Backstage Romance Ch. 06byikhneumon©
* Jeff *
Mindful of Daniel's position, I dropped him off at his apartment Tuesday morning before coming to rehearsal. I hated letting him out of my sight, even knowing that we would be seeing each other again at the theater in less than an hour. My usual instinctive sense of discretion, ingrained after the years Timothy and I spent in the Hollywood scene, seemed to have taken a holiday; I could have waltzed in with Daniel on my arm and kissed him in front of everybody without a qualm. But we had discussed this, and concluded the theater owners might not look too favorably on one of their employees becoming involved in a relationship with a guest artist. Particularly a same-sex relationship.
Scott had been lying in wait. As I entered the theater, he grabbed me by the arm and muttered, "We need to talk." One of the most dreaded sentences in the English language. My stomach clenched. He took me to the production office, where he closed and locked the door. I sat in one of the uncomfortable folding metal chairs and waited. His eyebrows and the corner of his mouth twitched. I couldn't tell whether he was angry or amused. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision.
"So I take it you finally got some?"
Oh shit. "I beg your pardon?"
He grinned. "Don't play the innocent with me, Casanova, you totally got laid this weekend. Was it good?"
The look on my face must have been priceless. Scott actually laughed. "Yeah, looks like it was. Good for you, man, good for you. And hopefully good for him, too, those were some intense vibes you two have been giving off."
I managed to get my jaw off the floor, but I'd left my wits somewhere, possibly back in the car or the loading dock. "How... how... when did you... how could you possibly...?"
Scott smirked. "I have my sources, bud. We've been keeping our eyes on you. Strictly for your own good, you understand. We figured we might need to stage an intervention before you two spontaneously combusted. Fortunately, it looks like you worked things out on your own."
He held out his cell phone to me, displaying a text message. It was from Angela, and had been sent at the end of Saturday's rehearsal: "Jeff's making his move!"
I buried my face in my hands and groaned. It had taken me weeks to figure out for myself that I was attracted to Daniel, and more than a week after that to realize the feeling was mutual. How the hell had everyone else spotted it? Humiliation gave way to anger. I jumped to my feet and started pacing.
"So you think this is funny? Is my love life providing enough entertainment for you guys? Has everybody been making bets about it?"
A guilty look crossed Scott's face.
"Oh, fuck, you didn't, Scott? How much did I win you? Was it worth it?"
"Actually, Jeff, you cost me quite a bit. I was pretty sure you wouldn't be able to go through with it. At least not without some help."
"Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence!" I barked.
"If it makes you feel any better, I can't tell you how proud and happy I am you proved me wrong. Daniel's a good kid, and a real talent, as I'm sure you've noticed. You both deserve to be happy together."
It was the first time in the conversation he'd actually said Daniel's name. We had officially been outed as a couple to our cast and director. Though from the sound of it, we'd never been quite as closeted as either of us had imagined. I suddenly felt dizzy thinking of how Daniel would react.
"Scott, we can't let this get out, please. Not to the theater owners. Daniel could lose his job over this!"
"Way ahead of you, Jeff. Backstage romances happen all the time. We've all seen it enough times to know the dangers. We can keep it quiet, no problem. However..."
I paused in my pacing and looked at him in a panic. He eyed me thoughtfully.
"You are jumpier than... well, I would've thought a nice romantic weekend would've mellowed you out, but obviously you need a whole lot more lovin' for that. I just need your word that the two of you can be discreet and keep it professional while you're working."
"Come on, Scott, you know me, and you've worked with Daniel for weeks now. You know we can."
"Well, just to make sure, I'm putting Daniel in one-on-one rehearsals with Joseph for a couple days for coaching. You'll be rehearsing separately with the others. What the two of you get up to in your off hours during that time is your own business.
"Scott, you can organize rehearsals however you see fit, you're the director, but do you really think either of us would be anything but professional?"
"Jeff, buddy, it's been six years since Timmy. I can't even begin to imagine how much you've got bottled up inside you. And I'm not sure you can either. What's wrong with helping you set a few boundaries now you're letting it out?"
