The North Star isn't a perfect replica of a British pub, but it's close enough, really. All the finer details may not be in place, but what they do have is authentic, and that suits Dom just fine: dark wood, dim lighting, typical pub grub.
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There is an undeniable air about Dom that he is always exactly where he ought to be. He casually guides Billy toward a booth while calling out greetings to the bartender and a few customers. The pub is just over half full, and the quiet buzz is disrupted every so often by shouts of triumph or devastation by a crowd near the bar watching a beamed-in football match.
Dom flashes Billy a charming grin. "So, welcome to my home away from home. I'll get the first round. Bitter or stout?"
Billy smiles back. "Bitter, thanks."
Dom strolls up to the bar to order, returning with two pints and an order ticket.
"Curry chips," he offers in explanation as he holds up the ticket.
"Ta. I was thinking I could use a bit of something." Billy looks around appraisingly. "Nice place here."
"Yeah. Like a bit of home, really."
They fall into easy conversation about New York's pub offerings and Billy's impressions of the city so far. As the chips are brought to the table, the conversation turns to Dom's decision to move to New York City.
"I was always tempted to come here. New York just seemed so dazzling, so cosmopolitan. This is where everything happens, you know?" Dom's whole face shines with memories. "So I was doing theatre in Manchester at the time, and a call went out from New York for stage actors that could also play drums. The show was Hedwig and the Angry Inch - and my friend Orli was cast as the drummer. About a year later they needed a new bass player. Orli called me, I flew over, and the part was mine."
Billy looks suitably impressed. "You were in Hedwig? That's quite a good go for your first show over here."
"Yeah, well, it wasn't all glamour. The theatre was a dump and the pay was shite, but at the same time it was amazing. I had always loved playing music, used to muck about with my friends for fun. But actually getting up and performing night after night? Yeah." His eyes gleam. "The music is what really did it for me. So after about a year and a half, when the show closed, a few of us decided to form our own band. We sort of walk a line between glam and punk, a few cover tunes, but mostly originals."
Excitement plays across Billy's face. "I meant to tell you! I listened to the CD, and it was really very good...not that I was surprised, mind you. I can hear what your influences are, but you have an original sound. I also see that you've moved to singing duties."
Dom smiles almost bashfully. "Well, yeah. That was hard at first. It took a while for me to feel comfortable with it. Even with all my acting experience, there's something about being a lead singer that's so...well, okay, I won't lie, it's fucking cool. But it's so different than acting. There's no script. We try to keep it all somewhat spontaneous, and sometimes it feels like flying, but other times it feels like falling without a net."
Billy dips a finger in a pool of curry sauce and casually licks it off. "So the band is doing well, I take it?"
"I still have a day job," Dom laughs into his beer, "but we do okay. We're building up a decent fanbase with our live shows, and hopefully word of mouth will travel. You should come see a show sometime if you're free."
"I'd like that."
Dom tries to read Billy's expression, but can't tell whether it's the potential for friendship or a deeper interest he sees there.
After the briefest of pauses, Billy stands. "So, ready for another round, then?"
They walked together, so close their arms were touching. Already comfortable with each other. Dom tried not to place any significance in that.
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"So, you never told me what brought you to New York."
Dom shoves his hands in his pockets. "Music, I guess. And just...New York. Great city, y'know? Good people, good times. Good place to be." He knows he's rambling, but can't seem to help himself. He's fucking nervous around this guy--he's never nervous around people.
"Hmm. I like what I've seen of it so far."
Does he mean...? "Well, if you need a tour guide, let me know. Give me a call or something." Dom wants to fall into a hole. A large, black hole. Any second now, if there's a God.
Billy gives him a smile. "I'd like that, Dom."
"Oh. Uh, here we are." Thank God. "Ready for a drink?"
Billy laughes. "I was born ready."
Dom glanced at his watch again. 7:20. Sighing, he looked around. The store was practically empty. Maybe when these last few customers left, he could close early and...
