NamelessWarning: Strong language.
It's like Curt Wild has been caught in time, or maybe become immortal--but then, he's always been untouchable. It would be impossible to guess his age; one could find pictures of him ten years before where he looks much the same. Usually his kind of lifestyle would have left a little more wear and tear--as no one knows better than him--but as always with Curt, the normal rules simply don't apply. The only tell is in his eyes, which have always made him appear older than he is.
He never actually expected Curt to come, and he doesn't quite know what to say now that he's sitting there across from him, looking smaller than he remembers, and so much younger than he has any right to look--but his appearance isn't the only thing that hasn't changed, and it isn't long before he's rolling eyeliner-smudged eyes impatiently, and scrambling for a cigarette.
"Look, you asked me here, Tommy--so why don't you tell me what the hell you want?" Their booth is no smoking, but when the waitress wanders over to ask him to put it out, Curt just flashes her a brilliant grin before she can speak and asks for a glass of water.
He's not surprised when she stammers a 'right away' and doesn't tell him he can't smoke. It could be infatuation or fear, with Curt it was sometimes hard to tell, because he inspired enough of both in most everyone. Curt turns back to him expectantly. "Well?" he snaps. "Jesus, it's been ten years--you call me out of nowhere and you don't have anything to fucking say?"
"Hi," he says, giving a weak grin, forgetting everything he's rehearsed, forgetting all the things he's always meant to say. Smoke curls itself between them--coating them both with tobacco and memories. Shannon told him he had to quit, for his image, so he did. He's given up lots of things for his image, and all in all, cigarettes are one of the easier things to live without.
Curt rolls his eyes again, a habit he can't remember him having, before slouching in the booth. "I should have listened to Mandy," he says, "she told me not to bother."
He looks over at him in surprise. "You still talk with Mandy?"
"Yeah, sure," Curt tells him easily. "We get together on weekends to bitch about how you ruined our lives."
"Really?" he asks, disbelievingly. He should have known better than to walk into that, but it's been a long time since he was the one walking through a conversation on eggshells, and not the other way around.
The grin Curt throws him is downright malicious, and he remembers it as the one he used to turn on Jerry Divine. "No, not really, you asshole--our lives don't actually revolve around Brian fucking Slade," he snaps. "At least, they don't anymore."
"Tommy Stone," he corrects edgily.
"I don't know Tommy Stone," Curt tells him casually. "Guy seems like a fucking sell-out, if you ask me. Brian may have been a heartless bastard, but at least he had style."
He winces, more than a little self-conscious about how he must appear through Curt's eyes. Curt doesn't have the advantage he does; he can't look at him and pretend nothing has changed, because he isn't the same person anymore. He doesn't even answer to the same name. "You know why I did it," he tells him, quietly.
"Yeah," Curt says, his intense eyes coming to latch on his. "Same reason you do anything--because you can."
He sighs, pulling his ball cap down further when a couple across the restaurant starts shooting him curious glances. "I did it because of you," he snaps. "God, everything I've done, since the moment I first saw you, has always been because of you."
Curt watches him, apparently unmoved, and opens his mouth to let out a stream of smoke. "That is, quite possibly, the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
Curt reaches across the table, and for one insane moment, he thinks he's going to touch him. He doesn't. He drops the cigarette in his coffee instead, and shoots him a smirk that dares him to comment. He just sighs, deciding it's not worth it, because he didn't really plan to drink it anyway. "It's the truth," he says, when Curt leans back again, and he hates the way his voice sounds pleading, he hates the way his affected stage-accent can disappear so easily, even after all these years of practice.
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person," Curt quotes wryly.
He bites his lip, and leans slightly forward. "What if I were to say that I was wearing a mask?"
"I'd probably tell you that you'd look better without it," Curt says lazily, grinning unrepentantly. No one talks to him like that, ever, they all fall at his feet like he's a god and they have since he was seventeen. All of them except Curt, who even in the beginning, back in the midst of their dreams, always told it to him straight.
The waitress appears from thin air, placing a glass of ice water in front of Curt with a smile--obviously pleased he put the cigarette out on his own. She does a double-take when she catches a glimpse of him watching her, but if she recognizes him, she says nothing as she moves away.
