~ After the Curtain Falls ~
by Beth Dragon & Kathleen Wolf

Copyright Disclaimer: Any relation the characters within the following story have to other people living, dead or fictional is purely coincidental. All characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the authors.

Love/Graphic Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a love relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. Please note there are scenes of a graphic sexual nature at intervals in the story.

Sexual Violence Warning/Disclaimer: Later Acts of this story will depict scenes of sexual violence/spousal abuse and its aftermath. This type of depiction may disturb some readers and anyone who is sensitive to this particular issue may wish to read something other than this story.

Illegal Drug Warning/Disclaimer: Later Acts of this story will include reference to heroin use and the horrors that it causes. If this topic disturbs you, you may wish to read something else.

Feedback: All comments are greatly appreciated and can be sent to: kathandbeth@hotmail.com

Thanks: To Emma, for her never ending love, support and chocolate. To the Ex-Guards Village for all their feedback and expert advice.

Act I

The minute the thick bound script hit the floor of the stage the entire company froze and an ominous thud echoed through the large majestic theater. The small figure responsible for the thrown script locked her jaw and stalked down the temporary steps that led to the seating area. She strutted past a stunned director who sat in the front row going over last minute details and past a myriad of support personal. All of who suddenly found something much more important to look at then the star of the play.

Her green eyes danced with anger as she took the steps two by two on her way past the orchestra seating and up to the second tier landing. Brushing her long reddish blonde hair from her face she looked upwards. She knew that somewhere on the top of the three-story scaffolding was a lighting technician, who in her opinion, needed to be told a few things about their job.

"Excuse me!" She barked up into the darkness. "Excuse me, I need to have a word with you!" Her voice was hard and demanding.

"Hold on!" A loud calm response came back, as a figure dressed in black unhooked the safety cable from the light bar she was hanging off of. Checking to make sure that nothing would fall as she descended, she made her way to a lower level of the scaffolding and hung over the side to find out who was calling her. She brushed strands of long black hair behind her ears as she locked one leg around a bar to balance herself. "You needed a word?"

"Is this the final lighting layout for this scene?" The small woman's tone lowered slightly as she got a bit dizzy from the perilous stance the other woman had taken on the scaffold.

"Except for one or two fillers, yes." Rae braced herself for an argument. She'd worked on enough productions to know when the star was on the brink of giving her a lecture on stage lighting. "You have a problem with it?"

"It's horrible!" Thea screamed up at her, too angry again to worry about the woman's safety. "Don't you see that all of the leads are in shadows! Are you blind?" Pointing towards the stage, she wasn't surprised to see everyone frozen in the same position they'd been in the moment she'd dropped her script.

"I assure you I am not blind." Rae kept her face blank as she reached a hand to the bar above her head to swing out a bit further. "And I assure you that you are not shadowed." She purposely directed the comment at the lead actress alone.

"I am convinced you are blind." Thea put her small hands to her slender waist. "And I know for a fact that I am in a shadow. I want it changed." She clenched her teeth for a minute as the height between them made her dizzy. "And stop hanging off the scaffold in an attempt for sympathy, I don't care if you fall."

"You want it changed do you?" Leaning back onto the scaffold, Rae slowly climbed the rest of the way down and didn't speak again until she had both feet on the ground. Turning she motioned to the scaffold. "Well be my guest. There are a hundred and twenty five lights up there and twenty five over there." She motioned to an area behind the scaffold. "You very well might do a better job, but I doubt it." She turned to stare back at the fiery actress.

"The lights are your job, I'm not about to climb up there." Thea waved off the invitation, even more angry that this technician would make such an ignorant proposal to her. "Fix it now!"

"Fix what?" Crossing her arms over her chest Rae waited for another protest before continuing. "You have the best lighting possible for the equipment I have and the blocking on this scene. I will promise to direct my spot man to focus on you during your monologue but other than that." She shrugged her shoulders. "Sorry, no options."

"There are always options." Thea locked the other woman's blue eyes with her own. "Either I get better light, not just in this scene but in the entire play, or I walk." She turned abruptly and took one step away before fully turning back. "The simple fact is that no one and I repeat no one can play this character like I can."

"Well these are your options, you play her in this lighting or you will be seeing how good you can play her in the dark." The tall woman smiled brightly at the futile ultimatum she'd been given.

"I?" Deciding there was no good in arguing with this stubborn technician, she turned again on her heel and headed for the nearest exit. "I hate technicians!"

"Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." Rae commented when she heard the squeak of rage come from the woman walking away.

"Pig headed Techie!" Thea screamed as pulled the exit door open.

"Love you too!" Rae called back playfully and tried to keep herself from laughing. In the back of her mind she wished again that more drama schools would include a technical element in their programs. At least then she might not have to have one of these arguments on every production.

"Screw you!" The shouted words came just as the heavy door closed automatically behind her.

Turning back to the scaffold, Rae leapt up to grab a high crossbeam and hoisted herself up. The stretch in her forearms felt good and she glanced at her watch. She'd been up on the scaffold for four hours already, no wonder she was starting to cramp. She'd need to take a break and re-hydrate soon.


"Excuse me up there?" The deep male voice called up into the shadows at the roof of the theater. "I'm sorry to bother you but?" He didn't finish the thought as a loud voice cut him off.

"Hey turn up the level on the L4!" Rae called and signaled to her assistant on the lighting board. "I'm a little busy right now, what is it?" Hooking a leg for safety she leaned over the very top of the structure to look at him.

"Do you think you could talk to Estell?" His voice was spiced by fear. "She's really upset."

"In a minute, I'm busy." Disappearing back into the shadows, she hoped the play's leading man would slink away admirably.

"But? but she's really upset." He stayed in place, at a loss for how else to save the show. If Estell quit the night of dress rehearsal the entire six-week run was over and he would lose his shot.

"Alright." She muttered in an annoyed voice and began her climb down.

"It'll only take a minute." Trying to keep his voice sweet, he hated having to beg a techie for help. Seeing the figure making her descent, he breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, thank you!"

