Title: Mutual Assured Deconstruction
Summary: Billy has Beecake, and a baby, and no real time to spare. Orlando has money, the environment, and an empty diary. Somebody needs to be distracted.
Notes: Written for Strongplacebo, who wanted Billy and Orlando, or Dom and Orlando, but who expressed no preference for genre. This fic is set present day, as canon as I could make it, and is probably a little bit happy, and a little bit angsty. I hope you like 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.
The voice is tinny, coming as it does from so far away, across an ocean, and Billy is juggling mashed carrot in one hand and the phone in the other. It's not the first time in the last year that he's wished for more than one pair of hands.
Luckily Ali swoops in and takes charge, taking both the spoon and the carrot, and Jack chuckles into his ear, before being silenced by a well-placed mouthful. Billy takes the phone and wipes Jack's mouth with a cloth, the multi-tasking second nature by now, and shouts back, "Orli! Good to hear from you, you great ponce, how are you doing?"
"Not bad, mate, not bad. I'm going to be in your neck of the woods, next week, want to meet up?"
And Billy grips the phone a bit tighter, grins wildly, and says, "Sure. Of course, I do."
Of course, he does. Why wouldn't he?
Orlando comes to see Billy play. There's no gig, not suddenly like this, they don't have gigs often enough for that, but he comes to a rehearsal, to the lads meeting up in a drafty basement room, the damp making singular patterns on the walls, with old ratty chairs stored in amorphous stacks -- some things never change.
Orlando doesn't seem to care. He's dressed in a coat that looks older than the chairs and a crazy hat with ear pieces. "Just in case," Orlando says, and tugs on the coat, "It used to be my Dad's."
John takes the piss out of him, and Billy relaxes, because if the lads were going to find this weird, they'd have been abnormally polite and it would have been a bugger of a job to change their minds. Dom's come and watched Beecake, and they've met Elijah, but Orli's far and away the most famous these days, and Billy's always wondered what they think of his 'hob-nobbing' as Rick so charmingly puts it.
It's nice when all his friends get on. It's good. But it's also strange, because having Orlando there, eyes dreamy, fingers tapping, hugging him afterwards with a, "That's so cool, man." That's not his life any more, hasn't been for years now. But it's good to see him, Orli's not in town very often. Hell, Orli's not in the country very often. And Glasgow? Billy counts the moments and enjoys them. They'll not come again.
It's a surprise when Orlando announces he's here for the foreseeable. Down south. Or at least, until re-shoots take him away again. "But not for long," says Orlando. " I need some roots, you know? I've been floating too long."
Billy wonders what work he can get. In London maybe. After all, it's been a while.
Ali doesn't mind. Ali thinks it'll be good for him. Check with his London agent, do some auditions. Jack's a handful, but she's got the family. Margaret offers to stop in, help out. Ali shoos him out of the door so cheerfully, that Billy goes smiling. He knows she'll want a shopping weekend, some pampering, later on. Quid pro quo. It's fair enough.
On the train, Billy checks the time difference, and then rings Dom. They bullshit a bit about 'I Sell the Dead' -- Dom's moaning, he thinks the budget might run out before the shooting finishes. Billy laughs and tells him to take the money and run -- or failing that, take the set. It's got to be worth something. Dom tells him to fuck off, but he's laughing.
Billy rings the studio where he's got some voiceover work, then he rings the hotel. Then he rings Orlando. Orli's voice is as slow as treacle, he sounds happy. Billy gets told to cancel his hotel, not to be stupid. "You're staying with me. The flat's big enough," says Orlando, "How much space do you take up anyway, hobbit-boy?"
Billy's happy too. It's good. Having friends like these. People he can count on. So he says yes. It's an easy thing, to say yes. He doesn't need to think about it. He's a bloke -- he's always been crap at that stuff anyway.
The auditions go ok, but Billy doesn't think he gets them. His agent is hopeful though, enthusiastic, but when isn't he? That's his job. Billy does the voiceover, it's boring but it pays.
Orlando's flat is more than big enough -- it's nearly palatial. He's got a private entrance that comes out into a discreet mews. He's got another that goes to a flashy front door. It's a double bluff, and Orli laughs. "Nah, you should've seen the one I had for Elizabethtown," he says, and then turns his head, uncomfortable, until Billy sniggers and punches him in the arm.
"You should have seen my Gran's in Ruchazie, if you want fancy. She liked collecting brass - the place shone like a bloody Aladdin's cave."
