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Chapter 9: A Really Hot October

I’ve missed Southern Californian Mexican food. I’m always a slut for salsa, and our waiter seems to know it with the way she keeps bringing out more. Terry and I end up being out later than we planned to be for dinner, but that’s what happens when you put two loud mouths and an endless supply of chips and salsa in front of each other. In the end, we leave when the little taqueria closes. I’m full and happy as Terry drives us back to his place. It’s dark enough now that I can see the city lights. I watch them as we drive, just like I always used to when I rode with my grandparents as a kid. There’s a pang in my chest, because I can never go back to those times, but I don’t look away. I’ve always loved the lights. They’re like little clusters of stars on the ground, something beautiful and impossible that humans never could have made if they didn’t cooperate and live together and build something. Even when life was at its lowest, looking at the city lights always calmed me. And these ones, the familiar lights of LA… Well, maybe now I can look at them and not be so sad anymore. Instead, I’m nostalgic, and not, and… satisfied.

“I had a really good day.” It comes out slow; heavy and deliberate, like it’s this amazing thing that doesn’t happen often. I’ve been having a lot of good days since I met Terry, but this is the first time I’ve really accepted where everything is—where I am—enough to express this.

Terry’s eyes don’t leave the road, but he takes one hand off the wheel and reaches over to brush his knuckles against my arm, stroking from shoulder to wrist. “Me too.”

I move my fingers just a little so that they catch in his palm as his hand passes by. He takes the hint and wraps my hand in his.

The feeling of contentment spreads, radiating from my heart. I didn’t know I could feel more relaxed. I take a deep breath, and let it out real slow-like, and it feels like the first real breath I’ve taken in a really, really long time.

We don’t let go when he pulls into the driveway. Even once he’s turned off the car, our hands are still lingering, intertwined with each other, both of us seemingly reluctant to let go. Sitting here in the car in the dark would just be silly, though. Besides, it’s already 11 o’clock, and we’ve got work tomorrow bright and early.

I duck my head, let go of his hand, and get out of the car, determined not to distract him from his rest. However, when we get to the door I catch the heel of my shoe on the door frame due to my unfamiliarity with his entryway, and it sends me on a pretty fast-paced trip towards the floor. Fortunately, Terry is all over that like red on an apple (or a ginger, whatever, metaphors are hard when you’re falling to your death) and catches me.

My skin feels like it’s humming where he’s touching my wrist and my waist. The mood lighting of the moon through the great glass windows of his living room isn’t helping either. So much for being responsible adults, because in the next instant I’m pulling at his jacket and his mouth is crushed against mine. You’d think we were both having a withdrawal of some kind with how desperately we’re pulling at each other.

Our mouths part and, through the panting, we both try to start talking at the same time.

“Um—”

“Ah—”

“Oh, you fir—’

“No, no, go ahe—”

Cue awkward pause and even more awkward laugh and the slight disentanglement of limbs.

“Work tomorrow,” I say.

“Yeah,” he responds.

For all the world he sounds disappointed—and dammit, I know that feeling.

I reach up and brush his hair back from his face. He curls a hand gently around the side of my neck.

“We wouldn’t sleep if we slept in the same bed, would we?” he asks.

Fuck, I mean, I could try…

Apparently the face I make is enough of a response, because he breaks down laughing and touches his forehead to mine.

“I mean, i-if you wanted me to, I could—” I say.

“No, it wasn’t a request… I mean, it was, but it wasn’t,” he says, hurriedly backtracking. “It was… Ugh, this is hard. Because I’d like to sleep…” Here he pauses as if searching for the correct wording, because we both know “with you” is gonna send us spiraling right back down the path we were on a second ago. “Next to you, but…” He slides his hand down over my body and I shiver. Seems we’re not all that good at keeping our hands off each other anymore. He better be careful, though. Turnabout’s fair play.

“Yeah,” I say, begrudgingly. “It might be a little…” I stand up a little more to whisper in his ear. “Too hard.”

His turn to shiver.

He makes a frustrated sound and steps back.

“Go… Go brush your teeth or something,” he says, holding one hand over his face and leaning on the wall for support.

He’s grinning through it though, as if he appreciates how difficult I’m making his life right now—which makes absolutely no sense, but I don’t think I care.

“Mmkay. I’ll go rest up.” I lean in and kiss his cheek.

“You better. I’m going to exploit your talents to the last drop for this show, Ms. Ainsley,” he teases.

