Request: Eric Bana/Viggo would be awesome but Orlando/Sean B., Karl/Sean B., Karl/Viggo or Bernard/Sean B. are great as well. Requested genres: (well, some of this is only sort of a genre :)) contemporary AUs, NZ timed fic, smut, and/or est!relationship. I'm not much for angst, h/c and really kinky stuff.
Summary: AU; Eric's trying to break into acting while doing comedy clubs and some modeling to pay the bills. Just after he's met a guy who might become someone special, if only he has time to find out, he gets a chance at what might be his big break, but it'd force him to stay locked in the closet for years.
Disclaimer: I don't own anyone you recognize. I know nothing about their social lives or sexual activities, more's the pity. This is fiction, period. It is done as a labor of love and I make no money from it.
Notes: Written for the 2011 slashababy fic fest for afra_schatz. I'd never thought about Eric and Viggo together before, but I like both of them, so I decided to give it a shot.
Eric checked the address on his phone one more time, noted the building across the street, then went to find a place to park. While roaming the nearby streets, hunting for a gap in the cars lining the curbs, a panicky voice in the back of his head was babbling at him to turn around, go back home, get a day job flipping burger's at McD's or stocking shelves at WalMart or something else, anything else.
He told that part of his mind to shut the fuck up.
After having come halfway around the damn planet looking for a shot at the movies, he needed flexibility in his schedule, and huge corporate behemoths weren't known for their flexibility, especially when it came to peon-level employees.
Besides, asking people if they wanted fries with their burger was just... no. He might as well go home to Australia if he was going to sink that low.
He spotted a spot a couple of buildings farther on, and managed to beat out a woman in an SUV. Hah! You lose today, lady!
While he hiked back to the building he wanted, his brain tried to work on him again.
What if this gets out? the voice in his head asked. It's exactly the sort of thing that always does, or seems to. It'd haunt you for the rest of your career.
On the other hand, a slightly different voice pointed out, if you get tossed out of your apartment and end up living in your car, you'd have a hard time building any kind of career in the first place. He imagined trying to get ready for an audition from inside his Volvo. Yeah, no.
You could drop your gym membership, said the not-quite panicked voice. That'd pay for the surprise rent increase, thank you very much Mr. Brasswell you bastard.
Sure, the second voice snarked, but as an unknown Aussie actor in a sea of American and Canadian actors all scrambling for parts, your buffed-out bod is a selling point; you can't afford to lose that.
Aha -- there was the right address. He'd been on the wrong block.
He trotted up the steps to what looked like yet another industrial conversion. A scuffed up directory on one side of the narrow entry way sent him to a freight elevator and up to the fourth floor where Mortensen Photography was shooting a calendar.
You can still go home, the voice in Eric's brain nagged.
Shut up, fuck off, leave me alone.
You'll be sorry, said the voice.
He knocked on a big steel door, and half a minute later it slid open. A middle-aged guy with messy brown hair and smile lines around his eyes looked him up and down and said, "Bana? Awesome. Head shot doesn't do you justice. Come on in."
"Umm, thanks." Eric had to grin as he stepped inside.
See?! said the second voice. You need that gym membership!
The first voice just sulked.
Inside, the studio was one huge space. Right in front of the door, a small reception area had been blocked off with a couple of rolling partitions. The desk was a six-foot folding table, with a phone and a laptop and a scattering of papers and letters and folders and other office supplies on it. There was a four-drawer filing cabinet next to it, and an empty rolling chair behind it.
The guy, who Eric was just assuming was the photographer, Mortensen, since he hadn't introduced himself, grabbed a folder off the table and shoved it into Eric's hands, then led him around the partitions to the bulk of the space. More tables were piled with files and prints and boxes, a few cameras, some odds and ends of what looked like props and costume bits, and stuff that might be parts of lights but Eric wasn't sure. In a corner that had to be right on the opposite side of the reception area was another space about the same, blocked off with more partitions, and next to that, up against the an outside wall, was a fridge lined up beside a table that had a coffee maker and associated stuff on it.
Two main photo areas were set up, each with its own stands and lights and different colored drapes. One featured a kingsize bed made up with messy red silk sheets, looking like someone -- or maybe several someones -- had just rolled out of it. The other featured a huge armchair, extra wide and deeply upholstered in black leather.
The chair had two sets of handcuffs on it, like someone had taken them off and tossed them onto the seat before walking away.
Eric's first brain-voice was back and it was screaming again.
He reminded it how much living out of his car would suck, and it faded to some vague grumbling and dire predictions of how sorry he would be that he hadn't listened.
"If you could fill that out," said the guy who was probably Mortensen, "we can get going."
Eric looked around, then squatted down in front of a semi-clear spot on one of the tables, pulled out a pen and started filling in forms.
"You said you'd done this before, but didn't give a lot of details."
It was just a comment, but Eric felt obliged to answer. At least he didn't have to look the guy in the eye, since he was still writing. "I said I've been in front of the camera before, and I have. I've done some acting and a lot of comedy -- I had a sketch comedy show in Australia for a couple of seasons -- so I know about hitting marks and not freaking when the camera's on me. I haven't actually modeled, though, not as such."
"I bet whenever you say that, the person asks you to say something funny."
Eric could hear the smile in the guy's voice, and had to smirk in agreement. "Yeah, mostly. I got a few lines I use -- wanna hear 'em?"
"Nah, just wanted to make sure you were prepared."
Which made Eric grin wider, 'cause that was a joke itself and not a bad one for an amateur tossing something off the cuff. "As prepared as I could be. Your ad said you were looking for beefcake, and I guess I qualify. I'm thinking of it as an acting job, and managed to convince myself I could play it." Which was a joke back, although not really, and he hoped the guy didn't get mad. Eric had known plenty of folks who could joke around about someone else's work, but turned into divas if anyone joked about their own.
