Disclaimers: I don't technically need them for this - this is Uberesque - by that I mean - I've used and been inspired by the archetypes - but no flashbacks to leather clad Warriors; the only staff being wielded is a film crew; and no Gods. We do have an intense dedicated young director and a somewhat moody and beautiful actress with a tortured past. Think of this as an Ubersquared or if you'd prefer an UberMissy. We are also going to have some very definite f/f interaction - so Mum, keep your eye on the disclaimers.

Silver Chakrums: Anyone reading this gets one. And I would like to thank a certain Bard for allowing her novel to be 'filmed', Any material drawn from Tropical Storm is used by permission and remains the intellectual property of Melissa Good. Last, but not least - thanks to the Muse who handed me the idea. A nod to those of you who pointed out that a gerund phrase is a dangerous thing. Special thanks to the Merpups, without whom this story would not be nearly as good, or have as much humour in it as it does. Edited by The Nit-Pickers: L'il Zon and Zane. Research and lyrics, Jennifer Dickey.


Silent Legacy
by Cìaràn Llachlan Leavitt
email Llachlan
Part 1 of 11
© February, 1999
No part of this text may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the express consent of the author.

Chapter 1


"Somebody find Cavanaugh," Rod Chambers yelled across the sound stage. Bodies scrambled to carry out his instructions before the sounds of his words had finished echoing round the large building, each one hoping that finding Jae Cavanaugh would advance their position somehow.

Caitlynn shook her head and made for the back lot, intuition telling her that the blonde co-director might not have returned from the location shoot yet. Roan Pirsig's black mustang was still missing from the slot marked, 'Director - Balance of Power', but the silver Saturn parked in the other Blackmon Pictures slot confirmed that Jae was at least back. She blew her dark hair off her forehead, cursing the heat of Los Angeles in summer. A slight figure caught her eye and she changed course. Her quarry was talking through the thick door of a long white trailer most likely trying to coax their recalcitrant star out.

The day was a complete cock-up. No one had seen the Director since he and Reed Lewis had nearly come to blows early this morning and tension rather than excitement ruled the atmosphere. As she strolled rapidly across the asphalt it occurred to her that no one had seen the lead actress since then either. Definitely not the most auspicious start to filming.

"She not coming out?"

Jae turned and gave her a wan grin. "I'm beginning to doubt she's even in there." With a flick of the wrist she slung her pack over her shoulder and moved toward her assistant. "What happened this morning anyway? I got a pager message to come back and talk to her." She waved a delicate hand back at the trailer. "Not that I've had any luck"

"Not sure exactly. The Amazon Ice Queen and Roan got into it and then they took off."

"Amazon Ice Queen?"

"The Ice Queen." Caitlynn emphasized. "You haven't met her?" Sympathy mixed with surprise in her tone.

She shook her head. "Not yet."

"You're in for a real treat then." Cait's sarcastic tone indicated she believed the opposite to be true.

"Roan hired her; how bad could she be?" Jae caught sight of her lifted brows and sighed, "that bad hunh?"

"Put it this way..."

Jae held up a hand. "Don't tell me, I'll find out for myself."

"Looking on the bright-side again, Babe?"

She laughed. "Somebody has to around you doomsayers." They were nearly back to sound stage 17. "What's up anyway?"

"Mr. Chambers is yelling his head off looking for you."

"Roan's not back yet?" Surprise registered on her fine features.

"No. So you're it."


"Such language." She snickered, mock scolding her boss. Jae couldn't out swear a Catholic nun if she tried.

A light chuckle joined her snicker, then Jae carefully schooled her expression before she went to find the Executive Producer.


Reed slammed the gear stick into third, gunned the motor and cut in front of a beige sedan, just barely making the exit to Lincoln Blvd. Taking a right on Pico she barreled toward the ocean before again turning right, this time on 4th. The brakes made a soft crunching sound, roughing up the ground as she jerked the Range Rover to a halt in front of the hotel. Absently she flipped the keys at the parking attendant and entered the double glass doors.

Unwilling to be jammed in close quarters with the crowd gathered before the Double Tree's unreliable elevators she made for the second floor via the stairs. Her room was down the corridor opposite the area under renovation - an arrangement she was profoundly grateful for.

As the door swung softly shut behind her, the tight rein she'd kept on the day's events slipped. The mirror above the counter top reflected back only the image she projected to the rest of the world. But for how much longer? Reed reflected. Already she could feel the chinks.

She'd walked away once for a reason. Decision made, she removed a can of Guiness from the fridge and popped the tab, already dialing the phone with her other hand. "Get me Liz," the actress barked into the handset.

She took a long pull at the dark liquid listening to the receptionist's excuses just long enough to swallow. "I don't care if she's got an entire Amazon Village in there. Get her on the fucking phone NOW."

"Reed, darling, what can I do for you?" Liz smoothly interjected before she could add anything else.

"I want out. I can't do this." She lit a cigarette and blew the smoke from her nostrils feeling the combined effects of the nicotine and alcohol calm her slightly.

"Filming hasn't even started yet and you want out? Do you have any idea how hard it was to get you that part after..."

Cutting her agent off she snarled into the phone. "Like I could forget with you reminding me constantly."

Liz's tone became conciliatory. "Look Hon, chalk whatever happened today up to nerves. If you still feel like this tomorrow I'll see what I can do - but Reed, this is it - you blow this and you're done - end of the line."

She forcefully exhaled another lung full of smoke, and grudgingly acknowledged the truth in the agent's words. This was it. There were no more chances. Either she made this work or she was finished. She couldn't let Pirsig get the better of her, not again. "Okay. I'll give it one more day." Replacing the receiver in the cradle she dropped onto the sofa in the sitting room, and tried to dispel the fear gnawing at her.


"He's dead."

Jae dropped to the chair behind her, barely preventing herself from hitting the floor. "Dead..." She mouthed.

Chambers regarded her speculatively and even through her disbelief she felt alarm bells ring. Her suspicions were confirmed a moment latter when he handed her the rewrites for the next day's rehearsals. "It's your project now."

Anger mixed with the shock and grief. That was it. A he's dead and it's yours. No I'm sorry...nothing. Realizing it would not help to lose her cool now she swallowed the feelings, aware of the lump which had formed in her throat and wondered how Chambers could act like he were discussing the weather instead of a man's death.

"Don't disappoint me Ms. Cavanaugh. I expect it brought in on time and on budget."

She nodded and he left the room. Numbly she regarded the blue sheets in her hand. Directing Second Unit was one thing but this...Anyone would think they were filming the Scottish play. First day and already the director had died and the lead actress vanished. This was shaping up to be a real disaster.

The oaken door of the empty office across the hall beckoned her. R. Pirsig and the name of the film were neatly stenciled on the Velcro backed door plaque. A haze of tears began to obscure the patterned wood. It was her disaster now.

After fishing her car keys from the jumble on her desk she headed for her parking spot, morbidly impressed that her name had already replaced Roan's on his parking space. Jae eased the Saturn out of her spot noting that her name had been painted out but no new one replaced it. Naming her successor, it seemed, was up to her.

Leaving Universal Studios behind she pointed the car west and headed for the San Diego Freeway. First thing she needed to do was find her star. Cars moved between the lanes jockeying around her, the late afternoon freeway traffic relatively uncongested.

Unbidden, images of Roan filtered through the waning sunlight and the sounds of overworked engines. She had been looking forward to working with him again. Not everyone had found him easy to work with but he'd been a good mentor, teaching her a lot before she moved out from under his wing and began directing independent films on her own. From him Jae had learned that dedication and reliability were two essential keys to success in this business - well that and a Degree in Early Childhood Education. It was completely unlike him to leave a set for no reason and now he was gone. Tears warred with caution as she fought to remain in control, the finality of Chambers' announcement only now beginning to hit home.

Without thinking about it, Jae moved across the passenger side lane and got off the freeway. Several surface streets later she rejoined the freeway melee headed North for the Palisades. Reed Lewis could wait.


The red light on her answering machine blinked eight times and she looked at her watch. Eight-fifteen. That meant two calls from Mother, one from Mrs. Anderson who called like clockwork at eight o'clock, one from Becky, at least two hang-ups or wrong numbers, leaving two unaccounted for. Not worth it. Jae touched the rewind button resetting the machine and turned the ringer off the phone.

Her appetite had returned during her solitary walk along the windswept shoreline, the fresh breeze washing away some of the sharp stinging grief. The sound of surf pounding on a shore mingled with the whistling currents of air had always served to ground her, the heartbeat and breath of the planet reminding her that the world would go on. Jae had allowed memories of Roan to surface and played them across her mind's eye, coming to terms with his loss even as she celebrated the time she'd known him. Not finding anything to her liking in the cupboard she turned her attention elsewhere.

A quick scan of the fridge revealed that Antonia had chucked out all her stored up bits of left over take-out and replaced them with neatly labeled Tupperware containers. Deftly she balanced a plate, the container, cutlery and a can of coke, managing to pop the dinner in the nuker and punch the appropriate keys without dropping anything.

Her stomach rumbled impatiently as the aroma from the heating food began to waft through the kitchen tickling her nose with the combination of spices and vegetables. If she had any complaints about living Southern California - this was the big one - getting steak or meat into a meal was nigh on impossible.

The insistent beep of the microwave refocused her attention and she carefully removed the hot plastic, once again balancing the puzzle pieces of her dinner like a circus veteran.

An impulse had caused her to stop at Blockbuster on the way home and she grabbed the tapes from the counter top, adding them to the precariously arranged bundle in her hands.

Carefully she navigated the loft stairs, opting to eat in her room, the bed being more comfy than the austere linen clad couch in the living room. A pile of working notes littered the left side of the bed and she scooped them up before adding them to the pile already conquering her desk.

Dinner arranged on the wooden tray, Jae turned her attention to the row of videos lining one cabinet. Campion, Rozema, Spielberg, Wertmuller, Scott, Nair. A title caught her eye and she inserted the cassette into the VCR. 'Beyond the Setting Sun'. A small budget film with a forgettable plot and equally forgettable locales. Yet somehow they had dug the most out of both the script and cast to create a memorable film that had allowed her to make the leap to directing on her own.

She'd wanted to make films since she was a child and when Roan Pirsig had taken her under his wing during her last year of film school she'd been thrilled, his reputation not withstanding. When, six months later, he had casually handed her half a film to shoot, she'd jumped at the chance. Watching the result flicker in front of her, she determined to bring the same enthusiasm to finishing this project as they had to that first one.

