|Ventures and Investments
Author: RoughDraftHero PM
Justin Plank is a pathetic gutter rat. In the past, he made the mistake of crossing Tony Torroda, one of the most powerful talent agents in LA. Now, at the brink of failure, he must turn to Tony for help... the last thing he would ever want to do. slashRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 17 - Words: 81,797 - Reviews: 376 - Favs: 188 - Follows: 235 - Updated: 03-12-13 - Published: 05-15-10 - id: 2807321
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ventures and Investments
"They have some stipulations they want to add to the contract—" Tap. Tap. Tap. "—but it's all pretty much the usual—" Tap. Tap. Tap. "—still, I think I should have legal look over it—" Tap. Tap. Tap. " —oh for fuck's sake, Chris, what's wrong?"
Justin looked at Chris, the papers in his hands crumpling slightly. "You've been glaring at me since the minute you got to the office."
Sitting across from him, Chris was draped over his chair, his fingers tapping on the back. He was staring at Justin with narrowed eyes, his face getting more and more red by the minute. Usually he was just fidgety, but now he looked like every ounce of energy was simmering just under the surface.
"Have you seen your neck?" he snarled, leaning forward and pointing at Justin. Justin flinched at the palpable disgust in his tone.
"No … " Reaching up, he touched his neck where Chris was pointing, and frowned. It was tender and sore. When his gaze darted back up to Chris, he saw a flash in Chris' eyes. "It's not …" he said slowly, "what, um … "
"There's two," Chris replied, standing up. Justin gawked as he walked around the desk and bent towards Justin, placing his hands on Justin's armrests, "One right under your jaw, and one kind of hidden by your collar."
"What, uh," Justin stuttered, "I don't—" He jerked back when Chris suddenly grabbed his shirt, and with one swift movement, ripped it apart, buttons flying everywhere. "Chris!" he breathed, "What are you doing?"
Chris hadn't heard him. "Jesus …" he croaked, backing away from Justin as he stared at Justin's chest.
Mouth hanging open at Chris' expression, Justin looked down at himself with growing apprehension. When his gaze hit his chest, a low sound escaped his throat. "Jesus … " he said, repeating Chris' shock.
His body was covered in hickeys. Small ones, large ones, and they were spotted all over his skin, from the nape of his neck, right down to his stomach, the edges of some peeking out from under his waistband. He unconsciously touched one by his rib cage with trembling fingers, and immediately felt his face flush. "Jesus … " he said again.
He knew … well, he wasn't dumb, he felt Tony nip him a few times, maybe suck too hard on more than one occasion, but he didn't register to what extent. The hickeys were red, and purple and blotchy, and they were everywhere. Tony was everywhere.
For some reason, he couldn't get his mouth to start working as he stared at them, even though Chris was right there.
Finally, Justin looked up at Chris with wide eyes, hoping that he would be the one to break the awkward moment with a silly joke about Justin looking like a dalmatian or something, because frankly, Justin was paralyzed. When their eyes met, Justin felt his stomach clench.
Chris' face was an alarming mixture of anger and fear, not two emotions Justin was used to seeing on him. He was still staring at Justin's chest, and his eyebrows looked like they might just disappear up past his hair line.
"He did this you?" Chris finally said, the words coming out in a rough bark.
Standing up, Justin held his shirt closed with one hand as he stepped forward to comfort Chris with the other. Instead he was met with empty air as Chris quickly backed away from him, thudding into the wall. "Oh, come on," Justin said, slightly hurt at Chris' reaction, "They're just hickeys."
"Just—" Chris said with a twisted snort, "just hickeys?" He looked up at Justin, his face contorting into a pained smile. "Tony Toroda doesn't just do anything."
Justin's eyebrows knotted. Chris was practically vibrating by that point.
"Because of what I said," he choked out, his eyes half-wild as he gestured at Justin's chest. "He did this!"
There was something in Chris' tone that put Justin on edge, but he kept himself calm as he ran a hand through his hair. "Chris," he said slowly, "This doesn't really have anything to do with you … " He blanched when Chris jerked forward, and grabbed his arms.
"You don't understand." The grip was inching towards painful. "Justin, he did this on purpose, he was sending me a message." He looked down at Justin's chest, "A very clear message."
