Sean dug deeply into the cold earth, glad for something to expend his energy on. He dropped three bulbs into the hole, dusted them with blood meal to discourage the squirrels and then covered them over with rich, dark soil.
"Daft bugger," he muttered under his breath, but he wasn't sure who he meant.
Viggo was gone, decamped in the night, leaving the house, and Sean, empty.
Sean began digging the next hole, making it deeper than was probably good for the bulbs, but he couldn't find it in himself to care.
Viggo was gone. He rolled the thought around in his mind, trying to make sense of it. Viggo was gone, and there'd be no more paint stains on the light switches, no more notes scribbled on the kitchen wall, no more culinary experiments that didn't quite work out.
He could get some order back in his life, things would be calmer again. It was all for the best.
But even as that thought came to him, his memory turned betrayer and he recalled all the other things that Viggo's absence meant.
No more gifts of newly written poems, meant for his eyes alone. No more discovering obscure corners of London through Viggo's never-jaded vision. No more being awakened by the kisses of insistent lips.
No more holding Viggo in his arms, crushing him, biting him, thrusting against him, into him until they both came with shuddering gasps, unable to pull enough air into their lungs, unable to hold each other tightly enough.
A gust of wind swept through the garden, blowing a troop of dead leaves across the lawn and sending a chill through Sean. He shivered, and pulled up the zipper of his jacket to the top. Covering the last three bulbs with earth, he stood and brushed the dirt from his hands and knees.
No use thinking about what they'd meant to each other, what they'd done. That part of his life was as dead as the leaves from the oak tree that skittered across the yard until they formed a golden brown drift against the hedges and the garden wall.
He carefully replaced the trowel in the potting shed, and headed back into the house. He would find something to occupy himself this evening—read one of the scripts his agent had sent him, go down to his local for a pint—something to distract him from the emptiness of the house, from the lack in his life.
He was better off this way, without an erratic American actor who might disappear from his life without a word of explanation or apology. He could get back on track now, get focussed.
He kept up that litany, hoping that if he repeated it often enough, he would begin to believe it.
The snow crunched under his feet as it only did when it was very, very cold, the kind of cold that numbed your cheeks and caught in the back of your throat. Viggo stopped to adjust the straps of his knapsack, then took in a deep breath. He held the frigid air in his lungs for a long minute, letting an awareness of the cold, the snow and the sky surround and fill him. Only when he felt his chest burning did he slowly let the breath out, watching as the now warmed air condensed into a miniature cloud in front of him. He wondered if he was fast enough to take a picture of it, to capture his own breath on film, but the camera was at the bottom of the knapsack and he didn't feel like digging around for it. So, he simply took another breath and started walking again.
He knew if he looked back he could see Lake Pend Oreille behind him, could probably even see his cabin way off in the distance, but he didn't want to look back. Looking back wasn't his thing. He always went forward, concentrated on the present, on the future. He didn't look back, didn't think about the past.
Except that he had been lately. He'd been thinking about the past a lot. He'd been thinking about Sean.
Which wasn't good. Sean was definitely part of the past. He'd seen to that himself when he'd walked out on Sean without a word or a warning. And he still didn't know why he'd done it.
Things had been going well. He had been staying at Sean's London house while they were both between films. Days had been spent exploring the city, taking pictures of everything he'd found and painting in the small studio they'd set up in Sean's living room. Nights had been spent in Sean's bed.
The memories of those times were burned into his mind. He remembered the taste of Sean's mouth as they kissed, the feel of Sean's beard scraping against his cheek in the morning. He remembered drawing a finger across Sean's ribs and hearing him gasp in anticipation. He remembered Sean's mouth on his cock drawing him to shattering orgasm. He remembered fucking Sean as green eyes locked onto blue.
It had all been perfect, until he'd woken up in the middle of one autumn night with the feeling that he was suffocating, that he was losing something he couldn't even define. He'd looked over at Sean sleeping peacefully, and his love for the man had been besieged by an unreasoning panic.
The need for escape had threatened to overwhelm him. He had slipped out from beneath the sheets and packed what he could, all without waking Sean. He'd left the house while the sky was still dark, softly closing the door behind him, shutting out that portion of his life.
Dragging his bags behind him, he'd found the nearest mini-cab stand and been out at Heathrow just as the sun was rising. Before he'd quite known what he was doing, he was on the first flight to L.A. And after that, there had been the long drive here, to Idaho.