"As much as I'm enjoying this reminiscing about the good ole' times," Curt says dryly, "you did actually have a reason for calling me, right?"
He looks down at the faux wooden surface of the table, and begins to scratch at it absently with an unpainted nail. "I knew you were here in New York, and I didn't want to pass up another chance to see you." He looks up again, and tries to meet his eyes. "I didn't have it planned out, or anything."
Curt laughs, and it sounds almost genuine. "You have an itinerary worked up if you're going to take a piss."
Curt, as usual, wasn't going to let him get away with anything. "Okay," he says. "So maybe I had a plan, maybe I had things I wanted to say, but whatever they were I can't remember them now."
"Jesus, Brian," Curt says, glancing away, "that's almost romantic."
"It's Tommy," he says.
"I know who you are," Curt snaps, but it's not an acknowledgement, really, it's not a concession at all and it sets him on edge. "Got a little visit the other day, too, to make sure I didn't forget."
He goes tense, and sits up straighter. "What? No one threatened you, right?"
"You're not that fucking naïve," Curt says, "of course they threatened me. Something completely unoriginal, too, like 'you'll never work in this town again.' I don't know--wasn't really listening all that hard."
He feels himself go red at the thought--ten years was a long time, maybe, but he's always been somewhat protective of Curt and it isn't something that time can just take away. "They wouldn't have done a damn thing to you," he tells him solemnly. "I wouldn't have let them."
Curt laughs, and the sound is so clear and carefree that suddenly he's back in London, half-dressed and pointing at flashing cameras with youthful abandon. "You really think I give a fuck one way or the other?" he says. "If I was going to tell someone who you are, they wouldn't stop me. Could probably make a fortune selling the story, too, but I'm not that petty."
He had tried to tell Shannon that, that subtle threats would get her nowhere, he had told her she was not to send anyone to bother Curt. He isn't really all that surprised to find out she hadn't listened, but next time he sees her, he isn't about to let it slide. He's more touched than he has any right to be, however, that Curt still cares enough not to ruin his career, no matter how blasé he acts about keeping the secret.
"I was there, you know," he says, "at the Death of Glitter concert."
Curt nods. "Yeah," he says. "I figured."
He bites his lip, knowing there was no way Curt had seen him--he had been far too absorbed in the music to notice anything at all.
Curt seems to know exactly what he's thinking, and he shrugs. "Mandy told me you weren't," he says, "and I was pretty sure she was lying--for my own good maybe, maybe for hers."
For hers, he thinks instantly, but takes it quickly back. He's never given her enough credit. "Your performance was amazing," he whispers. "I couldn't even stand to stay for the whole thing…Curt, god, I hate to think that I--"
"Look, it wasn't for you," Curt interrupts tightly. "No need to feel guilty, I was mourning a whole fucking era, I wasn't just pining after you, or something."
"I never said--"
"I know what you're thinking," Curt says, "and I'm just saying don't. I was singing for myself, okay? Because of you, yeah, okay, maybe, but I was doing it for myself."
"Alright," he says softly.
Curt shifts uncomfortably and casts a glance to the floor. "I got the ticket you sent," he says.
He can't bear to look up, he's far too afraid of what he might see in Curt's eyes. "Did you go?" he asks.
"Of course I went," Curt snaps, sounding disgusted, but more with himself, he notes, than with him. "I'm here, aren't I? Still fucking running anytime you call."
He still won't look up, something is driving him to keep his gaze down, away, anywhere but on him. Control is so fragile, no matter how well-constructed, and he knows better than to risk his. "What did you think?"
"You know," Curt says, sounding tired now, like the anger has all bled away. For some reason, that scares him more than anything. "I thought it was awful. I thought you were a joke."
Well, he's always claimed to want honesty from those around him--he has no right to resent it now. "Of course," he says.
"Look," Curt tells him, "it's not like it matters what I think, alright? No one gives a fuck about my opinion anyway and you've got millions of fans. That should be enough, even for you."
