Fandom: rpf (real person fic)
Characters: paul wesley, nina dobrev, ian somerhalder, mentions of other cast and crew.
Word Count: 6,980 (eep!)
Spoilers: none ♥
Disclaimer: rpf is my guilty pleasure. if it's not yours, this is not the place for you to be.
Summary: Nina and Paul are talking in a corner. His arms are crossed over his chest and he’s looking down at the floor, not at her. Ian knows this means something, because Paul always looks at Nina.
first and foremost: to my darling brain twinnie kenzie, without whom this fic would definitely not exist. and also, thanks to everyone who put up with my constant cries of, "IT'S NEAAAARLY DONE!" -- hope you enjoy.
They’re celebrating the end of season two and everyone’s more than a little drunk.
Ian loves wrap parties. He loves it when everyone – cast, crew, and writers – can all get together and let their hair down. It’s been a big year for them, for the show as a whole, and it’s nice to be able to celebrate with everyone and just have a damn good night.
He’s at the bar with Julie and Kevin, deciding whether or not it’d be a good idea to order another round of shots for everyone when Nina eases beside him.
Her fingers dust along his wrist quickly, only for a second, and then they’re gone again. He’s used to it though. These split second brushes of contact. The barely there touches between them. This is what they’ve signed themselves up for. For now, anyway.
“Nina!” Julie bounces up and down on the balls of her feet with excitement (and possibly with a little intoxication). “Make a decision! A round of Slippery Nipples or Quick Fucks?”
Nina laughs and Ian can’t help but smile at the sound.
“Uh, I don’t know. Why don’t we start with the Slippery Nipples and see where that takes us?”
Kevin nods in agreement. “Perfect choice,” he states as he turns to the bartender to place the order.
“This night is not going to end well, is it?” Nina murmurs under her breath, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
Ian shakes his head. “Probably not. But we may as well enjoy it before it turns ugly.”
She smiles back at him and then something catches her eye from behind him. Her hand skims against his upper arm. “I’ll be back in a sec,” she promises as she moves past him.
He nods and lets her go, turning his attention back to Kevin and Julie as they watch the bartender pour 27 shots in a row. They talk for a while, debating what they should make a toast to for the next drink and minutes pass before Ian realises that Nina still isn’t back yet.
He can’t help but spare a quick glance over his shoulder (he can’t help it, you see, it’s in his nature to be curious, to want to know things -- even when he knows he might not like what he sees).
Nina and Paul are talking in a corner. His arms are crossed over his chest and he’s looking down at the floor, not at her. Ian knows this means something, because Paul always looks at Nina.
Paul’s talking and Nina looks like she’s kind of listening but also kind of not. She’s looking right at his face and her eyes are all squinted and suddenly she throws her arms up and the words seem to almost burst out of her.
“Why do you even care, Paul?”
The buzz of the room grows quieter, and Ian swears he can feel everyone’s eyes drift to the corner of the room. Paul and Nina don’t seem to notice though, as Paul shifts a little closer to her and reaches his arms out to hold her shoulders. He ducks his head lower, towards hers and it’s hard to tell but Ian thinks he can see Nina’s shoulders rise and fall with the weight of her breath and all of a sudden Ian can’t stand to watch them anymore.
“Okay,” he says a little too loudly, drawing the attention of the eyes in the room back to him. “Is it time for shots guys, or what?”
He continues having drinks with some crew members, and when Nina walks back over to him a few minutes later, her face is a little splotchy; a little red, a little swollen.
She’s been crying.
But she grabs a drink from the bar and downs most of it in one gulp. She turns back to Ian and forces a smile.
The rest of the night, she doesn’t mention anything about her fight with Paul. Ian doesn’t ask.
They’re at the airport, leaving Atlanta to get to the Coachella festival, when they find out their plane has been delayed.
Nina flops onto a chair and lets out a deep sigh.
Ian sits beside her and pats her thigh affectionately. “It’s alright. So we miss one night. We’ll be there first thing tomorrow.”
Her eyebrows furrow even deeper as she folds her arms tightly against her chest. “But I wanted to be there tonight.”