I bat my eyelashes at him, feeling brave in the dim light. “It’s my pleasure to be part of the project, Mr. Walsh.”

He pushes me towards the stairs. I trot up them with a smile on my face and the overwhelming feeling of content still heavy and secure in my chest. I slip into bed thinking that this is the sort of difficult I think I could get used to.

* * *

The one thing everyone needs to know about Bizney: it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There’s this thing called “senseless busywork” that also exists behind those enchanted walls of a studio. And as the new intern, all of that stuff belongs to me.

I love it anyway.

Even when Ron asks me to sort through every storyboard they’ve ever made and create a better filing system—although I kind of think he may have just invented the task to keep me from oogling Terry while he works because the system they’ve got is pretty flawless—I’m ecstatic.

At least he’s asking me to do things and not being openly hostile. I could respect that, if I had time to. I’m too busy meeting storyboard artists, sifting through background tags for Sean, and laughing at something someone said when we all go out for drinks at the end of the day.

Friday passes smoothly, and—usually—this would be the end of a work week. However, since I’m part-time with a twenty-hour obligation to Bizney and working at Ziv Monday through Wednesday, Terry suggested that I also work Saturdays for Bizney.

The one other thing every intern needs to know is that if your boss wants you to work on Saturdays—especially if they work in the entertainment industry—those days are never going to be what you think they’re going to be.

It’s 8:00 am, Saturday morning. I’ve just woken up and am staring at the clock, fit to have an aneurism—so leaping out of bed and barreling through the bathroom to Terry’s room doesn’t seem like the intrusive thing that it is until I’m shouting “Terry!!” and he’s bolt upright in bed like the world’s on fire going, “What?!”

I hang in the doorway in my pajamas gaping at him. How can he not know? “We’re going to be late.”

He immediately sags back down into bed with a groan.

I come after him. “Don’t go back to sleep, we need to—”

He mumbles something

“What?”

He raises a hand and beckons to me with it. I come a little closer to the bed, but he beckons harder. I put a knee on the mattress and lean in.

He grabs me around the middle and pulls me into bed with him. I yelp as I nearly crush him.

“What are you doing, we need to—”

“It’s Saaaaaaaaaturdaaaaaaaaay,” he intones, rolling into me and burying his nose in the space between my shoulder and neck.

“…But I thought you said we were going to work on Saturdays?”

He huffs like I’m asking a stupid question. “Of course we are.”

“Then why aren’t we—”

“We don’t actually need to go to work to ‘go to work’ today,” he mumbles into my hair. “The office’ll be dead anyway. So long as I sign off that you did your hours, you’re good, and so long as I have a show to put out, I’m good.” He snuggles closer, and then says, “So stop fighting me and go back to sleeeeep.”

“Okay, okay,” I say, disgruntled that I panicked over nothing. I try to lift his arm and get up so I can go back to my room and my bed. “Just let me up and I’ll—”

“Mm-mm,” he says, shaking his head and drawing me back down. “Staaaaay.”

I gasp a little and stop trying to push him off. He’s tired. He doesn’t know what he’s saying. Yeah, that’s it. He’s just half asleep.

But that’s not on me, I think, slipping down in his hold to fit myself more naturally against him.

He must be too tired to notice, because he’s not doing the sharp-eyed watchful thing he usually does whenever I exhibit signs of interest. He just takes a deep breath and hums a sigh of contentment.

“So long as we actually work later, yeah?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he murmurs. “We’ll read some scripts, okay? Plenty I wanna—yaaaaawn—hear you talk about, and it’s good practice anyway, can you pass the mustard to the toaster? Hmm, thanks.”

“Is it dreams like that that give you the material for your show?” I whisper, tucking a stray curl behind his ear.

He hums at me and his breathing returns to the steady rhythm of sleep. Three hours later, I wake up alone in bed to hear entirely too cheerfully music blaring from the living room. Upon inspection, it turns out he’s frying eggs in hollowed out slices of bread.

The obnoxiously peppy morning serenade has thankfully timed out or something, so at least I can hear his hum of inquiry when I raise an eyebrow at him.

“Any plans to blow up Parliament I should know about?” I ask as a take a mug down from the cabinet and pour myself a cup of tea from the steaming pot on the counter.

D for Declaration fan?” he asks, plating my eggy-in-a-basket and handing it to me. He ushers me towards the island in the middle of the kitchen and sets the teapot down in front of me before turning back to continue cooking his own meal. I haven’t answered yet because my mouth is full and I’m having a moment.

