At premiers Andrew is never quite sure what happens to Michael Cera. One moment he is by Andrew's side talking to Giuliana Rancic and being somewhat charming and reasonable likable, the next he is gone. Sometimes Andrew catches sight of him in a crowd of silver haired men; making Larry David snort with laughter and David Letterman shake his head in amusement. None of it makes any sense at all. But if Andrew has learnt anything after spending almost a year on set filming and then off set doing promotions with Michael, he’s learnt that that.
Just like clockwork at the LA premier, Michael disappears within minutes of entering the theatre.
Andrew makes himself laugh it off.
He lets himself be tugged over to meet so and so and then lets himself be taken to meet someone else and it isn't like he needs Michael there beside him. Andrew isn't a kid; it's been a long time since he's needed anyone to hold his hand. Neither, clearly, does Michael. It's only – this is meant to be their film. Standing inside some theatre in New York, dressed in a suit he doesn't own and shoes that he'll have to return to the stylists his agency provided, he thinks that this is meant to be their film. But Michael is nowhere to be found and Andrew is left alone to shake hands and answer questions that he's already been asked and –
Ten to fifteen minutes into the film, Andrew excuses himself from the theatre and goes stands in the lobby. A few people are around. Two or are on their phones. Agents, Andrew thinks. He doesn’t know about the others. One of them, a woman in an eggshell blue dress smiles when she catching him looking at her. It’s much too nice a smile for an agent and far too unguarded for an actress. At least, too open for an actress in LA.
Andrew doesn't need anyone to hold his hand. He doesn't.
When Andrew was a child his gymnastics coach used to tell him pretend that he was competing against himself. It always seemed like such horrid advice, especially when he went home as a runner up, or as nothing more than a participant. But he thinks of his coach’s advice again when the nominations are announced. Andrew isn’t used to it, but apparently there is a certain amount of competition between rival films during award season. At one of the first charity lunches leading up to the first set of awards ceremonies he ends up sitting a table away from the Black Swan cast.
This apparently is notable.
In the five minutes Michael manages to stays at their table, he winkles his nose and in the ten minutes David Fincher is forced to stay, he makes a throw away comment about the table service that Andrew doesn’t really understand but thinks perhaps he should because it makes Vincent Cassel smirk knowingly.
In person Natalie Portman is smaller and prettier than he expected. Andrew knows he is staring but he can’t help it. Normally people are plainer off camera. He knows he is. But she isn’t. Delicate and slight, she listens intently to something the person sitting next to her is saying. He isn’t talking loudly or gesturing, but whatever he’s saying is making Natalie nod in agreement. It isn’t that Michael’s disappeared again or Justin’s off flirting with Mila Kunis or that Armie and Elizabeth are off catching up with Leonardo DiCaprio. It isn’t. But before Andrew can stop himself he is turning in his seat to catch the last half of their conversation which apparently is about a person he doesn’t know and a show he’s never heard of. Despite this, Andrew finds himself opening his mouth and saying something. It’s only ten minutes later when they reach a pause in the conversation he remembers to introduce himself. He’s moved into Mila’s vacated chair by then, and it shouldn’t be surprising but somehow is, when Natalie introduces herself and then one of her choreographers, Jesse.
“You don’t look like a ballet dancer,” Andrew finds himself saying before he manages to stop himself.
Jesse blinks. “What do ballet dancers look like?”
Andrew doesn’t know. He has never met one before. He says as much. It makes Natalie laughs a little.
“Maybe a pastel leotard and some tulle would help?” she suggests.
Jesse rolls his eyes.
Andrew’s new LA apartment is too big for him. It only really feels right when he fills the two extra bedrooms with people. Keira Knightley thinks that is pathetic and she tells him so when she stays with him. He laughs though, not because she doesn’t mean it but because she does. She always means the things she says. But when he laughs, she does too. Somehow the edges on her words dull and that makes it alright.
She’s here for the awards season too (a presenter this time, not a nominee – that’s next year if A Dangerous Method is received to the acclaim the rumours already beginning to circulate suggest it will deserve). But she only stays with him for the weekend. By Monday her suite is ready and so is his.
“They like to keep you all together,” she tells him. “Makes it easier.”
“Easier for whom?” he queries.
She shrugs; a sonata of bony shoulders and tawny hair. “Does it matter?”
He thinks of the free suite and the stylists and the hair people and his agent Amanda and his PR people and – he isn’t sure if it matters. It’s easy for him to pack another duffle and even easier for him to get into the car the studio provides and let it take him wherever they wants him to go.
“I suppose I should get used to it.”
Something in Keira shifts. “I suppose you should. For now at least.”
There are a lot of things Andrew supposes he should get used to.
A year or so ago, they weren’t on his radar. But a year or so ago, he wasn’t on anyone’s radar either.
For all the build up and fuss, the first award show of the season is a mess.
Amanda tells him to try to time his arrival so it’s not too late yet not too early either, but somehow he gets there just before Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt appear. The moment they hit the red carpet, it doesn’t matter than Andrew’s in a nominated film, or co-star to a nominee. Nothing matters apart from the fact she’s wearing an emerald green Versace dress, and Brad’s holding her hand. Like lightning, Andrew’s interview is wrapped up and he’s spat back onto the red carpet. Or would have been if Natalie Portman wasn’t standing directly in front of him – it’s thanks to luck and chance and the fact Natalie only fell in love with one of her choreographers rather than both of them, that he is caught before he can stumble into her. It’s more than a little embarrassing, but it could have been so much worse.
“I owe you one,” he tells Jesse as Jesse steadies him.
Jesse shrugs. “I think Natalie owes me for this one. But you can too if you want.”
Someone has straightened his hair and dressed him into a dark navy suit. The cuffs of his pants are a little too short. The hands steadying Andrew are sure though. The cotton of his crisp white shirt is thin. Though it Andrew can feel the press and pressure of Jesse’s fingertips and the way his palm curves around his ribcage.
Andrew opens his mouth but Jesse is moving on; catching up with Natalie and Benjamin Millepied.
When he runs into Jesse again it’s much later. It’s after the awards and well into the first after party of the night and Andrew has lost his tie by then and also his co-star but he’s used to that. In fact he hardly even notices Michael’s absences as he talks to Darren Aronofsky about something that isn’t Spiderman or The Social Network. Darren is very blunt with his words and he uses his hands to punctuate his sentences. He’s the sort of person Andrew thinks means what he says (there aren’t too many of them here). In the middle of a sentence about post-WW2 cinema, Darren reaches out and grabs hold of Jesse’s collar.
“Where are you going?” he asks.
Jesse shrugs. “Home?”
Darren laughs, full and loud. “No.”
“No,” Darren tells him. “We are celebrating.”
“Natalie and Benjamin have left,” Jesse replies.
“That doesn’t matter,” Darren tells Jesse, and when Darren looks over at Andrew, Andrew agrees and somehow the two of them end up taking Jesse to the Vanity Fair party where Darren immediately abandons them for Evan Rachel Wood and Emma Stone replaces him. In a loud voice she tells them the bar is open but the bartenders manning it don’t know how to make anything good. People turn and look at her. She rolls her eyes. Andrew doesn’t know how she exists.
She sticks out her hand at Jesse. “Hi, I’m Emma.”
“I know,” Jesse tells her.
Emma looks flattered. But only for a moment.
“We meet last year at the School Of American Ballet’s Winter Ball,” Jesse continues. “You thought the champagne they served was cheap.”
“Oh,” Emma says, after a moment.