"You'll do fine," said the guy. "If you've done acting, TV or film, you should be able to pick up the basics of still camera work. There's some overlap, and so long as you don't get a weird look on your face when I point the lens at you, I'm sure you'll do great."
"Umm, about that...." Eric was very glad he was still scribbling info onto a form, because this last bit might just get him thrown out. "I, umm, was wondering if there was any way you could, like, maybe not show my face? I mean, you're going for the bod anyway, right?"
There were a few moments of silence, then the guy said, "Depends. When you're done there, strip down and let me see what I've got to work with."
"What?" Eric stood up and turned, forms forgotten. "Wait, I don't need it that bad! I mean, if that's the price of--"
"Chill out! For chrissakes, you're jumpy! I meant what I said -- if you don't want your face to show, then I'm going to have to emphasize something else -- shoulders, arms, chest, abs, ass, legs, some combination of the above. From what I can see through your clothes, that shouldn't be an insurmountable problem, but I need to take a look before I'm sure."
"Oh. Umm, sorry, I just... I'm nervous and it's making me a bit stupid. I guess." Eric felt his face heat, and he ducked back down and picked up the pen once more, hoping the blush would go away before he was done.
"No problem. I've worked with a few newbies before. Sometimes it's worth it and sometimes it's not. Just your shoulders and ass alone should be worth it."
"Umm, thanks," Eric said without looking up. He was wondering whether he could ask for any more forms to fill out, because his blush felt like it was going to stick around a while.
Despite his best procrastination, Eric had to turn around and hand the folder back far too soon. While the guy flipped through the sheets, Eric said, "Just to check, you are Viggo Mortensen the photographer, right?"
The guy blinked at him, then laughed. "Yeah, sorry. I get distracted sometimes and details get left behind. Okay, you hit all the blanks. So, let's see what we have to work with?"
Eric looked around, not sure what he was looking for, but whatever it was he didn't find it. There wasn't anyone else around, though, and the only windows were high up overhead, so what the hell. He pulled his T-shirt off while toeing off his sneakers.
"Mmm, very nice. Good definition." Viggo was circling him, a slow step at a time. Eric fumbled with his trouser button, wondering yet again whether he was being stupid, but when Viggo came back around into view, his expression was thoughtful instead of leering, so... come on, keep going.
Button, zip, shove, kick. He hesitated a second, then shoved his boxer briefs off and forced himself to stand straight, arms a little spread and definitely not covering up his junk, 'cause that'd just be stupid and unprofessional and would make him look like a squeally little girl, right?
Viggo took another prowl around him, then said, "Not a problem at all. In fact, if the calendar shots go well, I could probably give you some more work on another project."
"Great, thanks." It seemed the right thing to say, but Eric was wondering exactly what kind of work Viggo meant.
"All right," said Viggo, grabbing one of the cameras from a table and checking... whatever it was professional photographers checked. Eric took pictures with his phone and that was about it. Viggo waved a hand toward the bed and continued, "Hop on up and give me some poses. Pretend your lover has just walked in the door."
"Eep?" said Eric.
Viggo grinned. "I want to see how you move, what your instincts are like, what shapes you make when left to yourself. I don't really expect anything usable to come out of this first set, but if so, great. I'll crop your face out if it shows; I already said that wasn't a problem."
"Um, naked? I didn't know it was that kind of calendar. I mean, beefcake yeah, but the, uh, full monty?"
"I'll crop that out too," said Viggo. "Damn shame, and it might not leave much of the picture after it's gone, but I'll do what I can." He gave Eric a twinkling smile and Eric did his best to smile back.
He was blushing again, he could tell. At least he didn't have to worry about that being immortalized for posterity.
Eric turned away and looked at the bed. It was big and messy, but the sheets weren't stained, or even really creased. It looked like someone had made it up with clean sheets, then deliberately mussed it about just for the look of it, rather than actually slept -- or whatever -- there earlier. And since when had Eric gotten that dainty?
What the fuck, just go for it.
He yelled, "Hee-yah!" and threw himself onto the bed in a flying leap, arms and legs spread and knees bent just enough to keep from mashing anything vital. He hit in a roll and ended up against the half-dozen pillows up near the headboard, spread out and grinning.
Viggo was snapping off shots. "Great, keep going."
What the hell, this was just warm up anyway, right? It wasn't like anything would be good enough to use this soon.
Eric remembered the last time he'd had a steady lover, the last time they'd had sex, the hot, sticky fun of it all, and gave a wicked smile. Click-click-click. He rolled over onto all fours, glanced over his shoulder, then shifted so he was lying across the bed on his side.
He rolled onto his stomach again, then stretched out, long and slow and tight, fists straight out over his head and toes pointed and everything in between taut and arched. Then he relaxed and let his head droop off the side of the mattress, hands dangling toward the floor.
"Great, good stuff. I think you're warmed up enough -- any more and the bed'll catch on fire."
Eric had to laugh, and he turned his head in time to catch Viggo smirking from behind the camera lens.
Viggo walked over to a table and picked up a length of holly garland, then approached the bed. "Turn so you're facing the headboard, on your stomach. Diagonally just a little. Good, now spread your legs -- no, not that much... right there, yeah."
Eric settled into the position, and a moment late he felt the holly being draped across his thighs. He yelped at the pointy leaves poking into delicate skin, but Viggo said, "Just hang on, once it's settled it'll just itch a little. There."
The holly felt like it was spread across the tops of his thighs, just below his butt. The garland would leave his ass showing, but hide anything that might make the calendar NC-17. He heard Viggo's footsteps backing away, then click-click-click again, from different angles.
"Great, now roll over."
Eric obeyed, and Viggo draped the holly over his junk.
"Christmassy fig leaf?"
He got a wink in responses, and "More or less."
Viggo took a few shots, had Eric sit propped up on his elbows, then put his arms and hands into various positions -- over his navel, just beside it, just above it; over one nipple, over a nipple but with his fingers spread, on and on while the camera clicked.
