Title: Life as a Hot Potato
Chapter: 15th story of the BlindSided Verse
Feedback and Concrit: Lovin' it in comments or by email, (Sunnyd_lite7@hotmail.com)
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be. No harm, no foul, no money made.
Prompt: tamingthemuse prompt "Desolate"
Word Count: 2942
They'd barely returned to the main street when there was a howl, one that sounded like a cheesy horror effect done in someone’s basement rather than any live animal.
They turned to look at each other, "Newbie".
They hurried, although he was sure that Spike's smacking him with the long tranq gun bag was deliberate. They covered several blocks, and were getting close when Xander noticed that more people and the sidewalk was no longer smooth. He almost tripped over a cable, but Spike grabbed him just in time. Despite that help, he still managed to knock over an orange safety cone. He took a moment to actually look around, finally registering the towering lights, and cameras.
"Hey, hey, you can't be here- unless you're extras. Did we have extras? You really can't be here. We've got a permit." A large, but human type of large, form was barreling towards them. "Don't we have a permit?"
This last question was tossed over his shoulder at the dark haired woman carrying a clip board and wearing a head set. Of course, most of Xander's attention was still on the man with the fiery red hair and muscles like a linebacker.
"Uh, Ray? Not so much. You told me the goal was a guerilla gritty feel and so when the funding fell through..."
"We have funding! Who wouldn't fund me and this project? Morons, I'm surrounded by morons." With that the red-haired man stormed off to a chair whose back read Director.
The girl, okay woman, although she was dressed in what he'd begun to think of as the US Slayers' standard wardrobe of tank tops and cargo pants and sneakers, didn't bother to follow him. Although she did huff, "Delusions of funding," before turning her attention towards them.
"Look, I'm Shelia, the first AD. There are no extras tonight so you really shouldn't be on set. And what's that smell?" Scrunching her nose she turned away and waved to someone else wielding a clipboard. "Tony, get over here."
The man, who looked to be in his late twenties and was wearing a black t-shirt with yellow dripping writing that read Blood and Biscuits, came at her hail. As much as Xander wanted to check out the surroundings, he focused on the decision makers. It was a habit he'd picked up from wandering a continent where English was often limited to "Coke" and "Okay" and disturbing enough, "AK-47". He'd realized that actions did speak louder than words and the interplay between these two was that of someone off-loading a problem.
"Fine," Tony sighed before turning to them with a grin as plastic as Cordy's when she wanted something. "Hi, I'm Tony the 2nd AD. Great rough and tumble look. Love the eye patch but we're not casting tonight." When he stopped to breathe he also wrinkled his nose. "And what the hell are you carrying? It smells worse than the craft service and catering tents and I haven't eaten their lunches for a week."
"A week? I didn't know any movie food service was that bad." Spike was wearing his commiserating look. H'uh it looked like it was actually working.
"Just between you and me, the caterer is the producer's sister and if she went to a cooking school it was as a taster not chef." Then Xander overheard the A.D.'s earphone squawk loudly enough that Spike jumped. "Okay, I'm on it."
Tony spun around, waving at a girl also carrying a clipboard. Maybe all he needed to get on a movie set was a clipboard? "Frankie, deal with this! Our star is chewing the scenery again! Method actors!"
So this is what a hot potato felt like. He shoot a look at Spike, but the guy was wearing a "very bored here" look, he recognized from some of the Council's aristocratic supporters. And a look most slayers perfected when they didn't want to train. He realized that they'd been shuffled further and further away from the director's chair. Looking around he felt caged in by cube vans and a U-Haul trailer whose back doors were closed with a thick chain and padlock. That was odd. Wonder what they were storing that needed so much protection.
As fun as it was watching the whirlwind of activity, he needed some intel. These people could all be in danger. So he asked the girl who looked younger than he was, "What kind of film is this?"
"Title, or the working title anyway, is Blood and Biscuits, an homage to this small Canadian indie film."
"Blood & Doughnuts? People actually remember that cheesy flick?" Spike drawled in disgust, "So, vampires then?"
Xander had to roll his eyes at that. Despite protesting the 'utter shite' that movies make of vampires, Spike had apparently seen every monster movie ever made, anywhere.
The blonde looked chipper at that. "Wow, you really know your genre films!" Then she sighed. "No, this is a werewolf movie, set in the South but filming's slow and piecemeal because the lead will only wear the wolf costume three nights a month. Diva!"
Xander turned to look at Spike who returned his unease.
Frankie missed that look and was continuing. "And this is so going to be straight to DVD. When I'm directing MY film--" And then her head-set went off. He was getting that old high school feeling when everyone had an elsewhere to be.
"Roger that. No, they're still here. Fine."
Short clipped one-sided conversation. Yup, he was still so far from the cool kids he couldn't hit their table with a bazooka. And he'd actually SEEN a bazooka in action. Least this time Spike was being banished with him. He could think of a lot of worse situations. Even if they were carrying stinky meat.
