It had been a long day.
Staying up late to rehearse lines for a play you were going to audition for the very next day didn't do much good, making you wake up barely in time to get ready – brushing your teeth while going through the script again, hastily putting on clothes that you had laid out the evening before, and stuffing the tie in your pocket with a frustrated huff after several failed attempts to tie it correctly, muttering a "'knew I should've gotten a bow-tie instead".
You were really excited for that role, too. It had interesting characters and a really good story, and might finally be the start of the acting career you were hoping for ever since you discovered your love for acting back in school theater.
When they told you that you weren't fitting the role, admitting that it had something to do with your gender and body type after pressing the subject because you were willing to get any type of criticism if it would help you improve, you had immediately left the building.
You would have gotten the role if these people weren't assholes. Yes, the role you were going for was a male character. So what? The makeup artists could surely have done something about your looks, you were even looking forward to that. Just because you were born as a female didn't mean you felt like one. You always had some problems getting along with girls back when you were still a child, preferring to play with boys since they were easier to understand, less complex, less jealous when you spent time with others. You didn't have as much troubles with girls now, though you still had many boy-friends.
You also never liked wearing makeup, or having long hair. It was getting in the way of everything, took way too long to wash and to dry, and it was a pain brushing them too, with all these freaking knots. Ugh.
And it's not like you never tried to wear a dress or other feminine clothes, and though you didn't mind a casual dress, clothes that made you reveal too much skin or were tight enough to show the curves of your body made you uncomfortable. It took you a long time to realize you were uncomfortable with female pronouns though. And every goddamn time you wanted to help others carry something heavy, a guy came up to take your place instead. Just because you were a girl. You were sick of it.
There was nothing wrong with being one, but you just didn't feel like one. So you gave up on trying to look female, cut your hair short, and even searched for a male version of your name, or just something that maybe started with the same letter. It would take a while to get adjusted to it, and you were already feeling bad for the people around you who had to adjust to it too.
And here you were, yet again being judged by your gender. It pissed you off so much.
You had stormed off to a nearby bench and sat there for a long time, just thinking, muttering curses and making up new curse words all the while, trying to lighten your own mood. You hadn't noticed when clouds had started to gather, sun vanishing. Only when people walking past you took out their umbrellas and something wet hit your face did you notice it had started to rain. Not that you minded, rain had always been rather pleasant to you.
You contined to sit there, relishing the scent of wet stone and pavement, the feeling of raindrops falling onto your face and body, and the sound of them hitting the umbrellas of other people, when you felt a presence in front of you.
Opening your eyes carefully, not wanting any raindrops falling into them, you looked up. It was a tall figure – a man. He was wearing a blue t-shirt and a black coat, carrying an equally black umbrella in his right hand. Looking farther up you finally met his eyes – such a nice blue – and brilliant smile. "Hello there", he said, his voice slightly raised because of the rain.
You gave him a smile in return, wondering what he wanted (wondering just from where you knew that face..). "Hey", you replied, tilting your head slightly to the side, but not voicing your question.
The man made a gesture with his umbrella. "I thought you might want a little shelter from the rain, you must be getting cold." His eyes traveled pointedly up and down your soaked form before meeting your face again. Now that he mentioned it, your skin did feel pretty cold.
You gave him a nod. "You're right. Thank you."
"You're welcome", he replied, moving closer to stand beside you and holding his umbrella over both of your heads. Too bad the bench you were sitting on was already too wet to sit on, the warmth he was radiating made you want to move closer, but you resisted the temptation.
"May I ask why you're sitting in the rain?", he asked after a long moment. You shrugged, not really knowing why, either.
"Had a long day, sat down to think, then it started to rain. I didn't mind." You looked up and gave him a lopsided grin. He looked a bit baffled, but intrigued.
"Not many people like rain", he noted, frowning as if he was upset about it.
"Yeah", you nodded, "I mean, I get why. But at the same time, I don't."
He gave a low laugh. Man, that sounded nice.
"There are also not many people who would stop to offer someone their umbrella", you remarked, giving him a thankful smile. He looked away, chuckling shily. "So, what made you stop? I'm sure you're busy."
