It was fate. If there was one thing you were desperate to avoid, it would toy with you just long enough to torture you, and then it would happen, full-speed, no time for thought, at the worst possible time.
There were only the three of them in the cafeteria. And a multitude of catering staff, even a string quartet, but the point was that there were no other members of cast and crew, no other person who could act as a buffer for the explosion that had been waiting to occur. Viggo had been listening to it tick all week. As soon as he realised it - two steps in the door when two sets of eyes looked up at him, moving in graceful unison - something clicked into place inside him. Expectation realised, relief, a deep inexplicable calm.
They were sitting together in that they were sharing the same table, different shades of blonde wigs. But Orlando was sitting half turned away from the table, one leg bent, foot propped on the other knee. After initially catching his eye, Miranda concentrated on her food again, pushing pasta around her plate, taking a careful mouthful.
He crossed the floor, feeling fey. Feeling the seconds ticking past, feeling the sand trickle through the hourglass. A few metres from the table, Viggo greeted them. Orlando first - he owed him that much - and then Miranda.
Miranda didn't even look up. He hadn't thought she would. She'd said all she needed to. They both knew where she stood.
But Orlando... he was young and brash. Vibrant and full of drama. He leaned back in his chair, pushed his plate away from him. Narrowed contact-blue eyes. "Hey Vig." Exaggeratedly casual - Orlando was never that cool. The calm before the storm.
Take a deep breath. "Orlando --"
Cut off by British accent and a sweeping gesture with one arm, taking in the table. "Won't you have a seat?"
Of course it'd been planned. Staged. There were two seats left at the table, opposite corners. Next to Orlando, opposite Miranda. Or vice versa.
Viggo didn't feel like playing along. "No, I don't think I will."
It was unnerving having this conversation with Legolas. He might have been able to manage it with Orlando. But then again, did he really know the man any better than the elf?
"Come on, Vig." Leaned back in his chair again, relaxed indolence, but his voice and eyes were wound tight, and that's what Viggo saw. Saw as he said: "You have to make a decision some time."
There was a muscle ticking low in Orlando's jaw, and that's the man, not the elf. Viggo found himself fixated by it, watching the irregular pulse under the skin. But time was ticking past, one second at a time, second after second of their lives, and he should have done this long ago.
Fuck, but he should have done it so long ago.
So he didn't regret it when he raised his eyes to elf-blue again. He had to make a decision. "I already have."
Time hung, and then came crashing around them. Fragmented, splintered. There was Orlando shouting - "Fuck you!" - and the slap of the door as Viggo followed him from the cafeteria; the sound of broken crockery, nothing but silence from Miranda, and the string quartet played on.
The world - the facade - they'd built for themselves shattered apart, like an hourglass swept off the table, shattered on tiles in a fountain of glass and sand and time.
See the grains fall.
Orlando came into his kitchen in the usual flurry of energy, bodily contact and consumer goods. Viggo spared him an arm and a brief kiss, his attention on frying onions. It didn't worry Orlando, who turned away to dump shopping bags on the bench. "What's cooking, good looking?" he quipped, laughed at himself. Viggo didn't answer, and Orlando was already rustling in his shopping bags. "I got some wine." He slid past behind Viggo, pressed a swift kiss to the back of his neck. "I'll just pop it in the fridge."
"There's still half a bottle from the weekend," Viggo noted absently, as the onions sizzled.
Fridge noises, and Orlando mused: "Hmm... wonder if it's still any good." The sound of a cork, and Viggo didn't need to look to know that Orlando was taking a sip straight out of the bottle. Probably more like a mouthful. "Still drinkable," he declared, and set the bottle on the bench.
Viggo added the rest of the vegetables to the frying pan. When he turned around, Orlando was sitting on the bench, watching him. Viggo smiled. "Can you pass me the herbs? No, the other bottle. Yeah, that one."
Orlando handed him the bottle, kicking his legs idly. He had that thoughtful expression on his face. Viggo turned back to his cooking, and waited.
He didn't have to wait long. "Vig, where were you on Sunday?"
Viggo set the herbs down, put the lid back on. "Sunday?" he repeated.
