The scene was set beautifully. Amid the brush and foliage of the gardens, gentle, silver light poured down from above, and darkness covered the world like a blanket. Two figures, enveloped a the gentle softness of light, sat on a bench in the center of the scene. Both sat in regal garbs, though not as ornate as they might have been under different circumstances. Both were men, though the smaller of the two had his face painted as elegantly as a geisha. There was at least a twenty year age difference, considering their faces, but that didn't seem to phase either of them as the elder had his arms wrapped gently around the smaller's waist. A sigh passed through the younger's lips, his head gently resting on the crux of the old man's neck. His eyes were foregone, as though he had just seen something beautiful.
"Those were amazing, Zephyr," he said gently.
The old man, with his long, silver hair flowing free behind his shoulders, gave the younger a sweet smile. His fingertips lightly brushed up against the short boy-cut of the younger man's black hair. "I thought you might enjoy them," he replied. Smiling wider, the younger took out a purple flower from the palm of his hand. Turning to the one known as Zephyr, he slid the stem of the flower through the chain of the pendant the old one wore. He spoke again. "Let's go inside before you get too cold."
"Your room or mine?" came the younger's question before kissing his neck.
Zephyr let out a laugh. "They are equidistant from here, and being the stubborn old man that I am, I say my room."
Taking his hand, Zephyr stood them up, their eyes playful, and started leading him away from the bench.
"Aaaaaaaand cut! That's a wrap for today! Good job, you two."
Suddenly, everything around them changed. A buzzer sounded off in the distance, and the once subtle world of the garden burst through with energy. The soft moon lighting switched to harsher incandescent bulbs. The distant fountain stopped running, and people seemed to pop out of nowhere. The two men who had currently occupied the bench were taken off to the side, chatting about nothing in particular. They were lead to their chairs while makeup artists were called to clear their faces. One of them, in which the younger man sat, read "KING NOREAT" RICHARD HAMMEL. The second, in which the older sat, read "KING ZEPHYR" THOMAS CLAYBORN. They continued their conversation as a couple women came at them with cloths and sponges to remove what they needed.
"I can't wait to see what that'll look like after the artists finish with it," said Richard energetically. "The storyboards were so colorful. God, I can't wait!" He quickly quieted as the thick makeup was caked from his lips.
Thomas chuckled, letting a young woman clean out his nails. "I'm sure it will be fantastic. Have you heard any news from the test audiences yet?"
"No, not really. Did Donald tell you anything?"
Thomas nodded. "They're loving it."
"Oohh!" Richard practically squealed with excitement, squirming in his chair. "I can't wait till this hits the air! Who was going to air it first? HBO or BBC?"
"Not sure... BBC maybe..."
Richard smiled contently at his co-star, not minding as so many hands removed what had taken so long to put on that morning. Filming the soon to be hit series "KINGS" was barely in its third episode, but already Richard felt very at home on set. Pulled from California to fly half way around the world, the twenty something actor nearly wet himself when he found out that not only would he be working under Donald Penton, a director whom he adored since his teen years, but that his co-actor would be Thomas Clayborn, a man who had been with the Royal Shakespeare Company for well over thirty years. Before even meeting Thomas, he had been invited to a performance King Leer at the Swan Theater with Thomas as the title character. Being an actor of soap opera background, Richard was embarrassed to admit that he didn't know much about Shakespeare. Thomas Clayborn changed that. His performance was electrifying, mesmerizing even. He found himself hanging on every word, and even teared up when Leer and his daughter met his tragic end. He hadn't cried at a performance since Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.
Now naturally, Richard was nervous meeting such a phenomenal actor after seeing that. The most brilliant actors could very easily be the biggest assholes. Not to mention that Thomas was taking the TV role for financial reasons, as far as Richard knew, so who was to say that he was regretting playing a washed up, homosexual king attracted to a younger man who wore high heels. But to his enormous surprise, Thomas Clayborn was remarkably good natured about it all. He was civil and humble, and treated Richard like an equal. He laughed easily, and spoke with a gentle tongue, despite being remarkably quick. And though he was practically naked on stage, the owner of a twenty five year old body was truly his age; a ripe and blooming fifty two. But Richard's real revelation happened during their second meeting at lunch. They were in a secluded restaurant, and the director had gone to the restroom, leaving them alone for five minutes.
"But aren't you worried?" he remembered asking. "I mean... You're such a well established actor. Don't you think a story like this would be misunderstood?"
With astounding ease that Richard hadn't thought possible, Thomas flashed a smile, laced his fingers together and rested his chin on his knuckles. "My dear boy," he said, his English drawl positively floating. "All the greatest love stories are."
As cheesy as it might have been to admit, it was at that moment that Richard Hammel had fallen for the man sitting across from him.