Justin breathed out with exasperated amusement. "Chris, that's a little dramatic … "
"Really?" Chris replied, his fingernails digging into Justin's skin. "This is the douchebag who sent you pitch-black crystal roses when you signed me as a client, remember?"
Justin frowned. That was true, but … "Come on, Chris," he replied, his tone a little more pleading than he would have liked, "You're not even making sense. Why would this be a message to you? What could he possibly be trying to say?"
Chris actually quirked an eyebrow at that. "What does any hickey mean?" he asked, "Only he's left about ten-thousand—"
"Chris..." Justin cut in, but stopped when Chris glared at him.
"—and I was supposed to see all of them, Justin. Just because I teased the guy a little, made a joke or two about taking you away from him." Shaking his head, his lip curled up up into a rueful smile. "This guy is really scary, Justin. He's terrifying."
Justin was taken aback by the sincerity in Chris' voice. "He's just a man," he said, bringing his hand up to hold Chris' arm. " … You don't have to worry."
Letting go, he gently pulled his arms out of Chris' grip, and turned around as he tried to piece his shirt back together with the remaining buttons. This kid was pretty emotional, Justin thought to himself with a smile. It was kind of cute how worried about Justin he sounded.
"So," he said, chuckling, "Why would you even joke about that with Tony? He and I definitely aren't together, or anything." When his question was met with silence, he looked over his shoulder.
Chris was still staring at him, frustration etched on his face. "He got to you."
Turning fully around, Justin's hands dropped to his sides. "What?"
"He got to you," Chris repeated quietly, "You're supposed to hate him, Justin. Not … smile fondly when you talk about him."
Justin snorted. "Smile fondly?" he asked, his voice involuntarily rising an octave. He grimaced, and then closed his eyes. "I think you're misunderstanding something, Chris." When he opened his eyes again, he flinched, because there was that barely contained anger again. "Chris …"
Blinking, he almost bit his tongue when Chris grabbed him again, and shoved him forward. He tripped on his chair, and landed at an awkward angle on his desk. "Jesus, Chris!" he breathed, his eyes widening as Chris pinned his arms down, and loomed over him.
"Listen to me!" Chris said, breathing heavily. "Tony's a smart person, how else would he have been able to build this place from nothing?" He paused, grinding his jaw as he stared at Justin. "He knows when to pull, and when to push, Justin. He may be off his game when it comes to you, but that doesn't change who he is. He bends things until they're just about to break."
Justin stared up at him, mouth gaping as he watched Chris spiral. His tongue felt thick and useless as Chris' usually happy-go-lucky face crumpled, and he couldn't think of what he should say. Shifting, he tried to sit up, only to be shoved back down on the desk, his back aching in protest. "Fuck, Chris!" he yelped, "I'm the one who's going to break!"
"That's what I'm trying to say," Chris replied, his fingers digging into Justin's arms. "He's toying with you, isn't he?" His breathing had calmed, but he was still looking down at Justin with that increasingly infuriating expression of concern.
Justin's fingers curled. "Are you really putting me in the position of having to defend Tony Toroda? They're just hickeys!" He bit his lip, and closed his eyes. "Ok," he said finally, "I get it, you're worried. Please let me get up now."
"Not until you promise to never sleep with him again."
Blinking, Justin searched Chris' face for any hint of humor. God, he looked so young, like a kid putting on a brave face for his parent … but there was no amusement, he was dead serious. Justin almost wanted to pat him comfortingly on the head, but his arms were pinned down, which ultimately proved Chris wasn't a kid. He was a grown man, and he wasn't letting Justin move.
"Chris," Justin said, "That's not …" He ran his tongue over his lip as he looked to the side. This was annoying. If he made a big deal about not promising, than it would look like he wants to sleep with Tony again. "This is getting out of hand, you need to let me up!"
He had tried to sound mature and commanding, but he felt his face flush when Chris snorted above him. All he could feel were Chris' hands wrapped around his arms like vices. "Don't treat me like this … " he breathed, feeling those god damn tears pricking at the corners of his eyes.
There was a slight shift, and Chris let go of one his arms. He rolled to his side, covering his face with his hand as he felt a tear roll down his cheek. When Chris placed a gentle hand on his waist, he looked up. "Don't," he said, "It's too much already, ok? It's fine. Tony's been nicer to me than I've seen in a long time."
