Pairing: HL/RSL. Includes appearances by Stephen Fry and Ethan Hawke as well as mentions of co-stars, sig others, family members.
Rating: NC17 for language and smut
Disclaimer: This never happened and I’m not making any money for saying it did.
Warnings/Author’s notes: You know the drill. If you think RPS is bad/evil/nasty/sick etc, this isn’t the story for you. SPOILER FOR "INFORMED CONSENT"
Thanks to my beautiful Beta Goddess Carol, for getting this one super-shiny under truly trying circumstances. Please send all possible good, good, good vibrations in her direction.
Summary: July 31, 2006. The night that Hugh’s appearance on “Inside The Actor’s Studio” was broadcast.
Crossposted because that's the kind of comment crackwhore I am.
The story so far:
Like a Hurricane
And now for your reading pleasure
“Virgin Atlantic flight number 283 with nonstop service to Los Angeles International has been delayed.” As could be expected, the entire departure lounge broke into a sustained groan, sounding somewhat like a dinosaur giving birth. “Our estimated departure is now 7:45 PM. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you for continuing to fly with Virgin.”
Stephen supposed he should be grateful the bloody plane was scheduled to take off at all the way these things had a tendency to go lately. Even with his upper class ticket and “celebrity” status, there was still the indignity of removing his shoes and having his carry-on x-rayed as though it harbored a malignant growth. In theory, he understood the increased paranoia and made allowances, but every moment spent standing in his socks on a filthy carpet felt like a personal affront.
He took advantage of the delay to make a few notes for his next literary project and check his messages. Hitchens wanted to do another joint appearance at the Hay Festival. The QI staff had “ideas.” His hand-held calculated the time in Los Angeles and Stephen found himself repressing a sigh as well as a desire to hit the first number on his speed-dial. Hugh was probably on the set right now without access to his phone.
Boarding was finally called, allowing Stephen to hand himself over to the care of Virgin’s flight attendants. He missed the crisp efficiency of British Air’s girls in blue, but when the brutes at BA had purged their gay employees, he had given up his accrued miles and switched to Virgin. One of Branson’s garishly attired young men had him sipping a gin and tonic before the poor sods in coach were even seated. As the captain was making his announcements, he removed his Allen-Edmonds, this time to tuck himself more comfortably into his sleeper seat.
With the assistance of a Valium, he hoped to sleep soundly for the duration. He envied those who were capable of using their time in the skies for creative endeavors. He’d tried it and found himself with pages of pointless blather. Better to court unconsciousness, even at the risk of arriving overly rested compared to someone who’d been up since at least 6:00 AM with a long shooting day as well as his ludicrous insistence on physical exercise.
As he closed his eyes, an unwelcome trickle of guilt attempted to slip in under his sleep mask. He’d told Daniel he was going to New York for meetings with his American publishers and to see some friends. The three-thousand-mile “side trip” had gone unmentioned. Stephen hoped Daniel wouldn’t find out, but if he did, he’d expect him to understand, just as Alan and the others before him had always understood. He loved them all, but Hugh came first. And he was adding those three hours to his travel time simply because he and Hugh hadn’t talked in nearly a month. Which wasn’t to say they hadn’t spoken, but there hadn’t been a serious conversation since that unpleasant phone call and Stephen couldn’t stand it any longer.
He drifted off, cradled in the warmth of self-justification, telling himself that he absolutely had to get to Los Angeles for a real discussion about Hugh’s rather quaint ideas of discretion.
Ethan needed a beer and a shower. Not necessarily in that order.
He’d been on location in Agoura Hills. Between Marisa Tomei’s nerves and Albert Finney’s need for rest between takes, it had been nearly noon before the first scene was in the can. Ethan didn’t mind multiple takes, especially for Lumet, except that they were working outdoors on a blisteringly hot, smoggy day.
That was a treat compared to a meeting at Lions Gate to hammer out the distribution deal for “The Hottest State”. The suits were making the wrong noises about the final cut and the gross versus the net and how much publicity he was going to do. How long did he have to do this before the money guys took him seriously?
Add traffic on the 10 and an air quality alert that made him glad he was leaving for New York in a few weeks and Ethan knew he needed some serious chilling out before he could be around Levon, much less hunker down with Bobby over Tom Stoppard.
He’d had enough time to get to Venice Bikram for the seven-thirty class and still make it back for his son’s bedtime. The nanny had Levon Roan washed and in his jammies, so it was time for Daddy to come in and sing Levon his favorite song, the one he was named after.
Even a sleepy four-year-old couldn’t help but notice that his father’s hair was sweaty when he got his good-night hug.
“Daddy, you’re all wet.” There was even a wrinkle of his adorable nose.
“I know. Daddy’s gonna take a shower. You go to sleep.”
Was it possible for one child to be that cute? Could he need a shower that badly and not start to decompose?
Bobby was coming over after work, but he assumed that wouldn’t be for another hour or so. The last couple of weeks he’d been bitching about how late he’d been working and how many scenes, as if he hadn’t spent two years whining about not working enough.
Ethan finally got into the shower, still singing. “And he shall be Levon…and he shall be a good man.” He’d have to call the CAA guys and tell them he was sorry about walking out of today’s meeting. Maybe they could hold the next one in a Bikram studio. If everybody was half-naked and sweating, it would be much harder to sling the corporate bullshit. The thought of some of those guys having to show their pudgy guts instead of hiding behind the Hugo Boss suits made him smile as much as the refreshing spray and the scented bath gels that Jan was always leaving in the bathroom.
He was drying off when he heard the front door bell. He expected that either Yvonne, the nanny who hated being called "The Nanny," or Amita might answer, but it kept ringing. He could have called out for one of them to get the damn door, but Yvonne was probably checking on Levon, and Amita was there to cook.