“I ‘atch ‘t e’ry ‘ear,” I say around my food.

“I’m sorry, translation?”

I swallow and say it again. “I watch it every year.”

“Should have gotten out the mask for this bit then,” he murmurs to himself, flipping his food.

I choke.

“What?” he says. “Everyone’s got one of those right?”

“I don’t.”

He gasps exaggeratedly. “You lied to me! You’re not a real fan at all, are you?!”

I raise my half-eaten toast at him and change the subject. “You made breakfast.”

He bows, slowly flourishing with both his hands. “You are a guest in my house, madam.”

“Ugh, you’re one of those terrible morning people, aren’t you?”

He turns back to the stove and turns off the burner, then plates his food and comes to the island to join me. “Quite the opposite, actually, but I’ve been up for a bit.”

“Plotting the death of Mr. Creedy?”

“Trying to decide what to feed the woman I’m elated to have in my home.”

His comment takes me off guard, and my toast stops halfway to my mouth. He needs to stop being so sweet or I’m never going to make it through this meal.

He hand darts out and plucks up my tea cup. He takes a sip from it before I can do anything.

“Hey!”

“Eat your breakfast,” he mocks gently, handing me back my cup.

“I will!” I say, and get down to business.

After, we set into the scripts, just like he said we would. It’s like having a whole day to do the things we’d only ever squeezed into stolen nights. There’s something about getting to do it in the daylight that makes me feel more like a real asset to him, like a real contributor. I’m still feeling good about it when Terry gets me to the airport that night to head back to my other job in San Francisco.

I settle into my first week of the routine of three days at Ziv, three days at Bizney, and one day to myself. Even though I’m working more than anyone probably should, I couldn’t be happier.

However, when I come back the following Thursday for day four of my Bizney internship, the way my morning starts is quickly convincing me that Saturdays are going to become my favorite day. I just flew in way too mega early to process anything as Ron rattles off menial task after menial task he’s got lined up for me.

The other other thing every intern needs to know is that no matter how much of the busy work you get done, there’s always going to be more busy work. At Ziv it’s proofreading, here it’s…  going over the files again?

Okay, now I’m sure Ron is inventing tasks just to test my mettle and keep me away from Terry.

Thankfully, Terry steps in and adds a boarding meeting here, a recording session there, a script read through over there, and soon my schedule looks a lot less like busy work and a lot more like what I signed up for.

Of course, Ron fights Terry on some of it, and by the end of it, I am the newly appointed ruler of storyboard filing—but I’m also in on the boarding meetings and recording sessions and events!

My elation must show on my face—I’ve never been good at hiding my emotions—because Ron rolls his eyes and says, “Well at least she’s appreciative,” and then drags me away from Terry to get me acquainted with the filing, again.

Terry waves as Ron drags me away and says he’ll see me that afternoon at the script proofing session.

It’s a good thing he’s at the proofing session too, because when Sean and I get into an argument about Alex’s motivation, Terry is the only thing standing between us and bloodshed.

“Wait, what do you mean Grunkle Alex’s medallion hoard?” I say, giving Sean a blank look.

Terry dings himself on the forehead with his pen and turns away from the whiteboard where he’s been tallying what he seems to think is the score of mine and Sean’s argument. “Sean!” he roars.

“What?!” Sean says back.

“We never used that!”

They stare at each other in amazement and then both say, “My bad!” at the same time.

Sean gives Terry a nervous look. “Should we tell her about—”

“Nope nope nope,” Terry says, swiveling in his chair. He pulls the cap off a dry erase marker with his teeth, wipes away his scoreboard, and begins scribbling furiously. “That’s what she’s here for; scope. She only knows what the fans know, so it’ll really keep us on point.”

So… I’m here because I’m a fan? I duck my head, hoping I’m not blushing. That’s kind of flattering, honestly. Of all the fans in the world, he picked me.

“Oh,” Ron says. He says it in a pleased sort of way, the way one does when you get to keep a secret from someone you really enjoy having one over to begin with. “Well then…”

I laugh at him. “Oh my gosh, Ron, try and contain yourself.”

“I will do no such thing.”

I pretend to be offended and beg Ron to tell me, but really, even though it means I’m in the dark, I’m happy.

Everyone on this team is way too close to the project. They know all the dead episodes. They know everything about these characters, a whole plethora of material that’s never been released to the fans.