"Where is our little pre-madonna?" Rae questioned him as she grabbed a cloth off the scaffold and tried to wipe some of the dirt from her hands.

"She's in the green room." He wrung his hands, looking off toward the stage where the director stood glaring at him.

"Stay here and make sure no one steps one foot on this." Commanding him in a stern voice, she pointed to the scaffold. "Not one finger, got it?" His silent nodding and sudden tremble at her voice made her laugh. "Get a grip Michael." She called back to him as she walked toward the exit. "If we didn't have at least one actress claim she was quitting we wouldn't have a show!"

Moving closer to guard the scaffold Michael grinned nervously. He didn't want to admit to a techie that this was his first production and he had no idea what normal was.


Finding the door to the green room propped open with a spare chair, Rae ran an unconscious hand through her hair. She sauntered into the large room without invitation or hesitation.

The play's lead was holding court to the extras in one corner of the room. Sparing no dramatics, Estell was telling them all about the horrors of dealing with the technical staff and especially stubborn ones like the crew leader. She knew it was instinct alone that was keeping her words from faltering as she found herself fighting every urge to look up. Taking this opportunity to watch the tall crew leader prowl across the room was almost too much to resist.

Unconcerned with the group, Rae set her eyes on the drinks table and headed straight for it. Reaching into the large ice bucket to pull out a nearly frozen soda, she contemplated putting her head in for a moment, unable to believe how hot she felt. A smile played at her lips and she was very glad that her back was to the beautiful lead. She suddenly couldn't be sure if it was the work or the company that was increasing her temperature.

Thea let herself smile inwardly, happy that none of the throng around her had noticed her surprise at the new arrival. She was even more thankful that none of them had noticed her shock when the technician headed first to get a drink and made no acknowledgment of her. Shooing the extras away before any of them could catch onto her surprise, her mind raced as she tried to figure out just how to start a conversation with this gorgeous woman. She had thought about approaching her before of course, before she's even knew who the tall dark woman was but right now after all the dramatics it didn't seem the best time to start the dreamt up conversation she had. She forced her gaze into her hands when every first line in the world suddenly sounded stupid and childish to her mind. An inaudible gasp left her lips when she realized that she, the star of the play, was tongue-tied. Closing her eyes briefly it struck her that clearing the room of everyone but herself and the crew leader might have been a hasty move.

"So, I hear you've quit the play?" Snapping the drink open, Rae took a long sip before speaking.

"Oh you'd like that wouldn't you?" The speechlessness left Thea suddenly as her momentarily forgotten anger reset itself. She sharpened her most intense stare at the women across the room.

"Yes, actually it would mean I wouldn't still have twenty lights to hang, aim and gel by tonight's dress rehearsal." Staring back with equal force, Rae broke the eye contact only to take a much needed drink.

"Paving the way for to put that little bimbo who is my understudy on stage, that would suit you wouldn't it?" She barked the harsh question across the room in between aggressive draws on her menthol cigarette.

"I'd forgotten about her..." Rae leaned back against the table to think for a second. "No, she sucks." Taking a big swallow she continued. "She couldn't hit a mark if I drew her a stage map." A sudden light smile played on her lips. "Which I have by the way and it didn't help at all." Taking another drink, she walked closer to gap the distance between them. She decided to stop far enough back so that the seated woman wouldn't think she was trying to use her height to intimidate her.

"Well you better work hard at getting the lighting right so you can't see that she sucks." Thea forced her words to come out harsh, though inside she could feel her anger was subsiding. "It's because she only plays the part, she doesn't live it."

"You're right there. She's herself playing a role, she isn't the character ever. She should take up a new hobby." Rae held her adversary's eye for a moment before tipping her head up to take the last of cold soda into her mouth. "I couldn't light her properly with a hundred lights and hey the talent is the job of the actress, I just make sure she looks good." A shrug came with the soft words. Somewhere in the back of Rae's mind a little voice was wondering why she wasn't putting this egotistical little actress in her place.

"Oh, very good answer. You'll have your work cut out for you then won't you." Smoking intently, Thea couldn't help studying the tall woman's every move. "I don't want to keep you away from your scaffold, I'll just finish this and get my gear." She softened her tone and pointed towards the herbal tea on the table next to her. "I can give Truda a call and tell her you need her on stage as I pass her room if you like?"

"Wow!" Rae let the shock show on her face as she pulled a chair from a nearby table and swung it around to sit on it backwards "You're really pissed off aren't you? I thought tall dark and dumb was just being over-dramatic when he came in earlier, but apparently he was right. "

"No, I am not pissed off as you so politely put it." Thea locked her jaw at the idea of being called on her anger. "Tall dark and dumb as you call him at least has a little bit of soul and heart. Not to mention compassion, but I suppose that's not what they have techie's like you for is it? "

"Well, as you actresses and actors are fond of saying, we're just the monkeys they hire to hang the lights. No skill required " Rae cast her a wicked smile before going on. Regardless of how gorgeous this woman was, no one could get off with that kind of attitude. A thousand comebacks played at her lips before her mind settled on one and even she couldn't believe what she found herself saying. "I just can't believe you'd blow off six weeks of rehearsal five hours before dress." She stopped to look at her watch. "And twenty-seven hours before opening night?"

"Please spare me the ' think how hard everyone has worked' line." Rolling her eyes, Thea took a small sip of her tea, wondering suddenly why she had even bothered to make someone get it for her.

"Oh God no, I wouldn't say that tired line." Shaking her head, she realized that Thea had pulled this stunt before and watched the actress light another cigarette before continuing. "The show will go on without you love. It won't be as good without you, but it will go on none the less. I was thinking of all the hard work you have personally put into it."

"Are you trying to be nice?" Thea raised a curious eyebrow at her.

"Me nice?" Rae raised an eyebrow in return. "Hell I'm just a light monkey, don't think we have the ability to be nice." Lowering the eyebrow she realized that she was smiling again and she didn't even know why.

