Sekrit Slasha

Slasha, Baby is the LOTR RPS Fanfiction holiday fic exchange. This story depicts real-life public figures engaged in completely fictional, false and untrue activities. It never happened. This story is a work of fantasy and satire which in no way professes to express the truth about the life, thoughts, feelings, desires, opinions, beliefs, activities or sexual orientation of any person mentioned herein.

Easy Now

Title: Easy Now
Pairing: Stuart Townsend/Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan/Elijah Wood
Rating: NC17
Summary: Sooner or later, everyone asks how old Elijah is.
Notes: This story is set early in filming and liberties have been taken with the timeline, particularly in moving up the arrival of Fellowship actors and having them living in houses earlier than they really were.


Sooner or later, everyone asks how old Elijah is. Sometimes they wait a while, or ask someone else instead of him, but mostly they blurt it out on introduction. He's heard it over and over, in crisp English and flat Australian as well as the gentle New Zealand accents that surround him these days: how old are you? How old are you? Goodness, how old are you?

When what they really mean is: how young are you?

He gives them his professional smile and answers, "Eighteen." He'll be nineteen before long, but he's too honest to fudge his age and it would only sound immature to say almost nineteen, so fuck it. It shouldn't matter anyway. He's got more relevant film experience than most of the people clucking over his youth.

And it's tempting to tell them so when they click their teeth and say things like, "So young! Are you ready for all this?"

The other hobbits notice, inevitably, and Sean offers to have little cards made up, Elijah Wood, 18; ten years in major motion pictures; now please shut up, but Elijah just smiles his way through it. He has to work with these people for the next year. If he has to prove himself to each and every one of them, then he will.


Stuart never asked his age, and when Orlando says they'll have to do something special for Elijah's nineteenth birthday-- "You'll finally have something different to answer!" Orli enthuses-- Stuart says, "Nineteen, eh," with appealing disinterest.

Peter always refers heartily to Stuart as "our Aragorn", but there have been rumors for a while now that Stuart's washing out, though no one ever seems to say exactly why. When Stuart's in meetings with the hobbits, he's aloof, hard to read, but he seems to know the scripts and his character arc pretty well when he's talking to Peter.

After one meeting Peter lingers after Stuart leaves and remarks, "I wonder if our Aragorn should pal around with you hobbits while you're training this week to build up the rapport a little more. What do you think?"

"I think that'll happen naturally once we're shooting," Sean says. "I feel like we're at the right level for now. When we first meet him as Strider, we're not supposed to trust him, and then we get to know him over time."

"Ooh, someone's been swotting up," says Billy.

"Impressive!" Dominic says. "How about you, Elijah, what page are you up to?"

"I read all the parts with the hobbits," Elijah offers. For all he knows, there are rumors going around that he's washing out too, since he hasn't even finished the books yet. But they're really fucking long and it's kind of hard to keep track of what happens in them, because the scripts are different anyway, and the script treatment is where Elijah's head is at.

"That's a good thought, Sean," Peter says, "we'll put him in more sessions with Orlando, then. That's a relationship I'd like to see comfortable early on. See you tomorrow."

"I think that relationship's going to be quite comfortable, very cozy, no worries there," Dom snickers once Peter's gone. "Well done, Sean!" he adds, giving Sean a high-five.

Sean grins, "I can think fast sometimes when I have to."

"What's wrong with training with Stuart?" Elijah asks.

The way they look at each other, and at him, pisses Elijah off a little. The hobbits are usually pretty good about not treating Elijah like a kid. After all, he's been working longer than Dom and Billy, they don't have any business trading knowing looks over his head.

But it's hard to stay mad at them. Sean gets a pass, he's been in the business since childhood too, lived in Hollywood all his life. And Dom and Billy are British like Stuart, so maybe they can read Stuart better than Elijah can.

"Stuart's all right," says Billy, "only I've heard he's a bit high-strung."

Dom nods. "And he's keen on Orlando--" he evades an elbow jab from Billy. "What? He is!"

"Who isn't," Elijah says, "Orli's great."

"I mean he fancies him."

"Okay, come on, knock it off," Sean says.

"What?" Elijah asks. "Is that supposed to be some big insult, like oh snap, maybe he's gay? Please."

"Tch, that's not how I mean it. Obviously," says Dom. "I'm only saying."

"Then what? Is it supposed to be a secret?"

Billy says, "There's no problem with Stuart maybe having an eye for Orlando, or Stuart being gay, if he is. There might be a problem with Stuart getting stroppy when Orlando doesn't pay him any mind."

Suddenly those vague rumors seem to come into focus. "Is that the real reason people keep whispering about how Stuart might not be working out? This stuff with Orli?"

"Who knows," says Sean, "it's just rumors."


Elijah keeps an eye out after that, and he's pretty sure that the other hobbits are wrong. Stuart does get a little snappish at Orli sometimes, but people generally get a little more prickly around Orlando, Elijah's noticed. Dominic gets short with Orli sometimes too.

Maybe it's because Orlando so obviously doesn't give a shit if people snap at him. He shrugs it off with good humor, like it's their problem, not his. Which is a great quality to have for the 60% of the time when people are just blowing off steam, but insanely fucking annoying for the 40% of the time that Orli's actually doing something that deserves to be snapped at.

Stuart and Orli have good chemistry when they read together, though. There's a little tension, it gives the lines more oomph.

The next time they're all reading together-- with Peter doing Gandalf, Gimli and Boromir, since those actors aren't here yet-- Elijah tells them, "I like what you guys are doing with the interaction between Aragorn and Legolas. It kind of works for the whole Elessar element of Aragorn's character. Like, it brings it out more. It's cool to see that get some play."

Orlando looks slightly unimpressed and Elijah adds, "And it's great to get that reminder that Legolas doesn't react to things like a human does, it kind of shows what's unique about both characters."

Of course then later the hobbits give him shit about it at the bar.

"Unique," Dom says.

"Us, now. We're not unique," Billy says.

"Nah, us? Never."

