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Gift fic for chaosmanor, Part 1

Title: Writing Through (Part One)
Recipient:chaosmanor
Author: to be revealed on January 1st!
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: mentions of past abuse (non-graphic)
Disclaimer: Not true, not mine. All made up.
Summary: Sometimes a second chance is all you need.





Orlando felt his cheeks starting to stiffen from all the smiling and wished that he could take a break, or better yet, take off entirely. No-one would probably miss him, anyway, or even really notice that he had left. This was the after party, so to speak, and he wasn't the most celebrated person in the room, anyway.

Not a nobody by any means, Orlando had four novels published, the third one being the one that brought him to the national limelight. The first had been a rather obscure tale of an all boys boarding school, and a rather sulky protagonist angsting his way through the schooling system, and the second one expanded to the later years. The third one, the successful one, had been about a man living in one of the remote Antarctica weather stations, having correspondence with several people of his past, who in the end were all revealed to be just figments of the man's imagination.

In the present, Orlando was doing his best not to show his boredom. God, he despised these things; book signings were a lark compared to this. Get-togethers, or matinees, or conferences, or whatever one wanted to call them, they all came down to the same thing; you had to socialize, and mingle, and make nice with people with whom you had nothing in common.

Well, nothing wasn't exactly right. Nothing but the same publishing house was more accurate.

Not that he was a hermit, or didn't know how to get along. He just preferred not to.

His publicist, Maria, brought him another drink and reminded him not to sulk.

“I'm not sulking,” Orlando protested, and surreptitiously rubbed his cheek muscles with his fingertips to relieve the pressure of the overworked muscles.

God, fake smiling actually hurt. He actively resisted the urge to rub at his eyes; his contact lenses were killing him. Why he ever gave into that vanity was anybody's guess, but he'd be damned if he didn't take those damned things off the second he was out of this 'do.

“You are,” Maria said. “But that's okay, doll. Two hours, tops. This thing is already winding down. You won't have to talk to anyone for two weeks, right?”

She was referring to Orlando's little get-away, as she liked to call it; he'd booked a flight to 'nowhere' (his actual words) and had stressed that he wouldn't be available during the two weeks that he'd be away.

“Yeah,” Orlando said dreamily. Maria scoffed at him but smiled, and watched him sip at his drink.

“It's just that... I know everyone,” he complained, taking in the big room and its occupants. “They're not any more interesting than they were last time, or before that. I swear I've never --”

He trailed off when he spotted a man, middle-aged and blue-eyed, standing by the buffet table and examining the offerings. Now this man Orlando hadn't seen before, and he took his time taking the man in. Nice suit, longish hair. It said something about this 'do that this man was the most interesting thing so far, and they hadn't even talked! Maria caught him staring, and turned to follow his gaze.

“Well, hello, handsome,” she said under her breath. “Been a while since I last saw him.”

“You know this man?” Orlando tried not to sound accusatory and failed. That bloke was practically the Merriam-Webster definition of sexy. Maria knew this man and hadn't ever thought to perhaps introduce them; what the hell was wrong with her?

“That's Viggo Mortensen. He never comes to these things. Never. I wonder what brought him out this time.” Maria smiled a little and then turned back to Orlando. “We dated, for a while, a few years back. It didn't work out.”

Straight. That figured. Orlando felt a brief stab of irrational jealousy, and brushed it off. What was that to him, anyway? Maria was always dating someone, Prince Charmings who always turned out to be less than charming after all. And boy had he been there too, and got burned.

“Oh. He was a jerk, then?”

Maria was surprised into a bark of laughter. “Jerk? Not in the slightest. He's the kindest man you'll ever meet. We just weren't each other's type.”

“I'm sorry,” Orlando offered, and took another long look at this Viggo Mortensen. Not tall, not strikingly handsome, not standing out, really, but something about him... “So what's his genre? Don't say detective novels. I detest those people.”

Maria bit into an olive and made an 'oh so good' face before answering his question. “He's not a novelist, he's a photographer. A bigger hermit than you are, doll.”

Well, that sealed it; a hermit he could deal with, a bitchy detective novelist, not so much. What else was there to do, besides? Sulking in the corner, getting more and more drunk as the night passed on, and swearing up and down to never turn up at one of these things again?

Right, that was last year. Orlando wasn't much looking forward to repeating all that. Even slinking out had lost most of its appeal after spotting that man.

“Introduce us,” Orlando demanded, and then added, “Please.”

Maria ate another olive without saying anything, her eyebrow raised. Orlando matched her stare for a moment, and then gave up. He could never out-stare her.

“There's something about him... I don't know. He's a fresh face. And if I have to listen to one more person bitching about sparkling vamps I'll go crazy.”

What was left unsaid was, you know it's been ages since I last took interest in anyone. He didn't have to say that, because Maria knew; she had been the one to pick up the pieces after his last break-up and deal with the months long aftermath.

Maria shrugged, and took his arm. “Alright, doll. I promise Viggo won't even recognise the reference.”

Orlando noted that Viggo had collected a plateful of seafood and was currently contemplating a tray of fried scallops. Up close the man was even more attractive, and Orlando felt a momentary doubt about whether this was wise, getting to know this man who already had affected him this badly without them even having exchanged any words. He quashed his nerves, calling himself nine kinds of fool for even thinking that – he only wanted to say hello, and introduce himself, not propose  –  and approached.

