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five people who kept their mouths shut (and one who didn't)

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1.

The first real job Casey Uphanishad ever got was on the editing team of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, where he spent long hours in a computer lab with four other editors, drinking black coffee out of thermoses from the nearest Target and growing steadily immune to the visceral pull of saccharine, gummy toddler smiles.

It's this experience with reality television that leads Sony Pictures to offer him a job. He takes it, not because the pay is better (because it isn't, but Casey didn't go into debt to put himself through filmography school because he wanted to make money,) but because they ask him to move back to the East Coast, where he finds an apartment that's only two blocks over from where IMDB Pro says that Olivia Wilde likes to get coffee when she's out of work, and never let it be said that Casey Uphanishad doesn't live in hopeful, perpetual optimism.

And, okay, so it's likely that everybody thinks their job is the most important one in the industry, and he won't deny that, but he's been sectioning off clips at precise seconds long enough to know how incredibly important the choices made in editing a feature film are.

You can write a tongue-in-cheek script, you can hire an all-star cast, you can do camerawork that makes Fight Club and Amelie look like a seventh-grader's project on the American Revolution, but the story gets told in the editing. How long do you hold the shot of an actor's face; what expression do you want them to hold before you scene change, what after-image do you want burned into the viewer's mind.

What do you want people to remember?

That's how you edit.

Towards the end of summer, Sony assigns him to David Fincher's latest opus, so Casey packs his laptop, his Skull Candy, five pounds of fun-sized Three Musketeers, and leaves a note for his neighbor saying that if he isn't back in two weeks, they've probably overworked him to death and he'd really appreciate if she deleted his browser history. He doesn't envy the other squints who're working on the feature film itself; they hear David Fincher's name and get the deer-in-the-headlights look familiar to any filmography crew -- David Fincher's films are death to computer memory storage, sleep, and any remaining admiration you might have for his cast, because you can bet by the time you're done sorting through his takes, you'll have seen every possible angle of them.

"Jesse Eisenberg's cheekbones are going to haunt my nightmares," weeps Cate, collapsing into the nest of her arms and pulling her beanie low over her brows. "Make them go away, I don't want to look at them anymore."

Casey just pats her shoulder and pushes the rest of his Five Hour Energy across the table.

The years he spent splicing together a coherent picture of the daily adventures of Jon and Kate plus their unruly brood is what gets him assigned to the behind-the-scenes stuff, which would be nice, if only he wasn't the only one working on it.

"For this, I deserve Olivia Wilde's phone number," he says viciously, in one of his more lucid moments, although he feels immediately guilty about it: Olivia Wilde doesn't owe him anything, he just kind of adores everything she ever does, which includes existing.

Cate just pats his shoulder and pulls another Five Hour Energy out of her bag. The shit tastes like Robutussin, it's nasty, which is what leads Casey to trust it.

The thing is, nobody really knew what kind of buzz The Social Network was going to garner until it hit the theaters, so the material they had for potential DVD special features was piecemeal at best, and it was Casey's job to put something together out of it.

Fortunately, they're summoning the cast back to create commentary (Oscar nominations, oh god, how is this Casey's life,) so even if they wind up with lousy special features, because Casey can't work miracles no matter what David Fincher's poor film crew give him to work with, they'll at least have that. They want to get the DVD released before the Oscars, for obvious reasons, even if that means that Cate volunteers her time and Casey tries not to seriously Google how to start a caffeine IV drip.

Cate's gone home for the night, and Casey has one project he wants to finish before he goes to crash on the couch in the break room.

It's a montage of actors breaking character, sometimes humorlessly (Justin Timberlake) and sometimes almost shockingly (Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg in that beginning scene, ugh, the number of clips Casey's going to have to wade through,) because that's what special features are for. It's only going to be about a minute and a half, which doesn't sound like a lot, but as anyone who's ever spliced something together can tell you, it's a fucking eternity.

"Cheekbones," Casey finds himself muttering nonsensically, sometime around the :45 marker.

So the first time he sees it, he doesn't immediately catch it.

He fast-forwards through a clip they sent him from storyboard; Lilly attached a tag saying "thought you could use this, there's a really funny bit with AH, JP, and MM," and even though the lighting is all wrong (because the mahogany deposition room is anathema to any attempt at staging, so there's only about two camera angles that work and don't completely wash the actors out,) he gets why she sent it. Armie Hammer and Max Minghella doing the Single Ladies dance with the unwilling Josh Pence is probably one of those people go looking through the special features for.

And it's only when he's trying to maneuver the clip sections that he spots it.

In all honestly, there's no reason it should make him stop, but it does, because Casey Uphanishad is a storyteller.

If you pick this clip over the next, then what is it going to say?

What do you want people to remember?

