Sir Ian McKellen and the Christmas Eve Conundrum

Recipient: valerienne
Author: buckle_berry
Pairing: Ian/Billy
Rating: G
Summary: Dom was drunk or high or both, Billy seemed to have been on the same journey, and Ian just wanted to go to the pub.
Story Notes: I hope this isn't too far removed from the request. Have a lovely Christmas!

He woke with a start, conscious of the line of drool tracing from one corner of his mouth into a small puddle on the dresser. The lights framing his mirror still twinkled like all the stars in Hollywood, his make-up was still plastered across most of his face and he had the distinct impression that he had been asleep for much longer than intended, particularly given he had no conscious recollection of intending to sleep at all. He yawned and rubbed at his eyes, smearing the make-up further, before slumping with his head in his hands. This was no position for a social butterfly such as himself to be in on Christmas Eve. He had to get himself together.

Ian loved doing panto. It was the easiest kind of theatre, all good-natured camaraderie and feeding from the excitement generated by an audience comprised chiefly of children. It wasnāt often he had to increase upon his natural level of camp for a role, but Widow Twanky called on all his reserves of queenliness. The characters were a clichŽ, the script even more so, the romantic subplot desperately obvious and the ending unashamedly happy -- in short, it was everything heād spent most of his career shying away from, and it was heaven.

But it was also exhausting. Theyād been packing in as many matinees as possible in the week before Christmas, and two performances a day would be a considerable drain even if the show hadnāt been so lengthy to begin with. The cast were also seasonably sociable, and with all the post-performance parties and mulled wine and egg-nog, the weeks since the show opened had disappeared in something of a blur. Perhaps it wasnāt surprising that a man of his vintage would take the opportunity for the odd forty winks when it presented itself. In fact, the more Ian thought about it, the more reasonable it seemed -- a quick cat nap was probably the ideal preparation for the requisite post-show libations. Yes! He would simply clean himself up and proceed to the hostelry with all due haste, rejuvenated and ready to launch himself wholeheartedly into festivities of whatever stripe.

It was during the all-important cleanse-tone-moisturise routine that Ian became aware of an ominous absence of noise from elsewhere in the theatre. There were no footfalls in the corridor, no sounds of post-show congratulations or needlessly loud Christmas music emanating from the dressing rooms on either side of his own. In a place in which one normally could not move for hustle and its accompanying bustle, the silence was somewhat disconcerting. Ian carefully massaged the face cream in small circles along the line of his forehead, trying to make sense of the situation. Clearly further investigation was required. Emboldened by the soft smoothness of his skin, Ian decided to take the reigns.

He pulled a grey cardigan on over his vest, and, still wearing his stage tights, stepped out into the corridor. The place was deserted, although the lights blazed over head. He walked the several yards of plush carpeting leading to the backstage area and descended the stairs to what was usually one of the busiest parts of the theatre. No sign of life. A chill prickled the back of Ianās neck. Feeling decidedly more cautious, he crept onto the stage. Thankfully, the fire curtain was down, cutting him off from the yawning void that was a theatre without patrons. The lights were on, however, with the set for the first act of the Boxing Day performance in place for the opening number. The place was deserted, and the atmosphere had taken a distinct turn for the eerie. Ian started moving slowly back in the direction he had just come from, when suddenly his eyes widened and he froze. There had been a movement in the opposite wing.

"Hello? Anyone there?" Ian ventured, his voice deadened by the curtain.

Out of the shadows, to Ianās immense surprise, appeared his erstwhile colleague and dear friend, Billy Boyd. "Billy? Is that you? What on earth are you doing here?"

"Ian!" Billy said, smiling hugely. He half-ran across the stage to throw his arms around Ian, entirely unabashed. Billy had always been Ianās favourite hobbit for a variety of reasons; he wore his additional years well, and his delicately sculpted features appealed to Ianās sense of aesthetics. He was good- natured and fiercely loyal, and as comfortable talking about philosophy as he was about football. Plus, Ian recalled with a twist of longing as he pressed his face in the join of Billyās neck and shoulder, he smelled extremely good. "Great to see you. Howās your Christmas going? Santa good to you?"

"Lovely, yes -- look, Iām pleased to see you too, but how did you manage to get into the theatre? I was starting to think everyone had left for the night."

Billy shrugged. "Dom brought me."

"Dom?" The news did little to lessen Ianās confusion. "I didnāt realise he was back in England."

Billy shrugged again, and scratched the end of his nose. "You know Dom. Impetuous." For the first time, Ian registered that Billy was dressed in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, with flip flops completing the outfit. Freckles dusted his nose and cheeks, and his forehead was distinctly red where his hair receded.