“I wouldn't recommend those. Too heavy on the lemon,” Orlando said, coming to a stop next to Viggo, close enough for intimate conversation, but not close enough to crowd. He hated it when people did that.

A raised eyebrow greeted his commentary. “I think I'll try just one, then,” Viggo said, and added one scallop to his plate. “I happen to like lemon.”

“So you're the one I keep hearing about, the elusive lemon lover,” Orlando said. “Never mind me, then.”

“I'll try not to,” Viggo said seriously, and then he noticed Maria. “Maria, hello.”

“Hi, Viggo,” she said warmly, and stepped closer for a greeting kiss on the cheek. “Why you look fabulous. That is to say you haven't changed much in the two years since I saw you last. Jerk.”

All this was said lightly, and Orlando again felt the pinprick of jealousy as Viggo laughed.

“Spare me the scolding, Maria. You look wonderful too.”

Maria beamed at him at the compliment, and Orlando couldn't help wondering whether she actually was over him. Well, they probably didn't want a third wheel, and that feeling had still to leave him, the almost certainty that making Viggo's acquaintance would be akin to courting for trouble. Perhaps retreat would be the best option at this point.

“Well, I'll leave you two to get reacquainted,” Orlando said, and turned to leave, but Maria grasped his arm before he could flee.

“Orlando, doll, don't be daft. I want you to meet Viggo. Viggo, this is Orlando Bloom, one of  my boys, and a true talent. Orlando, this is Viggo Mortensen, he's a photographer, and a recluse.” The last bit earned her a glare from Viggo.

“Hello,” Orlando said, and offered his hand in greeting. He couldn't help his gaze dropping down to Viggo's mouth. There was a scar on the upper lip, and it suddenly irked him that Maria knew how it felt to kiss him.

“Hello, Orlando,” Viggo said, and shook his hand briefly. “Are you a writer?”

“Yes, actually. My latest book came out three weeks ago.” Still staring at that mouth. Orlando gave himself a mental shake and tried to focus his attention on the conversation. “How about you?”

“I have one work in the editorial stage, a photographic book,” Viggo said. “It should come out sometime after Christmas, most likely in February, or so I'm told. Although that changes every time I hear back from them.”

Maria glanced at something over Orlando's shoulder and said, “I'm sorry, boys, I just saw someone I've been trying to talk to all night, I'll be right back.”

She aimed a smirk at Orlando as she waltzed past him, and he realised that she had probably picked up on both his attraction to Viggo, and his jealousy of seeing her interacting with Viggo so easily. That sneaky woman. He supposed he owed her. He quickly raked his brain to continue the discussion.

“So, what's your subject? People, nature....?”

“Nature, and animals, mostly. Sometimes people, but not that often.” Viggo shrugged almost self-consciously. “I'm not really good at talking about my work, actually. Usually other people take care of that for me.”

“Oh. I understand,” Orlando said, a little disappointed.

“How about your book? What is it about?”

Now it was Orlando's turn to feel a little self-conscious. “Um, it's about, in its core, it's about love.”

“Love?”

“Yeah. I write romance. Mainly.”

Now Viggo would give him a patronizing smile and fake interest in what he would see as a  boy/girl meets boy/girl, loses boy/girl and in the end gets together with boy/girl type of drivel.

“So what happens in your book?”

“Well, there's this boy, or a man actually, who's drifting in the world and trying to find his place. And he meets different kinds of people on  his journeys but he doesn't want to be tied down into anyone or anything.” Orlando smiled, forcing it just a little. He wasn't all that much better at talking about his work, it seemed. Usually it helped to flash a big smile, followed with a recommendation to read the book. “I don't want to spoil the ending just in case you want to read it.”

“Is it any good?” Viggo asked, causing Orlando to raise an eyebrow.

“That's a bit cheeky,” he said. “I'd like to think it isn't totally shit. I don't think it is.”

Viggo nodded. “I might look it up some time.”

Orlando snorted. “It's not like you have to. It's not going to get on the best-seller list, in any case. Not enough sparkle for the big audience.”

He could have bit his tongue as the last bit came out of his mouth. He was falling back to the snappy 'Twilight has ruined the romance genre' mode that he despised in others.

“I'm sorry. A little snipe at the industry my kind are prone to,” he said, in answer to Viggo's perplexed look.

“Your kind?”

“Romance novelists.” Orlando shrugged.

“Oh. If you say so.”

Maria was right; this bloke was an even worse social conversationalist than he, Orlando, was. He tried to find something to talk about, a common topic, because he was still getting that vibe. Maria. They had Maria in common.

“So, how long have you known Maria?” he asked.

Viggo hesitated, and Orlando wondered whether he was trying to answer his question accurately, or was appalled at such a personal question. “Five years, give or take six months.”

“She said you dated for a while,” he said, making it sound like a question.

Viggo was clearly uncomfortable now. “We did.”

“She said it didn't work out,” Orlando said, trying not to sound like he was dishing.

“I'd rather not discuss such personal stuff,” Viggo said curtly, and Orlando took a step back, stung at the snappish reply. Not that he hadn't been curious, but people usually were a bit more graceful about wanting to evade some topics. That snappish tone brought back some ugly old memories, too, and his instant, no-thought reaction was to flee.

