Series: Bonding Your Hobbits, part 1
Pairing: Dominic Monaghan/Elijah Wood
Summary: "I'm Dom, your friendly neighborhood pillow-biter."
Author's Notes: Thanks go out to Nancy this time, for encouraging me to post this here. Also, I'm still shopping for a beta-reader; if anyone's interested, let me know. Have pen, will travel.
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. That means it is not true, it never happened. The author is not claiming it to be true. The author does not know and is not affiliated with any persons mentioned in this story. Nor is the author making any claims as the real life sexuality or preferences of anyone mentioned herein. Again, it's NOT true.
(or How I Learned To Smoke)
Part One: You've got it bad, mate.
This is what they officially call Hobbit Bonding Time. It doesn't seem to entail a lot of time with the other hobbits; we took yet another tour this morning, met some of the crew, then had a very, very long meeting with the dialect guys, and finally had lunch. For the free hour we've got before it's time for our first afternoon of sword training, we're supposed to be taking one of Peter's Serious Breaks.
A Serious Break is a lot like the Sabbath must be if you're a Puritan. No talking, no singing, no video games -- just a lot of mulling over Peter's hobbit pep-talks. I've been here three days, and I'm already sick of the hobbit pep-talks. Yeah, yeah -- we are hobbits, hear us roar.
"Hey, Dominic -- want a cigarette?" That's Elijah. I know because I watched a couple of his movies when I heard he'd been cast. We've been introduced a couple times, too, but in an antiseptic, no-time-for-chit-chat sort of way. I think this is the first time he's ever actually said anything to me; Hobbit Bonding Time so far hasn't included just a bloody lot of bonding. I mean, we've been busy listening to Peter talk a lot, and getting used to New Zealand. But anyway.
Elijah Wood is sitting right over there; I recognize him because he's the one with the perfect eyes and nonexistent tan. I thought all these Hollywood types were supposed to be baked to a crispy golden brown; go figure. He's sitting, perched on the trailer steps with an arm thrown over the rail like he's lived here all his life. When he's sitting still, he could be a statue. You expect him to be calm, and rational, and sort of... I don't know, angelic. Until he talks, that is. Then you realize how high-strung he is. I've heard him talking, and man, the kid can run his mouth.
"No thanks," I say, but I do sit down beside him. My feet are a little sore from all the trekking around we've been doing. I think I'll sit out the next group hike; New Zealand is beautiful, is fucking amazing, but when you've got blisters, mountains and sunsets all start to look the same.
"You don't smoke?" He seems a little surprised, and when he's surprised, he talks too fast. But I like his voice, mellow and with just enough husk in it that he doesn't quite sound like a girl. Plus he's got an American accent, and I like American accents.
"I've got to take care of myself," I tell him jokingly. "I'm just starting out; I don't have a prestigious career behind me like some of us do."
"Jesus," he says, voice suddenly gone all sticky and growling. "Fuck you too, man." He jams his cigarette out on the rail and flicks it away. Stands up smoothly. Takes a couple steps off the stairs and into the short, grass, too green for the chilly weather.
Whoa, okay. I blink up at him for a second, then I'm on my feet.
"What the hell is your problem?" I ask him. When he doesn't turn to look at me, I walk around so I'm facing him. His eyes are flashing, and it's like being glared at by the ocean at night. His hands are balled into fists in his pockets.
Silence. New Zealand birds singing, voices from somebody a couple trailers away.
"Look," I say finally. "I didn't mean it like that." He keeps staring at me, then finally he pulls out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a green Bic lighter. Without taking his eyes off me, he taps a cigarette out of the pack, sets it lightly between his lips -- sensitive lips, almost too curved for a guy's face, the color of sunburns -- and lights it with a careless flick. He takes a slow drag, like he hasn't smoked hundreds of them before. Like he's tasting it for the first time.
And then he holds it out to me.
"I told you..." I start to say. I want it on the record that I start to protest; I just never finish, is all -- because he's still just watching me levelly. A thin, white curl of smoke is drifting up from the cigarette; he's holding it loosely between his fingers. I meet his eyes. I've seen movies, and my mum was a smoker, anyway -- so when I take the cigarette, and take a long, deep drag, I don't fumble with it, I handle it just like he did, loose and casual.
I hold the smoke in until my lungs start tingling, my eyes still locked on his, and then I let it go, tasting it on the way out. Harsh, and cloudy, and my eyes water a little; my lungs shout at me that I want to cough -- that I want to cough very, very badly. I don't though, I refuse... and, just out of spite, I take another quick drag, let the smoke curl and drip from my lips, and then I hand the cigarette back.
He takes it, and he's laughing. "You don't smoke," he says, and there's sarcasm and gold in his voice, and it makes my stomach lurch. I give him my best smile, the one where I dip my head forward just a little and flash some teeth. He smiles back, and the moment is electric, perfect.
And then some cool, rational train of thought cuts in suddenly -- if he were a girl, this would be flirting. The smiling, the cigarette thing, all of it. Flirting, flirting. The thought makes something tighten in my chest, and I half turn away, heart beating much too fast.
"Yeah, well," I say finally. From somewhere behind us, some woman starts yelling for the hobbits. Break over, time to go back to Munchkin Land. And, still smiling, he turns and strolls away.
He's not what you'd expect. What I'd expect. Whatever. I follow him slowly, trying to make my heart slow down again. I watch him walking ahead of me -- Elijah Wood, with eyes like oceans.
