Joe is curious. All that talk about past lives and dangerous addictions – Joe can relate, in some small way.
Or maybe not. He really, really can't, actually. To pretend to know otherwise is just disrespectful to the man.
Tom Hardy very nicely embodies the type of actor he admires the most – chameleons. After the movie has premiered and life goes back normal, Joe does some research. He makes a point to squeeze in a Tom Hardy DVD every Thursday night, just sits down with some caffeine and popcorn. Watches his co-star transform before his eyes into someone else.
It's slightly dirty, maybe a bit perverse, that he goes to bed every Thursday without fail to dreams of Tom's smile, his tattoos peeking at Joe from underneath a thin white t-shirt.
He still has Tom's number, "In case you ever want to borrow my personal trainer, he's a doll," should Joe ever need to beef up for a particular role. Tom swears by his trainer.
Maybe he'll call, just to catch up. Not that he expects Tom to answer. Or to sound happy to hear him when he does. Or to hop on a plane and come down for a visit, because "You're insufferable and I can hear the pleading in your voice from a thousand miles away, you wanker."
Pretty soon, without him seeming to realize it until it's too late, Joe has a dinner date with Tom and a promise to catch a viewing of The Expendables. Joe might be a little nervous. They've never bummed around before outside of filming. Joe's never had a crush on a male co-star. He's never been particularly fond of tattoos, either, until Tom.
So if he is nervous, he has his reasons.
Joe meets Tom at the airport, not that he needs to, but to be polite. He drives them straight from arrivals to Sakagura, a hidden gem that he discovered a year ago in midtown New York. They fill the car with inane chatter on the way, and then Tom follows him quietly through a corporate lobby and downstairs, where the clink of glasses and soft jazz music waft around the narrow corridor until they step inside the establishment. The sounds come into focus and the tasteful Japanese décor splashes to life.
"Nice," Tom drawls, stretching the vowels. Joe thinks the look of delightful surprise on his face is a perfect start to the evening.
Joe orders for them, since Tom insists he wouldn't know what to get. Lobster in white miso sauce and uni noodles to share.
"I hope you're not trying to impress me," Tom says as soon as the waitress finishes taking their order.
Joe smiles but feels the heat of a slight blush under his cheeks. "Not really." He catches Tom's mouth flickering into a sweet, slightly abashed grin, and adds, "But is it working?"
Tom raises his eyebrows as he takes a sip of his water. "Like you wouldn't believe."
Dinner goes by quickly since Tom is famished and Joe couldn't really eat much, with Tom's mouth being such a distraction. Tom's fingers are solid and blunt and maybe those distract Joe too, the way Tom holds his chopsticks and finally, how he wipes his mouth with a red-cloth napkin.
He settles the check after Tom gives up insisting he pay, and then they're back upstairs and outside by nightfall.
Tom is in the passenger seat buckling his seatbelt when Joe asks where his hotel is.
"Ah, that's the thing…" He hesitates and looks a bit sheepish. "I didn't book anything. I was hoping I could stay at yours." Since he knows Joe has a two-bedroom loft that's much bigger than your standard two-bedrooms.
Joe nods but for the entire weekend? He might have to resort to drastic measures if Tom insists on being too friendly and nice and hot for that amount of time, within touching distance, possibly sitting at his breakfast nook and eating cereal and having the sun fall on his broad shoulders through the window –
Joe nods again, clears his head and his throat. "Right, not a problem," he looks over and smiles awkwardly. Tom beams at him like the oblivious, distractingly handsome man that he is.
Joe will need to find a creative outlet for this impossible crush, and soon.
The problem with the weekend is that it's perfectly normal. Nothing happens. Tom doesn't ever eat cereal at his breakfast nook wearing nothing but pajama bottoms and an undershirt. Instead they go out for coffee every morning to a little café down the street and eat far too many chocolate croissants, baseball caps pulled low over their eyes. They walk around the block and Joe points out all the little shops and restaurants he frequents. Nobody gets accosted and nobody gets recognized.
They don't go to the movies, but Tom does find Joe's DVD collection (and thankfully Joe had the foresight to return Tom's movies to Netflix before he ever got there.) They watch an old Errol Flynn movie and Monty Python, even though they can both practically recite every line from the latter.
Then Tom is gone, back to work, all the way across the globe in Australia. Joe can't help feeling a bit restless, a bit disappointed. He phones his brother at the airport after dropping Tom off, and even his brother notices that something isn't quite right.
"Did you just sabotage another potential relationship?"
"No," Joe says irritably into the phone. He hates traffic. Honks his horn for good measure.
"Did you get robbed?"
"Did someone die?"
Joe huffs out a laugh. "That's not funny."
"Then what is it?"
A question with a simple answer. Joe knows the problem, but the solution doesn't exist. After months in each other's company for the movie, and a weekend together, Tom is still as inexplicable as ever. Nothing changes. Joe still has inappropriate feelings he should probably talk about to his therapist. Tom is still possibly seeing an old girlfriend, and he has a son, and all of that is probably more real than anything he and Joe might have, ever.
"Nothing," Joe finally replies.
And he resigns himself to the truth, battling traffic all the way home.
Tuesday morning. He's up too early, but at least there's time to do the laundry, so Joe brews a strong pot of coffee and gets to work, stripping his sheets and pillow covers. He pauses by the guest bedroom, sees the slip of paper left on the nightstand, and almost drops the laundry basket on his foot.
Thx for the weekend. Your sheets smell divine. Until next time (I have 2wks off in October). ☺
Joe reads the note over three times. He might even go as far as to trace the sloppy chicken scratch with his fingers.
That night Joe begins a new song, strumming out a faint melody on his guitar. It's pretty pathetic, and the song will need a ton of work, but the basic chords are there and the words tumble around in his head, waiting to be put into some semblance of order. The note is stuck to the corkboard over his desk. Joe stares at it and then at his phone, sitting dark next to his laptop.
It's not even a surprise that, halfway across the world, fourteen some odd hours ahead, and randomly out of the blue, Tom answers his call on the third ring with a warm, "Joseph."
Joe can hear the smile in his voice, a low scratch of pleasure when he says his name. A bit anxiously, Joe says, "New York is cold but beautiful in October."
Tom's laughter rumbles across the line, picking up a patch of static. "Delightful. I'll pack accordingly."