Title: Sustaining Hope
Pairing: Viggo/Sean B.
Summary: Sometimes facing death is a blessing in disguise
Notes: This is set in the not-so-distant future, five years or so, but hopefully a completely imaginary one.
I haven't been this terrified writing something in a long time. It's hard to do something for a writer you respect so much. :-) I hope you liked it.
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.
Viggo groaned as he realized Henry wasn't home and he'd have to get the phone himself. Today had been particularly difficult, the pain seeming to radiate from his bones and seep throughout his body. Ordinarily he'd just let the machine pick up, but he was expecting a call from his mother and he didn't want her to worry. Clenching his jaw, he rolled onto his side, straining to reach across his body to pick up the receiver. He couldn't help but smile as Sean's soft accent soothed across the line, easing the lingering pain in his limbs.
From the beginning Viggo thought this was a battle he would have to fight on his own. And the loneliness that engendered colored his perceptions of everyone around him, made it difficult to objectively predict how they would react. Because of this, he never intended on telling Sean he was sick, that he was dying. Yet when he heard the smooth baritone on the phone, when Sean said he had been worried and wanted to know if everything was ok ... somehow knowing Sean had sensed that all was not well with him made Viggo incapable of hiding the truth.
Sean felt his world drop from beneath his feet. He had felt for some time that he needed to get in touch with Viggo. From some random publicity photograph he happened to see in the paper, to this gnawing sensation in his gut every night for the past couple of weeks. Everything was making him uneasy and pushing him toward finally picking up the phone. But this; this was not what he was expecting to hear. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, trying to regain his balance, before speaking. They covered the basics first: When was he diagnosed? Had he gotten a second opinion? But Sean couldn't avoid the one question that kept tearing through his skull, the one thing that both hurt and scared him the most. Why hadn't Viggo told him?
Viggo patiently answered all of Sean's questions but pulled up short with the last. There was nothing he could say to that, no response that would both make sense and keep himself safe. So he quietly apologized and admitted he didn't really know, hoping that would be enough to quell the pain he could hear on the edges of Sean's voice. Whether it worked or not, he wasn't sure. Nevertheless Sean continued, turning the conversation toward their lives. They talked for hours without ever reminiscing, simply catching up from when they'd last talked, letting subjects roll together on the slightly off kilter stream of conscience only they seemed to ever understand.
Before hanging up, Sean said "see you soon," and Viggo smiled at what he thought was the hopeful sentiment behind the words. He should have expected this reaction from Sean. Sad and concerned, yes; but completely unfazed and without a trace of embarrassment or pity. Viggo felt a peace he hadn't experienced in a long time. He truly was blessed to have friends like Sean, to have a strong, giving and open-minded son and a life filled with unique experiences. Even so, all he could focus on were the things he'd never be able to do and everything he never had the chance or the guts to say. He had started recording tapes for Henry the moment the last doctor told him there was little to no hope of him ever recovering. But he still mourned, missing all the special moments in his son's life that were yet to come. He didn't think he'd be a man who died with regrets, but with only a few months left he realized that he had them in spades. And that made him even sadder than he could ever imagine.
Of course the ever-present 800-pound guerilla in the room was always Sean. Almost from day one there had been something between them, a tangible awareness that neither would actually deny but also weren't willing to look at too closely. Viggo laid his head back on the couch and breathed deeply through the pain that came more frequently every day. Could he finally remove the blinders that kept the obvious from his view? And if he did would Sean be able to acknowledge it, accept it, reciprocate it?
The next few days were like any other, except he had the added pleasure of receiving e-mails from Sean at least twice a day. Mostly silly notes, random thoughts he wanted to share or ideas he hoped to discuss. It was the connection Viggo missed the most after filming ended, the casual yet powerful intimacy they had built and that he shared with no one else. He sat at the kitchen table pushing his breakfast around the plate, wondering why it had been so easy for them to turn that bond into something less substantial. Could it have been a deliberate decision on both their parts? If they had kept that spark alive would it have become impossible to deny the deeper feelings between them?
The doorbell rang and Viggo welcomed the interruption of his thoughts. Slowly he pushed himself to his feet, momentarily leaning on the table until the slight dizziness passed before heading for the door. The last thing he expected to see was Sean, and he stood gaping for what seemed like minutes before Sean's engaging laugh woke him up. He let his friend in the house and was pulled into a warm hug, almost too strong for the pain in his joints, but he relished it and didn't want to let go.
Sean couldn't help but feel a small victory at having successfully surprised Viggo. He had been able to pull pranks, to shock his friend with unexpected revelations, but had never truly surprised him. The joy, however, was tempered with concern seeing Viggo so thin and pale. It was probably the pallor of his skin and the dimmed light in his eyes that worried Sean the most, but he kept a smile on his face, not wanting to dampen the mood of this reunion. Almost as soon as Sean heard the news, he knew he would do everything possible to get to Viggo. He had heard the sadness in Viggo's voice, the almost remorseful tone that there were things left undone and he wasn't sure he had strength left to do them. Combined with Sean's own regret at never finding the courage to tell Viggo he loved him, there had never been any question that he would do whatever it took to get here, taking only a few days to rearrange his schedule and put prior commitments on hold.