"Or Lijah would've said so."

"Right, seeing as how he was being so free with doling out the compliments. We must not be special."

"Nuh, plain old hobbits. No qualities to speak of."

"Hobbits! We're like wallpaper. Just, fssh," Dom waves a hand broadly. "Disappear into the background."

"Oh sorry, did I forget to mention you guys?" Elijah asks. "My bad. What I meant to say is, everyone's awesome except Dom and Billy."

Sean chortles and clinks his mug against Elijah's.

"Nicely done, Lijah," Dom says, and Billy nods, bright with whiskey-glow and good humor.

"You guys have created a monster," says Sean.

"But don't think we can't see what you're about, sneaky," Dom says, tapping his finger on the tip of Elijah's nose. "You spent that whole readthrough trying to come up with a way to show off that you remembered Aragorn's other names, didn't you. But what is it in Quenya, hm?"

"Trick question," Elijah says, not because he knows-- he doesn't; fucking Aragorn has a billion names, and Elijah doesn't know Quenya from Sindarin from Klingon-- but because it's Dominic asking, so it's safe to assume it's a trick.

"He's onto you," Billy says, accurately and with delight.

"Only half a trick question," says Dom, "Elessar's only half his name in Quenya, Elessar Telcontar."

"Strider," says Sean. "Longshanks!"

"Oi, you took mine," Billy complains. Dom whispers into his ear and Billy says, "The Dunadan."

"Cheats!" Elijah says, and throws beer mats.


Later in the week, there's a cast and crew party to greet John Rhys-Davies, who's playing Gimli. He's one of those rare actors who's exactly the same in person as Elijah imagined from seeing his work: a big, tall, imposing guy with a resonant, erudite voice and an expansive presence.

He gives a short speech that ends with a booming "Baruk Khazad! Khazad ai-menu!" which wins enthusiastic applause. Dominic practically claps his hands off. Then again he's already two pints in.

Stuart looks nonplussed. He's standing more or less alone, while the hobbits and Orli are all crammed around their table, clapping away. Mostly everyone's in their cliques tonight, sound guys to the left, costumers to the right, WETA people taking up a back corner next to a table full of lighting guys, and everyone else is busy welcoming John. Stuart's basically on his own. That's got to kind of suck.

Elijah gets out his cigarettes, and Sean and Billy automatically move to let him past them toward the door. He stops by Stuart, though, and jerks his head toward John. "I'm guessing that was Dwarfish," Elijah says. "I hope he was saying he's going to pay for the drinks."

Okay, it's not exactly top quality humor, but Stuart looks at him like Elijah just made a farting noise with his armpit.

"Anyway," Elijah says witlessly, "I gotta have a smoke," and he hurries on by and out the door. Thank God for smoking, seriously. It's so fucking handy for social shit like this.

It's nice outside, cool, hint of rain in the air. That scent's on the breeze, indefinable, wet. The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. He really likes those opening lines.

Two more actors and they'll have a Fellowship. Liv Tyler's due any day now. Soon it won't just be workshops and fittings and practice. Soon it'll be the real thing.

"Nick one off you?" Stuart asks.

Fuck, Elijah didn't even see him come out. "Sure," he shakes out a cigarette and offers the pack. "They're uh, cloves. But help yourself."

"Thanks," Stuart plucks one, and Elijah flicks out his Zippo and lights it for him. He can say this for chain-smoking, it's a bad habit but at least it means he's had plenty of practice dealing with the accessories. Everything's deft and certain, the whole little ritual, and he feels way less awkward when it's done.

"Didn't quite hear what you said in there," Stuart tells him, "took a moment to suss it out."

"Wasn't important," Elijah answers, relieved.

"Mmm." Stuart inhales, smiles a little. "Nice," he taps the clove.

"Yeah, I love them. Shame about the cancer," he adds automatically. Dom and Billy started saying it every time Elijah extolled the virtues of his Sampoernas and now it's one of the many hobbit running jokes.

Stuart snorts and takes another pull. He's really good-looking, which kind of goes without saying, but Elijah notices it again. The lighting out here is dramatic: mostly dark, a golden glow from a streetlight, silver slice of moon. Stuart looks great in it. His eyes are pronounced and heavy-lidded, deep set, shadowed and glittery. He's going to look great as Strider.

After a few seconds, Stuart catches him looking, and looks back; but now the light only glances over a cheekbone, an ear, and Elijah can't make out his expression at all.

"Great light out here," he says. "It's like film noir."

Stuart laughs out the smoke in little puffs. "You're a strange guy."


After that, Elijah starts trying to find reasons to spend time with Stuart. Relationships are important, chemistry's important. The rumors are crap, Elijah can't see how Pete could replace Stuart now; it's been weeks of training and meetings. Shooting will start before they know it. Stuart's their Aragon, like Pete keeps saying.

It's just, the rest of them are falling in together so naturally. John Rhys-Davies gets along with Dom and Billy in some fundamental Britishy kind of way that mostly seems based on food and beer-drinking, and Sean likes to hear his stories; so does Elijah. The fact that John, who's that much older and more distinguished, is clicking in to the team vibe... it just makes it that much clearer that Stuart isn't all the way on board yet.

Maybe if Elijah tries a little harder, he can draw Stuart more into the spirit of things.

Even if it does mean he ends up sharing a lot more of his cigarettes.


They welcome Sean Bean with another party.

"Everyone's getting a party. Why didn't we get a party?" Dominic asks.

"The hobbits get a party in the movie," Stuart points out. Elijah dragged him over to their table, and he's feeling optimistic. Everyone's friendly, it's all working out.

"I didn't get a party either," says Orlando.

"So we'll throw you a party," Stuart throws up his hands in mock exasperation.

"Mind you do," Orlando says. "You can have one on my birthday. But you have to do mine apart from Elijah's, no smooshing them together. Bad enough mine's so close to Christmas."

Stuart deadpans, "I'll make a note."

