Warnings: Man/Man. Sexual content, a few references to drugs.
"And on Entertainment Tonight, we have an exclusive live interview with the stars of the new movie Lionheart. Jacob Buckley and Leigh Sumner have agreed to a no-holds barred interview about the movie process, their relationship, and their lives!" gushed Steffi Silverstein, her glossy curls shining like oil in the lights. Jacob smiled automatically, mentally berating his agent for making him take the interview. He tugged at his striped tie, and straightened the collar of his shirt distractedly.
Leigh sat next to him, smirking and looking very out of place in her skinny black jeans and thin black tank. A bright red jacket mixed up the monochrome a bit. Her black hair glinted in the spotlights, a sharp contrast to the red hair of Jacob.
"Ruggedly handsome, amazing actor, and very mysterious. He is the poster child for the tall, mysterious, and handsome group of men. She is one of the most talented actresses of our generation and she is beginning to make a name for herself as a director. We have them for half an hour. Thank you."
"Our pleasure," Jacob told her, smiling stiffly.
For the first fifteen minutes, everything was fine.
"I understand that Glenn Close plays Eleanor of Aquitaine, your mother in the film."
"Yes, she was wonderful to work with," Jake answered.
"And interestingly enough, she played Eleanor in the remake of A Lion in Winter," Leigh put in. "I didn't work with her much, but she is a very nice person."
And so it went. It was fine until:
"So Leigh, you play Richard's wife, Berengaria of Navarre. Does your onscreen romance parallel anything in real life?"
Leigh chuckled, shaking her head. "No, I am not seeing Jake, if that's what you're asking."
"Well yes, that was what I was asking," Steffi admitted. "There are reports that you live together and we have numerous pictures of the two of you together."
"We're best friends," Jake supplied.
"And I have kids," Leigh told her. "I don't want to tell them that they have a new daddy. Not that they ever had a daddy, but suddenly having a father would be a bit of a shock to them. They're still getting over the shock of discovering that I am their mother, rather than my sister."
"Do you have a girlfriend, Jake?" Steffi asked.
"What a shame," Steffi sighed. "Though I'm sure thousands of women across the U.S. just breathed a sigh of relief."
"Oh, don't listen to him," interrupted Leigh with a wicked grin. "He definitely has a…special someone."
"Who's the lucky girl?" Steffi wanted to know.
"I'm sorry, did I say girl?" Leigh inquired, raising an eyebrow. "No, his special someone is definitely male. If it wasn't for the fact that he's dating Jake, I'd jump him."
"Male," Steffi said slowly. "Handsome?"
"Unbelievably so," Leigh sighed. "Right, Jake?" She kicked his ankle. He stared at her in disbelief. She winked and mouthed 'come on'.
" Well…um…" he stalled, "he's tall. And thin."
"Painfully so," Leigh added.
"And he has dark hair, the most beautiful eyes…his smile makes me melt." Leigh opened her mouth to phrase an inappropriate comment regarding various parts of his anatomy. He elbowed her discretely. "He's bookish. Shy. That's why we don't talk about it. You'll understand if I don't give his name."
"Of course," Steffi said. "You've been holding out on us Jake. You know, no one I've talked to ever had any suspicion that…"
"He's a man lover?" suggested Leigh. "Well, it's understandable, yes? I mean, how many actors have outed themselves?"
"True," the reporter conceded. "So come one. Tell me more about this boyfriend of yours."
"He's an old friend from school," Jake invented wildly. "And things just…happened after we left. He's very nice, very sweet – "
"Always used to dig us out of trouble back in the day," Leigh put in.
"That's right! The two of you went to school together! What was that like?"
Leigh grinned and answered, but Jake ignored it, relieved that the pressure was off him now.
What on earth was he going to do now?
"What are we going to do? What are we going to do?" Jake demanded of Leigh, pacing in the living room of their apartment. "How are we going to cover this up?"
"First of all, we go back to England," Leigh said, lighting a cigarette. "There, we need to find a bookish man who could conceivable have been an old friend of ours from school to pretend to be your man-friend."
"Why don't we just tell everyone I broke up with him?" he suggested.
"Sorry love, that won't work because they'll still be looking for him. And when they don't find him, the truth will come out, and that will be bad."
"And why can't we tell them it was a joke?"
"Because they'll keep pestering you about your love life," Leigh said smartly, exhaling a cloud of smoke. "And it would create bad press."
"Why did you do it, Leigh?" Jake fumed. "You know I don't even know my sexuality."
"Please, you're afraid of my breasts. You're gay," Leigh answered, waving her hands expressively. "And as to why, I had been up for three days straight rewriting the screenplay that Universal wanted. I wasn't thinking straight."