* * *
Peter finally quits talking after sword-practice in the afternoon, so that evening I get my first chance to really meet the other two hobbits. By the time the sun has set, the three of us have been sitting around the little folding table in Sean's trailer for maybe an hour, drinking cold beer, listening to spotty Australian radio, and swapping stories. I've learned a lot about these guys: for instance, Sean can hold a remarkable amount of liquor, and Billy can't, but tries anyway. I'm somewhere in the middle, I'd guess; I'm feeling pleasantly fuzzy, but I'm not drunk yet, either.
"So she looks at me," Sean is saying. He's animated when he talks, and I've decided I like him. He's sort of big-brotherly, pretty mellow and open. "She looks at me, and she says, `Sean, I'm pregnant.' And the hell of it is, she was still holding the kitchen knife!" Billy absolutely dies.
"That's too rich!" the Scot says, wiping tears from his eyes. "You have t'be joking!"
"No," says Sean, raising his right hand, "I swear." I grin and finish off my beer; Billy pulls another one out of the mini-fridge and slides it to me. This'll be the... um... okay, well, it won't be my first one, that's for sure. "You guys have to meet her," Sean's saying. "She's really one-of-a-kind."
There's a knock at the door; the whole wall of the trailer shakes, and Billy giggles. Sean gets up and goes to answer it. I decide I like them both, actually -- calm Sean with his warm eyes and friendly smile, and laughing, drunken Billy with his molasses-thick accent and mischievous attitude. "Mischievous" is a nice way of saying he reminds me of a high-school kid, which is weird since he's older than I am. But I like him.
Sean sits back down at the table. "Merry, Pippin," he says, and it's in his Samwise Gamgee voice, which makes me do a double-take, "our Mister Frodo's finally decided to be joining us. You two behave yourselves, now." I'm staring at Sean with my mouth open; the accent is just too weird.
"How'd you get it worked up so fast?" I ask him after I recover enough to make my mouth work right.
"Just practice, Merry," a clear, warm voice says from behind me. I nearly jump out of my skin; I can literally feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. And Elijah sits down next to me, laces his elbow over the back of my chair with a kind of casual intimacy that makes my stomach tingle. "If you practice, you can do anything you like," he says. The change isn't nearly as dramatic as Sean's -- but there's a rounding of the consonants, and switch in the rhythm, that makes him sound like somebody else entirely. I try hard not to shiver, and I pull the tab on my beer and take a swallow so I don't have to meet that drowning blue stare.
"Have some ale, Frodo," Billy says. He pretty much sounds like himself, but he might do it a little differently when he's not smashed. Might. I get the feeling Peter wants us all to sound like Billy, and just wants Billy to sound like himself.
Sean looks like he wants to object when Billy slides a beer to Elijah, but changes his mind and decides to let it go. Me, I don't actually know how old Elijah is, but he can handle himself, I decide, watching him pry the can open with one hand, watching him tilt his head back for a long swallow. Watching his throat move, white and smooth. My mouth suddenly feels a little dry, and I take a long drink of my own beer. Which is, when I set it back on the table, almost empty. Already.
"So tell us something about yourself, Lij," Billy says. Elijah sets his can down and leans back in his chair, crossing his legs casually under the table. Lij, hmm. It's sort of French sounding if you listen to it by itself and don't pay attention to the name it comes from. Lij. I like it, I think -- and since the nickname doesn't seem to bother Mr. Wood, I decide to stick with it.
"Hmm," Lij says. And when he smiles, he suddenly seems amazingly self-conscious. Almost innocent, and never mind the beer in front of him. His hair is messed up -- the bed-head look, somebody told me once -- and he seems even younger than before. Like some crazy kind of angel, with a voice that could put you to sleep, that you could listen to forever.
"What do you want to know?" Lij asks. Lij, Lij, Lij. Yes, I definitely like the nickname. He pulls out his crunched pack of cigarettes, slides one out, and pauses, looking at Sean questioningly.
"Sure," Sean says. "Go ahead. And we've been talking about old romances. The girls back home." Which isn't exactly right; Sean had been talking about his wife, and Billy and I had been listening. But close enough.
Lij slips his cigarette between his lips, pulls out the green Bic and lights the end. He takes a long, satisfied drag, glances at me, and then leans forward, addressing Sean and Billy.
"I left a girl in L.A.," Lij says after a long moment. And then he pauses.
"Go on," Billy says, waving a hand encouragingly. Oh yeah, he's drunk. If he were in a kiddie movie, he'd be hiccupping like crazy.
Lij goes on. "She's amazing," he says slowly. "Electric. Everything about her takes my breath away. Dark hair, amazing body -- you guys know the type. It was love at first sight." Billy's nodding, a wistful little smile on his face, but Sean is sitting very still, frowning thoughtfully. "And she has these unbelievable gray eyes..." Lij pauses, tucks the cigarette-pack back into the pocket of his day-wrinkled, button-up shirt. He looks back up at Billy. "They're the color of the sky in winter, so when she smiles, it's like watching clouds in a thunderstorm. Like watching the sky break open." He blows smoke gently, takes a drink of his beer.
"Wow," Billy whispers after a moment. "You've got it bad, mate." Awe in his voice.
"Yeah," Lij says. He finishes his cigarette in one more long drag. "I do."
Part Two: Not everybody here is gay.
I rub the grit out of my eyes and lay very still, my head throbbing.
God. Make that "throbbing with overtones of fire and a dash of blinding pain for flavor." I open my eyes warily, nearly cry with relief when no glaring light stabs its way into my retinas. Okay, next problem. Where the fuck am I? Strange ceiling. Roundish, small window above me. Billy Boyd snoring next to me.