“Right. Well, I should probably go home, early morning flight and all that. Leaving on a holiday, actually. So, yeah, good luck with your book and everything.  Hope to see you again sometime. Bye.”

With that, he bolted, without giving Viggo the chance to reply.

~*~*~

Merriam-Webster defined attraction as the act, process, or power of attracting, and also as the force acting mutually between particles of matter, tending to draw them together, and resisting their separation.

Orlando wondered if he were so badly out of the loop that he no longer recognised attraction, but wrote it off for a vibe, or a feeling.

He was a sorry excuse for a romance novelist, anyway. It had been over a year since his last meaningful relationship, and he hadn't pursued anyone since. I've probably forgotten how to kiss, Orlando thought moodily, let alone how to be someone's lover. All I remember is how to be a doormat.

A romance novelist who was celibate, for all intents and purposes, who didn't remember how it felt to share your body heat with another, and how to create more heat, shouldn't probably write about said stuff as though he were the expert.

It had been a week since he had met Viggo, and to his annoyance Orlando had thought of little else during his chosen seclusion.

That scar on his lip. The too long hair that brushed the collar of his shirt. Those faded blue eyes. The raise of a sandy eyebrow at Orlando's cheekiness.

And the curt dismissal at a too-curious enquiry.

Gods, he was worse than a teenager with his first crush. This was ridiculous. He should know better.

“I am not attracted to some holier-than-thou photographer who is probably straight anyway,” he said aloud, and his treacherous brain continued, He's probably banging some woman right now. Maybe he hooked up with Maria again once I was out of the way.

He groaned and buried his face in his hands. Now there was a mental image he didn't need. Not that he would ever begrudge Maria getting it on with an attractive – no, scratch that, make that gorgeous – man; at least as long as that man wasn't Viggo.

Orlando entertained the idea that Viggo had asked around about him, or maybe he'd gone online and googled his name. He tried to imagine Viggo's reaction if, or rather when he found out that Orlando was gay. He would perhaps think that Orlando only wrote gay romance. He would probably also think that Orlando had been hitting on him. He would possibly deduce that Orlando was sex-starved.

No, that last bit was definitely just him. Orlando groaned again and palmed at his crotch. He was pathetic, getting all worked up over a man he’d met just once, but surely there was no harm in relieving some of the pressure the old fashioned way. If anything, that would make it easier to forget about Viggo afterwards.

He wished.

~*~*~

Orlando's cell phone beeped somewhere in the darkness that served as his bedroom. Orlando cracked one eye open, and peered at the alarm clock placed on the night drawer, the digits glowing in the dark. Half past six. In the evening, he presumed, unless he'd slept a solid fourteen hours. He'd crawled on to the bed, still in his sweater and jeans, and curled there with one pillow tucked beneath his head, for a little nap. That had been sometime after four, he reckoned.

Surprised that he hadn't remembered to turn the thing off after ringing his mother, Orlando fished the cell phone from underneath a pile of laundry from the past week.

A text message.

Read your book.

Orlando raised an eyebrow at the single line, and then shrugged. Okay, so some reader had managed to acquire his phone number. That was no big deal. Maria said he sometimes got fan mail too (not that he had the time to actually start up a correspondence), and he'd never had an unpleasant run-in with a fan. There were a few ardent ones, he supposed, but they were always courteous. He considered himself lucky.

He texted back, Glad to hear.

He picked up his glasses from the night drawer and put them on, and then trudged to the kitchen to get something to drink. Maybe he should fix something to eat while he was at it, too, although he wasn't all that hungry. So far, he'd taken walks outside, gone snowboarding a couple of times, and then come back inside for long, comfortable naps. This was the life. At least until next week.

His stomach made a demanding noise, and Orlando headed to the cupboards. He had olive oil, some garlic and chilli, and some farfalle pasta, just enough for a simple meal for one.

He was in the process of chopping the garlic when the cell phone beeped again. Orlando rolled his eyes at the interruption, and opened the SMS.

Enjoyed it, actually. The ending was good. Can I call you?

“Can I call you,” Orlando read out loud, and shook his head. Okay, so he was texting with some crazy person. Next thing he'd know would be waking up in some Misery-type setting, drugged out of his mind and getting his leg amputated.

Orlando snorted at this worst case scenario, and texted back. Sure, I'm just fixing dinner, so I'm afraid I can't talk long.

By the time that the phone rang, the farfalle was in the boiling water, the chilli and the garlic were sizzling in the olive oil, and the smells wafting from the pan were making his stomach grumble greedily.

“Hello,” he answered, his heart rate suddenly through the roof.

“Hi, it's Viggo,” the caller said, and Orlando let out a huge breath.

“Viggo, as in Viggo Mortensen? Oh, my god, I thought I was dealing with some fangirl or boy,” he said, and laughed.

“Sorry if you're disappointed,” Viggo said from the other end. “I thought it'd be nice to talk some more.”

Oh, really, after last time? Orlando didn't give that thought voice, however, but instead asked where Viggo had procured his number.

“Maria gave it to me.”

“I told her I wouldn't be available,” Orlando said, and squeezed the cell phone between his cheek and his shoulder as he needed both hands to drain the pasta. “How did you manage that?”