What amazed Viggo the most was he sensed no sympathy from Sean. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to feel sorry for him, and true to form Sean didn't disappoint. However, Sean's proposition did amaze him. Sean had never been one to really enjoy spontaneity. He wasn't pedantic or dull; he just liked a little order in his life. Yet here he was with nothing but a backpack and a smile suggesting an unplanned trip to do whatever Viggo wanted for as long as he wanted.
He knew it would be against his doctors' advice, knew it could shorten the time he had left. But death was inevitable, whether healthy or not, and Sean's presence and the need to exorcise his remaining demons set Viggo in motion. He called Henry and talked things through, needing to know it was ok with him before making another move. Then he called the rest of his family, appreciating their concerns but knowing he wouldn't be swayed by them. The next couple of days were spent getting the remains of Viggo's life in order, making sure phone numbers were exchanged all around and precautions taken to make sure the trip would be as comfortable as possible for Viggo. Finally, with only their first destination in mind, Viggo walked out his door, unsure if he'd ever step inside again but suddenly sanguine at that possibility.
They began by revisiting familiar faces and places, then started on a seemingly endless and arbitrary list of locations. Throughout their wanderings, Henry had met up with them a few times, and Sean had given father and son the space they needed to just be in each other's company, taking the time to manage personal business and call his girls, making sure they knew how much he loved them.
After the first month the pace became less frenetic, less urgent, and they ambled from place to place as whim and inspiration hit them. So much of their time was spent simply talking or quietly sitting together, letting themselves process and absorb, wordlessly strengthen and support. Each wrote and sketched, explored ideas and composed music. And they laughed - long and hard, soft and wistful - ever mindful of the need to acknowledge the joy all around them. All the while they rediscovered themselves together, marveling at how much more there was left to share in a friendship that had always felt deep and bountiful.
Before they knew it, the amount of time the doctors had estimated he'd have to live had come and gone and deep down both hoped that was a good sign, that maybe a corner had been turned and while Viggo still looked and felt the same perhaps he was actually on the mend. They were in Sean's home in London when they finally decided it was worth the risk to take the long trip to New Zealand. They had avoided going knowing how strenuous it would be to get there and how difficult to get back should they need to leave in a hurry. But now it seemed time to revisit the place where so many lives changed, to finally go back to where everything had begun.
They stopped in Los Angeles for a few days on the way, the latest in a series of return trips they had made during their travels together. Viggo saw both Henry and Chris, but they deliberately chose not to see any specialists. They preferred holding onto their unscientific belief that Viggo was getting better, preferred their faith to possibly contrary test results.
When they finally landed in Wellington, Viggo seemed more drawn than normal, but after a day of rest was ready to find their old haunting grounds and see their friends. At first they stayed close to Wellington and Queenstown, then without speaking a word both came to the same decision. It took a little time to find the exact spot where Boromir's final scene had been filmed, but once there Viggo felt the years slide away, stripping him bare and loosening the final bands of disease around his heart. Finally they stood in the forest where Viggo remembered coming alive for the first time, and also the place of his biggest regret.
He turned to look at Sean who was leaning against a tree, his head tilted up looking into the canopy of leaves above them. Viggo felt that familiar pull, the want and love that he had never allowed himself to express. But now, now it might feel superficial to Sean, a forced deathbed confession with no substance. Yet there it was, strong and undeniable. He had always wanted Sean, had been in love with him for years, and now could be the last chance he'd ever have to at least just tell him. Maybe that would be enough, could let him finally be at peace with the choices he had made in his life.
Sean felt Viggo's eyes on him and smiled, turning to look at his friend. Viggo could only stare, could only stand and hope to find the words that would make everything clear and real. But the words wouldn't come so he simply held Sean's gaze, feeling that somehow Sean would understand as he always did, would know what Viggo longed to express but couldn't find the way to say it. Sean had been feeling the emotions between them for many weeks, now intensified in this sacred place, and saw the love clearly in Viggo's eyes. Maybe they were both ready to finally bring to life what had lived only in dreams for all these years. He reached for Viggo, holding his hand firmly as they hiked to the car and the long drive back to the hotel.
Once there, it was as if all of Viggo's energy left him in a rush. Almost instantly Viggo was fading before his eyes and Sean only just succeeded in not panicking. Tears fell from Viggo's eyes in anger and frustration. They were so close, so near to finally giving voice to hidden desires, and now all he could do was fight to keep some semblance of consciousness for Sean's sake, seeing the distress in his eyes and needing to do anything he could to alleviate it.
Sean hadn't had to take care of Viggo during their entire time together, but quickly took action, working to make Viggo as comfortable as possible. He gave him his medication, bundled him in thick sweaters and warm quilts, and cradled him in his arms, watching over his fitful sleep. They had held each other like this many times before, but now the urgency didn't escape him. Finality surrounded them and he tried to free more space in his mind to hold every memory firmly in place. Sean willed his brain to keep a tight grip on each moment, every word ever said, every glance and touch. He couldn't forget, not this time, because if he did he was afraid he'd lose himself too.
