The first piece of relationship advice Kristen’s mom ever gave her came when she was 15 years old. “Whatever you do, don’t date people you work with.”
Kristen knew her parents met while her mom was working on a film her dad was designing the set for. “But you did,” Kristen had replied.
“Exactly.” The words fundamentally threw her, to learn in such an innocuous way that her parents’ marriage wasn’t perfect and that maybe her mom regretted shit.
A month later Michael, whom she’d known since co-starring with him in Speak, had asked her out.
Kristen never was the best at listening when people told her what to do or who to be.
Sundance Film Festival, January 2009
Kristen sidled up to where Jesse was checking in at the front desk and bumped him with her hip, soaking up his startled expression until he looked down at her. If anything, his eyes widened a little more.
“You left your cats for this?”
Admittedly, it was kind of a weak opening, considering the last time they saw one another Kristen had been sitting on Jesse’s dick, Jesse panting roughly against her mouth.
Pittsburgh, Fall 2007
Kristen met Jesse when she was 17 years old. The first thing he ever said to her was, “I like your shirt.”
Kristen tugged on her Joy Division tee and looked up at him, smirking.
“What, exactly, is the division between joy? What’s, like, dividing it? Sadness?” he asked, his diction overly articulate, but also really sarcastic in a matter-of-fact way. Kristen kind of assumed that was just his film persona (or, well, his Squid and the Whale persona, as that was the main thing she’d seen him in) but before long she discovered it was just the dude’s voice (It would, however, be a few weeks before she discovered he had no interest in the band and only knew of them vaguely).
“Maybe it’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” Kristen replied dryly, watching his lips twitch ever so slightly but also his eyes narrow, before he turned towards the craft service.
The table read went fine. She could tell Jesse was a bit stiff, awkward, and Kristen’s never been exactly calm during these things either. She always felt like she was looking at herself from the outside in, critiquing the way she was saying every single word, and her mannerisms.
Jesse was good, though. She had expected that much. The rest of the cast was pretty awesome, too, and Greg seemed like a totally relaxed and laid back director. She could already tell it was going to be a really fun shoot.
Jesse didn’t talk much at first, which was fine by Kristen. She herself was pretty shy and she was never on set to make friends; she had plenty, honestly.
They shot the pool scene on the first day of filming and Kristen laughed like hell throughout it, otherwise she would’ve just been blushing. It was awkward as fuck, the two of them in nothing but their underwear, having only just met a week prior. Jesse kept trying to avert his eyes like a fucking gentleman even though the scene required him to, you know, act interested in her through his character’s own awkward nervousness. Plus she was fucking freezing. Jesse kept apologizing, through his chattering teeth, for Kristen having to look at his pasty skin, feeling bad over all the coloring that would have to be added in post production. Kristen didn’t tell him that his body really wasn’t a problem for her.
Kristen was hanging with Martin and Margarita after filming one night during their second week of shooting, still on set after mostly everyone had already packed up and split, when Jesse wandered over.
“Good day,” he said quietly and it sounded like a compliment. He was also looking right at Kristen and she found herself blushing for some unknown reason. Maybe because Jesse never talked about work, they just kind of did it.
“Yeah, you too man.”
“We were just talking about pot,” Martin said bluntly and Jesse laughed. Even that sounded sarcastic.
“You still in character, Martin?” He grinned.
Martin shrugged. “Art imitates life, man.” He held up a joint. “You wanna?”
Jesse scratched the curls at the back of his neck and Kristen’s eyes followed the movement. “I probably, um, you know, shouldn’t. I’m, uh.” His eyes darted quickly to her. “On some meds.”
“Oh, shit, sorry, man,” Martin said awkwardly while Kristen shared a look with Margarita.
Jesse snorted. “It’s cool, man. You guys have fun. I know Stewart here can smoke a mean bong.”
Kristen groaned, head thrown back and hands shoved into the pockets of her hoodie. “Jesus, has the entire world seen that photo?” Her mom had been really pissed when it dropped around the same time the casting news for the film was announced.
Jesse gazed at her, eyes clouded in confusion. “Photo?”
“Uh, yeah. On the internet, man.”
“Oh. I don’t really go on the internet,” admitted Jesse. “I don’t even own a computer right now.”
Kristen frowned at him, worrying her bottom lip. “Then how—”
“I know Michael,” Jesse said. “He mentioned.”
Martin and Margarita turned toward each other, ignoring them in lieu of their own conversation. Kristen took a few steps away and towards Jesse.
“How’d you meet him?”
“I make it a point to keep up with those who could potentially get the same roles.”
Kristen laughed loudly. “Careful, Eisenberg, you’re sounding like you care.” If there’s one thing she’s learned about Jesse in these two weeks, it’s that he detests pride, fame and any type of quality that could make him sound superficial or shallow.
“I care about potential projects, but, like, I’m constantly surprised when I’m actually cast?”
Kristen wanted to tell him that was ridiculous, but she knew he wouldn’t dig that, so she stayed quiet. At some point they’d started walking, heading out towards the lot. There was a shuttle that was hired to take people without cars back to the hotel and Jesse stopped in front of it.
“Anyway, I know him,” continued Jesse. “We hung out in his apartment in SOHO a few times. That boy really likes his marijuana.”
Kristen giggled, loving how flat and dry he always sounded. “Don’t I know it.”
Jesse stopped walking and looked back across the grass, where Martin and Margarita were still standing, talking. Then he looked at the shuttle to their left.
“Well, thank you for walking me to my desired mode of transportation, Miss Stewart.” Then he bowed in an exaggerated manner and Kristen felt fondness spring from her chest.
“Hey, I could drive you back.”
Jesse’s eyes widened a little as he straightened, before frowning. “What about your night of doobies and debauchery?”
Kristen scoffed. “Was just gonna take a few hits, man. Not much debauchery there. And it’s cool, I don’t need to.”
Jesse sunk his teeth into his bottom lip. “Well. Sure, if you’re offering.” He shrugged.
Kristen dug her iPod out of her pocket and plugged it in as they started moving. Jesse frowned, which made no sense because it was Bowie. No one frowned at Bowie.
