hardparade: (will & skandar)
[personal profile] hardparade
Title: the night starts here (8a/?)
Author: likecharity
Pairing: Will/Skandar/Anna
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Real person slash and het
Summary: They've been apart for much longer than this before, but not since they started sleeping together, and even though Will's still not sure how to define what they are to each other now, it's clearly added some further intimacy to their relationship that has made it a much bigger deal to be separated. And—judging by the way Will's heart is currently hammering away in his chest as though it's trying to break right out—it's made it a much bigger deal to be reunited, as well.
A/N: It has literally been four years since I updated this story. I am so so sorry. If you are still interested then I actually love you. I do. I especially love [livejournal.com profile] prunesquallormd for taking the time to beta this for me, thank you so much!! You can also read this here on AO3.
[Part 1. ¦ Part 2. ¦ Part 3. ¦ Part 4. ¦ Part 5. ¦ Part 6. ¦ Part 7a & Part 7b. ¦ Part 8a & Part 8b. ¦ TBC]

(Additional note: In this 'verse, the filming of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader takes place about a year earlier than it did in real life. This is because I wrote a lot of this before certain things had actually happened and am now constricted by a pre-existing timeline. The events of the story so far have taken part during summer 2008, and Dawn Treader begins filming only a few months after the premiere of Prince Caspian. Let's just say that everyone was SUPER ORGANISED in this 'verse and therefore filming didn't keep getting delayed?)


"I miss Skandar," says Anna in a pathetic voice, pouting as she snuggles up closer to Will on the sofa.

"Me too," replies Will in an equally pathetic voice, reaching out to put his arm around her, stroking her shoulder gently. He's pretty sure that neither of them are paying the slightest bit of attention to the re-run of QI that's on TV.

"I miss how he always answers the questions before any of the panellists get a chance because he's seen all the episodes like a million times," Anna goes on, whinily.

"Me too," Will agrees, equally whiny, and is surprised to realise that it's true—he does miss that, even though he's sure he always used to find it incredibly annoying. It's two months, one week, and three days into the official shooting of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and a whole seventy-six days since they last saw Skandar, and Will is forced to admit that the situation is getting pretty dire.

He and Anna have probably been seeing too much of each other lately, seeking comfort in one another's company and the fact that they know they're both in exactly the same situation. Anna's just started her last year of university so she's got that to keep her busy, at least, but she's coming to visit whenever she can, and there've been the odd days when Will's felt especially lonely and travelled to Oxford to surprise her with a visit. It's probably not the smartest plan, he'll admit, because most of the time all it does is just make them miss Skandar more. Not to mention the fact that there are certain ways they're not actually allowed to comfort each other, and it's getting increasingly difficult to pretend like that's not a struggle.

Anna sighs dramatically, reaching for the remote and switching off the TV while Stephen Fry is halfway through a sentence about something that Will doesn't understand and Skandar probably would.

"Maybe we should ring him," she says.

"What time is it there?"

They do the maths quickly. After all, they've been converting time zones for phone calls since they were teenagers. (Although, Will realises with a pang in his heart, he's used to doing this from the other end.)

"He's probably not on set yet," Anna says, when they've both arrived at 'early tomorrow morning' as their answer.

"You should really get Skype," Will tells her as he dials Skandar's mobile number. "It makes such a difference being able to actually see his face."

Anna gives him a Look. "Oh, really?" she says. "I hope you two aren't having...webcam sex or something. That's against The Rules, you know."

Will even hears the capitalisation in her voice. "Yes Ma'am," he teases, saluting at her.

"Hello?"

A groggy voice interrupts the ringing on the other end of the phone and Will settles back, grinning. "Hi! It's us."

He sees the way Anna's eyes light up as she realises the call's been answered, and she leans in close to hear. (For a moment, Will considers suggesting speakerphone, but having Anna curled up against him like this is really rather nice, so he doesn't.)

"Hello," says Skandar happily, already sounding a little less like he just woke up. "This is a nice alarm clock. I have to be on set in like...soon."

"You're welcome, then," Will grins. "How's it going?"

"It's fine," Skandar replies, and then adds with unexpected ease, "I miss you though."

"I miss you too."

"Me too!" Anna chips in.

"Hi Anna!" Skandar laughs. "Can she hear me?" he asks Will. "Tell her to get Skype."

"I did," Will says, giving Anna an I-told-you-so look as she rolls her eyes at the both of them. "She's worried we're having webcam sex."

"Ooh, good idea."

Anna gasps in mock-offense. "Hey!"

"Just kidding, just kidding. Rules. I remember." There's a pause, and a sort of shuffling sound in the background. "Although, is there anything about threeway phone sex in those rules, because I happen to be half-naked right now, and that's—"

"Isn't it like 7 o'clock in the morning?" Will interrupts.

"That's never stopped me before."

"True."

"But," Skandar says, and Will can hear the sly smile in his voice, "if you don't want to hear about how I'm getting out of bed right now and the only thing I'm wearing is those boxers that are kind of old and getting way too small...then that's fine."

"Not those grey stripey ones," says Anna, aghast. "You need to buy underwear more often."

Skandar laughs. Will's heart aches a little bit at the deep warm sound of it, making him miss him just that little bit more. "Not really the reaction I was going for, but point taken." Another pause. "I'm stretching now, by the way. If you want to picture that."

Will grins at Anna. He knows they're both imagining it despite themselves.

