Sangria Tangerine (sangriatangerin) wrote in remixwoconsent,
Sangria Tangerine
sangriatangerin
remixwoconsent

And I Will Always Love You, Act 1: Legolas, The Beginning Part 1

Title: And I Will Always Love You Act 1: Legolas, The Beginning Part 1
Original Title: Saraband
Author/Remixer: Carmea Evans
Original Author: Quiseyes (Her email used to be quiseyes@aol.com, but I don't know if that is still a valid email address.)
Link To Original Story: http://craigorlandoluv.livejournal.com/534.html (This is not the original author's lj. CraigOrlandoLuvR posted all the original chapters in her lj. This is a link to the first chapter. To get to the rest of the story, simply click on the "next" or "right" arrow as these are the only entries, so far, in her lj.)
Rating: R to NC-17
Pairing: Craig Parker/Orlando Bloom
Summary: The tragic love story of Craig and Orlando from Rings on. VERY AU!
Warnings: AU, angst, character death
Beta: SangriaTangerine
Notes: Carmea posted this remixed version of "Saraband" by Quiseyes on her lj. When it was discovered that she was not the original author, and was subsequently accused of plagairism, she deleted her lj entirely. As the beta for her story, I have a copy of her completed version, so I am posting it here without her permission, and also without the permission of the original author.

“Simple complexity and complex simplicity. He’s the perfect elf. He looks sort of like the rest of us but mostly, he’s nothing like any of us. He hasn’t a clue what he does to people. He’s bloody sexy and he knows it, in an unselfconscious sort of way, but at the same time, I don’t think he understands the impact of it. People look at him and they just want to taste him. He freaks a bit when he catches people looking at him like that. He just doesn’t understand. People get crazy over him and, in turn, he gets crazy about their reaction. I don’t think he’ll last in this game for too long.”

---From Dominic Monaghan’s diary

~ * ~

Orlando felt physically ill as the plane lifted off from Heathrow. He was afraid he might actually throw up.

As the plane climbed rapidly and eventually began to level off at cruising altitude, he pressed back in his seat, beyond what G-forces would normally cause to happen anyway, and he locked his eyes on the back of the seat in front of him, willing his stomach to just hang in there and be cool, to not do anything sudden that might end in embarrassment.

He endured about fifteen minutes of agony, never quite confident at any stage that he was going to retain his dignity. He mentally reached out and grabbed the sick-bag several times, but his hands remained gripped, white-knuckled, to the sides of his seat for the entire time. After all, this was the First-Class section. People in First-Class weren’t supposed to throw up, he was sure of that. Something about being seasoned flyers and completely blasé about everything. That the money that enabled you to be able to afford a First-Class seat on a flight to anywhere would also allow you a smooth and worry-free ride through life, with no need for sick-bags of any kind.

In that sense, he felt a bit of a fraud. He was – in his own opinion – just a young, geeky nobody suddenly launched completely out of his comfort zone into a world of First Class flights and potential international fame. In truth, he was more the back-packer and thumb-waver type. He felt more at ease walking and hitching with mates around home and abroad, playing sardines in cheap hotels or sleeping rough on beaches, pooling their last bits of loose change for an order of chips and a bottle of Coke amongst half a dozen of them.

Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined this…A First-Class seat on a flight to the other side of the world. A flight attendant offering him freshly-brewed coffee and a choice of miniature croissants or Danish pastries and, with barely a pause for breath, recommending the smoked salmon for lunch.

He closed his eyes and shook his head. He knew that his face was probably completely devoid of all color, and that the attendant was probably a bit worried about a potential mess to clean up.

He ended up sleeping for an hour, partially to make up for the lack of sleep last night. He’d had a last heart-to-heart with his Mum two days ago, and admitted to being excited as all hell and yet scared to death at the same time.

“This is what it must have been like going off to war,” he’d laughed, “Going off to The Front, knowing you’re going to come back all grown-up and changed, and full of stories and experiences. At least no one’ll be shooting at me. Well not with guns anyway. Just cameras.”

He’d spent last night alone in a hotel room, making hurried, excited phone-calls to friends at first, and watching TV until he realized he wasn’t seeing any of it. He’d switched it off and lain back staring into darkness, waiting for the wake-up call in the morning that he knew he wasn’t going to need.

He’d thought about all the information he’d been given so far. The casting had blown his mind. Sir Ian McKellan! Sir Ian Holm! Jesus, he’d be working with members of the acting aristocracy! Christopher Lee! Holy shit, and John Rhys-Davies! Sean Bean, one of his favorite actors, and just as intimidating even without a Sir in front of his name.

He knew of Dom Monaghan from TV, and a couple of the American actors. He’d only seen Elijah Wood as some innocent, freaked-out kid that the little bastard from ‘Home Alone’ was trying to kill. It was on TV just a couple of weeks ago. He had a hard time imagining him as Frodo. But it was even harder to imagine himself as an elf, as The Elf in The Movie.

That was what scared him most. He was going to be surrounded by all these famous people, all these experienced and talented actors, and the most he’d ever done was a couple of lines in a movie and a bit-part in a TV show that made him cringe with shame because he’d been so bad.

It was his worst nightmare. That this incredible epic movie was going to be ruined and remembered only because his own pathetic acting abilities had been shown up by all these pros, and that he’d somehow let them all down.

But it was too late now. As had thousands of others, he’d applied, and like hundreds of others, he’d auditioned. Along with just a few others, he’d been called back for a second audition. That alone had taken about six months and never at any time, even after the call-back, had he expected anything to come of it.

He’d undergone the most complete medical examination he’d ever had in his life. He’d sat in on a consultation between the New Line reps, their nominated medical specialist, his own family doctor, the specialists who’d attended his back injury, and a couple more thrown in for good measure. He’d listened, his head spinning, as they talked about his health in general and his back in particular. They’d discussed any potential limitations or problems in regard to the physical work he was going to have to undertake. There would be continuous fitness training, then the additional work on archery, fencing and horsemanship. These would be the basic skills learned and would be ‘bastardised’ into much more violent, aggressive and physical activities.

He’d expected to receive a final rejection at that point.

In the end, they’d declared him in excellent physical shape. Then they’d presented him with the paperwork.

He’d read the endless contract and all its clauses, had been given ‘The Talk’ about how he was going to be locked into that contract for about five years in all. He’d been made aware of just how long and hard a journey it was all going to be, and that if he signed up, started filming and only later decided that he couldn’t hack it, then he was going to have wasted a lot of people’s time and money and effort, and would have let a lot of people down.