On the other side of the table, beyond Max Minghella's flailing wrist, Jesse Eisenberg of Cate's continual cheekbone frustration and Andrew Garfield get caught in the frame for a full five seconds. Their chairs are pushed close together, Garfield leaning half-over the arm of his to get into Eisenberg's space, carelessly stretching out wardrobe's suit. Their heads tilt together to watch something that flashes between them (the screen of an iPhone, maybe?) before Max's elbow gets in the way and obliterates them.

Huh, Casey blinks.

He takes a swig from his thermos, the liquid long gone cold. He drags the bar back and watches it again.

Yeah, no, their heads definitely touch.

Nudging, kind of.

Huh, he thinks again.

It could totally be accidental. It probably is. It could be a nuzzle.

What do you want the piece to say, Casey? An eight-second part of a ninety-second whole; a poorly-lit eight seconds of Armie Hammer, Josh Pence, and Max Minghella being silly, five seconds of Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg falling in love, and cut to the next scene. It could almost be ironic; the actors momentarily showing themselves to be the antithesis of the characters they play.

He looks over his shoulder, checking the door, like he's expecting to see Cate or his supervisor standing there. It's empty. There's no one here to see him make his decision.

What do you want people to remember?

It's one o'clock in the morning. Casey moves the clip to the Trash, and keeps working.

 

2.

Natalie needs new shoes.

Seriously, this has been a mental footnote tucked into her subconsciousness for the past two weeks, and she still manages to forget that it's becoming a slightly dire situation. They're her favorite pair, and the only pair suitable and comfortable enough for work; simple black ballet flats, a Celtic knot tied in kelly green over her toes. The fabric's been worn to white in places, and now there's a hole coming through under the ball of her left foot.

You need new shoes, she tells herself impatiently, hooking them over her heels on her way out the door in the morning.

You should really get new shoes, she cringes, when she steps through a puddle and the water squelches between her toes.

Flattening one hand to the wall for balance, she props her ankle up on her knee to go fishing with her finger, pulling up her nylon from where it's been bunching in her instep, and there it is again, Natalie, this isn't funny anymore. You need new shoes.

Her headset crackles to life. "Hey, Natalie," goes Haman's voice, sounding both impatient and apologetic at once. He gets that way when he has to play go-between with Fincher and the squints on editing for too long. "Do you know where Garfield went? He left his cell phone out here, so if he went home after we called wrap, he's going to be missing it."

She lifts a hand to her ear, pressing the Talk button. "If he left set, we'll have no way of contacting him to tell him we have his phone," she reminds him, straightening up off the wall. "I don't think he's got a landline where he's staying? I could check."

"If he has, we'll just contact Jesse, it's not a major problem," Haman goes distractedly; his accent and the crackling connection makes the "s"s hiss sibilantly in Natalie's ear. "It's just, tough day, yeah? I don't want to make it any tougher by making them drive all the way back."

"I will definitely check," she says. "I'll let you know if I find him."

"Ten-four," she gets in return, and her headset falls silent.

Natalie turns around on silent feet, heading back the way she came. Her flats make absolutely no sound against the linoleum. She is the quietest tech ever. She is the ninja of crew, okay?

She really doesn't want new shoes. Maybe Rhonda has a pair of flats she isn't using that Natalie can borrow, assuming she can persuade her sister to ship them over. They're twins; their feet are the same size and break shoes in the same way. It's a fabulous plan, and it will save Natalie from having to break in a new pair on a particularly strenuous day, just to nurse blisters all night.

Besides, she misses Rhonda. Twins shouldn't go so long without talking to each other, even if Rhonda is mad busy with that architecture internship she got in the tornado-torn Midwest.

She isn't the same person she was before she left, though, and Natalie isn't sure if she likes the changes. Not that she has much room to talk in the "look at your life, look at your choices" department; here you are, Natalie Little, Harvard graduate of '04, making a movie about a Harvard drop-out you only vaguely remember, who's out there with his billions and you're still fetching coffee and putting clothes on famous people like you didn't ace O Chem your first try. Sure, she can win all the NAACP scholarships she wants, Hollywood is still one of the most backwards careers she could have gotten into.

Finding that Racebending movement was a bit of a pick-me-up. This one time, after the hose to her washer broke (and she was simply too busy to go buy another one, or go to the laundromat,) she wore her "Aang can stay Asian and still save the world" shirt to set, and only once she was there did she realize it probably wasn't a smart move, wearing it around a white-washed cast.

If anybody noticed, they didn't say anything.

Nobody really looks at the set techs, after all. They're invisible. Ninjas of the twenty-first century.

As this thought crosses her mind, she pushes onto the set for Eduardo's New York apartment. It's dark, quiet -- the janitorial staff haven't come in to sweep up yet, but filming's done for the day, so there's no rush.

