I've been bad.
I've been taking a much needed break. But I'm back.
And here's the next chapter.
It's kind of a pivotal one. :)
Title: Death Does Not Become Him
Warnings: supernatural. minor character death, talk of death, language, VERY DARK HUMOR
Summary: What if there were people who could see how, what of and when a person will die? What if one of those people was Orlando? And how does Sean fit into all this?
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys. Maureen is completely mine. In a literary kind of way. Not in a creepy, possessive way...
Author's Note: Beta'd by the wonderful and perfect simplyshanni. *hugs and squeezes you* Thank you!!!!
For previous chapters, go to my tags.
Orlando limped dazedly into the living room, rubbing at the base of his spine while trying to get the kinks out of his back. He had to wipe at his eyes, one of which happened to be swollen solidly shut, to make out the scene of nuns singing to the tune of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? playing on the plasma screen.
"Sound of Music?" Orlando shouted incredulously. "And they say I'm the one who's gay," he mumbled.
Viggo chuckled as he walked into the main room, holding a glass of tomato juice and handing it to his sleepy housemate. "I like Julie Andrews. She proves the hills are most assuredly still alive," the older man said dreamily as both men took in the well-endowed Ms. Andrews.
"Those are a few of your favorite things, yeah?" Orlando smirked. "It's too early for this shite," he groaned.
"It's afternoon," Viggo corrected.
"Like I said...too early," Orlando repeated as he carefully made his way to the sofa. Why he'd gone to that cursed pub was beyond him. And what had possessed him to jump up onto that pool table and go all Jackie Chan was beyond him as well.
Well, actually, it wasn't only the beer. That was just a catalyst.
Oh, who the fuck was he kidding?
It wasn't the beer.
He had needed that release. He had needed to get into a brawl. He had needed to fight and punch and kick and go completely and utterly native.
He had just needed to hit something.
And the reason for his need to let off steam in such a primitive manner was currently filling the room like a big white elephant named guilt and avoidance.
And Viggo, for one, was apparently not going to let him get away with it. “So,” the older man murmured as he clapped his hands together and sat on the arm of the same sofa, "we need to talk."
"Oh for fuck's sake...are you going to dialogue with me, Vig?"
"No, I was thinking of talking some sense into you and if that didn't work, I was going to yell," Viggo stated calmly.
Viggo didn't yell.
He discussed. He quoted. He used anecdotes that sometimes went somewhere and sometimes didn't. He brought up shite that could be used to segue into a different topic.
But he never yelled.
Viggo always said the minute you had to resort to yelling, you had already lost the argument.
Orlando was pretty sure he had never seen Viggo yell, or even angry or frustrated enough to actually resort to the act of yelling.
"You know, we're running a bit low on snackies," Orlando nonchalantly observed as he quickly got up from the couch. "I think I'll go down to the market..."
"Oh, and on your right, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Great Wall of Orlando..."
"Should I get hummus?" Orlando asked, oblivious to the concerned look on Viggo's face.
Actually, he wasn't oblivious to it since he could see it. He just chose to be oblivious to it.
"So are you going to talk to Sean or should I?" Viggo continued.
"What about those new pita chips? I think they're on sale. Two bags for $6.00."
"Well, if you won't acknowledge this conversation, then I'll keep talking anyway so you hear me..."
"How about some kiwi? I've been jonsing for some lately," Orlando laughed. "Karl would probably laugh if I told him I was jonsing for some kiwi, yeah?"
"I don't know why you won't confront him on this..."
"Well it's not like I always call Officer Urban with my grocery list..."
"Orli! Stop!" Viggo shouted.
And it happened.
Somewhere, a bean counter who noted down incidents that rarely, if ever, happened, was noting this particular event down in a ledger.
"So...I'll pick up some green beans and mushrooms for roasting tonight, yeah?" Orlando suggested quietly. "Yeah, okay, keys..."
"This conversation isn't over," Viggo stated as he made to grab the younger man's forearm.
"Yeah, it is," Orlando contradicted as he regarded his keys and then looked up at Viggo. "It is," he sighed.
Orli made for the door, opened it and stopped just short of walking out when he heard Viggo. "Just tell me why?"
