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a cunning plan

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Richard was the first one to notice and truth be told, he wasn’t very surprised by what he discovered. He’d seen the way they always seemed to gravitate towards each other, even from the very beginning, though back then the air around them told nothing more than friendship – a deep friendship, yes, but a friendship nonetheless.

He can remember meeting Aidan first; big smile and long curly hair resting just atop his shoulders. He can remember every moment of their first chat because if he didn’t know any better he’d say Aidan was made of something completely different than anyone else. If he was feeling particularly cheesy about it, he might even say that thing was sunshine.

Richard was already friends with Aidan when Dean took over the part of Fili after Rob left, and sat smiling beside James and Graham when Aidan and Dean shook hands and immediately clicked.

In fact, he’s been sitting quietly for himself watching the two of them bond for a very long time; they often sat together, the lot of them, but Aidan and Dean always seemed to step into a world of their own whenever they were together. The others didn’t mind much, they liked Aidan and they liked Dean, and they liked them together – always joking and up to mischief and tricks.

Richard was watching them right now – not in a creepy way – they were all at a restaurant in Wellington, Friday evening, chugging down cheap beer and pizza. Aidan and Dean were sitting beside each other on one side of the table, directly opposite of Richard (and James, Graham and Ian), laughing at things only they find funny, sitting well into each other’s personal space.

That was the moment Richard suspects there might be more going on between them and ponders on whether or not he should tell James and ask him if he can see it too, which he had no doubt he did since they’re being quite obvious. But he chose to take another moment to watch them, discreetly, just to make sure that he hadn’t got it wrong.

He took a bite of his pizza and sipped at his glass of coke (he doesn’t like beer), keeping one eye on the pair in front of him. A tiny smile tugged at his lips when he saw their friendly banter, the way Aidan’s face went all soft when he was looking at a Dean whose mind was elsewhere for a moment.

He caught the way Dean’s gaze locked in on Aidan’s face when Aidan’s attention was drawn towards one of his other cast mates, the soft smile that played on his lips when Aidan laughed and slapped his thigh because the joke Graham just told over the table was so hilarious.

It didn’t take too long before their attention were drawn back to each other though, and that’s when Richard decided to nudge the Irishman next to him to see if he thinks the same.

“James,” he said under his breath, eyes locked on the slice of pizza he’s cutting into little pieces in lack of anything else to do, and luckily for him James catches the hint and whispers back.

“Aye?”

“Aidan and Dean,” Richard muttered and put a piece of pizza into his mouth.

“The lovebirds?” James sniggered and leant back in his chair before he discreetly leaned closer to Richard, “I don’t think they know yet.”

Richard nodded and fought down a grin. Trust James to know, he knows everything. “Should we give them a push?” he asked and raised one eyebrow at the man next to him.

James took a moment to look at the pair and Richard did the same. They’re sitting huddled together now – closer than they were just a mere minute ago, and Richard sighed. “Blind as bats,” he muttered and gave a fond shake of his head.

“They’ve been at it for months,” James slurred, low enough so that only Richard could hear. “It’s gettin’ rather annoying, really.”

All it takes is one look, Richard turns back towards the Irishman with both eyebrows raised and James immediately nods. They shake hands under the table and make hushed plans on how to get the Kiwi and the Irish man-child to realize their feelings for each other.

After all, it’s rather obvious to the rest of the cast, or so Richard thought. He decides to ask James about it, since he’s the go-to guy when someone wants to know something.

“Does the rest of the guys know?” he asks, to which Nesbitt shakes his head exasperatedly.

“One woulda thought, aye, but no, haven’t heard a word.”

Richard frowned, thinking they’d have to be blind too not to see something as obvious as the two guys, who are the loudest and most hyper of the gang, so head over heels for one another. It was a miracle.

“When do we start?” he whispered back to James after a while, when the laughter had died down and most of them were quite merry and a bit drowsy from the beer and wine.

James grinned and knocked back the rest of his beer, “Monday mornin’? Plan out somethin’ clever o’er the weekend.”

Richard nodded, smiled and brought his glass (of red wine, now) up in the air to join the others’.

“CHEERS!”

*

Having had the whole weekend – in which they reshot a few scenes with the green screen – Richard felt nothing short of excited when he made his way over to the make-up trailer to get his prosthetics on.

As he walked, none other than his cunning accomplice, James Nesbitt, came into step alongside of him and told him what he’d come up with so far – it was, after all, tricky business this whole getting two people together and all. They certainly didn’t want to mess anything up, though they both sincerely doubted that would ever happen.

“I think we should lock ‘em both in a closet and not let them out until they kiss,” James said in his thick Irish accent, looking rather confident in his plan.