Sean Bean's called on to give a speech; it's not quite the oratory that John's was. "I just want to say how honored I feel to be part of this project and this cast and crew, and how much I'm looking forward to spending time in this beautiful, beautiful country." Since most of the crew are Kiwis, that gets a roar of approval.

"What're we going to call him?" Billy asks once the noise dies down and Sean Bean's making the rounds of well-wishers. "We have a Sean already, and our Sean was here first, he has bagsies on the name."

Their Sean strikes a proud pose, chin high. "Yeah!"

"He can be Bean. Beanie," suggests Orli.

"Do you think he'd let us call him Mr. Bean?" asks Dominic. "And would he agree to never talk, and to always do stupid things to amuse us? Cos now that I've thought of it, I'm not going to settle for anything less."


They don't end up calling him Bean. Sean Astin is just Sean, and Sean Bean is always Sean Bean. It seems to suit him fine. Soon even Peter's doing it. "Get Sean Bean over here," he tells runners. He's also getting into the habit of calling their Sean just "Astin" sometimes. Sean seems okay with that.

Rehearsals are starting to get a little more fraught. When Sean Bean and Stuart play against each other, Sean Bean's lived-in face and his bearing really make Stuart look young. It's like, of course Boromir doesn't accept this guy as the king.

When they rehearse the big last fight that leads up to Boromir's death scene, Sean Bean works hard to sell it when he gives his allegiance to Aragorn, and Stuart's right there with him in the moment, grave and solemn as he accepts it. There's a stillness in the air as serious as if someone's really died. But even though Fran and Peter don't really give them any notes-- "Good job, good job everyone," he claps his hands-- Peter still doesn't look satisfied.

A little later while Peter's working with Orli and John, Fran comes over to Stuart and says, "Let's cut out for a few minutes while they do this and see what they've come up with in makeup."

Stuart looks a little sour as he follows her out.

Elijah feels for Stuart, because Elijah's in the same boat. He's supposed to be the oldest of the hobbits. In the books, Frodo comes off like a kindly uncle to the others, especially in the first part of Fellowship. Elijah's not sure he's carrying that off when he plays against Merry and Pippin and Sam, and he wants to get this right.

In past jobs he's stayed focused on fulfilling what the director wants. But even though Peter's the most important person to please, he doesn't just want Peter to approve of his interpretation, not just Fran and Philippa and Barrie. This is a character that millions of people love. He knows he can never make everybody happy, but he's determined to find a solid interpretation of Frodo, work it out and really commit to it-- he wants to nail it.

It's a hopeless ambition, there's no way he'll satisfy even his own hopes for his performance, let alone however many million Lord of the Rings fans will be judging it. But the only way to get to good is to aim for impossible.

That's one of the coaching things his mom used to tell him that he will never, ever repeat to anyone on this set. He's eighteen and he's a lead in a $300 million trilogy. The last thing he needs is to come off like some kid leaning on trite advice he got from his mom. He knows it's trite. His mom knew it was trite when she told him.

But it also helps. Elijah really believes that it's more adult to do what works no matter what people would think of it.

That doesn't mean he's willing to take any shit over it. So he keeps it to himself.


It seems like every couple of days now, someone's showing up. Liv Tyler arrives and Orlando immediately monopolizes her. Somehow he even gets her to pick a house near his. Andy Serkis comes a day later, so Liv and Andy get a combined party, and while they're all nursing their hangovers, Andy disappears into WETA. Hugo Weaving flies in, though it's just costume and makeup screen tests and he'll be gone again.

There are a lot of hobbit extras around for costume fittings too, more crew, and there's a buzz in the air that builds up to a fever pitch. Elijah thinks it won't break until shooting starts, but when Ian McKellen arrives, Elijah realizes a lot of the anticipation was for him.

And he can see why. The guy is more of everything than Elijah expected, and Elijah expected a lot.

Ian's welcome party is huge, the biggest yet. When he's called on to give a speech, Ian waves off the demand and lifts his glass in a toast. "To fellowship!" he booms, and that's that.

Elijah drinks really kind of a lot. Sean, as always, is keeping an eye on him, and pulls him aside.

"Are you sure you want to be drinking this much? You're really getting tanked."

It might bother Elijah if Sean weren't so earnest, and also, Sean's always careful not to say anything in front of anyone else. He doesn't make Elijah feel childish, just cared about. Elijah throws his arms around Sean's neck and hugs him. Okay, he is pretty drunk.

"Last hurrah," he says. "Last party! Soon we won't be able to do this anymore."

"So you're going to do a year's worth of drinking in one night?"

"Maybe!" Elijah drags him back to the table with the other hobbits and Orli and Liv and Stuart, and plunks down.

He's too sloshed to follow the conversation, he's just aware of the tones of everyone's voices. Billy and Dom go back and forth with their usual rhythm; Elijah's giggling softly because he knows what they're saying is funny even if he doesn't understand it. But at a certain point he comes back to himself a little and realizes there's tension. Something's going down.

It's blurry but he can see it's Orli, Liv and Stuart all bristling at each other. Liv actually swats Orlando's arm, but then she glares at Stuart. Stuart's staring daggers at Orlando. Orlando only looks annoyed, but for Orlando, that's pretty significant.

Elijah feels responsible somehow. He keeps dragging Stuart into the hobbits-and-Orli fray. If there's tension it's kind of on him.

He doesn't know what he intends to do until he stands up and slaps the table, leaning heavily on both hands. "I wanna go dance!"

Dominic pops up next to him. "Brilliant! Let's go."

And then they're leaving, saying goodbye to Ian-- oh god, Elijah's saying goodbye to Ian McKellen when he's drunk! Ian McKellen totally knows he's shitfaced!

But that part actually goes fine, it's crazy awesome, in fact; Ian smiles down at him and while Elijah's making a big gesture to indicate how cool it is that Ian's here and the fellowship's all here and it's all starting-- he didn't know he was going to say all that, but he feels his mouth moving and words happening-- Ian leans and hugs him, just a quick squeeze and a thump on the shoulder, and then he's giving shoulder squeezes and thumps on the arm all around.