What the...? I sit up, wondering--
"FUCK me!" It comes out through my clenched teeth, and between the flashes of red behind my eyes, I congratulate myself on not screaming.
Billy mutters something in his sleep and rolls over, facing away from me. I press my hand down on the bridge of my nose, trying to make the room stop spinning, or at least make the stabbing feeling go away, because--
"Morning," he says.
It's Lij -- I can tell just by the sound of his voice. I mutter something unintelligible, and he laughs softly. I move my hand and look around. Sean's trailer, I realize belatedly.
I look back at Lij. He's sitting at the table and smoking yet another cigarette -- I wonder, vaguely, how many he goes through a day. His hair's really and truly mussed now, and those blue eyes are a little blood-shot. His shirt's unbuttoned carelessly, red boxer-hem peeking out above the waistline of his jeans. I make myself stop staring at him, stop tracing the muscles lightly-sketched across his stomach, his chest. Stop, stop, stop. I nearly shake my head, but catch myself in time and just give a little half-moan. Motion is a bad idea.
"Coffee," he says. And now that he points it out, I can smell it.
"Yeah," I say, "please." I rub at my eyes, stretch, and take a better look around. We're on the couch, I observe after staring blankly for a long thirty seconds. Ha. "Didn't know these folded out," I mutter, my voice hoarse. Billy's laid out next to me and snoring loud enough to wake the dead; I finally notice Sean, sprawled on his stomach on my other side. Hmm.
"Here," Lij says. He hands me a Styrofoam cup of coffee from his chair near the table; the cup is almost warm enough to burn my hands. I take a big swallow; it burns all the way down, and I feel better almost immediately.
"Thanks," I say gratefully. I stand up after I've drained half my cup, I step over Sean, and I take a seat across the table from Lij, who's smoking and drinking coffee at the same time. "What time is it?"
"Five-something," he says. And I guess the shock shows on my face, because he laughs.
"What the hell am I doing up this early?" I ask. I don't mean it hypothetically. Lij shrugs his thin shoulders; the shirt slides over his chest, and I swallow and stare at my coffee. I can feel his eyes boring into me.
"S'not so early," he says thoughtfully. "They'll be here to wake us up in maybe ten minutes. How'd you sleep?"
"Like a log," I say. "Christ, mate, I haven't slept so soundly in years; it's just that the waking up part is a little rocky." I take another scorching drink and sigh. "Any idea what time we got to bed?"
I didn't see him drink much last night, but he must be a little fuzzy about it all, too, because thinks about it for a long moment before he answers.
"I finally dropped off around three," he says finally. "I stayed up talking with Sean. But I think you collapsed at two or so, just after Billy did." He stands up, coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other. "I'm going to go shower and stuff," he says. He catches the doorknob with his elbow and backs out onto the trailer stairs. And, holding the door open with one foot, he pauses. "Just a word of advice, from somebody who's been on location before," he says with the ghost of a smile.
"What?" I ask, because he's waiting for me to say something.
"If you're going to start making out with your cast-mates this early in the picture," he says, "you probably oughta make sure you've got a couple condoms and some lube handy from now on. You don't want to go out begging for supplies in the middle of the night, `cause it'll be all over the set the next day if you do."
What the fuck...?
"Catcha later," he adds, and he's away down the steps. The door swings shut behind him.
I take a deep breath, my brain objecting to the strain of trying to figure out what the hell he just told me. "Making out..." I repeat slowly. Hmm. "Who the hell would I have snogged last night?" I wonder aloud. Well, it could have been--
Billy's snoring hits a sudden crescendo and cuts off my train of thought. Good lord. It's a wonder I got any sleep at all, with him buzz-sawing right beside me all night...
And, suddenly, the morning grogginess burns itself away in a surge of panic.
"Oh, fuck," I whisper.
* * *
Espionage and subtlety are not my strong-points. After trying to drop some hints all through dialect training, and through sword-practice, and through yet another hobbit pep-talk, my patience is gone. I grab lunch from the catering people and plant myself across the table from Billy before Lij and Sean can get through the line.
"Billy," I say immediately, putting my elbows on the table and leaning forward so nobody else will hear me, "what happened last night?"
He just blinks at me. "What?"
"What happened last night?" I repeat, toning down the urgency a little. I don't want the guy to think I'm a total nut-job.
"Well, mate," he says slowly, a smile in his eyes, "I'd call it getting plastered, though the technical term for it would be Hobbit Bonding."
"Well, no, that's not what I meant," I say, suddenly feeling awkward and a little sick. My face is burning, I can feel it. "I mean, did you... did I..."
"Did you what?" Sean asks, sitting down next to me. His plate is full of food and then some; Peter's been fretting about his Samwise still looking too thin, despite Sean's having put on some considerable weight before flying out.
"Nothing," I say a little too quickly. "Never mind."
Billy's not about to drop it, though. "Dominic here seems to think something went on last night, only he was too smashed to remember it." He's grinning from ear to ear.
"Come off it, Billy," Sean says, laughing. "You were drunker than the rest of us put together; you wouldn't know it if little green men landed in my trailer last night."
"All right," Billy says, still grinning cheerfully. "But still, Dom's worried about something."
"What's the problem?" Lij asks as he sits down. Billy opens his mouth, but Sean beats him to it.
"Just chatting about last night," Sean says. Bless you, Sean!
