Warnings:slash, references to adult situations, character death (both cannon and non-cannon, the latter for sake of the plot).
A/N: Merry Christmas, Fey!
Inspired by Use Somebody by Kings of Leon
A Long, Cold Flight
Even the sky had a blanket of stars to keep it company. It was a long, cold flight and sleep-deprivation that made Viktor think that way. He knew any sane person would have taken a port key, but the Quidditch season had ended, and there were a few months before the next season would begin. Of course, there were still practices, but not over the holidays, and he was long overdue for a proper holiday. He decided to take a few weeks, and fly in by broom. A lazy trip to Britain would be good for him. He could tour all the major cities along the way, and find souvenirs to gift to his English friends when he arrived. It was Christmas after all, and it wouldn't do to arrive empty handed.
He didn't anticipate that shopping for other people would remind him so keenly that he was alone, but he realized as he was buying a gift for this person, there was a significant other who he also had to make a purchase for. Hermione and Ron he would have purchased for regardless, but if he purchased for Charlie, he also had to get a gift for Seamus, and if he purchased for Ginny, then there was Neville, Harry was with Luna, so she would also be at the Christmas gathering. George was married now, too, but he honestly couldn't remember her name. And Bill... 'Surely a man like William will have found someone special by now. I haven't heard he has, but I should purchase something as a precaution. If there isn't someone, mother's birthday is in January, anyway, and I can give it to her instead.' He thought about that as he wandered through Paris and decided on perfume. It was the only safe thing, but he let the store clerk pick it out. What did he know about women's fragrances other than how quickly they could induce a headache? With that last gift dropped into the cavernous insides of his khaki travel bag, and the shoulder strap secured across his chest, he took to his broom again for the last leg of his journey.
It shouldn't feel heavy, but that bottle of perfume seemed to add an unnecessary weight to his night flight over the English Channel. It had always been on a broom that he felt the most free, but with his thoughts straying towards Bill, he couldn't even enjoy that. He always remembered him as a dashing man with a cheerful smile. He'd been that way at Fleur's wedding, and he remembered him fondly from their brief meeting during the Tri-wizard tournament as well. Bill had praised his transfiguration after the trial at the lake, as clumsy as it was. He'd called it 'clever'. Victor had blushed, because he knew it wasn't properly his idea, and remembered stuttering something about how he didn't perform it properly. Bill had laughed warmly and said, "Well, it got the job done, didn't it? So I would say it was proper enough."
He'd not seen Bill smile in a long time. The strained expression on his face at Fleur's funeral had been almost more than he could bear. He'd tried to smile when Viktor offered his condolences, but the upward turn of Bill's lips looked more like a grimace than the lazy grin he'd come to know so well. Bill had just said, "Never mind it. She was a good woman, and she fought well. Everyone has lost something precious in this war. My own losses aren't worth any more than anyone else's."
Viktor hadn't replied then, because he knew he was talking to a man who was doing everything he could to avoid breaking down – losing his wife and his brother on the same day. Viktor watched him quietly go from his mother to his brothers, each in turn, and try to comfort them, let them cry on his shoulder, and not expecting anyone to do the same for him. He'd never wanted to embrace anyone more in his life.
Years had passed since then, and Bill had spent them alone in that cottage by the sea. Viktor thought he'd have liked to visit. They were on friendly terms, but not friendly enough that he could go alone without it seeming strange. They socialized, but more through mutual friends than being on those close terms themselves. He just got so tongue-tied around Bill that it was impossible to speak properly, between being tongue-tied and English being his second language, he always felt like a buffoon. Even as he told himself that he hoped Bill found someone who could make him happy, and who could be a shoulder for him to lean on when he needed it, he knew well that the painful twinge in his heart was jealousy. He tried not to think about it. He told himself he was alone because the type of person who wanted to be with him was only interested in his fame and money. He knew that was only half the truth; he was not properly looking for someone to fill the vacant spaces in his heart because there was already someone lurking there. He had a feeling Fleur would understand. She would laugh at him and say, 'But of course you love my William! He is a brave, strong man with a good heart. Who could possibly not love such a man, non?' He could easily imagine her encouraging him from beyond the grave. Fleur was a very unique person. She was not bound by social rules that she thought were trifling. Viktor was different. He wasn't raised to believe life was so simple that he could just divide it up between things he wanted and things he could do without. He wasn't raised to take unnecessary chances, so risking being hated by a man he was so completely infatuated with was just something he couldn't do. Even if it meant buying perfume for an imaginary woman who had stolen the heart of the person he adored, and spending his life pretending his only love in the world was Quidditch, then that's just what he would have to do.
