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Demo Reel Experiment Theater - a RBB fic

Title: Demo Reel Experiment Theater
Rating: Mature
Word Count: 5,655
Characters: Tacoma, Rebecca, Donnie DuPre, Karl, Quinn, Tamara, background characters, two surprise cameos
Pairings: Tacoma/Donnie, Tacoma/Donnie/Rebecca, implied Donnie/others
Warnings: Social drinking, references to using sex as a coping mechanism, Donnie’s terrible relationship with his wife,
Summary: What if Demo Reel was an experimental theater instead of a film company? Tacoma, fresh from disgrace on Broadway after getting his father arrested, flies to Chicago on the chance of a job and ends up among a very strange group of people.
Prompt: Basically Demo Reel but about experimental theatre (but also add Tamara as part of the cast too.) Pairings not required at all, but can be included (queerplatonic, polyamory, however they end up happiest in the story.)



Prologue

Tacoma Narrows stared down at the latest rejection letter. At least this one had bothered to send him a letter, months of being stalled by assistants on the phone of every theater in town had become the norm. Some of his envelopes were being sent back with “REJECTED” stamped in large red letters on them, the contents unopened.

His father had warned him, the night the police had arrived, turned and shaken his fist at his son as the officers had dragged him away. “You’ll never work in this town again! Everyone on Broadway owes their careers to me!” he’d screamed. At the time, Tacoma had thought it was just a dramatic threat, the sort of thing people were expected to say when being arrested.

It hadn’t been, though. His father was currently serving 15-30 years for a laundry list of corruption and embezzlement charges. As a result, every door on Broadway, and off-Broadway, was shut to Tacoma. He hadn’t even been able to pick up a teaching job, despite his college degrees. Even his former college classmates, without more than a few summer jobs on their resumes, managed to take up substitute teaching positions around the city.

Tacoma was impressed, in spite of himself. His father’s influence truly was far- reaching and all encompassing. But with student loans weighing him down and a family that had already told him not to come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas for the foreseeable future, Tacoma was running out of options.

He knew people in Los Angeles. Former classmates who’d gone into film, getting crappy jobs at studios and working their way up. They were eager for roommates to split the cost of living in West Hollywood.

But after living in New York his whole life, and suddenly finding his dreams and his family shutting him out, Tacoma didn’t want to go somewhere where people knew him. His college friends knew what had happened, had read the news reports. They’d look at him with pity, take him on as a charity case to make themselves feel better about their own troubled lives, make it their mission to get him some assistant-to-an-assistant job and celebrate their success in “saving my friend Tacoma.”

So, where could he go?

His father had always sneered about Chicago. Tacoma had been considering Columbia College Chicago and Second City, and his father had ranted “‘Broadway’s training ground’ … lazy nobodies who can’t make the move to New York!” and so Tacoma had stayed in NYC. He’d wondered, during the criminal investigations and hearings and police interviews, whether his life might have been different if he’d gone to Chicago five years ago, instead of NYU and drifting into the journalism department for his second minor, on top of his playwriting minor and his Musical Theater Writing major. Maybe he never would have investigated his father, reported him to the police, been disowned.

Some googling revealed several theaters with job openings, and after sending in his resume, he had responses within a week inviting him for interviews.

That was all Tacoma needed. He packed his bags and bought a one-way ticket to Chicago. He could use AirBnB until he had a job and tracked down more permanent housing.

As the plane took off from LaGuardia, Tacoma turned his face away from the window. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be coming back for a very long time.


Act 1

Tacoma peered around the warehouse district in confusion. The taxi had refused to take him further than the edge of the lots, and now Tacoma was walking through rows of identical warehouses and squinting down at his phone’s GPS. He knew theaters weren’t always right in the center of town, but here? Really?

He spotted a large man with a goatee standing in front of a doorway and headed for him.

“Hey, sorry, I’m a bit lost –” Tacoma began.