"Yes, yes, very nice," Will says. "We're still on for next week, by the way. Although we haven't gotten our scripts yet, I don't know if you want to mention that to somebody."

"Do you even have any lines?" Skandar asks. "I thought it was just one of those imagined, flashback-y scenes."

Will and Anna exchange a look.

"You haven't actually read the whole script yet, have you," Anna says.

"Maybe?" Skandar sounds sheepish.

Will laughs. "Some things never change," he teases.

"When you come," Skandar says, ignoring him, "d'you suppose it'll look suspicious if the three of us share a room?"

"Um, perhaps a little," Anna says, leaning in again to speak, inches from Will's face and smiling.

"Damn," says Skandar. "We're going to need to work out some kind of system, then, because I seriously can't go much longer without, you know." He stops abruptly, seeming suddenly embarrassed. "You guys."

"I take it you've been reaquainting yourself with your right hand," Will smirks.

"Like we can talk!" Anna laughs, jabbing him in the stomach.

"No, us too," Will says into the phone, reassuringly. "It is hard."

"Oh, is it?" Skandar replies somewhat lecherously, causing Anna to go into fits of giggles. "Maybe I know how you feel. Maybe I'm fighting the urge to, er, relieve that urge right now."

"It's 7 o'clock in the morning!" Anna reminds him, laughing. Will knows that she usually needs a bit more time to get going in the morning, so she's always surprised when the boys are raring to go from the moment they wake up.

"You keep saying that," Skandar says thoughtfully. "Is it true? Because I'm sure I'm supposed to be on set by 7 today..."

Will and Anna both mentally do the maths once again, arriving at the same answer as before. Will's just about to inform Skandar of this, or maybe tell him to look at a clock or something, when Skandar swears.

"Oh look at that," he says, "I have another call coming through."

"Shocking," Anna grins.

There's some more shuffling around and then Skandar says, sounding slightly out of breath, "If you like, you can imagine that I'm getting dressed right now."

"Somewhat frantically, it sounds like," Anna adds.

"You could say that. It's not particularly sexy," he admits, and then there's a loud thump which is presumably him walking into and/or tripping over something as if to prove his point.

"We should go, maybe," Will says.

"Maybe they should just let me carry around my mobile all day and talk to you," Skandar counters.

"I'd like to see them explain that in the film," Anna says, but her smile has faded now and she looks sad and serious.

"I'd also like to see you pay for the phone bill," Will adds.

"Ugh," Skandar groans, sleepy and stressed. Will can hear knocking in the background. "You two and your practical...ness." Louder knocking. "JUST A MINUTE."

"We're gonna go," Will says. He grins at Anna, and gets a grin back.

"Ring again soon?" Skandar asks hopefully.

"If we haven't died from sexual frustration," Anna affirms.

Skandar chuckles. "I know how you feel," he says, and then suddenly, "YES OKAY I'M COMING," so loudly that Will and Anna both recoil from the phone.

"Um. Bye then?" Will says tentatively.

"Bye!" comes Skandar's voice, more cheerful now and at a more acceptable volume.

"Bye!" Anna echos, just before Will ends the call.

They both sigh in unison, flopping against the back of the sofa. The room feels horribly empty now that Skandar's voice has gone and they're reminded of just how far away he is.

Anna takes the phone from Will's hand and tosses it aside before curling up against him and pulling his arms around herself. "I miss him," she moans.

"Me too," Will says, stroking her hip gently and realising that calling him really hasn't done much to make them feel any different. It never does, he supposes, but of course they still need to keep in touch. They feel like they're missing so much, being so far away—they even missed Skandar's 17th birthday, which happened shortly after everybody left, and Will is still beating himself up about that even though it was out of his control. He only managed a quick Skype call in the evening, Skandar tipsy and distracted, Ben and Georgie and Will P. laughing raucously in the background and making Will feel even further away.

Anna makes a noise that sounds sort of like "blargh" and then adds, "Maybe we should just go to bed. I don't really feel like doing anything else. Can I sleep in your room this time? I'm sick of the sofa." They'd decided early on that when visiting each other, it was probably better not to share a bed, lest they end up tempted to break The Rules. (Will thought it was perhaps a little over-cautious, but Anna insisted it was better to be safe than sorry.)

"My sofa's not as bad as your sofa," Will tells her. "Your sofa is all lumpy and my legs stick off the end of it."

"Well, your sofa still bears faint traces of semen from That One Incident," Anna retorts, and Will supposes that's probably a fair comeback. "Anyway, I didn't mean it as an personal attack on your furniture, I just—"

"No, I know," Will interrupts with a sigh. He doesn't want them to be apart tonight either, needing her presence despite the fact that it causes difficulties. "Yeah, you can," he says, "it'll be okay for just one night."

On their way to the bedroom, they pass the calendar hanging in the hall, and Will looks at it wistfully. He's been marking off the days with crosses, counting down until their flight. There are only nine blank squares left until the ones that have QUEENSLAND!!! scrawled excitedly across them in purple gel-pen, but right now those nine squares look like a vast, gaping expanse of nothingness.

Once in Will's room, Anna flops onto the bed face-first. She lies there for a moment and then turns to one side. "Missing people is dumb," she announces. "Who invented it? I hate them."

Will laughs. "I don't know," he says. "Some sadist."

"I also hate whoever decided Australia should be so far away," Anna adds. "And C.S. Lewis for not writing Susan and Peter into all the books. And—"

"I think I see where you're going with this," Will says.

