AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,

Fic: Crushed Roses, Pt. 1

Title: Crushed Roses, Part 1
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. :)

"Oi, Craig! Move it or you're walking!"

Sean's bellow filled Craig's trailer, even from where he was standing outside on the path. Craig winced just a bit and waved to him through the window. He called, "Hang on, just another minute!" but wasn't sure anyone had heard him. Craig could project to the back of a theater as well as anyone, but he was pretty sure Sean had figured out some way of infusing his voice with the sheer magnitude of his charisma. However he managed it, his voice had a presence all its own.

Sean waved back and Craig hoped that meant he'd heard, or at least understood.

Craig watched Sean stride up the path toward his car. It was illegally parked next to one of the tech trailers, but they'd be gone long before anyone got up the nerve to give Sean Bean a telling-off over parking.

They were getting ready to head off for dinner at Wally's before figuring out where to spend the rest of the evening. Craig liked Wally's for the first rate steaks, but even his familiarity with the area night spots wasn't enough to make him want to jump into the club debate. The Fellowship and Company was a weirdly eclectic group and no matter where they went, it seemed someone was grumbling within an hour.

Dinner was always fun, though, and Craig didn't want to miss it. He turned back to his laptop and typed as fast as he could.

--is that it can be difficult to find someone who understands that an actor's work is migratory, both for filming and for promotion. A person who wants their partner to be home every night without fail is going to have a hard time of it. I always make it clear going in that there'll be times when I'm away because of my work, but even people who say at the start that they understand and it's all fine tend to change their minds when they find themselves living the reality of being alone for weeks on end.

What's your favorite romantic date?

Craig sighed and glanced out the window again, just in time to catch Dom pitching a... something bright blue at someone diving into the back of Sean's car. The blue thing exploded -- a water balloon! Sean's angry roar was audible all the way to Craig's trailer and inside, and he laughed before turning back to his work. They'd be a few minutes at least.

Romantic is more a state of mind than a place or an activity. With the right person, even washing up after dinner can be romantic, and with the wrong person, all the candlelight and champagne in the world won't make the evening work. I have some favorite things to do, as everyone does, but they're really secondary to the person I'm doing them with.

Dodged that one, he thought with a smirk.

Any interesting plans for the future?

Right now I'm focusing on Lord of the Rings. We're having a great time and Peter's a brilliant director. And you can tell everyone who thinks he'll make a hash of Rings because they've only seen his zombie films that they should wait until they see the results, because if the films are half as magical as the filmING, they're going to have everyone up and applauding.

A little more positive pre-buzz never hurts, and it gives them something to think about besides my "future plans."

Craig skipped his usual read-over and hit the SEND button, then closed his laptop and stowed it away. He grabbed his jacket and left the bag; the trailers were secure, in the middle of a secure lot, and he wouldn't have any time to mess with it again until the next day anyway.

Sure enough, by the time he jogged up to Sean's car, Sean was still snarling at the Hobbits, who were arse-end-up in his car and frantically mopping and sopping with a towel and a couple of T-shirts.

"But Sean, it's just a rental!" whined... one of them, either Dom or Billy. Craig still couldn't quite tell them apart just by voice, and his view of them at that particular moment wasn't one he'd spent much time studying. They were cute arses, but the guys they were attached to were too young to press any of his buttons, even if Billy, at least, hadn't attached himself to Viggo long before Craig had been brought in.

"About time you showed up," Sean grouched. "If it hadn't been for these three splashing about, we'd have gone without you."

"But Sean, I didn't do anything!" someone whined.

"Yer a Hobbit and that's good enough," Sean retorted.

Craig had to laugh, but he made some attempt to stifle it and ended up coughing instead.

Sean shot him a suspicious glare. "I don't suppose you put this lot up to it, delaying tactics or something?"

Before Craig had a chance to even sputter his innocence, all three Hobbits present had pounced and were shouting, "He did it!" "That's it exactly!" and "Craig put us up to it!" respectively. Two of them made the mistake of breaking off their clean-up job to grin and point, and Sean sent them both back to work with a smack upside the head of the one -- Billy, it turned out -- who was within his easy reach.

"Like I'd believe you lot over him! Hurry up with that -- I'm hungry!"

Both shirkers bent back to their tasks, but Billy grumbled, "I don't see what the problem is anyway. It's only water, and it's a sodding rental!"

"It's my car and that's reason enough!" Sean glared down at the miscreants, then leaned back against the car with his arms crossed over his chest and gave Craig a wink.

Craig grinned back and tossed his jacket into the front through the open door beside Sean. Elijah protested that he'd already called shotgun, but Sean said it'd be a cold day in hell before he'd sit next to one of them and make himself a target for any misses or splatter, and the whole lot of them could sit in the back where at least they'd only muck about with each other.

That brought the expected protest, but Craig ignored them and leaned forward to whisper to Sean, "Shouldn't have said that -- bet they'll take it as a challenge and see just how annoying they can be from the back seat."

Sean grinned and whispered back, "They know better. And if they don't, they will soon enough."

"Hey, you're still here, brilliant!" Orlando came bouncing up, gave Sean a hug and Craig a kiss on the cheek, then dove into the Hobbit pile in the back. "Let's go!"

"Everything dry back there?" Sean called. He started walking around to the driver's side, though, so Craig figured he was just winding them up. He slid into the front in a chorus of "Yes, Sean!"

"If not, they'll sop it up with their trousers," Craig pointed out.

"Just what are we sopping up?" Orlando asked, a suspicious note in his voice. "It better not be anything disgusting."

