"They're sane. All normal people drive on the left side."
"You're just used to it."
"Yeah. Because where I live, people drive on the right side of the road. 'Right' as in 'correct'."
"Good. That means you can drive Billy and I to the set tomorrow."
"What? No way. Billy's--"
"Scottish," Dom tells the closed door. It sounds suspiciously as if Elijah is laughing on the other side.***
It's getting light already, sky slowly brightening, its edges tinted with red. Dom has both his hands in the back pockets of his jeans, his head tilted back. The air on his face is crisp, fresh, the first traces of approaching summer in it like a distant memory. In Britain, it's autumn.
Elijah opens the door, hair disheveled, pressed flat to his skull on one side. Bed head at its best. "Come on in." He turns, continues talking over his shoulder. "You can try to wake up Billy, I can't seem to get him awake."
"Why, and a good morning to you, too," Dom mutters. Elijah flashes a grin at him, disappears into the kitchen. Dom glares after him, raises his voice. "No, really, there's no need to thank me. I don't mind getting up half an hour earlier to drive your ass to the set."
"Coffee, Dom?" Elijah yells back. He sounds way too chipper for four in the freaking morning.
"Yeah." Dom peers into the kitchen, sees Elijah bent over the sink and moves on, up the stairs. The banisters feel smooth under his palm, polished wood, oiled and sleek. Billy's bedroom is at the end of the hall. The door is closed.
The bathroom is directly next to it. Dom thinks of cold water and grins.***
If the threat of cold water worked once, then there really is no reason why it shouldn't work again.
From the kitchen downstairs, the tempting scent of waffles is drifting up. Elijah's breakfast is almost -- almost -- worth getting up half an hour earlier. Dom tightens his grip around the bucket, pushes the door to Billy's room open and feels the urge to imitate a bad gangster film.
"Okay. Back me, I'm going in!"
A gap between the curtains allows a shred of light to spill into the room, bathing it in a dim, slightly surreal light, lending a bluish tint to everything. Billy's lying on his stomach, covers pushed down, pooling around his waist. The side of his head is resting on the back of one hand, face turned to the door, in Dom's direction.
Dom feels a slight tug, warmth pooling somewhere in the pit of his stomach. He tries to ignore it, sets the bucket down by the door and goes over to the bed. Sits down on the mattress. He feels it dip under his weight, feels Billy roll slightly towards him from the motion.
Billy's face seems open in sleep, strangely vulnerable. Dom places a hand on his shoulder and shakes him slightly. He watches bright lashes flutter, then still again, and shakes once more with slightly more force.
Billy's eyes open. A second of confused disorientation, pupils huge and dark, then he smiles. It takes Dom a moment to swallow past the lump in his throat and smile back.***
Water splashes, cold, the current strong, pulling at the borders of the river and washing over stones in the middle of the stream. Dom is waiting behind a bend, close to the bank where the water stills, curls, turns against the current. Paddle in both hands, one end used to secure his position and stop his kayak from drifting off.
Over the roar of the water, he can hear them getting closer, can hear their voices, raised to talk over the noise. Orlando shouts something, Elijah laughs, and Dom gets ready.
He turns the boat against the current, past the zone with the worst eddies where current meets water turned by the bank. Pushes away. He's catapulted into the river, the stream grabbing his boat, and yes, yes, exactly like that. A rush, and he collides with Billy's kayak, knocks him over. Gotcha!
Feels his own balance slip.
There's this brief surge of adrenaline the moment the boat turns over and he's tumbling into the water, head first, and then he's out of his seat and back up, breaking the surface only a blink of an eye later, pure instinct guiding him. Paddle in one hand, the other reaching for the boat, finding it while he's still blinking water out of his eyes.
Billy's only three feet away, busy holding onto his own paddle and boat. Dom tries to escape, move out of reach and towards the shore. A short distance ahead, there's a sandbank, and he swims with the current, hurries, hurries. No, he's not ashamed to admit that he's fleeing.
He pushes his boat up and onto the sand, throws his paddle after it. Splash. Then Billy's boat is there, too, and Dom tries to duck away, but it's too late already. He's back underwater, Billy's hands in his hair, pushing him down, Billy's neoprene-clad chest in front of him.
