|Ripping Up The Rampion
When Orlando returns from the grocery store carrying two paper bags full of fresh vegetables he doesn't really need, Viggo is waiting at his doorstep. Orlando's suddenly immensely glad he bought all that lettuce.
Viggo just stands there, leaning against the railing on Orlando's porch with his arms crossed across his chest, as though he's there waiting for Orli to come home every day. He doesn't say anything, and if he's interested in the three heads of Romaine lettuce threatening to escape from one of the paper sacks, his face doesn't show it.
His turning up unexpectedly makes Orlando inexplicably rather cross, extra lettuce or not, so Orlando thrusts both bags of produce at him, freeing his hands to search for his keys. Viggo juggles them awkwardly for a minute, pinning one of the errant heads of Romaine between his knees as it makes a break for the ground, before settling them both in one arm. He rescues the Romaine, sets it gently back in the bag and looks placidly at Orlando, who's standing with his keys halfway to the lock on the door, frozen to the spot.
Orli blinks a couple of times and tries to clear his head. It's just Viggo. It's just lettuce.
He fumbles with the key in the lock and as the door swings open, Viggo says, without inflection, "The lettuce looks nice."
"Yeah," Orlando says warily. "I might have bought too much."
"I didn't know you actually ate vegetables," Viggo says, the same conversational tone, and if Orlando had not looked up and caught his eye, he would have missed the joke that floated behind the statement.
He still feels as though he's missed the joke, glint in Viggo's eyes or not.
It's sort of a constant feeling with Viggo, actually, regardless of produce or fruit or meat products that may or may not be around; Orlando feels a step slow with Viggo.
He's never quite sure what Viggo wants, and if he thinks he knows what Viggo wants, he's not got a clue what he wants himself.
Except right now, he wants a salad, which was the point of all the lettuce in the first place.
"Salad?" Orlando says. "I bought four kinds of peppers."
Viggo shakes his head, almost imperceptibly, turning his face away from Orlando. Orli thinks he might be laughing, but he's not sure. When Viggo composes himself, he pushes past Orlando, paper sacks still in his arms. His voice floats back down the dim entryway. "Did you remember to buy dressing?"
Orlando's kitchen is large and light and entirely unsuitable for someone like him, who lets pre-sliced turkey from the deli rot in his fridge for weeks after it has started to smell, who remains unable to make anything more complicated for himself (or his guests) than tea and toast and things like pickles straight from the jar, who can't find a single pot to boil water when he wants a plate of pasta.
He always has pickles, though. All that brine, they don't rot too easily.
Viggo, on the other hand, has either made a surreptious study of Orlando's kitchen at night while Orlando is sleeping, or he just knows how most kitchens of non-cookers are set up. After he slides the paper sacks of produce onto the counter, he shoos Orlando into a seat at the table, tosses him a beer and props the fridge open with his hip to start putting vegetables away.
Viggo leaves two peppers - red and yellow - on the counter, next to a head of something called arugala, which Orlando had never heard of but thought it couldn't hurt to buy. He puts the carrots and the other four heads of lettuce into the drawer on the bottom shelf without comment, but raises both an eyebrow and the bag with 6 cucumbers at Orli.
"Optimistic, aren't we?" Viggo drawls. Orlando blushes. They were on sale seems like a response guaranteed to leave him open for more abuse. He doesn't say anything; he knows his blush says enough.
A plastic container of cherry tomatoes goes on the counter; a bag of organically grown full-size tomatoes in the fridge. Corn on the cob in the fridge, and a jar of black olives that Orlando doesn't remember buying on the counter.
When the groceries are dispersed, Viggo rattles around in the cupboards under the counter and comes up with a cutting board; the cupboards over the refrigerator turn up an unopened bottle of olive oil and a half-empty bottle of vinegar that Orlando didn't know he had. He feels awkward, as though he doesn't really belong in this room, with this beer, with these vegetables. With this man. When Viggo asks for a couple of bowls, Orlando at least knows where to find them.
