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There really wasn’t a word in existence that could describe New York City in the summer. Hot didn’t cut it. Muggy was good, miserable was better. Matt wiped the sweat off his forehead, pushing his dark curls out of his eyes, frowning when they fell right back down again. Yeah, New York City in August was a miserable affair.

Where the hell was the car? A car with driver, and even more important: air-conditioning. Simon had insisted on it. Simon insisting was nice; Matt let his thoughts drift to his amazing husband and how much he was missing Simon right now. As much as he loved NYC—and he surely did—he loved his husband and their children more and the months spent on opposite ends of the country kind of added to the misery that was NYC in the summer.

Especially this summer. Filming both White Collar and The Normal Heart at the same time was more difficult than he’d expected, or would admit out loud. Having to switch out of Felix mode in order to become Neal or vice-versa took an almost physical effort. They were such different characters: one happy-go-lucky conman and one terrified man dying from a mysterious disease. The emotional toil of being Felix was taking a lot out of him.

It was only ten in the morning; there should be a law against heat this early in the day. Anytime, car! The whole idea behind having a car and driver this summer was to make it simple for him to get from one set to the other. On time. Hello? Dear God, please bring that car soon. Much longer and he would be nothing but an exhausted puddle of sweat on the pavement.

Ah, there it was. Finally.

*****

Matt gave a huge sigh and dragged himself up the two steps into his trailer. Put Felix away and bring out Neal, take off these hideous early-80’s gay threads and put on Neal’s classic suit, grab script—White Collar script, not Heart—brush up on lines, go meet Tim…

Avoiding Tim’s searching gaze wasn’t easy, but somehow Matt managed. He did a little hop skip to his mark next to Tim and grinned. “Ready to kick some ass, Peter?”

‘Peter’ raised an eyebrow. “More than you, Neal. Forget something?”

Matt looked down to check his fly. Nicely zipped. Shoes were on his feet, hat on his head. “Um, no?”

“Make-up?” Tim pursed his lips, then gave up and started laughing. “And the ‘80’s called, they’d like their hairstyle back.”

The crew standing around waiting to start filming joined in the merriment as Matt’s mouth twisted ruefully. “Yeah, well, oops.” He walked over to where Pam, makeup magician extraordinaire was waiting patiently.

“Kim will fix your hair when we’re done here, handsome,” Pam said quietly. “Hard work doing two shoots isn’t it?”

Matt tilted his head a little so she could reach his forehead. “Honestly? Yeah. Don’t tell anyone though you’ll ruin my macho-he-can-do-it-all image.”

Pam smiled. “You might be fooling some people, but Tim and Willie? They know. And I see into your eyes every day, I know their every emotion.”

“Not every emotion.” Matt winked at her.

Pam laughed and patted his arm. “Point. Now go get Neal’s hair done. Your PA’s on her way with an umbrella, too, don’t want you sweating off all my hard work!”

Matt thanked her and trudged off to have his hair de-Felixed. He really wanted Simon. Okay, deep breath, big smile, he was not tired, absolutely not.

Back at his mark, he smiled at Tim cockily. “Better, sir?”

It took a moment for Tim to return his smile. “It’ll fool the camera.”

Matt looked down at his script page. “I’m fine.” His tone of voice left no room for discussion.

“Are we ready?” The assistant director looked around the set, and not receiving any dissenting comment nodded to the director. White Collar episode 4.15, scene 11 was ready to go.

Andrew McCarthy was the director for this episode, something Matt was grateful for. A director who was also an actor knew what ‘the talent’ needed, and he probably also knew exactly how tired Matt really was, unfortunately.

“Did you have breakfast?” Tim mumbled out of the corner of his mouth.

“Yeah,” Matt lied. Felix was dying and getting skinnier in every scene which meant Matt needed to get skinnier, preferably without dying. Unfortunately this meant NEAL also got skinnier, which wasn’t making wardrobe very happy since they were the ones responsible for making Neal not look like he was dying and getting skinnier every scene. Padding his clothes with sweater vests was pure hell in August in NYC. Of course, it also made him sweat more which helped with the losing weight business.

“Guys? You two lovebirds done whispering sweet nothings?” Andrew called out with a grin.

“Ready!” Tim replied.

“I was born ready, let’s go!” Matt did a little two step, cocked Neal’s hat and grinned.

And at the call of ‘Action!’, Matt was Neal and Felix was gone.

*****

Three hours filming in the hot sun and Neal was more than ready to break for lunch. Andrew came up to him and Tim and clapped a hand on each man’s shoulder. “You two never cease to blow my mind. Easiest directing jobs I get is this show. Lunch? Air conditioning? My treat, come on.”

Tim nodded as Matt hesitated. “I should really—”

“—come to lunch with us,” Andrew finished for him.

“Come to lunch with you,” Matt agreed as Tim took hold of his arm and tugged gently. Apparently he didn’t have a choice in the matter. “What are you doing?” he asked Tim.

“It’s hot, why don’t you take it down to your shirtsleeves and cool off,” was the response.

“I’m—”

“—fine. Yeah, you said that already,” Tim interrupted. “When was Simon out here last?”

“What does that have to do with anything? Couple weeks ago, he’s had a bunch of movie premiers this summer, and problems with one of his clients that’s kept him in LA,” Matt replied. I miss him, he added silently, so much. That lump pushing its way up his throat needed to disappear, like, yesterday.

Neither Tim nor Andrew commented, Tim holding the door to Café Boulard and making a sweeping motion with his arm at his two companions. Matt grinned and bowed as he went inside.

“Quiet corner?” Andrew requested when the hostess came over to them with a smile.

“Of course. Follow me.” She led them around tall potted plants and tables to a small booth in a secluded corner behind what appeared to be miniature palm trees. “Cary’s your server and he’ll be right over,” she said as she handed out menus.

“Thank-you,” Tim said.

Cary did come right over and had their orders taken and drinks served in no time. The three men were quiet as they tasted their drinks: iced tea for Tim and Andrew, and organic orange juice for Matt.

“You’re sweating.” Tim’s voice was quiet.

Matt looked up from where he was absently moving his straw around in his juice. “What? It’s hot.”

“We’re in an air-conditioned building. Take off that damn jacket, and the sweater, and whatever other layers you have under there,” Tim whispered tersely. “And do NOT say you’re fine.”

