So, will anybody around here be watching the Big Shots premiere tonight? :grump: (as in :green with envy:) LOL
For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it's the new show starring Michael Vartan and... a bunch of other people :P on ABC, in the timeslot after Grey's Anatomy.
I've been reading about the characters and plot of this show for a couple of months now, and two of them attracted my attention: James Walker, interpreted by Vartan - no! really? - and his secretary, Katie Graham, intepreted by actress Nia Long. She's brilliant, he's ... well, we know him :blush:, IMO, the potential of these two is just huge!!! So, I had fun writing a short "pre-show" fanfic - and the freedom you enjoy is just... awesome LOL
FROM HERE ON, SPOILERISH... JUST FOR ANOTHER FEW HOURS :P
So, to follow this short piece, all you need to know is that James Walker's successful career at Amerimart seems to come to a halt when his boss confesses him his intention to "let him go". But before he can make it public, the boss dies suddenly of a heart attack (I think) and shortly afterwards James finds out that his wife, Stacey, was having an affair with him. Next, he has an interview with Amerimart's board of directors to take over his boss' job .
This short piece is set after these events...
Title: To the Rescue
Brief description: A kind of "prequel" to the relationship between James Walker and his secretary Katie Graham, because I know where I want to "land" these two before the show starts...
Disclaimers: the characters in this fiction are not mine, they belong to the new show created by John Feldman.
Off we go....
It took her just a few of seconds to spot him, at one of the tables along the left wall. He was not alone.
As she walked towards him, she exchanged a quick look with a guy sitting at the bar counter and then focused her attention on her boss. He was giggling with one of the girls, a silly expression on his face that she had never seen before. He very obviously needed to stop drinking and go home.
“Don’t worry, little boy. Mommy is here to take you home”, she said to herself.
She stopped in front of the table, and only then did he seem to notice her. The surprise which surfaced in his eyes rivalled with his grin in size and intensity.
“Hey, Kat! What are you doing here?”
He only called her Kat when he was under pressure or in a hurry, when his rational controls were down. Just like now.
“I came to take you home.”
“Wh… How… Why? I’m having fun here! We’re having fun here, don’t we, girls?”
Katie interrupted two murmurs from the “girls” with her quick, somewhat brisk answer.
“I know. Time to say bye-bye to the fun, though.”
The grin which had gradually narrowed disappeared and an expression of protest curved his eyebrows.
“Wait, no… Who do you think…” He interrupted himself and a spark of his usual quick-mindedness crossed his eyes. “How the hell did you know I was here? Are you following me?”
“It’s my work to know where you are, remember?”
“Yeah, during working hours.”
His ‘r’ were a little bit rounder than usual, and there was a slight hint of a drawl in his voice, for the rest his voice seemed unaffected by the quantity of alcohol he was clearly trying to drown his brain and mute his heart with. No, Katie, no time to sympathise with why he was doing this, she told to herself. Just take him home, before someone could see him in that state. So she added a pinch of sarcasm in her half stern, half joking reply.
“Ah! And since when does Mr James Walker have such thing as work hours?”
“Good. Remind me to add a new clause on my job contract tomorrow.” She moved her hand quickly, signalling to the girl on her right to stand up from her seat, so that she would be able to reach him. “For now, give me your arm and one, two, three… up.”
“No no no no. I was making friends here, with…”
“Annabel”, the blonde girl on the left said, apparently only slightly annoyed by her presence.
But Katie broke in again.
“Annabel, this is James, James, Annabel, and I’m Katie. Now that we’re all friends, we can say bye.”
“You know what your problem is, Katie? You’re too serious. You never relax. You don’t know how to have fun.”
She sat down on the leather sofa in the place one of the two girls had vacated, which allowed her to speak in a softer voice.
“Yeah? Well, know what? You will explain me everything about how to relax and have fun while I drive you home, okay?”
A puzzled expression appeared on his face, but his answer came quickly. James Walker never lingered when he could make a quick decision, this was one of his traits Katie admired the most. No beating about the bush, never. Black, or white. And she was always astonished at how smartly he could evaluate the pros and cons in such a short time.
“Okay. Your place?” he simply asked.
“Your place”, she replied. No beating about the bush. She had had a good teacher.
