I was searching YouTube for some Jeffrey Combs videos (since I love him) and I came across this awesome vid uploaded by CombsCorner. It's called 'Jeff Combs in "Skin of Our Teeth" (1983)' if you want to watch it. I think it showcases his immense versatility as an actor. Anyway, this was inspired by that video. I think this is my most slashy fanfiction so far; I intended that, anyway. :) Enjoy and review!
DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to H.P. Lovecraft, Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, and Barbara Crampton. Skin of Our Teeth and the characters described on stage (Henry, Mrs Antrobus, &c) belong to Thornton Wilder. And...scene. And also, Merry Christmas!
Tasting the Skin of Your Teeth
"Have you seen Daniel Cain anywhere?"
It was winter. It was cold. The season of festivities and celebrations had finally fallen; and, unfortunately for Herbert West, so had the season of pantomimes. The Miskatonic University of Massachussets was renowned for its annual plays and this year a 1942 classic 'The Skin of Our Teeth' was being performed by a group of amateurs, seeing as the more adept arts students were in Chicago for a fortnight playing for larger and more lavish audiences.
Still, the Miskatonic students didn't want to disappoint the parents or let the tradition flail; so the third-year students, predominantly of the medical school, had banded together to make the scenery, costumes, and practice whatever roles they were finally given. Meg had been a key force behind the project, gaining full support from her father and his colleagues, and Dan had been happy to help, accepting Meg's offer (or pathetic beg, as Herbert viewed it) of filming the play as was traditional.
Dan had filmed every rehearsal; Herbert had sat waiting for him. The rich red velvet seats of the auditorium were sufficiently comfortable, and he could read well enough whilst he waited for Dan to finish his laborious role as cameraman and, often, director. He was a natural leader; he knew what looked right, and had a sense of where things should go, but he was breezy and never forced anything on anyone. After the first few after-school rehearsals, Herbert had gotten used to sitting his books beside him, content to watch Dan.
He wasn't envious of his roomate's social skills; the skills he himself had always lacked, even since childhood. How could he envy something he didn't particularly desire? He couldn't care less about socializing, so it made sense that he also couldn't care less about his sociality. But for some reason, he liked just watching Dan, being so happy and fitting in so well with the people around him.
Actually, Herbert was very satisfied, just to sit and watch him handsome friend directing the players onstage, clothed as dinosaurs or donning simple dresses and shirts.
He only violently loathed one thing.
It wasn't the chairs; for as soft as they were to start with, he had discovered that even the smoothest silk will eventually turn to rock if you sit in it for an hour. It wasn't the fact that he wasn't in the basement or the morgue, or even the cemetery, testing his reagent and recording his results. It wasn't even the fact that the people around him seemed to detest him, or fear him. Actually, these reactions slightly exhillarated him.
No. It wasn't the people who were around him.
It was, rather, the people around Dan.
Every single night after school they fanned around him, laughing, smiling, nodding at his ideas and gladly expressing how much they valued him. He hated the way Dan would seem so merry and jovial; how he would seem so gleeful upon hearing their praisals of him. Of course, Herbert didn't want him to be upset. But he couldn't help despising these people all the same; for giving Dan a warmth inside that he himself couldn't. For making him smile in a way in which he himself never had.
That was what the last few weeks had consisted of, for Herbert West. Annoyance, smugness, jealousy, indifference, envy, contentment, and an awful nothing and anticipation. But now, it was the last day of school before the respite of the holidays. And Herbert was trying to track Dan down, with 45 minutes to go before the stage was displayed to an already packed theatre hall.
"Have you seen Daniel Cain anywhere?"
Nobody answered him; everyone was in a rush off applying make-up, finding clothes and allocated props, getting ready for the three acts that swiftly approached. Finally Herbert spotted Dan talking to two people who were going to return to their seats, smiling gaily as always. Dan noticed him and pardoned himself, the two people (presumably related) leaving quickly as he headed towards Herbert. He wore a loose shirt and jeans; since he would be filming and moving around a lot he didn't want to wear something too tight. Herbert was wearing his smart black suit, infallible, as clean as the day he'd bought it. He smiled, staring at Dan from behind the enhancing planes of his glasses.
"Hey," Dan said, grinning. Herbert smiled softly, tilting his head slightly. "Wow, it's a riot back here. I'm surprised you haven't been squashed by now."