Matt glanced up at Andrew who was staring at him intently. No support there. Slowly, Matt peeled off the suit jacket then took a swallow of orange juice. Under the jacket was a wool sweater. He moved the straw around is his mouth and took another drink.

“Sweater.”

Matt looked sideways over at Tim and took another drink.

“Matty.”

Heaving a huge, put upon sigh, Matt tugged at the sweater, yanking it over his head and pulling his arms out. He shoved the sweater down on the space between him and Tim. He reached for his juice just as Cary showed up with their meal, setting the plates around. After making sure they didn’t need anything else, he left them to their privacy.

“What’s that?” Tim asked.

Matt tilted his head and gave Tim a one-eyed glare. “Lettuce, tomatoes, cu—”

“You didn’t have breakfast, you’re looking at a salad for lunch, you’re skinny as a rail, and you say you’re fine,” Tim pointed out.

Matt picked up his fork and stabbed at a tomato. “I am fine,” he said pointedly. “Have I been late for work? Have I been forgetting my lines? Have I done anything that has held up production or caused problems for anybody? No? Subject closed.”

“This isn’t you, Matty. Yeah, subject closed for now, but this snarkiness, this, this, this attitude isn’t the Matty we love so much. You can’t blame us for being worried about you.” Tim continued on as Matt opened his mouth to speak, “Yes, we know, you’re fine. Eat your salad.”

“Yes, dad,” Matt muttered as he stuffed lettuce into his mouth. “Actually, I’m not hungry. Thanks anyway, Andrew, I’ll see you at 2:30.” With that, Matt grabbed his clothes and left.

“That went well,” Andrew said.

“Not,” sighed Tim.

“At least you tried.”

“Yeah.” Tim took out his phone and paged down to the H’s. “Time to call in the big guns.”

“Simon?”

Tim nodded. “Simon.”

 

CHAPTER TWO

It was quiet in the restaurant, most of the patrons having finished and left for the night. Even in NYC eating dinner at two in the morning was unusual.

“When do you finish filming ‘White Collar’?”

Matt glanced over at his Normal Heart co-star, Mark Ruffalo. “August 26th.”

“Your last day here is…next week? And then you come back in September, right?” Mark reached across the table for the last piece of pineapple. “Want this?”

Matt shook his head. “No thanks. Yeah, I come back on the 5th in time to start dying.”

“Fuck.”

“No, I think that’s what got Felix in that condition in the first place. And I cannot believe I just made a joke out of it.” Matt let his head fall back against the wall. Really, there wasn’t anything funny about this movie or AIDS or, well, anything.

“No worries, kid, that’s what cops and first responders do to keep sane.”

“Yeah, but…yeah. I’d better get going, I have to be on set at 7 am and a nap first would be nice.” Matt reached for the check, but Mark grabbed it out from under his fingers.

“I’ve got it, kid. You hardly ate anything anyway; you’d owe me a penny.” Mark looked at him askance. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Need to get my head into Neal Caffrey mode. See you Wednesday.” Matt slid out of the booth and wove his way through the tables to the front door of the restaurant. He’d forgotten to order the car. Oh, well, that’s why God made taxis. He pushed open the front door and slammed back against the door jam as flashing lights went off around him.

“Hey Matt, you having a fling with your costar?” “What are you doing out late with Ruffalo? Where’s Halls?” “You and Halls calling it quits, Bomer?”

He could barely think over the pain in his back from hitting the sharp edge of the door jam. Press. It was the press. What were they talking about? Him and who? What was that about Simon? Suddenly a strong arm pulled him back into the restaurant and closed the door.

“Fucking press. You okay?” It was Mark to the rescue.

“I…what…I don’t…I’m fine.” I want Simon. I want Simon. Oh God, I want my husband.

“You sure?” Mark looked over at the small group of employees who’d gathered around, faces showing their concern. “One of you call for a taxi—you got a back door here?—then the taxi can pick him up there. Jesus, what a zoo.”

“I’m fine,” Matt repeated.

“Yeah, you said that already, kid. You don’t look it. Come on, lets get to the back door and I’ll put you in a taxi.” Mark slowly led Matt through the kitchen to the back door where one of the cooks was having a cigarette with the door open.

“He okay?”

Mark nodded. “Yeah, just surprised. And tired. He’ll be fine,” Mark finished as the taxi pulled up. “Here you go, kid, where do you want to go?”

“Studio, please, I can sleep in the break room, there’s a couch. Um…. Address.” Matt finally learned the meaning of being poured into a car as he suddenly found himself on the back seat of the taxi and the door closing behind him. “Huh. Right, address. It’s the Silvercup Studios on Long Island. 42-22 22nd street, thanks ….”

“….SIR.”

Matt jerked awake. “What?”

“We’re here.”

Matt looked around, right, the studios. His contacts were killing his eyes. Blindly he dug through his pockets and gave the driver a handful of bills as he fumbled for the door handle. The door swung open and he almost fell out. “Thanks, um, thanks.”

Bed…no, couch. No, guard shack first. He waved at the man sitting in the little ‘shack’ that called out “Morning, Mr. Bomer,” and stumbled tiredly into the studio building. Maybe he should have gone back to the apartment. No, better to be here.

Doing this movie was important, maybe one of the most important things he’d ever do. The more people who understand what was going on, what had happened back then, the better. Matt fell face down onto the couch not even bothering to remove his shoes. Sleep. Simonsimonsimonsi…

He heard the sounds before the words became understandable.

“…here when I got here, dead to the world.”

“He’s… I’m glad you called…”

“…worries us…”

“I’ll take…”

Soft footsteps approached the couch, the cushions dipping as someone sat down. His hair was gently brushed back and he just hmmmmed still too tired to open his eyes.

“Matty, sweetheart.” A feather-soft whisper in his ear. Oh….

“Baby.” Yes…

“Matty, honey, open your eyes for me.”

Maybe a dream? Matt opened the eye that wasn’t hiding in the pillow. Not a dream. “Simon.” Matt was horrified at the tears that filled his eyes. “Simon.”

Quicker than quick and Simon was on the couch with an armful of tired, emotional, happy, crying husband. “Shhh, I’ve gotcha, baby, I’ve gotcha, honey, I’m here. Matty, sweetheart, stop. It’s okay. I’m here now, I’m here.”

