Title: Like A Hurricane
Pairing: HL/RSL (HL/SF discussed)
Rating: NC17-Here come da smut, here come da smut.
Disclaimer: Not plagiarism-no money. Not libel/slander-It didn't happen.
Warnings: Angst/Smut/More Angst
Summary: The hurricane has hit New Orleans. Meanwhile, back in Hollywood...
Like A Hurricane
On Monday, August 29, the levees in New Orleans gave way and the waves began to drown any hopes that the city would be saved.
Hugh had been taking a morning catnap in his trailer with CNN on the telly. He opened his eyes in time to see the beginning of the end. He didn’t know which was more disturbing: the devastation, the lack of attention being paid by the federal government, or the melodramatic television coverage of both.
He was saddened by the loss of New Orleans, the home of jazz, and by the human disaster that was unfolding. On the other hand, this didn’t compare to what had happened in Indonesia. Those people never even had a chance to try and escape.
He heard the familiar knock on the door of his trailer. He expected it to be followed by Donna, the production assistant, saying “Fifteen minutes, Mr. Laurie.” The Australian-accented male voice was a surprise.
“Hugh, they’re ready on the set.”
“What happened to Donna?” he asked, opening the door and seeing the only Australian male likely to be found near the House MD set. “Budget cuts at Fox so we all have to double in brass? Is Jennifer cooking lunch?”
“Let’s hope not,” said Jesse with a grimace. “I came over because Donna’s in the dressing room watching that.” He gestured at the screen of the large TV set where Anderson Cooper was standing outside the Superdome getting wet and presumably racking up large ratings points for his trouble. “She was crying, so I volunteered to come get you.” Hugh turned the set off before leaving the trailer and proceeding toward the studio. “They’re all pretty upset,” Jesse continued. “I’m not sure how much work’s gonna get done today.”
How’s Bobby taking it? Hugh wanted to ask, but didn’t.
“It’s like they don’t even remember what happened eight months ago. I had friends in Bali. Thousands of people lost everything in an instant. No bloody warnings. No one going on TV every day for a week saying ‘get the hell out of here, you’re about to be annihilated’.” Jesse’s accent had gotten much stronger than anything that would ever be heard on American television.
Hugh didn’t bother responding that the ones who stayed in New Orleans probably had no place to go and no money to get there, or that getting angry at Americans for their national tunnel vision was a waste of time, especially if Jesse happened to be serious about his relationship with Ms. Morrison. Instead, he went to the prop department to pick up House’s cane, then to hair and makeup where he allowed the hairdresser to take whatever heroic measures were necessary. The constant three days’ worth of facial growth meant he got to wear minimal makeup, one of the benefits of playing such an unkempt character.
He’d already taken off his ring and started limping in character toward the “Cuddy’s Office” set when he ran into an extremely disheveled and flustered Bryan Singer. According to the best Hollywood insider gossip, Bryan had been sequestered in a dungeon in West Covina doing post-production on X-Men III. Instead, he was now running around the Fox studios trying to round up the House cast and crew. He’d have done better herding mutant cats, so after a brief greeting, Bryan dispatched Hugh to collect Omar and Robert, who shared a dressing room, to soundstage three, which was currently “undressed”.
Through the open dressing room door, he could see Omar, Lisa and Donna clustered around a small TV set on the dressing room table. Donna was clearly distraught and the sense of anguish in the room made him feel rude for interrupting the unfolding of an American tragedy.
The screen showed what appeared to be a large chunk of the French Quarter disintegrating into mush as rain and wind pounded the historic buildings.
“In New Orleans, the wrought iron screens are terribly overwrought,” said an incongruously American voice, proving that Noel Coward had a quote for every occasion.
Hugh turned around to find Bobby standing a few feet behind him in street clothes. The brown eyes looked more vulnerable than usual. If he’d been one those profligate Hollywood huggers, this would have been the moment, but he wasn’t. Instead there was the gaze held for that extra fraction of time and emotion that always seemed to linger between them before he pulled his attention away and focused on the group in the dressing room.
“Sorry to intrude,” he announced. “Our fearless leader is among the troops and requests our presence on soundstage three, which is, I understand,” he let his eyes flit back to Bobby for an instant, “naked.”
The others started moving toward the sound stage. Bobby hung back and Hugh found himself doing likewise.
“You know, Bobby, if the crowd in your dressing room gets too big, you can always come and watch in my trailer,” he teased, trying to lighten the mood. It was the same kind of “now you see it, now you don’t” flirtation he’d indulged in almost from the minute he’d been introduced to Robert Sean Leonard. He had come back to Hollywood not sure what to do about the night they’d shared after the wrap party. He’d tried to behave as if nothing had changed even though he’d taken the incredibly reckless step of admitting his attraction and acting on it. That elephant wouldn’t be leaving the room of its own volition.
“Yeah, I’ve heard things get pretty exciting in there,” came the suggestive reply.
“You have no idea,” he retorted channeling Jeremy Irons. Then he reminded himself that something serious was going on. He didn’t necessarily want to be joking. “Do you have friends down there?” he asked, indicating the television behind them.
“I never got to go. Ethan always said we should do a road trip to the Big Easy and we just never got around to it. Even if they rebuild, it won’t be the same.”
He looked down and then up to meet Hugh’s eyes. Hugh expected to see sadness and regret. He found a challenge.
“You wait too long and chances get taken away from you.”
In the guise of a discussion about the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, he’d been told, rather firmly, to shit or get off the pot.