Wrapping the towel around his waist, he headed downstairs, wondering if he was going to give some aggressive fan a shock or end up on the front page of the Enquirer. He honestly didn’t care and was half tempted to drop the towel and just answer the door as ‘naked guy’. In either case, they had it coming for ignoring several prominent “Private”, “Do Not Enter,” “Go Away” signs and ringing his doorbell in the middle of a shower.
“Naked Ethan Gives Photographers the Bird”. That would look good in the Enquirer. He opened the door with one hand and got ready to give the finger with the other.
No autograph seekers or paparazzi. Just Bobby in a t-shirt and jeans.
“You’re naked. And skinny.”
“Come on in and grab a beer. I’ll be right back.”
The limo had originally been dispatched to take him to the Grafton on Sunset, but that was before the delay. By the time the plane landed and Stephen cleared customs, it was already half past eight and the urgency of the situation overcame his desire for a shower, shave and change of clothes. He gave the driver Hugh’s address on Sweetzer and fiddled with his mobile until they were a few blocks away from the condominium and there was no way to avoid making the call, at least if he wanted to get past the security gate and see Hugh.
If they were in London, this wouldn’t be necessary. There were no gates or combinations keeping him from walking into Hugh’s home or life whenever he wanted.
He knew exactly how long it had been. Three years, seven months, and only an obsessive old queen would actually have counted the sixteen days since that somewhat desperate tryst at the New York Palace.
The occasion for that rendezvous had been a knock-down, drag-out fight with Daniel, no doubt exacerbated by Stephen spending every spare minute trying to raise funds for the Higgins Trust.
Hugh had been in one of his periodic bleak spells, only marginally related to the lack of career momentum he was blaming it on. He had no need for concern. He was on his way to Africa to play the stereotypical Englishman in some action movie. Only in retrospect would Stephen remember lying sated in bed while Hugh paced the suite smoking a cigarette and mentioned, almost in passing, a pilot script for some American medical drama, as if the world needed another one of those.
If only Hugh hadn’t done such a brilliant audition -- in a hotel bathroom no less -- that some Hollywood genius thought he was actually American. If only Simon Cowell hadn’t brought his tripe to the States with so much success, giving “House MD” enough visibility to become a phenomenon. He didn’t resent Hugh’s success, only that it was happening here, where he had to call up and announce that he was on the way and hear that tone in Hugh’s voice.
Cordial. That was the only way to describe it. Not the least bit put out or impolite, but hardly elated, or excited, or “Stephen, thank god you’re here. I’ve missed you horribly.” Nothing like the way Stephen felt. Most telling of all was the statement, “I’ll buzz you in,” rather than simply giving him the pass code to the security gate.
He did sound tired. That must be it. Hugh’s constant theme, when they spoke, had been the unrelenting workload. On top of the long shooting schedule and publicity chores, he still persisted in fighting Father Time with daily workouts, something his co-star might wish to emulate. Despite the complaints, he’d recently signed on for another two years, at a rather princely sum if the papers were to be believed.
Stephen considered asking the driver to wait, but opted to send him to the hotel with his bags. Why make it any easier for Hugh to get rid of him? That would never happen. They’d sit and talk like the intelligent, rational fellows they were. Even if there wasn’t an invitation to stay the night, Hugh would be happy to carry him to the Grafton. Perhaps come up to inspect the accommodations.
Upon being “buzzed in,” he was met at the apartment door on the third floor. For all his obvious fatigue and unshaven face, Hugh was still breathtaking in a pair of jeans and a blue cotton shirt. He looked better than Stephen felt in his plane-rumpled suit.
Either he’d become extremely hungry, or just hugging Hugh was enough to make him dizzy. As Stephen felt himself swaying, it was impossible not to notice that his near-swoon wasn’t especially welcome. Never had he thought that Hugh would feel so stiff in his embrace.
“Are you all right?” Hugh asked, deftly guiding him into a chair, a note of slightly clinical concern coming into his voice.
“Yes, mother,” Stephen replied acidly. He didn't need Hugh worrying about his disorder, specially if it gave him an excuse to write off Stephen's feelings as mere symptoms. “Just a bit peckish. I slept through the flight and came here directly from the airport. Could I trouble you for a bite to eat?”
Hugh smiled – the first genuine warmth Stephen had noticed since his arrival. “I think I can scare something up.”
While Hugh was puttering in the kitchen, Stephen re-acquainted himself with the small studio apartment. He resisted the urge to peer into various drawers and closets. Instead he found the script that Hugh must have been studying. It appeared to be the end of an episode. He took out a pair of glasses and peered at the page, while seating himself at the edge of the bed. The scene consisted of only one line. House: I’m proud of you.
The words were highlighted in yellow and underlined with broad black strokes, a habit he remembered from days when Hugh would take out his frustration with material on the page itself. He flipped back through the earlier pages. How they made the medical stuff intelligible on the screen amazed him. On the page, it made his eyes go fuzzy. Or maybe that was just hunger.
Hugh came out with a tray, which Stephen accepted gratefully, handing back the script pages in return.
“So, who is the world’s favorite rude bastard proud of and why?”
Hugh frowned and shook his head. He sat down on the chair, leaving Stephen to enjoy his sandwich on the bed.
“Really?” That sounded a bit of a reach for American television. “How is that going to play in the so-called ‘heartland’?”
“I’ve no idea, honestly.”
“Then why are you so upset about the line?”
There was a resigned shrug and a long sigh. “They want me to touch her.”
“Who, the deceased?”
Stephen tried to cover his amusement with a bite of sandwich. “They want House to touch a woman? Shocking.”
