Fandom: Celebrity RPS
Pairing: Orlando Bloom/Sean Bean
Challenge: AU Orlibean. Sean is hired to kidnap Orlando who he assumes is a spoiled rich kid who turns out to be anything but, when the ransom isn't paid the order comes down for Sean to kill him. It's a race against time to get them both to safety. Written for amygirl's request at the_challenger.
Summary: Sean's little brother has a taste for the ponies but no talent when it comes to choosing winners, and owes a local gangster a lot more money than he can come up with. Sean agrees to do an "easy job" in payment of the debt -- kidnapping a spoiled young punk named Bloom and hanging on to him while the gangster gets a ransom from the lad's family. It should've been a simple job, but then things started to get complicated.
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.
Previous Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine
Once they were alone, Orlando went from stiff with anger to an exhausted-looking slump, as though he'd expended all his energy arguing with his cousin and maintaining his in-control face and had finally realized he was at the bottom of his tank. He turned and leaned against Sean with a heavy thud. Sean had his arms around him and was guiding him back toward the sofa without conscious thought.
He was feeling a mite wrung out too, truth to tell. They'd both been under a hellish stress for the last couple of days -- and bugger all if it didn't feel like a couple of weeks -- and although they weren't out of it yet, not hardly, they were finally at a point where they'd nothing that needed doing, nothing to look out for, no gangsters with guns hiding behind the furniture nor creeping up just outside the windows. They were fed and safe and sitting on a chunk of empty time and the first instinct Sean had was to take a nap because he felt pretty much like Orlando looked.
Orlando seemed to have another instinct, though, because moments after Sean had them settled back on the sofa he found himself entwined in a tangle of once-more-tense limbs and with a shaking young man all but in his lap.
"Orlando? It's all right, lad, calm down, relax now." Sean wasn't at all good at this sort of thing and murmured whatever comforting nonsense he could dredge up while trying to figure out what the problem was. "Come on now, we're safe, yeah? Let's just relax for a bit and we can think on what to say to your da when he comes." He slid one arm around Orlando's waist and hung on tight while patting him awkwardly on the back with his other hand. Comfort was all fine but the lad seemed to want to slide the rest of the way onto his lap and Sean was fairly sure that wouldn't be a good idea, all things considered.
"How could he say that?" The question came out a rough whisper, as though Orlando were having a hard time finding his voice. "How could he? It's like he's saying I'm stupid, that I don't know what I'm doing or I'm an easy mark, some gullible idiot and he knows better or I thought he did, I thought we knew each other better than that, like brothers only better because we never had to share a room or anything and we always got along and always knew each other, like we could tell what each other was thinking at times, you know? It always clicked perfectly and we always understood each other and supported each other and covered for each other and now he thinks I'm some kind of fool and I don't understand what happened!"
Sean sent a desperate glance around the room, as though someone -- his mum, his sister, his sister-in-law, someone -- would pop up from behind a piece of furniture and take over or at least tell him what to do because whatever it was about him that made him fancy the lads had neglected to install the how-to-comfort-an-almost-crying-mate gene and he felt like he was about to drown or at least bugger things up royally.
"Dammit anyway!" Orlando's fist impacted Sean's shoulder hard enough to jar.
All right, maybe he wasn't about to cry. That was good, right? Yeah, that was good. And being relieved of the terror of having a mostly-grown man start crying all over his shirt freed up braincells to use for other things, like figuring out what to say.
"Well, look, he's still on your side, yeah?"
"On my side?" Orlando leaned back enough to stare at him, incredulous. "If he were on my side he'd be supporting me, not being one more thing I have to stand against and deal with!"
"No, look -- this whole situation is insane. I'm not surprised at all that your William is looking for a simple explanation. And yeah, the simplest explanation is that this is some kinda con job. Honestly, if you saw this story on the telly, wouldn't you be laughin'?"
Orlando got a stubborn look, then shook his head. "That's different. If I'd heard it from a stranger or as fiction, then yes, I'd think it was ridiculous. But this is me and Wills should trust me. I'm not some stranger he doesn't know, someone he could just shrug off as a blind fool."
Sean sighed. That hadn't worked very well. He slid one hand up Orlando's back and stroked it through his hair, trying to communicate calm. "Maybe so," he admitted. "But you do see that he's concerned for you, aye? He's worried and doesn't want you to get hurt. Maybe he's not saying it the way you'd like, but the idea's there. If you weren't so close then he wouldn't care one way or t'other."
Orlando started to protest again but a muffled buzz sounded from between them near the sofa cushions and they both looked at each other. Sean felt a bolt of dread shoot through him and pulled away from Orlando so he could get his mobile out of his pocket. He flipped it open and checked the display before answering. It was Katie.
"Sean? 'Ow ist?"
"I'm fine," he answered. "What's wrong?" He could hear the stress in her voice and knew she hadn't called just to check on him.
"Yer dad's bahn t'hospital--"
"Fookin' hell!" Sean shot to his feet but his sister-in-law hurried on.
