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: The boys celebrate Billy completing his dissertation defense.
Previously.



SCENE 37. - EXT. WASHINGTON STREET - EVENING

The brutal wind is a welcome pressure against Dominic’s cheeks as he makes his way from the T down to this out-of-the-way pub in Brighton (Elijah’s choice, not his, or anyone else’s, for that matter). His hands are shoved deep in the pockets of his coat, but his face doesn’t turn from the cold, the start of a smile tugging at his lips. A short woman in a thick wool coat, scarf, and pink hat, holding her young son’s hand, grimaces at him as she passes, as if to say How the fuck can you find it in your heart to feel anything but bitter this time of year?—which only makes Dominic’s smile go from half-formed to full-on.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, from the exhibition to Billy’s little pep talk to finding out he’d won one of the bloody prizes—not first, of course, that’d gone to some rich prick who already had enough money to build his own darkroom—but a chance to study celluloid for the first time at Harvard, fucking Harvard. He’d wasted no time getting his ID so he could get right into the darkroom and start poking around there.

To Dominic’s surprise, he’s found that being a student suits him, countless hours already lost learning the best methods for developing, burning, and dodging, not emerging until long after the light of the outside world matched that of the inside. He’d rush off campus to catch the last T, tiny rectangles of light dotting the quad along the way, actual matriculated students busy studying physics or whatever into the night.

Dominic does his best to ignore the persistent itch at one of his wrists. He suspects he’s allergic to the darkroom chemicals, as he is with most things; he’s been breaking out in hives, but he hasn’t even considered the question of whether or not it’s worth it, to the point where the little red bumps on his thighs have spread and been scratched into oblivion.

His steps along the sidewalk come faster, the thought that Billy will be where he’s headed propelling him. With any luck, he’ll have passed his defense with flying colors and be in good spirits.

Dominic had always assumed that he didn’t mean much to Billy, that Billy was his own separate world, his own fucking universe, really. Billy has a life and a proper career and passions that he lives every day—what room does he have to even consider the things that Dom’s done or the time they’ve shared together? To think it’s remotely possible that he’s had just as much of an impact on Billy as Billy’s had on him is just staggering. It’s left him feeling almost drugged, invincible.

He can only hope some of that rubbed off on Billy in time for this afternoon.

*

SCENE 38. - INT. THE GREEN BRIAR PUB - MINUTES LATER

Oddly enough, Dominic feels less at ease without Billy there yet; things with Orlando have become so strained that their flat has fallen all but silent over the last week or so, the two of them tiptoeing awkwardly around each other like strangers. Tonight, Elijah makes more of an effort to talk to Dominic than Orlando does, congratulating him on the photo contest and asking if he’ll be treating them all tonight. It hurts Dominic more than he would have expected when Orlando fixes his gaze on the rather uneventful football game playing on the TV behind the bar, his expression stoic. Dominic doesn’t try to hide the face he makes in response.

Eventually, Elijah glances at his watch, slamming his first empty beer glass of the night on the table. “How fucking long do these things take? I thought Billy said it started at four.”

This finally pulls Orlando’s attention back to the table. He nudges Elijah playfully. “You’re like a nervous mum.”

“I am,” Elijah agrees without shame, pulling at his own hair. “His advisor’s a total dick. I hope he’s not giving him a hard time.”

Dominic and Orlando make noncommittal sounds of agreement, Dominic distracted by the little fireball that ignites in his stomach at the thought of Billy arriving any moment now, Orlando likely just not all that interested (or pretending to not be). Dominic suddenly notices that Orlando and Elijah aren’t sharing the same chair or each other’s oxygen tonight, and he suspects that they’re not quite peachy with each other right now, either. It relieves him somewhat.

After ordering a beer, Dominic busies himself with the menu. He’s contemplating curry chips when Billy finally walks through the door, inspiring him to whip around full-body in his half-empty side of the booth and his companions to applaud. Dominic merely smiles at him in quiet anticipation, taking in his unusually relaxed stride and feeling that fireball flicker as Billy finds them—finds him—with his eyes and smiles wide and gorgeous right back. He gives a thumbs-up just to reassure them, though he’s made it clear before that the defense is really just protocol.

Billy is nearly fully seated before he breaks eye contact with Dominic to acknowledge the others. With how busy he’s been preparing for this afternoon, it’s their first time seeing each other since the exhibition; it’s different, they’re both different, he can feel it, and he knows instinctively that Dominic can too.

