by Calico

:: previously ::

When Orlando woke up, the nasty scratchiness in his throat from the day before had faded to an almost imperceptible rigidity, like he'd simply talked too much and now the muscles needed to relax. Or, he thought dourly, like he'd been overcome with emotion and his throat had gone hot and starkly painful with the need to cry, and he'd fought it off, and the miserable hysteria had died down, and the ache had grudgingly died down with it - like that, like after that. He hadn't had a lump like that in his throat for months, in actual fact, but he still knew what it felt like. Not something you forget in a hurry. Innate knowledge, really.

Huh. So cheery, this morning.

Probably the heat, he thought, and stretched, kicking his over-warm blankets down a little, creating a breeze to sweep down and diffuse the suddenly aggressive-feeling temperature. Thirsty, too; he looked around for a drink.

There was a mug on his bedside table.

Dregs, in it. Milk, he thought stupidly, um, o-kay, and then remembered, aha, last night. Nice of Viggo to bring it--

Everything came back to him, first as a distinct awareness of petulance, then the crystallising detail; dizziness, and himself talking crap about a wildebeest - no, buffalo, 'cause Viggo'd said - and then Viggo leaving, melting backwards away, and Orlando too tired to clamber after him.

Oh, because clambering, that would have been a wonderful plan. He could just see that, Viggo looking down at him in horror as Orlando stumbled around like a drunk and cast curses at the floor. Great idea.

He picked up the mug, swirled it round quickly, then drained it down his throat. It was officially gross, but Orlando actually kinda liked the post-boiled taste of milk, liked the clinging clayish undertone, and regardless, god, he was thirsty enough to drink horsepiss. The milk was twisted through with honey, thick in the dregs, and his throat stung briefly. Not entirely recovered, then.

His body responded pretty well though, getting up and dressed with minimal complaint. Stiff muscles from sleeping so long with crooked pillows, he thought, and then felt a rising swirl of happiness that meant he must've talked to Viggo about pillows, and recently. Huh.

Or even, he realised, as the minutiae of it crystallised even further, it meant that Viggo really had been overly attentive to him last night, that that hadn't been some delusion brought on by too much stress and hope and sun. Yeah. He remembered pretty well, actually. Viggo had been really sweet, and then he'd tried to help with the pillows, all space-invasive and unfamiliar contact. The sense-memory made Orlando want to croon.

He smiled, shucking the previous bad mood like dead snakeskin, feeling beautiful and rosy in his supple new scales. Suit of Happiness, he thought, and made faces at himself in the mirror as he went past.

"You left," he said coyly, when he finally managed to track Viggo down alone. They'd set off early, transferring out to the edge of some wilderness where helpful invisible people had set up a temporary trailer park along a road that looked suspiciously like a bit of dust where plants weren't. Then, not content with uprooting his whole tribe right after breakfast, Peter had scheduled a hectic day's filming, one of the 11-to-8 sessions that don't look so bad until you've been in a tree for forty-five minutes and it's lunchtime and you haven't actually given the camera a single line.

Peter had descended on the hobbits at about half-noon, giving the rest of them instructions to stay within earshot in case the thing with the turnips fell flat, and Orlando had stalked Viggo's heels all the way back to the steps of his trailer.

"You were ill," Viggo protested, and smiled gently. "Needed rest."

Orlando pretended to weigh this up, then beamed. "Fair enough." He let his voice sidle into playfulness. "I suppose I wouldn't have rested much if you'd stayed."

Viggo looked adorably startled, and Orlando thought ruefully that yes, maybe it was a little early in the day for innuendo. But given the length of the damned courtship, Orlando decided it was excusable for now. Viggo cleared his throat, then said, "You're better, this morning, I take it?"

"Oh, yes."

"I'm really glad," Viggo said, looking dazzlingly deep into Orlando's eyes. Orlando shivered happily.

"Me too."

"I need to talk to you," Viggo continued, and Orlando checked quickly behind them, then impulsively idled closer, thrills doing acrobatics all through his voice and body and mind. A suggestion, softly spoken, when Viggo looked at him expectantly.

"Kiss me first?"


Orlando raised his eyebrows. Um. Oi?

"You might be infectious," Viggo said, but it was a weak joke and they both knew it. "Um. Orlando."

"I'm the only one here," Orlando said guardedly, pulse speeding up. This sounded like a - like a talk, a not-you-it's-me talk, and Orlando absolutely was not willing to break up with someone he'd never even agreed to date-- and fuck, he realised, maybe that was the problem.

