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South

“You’ve never done it before, have you?” Seven’s grinning, but South doesn’t make excuses.

“You can talk to me about this or you can play kid-brother games,” he says. “Your pick.”

Seven nods. “You’re right. Okay, honestly? It’s going to be awkward the first time and she won’t want to talk about it. It’ll be over very quickly, and any joke you crack will make you look like a twelve-year-old. All you can do is relax and be… professional.”

The next day South and Rebecca make out for twenty-two takes. They’re all good takes, every single one.

South

South looks at the check and puts it away. Then he gets it back out and counts the zeroes. There aren’t that many. There are enough.

“There aren’t that many,” says Seven over his shoulder, amused.

“Fewer than yours,” says South.

Seven shrugs. “You get more episodes. Who picks up his own checks? Get Sejal to send them to your agent, you won’t be disappointed when you see what’s left.”

“I should probably get one of those.”

Seven does an actual double take. “Jesus. Take half of that and hire somebody to answer your–”

South’s phone starts ringing, right on cue.

Six

Six, quite rudely, cuts Seven short: “I don’t recall your drawing the Orator.”

“The Architect is permitted to explain the shape of things to come,” huffs Seven. “Obligated, really.”

“But Six is the Advocate,” says Three, “can’t be blamed for fomenting dissent.”

“I think this whole roles-by-lots business is ridiculous,” says Five.

“The old system was biased!” says Four. “Bidding can be gamed, but drawing lots gives the whole business up to the hand of chance.”

Two nods. “We are nothing if we are not equal.”

Then why can we be put in order, asks One, but not aloud.

South

“Careful.” South’s climbing onto the top of the soundstage bus. “Sejal will catch you on set after hours.”

Sejal smiles and scoots over; they dangle their feet. South realizes that, in two months, he’s never seen her sit still.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” he asks.

“I am supposed to,” she says deliberately, “drunk.”

“On bourbon?” he guesses.

“On beer.”

He nods; they headsmash imaginary cans.

After a while he lies back and she, not uncomfortably, puts her head on his chest. It’s a good view. The construction crew, with cranes and concentration, is suspending Seven’s trailer from the roof.

South

“You’re shrinking,” frowns Jade.

“I have french fries and beer three meals a day!” South protests.

Seven, waiting, laughs and shakes his head. “You think your diet affects your weight? What century are you from?”

South quirks an eyebrow. “What does, then?”

“Chakras,” Seven says gravely.

“I mean it, South, Bailey asked for your measurements,” says Jade. “You’re supposed to look healthier on camera every week, and I don’t want to pad your coats.”

“Call me Hansel,” says South. “I’ll try.” He straightens his arm for sleeve length and luxuriates in it, the strange and pleasant sensation of the tailor’s tape.

South

Bailey seems so tired. South feels guilty about the sand in his hair.

“The good news is they bought it,” says Bailey, as soon as the door’s closed. “Full budget, full season. The bad news–” He waits out the noise. “Is we’re a midseason replacement.”

They blink.

“We get double budgets for twelve episodes?” says Rebecca.

“No, they want twenty-three.” Bailey rubs his head. “They’ll choose twelve to air.”

“That’s–” South begins.

“That’s network politics.”

“So what are we going to do?”

Seven and Bailey lock eyes. “You know,” Bailey says, starting to grin.

Anima in machina,” Seven whispers, delighted.

South

South shows up on Sunday, but the set’s empty. He goes home. They’re leaning on a van. He catches a familiar duffel bag.

“This is mine,” he says stupidly.

“Shouldn’t keep your key in that fake rock,” Seven announces.

“We couldn’t find any clean underwear,” grins Rebecca, “so I bought you some–”

“You what,” says South.

“You needed underwear!” says Seven. “For the kidnapping!”

“The network–”

“Won’t tell us anything for a week,” says Rebecca. “We’re going to the beach.”

Seven hauls open the door.

Then it’s Dandy Warhols on a boombox, the stereo’s broken, and three hundred miles to Coronado.

South

They shuffle around, wiping their palms even in the icebox AC. South asks, “So this is a ‘meet and greet?'”

“Meat market, really,” says Moses.

“There’s a pun in there,” says Seven. “Please don’t find it.”

Bailey’s waiting behind the door. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he says, “our principals,” and then they’re in with the sharks.

Seven’s all teeth and sexy danger; South and Moses pair up and slay a whole tribe of execs, and Rebecca is God’s own golden girl. She looks invincible. They’re all invincible. South never knew he could do this. Before they went in, she squeezed his hand.

South

Seven appears on day five–just as everybody’s murmuring about when Bailey’s going to cast the part, he walks in after lunch with a minor cult hero. The crew goes fanboy; nobody gets anything done.

“Welcome to the weird names club,” says South when they shake hands. He’s trying to be casual in a tiny g-string. It’s not easy.

“Bailey says he’s doing a shower scene today,” says Seven drily, “then mentions I get to work with Rebecca Chiltern if I sign. Just mentions.”

“Your conclusions are your own!” calls Bailey.

“It’s cool,” says South, “my ass is better anyway.”

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