There seemed to be an endless supply of props -- a Santa hat, a reindeer-antler headband, a little tuxedo-thong with a tiny poinsetta flower in one corner, a dozen walnut-sized jingle bells strung on a leather strap....
Viggo took a dozen shots of Eric on his stomach and on his side with his wrists bound behind him by the jingle-bell strap, which had a very sturdy buckle. That one had Eric kind of fidgety; he'd never been into bondage type stuff at all, but his cock was half hard by the time they were through and the contradiction was something he'd have liked to have some private time to think about.
Models didn't get private time, though, so after a brief break for a bottle of water, they were on to the next prop, which was a huge red bow draped across Eric's hips, covering what Eric assumed was meant to be the present. Viggo didn't say anything about Eric's semi-swollen state while adjusting the poufy bow, and Eric was incredibly grateful.
By the time they were done it was almost dinner time and Eric was worn out. "Move" and "Stretch" and "More" and "Hold that" were a lot harder work than he'd thought they'd be.
But finally they were done. Viggo unwrapped the mile and a half of tiny colored lights Eric had been wrapped in for the last set of shots, then said, "That's it. I know I'll get something good out of that. Hell, I could probably make a whole calendar with just you, and the customers would be clamoring for copies."
"Umm, thanks." Eric was back to blushing. He turned away to get dressed, while Viggo packed props and fussed with his cameras behind Eric's back.
While pulling on his slacks, Eric noticed that he was getting dressed a lot more slowly than he would've a few hours earlier. Spending... he checked his watch and stared at the time -- four and a half hours naked or mostly naked in front of someone, feeling their very professional and impersonal hands on you on and off for the entire time, had done a lot to get Eric to relax about the whole naked issue. That was good, right?
"Good job," said Viggo from right behind him. Eric jumped just a little, then turned around and saw him standing there, holding out an envelope. "I'm definitely interested in working with you again, if you want more modelling jobs."
"Umm, yeah, it was interesting." Smooth, Bana, Eric thought with a mental wince. "I really wasn't sure what I was getting into, and I think it pushed some of my boundaries a little, but that's always good, right? It's another performing art, and the skills feed each other."
Viggo nodded and said, "Yeah, I imagine they do. And you definitely loosened up as we went. Mostly." Eric caught a fraction of a grin and Viggo's crow's feet deepened for just a second. "I was going to head out to get some dinner. Want to come along? If you have plans, that's fine."
"Uhh, sure. That sounds good. I didn't have anything in particular planned, and I'm definitely hungry."
"Great. Let me clean up here and we can head out."
An hour later, Eric was sitting in a booth across from Viggo in a little place that'd be a gastro-pub if it were newer or hipper. As it was, they had a nice dark beer on tap and a short menu of good bar food, plus a few things Eric had never heard of. The remains of a swiss-mushroom burger and steak fries were strewn around a paper-lined plastic basket in front of Eric, and a half-full pint -- his second one -- sat to one side. Viggo was still working on a rice-and-chicken dish called paiella that'd come in a shallow metal pan a good foot across.
They'd been talking about work -- comparing jobs, shallow stuff, nothing really specific -- and then segued over to movies they liked, some sports talk, and then an enthusiastic conversation about politics, where Eric insisted the US needed mandatory voting and Viggo argued that if a government couldn't inspire its citizens to participate then it needed more of an overhaul than mandatory voting could give it. After they disagreed on that for a while, Eric changed the subject to cars, then Viggo shifted it to horses.
Viggo seemed to be a good guy, the sort of man Eric wouldn't mind hanging out with to drink beer, watch football (even if they'd be rooting for opposing teams) and all that.
While Viggo was scraping the bottom of his pan, though, he said, "So what do you think of modelling for me again? I have another job lined up next week that you'd suit, and I could use another guy."
Eric switched his brain back into work mode and asked, "What kind of job? Another calendar? I imagine it's the season for it."
"Actually, most calendars were shot a couple of months ago, latest. This one you just did is going to sell as a fund-raiser for an AIDS hospice. Smaller organizations usually run on shorter schedules; they take more time to get the money together, and once they're ready to go, they don't have as much bureaucracy to hack through as the bigger corporate clients."
"Makes sense, I guess. I never really thought about it. So what's the next job?"
"Adam and Steve Forever's spring catalog. Another small company, but they have some good products."
Eric blinked. "Umm, I've never heard of them. What do they sell?"
Viggo grinned, and leaned forward on his folded arms. "Sex toys, sexy clothes, some bondage gear. Nothing seriously hardcore, but it's always a fun shoot."
Eric stifled a snort and gave Viggo a suspicious squint. "I'm surprised you didn't wait till I was taking a slug of beer."
"Spit-takes are only funny when you're more than a couple of feet away," said Viggo with a perfectly straight face.
"Lucky for me, I guess." He eyerolled and took a deliberate slug of beer. "I don't suppose you'll be using any female models?"
"Nope. They have a companion catalog, Addy and Eve Forever, but we shot that one last month. And you wouldn't have qualified for that job anyway."
"No, I don't guess I would've." Eric thought about up-coming auditions, about his comedy club schedule, about living on the street in January instead of December. Even in LA, it got cold at night in winter, and he was still too tall to be able to sleep in his car for more than a quick nap.
Besides, he'd done some kinky stuff already, right? Some of the poses that day had been damn blatant, and bondage with jingle bells was still bondage, yeah? So he'd done it already and it hadn't been bad. He needed the money and... well, that was sort of it.
Maybe not all of it -- Viggo was a nice looking bloke, in a rough-around-the-edges sort of way, and Eric's gaydar was pinging. It wasn't always completely reliable, but Viggo didn't seem to be trying to hide. He didn't swish, but he wasn't trying to hide, either.
"Sure, if it fits my schedule. When next week?"