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"No," he thought firmly. No point in acting like a horny teenager. He was just meeting a guy at a pub. Just two guys having drinks. Right?
He wonders if those smiles and laughs where really just friendly gestures, or something more. Billy was hard to read--he wasn't the type to give anything away. Dom couldn't help but admire that.
The bell rang as the door opened. Dom had to fight with himself not to look up, as he had every other time someone entered the store. He didn’t want to seem too eager. He didn’t want—hell, he didn’t know what he wanted. All he knew was that this guy was one of the most interesting people he’d met in quite some time. And even thought thye’d only talked for a few minutes, Dom was definitely interested in getting to know him better—in any capacity.
Dom sighed, and opened a book. No use staring at his watch all night.
The bell rang again, but Dom didn’t notice. It wasn’t until a hand waved in front of his face that he looked up to see Billy grinning at him. Dom grinned back, closing his book.
“Am I too early, then?”
“No, no. I mean, a little early, but no problem. We can hang out here until these last few leave, if you don’t mind. If that’s ok with you.” Too eager, Dominic!
“No, I don’t mind. Not when I have such good company.” There goes that smile again. No one should be able to smile like that. If it wasn’t against the law, it should have been.
“So, if you don’t mind my asking…what brings you to our fair city?”
Billy raised a brow. “’Our’ fair city? And I could have sworn that your accent was New York by way of England.”
“Manchester, actually. And you would be from…?”
“So,” Dom said, leaning across the counter, “what brings two lovely Brits like ourselves to NYC?”
“Work. Is there anything else?”
Oh, I can think of a few things…”What is it that you do?”
“I’m over here working on a play.”
“Really? I have a few friends in the theatre. We’re all bookish, arty, musical, theatre types around here. It’s disgusting.”
“Oh, I can tell. I’m disgusted with you already.” Billy lays a hand on Dom’s arm. His touch is light, yet Dom can feel it through his sleeve.
The last few stragglers make their purchases, and Dom locks up for the night.
“Finally!” Billy said, rubbing his hands together dramatically. “Alcohol. Pour drink into me and I shall be yours forever.”
“Yes. I tend to be easy that way.”
“I’ll remember that.”
(I know it stops abruptly, but I kinda petered out. The "Not writing on the weekends" thing. I'll try to add to it Monday, unless you want to step in here. Or, if I'm completely offbase, let me know. That happens. Actually, that happens fairly often :) )
Dom never imagined that his life would turn out this way. It wasn’t that he thought things would be better or worse, it’s just that as a child, when he imagined his future, he would have never happened upon his current reality.
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He was sitting at his vanity at 3 a.m., cleaning off stage makeup and the grime of the day, slightly tipsy, but not drunk. He was exhausted, but not unpleasantly so, though he knew he was only going to get about five hours of sleep before he needed to open the bookstore.
He was happy with how the gig had gone tonight, that was certain. Things had been coming together with the band in a brilliant way as of late. The three of them had been playing together for quite some time, and they meshed and complimented each other so well. Their shows were getting bigger, the EP was selling well, and a few of their songs had found their way to a few adventurous club DJs.
The bookstore was a great place to work. It was ridiculous to imagine that he was responsible enough to actually be the manager of anything, but there it was. He loved books, always had, and the store suited him so well. There was a certain charm in used books, personality they possessed beyond the words they contained. Each of them had been owned by someone else. Some had been read once and discarded, some read many times and treasured, and some had never been read at all. Those were the ones most likely to bear an inscription – gifts that had missed their target.
He loved living in New York. That had originally come as a great shock to him, but after three years, being there had become as much a part of him as his eye color or his impeccable taste. He loved walking through his neighborhood. He loved Central Park and SoHo and the bridges and the way just being all these places made him feel like he stepped into a Woody Allen movie. He loved his apartment, no matter how small, and he loved the energy the city generated all on its own.
