It starts whispery soft, like tinsel on a Christmas tree. Like a secret floating on a giggle, between friends at recess.

It's not something tangible, no particular moment, no particular event.

It just starts, and it won't leave. Won't stop. Won't let Viggo be.


Viggo thinks it's funny how the circus starts, almost without him being aware. Not that he doesn't attend the premieres, not that he doesn't show where he's supposed to show.

Only, one day it's still last year's news and the next they're all over the place, and they're hot stuff. He sees his face on magazines, meets up with each and every one of the hobbits on the corner of every street… it's all a bit unsettling.

Unsettling and, yet, very familiar. And yes, that's probably a paradox, and no, there's no reason why Viggo should care. Viggo likes unexpected things, unexpected turns of events… he likes paradoxes, too.

So. Unsettling because it happens kind of overnight. Familiar, because they've already been through this the year before.  Familiar because they're all here, all of them, people he's lived and worked with for months. Unsettling, because…

"Dom's looking sharp, tonight, isn't he?"

Viggo tears his eyes away from Dominic and smiles at Orlando. Orli's eyes are shining, his grin is impossible to resist. Viggo's laugh crinkles his face, and Orlando squeezes his shoulder, still smiling.

Viggo looks around, shrugs. He watches Liv laughing at one of Dominic's jokes, watches Elijah bounce excitedly from one hobbit to another, and watches Peter smile patiently while answering another question from an overly made-up interviewer.

"I don't know, Orlando. What's sharp?"

Orlando throws his head back and joins in the laughter. Dominic is wearing some god-awful striped suit, something shiny and so very Dom. He wears it well, wears it sharply, maybe, but it's still an affront to good taste. Or perhaps Viggo's tastes are too simple for something like this.

Orlando nods, squeezes Viggo's shoulder one last time and walks off, calling Karl's name. Viggo's eyes follow his tall frame and skip over a few other familiar faces. Sean is talking to Billy, Elijah has joined one of the Orcs, asking for pictures as if he were some kind of fangirl and not the star…

Dom is looking at him.  Viggo holds his breath, holds very still.   Dom winks.  Smiles.  Sticks his tongue out at Viggo before turning back to Billy.

Viggo notices a photographer standing close to the hobbits, watches as Dom turns his head sharply towards the camera's eye and growls, holding his hands up for everyone to see.

Ink, black on California-tanned skin: Trees.

Oh yes. Familiar indeed.


The circus goes on. Another premiere, another city, same people.

Pretty much.

Viggo laughs at some prank pulled by one of his cast mates, jumps from one interview to another, opens his arms wide for his friends to come stand at his sides… Bright flashes all around, pictures, questions shouted left and right.

When he states his beliefs, he doesn't think about consequences. There are no real consequences to this. Any and all consequences unfortunately lie elsewhere. He thinks it is wrong, he says it. There's a debate and his T-shirt becomes just as famous as he is.

Viggo isn't surprised to be the only one debating seriously. Of course, he's the only one. He doesn't think it's because no one cares, of course. He believes maybe it's because it's all a bit remote. If it is so for most people, why not for his friends?

They talk about it, though. Amongst themselves, sometimes around a meal, on a plane… But mainly, they talk about the movie, life, changes. Viggo, alone, feels implicated enough to bring the subject up when they're not the only ones around.

It comes as a surprise when there's a hand on his shoulder, one that doesn't belong to an elf, a whisper in his ear.

"You did great, Vig. Someone had to say all that, I'm glad you did. Don't think I'd have had the guts."

Viggo doesn't pretend not to be surprised. He raises an eyebrow, smirks and waits for Dom to say more.

Dom doesn't say more but turns to Billy instead.

Orlando comes up on Viggo's other side. Viggo turns to his elf, pulls on long strands and teases about girls and facial hair. He's turned away from Dom, now, and Orlando captures his attention fully. The weight of Dom's hand still presses down on his shoulder, warm and familiar.

When Dom is pulled further away by Elijah, he squeezes Viggo's shoulder and doesn't look back. Viggo catches sight of black ink before there is no trace of Dom left.

