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Black Tulip Fiction
Strictly Come Dancing Fic: Pandora's Box - Part 1 
29th-Jul-2012 08:20 pm

Title: Pandora’s Box - Part 1
Author: kat_lair & pushkin666
Fandom: RPS, Strictly Come Dancing (UK)
Pairing: Bruno Tonioli/Craig Revel Horwood
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 20,097
Disclaimer: This is not a real story about real people. This is a fictional story about fictional representations of real people. Note the difference. None of the events described herein are true. No disrespect is meant and no profit made.

Summary: A drunken night leads to revelations that prove impossible to ignore.   

Author notes: We’ve had so much fun with telling this story to ourselves that we had to share, even if the reading audience will be tiny (but precious!). Please note that we’ve purposefully not used Craig’s ex’s real name to emphasise that above point about how we’re just making stuff up. Our thanks to moth2fic for her first rate beta services.






It isn't the last show of the Strictly tour, but it is the last one before a two week break so everyone is in a mood for a party. They've hired the theatre bar for an after show shindig. The bar is open and there's even some local DJ, playing the cheesiest selection of music Craig has heard outside a wedding. People are milling about, cast and crew mixing around freely, everyone laughing and talking... It's good to see that and moments like this Craig is reminded why he loves his job.

He's nursing his second glass of wine when Erin slides onto the chair next to him, putting a tall glass of something very colourful in front of him. "It's called a SanFran Slinger," she says, pushing the cocktail in Craig's direction. "The barman," she turns to wave at the guy who is clearly smitten and trying hard not to trip over his feet when he waves back, "swears it'll loosen up even the grouchiest of queens."

Craig snorts, amused and not offended in the least. He finds it hilarious that under Erin's 'girl next door' sweetness resides the mouthiest of fag hags he's ever seen. "I'm not grouchy," he says, because, well, he isn't, for a change. "I'm just enjoying a quiet night."

Erin raises her eyebrows. "Uh-huh. Stop being a wallflower, Craig. It doesn't suit you. Now drink the cocktail and chill out. You've been working hard this tour, you deserve some fun. Besides..." her expression softens, "it's been almost a year since Martin. Time to come out of your shell, Craig."

Craig has no defence against her kindness so he sighs and takes a sip of the drink, which is sweet but with a definite kick of alcohol. "You make me sound like I'm pining away," he says. "I'm not. I've been on plenty of dates." Okay, three didn't perhaps technically count as plenty but the point remained.

"And I can tell just by looking at your face that they were all total washouts. I hope you at least got a good shag out of them."

Craig chokes on his drink a little. He always forgets just how forthright Erin is before she comes up with comments like that. "Um..."

"Now, for the last time, Craig," she continues, thankfully dropping the subject. "Take that stick out of your arse, get pissed with the rest of us and just... have fun." She reaches over and deftly undoes his bowtie, flicking the top two buttons of his shirt open. "Anton and Robin are doing jello shots and I totally heard Brendan say that you couldn't hold your own with that. I believe," she lowers her voice conspiratorially, "he was besmirching your honour and you should come and defend it forthwith."

Craig blinks at her and blinks at her again, and then he downs the cocktail in one go and stands up. "Damn right I should," he says. Because why the hell not. Erin is right, he deserves some fun.


***


Bruno picks up his beer and moves away from the bar, through the throng of people. It's been a really good tour so far, and everybody seems to have been enjoying themselves.

Bit like tonight really.  Everybody is having fun and letting their hair down... including Craig.

Craig – who is currently dancing with Robin. Bruno grins. He's not sure which of them is actually the campest right now.  Craig's jacket is off and his shirt is unbuttoned a fair way down. He's also got a colourful scarf around his neck that Bruno is positive he saw Erin wearing earlier.

It's good to see Craig looking so relaxed. Bruno hasn't seen him look this chilled out in a while. There were those months just after Craig broke up with Martin that he became quiet, withdrawn. Not only that but he put on weight which Bruno knew he wasn't happy about. It was simply down to comfort eating but Craig seems to have lost that now and is looking really good as well. Bruno thinks that the tour has helped, given Craig something to think about. To not have to sit at home in an empty house.

Bruno knows what that's like, remembers those empty lonely months after splitting with Rafe, knows exactly how Craig must have been feeling.  He takes a mouthful of his beer. He doesn't feel like getting drunk tonight, just wants to kick back his heels and watch.  Maybe do some dancing as well.  He grins as Robin holds up his hands and steps away from Craig, back to Brendan who's watching from the side.

For a moment Craig looks a little lost without anybody to dance with and then his gaze fixes on Bruno.

"Bruno... my friend. Come dance with me." He's slurring and Bruno wonders just how many he's had. Glancing over at Robin and Brendan he figures it's quite a lot. They both look fairly drunk and he heard tell of a jello shot competition earlier, something he'd made a point of avoiding.

"Go on Bruno, go dance with him," Erin claps him on the back and takes the bottle out his hand.  "You know you want to."  Bruno laughs and shakes his head a little but he steps forward toward Craig.


***


Craig is having fun and not even just because of the vodka jellos – hah, he'd won that competition, had shown Brendan, hadn't he? "I am a jello king," he tells Bruno solemnly. "Or possibly a queen." He strikes a pose briefly, one hand up in the air, another one at his hip. "The point is, you can't refuse a dance with royalty. It would be treasies... treasume... treasonous."

Bruno laughs at the picture Craig is currently making.  "You are so drunk, your Majesty." He puts his hand out. "Come on then, let’s dance."  Craig laughs and pulls him forward and a moment later he's twirling Bruno around.  

Craig isn't particularly steady and Bruno holds tight onto his arms.

The DJ is playing 'Dancing Queen' which strikes Craig as hilarious and he pulls Bruno close into a proper tango hold – wholly inappropriate for the music of course but for once Craig doesn't particularly care –  and smoothly walks him across the floor before dipping him deep.