Peppers are washed and sliced and shoved carelessly to one side of the cutting board with the back of Viggo's hand. He tears the arugala into pieces, shredding it away from the head, and shoves the bowl aside when it's full. Orlando sips his beer in silence - Viggo will talk when he wants to, he knows, or when he has something to say - and watches Viggo's hands.
The movements are those of a man who'd rather be working with his hands; the image of Viggo riding as a ranch hand springs unbidden into Orlando's mind, not in part for having finally managed to see Hidalgo - that horse movie Viggo did, Elijah calls - on video the week before. Viggo wouldn't mind that life. Orlando has trouble seeing himself as a part of the life he actually lives. Trying to fashion something entirely different for himself entirely from imagination is beyond him, but with Viggo, it's easy.
"Do you have any ground pepper?" Viggo says.
Orlando blinks and looks up. He thinks that if he licked Viggo's fingers, one by one, they would taste of dust and leather and smoke as surely as they would of sliced peppers and olive oil, spilled, a streak gleaming against the back of Viggo's hand.
Orlando is stacking the bowls and the cutting board precariously in his dishwasher, which is really too full to hold more dishes but he never remembers to tell the cleaning woman to run it, either. Maybe he'll start doing it himself. If he can buy vegetables, he can remember to run the dishwasher once in a while, right?
Viggo is lounging at the table, fingers wrapped loosely around a beer, ashtray by his hand. Orlando couldn't remember the last time he'd opened any of the windows in the kitchen - the last time he burned toast, probably - but he'd wrenched it open so Viggo could blow smoke out of it, and the breeze was cool on the back of his neck, smelling of rain mixed in with the tangy smell of red pepper still hanging in the air.
The bottle with the salad dressing Viggo made - the cruet, he said it was called, and Orlando knows that he won't remember that he owns one, much less what it's called, before the vegetables all rot in his refrigerator - is at Viggo's elbow. The oil floating on the vinegar, light on dark, is catching in the light from the window. It's the sort of filtered sunlight that happens after a storm; it hadn't rained that morning but it had in the night, the sky still heavy with clouds when Orlando went in search of four types of lettuce and fresh tomatoes. Bright, strong light streaming through dark clouds still clearing in the sky, and it catches the oil in the bottle, turning it gold, and the side of Viggo's face, throwing it into sharp, shadowed relief.
Viggo blows a plume of smoke and lifts the beer to his mouth and the sun glints off the bottle, straight into Orlando's eyes, and if he could take photos like Viggo can, he would snap this shot and pin it above his bed and look at it every night before he slept.
He'd bottle this and sell it if he could.
Viggo sets the beer, empty now, on the table and inhales again, exhaling in Orlando's direction. "Most people," he says slowly. "When they decide to have a breakdown and spend money on things they don't need, they buy houses. Or cars. Or a new wife. Vegetables aren't bank-breakers, in the grand scheme of things."
"It's not a breakdown," Orlando says. "It's just lettuce."
Viggo stubs out the cigarette, stands up and stretches slowly, and ambles over to where Orlando is still clutching the edge of the counter, the image of sunlight and smoke and Viggo still burning on his eyelids.
"Six cucumbers," Viggo says, amusement thick in his voice. "Six cucumbers are not just lettuce." He leans in, covers one of Orlando's hands with his own and kisses him.
"Put the salad dressing away," he says. "It'll go bad." Then Viggo is out the back door, on his way back to wherever he usually comes from, which is a mystery to Orlando - Viggo's comings and goings are not something he can keep track of.
Orlando leans against the counter for a long minute, head leaning back and hand loose around the handle of a knife that hadn't made it into the dishwasher. When the rattle of the door in the frame has echoed past his ears, he leans towards the fridge and pries it open with the tips of his fingers. Fumbling for a beer, he twists the cap off and takes a single long sip, paring knife still wrapped in his other hand, and can't help the snort of laughter that escapes him.
Viggo lends Orlando's life an edge of mystery and a grounding that he doesn't get from anyone else. It's a mixture of the mundane and the sublime, and it's just a little funny like that.
Orlando sets the beer down, fishes in the fridge for a cucumber, and starts slicing.
Author's notes: 1650 words. Title from Stephen Sondheim and Into the Woods. For JJ, who gave me the first line and permission to run with it. <3