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: Billy gets closure.
Previously.



SCENE 39. - INT. PROFESSOR BOYD'S CLASSROOM - MONDAY AFTERNOON

“We’re all obsessive in a way, aren’t we?”

The students in Billy’s new class look up at him quizzically, the few distracted ones actually broken out of daydreams or work from other classes for the moment. It’s early on, so they’re still polite, not quite comfortable with him yet, trying to figure him out and decipher his accent.

“We obsess over moments from our own lives, scenes from our lives. We’re compelled to relive them over and over, whether good or bad.” A girl in the front row—Rosie, he takes a second to remind himself—gives him a little smile of understanding. “When I say something stupid in front of a room full of students, for example, I cannot stop thinking about it. For weeks.

“My good memories, likewise, stay on a loop in my head, much like a projector that won’t stop running, sometimes for years. They’re a comfort when I’m unhappy or unfulfilled.” He stops for a moment, futzing with a corner of the podium (which he refuses to stand behind), wondering if that last bit had gone too far. “That’s at least part of the appeal of film, I suppose, for all of us. The movies I love are comforting because they’re always the same, they’re reliable, and I can relive my favorite moments from them over and over again.”

Billy’s managed to stop reliving his and Dominic’s nights together—together—but he hasn’t stopped seeing Dom as this world he wants to get completely lost in, give himself over to. That hasn’t gotten less frightening.

He’s had some reprieve, if you could call it that, since hearing from Braedan. Over the past few days, those long minutes prior to sleep that used to be devoted to replaying his most favorite of Dom’s tics and facial expressions have suddenly switched over to a different station, one that specializes in resurrecting old memories from the dead. These memories, or scenes, have ranged from the best—his and Braedan’s first kiss—to the worst—that empty fucking flat in New York.

Since he first started teaching, it’s always amazed Billy just how quickly his students can make him feel his age. These memories of Braedan have the exact opposite effect; just recalling them makes him feel naive and childish, easily bruised. It’s an awful feeling to go to bed with.

“For Scottie in Vertigo, these isolated moments with Madeline have defined his life. He can’t stop reliving them,” Billy says quietly, working to get himself back on track.

He continues his lecture with some level of distraction, right up until Dominic appears inside the projection room at the back, peering out from behind the glass there. Billy’s heart lurches, both at the sight of him and the knowledge of what it means: it’s officially half-four, nearly the end of class, when he’ll dismiss his students and start on his way to meet Braedan.

*

SCENE 40. - EXT. TREMONT STREET - MINUTES LATER

Billy and Dominic take their time strolling, Dominic mostly to keep Billy’s slow pace.

“Not in a rush to get there, are you?” Dominic gives him a gentle smirk.

“Not really, no.” Billy turns, looking over at Dominic, hands shoved deep within his pockets, his brow furrowed, and wonders what he must be thinking. “Thank you for doing this. I can use all the moral support I can find.”

“‘M happy to be here for you,” Dominic says quietly, his eyes blue and earnest under the bright winter sun.

“‘S just.” Billy stops them, one hand reaching for Dominic’s bicep. “I don’t want you to feel that you owe me something, for... I don’t know. The art showing.”

Dominic smiles again, this time bemused. “You really have a hard time accepting help, don’t you?”

Billy’s eyes narrow at him, as if he’s hearing this for the first time. He smiles, though there is still a shiver in his voice. “I suppose I do.”

Dominic doesn’t tear his eyes away until Billy’s turned from him, back on their path toward the coffee shop, actually the very same one where they had met up for the first time. Dominic inhales as it starts to come into view, the reminder of Billy’s words cutting him even deeper than they had on that day: I don’t want us to have that kind of relationship. You understand? He’s still not sure what Billy meant by something better, but he’s still grateful to have him right here beside him than not, especially after nearly a month without him.

A few storefronts away from the coffee shop, Billy stops, taking a deep breath. Dominic follows suit in empathy. Billy holds his arms outstretched, laughing ruefully at himself as he says, “How do I look?”

“Good. Ready.”

“As ready as I’m ever going to be, I suppose,” Billy mutters, straightening his peacoat.

Dominic quickly grabs at his hands, using them to pull him in for a tight embrace. Billy laughs, grateful and now more nervous than he can remember being as Dominic presses a heartfelt kiss to his cheek, his lips soft but cold. “Don’t. Um.” Dominic holds him at his elbows. “Don’t let him make you feel... anything less than you are. Alright?”

Dominic grimaces, clearly dissatisfied with his own words, but to Billy they’re terribly intimate, perhaps too intimate for just now. Billy nods, overwhelmed. “Thank you.”