She stood up and, to her relief, he imitated her. She saw he could still stand without her help. Good! It would attract the attention of the late customers less than if she had had to support and drag him. His step was just a little bit uncertain, but she probably noticed it more because she was used to his nimble, quick pace.
They were half way through the big, dimly lit room when he stopped and looked at her, puzzled again.
“Wait… Where do I live now that I’ve left the house to my loyal and faithful wife?”
“The company’s flat on 5th?”
His expression brightened up.
“Ah, yes.” But it soon became clouded again. “For now”, he added.
“Yes, for now.” Of course, she knew it was a temporary thing.
But he meant something different.
“When they decide they don’t want me for that job, I’ll have to find another place… Can I move in with you?” he asked, candidly.
This time, she was really taken aback. She was used to his quick thinking, but not to this illogical quick thinking.
“And see your face for the remaining 12 hours of the day? No, thank you. We’ll find another way. Besides, I think you’ll get that job.”
“Yeah. You’re the smarter guy they can get.”
What he did then was unexpected, but no more shocking for her than the weird exchange they were having. He threw his arms around her and hugged her with the enthusiasm of a grateful kid.
From her weird position, crushed against him, she saw the young black man she had noticed before at the bar walk towards them.
“Katie, need help?” he asked her with a deep, doubtful voice.
James let his arms fall and turned toward the stranger and she straightened up, unconsciously smoothing her skirt down, as if she feared the embrace had wrinkled it upwards.
“No, thanks. Just check that my cab is still waiting outside, will you?”
The young man nodded and preceded them towards the exit.
“Who was that guy?” James asked. This time, his voice sounded a bit squeaky.
She saw her boss take in and process the information.
“Spy!” he shouted then, in his direction.
The traffic was light at that hour of the night. The cab driver had asked her the address and closed the partitioning window.
James Walker, the stern, professional boss with whom she had worked for several years now, was lying down, his head on her lap. He had settled himself in that position as soon as they had got in the taxi, while she was giving instructions to the driver. She had thought of helping him sit up again, but then considered he would probably remember nothing of all that tomorrow and just let him be. But the situation felt so awkward that she tried to sit as straight back as possible, and she realized she was almost holding her breath to make her belly move as little as possible. It was her boss, after all. The closer physical contact they had had until that night was a handshake, or an accidental, short brushing of arms, or shoulders.
And he was certainly not helping, because he was staring at her.
“You look different from here…” he said, his lips curved in a half smile.
There was absolutely no trace of mischief in his voice, or eyes. He was just saying aloud what went through his mind, innocently and directly, without the restraints imposed by social rules and their respective positions.
She couldn’t refrain from smiling big, and put her hand to her forehead, resting her elbow on the car door.
“What?” he asked, amused.
The smile had reached her dark eyes and made them sparkle.
“I would have never thought you could become so drunk!”
He did not seem offended, in the least.
“That’s the incredible thing, you see?” he replied instead, vehemently, starting to gesticulate in the air. “You don’t think you can do something, and then, suddenly, you do it!”
Then he stopped as abruptly as he had started, a perplexed look on his face, as if he were trying to remember what he was about to say.
One minute later, he was snoring.
The kitchen of the apartment on 5th was very small, super-functional, impersonal. She opened the fridge in search of a bottle of water and found it empty.
So far, everything was just as she expected it to be.
She filled the glass from the tap and went back to the living room, waiting for James to appear from the opposite door, which he had crossed a couple of minutes before to go and look for aspirin in the bathroom.
A heavy thud followed by a cry of pain startled her, almost making her spill the water on the carpet. She laid the glass on the table and headed for the other room. The loud laments continued, mixed with some surprisingly creative curses, so she hastily crossed the bedroom and approached what looked like the bathroom door, from which James’s voice was obviously coming.
The door was ajar. Still, she knocked.
“James! What’s wrong? Can I come in?”
She saw one of his hands searching the edge of the water basin, the wailing less loud but still clearly audible.
“Yeah… Holy shit!”
“What happened?” she asked, sliding through the narrow passage instead of pushing the door open.
He was behind it, the other hand on his head, a knee still on the floor, his face contorted in a grimace of pain.
“Shit! That fucking cupboard! As sharp as a knife!”
He took his hand away from the top of his head and they both saw it was smeared with blood.
“I’m bleeding…”, he repeated in an incredulous voice, staring at his fingers.