I flipped him off. But I smiled when I did it. I was even more hurt than I let on that he didn't feel he could trust me—and I was pretty sure it was me that Scott was worried about, not Daniel—but I knew he had my back.
And if Monday had been any indication, he was dead right about the pent-up sex drive...
* * *
Telling Daniel about my history with Timothy—though I was careful not to use his name—was both terrifying and liberating. On the one hand, I felt like in Daniel's eyes I was tearing down every image that I wanted him to hold of me. On the other, it was an intense relief to share that whole ugly scenario with someone. Scott knew only as much as he had been privy to at the time, and I had never spoken a word about it to my mother or sister.
Daniel's response more than justified my leap of faith. When he asked me to make love to him, he restored every ounce of self-esteem that my pathetic tale had drained from me in the telling. Our subsequent mating was no less intense than it had been the first time, but it was less urgent and even more intimate.
We had wound up with Daniel on top this time, straddling me. This would later turn out to be one of our favorite positions: we could see each other and kiss, he was free to decide whether or not he wanted to take the lead in our joining, and I had full access to his irresistible penis. Trying it together for the first time, it had been a delightful surprise to discover just how much pleasure we could each give and receive.
The light of sunrise had been coming through the bedroom windows, making it possible to look into his eyes as I thrust up into him. So even as he shuddered and blasted hot cum between my fingers, across my chest, and all the way to my chin, I saw tears sneaking their way down his stubbled cheeks. When I instinctively reached up to him, he shook his head and took control, rising and falling on my cock until I couldn't hold any more. I filled the condom inside him, forgetting everything else as the sweet pleasure swept over me.
Afterward, as he lay on my chest with his face pressed into my shoulder, he had murmured, "I never knew it could be like this."
In my drowsy, sated state, I hadn't even been able to muster a response, but I stroked his hair and thought to myself, Neither did I.
We had made love two more times that day, barely taking the time to shower and eat between sessions, and wearing little besides robes and towels. This morning had begun with a mind-blowing "69" session, in which Daniel again wielded his talented tongue to devastating effect. My balls ached from the unaccustomed demand, my glutes and leg muscles were protesting all the exercise, my penis was chafed and sore, and I was afraid Daniel would be walking bow-legged the rest of the week. I think we were both in heaven.
* * *
I was anxious to intercept Daniel on his way into the theater and warn him that our cover was blown, but Mark got to him first. I saw them in the corner, bent over their notes. Mark shot a forbidding glare in my direction and I backed off. Instead, I turned my attention to the first order of the day: welcoming Joseph back to the cast. He looked pale and tired, but composed. I didn't envy the guy. He was walking from an emotionally draining situation right into an intense week of catch-up rehearsals. Daniel had set a pretty high bar for him, and there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Scott would hold Joseph to it.
Although I was still itching to get a word with Daniel, I remembered that there was someone else I needed to touch base with. When the cast separated for our split rehearsals, I drew Heather aside and whispered, "Everything okay?"
She turned to me with a small but genuine smile, "The test was positive. I'm going to be a mommy!"
I restrained myself from giving a whoop. "Heather, I hope I'm not being insensitive to everything you've got to deal with right now, but I just think that's awesome. My niece and nephew are the light of my life." Well, I think they might have a little competition now. "What did Justin say?"
Her smile faded. "I haven't told him yet."
"I know, I know, he had a flight and my message didn't get through to him until he was on the ground, and then he didn't want to call me back because it was so late, so we wound up playing phone tag most of the day and... well, when we did finally connect, I just chickened out."
I thought about it a moment. "I guess I can understand that. I mean, yeah, that would be a really scary conversation. But you know you can't keep it from him forever."
"I could, you know. I could... not have it. No one would ever know but you."
My heart fell, and I tried to keep my face from following suit. "You could, and I wouldn't hold it against you. If you're seriously considering going that route, you might want to take Angela into your confidence. She's done volunteer work in that area, and I'm sure she could get you in touch with a quality counselor. But from what you told me, you and Justin are serious enough about each other that you've already talked about the possibility of having kids together. If that's the case, don't you think he has a right to know?" As if I, a gay man, have any place lecturing a pregnant woman about fathers' rights. Just shut up and be supportive, Jeff!
