cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,
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Slash fic: Kissing Orlando

I can't quite believe I'm actually posting this story; I've been writing it for soooo bloody long. I think I'm going to miss it...

Title: Kissing Orlando
Author: cupidsbow
Pairing: EW/OB, LotR RPS
Rating: NC-17
Length: 7,300 words
For: Talesin Bloom, because she flagrantly lusted after whore!lando on my LJ and gave me a plot bunny in the process. And for Anonymous—thank you so much for the paid account time. It's been a wonderful joy to me.
Thanks: To my Nude Writing group, who not only beta-ed this, but came on the ride with me, even when things didn't go quite according to plan. I'd also like to thank west_of_moon for making the absolutely gorgeous Kiss icon!
Disclaimer: I don’t know any of these people—it’s just a lucid fever-dream.
Summary: Orlando hits rock bottom; Elijah provides a cushioning mat.


Notes: This story stands alone just fine, but is probably going to be the first in a trilogy. The working titles for the sequels are: "Stealing Time" and "Taking Heart."

There is also a lovely companion fic for this story, “Kissing Elijah,” written by the wonderful Talesin Bloom.

*********************

Kissing Orlando



New York

The story broke about nine hours after Orlando's heart.

The first Elijah knew of it was the phone call from Sean. He fumbled at the nightstand for what felt like aeons before his sleep-numbed fingers managed to grab onto his cellphone.

"Wha?" he said, eyes still glued shut.

"Is Orlando there?" asked Sean, sounding worried.

"The fu?" said Elijah, reluctantly cracking an eye and looking at the baleful red glare of his digital alarm clock, "'s five-fuckin'-thirty, Sean."

"So he's not there?" said Sean, sounding even more worried. "Has he called you?"

Elijah sighed, rubbed a hand across his eyes, and sat up. "No. What's happened?"

"Kate happened," said Sean. "They broke up last night, and nobody's seen Orli since. It's all over the tabloids already. Bottomfeeders."

"Shit," said Elijah, suddenly wide awake. "What about the others... Viggo?"

"I've already tried him," said Sean, "and Dom and Billy and his Mom and Liv. No word."

A pang of concern jabbed through Elijah. "What about Kate? I mean maybe they're..."

"I thought of that," said Sean. "She told me to fuck off. I'm going to try some of his other friends now. Let me know if he calls, okay? Everyone's worried."

"Sure," said Elijah. "Of course."

As soon as Sean had hung up, Elijah pressed the speed dial for Orlando's number. After a couple of rings, the answering machine picked up.
If that's you Jackman, you can just bite me. Not that I wanted to be a vampire hunter or anything. Jammy bastard. Anyone else, leave a message.

Twenty-two beeeeeeeeps later, Elijah said, "So this is Elijah being the twenty-third worried sheep to leave you a message. Baaa. Get in touch man. We're kinda freaked out, okay?"

Despite his deliberately flippant tone, Elijah was starting to feel a deep worry burning in his gut. Because Orlando had been pretty involved this time, with Kate; and Elijah couldn't help but remember how crushed Orlando had been after that break-up in New Zealand. And Orlando hadn't even been serious about that girl.


New Zealand

"You know what I hate most about breaking up?" asked Orlando, clunking his beer glass back down onto the table with a little too much force.

"Hey," said Billy, as beer slopped over the side of Orlando's glass, and dribbled down the table's decidedly sloped surface towards him. "Watch it."

"Yeah," said Dom, laughing, "the hazards of drinking they never warned us about!" He tilted his chair precariously so that he could grab some beermats from a nearby table, and then dumped them in front of Billy, walling him off from Orlando's spill with a beermat dam. "There you go Bills. Can't have you getting damp."

Billy aimed a swat at Dom's head, but it made such brief contact, it ended up as something closer to a caress. "Arse," he said, affectionately.

"So," said Elijah, watching the byplay with great amusement, "tell us exactly what you hate most about breaking up, Orli."

"Don't encourage him," muttered Sean, who was edging close to uncharacteristically drunk. "He's drunk enough to go on for hours."

"Says the man who's told us," Dom did some dramatic maths on his fingers, "eight times tonight that he misses..."

Elijah and Billy chimed in on the chorus, "... kissing Chris good night every night."

"Well, I do," said Sean, downing another mouthful of beer. "I miss everything else too, but kissing her goodnight—"

"Oh God, not again," said Billy.

"Fine," said Sean, with an offended air, "I can take a hint."

"Sean's right though," said Orlando. "It's the kissing."

"You miss kissing Chris goodnight every night?" asked Elijah, and then started to giggle into his beer.

Both Billy and Dom cracked up.

"Hey," said Sean, without much heat.

"Ha ha," said Orlando. "Go ahead and mock our pain. Some friends you are."

"Sorry," said Elijah, snickers still fighting to escape.

"Yes. We are sorry," said Dom, suddenly serious. "Tell us all about it, Orli."

