Characters: Scott Speedman and James Marsden
“Jimmy you in there?’
Tom. No… damnit. Scott. Scott Speedman his co-actor on the film. Not Tom.
“Yeah come in.”
Dan stopped pacing. James stood leaning by the dresser rubbing his temple with his right hand knuckles just as Scott walked in.
“Hey… you alright buddy?”
What a weird thing to ask.
“Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”
The director was busy frowning at the playback and didn’t look up.
“Go ahead. I’ll join you in a minute.”
So here he was, Scott in James’ room. And looking at the forced demeanor of his friend, he knew it’d been the right thing to do.
Scott let out a gasp of mild frustration.
“Working yourself up into a fit! You always do that after an intense scene.”
James was equally irritated at his act of nonchalance having failed so miserably.
“Not….! Not after every scene! Okay so it happens once in a while but you know me, I can't help it.”
“Yes I do know.”
Scott brought his temper under control and moved closer to Jim.
“And this one was particularly hard to work through I can understand that.”
Jim couldn’t look at him yet.
“Jimmy it's just a movie. A fucking movie! It's not real.”
“Thank you so much for stating the obvious, I am ever so grateful to you.”
Scott refused to acknowledge the sarcasm.
“Well right now with you being so anal about it… somebody had better make it damn obvious if it aint.”
James didn’t reply, just looked away again.
“Jimmy. What’s on your mind? Talk to me dude.”
And Jimmy tried. He really did, but nothing came out.
“You’re not Dan dude. You’re Jimmy Marsden the actor. Whatever just happened, didn’t happen to you.”
And that was the trigger needed.
“I know that Scott. That’s not the point.”
“Then what is?’
“The point is that… damn it. The point is that there are thousands maybe millions of Dan out there! Living their lives so dangerously, in complete denial. And they’re nothing short of killers on the loose. They’re… it's very disturbing.”
Scott considered the barely traceable quiver in his friend’s voice, the drooping shoulders, the lowered eyes… and weighed it against the words being uttered.
He stepped closer to the dresser and went to stand beside James leaning against it.
Scott pursed his lips, waiting for his friend to add more. He didn’t.
“Jim the idea of this movie is not to condemn people like Dan as villains or killers. It is to shock them out of their destructive denials by portraying a worst case scenario.”
James nodded vigorously.
“Yes I understand that but… what next? What happens *after* they’ve been shocked and frightened to an inch of their lives and been delivered the ultimate sentence? What happens then?”
“I thought you were okay with the script. Hell you loved it.”
James didn’t understand the question, he looked sideways at his friend with his brows furrowed… his confusion and misery plainly evident in his beautiful face.
“The slightly ambiguous ending? Open to interpretation?”
“Yeah sure I’m okay with it. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Scott just… looked at him. James squirmed under the weight of the bigger man’s arm around him.
“Jimmy hey… it's okay. I realize you’ve practically become Dan for the duration of this movie. And you knew all this before you accepted the role, you knew he was the one responsible anyway. But it's probably just hitting you now, at the very end of it all.”
“Yes and no. I mean yeah, I knew Dan was the proverbial *bad guy* of the movie. But this story doesn’t allow you to look at stuff in black and white does it. Somewhere down the line, the grays completely overwhelmed my understanding of the character and now, I’m not so sure whether to feel sorry for me… for Dan or just be like.. great. He deserved it anyway. I can't… I don’t know how to… how to move on from Dan, leave him at this… very frightening, very lonely, and extremely distressing point in his life and just… forget about him?”
Jimmy looked up into Scott’s face anxious for an answer. Scott waited.
“I need to get closure on this one dude.”
“What… what would you do?”
“I mean Tom. Sure he kind of empathizes with Dan now since he’s tested positive but… he would never forgive Dan would be? *Could* he?”
Scott gave that a thought, bit his lower lip.
“Honestly, I think on the 26th day, he blames himself more than he blames Dan. He is more introspective at this point, the shock’s probably worn off… thanks to Dan and his constant arguments which forced him to like… really *think* about stuff you know.”
James was listening.
“I think he would never really forgive Dan, no… he couldn’t. But then he wouldn’t ever forgive himself either. And yet, his compassion for people in general would never let him harm Dan in any way. Because he knows that Dan’s being punished enough as it is.”