Richard shook his head, “Don’t you think we should maybe start with something a bit more … subtle than that?” he wouldn’t want them both to freak out, no, he thought the best would be to make them think that it was their own idea. Dean and Aidan were both pretty stubborn guys so whacking them in the head and tell them right on might make them deny the whole thing and then Richard and James wouldn’t get anywhere.

“Aye, just tuggin’ yer tail,” James laughed and nudged Richard with his elbow. “I was thinkin’ somethin’ more like-,”

And then James proceeded to tell Richard the basic outline of his plan, which took about thirty minutes - he’d obviously spent a fair amount of time on it. Richard approved endlessly, it was certainly better than his own which had been something along the line of hanging up mistletoes around the set, or maybe ask them probing questions about each other, but since it was only early October and the asking thing would only make them suspicious and uncomfortable, he felt he couldn’t do any of that.

Now, James’ plan was a bit more creative, though further away from the subtle side than Richard would’ve liked – Richard was a fan of subtlety, but even he had to admit that these boys needed less-subtle and more head-on.

James’ plan came in three steps which he told Richard all about on their way to prosthetics while they were in make-up and as got their costumes put on. Again, it was a fairly excessive plan that needed to be executed perfectly and Richard knew James had always had an eye for detail, so the amount of thought he’d put into it was hardly a surprise.

The first step was pretty easy, Richard thought, which was to separate the boys from each other, and the way they were going to do that sounded simple as well. James had also managed to drag Graham McTavish, Ian McKellen and Mark Hadlow in on it too, and they all had their parts to play.

What needed to happen was basically that each of their respective three accomplices would take turn steering the boys away from each other, talk to them, ask them to come over here and check this out, Aidan whilst one of the other would go like Dean, this is amazing, you hafta see it. Or something of the sort, the main idea was to get them away from each other and maybe get some detail out of them.

Richard smiled to himself and really couldn’t wait to see this plan out.

-

Later that day on set, they finally had enough time to set the plan into motion – it was lunch break, they were on location and they all knew Aidan and Dean liked to spend their breaks together, huddled close under a tree, or on a big rock, always a couple yards away from the others.

The five of them – Richard, James, Graham, Ian and Mark – stood by the craft-service table and tried to look busy as they watched the subjects (that’s what they called them since some discreetness had to be had about this whole affair) walk over, shoulders brushing and laughing about something or other.

As soon as they’d filled their plates – it was steak and mashed potatoes for dinner today, and it was truly marvelous, actually – they all busied themselves, trying to look like they were in deep conversation as they followed the boys’ movements like eagles on a hunt, James hawked and nodded once, eyes locked on Graham.

Graham nodded back and called out for them, “Oi, lads, hold up one minute!” he trotted after them, putting one heavy hand (he was in costume) on Aidan’s shoulder and though the four left couldn’t hear what he said, they knew every word coming out of his mouth by heart,

Aidan, I was wonderin’ ‘bout somethin’, could we have a chat in private for just a wee minute?

Aidan nodded and their hearts nearly broke in half at the apologetic smile he sent Dean. He nodded to Graham and put a hand on Dean’s shoulder, promising to be right back.

James nodded to the rest of the guys, “Aye, lads, Aidan is off, now you,” he said and pointed at Ian, who perked up immediately, “Are off to chat Dean up. If you can, try to get him to talk about Aidan.”

“About what, exactly?” Ian asked, because he hadn’t been as extendedly briefed as the others.

“Everything,” Richard threw in, “Anything at all.”

Ian cleared his throat and nodded to himself before he sauntered over to Dean, his grey wizard-cloak flapping dramatically in the wind behind him, who was sitting alone by one of the tables set up.

“This is rather exciting,” Mark said suddenly, jerking both Richard and James out of their concentrated state of trying to catch a few words of what Ian said to Dean.

They heard something about a fruit-salad coming from Ian, which was all too ironic, really, making all three of them cover up their sniggers.

“First step in motion,” James muttered to himself and gestured for Mark and Richard to come with him over to the table beside Dean and Ian’s. They wanted to hear every word. As soon as they sat down and followed the conversation, it seemed more fun to sit down and bend blades of grass for the next hour because all Ian asked about was fruit and some weird books (one of which was Brokeback Mountain) and movies only he had heard about.

“Is it just me, or is Ian talking strictly about gay stuff?” Mark leaned in after a while – they’d just heard Ian talk a whole lot about Elton John and his recent discovery of Matt Dallas being gay, I was a big fan of Kyle XY before it was cancelled. What a shame, it was a marvelous show.

James frowned, “Is-is he tryin’ to drop subtle hints here, because lemme tell ya, they ain’t that subtle.”

