AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,
AngiePen
angiepen

Crushed Roses, Pt. 2

Title: Crushed Roses, Part 2
Author: AngiePen
Fandom: Celebrity RPS
Pairing: Craig Parker/Sean Bean (and a tiny bit of Viggo/Billy, just for msilverstar :) )
Rating: PG-13
Request: msilverstar's Sweet Charity fic.
Summary: Craig has a secret admirer, and some hopes (and fears) about who it might be. He can't quite tell, though, and he's feeling more and more nervous as the unknown person's expressions of affection begin to get creepy.
Disclaimer: I don't own anyone you recognize. I know nothing about their social lives or sexual activities, more's the pity. This is fiction, period. It is done as a labor of love and I make no money from it.
Notes: Thanks to msilverstar for her immeasurable patience, and to aleathiel for holding my hand through the end. :)

Part 1 is here.



Craig woke up what must've been just a few moments later. A dark figure blotted out the stars overhead, and a low voice said, "There ya are. I was about to call for an ambulance. How are you feeling?"

The front walk was pressing into every aching bit of Craig's body, probably because slamming into it had been what'd caused all the aches. He tried to sit up, then moaned and fell back. And swift hand under his head kept him from knocking himself silly again.

"Easy there, don't try to move yet." The hand stayed under his head, and another pressed lightly on his chest, reinforcing the spoken command.

The low, rich voice flowed through Craig's brain and a face drifted up to match it. "Sean?"

"Aye, unless you had someone else coming to meet you after dinner? Should I be looking for a queue, then?"

Sean's voice carried a thread of tease in it, but Craig felt his shoulders hunching in embarassment anyway. He'd honestly thought it wasn't... well, they hadn't said anything after, so he hadn't thought... well, that was it, wasn't it? He hadn't really thought.

"I'm sorry," Craig said. It came out a breathy gasp and he swallowed hard.

"Nothing to be sorry for. Or if there is, I likely got you back well enough by scaring you down the steps, yeah?" Sean smirked down at him, then hooked a hand under his shoulder. "Come on, then, let's get you inside. I don't think a pub would be a smart notion, what with this knot growing on your skull, but you can make me some coffee."

Craig was sloshing with coffee but wasn't about to say so. He let Sean lever him up and gave himself permission to lean as much as he needed to on the way up the steps, and maybe a little more just because it was Sean's solid, warm body under his arm and pressed against his side and how often was that likely to happen?

At the doorstep, Sean leaned down and grabbed the cut glass vase of roses, then thrust it into Craig's hand. Craig clamped it against his front with one awkward arm, then yelped when Sean shoved a big hand into Craig's front trouser pocket and fished around.

"Keys?"

"Oh! Umm, other side--" Craig skidded to a vocal halt and struggled to keep from flushing, although judging by the heat in his cheeks he was failing fairly miserably. The hand reached across and vanished into his other pocket and Craig's struggle for control shifted from one autonomic system to a slightly different one, rather lower in his body.

Sean got the door open and hauled Craig inside. He looked around and Craig gave the place a frantic look-over himself. There were some newspapers in a messy pile on the floor, and a jacket tossed over the back of his favorite chair, and the coffee table was covered with mail he hadn't gotten around to opening in however long it'd been.

No dirty cups or glasses, no pizza boxes, no orange peels -- good enough.

Craig steered Sean to the dining table and made himself let go of Sean's waist and settle into a chair. Despite what Sean had said earlier about Craig making him coffee, he set the vase down next to Craig, then headed into the kitchen and set up the pot.

"So, like flowers, then?"

Craig's head jerked up, then hit him with a tight flash of pain. "Uhh, what?"

He saw Sean shrug. The shirt tightening over Sean's lifting shoulders distracted Craig for a moment, before Sean said, "Just noticed you'd been getting flowers lately. Bunch on set the other day, then that bunch there on your doorstep."

"It wasn't you?" Craig asked, before he could stop himself.

"Me?" Sean stopped and looked around at him with a scowl. "What, did someone sign my name to 'em?"

"No! I mean, no, no one signed them at all. The cards were all blank. And there were more. It's just...." Every word Craig said felt like it was digging him deeper and he couldn't figure out how to explain what'd been going on. "It's been strange, and I've been trying to figure out who'd sent them."

Sean chuckled and turned back to the coffee. "Sounds like someone's shy," he said over his shoulder. "It's kinda cute."

"It's not cute!" Craig snapped. "It's been nerve-wracking and I wish whoever it is would just own up to it or get the hell out of my life!"

