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Slow News Day

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Simon offers to drive Paula somewhere. When he does this, she stares at him, blinking, like she hasn't heard the words or doesn't understand them. She has just come out of the meeting with the producers – she has just received the news that a girl has killed herself because, in part, of her career.

"I have a car," Paula says, finally.

Simon has waited around for her to be finished. He had told her, as the producers pulled her away, "I'll be here when you get out."

It had struck her as odd at the time. Fuller just needed to tell her something, how long could it take that Simon wouldn't still be around? Or if it did take a while, who cares whether or not Simon was still in the studio. But his face had struck her – his expression was solemn and honest.

"Okay," she'd said. "Sure."

Now he follows her to her dressing room.

"I really think you should let me drive you," Simon says again. "I don't think you should go home tonight."

"But, it's my house," Paula says. "I have to go back eventually."

"And you will," he says. "But there's going to be photographers there, and the police, and I don't want you to face that right now."

"Oh," she says. "You're right."

She's oddly calm. He watches her closely as she packs up her things and slips on her jacket. He has to remind her to take some extra clothes and then he offers to carry the additional bag. She follows him wordlessly, bowing to every suggestion and not questioning anything. She's in shock, maybe. The stage and film crew they pass don't meet her eyes, send sympathetic glances over their shoulder. Everyone had known before Paula and Simon thinks that when she realizes this, she's going to be upset.

He opens the passenger door for her and she gets in his car. He drops her bag in the trunk and gets in. They sit in the dark cab for a moment.

"Where would you like to go?" he asks. She looks at him, confused.

"I don't know," she says. "Will you choose?"

"Yeah," he says, sliding the key into the ignition. "I can do that."

At her feet, Paula's big purse starts to vibrate. Her phone is ringing. The news has hit the Internet already and tomorrow, it will be all over the gossip shows. Even Ryan will have to report it. Paula looks at the bag, stricken.

"Don't answer it," Simon says quickly. "Don't talk to anyone, okay?"

"What if it's my publicist?" she asks.

"He can wait for a few hours," Simon assures her. "It's his job to handle it right now."

He starts the engine and pulls quickly out of the parking garage. The exit to the structure is swamped with media, trying to get a shot of her leaving.

"Put your head down," he says. She folds over, pressing her face into her lap. He puts a reassuring hand on her back and speeds through the crowed, causing more than one person to leap out of the way of his car. Once they get on to open road, she sits up.

When he'd offered to drive her, he'd planned on taking her to a hotel but after spending several minutes with her, he isn't sure he wants her to be by herself, so instead, he heads for his house. She doesn't seem to notice where he's headed and when he pulls up to his gates, she doesn't seem surprised by the location. She sits in the car until he comes around and opens her door and only then does she step out and follow him into the empty house.

Paula hasn't been to his house in a while, easily not since Terri had moved out. For the most part, things are the same, except it's always quiet when he gets home. Paula stands uneasily in the front room and looks around, unsure of what is supposed to happen next.

"Are you hungry?" he asks. She blinks and finally shrugs. "Are you tired?"

"Yes," she says. "I'm tired."

Maybe it's best if she does just sleep the news off and face the problem with fresh eyes. It's been an incredibly long day of shooting, after all. Simon is tired himself. So he leads her up the massive staircase and puts her in the guest room across the hall from his. The room is well stocked and she'll have anything she needs.

"Are you all right, darling?" he asks, peering into her eyes with concern. Usually he can read her like an open book, but right now he can't make heads or tails of her expression or behavior.

"Sure," she says. "I'm just going to get some sleep."

"If you need anything," he says. "Anything at all, come get me, okay?"

She offers a strained smile and closes the door.

Simon goes to the backyard to smoke a cigarette and to call Fuller.

"I have her," he says into the phone. "I need you to keep everyone out of her face for at least a day. I really don't think it's hit her yet."

Fuller agrees to speak to her people, to try to create some space and when Simon ends the call, he looks up at the lit window of the room where Paula is. The light is on, but he doesn't detect any movement behind the gauzy curtains. He goes inside and eats a bowl of cold cereal in the kitchen before deciding that maybe he was tired enough to go to sleep himself. It is going to be a long day tomorrow – that much is for sure.