"Well, better not talk about it, then," said Dom. Craig glanced back and saw the Hobbits swapping grins.

They'd hardly even got off the lot before the back seat had erupted into a full-on battle. Craig's ears were aching nearly as much as his spine, after a couple of knees had hit the back of his seat hard enough to leave impressions. Sean bellowed threats about stopping the car and leaving the lot of them in a heap by the side of the road, and Craig settled back in his seat and grinned. It was amazing how relaxing it was to be in the middle of a Fellowship brangle, but it reminded him of his family and he could feel the knots of tension which always formed when he was concentrating on character and deadline and publicity loosen and fade. He had an early call the next morning, but the evening was going to be grand, even if it had to be short.

Sean shouted something, but even his voice couldn't quite penetrate the bass-dense air across the width of the tiny tables the club set out, barely large enough for its patrons to set their drinks.

"What?!" Craig shouted as loudly as he could, but in reality he was just hoping Sean could read his lips. Or just guess, from the fact that Sean couldn't hear him, what he'd said.

Sean leaned forward until his lips were brushing the hair at Craig's temple and hollered, "What was it--? Oh, bugger it! Let's go!"

Craig nodded with great enthusiasm, drained his beer and stood up to follow Sean out the door. Billy and Viggo had vanished earlier, Dom and Orlando were throwing themselves around the dance floor, Miranda and Karl were at the bar challenging each other in some contest involving drinks Craig had never heard of, and Elijah was trying to talk his way into the DJ's booth. None of them would notice if he and Sean left, Craig was sure.

Even after the heavy doors had closed behind them and they were breathing the cold, clean air out on the street, the music was still as loud as it was in most normal clubs -- places Craig thought of as normal, at any rate. They'd made the mistake of letting Elijah pick where to go after dinner. Elijah had whined about how Sean had bawled him out earlier when he hadn't even done anything, hadn't thrown the water balloon nor even been the one it was thrown at, and had finally managed to get everyone at the table to agree that he was owed some sort of restitution, although in Sean's case it'd been more a matter of "All right, all right, just shut it already!" than any true repentance over his behavior.

"I said--!" Sean yelled, then stopped. He blinked, then shook his head and said in a more normal tone, "I said, what were you doing earlier? Decided to start writing your own scripts or what?"

Craig shook his head. "No, nothing so interesting, really. The president of my fan club -- Toby Atwater -- sent me a list of interview questions and I promised I'd get them back to him this evening. Then we decided to go out and I knew I had to get 'em done before we left. I was sure I'd have time, with the Hobbits taking forever in Feet and all, but Toby's very enthusiastic and he just went on and on and on, you know?"

"You have a fan club?"

It was obvious right away that Sean was surprised at what'd come out of his mouth. The look on his face was aghast for a moment, then a wince and a head-shake. Craig was hurt, and even a little offended, but he set his jaw, determined not to show it. After all, who was Guy Warner compared with Richard Sharpe, much less Double-Oh-Six?

"I'm sorry, lad, I didn't mean it like that. It's just... I mean, I have a couple of 'em about, you know? But I don't have much to do with 'em. Jacey has me autograph pictures or a T-shirt occasionally for them to use in a raffle or some such. I did an interview for their newsletter once, but it all went through Jacey and I've hardly ever exchanged two words with any of the members."

"It's all right, I understand." Craig made a throwing-away motion and managed a smile, but Sean's halting explanation had only emphasized the huge gap between them. The atmosphere around the set was so relaxed, so close, that he'd forgotten just with whom he was working. Sean, the two Sir Ians, Cate and Christopher, even Elijah, were all much better known around the world than Craig expected to ever be. On some shoots that difference in status would've been continually underscored, but on Rings it'd all but vanished. Just as well to remember it, really.

"It's one of the good things about being a decent-sized fish in this very small pond," he said. He grinned and tried to keep his voice light while making a circling motion with one hand to indicate New Zealand in general. "Being somewhat available to the fans doesn't mean ten million e-mails in my queue, you know?"

Sean nodded and gave him a wry smile, but didn't quite meet Craig's eyes. "Aye, that makes sense. And I reckon they really appreciate it, yeah?"

Craig nodded and said, "Yes, I suppose. I mean, they seem to -- there's a lot of enthusiasm when I post a note to their web site or drop in on a discussion or do something like this interview." He tried to relax but couldn't manage it, and looked up and down the street for something distracting, someplace else to go or just something to comment on.

It wasn't too terribly late -- just coming up on eleven -- but even urban New Zealand didn't have all that much of a night life on a Wednesday evening and the only other things open within the block or so Craig could see were a liquor store and a small, all-night market. Neither one suggested any sort of entertainment.

Well, actually the liquor store suggested getting a bottle of something nice and going back to his place, but much as... well, much as he'd love to be taking Sean Bean back to his place for a drink and whatever, he doubted very much that Sean would be up with the idea.

"I really don't want to go back in there -- a few more minutes and my eardrums would've imploded and then Haldir wouldn't be able to shoot Gimli in the dark anymore." It was a lame joke, but the best he could do under the circumstances. "I think I'm going to head back to mine and get some decent sleep for once. I have a six ayem call, so I'll see you in the morning."

"I'll drive you home," Sean offered, but Craig shook his head.

"I'm in the opposite direction. I'll get a cab and it'll just be a few minutes. Tell the others good night for me?"

Sean said, "Aye, I will," and gave him a nod as he turned and walked down the street. Not like Craig had expected him to protest or anything, so that was that.