“This song is gonna be playing in the movie,” Kristen said, a little obnoxiously since he must know. He read the same script she did and it was very music-cue heavy. Most of the time that shit was added in post production but it’s obvious that if he could secure the rights, Greg wanted everything in.
“Most of those references went over my head,” Jesse replied.
“Wait, seriously?” said Kristen, blinking rapidly between him and the road.
“Yes, and please watch where you’re going.” He held onto the ‘oh shit’ handle which was completely ridiculous. She was going like 50.
“You’re so fucking weird, man.”
“Well, I don’t drive much,” he admitted. “It’s kind of weird being in cars.”
Kristen nodded absently. “I’d rather die than take public transportation in L.A.”
“I live in New York, so I like my bike,” Jesse said. “But driving’s cool. I’ve been uh, told I can be a little erratic when I do, though.”
Kristen scoffed. “And you’re asking me to watch where I’m going.”
Jesse didn’t respond and Kristen kept her eyes on the road, even though she wanted to see him.
“So you don’t listen to much music,” Kristen ventured hesitantly, not a question.
“I do, just not that type? I like musicals. That’s about it. Oh, and Ween.”
“That’s—completely random, but cool, I guess,” Kristen said, the words heavy on her tongue. She wanted to tease him a little more but wasn’t sure if she should. He seemed to be a little on edge, something she couldn’t really place in his voice and body language.
She heard Jesse laugh softly. “Yeah, cool. That’s me.”
Kristen grinned at the self-deprecation in his voice. “Who’s cool anyway, man? People call me cool sometimes and I’m just like—to whom? To whose fucking standards? I don’t wanna be cool, I just wanna be me, ya know?”
Jesse was silent for a really long time and Kristen tapped her fingers on the wheel until they came to a light. Then she looked over and saw him smiling down into his hands. The sight did something to her. It made her—it made her suddenly want to be friends with him.
“So, how’s Michael doing anyway?”
“Fine, I guess?” Kristen started as she pulled into the hotel’s garage and parked. Then she killed the engine and turned to him. He looked more comfortable, though his face was a bit pale. “We aren’t really dating right now.”
Jesse undid his seatbelt and looked at her. “No?”
Kristen shrugged. “It’s kind of permanently on again/off again, especially when one of us is filming.”
“You got a girlfriend, right?” She was pretty sure she had heard something to that effect, somewhere.
Jesse ran a hand through his curls, messing them up. “Yeah, well. I dunno? I dunno what we’re doing right now either, actually. We’re, um, you know, on a break, I guess? I think the more roles I get cast in, the more it’s settling in for her. I’ve got a few things lined up, that are gonna be like, bigger and I dunno how down she’s gonna be for it. She kind of, um, hates all this.” He tapped his hand restlessly against his thigh as he spoke.
“You hate all this,” Kristen reminded, because if there was one non-grey area when it came to Jesse, it was his dislike of the spotlight, something he’d made abundantly clear in the short time she’d known him.
“True,” Jesse agreed. “But that’s just. The b.s. that comes with it. The work—the work I really love.”
“Same, buddy,” Kristen whispered. Kristen felt something loosen in her chest as their eyes met. It was something she’d been thinking about and weighing, while waiting to hear about the role she had recently auditioned for. Her mom had said it was gonna be big and Kristen really didn’t know how to feel about that, but she still wanted to try. They held one another’s gaze for a few seconds before Jesse cut his eyes away.
“My mom told me it’d be easier dating someone in the business.”
Kristen snorted. “My mom told me the exact opposite.”
“Well maybe your mom shouldn't tell me what to do. Pretty rude. I’ve never met her.”
Kristen cracked up, swatting at his arm. “Fuck you, man.”
There was still a smile playing on his lips as they exited the car.
Things were way easy after that. It’s like they passed the friends vs cordial acquaintances test, and Kristen was pretty glad the former was the outcome. Jesse talked a lot more, always fast and nearly manic. He spoke with his hands a ton and so did Kristen, so she felt a kinship that way. And he could be terribly engaging to listen to when he really got going about something he was passionate about. Which wasn’t necessarily the same things normal people were passionate about, but whatever. Kristen enjoyed hearing about biking down the side streets of New York and his obsession with words. He told Kristen about the game he’d created this past year with his cousin and even challenged her to it. He’d been pretty surprised when she almost beat him. Sometimes it was easy to forget Jesse was seven years older than she was. She felt they were on the same level, in a lot of different ways.
The shoot was awesome and what they were making was even better. Kristen could already tell she’d be proud of the project, and there was a great energy on set. She found herself laughing constantly during takes and Jesse meeting her gaze as they both collapsed into giggles. Jesse was sort of the nucleus holding everything together, honestly, and Kristen would, more often than not, end up watching his scenes from the sidelines even when she wasn’t in them. She enjoyed the raw emotion he gave and how a lot of himself seeped into the character as well. It made it even easier to film, made it feel like she was just talking to Jesse at times, rather than a character.
Kristen found she loved his almost monotone voice and his razor sharp quick tongue and how he was completely aware of his neuroses. It also confused matters a little; like when their first kissing scene came up. It was never sexy, was the thing. But, well, given how much of himself was crossing over onto his character, it was a little too much like she was kissing Jesse for real, rather than a fictional person who had the same features. The way his face would devolve into this open yet fearful expression—it made Kristen want to reach out and just hug him, him not James, but Jesse. It made her want to do more than hug him, frankly.
And that would lead to nothing but trouble.
“Congrats on your new career as a vampire,” Jesse said one morning over breakfast. Kristen stared at his dumb hair that looked like he’d just climbed out of bed and his stupid red lips that she’d had on hers last night as they kissed while they were both practically naked. It was weird, having such an emotional scene over with already—the last scene, yet still having more to do. It’s something she still wasn’t used to, that emotional push and pull and need to get herself into a non-linear frame of mind when her brain just wanted to experience everything organically.
“How’d you know?” Kristen was pretty sure the press release went out yesterday, the deal having been finalized a few days before. She still didn’t know how she felt about it. And she definitely hadn’t expected Jesse, someone who wasn’t up on any of that stuff, to be aware of it.
“Reynolds. He’s a walking encyclopedia of innocuous cinephilia.”
“Okay,” Kristen replied slowly. “Well, thanks. And I don’t really play a vampire, yet. Right now I just want to get bitten in the name of love or something.”