"I - I know," Viggo said, and his voice had that hideous sympathetic quality of those about to let down as gently as they knew how. "Look, do you want to come inside?"

Orlando folded his arms. "I don't think I do," he said. He did. He wanted to go into Viggo's trailer more than possibly anything else, but he also wanted it to be - God, he was so corny. He cut all the thoughts ruthlessly off. "Keep talking."

The shadow of a wince crossed Viggo's face, and Orlando realised horribly that that's exactly what he'd said in the car, when, when all that stuff was said. Um. "Okay, then," Viggo said, and his voice was infinitely careful. "Here's the problem."

You won't kiss me, Orlando thought, bitterly. That was pretty much the only problem in his book. "Yes?" he said, when he realised Viggo had paused for a reply.

"Right," Viggo said. "The. The situation is - I like you a lot, you know that, right?" This time he didn't pause. "But the friendship we've got going, I really value it, but we can't - it's in danger of slipping into something else, I think, and I also think it really... shouldn't. It'd be a bad idea."

"Did you rehearse that?" Orlando asked dully, to his own horror.

Viggo gave him a grateful smile, and Orlando's horror increased as his brain suggested that Viggo might think that was all that was needed to be said. "Not really, actually," Viggo was saying, "though I've been thinking about it for a while."

"Longer than just this morning," Orlando said, hearing a note of panic ringing in his voice and suppressing it as hard as he could. A while. That'd include last night, that would. That'd definitely include the Great Pillow Adjustment. Bastard.

"Yes," Viggo said, and something must've been showing on Orlando's face, because Viggo looked alert again, cautious. "Is that - do you agree?"

"Oh, do I get a choice?"

The caution melted into concern. "Hey, hey," Viggo said, urgently, softly, "please, don't be angry-- you realise why, don't you? Why we couldn't."

At least, Orlando thought angrily, Viggo wasn't denying that there was something there. At least the bastard wasn't that much of a coward. "I guess," Orlando said, keeping his voice checked, "it'd be that we work together?"

Of course, not even Viggo could presume to forget that much detail. All the looks. All those fucking looks. And touches.

And the tape, for chrissakes.

He looked up, and Viggo met his gaze. "That's part of it," Viggo admitted, and scrubbed a hand miserably through his hair, and for a moment he looked beyond old - ancient - and Orlando felt memories of too many offhand comments coalesce into an undeniable, solid whole.

"The age thing," he said, barely bothering to make it a question. "I'm too young."

"I'm too old," Viggo said immediately, and it almost sounded reassuring, and Orlando swallowed. "Are you alright?" Viggo asked, and Orlando half-swallowed again, then turned it into a stiff grin.

"Well, I rather have to be," he said. "It's not like there's an actual relationship here, is there?"

"Not - that sort," Viggo agreed softly, and for a moment Orlando felt like hitting him.

"Maybe to outsiders it looked like there was, but, no," he murmured, instead, looking at the slats of the blind half-drawn in the trailer window.

Viggo sighed. "Maybe we should, um, have a bit of time to ourselves, before we go back on-set," he suggested, and this could be it, the end of the conversation, the neatly-achieved breakup, the that-went-as-well-as-could-be-expected. Fucking hell.

Orlando played along, nodding. "Maybe," he agreed, and caught the relief in Viggo's eyes. "I guess, I've just been imagining things," he added, and the caution crept back, faint but alert. "But that - this - that's why you really left last night, isn't it," he added, certainty making his voice flat.

Epitome of dignified ruefulness, Viggo nodded.

"I probably better get out of the habit of misunderstanding things," Orlando said, arranging faded wry laughter into his voice. "I've been really, um. Half the things you've done, you probably haven't even noticed, and here I've been thinking they were all sorts of come-ons."

Viggo was either taking the coward's way out again by pretending to agree, Orlando thought, or he genuinely hadn't noticed the last five weeks roving past. "Look, I'll. I'll see you back on-set," Viggo said, and the unspoken sympathy made Orlando's blood go hot.

"Yeah," he made himself say, meekly, and smiled. "Bye."

Viggo's eyes were still lovely to look at. "Bye."

Orlando nodded once more to himself, turned, started walking silently away, then paused. "Um," he said, to the sparse cluster of trailers at large. He could feel Viggo watching him as he half-turned back, and he savoured that for a moment, keeping a thoughtful look on his face, then said, mild as he could manage, "What was the poetry, though. Why'd you give me that?"

A brief peal of silence made Orlando acutely aware of his own pulse. Slowly, for maximum effect, he turned right back round. After a moment, Viggo shrugged diffidently. "You're my friend," he said. "I thought you might be interested in what I do. Don't you give your friends presents, ever?"