Anna reaches out for him weakly. "Come mope with me."

"Well, you are making it look awfully fun," Will teases, but goes ahead and lets himself collapse on the bed beside her anyway.

"You're moping on my arm," Anna says after a moment. "It's going numb."

"Oh. Sorry." Will flops over onto his back, and lies there staring up at the ceiling. He's not very good at moping; it involves too much staying still. "What would cheer you up right now?" he asks, rolling onto his side now so he and Anna are facing each other.

"Seeing Skandar," she says flatly. "Duh."

Will figures he should have expected that. "Okay, after that. Like, what would be the second thing most likely to cheer you up?"

Anna considers this for a few seconds and then says, "Chocolate. But you don't have any. I already checked."

Will sighs. Okay, one more try. "Third thing?"

Anna makes a face, a sort of reluctant twisty smile. "Sex," she admits, and Will's lips curl into a smile too. "But I can't have that either." She turns her face into the mattress again and mumbles something that sounds like, "Everything is the worst."

Will deliberates for a moment. Surely there is a way to make her feel better, to make them both feel better. He doesn't want to just lie here watching her be miserable. "Well," he says eventually, "you can't have sex with me, and you can't have sex with Skandar obviously, but...you can have sex with yourself."

Anna doesn't react right away. Then she turns her head slowly back to look at him. "Actually, that's not a bad idea." She smiles bashfully. "That has been known to cheer me up. Especially lately."

There's a pause.

"Although, are we—I mean—what do the rules say about doing that in the same room as each other?" Will asks hesitantly. "Like, isn't that kind of similar to webcam sex, technically, only maybe even worse because of physical proximity?"

"I'm adding 'The Rules' to the list of things I hate," Anna announces, and then sits up suddenly, seeming to have regained a bit of her usual businesslike demeanor. "How about we do it but we don't look at each other?"

Will thinks that sounds next to impossible, but at this point he's desperate—to cheer Anna up, to cheer himself up, and above all to work out some of this insane sexual tension they've both been struggling with ever since Skandar left.

"Deal," he says, and pulls his shirt up over his head, grinning. He's pleased to see that she's grinning back at him, though she's not following his lead and pulling off her own shirt. It's one of Skandar's, actually, that she nicked before he left and insists on wearing more often than is strictly appropriate, even though it fits her terribly, her boobs stretching out the print across the chest and her hips making the hem uncomfortably tight. But it's his, and that's the point. Will gets it. He might wear it on occasion too, if she happens to leave it behind at his flat and he can't be bothered picking out something else to wear. He suspects that if they had the chance, they'd go ransack his house and come back with armfuls of his clothes, but his parents would probably find that a little odd.

Anyway, clearly she doesn't want to take the t-shirt off right now, but she does start wriggling out of the leggings she's wearing underneath it, so Will goes to take off his sweatpants too, kicking them off into a heap on the floor. He tucks his fingers into the waistband of his boxers, to pull them down too, but Anna holds out a hand. "Wait, maybe, uh. Maybe we should keep our underwear on." She swallows. "It just. Might be too tempting otherwise, is all."

Will looks down at the slightly faded knickers she's wearing that have a pattern of Bambi on them. Perhaps not the sexiest thing in the world, but it's been so long, and he can see a little glimpse of her pubic hair peeking out from the edges of the elastic, and the beginnings of a little damp patch between, and already his breath is coming shorter and he's starting to get hard.

"Y-yeah," he agrees. "Yeah, okay. Underwear stays on."

They settle back on the pillows, knees up and knocking against each other as they get comfortable, and Anna tugs the t-shirt up a little, wrapping the fabric around her hand. Will turns and presses a kiss to her shoulder, inhaling—the t-shirt can't possibly still smell like Skandar anymore, but he imagines that it does, and nuzzles against the soft cotton for a moment and sighs. He's still like that, resting against Anna's shoulder, when he realises she's sliding her hand down the front of her knickers, and he can see the way her fingers are moving beneath the faded material, and something twists suddenly and not unpleasantly in the pit of his stomach at the sight.

God, I really want you, he thinks of saying, but swallows the words back down, shifting away from her and brushing his hand over the swelling in his boxers. It's hard not to think of her though—not just because she's right beside him but because she's been such a significant part of his sex life for so long now that he can barely remember what it was like before they were involved this way. He doesn't want to think of Skandar either, because that just makes him sad, but the same difficulties present themselves there as well. He spits into his palm and edges it down into his pants, closing his eyes and trying to think of nothing. Instead, he thinks of Skandar's gravelly morning voice, imagines how he might have looked while he was talking to them, in those raggedy boxers of his that leave very little to the imagination, stretching, his stomach going tight. Anna makes a breathy noise beside him and Will bucks up into his hand almost instinctively, making a frustrated sound in the back of his throat as his brain reminds him what it's like to fuck both of them, and be fucked by both of them.

Maybe he's imagining it but it seems like Anna has moved closer—he's suddenly much more aware of the places where their skin is touching, and how hot and soft she feels. Her elbow nudges him gently by mistake and he opens his eyes instinctively and sees that it was just because she's working on herself so eagerly. He makes the frustrated noise again and grips himself tighter, and she opens her eyes too, glancing at him.