The smile was gone now. Heather's head was bowed, her hair falling over her face. Has she been taking lessons in defensive body posture from Daniel? "Of course he does, Jeff. I haven't even considered abortion, not really. I'll tell him, I promise. But please don't push me."
"Hey, hey, it'll be all right. I'm sorry. C'mere." I pulled her in for another side hug; she turned it into a full-frontal and clung to me for a moment. I rubbed her back. "When you do tell him, you let me know how it goes. That way I can go beat some sense into him if he doesn't take it well."
She giggled. "Justin's six-foot-four and built. I'd like to see you try to take him. Though I'd really hate for him to ruin that pretty face of yours."
So much for my delusions of masculinity. I tried to picture petite Heather with a six-foot-four giant. It brought some—interesting—images to mind. "Naw, I'll just call him out for a duel. Pilots don't learn stage fencing, do they?"
We were interrupted by Angela, "Guys, we're waiting for you, what's going on?"
Heather improvised seamlessly, to my great envy. "Just congratulating Jeff on his new status." She raised her eyebrows suggestively.
Angela softened immediately. "Of course." She planted a kiss on my cheek. "We're all happy for you both, Jeff. Really."
I cringed a bit, but the support actually felt kind of good. I'd never known anything like that before. "Yeah, well, I'll bet I know why you're happy about it," I teased Angela. "Scott tells me you won at least a hundred bucks off him in the cast betting pool. And you're welcome."
* Daniel *
To give him full credit, Joseph had been going over the script compulsively the entire flight back. Scott and I started by just running lines with him, without any blocking, and he had them down cold. He might be a bit uncoordinated, but he was a dedicated actor and knew his responsibilities. I could also see why he had been cast in this part. His physical awkwardness was a perfect fit for the character. We just had to find a way to turn that to his advantage in Scott's staging.
After a few hours, Scott left us alone to review blocking while he went to work with the rest of the cast. Joseph looked apprehensive. We were due to tackle his area of insecurity. I opened my backpack, pulled out a three-ring binder, and handed it to him. "Here, I thought this might come in handy."
"What is it?" Joseph opened the binder. "Stage plots?"
"Here," I turned to the tab marked "Scene 7." "I copied my diagrams of the blocking for you. I've broken the scenes down into beats, as best I could. Your movements are marked in blue. I figured maybe the reason you were struggling with blocking might be that you were having trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Instead of notes in a script, maybe this will help give you a different perspective."
He traced the colored drawings with his finger. "You did all this?"
"I have to; it's my job. The stage managers need to know where everyone and everything is going to be during the play—sets, props, and actors. That way we can call cues and make sure everything is where it needs to be so you can do your job. We just get the advantage of having a production book backstage to refer to. You have to carry around all that information in your head."
"It's not my head," Joseph explained ruefully, "it's my body. I don't have enough muscle memory or something."
"You're an actor, Joseph, and a really good one. You already know all about moving with intent. You just need to understand how Scott uses that in this play. It's all about reflecting the relationships between the characters. See, here," I pointed to one diagram, "when you make that diagonal move to downstage right to pick up the glass? You're moving between Jeff and Angela; your character is interrupting their conversation with that line. And here, how Angela sort of bounces off you in a different direction? You've just changed the subject and altered her train of thought. This whole staging is full of that kind of thing. I just think Scott sometimes gets moving so fast he forgets to make sure we're all keeping up with him."
Joseph grinned at me, "You can say that again."
"So let's give it a try," I urged. "Just go through it a few beats at a time, take the time to understand how everything plays out, then walk through it a few times with the dialogue. I'll feed you the other actors' lines."
He still wasn't confident when we finished the day's session, but he had made his way through the first half of the scene without getting confused or forgetting his lines. Scott had come back at some point, keeping watch over things but not interfering. There was actually a glimmer of pride and hope in Joseph's eyes as we said goodnight.
"You do good work with him, Daniel," he commented after Joseph left. "Another couple days and he should be caught up nicely."
"I think having the visual aid really helped," I answered.