Bruno makes a surprised little squeak but he's laughing so Craig calls it a win. He loves making Bruno laugh and wishes he could do it more often. There's a familiar twist of 'if only' in his gut but Craig stamps down on it viciously. This isn't a time to be maudlin, this is a time to dance and enjoy spending time with his friends.

He twirls Bruno again and to his delight gets twirled in return. "Nice moves," he grins. "I might go even as far as to call them fab-u-lous."

"Oh my god! You're crazy!"  Bruno laughs up at him. He can't remember the last time that he actually danced with Craig. It's something he tries to avoid for his own peace of mind. Even though he's drunk Craig's hold is firm and Bruno wants to move closer but he doesn't.  "Well you know me," he says. "I always have good moves.  What score would you give me?"

Craig raises an eyebrow, trying to look haughty and thoughtful but his face just isn't co-operating at the moment. The song changes to Blondie's 'Heart of Glass' and after a brief consideration Craig switches to salsa steps, which seems the best fit. "Darlin'," he drawls into Bruno's ear. "I'd have to see a lot more of your moves before scoring."

Bruno shivers a little. "Is that right?" He smiles up at Craig. If it was anybody else he'd think they were flirting but this is Craig which means it’s not what it seems like. But it is an opportunity he's not going to let by.

There's a distant voice inside Craig’s head that's going 'too much, too much' but he ignores it. This is just harmless flirting with friends, nothing else. He leads Bruno into a 'copa', starting from a crossed hold, then bringing him in whilst turning 90 degrees left and before leading him back out. It goes surprisingly smoothly and in the background he can hear someone whistling their appreciation. "Care for another dance?" he asks Bruno when they're facing each other again.

"Why not," Bruno says pulling Craig closer.  "Let's samba." The room clears around them a little as they move into the Latin dance. Bruno is acutely aware of Craig's gaze during the dance, the movement of his hands on Bruno's as they finish the dance by moving into a counter botafogo and Craig pulls him back.

"Let's get a drink," he says to Bruno. "Or some more jello shots. That would be good. I'm feeling a little hot right now."

"I think that you've had more than enough alcohol tonight, Craig. Besides," he glances back to the space they've just vacated, "don't you want to sit and watch Len dance with Kristina?" Craig doesn't argue and Bruno pulls him over to a booth at the side of the room. "Sit," he tells him, pushing him down onto the seat. “I'll go and get us something to drink."

Craig sits heavily, leaning onto the table. The room is spinning a bit now that he has stopped doing the same, which is distinctly unfair. He watches Len and Kristina do what is actually a rather lovely waltz to the rhythm of Cyndi Lauper's 'True Colours' – Craig isn't sure whether someone should fire the DJ or ask them to sign a contract with the show.

Pretty soon his attention drifts from the dance floor to the bar where Bruno is getting them drinks. Dancing with him had been fun – and hot; Craig can admit that to himself. He sighs a little wistfully, telling himself to let it go. Having Bruno in his arms for a dance or two had been a treat but he needs to remember that it isn't something he could afford to pursue any further. They’ve been friends and colleagues for several years now and it’s not worth the risk of losing that.


***


Bruno picks up the drinks and heads back toward their table, carefully skirting the dancers. He slides into the booth next to Craig. Better to stop him from getting up and dancing again. Craig is sweating a little and Bruno can feel the heat from his body.

"Here my friend. You should drink this." He nudges Craig a little and passes him a tall cocktail and a bottle of water. Craig is leaning back in the booth and Bruno can't help glancing at the bare flesh where his shirt is undone. Glancing at it and then looking quickly away. He doesn't want to be caught staring.

"I have no idea what the cocktail is but the barman tells me you seem to like it." What Bruno doesn't tell Craig is that it's a non-alcoholic version of the cocktail. Or what else the barman had said. Bruno certainly isn't going to repeat those comments to Craig, nor tell him that the barman had clearly wanted Bruno to pass his name and number on to Craig.

"So just how many drinks have you had tonight?" He asks, grinning at Craig.

Craig uncaps the water bottle and takes a long drink, suddenly parched. "I don't know," he answers honestly. "I lost count around number six." He puts the bottle back onto the table, steadying it with both hands. It's like the alcohol is hitting him even harder now that he's sat down. Maybe he should go dancing again...

...but not with Bruno, because that makes him want things he can't have, and that makes him sad. Craig is tired of feeling sad. "I'm not sad," he explains to Bruno. "This is all Erin's fault anyway," he continues, making a sweeping movement with his hand that encompasses the drinks and his own less than sober state. "She thought I was. But I'm not. I'm fine."

The dance floor is emptying but Bruno is blocking the way and Craig doesn't think he should try to climb over him. That would probably be a bad idea. "I'm fine," he repeats absentmindedly.

"Are you fine, my friend?" Bruno asks because he doesn't like the note in Craig's voice. "Well that's good. I'm glad that you're not sad any more." He really is even though he doesn't necessarily think that Craig is telling the truth. Bruno doesn't like to see Craig sad.

"It's been a good night though, hasn't it?” he asks. “And a good tour even more so. You did a really good job of the choreography." Craig smiles at him, seemingly genuinely pleased at the praise.

"Finish your drink," Bruno tells him. "And then maybe I think we should head back to the hotel. Because you are going to feel like shit in the morning."

"Okay," Craig says, amenably. He is feeling kind of tired and the slow love songs about broken hearts that the DJ is now playing are making him think about things he'd rather not think. Craig finishes the water but leaves the cocktail mostly untouched. It was non-alcoholic anyway, he could tell. He's not sure whether to be annoyed at Bruno for that or sort of touched that he's clearly trying to take care of him.

"Come on," Bruno says, getting up and pulling Craig to his feet. "Let’s go find a cab."


***


"I'm perfectly capable of walking on my own, you know," Craig feels obliged to point out as Bruno steers him to the lobby and then to the street outside the theatre. He doesn't pull his arm away though, enjoying Bruno's grip on his elbow more than he should.