The next day, early in the morning while Craig was still in makeup getting his wig done, a huge vase of roses arrived, delivered by a young PA. She beamed him a smile and set them down on the counter to one side of his mirror and asked, "So, is it your birthday, then?"

"No, not until next spring, nearly summer." He leaned forward to take a sniff, but got a light smack on one shoulder from his hairdresser and settled back into his chair. "Read the card for me?"

The PA opened it up with some enthusiasm and scanned it, then her smile widened and she gave him a wink. "Anonymous! A secret admirer, then?"

"Must be," Craig agreed. "Let's see, that narrows it down to any one of the straight women or gay men in my fan club, which would be about ninety percent of the total." He grinned and winked back at her. "I hope it's one of the men."

She laughed and said, "I hope so too, then." She gave him an odd look for a moment, then blushed and bustled away, calling, "You're due on set in forty minutes," over her shoulder.

Craig's shoulders shook with laughter before he relaxed into thought, with only enough of his attention on what was going on around him to turn his head or tilt his chin when Amy needed him to. He was actually wondering whether Sean hadn't sent the flowers. Red roses were a bit too romantic for the situation, but he had seemed to genuinely regret what he'd said and to feel bad about it as soon as he'd said it. And he might've just asked some assistant to send Craig flowers and they'd chosen red roses just because that was the first thing anyone thought of when they went to send flowers. It was, wasn't it? Especially women? Most of the assistants around the place were female, so it could be no more than that.

It was probably only that and nothing more, just an awkward apology for an awkward situation.

Although if it was, then why not sign the card? An oversight? A mistake at the florist's?

It was odd. Sean would've had them sign his name, if it'd been meant as an apology -- it rather lost its impact without a name on it.

Maybe it wasn't meant as an apology. So long as Craig was speculating, fantasizing really, maybe it was something else. He wouldn't at all mind if Sean Bean -- gorgeous, blond Sean Bean, with that low, rough-silk voice that was enough to bring a man off without even a touch -- had sent him red roses for the more usual reason. Within the safe privacy of his own head, Craig felt free to ponder that possibility, to entertain and indulge that particular, impossible possibility, of Sean Bean actually fancying him. Of Sean Bean being bisexual in the first place and fancying Craig Parker, fair-to-middling actor and largish fish in a very small local pond.

The fantasy lingered even after Craig's wig had been added to his ears and all the more usual makeup procedures, and everything was touched up and perfected. That must've been why Craig spent more time that day watching Sean than he could really account for.

Not that Sean wasn't worth watching, but Craig's mindset had changed somehow, and there was something, some aura about Sean, the way he moved or spoke or looked or just existed that was pinging Craig's gaydar. It was a tiny, faint whisper of a ping, but it was there anyway.

Of course, something that faint was likely born out of Craig's own fancies. Not that he hadn't known plenty of gay men in the past who'd scored high and then some on the masculinity scale, but if Sean did have any tendencies in that direction, he'd been damned discreet about it.

Not that that was surprising, given who he was and what sorts of roles he was known for. It was damned silly, but the fact was that the movie-watching audience wasn't ready for a glowering villain or a tough action hero who liked to suck cock. Or even one who liked to get his own cock sucked by another man. At least, that was what the studios and the distributors and the other suits who ran the business infrastructure of the movie industry believed, and so long as they were writing the checks, what they believed was gospel.

So all right, assume that Gay Sean or Bi Sean would behave exactly like Straight Sean, at least when anyone was looking. The trick, then, was to watch how he behaved when no one was looking. No one else, at least.

Sure, I'll get right on that, Craig thought with a smirk. I'll just use my super-secret-agent skills and... oh, right. Damn.

"Glad someone's in a good mood." Viggo came strolling up and leaned against the fake Mallorn tree, next to where Craig had propped himself in between takes.

Craig peered over to where the assistant director and the two lighting techs were still at it. The gestures had grown larger and more swooping, so with any luck they'd be coming to some kind of conclusion soon. He shrugged and said, "I was thinking about something else, actually. I just zone out during wait times -- I figure someone will let me know when I need to actually do some work again."

Viggo gave him a crooked grin and nodded. "I've prolly done a couple of books of poetry on some producer's dime."

"I should probably take up something like that. Small and portable but creative, keep my brain engaged when I'm stuck in limbo." Craig usually found a book or a magazine when the wait times got ridiculously long, but something productive as well as interesting sounded, well, interesting.

"Or you could go play tig with the kids and provide entertainment for the rest of us," Viggo suggested. His voice was low and casual but his smile was evil.

Craig turned and looked in the direction Viggo'd been watching and saw most of the Hobbits and Orlando hurtling across the set in a chaotic pack, with Elijah pelting along behind. Craig could just hear him shouting something aggrieved-sounding about a rule, and Dominic shouted something back about Thursdays.

"It's really a fun game." Viggo gave Craig a pat on the shoulder which Craig assumed was meant to be encouraging. "Elijah's just not very good at it. You'd pick up the rules in no time."

Craig laughed and smacked Viggo's hand away. "Don't even try it, Ranger. I hadn't been on the lot for twenty-four hours before I heard the 'tig' story -- you won't get me to join Elijah as the sucker in that prank."

"Damn." Viggo gave an exaggerated sigh of disappointment.

"Well, you can make it up to me for your dastardly attempt to push me into the tig morass by answering a question." Craig turned and leaned one shoulder against the mallorn tree, with his arms crossed and one foot scuffing up the packed dirt. It'd struck him that Viggo could be a good person to talk to about all this... stuff, but he didn't know the man all that well and he was just hoping Viggo wouldn't be offended. But then, Viggo didn't seem to be the easily-offended sort in general, very intense about his work but generally mellow seeming, so....