"Oh stop it, I don't think you are a monkey." Thea sighed and found all of her past anger melting away. Looking into this gorgeous woman's sky blue eyes, she couldn't believe that anyone could stay angry with her for long. "Not enough hair!"

"Thank God." Rae let herself laugh at the backward compliment and moved to place the empty tin can on the nearest table.

"Do you chase all the leading ladies you upset?" Thea asked the question without thinking, lost completely in the stare of the blue eyes before her.

"No, you're the first one." Her own answer made the technician's mind do a double take. It was true, she had pissed off many a leading lady in her day but never had she chased after one. No matter how much she'd been begged. Why was this time so different?

"That you've upset or that you have chased?" Thea asked boldly for clarification when she noticed the flicker in the techie's eyes.

"That I've chased." Rae stammered out a quick answer trying to hide the hesitation in her voice.

"So I guess Michael really put on the 'please help me ' thing?" Thea finally forced herself to look away. First at the door, then the plant in the corner, anywhere but this women's face. Absently, she tucked her legs up under her on the chair.

"Well I've never seen tall dark and dumb so emotional. He should act more like that in the third act, it would do wonders for the scene." She offered the observation with a shrug.

"It would indeed." A surprised smile crossed Thea's face at the mention of such a specific scene and without her consent she found herself again mesmerized by the woman's intense blue eyes.

"Didn't think I watched the play did you?" A smirk came back in return.

"No, I didn't think it was in your job description." The actress shook her head.

"It's not but it helps me get a good feel for the emotion of the piece." Rae answered softly.

"That probably makes you a great lighting director." Thea kept her voice soft in return, astonished that this woman would take so much interest in her work. "Even if you are a stubborn ass." She added with her best smile to show she meant no real malice with the line.

"Stubborn ass? From you I'll take that as a compliment." Smiling brightly in return, Rae couldn't believe it was taking all of her willpower to try and break their eye contact.

"So please don't tell me you have fallen for the leading man. I thought you lit him better than me." Feeling her defenses melting away, Thea quickly decided to change the subject.

"Oh God no, with a nickname like tall dark and dumb do you think I'd fall for him?" Happy for another topic, Rae shook her head at the absurd idea. "You think I light him better than you?" Taking the offered opportunity to break eye contact, she stared off to think about the lighting in third act.

"Yes, I think you do." Thea confirmed gently. "And how many female lighting chiefs are there? Would it be so odd for you to fall for the dashing hero?" Asking the question quickly, she realized her slip back into dangerous territory. Trying to get a grip on her heart, she made her mind switch back to the topic of lighting. "Especially when I'm doing the 'it's no good I can't ' speech."

"Think you could move your mark upstage two feet. Cause I think I can make a big improvement if you do." The comment came somewhat blankly as Rae closed her eyes and re-played the scene in question over in her mind.

"I wanted my mark there in the first place. It was Michael who got it moved back."

"Consider it moved up then, I'll tell the director it has to be, no options. I'm strained enough with the lighting as it is." Rae let a thick sigh escape her as the thought of the pitiful lighting budget ran through her mind. "Your so called director gave me no budget to work with."

"Unless you haven't noticed the director and Michael are rather close." Looking dejected but hopeful, Thea smiled slightly. "I'd sack the director tomorrow if it was down to me."

"Which do you think will be more important to the director? Michael, or the lead actress and the entire lighting crew walking out five hours before dress?" Looking back to lock green eyes with blue, Rae knew she meant what she was saying. She would walk out on this entire production if this woman so much as hinted that was what she wanted. The problem was Rae didn't know why she would do it.

"He'd give you a pay rise to make you stay." Thea added softly. She knew the logistics of the business, it was all about money. Everyone was bought and sold on a daily basis.

"I have creative integrity." A reasonable cover came to her lips immediately.

"Can I get you another?" Glancing at the discarded empty can, Thea stood up and smoothed out her pants with her hands.

"Yeah that would be nice. It gets really hot up by the lights."

"Won't be a second." A high nervous voice called back over a slender shoulder. Standing in front of the table, she gritted her teeth against the cold of the ice water as she retrieved a cola and water from the bottom of the container.

"No rush." Rae took the moment to turn in the chair and stretch out her back.

"Which do you want?" The lead asked as she walked back holding both up.

"I'll take the water, thank you." A little nod came in appreciation.

"No worries." Thea nodded back and smiled as she moved to sit again. "Do you think the dress will go okay?"

"Perfectly!" Rae gave the honest answer quickly and unscrewed the cap of the bottle. Taking a long deep swallow of the cool water before going on. "That's if Michael doesn't freeze up in the first act's soliloquy."

"You sound confident, is that in your job description too?" The actress was surprised. Her own doubts about the production's success weighed heavily on her mind. "He shouldn't." A shred of doubt bloomed in her mind over his inexperience. "He better not."

"My confidence is not part of my job. I've been watching you guys from the beginning and it's all meshed together rather nicely. First day I thought oh God this is never going to come together, but it has." Rae couldn't help smiling at the woman's doubt. "And even if Michael does freeze, someone will be backstage to feed him lines so it'll work out okay." She added with a little shrug.

"I'm not happy with act two scene three." A slight frown darkened Thea's face. " I don't know how to solve the problem though, I have no idea what to fix first."

"That scene is a bit awkward. Why the hell does he have everyone running around so much? It would be so much less distracting if you would all just stay still. " Running the scene over in her mind, Rae couldn't help but suggest what she thought would work better. "I think if he had you in the chair, Michael leaning against the west wall and the other two stationary behind the sofa, it would really set off the tone of the dialogue."

"It doesn't call for the movement he's put in, not at all." She shook her head at a loss. "But hey, I'm only the actress." After a little shrug, she looked up to find very sympathetic eyes looking back at her. "Your way would put me in the centre and he doesn't want me centre. He wants the idea of fluidity."

"Fluidity?" Rae blurted out the word and couldn't help making a fake gagging noise at the muddled idea.

"God alone knows why he wants it that way, but he does." Thea smiled at the woman's dramatics.

