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For clocks: Winter Wonderland

For: clocks
Title: Winter Wonderland
Author: caras_galadhon
Pairing: Viggo Mortensen/Sean Bean (implied Orlando Bloom/Elijah Wood)
Rating: G
Summary: Sean was only fond of winter when it was firmly on the other side of the window.
Notes: Written for Clocks for Slashababy 2007. She asked for "Something domestic and fluffy. I won't mind something angsty if it has a happy ending. I don't mind AU or RL, let your imagination run wild." I hope this hits the spot. Happy Holidays!
I was very pleased to find out that my recipient was someone whose writing I quite enjoy! My thanks to savageseraph and empy for cheering me on, especially in the home stretch.

Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction, which means that while the characters depicted are based on public personas of real celebrities, the events described in the story never happened. This story in no way claims to represent the truth about the people mentioned within or the way they would behave.



Snow. Bloody goddamn snow. Big, fat flakes of it, swirling through the air, piling up in drifts, reflecting back harsh sunshine so brightly it was dazzling, even through firmly-fixed sunglasses that were biting into the bridge of his nose. Sunglasses that fogged up almost as soon as they left the house, making Viggo laugh as a temporarily blinded Sean tripped and stumbled down the stairs, almost breaking his neck as he found his footing at the bottom.

Sean shoved his hands deeper in his pockets, hunched his shoulders against the cold. As sunny as it was, you'd think it could manage to be a tiny bit warm, and yet... not so. Viggo insisted it was "brisk," and that "A little cool air does wonders for the circulation," but all it seemed to be doing for Sean was tightening his chest, closing his throat, and making every inhalation feel like a thousand tiny knives enthusiastically stabbing at his lungs.

Truthfully, it was a sight better than having the holidays in London, all grey and rain, the squeal of taxi breaks continual accompaniment to the angry buzz of crowds, and as much as he would have liked to go home to Sheffield, his parents had whisked his girls away by train to Spain, grandparent privilege trumping all, so that avenue would end in him sitting alone in the house he grew up in, watching the hands on the clock crawl by, or hanging 'round the local pub with the lads for far, far too long. But in lieu of those things, he'd become rather enamoured with the idea of a getaway to a warm corner of the earth, or if not that, the storybook Norman Rockwell vision of cottage, hearth and gently falling snow. Yet that scene placed Sean firmly on the inside of the glass, warm and toasty and tucked away from even the faintest whisper of a cool breeze. It did not involve hour-long meanders in the outdoors, exposing Sean to the dangers of frostbite or, if Viggo had his way, the possible loss of toes or fingers.

Sean kicked at a snowbank, silently satisfied at the plume of powder that burst into the air, the way his bootprint marred the otherwise unbroken crystalline sparkle. Viggo'd dragged him out on this forced march, purportedly to take in the air and the scenery, but Sean was damned if he'd enjoy one second of it. He yanked his hands out of his pockets, tugging his collar higher before exhaling on his fingers, barely thawing stiffening joints.

"You could have borrowed some gloves." Viggo smiled, looping an arm through Sean's, tugging him closer as they walked. "It would've been ok."

"I'm fine," Sean scowled, thrusting red-knuckled fists back into his coat. "My feet are frozen and I'm sure I'll need skin grafts to repair the patches of frostbite on my face, but I'm fine."

Viggo snorted, tugging Sean a little more quickly along the path as he gestured with his mitten at the trees ahead. "Isn't it breathtaking? Almost as still as the time we got lost in the dark with nothing but the camera's flash for light." He reached up, grasping an overhanging branch and shaking it gently, laughing softly as the disrupted flakes settled in Sean's hair.

"You mean you don't know where we're going?" A shake of Sean's head dislodged the snow, but had the unpleasant side-effect of allowing a small lump to slide inside his collar and down his back. He shuddered as it melted and dripped down his spine, making his frown sink all the deeper into the corners of his mouth.

The chuckling was starting to get on Sean's nerves. "I know exactly where we're going: that way," Viggo pointed ahead, the motion itself seeming excessively cheerful to Sean's eyes.