Which is a mistake, because in about a nanosecond they're kissing so hard their teeth clash, and Anna's clutching at his chest, and Will's having to use every single ounce of his self-control not to pull her closer, pull her right on top of him and yank her knickers aside and just sink right in—

"Ohgod," gasps Anna suddenly, drawing back, squirming.

"No kissing?" says Will, and his voice comes out sounding slightly high-pitched and strained.

"No kissing," Anna agrees. She wipes her forehead. She looks extremely flushed and extremely turned on, and Will has to close his eyes again because Jesus Christ. He remembers what she feels like around him, wet and hot and perfect, and he remembers the way she fucks—that kind of deliberate, focused way she begins, serious and determined like she's starting work on an essay or something, and the way it quickly devolves as she loses herself, bucking wildly on top of him or writhing under him or thrusting into him so naturally that it's like the dildo is a part of her.

He strokes himself quick and rough, and the two of them are so close now they're pressed right alongside each other.

"I keep thinking about you," he blurts out, unable to stop himself this time.

Anna makes a tight little face. "Don't," she says. "Think about Skandar."

"But then I start missing him and that just makes me sad," Will says, a little pathetically, jealous that she can apparently compartmentalise better than him.

"Think about—" Anna's breath hitches, "think about the sounds he makes. You know how he starts out so quiet—and at first I thought it was because he was shy or something but I think it's actually like a sort of competitiveness—like he doesn't want to give away that what you're doing is making him feel good?"

"Uh huh," Will murmurs, not sure this is the best time for a conversation, but still, it seems to be helping—he's getting a little harder, a little more agitated, thinking of Skandar biting his lip and holding back his moans.

"But then he starts to kind of lose it, gradually at first, just like—his breathing speeds up and it gets all wonky, like...you know," says Anna, because Will does, can almost hear it in his head even, the erratic sound of Skandar's breaths like he's right here in bed with them. "And then the little sounds he starts to let out when he can't help it. And sometimes he's still trying to act cool or whatever but he—he stops being able to form sentences properly and—"

Will thinks Anna herself is starting to lose the ability to form proper sentences, but he tries not to focus on that—on the way her words are coming fast, her voice breathy, the way she's clearly finding it difficult to speak while she's touching herself. Instead he shuts his eyes tight and imagines Skandar coming undone for him, for them, letting down his façade and giving in, moaning with his voice rough and gasping out loud and saying Will's name, low and urgent, pleading (though he'd never admit it).

"And," Will says tentatively, "how—how he sounds when, when he's fucking you." It's a struggle to get the words out, oddly embarrassing to say them out loud even to Anna. He can feel himself flushing a little as she squirms beside him. "Like it feels so good. Like you feel so good." He feels a pang as he finds himself wanting Skandar inside him right now, missing the way that feels.

Anna moans herself then, her body twisting next to him, and Will forces himself to keep his eyes shut. He thinks about what it felt like to fuck Skandar—Skandar letting him do that, Skandar on top of him, riding him, Skandar's pale hips under Will's firm fingers holding him steady, that gorgeous sound he made when he came with Will's cock inside him, low and lovely, open and honest. He thinks about how Skandar's eyes seem to get darker when he's needy, wanting; he thinks about that sweet flush that comes over him during sex, his usually pale face and chest going splotchy-pink; he thinks about his cock, its surprising thickness, the weight of it in his hand, his mouth, the way it splits him open—

"Fuck," he gasps out, his hips jerking up into nothing as he comes, wetting his boxers with it—soaking them, it's been so long—his orgasm seems to go on forever, his legs twitching, his mind blanking out.

He comes round feeling sticky and at least semi-satisfied, though there's still an empty ache in him somewhere, like a piece is missing. Anna is still at it, he realises, and he tries not to watch and completely fails as she curls in on herself, turned towards him but with her eyes tightly shut, her arm moving jerkily, her fingers frantic beneath the thin cotton of her underwear. She comes with a tiny sort of whine, her teeth biting into her plump bottom lip, and Will—despite having just come himself mere moments ago—feels a faint tingling of arousal at the sight. He has a horrible feeling that this might not have solved anything at all.

"Oh, fuck," says Anna weakly, her tone almost cross. She's looking at him, her hand still down the front of her knickers, her eyes kind of unfocused, glassy. "I'm gonna have to sleep on the sofa."

"No," says Will, unable to stand the thought of sleeping here with the smell of sex on the sheets, reminding him of what they can't do and what (who) they can't have. "I'll go."

He gets up on wobbly legs, drags a blanket out of the cupboard, and totters out of the room without looking back, only calling behind him to say goodnight. He waits in the living room, listening to her in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and settles down with the blanket and some cushions, feeling lonely in a way that doesn't quite make sense.

After that night, they decide maybe it's best if they just don't see each other until their flight. It's worse, in some ways, without her visiting on the weekends and whenever she's got a bit of free time at uni—lonelier—and yet better in others, safer without the temptation. And in a funny way it's easier not to think too much about Skandar without her around, the two of them so inextricably linked to each other in his mind.

So he just grits his teeth and bears it, Skypes with Skandar a couple more times, texts both of them regularly, and keeps crossing off those few remaining squares on his calendar until the day finally comes.