She glances around, checking for Andrew Garfield's signature scruff of hair.

There isn't really a good reason why he would still be around, and certainly not here. Just ... Haman was right, it was a tough day, and she has a head-set: she heard what Jesse Eisenberg said to him from inside the sound booth to get him to cry like that, joyous and bittersweet all at once. She'd shot a did that just happen? kind of look over her shoulder at Fincher, who made a did not see that coming face in return before he zeroed in on Garfield's reaction, which apparently was exactly what he wanted. She wonders if that's going to be on the special features.

Let's get married and move into a house together. Jesus, it was delivered so in-character that they probably won't be able to stick it anywhere in the DVD for fear of libel.

She's just about to close the door when she sees it; that flash of a cyan shirt, which she only recognizes because it is snazzy, okay, and she has definitely fingered the material when bringing it back to wardrobe before.

She connects the shirt to the person wearing it, and then the person wearing it to the person attached to the person wearing it, and then she's abruptly, suddenly, extremely grateful that she is basically a ninja.

They're in the corner, the two of them, tucked almost between the wall and the door to the sound booth, and slid half-way to the floor.

From here, she can't quite tell whose legs belong to who, tangled and braced awkwardly to keep them upright, and Andrew's shoulders are shaking; she can discern the tell-tale tremble of them, even under the spread of Jesse's hands. Something about the way they're embracing makes her think that Jesse stepped right out of the sound booth into Andrew's arms and they haven't moved from that position since.

Because she's gone hypersensitive with adrenaline, she can hear it now, Andrew's voice, saying, "they're so stupid, they're so fucking stupid, why couldn't they --" his distress turning his syllables sharply distinguishable.

Jesse presses his face harder against Andrew's, answering, "80% of the stories in the world are sad, Andrew, because of stupid people making stupid choices. We just got caught in one of them, hey, hey, it's okay," and then there's more mumbling she can't hear clearly.

They're wrapped up so tightly in each other that it's got her thinking of the arrivals gate at LAX -- the way people clutch other people so close it's like they're trying to press their bones together, so even if the other person leaves again, they won't get separated -- or of Rhonda, her twin, the way they'd curled up in the womb, fitting into each other's spaces so tightly that their mother insisted there was no way she could be carrying twins, she simply wasn't big enough.

Slowly on her slipper feet, she backs towards the door.

Hearing, "we should probably get up and go get something to eat," and Andrew's watery, "okay, but Fincher's got us eating in tomorrow's scenes, and that means a dump truck's worth of food," she closes the door on their quiet, helpless laughter.

Even though they can't hear her, she waits until she's all the way down the hall before she hits the Talk button on her headset and tells Haman she can't find Garfield anywhere in today's sets, but she'll go check the trailers. Maybe once she's wasted all that time, Jesse and Andrew will have gotten a chance to put themselves together and Andrew can go looking for his phone himself.

 

3.

Elizabeth Chambers has seen cattle round-ups on Animal Planet that have felt less boxed-in than this.

It's some kind of press gala; a wall with the curling "Cartier" insignia stretched across it on one side and a wave of reporters, clinically bright lights, and cameras on the other. She's seen some pretty intense red carpet experiences in her life, and she's run the gauntlet more than once, and this one isn't bad, per se, no one's fainted or thrown up or snogged someone they weren't married to and/or involved with yet, it's just -- cramped, and they're practically on top of each other.

Next, they're going to tag them through the ears with giant plastic cards and pass them off to bullfighting rings.

It really does feel that way, okay, she can't get commercial cattle out of her head.

She lost her husband about ten steps back, when he stooped down so that Jesse (oh god, his name's Jesse, right? Shit, she's met him before and she knows Armie mentions him fondly enough on a semi-regular basis, but she has a crap memory for names) could ask him something, and there's no hope of going back for him, not now.

Armie catches her eye when he straightens up, and the wide-eyed sacrificial look he gives her plainly says, Wife, go! Save yourself!

She stretches her hand out towards him for dramatic effect, and he makes a sad face before he turns around for photographers, Jesse under one arm and Andrew Garfield coming up on the other. They're both small people (Elizabeth is taller than both of them, and is taller still in heels, which strokes her ego nicely) but compared to Armie, they look miniaturized.

Someone nudges her from behind, forcing her forward another couple of steps until she's almost stepping on Brenda Song's heels, and that's when her phone buzzes.

It's currently tucked into the band of her bra, so it's not like she can't feel it, and she turns her back to the flashing cameras, using the press of bodies to her advantage so she can surreptitiously go fishing around in her cleavage for it. She cups her hand around the screen to see through the glare, and then her heart turns over.

She drags her teeth over her bottom lip.

