"Alison Riley!" the actress playing Death calls out in greeting, "I hoped you were still working with Burden."
Alison of course knew in advance that her ex-girlfriend Astrid had been cast in this role, so she was well prepared for this meeting. Considering what a bitch Astrid was, Alison half expected her to make a huge scene. But seeing how professionally she handles herself, Alison thinks back on their break up, which happened right after the movie they'd been working on was finished, and realizes that for Astrid, it's all just part of the job.
"Astrid? Is that you?" Gavin approaches the two women. He wouldn't have recognized her so quickly if he hadn't heard Alison call her by name. She stares at him blankly for a minute, so he helps her along, "It's me, Gavin."
"Gavin?" she gasps, finally seeing him through the costume and make up, "You're in this movie? You're not even an actor!"
"I tried telling that to Carey when he approached me at that party. But he insisted I was perfect for the role of Dream. And my girlfriend kind of pushed me into doing it."
"You took this role because your girlfriend made you?" Astrid asks, not even trying to reveal her scorn. He was always such a pushover; she had liked that at first, as he would do anything she asked, but it got old really fast, and it became the reason she broke up with him. Then she gathers herself and smiles, remembering that he's now the star of the film she's working on; she has to be nice to him. "I can't believe you got discovered at a party, that's so old Hollywood," she laughs, burying her bitterness in a lighthearted tone, "And here I've been busting my ass all these years just to be your supporting actress."
"We aren't going to have any romantic scenes, are we?" Gavin asks, suddenly concerned about having to kiss his ex-girlfriend for the camera.
"I'm playing your sister," Astrid says, "Did you even read the script?"
"I read it," Gavin says, "But it's so incoherent, I have no idea what's going on."
"Carey's movies are always like that," Alison says, "You just have to go with the emotions of the moment in each scene, and not worry about the bigger picture. That's his job." Alison is more than a little worried about Gavin's ability to pull this off; he has zero acting experience and he's been thrust unwillingly into the starring role.
When the photographer is ready, Gavin and Astrid are called to pose. Today's work is just pre-production, a costume shoot, so no one's acting abilities will be tested.
"Why is there a heart on Death's belt buckle?" Carey bellows, noticing this flaw in the costume design, "The heart is Desire's sigil! It shouldn't appear on Death's costume!"
"We'll get that fixed before shooting starts," Alison promises, making a mental note about hearts not appearing on anyone's costumes. "Speaking of Desire, we're having serious issues with casting. We can't find an actor or actress androgynous enough for the part."
"Don't fret so much, Alison," Carey says, his eyes staring off to a point somewhere on the horizon, "The Endless will all come eventually."
Eventually isn't really good enough when you have a production schedule, but Alison doesn't contradict her boss.
"I'll meditate on it this evening," Carey continues, "I'm sure Desire will manifest itself when summoned."
Carey has always been weird like that, Alison tells herself. But when does the line between eccentricity and insanity become too blurred? When your boss takes off to Nepal suddenly because of a vision? When you find him asleep, naked, on the beach, with no memory of how he got out there in the first place? When he tells you meditation will summon an actor for role that needs casting?
"It's amazing how much you look like my ex-girlfriend," Gavin muses when the shooting is done.
"Maybe because I am your ex-girlfriend?" Astrid teases.
"No," Gavin laughs, "I mean you look like Stina. She dresses like this all the time, And the make up...She's big fan of Sandman. I think she's modeled herself after your character, actually, now that I see you in costume. She's been helping me learn my lines; she has the whole series of graphic novels almost memorized."
"But she's not an actress?"
"No, she's an artist."
"Then I think you should let me help you with your lines," Astrid offers, "You need guidance from someone who knows what they're doing."
"That would be great," Gavin says, sincerely grateful. "Why don't we go for some coffee when we're done here?"
Out of her costume, Astrid is transformed back into the woman he remembers. Mostly anyway. "Black hair suits you," he says as they wait for their coffee.
"I don't even remember what my natural hair color is," Astrid quips, "It changes for every role I play."
"Listen, Astrid, when you broke up with me..." Gavin says. He has a lot of questions, unresolved issues, about their relationship and the way it ended.
"No relationship talks," Astrid cuts him off, "That's old history. We're working together now, and we should keep it professional."
"You never told me why..." Gavin persists.
"I don't even remember," Astrid lies, "And I'm sure your current girlfriend would prefer we stick to discussions about acting." By rule, Astrid usually finds a lover from the cast or crew of whatever movie she's working for the duration of the production, and she hasn't written Gavin off her list of potential partners for this one. He is the star after all. But her eyes are on a bigger prize, the director himself, well known his own penchant for bedding his actresses; Gavin in just the back up plan if she can't get Carey Burden.
"Hard day at work?" Kelly asks when Alison drops onto the couch beside her with a heavy sigh.
"Mostly just the same old shit," Alison says, "But I'm worried about Carey."
"Is there a part for me in your next film?" Marilyn purrs as she slithers her way up Carey's body.
"It's a comic book adaptation," he says between kisses, "Not your thing."
"Mmm, I don't know. I'd look great in one of those tight superheroine costumes," Marilyn says.
"Not that kind of comic book," Carey says, slipping her out of her lingerie, summoning Desire.
"Leaving so soon?" Marilyn pouts, "The only just setting, and we've only made love once."
"Once was all I needed," Carey says, "Now I have to go."
Marilyn shrugs, not willing to beg. It's a well known fact that Carey Burden never spends the night in anyone's bed but his own, nor does he ever invite a lover to his house. She would have enjoyed being the first to get him to stay, but, really, he isn't worth the effort. She's had worse lovers, but she's also had far far better. Carey isn't even really present when he's inside her, his eyes are always somewhere else, and his mind...who knows where his mind ever is?