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Vanilla

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Rather like Alicia and Kalinda, there were numerous topics that had come to be out of bounds for Julianna and Archie - even more so after the last hiatus.

Not that Jules paid much attention to the media and even less so to blogs, boards and online reactions. But when your publicist had to fend off multiple interview requests asking for "clarification of recent statements" it became hard to ignore. Even more so when several friends (or, given how little they seemed to know her, perhaps they were acquaintances) commented that she’d “certainly thrown the cat amongst the Kalicia pigeons.”

God! Kalicia. It exemplified the idiocy of the thing: shippers and their out-of-proportion reactions to absolutely everything! Their far-fetched assertions; their utterly implausible hopes; and most of all, their complete lack of understanding that while they might be the most vocal part of the fan-base, viewers that minded that much were few and far between and literally had no bearing on anything important like ratings, residuals, critical opinion, and award nominations. Hence it was easy not to mind the chatter.

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Archie, of course, felt differently. Frankly, it had been a really crap year, and a break, travel, and work on something else had been more necessary than merely welcome. Fake-it-until-you-make-it hadn't worked with the Nick debacle, and even if no one held her responsible either behind the scenes or in the audience, she couldn't help but smart after the experience. And a gnawing suspicion that she'd been side-lined had been confirmed when the Kings travelled East in advance of Robert directing episode eighteen. Michelle and Robert wore identical apologetic expressions as they sat down for their annual chat about closing out the season and the plans for next year.

Afterwards, spirits sunken and fairly sure whence Kalinda’s new lack-of-direction had originated, she told herself to at least be happy for Matt. Given that he'd spent most of the show being the one with the structural problem about his storyline, he deserved a share of the limelight for once. But it was hard not to be pessimistic when you hadn't shared screen time with the protagonist of the series since episode fourteen, and that didn't look like it was going to change this season. A year earlier, the revelation that the show was to be split between two firms would not have been so alarming. Alicia was, after all, Kalinda's most significant relationship. Except, not anymore, and three-and-a-half years of deliberately positioning Kalinda as a character who cared about (or was it loved?) Alicia above anything else apparently meant nothing. The prospect of spending the rest of the show's run playing a caricature of Kalinda (all boots, skirts, and pert opinions with no feelings to speak of) was not a pleasant one, but she wasn't a diva. More importantly, she owed the Kings and the show. They'd given her a career-defining break and that was more than she'd ever be able to pay back. So it was suck it up and back for Season 5, face cheerful, big girl panties in place.

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Unusually, they were both in Brooklyn at the same time a few days into production for Season 5. Not because they were sharing a scene, heaven forbid. (Archie had her doubts that would ever happen again!) No, Jules was shooting and Archie was having a fitting with Daniel for location shooting to happen the next day. And next to her, also in that weird in-between of costumed but own hair and makeup, was Danielle.

Daniel hadn't held back when he'd dressed Elle. She was all pale smooth limbs and very little fabric, that rare, rare woman who actually looked good in leather hot pants. From the looks of how she was dressed, Robert wasn’t planning on limiting her to stroking Archie’s arm this time. And she’d obviously succumbed. Jules had seen near identical looks before: on Jill, on Kelli, on Jess. ... She wasn’t sure if it was the proximity to Archie or being part of the Kalinda harem -- perhaps it was both, but actress after actress became, well, “twitterpated” -- those in the elite group who’d been kissed onscreen seemed to develop a permanent crush. Maybe it was Archie, maybe she bled onto the screen and that was why Kalinda wove such a spell, because it certainly wasn’t Kalinda who was giggling and shoving and posing with Elle for Dan’s benefit.

Jules wasn’t sure why annoyance shot through her. After all, along with a reputation for being the best cast on television, they were also known for being one of the silliest. The set was equally enlivened by practical jokes and hilarity as it was by hard work and excellence. So, Elle draping herself over Archie’s shoulder and smouldering at her in the costume department mirror while Archie tickled long fingernails against her bare arm was nothing out of the ordinary. It shouldn’t be possessiveness, after all -- Elle was her stand-in and double, not her protégé. If Archie was taking her under her wing for an actual acting job, Jules should be pleased, not territorial. But perhaps they could be a little less obvious!

Archie could feel another presence intruding on their little moment and looked around to see Julianna hanging in the doorway, her expression inscrutable but not particularly friendly.

Jules and Archie hadn’t actually spoken since stilted well-wishes for the hiatus break at the Season 4 wrap party, so perhaps lack of practice was why it came out sounding so harsh.

“You always get the best love interest, I get the vanilla.”

It certainly shouldn’t have been that Jules just couldn’t seem to help herself when it came to commenting on Kalinda -- Kalinda’s clothes, Kalinda’s morals, Kalinda’s storylines, Kalinda’s everything -- even when it had no relation whatsoever to Alicia.

Politeness was ingrained fourfold in Archie. First, she was English; second, she was Indian; third, she was female (although she was doing better at throwing that constraint off); and finally, she had a mother who would phone her from London and open with “Archana, I’m very disappointed in you...” after finding out she’d used the word “shit” in an interview.

So giving Jules a piece of her mind did not come naturally, even as several tart responses flavoured her tongue. I can’t wait to tell Josh and Chris they’re vanilla / Don’t panic, I’m sure this is as close to Alicia as Kalinda’s going to get / Why don’t you fuck off and mind your own business for once? were but a few examples.

Obviously a response was expected, though. Jules was waiting for one. She generally got what she expected.

Archie tried to channel that feeling of liberation she sometimes got when playing Kalinda, to be braver, bolder than she was in her own life and also just that little bit rude.

“The fans want to see it.” Because really, that said it all...