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Smoke by dee
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If he was going to be honest about where it all began, he'd have to take it back to a night, staggering home at one in the morning, just the two of them because the others had gone somewhere else. Who knew where. They didn't have the rhythm yet, didn't have that feel, because they'd only just arrived, really. All the length of Middle Earth stretched before them still, and they were just getting over the first aches of the training. Just getting over the rubbing edges of each other. Just getting to know.

"Jesus, it's fucking freezing!" Orlando declared, bumping into him as they stumbled over a gutter, laughing loudly in the late-night hush of the city. It was cold; each syllable was painted in the air with whitened puffs, drifting from his lips. "What time of year is this to be this bloody cold? It's sodding August."

"Exactly," Elijah noted, third time lucky on lighting his cigarette. "It's winter, idiot."

"Fuck that," Orlando declared, dismissing the hemisphere difference with a wave of his hand. He screwed up his face. "Bugger; I'm freezing, pissed and starving. I could murder a curry."

Elijah squinted at the street sign on the corner they were approaching. "I know something better," he said. "Just down there."

The place was called Max's, run by a middle-aged Lebenese man of the same name, just a caravan in the corner of a parking lot that opened late and closed later. It catered to taxi-drivers, university students, and any other detritus that happened to float past in the small hours. Such as two drunken actors, washed up on the order counter.

"What do I want?" Orlando asked rhetorically, squinting at the menu chalked on the wall.

"I'll tell you what you want," Elijah stated. There was an ice-cream container half-full of sand by his foot, and he stubbed out his cigarette in it, left it there beside a dozen other butts. "What's the soup today, Max?"

"Chicken," Max replied, looking over his glasses at them. "Who's your friend?"

"Gonna be an elf," Orlando told him, wide-eyed and serious.

"We'll have two. Large," Elijah butted in, and elbowed Orlando off the counter.

The soup came in large styrofoam cups, steaming viciously in the cold air. It was smooth and creamy, all thick, hot grease and pepper. They ate as they walked, with small plastic spoons that couldn't quite get the last dribble out of the bottom of the cup, no matter how much they tilted and scraped.

Finished, Orlando licked his lips, slam-dunked the cup into a bin as they passed it. "That was perfect."

Elijah grinned at him. "Yeah."

Not that he realised at the time that something had started. But it had. Had started in that moment of Orlando stuffing his hands into his pockets and grinning up at the night sky with his laugh crystallising on his lips in frosted white. Because that was when Orlando first crept under his skin, insidious like smoke. Elijah had seen some fire safety video once that showed how smoke could kill before the flames ever got to you. It seeped under the door and through the cracks, just wisps and trickles, and then thickened, darkened, filled everything, until you woke up choking.

It took the smoke months to fill him, and he woke up choking on a day like any other. Just going around to Orlando's house, just to visit, just because. They watched TV, talked shit, thought about going out, going somewhere, but never quite made it. Sometimes there were others there, another stop on the neverending social circuit that was the movie. Not today. Today it was just him and Orlando, drinking crap New Zealand beer that was still better than crap American beer, and channel-surfing.

Coming back from the bathroom, Elijah had noticed it. "What the fuck did you to do your wall?" he called, running a finger over the mark in the plaster.

"Corridor soccer," the answer floated back.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to play games in the house?" Elijah re-entered the living room, caught the beer Orlando tossed in his direction as he settled back on the couch. He pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, started looking for his lighter.

"You are not smoking that thing in here." Orlando's order was quick as a flash. He never even turned from the TV, and Elijah grinned.

"Fine, fine, I'll go outside." He took his beer and cigarette, opened the front door. "You going to come and talk to me?"

"I don't talk to people with filthy habits," Orlando called from the comfort of the couch.

Elijah laughed, lit up as the phone started to ring. He took a seat on the second step down, grinning as he listened to Orlando curse, thud across the room to get the phone. Man had the grace of an elephant sometimes. He couldn't see Legolas making that much noise. Then again, he had trouble imagining Legolas sprawled inelegantly on the sofa, wearing a torn t-shirt and tracksuit pants, toting beer and remote.

In the background, he could hear Orlando answering the phone, talking quietly. Not quietly enough. With the acoustics of his house, Elijah could still hear every word. Not that he was paying attention. Not until a familiar name jolted him. Viggo. He opened his mouth to call to Orlando and tell him to say hi for him.

"Screw calm. You're just about calm enough for both of us. What happened last night?"

And then he decided to shut the fuck up and get back to his cigarette.

"I noticed."

He was trying not to listen.

"Again. So what was it this time; a sudden burning need to colour-code your socks?"

Trying not to listen.

"Forget it. So, it's just...?"

Elijah turned his head slightly, cigarette burning down between the fingers of his hand rested on the top step. Flicked his tongue along his bottom lip like he could taste the bitterness of Orlando's tone. Listened to his voice get louder until Elijah didn't have to concentrate to hear it any more.

"You're going to say what I think you're going to say, aren't you? Viggo?"

There were kids playing just down the street, and the TV was still going, but Elijah couldn't hear anything but Orlando's voice, distant down the corridor and through a door, but right next to him anyway. Right inside him.

"Fuck. A break? That's... that's sodding bullshit is what that is, Viggo."

Elijah turned away, hunched slightly, remembered his cigarette that was more ash than not now.

"Both of us? You're making it sound like we have a relationship or something. What's so draining for you? All you do it show up in the middle of the night and not even make it to the bedroom before you fuck me so hard it leaves a bloody dent in the wall."

Someone should really tell Orlando about this, how you could sit on the front steps and hear every word he said on the phone, even the whispered ones, even the ones that you so desperately didn't want to hear that your palms itched to cover your ears.

