It started, as it always did, with Bean leaving Bloom an obnoxious phone message. It ended, as it always did, with Kate in a fury.
It was the middle bit that went differently this time.
He was flipping through the channels looking for an action movie where he wasn’t playing a villain who died horribly when he stumbled onto the pre-show for the Golden Globes.
Sean’s brain froze for a second—bloody hell, is that what I’m in LA for?—before it kicked back into gear. His agent, scatterbrained as she might be, wasn’t going to forget to remind him to attend one of the biggest award ceremonies of the season if he was supposed to be there while he was in LA. He rechecked his itinerary: studio meetings, costume fittings, diction classes. Nope, no award ceremonies. Sean began scanning the crowds. He’d be very surprised not to see his agent somewhere in the background rubbing elbows with the Versace and Valentino-clad A-list.
Sean shrugged his shoulders and reached for another beer. He much preferred watching the ceremony from the air conditioned comfort of his room to being stuffed into a tuxedo and paraded in front of the camera like a trained monkey. Award ceremonies and trips down the red carpet weren’t his cup of tea, anyway. The only person he knew who really enjoyed them any more was Orlando Bloom, Hollywood Golden Boy, and that was because he was young, good looking, and not quite seasoned enough to recognize exercises in futility for what they were.
Sean’s eyes flickered back to the television in time to see Joan Rivers drag Orlando from the red carpet to ask him some questions. Sean didn’t even try to fight off his grin as he watched Orlando try to be polite to the completely batty American. His friend’s enthusiastic ramblings—about the event, his next project, who he was wearing, what his favorite color was, whatever—were impossible to hear over the screams of the crowd.
Sean leaned closer to the telly. There—just before the camera flipped to the Hollywood starlet behind him—Sean caught a look that was definitely not for television audiences. Loneliness stared out from behind the surface of Orlando’s brown eyes.
Sean’s job when he had been on set was to get Orlando good and drunk when homesickness kicked in, and even the Dom-and-Billy Show couldn’t make him crack a smile. Of course, once word had spread about what a lightweight Orlando was when it came to alcohol the rest of the cast had been more than happy to pitch in with this diversion, but Sean still felt that he had first claim for this particular form of Bloom therapy.
A feral grin split his face as he thought back to nights in New Zealand, Morocco, and Mexico. A drunken Bloom, after all, was a first-rate form of entertainment.
Sean reached for the phone, dialed Orlando’s cell number, left an incredibly rude message and waited gleefully for the fallout.
He didn’t have to wait very long. His cell phone rang barely five minutes later.
Sean smiled. “Orlando!” he replied. “Knickers in a twist?”
“For the record, Bean, there’s no way you spotted red lacy knickers coming out of my tux. I’m not wearing anything at all under my tux,” the voice in his phone retorted.
Sean waited a few beats for Orlando to realize what he just said. “Shit!” Orlando said. “If that ends up as a quote in Entertainment Weekly, I’ll never forgive you.”
“Oh, you’ll forgive me,” Sean said.
“Really? Why would I do that?”
“Because the drinks are on me tonight,” Sean said.
“Oh, isn’t that big of you?” Orlando asked. “I’m headed to the after-parties once I finish this thing and all the drinks there are free. Besides, you’re home now, aren’t you?”
“If you define home as a hotel room in LA, then sure,” Sean replied. He moved the phone away from his ear just in time. Orlando’s triumphant whoop was almost deafening.
“That’s brill, man!”
“What’d you say to a couple beers after you make your rounds?”
“I say that sounds about right.”
“I know you gotta go. That crazy American says the ceremony’s starting in a few minutes,” Sean said. “Just wanted to say Kate looks terrific tonight—saw her walk down the red carpet a few moments ago.”
“Doesn’t she, though? I think The Aviator’s going to come up big tonight,” Orlando replied.
Sean blinked at the phone, then laughed. “Oh, not Blanchett, you daft bugger. Your Kate,” he said.
There was a pause from Orlando. Sean’s brain connected Orlando’s look on the red carpet with this new information in a click that was practically audible.
False laughter flowed through his phone. “That was dumb,” Orlando said. “I’ll let her know you said so. See you after the ceremony?”
“Looking forward to it,” Sean said. “For you I’ll even put my trousers back on.”
