“I’m going to be a rational adult,” Tony muttered to himself as he strode down the corridor of the studio, fists clenched.
Beat the shit out of him, Tony.
“I’m going to confront him calmly and verbally.”
Punch his face so hard it concaves.
“I’m going to be the better man.”
Take a kitchen knife and cut off his fucking head.
It had been exactly one week since what the execs at the studio were referring to as ‘The Incident’, and they’d called the four of them in for a meeting to discuss what the hell to do about it. This would be the first time Jean, Tony or Gerry had seen Andy since he’d left them and their friends to die and frankly, Tony had no idea what was going to happen. Whilst a tiny part of his mind was trying to compose a compelling (and clean) speech that would make Andy regret his actions without the use of violence, the rest of him was internally yelling as many curse words as possible and visualising ever-more painful methods of torture.
“I’m going to be a rational adult.”
Fucking kill him.
Tony stopped at the door of the conference room when he saw Jean standing outside, waiting by herself with one hand on the door handle. Her foot wasn’t in plaster, but she was still supporting herself on a crutch and her face looked completely drained of all energy. Her hair was still black as well.
“Oh, thank God,” Jean said when she saw Tony. “I didn’t want to go in by myself.”
“Is he in there?”
“You don’t want to be alone with him. Why? Is it because you broke up with him?”
“No way. I just need someone to stop me from punching him.”
“Oh. I won’t be of much use, then.”
“I’m going to kill him.”
Jean pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes in concentration. “Me too.”
“Ok, ready? 3, 2, 1...”
They opened the door. Andy, who had been sitting down on one of the sofas, jumped to his feet like he’d been electrocuted. Tony couldn’t figure out why he looked different, but then he realised: Andy’s tan had worn off and he was almost a normal colour. It made him look a hundred times more vulnerable.
“My God, you look dreadful,” said Jean.
Andy’s eyes were wide but scornful; his bottom lip was trembling but his top lip was curled into a smirk. Tony had never understood the phrase boiling blood before, but as he regarded Andy’s facial expression from the doorway, he could feel his blood beginning to boil. For the second time in a week, he allowed fury to completely overtake him.
“BASTARD!” Yelled Tony, charging towards Andy with his clenched fist raised. Tony had never punched anyone before, but then again, nobody had ever deserved to be punched as much as Andy did right now. All traces of contempt fell from Andy’s face; instead of fighting back, he yelped like a frightened dog and raised his arms over his head to protect himself.
“I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!”
“Tony, NO!” Jean ran as quickly as her crutch would let her to stand between Andy and Tony, and Tony was forced to slow down and lower his fist.
“Not yet,” Jean whispered to him.
She turned round to stand next to Tony and the two of them looked pitifully at Andy, who immediately straightened up, stopped whimpering, and put his arms back by his sides.
“Thank you, Jean,” Andy muttered.
“Shut up, asshole. I’ll deal with you in a minute.”
“Jean, he deserves it. You know that! Let me kick his ass, please. For... for Dave. And Kevin.”
“Tony, we can’t settle this with violence. Well, not only with violence anyway. Let me talk to him.”
Jean turned back to Andy. “Get up, you snivelling wuss.”
“You can’t tell me what to do, Jean. I dumped you, remember?”
“Get up right now or I swear to Christ I’ll step out of the way and let Tony cut loose on you.”
Andy got up, shooting several glances at Tony, who was still fuming with both fists clenched.
“Jean, please. I know I fucked up, and I’m sorry.”
“You condemned six people to death, you dickhead. Half of us are dead because of you!”
“It wasn’t my fault!”
“How the fuck was it not your fault?”
“I panicked! I’m not well... I, um... I have anxiety, and...I made a mistake! Everyone makes mistakes!”
“STOP DEFENDING YOURSELF!” Yelled Tony from across the room. “There’s NO EXCUSE for what you did!”