Viggo's smile widened. "I'd need you on Wednesday and Thursday, maybe Friday. All day, eight to five, with an hour break for lunch."
"That works," said Eric. "I have a club date on Friday, but not until eight."
"Great, I'll expect you then, 8am."
Eric nodded and pulled out his phone to make a note.
Viggo finished his beer while Eric was entering his note on the calendar app. When he was done, Viggo said, "I have some better beer back at my place. Want to come over and try it?"
Well, that was... not really direct, per se, but pretty clear. Viggo was sitting back in his seat, relaxed and mellow, like he was okay with whatever Eric answered. And he'd said Eric could have more work before bringing up anything else; he didn't seem like the kind of guy who'd try to spring a trap and pull a casting couch play, either.
And he was nice looking. Older, but in good shape, nice smile, and just a good feeling about him. To Eric, that was more important than a perfect face or ripped abs.
"Sure," he said. "Always interested in trying a new beer. Or whatever."
Viggo smiled and said, "Cool." They paid the bill and headed out.
Eric followed Viggo out to a small, comfortably shabby house in Venice. The lawn needed mowing and the bushes were kind of raggedy, but it had stained glass windows with modern, abstract patterns and the front door looked like a custom job, different colors of hardwood pieced together into a mosaic that suggested wood grain, but magnified about twenty times. Eric thought it was gorgeous, but he was mentally piecing together a joke to tell about it -- I met a guy who spent five grand on a hand-made hardwood door done in a mosaic pattern to make it look like... wood. Not quite, but something in the neighborhood. The idea was a crack-up, even if the result in real life was beautiful. He'd have to remember to jot that down in his note pad when he had a chance to be discreet about it.
Viggo let them in and took Eric's jacket, which he tossed onto a bench near the door with his own. Then he said, "Beer now or later?"
Eric had to grin. "How about after?"
"Suits me." Viggo stepped forward, slipped a hand behind Eric's neck to coax his head down, and kissed him. Eric wrapped one arm around Viggo's waist, smoothed the other one over that messy hair and kissed back.
Just by how he looked in his clothes, Eric had known that Viggo wasn't chubby or anything, but feeling him, with a hand on his back and their fronts pressed together, he could tell that the man was lean and tight. Not ripped, so far as Eric could tell, but solid.
Viggo took a step backward, pulling Eric along. He broke the kiss long enough to say, "Bed," and then took another step. Eric followed, and they made their way through the entry way, down a hall and into a messy bedroom. It was slow and awkward, but the kissing and touching was enough to hold his interest and Eric didn't mind the delay in getting to the main event.
Viggo tugged Eric's T-shirt off while Eric worked on Viggo's buttons. That worked about as well as you might imagine, and they ended up in a laughing, grabbing, grappling tangle that eventually worked out to two naked men on a pile of discarded clothing, with a minimum of bruises.
Eric tried to crawl up onto the bed, but Viggo grabbed him halfway, when his body was up on the mattress but his knees were still on the floor. Eric felt his thighs pushed apart, and then one of his balls was suddenly sucked into a hot mouth that tightened down just enough. He yelped and saw stars.
As soon as Viggo opened his mouth for a breath, Eric scrambled forward and turned over, laughing and panting. "Get up here, you looney!"
"What?" Viggo asked with a smug grin. He crawled up onto the bed and over Eric's legs, running his hands up and down Eric's thighs. "You seemed to be having a good time."
"I'm glad you could tell, but I'd rather be able to reciprocate, at least a little. C'mere." Eric grabbed him under the arms and hauled him up so Viggo was lying flush on top of him, and latched on for another kiss while his hands roamed down Viggo's back and got a good grip on his ass.
Viggo hummed approval and scooted till he was sitting on his knees, his back bent to keep the kiss going. That gave him leverage to start rubbing his cock against Eric's, slow and firm. Both were erect and hard, and Eric felt like he could feel every molecule of Viggo's cock against his own. Viggo'd made some comments during the shoot about Eric's equipment, but from what Eric could tell by feel, Viggo didn't have anything to be ashamed of either.
He felt his balls tightening and he pulled his lips free to say, "Hang on, I don't want to come yet."
"No, that'd be bad," said Viggo, obviously in an agreeable mood. He leaned down and sucked one of Eric's nipples, then gave it a quick bite. Eric yelled and tried to buck him off just out of reflex, but Viggo had a good hold.
"You prick," Eric gasped. "Want this to last!"
"Fussy," teased Viggo. Then, "You pitch or catch?"
"Either, both, whatever," said Eric.
"Awesome." Viggo leaned over to rummage through the drawer of a nightstand, and came back with a tube of lube and a box of condoms. He squirted out a handful of slick and started working on his own passage, which... well, that was kind of surprising, but not in any kind of a bad way.
When Viggo was ready to go, he ripped open a condom and rolled it over Eric's erection, which definitely hadn't shrunk any while watching Viggo lube himself. Eric sat up, meaning to roll over on top of Viggo in whichever position the other guy preferred, but Viggo stopped him, and pushed him back down flat with both hands on his shoulders.
With a grin, Viggo straddled him, used one hand to aim, then sat back a little, with just a light pressure on Eric's cock. He shifted his hips with a satisfied "Hmmm..." sound, then leaned forward again and pinned Eric's forearms to the mattress on either side of his head.
Sparks zinged through Eric's nerves. He was bigger than Viggo, and more muscular; Viggo wasn't really "holding him down" in the strict sense of the term, and Eric knew that. He was sure Viggo knew it too. But still -- Viggo was holding him down. And fucking himself on Eric's cock, very, very slowly. All Eric could do, without using his strength to completely disrupt the configuration, which wasn't any kind of desirable option, was lie there and feel.
What he felt was torment -- hot, tight, maddeningly slow torment.