"Oh," Lij says. And, surprise surprise, he lights a cigarette. "Well, what about it?" he asks when nobody volunteers anything.
"Dom seems to think `something' went on last night," Billy says with a Cheshire grin. "He seems pretty worried about it, too -- must be pretty scandalous." He drawls the last word; his accent must thicken when he's being an ass, I think sourly.
"Scandalous how?" Lij asks, tone blandly curious. Whoa, okay. Hold it.
"What?" I say, incredulous, staring at Lij. He meets my gaze innocently enough. "But you're the one who brought it up! This morning, at Sean's, you said..." I trail away, feeling my face color.
"Did I?" Lij asks, frowning just a little like he's trying to remember. You little fuck! my mind screams. You absolute little wanker -- screwing with my head! What the hell did I ever do to you?
"Yeah," I say, making my voice as pleasant as possible. "You did, actually." And, what the fuck, I might as well play it off. No other way out of this without looking like a total psychopath. I pretend to count on my fingers, smiling faintly and seething inside. "Well, since Sean's a married man, whatever the scandalous-and-now-forgotten event was, it must've involved me and Billy."
Billy just laughs. "I can't remember, mate -- but you're probably right," he says, shrugging. My stomach clenches. His tone is absolutely level; he's smiling, but he means it. He really fucking means he could've spent last night making out with me. It doesn't even fucking phase him. I manage to keep grinning, but I have to shove my hands under the table so Billy and Lij won't see them shaking.
Lij. Lij is staring daggers at me, and I'm fucked if I know why. It's Billy I'm incriminating, not Lij, and hell, this is all Lij's fault, anyway! I quit looking at Lij. Sean is frowning, and he keeps glancing back and forth from Lij to me. He opens his mouth to say something, but I cut him off.
"Well, it's going to be one hell of a film, isn't it, mates?" I say, a little too brightly. "I just hope the on-set romances don't get in the way." I force a wink at Billy, and I stand up. I turn and walk away, feeling three sets of eyes following me as I go.
* * *
Dinner is tense.
Let me rephrase that. For Billy and Sean, dinner is tense. For me, it's nightmarish -- though Lij is utterly unaffected, or seems that way as far as I can tell. Peter is keeping an eye on us from his table; he can tell all is not right in hobbit-land, and it's making him jumpy. Which makes two of us.
"You're all invited back for a beer or two after dinner," Sean says finally, determinedly cutting a nice, comfortable hole in the silence. Billy seems relieved.
"I'll be there," he says quickly, nodding for emphasis. I don't think anything could keep the guy down for long.
I open my mouth and start to decline, when Lij catches my eye. And he smirks very, very slightly, and lightning flashes through the blue. The little fuck is actually laughing at me!
"Me, too," I say, ripping my eyes away from Lij. "I'm coming. Need me to get anything?" I ask Sean. He shakes his head.
"I think we're set; we've still got some Foster's and maybe some Bud left," he says. He's not missing the tension; he's ignoring it.
"Great," Lij says.
"Yeah," Sean says. And he suddenly blinks. "Oh! I just remembered." He stands up and claps a hand on Billy's shoulder. "Billy, I meant to get a couple notes from you about dialect stuff -- would you mind coming over a little early?" Lij doesn't see it, because he's facing the wrong way, but I catch it when Sean mouths "now" at Billy, and adds a little squeeze to his shoulder.
Billy's surprisingly smooth about it. "Sure," he says. And he rubs his nails on his shirt as he stands up, blowing at them smugly. "'Cos, after all, I've got all this hobbit-speak business down." He laughs, tips a wink at me, and heads back towards the trailers with Sean.
"If Sean wasn't married," Lij says as soon as they're out of earshot, "I'd think there was romance in the air."
"Come off it, mate," I say, not bothering to sound any more cheerful than I feel. "Not everybody here is gay." He pauses for long enough that I start to feel a little nervous, so I push it. "Right?"
"Yeah," he says. He blows smoke at me, from his ever-present cigarette, and I blink through it. "Sean's not." He pauses to consider. "At least, not probably, since he's married. And Peter's not," he adds thoughtfully. His tone is mild, but there's tension under it.
"And what about you?" I demand. Ouch. I regret it before I'm done saying it.
"Fuck you," he snarls. Yeah, I deserved that one. All right. Let's try again.
"Well, I'm not," I say. "Bent, I mean. I'm straight." And I wince -- I sound like a bratty twelve-year-old. What a conversation! Jesus. He looks at me, eyes frozen, and takes a drag off that fucking cigarette.
"Sure," he says finally. And there's something like broken glass in his voice -- it's sarcasm and hurt, and it makes my heart sink. Which makes me mad. Tense silence for a few heartbeats, and then--
"You're jealous!" I say in the same instant I think of it. And it sounds right.
"I'm not jealous," he says quietly. He puts out his cigarette, produces another one and lights it smoothly. "Christ, I was just fucking with you."
"You're jealous!" I repeat, not about to be waylaid now.
"What the fuck do I have to be jealous of?" he asks coolly, tucking the lighter -- that same green Bic -- back into his pocket.
"Billy! Billy kissed me last night, or snogged me, or something, and -- and so now you're mad because it was him instead of you!"
"Right," Lij says, voice heavy with irony. There's something strange in the way he's looking at me, but I don't care. My heart's racing.
"Yeah, it *is* right!" I say. I know I'm talking a little too loud, but I can't help it. "Billy's bent, right? And I was smashed, so there's no telling what I did, what kind of mistake I might have made, and then..."
The look on his face finally stops me.