It's her best friend.

Her best friend who knows exactly where she is right now and wouldn't interrupt unless it was urgent.

Crap, she internalizes, glancing back first -- Armie's still tangled in a discussion with a reporter -- and then forward, where she can just see the end of the line. The phone vibrates in her palm accusingly. Crap, crap, crap.

Stepping back behind Brenda, she slides along the wall, head down, until she's out of the gauntlet, out from under the hot lights, and then she ducks through the nearest private-looking door she can find, lifting the phone to her ear and going, "Jenny, are you all right?"

"N-n-no, Lizzy, no," Jenny sobs, and Elizabeth closes her eyes against how distraught she sounds. Hysteria isn't Jenny's main form of transportation, and the next thing out of her mouth is, "S-sorry, Lizzy, sorry, I didn't make any --" she hiccup; the breathless kind that comes with crying too hard, "-- anything awkward for you, did I?"

"No, it's fine," says Elizabeth immediately, because she hadn't thought about it, she'd just left. Which was rude, maybe, but it was either that or try to talk in the gauntlet, and Elizabeth has no illusions: if she'd done that, she would have found pictures of herself on the Internet later, with a whole slew of "intelligent" commenters calling her a whore, a slut, a bitch, etc, for daring to talk on the phone during something important, because obviously she's not allowed to be anything but overwhelmingly delighted to have bright lights flashed in her face and questions peppering her like gunshots. Also, it would be rather hard to hear Jenny in that noise.

They'll still probably make some kind of rude comment about her leaving so quickly, but whatever. She's heard them all before, and it's moronic that she should have to change her harmless behavior for the sake of other people's sensitive feelings.

She looks around -- she's ducked into what looks like an emergency dressing room, a small broom-closet space; a rack of crisp, black suit jackets in front of her and a row of mirrors to the side, make-up and sewing materials abandoned across the surfaces. Some kind of red carpet first aid station, maybe?

She grabs the stool and nestles in among the jackets, which each have a Cartier logo on their breast pockets, putting everything else out of her mind. "What's wrong, honey?" she goes.

It's maybe twenty, twenty-five minutes before Jenny calms down and stops gulping down air like a fish flopped out of her bowl. "I feel really silly now," she confesses after a long, affectionate pause, her voice wavering only a little bit. "I'm sorry I dragged you away from your rich-and-famous lifestyle."

"Don't be," says Elizabeth easily. She's slipped out of her heels and has them dangling by their straps from the end of her index finger, and she rolls the buckle under her thumb.

After she hangs up, she pushes the stool back further into the corner, using her moment of blessed quiet to wipe the screen of her phone on her thigh and then check her e-mail.

She's got her thumbnail hovering the delete button when the door bangs open, sending her heart thrashing against her rib cage in an effort to leap right out of her chest. She shoves herself backwards, half-smothered behind the suit jackets, and presses her phone flat against her boobs to disguise the light. She hears two people stumble in -- maybe three? No, two people, moving very quickly, their scuffling footsteps overlapping each other.

The door closes again.

Someone giggles breathily. Elizabeth can't see a thing.

"Really? 'I really wish I did'?" says another voice, not the giggler, sounding dry and exasperated. It's so familiar that it has her spine straightening instinctively, and it's not until he speaks again that she places it. "Jesus, did you even hear yourself out there?"

Oh, god.

Her hand flies to her mouth. Is that Jesse Eisenberg? Is she seriously listening to Jesse Eisenberg, who is four inches shorter than her --

The footsteps stagger back, and there's a slam of somebody colliding solidly with something with a whimper, close enough to make Elizabeth jump again.

For one weird moment, she thinks she's listening to a fight, they're fighting, except she doesn't remember hearing the visceral, audible buzz that comes with somebody doing or saying something stupid while she was out there on the carpet, so what's ...

"Jess." It's a man's voice, low. "Jess, Jess, Jesse."

Jesse goes quiet and intense all at once. "No," he says, clipped. "No, please, listen to me. You need to stop, I cannot go through another carpet like that. Please, stop telling people you'd want to be my girlfriend, or my date to the Oscars, or that you wish you'd known me when you were thirteen, I can't --"

"Why would I want to?" comes the reply. There's rustling, and then, softer, "I adore you."

Oh, holy shit.

That's Andrew Garfield.

Elizabeth widens her eyes at the suit jackets, but, somehow, they're less impressed by this fact than she feels they should be.

"I know that," Jesse whispers. "I do. I do know that, it's just -- I can't shake the feeling you're going to grow out of this. You're infatuated now, but eventually you're -- you're going to move on to other people because other people are easy to fall in love with and --"

Andrew tries to interrupt, so Jesse talks right over him.