Jae reached for the phone. They could wait a day to start, there were some things she needed to take care of first. For the first time in several hours a smile lit her face and she felt ready to meet the challenge.

Her eyes fell on the rented tape, and she fingered it thoughtfully. "Time to meet the Amazon Ice Queen."


The door wouldn't open. Behind her the corridor shrank, tiles dropping off into nothingness. The knob fell off in her hand, the door remaining sealed. Raising a hand she pounded on the barrier but no sounds echoed through the dwindling hall, and her voice wouldn't work either. Another soundless scream ripped from her throat and the last tiles of the passage vanished and she began to fall.. Reed sat bolt upright, pulse racing so hard she could feel the skin at the sides of her throat jumping in response. The baleful red numbers on the clock mocked her with the announcement that it was only three am. Sliding from beneath the rumpled sheets, she slipped on a robe and padded from the bedroom to the sitting room.

Three trips through the available channels failed to yield anything that caught her eye and she slumped back against the cushions, the remote forgotten. Another glance at the clock informed her that she still had two hours to kill before leaving for the studio and she got up from the couch and grabbed her gym bag.

The years had been kind, but she couldn't count on it forever. Hollywood was not a forgiving place to be a woman. A quick work out and a hot bath. Just what she needed. Maybe if she burnt off enough energy Pirsig wouldn't be so hard to deal with.

She winced remembering their argument of the day before. No help for it now. But Liz was right - she had to make it work - the stakes were just too high.

Her workout went smoothly, suppleness returning swiftly to sleep stiffened muscles and she lost herself in the repetitive motions, concentrating on each movement until she felt the pleasant ache spread through her limbs. The weights clanked together softly as she released them. Other sounds began filtering through the corridors as various other patrons began their respective days.

A buff blond man entered the spa area giving her an appreciative once over before striking a pose on the ab press designed to show how manly he was.

She snickered and grabbed her towel. There was just enough time for a semi-leisurely bath and a coffee and croissant. Bath first. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafted from the breakfast lounge and she smiled to herself. "Why choose?" She helped herself to a cheese pastry and carafe of coffee and headed for the elevator.

The water had cooled by the time she had worked her way through both the coffee and the pastry. Reed stretched her frame one last time before standing and drawing the shower curtain closed. A quick rinse under the spray and she stepped from the tub, then vigorously toweled the beaded water droplets from her skin and tossed her hair back off her face.

A knock sounded at the suite's door, momentarily startling her. "Hold on a sec," she called through the open bathroom door. Reed settled the sweatshirt over her head, buttoned her jeans and went to answer the knock, still barefoot.

"Who is it?" She had the door half open before the words were out of her mouth.

"Jae Cavanaugh. Can we talk?"




Chapter 2


Caitlynn replaced the receiver in the cradle, the last of her calls complete. Four time zones, seven actors, a herd of technical staff and a producer - she looked at her watch - and it's not gone 6 am yet.

The next time you decide to bloody well promote me do it during the day like anyone else ok? Mentally she chastised her friend and boss. She'd been lounging in the bath when Jae had called the night before and given her instructions for canceling rehearsals and arranging meetings.

It was another hour before she could make the next round of calls and she pondered her next move. The shooting schedule would need to be revised - not so much because they lost a day - but because each director had a different way of approaching sequences and shooting order. Jae tended to be very chronological and judging by the schedule of Pirsig's she had seen, his style was distinctly more haphazard.

Rearranging the shooting schedule meant rearranging bookings and quite possibly changing a venue that might not be available if they waited too long. Like Disney World - you didn't just commandeer an amusement park at a moment's notice.

She padded across the studio apartment's kitchen and refilled her coffee cup. It could have been worse; she could have been the one who had to deal with the Ice Queen instead of her boss. There were worse fates than hearing Sean Connery's voice first thing in the morning. Serves you right, Jae, for ruining a perfectly lovely evening bath. Picking her script up from the side counter she thumbed through it, the multi-coloured collection of pages a definite sign that this was not going to be an easy film to shoot. Multiple colours meant multiple rewrites, and that usually meant a disjointed and unfocused script.

Laptop and script in hand, she poured another cup of coffee and headed for the couch to settle in and make some shooting notes for Jae. Half an hour later she stopped in disbelief.

Getting off the couch she walked over to the crowded bookcase lining one wall and ran her finger along the spines...there. Taking the paperback with her to the kitchen she refilled the Bodum with fresh grounds, lit the burner under the kettle and opened the book, beginning to read while she waited for the water to come to a boil.

Several cups of coffee, 356 kb of notes and two hours later she leaned back in exhaustion. Jae could make this into a killer movie all right. The raw material to balance the garish Hollywood script was in the book and she wouldn't put it past her boss to make the principals read it. It really was a good story - just a bad script. Pensively, she regarded the cast list, musing that she wouldn't be at all surprised to see a couple of last minute casting changes.

Maybe they'd get lucky and Reed Lewis would be the first to go.


Watching Reed Lewis on the small screen of her Sony TV hadn't even come close to preparing Jae for the reality standing in front of her.

The camera often created the illusion of presence or height, but taking in the tall woman framed by the hotel room door, the Director knew it wasn't an illusion. Reed Lewis had presence.

Intense blue eyes focused on her, and a low tenor replied to Jae's question with one of her own. "And you are...?"

"Jae Cavanaugh." She extended a hand.

Hesitation flickered briefly on the actress' face before a manicured hand reached out and encased hers briefly in a warm firm grip. "So you said."

The other woman remained in the doorway and made no move to invite her in so she tried again. "I'm from Blackmon Pictures...," she faltered, an explanation of who she was failing her.

Surprise clearly showed on the chiseled features and an elegant eyebrow curved over an impossibly blue eye. "Is this about yesterday? Tell Pirsig I'll play nicely. I don't have to like him to shoot his movie - or like what I'm shooting."

Oh boy. If the fight was about content they were in trouble. "Actually, Ms. Reed, I've taken over as Director."

"Really?" For the first time it seemed as though she had the actress' undivided attention, curiousity clearly coming through in her tone. "That has to be a record for shortest stint behind a camera - tape hasn't even started to roll yet." Reed Lewis had stepped back and waved her imperiously into the room.

"There was an...accident...and I was asked to replace him." Not quite able to bring herself to say he was dead. She took a seat in the empty over-stuffed chair closest to the window, feeling warmth where the rays from the rising sun touched her skin. Jae focused on the sensation, allowing the energy to bolster her.

"They'd have been better off scrapping the movie, not hiring a new director." No inquiry for details or evidence of concern accompanied her sharp words.

"Why's that?" Jae leaned forward slightly to keep the sun out of her eyes, glad of the natural opening.

"You have, I assume, at least read the screenplay?"

So it was a content issue. Question was...which content? "A job requirement." Jae smiled, not letting herself be baited.

"Pirsig changed it a dozen times already."

Jae blinked. She'd tried to stay out of that end of the production. Most of her job entailed the detail and nuance shots, and some of the background players. Script revisions weren't her department. Roan liked to split his scripts - almost like shooting two different movies, and her sections hadn't undergone any major revision. "That's what the argument was about yesterday?"

"Hardly...Pirsig's not the first director to shoot a fucked up screenplay." A soft snort accompanied the lilting words.

"Then what?"

"He wanted to aim for at least an R rating."

Bingo. Content. She waited, keeping her expression open in hopes that the other woman would continue. There was something else there too, but Jae couldn't quite put her finger on it.

Silence prevailed a minute while the other woman took her measure. Jae could feel the weight of the evaluative stare and imagined the wheels ticking over in the actress' mind.

Finally Reed spoke. "I agreed to play a...lesbian, not to do full body nude sex scenes." There was no doubt about what she thought of that particular demographic group.

Jae mulled over her words, thinking about what kind of response to make. Outing herself was probably not the way to go. "I'm not known for directing pornography."

It was clear that the actress had expected a less congenial response.

"Cavanaugh...Cavanaugh...you directed the silent picture that took Sundance by storm last year didn't you.?"

"'Sound of Autumn', yes."

"Gutsy." Grudging respect replaced some of the antagonism that had marked most of the actress' words to that point. "Why are you here?"

Maybe she was getting used to Reed Lewis' abruptness but this time it didn't catch her so off guard, her bluntness oddly refreshing in a town known for its smarmy suck-ups. "I cancelled rehearsals for today..."

"You could have told me over the phone or had some lackey do it."

'Wonder what you'd say if you knew Sean Connery got the call from the lackey and you got me?' Reed was regarding her intently. "I could have...but I wanted to meet you before tomorrow." After watching her as Diana in 'Equilibrium', she'd known that of all the cast members they had to work with - Reed was the lynch pin.

"Well you've met me."

It was also becoming apparent why she was called the Ice Queen. The Amazon part had been a dead give away the second she'd laid eyes on the nearly six foot tall actress.

The cold blue eyes alone were enough; add the demeanour and Jae could only imagine what she would be like to deal with under conditions less to the actress' liking.

This was not going at all the way she'd envisioned it, and it occurred to her that showing up unannounced at a complete stranger's hotel at 5:30 in the morning, might not have been such a bright idea after all. "It would be nice if you'd meet me half-way."

To her surprise the actress laughed. A low pleasant chuckle that spread to her eyes, warming them. "I let you in didn't I?"

"Point." She smiled slightly and leaned back in her chair. When the other woman didn't follow up her remark Jae took the opportunity to more closely study the actress. Reed was clad in the casual attire common to film sets . There was, after all, no real point to dressing up only to have make-up and costuming repeat the process in a completely new way an hour later.

The silence that stretched between them was no longer edgy, an unspoken truce of sorts having been reached, so she allowed her eyes to move beyond the clothing to study the woman beneath them and was again struck by the sheer presence Reed radiated, even in seeming repose. A tiny jump of the vein at the carotid artery was the only sign that revealed that the actress was not nearly as calm as she was projecting.

Jae could feel the first tendrils of excitement and anticipation catch fire in her guts as she watched Reed move, mentally comparing her to the characterization she had pulled from the script. Combined with the performance she had watched last night, Reed's aura made it obvious why Roan had cast her against type for the role. The trick would be to make it work.

Already possibilities were writing themselves across her mind, ideas and angles setting the stage and painting the mental pictures she would translate to film. Aware that the silence had gone on perhaps a tad too long she rose and extended a hand.

Reed hadn't indicated that there was an ongoing issue between them and Jae was feeling optimistic about having accomplished her goal - the actress' antagonism seemed reserved for Roan. Certainly she felt easier about the casting. "Thank you for seeing me, I have some other details to attend to, but I'll see you on the set tomorrow."

