Sorry, I know it took me like ages but this second season… well, you know what I mean :(
I don't own SMASH
10. MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. WILLS
Somewhere in South Africa – December 2013
"And it's a cut," someone shouted in the background, sounding indecisive.
"Come on people, move it! This is not "The Deer Hunter", this is a series, get back in the game will you!" Derek Wills' voice bounced back on the derelict walls of concrete. "In case you forgot, we're on a budget here!"
The director and his operating crew had been at the shooting site for the last few days. Even at the wee hours of the morning, the heat was barely liveable. The subtropical climate was taking its toll on everyone, especially the mercurial B-List director.
"Well, I see that you can still keep things moving when you want to," he shouted, dropping on his chair like a bag of potatoes. He ran his hand through his badly enough tousled hair. "You took your sweet time," he bellowed, his British accent thicker than usual. He tore off a few pages from the script and studied the storyboard resisting a childish impulse. Bite his finger nails.
Even though a very large majority of the production crew working on the set would have loved to throttle him half the time, there was one thing everybody agreed on: it was never boring to work with the man. He kept himself aloof at all times but despite a ferocious –even bitchy, they said, sense of humour and epic tantrums, he got the job done.
The production was way ahead of schedule. It was never Derek's plan to spend extra days in the upland savanna of KwaZulu-Natal, if he could do otherwise. How anyone could possibly endure both his direction and the impossible heat was not his concern.
The production had planned a three week filming schedule on location. But Derek wanted it done in ten days, that was by the end of the week. He was stranded in the middle of nowhere fighting bugs and his technical crew alike. It was not what he had in mind when he signed his contract. The-power-that-be, some British producers sipping right now their 50 year old single malt at Boodle's or White's, wanted a TV movie that looked real, without too many fancy CGI, testosterone packed and cost-effective. He could give them exactly that in less time. And the best TV movie they would ever seen to boot. Everybody wins.
Derek wiped his forehead, his eyes scanning the set. The exterior lot of the studios in Johannesburg would provide a perfect mock-up for all additional scenes. As for the rest, it could be done anywhere in the world. Eastern Europe, maybe?
"Very good, people, I see you finally get the hang of it." He sprang on his feet. "Now, move, next scene! Where are the half-tracks? I need a camera here, and here, and here. Come on, sometime before Christmas would be nice!"
"Derek," a soft voice purred in his back, "they need a break."
"Nathalie, I was lacking your intoxicating presence today, where the hell is everybody, for god's sake?"
"Lunch time," she purred again, unfazed.
"Lunch break? We barely got started! For crying out loud, it's not even 10!"
"Until," she checked her watch, "ten thirty-ish… Union contract," she shrugged.
"Really? They had to clamp down the non-union employment even here? I thought that was the whole point of relocating productions to the end of the world! Well, never mind. Any news from the REAL world?"
"The mail got lost again, I'm afraid, but they said…"
"Oh if THEY said," he smirked, "everything's going to be fine, I reckon. Like my satellite connexion?"
"It's only for a few days… Don't fret! Last year, our generator died, and our back up generator died, and our main character managed to break his leg on his only day off…"
"I don't fret, I'm on the verge of having an epileptic fit, I've never sweated that much in my entire life."
Nathalie shrugged again. The director was not a big shot, and she was used to dealing with European having issues with the climate in this part of the globe. The Brit, in his late thirties, she was guessing, was sporting the generic stubble currently in vogue, and was clearly in need of a haircut. Despite the heat, he was wearing his signature leather jacket, though it seemed a bit out of place, an impression possibly created by his British sense of style.
"What am I supposed to do while everybody idles under their tents with the local caterer?"
The constant smug, she was accustomed to and she could deal with as well. But she was unsure of the real intentions of the philandering director. His reputation preceded him. She squeezed her eyes against the burning sun, feigning indifference.
"You could join them and mingle."
He didn't even bother to answer. "Or we could review the latest shots," he said in a dispassionate tone.
"Okay," she nodded. "Do you want me to call for Tommy?"
"Come on love, we won't need him if we're on the same page."
Bingo, she thought. She couldn't tell whether she was pleased he had finally noticed her or enraged it had taken him a week.
London – December 2018
"Good." Derek stood and shuffled some papers around. "Thank you all, that was a great rehearsal. You'll find my notes in your mail box since I'm told I won't see you for another week." He looked up and gazed at the crowd gathered on the stage with affected annoyance. "So, everyone has a Merry Christmas or whatever you shall celebrate… or not and I'll see you back in January."
Someone clapped in the background. Karen trotted down the stage and he greeted her with a courteous bow. "So you're off to the airport, I reckon? You sure you don't need a lift? I'd be quite happy to accompany you."
"In your shiny bachelor sports car?"
"Vintage bachelor roadster," he grinned. "And yes. Or we can rent an estate car…"
"A family wagon?"
"Oh, I couldn't Derek. I'm already soo late."
"Well I look forward to seeing your family again Karen, you father is a good man."
"Yes he is…" she nodded unsure of the direction this odd conversation was going and yet unable to leave. Things had seemed to settle down after their evening at the restaurant. They had agreed to let the past stay in the past. That was a good plan. She couldn't help to feel a twinge of regret but it was for the best. For her own sake, she couldn't take that path again. She stared blankly, knowing that she'll probably miss him more than he will once the play was over. But Derek seemed unaware of her trouble.
"And I still have to meet Jesse jr!" Derek beamed at her. He stacked his notes neatly in a very posh brown leather portfolio and grabbed his jacket. "What is he into these days? Video games would be my guess. I will have to find something typically British for the little fellow…" he said.
She couldn't help but avoid his stare. Yes, he will meet Theo at last, but with one major caveat: he couldn't learn whose son he was… She wasn't feeling thrilled by the prospect. She was tired of lying to everybody.
"Is everything all right?" Derek insisted with a frown of concern. He tied a long scarf around his neck.
"Oh yes, I'm just in a rush, I should have left fifteen minutes ago already," she shrugged.
"Your cab is right up front, you'll get to Heathrow in time." He crossed his arms in front of his chest, his eyes lingering on her face when she didn't move.
What she should do was to grow some backbone and come clean. It was perfect timing. Derek wouldn't combust if she revealed the truth now, he simply would not have time enough to elaborate on her confession. But it was a coward way to do it. She didn't want that, she pondered. On the other hand, as far as she knew, Derek was still a player and revealing the truth would put her in a weird place. She wasn't sure she wanted to go down that road just yet. It was surreal enough to be working with him in London. For once, she'd like not to feel anything. But despite her better judgement, she couldn't help but being drawn to him. She shrugged inside. It had nothing to do with reason, of course.
She'd have to see him again and again for the sake of Theo, with a different woman at his arm each time. The prospect terrified her. She was being unfair. Derek wouldn't impose a stranger on his own son only to make a stand. She pursed her lips. How could she be jealous in anticipation?
"Darling, what's the matter? Aren't you happy to see your folks?"
"What are you gonna do?" she blurted out without thinking.
"I mean," she checked her watch and bite her lip, "it's Christmas and all. Are you going to spend Christmas alone?"
"Look at you, all worried I will be all on my lonesome!" he smirked. "Don't hold your breath, I'm not planning a monacal retreat. I'll probably crash a party and get pissed."
She gave him a confused look. "Oh… Okay, see you." She blushed and walked past him. "Derek?" she said, turning around to face him, her face serious. "If you ever change your mind, we'll be happy to have you… you know?"
He nodded and kissed her on the cheek. "Off you go now, sweetheart, or you'll miss them!" With that, he headed outside before she could pull herself together.