Jesse snorted. “Sounds deep.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Kristen said without heat.
Nevertheless, Jesse held up the hand that wasn’t holding his plate. “Hey, my sister loves the book apparently. She went on and on about how the vampire sparkles, the last time I saw her. Frankly, I wanted to bash my head against the nearest hard surface, but who am I to judge, I don’t even own a TV.”
Jesse shook his head. “No. New York is enough of an experience for me. I don’t need another form of escapism.”
Looking back, Kristen would probably surmise this was the moment she should have realized something was happening or at the very least, could happen. But at the time she just felt a strange, jittery sensation in her stomach that she wrote off as nerves over her newly signed contract, and also hunger.
“I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into,” Kristen admitted as they walked to the benches to sit.
“You’ll do great,” Jesse said, in a rare moment of utter seriousness and complete sincerity. Kristen swallowed a little around her dry throat and took a sip of her orange juice. They talked a lot about growing up in the business, being child actors and how that’d felt. Hell, Kristen had shown him her baby pictures the other night when they were hanging out in his trailer, sprawled out next to one another, Jesse talking about how hideous he had looked as a kid (he laughed for a solid minute over some of the shit she showed him but Kristen barely cared).
So to hear him say this, have this kind of faith in her, even if it was just something to say, well. It meant a whole fucking lot.
The shoot itself, not counting the week of rehearsals, was only 35 days and it kind of flew by. Before Kristen knew it she was sitting in a roller coaster car with Martin, Jesse and Lauren in front of her, Greg taking the photo.
“Now switch,” Greg said. Kristen rolled her eyes but climbed over Martin anyway, swapping places with Lauren and sitting beside Jesse, pulling out a cigarette just before Greg snapped a pic again. Jesse made a face, so she tried to aim the smoke in the other direction.
“Come on over to the roller rink when you guys want. Everything’s set up there.”
Kristen nodded at Greg and leaned back, exhaling.
“Think that’s our cue,” Lauren said, shortly after Greg was out of sight. Kristen blinked as she and Martin got up to leave.
“Huh?” Jesse said blankly, looking at their retreating backs and then back at Kristen.
Kristen groaned quietly. “I think maybe we were a little too convincing.”
Jesse looked at her, clearly not comprehending, for a long moment before his eyes widened a little. “Oh. Well, shit. Really?”
Kristen shrugged and took a long drag. “Guess so,” she said on an exhale, smoke thick in her throat.
Jesse looked even more uncomfortable than he had when Greg was taking the photos. Just—completely self-conscious like the wheels in his head were working overtime. Kristen nudged his shoulder. “It seems to be the norm, you know. Set gossip. Who’s gonna do who? Will there be a scandal? All shit that goes on that the media actually knows nothing about.”
Jesse was quiet for a moment, staring out into the darkness. “That’s all so infantile,” he said finally, but he also rubbed his shoulder a little against hers.
Kristen leaned into the pressure. “Do you ever get crushes on your coworkers?”
Jesse looked at her sharply. “Uh. I—I’m usually focusing too much on the character and like, trying not to drown in my own self-criticism to think about those things on the job.”
“You do a good job with it,” Kristen blurted out, then snapped her mouth shut as he looked at her quizzically. “Focusing on the character, I mean,” she added dumbly.
Jesse continued to stare at her, eyes a little unfocused. It was a bit unnerving, actually. Finally, he looked down at his hands. “Thanks. I’m—dealing with some anxiety. Been pretty bad lately. Anytime I work, though, it helps. It’s like it forces me to be social and—and expose myself. Or something.”
He paused, rubbing his hands along his jeans, before laughing a little bitterly and shoving them in his pockets. “If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be holed up in my apartment, talking to my cats and writing plays.”
“You write plays?” Kristen asked, interested.
“Yeah. Been doing it since junior high when everything seemed like it was the worst dilemma imaginable. But then you come to realize you’re just experiencing some warped form of life that is arranged by social structures and of course everything is going to be heightened and seem terrible.”
Kristen nodded. She definitely felt that way at times. “I write poetry,” she offered, and it was apparently the correct thing to say because his head snapped up and he was suddenly smiling, big and genuine.
“And cats are awesome, dude, don’t put down your cats,” she chastised, bumping into his shoulder again. “Mine has an alter ego.”
“That’s amazing,” Jesse said softly, voice warm.
Their eyes met and Kristen felt a shiver run through her that had less to do with the November air and more to do with the way Jesse’s eyes felt trained on her, big and blue and so fucking naked. She suddenly wanted to feel his lips again but this time for real, for them.
It was as though a magnetic force was pulling them together, in that slow motion way that she’s honestly only experienced on camera before, all so meticulously manufactured, until Jesse broke the connection, looking sideways and coughing.
“We should, uh. Get to the wrap party.”
“Yeah,” Kristen said, flicking her cigarette through the gap of the coaster and the platform, attempting to not sound as disappointed as she felt. It would be a disaster anyway.
Kristen made a detour to her car but still hesitated as she lifted the bag off the front seat, before figuring what the hell. When she made her way inside, Jesse was already sitting awkwardly on one of the couches along the wall, talking to Bill.
“Hey, Kristen,” Martin said, sidling up to her.
“Here, a going away present,” he said and then pressed a joint into her palm.
Kristen laughed. “Thanks, dude.” She pulled him into a hug and made her way towards Jesse just as Bill was leaving.
“Hey,” Kristen said, sitting beside him, their thighs touching.
“Hey,” Jesse replied. She watched his Adam’s apple work and frowned, shifting away ever so slightly.
“You alright, man?”
“That’s a loaded question,” Jesse replied snarkily.
Kristen rolled her eyes. Sometimes she really could use a straight answer from this guy. It’s as though his guard was constantly up and Kristen was just trying to peek through the cracks in the armor.
She slumped back against the couch and opened her palm, rolling the joint between her fingers. The music was loud around them and a lot of crew members were out on the rink. Kristen didn’t particularly feel like skating tonight.
“What’s that?” Jesse asked, peering over his shoulder at her.
Kristen rolled her eyes again, this time for his benefit, and held up the joint. “Do I need to draw you a diagram?”
