Via Negativa
by Sara

"Imagination and memory are but one thing." - Thomas Hobbes

I: Take a Ride With Me

"I'm going to Vegas. Wanna come?"

Orlando blinks slowly awake, the phone almost falling out of his fumbling fingers. Tries to process all the information at once: ten o'clock in the morning, sun creeping insidiously over the carpet through a crack in the curtains, a tangle of bed sheets around his waist, half-full glass of water on the table he knocked over as he reached for the phone and the resulting drip drip drip sound as the water hits the floor. Elijah's name on the caller ID, Elijah's voice on the line, Elijah and his weird fucking questions that come out of nowhere especially since he hasn't talked to him in a couple of months.

"Vegas?" Orlando manages, struggling to right the glass, hold onto the phone, and extract himself from the sheets simultaneously and failing.

"Yeah. You know. Gambling. Showgirls. Excess. Debauchery. Excessive debauchery. And oooh, buffets."

He closes his eyes. Wonders where to start. "Okay." Shit. Didn't mean for that to happen. Since when is he so agreeable? Damned post-waking disorientation.

"Great. I'll be there in an hour."

Click. Dial tone.

Orlando stares at the phone. Drops it back onto the cradle and falls backwards onto the mattress.



II. Drive

Transportation is a vintage black Mustang convertible with white leather seats and two small red fuzzy dice hanging off the rear-view mirror. A cooler sits in the small backseat along with a few CD cases and oddly enough, a checkered blanket.

Elijah seems taller than he remembered.

He's out of the car as Orlando shuts the front door, meeting him halfway with a smile and a gesture to follow him. He pops the trunk and waits for Orlando to throw in his bags, then looks him up and down for a few moments, quietly assessing.

For some reason, Orlando expects to hear a heartfelt confession or a stunning revelation of some kind, but what he gets is Elijah smiling and saying, "Missed you, man," before walking back to the driver's side and getting in.

The drive is long and Orlando's still tired; he spends the first hour dozing lightly, staring at the sky and drifting in and out of consciousness. He looks over at the driver's side, finally. Yes. Mistake. Elijah's still, well, Elijah, not quite handsome, almost pretty, definitely beautiful.

Orlando closes his eyes against the fiery burn of the sun, streaming determinedly through his sunglasses. A nice avoidance tactic, it is. Instantly removes the temptation to watch Elijah drive.

Not that the image isn't already burned into his memory. Even with his eyes shut, Orlando can see every detail: Elijah's hands, one resting casually on the steering wheel, the other jabbing the seek button on the radio, searching for a station that doesn't suck (so far, no luck). A thick silver ring on his index finger, catching and reflecting the sunlight in living sparks, highlighting tanned knuckles and a black swirl on the back of his hand, inked shallowly into his skin by his pen in a fit of idleness. Hair grown out just a bit too long, tangled and gleaming in the wind. The sun casting a red-gold light over the angular lines of his cheekbones and the soft curve of his lower lip, growing more familiar with his skin than Orlando could ever hope to. His eyes still that intense blue that seemed to shine out even from beneath the silver-rimmed aviator shades.

Orlando has forgotten most of the scenery in New Zealand; he's no longer even sure what's memory or what's just been imprinted on his brain from multiple viewings of the first movie. He's forgotten what he and the hobbits used to talk about on their many nights in the pub. He doesn't remember filming all that much; it's all a blur of cold and horses and lines that still sometimes run through his head when he's trying not to think.

Orlando could live for a hundred more years, a thousand, ‘til the world ends, and he would never forget the way Elijah looked staring straight ahead at the endless miles of road, clothed in sunlight and brighter than anything he'd ever seen.

Elijah's found a station, now a girl's voice whispers from the speakers. His fingers curl around the steering wheel, one thumb sliding over the leather, tapping a vague sort of rhythm. There's a trace of black nail polish on his nail.

There has to be something to say. Orlando feels the questions, pushing at the back of his mind. Black nail polish? Is Elijah goth now? Why Las Vegas? What about Dominic?

Does it even matter, really?

Orlando turns and looks at the desert. Everything is endless out here: the blue, cloudless sky, the faded gold sand, the dark stretch of road ahead. Miles pass in memories, minutes feel like hours, and Elijah's lips form whispered words as he quietly sings along. The fuzzy red dice bump against the windshield. The landscape is a photograph, and Elijah is the most beautiful thing Orlando has ever seen. It must be at least one hundred degrees out today. Jesus, it's hot.

Can't take the silence anymore. Just can't take it.

"So what's this about?" Awkward question, needs specification.

Or not. "I just needed to get away."


Elijah swallows. "Boyfriend issues."