“Congratulations!” Elijah nearly bruises his arm in his enthusiasm, Billy grimacing before looking pleasantly surprised at the lovely glass of whiskey that’s immediately set down right in front of his nose.

“Thanks,” Billy exhales, taking in Dominic’s smiling eyes a second time as he settles into the booth beside him and wraps his hands around the glass. “Hello,” he says quietly, privately to him, and Dominic repeats the greeting with a little laugh.

Elijah quickly drags Billy’s attention away, reminding him that they’re not alone. “How was Sherlock? Was he a total dick?”

“Ehm, no,” Billy says, realizing just how surprisingly subdued his advisor had been all throughout, mostly letting his fellow panelists interrogate Billy while scribbling grumpily onto a legal pad. He supposes the defense itself was a bitter sort of defeat for him, the vindictive prick. “He was fine. It was good,” he says simply, taking a sip of whiskey and growling as it trickles its way down his throat. “What is this? It’s good.” He doesn’t wait for Elijah’s answer before turning back to Dominic. “How’s your weekend going?”

“I spent some time in a dark room with you earlier today.” Dominic recalls the photos from Christmas he’d worked on that afternoon, after investing a good chunk of his savings into transferring them from digital to celluloid.

“Ooh. I like the sound of that.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Elijah laughs. “The last two years or more have been building up to this afternoon, and you’re acting like you just got back from vacation.”

Billy shrugs and gives no explanation, just to piss him off. Countless times over the past four and a half years, Billy has thought that there must be another, happier version of himself out there in the world somewhere. To suddenly be the happy one himself is almost too much. He's reluctant to question or even explain it.

“Well congratulations anyway, asshole,” Elijah says, still disappointed as he raises his glass and the others follow suit. “May you be less cranky from now on.”

Billy laughs. “Cheers to that.” They all take another drink.

Dominic shoves over so their legs are all lined up underneath the table. “D’you want to split some curry chips?”

“Yes.” Billy stretches his arm along the back of the booth, though he doesn’t quite have to peer over Dominic’s shoulder for a look at the menu, with how close they’re sitting. “And sliders. Beef or pulled pork?”

“They’re both good here.” Dominic tilts his head up at the ceiling, feigning intense contemplation. “You can get beef sliders anywhere.” He returns to Billy, nodding in firm decision. “Pulled pork.”

“Let’s get one of each, ’m fucking famished. Been here before, then?”

Orlando finally chimes in. “He used to work here.”

Dominic looks bashfully down at his glass, the corners of his mouth twitching.

“Really?” Billy asks.

“For about a week.” Dominic sighs dramatically, pushing his glass around. “Back when I was young and innocent.”

“You’re still young,” Elijah offers. Dominic sticks his tongue out at him.

Interesting.” Billy props his chin on his hand and peers at Dominic. “Dare I ask why you were here just a week?”

Dominic turns, leaning back into the corner of the booth and crossing one leg loosely over the other. “You might say I was involved in an altercation with a customer.” Billy mouths Ooh, intrigued.

“You might say he got tossed on his arse for being a little prick,” Orlando accuses, and it sounds almost congenial.

“I was a prince. A man insulted me and I was merely defending my honor,” Dominic explains primly, prompting derisive laughter from Orlando. There’s no hesitation in the angry finger he points at him from across the table. “Shut it, you.”

“Well, you’ll have to let us know if he comes in. I’m feeling confident tonight.” Billy winks and cracks his knuckles, making Dominic shift visibly in his seat.

Elijah wriggles uncomfortably too, but for a different reason. “Speak for yourself. I’m not a fighter. I’m too delicate.” He gives a preemptive wince, as if he can already see an over-sized muscly fist headed straight for his nose.

“Two-dimensional, more like.” Orlando gives a quick look around before pinching his side underneath the table. “You should order something.”

“Who’s the mom now? God.” Elijah obediently takes up Dominic’s menu and starts looking over his options.

Dominic wraps a long-fingered hand around Billy’s bicep, testing the muscle there. Billy turns slightly, raising an eyebrow. “If you’re going to fight for me, I have to see what you’re packing.” Not that Dominic doesn’t remember Billy’s strength from those early nights together, especially in his arms. The way he’d handled him onto the floor of his own bedroom with no pretense and less effort isn’t something Dominic’s liable to forget. He brings his other hand up to join the first, for memory’s sake.