“Andy,” said Jean. “I’ve made a hell of a lot of mistakes in my life. Shaving off half my hair was one. Wearing high heels to a ruined mansion was another. Dating you was the biggest of the lot. However, wimping out of a dangerous situation and leaving six people stranded cannot just be dismissed as a mistake. You’re a self-absorbed asshole that only cares about himself and his own self-preservation, and the sooner you get that through your thick head, the sooner the rest of us will be safe. I never, ever want to see you again, and if I do I’m going to hit you so hard with this fucking crutch that you’ll never walk in a straight line again.”
“Well,” said Andy with a laugh that sounded weary but still scornful. “That’s going to be slightly problematic, seeing as we work together.”
“Right,” said Jean, dumping her crutch onto the floor to shrug off her jacket. “Tony, hold my jacket.”
“It’s DKNY. I don’t want to get blood on it.”
Andy’s face bleached and he bolted.
Ten minutes later, the door crashed open again.
“Right, where is that prick?” Declared Gerry as he strode into the room, rolling up his sleeves as he did so. Andy came back almost immediately afterwards and Gerry made a move towards him, but Jean held him back.
“Oh my God, give me a BREAK!” Andy exclaimed when he saw Gerry.
“Gerry, stay back,” said Jean. “Andy, you’d better stay over there, well away from us. I swear to Christ, I’m a black belt in karate, and if you take one more step I’ll beat you to an orange pulp.”
Andy took a step back.
“Does she really know karate?” Tony whispered to Gerry without turning his head. “You’ve been here the longest, right?”
“No, of course not,” he said. “She’s just saying that to scare Andy. Seems to be working.”
“But...” said Tony, thinking. “They’ve been together for ages. If she was lying, wouldn’t he know?”
The query remained unanswered.
The door opened again; a man Tony vaguely recognised as one of the programme’s executive producers walked into the room. Everyone immediately sat down on a sofa and Andy, realising he was too close to Jean, tentatively shuffled further away.
“Hello, everyone.” The executive’s voice was grave. “Now, I don’t want to keep you all for very long, so I’ll cut right to the chase. Obviously, the filming of the new episode was a failure.”
Gerry let loose a splutter of laughter. “Yeah, you could say that,” he said scornfully, glaring daggers in Andy’s direction.
“Anyway, the event has obviously inspired a huge amount of bad publicity, which was hardly helped by, well...”
“Tony’s girlfriend.” Andy finished, smirking.
“Shut your face, dickhead!” Tony yelled. “Julianne was there for Dave, who died because of you, and besides, she’s—“
“Nobody’s girlfriend,” said the exec calmly. “We know. Everyone knows. It’s gone viral on YouTube.”
“Oh. Well, good.”
“No, Mr White, it’s not good! We’ll be lucky if we still have a quarter of our viewers left by the next episode. Actually, scratch that. We’ll be lucky if there even is a next episode!”
“Um... sir?” Gerry put up one hand like a child in a classroom. “We actually, um... did some filming after... after the fire. Do you want to see?”
He produced the battered video camera from his backpack.
“You did some filming?” Andy scoffed. “Why? Why wouldn’t you, you know, call the police? If you think about it, it’s just as much your fault as mine that people died!”
Andy clearly thought he was safe when a senior producer was in the room. He was wrong.
Gerry stood up, dumping the camera on the sofa. He marched across the room, grabbed Andy by the front of his shirt, and punched him square in the face before anyone could raise a finger.
The whole room went crazy. Jean stood up to pull Andy away, the executive stood up to pull Gerry away, and before long all four of them were yelling at each other while Tony watched calmly from the sidelines. He knew whose side he was on, but he was perfectly happy to keep that information to himself.
“QUIET!” Yelled the executive, holding up both hands. The room fell silent, and he turned to Gerry.
“Mr McDonald, you’ve just exhibited a kind of behaviour which is unacceptable in a working environment. I know you’re grieving for your friends, and that Mr Page did something that upset you, but that’s no excuse for the use of violence. You’re fired.”
“Good!” Said Gerry. “You’ve done the job for me. I only came here to punch Andy anyway. So long, guys.”
