Jenna loved the job, loved her colleagues, loved the show, and most of all loved her co-star. But the she didn’t love the way the days sometimes ran into nights. She knew the directors worked even harder than the leads, and the crew was right there with them the whole time, but it did take it out of her. Three hours sitting on set, running lines, hopping into character for thirty seconds at a time, over and over, then running down the same bit of corridor twenty times, the middle ten ruined because a prop had broken and nobody noticed. So much pressure on them in those last takes, to get it right so they could all go home. They finally did.
Not that she was complaining. If Peter wasn’t complaining, she wasn’t complaining. But she was gratefully accepting his offer of a lift to his and a bit of takeaway with a bottle of something. Collapse, eat, watch some telly with their feet up on his remarkably comfortable sofa. Peter didn’t even bother waiting to hear her acceptance, just led the way to his car.
They drove across a quiet city to Peter’s flat. Jenna checked her phone; it was later than she’d thought. “Curry shop’ll be closing,” she told him.
“Fuck,” Peter said.
“Not so sure I’m hungry. Feel like I’m too tired to bother.”
“God, I’m too crackered even to get us a bottle of wine. I’m sore from the neck down.”
Jenna smiled at him. “I’ve got a cure for that. Half a mo.”
She whisked out to Peter’s little kitchen. Wine in the cupboard, one of the mild reds Peter preferred on these nights. Glasses from the washer, screw pull from the drawer. All carried back out to the room where Peter was sitting, trying to stretch his back, and swearing quietly to himself.
“You pour that while I prep,” she said.
“Prep? Sounds terrifying.”
She’d have to do this over his clothes, because he would never ever take anything off in her presence, she knew that, so no massage oil needed. Her shoes had to come off, though, and at least one layer of jumper. She heard the cork pull out, then the ring of a glass as Peter poured.
“Bossy.” Peter had another healthy mouthful of wine then obeyed.
“Lie down on your face,” she said.
“What are you up to?”
“Fixing your back.”
Peter’s couch was wide enough that she usually stuffed a few pillows behind herself when she sat in it, but that was an advantage tonight, because she had plenty of room to kneel next to him. He was half-up on his elbows, craning around to peer at her anxiously. Jenna ignored him and stroked her hands along his back, from the waistband of his trousers up to the collar of his t-shirt. God, there was nothing to him in so many ways. So thin, almost gaunt. She could feel his ribs. She could also feel lean muscle under her hands. Peter worked with a trainer, of course. They all did, just so they could survive their jobs and stay lean enough to look good in their costumes. Peter in particular claimed to have a problem with putting on weight, not that Jenna could tell that from his wiry body underneath her right now.
As she thought, his traps were tight and so was his neck. He was exactly like everybody else she’d ever given a massage. And the nice thing about him being so wiry, unlike her ex that rat Richard, was that she didn’t have to exhaust herself against mountains of muscle.
He relaxed underneath her and let his head rest on his arms. His eyes closed. Jenna smiled to herself.
“Okay? God, Jenna, where did you learn this?”
“Took a class once.”
“Don’t ever stop.”
“Mmm. You’ll have to bribe me.”
“Anything, honey, anything.”
Jenna shifted and straddled his waist. Now she could dig into his traps for real. He tightened again underneath her. “Stop fighting me,” she told him, and cuffed his head.
“Jenna, honey, I am in danger of having an ungentlemanly reaction.”
“Nonsense. You are Peter Capaldi, GQ man of the year. Any reaction you have is gentlemanly by definition. And I am perfectly capable of ignoring it.”
He laughed, as she wanted, and stopped trying to push her off, also as she wanted. “Carry on, then,” he said. “I’ve done my duty and warned you.”
“And now I’m going to do my duty and warn you in turn. These are trigger points,” she told him. “It’s going to hurt then it’s going to feel good.”
“Right, right. Ugh.”
Jenna got her weight over her thumbs. Peter groaned again, then he breathed out. Jenna moved with him, easing off and then digging in, until she felt him let go underneath her. He made a soft sound that told her everything she needed to know about what was going on with him. He turned his head and buried his face in the sofa cushions. Jenna took this as a signal to keep going. She worked her way around his back to the next spot and leaned in again. He tensed his fingers when she leaned in, but didn’t complain, and this time she felt him relax under her almost immediately. His breathing shifted. There was a little sweat at his temples. Probably she’d done enough for one session, and besides, her hands were starting to feel tired. And she was tired.
She finished off with a little bit of scalp massage and then let her hands come to rest on his arms. “How are you feeling?”
Peter blinked his eyes open. “Hmm. Not sure if I’m aroused or in pain or some terribly confusing combination of the two.”
“But how is your back?”
“Marvelous. If I were a cat I’d be purring.”
Jenna grinned and sang, “If I were a cat I’d be purring, ding dong ding dong ding.”
Peter wriggled underneath her. “Show tunes now? How much wine did you have while I was face-down? Need to catch up.”
Jenna slid off him and helped him up, and discreetly looked away while he adjusted his trousers. She made a show of inspecting her still-full wineglass, then topped off Peter’s. He sat up to accept his glass. His shirt was rumpled and his eyes were half-closed. He did indeed look as if he were a cat, a louche almost disreputable cat, all self-satisfied after stealing the cream.
“Shall I do you? I feel as if I owe you, after that.”
“Nah, I’m good. I’ll take a cuddle, though. A cuddle and the most recent bake-off on the telly.”
“Mmm, the bake-off. I’m rooting for Tamal. Here.”
Peter stretched out on his side and reached out an arm to her. Jenna lay down next to him and he tugged her in close. Well, he was a bit cuddlier than usual, but she’d take it. Mmm, Peter, warm behind her, the wine warm in her blood, the glow of the telly as he flicked around with the remote to cue up their program. She’d probably fall asleep before they got more than ten minutes in, but that was fine. Peter would wrap her in a blanket and leave her to it. Or he’d fall asleep next to her. That had happened too. She liked that. Peter was safe. Safe and warm.