"--but tis nowt! Tis just a bump, like. Merriwether's boys came 'round but we learned 'em better!"
"Tha dad came 'cross t'tell us t'lock up, yeah? Twa buggers came after an' knocked him good. Jamie got one an' tha mum bashed t'other wi'a pan. Stupid twonk tried t'get up but I kicked him in t'head."
Sean clamped his jaw and suppressed a string of curses. Katie chattered on, mixing reassurances about Sean's da with excited reports of what'd happened when the lads from the shop had come after Merriwether's bully-boys and leathered 'em good. Sean listened with one ear while his brain ploughed through the new development and tried to figure out what was going on.
Merriwether must've sent someone to the cottage and found out he and Orlando'd gone. The fact that he hadn't even tried Sean's mobile was ominous; Sean would've expected him to try to get them to come back with threats first, or at least indulge in a good telling-off. Instead he'd moved right to going after the family which just seemed daft.
Unless he'd called Orlando's da after Cousin William had talked to him, and his lordship'd blabbed that... that what? William hadn't been meant to tell that Orlando was here, only that he had some important information he wouldn't give over the phone.
But then, Sean hadn't been listening when William had talked to the man so who knew what'd been said? Buggerin' hell....
If William had blabbed, and if Merriwether'd called Lord Rasley since, then that might be how he knew Sean'd quit his employ; he needn't have actually sent anyone to the cottage. Sean having taken Orlando back to his family'd be a pretty clear indication to Merriwether that he'd been betrayed. Or so he'd've seen it -- Sean's opinion was that he was the one who'd been betrayed first. Not that it mattered, not now, because they'd hurt his family and none of the reasons mattered.
Katie was still nattering on. Sean mostly ignored her and just tried to pull his racing thoughts into order.
Orlando sat curled up on the sofa and watched Sean pace the room with the phone to his ear and listened to a mostly incomprehensible stream of questions and exclamations. It was bad enough listening to only half of a phone conversation but when the half you were getting had immediately shifted into a dialect so thick it needed subtitles, all that was left was frustration and worry.
Something had happened at Sean's home, that much was clear. And with that much information, Orlando could imagine a few possibilities and none of them were comforting.
By the time Sean snapped the phone closed and jammed it back into his pocket, Orlando was convinced he was going to leave. That in fact he should leave, if there was trouble with his family. Part of him wanted to beg Sean to stay, to be with him when his father came, but he smacked that part down and stuffed it firmly under a chair.
There was no reason he needed someone to hold his hand when he confronted his father. Even if they were right -- and Orlando was sure they were -- Lord Rasley wasn't the sort of person to lunge out and try to strangle Orlando himself when he discovered his plan had failed. He was the sort of person who had minions do the physical labor, who held his dignity high enough that if he did make any move to harm Orlando himself it'd be time to go search the cellars for alien pods.
"He knows we're gone," Sean said without preamble. "He has to -- it's the only reason he could possibly have for sending his boys to the shop."
"Is everyone all right?" Orlando asked. It wasn't a real question; he'd already picked up from the phone conversation that someone had been hurt. He was trying to give Sean an easy way to say that he'd be leaving.
"M'da got a hard thump in the ribs. Mum's taken him t'hospital but it's just for a check. He's gotten harder knocks playing footie. 'Course, that were a fair numb'ra years ago but still, the old man's a tough one." Sean paced another circuit of the room while speaking, then flopped down onto the sofa.
Orlando waited a few moments, but when the silence stretched out he said, "So, if you need to go check on your father, I understand. That is, it's family. And it's not like anyone's likely to pop up and shoot me or anything. So." He looked for something else to say but nothing came to mind so he just shrugged and tried to smile.
Sean gave him a look that was hard to interpret. It wasn't angry or worried or exasperated or confused or reassuring... well, maybe a little reassuring. But he was clearly conflicted about the situation.
What he said, though, was, "I'm not going anywhere. Katie said that Mum said that if I come hover at the hospital and get in the way and give Da someone else to brag to she'll break me arm, so I'm staying." He gave Orlando a tense-looking smile and a quick shrug. "She's right -- there's nothing I could actually do there. Here, we have a chance of shutting it all down. My hind brain wants to dash home and find some heads that deserve breaking but my rational brain knows better."
That was a good reason and Orlando wanted to pounce on it, but....
"But even if we cut off the money from this end, this Merriwether person still has a grudge against your family."
"It'll give him less reason, though. Sometimes a little at a time is the way to do the job."
Orlando frowned; that didn't make a lot of sense. It seemed to him that the best way to do this job would be to just find Merriwether and bash his brains out or something. There'd be loose ends to tie up, yes, but still....
His confusion must've shown because Sean asked, "Have you ever cut down a tree? A really big tree?"
Which... didn't really help. Orlando shook his head.