He was rewarded with some genuine laughter as they hung up.
He was just about to call when Orlando came lurching out the door with his tux jacket open, his tie askew, and his arms gesturing expansively as he bounced off of Johnny Depp, who was looking entirely too amused. Sean got out of the car, lips curling up at the sight, and Orlando spotted him.
“Beanie!” Orlando shouted, and launched himself at him, a puppy-like tangle of arms and legs and Gucci. Sean grinned over Orlando’s shoulder at Johnny, who smirked back. “How many drinks?” Sean mouthed, pointing at Orlando. Johnny held up four fingers and rolled his eyes.
“I’m going back inside now, Orlando,” Johnny said. “See you at the Oscars, okay?”
“Fuck it!” Orlando crowed.
"Right," Johnny said, coming over and ruffling Orlando's hair. "Fuck it all." He stubbed out his cigarette and walked back inside the hotel, avoiding the gaze of the slender blonde actress paused in the doorway. She looked at Orlando, who was talking to Sean at a thousand miles an hour about nothing at all, then lit her cigarette and turned away.
"Fuck it all," Sean echoed, staring at her. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
Orlando didn't stop chattering about the ceremony ("millions of people tuning in to watch, mate, incredible. Convinced I was gonna wet myself live on international television.") or about the stars ("Leonardo DiCaprio's kinda a prick in person, Bean, did you know that? No one told me that.") as Sean drove around looking for a pub. He didn't want to go to a real dive, but one trying to be a dive would be perfect.
He tuned back into what Orlando was saying--something about Kate Winslet’s breasts—and grinned. “The shine still hasn’t worn off of Hollywood for you yet, has it?” he asked.
Orlando stopped talking. “Some of it’s gone,” he said quietly. He looked out the window and pointed. “That’s a good bar. Elijah took me there when I was in town for Pirates. Very low key.”
“Boyd’s it is, then,” Sean said, smiling a little at the name as he turned into the parking lot. Orlando shrugged off his tux jacket and tossed it into the back of the car. “It's not a black-tie sort of place,” he said, and followed Sean inside.
They took a couple of stools at the far side of the bar and Sean ordered the round of pints that had begun dozens of similar evenings out.
Although Orlando had been chatty in the car, he clammed up once they got settled inside, doodling lines in the condensation on his beer and fiddling with his rings.
Sean let him stew through the first round, and ordered a second as soon as Orlando’s glass was emptied. Halfway through it, Sean nudged Orlando’s shoulder. “Not going to sleep on me, are you?” he asked.
“I dunno, you make a good pillow?” Orlando asked, poking him in the ribs.
Sean chuckled, but eyed him over his glass. “So?”
“I’ve no right complaining,” Orlando began. “I’m a working actor. I’ve gone from drama school straight to the A-list. I was just a presenter at the fucking Golden Globes.”
“And the sexiest bachelor in the world, according to People,” Sean added, watching him closely.
Orlando chuckled, a brittle sound. “Look at me, I’m dating Sandra Dee,” he said, not lifting his eyes from their study of the bottom of his pint.
“Hollywood’s Golden Couple, the Younger,” Sean said. “But even Jen and Brad came to splits.”
Orlando nodded slowly and took a deep breath. “This isn't working. There's more to me than the face airbrushed on the front of fucking Seventeen magazine. I can’t be the perfect boyfriend who’s there for all the important milestones because I won’t be the guy who can’t remember what movie he’s shooting or what country he’s in. I won’t be a fucking movie star who forgets who my true friends are.” He finished his beer with a grimace.
“And that, Bean, has become a real fucking problem.”
Sean nodded, feeling the ghosts of old, half-remembered arguments. “Aye, that’s how it goes,” he said, draining his mug. The two men sat in silence for a moment. “I think this conversation has turned somewhere that needs more than a few pints to fix,” Sean said. He looked around and lowered his voice. “And fewer ears to hear.”
He left a handful of bills next to their empty glasses as Orlando turned a slide off the stool into a loose-limbed stretch. He ended with a tired run of his hand through his curling hair and flashed Sean a quick smile, one that didn't reach his eyes. “Your place, then?” he asked.
“Nice,” he said, fingers running across smooth fabric and tasteful furnishings. Sean snorted and headed for the fridge.