The coffee pot started coughing and bubbling. Sean turned around and leaned back against the kitchen counter, crossed his arms over his chest and gave Craig a neutral look. "But you thought it was me?"

The unspoken question, "And you want me to get the hell out of your life?" rang through Craig's brain as clearly as though Sean had asked it out loud.

"No! I mean--" Craig cut himself off and took a breath. His head was still aching and his thoughts faded and twisted and refused to line up in orderly, comprehensible rows. If he just kept babbling, Sean was going to think he was cracked, whether he was actually offended or not. If Craig was going to be dancing on the edge of this particular cliff then there was no reason not to go all the way, was there?

"I didn't know who it was," he said. He forced himself to meet Sean's eyes and lay it all out. "You were a possibility but that was more hope than anything else, right at the beginning, when I still thought it was just someone who was interested, some normal person. Then it got creepy and frightening and while you do a marvelous job playing creepy and frightening men, I didn't actually believe it was you anymore, not truly. Or maybe I was just hoping again, because even if you'd slipped a gear, you're still someone I know and that's not as scary as the idea that some insane, obsessed stranger is out there sharpening a knife and buying duct tape and chuckling over how frightened I've been.

"But yes, in the beginning, when it was just some beautiful roses sent to my trailer with no note, I was imagining and wondering and I did hope it was you. Because you're a wonderfully attractive man and I'd love to think you might be interested."

Craig wound down to a stop, unsure whether to go on about the scary part. Because the whole, "Yes, I do like you" bit was important right now, between them, but the whole "Crazed Stalker" bit was more important to the bigger picture and the scene should properly end on the more vital point.

Sean, who'd opened his mouth about halfway through but not said anything, watched Craig for a few moments after he'd stopped, closed his mouth, then opened it again and said, "Wait, what's scary about someone sending you flowers?"

"When they deliver them to your door, proving they know where you live, and stomp them to pieces right on your porch, suggesting hostility." Craig folded his arms on the table and buried his face. Of course Sean wouldn't think it was scary. To tell the truth, most people probably wouldn't. Hearing himself say it like that, Craig himself had thought it sounded rather silly; if he'd heard from someone else that crushed flowers had actually frightened them, he'd have been hard pressed not to at least grin.

It was so unreal. It wasn't something that happened to real people, or people one knew.

He heard chair legs scraping across the floor and looked up to see Sean settling down across the corner from him at the table.

"So, what all happened, then?" Sean asked. "You don't seem the sort to be thrown into a tizzy over a bunch of flowers."

Craig sighed again and looked away from Sean, staring at the blank wall. "I know it's ridiculous. It's just... I've never had anything like this happen to me before. Some of the fans are a bit odd, but they've always been basically nice people, you know? A few don't have the best social skills, but they mean well and they like me and I've never had to even think about being afraid of them before. I thought I was going a bit off on it but I talked to Viggo about it and he agreed that it could be something serious."

Sean sat up straight and raised an eyebrow. "Wait, you talked to Viggo about this? When?"

"The next day. The day after I got the first two -- the one bunch delivered to the trailer, then we went out and the second bunch was crushed all over my doorstep when I got home after. I didn't sleep very well that night and Viggo noticed the next day. He asked and we talked about it."

"So you got the stomped flowers before you talked to Viggo about it? You're sure about that?" Sean's voice was sharp and Craig couldn't figure out what he was getting at.

"Yes, I'm sure. Why, what difference does it make?"

"Huh. Maybe nothing." Sean eyed him for a second, then said, "Did you know Viggo was going to suggest I come over tonight?"

"He--? What? No!" Craig groaned and wanted to hide his face again. "I'm so sorry, I had no idea he was going to... I don't know, I suppose he's trying to help but.... Bugger."

"He's an interfering git, yeah, but he means well." Sean's voice was low and rumbling, but he sounded amused and Craig felt his hopes poke their heads out of hiding, just a tiny bit. "What I think," Sean continued, grinning at Craig as though inviting him to share the funny, "is that he got some notion into his head of playing matchmaker. I wouldn't put it past him to do the flower-stomping himself, or talk someone else into doing it for him, but even without that, I think he pounced on it and decided to use it.

"Look, I know this sort of rubbish happens, but hardly ever outside of movies and shows on the telly, you know? I mean, sure, some of the fans will send us some really whacked stuff, but you just ignore it and go on with things and nothing comes of it. I think Viggo decided to give us a nudge, so he gave you some encouragement and maybe arranged for a few more 'incidents.'" Sean tapped a finger on the glass vase in the center of the table. Craig stared at it and thought.

