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Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene II (Michael)

   
Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene II (Michael)



The Theatre Royal at Drury Lane was the oldest theater in London. Not the building itself, though the building was plenty old, having been built in 1812, after the prior theater had burned down in flames. But no, the Theatre Royal went back two hundred years before even then, and the current building was the fourth to bear this name. The Theatre Royal had been showing plays back when America was only a glimmer in the eye. It had seen Shakespeare and Miss Saigon, pantomimes, musicals, and the spoken word. It was the oldest theater in London, and all this history had weight.

It was also the most haunted theater in Britain. Charles Macklin, one of the greats of the 18th century stage, had thrust a dagger through the eye of another actor in a fight over a wig. Joe Grimaldi, the famous clown, also visited the Theatre Royal on occasion. And there were countless less known spooks and spectres, nameless apparitions that would appear when a play was performed.

Michael in earlier years would have dismissed this, but when one is a werewolf, the possibility of ghosts is much easier to believe. Though even so, the haunts of Drury Lane were not a cold and cruel gang of spectres, but the protectors of the building and its actors, a comforting presence. So they said, at least.

As the young werewolf made his way behind stage, however, one had to wonder what the ghosts would do to an interloper such as Michael. One of the less pleasant laws of the supernatural world was that the uncanny attracted the uncanny. Ghosts who would ignore a mortal may find a werewolf reason enough for a visit. If they were real.

According to Penrose's dossier, to find Montjoy, Michael had to make his way to the basement, specifically the part beneath the stage. There, amidst the props and ropes for special effects, Michael was to announce himself loudly as a messenger to Sir Royston Montjoy. Then he was to wait.

Michael had just reached the door for the stairs to the basement when a complication arose, however. This complication took its form in the shape of Mr. Theo Alexander, director and generally useful person to know, who said loudly. "Michael! What are you doing here?"

Damn Ghosts, Michael thought, as he walked through the theater. They had him on edge. Not that they seemed a bad bunch - far from it. A lot of Ghosts were just interested in what was happening in the living world. But right now, he didn't need any spirit distraction. So he prayed that they'd leave him alone. And if they didn't... well, the Pack totem spirit might by paying a visit...

As his name was called, Michael jumped. Theo Alexander, a talented up-and-coming director... and a real hard-ass who worked everyone around him to death. But being in a Theo Alexander production was like a rite of passage for young actors. If they made it, they could handle just about anything. Right now, though, it was a very inconvenient time. "Theo. Hi. Its nice to see you again," Michael said with a wide grin, leaving out the 'now that I'm not in one of your productions' part. "I'm here to meet someone," he added, leaving it vague and following up with a question to, hopefully, deflect attention from the fact that he'd given no details. "What are you doing here? Are you working? Am I intruding?"

"I'm going to check if they have a better queenly costume." Theo said, looking at Michael suspiciously. The problem with Theo Alexander was that he was entirely too quick on the uptake, in addition to showing up at an inconvenient time. "The current one has a hole, and I don't think it would be very fitting if Queen Gertrude shows up in a moth-eaten gown, don't you agree?"

"You can come along, I'll take you where you need to go." Theo said, features softening. "The basement's a bit of a maze, you'll get lost otherwise. Who are you meeting?"

Michael laughed, and said, "No, that wouldn't do at all," he agreed. "So you are putting on a production of Hamlet?" he asked out of interested. Michael hadn't done a lot of Shakespeare - in fact, since leaving the RADA, he'd only had a minor role in a production of The Tempest. That had been a memorable one - Patrick Stewart had starred as Prospero, and Michael had managed to get his autograph.

"Actually," Michael began, leaning in and lowering his voice conspiratorially, "its more of a... liason, if you catch my meaning," he said, grinning at Theo. He didn't know much about Theo's personal life or preferences, so he kept the details to a minimum once more. "Someone I've met here one or two times before. Probably best if I show up alone," he added. "But since the props department is on the way to where my meeting is, I'll walk you some of the way." Please let him swallow that one - surely he wouldn't want to get in the way of something so personal. But then, this was Theo Alexander. If he wanted to know who Michael was meething, then probably nothing would stop him from finding out.

There was just one small problem with Michael's idea, and this was that Michael was not nearly as good a liar as one might hope at this juncture. And Theo Alexander, who had directed a great many troublesome actors in his day, was entirely too difficult to fool.