“Some studio’s paying for it, and I’m sure they’d be pleased to know you approve of the décor,” he said over his shoulder. “Best thing about it, though?”
“Free booze?” Orlando asked.
Sean tossed him a miniature bottle of Jameson’s. “Really good free booze,” he corrected.
Orlando kicked off his shoes and plopped cross-legged onto the sofa, knocking back a good swig of whiskey. Sean watched Orlando’s long fingers work the knot on his tie, tugging the silk out and tossing it haphazardly away. It slithered across the bedspread before falling to the ground, and Sean suddenly felt the need for much more drink.
He pounded back his own bottle, then poured another whiskey over ice and joined Orlando on the sofa. Orlando was glaring at his bottle.
"Problems, Mr. Bloom?" Sean asked lazily.
"Tiny bottles are a fucking tease, Bean," Orlando complained, shaking it. "I only got three decent sips out of it and now it's gone."
"Well, there's another where it came from," Sean said. "Go and fetch yourself some more."
Orlando stuck his lower lip out. "The fridge is far away and I'm con-, compor, um, happy here," he said, unbuttoning his shirt and snuggling deeper into the sofa. He looked optimistically at Sean's glass.
"Pout and flash, lad?" Sean shook his head. "Right, good to know you're playing your old friend like a bird." He got up, though, grabbed a handful of the small bottles and deposited them in Orlando's lap.
“Bitty bottles of boozy bliss!” Orlando babbled, picking out a Smirnoff and tossing it back with a sigh.
“At the risk of sounding like your mother, are you going to talk to me, or just sit there drinking your new little friends?” Sean asked.
Orlando turned and looked him in the eyes for the first time since the bar, and the pain Sean saw in his bleary eyes hit him like a punch to the gut. Orlando looked back into his lap.
“I thought it was working. I thought we were working. Thought we were happy. Until suddenly she wasn’t anymore,” he said, rolling a bottle of Bacardi between his fingers. “And that seems to be the end of it.”
He lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. “What do you say to that?”
“Ah, fuck, Orlando,” Sean breathed, scrubbing his hands through his hair. “You’re talking to the man with three divorces and still no fucking clue.”
Orlando leaned into Sean’s shoulder.
“Being alone fucking sucks, doesn’t it?”
Sean sighed. “It really fucking does.” If he were Viggo, he could kiss the top of Orlando’s head, rub his back until he fell asleep. Every one of the hobbits would kiss and cuddle Orlando in this state and not feel this least shame in doing it. Sean sat there like a lump and felt helpless.
Then he felt Orlando’s warm breath on the crook of his neck, smelled Orlando’s spicy cologne, noticed how Orlando’s shirt had come untucked from his trousers. The idea whirling through his brain, that the dark curl of hair tucked around Orlando’s ear was just begging to be touched, had to be a combination of jet lag and not enough liquor. Sean swirled the last of his drink and listened to the ice tap at the glass before tossing it back. He set the remains down, careful not to dislodge Orlando.
After a few minutes, as Orlando’s breath evened out, Sean reached to move the rest of the little bottles away, but Orlando’s hand caught at his wet fingers and held them. “I don’t want to be alone,” Orlando whispered.
It was the easiest thing in the world to just turn his head and brush his lips against Orlando's. A tiny part of Sean's brain screamed that he was a mostly straight man who shouldn't be kissing one of his mates. The rest of his brain was being deprived of oxygen as the blood rushed to different parts of his body and offered no opinion.
Orlando tasted like the hazy mix of too many different drinks, but his mouth opened under Sean's, deepening the kiss. It was messy, all nipping and need. Sean leaned into him, pressing Orlando further into the couch. Orlando licked and bit Sean's collarbone, working his way up Sean's neck to nibble at his earlobe. Orlando's hands were inside Sean's shirt and running up his chest when Sean finally broke away, gasping. He looked over at Orlando and asked, "You sure?"
Orlando ran a hand through his hair. "Afraid I'm so plastered I don't know I'm kissing a bloke? Or I'm going to go out of my tree like Brad did when he woke up next to Eric in Morocco?" He ran his hands down Sean's shirt, slowly unbuttoning it. He kissed a wet track down Sean's chest and looked up. "I'm quite sure of who I'm kissing," he said, and began fumbling with Sean's belt.