Billy’s arms are frozen where they had been lifting his precious drink to his mouth, before Dominic had taken it upon himself to grope him in public, elbow resting on the table so the meat of his forearm sandwiches Dom’s fingers from the other side. He makes his bicep jump, and Dominic jumps with it, the two of them laughing at this, Billy incredulous and amused and Dominic embarrassed as hell. “That work for you?” Billy laughs.

“That’ll do fine, sure.” Dominic releases him and leans back, returning to his beer.

Billy finishes his drink and licks his lips, Elijah instantly motioning for another for him somewhere in the background. Dominic barely registers this; he hasn’t been able to take his eyes off of Billy since he walked in, which is not at all unusual. But it is unusually welcome tonight—and returned.

Billy leans over, his breath burning with whiskey as it ghosts over Dominic’s cheek. “I sort of wish you still worked here.”

“Hm? Why?” In the dim light from the little candle on their table, Dominic’s eyes twinkle with curiosity.

“So I could harass you,” Billy explains. “I’d change my order ten times and leave you no tip.”

“Pfft,” Dominic smiles. “I was so cute back then. You’d’ve hit on me shamelessly all night and left your number on the receipt. Drawn little hearts around it.” He draws an imaginary heart in the air with his finger.

A laugh bursts from Billy’s throat, but he doesn’t pull out of Dominic’s space. “Maybe.”

“Definitely.”

Billy looks him over, weighing this cocky reply with the Dominic he saw at the exhibition, intrigued once again by his chameleon tendencies. He wonders if they were innate or learned, something he picked up on the job. “Probably.” He offers a smile as he ponders a teenage Dominic, a not-at-all teenage Dominic looking back at him with eyes that have seen worlds more since then.

Suddenly it’s Billy’s turn to jump. He grips the pocket of his denims (which he’d insisted on changing into after two hours or more with his defense committee), extracting his vibrating mobile with a sigh. “I thought that was you,” he says to Dominic, nearly throwing the device onto the table like a small erratic animal. He flips it over awkwardly, drawing the attention of everyone at the table so that, unfortunately, his reaction to the name flashing there is laid bare for everyone to see. As good as he’s gotten at controlling his feelings, or at least how he expresses them, this is something he can’t hide; he had no preparation for it.

Elijah reacts the way Billy would expect, right away, with a low, drawn-out Are you fucking kidding me? Orlando looks perplexed. Dominic doesn’t react at all; he’s too busy watching Billy.

It’s incredible, Billy realizes, how when someone calls, it’s as if they’re suddenly there in the room with you, even if you do nothing more than sit staring at their name in bland, impersonal text flashing (Braedan calling...) until finally, blessedly, it doesn’t anymore. There is a brief lull, and then Billy’s phone vibrates again: 1 Missed Call. As if he could have forgotten. Billy stares at it but doesn’t touch it in the vain hope that it isn’t real, that he’s hallucinated it.

“Why is he calling you?” Elijah nearly lunges across the table.

“Lij, just fuck off a second, yeah?” Billy says quietly. He’s been turning over that same exact question since he first threw his phone on the table. He jumps again as it vibrates one last time: 1 New Voicemail. Of course. Fuck.

“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this shit,” Elijah says, looking all but ready to grab the phone and listen for himself.

Billy merely gives him a look as he rises unsteadily to his feet and picks up his mobile, hastily pulling his coat back on and stuffing it into his pocket. He gives Dominic what he hopes is a reassuring look. “Be back in a minute.”

*

CLOSE-UP ON BILLY

The heavy door at the front gives a loud thump as it shuts, punctuating the interruption of their good time. Orlando instantly hones in on Elijah. “Who was that? What’s their history?”

Elijah raises his eyes to Dominic, who tries his best to look only casually interested. “Long story.” It’s obvious that Orlando wants to press for more, but Elijah’s expression clearly says fuck off. He makes a valiant effort to change the subject, but Orlando doesn’t seem willing to talk about much of anything, especially where he himself is concerned.

Dominic looks down at his hands in his lap as Orli and Lij quietly make false starts and stops of conversation, twisting each of his rings until the seal between the metal and his skin comes apart and they spin loose around his knuckles. After a while, he glances back at the front entrance, and, finding no activity there, conjures the image of Braedan from Billy’s photo. He feels sick to his stomach.