Now it makes sense why he was keeping me away from the brainstorming sessions.

And I thought my not knowing was going to make me useless to him.

The real highlight of the days we spend at Bizney is getting to see Terry work in the voice acting booth. Today he’s directing Jason Witter, voice of Clint Pines. The scene is one where he and his sister are fighting, for once.

I sit next to Terry, wondering why he brought me along since I’ve got absolutely nothing to contribute, transfixed by the artistry before me.

This is like seeing a unicorn—the real kind that don’t scam you into thinking you’re not pure of heart, like in the show. Jason and Terry are known for their fondness for each other, and it shows in the gentle way Terry directs him.

Until we hit the moment where Clint snaps out of annoyance and into pure anger. Considering the lack of sibling rivalry and the huge amount of fondness for each other that Cassie and Clint exhibit in the show, Jason is understandably having trouble nailing his lines.

“Okay, Jason, that was good,” Terry says, “but say it again more like you’re mad at her.”

This is the seventh time Jason has tried this line. Even me, the n00b in the room, isn’t buying it anymore.

My eyes flick over to Terry. He’s hesitating, mouth pressed into a thin line.

“Is this about your sister?” he asks.

Jason visibly stiffens in the booth. He lets out a nervous laugh and rubs the back of his neck sheepishly.

“Alright, let’s take a break, everyone,” Terry says. “Get yourself some water and some lozenges and we’ll get back to it in a minute.”

“Oh, you have so got it,” the tech next to me grumbles, taking off her headset. She lays it on the console with a sigh and gets up, muttering something about herbal tea.

Terry gets up out of his chair, then makes for the door of the recording room.

“Do you want me to leave too?” I ask.

Terry bites his lip thoughtfully, then reaches over a flips a switch on the sound board. “Stay there,” he says. “You should see this. But look busy, okay?”

I pull my notebook out of my purse and draw my pencil from the spiral binding. Never hard for me to look busy these days with all the notes I’m taking on how to be fucking awesome. I give him a nod. He gives me a thumbs up and then steps into the recording room.

I hear Jason sigh and step out of the booth. Looks like Terry switched the recording equipment over from the tech’s headphones to the soundboard speakers so I can hear everything.

“I’m sorry, man,” Jason says. “It’s just hard to be mad at someone who’s supposed to be my sister when Christa’s still recovering from that number her dick husband pulled on her.”

“I know, man. But look at Cassie. She’s not even thirteen yet. She doesn’t know anything about mental abuse. She’s with her family, and you’re her family in this scene. If anyone can teach her to fight the sort of injustice Christa’s had to put up with, it’s Cassie’s stupid twin brother and the stupid things he says to her when he’s angry.”

“…You really think so?”

“Dude, I know so. Besides, Kristen gets to verbally kick your ass when she comes in to record Cassie’s lines, and if you don’t give her something to get mad about she’s gonna be too sweet.”

“I do like making Kristen angry…”

“As do we all,” Terry laughs. “She does that funny thing with her nose.”

Jason guffaws. “You mean the crinkle?”

I flick my eyes up to see both these idiots using their fingers to crinkle their noses at each other. I cover my mouth with a hand to keep from audibly laughing.

Then they’re saying “Yeah…yeeeaaahhhh,” with that same thoughtful pointing gesture thing that Clint and his clone did to each other back in episode whatever-I-can’t-think-right-now where they tap their own heads and then each other’s, like they’re congratulating each other for having the same idea—I guess I know where the inspiration for that shot in the show came from now.

Their laughter subsides and Terry claps Jason on the shoulder. “You think you can get back in that booth and piss Kristen off?”

“Oh, you bet I can.”

“Good.”

“Hey, Terry… Thanks, dude. It means a lot to have someone who gets it.”

“Jason, you know my policy on personability.”

“Work space sucks without it?”

Terry snaps his fingers and points finger guns at Jason with both hands. Jason throws up his hands in mock defeat.

“Okay, okay, but still,” Jason insists.

“You wanna thank me? Kill this line!”

“Oh, I am your man!

Oh my god, these adorable idiots. I try to look busy, scribbling something in my notebook about friends and how Terry shouldn’t be allowed to have them when it reverts him to being a literal twelve-year-old—no matter how insightful or willing to take mental abuse and illness seriously it makes him.

Terry’s chair creaks next to me. I slide my eyes over to him and then away.

