaps, and Ben says nothing for a moment, just presses lobby.
"We didn't get much sleep, okay," Skandar grumbles as the lift starts to descend.
"I feel like I'm missing something," Ben chuckles. Georgie is huddled in a corner, arms folded. The jumper she has on is unzipped a little at the neck and beneath it, Will can see the t-shirt she sleeps in. "Did you lot have another sleepover?"
The three of them sort of mumble assent. Ben narrows his eyes at them all and then seems to come to a conclusion. "If you did that thing you asked me to do, I don't want to know about it."
The day is hard. They're working on some of the scenes after the Pevensies and Eustace are picked up by the ship, and it requires Will to be at his most animated—panicking and ranting and so on—while Skandar and Georgie are their most dismissive. Each time they roll their eyes or give him withering looks, it really hurts, and Will feels idiotic, flailing around on deck and hamming it up as the two of them trade snide comments about him. It's acting, and it's always been acting, so he can't work out why it affects him so much today. His eyes keep being drawn to the place they were sitting when they were here not so long ago, and it's part paranoia—trying to see if he can make out any wine stains or cigarette ash or if it's obvious that the plank Skandar wrote on is a little bit askew—but it's also wistfulness, reminiscence, a little bit of disbelief.
William and Anna show up at lunchtime, which doesn't make anything any easier. Georgie smirks knowingly at Will across the table when Anna sits down beside him, and she and Skandar are so caught up with the two of them that Will ends up mostly ignored, eating his sandwiches in silence and drinking bottle after bottle of water to try and get rid of his headache.
They leave that night, William and Anna, and Will declines the invitation to accompany them to the airport with the others. He thinks it might be rude, but he can't face that feeling again, that horrible left-out feeling that hasn't waned over the week of their visit. He says goodbye to them in the lobby instead, receives awkward hugs and goes back up to his room alone with the smell of her perfume and his cologne on his shirt. His Dad is in the bath, and Will takes off his shirt and sits on his bed for a long time holding it, fighting the urge to hold it to his face and inhale.
His brain tells him that he's pathetic, that he's a freak, and he ends up crying into the shirt, for so long that he hears the others return again, hears them stomping past in the corridor, chattering loudly.
The next day, during filming, he rushes into the costume tent and stumbles upon Skandar and Georgie. They still haven't really talked since the Truth or Dare incident on the ship, and though they've been civil, it's been awkward. And the fact that Georgie is currently in floods of tears and Skandar is comforting her definitely does not make things any less so.
"Oh—I'm sorry," Will blurts, "I just needed—a button fell off my—sorry."
Georgie sniffles. Skandar is holding her, and she's sort of clinging to him, and Will is taken aback by it for many reasons. He hasn't seen Georgie upset before, and it's disconcerting. She's usually so cheerful, bouncy, carefree, and to see her collapsing in Skandar's arms makes Will's heart ache. It's also the first time Will has truly appreciated the age difference between the two of them—Georgie really does look like Skandar's little sister, being comforted by him, and he looks taller and stronger and older, and at once Will is very aware of their past, of their growth together.
"Georgie's sad about Will and Anna leaving," Skandar says by way of explanation, and gives Georgie a squeeze. She lifts her head and a tear rolls down her pink cheek. She looks almost apologetic.
"Er—oh, I," Will stammers uselessly. "I'm...sorry." He has absolutely no idea what else to say.
"I said I'd take her out to dinner tonight and help her forget about it," Skandar continues. He's rubbing Georgie's shoulder as he speaks, almost absentmindedly, and Will is suddenly and violently envious; wants to cradle Georgie in his arms and tell her it's going to be okay.
"Maybe you could come," says Georgie in a small, broken voice.
"Oh," Will says, trying to snap himself out of it, but still fighting the urge to wipe away her tears. "Um. Yeah. Maybe."
Skandar and Georgie seem to take this as a definite yes, but Will really means his 'maybe'. He ruminates on it all day, and quite seriously considers not showing up. Deep down, he knows he's going to anyway, but for once, part of him genuinely doesn't want to. The visit from William and Anna has taken more out of him than he expected, and he's just tired, physically and emotionally. Tired of trying to figure Skandar and Georgie out, tired of feeling like somebody's playing tricks on him. It's exhausting, really, being in their company.
He deliberates for a long time, standing at the door of his own flat and trying to decide whether or not to leave. Eventually, his Dad wanders in and asks him what the hell he's doing, and without thinking, he says, "Going to Skandar's for tea," his mouth making the decision for him.
He heads down the corridor to Skandar's room and knocks before he has the chance to change his mind. The door opens, and the greeting is not exactly what he was expecting.
"I won! I won!" Georgie shrieks, whirling round to look at Skandar who is sitting on the sofa with a blanket over his knees, a book in his hand and a full glass of red wine on the coffee table in front of him. "IN YOUR FACE, KEYNES. I knew he'd come," Georgie cheers. She turns back to Will, a triumphant grin upon her face. "I knew you'd come," she says, a little more quietly, before turning on her heel and trotting over to Skandar, who is studiously ignoring her.
To Will's surprise—and he thinks maybe he shouldn't be so surprised, now, but their easy affection always seems to startle him—she leaps onto Skandar's lap, plucking the book from his hands and tossing it over her shoulder. Straddling him, she crosses her arms and ducks her head to look him in the eye.
"I won," she says firmly, and Will begins to feel like maybe that's all that matters. Not the fact that he's here, just the fact that Georgie knew he would be. He feels a little put out that they would bet over him, but he's not all that surprised. "Cough up, loser. Forfeit."
Something is simmering beneath the surface in Skandar. Will hovers in the doorway, wondering whether to come in and shut the door behind him. He can't seem to take action today, and the tension in the air keeps him rooted to the spot, watching them. Georgie is peering at Skandar intently, a little victorious smirk still on her face. Skandar's expression is dark, serious, angry. His brow is furrowed.
"You made me lose my page," he says. His voice is quiet but tinged with a subtle fury.
"Yeah, and you know what else you lost? The bet," Georgie replies. "So you'd better get on with it. I'm in the way, aren't I? Sorry." She clambers back off his lap, sits cross-legged facing him on the sofa instead. "And Will should probably shut the door, shouldn't he?"
Will takes the opportunity to do so, feeling as though the decision's been made for him. He steps into the room, turns to close the door and then hears Skandar's voice again and it makes him freeze.
"George," Skandar says darkly. "I'm not doing this."
Georgie laughs. "Yes, you are. It's the rules."
Will hesitates. What are they talking about? What could his forfeit possibly be? He's known about their little betting games ever since he arrived on set, sure, but it's always been for insignificant things as far as he could tell—small amounts of money, and doing each other's chores. They've always seemed a little bit grumpy about it, but nothing like this.
"You wouldn't," Skandar retorts.
There's a silence, then, and then Georgie shrugs this off. "Doesn't matter if I would or not, I didn't lose." More silence. "C'mon. What, are you a chicken? You can't chicken out now, it'll ruin the whole game. What's the point if you can just back out?"
This seems to get to Skandar, because he's very quiet now, no longer protesting. Will takes a deep breath and shuts the door, but he can't quite bring himself to turn around again. The sound of the door closing seems to remind the two of them of his presence in the room.
"He's pathetic, he's such a wimp," Georgie says to Will, snorting with laughter. "Isn't he a wimp, Will?"
Will says nothing.
"Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Georgie says, to Skandar now, her voice breathy and teasing. Will imagines her whispering in Skandar's ear. "Come on. You like an audience."
"Shut up," Skandar snaps, so sudden and loud that it makes Will jump. His heart is in his throat, he doesn't know what's going to happen, doesn't know if he wants to know. "God, you can be a bitch sometimes. A sadistic little bitch."
Will starts. He's never heard Skandar speak to her that way.
And then, Skandar relents. "Fine," he says, quiet, and Will can still hear the resentment seething in his voice. "Fine. But get up. I can't, with you this close." He hurries the last words, almost blurring them together, suddenly sounding embarrassed and vulnerable.
There's the sound of movement, and Will turns his head, peeking back over his shoulder cautiously. Georgie is getting off the sofa, picking up Skandar's wine glass and trotting over to the armchair on the other side of the room. She slumps down in it, getting comfortable, taking a sip of wine. Will looks back over at Skandar, and is so startled by what he sees that he can't quite process it right away. Skandar has his hands beneath the blanket that covers his lap, fumbling, and Will can clearly hear the sound of a zip being pulled, of the gentle rustle of fabric.
Blushing hotly, stunned and confused, he turns his head back to the door on instinct, needing to look away. He stares at the door, mentally tracing the shape of the whorls in the wood. He hears Skandar spit into his hand, and his face burns. Skandar is masturbating. In front of Georgie. In front of him. This—this—is the forfeit. He can't believe it. Part of him wants to run away, just to get the hell out of there. The door handle seems to taunt him, tell him go on, then. It's right there in front of him, all he'd have to do is pull it and go.
But he's stuck, his feet like lead. He knows he's too overwhelmed and stunned and curious to go anywhere.
That curiosity he feels is shameful, but strong, and he can't help but turn his head just a little bit again. To the right, just to look at Georgie. She's still slumped in the armchair, casual as can be, but her eyes are fixed on Skandar across from her, watchful and intense. The wine glass is held still at her lips. When she senses Will looking at her, though, she offers him a glance, and Will can't interpret her expression. It seems blank to him, giving nothing away.
When Will was twelve or thirteen, he used to sleep over at a house across the street. His parents were friends with the Mallinsons, and they had a son around his age, a little older, and the two were encouraged to be friends. Alex used to masturbate when Will slept over, right next to him on the living room floor. This was the way Will learnt how. He remembers vividly the sound of it, the gradual realisation of what his friend was doing, and he remembers one night, Alex pulling back the shiny polyester of his sleeping bag, letting Will see.
He can't look at Skandar. He can't. But he wants to, and he doesn't know why. Part of him wants to prove himself wrong, wants to see that Skandar isn't really doing what Will thinks he's doing. But it's obvious, and he knows it deep down, can recognise the rhythmic rustle of the blanket, the strain in Skandar's breathing, and beneath it all, the unmistakeable slick sound of skin on skin. He looks away from Georgie, back at the door. He can hear his own heart pounding a mile a minute. His palms are clammy. He can hear Skandar's breath catch, ragged. He wonders if his eyes are open, if he's staring right back at Georgie. The thought sends a slight tingle through him, and he suppresses it, mortified.
He can't help but think about it all, though; no matter how much of a jumbled mess the thoughts are, they come thick and fast. Have Skandar and Georgie done this before? When they share a bed, does he do it with her right next to him, not bothering to wait until she's asleep? Does he slide his hands under the sheets, or does he kick them away and let her see like Alex did—oh, Will has to bite back a groan at that, just the thought. He doesn't ever let himself think about these things, because it's wrong, because he shouldn't, because it makes him feel so dirty. It's only in the late-night when he's doing what Skandar's doing now, trying to focus on the physical side of it and not let his thoughts wander, but they do, and he gets so excited and so caught-up that he begins to lose control, finally adrift in a sea of filth in his own mind as he comes.
He wants to see Skandar lose it like that. See him forget that he's being watched, forget how wrong it all is. Suddenly, he remembers Skandar saying you, and forces himself to think of it in context, of the way Skandar implied—joking or not—that he thought about Will while he did this. Will wonders if Skandar is thinking of him now, and he cranes his neck back, just in time to see Skandar's eyes shut tight and his hips snap up, his teeth bite into his lower lip. He seems to shiver, shudder, and then he goes slack and still, and the heat in the room becomes sweltering. Will snaps his head back to face the door, unable to deal with it, and his heart is the only thing he can hear, hammering away in his ears.
The silence stretches out and Will can't stand it. Then, he hears a slight rustling, and he forces himself to turn around, hating every second of it. The awkwardness in the room is palpable. Skandar is wiping his hands on the blanket, and then he tosses it aside, coughing lightly and standing up, eyes cast downward. He checks his watch.
"Ben said he'd meet us downstairs five minutes ago," he says, quite simply. "I'm gonna go change."
But before he goes, he crosses the room to Georgie, standing in front of her in her armchair. Will watches, transfixed, as the two stare at each other for a long moment. And then Skandar snatches the wine glass from her hand, drains it in one and hands it back to her before disappearing down the hall to his bedroom. Just like that, he's gone.
Will's gaze flickers, lands back on Georgie. She isn't looking at him, just fiddling with the glass. And then she shrugs—seemingly to herself—and gets to her feet. To Will's surprise, she goes towards the sofa, looking at the blanket that lies on it in a discarded heap. She acts as though Will isn't in the room, completely unaware of herself as she inspects the blanket, reaching out to brush her fingers against the fabric. Then, suddenly, she seems to snap out of it, grabbing the blanket in her free hand and heading decisively into the kitchen.
With a clatter, she puts the wine glass in the dishwasher, and bundles the blanket into the washing machine. Her movements are businesslike, purposeful.
"I'm going to change too," she says, then, wiping off her hands on the sweatpants she's wearing. She looks at him, expectant. "You can go down and tell Ben we'll just be a minute, if you want."
"Wh-what—" Will starts, and his voice sounds horribly croaky, like he just woke up. He clears his throat. "What are we doing?"
"Going out to eat, silly," Georgie says, as though this was the plan all along. And then Will remembers, it was. "We're going to that Italian place Ben wanted to try."
"Oh. Oh. Okay."
"So, you'll meet us downstairs?" she asks brightly.
"Yeah. Sure. Of course."
Hands in his pockets, body hunched over, Will makes his way to the lift. It's only once he's inside that he realises just how hard he is, swollen and aching in his jeans, and he flushes with embarrassment and presses himself up against the cold mirrored wall, trying desperately to rid himself of the images in his mind.
It's difficult to cope with them in the restaurant. They're acting just like their usual selves, as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened. As though Skandar wasn't orgasming in front of the two of them less than an hour ago.
It's worse, Will thinks, with Ben there too. Oblivious Ben, acting like there's nothing unusual about Skandar and Georgie's relationship at all. Then again, Will realises, Ben hasn't seen the same things he has.
"Like Lady and the Tramp," Georgie's saying, "I always wondered if that would actually work."
"What?" Will snaps out of it.
"You know, the spaghetti thing," Georgie says.
"I think Skandar's giving you a good opportunity to try it out," Ben laughs, pointing at Skandar, who has a long string of spaghetti hanging down from between his lips.
Will wonders why Ben encourages them—if this is encouraging them, in fact, or if this is just normal for them, how it's always been. Georgie plucks the end of the spaghetti off Skandar's plate and places it in her own mouth, and then does the whole thing over again when she giggles and it falls out.
"Okay, well this is far less romantic, for one," Ben chuckles, as the two of them try to contain their laughter as they suck the spaghetti between pursed lips. "It's actually just more gross."
They meet in the middle, peck each other on the lips with a giggle.
"So who's the lady and who's the tramp?" Ben teases.
Will puts down his cutlery suddenly with a clatter. He feels flushed, agitated, claustrophobic. He needs to get away from them. "I'm—I'm just going to go to the loo."
He leaves before they have a chance to respond, but he's still peeing when Skandar comes into the small bathroom and stands in front of the only other urinal, beside him. His eyes are shifty as Skandar undoes his fly, he can't help it.
"So," Skandar says, and there's a gentle sort of teasing tone in his voice. He's addressing the elephant in the room. "That was a bit of a thrill, right?"
"Wh-what?" Will stammers. He goes to wash his hands, turns his back on Skandar.
Skandar laughs. "You know what I mean," he says. "It's okay, you can tell me. I hate to admit it, but it was kind of exciting for me too. Don't tell Georgie."
"I don't," says Will, and then stops. He shuts off the tap, hears Skandar zipping himself back up and turns around. "I don't know what you want me to say."
"I don't know, anything," Skandar shrugs. He comes over, stands in front of him. "You're a bit of a closed book, you know."
"I don't understand," Will hears himself say helplessly. His hands are shaking, dripping water onto the floor between them. "Earlier you were talking to her like you hated her," Will says, "like you wanted to kill her."
Skandar chuckles. "That's how we are," he shrugs. "It's how we all are. It's just a bit of sibling rivalry, that's all. You know us. We're family. She's like my little sister."
Will feels a strange burst of anger at this. "It's not—" he starts, and then takes a deep breath. "You can't call her that. You can't say you're siblings, not when you—do that. Not when you force each other to do that."
Skandar tilts his head on one side, questioning. "You think Georgie forced me?"
His gaze is unsettling, so fixed. "Well," Will stammers, "well, yes."
Skandar laughs, again. Shakes his head. "It's just a game," he says.
He's so close. "It doesn't seem like one," Will hears himself say, quiet, shaky.
"Well then," Skandar replies. His hands slide onto the sink's edge, on either side of Will's body. He leans in. His eyes are dark and intense, his voice even more so. "Maybe you really don't understand."
Will's gaze flickers. Panic is beginning to well up inside him. Skandar's face is close, so close. Suddenly, he pushes him, just shoves him out of the way and gets out of there, wiping his wet hands on his trousers, hurrying back into the safety of the restaurant and its low buzz of noise and chatter.
"You okay?" is how Ben greets him, a look of concern on his face.
"Yeah," Will says, sliding back into his seat. "Yeah, yeah."
He knows he's blushing, can feel the heat of it across his cheeks. When Skandar returns to the table a moment later, Will notices the slight shape of a damp handprint on his shirt, where he pushed at his chest. Will sees Ben notice it too, sees his eyebrows raise in curiosity. Nobody mentions it.
The following week is trying. Skandar has gone back to sullenness, only speaking to Will when he has to, and short with everyone but Georgie.