When Andrew meets up with her the next day for breakfast she is embarrassed as much as she is embarrassed by anything which perhaps isn’t as much as she should be. She tells him she meets a lot of people, and that it was a year ago. Andrew nods and agrees. There is no need to make her feel guilty. He doesn’t see the point. He doesn’t think it was Jesse’s intention either when he reminded her.
“He’s different, isn’t he?” she comments absently.
Andrew thinks of Jesse’s delicate wrists and how he sharp his jaw line looked towards the end of the night when everything was starting to get fuzzy and less polite. Andrew – Andrew nods.
On their way out of the café, they get caught by photographers.
Only two, but it’s a little strange. It throws him off.
In the green room at Leno, Justin tells him, he’ll get used to it. Michael nods too in an absent minded way. Andrew isn’t sure. On the stage, he sits between them and smiles a lot and probably says too much. He knows he talks over Justin once or twice, but when Andrew attempts to apologise during the first commercial break Justin waves it off.
“It’s cool man.”
It isn’t though, because Andrew is meant to have gotten the hang of it by now.
He’s better next time at the SAGs. On the red carpet he pulls Justin and Michael close and laughs at their jokes, even the ones Michael tells that no one under the age of sixty five finds funny and manages not to do anything too stupid on camera. Amanda tells him that’s important and she’s right. From interviewers directing all the questions to Justin or Michael, suddenly cameras are being zoomed in on his face.
Apparently despite all the years he’s been acting, thanks to being cast in The Social Network and Spiderman he somehow has been made into an overnight success story. It’s surreal and somehow it doesn’t feel like he imagined it would. Jesse gets caught up with it all on the red carpet. While waiting just below the E! News platform for Ryan Seacrest to finish interviewing an extremely glamorous looking January Jones, Andrew spots Jesse arriving and waves. Somehow someone on the crew notices and halfway through Andrew’s interview just as Jesse is walking by, he is pulled up into Andrew’s interview to ‘spice things up.’
“I heard you two have become good friends,” Ryan says as if it’s common knowledge; before launching into a fairly harmless enquire about Andrew’s chances of outdancing someone like Natalie.
It’s – it’s reasonably funny and easy to laugh along with but next to him Jesse freezes up and stumbles over words and somehow reveals far too much of himself.
“I’m sorry,” Andrew tells Jesse afterwards.
“It’s okay,” Jesse replies, but Andrew thinks it isn’t.
Through mostly trial and error, Andrew knows how to laugh and nod along, and perhaps he doesn’t say the right things all the time but he gets it right more than he gets it wrong. Jesse – he’s not like that. Even when they get inside and no one is paying them any attention whatsoever, it is like words abandoned Jesse. He trips over them, red faced and embarrassed. The sentences he does manage to fashions them into feel half formed and as if they originally where thought of in another language and then haphazardly translated into English. There is little Andrew can do to make it right other than talk over him and helps him skip out on the after parties.
It’s probably too forward but Andrew invites himself to Jesse’s hotel room. Together they go through the mini bar and get tipsy on tiny bottles of liquor and try to stop feeling so hungry by tearing into the even tinier packets of nuts and chips.
“I’m not very good at things like that,” Jesse tells Andrew eventually.
Andrew thinks he knew that about Jesse right from the very start.
It would be simple to tell Jesse it’s alright and that Andrew isn’t good at it either. But it would be a partial lie and for some reason Andrew just can’t make himself do that even if it could make Jesse feel better.
“How long have you danced?” Andrew asks instead because it feels like an important question to ask.
Jesse furrows his brow.
Andrew tries again. Jesse stops him though.
Out of the corner of Andrew eye, he attempts to catalogue the lines of Jesse’s body. He doesn’t look like a dancer. There was strength in him though, strength in his hands when he caught Andrew at the Golden Globes. Andrew remembers that.
Not that it matters, but Andrew was eight years old when his parents enrolled him into gymnastics classes at their local YMCA. Before they did, he used to run them ragged.
Andrew is one of only a few people from the cast to attend the BAFTA’s.
“Me too,” Jesse tells Andrew when they meet up inside.
Natalie can’t fly anymore and Benjamin doesn’t want to leave her. Mila doesn’t really want to go without them so it’s just Jesse and Darren. It isn’t just Andrew – other than a small handful of the cast and crew, he has his family and friends – but he ends up making plans with Jesse for the next day.
They’re both wrecked in the morning. The weather matches; horrid and cold and grey.
Over coffee at one of Andrew’s favourite old haunts, Jesse looks up at the sky and wrinkles his nose.
It makes Andrew laugh. “How is this any worst than a NYC winter?”
Jesse rolls his eyes in that way Andrew secretly likes to thinks all New Yorkers do when confronted by such a statement. It catches Andrew of guard when Jesse sighs and says that he supposes he’ll have to get used to it.
Andrew doesn’t understand. “You live in New York and your flight back there is in less than eight hours. What’s to get used too?”
Jesse blinks. “I’ve been offered a principle position in the Mariinsky Ballet Company.”
Andrew can’t think of a person more unlikely to move to Russia than Jesse. Though only in the UK for a few days, everything about him reeks of acute and painful homesickness. (Andrew is almost completely certain the call he caught Jesse making outside the hotel was to his mother). This, again, is something he knows he cannot say. Instead he asks why. Why that company when Jesse has spent the last few years dancing with Benjamin for the New York City Ballet Company? Why now, when thanks to Black Swan Jesse has all the publicity needed to launch his own company or have his choice of any company to dance or choreograph pieces for?
Jesse shrugs. “I’ve always wanted to dance with them.”
Andrew can’t argue with that. He doesn’t really want to either.
The studio set Andrew up with a trainer about five months before filming began. His name is Stephen and he’s an ex-Marine and if he wasn’t such a nice guy, Andrew would hate him. At five in the morning they go hiking and at six, Stephen makes Andrew swim. After lunch they do combined training and cardio. By the time Andrew’s driver comes by to pick Andrew up to take him to set on Monday morning, he’s about dead to the world.
On set the not quite jet lag London gives him, makes him fumble lines even though he knows them and not hit them exactly right when he does say them properly. Emma notices but she’s running on coffee and probably something else too (he doesn’t ask what but he does finds out when they kiss).
It turns into another eighteen hour working day.
After the first twelve he starts telling stupid jokes to keep himself going. They stop being funny almost immediately but Michael laughs at them nonetheless. He’s a good guy. He’s been doing this longer than Andrew has been alive. Andrew watches as he hits his marks one after the other.
Andrew wants that. Fuck. Andrew wants this.
When the weekend comes, it isn’t the weekend it’s the Academy Awards and it feel like something else, then Andrew doesn’t feel anything at all. Maybe it’s the champagne. Maybe it isn’t. When he sees Jesse trying to sneak out early all Andrew can think is maybe The Social Network didn’t win and maybe neither David or Michael won either, but fuck, Andrew thinks he more than deserves something out of this mess.
Except for some reason he takes his eyes off Jesse for a moment and then he’s gone.
He complains about this to Armie. Armie laughs and ruffles his hair and lets him dance with Elizabeth. Elizabeth is kinder. She allows Andrew to whine for half a dance before she becomes bored and decides to tap George Clooney on his shoulder and dance with him instead.
“You’re wife is a horrid, horrid woman,” Andrew tells Armie by the bar.
They watch George spin her around and dip her when the song swells. It’s a pretty magnificent sight. Armie couldn’t look prouder of her.
The next morning Andrew wakes up in their bathroom
Elizabeth orders room service and together they eat it out on the balcony.