A comment about her acting like she’s five years old nearly slips past his lips, but he notices the look in her eyes and it stops him.
It’s been a week since the wrap party. She hasn’t mentioned the fight with Paul; neither of them had. All she’s talked about is how excited she was for the festival, for time off work, for time away from the show. And they’ve all worked really hard this season, so he understands completely the need for time away.
And yet, there’s something she’s not saying. Something underneath it all that claws away at him a little.
She’s still pouting and all he wants to do is wrap her up in his arms and tuck her head underneath his chin and just hold her until she smiles again. But they’re at the airport and in public and this thing that they have (they haven’t defined it, haven’t really said anything out loud) is not public knowledge. They’ve agreed. It’s between them and FOR them and it’s nobody else’s business.
And nobody knows. At least, not officially. They haven’t spoken about ‘them’ to anyone… and at first, Ian understood. He got it. Their lives were under a microscope and there was enough pressure as it was without having everyone analyse their every single move and bombard them in all their private moments.
He’s sure people within the cast and crew have inklings, at least. Him and Nina have been pretty good at watching how they speak to each other and what they say and that their touches never linger for just that little bit too long. But he knows that people aren’t fools.
He knows that Paul definitely isn’t a fool.
Ian’s waiting, just waiting for the moment when Paul approaches him and asks what’s going on.
Coachella is amazing.
The music is amazing. The weather is amazing. The company is amazing.
All in all, Ian’s having a pretty amazing time.
And the best thing about it all is that Nina seems to be loosening up, unwinding and enjoying herself. She’d been working so hard and had been so tense towards the end of shooting that it really was good to see her just letting go a little and being young.
The fact that she’s had a few drinks hasn’t hurt either.
They’re standing in the crowd, basking in the sun and Nina’s swaying to the music as she holds her drink in her hand.
Ian turns to her. “Josh is here too, you know.”
“Jackson?” she asks. “I haven’t seen him in forever! Is he with Diane?”
“Yeah, they’re both here. I bumped into him earlier, he said they’d try and find us a bit later.”
She smiles, big and wide, and simply nods her head. “Awesome.”
He laughs and sets his sunglasses on his face and tries to turn his attention back to the band playing. Nina’s phone buzzes and automatically she’s typing away at it.
“I swear that thing is surgically attached to you.”
He’s trying to be playful, but she seems pretty intent on whatever she’s typing; on whoever she’s talking to. He watches her. Her fingers dance over the keyboard and when she presses send and looks back up towards him, she’s frowning heavily.
She looks at her phone again quickly, closing whatever is on the screen and forces it back into her pocket. “Yeah.”
He’s about to question her, because he can tell that whatever it is, it’s definitely not okay but suddenly he feels Nina’s hand on his waist and her fingers curling into his shirt.
He turns to look at her, his eyebrows drawn upwards. This is not normal for them. They don’t do this in public. Not where so many people could see.
“What you doing there, missy?”
She shrugs, her bottom lip sticking out slightly. “Nothing.” Her other hand trails down his back as she inches closer towards him.
“Nina,” he starts, putting his hand on top of hers. “You know there’s photographers here…”
“I don’t think I care anymore,” she says quietly.
He lets her comment hang in the air for a moment, not really sure what to do with it. They’d talked about this before; being a couple in public, making an official statement that they were together, doing it properly eventually. But they’d never actually sorted it out and made any solid decisions. “We need to talk a little more about this first.”
“Why? Why do we need to talk about it?” She puts her sunglasses on top of her head, fixing her gaze on him. “Why can’t I just hold hands with the guy I’m sort-of-maybe-dating while we listen to some music?”
“You know it’s a little more complicated than that for us.”
She shakes her head and takes another long sip from her drink. She doesn’t argue.
Josh and Diane amble towards them, waving and smiling. Ian waves back and ducks his head towards Nina quickly. “We’ll talk about this later, okay? Let’s just… enjoy the afternoon.”
She nods slowly, placing her sunglasses back over her eyes as Diane moves towards her and embraces her warmly.
