Mark didn't call like he had said he would, but Amy figured he forgot. Men had a tendency to do that. Well, wolfmen anyway, Amy thought with a snigger. Renee was persuaded to go to work, much as she wanted to call in sick so that she could meet and drool over Mark Frasier when he arrived for rehearsal. Amy told Renee there was no guarantee he would show up, because of the fact he didn't call, and so it would be best if Renee went to work.
Renee pouted the entire way from the apartment.
So Amy was finally left to enjoy her coffee, her morning devotional, and her reading of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, which she had begun to think she would never finish.
The phone on the end table behind her twittered, and Amy smirked as she picked it up. "Good morning, Mark."
"Hey. How'd you do that?"
"This is about the same time you called me yesterday, only you were supposed to call me last night."
"Sorry. Nessie and I-- Damn. I mean Vanessa and I went out for a movie."
"If Gar-- Mr. Harrison catches you two, you're going to get into a lot of trouble," Amy teased, knowing full well that Garret couldn't penalize them. After all, werent they doing the same thing?
"Why? Vanessa and I are just friends."
"So. You were still fraternizing."
"Nah. We were doing research for the characters in the movie."
Amy arched an eyebrow, and then she laughed. "Whatever. Are we on or off for rehearsal this morning?"
"Good. Can we go through scene 86? 'Aeris' Wood'? Some of the line's just aren't clicking."
"Oh, and Mark?"
"I dont suppose you'd want to have dinner with me and Renee this evening?"
"Are you kidding? Of course I would!"
Amy laughed. "Don't say 'yes' so fast. Mr. Harrison is invited too."
"Because we've been rehearsing that death scene." Well, we're supposed to be rehearsing that death scene, Amy thought with a slight smile. "I thought it would be nice to have both of you stay for dinner as a way to thank you for helping me out. You don't have to if you don't want to."
Mark hemmed and hawed before saying "If he stays out of my face, then I'll come over."
"Alright, but you have to promise not to get in his face either. I understand you two have a bit of a bad history, but that doesn't mean you can't try to be civil."
Mark grumbled. "Alright, sis."
Amy chuckled. "Thank you. Now get your butt over here so we can rehearse."
Mark laughed. "Okay, okay. See you in a bit."
"And so the shadows of night are banished with such a whisper."
Amy's eyes crinkled at the corners as she smiled into the phone. She nestled into the corner of the couch, Charles Dickens forgotten as she hugged the novel to her chest. "I will whisper more if you but be forever my knight of shadow.
Garret chuckled. "Good morning, Amy."
"Good morning, Garret. Getting ready to start your wild day?"
Garret chuckled again. "Yes, and much as I wish I could say I have called only to hear your voice, I'm afraid such isn't the case."
Amy's smile wavered. "You can't come to rehearsal or dinner tonight, can you?"
"No. Max has requested my presence at the meeting with the stunt company."
Amy's smile was sad. "That's alright, Garret. You are the Executive Producer. I've got to expect you to bow out of the not-so-important meetings. I hate it, but it's not a surprise."
"My time with you is never considered 'not-so-important', Amy. The only reason I have agreed to attend the dinner meeting this evening is due to the fact I know it will likely affect your very life."
Amy closed her eyes to picture his face, his flowing white hair, his magnificent blue eyes... "Thank you for that," she said softly.
"Ah," Garret whispered, "my muse sighs and I am content."
Amy chuckled as she opened her eyes. "Come, come, sweet poet, give your muse rest."
"What rest does she need whom controls the singing of my very spirit?"
Amy's eyes twinkled. "Sing, then, that your muse might relive your presence while you are so far distant."
Garret released a deep breath. "Much as I wish I could, Amy, I'm afraid I must go."
Amy nodded with a sad smile. "I know. I'll see you tomorrow, then."
There was a moment of silence. "Amy, tell me that you will miss me."
Amy's throat tightened. "I will miss you, Garret."
"No, softest and truest muse. Tell me."