The man eyed him up and down. “Yeah, you look like it.” He had an Italian accent.

Tacoma smiled nervously. “I’m looking for the Theater Sans Argent? My phone keeps saying it’s somewhere nearby but …”

“Oh, the theater!” the man’s demeanor changed from glaring distrust to a big smile. “Stone’s other gig! They’re right next door. You have a nice day.”

“Thanks,” Tacoma smiled again and rounded the corner of the warehouse. There was a door, a painted sign with flickering neon that read “Theater Sans Argent.”

After all the effort to get here, Tacoma had come too far to just turn around at a crappy sign. Maybe it was being repaired later. And he had to adjust his expectations now that he wasn’t in NYC anymore.  

Tacoma opened the door and stepped inside. The lobby was carpeted, simple, with a lone desk in the corner. “Box Office” scribbled on a piece of printer paper was taped to the edge of the desk. A tall man wearing a Navy hat and a big jacket sat behind the desk, a German book in his hands.

“Um, hello?” Tacoma approached the desk, smiling. This could be some assistant, or it could be the head of the theater. He had to put his best foot forward.

The man looked Tacoma up and down. “Unt who are you?”

“Tacoma Narrows? I’m here for the job interview.”

“Ah, excellent!” the man set down his book and stood up. “Herr Director is expecting you. I am Karl, the stage manager.”

“Oh, hi!” Tacoma stuck out his hand. “Great to meet you.”

Karl shook his hand, his grip bone-crushing. “Ja, you have passed the first test. Well done.”

“First test?” Tacoma asked.

“Ja, come, you meet the others.” Karl waved a hand and vanished behind the ragged curtain draped over the doorway marked “theater entrance.”

Tacoma hastily followed.

The theater seemed to be a combination of a black box set-up, with a crude stage constructed in the center. Inside a large warehouse chamber, a slightly raised platform stood in front of several rows of mismatched chairs. Tacoma wondered what the acoustics were like in here and mentally shuddered in horror.

A woman was writhing onstage in what looked like a ballgown and a tuxedo jacket.

“Oh, Jack!” she shrieked, flailing her arms wildly. “Oh, Rose!” she yelped, voice slightly lowered.

“One Woman Production of Titanic,” Karl explained, at Tacoma’s raised eyebrows. “The summer’s show. She still does it for warm-ups.”

“It’s very, um … intense.” Tacoma offered.

“Ja. We decided to forgo ze vat of ice water for ze finale.”

“Expense?” Tacoma asked faintly, watching the woman writhe onstage suggestively.

“No, audience members tried to drink it. Ze summer vas a hot vun.” Karl coughed. “Come, Herr Director awaits.”

~*~

Meeting Donnie DuPre was … interesting.

It wasn’t like any job interview Tacoma had ever had, and he’d had a fair few over the years. He’d had five since arriving in Chicago, one when he was fresh off the plane and had to leave his luggage at the assistant’s desk. It had been a point of conversation though and a chance to charm the head of HR, so he’d made that work.

Donnie didn’t seem especially interested in his resume, he literally tossed it aside. Tacoma watched the paper flutter down onto a pile of sheet music and crumpled receipts, and felt his heart sink right along with it.

Then Donnie started talking to Tacoma about his “vision” and his plans for the Theater. He wanted to make life-changing theater, theater that would make the world sit up and pay attention. He also wanted to make popular, profitable productions.

“Musicals are where it’s at now! Every movie has a musical now!” Donnie declared. “And you majored in Musical Theater!”

“Musical Theater <i>Writing</i>.” Tacoma pointed out.

“That’s perfect!” Donnie’s manic grin faltered slightly. “Now, in terms of payment, we can’t offer you much but –”

Tacoma wanted to walk out. The place was a wreck, from what he’d seen of the staff they didn’t exactly inspire confidence, more like calls to the police about suspicious characters loitering around the CVS parking lot.

