This is "Diamonds and Rust", written mumblemumble years ago, for the Just Words zine.
Title: Diamonds and Rust
Disclaimer: Not true.
Betaed by crimson_bride
Diamonds and Rust is, of course, the title of a gorgeous song that Joan Baez wrote about her love affair with Bob Dylan. Full acknowledgements to Ms. Baez, for the story title and the images. Yes, this is song fic.
“Hello?” Viggo said distractedly, tucking the cordless phone into the crook of his neck and shoulder so he could keep stirring the pasta sauce that was simmering on the stove.
“Viggo, it’s Orlando,” the voice on the other end said.
“Orlando?” Viggo said, frowning to himself a little. He leaned against the counter in the kitchen and looked out of the window, across the garden and down the hill. The house roofs were bathed in silver, and a luminous moon hung in the sky. “Where are you?”
Orlando chuckled. “I don’t actually know. Somewhere between New York and LA. There was some bad weather, so the plane landed, and we’re waiting for it to clear.”
Viggo knew who ‘we’ was. That would be Kris- he traveled everywhere with Orlando- and probably Sidi too. There was a beep, and a clunk as Orlando dropped coins into a phone. “You’re not on your cell?”
“Nah, damn battery’s flat, so I’m on a pay phone at the airport. Hang on.” There was a pause and then Orlando said, “It’s Ohio apparently, according to the sign down the hall. Am I interrupting? Do you need to go?”
Viggo turned the heat off underneath the pasta sauce. “No, you’re good. I was cooking dinner, but Henry’s not home yet so there’s no rush.”
Another beep and clunk, and Orlando said, “Tell me what you’re cooking.”
Viggo smiled to himself. They used to do this all the time: have rambling conversations. “I bought some tomatoes today from a grower’s market, organic Roma tomatoes, lovely and ripe and sweet. I’ve oven-roasted them, along with elephant garlic and some pimientos, then made a sauce. I’m going to add some pork sausages that I’ve cooked. I bought them at the market too, they’re homemade, full of rosemary and thyme. You should smell them.”
Beep. Clunk. Viggo watched the moon sail behind a cloud bank, lighting it from behind so that a silver aura limned the cloud.
Orlando said, “I had something on the plane, a salad or something.”
“You should eat better,” Viggo said, and they both burst out laughing. Viggo opened the fridge and took out a Samuel Adams, found a bottle opener in a drawer and popped the top off. It was something Orlando had said to Viggo over and over, appalled by his casual disregard for his diet. Viggo had always maintained that beer was actually liquid bread, and therefore he ate just fine. “Hey,” Viggo said. “You okay? Sean called me, said he’d been out drinking with you, that you were about to dump her. I hope you didn’t take romantic advice from him.”
Beep. Clunk. “Yeah, I’m good,” Orlando said, and he sounded so tired to Viggo’s ear. “Better than good. It wasn’t going anywhere; I was never going to be the person she wanted me to be.”
‘Straight’, Viggo thought to himself. ‘Married to her. Famous enough’. Not that he’d ever say any of these things to Orlando, but that didn’t stop him from thinking them. “Glad you’re okay,” Viggo said. “Glad you called me.”
“What about you?” Orlando asked. “How are you doing?”
More than an innocent question, since Orlando knew that Viggo had been struggling with his own personal demons for the past year or so. Unsure what to say, Viggo said nothing.
Beep. Clunk. “Have you done anything about it?” Orlando asked.
Dampness prickled Viggo’s eyelids. “Yeah. I went and saw someone, started some chemicals.” He hated talking about it, wished everyone would leave him alone, but Orlando was just being worried about him, like everyone else who knew him well.
“Good,” Orlando said. “Have they helped?”
“Maybe,” Viggo said. “I think I still feel exactly the same, I just don’t care about it quite as much anymore. That’s probably an improvement. I can’t paint or write.”
“Blocked?” Orlando asked. “Or because of the medication?”
“No motivation,” Viggo said. “I can’t make myself care enough about anything to paint.”
