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Willing to Walk Away

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Gwen exchanged a look with Tommy at the news they were going for a thirty-first take. Although it was her penultimate scene of the day, she felt like she wasn't going to make it home before midnight at this rate. It didn't help that she didn't have much do in this episode. In itself that was nothing new, but it had been a long three months of recording and she was tired.

The only thing livening up the endless takes had begun when they were on take twenty and she started making silly expression at Tommy when the camera wasn't on her. He'd done the same to her back on the original series when the day had seemed endless. These days he was better at the timing. And at keeping a straight face.

She was laughing when the director yelled "Cut". She felt a moment of relief before she learned they were going for a thirty-second take. At the news, she dropped her forehead to the console.

Behind her, Alex sighed. "What now?"

"Madison's expression," the director explained. "It's supposed to be a serious scene."

Gwen was already past caring, but she straightened up and turned to see Jason's expression telling her that he agreed it was her fault. She glared at him.

He straightened his jacket. "It's been a long day," he said. "And she doesn't have any lines in this scene."

She stood, hands on her hips. "I don't need you to stick up for me," she said, at the same time as Alex turned on Jason.

"It always has to be about you, doesn't it? All the rest of us get to do is to react."

"That's not fair." Jason put his arms out. "This episode is all about you."

"And yet you're still in every scene." Alex stood. "I've had enough. I'm going home."

"Alexander." Jason leaped out of his chair. "You can't disappoint the shippers."

"I can and I will." Alex didn't even pause.

Jason turned back to Gwen with a pleading expression.

She shook her head. Alex wouldn't get very far, unless he went home with the head on, which wouldn't be a first. But it wasn't as if they didn't know where to find him later. Which she would. She knew things weren't perfect with the new series, but she hadn't thought Alex had gotten so cynical about it so fast.

Jason turned to the director. "I'm sure we have something from a previous take of Madison you can splice in."

The director, Nickolas Carr, sighed. "I guess so." He wasn't a new director, but he was new to Galaxy Quest. Despite the new series being about attracting new talent, she still wished they had one of their directors from the original series, who understood how they worked and how to get the best out of them in far fewer takes.

"Great." Jason was all smiles as he returned to his chair, sitting up straight. "Let's move on."

Gwen glanced behind her, but Alex had finished for the day and she still had to repeat the computer for one more scene until she was done. At least it was short and she made sure to pay attention this time, so no one could complain.

After three takes she was done for episode thirteen and the first half of the season. Relieved, Gwen headed off set, but Jason caught her arm when she was two steps from her station.

"Dinner tonight?" he asked, softly, so no one else would hear. Although everyone else knew they were an item. Gossip caught on fast on a TV set.

Any other time, she'd have said yes. Even though they'd spent the day together, most of that time they'd been other people. Although the lines between them and their characters were blurred more than they used to be, they hadn't been alone at all. However, she was worried about Alex. There was something about the way he'd said 'home' that gave her pause, so she shook her head, glancing towards the exit.

"Tomorrow?" His tone was hopeful.

"Tomorrow." She turned back to him and smiled. "Pick me up after filming and take me somewhere good." She squeezed his hand and he let her go.

Usually, if she finished before Jason and they had plans for the evening, which was often the case, she'd wait in his trailer. Today, though, she went to Alex's. She found it in darkness. When she switched on the light she was relieved to find he wasn't sitting moping in the dark. Which wouldn't have been a first. It was tidy - no empty coffee cups littering the surfaces the way they did in Jason's. Or scripts piled around the place the way they were in hers. It meant the sheets of paper on the table stood out.

On closer inspection she found they were laid out in such a way as to tell a story that was easy to interpret. First there was a contract signed until the end of this episode. Another for the rest of season one that was unsigned, but asking for Alex to get paid as much as Jason, and for him to direct at least one episode per season. Then there was an email from his agent with details of three auditions in the West End tomorrow. And an itinerary with a flight from LA tonight, and finally a hotel room, booked for tomorrow night.

It only took her a moment to make a decision. They had a few weeks off, until they started taping episode fourteen, and the first episode wasn't due to be shown until next week, when they had plans to all watch together at Jason's. So why not spend some time in London?