And okay, maybe her voice had been a little harsh, given Jesse’s involuntary flinch. “No,” he said shortly. She watched him drag his hand across the back of his neck. “You’re gonna smoke it, then?”
“I was hoping to,” Kristen replied, softening her tone a bit. It wasn’t really Jesse’s fault she was so on edge. She let herself get to this position, really.
Jesse nodded, once. “I uh. I’ll take a hit? My meds are pretty stabilized right now.”
Kristen’s eyes widened and her stomach flipped. She found herself digging into her jeans for her lighter before he could change his mind. She really wanted to know what Jesse was like stoned.
The way he smiled at her, soft and a little secretive, as she passed him the joint, their fingers touching, made it worth it already.
Jesse was quiet and maybe even more tense when stoned. Kristen felt infinitely disappointed. He sat on the edge of the couch, body tightly curved, while Kristen was sprawled beside him, loose and relaxed.
“You’re no fun, Eisenberg,” she moaned, leaning forward to rest her head against his shoulder and poking him in the ribs.
“Lies, I’m terribly charming.”
Kristen snorted and pressed her fingers to his side. She felt his muscles jump beneath her touch and heard a choked off sound to her left.
“Oh my god,” Kristen said slowly, her tongue feeling heavy in her mouth. “Are you ticklish?”
“No,” Jesse said, voice stubborn. “Absolutely not.”
Kristen smirked and moved her hand again, wiggling her fingers. He jerked, hard, and that was definitely a smothered laugh.
“This is amazing,” Kristen said before launching her full assault which devolved into Jesse flat out giggling and then him retaliating, Kristen laughing breathlessly against him while she tipped over to the other end of the sofa, nearly pinned beneath him.
“Ow, shit man,” she said when something sharp dug into the back of her head.
He took one hand away from where it was tucked against her hoodie and moved the thing from beneath her head, holding it up.
“What’s this?” he asked. His eyes were so bloodshot and he was flushed to the tips of his ears. Kristen’s stomach fluttered from where he was still touching her and she really wanted to drag him down and make out like the teenager she was.
“Um, end of shoot gift. For you.”
Jesse pulled back and Kristen took the opportunity to sit up and straighten her clothes. He turned the square shaped black plastic bag over and over in his hands. “Really?”
Kristen shrugged. “Seemed like a thing to do.”
She didn’t say she’d never bought anyone a wrap party gift before. Ever.
“I didn’t get you anything…” he trailed off, sounding so horribly upset she had to laugh.
“You’re a dude, I don’t really expect you to think of shit like that.”
Jesse frowned. “I only buy my parents and sisters gifts. And like, a girlfriend.”
Kristen nodded, swallowing hard, queasiness settling hard in her stomach. “Look dude, you’re making this weird. Just open the thing, okay. I didn’t even fucking wrap it.”
Jesse continued to stare at it for a moment longer, like it was a foreign object and Kristen was just about to say fuck this, fuck him and bolt when he finally reached inside the bag.
Kristen sighed. “I know it’s dumb, alright. You already said you, like, listen to nothing, but it’s got that song your character is obsessed with, so.”
She watched Jesse just stare at a vinyl copy of The Velvet Underground’s self-titled album and wished the couch cushions could swallow her up.
After what seemed like an eternity he looked up at her. “You wanna get out of here?”
Out of all the responses Kristen expected, that was not one of them. Jesse sounded caught between confidence and desperation and it was hotter than fuck.
“Let’s blow this joint, man.”
“I think we already did,” he snorted as they both stood up.
Kristen swatted him with her hoodie sleeve and they both ignored the random thumbs up they were being shot as they made a rather indelicate exit.
Jesse was definitely less baked than she was, so Kristen threw the keys at his chest.
“Seriously? I haven’t driven in forever.”
“It’s like a bike, and we both know you can ride one of those.”
Jesse huffed but didn’t protest again.
Once their seatbelts were on, Kristen turned to him. “My room?”
“Yeah,” Jesse said, biting his lip. His nerves seemed to be settling back in, so Kristen just reached out and tossed the vinyl in the back seat before linking their hands together on the console between them.
“I need that hand to start the car,” Jesse said quietly after a moment, voice completely practical.
Kristen groaned internally and released him. He kept both hands on the wheel the whole ride and she tried not to feel slighted.
By the time they got to the hotel she was considering calling the whole thing off. It had been a stupid fucking idea and she was pretty sure nothing was going to come of it anyway.
The words were almost out of her mouth as he killed the engine, except Jesse chose that moment to blurt, “I’m not very good at this. I’m sorry.”
All of Kristen’s protests melted away as she took in his wild hair and his red eyes and his stupid fucking expression that seemed to imply Kristen was the scariest thing he’d ever seen.
Kristen took his hand again and this time he squeezed back.
“You’re doing fine, man,” she said, and she wouldn’t have meant it ten minutes ago but she did now.
They traded hot glances the entire way up to her room. Once inside Kristen flicked on a light, but Jesse immediately flicked it off.
“I’ve seen you in just your boxers,” Kristen reminded, turning the light on again.
Jesse winced and threw his shirt off. It felt eerily similar to their love scene in the film, completely awkward yet totally charged.
His fingertips danced along her hoodie before unzippering it slowly, letting it fall to the floor. His hands fitted over her waist before skimming upward. Kristen lifted her arms so he could pull her shirt up and off.
It was weird, undressing each other, moving in slowly for a kiss that wasn’t their first—not technically—but felt like it was. Jesse tasted the same, kissed the same. Kristen thought maybe it’d be different—maybe his character did things some other way. But it was identical, except that every time his tongue pushed against her own it sent a jolt of want straight to her pussy. That shit definitely didn’t happen on set; it was always far too clinical and public, no matter what the scene called for.
This was—this was something else, though. To be honest, Kristen had almost hoped it would suck. But Jesse kissed the way he acted—with complete focus and skill, something people probably wouldn’t guess by the way he held himself. Kristen moaned as he broke away to kiss along her jaw, their arms wrapped around each other, shirtless now just like in their scene, her boobs pressed against his chest.
Jesse’s hands ran down the length of her back, fingertips skimming over her skin and raising goosebumps in their wake while her own tightened around his flank.