Viggo'd lubed himself up, but hadn't actually prepped; he wasn't stretched. He was stretching himself out on Eric's cock, one tiny, slow shift at a time, with an occasional wiggle thrown in just to drive Eric crazy. Eric was just barely inside him; he could tell the head of his cock hadn't passed through the still-tight ring of muscle yet. It felt like it was too tight -- much too tight -- like it wasn't going to fit and nothing could make it. But with every other breath, a tiny bit more slipped inside.
A circular rotation of Viggo's hips had Eric moaning, with his head thrown back and his eyes closed. Viggo ducked down and teased a nipple again with his lips and tongue, and a spasm jolted through Eric's body, jarring both of them.
"Whoa, boy!" Viggo jerked forward and ended up flat against Eric's chest, laughing and gasping.
"Then stop biting!" Eric ducked down for a kiss. Viggo tipped his head to meet him, and started easing himself down again.
"Uhhh.... I'm gonna pop, mate. Seriously, I am."
"Is that a complaint or just an observation?"
"Warning!" Eric bucked his hips and it was Viggo's turn to yelp as he came down a good inch and Eric felt the head of his cock slide all the way through.
"That could've used a warning, damn!"
"You complaining?" Eric echoed.
"Not really." Viggo sat up again and shifted his weight, then slid the rest of the way down until his ass bottomed out against Eric's pelvis, a long, slow slide that had Eric moaning again.
"There we go." Viggo stared down at him, his gaze intense and devouring, then started to move, fucking himself.
He was still holding Eric pinned. Eric had to move, needed to move, to touch and feel and hold, but when he tried to pull free, he found he couldn't. He still wasn't using his full strength, but Viggo clearly meant to hold onto him unless he did.
It was... weird, but hot. Since he could get away, it was voluntary, like he was agreeing to let Viggo hold onto him, and because it was his choice, he could get into it, let himself feel what a turn-on it was to just let someone else be in charge of giving him pleasure. Eric was usually careful to be a generous lover, putting in the effort to make sure his partner had a good time. But Viggo didn't seem to want that, at least not at the moment, and if letting Viggo have a good time meant letting him control what happened -- even if he wanted to control what Eric did and felt -- then Eric was willing to let him have it.
He sank into the feelings, the hot-tight-slick-friction-faster-tease-bi
Thursday took Eric to a shabby industrial block for an audition. It was a third-round call-back, and he sat in one of the metal folding chairs with a few dozen other tall, brawny actors, plus a few dozen busty, sexpot type actresses, all trying to get lucky in a Rising Tide film. RT was only a few years old, but they'd got some buzz on the festival circuit and industry analysts thought they were poised for a hit. Eric -- and every other struggling actor within a hundred miles of LA -- wanted his name on their posters when they did it. If they did it. They might not, of course, but that's what it took to make it in the business -- trying over and over and over and hoping to luck out.
Eric and all his rivals there that day had already had more luck than most actors saw in a year, just making it that far through the audition process. Eric had a feeling about this one -- they were looking for an action type guy who could shoot the bad guys and romance the girl while doing some of his own stunts, and Eric was up for all that. So was every other guy waiting with him.
What gave Eric an edge, though, was that the hero was also supposed to be funny, at least enough to toss off wise-cracks and make some bad puns -- in character, on beat, without going over the top. That was comedy, and comedy was all timing and control of expression and body language through the arc of the joke, however long or short that might be. Hitting it right took experience, and Eric was pretty sure he had more comic experience than any of the body-builder types who were his competition.
He hoped so, anyway.
All he could do was sink into the character and give them his best, and that's what he did. When he was called in, an assistant pointed him to a clear spot in front of a long table lined with people along one side. Eric recognized the director, a couple of producers, an exec from Rising Tide, plus there were a couple of new faces.
They had him run through a scene with an assistant reading the other parts, then another similar scene. Then they brought in one of the actresses and had them do a scene together a couple of times. They paired him up with four other actresses for the same scene, and by the time they were done Eric was ready to fall into bed, and was pretty sure he'd be dreaming the scene over and over when he did.
On Friday morning, Viggo called him up at an ungodly hour and said, "Wanna get some coffee?"
Eric squinted at the clock on his nightstand and was ready to say "Fuck no," only not quite so polite. But then he remembered how early he'd gone to bed and realized that he actually was ready to get up.
"Okay," he mumbled into the phone. "When? Where?"
"Give me your address and I'll pick you up in twenty minutes. Sounds like you shouldn't be driving yet."
Eric managed to recite his address with minimal errors and repetitions, then hung up and stumbled out of bed, heading for the shower.
When the doorbell rang, Eric was dressed and working on getting his hair dry. He tossed the towel aside and headed for the door.
"Hey, morning." Viggo gave him an appreciative glance up and down, then tilted his head back toward the parking lot. "C'mon, I'll drive."
Eric grabbed his jacket, then said, "Sure, good. Morning," and was kind of proud of himself for managing to be polite and remember the jacket.
"You really need coffee, don't you?" Viggo grinned and steered Eric over to his car with a hand at the small of his back. "Feel free to nap on the way."
"Nap? Where we going? There's coffee right up the street."
"We're going for good coffee."
Eric buckled in and decided to enjoy the ride. Which was just as well, because forty minutes later they were winding along up the coast, passing mostly cliffs and surf and the occasional house. The scenery was great, but it seemed a little over the top for a going-for-coffee type trip. The weather was overcast and gray, and they drove through occasional drizzles and one good shower.
Viggo eventually turned off on a side road that headed out closer to the water, then drove another five minutes to a cluster of weathered wooden buildings and parked. "Coffee."
"This'd better be some bloody good coffee," Eric muttered, but he gave Viggo a smirk and a smack on the shoulder while they walked up to one of the buildings. It had a flaking sign outside that said Gull's Nest Cafe.
