The camera clicked and focused on the bespectacled man, the teleprompt scrolled up to the proper place, and the music of All-Request Thursday faded out.
Errol Barnett, for one, wished that the teenage population could abandon its fascination with Yellowcard.
But he didn't let that hold his attention for very long. Knowing that all the viewers were seeing was the man seated on the sofa across from him, he let himself relax and slouched against the sofa's arm. On the end table next to him was a bottle of water and he picked it up absently and raised it to his lips, which were for some reason dry. Why was that, he wondered?
Oh yeah, because Derrick was talking.
Most days, it didn't even matter what story Derrick was covering. Errol could usually make do with just listening to his voice, slightly deeper and more nasal than his own. Unfortunately, the occasional story would roll in where the words themselves contributed to Errol's fixation as well. Today's bit about online sex predators was threatening to completely throw him for a loop.
Derrick's voice, Derrick's mouth forming the word "sexual" about twenty times in one show was definitely not helping.
So glazed over were Errol's eyes that he barely even noticed they had cut to a commercial. It didn't quite register in his head until a combination of two things hit him simultaneously: the first being the crazed Winterfresh ad, and the second being Derrick's eyes dead even with his.
Errol jumped. "Sorry, mate, spaced out for a moment."
Derrick laughed a little. "Errol. Your accent is fake for the news show. Your name is really Aaron and you're from a nowhere town in Maryland. Don't lose yourself to this kind of illusion, man."
Errol swallowed hard and found himself wishing he'd managed to drink more of that water before then. "Yeah, it's just…it's a commercial break, we'll have to be back on in about two seconds anyway. Best not to fall out of character."
"If you say so, I guess." Derrick endured about two seconds of an enthusiastic makeup woman touching him up, and then the sounds of Shakira and a ringing cell phone were over and the camera was facing them again.
Ever the professional, Errol skillfully introduced the next staged Seth Doane clip that they'd actually shot about a week ago without missing a beat, distracted as he was by what seemed to be a closer proximity between he and Derrick on the uncomfortable sofa. The rest of the show, too, passed without a flaw – the two anchors had been at it for years, and were above such silly bloopers – and when the show was over, their bit director hollered "wrap!" and they slumped once more. The two men on the sofa sat in silence for a moment or two just getting out of journalism-mode. The quiet discomforted Errol, however, and he found himself striving to make idle chatter while the stagehands rushed around disassembling everything in preparation for whatever insane set they'd be filming from tomorrow.
"I olways laike days wheh we doun't hahve to tolk about the woh in Irahq," he remarked, trying to be as off-hand as possible. He needed to keep talking anyway, he told himself, to break out of his accent for the rest of his day as a normal human being. "Those are some of the hardest stories to tolk – uh, talk about while still seeming disinterested."
Derrick seemed to ponder this for a moment, and then nodded his head in agreement. "Yeah, you've got a point. Although that sexual predator spot was a bitch to master. Something about the word sexual – " he drew it out with a slight pout of his lips and Errol/Aaron groaned inwardly – "that just makes you want to giggle when you read it on a teleprompt. It's not even like I'm so immature as to freak out about saying the word in general, but seeing it up on that stupid blue screen with the white text – sexual." Oh bugger, he's done it again.
"Yeah, I remember Cali had an even harder time than you did when she had that topic a month or so ago. She was pacing around the dressing room just muttering to herself, trying to psyche herself up."
"Oh yeah," Derrick recalled, and he laughed again. That laugh, that laugh...
He then stood up, brushing off the seat of his pants to rid them of the red fuzz that the awful sofa shed, and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Well, wanna see what the catering team has brought us for breakfast today?"
Aaron's eyes had been following the path of Derrick's hands, but when he realized he was being asked a question he snapped jerkily back to attention. "Oh! Yeah. As long as it's not those abysmal maple doughnuts they brought us two weeks ago."
"…You do realize that was an April Fool's joke, right?"
"Alexandra Montoya had them sent over from her new job. She was just messing with us."
"Oh. Well then yes, by all means."
Derrick sauntered over to the breakfast table and Aaron was right behind, watching the enticing back view and biting his tongue so hard it was almost bleeding.
Right from the start, Aaron had known that being in close proximity to Derrick Shore was going to prove hazardous to not only their casual working relationship but probably also his sanity and health. It wasn't nearly so dramatic as Derrick being "the first guy he'd ever been attracted to, woe" – no, he'd been gay for quite a while, just far from open about his preferences. He admired the don't ask, don't tell policy and was perfectly fine with concealing his tastes from the rest of the Channel One news crew on the sheer basis of "they don't need to know." With the blast of gaydar blips he'd received upon meeting Derrick, however, it was becoming harder and harder to maintain his need-to-know-basis-only mentality.
Plus, he'd always been a sucker for guys who knew how to use hair gel.
Snapping back to the present, Aaron continued to follow Derrick with his eyes. He realized that his earlier pat-down hadn't been enough and that there was still a fairly large wad of red sofa fuzz stuck right to the left back pocket of his (infuriatingly low-rise) jeans. Aaron smirked to himself, wondering how long it would take for Derrick to find out, and how many people he'd pass by who'd just keep silent and have him leave it there, only to be embarrassed later.
Or if you weren't such a chicken, mate, his subconscious said, you'd just reach over there and grab it off yourself, wouldn't you?
Biting his lip, he fell into step right behind Derrick at the breakfast table, which this morning was laden with fresh fruit, cinnamon bagels, and a half-full, only slightly stale pot of coffee. Hastily, Aaron piled his flimsy paper plate with half a bagel and some orange wedges. He needed to get out of a fifteen-foot radius of Derrick and let himself calm down a little. Deciding to forgo coffee – he was on edge enough as it was – he strode straight on past his co-anchor with every intention of eating in the car on his way to his day job. It was suddenly very hot in the studio and he was anxious to shuck the sweater he had worn on set.
He was doubtlessly extremely surprised when, upon passing Derrick, Aaron felt a well-manicured hand reach out and touch the backside of his khakis. He tensed up instantly and was about to whirl around and demand an explanation when one was whispered in his right ear.
"You had some of that fuzz from the sofa," Derrick told him, his voice low and heated against Aaron's skin. "That thing sheds everywhere."
Right, that's what you're saying, mate, but your hand's been there much too long to rationalize that.
"You've got some too," Aaron replied, turning around in Derrick's grasp to grope at the other man's rear as well. He, unlike Derrick, withdrew his hand once he'd found his target, brandishing the clump of fuzz between two fingers right in front of the Caucasian anchor's face. With a puff of breath Derrick blew the fuzz away, and next he knew Aaron's mouth had been captured in a sound kiss.
"Derrick!" he yelped when the other man broke away.
"It's Aaron, remember?" He smiled amusedly.
"Use your accent," Derrick insisted. "It's hotter."
"In that case," Errol told him, "are you familiar with the British term 'bugger'?"
Derrick just grinned in reply. "Are you familiar with the American term 'supply closet'?"
Hope everyone enjoyed. :D