"The scene is about the stagnant relationships, nothing about fluidity." She stopped the mock choking and her voice took on a serious tone.

"Sorry, I shouted at you by the way." The actress looked downwards and spoke softly. "I don't think I was cross with you, not really. "

"No worries, it's a tense time before dress. I didn't take it personally." Rae's voice was gentle as she brushed the incident away.

"It must be a hell of a scene to light." She looked back into the forgiving face before her and smiled.

"Especially with only the one roaming spot." A slight sigh punctuated Rae's words. "It's a nightmare."

"Well come on, do you see Michael and I as a successful couple, like ever?" She poked fun at the entire play in an attempt to ease the weight the lighting director seemed to be carrying.

"Not even close." Rae laughed as she though of Thea and Michael together.

"Not even the best acting would make that work!" Her eyes went wide with the idea that her and her leading man could ever be a couple.

"That guy should be playing the butler, he couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag." Rae muttered to herself as she took another drink.

"Oh come on now, he's not that bad." Thea laughed at her own natural emphasis on the word 'that'. The echo of her own laughter in her ears made her heart stop and she frowned. "Oh now I feel terrible. I was so rude to you earlier and look at me now."

"Why would you feel terrible?" Rae's face saddened a little. "I wasn't that nice myself, let's just call it even."

"I am not really this fickle." She tried to offer an explanation for her change of heart.

"Of course you're not, I'm just charming enough to quell your anger." Rae's soft melodic voice answered as she let the grin she'd been suppressing finally show. When she heard a light laugh escape the beautiful creature in front of her, she was very glad to have given it freedom finally.

"So I have to ask?" Thea started the question but found her voice failing her.

"Have to ask?" She repeated the abandoned statement in an attempt to open the floor to questions before taking another drink.

"Which one of the burly crew are you dating?" The actress felt an unfamiliar tension rise in her shoulders as she asked. "You lucky thing, getting to boss all those hunks around all day while I am stuck on the stage."

"I just get to order them around." Rae shook her head at the idea.

"Hey, whatever form your relationships take!" The actress gave her an exaggerated wink.

"They all think I'm a bitch cause I run a tight ship. I don't think they'd date me if their lives depended on it." The technician ignored the wink and tried to explain the dynamics of her working relationship with the crew. "They all kinda hate that I'm in charge."

"Well you're a woman so I guess it must be a strain for you." Realizing what she'd said she couldn't help but laughing. "Being in charge I mean, not being a woman!" She was glad when the crew leader laughed with her.

"Not too bad, I just don't let anything slide and it keeps them in line. Gotta show them whose in charge from the get go and then they fall right into place." Rae spoke as the laugh subsided but a bright smile remained on her face. "Good thing I am in charge."

"Why a good thing?" Thea asked concerned suddenly.

"Cause I'd have to give somebody some rant for leaving their job to come have a break and chat with the lead." She was glad the comment got the smile she'd been fishing for. "I'll remember to rant at myself later."

"You could leave me and return to your scaffold." Thea looked off and sighed, suddenly sure that was what Rae had been hinting at.

"It'll wait..." Rae leaned forward against the chair trying to catch the actress' eye. "Besides it's funny to think of Michael in there guarding it with his life. I'm going to be here till the wee hours regardless, might as well take a break while I have company to chat with."

"Oh you mean thing, you've left him in there? You really going to be here that long?" Her mind registered the initial comment about Michael after being stuck for some time on the idea that the crew chief was ignoring her job for the sole purpose of taking with her.

"I gave him a very stern 'Guard this' and walked out, knowing Michael he's petrified."

"Want one?" Thea held the cigarette package out as their eyes met and a sudden nervousness overcame her again.

"No thanks." Rae shook her head.

"Oh you're a good girl huh. Do you have any vices?" Thea smiled wickedly as she poised the question.

"Good girl, oh my no!" A smirk pulled at her lips. "And I have a few vices."

"Like what?" Suddenly uncomfortable about her smoking, Thea decided to close the package and do without.

"I have a weakness for shots." Rae motioned to the package when she noticed Thea's sudden abstinence. "Don't not because of me."

"I wouldn't want to make you uncomfortable." Thea whispered softly as she tapped the package on her leg.

"God no, feel free." Rae tried to make Thea understand that the smoking didn't bother her at all.

"It's okay, I shouldn't anyway." She laid the cigarettes on the table behind her.

"Save them for later, I'm sure once dress starts the director's going to have a meltdown and then you'll need them for sure." The technician offered the idea.

"Perhaps we should go out one evening so I can witness this weakness you have for shots?" She took a deep breath as she made the open invitation.

"Sounds good." Rae's answer came quickly and she hoped every ounce of her happiness showed in her voice. "After the hell of this play we'll both need a good night out drinking."

"Night of drinking, too true. Pity it's only running for six weeks." Turning back, she tried to keep herself in check.

"Yes, a hectic little schedule for you." Rae grimaced.

"It's a shame, I would have liked that drink." With a little frown, Thea let herself be dragged back into the real world and away from the fantasies she'd been building in her head. "I guess we should be getting back."

"Should we?" Rae asked with a questioning look, not convinced that either of them should be anywhere but where they were.

"Well to be honest I could chat forever. But you don't have the lighting set up you want, do you?" Thea inquired directly.

"I have an idea, do you have plans for dinner break?" Rae locked green eyes with blue as she asked.

"I don't think so. Dinner break is just around the corner isn't it." Thea sidestepped the hidden invitation. Her heart needed the full invitation to come before she could feel free to act on the need inside her.

"You want to skip out of the theater during the break, go have something to eat and catch that drink?" Rae took a deep breath but didn't dare break their stare.

"I couldn't monopolize you for dinner, after all that young man always brings you sandwiches." Thea couldn't help smiling a little wider at her. "Didn't think I'd noticed huh?"

"I was hoping no one did." A little laugh escaped Rae as she hung her head embarrassed.

"He's sweet. Who is he?" The actress asked softly, her heart melting at the sight of the slight blush in Rae's cheeks.

