“Well,” Marie says, downing the last drink with finality, “we can’t lurk at the edges forever. You’re supposed to be mingling, Andy.”
Mingling is not what Andy does best. There’s a reason he’s a solitary sort of chap – well, two reasons; first, his own imagination has always been more exciting than anything the real world can throw at him, and second, small talk is the devil.
“I know,” he says gloomily, staring at his feet. It doesn’t help that he’s starched to within an inch of his life; his agent, Terri, had impressed on him in no uncertain language that he would wear a suit to the afterparty tonight, if she had to come over and manhandle him into it herself. He knows Marie wouldn’t have helped him escape. She’d have been more likely to sit on the bed and laugh.
Especially because Marie loves fancy dress. She’s gorgeous tonight, all curves and cleavage, and wearing just his favorite shade of green to boot. Andy supposes that being forced to come to industry parties does have some upsides. Not that she’s not gorgeous in her lab coat as well, he hastens to add loyally. But glamour is popular for a reason.
“Stop staring,” she laughs, smacking his arm. “Now get out there and be charming. Remember, you’re the hot young writer on the television show that everyone and their neighbor are talking about. People want to meet you. Go schmooze.”
“You make it sound so appealing,” Andy says, trying for a tinge of the pathetic. But Marie’s married to him and thus immune, and before he knows it he’s been shoved out into eel-infested waters.
It’s just as miserable as he could have anticipated. He stumbles his way through conversations, trying as best as he can, but even pretending to be one of his more self-assured characters doesn’t really work. There’s a reason Andy ended up being a writer, not an actor.
Around the fifteenth time someone greets him with a cheery, “Oh, you’re the fellow from the cowboy show!”, he’s beginning to reconsider that career choice as well. Maybe he should be an accountant. A nice quiet accountant married to a nice quiet surgeon – except she’s really not all that quiet, but that’s beside the point – on a nice quiet street in the suburbs. Bliss.
Or he supposes he could copy Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger and become a hermit. That might pose problems with Marie, though, and he’s still a young writer making his name. He can’t afford to disappear entirely. And he doesn’t actively dislike people – he just dislikes having to make conversation with strangers. There’s a difference.
He sighs and tells himself to buck up, girding himself for another awkward conversational sally. “Hello, I’m Andrew Davis, I don’t think I’ve met you yet.”
The man in front of him grins. His mouth has a sharp edge to it. “Sorry not to shake your hand, but as you can see I need all mine for drinks and canapés. So you’re the cowboy guy, huh?”
“Yeah,” Andy says, and pastes a smile on. “That’s me, howdy partner!” Oh god, why did I say that.
The man cocks an eyebrow. The piercing in it makes him look a bit like a pirate. “From what I hear, you’ve updated the Western for the twenty-first century – complete with wry gags, self-aware plotlines, and a satisfying attention to spectacle.”
“Are you a reviewer?” Andy asks, with a sense of trepidation. He should never be let out near reviewers, he has it on good authority. He may have told one to go jump in a lake once. To be fair, the reviewer had suggested that his feisty red-haired heroine should take a back seat for a while because she was distracting from the ‘main story’.
The man laughs. “No, not a reviewer, thank fuck. Director. Not surprised our paths haven’t crossed, though – I tend to uncritically blow things up. Tongue-in-cheek isn’t my style.”
Andy finds himself grinning for the first time this evening. The man’s good humor is contagious. “Blowing things up can be fun sometimes.”
“So talk me about cowboys,” the man says. He still hasn’t told Andy his name, but they’ve moved past the part of the conversation where it wouldn’t have been awkward for Andy to ask. Why does this always seem to happen to him? “And correct me if I’m wrong, but I distinctly remember a dinosaur in one episode.” He pops a mini tart in his mouth.
Andy grins. So many people fawning on him and making him feel uncomfortable seem never to have watched the show. At least this one knows something about it. “So you’ve seen it.”
“I may have my guilty pleasures,” the man says, his mouth full. “If some of them include the ass on your hero, that’s my business.”