She followed the actress to the door, content with the affirmative nod she'd received in response to seeing Reed on the set.

The door clicked softly behind her and she sagged against the wall and some of the tension from the meeting drained from her body as she relaxed a little, taking slow steady breaths. 'One down...two to go.'

Leaning against the inside of the hotel room door, Reed let out the tension induced breath she'd been unconsciously holding since she'd opened the door. Aware that the other woman was still in the hallway, it gave her a small measure of satisfaction to discover that the director was not as calm as she pretended. The shuddering deep breaths of the blonde filtered through the door along with the aroma of brewing coffee and the clink of dishes on bussing carts as room service continued to make its morning rounds.

She wondered briefly if the objective of Cavanaugh's visit had been met - if she'd passed muster.

Sea-green eyes had roved over her and Reed shifted slightly under the memory of the intense gaze of the director. The motives of any other director who studied her that closely hadn't been hard to guess, but Cavanaugh had confused her. Male directors...no problem, but she'd never worked with a woman director before and all bets were off.

Since she had been scrutinized so closely, she had availed herself of the same opportunity. Her first impression was that Jae Cavanaugh probably wasn't quite as young as she looked - but not by much. The short blonde hair that fell around her face gave her an almost waifish look, and Reed briefly considered how much steel might be hidden under the surface softness.

Soft footfalls receded down the carpeted corridor and Reed moved away from the door. It was too early to get a start on the day and too late to go back to bed. Her eyes fell on the script. A new director meant a new interpretation of the material, so she picked it up from the table and sprawled on the couch.

Satisfied that, as long as no one changed them, she knew her lines cold for the following day's rehearsals she put the script down. Idly she considered whether or not the novelist had read the script and if so, what she thought of the alterations. It would, she reflected, be interesting to see the spin Cavanaugh put on things. One thing was for certain; she would rather work for Cavanaugh, than Pirsig.

The telephone rang and she waited until the second ring to pick it up, her stomach tensing involuntarily. "Hello." She relaxed recognizing the caller and listened to the bubbly rental agent launch into a colourful description of an available house in the Hills.

She cut in. "That sounds fine."

The agent sounded a little disappointed that the actress wasn't as excited as she was about the property but gamely carried on, enthusiastic enough for the both of them, and Reed agreed to meet with her at one to view it.

It was eleven-thirty now, so she laced up her sneakers and tucked her hair under a black Betty Ford baseball cap, figuring she had enough time for the drive into Hollywood and to grab a quick lunch.

The rental agent didn't realize it, but as long as it had four walls, a roof and was quiet, Reed would take it. She smiled inwardly, and a jacuzzi or at the very least a large bath, she mentally tacked on.

Her main concern was privacy. Los Angeles wasn't a city to be in if you craved solitude, but she was determined to find some place quiet enough to keep her nerves from fraying. Walking back into the maelstrom that was filmmaking Hollywood style was hard enough without having to subject herself to the media circus and sideshow that came with it. Reed was going to stay as far away from the media as she could get.

Make the film - collect the paycheck - get out of Dodge. Simple.


Chapter 3

"You want what?"

She spoke calmly reiterating her request. "I want the original novelist hired as a script consultant. She did the original adaptation." Meeting Chambers' gaze squarely she continued, "and the script you've got doesn't work - it has no focus."

Caitlynn had emailed the notes she'd taken this morning, including a comment to the effect that it was impossible to tell whether they were shooting a comedy, thriller, romance or making social commentary. Basically she'd quipped, "they've made a bollix of it." Criticizing Roan was the last thing she wanted to do, and she avoided vocally placing any blame, instead she had simply asked her assistant to set up a meeting with Rod Chambers.

So here she was sitting in Rod Chambers' office, making demands of the executive producer on her first full day as director.

"Anything else?" He still hadn't answered the original request.

Jae decided to go for broke. "I want these parts recast," and handed him the list along with her choices and acceptable alternatives. It was mostly shuffling of the supporting cast.

"And in return?"

Mustering all the bravado she could find, she answered him. "You get a film that won't lose money."

Hit the money man where it hurt; mention the pocket book. There was no such thing as a can't miss property in Hollywood - no matter what the industry wags claimed - but there were ways to avoid stinking. If nothing else, all of her films had made money - even if none had been commercial successes.

She waited, continuing to meet his gaze, her relaxed posture a contrast to his folded arm, stiff shouldered one. But then, she thought, I have nothing to lose.

Chambers came back with another question. "What if this...," he checked his notes, "Holly Wulfenden is unavailable."

It was a good sign. An outright no would have been a problem, but the longer the conversation wore on the more likely it was that she would get her concessions. "Let me worry about that."

"I still expect it on time and on budget."

"Let me film it my way and I guarantee it." Streamlining the script and losing the excess filler the last scriptwriter added would virtually guarantee that it came in on time and under budget. Scrapping the car chase alone would save them a week. What is it with guys and car chases?

"Big promises."

"No, just my word."

"And if I say no?"

Jae had been wondering how long it would take for that question to be asked. "Then we keep talking until we reach an agreement that works...," she paused, keeping her tone level and professional, "...but I won't continue as director with the script you've got, it wouldn't be fair for either of us."

"I want to see the altered shooting draft on my desk in...," he flipped through his Daytimer for show, "...a week....and the first tape edits the week after that." He looked expectantly at her, putting the ball back in her court.

It was more than she had hoped for, half expecting to find Chambers wanting to stand over her shoulder and watch every step. She nodded, "that seems acceptable." He'd get his rewrites even if she had to do them herself.

"Good Luck, Miss Cavanaugh." He rose from his chair and extended a hand, dismissing her.

She turned left, and wandered down the corridor, mentally planning her next step. Caitlynn looked up as she re-entered her own office, expressive face asking the unspoken question, though it didn't stop her from vocalizing it anyway. "How'd it go?"

She gave a thumbs up, and smiled. "Call Mike, get him up here as fast as you can...pay for his plane ticket if you have to." She paced back and forth across the hardwood floor, her excitement obvious. "Did you have any luck ..."

Cait held up a hand interrupting her while she spoke to the ticket agent. "That's right Michael Hurtowski, no limit - any routing, he'll be in touch." She rang off and faced Jae. "Sorry...a little overzealous. What were you asking?"

In a good mood she threw herself into her chair and scribbled some notes on the note pad. "No problem - efficiency is good - we're gonna need it." She propped on foot on the desk and swiveled her chair from side to side. "Did you reach Ms Wulfenden yet?"

Her assistant gave her what could only be described as an evil grin.

"Oh no...Cait...I hate that thing." Her assistant was big on technology, and not for the first time Jae considered the idea that maybe Cait would fit better in front of the camera on this picture, rather than behind it. Her assistant was superbly organized, her life and everyone else's kept track of by an impressive - and to Jae - daunting array of electronic and computerized devices. "Please tell me it's not a video conference or visual email thingy." Choice of terms revealing her lack of expertise.

Caitlynn's grin grew exponentially and she knew she definitely wasn't going to like what her friend had up her sleeve.

"Have you considered the total irony of your shooting a movie about two cyber geeks in love?"

"Which part do you find particularly ironic?" Jae arched a brow pinning her friend under her amused glare.

"Is Becky still talking to you?"

Jae nodded. "Yes...well she was as of yesterday anyway."

Cait lifted her own brow sagely, all too familiar with the pattern. "Then it's the cyber geek part, though if you don't start paying more attention to her..." she let the sentence trail off, having delivered that particular lecture enough times that she didn't need to finish it. Instead she opened a program on her computer and waved Jae closer. "Welcome to The Palace."

"The Palace? O-kay...I'll bite...what's a Palace?" A brightly coloured background picture was populated by a dozen little yellow and green circles that looked like tennis balls. "And what are those?" She pointed at a ball in the top corner. The whole thing looked kind of like a comic book or story board - especially when a bunch of speech bubbles came up.

"Those are avatars, avs for short - this is us." Indicating a yellow happy face with three eyes whose name tag read 'cyber-geek'. "The Palace is a real-time graphical chat room. And that's us."

It was sort of interesting, though she couldn't figure out how everyone kept up with all the speech bubbles. It was a little too day-glow acid trip-like for her. "Cait?"

"Umm." Her friend was furiously typing away and snickering at some of what she was reading.

"How about a nice simple conference call?" Typing wasn't her strong suit and she felt she had a much better chance of getting the author's cooperation if they could speak on a more personal level.

"Party pooper." Cait stuck out her tongue and exited The Palace. "I'll just email her to let her know you will call." Her hand hovered over the mouse. "Maybe that's your hook - explain how technologically inept you are and beg her to come re-route your dialogue."

"Har de har har." She certainly needed to come up with something. Jae didn't feel quite up to re-plotting a movie, hiring new actors, new crew and directing her first big budget picture all by herself.

"Just a thought."

A novel on the corner of the desk caught her eye. "Hey what's this?" She ran her thumb over the raised lightening bolts and stylized cityscape, looking for the title.

"That's the book."

"Thick." She opened it up and read a few paragraphs. "We definitely need to get Holly to attack the script. This is good." Jae juggled the book thoughtfully in one hand. "Maybe we need to get Reed and Jennifer to read it..."

"Way ahead of you." Caitlynn reached under her desk and passed up a cardboard box. "A dozen copies."

Jae couldn't help it, she burst out laughing. "Remind me to give you a raise," was all she could sputter out.

"Unh hunh, I'll believe it when I see the last raise."

"Hey I just promoted you - give me a day or two hunh?" Their banter was interrupted by the high pitched tones of her cell phone. "Cavanaugh." Jae turned her back to Caitlynn, "No I didn't get your message....I'm sorry...okay, I can be there in an hour...right...me too." She turned back to find a smirking Caitlynn watching her. "Not a word...not one word..."

"Who me?" Her best innocent tone fell short by a whole nine yards.

"Yes, you. Page me or call on the cell when you get the time set up with Holly." With that she scooped up her notes and headed for her car, wondering as she did what Reed Lewis was doing and if she had any friends in town.


Chapter 4


Reed stood facing the night-life below, conscious of the humming traffic and quiet murmurs of the invisible insects surrounding her. She swirled the wine in her glass, the keys to the house and a bottle of red wine having been handed over cheerfully by the rental agent in exchange for a rent check, and studied the translucent liquid as it reflected the glow of the porch lights.