“Tell me you have something,” Kristen gasped when Jesse bent to mouth down her neck and then to fit his lips around first her right nipple and then her left.
“Yeah,” Jesse said. “Uh, gift from Ryan.”
Kristen laughed loudly. God, it’s like they were all still their characters or something. It was ridiculous.
“Shut up,” Jesse mumbled, but his voice was fond and his mouth was suckling at her tit, so that was all Kristen really cared about.
Kristen pulled him up by his hair and crushed their lips together again, walking them back towards the bed. They fell on it and kicked off the rest of their clothes, Jesse settling on top of her when they were both naked except for their socks. His dick was hot and heavy against her inner thigh and Kristen rocked their hips together, bitting her lip at the feel of it dragging against her, hard and smooth.
She was so fucking wet already, didn’t think she even needed the foreplay she normally found necessary.
“Do it,” Kristen groaned as he broke his mouth away after another intense kiss, her lips feeling raw and used.
“No,” Jesse whispered, “not yet,” and slid down her body to suck on her breasts again before shifting even lower. Kristen’s legs parted for him and he ducked between them. She closed her eyes, wanting to say it wasn’t necessary, but then his mouth was on her, tongue pointed and perfect and he once again surprised her at being good at shit he really had no business being good at.
Kristen cried out sharply as he licked at her clit again and again, wrapped her legs around his back and pushed at what she could reach of his shoulder, his hair, to get him to do it harder, faster. She came when he slipped a finger inside her, pressing up just right at the same time he sucked hard on her clit.
“Jesus Christ,” Kristen whispered, shaking and shuddering, legs a boneless mass after tensing around him.
Jesse’s moan vibrated against her as he licked her clean before slowly sliding back up. His face was wet and he tasted like her as they kissed again, hard and sloppy, one of his hands sliding in her hair and tugging a little.
“Fuck,” he panted as he broke away and she could feel him again, pressed tight up against her cunt, hard and thick.
They’d thrown the condom on the bedside table and Kristen reached for it, ripping it open with her mouth and spitting out the top of the package.
“Fuck,” Jesse whispered again, sounded winded.
Kristen smirked at him. “Get on your back.”
Jesse nearly face planted in his scramble to obey and Kristen laughed.
She straddled his thighs, grabbing his dick and rubbing her palm up the length of it. Jesse hissed and arched into the touch. “Oh, Jesus,” he breathed.
“You don’t believe in Jesus,” Kristen reminded sweetly.
“In situations like this, I renounce my Judaism,” Jesse deadpanned and Kristen laughed so hard she nearly tore the condom.
She managed to roll it onto him with no mishaps, their eyes holding the entire time. Jesse licked his lips, eyelids heavy, pupils dark. His chest was pale but blotchy with red and Kristen dragged her fingers all up, touching him everywhere before rising up and positioning herself.
“Oh, God, Kristen,” Jesse gasped, voice reverent. Kristen’s eyes fell shut as she sank down on him, breathing hitched and nipples hardening even more.
She opened her eyes when fully seated and caught Jesse just staring at her in wonder.
She had to lean forward and kiss him just to make it stop. They started moving together, slowly, Kristen setting the rhythm. She circled her hips wildly and pretty soon she was bouncing on his dick, fucking herself hard down onto him while Jesse just felt up her tits or pressed his hands to her hipbones and fucked upward to meet her, all while panting harshly, his curls a damp mess and sweat on his face.
They both came at nearly the same time and it might’ve been the best sex she’d ever had, she realized, while slumped against his chest, Jesse’s mouth skimming across her shoulder blades, his breathing ragged against her.
Kristen heaved herself off him eventually, and they got rid of the condom before flopping back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She felt like someone had punched her in the gut. This wasn’t supposed to be some fantastic lay. It was supposed to be awkward and weird and slightly uncomfortable, like parts of their friendship had been up until this point. Like Em and James had been. She had no idea how she was gonna forget this ever happened and just go back to being friends.
“Hey, do you—?”
“You should go, man.”
They said at the same time and then stopped, looking at one another.
“Oh,” Jesse said, blinking, his mouth snapping shut.
Kristen dragged her hand over her face. “This was fun and all, though.”
Jesse wasn’t looking at her anymore, was staring off across the room instead. “Right. Yeah. Cool.”
Kristen had no idea what he had been going to ask but it didn’t really matter anymore. Jesse’d already said he’d never had a crush on a co-worker and Kristen really shouldn’t date someone in the business, should take her mom’s advice. It’s not like it had been working all that well with Michael. Plus he lived solely in New York; at least Michael was bi-coastal. And maybe they could work it out. Maybe they’d start back up again after she finished here. Kristen suddenly couldn’t keep up with her own thoughts.
“Friends, right?” Kristen asked, hoping she didn’t sound as desperate as she felt.
“Yeah,” Jesse said, licking his lips. “Friends.”
“Stay in touch,” Kristen said, kissing him on the cheek after he was dressed and standing at the door.
“Yeah, you too.”
He smiled at her and it almost met his eyes.
Kristen tried not to regret all the things she said and didn’t say.
“My cats are independent individuals. They can survive without me while I pay my dues to the industry.”
Kristen laughed and hoped it didn’t sound forced. They’d texted a lot in the past 14 months and even talked a few times, but this was their first time seeing each other. She hadn’t thought it’d feel so—significant.
“You’re the big shot I knew you’d become,” Jesse said and Kristen rolled her eyes.
“No, seriously, it’s nice of you to remember the little people.”
He was smirking and Kristen kicked him in the shin. “I love Sundance. This stuff I like—I care about.”
“Don’t care about your big blockbuster franchise, then?”
Kristen shrugged, mouth twisting. “Not like I care about this,” she replied, earnestly.
Jesse’s face grew soft and Kristen suddenly wondered what would’ve happened if she’d done things differently more than a year ago.
It was a dangerous line of thought.
They did the photocalls, the portraits, the interviews together. One of them was so awkward, with the two of them sitting on Jesse’s hotel room bed, the interviewer filming them. Kristen sat cross-legged in the middle, her body tight while Jesse sat up against the headboard, legs stretched out. She envied how relaxed he seemed, how his tone could turn salacious when he talked about Jesse’s character meeting Kristen’s like it was the easiest thing ever. She blushed hard, giggling in her attempt to mask it all.