“Sure you are," Bruno tells him as Craig staggers slightly as the fresh air hits him. "Perfectly capable of walking although not necessarily in a straight line.”

He braces himself as Craig leans against him, the looseness of his body making him a little heavier than normal.  "Do you even know what hotel we're staying in? Or, for that matter, what city we're in?"

Craig blinks at him.  "Well I know we're not in London.  Because the cocktails would have been soooooooooo much better if we'd have been in London."

He's slurring even more and Bruno puts his arm around him.  "Very true," he tells him. "We're not in London. Now try not to trip over your feet.”

Craig pouts at him.  "I'll have you know I'm perfectly steady." To prove his point he tries to spin Bruno again only to stagger slightly instead.  "Ooops," he says.

Bruno catches him before he can fall. "Oh my god. You are such a lush," he laughs. "Come on." He pulls Craig over to where there are taxis idling. "Back to the hotel I think."

It's warm inside the cab and the steady sound of the motor makes Craig feel sleepy. He leans against the seat, head tipped back and eyes half-shut. The driver asks Bruno something inane about Holly, and Craig snorts in derision. "That's all Luke wanted to know," he comments.

"Who?" Bruno asks, closing the window between them and the driver.

"A date. He was... pretty, I don't know, I was lonely." The confession slips out without permission and Craig frowns a little at himself. "But he really only wanted to hear about the celebrities I knew. Fame-chaser." He rolls his eyes sideways, and oh, he doesn't remember moving closer but somehow he and Bruno are sitting pressed together from shoulder to knee. "Should've seen it though," he whispers. "Stupid."

Bruno frowns a little at that. He doesn't like the thought of Craig being that lonely but nor does he really like the idea of Craig being out dating again.

"Well clearly he was a jerk," he tells Craig. "And you don't need people like that," he pats his knee bracing himself a little as Craig is listing against him, all heavy and warm.

"So... have you had any other dates?" he asks,  regretting the words as soon as they escape his mouth.

"Oh plenty," Craig says at first, remembering what he'd told Erin. He doesn't want any of his friends worrying about him. Or feeling sorry for him. He looks up to see Bruno's face, although it takes a little while to focus on that in the dim light of the car. He doesn't seem relieved to hear that though so maybe it wasn't the right thing to say.

Truth be told, Craig isn't quite sure what he's saying at all anymore. His mouth just seems to be rambling on its own, the filter between it and his brain out of commission. "Three," he amends. "And they were all disaaasters."

The cab takes the next turn a little fast and Craig topples further toward Bruno. It's comfortable and he doesn't have the willpower to move away. "I'm not... I'm not suited for dating," he tells him, the words slow. "Relationships, yes. I'm very good at those." Craig pats Bruno on the chest, leaving his arm draped over him and resting his head on his shoulder.

Craig is a handsy drunk, which is something that Bruno has noticed before, although Craig has never been quite this handsy with him. He catches Craig's hand and holds it still.

"I'm sure you are good at relationships," he tells him. Bruno's has only ever really known Craig to be in long-term relationships. "Dates aren't the easiest thing though, especially when you’re a celebrity. We both know that." Bruno sighs a little. He empathises completely with Craig, knows what it's like to feel lonely at times.

"Besides," he tells him. "Anybody that just wants to go out with you because of who you know is an idiot."

Craig beams at his friend, trying to pat him on the chest again but only ends up wriggling his hand in Bruno's grip. "Huh," he says, blinking a little. "We're holding hands." Craig isn't sure how that's happened but he laces his fingers with Bruno's – it takes a couple of tries but he manages it eventually – and sighs, feeling happy and sad at the same time, which is kind of confusing, especially when he's this drunk.

Bruno shakes his head a little but doesn't say anything as they draw up to the hotel, nor does he pull his hand away from Craig’s. He leans forward and pays the taxi driver and then climbs out, carefully pulling Craig out after him.

"Come on you," he says. "Let's get you to your room." Craig follows amiably along into the lift and up to the sixth floor, where they’re both situated.

As they walk along the corridor Bruno could swear that it's doubled in length. Craig is saying nothing, just singing quietly to himself as he drapes himself over Bruno.

You're a teaser, you turn 'em on
Leave them burning and then you're gone
Looking out for another, anyone will do
You're in the mood for a dance
And when you get the chance...


Bruno's trying not to laugh at Craig's singing. He's not a bad singer but he's a little too loud for this time of night.  "Shush," he says finally stopping outside Craig's door. "Where's your key?"  Craig though isn't really paying attention, too focussed on leaning against Bruno and... And sniffing his hair.  Which is just...

"Craig, what the hell are you doing?" Bruno asks although it's pretty damned obvious.

"You smell nice," Craig says, inhaling deeply again. Bruno does, some expensive aftershave and green tea shampoo and a little bit of sweat underneath that all, which is the part Craig maybe likes best. "You always smell nice." He rubs his nose against the short hairs just behind Bruno's ear. The skin is warm and he wants to press his mouth to it but something stops him, some distant warning bell ringing in his head that makes him pull back a little.

Bruno shivers and Craig frowns, worried. "Are you cold?" he asks. "We should go in."

'O' Dio!' Bruno thinks. Does Craig even know what he's doing to him right now? Probably not, he's drunk after all and this is maybe something he does whenever he's drunk. "Yes I am cold," he lies, although he's feeling extremely warm right now. "Give me your key pass."

Craig hunts in his pockets for a minute and then grins as he finds the key and hands it to Bruno who opens the door and puts the lights on.

"Come on," he pulls Craig in after him. "You need to sleep."

He takes Craig's jacket from him and hangs it up in the wardrobe, which is in exactly the same place as the one in his own room. Bruno really hates bland hotel chains. "Sit," he tells Craig who's standing in the middle of the room looking a little lost. Bruno pushes him down onto the bed and kneels down to pull his shoes off.

Craig stares down at Bruno's bent head where he's kneeling between his legs. "Fuck," he says. "I'm glad I'm drunk."