"You didn't make any `mistakes' last night, Dom," he growls. His voice is like sandpaper, like watching a fire burn, only in sound instead of color. It takes my breath away, freezes me solid. "Fuck, Dom. Think about it. If you're straight, a few beers isn't going to change that. I was just fucking with you, man. Nothing happened last night."
I stare at him, amazed. He stands up gracefully, even smiles just a little, though his eyes are still frosty.
"Nothing happened," he says again, not looking at me.
And then he's gone. I clench and unclench my teeth, put my head in my hands.
Part Three: You really don't remember, do you?
I go for a long walk away from the circle of trailers and little buildings -- don't tell anybody I'm leaving, just take off. Peter'd have my head if he knew, but I need some serious time alone. I jog through the trees and over a couple short hills, trying to chase Elijah Wood out of my blood. I can smell his cigarette smoke on my skin; I see his gleaming, too-blue eyes every time I close my own gray ones. And the running helps some, but not enough; when I'm too tired to keep going, I come back to set and drop by my trailer for a cold shower. I don't feel much better.
The sun is down when I finally get headed towards Sean's trailer. As soon as it comes into view, I see Lij coming down the steps, and he sees me. He stops. He looks at me for a long moment, and I toy with the idea of waving a hello -- but before I can move he turns and heads off the other direction. I almost chase after him, but change my mind -- let the creepy little prick go pout, if that's what he wants, I decide. I trot the rest of the way to the trailer and up the stairs, and I let myself in without knocking.
Sean and Billy are talking, sitting at the little round table when I step inside. Billy glances up at me and stops in mid-sentence.
"Hey, Dom," Sean says. He's not smiling. I walk over and sit down; as soon as I do, Billy stands up and walks out. Not one word -- he just goes. Whoa.
What the fuck is going on?
"Was it something I said?" I ask, trying for a half-hearted joke. Sean shakes his head at me, like he can't figure me out.
"What *didn't* you say, Dom?" he asks, his voice a little incredulous. I blink.
"If this is about lunch, I didn't mean--"
"Last night," Sean says. Right, let's take the direct route, then.
"Yeah, like I said," I start. "About the whole kissing Billy thing, I didn't mean it. Even if it did happen, I don't--"
"*What*?" Sean's eyes are wide open, staring at me in surprise. I think it's the most out-of-sorts I've seen him yet. I swallow, take a deep breath, and try again.
"This morning," I start slowly, feeling very small and unsure under that startled brown gaze. "This morning, Lij said Billy kissed me last night, and..." Sean is shaking his head, and I stop talking and swallow again.
"I don't know what Lij or anybody else has told you, but it wasn't you and Billy who kissed." He pauses, looking at me hard. "It was you and Elijah, Dom."
My heart stops.
"You really don't remember, do you?" he says, not really expecting an answer. Which is good, because the whole world is spinning around under me, and I can't breathe. There's a fuzzy sort of tingling behind my eyes, like I'm on the edge of remembering something. With Billy it could've been a joke, but Lij... No. Please, don't do this, I think; I'm not sure who I'm addressing -- probably myself. I close my eyes, trying to will it all away.
"I don't know what you've been thinking or what you've been telling yourself," Sean says carefully, in a voice that's sincerely concerned. And I hate him for it -- I could have refused to believe him, refused to listen, if he'd been angry, or... or anything. But he means it. God. "Elijah loves you, Dominic. No, don't look away -- listen to me. He's young, and he's in love. Since he met you. He fell hard, almost overnight -- he told me so himself. He'd do anything for you, Dom, even if he doesn't show it -- and from what I've seen, I don't blame him for keeping it hidden. Last night, you two... You did a lot, Dom. And if me and Billy hadn't been there, you probably would have done a whole lot more."
And even as he says it, that tingling behind my eyes turns into a full-blown memory. Of warm, satin lips on mine, and of wanting and lust, and of smooth white skin -- of my hands on that skin, and of hands on me, and of ragged breathing and smothered laughter and -- oh -- and of electric eyes the color of the sky, the ocean, of ice and blue fire. Lij's eyes.
"God," I whisper, throat dry. What did I -- what did *we*...? I can't make myself ask. Sean keeps talking.
"And now he's hurting," he says softly, "because he loves you, and because you don't remember anything about last night -- and last night meant the world to him, believe me. So whether you meant to or not, you turned him down, Dom. You just sort of brushed him off." He doesn't look at me, just gazes at his hands on the table. Long, long, impossible silence.
"I know it's crazy and fast, but he fell in love, and you broke his heart," Sean says finally, apparently deciding I need everything spelled out for me. Which, I guess, I do. I try to let it sink in, try to get my mind around it. And then, suddenly, I remember something--
"But Sean, he's got a girlfriend! He said so last night." I say it, and the words hurt coming out; something balls itself up, tight and angry inside my stomach, even as a crazy kind of relief floods over me. I feel like I'm drowning, and Sean looks up at me, incomprehension and worry written on his face. "The LA girl," I say quickly -- too quickly. "The one with -- with the eyes. What did he say? She had eyes like..." I'm shaking.
"Dom," he says, not so gently now, "shut up for half a second and think about it. Dark hair, Elijah said, and eyes like a thunderstorm." And he smiles, looking a little sad and wistful all at once. "Eyes like the sky in winter," he says. "Look in the mirror, mate."
Oh. Well fuck me. How the *hell* did I miss that? But I'm answering myself aloud almost before I finish the thought-- "I missed it on purpose," I'm saying. "On purpose, because I was scared, so I wouldn't have to deal with... with... oh, God, Sean."
