"The truth or falsity of the argument makes no difference, if only it has the appearance of truth."
- Boethius, "De Topicis Differentiis"
Trying to explain it to his sister on the phone, Orlando doodled a diagram on the back of the napkin. The four names - his, Viggo's, Dom's, Elijah's - and the complicated tangle of lines. He'd traced the D so much that he'd ripped the flimsy paper.
"Yer a wanker," Sam said, always to the point.
"Gee thanks, sis. You lift me up from my mundane troubles and soothe my heart."
Orlando sighed, slouched further in his cafe chair. "One day you're going to come to me for romantic advice and I'm going to be this understanding right back at you."
"Never happen," she said, smug in the certain knowledge that she was correct. Cow. "You know why? Because I don't waft about in some poetic haze of rhapsodic existence like you. I see it, I like it, I try it. Take a leaf."
"Is this why I always have to bail you for shoplifting?"
Orlando glared at his diagram. He glared at Viggo's name, he glared at Elijah's name, he glared at Dom's name. Then he drew a heart around it. Then he screwed up the whole napkin and shoved it into the empty coffee cup.
"How was I supposed to know?" Viggo said over lunch. (And how ridiculous was this? When Orlando had been interested in Viggo, he'd have given his right arm to pin the guy down over something as substantial as a meal - a whole meal, no running away until it's over! - but fat bloody chance. Now that he's been deflected like Viggo was a pinball machine bumper and Orlando the ball, he gets a once-a-week regular slot of nothing-but-Viggo time. Enough to make Orlando faceplant in his gazpacho.)
"Don't you know everything?" Orlando grumbled.
"No." Viggo raised an eyebrow across the table. "Contrary to popular belief. And this is Dominic. Does anyone see anything about him that he doesn't want to show? How did you even find out?"
"Beer. A lot of beer." Orlando puddled in his soup. Weighty, soul-deep confessions hadn't been the plan that night. Well, maybe a couple, but not involving other people, and he'd hoped it'd move on quickly into the weighty, soul-deep sex. Or at least drunken skin-lots-of-skin sex. He puddled a little too violently, and soup spattered the tablecloth like watered-down blood. "Oops."
"Even Henry has better table-manners than you," Viggo observed.
Forget the soup; Orlando leaned forward. "Why did you do this to me? Couldn't you just have said, 'No, Orli, I don't want to shag you, I'll never want to shag you, get over it'? Did you have to fob me off onto some guy who's so hung up on someone else that his feet don't touch the floor?"
"You said you liked a challenge."
"I was just chatting you up." OK, that was a little loud. Orlando slid down in his seat and skulked until the couple at the next table turned back to their own conversation. He rubbed a hand over his face. "Fuck, Viggo, couldn't you go and play your fairy-godmother trick on him?"
"Dom's not going to listen to me."
"Unlike me, who just does whatever he's told?"
Viggo's gaze was level. Impossible to pick a fight with him; just made Orlando feel childish. "In your situation, I was right."
Orlando frowned. "What are you saying? That Dom doesn't want me, that he really wants --?"
"I told you," Viggo interrupted. "I don't know. How should I?" He leaned back in his chair. "Are you going to eat your soup or just throw it around?"
Orlando ate his soup.
"It's all so... intense," Orlando had said, his carefully prepared lead-in, wound so tight his skin even prickled through the thick insulation beer had laid over him. Not that he'd had as much to drink as Dom; he'd been trying to make sure he'd still be sober enough to deliver his self-written lines, but Dom hadn't seemed to feel any need for restraint. They were slumped in the kitchen with the lights off, backs to the cupboards and knees tangled in the middle. "This whole thing, y'know? We're all so together."
Dom's head was tilted back against the cupboard, his throat bared and glistening in the light from the living room. "Yeah," he said, the sound elongated. "Spend all that time... start thinking stupid things."
Orlando's pulse juddered his body. "Not that stupid, eh? Like, we're all friends. Great mates. We really click, yeah? It's something special."
"Stupid," Dom insisted, his head falling forward, his whole body slumping forward, resting his forehead against his lifted knee. "Shtupid," he slurred down into his lap. "Great mates, great mates, then you go and fall in love with the fucker. Stupid. Fuck!" He slapped a palm against the floor, sat up straight with an effort. "I need another beer. Fuck Elijah. Beer."
That thunk had been Orlando's head hitting the cupboard. That must be why everything seemed a little distant. That and the beer. Yeah. Beer. "Fridge, man." Beer. Great idea. Orlando drained his.
