Fic: Things to get away with in a skirt

The first time Miranda has studio scenes with Viggo, she can hear a ghost of men’s laughter even outside, with her hand on the door. Inside, by the time she wends her way through the crew to the set, Orlando is steadily corking Viggo’s arm with a raised middle knuckle, while Viggo stands impassive and silent. Viggo’s sword clinks against the studs on his costume like a ticking clock. A flaxen tail of Orlando’s wig, fallen forward over his shoulder, swings back and forth. They are staring into the middle distance, their smiles tight and hysterical.

But the third time Miranda and Viggo shoot scenes together, Viggo takes Miranda by her elbow between takes and tugs her aside from her mark. He descends a few steps of the stairs to the Golden Hall’s door, throws his hair out of his face and says, “Stand there and look like you love me.”

She thinks he’s joking and mugs, mouth slack, eyelashes fluttering.

He smiles and says, “No, I mean…”

“Oh,” she says, “sorry.”

From further down the steps, Orlando says, “Miranda, if you’re ever interested in looking like you love me…”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” Miranda says.

Viggo has his hands on his hips, looking at the ground. Later she will get to know this way of standing, and when he does it, she will try to stay far enough away not to bother his peripheral vision.

Someone says, “Too much colour in Eowyn’s face!” The standby makeup lady clacks up the stairs, compact and puff in hand.

Later Miranda has slunk off stage left to adjust the bindings that keep her looking “like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood.”

A hand touches her arm, and a man’s voice of indefinite nationality says, “Hey.”

She swings her elbow instinctively to hide that her thumb is hooked into the folds of fabric under her arm, and nearly cracks Viggo in the ribs.

His forehead creases. He says, “I’ll, uh, ask you later.” His vowels careen to and fro, round then flat.

 

It’s 3am at the supermarket, and the woman in front of Miranda in line for the only operating checkout is wearing a nurse’s uniform. Flipping through a cheapie women’s magazine, Miranda thinks she sees her ex in the red carpet section. The page is already in motion as she notices — she’s already flipped past it before the thought is finished.

She holds the magazine closed, flat between her palms.

“Hey,” says a voice that she can pick as Viggo’s. He’s wearing floppy trackpants and his feet are bare — there’s dirt in the hairs on his toes. His t-shirt has been laundered so thin that his belly-button makes a shadow.

“Hi,” she says brightly. She recalls that there is nothing except tampons, paracetamol and a jar of peanut butter in her basket. She puts the magazine back in the rack.

“Another early riser,” he says. The fluorescent light ages him: his crow’s feet gleam like the spines of a fish fin.

She shrugs.

His eyes drop to her basket, and rise again quickly. “You were hungry?” he says.

“Oh, well, all three items together make a very interesting cutting-edge hors d’oeuvre,” Miranda says.

They both look down at her basket. When they look up, he has dimples. “Uh-huh,” he says.

 

At the pub on the weekend, she sees by the light over the bar that Viggo has traces of deep red paint in his cuticles.

“Good week, I think,” she says, standing beside him to order.

“Yeah,” he says.

Back at the table, Orlando throws himself into Viggo’s lap, feet bouncing off the floor. He starts giving Viggo a cowlick in his hair.

“Now,” Miranda says, “there are some things you just can’t get away with in a skirt.”

“That’s very true,” Viggo says, from somewhere in Orlando’s underarm. His hair curls, flips and falls, around and around Orlando’s knuckle.

“What are you trying to say?” Orlando demands.

It’s drizzling and dark outside when they go to leave. Coming down the half flight of stairs from the door, under the shelter of the awning, Viggo stops Miranda, descends the same distance he did on the steps of Meduseld, and looks up at her, smiling. Streetlight shines off his forehead.

She sticks her tongue out at him.

The door opens behind her to let other people out — there’s warm air on her neck. She says, “You know, I’m getting pretty good at this.” She waggles her eyebrows.

“At looking like you love him?” Orlando says. He descends the steps between them and elbows Viggo in the ribs.

Viggo says, “She is.”

“Watch out,” Orlando says. “He only loves his sword.”

“That’s right,” Viggo says, grinning. “See you all Monday.”

“Bye,” Orlando replies.

Miranda watches Viggo’s back retreat across the street, collar up against the rain.

“Want to come back to mine for a bit with the hobbits?” Orlando says.

“No, that’s alright,” Miranda says.

“Your loss,” Orlando says, and winks. He jogs away towards a lit-up car a few shopfronts down, shoulders hunched.

She’s alone on the steps, opening her umbrella.

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