“Well, he does talk a whole lot about that sorta thing to begin with,” Mark said, “But even I would’ve started thinkin’ after a conversation like that.”

Richard only laughed silently to himself and took a brief look at Dean’s face; he had his eyebrows lightly furrowed, but he was listening intently to everything Ian had to say. For a moment it looked like he’d just come to a realization, but then his expression changed again, but Richard took that as a tiny victory – hopefully they’d gotten Dean to think.

After another ten minutes, Aidan and Graham came sauntering over. Ian saw them and sent Dean a quick smile before taking his tray of food over to join Richard and the others. Richard paid close attention to both Aidan and Dean’s faces as they sat back together again; they sent each other smiles and immediately went back into their little own world where it was just the two of them.

Richard sighed and shook his head fondly at them – the first step of the plan hadn’t had any affect yet, but he had a feeling it might in the next few days.

“Oh bloody hell,” Ian muttered as he sat down next to James. “I have no idea what I’ve been talking about for the last ten minutes,” he appeared distressed for a moment, but then he too looked across the table at Aidan and Dean; his face immediately softened and a tiny smile formed his lips.

James laughed, “You did good, now we just need to take it up a notch.”

They all nodded and agreed, though their spirits weren’t as high as they’d been fifteen minutes ago; they’d barely accomplished anything at all.

-

The first step of the plan continued over several days in which they tried their best to keep them from each other for as long as they could, but Aidan and Dean caught on quickly and slipped out of their hold more often than not. Trying to stick to a plan was hard business when their targets were as hard to pin down as those two.

Eventually, James and Mark grew impatient – Richard would’ve liked to try a bit harder first – and it was only four days after the plan had started that they went on to step number two (or the emergency step as James called it), which was to make them jealous and possessive.

They all thought this was where they’d succeed, after all, they’d put much time, thought and energy into this; they’d be damned if it fell apart or didn’t work at all.

“You,” James said and pointed a finger at Richard. “You’ve got the bigger part in this. You’re going to hover over one of them a lot. A whole lot.” He spoke hurriedly and without taking breaths where he should – he was the one most eager for this plan to work as it had been his plan from the start.

“Which of them?” Richard asked.

“Uh, that’s up to you, the one you think prettiest,” James answered and couldn’t keep himself from wagging his eyebrows at his younger co-star before composing himself again - this was very important. “You make moves at Dean, or Aidan, whatever you’re comfortable with, and make sure the other sees.”

Richard nodded, it sounded simple enough and he was an actor after all. “Alright.”

They stood in a circle and looked at one another for a few moments before all eyes eventually landed on Richard. “What – now?” he asked.

“Aye, ya numpty!” James hissed and shoved him in the direction of Dean, who was standing by the espresso machine in the cafeteria (where they were all standing too at the moment) tapping his iphone.

Richard steeled himself and walked over, he had no previous experience of flirting with men and had honestly no idea what to say or do, but tried his best to act natural and not make it obvious that he was up to something.

“Hello, Dean,” he said and smiled, positioning himself right next to him.

“Hullo, Richard,” Dean grinned back and pocketed his phone. “Anything I can help you with?”

“Yeah,” Richard said, gnawing at his lips as he tried to come up with something, anything at all. “How, eh, how’re you doing?” he ended up asking and mentally cursed himself for the awkwardness of this situation.

Dean’s smile didn’t falter, fortunately, “I’m doin’ good, mate.”

“It’s good to see you getting on so well with everybody, you know, considering,” he said and referred to the fact that Dean had gotten the part for Fili about a month into their dwarf training; most of the cast had already bonded by then.

“Yeah, I was lucky there,” Dean grinned, shrugging.

“You and Aidan seem to get along really great,” Richard offered and inched a little bit closer so their shoulders were touching. He realized that it only had to look like they were flirting, as Aidan wouldn’t hear what he said when he eventually came in.

The smile on Dean’s face softened immediately at the mention of Aidan’s name. “Yeah, he’s – he’s awesome,” he said and it sounded both fond and wistful and Richard barely managed to squish his urge to knock his head against the wall – those two were denser than a bag of bricks.

Richard was just about to add something when he felt Dean perking up beside him at the sound of the doors opening, none other than Aidan Turner walking in. Richard leaned a little closer to Dean and kept his eyes trained on a stain on the floor next to his left shoe.

He saw Aidan stop for a moment before he continued walking, probably wondering what the hell Richard was doing so well into Dean’s personal space.

“Hey-,”

“Hello, Aidan, I was just about to go,” Richard interrupted and sent them both a smile, putting a hand on their shoulders. “Nice chatting, Dean. See you both later,” he said before he walked away as quickly as he dared so it wouldn’t look weird or suspicious, back to the rest of his “team”.