“…fee…stu...”

“What? My ears are up here, not down next to my nipples.”

Matt hiccoughed, laughed, and sniffled. “I feel so stupid. I don’t know why I’m cryyyyying.”

Simon pulled him in tighter and kissed the top of his head. “You’re tired, emotionally and physically, you’re shooting what is ultimately a horrifically true movie and even though the characters aren’t real, their experiences were. Do I need to go on?”

Matt shook his head. “I didn’t realize…is there anyone else in here?”

“No, Tim closed the door and is probably standing guard outside.” Simon stroked Matt’s hair and dropped another kiss on his head. “You don’t have to be afraid to let people know you’re tired. They’ve all been there, babe, and while it may not be because they were shooting two shows simultaneously, they do know exactly what you’re going through. Tim, Willie, everyone here loves you and would probably carry you in their arms if it would help you.”

Matt was so comfortable, felt so safe and secure. However he was a grown man, not Kit or Walker or Henry and really, he should be acting like an adult. He made an aborted move to sit up and Simon tightened his hold.

“Stay right here, love of my life, we’re not finished.”

“This isn’t me,” Matt mumbled.

“Yes, it is you, but it’s a part of you that you haven’t met yet. You’re growing and learning and becoming a more mature person and actor. You’re an amazing person, Matt, one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, but you don’t need to carry the responsibility for everything on your shoulders. USA, White Collar, and your fellow actors are all willing to bend over backwards to give you this wonderful opportunity; let them take some of the burden.”

“I… okay.” There really wasn’t much he could say to that. Slowly he straightened up and re-arranged himself more comfortably next to Simon, pulling an arm around him and linking their fingers together.

“Now,” Simon began. “What’s this I’ve been hearing about you not eating?”

“I… I need to get ready to film, these aren’t Neal clothes, or Neal hair and I can’t be late, it…?” Matt broke off at the exasperated look Simon was shooting his way. “What?”

“Did you hear anything I’ve said in the past ten minutes?”

“I…yes.”

“Hmm. Okay.” Simon stood up, gently tugging Matt up with him. “Come on, we’re going home.”

“I have to work.”

“You’re off today; I’ve already talked to Andrew. They’ve rearranged things, it was Tim’s idea. So, home.”

Matt stopped him just before he opened the door, and hugged him tightly. “I am home,” he whispered. “Simon. You’re my home.” Yikes. He was more tired than he thought. “And I’m full of schmaltz. Let’s get out of here before I declare undying love to half the crew.”

 

CHAPTER THREE

“So who called you?” Matt unlocked the door to their apartment and held it open for Simon. “Don’t try and deny it,” he continued as Simon put on his “huh?” face, “you were stuck in LA for at least three more days when I talked to you, um, yesterday? day before? and suddenly you’re on a red-eye to NY and actually here.” His voice broke a little on the last word.

Simon shut the door. “Tim called. You’re more important than Pettyfer’s latest crisis. Period. Stephen can handle it for me, that’s why we have business partners.”

“Thank him for me.” He headed towards the bedroom.

“Wait.”

Matt turned, tired eyes lifting towards Simon. “Why?”

“You need to eat something first.”

“I need to sleep; I have to be on Heart’s set at—.”

“Four pm tomorrow. You’re off everything today; I talked to Ryan, too.” Simon looked more closely at Matt. “Are your contacts still in? Go take them out, honey, then come eat.”

Slowly Matt plodded off to the bathroom to do as Simon ordered. Simon was here, really here, finally. He could stop pretending to be fine and let his wonderful, amazing, beautiful husband take care of him.

“Truth now,” Simon ordered when Matt returned to the front of the apartment. “When and what did you last eat.”

Matt was silent.

“Do you remember?” Simon frowned before turning to the cupboards and pulling out a can of Annie’s Organic chicken noodle soup. “If you can’t remember it was too long ago and not enough. Go sit, you’re going to start with soup and toast.”

Still silent Matt did as he was told.

Simon quietly moved around the kitchen busying himself with making the soup and toast. Just as he set the food down on top of the breakfast bar his cell phone rang. He pushed the bowl over to Matt with one hand and answered the phone with the other.

Matt felt a tiny smile start to form on his face. Publicists had to be able to multi-task if they wanted to be a success. He watched as Simon stopped fixing the toast and started frowning.

“TMZ is a boil on everyone’s ass. Email me the vid, thanks.” Simon clicked the phone off and somberly finished making Matt’s toast.

“Orange juice.”

“What?” Simon turned to look at Matt, handing him the toast.

“No, that was a couple days ago. Last night,” Matt said, “last night I had dinner with Mark. I guess it was morning, it was two am. Pineapple, I think.”

Simon was silent a moment, then: “You and Ruffalo had pineapple at two o’clock in the morning, this morning,” he translated.

“I…yeah. There was press outside, too. They kept asking me questions and I hurt my back.” Matt spooned soup into his mouth, slowly at first before picking up the bowl and quickly slurping it down. Setting the empty bowl back on the bar he looked at it, looked at Simon, poked the toast and started devouring it.

“How did you hurt your back?”

Apparently Simon felt that was more important than the press showing up. Matt handed him the soup bowl. “More, please? I fell against the door jam.”

Taking the bowl Simon spooned the rest of the soup into it and handed it back. “Slower this time, please.”

“Sorry.” Matt picked his spoon back up and carefully started eating. He glanced out the wide windows that ran across the front of the apartment; the sun was shining brightly, promising another scorching day. He was very glad to be in the air-conditioned apartment.

“You’ve nothing to be sorry for.” Simon paused as if to say something else then closed his mouth.

“What?”

“Nothing, babe. I don’t know about you but I could use a good nap.” Simon was completely unable to sleep on planes even though he loved the convenience of red-eye flights going west to east. This time was just another case showing why.

Matt smiled. “I could use a nap, too.” He was curious about the phone call and glanced towards it then back up at Simon, lifting his eyebrows in a question.

“It was Stephen. Not important right now. Finish eating, then bed,” Simon ordered.

“I’m really tired, Simon,” Matt hesitantly protested.

“I said bed, babe, not sex.” Simon smiled.