"He has a temper," Ben says, one day, apropos of nothing in particular, and Will isn't sure that this explanation goes far enough. Skandar doesn't seem angry, just withdrawn, troubled somehow and tired of having to pretend otherwise for everybody else's benefit.
Georgie's older sister has returned, so she is—reluctantly, it seems—back at her own flat again. The messy divorce is ongoing, and at night sometimes, Will hears the two sisters arguing through his bedroom wall, Georgie shrill and shouting and Rachael's voice a low murmur. Georgie spends most of her time there, trying to work through her family issues, and Will only sees her on set.
It's strange, because there's some relief in it—as though the temperature got too high and the three of them need to cool off. But at the same time, Will can't stand it. He wants to dive right back into the boiling water, overcome with a sick excitement for what might come next. He's afraid that this might not be a phase; that this might be the end, that it all got to be too much and now they're done. That, perhaps, it was all Will's fault, that his involvement in their friendship caused complications they weren't willing to deal with. He worries about that night in the restaurant, worries that he offended Skandar, worries that he was too judgemental, that Skandar is waiting for him to apologise.
And more than anything he just misses them, misses having their attention focused on him. He misses the intensity of Skandar's stare, and he misses Georgie's casual affection.
Georgie is still kind to him, talks to him between breaks in filming, making an effort, and Will appreciates it, but it's not the same. Each day that passes, though, she tries to involve Skandar a little bit more. It's an obvious ploy, like trying to get a sulking child to join in a party game, but they pretend otherwise, and gradually, as the week comes to an end, Skandar's bad spell seems to do the same.
It's a Friday when things seem to return to some semblance of normal. Ben has the afternoon off, so it's just the three of them for the rest of the day. Will is sitting trying to get some schoolwork in during lunch when Georgie swishes past, dressed in a silky pale-blue gown and munching on a cheese toastie.
"Um," says Will, almost choking on his mouthful of water. "What's the—what—what scene is that for?"
It's not terribly eloquent, but she looks almost absurdly beautiful, and he's so caught off guard and confused that it's the best he can manage. Georgie laughs, and he's missed having that grin directed at him.
"It's not," she replies. "Isis still has a copy of all our coronation costumes, can you believe it? This is Susan's, I was so jealous of Anna, she got the prettier dress and now I can fit into it—"
They're interrupted by a wolf whistle, and they turn to see Ben grinning and waving from a few metres away, on his way off set. Georgie sticks out her tongue at him.
"It's—you look—um." Will isn't very good at this sort of thing, can't make the words 'beautiful' or 'gorgeous' sound natural coming from his mouth. "Wow," he goes for in the end.
She flaps her arms at him, showing him the long flowing sleeves of the dress. "I think I might get to keep it until we go home. I just want to like, wear it around the house all the time, it's so pretty."
Will gulps and nods at her enthusiastically, and then Skandar wanders over. He calls Georgie 'Susan', making her giggle, and offers to help Will with a tricky maths problem he's stuck on, and just like that, things feel almost normal again.
They end up working overtime and going out with some of the other cast and crew for pizza. Despite the extra work, which is usually a guaranteed trigger for his bad moods, Skandar seems cheerful, and by the time they leave the restaurant the three of them are laughing and joking as though nothing ever happened. Will isn't sure what they're pretending didn't happen: his and Skandar's altercation in the restaurant bathroom, or what caused it, or perhaps the entirety of the past week.
It doesn't seem to matter, anyway.
It's pouring it down when they leave the restaurant, and despite getting a lift back to the flats they're still drenched by the time they get inside. It's a real thunderstorm, Michael says, grumbling about how he hopes it doesn't last as the rain hammers down over them, soaking them to their skins in seconds.
When they reach Will's room, Georgie slips between it and him, blocking the entrance, grinning and biting her lip. Skandar tugs at Will's arm, and he doesn't even question it, doesn't even worry—he's in Skandar's room in the blink of an eye.
Georgie waltzes off into the bathroom for a shower to warm up, stripping off layers of dripping clothing as she goes and littering the hallway with it—a sodden silk scarf, socks that she removes one by one, hopping adorably down the hall. He doesn't think Rachael's left yet; Georgie doesn't bother letting her sister know where she is.
"I don't—I don't have any other clothes," Will says awkwardly, hovering in the hall still as Skandar goes ahead into his bedroom.
"You can borrow some," Skandar says with a shrug, already opening the closet.
He tosses Will a pair of trousers and a t-shirt, and Will only just catches them, losing his balance a little from the force of the throw. Skandar smirks and pulls his t-shirt off by the neckline, chucking it in the general direction of a radiator. It takes Will a long time—too long—to realise he's still standing there at the entrance to the room, watching as Skandar undresses, the older boy completely unselfconscious as ever, shucking his damp jeans and the boxers along with them. Will catches himself and ducks his head, averting his eyes as he hurries over to the other side of the room and begins to undress, facing the wall.
Will is prolonging his t-shirt switchover, dreading taking off his trousers with Skandar in the room with him, but Skandar's done long before he gets that far. Will, currently shirtless, feels eyes on his back and turns around, sees Skandar standing there looking faintly amused.
"I'm gonna go get us some drinks," Skandar says. He's looking at him, really looking at him, in a way that makes Will uncomfortable. "Okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, okay," Will says, trying not to blush.
It's a relief when Skandar leaves. Will waits a moment, then shuts the door before hurriedly peeling off his trousers, almost losing his balance once again and crashing into the wall. He pulls on the ones Skandar's lent him and then the t-shirt, draping his own clothes over the radiator. He hesitates, seeing Skandar's still in a soggy heap on the floor, and arranges them over the radiator too. He stands there for a moment, then sits down on the bed to wait.
He looks around. There's a stack of books on Skandar's bedside table, and, curious, he lifts up the top one. A history of Lebanon. He listens out, hears clattering from the kitchen and the steady sound of the shower in the bathroom, and feels safe in looking at the rest of the books. There's something by Stephen Fry, one of the Harry Potter books, a novel he doesn't recognise.
When he picks up the last one, he sees a few small photos scattered on the table beneath. Without really thinking, he picks them up, flicking through them. He recognises them as being Polaroids, from that camera Skandar's been carrying around on set. There's one of the four Pevensie actors, cheesy grins on their faces, at what looks like a party. It looks recent, and beneath it, there's a very similar one that includes Ben too, seemingly taken only seconds after the previous one as Ben looks like he's dived into the picture and is sticking up his fingers behind William Moseley's head. Will smiles to himself, flips to the next picture and sees that this one includes him, between Ben and Georgie, taken in front of the Dawn Treader.
The next picture surprises him—Skandar with a woman he recognises as one of the make-up artists for the film. It looks like it's been taken at an awkward angle by Skandar in order to include himself in the picture as well. The woman is red-haired, pretty with big blue eyes, and wearing a bright blue scarf with a pattern of little birds all over it, and she's kissing him on the cheek. Will is suddenly very aware that he's snooping, and he fumbles to put the pictures back down. But as he does, one near the back of the pile falls out, onto the floor, and he reaches down to pick it back up. It's of Georgie, he realises, sitting on this very bed, cross-legged with a sort of childish scowl on her face. She's in just her bra and knickers, with her mobile phone held to her ear. She looks sweet, her nose wrinkled and her hair in a messy ponytail, and Will can imagine Skandar behind the camera taking the picture to tease her as she protests half-heartedly, makes a face to get back at him.
Just then, Skandar's voice startles him. "Will? Can you open the door? My hands are full."
Will jumps up anxiously, quickly putting the books back on the table on top of the pictures. The picture of Georgie is still in his hand, however, and in a hurry, he goes to shove it into his pocket. But the trousers he's borrowed have no pockets.
"Will?" calls Skandar again.
"Just a minute!" Will calls back, panicky, and on impulse he stuffs the picture down the front of the trousers, into his boxers.
He rushes to the door and opens it, seeing Skandar standing there with three glasses in one hand, a bottle of red wine in the other, and a puzzled look on his face. "Took you long enough," he says suspiciously.
"I was getting dressed," Will lies, flushing. "Sorry."
Guiltily, he glances back at the bedside table, hoping it's not obvious that things have been moved. Skandar will notice the picture is missing eventually, though, he realises, and suddenly he wishes he hadn't taken it. He wonders if he'll get a chance to sneak it back.
"All right, twitchy," Skandar teases.
He rounds the bed, and sets down the glasses and bottle, placing the bottle right down on top of The New Face of Lebanon: History's Revenge without batting an eye. He leaps onto the bed, settling down against the pillows and patting the space next to him. Will hesitates, but clambers on, sitting cross-legged beside him. He has a strange feeling of anticipation, now, the silence between them feels charged somehow. The relief of their reconciliation, the joy of being back in their company—these things have faded, now, and the uneasy, anxious feeling he gets around the two of them has returned. The sound of the water in the bathroom has stopped, Will realises, and its absence only adds to his discomfort.
He wonders if he ought to say something to break the silence, but he has the strong sense that he shouldn't. Just then, there's a creak of a door, and a second later, another creak and then the click of the spare room's door shutting.
Will knows Skandar is about to speak before he does, but he doesn't know what words to expect.
"I bet," are the words, and Will feels as though maybe he should have seen this coming, because it feels like his heart sinks, as though some part of him has been waiting for this all along. Skandar chews his lip for a moment. His eyes are bright, mischievous, cunning. "I bet you," he says, "she's going to put on that red skirt. The one Anna gave her when she was here."
Will doesn't respond. Doesn't know what to say.
Skandar elbows him. "Yeah? What do you think?"
"Um," says Will. His voice sounds croaky. He clears his throat. "Yeah," he says, and this time it quivers, "yeah."
Skandar grins mockingly, shaking his head. "You can't agree, you idiot," he says. "Not much of a bet then, is it? Listen, you make a guess too and if we both lose, it's nothing." His voice is tinged with urgency. They can hear Georgie in the room next door, humming to herself.
"I don't—I don't know, I don't want to bet," Will stammers. He feels very anxious. He wants to know the stakes, but once again he has a strong feeling that he shouldn't ask. Floundering, he says, "You know her clothes better than I do, it's not fair."
Skandar chuckles, but his eyes are still watching Will intently. "That's...not really something I pay a lot of attention to. I think we're on equal grounds." He waits.
"I don't know, uh," Will stalls. He catches sight of the clock on the wall. It's getting late. "Pajamas?"
Skandar looks amused, doubtful. "Oh, the night is young, but I'll take that," he says, shaking his head as he reaches for the wine bottle and begins unscrewing the cap.
"No—wait, okay, not pajamas, I take it back—" Will says, a little frantically, thinking of the tiny vest and knickers Georgie wears to bed. Surely she wouldn't put those on and then come and hang out with them? Not while they're properly dressed? Besides, pajamas are merely a formality where she and Skandar are concerned—
"Too late." Skandar is grinning, and it takes Will a moment to realise it's not at him, but at the door behind him.
With a sinking feeling, he turns around. Georgie is leaning against the doorframe, grinning and looking a little bemused. A red wool skirt hangs in loose pleats to her knees. For a long moment, nobody says anything further, so she shrugs and enters the room, sashaying over to Skandar's iPod dock on top of the chest of drawers beside the bed.
"This isn't the greatest background music in the world," Skandar says, rolling his eyes, as the quick and heavy beat of a song comes on. Loudly.
"Shut up, you like Bloc Party," Georgie replies off-handedly, but flicks her finger around the iPod's wheel to turn down the volume a little anyway. Then she turns, goes to the end of the bed and places her hands on the footboard, leaning down to look at the two of them expectantly. "So what's going on in here then?"
Skandar chuckles, placing the cap of the wine bottle on the back of his hand and then flicking it across the room at her. She ducks to one side quickly to avoid it; it skitters off out the door and across the hall floor. Skandar makes a face at her and then takes a large swig from the bottle. Clearly, Will realises, the glasses were a formality as well. Easily dispensed with.
"Will here just lost his first bet," Skandar says, eventually, wiping his mouth and smearing a little dark red across his hand.
"Oh, really?" Georgie's grin doesn't look like it could get much bigger without breaking her face as she leaps up onto the bed like a cat, in front of them on her hands and knees. "And what does that mean?" she asks eagerly.
"Well," says Skandar. "Well."
A little bit of the playfulness has left his voice, now, and Will's heart begins to beat faster at the sound of it. What is he going to be asked to do? What do they want him to do? It's confusing, he thinks, how he can be simultaneously so offended at the notion of this, yet know deep-down that whatever it is, he'll do it. It makes him feel so weak, so pathetic, but he can't help it, he wants to be a part of this, and as nervous as it makes him to join in the game, he feels a little bit flattered just to be included.
"Well, Georgie," Skandar continues, leaning closer to her across the bed, voice lowered conspiratorially. It's like they're deciding what to do with their new toy, Will thinks. "You may be a sadistic little bitch, but I'm not."
Georgie frowns a little, puzzled but still enthusiastic. "And what's that supposed to mean?" she enquires.
"It means I just want to see everybody happy, you know, getting what they really want, even if it's not something they'd admit to wanting," Skandar replies casually. His voice drops again as he continues, "And that's why..."
Georgie leans in closer, anticipating. Her grin is back, and Skandar's lips quiver, just a little. When the words leave his mouth, Will can hardly believe what he's hearing—though, at the same time, again he feels he should have seen it coming.
"...that's why I want you and Will to have sex. In front of me."
Georgie's smile only wavers a tiny, tiny bit, but Will buries his hot face in his hands, body crumpling. For a short moment, there is only the sound of the song approaching its end, a loud climax.
"Not in here, though," Skandar says off-handedly, "I don't fancy sleeping in someone else's revolting spunk." He takes another swig of the wine, and Will peers out from between his fingers in shock and catches Skandar's eye. Skandar grins around the bottleneck, and claps him on the shoulder. "No offense."
The song has ended. There is silence. Awful, deafening silence.
"So," Skandar says, looking between them, "what do you say? Spare room?"
The next song begins, quiet and low. It sounds almost ominous, to Will's ears. A slow build-up. Georgie shakes her head, suddenly, decisively.
"I won't do it," she says, but she's still grinning, like this is no big deal.
"You won't?" Skandar quirks an eyebrow.
"You wouldn't," she retorts.
Skandar's eyes flicker to Will briefly. "He's not my type." They talk about him as though he's not in the room. "You can't back out. It'll ruin the whole game. You said so yourself."
Georgie frowns. The music is getting louder, the beat of it hypnotic, marching on. "You're right. Okay."
"You sure?" Skandar asks. "I wouldn't want to—" he shoots Will a Look, "force anybody." He smirks, and takes a long pull at the wine bottle.
"Oh, we're perfectly willing, aren't we, Will?" Georgie grins, mischievous. "Willing Will..."
Will grabs the bottle from Skandar, spilling a little bit of wine down the front of his shirt as he brings it to his lips in a hurry, taking a swig. Georgie rolls her eyes, snatches it from his hand and does the same before replacing it on the table, and then crawling back across the bed and getting off it. She sways her hips gently to the thudding beat of the music, unbuttoning her blouse, and Skandar smiles, takes the wine again and drinks from the bottle as he watches her.
She untucks the blouse from her skirt, undoing the last few buttons and then letting it hang open as she reaches up to pull her hair from its ponytail. She shakes it out, and Will watches the way her breasts bounce a little with the movement, the way little droplets of water are set loose from her damp hair and splash onto the skin of her chest, rolling down, wetting the fabric of her bra. She's dancing, sort of, just gently swaying, undressing slowly as she goes. She pulls the blouse from her shoulders gracefully, tosses it aside and then reaches behind herself to unhook her bra. Her eyes are closed, her chin turned upwards, and she looks perfectly at peace, relaxed, while Will's heart is hammering in his chest a hundred miles an hour.
It's not that he doesn't want this. God, he wants it. But like this?
She pulls off the bra and holds out the piece of underwear by one strap, lets it dangle from her fingertips with both of her arms outstretched. Will stares at her, and feels guilty for it, feels like he shouldn't even though she's deliberately exposing herself to him this way. And he finds himself thinking, god, she's perfect, gazing at her small, pale breasts, the little mole above one nipple. The bra drops to the floor with a gentle thud and Will is startled by it, catching himself. Georgie's hands go to the zipper of the red wool skirt, at her side, and the sound of it being pulled cuts through the monotonous beat of the music quite harshly.
The skirt slides down her legs in one fluid movement, crumples at her feet. Will's eyes travel the length of her legs right up to the gentle curve of her stomach, and he stares at her, now clad only in a pair of threadbare blue knickers, and he feels hot and panicky.
"No, I—I have to go," he hears himself blurt out, and he's leaping up suddenly, almost pushing past Skandar in his hurry to get out.
Neither of them stop him—in fact, neither of them really react—and he only gets as far as the kitchen before he's breaking down, sinking onto the floor and shaking and letting out a raw little gasp that seems to come from nowhere. He thinks of her—beautiful, naked, offering herself to him—and then he thinks of them, beautiful, naked, in bed together, and he doesn't understand.
It's a long time before he notices he's being watched. Skandar is standing in the opening of the hall, leaning casually against the doorframe, one hand in his pocket and the other scratching absentmindedly at his brow. When Will sees him, Skandar smiles, and lifts his hand out of his pocket to reveal a little foil square held neatly between two fingers.
"I—listen," Will says, not entirely sure what he's actually going to say as he gets clumsily to his feet. He goes towards Skandar, because Skandar is showing no signs of being about to move.
"I'm listening," Skandar smirks. "You're not leaving?"