It’s not the first time Andy has heard this particular critique – and goodness knows he agrees with it – but he laughs nonetheless, surprised to hear it voiced quite so bluntly.
“The more excuses you find to get Rusty out of his clothes, the happier I’ll be,” the man continues, smirking at Andy’s delight. “In fact, you could just have a nude episode and I’d be ecstatic. Blow some things up and I’d even come in and direct it for you.”
“I think the network might have something to say about that!” Andy laughs. “Though Jason doesn’t mind. He says he has to work hard enough for his physique that people had better enjoy it.”
“Good man. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
The man in front of him certainly ‘has it’. He’s a bit too tattooed and pierced to play a character in the show, but that’s never stopped Andy from admiring someone before. “How are your current projects going?” Always a safe question to ask, even when you haven’t caught a name.
The man shrugs, taking a drink before answering. “They’re good. I’m going out to Mongolia on Thursday to start shooting. Have you ever been to Mongolia?”
“No,” Andy says. “Tell me about it.”
He’s not sure why he likes this fellow this much already. It can’t be just the fact that he’s attractive. All the actors in the room are attractive, and a select few of the writers. (He likes to think he’s rather attractive himself, in a ‘wide-eyed Midwestern’ kind of way.)
But he does like him. More than that, he almost feels like he knows him, in an odd way.
“So,” the man says at last, after five more minutes of banter. “I suppose we’d better be moving on if we’re to satisfy our agents. I assume you have someone forcing you to be here too?”
“Yes,” Andy says, grinning. “I’ve been firmly instructed to schmooze at least twenty people. And forced into this suit.”
The man rakes his eyes up and down Andy’s frame, slowly enough to bring a flush to Andy’s cheeks that’s not all attributable to the warmth of the room. “Nice suit.”
Andy flushes harder.
The man grins and holds out a hand, now free of canapés since he’s eaten the lot. “Sidney Phillips, by the way. If you ever feel like doing that nude episode, look me up.”
Andy laughs and shakes. Sidney Phillips! He should have guessed, but he’s not sure he’s ever seen a picture of Phillips before. Notorious for turning anything he touches into gold, although as he’d said earlier, he’s not exactly a tongue-in-cheek sort of guy. His films are big and bold and preferably explode eighteen things before breakfast. Andy loves them.
“I had a neighbor named Sid once. You wouldn’t happen to be related?”
Sidney’s grin suddenly seems to be showing a lot more teeth. “Sorry for exploding the back yard on a regular basis. Good practice, though.”
“Wait,” Andy says, “You’re Sid?”, and does a lot of rapid revising in his head. He remembers that kid as being a loud cackling hooligan who quite frankly scared him a lot of the time. How did that kid grow up to be the guy who’s just made a movie in which an amnesiac detective wakes up, finds his arms have been replaced with bazookas and his navel shoots lasers, and goes on a long and pyrotechnic journey to take revenge on his enemies, find his true identity, and coincidentally foil a plot to destroy the world?
On second thought, Andy can see exactly how it happened.
“Yup,” Sid says.
“Wow,” Andy says. “It’s a small world! You should come over to our house for dinner sometime. If you have a partner, bring them and I’ll scare them with stories of you as a kid.”
Sid chuckles. “You won’t be able to scare Nate. But thanks. I may take you up on that. After Mongolia.”
“Oh right, Mongolia,” Andy says. A chemical spill in a toy factory in rural China that leads to its stock becoming a Sentient Toy Army Out for Revenge on the Cruel Cruel World doesn’t sound like his type of movie – even if it has tons of awesome explosions – but it’s a Sid Phillips movie. They seldom sound like they’re going to be good, and then against all odds they somehow are. The man has box office magic. “Good luck with that.”
“Maybe I’ll put a cowboy in for you,” Sid says, and grins. “Nice talking to you, Andy.”
“Take care,” Andy says, and watches him melt back into the crowd.
Sid Phillips. Who would have guessed.
“You doing okay?” Marie asks, coming from up behind and sliding an arm around his waist. “Not too stressed?”
Andy smiles, mind already whirling away with an idea for a new project. “Never better.”