“Making love.” It had taken Matt a long time to get Simon to think of them having sex as making love, but every once in a while he needed reminding.

“I know,” Simon smiled. “Just checking to see how out of it you really are. Done?”

Matt handed his empty bowl over. “Done, thank you.”

“I would say ‘anytime’ but I really don’t like seeing you this way.” Simon walked around the breakfast bar and waited while Matt slid off the stool. Putting his arm around his very tired husband Simon steered them both to the bedroom and the king size bed waiting for them.

He gently pushed Matt down on the mattress, setting his hand against Matt’s chest to keep him sitting up. “Let me.” Carefully he untied each shoe and slid them and the socks off Matt’s elegant feet. Standing up he tugged the ugly ‘80’s midriff-showing t-shirt up and over the bent head of mussed hair.
"How's your back? Other than purple and red?"

"Sore."
"I bet. Just bruising, though. Okay, stand up, babe.”
Matt looked up blankly. Stand. He could do that. Yes. He raised his arms up like a little child and Simon reached down and pulled him to his feet. Matt sighed deeply and leaned his head on Simon’s shoulder, waiting for his jeans to be unzipped and dragged off.

“Do you want me to leave your underwear on?”

“Ungh.”

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’,” Simon laughed and briefs followed the jeans and shirt. Keeping Matt up with one arm and yanking the blankets down he helped Matt to lie down and covered him up.

Matt watched, eyes half-mast, as Simon quickly shed his own clothing and climbed into bed. Matt rolled over and burrowed into Simon’s chest with a heavy sigh. He felt Simon’s arms close around him, and slowly he relaxed his muscles, closed his eyes, and drifted…

…nowhere. His eyes shot open and he stared at Simon’s left nipple. Wiggled just a little. Closed his eyes and wiggled around a little more. Opened his eyes. Shit. He was so tired, why was he suddenly wide awake?

“Can’t sleep?” Simon asked.

“No.”

Simon shifted over till he was on his side facing Matt. “Close your eyes,” was said softly followed by a barely there kiss against his ear.

“I—” Matt began.

“Shhhh. Let me put you to sleep,” Simon whispered, licking the ear he’d just kissed. Moving down he nipped along Matt’s jaw, under his chin, down his neck, along his collarbone, little kiss-licks. “I’m going to make love to you, very slowly, very completely, till your head’s in the clouds and you think you’re in heaven, and I say ‘What?’ when you ask for God.”

“Hmmm.” It was difficult to simply lie there without reciprocating. Matt shivered when Simon’s mouth landed on his right nipple and sucked. Oh, yeah, he knew exactly where Simon’s hands were heading, right down…he squeaked as a finger circled and pushed around his hole.

Soft breaths blew across his cock as Simon laughed softly. “You squeaked.” A quick swipe with his tongue and another squeak escaped. Matt felt bereft as Simon’s fingers moved away, but moaned when they returned sticky with lube.

One mouth, two hands, ten fingers and one prostate. And a very…nice…tongue named Jack to climb the beanstalk. Matt exploded, couldn’t move, muscles turned to liquid as Simon gathered him up in his arms and gently kissed him. Heaven was sleep and Simon was God and Matt’s eyes slid shut.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

Matt paused halfway down the hall and leaned against the wall.

“…know whether to tell him now or wait and hope it blows over,” Simon said. “Yeah, I did get some food into him… I appreciate the heads up, by the way… This is all new to him, he’s not used to walking down the street with five cameras in his face, or the press hanging out around places he goes to hoping he’ll show up… I agree… He’s moving rapidly to the A List and it will only get worse…” Simon laughed. “Yeah, USA is thanking their lucky stars right now; they have a gold-mine in Matt… ”

“I’m a gold-mine?” Matt yawned as he sauntered into the kitchen.

Simon jerked his head up, eyes widening.

“Yeah, busted,” Matt said tonelessly. “Who’s on the phone?”

“Tim. He called to see how you’re doing.”

“I’d say ‘tell him I’m fine’, but I’m guessing you’ve already filled him in.” Matt walked over to the fridge and pulled out the orange juice. Pouring himself a glass he raised it in the air. “Cheers, guys.”

“I’ve gotta go, Tim… Yeah, I’ll tell him.” Simon slipped his phone into his front pocket. “You okay, babe?”

“I’m fi.. yes. Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you. Um, what is it that you ‘don’t know whether to tell me now or wait until it blows over’?” He finished his juice and poured another glass. “Want some?”

Simon shook his head. “Come on let’s go sit on the couch. I have the video on my laptop.”

“What video?” Matt followed his husband into the living area and curled up next to him on the couch, tucking his feet neatly beneath him.

Simon leaned over his laptop and clicked through to the video. Before starting it he turned to Matt. “What do you remember from last night?”

“You sound like I was drunk,” Matt protested.

“No, you were tired, exhausted, and it was 2 am. When I talked to you earlier today you couldn’t remember what you and Mark had for dinner.” He clicked ‘play’ and leaned back, putting his arm around Matt’s shoulders and pulling him in closer.

The video began with a slightly shaky view of the restaurant and the front door opening. Matt was shown slightly stumbling outside, then jerking back into the door jam as the cameras began flashing.

“Ouch,” Simon said.

“I look drunk. I wasn’t, Simon, I—”

“Shhh, I know, honey.”

Matt cringed as he heard what the photographers were calling out to him. “Hey Matt, you having a fling with your costar?” “What are you doing out late with Ruffalo? Where’s Halls?” “You and Halls calling it quits, Bomer?” He could feel his breathing speeding up and made a conscious effort to calm down.

“You didn’t hear them before, did you?” Simon asked quietly.

“Not really, no. I knew they were shouting something about you, but that’s about it.” He was silent as they watched Mark come out and pull Matt back inside, glaring at the photographers as he did so. “I don’t know why they think… why do they think Mark and I are having an affair? We’re both married—happily, I might add—and have kids, I don’t… I’m so tired it’s making me stupid. There’s nothing newsworthy about two happily married actors having a late meal after filming, so they make it up.”

“Welcome to the A-List and the current hot topic of the day,” Simon said dryly.

“I should have expected this. You do know there’s nothing going on between Mark and I, right? Or Tim and I, or any of my costars and me?”

“I trust you implicitly,” Simon assured him and hugged him tightly. “This is the business; this is what happens when you start to become more visible. This is what we’re going to have to get used to.”