"No, I was—" Will starts, and then stops again, and he really has no idea where he's going with this.
Skandar is grinning openly now, amused.
"Look, don't you think maybe this is going a bit too fa—"
And then he notices Georgie behind Skandar, padding gently down the hallway, naked, and he stops abruptly. Oh god, oh god. He's distantly aware of Skandar moving, and then suddenly he's behind Will, hooking his chin over Will's shoulder and chuckling, low. Georgie comes ever closer and Will tries not to look at her, at the way her bare hips sway as she approaches him and at her body, his eyes darting all over the place. His mouth feels dry and his hands feel clammy and he can feel Skandar's breath tickling his cheek.
Georgie reaches him. She stands a mere inch or so away. Her nipples brush the front of Will's shirt. She's smiling, and she looks so sweet and kind and like she actually wants to do this, and Will panics, tries to squirm away and ends up with Skandar's arm wrapped around his neck. He splutters.
"I—I'm not going to run, okay? I want—I just—" he stammers uselessly.
The headlock Skandar has him in gets tighter, is really starting to hurt. He's leaning back against Skandar now like his legs have given out. Skandar has the two of them both propped against the kitchen table.
"Please," Will begs, "please. I don't want to fight, okay? I'm not resisting."
"So, shut up, okay?" Skandar says, crossly, but he loosens his hold just a little and Will breathes in noisily, gratefully.
"You know, Will, you aren't being much of a gentleman right now," Georgie says, pouting as she leans over him, her hair tickling his chest. His heart pounds as he stares up at her, into her eyes which seem suddenly dark, shadowed with desire and mischief. "Is the idea of having sex with me so horrible?"
"No!" Will cries. "No, no, it's not that, it's not that at all," he stammers, "I just...I've never—"
He thinks he feels Skandar's hold on his arms loosen a little, and Georgie's slight pout turns into a smile.
"Oh," she says. "Well, that's okay."
She shares a look with Skandar, one Will can't interpret.
"I've seen you," he blurts out, "I saw you—I saw you in bed together."
"Ah, our guest has been spying on us," Skandar says, exchanging a look with Georgie.
She smirks. "Well, that wasn't very friendly of you, Will," she says. "And we've been so welcoming..."
She drops to her knees as she says this, begins undoing his fly. He squirms in Skandar's arm, but Skandar just reaches down and tugs up his t-shirt, leans Will forward so he can pull it over his head. And then Georgie is easing his trousers down, his boxers too, and Will is too flustered to remember the picture until he feels Georgie pulling it from him.
"Oh, how sweet," Georgie says, giggling and looking at it. "Look, Skandar, he's been keeping me...close to his heart," she punctuates this with a look between his legs, and Will is mortified, clutching at his crotch, covering himself.
Skandar frowns, taking the picture. "Oh, so you've been snooping as well as spying, have you?" he says, but his voice is more gently mocking than genuinely annoyed. Even so, Will feels terrible.
"I'm sorry—I'm so sorry, I found it and I just—" he stammers, ashamed.
"Hey, it's okay," Georgie says, and Will can see the effort it takes for her to stop smiling. She stands up, and takes his hand, stroking it gently, which does actually help him relax a little. "I'm flattered. But—" She cuts herself off and giggles again. Her voice is a kind of breathy, nervous whisper when she continues. "Sorry. I was going to say 'you can have the real thing', but that sounds so sleazy, I can't pull it off."
Will barely registers what she's saying because as she talks, she's bringing his hand between her legs, shuffling them apart a little and then sliding his palm to cup her there. She holds it still, and he's speechless. He feels Skandar's hand on his hot bare shoulder, a rub and a squeeze, and he realises he's still sort of slumped against him. He tries to stand up properly but his knees are weak. Georgie looks more serious now, eyes wide and clear and gazing into his as she bites her lip.
"Like this," she says, and pushes.
She bites harder at her lip and her breathing comes heavier, Will can see her chest heaving with it. And then she lets go of his hand and leans gently into him, hesitant, until her face is too close for him to focus on and so he closes his eyes and then—her mouth, sweet and hot, and he stops panicking and goes on instinct, moving with her. He is hard against the smooth warm curve of her stomach, and Skandar is an ever-still presence at his back. Will is between them, and it feels so right that it's making him lightheaded.
"Okay," she breathes, lips wet against his cheek, and he aches and strokes and he needs her, wants her all around him. "Okay," she says again, and he stops.
He doesn't have the words to say anything, and Skandar is reaching for that little foil packet again and passing it to her, and he sees their fingers brush and then Skandar takes her hand and squeezes. She tears the packet open, and the sound seems so loud.
"I learnt how to do this in Sex Education," Georgie whispers, grinning but nervous, her voice shaky as she slides the condom on, her hands small and hot against him and the contact is making him go weak. "But I don't know if—oh, hey—there we go."
She smiles like she's proud and he smiles openly back, surprising himself, and she takes him in her hand and strokes and then she's pulling him gently down onto the floor. He kicks off the trousers and underwear that are still tangled around his ankles, and he lies over her, between her open legs, on the carpet. He doesn't even look up at Skandar, but he can see him out of the corner of his eye, leaning back against the kitchen table and shifting uneasily. Watching.
Will kisses her, and he bucks awkwardly forwards with his hips, and she reaches down for him—
"Help me," he murmurs, embarrassed, and she does, and it's so tight it kind of hurts him, and it's hurting her too—she's wincing, her face drawn in.
She cries out, sudden and broken, and he pulls back instantly—only to be guided back in, her hand splayed out across his backside, her legs hitched up to bracket his hips. It's awkward, and he feels like he has absolutely no idea what he's doing, all movements he's not used to and then, when it starts to feel good (so good) he has to try and hold back, because he's hurting her, and nobody ever told him about this, nobody ever said what it would feel like. It's not as simple as people make it out to be, it's not just easy mindless pleasure, it's everything all at once, and Will doesn't know how to cope with it.
It's strange to feel somebody else's body this close, skin against skin, and his thrusts are jerky and erratic and Skandar is watching and Skandar has probably done this many times before and Will just wants to be good, he wants to impress him and he doesn't know why, he just wishes he knew what he was doing. And when Georgie holds him close and starts to rock up against him, and they find a rhythm, he just presses his lips to her neck and stops thinking, and then it's all over, he loses it clutching at her hip and groaning stupidly against her throat.
She tilts her chin, pressing a kiss to the top of his head, and he lifts himself awkwardly off of her, her legs sliding down and opening loosely around him. She is sprawled across the carpet, her hair a messy, tangled damp mane, and the table creaks as Skandar takes his weight from it and comes around to their side.
He sinks to his knees beside them, and to Will's surprise, gently trails his hand down Georgie's quivering stomach and in between her legs. When he draws it back, it's wet with blood, fingertips smeared red and one crimson drop rolling down the back of his hand. Will stares at it in stunned bewilderment, in something like horror. Skandar feels the blood between his fingers, and his expression is unreadable. Georgie sits up. There are tears in her eyes, and Skandar goes to wipe them away, streaks red across her cheek and then suddenly, violently, they're kissing, Georgie sobbing quietly into his mouth and Skandar stroking his bloody fingers through her hair. Will watches them, frozen, speechless.
"Are you okay?" Skandar murmurs, desperately, urgently, his lips hardly parting from hers to ask the question.
"I'm okay," Georgie manages, even smiling a little against his mouth, "I'm okay, I just—"
"Yeah. It's okay. We'll get you cleaned up. Okay?" He holds her face in his hands, staring into her eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't—I don't know, I—"
"It's okay," Georgie promises him, stroking at his back, his shoulder. Soothingly, like he's the one who needs reassurance. "I wanted to."
Will feels like he's not even there, like Skandar has just seamlessly taken his place, and his brain is too addled to make sense of it. He drops his eyes, peels off the condom and clumsily tries to tie a knot in it like he thinks you're supposed to, but his fingers are slippery and nervous and shaking.
"Here," Skandar says, suddenly and sharply, irritated, reaching out for it without taking his eyes off Georgie. Will flushes, hot and shocked, and Skandar gestures impatiently. Will hands it over, and to his surprise, Skandar takes it and ties it off, brusque.
"I'm—I think I need to go have another shower," Georgie says in a small voice.
"Okay. Yeah. Okay." Skandar nods, kisses her on the forehead and gets to his feet. Will shuffles back to let Georgie stand up, and he watches as she walks, wobbily, to the bathroom.
There is blood on the dark blue carpet, an almost purplish stain, and Skandar hisses a swearword at it, rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand as he hurries into the kitchen. Will sits there motionless as he hears the click of the bin being opened and then the rush of the tap and the creak of cupboard doors. Skandar returns a moment later with some sort of carpet cleaner, spraying it onto the stain agitatedly.
Skandar seems not to even notice that Will is still there, until he's in the way, and then Skandar's touching Will's ankle gently with his thumb because Will is just staring down at it like he can't remember the series of muscle movements necessary to slide his foot out of the way.
"Are you okay?" Skandar says, quietly.
The acrid smell of the carpet cleaner is making Will's sinuses sting, and underneath it all there's the smell of sex still lingering, and he really doesn't know if he's okay at all.
"Hey. Hey. Come on. Look at me."
Will blinks, shaking his head, and then Skandar's hand is cupping his cheek, cold and damp and smelling like soap, tilting his face up. He realises then how close Skandar is, freckles blurring into one another and dark worried eyes and—
"Are you okay?"
Will licks his lips, nods faintly. Skandar's thumb is on his too-fast pulse.
"I'm—I'm gonna go check on Georgie," Skandar says suddenly, "can you—" and he thrusts a sponge into Will's hands and just like that he's gone, and Will is left naked on his hands and knees, removing the evidence.
They all sleep in Skandar's bed that night, needing reassurance from each other that what they did tonight was okay. It's not a kind of reassurance that any one of them feels able to give, but the warmth of their bodies is comfort enough. The boys sleep with Georgie between them; Skandar and Georgie facing each other as usual and Will curled against Georgie's back, one hand tentative on her hip. He doesn't think he'll be able to sleep, but he does in the end, more tired than he thinks.
In the morning, Skandar is gone. Will awakes with Georgie's limbs entangled with his, and her eyes open, watching him. The thought that she's been watching him sleep is embarrassing, but it sends a flood of warmth through him, too, and on impulse he kisses her.
"Morning breath," she responds, nose wrinkled.
She grins. "It's okay." A yawn. "Skandar left a while ago. He went out to get croissants or something."
Georgie laughs. "I don't know, I was half-asleep. He seemed very determined about it though. Like he was on a mission."
"A croissant mission?" Will grins. He nuzzles up against her, breathes in the lovely sweet scent of her hair.
"A croissant mission," Georgie nods.
There's a pause, but it isn't awkward. Will takes the time to appreciate the way she feels against him, the warmth of her soft skin, one of her legs casually tossed between the two of his, the jut of her shoulderblade against his chest. His fingers play against her hip, and, bravely, he dips them a little lower.
"How do you feel?" he murmurs.
She's quiet for a moment. "I feel okay," she says eventually, and she sounds serious, not her usual playful self. "A little sore."
"Uh huh," Will says, and tries not to let his face colour. He nuzzles her again, kisses her jaw. "I'm sorry," he says quietly, unable to help himself.
"Don't," she says, and she smiles, turns her face to him and kisses him.
They lie back in silence. There's a crack in the curtains; a strip of light plays against the wall.
"You know...when I first met you," Will says, quietly, "I thought...I just assumed that you and Skandar were..." He looks at her, and she raises her eyebrows at him, encouraging him to go on. "Together."
She laughs at this, interlaces her fingers with his. "We are together, silly," she says, and then sighs softly. "Every moment of every day. Mostly." She laughs again. "Not right now, but, you know."
Will shakes his head. "You know what I mean," he says. "I thought you were a couple. I thought you'd..." He sighs, wishing he could just spit it out. He tries again. "When I saw you in bed together, I assumed it meant you..." He trails off again, though, embarrassed.
But Georgie doesn't wait for him this time, just shakes her head, vaguely and then a little more firmly. "No," she says. "No. Uh uh. He wouldn't."
Will is surprised by the directness of her answer. "He wouldn't?" he echoes.
"He's too old...I'm too young...I mean, it's..." Now it's her turn to be inarticulate. "He wouldn't let himself...you know...feel that way. Last night was the first time he's even kissed me, properly anyway." She's silent for a while, and Will watches her, the gentle flutter of her eyelashes as she blinks and the strange feathery shadows they cast across her cheeks. Then, she says suddenly, "But he loves me. And I love him. We're...we are together, really."
"But he's never been inside you," Will says in a hushed whisper, not sure if he can really say it at all.
She brings her hand up across her chest, pulling his along with it, and letting it rest against her heart. "He's always inside me," she says quietly, distant.
Just then, they hear the click of the door in the other room. A clatter of metal; Skandar putting his keys on the counter. Rustling of bags. Footsteps. The two of them listen, and wait, and then Skandar appears in the doorway. Will's heart flutters when he sees him, and he doesn't know quite why. For some reason, it is a relief, a thrill, a pure joy, to see Skandar standing in the doorway like this, in his pale blue button-up shirt and his baggy jeans and his Converse, clutching a paper bag of pastries and grinning at them as they lie naked together in his bed.
"Morning," Skandar says, and leaps onto the bed, narrowly missing Georgie's thigh and squirming into a place for himself, nudging the two of them aside. "I come bearing chocolate croissants."
"Pain au chocolat," Georgie corrects him in clumsy French.
"No," says Skandar, producing what looks like an ordinary croissant from the bag, and biting into it. He shows it to them; it has a chocolate filling.
"Ah," says Georgie. Then, "Yum. Gimme."
"I feel so appreciated," says Skandar with a roll of his eyes, and passes one each to the two of them. "We're getting pastry in my bed," he says after a few moments of quiet chewing.
"You've got your shoes on in your bed," Georgie points out.
"Hmm," Skandar says, and then, popping the last of his croissant into his mouth and licking chocolate from his fingers, he gets up. "I'll be back in a minute."
"You're being very mysterious this morning," Georgie informs him.
They listen to him go into the kitchen, and then the bathroom, locking the door behind him.
"I wonder what he's doing," Georgie says thoughtfully.
"Going to the loo?" Will guesses, yawning and rolling over, munching on the rest of his pastry and trying to ignore all the crumbs he's getting in the sheets.
"He's being too mysterious about it for that to be all it is," Georgie says, shaking her head. "Also, I want some juice."
Will goes into the kitchen and finds a carton of orange juice (and very little else) in the fridge. He brings it back, finds Georgie texting her sister and muttering to herself. She brightens when she sees the carton, and they drink from it, passing it between them in bed. It feels to Will, who has never eaten food in bed or drank juice straight from the carton before, very dirty and very decadent. He rather likes it.
They lie there, snuggling, chatting intermittently but mostly just enjoying each other's company in silence, for quite a while. Skandar is running water, and they are giggling, brushing pastry crumbs from each other's hair and attempting to feed each other orange juice, tickling each other beneath the sheets, learning each other's bodies the way they didn't have a chance to do last night.
Running his hand down Georgie's thigh, Will finds a slight raised patch.
"Birthmark," she says with a shrug. "I've had it ever since I can remember, anyway, and no one knows where it came from. I think I was gored by a bull there in a past life. Did you know birthmarks are meant to be injuries from past lives?"
Will did not. Georgie finds his; a dark splotch hidden mostly by his pubic hair. "I wonder what your past self died from," she giggles.
He starts to stiffen beneath her exploring hands, but she pulls away. The water has stopped running in the bathroom.
"We should get up," she says.
She is fastening a robe and he is pulling on a pair of boxers and trying to figure out whether they're his own or Skandar's when Skandar appears in the doorway again, his hands clasped behind his back. His socks and shoes are off and his sleeves are rolled up and he looks a bit sweaty, dark hair plastered to his forehead and curling a little.
"I ran us a bath," he says.
"You what?" snorts Georgie.
Skandar repeats it. It does not sound any less ridiculous this time, but it does actually sound quite tempting. "I used your bubble bath, I hope you don't mind," he adds. "Come on then."
The bath is not the only surprise Skandar has for them in the bathroom. Once they're inside, he holds out his hand, and in it lies what Will first thinks is a very crumpled cigarette, and then realises is a spliff. In the sink he sees a plastic bag full of something green, a packet of small papers, and a couple of little metal tins. He is shocked.
"Ooooooh," says Georgie appreciatively, plucking the little rolled thing from Skandar's palm and admiring it.
"Where did you get it?" Will asks, quietly amazed.
"Oh, I have my ways," Skandar replies slyly, grinning as he unbuttons his shirt and tosses it unceremoniously over his shoulder. He sees that Will is still looking at him, and sighs. "Okay, a make-up girl whose name I won't divulge. She's my supplier."
Will thinks of the Polaroid, and wonders how many people actually know that drugs are being dealt on the set of this movie. C.S. Lewis probably wouldn't be pleased.
"I was going to light some candles and stuff," Skandar says, "but I didn't have any."
"Oh, I have some tealights!" cries Georgie excitedly, placing the spliff carefully on the rim of the bath beside a neon yellow lighter before rushing back out of the room.
Skandar is shucking his trousers now, and Will still hesitates before undressing, even though he knows Skandar saw everything yesterday. It feels different, now, in the brightness of the bathroom, the lighting almost clinical, and it's just the two of them.
Skandar steps into the bath first, almost moans and sinks down into the water happily. "Perfect," he says, and seems almost stoned already, eyes heavy-lidded.
