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it’s all in the chemistry

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It’s been years since Dan has seen Noah. General awareness through Stacey, sure, but nothing in person, no party or night out or music festival. Which is surprising given their overlapping circle of friends. 

So when he watches Noah’s audition tape, he’s a little… distracted by this new version of Noah. He looks remarkably different, confident, yet exactly the same, as he bites his lip almost shyly during his intro. It’s a solid audition, enough for Dan to roll his eyes and text Stacey a reluctant thanks for suggesting him, and tell his casting director to bring Noah in for a chemistry test. Though… if neither of them have changed that much—and by the look of Noah’s same subconscious nervous tics, they haven’t—Dan thinks their chemistry will be as good as it was when… well—before.

They usually audition actors at the studio in the city, but time wasn’t something Dan had a good grasp on, so the options for scheduling Noah dwindled pretty quickly. He’d ended up having his casting team ask Noah to come to Goodwood for the reading, even offered to pick him up. Noah has declined the ride and said the drive might be nice, and even though Dan knew it kind of wasn’t, he didn’t have the energy to talk him out of it. 

On the day Noah is due to come in, Dan is crazed. If it were any other actor, as shitty as it would be, Dan would reschedule. As it is, he’s carrying a tall pile of wardrobe from one trailer to another when he nearly runs someone over because he can barely see where he’s going. 

“Oh fuck, sorry,” he hears, and feels a hand on his arm to steady him. The voice brings up a memory from so far back that Dan has to heave in a shaky breath before he speaks. 

“Noah?” He calls, trying to peer around the clothes. 

“Yeah—Dan?” Noah sounds incredulous. “Daniel you look—”

“Tired?” Dan jokes, shifting the clothes. 

Noah shakes his head but doesn’t answer. “Let me help you.” Before Dan can make some kind of joke about new cast members carrying his stuff, Noah has pulled half of the clothes out of his arms.

Dan is screwed, because Noah looks good. He’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt and Dan is about to start drooling. They drop off the clothes in a wardrobe trailer and once they're outside again, Noah looks at him with wide eyes and Dan finds himself falling into Noah's arms for a tight hug. Noah squeezes him, arms locked around Dan's waist, and he does that thing people do, heaving him up like he might lift him off the ground. 

He doesn't though, and Dan huffs out a laugh as they part. "It's really good to see you, Daniel," Noah says quietly, hands still resting on Dan's waist while Dan refuses to pull his hands off of Noah's (really nice) shoulders. 

"It's—people just call me Dan now," he says. Noah bobs his head. 

"Yeah, I've noticed." He smiles and Dan is definitely screwed. He's starting to think he can't, in good conscience, cast Noah in the role to play his character's love interest. Is that allowed? Casting someone you want to kiss in reality? Or is that what gross producers do?

Noah pulls him from his thoughts. "I'm early, I know, but I wanted to take a look around, if that's okay?" He shoves his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and Dan lets his hands fall to his sides.

"I can give you a tour?" Dan asks for some unknown reason. He has a laundry list of things to do before Noah's actual read time.

"You're not... too busy?" Noah asks. "I don't want to take up too much of your time—Dan."

Dan is going to pass out. He thinks about the two scenes he still has to write by the next day at noon, about the rest of the wardrobe for the season that he wants to look at, about walking Noah through the fakely idyllic town the crew has created. "It's no problem," he says breathily, and then takes a step back because Noah's proximity is making him light-headed. 

"Before we get going, I just want to thank you for giving me a chance," Noah says earnestly. "It means a lot to me."

Dan clears his throat. "You're... welcome. Kinda thought Stacey strong-armed you into sending us your tape, though...?"

Noah cheeks pinken adorably. "Yes, uh. It was an act. I, uh, was thrilled when she told me she'd mentioned me. But I mean I couldn't—"

"—let her know she was right." Dan smirks.

Noah grins. "Exactly that."

*

The chemistry test is kind of a wash. Dan's casting director went home sick and his dad is filming an unscheduled pick-up scene so he and Noah are left to their own devices. They do their due diligence, though, and run through a scene where Noah's character offers to help David with his business, and then Dan watches it back on the small video camera set up on the tripod in the corner. 

