Many thanks to the Unholy Trinity™ for their swift beta.
At the time, it had seemed like the only possible answer. In retrospect, less so. Sitting now in the dark of his office he replayed the scene over and over in his head, frustrated at his inability to edit out the mistakes.
The turn of her countenance, the look in her eye… He’d have shot her with a softer lens, if he could. Fudged the irritation into affection, smoothed the confusion into amusement. But life didn’t work like that, there was only ever one take and he was afraid he’d blown it.
Will you please stop?
No. It just wasn’t going to happen. Might as well ask the Earth to stop spinning, because he was trapped in her orbit as surely as the planets circled the sun. And, even now, he couldn’t see the point of pretending. It would only be a lie and he wouldn’t lie to her – he couldn’t lie to himself.
He couldn’t stop because the first thing he thought about each morning was when he’d see her next. Would she call? Should he call? Would they run into each other if he ate lunch in her building? Did they have a meeting? Would she come to the studio? She used to, before. She used to come and find him when she needed a friend. Who did she go to now?
In the shower, or in the car, he’d imagine a conversation. Something on the news, perhaps, something he knew she’d find funny. He could see the whole thing playing out in his head; how she’d laugh, how he’d make her laugh. How, together, it would be funnier. Better.
At work, he could feel her absence everywhere; every time he turned a corner and she wasn’t there, every knock on the door that wasn’t hers.
There was no stopping this; there was only recovery.
We admitted we were powerless over love and all other mind altering substances – that our lives had become unmanageable.
He had no power here. He’d told her as much, even if she hadn’t wanted to hear it. He was powerless over his heart, and denial would only make it worse. That, he knew from brutal experience, was the truth. He craved her like a fix. And he couldn’t stop, he couldn’t—
“Hey, how many TV producers does it take to change a light bulb?” The joke came from the doorway, in Matt’s deadpan delivery.
“I don’t know, how many?”
“No idea. I was just wondering, because you’re sitting here in the dark and I thought you might need some help with —” The lights flicked on, making Danny squint. “Oh, there you go. We call it a ‘switch’ in the business.”
“Don’t you have something to do?”
“Yes,” Matt conceded, slumping down into a chair opposite Danny.
“Are you going to…do it?”
“Yes. Yes, I am. Right now in fact.” He didn’t move.
Danny sighed. “What?”
“What are you doing here?”
Matt shrugged. “Seeing if you’re okay.”
After a moment Matt said, brightly, “So, I saw Jordan earlier.” When Danny didn’t answer, he added, “She got my fax.”
This was embarrassing to me, Danny. This was unprofessional. You made me look silly at the worst possible time…
If such things had been feasible, he’d have edited that exchange right out of the whole movie. Not his finest hour. He slumped back in his chair and stared out the window for a moment, the orange street lights bleeding up into the smoggy night. “You could have told me it was a bad idea.”
“I think my exact words were ‘I like it for its maturity’.”
“You could have made me listen.”
“By tying you to a chair and beating you with a stick?”
Danny sighed again and scrubbed his hands over his face. “Some kind of intervention would have been useful.”
He hadn’t used the word lightly, and Matt caught it right away. After a slight pause he said, “Talk to me.”
Part of him didn’t want to, part of him knew he had to. With a sigh he turned his head to look at his friend. “Do you know what it’s like to be powerless?”
Matt gave a dry laugh. “Is that a trick question?”
“I mean—” Danny tapped his head. “When you can’t stop.”
“I can’t stop talking sometimes. Usually it’s when Harriet’s in the room and what I want to say is, ‘Harri, you look great. I think you’re marvellous’, but what comes out is, ‘Harri, I hate your religion and everything it stands for,’ and then she says, ‘Matt, you’re the kind of pond scum even pond scum avoids’, and I say, ‘I know I am, but what are you?’, and she says—”
“I got it.”
“Okay.” After a moment he added, “What did Jordan say?”
“Nothing. I mean… Well, she didn’t like the recommendations.”
“I thought mine was pretty good.”
His lips pressed tight, an exercise in control. “In general. I meant in general. It embarrassed her.”
“I should have— I didn’t think of that.”
“I thought it was funny.”
“So did I. So did Harriet.”
He sat up straight, distinctly uncomfortable with the notion. “You…told Harriet?”
“Well, I figured you’d told half of LA, so…”
He considered it for a moment. “That is embarrassing.”
“Harriet thought it was cute.” Matt leaned back in his chair, Orson Wells style, to impart the next pearl of wisdom, “But Jordan’s not Harriet.”
Danny rubbed at the frown creasing his forehead. “Meaning?”
“Well she’s…you know… one of them.”
“No she’s not.”
Matt held up a defensive hand. “I’m not saying she’s Jack Rudolph in a dress.” He made a face. “Sorry, that was a pretty disturbing image right there. My point is—”
“She fought for Nations, she turned down—”
“She didn’t get it, Danny. She wears a suit. She worries about profit margins and budgets; she didn’t get the grand gesture.”
“She didn’t get it.”
The frown was starting to build into a headache. “It was juvenile. I didn’t even think about how it would look to the board, to the people she works with…” He squeezed his eyes shut, and all he could see was her face. “It was unprofessional.”
In the darkness he could hear Matt huff out a sigh. “Is that what she said?”
He nodded, slumping over the desk to rest his head on his arms. “She said I’d embarrassed her, that I’d acted unprofessionally, and she was right. I— I just…”
His words trailed off into silence, and after a moment Matt picked them up. “You just think about her with every breath you take. You want to see her so much it hurts, but when you do it hurts even more, because her eyes are cold and angry and it’s her warmth that you crave like…like…”
“Like a drug.” He lifted his head and shared a wan smile with Matt. “I can’t…not feel this. I can’t put it back in the box.”
“I know. Believe me, I know.” There was a pause, then, “So what are you going to do?”
Danny’s head landed back on his arms. “I don’t know. I can’t stop. ‘My life has become unmanageable’.”
There was a stir of movement and he felt his desk shift slightly under Matt’s weight as he perched on the edge. “Have you called your sponsor?”
“About this?” He laughed at the idea, but didn’t move because Matt’s hand came to rest on his shoulder and Danny needed the contact, the grounding of this friendship. “Maybe I should join Jordan McDeere Anonymous?”
“That’s not such a bad idea.”
But Danny shook his head, sitting up at last, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “No one ever quit coke, or anything else, who didn’t want to.”
“And you don’t want to.”
“Did you tell her that? No, wait. Of course you did. You told her that.”
“It’s not like it wouldn’t be obvious.”
Matt sighed, legs swinging and thumping into the front of the desk. “Do you have a knife?”
“A knife. Do you have one? Because you might as well go ahead and cut out your heart right here, Cyrano.”
“She’s not out of my league, if that’s what you—”
“‘At such a height, ‘twere death if a hard word from you fell on my heart’.”
“So you’re saying I should just give up?”
“Cyrano was killed by a lump of firewood smacking him on the head.” Matt stood up and headed for the door. “Think about it, is all I’m saying.” And with a flick of the switch, he left Danny in the darkness in which he’d found him.
Swivelling his chair so he could gaze once more into the amber night of LA, Danny let his mind drift back to Jordan; its customary haunt for the past month. She’d looked tired this evening, as if she’d had a bad day; she’d looked in need of a friend, but was blind to the friend standing right in front of her. If he could just make her see him…
At such a height, ‘twere death if a hard word from you fell on my heart.
He stilled. Firewood aside, hadn’t Cyrano had died in Roxanne’s arms? She’d understood, in the end, that she’d loved him all along. It had just taken a little persistence.
And Danny Tripp was a very persistent guy.
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