The younger man ran his hand up and down the door jamb, doing his best not to meet the probing gaze of his mentor and friend, "I want to...I can't...I...I look at him and..."
And there it was again.
On the tip of his tongue, but he just couldn't seem to get the words out.
He was frozen. Just as he always was whenever he looked at Sean.
It was as if the words were there, but they couldn't...wouldn't come out. The words were locked away in a solid block of ice, set for deep freeze at an ungodly cold temperature. And the pick axe he was given to break the ice was a limp noodle.
He couldn't even bring himself to tell Viggo. He just needed to get out of the house so he could think in peace.
"I'll be back," Orlando promised as he made his way out the door.
"We'll talk later, Viggo!" the young man gritted out impatiently.
"I just wanted to...um...make sure you get high pulp this time on the orange juice," Viggo extemporized sheepishly.
Orlando laughed. "That shite's so gross." And with that, the younger man made his way out the door and to his car. Orlando got into his vehicle and navigated down the various curving roads and into the parking lot of the elaborate strip mall. Just as he was pulling into an available parking space, his mobile phone chirped, signaling a text message.
Orlando glanced at the display and the familiar phone number brought an immediate smile to his face. Clicking on the VIEW button, he read the message:
WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?
It was Sean.
The young man looked down at his layered clothing and snickered while typing his reply:
NOTHING BUT MY CHARM NECKLACE AND A SMILE.
Reclining back in his seat, he waited for his phone to chirp at him again. It didn't take long.
I WANT TO DUCK YOU RIGHT DUCKING NOW.
Orlando chuckled at the sight on the screen. Sean didn't seem to understand how predictive text worked on his phone. The younger man quickly typed in some text and sent his message:
SUCH "FOWL" LANGUAGE...
Orlando laughed and waited. It didn't take long for the telltale chirp:
DUCKING PHONE!!! I WANT TO DUCK YOU!!!! DUCK!!! DUCK!! DUCK!!!
The younger man laughed even harder and typed back.
I MISS YOU. WHEN WILL I GET TO SEE YOU?
It didn't take long for another message to pop up.
FRIDAY THE SOONEST. CANNOT WAIT. MISS YOU TOO.
Orlando bit his lip as he saw the words on screen. A flurry of thoughts came to mind, some naughty, some warm, but mostly guilty. And just as all of those thoughts were clouding his mind, something came to him.
CAN I COME OVER AND FEED SNYDER?
His heart missed a few beats as he awaited Sean's answer. Did Sean trust him enough to do that? To be in his house...
YES. KEY UNDER THIRD ROCK FROM RIGHT SIDE OF BACK DOOR.
A smile formed on his lips as he read the words.
Sean did trust him! Warmth spread throughout him and just as quickly as that, it was replaced by that same stab of pain to his heart.
Sean was placing his trust in him, yet he couldn't seem to return the favor.
And about something far more improtant.
Orlando quickly typed a response.
CAN'T WAIT TILL FRIDAY.
He stared at his phone for what seemed like an eternity when in reality it was a scant few minutes before the chirp sounded.
NEITHER CAN I.
And with that Orlando closed his phone and made his way to the front doors of the market. Just as he was about to enter, he saw a group of teenagers harassing the woman sitting on a bench in front of the store.
"Hey lady. This ain't the bus stop. It's over there," a teen wearing his baggy jeans so loose that his Spongebob boxers were showing, snidely remarked as he pointed toward the street. "Dumb bitch," he muttered.
"If I wanted to take the bus, I would be in the place where you could catch one," the woman calmly replied. "My husband is coming to pick me up."
Orlando winced when he heard the woman, whose name just happened to be Maureen, make the latter statement.
Maureen would have a long time to wait.
After all, her husband had been dead for six years.
"Well, I don't see him anywhere," another unwashed teen smirked. "What's in the bag?" Orlando sighed as he knew he would have to intercede on Maureen's behalf once the punk started to open one of her bags.
"Aww, lookie here. If it isn't the great unwashed," Orlando smirked as he approached the group. "Don't you tossers have anyplace better to hang out, acting like teenaged-punk cliches? Go to the 7-11 and look cool there!" he said flippantly to the young troublemakers.
"Fuck you!" the teen with the baggy pants yelled.
"Cute boxers. Didn't your mum teach you how to dress properly or do you just like playing dress up in your da's closet?"