***

Flying to Australia is always something of a trial, and this is no exception. Will hates flying—not because of anxiety but because of how boring it is, how trapped he always feels having to sit still for such a long time. He gets up to walk around the cabin so many times that Anna insists they swap seats so she can have the window and he doesn't have to keep clambering over her. She's more restless than usual too, frustrated that there's still all of this travelling and hassle to go through before they finally see Skandar again, and the recent halt to their sex life isn't doing their mood any favours. Will had thought that having to be so close together on the plane, in such cramped conditions, might bring up more temptations, but the truth of the matter is they're driving each other up the wall within about two hours of take-off. At one point an elderly lady sitting behind them actually gives them a stern talking-to because their bickering is keeping her awake.

Anna, usually perfectly organised, keeps worrying about things she might have forgotten to bring or do, and is uncharacteristically unable to concentrate on any of the various activities she has to occupy herself with. She's recently started taking birth control pills as an extra precaution ("Now that I'm having regular sex," she explained to Will while telling him about the doctor's appointment, and he'd snorted, thinking about the total lack of sex they were all having) and now she keeps fretting about how the time zones are going to affect her neatly worked out schedule of when to take each day's pill. She's stressed out about her university work, too, and keeps pulling various books and binders from her carry-on and paging through them anxiously while Will tries not to get in the way.

Their short stop-over in Sydney doesn't exactly help matters. It's such a pain having to go through security and wait to board the plane again, and there's no time to do much of anything else. Will paces around the airport lounge and Anna just lies down with a magazine over her eyes, waiting for them to announce their flight. By the time they finally touch down at the Gold Coast Airport they are extremely tired, not to mention irritable and disoriented. There was once a time when they did these long flights so often that they imagined they'd become immune to jetlag, but alas, it seems that was just wishful thinking.

They don't know exactly what the plans are for their arrival, as their plane gets in at some obscene hour in the middle of the night, but they've been assured that someone will come and meet them at the airport. They're kind of expecting Michael's assistant or someone like that, someone they've never met.

"I guess we should look out for someone holding a sign with our names on it or something," Will says, peering around the arrivals area blearily. It's pretty deserted and for a horrible moment Will thinks maybe no one has come for them at all, but then—

"William, Anna! Over here!" shouts a very familiar voice in its very familiar New Zealand accent, and Will whips his head round to see Andrew, standing just a few feet away, and—even more surprisingly—Skandar standing next to him, so excited he's almost vibrating. Just seeing Skandar's face instantly dissolves Will's bad mood, and judging by the way Anna is beaming, it seems to have done the same for her, too.

They've been apart from Skandar for much longer than this before, but not since they started sleeping together, and even though Will's still not sure how to define what they are to each other now, it's clearly added some further intimacy to their relationship that has made it a much bigger deal to be separated. And—judging by the way Will's heart is currently hammering away in his chest as though it's trying to break right out—it's made it a much bigger deal to be reunited, as well.

"Will!" Skandar yells at the top of his voice as soon as their eyes meet, "Anna!"

The four of them collide in a flurry of dropped suitcases and flung-out arms, and Will barely has time to register the feeling of Skandar against him—he forgot how good he smelled, and did he get even taller?—before he's being gathered up in Andrew's arms instead, watching Skandar hug Anna so passionately that he actually lifts her about a foot off the ground and spins her around in the air, an incongruously romantic gesture that Andrew thankfully seems to miss.

Andrew and Skandar both start talking a mile a minute, and Will and Anna aren't really capable of doing much more than stand there gazing at them, smiling dazedly.

"He's got a 7 o'clock start in the morning, but he insisted on coming along to meet you—Michael said no way, everyone had better get to bed early, but lo and behold, I got in my car to drive out here and there Skandar was in the passenger seat—"

"Obviously I was gonna come—" Skandar is grinning bright and cheeky, his smile like a 100 watt bulb. Will missed it so much and wants to kiss it so badly.

"I don't even think Michael wanted me to come out here at this time of night but we weren't going to just abandon you—I only got in a few days ago myself and it's a nightmare trying to find the set on your own—or the apartments I should say, there's a complex everybody's staying in, not too far from set—"

"Do you need anything?" Skandar interrupts. "We've got snacks and stuff in the car. You both look sort of zombie-ish. Someone give me a suitcase to carry, come on, let me be helpful."

"Can you believe it? Skandar offering to be helpful? I don't know what's come over him, he's been acting like a madman all day. Here you go then Skandy, take William's, this thing weighs a ton—it's so good to see you both—let me take that, Anna, we're just parked out here—"

Skandar hangs back, letting Andrew lead the way, lugging Will's suitcase behind him as they trail out of the airport, the three of them bumping hips, silent and smiling. Will feels delirious. Skandar insists on sitting between the two of them in the back seat and Andrew laughs at him, makes some joke about separation anxiety, but Will can tell he's touched that they've missed each other so much. The drive is a blur, streaks of headlights and unfamiliar buildings sliding past in the dark, Skandar squeezed in tight between them. Will feels a strange combination of exhausted and giddy—zoning out for most of the journey, but thrilled wide awake each time they turn a corner, by the hot solid press of Skandar's body leaning in close.

When they get to the apartments and Andrew goes round to the boot to unload the luggage, Skandar sneaks a quick kiss onto each of their cheeks, something Andrew probably wouldn't find too bizarre if he saw it, but risky nonetheless. "I missed you," he says in an undertone, eyes sparkling.

"C'mon then, Skandar, back to set with us," Andrew says after he's given Will and Anna their room keys and various important bits of information about the apartment situation that Will forgets almost immediately after being told.

"What?" says Will, ears pricking up at the sound of Skandar's name.