"Yeah. I tried calling you all day. Even came past to see if you were just lost in your studio or something."
He stared at the contents of the frying pan. "Oh, I was out. Around. Getting lost."
There was a moment too long before Orlando's laugh. "Typical. Maybe I should put you on a leash."
They drank the weekend's wine with dinner. Orlando couldn't stay, because he was filming early. Viggo didn't stay either. He waited half an hour after Orlando left, then dialled a number he knew by heart.
"You don't have to ask," she told him. "That's why I gave you a key, stupid."
But she knew why he had to ask.
She knew why he couldn't sleep, even in bed beside her, her hair spread across his shoulder. She rose with a sigh in pre-dawn grey chill. Dragged both him and the quilt out onto her back veranda where there was an old sofa. They curled under the quilt together, but didn't touch, and watched the sun rise.
When the world was teetering on the edge of full light, she said: "If we continue on like this, someone's going to get hurt."
He looked at her, gloriously gilded, and after a moment she turned to meet his gaze. "And it isn't going to be you or me," she continued.
He went back to his house before going to the set. The empty bottle of wine was still sitting on the table. When Viggo dropped it in the bin, it shattered.
Really, uncertainty ended the day she showed up on his doorstep. Sunday, sunny day, sunny smile, sun hat with her hair mostly pinned up under it. When he opened the door, she turned from watching the world, turned quick to smile at him, her hands in the back pockets of her jeans and a few stray locks of hair swinging around her neck. He saw that - the way her hair curled under her ear, against her throat - and he knew how the day would end. All that was left were the details.
"Viggo." Almost as if she were expecting someone else, was pleased with him. Smiled her crooked smile. "I'm not letting you moulder away inside today."
Someone else might have said that to him, but it was still early. She'd got in first. "I wasn't going to."
She grabbed his hand, but hesitated. "You have plans?"
"No." He stepped out of the house, closer to her. Inside, the phone started to ring, and he pulled the door closed behind him. Left himself outside in the sun. "Too beautiful not to enjoy."
She had a picnic basket in her car and knew the way to a beautiful little cove on the coast. They had to clamber over rocks, but eventually it was just them, surrounding rocks, a small patch of sand and endless sky and ocean. Tiny little cove, more rocks than beach, and when they had sex it was with him sitting on the shelf of rock, and her straddling his lap, his hands sliding up her back and her arched throat under his tongue.
Before that they stood together in the surf, ankle-to-knee deep, and he buried his hands in her loose, gorgeous, wind-whipped hair, even as he buried his tongue in her mouth. Her hands were chill against his neck, tucked into the small of his back. Her lips tasted of salt. He licked them clean, replaced sea-salt with that of his own saliva. She whimpered, arched against him, tilted her head to slant her tongue along his. Kissed him like there was nothing else in the world.
Before that they lay on either side of the picnic blanket, sipping the last of the wine. They'd run out of words. Or rather, words had ceased to be necessary to fill the gap. Sometimes he looked at her, or the sea, or the rocks. Sometimes she looked at him, or the sand, or her hands.
"You always look intrigued with the world," she said, smoothing a hand over his forehead.
"I am," he responded, and smiled. Leaned up, and pushed her hat back, off her head. "I like your hair loose," he said.
She smiled. "So do I." She took half the pins, he took the others.
Before that they ate the picnic she'd brought. Cold chicken with some honey soy marinade. Ham and cold roast beef. Coleslaw and salad and grated carrots with raisins. Ambrosia salad with mandarin, coconut and marshmallow, sticky and not too sweet.
"Did you make all this?" he asked, licking his fingers clean.
She laughed. "Not a morsel."
Afterwards, in comfortable-uncomfortable sprawling, too spent to even shift off the rock jabbing him in the back, he held her close in his arms, his face in her hair, his lips at her ear as he whispered: "Miranda."
She whispered back: "Yes."
"Cut. Thank you; that's just what I wanted. Good night, everyone."
The others - most of them - were waiting at the side of the set. "You didn't have to stay up too," Viggo pointed out.
"But we wanted to," Orlando declared, stood close next to him.
