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The Girl of His Dreams

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The irony was that after everything that happened, Colin Farrell didn't want the part.

Dabney obviously came to the utterly bemusing conclusion that Harry's unexpected escapades with his favourite pet PI had taught him an invaluable life lesson or given him substance to flesh out the character or some kind of dubious Hollywood bullshit and really, who was Harry Lockhart to say no to a million bucks (even if that turned out to be before tax ate like a quarter of it)? It meant he didn't have to go steal shit anymore and that was kind of cool, but he did get asked a whole bunch of times what the hell had happened to his missing finger. He guessed 'the girl of my dreams lopped it off with her freakishly fucking heavy apartment door, then I got it stitched back on, torn back off and eaten by a dog' really wouldn't quite cut it, so he started making shit up. He guessed that was a kind of acting, after all.

And Perry... well, Perry apparently thought the whole thing was absolutely fucking hysterical, judging by the looks he got.

Perry stayed on as a consultant, there on set almost every day in a suit and shades with a coffee in his hand even when they jetted off on location to the wilds of west Canada 'cause it turned out Dabney was a glorious fucking cheapskate of a producer, even after he saved ten mil on the Irish guy he didn't land. The whole cast and crew and miscellaneous bodies whose official designations sounded pretty made up to Harry (and could've been for all he knew 'cause what the fuck does a best boy do anyway and who actually wants to be a dolly grip?) decamped to little log cabins by a lake that Harry swore looked like something straight out of Friday the fucking 13th. Perry seemed to lecture him a whole lot and in minute detail on the many various ways he was fucking up on a day to day basis but it turned out Harry didn't care about that – Perry might've kept a straight face (and if that wasn't ironic then he didn't know what was, at least not until three months later when Perry gave him an exasperated explanation of the concept of irony like he was talking to someone's five-year-old nephew), but he knew he didn't really mean it. Well, he was pretty sure at least.

Filming turned out to be a pretty odd time; one minute he was in a chilly log cabin with Perry getting a really, really unexpected handjob that could've won a goddamn Oscar for its outstanding performance and the next he had Jessica freaking Alba sucking off his face like her tongue just stepped on out of Aliens. Apparently that was the moment he realised Hollywood was a really weird place, as if peeing on corpses and almost getting his balls friend off by a homophobic torturephile hadn't been a big enough clue about that. He guessed sometimes he needed beating about the head with a fact before it'd really sink in.

And when filming ended that was it, they went back to LA and if Perry ever assumed anything would happen other than Harry falling back into the PI business with him, he never let it show. It turned out Harry wasn't all that bad an actor, at least not compared to the majority and he guessed that wasn't saying much, but he pretty much hated it even if the end result was kind of neat – he got to look cool on a screen in front of millions, like a pro and not the guy who shot himself in the foot when Perry was teaching him to use a handgun. He spent most of the time the movie was in post-production on crutches in a cast while Perry grudgingly brought him soup and fruit and salads like a backhanded way of telling him to watch his weight while pretty much all he was doing all day was sitting on his ass in the office. They never did talk about that handjob.

Most of his most of a million bucks he spent on an apartment, a pretty nice place in a great location he never could've afforded otherwise. Harmony helped him pick out furniture, the whole experience kind of weird and tense considering how frequently they didn't see each other, until in the end it looked pretty much like the 1950s came in late from a two-bit gin joint and threw up all over his lounge. He kind of liked it though, even if it looked disconcertingly like the set of a bad film noir just missing the chalk outline of a fictitious body by the piano he never actually played because what the fuck was he going to play with nine fingers, and he really didn't need reminded of Johnny Gossamer movies anytime soon.

Still, the bedroom overlooked the ocean and at dawn (which Harry generally saw from the wrong side unless Perry had a job waiting for him) the view was pretty amazing. Or he'd sit by the window and watch the sun go down over the surf with a glass of good scotch in his hand and wonder how the hell he'd wound up here. He sent almost all the rest of the money back home to his family thinking he'd sleep better on his stupidly luxurious Egyptian cotton if nephew whatshisface got that freaking robot toy thing for Christmas, even if Protocop was probably worth twice as much right then with the accident and all. Unfortunately, the sleep thing wasn't so.

When he started dreaming, he called Perry. Unsurprisingly, Perry just told him to grow a set and hung right up, but what really got his brows racing up toward the ceiling was that Perry called him back ten minutes later. Sure, all he said was 'come over before I change my mind' but that was enough, even if it was pretty weird when Perry answered the door in boxers and a t-shirt then marched right on back to bed and told him to follow. Perry told him to get in and so he did ('cause really, how do you say no to the bossy gay guy who saved your life?), then he told him to tell him about it, so he did that too.

It was something about dancing of all the weird shit he could've dreamed out, jigging the fuck about like he'd spent the last ten years learning the Charleston or something and not stealing everything that wasn't nailed down. The pink-haired girl was smiling as she danced and bled and he was covered in it, his top hat and tails not black but a sickly dripping dark blood red getting heavier and heavier until he could barely move and she was dead in his arms, limp like a doll. Perry looked kind of asleep when he was done with the story, over on his side with the blanket pulled up. Harry sighed and closed his eyes.

"It's not your fault, Harry," Perry said, after one long moment's silence. "Go back to sleep."

So he did that too.

And then, a few months later, his whole damn place went up in smoke. Gas fault, they said, miracle he wasn't there when the fire started and the next thing he knew he was camping out on Perry's couch while the insurance money came through, a Persian cat called Chuck purring on his chest like a furry low-flying aircraft. Perry made him move his feet so he could watch the Sopranos on the huge-ass TV in the lounge, which was fine except five minutes later Harry was making breathless wisecracks about mobsters in New Jersey while Tony on TV fantasised about his shrink and Perry blew him within an inch of his life. It was an unsettling period.

