Disclaimer: I own nothing of Hetalia.
Background: This fic is written for Haku's birthday! It's not a one-shot, though, so I'm hoping I'll be able to end it sometime before her next birthday, hahaha. It's a conglomeration of ideas she's dropped to me on Twitter from time to time. And it's rated M for a very steamy reason (future chapters, with a very strong seme-US though it might not appear to be at first). I hope you enjoy! ;D
Also, there's like barely any angst. I'm trying to stay away from that for a bit over here.
— 1. Foundation —
"Where are we going?" Arthur asked, probably as the fifteenth time he had done so that car ride. His manager, ever the frustrating French git, only smiled amusedly as he gently tipped the wheel for a slow turn down onto yet another one of Hollywood's expansive boulevards.
"I told you already, mon ami," Francis murmured, as he kept his eyes carefully trained upon the road. "I am taking you to your new job."
"You make it sound like I have only one," Arthur muttered as he crossed his arms in irritation. "As a makeup artist, especially one with my skill and versatility—"
"Yeah, you're busy with multiple sets," Francis chuckled. "You'd think I would know that, being your manager and all. Most artists don't even have managers, Arthur. That in and of itself should be a testament to your popular demand."
Francis took the time to glance over briefly, a ghost of a mischievous smile upon his thin lips. "I have a feeling though, mon ami, that after you learn who it is, you'll see that won't have the time to work for anyone else... and I'm quite sure the actor won't let you, either." Francis was almost glowing with the joy of his inside joke. "The man likes exclusivity."
Arthur's curiosity betrayed himself as he struggled to be silently disgruntled at all the secrecy. He wanted to ignore the manager and lay it on thick just how much he was unhappy with the situation, but after a moment of great effort not to do so, Arthur ended up shooting Francis a questioning look.
"I'm betting you're not going to tell me who it is if I ask again, are you?" the artist asked exasperatedly. This car ride seemed far longer than the ten minutes his watch told him it had been so far.
"Seven-hundredth time is not the charm, non," Francis replied, smiling as he turned the wheel to head down yet another wide road. The Frenchman liked car rides around Hollywood, if only because it gave him plenty of ideas for ostentatious living when he would be rich enough to do so.
Notice, it wasn't an "if." Francis always had big plans, and judging from the way Arthur's career was going, these plans could become reality quite soon.
"Just enjoy the ride, mon ami," the manager murmured soothingly as he glanced up to check his rearview mirror. "We're almost there."
The English artist sighed and slumped down ever so slightly in his seat, shaking his head. He turned to look out his side window, sure that he would have strangled Francis by now if the man wasn't in charge of getting them where they needed to go. As much as Arthur was already angry with how the day was going, and as much as he hated the games that Francis liked to play, Arthur was a professional above all.
And professionals knew when to not commit murder on annoying French idiots.
It seemed that Francis had been speaking the truth, however, for soon they were turning into the filming area of Sunflower Studios, one of the busiest and most bustling locations in all of Hollywood. It was home to a variety of movie sets, and was in a constant hubbub as multiple productions often filmed there at once.
Arthur sat up when he recognized where they were, his irritation temporarily forgotten. Sunflower was home to the best of the best—movies, actors, producers, anything and everything. Makeup artists included. Arthur could practically smell the money in the air, and if this was where his job was to be, it was likely then that a good chunk of that green would end up floating right into his pocket.
Of course, it wasn't as if being an average makeup artist paid much, and making a living on it was a far cry from easy. But that was the thing about Hollywood, wasn't it? No one here ever settled on just "average," least of all Arthur Kirkland, artist extraordinaire.
The Briton managed to tear his eyes away from the occasional set glimpses he saw far down the various roads just to return his attention to his manager.
"Just observe, mon ami," Francis murmured with a small twinkling smile, stopping as he presented his clearance pass for the fourth time to yet another guard who looked bored beyond his wits and deathly tired to boot. Arthur didn't blame the man; June in Hollywood was already a hellish blaze, and it wasn't even high summer yet.
