The Show Must Go On


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Scene Title The Show Must Go On
Synopsis "Show business is the best possible therapy for remorse," — Anita Loos
Date February 25, 2011

Studio K — Kitchen… in the Freezer

Some people know how to disappear in a crowd of people. Bradley Russo is one such person. So is Kristen Reynolds. But then, both are creatures of habit. And both know the other well enough to be able to assess the other’s habits. Brad had disappeared to find a first aid kit first and foremost— finding himself in the kitchen, and eventually, the freezer, to tend to his own wound. The light is the best in here, providing some measure of brightness with which to tend to the small shards that bite at the skin of his hand. The glass is picked at haphazardly, perhaps a little masochistically, with a long pair of sharp tweezers. The kit itself has its contents strewn across the counter as his breath fills the air in foggy curly puffs of warmth.

There’s no defences here as he takes a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and carefully removes the bottle. The childproof cap hinders his efforts, particularly with one already damaged hand. His lips thin as he holds the bottle with his good hand only to work at it with his teeth. He’s always been adept at using his teeth for such things.

His suit jacket had been abandoned somewhere along the way, yielded to one of the many ‘yes men’ around— who had fought to examine the wound. Brad had turned it down entirely. He’d shot the man a grin and said it wasn’t as bad as it looked. He lied. “I can be happy about one thing… there was liquor in the glass, that should kill the bacteria— “ although he didn’t clean the tweezers, a thought that crosses his mind moments later along with a scowl. He’ll have to use the hydrogen peroxide. If he ever gets the glass out.

Kristen was in the kitchen fighting with security when Brad and his entourage breezed past. Of course, the producer was adamant about the police not being called in on this particular escapade, she usually is in situations like this. It happened the same way when Brad manifested. After only a few minutes of solitude the freezer door is opened and she stalks in.

“You’re alright?” Her tone is rather distant, cool and professional, and when she stops a foot or two away from the host, she folds her arms over her chest. Usually it’s a hostile pose, not this time, she’s wearing a camisole in the freezer. Not the smartest move she’s ever made in her life.

“Fine,” Brad mutters back. The tone isn’t intended, but with the stress it comes out equally hardened and professional, but not Bradley Russo professional… it edges on Kristen Reynolds professional. There is no feigned warmth. It’s an odd thing coming from an expert snake charmer. And then he pauses, dropping the tweezers to issue Kristen one of his more winning smiles complete with that glimmer of softness reserved for only those near and dear.

His eyes narrow at her discerningly, while his lips curl into something tighter and guarded. “I’ve had worse,” he observes as he retrieves the tweezers again to go about his work. Even as he looks down he notes, “I’d offer you my coat but— “ he shrugs. Someone had taken the grey suit jacket before he’d gotten this far.

“Bullshit.” Kristen utters, her tone not warming any to give the host a bit of peace of mind. “You haven’t had worse in years Brad, so don’t try to pull the macho shit.” Moving closer, she reaches for the tweezers and gently tugs them out of his hand. Her mannerisms are a little more gentle than the tone of her voice, indicating a touch of sentiment for the host.

She shivers before wringing her arms out to the side to loosen her muscles. Then she begins the labor of carefully pulling glass from flesh. “So…” she begins in a rather smooth and casual manner. “Care to tell me what the deal was on the dance floor?” The fact that her fears were quelled by a woman screaming murderer leaves the producer just a touch on edge. And more than a little curious.

“You appreciate the macho shit~” Russo virtually sings as he surrenders the tweezers all too willingly. “And you know it. And when I was more damaged than this I didn’t have the good sense to actually fix it with anything other than crazy glue.” There’s something oddly final about the way he says it; strangely discontent, yet paradoxically resigned. “Besides, this hand has been through a lot lately. I swear it was almost broken about a month ago by a crazy man with a cane. But hey… better off breaking my hand than than my face, right?” His lips flatten into a pseudo smile as she goes about her work. The question yields a touch of a smile. A show smile. He has exactly seven smiles. Kristen has seen them all. This one? It tends to buy time. It scrutinizes. It considers. It interrogates.

