Disclaimer: I don't own Orlando Bloom or any living person depicted in the story. They deserve my utmost respect.
As ever, my most loving thanks to almighty Viv, the one who makes this drabble understandable for English-speaking readers. Also thank you to all readers on MITM and Ka-Bloom, as well as Symbelmynë for their support and patience.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be shortly landing in Los Angeles International Airport. Please straighten the back of your seats and fasten your seatbelts,” said a friendly female voice over the plane’s speakers. Orlando’s eyes wandered from Zoë’s sleeping form to Verena, who was slowly waking up.
She had slept for a long part of the flight, as she always did, waking up every once in a while to check on Zoë and Orlando, work on her laptop, and try to ignore the airsickness she was prone to. The woman loathed traveling by plane, but endured it as one of the downsides of her usual line of work, and recently, her present assignment, namely him.
When Verena’s sleepy eyes focused on him and Orlando received a loving smile, he mentally corrected the last thought. He was more than an assignment to her, and she had become far more than his PR-Agent. So much had changed in the few weeks since they left Los Angeles, and now going back had a bittersweet flavor for both. Verena was returning to her usual life and Orlando was starting the shoot of “Pirates of the Caribbean” the following day. Though they hadn’t discussed it, both knew that the playground was different in LA than in London.
“Are you okay?” he asked V. Again, he was rewarded with a smile.
“I still loathe planes, but that is nothing new, is it? I am fit enough to make it home. I will wake the munchkin for the arrival …” Verena said, stretching like a cat.
“Please don’t wake her. I’ll carry her to the car and then home, that isn’t hard,” said Orlando, his hand carefully tucking an errant strand of hair away from Zoë’s forehead. The munchkin didn’t move; she was sleeping soundly.
“If you wish … I surely hope Spencer is waiting for us,” Verena replied, and began to gather, matter-of-factly, their belongings and pack them into the hand-luggage: Zoë’s books and a puzzle, his disc-man, her own laptop. She stuffed all of them into her backpack, a gesture that hinted that they all belonged together. Orlando smiled at the thought. Some of the initial awkwardness of their closer relationship had faded into a comfortable sense of belonging, that none of them, especially Zoë, seemed to find strange. It was almost as if Orlando, now as Verena’s lover and mate had been the missing part of a jigsaw puzzle which had found its original place and fitted perfectly.
When she settled for the landing, his hand stretched towards her over sleeping Zoë. Her fingers clasped his, and their hands stayed locked. It felt good.
Spencer stood, patiently waiting for the passengers to make their way through customs and passport control. He couldn't deny that he was worried about his friend and boss, Verena, but he knew he'd feel better after he saw her safe. Especially after her ordeal in London. Again, he made a mental note to do something nasty to Lord Jeffrey Thornton-Summers whenever they crossed paths again. And he knew that would meet the stupid fool again. Being in the same business made the world incredibly small.
V’s voice had sounded well on the phone. In fact, there had been some calm and cheerful undertone to it he hadn’t heard in years, if ever. He needed her to be alright.
Stepping from one foot to the other, he looked towards the baggage claim area, his eyes searching for her, Zoë or Orlando.
After most of the passengers left, all three appeared in the connecting door. Verena was busily putting the passports away, and Orlando held a sleeping Zoë, whose arms were looped around his neck. As Verena struggled to organize the papers in her bag, Orlando settled a light hand on her waist. The gesture was intimate, possessive. He leaned over and spoke into her ear; she smiled up at him.
In that moment Spencer knew that something had changed. And though he was instinctively happy for Verena, he felt his heart break.
He'd had a crush on V for as long as he'd known her, and always respected the line she had drawn between them, settling for her unconditional friendship. But somewhere deep inside he had held on to the hope that maybe, some day, she would see him as something more as her assistant and her trusted friend.
As a professional photographer he read the body language between Orlando and Verena like an open book.
The ease, the almost imperceptible touches between them as they were doing something as ordinary as gathering luggage, told him about shared intimacy, trust and caring.
Plastering a smile on his face, Spencer waved at them the exact moment that Verena caught sight of him. Her face lit up, easing his misery a bit. He waved his press-ID at the security guard and walked into the baggage claim hall, towards Verena and Orlando.