As the car began to move once again, Arthur was about to argue back in exasperation for the nth time when he spotted a sign to their left. His eyes widened, especially as Francis made a move to turn down that road. Arthur's heart sped up and he involuntarily gripped the seat, though he at least managed to maintain the perfect blasé expression upon his face. Subtle.
"Viewfinder?" the makeup artist asked breathlessly, tasting the name of the movie upon his lips as if it were a newly ripened fruit. It was delicious.
"Oui," Francis replied, looking quite smug as he pulled over for one last checkpoint. Security was especially tight on this movie, considering it was predicted to be the biggest blockbuster of the year, if not of the past decade. With the combination of actors, one of the best movie music composers, and the most famous producer/director, it had been a hit from before the screenwriting had even begun. And of course, that meant that all the positions from water boy to caterer had been decided and filled from at least six years ago. An opening slot was absolutely unheard of.
The Frenchman pulled over into the vast parking area of the set, which was far larger and fuller than any other in Sunflower Studios.
"You've outdone yourself," Arthur murmured, causing Francis to glance over as he turned off the engine. Coming from Arthur, those words meant a lot. It was probably the only piece of praise Arthur would ever allow the Frenchman in their whole partnership together, and it was a compliment so hard won that it had taken only the biggest movie of the season to get it.
Arthur cleared his throat as he stepped out of the car, a little bit of his initial shock gone as he tried to reign in his heartbeat. He was beyond excited, and his mind was actually going a bit crazy. After a decade or so in the industry, it wasn't easy for Arthur to lose his cool like that, even if just in his head, but there were simply some things that were hard to take at face value with a calm expression, especially the opportunity to work on the set of "Viewfinder." The movie was to be absolutely legendary.
"How did you land this?" Arthur asked, betraying nothing of his internal giddiness and bubbling anticipation in his practiced calm speech.
"That I didn't do," Francis admitted, hands in his pockets as he began to walk. "You were requested."
"What? I was?" The makeup artist glanced over in surprise, almost pausing mid-step. Then he tried to shrug nonchalantly and continue on with greater composure. "I mean, yeah. Of course I was."
They should have requested me from the very beginning, Arthur amended, trying to recover some of his cool and easy confidence that bordered upon arrogance. But it wasn't arrogance if it was truth, was it? He knew he was good at what he did. He just wasn't the best, but the fact that he was here now—especially by somebody's request—meant that he was damn close.
"When do I start?" Arthur asked cooly, having been quick to find his calm. Professionalism was the name of the game, and he'd been playing it from before some of these actors had even been born.
"Now," Francis said, as he pulled aside the flap that led to the main makeshift tent and walked right in.
"That's what we're going to do, so just watch them come in from the left," the director, Mr. Tino Väinämöinen, spoke as he finished explaining the scene they were about to film to Arthur. The artist's duty was to watch and observe, then explain to the director what he thought he was called here to do. It was almost a test, of sorts, but Arthur didn't mind. He knew he would pass.
Not many makeup artists received such great one-on-one treatment, but this was a special case. Arthur was well known, to say the least. His name was whispered in the halls, his face recognized by almost all in the makeup side of the movie industry, and someone had likely been fired for his sake just to get him here.
Arthur Kirkland, ladies and gentlemen. At the young age of twenty-four, he wasn't known as a movie makeup prodigy for nothing.
"Ready?" Tino asked. Arthur nodded from his seat right beside the director, his bright eyes already focused upon the screen. Francis had wandered off to get some coffee or something. A baguette, some cheese and an eiffel tower—whatever it was that the Frenchman did in his spare time.
The director leaned back and called for filming to start. Immediately, Arthur's eyes focused on nothing else but the screen before him, his mind already working through makeup analysis of characters that hadn't even made it onto the scene yet. It was a force of habit, and one that he had no desire ever to get rid of.
Arthur had never had to explain himself before, but then again, he had never worked on the set of any Väinämöinen production. Things worked differently around here, which was probably why the movies that stemmed from such an environment were always a massive hit. There was an inexplicable magic in the air that danced upon your tongue, the sweet taste of imminent success and the promise of good fortune. Not to mention the smell of already-earned money.