“She owed me one,” Viggo simply said. “I also told her I needed to apologize to you.”

“Apologise? What for?” Orlando mixed the garlic and the chilli with the steaming hot pasta, and then grabbed a plate from the cupboard. He'd already poured himself a glass of wine (the first portion of alcohol he'd allowed himself since coming here) and realised suddenly he was famished.

“I was rather abrupt the last time we talked, and I thought you were offended. Maria told me that you two are friends of old. I didn't realize that.”

Orlando had taken a first bite of his pasta while Viggo talked, and mmh'ed in appreciation at the spicy flavour.

“Oh, it's all right. I honestly didn't mean to pry. Maria did tell me you're a private person, and I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Well, I'm glad you don't bear a grudge,” Viggo said. “I did read your book. It surprised me.”

“Really?” Orlando asked. “What about it?”

“Well, for starters, I didn't expect your protagonist to end up together with the old man he'd been writing postcards to,”  Viggo said. “Although it was clear that David was in love with Sam from the start. I thought it would just end up in heartbreak.”

“I don't like heartbreak,” Orlando said. “I mean, I don't like easy fixes, either, but I do like to believe that every once in a while it's possible to take a good look at how things are going and learn something from it. Sam had been in love with David all along, it just took him a few years and a few other encounters to really see that.”

“Well, it was a very good read. I hope to see it doing well. Even if there aren't any vampires in it.”

Orlando realised that Viggo was gently pulling his leg, and laughed.

“Yeah, well, I doubt it'd make a good movie regardless,” he said. “But I'm glad you liked the book, and I appreciate you letting me know.”


He took a sip of his wine and regretted the fact that Viggo was probably thousands of miles away. It was easy to talk to him, still, even if he normally wasn't that good on the phone with people he hardly knew. There was a reason why he didn't do telephone interviews. Maria always told him that people needed to see his mug to get the full brunt of his charm. Orlando wasn't sure whether the compliment was backhanded or not.

“Are you home?” he asked, and realised he didn't know where 'home' was for Viggo.

“I'm at the ranch, yes.” There were some scuffling noises, and Orlando's interest was piqued further. Was Viggo loading a fireplace?

“Where's your ranch?” Orlando asked, taking a comfortable position in the stuffed chair he'd migrated to. He'd intended to make the call a short one, but since it was Viggo... well, he was in no hurry.

“In Idaho. Gets pretty cold this time of the year.”

“I'll just bet.”

They talked some more, Orlando asked about life in Idaho, and Viggo asked where Orlando had taken off to, only to be told that Orlando didn't want to divulge that bit of information and not even Maria knew, winding up to the subject of their respective professions and mutual interests. It seemed both enjoyed horseback riding and outdoors, and the works of Bob Dylan and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Orlando started to contemplate inviting himself to Viggo's place, but then reminded himself that Viggo was a private person, and although the conversation flowed easily, it was quite another thing to assume that Viggo would want to pursue a friendship with him, let alone anything more intimate.

“I'm glad you called,” he finally said, after he'd yawned for the third time in the past minute. “Have a good Christmas and take care. Maybe we'll run into each other again in some work event.”

“Maybe we will. Good night, Orlando.”

Oh, the way his name sounded when Viggo spoke it. Orlando told himself that he wasn't smitten, at all, and wished Viggo good night as well.

They ended the call, and Orlando pep-talked himself out of the feeling of melancholy wistfulness. This Viggo was a decent person, but it wasn't going to turn into anything, and all in all it was a good sign that he was finally showing interest in someone after almost a year of solitary moping. Maybe he was finally moving on.

But damnit, he was still getting that vibe, that elusive feeling that given a fair chance, he and Viggo could be so good together, and it was bloody unfair that it wasn't just meant to be.

~*~*~

The following evening he'd just got the fire going when the phone rang. Damn, he still hadn't remembered to turn the thing off. Brushing aside the notion that he'd left the cell phone on in the hopes of Viggo calling again, he screened the call before answering.

“Hi, Viggo,” he said, his mouth suddenly dry.

“Hi, Orlando.”  A brief silence. “Is it cold where you are?”

“How did you... Yes, it is,” Orlando said, and then brushed his lips with the tips of his fingers, feeling the smile. A bloke gives me a call and I go all mushy inside, how pathetic. And wonderful.

“It sounded like you have a fire going,” Viggo said. “Did you have your dinner already?”

Oh. He hadn't remembered the dinner excuse the night before. Busted.

“No, I just came inside.” Instant replay of the words in his mind. “I mean I went for a walk earlier. It's a bit chilly in here so I thought I should build a fire. No fun waking up in the  middle of the night and freezing your arse off. Besides, I enjoy a live fire.”

“Do you have snow? We got seven inches last night. Had to spend the morning shovelling.”

Orlando swallowed a quip about the seven inches. “Yeah, not much though. I suppose the broadcast promised some snowfall for tomorrow. But I'll be leaving in a few days, anyway, so I doubt I'll get stranded.”

He eased slightly, letting Viggo to steer the conversation. Viggo told him that he was currently all on his lonesome at the ranch, but he was expecting his son and his daughter-in-law over for Christmas. Orlando felt his stomach plummet at the mention of Viggo's kid. Kid probably meant an ex-wife. That didn't of course  mean that he couldn't like the occasional bloke, but still. He dated women, and Maria wasn't the last of them, most probably.