The afternoon passes and the four of them are really having a good time.
City and Colour are playing and the song is slow and soft and about love and life. Josh grins and sweeps Diane into his arms and together they sway to the music. Ian looks away from the couple and smiles. It’s nice to see his friend so happy and in love. It really is.
Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Nina standing beside him, her eyes fixed to the stage. She hasn’t spoken much since earlier and he can’t help but feel a little guilty.
It’s for this reason, he explains to himself, that he reaches down and grabs her hand in his, and pulls it towards his chest. He looks down at her and she smiles – just a small, simple smile – back up at him.
For now, this is all he needs.
They can deal with the reality of this later.
Ian’s sitting on the edge of the hotel bed, taking off his shoes after a delicious meal at a restaurant that Michael recommended to them (he seems to know all the places to be).
Nina returns from the bathroom, the blue silk of her dress fluttering against her knees.
He smiles as he looks at her, ideas forming quickly in his mind. “Have I told you how beautiful you look tonight?”
But his words go unheard, or at least ignored. She’s frowning heavily and her phone is in her hand and she takes in a sharp breath of air before she speaks.
“Candice just called.”
The edge in her tone surprises him, because Candice calling is nothing out of the ordinary.
Her frown grows even heavier and she opens her mouth to speak but nothing comes out.
She doesn’t look at him as she speaks. Her gaze is unfocused, searching, as if she’s trying to desperately solve a riddle she heard.
“Paul got married.”
Ian scoffs a little as he shakes his head. “No, he didn’t.”
Nina’s biting her lip and nodding, still not looking at him. “Yes. He did.”
“Come on, Nina. We’ve heard this before.”
She doesn’t answer, she just stands there, staring into the distance and clutching her phone.
He shifts on the bed, trying to ease her out of her silence. “You sure it’s not just another stupid rum—“
“He got married, Ian! He got married and he didn’t invite us or even bother to TELL US and I just cant…” she sucks in a shaky breath as her words just seem to die in front of her and she’s holding onto her phone so tightly it starts to worry him.
“Hey,” he says softly as he stands from the bed, moving toward her. “Don’t upset yourself over it.”
Suddenly her eyes are on him and there’s so much hurt and pain and betrayal in them that it makes his heart drop. He pauses for a brief moment, a little taken aback by her reaction. But then he sees the tears welling in her eyes and his first thought, his only thought, is to make them stop and to try and make her smile again.
He lifts his arms and wraps them around her, pulling her in close. He moves his mouth near her ear, kissing her on the temple gently. “Honey. Don’t take it personally, okay? You know Paul. You know what he’s like. He doesn’t like to broadcast himself or his life to the world.”
He can feel her fingers pressed against his chest, clutching at his shirt.
“I’m—we’re not the world though, Ian. It’s us. How could he not tell us?” Her voice cracks and there’s this tension there that he’s never really heard from her before.
He holds her by the shoulders, moving back a little so that he can look at her. The tears are still there and there’s something gnawing at the inside of his stomach that he can’t just quieten.
“Is that why you’re so upset by this? Because he didn’t tell us himself?”
Nina swallows hard and looks down, nodding.
Ian can’t help but notice that for such a terrific actress, Nina can be terribly unconvincing.
He sighs. “Okay, listen. How about we just forget about it for tonight?”
She looks back at up at him with a twist in her lips that tells him that she doesn’t quite think that’s going to work.
“Hear me out,” he says, smoothing the silk of her dress down her waist. “We forget about Paul and this marriage … ‘thing’… for tonight. We relax in this lovely hotel room, digesting our delicious meal while watching trashy reality tv and tomorrow, tomorrow we can call Paul and sort this all out.”
She looks at him and then slowly, slowly nods. She wipes the palm of her hand against her cheek and swallows hard once again. She steps away from him, gesturing behind her. “I’m just going to take my make up off and get changed.”
He nods and lets her go, closing the door quietly behind her. He sits back down on the bed, scratching the back of his neck absently as he processes what just happened.