"Fag!" another punk yelled while turning on his heel and following his friends as they decided to walk away.
"Keep using that word!" Orlando shouted after them. "We queers are trying to take the word back!"
Orlando looked at the woman on the bench and sat down next to her. He reached into his pocket and plucked his packet of cigarettes out, pulled one out and lit it. Just as he was about to put it back into his pocket, he offered the packet to the woman. "Fag?"
Maureen turned to regard Orlando, just as the younger man leaned in to look closely at the woman's face, every line clearly visible, her eyes staring straight ahead. "Why is it I can't see your death, do ya think?" Orlando exhaled the smoke as he sat back against the bench.
"Because I'm already dead," the woman droned as she turned to look out vacantly once more.
Orlando looked at the woman as she sat on the bench. Maureen had been quite happily married over six years ago. Her husband had been everything to her.
Her best friend.
Her heart. Her very soul.
Until one day when she went out shopping to this very strip mall. Her car had stalled on her because the starter was twitchy. Maureen had been putting off the repair of said starter for a long while, despite her husband’s constant demands that she get it worked on. But at that time, other bills had been more pressing so she had chosen to let it slide. On that fateful night, however, the night the starter had finally given up the ghost for good, it had been pouring down rain, and whoever said that Southern California didn’t get rain was daft. It was getting rather late and Maureen was getting very wet, so she called her husband to come pick her up, willing to accept the well-earned ‘I told you so’ for putting off the repair for far too long. Ben, her husband, had said he would be right there and to stay within the light of the shopping mall. He was worried that harm might befall her since she was stranded there by herself, and he rushed out of the house and down the road to get her.
Sadly, Ben never made it that night. Although his skills at driving, even in the wet, were quite good, factoring in the other driver was the problem. Another car skidded on the winding road and careened into Ben's small pick up truck.
He died instantly.
Due to insurance and her own good health, Maureen was left physically and financially secure, but emotionally? Well, that was another matter altogether. Because deep inside, where it truly counted, the lonely woman had died at the very same moment as her beloved husband. And once she grew accustomed to the loneliness and grief that became her constant companions, insidious guilt decided to set up shop, pretty as you please.
She became a victim of the 'What if's' and the 'Shoulda's.' She 'shoulda' had the starter fixed when Ben said to, then he wouldn't have had to come and get her, or the 'what if' it hadn't been raining that night.
But ultimately, it all came back to Maureen placing the guilt squarely back on herself.
And so she sat at the bench, day after day, waiting for her husband to come and get her, only leaving for her empty house when all the employees left for the day and she was finally chased away.
Over the past few years, Orlando had grown accustomed to using the stoic but apparently delusional woman as a sounding board. He was pretty sure that Maureen didn’t really hear him when he talked to her. Her mind seemed to be stuck in a loop, like a CD on REPEAT. But that didn’t prevent him from sharing what was troubling him most at any given time, which at the moment included his argument with Viggo and his dilemma of telling Sean the truth.
"Viggo's pissed at me. He actually yelled. Daft bugger. If we had a dog, he would've hidden under the sofa," Orlando mused as he sat there, talking more to himself than he did to the woman.
"He can't seem to figure out why I won't talk to Sean, ya know? Tell Sean about how much danger he's in," Orlando continued. "I wish I could tell him. It's like a bleedin’ gun is being held at my temple. I just can't get the words out."
Orlando slumped back against the bench and looked out to the street beyond as he took another drag from his ciggie and expelled the smoke in a small ring.
"After all this time...what?! Vig doesn't fuckin’ know me?! I figure, just say the words and Sean'll know. But once the words are out, I can't take’em back, luv. I mean, what?! Do I wait for Sean to give me that look I always get, the one that tells me I’m crazy? And then what do I do? Laugh and say, ‘Psyche!’? It doesn’t bloody work that way!"
Orlando slumped back again in defeat, brought the cigarette to his lips, but stopped before he took another drag. "I can't lose him. I just can't lose him," he repeated dejectedly while shaking his head back and forth.
A silence fell between the two before the woman sighed, turned her head and looked directly at Orlando.