"A liason." Theo said, looking at Michael levelly. It was dead obvious that he did not believe a word of Michael's story, and one could only imagine what alternative ideas he was concocting to explain why Michael was going down into the basement alone. Nothing good, certainly -- drug deals? They were a bane of all productions -- and Theo was not going to allow it. He continued, his voice flat. "Well, Don Juan, how about we go find your friend and then the two of you can go somewhere private that isn't the Theatre Royal."

This did not have the sound of something up for negotiation.

Trying to bluff his way through had obviously been the wrong tactic, and Michael had been a bit of a fool for trying it. But he couldn't tell Theo exactly why he was here. Apart from anything else, Michael was certain that Theo wouldn't believe him - a secret club asking him to deliver a letter in exchange for helping his career? It was too strange. Not to mention that Penrose was some kind of preternatural creature - if he let that spill, Michael knew he'd be locked in a padded cell within the hour.

What about a version of the truth? "Okay, he asked me not to say this..." Michael said, not having to fake reluctance to say anything. "I'm here to meet Royston Montjoy. The actor. I'm sure you've heard of him... anyway, I'm here to meet him. He has agreed to give me a little coaching, but he didn't want word to get out that he was training people for free or he'd be under siege. So please, please keep it to yourself," Michael said. He didn't have to fake the pleading either - he really did hope that Theo wouldn't say anything to anyone. "You can come and see him yourself, if you like, to prove that I'm telling the truth. I'm sorry for trying to hide it, but he really didn't want it to get out."

"Sir Royston Montjoy," Theo said, looking at Michael very strangely, "Has been dead for a hundred and seventy five years."

Oh. God. Damnit.

On reflection, he should have known there would be a twist or a catch or something, because this whole deal had been weird from the start. But sending a werewolf to deliver a letter to a ghost? It was turning out to be a royal pain in the ass. Not to mention Theo Alexander probably thought he was completely mad now - so much for helping his career! Michael had no idea what to do, so he started inventing. "You haven't heard about the book he supposedly bur-- hid here?" Michael asked, drawing on his knowledge of every terrible movie plot he'd ever seen. "They say he wrote memoirs containing the key to his acting style. And even if he didn't, the books would be worth a fortune. You know what its like in this buisness - you have to do anything to get ahead," he added. Sure, it didn't exactly make sense with what he'd said before learning that Montjoy was a ghost... but he hoped that Theo would be interested personally or professionally, or maybe blinded by greed at the thought of how much a book like that would be worth... either would be a good break right about now, because if it didn't work, Michael's only other idea would probably get him arrested for assualt...

"Uh-huh." Theo said, just giving Michael a look. It was very obviously not Michael's day here. "Buried memoirs."

"Michael, if you're in trouble, I'll help." Theo said, voice suddenly quiet. He stepped forward and put a hand on the werewolf's shoulder. "You don't need to do this to yourself. If it's drugs, I know people, plenty of actors have been through rehab, it happens. The stress and the pressure gets to you, it's just too much. It's nothing to be ashamed of. And if it's some lover, well..." Theo grinned suddenly. "Michael, being gay isn't anything to be ashamed about either. I'm here for you."

"Let's go meet your mysterious friend, and if there's trouble, I've got building security on speed-dial. But maybe we can talk things out first." Theo Alexander said, looking deep into Michael's eyes. "Alright?"

Well, that was a surprise - Theo had always seemed such a hard-ass. Michael had never imagined that he would have a softer side like this; maybe that was silly, but when all you see is the professional, talented young director, thats all you expect to see. But this concern... well, it was a side of Theo that Michael had never seen. He was touched at the concern, that Theo might have been worried about him. And it was a way out - just to say yes, its drugs, and accept the director's help. But Michael couldn't do that - he had never used drugs, never would, and he regarded anyone who did as weak. When the stress got to Michael, he went to the gym and worked it all out on a punching bag.

The other angle, though... it almost sounded like Theo was hitting on him. Michael didn't know enough about the man to know for certain which way he swung, so he wouldn't assume that was the case. Not until he had more conclusive proof, at least. "Its not drugs. I'd never do that," Michael said quietly, going along with the tone Theo had set. He also didn't point out that being bisexual wasn't the same a being gay, even if Michael did lean more towards men. "And I'm not ashamed. I appreciate the support, though," he said, giving Theo a genuine, bright smile. "I'd like the company," he added. He couldn't not say that - to say 'thanks for the support, now get lost' ... well, it didn't send the sort of message that Michael wanted. He'd just have to hope that Montjoy didn't show up until Theo had left. If the worst came to the worst, Michael would have to break in at night - but he'd much prefer it if that was a last resort that was never called on.




 

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