Orlando rubs his arm, and smiles. Can't have him feeling sorry for himself, Billy thinks. This Orlando's not quite the Orli that Billy knew in New Zealand. He's quieter, more thoughtful. Less insane. He's still a bloody lightweight, but Billy makes him drink all the same. Beer and whiskey, same as usual. Some things don't change.
Orlando whips up disgusting protein shakes and vegetable juices. Billy pours them away. They end up wrestling for control of the food processor, until Orlando's laughing in stupid great lurching gasps. Billy's small but feisty, Orlando's never beaten him yet.
Billy ends up disappearing into the night and bringing back fish and chips, in separate bags. Not a patch on Benny's on the Alexandra Parade, but it'll do. He feeds Orlando a chip, his hands greasy, vinegar stinging his nose, his mouth watering.
Orlando takes it, his lips grazing Billy's thumb.
Jack's fretting, and Ali's fed up, but Billy has a gig. He feels guilty he has to go, but it's work, of a sort. They're paid, at least, although the money's a joke. They're none of them twenty any more, with petrol and kebabs on the way home being the limit of their overheads. Every one of them has responsibilities.
He's had a good luck email from Dom, and from Viggo, but there's less of them than there were. They're not starting out any more with Beecake, they're not up-and-coming. They're becoming a fixture, yet they're no nearer to 'making it', whatever that might mean.
But it's nice, the place is full, and they play well. Billy's buzzing with energy, coming off the stage, he always is, and then Orlando's there. In the wings, beyond the amps.
"I had to come, man," he says. "I had to hear you."
He's got a minder, a watchful bastard who sticks out like a sore thumb. Billy raises an eyebrow, but doesn't say anything. He wonders how the guy would do out in Easterhouse on a Saturday night. Probably lucky if he made it back alive.
His fingers itch. Billy's never been one for fighting, but his skin is tingling, he's high on adrenaline. He flips Orlando's chains of necklaces, and they clink and chime. Orli grins, his teeth white in the gloom, and reels him into a hug -- he smells of mint and ozone, while Billy's sweating like a pig.
"I'm going to build a house," says Orlando, "Will you see it? It'll give me somewhere to think about. Something solid, yeah?"
"All right," says Billy, but it's not like Orli's asking permission. It's not like Billy's fucking giving it either. But he doesn't let go first.
There's a hole. In the ground.
It's not a house, it's not even the beginnings of one. He's seen the plans, because Orlando's got dozens of them, strewn all over the chrome and glass desk in his office. He's shown them all to Billy, clean white plans with stark clear lines on them, elevations and south-facing windows and natural ventilation.
Billy finds he's doubling over with giggles. They're looking into a hole in the ground. He wonders if Orlando really wants him to stand on the edge and nod sagely as he explains about environmentally friendly building materials.
"Shut up, you fuck," says Orlando, equitably, and Billy laughs harder. "It has to start somewhere."
Billy stops laughing. Orlando's right. He looks at the bare patch of ground, foundations dug, JCB quiescent in the corner. Odd to think that this unlikely landscape is going to give rise to something beautiful.
He rubs his hands together in the chill. He rubs them to feel his guitar calluses, the only ones he's got these days. There's something about Orlando's hole in the ground that makes him twitchy, makes him regret something he's never really missed.
Billy smells clean earth on the wind and, on impulse, jumps down. Orlando is a sharply taken breath behind him, as the red-brown of London clay rises around him. This may have been a bloody stupid idea.
Billy bends and takes up a clod of earth -- he was just going to chuck it out, help with his little mite, but mischief takes over, as it has so often in the past. He's grinning with all his teeth when he throws it at Orlando, who's standing there in his possibly-Prada coat, and squawks just like he used to in New Zealand. It warms something in Billy.
"Oi! Move your arse! Come get your hands dirty!" Billy shouts, and for a wonder, Orlando does.
They pull each other out of Orli's hole in the ground, later, when they're both thoroughly filthy, and stagger back to the car with their arms round each other.
"Now you've actually helped to build your house," says Billy, into Orlando's ear. Orli turns, satisfied eyes luminous, and murmurs, "Yeah," almost shyly, his hands buried in Billy's pockets, his nose red in the cold.
Billy turns away, and doesn't snatch the woollen hat that Orlando's wearing, as he has half a mind to do.
He thinks there's been enough teasing.