Truth was, Viggo was too tired, too out of it, to interact with anyone. Karl was saying something now, David was disagreeing. Miranda was looking at him, and then away, pretending not to. Viggo looked at the floor, closed his eyes. Rubbed at the back of his neck. Wondered how long before he could step away, go home.
When he opened his eyes, he could see feet. Orlando's, close to his own. Dave and Karl. And those were Miranda's. Obvious, they stood out. Miranda's feet in delicate sandals.
"Look, Pete!" Viggo blinked, looked up, and Karl was dragging Dave away, chasing the director.
Looked back, and just the three of them now. Some strange triangle.
"It was a good scene," Miranda said, tossed her hair over her shoulder. Pale and beautiful.
"Yes," Viggo agreed, looking in her eyes, but only for a moment. Beside him, Orlando enthused.
Miranda smiled, checked her watch absently. "I should be going. It's getting late."
She walked away, and Viggo watched her go, until an arm was slung around his waist, and his attention pulled down to amused brown eyes.
"Take you home and put you to bed, filthy human?"
Viggo ran a hand through his hair, dropped his arm over Orlando's shoulder. "Please." Wishing it could be that easy.
When they finally got back to his place, Viggo collapsed on the bed. Orlando fussed about, grumbling good-naturedly as he rolled him under the covers. Crawled in beside him, long limbs draped over him. Comfortable, the way Orlando's head fit under his chin, Viggo's arm under his neck, Orlando pressed against his side.
Despite his exhaustion, he lay awake long after Orlando fell asleep.
She lay on the bed. He stood at the foot. Light fell past him, swamped her, cast his shadow in silhouette across her. "You know we can't." His voice sounded rough.
"I know." Hers sounded worse. Half-strangled. She twisted on the bed, her clothes in disarray, but it wasn't his fault; he hadn't touched her.
He hadn't touched her.
She was touching herself.
Half-unbuttoned blouse, and her hands pushed up her torso, baring her ribcage as she arched on the bed. Now smoothing back down, over her hips, down to the hem of her skirt, already rucked up around her thighs.
He took a step backwards, as she pulled her skirt higher. Took another step back. But he stopped in the doorway, couldn't take another step. Couldn't take his eyes off her as she slid against the sheets, legs parting, fingers finding their way beneath her underwear.
Her breath hitched. His knuckles whitened on the doorframe. He could barely blink.
She shifted, her heel pushing against the bed, her head thrown back, her body tight. One hand smoothed and gripped at the sheets; the other... moved. Her mouth was half-open, her breath coming in tiny whimpers, so quick, so fast, and he knew that was him, him here and watching, locked in the doorway. Watching smooth, long legs flex, watching her hair rustle against the pillow, watching her breasts arch up and her hand, her hand...
She gasped, tremoured. Her voice broke over his name, and he had to close his eyes, squeeze them tight, take refuge in the blackness behind his eyelids.
When he could look again, she was curled on her side, limbs heavy and careless, face hidden in shadow.
He took a deep breath that rattled in his throat.
"You'd better go," she said.
The table was raucous with wine and humour, laden with empty dessert plates and refilled wine glasses. Miranda stood from her seat at the head of the table, leaned foward to start gathering the plates. She was flushed and laughing, smacked Karl's hand away from pinching her bottom.
She could only manage half the plates, though. Viggo started gathering the rest. "I'll get them," she chided him, sliding past on her way to the kitchen.
"No need," he returned, smiling up at her. Stood to follow, and Orlando stood beside him.
"I'll help too," he said, unsteady on his feet.
Viggo pressed his shoulder. "Sit down before you fall down." Bent to kiss him - wine and chocolate, delicious on his tongue - and gathered up the rest of the plates.
Miranda turned from the sink as he came into the kitchen. "Just pop them there," she said, pointed to the other pile on the draining board.
"Anything else I can do to help?" he asked as he deposited the plates.
She was rinsing cutlery, stacking the dishwasher. Tossed her hair back over her shoulder as she leaned over. One of the straps of her dress had slipped, he noticed, the tiny blue sliver fallen down her arm. She looked up at him through a lock of hair falling over one eye. "You can go back out there and enjoy yourself," she told him.
She laughed, reached for the plates in front of him. "I don't give dinner parties so my friends can help me wash up."
