"What's he doing here?" Ken blinked vaguely, standing in the doorway of Garett's room and scratching the back of his head with one hand.
"Huh?" Garett was concentrating on finding someone's wireless to hook up to. Fiona had given him this awesome laptop to work with – made by Gateway, so it had to be good. It worked wicked fast – he could usually get it to find a wireless hook-up in, like, five minutes or less, sometimes, and web pages loaded in less than a minute. Pretty upscale.
"That dude." Ken sounded anxious. Garett looked up from trying to connect to the wireless someone had named sPICymEATybAlls. Ken didn't usually get riled up about, well, anything. Except for when Garett sometimes stole his Funyons. He hated that.
(It wasn't like Garett did it very often at all – Funyons were really gross, but when there was nothing left in the house, and you had only $7.25 in your bank account, and none of the machines would let you take out less than $10 at a shot, well, you did what you had to do.)
"What dude? Oh. Oh." Garett stole a quick glance at the laptop and refreshed the network list hopefully. "I forgot to tell you. That's Callum. He's just staying here for a little while."
Ken looked over his shoulder, and then stepped further into Garett's room. "He's on my couch," he said, all offended. "What's he doing on my couch?"
"Ken." Garett sighed and gave up on the internet for now, pushing his desk chair back and running his hands through his hair. It was getting a little long again, and he kind of liked it – it reminded him of how it felt during the show. But his agent told him that if he ever - ever - let it get long like that, she was dropping him like a sack of potatoes and would never - ever - take his phone calls again, no matter what. Not that she did very often as it was, but every once in a while, Garett could sneak one past her, pretending to be Richard. Everyone wanted to talk to Richard. Garett was getting pretty good at his voice, if he did say so himself.
Garett blinked and looked up. Ken was still standing over him, patiently waiting. "Oh. Right. Listen, it's just for a little while, okay? And, dude," Garett paused and got up, pushing the door shut. "You can't tell anyone, okay? He kind of isn't supposed to be here."
"Oh, you didn't tell Janice?" Janice was their landlady who lived downstairs, this boozy old lady who was always trying to grope at Ken's package when she came by to demand their – usually late – rent.
"No, that's not it – well, I mean, don't tell Janice, either, 'cause I didn't, but the thing is, he doesn't have a green card and he was supposed to go back a while ago."
Ken looked nervously over his shoulder. "Where is he from?" He stepped closer so he could whisper in Garett's ear, and Garett shrank back, cringing. AquaNet and Funyons: not a great combination of smells. "Is he from Mexico?"
"I – what? Does he look Mexican to you?"
Ken shrugged. "They are really good at hiding," he said stoutly. "I hear things. I know things."
"Sure you do, Ken." Garett cut him off before he could get going on one of his conspiracy theories. "And no, he's not from Mexico. Think north."
Ken's brow furrowed. "Scotland?"
"You – no, Ken. Canada. He's from Canada."
"Oh." Ken squinted. "Why does he need a green card? Don't we own them?"
Garett shook his head. "Not yet. Anyway, listen, he's sort of stuck here. I guess he gave his car to his ex? And never got it back? And now he can't afford the plane ticket home."
"Oh." Ken was losing interest, and had picked up the specially customized action figure Garett had arranged on the shelf over his desk. "Well. Okay. Does he have pizza money?"
"I don't think so." Garett sighed. "All he came with was a bag of golf clubs, really. Listen, could you please stop that?" He snatched the action figure out of Ken's hand.
"All right." Ken sighed and headed towards the door. "Could you get him off my couch, though? I really need to lie down. My Achilles tendon is all –"
"I know," Garett cut him off. "I'll take care of it. Just don’t say anything to anyone, all right?"
"About what?" Ken was scratching himself again.
"Nothing. Go. I'll be right out." Garett set the action figure down carefully, studying it. It really did look like Richard. Or, like Jim Ellison, really, which was what he had been going for. The GI Joe wasn't as built as Richard but this particular one had these awesome dark eyes just like him, and looked tough, just the way he did. Garett was still looking for one to be Blair. It was funny the show had never gotten an action figure deal. Maybe when season two came out, there'd be enough interest to get going on that again. Garett would totally be up for posing.
"Hey," Garett said, peering into the dim living room. But all he saw was the usual sprawled figure of Ken, happily settled in on the couch with one hand in a bag of Funyons and the other picking at his belly-button lint. The world was as it should be.
Garett spotted the bag of golf clubs resting in the corner by the TV – he checked to make sure it hadn't knocked over the DVDs, but season one was still neatly propped open on top of the TV, so that all three discs were showing. Garett would have to figure out a shelf above the TV or something for when season two came out. That would look pretty cool, the both of them together, and he bet that he'd be on the discs this time, since Richard already got his turn with season one. His agent had assured him that it would happen, but his agent had also assured him that his name had been spellchecked for season one, so he was trying to not hope too hard.
He glanced around, but the Canadian dude was nowhere to be seen. He peered into the kitchen, but the only thing in there were empty pizza boxes on the lopsided table (it was a great table – Garett had found it down the street on trash day and dragged it home all by himself. There was just the one loose leg, which sort of made it tip over a little sometimes), and the sink piled with dishes. Garett made a quick check to see that the pizza boxes were actually empty – they were, sadly – before taking a breath and heading outside.
The dude was sitting on the front steps right outside, his long legs bent up high, looking about a mile long. The sun was setting and he looked – well, he looked really good there in the light of the setting sun. He was smoking and the smoke from his cigarette curled up above his head. He looked – hot and laid-back and mysterious, all at the same time.