“Is that what being a director is like?” I ask him.

“Sometimes.”

I doodle a little more with my pencil, thinking about how obscenely cool he is.

“How’d you learn?” I ask finally.

“I didn’t,” he admits, leaning back in his seat. I flick my eyes up and realize Jason must have gone for that lozenge. We’re alone in the studio. “I just started making things and asking people to do them for me. Cassie’s voice actor, Kristen? She’s got some real horror stories about when we were first making the pilot and I didn’t know what I was doing. But, here we are.”

“You’re kidding…”

He grins. “Kind of. It’s not like we didn’t have people who told us how to direct at school, but it never really clicked with me, you know? It was too… What’s the word I’m looking for—oh, oh! Clinical. It was waaaaay too clinical. I don’t know, I just couldn’t get someone else to give me the feeling I wanted out of a line if I wasn’t feeling it right there next to them.”

“Hence your policy on personability?”

“Yeah. Easier to help someone I know get a line out than a stranger.”

I scritch and scratch at my notebook, trying to decide how to say this next thing.

“You’re a good guy.”

They’re simple words, but he seems to understand the weight they carry, because he doesn’t say anything right away.

The he shifts his chair and turns a little, as if he can’t quite look at me, and mumbles “Th-thanks.”

Is he blushing?!

Suddenly notebooks are unimportant. I sit up in my chair to look straight at him, and yep, that’s a blush alright.

This is the first time I’ve seen him affected like this at work.

Right! Work, work, focus back on the work.

“I-is it more difficult when you have to direct yourself?” I stammer, finding it difficult to meet his eyes.

He turns to me. I don’t look at him.

“I mean, you play so many characters on the show, but…” I say.

“You wanna see?”

I look up from my notebook. “Huh?”

He reaches over to the engineer’s board of tools. “I don’t know much, but I know enough to record you and play it back for you…”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “Me?!” I say, pointing from me to the booth and back again and probably giving him the most bewildered look he’s ever seen on my face, because his blush fades and he full on laughs.

“Oh, yes. You signed up for the full intern experience, and that is what you are going to get.” He laughs wickedly and fiddles with the sound board. “Alright, in the booth with you.”

I set my notebook down on my chair and walk like a woman going to the gallows. This far in with him and he’s still finding ways to get me to question what in blue blazes I’ve gotten myself into.

I let myself into the booth, put on the headphones, and look at the microphone with mild concern. “How loud do I need to be?” I ask.

“Anything’s fine,” Terry says, fiddling with some dials. “I can always mess with the levels. Now, let’s use the script that’s in there. You’ve heard Jason go through Clint’s lines enough, so take the other side of the argument and be Cassie, okay?”

I take a deep breath and shake out my hands, loosening up and reading over my lines. “Okay. From the top of the scene to the bottom?”

“From where Clint’s yelling ‘Cassie!’ in that exasperated, outraged way he does.” Terry smirks through the glass. “You’re a fan. You know.”

Just because he’s right doesn’t give him the right to be smug about it. I make a face at him and he laughs.

“Alright,” he says. “Here’s the countdown; three, two, one, aaaand action!”

The first time I read Cassie’s lines, every single one of them sounds the same: same inflection, same tone, same cadence. I don’t even get out of the booth to listen to them before telling Terry to take it from the top again. The second time, I manage to sound like a real person, and Terry insists I let him play them back for me before making further attempts.

I watch him as I listen to my attempt at Cassie. He keeps his gaze on the soundboard, face smooth and illegible. “What did I do wrong?” I ask him when it’s over.

He looks up from the soundboard, face still suspiciously blank. “Wrong? Nothing.”

I roll my eyes at him. “Sure. But it could obviously be better.”

He shrugs at me. “You’re the director. It’s your judgment that matters here, not mine. And believe me, I’m not a mind reader. I can’t tell you what to make of this.” He rests his chin on his hands and bats his eyelashes. “I’m just your sound tech today. Far be it from me to comment on anything other than the sound quality—which is superb, by the way.”

“Yeah, but…” I wish he’d help me here. I know there’s something wrong with it, but I don’t know what it is. It’s not the line, after all. That’s perfect. There’s just something about the way I said it.

“Listen: trust yourself and direct. Start with what feels off about it to you. What makes you think you’ve done something wrong?”

I sigh, trying to think. “Like you said, there’s nothing wrong with it, but… It doesn’t sound like Cassie,” I say finally.