In the morning, some of Viggo's strength had returned but it was evident that now was the time to leave. Sean didn't have to be told, could see the fear in Viggo's eyes. He couldn't be across the world in the end; he needed to get home. Both summoned every ounce of acting prowess they had and cashed in favors they never thought they'd use to get themselves back to Los Angeles on the first flight out that day.
When he was finally home, Viggo seemed to deflate even more. Sean wondered how someone so vibrant and alive could now seem so small, almost diaphanous. Viggo wouldn't go to the hospital, needing to be surrounded by those people and things he loved. Sean understood but also wondered if perhaps something more could be done for him at a hospital, maybe prolong his life by a few more weeks. He wasn't ready to let go, wasn't ready to lose what he felt in many ways he had only just found. But he wouldn't argue and gave way to Viggo's family, letting them care for and love their father, brother, son. But he was never further than a few rooms away at any given time, unable to actually leave.
Over the next few days, members of the Fellowship made their way to Viggo's home. Sean and Viggo had seen most of them during their travels, but still their friends dropped what they were doing and came to say their goodbyes. Sean expected it, knew Viggo was happy to see them all, but still in some ways he resented them taking even more time away from his own precious moments with Viggo. A couple of days later he finally gave Viggo the package his girls had prepared the last time he and Viggo were in London, the letters and keepsakes he had promised to pass on should the time come. Somehow that simple act felt like a nail in Viggo's coffin, and he found himself irrationally upset at his children for giving up on the man he loved.
Viggo could sense Sean's tension, his discomfiture and agitation at both needing to say goodbye but not wanting to actually say the words. Despite everything he was going through, he needed to comfort Sean, to give him as much as he was getting in return. He could always tell that Sean was close, often unable to sleep peacefully unless Sean was in the room. His love for his best friend seemed to grow as his own heart seemed to weaken even further, yet still he couldn't speak the words he had wanted to say for years, to finally express every desire and emotion that settled around them, holding them securely in its brilliant embrace.
Over the last few months he had managed to get his feelings down on paper, through words and drawings and photographs. He sealed it all in a large envelope, hoping that if he finally lost this fight Sean would have something to hold onto, something tangible to see and touch so he'd never doubt how much he had been loved. He asked Henry to give Sean the envelope after his funeral, still not willing to admit defeat, not wanting to say "I love you" while in decline but not ready to accept that there wasn't going to be another chance in this life. Just as Sean couldn't bring himself to say goodbye, to give up that last bit of hope he still held firmly inside, Viggo still believed too, wondered if their joint belief could actually see him through in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
During the day Sean struggled to hang on to his faith, his trust that Viggo could do anything he set his mind to. But sleep brought all his doubts and worries to the surface. In Sean's dream Viggo's shoulders were broad and muscled, and he wielded a sword against an unseen enemy. Although he started strong, every minute he seemed to tire, until his foe began to get the upper hand. Just as a deadly blow headed for Viggo's chest, Sean shook himself awake, pain trailing up his neck from being slumped over in the chair by Viggo's bed. He looked at Viggo, how lost he looked amidst all the coverlets and quilts, and as always began searching for the rise and fall of his chest, not able to turn away until the weak movement finally caught his eye. Did he have any fight left in him? Sean wondered. Had Viggo already given up?
Sean re-read the last poem for what seemed like the hundredth time then carefully folded the paper and slipped it back in its envelope. He sat on the hill above Viggo's ranch looking down at the house, here on one final visit before heading back to London. The clouds hung low in the sky, and Sean almost felt if he stretched up high he could touch the wisps as they passed overhead. A breeze redolent with pine and straw ruffled his hair, and he looked up at the distant tree line, smiling softly at the beauty and peace all around him.
Welcome arms, still too thin but growing stronger every day, wrapped around his shoulders moments before a warm body plastered itself to his back. Many months ago he had only hoped that Viggo would recover, would find a way to beat the disease that was slowly destroying his body. Now that the worse seemed to be behind them he let himself cry at what he had almost lost, for everything they had gone through and the joy of finally finding themselves here. He leaned back against Viggo's chest, let the love of his life keep him safe, the role reversal a comfort after months of having to be strong and in control.
Viggo gladly gave Sean everything he had, filled him with his warmth and protection. Once again he gave thanks for another chance at life, for being able to tell Sean he loved him while gaining strength, having found vestiges of inner determination to create what people could only describe as a miracle. In relief and celebration, Henry had given Sean his package anyway, and every scrap of paper had been examined and read many times over the ensuing months. Viggo held Sean, giving him the security to finally let his tears flow, once again promising to wipe all fear and sadness from Sean's heart as they started their lives together. Having almost lost everything they held most dear, they were an unbeatable force, focused and united, no longer living with regrets or secrets. He tightened his hold on Sean, felt him sink even further into his embrace, and smiled for all the blessings in this world he would never again take for granted.