"Don't trust him," said Sean, starting to slump in his chair. "He has an anterior motive."

"Yeah," said Orlando, with the deep, slow suspicion of someone who's had too much beer to be fully sober, but isn't yet actually legless. "You just want to make fun of me, Dom."

"Course we do," said Billy. "That's our specialty. It'll make you feel better."

"You know it will," wheedled Elijah. "Come on. Tell us."

"I promise my motive isn't... anterior," said Dom, eyes shining.

"It better not be," said Billy, and although he made no obvious moves toward Dom, nonetheless Dom let out a wounded yelp.

"Suspicious bastard," said Dom, leaning down to rub an injury to parts hidden by the table. "Come on, Orlando, tell us all about it."

"It's soppy and pathetic," said Orlando, and then, pointing at Sean, who had drooped forward in his seat so that he could rest his head on his folded arms, "almost as bad as him."

"I'm not pathekit," said Sean, without lifting his head.

"Ahuh," said Elijah, patting Sean's arm affectionately. "Just have a rest, Sean. We'll take you home soon."

Sean made a muffled, wordless sound of assent.

"So what exactly is so soppy and pathetic about breaking up?" Billy asked Orlando.

"You're still horny for her," said Dom, with a knowing leer.

"No!" said Orlando, and at the incredulous snorts that followed, "Well not much. And if I'm horny, picking someone up is easy enough." He sighed. "But I must be getting old, because casual sex isn't the same, is it? I mean, it's hot, and fun and all that, but... Sometimes it's... nice... to be with someone you can just hang out with. No pressure. You know?"

The silence that followed was a lot more sympathetic.

"Like I said... soppy." Looking miserable, Orlando took a big gulp of beer.

"Yeah, but soppy in a good way," said Billy. "I mean, a pick-up is good, but sometimes..."

"...when the person you're with knows all your buttons without you having to say anything," said Dom. "That's..."

"What I miss," slurred Sean. "Just being with Chris. Just..."

"Kissing?" said Elijah. "You mean I spent all that time looking forward to the end of long torturous, fully clothed make-out sessions, and in a few years I'm gonna want them back again? That's sadistic!"


New York

Elijah decided to burn off some of his worry by going out for breakfast.

Which was a great plan, until he walked past the newsagent and saw the pictures. A few moments later, he found himself buying all seven of the tabloids with fuzzy, telephoto Orlandos on the cover.

For a moment he was tempted to ask the salesgirl to put them in a paper bag. But, really, that would have made it feel way too much like he was carrying porn.

How old was he, anyway, that he couldn't walk down the street with a bunch of newspapers and magazines without feeling embarrassed?


New Zealand

"You know," said Billy, "I forget how young you are, Lij, until you come out with something like that."

"Elijah's right though," said Dom. "It's fucking sadistic! Just when you think you've got your shit together, it all changes again."

"Tell me about it," said Orlando, morosely. "It's depressing to know I've hit rock-bottom at just twenty-three."

"You have not hit rock bottom!" said Elijah. "Not even close!"

Orlando frowned, looking offended. "And how the fuck would you know? You don't even get the kissing thing!"

"I don't need to get the kissing thing," said Elijah, "to know you're not fucking unhappy enough to be at rock bottom. It's just simple observation, man."

"Actually, I think you do need to get the kissing thing," said Billy. "It's not just about sobbing into your beer. It's deeper."

"Yeah," said Dom. "It's a thing, Lij. You gotta get it to get it."

"Mmmm," Sean mumbled into the table.

"What they said," said Orlando, waving at the table in general.

"Right," said Elijah, leaning over and picking up a dry beermat from Billy's dam. "Someone give me a pen."

"What for?" asked Orlando, suspiciously.

"Because I want to prove something to you, okay," said Elijah, snapping his fingers. "Come on. Pen."

"This, I gotta see," said Dom, and made a show of sticking his hand in Sean's pocket, and feeling around for a bit. "Ahuh! Here you go," he said, handing a pocket diary, complete with attached pen, over to Elijah.

"Don't get beer onit," said Sean, momentarily lucid.

"Relax, Sean," said Elijah. He slipped the pen free, clicked it, and began to write, cupping the beermat with his hand for privacy. After a couple of seconds, he checked what he'd written, and then handed the beermat over to Orlando.

Orlando took it gingerly, as though it might bite. "What the fuck is this?" he said.

"Read it," said Elijah. "It's pretty self explanatory."

Orlando looked down at the beermat, read for a moment. Stared at it. Lifted his head and stared at Elijah. Licked his lips. Opened his mouth to say something. Closed it again and shook his head.

Dom leaned over and plucked the beermat out of Orlando's fingers.

"Come on," said Billy, "the suspense is killing me."

Dom squinted at Elijah's writing, and read out, "I.O.U. one session of friendly, no pressure kissing."


New York

Elijah's standard assumption was that 95% of everything in the gutter press was fiction. He was trying to keep that firmly in mind as he read.