“We?” Matt twisted his head slightly to look directly at Simon.

“We,” Simon answered firmly. “Look what happened after the humanitarian award. People started wanting photos of me, they looked for us together, us with the boys. It’s definitely ‘we’, honey. And don’t say you’re sorry,” he added quickly. “I knew perfectly well what might—and probably would—happen being married to a rising actor, I just didn’t prepare you for it.”

“Will this change me?” He’d seen what happened to a lot of actors when they’d suddenly found success. He didn’t want Neal’s hat to start shrinking as his head began swelling.

Simon laughed. “That’s probably the one thing I don’t worry much about. You barely have an ego, babe, even if it grew a little nobody would notice.”

Matt poked him gently in the ribs. “You, kind sir, are slightly biased.”

“Maybe slightly,” Simon said and bit the tip of Matt’s nose in retaliation of the rib-poking. “Think about it though. Last summer the crew forgot your trailer when you went on location and what did you say? ‘I can share with Tim, don’t worry about it’. They forget the trailer belonging to the STAR of their show, and said star doesn’t have a fit. Babe!”

“It wasn’t a big deal,” Matt argued. “People make mistakes, especially when they’re busy and Tim didn’t mind.”

“Point made,” Simon said. “You don’t have a clue, that’s fine.”

“Huh. Okay, I don’t have a clue. That’s why I have you.” Matt fluttered his eyelashes. “My heeeeero.”

Simon simply snorted.

“Change of subject. Sort of,” Matt began. “I don’t have to be anywhere until when?”

“Day after tomorrow at 6 pm on the Heart set.”

“Then can we get out of the city? Let’s go to Shelter Island, there should be something open in the middle of the week.”

“Sounds good. Why don’t you take a shower, wake up, and I’ll see what I can put together.”

“And that sounds good to me,” Matt smiled and wiggled out from under Simon’s arms. He stood, stretching and let out a relieved groan. “Much better.” Shooting a big grin at his husband, he headed for the bathroom. He could hardly wait to see what Simon cooked up for him. That man could make anything happen.

*****

“You’re not going to tell me where we’re staying are you?” Matt asked as they zipped down the highway towards the Hamptons.

“Nope,” grinned Simon.

“Can I guess?”

Simon laughed. “You can try, me darlin’, you can try.”

Matt tilted his head and gave Simon one of his flirty looks. “I give favors for clues…”

“You give favors all the time. No go.”

Matt sighed theatrically. “Sunset Beach?” One of his favorite hotels up there.

“Nope. Would I really make it that easy? It was full.”

“Ram’s Head?” His number one favorite.

“Duh. No.” Simon signaled and slid onto the off-ramp. “You can try the entire way up there and you will never guess it.”

“Does it have a fireplace?”

“It’s hotter than hell and you want a fireplace?” Simon snorted. “Of course it does.”

“Bathtub? Biiiiiig bathtub?”

“6ft two person soaker, you adorable little bath slut.”

He ignored the dig about his love of bubble baths. “Pool?”

“It’s the Hamptons, Matty, of course there’s a pool!” Simon steered them into the line of cars waiting for the next ferry over to the Island.

“And nobody knows we’re here?” Matt asked. Privacy was getting to be something very near the top of his ‘I want’ list.

Simon’s smile disappeared off his face. “Not at the moment, no. We need to talk about it, though, while we’re up here. I’m assuming you want to stop the rumours about you and Mark?”

“Yes. I would assume Mark’s not pleased about them either.”

“No, he’s not, but he and his wife are taking care of that. There will be some photos popping up showing him and Sunrise having a romantic dinner and then out and about with the kids.”

“Good.” Matt rolled the window down as Simon drove slowly onto the ferry and took a deep breath. “I love the smell of the ocean.”

“Maybe some day we can buy a vacation home up here, or somewhere in the Caribbean,” Simon said. “What?” he added as Matt started laughing.

“Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life. I just purchased a $3 million dollar home in LA and another place in Gramercy Park. Gramercy Park for pete’s sake! And now we’re having a discussion about buying a vacation home somewhere. It’s almost surreal.”

They were both silent as the ferry docked and Simon drove off and onto the road. Shelter Island was a beautiful piece of land filled with history and private homes tucked away in secluded woods. It overflowed with people during the summer, especially in the beach area, but privacy could be found for the right amount of money or contacts.

Simon had both.

Matt left the window down and absorbed the surroundings as they drove out of the harbor area, through town and out towards the line of trees in the distance. “You called in a favor, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” They turned left down a small gravel drive-way.

“Who?”

“Warren and Annette.”

“I love your contacts,” Matt said with a grin. “Oh, wow. This is … okay, adorable is the only word I can come up with right now.”

“Matches someone I know in this car…”

 

CHAPTER FIVE

“Wait a minute.” Matt gave his head a small shake. He really was slow today. “I thought I only had today off.”

“I’ve been busy.” Simon sounded smug as he got out of the car and waited for Matt.

“I don’t want to cause problems,” Matt protested, shutting his door and walking around the car to face Simon. Actors got bad reps when they started pulling stunts like taking time off this way.

“You’re not,” Simon assured him, softly touching the side of his face, “it was easy for both sets to shoot Friday tomorrow and tomorrow on Friday. Same set, just different actors. Don’t worry, trust me.”

“I do, it’s just… Can we take this cottage home with us?”

Simon laughed as he unlocked the front door. “You haven’t even seen the inside.”

 

“Don’t need to. Is that a Koi pond?” Matt pointed to the side of the building.

“It is. Come inside, said the spider to the fly…” Simon made a sweeping motion with his arm.

“Oh…. Fireplace, big bed, lots of French doors, little pool, big pool.” Matt slowly walked through the open-plan first floor. “The kitchen! There’s so much light. Is that a waterfall? Simon, this is exquisite, perfect. Thank you.”

Matt looked back at Simon was looking rather full of himself at the moment. “Something you apparently were pretty sure of, huh?”

“I know you.”

“I think we need to be in that little pool right now,” said Matt.

“Lunch—”

“I’m not hungry…for lunch,” Matt teased.

