Title: The Universe In Fortune Strips
Original Story: Isolated Systems by often_adamanta
Summary: Spaghetti, Viggo, fortune cookies, and parachuting from planes.
Disclaimer: The author makes no claims or inferences to reality or truthfulness. Moreover, this story is based upon the work of another author and recognises their creation.
The spaghetti coils like a nest in the colander; it's cooled to an edible temperature when the sauce begins to boil. Orlando efficiently prepares two plates. It didn't take him long to perfect the art of pasta al dente.
"Mmmm." Viggo nods in approval, swallowing a generous mouthful. "Not bad."
Orlando smiles and says, "Not great, either. It beats being hungry."
There's a few minutes of small talk and a stretch spent dissecting the week's shoot. Viggo is bold enough to step behind the camera some days, but not with Sean's dictatorial approach; he isn't interested in schooling, but in learning. It's a different medium with different tools, but Viggo likes to analyze the use of negative space.
"The shadows create the illusion of size," remarks Viggo, twirling another strand of pasta around his fork.
This is one of the things that has Orlando perplexed: for all the enigma Viggo exudes, he warrants no explanation. Orlando takes Viggo with his cards laid out and open or stacked in a deck, and doesn't pretend he sees things between a shift or shuffle; Orlando just goes with it and doesn't temper the ride.
"Is it ever too soon to ask for . . . definition?" says Orlando, the question as random as a stray cloud on a sunny day.
"Is this about Elijah?" Viggo has the fork by his mouth, but he waits for the nod Orlando delivers with a sheepish smile, then Viggo laughs, finishes the bite, and his plate is clean.
Orlando avoids his eyes and stutters the entire time he draws Viggo into confidence; it feels like he's confessing his sins.
"You're fishing for answers in fortune cookies," says Viggo when Orlando is finished. He has a bemused expression on his face and Orlando is irritated; he doesn't enjoy conversations in riddles, though it's apropos, considering.
"So you're saying I should just talk to him," he says, deciding for clarity in the moment.
"It's a more direct route," agrees Viggo, nodding. "Beer in the fridge?" He stretches his arms over his head and gives an exaggerated yawn. Orlando rolls his eyes, stands, and clears the table.
Complete chores you've been avoiding for some time.
Oh, brother. Orlando pops one half of the fortune cookie in his mouth and tosses the other in a trash bin to his right.
Elijah is across from him and ash is scattered over the lapel of his coat. The cigarette butt still jammed between his painted lips, he makes an incongruous image. Not for the first time Orlando muses that Elijah could swindle mass populations with that innocent face. Orlando wonders if he has and whether he's fallen victim with the rest.
It's hot and the wig itches; he's prone to grumpiness under such conditions. Elijah is still busy sweeping the ash from his costume with the tips of his fingers.
"Mind telling me what we're doing?" asks Orlando, with a slight edge to his tone.
Elijah frowns at him, drops his cigarette to the floor and rubs it out with the heel of his shoe. "Taking a lunch break?" He lifts both brows and juts his chin. He's annoyed now, too, which serves the atmosphere for the conversation about to take place.
"You know what I'm talking about."
"I know what you're asking and the answer's the same. You know how I feel about you, what more do you need?"
"The truth, maybe."
"You have the truth. Maybe what you want is a promise for eternity."
"Maybe what I want is some assurance for the present."
They eye each other and Elijah looks weary. His face is caked with make-up and so near to Orlando's, the imperfections are unmistakable.
"You jump out of planes," says Elijah softly. "You assume uncertainty without question."
"That's different." Orlando turns away, drums his fingers on the vinyl top of the table separating him from Elijah. Elijah isn't like gravity; Orlando knows what to expect from the latter when he risks that plummet to the ground.
"We should get back." Orlando rises first and leads, but doesn't; if Elijah trails after him, it's only because of his quicker stride.
"What did he say?" Viggo is standing by the stove, plating his second serving of spaghetti. Exotic hobbies, it seems, don't lend to exotic palates.