Viggo thinks about words, ink black and strong… shared. He thinks about hands, trees, adventures. He thinks about Dom.

He wonders what exactly has changed.

If boredom tasted of anything, Viggo is afraid it would taste of French wine and Brie.

Not that France and French food are boring. No. But they've been sitting here, in this meeting room, for hours it seems. It's another PR briefing, and wine and cheese are the only entertainment provided so far.

This is France, the man says. We haven't reached our full potential here.

Viggo snorts. If he had the guts, he'd say what's on his mind.


Orlando is sitting next to him and laughs when Viggo groans and mumbles about bullshit and not wanting to sell his soul to the devil for cheap wine and cheese.

The PR guy frowns, tries to ignore Viggo's half-whispered comments. Nevertheless, the tension eases, and Viggo catches the grateful smiles of a few of his cast mates.

The meeting wraps up with a few recommendations. There's talk of seduction and stroking people's egos, and then they're off to meet the press.

By now, they've done so many press conferences, junkets, shows and such, that they're all old pros. Viggo is waiting for his next interviewer and takes the time to look around the room, to see who's answering who, who's saying what.

Liv and John seem to be doing fine, smiling indulgently when they're asked to say a few words in French. Orlando isn't anywhere to be seen. Elijah has his own little secluded room and Viggo can only catch glimpses of people walking in and out, of Elijah fidgeting in his chair.

Billy and Dom have been paired.

Viggo thinks about Dom's face lighting up, about seduction and winning people over. It looks like Dom has been listening to whatever that PR guy told them. He's turned the charm full on, and Billy, sitting next to him, doesn't stand a chance. The interviewer giggles when Dom leans forward and whispers a few words in French.

It's pure coincidence when Dom turns away from his interviewer and towards another camera, eyes intent, smile predatory. Viggo freezes, watches, fascinated, sitting right in the line of Dom's gaze.

"Nous sommes gentils."

We're the good guys…we're nice.

Dom winks. At the camera, of course.

"So, Mr Mortensen, what do you think of our French food?"

Viggo jumps and recovers quickly, blank expression firmly in place. It's not the lamest question he's heard today, but it's close. He smiles, answers automatically, moving the conversation back to safer ground. He could answer questions about Aragorn in his sleep.

Over the journalist's shoulder, Viggo catches Dom watching.

LA is as Viggo always expects it to be: crowded, stuffy and hot.

He presses forward, trying to escape the crush of bodies on the way to the main area, where photographers and journalists wait. John and Liv are standing close, smiling and talking. Elijah and Orlando are squealing as Elijah holds his camera at arm's length, snapping pictures Viggo is sure will never make it into any papers.

Viggo turns, looks the other way, watches as Dom approaches him.

This is Dom, Viggo thinks. Merry. The hobbit he's spent countless hours talking to, working, drinking with… They're old friends.

Old friends… Old friends who know each other very well. Old friends who know faults and qualities, habits, disgusting or annoying… Friends.

Yet, Viggo feels certain he doesn't know the man who walks in, grins at cameras, sucks on his lollipop, winking at every person who calls out his name.

Doesn't know him.

Can't know him.

He jumps up when long fingers bury themselves in his hair and pull him towards Orlando's grin. Warm breath fans over his face and he smiles, faintly aware that everybody is watching, that cameras are flashing. Orlando chuckles, forehead resting on Viggo's, hands soothing as fingers brush Viggo's ear gently.

"You okay?"

Viggo puts his arm around the boy's waist, pulling Orlando towards him. He lifts his head and laughs. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."

Orlando's eyes cloud over briefly. Never lie to an elf, Viggo thinks. Plus Orlando knows him too well. But they turn, as one, and face the cameras together. Orlando's hand rubs at his neck softly. Reassuring pressure, comforting touch.

Just as Orlando squeezes one last time, body already turning towards Liv and John who have been called to join the group hug, Viggo catches a glimpse of Dom.

The white shirt, opened at the collar, blinds him briefly. When he manages to drag his eyes back to Dom's face, Dom is watching him, gaze unwavering, lips wrapped around candy.

Viggo thinks-not for the first time-that it isn't right for the weather to be this hot, when it's so close to Christmas.