Beep. Clunk. “Assuming I ever make it out of here, I’d like to catch up with you. I’m in LA for a while now,” Orlando said, and Viggo could hear the worry in his voice.
“Yeah, that’d be good. I’ll cook you something. Better not bring Sidi over, Brigit’s sick and he’ll just upset her.” Brigit pricked her ears up at the mention of her name and wuffed quietly at Viggo, just in case it was dinnertime again.
“Brigit’s ill? What’s wrong with her?” Orlando asked, and Viggo knew he understood. Orlando loved Sidi to distraction. He understood.
“She’s old, got heart problems, got arthritis too.” More dampness, enough that Viggo had to close his eyes.
“Give her my love,” Orlando said. “And tell her I’ll bring her a treat soon. Kris is calling me, I’ve got to go. Take care, love you.”
“Love you too,” Viggo said, then the phone was dead and Orlando was gone, presumably to catch his plane.
Viggo wandered out onto his deck, Brigit waddling behind him, phone still in his hand, leaving the house in darkness apart from the light in the kitchen. It was cool outside, and as quiet as LA could be, and Viggo leaned against the railing in the privacy of the darkness.
Orlando did this to him, even after all this time. All it took was a phone call and a casual ‘love you’ and Orlando’s ghost was back. It was going to be a bad night.
# # #
The door of the makeup bus slammed shut behind Orlando as he threw himself into his seat, panting. Sean groaned and tossed something at Orlando from where he was slouched in his chair.
“How can you be so bloody cheerful?” he grumbled. “How can you be so awake?”
Orlando found the tube of makeup that Sean had thrown at him, and tossed it back. “You’re just old, Sean. You might as well give up now.”
Sean grumbled a little more and trailed off into silence, and Orlando reached for his contacts case. It took a moment to slip in the violet-blue lenses, and he blinked cautiously as they settled in place, then put the case away and looked across at Viggo, who was sitting silently, one of his interminable journals open on his lap, his pencil moving quickly across it.
There was no point in teasing Viggo when he was like this, he wouldn’t notice, so Orlando clambered out of his chair and leant over Viggo’s shoulder, reading the scrawl.
Eventually, Viggo said, “Satisfied? Ready to go back to your chair?”
“No,” Orlando replied. “Am I annoying you yet?”
“Nope,” Viggo said. “I have achieved a Zen-like state of calm, and remain unruffled by your presence, even if you are snuffling and sniffing in my ear.”
“A Zen vagabond,” Orlando said, and he sniffed loudly and waited. Eventually, Viggo would have to ask him.
“Well? What do you think?” Viggo asked, putting down his pencil.
Orlando looked at the page of what seemed entirely random scrawl. “Is it a poem?”
The ripe smell of Aragorn’s jacket filled Orlando’s nose when he sniffed, along with makeup and sweat and glue and whatever it was that Viggo had spilt on his costume the day before, and Orlando considered.
“I think it’s wanky,” he finally said.
“Thanks,” Viggo said. “You think it’s a good thing I’m not trying to make a living as a poet?”
“Yep,” Orlando said, peeling himself off Viggo’s shoulder and going back to his own chair. “You’re never going to get anything published unless you buy your own publishing company.”
“Poorly-educated, biased, underfed and just plain wrong. If acting doesn’t work out for you, Orlando, you’ve got a great future as a literary critic,” Viggo said good-naturedly, and Orlando grinned at him.
“I am not underfed,” Orlando said, and they both burst out laughing.
Sean groaned and said, “Shut up, you lunatics.”
# # #
“It’s not salubrious, is it?” Viggo said, and Orlando slid the window open and leant out, looking across the parking lot, and letting a blast of cold air in.
“It’s not,” Orlando agreed, closing the window again, and Viggo knelt down beside the antiquated radiator.
“Do you have any idea how to make this work?” he asked Orlando.
Orlando squatted down beside him. “Like this,” he said, and he turned the valve at the bottom of the radiator, and was rewarded by hissing and gurgling from within it.