“… but you’re exactly who we need right now. Please, join us!” Donnie beamed at Tacoma with all the earnest energy of a college kid recruiting for their stand-up club.

Tacoma thought about the kind but hesitant interviews at the other theaters. The promises of erratic hours, office gopher work, and a lengthy process of “paying his dues” to work his way up to where he was back on Broadway before the mess with his father.

When was the last time he’d been genuinely wanted, based on his talents alone, not who his father was?

“You know what … sure. Yes. When can I start?” Tacoma reached over to shake Donnie’s hand.

Donnie, obviously elated, shook his hand wildly. “Right away!”

~*~

Donnie dragged Tacoma around the theater, introducing him to everyone. “Everyone” consisted of two women, including the one he’d seen on the stage, and two men, including Karl.

“Is this your whole set-up?” Tacoma asked, concerned about what he’d agreed to.

“Oh, we recruit for our bigger productions. Plenty of college kids who want to buff up their resumes. But this is our core cast, the team!” Donnie was still grinning. He seemed to have boundless energy. Tacoma hadn’t seen any cocaine in the office, and besides wasn’t that more of a filmmaker thing?

“I’m Quinn,” the man in the flat cap said. “Backstage, sets, props, you need it, I can get it,” he grinned.

“I’m Rebecca,” the actress, still clad in the ballgown and tuxedo jacket said.

“And that’s Tamara up there with the lights.” Donnie pointed.

A short woman with short dark hair was perched on a ladder, adjusting one of the lights.

“Stagehand?” Tacoma guessed.

“Oh no, she’s an actress. But she’s the only one who seems to understand how the lights work. So she doubles up.”

“Everyone doubles up here,” Rebecca said. “What can you do besides write?”

“Oh, uh,” Tacoma scrambled to remember his practiced interview responses. “I’ve done some acting, some choreography work for dancing and stage combat, and I can sew from basic patterns.”

“Perfect!” Rebecca smirked at Donnie. “You really know how to pick ’em, Donnie.”

Donnie, for some reason, blushed at that comment.

Before Tacoma could ask what they meant, it was time to shut the theater for the evening according to Karl, who was glancing at the far wall in concern.

As they walked out of the theater and Donnie locked up behind them, Tacoma heard muffled screams from the warehouse he’d asked directions at.

“What’s that?” he asked, instantly regretting it.

“Construction company. They rent the space next to ours.” Rebecca said blithely.

“Oh.” Tacoma wondered how soon he could ask for a raise.

~*~

Two weeks after starting his job with the Theater Sans Argent ($200/week, plus 15% of the profits of whatever the box office collected, and all the meal vouchers for Fabrizio’s cousin’s pizza place he could stand to consume) Tacoma finally got a callback from one of the other theaters he’d applied to. It was a position as an overnight guard and general office assistant. Someone to update the company website, file forms not covered by the day assistants, input data into the budget, patrol hourly, and lock up at 6am.

He took it, because a foot in the door was a foot in the door and he wanted to get a better apartment as soon as possible. Sleeping on the couch of a college friend’s sister’s girlfriend’s boyfriend (they’d tried to explain their polyamorous set-up and Tacoma had nodded politely until they’d stopped trying to explain) was all well and good but he needed his own space. Two weeks with the overnight job let him sign a lease on the smallest apartment he’d ever lived in, but it was his own space, the shower was always hot, and it was perfectly positioned to an L station.

Things at the Theater Sans Argent were … not as good as he could have hoped for. Oh, everyone was very <i>nice</i> that wasn’t the problem. Even Karl and Quinn, and their morbid jokes, had softened a bit once Tacoma had demonstrated his loyalty and commitment to the productions.

Donnie had some … interesting ideas. Frankly, they were horrible. Once, after a particularly “experimental” evening, Tacoma had asked Rebecca where the hell the money was coming from. Rebecca had tersely explained that it came from Donnie’s wife, who supplied him with a stipend to keep him out of her way and likely used it as tax write-offs in the name of charity by “supporting the arts.” Tacoma had looked at Donnie, and his emotional phone conversations in his office, differently after that.