“You had a pretty good time last night,” Elizabeth comments when she catches Andrew picking sequins out of his hair.
Andrew thinks about how he had woken up with Elizabeth’s dress rolled up under his head. “I think you guys had a better time.”
At noon they gather their belongings and check out. In the lobby Armie claps Andrew on the back and Elizabeth kisses his cheek when she says goodbye.
Awards season is over.
Everything ends. (Hollywood forgets that).
The stunt work is more difficult than Andrew expects and he isn’t even doing all that much of it in comparison to his stunt double. At night he crashes and in the morning he wakes covered in bruises he can’t remember getting. He snaps a photograph of a particularly colourful one stretching from his hip to his inner thigh and sends it to a few people.
Robert calls back almost immediately. “What the fuck have you done to yourself Garfield? Even I didn’t fuck myself up that much when I did wire work.”
“Well, you’re a vampire. I’m a superhero.”
“You’re the new Luke Perry,” Robert retorts flippantly. Then, “Be careful who you send photos like that too.”
“Why? Are you going to forward them to TMZ?”
Robert snorts. “Just be careful.”
A section of the filming takes place in NYC. Jesse is packing when Andrew decides to drops by on his first free day.
“I hate this part,” Jesse says as he wraps newspaper around a– Andrew looks at the thing in Jesse’s hand – porcelain thing that might be a sculpture but could just as probably be a grade school art project.
“You’re only going for a few months. Do you really have to take everything with you?” Andrew asks.
Jesse nods. “It’s easier to this way.”
Andrew doesn’t think it is. But looking around Jesse’s cluttered apartment, he thinks Jesse needs to take pieces of it with him, if only to have something that makes sense and is familiar around him when he goes to sleep at night. Andrew isn’t like that. When he left the UK for America, he took one duffle and a few magazines to read on the flight. But he’s never needed much.
One of Jesse’s cats, a mangled grey thing rubs itself against Andrew’s calves. “Are you taking them?”
Jesse shakes his head. “No.”
He sounds guilty.
He explains how his older sister is taking over the apartment lease and, the care of his cats. Andrew scratches behind the cat’s ear and looks at the reflection of himself in one of the mirrors covering the far wall. His collar is lopsided. With his free hand, he tries to fix it only to find his shirt is buttoned incorrectly. The production is here for about a fortnight. Then it’s back to LA for the foreseeable future. There is a schedule, but schedules don’t really mean too much. Just like budgets.
“Are you alright?” Jesse asks.
Andrew nods. Jesse’s apartment is dark and quiet even though the city outside is anything but. Yawning, he kicks off his shoes and lies back on Jesse’s couch. Without making a sound, another one of Jesse’s cats appears out of nowhere and jumps up to sit on Andrew’s ankles. It looks a lot like the grey, but it’s missing a bit from one of its ears. Setting aside the box he’s taping up, Jesse shoos them both off him.
“It’s okay. I’m not allergic.”
Jesse makes a face. “They would have left cat hair all over you.”
That doesn’t strike Andrew as a huge problem. It’s Jesse’s apartment though, and his cats. Closing his eyes, Andrew listens to Jesse return to packing. Floorboards creak as he moves and Andrew exhales slowly to the harsh sound of duct tape securing boxes. He isn’t sure this is what Jesse intended when he gave Andrew his mobile number at the BAFTA’s.
An hour or so later on the way to what Andrew hopes is a good restaurant with loose smoking restrictions Jesse receives a phone call and they end up detouring to a contemporary dance company space where Jesse introduces Andrew to his younger sister. Unlike Jesse everything about Hallie Kate speaks of her chosen vocation in life. When the three of them sit down to eat, Andrew can’t help but glances at her long bare legs and fragile ankles. He thinks she looks like how a ballerina should look.
Over lunch she tells him she isn’t really a ballerina. “Not compared to Jesse.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jesse says immediately.
But Hallie Kate shakes her head at him fondly and ignores him. She tells Andrew about Jesse and how their Ukrainian dance teacher adored him and how she made Jesse play the Nutcracker prince every year until he was scooped up by the School of American Ballet at the tender age of eleven.
“Right from the beginning he was a natural. You should have seen our dance teacher. I think she’d waited her entire life for someone like Jess to walk into her studio.”
It makes Jesse blush and try to change subjects. Andrew really doesn’t want that to happen. He thinks Hallie Kate’s stories of Christmas recitals and dance camps where Jesse choreographed their own performances because he didn’t like the ones they was given are delightful and he wants to hear all of them.
“He always gave me the lead,” she tells Andrew as if it is a wonderful secret. (Andrew thinks it is).
“You deserved them,” Jesse retorts.
Hallie Kate takes a sip of her drink. “Not always.”
At the time, when Andrew went for Spiderman it felt like he auditioned a hundred times for the role. While Michael spent his weekend making witty short films with his witty filmmaker friends or doing the crossword in The New York Times or knitting socks for charity or whatever a ninety six year old stuck in a teenager boy’s body did, Andrew spent it reading the same scene again and again and listening to casting agents discussing his hair and his accent and age and then smoking outside until Amanda called and told him what was happening (which wasn’t very much for months).
Now there are scripts that are just given to him.
No hoops. Not even one.
If he wanted he could just sign on a dotted line and that would be it.
According to the press, there is currency in his name. He looks at it appearing in print – apparently he is being considered for a role in the next video game adaptation. Or so trade rags say. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s just another rumour. There are a lot of them. A few suggest he’s dating Keira. When he brings them up and tries to make it into a joke she narrows her eyes and his joke stutters and falls flat.
When he has some free time he sorts through the pile of scripts but just glancing at the titles doesn’t reveal a great deal. Maybe that video game script is among them. Andrew doesn’t know. During breaks on set, he tries to glance through them. Before coming to NYC, he had gone to read for one on his day off. It was based on one of his favourite books. He wants it as much as he thinks he has ever wanted anything. Afterwards he had lunch with Jennifer Lawrence and the director. It would have mean something, except the following week Jennifer and Gary Ross are spotted out with Taylor Lautner. Andrew might be playing a teenager, but it’s slightly depressing to be competing against one.
Jesse huffs when Andrew calls him. “You feel old? I am old.”
They’re the same age. Andrew looked it up (because yes, he is that sort of person). Facts and figures and a list of roles he’d danced and productions he’d been in and some he’d choreographed with Benjamin. Andrew has always wanted too much. With Jesse it isn’t any different. It’s stupid and wrong and maybe it’s fascination more than anything else, but Andrew’s heart doesn’t care.
Overworked beyond exhaustion, Andrew and Emma take to attending parties. Ostentatiously it’s not really to promote Spiderman. Soft marketing, Andrew thinks it’s called. The two of them are dressed to the nines and sent out to be seen and photographed out and get their names circulating. People have to put Tobey and James and Kristen out of mind and get used to them instead – it won’t work if they don’t.
Andrew shouldn’t, but he invites Jesse to come to a few.
‘Invite’ might be the wrong word though. Andrew’s always been good at getting his way. His mother says he is persuasive. Keira doesn’t. She uses words like manipulative and selfish (and she blows smoke into his face as she says them). But Keira would. This is no exception. Perhaps it should be, but it isn’t. The city loves Jesse, or the people who throw the events do. It’s such a New York thing, having a danseur noble on the guest list. It almost makes up for people like Andrew and Emma taking up space. Andrew is certain the city sees right through them and their attempts to carve a place for themselves. They’re the biggest joke in the room. No matter how many parties they attend or red carpets they walk or what they say or do, they are going to be compared to their critically acclaimed predecessors. There is no escaping it. Not even in borrowed next season Gucci.