In between they caught up, just the two of them. Jesse was back with his old girlfriend and they were living together now. Kristen in turn discussed her love life according to the gossip columns.
“So you moved on from pot heads and now you’re dating a vampire,” Jesse surmised. “Who sparkles, remember, my sister did say he sparkles.”
Kristen barked out a laugh, even though she felt a pang in her chest for some unknown reason. “Is this a comment on my quote unquote ‘coolness’ because that’s kinda low, man.”
A small smile graced his lips “Nope, just an observation.”
“Whatever, asshole. And anyway, that’s what people are saying. Michael and I are still doing our on again/off again shit and Rob’s just. Rob’s really cool.”
“You don’t care about cool,” Jesse reminded, and it felt oddly familiar, like he was using a tone Kristen’d used in the past. She couldn’t put her finger on the déjà vu though.
“Alright, he’s nice, happy now?”
A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Immensely.”
They sat, smiling in amusement at one another for a good ten seconds before Jesse cleared his throat and Kristen blinked, hard.
“So, you’re telling me you haven’t hit that or whatever the kids these days are saying?”
Kristen’s head spun, still trying to wrap itself around whatever moment just passed between them. She felt her face heat. “Well, I didn’t say that. When we’re off, we’re not exclusive…”
She watched the muscle in Jesse’s jaw jump, took in how his cheeks definitely had a bit more color to them now as well. Kristen changed the topic of conversation quickly. They’d never be the type of friends to discuss sex or relationships. She tried hard not to think about why that was.
Instead, they shared grumbling over how annoying the spotlight was and how they both just wanted to act. Kristen was reminded how down to earth Jesse was, how easy it was to just connect with him over certain things.
He seemed a bit more comfortable in his own skin and Kristen was glad for that. If she felt a little wistful, it was no one’s business but her own. She’d have it under control before the press started on their film.
Kristen didn’t have it under control in the two months since Sundance. Because she stupidly hadn’t expected to constantly be asked questions like “so what was it like to film your love scene?” and “so did your chemistry come naturally?” or worse, listen to Jesse being asked about how he seems to always play a virgin and what he felt about that.
It made Kristen remember shit she had no business remembering, not when they were both seeing other people. Things were basically officially ending with Michael and officially starting up with Rob. She should’ve felt excited about that fact, but instead she would find herself getting lost in thought over how good Jesse was at kissing and how he wasn’t awkward like the characters he plays. And how good fucking him was and how he made her feel that one night almost two years ago that she for some reason couldn’t fucking forget.
She got through the interviews with smiles and laughter and sometimes barely contained annoyance, but she still enjoyed being around Jesse for each of them, regardless of where her brain was at. And maybe her stomach flipped each time he called her “the most wonderful actress” but that was just par for the course.
Nikki sent her a video of him talking to Seventeen magazine, mostly because she thought it was funny when he brought up Rob but didn’t call him by name. Kristen couldn’t help but get stuck on the look in his eyes when he said “who I’m sure you all love”, though.
you and me together again, huh? came the text from Jesse after Kristen officially signed onto American Ultra.
looks that way Kristen responded.
The last time they’d seen one another had been at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, when she and Rob met up with Jesse and Mia for dinner. Things had been strained and tense, mostly because things were strained and tense with her and Rob during that time and they both had known it was gonna be over pretty soon.
Jesse had looked really great, though; happy. It had been weird, seeing him with Mia, finally dating someone in the business. But they seemed good together.
Now Jesse was no longer with Mia and Kristen was no longer with Rob and Kristen had known she was gonna take the role as soon as she saw Jesse was attached to it.
It’s not like she’d been pining all this time — it’d been six years, after all — but she definitely missed him and she had loved working with him the first time. She had a feeling if they hadn’t complicated things with sex they would talk a lot more than they do.
Kristen didn’t like to live with regret, didn’t like to feel as though there’s something she should’ve done differently. But she couldn’t lie to herself that there’d been more than a few times she wished she’d asked him what he was gonna say that night. At the same time though, if they had started something she might not be the person she was today. She felt she really needed to make the mistakes she had, have the experiences she did, play the game and then decide she didn’t want to play it.
None of that would’ve happened if she’d dated Jesse Eisenberg when she was 17 years old.
Mostly because she’s not really sure she ever would’ve stopped…
New Orleans, April 2014
“This wig is hot as fuck,” Jesse complained on the fourth day of filming.
“Fuck you, man, I’ve dyed my hair two different colors in the span of a few days,” Kristen replied.
“You’re a true martyr, Stewart.”
“Fuck yeah, buddy,” she agreed, biting the inside of her lower lip in a grin and raising her hand for a fistbump.
He bumped her back and the action sent a slight shiver up her spine, just like their hug did on the first day of rehearsals. It had been a little over two weeks, pre-production now over and filming having begun, and Kristen could safely say her odd, inconvenient attraction for this guy hadn’t gone away.
A lot of her scenes so far had been solo as the two of them were split up for a lot of the film. So Kristen’d gotten to hang out in a park and the New Orleans airport and walk around in like, pajamas essentially while Jesse’d been shooting in a trailer park with a hideous wig.
Their first day of shooting together came the day before her birthday. In between takes they hung out in Jesse’s trailer, Jesse looking ridiculous sprawled out on his futon, still in his wig while Kristen looked in the mirror, making sure her makeup was okay. There was a knock on the door.
“Want me to get it?”
Jesse shrugged, not looking up from his phone.
She opened it to find one of the PA’s.
“This was delivered to the set for you, Miss Stewart.”
“Thanks, man,” Kristen said, taking the square package. She had no idea what it could be and there was no return address. She’d picked up flowers earlier from her grandparents and her parents never sent things to set. CJ and Suzie had come down the other day with her dog, Cole. Kristen’s been staying in her house in New Orleans so it was cool to have Cole there when she got back from shooting. And they’d gotten to play in the park together yesterday, too. So, yeah, whatever gifts her friends might give her, it’d probably happen in person.
“Whatcha got?” Jesse called from behind her.
Kristen turned, shrugging, and ripped open the cardboard.
She stared and then flipped open the card.
“Holy shit,” she breathed.