"-- and I'm fine with that. I'm fine, that's good, I love it when you love and you do it so well. I just -- I can accept this, this, this love, I mean, from you, in small doses, I can, but please, tone it down," his voice drops so low it's barely even a breath anymore, "because when you go, I'll miss you."

Andrew, to his credit, doesn't push the issue or try to insist that Jesse's special -- if he had, Elizabeth probably would have stood up and hit him, because she gets emotionally invested in the lives of the people she accidentally voyeurs on. Instead, he simply exhales something that might be Jesse's name, and she hears more rustling, the scrape of feet rearranging on the cement floor, and Jesse makes a back-of-the-throat noise of protest.

After a beat or two where nobody says anything, Elizabeth takes a risk and leans forward, pushing her hair behind her ear and catching a glimpse of the mirrors through the suit jackets.

In them, she is somehow completely floored and not surprised at all to find the reflection of them kissing, Andrew with his shoulders pinioned back against the wall and Jesse stretched up to reach his mouth. It's not a practiced movie kiss, either, but the real kind, the embarrassing kind, the kind that makes you shift to the next bench over when your friends start doing it on the subway, the kind that's mostly seeking tongues and spread open mouths, and hands that go everywhere, grab everything, even going so far as to block her view, the inconsiderate things.

A furrow cuts into Jesse's heavy Neanderthal brow, making him look pinched and in pain even as she hears his jaw crack, opening wide with force. There's tongue, she's definitely seeing tongue; like, going deep enough to impregnate you with alien spawn kind of tongue.

She presses her palm harder against her mouth.

Andrew's hands slip up the back of Jesse's jacket, rucking up the fabric and exposing his dress shirt. He tilts his head to angle the kiss differently, and conversely, it's like he's trying to smile and kiss Jesse deep enough to impregnate him with alien spawn at the same time.

They shift again. She hears their belt buckles clink together, and somebody whimpers, and she seriously needs to stand up and announce her presence. Like, right now.

She's just got her stocking feet under her when Jesse pulls away with a wet noise and says, "We need to --"

"Yeah," Andrew agrees immediately, and chases the movement, rolling their foreheads together. It's nuzzling, there's really no other word for it.

Then he licks his lips, and Jesse steps back. Their hands follow each other, helpless little things, straightening out their ties and their clothes. The way they smile about it makes her think, kneejerk, of Armie -- in a vague, insubstantial, achy way that makes her want him here, right now, so that she could hug him or touch the side of his face or something.

They slip out, their fingertips touching in the brief second before they're gone.

"Oh my god," says Elizabeth Chambers to nobody in particular, still pressed into the corner like she's trying to crawl through the brick and her phone flattened to her sternum. It's not the most dignified she's ever been, but whatever. She is taking this to the grave.

 

4.

Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Zuckerberg are in Chipotle's right before closing, because they are classy sons of bitches, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

(Also, Andy Samberg is not invited.)

It's, like, ten till midnight on a Saturday and nobody really gives a shit. The world's gone blessedly quiet around the edges, and he likes that. There's one person behind the counter, her hair pulled back; the top of it's bleached blonde and the bottom's been dyed that unnatural ink-black, making a pretty striking dichotomy of color. Jesse starts asking her questions about the vegetarian burrito, and she tilts him a supremely unimpressed look. From the looks of it, she's packed most of those ingredients away by now.

There's something about Jesse's face that tells him he's uncomfortably aware of this fact, but not enough to stop him, so Mark grabs his (non-vegetarian, sorry) burrito, Jesse's wallet, and his phone up off the counter. He gestures to catch Jesse's attention and let him know he's grabbing them a seat, and gets a twitchy nod of acknowledgement in response.

Picking the table furthest away from the annoyed-looking employee, Mark sets Jesse's stuff down and then sits. He starts unwrapping his burrito, thinking vaguely that the sooner he eats, the sooner it becomes socially acceptable to part ways. Not that he doesn't like Jesse -- because dude, not gonna lie, this whole thing is pretty fucking awesome, like, who has their own Hollywood doppleganger? -- it's just, the ride over was stilted enough to give him the impression that this much awkwardness concentrated in one place might, in fact, make the universe implode. Like, Guatemalan sink hole levels of implode.

Jesse's still arguing (politely) with the burrito girl.

Mark sets his food down and chews, using his tongue to scrape stray bits of tortilla off the back of his teeth. He looks at Jesse's phone.

Then he does what anybody does when they're left alone with a phone that isn't their own: he picks it up, thumbs away the unlock function, and goes trolling through it to see what he can find.

The most recent text messages aren't very interesting. They're the kind anyone has -- If I'm not home before midnight, please feed X, Y, and Z, and yes, mother, and okay see you soon type things -- but then a flick of his thumbnail opens up the chat history with Garfield, A., and Mark finds that his eyebrows try to leap spiritedly up his forehead.