Eventually, their food arrives, just to mock him, he’s convinced, and Billy still hasn’t returned. Elijah steals a chip from their plate and pops it in his mouth, rising to his feet. “I’m gonna go check on him.”

Dominic reaches across the table to briefly grip his hand. “No, I’ll go.”

Elijah freezes, hesitates for a moment, then falls back into his seat. “It’s a good idea,” he says quietly, leaving Orlando perplexed and annoyed.

Dominic wastes no time whipping his own coat out of the booth and pulling it onto his arms. He hears Orlando’s fierce whisper fading behind him as he strides toward the front entrance, fumbling with his buttons, unconcerned with how they line up. A couple of the guys that tend bar are having a smoke out front, and though their eyes linger on him they don’t seem to recognize him. He gives them a nod and turns the corner round to the side of the building, vaguely remembering the outdoor seating Green Briar featured when he was there that week many, many summers ago. It’s not open now, he knows, but the gate is tellingly ajar.

He turns sideways to fit himself through the space Billy made there, slowing his stride in case he’s liable to interrupt something. The summer Christmas-style lights are still hung around the perimeter of the courtyard—and lit—but all the outdoor furniture is covered with white tarp that billows a bit in the wind. Billy stands at the center of all this, holding his phone to his mouth and staring off into space.

He doesn’t notice Dominic until he’s nearly in his lap. He looks up but his expression doesn’t change. “Hi.”

Dominic gives him a warm, controlled smile. “Hey.”

Finally, Billy pockets his phone and exhales heavily. “Can I have a fag?”

“‘S not that kind of bar, I don’t think,” Dominic quietly jokes, though he hands him a cigarette without hesitation. He watches closely as he holds his lighter up to Billy, the flame illuminating his eyes, which look as if they’ve seen a ghost. “Food came, so I thought I’d check on you.”

That first stream of smoke curls from Billy’s nose and mouth as he nods. “Thanks,” he says as an afterthought, whether for the fag or the concern, Dominic’s not sure. “Things alright with you and Orlando?”

“No,” Dominic laughs. “Getting worse by the minute, actually.” He bounces a little, shivering as the wind picks up, blowing tufts of Billy’s hair around. “More importantly, how are you? What did he want?” He nods vaguely in the direction of Billy’s phone.

Billy shifts, his voice going low and soft, different than Dominic’s ever heard it sound before. “Ehm, it was Braedan—the guy in that photo, in—” Dominic nods vigorously. “He’s going to be in Boston, and he wants to know if I can get a coffee this week.” Dominic looks at him with quiet, intense expectation. “‘S been nearly five years since we last spoke,” Billy explains, as if that’ll be at all sufficient.

“Wow.”

“Yeah.” Billy’s brow furrows as he sucks intently on the cigarette.

Dominic bites at his lip, fiddling with his lighter in his pocket. “Are you going to go?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t called him back yet.”

There is a long silence, then, during which Billy finishes his cigarette and Dominic’s certain he’s aged another five years from when he was here last. Dominic silently offers him another, like a bartender coaxing a customer’s troubles, and this time Billy looks at him with familiar, grateful eyes. “Time for me to bare my soul, then?”

Dominic shrugs, though he feels anything but nonchalant. “Only if you want to.”

Billy inhales deeply again. “I’ll give you the short version.”

“You don’t have to,” Dominic is quick to say. “I mean, I’m interested, but—”

“No,” Billy interrupts, decisive. “I want to tell you.”

Dominic swears he can feel his eyes and his ears opening as far as they can; underneath that overworked fatigue, he’d always suspected that there was more to Billy’s exhaustion, a different kind of pain, and since Billy vaguely confirmed it over Christmas he’s been dying to know what it looks like.

“After college, I was working at this PR firm doing shit work, but it was really all I could get with a communications concentration, you know?” Billy looks up at Dominic, who urges him on with a nod and a half-smile. “He was working for a record company, also doing shit work,” he laughs, “but he was a musician—I picked up guitar from him, actually. He thought it might, I don’t know, lead to something. Never did. Anyway.” Billy’s eyes go warm at the memory. “We were working with a couple of his company’s bands, and we sort of met that way. I’d make calls to the company, and he’d pick up, and same with him and me. We’d end up spending about two minutes setting up an appointment or whatever, and then he’d ask about music I liked and we’d talk about it. Finally, there was this big in-person meeting. We were both in there taking notes, and there was this... connection there. We kept making faces at each other, started passing notes, like two fucking schoolgirls,” he laughs. “Toward the end of the meeting, he said We should hang out,” Billy scribbles in the air, “and I said sure, and we exchanged numbers. I thought it was just friendly for a while, but then it started getting kind of blurry. But, you know, we were both sort of tiptoeing, yeah? I’m sure you know how that goes.”