“Good luck.” Dominic is reluctant to let him go, but he manages, looking back over his shoulder just once as he walks back in the direction from which they'd come.

*

SCENE 41. - INT. BOSTON COMMON COFFEE CO. - A FEW MOMENTS LATER

It comes as no surprise to Billy that he’s the first to arrive, and that feeling brings back a little detail that he’d long forgotten: Braedan was almost always late, to the point where it was cause for celebration on the occasions when he wasn’t. Billy quickly realizes how awful it is to be on time, as the long moments before Braedan comes walking through the door turn out to be the worst. In Dominic’s absence he suddenly panics, wondering fiercely what the fuck prompted Braedan to reach out at all, what he hopes to accomplish in this meeting, whether it’ll be clear or not by the end of it. Billy fears seeing him and feeling everything he did and even some things he didn’t when they were together, hating himself for it all the while.

When Braedan finally does walk in—ten minutes late—there’s a moment where Billy’s heart drops into his stomach. But once it passes, there is an eerie calm that comes over him. He has the brief advantage of distance, having chosen a seat closer to the back than the front, watching clandestinely for a few privileged moments as Braedan scans the coffee shop for him. He’s still beautiful, compelling in that slightly tortured way he always had, but Billy also notices straight away that he’s considerably weathered, having lost much of that glow that used to follow him like wake from a speedboat, that that photo in his room had captured so perfectly.

He’s not the same person anymore, at all, but more importantly, neither is Billy. As Braedan spots him and makes his way over, Billy wonders where that previous version of himself went. Did it vanish into thin air? He thinks of one of the first lectures he’d had in school, about films from the first part of the 20th century that had been lost. He still can’t imagine how something so real could just erode, dissolve into nothing, forever. He can't lament it, though, in this case.

Braedan gives him a muted smile, one that is the perfect embodiment of his overall change. “Hello.”

Billy doesn’t rise from his chair, but he does offer him a smile in return; whether or not he means it is anyone’s guess. “Hi. Did you want something?” He gestures toward the counter, gripping his own coffee like an anchor.

Braedan refuses, shaking his head as he shifts awkwardly in his seat. They look at each other for a long moment.

“Well,” Billy says, breaking the silence, “the world hasn’t exploded yet.”

Braedan laughs, settling visibly. “You haven’t punched me, either.”

“‘S still early,” Billy deadpans, catching Braedan off-guard for a second. “I’m kidding.” Braedan still has the sense to look ashamed but says nothing. “So, what brings you here?” Braedan looks up at him, wide-eyed. “Boston, I mean.”

“Eh, I’ve got a gig on Saturday. Thought I’d make a trip of it.”

Billy shrinks a bit in his chair, his voice going cool. “Oh, that’s good. Are you still with, ehm, Dream Machine, then?”

“No, I stopped playing with them years ago. Been doing mostly singer-songwriter stuff since then.” Braedan looks down at his hands where they rest in loose semicircles on the table, as if silently willing a cup between them. “You’re in school, yeah?”

“Doing my doctorate, at Suffolk,” Billy is quick to correct. “Actually, it’s done. I just did my dissertation defense last week, so ‘s just a matter of getting hooded,” he explains with a heavy, pleased sigh, suddenly feeling perfectly smug in retrospect.

“‘S great.” Braedan nods, overwhelmed, clearly out of his element in this conversation, which gives Billy a sick kind of pleasure. “I ran into, eh, Tom last year, in New York, actually—he’s in law school there now. He mentioned what you were doing, so.”

Billy remembers Tom, a friend of theirs from Glasgow, from the honeymoon days. He’d been Braedan’s friend first but was a fantastic enough guy that Billy’d found great solace in him in the years after they parted. He’d spent hours on the phone with Tom from New York and then Boston, always trying to figure out together what exactly had happened. By that point, Tom hadn’t heard a word from Braedan, either.

“I remember you always reading those books when we were still in Glasgow, but I’d no idea how involved you’d gotten with it.”

Billy nods, his mouth drawing up tight. “Well. You were otherwise occupied.” He takes a sip of his coffee.

“Bill—” Braedan starts, and Billy wants to demand that he take it back; he has no right to even such a simple intimacy.

Instead, he shrugs. “You were.” They look at each other, something in the air between them breaking, relief flooding Billy now that they’re no longer dealing in shite pleasantries. “I’m not here to argue with you. I’m not sure why I’m here, to be honest.”

Braedan looks at a loss for words. “There’s nothing you want to say to me? You’re not angry?”