J: Hypothetically, if one were to go out to get a midnight snack with the real life Mark Zuckerberg, how allowed are they to freak out and possibly topple global economic structure as we know it? On a scale of one to Franz Ferdinand?
A: AHAHAHA. omg are you srs?
A:: oh no wait. srry, just got it, theres a lag in my livestream. omggggg. nothing is topping this snl. everrrrrr!

And ten seconds later:

A: dont let him kiss you. that would be v narcissistic of him. & dont tell him i kissed you when you were pretending 2 be him.
J: Thanks, now I can't get it out of my head.

... Huh, thinks Mark.

He exits out of that, thank you, and hits the lock button so that the screen goes blank. He sets the phone back down on the other side of the table, next to Jesse's wallet.

And straightens it.

And puts his hands back into his lap.

Huh, he thinks again, blinking around the array of very sudden homosexual images that are now in his brain.

Like, surprise! Yeah, Mark Zuckerberg, you're welcome, you just thought about Andrew Garfield in a suit with his tongue down Jesse Eisenberg's throat, and you just thought about Jesse Eisenberg in your Wal-Mart two-for-ten cotton hoodie and Adidas slippers, with his head tilted back and his hands on Andrew's hips. Jesse Eisenberg, who is, in fact, standing right over there, rocking his weight back and forth and rubbing the heels of his palms together nervously.

Mark wills him to stay there over there for a little bit longer, because it's kind of gay inside his head right now, which is weird and faintly ridiculous, and whatever, Andrew Garfield dude-guy-person Mark has never met, Jesse has every right to kiss Mark if he wants to. Like, who do you think you are, with your dont let him kiss yous? His boyfriend?

Wait. Oh, God, really?

Whatever, A. Garfield, Mark will take you seriously when you learn to use punctuation correctly.

... shit, is he really getting defensive over this? Fuckity fuck, Mark, stop.

The vague, offended feeling passes, taking with it most of the initial homosexual thoughts. It leaves him, for one very strange, clear moment, feeling almost ... sad that they cut Priscilla out of the movie, because he would have liked to have seen Jesse's face, pretending to be Mark's, soft with the look of someone in love and the need to live up to that every fucking day of his life.

(Maybe, though. Maybe he already has.)

(Shit.)

(Gay.)

And whatever, as nice as a little accuracy would have been, Mark very politely said "fuck off" to that author dude and then to Sony Pictures in their turn, but Eduardo didn't, and Eduardo would have told them to leave Priscilla out of it -- she never wanted the attention. And no matter what antagonism Eduardo has against Mark (which is, like, not much anymore, okay, nothing buys ready-made apathy quite like an NDA, so people can suck their own dicks and stop asking, Jesus, you'd think nobody had ever drifted apart from a friend before, the situation is not that different,) Mark trusts him to know it's got nothing to do with her.

Mark ... Mark's reputation is shot and gone (although thank you, Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, for your part, homosexual as it was,) so treat him however, but his ... his ... but Priscilla deserves nothing but respect. By the final version of the script, the only thing Aaron Sorkin managed to sneak in about her was that crack about Asian girls and Jewish guys, which, whatever, fuck him very much.

He drums his fingers on the tabletop.

He shouldn't have pried. Curiosity and other people's phones do not mix well.

With a second-hand kind of guilt, he pulls his own phone out and texts Priscilla: am mad now that they cut you out of the movie. you would have been so badass.

His phone buzzes with a reply almost before he sets it down. Oh shit, what happened?

And Mark can't help but crack a smile, because Priscilla teaches fifth grade science, so her idea of expletives runs the course of "drat" and "fudge" and she only gets prompted into using "shit" when he's gone and worried her.

Footsteps, then, coming up to the table, and Jesse sits down, vainglorious with a foil-wrapped vegetarian burrito in his hand. He pockets his wallet and his phone, and when he looks at Mark, he tilts his head in question. Mark abruptly realizes that he's still smiling -- didn't think to censor the totes besotted expression that has to be all over his face.

"My girlfriend," he says, tilting his phone in explanation.

The corners of Jesse's eyes crinkle up into a smile that Mark recognizes immediately. It's the look of anyone who has someone else awake and livestreaming their SNL skits, just because.

Whatever trepidation Mark felt about this being as awkward as fuck vanishes, and he leans forward, because inability to properly relate to other people or no, this is more important. This is what they really have in common.

And if he thinks, for just a beat, about bringing up Andrew and whatever Andrew is to Jesse ... he doesn't.

Just.

Respect, you know?

 

5.