His thoughts were flexing and stretching and reshaping themselves, trying to accommodate the idea that it'd all been just... what? A prank? Not a prank, unless there were Hobbits with cameras lurking in the bushes, waiting for him or Sean to do something they could be teased about for the rest of the shoot. But some sort of scheme to get them together?

Talk about a movie plot! Craig thought. He winced, and could feel his cheeks heating again. This is like a really bad comedy and isn't likely to end with a kiss and a fade.

"So... do you think there was ever anyone else involved? The first two bouquets -- was that ever anyone else or was it just Viggo being... whatever he was being?"

"Don't know," Sean said with a shrug. "Might've been him, might not." Sean grinned at him and Craig felt his bones start to melt as Sean said, "You been doing anything that might've given him any ideas? Eyein' me up behind me back, maybe?"

"Umm...." Craig bit his lip and looked away, torn between fleeing and flirting. He settled for laughing instead.

Sean said, "Well, maybe we'll have to think of something to get him back, then." He was eyeing Craig up, maybe making up for lost time or finally sure it'd be welcome or whatever, Craig couldn't tell and didn't have enough functional brain cells to think about it because that particular hot, predatory smile on Sean's face had always been enough to make his stomach flip over and his heart start beating and his breath catch in his throat, and experiencing it in person, when he knew for a fact that it was actually aimed at him, rather than some random actress in a scene, multiplied the effects by about, oh, forty-some times.

Not that he was complaining or anything.

He thought of something else then which hit him like a board to the back of the head and he groaned out loud. When Sean asked, "What now?" Craig closed his eyes and said, "Viggo suggested I talk to Toby about this, see if he'd heard or seen anything odd from the fan club members -- in case one of them might be the... the stalker or whatever."

"That's the lad you had dinner with, yeah? Did he have any ideas?"

"No, nothing specific. I mean, there are always a few odd ones in any group of fans, you know? But nothing had really stood out as unusual."

"Well, there you go then," Sean said with a satisfied nod.

"But that's the point!" Craig closed his eyes and rubbed them with one hand, as though trying to wipe out the images in his head. "I talked to Toby about it! I told him about the flowers and said I was afraid someone might be working up toward, toward violence or, or something and if it's all just Viggo and Billy and the Hobbits and whoever else playing some sort of a joke or working on a scheme or whatever they're doing, then it's all nothing and Toby probably thinks I'm insane by now! I can't believe I made such an idiot of myself in front of him!"

"We'll definitely do something back at him, then," Sean said with an agressive nod. "I'm sure we can think of something appropriately wicked -- bet you could even get Orlando and Hugo to help, make it the Elves against the Filthy Human sort of thing." He scootched his chair over nearer to Craig's and added, "But that's for later. Right now we have more important things to think about." And then he reached over and clasped one hand around the nape of Craig's neck, pulled him close and kissed him hard.

Craig was more than willing to forget Viggo and any possible scheming, well meant or not, so long as Sean was doing delightfully dizzying things with his mouth and his hands.

Sean hauled Craig out of his seat and across onto his own. Craig ended up straddling Sean's lap and being kissed breathless. Sean tipped him backward slightly and Craig flailed to find his balance, but Sean broke the kiss just long enough to growl, "Leave it."

His arms tightened around Craig in emphasis. Craig got the message but couldn't help himself -- he looped his arms around Sean's neck and hung on, pressing their bodies together and pulling up close for another kiss.

"Nah, not like that." Sean's voice was low and rough and Craig could feel it resonate through their tight-pressed chests. Sean unwound Craig's arms from him, then pinned both of Craig's wrists behind his back with one hand at waist level, while the other looped around Craig's shoulders. He slowly leaned Craig backwards, their eyes locked.

Craig fought against the panic that told him was going to fall and crack his head again, pushed it down and away. Sean's arms were solid and his expression was serious, searching -- Craig could feel that Sean was watching his response, waiting for something.

Trust. That's what he wanted.

Craig had voiced his doubts earlier, and even though he'd assured Sean that he hadn't really thought it was him, that he hadn't really believed that Sean was some crazed stalker with an unhealthy obsession and a supply of duct tape, the thought had still been there, close enough to the surface of Craig's thoughts that it'd been voiced, when it could just as easily have been ignored.

Well, maybe not easily. Because it had been there, and the memory of the feeling, that flutter of fear that it just might be Sean -- that was still there, floating around Craig's mind.

