A Glass Of Red
Miranda is standing awkwardly in a corner of Peter and Fran's garden in Wellington, clutching a bottle of beer that Karl handed her. The beer's already gone warm, and she had no intention of drinking it even when Karl pressed it into her hands, but it's something to hold onto, and she's a little afraid that if she doesn't hold onto something, she's going to flee in absolute terror. Peter and Fran have thrown a party, a welcome-to-New-Zealand sort of deal, and Miranda's there because she's supposed to be, but she'd really just like to go back to her flat and hide until she has to start shooting in two days. She's met Karl already, large and quiet and utterly gorgeous, and Bernard, who reminds her of her father, and Dominic, who she already can tell will go out of his way to make her laugh. No one else she really needs to know.
Surrounded by men, she thinks. Eowyn already. There's Fran and Phillippa, of course, and Liv and Cate and a whole host of extras she supposes she could get chummy with, but frankly, she'd rather hide behind a flowering tree, stare at her coworkers, and pour her beer onto the ground somewhere it won't kill plants. She can see Karl leaning close to Orlando, their dark heads nearly touching as Karl's lips move and Orlando nods in agreement, his eyes trained on Karl's face and glittering with a predatory gleam. She can see the hobbits, all in a companionable pack already, on the porch, laughing raucously and jeering, apparently, at Elijah. All of them in groups and pairs, and Miranda, hiding behind the shed. Story of her life.
She has just finished pouring her beer out, watching it foam and disappear into the dirt at her feet, when she hears footsteps and looks up, finding herself face to face with a laughing Cate with two glasses of wine in her hands. "Don't go killing all Fran's plants," Cate says. "Even if Karl's beer is utter shite, as I heard our Mr. Bloom tell him earlier this evening."
Miranda blushes; she's always blushing, and she can't help it. She hates it, but she's blushed rabidly since she was small, and it doesn't seem to be something she's going to grow out of. Unfortunately. "Ah, I didn't mean to. It'd just gone warm, and I didn't want ..."
"Don't worry, love. Sir Ian just poured his own out in the herb garden and swore me to secrecy. Here, take this." She extends her left hand; Miranda can smell the white wine from where she stands, and it's intoxicating. Cate is intoxicating herself. Miranda's seen all the cast members stand next to her and try not to gape in awe. It's hard not to gape at such a stunning woman. She avoids gaping by staring at her feet.
"No," she says. "I actually thought I'd go." She realizes how rude she sounds, when Cate has been nothing but lovely and kind to everyone, and tries to backtrack over her own words. "Oh, I didn't mean … I mean, I'm just not so good at these things, and it's all so odd, and there are so many men. For an actress, I'm absolute crap at all this socializing." Miranda is rooted to the spot with the empty beer bottle clutched in her hand tightly, as all that spills out of her mouth unbidden. She can feel the lip of the glass cutting into her palm and she wants to look anywhere but at Cate. The noise of the conversations in the garden is rising and falling in the background of their scene, a placid adagio of sound that doesn't include her. She tries to slow the beating of her heart to match the hum of conversation and tries not to search every space in the garden for a quick escape route.
She finally looks back up at Cate, standing patiently with two glasses of wine and watching her. "Let's start over," Cate says. "I'm Cate."
"I know," says Miranda automatically, and claps the hand that's not still wrapped around the beer bottle over her mouth. "I'm sorry," she says through her fingers, feeling monumentally stupid. "I'm sorry. I'm just so awful at this, and you're famous, and I know we're all in this together, but I just can't help but feel awkward, and a little sorry for myself, and more than a bit thick at this point."
"Here," Cate says again, extending the wine glass. "Hide that bottle behind the shed and take this, please. I did bring it over for you."
Miranda does as she's told, and she forces herself to face Cate directly. Cate's sipping her wine and has turned, watching their cast mates mill about the yard. Miranda takes a step toward her, and watches where Cate watches, their shoulders bumping casually. Miranda feels a shiver down her spine at the touch and squashes it down firmly. The silence is almost not awkward.
"This is the point," Cate says casually, her voice clear above the racket of the party, "where you can watch all the attachments start to happen. It's the best time to decide who's going to end up shagging whom and stay out of their way. One or two might turn into relationships, but they're more likely just to be agreements. New Zealand is, after all, a long way from the rest of the world, and from prying eyes." She gestures at the yard. "And with a gorgeous cast like this, attachments are more than likely."
Miranda follows her finger as she points out various potential pairings. "Karl and Orlando, that's a given." Miranda can nod at that; she'd thought of it herself. She'd thought maybe Orlando and Stuart, as well, but no - Stuart's not Orlando's type, or maybe vice versa. She watches the two dark heads, still bent together in their own world. A given, Cate said. Yes. "And there," Cate says, nudging Miranda's view towards the hobbits. "Dominic and Billy together, most likely, and Elijah with anyone who can't say no to those big blue eyes."
"And Sean?" Miranda asks, utterly curious. Cate has a sharp eye for social maneuvering; Miranda knows she'd do best to listen and watch, because she'd hate to stumble into the middle of something she didn't know existed.
"I'd have wagered he'd play Sam to Elijah's Frodo in real life before I met him," Cate says. "But he's not the sort; straight as an arrow, and Christine here with him on top of it. He's not a factor in the equation of cast and crew liaisons." Cate turns away from the garden and looks at Miranda. The sun has set, and her eyes are dark, thrown partly into shadows by the trees around them.
Miranda swallows hard, her mouth dry, and takes a sip of her wine. It's fruity and clear and cool, and suddenly she has an image of licking it from the hollows of Cate's collarbone floating past her eyes. As though Cate can read her mind, she reaches out and puts her hand on Miranda's elbow, tugging her closer. Their foreheads touching, Miranda is afraid to take her eyes off Cate's face, and Cate smiles at her. Not a predatory smile, like Orlando smiles at Karl, but a sly one nonetheless. "Anyone else?" Miranda says faintly.
"If you're willing to confine yourself to one person," Cate breathes. "What would you say to an agreement of our own?"
Miranda thinks briefly about white wine poured across pale skin, and her response is so obvious she doesn't bother to say anything at all. Cate's lips taste like wine and promises.