Intimations of Mortality

by P. R. Zed

He hadn't been in the country for twenty-four hours when Viggo kidnapped him. Showed up on his doorstep at dusk with a mischievous smile and a mysterious mission.

"You have to see something," he said. No preamble. No how have you been. No nice to see you.

If it had been anyone else, Sean would have slammed the door. Would have grumbled and complained. Would have pleaded jetlag and tiredness and the reality of an early call the next morning. But it was Viggo, and Viggo always had a good reason, always managed the trick of finding the remarkable in whatever corner of the world he focussed his attention upon.

So, he slipped on his shoes and grabbed a jacket and his keys and he followed.

In the car, he tried to hold up his end of the conversation, but ended up just struggling to stay awake, letting the flow of Viggo's words wash over him, soothe him. How Viggo was happy to see him back for reshoots, even for a few days, how he was glad that Peter had found a way to slip Boromir into the third movie. Sean smiled and nodded and agreed.

Viggo slowed down when they got to the waterfront, to the museum. The Te Papa Tonga-something-or-other. After all this time, he still hadn't quite sussed out Maori names. Viggo was pulling him out of the car and toward the museum before he'd quite realized they'd stopped.

"Isn't it closed?"

"Not for us," Viggo said, an excited grin on his face. "I've been visiting the Maori exhibit a lot and got to know the curator. He's waiting for us."

And he was. A relaxed, forty-something man in khaki shorts let them into the building. He greeted Viggo with a friendly handshake, introduced himself to Sean and led them into the museum, passing four metre high sculptures of the Argonath on the way in. Sean couldn't help it; he stopped to stare at the stern-faced carved figures, fascinated at seeing for real what they'd had to imagine on the river.

Then Viggo was pulling at his arm and they were going up steps, up the elevator. And his sleep-deprived brain finally realized where they were going. "The movie exhibit? Vig, I've seen this lot. You've seen it. Bloody hell, we worked with it for a year."

Viggo just smiled and pulled on his wrist. Their curator guide disappeared with a wave, leaving them to enter the empty exhibit alone. They passed Orli's costume and Liv's, the cave troll and the Hobbiton mill. Interesting, but none of it worthy of Viggo's enthusiasm.

Then they turned a corner and there it was.

He'd known it existed, of course, this lifeless doppelganger of himself. Of Boromir. But he hadn't seen it, except in the film. Hadn't thought about it: the physical reality of an ersatz corpse with his face. Boromir in his funeral boat, the cloven Horn of Gondor placed carefully at his side.

He stopped a good five paces away, unable to approach any further, like a show horse balking at a difficult jump. Wrapped in his own thoughts, Viggo strode up to the boat, leaning on the railing surrounding it as he looked down fondly on this image of death. Of Boromir's death. Of his death.

"I'd been spending some time in the Maori Marae upstairs--thought it might inspire a painting--and I decided to sneak in here. That's when I found it. Isn't it great?" Viggo said, oblivious of Sean's discomfort. "I've come back a few times." He laughed quietly. "Probably too many times. Can't help myself. I find it comforting; reminds me of that day."

There was no need to tell him what day that was. The day they shot the Amon Hen scene. The day the till-then-tenuous connection between them had been forged into friendship. Funny that it had taken shooting his character's death to bring them closer, but it had. Had taken intimations of mortality to build a relationship.

And now Viggo had confronted him with the concrete manifestation of that mortality. Sean opened his mouth, but he honestly didn't know what to say. Didn't know what to think. So he simply stood, mouth stupidly agape, tongue licking at lips that were suddenly too dry.

Which was when Viggo turned to face him. Sean watched as Vig's smile was chased away, replaced by a furrowed brow.

"Sean, what's wrong?" Viggo's voice was hushed, the voice he used for gentling horses.

Sean tried to answer, but could only shake his head. How could he explain what he didn't quite understand himself.

"Why?" he finally asked. A single word, but it said everything. Why bring me here? Why show me death?

Viggo didn't respond for a long minute, as if he knew how much hinged on his answer, as if he wanted to get it exactly right. When he did speak, it was so quietly that Sean had to lean close to hear him. "Because you weren't here. Because it gave me a way to be with you. Because it was all I had."

Sean saw it clearly then. Where he saw death, Viggo saw life, saw friendship, saw a second chance. Saw love.

"Aw, Vig..." Sean began, but couldn't go on. There was a lump in his throat, blocking his voice, choking him. But he had to do something, had to wipe the distress from Viggo's brow. Words denied him, he acted instead. He leaned in, only meaning to brush Viggo's forehead with his lips, but that wasn't enough. Closing his eyes, he traced stubbled jaw with a thumb, found Viggo's mouth with his own, felt the sharp intake of Vig's breath.

Sean froze, overwhelmed by unexpected sensations: soft lips and hard muscle, eyelashes feathering against his cheek. Then Viggo sighed, relaxed against him and pulled him into a secure embrace.

Doubt disappeared. All was well, all was right. He was where he was meant to be.

Life trumped death every time.


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