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On Videos, For Hours and Hours

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Rami Malek loves what he is doing.

He loves acting, and this film, and he loves Freddie. He loves Freddie Mercury so much. Portraying this beautiful man, who was absolutely gorgeous in his difference, in his creativity and generosity and kindness. As well as his ability to be unapologetically himself, always. It's a treat to exude such self-confidence onstage, juxtaposed against a quiet nature off. To see other actors able to showcase such confidence without needing to play someone else, Joe being one, is a treat as well. Exuberant zany Joe is always laughing and able to make others laugh too-- today his targets are Ben and the crew, as they prepare for a scene in the office of Queen's manager. It's a late scene in the film, taking place before Live Aid, when Freddie is attempting to ask the band's forgiveness and knows that he is ill.

Rami himself feels rather ill currently. It's a lot, this job. No matter that he loves it. He manages to muster up a small smile as Ben bends Joe over, dipping him with an apple clenched in both of their mouths, a stress release and manifestation of zaniness both. Or that is how it seems as Gwil snaps a picture. Tom Hollander stands fixing his cufflinks and nodding in response to some notes the director has. He stands behind his desk, getting into the headspace of Miami Beach as Rami walks by. Tom's features are kind and understanding as his eyes light on Rami. The younger man fiddles with his sunglasses as the director catches Hollander's glance. "Malek," he says sharply, crooking his finger. "Come over here."

Rami's lips twist. His hand flutters down to his side, fingers tapping against the cloth of his jeans as he turns to Bryan Singer, feeling the weight of the steely stare of someone for whom nothing he does seems right the first time. Even when Singer himself is not present for the scene they are shooting and only appears afterwards to give a cursory look at the dailies. Barely a cursory look at times, it seems. Rami has dealt with various personalities on films before, but he hasn't met one quite so...grating. Yet he tries to smile and replies "Yes, Mister Singer?" As politely as he can.

That politeness is evidently wasted on the other man. "Why in the world are you walking about, go sit on the chair. No, stand in front of the desk. You've been a shit friend at this point, and you're dying, so act like it. Go on."

Rami's heart thumps and his breath hisses. He knows what Singer means about Freddie, but the tenor of his words and the words themselves make him retort without stopping to think "I know what I'm doing, sir. Without your needing to speak disrespectfully of Freddie."

The director's eyes narrow as he stalks closer to his leading man. "WHAT did you just say to me?"

The set is silent now. Ben's hands first rest on and then relinquish Joe's waist as he pulls him back upright. Joe holds the apple they had loosely in one hand, but his fingers tighten, knuckles now bulging as if he is going to chuck it at Singer's face. Ben's jaw works and he clenches one fist. Rami's heart thumps harder and harder as Hollander's brows crease where he stands behind the director's furious head. Rami's palms feel clammy but he persists "I know what I need to do, how I need to act and feel. But there's no need for you to speak of Freddie that way. I--" he draws himself up straight, breathing hard. "You, you can't. I won't let you."

"Let me? LET me? Who are you to let me?! I am your director!" Singer's voice is five times as loud as Rami's, echoing across the space and causing crew members to stop work and look up. The actor flushes with shame over the scene he and the director of their film are currently causing --so different from the scene they should create-- and his heart beats so hard it hurts. He wants to hide or run to his trailer but he will not do it. He cannot let this stand.

And that's when Rami feels a presence beside, looming next to him. Feels curls tickle the side of his face and sees the lean shadow as he hears the sharp steady voice of Gwilym Lee. "He's your leading man," Gwil's words are calm and firm and the sentiment behind them is unmistakable: "and he's our Freddie. We're not working like that, like Fred's a shit friend." Rami looks up as Gwil's arm wraps around him. "He's a good person going through an abysmal time, and this is the scene where he says he is sorry." Gwilym rubs his palm up and down Rami's back over his shirt, under the leather jacket the other wears so that Rami can feel it. Bright blue eyes bore down into Singer's still-furious gaze and Gwil adds "...I think you may want to follow his example."

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Bryan Singer actually scoffs. Apologise? Not bloody likely. Everyone can tell he won't and their suspicions are confirmed when he snarls "Well if that's it, then get to work!"

Joe's hazel-brown eyes stare at Singer with murder in them and Ben, though he's grasping onto Joe's arm, has his chin lowered as if to charge headfirst at their director as would a bull.

Rami has started shaking and covers his face with his hand as he staggers, thinking about continuing this scene, this film, with a man so ready to snarl and snap. A person so full of vitriol and rage when the men he's directing them to portray are all about charisma and creativity and love. "Rami?" He feels Gwilym's arm tightening around him, hears that gentle voice richen with concern, with worry, and he cannot bear to cause that here, to make even more of a scene.

So "I--need a minute," Rami gasps, pulling himself away and trying to showcase a bit of Freddie's bravura. "Do try not to cock up without me, darlings," but his voice cracks at the end, rising as he strides away off the set, through cloth hangings and doors, past Allen who beams and claps him on the shoulder, to Lucy who looks at him so sweetly. He automatically reaches out and grabs her hand, squeezing it where she sits in the makeup corral's comfiest chair, waiting for their big scene together where she begs him to come home.

Come home.

This set, well, some of it is home already, as much as a movie set can be for Rami. He has to find his heart, his home. The people here are certainly--well, apart from the director-- Rami flinches and relinquishes Lucy's hand, pushing through more hangings and heading into other sets, his shoes clacking, soles thudding on the ground, echoing in the empty spaces-- though perhaps that is the beating of his heart; he is wearing quiet shoes. Trainers, as the Brits call them. Rami lets out a mirthless laugh. Fitting word, that, for him right now. He feels as if he is in training, off-balance. Feels sick and cold and alone, and his heart is beating so hard that it hurts; it's physically paining him.