"Oh? What's up?" Viggo turned to face him, his expression shifting to serious.

"I just... I mean, I'm sorry if this is too... too whatever, but...." Craig watched the roiling mass of Hobbits-and-Orli over Viggo's shoulder for a moment, then forced himself to look the other man in the eye. "Tell me if it's none of my business -- I mean, I know it's none of my business, but if it's too personal or anything -- but I was just wondering how you manage, and how it's affected you, or if it has at all, and how you decided to be more open about it?"

Viggo blinked, then chuckled and scratched at his wig. "Might help if I knew what 'it' was?"

Craig felt his face heating up and he leaned over and bonked his head against the tree trunk a couple of times. "Sorry. I always get stupid when I'm embarassed. I mean, well, with Billy and all?"

"You mean being bi?" Viggo's question was even and straightforward and he didn't look upset or offended or even confused anymore, which was really good because Craig had been half expecting to get punched, or at least have Viggo stalk off in disgust, mellow or no. "I'm really not all that open about it, actually. I mean, pretty much everyone here knows, but this is here, on the other side of the planet from where I live and where most of my work is. I don't work at hiding it, but I prefer to keep private private and it's no one else's business."

"But you're a well-known actor," Craig protested. "Most of the crew and half the cast here might be Kiwis and Aussies, but the other half isn't and word'll get around. Couldn't it affect your career?"

Viggo shrugged. "Probably not. I'm really not all that well known. I've been in some popular movies but no one remembers me." He grinned and shrugged again. "Not complaining. It's like Alec Guinness always said, that if the audience remembers you instead of your character, you haven't done your job. He was pretty pissed about Star Wars making him a household name, from what I hear."

Craig laughed. "I'll wager he was. But this is likely to be your Star Wars -- Aragorn is at least as big a part in Rings as Obi-Wan was in Star Wars. Probably bigger. You're the king, not just the mentor, and you don't get killed off in the first movie. And once people notice you, you know what the gossip gets like."

Viggo shrugged again. "If that happens then I'll deal with it. It's not like acting is my main thing anyway -- it just pays for everything else. Figure, if Rings is that huge then I'll be able to afford to dump the acting if I have to, or if it dumps me. And if it's not then it's not and it's not an issue."

Craig untangled that last bit, then nodded. "But if you didn't have your other things to fall back on...?"

"Then I'd manage." Viggo gave him a curious look and asked, "What's up? It's not like you're struggling with whether or not to come out, unless you're really bad at keeping secrets."

"What? Oh, no, not me! I was wondering about someone else. My career's gone fine and no one seems to care. But that's me, and here, and it'd be different for someone else. Someone better known, someone who plays different kinds of characters than I do...."

"Someone who's made a decent rep playing soldiers and secret agents?" suggested Viggo.

"Umm, maybe. I mean, yeah. Yes." Craig felt himself blushing again and looked down, focusing his gaze on a dirt stain splotched across Aragorn's leather tunic.

"Hey." Viggo's hand, half supple leather and half warm skin, cupped Craig's jaw and tilted his face back up. "Nothing to be ashamed of. Sean's a good looking man. I prefer mine wiry and flexible--" and he gave Craig a wink there, "--but Sean's put together pretty well and he's got the presence to sweep you up with just his aura, when he turns it on, you know?"

"Umm, yes. I mean... yeah, I know." Craig couldn't help thinking that Viggo had a presence of his own when he decided to use it, but Sean's was definitely something special.

Viggo let his hand drop and said, "So, what's the worst that can happen?"

"Well, I could proposition him and he could break my jaw," Craig offered. "Makeup can manage a black eye, and camera angles could work around a broken nose, but I couldn't say my lines with a broken jaw so I suppose that'd be the worst."

Viggo's response was a loud, manic giggle that drew curious looks from everyone in earshot. "You can hope he loves you for your sense of humor, anyway."

"Thanks," Craig said, trying to ignore the fact that the whole set was staring. "That's helpful -- I'll keep it in mind."

"Hey, since you've thought of it, you know to be ready to duck, right?"

"True. I'll try to remember that too."

"Oi, you two! You working today?"

Craig looked over in the direction of the set and saw that the lighting had been reworked to everyone's satisfaction -- or at least, the AD was talking to someone on her headset now and the techs had vanished -- and Sean was standing a dozen paces away, scowling at the two of them.

"Let's get this done, then, or something else'll fall off and we'll end up doing the same four lines tomorrow." Sean turned and stomped off while shouldering his heavy, plywood shield. He'd sounded grumpy and Craig couldn't really blame him; they were all used to standing around, but it'd been excessive that afternoon and the thought of doing the same thing the next day didn't thrill him either.

"There you go," said Viggo with a smirk. "He's jealous already. Hang around with me a while longer and he'll be dragging you away by the hair."

Craig rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, obviously. Should've thought of that before -- I'm sure the sight of me chatting with a colleague, especially one who already has a boyfriend, would be enough to send any straight man moaning after my adorably sexy self." Craig pushed away from the mallorn tree and headed over toward the edge of the woods set, which was starting to buzz once more.

Viggo snorted and followed him, saying, "If you were all that sure he was straight, we wouldn't have had this conversation."

Craig didn't answer because, after all, Viggo was right.