“I don't have any special plans for Christmas,” he said. “I suppose I'll go to Maria's for Boxing Day dinner, as usual, but that is all. I don't mind.”

That wasn't exactly the truth, but Orlando wasn't going to ruin the call by moping about his loneliness.

“If I remember correctly, Maria is a very decent cook.” Viggo hesitated. “I don't mean to pry, but she said that you're not seeing anyone right now.”

Orlando couldn't  help a snort. “No. I actually haven't been seeing anyone for a year. A bit sad, isn't it? I don't like to advertise that fact in the interviews.”

“Well, it is sad only if you'd rather have it otherwise,” Viggo said. “Or how sad do you think it is that I haven't dated anyone since I stopped going out with Maria?”

“Really? She said that was a few years ago,” Orlando blurted.

“It was. I'm not  much of a social person. And... Well, there had been some other relationships that didn't turn out too well. I thought maybe it was time to step back from dating people and start living my own life.”

Orlando took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. “If you have some piece of wisdom you'd like to share, I'd appreciate it. To be perfectly honest, this has been a really tough year. But I wouldn't want to think of myself as one of those people who can't be happy unless they're in a relationship, you know?”

Viggo hesitated. “Don't take this the wrong way, but I can't help thinking that someone like you cannot face that much trouble in meeting interesting people, who are also interested in you.”

“Well, I'm not exactly a 'what you see is what you get'. I'm actually really clumsy. When I'm working I can't spare a thought to anything else. I've been on painkillers since I was seventeen. Oh, and I wear glasses, all the time. Hate the contacts. Not so sexy, really.  Or the fact that I don't like to wear anything other than a pair of sweats when I'm home.” He cringed. That was a bit more than he'd intended to say, pouring out all the things that Eric used to hate about him. Great going. Viggo was surely going to fall for him now.

“Sweats, huh? How about I don't necessarily change out of the pyjamas all day, except when I go out to feed the horses,” Viggo said, completely deadpan.

“And then we wonder why we're not seeing anyone,” Orlando said, a laughter bubbling up, and then Viggo joined him.

“I suppose you're onto something there,” Viggo said. “The publishing house 'do was the first time I've worn a suit in at least a year.”

Orlando laughed, and then again felt the small stab of melancholy. He suddenly realised that he did want to be a part of this man's life, only he didn't know in what capacity. There was a spark, but maybe it was one-sided. Maybe Viggo was reaching out to him in the hopes of gaining a friend. He wasn't sure if he could be content with that, but if that was all that Viggo wanted, or offered, he would have to learn to be.

Viggo asked about his plans after he got back from his get-away. Orlando wanted to detect real interest in the answer, but wasn't sure.

“Well, I have some promoting left to do,” he said with a sigh. “Book signings, book store visits, all that. It can be fun, but tiring too. And don't I sound like a spoiled brat, complaining about it.”

“Nothing bratty about stating a fact,” Viggo said. “I've always found promoting the hardest part of the work.”

“Oh, tell me about it,” Orlando said in a mock whine, and then dropped it. “It'll be over by Christmas, in any case. I'm sure I can persevere.”

“You're young, you'll bounce right back,” Viggo said, and then there were scuffling noises as though he were moving about. “Looks like it's starting to snow again. I'm afraid I'm back to shovelling before the path to the barn gets blocked. I'm in big trouble then.”

“I should get to making dinner,” Orlando said gloomily. “Did I mention it's another thing I'm not so good at?”

“No, but I remember that you don't like lemon,” Viggo said.

“I wouldn't say that I don't like lemon, but I enjoy all things in moderation,” Orlando parried. “Well, it was nice talking to you. Again. Say hello to the horses for me.”

“Will do.”

They ended the call, and although he was hungry, Orlando forewent the preparation of dinner and nibbled on some bread, instead, while he logged himself online to learn all he could about Viggo Mortensen.

If Viggo had been somewhat impressed with Orlando's book, Orlando was most certainly impressed with the images he found of Viggo's works online. It seemed that not only did he take photographs, but he painted, also, and was known to write poetry, too. He was a very thoughtful person, but also rather outspoken about the issues he believed in.

One particular photograph caught his stare, and he spent very long moments gazing at the picture of a man with a duffel bag in one hand and a briefcase in another, the man with his back turned to the camera which captured the view that the man faced; all bright lights, blurred and twisted, a cacophony of colours.

This was the essence of the book he'd written. Orlando shook his head slowly as if to rouse himself off a trance. He kept clicking, and found the photographs of horses he'd expected (the way Viggo had spoken of his horses had revealed a great deal of how important they were to him), also a picture titled 'Henry' of a blurred, boy shaped figure that shaded his eyes against the glare of the sun (this Orlando assumed was Viggo's son).

He went snooping, too, thinking that he could perhaps find some gossip of who Viggo had dated previously. He found one picture of Viggo with Maria (the picture seemed to have been taken at an art exhibition, judging from the art pieces and paintings that surrounded them), and this time the flare of jealousy was surprisingly strong. As if he had any claim to Viggo. As if he had any right to begrudge Maria any past happiness she might have had with this man.