The rail creaked slightly as she leaned against it, but held firm allowing her to lean out and study the terraced lots below her. The houses were stacked and arranged in such a way as to use as much space while providing as much privacy as possible. She could, if she strained her hearing, make out snatches of conversations drifting up from the nearby dwellings.

It wasn't perfect, but it would do for the two months they were scheduled to be shooting in Los Angeles. The glass now empty she made her way back to the small kitchen and rinsed the glass before setting it to drain in the dish rack.

She paced through the sparsely furnished living room and flipped on the TV. Mary Hart's coifed blonde locks resolved onto the 28 inch screen and a picture of Jae Cavanaugh caught her attention. Reed upped the volume in time to hear a coming up next announcement from the plastic man - whatever his name was - that had replaced John Tesh.

The leather sofa squeaked under her weight as she eased down onto its soft folds. The subtle scent of leather and saddle soap clung to the ancient piece.

Pictures of Jae and Roan appeared in the top corner of the screen, but it was the caption that froze her gaze to the screen. "Director Dead at 37."

The rest of the clip jumbled together in her brain, as the sparse details were handed out and spun in the most Hollywood fashion. Hart added the information that he had been replaced on the set by acclaimed independent film director and former student Jae Cavanaugh.

Pirsig was dead. That information left her feeling surprisingly hollow. Not even the fact he must have died shortly after their argument yesterday had any impact. He was gone. It was over, the door on one more chapter closed with a finality she hadn't expected.

Reed shifted her shoulders, easing the ache which had suddenly descended on her muscles. The soft chirping of her cell phone cut in over the electric pulsing hyper activity of a car ad. She flipped the antenna up and hit receive.

"Is it true?" No hello - just a demand for information.


"Good." The vehemence in her friend's voice a counterpoint to her own calm indifference. It should have been the other way around. "Why you agreed to work with that man again I'll never understand."

"He was the only game in town."

There weren't many directors who would take a chance on casting an actress who had just walked off a set at the end of filming one day and had never returned. That it was Pirsig she had done it to made it all the more amazing. Liz had accomplished it though, transmitting both the contact offer and the threat of blackballing her if she didn't play the game his way, in the same phone call.

"Rio misses you."

A lump formed in her throat, she hated to leave her son behind, but she didn't have a choice. "How is he?" She whispered.

"Holding up. He slept a lot today, Dani's boys were over yesterday and I think it wore him out."

"Is he awake now?" Probably not, it was three hours later in Maine, but she had to ask.

"I could wake him." Heidi offered.

"No, let him sleep, he needs it. Tell him Mummy loves him and I'll talk to him tomorrow." Her eyes fell on the laptop balanced at the edge of the table and an idea popped in her head.

"Will do. Take care of yourself okay?" Worry evident in the instructions.

She rang off and put the cell back on the counter. Focus. I have to stay focused. The laptop caught her eye again and Reed picked up the cell phone activating it even as she switched on the computer. Connecting via the cell link she navigated through some bookmarks before finding the one she wanted.

Clicking send she watched the status bar indicate her message was on the way then shut down. One hamster dance coming up.

She closed the cell phone and set it down for the second time in five minutes, then took her glass back out of the dish rack pouring a healthy serving of the Tyrell's Long Flat Red into the crystal goblet.

Mutely she toasted the bare sliver of moon showing in the darkening sky then turned her attention to dinner.


The waiter looked down disapprovingly at her somewhat rumpled jacket and slacks, her chinos showing the activity level of her day in every crease. La Boheme was packed, the famed Italian restaurant a noisy collection of the who's who and the who wants to be.

She smiled back at him and allowed him to take her coat from her hand, then followed him the corner section where Becky and her parents were waiting.

"There you are." Her father's booming voice greeted her cheerfully. Good sign, if her parents weren't upset then Becky would have a harder time sniping at her for being late.

"Hi Daddy." She kissed him on one cheek then leaned down to hug her mother. "'Lo, Mother. Sorry I'm late."

Her father pulled out her chair for her, kissing the top of her head as he guided it back into place. Reaching under the table she squeezed Becky's hand and gave her a smile that she hoped was a cross between suitably apologetic and endearing. The lack of change of the expression on her partner's face, combined with the failure of the other woman to return the squeeze was all the information about her acting skills she needed. Stick to directing kiddo.

"So Jacqueline, what kept you?" Jae winced, as always, at hearing her mother use her full name.

"I had a meeting with the Executive Producer of 'Balance of Power', then Caitlynn and I met to go over the script." Puzzled looks met her statement and it occurred to her that they probably hadn't heard of Roan's death, and she hadn't had time to call them. She was mulling over what to say when Becky cut in.

"You doing lackey work for Roan now?" Becky had considered her returning to work for Roan to be selling out, trading her creativity for Hollywood exposure and she hadn't been able to convince her otherwise.

"Roan's...passed away." It was the first time she'd uttered the words out loud.

Silence. Even Becky looked suitably chagrined.

It was of course her mother who broke the silence. "I'm sorry to hear that dear. I know he was an important influence for you."

"You'll be alright Pumpkin." He father offered reassuringly. "I'm sure the new director will keep you on."

"I am the new director." Her cell chose that moment to chirp. "Excuse me." She answered the call. "What's up Cait?...you get a hold of..." she was cut off.

"Lien's backed out."

"Why?" Jae stood from the table and made her way to the quiet area near the washrooms.

"I'm guessing her agent advised her to get out while she could."

"Can you get a cattle call together for me?" She used the slang term for a mass audition. The role of Dar was pivotal, all they needed was someone believable to act opposite her.

"No problem. Roan had a list of candidates, we could try them."

"Hmmm send them to me. Any luck on reaching Wulfenden?"

"No. I think you might have to go the technology route." Cait's amusement at the thought of her boss navigating through the Internet registered on the director.

"Fine." She didn't have the time to spare indulging her techophobia. "What time was the original meeting for?"


She looked at her watch, it was almost eight. "Can we do it from your house?" Caitlynn lived in Studio City, much easier to reach than either the studio or her house.


"Great, see you in a bit." Terminating the call she leaned back against the wall. Becky was not going to be happy. She caught the other woman's eye and waved her over, preparing for the scene to come.

"You're leaving aren't you." Becky's tone was flat, accusatory, more a statement than a question.

"I need to..."

"Play Hollywood Movie Director."

"Don't do this Becky, please, not here." Patrons had begun to turn slightly in their direction eager for some tidbit of gossip and rumour. Information was the coin of trade in the power brokering world of movie making.

"Don't want to expose your dirty little secret now do we?"

"Becky..." Jae could hear the pain mixed with anger in her lover's voice.

"No, Jae. No more I'm sorries, no more I'll make it up to you's. You want to go make your movie then go. Just don't expect me to wait around for you." The tall brunette spun on her heel and left the restaurant, leaving Jae staring after her.

Tears threatened to well up and spill from her eyes, and only the curious stares of the on looking diners kept her from giving into the impulse to cry. She took a calming breath, then another until she felt calm enough to go back to the table and make her excuses to her parents.

Jae broke the awkward silence. "I need to go to work, I have a meeting with the book's author in an hour."

Her father nodded in understanding. "We'll be fine. Congratulations Pumpkin."

A smile replaced the worried tension she had felt frozen on her lips. "Thanks Daddy." She turned to her mother and saw she wasn't going to get off quite so lucky with her other parent.

"You and Becky are more than close 'friends' aren't you?" It was the question Jae had been expecting but not the tone she'd expected to hear it in.

Tears began to spill down a cheek and her mother wrapped her in a hug, oblivious to the people watching them surreptitiously. Nodding into her mother's chest she whispered, "I don't know anymore...she left."

A gentle finger lifted her chin, "Call me tomorrow okay? And we'll talk...just remember your father and I love you very much, now go before you're late."

Jae smiled. "Love you too." She squeezed her mother's hand and pecked her cheek softly. "Thank-you."

"Night, Pumpkin." Her father added a kiss before sitting back down and picking up a menu, having she guessed, reached his sensitive chat limit.

As she waited for her car to be brought around she thought about things with Becky, the warning signs had been there, hell even Caitlynn had noticed. So tonight's announcement shouldn't have come as much of a surprise, and she found now that the immediate shock had worn off, she was more concerned about talking to Holly Wulfenden that in repairing things with Becky.

It was, she mused, one more failed romance in a string of them. Jae was beginning to doubt she'd ever get it right. Figuring that her career was part of the problem she'd intentionally gotten involved with someone in the industry, hoping that Becky would understand the schedule and demands shooting placed on a director. She suspected the novelty had worn off for her lover. Or maybe she's right, I'm just too intense when it comes to work.

Exchanging a five dollar bill for her keys she slid behind the wheel of the Saturn and headed for Cait's place.

Thirty-minutes later she pulled up in front of the security gate and keyed in her guest code. The elevator indicated it was on the sixth floor, so she entered the stairwell , taking the stairs two at a time, until she reached the third floor, and her assistant's apartment.

The door swung open revealing the bronze sarong clad body of her friend. "You look like hell."

"Thanks. Becky left."

"Ouch. You okay?"

A tall frosty glass was thrust in her hand. "Fine. Not exactly out of the blue. What's this?"

"Long Island Ice tea. Hey...this is me...the frozen it doesn't hurt routine won't work remember?"

"It's the strangest thing Cait...I think I feel more relief than anything." She paused and quirked a wry grin. "Though I never thought I'd be coming out to my folks over an ex-girlfriend."

"You didn't!"

"Sort of inevitable. I think most of La Boheme heard."

"Double ouch. They take it okay?"

"I think if I hadn't told my mom, she would have told me."

Caitlynn had been busily setting up the conferencing software while they chatted, and was just waiting for a signal from the other end. She smiled up at Jae, brown eyes twinkling, "You think taking Robin to your cousin's wedding last year tipped them off any?"

She laughed back. "Maybe. It was around that time that she stopped asking when I was going to settle down."

"We're on." Caitlynn sat back, laptop open to take notes. The script had been entered into a word processor and a copy had been sent to Holly just in case.

"Hello, I'm Jae." She smiled at the author, and was relieved to get a smile back. Holly Wulfenden looked to be in her early thirties with light curly brown hair which fell softly around her face, nearly touching her glasses, and an open smile that matched her warm eyes.

"Holly. Caitlynn said you wanted to talk about the script. It's a deal...one condition."

Jae held her breath, waiting to hear what the other woman wanted. "Which is...?"

"You want an R rating get someone else to write it." The smile took the sting out of the playful sarcasm.