There’s something here, he knows. His stomach is still churning and he breathes in and out deep and slow, trying to recompose himself. He tells himself that he’s just a little rattled by the news too. After all, he and Paul are normally so close. And Nina’s right; it’s a little upsetting to hear this kind of news second hand.
But he knows that there’s something else there. That look in Nina’s eyes. That burning, haunting look that he can’t quite name, can’t quite explain.
It isn’t until later that night, when the glow of the television is the only light in the room, and Nina’s curled up against his side, fast asleep, that he thinks he finally recognises what it was he saw in her eyes.
Nina hasn’t spoken to Paul yet.
Ian’s tried to get her to call him. He’s tried all day. But she’s making up excuses and avoiding it with such enthusiasm that it’s a little tiring.
“It’s still so early in the morning; I’ll just wait until a little later.” “It’s almost lunch time, I don’t want to bother him if he’s eating.” “Oh, I’m sure they’re getting so many phone calls from everyone already... I don’t want to add to that.” “I’m sure they just want to be alone.”
When Nina leaves to go for a walk and grab them some coffee in the early afternoon, Ian decides to grab the bull by the horns and call Paul himself.
“Hey, it’s Paul. You know what to do.” BEEP.
“Hey man,” Ian starts, unsure of what he’s actually trying to accomplish here. “I heard the news. I guess a congratulations is in order. So happy for you, bro, really. Just… give me a call so we can talk about it properly.” He pauses. “And call Nina too, okay? I know she’d really like to hear from you.”
He hangs up and just kind of looks at the phone for a while before slipping it back in his pocket.
It’s later that evening and as they make their way out for dinner, Ian tries not to think about the fact that his phone (or hers, for that matter) still hasn’t rung.
Nina’s been quiet and restrained all day. It hasn’t gone unnoticed. But Ian’s trying his best to make her feel better, to make her smile. As they walk a few blocks to the restaurant, he picks up a small bouquet of flowers from a small stand and buys them for her, taking a bow as he hands them to her. “For the lady.”
She smiles as she accepts them and gives him a quick curtsey in return, crossing one ankle behind the other.
And he’s smiling because she’s smiling and all is right with the world once more.
As she rises, she looks up and the smile falls from her face suddenly and then Ian watches as she squares her shoulders. He follows her eyesight and turns behind him.
Paul’s hands are in his pockets and Torrey’s arm is linked with his as they walk towards them. Ian moves back to fall in line with Nina, unsure of why he feels the need to do something, to show themselves as a united front.
“Hi guys,” Torrey greets with a wide smile. “Fancy running into you two.”
Paul kind of ducks his head and Ian can’t help but notice the weird looking (fake, he thinks, not weird, fake) smile he’s wearing.
Ian moves forward and gives Torrey a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “It’s good to see you, Torrey. Been a while.”
When they part, he notices out of the corner of his eye that Nina is standing still as a statue, grasping the bouquet of flowers in her hand tightly.
She’s staring at the ring on Torrey’s finger.
Ian’s stomach churns and he needs to do something, needs to move, needs to speak. This silence and this tension and the way she’s looking at that fucking ring is killing him.
“So,” he nods at Paul. “Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Wesley.”
Torrey laughs airily and smiles, turning to Paul. “I think they heard the news.”
Paul’s hands are still shoved deep in his pockets and he seems unable to keep his gaze still. He nods, looking from Ian to Torrey and then out to the street. He doesn’t speak.
Ian hates this void. Hates this silence. So he keeps talking. “Bit of a shock, to be honest.” He shrugs his shoulders and smirks. “Kind of thought we would be right at the top of the guest list, you know.”
He looks pointedly at Paul with this, trying to pry a response from him. Trying to get him to say anything, explain it away, make them all feel a little better.
Instead, Torrey makes a clucking sound with her tongue and smiles and Ian can’t help but wonder if she’s actually oblivious to the thickness in the air or if she’s just really good at ignoring it. “Aw Ian,” she purrs. “Did we hurt your feelings?”
And before he can reply with a witty comment, Nina makes a harsh sound from the back of her throat and whispers, “Yes.”
