eff_reality: (so ridiculously pretty dom)
[personal profile] eff_reality
Premise: AU. Billy is a PhD. candidate in Cinema Studies at Suffolk University and Dom is a rent boy in Southie.
Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
Feedback: is my anti-drug. Help keep me off the pipe.
Summary: Another day, another movie screening.
Note: SPOILERS for the film Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live), in case anyone was planning on seeing it.
Previously.



SCENE 35. - INT. HARVARD FILM ARCHIVE - EVENING

Dominic's grateful that he's been here before; strolling briskly up the walkway, he recalls with sharp clarity just how lost he'd gotten with Orli the night of Billy's lecture. Harvard's campus is nonsensical to anyone who doesn't go to Harvard, Dominic's certain, and it doesn't help that the HFA can only be accessed by a sunken entryway mostly blocked by tall bushes.

He throws his weight against one of the heavy glass doors to open it and takes a deep breath as it closes behind him, pulling his hands from deep within his pockets. He's managed to switch to a proper coat, but he still hasn't taken Billy's advice about a pair of gloves.

The lobby's desolate—it's still just over half an hour until showtime—but Dominic knows Billy's already here, not only for the fact that Billy said he'd be here, but for the way his stomach had tumbled as he walked in. He isn't anywhere near anxious, though, not like he'd been the night of Elijah's birthday, and not like Billy had been, either. He thinks of the way Billy's body relaxed against his as they danced, the joy in his voice and the relief in his eyes as they drank and joked the rest of the night away.

A few days later, it's almost as if all those weeks of silence never happened. Dominic can't help but smile in anticipation as he turns a corner and happens upon a door with a plaque on it reading "PROJECTION BOOTH." He takes a breath, knocks, and, hearing nothing, turns the knob, blinking at the tall, narrow metal staircase that seems to have been plunked down right in front of him. The door swings shut behind him, echoing loudly.

"Dom?!" he hears from above, a sweet, utterly recognizable voice, and Christ, there goes his stomach again.

"Hey!" he shouts back, much less lilting. "Shall I—?"

"Come on up!" Billy preempts him, and Dominic follows, ascending steadily until he arrives in a room much larger than he expected. Billy stands at a daunting projector, fiddling with a reel of celluloid, looping it through the feeder. He raises his eyes and smiles. "Hello there."

"Hi." Dominic takes in the room, the tiny window facing out over the grand auditorium, the two chairs Billy's already set out for them.

"Make yourself at home," Billy insists, squinting at the film. "I practically sleep here myself, anyway." Dominic drapes his coat over the back of one of the chairs. "Nice coat," Billy says pointedly, shooting a triumphant little smirk at him, to which Dominic glares playfully.

Dominic sits sideways on the chair, staring shamelessly at Billy's hands as they work. "What are we watching, then?"

Billy's face colors a bit, a little tremor thrown into his throat. "I picked the most fantastic night for you to come here," he says sarcastically. "We're watching My Life to Live by Jean-Luc Godard."

"That means nothing to me," Dominic deadpans, meaning every word. Billy laughs, but he still seems nervous. "What's it about?"

"It's from the sixties." Billy takes a long pause as he finally loops the first reel in correctly, then picks up the second. "It's about an aspiring actress who... becomes a prostitute and, ehm..." He doesn't finish, but Dominic knows what the other half of that sentence is.

"Fantastic. What's on for next week? Midnight Cowboy?"

Billy shakes his head, his face going a shade darker. "Fuck off, I didn't know, I promise. It's a beautiful film, though. You'll like it. I hope," he adds under his breath.

A mostly comfortable silence stretches between them. Dominic inhales and opens his mouth a few times but never makes an actual utterance happen. He often finds himself in this position with Billy, having too much to say, things he doesn't really feel compelled to tell anyone else, but too paralyzed to say anything at all. He's still not sure what exactly it is about Billy that gives him that impulse, especially considering just how intimidated he is by his mind.

Billy glances up from the projector as if he can hear Dominic's fears being voiced loud and clear in the tiny room, and gives him a reassuring smile. Dominic quickly looks down into the theater below, watching the audience start to file in. He drums the tips of his fingers together. "So have you made much progress on your defense? Preparing, I mean."

"Yeah," Billy rumbles. "'M finding new ways to avoid it every day," he laughs, though it sounds slightly distracted.

Dominic nods, looking down at his hands as they fidget; he certainly knows something about that. Down below, a few teenagers—undergrads, most likely—walk into the theater in that not-yet-fully-formed way they have about them. One turns on his heels awkwardly, craning his neck to look up at the projection booth, looking confused at the sight of Dominic's face. Dominic moves out of his line of vision instinctively. "I think one of your students is looking for you," he tosses over his shoulder.

Billy immediately abandons what he's doing in favor of rushing over to the window to smile and wave and make mock-stern gestures at them to get them to sit. All four students watch him now, and they laugh, a giddiness passing over their faces as if they've just been acknowledged by a celebrity.

"Professor Boyd," Dominic teases.