The tabloids were spread out on the loungeroom floor in a semi-circle around him, all open to the pages with the best pictures of Orlando. And all of them were telling the same story.

A public shouting match.

A slap in the face.

Kate and Orlando leaving separately.

None of which was particularly convincing, as it was written in that overly familiar gossip-speak that hinted at a lot while giving no real facts.

But it wasn't the text that had the worry notching up in Elijah's belly. It was the pictures. Because the photos were a whole different thing.

The Orlando in the photos had the horrible slumped-shouldered body language that Elijah had only ever seen him wear in the last few weeks of filming Helm's Deep. It screamed: I can't cope, I don't want to be here, make it stop.

It was like watching a really tricky stunt going all wrong... and Elijah couldn't look away, even though it hurt to watch; hurt deep down in a place he'd practically forgotten existed. Because looking at the photos stirred up feelings he'd thought were over and done with and that he'd been quite happy to let go. Feelings that made him wonder a lot about some of the things he'd done in the past.

Like the Beermat Incident, which Elijah now blushed to remember, and maybe that whole situation should have given him his first clue.

Elijah finally managed to tear his gaze away from one wrecked Orlando, only to have it snagged by another. He reached out and gently traced over the tabloid-Orlando's slumped shoulders.

It was a lowering thought that wherever Orlando was right now, it was just as well he wasn't here with Elijah. Because, under the circumstances, that would probably have made things awkward, given Orlando's reaction the last time Elijah had offered him kisses...

... and given that, right now, all Elijah wanted to do was kiss Orlando better.


New Zealand

They all stared at Elijah. Even Sean had lifted his head a little and cracked an eye in Elijah's direction.

"Um," Orlando finally said. "Is that," pointing at the beermat, "some kind of... pass or something?"

Elijah snickered. "Nah, it's not a pass. God! You should see the looks on your faces."

Billy looked sceptical. "What is it then?"

"Yeah," said Dom. "Inquiring minds want to know. 'Cause you know... if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and fucks like a duck..."

"Then itsa duck," said Sean, his head dropping back down with a soft thump.

"Or in this case," said Elijah, "a placebo duck."

"You're giving me a little known band that plays crappy music?" Orlando said, the corner of his mouth starting to lift into a smile, despite his obvious bemusement.

"A placebo," said Elijah, "you know. Fake medicine to make you think you've taken something to help you when you haven't really."

"Oh," said Billy, a look of enlightenment blooming on his face. "That's actually pretty clever, Lij."

"What's clever?" asked Dom. "Is it a pass or isn't it, Billy?"

Elijah grabbed the beermat back out of Dom's hand and dropped it on the table in front of Orlando. "It's not supposed to be used," he said. "It's just there. Always. So that, as long as Orlando has it, he knows he's not at rock bottom. See?"

"So it's not a pass," said Dom, sounding deeply disappointed.

"Well," said Elijah, shrugging. "Not if Orlando never uses it. Which is kind of the point."

Sean made an abortive effort to lift his head. "You never gave me a plas...thing, Lijah. I want one too."

Billy, Dom and Orlando all looked at Elijah expectantly.


New York

Now that the memory train had started, it seemed to be all that Elijah could think about.

In hindsight, the moment Sean had asked for an I.O.U of his own, during the long-ago Beermat Incident, Elijah should have had his epiphany; should have realised there was a reason he'd been ready to give Orlando, and only Orlando, placebo kisses. But the idea of being attracted to Orlando had honestly not yet occurred to him. So, rather than triggering introspection, Sean's request had triggered nothing but humour.


New Zealand

"No fucking way, Sean!" said Elijah, laughing. "Can you imagine what Chris would do to me if she ever found something like that?"

"Yeah," said Sean, finally managing to lift his head. "She'd probly..." he trailed off, his face draining of colour. "Lij, I don't feel so good."

"Shit," said Elijah, getting up and going to Sean. "Come on, up-si-daisy. Let's get you out into some fresh air."

"Call a taxi, Dom," said Billy, as he went to help Elijah get Sean up and headed for the door.

Dom pulled out his cellphone and speed-dialled a taxi, while Orlando leaned over to pick up Sean's pocket diary. Then they followed the others out of the pub.


New York

It had only occurred to Elijah much, much later, that, due to the confusion of getting Sean out of the pub, he had no idea if Orlando had even kept the fucking beermat, or if Elijah's offer of kisses had been chucked out along with the stale peanuts, cigarette butts, Dom's leftover nachos, and the other detritus of their drinking session.

Not that it would make any difference if Orlando had kept it... it's not like he'd ever use the fucking thing. And it was kind of pathetic that Elijah couldn't stop thinking about it.

Elijah scowled down at the tabloids. It was all their fault his brain had even started down this path. He'd always suspected the goddamn things had some kind of insidious mind-control tendencies: nothing else could really explain their continued popularity.

