"Here goes," Alex mutters to himself, and presses the button on the intercom.
"Alex Summers, I'm here for the audition...?"
"Sure, Alex. I'll buzz you in. Come right up."
"Thanks." Fuck. The buzzer sounds, and he goes through the door. He could still just turn around and leave. He could just go put in an application at Burger King and... not have enough to pay rent at the end of the month, even if he gets a job there, which, maybe not. Ten months in juvie, he got out a year ago and the record's supposedly sealed, but it's like people can smell it on him.
He presses the elevator button, the doors open, he gets in... fuck. He's actually doing this. Okay, if he's doing this, he's got to just... calm the fuck down and do it, because if he's freaking out, they might just turn around and boot him out the door. Or maybe they like freaked out, maybe that's a thing. That might be worse.
Or maybe he'll scotch the whole thing the second he steps out of the elevator by knocking over a potted flower plant in a wrought iron stand and breaking it all over the place-- Alex barely catches it before it tips, his heart in his throat. He doesn't even know why he's surprised, he should be used to this shit by now. It's like he's got this aura of disaster around him all the time.
He was in for vandalism and property destruction, and it wasn't even on purpose; sure, he was trespassing, but he wasn't there to fuck with anything. He was just poking around an empty building at the edge of an office park, trying to figure out if he could hang out and smoke up around there without anyone seeing him. He moved the dumpster to climb on top and look in the window, and when he jumped down, the dumpster rolled and bonked into a scaffold that turned out to be rickety as fuck and went crashing through the huge front window and busted up a bunch of shit inside, and it started an electrical fire, because of course it did.
Alex carefully lines up the iron stand with the dents it left in the carpet and tells himself to pull it together. The plant didn't fall, the pot didn't break, it just spilled a little dirt on the floor and left a mark on the wall. Maybe now that he's gotten a little bit of destruction in, his shitty luck won't wreak any more havoc and he'll be able to hold it together for as long as it takes to get through this.
Sure. That'll happen.
There's restrooms and a drinking fountain in the hallway, which seems weird to him, seriously, a drinking fountain...? And just one other door, XLR Productions logo on the wall. Another intercom. He hits the button, and a different voice tells him to come in. The door clicks, unlocking.
It just looks like an office. No cubicles, but a reception desk and a lot of doors leading to individual offices. There's one of those folding paper screen room divider... things, in the middle, and past it, he can see some cameras and a huge flatscreen TV mounted to a wall.
The kid at the reception desk has Carrot Top hair-- like, okay, we get it, your hair's red, that doesn't mean you have to grow a yard of it. He's texting on his phone, or playing a game or something. It looks like an iPhone. People who work here can afford those? Is this kid even old enough to be here? God.
"Hi," says the kid, wiggling his fingers in a wave. "They'll be with you in a minute."
"Thanks," Alex says automatically, and just as automatically, he almost reaches and snags himself a piece of candy from the bowl on the desk-- he worked doing deliveries for a while, he got in the habit of grabbing office candy. Hey, he'll take whatever people are dumb enough to give away for free. Only the bowl doesn't have candy, it's condoms. And little individual things like ketchup packets, except they're lube.
Right. That's the deal here. Alex just has to play it all off like it's no big thing. He can do that. He can roll with whatever. He pockets a condom, and a ketchup packet of lube, too. Carrot Top doesn't pay any attention, he's back to his phone. Totally ordinary. Everything's cool. Alex sticks his hands in his jacket pockets and thwips the condom between his fingers and makes himself relax, like it's fine, like he does this kind of thing every day.
Two guys come out of one of the offices, a kind of shrimpy guy in khakis and a sweater and a taller skinny guy in all black-- because when you're built like a stick insect, obviously you want to go for something slimming.
Stick guy looks toward him, and... Alex has been in LA for a while, he's not that fazed anymore by all these crazy-good-looking people strewn all over the place, but damn. This guy is one of the best-looking people Alex has ever personally seen. He looks like a cologne ad, just standing there, square jaw, cheekbones, icy blue eyes, the works.
"Hello," sweater guy offers Alex his hand, and Alex tears away from staring at Mr. Cool Water to shake, and then Alex freaks out, exactly like he's been telling himself not to do since he got here.
He had himself psyched up to maybe see porn stars while he was here, maybe even meet some if the audition went well, but he didn't figure that the very first person to say hi would be someone Alex watched having sex the night before.
When he was watching the video, he thought this guy was his age. Now that he's seeing him in person, with clothes on, Alex is pretty sure he's older. Then again maybe that's just the shlubby sweater. "Charles Xavier," he says, and all Alex can think is that last night he heard this guy saying You can take a little more for me in that BBC accent while he had his hand wrist-deep in another dude. With this hand, the hand Alex is shaking. He can't decide if he's completely weirded out by that, or if maybe he thinks it's kind of hot.
He's pretty sure he thinks it's kind of hot, and he's pretty sure the cologne ad guy's picking up on it, from the way he tilts an eyebrow and the twitch at the corner of his mouth.
"And this is Erik Lehnsherr," Charles adds, smiling at the other guy. He looks back to Alex and clocks him, a long, appreciative glance up and down. "Please tell me you're my three o'clock."
"Hi, Alex Summers," he finally spits out. "My, uh, thing is at two-thirty...?"
"Raven's handling that interview," says Erik.
Charles has a flirty smile going, but Alex only gets a flash of it before he turns and spends most of it on Erik. They're standing close and angled toward each other, so... they're... together? Though Charles is practically purring, "Perhaps I should sit in."
"Hank needs you to sign off on the new website copy before today's videos can go live, and you're meeting new talent at three and the distributor at three-thirty," Erik says. It seems like sort of a cockblock move, but his tone's pretty blase. Then again maybe it'd kind of have to be. Alex saw Charles in the thumbnail previews for like half a dozen movies on their website. People who work in porn probably don't do jealousy.
"Could I pawn that off on Angel, do you think?" Charles makes a face and tucks an arm around Erik's. "I don't like the way that Nathan's always asking after you."
Okay, or maybe they do.
"She's booked up," Erik tells him, and smiles with about five million teeth. "If you don't want to meet with him, I can handle him."
A blonde woman's walking up as Charles is saying, "Absolutely not, you're not funny-- Raven, look, your two-thirty arrived early."
"Great," she smiles, offering a hand. She's gorgeous and relaxed in a form-fitting dress that shows off amazing curvy hips; she's right up there with cologne guy-- Erik-- in the best-looking-people-Alex-has-met list. "Raven Darkholme. I know that sounds like it's already my fake porn name, but really: Raven."
"Alex Summers," he says. "Thanks for giving me a chance to audition."
"Today's just an interview," she tells him. "We'd like to get to know you a little bit and let you get comfortable with the cameras first. This is your first time, right?"
"Uh, on camera, yeah..."
"There's a lot to learn before you jump into anything."
"So you'll be interviewing with Raven today," says Charles, "and soon we'll hope to have you back for an audition, with me."
Alex is pretty sure he's blushing, but he manages to keep his response to just, "Cool."
"Lovely meeting you," Charles laughs, and bustles off, Erik pacing him, walking so close their hands keep brushing.
"Ready?" Raven asks Alex.
"Okay," she says, "come with me."