Dom contemplates biting. Doesn't.
Billy's grip loosens, and when Dom comes back up, coughing and spluttering, Billy's already on the sandbank, laughing, eyes bright with excitement. The rush, the adrenaline. Dom lowers himself to the ground next to him, shoulders brushing, listens to the odd squeak of his soaked sneakers. Sean, Elijah and Orlando land a little further down, and Dom watches as they drag their kayaks onto the bank, the boats leaving deep imprints in the sand.
"Idiot," Billy tells him. He falls back onto his back, crosses his arms behind his head and grins up at the sky.
Dom turns to look at him, forgets to breathe for a moment. Blinks. "Wanker."
Billy's laugh is clear and genuine. "Love you, too."
The moment is gone before Dom can
think of an adequate reply.
In Dom's bedroom, the alarm goes off. In the living room, Dom wakes up. Although, come to think of it, waking up might be kind of an exaggeration. So maybe he... sort of wakes up, yes.
Rolls over, lands on the floor with a heavy thud. Ouch.
Okay. Awake now.
The tv, sound lowered, is still on. A man clad in an overly bright, overly annoying, yellow, uh... yellow something is pointing at a weather chart, and Orlando groans a protest, twists in his chair. Both of his legs are hanging over the armrest, body curled into a tight knot, his head resting on his crossed arms at a very odd angle. How he manages to sleep like that is beyond Dom. But then again, Dom has the growing suspicion that sometimes, Orlando himself is just beyond him.
On his way to the kitchen, Dom passes by the bedroom, switches off the alarm. The coffee in the thermos jug is cold, and he empties the rest of it into the sink. Item to be added to the list of things to do: Get Elijah to make good, fresh, strong, hot coffee for him.
Before Dom leaves, he runs a hand over Orlando's shaven head, chuckles when even in sleep, Orlando turns into the caress. Kitten.
Dom switches the tv off, kicks three empty beer bottles out of the way, sets the alarm clock for Orlando and leaves it on the table in the living room.***
"You're early." Billy rolls over.
Dom pauses in the doorframe, waits a moment before stepping into the room. "You're awake."
Billy's face is unreadable, his eyes pools of darkness, shadowed. The covers rustle when he throws them aside, scoots up to lean his back against the headboard. Dom can feel the weight of his gaze. "How's Orli?"
"Um. I decided to let him sleep for a while longer." Dom is careful to keep his voice neutral, watches Billy through slightly lowered lashes for any sign, any indication that could --
"Did you, now." Subtle irony. Billy's still staring at him, and for a moment, Dom wonders if there's a hint of betrayal to his tone. There might be.
He thinks of music and sweat and bass, of masses of people. Of Orlando's breathless laughter in his ear, Orlando's body against his. They haven't talked about it, but Dom's quite sure that he knows Orlando's reason for extremely physical flirtation and bodies twining on a dance floor, for open mouths meeting.
Dom's afraid that he knows his own reason, too. Watches Billy and hopes to find a trace of jealousy.
The light is too dim to see clearly.***
"So, Orli tells me that all the two of you did was fall asleep in front of the tv."
Dom chokes on his coffee, coughs and feels hands clap him on the back with more force than strictly necessary. He turns to glare at Billy, eyes just a little teary from coughing. "Thanks. I needed that."
"You're welcome." Billy grins, slides onto the bench next to Dom, and he's also more than strictly necessary. Um. Closer, that is.
"Break from battling Gandalf the White?" Dom asks, leans casually into Billy's body heat. He doesn't think Billy even notices. Why should he? Hobbits are Hobbits are Hobbits are comfortable with physical closeness.
"Yes. And it seemed to me that," Billy leans over, throws one arm around Dom's shoulders while simultaneously reaching for Dom's sandwich. Billy's hand wraps around Dom's wrist, light pressure on the pulse point, fingers of Billy's other hand prying the sandwich out of Dom's grasp. "That it's time for second breakfast," Billy finishes around a mouthful.