They did get the shot, and the next one, and Craig was in a much better mood by the time he was settled into his makeup chair getting de-elfed. He had his laptop and was running through his e-mail. Among the usual spam and the more welcome notes from fans, there was a letter from Toby, thanking him for the interview and letting him know that he'd be in Wellington for the next few days and would he like to get together? Toby offered to take him to the Langham Pub -- one of Craig's favorite places and of course Toby knew that -- that night, Toby's treat.

That night wouldn't do, since they'd decided to get pizza and watch a movie at Viggo's place, but Craig glanced up at the schedule for the next couple of days, taped to the corner of his mirror. They were supposed to wrap up early (well, relatively early) on Saturday, so that'd probably do it. Craig typed out his regrets for that night, but suggested Saturday, at eight just to be safe, and sent it.

It wasn't so bad being in a small pond. He could answer all his fan mail, and let a fan take him to dinner occasionally. There were a few wankers of course, there always were, but for the most part the people who followed his career were politely enthusiastic. He enjoyed hanging out with them when he had the time, and they seemed to enjoy it just as much, so what else was there to wish for?

Later that evening, just short of midnight, Craig was wishing for nothing more than a warm bed. He was full of pizza -- sausage and pepper -- and just enough beer to be feeling relaxed and mellow. He fished his key out of his pocket and headed up the steps toward the door, then almost fell when he stepped on something squishy-crunchy -- something which definitely didn't belong on his front stoop.

Nothing had yelped so it wasn't an animal. Not a live one, at least. Craig shuddered and managed to reach over whatever it was and get the door open and the light on. Once the stoop was lit, it was obvious what he'd stepped on -- more roses.

Another bouquet of blood-red roses, a heap of at least twenty, lay scattered and crushed in front of his door.

At first he thought that maybe they'd been delivered, left at the door, and he'd kicked them over in the dark. He didn't remember kicking, only stepping, but he hadn't exactly been paying close attention. There were no broken vase shards around, though, nor even a cracked plastic bowl.

Maybe someone had left the bouquet on his stoop, then. Maybe it'd been left in the daytime, and whoever'd delivered it hadn't thought that he mightn't be back until after dark.

Although it was the middle of winter and the sun set early.

Craig tried to pick up the bouquet but it was all in pieces. There was a ragged, dirty loop of ribbon off to one side, and most of the stems were broken. All the flowers were crushed, which was odd. He'd only stepped on them once and his foot was nowhere near large enough to crush twenty-some roses with one tread.

Something icy cold slithered through him, making him shiver. Craig had an image in his mind of someone stomping on the bouquet -- someone angry, someone who meant him to know that they were angry.

He looked up suddenly and peered around into the darkness. The light shining out the door had ruined his night vision, though, and there weren't enough lamps on the street to melt the shadows around his house and through the yards. Whoever'd destroyed the roses and left them there for him to find could well be hiding out there somewhere, watching.

Craig kicked the sweet-scented wreckage off his stoop and ducked inside, then locked the door. It took two tries because his hands were shaking.

Who did it? All he could think about was who'd done it, who'd brought the roses and who'd stomped them to pieces on his doorstep. Was it a joke? It didn't feel like a joke. Craig could feel the adrenaline racing through his body, pumped by quick heartbeats and short breaths. He felt like running away or hitting something. He felt perfectly sober and wished he wasn't.

He paced from his livingroom to the kitchen and back, needing to move, to do something with the panic energy.


Could it have been the same person who'd sent him the roses that morning? Two anonymous flower deliveries in one day from two different people sounded like an impossible coincidence; it had to have been the same person.

But who?

He'd been thinking about Sean that morning, but that was just a fancy, a wish.

A wish that Sean might actually be interested in him, might want to apologize for what he'd said the night before, might feel too unsure of his feelings for Craig to just say sorry.

It was just a fantasy, nothing he'd actually believed might be the case. And when Viggo'd teased him that afternoon about Sean being jealous, that'd been just teasing; he hadn't meant it either.

He hadn't, had he?

Craig remembered Sean's scowling face, the way he'd snapped at them both, then turned around and stomped off.

That'd just been the usual grumpy impatience everyone felt when shooting was delayed, though. They'd gone through eight takes with one thing or another not quite right, then the AD had decided the lights needed to be reset and it'd taken another long discussion to figure out just how to achieve the effect she'd wanted. Everyone had been grumpy and impatient after that, no matter that it was the sort of thing that happened all the time. That's all it'd been; Sean had been annoyed at the thought that they might not be able to finish the schedule that day and have to go long, or work Sunday. No one was pleased when that happened.

But then he hadn't come to Viggo's with everyone else. He'd been meant to, but he'd sent word with Marton that he wasn't going to make it after all, something about wanting to call his daughters before they left for school.

Craig could understand that. He had nieces and a nephew he was fond of, and he knew his brothers would want to take every chance to call them if they had to go away for months at a time.

That's all it was.

Sean hadn't been the one to send the flowers, either time. It'd just been a fancy, something Craig could enjoy imagining through the day. Now, though, this was different. Someone had some sort of grudge against him, who knew why? And bad enough when it'd just been the flowers sent to the set -- the flowers on his stoop meant whoever it was knew where he lived.

He lay awake late into the night, trying to convince himself that he was overreacting.

The next day, wigged and eared and costumed, Craig was sitting in the craft services tent with yet another cup of coffee. It'd taken all his determination to get through the morning's scene; luckily he'd had no lines himself and had only had to stride along in the background projecting ancient, wise arrogance.

He'd managed until the scene wrapped and he was dismissed. He'd caught a couple of hours of nap in the trailer and had another twenty minutes to get down as much coffee as he could manage before he was needed again for a Lothlorien scene. Again, no lines, but the Marchwarden wasn't allowed to look like he was about to fall asleep on his feet.