With a burst of determination, Elijah scooped up the papers, took them into the kitchen and dumped them in the trash. He dusted his hands off with grim satisfaction. Now he just needed something else to focus on; something really distracting. Elijah looked about, hoping to find something that fit the bill.

He found it sitting in a big heap in the middle of the dining table: manuscripts. Lots and lots of manuscripts.

Elijah knew that somewhere in amongst all the duds would be the gem that he could make his next project, and sooner or later he'd actually have to read through all the crud in order to find it.

Elijah procrastinated for a moment, going to the CD player to find some work music. After a quick flick through the stacks, his hand fell on Run Lola Run, and under the circumstances the irony of that seemed too appropriate to ignore. He loaded it, and then he looked around the apartment again, in a vague hope something else would appeal.

No other obvious distractions leapt out at him, so, with a sigh, he sat down at the table and began to work.

* * *


Elijah was half-way through reading the first script with an appalled fascination that wouldn't let him put it down...
EXT. DAY. RUINED TEMPLE OF AMPHIBILON

As Chet and Samantha escape from the collapsing temple with the Idol of Amphibilon, the Temple's giant man-eating guard frogs awake from their centuries long slumber, bursting out of the ground all around them.

After a chase across the Forbidden Footbridge, in which the Idol is nearly dropped down the Endless Chasm, Chet has an idea.
CHET
(hacking off frog-legs with his machete)

Sam! Your perfume! These fuckers breathe through their skin...

Sam fumbles in her handbag for her spray bottle of Dior's Poison. A giant frog erupts from the earth right at her feet. She screams.
SAM
(spraying Poison)

You stink!

... when he was interrupted by the security buzzer.

Brrrrrzzzzzt. Brrrrrzzzzzt. Bzt. Bzt. Brrrrrzzzzzt.

Elijah threw down THE CURSE OF AMPHIBILON with a sigh of relief, and went to see who it was.

"Whoever you are, thank you!" Elijah said into the intercom. "You just saved me from being tortured to death by giant man-eating frogs."

There was a long silence on the other end of the intercom.

"Hello?" said Elijah. "Anyone there?"

"You're such a dork," said Orlando, voice gravelly with fatigue. "If you didn't want to be tortured by giant man-eating frogs, you shouldn't have opened the door to them. Didn't anyone ever tell you that?"

Elijah was too gobsmacked to come up with anything witty in reply. "Orli?"

"Yeah," said Orlando, "can I come in?"

"Shit. Of course you can, man," Elijah said, pressing the door release. "You just took me by surprise."

Elijah let go of the button and dithered by his front door.

What was Orlando doing here? And more importantly, was there time to empty the trash, and get rid of all those fucking tabloids?

Elijah took three steps towards the kitchen.

Or maybe he should ring Sean and let him know Orli had turned up?

He changed direction, taking a couple of steps towards the phone.

Or...

dingdong

"Get your shit together, Wood," he muttered as he headed back the way he'd come.

When he opened the door, Orlando was standing there in a dark suit that had lost its crisp lines, tie stuffed haphazardly in a pocket, the start of stubble shadowing his face, looking utterly exhausted. It took every ounce of willpower Elijah had not to grab him up into a hug, kiss him a couple of dozen times, and ask him a hundred questions.

"God, you look rough," Elijah said instead, as he stood aside to let Orlando in.

"Had kind of a rough night," Orlando said, stepping past Elijah, and avoiding eye contact.

The 'don't ask' vibe couldn't have been louder if Orlando had actually said it.

"At least you didn't have giant man-eating frogs," said Elijah, biting back his questions. "Think yourself lucky."

Orlando snorted and turned around to look at Elijah. "What's with your sudden obsession with man-eating frogs?"

Elijah closed the door and waved Orlando into the loungeroom. "A couple of weeks ago I told my agent I was interested in doing an action movie," he said, "and for some unfathomable reason, he sent me this script called—"

"'The Curse of Amphibilon' by any chance?" asked Orlando, sitting down on the couch.

"You too, huh?" said Elijah, sitting down next to Orlando.

"The scriptwriter must have some serious contacts," said Orlando. "My agent sent it to me a couple of months ago. My favourite part was the bit where the leading lady uses her nail-file to start a chain reaction in the Temple's booby traps that causes the destruction of half the Amazon."

"Ah," said Elijah, "Something for me to look forward to. I've just got to the bit with the perfume."

"'You stink,'" said Orlando. "Classic line, that. Hard to believe no one's signed on yet."

"Yeah," said Elijah. "Shows a total lack of taste."

They grinned at each other for a moment, the stress lines around Orlando's eyes starting to ease.

"Talking of taste," said Elijah, "Are you hungry? Because I was starting to think about lunch."

A flash of surprise crossed Orlando face, before he looked down at his hands. He began twisting his ring. "You're really not going to ask, are you?" he said.

Elijah reached out, resting his hand on the crook of Orlando's arm, not knowing how else to give comfort. "I'm dying to ask," he admitted, "but I got the impression you didn't want me to."