Elijah looks around him and leans into Dominic because he knows Dom will roll with the joke when Elijah says, "Ha ha! I got a hug."

"That's all right. You take a hug now," says Dom, "I'm trying for a handjob later." He really is ogling Ian's hands, too.

Ian Mc-fucking-Kellen! "That is so wrong!" Elijah tells him, wringing Dom's sleeve.

"If that's wrong what's the use of being right," says Dominic, towing Elijah out the door.

It's dark, there are light trails through a car window, and vinyl under Elijah's hands. He wobbles to his feet and he's on the wet pavement and then he's somewhere with flashing lights.

"Drink this!" Sean yells, and gives him a Red Bull. It's not Red Bull and vodka, it's just Red Bull, and it tastes disgusting, but Elijah feels a little more lucid after he drains the can. Next Sean tries to press water on him, but Elijah just fakes taking big drinks while he sips it because he already kind of needs a bathroom and it's crowded and he's not sure he can get through or whether he'd recognize a toilet if he saw one.

Then he remembers that Sean is not just an evil water-pusher, he's also a saintly crowd-shover, so Elijah tells Sean he needs a bathroom and Sean makes it happen, bulldozing through a couple of throngs and steering around everyone else.

Elijah feels more human once he takes a piss. The cost of Sean's help to get to the bathroom is drinking the water, "All of it!" says Sean, so Elijah just stays by the men's room because he's going to have to piss again in like two minutes after guzzling that fucking tank.

"That was a tank!" he yells at Sean. "You made me drink an aquarium!"

"I thought you wanted to dance!" Sean yells back. "It's almost one! We're not going to a freaking aquarium!"

"I did want to dance," Elijah remembers, so he does, though he's careful not to move far from the restroom and as soon as he's tired, he drifts back over there. Sean's not there anymore. After another couple of songs and some more dancing, Elijah spots Billy heading to the men's room and buttonholes him.

"Did Sean leave?" he shouts.

"He's going, he's looking for you!"

"Tell him I'm okay, tell him I'll go home with you guys!"

It takes three tries for Billy to make him understand when he says "I'll tell him we've been conscripted! Conscripted! Oh, for-- drafted, I'll tell him you drafted us!"

Billy's in and out of the men's room and then off to release Sean from babysitting duty. It seems as if there's more people crowding the bathrooms now so Elijah ducks in.

He figures by the time he gets through the line he'll need to pee, but then he's at the front and he doesn't have to yet, so he goes to the back of the line again, and then he does it again. Still nothing, but this time it's not because he doesn't have to. He needs to go but he's suddenly pee-shy. Of course! Because it's the worst possible time.

Elijah sinks against the wall, hand on the button of his jeans for quick deployment as soon as he's over it. Fortunately the line ebbs. There are less guys standing around and Elijah takes care of business.

He's almost not fucked up anymore. Still buzzed, everything still feels a little heightened, but he can comprehend human speech again without straining. New Zealand, man. Nobody's talking about coke; the conversation he's overhearing is all about import taxes.

He goes to wash his hands and swish some water around in his mouth because being less fucked up has its drawbacks: the taste in his mouth is foul.

He's scoping around for paper towels and almost runs into Stuart. Another measure of how much less fucked up Elijah is: he doesn't blurt out asking what Stuart and Liv and Orlando were arguing about.

"You've been in here ages," Stuart says.

Elijah scrubs his hand across his wet mouth. He groans to himself; now Stuart's going to think Elijah was in here puking.

"I was eavesdropping on this awesome conversation about the import business," he says. "Did Sean leave?"

"It took some doing, but they talked him into it."

"Okay. Good. Okay." Elijah feels like a dumb kid, getting that drunk. He always told himself it was childish. He still thinks so, but he's also had some great times getting fucked up since he came here. For some reason he didn't expect getting drunk to feel good. He's not sure why. He should've known people do it for a reason.

"Split a cab?" Stuart asks.

"Okay. But I told Sean I'd go with Billy and Dom," says Elijah, "I need to tell them."

When he finds them Elijah's not surprised that Billy and Liv are ready to leave, and Dom and Orlando are out to shut the place down.

"Stuart's taking me home!" Elijah shouts to Billy. Billy flashes a thumbs up. He turns to Liv and Elijah lingers, figuring they're going to go home too. Liv can get in one cab and go home in one direction while Stuart and Elijah and Billy go back to their neighborhood in the other direction.

But "C'mon," says Stuart, hand at the small of Elijah's back. And Elijah remembers about that whole thing earlier. He doesn't think Billy was involved in the argument, but then again: shitfaced. He didn't really follow what was going on.

He doesn't want that fight to revive, whatever it was. The whole point of including Stuart more is to help everyone gel better.

"Okay," Elijah agrees, and follows Stuart out into the cool damp night air while Stuart flags the cab.

Elijah doesn't want to ask about the fight, not when he's still a little out of it and might say something clumsy. So he keeps his mouth busy saying, "I kind of want coffee. It's way too late to have coffee. Maybe I'll make tea. That has less caffeine, right? Really I shouldn't have any caffeine though. I gotta sleep soon."

"Cuppa tea'd probably do you good," says Stuart.

"Maybe. I seriously heard guys in the men's room talking about imports. It's really different here."

"It's nowhere here."

Elijah wonders if the cab driver will have something to say about that, but the guy's quiet. "It's beautiful," Elijah says. "We keep saying we're going to go hiking. The hobbits. But every time there's been a chance we've all been tired from sword practice and everything."

"We'll be seeing plenty during filming," says Stuart. "Have you looked at the storyboards? And they're already shooting second unit stuff. It's looking like a travel advert." He sounds dissatisfied.

The cab stops. Elijah stumbles out, Stuart after him saying, "I'll walk you in. Or that Sean of yours will have my head."

"We'll have tea," Elijah tries to make his voice sound like Dominic when Dominic tries to sound like the Queen. He gets his keys into the door and goes in, closing it behind Stuart.