Dom studied his reflection. Jaw – still crooked. Nose – same. And yet he was still one sexy bastard. He tried to sweep past the vague sadness that had recently settled in his eyes. Things were going well. Smashingly well. But he was lonely. His friends kept him occupied and happy, but he missed having someone to cuddle with, to share dreams with. To plan a future with.
He thought about calling Cate, but even with the vampire-like hours she kept it was awfully late to ring her. He grabbed his laptop and opened his Instant Messenger. Sure enough, she was on. He sent her a quick message asking her to call him if she was awake enough for a chat, and his phone rang moments later.
He answered. “Sweetie. How nice of you to take a break from your late-night porn session to call an old friend.”
“Now Dommie. You know I only look at porn when you’re around. And don’t call me old.”
“You’re luminous and wonderful, and a helluva shag, and you don’t need me to tell you any of that.”
“Flattery suits you, Dommie. So why the need for a late-night chat? Is everything okay?”
“Fine, yeah. Marvelous. Just a bit out of sorts. Feeling a bit lonely or something.”
“I’m too tired to have sex with you tonight. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Don’t joke. I’m serious.”
“Sorry, couldn’t resist. Anyway, I’ve tried setting you up with all these cute boys and you never allow it. What else can I do?”
“Cate, you always want to introduce me to old wrinkly guys.”
“They aren’t all that old. I just want to see you with someone more mature, someone who appreciates you, someone a little more settled into life. You just like to date children. What was the last one, seventeen?”
“Don’t be daft. He was twenty-two.”
“Well, he could have easily passed for seventeen in any case. And if they aren’t young, then they’re sex addicts. That beautiful one, the one that was pretty enough to be a girl? You knew how much he liked to sleep around, but you fell for him anyway.”
“I couldn’t help it! He was so sexy, and the best in the sack I ever had.”
“The best after you, of course.”
“Don’t bother, though I appreciate the gesture. So you don’t have anyone promising on the horizon?”
“Not really. There were some lovelies at the show tonight of all different persuasions, but I know that if I pull I'll just wake up feeling even worse than I do now.”
“Well, there is a fellow I’ve been meaning to tell you about. He’s in America to help with the new play I’m doing. He's a darling...you’d adore him!”
"Caaaaate...you never set me up with anyone good."
"Fine. If you don't want my help, that's fine. But that means I don't have to sit here and listen to any more of your whinging."
"I'm not whinging! I just need to meet someone. Someone stable, but still fun. Someone cute, but not better-looking than me. Someone who's a great shag, but not a total slut...”
“Christ, Dom. At least your standards aren't too high."
"Sarcasm. Well, at least I know what I want."
Daylight brings another interesting day at the store. Dom's feeling a little bit out of it, and yet a bit chatty at the same time. It's a combination that drives Liv absolutely insane. Dom will start talking all earnestly about things and then just sort of...trail...off...
After the third such conversation, Dom realizes he's pissing Liv off, so he leaves her in charge and goes for a walk to clear his head.
The neighborhood isn't glamorous, but it's not a slum, either. There's a kabob place on one side, a hatmaker on the other, a falafel cart out front, and a coffee shop across the street. Not too bad. The neighborhood folks range from hipster to oldster and everything in between.
Dom's been in New York long enough to feel like he fits in, though he knows he'll never really be a local. That suits him fine. He's happy to be from somewhere else. It sets him apart, makes him stand out, and that's just what he needs sometimes.
He comes back from his walk feeling a bit refreshed, or at least not as loopy as before. Liv, bless her, has taken care of most of the work that needed to be done, and the people shopping in the store seem like they don't need much help.
Sometimes he almost feels useless in the store, extraneous. He has to remind himself occasionally that it's because he's good at what he does, he hired a great staff, and because things are set up properly in the first place.
"Liv! Everything looks great, sweetie. If you want to shove off early, I can manage from here."
"Manage what? Everything's done." She smiles as she says it, and sometimes Dom could just hug her to bits.
"Now don't get an attitude with me, missy." He's grinning at her. "I never said a word when you were needing to take long naps every afternoon because you were up shagging your man all night."