Herbert patted Dan's arm playfully, Dan laughing. They'd definitely developed a relationship over the past few months, one that had surprised both of them. Herbert didn't like some of his feelings; he thought they were foolish, risky, and naieve, and probably doomed for a nasty heartache. But they were there, anyway. He didn't look into them too much. He just co-operated.
"I just wanted to wish you luck," Herbert said, Dan giving him a strange look.
"I'm only the camera guy," Dan said, shrugging. "I'm not very important."
"Of course you're important," Herbert almost spat, angry that Dan could view himself with such a dark light. Dan raised his eyebrows as the passion in Herbert's deep tone and Herbert scolded himself internally for being so emotive. He cringed slightly, looking down. Dan smiled gently, lifting Herbert's head with a soft tip of his chin. Herbert felt his face flush with a claustrophobic warmth at Dan's fingers on his skin, but he smiled, recovering his mood. Dan's eyes were filled with warmth.
"Thank you," he said, his voice quieter now. Herbert could just hear it over the din. Dan was still smiling, with something different in his eyes of late. Herbert speculated...maybe starvation?
That was when he stooped down to hug him.
Herbert blinked at the abruptness, Dan's arms tightly pulling them together, Herbert shocked to find Dan's heart beating as manically as his own, two pulsing drums alongside one another. His arms were trapped under Dan's so he positioned his hands slightly awkwardly on Dan's waist, feeling the smooth muscles, devoid of fat. He turned to the side, so his glasses wouldn't stain, and he allowed his head to loll forward ever so slightly so he was resting it on Dan's strong chest.
"Herbert, there's something I need to tell you," Dan said, suddenly urgent, pulling away and staring at Herbert with fiery eyes, his hands clutching those of his smaller, colder, shaking friend. Herbert blinked, his lips slightly parted in questioning. His eyes widened. Was Dan...staring at them?
Dan inhaled deeply. He swallowed. Herbert's stomach couldn't have fell more if he'd been on the world's largest rollercoaster.
"Herbert, I -"
A scream ripped through the back of the stage. Everyone fell silent, turning to where the voice had come from. Dana stood with Meg Halsey at her side. Meg looked distraught. Dana looked suicidal.
"Jesus Christ, NO!" she screamed again. Everyone rushed to her, Dan included.
Herbert found himself before the lean, dark-haired girl also. Well, Dan was still holding his hands.
"What's happened, darling?" Ginnie asked. She was a middle-aged woman, one of the teachers who had offered to play Mrs Antrobus. Other members of staff were gathering around and Dana was almost sobbing into her hands, her mobile hanging out of them as though it were about to fall. Meg took it quickly, her eyes filling with a sickly dread.
"Robert fell over on the way here," Dana cried, her face ashen and her words referring to the boy due to play Henry, a key, contrasting character within the play. "He's fallen over, and he's actually broke his fucking leg. He's gone to the hospital. He can't make it." She screamed, stamping her foot, pulling her raven hair. "He can't fucking make it!"
Nobody bothered to chide her for her cursing. A grim silence of horror and hopelessness fell over the crowd. So many hours had gone into this; of rehearsing, sewing, painting, organizing, advertising, perfecting...
"What about Jake? Wasn't he standing in?" Mr. Riley asked, his voice barely clinging on to sanity. He was playing Mr Antrobus, his fake moustache quivering. Meg shook her head, her pale blond locks moving in time.
"He just phoned; he isn't coming. He didn't bother to give a reason why."
Dan moaned with disappointment, hurt, fury, sadness; Herbert looked up at him, squeezing his hand. Dan smiled weakly, but Herbert knew how much this had meant to him. Everything he'd put into it; everything all these people had given, and contributed. Dana growled, her survival instict finally initializing.
"Who knows the lines?" she demanded. Silence. "Who knows the goddamn lines?" she shrieked, eliciting a gasp from those closer to her. Herbert squirmed, staring down. He already knew where this was going to go. "Someone who's...shit! Where's the creepy nerd?"
Everyone rounded on Herbert. He looked up from the floor, met by dozens of imploring eyes.
Dana's weren't imploring. They were bloodthirsty.
"You've been here every rehearsal," she said, pointing at Herbert almost maliciously. "You know the lines; and I know that for a fact, because every time someone forgot them you shouted them out like the smug little prick you are."