Surely that man had somewhere to go, something better to do than stand there and hold an umbrella for a lonely and soaked stranger on a bench.
"I already told you, you looked like you were getting cold. That reminds me-", he cut himself off and held his umbrella out for you to take, before taking off his coat and wrapping it around your shoulders. Immediately, his warmth spread over your shivering body, and you gave a content sigh, pulling his coat closer.
"You're a real gentleman. Holy shit", you breathed, absolutely flabbergasted.
Would he still have done this if you were a guy, though? You didn't dare to voice that question. Not yet, anyway.
He gave another chuckle, tongue in between teeth, which made him look unfairly cute, and took his umbrella back. "So", he said, after a few seconds, "you said you had a long day. I guess it wasn't a good one?"
"Not really, no." You shifted slightly, already feeling the anger from earlier coming back just by thinking about it.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
He was a complete stranger. Why did he care? Maybe he just asked to be polite, being a gentleman and all.
But you actually did want to talk about it. You needed to vent, and since he offered to listen, you were just going to use this opportunity.
"Actually, yeah. If you really don't mind. I might curse a lot, though."
He let out a breathy laugh. "I really don't mind. Go ahead."
And so you told him all about your day, cursing your way through every sentence. The more you talked and the more you cursed, the more you got into it. You let it all out, and it felt amazing. The man listened through all of it, nodding and humming at all the appropriate times, visibly amused by your newly made up curse words, even asking some questions.
He did care. Or he was just really good at pretending. Maybe he had some girlfriends (or boyfriends, you didn't want to assume anything) in the past who talked a lot.
"Was this going to be your first big theater role?", he asked after you had ended your story with a loud sigh, taking a breath after talking pretty much non-stop. You nodded.
"Yeah. Was a damn good one, too."
"Would you like me to talk to them? I'm an actor myself, had many roles in various theaters. There were often male characters played by females, and the other way around. It really shouldn't be a problem."
"I know, right!? Maybe they just hate women, who knows!" It took a moment, as you were still irritated, to fully realize what he had just said. "Wait, you're an actor too?"
You squinted up at his face. He did look familiar. Maybe you saw one of his plays before? Or maybe he even played in some movies?
"Yes", he smiled, almost shy.
"I knew I saw your face before!", you exclaimed, regretting it soon after and looking down at your shoes. "I mean, uh, you look familiar", you reworded your sentence, quieter this time.
"That's not impossible", he chuckled. "Would you like me to talk to them, though? I'm sure we can find a way to get into their thick skulls."
"Heh, maybe. But no, thank you. It's okay. Wouldn't want to work with them after all this, to be honest."
"I get that." Silence settled between the two of you, and you noticed that the rain had started to subside. It was a comfortable silence. You didn't feel the need to talk, to hastily search for a new subject to talk about, or to desperately search for a dry joke to make.
You felt strangely at ease, and, briefly glancing up at the man, it seemed like he felt pretty relaxed too. You loved analyzing people, it often helped you with your acting; picking up habits from others, how they spoke, accents, dialects, stuttering, and more. The way they moved their body, their hands, their lips. The various postures they went through while just talking, how it changed when they were tense or shy or annoyed. Also facial expressions and a person's voice told a lot. You liked testing out your own theories sometimes; figuring out what kind of tone told you the person you were talking to was tired of the subject but pretended to be still interested, for example.
It often led to the conclusion that humans were complex and strange. But also fascinating.
It also told you that this man was entirely genuine about standing there and holding an umbrella over your heads, listening to your angry ranting, and enjoying the silence between you.
"What's your name?", you suddenly heard yourself saying, quickly adding a "if I may ask" to at least sound polite about that unexpected question.
The man wore a strangely nostalgic little smile when he answered, "Tom Hiddleston."
You were sure you were just imagining it, but it almost appeared as if he hadn't gotten the chance to truly introduce himself to anyone for a long time. Maybe he was more famous than you thought, that would explain it. Being famous would make people recognize you anywhere, making it pretty much impossible to introduce yourself without them immediately comparing you to a character you once played. But you were probably really just imagining things.