"Of course you are," Bruno says and pats him on the shin, thankfully not asking why because then Craig's current lack of brain-to-mouth filter would've made him explain that the reason he's glad he's drunk is that he's too wasted to actually get a hard-on right now, which is something that would otherwise be an inevitable consequence of their positions.

Craig reaches out and pets Bruno's – lovely smelling! – hair clumsily. "Bruno," he sighs, tired and a little wistful, "we're... we're friends right?"

Bruno looks up from where he's kneeling.  "Yes Craig, of course we are. Good friends. Do you think I'd be down here like this for just anybody?" He smiles up at him and pulls off Craig's socks as well and tosses them to one side. "Why do you even ask?"

"No reason," Craig says. He leans back on his elbows, watching as Bruno gets up, doing - something - with Craig's shoes, probably putting them away or maybe just hiding them. "I'll have to call you if I don't find them," Craig tells him sagely, around a yawn.

Bruno is a good friend, he'll help Craig find his shoes. A good friend, a good... "Sometimes I wish we weren't friends," Craig says, wrapping his arms around a pillow. "Because it would be okay then."

There's a few seconds of silence and Craig's eyes slip shut.

"What would be okay?" Bruno asks then, his voice close and oddly gruff.

"Huh, what?" Everything is spinning and it's hard to concentrate.

"Craig, Craig, what would be okay if we weren't friends?"

Bruno sounds upset, like he really needs Craig to answer the question so Craig does. "To want to kiss you. Want to kiss you... all the time. Not, not good now. Don’t want to lose you." The words feel thick and sad in his mouth and Craig frowns unhappily, curling tighter around the pillow, trying to figure out what he should say to make it better.

He falls asleep instead.


***


Bruno slowly pulls a cover over Craig and straightens up, staring at him for a moment, not really believing what he just heard. Craig looks tired and Bruno has to stop himself from reaching out and stroking his face before leaving the room and slowly walking back to his own.

Of all the things he might have expected to happen tonight, Craig getting drunk and telling him that he wanted to kiss him was not one of them. Bruno automatically undresses and drops his clothes on a chair, not bothering to hang them up. He can't stop thinking about Craig's words, how he touched him and the sadness in his voice when he talked about being lonely and Bruno.

The idea of kissing Craig is nothing new to him but it's been a long time since Bruno closed the lid of his own mental box. Tried to lock away his own desire for Craig and he's not sure how he feels about having it suddenly forced open like this.

Bruno sighs and gets into bed. Like Craig, he hadn’t wanted to lose what they have, to risk their friendship but if Craig feels the same way... Maybe it is worth seeing if something more could come from this.

Craig had been tipsily affectionate with him all night and Bruno isn't dead, would be lying to himself if he didn't admit that he'd liked it and hoped that Craig meant what he'd said. Bruno rubs a hand wearily over his face, knowing he’ll probably be up most of the night, wondering what the morning will bring.


***


Bruno pours himself another mug of coffee. He's already gone through at least a potful, trying to wake himself up but for once the coffee doesn't seem to be working. The reason, of course, is that he got very little sleep the night before, instead tossing and turning, thinking about the previous evening.

Thankfully, there's nothing really to do today, he can just chill out until the train back to London, and with luck he might be able to sleep on the train. Bruno takes a mouthful of the coffee and looks around the dining room, which is fairly quiet right now. Len has already gone back up and few of the dancers have made it downstairs. Bruno smiles a little, not really surprised at that.  He suspects most of them are probably still sleeping off their hangovers.

Bruno takes a bite of his toast and looks up as Craig enters the dining room.


***


Craig walks very gingerly as every step is jarring his head. He's already taken pain killers but they don't seem to be doing much to calm the pounding. It feels like there's a little vicious man with a hammer just behind his eyes.

It's depressing to realise that he's way past the days when he could get pissed in the evening and be ready to work in the morning. Age certainly doesn't come without its consequences.

Craig heads straight for the coffee, pouring himself a large mug. The sight of food makes his stomach turn so he bypasses that quickly. He doesn't seem to be the only one suffering from a hangover this morning and he remembers a lot of people drinking and having a good time. Apart for that, his memories of last night are a little hazy. There was a jello shot contest – he's pretty sure he won – and a fair bit of dancing, including...

Craig almost drops his drink when the memory of dancing with Bruno floods back. That had been... fuck, that had been amazing, their bodies pressed close and moving in sync... Craig glances across the room where Bruno is sitting at a table by himself, and swallows nervously. Hopefully, he hadn't taken the dancing too far, done something to make Bruno uncomfortable.


***


Bruno watches as Craig carefully makes his way over to the coffee machine, and then toward his table. Craig doesn’t look good, seems almost as tired as Bruno himself is feeling and he wonders whether or not he's taken anything for the headache he is likely to have.

"Buon Giorno, Craig. How are you feeling this morning?”

"Like shit," Craig answers honestly. Bruno looks like he hasn't had much sleep, which is strange as Craig is pretty sure that unlike him and most other people, he hadn't actually been that drunk. "Can I join you?" he asks, indicating the empty seat opposite.

Craig's not sure why he is asking, they don't usually bother with niceties with each other. It's just that there is something about the tense set of Bruno's shoulder that makes Craig seem unsure of his welcome.

"Please." Bruno waves his hand at the empty seat opposite him. "You do not have to ask, Craig. You should know that." Bruno stands up. "I'm just going to get some more juice. Would you like some?"

Bruno doesn't particularly want fruit juice, but he's buying time, not really sure what to say to Craig.

Gratefully, Craig collapses onto the chair. "Oh, um, alright. Vitamin C can only help at this point." He takes a sip of his coffee and doesn't turn around to watch Bruno walk to the serving station even though he wants to.


***


Even though there are a number of different fruit juices, Bruno fills a glass with orange juice for Craig and grapefruit juice for himself. It says something about how many mornings he's spent in hotel dining rooms with Craig that he knows that Craig will start with orange juice and then move on to cranberry.  He shakes his head a little.