"Like I said, early start tomorrow. Michael wants my supervision with a difficult scene we've got coming up, we'll be sleeping in our trailers tonight so we can get on set as soon as possible—don't give me that look, Skandar, that's been the plan all along and you know it," Andrew says with a smile, faux-scolding. He looks to Will and Anna again, the two of them swaying gently on the pavement, weary from their travels and the strange, surreal shock of being back in Australia after so long.

"You two sleep as late as you want, it's a busy day tomorrow so I'm not sure when it'll be best to come down to set," Andrew goes on. He fishes a folded sheet of paper out of his pocket and holds it out to them. "Directions," he says, when they both look at him blankly. "Call a taxi once you're awake, no rush, there'll be plenty of time for us all to catch up while you're here." He tugs Skandar back from them, back towards the car. "Really good to see you. Hope you get a good night's sleep. We'll all go out for dinner tomorrow, shall we? Come on, Skandar."

Will wants to hug him again and it's clear from Skandar's hesitation that he wants that too, but Andrew is guiding him gently but firmly back into the car. "We'll see you when we see you," Andrew says, waving at them as he gets back in the car himself, "get some rest."

Will and Anna stand there on the curb for at least a minute after the car has sped off out of sight.

"Ugh, I forgot how disorientating that flight can be," says Anna then, rubbing her face and heaving a sigh as she picks up her bags and turns towards the apartment complex. "What did he say about getting in? What are our room numbers?"

Will lets her handle all of that, even lets her unlock his door for him because he's too zonked to figure it out. "I wanted to—" he says, stopping short, halfway into his room.

"Yeah, me too," says Anna, wrinkling her nose. She gives him a little comforting stroke, her hand brushing his arm. Then she yawns, and that sets Will off too. "It's okay. We'll catch up with him tomorrow. Shall I come wake you up, if I wake up first?"

"Yeah," Will says through another yawn. "And if I wake up first..."

"...which is unlikely..." Anna interjects, as Will somehow manages to trip over his carry-on and stumble into the wall.

"I'll...come and wake..." Will valiantly attempts to continue.

"Uh huh," says Anna, smiling at him fondly and patting him on the head. "Night night."

"Night night," Will echoes, wandering into the dark, unfamiliar room in front of him and resisting the urge to just find the bed and fall face-first onto it, everything else be damned.

***

Will does not wake up feeling refreshed and invigorated. He wakes up feeling extremely bewildered, flailing about in strange sheets, blinking blearily at the room around him and the various alarming sensations he's confronted with. A clock on the nightstand tells him it's two in the afternoon, but his body clock is adamant that it must still be the middle of the night. There is the sound of steady knocking coming from somewhere outside of the room, and he seems to have slept in his jeans for some unfathomable reason. For a worryingly long time he has no idea where he is, and then it all comes back to him like a disjointed dream—flashes of planes and airports, and finally, Skandar.

He's jolted properly awake by that, the realisation that he's finally in the same country as Skandar again. He realises it must be Anna knocking on the door and manages to heave himself out of bed to go answer it, stumbling his way towards the noise.

It is Anna, standing there in the hallway looking tired but put together, in a nice little button-down dress. She has showered and even put on a bit of make-up, but Will can tell she feels just as jetlagged as he does. They speak in monosyllables to each other over breakfast—Will finds boxes of cereal and tea bags on the kitchen counter, and milk in the fridge, along with a friendly note from Ben—and then Will stumbles off to go make himself presentable.

"Is it really two in the afternoon?" he asks, rummaging through his suitcase on a mission to find shampoo, not to mention some clothes he hasn't already spent more than thirty six hours in.

"Yeah," says Anna groggily, stirring her tea. "I feel so out of it. I had that thing I always get, where I have about a million vivid technicolour dreams and then feel like I haven't slept at all. Why do long-haul flights always do that to me?"

"I don't even know what day it is," says Will and disappears into the bathroom to try and navigate the shower.

***

The day is much busier than they had anticipated. If they'd known, they might have planned to come at a different time, but Michael doesn't seem to have a particularly fixed schedule and keeps changing scenes around depending on things like the weather, his mood, and (Ben claims, smiling wryly) the position of the planets in the sky. So, they seem to have arrived on set in the midst of total chaos.

Everyone is filming on the ship when Will and Anna get to set, and Georgie is so thrilled and surprised to see them she almost throws herself overboard in her eagerness to get to them. Michael reluctantly calls cut so that everybody on the set can say hello, and Will and Anna apologise for holding things up at an apparently crucial moment but it's only Michael who really seems to care. Georgie is hyper, leaping in their arms as—despite their best efforts—they both exclaim over how much she's grown since they last saw her. Ben embraces them both tightly and apologises for the fact that he's a little damp. "The perils of being out at sea," he jokes, because of course they are not. Will P. hugs them too, even, after a shy pause.

"Hey, what about me? Don't I get a hug?" Skandar comes jostling through the crowd, beaming in the bright sun, and Will's heart does some sort of strange flip in his chest.

"You got to see them last night!" Georgie cries indignantly. "I'm still not sure how you managed to swing that," she adds as Skandar pulls both Will and Anna into one hug, wrapping his arms around them. Will wishes it could last approximately two hundred times longer but of course everybody is here, watching.

"We really should get on," Ben says anxiously, shooting a look behind him at Michael. "But it's so good to see you! Andrew said something about going out for dinner later."