And Sean's voice is somber when he goes on, somber but sympathetic again. So that's one of the other hobbits who doesn't hate me, at least. "You can turn him down, Dom, if you want to," he says. "Nobody's going to think any less of you; hell, most of the cast won't even know! It's still hobbit-training time, anyway." He reaches around behind him, grabs a beer, and opens it for me. I take it and pull down a long swallow, and the shaking quiets some. Damn, a few dozen more of these and I might start feeling like myself again.
"So what do I do?" I ask, more to get my mind working than to get Sean's advice. But he gives it anyway.
"Well. Don't worry about Billy, for one thing. Once he figures out you're just confused and not trying to screw with Lij for the hell of it, he'll be fine." He gets himself a beer, takes a quick drink, and sets it down on the table. "I'm not sure what to tell you to do about Elijah." Another quick drink, a thoughtful frown, and then-- "But I can give you this, at least. What you *don't* do," Sean says, those penetrating brown eyes locked on me. "What you don't do is walk away from him because you think you're straight. Because, Dom -- you kissed him first, not the other way around."
"Fuck," I murmur, and down the rest of my beer in one magnificently, desperately long swallow. "I think I'm going to need another one, mate," I say.
"Yeah," he says. And now, finally, he's smiling again.
* * *
When I finally feel courageous enough -- or buzzed enough -- I leave to let Sean get some sleep, and I go out looking for Lij. The trailer stairs down from Sean's aren't a problem, and it's kind of a relief; it means I'm not drunk enough that I'll forget talking to Sean. Which is a good thing, because I sure as fuck don't want to go back and do that all over again.
I scan the immediate area, don't see anybody. The night air is cool and the stars are unbelievable. I mean, they're absolutely amazing -- I'm walking along with my head tipped back, staring, letting my feet steer me; we don't get this kind of show back home, not even way away from the cities, out in sheep-country. Walking, walking, walking and loving it -- until I hit something and stub the fuck out of my toe, that is. When I nearly stumble over the steps to my own trailer, I decide to sit down.
So I'm not piss-drunk, but I'm tipped. Okay. Right.
It's quiet. Quiet, and chilly, too; my breath puffs out in front of me, white and crystalline. Like cigarette smoke, only more mystical-looking.
Cigarettes. I look up at the moon and smile. I can almost smell the smoke just thinking about him, and I glance around again. I half expect Lij to be standing there, watching me, ready to make up and be best mates. Or more.
If only. It's never that easy except in movies and books, is it?
Lij. Lij, with eyes you could drown in, and a perfect smile, and hair that looks like brown fur and silk all dusted with gold, or maybe silver. With a voice that could talk the giant, dinner-plate New Zealand moon right out of the sky. And, I think with a little mischievous smile, he's a great kisser.
"Mischievous" is a nice way of saying I'm acting like a high-school kid. I sigh, cradle my head in my hands. This isn't easy. I take a deep breath, in and out.
"I'm gay," I try, to see how it sounds. And it all seems so suddenly ridiculous that I laugh aloud. "Hi, I'm Dominic," I say aloud, standing up. "I'm Dominic, and I date boys. Yep, queer, fag, fairy extraordinaire." I'm laughing so hard I can hardly get the words out; tears are streaming down my cheeks -- release of pent-up tension, I guess. "Hey, nice to meet you!" I say, pantomiming a handshake in the air. "I'm Dom, your friendly neighborhood pillow-biter!"
"Ey, well, small world," Billy says from somewhere off to the side. I know it's him before I see him -- the accent would give him away anywhere.
Oh, well. *Fuck.*
But I'm still laughing -- can't seem to stop, actually. This is what they mean when they say "hysterics," I'm pretty sure. I turn around too fast, have to grab the stair-rail to keep from falling on my ass. I barely succeed, and end up sitting back down on the stairs hard enough to bruise my tail-bone.
I know I should be absolutely mortified right about now, but I'm too busy giggling like mad to care. Billy stares at me for maybe ten seconds, then cracks a smile that nearly splits his head open and dives in to squeeze the life out of me. And I hug him back gratefully, clapping him on the shoulder. Funny how you can have just met somebody and still feel like you've already known them for years.
This, I think, is one damn strange way to bond your hobbits.
"I talked to Sean," he says, letting me go.
"When?" I ask, amazed. "I just left him a couple minutes ago."
"Yeah," Billy says, grinning, "I waited around until you left, then dashed back in to see what happened, then came right back out again to find you. I'm glad Sean helped you get it all worked out -- and I'm sorry I walked out on you," he adds seriously. "I didn't know you were still tangling with all this sort of thing. I just sort of thought you were being an arse." And he smiles apologetically, sits down beside me.
"I dunno how worked out it all is, but thanks." I take a deep breath. "Of course, there's no telling how good I'll feel about all this in the morning..."
"You'll be fine," Billy says, squeezing my shoulder. "What you oughta be thinking about is what you're going to do about our Mr. Wood."
I shake my head. "I..." I really don't know. "I guess I'll apologize, and try to give him some space. Maybe he'll cool off some before we start filming, and we can go on as mates."
Billy blinks at me. "You're joshing me, right?" he says, frowning at me incredulously. When I prove too confused to be responsive, he elaborates. "I've seen the way you two look at each other, mate -- even when you're both hurt and confused, there's no mistaking it." And when he says it, it's like the chill in the air doesn't matter anymore, because a warm, glowing sensation is fading in through my skin from my knees up to my neck.