It was official; Viggo was going to march him around the forest until he'd frozen stiff, and would then probably push him into the pond, never to be seen again. That was the only explanation; he knew Viggo was a bit of a head case, but the increasingly sharper bite of winter wind, the chapped skin, the overall itchiness of wool only served to bring to light Viggo's previously hidden psychotic nature. Mad dogs and Englishmen, they said. Sean'd concede that it was possible Englishmen were the only ones who'd brave the heat of the midday sun, but only unhinged artists and daft Yankees would think tromping through thigh-high snow qualified as a proper afternoon's amusement.

The thump of boot on board jolted Sean out of his dire ruminations. He looked down, surprised to find himself ascending the gentle curve of a bridge. A few steps and he was at the apex, at which point Viggo suddenly stopped, yanking Sean back as he tried to descend to the next leg of the trail. Sean sighed heavily, scowling as he wobbled, regaining his footing only by leaning heavily against Viggo. "You are trying to kill me," he grumped.

"What?" Viggo's eyebrows shot up, lost somewhere beneath his woolen cap. At the shake of Sean's head, he shrugged and wrapped an arm around Sean's waist, steadying him further. "Are your hands still cold?" He coaxed Sean's clenched fists out of his pockets, seemingly immune to Sean's grunt of protest, and cupped them between his mittens as he drew them closer to his face. He huffed out lightly, and Sean blinked at the warm caress of breath. "Better?"

Sean nodded dumbly, voice lost somewhere in a swirl of upended thoughts. Viggo's mittens felt like hot water bottles after the chill of the elements, and Sean could feel his joints easing, the stiffness fading as Viggo rubbed Sean's palms between his own.

Once Viggo seemed satisfied that Sean was properly thawed, he let go of Sean's fingers and cupped his face, kissing him softly. The warmth of Viggo bled from skin to wool to skin, making Sean's ears buzz as his sluggish circulation slowly sped up. He moaned quietly, some of his ire at the outdoors leaching away as his blood rushed back in; he licked his lips, the taste of Viggo -- tobacco, maté and musk -- tingling on his tonguetip.

"Look." The word was as gentle as the guiding nudge to his cheek, turning his head away from Viggo, toward the falling snow, the bridge, and off in the distance--

"Is the house on fire?" The cottage was filled with flickering light, glowing from within, and Sean's heart began hammering in his ears, a flash-fire of panic shooting through his body. Had they forgotten to turn the lights off? Was there an electrical short? An untended candle? Had the stove been left on, the gas slowly spreading through the rooms until the tiniest spark set it ablaze? Oh god, they were going to lose their deposit; even worse, the gifts he'd bought Viggo -- so carefully chosen, wrapped and hidden away in his luggage -- were going up in smoke as they watched.

Viggo nuzzled his neck, laughing softly. "No. Orlando and Elijah must've arrived. They'll be waiting for us."

Sean furrowed his brow, struggling to catch up and sort out this turn of events while dealing with the distraction Viggo's of stubble scraping against skin. "Waiting?"

"It was their idea. A little reunion alongside some holiday cheer. They offered to show up early, do some decorating and get the place ready."

"Ready?" Sean sighed, tilting his head to the side, belatedly realizing he wasn't fond of the idea of becoming a full-time echo. "Ready for what?"

"Friends. Family." Viggo brushed his mittened hand across the nape of Sean's neck. "Filthy Men and prissy Elves, hungry Hobbits and awful Orcs. A house full of light and love, just like you wanted."

"Oh."

It struck Sean as an inadequate sentiment, an empty word too small to fill with the sudden rush of warmth suffusing his mind and heart, but Viggo seemed to understand. His lips brushed Sean's ear, and Sean could feel the smile he couldn't see. "You're welcome. You want to go back?"

Sean turned his face to the sky, falling flakes brushing his forehead and cheeks, melting against the flush found there. He took in the branches coated in crystal, the clarity of the sky, and breathing deep, his chest eased, expanded as he drew in the crisp apple of the air. He smiled, his forehead smoothing, eyes crinkling behind his glasses as he slid his hands beneath Viggo's coat, circling his back, hugging Viggo tight. "Not just yet. The woods are beautiful this time of year, aren't they?"

Viggo nodded, a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"I'd hate to waste such wonderful weather." Sean wet his lips, not waiting for a reply as he kissed Viggo deeply, happily tasting heat and the promise of passion. Warm or cold, ice or snow, a walk in the woods with the man he loved was by far the best use of an afternoon or evening, and he found he'd trade all the sunbaked beaches and crackling hearths for a moment deep in the silence of winter with Viggo by his side.


***
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