"Yeah," Billy laughs. "Little do they know, eh?" He walks back to the projector, quickly arranging the final reels, leaving Dominic to wonder just what he means by that—and not wonder. Billy strides across the room and lowers the light switch fader on the wall until there's just enough illumination to make out the shapes of the equipment. He also has a tiny desk lamp just behind the projector, if he needs it, Dominic notices. He looks at home here.

"So how much time do you spend here, then?"

"Eh," Billy begins, doing his final adjustments to make sure everything's in order. "I do about three, four films a week. When class wasn't in session, five or six."

Dominic thinks of Billy holed up in here alone in the dark, all those weeks they didn't speak, and there's something romantic about it to him, especially since he thinks Billy's the kind of person anyone would want to be around.

"Other than this and my classes, I've been in hibernation, really. 'S alright. I've got my fat to keep me warm." He pats his stomach lovingly.

Dominic giggles. "Sausage, mushroom, and cheese omelets?" He remembers Billy's order from the diner in Northampton.

"Yes, but no breakfast is as good as your breakfast." Billy's voice is a soft purr, and in the dark, terribly intimate.

As Billy makes his way to the empty chair, Dominic realizes that they'll have to be practically on top of each other for the duration of the film, if they both want to still be able to see, and terribly intimate turns into terribly distracting. Billy straddles his chair, scooting it back in little scrapes, making more room for Dominic. "I don't want to be in your way," Dominic protests.

"Tch, I can do this in my sleep. Besides, I'm more interested in watching you watch it," he says honestly. There's not an ounce of flirtation in his voice, he's made sure of that, but it still makes Dominic shiver a bit. Without the pleasant buzz of alcohol, every quiet moment throbs with possibility, reminding Dominic of all the risks he isn't taking.

The lights in the theater down below dim halfway, pausing for a moment as the curtains part and the audience settles, and then go out, leaving the screen illuminated with an advertisement for the Harvard Film Archive's next series.

"No specs tonight?" The question comes from just to the left of Dominic and slightly behind him, vibrating through him.

"No, got my contacts." He fights the urge to turn to Billy as he says this.

"Just checking." There's a mischievous smile in Billy's voice.

The screen fades to black for the opening credits, and the thick, dark silence only makes Dominic more aware of how close and how alone they are up here. He thinks randomly of how the lights were on, both times that they were together. His chair creaks as he crosses his legs, but there's no noise from Billy; it's as if he's holding his breath. Dominic can see Billy's elbows in his periphery, the pale meat of his arms catching the light from the screen, his arms crossed over the back of his chair.

A sad tune fills the theater, the volume not quite as powerful in the projection booth but the melody instantly heartbreaking. The image comes up on the face of an incredibly beautiful, sad-looking woman (She was the director's wife, Billy points out), the music swelling and then disappearing completely as still shots of her face are shown at different angles, in black-and-white, which Dominic loves and prefers—without being a fucking snob about it.

The film itself isn't exactly in Dominic's taste, though the photography is beautiful and he finds himself being drawn in by Anna Karina, the lead actress, even though her circumstances are more than a little too close. He glances back momentarily to find Billy mesmerized, the long tendon in his neck catching the light from the screen as he tilts his head lovingly at the images.

The dialogue is thoughtful and clever, if slightly pretentious, and Dominic is able to enjoy it in a detached way until Karina sits in a cafe with her friend and starts talking about the dubious control she has over her own life. Je suis responsable, she repeats over and over again. I forget that I'm responsible, but I am, the subtitles read. Dominic thinks of some of the choices and changes he's made recently, how his own day-to-day life has transformed with a simple yes or no. He often forgets that he's the one who made it all happen, he alone, well, for the most part.

Dominic shifts in his chair, hoping to pull Billy's attention. "I, um. I submitted one of my photos for a contest," he starts quietly.

There is a heavy silence from Billy before he reaches forward and lands a resounding backhanded smack against Dominic's shoulder. "That's fucking fantastic," he hisses. "What's it for?"

"All the Y's are doing it, all the photo classes, I mean," he explains with a dismissive wave of his hand. "They choose five to be showcased at the MFA, sort of like finalists, I guess, and then the winner gets five thousand dollars or something crazy like that—but two of the other finalists get to take a photo class at the Harvard Extension for free."

"That's incredible," Billy says with awe as he scoots forward, the film forgotten for the moment. "When do you find out if...?"

"I've already—I'm," Dominic shrugs his shoulders, smiling sheepishly, "I was selected."

Billy hits him again, much harder this time, and Dominic protests even as he laughs, clutching his bruised shoulder. "Why the fuck did y'not tell me until now?" Billy can just barely contain the volume of his voice. "That's great, congratulations. When are they showing?"

"Thanks," Dominic smiles, "next weekend."

"Are you excited? So few people have seen your work."

Dominic turns sideways in his chair so they're finally facing each other. He can literally feel his blood buzzing like electricity through his veins. Even Orlando hadn't given him such a reply when he'd told him the day before. "I'm pretty terrified, actually," he admits. "It's all a bit too real, yeah?"

"Yeah, but that's what's great about it," Billy offers with a gentle thoughtfulness, his eyes gone a soft green as he rests his chin on his forearm.