The area was pretty and the air was fresh. Eric had come awake enough to be able to appreciate the trip, even if he still thought it was kind of silly to drive for... he checked his watch and snorted. Almost an hour and a half away to get coffee.
They headed inside and Viggo said, "Hey, Rachel."
"Hey, Viggo. You made good time." Rachel was a middle-aged woman with short, graying hair, wearing a sweatshirt and a knitted hat, which she needed because the cafe was chilly. There was a big brown bag on the counter in front of her, and she pushed it over toward the two men.
"Not much traffic," said Viggo. He handed her some money and took the bag. "This is Eric. He's still half asleep, but he's usually a nice guy."
Rachel laughed and Eric glared. "I'm more than awake enough to be nice," Eric said. He gave Rachel a big smile and said, "Great to meet you."
"Ooo, an Aussie! Love the accent!" Rachel gave him a flirty look, then said, "Viggo always finds the cute ones."
"Down, girl," said Viggo with a grin. "How're they doing this morning? Good day for watching?"
"Great!" said Rachel with a smile. "At least half a dozen pups now."
"Awesome, thanks for the call."
"Welcome! Have fun!"
They said goodbye and Eric followed Viggo out the door. Viggo would've kept going, but Eric clamped a hand on his shoulder and said, "Coffee?"
Viggo snickered, but set the bag down on one of the battered tables out on the porch. He dug an extra-large, insulated cup of coffee out of the bag and handed it to Eric. "There's sugar in here somewhere, and pumpkin muffins. Are you a milk person? I should've asked -- if you want milk, we can go back in."
"Nah, just some sugar's fine." Eric doctored his coffee the way he liked it, then took a good slug and felt life seeping into all the cells of his body. He knew it was mostly psychosomatic and didn't give a damn. He dug a muffin out of the bag and took a bite. Pumpkin wasn't something he'd have chosen, but it was good -- moist and pumpkiny, with ginger and cinnamon, and pumpkin seed bits sprinkled on top.
"All organic," said Viggo, waving a muffin of his own. "Rachel grows her own pumpkins at home, then purees most of them and freezes it so she can make muffins for the next few months."
"Good stuff," Eric agreed, taking another bite. "So, coffee and muffins? Do you come up here every morning?" He was only half joking; the other half was wondering whether Viggo might actually go that far up the coast for coffee regularly. Rachel certainly seemed to know him.
"Not every morning, but sometimes." Viggo stuffed the bag into his car, grabbed a camera and hung it around his neck by its strap, then said, "Come on," and headed off down a dirt path with his own coffee in one hand and his muffin in the other. Eric followed, twice as glad he had his jacket.
The path led out to the edge of the cliff over the beach, then turned to run along it. There was a weathered rail fence right up at the edge, but Eric wouldn't want to have to trust it if he tripped and needed to grab something that'd hold his weight.
The surf pounded into the base of the cliffs, sending white, salt-scented spray fountaining up nearly to the level of the path.
"Someone have puppies out this way?" Eric asked. "You thinking of getting one?"
Viggo sent a grin over his shoulder and said, "Yes and no. Hang on, we're almost there."
They walked another couple hundred meters before the breeze brought a far-away barking sound. Whatever was barking, there were a lot of them. And because he wasn't completely thick, by the time Viggo stopped and pointed down to the beach below, Eric knew they weren't there to see dogs.
A rocky beach stretched out below the cliffs, an isolated curve tucked into the base of an inlet. The beach petered out in sheer cliffs on both sides, and Eric didn't see any path leading down; it was isolated unless you had either a boat, or a sturdy rope and decent abseiling skills.
Which was just as well because clustered on the beach were about thirty seals, including the half dozen seal pups Rachel had mentioned.
"Do they come here to give birth?" asked Eric. He was leaning on one of the sturdier fence posts and couldn't stop smiling.
"Yeah, some of 'em. The big event for elephant seals is up at Año Nuevo, but a few come here every year." Viggo'd finished his muffin on the way, and he set his coffee on the ground so he could use his camera.
The click-click-click reminded Eric of their photo session, which reminded him of that night, which helped warm him up in the chilly wind.
The seals were mostly huddled on the beach, adults Eric assumed were the mothers minding their pups. Some of the bigger ones were barking at each other with deep voices, and occasionally a couple of them would come together in a scuffle over territory or females or whatever else huge seals had to argue over.
Eric sipped his coffee and finished his muffin, alternately watching the seals and watching Viggo. He moved up and down the railing -- standing, kneeling, lying down, getting every possible angle and fiddling with what Eric assumed was the zoom on his lens. Most of his photos were of the seals, but he aimed his camera out at the ocean, too, and up at the sky, and back at the rugged landscape, and at Eric.
They stayed out for over an hour, watching the seals and each other, before they hiked back and went to get breakfast. Which wasn't as much of an adventure as going for coffee had been, but Eric enjoyed it anyway.
He enjoyed dinner Saturday night, too, which had begun with an invitation to go for a walk. The "walk" had been a winding ramble that must've been at least a couple of miles long through West Hollywood. They stopped at a Chinese place for steamed buns as an appetizer, a diner for the best beef-barley soup Eric had ever had, a food truck for spicy fish tacos, a butcher shop with a take-out counter for fajitas, a fancy restaurant Eric was barely dressed for to get a mixed-vegetable gratin that made the stop much less of a waste than Eric had originally expected, and a tiny bakery for really awesome cheesecake brownies.
Eric figured if Viggo ever invited him to go for a hike, he should run out and buy a set of pitons and an ice axe.
Sunday morning, Eric's phone woke up the both of them by playing the chorus from Abba's "Money, Money, Money." It was his agent's ringtone and Eric struggled to untangle himself from both the bedclothes and Viggo before fumbling through his trousers -- found halfway under the bed.
"Annie, morning," he said, managing to enunciate well enough to be understood, at least by his agent, who'd known him for three years. "What's up?"