Well, in spite of his overactive imagination, and putting his self-imposed angst aside, he was excited. He hadn't seen the oldest (and most dashing) of the Weasley boys since this time last year, and he was looking forward to it, even if his infatuation was only that – a one-sided obsession with a man who haunted all of his favorite fantasies and most distracting daydreams. Those daydreams kept the cold at bay and helped combat the urge to drift to sleep as he drifted low over London, looking for the familiar smokestack puffing merrily from the Burrow's fireplace. Once he saw it though, the sloping hills and that cozy little shack of a house, the weariness in his bones would not be distracted. As at home as Viktor was on a broomstick, for once, he was glad to put his feet on the ground. He'd grossly underestimated how the long days of flying, shopping, and shifting time zones would take its toll. 'Next year, port key,' he told himself. 'Or at least the train.' His lips were chapped, his hands weathered for the fact he'd foolishly given his only pair of gloves away to a homeless muggle in Austria, and his thighs all but numb from the last windswept leg of the journey. He could think of nothing that would be more appealing right now than something warm to drink, followed by a nap that might last several hours.
He barely had the cloak of his hood pushed back before he found himself being tugged down the hill and into the burrow by the girls. Hermione greeted him with a friendly embrace, Ginny offering to hang his cloak, and took it from him before he properly had it off. Molly Weasley clapped his face between her hands and asked if he'd been eating properly, but didn't give him a chance to answer before rushing off to fetch him a plate that would doubtless be more than he could eat in a week, let alone a sitting. Arthur greeted him with a warm handshake, Ron fixed him with a sullen glare.
Viktor really wished Ron didn't still hate him so. Yes, he'd dated Ron's wife, but it was ages ago, and only very briefly. Of course he had to greet Harry as well, and Charlie, though he'd only seen the latter two weeks prior, drunken on his doorstep after another bad breakup. It seemed he had an endless stream of lovers, who endlessly were all wrong for him, and somehow Viktor always wound up consoling him, and indulging in overwhelming quantities of mixed liquor in the process. He didn't mind. Charlie was a good friend. They'd worked closely during the war, but his stomach wasn't as strong as is sense of loyalty.
By the time he was finally seated, he felt dizzy. The chaos in the Weasley household was always a bit more than he could process. He was used to a relatively quiet life, and this was nothing of the sort. As he stared down at the mound of food Molly had piled upon him, wondering how much of it he had to eat so that he didn't appear rude - as he wasn't particularly hungry for the moment, even if her cookign was always wonderful - long, freckled fingers placed a glass of brandy beside the plate.
"Take the chill out of your bones," Bill said as he slid down to a seat beside him, pouring himself half a glass as well. "You must be half-frozen yet, flying all the way here."
"It vas perhaps not my most vise decision," Viktor replied, unable to quite make eye contact. Bill's calm demeanor made the world slow down around them enough for him to catch up.
Bill just leaned his chin on his hand and smirked. "Well, wisdom is only the result of learning from our mistakes," he said. "If you're tired, my old bedroom is the last one on the left upstairs. Get some sleep. I'll make excuses for you." Without asking, Bill picked a tart off of Viktor's plate and popped it into his mouth. When he swallowed, he laughed, "she always puts in extra effort when it's for company," he explained casually. "Family gets the burnt ones."
Viktor stared, dumbfounded. He was such a good man, Bill. What should he say? There were so many things he wanted to, but none that he felt he could, not to the widowed husband of one of his dearest friends. "I vill take you up on that offer, I think," he answered finally. "Please make apologies on my behalf. A few minutes to rest vill help very much, and I vill come down to socialize properly aftervard. I have gifts for everyone. I vould like to be properly avake vhen I give them."
Bill smiled, and Viktor felt pixie wings flutter in his chest at the way the skin at the corners of his eyes pulled. The redhead waved him off casually with one hand, which had apparently swiped another tart from his plate, and a soft chuckle escaped. "Sure. Just relax. You came here on vacation. They're my family, so I know very well how overwhelming they can be if you're not used to the madness. They mean well, but they forget to think about the little things sometimes. Hurry on up, before Charlie opens the whiskey and starts demanding drinking games. I'm sure it won't be long now."
Viktor couldn't help but laugh a bit at that. "Yes, am very vell avare that he is the undisputed champion in this."
Bill's grin turned into a mischievous smirk. "Undisputed, is he? And, just who do you think taught him those games in the first place, eh? If that's what he'd telling people, I might just have to prove him wrong."