Dominic inhales, nodding, wondering fleetingly if Billy realizes what he’s just said.

“Anyway, it just kept... escalating, until one night, we were hanging out in my flat getting pissed and he just leaned over and kissed me. And it wasn’t weird or anything, afterward, so I thought, Good, this isn’t just some sort of experiment. And we were together for a year or so in Glasgow before he decided he wanted to go to New York, try to, eh, make it as a musician.” Any ounce of warmth is instantly washed from Billy’s face. “So I left my job and my sister and my friends and everything, and went with him.”

Dominic’s eyebrows shoot up of their own accord. Even without Billy having said so, he knows then just how crazy he was about this guy; he’s not nearly impulsive enough to have uprooted his life without good reason.

“I said short version, didn’t I?” Billy laughs, some of that happy relaxation from earlier coming back to the surface. He takes a breath, centering himself for the next bit. “New York was difficult. We had only enough saved to get us by for a couple of months, but eh, Braedan had all these big ideas about the life he wanted to have there. I tried to be the voice of reason, but I ended up supporting him mostly. I was working two jobs and doing some freelance PR writing on the weekends and nights I could keep my eyes open. He had his gigs,” Billy rolls his eyes. “I would have realized I was miserable if I didn’t love him so much.”

Dominic holds his breath at that, expecting the worst is to come. Billy’s voice goes tight like it physically aches to say it out loud.

“It went on like that for about a year and a half. We were living in a fairly decent apartment—it was nicer than we should have had first off. One night I came home early from a shift at work, and there was this girl with him there, just hanging out, but. He said they’d met at some gig and they were friends, and I didn’t think anything of it. But about a month or so later, I came home late one night and he wasn’t there, and all of his things were gone. No warning, no explanation, nothing.”

It cuts Dominic unspeakably deep to imagine this scene in his mind, but he does so anyway.

“I tried calling him a few times over the next week, but of course he never answered. I started thinking of all these possible reasons he could have left, making excuses for him and actually thinking some might be true. It’s the closest to crazy I’ve ever felt. I started to think maybe I’d imagined the last three or four years of my life altogether.” Billy finally returns to his cigarette, taking a deep drag before putting it out on the ground.

Dominic struggles to find his voice. “What happened then?”

“I stayed in the apartment a little while, as long as I could afford it, which wasn’t very long. I was hoping he’d come back, which of course he didn’t. And then I stayed in another place for a little while after that. What’s sad is that I didn’t want to leave New York right away. I wanted to stay there, hoping I’d run into him, that I’d finally get an explanation, even though I knew what it was, especially looking back on it now. And after I’d gotten over that, part of me wanted to prove that there were other reasons I came there, that I could start a life of my own there. But I never got there. The city was so connected to what had happened, to him, for me, that I grew to hate it. Even now, I can’t remember liking anything about it. He ruined it for me.”

Dominic hesitates before quietly asking, “Why d’you still have that picture of him up in your room?”

Billy huffs out the start of a bitter laugh and shakes his head, looking away. “I don’t know.” After a long moment, during which Dominic half-expects him to come up with a real answer, he turns back, his eyes a bit glassy. “I don’t know,” he says again. “It’s fucking frightening to think you know someone so well and have them turn out to be someone completely different. I should have known. He was always performing in a way, even when it was just the two of us. It’s incredible what you can’t see when you’re in the thick of it, you know?”

Dominic nods, thinking of Ian. He sighs. “The big question is, are you going to get coffee with him?”

Billy gives that same bitter laugh as he nods. “‘S funny. All I’ve wanted all these years is an explanation, and now that I have the opportunity to get it, I’m not sure I’m ready.” He gives an exaggerated sigh and rubs the bridge of his nose. “Such a good day, and then.”

“Well,” Dominic offers, “you don’t have to decide what you’re going to do now. I mean, fuck it, he can wait a few hours for a call back, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Billy says faintly, but Dominic knows what his decision is going to be, even if he doesn’t yet. And he knows there’s no hope of them getting back to that easy, comfortable place they were just under an hour before—not tonight, anyway.


NEXT

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