“All right,” he said softly. “Dinner Friday, then?”
“Good. Yeah. Fine,” Bobby replied, looking slightly stunned that he’d actually achieved something, as they joined the assembly on sound stage three.
Bryan had a microphone and was asking for attention. “Hey, everybody, listen up.” The microphone squeaked with feedback causing yelps. “I know everybody’s really upset about what’s happening. I wish I could send you all home. Maybe Dr. House could write us an emotional distress doctor’s note.“ Bryan paused. If he expected laughter, he didn’t get it. “We’re still the bastard stepchildren around here. They’re giving us twenty-four episodes this season, but we’ve got to stay on schedule and under budget. I need everyone to hunker down today and do his or her job. It sucks, but that’s show biz. And if any of you need help finding family or friends in New Orleans, I hate to say it, but Fox News has resources on the ground and we might as well take advantage of them.” A few boos emanated from the group. “I know, I know. Hollywood makes strange bedfellows.“ Hugh resisted the urge to let his eyes drift sideways. “Anyway, please don’t let me down. This is Fox. We don’t want to end up like Futurama. That’s it.”
Not exactly Henry’s speech at the Battle of Agincourt, but good enough to rally these troops. Hugh wanted to ask Bobby what Futurama was, but he noticed Lisa possibly noticing that he was standing almost, but not quite, too close to the other man.
He reminded himself that this wasn’t British television, where theatrical camp held sway and the more “darlings” and “dears” were strewn about, the less likely it was that anything was going on. This was Hollywood, where Tom Cruise jumped about on couches and the cognoscenti winked knowingly. He turned to Lisa and put a friendly arm around her shoulder. “Are you all right?”
“This is awful, Hugh. I love New Orleans. I went to Mardi Gras in my junior year. I’ve been to the jazz festival. I’ve woken up hung over on Bourbon Street.”
“Your kind of town.”
“Did you ever get there?”
“Once or twice. Never to the jazz festival.”
“You would have loved it.” Lisa leaned against him, clearly thinking she might cry and not wanting to. “And now I have to go down that hall and listen to you make jokes about my breasts.”
“Cuddy’s breasts,” he reminded her. “And I don’t think there’s any of that in this scene. Quite serious. You’ve got wonderful material in this episode.”
“I just don’t know if I’m up to it today.”
“Of course you are. You’re upset in the scene anyway. Just use it.”
“I’m upset in all my scenes,” she pointed out.
Hugh gave Lisa an uncharacteristic hug, which gave her no chance to see him wink at Bobby over the top of her head.
Lisa got through the scene smoothly. The patient for this episode was Cuddy’s handyman, and Hugh was happy to see Lisa getting more to do than be the object of those famous breast jokes. For one thing, she deserved the chance to show her acting skills; more selfishly, he liked the trend of the supporting cast getting their moments in the sun. The sooner the beams shone on Bobby, the better. Preferably before his agents realized that a damn good actor was being criminally underused and raised a fuss with those ogres at Fox. If Bobby left, whom would he turn to for explanations of Kobe Bryant and Cindy Lou Who?
Yes, he thought later that evening, as he swam laps in the pool at the condo. If Bobby leaves, I’ll have no one to explain American popular culture. That explains everything. Except, of course, dinner on Friday and where that might lead.
“I swear, Jo, they’ve all gone stark raving mad,” Hugh told Jo on Friday morning during their daily phone call.
“Madder than usual?”
“I understand they’re upset. A week and the bloody government has been absolutely useless. The situation there is horrible and getting worse. Have you seen all those people in the convention center? No supplies or sanitation.”
“It’s inhuman. It looks like they’re living like animals in there.”
“But now they’ve sprouted conspiracy theories. Jennifer is howling about global warming and Omar is convinced that Bush is out to get the black people. I worked with Jesse and Omar all day yesterday. I had to bounce on a bed and throw underwear around.”
“Every single time there was a break, Omar would be on his cell phone yelling ‘Do you believe this shit?’ at someone and Jesse kept asking me the same thing, only he was talking about Omar.”
“Were you the peacemaker?”
“They’re not paying me enough to get into that kerfuffle. How are the kids? Is anybody home right now?”
“The boys are at the movies.”
“Let me guess. Star Wars again?”
“At least this is the last one.”
“And Rebecca’s making lists of things I need to buy her for back to school.”
“So much for the bank balance.”
“I’ll keep her under control.”
“They should post guards at Marks and Spencer.”
“How’s the writing going?”
“Not nearly so well now that I’m back here. I’m going to buckle down tomorrow. I’ve got Leeds/Liverpool on the TiVo for background and what passes for a decent brand of gin around here. Maybe I’ll even blast “Angels” at some ungodly volume and pretend to yell at Rebecca to keep the noise down so her daddy can be creative.”
“Honestly, Hugh, she’s still over the moon about that concert. She’s got the picture you took of her and Robbie on her computer as wallpaper. I’m afraid she’ll try and lord it over the girls at school a bit.”
“The girls at that school have certainly rubbed shoulders with better shoulders than that.”
“It’s still a big thing for her. She’ll never forget it.”
“Nor will I. I think my ears are still ringing.”
“It could be the bike, you know.”
“Which is in the shop for a tune-up. It started making some hideous asthmatic noise on Santa Monica the other day.”
“I miss you.”
“Darling, right now, if I thought this thing had any staying power, I’d move you all out here tomorrow.”
“I know. And I know why we can’t.”