God, curiosity is a bitch. If Elijah wanted to elaborate, he would have, right?


Can't resist. "You and Dom fighting?" Don't pry, don't pry, don't pry.

"We just needed a break, I guess."

Elijah and Dom, on a break. Officially? Possibilities.

…not that Orlando's looking to take advantage of Elijah's vulnerable state.

That would be wrong.


III. Remember

Four years ago, Elijah was eighteen years old and looked younger. Didn't yet know how to use his looks to his advantage. Orlando remembers meeting this still awkward kid, feeling the innocence he projected as an almost physical thing. Not yet aware that his big blue eyes and angelically curved lips could be used for anything except looking terribly corruptible. Remembers thinking, hidden depths in this kid. Remembers wanting to discover those depths. Remembers. Wanting.

Four years ago was a long time.

Within the first few weeks of filming, a freak spring snowstorm had hit. Shooting stopped, snowball fights began, and nine fully grown men behaved like kids. They walked back to the hotel together afterwards, losing a man at each doorway until it was just Elijah and Orlando and it seemed natural that they both go to Orlando's room. Wet clothes just wouldn't do, of course, and so Orlando tossed Elijah a white button down and pair of pants that he knew would be way too big. Orlando watched him turn and remove his shirt, fabric clinging to boyish muscles, sliding reluctantly over each successive inch of pale skin. Casually tossed the shirt to the corner before walking over to the heater turned on full blast. Closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, artificial heat bringing up goose bumps on his skin.

Orlando watched. Listened as Elijah exhaled in an almost-sigh of bliss. Finally turned back to the closet and got some dry clothes for himself. Got dressed with his back to Elijah, fighting the urge to turn back and watch some more, never stop watching so long as Elijah was there.

Pulled on a pair of soft black sweats and turned back just in time to see Elijah button up the shirt almost all the way and cuff up the sleeves. The pants were about three inches too long and hanging off of his waist, revealing a sharp hipbone. He looked good in white. Beautiful, even.

Orlando's heat sensitivity increased a thousand fold in a second, and the room was suddenly too, too hot. He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, feeling the cold sweat there. Questioned his choice of sweat pants and sweater, wondered if he should go with "Is it hot in here or is it just me?" or the more straightforward "Hey look, a bed. Let's have sex."

But Elijah smiled then and the moment was broken. Orlando smiled back and they spent the rest of the night watching bad movies on Pay Per View until Elijah went back to his room at three a.m.

They started hanging out a bit more often after that and except for the one time Elijah got drunk and told Orlando that he was prettiest guy he'd ever seen, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. Orlando thought he maybe wanted more, but by then Dom had Elijah and breaking them up was not an option. Orlando dealt with it, moved on, had a fling with Billy and all was well. Filming ended and he and Elijah still saw each other at premieres, always with the affectionate greetings and hours spent catching up at the after parties.

Orlando moved to L.A. a few months later and they saw each other even less. Elijah and Dom had finally gotten a house together in Topanga Canyon but Elijah was frequently off filming and Dom was either with him or off making a film of his own. Orlando visited them a few times in their small, cluttered, dusty blue house, where they'd have dinner and talk and Orlando would tease them about their utter lack of decorating skills.

On the occasion of their two-year anniversary, Orlando had gotten them a case of good wine, and as a prank, hired a local contractor to build a white picket fence around their property. They protested feebly but they already had a cat and a checkered tablecloth, so they could no longer deny their domesticated nature. Instead, they cracked open a bottle of wine and ate ordered-in Thai food with Orlando, sitting on the lawn in the sunshine and watching the fence being put up.

The next week Orlando flew to Atlanta to do a film. Schedules conflicted and he didn't see Elijah or Dom again for several months, and even then it was a brief visit before Elijah flew out of the country to do another movie.

Then Elijah called him.


IV. Now

Orlando looks over and is momentarily blinded by the reflection of the sun in Elijah's sunglasses. Spots appear in his vision like after a camera flash. "Okay," he says. A break, that's fine.

"I just wanted to see you again," Elijah says quietly. Then, so softly that Orlando barely hears him over the wind- "I really missed you."

Hope. Orlando feels a momentary, stupid flash of hope, but what does that mean, anyway? Missed him like a friend? A brother? Something -- stupid, stupid hope -- more?

Almost too much time has passed for him to reply, but he does anyway. "I missed you, too." And it's true, he realizes. He did miss Elijah.

White picket fence, Orlando thinks. Domestic bliss.

But. On a break.

Orlando decides that not thinking anymore sounds like an awfully good idea.