So maybe he needed this too, to prove something to himself, and not just to Sean.

Craig kept his gaze focused on Sean's eyes and relaxed into his arms.

One corner of Sean's mouth quirked in a smile. He leaned out farther, until Craig was lying flat, parallel to the floor, supported only by Sean's solid lap and Sean's strong arms, then kept leaning down and kissed him again.

This one was slower, less a conquering attack and more an exploration of claimed territory.

Sean's hands loosened from around Craig's wrists. Craig slid them up once more, but not to hang on. Instead they rose slowly, kneading their way up Sean's sides and shoulders, then up the back of his neck to bury themselves in his hair, stroking and caressing, still letting Sean do all the work of supporting him. Because Sean would never let him fall; Craig knew that down to his core.

And just then, something solid and heavy crashed down on Craig's hands and Sean's head and Craig fell and hit the floor along with a shower of roses, then was hit again a millisecond later when Sean's limp body landed on top of him. Craig felt an explosion in his already-tender skull and then the world faded away.



After some unknowable time, Craig woke up with a dull, throbbing ache in the back of his head. He opened his eyes and saw a shadowy blur that he thought was the ceiling; turning his head made his stomach twist and threaten to heave, so he closed his eyes again and swallowed hard.

The thought occurred to him that he should be on the floor, or at least that he had been on the linoleum. He wasn't, though -- he was lying on something sort of soft, or at least moreso than the floor. It had a corner and a padded side.

The couch. He was on the couch, with the padded back on his right side and a cushion under his head, propped against one arm.

He opened his eyes again, carefully this time, and looked around as well as he could without actually moving more than his eyeballs. Right -- ceiling, tops of walls, corner, spider web, top of window with... no, without curtain. There was supposed to be a curtain there, on the window looking out on the back garden.

A low, muffled noise drew his attention across the room. Craig turned his head again without thinking, and this time it wasn't quite so bad; he only felt dizzy for a few moments, and his stomach protested but didn't threaten any serious rebellion.

He had to blink into the shadows on the floor near the television, but then the long, lumpy shape resolved itself into Sean -- Sean, who'd been wrapped up in something bright orange -- a moment later Craig recognized a heavy duty extension cord that'd been in the utility closet -- and gagged with a piece of the missing curtain.

Sean's shoulders and legs jerked, pulling against the cord tied around him, and his face was a harsh mask of anger and worry. His eyes swiveled back and forth between Craig and a spot to his left, toward the middle of the room. Obviously there was something there, and Craig, even with his brains scrambled from his second head-bashing of the night, had a feeling he knew what it was.

He got an elbow under him and carefully rotated until he was up on one shoulder. Sure enough, there was someone leaning against the wall watching him.

"Toby...?" It was a stupid question, maybe, but Craig just had to ask, "What are you doing here?"

"You knew I'd be coming," Toby said, his voice flat and toneless. "We said we'd see each other soon. I ran home to get some stuff and came here to your place, figuring you'd be waiting up for me. Your lights were on and all so I came in -- the door was open and everything."

Craig said, "Umm...?" All he could do was stare while his thoughts raced, from It was him! to He's insane! to He's going to kill us both! to He's president of my fan club!

While Craig was trying to figure out which way was up, Toby came across the room and looked down at him, his expression still calm and blank. "You were waiting for me," he said. "I came in and that bastard over there was mauling all over you." He gave Sean a contemptuous gesture and a quick glare, the first emotion he'd shown since Craig had noticed him. "It's lucky I came in when I did," he went on, "or who knows what he would've done."

He's crazed, Craig thought. He thought Sean was--? Did he think we were going to be doing... anything? And he's just assuming that I was waiting for him and Sean came in and, what, and attacked me...?

A hard lump lodged in Craig's throat and his heart pounded hard, speeding toward panic. All he could think was to go along and wait for an opportunity.

"Of course," he said. "He got the jump on me and I don't know what I could've done if you hadn't come in." Craig swallowed hard and didn't look at Sean, couldn't look at Sean. All he could do was hope Sean caught on, and hope Toby didn't. He sucked in a hard breath and pushed himself up with one arm until he was sitting, then levered up to his feet. He had to lean on the arm of the couch, but he made it, only teetering a little. The throbbing in his head and the griping of his stomach he just ignored; he needed to focus on Toby, who hadn't stepped back and stood staring at him from barely a handspan away.