Viktor knew he shouldn't encourage such behavior, but that playful spark in Bill's eye made a knot tighten in his stomach. "I vill root for you, then. If he is defeated, he vill perhaps not trick me into joining him so often."
Bill laughed. "Get some rest. I'll fetch you when it's time for dinner, if I'm still conscious." He pushed up his sleeves and got to his feet. "Hey, Charlie! I know you brought something good along from Romania. Don't be stingy, let's have at it."
He was halfway across the kitchen before he finished the sentence. Viktor watched a moment as the eldest brother wrapped his arm around the stocky dragon keeper's neck and ruffled his hair. He watched just long enough to catch Bill glance over his shoulder and give him a wink that said he was creating an appropriate distraction that should keep the family occupied for the duration of the afternoon and give Viktor plenty of time to recover from his journey.
Viktor felt a pang in his chest and turned, lumbering quickly up the steps, more quickly than looked strictly natural. When he closed the door the the bedroom that had once belonged to Bill and Charlie, he exhaled a shaky breath, and ran his hand across his face, over reddened cheeks, and tried not to think too hard about the fact that he'd not seen any unfamiliar faces, and no traces of a woman in the creased lines of Bill's wrinkled trousers. He tried very hard not to be relieved, as he lowered himself to the bed that had most obviously belonged to a younger Bill – with hieroglyphics carved into the bedpost and the lingering scent of sea air wafting gently off of the wool coat cast across the foot of the bed.
Bill's lingering presence and the scent of him soothed Viktor to sleep as easily as a lullaby. When he heard the creak of a floorboard and opened his eyes, he didn't even remember having closed them, but he certainly felt rested.
"Sorry," Bill said. "I didn't mean to wake you. Thought I'd go out for a smoke, but I left my fags up here," he whispered, pulling the pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket at the foot of the bed.
"You shouldn't smoke," Viktor said without the least hint of conviction as he stretched the weariness from his bones and yawned.
"Shouldn't," Bill conceded. "Do anyway. It's one of those easy pleasures in life. I've so few of them, I cling to even the ones that are no good for me. I guess that's a Weasley sort of trait." He pulled one from the pack and gestured to the window. "Do you mind? I can go out into the garden."
"It is fine," Viktor answered, even though it wasn't. He hated cigarettes.
Bill opened the window and lit up, leaning out it to keep the smoke from coming in the room as best he could. They sat in silence for a while.
"Did you vin your game vith Charlie?" Viktor asked at last.
Bill chuckled. "I conceded defeat after the second bottle. I can out drink him when it's all for play, but when he's got a reason to drink, no one stands a chance. Ron is still down there trying, but I imagine he's got reason enough to drink, what with his wife's ex about." He smirked at Viktor. "He's the jealous sort, it seems."
"Ve vere children. Ve did not even know vhat ve vanted out of life, let alone who," Viktor complained.
"It seems you still don't," Bill answered. "Isn't it about time you thought about finding a good woman and settling down?"
"This is not something I vant to hear from a man who is also alone," Viktor replied tersely.
"I had a good woman," Bill said, the sharp edge of sorrow on his voice. "Just didn't get to keep her, is all. I guess Charlie takes after me, if he's been dumped again."
Viktor didn't miss how smoothly he changed the subject. "Charlie does not choose 'good vomen'. He does not choose 'good' men, either. It is a flaw he has, that he only sees the best in people. I vould not call it a flaw, but that he so often ends up hurt because of it."
Bill smiled a bit nostalgically. "I worried about him when he moved to Romania for exactly that reason. It's nice to know he's got a friend not too far off who knows him as well as you do."
"I think he vould be better served to return to England," Viktor frowned. "Because of his trusting nature, he is no longer on good terms with most of his coworkers. Since he is the type to casually flirt and act playfully, he is often propositioned as if..." Viktor trailed off. "He vould not vant me talking about this. My vork means I spend much of my time traveling. I feel I am not there for my friend when he needs me most. You should not be glad, only because my home is near the Romanian borders. I spend very little time there. The friends who spend the most time with him are not men I vould vant around my sibling."
Bill frowned, dropping the butt of his cigarette out the window and closing it to fight off the winter chill. "Don't say that. You'll make me worry. He's a grown man, so whatever he decides, it has to be on him now. I can't chase him about like I did back when we were in Hogwarts to keep him out of trouble."