"For their birthdays," Orlando said shortly, and Viggo smirked.

"Maybe I've got a more generous spirit," he drawled, and there was an invitation in his voice to drop the subject, to assert indignantly that he was generous actually, to let the conversation peter into a low-grade slanging match with no dangerous ties.

"That's a gift to a lover, and you know it," Orlando said quietly, and felt a tired satisfaction when Viggo blanched. Awful word, isn't it, he thought, blandly. So fucking emotive, it kills any conversation dead.

"Not necessarily," Viggo was saying, helplessly; "in my experience--"

"I've grown up gay in London, Viggo," Orlando spat, interrupting him, coating his precious name in brittle scorn, "as a fucking aspiring artist, and I've had aspiring artist friends give me presents, and they've sure as hell never been as intimate as that." He smiled nastily. "A book of poetry, that might be classed as platonic comparison of interest, but a tape, that puts you in my bedroom every time it gets played."

The satisfaction grew as Viggo's eyes flickered unhappily, and Orlando had a sudden flash that Viggo really had thought Plato wouldn't blink at his reasoning. Viggo said, "that wasn't my intention. I didn't. I didn't want to lead you on."

"You know what those poems sound like to me?" Orlando asked, ruthlessly, making his voice snake-soft. "Sound like you're standing behind me, talking low into my ear. Sound like your mouth's almost moving against my skin. It's so - fucking intimate, for christ's sake. How can you not have realised how I'd take it?" His voice had turned tight and bloody in his throat, forcing out the last words.

"I'm - sorry," Viggo said, and Orlando could see that he was, yes, deeply and thoroughly sorry, and also that he was wishing time would rove gracefully forwards to next week and that this conversation would be no worse a sour memory than any hangover.

No, Orlando thought, simply. "Okay," he said. He steadied his voice, took a visible deep breath. Moving back into performance now, he thought, without humour. Worryingly easy today. "I just want to know," he said, painfully reasonable, fixing his gaze on a point a little to the left of Viggo's throat, "if you're planning any more of these fickle little moodswings. Rather a teenage trait, now I think about it, but no matter. I'm just wondering if I should be waiting for one, if I should get my guard up now, or if that's it and you're going to be constant after this."

"I - no - I've been constant the whole time," Viggo said raggedly, "and--"

"No, no," Orlando said, "I don't think you have."

"I'm sorry for giving you the damn tape, Orlando, and believe me, I'm incredibly sorry for the interpretation you've given it, and I'm sorry, really sorry that you feel I've messed you around, but it's never going to happen."

That stung more than Orlando had expected. "It will if I get you drunk and leave my morals in the gutter," he said, under his breath, and Viggo frowned.


"Nothing," Orlando said mirthlessly, and smiled. "Fine. Fine, that's great. I'll be off then, shall I?"


"sorry, I know," Orlando said, and it teetered against the line between curse and growl, but didn't quite fall either way. "It's okay, since I'm clearly young and dumb and full of--" He broke off, gentled his voice. Conversational, almost. "You know, two of my friends back in London got married last year? I talked to them quite a lot, when they were planning it. You know they even seem to think they might last? They actually made a commitment based on, well, their ludicrous assumption of mutual long-lasting interest, and they went ahead with it, and it seems to be working. Isn't that quaint."

"god," Viggo said, almost to himself, voice like an ant running away. "Truce, please," he said, and his eyes were imploring when Orlando looked up, and Orlando wanted to kiss him in the softest and most un-destructive way possible, and it just might be breaking his heart that he couldn't.

"Truce," he said, like he was sceptical Viggo could suggest it, and the words lined up in his throat: Truce, because that's neater? and then you don't have to remember there's anyone else involved except you, you and your untouchable angst-- though you'd say anxiety, wouldn't you, Viggo, since these newfangled teen words have no place in the vocabulary of someone so demonstrably mature.

"Please," Viggo repeated, and Orlando felt his lip want to curl, glowing with the desire to say his piece and feel that undercutting cut-throat satisfaction again. The whole thing was like - like cleaning his teeth, or something. He'd picked up the toothbrush and scrubbed away, as was healthy and appropriate and perfectly natural-- and now he was tasting blood, a sidling of appetising copper, clean-sharp-mint-thrill, and the temptation was there to just keep on scrubbing.

It'd taste good to keep hurting you, he thought, right now, and then something subsided inside him, because he was pretty sure it wouldn't taste good later, and suddenly his mouth felt bloody enough already.