Orlando couldn't deny that he was now more intrigued than ever. How did Viggo manage to live such a low-key life, since even he, who was no great critic could tell that Viggo's works were of outstanding quality? That was something he would have to ask Viggo the next time Viggo called.

Orlando logged off and made himself a cup of tea, thinking to himself. It wasn't until he was getting ready to bed that he realised how he'd already taken for granted that Viggo would call him again.

He just felt it.

And maybe it was time to do something other than sit around and wait for that call. He wasn't typically a go-getter, but something told him that this time he would have to take the initiative, for better or for worse.

If only he knew how Viggo felt, or if he indeed felt anything. If only, if only. Orlando chewed on his thumbnail, and stared at the screen, undecided and unsure.

~*~*~

“So, what can I do for you, doll?”

Maria didn't quite sound mocking, but Orlando supposed he would have deserved that even if she did. He'd stressed that he wouldn't be available, and now, just a week later, he was ringing her up and asking for favours. At ten pm, at that.

“It's Viggo,” he said simply, and just the mention of his name made his stomach do somersaults.

“What about him?”

All right, so she wasn't going to make this easy on him.

“I need to know why you two weren't each other's type,” Orlando said.

Maria sighed. “Doll... that's not something I can divulge. Even if it didn't work out between us, Viggo is still a friend, and I wouldn't want to compromise his privacy. Why do you need to know?”

Orlando rubbed at the back of his neck, suddenly embarrassed. Maria would soon guess that he was pining after Viggo, and would probably poke fun. Orlando 'Hermit' Bloom falling for the straight bloke, what a joke.

“We've been talking,” he said. “Viggo called me after he got my number from you. He called last night too.”

“He said he needed to apologize,” Maria said, perfectly deadpan, and didn't offer anything else.

“Yes, and he did. But we've been talking about other stuff too. I've... I don't know, I feel that I've opened up to him like I haven't done in years, with anyone. Not even Eric, I think.”

Maria was surprised; Orlando could hear the small sound of drawn breath. “Really?”

“Yes, really, and I thought... Hell, I thought that if there's any chance that he might be into blokes, too, and not just women, I should probably give this a shot because I can't imagine letting him slip through my fingers without even trying.”

Orlando realised he was making a speech and stopped. It was all true, however, and so he didn't try and take it back. Maria was silent for a moment before speaking.

“If you think there's something there, then you should see where it goes. I'm saying this as your friend, and Viggo's friend.” She hesitated before adding, “In all the time that I've known him, Viggo has never asked me any favors before now. It was really important for him to get to talk to you. So that's something for you to consider.”

“Thanks, love,” he said, and then added, “I might make a detour before coming  home. But I'll see you on Thursday at the very latest.”

“Alright, take care,” she said. “And Orlando?”

“Yeah?”

“Good luck.”

She had just gone back to watching the movie which Orlando's call had interrupted, when the phone rang again. It was Orlando, again, sounding rather sheepish.

“Do you happen to know just where in Idaho Viggo's ranch is?”

~*~*~

Orlando found out something about himself on the flight over. He was really good at pep talk when it came to other people, but when it came to himself he excelled at raising doubts and convincing himself that he was making a big, fat mistake. He'd done that even when he'd broken up with Eric, even though he had known it was the best thing to do, and that staying together would drive him slowly crazy.

By the time that the plane landed, he was half-convinced that Viggo would take one look at his stupidly hopeful face and slam the door shut. No, Viggo would first give a scornful laugh before slamming the door closed to his face.

“Shut up, brain, you're not doing me any favours here,” he muttered, and earned himself a strange look from the woman before him in the queue out of the plane.

Maria had given him the address (“not that I've been there myself, but I just happen to have it – we sometimes send postcards and such”) to Viggo's place, and Orlando gave the address to the taxi driver after climbing in. The man gave him a puzzled look, and then asked if Orlando knew that this was quite a drive away, and not just around the corner. Orlando assured that he did (not that he did, actually, but it didn't matter that much, anyway) and then made himself comfortable in the back-seat.

It was snowing steadily, and Orlando imagined Viggo shovelling snow on his yard, his breath escaping him in puffs and clouds of  vapour, his nose reddened by the frost. He'd never been to Idaho, but the snow banks were much higher than he'd ever seen before, and he wondered how and why Viggo had ever ended up owning property in this particular state. He remembered Viggo telling him that he was born in New York, and had lived a part of his childhood abroad. Or maybe Viggo hadn't told him these things, maybe he'd read up about them on the internet. He wondered if Viggo would think him a freak if he were ever to confess the internet stalking. Maybe he would do so after finding out if Viggo had went snooping, too.

He dozed off sometime during the drive, and roused only when the taxi driver mentioned that they were roughly a quarter hour away from their destination.

All the sleepiness left him as quickly as though someone had slapped him, hard. Orlando ran his hands through his hair, and wished that he had taken more time to plan this. There would  have been plenty of time to do this after Christmas, after his promotion tour, after Viggo's kid had been over. Plenty of time for Orlando to decide whether this was plain crazy or something that he really needed to do. Perhaps it was both.

He groomed himself as well as he could, considering that he was all bundled up in a scarf and a parka, and then thought about digging into his travelling bag to locate his contact lenses. He was suddenly quite certain that Viggo wouldn't find him attractive. Hell, the man probably was straight.