Herbert raised an eyebrow at her, momentarily focused on her summary of him. Dan tensed at his side, but Herbert knew what he was thinking. Half of him was defensive. And the other half was also pleading.
"I don't know, I'm not an actor," Herbert began. Dana cut him off.
"I don't fucking care, you know the fucking lines!" she screeched. He would have jumped, but part of him had expected her reaction. She stepped closer to him until she was looming over him. He didn't move, but she was pressing herself quite close now.
"Dana, stop it," Dan said sharply. She backed up an inch, her eyes like poison. For a second. In the next instance, she was transformed. She looked like she was begging for her life. Herbert relaxed.
"Please," she begged.
Herbert looked at everyone. He looked at Dan.
Shit, he swore at himself. I shouldn't have looked at him.
Herbert West had been sat in the changing room for about 10 minutes, staring at himself in the mirror, shocked at how clothes and make-up could make him look so different. The show had finished about a quarter of an hour ago, and the applause had been spectacular. He had been made to abandon his glasses, so his sight had been unhelpful, but he'd done what had been asked of him. Not that he'd had any real choice.
Someone knocked on the door. He didn't say anything. He just stared at himself, into his dark eyes, his cheekbones highlighted and bonier than ever. The dark jacket was hanging loosely from his shoulders and the red, bloody scar curled on the pale skin of his forehead. He was still shaking. He hadn't stopped shaking since the moment he'd seen all of those people. He loved an audience - when he was arguing with teachers, or debating points - but this was different. At first, he was scared. Then thrilled. And after that, he shook with power, and energy. Because he had the world at his fingertips.
Dan opened the door and entered, closing it behind him.
Herbert turned to him, at last ripping his eyes away from the mirror. Everyone had congratulated his performance; suddenly, nobody hated him. He didn't know what he'd been like, but they assured him that he'd been 'even better than Robert'. He was proud. Proud that he'd done them justice, that the play had still gone on. Proud that Dan had looked so happy when it was over, beaming like a father at the birth of his baby, or a mother at their child's piano concert.
He looked up. Dan looked down.
And he spoke so seriously, and so affectionately, that Herbert felt he could have fallen into his arms and remained locked there in comfort for the rest of his life.
"You're amazing, Herbert West."
He smiled. "Was it OK?" he asked, not so nervous any more. He stoof up, in front of Dan, feeling out of place in his clothes. Dan brought a hand to his cheek and brushed his thick hair back, making Herbert's muscles tense with shock, anticipation...and, looking at Dan's handsome face, complete, animal hunger...
"You were unbelievable," he promised, his words almost as bright as his eyes, his hand continunig to stroke Herbert's cheek, leaving a cold heat where his skin touched Herbert's. Dan took a step closer, their bodies practically touching. Herber felt a wave of vaprous lava wash over his thighs, his feet, his shoulders, his neck, the place surrounding his pelvic bone...particularly that place, in all seriousness. He felt funny. Like he was...tingling. Shining.
"Thank you," Herbert breathed, his breath almost as dense as the atmosphere. Dan continued to step closer, their chests brushing together, Dan placing both hands on Herbert's cheeks. He dipped his mouth down onto them, relishing the heat, feeling the accentuated bone and bathing in the bristling feeling the action gave both men, trembling and aching.
"You're cheeks are so beautiful," Dan whispered, his tongue searing the delicate skin, Herbert's head rolling back and his hands snaking their way to Dan's loose shirt. Dan left one hand tangled in Herbert's hair and the other around his waist, pressing their hips together. Dan made a slow grinding motion and Herbert cried out, pure as snow where sex was concerned. The sound alone excited Dan and his kissed Herbert's cheeks more fervently, making his way down to his chin.
"And your lips...are so full," Dan murmured, ghosting his own over the pair, closing his eyes in ecstasy. They were as soft as he'd imagined they would be. "Like roses...and just smooth..."
By this point he'd pressed Herbert up against the wall, Herbert's legs partially wrapped around his waist. Dan moved closer yet, his hips trying to meet Herbert's as though they were alive. Herbert moaned, running his hands through Dan's hair, his head buried in Dan's shoulder.