"Deal. Shall we?" She held up her script.

"Yep." A soft clacking of a keyboard, then a chiming sound followed by a faint computerized voice. "Try this."

A beeping on her end startled her. "Whaaa..."

"Email." Caitlynn supplied, opening the program.

Jae read the section, going over it twice before looking up. "Perfect." She hesitated, "That was fast. I sort of thought it would take longer and be a lot harder to get you on board."

Holly shrugged. "I saw 'Sound of Autumn.' Anyone who can hold an audience today with a visual picture has my respect. I think you can bring the understated quality to the characters and story that it needs. So I worked on that part after Caitlynn called - she said you were short on time."

"Thanks." With Holly actively participating in getting the best script possible a load was lifted from her shoulders and she smiled gratefully at the author. "There are a few more I want to look at tonight so I can get rehearsals started...you have time?" She didn't mention that they were short a lead actress to even rehearse with.

It was nearly four am when they broke, Holly needing to go to work, but a substantial part of the script had been reworked. Jae leaned back and stretched her arms, she had to be at the studio in an hour or so herself.

"Here." Cait handed over the coffee pot.

"Mmm thanks." She took a long sip, savouring the rich body.

"So...you think Chambers will let us get away with it?"

Jae swallowed, considering the question. "He will if he doesn't realize what were shooting."

An arched brow met her gaze. "If he reads the script he'll know."

"Not if we shoot these scenes first and give them to him the day before we give him the preliminary shooting draft." She flipped through the printed pages and pulled out a couple of scenes. "I bet he doesn't even bother to read the script right away."

"Sneaky, but do we have enough time?"

"Most of the cast are experienced TV actors...they're used to shooting forty four minutes of tape in a week."


"And if we shoot these scenes with Reed before the cast and crew get too comfortable with her and each other it should add to the realism."

"You're assuming that she'll warm up, or should I say thaw out."

A memory of warm blue eyes thinly disguising amusement flickered in her brain and she was unaware of the small smile that crested her lips. "I think it will be fine." The more they had worked on the script the more convinced she became that Reed was perfect for the role. Jae's mind had supplied images of Reed in motion, augmenting and fleshing out her mental picture of the scenes Holly and Cait had written, helping her to block them out for shooting.

"You're the boss."

"Yep." She got up and grabbed her coat. "I'll see you at the studio round nine, get some sleep you earned it."

"Yes'em boss lady." Cait drawled.


Chapter 5

Reed rolled up to her parking spot, taking note of the silver Saturn three spaces down. So, Cavanaugh had already arrived.

Sound stage 17 was tucked behind two larger studios and she walked up the narrow path, and entered by a side door.

"Morning Ms. Lewis." The security guard greeted her. "Everyone is back there."

She nodded. Voices were coming from the opposite end of the stage from an area blocked off by fake walls meant to replicate offices, and judging by the assortment of furniture, someone's house.

Cavanaugh looked up at her as she slid into an empty chair at the back of the room. Green eyes flashed a welcome then she continued speaking with one of the innumerable assistant something-or-others so common to movie sets. Finally the youth pelted off, disk in hand.

The friendly lilt she remembered from yesterday filled the room as the director began to speak, telling the cast of Pirsig's death. Some of them had heard already and to others it was a surprise but she knew they were all watching for her reaction so she remained impassive, keeping her features neutral.

Cavanaugh's next words recaptured her attention. "...recasting the part of Kerry."

That explained why Lien wasn't on the set, so much for the dialogue work she'd done last night before turning in. The young man who had pelted out returned, a stack of paper in hand. Cavanaugh took them and handed a copy to some actors she didn't recognize and then approached handing her a copy. Responding to the expectant look on the director's face she found herself saying, "Thank-you," and was unaccountably pleased with the 'you're welcome' she received in return.

More instructions followed an explanation of the interim plan, and Reed listened with half an ear, already beginning to memorize her new lines.

She was impressed, Cavanaugh was playing to the strength of her existing cast, while buying herself time to bring the production under control and Reed found that she was looking forward to starting work.

"Right. Lets' do a read through." The director picked up her own script, and signaled them to begin.

"No." Reed injected as much force as she could into the word, trying to look menacing.

"Y'know.. ya shouldn't tease people like that.. Pretty thing like you.. and then you go and tell us off.. That's not nice.. "

Reed reached down and touched on a core of anger from yesterday. "I was just using the amenities of the hotel.. that's not against the law." She kept her voice low. Then paused before reading her next line. "Don't be stupid, boys." She changed her tone from one of low menace to mocking superiority. "I want to make sure I know who I'm going to report to the police."

"W.. w.. Didn't mean nothing." A second actor added, a touch of confusion in his tone. They were following Reed's lead, not merely reading the words but trying them on for fit.

"You meant to take out your horny fantasies on some poor, helpless woman." Reed spat. "You picked a bad choice of victims this time." She looked up, closing the script.

"Perfect, if we can repeat that on a walk through we've got it nailed." Cavanaugh flipped through the script. "Page 10, from 'That wasn't nice...'"

By lunch they had walked through and blocked four more scenes. Reed was leaning against a post in a mock-up of a hotel room, eyes closed when she felt someone approach her.


"Hey yourself." She replied, opening her eyes and looking up at the director.


"I'd like to talk to you about a couple of things, how about joining me for lunch?"

Reed thought about it a minute, she was not in the habit of socializing on the set, generally using her lunch breaks to recover from the stress of being on. Why not? Cavanaugh was no threat. "Sure. Ms Cavanaugh." She stood.

"Please call me Jae."

"Alright then...Jae, but you're buying." It was a feeble joke at best, but all she could come up with to mask her tension, a part of her suddenly wondering what she'd done wrong.

"Deal. The Chinese food will be here in a minute."

Her startled confusion must have registered on her face because the other woman laughed. "You didn't expect me to make you eat from the catering truck did you?"

Reed smiled in spite of herself and followed the director across the sound stage.



Chapter 6

Chinese food was, reflected Reed, not the best choice of meals to be eating if you wanted to appear in control and elegant. She looked down at her chopsticks...well at least not for me....

Jae on the other hand was expertly twirling her chow mien noodles around her utensils and getting the food to its destination without so much as a drip going astray.

They were sitting in the director's office and Reed found herself looking interestedly at the various objects piled on every available inch. It was a pretty amazing amount of clutter considering that Jae had only had the office...what a month?

They'd been exchanging bits of small talk and Jae had revealed a weakness for oriental dishes and spices, while she'd copped to a fondness for hot dogs. The other woman laughed easily and often and Reed found herself relaxing and enjoying her lunch. Idly she continued her survey of the room, spotting an intricately woven tapestry on the far wall.

"So we are doing a cattle call this afternoon." Jae was speaking and the actress turned her attention from the wall hanging to the director. "I'd like you there."

Reed was surprised, she was used to being told point-blank what to do, and while Jae's request was in fact an order - it didn't put her hackles up. "You want to do a scene?"

"Yes. It may be a moot point - two of the actresses who originally read for the part have been contacted - so we may cast that way."

Her stomach tensed involuntarily as Reed wondered what scenes they'd use to test for 'chemistry.' The chopsticks hung loosely in her hand so she carefully set them on the edge of the carton, as the comfort level she'd been feeling just a few minutes earlier evaporated under the onslaught of uncertainty and fear.

She remained quiet, waiting for Jae to speak again.

"But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."

Reed's stomach clenched again and she forced herself to answer. "What?"

"I want you to read this." Cavanaugh tossed her a thick novel.

"You want me to read a book?" She opened it and scanned a few lines, but Jae spoke before she could object.

"It's the novel Balance is based on." She held another copy up for Reed to see. "I've got one too. We can't present it all on film and since the script hasn't cleared rewrite yet...I was hoping it would give everyone an idea of where we are going."

"You're rewriting the script?"

"Not all of it, no." The blonde smiled, running her fingers through her short hair. "Just the R-rated bits, the pseudo-political thriller add-ins and the car chase."

"And you're telling me this...why?" Reed was confused.

Intense green eyes locked on her blue ones and Reed had to fight the impulse to look away. "Because I need you behind me on this. I have to lay tape and hand over some film edits in six days...and it all revolves around you...every scene."

This was not how it normally worked and Reed felt a vague sense of unease. The increased pace to get some tape down wasn't the problem, she just didn't know what to make of Jae.

The director was still studying her and Reed did her best to remain still, unwilling to let her mental argument show. The director backed off and broke their eye contact, turning instead to retrieve a sheaf of papers from one cluttered corner of the desk.

"This is the scene I want to do this afternoon." Handing over a copy.

Reed nodded, glad for the decrease in intensity.

"Hey...you going to eat that?" Jae was pointing at a prawn balanced precariously over the edge of a carton.

The sudden change in atmosphere caught her by surprise. "No, go ahead." Though where the slim blonde was going to put it was beyond Reed.

A cell phone chirped and they both reached for one, Jae holding hers up and saying, "it's me."

Reed took the opportunity to excuse herself and fled back to her trailer. She shut the white metal door behind her and took a deep breath. Part of her was excited about the approach she could sense Cavanaugh was going to take to the material...the other part warned her about getting emotionally invested in the picture.

The cell in her pocket rang and she pulled it out, dropping onto the settee before answering it. "Hello." She clipped.


"Rio...." Her voice softened.

"Cool page...it had like 30 different animals...and that laugh... did you send it last night when I was asleep? Mark and ...." He was off, excited words tumbling out a mile a minute.

"Slow down a sec, kiddo. Now what about Mark?" She listened indulgently as he recounted his friend's visit, letting him tell the story in his own way, even if the chronology made it somewhat hard to follow.

"You going to play with me tonight?"

"Not tonight Rio, tomorrow okay? I've got to shoot late tonight, but I promise to help you find the key tomorrow."


"Cross my heart." She drew her fingers across her chest, even though she knew he couldn't see them. He yawned into the phone. "Your Aunt Heidi around?"

"No...she ran away with the milk man." He giggled.

"Smartypants. Put her on willya?"

"K. Love you." Rio was still young enough not to feel awkward telling his mother that he loved her.

"Right back at ya."

"Reed?" Heidi had taken the phone from her son.

"He's not overdoing it is he?" She inquired, worried by his earlier yawn.

"No, he just woke up, no fever and his lunch stayed down."

Reed could feel the knot in her stomach loosen a bit with the reassuring news. "I told him I'd do the RPG thing tomorrow so make sure he gets lots of rest okay?"