It had been two months since that day. Most of the pre-production was finished. After taking a few weeks to costume-fit, rehearse and build chemistry, the cameras started rolling, and the lives of Kings Noreat and Zephyr were put on film. The entire time, Richard concealed his love and admiration for the old actor, channeling it only during their intimate scenes together. It took everything he had not, to put it nicely, to stand on attention whenever the director had their nearly nude bodies push up against each other. The fact that they wore only tube socks to hide their packages didn't help much. Thank God he was able to think of his Aunt Bertha during those scenes, or they would have ended rather embarrassingly for the actor.
"Oh, Mr. Hammel? Please?"
"Oh whoops! Sorry." With a weary smile, he undid the hooks beneath his ears, allowing the make up artist to remove his wig. Unlike Thomas, who was able to keep his real hair astonishingly long and luscious for his age, Richard had to be the one in a wig. Mainly because there was no way he would walk around in such a ridiculous page boy cut. Shaking out his mussy, brown hair, he looked at himself in the mirror. His cheeks were pink from the sponges, but no trace of makeup remained. Turning off to the side, he saw that Thomas had already left to disrobe from his costume. With a little sigh, Richard turned to his mirror and undid the sash around his waist.
Unlike his character, Noreat, Richard was so awkward when it came to his feelings. He stared at the faceless wig head and let his long finger touch the Styrofoam lips. Part of him wished, more than anything, that he could take charge like Noreat did. There had been so many times that Richard had to stop from throwing himself into Thomas's arms. He wanted to kiss Thomas, and not those fake kisses that they shared on stage. Real kisses. His skin pimpled at the thought and he stood, brushing his bangs back from his face as he sadly came back from reality.
Yes, Thomas was straight. At least, he'd been married twice before. To women, of course. He had a son about Richard's age who currently lived in North Wales. Thomas didn't mention him much. In fact, there wasn't a lot that Thomas did mention, unless Richard asked. He wanted so badly to know everything about him. But he was too shy. He cursed his cowardice as he headed to the costume department, nearly bumping into the mechanical Titan head as a propmaster transported it for repairs. Richard felt his eyes itch and checked his cellphone as he changed. Lord, was it already eleven? At least he didn't have jet lag anymore. After slipping into his comfortable sweatshirt and jeans, he caught Thomas leaving out of the corner of his eye.
"Oh, Thomas!" he called. The older actor turned to him, the script under his arm. Even when it was late and they headed to their trailers for bed, he dressed and looked refined. He always wore a vest and tie, no matter the event. His shoes were expensive and well shined. His hair, rather than staying free, was kept in a braid at all times, reaching down to his lower back. The glasses he also always wore now sat on the brim of his noble nose. His wrinkly face smiled and he put his hand in his pocket.
"Yes?" he asked, watching the younger approach him.
"You think we can run over some lines before bed?" Though Richard was dreadfully tired, he would happily trade in a few measly hours of sleep to be with alone with Thomas. It rarely happened with so many people watching over them, and so any chance Richard had, he took it.
The actor kept his smile. "How about in the morning?" he suggested. "I'm frightfully tired, dear boy. I do hope you understand." God he was just so... English. It killed Richard every time he spoke that way, and made his blood pump. Maybe he just had a foreign fetish?
Richard smiled nonetheless and put his hands in his pockets. "Oh yeah. Sure. I guess I need sleep too." He would have gone on, but a thumb on his cheek sent his head spiraling. Popping his eyes open, he watched as the elderly Thomas gently pet a wrinkle below his eye.
"I should say," came a low response. His own dark eyes were coy. It was like Thomas was slapping his very heart to make it go faster every time he saw that look. "Even the youth needs to be replenished, after all." He let his finger linger a bit longer before letting his hand fall to his side. "But I suppose a few lines shouldn't be much of a problem. And if you get too tired, there is plenty of room in my bed."
This was not the first time Richard found himself in this situation. After long days of shooting, Richard would end up eagerly entering Thomas's trailer to run through lines, only to fall asleep ten minutes in. Well that wouldn't happen tonight! Sure, he liked waking up to the man beside him, but it was embarrassing to fall asleep before a man twice his age. So, with fresh determination welling in his chest, he nodded and the two slipped into the star's trailer and set themselves up for a good read before the morning came.
Twenty minutes later, Thomas was tucking the passed out Richard into bed, before shutting off the light and laying down beside him. His smile became softer in the dark as he stared at the sleeping, young face on his pillow. He had grown so fond of the boy. Eager to impress, yet willing to learn. He was Thomas's favorite kind of person. In a way, Richard reminded him much of himself at that age. Younger, perhaps, but around the same. His wrinkled hand reached upwards and gently touched his cheek. A muscle in Richard's brow twitched, but other than that, he did nothing else. This earned a chuckle from Thomas as his thin lips found Richard's forehead.
"Goodnight, little king," he whispered. With that, he rolled onto his side, and let his dreams lead the way into the night.