He glances over at their table. Craig is rubbing his right shoulder which doesn't really surprise Bruno, the amount of twirling and dipping he was doing the previous night.  He's almost afraid to go back to the table, not sure what Craig might say, if anything, but he can't keep putting it off.  Slowly, he walks back and puts the glasses down on the table before going back to the pastry section and filling a plate with pastries and croissants. If nothing else, he figures that Craig might be able to get one of those down and he certainly would need the sugar.

"Here," he says putting the plate on the table in front of Craig and sitting down. "I thought you might need these."

Craig reaches for the juice first, grimacing a little at the mix of citrus and coffee. Bruno has brought a selection of all of his favourite pastries and Craig smiles, genuinely touched. He's pretty sure that they could order for each other in a restaurant by now and get it right. It's a good thought, one that makes him feel warm and cared for, one that makes him wish he could have this all the time.

"Thank you," Craig says, reaching for a pain au chocolat and tearing a small piece to pop into his mouth.

They drink in silence for a while. Bruno is unusually quiet, just observing the people having breakfast.

"It was a good night, last night," Craig finally comments, wanting Bruno's attention.

Bruno rubs his eyes.  "Yes... it was. I don't think you're the only person likely to be suffering a little this morning.  I suspect that Brendan and Robin will be regretting challenging you to jello shots." He gives Craig a little smile.  "Although perhaps you are regretting it too, no?"

He reaches out and takes one of the pastries even though he's not massively hungry, but it's something for him to do with his hands. "You may, however, need to persuade Erin not to upload some of the photos she took onto her Twitter account."

Craig's head jerks up at that, eyes widening in apprehension and he scrambles to get his phone out. It takes less than a minute to confirm what he suspected; that Bruno's suggestion was too little, too late, and the photos were already out there.

"I'm going to kill her," Craig groans. He flicks through the photos – most innocent enough group shots of the Strictly crew having fun – until he gets to the couple of him and Bruno and... oh. Oh. That could maybe explain why Bruno is being a bit wary with him. Because the photo of them dancing, pressed together intimately from chest to knee, looks less innocent and more... intense. Craig remembers trying to keep things light and playful but... clearly he didn't quite succeed.

"What is it?" Bruno asks across the table.

Wordlessly, Craig hands him the phone.

Bruno takes it from him with some trepidation. The photos are good and he's surprised at that, considering how much Erin seemed to have been drinking. Bruno sighs a little, wondering how long it will take for the papers to pick them up.

"They’re good pictures," he tells Craig, passing the phone back to him, because they really are. He makes a mental note to himself to download copies of them. "But we were only dancing so there is nothing for you to worry about. You seemed to enjoy yourself."

'Only dancing.' So at least Craig hadn't done anything inappropriate then. "I was," he says, and then, partly testing the waters, partly because he means it, he adds: "You made a good partner. If I was too drunk to say it last night... Thank you for the dance."

"Dances," Bruno responds. He's beginning to get the sinking feeling that Craig possibly doesn’t remember all that happened last night. "We danced more than once," he tells him. "And you're welcome. I... I enjoyed dancing with you as well." Which he had. It's no lie.

"Dances," Craig repeats. "Yes, of course." He frowns a little, chewing on the pastry slowly. "It's all a bit fuzzy, I'm afraid," he confesses. "I remember you making sure I got back to the hotel though, so thank you for that too."

Bruno nods curtly and his eyes are scanning the room again as if he's looking for an escape route. Craig's stomach twists unpleasantly and a part of him doesn't want to know but... he has to ask. "Bruno... do I owe you an apology? I... it feels like maybe I've done something to upset you, but I don't remember what. Will you please tell me?"

And there it is, what Bruno was beginning to suspect; Craig doesn't remember what happened the previous evening. He's doesn't answer Craig straight away, doesn't really know what to say to him.

Craig's eyes though are fixed on Bruno’s hands and looking down Bruno realises that he's restlessly shredding a croissant onto his plate. He drops the remains and picks up a napkin and wipes his hands.

'Pointless,' he thinks. The whole thing was pointless and Bruno wishes that he'd never taken Craig back to his room last night, never heard the words that Craig had said. But Pandora's Box has been opened and Bruno doesn't know whether he'll be able to close it again, not straight away. It's too hard. He'd stupidly allowed himself to hope last night, stupidly forgotten that words said when drunk aren't always true.

"No," he says finally. "You haven't done anything to upset me. You didn't do anything other than dance a lot. That was all.  I..." He stands up. "If you'll excuse me, Craig, I need to finish packing. I will see you later on the train."  

Before Craig can say anything Bruno pushes his chair back and walks away from the table. He needs to put distance between the two of them, needs some time to himself before he speaks to Craig again.

This time Craig turns to stare, too shocked to even react.

Bruno just lied to him. Craig is sure of that. His words said 'no nothing happened' but his every action was practically screaming 'yes' and the way he’d run off confirmed it.

Craig gets up, leaving his breakfast unfinished. He wasn't that hungry before and he sure as hell isn't now. There's a tight heavy feeling in his chest and it takes a while for him to recognise it for what is: fear.

He still doesn't remember what he did or said – although he has a few ideas, none of them good –  but he's afraid that whatever it was, it's going to cost him Bruno's friendship. Craig walks to the lifts slowly, feeling worse than he did after waking up. It was going to be a long day.


***


Craig pinches the bridge of his nose, sitting down heavily on his bed. The house is mostly in darkness but he hasn't put the lights on, still suffering from insistent hangover headache. It hasn't been helped by the fact that he'd had a late meeting with his agent as soon as they got back to London. It had overrun something chronic, which is why he's only now home.

Craig sits in his dimly lit bedroom, elbows leaning on his knees, and listens to the quiet rumble of the washing machine from downstairs. He feels... he feels almost like those first couple of days after breaking up with Martin. Except this is somehow even worse.

With Martin, the breakup had been a long time coming and even though it hurt he'd known it was the right thing to do. With Bruno... Craig doesn't even know what's wrong, only that something is, that he's done something to upset his friend and now he's in danger of losing him.