"In the gent's at the club, were you with someone?" Stuart asks.

"Sean was there for a minute. He made me drink like a barrel full of water."

"But there's no one," says Stuart.

"Nah," he shrugs, and Stuart kisses him.

Elijah only takes a second to kiss back. He's a lot more sober than he was, but not totally sober; he feels looser and kind of uninhibited. It's not a bad kiss. He thinks Stuart is beautiful, he can't pretend he hasn't been noticing.

It flies through his head: he wasn't expecting this at all, and he should have. The talk floating around made him think maybe Stuart had a thing for Orlando, so Elijah didn't expect Stuart to show an interest in him. But he's been making a point of spending more time with Stuart, he's been sharing cigarettes with him and hanging around with him even though they don't share the kind of effortless friendly rapport that Elijah has with the hobbits and Orli.

And Stuart just asked him if he was in the men's room with someone, for fuck's sake. Elijah feels dumb that he didn't see it coming, and worse, naive. They've been lighting each others' cigarettes, what did he think that was about?

Stuart backs off from the kiss a little, nips at Elijah's lip; Elijah can't help drawing in a sharp little breath that grows into a gasp as Stuart drops a hand down to cup over him.

"Nice," Stuart grins. "Where to? In there?" He tips his head toward Elijah's bedroom.

"It's a wreck." His voice sounds hoarse and weird to his own ears. "I, uh-- there's laundry and shit on the bed. Stuff on the floor, it's kind of a minefield."

"Suppose we're doing well enough right here." Stuart kisses him again.

The thing is. He's not being that aggressive. Elijah has plenty of chances to say something or step away. It's just. The thing is... Stuart never asked him how old he is, never seemed to care that Elijah's the youngest guy around, and Elijah doesn't want Stuart to see him as a stupid kid, too dumb to even recognize flirting, an idiotic cocktease.

And if this is a mistake, well, Elijah's still kind of drunk, he can blame that.

Then Stuart's flipping the buttons of his fly and his hand is on Elijah's cock and it's not like Elijah can stop it now.


It's not as easy the next night. This time Elijah knows what to expect when Stuart walks him home, and if his stomach's jumping, if he's nervous, well, he hasn't done this kind of thing all that often before.

He hasn't cleaned his bedroom. Stuart's unfazed and leads him to the sofa, and Elijah's maybe really kind of freaking out, but then Stuart goes down on him and it's so good, and anyway, everyone gets nervous about sex, right?



Stuart receives Elijah's second ever blowjob with pretty good grace. Elijah knows he's not really doing it that well. He kind of doesn't care. Stuart gets off, so it must not have been that bad.


It's like the whole thing with Stuart happens in this weird bubble totally separate from the rest. Elijah isn't around Stuart so much during the days now. Rehearsals have moved on and Elijah's running lines with Sean and Andy, with Philippa reading Faramir. They're getting to know the crew better too, the hobbits and Orli at least; the crew guys who have time to interact with the cast tend to be youngish guys, assistants to other people. Elijah's catching lunch with Kevin and Oliver as often as Orlando or Dom and Billy these days. He's spending time with Kiran, his scale double, working out Frodo's body language. There's not enough time in the day, and the nights seem increasingly surreal.

Whatever Stuart and Orlando and Liv clashed about seems like it's cleared up. Elijah watches every chance he gets and doesn't see any more problems. It's a good thing, because Ian's here now and with Ian, Sean Bean and John in the mix, tensions could blow up fast; they all have these huge personalities. Sean Bean isn't a loud guy like Ian and John, but he makes a big impression.

John and Ian don't exactly argue, but it seems like they're both used to being the guy with all the amazing experiences and stories to tell, so it takes time for that to settle out. Then Elijah realizes he hasn't seen John around anywhere for like four days running, and he asks Oliver if everything's okay.

"He's having a reaction to the prosthetic makeup," says Oliver. "They've been trying everything. Peter's livid."

"Are they going to have to replace him?" Elijah asks, alarmed.

"I heard they talked about it but no one's called any lawyers. Not about him, at any rate."

"Whoa, what? Spill." He picks at his fingernails under the table. "Stuart?"

"Yeah, Stuart. I've heard all sorts," says Oliver. "Cathy says. he's not wanted to put in the time for sword training. Cathy said she heard Stuart say that Aragorn would be a better swordsman than Stuart could learn to be in just a few weeks, so Peter should do it with doubles and effects."

"I'm glad Frodo's not supposed to know how to use a sword at first, I'll tell you that much for free," Elijah says. He doesn't say he's been glad to get plenty of weapons practice in anyway, because even if Frodo doesn't know one end of a sword from another, Elijah wants to be comfortable with handling it. Even a blunt stage sword can be dangerous, and even if they do all the fights with doubles, Elijah will be filmed with that sword in his hand. It doesn't matter if all he does is lift it, it's still a weapon, and practice cuts down on the risk of accidents.

"Christian heard Stuart arguing with Fran over the storyboards," says Oliver. "And Jason said Scott heard Peter's assistant talking to Stuart's agent. Arguing. And I heard it from Ryan, he said there have been lawyers in about Stuart, but I think he may have only heard that from someone else."

"What do you think?" Elijah asks.

"Couldn't say. Only... they're charging right along with fitting him for costumes and everything. And he knows the books backwards and forwards. I heard Peter say once that in the cast, if it came to the books, he'd be looking to Christopher Lee first and then Stuart and Sir Ian."

"Dominic's read them," Elijah says. "He knows them pretty well too."

"Are you going to his tonight?" Oliver asks. "I said I'd bring drinks."

Every night he's busy doing something else is a night outside the bubble. "Yeah," Elijah brightens. "Actually, can I catch a ride with you?"


Dominic is a really comforting person to be around. It makes zero sense, but it's true.

If there's anyone who ought to freak Elijah out right now while he's weirded out by this thing with Stuart, it's Dom. Dominic flirts with everyone. Girls, guys, flora and fauna, inanimate objects.