“If it were Lisa, I’d be thrilled. At least Sela looked old enough to vote.”
“If not actually emote.”
“The way we blocked it yesterday, I’m to come into the chapel and stroke her shoulder as though offering comfort.”
“Sounds rather avuncular.”
“I don’t think that’s what Ms. Innes has in mind. She doesn’t seem to be the least concerned that I’ll be making a move on a girl who’s not even thirty.”
Half the sandwich was gone. He took a sip of something decidedly non-alcoholic as Hugh continued his complaint.
“I’m not saying she’s unattractive. In fact, she’s lovely. A lovely girl. It makes me feel like a kiddie fiddler.”
A perfect opening.
“So you prefer pederasty to pedophilia?”
He gave the words time to sink in before performing the coup de grâce in a perfect Hugh Laurie imitation, complete with self-deprecating chuckle and slightly embarrassed tics: “‘Robert might have something to say about it, but I’m certainly game’.”
Hugh looked away, clearly chagrined at having been caught out.
Stephen resumed his own voice. “‘I’m willing to shag my male co-star onscreen, but he’s too bloody butch for me’? What the hell were you thinking?”
“It was a joke,” Hugh snapped. “A form of humor with which you may be familiar.”
“Which you hadn’t bothered mentioning to me. Some warning would have been nice, sweetness.”
“I didn’t even know it would make the show at all. I was out there with that oaf for three hours.”
“And you also thought you had more time to cover your arse. You didn’t know that a bootleg was available on the internet forty-eight hours ago.”
“Of course I didn’t. I don’t spend my life trolling in cyberspace for ways to aggravate my friends. How much of what I said about our…”
“About me? Us? Not a bloody word.”
“I went on and on, I promise you. Gave you so much credit that Lipton called a break and some producer fellow came on and told me rather nicely to put a sock in it.”
“And yet they managed to make it sound as though it was you and Emma shagging yourselves senseless in and about the hallowed halls of Cambridge.”
“Stephen, I’m sorry.” Hugh looked contrite, but was obviously missing the point. This time Stephen didn’t bother with the vocal impression. The words were damning enough. “An absolute delight, although I doubt he’d say the same about me.”
“He wouldn’t. I’m a bastard on the set.”
“But not at those dinners you have at least once a week. That’s your idea of discretion, is it? I thought we agreed that you’d at least try to protect your family.”
Hugh was on his feet, looking exhausted, but also furious. “Could you please admit that this has nothing to do with Jo or the kids or my so-called reputation?”
Stephen couldn’t, because he’d also have to admit the depth and desperation of his own feelings. He put down the tray and stood up, regaining at least the advantage of height.
“I could understand if you were canoodling with the Aussie boy. You do have an affinity for the Antipodes and at least he appears to be quite svelte, which is more than I can say for your current innamorata. ’Tis a pity for someone whose best feature is glass-cutting cheekbones to fill out quite so fully.”
“This isn’t your best side, Stephen, and besides, not all pretty blond boys are raving bloody faggots,” he paraphrased, voice rising.
“That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!” he quoted back, matching the increase in volume.
Despite the loud words, Stephen felt invigorated. They were on their feet, bristling at each other with a large bed close at hand. All he had to do was make physical contact and they would make it up to each other in a furious tangle of limbs and need. He looked at Hugh’s face, covered by the mask of stubble he had to maintain. His eyes, as clear and heart-stopping as ever, communicated one clear message: “Don’t”.
Stephen tried to cover his flinch.
“Don’t” had been acceptable when it was obvious that Hugh was suffering the same deprivation in the name of marriage vows and respectability rather than giving in to lingering desire. Those “don’ts” could be borne with good grace, deep sighs of mutual longing and hours on the phone. This “don’t” said something else altogether, something that Stephen didn’t want to hear.
He wondered what would happen if he pushed, demanded, even begged. Would Hugh give in out of guilt? Not that Stephen had any intention of accepting a mercy fuck from someone he’d first buggered nearly thirty years ago in a cheap tourist hotel in Blackpool. He’d risked a case of glandular fever just to kiss the beautiful boy. For Hugh, he would have risked anything, then and now, but Hugh wouldn’t even give up his BA miles for a principle. He wanted his wife and children, flings with both sexes and of course Stephen’s friendship, which he knew he could take for granted.
The last time Hugh had been willing to give up anything was over the Australian bint, when he’d come to Stephen and told him that he was in love with Audrey and didn’t know what to do. Another occasion when Hugh had looked at him with a complete lack of passion.
Fuck. Sweet Jesus fucking Christ.
Stephen managed to keep his voice even as he uttered the most devastating accusation in his arsenal.
“You’ve fallen in love with him, haven’t you?”
Ethan had put on cut-offs and a t-shirt and come back downstairs to find Bobby sitting on the big sofa with two cans of beer and a copy of “The Coast of Utopia.” When you asked Bobby Leonard over to talk Stoppard, he came ready to play. Ethan still needed a few minutes to wind down. He also knew that Bobby had one eye on the clock and the recording device on Ethan’s plasma screen TV set.
“How come you’re here so early?”
“Because if we weren’t filming promos, I’d have nothing to do. I’ve got two scenes this week, and I barely do anything in them. Unlike some people I could mention.”
“You’re pissed at the guy the show happens to be named after.”
“No, I’m pissed at…well, I’m not pissed, I’m just wondering who thinks Jennifer Morrison is the moral center of the show. That’s not the way I understand it.”
Ethan took a swig of Budweiser and let Bobby continue.
“We’ve got Joel Grey as the patient, which is pretty cool. I can tell Hugh enjoys working with him. But Victor Garber keeps wandering over to talk about obscure musicals from 1956 or something. It’s show tune central over there.”