"Look, we'll go to England for a few months. We have to be there for the premiere anyway. We'll find you a fake boyfriend, we'll visit the kids, and you will attend the premiere with said fake boyfriend. After that, have a disagreement, and break up if you really want to." Leigh saw him hesitate. "Come on, Jake. We both need a break. This might be what we need."
Jake sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Do you have any ideas for who to ask?"
Leigh shifted uncomfortable, and took a drag of her cigarette. "Nicholas."
"Nick?" He stared at her. "Why?"
Leigh sighed, smoke clouding before her face. "Look, I didn't want to mention this earlier, but…"
"When you were describing this boyfriend of yours, it sounded an awful lot like Nicholas. That's why I added the bit about us being friends with him in high school. That, and I knew it would get the spotlight off of you."
"I am going to ask you something, Jake, and you have to promise not to get offended."
"Fine," he sighed.
"Is there any possibility that you were attracted to Nick?" she wanted to know. "Or was it simply a coincidence?"
"It was a coincidence," he said resolutely. She gave him a sharp look, but nodded.
"I think we should ask him."
"I don't think he'd agree."
"He was our best friend, Jake. I bet he'd agree."
"Neither of us has spoken to him in ten years!"
"I still think he'd do it."
Jake shrugged. "Fine, ask him."
Leigh smiled to herself.
Jake couldn't help but wonder if he had been telling the truth about whether it was a coincidence. Was he even lying to himself?
Nick Tandy stepped off the Eurostar train, running a hand through his mussed hair and saw Leigh waving at him. He recognized her despite the large sunglasses, long trenchcoat, and top hat she was wearing, mostly because he didn't know anyone else who would dress like that. She looked much different from their high school days, but he had seen her on television and in movies often enough since then. She seemed much different from the optimistic girl he'd known ten years before, but her grin was still the same.
He came over, pulling his small suitcase behind him. She took the duffle bag from his shoulder and said, "Come on, you French-sympathizer. I need a cigarette." They left the station and Leigh lit a cigarette.
"When did you start smoking, Leigh?" he asked her, frowning. "You used to drive by smokers in your car and yell out statistics about lung cancer."
"I know," she sighed. "But when I started directing a couple years ago, I got more stressed. It helps. So. Thanks for agreeing to meet me. Sorry I pulled you away from your vacation."
"Quite all right. What are you doing back in Great Britain, may I ask?"
"Hiding out from the press, mainly," she said with a smile. "But I'm also paying a visit to the kids. They live in Northhampton," she added. "With my sister. She never moved."
"I teach near there. At our old school, actually," he said. "But – kids? You have kids?"
"Yes," she said defiantly. "Twins. Collin and Elizabeth. They're ten."
"That would explain why I haven't met them. They're too young."
"How old were you expecting them to be?" She found the bus stop that they needed to take. "Come on. Jake and I need to talk to you."
They arrived in Northhampton several hours later. They had spent the time catching up on each other's lives. Nick was a bit relieved when he discovered that her brother was raising her kids rather than her.
"You realize that you didn't tell me what you teach, yes?" she asked him. He flushed slightly, looking embarrassed.
"I teach drama," he admitted, smiling in embarrassment.
"Really?" Leigh grinned. "How ironic. You used to tease me and Jake about being drama geeks. What is it like?"
"I tell them I used to know you in high school, but they don't believe me."
"What lies do you tell them?" she wanted to know. "What are you polluting their ears with? Tales of the scrapes we would get in?"
"I tell them only the truth about you," he told her. "How you starred in a production of Romeo and Juliet and made Juliet into a punk rocker – "
"Hey!" she exclaimed. "At least it was a modernized production!"
"Yes, but you turned it into a production of punk rockers against the preps, with everyone else in between! I'm still not sure how you convinced Mr. Burbage to let you direct the play. He was horrified!"
"Oh man, I would pay so much money to see his expression again!" Leigh crowed, delighted in their trip down memory lane. "And I changed the ending –"
"To have them overdosing on heroin," he finished, shaking his head. "The whole town was scandalized! They investigated our school!"
'Yes. And they became the most requested school in the county because of our 'creative drama program'," Leigh shot back, smirking. They sat in companionable silence for a few moments.
"Who's the father?" Nick asked suddenly.
"Your kids. Who's their father?" he demanded.
Leigh sighed. "Honey, I didn't figure out I was pregnant until the second month. I didn't even notice that I missed my period. I was so out of it. But looking at them, I suspect that their father is one of the men I was seeing at the time."
"Well, that would make sense."
"It could have been a one night stand," she pointed out. "I think their father is a man named Arthur Stone. They have his eyes and his height, which they certainly didn't get from me. They're already taller than me."
"I would like to see them."
"We're dropping by their place anyway. I wanted to pick up a bottle of Elderblossom Champagne. Melanie makes wonderful Elderblossom Champagne. Do you want to come to dinner at our place?"