Gwen emerged from the airport and into a cab still yawning. She hadn't gotten much sleep on the plane, worrying about Alex and whether he was coming back. Tomorrow's - today's - scenes were of the Commander and Roc mounting a rescue for the missing Lazarus, so Alex wasn't needed until episode fourteen, when he would be found. Still, she wished he'd spoken to her before he left. She could have at least wished him good luck.

The growing darkness as the taxi took her closer to the center of London confused her body clock even farther. However, when she entered the hotel, credit card maxed out, she found herself wide awake.

She was standing in a huge lobby with marble pillars and a thick blue carpet on the floor. Computer screens along one wall reminded her of the Protector. She had to check Alex's print-out to confirm she was in the right place. If one of the theaters he was auditioning for could afford this, she
wanted to work for them too.

Not wanting to appear out of place, she raised her chin and strode over to the reception desk. The smiling, uniformed woman took some convincing, and a call to the room, before she would give out Alex's room number.

A smiling porter led the way to the mirrored elevator and pressed the button for her. Despite the opulence of the lobby, the elevator played the same God awful music that elevators played everywhere. When she exited into a corridor there were few doors and Alex's wasn't hard to find.

"You've come a long way," he said, when he opened the door in response to her knock. Which wasn't the greeting she'd been expecting.

"You wanted someone to follow you." She followed him inside and dumped her hastily packed bag on the floor. "Why else leave all that information in your trailer?"

"I wanted someone to call me. I hoped it would be you," he added softly. "I didn't expect you to fly halfway across the world." There was a click from the electric kettle on the counter at the back of living room. "Drink?"

"Thanks." Some coffee would help, she thought, as she yawned again. Perhaps she could have waited until morning and called the hotel. But last night she hadn't been thinking straight. And, if she was honest, part of her wanted another adventure. It was amazing how short a time it had taken to go from being excited about filming Galaxy Quest again, to jaded at the monotony of her life.

"How can you afford this?" She looked around at his suite. The floor length windows gave her a view of the lights of London - she thought she could see the Big Ben peeping through the high rise buildings. Through the open door to her left she thought she saw a queen sized bed. And was that a hot tub in the bathroom?

When Alex handed her a plain, white mug, she took it over to the white, leather couch and worried about spilling something on it.

"Nepotism." He sat beside her, a steaming mug in his hands. "My cousin owns the hotel."

Her eyes widened. She'd known him over twenty years and had no idea anyone in his family was so rich. She wondered whether he'd asked them for money during the lean years, but dismissed the idea, knowing he was too proud.

"She felt sorry for me." Alex scowled.

"Never look a gift horse in the mouth." Some things overcame pride. If her cousin owned this hotel she'd be staying here every chance she got. But then she wasn't Alex and none of her relatives had money, so it wasn't a decision she'd ever needed to make.

"Quite." But it sounded like he disagreed.

The coffee was starting to kick in, even after a couple of sips, and she got down to business. "What happened, Alex?" she asked softly. "You were so excited to be doing Galaxy Quest again. To be acting again."

He gave a small smile. "I thought I could manage half a season. Lazarus was going to die in episode thirteen. But Jason talked me out of it."

With good reason, she thought. The news had leaked out when they were filming episode two and the fans had reacted first with a letter campaign, then followed it up by sending hundreds of hammers, some inflatable, some plastic and even some real ones. Although the latter had vanished when the set construction crew visited the production offices.

"At least your part's not that bad." She sighed. "I've managed to get as many fight scenes as Jason, but most of those were so I can end up with my uniform ripped." Some things hadn't changed in eighteen years. And perhaps never would.

He shrugged. "If we get a second season, perhaps you can refuse to sign until you get a better part."

She smiled into her mug at his naivety. When it came to signing for season one she'd been happy to be on the show again and taken whatever she could get. The trouble was that her character wasn't that important. All they'd have to do to was to reprogram the computer so the Commander could speak to it and she was replaceable. She wasn't even the only female character any more. Which a good thing, except that it made it easier for them to write her out.