‘Don’t even consider signing if you even suspect this is all going to be too much, Orlando,’ the New Line people had told him.

They’d all been very nice about it all, but very cautious, making sure he knew what it was going to be all about.

‘We won’t think any less of you if you decide not to go ahead with it. It’s an incredible commitment to make. We’ve had withdrawals already. We’d be very sorry if you decided you couldn’t take part but we’d rather know now than later. Think it over very carefully, talk it over with your family but preferably with no-one else.’

They’d given him a week. He took two days and then signed and called to let them know.

Later, he would look back on it as the day he signed his life away.

~ * ~

He arrived in New Zealand jet-lagged and physically shattered, despite numerous naps. During the last twenty-four hours, he’d eaten sparingly and rejected anything to drink other than occasional mouthful of mineral water. He knew he was running on pure adrenaline and that the ‘rush’ was waning. He was looking forward to bed and proper sleep.

He'd experienced only a lungful or two of fresh air in Sydney, Australia before boarding his connection to Auckland. Looking out the window, he was aware only of the color blue – of the ocean and sky. Eventually he would see also the green of the countryside, and the white of the clouds.

Soon enough he'd become acquainted with the curious flat-voweled New Zealand accent in the voices around him. He’d have to get used to it. After all, the director and about ninety-nine per cent of the crew would all sound the same.

From Auckland was yet another flight, a domestic shuttle to Wellington where he was met by one of the film people and driven to his new home for at least a year, but nearer to two. The following day, he would fall in love with the modern two-story house opposite the beach, but on that first evening, all he saw was a bedroom with the most wonderful bed in the world beckoning to him, and two whole days to rest and ready himself for the first day of Elf-School.

He slept deeply and for a long time. When he woke and looked at his watch, he felt completely disoriented. He knew it was still on British time and therefore about twelve hours out. He looked out the window of his bedroom at the sea – a bay of some sort – and saw a man walking his dog along the beach. Just finding out what time it was, and what day, suddenly seemed more important than anything else.

He pulled on the rumpled jeans and t-shirt he’d worn for the flight, burrowed his feet into Nikes, and headed out. He jogged across the road, over the strip of grassy reserve and onto the beach. He caught up with the ageing, slightly pudgy man, and patted the dog, an ageing, slightly pudgy golden Labrador.

“Could you tell me the time please?”

The man consulted his watch. “Just after four.”

“And what day is it?”

The man didn’t bat an eyelid. “Saturday, September 18th, 1999. And you’re in Wellington, New Zealand – Seatoun to be exact.”

Orlando grinned, not missing the inflection of humor. He reset his watch, changing the time and date.

“Thank you. I just got off a flight from London. I’m so jet-lagged – I just felt a bit out of sorts, you know?”

The man nodded, “Not a problem. Done a few of those long hauls myself, mate. They can knock you around. Just visiting?”

“I – yeah, yeah, just visiting. A bit of work involved but it’s still only temporary.”

His body suddenly craved sustenance – food and something to drink. Water to start with, some tea soon after. He thanked the man again and headed back.

Approaching his house, he studied its aggressively modern design, the decks and windows, the multiple levels stepping up the side of the hill. It was different but he loved its uniqueness. He wondered how long it would take for him to think of it as simply ‘home’, despite the temporary circumstances.

He did a quick tour of the interior and was surprised to find that there were some nice little signs of welcome waiting for him. They’d sent him what they’d called ‘A Survey of Dietary Requirements’ some months back, and he found the fridge and cupboards stocked with enough supplies to prevent him going hungry for at least a week. There was plenty of information about his house and its location, and the area in general. There was a copy of the current script and his schedule for the next week. He found a list of phone-numbers of people he might want to call if he had any problems or questions.

It all seemed so wonderfully welcoming in a way that was both practical and considerate. He didn’t feel as lonely or as isolated as he was afraid he might.

He called his Mum while water boiled for tea, just a quick conversation to let her know he’d arrived okay, had slept fine, was about to eat well – the usual things that mothers needed to hear.

After he’d asked her to give Maude a hug and to toss her a ball now and then, he ended the call and made tea. He rummaged around in the freezer, took out some bread and made toast, which he spread thickly with peanut butter. He wandered around munching, sipping from a mug, and occasionally stopping to look out at the sea.

He had the rest of the afternoon, the night, and a whole day to kill before it all started. Too much time, he realized. He was still tired and a little light-headed but he wanted to get stuck into it right away, not wander around thinking about it.

It.

The sick feeling came back again, that stomach-churning mixture of nerves, adrenaline, excitement and a general fear of the unknown. He wished he could call someone – a mate – and go out for a drink or something but he didn’t know anyone here yet. For a wild moment, he wondered if the man was still on the beach and if he would like a drink.

Okay, maybe he’d been a bit premature in thinking that he wouldn’t be lonely. Whatever, he couldn’t hang around here dwelling on things too much or he’d drive himself crazy.

He dumped the second slice of toast in the trash, and cleaned up the mess he’d made. He grabbed a jacket from one of his suitcases, thinking that unpacking and the rest could be done any time. He made sure he had his wallet and keys, left the house and headed down to the beach again.

He liked beaches. You couldn’t help but think calm thoughts on a beach, so he’d found in the past. You could lose yourself in the smell of ozone, and the rhythmic sound of waves rolling in and toppling over onto themselves in surges of hissing foam.

The man with the dog was no longer there and he had the beach virtually to himself. There was a speck of a person off in the distance.

He walked, letting his thoughts wander in response to the soothing sounds. There was still some warmth in the sun and the breeze was pleasantly cool.

By the time he looked up and focused again, the speck of a person was clearly distinguishable as a young, dark-haired male, just a hundred yards away and walking toward him. He veered slightly shoreward, intending to give the stranger a wide berth. Conversation would be nice, sure, but not in the form of social small-talk with a complete stranger.

As they approached a point where they were passing they were about a dozen feet apart – Orlando looked up briefly, looked away again, and then did a fast double-take. He was seeing an older version of the poor little tyke who was given a hard time by that freaky ‘Home Alone’ kid.

He said the first thing that came to mind.

“Frodo?”

The boy stopped and regarded him warily. Orlando could sense his brain ticking over.

“I’m Orlando,” he offered helpfully, “Um – Legolas?”

He was rewarded instantly with a wide, gap-toothed smile, a fast approach and an outstretched hand.

“Oh fuck, man, it’s so good to meet you!” Elijah gushed. They shook hands, and the gesture seemed to expand effortlessly, and with no hint any self-consciousness, into a generous hug.

“I got in last night and I was fucking sick of sitting home twiddling my thumbs waiting for – ” Elijah started to explain.

