Characters/Pairings: Sean Bean/Viggo Mortensen
Disclaimer: Didn’t happen, just the product of my imagination.
Summary: “The safety of words, cold-formed into letters, fled him in the heat of the sun as it poured upon the dark brown of Sean’s hair.” The ritual is broken, and now Sean and Viggo must fight the chains weighing them down before they can try to pick up the pieces to form something new. Sequel to sometimes and maybe. Part three of refractions.
Notes: This time inspired by Viggo’s book Linger.
In summer, the Spanish sun was a scorch-bright thing, pouring light like hard-hitting waterfalls on the unsuspecting heads and backs of all those who dared venture outside without hat or sunscreen. Pale, translucent skin peeled off, leaving red and pink behind, blood exposed to the sun’s siege. The leather of the camera strap on a shoulder would soak up heat easily, as if the cow that died to give its skin was still trying to feel warm.
It was a Spanish summer, and Viggo was, in Ariadna’s words, in a mood. She had chased him out the house they shared because he was being a lone thundercloud, nearly dark and thunderous enough to block out the sun. If there were clouds, she would much rather that there was rain instead of a black mood that made everything even hotter than it already was, she’d say.
So he was outside, a hat yanked over his head – barely enough shade for his eyes. He had left his sunglasses behind deliberately because had he thought he would bring his camera, but now he had left both behind. There was no use for cameras here: the sun made everything so stark and bright that there were no shadows to chase, and though Viggo knew that art was in the way the artist looked at things rather than what was being shown to him, he was in too terrible a mood to appreciate anything that was laid out in front of him right now.
He knew it had nothing whatsoever to do with the weather. The sun gave a good excuse; that was all. Viggo knew himself far too well to not be able to chart his own mood and know the source of it.
Last night, as he had been walking past a newsstand, he had seen Sean’s name. Not his face, just his name, but it had been enough that vines had wrapped around his heart immediately, dragging his body backwards until he had half-stumbled back to the stand. His fingers had closed over the magazine and he had bought it before his mind had even realised what was happening.
Eleven months it had been since they had last met – was it too soon for Viggo to call him up again? But he had no real excuse to do so: he wasn’t in Los Angeles, or London, or any of the places where Sean might be. And he knew that there wasn’t really a chance that Sean would be coming to Spain. He didn’t have an excuse, so… so perhaps it was time for him to stop relying on plausible deniability and take the leap.
No, he couldn’t. Viggo bit down on his own lip hard suddenly, his foot kicking outwards and sending a small pebble spinning as it danced and bounced down the cobblestone streets. The twists and turns his mind would take with regards to this topic he already knew well enough – he had revisited them so often that if the thoughts were paths in a park, they would be so worn that no grass would ever grow again.
He dropped himself down onto a bench and jumped up again, hissing under his breath because he almost burned his ass on the overheated wood. Viggo dragged his hand through his hair. Once he had hated how his mind would turn upside down whenever he was reminded that Sean existed and Viggo didn’t have him, but the hate had long ago simmered down to a lingering resentment. Always aimed at himself, because it seemed literally impossible for him to hate Sean no matter how hard he tried.
And now he was hallucinating Sean’s voice. Maybe it was a sign of heatstroke.
“Viggo? Look, no two people can have as terrible fashion taste as to own a hat like that, so you have to be Vig.”
Squinting, Viggo tried to focus his eyes as he looked up from the cobblestone streets. His mouth fell open when he saw Sean standing there, his thumbs shoved into his pockets, shoulders hunched upwards. He had a small, uncertain curl of a smile on his lips, deepening the wrinkles on the sides of his mouth. There were more lines than the last time, Viggo realised, and instinctively quashed the part of himself that was angry that Sean had changed again and he wasn’t there to see it.
“My hat is just fine, thank you,” his mouth was saying, slipping so easily into their usual banter even when his head was still spinning. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“In Spain or in this park?”
“Let’s start with Spain first,” he said. Then he laughed at himself. “No, actually, let’s go find somewhere to sit down and get something cool to drink, and then you can tell me what you’re doing in Spain.”
Sean’s eyes flickered down, and then back up. There was a shyness in his expression that had Viggo’s mouth going dry. His fingers twitched at his sides, almost too overtly to be appropriately, and he nearly stumbled forward to pull Sean into his arms. He could see it at the back of his eyelids: he would draw Sean into his arms and kiss him, possibly drag him towards one of the trees and try to devour his soul through his mouth alone.
But what he did instead was to pull down his hat even more and jerk his head to the side. “There’s a café over that side,” he said, even though all he wanted to do was to bring Sean home.
Only eleven months had passed since the last time he had seen Sean. Now it seemed that the ritual had changed, shifted a little, and Viggo drew in a breath and wondered what it meant. Had Sean discovered the keystone that Viggo had hidden all this while under his tongue? Could Viggo find the courage to take the next step that he – maybe they – needed?