Viggo was holding himself very still, possibly not actually breathing. It felt thoroughly unnatural. The air was poised for Orlando, an open stage for cruelty, and he just. No.

"Okay," he said instead, with a little shrug. "Truce. May as well. It's gonna get boring soon, anyway."

"Thank you," Viggo said, still soft. Still still.

Orlando shrugged again, oddly embarrassed. "Hell," he said, trying to make a joke of it, trying to make Viggo breathe, "there's not an awful lot I'd say no to you on."

Viggo smiled a bit. "That's not wonderful grammar," he said, and there was tentativeness beneath the words, and Orlando felt, against all expectation, a tiny rise in his own spirits. He had a feeling that if he shot Viggo down now - if he said curtly that grammar was the last thing on his mind but he was glad to know Viggo had his priorities right - then Viggo would know to cringe back from him, not even try, and maybe leave him and his unbridgeable gap alone.

"Actually," he said, sweetly, choosing, "although the prescriptive approach to the English language does indeed state that ending a sentence on a preposition is as criminal as splitting an infinitive, the less outdated linguists among us--"

Viggo laughed, "Only if it sounds good, you cretin," and the sudden fondness emanating from him made something in Orlando glow, despite everything.

"--tend to recognise there's no virtue," he continued, getting into the flow of it, "found in obeying a rule that more often than not creates clumsy, tortuous sentences you could easily trip up... on."

"Cret-in," Viggo repeated, illustrating his syllables with a spike of forefinger, and Orlando grinned widely and waved him down.

"And in fact," he purred, "the logic behind prohibiting the humble split infinitive only dates back to when everyone and his dog was a Latin fanatic, and of course, everybody knows that in Latin they literally couldn't--"

"Shut up or I'll--"

"kiss me?" Orlando said slyly, making it a bolshy challenge instead of a melancholy one at the last moment, and something deliciously like lust flicked through Viggo's eyes. Nice one, Orlando thought, and then Viggo was saying smoothly,

"Water your i-book," and Orlando yelped in horror, because even though he didn't actually own one and professed a total lack of interest, Elijah had foisted pictures upon him - the damn things could be pink, and Orlando couldn't help but see the temptation of that - and then time passed until Orlando realised they'd been chuckling and subsiding and then setting each other off again with pointed looks for at least five minutes, and he was beginning to get thirsty.

"Does the truce mean we can't go get a drink together?" he asked, slipping the question as unobtrusively as he could manage into the laughter, and Viggo took a quick deep breath, eyes still smile-creased, then let it out on a shrug.

"I - don't see why not," he said, lightly, and then looked up. "Orlando, I'm really not, I really didn't try to hurt you in all this," he said, earnestly, and Orlando waved him down before his mood could be killed.

"Okay, let's give it a rest, yeah?" he said, voice reasonable. "It's a pity things couldn't be different," he added, letting his voice go lofty, "but while you're still hung up on being a wrinkled old man, I'm not allowed to expose my extremely flexible and gorgeous youthfulness in case of instant corruption, right?"

Viggo shoved him gently. "Arrogant fuck," he grinned, and Orlando crowed,

"Oh, I would be, but you can't touch this," and spread his arms seductively, tipping his face back to the sky.

For a moment, he felt Viggo drinking him in, and then he heard a soft, fond, "little bastard," and shrugged hugely, enjoying himself.

"What can I say. When you've got it, you've got it. When it's not," and he gave Viggo a pointed once-over, "withered beyond all hope..."

"That's it, you're buying these mythical drinks," Viggo declared, making a big point of glaring, and Orlando blew him a kiss, Italian-style. "Cocktease," Viggo accused.

Orlando shrugged. "You made the rules," he drawled. "Until you choose to break 'em..."

Viggo groaned, and they started walking back towards the set. Orlando figured they could snaffle a flask from an unguarded hobbit, and, knowing Viggo, he probably had a similar plan. "Call Peter, tell him I'm leaving the country," Viggo said, and Orlando bumped his shoulder with a light fist.

"You really think you'd get away that easy?"

Viggo shot him a sideways glance, then pretended to shy back in horror, hands flying to his face, groaning again. "My god," he moaned - and all these groaning noises Viggo was making, they were reminding Orlando a lot of sex. He decided it was his civic duty to return the favour - "it's adolescent determination - I'm doomed..."

"Too right," Orlando said, increasing his pace cheerfully, and started humming Fever by Peggy Lee.

as ever, for Dale. Lobelia's won my heart, though, after the nicest damn beta I've seen in a long while.

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