Catching Gareth glancing sideways at him again, Tim finally puts his pen down and fixes him with a look.
“Okay, what’s up?”
“Nothing”, Gareth says quickly.
He even huffs a little as if Tim is the one disturbing him and not the other way round, then suddenly looks very engrossed in whatever it is he’s doing on the computer. Tim can spot a faint blush slipping onto his cheeks though and there’s a definite glint of nervousness in his eyes even though he’s managed to school the rest of his face into a mask of pure cool. Tim almost smiles to himself.
“You sure?” he says, only to have Gareth snap at him.
“Fine”, Tim mutters.
He returns to his report, not feeling up to dealing with his colleague’s weird mood swings. A moment later he notices, out of the corner of his eye, how Gareth starts pushing some of his papers from where they overlap onto his own desk, but his heart’s doesn't really seem to be in it, that much Tim can tell. Glancing up quickly, he spots the familiar frown of petulance on Gareth’s face, but his fingers are definitely not as meticulous as usual. It’s as though the act of pushing Tim’s papers away itself is what’s driving him, not clearing his own desk at all.
Tim takes a deep breath and forces himself to ignore him.
Finally, Gareth gives in and clears his throat softly then, clearly aiming for casual, he speaks up, “So I see you and Dawn are getting chummy…”
“What?” Tim asks patiently, without looking up from his report.
“She’s got a boyfriend, you know.”
“Yes”, Tim sighs. “I know. We’re just friends.”
Gareth snorts derisively, “Yeah right!”
Taking another deep breath, Tim slowly looks up and pins him with look of barely concealed exasperation, eyebrows climbing up his forehead as if to say, enough beating round the bush, just spit it out. But Gareth just slouches in his seat and hangs his head a little bit more, fidgeting uselessly with a pencil.
“Gareth”, Tim murmurs, patience wearing thin already, he has that effect on you, doesn’t he. Insufferable git. “What’s it got to do with you anyway?”
“Nothing”, Gareth mutters. “Just saying.”
“Right”, Tim says, not believing it for a second but in no mood to make a big deal about it.
“I don’t give a monkeys!” Gareth insists. “Just think it’s stupid, is all. Her fiancé would throw a wobbly if he found out, snap you like a twig. Hardly worth the effort, I’d’ve thought.”
Tim bristles at the subtle insult, but stops himself from defending Dawn, knowing it will only spur Gareth and his suspicions on.
“We’re just friends”, he says again.
“Yeah, but only ‘cause she’s got a fiancé, innit?”
“No”, Tim says at length, wondering why he’s even feeling the need to explain himself to Gareth at all. “It’s not. I mean, yeah that too. But even if she hadn’t, we’d still just be friends. Alright? Now can we drop this?”
“Like Hell you would”, Gareth mutters childishly.
“Yes, Gareth. We would”, he more or less exclaims.
“How’s that then?” Gareth challenges stubbornly.
Because I only like her as a friend, for the umpteenth time, Tim should say. But feeling reckless and more than fed up with the whole issue, he slams the report down on his desk and says, “Because I’m gay! Alright!”
Gareth blinks owlishly at him then, not saying another thing.
That’s shut him up, Tim thinks bitterly and feels a very unwelcome churning in his belly that resembles disappointment a little too much than he’s really comfortable with.
“Well”, he relents. “80% gay, at least… which technically would make me bi, but…”
Gareth tears his gaze away, looking decidedly flustered. He stammers something out, but cuts himself off. Then taking a deep breath, says “This is a wind-up.”
It’s not really a question, but the anxious sideways look he gives Tim suggests he’s expecting an answer anyway. Tim doesn’t give him one. He just stares back at him. Sensing his irritation, Gareth ducks his head again and resumes fidgeting with the smaller items on his desk, re-arranging pencils, paper clips and tiny tanks in perfect lines.
“I don’t get it, why would you tell me…” he mumbles after another moment of uncomfortable silence.
“It’s not exactly a secret”, Tim says, omitting to admit that, while he is quite open with his preferences, he has been conscious of not letting Gareth find out. “Just ‘cause I don’t go around advertising it…”
Gareth gives him another impression of an owl.
“Besides”, Tim adds, feeling his stomach churn again. “I knew you’d have a problem with it… but… anyway, let’s just forget the whole thing.”
“Alright”, Gareth says but it sounds hollow.
Tim kicks himself. He knew it would be a disaster if Gareth were to find out. He knew, and he still told him. Perhaps it’s for the best though, he tells himself. Like a Band-Aid, better to be done with it. If he’s being honest with himself, waiting for and dreading the day Gareth would find out has been one of the major causes of stress in his life. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it feels terrible knowing Gareth will undoubtedly act as though he's got the plague from now on, now that it’s out there. It feels bloody awful.
Bugger it, he thinks and pushes the report aside and gets up. Ignoring the startled and strangely worried look on Gareth’s face, he leaves their desks and heads to the coffee room to make himself a cup of tea.
He’s been stirring said tea for a good ten minutes, lost in thought, when Gareth sidles up to the doorway looking like a little boy about to be scolded. Tim turns away to put the tea spoon into the sink. Then takes a sip of his tea. It’s cold.
“There any hot water left?” Gareth asks, timidly.
“Yeah”, Tim says briskly and brushes past him. “All yours, mate!”
Gareth moves aside automatically to let him pass, but blurts out “Wait” before he has a chance to walk away.
He looks like a fish out of water, Tim notices. He sighs.
“Look, Gareth. Don’t worry about it, alright. Just forget I said anything.”
He even gives him a reassuring smile.
“Okay”, Gareth says meekly. “But I don’t have a problem with it…”
Tim doesn’t say anything. He knows what a huge deal it is for Gareth to tell him that, to tell him that, of all people. And he’d be lying if he were to pretend it didn’t make his heart flutter to hear it, but he also doesn’t want to jinx it, so he makes himself not react to it.
“Just so you know…” Gareth adds awkwardly.
“Alright”, Tim says softly. “Cheers.”
“You shouldn’t put your tea that close to the computer”, Gareth says when he comes back to their desks a while later.
Tim chuckles. As infuriating as it normally is when Gareth points these things out, the familiarity of it now feels comforting and for the first time ever, Tim doesn’t necessarily think of Gareth as infuriating, but rather endearing. He holds the mug up and tilts to show it’s lack of content.
“Oh”, Gareth says and nods. “Good.”
He takes his seat.
“Good… that’s good…” then, “So… you going to Chaser’s later then?”
Tim smiles at the forced casualness in Gareth’s voice, clearly betrayed by the nervous glint in his eyes. He doesn’t know what Gareth’s playing at, but whatever it is, the awkwardness is almost cute, especially since he’s always imagined much worse.
“I might, yeah”, he tells him.