“Hey gorgeous!” he said to Verena, who walked towards him and embraced him. Orlando stayed back carrying Zoë, keeping an eye on the luggage.
“I missed you, Spence!” V said. While she embraced him and he returned her hug, Verena felt secure and it was almost as if her life hadn’t been turned upside down in the past crazy weeks.
“Same here, V,” Spencer replied and held her a bit closer.
Orlando viewed that embrace from a distance and felt a pang of jealousy. Although he knew for sure that there had never been anything between Spence and V, seeing them hug still made Orlando feel weird. He waited uncomfortably for them to part and walk back toward him.
Spencer gave Orlando’s right hand a firm shake. “Welcome back, Orlando!”
Orlando smiled brightly at him. “Good to see you, mate!”
The American grinned back. “Yeah, I knew you would appreciate your own driver and suitcase carrier”, he replied, getting a luggage cart and loading it.
While Orlando and Spence chatted easily; Verena slipped her jacket over her sleeping daughter and walked along in relative silence. Once they reached the airport exit, she took a deep breath.
She was home.
They arrived at Verena’s house and Spencer left quickly, after discussing appointments for the next day with Verena.
Orlando, meanwhile, had carried Zoë up and put her to bed. Once he was done, he returned to the ground floor, looking for Verena.
She was in the kitchen, fixing tea for them. He walked up from behind and set his hands on both sides of her, caging her against the counter.
She leant back into him, sighing in contentment. “When exactly did I get so very accustomed to you, Mr. Bloom?” she said.
“I don’t know, Miss Devereaux, but I don’t complain, as long as you keep me around,” he grinned, starting to lightly nuzzle her neck.
“I should be careful, you are truly addictive,” she sighed, enjoying his closeness.
“I am harmless, love. Believe me!” he said and turned her around in his arms so that she was facing him.
“Actually, there should be a warning sign around you: “Do not let him charm you into useless infatuation …” V joked.
“Useless? I can think of a couple of uses for myself …But right now I was thinking along the lines of going to bed and sleep … or else” Orlando replied.
“I do like the sound of ‘else’, kid, but I am beat,” said Verena, and she yawned to emphasize her point.
“So I shall reserve the else for later and we can just have a cup of tea and turn in. What do you think?” sighed Orlando, pulling her closer.
“Sounds blissful, Orlando. And you feel blissful too,” she whispered and kissed him.
Orlando returned her kiss, and then slowly withdrew from her embrace. “I think we better stop and have some tea or … else.”
Verena laughed. She could definitely not get enough of Orlando in her life. And the thought was terribly tempting.
The next day breakfast was a bit rushed, since Zoë had insisted on preparing Orlando's breakfast all by herself, and both Orlando and V were racing between shower and bedroom, trying to get ready for the day.
They had overslept, and while Orlando’s drive to the site of Pirates was to arrive any minute, Verena was making last minute adjustments to the day’s schedule.
“I’ll be going to the set around lunch, Orlando. Else you can find me through the cell phone …” she said as she slipped into a pair of jeans. She pulled her hair back into a quick clasp with one hand and pressed some keys on her laptop with the other.
Orlando changed direction in his race to the bathroom for a final tooth-brushing and ended up pulling Verena away from the PC and embracing her. “Don’t mention ‘else’ love. I still have quite nice memories of last night’s ‘else’… and you wouldn’t want me to get distracted right now, would you?”
Verena laughed, dropped a quick peck on his nose, then managed to disentangle herself from his arms.
“Naughty boy. Now go, get ready and just don’t forget that I’ll be going to the set not to see you, conceited youngster, but to fall into adoration of my teenage crush …”
Orlando looked at her in mock outrage. “Johnny? You had a crush on him? “
Verena laughed harder. “You bet, I was swooning after him by the time you were in elementary school, kiddo.”
“You are trying to make me jealous?” he asked and caught her again, against the wall.
“Not at all, honey. Just telling the truth. And emphasizing the fact that I am old enough to be your … aunt?” V replied.
“Isn’t it great that I like my woman just the way she is?” he commented and attacked the sensitive skin of her neck.
Rita called from downstairs. “Orlando, your ride is here!”
“Blast it! We’ll finish this tonight, right?” he breathed into her ear.