Emma is loud at parties. She is young enough and pretty enough for it to be charming (for now at least). When they are together, Andrew finds himself becoming louder too, throwing one arm over her shoulder and the other over Jesse’s. Halfway through the night Jesse disappears just like Michael does. No matter where Andrew looks or who he asks, he can’t find Jesse. The next day the papers run pictures of Andrew. His arms are wrapped around Emma’s waist. She has her head tilted up; her cheeks flushed and her pale blonde hair coming undone from its up do.
Carey Mulligan calls and reads one of the article to him. “‘Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone: caught in a web of love.’ Ohh, that sounds fascinating! Several party goers reported that you two were very affectionate and obviously smitten with each other.”
“Shit,” he swears. “Really?”
“No,” Carey replies. “I cleaned it up a little for your benefit. They actually said you guys were hot and heavy and spent most of the night making out in a dark corner.”
“Reading between the lines they suggest that too. When did you become so loose Garfield?”
Andrew rubs his eyes with the back of his free hand. “None of that happened.”
Carey hums a little. “Of course it didn’t. You’re just a handsy drunk.”
“I wasn’t drunk.”
“You’re handsy with or without liquor.”
On the other end of the line, he hears Carey clicking and typing. Andrew really, really doesn’t want to know what she’s looking at or looking up.
“It’ll blow over,” he says or asks (or maybe hopes).
Carey of all people should be able to give him an answer. (Keira wouldn’t have the patience). He remembers how it was for her and how it was with Shia. She is quiet though and the sound of her typing halts. He wants her to tell him it’s already last week’s news, that Britney or Lindsey or Paris or anyone more famous than him has done something newsworthy. Carey is quiet though and when she does answer, there is something weighted about the way she speaks.
“Assumptions about you and Emma were always going to be made, Andrew,” she tells him. “It comes with the territory.”
He feels like he knows what she’s going to say next. “You’re going to tell me to be careful, right?”
Carey exhales against the receiver. It rattles down the line.
“Rob already told me that,” Andrew adds.
“Most of the world thinks Robbie’s dating Kristen,” Carey sighs.
And yeah, now that she mentions it, most of the world does think that.
No one say anything, but Andrew gets the feeling the studio doesn’t really mind the romance rumours.
“They’re better than some of the others that could be going around,” Emma says pointedly.
She leers at him when she says it and he hates how right she is.
(He makes sure not to sit too close to her when they break for lunch.
It’s petty and stupid and too late but he does it anyway. From the other end of the table, she smirks at him.)
He doesn’t even think about what happened to Jesse until she brings it up. Immediately he wants to call but something about the curl of her lips makes him rethink the idea. Or wait until they finish for the day. It’s getting late then. Thankfully the night shoots aren’t until the latter part of the week so it isn’t unforgivable late when Andrew gets dropped off outside Jesse apartment. Jesse was asleep though. He is dozed and sleep rumpled when he buzzes Andrew up and lets him into his apartment. In the low light the places where bits and pieces that have been bubble wrapped and shipped across the world once occupied stand out. Little pockets of vacant space.
A cat weaves around Andrews ankles as he apologises for coming by so late (even though it isn’t that late – according his wrist watch it’s just pushing nine).
“It’s alright,” Jesse manages to mumble.
“You disappeared,” Andrew tries to say and explain.
Andrew tries again. “At the party; I looked for you but I couldn’t find you.”
“Oh,” Jesse says absently. “I left. It was nice though. Fun.”
Half asleep, words seem to hold an added degree of difficulty. The ones he picks don’t quite work with the set of his mouth and the way he turns his body inwards. Andrew wants to try a third time; wants it to work like a charm. Or be one. He doesn’t though. He watches Jesse as he switches on a few lights. His barefoot feet hardly make a sound as he moves across his hardwood floors to the kitchen. From across the apartment, Andrew watches the way Jesse rises up onto his toes to open a cupboard, and the graceful curve of his arms as he grabs two glasses from it and pours them both a glass of water. In the tall mirrors lining one side of the apartment, he is doubled.
Andrew feels ashamed when Jesse pops two aspirins and drops them into Andrew’s glass.
They spit and sizzle in the water.
Andrew wants to explain that he isn’t drunk. He’s just tired. That’s all. Tilting his head back, Jesse drinks his glass of water in one long gulp. Andrew traces the line of Jesse’s neck with his eyes. The apartment is so quiet. The noise of the aspirins dissolving sounds like a soundtrack to a war film.
“You can have the couch,” Jesse says eventually.
Getting up he pats Andrew’s shoulder as he passes. Andrew looks at the bits of white foam floating on the surface of the water. Behind him, he can hear Jesse pulling duct tape off a box to retrieve blankets.
Pinching his nose, Andrew forces himself to drink the whole glass in one go. It tastes sour and chalky. Jesse looks pleased when Andrew swallows the last gritty drops and Andrew reacts like a teenager would react. It feels like a night of regression and transgressions. Kicking off his shoes, he pads over to the couch. The blankets Jesse sets out are soft with wear and smell stale. When Andrew lies down, Jesse spreads them over him.
“Night,” he whispers as he switches the lights off.
“Night,” Andrew says in return.
In the dark, Andrew’s digital watch blinks; the numbers nine, three and zero flash blue and green.
Andrew closes his eyes and tries to sleep.
Before Andrew leaves, they go see Hallie Kate perform.
With her hair bound up in pale gold ribbons and feet bare, she dances with a group of six other performers. The music is soft and rambling. It makes everything feel slower and gentler. Andrew uses to see performances like it in London with Daisy and Matt, but it’s been a while since he had the time. Hallie Kate is very good and it’s clear that Jesse is very proud of her. As the music begins to build towards its final crescendo, Andrew watches her leap into another dancer’s arms. Effortlessly he swings her around and sets her back down lightly.
On the flight back to LA after the BAFTA’s, Andrew had watched Black Swan. The chorography was so much different. Hallie Kate doesn’t dance like she’s made up of sharp edges and barely concealed anxiety. There is nothing painful about her and there is nothing painful about watching her.
Jesse had been a member of the corps in Black Swan.
It had taken Andrew a while to even spot him among the others.
“It didn’t make sense for me to have a bigger role,” Jesse explains on the subway.
“But you were in charge of your role,”
“Yeah,” Jesse says. “But me doing a fifteen minute solo wouldn’t have exactly service the story Natalie and Darren wanted to tell.”
“It would have been cool though.”
Jesse rolls his eyes.
Andrew still doesn’t think he looks much like a dancer, but he does think it would have been cool.
It isn’t by plan or anything as clever as that, but Andrew gets off at Jesse’s stop instead of his own. In the elevator up to Jesse’s floor, Andrew receives a text from Emma complaining about some of the script changes. It’s a bit late in the game for all that, but the Spiderman script isn’t exactly the same as a Sorkin one. Nonetheless the new pages of the script need to be memorised.
Although he’s got a five am call time tomorrow, it feels further away than it really is. Inside Jesse’s apartment, Andrew leans against the kitchen bench and watches Jesse grab them something to drink. There’s only water. Jesse is trying to clean his fridge out. He appears self-conscious by the perceived shortcoming.
During the intermission cheap champagne had been served.
Andrew tastes it on Jesse lips when he leans over and kisses him.
For a moment Jesse kisses back, soft and sweet.