There were no possible answers for him. A leap of faith required more acrobatics than he had ever been capable of, but Viggo thought that maybe he could take tiny little steps instead.
The café was such an intensely European place that Sean started fidgeting the moment he sat down, wondering if his status as an Englishman was emblazoned over his forehead. He tried to not break the flimsy, artsy wooden chairs that he was sitting on.
“I’m surprised that they actually serve tea here,” he drawled,
Viggo’s eyes creased more when he smiled now, even more when he grinned. And he was grinning now, stirring his grass clippings in a wooden gourd. Sean was absolutely sure that he did not see ‘maté’ on the café’s menu.
“They serve many, many varieties of tea, Sean,” Viggo replied. “Including your boring English Breakfast.”
“Comforting,” Sean corrected.
This place, he thought as he looked around himself, was so entirely characteristic of Viggo. And he realised with a start that all their previous meetings had been in bars and pubs that were anonymous, uncreative, and this might be the first place Viggo brought him that was what he liked instead of something generic or what he thought Sean would like. Not since New Zealand had Sean seen a placed that screamed Viggo so loudly. He looked around himself again before turning back to Viggo.
It had been years since he had seen Viggo in the light of day, he realised, and almost quirked a smile at the ridiculousness of the thought. It made them sound like clandestine lovers, hiding themselves away to have their trysts in the dark of the nights, whispering sweet words to each other while they lay together in bed. Like a damned teenager’s fantasy, it was.
Sean sipped at his tea again.
The ritual had changed irrevocably, he thought. The beer mugs they held in their hands were the usual offerings, worship writ in the way Sean’s fingers curved around condensation-cold glass, feeling the drop of water slowly sink into skin. Now he looked at Viggo and feared his religion had escaped from his hands into his eyes, for he could not help but look at his friend with wide eyes and slightly parted lips, an invitation in the only ways he knew how.
“You should tell me why you’re in Spain, you know,” Viggo said, his lips curling around the words in his usual drawl, the consonants crisp and the vowels drawn out like a lover’s kiss. Viggo brought out the artist in Sean, really; brought him out kicking and screaming, vulnerable in the harsh summer sunlight. Yet the heat burning exposed nerves seemed just what he needed.
“I was in Italy,” Sean said. With Georgina, he did not continue. She might not be his wife any longer, and maybe he thought he could learn to love her again, but her name was still sacrilege in this ritual of theirs. “And I thought that since I had some spare time, I might as well take the boat west, to see this country that you’re so enamoured with. Then I somehow ended up taking the train north to come here.”
Viggo made a small noise, almost a hum. The sound of his metal straw clacked loud against the side of his wooden gourd.
“So you came here for me,” he said. There was something in his eyes, bright as hope, and Sean felt his breath stop in his throat. He raised his cup to take a swallow of his tea, but put it down again before the porcelain could touch his lips.
Was ritual so easily destroyed? Viggo broke one of their unspoken rules – they had never spoken of them, of the reasons why they had kept in touch. Or perhaps Sean was overthinking things, too filled with hope to think rationally, because Viggo could mean nothing at all with those words. His eyes spoke differently, but Sean knew better than to trust his own sight, because there was always the possibility of lies.
Tried to say something that filled my mouth and longed to rest in your ear. Viggo’s words came to him, unbidden, and Sean felt his hands tremble. The darkness loomed before him, the easy bond between them seemed broken and shattered like the bridge of Khazad- dûm, and he had to go forward.
The Balrog seemed a far easier foe than this.
“I came here for you,” he said eventually, staring down to the depths of his tea. He could see the leaves floating, and wondered inanely if they told his future. “I got your new address from your agent, and I wanted to…” he licked his lips. “I wanted to see you.”
How could he put in words the ache he had felt in Rome? He had had Georgina in his arms, her laughter bright in his ears, and yet all he had been able to feel then was the ticking of the clock inside himself. Eleven months, eleven months, it was all he could have thought about. One more before he was allowed by the rules of ritual to call Viggo up to see him again, and thirty days had never seemed more daunting.
“I saw myself in the mirror this morning,” he heard Viggo say. “And I thought: I am running out of time.”
Viggo’s hand was flat on the table, fingers slightly curled, as if he wished to reach out. Sean hid the trembling of his own in his pockets, drawing out his cigarette pack. He lit one up, breathing in nicotine and remembered how it felt like to draw Viggo’s exhale into his lungs. There were no marks left there, and tar was the same whether it was touched by Viggo’s lips or not, but if Sean closed his eyes, he could almost feel the heat.
“There’s still long for you to live. Life expectancy is rising every year,” he said, trying to shrug and failing. Those were not the words he meant to say, but Sean was used to that already.