The other problem was that the execs didn't care about her opinions or her demands. She'd tried showing her cleavage, but it reminded them that her character should be doing that more often and they'd stopped thinking any further. The only person who could get anything he wanted was Jason. Just as it had been on the original series. Without him they wouldn't have gotten this new series.

She sat up straight, eyes wide. "This is all part of your negotiation for the second half of season one."

He smiled. "Jason's acting has certainly improved."

She punched his shoulder lightly. "But you have auditions for plays. For the hiatus?"

He nodded, but said, "I had auditions. They'll only consider me for Lazarus-like parts and even then they don't think I'm right for them." He heaved a sigh.

She rested a hand on his shoulder. At least his typecasting got him parts with intelligent characters. Hers got her parts where she said little and wore even less. It was flattering but frustrating. But she knew he didn't want to hear that right now. After all, it had been a topic of conversation for the past eighteen years,

"Why don't you form your own troupe?" It was thinking about plays in the hiatus that reminded her of a friend who'd done that same thing. In her case it had been to help her get auditions, but Gwen had managed to get a couple of small parts, when they'd needed someone at short notice. Gwen prided herself that she could learn lines quickly.

"You can go to small theaters around the country. You know Galaxy Quest fans will come to watch." She pretended not to have noticed his scowl. "And theater fans will come too."

"I don't know." He shook his head, but at least he hadn't dismissed the idea.

She understood that he wanted people to want him. That he thought he should be able to get parts without auditioning by now. But that wasn't how things were and if he wanted to act in Shakespearean plays, the best way to do it might be to put them on himself.

"You can choose the plays," she pointed out. Richard III if he wanted, although she suspected no experience of that could live up to the previous one. "You can direct if you want. Choose some new actors who need the experience." They had enough of those guest on Galaxy Quest and if they were all like Guy they'd jump at the opportunity. "I know some people with theater connections in Baltimore and Denver that I can put you in touch with."

"I'll think about it." He frowned at his tea.

If he did come back for the second half of season one there would be plenty of time to plan. And although she'd just had the idea she was warming to it herself. If Alex didn't want to do it, she knew other people who might. Jason, for one, who never missed an opportunity. Although Alex would make more of it than Jason. And if he was still vacillating, perhaps mentioning Jason's name would help him decide. Not wanting to antagonize him, she'd leave that option until last.

"So what are your plans?" Now she'd come all this way, she wanted to make sure he would return with her.

He misunderstood, though, and glanced at his watch. "While we're here, there's time for dinner and a West End show, if we're quick."

She let it go for now. She'd been to London a few times for the Destination Galaxy Quest conventions, so had managed to fit in some sight-seeing, despite staying in a hotel on the edge of London. What she hadn't done before was to make it to a show.

She found Alex had contacts of his own in England, which got them two tickets to Romeo and Juliet. She'd been Juliet at drama school, for all the good it had done her résumé. This one, though, was set during the Cold War, with the Montagues and Capulets the Americans and Russians, which was an interesting choice.

Since it was such short notice and an almost sold-out play, their seats were in the Upper Circle, tucked into a corner on the end of a row. It meant they saw the play from an odd angle, but it also meant they could sneak in just before it started.

Despite her reservations Gwen enjoyed the play. The actors had put their hearts into it and she foresaw glittering careers for Juliet and Mercutio. Always assuming they didn't end up typecast from an American sci-fi show.

A few glances and whispered conversations came their way during the interval, not helped by the ice cream seller standing right beside them. After a few minutes, while they were enjoying their ice creams, someone came over, holding a program, asking Alex to sign it.

He hesitated for a moment, then took the pen and scrawled his name across the front. Then handed it to Gwen, who added her name beneath his. And then had to wipe away the drop of ice cream she'd spilled on it.

That opened the floodgates and they were busy for the rest of the interval. When the lights went down Alex sighed in relief.

"At least they weren't reciting that line," Gwen whispered to him.

His response was lost beneath Benvolio starting the second act.

At the end of the play she wondered if the same thing would happen. But the usher reached them before anyone else. "Mr Dane, Ms DeMarco, the actors would love for you to come backstage."

