There is this sinking feeling that comes with realising things. Your heart shrivels and plumments a dive right to the pit of your stomach. On record, Michael can only recall feeling this once before - years ago - with Anna. He wishes it would go away, now. Perhaps it isn’t even real; perhaps he misinterpreted an upset stomach. He’s been in denial so long the realisation has hardened into guilt. But David is laughing, long hair tied up, hairs sticking out every which way and Michael realises: He loves him. He loves David Tennant. His friend.
He must look as instantly drained as he feels because David’s laughter subsides quickly and he stops telling the story he’d been going on about. The wood grain of the table beside them has captured Michael’s subconscious attention and he follows the pattern with his eyes. Somewhere far away - as if Michael is submerged, underwater, and David is calling from above - he can hear the younger man asking if he is okay. His eyeline reaches the edge of the table as there’s nowhere to go Michael swallows, teetering this precipice.
“Michael?” A gentle hand on his shoulder and somehow David is seated closer to him on this couch than he was before, leaning forward, trying to catch Michael’s eyeline.
The older man looks up. David’s brows are knit and he looks genuinely concerned. There’s something so warm and inviting about those deep brown eyes, Michael thinks, like they want you to be wrapped in an embrace and told you’re okay. He feels himself swoon.
“Michael?” David repeats.
“Yes, sorry.” Michael chuckles fauxly, glancing away. “You were saying…”
He is very aware of how David’s hand slips down his back before being removed entirely. “Are you okay?” The younger man asks softly. He had been - precisely a minute and twenty seconds ago.
“I just realised something, is all.” Michael smiles the best he can, trying to compose himself before he breaks.
David swallows, looking around the room as if he doesn’t know what to do. That’s because he doesn’t. “Do you need a moment? Was it something bad?”
This time he chuckles its genuine, and he can’t hide the adoration in his eyes when he speaks. “No, no, it’s all-right.” David seems to at least half-believe it because he mutters an ‘okay’ and scoots a half an inch away from Michael. He still looks a bit inept.
“What were you saying?” The older man prompts.
“I don’t remember.” He pauses. “And I’m not sure it matters.”
Despite being an actor with the ability of being convincingly false, David seems to always be honest; it warms Michael’s chest. It was also one of Georgia’s favourite things about the man. Still, somehow, Michael found himself incapable of attaining David’s openness and he cursed himself for it. He looks back to the coffee table.
“Excuse my saying so, but I’ve never seen you so wrecked by a ‘realisation’.” David ventured. “Are you sure it isn’t something better talked through?” Oh God, now he has to play my therapist , Michael thinks.
“No. At least not with you.” The Scot doesn’t question it.
“ No .” Michael sighs, “It’s just not something that you can talk with someone about.”
Apparently David’s reassuring hand re-found its way to Michael’s shoulder. “You should find someone important - who you trust; who will understand, and tell them. It will help, I’m sure.”
Trust? Michael trusts David more than anyone; he’d trust him with his life if it came to that. Understand? Who could possibly begin to understand being in love: Especially when they're being told to their face and have to deliver a let-down of unrequitedness. Still there’s this softness that seems sickeningly inviting to the way David is staring at him. Like he doesn’t want to pressure you - he just wants to be sure you’re okay.
“...I just realised I’m in love.” The words numbly tumble from his lips.
“Well you and Anna have-”
“No. I’m truly in love .”
The Scot hesitates, steadily inhaling. “Then. With… whom?”
A heavy moment passes. David surmises that Michael may need some space, so with one last pat on the shoulder, the younger man gets off the couch, grabbing his glass. He’s no further than ten steps, however, when Michael decides to speak up again, sounding smaller than before.
“I can’t.” His voice wobbles in this weepy way and he feels weakened. How could one feeling render one person so desperately lost?
It stopped David in his tracks but he didn’t turn back to face his friend. He swallowed past a building worry in his throat. “You can’t what?”
“I can’t be in love.” with you .
And David doesn’t answer - because what do you say to that?
“It’s unfair.” Michael continues, his building tears nearly audible.
The Welshman’s eyes stare searingly into the other man’s back. He wants to stop himself; to pretend he’d never realised anything and get it over with. “Especially not when you are already married - and not when it’s your closest friend - who is also married.” If David’s mind had any doubt before, he didn’t now. This is when you get up, kindly leave, and go home to your own house to lick your wounds.
Somehow the younger man finds words, buried deep, in a box of painfully real things covered in a thick layer of dust, labelled with a red sign reading ‘Warning: Heartbreak’ . “Everyone is entitled to love, Michael.” His shoulders sag and he turns to face the older man again, pacing back to the couch, coming to kneel right between his open legs. Michael feels his heart begin to splinter.
“I’m sorry.” He croaks as David's hands slide up his biceps to rest at the base of his neck.
“Because,” Michael whimpers the answer leaving him in a breath, “ I love you.” He goes to look away but is stopped by David’s finger under his chin.
“Everyone is entitled to love.” He reiterates. “Even when they’re already married. Even when it’s their closest friend, who too is married.”
Before either man’s common sense can protest, David closes the distance between them, sliding his lips in Michaels, slick with salty tears. Somewhere in the world a switch was flipped and once they’ve started neither man can stop, tongues sliding and hands pulling, because repression and denial and desperation and-
‘I love you too.” David had pulled back just far enough for Michael to feel his lips move as he spoke. The Welshman laughed, pulling him back.