“Work to start and being homesick and everything. I just had to – ” Orlando picked up.

“Come out and get some fresh air and think about what – ”

“The hell we’ve gotten ourselves in for. Feel like a drink?”

“Oh God, yeah!”

Elijah was laughing now, and suddenly they were both heading quickly up the beach toward the main road.

“I’m legal here. I can drink without breaking the law. I’ll still get carded but, man, they can’t stop me! So I’ve been going apeshit just waiting for someone to say, ‘Feel like a drink?’ God, this is so fucking cool!”

The bolted across Marine Parade and headed for the main business centre. They pounced on the first bar they came to on Dundas Street, sat in a corner booth and then stared at one another.

“You want to order?” Elijah said hesitantly.

“I don’t know. What do they call beer here? Just ‘a beer’ or do you have to ask for a particular one?”

Elijah indicated the advertising poster on the wall. “That looks like the stuff they serve here. Dominion Breweries. DB. Ask for two DB’s. Hold on, someone’s coming over.”

A woman approached them, wiping her hands on her apron. “What would you boys like?”

Elijah looked pointedly at Orlando.

Orlando smiled. “Two DB’s. Please.”

“Seven or twelve? Bitter, Export, Light?”

“Um – seven. Two of them, please. Export?”

“D'you two have some kind of ID at all?”

They both produced international driving licenses, which she studied with interest. “Touring, are you?”

“Um, yeah.” Orlando said.

“Hope you like it here. We have a lot of overseas visitors here. Expecting a few more soon, what with the film and everything. I’ll get those drinks for you.”

“I knew I’d get carded.” Elijah said almost proudly, “Man, this is fucking great! Hey, the other Hobbits are arriving tomorrow. We’ll have to show them around.”

“We don’t even know our own way around!”

“Hey, we found a bar, didn’t we, so already we know more than they do. Tomorrow we’ll be regulars! Last day of freedom too. What’s on your schedule for Monday?”

“Elf-School.”

Elijah had an infectious laugh that soon started Orlando off.

“Great! I’ve got Hobbit-School. We’ll have to get together and compare notes.”

The laugh got progressively more manic after each drink, as did the language. Elijah Wood, Orlando decided, had the foulest mouth of anyone he’d ever met. At first he wondered if he was showing off a bit and that the profanity had been more for effect than anything else, but it had remained consistent and flowed effortlessly. After a while, he'd even stopped noticing it and came to the realization instead that he rather liked the young American.

After four beers, they left the pub and started walking toward Marine Parade again.

“Which way’s your place?” Orlando asked.

Elijah indicated in the opposite direction to Orlando’s. He had his hands shoved in the front pockets of his jeans and looked slightly put out.

“I don’t really wanna go back there, man. It’s nice but I fucking hate being by myself! Can I sleep over at your place tonight? I don’t snore.”

Orlando grinned, “Sure.”

He was actually glad of the company, even in the form of a tipsy teenager with a horrifying giggle. They walked and talked until they reached Orlando’s house, continued chatting as they scrounged around for something to eat. They settled in the living room with more beer from the fridge.

It was Elijah who finally asked, “Is it just me or does this fucking thing scare the crap out of you too?”

“It’s not just you, mate.”

“Thank Christ! Man, I so wanted this part. Pete said he wasn’t even gonna consider an American Frodo and they were gonna use a Brit, end of story. I did an audition tape anyway and sent it to him. It was so bad – oh God, you wouldn’t fucking believe how bad it was. I still kinda cringe just thinking about it even though it worked! – But I put everything into it, man, I just wanted this part so much. Pete called me in LA and said the video was complete crap and not to give up my day job or anything. I thought he was turning me down and I was just about to start bawling and begging for a chance. But instead, he offered me Frodo because he said I had passion and that was all he wanted. Passion! Isn’t that fucking amazing?”

Orlando smiled and nodded. “Yeah. I started out auditioning for Faramir.”

“How’d you end up with Legolas, then? That’s one of the big parts. You hit the fucking jackpot!”

Orlando shrugged. “I don’t know. They must think I’m okay for it. I can’t see how but they wouldn’t have laid out all this money and everything if they didn’t think I could do it. That’s what scares me, that I won’t be good enough. At least they know you can act.”

“I’ve never been a Hobbit before, so it’s back to square one, but I hear you, y’know, about not being good enough? Any asshole can act but the way this is all unfolding – Orli, this is only about one per cent acting and the rest is all about – I don’t know – believing in the part, believing in the story – and being prepared to live it! Do you get that too? This whole thing is so big and so fucking unique – and we’re part of it, man! That’s what scares me, the fact that no one’s ever done it before. This is fucking history!”

Orlando groaned, “Jesus, Wood, shut up! I’m intimidated enough as it is without being reminded of all the rest of it.”

Elijah giggled again. “Sorry, man. Okay, so is this your first job?”

“Pretty much.”

“No wonder you’re freaking, but – “. He stopped abruptly and Orlando could almost hear his mind shifting gears. When Elijah spoke again, he sounded slightly tense. “Can I tell you something if you promise you’ll never tell anyone? Ever? Not another living soul!”

Orlando regarded him curiously. They’d only known one another for a couple of hours and here he was being entrusted with some great secret. He didn’t know whether to be honored or slightly skeptical. But he nodded anyway, and made the promise.

Elijah leaned forward and lowered his voice as if in fear of the walls having ears. He was still tipsy but Orlando didn’t miss the look of genuine anxiety in the boy’s eyes.

“I’m scared, Orli, that I won’t be good enough because I’m not a Brit. That people will just fucking automatically write me off because they have these preconceptions about Frodo and I won’t live up to any of them. I’m scared I won’t even be given a chance! So, you know, you’re lucky in a way that people don’t have this existing impression of you that they can’t get out of their heads. You won’t have to fight this fucking role-prejudice. By the same token, they’ll forget any other good work I might have done in the past and judge me on just this one role and if I fuck it up, no-one will ever take me seriously again. And they’ll blame me for fucking up their dream.”

Orlando digested this for a moment before nodding slowly. Suddenly he realized that his own position wasn’t as dire as he’d convinced himself.

“I can really understand that, mate. I – thanks for telling me. I really had no idea but – well if you – “. He hesitated. “I think we’ll all probably be scared to death of not getting it right. Maybe we should all make some sort of pact at the start that – if we really do all mess it up and the films turn out to be a complete disaster – that we’ll still talk to each other when no-one else wants to even know us.”

Elijah grinned and snickered. “We’ll be a kind of Fellowship?”