Billy’s gut reaction is to say yes, scream it, actually, along with some other less savory words, probably not suited for this quiet little coffee shop in the middle of winter. But when he stops and actually considers Braedan’s question, he finds he can’t. “No. I was. Fucking hated you, as a matter of fact. For a long time.”

“Alright,” Braedan says, as if he’d expected that, wanted it even.

“But I’m not the same person I was when we were together, and neither are you, I’m sure. I still have wounds, ‘m not going to pretend that I don’t. But it’s not personal anymore. It can’t be.” Billy levels his eyes at him. “At the risk of sounding dramatic, though, you did ruin my life, what my life was at that time. I had nothing when you left, nothing at all. Wasn’t the first time, either,” he laughs ruefully. “My mind and my heart—my ego—went places I never thought they could before that, horrible places.” Billy breathes deeply, some of that old, nearly forgotten anger resurfacing as he looks at the object of it for the first time in years. “D’you know I haven’t been back to New York since? It’s still too attached to all that for me. Nearly got in the way of my dissertation.”

Braedan looks genuinely guilty at that, though he couldn’t possibly understand.

“There was a series at Film Forum with some rare prints that had just been uncovered, that they hadn’t even begun to copy. It went on for nearly a month. My advisor couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t go,” Billy laughs, the pain of that scenario so real in memory but completely out of his heart now. “I made up some shite about a sick friend.” Braedan is silent, and Billy relents, suddenly feeling as if he’s chiding a little kid. “That’s all over now, though. I got through it. It’s made me who I am, in a way.”

Braedan watches Billy carefully, clearly wanting to offer him something but unsure how to proceed. “I don’t want to blame it on age—”

Billy shakes his head, looking pointedly away from him.

“Don’t do that, please listen for a minute.” Braedan leans toward him, his voice low and fierce. “I’m not going to blame it on age, but you’re right: we were both different then, me especially. I was, eh, extraordinarily selfish. I could never see myself doing something like that now. I would have talked to you, told you—”

Billy waves his hand in front of him, all but wincing. “Stop, don’t. Let’s not. I really don’t want to.”

“I just want to—”

No.” Billy glances about, realizing that some of the surrounding patrons are obviously trying in vain not to listen to their conversation. He smiles at the irony of Braedan claiming to no longer be so selfish when he keeps pressing this twisted non-apology that Billy so clearly doesn’t want to hear. “It’s not worth anything now. Really.”

Braedan exhales heavily. “I’ve missed you.”

Billy finally looks at him again, something relenting, unraveling in his stomach, in spite of his own stubbornness. For a moment, he allows himself to remember every good feeling this man had ever made him feel, every bit of laughter and kindness he offered.

“You were always such a... good presence in my life,” Braedan continues. “There’ve been so many times over the past few years where I really wished I could just pick up the phone and call you to tell you something that had happened to me, or share something I remembered or thought...”

“I understand that,” Billy says softly, turning his nearly empty coffee cup over the surface of the table. “I've been here, though. I've always been here. You could have.” He is suddenly, deeply glad, though, that Braedan never did reach out in all that time. He’s not sure he would have been ready for it even just last year. “You know, until recently, I thought that I hadn’t been enough for you, that that’s why... and that’s probably true. But I finally realized that you weren’t enough for me, either.” Billy thinks of Dominic’s words only minutes ago, from just before he’d come in here. “It took being alone all that time to figure out what I want, what I need to be happy.”

“You haven’t seen anyone?”

Billy laughs a little; of course that’s the bit that Braedan would take from all that. “What does that matter?”

Braedan is quick to apologize. “Sorry, I didn’t mean—I’m just making conversation.”

Billy’s smile widens. “‘M not sure I buy that, but alright.” He thinks of Dom again. “No, I haven’t seen anyone. I don’t think I wanted to, before.”

Braedan offers a smile of his own at that, though it’s a tentative one, one with plenty more questions underneath it.

One of Billy’s clearest memories of Braedan, one of the most persistent, has been their last morning together, the morning of the day Billy’d come home to a half-empty flat and no note. He’d worked that very night to commit it to memory, Braedan’s sun-drenched face and messy hair against the pillow as he slipped out of bed not knowing it would be the last time he’d see him until now. Now, he knows without a doubt that this will be the last time he ever sees him. “I have to get going,” Billy says, finishing off his coffee and rising to his feet.

Braedan doesn’t look surprised. “Sick friend?”

Billy ducks his head as he shrugs on his peacoat, glad he understands. “It was good seeing you. I really mean that.” Braedan doesn’t reply, though his expression is friendly, calmer. Billy raps his knuckles decisively on the table before tossing his coffee, pulling his collar up around his neck, and walking out the door.



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