Amy sighed as she closed her eyes. "Sweet poet, my world will be gray until once again your voice is present to color my sky. Return swift, that the delicate petals of my soul might again embrace you to the heart you hold within the palm of your gentleness." Amy's voice cracked, and she sniffed. "I fear I die if your return be tardy even one breath. So please, sweet sweet poet, tarry not in the presence of damsels and dragons."
"Surely I cannot tarry when my soul and heart are held captive within your song and warmth. Be assured, sweet muse. Fare thee well."
"Nay. Say not so. I beg of thee, sweet poet, bid me 'until our dreams', for I shall surely seek you there."
"If so doing gives comfort... until our dreams, dearest muse."
Amy replaced the receiver with a deep sigh. "Until our dreams," she whispered.
knock knock knock
Amy opened the door with a smile that faded into a surprised blink. "M-Ms. Heron!"
Ms. Vanessa Heron smiled a genuine greeting as she gracefully motioned to Mark beside her. "I'm afraid I begged and whined until Mark promised to bring me. I missed our meeting that first day on-set and just had to set it right."
Amy shook her head. "No, no. It's fine! Come in. Please."
Vanessa passed with an air of both refined sophistication and welcoming interest. Her long, dark brunette hair was simply braided, and beneath her long London Fog coat she was dressed in a pair of casual black slacks and a silk blouse of dark blue. To Amy's delight and surprise, Vanessa Heron seemed as normal as any other person Amy had met.
Mark sent Amy a boyishly guilty smile that clearly said 'sorry'. Amy waved it away with an expression of 'don't worry about it.' "Can I offer you something? Coffee? Tea? Water?"
Vanessa faced Amy and started slipping out of her coat. Mark made his way over to help, and Amy found the entire scene adorably amusing. "Do you have decaffeinated tea?"
"Better. I have herbal. Would you like some?"
"Yes. That would be wonderful." Vanessa sat delicately on the couch, still examining the furnishings and the decor as Mark sat close beside her. "Oh Amy, I love your apartment. It feels so much as a home should."
Mark jerked a quick motion over his shoulder. "And check out her library. You'd love it. She's got everything you and Garret read."
"Oh how wonderful," Vanessa said with smiling eyes. She focused her attention back on Amy, who was busily preparing the teapot and putting it on the stove. "I understand from Mark that you and Garret have begun rehearsals?"
Amy smirked, but didn't turn. "Yes, but he's got a meeting this evening, so we'll have to postpone until tomorrow."
"Great. I think we need to work on the 'Cloud's Sin' scene. I can't remember which scene number it is."
Vanessa laughed, and the sound was musical and genuine. "Mark, you can't occupy all of Amy's time. I have scenes to rehearse with her as well."
Amy smiled wide as she moved to lean on the bar counter. "There's only three more days until shooting starts. I don't think I have enough time to rehearse with everyone."
"Which majorly sucks because Shepherd's filming your scenes first. He probably wants to get you out of his hair."
"Mark," Vanessa chided. "That wasn't necessary."
"It's the truth, though."
Amy arched an eyebrow. "Why? What did I do to Mr. Shepherd?"
Vanessa looked from Mark to Amy. Her expression was muted regret. "You weren't his first choice for Aeris."
"First choice? She wasn't even close!"
Vanessa sent an attractive scowl to Mark beside her. "Mark Frasier," she scolded, "what have I told you about tactless phrases like that?"
Mark ignored the scold as he held her gaze. "It's the truth, and Amy knows it already."
"That is beside the point," Vanessa pressed.
"It's alright," Amy said.
Vanessa looked back over to Amy with an apologetic smile. "It's hardly that, but thank you. I find his tendency to blurt truths his greatest attraction most of the time."
"Hey. 'He' is in the room," Mark protested half-heartedly.
Vanessa reached over to rest a hand on Mark's knee as she looked over at him. "Yes, dear," she said in a clearly patronizing tone.
"Hey now. None of that. You promised."
Vanessa laughed with a tilting back of her head. Amy smirked. The woman knew exactly what to do to look beautiful. "I'm sorry, Mark."
Mark moved aside her braid to give her back some gentle rubs. "We'll have words later," he told her with a meaningful look.