"Dan," Herbert began, his breaths even thicker now, and far more frequent. He'd never felt like this before. But he could understand why people made such a big fuss about it. Dan was kissing his neck, his ears, anything, all in the same way; like he'd never been more hungry in his life.
"Hm," he growled, moving his tongue over Herbert's throbbing jugular. If he tried to get any closer to Herbert he'd squash him.
"I'm in love with you."
Dan stopped kissing him and looked at him, with wide eyes. Herbert was just as shocked, looking anxious and surprised. Dan dropped him to the floor gently. Herbert was about to question him when Dan put a finger to his lips and turned to approach the door, tall and lean.
"Don't move," Dan said, his voice husky and deep. He locked the door.
When he'd turned around he was pressed up against it.
Herbert's lips met his, their noses interlocking perfectly, as though they were meant to fit. Dan felt Herbert's tongue in his mouth and he moaned, reciprocating eagerly, their tongues dancing in a frantic wrestle. Dan picked Herbert up gingerly, never separating their lips. He knocked the make-up and brushes onto the floor and gently placed Herbert on the empty wooden table next to the mirror. He climbed atop him, positioning himself so that Herbert wouldn't be hurt.
"I love you," Dan returned, staring at Herbert with stony seriousness burning in his eyes. Herbert moaned and crushed Dan's lips back to his, running his hands over his muscular chest. Dan smiled into it, beginning to unbutton Herbert's shirt when he'd scambled to remove the jacket. Dan marvelled at the pale skin, like marble, hungrily exploring the flawless plane with his teeth. Herbert arched his back and Dan ran his tongue over the blatantly visible ribs. He pulled away, smiling, looking at the mirror. Herbert was half naked underneath him and they were intertwined in such a way that Herbert blushed at the sight, though they were both already flushed and breathless. Dan grinned.
"We look so sexy," he laughed. Herbert gently pulled his face to his, touching their noses together fondly as they breathed deeply.
"I prefer the real thing," he grinned, kissing Dan softly again. Then Dan snaked his tongue into his mouth and their passionate routine started anew.
Dan found Herbert's shirt and blazer and dressed him, exploring his perfect body as he did, finally finishing with the tie and placing Herbert's glasses back on the bridge of his nose. Herbert quickly exchanged the trousers for his own suit pants. Dan laughed, pressing himself against Herbert from behind, his arms around his waist. Herbert leaned in to him, allowing a very long sound of contentment to leave his lips.
"I would have happily sorted your pants for you," Dan admitted. Herbert laughed.
"Oh, I know that."
Herbert tied his laces and they left the room, far messier than when they'd entered it. Herbert held on to Dan's hand tightly, both excited and desperate to get home, where they could be far more careless about whether or not they were interrupted. A few people tried to stop them; they ignored them, hurrying past, Herbert pulling Dan much to the latter's glee and disbelief. Well - he did believe it. It all made perfect sense.
"Hey, you two!" Meg cried out. Her pale eyes were wild with happiness but clouded with confusion as Dan and Herbert passed. She held on to Dan's hand, Herbert lurching backwards. Meg frowned. "Aren't you coming to the party?" she asked.
Herbert growled under his breath, looking at her with wild eyes and pulling Dan to him almost violently. "Screw the party," he said, partly exclaiming and partly snarling. Dan shook his head, looking at the gentle upturned nose, full lips, high, sharp cheekbones and dark hair and eyes. Nothing could have looked more beautiful.
"Why 'screw the party'?" she asked, a little hurt. Herbert had already begun pulling Dan again, and Dan didn't turn back to wave goodbye. He was trying to catch Herbert's pace; the pull had given him a little advantage.
"Because I have better things to screw!" Herbert yelled back. Dan laughed. They left the auditorium, the cold air hitting their faces and many people still milling around.
"I sincerely hope I'm one of those things," Dan laughed. Herbert stared up at him, an impassioned smile lingering on his pastel lips. Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, beholding a family he'd spotted in the audience.
"Excuse me -" the mother began, smiling kindly. He interrupted, a little out of breath.
"Could you hang on just a second?" he asked. He turned away before she could reply.
As she and her son and husband looked on, he pressed Dan up against the brick wall of the auditorium and kissed him passionately, hungrily, like it was the first and last time.
Dan simply smiled, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend, wondering who was luckier:
Herbert, for being Herbert, or him...
For having Herbert.