“Okay, start there then. What makes it not sound like her?”

I purse my lips. “Play it for me again?”

He obliges and as I listen, I realize that the way I said the lines doesn’t sound like Cassie because it sounds like me. There’s too much heat behind Cassie’s words, too much logic. She sounds angry and like she has every right to be upset, instead of frustrated that her brother doesn’t understand where she’s coming from. Cassie jokes to deflate arguments. She whines sometimes. And when neither of those things work, she becomes frustrated, not full-on angry. The way I read for her, she sounds pissed the whole time.

“Okay,” I say. “I think I’ve got it now.”

“You’re the director. Of course you do,” Terry replies. He spins a dial. “Again?”

I nod, and we take it from the top once more.

This time when I look out from the booth, Terry is grinning. “Come on out of the booth,” he says. “Our break’s almost over, so I’ll play it back for you in here.”

“Wouldn’t want our sound tech catching you playing with her equipment,” I tease into the microphone. I can’t hear his response after I remove my headphones, but it looks like he’s laughing through the glass.

He turns his monitor towards me when I come back into the sound room and hits play. The rough boards for this scene play, and my voice comes in for Cassie. I stare in disbelief as the stills of the scene unfold. I don’t sound anything like Kristen, of course, but my intonation is pretty damn Cassie-rific.

I fall down into the seat next to him, still amazed. “Whoa…”

“Aaand that’s what it feels like,” Terry says. He reaches out and brushes my cheek with his hand. “Good job, intern.”

I reach out, grab him by the collar, and pull him forward into a kiss. He hums and leans into it. Good. I want him to enjoy this. It’s a thank-you kiss, after all. I straighten his collar as I pull away. “Thanks, boss.”

My hands spring away from him as the studio door opens.

“You would not believe the line for coffee,” our tech says, marching in. “And all I wanted was tea!” She sets a cup down, turns, and then seems to notice that Terry is in her chair, not his. “What are you doing?” she asks, lifting an eyebrow.

“Oh, um, ah…”

I bend back over my notebook. Gotta make directing notes and, boss or not, I’m not saving his ass from this one.

“We did a little intern exercise on directing, and um… we may have recorded some of Cassie’s lines for Jason to work off of!”

Nice save.

The tech shrugs, shoos Terry out of her chair, and then checks the console. “Well, I hope you didn’t like any of Jason’s other takes, because you recorded over all of them.”

Terry laughs nervously. “Well, we weren’t going to keep any of them, but man, I thought I remembered more from tech class.”

“Apparently you didn’t,” our tech tells him flatly.

Jason walks back in, takes one look at our tech’s face, and stops short of the booth door. “Uh-oh, Terry. What did you do this time?”

“Me? Nothing! I did nothing!” Terry defends.

Except kiss his intern over the very soundboard he just deleted all of Jason’s takes from.

I feel myself flush as I remember that kiss.

I just kissed Terry at work.

Water, water, I need water.

“I-I’ll be right back,” I say, definitely too loudly and too awkwardly. Oh, be smooth for once in your life, Alexis!

“We’ll be here!” Terry says in exactly the same way. I’m fairly certain we’ve both managed to turn ourselves glowing red with this situation before I push through the door and out into the cool air of the hallway.

When I get back, Jason and Terry are just finishing up. Jason has apparently “killed the line” just like Terry asked, and Terry is back in work mode.

I settle back into my chair—calmed, steady, ready to watch him in all his glory as he directs and just take it in. Then he surprises me by leaving his chair and heading for the booth. What’s he doing?

He puts on the headphones and steps up to the microphone. “Okay, guys, we’re gonna do the Buck stuff for the episode after the one we were just working on.”

Uh oh.

I bite my lip and cross my legs.

Of all of the voices Terry does on the show, this is the one that gives me those problematic fan feelings right between the legs. I’ve had some problematic ships in my time, but some of my most concerning have revolved around this sentient, polygonal demi-god of a character.

Our herbal tea tech raises her hand in a thumbs-up. “Okay, whenever you’re ready.”

Do I get a say in that? Cuz I’m not ready.

Terry sets in, though, and it’s the high pitched yell he always said it was—the one he always has a hard time doing at conventions, that’s going to take him three cups of honey tea and a fist full of throat lozenges to really wipe from his vocal cords tonight…

I’m a puddle in my seat. How does he manage to direct himself while inflecting like he’s sex on legs?

