Just Another Day's Work

by P. R. Zed

It had been just another day's work, you tell yourself. A day like any other.

You'd had an early call, gone through makeup and wardrobe. Shot your scenes before lunch. Shot reverse angles after lunch. Much like any other day on a movie set.

But it had not been any other day.

Today had been your death scene.

Not that you haven't died on film before. Sometimes it seems that you do nothing but die on screen, portraying an endless parade of villains, shot, stabbed and bludgeoned.

But none of those deaths had been like this one.

None of those deaths had been mourned. Not like Boromir's death had been mourned by Aragorn. Not like your death had been mourned by Viggo.

It was stupid, really, being so upset by make believe, by shadows and illusions. But somehow you can't shake the melancholy that had seeped into your bones.

Tonight, you'd eaten dinner with the rest of the cast at the hotel, but escaped as soon as the bill was paid. Alone, you'd wandered down one of the three streets in this tiny hamlet till you found yourself at the water's edge.

Now, you sit slouched on a decrepit park bench by the wharf, hands jammed into pockets, shoulders hunched against the chill that's creeping into the air as the sun sinks behind the mountains. A part of your mind notices the beauty of the sunset, the still of the evening settling around you, but you're too distracted to pay full attention, to live in the moment. Like he does.

Then he's behind you, rough hands massaging your shoulders.

You don't know how you know it's him and not Orli. Not 'Lij or one of the other hobbits. But you know.

Neither of you speak. He gives your shoulders one last squeeze, then sits down beside you, his knee brushing your thigh, the lightest of touches.

You both sit, silent, as the sun dips completely behind the mountains and the stars begin to come out, more stars than you can remember having seen for years. Maybe ever.

After a time that might be forever or no time at all, he speaks.

"You all right?" His voice is quiet, rough. Hesitant.

You struggle to find your voice, but it's deserted you. Instead, you nod, a curt motion that you hope hides the storm of emotion roiling inside you.

"Okay," he says, but you don't know what he means. Does he take your gesture at face value? Does he see the turmoil that Aragorn caused? That he's caused?

You shift restlessly on the bench, suddenly wishing you had the words to explain what you're feeling. Wish you even understood what you're feeling. But words are his realm, not yours.

He doesn't speak again, but reaches out and wraps an arm around your waist, pulls you close enough that you can feel the warmth of his body. You tense for a moment, surprised at the contact, but your body accepts it before your mind does. Your muscles relax, a soundless sigh escaping your lips.

You sit like that for the longest time, until the last light of the sun has faded in the west and the Milky Way stretches out above you.

A wordless complaint sounds in your throat when he finally does move, lets the hand around your waist fall and stands in front of you. You sit up straight, straining towards him, struggling to see his expression in the faint light of the stars. Then he does it. Touches your face, like Aragorn touched Boromir. Kisses your forehead, like Aragorn kissed Boromir.

"I'll be back at the hotel," he says, then he's gone, footsteps gradually fading to nothing behind you.

And you know. You know what's on offer: anything. Everything.

You wonder if Boromir ever had the courage to take what Aragorn might have offered. You wonder if you have the courage to follow Viggo now, to make sure that it really wasn't just another day's work.

And in the meantime, you sit in the dark, frozen by the winter that has settled over your soul, wondering if spring will ever come again.


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