Maybe, I think, this whole mess will turn out okay after all.
"Thanks," I say, and I mean it.
"Yeah," he says, and stands up, stretching. "The weather here really is something," he says conversationally, like we weren't just talking about life-changing decisions that could very well affect everybody on the set, not to mention him, one of the other hobbits. "Cold in the summer, and the toilets flush the wrong way. Everything goes backwards here." He backs down the stairs, the usual Billy-bounce in his steps. He smiles at me with light in his eyes. "Go find him, Dom," he says. And he winks at me, and then he's trotting back toward his own trailer.
I obey; I stand, stretch, and fight back the shaky feeling starting in my hands. No, no, no. None of that, Dommie-boy! Let's go get'm, and enough with this nervousness stuff.
I find him near the woods on the far side of the trailers, nearly under the trees. He's pacing, so obviously irritated it makes me itch just watching him. As I watch, he pulls out a cigarette, slips it between his lips and fumbles for his lighter. The green Bic -- flicks harshly at the end. It strikes -- I can see the sparks from here -- but it doesn't take. He tries twice, three times. Four, five. He gives up, settles for chewing on the end. Everything about him seems restless.
"Dominic," he says, tone absolutely flat, as I walk up. Silence; iron lashes, ivory face -- I can see his jaw clench and unclench. Wind ripples through the trees, blows over the grass, makes his white shirt press in tight across his chest. Ethereal, angelic, impossibly perfect. When he looks up at me, all the stars are reflected in his azure, liquid eyes.
"Look," I say, my voice soft, "I'm sorry."
"Go to fucking hell," he says, tone still even and twice as chill as the air. Staring at me with those eyes, sky and stars forever, forever, he pitches the lighter off into the woods, doesn't blink -- and throws it so hard I hear it crackle and snap into the dry wood. And he brushes past me, his shoulder clipping mine in one warm instant of violent contact. He jams his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he goes.
Part Four: Give me a chance.
I wake up with a grinding headache; I didn't shut my blinds the night before, and the bars of light stabbing in make my eyes burn. Maybe at this rate I can build up a resistance to hangovers -- at this point, it's the most I can hope for. I sit up cautiously, and the world only rocks under me slightly.
"Least s'not as bad as the last one," I mutter blearily. I stare across the trailer, eyes wandering to my own little fold-out table, playing on the tiny, incredibly small chance that he might--
No Lij waiting to hand me coffee today. No good-morning smile. I'm stupid for even having thought it, I know, but I couldn't help it. I feel like I've lost something, like I'm forgetting something, like I've left a part of myself behind. It's strange, because I haven't really gone anywhere. Strange, and agitating, and hollow. God, I feel hollow.
I take a long, cold shower. Throw on clothes, go get my own coffee. Drink it, shred the cup, throw it away. Spot Sean and Billy eating breakfast, nearly go over to them -- I could beg for help, and they'd tell me how to fix this, and-- stop it! Stop halfway there, turn around, and head the other direction. I can solve my own problems. I made this mess, I should clean it up. Right. Skirt around a pavilion and start towards Lij's trailer. Jog all the way there; probably drank too much coffee. Stop at the steps.
I curse softly. It takes about three seconds to make a decision -- and yes, yes I *am* a coward, thank you very much. I take a deep breath and turn away. I go back to my own trailer, tail between my legs, and sit down on the stairs. All this indecision is enough to make me wish I smoked, just to have something to do with my hands.
He won't talk, not even when I apologize -- or at least, he wouldn't last night, so he probably won't today. The over-expressive, touchy-feely scene probably isn't his thing, anyway. I mean, if it was, he'd have bloody *said* something instead of all this let's-keep-Dom-in-the-dark stuff. He doesn't want to talk, then fine.
We won't talk.
I trot back to breakfast. Lij's sitting with Sean and Billy, chewing the end of a cold cigarette. I grab a plate of food and sit down with them. I don't look at Lij, just chat with Sean and Billy. Which works okay, since Lij does the same thing.
We keep the same game going through dialect and swords both -- talking to Sean and Billy, ignoring each other. I can feel the tension; the little hairs on the back of my neck never quite get a chance to lay down all morning. And, a couple times, I shoot a glance at Lij when he doesn't think I'm looking. He's hurting, I can tell. Still. Angry and hurting. I want to--
I want to slip my arms around his waist, pull him to me and bury my face in his neck, I think. And the thought tingles, like I'm thinking something I shouldn't be. I ignore the feeling and indulge the fantasy. I pull him close, and his hands slide around me, warm and tight around my back. I've thought about sex with blokes before, but there's a new kind of electricity to just thinking about--about *loving.* I mean, everybody thinks about sex, right? But this isn't Dom-feeling-randy, not this time. The makeup people are talking to us, but I'm not paying attention.
This is Dom-wanting-a-relationship-with-another-boy, that's what this is. Or at least, I think I do. I honestly... I don't know. It's terrifying. Where the hell did all this come from? Yesterday I thought he was a first-class arsehole -- hell, five hours ago I was trying to wish him away. But now I might as well be wearing a pleated skirt and scribbling "Dominic Wood" in a notebook with a bunch of hearts all over it. And it's not like he's done anything to make me change my mind; it's just me, finally thinking things over. Ha. And I always thought all this self-repression stuff I heard about from talk-shows was nonsense.
I laugh aloud; the makeup people give me strange looks, and I try to turn it into a cough. Billy and Sean exchange glances. Lij doesn't so much as glance my way.