“It’s worse than I thought. I was told this tale about some science fiction cartoon that was getting good ratings, but then someone in the Fox hierarchy took a dislike and managed to kill it. Death by scheduling, they call it. So life is still pretty precarious.”
“Of course. I love you.”
“Love you. Bye. “
So much for his daily dose of reality.
Time for his commute from West Hollywood to Century City. Temporarily deprived of the Triumph, he drove the Lexus and tried to remember if his agent had looked like Peter Cooke in Bedazzled while telling him what a great deal this job was. They’d pay for a leased car and an apartment and give him oodles of money because he’d so wowed them in the audition tape, even though the executive producer had no idea who he was. In return his life had shrunk to a maze comprising his apartment, the trailer and the set. He had boxing three days a week, laps in the pool two. He pretended to try to write at weekends. DVDs came in red envelopes and he had a thing called TiVo with some very strange ideas about what he might like to see. He had enough invitations to spend every night ducking photographers, but most nights it was all he could do to answer a few emails and collapse.
Nice work if you can get it, sang a voice in his head.
I’m the one going stark raving mad, he thought. Maybe it was time for another go-round with the couch. Southern California was not lacking in mental health professionals. He’d always be grateful to Dr. Mason for pulling him out of the mire during the bad patch, but still, he just couldn’t see starting the whole process again. Why go through the same stories and re-hash the issues, just to reach the same conclusions? It was like giving away little pieces of himself on those innumerable chat shows his managers kept booking for him.
Host/Shrink: Welcome to the show.Back to his comfy chair in the trailer. Back to CNN, where bad comedy writers had taken over the world. President Bush was actually complimenting his FEMA director on doing a “heck of a job.” Mind-boggling. Even the stolid Aaron Brown appeared to be in a state of high dudgeon. The heads of his reliably liberal costars were no doubt spinning. They shouldn’t be surprised. He’d suffered with them through the last election, especially the ones who’d actually managed to convince themselves that Kerry might win. He’d heard them say over and over that Bush was evil and incompetent. Now he’d managed to prove it in a way that couldn’t be rebutted with the 9/11 flag.
Hugh: Nice to be here.
Host/Shrink: Oh wow. You’re not an American.
Hugh: Shocking but true.
Host/Shrink: (looking at notes he’s just been handed, even though the appointment/appearance was booked weeks ago) So, I understand you’re an insecure adrenaline junkie who staves off boredom and anxiety by taking risks like skydiving, riding a motorcycle and carrying on a completely inappropriate flirtation with one of your male costars, which you’re planning on consummating tonight.
Hugh: Yes, it’s all very exciting. Of course nothing’s definite yet. I still might come to my senses before it’s too late.
Host/Shrink: But you were seen at a corner store in West Hollywood buying a pack of rubbers, some upscale lubricant and those Dunhill's that you won’t give up either.
Hugh: One-stop shopping. Doing my bit for your economy.
Host/Shrink: And you’ve convinced yourself that this is purely a sexual thing with no emotional content, even though you’re notoriously bad at that sort of thing?
Hugh: (sings) A trip to the moon on gossamer wings.
Host/Shrink: But what if it’s more than that? What if people really get hurt? Your wife? Robert and his fiancée? You’re really going to risk that just so you can avoid facing your own fears that you’ve completely sold out, even though you did say anything had to be better than doing another Stuart Little movie?
Hugh: Piss off!
(Walks out. Audience boos.)
Host/Shrink: Join us after the break, folks; we’ll be talking to international singing sensation Robbie Williams.
Hugh had never been a political creature. Through the Thatcher years, he just kept voting Labour and hoping something would eventually change. He remembered Tony Robinson giving him a grievously hard time about his lack of involvement. On the Blackadder set, Tony could do a scene that would literally make you hurt yourself trying not to laugh and as soon as the director yelled ‘cut’, he was on the phone organizing a rally for the miners, or handing out flyers to the set builders, or just haranguing everybody in earshot about the evils of the Iron Lady. Tony was still flying the Old Labour flag and criticizing Tony Blair any time he got the chance.
He gave a silent hurrah to Tony for fighting the good fight back home while he was losing his mind in Hollywood and getting to use House’s American accent to say the things that Hugh never got to say out loud.
He spent a delightful morning being nasty to Sela, then to Sela and Lisa, and then to Jesse and Jennifer. The nasty scenes were the most fun to act. It wasn’t playing House that made him crazy; it was the life he had to live to do it.
While the rest of the cast ate lunch, he went back to his trailer and did a phone interview for Entertainment Weekly while drinking a protein shake. He said effusively nice things about the rest of the cast. He told the woman from EW that Sela Ward was a “consummate professional” and waited to see if he would burst into flames. According to one of the well-known religious charlatans, God was busy destroying New Orleans for its lack of intolerance. This must be true, because his trailer stayed intact. Maybe there just wasn’t enough fire and brimstone in hell to deal with lies told in Hollywood, especially by actors talking to the so-called press.
“Will there be romance for Dr. House this season?” the interviewer wanted to know.
“Well, that remains to be seen. Sela’s doing six more shows so there might be something there. And I’m sure that Cameron hasn’t gotten over her crush.” Hugh found himself feeling playful. “And of course you know who the true love match is on the show?”
“Of course,” she replied confidently. “It’s House and Cuddy. That love/hate dynamic is so hot.”
“Yes, of course,” he replied, taken aback. “That’s what all the rude jokes must be about.”
“We’ll be on set next week with the photographers.”
“See you then.”