When the movie came out, he asked Harmony to the premiere. She accepted, after a couple of days of persistent, annoying texts and calls; the night was pretty good, Harry all dressed up in a tux Dabney sent over and Harmony in a shiny, slinky number that twisted him in knots inside just seeing her. They kept in contact a bit more often after that, chatting on the phone long distance from the set of her new sitcom gig out in New York (at least when Harry remembered there was such a thing as time zones), while Perry fed the cat and developed case photos in the basement. The money came through from the house insurance but he never moved out and Perry never asked him to even though he kind of sucked as a PI. He made a pretty great driver though, something about Perry actually trusting him with something and the occasional high-speed chase that brought out the best in him and hell, the clients always seemed to like him so business just went up and up.

It didn't matter that after the movie and the palaver that was publicity for it Harry took a couple of small acting jobs, a cameo in Harmony's sitcom, a week-long bit part in Dabney's newest masterpiece, a small recurring role every couple of months in an overhyped hospital drama. He was never going to make a career of it – he'd apparently decided fifteen minutes of fame every now and then was enough and besides, the Screen Actors Guild was an unholy pain in the ass, not to mention how memorising lines really pissed him off. It turned out he was more of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy, which made Perry smile as he hid his smile and reminded him the word was improvisation. The shame of it was he had more fun playing dumb (or dumber at least) and goading Perry into being a wiseass than he did making movies. So he stuck with private investigation and made Perry's backstory his own private case.

He had a feeling he never would've found out anything if Perry hadn't let him, though there'd never be any definitive proof of that either way. He'd thought maybe he'd been a cop back east and the whole sexuality thing had become an issue, or maybe he'd gone out west as an aspiring actor – it turned out Perry van Shrike was the son of college professors from freaking Vermont of all places and all he'd ever really wanted to do was private detection. Brother Eric and sister Marianne (both older, apparently) had both moved out to Boston to practice law after college and all three kids still went home for Thanksgiving if not Christmas. They were a remarkably normal if well-educated middle-class family, even Perry with a Master's Degree and not even in musical theatre. Perry didn't dance and he hated Streisand, bitched about historical inaccuracy in the Sound of Music and Harry sometimes wondered aloud just what kind of homosexual he was. Perry just rolled his eyes and said something about perpetuating stereotypes that Harry didn't really catch 'cause they were watching reruns of TJ Hooker like that would make him a better PI. It didn't, of course, but it turned out they both enjoyed the work of William Shatner in a slightly masochistic way.

The first time he touched Perry, really touched him in that way, was kind of like his very first robbery. His heart was racing the whole time and the adrenaline made him sort of lightheaded as he reached over and palmed the front of Perry's lounge pants while they pretended to be paying attention to Hawaii Five-O. Perry didn't ask what he thought he was doing though for a moment that was exactly what his expression said until Harry shoved his hand down under the waist of those ugly blue pants and wrapped his fingers around his cock. Just like his first robbery, he knew the plan but turned out to be pretty much all thumbs, kind of fucking it up but the outcome was always kind of inevitable anyway. Perry came all over his fingers, which was really gross but tissues and hand sanitizer took care of that and somehow, somehow, it didn't put him off doing it again.

He went down on him in the front seat of his car on the single most boring all-night stakeout in the history of private eyes, sometime the following week. The experience was... well, somewhat odd because Perry kept giving him instructions right the way through it and he was pretty sure he'd never done that himself, but actually it made it easier for him considering how new he was to all this stuff. He almost choked when Perry came but that was okay somehow 'cause Perry made him down about half a flask of lukewarm coffee while he zipped up his pants and then kissed him on the mouth. Harry smiled like the world's biggest goofball for the rest of the night while he babbled on about all the girls he'd ever kissed and Perry just made the occasional sarcastic interjection. It turned out kissing Perry wasn't so bad after all.

These days, not much has changed. Harry's never rebuilt the house and never bought another, just let all his stuff gradually mingle with Perry's until sometimes they're not sure who bought what or if it really matters. Harmony's coming over for Christmas for the third year running and it's not as awkward now as Harry thought it'd be; he still misses her in a way but he's pretty sure it's the idea more than the reality 'cause he never really had her to begin with. They tried it for a couple of months but it just didn't fit the way it should, it was just like they were kids again and she was fucking up his magic show but he wasn't Harold the Magnificent and he never has blamed her. She had her shit to deal with, her sister then her dad and yeah, she was right, she wasn't ready for a relationship. He gets that now, seeing her with her new guy who doesn't feel her up when she's passed out at parties and the kid they had last year. She's doing pretty good. Well. He still fucking hates adverbs.

Besides, it turned out the girl of his dreams really was just a dream and what makes sense is the thoroughly acerbic queer who calls him names. Harmony asks how he's doing sometimes and he knows it's 'cause she cares, like maybe Perry's screwed him up in the head somehow but he just smiles and shrugs. It's weird but he guesses most relationships are fucked up beyond all recognition. And hey, by now he's pretty convinced the insults are usually just terms of endearment.

An early night for once, surprisingly few cases still open over Christmas though they'll soon be bracing for a New Year rush. Harry lies back and pulls up the covers; Perry kisses him quickly and turns out the lights.

"Merry Christmas, Harry," he says, one big hand resting warm and heavy at his bare stomach. Harry's still smiling as he drifts off to sleep.