When he pulls away, Andrew wants – Andrew always wants more. He always has. Sometimes he thinks he always will. There is colour in Jesse’s cheeks and Andrew can taste him on his tongue. Inside his chest his heart thuds and throws itself against his rib cage. But this isn’t his home (it’s not even Jesse’s anymore) and it isn’t his place. Andrew doesn’t push.
Jesse leaves for St Petersburg shortly before Andrew and the Spiderman production return to LA.
(Scheduling and budgets; the oldest refrain, the oldest lie).
Andrew, a few of Jesse’s friends and most of his family take him to dinner the night of his flight and then to the airport. Apart from Hallie Kate and Benjamin, Andrew doesn’t know any of them. One or two of Jesse’s friends look vaguely familiar, but that doesn’t mean too much. Not in America. As it turns out one of them, Anna Paquin, is an actor too. (Dressed simply and with her hair pulled back from her face he almost doesn’t recognise her). Another, Sarah Lane, was Natalie’s body double. Pregnant and beautiful she sits next to Jesse at the internal gates and makes him smile and laugh even though he looks like he wants to cry.
“Cheer up Jess,” she tells him.
“Yeah,” Hallie Kate agrees. “If you don’t cry Mom said she’d buy us all coffee after your flight boards.”
It doesn’t work. Jesse tries. They can all see that he tries. But when his flight is called, Andrew hugs Jesse and hears him sniffle against the wool of Andrew’s scarf. It makes Andrew not want to let him go, but he knows he has too so he does. Someone else takes his place almost immediately, kissing Jesse’s cheeks and whispering stupid things into his ear that make him smile.
Together they take him to the gates and wave stupidly to him so that he blushes bright red and looks away from them. Benjamin laughs loudly and Jesse ignores him and it’s as nice as something like a farewell can be.
“He’ll be fine,” Jesse’s older sister, Kerri says when they loose sight of him.
She says it like the second grade teacher she is, like it’s a simple fact and Andrew believes her. When she suggests they forgo coffee for something stronger he ends up tagging along with her and Anna to some tiny bar on a rooftop in the village. A few people beg off; Benjamin and Sarah, though that isn’t a surprise. Jesse’s parents too, and Hallie Kate.
“Dancers,” Kerri comments, “have very strict bedtimes.”
The corner of her mouth twitches, and Anna nods like she understands. Andrew thinks of how he had lent on the buzzer outside Jesse’s building until Jesse had left him up.
Sitting on a small table, knocking knees, they drink shots of something Kerri orders and glasses of something else the bartender sends along with them.
“How does a grade school teacher know the best bartender in town?” Anna asks.
Kerri smirks and does not offer an answer.
She is all smoke and mirrors, perhaps the opposite of Jesse and Hallie. When she looks at Andrew, he has no idea what she sees.
Andrew has never been very good at pacing himself. The next morning he is still more or less drunk when his driver picks him up from Anna’s NYC place. In the make up trailer he drinks coffee and tries to transition gracefully from drunk to hung over. Later, so alert his hands are shaking and his heart is racing he thinks maybe water and aspirin would have been a better choice.
Emma is unimpressed.
“Couldn’t you have waited for a day we weren’t scheduled to spend making out?” she asks rhetorically as she unwraps a stick of gum.
Dressed in Gwen Stacey blues and reds and Americana, she smells of hair spray, day old perfume, and weed. He thinks people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. He also thinks he should not like her. But he does. In a way. Keira says that happens when you spend enough time with someone. She could be right. He doesn’t know. Either way, there are worse people to shoot a film with and far worse people to have to go to parties or to do interviews with than Emma and he hopes she feels the same way about him.
Eventually the production returns to LA. The assistants’ that the studio assigned to Andrew and Emma get them tickets on the same flight. In first class while the flight attendants secure the luggage compartments, Andrew watches her fiddle with her iPhone. His is already turned off. When they are allowed to turn them back on, he does.
When he does, he finds a missed message from Amanda waiting for him.
It’s down to him, Taylor, and James Franco.
The week before it was down to him, Taylor, Josh Hutcherson, Channing Tatum and a Hemsworth brother.
In the message, she sounds very positive and enthusiastic about the news. Andrew doesn’t know what to think. A Twilight star is one thing, James Franco is another.
Like a child, for the remainder of the flight Andrew closes his eyes and listens to music. That doesn’t change anything though.
There are more scripts waiting for Andrew in LA. There are auditions too. Or rather there are industry parties where Andrew goes and all the practice he has at smiling and laughing at the right time is put to some use. Instead of reading lines of dialogue he wears yet another borrowed suit and is personable.
‘Personable’ is the key word.
The award season might be over but Andrew has ‘buzz.’ According to his publicist, he needs to keep the momentum going. Apparently there are reasons for it or for keeping it, but although she explains, Andrew doesn’t really understand. All he does get is that it’s important to be charming. If he wants to build a career, he has to be.
So he is.
“People think like sharks in LA.” Keira tells him. “If you stop moving you’re dead. Fuck, if you tread water you’re as good as dead too.”
“Carey took a year off.”
“I love her, but Carey’s an idiot,” she retorts.
Andrew doesn’t know what he is.
Somehow despite all the planning and scheduling, the production ends up returning to NYC for some re-shoots and to film an additional scene that the script writers decided to add at the last minute. It is there, the shoot wraps up.
When he tells Jesse, Jesse hums a little.
It’s been a month or so since he left. In that time he has moved into his new apartment, been awarded a new role in an upcoming production, has found three bookshops within walking distance from the theatre and one café where he has gotten into the habit of eating lunch during the week. These big and small things add up to Jesse sounding more and more settled each time Andrew speaks to him. Domesticity suits Jesse’s nerves. The upcoming production, though the reason Jesse moved across the world, does not.
It is a classic. Or so Jesse (and wikipedia) tells Andrew.
In his spare time, he types the title into youtube and watches a few clips from random performances. Andrew doesn’t really know what he’s watching for, but he hopes he’ll know if he sees it. It’s difficult to tell. All the clips seem to be different. Music, set, costumes, and dancers – it all seems to be interchangeable. The story, he supposes is the only thing that unifies them.
On a whim, he types in Jesse’s name into the search engine.
More video clips come up than Andrew expects. But Andrew didn’t really know what he expected. The majority of the clips are shaky and out of date (which makes sense given the duration Jesse spent preparing, filming and promoting Black Swan). Some are quite beautiful. Andrew watches around half a dozen of them.
The next time he speaks to Jesse, Andrew does not quite know who he is talking to.
In his head, Andrew thinks of the person in all those clips; the one who moved with such grace and care. Over the phone line Jesse sounds the same. He fumbles over words and tells Andrew stories about being introduced to various patrons at the most recent gala. The idea of having a parton seems quaint and old fashion to Andrew. When he thinks of a patron of the arts he imagines little old women in fur coats and neatly set hair. Jesse laughs though.
“No, they’re not quite like that,”
“Well, maybe a little.”
In halting sentences he talks a little about being presented at the gala, and to the press attending the event as the newest member of the company. From what he says, Andrew gathers that it is an event, to dance for the Mariinsky Ballet Company especially for an American dancer. Jesse’s earliest training was in the Vaganova method though, he dreamed of dancing for the great company.
He tries to explain.
Andrew can tell Jesse really tries.
But somehow it gets away from him.
Language frustrates Jesse. It's as if nothing he says is right. Andrew longs to see him dance. When the call ends, he goes and watches Black Swan again and fast forwards to the final performance just to see those few moments of screen time Jesse gave himself.
