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: Dominic and Billy attend the photo exhibition at the MFA.
Previously.



SCENE 36. - INT. BILLY'S FLAT - THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY 7:13PM

It takes Billy four tries before he settles on what he's wearing, and an extra few minutes in front of the mirror to fully convince himself that it was the right decision. He doesn't want to consider the amount of time he's spent trying to convince himself that he feels nothing for Dominic.

The circumstances of tonight make that last part nearly impossible. They've spent an awful lot of time together but always under the auspices of simply accompanying each other to more everyday outings (or in-ings): Billy's screenings, nights at home, even Lij's for the holidays. But this exhibition is an event, its obvious importance to Dominic giving it even more weight than that. Billy assumes Orlando'll be there too, but David won't, and that's enough to have sent a fizz through his blood, making him reconsider his shirt, again.

Billy looks academic but casual in an outfit he's often worn to class: dark, fitted denims, a coral button-down, and a tan jacket. He allows himself a final once-over before pulling on his peacoat and grabbing his wallet and keys. Erin meows pitifully at him on his way out the door. "I fed you," he says firmly, giving her a scritch, and leaves, tossing "Be good" over his shoulder.


About a half hour later, he steps off the T at the MFA stop, his muscles already braced for the cold, his peacoat never providing enough protection in February. Still, the museum is beautiful at night, all lit up and calm, regular hours having ended much earlier and the doors closed to patrons.

Billy expects to find Dominic and Orlando in the lobby but finds neither, though there is a sign with information about the exhibition and a helpful security guard who points him in the right direction. He makes his way up two grand, daunting flights of steps to the Linde Family Wing, reassured by the increasing number of people milling about. There is a sort of foyer outside the exhibition hall with tables of hors d'oeuvres and a few groups of crisp, sterile-looking people drinking wine and chatting in tones Billy's become accustomed to hearing at some of his more dreaded academic events. He scans the crowd nervously for signs of real life and, finding none, pulls his phone out from his coat pocket, finding none there either.

He moves slowly through the sporadic bunches of people in search of a pamphlet or program, slightly overwhelmed at how much bigger this is than he thought it would be. He can't even imagine how Dominic's going to feel. At least a little proud, he hopes.

Billy takes his time procuring a glass of red, mostly for something to do while he awkwardly waits for someone he knows to walk through the entryway. He has no intention of mingling in the meantime. A line of paintings on the other side of the room catches his eye, and he meanders back in the direction he came from to get a closer look.

They're abstract, collections of colorful geometric shapes in an asymmetrical pattern. It's obvious that they're part of the permanent collection; they have a settled-in look about them that Billy finds comforting. As much as his life and his passion involves studying images, though, there's something about this kind of art that Billy still can't understand. He takes a sip of his wine and steps closer, nearly spilling on himself at the sound of someone hissing to his right: "Psst."

He turns abruptly, the breath rushing out of him at the sight of Dominic standing in an adjacent corridor, smiling sheepishly, his hands shoved into the pants pockets of a charcoal grey suit. The metallic navy of his tie makes his eyes shine even under the dull gallery lighting. There's something about his hair, too—perhaps he's cut it. The shag that Billy's so accustomed to seeing hanging perilously close to those eyes is now maybe just touching his dark brows. "Hi," Billy says belatedly, his own eyes betraying him, taking in Dominic with more attention than he'd paid the paintings. "Fuck," he breathes, immediately clamping a hand over his mouth at the echo it creates in the hall, a few of the other guests turning to stare.

Dominic barks a laugh, earning them more attention, silencing himself as he approaches, magnifying the effect tenfold.

"Wow. You..." Billy suddenly feels as if his hands are too full. He wants to touch Dominic's lapels, test the give in the knot of his tie.

"I haven't worn it in a while." Dominic's hands flail in front of him. "Doesn't fit too well anymore." He tugs at the bottom of the jacket.

"No, it looks really... really good." Billy shakes his head at himself. "Sorry. I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, to tell you the truth. And under-dressed, apparently."

"D'you think I'm overdressed?" Dominic steps close, presenting himself in a silent plea for guidance. "I should get rid of this, yeah?" He indicates his tie.

"No, don't," Billy says, fully prepared to brook no objection. Dominic seems to be holding his breath. "You look fucking incredible, alright?"

Dominic smiles wide, ducking his head. He raises his eyes to Billy again. "Can I have some of that?" He reaches for Billy's wine, which Billy gladly surrenders, and drinks a healthy swallow. "Thanks."

"Where's Orlando?"

A look of regret washes over Dominic's face. "He's, uh, he's a little weird about all this."

Billy nods, his lips drawn in tight. "'M sorry."

"'S alright, I don't blame him. His problem's with himself, not with me."

Billy makes a note to himself to check in with Elijah; he hasn't really spoken with him since his birthday. He makes a show of flipping open the program for the exhibition. "You know, your name is in here," he teases.

"I know," Dominic exhales heavily, his nerves apparent. He's still holding onto Billy's wine.

"Don't be nervous," Billy says gently. "If it makes you feel better, I can pretend to be you, and you'll be off the hook for the night."