Simon grinned. His hands came up and cupped Matt’s face, thumbs lightly rubbing next to his ears. Matt hummed blissfully. Simon’s hands were warm and seemed to fit his face perfectly, index finger behind his ears, little fingers on his neck. Matt shivered at the sensation of ten tiny strokes all happening simultaneously, and quickly ran his tongue over lips that had suddenly gone dry. “Simon…”

“Yes?” Simon leaned in closely, mouth a scant inch from Matt’s lips.

Matt’s heart was pounding straight through to his head and he was almost afraid to move. His entire being was centered on the brown eyes staring into his, and he closed his own eyes, slowly moving forward.

Simon’s mouth was soft. And warm. And wet. Matt opened to a tongue tip that was slowly teasing its way around his lips and lightly touched it with his own. Simon’s hands lowered and his arms wrapped around Matt’s waist. Looping his own arms around Simon’s neck, their kiss deepening, Matt hung on as his knees seemed to disappear.

A hand suddenly clutching one side of his ass caused his hips to arch forward, almost of their own will, and he swallowed a groan. Simon pressed closer to him and Matt pulled his head back, breaking the kiss. Simon was looking at him, eyes half mast, lips swollen.

“What is it, babe?” Simon asked.

“Clothes.” Matt wondered if he looked as completely kissed as Simon.

Simon’s response was to immediately begin unbuttoning Matt’s shirt, so Matt moved in obligingly and attempted to relieve Simon of his jeans. “Shoes. Simon. Shoes.”

“Move your arms, let me get this shirt off.” Simon tugged at the shirtsleeves.

“Can’t get your pants off with the shoes…. ON!”

“Okay, stop, hold it,” Simon ordered. “I’ll take off my own damn clothes and you get out of yours or we’ll be at this the rest of the afternoon.”

Matt moved swiftly. “What clothes?”

“No clothes.” Simon was a little slower at it, but was now as gloriously naked as Matt.

“That pool out there?” Matt pointed. “Last one in tops.” With a whirl and a dash he was in the water laughing up at Simon.

“Somehow you always end up just where you want to be,” Simon accused as he dropped a little slower into the pool. “And I end up where I want to be. Get over here, you silly monkey, I’ve got a banana for you…”

*****

Lying in the bed next to Simon, Matt was feeling both exhausted and high as a kite. He nestled closer to the man who’d just finished loving the stuffing out of him and sighed. Rubbing his head against one of Simon’s arms he felt his eyes start to close.

They snapped open as he felt Simon’s chest shake slightly with a deep, rumbling laugh. “What?” He wasn’t sure if he should be insulted or not.

“You’re like a cat, rubbing and purring; I love it.”

“If you don’t quit laughing I’m going to start hissing and scratching,” Matt warned, trying not to let his grin show.

“Not laughing. No. Stopping now.”
“Good.” Matt nibbled his way up from the center of Simon’s chin, teasingly ignoring his mouth as it tried to meet his, enjoying the tingle of bead stubble against his lips, before laying his head back on Simon’s shoulder and clasping him tightly.

Strong arms tightened around him in turn, his nose rooting around in Matt’s curls before he lightly planted a kiss on Matt’s forehead.

Matt smiled.

And purred.

*****

“You gonna get dressed?” Simon asked.

“You gonna turn on the fireplace?” Matt “answered” as he wandered from the kitchen back to the bed. They hadn’t even gone upstairs yet, and Matt figured they could happily spend the entire time in just the kitchen, living room, open-air bedroom, and baby pool. Who needed clothes?

“You want the fireplace on? In this heat?” Simon raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Yes,” Matt grinned. “I love fireplaces, and it’s only gas, it won’t give off any noticeable heat.” He held out a plate filled with fresh fruit and cheese.

“You’ve been a busy little bee, haven’t you?” Simon grabbed a strawberry and clambered off the bed to switch on the fire. “Did you find the wine?”

“Yes, but I ran out of hands. Hang on.” Matt set the plate down by the bed and went back to the kitchen to retrieve the wine and a couple of glasses.

They met back at the bed and settled down on top of the blankets, cheese and fruit between them. Matt carefully poured the wine, handing one to Simon and setting the bottle on the floor after filling his glass. He raised his arm.

“To the man I love more than my life and that has filled that life with so much unconditional love and support. I’ve been truly blessed and I love you.” He took a sip.

“And to the amazing man who consented to marry me, accepted my three children as his without question, and continues to fill MY life with the same unconditional love and support. I love you more than my life and look forward to growing old with you at my side.” Simon raised his own glass and took a sip.

They were silent after that, enjoying the cheese, fruit, wine, and simply savoring each other’s company.

Later, nestled snuggly in bed together, Simon spoke up. “You honestly love this place?”

Matt nodded his head. “I really do. Think they’d like to sell?”

“As a matter of fact—” Simon began.

“—they do?” Matt sat up, jostling Simon’s arm out of the way. “They do.”

“They do,” Simon affirmed. “You want it.” It wasn’t a question.

“Oh….” Matt breathed. “Can we?”

“Yes. In fact, I already told them it was a possibility, depending on what you thought of it.”

“I like. I want. We’re buying.”

“Together?” Simon asked. “It will probably get the press going again.”

“Screw the press. If we were Matt and Simone nobody would care. Yes, together.”

“Okay, I’ll let them know. Now could you please lie back down? You’re too excited and obviously need a cuddle to calm you down so you can sleep.”

“A cuddle to make me sleep?” Matt grinned and swiped his tongue around his lips. “You know perfectly well what makes me sleep and it’s not a cuddle.”

“And we are naked,” Simon added helpfully.

“You’re waiting for… what? Permission?”

“Fuck permission,” Simon said.

“No, thank you,” Matt said primly. “I’d much rather fuck you.”

 

CHAPTER SIX

“I can’t believe we have to leave,” Matt said as he finished eating his sandwich. “Shortest day and a half of my life. And one of the nicest.”

“It was,” Simon agreed. “Are you ready to get back to the real world?” He tilted his head and smiled sardonically.

Matt sighed. That smile meant he probably wasn’t going to like what was coming next. “Damage control, right? What are we going to do?”

“I talked with Jennifer while you were asleep and we decided—if you agree—that we’d let ‘leak’ that you and I are up here. This afternoon we’ll wander around town looking happy and in love so they can get photos, then we’ll hop in the car and go back to Manhattan. Okay?”