“What?” Jesse asked, sitting forward now so his elbows were resting on his knees.
Kristen held up the album. “It’s fucking Horses, signed by Patti Smith. Birthday gift from Karl Lagerfeld and his team at Chanel, man, I just. Holy shit.”
Kristen snorted and walked over to his portable record player. She took out the Ween album that was in it, rolling her eyes.
“Dude, you have zero culture. This album was fucking seminal for the New York punk scene. And for female rockers in general.” She set the needle so the first track started up, heard Patti speak-sing, ‘Jesus died for someone’s sins but not mine,’ and let those lyrics wash over her. “Shit, it inspired Suzie and the Banshees, R.E.M., The Smiths, Courtney Love.”
“This isn’t her song,” Jesse pointed out as Gloria continued.
“Nope. But it’s a sick cover and she doesn’t change the pronoun.”
Kristen flopped down on her futon next to him, but not close enough to touch. He looked back at her, watching curiously like she was a puzzle he couldn’t seem to fit together.
“You get so excited about these things,” he said finally. He didn’t appear judgemental just — fascinated.
“Well, think of your favorite Ween album. Wouldn’t it be cool to have that signed by the lead singer?”
Jesse shrugged, muscle in his jaw jumping. “I guess? I don’t really care about those things.”
“I normally don’t either but this is Patti fucking Smith and it’s made out to me and that was just a really fucking sweet thing for Karl to do. I don’t ever want expensive things or whatever — I appreciate when people recognise where I live.”
The corners of Jesse’s mouth turned up. “And you live in an album?”
“Yep,” Kristen replied easily. “I live in this album. And Ziggy Stardust. And like, a lot of other shit. But yeah, that was cool of him to remember.”
“I have a few things like that,” Jesse admitted quietly.
Kristen bit her lip. “Hey, uh, what happened to that vinyl I bought you at the wrap party? Seriously, you've got a portable record player and all you brought with you is that Ween album, West Side Story and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.”
It had been pretty terrible that he’d never listened to any Velvet Underground prior to their shoot.
Jesse was silent and when she looked at him he was chewing on his lip, looking almost pensive. “It’s at home,” he answered finally. “I did listen to it once. It was okay.”
Kristen rolled her eyes even through the tightness in her belly. She didn’t know why she brought that up. It was too closely tied into what they had done that night. Something neither of them had ever mentioned again. “‘Okay,’” she repeated. “I can’t even with you, man.”
“Dakota says hi, by the way.”
Kristen laughed at the non-sequitur. “Uh, I’ve probably talked to her since she told you to say that.”
“Probably. We were in South Africa recently for a Clinton charity thing.”
“She talks about you constantly,” Jesse said, a little hesitantly.
Kristen laughed again, this time nervously though. Jesse was aware of Kristen’s bisexuality. She had never told him in Pittsburgh because she’d honestly just been figuring it out herself. Plus, it’s not like it ever came up. But when The Runaways was released Jesse texted Kristen that his close friend Beth had drooled over her Joan Jett and wanted Kristen’s number, teasing Jesse for being a hater by holding out. Jesse had said he’d let her down gently, saying Kristen didn’t swing that way. Kristen informed him he didn’t have all the facts in that regard.
Jesse was of course completely cool about it, but still Kristen didn’t really go around dropping that bit of information haphazardly. All her non-industry friends knew of course, but not that many within the business. Kristen hasn’t really dated a girl, actually. She and Alicia had been starting and stopping for about four years now, in between shit with Rob. This past fall they had realized they needed to just cool it on that end completely before it fucked up what was a pretty awesome friendship.
“She’s got a bit of a crush,” Kristen admitted.
Jesse snorted. “Yeah, just a bit. Did you…”
Kristen turned to him, bending her knee beneath her. “Did I what?”
“Did you guys, like, hook up, during filming?”
“No! Jesus dude, she was 15… no, I. I know she had a crush. I know she still has one. I just can’t go there.”
Jesse paled for a moment and Kristen would’ve killed to know what was going on his head.
“She’s older now,” Jesse pointed out after about ten seconds of silence. He sounded almost — emphatic.
Kristen felt a small smile stretch across her lips. “Man, did she tell you to play wingman or something?”
“No,” Jesse replied shortly. “No, I just. Didn’t feel comfortable asking her what happened and it’s pretty obvious she has designs on you.”
“Designs on me,” Kristen parrotted back, still grinning.
“Fuck you,” Jesse replied, but he was smiling easily now.
Kristen leaned backwards, stretching her arms over her head and straightening her legs, kicking them a little.
“Contrary to what you might think, Eisenberg, I don’t actually hook up with every single one of my costars.”
As soon as the words left her lips she could feel herself wincing. Jesse’s head whipped around to face her, eyes wide, mouth a little open. They stared at each other and Kristen knew he was thinking the same things she was.
“I don’t think that,” Jesse croaked out, sounding earnest.
Before Kristen could reply there was a knock on the door and a call of, “Positions, guys.”
Jesse tried to drag his hands through his hair and then made a face, remembering the wig. “Showtime,” he said and Kristen got up to turn off the record player before following.
“Can I take you out somewhere?”
“Huh?” Kristen replied as they walked back towards the trailers.
“For your birthday.”
“Oh. Um, a few friends are in town so I’ve got some plans already.”
Jesse nodded, looking down at his feet.
“Hey, you can totally come though.”
Kristen nodded, jerkily. “Sure. Meet me outside your hotel at 8. I’ll see if some of the others wanna come, too.”
She caught something dim in Jesse’s expression but it was gone just as fast. Kristen absolutely hated making a big deal out of things like this. She never invited anyone to attend something in her honor. If other people did, fine. So asking felt super weird but everyone was down.
Kristen wasn’t sure why she felt nervous when she saw Jesse waiting in front of the hotel. CJ and Suzie both knew about their hookup but she told them forever ago; CJ probably forgot and Suzie would never bring it up unless they were alone. Kristen got to go home and play with her dog a bit before they headed out, so she was raving about her to Jesse in the car while he scrunched up his nose.
“Whatever, cat person,” Kristen said in reply. “Don’t be a fucking hater, you know I love cats too.”