"I'd love to see what that looks like," Dominic says into the glass before nearly finishing it off, the stain it leaves on his lips drawing Billy's eye.

"Well. It'll be difficult. I'm not nearly as attractive, especially not tonight." You're fucking mad, Dominic starts, but Billy cuts him off. "But I think if I try really hard, I can pull off that odd combination of shy modesty and inhuman confidence."

Dominic shakes his head, his eyes two live blue flames, and Billy suddenly recalls that look he'd given him across the dinner table at Lij's mother's house. Billy steals the final sip of wine, proud for having helped Dominic momentarily forget the situation at hand, when a commotion back by the hors d'oeuvres draws his attention. The proverbial doors to the exhibition have opened, and people have started leaving their tiny plates of food behind to move on into the gallery.

Billy gives him a reassuring smile as they make their way across the room, hanging several yards behind the throng that's gathered and is busy making its way through to the exhibition. "D'you know anyone here?" he whispers, their arms brushing as they walk side by side.

"Hmm..." Dominic pretends to perform a cursory scan of the crowd. "No."

Billy gives a quiet laugh, somehow resisting the urge to run wildly through the gallery in search of Dominic's photos. Instead they politely start at the front, Dominic taking his time with work by one of the featured artists, who seems to have a penchant for shooting children in the Caribbean. Her photos are vibrant with color and character, not unlike Dom's. Billy wants to at least pretend he's interested, but his eyes wander. He's happy to discover that the section of student finalists is in a tiny alcove of its own just off the end of the row they're viewing.

Dominic's slightly distracted, too, clearly keeping one ear on the comments of passersby, though he seems to almost not want to get to his own photos.

"Do they announce the winners tonight?" Billy leans in to ask.

"No, they keep our photos up for the next week and then decide." Dominic straightens the lapels of his jacket as if his hands are simply looking for something to do. Billy remembers how Dominic had taken his hand in that church in Northampton and suddenly wants to provide a similar comfort for him now.

They've barely finished the row when Billy clears his throat loudly and takes three big strides over to the student work, finding Dominic's in center. Dominic follows a moment later, his hands shoved deep within his pockets. He lingers behind as Billy looks over his series, mostly photos Billy's seen before but never beyond the tiny viewscreen of Dominic's camera. "Took forever color-correcting that one," he indicates a photo of a flock of birds gathered around a dead bird in the middle of a busy downtown sidewalk.

Billy turns, wrapping an arm around Dominic's middle to pull him beside him. "These are fantastic," he whispers fiercely, and at that Dominic visibly exhales, a smile playing at his wine-tinged lips. Billy suddenly wishes for a camera for himself.

A couple next to them turns to Billy. "Are you the photographer?" the woman asks.

"No," Billy says firmly, stepping aside and nearly shoving Dominic at her.

"Hi." Dominic offers his hand, regaining some of that charm Billy hasn't really seen in a while. "Dominic."

"These are really extraordinary," the woman says, as if she's imparting some great knowledge to him, her husband nodding in agreement behind her. "It's as if I'm looking at people, not animals."

"Thank you," Dominic says, patiently humoring her. "Thank you very much."

"What do you do, Dominic?" The man's voice booms from behind her.

"Um..." Dominic smiles coyly, and Billy follows suit. "Nothing at the moment."

"I'm his benefactor," Billy chimes in, Dominic nearly losing it but managing to nod seriously in confirmation.

"Ah," the woman nods. "Well congratulations, to the both of you."

They both thank her, holding their breath (and their laughter) until the couple's moved on to another part of the exhibition. Dominic turns to him, incredulous. "Benefactor?"

"No good?"

Dominic gives him a playful glare and turns back to the student work, venturing away from his own photos, though that's where Billy stays, to his heart's content. By the time they've moved on to some of the other featured artists, Dominic is downright chatty, offering his opinions on nearly every photo, much to Billy's delight. Though Billy knows the process in an academic way, he's never had the hands-on experience to fully understand the thought and work that goes into each and every photo, so he relishes Dominic's perspective. He's also never seen Dominic talk so openly about it, his face lighting up with it.

That light diminishes considerably when they come across a series entitled Streetwalkers, a photographer's "portrayal of the hidden workers of Beantown." Billy's first impulse is to drag Dominic far away from it, but he also doesn't want to treat him like a child. Dominic steels himself, moving across the row of photos of prostitutes both male and female, expressionless. If Dominic recognizes any of them, he certainly doesn't show any signs of it.

Billy silently chides himself for having thought even for a brief moment that they could both avoid how this all started, how they came together. It was beyond naive, and he should have known better. He vows to hate this fucking photographer for the rest of his life, for having thrown a spike into what has otherwise been a beautiful, special night, a milestone for Dominic.

His thoughts are interrupted by a familiar voice that turns out to belong to the same woman who'd approached Dominic about his own photos earlier. She and her husband stand just behind them, peering over their shoulders at the same photo Dominic is busy examining and Billy is very busy ignoring.

"It's just so devastating, the conditions some people live under." Her husband mms in agreement. Billy takes a step forward so he and Dominic are hip to hip, wanting to show his solidarity.