"Washing up is an underrated pasttime." He watched the water splash over her hands.
"Have it your way." She smiled sideways at him. "You will anyway."
Viggo turned to lean against the bench. There was a pause as she stacked the plates in the dishwasher, and she said as she straightened: "I thought some coffee and chocolates, perhaps."
He nodded. "Most of them could use some coffee."
"It was good wine," Miranda noted.
"Very good wine." He'd possibly had a little too much himself.
She laughed. She laughed so often, and she meant it every time. "Coffee it is." She brushed past him to dry her hands on a towel. She smelt of her perfume - something lightly musked and very faint now, at the end of the evening - and slightly of butterscotch sauce. There was a smudge of it on her cheek, he noticed in the instant before she turned away quickly. She crossed the kitchen, took a pair of coffee plungers out of the cupboard. "Um..." Looked around the kitchen, blinked. "Ah, there's cups in the cupboard behind you."
He turned around. High cupboards and low. "This one?" Hand on the higher one.
"No." She came back across the kitchen, stood next to him to open the low cupboard. "Damn. I thought they were here; where did I -?" She straightened, half-turned towards him and she was too close. Too close, dammit, and she looked up into his face and her words died mid-sentence.
All he had to do was lean, just a little, and she was closer still, almost touching the whole length of their bodies. Her hand fluttered at her side, but she didn't blink as she looked up at him. He looked down at her, and leaned a little more, until he could feel her breath against his cheek, knew his own ghosted over her skin.
But no further. Because he could still taste wine and chocolate on his tongue and he hadn't drunk that much, even if he wanted, wanted, wanted...
She still had the smudge of butterscotch sauce on her cheek. He raised a hand, rubbed at it with smooth, sure strokes of his thumb.
"Oh," she breathed.
And he knew it was already too late.
"Oh, that's bullshit!" Dave declared, but he was laughing so hard he almost couldn't lift his beer.
"I shit you not!" Miranda declared. Her own beer was already empty, high colour in her face and sparkles in her eyes. Her hair tumbled around her shoulders and she pushed it back distractedly. "He did."
Viggo leaned back in his chair, laughing quietly, but watching more than participating. Miranda holding out against Dave, each of them weaving taller tales for the other, and Karl hopping from one side to the other, Hugo egging them on indiscriminately. Maybe it was just the beer in his hand - his fourth tonight, and that was enough - but Viggo knew with bone-deep certainty that these Antipodeans were the maddest people he'd ever known (and that was saying something), and he loved them for it.
As Miranda launched into her defence, Viggo looked sideways, over to the pool table, where the younger bunch were inevitably to be found. Billy teaching Dom how to take a shot behind his back, and Orlando rough-housing, had Elijah in a headlock and was mussing carefully-arranged spikes of hair to shrieks of protest.
He looked up, caught Viggo's gaze, and a laugh changed into a wicked, curved smile, the sort that let Viggo know that what he was thinking was just as wicked. Viggo felt the familiar slow rush of his blood, and smiled in return. Elijah twisted; Orlando went back to wrestling him. Viggo turned back to the table.
"Oh God, please!" Miranda turned to him, slung an arm around his shoulders, dragging him forward. "Please, help me!" she pleaded, feigning despair that didn't quite work through her bubbling good humour. "These bastards are casting aspersions on me." Her grin was crooked, he noticed. When she really let go, forgot to smile in moderation, her mouth bent on one side more than the other. Quirky.
Karl pointed at her with the neck of his beer bottle. "She's trying to make me believe in exploding koalas."
"But they exist!" she declared, eyes artfully wide as she looked at him, and then laughed, tossed her head, hair swinging.
Later, after the boys left for pizza, after the pub closed and they were meandering along rain-slick streets looking for food before bed, she'd wrap an arm around his shoulders again, the other around Hugo on her other side, and sing in schoolgirl tone: "Anybody in the way gets knocked over!"
They found a fish and chip place still open, and they crowded inside, all laughter and high spirits. She nudged up next to Viggo at the counter, leaned against it and took her weight half on her arms, swung like a little girl. Full of life, bright and joyful, with her raucous accent and crooked smile. "What do you want?" she asked.