Vanessa chuckled before looking back over at Amy, who had set herself to work at preparing Vanessa's tea. "I would love to participate in the readings and rehearsals today, Amy. If you don't mind."
"Of course I don't mind," Amy said as she brought out the tea cup and saucer. She set it on the coaster in front of Vanessa. "I'd love to have you join us. You don't mind, Mark, do you?"
Mark shook his head. "Nope. I just wish she'd have brought her costume."
Vanessa frowned as she slapped Mark somewhat firmly on the arm. "Mark!"
Mark and Amy laughed.
"For heaven's sake," Vanessa complained with fists on hips. "To be ridiculed by you of all people, Mark. You know they cast me as Tifa just to spite me."
Amy sat on the couch beside Vanessa. "Don't believe that, Vanessa. Tifa is a wonderfully complex character, and I think you're the only one who can draw that out onto the screen."
Vanessa changed her gaze to Amy. "She is complex, that I don't deny, but a bartender? Why couldn't they have written her as an innkeeper or an armorer? Instead, I must traipse around in a too-short skirt with a padded bra - that is simply ridiculous in size - and do my best to be taken seriously." Vanessa sighed deeply as she lowered her head and pinched the bridge of her nose.
Mark gently rubbed her back. "Sorry, Nessie," he said in a tone that clearly conveyed he felt like a jerk.
"Vanessa, it won't be that horrible," Amy consoled.
Vanessa sighed again as she lowered her hand. "Yes, I know, but to think the casting might be a plot to sabotage my career... It breaks my heart."
"Your fans won't let that happen," Mark assured her.
"Mr. Harrison won't either," Amy added.
Vanessa looked over at Amy with a patient smile. "Amy, Garret is the one who suggested me for this role."
Amy blinked as shock grabbed her by the throat. "What?"
"Garret and I were intimately involved at one time, he's quite the charmer you know." Vanessa raised her hands in a helpless gesture. "I'm afraid I didn't handle the break-up very well, as in I didn't word it correctly. I'm sure he went away hurt and insulted. This is his revenge."
Amy shook her head. "B-But... But I'm sure he wouldn't do something like that. He wants this movie to be a success as much as the director does. After all, it's his reputation on the line."
Vanessa nodded. "I'm not saying that casting me as Tifa will jeopardize the success of the movie. If anything, my reputation will attract a certain amount of attention from critics. However, in casting me as Tifa, he is assured of attention while slurring my reputation with an unspoken criticism to my personal character."
"And why do you think he wanted me as Cloud, Amy?" Mark put in. "Cloud's a puppet controlled by the villain. He doesn't have a clue about it, either. He's just a soldier who hurts those he cares about because he's doing what he's been designed to do: follow orders." Mark scoffed. "Garret's made it painfully obvious he thinks I'm just a robot doing what I have to do to get the money and the attention I want."
Amy shook her head again, eyes wide. "I don't... I can't believe that. He cast the people he knew would do the best in the role. There wasn't a subversive motive."
Vanessa smiled. "You're welcome to give him the shadow of the doubt, Amy. After all, even the invincible Garret Harrison needs that every once and a while. However, I know him too well."
Amy lowered her gaze to her clenched hands as her mind reeled, her heart nearly drowning under the wave of negative information. I can't... I can't believe it. I won't. Amy shook her head yet again, and she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Amy stood to her feet just as Vanessa leaned forward to say "Are you all right? You look pale."
"If you'll excuse me," Amy whispered. "I need to take a second."
Mark and Vanessa exchanged a curious expression. "Did you need for us to leave?" Vanessa asked gently.
"N-No. It'll only take a minute. I-I just need to be alone."
Amy went to her room, closing the door softly behind her before turning on her stereo - Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman already cued and ready - and lying back on her bed. She stared at the ceiling of her room with an arm over her forehead, blinking as thought after tenacious thought attacked her view of Garret.
Amy's throat tightened, squeezing in on itself until she thought it would choke her. Then she closed her eyes and softly cried.