Still, Tacoma was floundering artistically. Every idea he had was shot down by Donnie, replaced with something cheesy and clichéd, and poorly staged. Yet Donnie insisted that he valued Tacoma as a writer and couldn’t do without him.

“Do we even have the rights to this?” Tacoma asked one evening.

“That’s not important,” Donnie said.

“It’s Batman. We definitely don’t have the rights to Batman.”

“Fair use!” Donnie waved a hand.

“That doesn’t apply to stage productions where people pay money.”

“What about Holy Musical Batman?” Rebecca asked.

“That …” Tacoma paused. “That’s a good point, actually. How did that work?”

“Doesn’t matter, we’re doing this!” Donnie slammed his hand on the script.

The read-through was a long, painful affair. Tacoma found barely a few scraps of his original draft. He found himself thinking of the musical he had on his laptop, that he worked on when the shifts at the theater downtown reach 3am and he’d run out of office work to do. Never, not in a million years, did Tacoma want Donnie to get his hands on that script.

Tacoma couldn’t stop himself, at the end of the read-through, from suggesting one change. “What if he just looks up, out at the audience, and smiles? And we don’t see what he sees, we have to guess?”

Silence descended on the tiny theater.

Donnie’s face lit up. “I love it! It’s brilliant! Let’s do that!”

Tacoma’s heart sand. Finally, praise, recognition, <i>respect</i>. Maybe things were turning around at last!

~*~

Opening night. There was a sizable crowd for the theater, according to Karl. Double-digits are something to celebrate, apparently. Tacoma spotted a few couples, a formidable looking old lady with two canes, and some college-aged hipsters, and a homeless man (who he’d seen pay in various kinds of coins neatly counted out to Karl before the show.)

The show went pretty well, considering there’d been time for only two dress rehearsals and none of them had gone well. The cast consisted of Tamara, Rebecca, Quinn in a variety of hats in the background, several college kids, and people from an ever-revolving list of actors the team could call upon for a favor for the weekend. Tacoma watched and cringed only a few times at flubbed lines and clumsy attempts at blocking gone wrong. The jokes rang true, the fight choreography held up, and there was real emotional resonance in some of the scenes. The audience was engaged, or at least, no one was snoring.

And then they reached that scene, the final scene. The lead actor walked out onstage, grief-stricken, collapsed at the edge of the stage in despair … and then he looked up, out through the audience, and smiled.

And then he began to monologue.

Tacoma barely herd more than the first few sentences. His blood boiled. He was enraged, insulted, once again betrayed and devalued.

The show ended, the crowd applauded, some more strongly than others, the homeless man particularly cheering very loudly indeed.

Tacoma went backstage, livid, ears ringing. He headed straight for Donnie, who was back in his stupid hat, looking utterly delighted, surrounded by the cast.

“That’s it!” Tacoma snarled in disgust, picking up his bag and shaking his fist in Donnie’s stupid, pompous, egotistical face. “I quit!

Then he turned on his heel and stormed out of the theater.



Intermission

Tacoma sat at his desk in the back of the theater, entering data into spreadsheets. It had been two weeks since he’d left the Theater Sans Argent. After three days of voicemail and texts, Donnie had suddenly stopped trying to contact him. Rebecca, Quinn, Tamara, and even Karl had also left messages and texts, all of which Tacoma had ignored. Tacoma threw himself into his night shifts. He went to student productions at the various colleges, matinee prices of professional productions, and walked every museum Chicago had to offer. Sometimes he thought he saw someone from the Theater Sans Argent, saw Donnie in the Impressionist wing, or Rebecca in line at the coffee shop, or Karl striding towards the L staircase. But it was never actually them, just strangers who resembled them at a distance.

Which was why it took so long for Tacoma to accept that he was seeing The Ghost.