Orlando let out a sound that wasn't quite a laugh and let his head fall back against the couch with a thump. "Right. Because then I'd have to admit it... I'd have to actually say it... and I still can't believe I was such a complete fuckwit." His hands fisted together. "God, Lij. I fucked up. I fucked up beyond fucking belief."

Elijah slid his hand down Orlando's arm until he was holding onto Orlando's clenched fists.

"Fuck!" said Orlando. "I'm such an idiot, Lij. Nothing sucks worse in the whole fucking world than knowing the shit you're in is all your own fucking fault."

"Yeah. It blows," said Elijah, wondering how on earth he was meant to react to whatever it was that Orlando had done. And how bad could it be, anyway? This was Orlando. "I've been there, and it totally blows."

"You know the worst thing?" asked Orlando.

Elijah shook his head in mute sympathy.

"I don't think I can forgive her," said Orlando, tears starting to slide down his face. "I've been thinking about it all fucking night. And get why she did it. I do. But I just don't think I can ever..." He turned his hands around until Elijah's was sandwiched between them. "I wasn't there for her, Lij. I knew things weren't right. But I just..." His hands clutched hard at Elijah. "I'm such an idiot, Elijah."

"Fuck," said Elijah, his mind leaping to all sorts of conclusions, none of them good. He'd always liked Kate, but this was starting to sound like more than a quarrel that would blow over.

"How could it all go so fucking wrong?" said Orlando. "It makes me wonder. I mean, have I always been like this? Maybe I'm just no good at connecting with other people."

"Bullshit," said Elijah and twined his fingers more intimately with Orlando's. "You connect just fine. And you've got the tattoo to prove it."

Orlando stared at Elijah for a moment, tears still painting his face. Then he jerked his hands free so he could wrap Elijah in a tight hug. "Jesus, Lij," he said. "How do you always fucking know?"

Elijah hugged back, the feel of Orlando's tears hot against his skin. "I guess I've done my share of dumb—"

"No," said Orlando, his lips moving softly against Elijah's neck. "How do you always know what'll make me feel... less like I've hit rock bottom?"

"I don't," Elijah admitted, rubbing soothing circles on Orlando's back. "I don't have a fucking clue. I just kind of bumble along doing stupid shit like writing on beermats and offering you..." he trailed off.

Orlando went still in his arms.

"I still have it, you know," said Orlando, softly. "In my wallet."

"Oh," said Elijah, unable to think of anything else to say.

"I always wondered what you'd do if I ever..." Orlando pulled back until they were face to face. "... actually tried to use it."

"Yeah," Elijah sighed, his gaze flicking to Orlando's mouth—shiny with tears—and then skittering away. "Me too."

Orlando let go of Elijah; leaning away from him at a deliberate angle.

For an awful moment, the words "I'm sorry" trembled on Elijah's tongue, until his brain registered that Orlando wasn't actually acting repulsed, he was just reaching into his now accessible back pocket and pulling out his wallet.

"What are you doing?" asked Elijah, still half focused on his unused apology.

Orlando opened the wallet and started pulling out scrappy bits of paper and creased business cards, looking them over and then dumping them onto the coffee table. "I know it's in here somewhere," said Orlando, casually wiping the tears from his face with his shoulder.

The loungeroom was wavering at the edges of Elijah's sight in a disturbing and sparkly kind of way. "I believe you," he said, eyes riveted to Orlando's wallet. "Really, Orli. You..."

The pile of old receipts, credit card slips and ragged scraps bearing scrawled phone numbers was rapidly becoming a sloping mound. "It's like a bloody Tardis in here," Orlando said, as he continued the excavation. "I just keep sticking stuff in, and never get around to throwing it away."

"... don't have to find it on my account," said Elijah, voice edging closer to the shrill end of his range. "I mean, it was just a stupid..."

Orlando flipped over a flap and started pulling out credit cards, dropping them onto the pile of paper. "Why do I put things in safe places?" he muttered to himself, "They're so bloody safe I can never find the fucking things again."

"... drunken... did I say stupid already? because, you know, stupid!" said Elijah, starting to warm to his theme, when he realised what Orlando had just taken out of the wallet. All the spit was suddenly gone from his mouth.

Orlando paused for a long moment, staring at the condom he was holding. Then he deliberately let it slide from his fingers onto the pile on the coffee table. "God knows what else I've got in here," he said, too casually.

Elijah watched the flush of blood dust its way up Orlando's neck and onto his cheeks, protest forgotten. The way Orlando was ignoring his own embarrassment spoke to Elijah more eloquently than his tears had. Elijah had never had an epiphany because of a blush before, but it seemed this was a day for firsts, because he suddenly knew what Orlando was doing in New York; knew why he'd come knocking on Elijah's door; knew why he'd chosen Elijah out of all the friendly shoulders he could be crying on. And he knew why Orlando was so doggedly emptying his wallet all over Elijah's coffee table.