“Show-off,” Viggo said, and Orlando threw himself down on Viggo’s bed, sending up a cloud of dust, and presumably dust mites too.
“Smart-arse,” Orlando said, and Viggo flopped down beside him.
They should continue exchanging invective, that was what they did, but Viggo found himself too intrigued by the familiarity with which Orlando had claimed space on his bed to pursue the question of the relative intelligence of their asses, which would inevitably lead to a discussion on exactly how one assessed the intelligence of a donkey.
As always with Orlando, direct questioning was the only way of finding out what, if anything, was going on in his head, so Viggo asked, “How come you’re in my room, and on my bed?”
“This is the star accommodation,” Orlando said. “You should see mine.” He rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow, suddenly serious. “I thought you might like me to stay.”
Direct question; direct answer. Orlando was beautiful, with his cheekbones and skin and endless smile. Viggo could make that color, the color of Orlando’s skin; it was ultramarine blue and burnt sienna and titanium white. Viggo thought about what it would be like to have him.
“I’d like you to stay,” Viggo said. “If you want to be here.”
Orlando leant forward and kissed him.
# # #
“Yes!” Elijah shouted, and he threw himself at Dom, and they tumbled down the hillside in a tangle of arms and legs, kicking up flurries of dead leaves as they slid and slithered. Orlando followed them down the slope only marginally more elegantly, grabbing at the trees, and shouting too.
By luck he managed to arrive at the bottom of the slope still on his feet, after wrapping his arms around a tree trunk to steady himself.
“Very graceful,” Viggo said as Dom and Elijah picked themselves up and inspected each other for damage.
Orlando wandered over to Viggo, took the cigarette he was smoking out of his hand and took a drag. It was just starting to snow, the sky heavy and silver above them, and leaves fell over the pair of them when Orlando leant against a tree and handed Viggo’s cigarette back.
He exhaled, and the condensation from his breath combined with the smoke and hung in the air. Snowflakes were falling now, melting in microscopic tingles on his face, lodging in Viggo’s hair like tiny Christmas-tree decorations.
Only it wasn’t Christmas, it was July, and this moment was so perfect that it made breathing hard.
Viggo exhaled too and smiled at Orlando.
# # #
The… things… were heavy in Viggo’s hand, and he turned them over and admired the enameled paisley pattern on them and looked at the hinged brass clips, rocking one backwards and forwards with a cautious fingertip. “You bought me cuff links?” he asked Orlando.
Orlando leaned back in the passenger seat of the car. “Yeah. Do you like them?”
“I do,” Viggo said. “You know that I don’t own a shirt I can wear them with, don’t you?”
“Sure,” Orlando said. “I just thought you might like them.” He grinned, his wide animated smile that showed all his teeth. “You could get your nipples pierced with them.”
Viggo put them carefully back in their box and put the box on the dashboard. “I haven’t got you anything,” he said.
When Viggo started the car and turned his head to look over his shoulder as he reversed, Orlando was still smiling, his eyes crinkled at the corners. “Is there anything you’d like?” Viggo asked.
Viggo stopped the car halfway out of the parking bay and their eyes met, and Orlando shook his head slightly.
# # #
Brigit shuffled out onto the deck behind them, the teddy bear Orlando had given her in her mouth. She looked up so hopefully that Orlando took the sodden toy from her and tossed it a short distance across the deck.
She hobbled across to pick it up again, and then settled on top of Viggo’s feet with a huff of breath and a growl of pain, teddy bear still in her teeth.
It seemed unbearably poignant to Orlando, somehow representative of everything that had happened in the past four years. He’d left here full of hope and enthusiasm, Brigit bouncing around him as he’d loaded his stuff into his crappy old car, clambering into the car whenever she could in the hope of going for a ride, Viggo joking as he stacked boxes into the back seat.
So much had changed.
“Do you get nostalgic?” he asked Viggo.
Looking up from patting Brigit, Viggo said, “No. I look back sometimes with fondness. I like to remember things that happened, the way I felt; that’s what photos are for. But I don’t get nostalgic.”