There was a noise of disbelief from the back of Chris' throat. "Isn't this what abusers do?" he asked, "Lick the wounds they cut?"
It took Tony three years to make a profit through his agency, but after that, it was as if a fire was lit, and everything exploded. He was only twenty-six when Toroda People grossed over a million dollars past breaking even.
He celebrated the end of the fiscal year by taking his top agent, one he had poached from Plank Talent soon after his departure, to a trendy restaurant, where they surveyed the crowd as kings.
"You know," the agent said, as he knocked back a gulp of beer, "We're getting calls from A-list stars now? They're looking for us, not the other way around." Chuckling, he set the beer down, and leaned back in his seat. "I don't think that ever happened at Plank."
The corner of Tony's lip curled upwards. "It's mostly been luck."
"You're so full of shit," the agent guffawed, grinning at Tony. Tony smiled back, and shrugged, playing with the glass in front of him. The agent considered him for a moment. "You're not even letting yourself enjoy the moment, are you? You're already planning the next phase."
Tony breathed in, his expression loosening. "I'm enjoying it," he said, his voice distant, but content.
"Yeah, I guess you are," the agent replied, "You look a lot more happy than I've ever seen you."
Relaxing his shoulders, Tony looked up at the agent and cocked his head. "Things turned out a lot better than I thought they would," he said.
The agent smiled back, his eyes wandering past Tony's shoulder. "Oh shit," he chuckled, "Isn't that Justin Plank?"
A brief shadow passed over Tony's face, and then he barely looked over his shoulder. Down several tables was a twenty-six year old Justin Plank, and Tony watched as Justin sat there, fiddling with a spoon, looking into it and messing with his hair. "I guess it is," Tony said, turning back around with a shrug.
"That little shit," the agent said, almost affectionately, "I wonder how long it's been since I've seen him." He looked over at Tony. "You guys were partnered up as interns, right? Still talk?"
Tony considered this for a moment. "No," he said finally, "It's been awhile."
Frowning, he watched as the agent continued to stare over his shoulder. "I heard that Plank Talent had to downsize," the agent said, not taking his eyes off of Justin. "Do you think the board went ballistic? I almost feel bad for Plank, having to deal with those crusty geezers."
"They should have gotten rid of him in the beginning," Tony replied, his finger moving along the rim of his glass. If he tilted it a certain way, he could almost see the blurred shapes of the people behind him.
"Yeesh, that's pretty harsh."
Tony looked up at the agent. "It was a mistake to ever let Justin be something important."
"I guess—" the agent replied distantly, still looking at Justin. "—Oh man," he said with a laugh, "I think he's trying to sign someone."
Tony didn't turn around to look. Clasping his hand around his wine glass, he brought it to his mouth, and took a long sip.
"This has got to be a sign," the agent said, "The night we're celebrating the million, and here's little Justin trying to pull in some random. Jesus, I wonder how bad they're doing if Justin has to do the grunt work himself."
Shrugging again, Tony set the glass down. The agent finally looked away from Justin, and back to Tony. "We should go say hi," he said.
Tony kept his eyes on his glass. "Why?"
"Well," the agent said, "to gloat, obviously." He laughed. "You deserve to brag, Tony. You got screwed over at Plank, and now you're on the track to being a better agency than Plank senior ever was."
"I don't see what that has to do with Justin."
The agent smiled. "I guess," he said slowly, " ... Wow, I didn't expect you to worry about Justin's feelings."
Tony's gaze jerked up to the agent. "I don't," he said, his voice low. "I just don't care enough to bother."
"Ok," the agent said with a smile. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, and nodded for the door. Tony waved him away, a small frown playing on his lips. As he sat there alone, the chattering and sounds of silverware scraping along plates surrounded him.
He stared at the table— the food that spilled on the white cloth, the empty bottle of wine, and then placed the napkin in his lap on the table. He tried not to think about how his nails were digging into his palms.
He looked up at the waitress, and nodded. He would pay for the food, and just get the agent as he left. No need to stick around if they were already done. She smiled at him, and took the card in his outstretched hand. "I'll be right back."
Standing up, he pulled his jacket on. As he did this, he turned slightly.
Justin was talking to a man, his face set in a desperate smile. It resembled the one he used on Tony at that diner, when he wanted Tony to come back to Plank Talent. His hands were moving animatedly, and he kept pointing at a paper he had on the table. It was probably a contract.