He thinks maybe he said or did something to make Bruno uncomfortable, something that revealed that Craig felt more than just friendship toward him. And Craig is more than willing to beg for forgiveness for that, to swear he'll never say or do anything ever, except... he's not sure that is the reason Bruno is upset so to bring it up could fuck this up even more and he--

Craig startles as his phone beeps, vibrating in his pocket and making him jump. He takes it out, hoping against hope that it's Bruno. But no, the text is from Erin. A short message saying she hopes he's not too hung-over and that not to worry about Bruno's mood – she must have picked up on something during the train journey when they'd barely spoken to each other – that he and Craig were too good friends to let anything ruin it.

Craig sighs and sends a quick 'thanks' back before getting up. There's nothing gained by sitting here, maudlin. He might as well get ready for bed. He heads downstairs to lock up and get a glass of water. Something keeps nagging at him though, something about Erin's text...

'You're good friends,' she'd said. 'Good friends'...

The glass in Craig's hands crashes to the kitchen tiles.

Bruno kneeling on the floor, smiling up at him, saying 'Of course we are. Good friends.' The familiar ache of wanting what he couldn't have spilling over, out of his mouth in damning words of 'want to kiss you, all the time' and how it'd felt like a relief, to say that out loud.

"Oh fuck," Craig curses, staring unseeing at the shards on the floor. "Fuck, fuck, shitting fuck!" He can't believe he'd said that. Christ, no wonder Bruno was acting strange. He was probably afraid that Craig was going to act on it, to... to force himself on Bruno uninvited and... oh god he has to go and apologise. Right now.

Craig pulls on his trainers and a jacket and grabs his keys from the counter, slamming the front door behind himself.


***


"Craig is there something wrong?" Bruno looks at his watch. "It is quite late."

It's getting close to 11.00pm, in fact, and the last person that Bruno wants to see right now is Craig. It's been an unpleasant day, not really knowing what to say to Craig or how to act around him, besides which Bruno is still tired even though he managed to get a couple of hours sleep on the train. Thankfully, he'd been able to sit opposite Len on the train, who'd been more than happy to concentrate on his book and not bother Bruno.  

Bruno still doesn't know what to do about last night but his hope was that when he next saw Craig things would be more normal between them. He hadn't counted on Craig turning up at his flat, although he supposed knowing Craig that he should have done. The other man has never been one to let things lie, must always worry at things until they're sorted in his own head.  

From his hopes and thoughts of the hours spent awake during the previous night, to the disappointment of this morning, it's been an eventful day and Bruno just wants to relax. He's unpacked and had a shower and now he just wants to finish off the glass of wine that he had poured for himself and go to bed and not think about what he wishes could be. Not think about how much he wants Craig, has always wanted Craig but knows he can't have him. He wants to sleep in late in the morning and ignore all phones calls, texts and everything else.

Something he wishes he'd done when the doorbell rang. From the determined look on Craig's face Bruno knows that's not going to happen right now.

"I..." Craig runs his hand through his hair. He hadn't even looked at the time, just  needing to speak to Bruno. "I'm sorry," he says.  "It's just, I needed to speak to you but... I can come back tomorrow."

Bruno is wearing soft jogging pants and a tee shirt, feet bare and hair damp and curling into his neck and Craig hates himself a little right now because no matter how worried he is about having ruined their friendship he still wants to reach over and touch Bruno, to find out how he tastes.

Bruno sighs and shakes his head a little. "If it was important enough for you to come over you should probably come in." He turns his back and heads back into the kitchen where he'd left his wine.

"Do you want one?" he asks holding up the bottle to Craig.

Craig winces. "No. Thanks," he says shaking his head. "I... I better not, considering that's kind of why I'm here in the first place.”

Bruno is bustling around the kitchen. "Well, there's tonic water in the fridge if you'd rather that or I can always make coffee."  

Craig isn't really sure what to say. Bruno isn't looking at him and Craig thinks he's probably just offering drinks because he's feeling uncomfortable. "No, I don't want a drink Bruno. I want... need to apologise to you." He catches Bruno's arm briefly just to stop him from rattling about in the kitchen.

Bruno stills at the touch and then carefully steps away from him. He picks up his wine and takes a mouthful, leaning back against the kitchen cabinet, his dark eyes now watching Craig.

And that's just wrong. Craig feels cold and unhappy about the way that Bruno has pulled away from him. Bruno's always been handsy with him, never done this before and Craig figures it's because of what happened the previous night. He needs to sort this out.

"Look, Bruno," Craig runs a hand through his hair, "I was pretty drunk last night, and I'm... I think I said something I... shouldn't have and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

Bruno shakes his head a little in exasperation. "Why is it that you always make things so difficult Craig? Is it that you didn't mean what you said, or is it that you are simply sorry because you think it made me uncomfortable? And yes you were drunk, but not in a bad way."

'Oh.' Craig doesn't really know what to say to that. He thinks he should maybe say that he didn't mean it but... he can't bring himself to lie. Not about this. In the end, he sidesteps the question a  little. "You are uncomfortable around me though, I can tell. That's the last thing I wanted, I was never going to... I'm sorry, Bruno. I said I didn't want to do anything to risk our friendship and I did it anyway."

Bruno puts his glass down and throws his hands up in despair, muttering in Italian. Craig looks pathetic right now; hands in his pockets and shoulders hunched. Seriously, the man is so damned annoying at times. Bruno takes a step towards Craig who's staring at him as though he's no idea what Bruno is going to do right now.

"You are not answering my question," he says poking Craig in the chest. "So let me rephrase it for you. You said you wanted to kiss me. Did you mean that Craig or were you just saying it because you were drunk?”

Craig flinches a little, not quite looking Bruno in the eye but... he deserves the truth. "I said... sometimes I wished we weren't friends because then it would be okay to want to kiss you. But I didn't mean that." He looks up quickly. "The part about not wanting to be friends.  Because as irritating as you are, you're also funny and generous and kind and... I'll always want to be your friend. but that's not all I want." He bites his lip and then just says it. "So yeah, the other part... I meant that."