His name kind of did ring a bell, though. Before you could try and dig up any old memories where you could have heard or read it, he asked; "And what is your name?"
You hesitated again. Not because you didn't trust this guy enough to let him know your name. You just weren't sure if you should tell him your name that was given to you on the day you were born, and that was still officially your name on every ID, or if you should tell him the newly found male version of your name that you felt more comfortable with. You did want people to use it instead of your girl-name. You haven't had the courage to ask your family and friends to use the new name and male pronouns yet. Not that you were afraid, it was just a pretty big change for everyone, something they all had to get used to, and you couldn't help but feel a bit guilty about it.
But you had to start somewhere, right?
"I'm (f/n) (l/n)", you replied, before adding "but please, call me (m/n)."
You expected a weird, confused look from him, but he just gave you another one of those extremely warm and genuine smiles. There had been a brief puzzled look in his eyes, but that had vanished as quickly as it had appeared. You felt something loosen somewhere inside your chest, or stomach, you weren't sure. The tension you hadn't even noticed before left your body, and you smiled back.
He knew. He understood. And he accepted it. Just like that.
"If you would like, we could meet up more often. I could help with your acting, rehearsing and finding some good roles. Only if you want to, of course."
You gratefully accepted his offer.
"Oh come on, you must be kidding", you growled, fumbling with that damn tie and finding yourself unable to freaking tie it. After all this time, after wearing all these costumes and suits, you still couldn't manage to tie a damn tie.
"Tom?", you called, though a bit reluctantly. You had been determined to figure it out on your own. You needed to figure it out on your own at some point, or else you would never be able to do it by yourself. It was like tying your shoelaces for the first time when you were a kid. And you were a damn adult now, tying a stupid tie shouldn't be this complicated.
"Tom", you called again, after noticing the actor had still not reacted. "I could really use your help here, man."
"Yes, yes, sorry", he uttered, sounding a little out of breath as he paced around the room. He wore a nice suit himself, nothing new, but still damn nice eye candy. He briefly checked all his pockets, scratched his stubble bearded jaw, before finally turning and walking over to you.
"Have you seen my pen anywhere? That green one with the golden-", he stopped when you held it in front of his face.
"You mean that one?", you grinned. You knew he would be searching for it later, so you had made sure at least one of you knew where it was. By keeping it in your pocket.
"Yes", he breathed, visibly relieved. "Did you hide it?"
"What? No!", you exclaimed, still absent-mindedly fumbling with that freaking tie around your neck. "I kept it safe. You always search for that pen, so I thought it'd be smart to keep it close."
Tom let out a snort, amused. His eyes finally fell to your hands. "Need some help?"
He laughed and went to stand in front of you. You dropped your hands and tried to see what he was doing with his, as if there was a hidden secret, a hidden technique behind the way he tied your tie, but squinting down like that was really uncomfortable for your neck and throat, so you gave up on that pretty quickly.
You noticed, once again, just how big Tom's hands were compared to yours. Big, with some visible scars, and though they had some rough parts, their skin was incredibly soft. You really liked his hands.
You looked up and into his face, his blue eyes focused on your tie, lips pressed into a thin line, before they suddenly pulled into a grin, as if something funny just occured to him. You tilted your head in question, curious as to what he was thinking about.
"Remember the day we met?", he asked, upon seeing your questioning look. You nodded. How could you ever forget that?
"Remember how I asked why you carried a tie in your pocket instead of wearing it?", he was still grinning when he continued, "And how you explained that they were your arch-enemy, but you always forget to finally get a bow-tie? It's just funny how some things still haven't changed."
You couldn't help but laugh at that, fully understanding what he meant. "Would it be too much of a character development if I finally got one, though? A bow-tie, I mean."
Tom chuckled, that famous tongue-in-between-teeth-chuckle that you had fallen in love with, and let go of your tie, giving it a satisfied little pat before taking a step back. "You do know I have some with me right now, right? You could always just borrow one."