The man with Justin had started to sign the piece of paper— and when he finished, he shook Justin's hand, stood up, and quickly left the restaurant.
Tony let out a small chuckle at the idea of Justin signing anyone, felt that slight trace of secondhand pride, despite himself. With a shrug, he started to turn to the waitress, when something paralyzed him.
Justin had sat back in his chair with a huge sigh, his cheeks puffing out. His slicked-back hair had already started to fall down in strands over his face. Smiling slowly, he brought his hand up to his forehead, and let out a relieved laugh.
Watching this, Tony felt a wave of ice wash over him that almost made him drop to his knees.
He was looking at the boy he met when he was eighteen, the one who wasn't angry, the one who yelled down the hallway that he was sure Tony would make it as an agent, the one who, for a brief and agonizingly perfect moment, liked him.
And that made Tony furious.
Overwhelmed with the sudden venom that burned in his veins, and made his vision blure, he grabbed the receipt from the waitress, and stumbled towards the door of the restaurant, knocking into several patrons on his way.
"Whoa, hey," the agent outside said, grabbing onto his arm. "You okay, Tony?"
"He looked happy," Tony hissed, his lip curling.
The agent stared at him with raised eyebrows. "Justin?"
"Yes," Tony growled, his pale-blue eyes sliding to the window of the restaurant. "He's moved on. "
He missed the compassionate look on the agent's face. "So have you, Tony."
No, he hadn't. Tony pulled himself back, squaring his shoulders, and fixing the coat he had haphazardly thrown on. The agent watched all of this with a skeptical eye as the people walked by them on the sidewalk. "I was just surprised," Tony said gruffly. " … Good for him."
Tony's jaw clenched. He looked over at the window of the restaurant, saw Justin still sitting there, enjoying a glass of wine. Then, he saw his reflection in the glass. His face was cold, and hard. Ruined.
"Somehow," he said quietly, "It's just not fair, Justin … "
When he turned back to the agent, the cold was gone from his face, and his lip curled upwards into a charming smile. "I want you to find me that man Justin signed," he said, "and I want you to make him come to us."
Justin had made Chris give him his shirt. Of course, it was too big … but at least it had all of its buttons.
People were staring at him and his disheveled appearance as he stomped down the hallway of Toroda People, but all he could think about was his skin, and how it looked like he had been standing in front of a paintball firing squad. He had been so overwhelmed by Chris' emotional outburst, that he didn't even get the chance to be angry.
Well, now he was.
He was tired of being jerked around. And Chris, well Chris was the last straw.
During their time together, Chris had been a pure and unmarked light in Justin's world. Tony had tainted that. As if Chris were some impressionable puppy, he had absorbed the way Tony treated Justin, the way he manhandled him and talked to him. It had rubbed off.
He winced at that thought as his back twinged. He wasn't built to be thrown over desks.
Was he so totally incapable that these two men thought they could just physically restrain him until he bent to their will? He expected it from Tony, but Chris … Chris was supposed to be on Justin's side. Where did he get off talking about abusers when his fingerprints would soon be added to Justin's growing collection of bruises?
But the truth of it was … Justin didn't even blame Chris, even though he should. He blamed Tony.
He zoomed past Tony's secretary without a word, and slammed the double doors open. Before the secretary had time to follow him, he closed them just as quickly. He knew that Tony was staring at him, but he kept facing the doors, his hands resting on the doorknobs as he pressed his forehead against the wood. He had realized after his hasty entrance, that he had absolutely nothing planned. He didn't want to start babbling.
"I'll have to call you back," Tony said from behind him, and then there was the click of the phone being set down.
Hearing the wheels of Tony's chair roll, Justin tensed, but still found himself unable to move. He listened carefully as Tony's steps neared him, and then he felt Tony's presence right at his back. He flinched when a pair of hands encircled his waist, gently tugging his backwards.
"If you had taken any more time coming to me," Tony growled against his ear, "I was going to just go out and hunt you down."
Justin breathed out, his stomach flopping despite himself. "I don't know what you mean … " he began to say, but caught himself, "Actually, Tony, I really think we should talk about—"
His heart skipped a beat at the ice in Tony's voice. "What?"
"This," Tony replied, pulling at the collar of Justin's shirt.
Justin swallowed as he felt the collar press back against the front of his throat, cutting into the skin. "Ah," he croaked, "My shirt."