Upstairs, he pauses outside Paula's closed door and considers knocking to make sure she's doing all right and doesn't need anything. He lets his hand hover at the door and then he hears it. The sharp, watery inhalation of breath and then a hiccupping, long sob.

Some instinct inside of him causes him to open the door. He feels the overwhelming urge to comfort and protect her. At first, he doesn't see her. The only light comes from the small lamp on the nightstand and the room is dark and shadowed. But then, he sees her, sitting in the narrow space between the bed and the wall. She has her knees drawn up to her chest and her head down. Simon rushes over to her and pulls on her arms. She rises to her feet and presses her face into his chest. He wraps his arms around her and allows her to cry into him.

And she is crying – it's not the tears of sadness or disappointment, it's obvious that she is completely devastated. She cannot hold in the loud, bone rattling sobs.

"It's all right," Simon says, in what he hopes is a soothing voice. "Just let it all out."

Several hours later, Paula and Simon are lying on the bed. She has finally stopped crying, but now her face is swollen and tender. Between them sits a box of tissues and she has several balled up in her hands. She has cried away her make-up and she's physically exhausted. They both stare up at the ceiling, waiting for what comes next.

"Did you know?" she asks, her voice hoarse and dry.

"No one knew this was going to happen," he assures her.

"No, I mean... you said to me... you told me you'd be there when I got out of my meeting. Did you know before me? Did everyone?"

"What good would have come of you knowing?" he asks. "It was too late to help her."

"They didn't want to upset filming," she says. He can't argue. It wasn't fair, but it's how it went down.

"Are you all right?" he asks.

"No," she says, finally. "This girl has... had been obsessed with me for years. You saw her and... I knew I should have been more clear but... people..." she dissolves into tears again, unable to articulate her thought. "I didn't mean to kill her."

"You didn't," he assures her, grabbing her hand. "She was unstable and it wasn't your fault."

Paula doesn't respond; just mops her face with an already damp tissue.

"I'm going to get you some water," he says. In his room, he takes a clean glass from his cocktail set and fills it with water from the sink. From the bathroom, he also gets a white sleeping pill. She needs some rest and he's afraid this is the only way she'll get it. When he comes back, she has kicked off her shoes and curled into a small ball in the middle of the bed.

"Take this," he says, handing her the pill. She looks at it skeptically for a moment but ultimately decides that whatever it is can't make her feel any worse than she already does. She takes the pill and drinks the water. "Will you stay?" she asks.

"Of course," he promises.

The pill works quickly. Soon she is sleeping and he covers her with a blanket before shutting off the light and heading to bed.

He doesn't sleep late. He wakes up with the sun and showers and dresses. He checks in on Paula who is still sleeping before he goes down to start a pot of coffee. When it's done, he fixes her a cup. Simon likes his coffee black and bitter but he knows Paula will want cream and far too much sugar. He carries the mug upstairs and walks into her room. He sets the coffees both on the nightstand and sits on the edge of the mattress.

"Paula," he says. He rubs her back and she starts to wake up. She looks at him and he can see that she's confused to see him, to look around and see the unfamiliar room.

"What am I...?"

But then she remembers and the sentence dies on her lips.

"I brought you some coffee," he says, reaching over and handing her the mug. She sits up and takes the mug, wraps her fingers around it and lets the steam warm her.

"Thanks," she says, her voice dull.

"Why don't you shower," he says. "Then I'll take you home."

She doesn't want to go home, but she's got to and so she nods and sips at her coffee.

In the shower, Paula begins to cry again. The hot water helps to release some of the feelings she has bubbling up inside of her and the strong spray washes the tears away from her face as quickly as she can produce them. As much as she cries for herself, she cries for the dead girl. No one is worth killing yourself for, she thinks. Not your family, not your lovers and not, not some aging pop star.

She shuts off the tap when starts feeling a little woozy from dehydration and the heat of the water. She dresses slowly and methodically; she brushes out her hair hard and braids the length back, away from her face. She looks tired and she looks sad but there isn't much to be done about that. She has sunglasses in her purse and that will have to do.

Sometime in the night, she'd shut her phone off and now, she can't bring herself to turn the device back on.

Downstairs, Simon waits and gives her a patient nod as she descends the stairs.

"You want something to eat?" he asks as she hands him her empty mug.

"No," she says. She doesn't feel hungry, in fact, food sounds upsetting.