“Fifteen minutes, Mr. Laurie.”
Bobby was already on the “House’s Office” set in full Wilson regalia, including the white lab coat. Dr. Wilson was practically MIA in this particular script, giving Bobby a few days off. Hugh put on his best plummy theatrical ham voice as he approached.
“Robert Sean Leonard, I presume. Is that really you? I thought we’d have to get those blokes from Without A Trace to go looking for you.
“Don’t blame me. Blame the writers. I guess it was hard to work oncology into a ‘falling off the roof’ plot. “
“And what did you do with your time off, you jammy bastard?”
“Due to some bizarre planetary alignment, Gaby and I were actually on the same land mass with some free time. We drove up to Asilomar.”
That was it then. Bobby and his fiancée together in Asilomar, wherever that was. Game called on account of sanity. Good for you, Bobby. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
“So,” Hugh asked with a great show of nonchalance, “are we still on for dinner?”
“Oh yeah,” Bobby shot back with an unexpected fierceness, almost a taunt. “I know a decent Italian place in Woodland Hills.”
“I’ve never known a decent Italian,” he quipped as the director came in to block the first scene. Game back on.
The afternoon’s work was long but satisfying. The scenes between House and Wilson tended to be the most comfortable parts of the work week. He gave equal credit to David Shore’s characters, the writers’ dialogue and the chemistry he’d found acting with Bobby. Even the American accent seemed to come easier in those scenes.
Did he really want to throw a spanner into a working relationship that had become the best part of his “stranger in a strange land” existence?
Definitely, he thought, catching Bobby’s eyes for a long glance between takes and remembering the fire he seen in them that night in the Hollywood Hills.
Absolutely not, he told himself as he followed Bobby’s Mazda from the Fox studios to Woodland Hills. How could he be thinking of having it off with someone who had just crossed three lanes of traffic on the 405 without signaling?
“Do you always drive like that?” he asked in mock horror, after they miraculously arrived at Maria’s Italian Kitchen in one piece.
“Pretty bad, huh?” said Bobby with his most charming smile. “Even with the glasses my night vision sucks. Besides,” he said giving Hugh a look that said he was hungry for more than pasta primavera, “I was distracted.”
Hugh took a deep breath as he felt that look go right through his body. Who cares about bad driving? That’s why we have chauffeurs, isn’t it?
“I hope all those lollipops didn’t spoil your appetite.”
Maybe there had been one too many sweets. Hugh barely tasted dinner. He was too busy half-listening to Bobby talking about playing Henry IV at Shakespeare In The Park while mentally starring in his own version of Hamlet – “To bed or not to bed, that is the question” – and thinking about a conversation with Stephen.
He’d arrived back in London on 29 May and practically skipped through Heathrow whistling “Summer Holiday”. It was an unmitigated pleasure to be home with his family being himself instead of that grubby fellow who was so popular on American television. Even the dreaded concert had been less terrible than expected. Stephen supplied earplugs and Robbie Williams turned out to be a fairly decent chap and closet Blackadder fan who treated Rebecca like a princess.
He’d made progress on the new book and had meetings with various agents, editors, managers, and publicists. He went for long solitary walks in Regent’s Park and suffered through 7/11 with his fellow Londoners. He’d been to some social occasions with Stephen and received a hero’s welcome during a QI appearance.
He had managed to keep his thoughts of a certain motorcycle ride at bay until early August, when it was time to start re-growing his House stubble. With the specter of Hollywood and another long period away from home looming, the whole thing came back into his consciousness with a vengeance. There was nothing to do but call up his best mate and go out for a drink.
Of course, they weren’t just two blokes nipping round to the corner pub for a pint. They were Hugh and Stephen in their Savile Row suits having civilized drinks at a private table at the venerable Connaught Bar. Hugh had a gin and tonic, while Stephen enjoyed a single malt. Hugh had his Dunhill’s and Stephen his pipe.
Bollocks to you, California and your bloody no smoking in bars. He took a particularly luxurious puff and let it out slowly.
Stephen clearly knew that Hugh needed to talk. Being the best kind of best friend, he didn’t bring it up. Instead they did what any two immaculately turned out gentlemen would do while enjoying alcohol and tobacco. They gossiped about their friends, the most gossip-worthy of whom at the moment was Jude Law.
“It’s all your fault,” Hugh jibed. “You unleashed him on the world of innocent nannies.”
“Couldn’t be helped. If you’re making a movie about Oscar Wilde, you run into an immediate problem. As soon as the young man appears and says ‘Hi, my name’s Bosie,’ any right-thinking viewer who’s even vaguely knowledgeable is going to start throwing things at the screen and yelling, ‘Run, Oscar, run like the wind.’ We needed to find someone so incredibly beautiful that the audience would think to themselves, well this time it might just work out and they’ll live happily ever after.”
“Only to have their hopes dashed.”
“Of course. He was a lovely boy though.”
“And now he’s a tabloid joke.”
“I blame the United States. It never would have happened if he’d just stayed home. Honestly. Shagging the nanny on the pool table. So very un-British. It must be something in the water over there. You’re not drinking it, are you? We’re counting on you to uphold the dignity of British manhood and avoid such sordid affairs.”
Hugh looked down at his drink and found the glass sadly empty. With a nearly imperceptible cock of the head he was able to summon the waiter for another.
“I’m afraid,” he said,” suppressing a wince, ”that I may have opened my own can of worms back there.”