“I worked with Garber when I did Alias. He’s a piss.”
“Well, let him piss on his own set. And let the writers give me some way to stop being an asshole.”
Bobby shook his head and grimaced with his next sip. He let out a long sigh. “David Morse is coming on the show. He was fucking amazing on St. Elsewhere. That used to be my favorite show.”
“Anything I can tell Uma?”
“He’s playing a cop. That’s all I know right now. I’m just worried I’m gonna geek out when I see him.”
“Don’t worry. You definitely will.”
“Thanks. You know anyone who’s selling a house?”
“Whoa! Way to segue there. You’re looking for a house? Are you and Gaby finally…is this your way of telling me...?”
“No!” Bobby shook his head. “I don’t even know why I brought it up. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. I mean, I can’t keep living in Woodland Hills like I’m going to be on the first plane out of here tomorrow, right?”
“I guess. You sure you want to do this tonight?”
Bobby sat up straight and ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, I’m good. Have you done a character analysis yet?”
“I’m more worried about the language. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be playing with the words or against them.”
“Stoppard’s not like O’Neill, or even Shakespeare. You have to play text and subtext and the audience expectations at the same time. Let’s go through your first scene.”
Nobody could break down a scene or talk motivation like Bobby, especially when it came to Stoppard. Ethan had been pouring himself into other work to avoid his own doubts about tackling the project, but when Bobby showed him a few tricks that Stoppard used, even a character as seemingly impenetrable as Mikhail Bakunin became accessible.
At nine o’clock, Amita came in with dinner and more beers. Bobby and Ethan put down their scripts with a nearly simultaneous sigh. Working on Stoppard was a joy for an actor, but still work. He was starting to understand why Bobby had said this would be harder than playing Hamlet. Luckily he had a month to go before heading to New York and plenty of rehearsal time. Which gave him an idea about Bobby’s housing issues.
His idea got sidetracked since Bobby was clearly antsy. It was nine o’clock and the DVR had done its job. Bobby had originally not wanted to come over on Monday because it was the night that Hugh Laurie’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio” interview was on. Ethan had lured him with the promise of watching it on TiVo and being able to skip the commercials.
He reminded Bobby that Lipton was a pompous jerk who needed to show off his own knowledge, or at least that of his research staff. He didn’t understand why it was so important for Bobby to watch the show or exactly what kind of friendship those two had formed. Bobby had been extremely unforthcoming since expressing concern that Hugh might be flirting with him. That had been over a year ago. When he’d tried to ask what had ever come of that, as well as some killer dope, Bobby had brushed him off.
Ethan spent the next hour carefully observing Bobby’s reactions to Hugh Laurie undergoing the “Actor’s Studio” ordeal. Bobby visibly cringed as Lipton asked personal questions about Hugh’s background, especially his relationship with his mother. Ethan understood. The questions verged on the intrusive. On the other hand, Hugh didn’t seem overly disturbed. The prep for these things was extensive and he’d obviously been over this material with interviewers before.
Bobby appeared to be taking mental notes on such revelations as the fact that “pleasure was treated with suspicion” and the idea that Hugh had been “a horrible child”. More interesting was the fact that he muttered something during the discussion of Hugh’s Cambridge days, which sounded like “Stephen’s not going to like this.” What the hell was that about?
The Blackadder clip reminded Ethan of hanging out with Bobby on Sunday nights watching “Monty Python” and “The Two Ronnies” and “Blackadder” on PBS.
Then came probing into Hugh’s depression and the obvious Pagliacci comparison. The megawatt wincing occurred when Hugh was asked to give short descriptions of his co-stars and said about Bobby, “An absolute pure delight, although he wouldn’t say that about me.” Lipton looked stunned. Hugh added something along the lines of “No, he’d probably find some caustic way of making me look like a complete idiot.”
“Stop that thing.”
Ethan hit the pause button. “What?”
“Caustic? You think I’m caustic?”
“You think you’re not?”
The thumbnails continued. Bobby seemed slightly perturbed by Hugh’s obviously overdone descriptions of Jennifer as “completely gorgeous,” and Jesse as “one of the sweetest men you’d ever hope to meet”. By the time Hugh was sitting at the piano singing “Mystery” in a very nasal voice, and Bobby was staring raptly at the screen with the look of a love-struck fourteen-year-old, Ethan was confident that there was more to Bobby’s relationship with Hugh Laurie than professional admiration or even on-the-set friendship.
The final light bulb went on during the “Proust Questionnaire.”
“What turns you off?” Lipton intoned.
“Financial advice,” Bobby called out as though he were watching Jeopardy, just in time for Ethan to hear Hugh say the same thing.
“What is your favorite curse word?”
“Gotta be fuck or fucking or something like that.”
“Fuck, fucking, fucked and all its various cognates,” said Hugh, getting himself bleeped three times in a row by the folks at Bravo.
“What sound or noise do you love?”
Bobby looked at Ethan with a shrug. “No idea.”
“The sound of the acoustic guitar being played badly.”
“Oh my god.” Bobby was looking down and actually…blushing? Ethan had only seen Bobby like this a few times and they’d all been serious. Gwyneth. Gaby. But this was over… a man. Ethan looked at Bobby’s expression again and knew he was right, even if there were some things about his best friend that he didn’t know. Or maybe Bobby hadn’t known them until recently.
Ethan hit pause again. “Bobby?”
“Come on, we still have to get through the audience question from hell. Hugh already warned me about that one.”
“Not till you tell me exactly what’s going on with you two.”
“What do you mean?” Bobby wasn’t even trying to hide his embarrassment.
“What the hell is up with you and Hugh Laurie?”
“You’ve fallen in love with him, haven’t you?”