“Dogs make me anxious,” Jesse said. Kristen kind of wanted to ask how all of that was going but it wasn’t really her business. He seemed pretty comfortable in his own skin, though. A lot more so than nearly seven years ago.
Sometimes it felt like yesterday and Kristen had to remind herself just how much older she actually was now, how much they’d both changed, really. Except with Jesse it didn’t feel that way. It felt as though they were in some time warp of their own creation.
Dinner was fun and everyone sang to her even though she’d made CJ promise they wouldn’t do that shit. They were at the restaurant for more than four hours, some other cast members joining in, and by the time the evening was over Kristen was a little buzzed and a lot content. She spotted a papz as they were leaving and rolled her eyes to herself. Jesse was hovering behind, hands in his pockets. He looked good tonight, wearing a hat and a jacket she’d totally wanted to steal for herself.
They took a car service back to the hotel and then Kristen was gonna head on to her house and hang out with Cole.
She was saying goodbye to everyone outside the hotel and when she got to Jesse he looked nervous.
“Hey, uh. Can you come up for a minute?”
Kristen’s chest felt tight. “Uh, sure, dude.”
“Heard you say something about flying home tomorrow?” he said when they were in the elevator.
“Yeah, I mean. I’m not on schedule for two days so I’m gonna head home with CJ and Suzie, see my parents, leave Cole with them.”
“Cool,” Jesse replied, leaning back against the wall.
Once inside, Jesse went immediately for his suitcase that was still on the rack, open but mostly empty.
He turned around, fidgeting.
“So. Um. Well, I was gonna give this to you tomorrow but you’re not gonna be here, so. This is your gift.”
He shoved two wrapped items at her and Kristen blinked.
“I thought you didn’t do gifts besides to a few select people.”
Jesse threw his hat off just so he could fist his fingers in his hair. “Yeah, well. Look, open it.”
Kristen did. The first one was a CD of stuff that Kristen liked. Stuff that Jesse must have parsed together in all their time knowing each other.
It wasn’t lost on Kristen that he’d made her a mix, just like James had made one for Em in Adventureland.
As if reading her mind, Jesse said, “I didn’t do it on a cassette because I don’t have a player. And well, I don’t even have a CD player, actually. I assume you have both.”
“You’d be correct,” Kristen replied, tongue feeling heavy in her mouth. She flipped the CD over again and again in her hand. “Jesus,” she breathed. “When did you even do this?”
“Shortly after I first got a computer. Been cataloging shit you’d randomly say over the past few years. It uh, grew from there.”
She squinted down at the disc. “You’ve got stuff from Horses on here.”
Jesse palmed along the back of his neck. “Sadly I am not a psychic. Added those today. Nima let me borrow his laptop.”
Kristen laughed, giddiness rising in her chest. “Shit, did you listen to any of this?”
“Obviously,” Jesse replied testily, scratching restless beneath his ear. “Some of it was okay.”
Kristen laughed again, this time feeling a little hysterical.
She opened the second package, which looked like a short story and it seemed to be — about them. Kristen had no fucking idea what to say. “You wrote this…”
“After our night together.” The words were soft, almost wistful and Kristen’s fingers felt numb where she held the bound pieces of paper entitled, “One Night.”
Kristen cleared her throat. “I uh, handled that badly. Back then.”
“Look, this wasn’t—” Jesse started but Kristen waved him off.
“No, seriously. I… I don’t know why I kicked you out. I wanted you to stay.”
Jesse looked down at his feet before meeting her eyes. “I would have stayed,” he whispered.
Kristen let out a shaky exhale.
Jesse took a step forward. “This wasn’t — I didn’t give you this stuff expecting anything. That story has been burning a hole in my pocket for seven years. I gave it to you for… I don’t know. Closure.”
“Closure,” Kristen repeated, stomach bottoming out.
“You were really fucking young, okay. I was… we probably shouldn’t have…”
Kristen felt her mouth drop open. “Seriously dude? I was five months away from 18.” She paused, something slotting into place. “Wait, is that why you asked me about Dakota?”
“Yes, no, I don’t — I don’t fucking know. I never thought about your age when we were together. You always seemed so much older but hell, maybe I should’ve. Maybe I just should have known better, not to start anything.”
Kristen scoffed. “We would’ve started something if I was 17 or 27, you know that. Age had nothing to do with our inability to deal with sleeping together.”
Jesse laughed but it sounded mean. He looked at her searchingly before saying, “You know, I never expected you to take this role.”
Kristen jutted her chin upward, feeling defiant suddenly. “Well, I did.”
“Why did you?” Jesse asked, sounding a little desperate.
Kristen’s head felt like it was spinning. “Because we’re fucking friends, man. Why—why wouldn’t I?”
“Okay,” Jesse replied and it sounded so final, so resigned.
Kristen bit her lip, bouncing back and forth on her heels. “Why the mix?”
Jesse shrugged, feigning casual but Kristen could see the tension that had set in his shoulders.
“Because it’s where you live.”
Kristen’s heart did a somersault and before she could even think she was dropping the items to the floor and moving, practically running. It was completely cliched as she crashed their mouths together, their bodies flush against one another. Kristen’s arms wrapped around Jesse’s shoulders while his rose immediately to clasp around her waist.
Kristen moaned when he traced the seam of her lips with his tongue, pushing slowly inside. He tasted exactly the same, wore the same cologne and he gasped the same way when their tongues tangled and glided together.
“I wasn’t aiming for this,” Jesse gasped as they broke away for air.
“Well too bad, you got it,” Kristen whispered, digging her nails into his back as his mouth moved down the column of her throat, tongue broad and teasing along her skin.
“Will it fuck things up?” Jesse asked later, when they were laying naked on their sides in his bed, fingertips tracing over the planes of one another’s bodies. After they’d fucked, Kristen had made Jesse read her the story, which had embarrassed him more than having no clothes on.
“Maybe it would’ve, back then,” Kristen admitted. “Now? I think we got this, man.”
The first piece of relationship advice Kristen’s mom ever gave her came when she was 15 years old. “Whatever you do, don’t date people you work with.” Since then, she’d dated quite a few. True, her parents may not be together anymore and her mom might actually know what she was talking about. It’s not like Kristen’s track record had been that great up until this point, after all.
Kristen didn’t really care though. She was willing to give it one more go-around.