She was looking at the menu. He was looking at her.
He knew who it was by the way the door opened, the sound of the footsteps on the floor. Knew who it was, so he kept his eyes closed, lounging in his chair waiting for make-up.
"I know you're not asleep; stop faking," Orlando said, standing above him.
Viggo smiled, but didn't open his eyes. He was waiting for...
That. Breath on his cheek and lips on his and tongue licking at the corner of his mouth. Hand in his hair, fingers nudging amongst the strands, and Viggo reacted. Reached up, caught him in his arms to pull him closer. Tongues tangled, slithered, and separated again. Viggo opened his eyes slowly, blinked lazily. "You're right," he said. "I wasn't asleep."
"This is really uncomfortable," Orlando complained, hunched over his chair, hand braced against the arms.
"Well then." Viggo stood, hands on Orlando's waist, pushing him back a little. Kept pushing step by step, backing him up until he hit the counter. Then he pressed against him, hip to hip. Pressed close and firm, arched him a little. "How's that?" he said, a mere murmur against an earlobe.
Orlando hummed, tilted his chin up, opened himself up. Turned a little, searching for another kiss. "Much better."
Threw one arm around Viggo's neck as he kissed him again, with wild abandon. Threw himself into the kiss, all passion and rough-and-tumble. Braced the other hand against the counter, hefted himself slightly as Viggo got the same idea and pressed fingers into his waist to lift slightly. Orlando perched on the edge of the counter, used hands and curved legs to urge him closer even as his fingers spread up into hair, crawling along Viggo's scalp.
Viggo tipped Orlando's head back with one implacable hand, trailed his lips down his chin, over his Adam's Apple that bobbed as he swallowed hard. "Guess what?" Orlando's nonchalance was strained through desire, and Viggo really liked the way that sounded. Licked up his throat, relishing the rasp of stubble on his tongue, relishing the gasp on Orlando's lips.
"What?" he asked, drawing back, making his own effort for calm.
Calm that wasn't easy with dark, beautiful youth spread out in front of him, halfway to debauched already and loving the trip. Orlando straighted his head, looked at him with wicked light in his eyes. "There's some problem with the hobbits; make-up won't be ready for you for half an hour."
Viggo chuckled, pulled Orlando even closer against him and slid his hands down, around, cupped his backside to hold him where he wanted him. "Really?" Didn't even wait for a response before capturing Orlando's mouth again.
Not that Orlando seemed all that interested in talking, tongue against Viggo's, hands pushing under his shirt...
The door opened behind him. "Yeah well, these two are -- Bloody hell! They're at it again!"
Female laughter, abruptly muffled as the door shut. The kiss broke, and Viggo looked back over his shoulder in time to see the door open again. Hugo stuck his head in. "Jesus, you two. Stop rooting and come meet Miranda."
"She's arrived?" Orlando asked, bright and eager as if he wasn't half wrapped around another man.
"Yeah," was all Hugo said, and let the door swing closed behind him.
"Give us ten minutes!" Viggo called, but he knew the mood was lost.
"Come on, Vig," Orlando said, with a chuckle and a wriggle. "Time to welcome a new victim."
Viggo growled, nipped against Orlando's throat, but let himself be pushed back. Stepped back further to allow Orlando to slide down from the counter. And straightening his shirt, he followed him outside to meet the woman who was going to play his second love interest.
He never would have called it giving in, except in the echoing space inside his own head. He thought that said in there, nothing could hurt anyone.
Even if he'd known, he wouldn't have done any different. Couldn't have hidden the truth. Which was that he did give in.
Gave in to boundless energy, spilling in all directions with selfless generosity. Snatching everyone in its path up into its own whirlwind. Urging the spending, not squandering, of time. Making every moment count.
("Orli won't shut up about you!" Elijah shouted across the noise at the bar. "Not since that scene this afternoon. Viggo's cool this, Viggo's great that. Jesus!" And he disappeared back into the crowd.)
Gave in to overflowing friendliness, extended to all and sundry with a quick laugh and easy hug. Given alike to friends old and new, but seemingly just a little more to Viggo. Just a second longer in the hugs, closer, hands lingering and more frequent.