By now, Viggo's seen the movie too many times to care enough if he misses the ending. He extracts himself from his seat, whispers an apology to Orlando as he moves over and out into the aisle.

A few photographers and cameramen still linger in the hall and Viggo ducks quickly past them on his way to the bathroom. He doesn't know whether he'll want to hide out in there until the movie is over but at least it's sort of safe. Empty.

He leans against the white counter, staring at his reflection, searching his own eyes. Doesn't see anything else but what he's seen everyday for the past two or three years.

He doesn't think he's changed.

He remembers times, not so long ago, when boyish laughter rang across bar rooms or sets, when issues were clear and never questioned. He remembers Dom's worried eyes, Billy's reassuring laughter, Henry running around the hobbits' trailer…

No. He doesn't think he's the one who has changed at all.

When he lifts his eyes to the mirror again, it's because he hears the door opening. Cold water drips down his neck to his shirt collar, and he watches, transfixed, as Dom draws closer to him. Their eyes lock in the mirror, and something begins to tighten inside Viggo's chest.

"Hey." Dom smiles, lollipop stick snug between his teeth.

Viggo wonders how there can be any candy left, unconsciously licks his own lips as the weight in his chest grows heavier.

Dom stands very close, grey eyes unreadable in the harsh neon light.

Viggo shifts, turns around, leans back against the sink. He remembers splashing water all over the white marble too late, gasps when some of it seeps through his pants.

Dom hardly moves, just lifts a hand to Viggo's arm, concern etched on his face, mischief in his eyes.

"That's what you get for sneaking out."

Viggo finds his smile again, if not his breath. He looks at Dom, really looks. Sharp, sharp eyes that catch everything. Lips still faintly tainted from the raspberry red of the lollipop…

Viggo is taller, towering over Dom. Somehow, it doesn't seem to be a problem when Dom reaches up, cupping his neck and pulling him down to crush lips against lips.

It's unexpected, and yet, it's not. Viggo starts feeling dizzy almost immediately, grasps first the border of the sink behind him, then Dom's hips.

Dom is moving against him, pressing forward, pushing Viggo backwards. The hard edge of cheap marble digs into Viggo's back. It's hot, really hot, and without thinking, Viggo starts kissing back. Wet, soft lips. Faint traces of sugar and candy. Viggo wonders briefly where the lollipop stick went.

Dom moans, presses into Viggo further, opens his mouth.

Viggo stops wondering about the lollipop stick.

Dom tastes sweet and sour, chemical raspberry flavoured. Their tongues glide together, soft crush of velvet as their mouths seem to fuse. Viggo doesn't want to start thinking again.

He hears muffled voices outside and is pulled back to now.

Harsh neon light, hard marble edge at his back… He drags his mouth away from Dom's, pushing at his shoulders but Dom doesn't want to let go, of course.

The voices move on and the two of them remain alone, facing each other in awkward silence.

This is Dom, Viggo thinks. This is Dom and I don't know him.

Dom frowns, watches, searches Viggo's face for any sign of anything. Viggo keeps his expression carefully blank.


"I'm sorry, Dom. I can't."

Pain flashes in Dom's eyes, his frown turning into something darker. Viggo recognizes the pain, remembers it.


And indeed, why? Viggo isn't even sure he knows. He can't deny he enjoyed it, he can't deny he's thought about it before. Back then, right now… often.

Still. He can't.

Viggo sighs and turns his back on Dom, looks at his own reflection again. Looks into his own eyes.

"Nothing's changed, Dom. I haven't changed."

Viggo doesn't need to look at Dom to know the hurt is fighting with anger in his eyes. He's not so clueless that he doesn't know what this was about, what Dom is about.

"Fuck you, Viggo."

He cringes, hands folding into fists when he hears Dom's sharp tone. The edge in his voice harder than the one that was digging into Viggo's skin minutes ago.

"I have changed, Viggo. I'm not… I'm too old for this. Fuck."

Only when the door closes does Viggo dare to look up again.

Dom is indeed gone. Viggo's reflection is the only one he sees.

Viggo thinks no change.

No. No change at all.