This is not the worst moment of his life. That would have been the time he found Henry choking on a crayon when he was two, already turning blue, or the time he arrived too late to the scene of a car accident he heard just outside his tiny apartment. But it's right up there in the top three.

"He's not breathing," says Elijah, his voice rising into his keening upper register. "He's not breathing!"

Viggo lets instinct kick in. He pushes Elijah out of the way, still vocally frantic, pushes past Dom who is impotently trying to push at Orlando's chest and tilts Orlando's head back to clear his airway.

"What happened?" he demands, but part of him already knows. He's been watching them all, on and off, during the private anniversary party. He's got a pretty good idea what's sent Orlando into this state. "Someone call an ambulance."

Orlando is breathing though, faintly, and has a thready pulse to show he hasn't up and died on them.

"Call an ambulance! Now!" he hears someone echo him, and then Sean is kneeling on Orlando's other side, making the very same checks Viggo has just finished.

"I'm on it," someone says, Astin says, and Viggo trusts him to get things done. He hears the faint beeps from the cell phone, three of them, three numbers, then Astin's voice getting fainter as he moves away from them to make the call.

Running footsteps up the alley towards them, at least two sets, then, "What's going on? What's happening?" from Billy. "I thought you were heading for Lij's place."

"He's not breathing!" Elijah says again, not helping matters any. Viggo looks at Sean and Sean looks at him and in an unspoken agreement, in the language of eyes that parents know, Viggo stays with Orlando and Sean gets up to handle Elijah, still so young despite the years that have passed.

Orlando keeps breathing, shallow ins and outs that at least keep his brain alive, if he hasn't fried it already with everything he's taken that night, and in the nights just like it that came before.

One of Viggo's hands is on Orlando's throat and his other is over his heart when he hears the siren and the screech of tires up the alley and the paramedics come to take over what he's begun.


"How's he doing?"

Sean's voice is quiet in his ear, the beeps and whirs of the hospital corridor dampening all their voices.

"Alive," says Viggo, staring at the door. He'd ridden in the ambulance on the way here and hasn't left at all, not even to get a cup of coffee or have a smoke, both of which he feels like he desperately needs. "Sleeping now."

"I hear they pumped his stomach. Stupid bastard," says Sean. Viggo knows he's shaking his head even though he hasn't looked away from the door.

Viggo doesn't want to say out loud that it probably saved Orlando's life, because that would mean that Orlando's life was in danger in the first place and he doesn't want to deal with that right now. "Stupid," he agrees instead. "He won't be happy when he wakes up and finds out his little adventure's made front page news."

Sean makes a sound something like a snort and slumps down into a plastic chair, just within Viggo's range of vision. "Deserves it," he mutters. "Teach him a lesson."

Viggo grits his teeth and slams the palm of his hand onto the doorframe, not making nearly the noise he wants to. Sean is on his feet again, hands on Viggo's shoulders and pulling him back into the awful plastic chairs.

"The others are down in the waiting room," he tells him. Viggo doesn't know where the waiting room is; it hadn't even crossed his mind to look for one as he half-jogged into the hospital alongside Orlando, right up to the point where they would let him go no further.

"They let you in?" he says, lacing his hands together in his lap, forming them into a double fist.

"I guess I looked responsible," Sean tried to joke, even smiling. The joke doesn't fly, but the smile goes far, probably even further than he'd imagined it would. "I promised to go back and tell them when I knew anything."

"Everyone came?"

"Must be twenty, thirty people in there," Sean tells him, which is everyone who'd been at the private party, give or take a couple. Give probably, because Astin will have told Christine and maybe even gotten the girls if they couldn't find a sitter. "Orli may have been a right bastard lately, but he's still loved."

Viggo nods and stares at the door and wonders if Orlando knows that.


"Throat hurts," Orlando scratches out, his face pale, his hands shaky. He tries to swallow and makes a face when it hurts him more than he expects.

"Shhh," said Sean, sitting on the other side of the bed, opposite Viggo. Orlando's family is on their way, but it'll be hours still before they arrive. "No need to talk."

Viggo wants to ask what the hell Orlando was thinking, but he doesn't. It's not the time yet, not when Orlando doesn't have the energy to fight back, not when his throat's torn up from the tube and he's on the brink of withdrawal, whether he realises it yet or not.

Telling Orlando not to talk is an exercise in futility, though. "What's gonna happen to me?" he said, wincing at the pain of speaking.

Viggo meets Sean's eyes over Orlando's bed and Sean looks away first, so Viggo clears his throat and prepares the speech. "Someone's going to come talk to you," he says, as gently as he can say it when he's so furious and so terrified. "About where you're going to be going when you get out of the hospital."

"Where I'm..." Orlando begins, eyes going wide and baffled, then he snaps them closed and lets out a hoarse groan. "Fuck," he says. He knows.