But will you regret it tomorrow? Sean held Orlando's hands with one of his own, stilling their progress. Sean's cock sent a strongly worded protest up to his brain, but Sean didn't want a five-year friendship to end over a night of drunken debauchery. He tipped Orlando's chin up with his thumb and tried to focus his eyes on Orlando's glazed brown ones. He was momentarily distracted by Orlando's eyelashes before managing to stutter out, "Morocco rules?"
Following Brad's spectacular tantrum early in the Troy filming, the rest of the cast had come up with a set of rules that would forgive certain behavior for the rest of shooting. Under the Morocco rules, anything that happened as a result of a bet, more alcohol than they could remember drinking, or Sheffield United beating Man U (Sean's personal addition) could be justified.
Orlando pinched his mouth like he had just bitten a lemon. "Fuck Morocco, mate." He pulled his hands free of Sean's grasp and unzipped Sean's trousers. His long fingers began tracing patterns up and down, and it was suddenly very difficult for Sean to follow the flow of the conversation. Orlando flashed Sean a wicked smile. "New Zealand rules, if anything," he said.
Sean looked confused. "There weren't any rules in New Zealand," he said. Orlando dragged Sean's shirt off of his right shoulder and nipped at the Fellowship tattoo he found there before his mouth began a slow journey south. "Exactly," he replied.
"Is that the fucking SpongeBob Squarepants theme song?" he tried to ask, but he refused to lift his head from the pillow. The sound he made was more, "Izza fuckin' SpongeBob zuh?" Orlando made no response, but bolted, completely naked, towards the toilet where he was noisily sick.
Sean felt like he was hosting an entire marching band in his head, and the tiny voice singing about a pineapple under the sea wasn't helping matters. As the person seemed intent on getting a response, calling back every three minutes, and Orlando had taken up permanent residence in the lav, Sean finally pulled himself out of bed and began searching for the mobile phone.
Moving slowly and opening his eyes as little as possible, he retrieved the phone from where it had been kicked under the couch the night before. He flipped it open and didn't even have a chance to say hello before a loud, angry American female voice began chewing his head off. Sean winced and held the phone far from his ear, but he still caught a few choice words, mostly profanity.
"Kate?” he finally interrupted. The voice stopped. “It's Sean, Kate,” he continued. “Orlando's feeling a bit out of sorts at the moment and can't get to the phone.” As if hearing his name, Orlando emerged from the loo, a white towel around his hips. Hair mussed, eyes heavy, lips swollen, he looked like a man who had been properly fucked the night before. Sean let a small smirk momentarily play across his lips. Which was true. He held the phone out and mouthed “Kate” across the room.
Orlando, looking panicked, shook his head rapidly, then grabbed his temples and moaned. If Sean's own head hadn't been threatening to split in half, he would have laughed at Orlando's pain. Kate's voice, shrill through the phone, caught his attention again. “I'll certainly tell him to ring you back, love,” he said, slapping the phone closed before Kate could respond.
He turned to Orlando and raised an eyebrow.
"Is she in a bit of a strop?" Orlando asked, leaning against the doorjamb.
"You could say that," Sean replied. "You could also say the sun's a little on the warm side, Lord of the Rings was mildly successful at the box office, and it's a bit difficult to get across London during rush hour."
"Shit." Orlando leaned his head against the cool wood of the door. "Normal state of things these days, though."
Sean sighed. "It's not like it's ever been any different the other times we've hit the town together. You leaving right now, then? Or should I call room service and see if tea and eggs can cure hangovers?" He tossed the cell phone towards Orlando, who missed catching it. "You can tell me why you have the most annoying phone ring in history."
Orlando smiled, a quick upturn of the lips. "The phone ring is because Dom is a wanker, nicked the phone at a pub and won't tell me how to fix it." He ran his hand through his hair. "And food sounds like a good idea."
He glanced at the phone on the floor with trepidation. "Not like she's not gonna to be completely pissed at me anyway. Leaving now or an hour from now won't make much of a difference."
Sean walked towards the phone. "Might as well face it on a full stomach, mate."
But because the middle bit went differently, when Bloom left Bean, despite his splitting headache and his solemn vow to never mix liquors again, his smile was real and reached his eyes. A night that Kate would later describe as “debauched” had brought back the old Bloom.
And Bean couldn't be buggered to feel guilty about it.