It was pretty simple, in an absolutely gut-clenchingly terrifying way: Orlando actually wanted Elijah to kiss him better.

As there didn't seem to be any danger of Orlando finding the beermat in the next thirty seconds, Elijah took a moment to enjoy a brief freak-out while he let himself get used to the idea of… kissing Orlando. And, god, was he actually going to do it?

His stomach flip-flopped at the thought, and again when he looked at the little crease at the side of Orlando’s mouth, trying to imagine what it would be like. Orlando was biting his lip in concentration, his skin still streaked with the remains of his tears, and he looked so lost and young and anxious. Like someone who was desperate for the comfort of touch. And when it came to clinchers, that was really all Elijah needed know—that Orlando needed comfort just as much as he wanted to give it.

So Elijah took a deep breath and said, "Listen. Forget the fucking beermat, Orli. I don't go back on my word. I'm good for it."

Orlando looked up, blinked at Elijah the way he always did when he was trying to hide surprise, and then slowly pulled his hand out of his wallet. "I knew it was in here," he said, holding out a furry grey rectangle. It was folded in half and scotch-taped along the fold where it had obviously worn apart.

Elijah could just make out the faded loops of the letters O and U across the top. He didn’t need to see the rest to remember what he’d written. “So,” he said, lifting a hand to Orlando’s face and stroking gently along the arch of his cheekbone, “one session of friendly, no pressure kissing coming right up.”

Orlando leaned into Elijah’s touch, his eyes searching Elijah’s face. “Lij, you don’t have to—“

Elijah traced down Orlando's cheek and pressed his fingers to Orlando’s lips, stopping the words. “It’s okay,” he said. “Everything’s going to be okay, Orlando.” Heart beating a wild tattoo, he edged closer and brushed a tentative kiss against Orlando’s cheek.

So many sensations grabbed at Elijah at once that it felt like time was keeping some strange, stretched beat: both tense and slow. Orlando’s skin smelled of tears and soap and something a bit like cinnamon; stubble tickled warmly against Elijah’s lips; Orlando’s mouth moved beneath his fingers, kissing back; and the unexpectedness of it stole Elijah's breath.

Abruptly time snapped back into place and the kiss ended. Unlike the world. Which kept right on existing, even though Elijah had obviously been half-expecting something much more dramatic, judging by the wave of euphoric relief that washed through him. Then relief was transformed into anticipation, because Orlando was leaning in closer, turning his face so that his mouth was lined up perfectly with Elijah’s.

Elijah moved his hand in counterpoint, so that it ended up curved around Orlando’s neck. He tangled his fingers into soft curls and hooked Orlando forward, closer, until Orlando’s hitching breath was warm against his lips, Orlando’s knee pressing hard into his, Orlando's arm wrapped around his back for balance. Elijah had just one brief moment to worry about everything—the tabloids, whether Kate was okay, ringing Sean, what no-pressure kissing actually was—then Orlando’s wallet was dropping onto the table, Orlando’s now empty hand was coming up to grip Elijah’s elbow hard enough to bruise, credit cards were cascading off the table onto the floor around their feet, and Orlando’s lips were smooth and tense beneath his, like the first silky, tart, giving bite of cherries. Elijah licked, chasing the taste, and Orlando’s mouth slid open against his tongue, deep and hot and tasting like temptation; Orlando's tongue against his own sending shocks juddering down his spine.

The kiss ended with a wet, lewd sound that made Elijah lick his lips, wanting more.

"Like that," whispered Orlando, gently rubbing his nose against Elijah's.

For a moment Elijah thought it was a question, and he tried to get his throat to work enough to say, "yes," but then Orlando said, "Just like that, Lij."

Which Elijah took to mean: do it again. So he did. Pressing forward with more confidence, shocked anew by the tender give of Orlando's lips in the nanosecond before he kissed back. And there was the taste, almost familiar: Orlando, sharp and sweet. Their tongues slid together, slick and warm; mouths slow and unhurried; every touch gentle and full of affection. Orlando's hands were resting against Elijah the way they had a hundred times before, in the casual press and drape of friendship. So familiar. Elijah's hands rubbed gentle circles on Orlando's back and neck, giving comfort.

It was so good to be like this, with the worry and fear about crossing lines left behind them. This was like... mainlining friendship. This was... intimacy. And it was fucking fantastic; like nothing Elijah had ever tasted before. It was irresistible, addictive, and frustratingly short of perfect. So Elijah pressed in, making the kiss deeper, and Orlando's hands clenched, holding Elijah tighter. Then Orlando took the lead, tongue wicked and sure; his teeth grabbing at Elijah's bottom lip, biting, tasting; his stubble scraping against Elijah's chin in an almost-pain that felt surprisingly like ecstasy.

Elijah bit back, and it became a game, back and forth, licking and biting, sucking and deep kissing. Somewhere in the middle, while Orlando was licking the top of Elijah's mouth, Orlando pulled a little to get a better angle, and Elijah gave a little, sighing into the kiss; and when the kiss finally ended, both of them panting for breath, Elijah was straddling Orlando's lap, their bodies separated by the merest pretence at polite distance.