"You," Dom had said, knee-walking towards the fridge. "You are a great mate. With beer."
He'd drunk another two, maybe three, and passed out in the living room. He hadn't remembered a word of it in the morning.
The table was littered with the debris of a belated binge on Easter eggs. Dom and Elijah were flicking balls of coloured foil at each other with arcade-game vigour and sound effects.
Orlando pulled up a chair between Billy and Astin (where it was safe) and reached for one of the stash. "So," he said. Eyes on unwrapping. It'd been surprisingly hard being around Elijah recently. Nothing'd changed, he kept telling himself. Nothing had changed except his knowledge of the situation and the way he felt about it. Nothing had changed except the fact that every time he looked at Elijah, the thought just flashed up: Dom's in love with him.
"You wanna come to that play on Friday night, Orli?" Elijah asked. Orlando looked up. "Dom said he's not going to sit through it again just because I fancy the lead bird." He pulled a face, and Dom pinged him between the eyes with a bit of foil. "Hey!"
Orlando looked at Dom, who was looking at Elijah and laughing. "Yeah, OK, I'll come," he said.
"Idiot!" Dom declared, leaning back in his chair and unwrapping another egg. "It's fucking appalling. Death by disembowelment is preferable." Still laughing, looking at Orlando now. Orlando shrugged, grinned back.
"No taste!" Elijah declared, and launched a foil attack.
Orlando wondered, around the slow melt of chocolate in his mouth, if Elijah even knew. Viggo was right, you never saw a thing Dom didn't want you to. Look. Look hard. There was nothing on Dom's face. No chink in the armour to get a grip on. Not like Orlando. In that moment, Orlando felt like anyone could read him like a book.
But no one was looking. They were all talking at once, hands waving, foil flying. Look as hard as you like, Orlando. Look at Dom laughing as he chewed with his teeth chocolate-stained and Orlando wanted to lick them clean. Dom's shirt was unbuttoned and careless, and it almost made Orlando dizzy. He felt... parched. Like he was dying just for a taste. If only. If only there was some way.
"Orli'd know," Billy was saying, grinning and elbowing Orlando in the ribs. "Eh? Practically following Viggo 'round these days."
"Like a puppy!" Dom chortled, grinning across the table, and Orlando watched him, even as he winced, shoved Billy. Watched Dom and his appearance and realised that maybe maybe maybe there was a way. If he could just grab it.
See it, like it, try it.
Over lunch, Viggo said, "No, this is a really bad idea. Don't do this."
Orlando said, "Shut up. Listening to you is how I got into this mess in the first place."
"What'd you think of the play?" Dom demanded as the ears came off.
Orlando shrugged, flipping magazine pages in his corner. "Yeah. S'alright."
Elijah bounced in his chair. "It was great!"
Orlando looked up, met Dom's reflected gaze. Met his grimace with a grin. "He got her number."
"About bloody time," Billy chipped in.
"And I texted her in our break earlier asking if she wanted to see that band at the Gypsy tomorrow night," Elijah said, as proud as if he'd just tied his shoelaces for the first time.
"Too eager," Billy commented.
"She'll think he's stalking her," Dom agreed.
"What the fuck d'you know anyway?" Elijah said dismissively, and as if on cue, he started ringing. Fumbling his phone out of a pocket, he whooped. "It's her! It's her!" He almost vaulted out of the chair, shouldered the door open even as he was saying, "Hey!" into the phone.
Billy mimed wiping away a tear. "Our little boy! He's all grown up."
Dom yawned as they pulled the last glue off him, and stood up, stretching. "I am so out of here."
But Orlando had been watching over the top of his magazine, and he'd seen it. Just that moment. Not a scowl, not a grimace, nothing so obvious. Just a twitch between the eyes. Just a flinch. A chink in the armour.
"Your turn, love," the make-up girl said.
He brushed past Dom, and muttered, "Later, man."
When they were finally all finished, the Billy and Astin dragged Elijah off towards alcohol, giving him increasingly hair-raising sage advice. Orlando begged off, said he was done in, loitered around the make-up trailer until they'd disappeared.
And then he headed for Dom's trailer.
A quiet knock got no answer, so Orlando just opened the door and stuck his head in. The light that fell in over his shoulder didn't quite illuminate anything in the trailer, but he could see a huddled shape on the couch.