“It’s not much blood, can’t be bad… Let me see…”
There was blood on his scalp, but she couldn’t see much through his hair. She lifted her eyes, searching the shelves of the open cupboard, and saw what she needed. Dry ice. She grabbed the pack, took out the bag and broke it with a resolute movement. She put it in the wrap she found in the pack and applied it to his head.
He was still staring at his hand and looked pale.
“Don’t panic, it’s nothing. Probably just a scratch.”
Still, he let himself fall down again, sitting on the cold tile floor, his forearm on his raised knee.
“Feeling better?” she asked, her hand still holding the ice pack on his head.
“How did you do it?”
“I bent to pick up the fucking aspirin, which had slipped from my hand as I took it from the cupboard. As I was standing up again, I crashed my head against the open cupboard. Hurt like hell.”
“I know. I did the same against a window sill once. Feels like your head opens up in two. Let me see. No, it barely scratched the skin. No need to run to the hospital.”
“Believe me, I couldn’t run anywhere right now.”
“Come and sit on the bed, and I’ll look for some hydrogen peroxide.”
As she was helping him stand up, he moaned again.
“A blade through my head…”
“It’s the movement. It will get better once you lie on the bed and take your aspirin…”
His step was not steady though and she had to help him keep a straight line to the bed. She wondered whether it was the alcohol or whether the bump on his head was worse than she thought.
“Keep the ice on it another minute or two…” she said, helping him sit down on the unmade bed, before she disappeared beyond the bathroom door.
She came back with a small first-aid box, disinfected the wound and then propped two pillows against the bedpost. With slow movements, James took off his jacket, let his shoes slip off by sliding one against the other, and finally rested himself back on the pillows.
“Thanks”, he said, with the faintest of smiles.
Katie’s smile was big, and bright. He had always thought her smile could brighten up a room.
“You, what? she finally asked, since he was not continuing.
Even though she had already gotten the small bottle of aspirin from the bathroom, she decided that she would wait a little bit before giving him the pills, just to double check that the head injury wasn't giving him any further problems.
“So, that was your cousin?” he questioned after a few seconds.
“At the bar? Yeah. He’s a good guy.”
“I… I had already fallen asleep, here, earlier tonight. Might have had a drink or two in front of the TV, not sure, and then… I had this nightmare, and everything was so… vivid.”
She sat down on the bed, near his feet.
She had thought the trauma on the head might have counteracted the effect of the alcohol, but she realized now that James’s eyes were still… not quite his eyes. They were shinier, and there was a sadness in them he had never let surface in front of her since the moment he found out about his wife, less than a week before. Actually she realized, in all the time that she had known him, that had been the first and last time she had ever seen that particular look before this evening.
“Yes. It was Stacey with… You know…”
They had been used to saying that name dozens of times a day at the office. But for some reason, mentioning it in association with James’s private life, with his wife, was weird, and painful, even for her.
“And it looked so real…”, he continued, his words stumbling out of his mouth at first, then starting to flow in a more consistent manner. “So sickeningly, disgustingly real, that I woke up and just had to go out. This room seemed to suffocate me. That’s how I ended up in that bar.”
“James, you don’t have to explain, really.”
Her voice was kind, her dark eyes gentle.
“I know… Sorry for throwing this all on you.”
“No, I mean, it’s ok. I’m happy to listen if you want to talk about it.”
Except, I hope you won’t regret this conversation tomorrow morning, she added to herself.
“No”, he replied, his tone acquiring more strength. “I don’t want to talk about it. But… Jesus! We have two kids, Katie! What the hell was she thinking, while she was fucking him? It’s not as if she was in love with him, she was obviously not… she was just… fucking him!”
No, this was not sober James. James Walker was not so open and talkative when he was sober. She was happy, happy that he was trusting her with his thoughts and feelings, a happiness which gave her a weird warmth inside. But at the same time she was scared, scared that he would regret that familiarity tomorrow. And crushed in-between happiness and fear, there was this annoying bug, this small voice telling her that he was only doing it because she happened to be there, she instead of one of his usual friends. A matter of coincidence, not of choice.
His bitter voice interrupted her thoughts.