"Hey, Eric, I've got a late Christmas present for you. I just heard from Rising Tide -- they want you for Matt."
"They-- whoa! That's awesome!" Eric flopped back onto the mattress with what he was pretty sure was a really stupid grin on his face.
"Damn right. I e-mailed you a PDF of the contract. I made some notes on it, but it looks good. Read it, call me with any questions, and be ready to sign next Tuesday. Carol's taking us to lunch, and Larry'll probably be there."
Larry Burkhardt, the director, had been at Eric's second and third auditions, but Eric hadn't really had a chance to talk to him. Going to lunch with him would be a great opportunity to start getting to know him and get a feel for what it'd be like working with him. "I'll get right on it as soon as I'm home. Next Tuesday at noon?"
Viggo touched Eric's shoulder and muttered, "What's up?"
Eric turned his head and said, "Nothing, business," most of his attention still on his phone.
"Eleven-thirty," Annie said. "I included the address in the e-mail." She paused a moment, then said, "You going out with a guy, Eric?"
"Uh, yeah, I met someone recently. Why?"
She sighed. "That's an issue. There's a morality clause in the contract, and from what I've heard, RT doesn't negotiate on those."
"A morality... so wait, what does that mean? I can't have a boyfriend while I'm working for them? They're aware this is the twenty-first century, yeah?"
"One of their major backers is a conservative Christian whose older brother is in politics -- they piss him off and the whole production company crashes. Look, it's not that you can't have a boyfriend, but you're going to have to stay in the closet. We've talked about this before, and nothing's changed in the business since then."
"Right, I know, but.... Shit. It's just, it wasn't a big deal before. I mean, pick-ups and casual stuff... I didn't care, they weren't really important. But now--"
"Now you've met someone important? Damn, Eric, your timing stinks." She made a low humming noise Eric recognized as her thinking mode. Eventually she said, "I can't decide for you; this is your choice. I'll say that this could be a major turning point in your career. I'll also say that, twenty-first century or not, it's not going to be much different anywhere else. There won't always be a contract clause that specifically prohibits you from being out, but if you do come out it'll affect what parts you get. You know that."
"Yeah, I know, I do. It's just... fuck."
He did know that. That was why he hadn't wanted his face to show on that calendar; he'd explained it to Viggo, and he certainly understood the business himself. He knew he couldn't be out if he wanted a shot at the kind of career he'd been working for.
It still sucked, though. He hadn't really noticed when he'd started thinking of Viggo as a potential boyfriend instead of just a good looking guy who was great in bed, but somewhere in there it'd happened.
Nothing might come of it -- he had no idea what page of the manual Viggo was on; did he want to sabotage his career for something that might be nothing? But what if it was something?
"I'll think about it," he finally said. "I'll look over the contract, and decide what I want to do. I'll let you know before the meeting."
"You think hard," she said. "If you're going to come out, whether it's for your current guy or for someone else or just on principle, that'll change our career strategy."
"I know, I know. Thanks, Annie. I'll talk to you later."
He disconnected and tossed the phone back down onto his crumpled trousers.
Viggo sat up, scrubbing his fingers through his hair, and said, "Problems?"
"Yeah. No, but yeah. Usual stuff. It just didn't...." Eric trailed off and turned to look at Viggo. "Can I ask you something that'll make you think I have no social skills at all?"
Viggo grinned. "Sure. Not like mine are all that great -- ask anyone who knows me."
"You're eccentric," said Eric, who found himself grinning. "This is just... kind of pathetic."
"I get it, you're about to embarass yourself. So shoot."
Eric glared at him, then looked away. "Okay, so, we just met recently, but I've been having a good time, and not just in bed. I think this thing, whatever it is, has... potential. So I was wondering if you agreed, or if it was just sort of--"
"So what you mean is, do I like you, circle yes or no?"
Eric could tell from his tone that Viggo was grinning at him. Eric clenched his jaw and said, "Yeah, I guess."
Eric waited, then said, "That's it?"
"Yes, I do like you. I've been having fun too; that's why I asked you out for coffee and dinner. You're a good guy, you don't have a stick up your ass, you're not full of yourself like a lot of hot actors, and the sex is great. So yes, I agree, this whatever-it-is has potential."
"Oh. Okay, good." It was awesome, really, except it didn't solve his immediate problem. It would've actually been easier if Viggo'd said no, that it was just a few days of hanging out and fucking. Which wouldn't have been good, but--
"So what's up? I assume your phone call is what brought all this up?"
"Yeah. That was my agent, I have an offer of a part. It's not a big movie, like expected to be a blockbuster or anything, but it could be a springboard to bigger things, you know?"
Viggo nodded. "That's good news. I take it our 'thing' is an issue?"
"Yeah." Eric pulled his legs back up onto the bed and flopped down on his back, staring at the ceiling. "It's always been an issue in this business, but in this case there's a morality clause in the contract, and one of the production company's major backers considers being gay to be immoral. I've always been discreet, but I'd have to be completely in the closet for the duration of the contract."
"That sounds pretty much like what you've been doing."
Eric sighed. "Except that now... now I need to know if that's okay with you."
"With me? Sure. I promise I won't throw all your stuff out the window if you don't take me to the Oscars as your date."
Eric poked Viggo in the stomach, getting an "Oof!" out of him. "I doubt that'll be an issue. It's more that we'll have to be careful in public. We won't even be able to be seen together much, unless I get a beard or something. I mean, I could -- Annie has a client who's a lesbian and we've gone out a couple of times when Jerrie had paps following her. This time it'll be for me, though, and if we're both covering, it'll probably need to be turned into a bigger production, you know?"
"I do know," Viggo said. He still sounded calm, which was good, mostly. "I've probably worked in this town longer than you, and you're not the first actor who's done modelling to pay the rent in between parts. I know a lot of people in the industry and I do get it. I think the question is whether you can handle it. I've seen guys go down that road before. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. You'll be on stage twenty-four-seven, with no breaks. That tends to grind a person down."