"Poor little man, I think he thinks that I can somehow get him a better part in the next play." Looking up at the sound of the soft words, Rae felt her previous embarrassment rush away. She wanted to tell the woman before her how rare the hot feel in her cheeks was. Tell her that if the truth be known it had nothing to do with the sandwiches and everything to do with the idea that Estell had taken notice of her previously.

"That's so sweet. Is he any good?" Thea tried to steer the conversation away from the blushing woman herself in the hopes of easing her embarrassment.

"I have no idea. He's the understudy to the understudies, fill in any role if someone's hurt thing." Rae shrugged, suddenly very aware that she'd never bothered to find out anything about him. "He used to sit up with me in the back during early rehearsals. Guess that's why he latched onto me."

"I can look him over if you like, give him a bit of actress attention." Thea gave her a sultry smile.

"Hey you throw any attention his way and I think his head will explode. He goes on and on about how talented you are." Rae turned the comment back on her with a wicked grin of her own.

"Could be that or the fact that you are so very nice of course." She took the return comment easily and turned it back again.

"Me nice?" Rae pointed to herself in amazement. "Now don't be ruining a girl's reputation."

"Do you know his name?" Thea let a little laugh escape her as she asked the question.

"It's Clarke." She rolled her eyes at the pretentious name.

"Consider it done." The actress added. "A little one to one attention is booked for Clarke."

"Guess that means my dinner invitation is shot down." Rae couldn't help the disappointment in her voice. Suddenly hating herself for thinking it had been her that Thea had noticed and not Clarke.

"Oh no!" Thea shook her head, realizing what was going through the crew leader's mind. "Definitely not shot down. I was wondering where we could go? You know this town better than me."

"There's a nice seafood place about ten minutes away. You up for that?" Rae smiled brightly, her heart skipping a little as she realized her invitation was being accepted.

"Love seafood!" Thea exclaimed. "Do they have squid?"

"Of course." Rae laughed at the actress' choice of foods to focus on.

"Consider me booked." Thea reached out the short distance between them to briefly touch Rae's hand, which rested on the chair top.

"Sounds fabulous." The crew leader tried not to show the bolt of electricity the small touch had sent through her.

"You need to change?" Thea cast a little frown at Rae's grease stained T-shirt.

"Yes." Suddenly very conscious of her messy hands, she tried to rub some more of the grease off onto her pants. "A good tech always brings lots of extra clothes, so no worries." The knapsack full of clothes she always carried would ensure she wouldn't have to go to dinner in her current state.

"I should too." Thea looked down at the costume she was wearing and felt very uncomfortable. "You can use my dressing room if you like?" She made the offer in her sweetest voice.

"Isn't that bad luck or something?" Rae inquired with a wicked grin. "Having a techie in your dressing room?"

"That depends on what you do with them." She couldn't resist making the sly comment with a wicked grin of her own.

"As long as you don't ask me to change light bulbs, it's all good." Rae's grin turned into a happy smile as she let the undertone of the comment hang open between them.

"But seriously, do I look like I give a damn about superstition?" Thea added as she stood up. Happy that her bold comment hadn't been abandoned immediately, but enjoying Rae's cryptic comeback at the same time.

"No, no you don't look the type." Rae gave her an up and down glance once she was standing.

"Come on?" She stared at Rae for a second at a loss. "Oh God, what do I call you? Miss. lighting director? Ma'am? Sir?"

"The name is Rae." She answered with a laugh.

"Lovely name." A wistful smile came across Thea's lips. "Where does it come from? Is it Canadian? Is it a family name?" The question's spilled out of her unhindered.

"It's actually short for Raven." She stood up as she spoke but didn't miss the twinkle in Thea's eye as the full version clarified in her mind. "One would say its basis is Native so I guess it is Canadian."

"Well it's lovely where ever if comes from." Thea spoke absently having missed the explanation. She found herself listening to the word repeat over and over again in her head.

"And what shall I call you?" Rae studied the distance in the other woman's eyes and tried to draw her back with the question. "Stage name, Miss. Estell Winters?" She paused to let the actress exit the green room first.

"Oh God no. Never!" Thea brushed the use of her stage name away immediately. "The people closest to me call me Thea, short for Theandra." She stopped to offer her hand in a formal greeting. "Theandra Jones."

"Thea." Rae took the small hand into her own and shook it gently. "It's a very beautiful name."

"I like it." Thea tried to will the blush from her cheeks as they continued walking. She had never liked her name before the moment she'd heard it spoken by the tall beauty next to her. The thickness the woman's accent put on the simple word thrilled her. "It's very special to me."

'Now and every time I hear you say it.' She added the thought in her own mind.

"Raven is actually a nickname reserved for a special few." Rae added honestly.

"Really, a nickname?" Thea asked a little disappointed. She'd liked the idea of someone having the sense to name this beauty properly right from birth. "I dread to think how you got it!" She tried to lighten her reaction to the news.

"Nothing too unexpected." She let a little laugh escape her and ran an absent hand through her long black hair.

"It suits you." Thea smiled brightly as she noticed the unconscious signal to the nickname's origin. "I am sure it was chosen wisely. So your real name?"

"Cassie." Rae screwed up her face at the word. A part of her mind screaming disbelief that she'd revealed the horrible secret to the woman before her.

"Oh don't you look funny when you do that!" Thea smiled sweetly at her. "Is Cassie Canadian?"

"Very." The answer came in a harsh voice.

"My dressing room's right here." Thea stopped them in front of the door that bore her stage name and opened it without making a move to enter.

"Oh and if you hear the big burly fellows yelling O'Keefe, that would be me as well." Rae added absently.

"O'Keefe? You even have a nice surname. So much nicer than mine." Thea gave light to the wanders of her mind. "But then again I think Cassie is better than my name too." She smiled lightly at the slight grimace that broke on Rae's face with the use of the name.

"Why? I think your name is beautiful." She forced away the memories that the name Cassie caused to roar into her mind.