He watched Stephen’s eyes cloud over and narrow slightly. The deliberateness of his actions in refilling the pipe spoke volumes.
“Well, it‘s not completely unexpected,” he said brusquely. “The whole lot of us have known for years how madly sexy you are, but now you’ve got all these American Janie-come-latelies flinging themselves at you. Waitresses and starlets constantly underfoot. How could you resist?”
“There are no starlets anymore. Just blobs of silicone who have great difficulty keeping their clothes on.” He knew he was being deliberately cruel just to amuse Stephen and deflect his anger. Carmen Electra had been an absolute peach to work with.
“So, some waitress was able to tempt you with her California Cuisine?”
“Not a waitress.”
Stephen shook his head as he closed in on the truth.
“You’re always saying that you’re too exhausted to socialize in the evenings so it must be someone you’re working with. Brilliant.”
Hugh could see the wheels turning. He could practically hear Stephen’s thoughts as he narrowed the field to the actors that Hugh would be seeing on a daily basis and eliminated Lisa and Jennifer from contention almost immediately. A slug of the whisky and Omar was gone.
“The Aussie boy?” he asked hopefully, clearly not believing it. Stephen knew him well enough to know that waitresses, starlets, actresses and a pretty but callow Australian lad were all lesser threats.
“Oh, God,” Stephen hissed. “Don’t you ever learn?”
Hugh felt relief tinged with guilt. He knew Stephen would stand by him no matter what, but this had to be painful for him to hear. Hugh hated hurting anyone, especially Stephen. He could imagine Stephen building up a full head of outraged steam to give him what for about betraying Jo again, which he certainly had coming. He steeled himself for the onslaught.
“He’s had quite the succès d’estime this summer, hasn’t he?” said Stephen conversationally, as though they were having a casual discussion about the theater season gone by.
Hugh did a double take at the quick change of mood and subject. It was his turn to leapfrog ahead of Stephen’s thoughts. Why would he have been interested in Robert Sean Leonard’s performance in Henry IV? Ah, right -- because Bobby was working with Robbie Coltrane. Stephen always kept abreast of what friends and former co-workers were up to. Hugh was relieved that they seemed to be discussing this without rancor.
“I warned him about Robbie.”
“Rightly so. The press was uniformly kind except for that age thing.”
Hugh had seen those same reviews as soon as they were available online. They’d been nearly rapturous about the acting, but the New York Times couldn’t resist mentioning that the thirty-six-year-old actor was a bit long in the tooth to play Prince Hal.
“Bobby’s lucky. He looks younger than he is,” he replied, trying not to let any familiarity or affection show in his voice.
“Bobby, is it?” Stephen had turned back to inquisitor on a sixpence. “How far has this thing gone?” He signaled one of the invisible waiters for his own refill.
“Not far at all,” he tossed off, knowing he couldn’t lie to Stephen but needing to try. Stephen just kept shaking his head. The American torturers could use that look to great effect in their interrogations. “A bit farther than that, actually.” The look continued. Woe to any terrorist who tried to stand up to that. “About as far as possible.” Stephen had been holding his breath and let it out with a sigh. “Not nearly far enough,” Hugh finished, not even sure he could be heard.
“Do you really want to end up on the front page of the Sun?” Stephen demanded.
“It’s better than being the bonkers story next to the tits, isn’t it?” he shot back, as though it made sense.
Hugh could read a variety of emotions in Stephen’s expression. He was clearly disappointed in Hugh for cheating on Jo again, but there were other things there. They’d tried being together after Cambridge and quickly learned that they could love each other or be lovers, but not both. Not as long as Hugh remained, in Stephen’s phrase, “a committed fencesitter.” Their mutual passion remained dormant except for certain rare occasions involving emotion, alcohol or fights with significant others, which had to be followed by a lengthy period of quarantine. For that reason alone they tried to avoid those occasions.
Hugh ran a hand over his face, almost expecting to feel House’s stubble. “I don’t want to be a bastard,” he muttered, feeling that just having the conversation was making him one.
“What exactly do you want? Advice or absolution?”
“Both,” he said, mostly wanting Stephen not to be angry, especially since they were heading to Hugh’s house for Sunday dinner with the family.
“You need to stop this. Now go and sin no more.”
Shortly thereafter, they had ducked into a cab outside the Connaught to avoid the afternoon drizzle and Stephen had gotten over his pique and been his charming urbane self for the sake of the family. Stephen was right, of course. He’d started this thing with Bobby and he had to stop it.
Sure, he thought, realizing that he’d barely touched his scaloppini. Go and sin no more. Easy for Stephen to say. Not so easy to do when sin looked like Bobby in an “I (heart) New York” sweatshirt, unconsciously doing obscene things to a breadstick.
Luckily, Bobby had ordered an espresso and was still going on about his hot time, summer in the city.
“…those New York days when you can wake up and put on a pair of shorts and still be wearing them at ten o’clock that night, because it never cools down. Do they even have days like that in England?”
“In July the sun is hot. Is it shining? No, it’s not,” he quoted, receiving a blank stare in return.
Bobby recovered with a non sequitur. “Robbie returns all the compliments.”
“Did he behave himself?”
“Aside from asking me if I was your American bit on the side, he was the perfect gentleman. I told him what you said about Cracker and he said I should check out your work in Spooks and in all my brilliance, I said I didn’t know you’d ever done a ghost movie. He thought that was pretty funny.” Bobby broke into his most endearing, sheepish grin.
“They called it MI-5 here.”