Dom is fairly certain that his protest is late and -- maybe -- slightly breathless. He's also fairly certain that Billy notices. Billy's gaze is clear and bright, catching Dom's eyes. Dom gets up abruptly. He needs a new sandwich, after all.
It still seems like a flight, though.***
Bright light, blinding, and Dom draws the door shut behind himself, contemplates locking it, then shrugs and decides not to. Gotta love New Zealand.
He narrows his eyes against the brightwhiteness of the sun, squints. It takes him a moment to recognize Billy, leaning against his car, black sunglasses a sharp contrast to his bright skin. Both arms propped against the car, one leg bent slightly, hips oblique to balance the weight. Someone give the guy a freaking cigar to complete the image!
"C'mon." Billy throws him a smile, and the sun loses some of its impact. "Get in." No introduction, no hello, how are you, no oh, I thought that I could drive you to the set for once. Typical Billy.
Dom laughs, shakes his head. "Good morning, Billy. Nice to see you."
"Oh, yeah." Billy's grin is quick, easy. "That, too." The almost-summer sun is bathing his face in a relief of shadows and light, shifting when Billy moves from his position to get into the car. Dom slides into the passenger seat.
The silence between them isn't exactly an uncomfortable one, but it feels heavy, loaded with expectation and possibilities. Or maybe Dom is only imagining things. Behind the dark sunglasses, it's impossible to make out what Billy's thinking, and Dom feels immensely grateful when Billy looks into the rearview mirror, starts the car and slips them off his nose.
"Can you put these into the glove compartment?"
"Sure." Dom takes the sunglasses out of Billy's hands, feels the momentary brush of his fingers over Billy's palm. Lingers for a moment longer than necessary and wonders if Billy noticed.
"So," he leans back in his seat, "who won yesterday? Elves or Hobbits?"
Billy smiles, just slightly. "You honestly think Craig and Orli could beat Sean at pool?"
Not really, no. "Meaning the cup goes once more to the Shire." It's not really a question because quite frankly, in contrast to the Elves, the Humans are no real competition.
"Yep." Billy nods. "Your own fault that you left so early that you missed all the celebrations."
Dom shrugs and relaxes into the comfortableness of familiar territory, of normal conversations. "I was tired. Just remember that I have to get up half an hour earlier everyday to get your lazy asses to the set." Oh, and speaking of... "How's Lij dealing with having to get there on his own today?"
Billy laughs. His window is slightly open, and part of the sound is swallowed by a rush of air. "He got Orli to drive him. Orli has to drive Liv anyway, so it's not that big of a deal." A moment of silence, and Dom wonders if he should switch on the radio.
Then, "Craig and Orli left together yesterday, by the way." Billy's tone is light, but Dom doesn't miss the sharp glance thrown his way. Probing, searching.
He smiles. "Good for Orli."
"Oh, yeah. Definitely."
Out of the corner of his eye, Dom can see that Billy's smiling a little, just a tug to the corners of his mouth, barely noticeable.
Because Dom hasn't really paid attention to where they're going, he notices only now that Billy isn't taking the direct way to the set. They're on the street that leads to a slightly secluded part of the beach, a place they discovered for surfing. Secluded means that not everyone is there to watch and laugh at their still rather clumsy attempts.
The set, however, is pretty much in the opposite direction.
Billy's eyes are bright, his smile full. "Yes?"
Dom returns it. "Where are we going?"
"Does it matter?"
"We'll be late."
Billy shrugs. He frowns when a car cuts in front of him, but relaxes again almost instantly. "We'll tell them something happened on the way."
"Is something going to happen?" Dom asks. He's not sure how to modulate his voice, what words to emphasize. The whole question comes out as a cross between casual and anxious. Not good.
"I don't know." Billy looks at him, then back at the road. Dom notices that his knuckles are white where they're gripping the wheel. Billy's face is a study in neutrality, though. "What do you think?"
"Possibly," Dom says. And smiles at Billy.
A long moment passes, stretching into centuries. Dom is waiting, waiting for--
"Probably," Billy says.
His hand is warm when it finds Dom's, and their fingers seem to curl around each other's almost naturally.