"I am sure he vill find someone who is good for him," Viktor said as he sat up. "But, I hope it is sooner rather than later. I have hoped the same for you," he admitted shyly, dragging Bill back to the subject of Fleur. "It has been many years. I had expected to find a voman at your side this holiday. It is difficult to select a Christmas gift for a person you have never met."
"You shouldn't have wasted your time," Bill said, lowering himself to a seat beside Viktor. "I'm not like Charlie. I can't bring myself to play around with all the wrong people while waiting for the right one to come along. When I was a boy, sure, but I haven't been a boy in a long time. There have only really been two people I've particularly fancied. I picked a wonderful woman. I hoped to have barrels full of children with her," he grinned. "...or, at least a few. Some things aren't meant to be, I suppose. It's not that I'm particularly depressed about it. I don't want you to think that. It's just like you said. It's been a long time, but all the same, I'm not the sort of man who can seduce one person just to sate a bit of loneliness, when I've got someone else in mind. But you, have you even dated at all since Hermione? It's no wonder Ron's paranoid."
"A bit," Viktor frowned. "But it is difficult, vith my vork."
Bill laughed. "You mean being so famous that any woman in her right mind would want you?"
"Vould vant to be seen vith me, or to attain fame and fortune by standing at my side, you mean," Viktor complained. "Vhile it is true that I have no shortage of fans, it is only vhen I come here that I...!" Viktor cut himself off abrupty, finding himself getting entirely too passionate about his feelings. He looked sullenly down at his hands, fiddling over the hem of his jumper. "There is someone I favor, but this person vould not be interested in me in that vay. Like you, it vould be troubling to pursue a relationship vith a person I do not love. It does not bother me that I vill not have children. My sister will marry soon, and I will be 'uncle' before long. This is more than enough for me."
Bill couldn't help but grin at the last. "Being an uncle is great," he admitted. "You get to have these adorable kids who love you to bits and you can spoil like crazy, but without any of the responsibility of being a parent. There's really no down side."
Another awkward silence passed between them. "You vould have been a vonderful father," Viktor said at last.
"Thanks," Bill said a bit sadly. "I would have liked it, I think. Down sides and all."
"You can adopt, yes?"
"I wouldn't do that," Bill said. "Not alone. It would be cruel to adopt a child just to have them raised by a nanny. If..." Bill was the one to cut himself off this time. He sighed. "Well, it's not like all of our dreams can come true, right? Then what would there be left to dream about?"
"New dreams," Viktor answered, pained by the sadness in Bill's voice. He hated to see him like this. He hated to think of him with someone else, too, when he wanted to be the one to hold him at night, but that was far better than watching him suffer in silence. When Bill was a little drunk, that's when all these concerns came out, it seemed. He could smell the liquor on the redhead's breath. Even if he said he admitted defeat early in Charlie's game, he could tell he'd still had quite a lot. "You said there vere two people you felt strongly for. Fleur is gone now, and ve all miss her terribly, but, the other..."
Bill laughed. "I can't tell you," he said.
Viktor pursed his lips as Bill closed off in such a way. "Is it so embarrassing? Ve are friends."
"Yeah, we are," Bill said, flopping back against the bed. "And, I'd like it if we could stay friends."
"Ve vill alvays be friends, Villiam." Viktor truly wanted to believe that. Who could it possibly be, if Bill thought it would ruin their friendship to know?
"I want that to be true. You're so easy to talk to. I don't know why, but I let things spill out around you that I normally wouldn't tell anyone. I'm a private sort of guy, you know. I like to keep my personal thoughts up in my own head, but you always get me talking."
Viktor blushed. To have such a place in Bill's life was an honor. "People need a person like this, someone they can tell anything to."
"Oh, alright. I'll regret it tomorrow, but I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."
"The person who's got you so engrossed you've scarcely dated since school. If you humor my curiosity, I'll humor yours, though I'm sure you'll regret having asked."
Viktor turned his gaze away, cheeks flaring a brilliant shade of red. "I...cannot."
Bill sat up abruptly at the admission. It was so abrupt that Viktor didn't quite turn away before the redhead saw how flushed his face had become over the conversation. The blue eyes that locked his own made his mouth run dry. He couldn't turn away, even from the smell of smoke and liquor on Bill's breath. "Hey, Viktor."
"Yes?" Viktor croaked, cursing his pulse and his inability to speak properly. He was sure his accent was handicap enough.
"You... Could it be that you fancy blokes?"
Viktor's flush spread back to his ears and up to his hairline. Bill only seemed encouraged by the nonverbal cue.
"Could it be that...you fancy gingers?"