"No problem." Dishes clattered and Reed guessed that Heidi was preparing supper or cleaning up from a late lunch. "What time should he go on-line?"

"I don't know what the schedule will be like here so I'll phone first." It just occurred to her that the time difference might present an obstacle to keeping her promise.

"Sounds good. Talk to you tomorrow."

"Bye." She hit end and put the cell back in her pocket. "What now?" Reed asked of the empty room. Someone would come get her when she was needed and she evaluated her options.

The book was sitting on top of the notes for the cattle call and she took it as a sign, reaching across the length of the couch to retrieve it.

Why couldn't they put these things on disk? The small type was beginning to get to her, but she couldn't put the book down, reading on till she had finished a section. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, reflecting on the characters and the storyline. Her doubts about playing Dar were quickly evaporating. I can do this. She mentally pictured scenes and blocked shots, getting a handle on how she would approach various mannerisms.

Letting the scenes flow she watched the pictures unfold in her mind's eye, imagining the first meeting of the two protagonists and the look on Kerry's face as she found out she was being assimilated. She could see the confused fear on...Jae's face. Whoa. She sat up. Why on earth.... Thinking, she chalked it up to having no lead actress to mentally cast, since Lien had backed out.

A soft knock interrupted her before she could dwell on it too long. "They're ready for you now Ms. Lewis."

She didn't respond, just grabbed her script and left the trailer, speculating on the quality of cattle in the call.


Jae smiled as Reed entered the room. She'd been sorry that their lunch had been cut short by a business call. The tall actress was no longer such an enigma to her - what others called ice, Jae was beginning to recognize as professional detachment.

"Reed this is Sarah, Sarah meet Reed." She watched as the two women shook hands, each regarding the other appraisingly.

As disappointed as she had been to look up and see Reed had vanished from her office, she was equally ecstatic to find Gellar's agent was the person on the other end of the phone. She still wanted the part and was willing to come in and read for Jae that afternoon.

Over the course of the exchange Jae discovered that the only reason the actress hadn't been cast originally was a fear that she would be perceived as too young.

"Shall we?" She said. The blonde actress had arrived a little while ago and Jae had given her the chance to read over the section. She crossed her fingers, the reading would double as a walk through and if it worked out - this would be the first scene they filmed - hopefully as early as tomorrow night. Reed and Sarah both nodded and took up places opposite each other, with Sarah perching on the top of a table.

"Look, Ray.. I told you..Um... sorry.. I thought you were someone else." It was a good sign, Sarah wasn't just reading, she was trying to be Kerry.

"Dar Roberts."

"Kerry Stuart. Are you.. um... " She paused. "I mean, you're from the new headquarters, right? I'm sorry.. I must seem kind of daft to you.. I wasn't expecting anyone until after lunch." Gellar was hitting just the right mix of hesitancy and confusion.

"Yes.. I am.. I suppose my lunch doesn't quite match yours." Reed's tone every inch as cool as Jae imagined the character being. "Sorry."

"Oh.. right...Well.. that's okay, because I... I finished lunch already myself...but my staff is still out. What.. I mean, can I get you some coffee, or something?" Here Sarah added a touch of awkward apology.

"No thanks.. I've got things scheduled. Let's just get started... it won't take long. Sit down." Reed's body language had become commanding, firm, but not over the top rigid. Jae smiled and continued to watch and listen, sure that she had found her Kerry, but wanting to see where they would take the rest of the scene.

"You know why I'm here, right?"

"I know you people are taking over.. they really didn't tell us much about what was going to happen, no." Confidence began to creep into Sarah's words.

"They were supp.. okay. I'm not going to play games or beat around the bush. Bottom line is, what we purchased was your business." This time it was Reed whose tone conveyed a touch of apology before regaining its confidence.

The blonde woman took a breath. "Okay...but what does that mean... we report to different people.. or you want things done differently.. I have reports.. "

"It means we're interested in the services you're providing. Not in how you provide them, or who does it. There's nothing you do here we can't do better, and cheaper, which is the whole point."

Jae was impressed, they had the timing right, Reed's last lines having cut into Sarah's perfectly. She looked over at Cait to get her reaction and received a small thumbs up.

"What are you saying?" Sarah asked softly. "You're saying you don't need us, is that it?"


"You can't just come in here and fire everyone.. we've been doing this for years.. you can't replace us just like that." So far so good, Gellar had avoided appearing to whine.

"Yes, I can. It's what we do. I have a programming group in Huntingdon, a support group just west of the airport that can take your calls, and a hardware installers division all who already work for me. Your people are inefficient, they take two sick days a piece every three weeks, half of them are late every day, your programmers haven't met a deadline in two years, and you've had eighteen workman's comp claims in the last four months." Reed was totally the corporate raider, explaining to the conquered just why they lost the war.

The director watched to see how the next set of lines would be delivered. Could Gellar display the right amount of mettle?

"I guess John was right." She finally said, in quiet defeat.

"Right about what?" Reed had successfully switched from commanding to confused.

"You are here just to rape us." Bingo, Perfect. Jae knew she had found her Kerry.

"That's not an appropriate way to refer to it."

"What are you going to do, fire me?"

Jae broke in before Reed could deliver the next line. "That's a wrap people...looks like we found our Kerry." She knew she had a grin plastered across her lips but she didn't care. Finally things were going her way and she didn't give a damn about who knew how she felt.

Her enthusiasm must have been infectious because Cait was smiling as were Sarah and her agent. She looked to Reed, and arched a questioning brow, pleased when a twinkling blue eye raised a brow of its own in returned pleasure and approval.

It was, she thought, a good day.



Chapter 7

Jae held her arms over her head, rotating them around the shoulder joint trying to ease the burning ache that had settled in the muscles where her neck and back met. Caitlynn had left hours ago, revisions in hand to reblock the shooting schedule, while she had remained behind to fight with wardrobe and make-up.

"Looks like I've gone about as far as I can for one night." She spoke to the squat stone gargoyle guarding her desk. He didn't disagree so she stood and grabbed her bag and keys, tucking the novel into the leather bag as an afterthought.

Universal Studios was still abuzz with activity and she could see the bright shooting lights coming from Little Europe. Behind her, laughter and the sounds of busy nightlife activity reminded her that she worked in the middle of one of the largest commercial playgrounds in the world.

This was a lot different than shooting in remote locations or gathering background footage, and it was a lot different that shooting as primary director on her own pictures. For one thing, it was a lot noisier. She laughed...and much better funded.

With any luck Mike would arrive tomorrow and she could send him and the second unit out to gather the stuff they needed from Michigan and Florida.

She turned the corner from her office and stopped. Reed's Range Rover was still nestled in its spot. Reed's still here? Jae was puzzled, she'd sent the cast home just after four and it was going on ten now. Why on earth....

The path to her right led back toward the sound stage and backlot trailers and she took the right hand fork, opting to check Reed's trailer first.

It was the right guess. Soft yellow light showed through the material of the curtains. She crept forward, unsure as to why she felt the compulsion to look in on the actress and with even less clue as to why she was tip-toeing along the asphalt.

Reed was sprawled along the length of the three-quarter length settee, one arm propped under her head, reading. She seemed totally absorbed by the novel, and Jae realized that she must have been reading for quite some time, if the thickness of pages tucked between the actress' thumb and the front cover were any indication.

She smiled reflexively as Reed smiled at something she had just read. The change in the actress' face was amazing as unguarded enjoyment was allowed free rein. It transformed her and Jae sucked in an involuntary breath.

Not wanting to be caught invading Reed's privacy she backed away, returning the way she had come. Just in front of her a crowd had gathered at the lot snack shop and an idea took shape. Should I?...Why not...

Fifteen minutes and three dollars fifty later she was safely ensconced in her Saturn, ready to leave the studio behind in favour of her own dinner and a hot bath.

It was not to be. She spotted Becky's Volvo before she'd even turned into her driveway, and for one brief moment considered turning around and heading back to the studio. No...I can't avoid her...I owe her that much.... Jae parked next to her lover's car and got out, activating the automatic door-locks and alarm system, then squared her shoulders.

The front door was unlocked and the only noise she could hear was from the TV in the front room. Hanging first her coat, then her bag on the hooks by the door, she slid her shoes off and walked to the living room.

Becky was curled up on the lined couch reading, it looked like, the Hollywood Reporter. The other woman seemed unaware of her arrival so Jae stood and watched a moment, unconsciously comparing the reading woman in front of her to the one she had just left. Unlike Reed, Becky did not appear to be enjoying what she was reading and was most likely killing time waiting for her to come home.

Jae cleared her voice slightly, announcing her presence. The redhead looked up and Jae could see that she had been crying recently and felt her stomach clench slightly. This could get messy. She said the only thing that came to mind. "Hi." It sounded inane - even to her.

"Hi." Becky had put the magazine down on the coffee table and had drawn her knees up to her chin, wrapping both arms around her legs.

Jae was suddenly weary, her legs seemed incapable of holding her up. She moved to a large chair opposite her lover and sat down, feeling the stress of the last three days slam home all at once - aware that it was only going to get worse in the next few minutes - not better.

Silence prevailed for several heartbeats, then Becky took the bull by the horns. "We're done aren't we?" Hurt and confusion mixed with despair, making her sound lost.

Jae nodded. "Yes." There, it was said. The unspoken made tangible by the forming of the words.

"Is being a director that important to you? That you would give up everything we had?"

Past tense...had. Becky probably didn't even realize that she was no longer talking about what they used to share, but rather what they'd lost along the way. "It's already gone, Becky." That it saddened her didn't make it any less true.

"Is it someone else?...No, forget I said that...it's the damned job. Fine." Anger had become the dominant emotion in the redhead's voice and she had flung herself off the couch and was now towering over Jae. "A camera can't make love to you, can't hold you, but I wish you much joy of each other."

She didn't want to fight, didn't have the energy to even defend herself from the verbal attack, so she choose not to make a reply, remaining silent.

Becky stepped away, "Now I understand why your average relationship lasts about six months. I got a year, lucky me." She left the room and returned a couple of minutes later with a small suitcase and a cardboard box. "I'll have your things sent over tomorrow."

Jae didn't know but she felt she had to say something, "Becky...I...."


"You what? You're sorry?...I don't think you are. It doesn't matter to you that I loved you...that always came second...I always came second...Now you're free...Enjoy it." She spun on one heel and exited the room, her footfalls fading in the hall, followed by the slam of the front door and the flaring to life of an automobile engine.