There it was. Out in the open. The question he’d been trying to avoid for… how long? Since the first kiss? Surely not that long.
Why did he suddenly have an old Martha and the Vandellas song running through his head? Nowhere to run to, baby. Nowhere to hide.
What had ever made him think he could keep anything a secret from Stephen and his multiple Mac computers and his Blackberry and his two mobile phones and his network of friends? It was as though they were playing Tony and Control and Stephen really was the head of British Secret Service. Only this Control was not an idiot. He wondered fleetingly if the whole thing might be settled with a nice cup of coffee.
Hugh might have once played the head of MI6, but it was Stephen who could find anything, including a bootlegged copy of Hugh answering that silly girl in what he’d thought was a most charming manner. He’d planned to throw everyone off the trail by making it sound as though he were a bit poofy or at least willing to be onscreen, whereas “Robert” would never consider such a thing. It only worked if you were completely unfamiliar with Bobby’s film and theater work, but these were American television fans after all.
Of course he’d done the interview before Stephen had approached Bobby’s fiancée in London and thrown down the gauntlet about “discretion.” Stephen hadn’t been quite so concerned with discretion when it was the two of them, but as Hugh had told Bobby, that was different.
“Shall I take your lack of an answer as an affirmative?” Stephen asked, resuming his seat on the edge of the bed.
Stephen’s voice was calm, which made it worse. He hated hurting Stephen, especially when a pissed-off Fry was capable of inflicting serious damage with a single phone call.
Hugh needed a cigarette, as much for the delaying tactic as the nicotine itself. He treated himself to a long, luxurious puff, blowing the stream of smoke out with his eyes closed.
He considered the matter once more. It was still irrational and impossible and so many people stood to be hurt. The first time he kissed Bobby had been an intoxicated lark. Somewhere between that giddy night in the Hollywood Hills and last night’s dinner, which had led back here, to the bed where Stephen was sitting right now, something had changed. He wondered if Stephen knew…of course he did. Stephen knew everything. There was no point answering the question. There was only the faint hope of fending off a disaster by convincing Stephen that he hadn’t gone too far round the bend.
“It doesn’t mean anything’s changed. I’m going to buy a house. Jo and the kids will be here by next summer.”
“Yes, yes. I know. It’s all perfectly lovely, isn’t it?” Stephen put a chilling bite into the words.
Having indulged his nicotine habit, it was appropriate to bring on some alcohol. If he had one of House’s little pills, this would certainly be the time to take it. No-one was coming out of this conversation unscathed.
Hugh went into the kitchen with the remains of Stephen’s sandwich and came back with two shot-glasses. He offered one to Stephen, who stared at him balefully but accepted the drink. Glasses and eyebrows were raised.
“What shall we drink to?” Stephen asked, his voice tight with reproach. “To your continued adulterous liaison? Or possibly to the pain you’ll be causing to your wife and children when your sordid homosexual love affair becomes public knowledge? Or perhaps the state of naïveté that you can only pray the lovely Gabriella remains in?”
“Actually Stephen, I thought we might toast to friendship. To thirty years of loving and fighting with the most talented, inspiring, fascinating individual I’ve ever known. Even if it ends right here and now, I still think it deserves a drink, don’t you?”
He downed his shot without looking at Stephen until the burn hit his throat and he came back with a deep breath and a Bertie-ish, “Whew!” He found Stephen considering the drink as though it were a foreign object that had suddenly materialized in his hand.
“To friendship,” Stephen enunciated before gulping down his own drink.
Hugh accepted the glass back, using every ounce of self-control to keep relief off his face. He’d meant every word, but he’d also meant for Stephen to be moved enough to let things be. If the situation was impossible, irrational and unfair to everyone, that was his problem. If he had, in fact, fallen in love with Bobby, he needed to deal with it on his own. He didn’t need to be at the mercy of a best friend with a vendetta.
He let himself smile as he turned away to take the glasses back into the kitchen. He ran a hand over his face, feeling House’s smirk as well as his facial hair. Now that the threat had been defused, they could chat a bit, maybe take a walk around West Hollywood, where Stephen would be greeted in certain quarters as an icon. He was knackered, but he supposed he could grab an espresso and stay awake for a few more hours.
Any hint of smugness evaporated when he saw Stephen’s expression: cool, insightful and slightly puckish. Blackberry in hand, stylus poised like a finger on the trigger of a gun.
“For God’s sake, Stephen.” Hugh tried to keep the panic out of his voice.
“You don’t mind if I check my messages, do you? Frightfully rude, I know, but I can’t bear to be out of touch. Might miss something important. You never know what might turn up in the papers, or on the internet. All kind of rumors flying about these days.”
Hugh got the message loud and clear. He and Bobby were in deep trouble.
“What the hell is up with you and Hugh Laurie?”
Damned if I know.
Except that wasn’t true. He knew exactly what was up. He was having an affair. With a man. A married man. And he was about to tell his best friend. He’d already decided not to lie the next time Ethan asked. Ethan wouldn’t judge. They’d been through too much together. For all he knew, Ethan would say, “Hey, Keanu and I’ve been going at it for years. You should have let me know earlier.” No, probably not. But “you should have told me earlier” stuck in his head. Ethan might not be thrilled to find out that Uma knew a year ago. In fact he’d be royally pissed off.
“Promise me you won’t tell Uma.”
“Just don’t tell her.”
“Why would I? We barely talk, except about the kids and your damn show. She still thinks…”
“I know she does. And she’s still wrong. Especially with what’s going on so far. I just don’t…it’s hard enough to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“It’s true, OK. Me and Hugh. It’s happening. We’re….”
“Holy shit! Really?”