The first few actors appeared in the scene, surprising Arthur just a little. His initial shock at appearing on set and then his focus upon makeup analysis had caused such a lapse in memory that he had all but forgotten who was actually working in the movie. A great deal of the big names were there, and even the shot Arthur was witnessing just then was surely already worth a few million dollars in people power.
His eyes quickly flittered over the faces, frowning in distaste as he saw a few distortions here and there in the makeup. There was uneven application of base colors, too much shadow on one eye and not the other, overemphasis of cheekbones, etc. The list was endless, but it was subtle enough that only a pro like Arthur and a handful of other names would notice. Undoubtedly though, that handful of other people were likely they themselves on set as well, so why were there such sloppy mistakes?
With a small sigh, the artist pulled out his notebook to begin annotating down corrections when the director held up a hand for him to stop. "You're not in charge of any of these actors," Tino explained. "I just wanted you to see them. You're in charge of..." there was a pause as the scene kept rolling, past all the dialogue and then into the big entrance of the main character.
Arthur dropped his pencil.
In a great break of professionalism, Arthur stared slack-jawed at the actor who had just appeared on the screen. There was barely even any imperfection in the makeup whatsoever, to be honest, but that wasn't what had silenced the artist. It was the actor himself, whom Arthur had woefully forgotten was appearing in the movie. (Though now that he thought about it, he had no idea how he could have possibly let it slip his mind, even for a moment.)
Yet there the man was, clad in a beautiful suit specifically tailored to his very fine figure, hair slicked back except for that trademark cowlick, his eyes ablaze with hellish intensity and grim determination. Ever recognizable, ever handsome, and one of the youngest names to grace the big leagues—Alfred F. Jones.
"You have got to be kidding me..."
Arthur was going to kill Francis for this, professionalism or not.
The makeup artist paced restlessly around in his personal makeup trailer as he waited for the fated encounter that was sure to happen at any moment. Usually, he would be placed with at least one or two other artists, but given that he now knew for whom he was working, it came as no surprise that Arthur was allotted quite a few luxuries with the job.
But God, it really was Alfred Jones.
Arthur was really going to be working for him, spending time with him, getting the chance to touch that beautiful face that seemed softer than anything Arthur could ever even dream of. It was an absolute miracle that most would kill for.
But Arthur hated it.
This was the one actor he told Francis he would never work for.
The artist's palms were sweaty as he wiped them for the hundredth time against the rough material of his new jetblack jeans. Francis had told him to dress nicely for the occasion, but the stupid frog (who had been impossible to find after the scene filming, the crafty bastard) had never mentioned that Arthur ought to have been dressed in a suit or something. This was likely to be the biggest meeting of his life, after all. It was a career decider, working for Alfred Jones—if not only because people rarely survived it.
Well, that might have been a bit too morbid a way to phrase things, but the fact of the matter was that no makeup artist had ever worked with Jones for more than half a movie without being replaced. No one quite knew why, since none of the replaced artists ever talked about it. But as it stood, it was getting a bit difficult to find new names who were good enough to do what was needed, and since Arthur always refused the job when offered to him, there was often no one else (because face it, he wasn't going to offer himself up to be tossed away just like any other rag by an actor four years his junior; he had better things to do. Plus, he was highly suspicious of Alfred's perfect character and reputation).
However, the production company must have been desperate and at their wit's end, and Francis must have been offered a whole boatload of money if he had actually accepted the job, especially when he knew full well the bloody fate that awaited him once Arthur found him again. Francis would pay.
Before Arthur could continue his dark and brooding train of thought, he heard the door behind him jiggle ever so slightly. The makeup artist froze, refusing to turn around. Every fiber of his being was hoping that it was Francis, even though his mind was already resigned to the fact that he'd have to deal with Jones instead.
There was the soft padding of footsteps as whoever it was climbed onto the trailer, his breathing calm and even, so unlike Arthur's. The makeup artist closed his eyes and swallowed, fighting down his heart which was struggling to climb right out of his throat. He felt sick, ready to hurl. God he didn't want to be there. This was the last job offer he would have ever taken, and if he had remembered in time just who was appearing in "Viewfinder," he would have forced Francis to turn back.
The sound of someone clearing his throat came from behind the artist, causing the Briton to turn around.