Will pulls off the boxers, hurried and awkward, and he can feel those lazy eyes on him the whole time, knows Skandar's watching even as he steps into the bath, fully exposed. He sits down immediately even though it's a little too hot, eager to hide his body beneath the bubbles. Skandar is looking at him expectantly.
"Mmm," Will murmurs appreciatively, and Skandar grins and retrieves the spliff and lighter that he set down on the bath's rim.
Will watches, and is aware of everything: the way his legs brush Skandar's in the water, the way Skandar frowns as he neatens the little paper tube between his fingers, the hiss and flare of the lighter. He's sure he looks anxious, or overly curious, but he can't seem to feign disinterest and it doesn't seem to matter. Skandar takes a few tiny little puffs at the spliff and then, seemingly satisfied, lets the lighter drop onto the floor as he sinks back further in the bath, sliding, legs pushing out until Will feels them on either side of his body. He inhales, deep and greedy. Will watches.
Georgie reappears, then, distracting him. Her robe, silky and pinkish-purple, is knee-length and loosely tied at her waist, exposing flashes of pale thigh and chest as she skips into the room. She's clutching a handful of tealights in various colours.
"Some of them are scented," she announces, "but I have no idea what the actual scents are, so this could be interesting."
"Yeah, combined with weed and—what is this bubble bath? Toffee sundae or something?" Skandar laughs. Smoke curls up from his mouth and nose, and Will is transfixed again. He smells it, then, earthy and strong. It's sort of sweet, too, but Skandar's right, it doesn't quite go with the sickly smell of the bath. The mixture is heady, intoxicating.
"Hot butter fudge," Georgie corrects him with a grin, as she begins lining the tealights up along the windowsill and every other available surface.
"You've never tried it before," Skandar says to Will, quiet and conversational, observing rather than mocking. He takes another drag, and Will stares at the way his lips meet around the damp paper.
"No," Will admits. "I've never really had the chance."
Skandar nods, his eyebrows knitting in a frown as he breathes out more smoke. "People get weird about it," he says, "but I don't really see the big deal. It's not as dangerous as some things."
Skandar is in no hurry with this conversation; he takes another drag. "Alcohol," he says, then, and his voice is strained, a little bit hoarse. Will thinks he likes the way it sounds.
"Really?" he asks, not even really that interested, just wanting to hear Skandar talk some more. He wonders if he's getting high from the smoke in the air; wonders if it's foolish to think that's possible.
"Yeah, I can't remember the exact statistic, but there are way more alcohol-related deaths than weed-related ones," Skandar replies off-handedly.
Will frowns. "Are you sure? That can't be true..."
Skandar straightens up a little, looking irritated, and his foot knocks against Will's hip and makes him jump. "It can and it is," he says sharply.
"But then why is it illegal?"
Skandar is in the middle of inhaling when Will asks this question, and he begins to respond with the spliff still sticking out of his mouth, letting it stick to his lips as he speaks. It waggles agitatedly with each word. "Because the government's fucking stupid, that's why," he snaps.
Will starts, afraid of Skandar's anger. He doesn't want to get into an argument, especially not when it seems like things might be calming down a bit. "Okay, okay. Sorry."
"Don't apologise," Skandar sneers, spliff still in his mouth, and he seems frustrated for some reason Will can't fathom. "It's not your fault that the government sucks, is it?"
He actually seems to be expecting an answer, and it takes Will a little while to realise that this isn't a rhetorical question. "Um, no," he says meekly, "no, of course not." He has to bite back another apology.
Skandar lies back again, seemingly satisfied, and Georgie tuts from somewhere behind him, apparently now lining tealights up in front of the door. Will wonders distantly if this is a fire hazard. His Mum made him read the fire safety regulations when they first got here but right now he can't remember a word of them. At least they're in a room with plenty of easy access to water.
He becomes aware of the awkward silence, growing ever longer, and clears his throat. He wants to change the subject, but can't think how, so he ends up saying the first thing that comes into his head instead. "So um," he says, and clears his throat again, "what's...what's it like?"
Skandar's lips quirk, and he does that smile again. "Good," he says, a little hoarsely.
Will is surprised Skandar hasn't offered it to him yet. It almost seems like he's waiting for Will to ask, but Will—well, he doesn't like smoking. This shouldn't, logically, be an exception. He can't help his curiosity though. "Yeah?" he asks.
Skandar sits up properly again, leans in. "Yeah." There's something mischievous lurking under his lazy expression. "C'mere," he murmurs, voice hoarse and scratchy from smoke, and he moves closer, soapy water displacing around his naked body and gently splashing Will's.
Will glances anxiously behind him, where Georgie is humming obliviously to herself as she lights the row of candles. He looks at Skandar, Skandar's wicked dark eyes glinting, and he edges in, just a little bit.
Skandar puts the spliff to his lips and breathes in, sharp and shallow, and then quick as a flash he's pulling Will close. Really close, and so suddenly that Will grapples at the bath's rim and starts to cry out. But then he's silenced. He feels a hand curling around the back of his neck, and then he feels smoke being gently blown into his mouth. He gasps and gulps, barely registering the feel of Skandar's lips against his own as he starts coughing violently. Skandar pulls back, chuckling fondly, and Will coughs and splutters like his lungs are aflame, and does the first thing he can think of to try and put the fire out—wriggles down and ducks his head underwater.
He comes up still spluttering, spitting out water, and Skandar is still grinning at him. And Will knows it was just the tiniest breath of it, but he thinks he feels a little bit high anyway, lightheaded and happy.
Will nods, hesitantly. "Yeah," he says, surprising himself.
But at this, he shakes his head vehemently. "No, no."
Skandar is grinning at him like—like he's some kind of adorable little animal or something, like he's amused by him but also finding him sort of endearing, and it's making Will feel giddy. He wants to know if it really is possible for him to be stoned already, but there's no way he can ask that without revealing himself to be a total idiot.
Just then, the lights suddenly flick off, and Skandar's face suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting as the candlelight flickers across it, dim and orange and making him glow, and there are little shadows in the dips of his collarbones and everything is hot and smoky and Will feels dazed.
"Aw, you got it all wet," Skandar sighs, looking at the little damp stub between his fingers. He tosses it into the bin, missing by about a foot, and then rests his arms on the edge of the bath, tucking his chin over them. "Georgii-iiie?"
Georgie appears from behind Will, standing beside the bath with her eyebrows raised and a smile creeping across her lips. She has her hands on her hips and her expression is a good imitation of Anna. Will looks at her adoringly. "Ye-esss?" she sing-songs, mimicking Skandar now.
"Roll us another one."
Georgie's eyebrows raise even further and she crosses her arms. Will watches as the silky robe is hitched up a little, exposing more of her legs, and her small breasts push together. "What do you say?"
Will looks between them. He thinks he can actually see Skandar fighting the urge to roll his eyes. "Roll us another one, dear Georgie, most beautiful and wonderful of all the Georgies, love of our lives?" he guesses.
Georgie laughs, bright and sudden. "I was just going for 'please'," she says, "but that'll do. I'm done with the candles, anyway."
"I can tell," says Skandar, wrinkling up his nose. "It smells like strawberries. And like, patchouli or sandalwood or something. Simultaneously."
Will decides against asking Skandar how the hell he can even recognise those smells in the heady mixture that fills the room, instead watching Georgie as she gathers up the tin and papers discarded in the sink and settles down cross-legged on the bathmat.
"You know how?" he asks her, surprised.
She nods, proudly. "I'm better than him." She juts her chin at Skandar, who wrinkles his nose.
"I taught her," he tells Will, and before Will can even react, goes on, "and don't tell me I'm corrupting holy innocents or anything, because you're the one who was fucking her last night."
Will lets out a startled little noise, but is speechless. Georgie is looking at him, amused.
"You're so crude, Skandar," she tuts, and her fidgeting fingers leave the rolling paper to curl around Will's damp shoulder, pulling him close. He leans awkwardly over the rim of the bathtub, and she tilts her chin up and rubs her nose against his. "We made love, didn't we?"
Skandar makes a gagging sound, and Will can't help but laugh. "Yeah," he says shyly, and Georgie grins, satisfied, and goes back to her work.
"I really am ridiculously good at it," she says, happily and mostly to herself. "I should do origami or something."
Skandar chuckles. "Not quite the same thing."
"H-how much practice have you had?" Will asks, trying to make it sound casual, trying to keep any judgement out of his voice.
"Hardly any, which is why it's so impressive," Georgie replies, tucking her hair behind her ear and licking her fingers.
"It's for special occasions only," Skandar tells Will in a hushed voice.
"He doesn't want me becoming a stoner," Georgie adds, her voice a comic stage whisper. And then, a second later and much more loudly, a triumphant, "Done!"
She reaches for the lighter and lights the thing—and even Will can tell, with his extremely limited knowledge, that it's much neater and well-packed than Skandar's screwed-up little tube. She admires it, and then gets to her feet and shrugs off her robe, passing the spliff from one hand to another as she slips her arms out of the sleeves. She stands there in the glimmering candlelight, and looks almost absurdly beautiful—her hair almost golden, tumbling down to her breasts; the long lines of her lithe body, skin glowing. Will catches himself staring, and tries to stop, but then Georgie is climbing into the bath, grinning and saying, "Budge up," as she fits herself between them.
She leans back her head, sighing at the warmth of the water which laps gently at her breasts. "Nice," she says appreciatively, and then notices Skandar's somewhat hungry expression. "Oh, you want this?" she asks, and it takes Will a second to remember the joint she's holding and taking great care to avoid getting wet.
Skandar nods, and Georgie snakes a path in the air with it towards him, making noises like an plane, like a parent trying to feed a moody toddler. She grins when he lifts his chin and leans in for it, but just as it reaches his lips she snatches it back, giggling when he groans at her in irritation. She meets Will's eyes, and Will gazes at her in something of a daze, finds himself parting his own lips in anticipation when she brings the spliff towards his mouth—and then she pulls back again, sinking down further into the water and letting out another sigh before taking a long drag herself.
She coughs a little bit and Will thinks he catches her eyes watering slightly as she passes it over to Skandar. He feels kind of glad that she's not that practised at this, and then he feels guilty for judging her, and then he just feels relieved he's not the only one who's not smoking perfectly and smoothly like an expert. He relaxes, letting his legs touch her in the water instead of keeping them close to his own body.
That's pretty much the last thing he remembers doing, and it seems like only a second has passed before he's being poked repeatedly in the arm and he realises he has a crick in his neck and his face is pressed into the cold rim of the bath. The water surrounding him is cool, now, almost uncomfortably so.
"Ow," he says croakily, trying to sit up properly.
"You keep falling asleep," Georgie giggles, continuing to poke him.
He blinks sleepily at her. "I do?"
"I'm dozing off too," Skandar adds, and Will looks across the bath to see Skandar slumped there with his legs wide open and—oh. Will realises, his own legs are now somehow beneath the arch of Georgie's, and his foot is resting against Skandar's inner thigh, and the realisation of that makes him quiver.
Georgie yawns. "It's like," she says, "two o'clock," another yawn, "in the afternoon."
"Naptime," Skandar announces and lets his head drop back.
"Not in here," says Georgie, prodding him instead this time. "C'mon, lazybones. Out."
Skandar groans, and Georgie steadily gets to her feet, wobbling slightly as she tries to navigate around the boys' legs. She clambers out and totters over to the towel rack, blowing out candles as she goes.
"Oh, don't make it darker," Skandar moans, "I'll never get up."
"Oh my god, I'm like a raisin," Georgie says suddenly, ignoring him. "Look how wrinkled my fingers are, Will!"
She skips back over to the bath, towels forgotten, and thrusts her hand in Will's face. Her fingers are indeed wrinkly. He says so. When he blinks, his eyelids seem to close for longer periods of time than usual. He says that too.
Georgie laughs fondly, stroking his hair. "Skandar, I think Will is stoned."
Will coughs weakly and tries to protest.
"I think we hotboxed the bathroom," is all Skandar says, struggling to his feet.
Will tries to draw his legs back as casually as possible to let Skandar get up. He intends to say, what's hotboxing? but instead, what comes out is, "I love you."
He lets out a startled laugh immediately afterwards, surprised at himself.
Skandar chuckles, and Georgie just says "Uh huh," softly, and strokes his hair again. It feels nice. He leans into the touch. "Tell us when you're not stoned, okay?"
"I'm not stoned!" Will insists. "Also," he pauses to yawn, "you're supposed to say it back."
"We love you, Will," Georgie sighs, wandering off again to get a towel.
Will frowns at her retreating back. "You can't just say it because I told you to," he says.
Skandar rolls his eyes. "C'mon, Will. Up. Out."
Skandar has not actually managed this task himself yet—he's currently perched on the side of the bath. Will narrows his eyes at him. "You first."
"Toss us some towels, Georgie," Skandar sighs.
In Skandar's bedroom, they attempt to get dressed. Georgie gets as far as pulling on a pair of thigh-high neon rainbow striped socks, and then, exhausted with the effort this has apparently taken, she takes a flying leap onto Skandar's bed and lies there face-down. She announces that she has no intention of moving. Will, who has only managed a pair of Skandar's boxers so far, decides this sounds like a good plan and joins her.
Skandar (who has been much more successful than the two of them and is wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt) groans at them. "No, c'mon. I wanna play on the Wii."
"So?" Georgie says, her voice muffled in the pillows. "Go play."
Will, lying on his back, sees a slight change in Skandar's expression. "Go into the spare room, then," Skandar frowns.
"The TV's in the living room, Skandar," Georgie drawls.
Skandar crosses his arms. He frowns in silence for a moment longer and then says, sharply, "I just feel weird about you two sleeping in here if I'm not."
"Well," says Georgie, rolling over, "that's stupid."
"Well, it's true," Skandar retorts. "So get out. It's my room."
Georgie heaves a huge sigh and hauls herself to her feet, stumbling slightly. She holds out a hand to Will. "C'mon, Will. I can tell we're not wanted."
Skandar steps aside to let the two of them, holding hands, out of the room, and Georgie leads Will into the spare bedroom.
"He's in a bad mood," Will observes, as the two of them settle down into the bed.
"Yes," Georgie agrees, like she's speaking to a young child who won't stop stating the blindingly obvious.
"Why is that?" Will asks. "Why does he get like that?"
Georgie shushes him, pulling him close to her for a kiss. "Because he's jealous," she says simply, and then kisses him again, deeper. "And I don't really care right now to be honest. He can be a moody little twat if he wants. And we'll do what we want."
"Are you sure?" Will asks nervously, thinking of Skandar. He's just a couple of walls away, moodily playing video games like a sulking teenager—they can hear the high-octane music, and, every now and then, the sound of gunshots.
"Yeah," Georgie smiles against his neck, snakes a hand under the covers and strokes it down his chest. She reaches between his legs, tucking her hand beneath the waistband of his boxers. "You don't want to?" she whispers.
Will's breath catches as she takes him in hand. "I want to," he murmurs, "I just—Sk—"
"Shh," she says simply.
It's better this time—she straddles him, eases him in and rides him slowly, and everything seems smoother and easier. After he comes, she stays there on top of him, smiling down at him, her hair hanging over her flushed face.
She falls asleep after, long legs splayed out, one rainbow-striped sock fallen down to her ankle. Will lies there watching her for a little while, and then when his stomach's rumbling gets too uncomfortable to ignore, he pulls on his boxers again and ventures out of the room. Skandar isn't in the living room anymore, the game paused on the screen with the music still playing, and Will is a little relieved as he pads into the kitchen to find some food.
Sadly, the kitchen is extremely lacking. He makes a mental note to tell Skandar to go shopping, and returns with the only appetising thing he could find—an untouched jar of honey. All of the cutlery is dirty, and he's too hungry to bother washing anything up, so he just sticks his finger into the jar and licks the honey from it. It tastes good—really good, and he doesn't know if it's because he's just so hungry or it's some delayed effect of the weed. (He's still not sure if the weed could have actually affected him, but he's sort of convinced himself it has.)
Heading back into the spare room, he's startled to see that Georgie is no longer alone on the bed. Skandar is lying beside her, facing her—their positions mirrored perfectly, much like that night Will walked in on them asleep together. Skandar is dressed in a t-shirt and boxers, while Georgie, of course, is naked but for her socks. She's sleeping peacefully; there's even a slight smile on her lips. Skandar is watching her, Will thinks.
He sits down awkwardly on the floor by the side of the bed, leaning against it, his back to the two of them. Silence. He dips into the honey again and sucks it from his finger.
"Skandar?" he says in a small voice. No response. "S—Skandar?"
Skandar sort of grumbles, rolling over. Will wonders if maybe he was asleep after all. "I found this honey in the cupboard—it wasn't opened but you don't have much food left and I was hungry so I thought—"
"It's really good," Will goes on, uncomfortable, talking just to fill the silence. "Do you want to try some?"
Skandar shakes his head, lying on his back now, hand to his forehead. Will strains round to look at him.
"I don't even usually like honey but it's really good," he says. "Try a little bit?"
"No," Skandar says sharply.
Will goes quiet again, licking the honey from his fingers. It's starting to taste a little sickly, too sweet, and his fingers are sticking together. After a tense moment, he says quietly, "I, um. I want you to know that I'm...you know, grateful."
"Grateful?" Skandar repeats. His voice is rough and he sounds mocking.
"For—for letting me...in," Will says weakly. "I mean...I feel like you two are so...you're so close, and," he flounders, feeling awkward, wishing he hadn't said anything. "I feel like I'm a part of you now," he finishes lamely, "both of you."
Skandar rolls over, turning his back on Georgie now and Will looks up at him nervously. "Let's get something straight," Skandar says, voice low, cruel. "You're nice, Will. I like you a lot. But no. It wasn't always meant to be the three of us, okay?"