("The boy likes you," Sean said, having to lean close in their booth to be heard over the noise.
"The boy likes everyone."
Sean laughed quietly into his beer.)
Gave in to artful (artless) manoeuvrings that just seemed to place them together too frequently for accident. Sitting next to him. Brushing past him. Sharing a taxi on the way home and Viggo wasn't even surprised when they ended up pressed close together in the back seat.
(Dom got out at his house, looked back to the pair of them, said cheerily: "Have a nice night," and winked.)
Gave in to eyes - those brown eyes last of all - looking at him as he asked casually: "Want to come up for a drink?" Looked in those eyes and had some idea of why people might fall in love with the boy. Had some idea of why.
He stood in Orlando's living room and got an inkling. Cupped Orlando's face in his hands and looked in those eyes. "How long?" he asked. "How long have you -?"
"Wanted this?" Orlando shrugged. "A few weeks."
Viggo thought maybe, maybe not, but then there were lips on his, and hands just where they should be, and he stopped thinking.
Stopped thinking, and just gave in.
That was then, this is now.
He lost Orlando in the carpark, his vehicle disappearing in a squeal of tyres. But he knew where he had to go, eventually, and he was waiting outside when Orlando finally got back to his house, out of costume, out of character, in gathering dusk. Caught him halfway up the stairs. "Orli."
Shake of his head, not in denial, but frustration, annoyance. Not looking at Viggo, beside the stairs. "Don't you think you've said enough for one day?"
"I think you deserve to have this finished with today." Viggo couldn't touch his arm, rested his hand on the stair railing instead.
Orlando did look at him then, eyes harder than he'd ever seen them, and shrugged. "Fine. Come in, then."
They went in, Viggo trailing behind. Orlando turned on the lights, dropped his shoes. Viggo loitered in the doorway, feeling like a stranger in this house that he knew like his own.
"So," Orlando said, throwing himself into a chair with a flop of long limbs. "Do you love her?"
Challenging, brash. Viggo shook his head. "No," he answered. "But I don't love you either, and that's why."
Orlando grimaced, looked away. "I never asked for that," he said.
"No, you didn't." Another thing Viggo had trouble forgiving himself for. "You were always just yourself. Thank you for that." Orlando looked up at him sharply. "It meant more to me than you can know."
Orlando barked a laugh, short and ugly. "Really."
Viggo hated that sound, hated that he'd caused it, hated the whole thing. Should've thought of that before. So much for living without regrets. But he was human. Only human. Nothing godlike, none of that, none of what he was made out to be. Just a man. Complete with mistakes and recriminations.
He opened his mouth, but Orlando raised a hand, stopped him. Strange; he'd always called the shots in their relationship, but here, now, in this room, Orlando was in charge. "No," he said quietly. Shook his head. "No. You've had time to think about it, practice your platitudes, all that shit, but I've just had the guts ripped out of my world, and nothing you say's going to make it any better. Not..." He faltered. "Not today."
He dropped his head into his hands, and Viggo had to stop himself crossing the room to crouch beside him. Some habits were hard to break. Orlando pushed a hand up, curling fingers into the band of his hair, and when he spoke his voice was thin and rough. "Just piss off, will you?"
Viggo retreated, hand on the doorknob. "I'm sorry," he said, and fled.
When he slipped into bed beside her, she didn't move. When he slid his hand over her side, the warm, soft curves, she didn't flinch, even though his hand must have been cold. He'd been walking through the night to get here. He'd taken his time. It was late.
He shaped himself against her back, altered himself to her reality; surprised himself with how easy it was. His arm around her waist, his face in her hair, the warm, rich scent of it, strands against his eyelids. Then she stirred, whispered a single word.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because," he answered.
Tempus Fugit by dee
All stories are works of fan-fiction by Dee. "Fan-fiction" means that she does not own any of the core creative concepts and characters, but she does heap adulation, appreciation and awe upon those people who do hold the intellectual property rights to those concepts and characters. Further, any instances of real people are fictional, and the author does not wish to suggest any truth should be attached to the actions, emotions and words attributed to them in these fictional stories.