Bruno takes a breath. He'd thought about this the previous night, thought about what he might do if Craig actually did try and kiss him. And he knows that Craig isn't looking just for a quick dalliance. Enough was said that he knows Craig wants another long-term relationship, that he doesn't like being alone. And Bruno... well, he likes his creature comforts, likes his own space at times but he is often lonely. “And if you could have both?" he asks. "What would you do?"

Craig's head snaps up in surprise and not a little disbelief. He stares at Bruno for several long seconds, not at all sure he's hearing this right, whether Bruno is actually saying what Craig thinks he is or whether he's just hearing what he wants to hear. "I..." Craig starts and then shakes his head. "I think maybe I want that drink now. And... and maybe we need to sit down and talk?"

‘Talk’, Bruno shakes his head a little and smiles. Yes, they can talk. It's at times like this that he is reminded he's no longer a teenager when the passions of the flesh were paramount.  He pours Craig a glass of wine and tops his own up.  "You should maybe take your jacket off and relax. And then we can talk." Bruno carries the wine out of the kitchen and heads into the lounge, to the seats positioned over by the window, seats set up so that he can watch the colours of London pass by.

Craig takes off his jacket and folds it over a kitchen chair. After a short hesitation he kicks off his trainers as well, leaving them under it. He'd come over in such a hurry, been so desperate to apologise and scared of losing Bruno's friendship that he hadn't paused to consider the niceties of civilized society before.

He's not exactly sure of himself or what's going on now, but at the very least it doesn't look like he's going to lose Bruno. Craig follows him to the lounge and takes the seat opposite. The armchair is comfortable and Craig takes a moment to look around. He's been to Bruno's house before, but not very often, and he's changed some of the furniture around since Craig last visited.

Craig takes a sip of his wine – excellent, which is unsurprising – reminding himself to just stick to this one glass, considering the events of the last twenty-four hours.

After he puts his glass back down, he's run out of excuses to avoid the conversation. "So..." Craig looks at Bruno, who is looking back, still with that small smile on his face. "You're not mad?" he hazards.

Bruno is trying not to smile too broadly at Craig. Craig is nervous, and it's an unusual look for him, one that Bruno hasn't seen very often.

He's sitting a little stiffly in the chair, although Bruno notes that he's taken his trainers off which as far as he's concerned is a good sign. It means that Craig isn't intending on walking out, or at least that's what he hopes.

"Relax, Craig," Bruno tells him. "I spent a very long time looking for chairs that were comfortable. The way you are sitting at the moment you will be doing nothing more than stiffening your muscles up and much as I would be happy to give you a shoulder massage I do not think we are at that stage just yet." Bruno stretches his legs out in front of him and crosses them at his ankles.  "So no. I am not mad at what you said. Unless you did not mean it."

Craig raises his eyebrows but can't help but grin at Bruno's comment as he leans back, relaxing into the seat. "Well, as happy as I would be to accept a massage from you," he lets his gaze flick over Bruno's no doubt capable hands briefly, "I reckon you're right, and we're not quite there yet."

He takes another sip of wine, lifting one leg over another, ankle resting over his knee. "I'm glad you're not angry. I was afraid that..." He cuts himself off. "Thought I already answered the question. I meant it," he says, holding eye contact even though it's not easy. "Doesn't mean I have to do anything about it. Definitely doesn't mean you have to," he adds, fingers digging into the chair arm. It's important that Bruno knows that. That nothing has to change.

Bruno's attention is drawn to the window for a moment as the dark of the night is cut through with flashing lights, but it's not as though he hasn't seen it before. This is London after all.

He looks back at Craig who's tensed up again. "I think I would have been angry if you had not meant what you'd said. And even if nothing were to happen I do not think I could easily forget what you'd said. Would not want to forget what you said to me even though you were drunk."

Leaning forward slightly he rests his elbows on his knees. "And like I asked before, if you could have both what would you do? Because I know that I would like to see if we can take this... idea further."

And there it is. An unmistakable offer that Craig never expected to receive, never expected to even ask for. There's a part of him that just wants to grab hold of the opportunity with both hands, hell, grab hold of Bruno and just... kiss him, take him to bed, lay him down and... But, no. Not, when he's not quite sure what exactly Bruno is offering here.

Craig sits up and puts his glass down carefully. "I would..." He swallows, his voice suddenly gruff. "I would... am asking you please not to joke, not about this. To be sure about what you're saying. Because I meant it about not wanting to risk our friendship too. Definitely not over one kiss, one night."

Bruno sighs a little although he can understand why Craig is being careful. "Craig. I'm not joking about this. You told me enough last night that I know that you would like another relationship, and...”  He leans forward and touches Craig's knee. "I am no longer interested in transient affairs, want something that means more than that.”

He sits back and takes a mouthful of his wine. "I am flighty, impatient, like my own company and am very over the top, or so I've been told on more than one occasion." He smiles at Craig who's been guilty of saying that a number of times over the years. "But I am also more than that. I get lonely and I would like very much to see if we could take this further than friendship. I do not want to lose your friendship either, Craig, but I do think that we could have something good.  I would very much like to go out on a date with you, my friend."

Craig stares, stunned and genuinely speechless, which doesn't happen a lot. In fact, he can count the times it's happened with the fingers on one hand, but this – Bruno laying his cards on the table like that, all open affection and offering everything and more Craig ever dared to hope for – this definitely qualifies.

However, just because he's robbed of words, doesn't mean he's out of options. And really, faced with this, there is only one thing he can do. Has to do. Just... cannot not do. Right now.

Slowly, Craig gets up and leans forward and across the small space separating them. He puts his hands on the arms of Bruno's chair, bracketing him in. Bruno's eyes have gone wide from surprise and Craig moves slowly, carefully, to give Bruno time to push him away if he wants but when his hands come up to touch Craig's chest, it is to curl into his shirt, not to shove him off, and his face is angled up, expectantly.

