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Remarkably Reassuring

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“Xander? Are you in there?” Ben tried the door of the trailer, but it was locked. He frowned. Where the hell had he got to?

He was about to walk back towards the other trucks when it occurred to him to use his phone. It felt a bit stupid, ringing someone he knew was within a five minutes distance, but it would be quicker than wandering around the whole site… if Xander had his mobile switched on.

Ben took his phone out and scrolled to the call log. He knew Xander would be right up there on the list of dialled numbers, his position clinched by the back and forth organising of a curry two nights ago. That was something they always did just before either of them started a new stretch of filming. Any last minute crises of confidence could usually be admitted to and then successfully soothed by the other party; or if it was a joint venture, they could just confess their nerves and despair together. They had long since conceded that they’d fallen into the actor’s trap of creating their own superstitious pre-performance ritual, but (as Xander had pointed out) at least compulsively going for a curry was at the saner end of the available spectrum.

They were generally remarkably reassuring nights out anyway, in large part due to their uncanny predictability. The pattern of events always seemed to play out in the same way, no matter which little restaurant they chose, right down to the inevitable moment when some other diner would call out ‘Pimm’s o’clock!’. Xander would usually have to good-naturedly repeat the catchphrase, and quite possibly drink an example so that the call-ee could claim that he’d ‘bought the real geezer one of his cocktails!’. Then he would comment ruefully that it was always the Pimm's catchphrase that people shouted, rather than any of dozens of possible alternatives from their shows, and Ben would jokingly respond that Bill Hicks had laid the warnings down in that direction…

Ben pressed the call button and put the phone to his ear, hoping it would ring for more than the twice-and-through-to-the-answer-phone that would signal that Xander had it turned off. To his relief, the phone made it past that hurdle, and – what was more – Xander was obviously closer than he thought, because he was hearing a tiny stereo trill from somewhere.

He held the phone away from his ear and looked around. Unless Xander had become invisible, he was in the trailer after all. Ben turned in the direction of the door again. He could believe that, actually; that it wasn’t just Xander’s forgotten mobile lying on the table in there. They were about to spend hours being surrounded and scrutinised by every pair of eyes in the crew, and Ben certainly didn’t blame him for practising people-avoidance for a little while beforehand.

He smiled. “I’m still standing out here, you know,” he called, loud enough that he was sure Xander would hear if he was inside. “Your ringtone sounds like something in terrible distress… Let me in?”

There was a pause, and then he heard footsteps come towards the door. It opened and Xander stepped to one side so Ben could get inside.

“Sorry, I look like I deliberately ignored you, now.”

“You did deliberately ignore me,” Ben laughed. “You should have pretended you were asleep and only woke up with the phone.”

“Ha! I haven’t learned enough tricks of the trade yet, clearly.”

Ben sat down at the small table and leant back, watching Xander fix the door locked again.

“Why are we hiding out?”

“I’m not really hiding. I’m just… making the most of the break, I suppose. I wanted to read the Jilted Jim stuff again before we film it; think through what I’m doing a bit. I know the lines…”

“But you don’t know why they’re funny anymore.”

“Yeah.” Xander stretched, his hands easily reaching and pushing against the ceiling. “There’s always one bit that gets lost, isn’t there?”

Ben nodded. “Do you want to run it?”

“Nah, I’ve got it really.” Xander walked over to the net-curtained window at the end of the caravan and squinted out, rocking on his heels a couple of times. “I feel a bit sorry for him – old Jim, I mean. I know he’s a hideous twat, but you’ve got to have some sympathy for him. Imagine actually being jilted; or not even jilted, just suddenly deserted by someone you thought was going to be with you for the long haul. It’d be devastating, wouldn’t it?”

“I can imagine that,” Ben murmured. “Not good.” He looked at Xander curiously, but he was still staring out through the window and his broad back gave nothing away.

Xander continued. “To do that to someone, you’d have to be quite a bastard, I think.”

Ben shifted uneasily, wondering if he was actually trying to get at something with this. “If someone does that then… maybe the other person has had a lucky escape. Maybe their life might be bad for a while, but they go on to greater things than otherwise would have happened.”

Xander laughed and rolled on his heels again before turning around. “In one way, I suppose he did.”


“He went to LA, became a famous writer. That can’t be bad – living on the beach.”

Ben’s mind went searching to six places at once. He’d been considering that Xander was going to say something about his wife, if anyone… He hadn’t expected ‘he’.

Xander’s gaze settled on him, and Ben watched his mouth quirk in amusement, presumably at his confused expression.

“I’m talking about David. He was the Jilted Jim of our comedy affair. I still feel guilty about it sometimes, even knowing that we’re all doing fine. And, of course, he’s infinitely more sane than Jim is…”

“This isn’t… a counting your regrets moment, is it?” Ben ventured, warily.

Xander smiled again. “Ben, I don’t ever doubt that I made the right decision.”