Elijah looked down at the gap between them, and felt a rush of vertigo; the lack of pressure along his front felt raw and unreal, making him shiver and his blood pound in anxiety, confusion, fear...

...want...

"Woah," he said, dizzy with it.

He looked up, trying to find something steady, something normal. Found Orlando staring back at him, eyes dark and sheened with a strange light.

"I want," said Orlando, voice as dark as his eyes, "Lij, I want..."

He leaned forward and licked a stripe of fire up the side of Elijah's neck.

"Shit," said Elijah, suddenly very aware of the fact that he was half-hard and getting harder. "Orli, maybe we should—"

Orlando, obviously not interested in conversation, sucked an open-mouthed kiss onto Elijah's pulsepoint, then slowly increased the suction; harder and harder, until Elijah was making grunting sounds with every panted exhale. Orlando let go with an obscenely loud noise, and swirled his tongue over the spot.

Elijah, vaguely aware that he'd been trying to say something important a moment ago, tried to remember what it was through the thundering red roar of his blood.

"Your turn," Orlando whispered into Elijah's ear, sending a wave of shivers down Elijah's back, and turned his head to expose his own neck.

Elijah stared at the smooth curve of Orlando's neck, at the dark demarcation of his stubble line, at the soft round swell of his earlobe...

...swallowed uncontrollably...

...brushed Orlando's hair back, slid forward, uncaring that his hard-on was nudging Orlando's belly, and lipped up the curve of Orlando's ear...

"Lij?" said Orlando, tensing a little beneath him.

...carefully placed tiny bites all the way back down, paused, then sucked Orlando's earlobe into his mouth...

"Oh God," said Orlando, his hands falling naturally into place on Elijah's ass, pulling him closer. Their erections bumping together; shocking despite the blunting layers of clothes.

Orlando gave a full-body shudder that Elijah could feel everywhere they touched.

...Elijah bit down hard; let go; slid his tongue into Orlando's ear...

Orlando moaned, the sound coming from somewhere deep and painful. Elijah could feel the hot puff of it against his skin.

Then Orlando's hands were moving again, snagging Elijah's hair, pulling him away, pulling so hard it hurt, pulling their lips back together, dragging him into another kiss. And there was nothing about comfort in this kiss. This kiss was...

...sex...

...fantastic sex...

"Orlando," Elijah managed to gasp, between one kiss and the next; not quite believing it was... "Orlando" ...making him feel this fantastic... "Orlando" ...biting him hard enough to make everything...

...frantic...

...electric...

...Orlando sucking his tongue, Elijah pressing closer, closer, as close as he could get, slipping his hands under the back of Orlando's shirt, touching skin. Orlando tangling his fingers tighter in Elijah's hair, kissing him, kissing him so hard the world seemed to tilt...

...because Orlando was crashing him backwards onto the couch, and Elijah was wrapping his legs around Orlando, hips arching up, up, up. Desperate for more pressure. He was embarrassingly hard, out-of-his-head hard...

"Don't stop," said Orlando, holding him tight, "Don't stop, Lij."

...and they were both gasping for breath, Orlando pressing down into him, hard and hot against Elijah, groaning into Elijah's mouth; and they were moving together, grinding, pushing, hurting together...

Elijah couldn't stop ramping up the pressure, trying to fill up all the empty places that this amazing want was hollowing within him. He wanted to babble things—endearments—but there weren't any that were right, so profanities came out instead.

"Fuck, Orli. Harder. Fuck."

Elijah spread his legs wider, pressing a foot into the curve of Orlando's ass. Orlando shifted his hips a little and suddenly his cock was perfectly aligned with Elijah's, obscenely close, as though their clothes had melted away. And with just one thrust, two, they had a rhythm, three, relentless, four, five, unstoppable.

Elijah moaned, slipping his hands further under Orlando's shirt, wanting the press and slide of skin against skin. Orlando was burning beneath Elijah's touch. And Orlando was biting Elijah's throat, stubble driving ribbons of pleasure-pain-pleasure into Elijah's jaw. Elijah dragged his fingers hard along Orlando's ribs, trying to give back the same kind of edged pleasure, and Orlando bucked, his thrusts suddenly erratic, and the smell of sex, of Orlando, was so intense... like the burn of ozone... tingling through Elijah... notching everything up... his skin fizzing... cock throbbing... balls impossibly tight... body arching...

...and the edge was right there; Elijah was right there; his climax sparking behind his eyelids. Sudden vertigo snatched at him again, dragging him into a brief moment of lucidity as he realised he was about to come pressed up against Orlando, and that realisation was all it took, kicking his body into the shock of orgasm.

"God," he moaned, eyes closed, holding onto Orlando as the world shook, changed, came apart, unglued itself at the seams, everything turning inside out; the impossible suddenly possible and held in his arms.