Bobby took a deep breath. He was actually doing it. Telling Ethan the truth. It was easier than he thought because he’d rehearsed the conversation so many times in his head. It was harder because there were some things he wasn’t going to tell anybody, and some that he didn’t understand himself.
“It started after the first season wrap party. He took me for a ride on his motorcycle and I got him high and we kissed and then…” Gee, that sounded easy.
"This has been going on for a whole year?"
“Not exactly.” There was no point going through all the drama and pain and doubt.
He nodded. As recently as last night, but Ethan didn’t need to know that either.
“Does this mean you’re…?”
“I don’t think so. I think it’s just him.” Aside from being in the limo with you and Keanu and thinking it would be hot if Keanu had his hand down your jeans and you were kissing his neck. He still had no idea where that image had come from or what it meant. “I’ve had other opportunities. I mean, you know what it’s like. And last summer in New York, I tried to look at other guys. I just wasn’t interested.”
“You looked at me funny when you got here.”
“I just wanted to know how the hell you look like that and I look like this.” He indicated himself, not wanting to admit just how out of shape he was starting to feel, especially compared to Hugh.
“More tofu, less T-bone. And you should do yoga. Ninety minutes of Bikram and I can handle anything. Shit, man…what about Gaby?”
Now they were getting to the painful stuff. He could put it off with a House-like bit of sarcasm about yoga in a sauna, or he could make Ethan play the rest of the tape.
“Can I watch the question first?”
It was a bad idea. They watched the girl, cute and clever, a type they both knew well from their “thinking girl’s sex symbol” days. “Who do you think House should be with? Cameron, Cuddy or even, dare I say it,” and she took a deep breath and smiled, “Wilson?” The crowd gasped and cheered and Lipton looked oh-so-shocked. If you didn’t know that Hugh had anticipated the question, and practiced exactly what to say to it, you’d think he was sheepish and embarrassed as well.
“Well, all of them, eventually, if the show stays on long enough.” He played it brilliantly, chattering about finding common ground with anybody and then the punch line. “I think Robert might have something to say about it, but I’m certainly game.”
Bobby found himself sweating, almost as if he had been doing yoga in a sauna. He nodded to Ethan that he’d seen enough and Ethan was immediately back on the topic.
“Gaby…?” he repeated.
“I love her, Ethan. I swear. I do. When we were in London together, I couldn’t get enough of her. It was like this had never happened. Except I’d see Hugh’s face on an ad or something and then it was the other way.”
“And she doesn’t know or suspect or anything?”
Bobby shrugged. He wasn’t quite ready to reveal that part of the intrigue. “She’s been spending a lot of time in Israel.”
He could see Ethan’s features working as he assimilated and tried to think of the right thing to say.
“But he’s married, right?”
“And he loves his wife more than you can even imagine. He talks to her every day. And the kids. If they’d been out here in the first place, I don’t know if any of this would have happened.”
“So it’s because he’s lonely?”
American bit on the side. This was the part he didn’t like to think about. Jo and Rebecca and Bill and Charlie would be in Los Angeles as soon Hugh could make arrangements. Hugh had signed for two more years and there was no way things could continue as they had been. The Malibu house had washed away in a sea of financial advice but there would be a house. How they were supposed to keep seeing each other once that happened was anybody’s guess. So there he was, feeling jealous of a man’s wife and children because they were going to interfere with his fucking their husband and father. Nice.
“It’s incredible. You’ll just have to take my word for it.”
“You’re sure you’re not…?”
“I haven’t been really sure of anything since this started, OK?”
“OK. I’m glad you told me. Does anybody else know?”
“Yeah,” he replied bitterly. “Somebody knows.”
Bobby would have loved to vent about Stephen Fucking Fry, but he couldn’t do that without going into Hugh and Stephen’s “everybody knows but nobody knows” relationship and Stephen’s jealousy and how much he wasn’t going to like what he would hear and not hear when he saw the Actor’s Studio interview. He trusted Ethan, but he had to protect Hugh’s privacy.
“This is fucked up,” Ethan commented.
Bobby had eaten as much of whatever Amita had made as he could stomach. His beer was empty. It was probably time to go. Ethan was cool. Ethan was always cool. Was it completely petty to think he was doing better in the best friend department than Hugh was? Of course he’d never slept with his best friend. Apparently that changed things. Remind me never to do that, no matter how good he looks in a towel. The thought came and went before Bobby could really focus on it, which he decided was just as well.
“So, what’s the deal with the house? Were you serious?”
“Hugh thought it would be good if I had a real place. I still haven’t brought half my stuff from New York. It’s kind of ridiculous.”
“You need a love nest.”
“Love nest? Thanks for making this sound even sleazier than it already is.”
“Why don’t you lease this place?”
“Because you’re living in it?”
“I won’t be soon. I’m going back east for rehearsals next month. The show runs through March and then I’m going to Tracadie. I’m sure I can get the property managers to give you a good deal and then I wouldn’t have to worry about getting it back. You’ll love living in Venice. You can start taking the classes at Bikram. Amita can come over and make stir-fry. You and Hugh can go for walks on the beach.”
Ethan was so obviously caught up in this fantasy of Bobby turning into “Venice Beach Dude” that Bobby found himself considering it. Ethan’s house was secluded enough to offer more privacy than he had in Woodland Hills. He wasn’t sure about the macrobiotics or the sweaty yoga, but he had to do something about the jawline before the suits mentioned it to him along with the ten pounds that the camera adds.
He nodded and Ethan started looking around for something on which to make a note to himself to call someone in the morning. Whether this would actually happen remained to be seen, but in the meantime Bobby was happy for the excuse to call Hugh. He took out his cell phone and hit the speed dial.