“Yeah, Tolkien Survivors Anonymous – or something like that.”

“Cool! I’ve never belonged to any kind of club or society before! Fuck, I’ve never belonged, period! Remind me to tell you one day, Orli, what it’s like being a rich and famous outcast. But forget that shit and tell me what you’re really looking forward to. Something good made you sign your life away for five years. What was it?”

“I thought there might be some good actors on board that I could learn from but I didn’t honestly think they’d be this good. I’ll be a nobody in the middle of them all.”

“No, man, you’re not a nobody and no-one’s ever gonna treat you like one. Not here, not in this. And I’ll tell you something, Orli, I think you’re gonna be such a fucking big star. I can feel it! So being with all those amazingly talented people is an incredible opportunity. You watch them and learn. That’s what I’m gonna do, treat this like acting school and just watch and learn how the best actors do it.”

“Good point.” Orlando said, thinking that Elijah Wood – gutter-mouthed Hollywood brat – was a revelation, and probably a lot smarter than most people would credit him with. They’d be good friends, he was convinced of that, and it made whatever happened from Monday onwards seem a little less daunting.

They both gradually started yawning and nodding off, the combination of residual jetlag, beer, fresh air and nervous anticipation prompting them to call it an early night. They were both asleep by nine.

~*~

Craig had auditioned for Elrond, and for a while there, it looked like it might happen, but then they’d decided he didn’t look old enough, or sufficiently battle-hardened, to play the Lord of Imladris.

‘Okay’, he’d thought, savagely disappointed at the time, ‘What exactly does a five thousand year old battle-hardened Elf look like anyway?’

The Australian actor Hugo Weaving apparently fit the part perfectly. Craig had had to agree somewhat glumly. He was an unapologetic fan of the lanky Australian and knew his casting was faultless – which narrowed down his chances of scoring a role even more.

“Look, I’ll hang around to make cups of tea for everyone if you like,” Craig had told Peter and Fran and anyone who would listen, “This is incredibly important for us Kiwis so I’ll contribute in any way. Absolutely nothing is too small. Pride? Screw pride! I have none whatsoever where this thing’s concerned and you’ll find everyone’s thinking and feeling the same. We all just want to be part of it and if making tea gets me on-set, I’ll make bloody tea by the gallons. I’ll even wash up the cups afterwards, how’s that? Now you know I’m deadly serious!”

Jackson had assured him that the entire casts of Shortland Street and any television show or feature film ever made in New Zealand were on his short-list and that he’d find a part for them even as an uncredited orc with a split-second pan-past. He’d shoe-horn them all in somehow but actual speaking parts were limited and they’d pretty much all been cast. He’d let Craig know as soon as he could.

Craig had happily resigned himself to being either an uncredited orc or a tea-lady when they’d offered him the part of Haldir. He hadn’t a clue who or what a ‘Haldir’ was, having never read Tolkien in his entire life, but with a name like that, he assumed he was going to be an orc and signed on the dotted line in a state of blissful ignorance. Later, after a bit of research, he decided it was rather ironic that he’d be responsible for leading the Fellowship through a vast mythical forest when in reality he had trouble finding his own way around Auckland.

Irony aside, the most amazing news was discovering that he actually might have a couple of lines. But Peter had made no secret of the fact that the story would need to be pared down to the bare bones, and that well-known characters would be eliminated along with huge tracts of dialogue. There was always the possibility that the role of Haldir – once filmed – could quite conceivably end up on the cutting room floor in its entirety.

‘Who cares!’ he thought, ‘I’m in!”

Scheduling was never going to be a problem. Just as well, they’d informed him afterwards, because if he’d so much as raised an eyebrow at the famous ‘Rings clause’, they’d have sent him on his way.

‘Rings before everything’.

That was the way it was going to be, it was stipulated, for the next two years – minimum.

He had another ‘Theatresports’ commitment for October 17th penciled into his diary. Other than that, and a couple more one-offs, he was free until the middle of next year when rehearsals would start for “The Judas Kiss”. The play would effectively tie him up from early September through to early November. “No worries,” he was told, “But make sure you’ve got a reliable understudy waiting in the wings.”

There was talk of another prime time weekly drama in the wind for later next year. Time enough to consider it. After all this had settled down, he’d have a look and a think, maybe an audition. There was something comforting about a reasonably solid, ongoing role and a regular pay-check. Not that he was on the skids or anything. He was pretty tight-fisted with money and was still living comfortably off the proceeds of Shortland Street, Gloss before that, and a handful of Xena and Hercules shows since.

Haldir would make a nice little contribution to the nest egg, whether it was from the screen or the waste bin.

Yes - Life was reasonably good right now. He’d achieved a perfect balance of hard work and masterful sloth in his professional life that suited – in his own words – his chronically lazy nature. Occasionally, though, he’d be struck by a sense of being bored and bogged down, and he’d hunt around feverishly for a quick, satisfying challenge.

A healthy twenty-nine year old Kiwi male playing a several-thousand-year-old elf in Middle Earth seemed to fit the bill rather nicely, though the ‘quick’ element didn’t quite make the equation. Two years! It was a bit daunting.

Okay. He would deal with it.

The only immediate problem was that he couldn’t tell anyone about it just yet. Only his manager and close friend Rebecca Law had known from the start, because she’d actually informed him of the decision to cast him. He’d broken the confidentiality rule to just one other person, his Auckland Theatre Company cohort, ‘Theatresports’ team-mate, debating partner, and irreplaceable friend, Oliver Driver. It was out of sheer necessity, an early warning so that Oliver wouldn’t be forced to find a replacement on short notice.

Once Oliver had gotten over the bit about Craig Parker playing an elf, and had stopped practically wetting himself laughing, he’d agreed to the oath of secrecy on the proviso that he could publicly take the piss out of him at every opportunity for, oh, about the next ten years or so.

“Well you do that already, mate,” he’d tossed at Oliver, “So it’s no hardship on my part.”

So, professionally anyway, things were definitely on the up. As for his personal life – that was another matter entirely. In his opinion, the least said, the better.

Just under two years ago, he’d waved off his partner for a couple of years in Britain, making a commitment of fidelity that he had every intention of keeping, though he suspected his partner wouldn’t. Infrequent, often unsatisfying phone calls, were all that was keeping them together these days.

‘I must be one of the boringly faithful ones,’ he’d decided because, really, when all was said and done, he was quite hopeless where love and all its etceteras were concerned. Distance was just one of the things he had problems with. He wasn’t one of those people for whom absence made the heart grow fonder. If anything, he managed to endure absence by slipping his heart and its emotional encumbrances into neutral. He wasn’t very good about ‘missing’ someone. It was always an intensely depressing experience and he found he handled it best in pure, uncomplicated denial, and by filling his time as best he could with work and other diversions.