Ian’s not sure if she meant to actually say it out loud, but she did, and now, of course, now, Paul steadies his gaze on her. His jaw is set and his brow is heavy and he looks like he’s sorry, like he’s guilty, like he’s done something really fucking wrong.
“Well,” Ian says as he reaches for Nina’s arm and pulls her closer towards him. “I’d really love to hear all about it but we’ve got dinner reservations and if we’re late we’ll have to wait like another two hours…”
Torrey nods. “Oh of course, of course. You two go.” She moves forward and presses a kiss to Ian’s cheek and does the same to Nina, who does nothing to return the gesture. “We’ll catch up properly soon and try to make it up to you, deal?”
Ian nods quickly, now just desperate to get out of this situation. “Yeah, yeah definitely.”
They walk away in opposite directions and Ian tries to pull Nina even closer to his side but her arms are folded tightly over her chest and the flowers he got her are being crushed in her arms.
“Nina, they –“
“Can we just skip dinner?”
He lets out a sigh. “Don’t let that ruin our night.”
“I’m not,” she says defiantly, her throat thick. “I’m just not hungry anymore. I just want to go back to the hotel room.”
He stops and looks at her. “You sure?”
Nina nods and he swears, he swears she’s fighting back tears.
“Okay,” he sighs, relenting. “Okay. I’ll get us a cab.”
When they get back to the hotel room, the second they walk in the door, Ian turns to her.
“Nina. We have to talk about what’s going on here. You and Paul obviously –“
She throws herself at him, her handbag falling violently to the floor as she presses her lips against his, hungry and hard.
He’s surprised and so he grabs her by her shoulders and pulls her away. “What are you doing?”
She licks her lips as she looks back at him and she doesn’t answer, instead she presses herself closer to him and grinds her hips against his and fuck, he can’t think straight anymore.
She kisses him again and her tongue sweeps his bottom lip and when he can’t help but groan, her tongue dances with his.
“Nina,” he murmurs against her lips as he kisses her back. He tries to continue but can’t think of what he was going to say next and when she unzips her dress and lets it fall to the floor he can’t think of anything else at all.
When he’s inside of her, she clutches at his shoulders urgently, desperately. She looks at him and whispers, “I love you, I love you, I love you” over and over as they move together.
Ian’s not sure who she’s trying to convince more; him or herself.
This isn’t the way things are meant to be.
The three of them are attending the CW Upfronts event. It’s the first proper media event all of them have been to together in a while, and Ian can’t help but notice that things are different. He knows that Paul and Nina notice it too. But everyone’s doing such a good job of ignoring the differences that he decides to play along.
After all, isn’t this exactly what they’re good at? Playing make believe?
Normally they give interviews as a group; it’s the threesome that people want to talk to, to hear from, to see. But at the very start of the event, Paul pulls Ian aside.
He leans in close, shrugging his shoulders as if to portray that this is something he hasn’t given a lot of thought to. “Maybe tonight we can do most of the interviews together and let Nina do her own thing. What do you think?”
Ian pauses. A: because this catches him a little off guard and B: because he swears, he swears he can smell the lingering of scotch on Paul’s breath.
“Uh, sure,” he offers, narrowing his eyes. “If you think it’s a good idea.”
“I do,” Paul nods absently. “I do.”
And so that is how the night moves along. Paul and Ian do their interviews together, playing off each other as usual, and Nina gets to answer questions and speak for herself. It’s going well.
Ian’s been kind of quiet all night. He’s not sure why. It’s not like him. But Paul’s been kind of loud and kind of silly (which is totally like him) and yet also kind of obnoxious and dismissive when they’re asked about the Stefan/Elena/Damon triangle and what to expect in Season 3 (which is totally unlike him). So Ian’s taken to playing the straight guy, all the while trying to keep Paul focused.
Something shifts though, when it’s nearly time to wrap the interviews up. Nina is speaking with a journalist they’ve come to know pretty well and she’s in the middle of answering a question when Ian and Paul sidle up beside her, because they’ve finished running the gamut themselves and decide it’s time to help her out.