There's an open bench seat hidden half in the shadow of an enormous potted ficus over there by the emergency exit, thick deep red upholstery under a faux-Victorian light fixture, so Ashlynn grabs it before somebody else does.

She settles her back against the wall; the bench is wide enough that it leaves her toes dangling an inch or two off the floor. For the first time all evening, she lets her problems creep back up on her, like they're made of smoke and ash and can take a real form, stealing up beside her, quiet as a phantom. They settle in with her, a familiar weight on her shoulders.

It's not that she was expecting them to go away, of course, but since arriving at La Guardia on the 6:42 from Detroit and stepping right out past the security checkpoint into Kieran's easy, full-body hug, she's managed to forget. At least for a little bit.

She's been telling Kieran she'll come out for a visit ever since he and his mom stole away when they were both eleven, leaving nothing behind but the divorce papers for Ashlynn's dad to sign. But it was always the nebulous kind of, "of course I'll come see you!" where he'll tell her all the dumb touristy things they can do that he hasn't had the excuse to do because he's a native New Yorker and you know there's a reputation to uphold, and she would laugh and make promises that she never acted on. Until today.

She pulls her messenger bag towards her. The straps are fraying under its constant weight, she notices, fingering them lightly. She always packs her bag full to bursting; she has at least two different novels (because sometimes she needs options, depending on her mood,) her wallet, a graphing calculator, her phone, deodorant and a spare change of underwear in a Ziploc, scissors, hair pick, and enough loose pens that she's probably set for life, if only she could actually find a working one when she needs it.

She digs around for her phone, contemplating whether or not she should call her dad and tell him about ... well, about Broadway, how about. The fact she is sitting here during intermission of a Broadway show, like this isn't the most amazing thing that could ever possibly have happened to her.

Before she can decide if it's worth it to bother him, a shadow falls over her, and she looks up at Kieran, who's practically vibrating with excitement.

"You will not believe," he goes, holding out his hands like he needs to brace himself. "Who I just saw getting freaky over by the men's room."

Ashlynn feels her mouth quirk up. "The ghost of Jerry Bock?" she guesses.

Kieran groans like she's physically causing him pain. "Too soon," he chides her, sinking onto the bench with the air of an overwhelmed, fainting damsel. "And think a little bit more twenty-first century than that."

"Fuck you," she says happily. "Fiddler on the Roof is timeless."

He snorts, and pulls his phone out of his pocket. They're both way too underdressed for the venue, and the usher had given them a snooty look when they had to pass on the donation basket without putting a thing in it, but come on, Ashlynn has wanted this since the first moment she saw Lion King on Broadway advertised on KETV1, and no high-and-mighty usher was going to make her feel bad about finally being here.

"When you see it, you will die," he says fervently, and holds the phone out towards her.

She takes it, tilting it to get a better angle to see through the glare.

She'd been afraid, when Kieran said men's room, that she was going to get some unflattering shot of, like, Christian Bale or somebody with their fly unzipped, but this must be some quiet little alcove beyond the bathroom. It's really dark, because Kieran isn't stupid enough to take a sneaky cell phone picture of somebody with the flash on, but the exit sign's created a kind of lens flare effect and it illuminates the faces of not one, but both people just fine.

"Oh my god," she says blankly.

Kieran flies up. "Right?" he goes, way too loud.

"Is that --"

"The dude from Zombieland, you better believe it is."

She thumbs furiously at the Zoom In button, framing their faces, and while some little part of her is disbelieving, it's kind of a distinctive profile and she couldn't mistake it with anyone else even if she tried to.

"Like," Kieran continues. "I have no idea who the dude surgically attached to him at the mouth is, but --"

"I do," she cuts in, and feels the thrill of that thought go surging everywhere inside of her, because holy shit. "It's his costar from The Social Network."

Silence greets this, so she looks up to Kieran, who quirks his mouth bemusedly at her.

"The Facebook movie? With Justin Timberlake?" she tries, flipping her wrist in an are you serious? gesture when he just continues to look baffled. "Oh come on, they used Kanyesus in the theatrical trailer, I thought you'd be all over that shit. Anyway," she waves him off. "The point is, they're costars. Like, they worked together. And ... and shit, I'm blanking on his name. Andrew -- Andrew --"

"Garfield?" She looks up at him, startled, and he spreads his hands defensively. "Just because there weren't enough explosions and naked chicks to warrant shelling out the money to go see it doesn't mean I don't know who was in it."

"There were naked -- okay, whatever." She looks at the picture again.

She can almost tell whose body belongs to who, because Andrew was helpful enough to wear red and it stands out, that arm wrapped around Jesse to hold him in. The starfish spread of his hand is visible against Jesse's back. She drags the picture up again, squinting. Their mouths are parted, bottom lips touching, but she can't tell if they just finished a kiss, or are caught in the middle of one, or if they're trying to kiss and hold a conversation at the same time.