It was only a half-life he was leading, but he supposed it was better than none at all. Some people didn’t even have that much.

Craig had been given a schedule of activities that commenced on Sunday, September 19th. The first item on the agenda was a flight to Wellington where he’d been picked up at the airport and taken to his home for the next month or so.

An apartment block in Beacon Hill on the Miramar Peninsula had been leased for the duration of the shoot and was going to be used for the part-timers. The full-timers got their own houses apparently.

Jørn and Jason, who were playing his uncredited onscreen brothers Rúmil and Orophin respectively, were in the same building. He would come to refer to them in his diary as C1 and C2, like the bananas B1 and B2 in that kids' television program, only the ‘C’ stood for cheekbones instead. In his less charitable entries, usually made after a night of putting up with their noisy social habits, their names would be bastardized to Ruminant and Orofice.

A constant turnover of elf extras occupied the other apartments. He could see the headlines in the local newspaper, The Dominion – ‘ELVEN COLONY DISCOVERED IN MIRAMAR!’ – and often he’d find himself wondering if he were the only person in this deadly serious enterprise to see the incredibly funny side of it all. He decided it would be in his own best interests to keep it to himself.

The morning after he’d arrived, and far too early for his liking, a minibus – soon to be dubbed ‘The Elven-Express’ – had hurtled around the Peninsula and collected them for their first day in Elf-School.

Orlando, the young actor playing Legolas had been one of the last to be collected. He’d been standing outside his house jiggling on the spot in an attempt to keep warm in the chilly early morning air. He’d boarded the bus and introduced himself immediately.

Craig watched him and thought, ‘Interesting face – and that coloring, mmm. Definitely something Latin there.’

He seemed rather shy and more than a little nervous. Understandable considering that he was the only non-local, the highest-ranking elf amongst the lot of them, yet clearly the youngest and least experienced actor. Just as well Hugo and Marton weren’t on board – commitments would delay their arrival for a while yet and they’d have their own private versions of Elf-School – otherwise even he, Craig, would feel slightly intimidated. At the moment he felt rather like an elder statesman. He thought he’d better enjoy the feeling while it lasted.

It was nice, watching him gradually relax and become less tense and intimidated as the Kiwi rabble seemed to accept and include him without hesitation. They were incredibly laid-back and irreverently funny, every single one of them. It was impossible not to join in and be swept up in the silliness.

Smart move on Pete’s part, Craig thought, giving the young man a major part but not allowing any opportunity for it to be an isolating experience. No one would be given any sort of preferential or ‘star’ treatment that would set them apart from the others. They’d all muck in together and go the distance as equals, whether stars or extras, cast or crew. Wonderful egalitarian Kiwis, he thought with a little glow of pride. None of this Hollywood style rubbish here. An ego-centric tantrum would be slapped down in an instant. He supposed that this was what this bus was all about. Cancel the limousine, and throw them all in together right from the start.

He didn’t realize he’d been staring openly at Orlando while his thoughts wandered, and was barely able to cover the momentary embarrassment of being caught out.

He cleared his throat pointedly. “Excited about it all?”

Orlando grinned, and nodded. “Yeah. Really excited. Um – what part are you playing?”

“I’m Haldir, your friendly Lothlórien tour-guide. You won’t get very far without me I’m afraid so be nice.”

The grin widened and Orlando actually blushed. “Okay, I’ll be very nice.”

Interesting face, Craig mused again, turning away now before he revealed far more than was appropriate. Really quite lovely.

~ * ~

“You’re going to have to keep me briefed on everything that’s going on until I get there,” Marton had warned Craig during a conversation a few weeks before.

Marton had been cast without audition apparently and Craig had snipped, “Nice to be able to just send out for a part, Csokas!”

“Now, now, don’t be like that. I’d have been the last person to cast either of us as an elf. So how on earth do you imagine they’re going to pull it off?”

Craig phoned him at the end of the first week and informed them exactly how they were going to do it. He advised Marton to pour himself a stiff drink first. And to sit down.

He told him about the rather primitive solution to the ‘cheekbone challenge’ facing a number of the elves. Strips of clear surgical tape had been applied on his newly shaved and raised hairline. These had anchored lengths of dental floss, which were then hitched up and tied at the back, to be hidden later by the wig. The whole thing worked like an instant mini facelift and resulted in a slightly feline slant to his eyes and a suspicion of cheekbones. It worked spectacularly well on others but was only moderately successful in his own case – and it felt excruciatingly awful.

He’d grimaced into the mirror and drawled, “Oh, the wonder of science! I think they’ve found my cheekbones!”

“And very pretty they are too, mate.” Jørn had teased, “But don't get too excited just yet. They seem to have lost one of your chins.”

Craig had rolled his eyes and slumped down in his chair in disgust.

“Christ!” Marton groaned, “Is it too late to get out of this? What about the hair?”

The wigs were a pain from the start, Craig told him, and everyone hated them, especially the song and dance involved in putting them on. But once again, the finished effect was stunning.

“For fifteen thousand dollars apiece, Marton, you too can look like an ageing drag queen.”

“Any good news? How about the costumes? Is my dress nicer than yours?”

It was in the wardrobe department that the class battle-lines had been truly drawn. Everyone had endured endless hours of hanging around while the muslin toiles of the costumes were draped, pinned and fitted. Mutual sympathy abounded until they were shown the fabrics that would be used in the final products. Orlando scored the best deal with silk-velvet. The Rivendell bunch were outfitted in Indian silk brocade.

“Oh you’re kidding!” Craig had protested as he’d been shown the rough woolen fabric designated for the uniform of the Galadhrim. “Why can’t I have what he’s got!”

He pointed at the swatch of muted green silk-velvet Orlando was admiring.

“I’m a Prince and a star, mate.” Orlando had teased and Craig had feigned a swing at him.

“For God’s sake, you lot!” protested Anna from wardrobe, “It’s the first day of school! Are you going to start cat-fighting already?”

Craig affected a horrified innocence. “He started it!”

Orlando looked suitably insulted. “I did not!”

“Did so!”

Orlando was practically on the floor laughing. “Did not, not, not! Stop picking on me! You’re just jealous!”

“Take heart, mate,” Craig assured Marton, “I think you get a better deal from being a Boss-Elf of sorts.”

“Sounds like fun at least. So everyone’s getting along then?”