Orlando’s scepticism must have shown because Viggo smiled a little ruefully and slid an arm around Orlando’s shoulders, pulling him closer. “Hey,” he said, and Orlando rested his head on Viggo’s shoulder. “It’s going to be okay. We’re both going to be okay.”
“Will we?” Orlando said. “I thought that if I wasn’t alone, I wouldn’t be lonely, but it didn’t work that way.”
Viggo’s arms tightened around his shoulders. They’d had this discussion before, when they’d split up. Viggo had said then that every person was responsible for their own happiness, and that everyone was ultimately alone. That life was about trying to make fleeting connections with other people. It had sounded good at the time, and it had made it easier for Orlando to decide to leave; but with Viggo’s arm so solid around him, Orlando wasn’t convinced of any of it right now.
“Come inside,” Viggo said. “I’d rather not kiss you within potential sight of a telephoto lens.”
Inside, Brigit flopped down onto the bit of the rug that belonged to her and Orlando wound his arms around Viggo’s neck. The first brush of their lips was awkward, and Orlando felt strange to be kissing a man again after so many years; but Viggo was solid and substantial when he touched him, he smelt warm and alive and human, not of cosmetics, and his mouth…
His mouth was waiting for Orlando, so Orlando stepped in close, pressing their bodies together, and took the initiative, kissing Viggo until they were both moaning.
When they surfaced for air, Viggo took a step backwards, standing on Brigit’s tail accidentally, making her protest.
This wasn’t a withdrawal on Viggo’s part; there had been far too much invitation in his kiss for that. Orlando guessed this was him giving Orlando a chance to think, perhaps change his mind.
He wasn’t going to.
Brigit had to be lifted up onto the bed, as she was too stiff and frail to make the climb, and Orlando took a moment to cuddle and pat her, then Viggo settled behind him, arm around his chest, their legs tangling together.
Viggo didn’t try and distract him from Brigit, just kissed his shoulder blade and waited until Orlando rolled over in his arms.
There should have been stuff to talk about, Orlando was sure. Or it should have been desperate and frantic and out of control, but they lay quietly together, Viggo’s hands touching Orlando gently.
Orlando touched Viggo too: his shoulders, his chest, finding grey hairs where there hadn’t been any before, his fingers stumbling over the old memories, trying to fit them into the skin beneath his fingertips. He curled a hand around Viggo’s arm, and his hand shaped around where muscle used to be. The ridges were gone from his belly, whereas Orlando had grooves now that hadn’t been there the last time they had done this.
At the end of the bed, Brigit let out a doggy snore and farted, and when Orlando nudged her accidentally as Viggo turned him over, she licked the sole of his foot. Love me, love my dog, Orlando figured. At least Brigit didn’t howl during sex, not like Sidi. That had not been well received by anyone, including Sidi when he found himself locked out of the bedroom.
There was utter bliss in what they did, more than there ever had been before, slower and deeper and tighter; the peaks were higher and there was further to fall afterwards, but Orlando stayed when any sane person would have run away.
The next morning Orlando woke to a heavy weight on his chest and doggy breath on his face, and he tugged on Brigit’s ears and nudged her paws off his chest.
The other side of the bed was empty, sunlight streaming through the wooden slats of the blinds, the air full of wandering clouds of dust particles. It would have been good to wake up with Viggo still beside him, but after Orlando had clambered out of bed and lifted Brigit down onto the floor, her claws clicking on the wooden boards, he stretched out on the bed hugging a pillow, and just being there seemed to be enough.
Sometime later, Viggo appeared with tea for Orlando and coffee for himself, and he took off his scruffy bathrobe and climbed into bed again. Orlando leant against Viggo’s shoulder, mug of tea in his hands, and closed his eyes.
“Tired?” Viggo asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Orlando said, and Viggo’s lips, warm with coffee, pressed against his bare shoulder. “I missed you,” he said.
There was a lick of tongue in the gentle kisses now. “I missed you too, love.”