"But you will," Maureen said quietly. "You will, and you'll end up just…like…me. A shell, eaten from the inside out by regret. No heart. No soul. Those died the day I didn't take the warning signs to heart. And I'm not just talking 'bout a bad starter," she laughed hollowly, the sound void of any mirth. She then turned back to look out at the street and Orlando found himself leaning in closer, listening to every word the woman had to say, because Maureen was not known to have uttered this many words since the accident. "I knew...I just knew something bad was gonna happen. And it did. Now I don't know much 'bout your situation, but I listen. I do listen Orlando I-can-see-how-you're-gonna-die Bloom. Your dilemma doesn't sound quite like what I went through, but in the end, it's all the same. Maybe, if I’da said ‘Ben, I have a bad feeling…’, he mighta said, ‘you’re acting dumb,’ and he still woulda come and got me, or maybe…just maybe, cuz he was my Ben and I trusted my Ben, and he trusted me, he woulda stayed home and called me a cab. And today, I’d be at home right now, cooking Ben’s favorite tater tot casserole and watching Fox News. Now you have to ask yourself, what do you want more? Do you want your Sean alive and with you, but with a lie hanging over your heads that puts him in danger, or do just want him alive, no matter what, even if he never wants anything to do with you again?"
Orlando felt as though he had taken a mighty blow to the chest. Maureen’s words, so simple yet profound, had struck him so powerfully that, had they been a bus, he had no doubt he would be lying in the street, dead as a doornail.
"What do you want?"
What did he want?
He wanted Sean.
No conditions, no hanging clause after that.
Because this world would suck just that much more without him in it.
Maureen stopped and looked out again. Sighing, she picked up her bags and rose to her feet.
"Can I take you somewhere?" Orlando asked the woman.
"No, my car's over there," she said as she pointed to the parking lot.
The younger man closed his mouth after it had hung open like a gaping fish.
"I'm crazy, but I still can drive," Maureen shrugged as she turned to walk away. "He'll never come to pick me up. I know that. But I have nothing better to do."
Orlando watched as the woman walked away toward the car park.
The word kept coming back to him, again and again.
Just as surely as Maureen's haunted eyes did.
Whatever happened, happened. If he lost Sean, then so be it.
At least the man would still be alive.
He was being a right arse about the whole thing.
He was playing a dangerous game.
And in his heart, he knew he was just being daft.
Sean wouldn't hate him. He wouldn't laugh at him.
He trusted Sean.
He knew that.
And even if the odds were against him, it was just a chance he would have to take.
And with that, Orlando got into his car and drove into traffic. His immediate plan was to drive to Sean's house to feed Snyder and then after, he would go to the firehouse and ask Sean if they could have an hour together, over dinner.
If he didn't do it now, he was afraid he would lose his nerve.
Just then, his Blackberry rang in a chorus of "It's a Small World," signaling that a call was coming in from Billy.
"What's up, Bills?" Orlando asked, navigating his way through traffic.
"Well, here's the thing..."
Whenever Billy started with "well, here's the thing," it meant his mates were in trouble.
"Sblomie wanted to go to his favorite burrito shop...ye know the one, on Olympic and Hoover..."
Orlando sighed into the phone. "You mean the one in downtown L.A.? The one with an armed bodyguard standing out front at all hours of the day?"
"Yeah! That's the one!" Billy said excitedly. "Well..."
"Just spit it out, Bills."
"My car suddenly...died on me."
"Billy, cars don't suddenly die for no reason," Orlando interjected, while trying to keep a calm tone.
"They do if ye stop putting oil in them," the Scotsman replied sheepishly.
Orli could practically hear his friend shrugging and wincing over the line.
"Oh, for fuck's sake! And you're in East L.A.! Aww, hell!" Orlando cursed into the phone. "Just stay put. I'm coming to get you lot."
"You're a peach, Orli," Billy sighed gratefully.
"Yeah, well you owe me one. And after I pick you up, you're coming with me to Sean's house, got it?"
"That's fine," Billy replied.
Orlando closed his mobile and sighed.
New plan of action.
Pick up the boys, go to Sean's, feed dog, drop boys off cliff, then meet up with Sean.
Okay, he could do this.
He wasn't letting anything else stand in his way.
With that, he changed direction and headed toward East L.A. to rescue his friends, his spirits considerably lighter now that he was ready to confront Sean.