He’d been told about The Ghost when he’d accepted the night shift. Tacoma had been warned by the night security guards, teased by some of the office girls, given ominous hints by some of the older staff. One night during another uneventful shift, staring at the blank document that had failed to become his masterpiece, Tacoma had even done some brief googling on the subject. Turned out that the ghost was real, or at least, the story about him was. There had once been a theater critic, name spelled a variety of different ways, who had died mysteriously in his private box decades ago during a production of some science-fiction play. No witnesses, many rumors, and hundreds of suspects after his scathing reviews. The entire Chicago theater scene had been suspected, his landlord had been suspected, his ties to the Mafia had been suspected. No one had stood trial, and the police had let the case grow cold.

And then the rumors had started. That the critic’s ghost haunted the theater, ill-wished bad performers, cursed certain plays or productions. His box never seemed to keep regular patrons, they often left complaining of chills or hearing strange noises that distracted them during the performances.

Tacoma blamed the sleepiness and writer’s block, at first. He couldn’t have seen what he thought he’d seen. Ghosts weren’t real, in all his years in theater he’d never actually seen one. Oh, sure, he wouldn’t utter “Macbeth” or quote lines from it in a theater, but he didn’t believe in ghosts.

Which was unfortunate, because The Ghost seemed to be believe in him.

At first Tacoma had ignored him, but once The Ghost had realized Tacoma could see and hear him, it was no good. The Ghost had started shouting loudly to get a response out of Tacoma, even if it had only been a bout of swearing and threats to call an exorcist if he didn’t let Tacoma finish his work on time. After that they’d started chatting. Well, the Ghost talked, Tacoma mostly listened.

“Hey, you know, this isn’t half bad,” the Critic said, floating behind Tacoma one night, eyeing up the draft of Act 2 Tacoma is busy working on. “You gonna produce it here?”

“What, here? God no,” Tacoma sighed heavily. “I’ll be lucky if I ever get a show here, in the next twenty years.”

The Critic shrugged. “You’re young, you have time.”

“Yeah right,” Tacoma grumbled.

“What’s eating you?” the Critic asked, prodding a ghostly finger through Tacoma’s shoulder.

“Eugh, don’t do that!” Tacoma shuddered, chills running down his spine. “I … quit my other job.”

“That gig at the shitty place in the warehouse district? Good for you!”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Tacoma sighed heavily.

“Whoa, I know that look!” the Critic floated around to block Tacoma’s view of the computer. “That’s the face of regret. What’d you do, walk out on a promise you made?”

“No, not exactly. I just … they … he …” Tacoma waved his hands. “Would you just let me get my work done here? This is my only job now, I can’t afford to lose it.”

“Oh no, nuh-uh, this is important. We gotta talk about this.” the Critic crossed his arms and settled into a sitting position on the desk, somehow. His tangibility seemed to fluctuate depending on his mood. “What happened?”

So Tacoma pushed back his chair and explained, about the Theater Sans Argent, and the terrible productions, and Donnie’s edits, and how he never felt valued, and the last production had been the straw that had broken the camel’s back, as it were.

“They tried to talk to you?”

“Well, yeah, they called, but I didn’t answer.”

“Not even to let them know you weren’t dead in a ditch?”

Tacoma frowned. “Well, no, but they … look, it was just a job …”

“Doesn’t sound like that to me. Sounds more like a theater family,” the Critic pointed a translucent finger in Tacoma’s face. “And you don’t just drop your theater family without so much as a proper goodbye.”

Tacoma opened his mouth to protest, then closed it. The Critic was right, in a weird way. He tried to remember his old theater club back in college, the lengthy goodbye process that had been whenever someone graduated or moved cross-country, the tears and farewells and bonds, even between people who’d only known each other for a single production. He’d been at the Theater Sans Argent for five productions. He’d gotten drunk with them and told them all about his father. They’d listened, and hugged him. One night they’d brought in a cake after Karl had admitted to digging through his wallet one night and finding his birthdate on his ID. He knew more about Rebecca’s life than he’d known about some of his college girlfriends. Quinn had called him from jail to bail him out, and Tacoma had, without a second thought. And Donnie … as frustrating as he could be, the way Donnie looked at him sometimes was like the way people looked at sunshine or puppies or something.