“Yeah, they are. It’s a very nice atmosphere so far. Next week the really hard work starts, all the physical stuff. Next week, Marton, they’re going to teach me to be a warrior. Are you impressed?”

“Ask me again when I’ve seen you in action.”

“I’ll tell you all about it in the mean time. When are you coming over?”

“December at this stage, for a bit of training and some filming. I imagine everyone will have sorted themselves into their little cliques and I’ll be a complete outsider.” Marton dropped his voice to a tone that was mildly flirtatious. “You’ll still be my friend won’t you, Craig?”

Craig laughed, “Of course! We didn’t survive the perils of Shortland Street without establishing some kind of lasting rapport. Listen mate, I’ve got some studying to do – Elvish believe it or not! – so I’ll have to get going. Talk to you same time next week.”

The smile lingered as Craig made himself some coffee and a sandwich.

It was always good chatting with Marton and he was well aware of being in a privileged position. To most people, Marton Csokas was an intensely private person – quiet, unreadable and often curiously unreachable. Very few people could claim any kind of closeness to him. One didn’t simply enter his life – one hoped to be invited in, or one waited to be given permission to enter it, but even then, there were certain ‘no go’ areas that needed to be respected otherwise one was quietly excluded once more. Always politely, but with the intent very clear.

Craig had no idea how he’d managed to become one of ‘the chosen few’ – as Marton referred to his inner circle of friends. They’d actually met as the result of a minor fender-bender in the parking lot of the television studio where Gloss was being produced, Craig apologetic even though Marton had claimed ownership of the altercation. They’d examined their cars, chatted a few minutes, swapped phone numbers and then parted again.

After that, they seemed to meet frequently at industry parties and various social gatherings. They had acting in common of course – both theatre and television – so their conversations always flowed effortlessly. There’d never been a suggestion of anything beyond a casual friendship so nothing intense had ever threatened to complicate matters.

Marton had seemed quite pleased when Craig admitted a slight case of hero-worship years later.

“You’re so disgustingly talented, Marton, so how could I not worship the water you walk on?”

He wasn’t alone in his opinion. Marton had been hailed as some kind of brilliant wunderkind, and yet regarded as a complete enigma both artistically as well as personally. He was a quiet introvert who could become a blazing extrovert within the blink of an eye. He could be still, silent and contemplative for the most part – and then a sudden tornado of activity, touching down briefly in a frenzy of creative brilliance before moving off quietly into obscurity once more.

Those who knew him – or thought they did – recognized a hunger for a challenge, a thirst for knowledge and an absolute lust for a new experience. He acted, directed and produced – theatre, television and film. He wrote plays and novellas in his non-existent spare time.

“How the hell do you do it?” Craig had asked him once.

Marton had given him one of those half-lidded looks and said, “My creative and sex drives are one and the same. A finished project is a kind of orgasm.”

That was another thing people were always wondering about, Craig included. Marton’s sex life. If he had lovers, no-one knew their names and he certainly wasn’t going to tell.

“I’d have made a perfect monk,” he’d admitted in a rare moment of candor, which some people concluded was as good as an admission that he wasn’t getting any. Yet one look at the fulfillment on his face – the constant half-smile on the sensual mouth, and the ever-present gleam in the dark eyes – led others to argue, “He looks too well-fucked to be celibate.”

Craig had wondered at times, but never assumed anything. One didn’t do that with Marton. One enjoyed him, but never made assumptions. Especially concerning the depth and duration of the friendship.

~ * ~

The first couple of months were busy and all-consuming. They were about training and groundwork, and most importantly of all, continuing the bonding process. Each working day was broken into various sessions. The first half of the morning was spent in the gym on Nautilus equipment, doing mainly upper-body exercises in preparation for the non-archery weapons classes in the second half.

An early lunch was allowed to settle over classes in Tolkien and Elvish history, linguistics and dialogue. After that, they were driven down to the old decommissioned army base, Fort Dorset, where they took lessons in horsemanship and archery.

The pep talk they received at the first archery lesson rammed home what it was all about.

They were all lounging about on the grass, enjoying the early spring sun and musing about how much like a summer camp it all seemed, when the instructor approached with a bow and a quiver of arrows in hand. And a plastic bag full of disposable plates.

He didn’t waste any time getting to the point.

“I know that some of you are wondering why you need to have archery lessons even though you’re probably never going to have to fire a single shot on-screen. It has everything to do with the suspension of disbelief. On your feet, Bloom.”

Orlando grinned and stood in front of the class. The bow was thrust into his hands and he handled it gingerly.

“Does he look like an Elf, fellas? Does he look like he knows how to use that thing?”

They’d all snickered in unison. Definitely a negative on that one.

“No, of course not. So why would you believe he’s an Elf? Why would you believe that he, Bloom, is Legolas? Is it because he has a bow in his hand? ‘Ah!’ say the viewers, ‘He has a bow in his hand. He must be playing the part of Legolas!’ This is not the reaction we want. We want the viewers to suspend disbelief. We want the viewers to think, ‘That’s Legolas, no question about it.’ Therefore, Bloom must cease to exist.”

“We can arrange that…” someone said in an undertone that everyone heard.

“Legolas is a skilled Elven archer,” the instructor continued, “So in order to facilitate the escape from his unskilled mortal self, Bloom has got to learn how to be a skilled archer. He's got to not only learn how to use that bow, he’s got to learn how to wear it. He’s got to convince everyone that that bow is a natural extension of his own body. Look at Bloom right now. What’s he got in his hand? At the moment, he’s holding a prop. By the end of these classes, you will not see Bloom with a prop in his hand. You’ll see Legolas the archer.”

The instructor took back the bow and motioned for Orlando to rejoin the rest.

“That goes for the rest of you, and for everyone who’ll be wearing armor and carrying weapons. They’ll cease to become props, you lot will cease to be yourselves, you and your weapons will get to know one another, to be at ease with one another, and then you will have become your characters. And then we’ll all believe, yourselves included.”

The instructor began pacing back and forth in front of them.

‘That’s the theory. The practical explanation is that the script is not a static thing. It’s going to be constantly re-written and amended. You may never have to use your weapons. On the other hand, you might find that a scene may be written in which you do. We’re not going to hold up production for a month while you learn the ropes. This is all necessary preparation. By the end of these classes, you’ll all be able to do this. Observe, one and all. Parker?”

Craig raised an eyebrow enquiringly and got to his feet. The instructor took a disposable paper plate from the plastic bag and handed it to him.

“When I give the word, throw it up like a Frisbee, but vertically rather than horizontally.”