“Yes, I found that out. After I sent the concierge at the Soho Grand on a wild goose chase.”
“My apologies to the concierge.”
“You know what else I did in New York this summer?” Bobby suddenly returned to the fierce, taunting tone he’d used earlier in the day. “I spent a lot of time thinking. I wondered if I needed to call my parents and tell them something. I wondered if I’d been lying to myself all my life and that’s why Gaby is still fiancée without portfolio. I went to the East Village to see if any of the men had the same effect on me. Nada. Turns out I’ve got no gaydar either. It wasn’t until I was checking out of the hotel that I realized that the concierge had been cruising me the whole time I was there.”
“Was he cute?”
“He wasn’t you.”
The waitress came by with a dessert menu and Hugh insisted on ordering something just to defuse the tension that was building up. Aggressive Bobby was almost too sexy to bear.
“So,” Hugh continued in a softer voice. “You had time to think about what happened.”
He felt foolish spelling it out, but he still wasn’t sure what to do. There seemed to be a mountain of excellent reasons for finishing his glass of Chateau de California Wine Snob and calling it a night. Maybe he’d let Bertie do the dirty work for him. I’m sorry, old chap, was that your cock I had down my throat a few months ago? So sorry. Terrible mix-up. Won’t happen again. We’ll still throw darts at the club on Sunday, right?
“Thought about it?” The answering whisper was harsh. “As in jerking off every fucking night? I’m surprised I didn’t whip it out on stage instead of my sword.” Hugh felt his left foot twitching nervously as the waitress brought something in a large glass that he barely remembered ordering.
Hugh thought he should mention Gaby in a last ditch effort to stop an impending train wreck. Instead he heard his own voice drop into its lowest register and say, “What were you thinking, exactly?”
Bobby’s eyes were on fire again. “I was thinking that it was the hottest thing that ever happened to me. That no one had ever made me feel exactly like that and that I wanted to do it again, only this time,” he paused for a breath, “this time I want everything.”
The sound of Bobby’s voice emphasizing the word “everything” was like the moment in skydiving when the plane door opened and all he could hear was the wind rushing past his ears. Gone were any thoughts of Jo, Gaby, Stephen, emotions, reputations or tomorrow. There was nothing but the word “everything,” It was time to jump.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said, rising. He dropped money on the table and had the vague idea that Bobby was doing the same thing. A minute later the waitress would find enough money for double the amount of the bill and an untouched tiramisu.
Bobby’s apartment was less than ten minutes from the restaurant so Hugh didn’t have to watch much more heinous driving. He took the opportunity to grab a few puffs of a cigarette and make sure he still had the necessary supplies in his pocket. He thought he was maintaining his cool admirably until he noticed just how badly he’d parked.
He followed Bobby to a row of identical front doors and waited an eternity of seconds for the key to find its mark and get that bloody door open, at which point he found himself dragged inside and pushed up against the door with Bobby pulling him down into a harsh, probing kiss, all pretense of sweetness and civilization gone. He leaned back against the door and let Bobby have at it until he heard moaning and realized it was his voice. He finally admitted to himself that he’d also replayed their last encounter over the summer. It couldn’t have been at the same time, but the thought that it might have been sent an extra rush of adrenaline through his body. He finally managed to push Bobby away.
“Hey, you can’t back out on me now.”
“Perish the thought. I do need you to take off your glasses.”
“Oh wow.” Bobby winced. “I didn’t even notice. Did it hurt?”
“Barely. And you should take off some other things too.”
“Socks, right?” Bobby grinned slyly. Only sluts kept their socks on.
“At a minimum. And a bed might be useful.”
“I think there’s one here somewhere.”
From what Hugh could see, Bobby’s ideas of decoration owed much to Early American Dorm, including Magritte prints from MOMA tacked on the walls, along with the iconic poster from “The Misfits.” CDs and albums were still residing in plastic cartons as if actual shelving would symbolize a commitment to Hollywood.
Once in the bedroom, Hugh undressed with affected unhurriedness, noticing that Bobby was watching him intently. Either the boxing and swimming were working or Bobby had never seen a naked man before. Maybe seen, but not really looked.
The overhead light was off. There was a maybe-real Tiffany lamp in the corner casting a reddish glow around the room.
“You may want to start taking some clothes off,” he said in the low voice, which produced immediate results. The sweatshirt came off, followed by the shoes, jeans and, with a flourish, socks. Apparently Bobby wasn’t quite ready to remove his briefs.
Hugh picked up his jacket and removed the lubricant and condoms. He placed them deliberately on the nightstand. He noticed that Bobby was still standing at the foot of the bed, nodding seriously, but not showing any inclination to make the next logical move into the bed.
“Hugh, I’ve been waiting for this and wanting it so much and now I’m…”
“You know, Bobby,” he said, coming up behind him and whispering into one ear while his fingers gently toyed with the other one, causing Bobby to squirm, “if you’re in the mood to be quite so chatty, perhaps we should discuss what I’ve been thinking about for three months and exactly what I’m going to do with this beautiful body of yours.”
Bobby let out a gasp and practically fell onto the bed. Hugh followed him and soon they were wrapped up in each other’s limbs and mouths with conversation limited to moans and grunts and names and obscenities.
Since there were no planes to catch, Hugh could take his time exploring Bobby’s body, starting with that oh-so-sensitive neck and working his way down. He liked the trickle of hair in the center of the chest and used it as a guiding arrow with stops for other points of interest. He discovered that it only took a nip of the teeth in certain areas to provoke a full-scale religious awakening. He tried not to be smug, but he did find the thrashing and moaning under his touch to be extremely gratifying and unbelievably arousing.