“The worst thing is that… I waivered a couple of times over these years, you know. You have kids, the routine, less time for each other, things change a bit and you grow more… distant, in a way. But, idiot that I am, I felt like a bad husband just because my thoughts were not totally directed at her, and I never even acted upon them… never. I felt guilty because I was convinced I was a terrible husband for feeling like that. And now… Now I find out that she was sleeping around… And don’t start saying she was only doing it with my boss because she was looking for a weird way to be in touch with me again…”
“Good. I think I need that aspirin now.”
“I’ll fetch the water.”
His raised voice reached her in the living room.
“Why the hell do you think she did it?”
She hesitated, then sighed.
“Because certain women don’t realize how lucky they are…”
She knew he couldn’t possibly have heard her as she was only inches away from the bedroom and her voice had been little more than a whisper.
“Did you say something? I didn’t hear…” he asked her.
“I don’t know why she did it. But I think you have every right to ask her, if you think you need to know it.”
He swallowed the pill, took a few sips of water and closed his eyelids. She went to the bathroom to put everything back in place, and when she came back he was already asleep.
She lowered the lights and took off her high-heeled shoes. No matter how embarrassing the morning would be, she would not leave him alone that night.
The kitchen cupboard contained coffee at least.
Katie had just switched on the espresso machine when his voice startled her.
He didn’t seem surprised to find her there and he looked in much better shape than the night before. Good!
“Morning”, she replied. “Feeling OK?”
“Slight headache, and there’s a bump on my head. But I’m OK.”
“You prepping coffee?”
“That’s great. I’ll go shave and put on some clean clothes in the meantime.”
She mumbled something and focused her attention on the coffee machine again when his voice interrupted her again.
“Was I rude or inappropriate in any way?”
It took her a couple of seconds to take in the question. "Why be surprised? This is the usual James Walker, back from his quick visit in drunkenland", she said to herself.
“No, you weren’t”, she answered with a sweet smile. “Slightly more talkative maybe, but totally appropriate.”
“Yes, we talked about Stacey. I remember that part.”
His smile warmed her heart. He remembered, and he didn’t regret the intimacy of their conversation as she had feared. She felt inexplicably and childishly happy.
He disappeared in the living room, and when he came back less than ten minutes after, he was talking on his cell phone.
“Ok, I’ll be there.”
He flipped the phone shut and looked at her, his expression undecipherable.
“You want to know who it was?”
“Sandler’s secretary. They want to talk to me. In an hour.”
She handed him a cup of coffee.
“Hhmmm, I don’t know…” he murmured, starting to sip the dark liquid.
“Well, you’ll find out soon enough. I’ll go home and get changed, we’ll meet at the office later.”
“Do you have to? I mean, I don’t know how comfortably you slept and all, but you can use the bathroom here of course and… I mean… You could come directly with me, if it’s ok for you.”
She had slept in her clothes, had not dared take them off, and now she felt uncomfortable in them. But if he asked… maybe he needed her there.
“I’ll go home and change during the lunch break… provided you let me have one.”
Sometimes, just like now, his smile reminded her of a kid. Open, amused, but with just a slight hint of mischief in it. It was a rare smile he had, and one of her favourites.
“Just give me a minute”, she said.
When she came back from the bathroom, he was sitting in the living room, on the sofa where she had slept, their latest P&L report open on the small table in front of him.
When she arrived, he stood up and started to put on his jacket.
“And let’s make something clear: if I get the job, I want you. I don’t know who will take my job in that case, but I won’t leave you to him, or her. OK?”
He had spoken with a serious tone, but there were sparkles of amusement in his eyes.
“You’re taking it for granted that I would still want to work under you”, she replied, trying to replicate his matter-of-fact tone.
“Yes, I am. But even if you wouldn’t, I won’t give you any choice.”
The smile she had struggled to hide broke out on her lips.
“You ready?” he asked, smiling in turn.
She nodded, and they set out to leave.
He locked the door, this time without the hesitation with which he had opened it the night before. As she listened to the clicking sound of the key in the lock of the apartment they were leaving together, she realized with incredible clarity that one page was being turned in that amazing narration that is life. For her, that precise moment marked an end, and a new beginning.
She knew something had changed between them, and it would never change back. And most of all, she knew something had changed in her, and she was well aware she should worry about this. But right then, in that morning which, she was sure, would bring excellent news to both of them, she decided to ignore every rational consideration and cherish the excitement which was making her feel alive as she hadn’t felt in years.
James Walker was back on track, and she was at his side.
So... are you going to keep track of them? ;)