"Shit, that's right. I kinda forgot." Your hand rubbed over your tired eyes, chuckling at your own forgetful brain. You hadn't been able to sleep much last night, too nervous and excited for the day to come.
You were going to be on the red carpet. For the first time. With Tom.
You were happy. And horrified. But mostly happy. It didn't help that your brain kept coming up with different ways that you could embarrass yourself, also helpfully reminding you of everything embarrassing that happened to you in your past. How nice of your brain. How very nice, indeed. With only four, maybe four-and-a-half hours of sleep, you were unsure how you were going to actively pay attention to all that was going on around you. It was an exciting event in your life, yes. But most exciting events also phisically and mentally exhausted you to the point of you passing out as soon as you were reunited with your beloved bed, staying in your room for days, and avoiding social interactions like a pleague.
To say you were glad Tom was going to be there with you was an understatement. You were pretty sure you weren't going to survive this without him. He was already experienced with these events; being in the center of attention, all these reporters and flash-lights and questions, meeting other actors, and The Fans.
Yes, you were pretty damn glad to have Tom at your side today. Or to have him as your friend at all. He had been supporting you for years now, ever since that day you two met. You had met up as much as possible, sometimes you even slept at his place, or he stayed at yours. He had helped you so much, and during all this time, you two had become great friends.
It also seemed as if he had spread your name somehow, because not soon after, you got a lot of role offers. For movies. Your latest and most famous role had been with Tom, which you were very happy about. You had a lot of fun working together, and watching him doing what he loved up close was inspiring.
And here you were. That role led to your first red carpet experience.
"Tired?" His low voice was laced with concern, making you smile at the warm feeling that spread in your chest. You nodded and suppressed a yawn.
"Very", you groaned, quietly. "Try to keep me awake if it seems like I'm going to fall asleep at some point, okay?"
He chuckled. "Of course. Though I don't think you'll get much of a chance to rest while we're there."
Of course, Tom had been right.
It was.. a lot. The whole thing. Just.. a whole lot to take in. Too many people in one place, very loud people, though you couldn't blame them. You had some fanboy moments yourself upon seeing all those actors that you thought you would never be able to meet. You got to talk to most of them, shake hands, share a laugh, have some amazing bonding time, holy shit.
You also got to meet some of your fans. You had fans. Holy shiiiit.
It felt strange, foreign, but really good. You talked to as many as you could, taking pictures with them and giving them autographs. You listened to what they were burning to say, knowing exactly how that felt, and had short conversations with them. You hoped you had left a good impression, hoped you hadn't accidentally left anybody out. There were so many people, it was kind of difficult to look at every single one of them. Also with all those flashes and loud noises and actors behind your back, it was hard staying focused.
Tom had stayed close the entire time. Not directly beside you, but close enough to feel safe. He knew you. He could tell how tense and overstimulated you were. Even though he was also interacting with his fans, giving them his full attention, you felt like he was watching over you at the same time. It was nice. You really did feel safe with him here.
Until a reporter shoved his microphone into your face.
"(F/n), this is your first time on a red carpet – how are you feeling?" You flinched at the use of your female name, tensing up slightly because fuck this was your first interview what should you do how should you act, should you just keep your mouth shut to play it safe? Fuckfuckfuckfuck-
"I'm pretty excited", you heard yourself say, your voice shaking slightly. "Very nervous, but excited. Feels pretty damn amazing."
Here goes nothing. Now it was too late to back out.
"Also, please call me (m/n)."
WELL. THAT WAS JUST GREAT, WASN'T IT. WAY TO GO, MOUTH. THANKS FOR ASKING FOR MY PERMISSION FIRST. YOU TRULY ARE A GREAT FRIEND.
The plea had slipped out before you could really think it through. You hadn't told the public about you preferring male pronouns yet, never felt the need to. You didn't expect to get all that famous, but if that was going to change, people would start judging and questioning you more. They would stick their noses into things they weren't supposed to. You weren't sure if you were quite ready for that yet.
But maybe it was better to get that gender shit out of the way right now.