A few weeks pass, and Will is inclined to disagree.
Throughout that time, Will spends just four nights in his own apartment, and the rest of the time only drops in intermittently, assuring his Dad that he's okay. His Dad has a lot of paperwork to do and Will's guilt is alleviated by the sight of him working, knowing that even if he were around they wouldn't really be spending quality time together anyway. He comes round to pick up extra clothes, his toothbrush, things like that—but before long he has everything he needs at Skandar and Georgie's, and the visits back to his own place grow less and less frequent.
Skandar and Georgie's apartment feels like home. He gets used to coming back from set and going straight there. Rachael has left once again, leaving Georgie free to move back in with Skandar, and so whenever Will shows up he gets a little rush of pleasure to see Georgie lolling around on the sofa watching TV as Skandar sits across from her, reading or on his laptop, eating ice cream straight from the tub or pouring glasses of wine. They'll look up, grin, say "hey," and offer him something, and it all just feels so right.
The apartment is a mess, because neither Skandar nor Georgie are particularly neat, and they claim to know where everything is, even in the piles of laundry and schoolwork that litter every surface. Skandar still fails to keep track of his grocery shopping, not accustomed to having to do it himself. The only thing he manages to keep a decent stock of is wine. But despite the lacklustre quality of Skandar's kitchen, gradually they start declining invitations to restaurants after work in favour of the cosy warmth of the flat, the familiarity. Why would they go out for pizza for the fourth night in a row, and have to wait to be seated, making awkward small talk with other members of the cast and crew that they don't really know? It seems much better to come back here, choose a selection of random items from Skandar's fridge and eat them in front of the TV with a bottle of wine, in varying stages of undress.
Skandar's moods ease off—slowly but surely—and the game, too, seems to calm down, the bets and dares returning to silly insignificance, and Will is not sure he has ever felt more comfortable. He and Georgie have sex every day, sometimes more than once—four times, on one dull Saturday—and there is no longer any effort to keep it secret from Skandar. They don't go into the spare room anymore; Will sleeps in their bed with them, has sex with Georgie there, regardless of Skandar's whereabouts. The third time they did it was when Skandar was in the shower, because they were still wary of his moods, his bouts of fierce jealousy, and yet it seemed worse to leave him, to go to Will's or even Georgie's seldom-mentioned flat. And Skandar returned from the shower sooner than they expected, saw Georgie spread-eagled on his bed with Will on top of her, and the two of them froze. But Skandar, drying off his hair with a towel, just nodded, and said "Hey," and got dressed as they fucked, settled down beside them as they finished, stroked a hand through Georgie's sweaty hair.
And now, it's commonplace. It feels right, having Skandar by his side even in such intimate moments. It feels right not having secrets from either of them, like he's known them his whole life. Every now and then, Will's heart aches for something more, when he feels Skandar brush against him in bed or when he sees Skandar smile at him sometimes when he comes, but this—this is more than he could ever have hoped for, and he won't dare to wish for more. It's enough, for now.
It feels to Will as though it was always meant to be the three of them, as though by some great cosmic plan they have been drawn together, the two of them have been brought into his life for a reason and it's perfect, and he's lucky, and he's happier than he has ever been.
"Oh my god," says Georgie, "I just had the best idea."
It is Wednesday, Will thinks, or maybe Thursday. They have the afternoon off, and it might be somewhere between two and five o'clock. He finds it hard to know for sure, or even care about dates and days anymore. Sometimes Skandar will go all day without opening a single curtain or blind in the apartment, sometimes they will stay up all night, and on weekends they lose track of day and night almost entirely. Will's Dad seems happy as long as his son is, and Ben has other things to concentrate on—he's practising for a part in a play, wanting to be ready to audition as soon as they return home.
Will chuckles, spreading a hand over Georgie's hip, thumbing gently at the skin. "Something tells me I don't have your full attention."
A smile slides over Georgie's lips. She looks kind of sleepy and sated, as she often does, and Will can't get enough of her like this—messy mane of hair, heavy-lidded eyes, sheen of sweat across her skin. "I get my best ideas when we're having sex," she murmurs, lifting her hips, leaning further down over him and rocking gently.
Will has to admit that this is true. "Go on, then. What epiphany have I brought on this time?"
"I think we should go skinny-dipping."
"Skinny-dipping," Will repeats.
"In the sea?" Skandar interrupts, sounding vaguely interested. He's sitting on the floor beside the bed, leaning against the wall with his laptop balanced on his crossed legs. "That sounds like fun."
Georgie tosses her hair back, tilts her head to look at him. "Yeah. I always wanted to do it when I was younger. I hate swimsuits, you know how they feel when they get wet? All clingy and ugh." She shakes her head. "My parents wouldn't let me, though. They said it was indecent."
"Well, it kind of is," Will says. "Isn't it illegal?"
Georgie shrugs, churning her hips a little bit as she starts to ride him faster, letting out a breathy sigh. Skandar is typing, tapping away on his keyboard, apparently Googling for the answer.
"Indecent exposure," he says after a moment, "but if we did it at night there'd be no one around."
"Do you think it would be too cold?" Georgie asks, turning once again to look at Skandar. She looks at him over her upper arm, pressing her mouth to her own skin.
"I dunno." Skandar says, frowning. He rests his head in one hand, looking at her thoughtfully. She wrinkles her nose, half-shrugs, her hips working away almost of their own accord, Will's bucking up shallowly under her to meet the movements. "We could always just try it and see."
"Georgie," Will says in a strained voice, clutching at her a little tighter. "I'm going to come."
Skandar's frown turns into a slight smile, and he turns his attention back to his laptop screen, flicking a finger across the mouse pad. The discussion is over for now.
They do go.
Will is concerned—about sneaking out at night for the second time, about the cold, about the risks of being naked in public—but of course it doesn't matter. He doesn't have the confidence to voice his worries in a way that will make Skandar and Georgie take him seriously, and like before, the two of them are so excited about it that it seems to be contagious, and before the week is out he ends up actually looking forward to their next adventure.
Will is sleeping over that night of course, though they don't really sleep, too excited and opting just to lie in bed instead, chatting, reading, waiting. It makes it less nerve-wracking when they make their way quietly out of the flat at 4 o'clock in the morning. Georgie says confidently that they can go a little earlier this time, as it's October, spring, and the sun will rise sooner. (And Skandar, cleverly, has thought to check the tides.) But even so, it's dim and chilly outside, and Will is wearing a heavy hoodie of Skandar's and can't even imagine taking that off, let alone the rest of his clothes.
It's not so far to the nearest beach, and Will has to admit that when they reach the shore, he is quite tempted to get in, to swim. He's always liked the ocean, felt a strange connection to it. There's something comforting about being near the sea, near the edge of land. He feels comfortable there, more than he ever does in London, closed in on all sides by towns and cities, claustrophobic.
He's the first to begin undressing, even, kicking off his shoes and pulling off his socks. He takes off his trousers, too, but stops there, shivering a little in the chill and toeing the water experimentally. His eyes have adjusted to the darkness significantly now, but the water still looks dark and surreal and strange at night, reflecting the moonlight in its waves. It's even colder than he expected, and he jerks his foot back instinctively, gasping.
"Oh no." Georgie looks disheartened. She's shucked her trousers too, and she shrieks loudly when she tentatively slides her foot into the water.
"Wusses," says Skandar, chuckling, and they turn to see that he's stripped off completely already and is up to his knees, more or less, the water lapping around his shins. The moonlight shines on his pale skin, shadows the hair between his legs, and the frigid water brings out goosebumps, though he doesn't seem to feel it.
"You're such a freak, Skandar, it's freezing," Georgie says, with feeling, shuffling back along the sand with her arms folded. She's wearing one of Will's sweaters, and it's a little too big for her, the sleeves hanging down over her hands. She bundles herself up in it protectively.
"C'mon, Will," Skandar encourages, ignoring her.
He gestures for Will to undress, and Will, embarrassed, bends over to peel down his boxers. The cold is doing him no favours, but at least Skandar has the same problem. Taking a deep breath, he straightens up, pulling off his hoodie and t-shirt in one go and striding into the water as bravely as he can.
"Come on, Georgie," he says through chattering teeth, after a minute or two of pained shivering. "You get used to it."
Georgie is looking at them doubtfully. "There might be octopuses," she says. "Octopi. Whatever."
Skandar snorts. "I doubt it."
She hesitates for a long moment, and then hooks her thumbs into her knickers, dragging them down and tossing them into the pile of clothing on the sand. She takes off the sweater reluctantly, and her nipples are so hard beneath it that they almost look painful. Arms folded tightly around herself, she trots towards them, wincing as the water gets deeper.
Will cheers when she reaches them, hugging her close to him on an impulse. Her breath is warm against his chest and he can feel the stiffness of her nipples. It's too cold for him to get excited, but he feels a tingle of arousal anyway as she clings to him.
Skandar is wading ahead, and when they catch up, Georgie clings to him instead, taking him by the arm and begging him to go a little more slowly. Suddenly she yelps, leaping sideways and dragging him with her.
"That was seaweed, Georgie," says Skandar, rolling his eyes.
Georgie scowls. "It could have been an octopus. You don't know."
They paddle forwards a little bit more, and then Georgie, shivering, shakes her head. "I can't do this. Ugh, it's freezing as well—it's actually making my head hurt."
"It's not that bad," Skandar shrugs.
"Yeah, for you. You're a freak of nature, you don't feel the cold," retorts Georgie, grumpily kicking at some seaweed and splashing Skandar.
"Fine, you can stay here," Skandar says. "Will can cope with it, can't you, Will?"
Will looks from Skandar to Georgie. Georgie is looking a little bit pathetic, pleading with her eyes, and Skandar's expression is challenging. He knows Skandar expects him to stay with her, and he feels a desperate urge to prove himself.
"Yeah, it's not so bad," he says, even though the temperature of the water is giving him a headache too, and each wave that laps at his shins brings a fresh shiver of cold. The seaweed tangling around his ankles doesn't bother him so much, though he's not sure how he'd feel about being out deeper, where it could tangle around other things.
"C'mon then," says Skandar, taking a few strides forward.
Georgie hangs back. "You okay?" Will asks her, and she nods as she turns around.
"I'll just go sit on the shore and wait for you two weirdos," she teases.
To Will's relief, Skandar doesn't want to go too much deeper, just enough for them to be able to duck down to their shoulders comfortably—though comfortably is perhaps the wrong word. Will has grown used to the water around his legs, but each new part of skin it touches is another shock to his system. It's like ice on his chest, his back, and finally lapping at his shoulders, and he notices that even Skandar is wincing a little and biting his lip.
In the distance, they can see Georgie sitting on some discarded clothing, her sweater back on and her legs stretched out, letting the waves play at her feet.
"Do you think she minds?" Will asks, and the sound of his own voice makes him realise they've been silent since being left on their own.
Skandar shakes his head, bobbing about in the water. "Nah," he says. "She might be kinda disappointed though. It was her idea." Will nods. "I'm sure we can make it up to her," Skandar goes on, running a wet hand through his hair, making the slight waves of it come out. "Well. I'm sure you can."
There's another silence, then. Will doesn't know what to say. Skandar seems to have lost interest in the conversation before long, and he suddenly ducks under the water completely, just takes a deep breath and submerges himself, coming up quickly and shuddering slightly. He makes a hoarse sound, wiping his face. He's pink in the cheeks and grinning.
"Your turn," he says. It sounds like a dare.
Will laughs nervously. "I'm good."
Skandar bobs closer, and Will's heart begins to pound. They messed around like this a little in the water tanks on set, but that was different—the water wasn't ice-cold, and they had supervision. He's not quick enough to get away, though, and Skandar gets him around the neck and forces him down. Will's head plunges beneath the freezing water, and, not quite prepared, he comes up spluttering and coughing. Skandar looks a little shocked, and even though Will feels like his lungs have just been filled with ice, he still manages to be surprised when Skandar starts apologising frantically. He's got his hands on Will's shoulders, sliding down to his chest, and patting him on the back uncertainly, trying to help.
"Are you okay?" he asks. "Shit, I'm sorry."
He's ducking his head to look Will in the eyes, and Will is blinking the saltwater out, Skandar gradually coming into focus. Will is finding it harder to recover like this, with Skandar so close, concerned, caring about him in a way Will rarely sees. He's bewildered and he can't tell if his heart's rapid rate is something to be worried about or if it's just the effect of Skandar, Skandar's wet skin against his, Skandar's dark eyes fixed on him. He coughs again, and though his throat burns the water seems to have cleared. His eyes are streaming, though, blurring his vision, and all around him it's the shimmering blackness of the water, and he feels a sudden flood of fear and panics, thrashing under Skandar's hold on him, desperate to get back on land.
"Hey, hey, it's okay," Skandar's voice comes again, and there are strong hands holding him still, and he realises that he's facing the wrong direction, looking off into the deep. He turns wildly, sees Georgie on the shore, standing now, worried.
"It's okay," Skandar assures him again, and his voice has a softness to it that Will isn't sure he's ever heard—at least, not directed at him. He's heard Skandar talk to Georgie with that voice. He likes the way it sounds—gentle, concerned, attentive.
He realises then that he's clinging to Skandar, tightly, fingers pressing into the skin of Skandar's hip and back. He tries to focus on Skandar's face, and it's close, so close, and all he sees is the wetness of his open lips, the pink flush across his cheeks and the bridge of his nose, the darkness of his eyes reflecting the ripples of the ocean.
Will kisses him, suddenly, and like he's drowning, clutching at his body and bringing their hips close under the water, a thrill shooting through him like electricity and setting every nerve alight. Skandar is stunned at first, and Will's lips work at him desperately, needing this more than he ever realised until Skandar responds, slowing him down, going deep and sure with his tongue until Will's not sure he can take it anymore.
They part, both panting, and it's instinct to look to Georgie, who is still standing, stock-still, too far away for them to make out her expression. Will looks back at Skandar, at his profile bright in the moonlight, and realises that he can barely feel the cold anymore. There is a heat in him, and he wants to make sure it stays.
"We should go back," Skandar says then, gruffly, and Will barely hears him—it's only when he starts wading back towards the shore that he realises what must have been said.
They make their way back out of the water, dry off with sandy towels and dress in sandy clothes, silent. Will catches Georgie's eye and she's smiling, looking a little caught out. He returns the smile uncertainly, and pulls on his hoodie, smelling Skandar on it more than ever before.
As they walk back, Skandar remains quiet, and Will is afraid that he's in one of his moods but it seems different somehow, more reflective than irritated. Georgie tells them both, animatedly, about the dead octopus that washed up beside her on the shore while she was waiting for them. It was swept away again, she explains, before she could show them.
"It was probably a jellyfish," Will says, and is surprised to hear Skandar saying the exact same thing at the exact same time. Startled, they look at each other, and Skandar breaks into a grin, and then all three of them are laughing.
Georgie, between the boys, pulls them in close to her, and they walk like that all the way back home.
Back in the flat, Georgie heads into the bathroom for a shower, and Will and Skandar go to change out of their damp clothes in the bedroom. The sun is coming up, and the two of them are silent again as they undress, almost shy. It feels to Will as though there's something charged between them, sparking between their bodies with every subtle movement.
He wants to know how Skandar feels, wants to know what this means. He doesn't know what it means for him, but he knows that ever since he was young he's liked other boys in ways that his friends didn't, in the same way he liked girls, as if whatever divide there was supposed to be in his brain was missing, as if there was no differentiation. He's never met a bisexual man, never even known of one, and so he's always felt a little uncomfortable with it, ashamed of himself, as though it's something he should be able to control.
"Have you—" Will stammers, breaking the silence and feeling his cheeks heat at the sound of his own voice. "I mean, do you—" He can't get the words out because he hasn't chosen which ones would be best to use, and he doesn't want to offend Skandar "Are you...?"
He lets the words hang in the air, hoping that by now, Skandar has caught his drift. And, thankfully, he has.
Skandar smirks. "Only with guys called Will," he replies off-handedly, towelling off his wet hair.
At first Will assumes he's joking, avoiding answering the question with some quick wit, but then an image flashes into his head, and he remembers the way he saw Skandar with William Moseley in his arms, in a quiet moment, the two of them just silently holding each other as though their bodies needed to catch up with each other after the long separation. He thinks he understands, then, and wonders what else he's missed due to Skandar's joking, casual manner.
"Hey, listen, don't make a big deal of this, okay?" Skandar says, striding over to the radiator, draping his clothes haphazardly over it. He stretches, body long and pale and naked, and Will lets himself stare.
"Yeah. No. What?"
Skandar turns, laughing as he crosses the room again, and to Will's surprise he is suddenly being embraced, held fast in Skandar's arms. He sort of melts in them, body going limp, and his heart thuds and aches deliciously and he wants Skandar to kiss him again, wants it with every fibre of his being. He has his head resting on Skandar's shoulder, Skandar's wet hair tickling his chin and smelling of saltwater. He presses his lips firmly to the crook of Skandar's neck, heart pounding, and mouths at the cool damp skin. Skandar's hands are smoothing circles on his back, and Will's tongue darts out—he can't help himself, he wants to taste the salt on Skandar's skin, and he kisses messily, licking along the hard line of Skandar's jaw—
"Hey, hey," Skandar says, drawing back, holding him at arm's length. He's grinning. "Easy."
Will flushes, ashamed. "Sorry," he mumbles.