From working twelve to eighteen hour days Andrew suddenly finds himself sleeping though mornings until late in the afternoon when production concludes.
Without any projects on the near horizon, Andrew takes to going out. Somehow it’s easier than staying in. Maybe in NYC no one cared for him, but in LA he’s the new Spiderman. Or just Spiderman (no one cares for the old anything here). Either way, it doesn’t matter. Spiderman can go wherever the fuck he wants. As it turns out, mostly that’s VIP sections, but whatever. It’s not like he’s got anywhere else to be.
Sure, there are scripts and dotted lines. There are scripts and lunches with directors too.
But there always are.
So he reads them and he goes to auditions (which are now more often than not lunches or orchestrated meetings) during the day and in the evening he just goes out. Justin always knows the best place to go. Fuck. Justin always knows somewhere to go. Or Emma. Or Lily. Or Max. He calls them all up and maybe they were just friends he had during filming, but it’s LA and he’s Spiderman.
Emma finds the whole thing funny.
“Living a little too fast, Garfield,” she comments whenever she feels like commenting on the increasing paparazzi presence outside the clubs they spend their evenings (and sometimes their mornings) in.
But if he is, so is she.
They get linked together a few more times.
Emma plays it up, acting coy whenever someone attempts to ask her.
“What?” she says when they go out together. “Can’t a girl have friends?”
The answer is no. But no one ever gives straight answers in LA. That’s what PR people and carefully worded statements are for. Andrew has one of them now. But she hadn’t been forced to give any statements. It appears like Emma, Andrew is still young and pretty enough to do what he wants. Or just male and famous enough. Maybe just male.
As Shauna bluntly tells him, there is a difference between a LiLo train wreck and a Colin Farell one.
Not that Andrew is a train wreck.
He’s just having fun.
Isn’t that what you’re meant to do?
Towards the end of summer, Natalie goes into labour.
(Andrew finds out though TMZ. It’s fucked up).
Against all odds, Jesse manages to get a few days off and flies back out to LA for the birth of Natalie and Benjamin’s child. Jesse can only stay for a week, and even that is a long time for him to be away from the Mariinsky Ballet.
“Benjamin is like my brother,” Jesse says, as if that does explain his absence. “And Natalie is like my sister now.”
It is not much of an excuse, but Andrew uses it as one to invite Jesse to come and stay with him.
When Jesse hesitates, Andrew smiles at him and reminds him Natalie just gave birth.
“They’re not going to be up for house guests, Jess.”
That isn’t a lie – when his sister-in-law had her first child even the occasional visit was an ordeal – but it feels like it should be one. It isn’t that Andrew forgot, but having Jesse in LA rather than a voice on the end of the phone line is just so much better and it’s so easy to take advantage of Jesse’s jet lag and drag him out. It’s even easier to keep taking advantage. LA isn’t NYC but Andrew doesn’t let that stop him. Not that it would. Everyone knows everyone in LA, and everyone knows who Andrew is.
He is taken by surprise when at Angels and Kings, Jesse breaks into a smile upon being pulled into a hug by Ashlee Simpson.
Petite and extremely blonde, she is attractive in the way most LA women are and all pop stars seem to be. The juxtaposition of her and her platform heels (and her eyeliner husband who practically vibrates by her side) next to Jesse is a little startling. She does most of the talking (her hands flying about), but Jesse appears interested in everything she has to say. Once or twice he responds, nodding and at one point replying in length.
Andrew doesn’t really know what to think.
“You spend much time with pop stars?” he asks later.
Jesse blinks. “Huh?”
“How do you know Ashlee Simpson?” Andrew rewords.
Jesse shrugs. “We went to school together for a bit. Her parents pulled her out when Jessica became famous.”
“School?” Andrew repeats.
Jesse nods. “The School Of American Ballet.”
It is late when they get back to Andrew’s apartment.
Somehow it feels early.
They left Emma back at the bar and let Justin go to the next party of the night without them. Neither choice matters. Not really. Not when LA never seems to stop. It’s strange though, how quiet the apartment feels when they unlock the doors. Tossing his keys onto the side table, Andrew switches on the lights.
Inside his chest, his heart is hammering and LA isn’t NYC. It isn’t.
After a night of shots and free drinks, Andrew feels stupid and reckless and –
Andrew wants and wants and wants.
He never stopped.
And he knows, okay, he knows what he is like. He does. But the collar of Jesse’s shirt is stretched, revealing pale translucent skin and some of his curls are sticking to his neck and Andrew wants.
“Andrew?” Jesse asks quietly.
Behind the closed door Andrew feels more bold than brave, but perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Pushing Jesse back against the counter, Andrew bites Jesse’s bottom lip and pushes his shirt up. Jesse gasps and Andrew plays it as an advantage. He presses himself along the line of Jesse’s body, presses and pushes himself closer and closer. With Jesse’s shirt pushed up and his hands on Jesse’s bare skin, Andrew feels greedy and unsophisticated and he hears Jesse say his name once, twice, but Andrew can’t bring himself to care. Not when Jesse tilts his head back and lets out a whine when Andrew unbuckles Jesse’s belt and drops to his knees and blows him fast and sloppy and with no particular skill.
“Fuck,” he swears when he comes.
The word is so unexpected and coarse and Andrew echoes it, his voice shot and hands bracketed on Jesse’s hips.
LA isn’t NYC.
Andrew goes with Jesse to visits Benjamin and Natalie once. Bringing a stuffed elephant and a bunch of flowers, he manages to make her laugh and Jesse blush within the course of the short visit. He counts it as a great success.
Jesse leaves at the end of the week.
On the morning of his departure, Andrew pins Jesse’s hands above his head hard enough to leave bruises and rides him slowly. Although in control, Andrew feels desperate. Licking a line from Jesse’s throat to the edge of jaw, Andrew struggles to breathe. It’s so much – the feel of Jesse, the blue of his eyes, the vast expanse of naked skin – but somehow it isn’t enough.
“Shhh,” Jesse whispers, and Andrew tries. He does.
But he wants. Just wants so much. He always has. And it isn’t enough. Not nearly.
When he comes, he almost collapses. Jesse tries to pull out but Andrew can’t manage to let him.
“No, no, no,” he murmurs into the crock of Jesse’s neck. “Not yet.”
“Please,” Andrew says. Begs. Both.
Jesse’s hands are gentle when he rolls Andrew onto his back, and it’s almost too much but Andrew digs his fingers into Jesse’s shoulders and holds on as Jesse starts to move his hips. Over sensitive, every thrust simultaneously makes Andrew want to pull away and push closer and desperation makes the distinction between the two indistinguishable.
Jesse’s shoulders shake a little. Andrew can feel the tremors.
It only takes a few more thrusts and Jesse comes, breathless and Andrew bites his lip hard. Half hard again, his heart races and he can’t help by tenses when Jesse pulls out.
“It’s alright,” Jesse says, kissing him. “It’s okay.”
But it isn’t. It isn’t. And Andrew can’t help but let out a cry at the feel of Jesse’s hand on his cock. It’s overwhelming and too much and it undoes him. He tangles his fingers in Jesse’s hair and lets him do what he wants. Lets him crawl between Andrew’s legs and bite his thighs and makes his dick twitch. Lets him press his fingers back inside him and lick into him and it’s too much. Andrew tries to stay still, but he can’t stop squirming and then he’s coming for the second time, hard and hot. The aftershocks of it make him shake and shake.
He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him.
In the following days, Andrew hears from Amanda that with the final rounds of reshoots over, the post-production on Spiderman has commenced in earnest. With his part over for the time being, Andrew officially finds himself with too much time on his hands.