He tilts his head back, closes his eyes. The lull in conversation gradually fades into a full stop. A few more hours to go and they'll hit the city.

A few more hours. Plenty of time to figure out what the hell he's doing.


V. Dreamland

"Orli, wake up."

Fingertips on his jaw. Orlando slides back into awareness, sits up. The sunlight is brighter than he remembered, even from behind his sunglasses.

Elijah's hand slides into Orlando's hair, briefly, almost a caress until he smiles sheepishly and tugs on a curl. Orlando blinks.

"We're here," Elijah says, gesturing to their surroundings. They're pulled up in front of a hotel. A valet is taking their luggage and another stands waiting for Elijah to hand over the car keys. "Get up."

"Okay," Orlando says. The last traces of sleepiness clear from his mind and he immediately realizes that he's hungry. "Can we eat?"

Elijah nods and tells the valet to take the stuff to their room, causing Orlando to raise an eyebrow. "You got reservations?"

"Of course." Elijah shrugs. He doesn't say whether they're sharing a suite or sharing a bedroom.

Orlando doesn't ask.

They end up at the Hard Rock Café, where they order half a dozen appetizers and talk about everything but their love lives. Orlando just got a role in the next Cameron Crowe movie. Elijah's reading the latest Chuck Palahniuk novel. They exchange idle business gossip: George Lucas is in rehab for his addiction to LSD ("so sixties," Elijah comments, rolling his eyes); Kirsten Dunst is supposedly dating Tobey Maguire again, but Orlando saw her making out with Eliza Dushku at a nightclub last week; Joss Whedon just signed on to write and direct the next Superman movie.

Elijah laughs at the Kirsten comment. "Me and Tobey had a thing back when we were doing The Ice Storm. This one time, we went to a club and he got drunk. Jumped me in the parking lot on the way out. We fooled around of the hood of someone's car." He smiles. "Ah, youth."

Orlando smiles back, shifting uncomfortably. First of all, the talk is turning to sex. Second of all, that's really hot. His thoughts are rapidly sliding from Hollywood gossip to naked Elijah. Naked Elijah which he probably won't have to imagine, pretty soon.

The atmosphere has changed, Orlando feels it, they both do. Quiet awareness is becoming edged with anticipation. He's looking at Elijah, looking into those blue eyes and knowing what's going to happen later. This isn't really happening, Orlando thinks. But it is.

Elijah taps his fingers nervously on the edge of the table. "We could go gamble. Do you want to gamble?"

"Absolutely. Let's go." Orlando stands, banging his knee on the table. "I'm going to go, um. Buy a souvenir."

Elijah nods and gestures for the check. Orlando approaches the counter. Like he actually wants a tacky t-shirt, no thank you, but he has to get something now. He buys the kitschiest thing he can find, a little snow globe of Las Vegas with the Hard Rock logo on the base, which plays a tinny version of "Viva Las Vegas" and scatters gold glitter over the miniature city when shaken up.

He waits outside, playing with the globe which, curse it, is actually pretty amusing. Elijah joins him, raises an eyebrow. "Fun?" he asks.

"Fuck off," Orlando mutters, and starts walking.

They hit the Stardust first, then Harrah's. Elijah's winning and Orlando barely breaks even. By the time they get back to the Bellagio, Orlando is ready to quit. He splits with Elijah at the entrance, promises to meet him in an hour, and hits the bar.

Three vodka shots later, he's ready to play. Ready to either win some money or find Elijah and ravish him up against a slot machine. Whichever. He grins, knowing he'll get both, though maybe without the slot machine/public sex element.

No sign of Elijah, though, so he decides to find an expensive table and drop an obscene amount of money. Blackjack and poker get him a thousand dollars profit in half an hour, and he moves on.

Orlando's at the roulette table when thin arms snake around his waist. Elijah stands on his tiptoes and whispers "Pick twenty-four" into his ear. Orlando throws his chips on the table and calls it.

He loses.

Elijah nips his earlobe. He's been drinking, Orlando can tell, but he's not drunk. "Let's go," Elijah says.

Orlando follows Elijah through the crowded casino, weaving in and out of the crowd, keeping his head ducked down but still hearing an occasional "hey!" of recognition.

They reach the elevator and slip in just as the doors are about to close. It's all brass and mirrors inside, with tacky red carpeting that Orlando stares at so he won't have to see Elijah watching him and practically bouncing on his toes. I know what's going to happen and I want this, he thinks. I want this.

The bell dings, the doors slide open.


VI. Give

The hallway seems to stretch for miles but in seconds they've reached the doorway. Elijah slides the keycard and opens the door. Walks in, sets his sunglasses on the table and turns to face Orlando.