“Absolutely, kiddo,” V said, out of breath. Goosebumps rose on her skin.
"Be good," he said, and with a quick kiss he was off.
Verena stayed against the wall, gathering her breath and trying to remember what to do next.
Spencer arrived some time later, and after cuddling a while with Zoë, he and Verena went back to her studio to work.
They went together through the newspaper snippets about Orlando that had appeared in the past weeks, and also discussed the internet ratings. Orlando was skyrocketing in the preference from females between 13 and 40 years of age.
For the next part, his filming schedule for ‘Pirates’ and the public appearances and junkets for ‘The Two Towers’ were clashing in many dates, but with a lot of effort they would be able to cover most of them.
“Thank God ‘The Calcium Kid’ is a minor movie … else we would have to find Orlando’s long lost identical triplets somewhere to make this work …” commented Spencer.
“Still, I am worried that this might be too much. The ‘Pirates’-schedule is a killer,” Verena replied, reviewing the dates in her head.
Spencer observed V, wondering if he should approach the subject and find out how very close indeed she and Orlando had become. He had to know, but at the same time, he didn't want to.
“George asked me to tell you that she needs to see you as soon as possible,” he commented.
Verena leant back into her chair and closed her eyes, sighing. “Does she know about what happened in London?”
“The exhibit thing? I told her about the breakdown, but that you had recovered quickly. I didn’t tell her about the moving out and back in at Orlando’s, or that he was the one who took care of you after the breakdown.” He paused. “I thought that it was better if you told her whatever details you want her to know.”
“So you think she’d have my kidneys for getting involved with the subject?” she replied, opening her eyes and fixing her gaze on her most trusted friend.
Spencer sighed again. ”I am sure she will. But then, she loves you and is your friend besides being your agent. Is everything alright between Orlando and you?”
Verena didn’t reply for a couple of minutes, as if pondering what to say.
“I think that we are fine together. The question is for how long and if I shouldn’t break it up before it goes even further …”
"I didn’t want to pry, V. But I am here if you need to talk about it,” Spencer said. The images of V and Orlando together filled his mind, but he forced them away.
Verena smiled at him. “There isn’t anybody else I would trust more than you, Spence. But I might just be entering the process of becoming paranoid.”
“What is the problem?” he asked.
“Orlando and I are in love, Spence that is the problem,” she answered.
“That is not a problem.” he told her, forcing a light, humorous tone to his voice.
“The fact is, Spence is that I am not sure what exactly is going one between us,” she said and paused again. ”I don’t know where this might lead. If we are just having an affair, it is great, but I don’t want Zoë to set her hopes on him and be heartbroken when this is over.”
“And if it isn’t an affair?” Spence asked.
“Then, things are even worse. This can’t be for real, Spence. He is young, starting out his career, getting his new wings and conquering the world. The last thing he needs is to have his name associated to a single mom who is way older and bitterer and leads a complicated life. The scandal could be a fatal blow to his career. And we know the stats: any actor who isn't attached to another celebrity has ratings drop. Until he gets his own spot in the business, we have to take good care of his image. He has talent, but he needs more opportunities to prove it,” Verena explained, as matter-of-factly as if they were discussing angles and planes of animal photographs on a contact sheet. But her eyes belied her voice.
“Verena, this is utter nonsense. You are a great woman and any man fortunate enough to be loved by you …” started Spencer.
“Don’t, Spence. You know I am right. I have thought this carefully. He deserves to have a couple of years enjoying the spotlight, find himself a beautiful young woman to marry and get his own children. I don’t belong in that picture,” she said firmly.
“So what do you intend to do?” he asked softly. Probably she wasn’t aware of the spiel of emotions in her own face. She was so very much in love with the guy that she’d cut her own hand if she had to, to ensure his happiness.
“I’ll wait until the contract is fulfilled, and then we will both move on,” she explained.
“Aren’t you even going to discuss this with him?”
“Nope. I handle his PR, remember? I am paid to know what is best for him and his career. And that is what I am doing.”
“V, you can’t do this … you love him,” insisted Spencer.
“You bet I do. But that isn’t a part of the contract.”
Then she stood up and smiled sadly at her friend. “I should go to George’s office. The best way to take a bitter medicine is to get through with it as fast as possible.”