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“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 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.


“HBO,” says South, finally.

“No,” says Bailey.

“They’d take us,” he says. “Bigger budget, more time, no commercials and we’d actually air–”

“You watched Six Feet Under.

South blinks. “Yeah.”

“A broke actor, paying for HBO?”

South flushes. “I downloaded it.”

“You remember that shot at the end.” Bailey leans forward. “When Nate drops out of Claire’s side mirror.”

“Of course–”

“I paid to watch it,” says Bailey. “You broke the law for it. It should have aired for free, South, for everyone with a television set. It should have been projected on buildings. It should have lit up the sky.”


“Soundstage,” South murmurs, only a little thickly, peering at the bottle.

“Who?” asks Sejal.

“Soundstage,” he repeats. “I like saying that, I like the meaning. I used to think it meant a set that was wired for sound, that was soundproofed? Now my guess is it’s like a solid place, a place with structure, not a facade. Soundly constructed. Sound footing.” He thumps the ceiling of the bus and doesn’t even miss. “A place where you can trust your feet. You need that sometimes. Am I right?”

“No, it’s the first one,” Sejal says, and almost falls off with the giggles.


“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.


“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.


He stays up very late watching her pack. She doesn’t ask for help; he doesn’t offer. She put one of her records on the turntable but never turned it over after the last song, so:

“Skip and hiss,” she says, leaning on her dad’s biggest suitcase.

“I want to play guitar for you,” he says.

“Too bad it’s my guitar,” she smiles, “and I packed it, and you can’t play anyway.”

“This one song,” he says.

“I know which one. But no.”

South doesn’t say anything.

She shakes her head. “We’ve spent ten weeks not being naked, South. Why start now?”


Because I was in a dark place,
and I begged to be freed.

And you were answered?



We get a flicker of JONAH in a similar room, younger and clean-shaven, slightly to the right of where he’s sitting now.

I cut


my way out.

Rough on the whale.

Long beat.

Not as rough as remembering
this line.

“South!” says Rebecca.

“Bngah!” says South, gripping his head. “‘Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying–‘

“Blooper reel, hour six,” she mutters.

“South!” says Sejal. “Don’t muss your hair.”


This is how South remembers the pilot: two days, two weeks long.

The first morning he shows up at 8:10 a.m., script in his mouth; he pulls off his shirt in the parking lot and somebody’s coming at him with a sponge. That day he eats three different meals called “lunch.” Bailey yells Cut, Wrap, Go Home at four in the morning.

South sleeps in his car for eleven hours. He wakes up, one big sweaty muscle knot, to Fenchurch the production assistant tapping on his window.

“They bought fifteen more minutes,” she says. “Shower, eat, next shoot’s at midnight.”


“You’re wondering,” says Bailey, “why the door’s closed, the cast is here, the writers are here, I’m here, but the directors aren’t. The guy you don’t know is Jeff.”

Jeff nods. His t-shirt reads abacabb–True Fatality!

“Usually, Jeff’s a mole,” says Bailey. “Studios hire him to leak what they want leaked: rumors, red herrings, building buzz. He works for us now. What you need to know, and keep to yourselves, is that as soon as we leave this room our set is on his filthy little camera. All day. Every day.”


“Hey,” says South, “I remember that game!”