He feels a hot surge of want for Skandar, a need to finally close the gap and be with both of them. He thinks of Alex Mallinson, teaching him how to bring himself off, the older boy with his strong hands and skinny hips, and freckles like Skandar's. It's not gay, Alex had insisted, but Will had burned with shame anyway when he thought of the way Alex had touched him. He wants Skandar to touch him like that, wants it so bad that it actually hurts.
Skandar kisses him, and it's sudden and unexpected and far too gentle, not much more than a peck of lips against lips, and Will clutches at him desperately, holds him close and thrills at the way their damp skin touches, Skandar's bare legs covered in thick dark hair against Will's downy thighs. He needs him, suddenly and powerfully, and he's completely unaware of Georgie standing in the doorway until Skandar pulls back, shoots a sheepish smile behind Will's head.
Georgie, wrapped in Skandar's dressing gown, smiles back, looking almost bemused. She holds up a selection of DVDs. "Do you want to watch a movie?"
Will wants to say no no no, because it feels like something is building and he's so close, so close he can taste it. But Skandar tosses his towel onto the bed, grabs some sweats and says, "Yeah. That sounds good."
Will's heart sinks, but, sitting on the sofa between the two of them watching a movie, having popcorn and red wine for breakfast, he finds that he can wait. They are warm and soft and sleepy like cats, curled against him at either side, and he is wired, awake with want, but willing to simply hold them close for now.
Throughout the day, they nap intermittently, half-heartedly trying to catch up on the night's sleep they missed. They are dropped in on once by Ben, who is going out to Subway to get dinner and wants to know if they need anything. He seems puzzled when Will answers the door in just a t-shirt and boxers and tells him that Skandar and Georgie are sleeping. He assures Ben that they're okay, and thanks him, and he finds that he's almost in a hurry to get rid of him, wanting to go back to the bedroom and snuggle down in bed between Skandar and Georgie. He can't get enough of that, misses it even though he's only been gone a minute.
Ben is about to leave when he turns back suddenly, holding the door open as Will starts to shut it. "Dammit," he says, "I meant to bring you Birdsong."
Will remembers—the play Ben so desperately wants a part in. He'd offered to lend Will the novel it's based on, and Will had agreed, because he wants to support Ben and show his interest in whatever projects he chooses, but if he's honest right now he can't really imagine getting drawn into a book, not when there's so much going on in his real life. He reads books for escapism, and he no longer feels any need to escape.
"I'll bring it round later if I remember," Ben goes on. "Damn, I knew I'd forgotten something."
When Will goes back into the bedroom, Skandar is up, lying on top of the covers with a book in his hands.
"Ben wanted to know if we want tea," Will says. "I said no."
Georgie rolls over, slithers out from under the sheets. "I want tea," she pouts.
"Oh—sorry, I just thought—"
"We have instant noodles," Skandar tells her.
Georgie seems to brighten at this. "Yum," she says, skipping off into the hallway, picking up Susan's coronation dress on the way.
Will takes a moment to be thankful that Ben didn't come any further than the doorway, as Skandar and Georgie are near-naked. In fact, the only item of clothing Skandar is wearing is the cloak that is supposed to go with Susan's dress—a gorgeous navy-blue velvet thing, with an intricately-carved golden clasp at the base of his neck. Georgie couldn't be bothered with it, but Skandar had snatched it up as soon as she brought the costume home.
"You look like a superhero," Georgie had told him, and he had beamed. "A gay superhero, but still."
Will flops down onto the bed beside Skandar now, lies there with his cheek pressed into the mattress and watches him. He's studying, Will thinks, from the looks of the dull book in his hands and the frown on his face—and Will just lies there beside him, basking in the bliss of doing absolutely nothing. Time passes, and they can hear the sound of the TV turned to music channels; that new Black Eyed Peas song, Will thinks, tonight's gonna be a good night. The atmosphere is nice, quiet, relaxed. Will doesn't have anything to do but simply be around the two of them, and that's his favourite kind of evening.
Skandar rolls over onto his front, clearing his throat and frowning even more deeply at the book in his hand. He looks serious, concentrating on the words, and Will watches him, the quick back and forth of his dark eyes.
"Quit it," Skandar mutters.
Will rolls over onto his side, shuffles a little closer. He wants to distract Skandar from his work, but he feels shy about it. He doesn't initiate things—ever, really, but especially with these two. But he has a suspicion that Skandar needs him to, that Skandar is, for once, a little afraid, and maybe all he needs is a push in the right direction. Will leans in, ever so slowly, and rests his head against Skandar's hunched shoulder, his forearm, feels the tension there. He kisses him, very gently, and then just rests, his eyes closed, his forehead pressed to Skandar's skin. He waits a moment, and tries again, a more obvious kiss this time.
Suddenly, Skandar snaps. The book is forgotten and Skandar's hands are suddenly around Will's neck, so quickly and so unexpectedly that Will can barely believe what's happening. He splutters as Skandar holds him down, edging closer, one of his legs hooking over Will's splayed ones.
"I—I'm sorry," Will chokes out, bewildered. It feels like it did in the ocean, like he's drowning, and he tries not to panic.
Skandar says nothing, but his thumb jabs sharply at Will's throat and Will coughs, trying to take in more air and struggling. He doesn't know if he could fight Skandar off, and he's surprised to find that he doesn't want to, wouldn't dare. Skandar clambers on top of him, shuffled and slow, a hot heavy weight on Will's back. He's naked beneath the cloak, and Will can feel the press of Skandar's erection against his thigh, then his arse. He shudders, arousal thrilling through him at the feel of it, and he feels lightheaded, losing oxygen rapidly, vision beginning to ebb out around the edges.
"Boys, boys!" comes a sudden, shocked admonishment from the doorway.
Skandar lets Will go immediately, clambers off him and sits up, wrapping the cloak around himself to hide his state. Will gasps and pants, sucking air gratefully into his lungs, overwhelmed.
"We were just messing around," Skandar says, like a boy lying to his mother.
Georgie raises an eyebrow. "It didn't look like it to me," she says. Her coronation gown hangs off one shoulder, the dress loosely laced-up, and she looks a little flushed and sweaty. Will blinks at her and finds that his vision is a little swimmy. He reaches for his wine from the bedside table, takes a long drink from the glass and wonders if maybe he's had too much already.
"Anyway," says Georgie, "I'd lecture you, but I can't because I'm too excited about my surprise."
"Your surprise?" Skandar enquires.
"I have a surprise." She beckons, and she's grinning, and Will gets to his feet unsteadily to follow her.
The three of them pass the mirror in the hall and Will almost laughs out loud at their reflections—Georgie in her beautiful dress, Skandar in the matching cloak...and Will himself in Skandar's old Narnia franchise t-shirt and some threadbare boxers. He starts to say something about how ridiculous they all look, but then his attention is distracted by what Georgie has made for them. The furniture has been rearranged, and blankets and spare bedding are draped over it all, creating a sort of fort in the middle of the living room. The lights are dimmed and she has lit more of her tealights, spread them out across the coffee table with a fresh bottle of wine opened in the middle.
Skandar lets out a shriek of delight, running forwards with his cloak trailing out behind him as he leaps through the entrance of the den head-first. Will gets closer, sees that Georgie has decked out the inside with even more blankets and sheets, pillows and cushions, and the table lamp from the spare bedroom which gives it a pinkish glow.
"This is amazing," Will says, pulling Georgie close. She's grinning, obviously proud.
"Skandar and I did it once on set when we were little," she tells him, "and all four of us squeezed in and it was the cosiest thing ever. I never wanted to get out."
"Come on, come on," Skandar urges, "and bring the wine."
They settle down, the three of them, Will in the middle and banging his head on the table leg as he tries to lie down and keep from spilling the wine at the same time. He takes a swig from it before anything further can happen to it. He feels safe and happy and warm, the fabric walls of the fort like a protective shield against the rest of the world. He feels like a child, and then he looks from Skandar to Georgie and he feels in love.
"You," he slurs, kissing Georgie on the cheek, "are so beautiful."
"You," Georgie drawls back at him in a teasing imitation, "are so drunk."
Will nods, drunkenly, in agreement. "Yes," he says, and then reflects on this for a moment. "But tomorrow, I will be sober. And you will still be beautiful."
Georgie laughs, stroking his nose. It feels good. Will sort of wants to fall asleep. "If you say so, young William."
He nuzzles her shoulder, and then he wants to kiss her so he does—and it feels so good to be able to do that, still, to want to kiss somebody and to do it and to have them respond, to feel her lips move against his, her smile against his mouth. She draws back before he's ready, though, just smiling at him, shaking her head a little, but not in discouragement—something else, something that Will can't figure out at this moment. Then Georgie's gaze shifts and she's looking over Will's head, at Skandar, and Will turns. He kisses Skandar too, because it feels like Skandar is waiting, and this time Skandar allows it, fully, takes Will by the face and kisses him deep, licking into his mouth.
Georgie's hand snakes over Will's chest, traces the worn lettering on the t-shirt. N-A-R-N-I-A, Will feels her spell out, and he holds Skandar tight as Georgie's fingers travel lower and peel down his boxers. Will finds Skandar hard too, against his thigh, not hidden by the cloak, unashamed. They take Georgie's dress off together, unlace it and bring it over her head, and it happens—finally—Will has both of them, unequivocally and entirely.
It's better than he ever imagined.
Ben knocks on the door a few times. Maybe not enough. He knows this is where Will must be, though. He's not in his own flat—he always tries there first, though it's becoming increasingly pointless and he's invariably greeted by Will's Dad, a little irritated for having his work interrupted. He knocks again, slightly puzzled. Will never leaves a door unanswered, purely out of politeness, and the three of them never seem to go out anymore. It seems especially unlikely that they'd go out at this time in the morning.
There's no answer, though, and a strange feeling is beginning to grow inside of him, an odd sense of unease brought about by the utter quiet on the other side of the door. He doesn't know what to think, but he's concerned, and it's for this reason that he turns the doorknob, finds the door unlocked and enters the room quietly with a deep feeling of foreboding.
The first thing he sees is the mess in the middle of the living room—at least, that's what it looks like from his position, still standing at the entrance to the room. It looks like someone has ransacked the place, and he starts to panic, but as he gets a little closer he realises it's a sort of fort, blankets and sheets draped over furniture to make a den, like kids do. He finds himself smiling in relief. It's sweet, the thought of the three of them doing that together—sometimes he forgets how young they really are.
And then he gets closer, and his stomach turns over.
All he can do is stare. Georgie is sprawled out of the entrance to the den, her head resting against Skandar's foot and her legs intertwined with Will's. The boys are lying beside each other, Will's face buried in Skandar's shoulder as he sleeps. His hand is splayed over Georgie's calf, while Skandar has one arm thrown across Will's stomach and the other dangling over Georgie's hip. All three of them are naked, dishevelled—Georgie's hair matted with sweat and half-obscuring her face, the blankets beneath them rumpled and pillows lying all around them as though they've been tossed aside in a frenzy.
Ben finds himself sinking down into a crouch, his knees almost giving out as he looks at the sight before him. The copy of Birdsong nearly slides out of his sweaty hands and he catches it before it drops onto the floor, not wanting to wake them. He stares for a long, long time. It seems difficult to move, because moving means he must decide what to do next, and he has no idea how to deal with this. And some part of him wants to make sure he's really seeing what he thinks he's seeing, needs time to let it sink in. But it doesn't make any more sense, no matter how long he looks.
They seem peaceful in sleep, and the gentle rise and fall of their chests as they breath is strangely hypnotic. They look comfortable, relaxed together, and maybe that's what's so difficult to grasp. It doesn't feel like there's an easy, appropriate reaction to something like this. There doesn't appear to have been any coercion, though of course it's hard to tell. But Georgie seems so happy, the look on her sleeping face is blissful even. Ben doesn't feel that they need to be reprimanded, can't quite say for sure if they've done anything wrong, but the responsibility handed to him simply by way of coming across them this way distresses him. He thinks of Will and Anna, is sure they would know what to do. But they're not here, and he's the one in charge, and he's never known how to deal with Skandar and Georgie the way they do.
He gets to his feet, shakily, still not taking his eyes off them. He turns the book over in his hands, uncertain, and then, decisively, places it carefully in the center of the coffee table, takes one last dazed look at the naked, sprawled bodies of the young teenagers he was supposed to be looking after, and leaves.
Will is awoken by the sound of a door clicking shut, but it takes him a second to come around, to realise what the sound was and what it meant. A feeling of dread trickles down his spine—the sound was too loud, too close, it must have been their door. He sits up, steadily, pulls away from Skandar and Georgie, lets their limbs drop from him and watches as they resettle themselves, sniffling, sleepy. He sits there, staring blankly ahead of him, for a long moment, fear chilling through him. And then his eyes focus, on a large white something in the middle of the coffee table. It wasn't there before.
He crawls forwards, and he realises what it is before he reaches the table, but doesn't want to believe it. His heart seems to sink and rise into his throat at the same time, and he feels like he might be sick. He stares at the book's cover, the painting of a young man naked and curled in on himself, his head resting against his knees. Birdsong.
In a flash, he grabs for a pair of jeans from the floor, and accidentally knocks the book off the table with his elbow. It falls to the floor with a thud and Will starts, glancing back over his shoulder—but Skandar and Georgie are still fast asleep. He pulls the jeans on hurriedly and runs from the flat with them still undone, racing down the corridor and almost tripping over his own feet in his panicked hurry.
He realises that the main thing he feels is guilt. Shame. Ben must think he's such an idiot, so pathetic, to be so absurdly incapable of separating friendship and sex like this. To get so caught up in Skandar and Georgie that he would allow himself to be found naked with the two of them. His face burns in embarrassment when he thinks what Ben must have seen, and it makes him hate himself.
He stumbles around the corner, stopping short when he sees Ben. Ben is standing in front of the door to his flat, his head against it, eyes staring down at the carpet. And Will feels another painful rush—he didn't think about how this would make Ben feel, how strange and disgusting and shocking it must be for him. He hasn't given Ben a second thought in the past month, has ignored him in favour of Skandar and Georgie, and the guilt thickens, in his blood and his throat and his stomach, making him feel ill.
The first word that Will blurts out is, "Sorry," and then he can't stop saying it, babbling apologies until Ben holds up one slightly shaking hand to silence him.
Ben turns around, slowly, leaning against the door like he needs it to prop himself up. He stares at Will for a moment with an utterly unfathomable expression, his face pale and drawn, and then opens the door and goes inside. Will follows, dreading the lecture he's sure is about to come. He's never coped well with being told off, with punishments. Whenever his parents used to get angry at him, he would just crumple into a ball and cry the instant they raised their voices. Even now, if he does something wrong on set and Michael gets a little bit sharp with him, he has to fight back the tears that sting instinctively.
And the thought of Ben—Ben who has just seen him naked and sleeping, at his most vulnerable, who knows now how weak he is—
"I don't know what to say," Ben says weakly, and Will is alarmed to really see how much this has affected him—the way his voice trembles like that, the close-to-tears smile on his face. The fact that he doesn't even know what to say.
Will supposes he just assumed that Ben would tell somebody. Their parents, perhaps Michael. It just seems like the logical step—get it out in the open, put a stop to it. Maybe they'd be separated when not on set, so as to make sure nothing like this would happen again. But the fact that Ben went straight to his own flat, instead of going to find a parent or staying there to—well, tell them all off, is surprising to say the least.
"I'm not—" starts Ben, and then stops again, rubs his forehead. "I can't—do anything. If you're safe, and you're careful, then...it's not in my power, to do anything."
He looks like he regrets this, but Will doesn't understand it at all—how could it not be in Ben's power? Ben is almost thirty, and he's been something of a guardian to them all since filming began. It's disconcerting to see him so helpless, so lost.
"Georgie's young," Ben says, suddenly, a little sharply. "I know it's only a couple of years' difference between the two of you, but Skandar—" he sighs, looks to the ceiling, hand on his forehead again. "Skandar's eighteen." He shakes his head like he can't quite believe it, and it's strange how he seems to feel so responsible but so powerless at the same time.
"They—they haven't—" Will stammers, because it seems important that Ben knows that, though he knows in his heart that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that Skandar hasn't been inside Georgie, because everything else they've done is probably enough to land him in jail, and a shudder runs through Will at that thought—one he hasn't ever really acknowledged until now, that any kind of sexual relationship between Skandar and Georgie is illegal, and he thinks that Ben can't quite bring himself to say it either.
"I can't," Ben interrupts, holding out his hand again. "I don't want to—" he stops short again, takes a deep breath. "I just worry about them," he says finally. "I feel like this is something we all could have stopped if we'd really paid attention, but nobody wanted to see what was there and..."
He's talking about it like Will had no involvement, as though he just found Skandar and Georgie curled up naked together, as if that's all that matters. And maybe it does, Will thinks. It's sort of irrelevant, maybe, what he's done with the two of them, apart from the fact that he's perhaps intensified their own relationship. And the realisation of that makes his eyes sting. He realises that must be what Ben means—if we'd really paid attention, instead of getting too enamoured with them to see the danger. He feels so stupid, and so sorry, and he doesn't know what he can possibly say to make this better.
"I can't stop you," Ben says, and his voice wavers once again. "Making a big thing of it will only push the two of them closer together. It's better if we don't even tell them that I know."
"Are—are you sure?"
"Yeah." Ben bites his lip, looks off in another direction, and it feels horrible to see him do that, like he can't even bring himself to look at Will anymore. "Yeah. Just, go, okay? They're probably wondering where you are."
Will hesitates. His eyes sting with tears. "I don't—I don't want you to be mad at me." He says it without thinking and it's just pure, painful honesty.
Ben looks back at him, shaking his head. "I'm not mad at you," he says, almost in disbelief. "God, I'm not mad at you, I just—I need some time."