A warm hand clasped his shoulder and Viggo asked, "How's it going?" He sat down next to Craig and got a good look at him, then frowned. "Seriously, how're you doing? You look half-dead."

"Thank you so much." Craig saluted the ranger with his coffee cup, then took another sip.

"Did you get home all right? You didn't drink enough to still be hung over, not at one-thirty in the afternoon."

Craig shook his head. He looked up into Viggo's worried blue eyes, then glanced around. A clot of Hobbits was harassing Cate on the other side of the tent and the other cast and crew scattered around were watching them, doubtless waiting for the boys to get their comeuppance as soon as Cate had had enough.

He leaned closer to Viggo and murmured, "Someone left me flowers last night. At home, on my front stoop. Dropped them off and stomped them to pieces, left them for me to find."

"The hell. Same person as sent you the flowers here yesterday?"

Figured that'd gotten around. Craig shrugged. "I don't know. It seems like it'd have to be -- two anonymous bouquets in one day?" He took another sip of his coffee and stared down at the table. "I know it's nothing, probably nothing. Nothing to get all in a fret about. I can't seem to calm down, though. It's got me all twitchy and I didn't sleep very well."

"Don't blame you. It might be someone playing a joke or it might be some nut trying to scrape up his courage"

"Oh, thank you so very much. I can't tell you how much better that makes me feel." Craig turned to glare at Viggo, who just shrugged.

"Better to think about it, figure out what you want to do," Viggo said, sounding perfectly calm and not at all apologetic. But then, he lived in the States where there were nuts and psychos under every rock. He was probably used to that sort of thing, but Craig wasn't.

"What I want to do is move house and get a new, unlisted phone number. Aside from being a bit of an overreaction, though, whoever it is knows where I work and could just follow me home some evening and I'd be back where I am now."

"Only with all your stuff in boxes and missing all your pot lids and lampshades."

Craig had to laugh at that. "Exactly. So I suppose the next thing to do is figure out who it might be, except I have no idea how to do that."

"It could be anyone," Viggo agreed. "Most fans are great, but some are just seriously whacked, and they make up for all the others. Or it might not even be a fan -- could be crew, or some other actor who wanted to play Haldir, or it could be something completely personal and not attached to your job at all."

A face floated up out of the back of Craig's mind. He shook his head and looked down into his coffee cup.

"What? That looked like a thought."

"I...." Craig glanced around again, then leaned closer and murmured, "It's ridiculous, but I just.... I mean, I was thinking, yesterday, and you were too, or you seemed to be, or maybe you were just joking, but I couldn't help wondering--" Craig stuttered to a stop and looked away. It was just too ridiculous but he couldn't help thinking about it.

Viggo blinked, then got an "Oh" look on his face. He said, "I don't think..." then stopped and thought. He started over and said, "I wouldn't think so. I mean, anyone can do anything under the right circumstances, or the wrong ones, but I think if Sean were really pissed off, he'd step right up and yell at you, or put his fist through a wall or something. He doesn't seem like the anonymous-stomped-roses kind of guy."

"No, of course not." Craig drew rings around the rim of his coffee cup with one finger. "Except that you thought of him right off too, without my specifying."

Viggo sighed and scratched his gooped-up wig. "Okay, look, I do think he has a thing for you. Interested, at least. And he didn't look all that happy when we were messing around yesterday and I don't think it was just 'cause of the lighting delays."

"Maybe." Craig was sitting in the middle between two thoughts, unwilling to approach either one of them. One was the idea that Sean might actually be interested in him in that way, because it seemed so incredibly unlikely and he wasn't that lucky. The other was the idea that Sean was the one who'd sent him roses -- both bouquets -- and that he was angry and might do something else just as unexpected next time. He couldn't quite convince himself that the first thought was right, but neither could he quite convince himself that the second thought was wrong. But the second thought couldn't be right unless the first one was too, so....

He slugged down the last of his coffee and shoved the cup aside. "I don't know. I don't know what to think or what to do."

"Well, say it's not Sean. Most likely possibility is that it's some fan, right? Have you gotten any weird fan letters lately, or a lot of letters from one person?"

"No, nothing unusual." Craig thought for a moment, then straightened up. "I could ask Toby, though. President of my fan club -- he's the moderator of the club's forum online, and they have meetings once a month or so. If anyone's been acting a bit mental, he might've noticed."

"There you go." Viggo nodded and gave him a cockeyed grin. "Talk to your guy, see what's going on on that side of the fence. Maybe go to a meeting yourself, see if any crazies try to wrap you in duct tape...?"

Craig gave Viggo, who was snickering madly, an elbow in the ribs and said, "Maybe I should take you along? Like recognizes like, right?" He was smiling, though, and did feel a little better. Just having a plan, something to do, seemed to help.

Not finding any nasty or frightening surprises when he got home helped even more.

Talking to Viggo the previous afternoon and coming up with some sort of plan, no matter how vague, had helped Craig drag his thoughts off the wildly spinning hamster-wheel they'd been stuck on, but once he'd been able to focus on what was going on around him, what he saw hadn't made him feel all that much better, and he'd had all night (well, most of the night, before he'd finally dropped off to sleep) to pick it all apart and worry over it.

Contributing to the problem, of course, was the fact that he didn't know whether what he was seeing in the people around him was real, or reasonable, or whether he was just imagining all sorts of rubbish out of fear and paranoia. Was it even paranoia if you were able to wonder whether you were just paranoid?