A Scottish accent lilts from over Dom's shoulder. "Who's been shagging all night?"
Dom turns around to find a stranger's face with the prettiest eyes and most perfect mouth that he's seen in a long time. He chokes back a laugh.
"Liv, here. But that was a long time ago. You know how it is when the relationship is so fresh and new. Can't keep your hands off each other."
Liv shoots dagger-eyes at Dom. "Hello! Can we please not discuss my sex life with the customers?" She turns to Billy. "I'm sorry. Did you need help with anything?"
"Don't be sorry. It happens to the best of us. I have one word of advice: Clingfilm."
Dom is trying not to laugh at Liv, and is hardly successful. He looks at the customer with a tilt of his head. "Wouldn't that be two words, then?"
"You know, I never thought about it. Clingfilm. Cling film. Cling-film. Hmmm...."
Liv can't help but giggle. "If the two of you are quite finished mocking me, I'm going to get my stuff and head out."
Dom pokes her affectionately. "Go ahead and leave, then. Thanks for everything today."
Liv pokes him back. "No problem. I hope you feel better." She speaks over her shoulder at the customer as she walks away. "You're in his hands now. God help you."
Dom laughs and turns to lean over the counter. "So were you needing any help? Or did you just come up here to help me tease my staff?"
The green eyes crinkled at the corners. "Well, I hadn't really thought about doing anything with your staff, but now that you mention it..."
Dom covered his mouth as he grinned.
They stared at each other for the briefest moment, until Dom caught himself and looked away. He stepped out from behind the counter and reached to a nearby shelf, pulling out a book and handing it to the customer. "Here, you need this - Lenny Bruce. It's a great read."
"Are you calling me a comedian?" The eyes were still crinkled, and Dom was trying not to find it adorable.
"Just thought you might like it, that's all." Dom looks away shyly.
"I do! I most certainly do. I've been meaning to look at some of his stuff but can never find it anywhere, so this is great." He tucks the book under his arm and continues enthusiastically. "I actually came up looking for some recommendations. I only brought a few books over with me, and I'm dying for something different."
Dom makes a show of cracking his knuckles. "Well, then you've certainly come to the right person. "It's a good thing you didn't let Liv help you. She'd be sending you home with some boring romantic shite."
"I heard that!" Liv calls out as she walks out of the back room and toward the front entrance, shooting Dom the bird.
Dom birds her back, laughing, then takes the customer's elbow. "Come with me, I'll find you something good."
They talk for a while about books, particularly Beat literature, which Dom has been reading voraciously as of late. He rings up the customer's purchases; the Lenny Bruce book plus a few Beat classics, then throws in a CD from a stack on the counter.
"What's that, then?" Billy eyes the CD that Dom is slipping into his bag.
"Oh, that's mine. Just thought you might like it. No charge." He hands it to the man.
"Yours, as in, your band?" Billy looks up, a bit impressed.
"Yeah, you've probably never heard of us, but we do pretty well here in the city. Our live shows tend to draw a bit of a crowd." Dom's trying to sound casual, hoping it's not coming off as bragging.
"Well, how about that. I'll have to give it a good listen." He reaches for his bag as Dom slides it over the countertop. "Are there any decent pubs around here? I've only been here a week, and I'm dying for a proper pint."
"Yeah, there's the North Star, not too far from here. Not exactly home, but not too far from it. I can give you directions if you like." Dom grabs a pen to start writing down the address.
"Or you could just show me where it is. A fellow shouldn't drink alone, you know. People might think he's odd." He's smiling, and Dom can't tell if it's flirty or friendly.
"Well, I'll be closing up here in a couple of hours. And fortunately for you, I have no dinner plans. If you want to stop back, we can head out then." Dom is smiling back, trying to walk the same thin line.
"I just realized I never gave you my name! I'm Billy." Billy reaches over to shake hands.
"I'm Dom. Damn nice to meet you, Billy. See you around 8?"
"Indeed." Billy smiles and strolls toward the exit, Dom's eyes on him the whole way.