Will nods rapidly, concentrating all his effort on trying not to let his eyes spill over with tears. Suddenly, Ben is embracing him, holding him tight and sure in his arms, and Will nearly breaks down from it—the surprise and the relief and the comfort. It feels like forgiveness.
"You can talk to me, you know," Ben murmurs, "I know I haven't been very—but you can talk to me, if you need to. You know that, right?"
Will mumbles a yes against Ben's shoulder, and Ben pats his back as he lets him go.
Shutting Ben's door behind him, he does up his trousers before he walks back, still feeling the burn of shame, and almost trembling, overwhelmed by so many emotions. He hesitates outside the door of Skandar and Georgie's, wondering if he should go back to his Dad, after all. It's tempting, to run back to a parent for the pure comfort of it, but he doesn't want Skandar and Georgie to worry or get suspicious.
He goes in, and is surprised to see that the two of them are up, Skandar sitting on the kitchen counter eating cereal from the box while Georgie lies on the sofa. Will is relieved to see that the book is in a heap of laundry beside the coffee table, that it's gone unnoticed, but he's surprised that neither of them seem bothered by his absence.
"Frosties?" Skandar offers, holding out the cereal packet.
"Um." Will clears his throat. He feels so flustered, so full of emotion that it might threaten to spill over. "No. Thanks. Um—didn't you wonder where I was?"
Georgie shrugs. "We just figured you went to reassure your Dad that you're still alive." She looks up at him curiously. "Why, where were you?"
"I was reassuring my Dad that I'm still alive," Will lies, thankful for having the excuse handed to him.
Neither of them seem to be listening, and Will stands there by the door as the two of them carry on their conversation as if uninterrupted, bickering a little about the state of Skandar's kitchen. Will feels a strange feeling, creeping down his spine. He thinks about Ben's reaction, what he said. Will wonders if perhaps all he's doing is bringing Skandar and Georgie closer and closer together. He wonders if he's the one who should be doing something about it—Ben seems to think Will is the one who has all the power.
Skandar tosses Georgie a rather wrinkled and bruised apple, and she catches it, scowling at him. Will clears his throat, more because he needs to than because he wants to attract their attention, but they both look at him expectantly anyway, as if to say "...Yes?" and it gives him some sort of opportunity that he thinks he's supposed to take.
"Georgie," he hears himself say.
Mouth full, she replies, "Yeah?"
"Will you..." Will starts, and then stops, feeling stupid, rubbing his forehead with his hand. He shoves his hands into his pockets and looks at her again. "Will you go out with me?"
Georgie swallows. "Go out with you?" she repeats. Will sees her eyes dart to Skandar, but he doesn't want to follow them, doesn't want to see Skandar's reaction.
"You know. On a date." He doesn't like how uncertain he sounds, but it's possibly the first time he's ever actually put forward an idea of his own with the two of them. "Dinner and a movie. That sort of thing."
Georgie grins, looking baffled, and takes another bite of her apple. She looks to Skandar again, and Will hates that, that neither of them seem to be able to do anything without consulting the other. He wonders if they've really done anything without each other for the past few months.
"You don't need his permission," Will says before he has a chance to think it through, and he blushes, immediately worrying that he will have angered Skandar.
"I know, I just," Georgie swallows again, wipes a bit of juice from her chin, "where's all this coming from?"
Will looks down at his feet. "I don't know," he lies. "I just...never get to spend any time with either of you alone." That part is true.
"Are you gonna take Skandar out on a date next?" Georgie laughs.
Will smiles, embarrassed. "I don't know," he says, "maybe."
"In your dreams," chuckles Skandar, tossing the empty cereal packet into the bin and hopping off the counter.
"Where are you going?" Will's Dad asks, a little sharply, just as Will is on his way out of the door the next evening. He didn't expect the question—he's been absent so often lately that he assumed his Dad had stopped wondering or caring.
"Out," he says, without turning back, "with Georgie."
His Dad considers this for a moment in silence. "You're dressed up."
Oh shit, am I? Will thinks, looking down at himself. He's wearing jeans, but he's paired them with a shirt and blazer in a sort of dressy-casual way because if he's honest, he has no idea what one wears on a date and he just took a wild stab in the dark. He turns around, slowly. His Dad has taken off his glasses and is regarding him somewhat suspiciously.
"Will," he says thoughtfully.
"You can tell me, you know," his Dad says, coughing a little awkwardly, "if Georgie is your girlfriend."
It's such a simple proposition that Will is slightly taken aback by how difficult it seems. He realises then that he doesn't know if Georgie is his girlfriend—his relationship with her seems far too much for that, too complicated, too unique and amazing and wonderful. And if she is his girlfriend, is she also Skandar's? Is Skandar their boyfriend? It all seems silly. It goes beyond such words.
But as far as his Dad understands... "Yeah," he says, and he can feel himself blushing as his Dad grins at him, "yeah, Dad, she is."
"All right," he says, satisfied. "Well, have fun!"
"Thanks," Will replies, and is about to leave again when he remembers. "Oh, and Dad? We might stay over at Skandar's again tonight, so I—"
His Dad is frowning now. "Okay," he says, hesitantly, "but maybe tomorrow you and I should sit down and have a little talk."
Will feels a little shudder of dread. He knows what kind of talk his Dad means—man-to-man, father-to-son—and it makes sense. Now that his Dad knows the nature of his and Georgie's relationship (or at least, vaguely), the fact that Will has been spending night after night sleeping in the same flat as her has probably become cause for concern.
"Skandar'll be there," he says, weakly. "Skandar's always there."
His Dad nods. He puts his glasses back on. "Even so."
Will dithers by the door, unsure if this is over or not, but eventually his Dad turns back to the papers spread out on the coffee table and Will takes that as his cue to leave. He knocks on Skandar's door for quite a while before Georgie opens it, trying to fasten a necklace one-handed.
"Here," Will says, stepping inside to do it for her.
She pecks him on the cheek, grinning. "I've never been on a date before. I didn't know what to wear."
"Well—you—you look perfect," Will stammers, blushing.
Georgie takes a little bow, giggling.
"Is Skandar not in?" Will asks, and is disappointed at how quickly he has mentioned him.
"He went out a little while ago. He's in a mood." Georgie wrinkles her nose, grabbing a room key from the counter and stuffing it into her handbag. "I don't wanna talk about him, though."
Will agrees, but it doesn't last long. It's strange just being alone together, without him. At first, Will was excited about that aspect of it—like a jealous child, glad to finally have Georgie to himself for once. They'd had moments together, but just moments, and tonight is an entire evening. But as the time goes by, it begins to feel more and more uncomfortable. It is achingly clear that neither of them are used to being without Skandar, but Georgie in particular—she ends up talking about him a great deal, in fact, because all of her anecdotes involve him, and every topic the conversation lands on can lead back to him somehow.
In some ways, Will doesn't mind it, because as the night goes on it becomes obvious that Skandar is one of the few things the two of them have in common, and the discomfort of the situation is alleviated a little when they speak of him. But it just makes Will more aware of the extent of Skandar and Georgie's attachment, of how unhealthy it might be. Ben's words ring in his ears, and though they remind him that he's doing a good thing, he's helping the two of them—it also makes him feel overwhelmingly guilty, keeping such a secret from Georgie as he sits with her and pretends that everything is fine.
It's easier in the cinema, after their meal, because they don't have to talk. They feel a little bit more like a normal teenage couple as they settle down at the back—though the film they're seeing is Up and the theatre is mostly full of children—and Georgie rests her head on his shoulder, snuggles up to him, and for the first time Will feels like he does actually have a girlfriend. The evening stands in stark contrast to the way they've been spending their time recently—pizza, Coke and a Pixar movie as opposed to wine and weed and group sex—but maybe it's a good thing, to have a change. All night, there isn't a single bet or dare, and Will tries to ignore the faint nagging feeling of something wrong and concentrate on how good it feels just to be with her, pretending there are no complications.
Back home, in the corridor of the flats, Will holds her back when she breezes past one of the doors. The door between his own and Skandar's.
"I want to see your room," he says, quietly, unsure of how she'll react.
"My room is Skandar's room," she says, grinning like he's making a joke.
"No, but—really, I want to see it. I've never seen it."
She hesitates a little longer, twisting her mouth in thought. And then, with a sigh, she opens her bag and begins to rummage around for the room key, finding it in a zipped pocket, clearly almost forgotten about. There's nothing much there, in the flat, and it's almost eerie the way it looks like no one has touched it for months. There are still piles of fresh towels stacked up by the door, nearly causing them to trip up, and the kitchen and living room are practically spotless. It's especially strange when compared to Skandar's, and Ben's, and Will's own flat—all places that look lived in, temporary homes.
Georgie, humming uncomfortably, tosses the key onto the counter and wanders through to the bedroom, running her fingers back through her hair. The bedroom is a little warmer, with a few odd things strewn about it, Georgie's empty suitcase lying in front of the wardrobe. A stuffed toy of a sheep is sitting neatly atop the pillows on the bed.
"Well. Ta-da," says Georgie sarcastically, waving her hands.
"I like it," says Will.
Georgie rolls her eyes.
"No, really. I like it."
And he does—it's kind of nice, in a way, to see a place that is purely Georgie's, untouched by Skandar. Their belongings have merged so much at Skandar's place that it's often difficult to tell what belongs to whom, but here, everything he sees is Georgie's. It's all things that she clearly doesn't need, doesn't use regularly, but for some reason it's still interesting to Will. To see this part of her.
He steps forward, clambers onto the bed. "Can I—?" he says, gesturing to the toy sheep.
Georgie blushes a little. "Uh huh."
Will picks it up, feels the softness of its wool under his fingers. It's sweet to think of Georgie having a stuffed toy in her bed, maybe cuddling it close to her as she sleeps, but he guesses she no longer needed it when she started sleeping with Skandar instead. He flops onto the bed, on his back, lying horizontally across it with the stuffed sheep sitting on his chest.
"Does it have a name?" he asks.
Georgie smiles. She looks a little bemused, and oddly out of place in her own bedroom. "No."
"No?" Will looks at the sheep again. "That's awful. Imagine not having a name."
"I just..." says Georgie, giggling, "I never bothered."
Will isn't quite sure that he believes her. Even he has given his stuffed animals names, and Georgie is a girl who has christened many things while Will has known her—the dog they often pass on their way to set, the ladybird they found in the shower one morning, as well as various inanimate objects.
"I think we should give it one," Will says. "What do you think of Benedict?"
Georgie snorts with laughter. "For a sheep?"
"Sebastian? Theodore? Clarence?"
Georgie shakes her head, still cracking up as she crosses the room.
"No? I quite like Sebastian. Sebastian the sheep. It's got that alliteration thing going on."
"No," giggles Georgie, reaching for the toy.
Will snatches it out of her grasp. "Why not?"
"Well, what do you think?"
"I don't know."
Will tilts his head. "It already has a name, doesn't it?"
"No. Shut up. Just give it here." She's still grinning, but she's blushing again as she leans over him, trying to grab it. She comes round by his head to get closer, stretching over him, and the lacy fabric of her dress tickles his face.
"I'll give it to you if you tell me what it's called."
"Fine," Georgie relents, "he's called Casper."
Will loosens his grip and she leans over, snatching the sheep from his hands. She straightens up, still standing at his head as she holds the toy tenderly to her chest.
"That's not even embarrassing," Will says. "I thought it was going to be, like, Mister Woollyface or something."
Georgie bursts out laughing again, almost doubling over. Will's head rests against her thighs, and, as her laughter slowly fades, she parts them. Just a little, experimentally, as if to see what he might do. He lifts his chin, presses his mouth to white cotton.
"Oh," Georgie gasps.
For a moment, Will is confused. It sounds as though her cry is echoed, and he almost chalks it up to odd acoustics and her soft warm thighs pressed against his ears but then he hears it again—almost a shriek, muffled. Heard through the wall. It's followed by laughter, that of a woman, and then Skandar's. Unmistakeable.
Very, very slowly, Georgie shifts. Shuffles back from him. The sheer flowery fabric of her dress obscures Will's vision as it trails over his face and then he sees her go to the wall, press her ear to it, her face suddenly sombre and pale.
"Georgie?" he says gently.
She hisses at him, holding out a quivering hand. The laughter comes again, and then that cry, and low voices, too indistinct to make out. Will understands Georgie's shock, but at the same time he himself is not surprised. It seems typical of Skandar, but he wouldn't say so.
The sound of music begins to drift through, and it's nothing that Will recognises but suddenly Georgie is banging on the wall with both fists. "HEY," she shouts.
"Georgie, what are you doing?" Will asks, bewildered, stumbling to his feet from the bed and hurrying over to her.
She looks almost feral all of a sudden, her hair half covering her face, her eyes wild and reddened. She shoots him a furious look and continues to pound on the wall, but the music only gets louder until she's sobbing and Will is trying to hold her still.
"You'll hurt yourself," he says, panicked, pulling her arms back from the wall. "Hey. Hey, it's okay."
She collapses into his arms, crying, open and broken and loud, and Will flounders, holding her. He strokes her hair back from her face and tries to keep her on her feet as he leads her to the bed. But when he tries to sit her down she resists, pushing him away. Her face is red and he can't tell if it's from anger or embarrassment, if she's ashamed to let him see her this way.
"Just go," she snaps.
"I'm—I'm worried about y—"
"Just GO, all right?" she shouts, and throws herself down across the bed head-first, burying her face in the pillows.
Will stares helplessly, turning to leave. He looks back once, sees the sobs wracking her body once again as she reaches out, fumbles for the toy sheep and draws it close, holding it tight.
His Dad is up, still working, when he enters his own flat, tired and dazed.
"What was all that racket?" he demands, snatching off his glasses and getting to his feet.
Will rubs his face, wanting nothing more than to go straight to bed without any questions. "Can we talk in the morning?"
"What's going on?" his Dad snaps.
"We had a fight," Will bursts out, "we had a fight, okay? Just leave me alone."
He never talks to his parents like that, and he can see that his Dad is stunned, taken aback. But it seems to do the trick—he nods, faintly, hesitates but says nothing more. Will heads into his bedroom, stripping off as he goes, and then gets into bed, burying himself in the sheets. In the distance, he can hear the sound of Skandar's music, still playing, the same song on a loop until he falls asleep.
He wakes up in the early hours, disoriented. He hasn't slept here for quite a while and he's panicked to find himself alone in the bed, instinctively wondering where the others are and then—then remembering, curling in on himself.
They have work the next day. It's the last week, which Will has known for a while but can't quite bring himself to believe, and maybe it's because so much of filming has gone by in a blur, the acting (mostly) second-nature to him and taking a back seat to everything happening off set. When he thinks back, he remembers more about the moments in between, when the cameras were off, than the scenes themselves. He wonders if it's the same for the others.
Either way, they only have five days left. And then the wrap party. And then their flight back home.
Will doesn't want to think about it. He especially doesn't want to think about it now. As he gets ready, he dreads seeing them all. He imagines Georgie ignoring him, and Skandar too, and the two of them apart, maybe not talking to each other either. They're probably mad at him for his stupid date idea, for splitting them up, and Ben will probably ignore him too in order to avoid the awkwardness of their situation. It's amazing, Will thinks, how quickly things have changed. And all because of him, he's sure. Making that simple suggestion, just wanting to take Georgie out, let her know that she can exist without Skandar. And maybe she can't, and maybe he should have known that, or let her decide for herself instead of pushing it, making Skandar retaliate.
He thinks of the other night, trying to push aside the stab of shame as he instantly imagines Ben seeing the aftermath—he remembers being between the two of them, feeling their hands and mouths on him, and touching and tasting them too, everything coming so naturally, smooth and seamless and perfect...and how quickly it's been fractured, how quickly it will fall apart.
Skandar and Georgie are late onto set. Michael is more stressed than usual with only a few days to go, and the tension is almost unbearable. Will and Ben are silent, being dressed in the costume tent as Michael paces outside. They can hear him muttering angrily to people. Will has been avoiding Ben's eyes, but their gazes meet by mistake, and before Will has a chance to look away again Ben is rolling his eyes, shooting a look outside. He screws up his face in a grimace, a startlingly good impression of Michael, and Will cracks up. Outside, Michael is talking louder now and very sternly, though they can't work out what he's saying.
"We've got one more scene to do, and five whole days," Ben whispers, sighing, "you wouldn't think that'd be cause for stress."
Will grins at him, feeling the relief flood his body—and then there's a swish of fabric and they turn to see Skandar and Georgie arrive, looking just a little bit guilty. Will is surprised to see that their arms are linked, and that when they spot him, they smile. He smiles back, heart giving a little hopeful flutter in his chest. Ben looks a little more concerned.
"Where were you, then?" he says, and maybe it's not that noticeable to anyone else but Will can sense something strange in his voice, a hint of pretence. Ben is a wonderful actor, and maybe Will's imagining it, but it sounds a little bit like he's trying to cover his concern, pretend he doesn't know as much about their relationship as he does. "We thought Michael was going to explode."
Georgie wrinkles her nose. "Messy," she says, ignoring the question.
Before, Will is sure Ben would have pressed on, urged an answer, but now—now he lets it go.
The day goes well. It seems that Skandar and Georgie have made up, and are more than willing to forgive Will, though they don't act as though last night didn't happen. In fact, between takes, Skandar nudges Will in the ribs and says, "So how was your date last night?"
He sounds mocking, and it's something more than playful teasing. Will wonders if Georgie told him all about it, made it sound awful, and Skandar's now making fun of Will for asking her out in the first place.
"It was okay," he says noncommittally.