I sigh and try to look attentive. I can't help it, I'm giddy. It's liberating. I haven't felt like this... ever. It's like love is supposed to be, butterflies and all the other clichés, and I can't think about anything else. Like what poets talk about -- like breathing sugar instead of air, or like seeing everything in shades of quiet gold. Or, well, it's like all that if you ignore the fact that we're each pretending the other doesn't exist.
Yeah, there's still *that.* Well, we'll just have to get around it, then. I as good as had him once -- and, according to Billy, I've still got a chance. I just have to keep from fucking him over again.
Um... Er. Maybe not the best phrasing, seeing as I'm still not exactly sure what went on. Moving right along.
The last time I dated a girl was in high-school. There weren't any butterflies, any fireworks. None of it. I'm not bitter, I decide -- I'm just... amazed. It's like being a little kid again, or-- or like discovering you've grown up only when you finally stop and notice your feet are way the hell down there. Her name was Lara, and we went steady for three years. I can't remember what color her eyes were. Maybe that makes me a bad person. Probably not. For all I know, she left me for a girl.
Wouldn't that figure?
I stare out the window as the makeup people keep droning on, watching the clouds skid across the endless blue of the sky. Smoke and Lij's eyes. Only now it's just Lij's eyes and cold cigarettes...
And, suddenly, I get an idea.
* * *
I wait until after dinner. It's hard, because after I get it, I want to give it to him. I spent the afternoon trying to find the thing, and now I'm sure more than half the people here think I'm nuts, but I don't care -- because I got it, and as far as I can tell, this is the only real shot I've got. So now I want it done and out of the way, and let's get one with things -- but, at the same time, I want it all just right.
And, really, it sort of has to be perfect. Because if it's not perfect, he might not take me. Back. Might not take me back. Not that he ever actually "had" me in the first place-- but, well. Close enough.
I wait until after dinner, when the sun is down and the stars are out. The breeze is cool, but not cold enough to bite, and the moon is so close to full you could read by it. As I walk, I watch the tree-shadows bar and stripe everything midnight and silver. I couldn't have imagined it better. You can actually tell the stars twinkle. I stare up at them, all winking and scattered across the sky, millions and millions of handfuls. Unbelievable.
This is his smoking spot, pacing spot, whatever spot. And he's not here yet. I sit down to wait, then stand back up again. Too wound-up to sit still. My hands are shaking, and I push them into my pockets and try to take some deep breaths. Calm down. I'm jumpy, absolutely on edge.
After maybe eight years of waiting, there he is. I see him before he sees me -- black t-shirt, jeans, all of him striped light and black, colors sliding in bands as he comes towards me. Unreal. He stops when he sees me, stands frozen, like a deer about to bolt.
C'mon, Lij. My hands ball themselves into fists in my pockets. Give me a chance. *Please.* He's just within earshot; he'd hear me if I shouted, I think quickly, panicked. I open my mouth, take a deep breath, but abruptly change my mind. The point of this exercise, I remind myself, is to bring him in, not scare him off. I make myself stand still. The wind blows between us.
He stares at me, and-- And then his shoulders move up and down just a little, like he's sighing, and then he's walking towards me again, eyes trained on the sky. There's a cigarette perched between his lips; I notice because I'm looking for it. My heart almost skips a beat. That was another thing I was worried about. Okay.
He stops a foot in front of me, watches me, heat swimming in those eyes -- they're violet and black and stars swirled up. What eternity looks like, I think, feeling dizzy. The wind gusts, making my fingertips tingle, making his hair stretch and flutter, soft and impossible. Now or never, Dommie.
I reach up and take the cigarette away from him, letting my fingers brush against his lips lightly, lightly. And, the world revolving slowly under our feet, I put it between my own lips. It's damp, tastes familiar. Tastes like *him,* and I love it. I light the end with the green Bic lighter I spent every free second of my afternoon trying to get, trying to find somebody who had one to sell me, and I inhale gently. The end glows red; the light reflects on his face. I keep the cigarette, hold out the Bic.
"I love you," I say. Stunned silence coats the world. In the resonating quiet, in the still between gusts, can hear his breathing catch. Can hear my heart beating.
"Yeah," he says. And he moves forward, closes the distance between us. Two heartbeats; his hands slipping around my waist, familiar and strange and new all at once, and I'm drowning in his eyes.
He takes the lighter, drops it in his jeans pocket.
"Shotgun," he says softly. For a second, I wonder what the hell he means -- and then it clicks -- thank God, it clicks. I take a long drag, and then suddenly his lips are on mine. My eyes flutter closed, and I'm lost in him, in the feeling, satin and slick velvet, cool, his lips, but warming fast, and-- and then exhaling slowly, feeling Lij inhaling, pulling the air out, closing my lungs for me. Like being possessed, controlled. Like dancing, only inside out. Warm, warm all over...
And then, soon, too soon, he's pulling away. I take a deep breath, the ground tilting under my feet. I hold onto him, trying to keep my balance, careful not to burn him with the cigarette I'm still learning how to hold the right way. He lets the smoke out slowly, and a breath of wind pulls it away, out into the night.
"I thought you didn't smoke," he whispers. I lick at my bottom lip; I can still feel him there, like my skin is raw. Like he burned into me. Butterflies, butterflies, warm all over.
"Yeah, well," I say. I love you, I love you. *Yes.* And he smiles, like he can read my mind. He smiles -- Elijah Wood, with eyes like stars, like oceans.
Eyes like the sky in summer. Eyes like forever.