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Born Stars

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When Liz is seventeen, she asks Monty to “accompany” her to the school dance. As she tells him how her mother and father thinks is would be “good” for Liz to be around other girls her own age for an evening, Monty can’t help thinking – and not without amusement – that her parents only wants Liz to go so that she can be a “normal” teenage girl for an evening, in a dress and makeup and with her hair piled up in a fancy bun atop her head. They are loving, attentive parents, but Monty knows they are often baffled by how exactly they should approach and handle the fact that their beautiful, talented daughter is thought of as “unusual”.

They are out in the backyard, and Liz is up on a ladder, putting seeds into the birdfeeder while Monty hovers nervously behind her, worried that she’ll fall and trying not to show it.

“So, what do you think?” Liz asks Monty as she measures out the birdfeed. “I’ve got the dress and the shoes and all that. You can come along with me and scowl at all the bobbysoxers.” Looking down, Liz winks at him, and Monty finds himself – quite against his will – smiling back at her in a way that he strongly suspects makes him look like a dope. “It’ll be good fun. We can make them gawk in wonder at you, worshipping you and your incredible coolness from afar.”

Monty laughs. “From afar?”

“Yeah, like from the other side of the room.” Liz giggles. “We don’t want ‘em too close to us. Probably contagious.”

“Well, they do say that stupidity is catching,” Monty agreed with mock solemnity.

Liz smiles as the sparrows gather, and she dusts her hands off. “So, how’s about it, Monty-wonty? Want to be my date?”

Monty smirks at her in a way that he can only hope makes him look cool and devilish – like stars-in-waiting such as himself are supposed to be – rather than like a scared shitless kid with a major crush on his best friend. “Sure, I’ll be your date.”

“Excellent!” Liz says, laughing gleefully as she climbs down the ladder, accepting the steadying hand that Monty holds out to her without even thinking of it. Once on the ground, she looks him up and down. “Now, what are you going to wear?”

-- || --

To say that Monty feels a little ridiculous is an understatement. But Liz is at his side, and he feels quite proud to be wearing a silly suit in a hall full of poncy wankers in suits far sillier than his. Liz is beautiful, whether in ripped-up old jeans and a bare face or in a hand-tailored gown that her father spent far more on than Liz is aware of and a made-up face perfectly applied by her mother’s careful, practised hands, and Monty is perfectly happy to stand there and sneer and smirk and play his part.

Later, as he slow dances with a barefooted Liz (her “bloody uncomfortable” high heels long since discarded), Monty holds her somewhat awkwardly in his arms, and finds himself longing for the guts to make this a more permanent arrangement.

He really should just ask her out and be done with it. Say to her, right now, as she sways gently in his arms, “Liz, will you go out with me?” But Liz isn’t like other girls, not like his sister, not like Dot, not like the poor girls who he knows he treated so badly. Liz isn’t just some beautiful bird to be shown off like some trophy in front of your mates and screwed quickly in a secluded doorway when you can. Liz is Monty’s partner, his equal, in a way that no other person, male or female, ever has been before or ever will be, for as long as Monty lives.

Liz is warm and soft in his arms, pliant and quiet and almost stereotypically feminine like he’s rarely seen her. As her head rests on his shoulder and her breasts press gently into her chest as she breathes, Monty realises that Liz trusts him, and a dark guilt for his own thoughts towards her fill the corners of his mind.

“Thank you for being my date, tonight, Monty,” Liz murmurs, and Monty feels something inside him break at the unintentional sultriness in her voice.

Yet despite his guilt and his worry, he finds himself responding. “It was my pleasure, Liz. Best bobbysoxer-dominated dance I’ve ever been to.”

As he and Liz laugh quietly in the dark, Monty can feel Ivan’s eyes on them – on him. And all he can see in those eyes is a strong, unmistakable message: “If you hurt her, you’re dead meat.”

And Monty can’t help but agree.

-- || --

When Liz is twenty-five, Monty proposes to her. She is sitting on the couch with the revolting floral upholstery in the corner, muttering under her breath as she studies her script.

Monty smiles, watching Liz as she fiddles with the binding on her script, her hands careful, almost gentle, despite her state of ill-temper. She turns the pages slowly, her long, elegant fingers picking at the edges, testing her work, her head bent in concentration. Through the window behind her, Monty can see the sun and the clouds do their usual wintry battle for prominence, and in those brief moments when the sun succeeded, its bright rays catch in the long, wavy hair that falls across Liz’s shoulders.

To Monty, she has never looked more stunning than she did right at this moment, cursing under her breath. The studio is humid and hot from a stressful days’ filming, Liz is grumpy, irritable, sweaty, and the boys huddle together in the corner, lest they incur Liz’s wrath.

Smiling, Monty looks back over at her. This is it, he realises. This is the moment. Monty kneels at Liz’s feet. “Liz? Will you marry me?”

Liz’s fingers stop mid-air, and she looks at him blankly, her eyes wide. “Pardon me?”

Monty smiles. “Will you marry me?”

Her grin in radiant.