"So did someone sitting down and being patient with him. I should have sent you off to coach him like this weeks ago. I was just too busy trying to get the rest of the cast in line to give him the time and attention he needed."
I said nothing. It's not my job to criticize the director, and I probably would have made the same choice if I were in his shoes.
"What are you up to this summer, Daniel?" he asked.
"I'm working on the summer program for the theater. They have a collaborative program with the university for high school students and community members. Why?"
Scott looked thoughtful. "Oh, just wondering. I like to know where I can find good talent. I'm glad Jeff seems to have settled down here, it makes him so much easier to track down when I need him. Oh, and speak of the devil..." Jeff was there, smiling brightly at me as if he hadn't seen me in ages, instead of eight or nine hours. I smiled back. Some tension I had barely been conscious of all day relaxed as soon as I saw him.
"Go on, you two, it's been a long day. Get out of here. Have fun! Play safe!" urged Scott. He winked at me on his way out. I stared at his retreating back, nonplussed.
Jeff swooped in on me and gathered me in his arms as soon as Scott was out the door. "Yeah, he's on to us. God, you feel good. Ready to go home?"
I melted into his embrace. This was home. "What a day!" I pulled back as Scott's behavior and Jeff's words registered. "Wait, so Scott knows we're...?"
"Knows and approves, babe, don't worry. But he did make me promise we'd keep things discreet around here, for both our sakes. So let's get moving, sexy, before you tempt me into breaking that promise the very first day. I want you home and in my bed!"
I collected my backpack and notepad. "God, I wish I could, but I have to meet up with Kelly this evening. She's not going to give me any peace until she knows just what I was up to yesterday."
Jeff smirked. "In detail?"
"Well, I'm planning on holding a few things back."
"Or we could just go give her a live demonstration."
I snorted at the suggestion. Wait. We?
* * *
I was still trying to catch up mentally as Jeff parked outside the karaoke bar.
"You know, you really don't have to do this," I told him. "What about the whole discretion thing? You're kind of a celebrity, you know, what if someone sees you?"
He smiled at me. "It's a Tuesday night, how many people are gonna be there? She's your best friend, Daniel. The rest of the cast already knows. We shouldn't have to hide anything from her." Says the guy who's not even out to his family, I thought, grouchily. Truth be told, I think I just wasn't willing to share him with anyone yet.
As we walked into the bar, Jeff took my hand and held it tightly. I saw Josh do a double-take behind the bar, then give me a big grin and a thumbs-up sign as we headed toward Kelly's table. She didn't even bat an eye as we approached, simply took in the sight of us with a slight smirk and a raised eyebrow.
"Jeff Williams, how good of you to join us," she purred.
"Kelly Richardson, how are you this evening?"
"You have to ask?" I interjected. "Look at her, she's like the cat that swallowed the canary."
Kelly patted my cheek, the patronizing bitch. "I'm really trying hard not to say 'I told you so,' but, sweetie, I haven't seen you look so happy in years. Even when you're trying to tell me off, you're glowing." She turned to Jeff, "And you, sir, look about as smug as I probably do. Have a seat and tell me how you managed to lure my boy here into your sinful clutches."
"He stuck his tongue down my throat until I couldn't think straight for lack of oxygen," I answered, repeating Jeff's joke from our first night together. It met with Kelly's loud and thorough approval. She was still chortling and wiping tears from her eyes as Jeff gave her a sanitized recap of our courtship. Partway through the story, I was startled to realize that we had only been a couple for three days. It already felt like weeks. Of course, we had been tiptoeing around our feelings for one another for a long time before taking the plunge.
Kelly nudged me out of my thoughts. "Earth to Daniel, come in, Daniel. Why don't you go have a nice chat with Josh and get us some drinks will I give your man the third degree?" She gave me her patented I-dare-you-to-object glare, and I swallowed my response and meekly headed over to the bar.
Josh gave me a sympathetic look. "Banished while she grills your guy, huh? Stick around and keep me company for a while, dude. It's dead here tonight." I was getting to like Josh better and better. I hoped Kelly kept him around. He kept her grounded. "You know she's just looking out for you, right?" he asked.