The door's half-open, and through the gap Karl can see her pacing, a flip of black, a flash of pale skin, a swathe of dull red hair. More immediate, more defining, is the whipcrack of her voice.
"No, look, I don't give a flying fuck what he said, it is not fucking OK."
It's disconcerting. The voice is Australian, but the intonation American, just a little, like she's been spending time there recently. Like that's where she's getting her anger from.
Her photos were fragile. Translucent. Something ethereal. Almost too much so, he remembers thinking, for Eowyn. She'd break amongst the hard men of Rohan. The idea had been unfortunately vivid.
The reality, it appears, is a little different.
Karl takes a breath, nudges the door open with a toe. Knocks his knuckles lightly against the doorframe.
She whips around, the venetians on the window striping her face shades of grey, the phone barely away from her mouth as she snaps, "What?"
Every line of her face - the face he had thought soft and delicate - seems carved from ice. She's nothing like his type, Karl tells himself. She's not at all the sort of woman who makes his heart pound, his mouth dry, his fingers twitch.
Problem with that is that he's never been able to narrow it down to just one "type".
"Uh." He doesn't know what to do with his hands, and that's funny, hasn't happened since he was nineteen. "Pete," he says, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.
She just stares for a moment, then twitches the phone back up to her ear. "Just no, alright? He can go fuck himself."
Karl kicks the door wider. Miranda shoulders past him.
Harry doesn't stop laughing for five minutes.
"Yeah, thanks, fuck off," Karl says, finishing his beer.
"You do it to yourself, man. What can I say?"
"Fuck off," Karl repeats.
Miranda is the sort of person who keeps lists. Karl finds this out when she has him over for dinner - "to apologise for being such a bitch; I'm sorry; I just wasn't myself, feeling displaced, you know how it is, or maybe I guess you don't; it must be so nice to be able to go home after a long day. Anyway, my place at seven?"
The difference between Miranda and Viggo, it seems, is that Miranda usually does have a point, somewhere.
Anyway, Miranda has a list on her fridge (shopping) and a list by the phone (categorised by cast, crew, service, other) and a list on the icebox in the laundry (the contents, by date purchased and use-by). She cooks from a recipe, and while the spices look like they're ordered at random, he's sure there's some intrinsic guiding principle.
"So you’re a control freak," Karl says, leaning against the sink.
She just grins, stirring things. "I'm really not."
A laugh, out loud; she doesn't seem to know how to giggle, it's all delighted grins and sincere chuckles. "I'm just organised. There's nothing wrong with it."
After dinner, they go into the living room, and Karl almost sits on a little black notebook. He flicks it open, one-handed, to page after page of neat, whiplash writing, regimented into dot-point form, and ticked off. Lists.
"Nosey," Miranda chides mildly, appropriating the notebook as she goes past.
"Incorrigible," Karl agrees.
Half an hour later, she very politely but firmly kicks him out, and the faint jangle of his disappointment coddles him all the way home.
It doesn't help, the control-freak thing. It just makes him wonder what sort of lists she has. Lists for everything, he imagines. He's almost certain she has one for "fitting in". It would have things on it like "flirt with Orlando" (check), "go riding with Viggo" (check), "form strangely relaxed but impenetrable clique with the other Aussies" (check).
Miranda takes the book everywhere, he comes to realise. It's always in her bag. She's always scribbling in it at odd moments, on set, or in the pub.
He slides into the booth beside her, sets down her beer and says, "So where am I on your list?" As over the top as he can manage, leering eyebrows and all.
She snips the book shut, drops it and the pen into her handbag. "Right at the top," she replies calmly, picking up her pint.
He laughs, but five minutes later she's leaning against his shoulder, even while talking to Dom, her hair tickling him below his ear, and Karl wonders if he's warranted a list of his own, if this is a point on a neatly laid out regimen of seduction, to be ticked off with methodic precision.
Somehow, that's incredibly sexy.
They're filming on the Meduseld soundstage, snatching five between endless takes, when Miranda turns around, says, "Oh, Karl, doing anything tomorrow? Dinner at mine?"
He's not feeling much like her brother anyway. He says, "But you haven't been a bitch lately," and grins, and when the AD calls for places, he starts to move.
Then his back hits the pillar, hard enough to make dust drift from the rafters. Her hand's on his chest with her strength and weight behind it, and honestly, weapons training for women? He's a big fan.
"Fuck you, Urban," she snarls, spitting out his name, wreathed in cold fury, and then he blinks and she's grinning. "Now will you come?"
"Sure," he says. Somewhere a hobbit's cackling ("pantsed by a girl") and he doesn't care.
Miranda isn't one of those actors who's in the job because she pretends all the time anyway, so she might as well get paid for it. There are plenty of those around. Sometimes Karl suspects he's one of them. But not Miranda. She slips into a role, slips out, like a dress. Beneath, she's unchanged, steady, the list of herself made, and enumerated, and constantly checked off. New parts added, old parts crossed off, the whole always balanced. Natural. Organised.
He isn't sure how that flash of anger, his vivid first impression of her, fits into it. Same way he isn't sure about the way she cackles with Hugo and Dave, singing in the pub and downing the beer in buckets. Or what on earth she and Liv talk about when they spend whole days shopping together. But it does all fit. Somehow. Everything fits, with her.
There's sunshine in her kitchen, this time, and she's half singing, half humming, double-checking the recipe before adding rice to the jambalaya.
"What?" she says.
"Huh?" Karl blinks from his spot by the sink. (He's out of the way, there, while being just enough in the way to not disappear.)
She lifts the spoon to taste, grins at him. "You're watching me." Apparently satisfied, she puts the lid on the pot, twiddles with heat dials.
"I can't figure you out," he admits.
Miranda laughs. "You think too much." She comes around the corner of the bench, stepping close. She tastes - lips parting before his tongue - of onion and garlic and tomato and half a teaspoon of thyme, balanced carefully, then given another tap of the jar "for good measure".
She kisses thoroughly, unhurriedly, with consideration and obvious enjoyment and a wicked nip of teeth right at the end. She has ring and little finger hooked in the belt loop of his jeans, the other three splayed over skin beneath his shirt. "We have an hour before dinner's ready," she murmurs against the line of his jaw.
"Not nearly long enough," Karl says, "for all the things on my list for you."
She laughs, a little breathless. "That's the good thing about lists. You don't have to tick everything off at once. That's rather the point."
And that... that's a very interesting idea.
The next day's Saturday, but Karl's meeting Harry for lunch, so he has to get up. He leaves Miranda grizzling into the pillow, pulling up the quilt until she's nothing but a crescent of skin, and a tangle of dull red hair. He manages to find something to kiss. She says, "Mmphft."
On his way through the kitchen, he adds his name to the list on the fridge.
A short guide to the benefits of organisation by dee
Happy Birthday to the Stephiest Penguin who ever charmingly demanded birthday fic.