"Speaking of the thin line between nature and human nature," the husband remarks, clearly proud of himself.

Before Billy can turn to give a few remarks of his own, Dominic mumbles, "I have to—" and makes a beeline for the gallery's entrance with quick, long strides just short of a run. The couple stares past Billy at the photo, not even noticing his glare.

He pushes between them unnecessarily. "Excuse me." When Billy exits, he finds the foyer completely empty, save for a lone security guard and some leftover plates of cheese, crackers, and fruit. He takes a few steps, considering the loo, then remembers that there isn't one on this floor. He hears the squeak of a shoe against hardwood floor, coming from the sequestered little corridor where he'd originally found Dominic. He grimaces, heading slowly toward it. "Dom?" Dominic doesn't answer, but Billy can hear the air shift around him.

*

CLOSE-UP ON DOMINIC

When Billy turns the corner, Dominic looks up at him from the floor where he sits propped against the wall with his legs pulled in. He waves his hand nonchalantly. "'S alright." Dominic folds his hands over his kneecaps, feeling the material of his trousers between his fingers. "What the fuck am I doing here?" he asks Billy sincerely. "I don't belong here."

Billy shrugs, trying to lighten the mood. "Neither do I."

Dominic doesn't smile. Billy drops to the floor, too, mirroring his position against the opposite wall. "Remember what you said at Elijah's house? His mum's house?" he asks Billy. "How you feel like you're in disguise sometimes?" Billy nods, watching him carefully. "It's fucking exhausting, lying all the time."

Billy wants to say I know, but he doesn't, really, not the way that Dominic does.

"I'm a horrible person, Billy. I know you don't think so, but it's just a fact. I'm a sinner, by definition. If I told you some of the things I've done…" Dominic leans his head back against the wall and closes his eyes, his mouth running almost as if it is out of his control. "I've helped people cheat on their wives and their husbands and fulfill fantasies that they hate themselves for." He sucks his bottom lip into his mouth. "That's who I am."

"You've also provided comfort to people who've really needed it." Billy stares, unblinking, at him, silently willing him to open his eyes. When he does, two tears roll down his face, disappearing into the collar of his dress shirt. Billy immediately scoots closer, wrapping a hand around his ankle, right underneath the hem of his trousers where his sock ends. "They came to you because they were alone. You gave them a place where they could feel like themselves."

"You're glorifying it because you know me now. Think of your first impression of me—what did you think when you first saw me standing on that corner?" Dominic finally looks up from his lap but he doesn't wait for Billy's reply—Billy isn't sure he would have had one anyway, at least not one that would be appropriate. "Don't you understand? I'm fucking dirt. I'm nothing."

At that, Billy shifts, trying to get as close to him as he possibly can without jumping right into his skin. "Shh. I'm not glorifying what you did for me." He lowers his voice to a near whisper, choosing his words carefully, knowing well just how much is riding on them. "The night we met… do you know how numb I was, how dead I was inside before that night? Yeah, I had my work, and I loved it. I still love it, but it's not all of me." He steels himself for the next bit, the bit that brings back memories he's not ready to deal with. "I didn't let anyone touch me for three years. I just let that part of myself go. That part of me that could give myself to someone else—I cut it out. I couldn't sleep at night just thinking and thinking that I'd never get it back, that I wasn't meant for it anymore." He pushes his fingers through the hair at the side of Dominic's head, where it's still nice and thick, unable to help himself. "You made me feel like I could be worth all that again. And even if it was an act, I'll never forget it." Dominic moves to say something, but Billy stops him with a firm hand on the nape of his neck. "You're not spoiled or something. I won't let you go on thinking that. Look at what you did," Billy hisses with excitement, jerking his head in the direction of the exhibition. "Those people in there are here to see what you did. Yes, they're pretentious fucking assholes, I know, but…for what it's worth, I'm proud of you." Dominic smiles a little, going utterly still as Billy wipes at another stubborn tear. "Nobody's any one thing. We all have our roles that we play."

If nothing else, this seems to penetrate Dominic, his expression suddenly relaxing. They look at each other, both erupting in anxious laughter. "There," Billy says. "Have I talked enough for one night?"

Dominic nods, apparently happy to stay right there under the comfort of Billy's touch. "Such a fucking idiot," he chides himself.

"Shh, no more of that," Billy declares, weaseling Dominic's handkerchief from his breast pocket. He fluffs it out and uses it to wipe any lingering dampness from Dominic's face. Dominic's eyes are a bright, sweet blue, darting from Billy's eyes to his lap to the floor and back again. His words from their first night together echo in Billy's head like a stern reminder: No kissing on the mouth.

Billy glances over his own shoulder, back in the direction of the exhibition, and offers Dominic a tentative smile. "Ready to go back?"

Dominic exhales heavily and nods. Billy stands and extends a hand down to him, which Dominic accepts, allowing him to pull him to his feet. He leads him back across the foyer with a gentle hand on the small of his back. "Let's go punch that couple in the face," he offers brightly, making Dominic burst into surprised laughter just before they reenter the gallery.


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