And then it was too late for second thoughts, because the taxi took a turn left to a smaller, winding road, and all too soon pulled up on Viggo's yard. There was a barn of some sort on the far end (Orlando wasn't a country boy by all means, and he couldn't tell whether it was actually a barn or some sort of shed) of the property, and the main house was to the right. The house looked inviting, if not exactly impressive, and Orlando felt his nerves all the way down to his stomach.

The taxi driver cited a fare that Orlando normally would have found ludicrous, but this time he didn't bat an eye. His mind chased itself like a dog enraptured with its tail. What if Viggo wasn't home at all? What if he had company? What if Viggo would invite him in out of politeness, hoping that Orlando would take the hint and leave the same way that he'd come?

Orlando stepped out of the taxi and thanked the driver, and then watched him drive away. It was safer to look that way, instead of the house. Frost nipped at his cheekbones and nose, and Orlando realised that he would have to go in sooner or later. No, scratch that, he would have to ring the doorbell sooner or later, and hope that he would be admitted in.

Except that there was no doorbell. Orlando's eyebrows climbed at this oddity, but then reminded himself that knocking had served people for hundreds of years before the advent of doorbells, and so he knocked, and waited.

He transferred his weight to his other foot when it became clear that no-one was rushing to the door, not exactly impatient, but anxious to get this first eye-to-eye over and done with.

He knocked again, and waited. Still nothing. Releasing an anxious breath, he knocked again, simultaneously trying the doorknob, and was again surprised when the door opened. Mentally he berated Viggo for not keeping the doors locked so that anyone could just waltz right in, but then again this wasn't exactly an urban neighbourhood by anyone's reckoning.

“Hello,” he called out, and found himself in the foyer. “Viggo? Anyone home?”

His glasses misted over as soon as he was in, and Orlando took them off, blowing gently on the chilled glass until the lenses cleared again, and then put them back on. He didn't want to miss the first look into Viggo's house for the world.

Warmth invited him further in, and he soon found himself in what had to be Viggo's living room. There was a fire going, which meant that Viggo couldn't have left the premises entirely (and Orlando reminded himself that there had been no tyre tracks on the snow when they arrived – then again in this snowfall that didn't mean much). Orlando dropped down his travelling bag, and took a look around. There were book shelves along all of the walls except one. This one had a large window facing the back of the property, as well as a couch and some arm chairs. Orlando guessed that Viggo liked to read in natural light.

He thought about calling Viggo's cell phone, just in case he was upstairs, asleep, when the door opened and closed behind him. Suddenly his stomach was all nerves again, and Orlando turned, slowly, bracing himself for the inevitable confrontation. His mind was suddenly bombarded with all the stories he'd heard about home-owners shooting uninvited guests they'd thought to be burglars. Surely Viggo didn't own any guns. He wished.

Viggo came in, shrugging snow off of  himself, and then ridding himself of his snow boots. Orlando watched him anxiously from the living room doorway, loathe to draw attention to himself, but not seeing any alternative.

“Hi,” he said softly, and Viggo's head whipped up in surprise.

Their eyes met, and again Orlando's belly was filled with liquid warmth, sending tendrils of heat in every direction. Viggo looked flabbergasted, to say the least, and slightly alarmed, but happy, too – or so Orlando hoped. It was too dark to say for certain.

“I thought I heard a car,” Viggo said, and his drawly voice sent shivers up and down Orlando's spine. Surely Viggo hadn't sounded this, this sexy on the phone or in the publishing house 'do, because if he had,Orlando would have jumped him on the spot.

“Surprise,” Orlando said lamely, his hands now balled into loose fists. Viggo didn't look like he was going to fly into violent rage, but he knew from experience that some people hated to be surprised in this way. Last time he'd surprised someone he'd caught his erstwhile boyfriend red-handed, and that had quickly escalated into a nasty, violent fight and a break-up.

Not that he and Viggo were a couple, or even an item, and he wished that Viggo would say something and not just look at him as though unable to believe that he really was here, standing in Viggo's living room doorway, still all bundled up in his winter gear.

“I tried to call earlier, and was a bit worried when you didn't answer,” Viggo said. “You were probably on your way by then.”

“Yeah. I thought, if we're going to keep talking, it'll be a lot cheaper for you if I just fly over,” Orlando joked feebly, still nervous, still anxious, his fingernails still punching crescent shapes into his palms.

“I'm really glad,” Viggo said, and crossed the foyer, and then he was suddenly close enough that Orlando could make out the snowflakes that were melting on his lashes. Viggo wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close, and Orlando's breath left him in a rush. He burrowed his nose into Viggo's neck and inhaled deeply, imprinting the scent into his memory so that he would have that with him when he left and Viggo stayed.

“I'm glad to see you too,” he said, his voice muffled. Viggo probably couldn't feel his heartbeat through their jackets, but it had to be a close thing. If Viggo were to nuzzle his neck the way Orlando was nuzzling his, he would feel the madly fluttering pulse and know that Orlando's knees were holding by dint of will.

“Let's get you undressed, I'll see if I can find us something to eat,” Viggo said, and Orlando's mind latched into the word undressed like it was gospel and he was a devout believer.

“Yeah,” he said, and allowed Viggo to get him out of the parka. Viggo took his outerwear to the foyer, and Orlando took off his shoes, too, seeing that Viggo was going around in just socks. Viggo disappeared into the kitchen, and Orlando was left standing nervously in the hallway.