“If the two best PR reps think it’s what needs to be done, who am I to disagree?” Matt smiled a little sadly. “Go ahead and tell her it’s okay.” He walked slowly out to the Koi pond and sat down on the soft green grass.

It wasn’t long before Simon sat down beside him. Matt took a deep breath, let it out and leaned against his husband. His husband. That sounded so wonderful to him. So what if it wasn’t a real, legal marriage? They were seriously committed to each other and in their hearts it wasn’t any different than what heterosexual couples had. Not really. He did wish they could marry in a church, though. Some day. Until then he’d be grateful just to have his Simon next to him.

“Penny for ‘em,” Simon said softly.

“Wishing we could get married in a church,” Matt answered honestly.

“Oh, babe.”

“Yeah. Let’s go. Do we get to hold hands?”

“And gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes,” Simon said, laughing. He stood and held out his hand, fingers wiggling.

Matt smiled up at him and grabbed hold letting Simon haul him up from the ground. “I think I can act the loving husband role pretty convincingly.”

“I think we both can.” Simon brushed a curl off Matt’s forehead, grinning when it simply fell right back down over his right eyebrow.

“I hate this.” No smiles.

Simon sighed. “I know, babe, I hate it, too. I don’t like that you have to do it, and I certainly don’t like that I have to be in the spotlight this way. You know how I feel about publicists being in the limelight. I don’t want your private life invaded, nor do I want the kids and I dragged along with you—”

“—I’m sorry, don’t be mad at me, though. I didn’t ask for this. I just wanted to act, and you know perfectly well I’d be just as happy acting in a local theater in the middle of nowhere, instead—”

“Matty, I’m not—”

“—and the last thing I want to do, or ever even dreamed of doing, was to shove you and our children into the spotlight like this. I’m sorry, Simon, I’m sorry, and if you want to leave me—”

“Matty—”

“—then I totally understand, but just know that I love you more than anything in the world, more than any job or fame or…or…anything, and I love our children even though I had nothing to do with creating them—”

“—Matty, sweetheart—”

“—that’s okay, I understand, but I’d hope you’d let me have visitation—”

“—Matt—”

“—because I really think it would hurt them if I just suddenly disappeared—”

“—MATTHEW—”

“—WHAT?—” He glared at Simon.

“Take a deep breath and listen to me. Please. I knew when I asked you to marry me that this day would eventually arrive. And it’s okay. I’d strip and pose naked on the cover of People if I needed to. I don’t want us to split up and I’d never take the kids away from you, they’re yours just as much as they are mine even if it was my sperm in the test tube. I love you more than my life and can put up with anything as long as you’re there with me. Got it?”

“Hmm-hmm.” He was crying so hard even that much was difficult to get out. “So…orry.” He let Simon pull him close and hung on tightly.

“Nothing to be sorry about.” Simon kissed the top of Matt’s head. “We’re standing here,” he kissed an eyebrow, “arguing about something,” now the other eyebrow, “that we both agree on.” He kissed the tip of Matt’s nose.

Matt took a deep, shuddering breath. “You’re right. And I’m acting like an idiot. Again. I’ve cried more in the last two weeks than I have in my entire life.”

“If you can’t let go in front of your husband, then what use am I?”

Matt could feel how wobbly his smile was even though he was giving it his best effort. “I can think of a lot of uses, not all of them G-rated.” He laughed as Simon arched his eyebrows. “I’d better go clean up; it wouldn’t do much good to show up in front of the paparazzi with red, swollen eyes.”

“Even with red, swollen eyes you’re beautiful,” Simon said softy as Matt walked away.

“Don’t call me beautiful,” Matt shot back over his shoulder.

“Good ears, too,” Simon added sardonically.

Matt just flapped his hand as he went inside.

*****

Simon parked the car on a side street off Grand avenue and opened his door. He started to get out stopping when Matt didn’t move.

“What’s wrong?”

“I want to hold your hand,” Matt said quietly.

“Okaaaaay.”

“I know. Hand-holding and PDAs aren’t us.”

Simon closed his door, re-started the car and let the air-conditioning run. “No, it isn’t, but there’s obviously something cooking in that brilliant mind of yours, so share.”

“It’s the movie,” Matt admitted. “All that research I did, all those people I spoke with, why shouldn’t we be able to hold hands when we want to?”

Simon looked at him, eyebrow raised.

Matt shook his head. That didn’t come out right. “I’m proud of you. I’m proud to be your husband and I love you. I should be able to shout it out to the world: I LOVE THIS MAN. But I can’t. All those people, those men back in the 80’s who died so horribly; they were terrified, they didn’t know what was going on, how they got sick, who they could trust, and nobody listened to them or to the doctors until straight people and women started dying. Nobody cared about the gay men, nobody…” he took a deep breath. “I’m making no sense at all, am I?”

Simon chuckled. “Oh, Matt. My sweet, wonderful, kind, caring Matty. You’re making sense. I know what you mean after all I lived through that time. You were still in diapers.”

“I think I was potty-trained by 1982,” Matt said dryly, “but I get your point. Okay, let’s do this!”

They exited the car together, doors closing simultaneously, and strode off to the main drag. It was a beautiful afternoon, the only thing marring it was the knowledge they were about to “perform” for the press.

“Maybe nobody will show up?” Matt asked hopefully as they turned the corner.

“Don’t look. Across the street in front of Fallen Angel Antiques. Guy with a telephoto lens,” Simon said. “Want to give him something to shoot at?”

Matt turned slightly and smiled at his husband, forming his expression into the most love-sick visage he could image. “Sure. What did you have in mind?”

Simon chuckled rather wickedly. “They don’t know they’ve been busted—there’s another one up the street on the right who keeps poking his camera out the door at us—so they’re feeling safe to assume that we’re going to act recklessly.”

Matt stopped dead in his tracks and after a second Simon followed. “Yes?” Simon had a slightly confused expression on his face.

“Reckless, wonderful man…” Matt stepped close to his husband and gave him a quick kiss on the lips before dancing away from him with a seductive grin. “Catch me, baby.”

“Oh, I’ll catch you all right,” Simon growled, “I’ll catch you and tame your wild self.”