Toby took a half step closer, pressing his body up against Craig's. He raised one hand and stroked gently down Craig's cheek, then murmured, "I was here for you."

"Yes, you were." Craig concentrated on looking into Toby's eyes and even managed a tight smile.

"So let's get rid of the fucker," Toby went on, "and then get back to you and me."

"Umm, wait, get rid of?" Craig took a step back, then stopped, his hands clenched tight. "We can't, I mean, jail, not worth it, nothing happened so we'll just--"

"Just call the police." Toby interrupted him and looked around.

For a phone? Now what? "No, wait!" Craig blurted. "I mean, we can't! The films, PJ, it'd be bad publicity and it'd hurt everyone and that's not right, especially when nothing happened, not really. You came in time and I'm fine, nothing happened, nothing bad, so there's really nothing to say. It's not like he assaulted me, not really, there aren't any marks or anything, no evidence, it'd be my word against his so it'd all be for nothing but the papers would get hold of it anyway and it'd blow up for nothing--" Craig just kept talking, his hands moving of their own volition to Toby's shoulders, stroking his arms -- smooth, calming motions while Craig himself got more and more tense and panic frothed up inside him again. "Let's just throw him out, let him go home and, and lick his wounds, right? You got him a good one and he'll think twice before trying anything like that again, and you and I can get back to-- to kicking back and-- and finish our evening together, right?"

Toby grinned at him, wrapped his arms around Craig and gave him a tight hug, then fisted one hand in his hair and jerked his head back.

"You are so full of shit." Toby gave Craig's head a brain-rattling jerk, then shoved him back down onto the couch. It didn't take much of a push and Craig collapsed onto the cushions. Even that light jolt sent his stomach and head pounding protest through his body, while the room spun in dizzy swirls.

"You might as well have 'Humoring the Crazy' tattooed on your forehead," Toby sneered. "Did you think I was actually interested in you? Do I look gay to you?"

How the hell was anyone supposed to answer that question? Craig didn't know and didn't try. Luckily he didn't need to because Toby kept on ranting.

"What, did you think you were Brad Pitt, that everyone was throwing themself at you? Messing around with your little fan club like some kind of movie star, always posting and chatting and sending notes and signing anything you can get your hands on like some desperate attention whore, every opportunity you could grab or create or imagine to remind your adoring fans that they were supposed to be worshipping your wonderfulness!"

Craig just lay there, sprawled on the couch, staring and listening and trying to figure out what was going on because none of it made any sense at all.

Was it true? Did he impose on his fans, expecting them to flock around him, all admiring? He remembered Sean's words -- "You have a fan club?" -- as though he were surprised. Shocked, even. Was it really that surprising?

"--they're all stupid too!"

Toby had kept going, apparently too wrapped up in his explosion after a build-up of pressure for... how many years? He'd been president of Craig's fan club since the beginning, over four years.

"Flocking around like you were some kind of super-celebrity. Bad enough the girls, but the blokes too, like they had some kind of special status because they hung out on a web site where Craig Parker Himself posts messages! Lah-di-dah for them!"

"Why?" Craig blurted, as soon as Toby stopped for a breath. "If you hate me so much, why? You started the club -- why do that if you're not a fan and don't care?"

Toby snorted. "It was a joke! I found some pictures of you and a couple of girls had commented all squealing and it was such shite! So I put up the web page to make fun of all the idiots who thought you were such hot stuff and they came and started squealing there! So I put in the forums and e-mailed you and of course you came dashing over to take your bows and show off for your little flock!

"It all just built after that and it was so ridiculous, I kept going. I wanted to see how far it'd go, how far they'd go, how far you'd go, and the answer was clear off the edge of the cliff and farther and none of you ever noticed how insane it all was!"

Craig had no idea how he felt. He was empty, like a wrung-out sponge, searching for a feeling -- any feeling -- to fill him up again. He just looked at Toby, at the cocky stance and scornful expression, and finally said, "So now what? Fine, you did it, you proved you could manipulate a few hundred people. Now what happens?"

Toby opened his mouth slightly, then stopped. Craig got the impression he hadn't thought that far.

"You figure it out," Craig said, then hauled himself back up to his feet and moved over to Sean. He had the gag out and the knot in the extension cord most of the way undone before Toby reacted.

"What do you think you're doing?" he snapped, grabbing Craig's shoulder and yanking him away. "I didn't say you could let him go."

Craig fell back on one elbow, but fought the dizziness and nausea and struggled back up to his knees. He shoved Toby hard in the stomach, not doing any damage but enough to make him take a step back, and said, "I don't care what you think and don't need your permission."

