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Threads and Dawn

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There is a moment everyone who has ever lived with great pain learns to fear. A moment when, just before dawn, every resource you have has been ground down by the long night's struggle during which you've fought for every small sliver of sleep.

It's the moment when you look out the window and it's not quite night and not quite day, which would be romantic if you were, say, Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer. But you're not; you're just someone who hasn't had anything resembling real sleep all night and now you have a whole, excruciating day ahead of you and you have nothing left in you to help you face it.

You reach for words in that moment, words like despair, despondency, hopelessness; you're a regular thesaurus of misery, yet you have nothing at all that really describes the depth of it. Nothing to describe what it is that makes you look at the curtains and think, when the light is the same, inside and outside, and the curtain have no color, and think, I can't bear this.

* * *

"Ramadan," Viggo says, when Orlando's halting attempt to describe why the false dawn still upsets him finally trails off. "The Muslim fast begins the moment you can distinguish a black thread from a white thread. No food until sundown, which presumably happens when you can't tell the difference in thread color.

"I've always wondered if they really have someone sitting there with threads," he adds, reaching across Orlando to fumble for something on the nightstand.

It would be a non sequiter if Orlando had never seen a familiar look in Viggo's eyes, a look that reveals that Viggo knows the power of this moment as well as Orlando does.

"Were you in hospital for a long time at some point?" Orlando asks, surprised Viggo's never mentioned it.

Viggo finds what he's looking for, and rolls back over, his back now to Orlando. As Orlando mirrors the motion until he's up against Viggo's back, he hears the raspy click of the lighter and suddenly the light in the room is warm and soft as Viggo lights the two squat beeswax candles on his nightstand.

"No," Viggo says, rolling back. As he moves in close, he slides a hand over Orlando's hip and then further until his fingers are brushing the long scar. "My breaks have all been up here," he adds, tapping his forehead with his free hand.

"I don't know," Orlando says, reaching up to touch Viggo's temple. "That might hurt more."

"With you here," Viggo replies, "it's like having given birth." As Orlando blinks, trying to follow that one, Viggo smiles. "I don't remember how much it hurt the last time."

As Viggo moves closer in order to kiss him, Orlando still wonders at the analogy. But not for long.

The next time Orlando looks at the window, the light outside is as soft and warm as the candlelight.

"Get dressed," he says to the dozing Viggo. "And I'll buy you breakfast."