Viggo seemed to be taking this well. Orlando envied his composure, because he felt shaky and shivery all over. At least Viggo hadn't told him to get out, and that was something. Orlando allowed himself the hope that unfurled in his chest.

“I'm sorry I came over uninvited,” he said hurriedly when Viggo came back with a steaming mug and ushered him into the living room. Orlando gratefully sank into the couch. “I should have asked first. Or better yet I should have waited for you to ask me.”

“Glad you didn't, you'd be waiting for a long time,” Viggo said, and handed him the mug.

“Oh,” Orlando said, his face falling, and his gut clenching.

“No, not like that,” Viggo said quickly. “Because I'm not good with --- I don't take social cues very well. And because I wouldn't have thought you were interested. Not because I didn't want you here, Orlando. I do. I'm glad you're here. So don't apologize.”

“Oh,” Orlando said again, and took a mouthful of the beverage; it was hot chocolate, and his taste buds sizzled at the sugary taste. “Okay.”

Viggo watched him almost nervously, and Orlando realised that he should probably explain himself, lest Viggo think he was a flighty, impulsive person who did these things all the time – and only to be disappointed later when he found out that it wasn't true. He fought the urge to take off his glasses to rub at his eyes – he only did that when he was nervous, and he didn't want to start fidgeting in front of Viggo– and focused his gaze on his mug, instead.

“You're probably thinking about why I'm here, and not in Michigan,” Orlando started.

“You were in Michigan?” Viggo asked, and Orlando nodded.

“Yup. Not much of a skier, but I do know how to snowboard. Anyway, I ---”

He floundered, not quite knowing how to continue. I think I'm starting to fall for you. I couldn't go another day without seeing you. I am getting this vibe from you, you know, so I just flew over like a fool just so that I could try and explain this to you. 

He really was pathetic. The people he wrote about didn't always have a way with words, but they never got this tongue-tied, either, as though the part of their brain that formed speech was paralysed or better yet, had keeled over altogether.

“You wanted to see me,” Viggo concluded after it had become obvious that Orlando didn't know how to finish the sentence, and something inside Orlando released. He smiled.

“Yeah, I did. So I booked the flight and asked Maria your address and here I am.”

Viggo's eyebrow rose at the mention of Maria, and Orlando hurried to continue. “Don't blame her. She gave you my number even though I'd told her I didn't want to talk to anyone. So it was just fair that I got your address.”

“Suppose so.” Viggo didn't look angry, like Orlando had thought he might be. Instead, he looked almost amused.

“It was getting boring in Michigan at any rate,” Orlando said, and smiled.

His nerves had finally settled, and he realised that once he got over himself, he and Viggo had the same easy rapport face-to-face that they had on the phone. And the man was so mind-numbingly attractive Orlando didn't know how to keep from making any premature advances.

Viggo offered to show him the house, and took Orlando on a tour – a short one, but a tour nonetheless. The kitchen, next to the living room, was earthy and spacious with large windows giving to the front yard; there was also a pantry attached. There was a small mudroom behind the kitchen, too.

Upstairs were the master bedroom and the adjoining bathroom, as well as a guest room with a smaller bath. Orlando took a peek at the room Viggo called his study; there were photographs everywhere, framed on the walls, spread on the tables, stacked in binders. Viggo said that he had a studio in town, and he seldom worked at home.

“I work at home,” Orlando said a bit sheepishly. “I know it might not be the best idea, but I'm too comfortable to change my ways. Or too lazy. Maybe both.”

“Whatever works for you,” Viggo said with a grin, one that Orlando easily returned.

He left his travel bag in the guest room, sternly telling himself not to be disappointed. Even if Viggo were so inclined, he'd never be as forward as to assume that Orlando would sleep in his bed. Besides, Orlando had to get used to the idea of being this attracted to someone, too. He wasn't sure if he would be up to sleeping with anyone right now, even Viggo, even though the attraction and the vibe were very much there.

Not that he would oppose to a kiss. No, not at all.

Viggo asked him if he'd warmed up sufficiently to risk going outside for a moment, 'but only as far as to the barn', and Orlando complied eagerly. They went outside, where it had stopped snowing, and Orlando had to restrain himself not to fling himself into the freshly fallen snow to make snow angels. Viggo might not think that he was completely bonkers, so it was better not to ruin that impression.

The barn was warm, and smelled of horses – well, that was to be expected – and Orlando closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. He wasn't, and never had been a country boy, but he reckoned he could easily get used to this, the easy domesticity. The horses were resting, and Orlando stroked their velvety muzzles with his fingertips, careful not to spook. He had the idea that Viggo would throw out anyone who bothered his horses.

By the time they were back outside, the stars were already showing, and the temperature had dropped. Orlando turned to look at Viggo, his smile warm.

“You really have a beautiful place here, Viggo. How long have you owned the property?”

“I bought it after the divorce, in the early nineties. By then I'd had quite enough of living in the city.”

After the divorce. So, Viggo had been married at some point. Orlando filed this knowledge away, and followed him back inside the house.

~*~*~

((Continued in PART TWO))

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Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
helineloro
Dec. 28th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
Very, very, very interesting! ^___^

Now I keep reading.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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