Someone should have told him already.

Too late now.

Elijah stared straight ahead, raising the cigarette to his lips with shaking fingers.

And inhaled. Smoke in his lungs, transferring into his bloodstream, where it had always been. After he exhaled, he could still feel it there, slick in his veins, coating his throat, caught between his teeth.

He remembered that feeling, the morning on the tiny hotel balcony off Orlando's room. And that memory led relentlessly back to the click of the phone, and the vicious stream of Orlando's cursing. Elijah had been amazed at how vividly he could see him in his mind, leaning against the kitchen counter. He could see the muscles flex and give over his shoulder blades, shifting under the t-shirt, as he lowered his head, grimaced, directed his teeth-grit invective at his bare feet.

Heavy tread across the floor, and even when Elijah knew Orlando was standing in the doorway above and behind him, he didn't look away from the kids playing cricket in the street. He never could figure out the damn appeal of that game.

"Who was that?" he asked quietly.

"Viggo," Orlando answered. "Wanted to know if he left something here."

"Oh." And he couldn't help himself. "Did he?"

There came a shriek from the game, arms thrown in the air. Elijah had no idea why. Orlando's voice was measured, behind him. "I don't know. I'll look later."

Elijah stood, took the last drag of his cigarette before flicking the butt away, into the garden. He turned, grinned up at Orlando, at him leaning in the doorway with a forearm braced against each side of the doorframe. "All finished; can I come back in now?"

"Littering bastard," Orlando grumbled, but stepped aside to allow him back in the house.

On Orlando's balcony, a month and a world away from that memory, Elijah remembered that cigarette. Remembered its feel between his fingers, against his lips, the smoke in his lungs. He was dying for a cigarette. Going slowly mad.

But he didn't have a cigarette, so he took another mouthful of black coffee, and chewed on a fingernail, bouncing his knee against the railings of the balcony as he watched the sun rise. It was beautiful, creeping upwards in a slow, slinking burn. It oozed slowly over the horizon like smoke. It was beautiful, and he wanted a cigarette.

It'd be easy to go and get one - his room was just down the hall. Easy and impossible. So he watched the beautiful sunrise and tried to think about other things. Beautiful things that didn't involve smoke.

Like that night in Viggo's caravan. No smoke there, just silence and breathing and shadow, thick and tangible. Viggo just another pattern of dark and darker facing Elijah across the narrow space.

"Elijah." And his voice was darker, deeper, rougher around the edges of an accent Elijah felt at home with, and all that and more made him flinch at the sound of his name in the dark. Viggo noticed, somehow, and there was distance in his voice. "You don't want to be here."

"No." Elijah stepped forward, reached, found skin under his hands, warm and unfamiliar. "No, I do want to be here."

He wanted to explain, but couldn't, really, not even to himself, so he simply leaned forward.

Viggo's mouth on his was like a breath of fresh air.

And he was still dying for a cigarette when the alarm went off in the room behind him, cut off abruptly in the smack of a palm against plastic. A groan, muffled by the mostly-closed glass door, drawn curtains between the room and the balcony where he stood. A groan and shifting sheets, and then, quiet but distinct, Orlando's voice. "Fuck." The thud of his feet hitting the floor. He really did have the grace of an elephant, sometimes. But it was hard to imagine Legolas waking up, groggy and haggard.

Even harder to imagine Legolas sweat-sheened and exhausted, eyes closed, gasping, sprawled awkwardly in a tangle of sheets and legs.

It was the most beautiful thing Elijah had ever seen, though.

He finished his coffee, the last mouthful of dregs, cold and bitter, and set the cup on the balcony table with a clink. There was silence for an instant, and then three quick, light steps, almost inaudible, and the curtain was yanked aside. Orlando appeared in the gap, looking out at him. Elijah looked back.

"You're here."

The sun was fully up, now, and it gilded Orlando, made him glow in warm earth tones that Elijah's eyes followed along the line of Orlando's shoulder. He'd looked up over that shoulder clutched tight against him, looked up and seen other eyes full of surprise and regret and relief and permission and want and understanding and farewell. He'd looked at Viggo and held Orlando against him and he'd made a promise.

He'd made a promise.

He looked up, met Orlando's eyes. "Yes," he answered. "I'm here."

* * * * *

There were times when Elijah felt himself still, felt the world turning, his life shifting, coalescing into meaning, like patterns in smoke, blown away again in an instant.

There were times, like now. Now, lying on his back in the dunes, watching the sun set over the beach. Now, with Orlando beside him, arm stretched over his stomach and leg cast over his thigh and the others God knows where in the deepening dusk. He can hear them now and then, shrieks and laughter and swearing. If he rolls over slightly, he can face Orlando, just like this, and from there it's an easy matter to kiss him.

Orlando pulls back after a moment with a grimace. "You taste like a fucking smoker."

"What a coincidence." Elijah laughs.

Orlando grins, running his hands up Elijah's back. "You know what I mean. You should give it up. It's bad for you, anyway."

Bad for him? Maybe. But the smoke was in his veins, he was soaked with it. He'd let it in, embraced it willingly, allowed it to take over. You never really gave it up. Sometimes... sometimes you needed some fresh air, just a taste. But the smoke, that was what powered you.

He can't explain that, though. So he simply leans forward.

If he was going to be honest about where it all ended, he'd have to take it back to a night, any night, any day, with Orlando's saliva on his tongue. It ended with every kiss. But it began, as well.

Because Orlando's mouth on his was like that. Insidious. Dangerous. Intoxicating.

Like smoke.