Craig waited while the instructor took an arrow from the quiver, placed it in the bow, and then prepared to shoot.

“Okay, now!” Craig did so. The plate hung in the air for a moment before being neatly skewered and brought back to earth a short distance away.

The class as one burst into spontaneous applause.

“Oh God, that’s brilliant!” Orlando gushed, unable to stop himself even though he knew he probably sounded childishly impressed. “You’re really going to show us how to do that?”

“You bet. So how about we get started.”

Orlando had related the excitement of that day, as he would subsequent others, to Elijah and the other Hobbits later that evening. Their homes, the training camp at Fort Dorset, and the studios, were all situated on the Miramar Peninsula to the southeast of the city. With so little time needed for traveling, once classes were over for the day, most evenings were spent touring the pubs and clubs of Wellington.

Everyone had been involved at the start – Elves, Hobbits, Humans, extras and crew. For most, however, the novelty of nightly pub-crawls had worn off quite quickly, but the ‘Hobbits and Elf’ drinking clique endured and would do so, varying only in location and intensity of commitment, for the entire shoot.

The bonding of friendship had been instant and unique, having little to do with faces or reputations but much to do with the sheer enormity of their shared involvement in the film project. Every day together seemed something worth celebrating, and they celebrated – or commiserated when required – as they would every good and bad aspect of the next year and a half – by getting supremely drunk.

There were plenty of bars and clubs to choose from, for straight as well as gay patrons. In each new place, they were afforded approximately five minutes of celebrity then promptly treated as regulars - but regulars with their own particular attractions.

It became wickedly addictive to be singled out and admired, and Orlando was quick to realize that he and Elijah were attracting more than their fair share of attention. Not that the others were going without, but more often than not, it was a comment about Orlando’s new Mohawk or Elijah’s eyes that drew a conversation away from the movie and onto a more personal level. It couldn’t have been simply the fact that they were actors because the others were actors as well, just as it couldn’t have been their accents because they were all foreigners in the ‘Hobbits and Elf’ clique. Neither of them could work out why it was that people were drawn more to them than the others, or why the constant offers were for more than just drinks.

“We’re both geeks, man!” Elijah had laughed one evening in Bojangles when they were drinking at a corner table and skirting the subject. “Did this happen to you back home?”

“Nope. You?”

“Fuck no! But hey, it’s cool right?”

“Yeah.” Orlando had murmured as yet another androgynously gorgeous boy-man had started making eyes at him from over near the bar. Billy and Dominic were also at the bar, but the interest had clearly by-passed them, found them wanting.

Orlando wondered how long before he would be approached and how soon an offer would be made. He’d accept it. A beautiful and talented mouth could give as much pleasure, whether it belonged to a man or a woman, and a hand-job could be just as enjoyable no matter who was giving it. He was a young, healthy male in his sexual prime and he naturally reveled in physical closeness with either gender. None of the casual contacts ever demanded commitment of any kind, or seemed to expect anything in return. There were no complaints of being short-changed, and no one was getting hurt. It seemed a perfect situation for everyone.

It wasn’t even confined to nights on the town with the Hobbits. The offers came in make-up and wardrobe, in the weapons-training sessions and in the gym, and they came from both cast and crew. He rarely took them up while he was on the job, knowing instinctively that it could end up in a horrible mess in more ways than one.

Besides, he had enough on his mind, just trying to get the important stuff right.

Heeding Elijah’s advice to take any opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals, Orlando, after discovering Craig was heavily into theatre acting, had agreed to accompany him to some local productions.

Previously, the only time away from Elf-School that they’d interacted socially had been during one of the early drinking nights and Orlando had found him to be less than scintillating company. Craig didn’t drink a lot, he didn’t dance at all, and he seemed stubbornly reluctant to keep up a shouted exchange over the top of loud music. He’d withdrawn into himself, and glared at anyone and anything in his line of vision. Orlando had eventually wandered away with the Hobbits and left him to it. Craig never joined them again after that.

“You didn’t seem to be having a very good time last night.” Orlando had commented in the gym the following morning. “Did we bore you to death or something?”

“Not at all.” Craig had said easily, “I’ve never been much of a clubber, that’s about it.”

“What do you do at night then? Sleep?” Orlando grinned, indicating he thought the idea vaguely amusing. He’d wandered off without waiting for a reply.

A few days later, in the gym again, and away from work, clubs and Hobbits, they’d had their first proper conversation and Orlando had discovered he really liked the older man’s company, enjoyed his sharp observations and dry humor.

The subject had drifted again to outside interests, things that filled the evenings of someone who just wasn’t a serious clubber.

“I read,” Craig said, “Occasionally write a bit. Study the books and the Elvish stuff. I’m contemplating checking out some films and a bit of theatre while I’m here. It sort of comes under the umbrella of ‘sussing out the opposition’.”

“Theatre? Hmm. I was thinking about that myself, about seeing a production or two.”

They’d spent the rest of the gym session discussing the various forms of live performance Craig was involved in. He’d just finished ‘Amy’s View’ with the Auckland Theatre Company, and was doing ‘The Judas Kiss’ later the following year. There were ‘Theatresports’ and ‘Scared Scriptless’ commitments later next month and beyond, with the probability of a few celebrity debates and some emceeing in the interim.

“You’ve got a pretty full plate.” Orlando’s opinion of the man had skyrocketed. “Listen, let me know when you want to go see something locally. I wouldn’t mind tagging along if you don’t mind the company.”

Craig had agreed without hesitation and Orlando hoped he hadn’t done so out of mere politeness. He fully expected the offer to never actually happen, so the invitation to accompany Craig to the Circa Theatre two nights later was accepted with genuine pleasure.

They shared a taxi into the city early enough to have a quick meal before the show. From the restaurant, they wandered down Manners Street, zigzagged up Taranaki and then down Cable toward the theatre, stopping occasionally to look in store windows.

“I love shopping.” Orlando said, and Craig believed him, saw it in the almost girlish excitement over various window displays.

Craig grimaced. “I hate it myself. I treat shopping trips like guerrilla raids. Straight in, straight out, kill anyone who gets in the way and take no hostages.”

Orlando gurgled with laughter. “You’re no fun! Don’t you like any shops at all?”

“Alright,” Craig conceded, “I’ll admit to a weakness for booksellers.”

“Oh me too! And music shops, and clothes shops.”

“I bet you even like trying things on.”

“That’s the best part, isn’t it?”

“No, definitely not! Okay, Bloom, you’re let loose in a bookshop. You’ve got two minutes to grab whatever you want, no charge. What would you get?”