"Bye." Jae spoke to a woman who was no longer there...I should have stayed at the studio...then let the tears she had refused to shed last night wash over her. When at last the well ran dry and the tears stopped, she stood and made her way back to the hall and retrieved her backpack. Unzipping the main pouch she fished out Holly's novel and her script, then put the script back.

Making a brief stop in the kitchen for a glass of wine, Jae decided to grab the whole bottle and added that and a glass to her load before heading for the bathroom and the spacious tub.

Steam filled the room as the tub reached the desired level and Jae slid appreciatively beneath the soothing hot water and luxurious bubbles. Oh...that's nice. She picked the book up in one hand and set a glass of wine on the recessed shelf with the other. Really, she knew, she should be in bed not reading and she regarded the tome speculatively for a moment before opening it. I need a happy ending right about now...and if it can't be mine...might as well be someone's.


Reed shut the book, sticking a slip of paper between the pages to mark her place, and got up to answer the rapping which had interrupted her reading. It was probably a studio security guard but she peeked through the curtain next to the door just to be safe.

It was a studio employee alright but not a security guard. Curious she opened the door, raising a questioning brow at the uniformed youth before her.

He swallowed nervously then handed up the brown paper bag she had only just noticed he was carrying. "I'm a 'posed to 'liver this," he mumbled, Midwestern drawl or laziness eating most of his words.

She handed him a crumpled one and took the bag in exchange, slightly confused by the delivery, and shut the door.

What in the hell? Opening the bag she removed a pile of napkins, a plastic knife, a coke and a Styrofoam container. After setting everything else down she picked up the glossy white container and opened it.

Hot dogs...The smell of moist bread mixed with the distinct aroma of raw onions and boiled wieners wafted through the trailer. A small square of paper was tucked between the container and the packets of condiments. Reed set the container back down and retrieved the note.

Good book? Thought you might be hungry.
Her stomach picked up the smell and rumbled in agreement with the director's note. She looked over at the small clock registering how late it was and how long ago lunch had been. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth - especially one that came bearing her favorite food - she began adding ketchup and mustard to the hot dogs, unaware of the smile lighting her face.

Reed took a large bite then sat back down. Chewing contentedly she picked up the coke and popped the tab. It was significantly later than she'd meant to stay, and she was surprised that the book had held her attention as long as it had. She was not normally one for marathon reading sessions. She picked up the second hot dog, pausing to wash the last bite of the first one down, and idly reflected on the information that Jae herself was either still around the studio or had just recently left.

10:15...Should I?...It would be the...polite thing to do. Reed snickered softly at the thought. Like I've ever worried about appearing polite. Truth was though, she found herself liking the young director in spite of her reservations.

Decision made she ate the last bite of the hot dog, briefly wishing there were one more hiding in the carton, and gathered up her stuff, tucking the novel into the pocket of her leather trench coat alongside her cell.

The hustle and bustle of the world's busiest movie studio assaulted her senses the second she stepped from the trailer. Reed closed the door firmly, then locked it before heading across the back lot.

The Saturn was gone. She was surprised by the fleeting disappointment that she felt looking at the empty space. Tomorrow then. Reed moved to her own vehicle unlocking the rental with the remote. She tossed her notes and the script onto the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel.

It had been, she reflected, a good first day. Hectic and challenging - definitely - but also very satisfying. Tomorrow they would roll tape on two scenes and she was looking forward to seeing the dailies. Maybe it was the fact that most of the cast were TV actors, or that Jae herself wasn't a Hollywood 'name', but Reed hadn't sensed any of that Prima Donna bullshit she remembered from her last picture.

'Tourque'. That didn't really count did it? She hadn't finished it, hadn't gone to see the version they'd finally released either.

Her exit was coming up and she slowed the car in preparation for changing lanes, then moved across and turned on Cahuenga.

Whatever the reason for the different feel she wasn't going to question it too closely. Now if only Rio were here. She missed her son, hadn't wanted to leave him behind in Maine, but hadn't had any alternative. He needed to be close to the hospital and in a stable place. A film set was no place for a healthy child, let alone one facing major surgery.

She fought off the urge to phone and check on him. Heidi would not appreciate a two-thirty wake up call. Her friend had been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal half-decade. Childhood confidant and college roommate Heidi Chappelle and her husband had opened their farm to Reed and her son, asking no questions, giving no censure.

The dark outline of the driveway beckoned her forward and she hit the switch on the garage door opener, activating the mechanism. Five minutes later she had changed from her studio clothes to her bathrobe. Calling home was out, so she decided a warm bath was just what she needed.

The antique style tub was the perfect length and she stretched her long frame fully, reveling in the soothing warmth and buoyancy of the water. Reed closed her eyes and let the day dissolve, the water cleaning more than her body.

As was her wont during filming and rehearsals she replayed scenes in her head, mentally rehearsing. She wasn't sure of exactly when the shooting script metamorphasized into the book it had been adapted from, and she didn't fight it, continuing to let the water lap against her skin, carrying the tension away.

Nor was she aware of the exact point her mind chose to again cast Jae as Kerry, drifting off to sleep as she watched the images she had read come to life in her imagination.



Chapter 8

Reed wasn't sure which woke her first, the cold water in the tub or the insistent chime of the clock radio. Wincing, she stood in the tub, goosebumps covering her skin as the cool morning air brushed over her wet skin.

Her foot touched a solid object on the bottom of the tub. The book. She'd forgotten she'd taken it to the tub with her, placing it on the edge in case she had wanted to read more of the story. A wry smile hovered over her lips as her perverse sense of humour kicked in. Good thing I didn't have it on disk, bubble bath is hell on hard drives.

She fished the soggy tome from the frigid water, stifling a shiver. Of all the stupid things.... Falling asleep in the bathtub was not only dumb, but not terribly good for the back either. Oddly though, for the first time in as long as she could remember she hadn't had a nightmare. In fact when she thought about her dreams all she could recall was a vague feeling of rightness. Maybe the trade-off with my back was worth it. The novel had expanded to roughly four times its normal thickness and the back cover came away in her hand.

Reed wondered if she should ask Jae for another copy or search one out in a bookstore. Not quite halfway through the story, she'd found herself thoroughly engrossed by the lives of two women who, the author professed, were simply ordinary people. Not a word she would have used to describe those kinds of people...now...now she wasn't so sure. On the other hand they were fictional characters, not real people, and she suspected real life was a far cry from the idyll presented in the book.

Love was beyond people like that. Her reflection gazed mockingly back at her...beyond you too.

Finished toweling her hair, she studied her face in the mirror, surprised at the absence of the ever-present dark circles under her baby blues. "Make-up will be glad of that I bet."

She pulled a pair of pants off a hanger in the closet and reflected that at least she didn't have to dress like her character did to go to work. Not tucking in the white priest neck shirt, she exited the bedroom and headed for the coffee pot, only to remember that she hadn't bought coffee.

"Fuck." The appliance mocked her and she stared evilly at it. "Careful bucko or I'll make... tea...in you." That was, as far as she could tell, the one advantage of a hotel over a house. In a hotel you could always get coffee.

"Starbucks it is then." Did they have a Starbucks in LA? Of course they did - every town had a Starbucks - it was a constitutional right.

It was still dark, dawn barely cresting the horizon as she sped along the nearly empty freeway, though by the time she'd found coffee and slid the Rover into her parking space the sun had come up and the day had begun.

It didn't surprise her in the least that the silver Saturn was already tucked in its slot. Jae had probably been here before dawn, so she made her way along the twisting path to the bungalow assigned to RenFaire and Blackmon.

Reed hesitated at the door, awkwardness overwhelming her desire to reciprocate last night's friendly gesture. Friendly gesture. That's what it was...wasn't it? By returning it was she accepting the offer? No. She was just being polite.

That decided she knocked softly on the door.

"C'min." Jae sat at her desk, pencil held between her teeth as she stared in bewilderment at the computer in front of her. "What can I do for you?" The director asked without turning around. Then she perked up a bit. "Hey is that coffee I smell? Cait you're a babe."

"It's Reed." She moved closer to the desk and waited until the blonde had turned around before handing over a cup. "You struck me as a café latte kind of person."

Green eyes studied her intently, not making her as nervous this morning as they had yesterday. "Mocha java, chocolate milk, regular coffee instead of espresso."

"The smell could have given away the mocha bit - but how'd you guess about the espresso?" The actress was impressed.

Jae laughed, "when we were going over the scene yesterday I remembered you flinching at the description of café con leche, and muttering something about it being worse than espresso."

Without talking they sipped their respective beverages, letting the caffeine do its job. It was Reed who finally broke the silent communion. "Thanks."

Jae held up her cup. "Likewise. What are friends for."

Friends. Reed found she liked the sound of that.


Every muscle in her body ached. They'd been rehearsing since six, filming since eleven and Reed's body was not happy with the strain she'd subjected it too, the long day and last night's make-shift bed having taken their toll. But damned if she was going to complain.

They'd laid tape on the first meeting of the two protagonists and the editorial crew were processing it, getting ready to check the dailies. She was pretty sure that Jae would call a wrap - the director had moved them efficiently through the scene, getting what she thought she needed in a minimum number of takes - everyone was just hanging around waiting for confirmation.

Jae was closeted with Sarah and two guys from wardrobe, and the technical crew was setting up for the next day's rehearsals, transforming the offices of Synergenics into an oceanfront condo.

Reed looked at her watch. It was just past four, which meant it was even later in Maine and she had a promise to keep. The actress moved from where she had been leaning against a recessed post and headed for the side exit to the sound stage. Five minutes later she was comfortably ensconced on sofa, booting up her laptop.

She dialed the familiar number and waited for someone to pick up. Three rings later a clear falsetto greeted her cheerfully. "Chappelle residence, Riordan speaking."

"Hey kiddo."

"Mummy." Polite interest gave way to an excited exclamation. "Jus' a sec...Aunt Heidi."

She held the cell away from her ear as her son yelled without covering the mouthpiece. Information was being exchanged and she could hear Heidi amiably agreeing to boot up his computer.

"K, back...you can play right?"

She smiled; to an eight year old life's priorities were simple, and she was going to do her best to make sure it stayed that way. "I don't know for how long...but I'll meet you in the third level okay?"

"Proto or Zerg?"

"You can be the aliens this time." Reed wondered how long it would take him to figure out that she nearly always managed to play the Borg-like Proto, leaving the Zerg for him, while neither of them seemed enamoured of the Terran characters.

"Cool. Bye."

"Wait a minute you. Two things: one I need to talk your aunt, and two...."