“How’d it go,” he asked when he reached them, desperately hoping this worked, at least somewhat, because he didnn’t think he’d be able to pull something like that off again without it being even more awkward.

James was smiling, so he took that as a step in the right direction. “Ya shoulda seen Aidan’s face!” he whispered and the others made sounds of agreement and nodded. “He stopped short when he saw you and I swear to god, I could practically hear his frown,” James added and grinned even wider, happy that his plan was working.

They all turned back one by one to take a quick look at Aidan and Dean to see what’s happening and they had to stop themselves from bumping fists and jump in the air because Aidan had tossed an arm over Dean’s shoulder and their entire sides were plastered against each other.

“Aidan is the possessive type,” Mark muttered and they all laughed.

“Yeah, hate to see – no, I’d love to see what he woulda done to you if you’d been standin’ closer, Richard,” James said and they all chuckled over that one too except Richard who narrowed his eyes because he knows that Aidan is a fit guy who’d probably be able knock him out if he wished – not that he thought Aidan would do that; he was as harmless as a baby otter despite how mean he managed to look when he really wanted to.

“Next step?” Ian asked, to which both James and Richard shook their heads.

“P’raps we should wait a few days and see,” James explained and they all agreed as Aidan and Dean was standing closer than they’d ever done and looked unable to keep their eyes off each other.

“Alright,” Ian said and then they all went to fetch their food since it was lunch break and they’d spent half of it already doing what most people would think them crazy for.

-

Two days later and Aidan and Dean weren’t a couple yet. They were all growing rather annoyed, James more than any since this was all his plan, and had nearly run out of ideas to make them “possessive over each other – make Aidan jealous, seemed to work fine the other day :) as it said in James’ notebook.

Richard didn’t want to chat up Dean again in fear of what Dean might start thinking of him and it wasn’t even possible to get one of them alone anymore since after the Richard-incident as they’d started calling it – Dean and Aidan weren’t ever alone anymore.

“Should we call Cate and get her in on it?” Graham suggested one day during one of their shorter breaks during filming. They were in one of the sound-stages in Wellington working with the green screen.

“She won’t be here for another two weeks,” Richard said distractedly, staring at the boys who stood on the other side of the room, Aidan full-body-laughing at something Dean had said.

Graham grumbled beside him, “Then what should we do?” he tossed his arms out to the sides and muttered something that sounded an awful lot like “bloody sods” under his breath. Richard couldn’t help but agree.

“How ‘bout we lock ‘em in a closet, then?” James suggested, “No, that wouldn’t work,” he answered himself before any of the others could and sighed, long and agonized.

“We could-,” Richard started, but stopped as soon as he looked over at Dean and Aidan, “-mother of God.”

“Wha’?” Graham asked and followed Richard’s gaze. “-I’ll be damned.”

Both Mark and James (Ian was elsewhere at the moment) looked up, frowning, until they saw it too.

“Is this really happening?” Mark muttered, awe in his voice. The others nodded numbly.

“Aye,” James said.

Aidan and Dean were holding hands, trading kisses and smiling at each other and doing other romantic and couple-y things. “How did this happen?” Richard whispered, “Was it us? Did we do it?” he looked at the others and saw the twinkle in their eyes, especially James who looked like a child who’s cunning plan had gone exactly as it should.

Just as they were all about to do a group-five, none other than Dean and Aidan wandered over, still hand in hand and stood before them, both wearing part-nervous, part-giddy grins.

“Guys,” Aidan said and pushed some of Kili’s hair away from his face – they were both in costume. “I know it must come as a surprise to you, but-,”

Poor Aidan didn’t get any further than that before James more or less shouted, “Yer a couple?!”

Aidan stammered for a bit before he nodded, albeit unsurely.

Graham was the first to come back to his senses again, “Congratulations, lads! How long, eh-,”

“About a month,” Dean said and Aidan nodded, though he still looked like he wasn’t at all sure what was really happening here.

They gave their best wishes and congratulations whilst trying to push down the disappointment that came with the knowledge that their plan had done absolutely nothing at all. It had all been a big waste of time; literally days they wouldn’t get back.

Richard smiled at his ‘nephews’ and gave a fond shake of his head. “You boys,” he huffed and put a hand on both their cheeks. “I’m happy for you,” he grinned just as they were told to get back to their marks.

“Cheers,” Aidan said and dragged Dean with him back to where they were ordered to stand.

“Unbelievable,” he muttered to himself and couldn’t help but think that he should’ve known sooner – how much time he’d have saved if this plan had never come to be, although it was most fun, it really was.

It had been particularly hilarious watching James’ face as it dawned on him that his plan had been for nothing.

“Sods,” he said - mostly directed at himself and James.