"Are you -- were you -- going to a party, Billy?" Ian offered, unsure what other explanation there could be.

"Nope, donāt think so. But you should ask Dom, really. This was all his idea in the first place."

Perhaps Billy was drunk. Maybe he and Dom had come to London, been on a bender, which apparently involved patronising a tanning salon, and then decided to engineer an impromptu visit with the wizard. It did all seem rather implausible, but given the personalities involved, that was probably to be expected.

"And where is our Mr Monaghan?"

At that moment, Dom strode out from the wings, swathed in a large black cloak and wearing a top hat.

"I believe I heard my name." He bowed low, sweeping his cloak across his body with one arm as he did so. "Dominic Monaghan, at your service."

"Dom!" Ian moved forward to embrace him, but Dom stood stiffly, arms still lost in the folds of material, a most peculiar expression on his face, and Ian thought better of it. "Lovely to see you, dear boy. It is truly charming of the two of you to visit like this. I only wish you had telephoned to let me know."

"The element of surprise, Sir Ian, is imperative in my line of business."

Dom was remarkably coherent for a man who so clearly was lost in some manner of chemically altered haze. Playing along was probably the safest option, in the circumstances. "Really? And of what line of business might we speaking?"

Dom gave a small smile. "The recovery, my esteemed associate, of precious things."

Ian was starting to grow cross. He was standing in the middle of a West End stage, the night before Christmas, wearing a cardigan and a pair of tights, having a nonsensical conversation with a pantomime villain and, apparently, one of the (admittedly better looking) Beach Boys. He still had presents to wrap, for heavenās sake. "Iām terribly sorry, Dominic, but I am having some trouble understanding the situation in which we find ourselves. Is there a reason for your sudden appearance in my theatre?"

"Ah, you are a man of business," Dom arched one eyebrow, "and I must give you the credit you are due. I am seeking a commodity, and I believe you may be able to assist me in laying my hands on it."

"My word, it is some time since I have had those sorts of contacts. You will remember, of course, that I abstain even from cigarettes these days!"

Dom was still wrapped in the folds of the cloak. In Ianās view, he had been rather overly generous with the application of his eyeliner, which gave him something of a brooding look that Ian did not consider to be particularly attractive. "You misunderstand me, Sir Ian. I have not come here in search of drugs -- although I would not be so ill-mannered as to refuse any you might offer," -- a small pause followed, in which Ian pointedly did not produce a large bag of something extremely pure and entirely illegal -- "but rather in the hope of a small favour." Suddenly Dom changed his stance, a desperately sincere smile contorting his lips as he spread his hands in front of him in a manner which reminded Ian, for a horrible moment, of Tony Blair. "Truthfully, Ian, itās nothing -- a tiny thing, just a trifle." Dom laughed an evidently fake laugh for no demonstrable reason. "I simply ask that you enter the locked room and bring me Elijah."

There was a long moment of silence in which Ian mentally cycled through the possible explanations for his current situation. Perhaps he was still asleep and dreaming. Perhaps he had suffered an allergic reaction to some of the stage make-up and was in the grip of a particularly vivid hallucination. Perhaps he had died, and this was some form of strange and, frankly, irritating afterlife. He was puzzling over the last option when Dom suddenly spoke again, clearly misinterpreting Ianās lack of response.

"You are asking yourself: why should I do such a thing? And the answer is this: because I can make you rich beyond your wildest dreams! I can give you the power of the most powerful men in society! You will be recognised, admired, worshipped; you will live like a king! All this I offer you in return for that one simple favour. Surely, my friend, we have a deal?"

Ian sighed. Dom was drunk or high or both, Billy seemed to have been on the same journey, and Ian just wanted to go to the pub.

"Really, I do not think Elijah Wood is lurking in any of the rooms in this theatre."

"In the locked room. The locked room!"

"The computer room?" The lone room in the theatre with a secure numerical lock housed an exceptionally expensive range of computer equipment, from which most of the lighting and many of the on-stage special effects were now controlled. "Why would Elijah be in our computer room?"

"These are not questions for you to distract yourself with, my dear friend. Simply secure Elijah Wood for me, and I will reward you as we have agreed."

"With riches beyond by wildest dreams, power beyond my greatest imaginings and so forth?"

"Yes, yes," Dom replied, pulling his hands back inside the cloak. "Now if you wouldnāt mind? You can take the stooge with you," he said, indicating Billy with a nod of his head.

Ian sighed inwardly. "Fine. Billy, perhaps you might care to accompany me?"

Billy, who had been sitting on a giant toadstool towards the back of the stage, leapt to his feet. "No bother, big man."

Ian just had time to notice Dom grinning an evil grin before he and Billy turned to walk out through the wings.

