A/N: I'm doing two shows right now and life is crazily chaotic but that still doesn't really give me an excuse for not updating for two months. So I'll just have to say I'm sorry and here's the next chapter. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 34

If Ivy's workshop had been a failure, Rebecca's was an absolute train wreck.

It wasn't as though anyone had been expecting a miracle. Theatrical inexperience could not be overcome in a matter of weeks, especially not with the foundational level of talent Rebecca possessed. No, they had all been anticipating a strictly subpar performance.

But this was different.

Objectively, Ivy knew her bias against her successor clouded her judgement at times. If she was being perfectly honest, Rebecca wasn't a terrible actress. Once she had found the appropriate balance of volume and theatricality, she did a half decent Monroe impression. Not as meticulously accurate as Ivy's but certainly passable considering the low bar she'd set for herself on the first day. If nothing else, Ivy respected the amount of work she was putting into the show. She'd done her research, something Ivy knew celebrities weren't always wont to do. But more importantly, Rebecca exuded the charisma that Ivy apparently lacked. Years of fame had given her a powerful tool. While Ivy had to act like a star, Rebecca was one.

It was everyone's hope that her singing and dancing would improve in the coming weeks. After all, technical ability could be taught and Rebecca had gotten better. It was just a matter of speeding the process along. Sure, it was a gamble but you didn't get into theatre if you weren't a risk taker. Rebecca would turn out a good performance that would bring in great profit. That was the heartbreaking truth.

There was only one thing that they had failed to account for.

Stage fright.

Sipping her water, Ivy watched as Rebecca began singing. She looked positively pained, as if she'd like nothing better than to evacuate the stage at the earliest opportunity. There was none of the character work that Derek had drilled into her. There was only Rebecca, for once charmless in her utter terror, sleeping walking her way through the show as everyone looked on, either horrified or doing their very best to suppress their laughter. Rebecca, however, seemed interested in only one pair of eyes. Those of Charles Wills, a man who seemed to relish his power, his gaze settled firmly on the movie star, steely and unwavering.

Ivy glared at him, pursing her lips in displeasure. As much as she resented Rebecca, she would not wish the mocking scrutiny of her Charles on anyone, least of all someone making her first live performance. After a few moments he seemed to feel himself being watched and his eyes flickered towards her. Ivy gave him a pointed look. But instead of correcting his behaviour, he shot a wink at her, a gesture that did not go unnoticed by the already witless Rebecca.

History Is Made At Night had always been one of her weaker numbers, the harmonies were strenuous, and Derek's new staging had certainly not made it any easier on her. Instead of having Marilyn seduce DiMaggio at home, he'd elected to put them under the stars. It was a good idea, highlighting the innocence and youth of the characters, but it also meant that the two leads spent the first minute or so slow dancing in front of their car, a significantly more difficult routine than the simplistic spinning furniture shtick that Derek seemed to favour.

This unpreparedness, combined with the stress of an incredibly insensitive audience was too much for Rebecca and she immediately froze, stumbling over words before going completely silent. The effect was instantaneous. The ensemble was rushing on, striking their pre-planned poses with panic in their eyes. Tom was staring at Julia who was staring at Eileen who was staring at Derek, who was staring straight ahead, looking utterly defeated, an expression Ivy had never seen on him before and found she did not like at all. Charles, on the other hand, seemed to find the whole situation more entertaining than anything, leaning back on his hands and smiling like a cat who got the cream.

After what seemed like an eon, Tony managed to gather his bearings well enough to take over Rebecca's part, although the lyrics made little sense coming from DiMaggio. Eventually Rebecca joined back in, putting on an almost maniacal grin as her eyes flitted back and forth, trying in vain to regain her composure. Realistically, it had only been a few seconds, but the incident left the cast shaken, energy sapped and illusion shattered. While there were no more major mistakes, the remainder of the show was unabashedly bad, in an entirely intangible but undeniable way.

When they finally finished the show, the company banded together, Rebecca excluded, at the back of the room, commiserating over the awful performance. Observations were being tossed back and forth, about Charles, about Derek, but mostly about Rebecca, who had fled the room as soon as she had taken her sorely, and knowingly, undeserved bow.

Ivy wasn't listening, concentrating instead on the production team, who were having a rather heated conversation of their own. What about was a mystery to Ivy. They all knew Charles would invest no matter what.

A few minutes later Linda announced that they were done for the day, a pleasant surprise. They were all tired and all too happy to avoid the wrath of Derek, at least for a few more hours. People began packing up quickly, agreeing to meet up for a bar crawl, where they could, and would, discuss the events of the day unsupervised.

When asked to attend, Ivy made up some vague excuse, saying that she might come later on. At present, she needed to make sure Derek wasn't going to have a nervous breakdown. Ivy was waiting for him by the elevator, when she heard her name being called.

"Miss Lynn." Ivy rolled her eyes, her foot tapping impatiently all the more eager to depart the building.

"What do you want Charles?" she replied. There was no reason for her to be cordial now that the cast was no longer present.

"The movie star. She's absolutely horrific." he said, almost giddy at this revelation. An odd reaction. Ivy knew his focus was on Derek but she'd have thought he would have preferred not to throw away his money on a dud of a production. Though she didn't pretend to know how one handled a financial surplus. It was not something she had much experience in.

