|different names for the same thing
Orlando will jump out of or off of anything if he is given a chance. He wants to fly, even though Billy finds out later that he's tried it before and without much success - but Billy finds out, too, that Orlando does not consider prior failure to be reason not to try the same stupid thing again, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Before Billy finds out that Orlando is living his life in pursuit of a set of wings, he rests his fingers against the bird bones in Orlando's elbow. It is Billy's birthday - they are on a plane somewhere between London and New Zealand, and Orlando is asleep against the windows, arms and legs sprawled inelegantly into every inch of Billy's space. It's Billy's birthday, and the sky is getting lighter as they chase the horizon west towards Wellington and what seems like the beginning of the rest of Billy's life.
Orlando falls asleep and breathes a spot of condensation onto the window, the tiny fog ebbing and flowing evenly. His elbow is shoved into the soft spot in Billy's side, just below his ribcage, and it is sharp, thin bones hardly cushioned by the sleek cords of muscles that twitch in Orlando's forearms, as though his hands are dreaming of something - maybe of flying, flying in some way that doesn't involve too-small seats in a large metal tube.
Billy rests his first two fingers against the curve of the bird bones under Orlando's skin; Orlando twists and hums without opening his eyes, and Billy is not certain if he is awake or still dreaming, but he does not move his hand, and Orlando, still practically a stranger, does not ask him to. Billy falls asleep and dreams of delicate birds held tightly in his hands, flying wildly around his head.
When Orlando is not trapped sleeping on an airplane, he inhabits the air around him entirely. He speaks with his hands; he reaches out and touches whoever is talking with him. When he is excited, even if he is standing on solid ground, his hands remind Billy of birds in flight. The more he shoots Legolas's bow, the more thickly corded the muscles in his arms become. Billy reaches out at dinner, three weeks into the shoot, and touches the bones now hidden under fresh strength. Orlando turns his head from where he has been teasing Elijah about something and says, "What?"
"Nothing," Billy says. "Just thinking about ... birds." Orlando favors him with a brief frown and then a blinding smile, and he doesn't pull away from Billy's touch.
Orlando, Billy learns quickly, is both fearless and stupid, which - particularly when coupled with Dominic's tendency to incite riots - is a dangerous combination. He has never said to Billy that he wants to fly, but Billy can see it, the way Orlando's bones are put together, the way he'll leap from anything, the way he surfs. Orlando surfs as though he could take off from the water and soar. His hands are still and always in motion, even on the water, and he is bold, bolder than Dominic who's a better surfer and bolder than Elijah who will keep up with Dominic and Orlando or die trying. (Billy suspects that Elijah probably will die trying, but it is not his job to point this out. He is not interested in Elijah's wellbeing, besides. Leave that to Dom.)
Billy would rather surf than almost anything on their rare days off, but if Orlando is not leaping from a bridge, Billy would rather watch Orlando surf than even hit the water himself.
He falls, tumbling off his board, and he does it with grace, a perfect sleek slide into the breakers. Like the gulls, the terns, that dive bomb their lunches on the sand, every fall that Orlando takes is a dive that could break his neck - except he's learn how not to crash, even if he cannot fly.
He bruises, sometimes, when he hits the water (off a surfboard, out of a canoe, either or, Orlando says, and usually both) and he'll peel his shirt off when they're in the pub and twist and turn to look at the spreading purple-blue-green marks on his back. When you're as lovely as Orlando, Billy has discovered, very rarely does anyone complain when you take your shirt off. Orlando twists himself into a pretzel, just so he can see his back, just so he can grimace and grin equal pain and pride; Billy spreads his hand across Orlando's chest and counts his ribs underneath the smear of bruise.
They have been surfing; a rare day off, when all four hobbits and Orlando are neither working nor spread out across the country. Dominic and Elijah are still in the water, searching out their final perfect wave. Dom will catch the crest and sail flawlessly into shore. Elijah will be a split-second late, and tumble from his board mid-way through the ride. Billy knows what is going to happen. He doesn't need to watch.
Orlando is lying on his stomach, halfway out of his wetsuit. There is a stripe of sand along one shoulder blade, lining the shadow of his bones. For a moment, sun in his eyes, Billy can see the spot where Orlando would have wings, if he had been a bird. He puts his hand there, smooths away the sand, and Orlando turns his head to look at Billy.
Billy kisses him. Orlando goes pliant underneath him, licks at Billy's lips and sighs against his mouth. He pulls back, and stares at Billy. Something passes across his face, and it is not confusion but it is not comprehension, either. "I always kind of wanted to fly," Orlando says. "Surfing's almost right, but not quite." His voice catches as though he's not sure he really means it.
Billy shrugs. "It's just different words for the same thing." Orlando smiles at this, just for him, and Billy's willing to bet that love really is just another word for flying.
Author's notes: for Lala, on her birthday. LOVE, LALA! Title and summary from Death Cab for Cutie, "Different Names for the Same Thing".