Craig takes that for a permission and closes the distance between them, pressing his mouth to Bruno's.

This Bruno wasn't expecting but he's not complaining, especially when Craig's lips touch his own. He makes a little noise and opens his mouth, kissing Craig back. He loosens his grip on Craig's shirt and instead splays his hands over Craig's chest, wanting to touch as much as he can.

Craig's lips are firm and he tastes of wine and Bruno just can't get enough, can't stop himself from kissing back, from moaning into the kiss. Craig leans in further and he lifts his right hand curling it around the back of Bruno's neck, the kiss turning fiercer and more possessive as he bites down softly on Bruno's lips.

Fuck, it's good, so much better even than Craig expected. The way Bruno is opening up under him, straining to get closer, the noises he's making... all of it is like gasoline to fire and the heat between them is in danger of flaring up beyond what Craig intended.

It takes a considerable amount of will power to not just push for more, faster, to drag Bruno off his chair and onto the floor but... Craig nips Bruno's bottom lip the final time and pulls off, reluctantly. They're both breathing hard.

"Uh..." He takes a step back and collapses back into his chair, feeling ruffled and a little embarrassed. "A date would be good."

Bruno slowly runs his tongue over his bottom lip, glad in a way that Craig pulled back although already missing the feel of his mouth against his own. If that's what kissing between them is like he can't wait to see what sex will be like and his body tightens at the thought.

He looks up at Craig who's staring back at him, his eyes dark. "Yes," he agrees. "I think a date would be good. Very good."

Craig exhales, a little unsteady but smiling wide enough that his cheeks hurt. "You free tomorrow?"

It's unusual to see Craig with such an open expression and Bruno can't stop himself from smiling back.  "Yes," he answers. "I am. Would you... do you have any preference to what you would like to do?"

Craig doesn't, hasn't really thought beyond the whole 'date with Bruno' aspect of it, which is enough to take all his attention. "I don't know," he says honestly and then frowns. "Except... I don't really want to dodge reporters all night. Maybe... we could just go out for drinks and have dinner at mine? I'll cook."

Bruno's mouth twists up a little at that. Craig is right about the reporters. Both are them are well known TV faces and the chances of ending up in the Daily Mail are a little too real. Something he doesn't mind if it's to do with Strictly but he'd rather not be sharing his personal life with them. He likes the idea of Craig cooking for him though and drinks in town wouldn't be a problem.  "That would be lovely," he tells him. "How about if we meet for cocktails at Knights and then we can get a cab to yours?"

"Sounds good," Craig nods, putting his glass down and getting up. "I think I’d better head home now but..." He smiles. "I'm glad I came over, glad we talked."

"Alright." Bruno gets up as well, picking up their glasses and carrying them into the kitchen. "I'm glad you came over." He watches as Craig puts his trainers and jacket on.  "So what time should we say for tomorrow and is there anything you would like me to bring for dinner?"

"Six o‘clock okay?" Craig asks as they walk to the front door. "And maybe bring a bottle of wine."

Bruno nods, smiling, and Craig is tempted to lean over and kiss him again but he knows that if he does he won't actually leave. So instead he just says goodnight and opens the door, letting the cool night air calm him down.


***

Bruno takes a sip of his Martini and heroically doesn't look at his watch, although he wants to. It's not as if Craig is even late it's just... well it's just that he's a little nervous. It's been a while since he's been on a date. A proper date that is, not just picking up somebody for some fun whilst on a holiday.

It's become more difficult to meet people since Strictly and then Dancing with the Stars started and this is even more different. This is Craig, who he's known for over seven years, known and liked.

He takes another sip of the Martini, savouring the taste. It's made to perfection which is one of the reasons he loves coming here. That and the fact that it's quiet, even with the pianist playing in the background.


***


Craig slows down a little as he gets closer to Knights. He'd asked the taxi to drop him a few streets away, ostensibly to give him a chance to enjoy the sunshine and bustle of London in June but really it's just so he can gather his nerves. What if Bruno isn't there? What if he's decided the whole thing is a colossal mistake and has taken the first plane to Ibiza to find a young nubile waiter to entertain him and...

Okay, fuck, Craig is being a drama queen inside his own head, which is pointless as there's no one to appreciate the show and he's only going to wind himself up unnecessarily. Bruno would have called him if he'd decided to cancel. If nothing else, last night confirmed that they are friends and will always be friends so he wouldn't just not show up.

Craig squares his shoulders and opens the door to the bar, spotting Bruno immediately. He's sitting at one of the booths toward the back, away from the windows and the chance of being spotted.

Craig lets himself look as he walks over, taking in the tight tee-shirt and even tighter jeans Bruno is wearing with approval. He's glad he decided to go casual, on account of the warm weather and making this look like friends having drinks rather than a first date.

Bruno looks up and Craig feels a frisson of anticipation when their eyes meet. He can't quite believe this is happening, but... Here they are.

"Hey," he says, leaning to exchange a quick kiss on the cheek. It's their usual way of greeting each other and if Craig lingers a little longer over it tonight than before, breathing in Bruno's expensive aftershave, then who can blame him? "I hope you didn't have to wait long."

"Hey," Bruno responds smiling up at Craig and giving him a quick onceover, liking the way his tee-shirt stretches across his shoulders and biceps. "No," he shakes his head. "Not long, just enough time for me enjoy one Martini." He raises the empty glass to Craig. Now that Craig is here he's feeling more relaxed.

"Let me get you a drink," he says, standing up. "What would you like, Craig?"

"Martini sounds pretty good, get me one of those please," Craig asks, sitting down.

Bruno nods and heads to the bar and Craig watches him walk off, appreciating the jeans even more from this angle. He's pretty sure that Bruno knows he's watching, but he wonders if he knows just how long Craig has been doing. Or trying not to, as the case may be. It's... weird, but kind of amazing, to know that he can do that now.


***


Continue to Part 2





SCD - craig
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