"Do you need to go get your gear?" She asked letting her hand rest on the doorknob of the half open door.

"Yes, it's just over by the backstage exit." Rae motioned towards the door at the other side of the area. "Quite convenient actually."

"Go and get it then. I'll be changing in here while you're gone, just come in when you have your stuff." She smiled softly as she moved into the room

"Sounds good." Rae couldn't help remaining to watch the door close, smiling as she turned away from the door and walked off.


"Estell?" Michael approached the door to his co-star's dressing room cautiously.

"What?" Thea couldn't help barking the word out when she recognized his voice. Having no intention of letting him in, she headed to the closet and quickly decided on an outfit for dinner. A cream silk shirt and black pants struck her and she pulled them off their hangers.

"Are you okay?" He moved back a bit from the intensity of her yell, shuffling his feet nervously.

"I'm going out for a while!" She called through the door, knowing the reply would bother him beyond belief.

"I talked to Damien. He said he'll fire that horrible lighting crew if you want." His voice was soft until he realized what he'd heard. "You're going out!" His voice got much louder. "Where? You can't go out now!"

"Well I am." Thea let herself scream the words back harshly, annoyed that he would think he could control when or if she went out. Her own anger gave her an idea. "Would Damien pay the lighting crew what they are entitled?" She deliberately banged the closet door closed for effect.

"What are you talking about?" Michael jumped.

"If he fired them, would they get paid?" She moved the door open enough to peer out at him.

"Oh course not." Michael answered confused. "There just stupid techie's we can replace them with anyone."

"Then tell him he can stick his offer!" She slammed the door close.

"I'm lost here." He put his hand on the now closed door startled by the intensity of his co-star's anger. "Why are you so worried about the techie's suddenly? Estell, love, open the door for Michael so we can talk."

"Why do you want to talk to me about it?" In a sudden fit of anger, Thea pulled the door open to stand in the opening. She was wearing only a pair of gray cotton panties and a gray bra.

"Cause you can't quit the play, it'll fall apart without you." He stammered out as he stared at the almost naked form before him. The small petite woman was not muscular, but well toned in all the right places. The gray of the undergarment's set of the light tan held in her skin perfectly.

"Mike, quit staring!" The sharpness in her voice caused him to look away quickly. "We can talk later." She shook her head at his ignorance and slipped the shirt on over her shoulders.

"Michael, you should know it's impolite to stare!" Rae moved quickly to stand and block his view through the door. Locking him with an angry glare, she was sure not to look at Thea having seen from across the room what little the actress was wearing.

Thea wondered if the technician knew that she'd seen her coming and grinned at her tall protector's back in the doorway.

"Is he bothering you?" Rae's low voice caused Michael to swallow loudly.

"A bit." Thea busied herself fastening the buttons of her shirt. "He seems to think I can't leave the theater." Moving quickly to pull her pants on, she sat down at the dressing table to tie a scarf around her neck.

"Now Michael..." Putting a stiff hand on his shoulder, Rae forced the stunned man to turn away from the door. "I believe I put you in charge of a certain scaffold didn't I?" She turned back to see Thea watching her in the mirror and winked. She was happy to see the actress wink back in return.

Thea listened to the echo of Rae's boots as she led Michael away from the door. Grinning madly at her own reflection in the mirror, she brushed her hair and fixed it up with a clip.

"And our star must leave the theatre for a little while." Giving him a little push off Rae tried to prompt him to leave. "I'm just ensuring all goes right with the play by making sure our star is happy. You can't be angry about that, can you?"

"She's going out with you?" Michael looked at the crew leader dumbfounded.

"Yes, I am!" Thea's loud voice called to answer him from her dressing room.

"This was all your idea remember?" Rae smiled widely at the pale faced actor.

"Oh Mike?" Completely dressed, Thea appeared in the doorway with a leather jacket slung over her shoulder.

"Yes?" He sent a sharp glare at Rae before calling back to his co-star in a sweet voice.

"Would you give Damien a message?" Thea's voice was cold. She'd heard his tone and had reached the doorway in time to see his glare. She didn't like or appreciate either of them.

"Oh course." Michael voice was still sickly sweet.

"Tell him I am not quitting the production. But..." She paused long enough to let him breathe a sigh of relief. Taking the silent moment to give Rae a broad smile before she turned back to Michael. "It is my personal opinion, that the lighting crew would work harder and with more diligence if they were given a raise. Tell him he should think on it. If he's smart!"

The only sound for a moment was that of a little laugh that escaped Rae's lips before she could catch herself. She was happy to see the smile back on Thea's face.

"Oh and Michael..." Rae couldn't resist having her own fun with the young man as she fixed him with an intense stare. "Tell Damien that the original blocking and lighting for act two scene three stands. No options."

'Poor Man.' Thea couldn't help laughing silently as she watched Michael flounder under the imposing woman's stare.

Unable to comprehend exactly what was going on, Michael looked back and forth between the two of them before trying to stammer out an objection. Unable to form any comment, Thea gave him a little dismissing wave and he forced himself to walk off.

"Looks like you're all ready." Rae turned and ignored the stunned man. "My turn, may I?"

She motioned to the dressing room.

"Of course. " Thea stepped out into the corridor.

Rae moved past her and went to the area behind the door. Pulling a clean pair of black jeans and a black v-neck out of the bag she carried, it took her only a moment to peel off her working outfit and get into the more comfortable clothes.

"Will I do by the way?" Glancing down at her outfit Thea took a tentative step closer into the room.

"More than do." Rae poked her head around the door between them. "You look very beautiful."

"Is that tech talk for you'll do?" The actress leaned against the doorway and laughed.

"Yes, it is." Rae laughed back as she pulled a brush out of her bag. She knew that it would be a hard task to try and tame her tied up hair after so many hours of work. But she also knew she'd be much more comfortable with it down.

"Well thank you then." Thea closed her eyes as she spoke, taking the time to listen quietly to the sound of Rae switching from the heavy steel toed safety boots she was wearing before to a pair of lighter black hiking boots.