The computer room was located a level below the stage, and Billy trotted along at a jog to keep up with Ianās long strides.

"Dom seems out of sorts, Billy. What have you two been taking?"

"Taking? We havenāt taken anything! I paid for those sandwiches ö I mean, I left money on the counter. There was nobody there to serve me at the till!"

Ian sighed. "That wasnāt -- look, forget it."

"Are you annoyed? You seem annoyed."

Ian glanced quickly at Billy. His concern was clearly written on his face; Billy really was a delight. "Not at all."

"Thatās good. It really is lovely to see you, you know. Itās been a long time."

They had reached the door of the computer room, and Ian turned to Billy with a smile. Maybe it was the Christmas influence, but Ian decided there was something distinctly impish about Billy tonight, his eyes twinkling in the gloom. "Itās lovely to see you too, Billy Boyd," Ian said putting his hand on Billyās shoulder. "And it would be lovely see dear Elijah too," he continued, turning to input the numbers into the keypad, "but sadly I do not think we shall be blessed with ö"

Ian stopped short. Pushing open the door to the room, the first thing he caught sight of was a shock of dyed black hair and a pair of battered trainers resting on the desk. Elijah Wood was surfing the internet on one of the theatre Macs, his legs stretched out at an angle so that his feet could cross on the desk, body twisting by degrees at the waist in order that he could face the screen. The whole thing was completely inconceivable. Ian suddenly had a terrible headache. Billy pushed past him into the room.

"Lij! Merry Christmas!"

Billy barrelled into Elijah, pulling him into a warm embrace while Elijah giggled insanely. Ian looked on in utter confusion, leaning against the door for the support which had become necessary in light of recent events.

"Bill! Merry Christmas, man. I was wondering when you guys were finally going to show up." Disentangling himself from Billyās arms, Elijah turned in his chair to look at Ian with the smile wide on his face. "Happy holidays, Ian."

"You -- you were expecting us?"

"āCourse, man. Dom sent you, right?"

"Thatās right," Ian agreed slowly, edging into the room and collapsing into a chair. "But how did you --,"

"Itās classic Dom," Elijah interrupted. "It was just a matter of time, thatās all."

Ian closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Perhaps this was all some form of peculiar practical joke.

"You ok, Ian?" Billy asked, and Ian opened his eyes again to see two concerned faces peering at him. Elijah reached out to rub Ianās arm. "You donāt seem yourself."

"Iām fine, really. I just wish this headache would leave me alone."

As soon as the words left his mouth, the headache evaporated like dew in the morning sun. Ian touched a finger to his forehead, noting the irony in the fact his clear head made him even more muddled than he had been before.

"Better?" Elijah asked. Ian nodded silently. Elijah grinned.

As they walked back up to the stage, Ian was in something of a daze. Billy and Elijah walked in front of him, arms slung around each othersā shoulders, talking and laughing about the last time they had seen each other in LA. There really was no way to puzzle all this into something resembling logic. Had Elijah really made his headache clear? It had to be some sort of coincidence. Ian pushed his hand through his hair.


Billy and Elijah both turned their heads to look at him, faces animated. "Yeah?"

"Well -- no, nothing. Sorry to interrupt."

Billy and Elijah resumed their chatter.

Walking out from the wings, the first thing Ian noticed was that most of the lights had been switched off. Only two spotlights remained fixed on the stage. Curious. The second thing he noticed was Dom, emerging once again from the wings with his black cloak fluttering around him. In the gloom outside the lights, it was harder to make him out, although his eyes glimmered.

Billy and Elijah had stopped in one of the pools of light with Ian just behind them. Stepping forward, he put one hand on each of their shoulders. Billy looked up at him with a smile. Elijah, however, had his attention focussed on Dom.

"Elijah Wood," Dom hissed unexpectedly, causing Ian to break Billyās gaze. "Long have I desired you."

This was hardly an unexpected development, to Ianās mind -- it had been obvious to most of the cast in New Zealand that Merry was holding a torch for young Frodo -- but why wait until now to mention it? Elijah seemed less perturbed than Ian, however.

"Whatever, man. Ian brought me, so thatās -- well, yeah."

Dom grinned like a cat. "We had a deal, Elijah Wood. Sir Ian brought you for me."

"Forget it, Dom. We both know it doesnāt work that way."

Dom tutted softly. "Now, now, Elijah Wood. No need to be so difficult. It is Christmas, after all. What do we do at Christmas?" The question was addressed to Elijah, but he offered no response. Dom shook his head and looked at Ian. "Sir Ian, perhaps you can help out Elijah Wood here. What do we do at Christmas?"