"Looking good!" he winks at the blank mannequin head Billy's wig is on.

So Elijah ought to be a little nervous around him, he thinks. He's already blundered into one slightly inappropriate relationship with a castmate, he really doesn't need another.

But he goes to Dominic's house with Oliver and Sean and Billy and Orli, Kevin and Don dropping in for a bit and then going off again while Dominic shouts after them, miming disgust, "Fine! Abandon me with these actors!"

Elijah sits on the sofa next to him, and they crash shoulders while they race each other on the Playstation, and even when Dom sneaks a hand over and tickles Elijah's knee to distract him, it's all good.

The thing is, when the hobbits all go out together, Elijah sees Dom with Billy. They joke and bicker and joke some more, and Dominic wraps a long arm around Billy and grins, "I love this wanker! I love you, Billy Boyd."

And Elijah's pretty sure he means it. He definitely gets a vibe that Dom would go with it, however Billy liked.

But that's definitely the vibe: that Dom might put it out there, but everything's on Billy's terms. Billy has a girlfriend back home and it seems like it must be serious. He talks like he's planning to get back together with her after a year apart while he's on this job. And Billy's clear about having a comfort zone when it comes to how much flirting he'll go along with before he puts his foot down.

Dominic always pushes it a little, but only a little, and then he takes his inevitable slapdown with a big wide smile. Elijah's looked and looked, and that smile seems real to him.

Orli and Dom aren't that much alike, but they're alike in this. Orli isn't always pushing like Dom, but sometimes he goes farther than Dom ever would because Orli doesn't even see the lines Dom's pushing, and just goes blundering straight through. But they both have that way of bouncing back, rolling along with things, getting back on their feet.

When Elijah thinks about it, all of the Fellowship do, to one degree or another. When Orli and Dom get short with each other, or when Ian waves the hobbits away with a wizardly bellow, everyone just seems to take it in stride. They make light of it or they just move on.

Except Stuart. It's hard to tell what came first, the rumors or the problems. It's turned into a vicious circle. Stuart behaves like he's suspicious, like he believes they're all just waiting for him to screw up. And Elijah can't really blame him for it when there's all this talk around that Stuart's going to be let go.

Was Stuart acting like that before the rumors started? Elijah tries to remember, but he just keeps remembering how he wanted things to be, how it went sideways, how things spun out of his control.

The thing is, however it happened, it's getting more and more clear as shooting looms closer and closer that something's not working. There's no resilience around Stuart. There's no way to get comfortable with him. Fucking hell, Elijah's sleeping with him and he's not comfortable with him.

Stuart comes over and gives him a blowjob and it's good, really good, but it makes Elijah feel like there's a cold wire slicing through him. He can't relax, even after he comes. He sinks down and tries to pay it back. He doesn't know how to do anything elaborate, but he tries to make the most of what he can do, stroking with his hands and his mouth, steady, matching Stuart's pace.

Stuart doesn't do anything to make Elijah feel bad. He's not rough. He doesn't try to shove deeper into Elijah's mouth, doesn't pull his hair. He warns Elijah just before he shoots. He helps clean up. He smiles at Elijah and says, "C'mon, first round's on me."

When they go to the pub and meet with the others, Stuart doesn't try to distance himself from Elijah, doesn't flirt with him either. He's friendly and familiar without being pushy. Elijah doesn't know why he can't just chill about this. Stuart's got this secret semi-boyfriend thing down. He's not putting a foot wrong, not a hair out of place.

But at the end of the night, Elijah goes with the hobbits to Dominic's house, and when Billy and Sean take off before it gets too late, Elijah stays. Not even to smoke a bowl when Dom offers, though he does that too. But just to be there.

"Ooer, you've bit your lip open, Lijah. You look like you've been up to no good," Dom teases.

"So? You always look like you've been up to no good."

"That's cos I always am."

Elijah's trying not to absorb any of the accents around him, because he's pretty sure it's obnoxious to start affecting an accent. But sometimes it's hard not to imitate. He loves the way Dom talks, the way words roll around in his mouth, the way they sound totally different than they would coming off anyone else's tongue. The way he says cos never sounds anything like an American saying because or 'cause. Elijah wants to taste how it sounds.

"I'll tell you about my no good if you tell me about yours." Dom drops next to Elijah on the sofa and drapes an arm around him.

And that's it right there. That presumption that Dominic can get into Elijah's space, it's not that different from what makes Elijah feel hinky about Stuart.

It should bug Elijah, but it doesn't. He trusts that Dominic would notice if he tensed or frowned or anything. Dom would notice if Elijah's voice got tight or he shifted a little bit away. He's paying attention, and if he saw that, felt that, Dom would back off, the way he pushes and backs off with Billy. But since Elijah does trust him, he doesn't have to tense or frown or shift away. He feels easy with it.

"I don't think I want to hear about your no good," says Elijah. "I don't want to end up arrested as an accomplice after the fact."

Dom clicks his tongue chidingly. "They'll nick you for slander, you keep that up."

"Nobody goes to jail for slander," says Elijah. "Or most of the crew would be locked up. I feel bad for Stuart."

"You've heard, hm."

"Hard not to."

"Yeah, bit of a dull roar lately. Though it tends to quiet down when you're around," Dominic says. "You're meant to stay above all that, you know, you're a star."

"You're a star," Elijah says. "Starring Dominic Monaghan. I know I saw that somewhere. What have you heard?"

"What haven't I heard. Me, I have ears like satellite dishes, I pick up everything."

Elijah tweaks one of Dom's jug-handle ears. "It's like your superpower."

"Rather be invisible. Still get to hear it all, plus all those stealth opportunities."

"I remember reading one time that if you were invisible, you'd be blind, because light has to hit your optic nerves for you to see. And if you're invisible, light's not hitting you."

"And if Superman ever shagged Lois Lane, he'd put holes in her with his spunk."

"Ew. Thank you, Señor Mallrats."