Viggo's afraid he'll fight it, which he can because he's an adult and he's the master of his own destiny, he thinks, but he doesn't. He just lays there, defeated and resigned. Seeing that, Viggo isn't sure which is worse.

"We love you, you absolute fuckwit," says Sean, halfway between a whisper and a hiss, then leans down and kisses Orlando's forehead. "We just want you back again."

Orlando doesn't respond, and after a moment Sean sits back up again, his expression revealing nothing but his eyes revealing everything.

Viggo would have thought Orlando had fallen asleep again if it weren't for the quiet, barely visible tears seeping out of the outer corners of his eyes. "I don't know what happened," he says faintly. His eyes stay closed, as though he can't face either one of them.

Viggo thinks about leaving, about letting Orlando have some time to himself, then he meets Sean's eyes again, and they give each other a half nod and in that moment they decide to stay, each taking a hand and sitting there in silence, just being.


Viggo's ass hates those hard plastic chairs, but Viggo doesn't care as long as he's able to be here. Or nearby, at least, though he's only gone as far as the nearest bank of pay phones, calling up his son and talking to him for almost an hour, about everything and nothing.

"Coffee," says Sean, pressing a warm cup into Viggo's hands as he takes the seat beside him. "Astin and Christine headed home to be with the girls. Lij is in there now."

Viggo nods and imagines Elijah stretched out on the bed next to Orlando, just to make his presence known. He even smiles a little, for a moment. Orlando wouldn't have to say a word, Elijah could keep up both ends of the conversation by himself. And god help him when Dom and Billy took their turns, together or separately.

"Thanks," he says, and blows on the coffee and takes a sip. He still hasn't had a cigarette.

"He's doing all right," says Sean, and even though Viggo knows that, it's nice to hear it from someone else.

He sips his coffee again and licks his lips, which feel so constantly dry. "Could've been my boy in there," he says after a moment.

"Could've been me girl," Sean returns, in the very same tone of voice. "Couldn't help thinking about that, when I saw him there."

"How could he miss that he has so many people?" Viggo blurts out, squeezing the styrofoam cup a little too hard. Hot coffee splashes onto his hand and he swears under his breath, licking it up quickly. "How did he get so far away?"

Sean shrugs and sips his own coffee. Viggo can tell he's been asking himself the same questions. He's sure they all have, even though ones who know the answer.

"You can only take them so far," Sean says finally, "and then you have to let them go. You aren't responsible for the choices they make." Orlando isn't Viggo's son, and he isn't Sean's daughter, but he's not so different from them. Not so different at all.

Sean switches his coffee to his other hand, sucking some powdered sweetener off the crease between this thumb and index finger, then reaches out and squeezes Viggo's hand.


Orlando smiles at them when they walk through the door again, as bright as ever. His family has been and gone, taking the keys to Orlando's L.A. house to get themselves settled in for a while. Everyone has been really, and some of them have gone, but most are waiting to get all the time in they can before Orlando is taken away from them and whisked into some place that can maybe, hopefully, bring him back again.

"Hey," says Viggo, and slips into the seat he's begun to think of as his. "How are you feeling?"

Orlando rubs his throat, which no doubt is still sore, especially when he's not getting any painkillers, but it's not so sore that he hasn't been talking on and off all day. "I'm okay," he says, and doesn't add the silent "for now". From the shadows in his eyes, Viggo figures he's finally realised it's going to get worse before it gets better, even if he isn't dealing with it yet.

"You look better," says Sean, staying at Viggo's side. "Not so much like a ghost."

Orlando makes a face. "I guess I wasn't at my best. I'm sorry--"

Viggo shushes him with a finger to his lips. "There'll be plenty of time for that," he tells him. He doesn't want to hear an apology when Orlando is still barely able to talk, and even more when Orlando doesn't yet comprehend what he's apologising for. "We're all glad you're alive."

Orlando nods and looks more serious again. "Everyone keeps telling me that," he admits.

"Well, everyone means it, you slow-witted prat," says Sean, reaching out to muss up Orlando's curls. "Weren't you expecting that?"

Orlando doesn't answer, not really. Just nods his head a little and murmurs, "Everyone wants a piece."

He'll learn, Viggo tries to assure himself. They'll teach him to believe it, where he's going, and then the people who love him will teach him to believe them again. It's all they can do.

They've been told not to stay long when Orlando should be resting, and this time, seeing the shadows on Orlando's face, Viggo respects that. He gets to his feet, and feels Sean's arms come around his waist from behind, wrapping around him in front. Orlando looks surprised, and then he doesn't, nodding slowly.

Orlando's not the only one who missed what the people around him were feeling, Viggo reflects. It was a good thing they would still have a long time ahead of them to figure it out, and get it right.


Written to the terms of contre la montre 22sep03 challenge
Time: 1:20 (1:38 with editing)