Ian can tell straight away that something isn’t right. Nina seems a little put off, a little resentful, that they’ve crashed her interview. So he stands back and tries to make it right. But Paul doesn’t notice
This is just not sitting right.
Once the interview is finished, the three of them walk away together to do one more line of questioning and then they’re done for the night.
And it’s here that Ian, as he stands back once again and observes, notices something. He notices the way Paul keeps looking at Nina, but glances away if she looks back at him. The way he seems to be doing his best to avoid eye contact with her (and alarm bells ring at this, this is not them, this is not him). Ian notices the way Nina’s eyes are drawn to the gleam of Paul’s wedding band, and how afterwards, she kind of loses herself somewhere and it seems as though she almost has to recompose herself.
Ian’s not stupid.
But he’s also very good at his craft.
So at the end of the night, when he and Nina are in the back of the car on their way back to the hotel, and she curves her body against his and presses her lips against his neck, he wants to stop her and tell her that this is real life. That she is not Elena. That she can’t have (or want) them both.
But instead, he forces the image of the way her gaze lingered at Paul’s back when he walked away to the very depths of his mind, and traces his fingers against the inside of her thigh until she breathes his name, soft and slow.
They’re in the city of love. Ah, Paris.
It’s nice, being here, together. Alone. Away from Hollywood and work and distractions. (he doesn’t let himself think of what or who it’s nice to be away from).
Today, they’re out sightseeing. He has his camera and he’s enjoying snapping away like a regular tourist.
As they walk down the street, trying to find somewhere to stop and have some lunch, he walks slightly ahead of Nina and turns to take a quick shot of her. He squints as he puts the camera to his eye. He sees her form through the lens and turns the dial to focus on her and he can’t help but stop and think that perhaps she’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.
“Ian,” she says in a sort of laugh as she stops walking and turns to her side, avoiding the camera.
“Enough with the photos.”
He smirks, dropping the camera away from his face. “I can’t help the fact, Miss Dobrev, that the camera loves you.”
He moves towards her and can see that she’s blushing. He loves being able to do that to her.
“Smooth talker,” she mumbles as she pouts playfully, swatting him on the chest as they begin to walk together again.
Ian laughs and slings his arm over her shoulders, pulling her beside him. Then he realises what he’s doing, remembers that they’ve already seen paparazzi following them and drops his arm.
She stops and looks at him, chewing on her lip. “Hey, I have an idea.”
“What if we don’t worry about that kind of thing anymore.”
She doesn’t need to specify. He knows exactly what she’s talking about. “I don’t know, Nina…”
She shakes her head, her hair falling around her face. “I don’t care anymore, Ian. I don’t care if people know we’re together. We’re here in Paris and we’re having such a good time and I just don’t want to have to worry about stopping myself from hugging you or kissing you or holding your hand.”
If he’s honest, he doesn’t want to have to worry about it anymore, either.
He can’t help playing devil’s advocate though. “They’ll get a shot of us, you know. And it’ll be on the internet within minutes.” He raises his eyebrows, holding her gaze. “You know how these things work.”
“I know,” she nods.
“Everyone will see. Everyone back home will see these pictures.” He’s trying to tell her without saying it out loud. He hasn’t mentioned his name since the Upfronts. He’s not about to start now. “Everyone, Nina.”
It’s here that he begins to worry, because she obviously understands what he’s trying to say. She lowers her head and looks down at her feet, and he watches as she sucks in a breath and then pushes it past her lips in a heavy sigh.
“I don’t care.” Her eyes are big and wide as she looks back up at him. “I want everyone to know.”
He watches her, just for a few seconds, trying to see if she means it. Trying to see if she realises what this will mean for them when they have to go back to the States.
When they have to start filming again.
Then Ian decides he doesn’t care.
They walk down the street, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by him that there are a small number of photographers up ahead of them.
They find a small café. They sit down, they order their food. They talk about the sights they’ve seen already and what they plan to see next. Ian tries not to think about it too much when Nina leans into him and he puts his arm around her and there are people across the street with cameras.