Eric could imagine it. If the movie just sank then it wouldn't matter much because no one would be paying any attention to him. If it was a success, though, if there were other successes after it, the better Eric's career went, the more thoroughly he'd have to play the part of a straight guy who ogled tits instead of cocks.
He'd known it, but had never really faced it before.
Viggo leaned down and kissed him, drawing one gentle finger across Eric's cheekbone. "You think about it. It's your life, and you need to be the one at the wheel." Then he got up and started rummaging around in his dresser for clothes.
Eric spent the rest of the day at home, reading his contract and thinking and pacing.
In a way, having a week and a half to think about it just made it worse. If he had to decide fast, right then, he'd just... well, decide something and then it'd be over with and he'd be committed. But with a week and a half to consider it, he'd drive himself around the bend before it came down to the wire.
He'd already changed his mind half a dozen time. The idea of being completely closeted, of having a fake girlfriend -- eventually, probably -- as a regular thing rather than just occasionally was repulsive. Having to look over his shoulder all the time, having to make sure all the blinds were closed before he kissed his boyfriend in his own living room.... He knew a lot of guys lived like that, and women too, but the thought of doing it himself? For years?
At the same time, the only thing forcing him to make a decision right then was Viggo. Eric could face the idea of living closetted for a couple of years, through filming and the release and promotion, on his own. If he were still single, it'd be no decision at all -- he'd take this step in his career and accept that he wouldn't be able to come out publicly for a few years. If he made it big, he'd have a better chance of weathering a coming-out storm later, when he wouldn't be in breach of contract. If he came out while he was unknown, he wouldn't even get a chance to approach the big, fancy doors, much less to walk through.
Later was always there, was always another chance. Except he didn't have later.
Or maybe he did. Because Viggo hadn't seemed terribly concerned one way or the other about what Eric did. Eric was pretty sure he'd be willing to strike out and wave the rainbow flag if he had a reason, but he wasn't sure he had a reason.
What if he made an irrevocable step and then Viggo said it's been fun, see you sometime?
Fuck it. Eric changed into shorts and a T-shirt and headed to the gym. Maybe some mindless sweating would bring the answer out.
Monday evening was beer and bullshit night. Eric got together with some friends, other comedians, to drink and hang and try out new material. That week they were at Ross Chang's place, a cheap apartment near UCLA where, as Ross said in his act, you didn't need a clock 'cause the gunshots went off every hour and the sirens every half hour.
Eric was standing in the center of a circle of seats and saying, "So Oi've got this new friend, roight? He calls me up at some ungodly hour and says, 'You wanna get some coffee?'" Eric always cranked up the Aussie accent when he was performing; it won him some points with audiences, who seemed more willing to laugh at someone who talked funny. "So Oi haul my arse outa bed an' he picks me up and we start driving. And we're driving and we're driving and pretty soon we're clear out of LA and heading up the coast, and Oi'm thinking, what, did someone poison Los Angeles's coffee supply?"
He paused and got a few grunts and smirks out of the gang, which was pretty good for them, 'cause pros were always a tough audience.
"So we end up in a woid spot in the road at the top of a cliff, in a little cafe barely hanging onto the last piece of dry land on this end of the continent. I thought as soon as we walked in the extra weight would send the whole building crashing down into the surf, roight? But no, the owner thought of that. They had a couple of employees who, the second we came in the door, dashed out from behind the counter and ran over to our soid of the room while we walked back to the register." Eric illustrated the dashing and walking and crossing in the middle with sweeping gestures as he talked. "So they were, like, counterweights, roight? They got minimum wage to make sure everything balanced -- the owner said the insurance company'd sent 'em over, 'cause it was cheaper than paying to replace the building."
That one got groans and eyerolls. "No? Okay, I'll come up with something else for that bit." Eric scribbled a note on his pad, then continued.
"So a few days later he calls up and asks if Oi wanna grab some dinner with him. Oi say foin, and he comes to get me. And we're driving and we're driving and pretty soon we've left LA and we're driving through the countryside, and Oi'm thinkin', what, did the Health Department crack down on all the restaurants in LA or something?"
"That's a good guess," said Stacy with a smirk.
"It'll happen one day, you watch," added Ross. "The perfect storm of cockroaches."
"Some day, sure, but it hasn't happened yet, 'cause me friend is driving along and pulls onto this dirt road, and a few miles later we stop at what looks like an army camp or something, with a couple huts and a big tent all in camouflage, and I'm thinking, damn, we drove three hours to eat army food?" Eric made a disgusted face and rolled his eyes.
"But believe it or not, that would've been preferable to what we had, 'cause what this was, was a survivalist type of training camp. You know, places you can go to learn to shoot a machine gun or set traps with hand grenades or drive tanks...? That kinda place? Could be fun, roit? But we were there to eat, so this pot-bellied guy in khaki hands us a full color pamphlet and points us out to the bush. We spent the next two hours foraging for food." Eric waited a beat, then said, "Did you know spoidas are edible? No joke. You use your pocket knoife to remove the poison glands from their arse and then you pop 'em in your mouth by the handful. They're just like cherries, except they're crunchier and they have eight stems."
That got a chorus of groans and a couple of barf noises and even some actual laughter. Eric smirked and waited for the noise to die down.
"So me friend, he asked me if Oi wanted to meet him next Saturday and go for a walk." He waited about a second and a half, then said, "Oi've got a set of pitons and an ice axe on order."
Eric took a bow to more groans. A couple of people gave him a few claps, which was awesome. They spent the next fifteen minutes or so tearing it all apart, and Eric scribbled a lot of notes on his pad, ideas to tighten it up and improve the flow and the timing. Then he sat down and it was Morty's turn.
Even if nothing else came of it, Viggo'd given him some good material.
Click to: Part Two