Rami turns and slides down a wall, curling into himself on the floor. He grips his short wig and pulls it off in as careful a manner as he can, seeing even in his pain a nearby stand that can help it stay in shape. He lurches over, gasping a bit, and hangs the wig before his legs give out and he crumples back to the floor, chest clenching, breaths shallow. He curls up into a ball and tries to pull himself together.

And that's when Rami hears a footfall, sounding loud as a hammer ready to fall. He hears a swift shuffle-clunk and then feels a presence beside him, dropping to put a hand to the back of his neck and push fingers through his hair. His real hair, buzzed short on the sides, a little longer on the top. For Mr. Robot. He'd wanted, tried to grow it out enough to be eighties Freddie, but that hadn't worked. He cannot stop himself from expelling a single sharp sob, and then long arms are wrapping around him, pulling him against a lean chest and starched white shirt under a canvas-coloured billowing jacket. Smooth pale skin, long gentle hands. Gwil.

Bless Gwilym Lee.

Still in his Brian garb, looking down at Rami with an impossible amount of fondness shining out of those twinkly blue eyes. That perfectly fluffy curly black wig is a halo in Rami's eyes. Especially as Gwilym murmurs for him to breathe. "Easy now, Rami. I'm here, I've got you. Just breathe with me, yeah?" He wraps one arm around the other man to press his hand to Rami's back. Runs his palm up and down in an attempt to physically soothe his friend. His eyes are gentle but tone firm with conviction as he intones "I promise you, and we, all of us on this film, are going to be all right."

Rami's face screws up as he turns into Gwilym, burying his face in the taller man's chest whilst emitting another choking sob.

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Rami shakes against Gwilym, even though he knows that Gwil is right. "... don't stop us now, huh?" He murmurs, lifting his tear-streaked face out of his friend's chest, and Gwilym smiles, letting out a light little laugh.

"That's it," Gwil's gaze is warm and bright and open. "You got it, Rami. No matter what happens, what Singer throws, we will get through it and see this film to greatness. For Queen, and the fans, and Graham and Dennis, and for ourselves." He takes Rami's shoulders and leans in, resting his forehead to his friend's and wiping away the tears Rami has shed. "Now take a breath, there's a good lad."

"Take a bunch of breaths," Rami hears a jocular tone that is gentle and so familiar.

"We don't need you passing out on us, mate," intones a third, and Rami looks up, Gwil turning around, still holding on to him. Joe and Ben have come into the room, Ben ducking his head under a hanging as Joe walks right in. He smiles but is seriously relieved to see Rami, to know Gwil got to him. Ben smiles now too as Joe comes directly over and wraps his arm around Rami's waist, rubbing his back as he lifts his other hand to take hold of Gwilym's shoulder.

"Glad you caught up with him, big guy," Joe says.

Gwil nods and smiles. "Sweetheart, of course. We have to make sure our frontman is well."

"Yes, exactly," Ben speaks fervently, stepping up to join them now as well, adding his muscular arms to the group embrace. "You're doing excellent, Rami," he speaks softly. "Truly, your energy is fantastic, and so's your work ethic. Joe and I were just talking with the crew, and"

"--and none of them have worked with someone with your power, Rami," Joe puts in. He swallows and his voice wobbles a bit with emotion as he continues to beam: "But it's like I've always said when working with you, if we have Rami Malek, everything will be alright." He waggles his eyebrows a little. "I mean, remember The Pacific?"

Rami lets out a wet laugh as Gwil rolls his eyes expansively and Ben mutters "oh my god, not again with this..."

Joe winks. "But seriously," his eyes crinkle at the edges with all of his immense fondness for Rami in evidence. "We'll be good, promise."

"But Singer--"

"Fuck Singer, we've got your back," Ben blurts, incurring several wolf-whistles and instantly blushing and attempting to apologise for his furious bluntness. Is scandalised for speaking so; the man is, after all, their director. Joe leans into Ben's side and Gwilym pats him on the back.

"Ben's right," the tallest wraps his arms around his fellow leading actors, his friends, his family. Allies in the face of all they have been tasked to do. "So shall I say, 'Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more'?" He asks them all.

"Only if you swear no one's piling up English dead, or anything," Ben retorts, scratching the slight bulge on the side of his nose.

"Unless it's Singer."

"Oh, right, except for him."

"You'd better hope nobody hears this, guys. Oh fuck!" Rami gasps and jerks as he hears something clanging loudly. Which ends up being the stand he'd placed his wig on. Everybody gets a good laugh, even him, and they all hold onto one another in a hug. "Thank you," Rami looks into each of his bandmates' faces. They are everything to him now; here and beyond, they shall remain so. "It's a privilege, all of you. Really, I--I love you."

His voice cracks, breaking a little with feeling, and Gwil's eyes brighten even more with answering tears. Ben looks so serious but his full cheeks crinkle with great affection as well, and Joe just keeps right on beaming.

"The privilege is ours, Rami."

"We love you too."

"Get on ya, mate. Cheers."

Linked together, the four men turn. Gwilym looks down into Rami's eyes. "Ready to head back for the scene, then?" And Rami's luminous gaze catches, holds his and he speaks in his earnest, gentle, sweet Rami way.

"With you beside me, how could I not be?" He leans into Gwil, wraps his arm around Joe, presses Ben's hand. He's so grateful for these three men, and knows they can do this. Together they can do anything.

Don't stop them now.