Viggo’s eyes shone in the sun, his greyed hair falling across his face as he leaned forward. Sean looked at him before he took another drag before placing the cigarette on the ashtray, leaving his hands on the table without reaching out.
“I wish I could bring you home,” Viggo murmured. “But I can’t.”
Sean knew without asking the reason why. Viggo’s agent had told him – he did not live alone, but with Ariadna, and she hung like a spectral between them, a soft voice whispering in Sean’s ear.
Too late, too late, you’ve been afraid for so long that it’s now far too late.
“I have a hotel room,” he blurted in reply, fingers playing with the cigarette. He took another drag and looked into Viggo’s eyes through the smoke.
“Maybe not,” Viggo said, and he turned his head, eyes following the waitress who just passed their table. “Maybe next time, if we meet again then.”
They were returning to ritual. The words were already on his tongue, goodbyes and maybe some other time. But Viggo was not the only one to look into the mirror and see only an hourglass with sand running out, and Sean found himself stumbling forward. His cigarette fell out of his mouth, bending as it landed on the table, sending ash and unsmoked tobacco all over the table. In a flash of a moment when such things still mattered, Sean wondered if the poet had any imagery or metaphors for this moment; if Viggo would one day wrap the sharp thorns of reality within the cotton balls of words.
“No, not next time,” he said. “Maybe we won’t meet for two years after this, but I’m not leaving now.” He took a deep breath, felt the words he spoke solidify in the air instead of disappearing like he had always feared and almost hoped they would.
“Even if you don’t take me home, I’d follow you anywhere.”
There were no more words. Silence settled over them, thick and muffled, and Sean wished he could reach out a hand to destroy it. But he couldn’t; not now, not when the ball was in Viggo’s court.
The words burst out of him, dragging out his heart with it. Viggo was suddenly tempted to bare his teeth and growl, reduced to being an animal, because words were all useless now. They were laid out like gems upon the table, and Viggo wished the metaphor was literal so he could sweep them all off, return the two of them back to the ritual that was so familiar and comforting.
Want was such a constant companion within him that being given what he wished for, what he wanted, left a void inside him that was terrifying. It made him afraid, and he found himself wishing to be a mouse that could huddle within shadows and never look at the light of the sun again because it was far too strong.
He reached out and gripped tight onto Sean’s wrist, nails digging into skin, pressing against the small, fragile bones.
“Come with me,” he heard himself say. “Come with me.”
Where was he planning to go? Viggo wasn’t sure anymore. He couldn’t be sure, not when the world had tilted in its axis and he was left floundering. The safety of words, cold-formed into letters, fled him in the heat of the sun as it poured upon the dark brown of Sean’s hair.
Sean had given him words like poetry, yet Viggo could find none within himself to give to him. He only had his hands grasping at Sean, his feet thumping on the cobblestones, all actions without words, and Viggo would be able to appreciate the irony of the situation if it was laid out upon paper instead of captured in the buildings of Barcelona as he ran past them.
When his feet stopped at Barcelona’s train station, he wondered how he wasn’t surprised at himself at all. Viggo had run for so long that it had become a habit, and habits were the most dangerous of things – he knew that far too well, and for far too long.
“Run away with me,” he said, and desperation twined so tightly around his voice that he could barely recognise the words. “We can go to France. Or even further east and end up in Czech, and I can bring you to Prague. Or we can go to Germany and live in a country that speaks a language that neither of us know.”
“Viggo,” Sean whispered, and he took the two steps forward that closed the distance between their bodies. His fingers were warm on Viggo’s face. “I know I said I will follow you anywhere, but you know I can't do that. You can’t do that.”
No, they couldn’t, no matter how much they wanted to. Both of them had too much that tied them to the world – their families, their careers, and for Viggo, there was Ariadna. (He refused to think of who else Sean might have waiting for him, because if Sean didn’t mention her, neither would he.)
He swallowed, and his next breath was painful, like the releasing of his dreams into the wind.
“No,” he closed his eyes. “We can’t.”
“We have waited too long,” Sean murmured, his voice a warm gust against his ear. And Viggo hated him in that moment, in just that one moment, because Sean was making real and solid all that lay between them. If only he hadn’t spoken, then perhaps he could still dream and wish and have the comfort of wanting lying gently next to his heart.
There was much that words could do, but they couldn’t be taken back, and no one could ever turn back the passing of time. Viggo’s breath hitched.
“I better go,” Sean said.
Viggo looked at him and didn’t want to believe that this was all there was to it; that this was truly the ending for their long years of waiting. Just this: the warmth of Sean’s body pressed to his own, the chill of their inevitable parting; the sweet so fleeting and the bitter everlasting, never ending.