Gerry grabbed his backpack and walked out of the door just as the executive turned to the remainder of the crew.
“Now, are you three going to behave like adults, or do I have to fire more of you? The programme and your jobs are on thin ice, and I seem to be stuck with a room full of five-year-olds.”
“Well, allow me to assist with that,” said Jean, letting go of Andy. “I quit.”
The executive blinked in shock. “Ms Dartfield, this is a very big decision. Are you sure you’ve—“
“I quit too,” Tony said. “Kiss my ass.”
Jean smiled at Tony from across the room, looking genuinely happy for the first time since he’d met her. Tony grinned back as Jean gathered up her belongings, ignoring the astonished glances Andy was shooting between the pair of them.
“Right,” said the executive. “That’s it, then. Looks like I’m going to have to go back to head office and tell them we managed to cancel ourselves.”
“You still have me,” Andy said.
“Shut up,” said the executive as he walked out of the door, leaving the three of them alone.
“Well,” said Andy. “Looks like the two of you have well and truly fucked everything up. I knew you weren’t brave enough to leave me by yourself, Jean, but I would’ve thought you’d be able to do a little better than Tony.”
Jean, who was making her way towards the door, stopped in her tracks. Slowly, she turned to face Andy, and Tony watched in anticipation as the last scrap of colour drained from Andy’s face.
Jean closed her eyes, leant further onto her crutch and her bad ankle, and then kicked her right leg upwards and sideways into the air with unbelievable speed. The steel-capped toe of her shoe drove straight into Andy’s jaw with a sickening CRACK and he staggered backwards before collapsing. As she spun, landed and regained her balance, Tony could see Jean’s eyes glittering with satisfaction underneath the fumes of anger.
Huh. She really does know karate.
“Fuck, that felt good,” said Jean. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Wait a second,” Tony said, barely daring to take his eyes off her as he spotted Gerry’s camera still lying on the sofa.
“What?” Jean said, pausing by the door.
Tony clenched his left hand into a fist as he picked up the camera with his right.
“I’ve still got unfinished business.”
“Oh, ok.” Jean walked out of the room and left Tony alone with Andy, who was still whining in pain on the floor.
“You got beaten up by a woman.”
“Fuck you, Tony.”
Tony glanced sideways at the door to make sure that Jean was gone. Then, he began to pick his way across the floor towards Andy, who sat himself up, still clutching his face.
Tony’s glasses started to slip down his nose. He tore them off and threw them down on the sofa, next to Gerry’s camera.
“I don’t know karate, like Jean does, so you don’t need to worry yourself there.”
“Oh. Thank God.”
“But that doesn’t mean I can’t still beat the living daylights out of you.”
“I’d like to see you try, you weedy little dork. Anyway, Jean told you not to beat me up. Going to do as your girlfriend says, mate?”
“This isn’t for Jean.”
Tony put all his weight on his left leg before driving his right knee upwards into Andy’s chin with as much force as he could manage. The kick wasn’t a patch on what Jean had just done to him, but it was enough to lift Andy off the ground and send him reeling onto his back.
She was right. It does feel really good.
“That was for every pathetic thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Tony straightened up and took two steps across the room so that he was standing right over Andy. He wasn’t unconscious, but he’d clearly given up on fighting back. A pathetic moan, like a dying animal, escaped him, but after that, he stayed silent.
Tony gave Andy three sharp, forceful kicks right in his stomach.
“That was for every pathetic thing you’ve ever said to Dave.”
Then, he spotted Andy’s iPhone lying on the ground a few feet from the table. Stepping on it with all of the strength he could drive through his heel, Tony smashed the phone’s screen to smithereens. Then, he picked the phone up and threw it right at Andy’s head.
“And that, Andy, was for everything else you did to Dave.”
Tony walked over to the sofa, feeling the fury-fuelled adrenaline pounding in his blood. He picked up his glasses and the camera, but decided to leave the snivelling wreck of his former colleague on the floor as he left the studio for the last time.