"Can't," he said. "I have to go back to school. Headmaster Griffins – "
"Is he still headmaster?" Leigh demanded incredulously.
"Yes he is. Anyway, he caught wind of the fact that I was coming home, and demanded a meeting with me regarding the plays this year."
"Oh." Leigh winced. "Sorry. Lunch tomorrow, then? We can go to that funny little café we used to go to in high school."
"Sure. What was that place called again?"
"I have no idea, but as long as it's still in the same place, I think we'll be fine." Nick laughed.
"Pat! Mel! I'm home!" she called as she entered the house. A feminine voice called back, "Don't you dare smoke a cigarette in this house!"
"I wasn't planning on it!" she shouted back before two tall blurs streaked into the room and threw their arms around her.
"Mum!" cried the girl. "What are you doing here?"
"Thanks for the love, sweetums. I was picking something up. And my friend Nick wanted to meet you two." Nick stepped forward hesitantly, looking down at the two dark headed children. They were very tall, and rather than having their mother's dark eyes, their eyes were a deep blue. They looked freakishly similar. "Nick, the little hellions are Collin and Elizabeth."
"We're not Hellions," Collin said. "The Hellions are an X-Men squad."
"I want to be Surge!" Elizabeth exclaimed. Melanie, Leigh's sister-in-law, came into the foyer and shook her head.
"They've recently become obsessed with comic books," she informed them unnecessarily. "X-Men. They were very upset by M-day."
"What?" asked Nick.
"Don't ask," Leigh warned him. "The explanations will never end."
"Are you our new daddy?" Elizabeth asked suddenly. Nick choked.
"Definitely not," he told her. "I'm just an old high school friend of your mother."
"Go on, dears, before you give poor Nick an aneurism." Leigh shooed them out, and beckoned Nick to the kitchen. "Time for Elderblossom Champagne." She opened up the refrigerator and pulled out an elegant bottle. "Done. Let's go." Leigh pecked Melanie on the cheek and she left with Nick.
Leigh swaggered into the flat she was renting with Jake and brandished her bottle of semi-alcoholic drink. Jake grinned, then suddenly frowned.
"Where's Nick?" he asked.
"Oh, he had to go to the school for something. Who knows? That boy was always one to overwork himself." She sat down on the sofa and propped her feet up on the coffee table. "Why, disappointed?"
"No, just worried. What if he doesn't agree?"
Leigh rolled her eyes and lit a cigarette. "He'll agree, and when he does, I'm renting the flat upstairs so you two can have this one to yourselves. It will make things much more believable."
"Wait, he went to the school? Why did he go to the school?" Jake demanded.
"You are very slow on the uptake today," Leigh observed. "He teaches. In fact, he teaches drama at our old high school. And he lives in Northhampton, so us having a flat here makes things much more believable."
"This whole thing is ridiculous. My agent is furious! It'll wreck havoc with my career! How many out-of-the-closet actors are there, hm? And has it ever occurred to you that I am not gay?"
Leigh tilted her head to the side, studying him. "No, not really. Not since that night several years back when you got utterly pissed and confessed to me that you were attracted to Christian Bale. While I wholeheartedly agree with you on that front, you will understand why it prompts me to doubt your declarations of your heterosexuality."
Jake flushed and snapped, "I was soused out of my mind. You cannot believe anything I say while I am drunk."
"Darling, I know from experience that when you get pissed, you tell your secrets to people. Usually me. This is why I started hiding a tape recorder on my person whenever we go out drinking."
"You did not!"
"Did to. Do you want me to prove it to you? I believe on that night you also confessed that you had a recurring wet dream about Joaquin Phoenix and David Bowie double teaming you and –"
"Yes, yes, I remember that," he interrupted hastily.
"Ah, so you confess to it being the truth. Good. But believe me, I never wanted to know that much about your personal fantasies. Friendship only goes so far. Look, I won't bother you about your sexual orientation any more. If you think you're straight, more power to you. If you're gay, same goes. You've dated women, you've fantasized about men. Maybe you're just going through a second wave of puberty hormones or something. Bring over some glasses dear, the champagne will get warm."
They sat in companionable silence, drinking Elderblossom Champagne.
A/N: I co-directed a production of Romeo and Juliet similar to the one Nick mentions. However, Romeo was the punk rocker, and Juliet was a prep, but if Leigh was being Juliet, it had to be the other way around.
Elderblossom Champagne is real, and I really like it. If you ever have the opportunity, you should try it. It is, however, an acquired taste.
M-Day is an event in the X-Men continuum that spanned over all versions of it. I talked to some comic book guy about it, and he says it's just a gimmick. If you're curious, there's a wikipedia article about it under the title 'Decimation (comics)'. This article is the only way I know anything about it. I'm not very much a comic girl, but I sometimes think I should be.