In Character

Recipient: angiepen
Author: slashfairy
Pairing: Karl/Viggo/Orlando, mentions of Andy Serkis/John Noble. POV: Brad Dourif. AU
Rating: R
Summary: Unfolded over time, patterns emerge.
Author's Notes: Beta by tiary

We used to talk about them at the premieres, at the fan conventions. Not that we'd all worked together, fact, I'm not sure I met John Noble until a convention of some sort or another. Still, here it was, this many years later, and that was what we talked about. Viggo, Karl, and Orlando.

It was Andy who knew first. He heard the gossip from Lijah and Sean, about how the blonde elf and grimy ranger'd hit it off right away and couldn't keep their hands off each other. "Slammed him right up against the trailer, I heard," he'd confided over drinks one night in one of the New Zealand pubs that became second homes to us all; leaning against the wall, hanging over the seat to whisper in the general vicinity of my ear, he told story after story about what the Hobbits had heard, seen, giggled over. Andy giggled himself, then, telling how the Elf's wig had been half unbraided when the costume girl went to take it off him that evening. We all had a laugh at that: Legolas' wig had been a source of great amusement all around.

Andy straightened up, went off to the bar for another round (Scotch, two Vodka Martinis, beer and a chaser, and a Rum and Coke) for the table. I watched him go, wondering how it was he could fall in and out of Gollum so easily: I had to be Grima, I didn't dare not be or I'd lose him, and he'd been hard-won for me. John told me later that Denethor'd been the same for him: taken him over an edge he'd never even knew was there, the all-consuming madness destroying everything in the end, everything but the need to need, until the last moment when the realization of having hit him harder than anything ever had before in his life. How did Andy go from being himself to being Gollum so easily?

Or did he? They came into the pub in the company of others in the Fellowship: Aragorn and Legolas, Viggo and Orlando. Nothing obvious, and nothing hidden: casual touches, glances and gestures, smiles, a joke, a laugh, all so ordinary, so in character. Andy watched them, missing nothing, sliding into the seat next to me and nodding at them. "Look. They're never not them," he whispered. Some other people came in, John, Dave Wenham, Karl, who'd been so good that day in The Golden Hall, scared the crap out of me, he had, with that intensity of his. Andy indicated with his chin the direction Karl's eyes went: straight to Viggo, then, narrowed, to Orli. "Yes, preciousssss," Andy muttered, unaware. He turned to Bean, went off on a long ramble about footy, leaving me to watch the dance in front of me.

I could see it that night: see the future unfold. John told me later that there were rumors for years after, but I'd been busy with Deadwood, not heard a thing really. But I hadn't had to follow rumors: I'd seen it all that night.


Years passed. I'd run into Andy at a con, or John at some theatre event. Most of the time we ignored the Rings, except to mention how children or grandchildren had suddenly twigged to whom, exactly, that man in the grand robes, or with the funny eye, or with no hair "and terribly long fingers" (as Andy's daughter said) was. More often we went over whose career had taken odd turns, or who'd found something completely new to do: Andy's work reading great books, first for Podcast, then Beamcast, was nothing short of miraculous, the way his talent for voices had become almost an industry standard.

Sometimes I'd run into one of the others. Rarely Orlando; he'd gotten out of costume dramas somewhere in the late 2000's, found his way to interesting characters who had deep internal conflicts and lonely but fulfilling lives, men of principle and talent who'd rather stand for their values than have it easy. Never married, he'd adopted a little girl from Southern Britain after meeting her at an event to promote Libraries and Reading. After his parents died he'd kept the place, made it a kind of reserve for struggling film studies students, and joined the council for his little girl's school, working with dyslexic kids by doing theatre with them.

Karl on the other hand I'd see at both Sci-fi/Fantasy and Western cons; he'd found a niche in small, interesting New Zealand films, character-driven mini-series, and the occasional mad foray into other worlds based in games or dreams or art. He told me at one con how he'd made the mistake of Google-ing himself for a while, mid-2000's, but given it up when he found "No-one knew who I was, and I got a bloody better education in American politics and economics than I wanted, with all the Karl Rove and Urban Policy crap that came up instead of me!" We'd had a couple of rounds over that and a good laugh, and it seems that was the last I'd seen of him until today. I'd heard that he'd gotten divorced at some point, let Natalie keep the house and teenage kids, and moved to California, but not much after that.