Orlando's architect is smug bitch, but Orli likes her. She's worked with Norman Foster, which apparently means she's one step down from royalty. Billy finds his accent getting thicker when he talks to her, but that's not for very long. She's all endless legs and black suits and high heels. She fancies herself, but she fancies Orli more. Billy wonders if he's noticed.
Billy's sitting like a savage, with his feet deliberately on the coffee table, while she's being shown the door, quiet murmurs reaching him from where they're saying goodbye, Orlando's hand carefully on the small of her back, as they exchange air kisses. Or at least, that's what Billy imagines. Fuck. He closes his eyes.
He's rung Ali, and she's all right, Jack's started taking a nap in the afternoons again, which gives her a break, and it's funny how the silliest things can make a person dazed with happiness. He's told her about another audition, seeing the new house, staying with Orli. There's only one of those things that isn't true, that's not so bad.
Orli comes in and flops down next to him on the sofa. He doesn't stick his feet up though. Billy slouches some more, feeling mulish, fed up. Their shoulders brush.
"You know me and Kate... We're not..." says Orli, out of the blue.
"Yeah," says Billy, "I heard. Sorry." But he's not really. He sounds sincere enough, he hopes he does. He wouldn't be staying here if Kate was around. Orlando wouldn't be in London at all, if Kate were part of the picture. Billy wonders when he got to be so selfish.
"It's funny..." says Orli, "I haven't been single -- you know, properly single -- in years. It's a weird feeling."
Billy turns his head. Orlando's not looking at him, instead he's frowning into the distance. Billy looks at Orli's crow's feet, their beginnings anyway, and wants to touch. He doesn't.
"I'm trying to remember how it felt, before. Being single, I mean. Like in New Zealand." Orlando does turn his head then, and Billy's caught. Dark liquid eyes, stupid floppy hair. He's not used to seeing that, even now. Not this close. He sort of shrugs. "You know?" Orlando's still talking. "When we were all free. It was different then."
Billy's mouth is dry. "Sean wasn't."
"No." Orlando looks speculative. "It didn't stop him though, did it? Not always."
"No, not always."
Billy can't slump any more. His back won't take it. He'll slide ignominiously to the floor. Orlando leans more heavily. It's natural to shift a bit. Accommodate him. Orli's so earnest, he always was. When he wasn't being a mad bastard.
Billy wonders which Orlando this is.
He thinks about the architect, Cristina someone from Norman Foster, so sure of herself, and knows that he's feeling the tiniest bit smug. Billy knows Orli, the way all the Rings cast know each other inside and out. The years have made some differences - Orli's more careful now. He doesn't do bungee jumps. He drinks green goop and practices Buddhism, and drives a Prius. But all that means is that right now Orli's asking, where once he might just have taken. And Billy's not saying no, the way he might once have not even bothered with an enthusiastic yes, before jumping Orli's bones.
He opens his mouth, and Orlando leans in and captures it. His lips are warm and soft, his tongue greedy in Billy's mouth. Just the way Billy remembers it.
He opens his mouth and lets Orlando in. But the yes is there in his breath, on his tongue. He's matured that much.
They both have.
It's been a while since Billy's woken with lean and bony limbs wrapped around him. He grunts a little, and shoves them off. He opens his eyes, expecting to find the lemon-yellow light of a New Zealand morning, and blinks a bit at London grey. It's jarring, even if the limbs in question aren't, familiar and brown and relaxed as they are.
He thinks about it, and wonders if he regrets anything, before deciding he probably doesn't. Not yet, anyway.
He's pleasantly sore, and that too is an old familiarity, made all the sweeter by its associations. He'll bloody well implode from nostalgia if he doesn't do something soon. He shoves Orlando again, who flops back against him, and opens one bleary eye. Then there's a smile, a hesitant one, but bright for all that, and Billy finds his morning grumpiness sliding away.
"Hey," he says, and Orlando mutters "Hey," back, before closing his eyes again, one demanding hand reaching and draping itself over his waist.
Billy keeps looking, it's hard not to, at the tangled hair, at the still smooth skin. Orli's always been gorgeous, and Billy can't help but feel his age. But it's hard not to make comparisons too - Billy was Orli's age in New Zealand, or close enough. Nearly ten years. That champagne they shared on the plane feels like a lifetime ago.
"Stop staring," says Orli, with his eyes still shut, and Billy grins, before shifting a bit closer and placing a potentially interested hand on Orli's jutting hipbone.