And there Alfred Jones was, in the flesh.
He was still dressed as he had been in the last scene. For a moment, Arthur lost his train of thought as he stared dumbfounded, his eyes doing a quick appreciative rundown of Alfred's whole package, from the flawless coloring of his hair to the polished shine of his loafers. His beauty was unmistakable, and in person, Alfred was even more breathtaking than he was on screen. God, most makeup artists—most people—would die for even one chance to touch that skin. Maybe Arthur should have been more grateful.
"So, are you the new guy they sent in?" Alfred asked with a smile, hands in his pockets, the sheer epitome of charm.
And Arthur was dumbfounded.
Of course, based on the way the actor appeared in the movies, always as the gentleman or as the sweet boy from Kansas archetype, it was no surprise that Alfred was a sweet soul. He was also known around his sets for being the ever-helpful, caring guy, his reputation cultured to be the bright and shining 20-year-old who was always beaming at his fans or winking at the camera during interviews.
Arthur knew that, but for some reason, he had never quite believed it, which was why he avoided working with Alfred so much. After all, someone who went through makeup artists like used tissues, often without rhyme or reason, couldn't have been all that great, could he? There had to be some extremely terrible secret hidden away to compensate for it, and Arthur had never been up for finding out exactly what that was.
But yet here Alfred stood, smiling right at Arthur, hand extended in greeting. So earnest and so kind—and already making Arthur doubt his until recently firm assumptions.
"I'm Alfred Jones."
Arthur stared—he couldn't help himself—as he absentmindedly extended a hand in return for a firm and warm handshake, still trying to figure out just what he thought of the kid. Maybe this whole thing wouldn't be so bad. Maybe the people were right, and Alfred Jones was the perfect gentleman in addition to having the perfect face. Was that even humanly possible?
"I... I know who you are," the artist spoke, as he observed the way those bright blue eyes were reflected in the sunlight streaming in from the window. There was so much he could do with that, so many color combinations and shading styles... The possibilities were endless.
"Arthur Kirkland," Alfred finished. The way he had said the artist's name caused him to shudder involuntarily. That voice was also better in person than it was on screen. In fact, everything about Alfred in general was better in the flesh. It was almost surreal.
"Nice to meet you," the actor murmured, his smile lighting up his whole expression. Alfred grabbed an unopened water bottle from a nearby counter and took a sip before continuing. "So when do we start?"
Arthur was still staring, his mind working through his temporary surprise at how charming Alfred Jones could be. Had Arthur been wrong? Was Alfred really as sweet as everyone actually thought he was? Had Arthur been an idiot this whole time in his great effort to avoid ever working with Jones, just because of his (now seemingly stupid) suspicions?
Well, there was only one way to find out.
"We can start now, if you'd like..." Arthur said slowly. "Please take a seat..."
First off, no the title of the movie has nothing to do with the yaoi manga "My Loveprize in Viewfinder." I just like the name (though I won't deny that I might take elements of good seme-ism from the manga every now and then ;]).
I am crazy for making this a multi-chapter fic, though, but I couldn't leave this idea as just a one-shot. I just sort of fell in love with the concept as I thought more and more about it. And since Haku's amazing, I don't mind making it a long 'un for her birthday. That being said:
Happy birthday, Haku!
I know nothing about Hollywood, save for the fact that I lived in L.A. once upon a time. I don't know how filming works, how productions go, etc. The only things I know about the sfx makeup or movie makeup come from the manga "Gimmick!" and various snippets I've read here and there. So this story isn't going to be accurate in that sense, I'm sorry. OTL
But I'm here just to have fun with it and live out my dream of just writing paragraphs about Alfred's appearance and the effect he has on Arthur. This is sort of like my guilty pleasure fic in addition to being Haku's birthday fic, with seme Alfred (hopefully) dripping sexiness (not yet, but you'll see).
I'll try to update this quickly and in parallel with ANSCR!
Happy birthday, once again~! I hope you like it when it's done! :D
P.S. Al is 20 in this, and Arthur is 24. Arthur's been working on makeup from when he was like thirteen or something. Very young, and very good at what he does.