The white briefs finally had to go, but once they’d been removed, Hugh avoided the obvious and ran his hands along the smooth skin of Bobby’s inner thighs, noticing the tan lines from where he’d been wearing his shorts on sunny days in New York. He wished he could have been in New York to see that. He’d thought about making a surprise trip, but knew it wouldn’t be fair to anybody.
“You are such a fucking tease.” Bobby’s voice was nearly breaking with urgency.
Hugh moved back up for a rough, face-scraping, lip-biting kiss. Hardness collided with hardness.
“Trust me,” he said without meaning to, then “turn over.”
Bobby complied and Hugh carefully draped himself on top finding that the discrepancy in their heights made for a perfect fit. He could continue to nuzzle Bobby’s neck while fitting himself against Bobby’s butt, giving him a taste of what was to come. He must have liked the taste.
“Oh god, Hugh. Pleasepleasepleaseplease.”
Hugh couldn’t resist pausing for a moment to luxuriate in the idea of Bobby grinding against his cock and begging to be taken. He touched Bobby’s back and found a thin layer of sweat. He tasted it and the salt inflamed him even further. He started nibbling, sucking, and biting his way downward, knowing he was leaving marks and knowing that Bobby was getting closer to a complete meltdown with every bite.
He stopped to get the lubricant from the night table and squeezed some out, warming it between his hands, then returned his focus to Bobby’s arse, running one finger teasingly along the crack. Whatever Bobby had to moan was rendered unintelligible as he buried his face in the pillows.
Hugh kept his fingers working but never really probing until Bobby’s legs were spread wide and he was pushing against Hugh’s fingers in raw need. He pushed one finger all the way in past the point of resistance and felt a shudder run through Bobby’s entire body. He added a second finger, moving them in and out, testing exactly how much Bobby could take, wanting him to be absolutely ready.
Taking his fingers away provoked a grunt of protest. Legs spread even wider. He whispered in Bobby’s ear again. “Everything.” It had become a mantra. Bobby looked over his shoulder and Hugh kissed him, this time more gently, making some kind of promise.
Hugh grabbed a condom, opened it and got it on in a smooth motion. Then more lubricant. He reached down for a friendly squeeze before straddling the writhing body under him. He positioned himself and started to push, intending to take things slowly.
Bobby clearly had other ideas. He’d moved up onto his hands and knees so that Hugh found himself going in faster and more deeply than he’d planned. His last two conscious thoughts were Are you sure you’ve never done this before? and I must be damn good. He heard Bobby let out some kind of cross between a moan and a wail, but nothing indicating that he wanted Hugh to stop, which was lucky because he doubted that he could have once he found himself buried to the hilt and enveloped in heat.
He didn’t know who was in control and he didn’t care anymore. He had some sense of reaching down and holding Bobby in his hand. The rest was sweating and grunting and thrusting, skin slapping against skin, harder and harder and harder until the tension exploded in a wave that electrified his body and made him scream out “Bobbybobbybobby,” as he came hard and hot and felt Bobby coming in his hand and never wanted it to end, especially after it had.
He somehow ended up on the bed, flat on his back, still trying to catch his breath and bring the world back into focus. He heard Bobby getting up and then noises from various other rooms in the apartment. The bathroom, certainly, then the kitchen perhaps. Water running. The beeping of a microwave oven.
The sound of footsteps returning and the additional weight of Bobby returning to the bed, followed by the absolute deliciousness of a warm, wet towel cleaning him off.
“Mmmmmmm. Now that’s hospitality.”
The ministrations continued, slowly and sensuously, until he’d been cleaned off down to his fingertips. He thought he’d be dozing off for a well-deserved nap, but he realized that Bobby was lying next to him, propped up on one elbow, playing with his chest hair and doing things to his torso that were going to make it very difficult to nod off. It was as though Bobby sensed that this was a fleeting moment: he needed to get more now because there wasn’t going to be a later. Hugh wanted to tell him that anything more was going to take time, and possibly sleep.
“Where do you like to be touched?” Bobby asked provocatively.
“Anywhere. Everywhere,” he murmured.
“Hard or soft?”
“That would be telling.”
He closed his eyes again, honestly not expecting much to happen. Sorry, Bobby. Go play with someone your own age. He lay back and gave himself over to the sensation of an inquisitive pair of hands and a mouth exploring him and was pleasantly surprised by the eventual result of all that touching and warmth and wetness. He decided that all those old gents spending money on Viagra were wasting their money. What they needed was a curious American lover, sucking cock for the first time.
“Oh my god, she’s right.” Bobby exclaimed before enveloping him.
Who exactly had been chatting about his endowments, he wondered briefly, as his body arched up trying to encourage more pressure, which wasn’t immediately forthcoming. He decided it was time to teach by example.
“Bobby,” he gasped. “Why don’t you move your legs up here for a bit.”
There was a brief pause in the action and then Bobby realized what he was suggesting. That’s my Bobby. Quick on the uptake.
Once the repositioning was sorted out, Hugh was able to show Bobby what he liked without having to say anything, not that he really could. Bobby proved an apt pupil. He followed Hugh’s leads in pressure and speed and exactly what to do with his fingers as though he were following a cookbook recipe for perfect blowjob à la Laurie. Eat your heart out, Jamie Oliver. Smirking wasn’t terribly conducive to effective sucking, but he couldn’t help it. He was feeling rather giddy, as though he’d taken drugs that actually made him high instead of introspective. Maybe one or two of House’s Vicodin.