“You care about them, and they care about you?” the Critic asked.

Tacoma gulped. “I … yeah. Yes.”

“Then you should go to them, you idiot!” the Critic yelped. “They must be worried about you! Don’t you dare … when you have people like that in your life … you can’t just cast them aside. Don’t make my mistakes. If you learn nothing else from me, learn that.”

The Critic had floated away, grumbling to himself, and faded as the sunlight began to stream in through the office window.




Act 2

Tacoma fought for breath as the rest of the cast and crew hugged him tightly. Donnie was latched onto him like a limpet and the rest were following suit, Karl crushing his ribs and Rebecca squeezing his arm.

“We thought you were dead!” Rebecca yelped. “Dead or kidnapped!”

“Kidnapped?” Tacoma wheezed.

“Kidnapped by evil men in Halloween masks!” Quinn insisted from somewhere out of Tacoma’s line of sight.

“Or a creepy suburban family obsessed with Christmas!” Donnie shuddered.

“Or one of our … old friends.” Karl said ominously.

“Does that happen often?” Tacoma asked.

“More often than you’d think,” Tamara said. She was clinging to one of Tacoma’s legs. “We’ve kind of got … a lot of enemies.”

“Oh,” Tacoma blinked. Like most information he’d gathered about the Theater Sans Argent, he decided not to think too hard about it. “I’m sorry, then. I was just … I was angry, so I didn’t want to pick up the phone, and then I was ashamed, so I really didn’t want to pick up the phone, and then it stopped ringing.”

“That was because we were waiting for the ransom demands.” Quinn pointed out.

“Never leave again!” Donnie wailed dramatically. “Please! I’ll do anything!”

“Donnie, we haff talked about zis …” Karl warned.

“No, Karl, this is different. This is <i>important</i>. I know what I’m doing. Everyone, off!” Donnie squirmed.

Reluctantly, everyone detached from Tacoma. Donnie took a slight step back, still very much in Tacoma’s personal bubble.

“Tacoma, uh, I realized something, well, a lot of things, when you were … gone. I looked over your original drafts and I … I changed a lot of them, for the worse. And I shouldn’t have done that. I can understand why you left, why you walked out on me … I mean, us … I mean, the theater … after that,” Donnie looked flustered and soldiered on “… and I know you probably don’t want to but … please, please come back?” Donnie looked at Tacoma through lowered lashes, a mixture of seductive and puppy-eyed pleading.

Even if he hadn’t been committed to returning already, Tacoma would have been seriously swayed by that look.

“Donnie, you don’t have to pull that crap with me,” Tacoma lightly pushed Donnie’s shoulder. “I’d love to come back, if you’ll have me back.”

Donnie shrieked with delight and hugged Tacoma again.

“Just … promise me … no more massive edits, ok?” Tacoma gasped out. His ribs ached a little from Karl’s hug earlier.

“Yes, of course, whatever you want!” Donnie squealed.

Tacoma patted Donnie on the back until he let go.

~*~

Tacoma remembered advice passed around in college, mostly by his female friends. “Never, ever, have sex with your director.” The Casting Couch was a bad way to start a career and gave you a bad reputation, one you’d never shake off no matter how impressive your resume got.

But looking at Donnie, who was even more touchy-feely than he’d been previously (which was saying a lot) that was getting harder and harder to remember. Tacoma didn’t want to cross a line, Karl in particular seemed very protective of Donnie. And theater people were, in Tacoma’s experience, more intimate than general friends but that didn’t always mean romantically or sexually.