Dominic giggles with the senseless delight of the truly high. A big smile too, teeth showing. Dom hardly ever smiles with teeth showing. Elijah kisses his cheek.

"Elijah Wood," Dom puts on a Southern accent and says his name like I do declare! "Are you tryin' to get up to no good with me?"

"Oh man, that accent is terrible," Elijah laughs.

"And me with a dialect coach," Dom says mournfully.

"See?" Elijah makes a marquee with his hands. "Starring Dominic Monaghan. Now I remember where I saw it. On the cover of your journal."

Dom scruffles Elijah's hair as he unwinds his arm from around his shoulders and stands up. "And why not, then. If you can't be a legend in your own mind, you might as well go home. Speaking of, do you need a walk to yours?"

"You'd go alllll that way just for me?" Elijah asks. He's three doors down.

"Just for you," Dominic agrees. "Or you're welcome to stay. You can come keep me company or kip out here." He waggles his eyebrows. "There's all sorts of room."

Elijah sinks further down on the sofa. "I'm pretty comfortable. Maybe I'll crash here."

"If you do go home, mind you pull the door til it locks," Dom says. "If I'm murdered by bandits cos you left my front door standing open, I'll haunt you forever and ever."

"Yeah, but you'd get bored with trying to scare me," Elijah yawns. "You'd start having fun with it. Doing sight gags. I bet you'd be an awesome ghost."

"Do me a favor and pull the door anyway," says Dominic. His hand brushes Elijah's hair again, but not to scramble it around. He just strokes over Elijah's hair and down his temple and his cheekbone. It feels nice. Easy and nice. And then Dominic's walking away, off to bed.

Elijah doesn't want the hangover he feels brewing, and Sean's not here to make him do it, so he makes himself get up to drink some water. Once he's poured a glass down himself he's awake enough to leave, so he calls down the corridor, "I'm taking off. I'm leaving the door open! Come haunt me soon!"

He pulls the door shut behind him til he clicks, and tests the knob to make sure it's locked, and goes home.


Elijah waits for a moment when it's just him and Peter and Sean before he says anything, but then he can't put it off any more and he's saying it. "I've been thinking about Frodo's relationships with the other hobbits," he says. "How he's almost like a father figure to them in the books. I don't think I'm going to be able to put that across.

"The thing is," he rushes before Peter can answer, "the first relationship the script really establishes for Frodo is with Bilbo. It'd be enough of an uphill climb to make Frodo seem older if it was just me and the hobbits, but I play against Bilbo first and that relationship establishes me as the heir. Right from the start I'm the younger guy. I'm not sure how to turn that around when I'm with Merry and Pippin and Sam."

Peter gives him a second, watching to make sure he's done. Elijah's amazed all over again that Peter manages to be that patient when he's always rushing around with a zillion things to do.

"Okay," Peter says, "I didn't know you were worrying about that or I would've said. We weren't looking to emphasize that. What's more important to us is to show that Frodo's the-- spiritually oldest, let's put it. We need Frodo to come across as the most sensible of the lot. The one who sees further than the others, has a better sense of the big picture. And you're giving us that."

Peter pats his arm. "And we haven't really had to give you much in the way of notes on it, have we? I'm happy with how the hobbits are shaping up. It's good you're all getting on so well. We've been very lucky with the chemistry."

"I'm glad we had some time before the others got here," says Sean. "It helped a lot."

"All right," Peter says. "Let's go again. You're both disappointed here. Sam, you don't understand why Frodo won't see Gollum for what he is, and Frodo, you're disappointed because you believe Sam's not giving Gollum a chance. Take it from 'Leave him alone.'"


"I thought when Ian had his welcome party, that was your last chance," Sean says.

Elijah looks at the golden puddle that's all that's left of his second pint. "Famous last words, I guess."

It really is the last chance tonight, though: it's the last Saturday before shooting starts. Wednesday, the hobbits are on the schedule to film the scene with a shortcut to mushrooms.

"Anyway, it's kind of Ian's welcome party, part two," Elijah reasons. "Did you get to talk to Ian Holm yet?"

"Just for a second."

"He hugged me! I got hugs from both Ians," Elijah gloats.

"Oh man, I'm cutting you off," says Sean, but later he gets pulled into some big talk about football and rugby, so when Billy brings over whiskey Elijah gets one, and Orli buys a round and Elijah gets one of those too. Dominic brings over beer too, but Sean intercepts that one.

"You're coming tomorrow, right?" Dominic casts the question to the table at large. He's having a party at his house, he's cooking and everything.

"Hell yeah!" says Elijah.

Dominic grins at Sean, "All right, I see why you redirected that one."

Ian McKellen ends up with the pint Sean kept away from Elijah. Elijah keeps laughing when he thinks, Sir Ian McKellen is drinking my beer!

As the night gets later, Elijah ends up at the biggest table sitting between Kevin and Lawrence Makoare-- Elijah knows he's pretty drunk because he keeps wanting to say out loud Lawrence Makoare, Lawrence Makoare, just to hear how cool it sounds. Sean is across from him, mostly involved in conversation, but eventually he begs off and comes around and says, "I'm heading back."

Elijah pops up. "Me too."

Sean looks a little surprised. The last few times they've all been out, Elijah went home with other people because Sean and Billy are usually the first to beg off. But Sean's stayed out longer tonight and Elijah's ready to leave sooner, and he wants to go with Sean.

"You're a good guy, Seanie," he says dreamily in the cab.

"Not good enough to keep you from getting plastered," says Sean. "Where'd you even get more, I never saw you go to the bar."

"I have connections," Elijah giggles, and he doesn't complain when Sean goes in with him and makes him drink water again. "You're so nice to me," he tells Sean.

"Are you going to be okay on your own?"

"I'm fine. Thanks for walking me," Elijah gives him a hug, because Sean is his friend, Sean is dependable and nice. There's nothing confusing about Sean. Elijah rides his glow of goodwill into the bedroom as Sean leads him in, clearing a path and tutting about the mess and turning out the light once Elijah's gotten into bed.