Oddly, it was Viggo I saw the most at first. He'd been all over, it seemed, working, but coming back to LA in between; I'd run into him at art events, readings, even go see his exhibits a few times. Bought some art, gone to hear him and Buckethead skewer the administration, bought Henry's first book of poetry. After a while he didn't seem to be around as much. Oh, I'd see him in the news, on one show or another for the string of Cronenbergs and Spanish-language movies he did, but he wasn't just around LA like he had been. I heard he'd semi-retired to that place of his in Idaho. I was surprised when he was named Poet Laureate that state in the mid-teens, and when he was named Poet Laureate of California in the early 20's (of which fact my daughter informed me, going over her reading assignments for university English), I realized I'd lost track of him completely.


It came as a complete shock, the invitation to Viggo's services. Out on a photo shoot, he'd been, alone in Topanga Canyon with his camera and dog; the dog came home, after a night and a day, but he didn't. Aneurysm, they said, so fast he probably didn't know, but I doubt that. Never saw a man put two and two together and get an entire world, with politics, mythology, art and science and language all intact, all there ready to be explored, like he did: I expect he regretted not having a chance to write it down as it happened.

Oddly enough I'd been reading Lord of the Rings to my daughter, well, with my daughter, all summer long. So much about it I'd not really known, understood, while doing the movies. I'd nailed Grima without reading the whole thing, apparently. As I read over the announcement of Viggo's death, the obituaries and columns, I realized the story of the Ring and the Fellowship had shaped us all more than we knew.

Take them for instance: as time went on I put the bits of the story together. Neither ever really left his king: the woodland elf stayed in Middle Earth, didn't he? The Elf came to Ithilien with some of his people, to live out his remaining time helping to restore the forests. The King was a frequent visitor to the Forest Lands, or so it was said. The Man wove in and out of his King's story, first as suspicious warrior, then comrade at arms, then King himself of adjacent lands; always a little lower than, and always content to be in that place, as long as he could be near his King at all.

I wasn't surprised at all at Viggo's funeral to see Orlando and Karl standing side by side holding hands, silent tears coursing unstopped down their cheeks, as their lover was laid to rest, first of the fellowship to leave us all, first of their 'fairing' to break away. Henry stood between his mother and Orlando; Karl looked over at Exene once and smiled, sadly, then offered her his handkerchief, which she took and held tightly to, neither one wiping their tears with it. Older, everyone older, McKellan in a wheelchair, in his 90's now, Chris Lee gone; Karl's son and daughter by his ex standing by his side, Orli's little girl at his. Each of them said a few words, laying flowers over the unadorned pine box being buried under the Idaho land that had eventually come to be home to them all; as he finished speaking Karl's voice broke, and Éomer's desperate cry of loss came out of him as he turned to Orlando and wept. They leaned forehead to forehead, letting the tears fall, and holding each other's faces as I know he'd held theirs.

I looked away, then; I'd never tell anyone, but I hated Karl in that moment. I'd lost my King, too, but there was none to hold me, to let his tears join mine and fall to this green earth, and ease me. I know how it'd been for them: hot cocks and hard kisses, the three of them meeting up over the years in hotels, in hiding places, long looping threads around the world of lust and sex and heat, until they'd finally given up, tossed caution to the winds, and gone to live together in Idaho, and London, and Venice Beach, and Wellington, or just outside it. I hadn't lost touch, I'd let it go -- I'd let it go in Edoras, on the plains of Rohan, when I'd run away from the Two Kings, run away from Viggo. The pity he shows Grima? That was for me. I'd never approached another man before, nor any since; I'd known it was a lost cause the night he'd stayed out at Edoras with Karl, the day he'd nearly been caught kissing Orlando in the stables. I'd had to try anyway, but it'd been for nothing then, and it was for nothing, now. I'd never told Andy, nor John, nor anyone else. I'd let it fester for awhile, getting myself off to his voice, to those eyes, then let that go too, let it all fade away. Who can live like that, pining for a King who never was, for a man who never will be?

The services over, I watched them drift away; the family to waiting cars, back to hotels, except Karl and Orli and the kids: Henry'd driven and the three men and younger ones piled into his Hybrid where assorted dogs had waited patiently through the afternoon. They were going home, the home they'd made around him. Andy came over and said goodbye, a hug, a look, and I wondered how much he'd known, knew now, but no words exchanged illuminated that dark corner; I let him go, and with him some long part of my past.

I ran into John at a party some time later. All he said was, "Denethor lost his King, too," laying a large hand on my shoulder for a moment before leaving me, stunned and alone, to wonder what else I didn't know about the life, lives, Viggo Mortensen had left behind him. I only knew, as I'd known from that night in the pub, he'd left forever the life I'd had with him, if only in my heart.


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