But he does, line after line: record, listen, critique, repeat until satisfied, and on to the next.

Sometimes he does a chunk in a row, sometimes he takes it line by line.

But it’s the laughs he spends the most time on…

Fuck me, I’ve never been able to be properly afraid of laughs like this because I’m too busy melting into a red-hot puddle of want.

I can hear Lizzy in my head now: We love the wrong fictional people, huh?

No shit, sweetie.

And if I thought hearing Terry laugh in the episode was bad, with all the effects and filters they use for the full-effect of Buck’s voice, seeing Terry throw his head back and cackle with such abandon and power is a new level my poor little fangirl heart was not prepared for.

Finally—finally, finally—it’s over. He comes back to the director’s side of the booth, and starts nit-picking with the tech over effects.

He turns to me as she’s applying a few things and smiles—kindly, like he has no idea what he just did to me with that sinful voice of his.

I’m trying not to let on that my breathing is all wrong and that someone took a huge red marker across my face in a valiant attempt to recreate one of those classic anime blushes.

“What did you think?” he asks.

“It was good,” I reply. My voice sounds breathy and overwhelmed to me. God, I hope he doesn’t notice.

He quirks a brow. “No, no. Like you, as a director. What would you—?”

“Ohh, I wouldn’t do anything.”

I duck my head, biting my lip. Get a hold of yourself, stupid! We just did an exercise on directing, and he’s trying to teach you something here! Get your head in the game!

When I look back up, he’s looking at me hard.

“Are you holding something back?” he asks.

I’m sure what he means is “Do you have something to say that you’re actually not telling me because I was directing a second ago and you think you’re just an intern that doesn’t know anything about directing even though I just proved to you that you do?”

Unfortunately that’s not what I hear, and it’s difficult to keep my eyelashes from fluttering closed over the possible connotation of “Are you holding yourself back from kissing me right here and now only so we don’t offend our hardworking tech? Cuz I know her and she wouldn’t be offended.” Hell, my eyelids dip a little bit even despite my efforts.

“A-ask me after work,” I say.

His mouth thins like he doesn’t want to let this go, but then the tech is talking to him. He gives her his attention. I do my best to calm down, even while pressing my ear to a set of the soundboard headphones and trying to objectively take notes on how the tech tweaks and manipulates Terry’s laughs to make them sound absolutely mind-bendingly, knee-meltingly perfect.

At the end of the session, I thank our tech and shake her hand. I tell her I’d like to buy her a cup of chamomile tea sometime because this was so enlightening. I don’t think she really understands why I’m so grateful, but that’s alright. It would be too embarrassing if she did.

Terry holds out until we make it to his car before asking, “Is it after work yet?”

I take a deep breath. There’s no avoiding explaining what watching him record just did to me, but damn do I feel like a stupid fan for admitting to this.

“You know how there are some things that just affect you when you hear them? Like, they’re undeniably sexy, and there’s just nothing you can do about that? Imagine getting to hear one of those things while watching the person who creates that voice get into the role.”

I’m confessing this to the ceiling of his car, because I can’t look at him and say it. The fan in me won’t allow me to say such secret fan things to a creator.

“Wait, you think my Buck voice is…” There’s a pause, and then the sound of his car door opening. I break my eyes away from the ceiling to look over.

“W-where are you going?” I ask

“I’m gonna, ah…” He pauses to clear his throat. His voice is raspy and airy. “I’m going back for that voice changer I keep at my desk,” he says, his voice breaking on “desk,” showing the wear the session had on him. He clears his throat again and makes to get out of the car.

“No!” I say, surging across the car and catching him by the back of his shirt. I drag him back into the car. “You think I don’t listen to your panels? You need like five cups of honey tea before you do that voice again!”

He sits there in the driver’s seat with his hands over his face, his breathing long and deep, like he’s trying to calm down and failing. He rubs his face and then says, “Are the five cups of tea going to get me as laid as my highly advanced voice-changing gizmo?”

This man has me staring at him speechless a lot.

“B-both of those things would keep you as equally unlaid, you gigantic nerd,” I protest.

“That sounds fake,” he says, closing his door and then starting the car. “But okay.”

He drops it after that, and cycles back to the session we had with Jason to grill me about directing. By the time we get back to his place, I’m regretting not having let him seduce me instead. Directing is hard. But he seems calm again, and even drinks the tea I make him once we get in the door, obscene amount of honey and all.

 

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