"Sorry," says Billy, not sorry at all. "Just remembering, that's all."
"Yeah, well. So am I."
Orlando opens his eyes properly then, and Billy pauses. He could be offended, since by his reckoning, he's the one who's taken a chance here -- but Orli looks... bleak. That's not right. That's never right, not on mad, carefree, ever-cheerful Orli.
"It was the beginning back then, ok? With us, with everyone. And now..." Orli runs a restless hand through disordered hair.
For a bloody actor Orli's always been as inarticulate as hell. Billy squeezes the hip under his fingers. "And now?" Billy prompts.
"I haven't got a movie lined up. After the re-shoots, that's it."
There's a pinch between Orlando's brows. It makes him look older. Billy wants to tell him to stop frowning, to tell him about the deepening laugh lines. He doesn't think it'll help.
He thinks about the auditions he didn't get.
"Ah, give over, you know there's always times... I bet your agent just hasn't passed the scripts on to you yet -- or maybe you need to tell him that for the right script you'll take less money. For something indie, something good."
Billy's sincere, he knows he is. He doesn't deserve Orlando turning to him with that little false half-smile he's seen him give for the crowds. He squeezes the flesh under his hand a bit more firmly.
"What if that's it?" Orlando asks, "Bill? What if ten years is all I get -- not even quite ten years."
Billy feels cold, lying in a warm bed, with a good friend, a little sore from a good time. It's not fair. What can he say? There's so much. He wonders, is that why Orli's decided to build a house? He wonders, is that why I'm here at all?
Mechanically, he murmurs, "Think of it as an opportunity," even as his mind lurches through scenarios. Even as he thinks about Orlando putting down roots, trying to feel less ephemeral. Is he just one more tie? To ground an Orli who's losing the ability to fly. A reminder of the past. Of past glories.
"Yeah. Like what?" asks Orli, restless now, under his hand.
And, absently, throwing it out without even thinking, because it's something he's wanted to do for a long time, because he's distracted with unpleasant thoughts, Billy says, "Theatre."
The smile he gets for a reward is anything but false. It's blinding. Billy blinks in the glare.
Before being pushed onto his back, as Orlando straddles him, thighs hot against his, acres of golden brown skin surrounding him, pushing at him, all lean muscle under his hands. Orli is insistent and demanding, a tangle of blood-warm limbs and beautiful, brilliant desire. Billy slides his hands up, even as he pulls Orli down to where he can reach him, his mouth biting and sucking, Orli gasping Billy's name. Billy tingles and shivers, sweat breaking out, as he pushes up, rubbing against Orlando, knowing, even then, that he's not going to get enough of all that golden perfection. That he never will.
As a thank you, Orli is a bloody good one. As a distraction? Billy thinks he does all right.
Fuck it, thinks Billy. Who cares why Orli's here? So he and Orlando are no longer on the same page. So Orlando's changed a little more than Billy thought. So what? Hasn't Billy changed too?
Does it really matter, anyway?
The voice is tinny, coming as it does from a cell phone echoing in a high-ceilinged rehearsal room, and Billy is juggling apple sauce in one hand and the phone in the other. Ali takes the phone away from him, before accidents happen, and says "Hello," firmly to Orlando, as Billy clears up Jack, wiping apple sauce from his chin, and giving him a piece of banana to chew on.
Billy hears Ali voice soften when she knows who it is, and a smile creeps onto her face. Orli does that, thinks Billy. He's got this ability. Charm, of course, but more importantly, the sort of vulnerability that people respond to. Shaking his head a little, Billy takes the phone from Ali. He admires it, he does. Billy's always been a craftsman. And Orlando is his friend. Whatever else, there is always that.
"Orli! It's good to hear from you. How's it going?"
"Brilliant, mate! I wanted you to know."
Orlando sounds happy again. He has a West End debut coming up, and speculation is rife in the media. He's taken on a modest role, so critics are curious, but not hostile. Tickets are selling like hot cakes. Billy wipes the apple sauce from his fingers.
"So do you want tickets then? For 'In Celebration'?" asks Orlando, with a hint of hesitation. "You and Ali? Do you want to come?"
Billy grasps the phone a bit tighter, and knows himself, his feelings, shallow as they are, "Sure. Of course, we do."
Of course, they do. Why wouldn't they?
"But I don't know if Ali will want to leave Jack..."