Simon shuttles her into his big SUV instead of one of the sports car. This way they sit high above the majority of the traffic and the windows are darkly tinted. As soon as he starts the engine, he reaches out to shut off the radio. He tries to be nonchalant about it but she can see right through him.

"What are they saying?" she asks.

"That it's a tragedy," he says. It's the truth, but he doesn't want her to hear any of the crueler commentary – the bloggers who say over and over that if they were super fans of Paula, they'd kill themselves too. It's mean spirited and untrue.

"Hey Simon?" she says.

"Yeah?" He puts his arm across her seat and backs out onto the road.

"Thank you – for being nice to me," she says. "You didn't have to."

"Paula, look at me," he says. "I know we don't always get along, but I am always, always on your side and if you ever need anything, I'm always here to give it, do you understand?"

"I understand," she repeats, nodding. "Ditto."

"Good," he says, accelerating down the street. "You're my match, you know?"

"Your match?" she says.

"Yep," he confirms. "You're the only person I've met, outside of my family, that I always want around."

"Now you're just trying to be nice," she says. But his expression is serious.

"Believe what you want," he says. "But I'm always going to be around."

The statement actually makes her feel better and she feels a tiny weight lift from her heart.

The crime scene is gone from her house when they arrive, but the media is still camped out and there is a police cruiser, trying to hold them back. Paula digs in her purse for the remote to open her gate and tries not to look out at the sea of people as the car creeps through and the gate closes behind them.

She can see that her staff is already there, waiting anxiously for her to appear.

"Oh, heaven help me," she says mostly to herself.

"I'll get your door," he says, and hops out to open it for her. Distantly, from the gates, he can hear the photographers shouting his name, and then hers as she exits the vehicle but he hurries her into the house and slams the door behind them. For the moment, they are safe.

People start spilling into the front room – Paula's assistants, office manager, and publicist all swoop down on them, speaking at once.

"Where have you been?"

"The phone has been ringing off the-"

"I couldn't get a hold of you for hours and I-"

"Are you okay? We were so worried!"

"ALL RIGHT," Simon bellows. "EVERYONE SHUT UP."

Everyone is quiet immediately and even Paula stares at him with wide eyes.

"Thank you," he says. "Okay, here is how this is going to go down. You all are going to back off and give her a little space. In an hour, you're going to release a statement to the press saying how sorry you are this has happened and sending out condolences to the family. You'll give Ryan the first interview and then, so help me God, we are going to put this all behind us."

"I am your publicist," Dave says, stepping forward. "I really think I should be making these decisions!"

"No," Paula says. "No, Simon is in charge. I just need a moment to... just give me 20 minutes."

They all watch her disappear up the stairs. Dave eyes the girls and they all scatter out into the house.

"We couldn't get a hold of her," Dave says, narrowing his eyes at Simon.

"She was a wreck, she was in no place to speak to anyone," Simon says. "Before she's a judge or a brand, she's a person and you'd do well to remember that."

"We've missed our chance to get ahead of the story," he says. "Telling everyone 'No Comment' has just made her appear heartless."

"She's not heartless," Simon says. "And people will know that."

When Paula comes back down, she has put on more comfortable clothes and carries with her a tiny dog. She smiles at Simon.

"You're still here?"

"Until you send me away," he promises. She looks thankful, but then frowns.

"Aren't you supposed to be going to London?" she asks.

"I can leave tomorrow," he says. "I can postpone it."

"No," she says, shaking her head. "That would just make me feel worse. You should go home and see your family, Simon. Please, I'll be fine."

"Are you certain?" he asks. She crooks a finger at him and they step into the foyer.

"Thank you," she says again. "I'll call you."

"Every day?" he demands.

"Well," she says. "Maybe every other."

"All right," he agrees. He's already in a world of trouble for postponing his flight but at the time it didn't seem to matter. He hugs her, the little dog trapped between them. She hugs him back, breathes deeply his smell like she wants to remember this good moment in the midst of a dark time.

He pulls away, but she hangs on and steps up on her toes, her lips puckering. They haven't done this in a while, this friendly display of affection, but he misses it. He kisses her, holding his lips to hers a little longer than normal.

"Bye," she says, when she steps away. "I'll miss you."

"I'll be back next month." He snaps his fingers and says, "It'll go by like that."

When he's gone, she takes a deep breath and turns around to face the reality of her life.