A glance at Alex told Gwen he was not enthusiastic about that idea. But she thought it would be rude to refuse. And besides, maybe reminding Alex what theater actors were like after a performance would convince him about her hiatus theater idea. So she smiled, said, "We'd love to," and ignored Alex's glare.

She took Alex's hand to insure he didn't wander off as they were led through the corridors to the dressing rooms. There they were greeted by Leo Curtis, an imposing, yet softly spoken man in person, who had played General Montague.

"I'm so pleased to meet you." He smiled, holding out a hand to Alex.

Always polite, Alex shook it. He didn't look as thrilled, but at least he didn't look bored either.

Although Leo shook Gwen's hand too, he still turned his attention back to Alex straight after. "Going to the theater as a child was a real treat. We used to come twice a year to the West End. I saw you in As You Like It and A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Alex perked up.

"I hated Shakespeare in school, but you made the plays come alive. You gave all the words such meaning. After watching you I knew I wanted to be an actor. Now I spend half my year doing Shakespeare in schools. I want to inspire one person the way you inspired me."

Gwen tuned out their discussion of Shakespeare. She'd acted more in television shows than in the theater, not that she'd ever been able to be that choosy. Seeing Alex happy made it worth her coming all the way to England.


In the taxi back to the hotel, Alex was quiet. Gwen touched his arm.

He continued staring out the window, but said, "If I have my own theater troupe I can put on any play I like? Cast anyone I like?"

Gwen smiled and silently thanked Leo for convincing Alex on her behalf, even if it was inadvertently. "Of course. It would be yours. You would be in charge."

"But I'd need someone to help organize it. Find venues, work out a schedule." He faced her at last. "There's never much time while we're filming."

"Do all the donkey work you mean." He might not get much time while they were filming, but he did spend a lot more time in make-up than the rest of them. "And you'd need to fit your performances around the conventions. Even if you skipped the rest, you should at least do the LA con."

"That's what I mean." His eyes shone and she frowned. "You'd be perfect."

She shook her head. She was an actor, not an admin assistant. "Not me."

"Yes, you." He leaned across the backseat to take her hands. "You're always saying how you don't have enough to do so don't need as much time to learn your lines. And you learn them faster than everyone else. Everyone you meet ends up friends with you, so you know people all around the States. And you're the only person who can get us to settle down for a take."

"Get Jason to shut up, you mean." She smiled a little at the praise, even though she didn't think it was all warranted.

He shook his head. "If you do this, never again will you find yourself sitting in your trailer with nothing to do."

That wasn't something she did much anyway - she preferred being on set. Watching Jason and Alex was a particular joy, given the way they bounced off each other and ad-libbed so well it was impossible to tell where they'd gone off script without a copy in your hand. It never mattered how they felt about each other, when they were acting it was all about their characters.

But still, it was something else to do. Something to take her mind off the show. And part of her liked the idea of telling everyone else what to do for a change. "All right," she said, as they exited the taxi into the cold night air. "I'll do it."

"And no Jason." Alex held up a finger. "He doesn't get to steal all my lines in something else."

She bit back a smile as they entered the elevator.

"He will muscle in," he said sternly, taking her silence for disagreement, "as soon as he knows you're involved."

He was right about that. She wouldn't be able to keep this a secret from Jason for long, and he hated missing out on anything. These days she found it more cute than annoying, maybe because it was easier to distract him. "I can handle Jason."

He gave her a disbelieving look, before pulling his keycard from his pocket.

"Trust me, I have him on a short leash." Although Alex had opened the door she stayed where she was until he'd switched the light on. "Last week when we had those El'kae girls painted blue and in bikinis, he barely even glanced at them."

As he turned back, stood in the dark of his suite, his face was lit from the corridor light and she could clearly see the expression of disgust on it. "High praise, indeed." He turned away.

She smiled and headed inside. She knew what Jason was like and she'd known what she was getting into. "Speaking of Jason, do you mind if I call him? We're supposed to be having dinner tonight and he's going to wonder where I am."