He and Noah look good together, and Dan feels a little ridiculous for wasting Noah's time and making him come all the way out to Goodwood when Dan knew he'd be a perfect fit. "Looks great," Dan says, shutting off the camera. Noah is sitting on the arm of a couch at the other end of the room. 

"When do you think you'll actually be making a decision? Do you have a lot more people to see? I know you're tight on time." He says, tossing his pages onto the couch. Dan is startled by the question. 

"Noah—"

Noah cuts him off. "I know, I know, you'll let me know." He laughs knowingly. Except he doesn’t know at all. 

"No, I mean—" Dan takes a few steps in Noah's direction. "I'm not... I'm not auditioning anyone else. Sorry, I thought you knew that?" Noah stands up and takes a few steps towards Dan so they're only a foot apart.

"Dan—are you sure? This—I mean this is a big deal.” He says with a short laugh, and looks wildly around the room. "I mean. I had a whole plan to bribe you with drinks tonight... if you were free..." He gives another laugh and runs a hand through his hair, making it stick up in awkward places. 

Dan reaches up to smooth a few pieces back down. "Noah you’re an amazing actor, and we work… well together.” Non grins but Dan plows on. “Of course I'm sure, and of course I'm free," he says, mentally crafting an excuse in his head to give to Stacey, with whom he did have plans. "I will hold the offer until you ply me with drinks and bar snacks, if it makes you feel better?" Dan winks. 

Noah grins at him and ducks his head. "Deal."

*

Noah leaves set way before Dan, but not without giving him another hug and what Dan thought may have been a kiss on his cheek, low enough to reach neck territory, and gives him the address of a bar he thinks Dan will like. Dan is skeptical, because he remembers Noah's taste in... everything… from when they were in each other's orbit on a regular basis. It wasn't good.

Dan cancels his plan with Stacey, who is quick to inform him that their plans were fake placeholder plans that she made so Dan wouldn't book something else on the day that Noah came to """chemistry test""" (her quotations, not his), and so he would have already made arrangements for Redmond to stay at his sitter’s.  He sends her the middle finger emoji and calls it a day.

He almost stops by his condo to change—he's wearing a basic sweater and jeans with ripped knees—but if he goes home he'll get stuck in a spiral of "is this too casual?" vs. "is this too nice?" vs. "does this look like I'm trying too hard?" So he skips it and heads straight for the bar. He sends Noah his location when he's close, and gets back a "see you soon," and that's when the butterflies start. He bites his lip to avoid grinning like a fool, even though there's no one in the car with him. 

The bar is far enough outside the city that parking isn't an issue, though that heightens Dan's skepticism, and he takes a deep breath before pulling open the door. The place isn't crowded yet and Dan spots Noah immediately, tucked into a corner booth at the back of the place. He's got two drinks on the table and Dan assumes one is for him, so he skips the bar and makes a beeline for Noah. 

Noah stands when he spots him, and Dan wonders if he's supposed to kiss Noah. Is this a date? He thinks frantically. Before he can think too hard, though, Noah is wrapping him up in a quick hug. "I got you a drink," he says, gesturing to the table and sitting back down. 

"I see that, thank you." Dan pulls the drink closer to him after he sits. Lord help him if Noah still remembers his drink order; he takes a long sip of the cold beverage and sighs. "I'm surprised you remembered."

Noah rubs the back of his neck, head dipping to stare at the table. When he looks back up, his eyes are dark and they make Dan breathless. "I couldn't forget."

*

Dan is finishing his third cocktail just as a server brings over pretzel bites and cheese fries. Somehow over the last two rounds, he and Noah have gravitated toward the center curve of the corner booth. Their thighs are touching and Dan's arm brushes Noah's as they both reach for a pretzel. Dan doesn't pull his hand away, just grabs a pretzel nugget and dips it in gross fake cheese and shoves it in his mouth. 