“Read,” she tells him, picking a dog-eared script off her desk and tossing it into his lap. “You have more than five minutes of free time a day. Use it for something other than fixing your hair.”
He looks at the script. “I do read them.”
“Then pick one you like.”
Amanda makes a tired sound. “Pick another one. James Franco doesn’t have a monopoly on leading roles.”
At present, Emma has three projects lined up. One already has buzz. Another has Justin in a leading role. In addition to that film, Justin has two other he’s involved with, plus vague plans regarding his third album. Lily literally has a million things on her schedule, and Matt is Doctor Who.
“Amanda wants me to accept something,” Andrew tells Matt when he calls.
“What do you want?” he asks.
Andrew – Andrew looks at the piles of scripts and he doesn’t even know which ones are still available but probably should.
“You are over thinking it, I can tell,” Matt hums. “You never do that.”
Andrew doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Jesse calls irregularly. (Andrew calls insistently).
Andrew wonders if the bruises he left have faded yet.
Across the phone line Jesse sounds tried. The choreography is challenging and the first performance of the season is looming on the horizon. Andrew doesn’t understand half the things Jesse talks about, but he understands Jesse’s stress. Andrew can hear it even.
“I just want to be the best it can be,” Jesse says one night.
Andrew hears something else.
Perfection is such a horrid word.
But perfectionism is a worst one.
Lunches and nights spend in the VIP section of clubs and events as a VIP and morning slept through pass. Or add up.
In a rush, it begins again.
With the looming premiere, comes the promotion.
The studio sets up interviews after interviews. Emma turns up to half of them late and turns the other half into games which she somehow wins.
“You need to embrace it,” she tells him, fiddling with her bra strap.
“When they say jump, I say ‘how high?’”
“Exactly,” she grins. “Only not at all.”
Andrew’s Grandmother was a dancer. In her house, there are a few faded photographs of her in tulle and silk with flowers in her hair. When he’s doing press in London, he goes over on his free day and looks at them again. She was very beautiful. She still is.
“You look tired,” she tells him.
He is but he smiles like he isn’t.
Pressing a kiss upon his temple, she takes the album from his hands. Turning a page, she points out where she is in the corps even though he knows.
While doing the final leg of the first round of press in Europe (they’ll be more because there always is), Andrew manages to find some time to fly out and visits Jesse. They don’t do much press in Russia, but Jesse doesn’t have to know that Andrew is using his two free days to see him. Or two days and a half as Emma is dealing with the UK versions of Marie Claire and Cleo in the afternoon and thus there is no need for Andrew’s presence despite what the studio tries to convince him.
So with only a duffle, some euros and his passport, he flies out to Saint Petersburg.
It feels daring and reckless and stupid in a way he hasn’t done anything stupid since he first relocated to LA. Breath frosted and hands cold, he takes public transport from Pulkovo International Airport out into the city centre. In the bus he stands pressed up against people and there isn’t a real plan to any of it.
Once on the way there, the bus passes by a Spiderman billboard. As they drive by it, he stares. He doesn’t look much like his airbrushed counterpart. But that’s just his opinion (he doesn’t think Emma matches up either). It could be a result of overexposure. Even the film itself is blurred in Andrew’s memory. It’s been out less than a month and in the last premiere he found himself zoning in and out. Blinking and then opening his eyes to find that he’d somehow managed to miss great sections of it.
It’s something he needs to work on. Or something he thinks he needs to work on. One of the two.
Staring out into the Saint Petersburg’s streets, Andrew tries to figure out which one. He ends up missing his stop. It takes him an additional ten minutes to reach the Mariinsky theatre. The green and ivory building is large and old and Andrew feels almost invisible when he walks into it.
The theatre is probably meant to be shut to the public, but the doors to the stalls aren’t locked.
It takes a moment for his eyes to focus in the darkness. The stage is lit beautifully. Soft beams of light crisscross and fall on each dancer. From the last row of seats, Andrew watches the dress rehearsals. Andrew has watched clips of Jesse dance. He has. A few are bookmarked on his laptop. But nothing quite prepared him for how Jesse dances in person. Nothing.
It’s all – Andrew doesn’t have words.
That is Jesse on stage. That is Jesse leaping into the entrée pas de deux with his partner. That is Jesse. His is all Andrew can see. Lean and strong and he is so very vivid to Andrew as he effortlessly lifts his partner above his head as if she weighs nothing more than a feather. All the dancers are dressed in white, but bathed in light they are made to look golden; Jesse perhaps most of all. His partner is fine and blonde and when Jesse sets her down, together they move like mirrors of each other. Twisting and turning and pushing away from each other and coming back to each other and flying, flying through the air like their bodies are weightless.
All Andrew can do is watch.
He knows Jesse’s body. Andrew pressed him down against his sheets and sent him home with fingertip bruises littered everywhere Andrew touched. He didn’t expect this. He watches Jesse fly – Jesse who cannot speak, but can in the line of his body. In the precision of every action he directs his limbs to make, he gracefully articulates the narrative arch without uttering a single word. Andrew didn’t expect this.
When Valery Gergiev, the artistic director and the lighting crew pause the rehearsals to go over concepts, Andrew finds himself waving and inviting himself to sit with Jesse and the other principles and soloists in the wings. Up close they are more angular and wiry than striking or attractive. He can tell some do not welcome his presence. It is an intrusion, in a way. Their rehearsal is the equivalent of a closed set. But Jesse does not mind. Andrew can see it in the set of his jaw and the carriage of his shoulders. The majority of the others see it too.
They look to him, Andrew realises.
(Outside the building and inside it, Jesse’s face was on the promotional image. His name and his face. No. Not his face. Him. His body in motion; coiled and strong).
The realisation sits in Andrew.
“You should organise something for me tonight,” he tells Jesse after the rehearsal has ended, just to see the face he makes.
“You should take me dancing.”
“When someone asks a ballet dancer to take them dancing it’s like asking to be fucked.”
Andrew swallows whatever he was going to say.
Jesse does that – he is quiet and takes such pains in attempting (and often failing) to articulate himself, but occasionally he will say things like that and startle Andrew. A few of the other dancers laugh in that very Eastern European way. Not at Jesse, but as if they understand exactly what Jesse meant. Jesse though, is oblivious.
They do end up going out in the evening. After dropping off his stuff at Jesse’s apartment, they go to a place Jesse knows. A handful of the dancers and company members join them and so in the end it’s really them who take both Andrew and Jesse out.
“He never wants to go anywhere,” Irina Golub laughs. “We have to take advantage of this opportunity.”
She and Jesse are old friends. Over drinks she tells Andrew all about dancing in one of Benjamin and Jesse’s recent ballets, Without. Evgenia Obraztsova sits with them. It is clear she’s heard some of the stories, but they still seem to interest her. Andrew recognizes her from her role in The Russian Dolls rather than from any of her dance roles which makes him feel rather plebian. From what Andrew manages gathers, she and Jesse are dancing together in the production. She is very beautiful and when they move from the first bar of the night to the second, she links her arm though Jesse’s. Slight and at ease with each other, they look good together. When they reach the next bar, Xander Parish steals her though. Dragging her onto the dance floor as the opening act launches into their first song, he makes her smile and her cheeks colour. Watching the pair is oddly fascinating. Full of so much life and movement, they remind Andrew very much of Hallie Kate.
“Having fun?” Jesse asks.
“Yeah,” Andrew tells him, because he is.