Closing the door behind him, Orlando flicked a light on (one a little further down the trailer, he didn't want to blind the poor guy) and Dom flinched, looking up with blurred, red eyes. God, he'd been crying?
Orlando grit his teeth, but when he spoke, he made his voice soft, gentle. Like talking to a wild animal. "Want to talk about it, mate?"
Dom scrunched up his face and turned away. Mumbled something into the couch upholstery that Orlando couldn't quite make out, but it sounded like negation.
"Sure about that?" he prodded. He came across, settled (settled, hah! As if he'd ever been less settled in his life, blood dancing along his veins with adrenaline, but cool, cool, look cool, calm and nonchalant) on the couch next to Dom.
"Can't talk about it," Dom whispered, and Orlando had to lean in a little to hear it.
"Can't or won't?" he asked, and Dom shrugged. Orlando leaned in a little further, could see make-up-stripped curve of Dom's cheek over his shoulder, the faded carving of a tear-track. Pulled his fingers back from the urge to trace it, diverted them to Dom's hair instead. Spiky and wild but surprisingly soft. Dom tilted his head a little under Orlando's hand, and he took the chance to stroke a finger down the back of Dom's neck. "We're friends, aren't we, Dom?" Great mates, he heard echoed in his head, waiting for Dom's nod. "And friends help each other out, right? So let me help you."
It seemed to take forever, the light brush of his hair against Orlando's palm, but Dom sat a little straighter, turned a little more towards Orlando, and eventually he said, "It's Lij."
Orlando smoothed his palm down the back of Dom's neck and fuck, he was tense. His fingers started moving without him consciously willing them to, massaging the tight knots of the muscles, and Orlando didn't have the willpower to draw his hand off Dom's skin. "What about Lijah?" Orlando asked, tried to keep it as light as possible.
Not that Dom was complaining. His head dropped forward a little, giving Orlando a better angle. "Everything," he said, like it had been urged out of him by Orlando's hand.
"You're in love with him," Orlando said quietly. "And as far as he's concerned, you're just best mates."
Dom looked up fast, and Orlando stilled his hand, just cupped the back of Dom's neck. Dom's eyes were a little panicked. "How did--?"
"I know?" Because you told me. Because you told me and you're an idiot because ohGod I want you. "It's easy to see our own faults when they're mirrored in someone else."
Dom's eyes were fixed on his face, looking so hard, and Orlando wasn't Dom; would he be able to see it all? Orlando almost thought he wanted him to. Thought about saying it - I'm in love with you - but then he saw Dom's eyes widen, recognised the conclusion Dom had come to. "You mean--"
"Yeah." And he lied. "Yer always going on about how I could have anyone I wanted, but he--" As little as possible. Somehow, if he lied as little as possible, it'd be OK. "He's made it abundantly clear that he doesn't want me."
He had, he had; Orlando closed his eyes and felt again Viggo's hand on his shoulder, quiet voice in his ear, "You're looking in the wrong place," as he pointed him towards--
Dom was saying, "Oh God, Orli. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Orlando said, opening his eyes and almost not being able to bear the sympathy in Dom's. "I've lived with it this long, I doubt it'll kill me."
"Doesn't make it feel any better," Dom mumbled, looking away again.
"It doesn't," Orlando agreed, and what was he doing? Viggo had been right, this was a bad idea, but Dom was right there, under his hand, and Orlando wanted him. He wanted to comfort him, to show him that he was missing his other option, right under his nose.
Orlando shifted closer, feeling Dom's hair against his face, the smell of his skin, and then Dom turned towards him, his mouth right there.
Orlando kissed him.
Keep it soft, don't push, but oh, oh please. Dom was kissing him back, he was, and Orlando's hand came up to rest lightly on Dom's jaw in the moment before he broke away, pulling back just a little.
"We shouldn't do this," Dom said.
No, no we really should. "Why?" Orlando breathed. He couldn't stop his hands against Dom's skin.
"Because." A flutter of Dom's lashes, his pulse jumping under Orlando's thumb. "Because you don't want me."
I do. Oh God I do. "Well," Orlando whispered, "if you can't be with the one you love..."
"Then love the one you're with," Dom finished, breathless against Orlando's lips.
Orlando had to close his eyes against the sudden threat of tears. No, come on. See it, like it, try it. It's right here, in your hands, you've got it. Now take it.
He opened his eyes. Curled his hands tighter around Dom, felt him tilt up into the grip. "Right," Orlando said, and gave in.
Verisimilitude 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.