"What's this?" Ben asks.
"Will and Georgie went on a date."
Ben gives Will a surprised little half-smile. "You did?" Will nods. "Well well."
"That's it?" Georgie asks. "No relentless teasing?"
Ben prods her on the nose. "I'm saving it for my best man speech at the wedding."
"Oh god," Georgie groans, burying her face in her hands.
Ben shoots Will a look, and he seems oddly thankful, and Will wonders if he should tell him later how the date really went, how it ended with Georgie sobbing over Skandar and how it may have done nothing but re-establish their closeness, remind them just how much they need and love each other. For now, he just nods, and Ben seems satisfied, reassured. Will doesn't want to worry him any further.
Will goes straight to Skandar and Georgie's after work, on their invitation. He enters the flat almost warily, as though afraid of what might have changed. The fort is gone, dismantled, the furniture back in its usual places. Things in general look a little neater, but something seems out of place and it takes Will a moment to pinpoint it, and then to fully recognise it. Draped over a hook by the door is a blue silky scarf, patterned with birds. It seems extremely familiar, but Will is sure he's never seen Georgie wear it—and then he remembers the photo, the Polaroid of the red-haired make-up girl kissing Skandar's cheek. He remembers the woman's laughter through the wall and he looks at Georgie, wondering if she's seen it, if she knows—
Quick as a flash, while Georgie's back is turned, Skandar grabs the scarf from the hook and stuffs it into the pocket of a coat that's hanging by the door as well. He grins sheepishly at Will, and Will, uncomfortable, doesn't return the smile. He's surprised to find that he's not just feeling sorry for Georgie, but he himself is hurt. It feels strange to think of someone else being in this flat. He feels possessive, betrayed—he's begun to think of it as theirs, and he wonders if Skandar slept with her here, in his bed. The bed the three of them share.
But even as he hurts, he wants to go back to that bed now, wants to take the two of them by the hand and lead them there and get under the covers and make it up to each other. Like nothing ever happened. Forget that Ben saw them, forget Ben's concerns, forget risk and danger and laws and rules. The three of them together, that's how it should be. That's when Will is at his happiest.
Georgie is stalking around the room in a way that suggests to Will that she too senses something different. The other woman's presence. It seems to matter, even though they knew she was here and they know that she's gone—something has changed.
Skandar crosses the room, intercepts her path. Takes her in his arms. He breathes something in his ear, maybe sorry, and she seems to melt against him, her face softening instantly.
He gestures for Will behind her back, and Will locks the door behind them and comes close, lets himself be enveloped by them.
"Come to bed," Skandar whispers this time, and they do.
"Why? Why do you need this?"
It's five days later, and Will feels angry at them like he never has before. He would never usually lash out, and maybe it's a sign of how close to them he's become, that he feels able to do this. And he's just so frustrated, he can't not speak up.
"Is it too boring otherwise? Isn't it enough just to—"
"Hey, chill," Georgie says, tossing back her hair and taking another slurp of her drink—the one Bacardi Breezer she has been allowed for the party. It is luridly orange and she's drinking it through a straw stuck in the bottle. "It's just a game."
"Yeah, if you're too chicken then whatever," Skandar adds, rolling his eyes as he leans against the wall. "We can go do it on our own."
Will hasn't backed down from a single bet, a single dare, since he met them, and he still can't say no to them now. Can't lose them. But it's infuriating that they feel the need to keep doing this; it feels like they're testing his loyalty and he's shown again and again that it's unwavering. He understood at first, he thinks—the game was an excuse, to do things they wouldn't have had the nerve to do otherwise. But for the past few days things have felt secure, almost perfect, and Will doesn't understand why that's not enough for them, why they need the risk and the excitement. It makes him feel like he's not enough.
Will swallows. "What are we going to do?" he asks.
Skandar smirks, picking up on the we and triumphant. "I dunno," he shrugs. "But there's been a dire lack of pranks played this time around and we need to remedy that."
The dare put forward was to sneak into Ben's room, but so far they haven't really elaborated as to why. Georgie has already managed to acquire Ben's key through some sort of distraction technique, and she's now dangling it in her other hand. Will doesn't want to do this. He doesn't want them to do it either, doesn't want them to be playing games anymore, but most of all he just doesn't want to sneak into Ben's room. It doesn't seem right, when Ben's shown him such kindness and understanding, kept their secret and made such an effort to keep the group dynamic the same.
But maybe it'll just be something small and silly, and maybe he's making too much of a big deal out of it. Maybe Ben will find it funny, whatever it is that they do, and it'll become an amusing anecdote to tell people about when they're promoting the film.
So he says "Fine," and the three of them slip out, Georgie still with her Bacardi Breezer, savouring it. They've rented out a pub for the wrap party, and it's just down the road from the condos, so it's a quick walk. Georgie tosses the key to Skandar and sips on her drink as he unlocks Ben's door. Will feels another stab of guilt as they walk in—Georgie skipping ahead as Skandar helps himself to some crisps from an open packet on the counter.
They wander through to Ben's bedroom, and the two of them start absentmindedly snooping.
"Do you even have a plan?" Will can't help but ask, a little sharply.
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking," Skandar says. "A good prank takes lots of forethought."
Will holds his tongue, wanting to ask why, exactly, then, they're in Ben's bedroom seemingly without any forethought at all.
"Let's call this research," Georgie adds, and then, opening drawers in the bedside table, suddenly squeals. "Oh my god!"
"What is it? A drawer full of condoms?" Skandar asks.
Georgie holds up a book, giggling. "Ben keeps a diary, you guys!"
Will hurries over, instinct taking over as he takes the book from her hands. It's small, black, with little gold letters on the front spelling out the word 'journal'. His heart begins to pound. Of course, he trusted that Ben would not reveal their secret to anybody—but to write it down in a book of private thoughts is something else. Something far more plausible.
"Yeah, right," Skandar snorts from the other side of the room, disinterested, picking through the things scattered across Ben's dresser.
"Seriously," Georgie says, crossly, trying to take the book back from Will to show Skandar—but Will holds onto it tightly, not letting her. Wondering what it contains. "It says 'journal' on it, Skandar. It's a diary."
"He probably just uses it as a notebook or something," Skandar replies, but he's curious now, turning around.
"Well, let's open it and see," Georgie says, slowly, like she's talking to a couple of idiots, and tries once again to tug the book from Will's hands. She laughs at the resistance. "What?"
"We shouldn't," Will says, quietly, not meeting their eyes. "I mean, it's private."
Georgie rolls her eyes. "Oh yeah, like Ben has that many secrets."
Will frowns. "It doesn't matter, it's not our business."
"God, you're so boring," Georgie whines, and Will is hurt by the suddenness of it, the ease of the insult slipping from her tongue. "Let's just open one page and see if it is a diary. I'm not saying we have to read the whole thing."
"Yeah, just one page," Skandar speaks up, coming over to them now, curiosity growing. He exchanges a look with Georgie, one of those looks that tells Will they're having some silent, shared idea.
"Give it here," Georgie says, gesturing.
Will perches on the bed with it, shaking his head.
Georgie rolls her eyes and crouches down in front of him, looking up with big pleading eyes. "C'mon," she says. He shakes his head again, clutching the book more tightly and avoiding her gaze, like a sullen child. Georgie sighs. "Fine," she says, relenting, "fine, I promise I won't read anything. Just give it here." A pause. "Don't you trust me?"
And Will realises, then, with shocking, painful clarity—that he doesn't. He doesn't trust either of them. He loves them, fiercely, foolishly, passionately, but he does not trust them. And the sudden realisation makes him hesitate, makes his fingers go slack around the book, and then Georgie is snatching it from him with a triumphant "ha!", oblivious to his terrible revelation.
Holding the book away from her, the pages facing him, she flicks through it. Will can't help but look, and sees that it's filled with Ben's handwriting in blue biro, cramped uppercase and scribbled dates.
"Well?" Skandar asks, impatient.
"It's a diary," Will says, defeated.
Georgie makes another triumphant noise and then stops her flicking of the pages, landing on one somewhere near the middle.
"Georgie," Will pleads, "don't read it."
"I'm not going to," Georgie says, a twinkle in her eye, "you are, young William."
Will's heart flutters. "M-me?" he stammers. "Why?"
"Because it's a dare," Skandar steps in, smirking as he sinks down onto the floor beside Georgie, the two of them looking up at him like children waiting for a bedtime story.
Georgie places the open book on Will's lap, and his eyes flicker down to it. Maybe he can do this after all, he thinks, maybe it'll just be an entry about something that happened on set, a completely innocent and boring retelling of the day's events. But then he looks closer, and his heart sinks as he skims the two pages, catching glimpses. His own name, Skandar's, Georgie's—snippets of sentences about sex and worry and the fierce, insular attachment of the three of them—
He moves to shut the book, face burning, but Skandar is quicker, grabbing it from his lap before he has a chance to stop him. Grinning, shaking his head, ignoring Will's frantic protests, he looks down at the open diary. Will's heart sinks into the pit of his stomach, and he sees the way Skandar's smile fades, slow and painful, the way his face falls as his eyes dart back and forth across the pages. All he can do is stare. Georgie is growing more concerned.
"What? What is it, Skandar?" she asks, serious now, her lips frozen against the straw in her drink. She looks pale and worried. "Is something wrong with Ben?"
Face set, mouth a hard line, Skandar thrusts the book aside, sends it skidding across the floor. He stares at Will, unblinking, and Will has never seen him so furious—it looks as though he's too angry to even do anything, his whole body thrumming with it. Georgie quietly puts her drink aside, crawls across the floor to the book and leans down over it on all fours. There is a flicking of pages, and then silence. The silence aches, and then is suddenly broken.
Down the hall, a door clicks.
Will buries his face in his hands, unable to deal with it anymore—the anticipation, Skandar's expression, Georgie's discovery. The footsteps stop and he senses Ben's arrival at the doorway. He hears a shaky inhale of breath, and then the sudden outburst, Georgie crying noisily and painfully. Through his fingers, he sees her still doubled over the diary, sobbing with all her heart. Ben goes to her, rushing across the room and knocking over her drink as he crouches down and cradles her in his arms, hands smoothing her hair. The drink spills out over his carpet and he doesn't seem to notice or care, just shushes her, murmuring it's okay. Will wonders how he can do that—lie so easily, so casually, when everything is going up in flames.
Will looks up slowly, terrified, and sees Skandar still staring at him. He can't quite imagine what Skandar feels—the same sick shame Will felt, perhaps, when he discovered that Ben knew, but made all the worse by the knowledge that Will kept it all from him.
He's startled to realise his face is wet, to realise that Georgie isn't the only one crying, that tears are streaming uncontrollably from his own eyes. An expression of something like disgust crosses Skandar's face.
"I'm sorry," Will blurts, and it comes out weak and watery, blubbered through his tears, pathetic. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry."
Skandar is leaping up so quickly that Will doesn't have a chance to process it—suddenly his whole face is lit up with pain and he's crumpled on Ben's bed. Ben is shouting, and Will's never heard him sound like that, livid, scolding Skandar, and it makes Will want to curl up and sob even though it's not directed at him. He realises, then, his hand pressed against his throbbing cheek, that Skandar hit him, and something twists in his stomach, the burning sting of regret. He just wants it all to stop, wants to turn back time, tell them, lock the door, do something—anything—different, to prevent this outcome.
Ben is helping him up, trying to pry Will's hand from his sore face to see the damage. He's murmuring something and Will can't even take it in. Skandar is yelling, Will thinks, but it could just be his own thoughts screaming at him, because everything he's saying is what Will is telling himself. He catches sight of Georgie, and the hurt in her eyes makes him want Skandar to hit him a second time. His heart is pounding so loud it's deafening, making his head ache, and it seems like every part of him hurts, inside and out.
There's a shout, a cheery sort of call, and he realises slowly that the pounding sound isn't just his own heartbeat—someone is knocking on Ben's door. Ben swears. Will looks at him, properly, and then wishes he hadn't. Ben looks utterly broken, lost, strung-out, helpless, and the new wave of guilt this brings almost knocks Will off his feet entirely.
"Shut up for a second, Skandar," Ben snaps. "Go tell whoever that is that we'll be back in a minute, and then get me some ice from the freezer."
There's a moment of stunned silence, and then Skandar spits, "Are you fucking serious?"
Ben turns, quietly furious. "Yes," he says.
Skandar is speechless, and they're too late—the door clicks once again, a voice calls out, the footsteps come a second time. And this time Will can't take it. He wrestles himself free from Ben's arms and runs, pushing past Michael on the way.
He doesn't stop until he reaches his bed, and even when he's lying face-down in it, his feet are still moving, thrashing and kicking, and he's screaming into his pillows, his world coming down around him.
It seems endless, but eventually his Dad comes in, up from the party. Will's head is throbbing, and he can't tell if it's from crying or from Skandar's fist.
"William," his Dad says sharply, but then he softens when he sees the state Will is in, and he goes to him, and Will hugs his father tightly without embarrassment, just needing him.
"I heard you got into an altercation with Skandar," his Dad says after a long moment, awkwardly patting at Will's shoulder. Will isn't sure what 'altercation' means, but he nods anyway. "Ben says Skandar and Georgie wanted to play a prank on him, and that you refused. Is that right?"
Will can do nothing but nod again. His whole body feels heavy, weighed down. He just wants to know how to make it all better, and he has the horrible feeling that it's too late for that.
"Well, I don't think that's anything to be so upset about," his Dad says, sounding a little bit confused. "You did the right thing."
Will shakes his head. He's glad that Ben covered for them, endlessly thankful, but he wishes his story hadn't painted Skandar and Georgie as the ones in the wrong.
"I'm going to get you some ice for that, okay?"
He gently eases out of Will's grip, heading into the kitchen, and Will wishes his Dad understood that he deserved that punch, that he deserves every bit of pain that it's bringing him. That he ought to take it again and again until he's paid them back for his betrayal. His eyes sting again but he can't cry, too tired, out of tears. When his Dad returns with ice cubes wrapped in paper towel, Will is crumpled on the bed, holding his pillows tightly. His Dad sighs softly, sits down beside him and gently presses the ice to his cheekbone. Will winces, but allows it.
"Did you and Georgie break up?" his Dad asks quietly.
Will nods, weakly. He can see the sympathy on his father's face and he doesn't think he deserves it. "I think..." his voice crumbles, "I think they both hate me, Dad."
He expects pointless reassurance, his Dad telling him no one could ever hate him or suggesting apologies and presents. But maybe his Dad's seen the two of them, maybe he knows that Will is right, because all he does is look thoughtful and sad for a moment.
Then he says, "At least you don't have to see them until the movie comes out."
And Will aches even more at that, because even if they despise him he wants to be with them, and the thought of never really being with them again, never touching them or kissing them again, going without them for months and then only seeing them to promote the movie—it absolutely breaks his heart.
In the morning, at the airport, they ignore him, and it's just as awful as he imagined. Worse, maybe. Ben tries to play mediator, but quickly gives up on the impossible task. He talks to Will, though, more than he talks to them—trying to be cheerful, perhaps reassuring Will that at the very least, he still has him. But it's not enough, and Will is in pain every time he looks at them, curled up together as close as the airport seats allow and not even looking that miserable, just wrapped up in each other once again. It reminds Will so much of how things used to be, at the beginning, how he used to see them together like that and wish he could go over and speak to them. The fact that he's back where he started, after everything they've been through, is almost too much to bear.
He excuses himself and goes to the toilets, staring blankly at his own face in the mirror, his blossoming black eye. When he comes out, he spots Skandar and Georgie in a quiet alcove by the window, Skandar's arm around Georgie as they watch the planes taking off.
He's scared to go over to them, but his legs seem to take him there of their own accord, as though even now he's still drawn to them uncontrollably.
Skandar spots him first. "Don't, Will, okay? We don't want to talk to you."
"I just—just, listen, okay, hear me out," Will begs. Neither of them protest, but Georgie's arms are folded defensively and Skandar's holding her close almost protectively and the way they seem united against him is so horrible, so hurtful. "I'm sorry," he says, taking a deep breath, "it was—it was Ben who told me not to tell you—" Georgie scoffs at this. "—but I'm not blaming him, I just—it wasn't entirely my decision but I know I shouldn't have kept a secret from you and if I could go back and do it differently I promise I would—I just want—" his voice quivers, breaks, "I want it to be the three of us again."
Skandar shakes his head. Keeps shaking it. Will, trembling, takes Skandar's hand, brings it to his own face, lets Skandar's knuckles touch the swollen part of his cheek where the bruise is.
"Feel this?" he says. Skandar snatches his hand back angrily. Their flight is being called over the tannoy. "That's—we don't fight, we—" he knows how stupid it sounds, but he doesn't care, "we love. We do this," he takes Georgie, kisses her firmly on the mouth, and Skandar shouts, grabbing him by the jacket and forcing him away from her. Will kisses him too, desperately, and gets pushed away. "Please," he begs, "please, tell me what I can do to fix this."
"Nothing," Skandar bites out, taking Georgie by the hand.
Will looks at her, pleadingly, and she just shakes her head at him, her eyes sorrowful but her mouth sure, a firm straight line as she squeezes Skandar's hand tightly. They turn their backs on him, and Will slumps against the wall, watches them go. After today, he won't see them for at least a year. He can't stand it, can't stand it. And it all seems so easy for them, to just cut him out of their lives without a second thought. Maybe that's what hurts the most; the realisation that perhaps they never felt the same way after all, that Will was fooling himself all along to think he could ever be as important to them as they are to each other.
He had longed for their friendship. He had been given more than he bargained for. And now—now he has nothing.