He closed his eyes and smiled. He’d seen Hugh at the studio less than three hours ago, but the sound of his voice on the phone, his real voice rather than House’s, made him feel warm inside.
“You watched it?”
“I couldn’t resist. She was awful.”
“There’s one in every crowd and I’ve had worse.”
“Are you okay? You sound....tense.”
“Just tired. And facing the horrors of tomorrow.”
“Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think. Or as Jennifer hopes.”
“Anyway, I’m over at Ethan’s and he says I can lease the house he’s been using in Venice. He’ll be away at least till next summer. So I’ll have a real place. Something a bit more discreet, as you like to say.”
“That’s great.” Hugh sounded really weird. As though someone was there and he didn’t want Bobby to know about it. Not that it was any of Bobby’s business who else Hugh had in his apartment. Or trailer. Or anywhere else. Not jealous. Hugh must be about to hang up in some polite way. “Yes, that’s wonderful news. In fact, I think you should come over here and tell me more about it.”
The invitation was so unexpected that Bobby found himself repeating it aloud to make sure he hadn’t misheard. “Come over now?”
“Yes. If you don’t mind.”
I never mind seeing you.
“I’ll be right over.”
Bobby opened his eyes to find Ethan staring at him.
“What? You don’t want me to lease the house? You’re afraid I’ll find the dead body in the window seat?”
“Are you in love with him?”
Stephen tried not to hear the softness in Hugh’s voice when he talked to “Bobby” on the phone. He tried not to wish for Mr. Leonard to have an accident on the way from Venice. He even tried not to compose mental emails to Ms. Gabriella Salick in both English and Latin revealing the extent of her fiancé’s duplicity.
He failed at all three.
Hugh put the phone down and stubbed out yet another cigarette.
“Knowing his driving, he should be here in twenty minutes. Is your driver waiting or shall we call you a cab?”
“I’m quite comfortable right here.”
“You won’t be.”
There was a hint of menace in Hugh’s voice and Stephen didn’t take kindly to it at all. He’d do the threatening, thank you very much. He’d been quite enjoying the panic on Hugh’s face as he threatened something dire with the Blackberry, until the moment was interrupted by Hugh’s phone playing “Land Of Hope and Glory”. He’d put his PDA away without sending any emails. He didn’t want to hurt Hugh, he just wanted him to behave, for all their sakes. He certainly wasn’t going gentle into that good West Hollywood night simply because Hugh’s latest fling was on the way.
“Thanks, Hugh. I’ll stay a bit. How kind of you to suggest it.” He took a pipe out of his inside breast pocket. “Can I borrow some matches?”
Something had changed. Last night he and Hugh had gone out for dinner, lingered over coffee, come back to Hugh’s place still talking about something or nothing in particular, and wound up having sex that was casual in the best sense of the word. Comfortable. Unhurried. No air of fear or desperation. Almost like -- don’t even think it -- a real couple.
Now he was being pulled into the same apartment as though it were necessary to hide from a serial killer. Hugh swept him into the room and held him tightly, crushing his lips and pulling at his hair. Slight pain, tingling and confusion mixed in his brain along with the taste of scotch and cigarettes on Hugh’s tongue. He would have liked to call a time-out and ask “what the hell?“ and “wait a minute, who’s that?” because he could sense rather than see another man in the room, a very tall one, who had been sitting and was then standing and now striding out with a firm bang of the door. Bobby never got to see him because Hugh would not let go.
Bobby couldn’t fight and didn’t want to, but he could admit to himself that this was more exciting than what he’d been so happy about last night.
When Hugh finally broke the kiss, it was only to start pulling at his clothing. “Robert Sean Leonard,” he started, as if making an introduction, “meet…” Hugh looked at the bed where there was no-one. “Oh dear. Looks like we’ve lost him.”
“Was this…” Bobby took a ragged breath. “Was this for someone’s benefit?”
“Mine,” Hugh said, pulling him close again, hands moving down to fondle his ass. Was he answering the question or stating ownership? When Hugh was like this, Bobby could only let it happen and save the questions for later, if he could remember them.
Hugh’s hands. How could they be in so many places at once? Snaking around the back of his neck, undoing his pants, under his shirt, and finally pulling him toward and onto the bed.
“Incredible,” he’d told Ethan, like that could even begin to cover the heat and craziness he felt right this second. Clothes were coming off in the usual tumble and he’d completely lost track of his glasses.
Hands. In just one place this time. Hugh’s voice, saying his name. Hugh’s mouth, making him so damn hard. Making it impossible to think or talk. Not that he needed to say anything. He’d picked up Hugh’s sense of need and desperation, the feeling that this might be the last time.
The hands were in action again.
He’d never thought much about hands until he met Hugh. He remembered seeing Hugh play piano at the wrap party. Maybe he’d been a goner even then.
Hugh turned away from him and Bobby started worrying until he realized what was going on.
He’d only been in this position once with Hugh. It still made him nervous, as though he didn’t have the right, but there was no way he wasn’t going to give Hugh what he wanted. Hugh had already gotten things from the nightstand and was lying on his side.
Every time Bobby thought he’d had the hottest possible moment with Hugh, there was something else. Hugh, naked, pushing back, grinding into him, offering his ass and demanding that Bobby take it.
He wrapped his arm around Hugh’s chest, tracing his ribs and feeling shivers in response. He gently grazed one nipple with his thumbnail. Shivers escalated into shudders and a loud, gratifying groan.
“Bobby, please. I need…”
Hugh wasn’t much of a talker in bed. Usually things happened without direction. Bobby was moved by the need and the trust it took to express it. He was also fighting to control his own urgency. Some part of him longed to just grab Hugh’s hips and thrust inside, but he knew better. Hugh’s body still radiated tension. This was for Hugh and he had to do it right.