"I don't know how much longer we'll be working," says Georgie apologetically, as if it's her fault. "I think technically, legally, I can only be on set another hour but then I have school stuff to do."

"We'll figure something out," says Anna reassuringly, stroking her hair.

The two of them stick around to watch for a little while, but it soon becomes clear that it's a very tense scene and everybody's struggling a bit, and Anna quietly suggests that maybe they should stay out of the way so as not to distract anyone. Will wants to stay and watch Skandar but he knows Anna's probably right, and besides, it's frustrating just sitting on the sidelines—not just because they can't talk to the others and catch up, but because they can't get involved in the scene. Will had sort of forgotten about that part of it, about how strange it would feel to see everybody working without them, all these scenes they're not a part of.

They wander off and get some lunch from craft services, chatting to a few familiar crew members who happen to pass by, until finally there's a break and the others come to join them. But then everybody but Ben has schooling to rush off to, Skandar there for less than a minute before he's rushing off, apologetic, for an hour-long chemistry lesson. Ben shows them around set in the meantime, and they see some more familiar faces and are introduced to some unfamiliar ones. It feels good to be on set again, but Will is antsy and he can tell Anna is too, both of them desperate for some alone time with Skandar and not at all sure they're actually going to be able to get it. Even when the brief break for schoolwork is over, there's more shooting to do—a final attempt of the difficult scene—and it's past 6pm by the time Skandar finally appears, emerging from the costume tent in shorts and a t-shirt, rushing over to Will and Anna where they've been hanging around and starting to get a bit bored.

"Hi!" Skandar says, grinning as he trots over to them. "Sorry today's been so mad, that scene was terrible. I could hardly remember my lines because I kept thinking about you."

Will is slightly stunned by the ease with which this comes out of Skandar's mouth, and he looks around them to see if anyone overheard, wondering how it might have sounded.

"C'mon, I wanna show you my trailer," Skandar goes on, oblivious, leading them off.

"Oh, really?" giggles Anna.

"What, like you aren't dying for some privacy?" Skandar retorts. "This way."

They're kissing as soon as the trailer door swings shut, all three of them at once, clumsy and eager and unwilling to take turns. Their lips bump and slide awkwardly for a second and then—suddenly it's perfect, suddenly they fit. Will had forgotten just how well.

Skandar is leading them towards the bed, wasting no time.

"What, you aren't gonna give us a tour?" Will teases. He can't stop smiling; he feels like he's high off Skandar's presence somehow. He can't think straight.

"Oh, right," says Skandar, rolling his eyes. He points to a door in the opposite direction. "Bathroom." He points to the area they're standing in. "Kitchen." He points to the bed, wiggling his eyebrows significantly. "Bedroom," he says.

Anna giggles. "Nice place."

Skandar is yanking down all the blinds, in such a hurry that one of them springs right up again and he makes a frustrated noise, fumbling with it and managing to get it to stay shut.

"The others are still finishing up," he says then, checking the clock, "so we've got at least...fifteen minutes to ourselves before we have to go back."

"Gosh," says Anna. "I wonder what we could do with fifteen whole minutes."

Skandar is kicking off his flip-flops and clambering onto the bed, yanking his t-shirt over his head. "I can think of a few things." He holds out his hand and tugs Anna onto the bed with him, kissing her, already fiddling with the buttons of her dress.

"Fifteen minutes?" Will says doubtfully. "That's not very long—"

"Exactly," says Skandar, giving him a significant look, "so you'd better get your arse over here and quit wasting time."

Anna turns her head and both of them are looking at him from the bed and it takes Will no time at all to join them, leaping onto the mattress and pulling off his own shirt on the way. They get halfway under the covers, giggling and giddy, kissing and touching and drinking each other back in.

"Missed you so much," Skandar murmurs, breathy, as Will and Anna set to work on divesting him of his shorts, not entirely surprised to find he didn't bother to put boxers on first when he changed out of his costume earlier. They're all trying to touch each other and do too many things at once, Skandar fumbling with more of the buttons on Anna's dress, then reaching across her to Will to try get his fly undone while Anna wriggles out of her knickers between them. It's hurried and clumsy and not exactly how Will imagined it but it doesn't matter, because they're all together again, and he's so happy he could burst.

Skandar is getting hard fast, one of his hands tucked into one of the cups of Anna's bra, his fingers stroking her breast as he reaches down into Will's boxers with his other hand.

Will wonders fleetingly how much time has passed already but then Skandar is touching him, wrapping long fingers around his cock, and he forgets everything else. He bucks into the touch, moving closer to Anna, finding her hand already where his wants to be—down between Skandar's legs, both of them trying to stroke him at the same time, Skandar laughing a drunk-sounding laugh as he pulls them both even closer, kissing them over and over, trying to touch them everywhere all at once.

And that's when they hear the knock on the door.

It's a quick, sharp rap, unmistakeable, and they all freeze for a terrified second, Will and Anna still with their hands between Skandar's legs and Skandar with his between theirs. Will's stomach drops. Anna swears, sitting bolt upright, immediately going to button her dress up again, but it's hanging open almost to her waist and her fingers are shaking. Will can't seem to move, staring at Skandar in abject horror.

"What do we do?" he whispers frantically. The knock comes again.

"Shit, shit, okay," says Skandar, pulling himself together, thinking fast. He speaks in a quick undertone, his voice panicky. "Will, go hide in the bathroom. Anna, you look the most presentable, you answer the door, say—I don't know, just come up with something, get whoever it is away from here, okay?"