"Oh look. It's Rodney. He can help you. I've got..." Frankie's voice tapered off. If she couldn't come up with a more convincing way to lie, she'd better re-think this whole Hollywood career.
"A thing?" he offered, almost with sympathy. Almost because either way, this was the fourth brush off in almost as many minutes. Just like high school.
"Ya, ya, a thing. Rodney, come here and help these nice people." And she scampered off behind a few cube vans muttering about Starbucks and volunteer positions. Leaving them with a middle-aged man who was wearing black pants and a t-shirt and a well broken in brown leather jacket. He was also carrying an armful of papers, which spilled when he tripped over one of the many cables criss-crossing the area.
Out of instinct, Xander dropped what he was carrying to assist with the pick up. Turning one of the glossy sheets over he saw a photo of a blonde that looked slightly familiar.
Rodney pushed his sunglasses back over his receding hairline. "These are head shots of the star. I'm going to her trailer, I supplied the trailers. I also own a U-Haul depot and they made me an Associate Producer. I knew I'd break into the movie business some day. She's going to sign them for me."
Ignoring the nervous babble, Xander noticed a name in the corner of the shot. "Hey it's my neighbor, Verona! But I thought she just moved into town."
"You know her?" Spike had also been assisting with the pick up. And was that disbelief in his voice?
"What, I can't talk to hotties? Okay not saying it's turned out to well in the past." And for some reason that earned him a strong nudge to the ribs from Spike. "What?"
Oh wait. A hot chick. A rogue werewolf. A hot chick who had talked to HIM. He looked at Spike; both of them adding one and one and getting eleven. And not in the good Spinal Tap kinda way either. All kinds of not good.
Maybe they were wrong?
"Um you said she was the star? So is she the victim?"
"No, no, no. That's the best part. She's playing the wolf!"
Ding ding ding, we have a winner. A quick glance at Spike and yup, one thought, two brains. "Where is Verona now?"
"Since they're not shooting, she should be in her trailer. Hopefully tonight she'll sign these. Last night her manager wouldn't let me near her."
"Which is her trailer? I just want to wish her luck, her being my neighbor and all."
Rodney beamed, huffing with self importance. "I shouldn't tell you. They told me it was secret, but I managed to get a special cube van that had been converted with sofas and fridge and we added a vanity and lighting. She LOVES it. It's this way."
Yup, this guy would never survive a Big Bad. He babbled well, but gave out way too much information. Unlike him and Willow, who had learned the stalling skill of babbling USELESS intel; much safer.
They had made their way past tents and cables. He wasn't quite sure how this would be classified as guerrilla. He'd been through a couple of war zones in Africa; he knew guerrilla. As they passed the strangely chained U-Haul, Spike started to sneeze, but Rodney kept walking towards the edge of the lot.
"This one! Oh hi, Patty."
"It's Patricia." The door to the trailer was blocked by a tall brunette who managed to look authoritarian in her black top and chinos. Had none of these people heard of colors?
"Yes, yes. Is Verona available? I have got some more—"
"Rodney." The name was spat out like a bullet. "I've told you Verona is in character. She won't be signing anything for a few days." Patricia's tone was tinged with exacerbation and censure. Xander got the feeling that they'd had this conversation before.
"Um, hi. I'm Xander and--"
Again she cut off conversation, "What on earth are you carrying? Do we need hazmat suits?"
He was going to compliment her on her observations, when he realized that rotten meat and stealth were not good partners.
"Look, what Harris is trying to say is that we'd appreciate the opportunity to see the lady again. We're neighbors."
Patricia paused, and looked them over with greater care. "She did mention meeting someone with an eye-patch; you've still got your hands full I see." Her tone had softened considerably, but not enough to hide the sharp edge of steel. "I'm her manager. On set is NOT a good time for unexpected visits. Maybe in a few days."
Yet another brush off. He'd have a complex if it didn't feel like old home week. The other people he could understand. It was a film set. But Patricia, this was different. He looked at Spike who was tilting his head towards the trailer. Spike then twisted to focus on the U-Haul. And he wasn't being discreet about it.
"Look, I've got to run some lines with her. Do you have a number? She can call."
THAT was a change. She looked so put together that he hadn't thought that she COULD babble. He'd have been wrong.
"In a few days?" he completed her sentence. "'Cuz I'm guessing she had a wild night last night." Patricia knew. He wasn't sure how he'd realized that, but it was true.
Her reaction to his comments cinched it. She'd paled and grabbed the handrail as if she needed its support.
"Last night was an exception." Her brown eyes held him fast, as if the force of her glare meant truthiness. "She needed to blow off some steam. But nothing happened." Her tone was the same as slayers covering or each other. He knew that tone well.
"And how do you know that, I'm wondering." Spike drawled bringing himself back into the conversation. "Not like you were there."