There was Amy, for example. She was his hairdresser and he spent far too much not-quite-awake time every morning under her hands. She was friendly and always had a smile for him, but maybe it was a little too wide? She knew he was gay, after all -- everyone did. So why did she refer to him as "her" Elf? She'd always referred to him that way, when talking to him or when talking about him to someone else, and it'd never bothered him before. But he'd never before had to wonder whether there was someone in the cast or crew who might be feeling a little overly possessive.

Or there was Marla, the PA who'd brought in that first bouquet of roses on Thursday. (Which was only forty-eight hours ago and that was a shock because it felt like it'd been at least a week and more likely two.) He'd joked around a little about hoping it was one of the men in his fan club who'd sent the roses, and she'd laughed and agreed but that'd been a really strange expression on her face for just a moment after. Not really a bad expression -- it hadn't seemed angry or condemning or distasteful or anything of that sort -- but still it was weird. Might she have issues with him being gay?

Craig had images taking over his mind of some woman he knew thinking that his being gay was wrong or immoral or whatever, becoming obsessed with him and believing that she could somehow "cure" him, if only she could get close to him. Might sending him flowers have been a first step in an attempt to woo him or seduce him? And when he hadn't picked up on it, or had missed some other clue, she'd gotten angry, leading to the crushed roses on his porch?

It seemed a little... fast, for someone to be getting that angry that suddenly. After all, a first overture in the morning and an angry break-up that same evening?

Although maybe the roses hadn't been the first overture. Maybe he'd missed other signs. Craig was friendly, and affectionate with people he knew even casually; he'd had people misunderstand a smile or a hug or a kiss on the cheek before. Someone might've been conducting the first stages of what they thought was a courtship or seduction or whatever under Craig's oblivious nose, assuming he was following along when he'd been unaware there was even a path to be following.

Craig groaned to himself. It could be anyone, really. Or it could be nobody. The first bunch of flowers could've been from a random fan who'd been too shy to sign their name, and the second bunch could've been from someone playing a prank, and them both showing up within twelve hours of each other might've been just a crazy coincidence.

It'd be great to be able to believe that, anyway.

During yet another period where all the actors were sitting around (or ducking out for a smoke, or dashing to the bog, or chasing each other with water balloons they'd gotten from who-knew-where), Sean sauntered up, leaned one shoulder against Craig's favorite Mallorn tree and said, "So, want to go get a bite and a few pints after we wrap?"

Craig opened his mouth but nothing came out for a few seconds while his brain was fully occupied processing the fact that Sean might've actually asked him out, sort of. And of course Murphy was looking out for him as always, because it was Saturday and he had a committment. Fuck.

He finally managed to say, "I'd love to, really," but his tone was apologetic and he could see Sean's expression shift over to a neutral, whatever, don't-care-anyway mask even before the "No" made it out. Craig hurried on with, "I wish I could but one of my fans is in town and asked me to dinner and I promised. It'd be rude to duck out on him now and I couldn't do that to him, not after agreeing." The "him" made the little crease between Sean's eyebrows deepen just the slightest bit, and Craig found himself talking even faster: "It's the president of my fan club -- the one I did the interview with? -- he probably has some more questions for me, wants something new to write up for the web site--"

"That's fine," Sean said, interrupting him just as Craig was about to run out of breath. "Just thought you might want to relax a bit, being we've tomorrow off and all."

Sean had put on that gorgeous smile he brought out for the photographers and Craig knew he was about to shrug and walk away, so he blurted out, "I'd love to! I mean, tomorrow? Or even later tonight? It's just dinner and I don't imagine it'll take very long, so...."

He trailed off and barely managed to keep himself from wincing. Actually, what he wanted to do was crawl off behind the tree. Or under one of the craft services tables by the wall -- they all had long tablecloths and he could probably hide there for a while.

What the hell had he been thinking? Scratch that -- he obviously hadn't been thinking, which was the whole problem because if he'd had his brain engaged he wouldn't have blurted out that absolutely pathetic plea for attention. Tomorrow? Tonight? A quick one in the bog right now? Whatever you want, Sean, whenever's convenient for you!

But then Sean said, "Well, I wouldn't want you to have to rush or nothing," and Craig's eyes refocused and he saw that the photographer's smile had morphed into something with real humor in it. "You go take care of your fans and we'll likely see one another around." He turned and strolled off toward where Cate and Marton were chatting about something, Cate gesturing with a donut. Just as Sean stepped up beside them, a wardrobe assistant rushed up to brush at Galadriel's gown; Craig could hear the scolding thread twine with the laughing conversation, although he couldn't make out what they were discussing.

Not him, at least. Although they might be soon enough, depending on how funny Sean had thought his scrambling and babbling and fawning had been.

Craig wanted to knock his forehead against the trunk of his Mallorn tree, and would have if makeup hadn't threatened him about deliberately messing up his face. There'd been a comment about how this movie wasn't about disintegrating zombies, no matter who was directing; the image of hundreds of zombie Elves lurching through the enchanted forest, scattering chunks and shreds of flesh and skin, had branded itself into his brain and he'd never forgotten. There'd also been a mental picture of Aragorn with a lawnmower....

Maybe if the films did well, some fans would come up with a bit along those lines, sort of an homage to PJ's earlier movies?

The idea was enough to make him smile, but not quite distracting enough to keep him from wondering just how upset Sean might've been, or whether Craig might find another crushed bouquet on his porch that evening.