"I'm afraid the real question is will I do?" The closeness of Rae's voice caught Thea off guard when the tall woman opened the door up completely. "I didn't think to pack dinner clothes this morning." She offered with a crooked smile.

"Oh my!" Thea opened her eyes even more surprised by the woman before her now. "Definitely, I love your hair down." Her look was one of silent appreciation.

"Thank you." She couldn't help wondering about the look she was getting as it was sending shivers up her spine.

"And black is just my favorite colour." Thea added absently, still appraising her outfit.

"Mine too."

"So, seafood?" The actress snapped her mind back from its wandering and focused back on the wonderful time ahead.

"Yes." Rae brought her own mind back to reality as well. "My car or yours?"

"Lead on, we can take either one." She stepped back out of the doorway to let Rae exit the dressing room.

"Mine's by the back entrance so it's a bit closer." Rae walked out past her and closed the door.

"Mine's probably easier to get out of the parking lot." Thea added at the same time and they both laughed.

"Yes, true." Thinking for a minute Rae realized the practically of taking Thea's car. "I forgot I'm probably blocked in by now."

"You can drive mine if you like." Thea dug through the inner pocket of her coat to find her keys. Tossing them to Rae, they began to walk out towards the front entrance.

"Is it good for the star to be seen leaving the theater with a techie?" She looked over at the woman beside her with a wicked grin.

"I don't give a good God damn!" Thea spoke in a low confident voice.

"I'm glad too hear that." A whisper came back in return.

"And besides you're the one who looks like a star at the moment." Unable to resist Thea locked eyes with Rae, trying silently to make her understand that any differences between them really didn't matter to her.

"Me?" Rae gave a little laugh but didn't break eye contact. "I'm afraid I am paled by your brightness."

"You don't have to drive. I can drive us." A moment of uneasiness hit Thea and she looked away.

"No worries, you relax I'll get us there." Rae saw the change in her and silently prayed she hadn't been too aggressive with her compliment.

"You know which one's mine, yes?" Thea watched as the taller woman opened the main door for her.

"The blue convertible right?" She motioned for the actress to walk through.

"Yes." Thea's smile was hidden from the crew leader as she walked past.

"I've never driven a convertible actually." Rae watched the smaller woman, walking through the door to follow close behind. She laughed silently at the members of the cast who had scampered rather hastily into the main lobby as the news of their departure spread.

"It's just the same as any other car." The actress laughed a little herself as she turned to wave briefly at the gathering crowd.

"I doubt that, you'd never drive just any old car."

"Oh Rae, I have a bit of a confession to make before we go out." As they reached the car, the sudden reality of the situation made her mind waiver. Placing a shaky hand to rest on the soft-top of the car, she spun around to address the taller woman. "And I will understand if you change your mind."

"Yes?" The technician looked at her with a concerned curiosity. "I can't see me changing my mind but go on?"

"Well I think I have just done your reputation a bit of a disservice." Unable to keep eye contact, Thea lowered her eyes to stare at the concrete of the parking lot.

"Disservice?" Rae questioned in a soft voice, a little lost by the sudden turn in conversation.

"Yeah." She continued to stare down as the words stuck in her throat.

"How?" Desperate to make eye contact, Rae bent down slightly.

"I think there is something I should have mentioned before we got this far." Thea found the strength to glance up for just a second before staring down again.

"This is as good as any time." The technician added in a comforting tone.

"Well you may have heard.... Shall we say...rumours on the set." Finding a stray stone to kick, Thea struggled to find the words. "Rumours about me."

"I don't listen to rumours." A strong voice answered.

"No, but you perhaps should listen to these." The actress tried not to smile at the response. She'd expected something so noble from the technician but nobility had no effect on this. The rumours could still hurt the woman all the same. Looking up for a moment, she checked to see where Rae was looking, at the growing crowd in the lobby or to her.

"Well if they're about you, why don't you tell me the truth about whatever sparked said rumours?" The answer came in a low voice paired with eyes that looked nowhere but at the beautiful actress. In the back of her mind, Rae registered the growing crowd in the lobby but couldn't care less. This was her moment, their moment and she couldn't let it fall apart now.

"Hey I don't even know why I was about to tell you this." Thea's voice was light as she broke her train of thought. "We are going for dinner right?" With a bright smile she tapped on the still closed door.

'Thea, get a perspective.' She berated herself as she turned away to face the car.

"You obviously thought it was important and we are going to lunch regardless." Rae smiled at her change of subject.

"Open her up then, it's the button on the key ring." Thea added with a glance back, happy to hear the soft sound of the lock disengaging. She wasn't surprised when a hand came around her to open the door and offered to help her into the vehicle. With a silent curse and iron resolve the actress moved past the hand and got in on her own.

"Have I done something wrong between the door and here?" Rae crouched down by the seat and asked the question in a confused voice.

"No of course not." Thea responded somewhat flustered, knowing now her attempt to keep distance between them had only succeeded in injuring Rae. "Come on we don't want to be late." She added trying to cut the tension.

"But your uncomfortable all of a sudden, please tell me what's wrong?" Putting a tentative hand on the edge of the seat next to her, Rae used her other hand to hold the door open against the sharp fall wind. "If it's the whole crowd and what their going to say about going to dinner with me you can tell them whatever you'd like to shut them up." A soft smile graced the technician's face.

"Rae, it's nothing, I'm thinking of you. Just come on round and let's go." Thea tried to keep the pleading out of her voice.

Reluctantly, Rae walked around the back of the car and eased herself into the driver's seat. She took a second to adjust the seat to accommodate her long legs and moved the rearview mirror into a better position.

"Very nice car." She hated herself for returning to such an obvious topic in an attempt to break the silence. Starting up the convertible, she pulled the vehicle away from the curb in a smooth arch and headed off towards the restaurant.

"It's okay." Thea added softly, hating the silence but not knowing how to bring fluidity back into the conversation.

