Blake Steel had known Natasha for three and half years. Four, technically, but they met during the last six months of a massive drug phase he was going through and he really couldn’t remember her from that time, so it never counted. He had been hired as an assistant, however his keen “everything, darling” in response to what he was best at, soon had him as more than her right hand man. Whether it was packing and moving gear, creative director of a shoot, second photographer... He did it. Everything. And did it well.

They weren’t friends by a long shot. They got on well, respected each other, and could drink together at respective work parties.They knew each other well enough to ignore foul moods, enjoy innuendos and lude jokes. They knew when to empathise with a hangover, and respect wanting to be left alone to just get on with a job. But they were far from friends. Blake enjoyed the whirlwind that was Natasha. She was always on the move, thinking or planning the next shoot before the current one was even over. She moved at his pace.

Except for today. Blake was frozen. He’d come bursting into her office in his bright red blazer, trying to make sense of the latest council permit requirements for an upcoming shoot, when he couldn’t even comprehend what lay before him. Or, more correctly. Sat. She was sitting. Sitting at her desk. With her feet on the desk. Smoking. She was sitting. Sitting at her desk. Not moving. Just smoking. Sitting at her desk. And smoking.

“Okay, what’s happening here?”

She took a draw from her cigarette, cocking her eyebrow. She did enjoy when she could stupefy Blake. It was fun. He finally came to, and started walking towards her.

“Don’t get me wrong, you’re looking very hot and seductive right now, but my brain can’t comprehend this.” He took a seat upon her desk and gave her his best cheesey-talk-to-me-face.
She took another drag, and blew the smoke in his face, which he breathed in heavily.

“Quitting going well I see.”

“Fabulous.” She smiled that shit eating grin of hers.

“Okay well if you want to keep sitting here looking all Mrs Robinson you can at least sign this.” She didn’t even look at what she was signing, just drew her name ineligibly.

“You can also email Casey and tell him that the shoot will not be moved to the 15th because everyone and everything is already confirmed for the 12th-” he paused, because he could see she was hardly listening. He nudged her leg with his foot. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“You slept with him,” she smirked.

“You’re deflecting. And correct. But that is not why you need to email him.” He got up and started heading towards the door.

“Oh no?”

“No I’ve already told him twice and he refuses to listen so its your turn.” And with that he left her.

Casey owned a small but very atmospheric studio, which was one of Natasha’s favourites. She didn’t get to use it often, but when the opportunity presented itself, she always demanded Casey clear whatever he had scheduled. He did, because Natasha never took no for answer. Literally. Ever.

Blake made his way over to Aaron, who was unpacking a couple of boxes. Aaron for the most part was good at his job. Never gave or did more than he had to, always on on time. He was there for the paycheck and that was about it, but he was reliable. And observant.

“Hey, Aaron, how long you been here?”

“Since 10.” He didn’t look at Blake or stop, just kept trudging on with the task at hand.

“She been here long?”

“Half hour? Bit more maybe.”

“She seem normal to you?”

“Yeah pretty much.”

Well if Aaron didn’t notice anything it couldn’t be too major. They’d all been a little more cautious with her since she’d tried to quit smoking again. Aaron noticed him standing around and threw him a pair of scissors, and Blake joined him in opening up a couple of boxes.

This time around they really thought she was going to make it. The first time she tried, she lasted 2 days. Maxine Donnelly, from a studio they’d hired for a massive editorial spread, had fucked up big time and double booked. Only noticed the day before the shoot. So Natasha had lit up and proceeded to smoke an entire pack during a three hour period of yelling very crude, albeit impressive insults to anyone who came within a 2 mile radius of her. To be fair, she rarely ever finished a cigarette, but watching her that day was impressive.

The second time around, she’d lasted 5 days. She just really wanted a smoke. Blake had been relieved. When she wasn’t smoking, Natasha was an outright bitch. Not that she was a bright, bubbling person normally, but when she was off the ciggies, God help everyone.

This time around though, she’d lasted 8 days. It was like she’d really decided that she was going to do it. When Natasha made a decision, she owned it. Nothing would change her mind. Something Blake nearly admired about her. She’d apologised twice for snapping at Aaron, which in and of itself was a miracle. Up until that day Blake didn’t even know she knew what an apology was.

On the way to a shoot a couple of days ago she had picked up some gum to take her mind off the ciggies. Actively trying to curb the need for nicotine. Again, Blake was impressed. A few hours later he was laughing his head off because she was furiously rubbing her thumb against her index finger as if she was striking a lighter.

Blake was trying to think of anything that happened in the last week. Usually one to keep to himself, he just couldn’t get the image of her sitting at her desk. Sitting still. At her desk.

“Shoot is on the 15th!”

“What!?” He screamed, leaving Aaron behind and stormed into her office. “Why!?”

“Just easier. He’s not convinced he can get all the shit cleared in time.”

Shit. Blake may have forgotten about the fire that had destroyed the first floor of the studio’s building.

“I won’t be there though. You’ll be shooting.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” There was really something going on. He’d seen most of Natasha’s moods, if not all. But he’d never experienced this. She’d never let him have a whole shoot to himself. She was...he didn’t actually know. “Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you?”

The End

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