Less travelled

Sean set his watch on the night table next to his bed, the one that still seemed alien to him even though he'd had it for a year, more than long enough to get used to it. In a year a person could get used to a lot of things.

He set down his watch and he rubbed the spot on his wrist where it had been pressed for the last seventeen hours, felt the damp smooth skin that itched faintly, more like something remembered than something he was experiencing. He rubbed his wrist and he tried not to remember anything else that about night, other than a too-tight watch and time passing.

As impossible as forgetting his daughters, that was.

He'd recognised Viggo, of course, and how could he not? It wasn't that the man stood out in a crowd -- except he did -- or that he was doing anything to draw attention to himself -- except he was -- but he had a feel to him, an intimate familiarity that would have let Sean recognise him across the proverbial crowded room in an instant.

Of course that intimacy, something that once went far beyond what he shared with the other actors and crew he'd spent that extraordinary year with, was the very reason his mind skittered away from the encounter. The thing he longed for in his bones was the same as the thing he couldn't bear.

He half expected to hear a knock at the door the very moment it occurred to him that there could be one, but the knock didn't come. The knock didn't come for another twenty-seven minutes; Sean knew this precisely because the minute hand on the face of his watch, the one he'd set so carefully on the table, ticked ever onward.

"It's open," he said aloud after inhaling deeply, deep like he was sucking on joint, or something else, anything else, that would have send him into pleasant oblivion. Of course his bedroom door was open, it was a silly thing to say, it's not as though he locked himself in every night. But if it was a silly thing to say then it was a silly thing to knock. It was the front door one knocked at if they were worried about formalities, but he'd given Viggo the key ages ago and he'd clearly chosen now to take advantage of that.

Viggo didn't say anything, just slipped inside the room and left the door open, though Sean didn't know which of them it was meant to be an escape route, a safety net, for. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth and it was one of those moments where Sean didn't know whether he was going to grin and pounce, or say something soul-shatteringly profound.

"Well, out with it, then," he said finally, gruffly, and rubbed at his wrist again. It was going to chafe if he kept it up, but that didn't stop him even for a moment.

"I was surprised to see you tonight."

That was not what he'd been anticipating, and he didn't much like it. It put him off balance, and Sean had enough exes in his life who liked to play mind games. "Surprised to see me?" he echoed back, and didn't look up. "At least I'm on my home continent."

"I could argue that I am, too."

"And you could argue that the sky isn't technically blue, but that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a silly and pedantic argument."

He saw Viggo nod out of the corner of his eye, and resisted the automatic smile at the way Viggo could acknowledge the truth of an insult without reacting to it. "I didn't know you liked that sort of thing," Viggo went on finally. Talking, Sean realised after a moment, about the show and not the sky. Didn't like what, then, art? Viggo knew all about Sean's history with art. "Too... something."



It had been that, Sean had to admit. But it was crowded because it was an Event, capital E, and that was why he had been there, too. To be seen, because he had new projects coming up and even he liked to get his face out there, especially when not too much of his soul had to go with it.

"I knew you liked Petr's work," Sean said finally, and looked up, head cocked to the side. If this was going to be what they were going to talk about, then so be it. Sean could handle this. "I didn't know you liked it enough to cross an ocean for it."

Viggo shrugged and took two steps forward, closer to Sean and away from the safety of the doorframe. "It's been a while," he said after a moment, and cocked his own head in an obvious imitation of Sean. Sean couldn't tell if it was intentional or just instinctive. "You know how I get."

"I know how you get," he agreed, and though he didn't intend to say it aloud he wasn't sorry that he had. Viggo took another two steps forward, and Sean's room wasn't so large that Viggo wouldn't be at his side soon. "Can never stay put for long."

"In a place, no," Viggo admitted readily. Which meant, and Sean knew this because he knew Viggo and everything he said had layers, that there were other ways.

It was Sean's turn to nod his head, slowly and thoughtfully, using the opportunity to stare down at his wrist again. It was reddening. "Why are you here, Viggo?" he asked finally, tired of dancing, tired of a lot of things.

Viggo didn't have an answer on the tip of his tongue this time, nor in the middle of his tongue if the time it took him to answer was any indication. He stepped forward again, into the circle of light let off by Sean's bedside lamp, which was lit even though the light overhead was plenty bright.

"Because I had to be," he said finally. "Because I don't think I had any choice anymore."

There were always choices, and they'd both been making them since New Zealand. To be together, to not be together, to speak, not to speak, to listen, to ignore. There were always choices and Sean didn't believe in destiny, but he did believe in failure, and after three marriages he figured he knew that when he saw it.

"Anything we needed to say," said Sean, his words tight with something that wasn't anger and wasn't even really pain anymore, "has already been said. And I don't think we're ready to start on the whole new set of conversations that comes after, just yet."

"I don't want there to be an after."

"There's always an after."

"I think we should back up."

It wasn't Sean's wrist that ended up hurting, no, it was his head that started throbbing gently, right at his temples where he always felt things the most. He didn't want to hear this, not this, not exactly, and he didn't know what to do now that he had.

"No one can do that," he said finally. "There's only forward."

He didn't see the last steps Viggo took, only knew that he felt Viggo's fingers curl around his wrist and stay there, no more, no less. "I think we can. There was a fork in the road somewhere and we took the wrong one and I want to go back and take the other."

The fork, the fork in the road, Sean could even see it, in the back of his head behind the throb. A missed meeting, then another. A bad day on top of a bad day and a fight that seemed so stupid in retrospect but seemed so critical at the time. A whole raft of differences they discovered, that overbalanced the similarities they'd started out with. Or maybe they'd just never given things the time they needed to settle again. That was the fork.

Sean looked at his watch, ticking quietly along, and wondered how long he would have to wind it backwards before they found that moment in time again.

"I don't know how to do that," he said as Viggo kept holding his wrist in his warm, callused hand. A gesture that was painfully intimate, a moment that Sean wished he could stay in forever anyway, since they couldn't turn back time.

He didn't know how to take what Viggo was offering, or if he even knew what Viggo was offering. He didn't know if they'd make all the same mistakes again, mistakes they'd both made with other people before and probably after, time and time again. He didn't know the right way to make it work, even if it was possible to find that moment again, even if they did manage to carry forward together onto the other path.

"We can figure it out," Viggo said with the confidence of an artist, of a man who's always made it up as he went along, and made it work.

And in the end, after moments passed and they'd both fallen into just breathing together, being together, Sean decided to believe him, because the path Viggo was laying out -- a new one, not the one they'd passed up before, no matter what pretty metaphor Viggo used to describe it -- was better than anything else Sean could see in his future.

"Okay," he said, and turned his hand and laced Viggo's fingers with his own.


Written to the terms of contre la montre 22jun04 challenge
Inspired by: I wouldn't know what to do with another chance / If you gave it to me
Time: 39 minutes (1:05 with editing)