He should be used to this, people intruding on their private time. But it’s still a little awkward, still a little off putting. He almost leans away and pulls back, but Nina threads her fingers through his. He breathes out and calms himself and when the waiter appears with their food he smiles at her and says, “Bon appétit”.
Ian’s sitting on the couch of their hotel room later that night, browsing on his laptop when Nina’s phone begins to ring.
“Nina,” he calls out, not tearing his eyes away from the article he’s reading. “Phone.”
When there’s no answer and the phone keeps ringing, he shuts his laptop closed and gets up from the couch.
“Nina!” He moves towards the bedroom and hears the shower running. He clucks his tongue and moves to try and find her phone. He spots it on the kitchenette counter.
It stops ringing before he can get to it, though. He starts to move back towards the couch to resume his reading when the phone begins to ring again.
He grabs it quickly from the counter. “Hello?”
Ian recognises the voice instantly. “Paul. What’s up?”
There’s a pause and some static on the other end of the line. “Uh, I was hoping to speak to Nina.”
“She’s busy at the moment.” Ian’s not exactly sure why, but he’s speaking in clipped tones, not wanting to prolong this conversation. “Anything I can help you with?”
He hears Paul scoff a little and can feel that he’s not even trying to hide the coarseness in his voice. “Not really.”
And then there’s just the sound of the static on the phone line; proof that the two of them are thousands of miles apart.
Ian swallows and is about to give an excuse so that he can hang up when Paul speaks again.
“I saw the photos.”
Ian reaches up with his free hand, rubbing at his brow as he exhales loudly. It’s a mess. All of a sudden, the three of them – they’re in a complete and utter mess.
There’s more silence and Ian feels himself getting itchy somewhere deep inside, like he needs to go for a walk, like he needs to do something.
“Well, we’ll catch up when we get back and tell you all about the trip — ”
“She looks happy, Ian.”
And Ian shuts his eyes at this. Because it’s too much. He can hear it in his voice; plain and obvious. The pain and the guilt and the jealousy and the bitterness. And the fierce, fierce longing. He hears it all. And the worst part is; he can’t tell whether he’s sorry about it or whether he’s enjoying it.
“That’s because she is, Paul.”
There’s this noise on the other end of the line that Ian can’t quite make out. Something thick and heavy and from the back of Paul’s throat. “I just want to tell her I’m sorry. About… not telling her. I didn’t mean – ”
Ian can’t hear this. He can’t. There’s too much happening here and this is the woman he loves and Paul is a married man now, for Christ’s sake. He hears the running water from the shower stop and he speaks quickly into the phone.
“Paul, you’re married. You should be concentrating on enjoying your time with your wife.” His words are even and steady, and he says each word with precision. “Don’t worry about Nina. I’m taking good care of her.”
There’s a sharp intake of breath. “… yeah, I’m sure.”
“Bye, Paul. We’ll see you in Atlanta.”
Ian doesn’t wait for a reply and ends the call, putting the phone back on the counter as Nina walks out in a bath robe, drying the ends of her hair with a towel.
“Were you on the phone?”
He turns to her. And he’s trying not to be angry, he really is. But there’s that thing clawing at his stomach again and his entire body feels like it’s on fire and he can’t, he can’t.
“It was Paul.”
And he watches as her face, her beautiful face, falls at the mention of his name. Her hands fall from her hair and the towel hangs limp at her side. He watches her jaw tighten and then she lifts her chin. “Oh?”
The fact that she’s trying so hard to pretend that she’s ambivalent to this news is what causes his heart to drop in his chest. He shrugs, needing to see how far this goes. “He saw some photos of us from earlier today. The paparazzi shots.”
She’s standing so very still, waiting for him to say more. She breathes in and out and licks at her lips. He can tell that she wants to ask, wants to know exactly what Paul said.
She wants to know if she hurt him like he had hurt her.
Ian sits on the couch and puts his head in his hands. He feels exhausted. Just, tired. He looks back up at Nina. “I’ll never completely have all of your heart, will I? Because part of you loves him.”