"Who loves you?" he broke in beating her to it.

"Rio does."

"And don't you forget it." His laughter released the ball of tension she'd been holding all afternoon.

"Right back at ya. Now get your aunt and I'll see you in a few - no mass slaughter without me okay?"

He agreed and handed off the phone. "Reed?" Heidi's voice was low and slightly muffled. "There was a reporter here."

She forced herself to remain calm. "From...?"

"A TV rag I think...wanted some background. Geoff told him you rented the cottage and kept to yourself...so watch out for 'Reclusive Hollywood Starlet Ends Exile' or 'Recluse's Return ends in Tragedy'."

"That's not funny Heidi." Her friend had a truly morbid sense of humour; body part pranks had been her specialty in med. school.

"No, I suppose not. I just didn't want you getting all upset about it. Rio's fine...reporter doesn't even know he's your son - thought he was mine. Seems your Ice Queen reputation doesn't leave room for small children."

This time she did laugh. "Tell that to Joan Crawford's kids."

A pleasant chuckle sounded through the line and she could almost picture the brunette rolling her eyes. "Rio's giving me the evil eye. I'd better ring off."

"Night." Reed hung up and immediately started the dial up connection to her cell from the laptop and loaded up the Starcraft-Broodwars program. She supposed it wasn't the healthiest game for a young child to be playing, but it wasn't like he was unsupervised. And she had to admit she got a certain amount of pleasure from gaining tactical superiority and annihilating enemies. They made a very satisfying sound and visual when they exploded, especially the Terrans.

And it was something they could do together, no matter how far apart they were.

Navigating through the mission map she rapidly found her son, recognizing the customized alien avatar. Let the game begin, she keyed in, then lost herself in the search for the key to the next level.



Chapter 9

"What you think Ben?"

"Good rough cut. You can still see the tension between them, with just a hint of something else under the surface."

Jae yawned and laid one arm over the film editor's shoulder. "That's all for today and thanks."

"Today was yesterday two and a half hours ago." Ben returned with a yawn of his own.

"In that case take the rest of the day off. I'll shut down."

"Night Jae. "

Silence fell in the editing bay and Jae stifled another yawn. Four hours of taping reduced to a hundred and twenty-six feet, a lot of work for three and a half minutes of film. Shooting had gone surprisingly well and the crew had pulled together quickly, doing both the first and second unit material. It had made for a very long and intense day, especially for the leads, but nobody was dead, the scene was laid and she was still conscious, so it had to be counted as a good day.

Hitting rewind she decided to review the footage one last time before calling it a night -question was - did she drive home or simply stay at the studio? Two hours was not a lot of time to drive home, sleep and get back to work. Jae flicked play and watched the scene unfold before her eyes.

Something was still...off. That was the only word she could think of. Jae rewound the tape and watched it again trying to pinpoint at exactly which point the feeling began. Three more times she rewound the tape before it struck her. The book. The internal dialogue she remembered so clearly from the book was missing from the scene and without it was the scene actually conveying the message she wanted it to?

You're being silly, Jae m'girl. Ben already said we nailed it. In spite of her self-admonishment she rewound the tape one last time. Closing her eyes, she leaned back in her chair and just listened to the scene. Reed's rich voice mixed with Sarah's alto tones as they verbally sparred. Mentally Jae tried to match emotions to the tones, already happy with the body language and blocking.

Satisfied that Sarah's animousity never crossed the line into hate and that Reed had managed the fine line between detached and intrigued, she shut the machine down. She caught sight of her reflection in one of the monitors. "You really need to lighten up Jae...it's just a rough cut." The director scolded herself, the clock on the wall giving lie to the truth in the sentiment.

RenFaire's offices were not far from the editing and sound studios and she wondered through the crisp morning air, enjoying the quiet hmm of innumerable insects and the occasional whirring of wings that revealed the nocturnal stalkers of insects swooping on their prey unseen.

A lot of Tropical Storm was internal dialogue and that could make conveying her message more difficult. Real people didn't usually go around narrating their feelings into empty air. Pets were good devices for that, and Jae could picture Kerry's character talking to her goldfish. Hell, she herself talked to the gargoyle on her desk. Unfortunately it was the other character whose internal dialogue revealed so much more of her emotions than her dialogue did.

Her footfalls reverberated through the empty hall, filling the silent space with the echoes. The office was equally quiet and Jae sank onto the couch pausing only long enough to kick off her shoes.

Still fretting at the problem of how to handle the internal dialogue she dropped into an exhausted slumber, the next day's rehearsals overlaying the worry and painting pictures in Jae's dreams.

"God Lord Jae, please don't tell me you slept here all night."

One green eye opened under protest. "Okay I won't. Did you bring coffee?" The other eye reluctantly joined its companion in greeting the morning and Jae looked up at her slightly out of focus and bemused assistant.

"No, but I can do a coffee run if you want." Caitlynn had moved across the room and was booting up the computer.

"S'alright I'll grab something from the food bar."

"I'll do it, now that you've mentioned it. I need one too. Back in a flash."

Jae stood, then bent over and slowly straightened, feeling each joint in her spine settle back into place, then looked at the gargoyle, "Remind me to get hide-a-bed for the office." She grabbed her toothbrush from the top drawer of her desk and headed for the washroom.

Much better. It was, she considered, amazing how much better the simple act of brushing one's teeth could make you feel. A last rinse and she shut off the light and left the small washroom behind. The delicate aroma of freshly brewed coffee assaulted her nostrils the second she neared her office door. Jae took a deep breath, savouring the smell, nerves already perking up in anticipation of a caffeine infusion.

She expected to find Caitlynn pecking away at the computer and a white Styrofoam cup of coffee waiting on her desk. But the office was still empty and instead of a plain cup of catering truck sludge, a brown and green Starbucks paper one waited instead.

Nestled right next to the cup was a biscotti, chocolate swirls marbling the cream coloured cookie. Reed. She didn't question how she knew it had been the actress. After removing the plastic lid, she dipped a finger in the frothy cream, then slicked it from her finger. " Umm." The full bodied scent filled her lungs and a smile touched her lips.

"Here you go..." Caitlynn broke off. "Where did that come from?" The brunette was holding two cups of steaming coffee and had a brown paper sack tucked under one arm.

Jae finished dipping the cookie into the coffee and took a bite before answering. "Found it on my desk when I came back in." She wasn't sure why, but she was reluctant to tell Cait who she thought the coffee had come from.

"Secret admirer hunh? All the more for me then." The bag opened to reveal two large croissants and a handful of butter pats.

"Oh I dunno about that..." she scooped a croissant and some butter.

"Figures." Caitlynn sat behind her own desk and started to skim through email. "Mike sent a message - he arrives at nine."

"Send someone to pick him up." She was starting to rethink how to shoot the film and Mike's input was important. Unlike Caitlynn, who excelled as an administrator, Mike understood how difficult it was to translate emotion and less tangible qualities to the screen. "Arrange a meeting for half eleven with the cast and crew, and tell Mike I'll see him at half ten."

"Aye-aye Captain." Caitlynn acknowledged with her standard 'the boss is in boss mode' quip.

They'd been co-workers a long time and friends even longer, and Jae stuck her tongue out, surprising a laugh from the other woman, before tackling the mound of documentation on her desk.

She'd gotten Chambers to give her the same degree of control that Roan had had over the picture and its production pending his approval of the revised shooting script. Reading through the fine print on the contract that had appeared on her desk yesterday her eyes widened in shock.

Chambers had left the salary the same, as well as the percentage profit clause. A hand scribbled note on a 2x1 sticky added the comment - 'you promised me a money maker - we make it - you make it.'

Unsure if it was caused by lack of sleep or caffeine she fought the giddy urge to giggle and instead looked to the clock. Six a.m., that would be nine in Florida.... Now what was Holly's work number again?


They had decided to break for an early lunch before having the meeting she'd originally scheduled for half eleven. The catering firm Caitlynn had hired was a vast improvement over the original one, and Jae found herself enjoying the vegetable samosas and chutney. Few cast members were present today, most of their scenes and roles not beginning until later in the filming schedule, but a couple of the bigger names were present and almost all of them appeared to be enjoying themselves.

Almost all.

Reed, as usual sat off to one side, and Jae half expected her to disappear back to her trailer at any moment. So far the actress had been the epitome of stoic professionalism - though somewhat aloof, and Jae was finding her pleasant to direct. What she lacked in enthusiasm for the role she made up for with sheer preparedness and talent.

It just wasn't going to be enough.

She didn't know how Roan had planned to handle it, but Reed's attitude was going to make shooting a lesbian romance very difficult. She hadn't come right out and admitted to being homophobic, but the implication had been strongly given. A political thriller with throw away sex scenes required little or no connection between the leads, nor did it call for sustained emotional affinity. But this film would hinge on the audience believing that the actresses playing Dar and Kerry were a couple on screen, and she wasn't sure Reed could pull that off in her current state.

The actress got up and went to the buffet table and helped herself to another of the hotdogs she'd had Cait add to the menu, dressed it and returned to her place. Jae watched the fluid movements and mulled over her dilemma. Maybe it isn't about 'curing' Reed's homophobia - maybe I just need to foster an environment where Sarah and Reed can be friends. The circle of empty space between Reed and her coworkers was easily twenty-feet. Maybe not. But I need to do something. Her internal narrator added its two cents worth, maybe she just needs to meet the right woman. Jae you are so bad. She chastised herself, more intrigued by that thought than she really wanted to admit - even to herself.

Putting that line of thought on hold, she stood and walked to the front of the group.

"Our second director arrived this morning and I'd like to introduce him." Jae crooked a finger in his direction. "This is Michael Hurtowski, and he will be handling second unit filming as well as some of the more comedic scenes." She stepped back to allow him center stage and unconsciously drifted towards Reed's observation point.

Mike was outlining some of his credits and introducing himself to the cast and she took the opportunity to lean over a bit and whisper so that only the actress could hear her. "Thanks for the coffee, I needed it this morning."

"You're welcome." Reed whispered back without turning.

"My treat tomorrow...mocha right?" She was determined to get Reed to speak to her in sentences longer than two or three words.

"Right." Then must have thought better of her distracted response, because she turned and met Jae's eyes. "with chocolate milk." She requested then added a barely perceptible smile.

She settled down next to the pillar Reed was leaning against the other side of and returned her attention to the other director.

"I flipped a coin with Jae and she lost so I get to announce this." He gave the group a boyish grin. "We're going to Disney."

Part 2

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