The lubricant was slippery and cool against his hands.
“Are you sure?”
The grunt he received in response was equal parts exasperation and pleading.
He started with one finger, moving gently along the crack of Hugh’s ass, teasing, wanting desperately for Hugh to relax. Instead of pressing forward and trying to force the issue, he moved one hand to the base of Hugh’s spine and rubbed firmly. House had his cane back and Hugh had that recurring ache to deal with.
As he increased the pressure of the massage, Hugh’s body relaxed allowing one finger to slip inside. Bobby felt his cock jerk back to full attention as if it were being held in that heat instead of just his middle finger.
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
Bobby wasn’t sure of that, but Hugh wasn’t leaving him much room for argument and for that matter neither was his own dick. He wanted to be inside. Wanted to fuck Hugh so hard he’d forget whatever was bothering him. And yeah, he really, really wanted to come and the idea of coming inside Hugh was…too much. He was panting.
He moved the massaging hand up Hugh’s back while easing in a second finger. Too tight. This had to be painful. The same pain you keep coming back for.
He slid his fingers out slowly. Hugh’s deep sigh told him that they were missed as much as they missed being there. He should have gotten the condom on first so he could replace his fingers faster. A lifetime with girls had been poor preparation for the hottest relationship -- is that what this is? -- of his life. He did what was necessary, wishing desperately for a life where it wasn’t.
Now that he was covered and slicked, there was no turning back. Bobby could still feel the resistance and tension in Hugh’s body and had to force himself to push in, even as Hugh pushed back against him.
“Yes. Oh, god, Bobby.”
His voice was deep and throaty and Bobby could hear the pain he was causing as well as the pleasure. He was inside, deep, pushed against Hugh. Their hands found each other, squeezing almost painfully. Then Hugh brought their hands to his own dick where they immediately split up to divide the labor. Hugh stroked his cock, borrowing lube from Bobby’s hand and mixing it with the pre-come and sweat that had been building up. Bobby reached down to the balls. They were tight under his fingers and he knew exactly how Hugh liked to have them cradled.
This position didn’t give the best leverage, but Hugh was doing half the work anyway. Even as the so-called top, Bobby felt he was along for the ride, although it was one hell of a ride. He lost track of time, focused only on the feeling of Hugh’s body as he thrust in and out and the rhythm Hugh was setting with his hands and, most important, Hugh’s voice, which had stopped producing anything in the way of recognizable speech but was still extremely eloquent. Bobby wanted to wait until he knew Hugh was satisfied, but Hugh’s deliriously vulgar sounds and the heat around his cock were too much. He realized he was coming, spasms wracking his body. He let out a long harsh groan, feeling selfish until his hand registered a familiar quiver in Hugh’s balls followed by hot stickiness spilling over Hugh’s hand and down to his own. He realized that his own orgasm had been the trigger.
“Bobby. Bobby. God. You’re so….fuck.”
”Fuck. Fucking. Fucked. And its various cognates.” Such a lovely word. Suitable for any occasion. No, wait. Those are Calla lilies.
When Bobby returned from the shores of “Oh my god that was fucking incredible,” he found Hugh performing the clean-up duties with a warm wet towel. He also had a serious look on his face, rather than the unconcerned, problems-fucked-away expression Bobby had hoped for. Obviously there was something they had to discuss. As in right now.
“Stephen was here.”
Hugh pulled a blanket over himself and Bobby. He knew it was just a matter of time before Bobby started hunting for clothes and glasses. It was ridiculous to wish things were different, but he’d already come to terms with the truth of Stephen’s accusation and his treacherous imagination was behaving accordingly.
Bobby reacted to the news about Stephen’s visit rather admirably under the circumstances.
“What do you think he’s going to do?” he asked, trying not to sound panic-stricken.
“I have no idea.”
And then he stopped reacting admirably and reacted as Hugh had expected and would probably have done in a similar circumstance.
“So, was that my ‘one for the road’ because we’re going to have to stop?”
Hugh tried not to let it hurt that Bobby would think that, because Bobby didn’t know what he did.
“I hope not. When and if comes to that, I’ll make sure to let you know in advance. I may be a selfish bastard, but I’m not a cad.”
“I told Ethan,” Bobby announced. The statement had nothing to do with the previous conversation, but wasn’t completely unexpected.
So that made five. Hugh and Bobby. Uma, Ethan, and Stephen. He couldn’t have expected Bobby to lie to his best friend indefinitely, especially under the circumstances. It gave them something to talk about besides Stephen and the imminent danger and why they should stop immediately, but how neither of them seemed able to.
“And he offered you his house?”
“To lease anyway. He thinks I should take yoga classes and long walks on the beach.” Hugh smiled. Bobby was shaking his head, but also smiling. “There may be something to it. You should see him in a towel.”
“Should I be jealous?” Hugh said, wanting to think he was only joking. Bobby had never given any indication of attraction to any man besides him and the selfish bastard that he was liked it that way. He tightened his grip on Bobby’s arm slightly to make the point.
“No. I’m just saying he’s in great shape.”
“And did he have anything else to say about your revelation?”
“About what you’d expect. How long…what about…does it mean…yadda yadda yadda. You get that one, right? Seinfeld?”
“Yes. I get it.”
“He did ask if we were in love. I told him nobody’s used that word yet.”
Bobby’s body was nestled against his under the blanket. Soft and warm. Comfortable. What would happen if he took the next step? He’d already taken the risk of showing Stephen how serious he was; he could hardly deny Bobby the same thing. His voice came out in a whisper, but he knew Bobby could hear him.
“Somebody has now.”
This way to A Bit Of Jealousy A Fry-wank fic written for mmom