Anna is white-faced, nodding, still fidgeting with her buttons.

"Will, go!" Skandar hisses.

"What about you?" Will hisses hysterically back. There's no way there's time for Skandar to get all of his clothes back on.

"There's—I can—hang on," Skandar edges away from them, and Will realises there's a narrow space down the side of the bed where he'll be hidden from view if he can squeeze himself down there. It would almost be funny if it weren't so terrifying, if his heart weren't in his throat, thrumming away with sick anxiety.

The knock comes a third time, and this time a voice too, unfamiliar, at least to Will in his state of total panic. "Hello?"

"Fucking go, Will," Skandar urges, hiding down the side of the bed, and Will stumbles to his feet, lunging for the bathroom and forgetting that his jeans are undone—they start to fall down and he grabs at them, stumbling. The door to the trailer is between him and the bathroom and it's at that moment that he remembers they didn't lock it, the realisation dawning sickeningly on him only half a second before the door begins to open.

He's standing there shirtless and holding up his trousers when Michael walks in. Anna is sitting on the unmade bed, still frantically trying to finish doing her dress back up, the sheets a tangled mess around her.

And it would maybe be okay, maybe, if it was just Michael, almost-stranger Michael, standing there awkwardly, already halfway into the trailer and wondering what to say—but it's not. It's also Georgie, traipsing cluelessly after him, her cheery voice halfway through saying something about dinner and then stopping dead, almost walking smack-bang into Michael's back when she sees the scene inside. For a moment she's still grinning, but it's a confused grin, like she's waiting for someone to explain the punchline to a joke she doesn't get, and she stares and stares, speechless, her face slowly falling in a way that makes Will's heart break. He actually feels sick—physically sick, his stomach turning—and then there's Ben, too, half a step behind Georgie, and Will P. hovering behind them all, their expressions startled and puzzled and awkward, Will P. turning bright red, Ben furrowing his brow.

It must only be a few seconds of silence, really, but it seems so stretch on for an age and Will is frozen, standing there still mid-stride to the bathroom like someone turned him to stone on his way there. He wants to say the totally cliché It's not what it looks like! but for all intents and purposes, it absolutely is, and anyway he can't say a single word. His tongue is tied up in knots, his brain shellshocked.

"Oh. I'm sorry," says Michael then, gathering his senses. Though he's apologising, his voice is stern, and in that moment he reminds Will of a strict parent and Will feels like a guilty teenager being told off. "We'll give you a moment."

Georgie is still standing there, open-mouthed and stunned, and Michael has to almost push her back out of the trailer, shutting the door behind all of them. Will's head is swimming and his ears have gone funny, it's like he can hear static. He can hear the faint sounds of hushed, serious conversation outside, but he can't make out any words.

Anna's finally managed to finish buttoning up her dress and now she's fishing around under the sheets for her knickers, yanking them on. He can see enough of her face to know that she's bright red with humiliation, but her hair is a messy curtain obscuring her expression. He's still just standing there dumbly, and it's only when she grabs his t-shirt from the bed and balls it up and throws it at him that he's kicked back into action. He pulls it on wordlessly and does his jeans back up, unsteady on his feet.

"Skandar," he hisses then, approaching the bed again, but just as he reaches it there's a banging on the door and he leaps back.

"Come in!" Anna says, her voice high and nervous, and it's Michael again, this time alone and shutting the door behind him.

"The others are outside awaiting all the gossip," he says, and his frosty tone makes Will suddenly angry, angry that it was him and not Andrew who opened that door, as if somehow Andrew might have understood, or at least understood better. "But I just wanted to have a word with you and make sure you know that I don't particularly appreciate this sort of behaviour on my set. We're still in a work environment, here. You're not on holiday. You are members of my cast just like the others, and I need to know that you take your jobs seriously."

"We—we do," Will splutters, bewildered, but Michael holds up a hand to stop him.

"You need to exercise some discretion, then, at the very least," he says, sharply.

"We know," Anna says quickly, her head down. She looks utterly mortified. "We're sorry. It won't happen again."

Will almost expects a 'Sir' at the end of the sentence, as if they're being scolded by a headmaster. He gathers himself enough to mumble some echo of her words and Michael nods, serious. Even though they barely know him and they're only here for a couple of weeks, he is still basically their boss at this moment in time and Will feels surprisingly disappointed in himself for letting him down. After all, it's mostly due to Michael that he and Anna even have parts in the movie—the original plan was for Susan and Peter not to appear at all, and it was Michael who pushed for their little cameos. Will feels so guilty, thinking of that now. It's not as if Michael did it out of any personal feelings for Will and Anna themselves, more because he was concerned the audience would miss their characters, but even so.

"It seems you have some exciting news to share with your castmates, then," Michael says after an awkward pause. "Perhaps not the way you may have planned to do it, but then things often don't go according to schedule, as any director knows." Will realises then that he's trying to be a bit more friendly, to lighten the mood, and with some difficulty he manages a smile in return.

"Uh, yes," he says. "Right."

He can't help shooting nervous glances behind him at the bed, but there's no movement, no sounds, nothing. No indication that Skandar is there at all. He doesn't know what he expected but it still makes things feel worse somehow.

"So I'll let you get to it." His voice goes stern again as he adds, "Just make sure this doesn't happen again."






Part 8b.

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