"No." Tony's arm was wrapped around him now, pulling Justin back against his chest as his hand slid up Justin's front, dragging the shirt along with it. "It's not."
His voice had lowered, with a threatening tint to it, and Justin felt his mouth run dry. He wondered if Tony was trying to squeeze all the breath out of him, because he was starting to crush Justin with his arms. Shivering, he felt teeth bite into the tender skin of his ear, and then release. "Take it off."
He froze, and Tony breathed hot against the nape of his neck. "Or I will."
"No," Justin replied, "I don't want to—"
He barely had time get the words out before, for the second time that day, the shirt he had been wearing was ripped away from his skin. Hearing it drop to the ground, he swallowed, and pressed his forehead against the door again.
There was an indulgent chuckle behind him, and then fingers pressing against his back. "You were trying to hide this from me?"
"You did them on my back too?" Justin yelped without thinking, and then scrunched his eyes shut. Shit. He was not acting nearly as cool as he had pictured when stomping down the hallway of Toroda People.
A pair of hands came into his line of vision, one on either side, and pressed against the door, trapping him. "They're a bit harder than shirts to get rid of," Tony said, "aren't they?" He crowded Justin even closer to the door, pushing his crotch against Justin's ass.
"Justin," Tony said, his voice laced with exaggerated friendliness, "What did you think my reaction would be, when I saw that you tried to hide them under Chris' shirt?"
"I didn't think about it," Justin replied.
There was silence behind him. He could feel Tony there, just staring at the back of his neck.
"Really," Tony said finally, snorting. His voice had a cold edge to it. After another moment, his hands disappeared from Justin's sight, and his footsteps were heard moving back to his desk. Justin turned around just as Tony leaned back against the edge of the desk, and crossed his arms.
Taking in the way that Tony's lip curled, Justin found his eyes hitting the floor. "Uh," he said, running his hands through his hair, "About Chris … "
He jerked forward when the doors to Tony's office opened, his jaw dropping when he saw who walked through.
"Hey, babe," Leisee said, flipping her hair as she traipsed by Justin without acknowledging him. "Why is thatnot wearing a shirt?"
Justin gawked at Leisee, until he remembered to look at Tony. When his eyes moved over, he shifted awkwardly when he caught Tony staring at him with intense, crystal blue eyes. "Not now, Leisee," Tony said, never taking his eyes off of Justin. "You need to leave."
There was something in his tone that made Justin gulp, and Leisee obey without a single complaint. She backed up quickly, away from Tony, and towards the door. "Sure thing," she said, her eyes darting from Justin to Chris, before quickly leaving the office.
After several ticks of silence, Justin found his voice. "You didn't break up with her." He circled his arms protectively around his middle.
"Why would I break up with her?" Tony replied, leaning against his desk, ever the man's man with his crisp white work shirt, unbuttoned at the top to reveal just a hint of defined pecs.
Justin didn't know what Tony expected from him, but he knew Tony didn't expect him to laugh. Which he did. "Are you kidding me?" Justin snorted, bending over to pick up the ripped shirt, and sliding his arms through the sleeves.
" ... What?" Tony replied.
Almost giggling, Justin crossed his arms. "You didn't break up with her … " he repeated slowly. "You know, Tony," he said, looking up to meet Tony's eyes, "You're supposed to be this infallible god, but you still stooped to my level just to get back at me." His lip curled up with disgust. "It's really flattering."
Tony's expression was completely unreadable. "Did it work?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
"Did it—" Justin blanched, "Really?" He laughed. "Go fuck her right now, for all I care. I never gave a shit about what you did, Tony." His fingers curled into his palms, hidden by the long sleeves of the shirt. "I never will."
"I guess not," Tony replied, his eyes flat. His jaw clenched, and he looked down at the floor. After a pause, he breathed out. "Fine. That's fine." He turned his head to the side. "Go away, Justin. I don't want to look at you right now."
Fine. Justin nodded, even if Tony wasn't looking at him. "You're just as twisted as I am," he spat out, unable to control himself. With that, he turned around, and slammed out of Tony's office, not even bothering to shut the door behind him.
Well, at least he was able to make it back to his office before the tears started sliding down his face.
Got some FANTASTIC fan art from rainisback, which is on her deviantart page. There's also a link on my blog,