“Not yet,” he said. He pulled Sean with him again, moving towards one of the shadowed corners of the station. Their eyes met for a frozen moment. Then Sean was pressing him flat to the wall, his large, rough hands sliding into Viggo’s hair. His palm rested against the back of his neck, the beating of his pulse like a tease, barely beyond reach.
When they kissed, it was a meeting of lips ten years in making. Viggo knew even then that he would take the rest of the day, the week, the month, the year, trying to find a way to describe how it felt. Sean’s lips were dry and hot on his own, his mouth wet and his tongue shy. Viggo drew that tongue into his own mouth, tasting cigarettes and tea and bittersweet molasses. His hands tightened around Sean’s shirt, feeling his own nails bite against the pads of his fingertips.
Circles his hands made, lonely even with Sean between them.
Too late, his mind told him. But his mouth disagreed, trying to devour Sean. It was their first kiss, perhaps their only, but his body cried out at the injustice of losing Sean. He didn’t want to let him go, wished he had the ability to make time stop in that single instance, so he could always have this. Yet he couldn’t: it was his body that screamed for touch, and it was once more his body that parted them, drew them apart so they could gasp breath into their lungs. Viggo’s chest heaved.
“Death will come, always out of season,” he murmured, relying on someone else’s words for none of his own could serve.
“I read that in your book,” Sean said, his calluses rough on Viggo’s cheekbone, tracing over the lines etched by the years. “It’s a beautiful line, but you know me.”
He smiled. “I’ve always preferred to think about life.”
There was uncertainty in Sean’s eyes, folded back in with his every breath. Viggo wanted to disagree, because he could smell death on both of them – cigarettes and tea and the inevitable parting, the last moment that would drag them away from each other, coming closer and closer. Viggo’s lips parted.
“There is no death,” he murmured. “Only a change of worlds.” He closed his eyes. “Those aren’t my words either, but you make me want to believe in them.”
“If there’s nothing that I’ve learned through my years of acting, Vig, it’s that belief just takes want, and will.” Sean said, and he leaned forward. In the shadows of the alcove, his eyes were greener than the new-bloomed leaves of spring in the moment before they were scorched by summer heat.
“I have want, I have will,” Viggo replied, hoping against hope that the words would crystallise and turn into realise once he spoke them. “I have will.” He blinked open his eyes, dragged another Sean-spiked breath into his lungs.
“Will you wait for me?”
Sean tipped his head back, and his laughter was cool wind that wound around Viggo’s neck and draped over his shoulders.
“Haven’t we been waiting for each other?” he asked. Suddenly, he hesitated, his teeth white against the pale pink of his lip. “At least, I have. From the first time I brought you to my hotel room.” A dozen years ago, in twenty-oh-one, went unspoken, as if speaking the dates would break the mood. There was a ridiculousness in it, he knew, of the two of them dancing around each other for so long.
Viggo watched as Sean’s tongue darted outwards, and his fingers twitched slightly by his side.
“It doesn’t seem fair,” he finally said. “That you have to wait for me.”
“I won’t spend my days just waiting for you. There’s unfinished business I have to deal with too,” Sean pointed out, shrugging, and a sudden image of an exorcism flashed through Viggo’s mind. Like they were getting rid of their ghosts. Or perhaps they were locksmiths at the moment, turning the key in the lock. Though it seemed the chains wound around them both would take much longer to be unravelled.
“I still want to run away with you,” he heard himself saying. It would be so easy, right now. Only for right now.
“One day,” Sean smiled, and he tipped his head back to let Viggo’s hand splay on his throat, to feel the beating of his pulse. There was life there, and perhaps it was a cliché, but Viggo could not help the burst of hope within his heart. A breeze from the sea, breaking the dull, dry heat of summer.
He opened his hands and let Sean go, watched as he left, hands shoved into his pockets. Their eyes caught as Sean turned back to look at him, and the upward curve of his lips as he returned Sean’s small smile was somehow not painful at all.
I’ll leave out most of our sins as we glimpse the day you’re allowed to back away untouched, he wrote once in the memory of his father. Now the words returned to him, the meanings changed as the image of Sean’s back and straight shoulders imprinted itself in his mind. His hands ached for a camera, for a poor substitute for the warmth of Sean’s skin that still lingered.
Slowly, his lips formed the words that Sean had spoken: one day.
Not in eighteen months, he decided. The ritual had shattered into glass at their feet, but perhaps in a few months’ time, Viggo would be able to pick up the pieces and form something wholly new.
Perhaps then it would be something beautiful.
“Tried to say something that filled my mouth and longed to rest in your ear.”
- Communion, Viggo Mortensen
“I’ll leave out most of our sins as we glimpse the day you’re allowed to back away untouched.”
- Linger, by Viggo Mortensen
“There is no death, only a change of worlds.”
- Chief Seattle