“Oh sure, Tom’s the better man, the *good* guy. And Dan’s the fucking brat!”
Scott couldn’t help but chuckle at the whine in Jimmy’s tone, but he knew it was fake. He just squeezed the man closer to himself.
James looked up into his face.
“If I were Tom, I would remember what happened to my wife. Remember how angry he was at the doctor at the hospital? How he just gave her the news and let her go like it was nothing more than a common cold?”
James merely nodded.
“See I would probably let Dan stick around for longer in the apartment, if he wanted to, that is and deal with the news. And if Dan left, I would have followed him… made sure he didn’t do anything stupid. Like run any lights you know what I mean?”
James swallowed. Hard.
“You would do that? For a serial killer?”
Scott breathed, thought about it again, and reached to the same conclusion again.
“I would do that for a victim. Same as me.”
Jimmy stared at him, wide-eyed another moment before smiling sadly and looking away.
“What happens then? They become friends or somethin?”
Now Scott really chuckled. Jimmy heard the husky amusement in his friend’s voice and felt rather foolish having over-reacted in comparison.
“I wouldn’t go that far Jimbo. Dunno really. Could they ever be friends? Maybe. Tom’s a nice guy. But maybe Dan would be too embarrassed and guilty to wanna be around him. It’d be too painful a reminder to him of all the pain he’s caused.”
“Maybe that ought to be his penance. Maybe Tom *should* keep him around so Dan *will* be tortured for the rest of his shortened life.”
Scott stood up straight, exasperated, unsettling James from his place on his shoulder.
“You have to understand people like Dan aren’t *evil*. They’re just too damn scared to face reality. They live in the fantasy that all the bad stuff in life only happens to other people, not them! And you know what, this world is full of people like Dan. Not just in terms of sex and protection. Men, women who cross roads carelessly trusting the guy behind the wheel to not be drunk or rash or both. Guys who smoke, do drugs thinking they had everything under control and that they wouldn’t ever get addicted! Dan’s not the bad guy, he’s just… he’s made mistakes, serious ones. Lethal ones yeah but he’s only human.”
Scott was not sure how to react to such anger. His friend really was taking this personally.
And James got off the dresser and started to pace again. Which is exactly when Tony knocked and without waiting for an answer, walked in.
“Hey dinner’s here. You guys haven’t changed yet?”
Nope. Both were still in their character costumes. And neither replied. Tony gave them a second. Two. Three.
“Alright out with it. What’s up?”
Scott couldn’t think of much to say except…
“Jimmy wants an ending.”
“What do you mean Jimmy wants an ending? We have a perfectly nice ending!”
James had stopped pacing and glared at Scott for his bluntness.
“Don’t listen to him Tony. I’ve mangled the last of his grey cells with my constant whining, leaving him completely incapable of saying anything sensible right now.”
Scott just snorted and studied his friend. James had straightened up in presence of Tony… he wouldn’t show his vulnerable side to anyone except him and Scott felt grateful and touched by the trust his friend showed in him.
Tony looked at one, then the other.
Both the actors looked up at their director, in total surprise.
“Umm… after Dan reads the report, he drops to his knees and breaks down.”
James wanted to interrupt right here but didn’t get the chance.
James’ jaw dropped open.
“Then Tom puts the grieving boy in the middle of the bed and takes off all his clothes which, we’ll manage to get *soiled* somehow, and then he holds him while Dan bawls his eyes out.”
“Wait there’s more. Then when Dan stops howling they figure, what the hell. And they make out but before it gets really graphic the camera pans out and… roll in credits. How’s that?”
“That was very insensitive and distasteful of you Tony.”
Tony wore a seriously astounded look on his face.
“You don’t like it? Fine here’s another one… “
James snorted and shook his head in surrender.
“After Dan sees the results, he still doesn’t buy it. And he’s fighting it big time. And he lashes out at Tom for mind-fucking him and all that shit.”
James glared at Scott, who is quiet now and listening intently but still smirking.
“Now our man you see is very compassionate and a real peacetime hero but everyone has their limits right? So when Dan says something real nasty and impolite, Tom loses it and… and…”
James winced and hid his face in his hands.