“You’re wishing.” He trotted in a circle around Simon before letting himself get ‘caught’. Simon planted a kiss on his forehead, laughing. “I think we need to buy something,” Matt added, and grabbing Simon’s hand pulled him into the store beside him.

“Marika’s Eclectic Boutique?” Simon said. “Are we eclectic?”

“No clue, babe, but I’m sure we can find something to add to our new house and celebrate this year.” Matt moved down a side aisle in the closely packed store. “How about these?”

“They’re lamps. Ugly lamps.” Each lamp had a wooden base with three wooden appendages reaching upwards. The white, satiny, shades simply added to their uniqueness.

“Shhh, not so loud. They’re not ugly, they’re unique,” Matt whispered. Each lamp had a wooden base with three wooden appendages reaching upwards. The white, satiny, shades simply added to their uniqueness. “I like them.”

“Surely not.” Simon looked horrified.

“They’d look really nice on our nightstands,” Matt cajoled.

“Absolutely not.”

“And check these out!” Matt bounced a few feet away and pointed happily at two matching night stands. They were oblong, off white with two drawers. “Says here they’re Karl Springer Style,” he added helpfully.

“Is this supposed to impress me?”

“Um, no, I guess not. I like them though, and the lamps would be great on top of them.”

“No.”

Matt stuck out his bottom lip and just looked at his husband.

Simon looked right back, amazed. “Matthew Bomer-Halls, are you pouting?”

“Certainly not, I don’t pout,” Matt replied with a sniff.

“Making a good imitation of it, then,” Simon pointed out. “There’s stuff out back, let’s go check it out.”

They wandered outside and looked around curiously. Matt let out an excited squeak and pointed. Simon started laughing.

“Shit, you just squeaked.”

Matt ignored the comment. “I want that.”

‘That’ was a rolling cart made out of bamboo. “We’re not going home empty-handed are we?” Simon asked with a resigned sigh.

“Nope,” Matt said excitedly. “So far I’m three for three here.”

“You’re assuming all that is going to fit in the…” Simon stopped suddenly and Matt followed his gaze. “I want that,” Simon said fervently.

“You’re kidding.”

“Of course not. In fact, it would match your bamboo rolling thingie,” Simon pointed out. “I mean, look at it, Matty, it has places for drinks, and…stuff.”

“It doesn’t have a seat,” Matt said.

“Okay, so we’d just have to add a cushion on top of the springs. How cool is it, though?” Simon was nothing if not persuasive. “And it, unlike your bamboo treasure, has an obvious purpose.”

“Snob. My bamboo rolling cart has a purpose, too.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Matt huffed.

“Do tell, oh-love-of-my-life, do tell.”

Matt was silent for a moment. “It will make a very unique laundry basket,” he said triumphantly.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

“And fed-ex saves the day,” Simon said as he finished filling out the paperwork for the “treasures” they’d purchased.

“Our new nightstands and lamps are going to look very elegant next to our bed,” Matt said innocently.

Simon glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “Uh-huh. And the new laundry basket will be lovely next to our washer and dryer,” he said dryly.

Matt just grinned. He’d so won this one.

“Want to get something to—shit!” Matt jumped back in surprise as a photographer suddenly appeared in front of his face.

“Hey, hey, hey, watch it there.” Simon’s arm snapped out to keep the man from getting any closer in Matt’s personal space.

Before anyone could say anything else, four more photographers appeared and they fired questions at Matt and Simon as their cameras clicked away.

“Halls, what do you think of Matt’s affair with Ruf—.” “Matt, how long have you and Ru—” “Matt—” “Halls—” Through all the cacophony of sound, Simon had been trying to get their attention as Matt stood silently by his side. Finally it quieted down except for the constant clicking of the cameras.

“Okay,” Simon began. “First of all, there are no affairs going on between Matt and any of his costars. We came up here for a little peace and quiet in order to give Matt a chance to rest and catch his breath a little bit before going back to filming White Collar and The Normal Heart.”

“What did you need a rest from, Matt?” The question came from a man whose nose was almost as large as his camera lens and sounded just a bit….snide.
Simon began to speak again, but stopped when Matt laid a hand on his arm. “Let me,” he said quietly. He looked directly at the man who’d asked the question. This really wasn’t where he wanted to get into a deeply personal conversation, but there wasn’t much choice.

“I am seriously committed to my family, to Simon and our three boys. I was raised in a very Christian home, and believe that marriage—or whatever type of commitment ceremony one goes through—is for life. If there are problems, you work them out. I believe in monogamy. There’s no affair going on. I spend time with all the people on my two current sets and since Mark and I are playing lovers we spend a little more time off-set together in order to get to know each other better and look natural together on camera. Whoever was at the restaurant the other night saw Mark trying to get me to eat and wind down as much as possible from what had been a very demanding, emotional day. The Normal Heart is a hard movie to make because it’s basically a true story. People got sick and died and unlike White Collar I can’t just pretend it’s fantasy. The role calls for me to basically waste away and I’ve managed to take that wasting away into my real life. That’s it.”

“We have to go now since he has to be on set at some god-awful hour,” Simon said, taking Matt’s arm and discreetly maneuvering him down the sidewalk.

Matt allowed himself to be shuffled away as he quietly marveled at Simon’s ability to spirit an actor away without seeming to be rude about it. The cameras were still clicking behind them so Matt reached over and took hold of Simon’s hand.

“Just for right now,” Matt whispered. “Let’s just be two people in love walking down a street together for now.”

Simon gave their hands a squeeze and smiled over at him. “When we get back home tonight? I’ll show you just how much I love you.”

“I think I can live with that,” Matt said as they rounded the corner and headed for the car. “Are they following us?”

Simon turned and looked behind them. “No. I didn’t think they would since we gave them the mother of all scoops.”

“Me not having an affair is a scoop?”

“No, you saying something about it and also mentioning your personal beliefs, that’s the scoop.”

“Oh. I guess I don’t understand this utter fascination people have with my personal beliefs.” Matt waited until Simon had clicked the car locks undone and opened the door to let some cooler air inside before taking his seat and buckling up. “I mean, it’s just my life. And it’s not like I’m super famous or anything.”

Simon chuckled. “We’d better get used to it because once Heart comes out your name is going to be everywhere.”

“I can handle it as long as you’re right beside me.”

“Forever,” Simon promised, “forever.”