The Langham Pub wasn't terribly old -- the building was older than Craig but the pub as a business had only been around twenty-some years. Long enough to be settled into the neighborhood, with a nice crowd of regulars and enough scruff on the furnishings and fittings to make it feel comfortable. Craig liked it for the rough, casual atmosphere as well as the excellent food.

He'd never been there with Toby before, but he'd met the man a few other times over the years since meeting at a Hercules and Xena convention. They'd ended up propping up a stretch of hallway outside the dead dog party for a few hours, telling jokes and talking about the industry.

Toby was an average looking bloke, about Craig's age, with sandy blond hair and brown eyes and a friendly, round face. Craig didn't think of them as terribly close, or great friends or anything, but they'd had fun together a few times, whenever they'd found themselves at the same convention or other fannish meet-up.

Craig was about halfway through a perfectly pink rib-eye steak when the conversation, which had mainly veered between funny stories from the Rings set and some of the weirder e-mails Toby got through the fan club web site, gave him an ideal opening. Toby had just finished telling him about a young woman who'd asked him, in all apparent seriousness, whether he could approach Craig about donating sperm so she could have his children.

They'd both laughed at that -- because really, what else could you do? -- but then Craig said, "Actually, in all seriousness? If you have some way of finding out who she is, I'd be grateful."

Toby choked on a mouthful of potato and scrabbled around with both hands for his beer to wash it down, spluttering and hacking throughout the process. Craig babbled apologies, his hands twitching in reflexive search of something helpful to do, but since Toby wasn't actually turning blue, Craig thought getting up and moving over to the other side of the booth to pound on the man's back might be excessive.

When he was finally breathing again without further difficulties, Toby said, "You're not seriously thinking of taking her up on it, are you?" with a tone of incredulity that let Craig imagine pretty clearly what Toby was thinking of him.

"No, no! It's nothing like that. I'm sorry, I should have... I don't know, said it differently." Craig sighed and rested his head back on the padded bench seat, letting his eyes drift closed for a moment. "No, I'm not quite ready for children yet, and if I ever am, it won't be... well, not like that.

"I've been having some problems lately, though. Just little strange things, and I was wondering whether it might be an... an over-enthusiastic fan, you know?"

Toby scowled and sat up straight, fairly radiating indignation. "Is some arsewipe harassing you?"

"Not really." Craig gave a quick head-shake, not wanting to make it all out to be more than it was. "I mean, no one's actually gotten in my face or done anything really dangerous or, or damaged anything or like that. But I got this bunch of roses the other day. Expensive bouquet, and anonymous. I didn't wonder all that much about it, at least not in a bad way. There were a few people it might've been, although no one owned up to it." Craig gave a short, dismissive wave of his fork to show that he hadn't gotten all hysterical right off.

"Then that same night I got home, fairly late it was, and there was another bunch of roses on my porch, this time scattered and ruined, as though someone had stomped on them. The first was just a bit odd, but the second -- that's the sort of thing crazies do in movies, right before they break in with a hatchet, you know?"

Toby nodded, still frowning. "So, what, you think it might be this girl who wants to have your babies?"

"I don't know. Maybe?" Craig shrugged. He felt frustrated and helpless and had no idea what to think, just a lot of fuzzy ideas and vague maybes. "Maybe her, or maybe someone else like her? Is there anyone else that you know of who's been behaving a bit oddly? Maybe... I don't know, maybe seems to be a little too focused on me?" He felt himself blushing even while he asked. Just being able to vocalize that sort of question made him sound like he had an enormous ego, but he wasn't just imagining things. Still, it sounded horrible to have the words right out there between them like that.

"Maybe," Toby echoed. "It's hard to really point a finger at anyone, though. It's just...." He squirmed a bit and looked down at his plate. "A certain amount of crazy is normal, you know? There's a reason 'fan' is short for 'fanatic.'"

"Well, true, but aren't there degrees of crazy?" Craig laughed, he couldn't help himself. The whole conversation was crazy, except it really wasn't.

"Of course, but someone who's really obsessed is more likely to... to carve your name in their arm with a box cutter or something. Someone like that might not behave any more crazy than someone who's been sending you crushed roses, even if the rose bloke is getting ready to break into your house with the duct tape and chloroform. Past a certain point it's all just crazy, yeah?"

"Wow, thanks so much for that image. I'm sure it'll follow me into my dreams tonight." Craig glared across the table and took a savage bite out of his garlic bread.

"Sorry." Toby spread his hands and shrugged. "You're the one who mentioned the hatchet -- at least my movie-style crazy is only a kidnapper."

By the time Craig got home it was almost one. He and Toby had kept chatting over their dinners and taken a comfortably long while to finish, then had dessert. They were the last ones out of the restaurant, with the staff hurrying to finish tidying up behind them, and had walked up a couple of blocks to an all-night coffee shop Craig knew of which had excellent coffee no matter what time of the day or night one went.

He hadn't heard anything from Sean since the sort-of almost request for a kind-of date, so Craig had put it out of his mind and just spent an evening relaxing with Toby, who was a decent young man and fun to talk to, in an enthusiastically nerdy way.

So when Craig climbed the concrete steps up to his porch in the dark with Toby's "See you again soon!" and his own, "Definitely, thanks!" still fading from his mind, and then spotted the glitter of a nearby streetlamp on a cut glass vase of flowers, he felt his stomach drop. And when a low voice came out of the darkness and said, "Like roses, do you?" Craig startled so badly he stumbled backward and pitched arse-first down those same concrete steps. He felt a thud-ka-krack! as he landed -- tailbone-shoulders-skull, and then nothing.

Continued here.


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