Bewildered, Ian attempted an answer. "We -- ah -- we sing carols? Eat turkey? We exchange -- ah -- exchange gifts?"

"Yes!" Dom shouted at an unexpected volume, causing the other three to jump. "We exchange gifts. And you see, Elijah Wood, I have been kind enough to give my gift to Sir Ian already -- a gift, I might add, with which he seemed well pleased." Domās eyes caught briefly on Billy, and on Ianās hand still resting on his shoulder. "And now Sir Ian is giving a gift to me. The gift I wanted most for Christmas."

Dom started to advance, and Ian could feel a tremor sweep through Elijahās body. Something was evidently very wrong here. "Dom," Ian attempted, "I donāt think you should -- I mean, I donāt know that -- for pityās sake, I wish someone would explain to me what exactly was going on here."

Suddenly Billy had a hand round Ianās neck and was whispering into his ear, low and urgent. "Itās Elijah, he has that magic, you know, the magic -- you must know? Weāve all seen it, anyway, Dom needs it, needs Elijah, to rescue him from this terrible predicament -- the island, Lost, that woman, his hairstyle, Iām sure you donāt need me to elaborate -- anyway, it takes magic, Elijahās magic, and Dom used up his share of the magic before, in New Zealand, you must have realised, how else could he -- anyway, it doesnāt matter, the point is that Dom needs to use someone elseās share of the magic, and the rules say, at Christmas ö"

" ö that he can use mine if he gives me something else I want," Ian said ruefully. "I had no idea, Billy, no idea at all. And Elijah ö?"

"Dom takes too much," Billy said simply. "Elijah knows, but he has to do whatās requested. Rules are rules, even if they hurt the people you love. Look at Astin."

Ian pulled back from Billy with a jerk. Inexplicably, time seemed to have frozen during Billyās whispered explanation, and Ian found himself in the same breath as had uttered his wish. Billy and Elijah both still faced Dom, who was stalking across the stage, and Ian still had his hands on their shoulders, could still feel the tremble of Elijahās body. Domās eyes were dark and his face had a look of menacing intent. He was almost on them, and Elijah was trying to push backward, and the lights were hot on Ianās skin, and despite everything, he had absolute certainty that everything Billy had just told him was true. There had to be some way of putting all this to rights, of foiling Dom and saving Elijah. Suddenly, Ian realised what he had to do.

"I wish all this would stop."

As Ian finished speaking the words, Billy turned and leaned up to press his lips softly against Ianās own. Ian closed his eyes and melted into the kiss, hand tightening on Billyās shoulder as his mouth opened. Brief, beautiful seconds passed as a wave of feeling washed through Ianās body.

When he opened his eyes, he found he was back in his dressing room, staring into his mirror, stage make-up plastered across his face.

Ian touched his fingers to his lips, which seemed to buzz still from the kiss. Then he looked round, to his left and to his right. There was no-one in the room, no sign of life. Impossible! He scrambled to his feet and rushed to the door of the dressing room, wrenching it open with force to find the stage manager standing outside. "Ian! I was just about to knock."

The corridor beyond was filled with members of the cast and crew, their friends and well-wishers, exchanging kisses and discussing their plans for the following day. The sound of John and Yoko heralding an end to war spilled out from one of the adjacent rooms. Ianās eyes were wide.

"These just arrived for you," the stage manager was saying, thrusting a bouquet of roses at him, which Ian took without thinking. "I donāt know who theyāre from, but thereās a card. Anyway, I have to finish tidying up, Iāll see you in the Kings Head in twenty minutes or so, ok? Ian, are you alright?"

Ian looked at the stage manager and at the flowers, willing it all to make some sense. "Iām fine, dear boy, fine -- yes, thank you. Twenty minutes, of course." The stage manager smiled quickly before bustling off, leaving Ian standing alone in the doorway to his dressing room. He looked again at the flowers before turning and walking slowly back into the room, untucking the gift card from the paper as he did so. A message was printed in the neat hand of a florist.

Congratulations, Ian, you did a wonderful job tonight, and Iām only sorry I canāt be there with you to celebrate. Have a very merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years. Iāll catch up with you when all the craziness dies down. Love, Elijah. PS I guess youāll be meeting up with Billy tonight, heās in Summer Holiday at the Almeida. Finishes at midnight.

Ian looked up from the card and allowed a slow smile to spread across his face. He was beginning to accept that this whole evening was unlikely to make any more sense after heād given it some thought, but at this precise moment, it didnāt seem all that important. He checked his watch -- half past eleven gave him fifteen minutes to get ready and fifteen minutes to dash across town. Ian seated himself at the mirror and set to removing his make-up. It was time to perform a little Christmas magic of his own.


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