One night Donnie had locked himself in his office to call his wife for their scheduled monthly phone conversation. Everyone else waited in the theater, passing around a bottle of whatever alcohol they’d managed to scrounge up, and waited to support Donnie afterwards. Which usually entailed dragging him to the nearest bar and taking over the karaoke set-up until he was smiling again.

They’d gotten about halfway through the bottle when Karl looked Tacoma in the eye and asked “So, vhat are your intentions with Herr Director?”

The theater went silent.

“I … what?” Tacoma blinked.

“You obviously like him, a lot,” Rebecca said. “We just want to make sure you’re … aware of some stuff.”

“Like how if ya shag him and leave, we’ll break yer legs and throw ya in the lake.” Quinn said cheerfully.

“Well, obviously … hang on, what? I’m not … he’s not …”  Tacoma gave up. “Is it really that obvious?”

“Donnie hasn’t noticed. Yet.” Tamara said. “He’s weirdly oblivious when it comes to people he really cares about.”

“After you left, he … Donnie kind of went … it wasn’t good for a while.” Rebecca admitted.

“I haff not seen him in such a state since ze zoning commission forced us out of our last establishment.” Karl intoned.

“There was a theater before this one?” Tacoma asked.

“Before my time.” Tamara said.

“Oh yeah, the old place!” Rebecca smiled sadly. “He’d bought it with the money his mother left him. It … really messed him up, losing that place. I think it was like losing her all over again, y’know?”

“What did he do, after I left?” Tacoma asked, nervously.

“Ein fundraising mission.” Karl frowned.

“Well, that doesn’t sound so bad …” Tacoma looked at the serious faces around him. “Wait, what do you mean by that?”

“There was an anime convention in town,” Rebecca started.

“Unt Donnie likes to be around ze young unt ze enthusiastic unt ze mildly popular. To … ahem … ‘touch greatness.’” Karl mimed air-quotations.

“He shags D-List internet celebrities for money.” Quinn clarified at Tacoma’s confused expression.

“What?!” Tacoma yelped.

“Oh yeah, he does that kind of thing when he can’t make his wife’s money last the month.” Tamara shrugged.

“I think it started as a coping mechanism, and then people started paying him, so he needed money …” Rebecca blushed and stopped talking.

Karl cleared his throat. “So, if you vish to begin ein relationship with Herr Director, that is fine with us, but you must treat him with respect. He is not the kind of sleazy director who is used to ein Casting Couch. He is … romantic. He will be besotted. And you must not be cruel with him.”

“I’d never,” Tacoma said, easily. “I’d never do that to him.”

Karl stared at him for a long moment, then nodded. “Ja, is good enough for me.”

The others nodded. Quinn poured out another round of shots. Rebecca punched Tacoma on the arm. They said nothing else about it for the rest of the night.

~*~

The Thanksgiving Play was … a disaster. Some wild rabid bird (could birds get rabies?) had gotten loose in the theater, they’d panicked, called animal control (who had laughed at them), and then Rebecca had defeated it with a prop sword. Everyone had gone home with Donnie to decontaminate in his massive bathroom, showering one after another. Then they had all sprawled on the living room furniture in bathrobes and Donnie’s lent pajamas, cuddling and exhausted. Quinn scrounged out some bottles of booze, good booze, and began pouring it into glasses and mugs and even a flower vase.

The conversation, such as it was, turned to Tacoma’s musical. His dream project. The one he’d been working on during the night shifts. He’d sent the first act to an old college friend, who’d sent back some hard edits and a lot of comments that had added up to “this isn’t marketable at all.”

“Why write when nobody says you can write?” Tacoma asked, sloshing back the last of his glass.

“Why act when nobody says you can act?” Rebecca asked.

They stared at their empty glasses.

Quinn refilled them and emptied the bottle himself.

“You can act, though, I’ve seen you,” Tacoma insisted, gesturing at Rebecca. “You’re … ok, experimental I’ll grant you, but you can act. Very Brechtian sometimes. Trends will circle around again and you’ll be famous, I just know it.”