Being more experienced at this sort of thing, Hugh had imagined he’d be orchestrating the finale, but while he was being amused by his own wit, Bobby had started improvising with some creative tongue moves that caused Hugh’s toes to curl and his brain to decide to take a leave of absence. He closed his eyes tightly till he saw sparks behind them and knew that he would have been screaming if he could, but instead could do nothing but feel his body explode one molecule at a time. This wave hit so strongly that he was hardly aware of Bobby coming in his mouth at the same time and vaguely wondered if it could actually be lasting as long as he thought it was.
Bobby was turning around and moving up to hold him and he let it happen. He reached out for the warm body and let the arms and legs enfold him until he felt sure that he could find reality again when he wanted it. He was completely spent. All demons at bay, at least temporarily. His personal eye in the hurricane was lying next to him, equally exhausted, but not ready to be quiet.
“That’s it,” he whispered, barely finding the energy to speak. “All and everything. If you want more than that, you obviously have me confused with some porn movie automaton.”
“I wanted to call you. When they bombed the buses. I knew you were probably fine and nowhere near a bus, but I was worried anyway.”
“Which explains why my wife got a very odd call from Robbie nearly twelve hours after the whole thing was over.”
“Yeah. I just needed to know you were OK.”
Hugh could have told Bobby that he’d actually thought of tracking him down in New York that day but hadn’t.
“We dedicated that night’s performance to the people of London. I had them play “London Pride” from the CD you gave me over the speaker system. People were crying.”
He wanted to fall asleep with his arms around Bobby and feel the sweat dry on his lover’s body, but he knew that if he stayed too long his emotional levees would break and wash away all the promises about nobody getting hurt.
Nice going, Hugh. You couldn’t just pick up some Hollywood tart and make it the cheap, meaningless stuff. You had to go have mind-blowing sex with someone who actually cares about you and vice versa.
He eased himself off the bed.
“Sorry. Little trip to the loo.”
While he was washing his hands, he looked in the mirror and saw his own eyes, House’s beard and a grin that was both sad and wicked that shouldn’t have been there at all.
He dressed, not knowing if Bobby had fallen asleep or not.
Hugh stopped in the living room and looked at the “Misfits” poster. Robert Sean Leonard had been compared to the young Montgomery Clift early in his career. He hoped that his Bobby had fewer demons to contend with and remembered that he needed to stop thinking of him as “his Bobby”.
“Where are you going?”
Bobby was standing in his briefs and tee shirt, wearing his glasses, looking impossibly young and sleepy.
“Go to bed,” he intoned seriously, taking his silver cigarette case out, clearly sending the message that he’d go out for a quick smoke and be right back, even though that wasn’t what he meant at all. He watched Bobby turn around to do as he’d been told.
He walked out the door and took a deep breath of nighttime air, which he then polluted with a desperately needed cigarette. He looked up to see a crescent moon and a smattering of stars.
He sat down on Bobby’s front porch and thought about what had just happened. He’d told Bobby to go to bed in the exact same tone he used for his children and Bobby had gone just as innocently.
Stephen was right. This had to stop.
The door opened behind and Bobby came out. He’d put on his jeans and sweatshirt. He sat down next to Hugh on the step. “That’s a lot of clothing to put on just to come out and smoke a cigarette.”
Hugh felt Bobby’s leg pressing against his and instead of pressing back, he pulled away. He caught a flicker of a wounded expression in the darkness.
“I’m sorry, Bobby.”
“Can we be more specific?”
“Do we have to be?”
“I think so. Should I have left my socks on?” he asked bitterly.
“No. It wasn’t just sex.”
“Thank god. I’d hate to think that the best sex I’ve ever had was just because some lonely married guy needed to get off and I threw myself at him like a…”
“Please don’t. I wanted it. I wanted you. I still want you and I care about you. That’s why I’ve got to go. I’m not very good at this. Last time I nearly blew my life apart and hurt everybody who loved me. I can’t do it again.”
“None of which mattered a few hours ago.”
Hugh finished his cigarette and threw the butt into a planter. “Two to tango, Bobby. What were you planning to do? Be my American bit on the side and lie to Gaby?” He knew he was being vicious, but he was tired of being the only bad guy.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking that far. If I’d known it was going to be that good and it was never going to happen again…Jesus Christ!” he raised his voice, then flinched from his own loudness. He seemed to be looking for words to express what he was feeling and finding none. “Are you still going to flirt with me?” he finally asked.
“I’d think that was the least of your problems,” said Hugh, standing up. He found it hard to imagine not flirting with Bobby and wondered if he was really strong enough to do the right thing.
Bobby stood too. “You have experience working with someone after you’ve been…together?”
“Some,” he said cautiously.
“And how does that work?”
“It hurts like bloody hell for a while,” he said starting with the truth, “but if you had anything but sex, you manage to get over it and go back to being the friends you were before.“ It wasn’t quite the truth but it would have to do.
Bobby started walking back into the apartment. Hugh fought the urge to follow him in and take it all back. He could hear Stephen somewhere in his head doing an imitation of Margaret Thatcher and telling him not to go all wobbly.
Hugh watched, waiting, as Bobby turned around.
“How the long is the hurting like bloody hell going to last?”
“I’ll let you know when it stops.” he said softly and watched the door slam shut.
And if you need a little more Hugh & Bobby, it's right here