And here he'd stayed.
He'd made a few calls when he got here—let his agent know where he was, and Henry—but then he'd turned off his cell phone and thrown it into a drawer that held other flotsam he felt no need for: extra batteries, paperclips and rolls of tape. He'd talked to no one in the months he'd been here, except the checkout girl at the grocery store in Sandpoint. Not the Hobbits, not Orli, not Ian. Not Sean. Especially not Sean.
After all, what could he say?
I'm sorry? I didn't mean it? I want to come back? Or maybe I'm not sorry. I did mean it. I can never come back.
Months by himself and he still didn't know how he felt about Sean, what had made him leave. What kept him away. What made him want to turn the phone back on and call a certain number in London.
But he did know one thing: what he'd had with Sean was dead. It had to be. He'd killed it himself, however much he might wish he hadn't. He'd driven a stake through the heart of what they had together when he'd slunk away in the middle of the night. The possibility of them being together again was as dead as these woods in the winter time, as dead as the stark, black, leafless trees, as dead as the forest floor carpeted in a killing blanket of snow.
Except that the woods weren't really dead in the winter, not if you knew how to look. Look closely enough and you could see the tracks of mice and other small creatures in the snow. Look closer and you saw the tender shoots of trees and plants still growing under snow that protected as much as it appeared to kill. No, the woods weren't dead.
And maybe, just maybe, neither was the chance of a life with Sean. If only he could find the courage to reclaim it.
The grass glittered with the previous night's rain, thousands of diamond droplets shining in the morning sun. A riot of multi-coloured tulips bloomed in all corners, and the whole yard smelled of fresh earth and new growth.
A smile played at the corners of Sean's mouth as he raked the leaves out of the beds, carefully avoiding the tulips.
He loved spring; it was a season full of promise, rife with potential. The garden could become anything in the spring, could go in any direction. He could encourage the perennials or plant hundreds of annuals. Or shun both and concentrate on planting more shrubs. It all came down to his choice.
Unlike life. You couldn't always choose what life handed you. You didn't always get the roles you wanted. You couldn't pick your own family. And you didn't always get to be with the person you thought you loved.
Sean killed that last thought unmercifully, before it could get a grip on him fully. He would not think about what might have been. Would not wish for what he couldn't have. What was it people always said? It wasn't meant to be. It was all for the best. Christ, he'd be sounding like a bloody greeting card soon.
He was finishing up, putting away his tools and brushing dead leaves from his trousers, when he thought he heard something. He stopped moving and listened closely. There was the muted sound of traffic that one could never quite escape in London and squeals from the kids a couple of doors down, but nothing else. He started moving toward the house, made it all the way to the back door, and then he heard it again.
He pulled the door open and headed down the hall, wondering what daft bugger was ringing his bell: probably a courier with yet another script from his agent.
He was halfway to the door when the bell was rung again. Repeatedly.
"Keep your knickers on," he yelled, jogging the last few steps and throwing open the door.
Viggo stood on his doorstep, a suitcase in his hand, looking both shy and confident, as only Viggo could.
"Do you really want me to keep my knickers on?" Viggo asked, with a glint in his eye.
"Stupid fucker," Sean said, and then pulled Viggo inside and wrapped his arms around him. He sighed in relief as Viggo dropped his suitcase and returned the embrace. They stood like that for several long minutes, neither of them willing to let go first. But one of them had to, and finally Sean released the man in his arms, pulling away from him and looking at him with both pleasure and pain.
"You can't leave in the bloody night again," Sean said. "I wouldn't fucking survive it."
"No leaving in the night," Viggo agreed, and Sean knew this was as close as either of them was going to come to swearing undying love.
"Right, you bastard, now c'mere." He pulled Viggo back into his arms and kissed him with more urgency than he'd ever kissed anyone before.
He'd take what Viggo could give him. Take it and nurture it until it came into full bloom.
Even behind closed eyes, Viggo could sense the warm glow of the late afternoon sun. He smiled as he took in the sounds of the garden, the slow buzz of bees visiting the blossoms, the chattering of birds swooping overhead, the laughter of children playing in the distance.
He stretched out lazily on the lounger, taking pleasure in the feel of sun-warmed skin moving over muscle and sinew, and drifting into a pleasant doze.