"Yes. And?" she answered cooly. There was no point in denying the truth and Ivy wanted this conversation to be over with as soon as possible. She was in no mood to be a pawn in one of Charles' little mind games.

"I'm the main investor now." Charles added enigmatically, tapping his finger against a piece of paper that, upon closer inspection, appeared to be a contract. Ivy gave a curt nod but said nothing.

"I have a say in the cast." he finished, leaving her to fill in the blanks. It wasn't difficult to understand. He would put in a good word for her, maybe even demand her return to the lead, if she got him time with his son. For a moment, Ivy felt a wave of jealously rush through her. What she wouldn't give to elicit this type of reaction, this unmitigated desire to be a part of his child's life, from her own parents.

Of course, there were several flaws in his plan. First and foremost, she knew from Derek's rantings exactly how much it would cost to fire Rebecca. The number was high, too high for even Charles to put up. Rebecca would have to quit. It wasn't an impossibility, especially considering the star's fragile ego but that was a lot of what ifs to hinge her relationship on. Forcing his father on him would destroy them. And, though she hated to admit it, as screwed up and occasionally cruel as he was, Ivy liked Derek. A lot.

"No." she said, looking Charles straight in the eye.

"You'd spend your life wasting away in the chorus for my son?" Charles seemed wholly unaffected by her response, a far cry from the anger she'd been anticipating. In fact, he looked almost impressed.

When he put it that way, it scared the crap out of Ivy. She was being offered a ticket, tentative as it was, to a lead role in a major broadway production. A show that she had worked her ass off for. A show from which she had been unjustly fired. And yet, she was willing to give up that opportunity out of concern for Derek's wellbeing? Perhaps a part of her hesitation stemmed from her longstanding determination to make it on her own but she also knew a year ago she would have jumped at the chance. Now she wasn't so sure.

Ivy bit her lip, uncertain of how to answer. To answer in the affirmative would be a declaration, one she didn't think she was ready to make. Career had always come first for her. When her college sweetheart couldn't handle her work schedule, she'd broken up with him. When she had to choose between going to an audition or participating an myriad of weddings, christenings or parties, she'd always pick the former. When Derek had first kissed her, she'd let him, partly because his was attractive, but also in no small part because he was her director. She was a workaholic through and through, it was one of the many things she had in common with Derek. In all honesty, they had been borne out of convenience more than anything. Two people of a relatively similar age who worked in the same field, both reasonably good-looking and available. So when had it gotten so serious?

She realized, with a start, that she had essentially been living with him for the past month. That he knew her mother, disliked her mother, and she his father. And all of sudden, she was feeling more on edge than she had since she'd stopped taking prednisone. Charles continued to look at her expectantly, waiting for an answer.

Fortunately she was saved by the sound of the studio doors opening, and then promptly tossed overboard again when a rather annoyed Derek appeared.

"Speak of the devil." Charles intoned calmly, fixing his cufflinks to avoid making eye contact. It occurred to Ivy that she had never seen them alone face to face. Derek gave Ivy a questioning look, he obviously didn't appreciate her discussing him with his father.

"Don't worry Derek. Ivy was merely reasserting her dislike for me." Charles added, smiling at her. Instinctively, she recoiled, her back hitting Derek's chest. She moved to pull away but then his hand come down on her shoulder and she found herself relaxing a bit, despite the fact that he had played a large role in her initial panic.

"Well then she has admirable taste in company." Derek retorted harshly, reaching forward and jabbing his finger at the down button.

"Indeed, she does." Charles replied, looking back and forth between Ivy and Derek.

"Reminds me of your mother." he added, almost wistfully. It wasn't entirely clear whether he had intended to speak aloud but in the end it hardly mattered, Derek had heard and that's what counted. Ivy felt him tense, his fingers curling into a fist. And before she could stop it, there was a loud cracking sound and the next thing she knew she was pulling Derek away from his father, whose nose was bleeding slightly.

By then the elevator had arrived and Derek was ushering her in, leaving Charles still doubled over on the floor holding his hand to his face.

Neither of them spoke at first, both unwilling to deal with the complications the day had brought. And then suddenly he turned toward her.

"Tom's got a new song that'll probably end up being thrown your way." he said, as casually as if he had commented on the weather.

"What?" she asked breathlessly.

"We want to do a song with Marilyn in therapy looking back on her past and we need a young Marilyn." he clarified. A solo. He was giving her a solo. For a moment, all her reservations about him and their relationship disappeared. She threw her arms around his neck and pecked him on the lips, grinning widely. She didn't care that he had used her to intimidate Rebecca or made her to go between for him and his father, or that, even now, he was blatantly attempting to distract her from his general idiocy. At least that's what she told herself. Because as long as she cared more about the song than whatever it was they were, she was safe.

She tried to ignore the fact that, despite his father, Rebecca and their semi-disastrous show, watching her in her childish excitement, his mouth had curved into its own little smile as he leaned down to kiss her again.

A million thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed. Please continue to do so even though I am an absolutely awful writer for taking this long to update. If anyone has any questions or comments feel free to PM me as well and I'll do my best to answer.