Sean flailed and jerked around, struggling out of the loosened cord. "You get the fuck out of his house," he snarled, his voice still dry and hoarse from the gag. Even from a meter lower, Craig could see Sean's green eyes were blazing anger and his fists were trembling with a need to pound on someone.

"Or what?" Toby said, still sneering.

Obviously getting the drop on Sean once had given him some courage. Craig was pretty sure it was misplaced, but didn't really care at that point so long as he didn't end up with blood stains anywhere permanent.

The cord finally fell in a heap at Sean's feet and he strode right up into Toby's face, backing him up into the wall without even touching him. "Or I pay you back for the knot on m'head, then we call the cops and have your lying arse hauled away."

Craig couldn't see Toby, but he could hear both the fear and the bravado in his voice when he said, "You won't call the police, 'cause telling the story would mean it getting out that you and the pansy-boy over there were practically fucking when I got here."

"You mean when you tresspassed and then assaulted us?" Sean purred. Craig could picture that nasty smile from a few villains Sean had brought so perfectly to life. "After scheming for years to get close to Craig? I think two against one means yer a lyin' sacka shite who's making a desperate attempt to stay out of jail."

Another pause. Craig wondered whether Toby was swallowing hard or just concentrating on keeping a straight face. Since Sean seemed to have chosen their path, Craig went to find the phone and hoped Sean wasn't bluffing.

When he came back with the phone, Toby'd found his courage and was snapping back at Sean, "--tough-guy roles if they know you're a cocksucker? What, you think I'm stupid or something?"

Damn bully, Craig thought, and stepped in to put an end to it. "I don't know what Sean thinks, but I know you're stupid," he said, deliberately making his voice hard and impatient. "I'm out, and I don't care what other lies you spread. I'm calling the police right now--" he punched buttons on the phone while speaking, "--and I think our injuries, including marks from when you tied Sean up, will ensure that we're believed, not you. Obviously you're just a crazy stalker fan who took it too far and is now desperate to bargain your way out--"

He cut himself off when the operator answered, then turned his attention to the phone. "Yes, a man came into my house and assaulted me and a guest. I need the police immediately." He paused, then said, "Thanks, an ambulance is probably a good idea too -- I've been dizzy since I woke up, and I don't know how my friend is feeling." Another pause. "Oh, yes, he's still here."

Toby made a panicked noise and tried to bolt across the room, but Sean grabbed him by one arm and levered him ungently onto the floor. "You stay right there. You started this mess, you can see it through."



It was nearly dawn by the time the various people in uniform had all left and Craig was alone with Sean once more. Neither of them had needed bandages, but Craig had been given a shot for the dizziness, and instructions to see his own physician the next day to follow up on the concussion.

Craig closed the door, walked over to Sean and let himself fall forward onto Sean's chest. Sean's arms came up around him and held him close.

"So," Sean murmured, his voice low and teasing, "where were we, then?"

Craig had to giggle, he couldn't help it. He hugged Sean back and said, "I think you were kissing me silly. Although are you sure you want to waste your time, now that you know I'm not such a big fish after all, even in this small pond?"

He was mostly joking, but not completely. He was still somewhat boggled by what'd happened and why, and he was trying to rearrange his own perception of who he was to his fans, as an actor and a man.

"I think your pond is just fine, and most of the fish in it. That one diseased bottom-feeder doesn't change anything. All your other fans in your club still love you, right?"

"I... I don't know. Maybe? I thought Toby 'loved' me and see what that got me."

"He was whacked," Sean said with a dismissive shrug. "I think the fact that he seemed to hate all the other fans in your club as much as he hated you says that they're likely to be decent enough folks. And they certainly have good taste."

Craig couldn't help blushing at that, but it wasn't enough to drive away the shadows. He focused on Sean -- the solid feel of him, the warmth of his body, the sexy scent in the crook of his throat just beneath his ear where Craig's nose was brushing. Sean, who was still here even after all the mess and chaos and getting coshed on the head, when anyone else would've taken advantage of the ready-made excuse to go home to bed with a handful of paracetamol.

He sifted one hand very gently through the soft hair at the back of Sean's head, careful not to press against the swelling. "I have paracetamol," he whispered. "And I have a nice big bed. How about if we start there, and then see what the rest of the day brings later, when we're both feeling more ourselves?"

"I think that's a right fine idea," Sean murmured back.

The rest of the day turned out just lovely.

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