Some time near dusk, a soft thunk awoke him. He kept his body still and his eyes closed and listened to Sean's passage across the yard. Listened to Sean's feet pad across the desk, listened as the grass rustled around his legs, listened to the creak of the lounger as Sean sat beside him.
Sean's finger traced the line of his lower lip, and still Viggo didn't move. Then Sean's mouth took possession of his own and he could keep up the pretence of sleep no longer. He opened his lips to Sean, enjoying the heat of his mouth, the feel of tongue against teeth, the slow curl of arousal that began to form in his cock.
When Sean finally pulled away, Viggo opened his eyes. Sitting up, he allowed a satisfied smile to curl at the corners of his mouth. Sean leaned over him, his green eyes dancing in the golden, fading light.
"You're going to give the neighbours an eyeful," Viggo said.
"Not bloody likely," Sean said with a grin. "Made sure they couldn't see anything when I put the lounger here, didn't I." As if to prove his point, Sean leaned in for another kiss, plundering Viggo's mouth with his tongue as his hand moved under Viggo's t-shirt and caressed his skin. Viggo relaxed under the sensual assault, moving his own hand up to Sean's neck and letting a low moan lose from deep in his throat.
Sean pulled back, laughing. "Fucking hell, Vig. I may not be giving the neighbours an eyeful, but you're going to give them an earful."
"I think Mrs. Parkins is in need of a little thrill, don't you?" Viggo said.
"Stupid berk," Sean said, giving him a playful swat on the arm. Then he stood, taking hold of Viggo's hand and hauling him to his feet. "C'mon, let's do this proper." Then he was pulling Viggo across the lawn, into the house.
They didn't make it to the bedroom.
As soon as they were inside the door, Viggo pushed Sean against the wall and took possession of his mouth, stroking Sean's hardening cock through his jeans. When he had Sean growling with need, he took the bottom of his t-shirt in his fist and pulled it over Sean's head in a single movement. Snarling, Sean repaid him in kind and they were soon stumbling over discarded clothing and moving into the sitting room.
Viggo sprawled as Sean pushed him backwards over the arm of the sofa, only to find himself with an armful of naked Sean. They moved against each other, one cock straining against the other.
One more twist, and they slipped from the couch, landing on the rug. Viggo found himself on top, and took advantage of the situation by letting his tongue trace a path down Sean's torso, licking nipples and ribs and belly as he went. Finally, he reached his goal and let his tongue outline the head of Sean's cock before he took its length into his mouth. Sean drew in a slow, hissing breath and bucked his hips. In retaliation, Viggo took hold of Sean's hips with both hands, holding them firmly as he drew his lips up and down the shaft.
Sean began to thrash his head and his hands took hold of Viggo's shoulders, caught in his hair. Viggo sped up the rhythm of his movement, building Sean's arousal until he felt the cock in his mouth shudder, then he was swallowing, taking in all of Sean's come until there was nothing left but the sound of Sean's breath.
"Christ, Vig," was all Sean could say, panting wildly.
"You might say that," Sean said, a dangerous glint in his eye. "Could be better, though."
"Oh yeah?" Viggo felt his cock go even harder.
"Yeah," Sean said, and there was no doubt about what he meant.
Viggo moved up to give Sean a thorough kiss, the taste of Sean's come mixing with the taste of his mouth. Viggo felt his own cock beginning to weep. He wanted to wrap himself around Sean, to surround him, consume him, fill him. He reached over to a small cabinet and opened the drawer containing a hidden stash of condoms and lubricant, never more grateful that Sean's sense of organization extended even to his sex life.
He rolled on a condom, prepared them both and then thrust into Sean, the sensations driving him higher and higher. They both kissed and bit and caressed and clawed, they breathed for each other, felt for each other. And then Viggo was tumbling down the cliff, falling as explosions went off behind his eyes and Sean's legs held him tightly.
Spent, he pulled out and lay on Sean's chest. Sean was sprawled beneath him with the boneless satisfaction of the well fucked.
"Good?" Sean asked with an evil grin
"You might say that," Viggo said. He rolled over on his side, playing one hand up Sean's hip, up his side, coming to rest on his chest. They lay together as the last light of day played through the room.
Viggo wouldn't, couldn't, guarantee that this would last forever, not for either of them. But while he could still remember the feel of this day's sun on his skin, he would remain with this man.
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