“Never thought of it like that,” Rebecca mused. “And hey, from what you showed us, I think your musical is gonna be great.” She grinned at him, and swung her legs up over his lap.

Tacoma thought of pushing them off, and decided against it. The weight against his thighs was comforting, grounding. He settled a hand over her ankle, hesitating before resting the full weight of his arm on her leg. She smiled, shifted a little, and slumped back.

Later, Donnie joined them, and sprawled next to Tacoma, leaning his head on Tacoma’s shoulder and promptly falling asleep. Tacoma drifted off as well.

When they all woke up the next morning, a tangle of limbs on the couch, it should have been awkward. It should be been embarrassing, or something other than what it ended up being, which was that it felt perfectly natural and comfortable. Donnie snuggled against Tacoma and Rebecca, and they returned the favor. Karl made an enormous bowl of scrambled eggs and Quinn burnt enough toast for everyone. Tamara set the table and managed to get everyone’s various coffee or tea preferences exactly right.

“Never wanna wake up,” Donnie mumbled against Tacoma’s neck, his arms around Rebecca’s waist.

“You don’t have to,” Tacoma said, and half dragged him, blankets and all, to the kitchen table, Rebecca tripping along beside him.



The Grand Finale

“I like this place because it’s … kind of removed from reality.” Tacoma admitted during a run-through one evening. He and Rebecca were sitting in the audience. The homeless guy had made his way inside, and was snoring on one of the benches at the back, and nobody had the heart to tell him to leave. With their luck, he might turn out to be a disgraced actor himself and stumble onstage some night with a soliloquy perfectly memorized.

Tacoma and Rebecca watched as Donnie was chased across the stage by the herd of college interns, wielding large inflatable candy canes.

“… really, removed from reality.” Tacoma added.

“It’s the charm of it,” Rebecca decided. “Sure, it’s tough to explain, and yeah the money situation is always tense, but … it’s good work, with good people, who are passionate about what they’re doing. That’s rare to find.”

Tacoma and Rebecca crafted a story for the holiday season, one to tug on the heartstrings, make people cry. It’s a sequel to <i>A Patch of Blue</i>, taking place years later. Somehow, they negotiated the rights. It was a surprise for Donnie, and he cried when Tacoma and Rebecca presented the finished script to him. Everyone else crowded around, flicking through the script and exclaiming over this scene and that scene.

Donnie took Tacoma’s hand, plastering it with kisses before pulling back, still holding Tacoma’s hand.

“This is the weirdest job I’ve ever had,” Tacoma said at last, blushing.

“Hey, it’s theater. It’s not just a job, it’s …” Donnie failed around for the right word.

“Family,” Rebecca said, faintly, squeezing Tacoma’s hand.

“Family,” Quinn nodded, sticking his hand among theirs.

“Family,” Tamara grinned, slapping her hand on top of the pile.

“Ein family.” Karl pressed his hands into the mix.

“Yeah,” Tacoma smiled.

He had no idea what the future held. Whether it was staying with this strange experimental theater and working night shifts with a ghost for years, his musical taking off and going to Broadway, or getting his Masters to teach at one of the performing arts colleges, Tacoma wasn’t certain.

What he was certain about was that no matter what happened, he’d be with these people throughout it all.




Fin.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
emeriin
Oct. 19th, 2015 01:23 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh that was lovely. I'm so glad that Critic wasn't a dick who ruined everything, and these characters are such adorable humans. Especially love the "if you do anything to hurt Donnie" part.
aunt_zelda
Oct. 22nd, 2015 11:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

I was struggling with the story and I decided to add a theater ghost because, well, all theaters have at least one ghost, and so then there was the Critic, giving Tacoma advice.

Especially love the "if you do anything to hurt Donnie" part.
Yes indeed. That was important, that Tacoma knew that Donnie was yes, eccentric but also not one to just have an affair with and casually discard. And everyone cuddling. It's important.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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