The thing that surprised Rodney the most about John Sheppard was that John, contrary to his public persona, could be soft. Not in a bad way, but a more intimate, caring way. Rodney'd seen it multiple times, and it always took his breath away. The contrast of John, all hard angles and harsh words when he came out as Rodney's boyfriend on the red carpet was so different than the John that sent flowers to Rodney's dressing room. So different than the John that surprised Rodney by showing up in New York for the premiere of Rodney's latest Broadway play when he was supposed to be on set in Toronto.
The thing was, nothing prepared Rodney for the John that sat at his side, leaned in as they ate popcorn, and recalled personal stories about some of the nominees as they watched the Oscars telecast. Sure, Rodney had glimpses of John's softness here and there, and they were perfect. But when the 'In Memoriam' segment of the broadcast began, it was as if John melted a little.
An old black & white picture graced the screen. "I met her once," Rodney said, his voice practically a whisper, as John sat glued to the screen.
"Wait, wait," John said. He clicked the pause button on the remote, then used it to point. "You met Olivia de Havilland?" Before Rodney could answer, he added, "Before or after 'Dream Notes'?"
Rodney smiled, then reached for John's hand. "Before." He squeezed it as he recalled the night that the play's director had asked him to come to the VIP box while the other actors else had begun to leave the theater. He'd initially rolled his eyes, figuring the director was dragging him, the new 'Leading Man of Broadway,' out to some investor. But instead, he walked into the box to find a regal-looking woman with well-styled white hair, wearing a black, flowing gown with a double row of pearls around her neck.
Rodney was instantly enchanted.
"Mister McKay?" she'd said, holding out a hand for Rodney to take. With a smile, she said, "It's so wonderful to finally meet you."
It had taken Rodney half a beat to come out of his stupor. When he did, Rodney held her delicate hand in his, then leaned down to kiss it. "Miss de Havilland?" he said with a smile. "It is a privilege to meet you."
But something niggled in the back of his mind before anyone could speak again. "Finally?" he asked. She'd said finally. Why? "I'm sorry - why did you say finally?"
With a slight nod, she motioned to the young gentleman that hovered nearby. "Geoffrey, would you be a dear and hand me my phone?" She turned back to Rodney. "He's been such a help," then accepted the phone when her assistant handed it over. Rodney watched as her delicate fingertips brushed over the touchscreen, opening the music application, clicked on an item, then showed him her phone.
Rodney recognized the album artwork in an instant. It was something that Rodney had composed when he was back in high school and had professionally recorded a couple of years after that. The album, a classical piece that, in his mind, told the story of love found, then lost, then found again, was a favorite of his. He couldn't help but smile when he met her gaze. "You know 'Jamais Perdu, Mon Amour'? he asked, though her eyes told him everything he needed to know.
"Very much so," she replied, her voice quiet. It was then that Rodney saw the tear in the corner of her eye. He wished he had a handkerchief, but her assistant was quick with his own. "Thank you, Geoffrey." She took a few seconds, a sad look on her face before she spoke again. "Though you wouldn't know this, your album came out soon after I lost my love, Pierre, back in 1998. Though we did not always see eye-to-eye, he was the love of my life." She put on a brave face, though Rodney could see through it as her chin quivered just a touch. "Someone introduced me to your music soon after he passed, and I felt it quite comforting. It's stayed with me all these years later." With another smile, she added, "And it's given me hope that one day we'll be together again."
Rodney came back to the present when John squeezed his hand tight. "She knew you from your music first?" John asked.
When he focused on John's face, Rodney saw the barest hint of tears welled up in the side of John's eyes. He squeezed John's hand again as memories of that quiet moment in the VIP box from the start of his acting career played over in his head. "She was an amazing woman, John," he said.
John just nodded. And as one moment stretched into two, they both turned back to the television. He heard John take a deep breath, and then the telecast began to play again. Picture after picture of people in the entertainment industry showed on the screen, as music played. Some Rodney knew. Some Rodney didn't. But their loss would be felt forever, those left behind comforted only by the legacy of celluloid that had been gifted to the world.
When the images faded to black and the music stopped, Rodney reached out and took the remote from John. He clicked the television off, then turned. "Is it awful of me that I feel selfish about this?" she asked. When John turned to him with a quizzical look, he added, "That there won't be a chance to work with any of these people now that they're gone? To hear stories of what it was like for them? To learn the lessons of what they learned along their journey?"
John gave Rodney a sad smile. One that reminded him of years ago, back in a VIP box with a Hollywood legend.
And it broke his heart.
"C'mon," Rodney said. He stood, then reached out for John's hand and pulled him up.
"But the show's not over, Rodney," John said, though he leaned in and kissed Rodney.
With a shrug, Rodney said, "Would it be so bad if we watched it on my phone in the bedroom? All curled up together in that ginormous bed?"
John just smiled, a genuine smile this time, and then began to lead Rodney to the back of the house.