"I could use some moral support," Dominic mumbles, eyes in his lap as he fiddles with one of his rings.

Understanding slowly washes over Billy's face. He smiles. "Is, ehm, is David not going with you?"

Dominic scrunches his nose and shakes his head. "Nah. I've never even shown him anything I've done." He lifts his eyes again, finding the look in Billy's more than a little disarming.

"I'd love to go."

They both inhale deeply in tandem as they turn their attention back to the screen. It gets a bit awkward during the scenes where the lead meets with johns, the camera focusing on the dead look in her eyes as she lies naked on her stomach. Billy goes completely quiet, holding his breath. Dominic reaches back with his foot and nudges his calf, a silent insistence that he's not sensitive about it, though that's not entirely true, and that loosens Billy up some, Dominic can hear the change in his body.

Another lengthy conversation scene begins—the French were really into that in the sixties, Dominic is quickly learning—and that impulse starts again, low in his stomach. He wants to ask Billy something, anything, preferably something that'll excite Billy so he'll fill Dominic's ears with that lovely rich voice, the perfect soundtrack to the beautiful images in front of his eyes. He finds himself saying, "Did you have fun at Elijah's the other night?" As he says it, he recalls Orli's hangover-drawled words the morning after: Billy doesn't think much of Ian. Dominic had been sure to tuck that away in the same place he kept most of his memories from the night he and Billy met and the night Billy came back.

"Yeah," Billy laughs, "had too much fun." He rises from his chair and walks over to the projector, poised to ensure the reel change goes smoothly. Dominic twists, watching him. "I haven't had that much to drink since I started school." He shoots Dominic a playful look. "I didn't say or do anything too incriminating, did I?"

"No. Well, if you consider offering to blow the bartender in front of everyone incriminating."

Billy sticks his tongue out at him from between his teeth, not taking the bait. "'M glad you've come around to Lij," he says thoughtfully. "I know he's a bit much sometimes, but he's a great person."

"Mm," Dominic agrees, distracted. "Speaking of, how did you like Ian?" He watches Billy carefully.

Billy sighs and twists up his mouth, pretending to consider the question. "I didn't, to be honest." He sounds a bit bashful for it, but he clearly has no intention of apologizing.

More than anything, Dominic wants to ask why; in fact, he'd like Billy to write a dissertation about that, a five-hundred page treatise on precisely why he didn't like Ian in the five minutes he spent in his company. He'd devour it in one sitting. But then, he supposes it can also just as easily be summed up in one sentence: no one's too keen on older men who go around with pretty young boys (or girls, for that matter).

"Eh, he's harmless," Dominic shrugs, Billy's face unchanging. "I know he doesn't seem that way, but."

"Yeah, you seemed awfully cozy," Billy says under his breath, but there's no bitterness in his tone, it's just as carefully blank as before. Dominic doesn't care what he sounds like, though—the fact that he was paying attention the other night is all he needs.

He watches with fascination as Billy completes the reel change, most of the audience down below completely oblivious to the transition. He waits until Billy's taken his seat again, fiddling with his rings as he speaks. "I hadn't seen him in nearly two years, I think. It was nice. I felt like enough time had passed to sort of sort out all of those leftover feelings. Like, there was this understanding that we'd said goodbye to that part of our relationship, that we were both different, me especially, I guess."

"...He didn't try to get you to come home with him?"

That question gives Dominic's heart a start. He continues looking down at his hands. "He did," he admits quietly. "But I said no... obviously." Dominic suddenly gets the feeling of being interrogated by a jealous lover, and that's more than a little irritating considering how far he and Billy are from that, especially now. He's under no obligation to be reassuring Billy in any way, but that's just what he finds himself doing. "It was a nice goodbye. For a long time, Ian was this... ghost, haunting me everywhere I went. And finally seeing him sort of took the sting away. Like, after not seeing him for so long, he became this emblem of, I don't know, rejection or something, he had all this power over me. But seeing him was a good reminder that he's just a person, you know? He's got his own ghosts, I'm sure."

"We all do," Billy says without hesitation. Dominic turns to look at him, getting a tight, distracted smile.

They don't talk much after that. Eventually Nana, the main character of the film, finds love with a passionate young man, and it becomes clear that she intends to stop prostituting. But in the film's final scene, she becomes the victim of a botched deal between her pimp and a couple of gangsters, which ends with her being shot and left to die in the middle of a Paris street. The camera tips abruptly down to capture her limp body on the asphalt before the screen fades to black, the word "FIN" appearing just as abruptly.

There is complete silence from the audience below as the lights come up, many of them having obviously seen the film before. Those who haven't look as if they've been slapped in the face, making nervous chatter with their friends to break the uncomfortable quiet.

Dominic imagines what should happen now in his mind. He sees himself turning to Billy full of cheek—Are all of your favorite films like this?—Billy giving another sheepish apology before they laugh it off and decide to go get a coffee (or not-coffee for Dominic). But Dominic's not quite ready to come back to the real world yet, and Billy's not ready to face him either, opting instead to rise from his chair and start getting everything in order. Dominic quietly assists as much as he can, trying to not think about the film and thinking about it too much.




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