It only took Amy a couple of minutes to cry out her frustration and her initial feelings of shock and disbelief. Then her feelings for Garret and her obsession with seeing the best in people took firm hold of the information and shoved it in the corner for a later conversation with him. Once done, she exited the room, assured the two she felt better, and promptly led the two into rehearsal of shared scenes.
It was wonderful to get her mind off certain things.
Rehearsal went smoothly, with only a few changes in the wording here and there, and the trios chemistry jumped off the page. Vanessa did an awesome job portraying jealousy of Aeris obvious attraction to Cloud, and Mark did a spectacular job being concerned for both of them. To say the least, Vanessa, Mark, and Amy all had fun.
Then Vanessa was reminding Mark of an appointment, Mark was bowing out of the dinner that evening, and Amy was wishing them a pleasant good-bye while accepting their promise to return the next day for more rehearsal. Amy leaned against the door with a deep breath. Renee would be furious that dinner with Mark Frasier had been cancelled, but Amy wasnt in the mood to have him over. Ill just have to make it up to her later.
A backstage pass would be the only ticket.
As expected, about the time Garret and Amy would normally begin their rehearsal, Garret called.
Hello, Amy greeted, and she could hear the reserved tone in her voice. After all, she didnt want to start crying over the phone.
As always, I have arrived too early and have forgotten my PDA.
Amy reluctantly smiled. Im sorry.
Silence. Amy, there is no song in your voice, Garret observed.
Amy traced the pattern of her flannel loungers on her knee, sitting as she was tailor-style on the couch. Nope.
What has happened? he asked carefully.
Amy cleared her throat. I would really rather not talk about it over the phone. Not this.
Garret released a long breath. The meeting may go quite late.
I know, she said as she nodded. Can you stop by afterward anyway? Ill nap on the couch, that way Ill hear your knock and you wont wake Renee.
I dont want to talk about this over the phone. Its too impersonal. And Amys voice caught in her throat.
Silence. What have I done? Garret asked, and his voice was filled with dread.
Amy shook her head and took in a breath as she closed her eyes. Please, Garret. Just come by later. You deserve that.
Silence. Very well.
Thank you, Garret, she whispered.
Silence. Deep breath. Did rehearsal go well with Mark?
Amy reluctantly smiled. It did. He brought Vanessa, so we were able to rehearse the scenes we share. It was a lot of fun. Vanessa is such a wonderful actress.
Yes, she is. I am relieved Vanessa accepted the role. I had begun to believe Tifas complex character would be doomed to a stereotype of her outward appearance. No one seemed to understand her inner workings.
Amy blinked, her smile fading. Yes, she said slowly, the death of her mother and father really hit her hard, didnt it?
As did her unrealized attraction and connection to Cloud Strife. So many of those whom auditioned could not see her true nature. They did not understand her history and how that would so completely affect her present. Garret chuckled. I do apologize for going on. The role of Tifa caused me no end of frustration. I truly believed I would need to cast Nicole Kidman until I remembered Vanessas contract was soon to end. Thanks be to God Vanessa accepted the role. I greatly feared she wouldnt, due to Tifas occupation and unfortunate choice of wardrobe.
Amy laughed. I remember. Wasnt she taking up those issues with the head of wardrobe that first day at the studio?
Silence. Yes, Garret said slowly. Silence. Amy, there is a bit more song in your tone than before. Should I take that as a sign a bit of your troubled spirit has left?
Amy closed her eyes with a slight nod and a small, hesitant smile. A bit. Talking to you has a tendency of doing that.
Deep breath. I am glad. You worried me.
Im sorry, she said softly. Can you still come by? I wont keep you out too late. I promise.
Of course I will come, Amy. Silence. Max is here. I had best go.
Thanks for calling, Garret. I needed it.
Silence. Amy, there are many things I have done which have pelted my conscience to no end. Please do not judge me too harshly by them.
Amy wiped a tear away. Garret, you know I give everyone as many chances as possible, she said softly. Amy sniffed. I wouldnt give you any less.
Garret chuckled. Then my soul is safe-- Ah. I have just received the evil eye from Max. Until this evening, sweet muse.