"Knock yourself out." He gestured towards the phone and headed into the bathroom.

On the desk beside the window sat a white phone. At first she thought it was an old-style rotary dial, but on closer inspection she found it was disguised buttons.

She knew the number off by heart. It rang for long enough that she was about to put it down and try another number to get a runner to find him. He answered as she moved the phone away from her ear.

"Gwen! I've been speaking to the writers. Episode nineteen is going to be all about Tawny Madison."

Of course the first thing out of his mouth was Galaxy Quest. But at least he sounded pleased to hear from her. And she couldn't complain about him getting her an episode. She smiled into the receiver.

"So she's going to get kidnapped. But I save her from being tortured, just in the nick of time."

Which wasn't nearly as appealing. She slumped back in the padded, white desk chair. Sure, it would give her something different to act, but whatever torture they had in store, it was bound to be something that involved wearing fewer clothes.

"Gwen?" he asked, when she'd been silent too long.

"I don't know, Jason." Part of her couldn't believe she was complaining about getting an episode where she left the ship, however unwillingly. Perhaps she'd spent too much time with Alex. She could imagine exactly what he'd say to the news of Jason spending another episode being heroic. "Do you have to rescue me? Wouldn't a Commander, a proper Commander, surround himself with competent people? They'd never get anything done if he has to rescue them all the time."

It was a while before he said, "Perhaps."

Maybe she could convince him better in person than over the phone. She wished she could go to the writers about this herself. However, if even Alex couldn't get anything without going through Jason, she had no chance.

She waved a hand. "We'll discuss it later." This call was going to cost someone an arm and a leg - Alex's cousin, she hoped. But she ought to get onto the reason why she called in the first place. "I can't make dinner tonight. I'm in England."

There was a pause at the other end of the line. "England? What are you doing there?"

"I followed Alex."

"You're with Alex?" Jason sounded jealous, which was unlike him. Mainly because she'd never done anything for him to be jealous of. It had all been the other way around.

She sat up straight. "If either of you had told me what you had planned, maybe I wouldn't have been so worried about him. And maybe I'd have been having dinner with you last night, instead of sitting in an airport waiting for a standby ticket.

"I'm sorry." With Jason she could always tell when he was sincere and when he was acting. Even over the phone she could tell he was sincere. She was going to use that to make him pay for a lot of dinners to make up for the amount of money the plane ticket had cost.

"Tell me it's paid off, at least." She hated the idea this was all for nothing.

"It has. I told them if he left - if any of you left - I'd go too."

"Good." She smiled over at Alex as he exited the bathroom. "I'll call you when I get home."

"Gwen--"

She put the phone down before she could hear the rest of that sentence. If he wanted to talk he could pay for an international call.

"A bit unhappy is he?" Alex smiled a little, as he opened what she hesitated to call a mini-bar when it was so big. He held a small bottle of wine up and she nodded.

But Jason's reaction, and Alex's, had given her pause for thought. She stood, folding her arms. "Are you in love with me? Is that why you have a problem with Jason?"

Alex snorted, not pausing in unscrewing the lid. "Hardly." A search of the cupboards obviously didn't produce any wine glasses given that he ended up pouring their drinks into a plastic cup. "I'm just concerned with history repeating itself and forcing us to listen to the two of you arguing all the time." He passed her a cup.

"He has promised me he's changed." A sip revealed the wine to be surprisingly good. "And he did help you get what you wanted."

He paused, cup halfway to his mouth. "All of it?"

"You'll have to ask Jason about the details." She was sure Jason would tell him everything. Probably with an exact by-play with who said what, calculated to show how much effort it had required on his part. She usually ended up resorting to a kick on his shin to get him to stop. Alex could often achieve the same effect with a withering look.

"So you'll come back for the rest of the season?" It wouldn't be the same without Alex. It wouldn't be the same without any of them: Jason's ego, Alex's method acting, Tommy's joking, Fred's cool, Laliari's confusion but willingness to go along with anything, and Guy's enthusiasm.

Alex grinned. "Perhaps, like Jason, I'll phone it in." He glanced over to the desk behind her. "Literally."