Andrew's expression is harder to distinguish through the lens flare, but Jesse's eyes are lidded, soft and fond.

He looks, in short, exactly the way Ashlynn feels right now: like he can't really imagine being happier anywhere but where he is.

Kieran leaves again -- apparently he'd forgotten to actually use the restroom when he went, having been, you know, distracted and all -- but not before he says, "You should post that to Twitter."

"Are you kidding?" she returns, giving him a salute of acknowledgement without looking up. "This is the kind of shit we could sell to TMZ and make money."

The instant it's out of her mouth, she feels a little bit nauseous. Because, okay, yes, that $200 (or more? She has no idea what groundbreaking celebrity relationship photographs go for these days) would definitely go a long way and she could use it ... oh, god, would $200 be useful or what ... but just the idea of putting herself on the same level as a paparazzi kind of creeps her out.

Like, okay, whatever, she's not Internet illiterate, she knows the Internet will flip its collective shit once this hits, and it's going to be because of Kieran and Ashlynn.

And yes, so maybe at some point in her life, she checked out some Lord of the Rings fanfiction (hey, don't judge! Everyone's done it,) and she raised her eyebrows as much as the next person at the cast's blatant homoeroticism during their interviews. Hey, Lord of the Rings basically introduced the idea of homoeroticism to her generation, so she knows there's going to be a niche for these kinds of things. If she posts it to Twitter and tags it, then it's going to matter to somebody.

Somebody is going to ask questions.

The phone in her hand keeps on trying to go into sleep mode, so she presses at the number pad to wake it back up. The picture reappears on the screen each time, proof of Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield kissing underneath the red glow of an Exit sign during intermission of a Broadway show. She couldn't tell you how she knows, but it's not a first kiss.

And.

The thing is. She's never heard about this. She doesn't actively keep up on the lives of celebrities, sure, but she thinks if they were, like, a thing, then word would have reached her through the grapevine. But if this is a secret ... if this is something they want to keep to themselves, just for them, without anyone putting a magnifying lens to them ...

She runs her thumb over the screen. If Andrew and Jesse want their relationship to be known, she tells herself firmly, then they would say something about it. Girl, you have absolutely no right to give that away without their permission.

This is their moment, sweet and private, and she cannot be party to it being used against them.

You don't push people into doing things until they're ready: Ashlynn knows that as well as anyone, because you couldn't have gotten her to New York a moment before she was ready, before she chose to make that trek on her own and join her stepbrother in the city lights. It wouldn't have been the same, if someone else had made her do it.

So she lingers, for one beat, for two, eyes tracing the boneless, wanton way Jesse's neck is craned back to meet Andrew's kiss, the hand on his back.

And then she deletes the picture.

 

and one.

Justin makes a noise like something small and furry that has just been unceremoniously trodden upon: a high-pitched half-squeal that he catches behind his teeth at the last second.

Off-camera and out in the wings, waiting his turn to sit down in the interviewee's chair, Armie hears it, no problem, and introduces the heel of his hand to his forehead with a put-upon, "oi," before he lifts his eyes to the ceiling in a bid for patience. Under the lights, the interviewer looks like he desperately regrets asking, and Jesse's face is so red it could probably stop traffic, his bottom lip ground up underneath his teeth. Justin's eyes are enormous, the way people's get when there's an overwhelming display of homosexuality going on right underneath their noses.

"He has absolutely no sense of subtlety, does he?" he says to his wife under his breath, after the third love that tumbles from Andrew's lips. The interviewer just looks nauseous at this point.

A tech hand nearby overhears him, and sends him a curious look. Elizabeth slaps his arm, hard. "Shh," she goes, her voice a vehement exhale.

Armie holds up his hands.

He swears, it's almost like Andrew wants someone to ask. Nobody's going to go at it directly, of course, because Armie firmly believes that the average human is a lot more decent than they'd have you believe (that's kind of the point of their movie, isn't it?) and have a healthy sense of when things are very much Not Their Business. Most people are decent enough to keep a secret.

To be fair, though, if either Andrew or Jesse were a girl, the press would be all over this gushing in a heartbeat, simply because when women are involved, it somehow deserves less respect. And, by proxy, any relationship they may or may not be a part of is free grounds for speculation and loud, underhanded questioning. Nobody does that when it's two men. Like somehow it becomes sacred when it's men.

It's backwards and messed up, thinks Armie. He reaches sideways for his wife's hand.

"I think that's the gayest thing I've ever seen," comments Brenda from directly behind them. "And I spent my formative years alongside the Jonas Brothers."

"Shh," go Armie and Elizabeth, and Brenda obediently zips her lips.

 

 

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fin