The first time Viggo saw Miranda she was straight off the plane, pushing her sunglasses up on her head through limp hair as she offered a hand and a wan smile. But there was more there than jetlag, Viggo thought as he shook hands. (Her grip was strong, brief, slipping away.) There was something almost tremulous beneath it all, something uncertain with the shine of new growth of plant or skin. Under the veil of international fatigue there were more delicate shadows in her eyes than under them. There was a wraith of determined strength.
She was beautiful. It was a crisp, fragile, translucent beauty, weighted with weariness. It was like an icicle melting against a cold sky. Like the wind through long, brittle, dead grass by the side of the road.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
She blinked, surprised. Her smile was like pale spring as she said: "Fine. Just tired."
Viggo asked her again a week later, sliding into the seat next to her at the pub. She gave him the same answer, shadowed eyes and drawn face, despite the smile that bloomed at his appearance.
"Don't lie to me," he said, and clinked his glass against hers, talking over her spider-web protestations. "Drink up; I'll buy you another one."
She did. He did. Miranda turned the glass in fingers with nails cut brutally short for sword training. Her hair fell in wisps over her forehead and neck as she looked down. Her eyelids, lowered, were blue with a delicate tracery of veins. Her lips tightened briefly before she brought the glass up to them.
"It's not entirely a lie," she said.
"I suppose not," Viggo allowed. He took a pull at his own drink, watching her pull her hair back behind her ear with fluid, delicate gestures. "What was his name?"
Miranda tilted her chin back, looking at the bottles behind the bar. "Richard."
"Was it very serious?"
"I thought - maybe - I don't know."
Viggo nodded. He set his drink down on a creased cardboard coaster, and an instant later Orlando was hanging from his neck, leaning against his side, head on his shoulder.
"Filthy human," he mumbled happily, and smirked at Miranda. "Pretty human."
Miranda was grinning, her mouth wide and quirked. "Drunk elf," she said.
Orlando beamed back, like they were golden reflections of each other, and he tilted his face up to Viggo. "'m going home," he confided.
"With the hobbibitses."
"What, all of them?"
Orlando chortled - somewhere between a snigger and a cackle - and rolled off Viggo's shoulder to stand upright. "Buh-bye!" he declared, before weaving away through the crowd.
Miranda was still grinning. "The boy is adorable."
"And he knows it," Viggo replied. Even her eyes were merry. She looked happy. She looked like any other happy person in the world.
He invited her around to dinner, and it was trouble to arrange it around his filming and her costuming and in the end it was another week before she stood in the converted garage that formed his studio and - really - his central living area. It had brick walls and cold concrete floor and high windows that let in a lot of light. It was late afternoon, but the sun wouldn't set for hours, and the room was full of white light, relecting off walls and floor to chase itself around Miranda, bleaching her, as she stood in the middle of it all and gestured helplessly. There was detritus of Viggo's life all around her - paint, scraps, shoes and a belt and a shirt that was so hideous it had to be Orlando's - but she carried her own mess with her.
"It happens," Viggo said, bringing her the bowl of goulash, a fork between the knuckles of his second and third fingers.
She took the bowl with a short little laugh, brittle and crinkling. There was a wild desperation tracing her shoulders and bright eyes suggesting tears thickening on the back of her tongue. She twitched her head like a spooked horse. He touched her hair at her neck, where her jaw was angled and clenched, and took the fork back from her.
"Let it out," he said.
"Sometimes you need to. It's only natural. Break something." He pushed at the bowl - simple blue-glazed china - in her hands, and she looked down at it. Viggo looked at the bare wall.
The bowl, brittle from a lifetime's service, shattered against the bricks with a noise like a domestic dispute. The goulash slumped, following it to the floor in smears and lumps and slithered brown goo. The evidence piled up at the base, puddled and jagged.
Miranda had both hands over her mouth, her eyes wide. A laugh was muffled, but showed in every line of her. Her fingers trailed down to her chin, and she closed her mouth. "I can't believe I just did that. Oh Viggo, I'm sorry. Your goulash."
But he shrugged, and slid his own bowl onto the bench. "Let's go out and get Chinese."
At the party, she was flushed and laughing. Earthbound limbs and saucy grin as she waved her beer bottle saying: "I need another one. I'll be back."
Orlando was coming out onto the veranda as Miranda went back inside, and they slid past each other in the doorway with laughter. Orlando was still grinning as he approached Viggo, leaning against the railing.
"God, she's great," Orlando said, bumping his hip against the railing next to Viggo. He gestured with his own (half-full) beer bottle. "She's just fabulous. So good as Eowyn.
"She is," Viggo agreed. She was perfection as Eowyn. Beyond melancholy, beyond pity, carrying her sorrow and her bruised hope in every shift of her limbs and every tilt of her chin, borne in her eyes and crying out of her. She had the purity of a religious icon. "She's very believable."
Orlando snorted. "Man of few words."
"You talk too much."
He grinned at that, and leaned forward with his whole body, warm against Viggo's side. He tasted of beer, like usual, and of chocolate and the faint plastic sheen of the candy coating on M&Ms. Orlando tilted his mouth against Viggo's, practiced, pliant and avaricious. Viggo brought a hand up to cup the nape of his neck where it fit so perfectly into his palm.
The gasp was the slightest of sounds, but it jerked his eyes open over the tilt of Orlando's jaw.
Miranda stood in the doorway to the veranda, the light behind her strong and sapping. She was frozen, caught, trapped in delicacy like the most fragile of mosaics. Like an icicle melting against a cold sky. Like the wind through long, brittle, dead grass by the side of the road. Like pale spring.
She was beautiful.
Pale Spring by dee
Two Lines challenge fic. "I didn't want to hurt you/but you're pretty when you cry" (VAST - Pretty When You Cry)