Only one bedroom. I knew it, Orlando thinks.

"C'mere," Elijah says. His voice only shakes a little.

Orlando doesn't.

Elijah gives him an almost-convincing smile. "Pretty please?" He crosses the room, saving Orlando the trouble. The space between them decreases until there's none at all, just-

Lips on Orlando's neck. Fingertips on his collarbone.

"You're on the rebound," Orlando points out.

Elijah winces, just enough for it to be noticeable. And instead of saying that he and Dom are on a break or it's over now or he really wants Orlando he just looks up with his fallen angel blue eyes and says-


-and suddenly he's an eighteen-year-old bboy again, beautiful and young and coming in from the cold, snowflakes melting on his eyelashes and a shy grin hesitating on his lips. Orlando can resist many things. Elijah looking like that is not one of them.

His hands slide under Elijah's shirt, over warm tanned skin, slight hipbones, lightly defined abs, over ribs, over sides, until he coaxes Elijah's arms up and pulls the shirt off.

Elijah's lips on his neck and it's bitter. Sweet. Bittersweet. Beautiful. Orlando opens his mouth to say "this is wrong" but what comes out is "bedroom."

Halfway in the door and there's suddenly small hands (had they always been that small?) tugging at the waist of Orlando's jeans, unbuttoning, touching, unzipping, touching, pulling, touching, holding. Tender rough and harsh. Dim awareness (is Elijah saying something? Oh right, bed), blood pounding in his ears, can't see (eyes shut), can't breathe (so hot), just feel (lips on his skin, eager kisses, sharp teeth- that'll bruise).

Comforter rough on his back, pale green, pillow beneath his head. Sudden, wet heat -- mouth on his cock -- god -- jerks up -- head bashes into the headboard -- ouch -- Elijah's mouth -- god -- so hot -- can't think anymore. Fingers gripping the comforter so hard it hurts, can't hear anything but distant, quiet sounds of sucking and a low, persistent buzz in his ears -- is there a fly in the room or has he finally lost it?

Elijah's fingers dig into his hips. He's good at this (don't think about that) and Orlando can feel his pulse racing faster and faster (remembers racing down the highway when he first got his license, going twice the speed limit, velocity and adrenalin combined with fear of getting caught, never thought he'd feel like that again but here he is and) can't hold back any longer, why was he trying to, anyway? Comes so hard that he sees stars, little gold sparks behind his eyelids, can't breathe and then Elijah's looking at him and it's so hot in there, no air-conditioning. Elijah's skin covering his, sweat mingling, terribly intimate and still they don't kiss.

A moment to catch his breath, and then Elijah is looking at him expectantly. Orlando inhales, exhales, tries to force his heart rate back to normal. Rolls them over, fumbles with Elijah's jeans, pulls them off (too roughly, apparently, judging from Elijah's slightly pained "watch it"), shaking a little as he tosses them aside and goes down. Elijah's close already, thrusting up a bit too hard for Orlando to handle. He runs his hands over Elijah's hips, caressing the sharp hipbones, the shadowed hollows where hip meets thigh. Avoids touching the tattoo, though he couldn't quite say why.

He holds Elijah down, pressing him into the bed. He's a little out of practice but the skill of giving a good blowjob is apparently one you never lose, judging by the quiet moans Elijah occasionally lets out. Elijah's stomach quivers, his eyes shut tightly. He comes.

Orlando makes it a point not to notice whose name he calls.

There's a brief, surreal moment in which Orlando looks up and sees Elijah brilliant bright amidst the shadows of the room. Dusty sunlight filters in from the window, casting grey bars of shadows from the half-closed blinds. Elijah's flushed, his eyes huge, and for one moment Orlando lets himself think that everything is okay, and this was right.

Elijah closes his eyes, and the moment passes.

Orlando tries very hard not to sigh, and then tries very hard not to think. He doesn't succeed with either. It's barely ten o'clock but suddenly he's impossibly tired and crawling under the covers seems like a great idea. He doesn't look at Elijah again, just gets under the blankets. Stares at the ceiling (off-white, stucco) and doesn't move even when he feels Elijah watching him.

"Orli." Quiet, of course, pleading a little, easy enough to ignore. Orlando doesn't bother looking over. He can already picture Elijah's guilty, regretful expression, and the sight of those big blue eyes filled with torment seems like it would be just a little too unbearable at the moment.

"Don't," he says shortly.

"Come on."

"Don't, Elijah."

Elijah sighs. "Goodnight, then."

Orlando turns onto his side, facing the window, and doesn't answer.

He thinks: we never even kissed or looked into each other's eyes. Not a conscious thing, nothing personal. Just. Didn't happen.