A fourth round of drinks arrives, which Dan doesn't remember either of them ordering, and Dan takes a long sip. Noah’s been telling him what he’s been up to, and Dan’s been drowning in his voice between drinks and bites of food. Noah’s eyes light up when he talks about music and Dan is minutes from falling into them and he’s worried he won’t find his way out. 

Noah has his arm across the back of the booth, and his other hand has found its way to the exposed skin of Dan’s knees. Noah’s fingers are kind of rough, Dan assumes from playing any one of the instruments he’d talked about tonight, but they send chills up Dan’s spine as Noah traces shapes over his skin. 

Dan doesn’t remember leaning closer, but all of a sudden he realizes how close their mouths are, how easy it would be to lean forward and press his lips against Noah’s. His breath starts to get shallow and he glances at Noah’s mouth, notices he’s stopped talking altogether and is staring back at Dan. Noah moves forward slightly and Dan panics, puts his hand on Noah’s chest but doesn’t push him away, clutches at his t-shirt instead. “Wait,” he whispers. 

Noah’s face falls. “Dan.”

Dan tugs gently on Noah’s t-shirt and shakes his head. “The show—it’s—” Noah grabs his wrist, pressing Dan’s hand against his chest. 

“Cast someone else then,” Noah says in a rush. “I’m not letting you go again.” Dan can feel Noah’s heartbeat, rabbiting like Dan’s, spiked from what's about to happen because neither of them can stop it. 

Noah grabs the back of Dan’s neck—doesn’t move him, but rests his hand there, a comforting weight and all Dan wants to do is give in, and with one more look into Noah’s eyes, he does. 

Noah kisses just like he remembers, insistent and thorough, and he cradles Dan’s face in one hand, holding him firm just where Noah wants him. Dan keeps his hand fisted in Noah’s shirt and lets his other hand rest of Noah’s thigh. Noah licks into his mouth and Dan whimpers, letting Noah take and take and take while Dan hangs on and hopes he never stops. 

Dan needs to pull away eventually, though, to take a breath, and Noah lets him but keeps his hand on the back of his neck, keeps his face close. They’re breathing each other’s air, and Noah smells like beer, and Dan wants to take him home. He doesn’t say that, though, he just leans in for another kiss, biting at Noah’s lower lip, eliciting a groan. “You’re such a tease—still,” Noah whispers. It’s loud in the bar, but they’re so close they may as well be sitting on top of each other, so Dan can hear him loud and clear. Dan jerks his head back.

I’m a tease?” Dan asks, ignoring Noah’s grin. 

“Yeah,” Noah nods. “ I intend on following through on every single thing I’ve started tonight.” His eyes are dark and Dan shudders at his words. Noah’s hand is still on the side of Dan’s neck, thumb stroking rhythmically over Dan’s jaw. This might be a terrible idea, but Dan wants.

“Take me home, then,” Dan breathes.

*

Noah presses Dan hard into the back of his front door, using all of his body weight to pin Dan to its surface. Dan gasps as Noah slots a thigh between his legs, getting friction on Dan’s cock that he so desperately needs. “I’m not casting someone else,” Dan says, because he has to, because Noah should know. 

Grinning, Noah kisses Dan’s nose. “We’ll figure it out.” He shrugs and pulls Dan away from the door by the front of his shirt.

*

Looking sweaty and sated, Noah rolls off of Dan and props his head up to stare at him. Dan exhales sharply and pushes some hair out of his own face. He turns to look at Noah who’s grinning, and as Dan is re-learning, that’s never good. 

“So did I get the part?” Dan makes a disgusted face and groans, shoving his hand in Noah’s face and pushing him away.

“Gross,” he says and Noah stifles his excessive giggles into a pillow. When he seems to have control of himself, Noah scoots closer to Dan and wraps an arm around his waist, resting his chin on Dan’s chest. Dan looks down at him and any weirdness he felt about Noah’s hilarious joke dissipates.

“Dan, this is gonna be amazing,” he says softly, intently, leaving no room for argument. 

“The show?”

Noah smiles and his eyes are sparkling in the low light of the bedroom. “Us.”