Moving slowly down the crowed downtown street, Rae was surprised when a bike courier came out from between two parked cars and sped in front of her. Putting her foot down hard on the brake the responsiveness of the car snapped them both against their seat belts.

"The brake's a bit sharp, you'll have to watch it." Thea blurted out when she landed back against the seat with a jump.

"Yeah, it is. Sorry." Rae responded quickly. With traffic moving normally again, her mind struggled to find some way to open up their conversation. "I hope you didn't mind me moving the seat and the mirrors. I should have asked first."

"No, no worries. I have really short legs, you don't!" Hearing the strained nature of the driver's words, Thea finally realized just how much damage her little outburst in the parking lot had done. "Sorry, I kind of spoiled things back there didn't I?" Finding her voice, she stared out the window at the building's passing by wishing she could say more.

"No, nothing's spoiled." Turning to smile at her, Rae abandoned the attempt when she saw the actress' eyes were firmly fixed to look at the world outside. "I don't know what you're trying to protect me from, but thank you for wanting too."

"It's nothing and if anyone gives you grief when we get back tell them to see me about it. I'll sort it." She made herself stare at the view out the passenger window, though her voice was low and serious.

"Why would someone give me grief?" Rae asked in a soft voice.

"They just might." A quiet voice replied without really answering the question.

"I imagine it will be you who gets much more grief than me." The dark haired beauty offered as she made a slow left hand turn through stopped traffic.

"Different kind of grief I would imagine." Thea's voice remained small. "So where is this restaurant?" She glanced across the car briefly, hoping Rae hadn't noticed how much damper her eyes have gotten.

"Well I think I understand that grief. I'm not quite sure what grief I'll be getting." She split her attention between the road and watching Thea look out the window. "Not too far. Just bad traffic this time of day."

"Always is bad isn't it?" The actress responded absently.

"I'd take a world of grief to get this chance to go and have a wonderful dinner with you." Still splitting her attention, seeing the mist in the woman's eye made Rae sad inside. It seemed impossible to get any real explanation as to what she was so worried about and without an explanation she had no hope of fixing things.

"So Rae tell me." Trying to regain control of her emotions, Thea wiped casually at her eyes. "When you get home at night, after all the madness at the theatre, what welcomes you home?"

"Just my house." Making a sharp right down a small side street, she hoped to bypass a lot of the afternoon traffic.

"You have a house? Near by?" Thea asked turning back to watch the woman driving.

"Yes, not here in the city in Mississauga. It's one of the western suburbs." Rae offered the geographical information freely.

"What's it like?" Thea asked turning slightly in her seat to get a better look at the woman behind the wheel. Secretly happy with the chance to watch her without having to worry about staring.

"Three stories, bottom one finished basement, main floor with kitchen, dining room, living room and a office. Upstairs has three bedrooms and a bathroom. Just big enough for me and all my stuff." Rae spoke without taking her eyes off the crowded main street she was attempting to turn onto.

"Sounds nice." She stated trying to picture the dark haired woman's house in her mind.

"It is." Rae admitted honestly. She turned briefly to shoot a grin across the car before looking back to the road and pulling out.

"So what about Mr. O'Keefe?" Thea asked the question in a normal tone, trying to hide the inquisition behind her words.

"My father is quite good. He lives in Collingwood." With a toss of long black hair Rae glanced briefly across the car at Thea to catch the actress' reaction.

"I don't think that's who I meant." She laughed loudly at the response. "But it's nice to know you have a Dad whose still an important part of your life."

"Well unless you meant my uncles, there are no other Mr. O'Keefe's." Rae looked at her briefly again.

"Okay well what about soon to be Mr. O'Keefe's? Or are you soon to be a Mrs. Someone else?" Since Rae was answering the questions so easily she decided to try her luck further.

"Nope. None of either." She answered with a shake of her head.

"Is Collingwood far?" Thea asked changing their focus. "Sorry, I know nothing about this country."

"Is this a subtle way to ask if I'm involved with someone?" Rae saw the change in subject immediately and couldn't help but smile as she took a sharp turn to pull into the large empty parking lot.

"Yes I suppose it is." Thea smiled back. "But you have to understand I am English, I can't be straight forward and honest. Especially not on relationship questions."

"Oh sorry." Rae frowned a little before she could stop herself. "Didn't mean to call you on that then."

"No worries." Thea kept a bright smile, trying to erase the frown her words had caused. "And the answer is?"

"The answer is no." The response came in a low sincere voice.

"Well thank you for being so open and honest. You must be a true Canadian!" Thea moved to pat her gently on the arm.

"100% proud to be." Rae smiled brightly in response to the touch. "So shall I use the subtle way or just ask you if you're involved with someone?" She let herself relax as she asked the playfully turned question.

"Go for your life!" Thea laughed as she spoke. "Whichever way you prefer."

"Well which way is best for you?" Rae laughed in return.

"I don't know." She thought about the choices. "I haven't been asked that before."

"I could always ask the people at the theatre if you're involved with someone. Would that get me a truthful answer?" Rae moved the convertible slowly through the large lot.

"It'll get you an answer you probably wouldn't like." Thea looked away quickly, the happiness dropping out of her voice.

"Well, is there anyone in your life who would object to you being taken to dinner?" She attempted to change the tone of the question, silently cursing herself for making such a blunder. Putting the car in a spot across from the entrance she got out quickly and she moved stealthily around to open the passenger door. "Answer I wouldn't like?" She continued in a soft voice once the door was open. "Guess that means you're involved with someone."

"No one." Thea did her best to manage a weak smile.

"There's many?" She asked with a raised eyebrow having noticed how the actress dragged out the word one.

"There's none." Thea's voice was a little forceful as she got out of the car.

"Well I'm glad to hear that." She smiled and offered her hand. "I wouldn't want to be the negative focus of a jealous other."

"This the place?" The actress turned herself into the biting fall wind to look at the small square building a short distance away.

"Yes, not much on the outside but stellar food." Rae closed the door and engaged the car's locks. Together in silence they walked the short distance to the entrance.

Continued in Act II...

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