He doesn't care about any of them, he wants to say. He never has, not really, it's something else that has always driven him on stage. He doesn't know what, though, and so he can't explain. "And I suppose you're the righteous one?" he asks tightly, "the tortured artist going unappreciated whilst those in the mainstream get all the fame?"
Curt gives a half-grin, almost as if to say, 'same old Brian' and then turns his head away, his eyes focusing on the waitress behind the counter, who is laughing at something the cook has said. "I never said I was better," he says, "you're the one that came out on top, the one that got what he wanted, and I'm just the has-been. So if you've called me here to gloat then go ahead, I won't stop you."
It's not the announcement of defeat and surrender that it sounds, and Curt's eyes are clouded when he turns back around, but they're blazing and cold at the same time. "You never much cared for any of that anyway," he says after a moment, and he's relieved to see Curt's eyes soften some.
"Sure I did," Curt says, grinning slightly. "I loved it as much as the next rock star. Groupies, sex, drugs, what was there not to love?"
"Do you miss it at all?" he asks quietly.
"Sometimes," Curt says, shrugging again. "Sometimes I feel like it was another life, sometimes it seems like yesterday--on the good days, I just don't fucking care."
"If you, you know, wanted to make music again I could--"
"Even think about finishing that sentence," Curt interrupts, "and I'm walking out of here right now."
"I'm not offering out of pity," he snaps. "You know you're extremely talented and I could help…"
Curt laughs. "What makes you think I would want your help? I've gotten enough 'help' from you to last a lifetime, I'm not stupid enough to take you up on it again."
He decides he shouldn't be surprised he wouldn't accept his help. Curt has always been the strong one. Maybe he had been the first to give up on the relationship, but it was Curt that had the strength to walk away from the spotlights without a second thought, and that was something he had never been able to do.
He'd walked away eventually, maybe, but not without second thoughts.
"I get by fine," Curt continues. "I still write music and maybe not as many people hear it, but I don't give a fuck who hears it, okay?"
He's said that before, when he had been trying to get Curt to give into Jerry's demands for the record contract. Jerry had wanted hit singles, and Curt had wanted music with life. He's glad that hasn't changed, even if it does mean the world has pushed Curt off to the side.
Because maybe there is no Brian Slade without people around to worship him; he is illusionary, only there as long as he is haloed in spotlights and headlines, just like there is no Tommy Stone, but Curt Wild has always been painfully real, he has always put himself into his music to the point of breaking. So he shouldn't be surprised, he supposes, that with fame or without it, Curt Wild is still Curt Wild and always would be.
"I should go," Curt says, suddenly sounding wary, "but hey, it's been fun."
He knows what happens next; this is the part where Curt leaves, and he can feel his hands start shaking. "Wait!" he shouts.
More than a few heads turn in their direction, and Curt pauses where he is, half out of his seat, before dropping back down in surprise. "What?" he asks, uncomfortably. "Let's not do the whole goodbye thing again, okay?"
"We never really did it the first time," he points out.
"Yeah, well, I'd like to keep it that way," Curt tells him, glancing away.
"Curt," he says, desperately, "I need to see you again. Sometime, okay, the next time I'm in New York…I'll call you, alright? And maybe we can…"
Curt shakes his head. "No," he whispers. "No, I don't want you to call me."
His heartbeat starts to speed up, but he decides he's not going to break down, not here--it's not good for his image. "You can't mean that."
Curt sighs and pushes a couple of blonde strands out of his eyes and behind his right ear. "I do. I can't keep doing this, okay, I don't…I don't like seeing you, like this." He's not really meeting his eyes. "If you ever find Brian again," he tells him softly, "then you can have him give me a call."
Brian is dead, he wants to scream, just like Maxwell Demon and glam-rock altogether and there's no way he can really rewrite history, no way to revive what's dead. "You might as well ask me never to contact you again," he says, and his voice is breaking again, nothing but different shattered accents and underneath the lurking voice of someone he has tried so hard to forget.
"Yeah, I probably should," Curt says, with a sad, enigmatic smile, before he gets to his feet and starts to walk away.
This time he doesn't watch as Curt leaves, but he still hears the door close behind him, sounding far louder than it should, kind of like a window that has been slammed shut.