Viktor tried to deny it, but could only squeak.
"Charlie?" he asked.
What?! "No! You idiot!" he blurted out before he could stop himself. He blurted it too quickly. He knew he didn't enunciate his involuntary admission, properly. If he'd been writing it, there definitely should have been a comma. Possibly italics. As it was, it was just a fast, strangled scream of frustration in which he questioned Bill's intelligence. It wasn't really a good way to admit you liked someone, calling them stupid.
Bill was silent for far too long, still staring, still locking Viktor's gaze with his stare, with his long fingers clutched around the Bulgarian's wrist as if for fear he might escape. He seemed to be debating something. His grip tightened. Viktor doubted he was conscious of that.
'Oh, to hell with it.' If the conversation had gotten this far, he might as well just humiliate himself properly and get it over with. He grabbed the back of Bill's head with his free hand and pulled him down quickly, planting a kiss that could certainly not be described as chaste upon his lips, as clumsy as it was.
Bill startled him by responding instantly and with equal fervor. He startled him further by forcing his tongue roughly past Viktor's teeth. Viktor would have been a fool to deny him. Sparks shot behind his eyes. His fingers laced into that long red hair and he couldn't quite repress a moan. It was a first kiss that left them both gasping, followed by a second that lost none of that intensity.
"I've been an idiot, alright," Bill finally said.
Viktor couldn't help but notice the lips still grazing along his jaw. "Bill. I..."
"Never mind," Bill replied. "We've both been idiots."
Viktor found it impossible to argue that logic.
"It's funny," Bill said. "I fell in love twice in my life, and I met both of the people I've loved on the same day."
"You chose Fleur."
"Sure," Bill said, sliding up on the bed to cuddle Viktor closer. "Proximity being what it is. She was working at Gringotts with me. You were off in Bulgaria. Besides which, she was a woman, and I wanted children. It didn't really mean I cared for you any less, but I wanted an easy life, so I took the high road." He chuckled, remembering his mother's first reaction to Fleur. "I think mum would have preferred I brought you home, back then," he chuckled.
"I am not vhat you need," Viktor frowned.
"Not back then," Bill didn't argue. "But, just because I married Fleur doesn't change how I feel about you. People like to believe that there's only one true love in a person's life. It's more poetic, that, but it's not true. I didn't care for you any less because I chose her. She knew it. In fact, she often teased me about it. Whenever she got a letter from you, she would give me such grief. She called you 'the other man' and would ask if I wanted to kiss the envelope." He chuckled. "She really was something else. I don't think she would be upset with either of us for finding one another in the end. She was too pragmatic a woman to care about such things. Now that she's gone, she wouldn't want me to be alone. I've known that for a while now. Just because I've been alone, it doesn't mean I don't know it. But, no matter how much I thought about it, I knew if it wasn't her, there was only one other person in the world I wanted beside me, and I couldn't bring myself to seriously pursue anyone else."
"You did not pursue me either," Viktor sulked a bit. "Many years have been vasted."
"Well, I'm an idiot, after all," Bill replied, kissing Viktor's temple. "I never thought for a moment you felt the same."
"Since I first laid eyes on you," Viktor said.
"Liar," Bill laughed. "You went on to date Hermione."
"Vell, I still thought you were handsome," Viktor replied petulantly. "But, it is as you say, it vas not until much later that ve became acquainted. I am not so shallow to say I can be in love with a person I have not even spoken to. It vas my misfortune that by the time I did, you vere already wed to my friend."
"That's ancient history now, though," Bill cooed, pressing a tender kiss to the corner of Viktor's mouth.
"Not so ancient, but history is history, perhaps," Viktor replied, tilting his head to allow Bill to kiss him again. It was a wonderful kiss. He curled his fingers into Bill's shirt.
"And, as the past is behind us, shall we focus on the present?" Bill purred against the Bulgarian's lips, stealing another kiss.
Viktor jumped in surprise at the hand that slid up into his shirt. "And vhat vould you suggest ve do vith the present?" he asked, breathlessly. His heart pounded. He had a feeling he already knew what Bill had in mind. The tongue slipping over the shell of his ear offered little room for uncertainty.
"I'm sure we'll think of something," Bill whispered against the moist flesh.
"How much time do ve have before ve vill be summoned for dinner?" Viktor asked breathlessly.
"Enough to warm you up," Bill answered.
Viktor could feel the smirk against his throat. It was a better solution to his long, cold flight than brandy, he thought, by far. It was something worth making a long, cold flight for.