“Oh that’s not fair! Two minutes? Not even enough time to read the blurbs of just a couple of books!”

“Time’s running out.”

“Okay, okay. Um, a really good atlas! So many places I want to go. Ah – the biggest dictionary in the place. Some foreign language dictionaries – French, Spanish and Italian because I always wanted to be able to tell someone to 'fuck off' in as many languages as possible and they seem to be the easiest – Oh God, ah – the number one bestseller of the moment because I’d want to know what everyone else seemed to think was good reading. How much longer have I got?”

Craig was grinning hugely. “Enough for one more book.”

“God, let me think. Um – um – oh I suppose a really good vegetarian cookbook. How’s that?”

“Very impressive!”

“How about you then, smart arse? What would you get?”

“Ditto on the dictionary, and the latest one because they’re revised and new words are added every year. Ditto on the atlas. I’m really pissed off about the last one I bought. Spent a fortune on the most up to date one and a week later, the bloody Berlin wall was torn down and the USSR ceased to exist. Forget the bestsellers. I’d head for the section on new plays and grab an armful of the latest. Some modern ones are really good. You can get really sick of the usual rehashed classics. Erm – I’d probably have grabbed the biggest thesaurus I could find while I was getting the dictionary. Forget cookbooks too. Opening a bottle of wine is about the upper limit of my culinary skills. I’m just not that interested.”

“Time’s almost up. One more book.”

“Oh, probably the biggest one I could find on home-renovating. I’m going to buy a salvageable wreck one day, hopefully somewhere on the coast, and do it up.”

“Why the dictionary and the thesaurus?”

“I like words. I want to write seriously one day. You can never know too many good words.”

“Me too,” Orlando shrugged and looked slightly embarrassed by his admission. “Write I mean. I’d like to – but I doubt I’d be any good.”

“Anybody can write.”

“Yeah but some are better at it than others. Some people can fill page after page with shit loads of long words and they’re just boring. And others can use a few simple words and tell a story in half a page that makes you really think. What type are you?”
“Somewhere between the two I think.”

“What do you write about?”

Orlando was looking at him now with an intense curiosity that Craig found flattering. It was difficult not to smile, not to warm to the genuine interest.

“People I’ve met. Things I’ve seen and done. You can really only write about what you know. Every writer is really only recording stuff about themselves and their own experiences. They just tend to embroider it a bit. Add a touch of whatever terribly impressive bullshit the current market demands.”

They reached the theatre with just minutes to spare.

“As soon as you finish your first book, you can send me an autographed copy for Christmas.” Orlando said, grinning, as they bought tickets. “I’d like to read your terribly impressive bullshit.”

They sat gamefully through a play that hadn’t appealed to either of them in subject matter, although they’d agreed that the acting was reasonably good. They’d critiqued it all the way to the nearest pub, over a couple of quick drinks, and then in the taxi that stopped at Craig’s place first. He slipped the driver a twenty, and had smiled and nodded when Orlando called out, “I’ll see you in school tomorrow. Goodnight!”

The following week, they’d repeated the outing and gone to the Bats Theatre, another meal beforehand, more window cruising down Wakefield Street, an insult laden discussion about music and the comparison of the songs considered old standards – Craig’s preference – versus Orlando’s penchant for European techno.

Except for time-off to do the ‘Theatresports’ night on the weekend of the 16th and 17th, Craig remained in Wellington until the end of October. They’d all become far fitter than any of them had been in their lives, and had acquired some skills that would see them able to serve their countries well – should they ever be invaded by orcs.

A couple of days before the classes were over, he and Orlando attended the closing performance of a play at the Downstage Theatre, but had to turn down an invitation to the cast party afterwards. It was issued after Craig had been recognized by one of the theatre staff.

“What’s it like?” Orlando asked as they lingered over their usual drink, “Being recognized and pounced on?”

Craig smiled wryly.

“I don’t know. I rarely get pounced on. Occasionally recognized but that’s about all. I’m never really going to have to fear the massed paparazzi or anything.”

“I don’t know if I could handle it. Fame and everything.”

“You might have to consider it seriously one day soon.”

“Could you? Handle real fame, I mean. International stuff. This movie could make it happen.”

Craig said simply, “No.”

“Why not?”

“Too private a person. I’ve already experienced the double-edged sword. There’s that old line that ‘any publicity is good’. It’s not, trust me. Sometimes it bites hard, and hurts – it even draws blood on occasion. If it ever happened again, I’d walk away entirely.”

Orlando nodded absently. “Why would anyone do movies if they weren’t looking for fame?”

“Self gratification of sorts, I suppose. Feeding a vanity thing. A need or desire to show off.”

“Are you vain?”

“I don’t like to think I am. Are you?”

“With a hairdo like this?” Orlando snickered.

When the Mohawk appeared a couple of days before, half of the thick dark curls having been sacrificed to the razor, Craig had found it oddly jarring. A practical move, he supposed, to make the Legolas wig easier to fit. That face seemed to fascinate him more each day. The ugly hairstyle had struck him almost as an act of deliberate defilement.

Craig glanced around briefly and saw that people were looking at Orlando with interest, though if he had noticed, he gave no indication.

“It’s certainly drawing attention.”

“They’ll get over it, and they still wouldn’t have a clue who I am. I’m just a geeky nobody. I wouldn’t mind staying that way, though I think probably that won’t be possible.”

“You’re in the wrong game then, mate.”

“No, I like acting. I like turning a bunch of words into actions and making people believe in it. I was going to just stick to theatre for the most part, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

“I doubt anyone could not have grabbed at it. Quite a few of us abandoned all pretence of pride to be part of it. You’ll be fine. Just keep your head on straight.”

Regretfully, Craig looked at his watch. “We’d better drink up and get a move on.”

They drained their glasses and headed out in search of a taxi.

Orlando was genuinely sorry when Elf-School finally wound up and Craig flew north again. He’d learned soon enough via one of the other Kiwi actors that Craig was gay, and he’d waited for the inevitable offer. It never came, even over dinner and drinks, even when conversations drifted to vaguely personal things. He was surprised and relieved. It never occurred to him to wonder why Craig never propositioned him, only to enjoy the fact that he hadn’t, and to conclude that someone actually might like his company for more than just sex.

For the first few days after Craig left, Orlando missed him, missed his quiet, intelligent company, but knew the time they’d spent together had been only a series of temporary diversions from what he really enjoyed – the manic company of the Hobbits, the music and dancing, the drinking and fun on a noisier, less personal level.

And he liked the no-hassle sex probably a bit more than was good for him.

But it wasn’t a problem. After all, no one was getting hurt were they…
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