Amys eyes crinkled at the corners. Until this evening, poet mine.
chuckle beep click
tap tap tap
Amy stretched and gave a slight, sleepy moan.
tap tap tap tap Amy came a whisper.
Amys eyes snapped open. She sat up, scooting off the couch to hurry to the door. She unlocked the chain and deadbolt and opened the door a little way. Garret smiled a greeting, but he looked tired- no, he looked exhausted. Eleven oclock at night, after a day full of meetings and arguments and intense business decisions, he still came.
Amy stepped out into he hall, closing the door behind her. Then she stepped forward and wrapped Garret up in a tight embrace. She squeezed her eyes shut as she pressed her cheek against him. Garret released a slow breath as his arms enfolded her, the warmth of his heavyweight wool coat surrounding them both.
I havent been able to focus on a single item of business since our conversation, he whispered. Max became quite furious. Garret chuckled and pushed gently back. Come, come, sweet muse, tell me now what has troubled your song.
Amy took hold of Garrets hand and led him to the wall opposite her apartment. Then she sat on the floor with her back against the wall, tugging him down beside her. Garret, why did you want Mark to play Cloud Strife?
Garret examined Amys profile in silence before speaking. To be quite honest, I didnt. A friend suggested him.
Amy absently nodded, staring at her barefeet. Why didnt you want him? Garret didnt answer, so Amy faced him. He had looked away. Its because of Vanessa. Right? You wanted to try again with her, didnt you?
Garret picket at a non-existent piece of lint from his black slacks. I did.
But they had a history. You didnt want him getting in the way again.
Garret straightened the crease. No. I didnt.
So then why did you?
Garret released a deep breath and crossed his arms with a slight frown. Their history was the key.
Because of Tifa and Cloud and you.
Garret nodded as he let out yet another breath.
You wanted to make sure the chemistry was there.
Garret made a slight grunt. Hes a pompous bastard, but he has a talent for action. That and the blood cameras love him.
Amy smiled. You had to eat humble pie all over the place, didnt you?
Garret met her gaze, and then his frown melted with a reluctant smile. To offer this movie the future it deserves? Yes.
Amy held his gaze with a slight smile, though her eyes glimmered. Im sorry, Garret.
He reached out and caressed her lips. And for what must you apologize?
For doubting you.
Garret raised an eyebrow. Doubting me in what?
Amy looked away. Your motives for choosing the people you did for the roles they have.
I dont understand.
Amy nodded. I know, but thats alright. She looked over at him again, and the smile returned. Thank you for coming by, Garret.
Of course, he said absently. Garret still examined her expression as he tried to reason her behavior.
Rehearsal tomorrow? Amy asked. She watched his face and eyes with a smile, absorbing their beauty and expressiveness as he spoke.
Yes. I have told Max that I am strictly unavailable. However, dinner may be an impossibility.
Thats alright. Maybe breakfast or lunch?
Garret smiled his most beguiling and flirtatious. Breakfast would be delightful.
Amy chuckled. Be here by 7 am and I will have it waiting for you.
You mean I must sleep elsewhere? Garret asked, shocked.
Amy nodded with a smile. Unless, of course, you dont mind sleeping on the couch.
Garret leaned close, pressing his lips lightly on hers. Only if you were there with me.
Amy returned his light kiss before pulling back. I have my own room, she told him with a smirk, and it hasnt yet had a boy in it.
Garret chuckled. One day, he promised.
Maybe, but you have to say the magic words.
Garret chuckled again. Then he looked to his watch. I had best away, Amy. Morning comes earlier each day.
He stood and helped her to her feet, taking both hands in his. Sleep well, sweet muse.
Amy smiled up at him. Only should you promise to await me within my dreams, poet mine.
Would that I could be there always, he whispered. He kissed her cheeks. Good night, Amy.
Amy kissed him softly on the cheek before he pulled back. Drive safely, Garret.
With the wings of my muse upon my soul? I shall fly. Garret gave each hand a gentle squeeze before moving toward the elevator. Once inside, he turned and gave a slight bow as the doors closed.
Amy sighed and leaned against the wall.