"If you need to cut down a really big tree," Sean said patiently, "say it's died, or better, it's diseased and you don't want it spreading around. If it's standing alone you just cut it down near the base and that's it. You cut it up for firewood and leave the stump or deal with it, whatever. But if it's surrounded by other things -- other trees you want to save, buildings you don't want damaged, like that -- then just whacking it down all in one go's a bad idea. You take off most of the branches, then take the trunk in a few sections, and you make sure that each thing you cut off falls like you want it to and doesn't crash down on something you want to save."
Umm. That was a little better but not much. "So... who's the tree again?"
Sean rolled his eyes and gave Orlando's thigh a smack. "Merriwether's the tree, yeah? Pay attention." Without waiting for an acknowledgement or giving Orlando time to think of something snarky to say in return, he went on with, "Money's always tops with him. He likes what it buys and he likes having a high score. If we let your da know we're on to him, he'll leave off, yes?"
"Yes," Orlando agreed, sorting out hims and hes. "Especially since we've told people what we think and we'll tell more. He won't dare having his name connected with anything as sordid as kidnapping and hired murder and if something odd happens to me after all this, there'll be enough questions asked that it'll all come out. Especially if there are people like Wills who'll be primed to ask the right questions."
"Exactly," Sean said with a nod. "So, we let your da know the game's off and that's it from this end. That's a huge pile of money that's completely out of his reach for good, no sense beefin' over it. He's a cold bastard but he's not stupid, he wouldn't be where he is if he were. He won't have any reason to go after you or your da now."
"Revenge?" Orlando asked. Then he shook his head and answered his own question. "No, he's in the same position as my father -- too many people know he was involved now, people he no longer has a hold over."
"Aye. He could hold your da's involvement over his head before, get him to help if anything went wrong, but not now. He's too much to lose."
"He can only play the blackmail card if he's desperate," Orlando agreed, his mind hopping along the path Sean had pointed out. "If he were arrested and about to be charged anyway then he could've use Father's involvement to threaten him into providing assistance. But he can't play that card without implicating himself as well, so right now it's useless."
"Exactly," Sean said again. He looked pleased that Orlando'd worked it out. Orlando wasn't sure whether to be happy or insulted and decided he'd figure that one out later.
"So," Sean went on, "we deal with this, lop off this big branch here, then to see what the rest of the trunk looks like."
Orlando thought about what "the rest" might consist of. "Two problems I can see. No, three. One, your brother's debt. I can take care of that." Sean stiffened up and opened his mouth but Orlando just waved him down and kept going. "Shut it. It's an easy fix. We can work out the details later and I frankly don't give a damn what Wills or anyone else thinks. Two, your having 'dissed' him by switching sides, which is related to three, his attack on your family. Both of those were public -- the people he does business with will know about them and they both affect his reputation, yes?"
"Aye," Sean agreed. "Although the one was negative and the other might well be seen as positive -- him flexing his muscles, like."
"Yes, but we can take care of both at once. All three, actually. Like we were discussing before, if we can work it out so that he gets his money -- at least what your brother owes him -- and so he doesn't lose any face then he should agree to just end the whole thing. Yes?"
"Aye." Sean frowned and stared at something beyond Orlando's right shoulder, as though he were thinking.
This next part might be tricky but Orlando thought it had to be at least suggested. "So, we just add it into what we talked about before. The story is that you didn't want to do the job after all, it got too... too criminal for you, or some such thing. And the attack on your family just clinched it -- you wanted out and so you came up with the money to pay him off and be done with it. He got his whacks in and he gets his money so he can be the big man and declare the matter closed. He doesn't lose face and has nothing to revenge, you get him off your back and get on with your life."
Sean cocked his head and gave him a hard look. "So the game got too rough and we yielded, is that it?"
Orlando felt his stomach twist but he just shrugged. "He put your father in the hospital. You have other family, little kids to think about. I can't imagine anyone would think less of you for wanting it over with. And your brother does owe him the money, doesn't he? It's not as though it were just a... a protection racket or something."
"Aye, he does," Sean admitted. "And I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks any road. You're right, that might work. And if it'd end it all then the neighbors can think what they like."
Orlando's stomach unclenched and he managed a smile. He'd been worried that Sean would be offended by the suggestion but it was all he could think of that might work. The fact that Sean agreed it might work made him feel a lot better.
"That's for later, though," Sean said. "What are we going t'say to your da when he comes?"
"I don't think we'll have to say all that much, actually," Orlando said with a shrug. "The fact that I'm here means his plan is derailed. We tell him we know he was behind it and there you go."
Sean was looking a little dubious but before he could say anything the slightly muffled sound of the phone ringing interrupted them from out in the hall. It was the familiar double-ring that signalled someone calling from the gate. Orlando swallowed and felt a sudden urge to run and hide somewhere. Instead he grabbed Sean's hand and held on hard.
"That's it," he said, his voice lowered for no particular reason except that he was so stressed he could feel his heart pounding through his chest and if he didn't whisper he'd scream. "Rosie'll get it and he'll be here in another couple of minutes."
Next Chapter: Eleven