“… and he puts Dan across his lap right then and there and spanks him. And that’s where we end.. on a good old American ass whupping the brat deserves. Like that?”
Scott is not even bothering to hide his laughter anymore.
“Can we do rehearsals for this? Like several?”
James was really angry, the other two men could see. He was red in the face, gritting his teeth and for some reason… that made the men laugh only harder.
James turned in a huff to walk out of the room.
“Hey hey… hold on. Jimmy wait!”
Scott was at his side in a flash, whirled the smaller man around and enfolded him in his arms… not letting him go. James didn’t stand a chance.
“Let me go Scott.”
“Shh… we were just kidding.”
“Just let go of me.”
“Please just stay. Please. It's okay.”
James struggled half-heartedly, then gave up. Buried his face in Scott’s shoulder for a long while trying to control the blushing. That is until Tony spoke up again. This time the tone of his voice was indicative of his seriousness.
“I wrote this story years ago Jimmy. I’ve lived with it for so long, and have felt the same confusion, the same strange mix of revulsion and compassion for Daniel all this time. I know what you’re feeling because I feel it too. Because the audience will feel it too. And they *need* to. You cant condone carelessness like that in today’s day but at the same time you shouldn’t be indifferent to the suffering of an HIV positive man.”
James made a move to separate and Scott let him this time, but he didn’t wander too far. Tony continued now that he had Jimmy’s undivided attention.
“God I must have written like a hundred and six different endings”
The actors smiled at their director. Scott piped up.
“Any chance there might have been hundred and *seven*?”
And the trio laughed softly at the feebly funny version of an intense conversation from the script. After a moment’s silence, Tony addressed James again.
“And I thought the message of the movie would get *diluted* somehow if you go beyond this point in the story. I… really don’t want that to happen.”
James lowered his eyes and nodded.
“I completely understand Tony. I don’t want you to change your script. The end is intentionally open to interpretation and people will recognize and appreciate that. They will create their own after-stories. Guess I need to do the same.”
“No issues then? We good?”
James did feel much better. Talking about it with his friends had helped him make peace with the Dan inside him.
Tony turned around to leave.
“Good. Then you don’t mind if we shoot it again? I like the cuts don’t worry about that. Just wanna see if we can do better with natural light. Okay? 7 am tomorrow morning. Sharp.”
And he was gone. Leaving James staring agape after him.
Scott bit back a groan himself. He was tired and sleepy and wanted to go home to his girlfriend, but mostly he understood what Jimmy would be putting himself through again and he wasn’t happy about that.
He studied Jimmy’s profile, the man seemed wary but overall, okay really.
“Hmm. Ack, it's okay. Cool it with the *fatherly* concern Speedman. Stop looking at me like that.”
Scott had never been so relieved to hear the biting sarcasm in his friend’s voice before.
“Hey no I was just wondering…”
James smirked and put his hands on his waist, then turned to face his friend.
“About whether you’d be interested in dry-running any of the… endings Tony suggested? Could be fun, and you never know Tony might actually like it and use it!”
“Comin’ out of the closet are you Speedman?”
Scott flashed his best impish grin.
“What can I say Marsden, you’re *gorgeous*.”
James saw the grin, the look in his friend’s eyes… and dashed for the door. But he wasn’t fast enough. Scott grabbed him by the waist from behind and hauled him onto the large couch by the dresser jumping on top of him. They'd had their fun before with rehearsing and finally shooting the playful jostling scene before, and gotten pretty much into it. Even now as they wrestled like school kids, they couldn’t stop laughing breathlessly. Scott for his part relieved his new buddy of three months was back to his normal cheerful self.
“Turn over Dan, let's practice the ass whupping first.”
“I knew it, I knew you were jealous I got more screen time than you did.”
“Sure you did! Even if it's you hogtied for like only ninety minutes of the film.”
“You liked it didn’t ya? Me all tied up no place to go, you got off on it you fucking perv!”
The wrestling ceased for a moment, only a moment.
“No… don’t even think it. Tickling isn’t manly remember? Not the ribs! Not the ribs!! Oww okay! Stop Speedman!!!”
A/N: TOTAL crack I know. Will never EVER happen I KNOW! :P Fact that's precisely why I wrote it :D