“You already know,” he replies cryptically as his eyes turn towards the light overhead. He sighs quietly as he stills further. His fingers freeze entirely before flattening against the table. His chin lifts and his eyes follow suit. There’s a gentleness to his question in return, not quite answering hers, “Why do I scare you so much?” The question is left to hang.

Pausing in the arduous task of plucking glass, Kristen’s dark eyes flicker up to meet Russo’s blue ones. “It’s not you,” she says quietly. There’s an honest quality in the short answer but it’s also obviously unfinished. “Long term commitments, marriage— They don’t work. Someone always ends up hurt.” Or end up ~dead~ with a bullet in the ~head~, but that’s something she doesn’t relate to the man.

“You?” She stops suddenly and lowers her hand, dropping another bit of broken glass into the trash. Not resuming for the time being, she simply looks up at him with slightly narrowed eyes. It’s almost as though she’s silently daring him to tell her the truth. In the rare times it happens, the brutal honesty between them has made their friendship a little more than that. Still, with how she runs from the slightest bit of affection, it’s glaringly clear to both of them that she’s— possibly— a little more broken than he is.

“Because I break things,” there’s a casual lilt to Brad’s voice, but it’s serious nonetheless. Sincere. Genuine. His none damaged hand is made to rub against his chin while he watches her intently. “Because I’m convinced that the moment I value someone they’ll disappear. I’m walking disaster. Even my own family proved it.” His eyes trail downwards. “Because I haven’t grieved. Because I’m so emotionally stilted that I’ve been wrecked, hollowed out by the vortex all of them had left, for four years and I’m too busy being fine to deal with it.” He shrugs, a what are you going to do about it expression.

His eyes tick up to hers again. “But I love you.” He swallows the growing lump in his throat while his head turns away awkwardly. Vulnerability isn’t his strong suit. In fact, even when he’s vulnerable he doesn’t seem it. Not really. The casualness of his words of grief are just that. Casual.

“You know how I feel.”

Her response, though warmish in delivery, lacks the same sentimentality. Still, Kristen doesn’t plug the tweezers back into his skin to retrieve more shards. Almost reluctantly, she meets Brad’s eyes and then draws her eyebrows down into a worried frown. “But is it enough for people like us?” She doesn’t mean celebrities. She doesn’t mean A or B listers. She doesn’t even mean simply a man and a woman. People like them. Broken. Possibly beyond repair.

“I don’t know how to handle you,” she murmurs, finally starting again. The near silent click of little glass shards as they hit the bottom of the bucket might be louder than her voice. “And— there’s a lot you don’t know about me.” Not recent developments. Very old news. Things that partners, possibly lovers more familiar than they are, should know about each other.

Brad’s jaw tightens. His muscles stiffen. His stomach bubbles. The question is regarded. Weightily regarded. Brad’s eyes close genlty as his non-damaged hand presses over them, letting him see stars like his youth. The hand drops, nearly unexpectedly to the television host, even though he is the one guiding it, resting at his side as his eyes reopen to meet hers. “It depends if you let me.”

His free hand is lowered to the counter, a prop on which to lean rather than an actual attached appendage. “I would know if you told me,” he whispers quietly. “I’ve known you for nearly ten years. I might be a mess. I might be a train wreck. But I’m trustworthy.” Even if every stranger out there is calling him a sellout.

Almost as though she’s on autopilot, Kristen keeps working on his hand. Is there ever going to be an end to it? The freezer is— freezing— and she can’t help but shiver every once in a while as the goosebumps pucker her flesh, giving it the appearance of a plucked chicken. Not the most attractive he’s ever seen her. “I’ve never talked about it. To anyone.” Not even the grief counsellors that she was sent to at the state’s behest.