Garett felt that tightness in his chest he usually only got when Richard was around. He shook his head, trying to ignore it. It didn't mean anything; it had just been a while since he'd been around anyone but Ken, and Ken, well, he barely counted as a human being. That was all.
He took a deep breath and pushed open the rusty screen door with a screech. It swung shut behind him, then bounced open again - the latch had broken months ago, and Garett was frankly too scared of Janice to ask to get it fixed.
"Hey," he said, awkwardly lowering himself to sit beside Callum on the stoop. Callum made it look so easy - he was all loose-limbed and relaxed, wearing really cool sunglasses and blowing smoke at the setting sun. Garett felt like a gangly kid next to him - he felt the same way whenever he tried to lean against a wall so cool the way Richard did. Like he was just pretending, while Richard - and Callum - were the real thing.
"Hey." Callum glanced at him, leaning back on his elbows on the stoop. "If you need me to split -"
"No," Garett said, too quickly. "I mean - it's cool. Ken's fine with it."
"What's his story?" Callum slipped off the sunglasses, tucking them in the neck of his worn t-shirt.
"Oh, god, you don't want to know." Garett looked at Callum, and then quickly looked away. His eyes were this seriously pretty grayish blue that reminded Garett of those moments right after the sun set over Moonridge. "He's just - you know, been looking for work for a while, and it's hard for some people." He hoped it was dim enough that Callum wouldn't be able to see how his cheeks flushed.
"Yeah, I get that," Callum said gloomily, rolling his cigarette between his fingers. He sighed and leaned his head back, shutting his eyes. Garett stared at his throat, golden and laid bare, right there next to him on his dirty front porch. Richard had never sat on Garett's front porch. The few times Richard had come to pick him up, he'd just beeped from the street, not even getting out of the car to open Garett's door for him.
"Yeah." Garett wrapped his arms around his knees, tugging his legs close against his chest. "There's, like, nothing out there."
"Yep. Nothing but bit parts, you know? Back-up roles. That, or serial killers," Callum sighed.
Garett stared at him. "You get back-up roles?"
Callum shrugged with one shoulder. "It's pretty much all I can get on American TV."
"Yeah, but you get back-up roles on, like, a regular basis?"
Callum tilted his head to look at Garett. "You don't, huh?"
"No, I - I mean, I do. Just - " He did. He was certain he'd be hearing back about Freak Experts any day now. Of course, Chad Allen was the real star of that production, but that was okay. Garett didn't mind being only a supporting actor with someone as talented as Chad.
Callum was still looking at him, and Garett took a deep breath and finished lamely, "Just not right now."
Callum kept up that piercing gaze for another handful of seconds before nodding slowly. "Yeah. I hear you."
"Yeah." Garett relaxed, leaning back companionably beside Callum there on the stoop. See? He and Ken weren't the only ones with career troubles. Not everyone could be Richard Burgi.
Callum crushed his cigarette out on the crumbling concrete step and immediately reached into the pocket of his leather jacket to pull out a pack. He shook one out, then glanced over at Garett, and held out the pack.
Not even asking. Just assuming that Garett would smoke with him, like he recognized a common coolness between them. Garett nodded smoothly, he thought, and reached out to take a cigarette out of the pack. He held it carefully between two fingers the way he'd seen it done in the movies, and waited while Callum tugged a heavy silver Zippo lighter out of his jeans pocket (he had to lean way back and lift up his hips to get to it, and Garett made a very concerted effort to not look at the way the worn denim tightened over his narrow hips and - other places). Callum lit his own cigarette and then - a shiver ran down Garett's spine - leaned forward with the lighter still lit, allowing Garett to lean in and carefully put the tip of his own cigarette in the flame.
Callum snapped the lighter shut and leaned back, taking a deep drag.
Garett watched, then eyed his own cigarette. Maybe he'd just hold it for a while, instead of smoking it. Use it more like a prop, you know? Probably safer that way. He'd tried smoking for real one night, when he was out back of Richard's house, hanging out in the hammock and waiting for Lori to go to sleep so Richard could join him. He'd thought it would make a pretty cool look, the burning ember in the darkness of the backyard, swinging back and forth as Garett rocked the hammock.
Instead, he'd choked on the smoke immediately, hacking until he fell off the hammock, one foot still twisted in the fabric of it. He'd nearly set his hair on fire, and Richard had had to come out and help untangle him.
So really, it hadn't been a total loss.
Still. He was happy to just sit here, hearing the dulcet tones of Ken's rhythmic snoring coming out through the broken screen door, holding the cigarette and watching Callum blow smoke rings into the deepening blue sky.
His cigarette was burned down almost halfway to the filter - Garett carefully, and oh so coolly, tapping off the ash every few seconds or so - when Callum crushed the butt of his own cigarette out and then leaned forward to tug the cigarette out of Garett's hand.
Garett watched, almost mesmerized, as Callum took a long, slow drag on Garett's cigarette, never taking his eyes away from Garett's. Garett didn't move, hardly even breathed, as Callum leaned in - slow and smooth, no rushing, no worries - and slid one hand into Garett's hair, kissing him sweet and smoky.
When he pulled away, Garett's hands were shaking, and he kept his eyes closed for a few seconds, just sort of - burning it into his memory. When he opened them, finally, Callum was sitting back there on the porch, back on his elbows again, still smoking the last of Garett's cigarette.
Garett took a deep breath - he could still taste the smoke in his mouth from Callum - and leaned back, as well, watching the sky as the stars appeared one by one. Maybe he'd stay out here for a while. Maybe he wouldn't even call Richard at all tonight. It was all good. He was cool.
He was so cool.