He watches as her face changes once again. Because now, she knows that he knows. And he wonders if maybe she’s truly just finding out herself, too.
She stands before him for a few moments, quiet and still. And slowly, her eyes begin to fill with tears. She moves to sit beside him and she’s so close but she doesn’t touch him. She sits with her hands heavy in her lap.
They sit there in silence and Ian wonders if this is eventually what happens when you’re an actor. Art blends into life and you can’t really remember who’s real and who’s fiction and who’s meant to love who.
“I can make this okay,” she whispers. “I promise I can.”
Ian looks down at his feet and can’t help the twist of a smirk that sits on his lips. “I don’t know if you can, Nina.”
She breathes in faster, nodding her head. “No, no, it’ll be okay.”
She reaches over and puts her palm to his cheek. He turns to her, and watches as quiet tears spill down her cheeks.
“I can’t lose you, Ian.”
Not like you lost Paul, is all that spins inside his head, is all that he wants to say, but he bites his tongue.
She reaches her hands out, behind his neck and clasps her fingers together. She leans forward, pressing her forehead to his cheek and she holds her head there as she cries.
Normally, his very first instinct is to wrap her up in his arms and try to make her smile again. He hates when she cries. Hates it. So he usually does all that’s in his power to stop having to watch her cry. But now, he doesn’t comfort her. She clings to him and he just sits there. He stares at the wall across the room and sucks in deep breaths.
“I love you,” she pleads and her fingers move against his neck in continuous circles.
“I know,” he answers, and his voice doesn’t sound like his own. “But you love him too.”
And she sobs a little harder at that and he knows it’s because it’s the truth.
“What’s going to happen when we get back to Atlanta?”
She moves back, removing her arms from around him and looks up at him with tears still in her eyes. She pauses and he doesn’t think she’ll even reply until a soft breath escapes from her lips.
“I don’t know.”
He looks at her when she speaks and it sounds like she honestly doesn’t know. It also sounds like she’s defeated. Like she’s lost a battle. Like she’s ready to give up. Her gaze drops from his face and she looks down at her hands, sitting in her lap. She’s breathing unevenly and her hair curtains her face.
He doesn’t want to, but fuck, he still has this overwhelming urge just to wipe the tears away and make it all better.
And he knows that he won’t be able to let her go. Even knowing what he knows now, he still wants her. He still wants to hold her, kiss her, wake up with her beside him each morning.
And Ian’s used to getting what he wants.
He shifts and reaches out, enveloping her hands in his. Nina looks up at him, a little startled.
“I don’t know what’ll happen either, when we get back. But we can deal with it together.”
She lets out a shaky breath and presses her lips together in a tight line. “Really?”
He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and presses a kiss to her temple.
And he means it.
The cameras start rolling and Ian swears it’s like no time has passed at all.
He slips back into Damon easily (almost a little too easily, he thinks, before he shrugs the thought off) and his world once again becomes about vampires and werewolves and things that go bump in the night.
The cast and crew are buzzing. They’re excited for this season; to be back at work, to be back together again. Everyone clicks back into place like pieces of a puzzle coming together.
Except he can’t help notice that something has changed.
There’s this uneasiness in the air when Paul and Nina are together. They have to do eight takes of their first scene together because they just keep getting it wrong. They keep blocking each other’s shots, or messing up their lines; speaking over each other and forgetting who speaks next.
Ian would normally put it down to a case of rustiness. But he knows it’s more than that. When they work together things just flow.
Kevin is so concerned, he asks Nina about it afterwards.
“It’ll be fine,” Ian hears her tell him as she shrugs, taking a sip of water from her glass. “It’s just… you know, things are different between Stefan and Elena now. They’ve changed. I’m just getting used to it. That’s all. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
Ian watches her walk away from him, back to her trailer. Kevin seems satisfied enough with her answer.
The thing is, Ian knows Nina better than Kevin does.
He knows she’s a terrific actress.
He also knows that she’s lying through her teeth.
It’s definitely not going to be fine.