Slowly, she raises her eyes to meet his again, a visible pain filling them as she swallows the lump growing in her own throat. It’s probably the most raw he’s ever seen her. Including that first night they spent together. Now they come few and far between, thanks to the conversation with his fiancee. “Before you say anything, it’s not because I don’t trust you. You’re not the only person who doesn’t grieve or deal with tragedy.”

His weight shifts off the hand on the counter back to his feet so he can give her shoulder a squeeze if she’ll allow it. Words evade him. For some time all Brad can do is watch her with rapt attention. The lump in his throat amounts to a slow nod, to indicate careful understanding, even if he can’t begin to understand. His lips whiten underneath mounting pressure.

“Maybe it’s time you told someone,” he says quietly. Not that it needs to be him. “K…” his eyes lid some, “I care about you.” Four quiet words. Honest. Concerned. Present. “You are my best friend. You are my person; the only one I have left.” He takes another deep breath, this time it comes out in an exasperated pseudo-sigh. “I will always have your back.” It’s a simple fact that time has ingrained.

“Some things— “ Kristen pauses to clear her throat, trying to avoid any more cracking that necessitated the pause to begin with. “There are some issues that don’t carry a statute of limitations, Brad. This one, my issue, is one of them. You’re not my husband, you’re not my priest, you’re not my doctor, you’re not my lawyer. Those are the only four people that can’t be called to testify against me.” In a court of law doesn’t really need to be said. Whatever it is she’s been hiding from her host for all these years, it’s enough that she’s already decided to hide more.

“Besides,” she adds with a star quality smile meant only for him. The producer’s already buried it again, moved away emotionally, and put up the wall. “It’s my job to be the caretaker, I can’t afford to take the time.” It might be an excuse she’s heard him use a few times.

And this carries with it a grand silence. Brad’s face neutralizes; his thoughts become indiscernible underneath his guise. The glassed hand is slowly retracted, pulled back towards his person. There’s no sigh. No defense. No judgment. Just. Nothing. His lips are rough and cracked underneath his tongue that dabs over them.

His voice is as rough as those chapped lips when he finally asks, “And you don’t know how to handle me?” the tone is still gentle, non-chiding. Oddly respectful. It might seem late on the pick-up, but to Brad, the timing is everything.

“I can’t handle you, Brad, not right now… Not while…” She glances at his fingers and shakes her head, looking down at the floor. “I thought for a while that I could, that we could but we can’t. What happened on the dance floor pretty much proved that. You don’t think that there’s going to be talk and pictures?” Kristen doesn’t mention the absentee fiancee, it’s almost like she’s not an issue, when she’s really the most glaring one of all.

With a shake of her head, another smile is offered up to the celebrity and Kristen places the tweezers in his other hand. “I love you,” it’s not as emotional and sentimental as his, “but I love you enough to make sure that I don’t stand in your way.” It’s almost as though she’s stepping back or letting go.

Kristen’s admission is all Brad needs. He nods tightly, his teeth becoming tighter against his lip. “Then it’s time,” there’s a sadness in the star-powered smile he shoots her. “I’ll finish out my contract for the year and you can find a new host.” His lips whiten again while his head shakes slightly. “If you can’t handle me… “ He frowns lightly, “The show worked because we could jive together. This… it.. “ Both hands retreat into his pockets. “I do what I do because I love it. Because I’m good at it. Because it’s important…” there’s a small sigh that lingers on his lips, “But I can do it from another vantage point.”

“I don’t care about talk and pictures. My life has become talk and pictures, Let people talk. Let them take pictures,” particularly within recent weeks. “I already know there’s going to be a lot more talk when— “ he’d made a decision when he’d talked to Nick. “— when I break things off with Nicole.” His blue-grey eyes flicker away entirely. “I should go— “ it’s after curfew, but he’s not terribly concerned about getting caught at this moment. The hand that’s still bleeding is left unbandaged.

“In the end the show must go on.”

Even without the host.

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