He watches the darkness descend outside as the sun sinks below the horizon. It's unbearably maudlin; he knows that and doesn't care. The night sky fades to black, revealing a million stars.

Eventually, he falls asleep.


VII. Disappear

Orlando awakens first. Sunlight is pushing through the curtains, glaring off the pale yellow walls, making the room seem impossibly bright. He carefully slides out from beneath Elijah's arm, which had been tossed over his torso. The bed squeaks a bit as he rises, squints at his surroundings and tries to locate his jeans. Finally spots them crumpled in a corner and pulls them on in a fit of misplaced modesty.

"Fuck," he says and doesn't quite know why. He has a slight headache and a sudden, fierce craving for a cigarette, so bad that his hands clench and unclench and he bites his lip, trying to think of anything else. Fails miserably. Looks for Elijah's jacket, searches the pockets. Clove cigarettes will have to do.

Orlando's fingers tremble so much that he drops the lighter. Swears again and picks it up, thinks vaguely that maybe he shouldn't be playing with fire when he feels like this and then pauses to absorb the appropriateness of the analogy. God. Since when did he get so maudlin? Fuck this.

The cigarette is lit, somehow, and Orlando takes a drag, pulls the smoke in deep, imagines he can feel it whisper through his lungs.

The sun casts warm rectangles of light on the floor. He walks to the window, looks through the blinds to see the vivid stretch of city, a brilliant line that fades into miles of desert. His reflection is vague, barely defined outlines of skin. He looks pale behind the veil of smoke. Inhale, exhale. He's still shaking and -- is that a hickey on his chest? There are a couple of them, skipping a path down his torso. They look like nothing more than faded bruises and for a second he thinks that he's mistaken and that they are, until he stretches the skin slightly and notices the small, sharp teeth marks on the one beneath his navel.

Rustling sheets and the squeak of bedsprings alert Orlando to the movement behind him, followed by footsteps and a hand plucking the cigarette from his, carelessly dropping ash onto the carpet. He lets it happen, doesn't turn around as warm fingers slide over his hipbones, lightly caressing the marked skin.

"Was that me?" a quiet voice at his shoulder murmurs. Hands slide further up his stomach, avoiding the darkened areas.

Orlando sucks in a breath. "No, I think one of the hookers did it."

Elijah stiffens, then quickly relaxes. "I wasn't that out of it, you fucker. Neither were you."

"No?" he asks quietly.

Elijah looks away.

They finish getting dressed in silence, the illusion of intimacy shattered.


VIII. Exit Music

Breakfast is coffee and muffins from the hotel. The convertible is waiting for them as they walk out of the lobby.

It's not like Orlando expected this would be more than a one-time thing, but somehow he'd managed to convince himself that being Elijah's post-breakup sex partner wouldn't leave him feeling this way. Not used exactly- well, maybe a little. Okay, a lot, but that was the point wasn't it? This wasn't supposed to mean something.

As if the emotional turmoil isn't enough, he has a slight hangover headache. Stupid vodka. Stupid Elijah. Stupid brain that didn't realize meaningless sex might not be meaningless for everybody involved, and he likes Dom, he really does, and oh god. His head hurts.

Elijah freely disregards the speed limit the whole way back, and the trip that should have taken four hours takes three. Orlando spends the time sleeping off the headache and Not Looking At Elijah. It might possibly be the longest three hours of his life.

Finally, they reach Orlando's street. A minute passes and they're in his driveway, sliding to a stop, dust swirling up beneath the car. The sun beats down onto them, dry heat making the highway shimmer in the distance. Silence settles between them like dust on asphalt, until-

"Orli." He's pleading, maybe.

Orlando fights the urge to sigh, looks at Elijah. Big, sincere blue eyes, wide and pained. Orlando waits.

This is where Elijah apologizes. He'll take a deep breath and say he's sorry for using Orlando, that he never meant for this to happen, never meant to hurt him. That he's breaking it off with Dominic, that he and Orlando will still be friends and maybe in awhile when the memory is further away and the hurt has lessened he'll give Orlando a call and maybe they can do something. Have something. Put the past behind them and only think about the future. A future where maybe they can be together.

This is where Orlando realizes that imagination can only take you so far before reality sets in. This is Orlando, listening to Elijah follow the script until he's not anymore, and of course they can be friends again someday, and he's sorry because this was wrong, a mistake, and he's still in love with Dominic and he knows that for sure now. This is where Orlando lies and says he understands, and Elijah smiles and says they'll keep in touch.

This is where the story ends, because there's nothing left to say.

Orlando gets out of the car and doesn't look back.

This is where the story ends.


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