"(M/n)?", the reporter guy repeated, obviously confused. Before he could say anything else though, you quickly interrupted him; "Yes. I don't feel comfortable with my old name anymore. I prefer (m/n) and male pronouns. I hope that's okay."
That last part had started as insecure, but sounded more like a threat at the end, as you realized that if that guy had a problem with it, he could just fuck off. You practically dared him to say something rude. You knew that there would be many people who would judge you for it, but there would also be a lot of people to have your back.
"Oh! I see!", the guy said, smiling. He didn't seem bothered in the slightest. You felt some tension drain from your body, finding the strength to finally smile back. "I was going to ask why you were wearing a suit instead of a dress, but I guess that explains it. Sorry, I had no idea."
You were positively baffled, feeling giddy at the fact that that guy just went with it and even apologized. "It's okay, no worries. Just wanted to clarify things in advance."
"I get that. I'll spread the word if you want me to", he offered, his smile genuinely friendly. You nodded slightly. "If you want. I'd appreciate that."
"Sure! Now, would you mind if I asked you some more questions?" You really didn't.
He asked some things about your role, how it felt to work together with Tom Hiddleston, and also how you found out about your preference of male pronouns. It was a comfortable interview. You were lucky it was your first one.
"Also, hey, can I be frank with you?", the guy suddenly asked, near the end of his interview.
"Of course", you said.
"You look really good in a suit." Taken aback by his compliment, something you really hadn't expected from anyone, you grinned brightly.
"Thanks", you breathed. "Um.. you too?", you added, though it sounded more like a question. Smooth. Real smooth.
He didn't appear offended though, just laughed and thanked you for the interview, his camera guy waving at you as they went to interview someone else. You let out a breath you didn't know you were holding, shoulders relaxing.
"You alright?" You would recognize that voice anywhere, even here, with a screaming crowd practically right beside you.
You turned around and leaned your head against Tom's chest, breathing in his familiar scent. It helped you calm down tremendously. He chuckled and put his arms around you almost protectively, hands rubbing over your back soothingly. You closed your eyes and smiled. You were pretty sure you would be purring if humans were capable of that sound.
"I'm fine", you murmured, briefly forgetting about your surroundings. Tom was so warm and he smelled so good and you just noticed just how tired you were.
"The guy who interviewed you seemed nice. I think I had an interview with him once, too." His voice vibrated in his chest against your ear. God that felt nice and holy fuck you loved his voice so freaking much.
"Mmm", was all the sound you could manage to make as a reply. Tom laughed, voice rumbling in his chest like beautiful thunder.
Then you remembered where you were and that people were probably staring or even taking pictures goddammit will that be bad for Tom's reputation fuuuuck-
You moved back slowly, playing with the sleeves of your suit and looking around nervously, trying to be subtle. Tom thankfully either didn't notice your distress or didn't share your worries, as he kept his hands on your arms, supportive as ever.
"Were you standing behind me this whole time?", you finally asked, managing to finally look into his bright eyes. You could tell that he was excited. Happy, even. He probably had met a few actors he hadn't seen in a while, and probably got a lot of nice compliments from his fans too. He was buzzing with energy, radiating good mood, his smile shining like rays of sunshine.
"Eheheh, yes", he admitted. "I just wanted to make sure he didn't make you uncomfortable. Interviews are always quite scary when you're not used to them yet."
"True. I was petrified, to be honest. But he was nice. I guess I was lucky." You took one of his hands and squeezed it gently. "I'm glad you're here with me, I'd be scared shitless if I were alone."
He laughed, thumb tracing lines over the back of your hand before letting go. "It will get better. Just tell me if it's all too much, alright? I'll stick to your side this whole evening if you need me to."
"Thank you." Your throat felt a little too tight suddenly, and you swallowed harshly. "Really, thank you. Without you, I wouldn't be here right now."
He leaned forward, gently pressing his warm lips to your forehead, big hand holding your neck gently. "I'm really glad I offered you my umbrella that day", he whispered against your hair. When he leaned back again, he wore the warmest smile you had ever seen. "By the way, you look absolutely amazing in that suit."