"She wasn't gone long and, well, no blood."
"She was hurt?" All three of them turned to stare at Rodney, how had they forgotten that he was there?
"Rodney? Would you be a dear and get Verona a tea from craft services? Black, one sweetener?" Her tone was syrupy like the nutra-sweet she'd ordered.
"Tea? Okay, black, one sweetener. Sure, I can do that. I'll be right. But doesn't she drink coffee?"
Patricia muttered something that caused Spike to smirk. "Tea is better for her voice," she said through tight lips pulled to resemble a smile.
"Oh, an acting thing," Rodney was nodding as if he understood, causing his sunglasses to slip off his head and bang on his nose. "Okay then."
They all breathed a sigh of relief when he headed back towards the bustle of the set.
Taking care to scan the area, Patricia continued. "Look, this isn't a good place to talk, but it's under control. We've been doing this for years."
"And you've stuck by her why? Not like it's the safest place to be." Spike's eyebrow was doing its arching thing again.
It was met by a glare, "She's my little sister. I protect her."
Dawn. Of course she'd protect her. That's what good family was for.
Patricia had continued, a bit weary, a bit wary, "She's locked up right now, but I you want to leave that meat...It would help her. Normally we're not near people during the change. It's harder than we thought."
It was state the obvious time, so Xander interrupted, "So the werewolf is being played by a..."
"YES," she hissed. "Verona always wanted to act, she's even taken courses. So when this came up...I can't take it away from her."
"And the risks?" Spike was back to menacing.
"She knows what's at stake, plus," and here Patricia straightened, using her height and the fact she was still on the trailer's stairs to glare down at them, "as buff as you two look, do you know how strong she is?"
"Which is why we've got a tranquilizer gun." Xander started to explain.
"Well, the gun and me." He turned to see Spike let the yellow bleed into his eyes. Patricia gasped while Spike pulled on the big bad mantel that always made him feel menacing. "This city's under my protection. If I hear of any..."
He didn't complete the threat, but the message had been received.
Patricia might have been shivering, but she straightened her spine and stood firm. "It's a deal. And nothing will happen, you have my word."
"Tea!" A voice called out, breaking the moment. "I wasn't sure what size, so--"
"I'm sure it's fine, Rodney." She looked at them both, then turned her attention to the Associate Producer.
"We'll just be going now." Hey, he was a fellow who liked closure.
"Ya, and we'll be dropping these by the U-Haul then."
Holding the huge Styrofoam cup, Patricia turned with a relieved and grateful look that was answer enough. "Thank you," she mouthed as Rodney stood near her asking about photo ops.
As they entered the apartment, Spike groaned, "Shower, there's not enough hot water to wash off the reek of that were-bait."
Blinking, Xander looked over at him. "What? Oh, shower. Fine, I'll just..." he waved his hand as he headed toward the living room.
He flopped down on the couch, letting all his muscles relax. He closed his eye and rubbed at the strap on his eye-patch. It always itched when he was tired.
"Hey, sleeping beauty, who had the six hour power nap?"
Spike's voice came from behind him. He guessed Spike was still in the foyer.
"And what's crawled up your ass? Was a decent night's work and you're acting all desolate."
He twisted his head to glance over the sofa's back. "Desolate?"
"Desolate: looking like someone just ate your puppy."
"Hey, I know what the word means and again with the ew." But he didn't have his normal energy behind the taunt and had turned back before finishing the sentence.
Why wouldn't he shut up? "Drop it."
"The hot water's waiting."
"Rather have you in there."
What had he told Willow? There were only seven minutes when guys would turn down sex? Guess he was in his seven but it still felt wrong.
"You still need to shower, you might have one eye but your nose should still be working just fine."
It was irritating, yet stupidly comforting that Spike would refer to his eye.
There was a new tone in Spike's voice, questioning, concerned. "Was that it? So many people staring?"
There'd been staring? He'd missed that, so it wasn't worth commenting on. Continuing to ignore the vampire, he reached for the remote, hoping that Spike would just leave him alone.
When he turned back towards the T.V. Spike was crouched in front of him. Stupid vamp speed. "Jeezes! Don't do that. Thought you were using your powers for good now."
"Not letting you do that. Hate the touchy feely stuff, but thinking that this is important."
"It's not." He tried to make his tone final, dismissive. Like Giles used to do. Course it worked as well for him as it did for Giles since Spike continued to glare at him. "Fine. Sorry. Go shower."
Spike sat back on his heels, still staring at him. "Apologies from you lot are rarer than hen's teeth. But like to know why." Spike's hands were now on either side of Xander's legs, pinning him without a touch.
And that's all he needed. A concerned and caring vamp. He couldn't, wouldn't deal with this now.
"If you don't want that shower," and here he twisted to climb over the back of the sofa, "I will."
He didn't look back. And this time he remembered to lock the door.