There is colour in Jesse’s cheeks too. His hair is tangled and knotted and, in clothes that are his own, he looks more at ease than Andrew can ever remember seeing him. But with no red carpet’s in sight and Ryan Seacrest is thousands of miles away, it makes sense. It is a thought that makes Andrew smile, because he is seeing Jesse like this. There are no camera’s flashing or rivalry undercutting or defining the evening. It’s just Jesse beginning to yawn, his friends gossiping and getting a little tipsy on the weird cocktails they kept getting given by the bartender who has his eye on Mikhail Berdichevsky.
It takes a little while, but by the time the main act is on stage Jesse has loosened up enough for Andrew to take his chances and pull Jesse out onto the dance floor with the others. The band they paid the measly cover charge to see isn’t much better than the opening act, but the music is loud and venue is packed. The constant push and pull movement of the crowd is an excuse to press himself closer to Jesse, and Andrew does, placing his hand on Jesse’s hip. In the corner of his eye, he catches a glimpse of Irina with an instructor whose name Andrew can’t remember. Andrew tries to catch their eye, but the crowd swallows them before they notice Andrew or Jesse.
The night ends relatively early, at about one.
Jesse, Andrew, Xander and Evgenia share a cab. Xander perhaps drank the most out of everyone (except poor Mikhail), and it makes him affectionate and silly. In the backseat, he lays his head on Evgenia’s lap like a child and nips at her fingers when she tries to smooth his hair back from his face.
“You strange thing,” she says fondly. “I need my fingers.”
He giggles, all charm and no propriety. “No you don’t. Not when you have such lovely eyes.”
It’s very silly and far too endearing. In the rear vision mirror, Andrew catches Jesse biting his lip to stop himself from laughing. The knowledge that Jesse has people in his life who make him do that makes Andrew feel so glad and when they drop them off, Andrew hugs each of them in turn as if they were his friends rather than Jesse’s.
In the morning, Andrew wakes up in the middle of a dream feeling frantic and certain that he’s overslept. When he manages to focus (to think), he finds himself alone in Jesse’s bed. In front of the mirrors, Jesse is stretching. In a worn t-shirt and boxers, he is built like a grey hound. Andrew knows he is a head taller than Jesse, but it doesn’t feel that way.
The apartment is bathed in that pale, pale halfway light that only appears in the very early hours. In it, Jesse slowly warms up; his body is long and lean and made up of piano wire muscles and tendons that Andrew can see move and flex underneath Jesse’s skin. There is a routine to it all. Jesse moves from warm ups and stretches to movements that Andrew thinks he recognises as positions and moves too graceful to be anything but classical ballet. There is purpose to how Jesse moves, and skill. It is exacting – Andrew watches Jesse repeat the same movement again and again until he rights it – and controlled in a way Andrew has never been able to associate with Jesse until now.
“Did I wake you?” Jesse asks when he hears the sheets rustle as Andrew shifts a little to get a better view.
“No,” Andrew breathes.
Jesse makes a face like he doesn’t believe it.
Andrew crosses his heart. “Promise.”
Jesse snorts a little.
The two and a half days Andrew managed to steal weren’t the best for Jesse. With the production of Pas de Diane about to open to the public, Jesse’s time is limited. Over breakfast he apologises to Andrew again and again. Andrew doesn’t need them, but Jesse offers them as if Andrew should.
“You came all this way,” he says. “And I’m stuck in dress-rehearsals all today and tomorrow.”
“You’re going to be so bored,” Jesse frets as he places their dishes in the sink and begins to gather his things together.
Andrew hasn’t had a day off in weeks. He isn’t going to be bored. He’s going to sleep. From the couch he watches Jesse gather his things together and organise them (and reorganise them) in his faded messenger bag. There are circles under his eyes. If Andrew were someone other than himself, perhaps he would feel guilty for causing them. Carey would. But Carey wouldn’t have made Jesse take her out dancing. So he shoos Jesse out his front door and off to the theatre and instead of feeling any guilt, Andrew just feels Jesse’s absence.
When him gone his apartment is quiet and Andrew sleeps for longer than he should.
In the afternoon he goes back to the theatre and sneaks into the very back and watches from a random box in the wings. He thinks he understands Jesse now. He watches and he thinks he does.
Jesse dances because he does not have the words and when he dances he does not need them.
Towards the end of the afternoon Xander takes Andrew to Jesse’s dressing room.
Backstage the theatre is like a rabbit warren.
“You get used to it,” Xander tells Andrew over his shoulder.
Following Xander through the endless corridors and passages, squeezing past girls from the corps in their fragile white tulle tutus and dodging crew members carrying various fixtures and fittings, Andrew isn’t sure he believes Xander. Xander must be able to see Andrew’s scepticism, because he grins and claps Andrew’s shoulder.
“It does gets easier. I swear.”
The dressing room where he eventually ends up leaving Andrew doesn’t have Jesse’s name on the door. Inside it is a little bit of a mess. But it’s one that feels familiar. Faded books, scraps of paper and miscellaneous objects litter the small dresser, and Jesse’s street clothes hang in the closet. It’s easy to settle into the space.
Jesse blinks when he opens the door to find Andrew flipping through a day old newspaper.
“Hey,” he says.
Andrew sets the paper aside. “Hey, you.”
After a day working under the lights, Jesse is little mussed but his eyes are clear. Somehow, without even realise it, Andrew thinks they both managed to fall into a rhythm. Or maybe Andrew can just see Jesse’s.
When the two and a half days come to an end, Andrew feels –
Andrew doesn’t know.
It feels strange returning to the publicity tour. Saint Petersburg feels worlds away from the talk shows he is sent on and the red carpets premieres he and Emma attend. Technically they are in the middle of everything happening, but Andrew does not feel like they are. There is something vaguely surreal about it all. It’s a never ending series of photographs and interviews and sweating under lights.
He is better at it now.
Even when he makes mistakes he knows how to smile brightly enough to make people miss them. Or he can make it into a joke. That’s easy. So easy it’s second nature now. Emma taught him that. Everything’s a joke to her. Probably him too. The only difference now is he’s in on it.
Jesse doesn’t really understand when Andrew tries to explain.
“Benjamin warned me about actors,” he says instead.
He sounds distracted. Andrew timed his call exactly. Jesse should have just gotten home. But he sounds only half there. If that. Andrew swaps his iPhone from one ear to the other.
“Are we trouble?” he asks, because that can’t be it.
Jesse is quiet. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
For a beat, Andrew considers laughing and letting it become something funny.
He doesn’t though.
On the other end of the line, Jesse breaths down the line.
“If it’s worth anything, I don’t mean to be,” Andrew tells him.
The words feel sincere – they are sincere – but they come out rushed. Andrew doesn’t know what he’s doing. He thinks of New York and how Jesse thought he was drunk and how they had kissed and how Andrew hadn’t pushed. How he had let it be just that. Just a kiss that tasted of flat champagne, after a night of sitting next to each other in darkness of Hallie Kate’s theatre and talking on the subway afterwards.
Andrew has never meant to be trouble. He’s never meant to be anything.
He wonders if that’s the real problem. He wants to ask Jesse if that’s it, if that’s why he’s holding Andrew at arms length. That’s what it feels like. Phone calls and emails and a weekend in Saint Petersburg’s waking up to watch Jesse dance in the grey morning light and momentarily sliding himself into Jesse’s well organised life.
He cannot ask Jesse though.
There are many things Andrew can do and can say, but not that. Not to Jesse.
There is a difference between need and want. He knows that now.