16/20 Pictures of Christopher Eccleston
Christopher Eccleston be smuttin’ up yer Elizabethan dramas.
His phone goes off and he growls, narrowing his eyes and jamming at buttons and muttering about, “Stupid fucking technology” and “Bloody Billie Piper” because she’s done it again.
Can feel but I can’t touch
Can never get too much
I hear you loud and clear
I’ve got nothing to fear
Your love will be my guide
I’ve never been this satisfied
It’s something deep inside
Her voice comes out strangely robotic and impossibly loud from his cellphone and he can’t make it stop. He gives up and storms out of his trailer and across set, the phone still going on. The crew and some of the extras are staring at him unabashedly and sniggering into their hands.
They’re on an impossible schedule—14 hour days, on-call constantly, publicity on the weekends and interviews with fan magazines and The Daily Mail every other day.
This isn’t who he is and as much as he loves Russell and the challenge to his own acting abilities, he’s starting to feel the drain.
His trailer is small and meant for quick kips. The bed is just a bit bigger than a twin and his feet hang of the end and it makes him grumpy. But he doesn’t say anything. He’s humble enough not to and he’s grown up with worse.
There’s a small cup of tea steaming on the bedside table and he just wants an hour of sleep to recharge his batteries and feel like himself again. He sheds the heavy weight of the Doctor’s leather jacked off his shoulders and sinks down on the bed. His eyes are just fluttering shut when his trailer door creaks open.
He startles and looks up and she’s there in front of him.
She looks like hell and he feels a pang of sympathy. This is her first serious acting gig and she isn’t used to the demands of shooting for television. Her eyes are bloodshot and her skin pale and there are dark circles under her eyes that even makeup can’t hide.
He never calls her Bils. He likes Billie. It’s her name and it suits her. Bils is for a child and she is no child, despite appearances.
She closes her eyes and breathes deeply. “Smells good in here and I just need—” She stops and starts and he forgets that despite what he knows about her, she’s still young. An impossible paradox of adult experiences in a teenager’s body.
“You need rest.”
She nods, grateful.
He squeezes himself as small as possible on the bed and waves her over. “C’mon, we can squeeze a quick nap in before they need us again.”
She’s already moving across the small space before he’s finished and crawling into bed with him, pushing up against his body and slipping her arms around his waist and snuggling into his chest. He sighs and presses a kiss to her forehead.
He’s just looking out for her, that’s all. She’s young and she needs him (he likes being needed and he has the experience to help….)
She sighs out heavily against his chest and he feels her warm breath through his jumper. “Thanks, Chris. It’s just that—”
“Shh. You don’t have to explain, Billie. Just sleep while you can.”
It’s silent for a moment and he thinks she might have drifted off already when she surprises him (she’s full of surprises). There’s a small pressure on the center of his chest and it’s briefly warm and a bit damp and he realizes.
She’s pressed a kiss to his sternum, hummed, and fallen asleep, wrapped around him.
He closes his eyes and tells himself that he’s going to hell if he continues the thoughts in his head (the ones about rolling her over just a little bit and covering her body with his and pressing her into the mattress and trailing his mouth over her cheek and jaw and ear and mouth and worshipping her body…)
He shifts and focuses on the way the smell of her strawberry shampoo merges with his Earl Grey tea still billowing at him from beside the bed and he closes his eyes.
“Sleep well, Billie.”
She can dance. She knows it and he does (don’t listen to what he tells you, he’s seen her videos).
She can roll her hips and flaunt her body and move in time with the heavy thump of the bass and the brightness of a synthesizer.
She knows how to dance.
What she doesn’t know how to do is dance with him. Not at first. It’s silly and she never pegged him as silly, but he gets energetic and alive when he’s acting. He’s full of possibilities and those possibilities include dancing with her between every take on set.
Just grabbing her waist and spinning her around and laughing because it feels good to laugh under the circumstances—pressure on a series reboot, pressure on her from the press, pressure on him for being different, pressure and expectations that are overwhelming.
So they dance.
Hearts full and feet light and her head pillowed on his chest and his arm around her waist and his hand in hers and they’re dancing and creating their own music and it’s the most cathartic thing she’s done in her life.
It never goes beyond that—just a bit of dancing between friends.
Except she wants more and she thinks he wants more and they want to dance dance. They move together perfectly—well, as perfectly as they can. She steps on his toes and he laughs and hauls her closer to his body and murmurs in her ear, “Good thing I’ve got boots on, ta?”
She starts getting bold in her dance moves—starts slipping her hand beneath his jacket, then beneath his jumper, and finally beneath his undershirt (so many layers) so that her skin touches his and its electric and she always thought that was a cliché, but it’s not because her skin is on fire.
And he’s getting bold too. The space between them is getting smaller and smaller as he pulls her body closer and closer to him. He’s started coming up behind her and just wrapping his arms around her and swaying gently, keeping her warm, keeping her grounded and safe.
But no matter how bold they grow, the fact of the matter is that their song is going to end and they won’t dance anymore.
So on his last day of shooting, when they’re saying goodbyes and she’s trying to keep her heart together for a little bit longer, he finds her (of course he finds her) and he hums in her ear and offers her his hand:
“Care to dance?”
their first kiss tastes like sour licorice and it makes them break away and dive for water. she’s been waving around these ridiculously bright, sweet and sour treats at him for 20 minutes, her tongue multi-colored and coated in sticky sweet saliva.
he’s been glaring at her playfully, unable to stop the twitching of his mouth. she’s so damn adorable like this, bubbly and happy and egging him on.
‘go on, chris. have one. just one.’
but he’s a stickler for what he likes (he likes older women, remember? and glasses of scotch and a lumpy armchair in his flat and quiet. he doesn’t like too-happy and too-bright popstars turned actress. he doesn’t).
he waves his own bag of red licorice around and raises his eyebrows, ‘i’m good. thanks.’
she pouts and groans about how outdated licorice is and he teases he’s an outdated sort of guy.
he likes flirting with her. she makes him feel…well. that’s just it really. she makes him feel.
she’s still going on and on about the virtues of sweet and sour candy and he’s mesmerized by the color of her tongue—blue at the tip and fading to green. he wants to—
he wants to something.
apparently that something is leaning over between their two chairs and closing his mouth over hers. she gasps a bit into his mouth, surprised at the spontaneity of it, and then kisses back, her tongue sweeping into his mouth.
that’s when it goes to hell.
her sweet-sour tongue touches his bitter licorice one and they break apart, laughing and wiping the back of their hand and playfully gargling water.
she speaks first, young and brazen and unafraid. ‘maybe we could try that again?’ and she’s leaning in, too close and his head is spinning and his tongue is salivating at the thought of touching more sweet-sour.
he brushes some hair out of her eyes and keeps his voice low (keeps it controlled, control, he used to have control, didn’t he?), “after shooting today, yeah? promise.”
her eyes darken and she nods and lifts a bright yellow gummy coated in sour powder and sugar to her lips, “can’t wait.”