Orlando was holding onto Elijah so tightly as he came that it was like a giant boa constrictor had wrapped itself around him, if there was such a thing as a giant boa-constrictor with a hard-on, who smelled... mouthwateringly kissable. Orlando was silent with the strain of his own pleasure—Elijah's opposite, as always; coming with a wordless cry, his face pressed into Elijah's neck; joining Elijah in this strange new world where friends could kiss each other into a situation beyond all sense.

Elijah did his best to hold back just as tightly, fighting the post-orgasmic lethargy of his muscles to do it. His brain was already working enough to know that this was a problem, that this changed everything, that there were going to be...

Consequences.

Shit. What on earth had he been thinking? Orlando had come here for comfort, and instead Elijah had... molested him. For fuck's sake.

Except, of course, that wasn't entirely true, was it? It was probably easier to think of it that way—to think of it as Elijah's fault—because then it could be brushed off. There could be apologies and awkwardness and not talking. And probably a broken friendship. But still. Easier than admitting...

For a start, that Orlando was actually the one on top, and fucking heavy now that the heat of passion was over. And, now that Elijah thought about it, Orlando was also the one who'd turned up wanting to be kissed. Which kind of implied that, whatever the fuck had just happened, it was, at the very least, a mutual fuck up.

Elijah tried very hard not think that it might not be a fuck up at all. That it might be the most amazing, wonderful, fantastic thing to have ever happened in his life. Because it could only be that—maybe—if Orlando had been burning with this... whatever the fuck this thing was... for all of these years too.

As Orlando was currently lying still and silent, probably completely freaked out, that seemed pretty fucking unlikely.

Elijah tried to stop thinking and just let himself lie in Orlando's arms for a little bit longer.

When he couldn't stand the breathy murmur of Franka's voice filling the silence between them for one more second—and he couldn't believe, now, that he'd thought the irony of playing her was cute—he gathered his courage, and tried to psych himself up for facing the consequences. Not very effectively; he could feel tears threatening, prickling at the backs of his eyes. But he'd already waited too long, so he forced himself to move.

"You okay?" he whispered, and ran a gentle hand down Orlando's back.

Orlando shuddered against him, and Elijah couldn't hold back the tears then; he couldn't do this. Couldn't face Orlando's regret. He shut his eyes and waited for Orlando to do whatever it was he was going to do.

At the tiny, soundless movement of Orlando’s lips against his throat, Elijah's whole body stopped still.

"I feel kind of weird," Orlando said, voice low. "This isn't what... what I expected to happen."

"You expected something to happen?" Elijah managed, his voice tight in his throat; as though he'd been yelling for hours.

"No. I wasn't really thinking at all," said Orlando. "I just needed... to touch you."

"You wanted comfort," said Elijah. "After what happened with..." he couldn't bring himself to say her name.

"No," said Orlando. "I mean, yes, comfort. But that's not..." He levered himself up on one arm so that he could look at Elijah, his eyes widening in concern at Elijah's tears. "I came here because I wanted to be close to you."

Elijah wiped at his tears, uselessly. "Wish granted."

"Don't," said Orlando. "You know I love you."

It was Elijah's turn to blink in surprise. "What?"

"Not like that," said Orlando; then, looking thoughtful, "Well, maybe like that. But what I mean is, you know I didn't come here just for—"

"A sympathy fuck?" said Elijah, deliberately ignoring that heart-stopping maybe. There were more important issues that needed attention. "No. I don't know that. I don't think I know anything at all right now. Because you haven't told me anything."

Orlando sighed. "I know. I was too upset before." He carefully moved a hand to the middle of Elijah's chest, and when Elijah made no protest, rubbed a little, placatingly. "I'll tell you now, if you like."

Elijah looked up at Orlando, whose face was lined with concern, exhaustion, and the traces of passion. He felt a sudden welling of affection that just drove home the point that everything had changed, and there wasn't any going back.

Consequences.

"Not now," said Elijah. "In a bit. I need a shower and something to eat before I face this."

"Oh," said Orlando, and the lost, anxious expression flickered across his face again. "I guess I should go find a hotel, then."

"God you're a moron sometimes," said Elijah, and put his hand over the one on his chest. "Stay."

Orlando still looked unsure; in fact, he looked a lot like Elijah felt.

"I've probably got some sweatpants that'll fit you," said Elijah, all too aware, suddenly, of the revolting state of his own jeans.

"Well," Orlando said, shifting uncomfortably, the lost look fading again, to Elijah's relief, "that sounds like an offer too good to refuse."

"Come on then," said Elijah, "get off me you great lump. Let's do this, before my couch is permanently scarred."

Quick as a snake, Orlando leaned forward, dropping a kiss onto Elijah's lips, before rolling away, up and off the couch and out of Elijah's reach.

"You do know I love you," he said again, "don't you, Lij?"

And this time, Elijah let himself hear the maybe. "Yeah," he said. "I know."

* * *
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