"I jump out of planes so why am I questioning this." Orlando takes a swig of beer and watches Viggo twist pasta and sauce onto his fork. "Hungry?"
Viggo nods, his mouth cramped with food. His Adam's apple bulges when he swallows. "So why are you questioning this?"
"I . . ." For all the explanations Orlando seeks, he isn't much good at giving them. "I wouldn't jump from a plane without a parachute . . . I wouldn't just be . . . falling."
"You're taking risks either way."
"Broken bones heal," says Orlando quietly.
"Most everything broken can be mended . . . or replaced, but why assume that fate?"
He doesn't presume injury, otherwise. Perhaps because there is always a tether within the chaos of his stunts. But being with Elijah is like rushing through air with nothing strapped to his back for security.
The day only gets better.
He gives one half of the cookie to Elijah and the rest crumbles in his mouth with loud, crunching noises. The cigarette smoke irritates as he breathes in, but he doesn't complain.
"I can't tell if you really know the answer to everything, or if you're the best liar I've ever met."
"If you can't tell, does it matter?"
Orlando rolls his eyes. "Doesn't it?" He props himself on his elbow. The glass top of the table next to the plastic chaise is cluttered with watches, rings, crumpled pieces of paper and in the mess, Orlando finds the pack of gum. He unwraps a piece, keeps one half to himself and plucks the other in Elijah's open, waiting mouth, past the curling smoke and the cigarette yet to be extinguished.
"It's like you don't care about anything. But sometimes I think all you do is care, that you could drown from the caring." There is only silence for a while, broken by nature's symphony of chirping and croaking, their chewing, and Elijah cracking the gum in his mouth. It's not uncomfortable, but it's the sort that invites intimacy and admissions.
"I don't know why you're here," Orlando says finally, and although phrased like a statement, it's a question he'll get no answer for. The air changes between them, faints from red to an orange glow as the sun makes its exit, and it's as though Orlando hears the shut and bolt of doors in the distance. Then Elijah turns onto his side, slides a hand over Orlando's jaw and loses it in his hair.
"I love you," Orlando says, and his stomach knots and it feels like it crashes somewhere around his feet even though he's lying on his back. To hell with security.
Elijah smiles and Orlando touches it with his lips. "I love you, too."
Viggo brings him a carton of spaghetti and a bottle of pre-made sauce, both tied with yellow ribbons. He includes a book of poems and reads a selection while uncorking a bottle of Chianti. Orlando wears an apron over his favorite t-shirt and prepares their meal.
"Are you . . . happy?" Viggo's brows furrow together, puzzled, it seems, over his own choice of words.
Orlando shrugs. "I wasn't unhappy before." He cuts into a long thread of spaghetti and scoops a tangled mess of it, slathers it with sauce. It tastes better tonight than it has.
"Clarity is . . . good." Viggo says it with the same hesitation as his earlier question, as though he disagrees with what he's saying, though he isn't lying either.
Orlando smiles and tips the wine glass between his lips; the Chianti coats his tongue and warms his throat like liquid velvet. He feels heady, though he hasn't drunken nearly enough wine for the effect.
Clarity. It's just another perspective.
Pursue your wishes aggressively.
"Here, let me help you with it."
Orlando shoves the rest of the fortune cookie in his mouth, then circles around Elijah's left and he tugs at the bindings, double-knotting them in places. He tests the parachute for stability, pulling aggressively.
"Ouch!" protests Elijah and he crashes backward against Orlando, hands reaching back to steady himself. Orlando catches both in his and laughs. "Prick."
"There'll be plenty of time for dirty talk later," whispers Orlando, mouth hovering over the delicate curve of Elijah's ear.
Elijah giggles and turns. His face is bright and clear of masks, Frodo and all else. He's at the precipice of fulfilling a long-held fantasy, but fear is as stark in his eyes as though they were carved there in letters. Orlando squeezes tighter each hand in his.
"Ready?" asks Orlando and waits for the nod. They walk towards the plane, fingers entwined.
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