Elijah considers yelling after him about pulling the door or Elijah will haunt him-- and Elijah wouldn't be as good-natured a ghost as Dominic would-- but it's Sean. Elijah knows he'll pull the door. He doesn't need to yell anything, he can just turn on his side and go to sleep.


Someone's rapping on the door, quick and drummy. Elijah rubs his eyes and reaches for his glasses. What the fuck, everyone knows he was out last night, and everyone's going to be at Dominic's party, so what can't wait a few hours for--

There's another quick series of raps, more forceful and urgent. Elijah crawls out of bed and into last night's jeans. They smell smoky and gross. His mouth tastes like death, his glasses are smeary, his answering machine is blinking. The built-in caller ID shows the last call came from Stuart.


"Fuck you, Stuart," Elijah says aloud, and slithers out of his jeans and back into bed.

All right, so possibly this thing with Stuart is not as a-okay as Elijah's been trying to convince himself. But it could just be that Elijah has a wicked hangover. If he felt better, he'd probably be up for flinging open the door, letting Stuart in and having some afternoon delight type sex before the party. But he feels shitty. From all the drinking. So Stuart can fuck off.

Elijah stuffs his head under the pillow after the next knocking barrage, and falls asleep again. He wakes up twenty minutes later and drags himself to the shower, aims the showerhead straight at his mouth and drinks for about a year before he peels his eyes open and starts lathering up. The hangover makes him slow, slow, slow, and he ends up pissing in the shower too. Urine is sterile, and anyway, he's careful to aim for the drain.

By the time he's in fresh clothes Elijah's feeling quasi-decent. A cup of coffee and he'll be doing great. He's pushing a filter into the coffee machine when the phone rings. He checks. Stuart's number again.

He's really goddamn determined to get in a booty call before the party. Seriously, fuck that guy.

But if Elijah doesn't call him back, he's still going to have to deal with him at the party. Shit.

The coffee tastes like ass. Elijah doesn't really see why he should have to clean the coffee pot between uses because coffee's mostly boiling hot water, after all, which ought to kill any kind of bacteria before it has a chance to filth things up; but it tastes bad and the pot has several strata of brown rings on it so... yeah. Maybe he should be washing it after all. He drinks a cup anyway.

He'll just go over to Dom's house early and offer to help with the party stuff. If Stuart wants to know where he was today, why he missed those calls, Elijah can just say he was there. Then he'll get drunk and stay over at Dom's tonight, and voila, a brilliant escape from confusing sex with Stuart. It can't fail.

Unless Dominic is out; then he's screwed, Elijah realizes too late, standing on Dom's doorstep. No one's answering. Dom's car is here but that doesn't mean anything, he's probably out doing the last-minute shopping with Billy. "Gee, guys, thanks for asking me along," he mutters aloud. Fuck, now what. Fuck. Maybe he could just wait for them in the back or something. On impulse, Elijah tries the door; open. Problem solved! He slips inside.

It smells like an Italian restaurant. His mouth waters and his stomach growls, clenching around its core of shitty coffee. He's suddenly starving, his nose leading him into the kitchen. Something's in the oven, it's still on and there are waves of good-food-smell radiating out from it. He spots covered trays on the counter, and the shiny hull of a loaf of French bread. Elijah backs out quickly before he starts ripping off aluminum foil and gobbling up all the party food.

The living room's oppressively tidy, much neater than he's ever seen it. "Hey, Dom?" he calls experimentally, heading down the hall, peering into the bedroom.

"Wha?" The covers bunch and heave, Dom's hand appearing over the top.

"Oh, shit! Sorry." Elijah backs up a step. "Sorry. I thought I'd see if you needed any help."

Dom levers himself up, throwing the blanket back. He's dressed-- duh, he's been up already, obviously, getting stuff set up for the party. "S'all right, it's all sorted, thanks," he says, and looks at the clock. "It's just gone four. I have to say, I'd be fucked if I needed that much help setting up!"

"Isn't this thing at six?"

Dominic yawns. "Seven."

"Oh, shit, man, I'm sorry, I mixed it up," Elijah lies fluidly, creeping in a little. "Anyway, I wasn't being a hundred percent altruistic. I was really hung over when I woke up, I feel pretty shitty, I keep falling back asleep. I didn't want to miss it, so I thought I might as well come over and help if you needed it."

"We would've come to get you," Dom says. "You don't think Sean would rest for the tiniest fraction of a portion of an instant if you didn't turn up exactly when you were meant to?"

"I guess."

"We both had a bit of a bender last night, I suppose. I'm knackered today as well, I set the alarm to have a kip before it starts."

"That's probably a good idea. You mind if I stick around and get some sleep too?" Wow, that almost didn't sound weird and desperate at all.

"Course not. You can take that extra blanket to kip on the sofa or get in here, there's room." Dominic really must be tired, he doesn't make any kind of insinuation out of it, just waves a hand toward the spare blanket and yawns.

"I don't want to mess up the living room. It looks nice. The food smells great, too. I can't wait for this thing to start." Elijah kicks off his shoes and steps on the toes of his socks, pulling them off. Dom wriggles over a little and lifts the blanket, and Elijah slides in.

Boom, instant alibi. Elijah relaxes.

"The bell's set to go off at half five," Dominic says, rolling onto his stomach. "Then you can taste test some of the nibbles."


"Mmhm," Dom's already drifting again, his breathing deep and even.

Elijah can usually sleep any time, anywhere, easy as anything... but he can't now. In his head he keeps rehearsing, psyching himself up to say something.

Dominic would be a really good person to ask about this whole thing with Stuart. For one, Elijah's like about 80% sure Dom's bi, and for another, Dom's really loyal and won't say anything about it if Elijah asks him not to. Elijah's not totally sure if Dominic's relationship advice is likely to be all that helpful, but that's no big deal. It would be a relief just to tell somebody, anyway, even though he barely knows how to say it, or what to ask.

Like maybe, How do you know if you're really into somebody? Or flat out: I'm not sure if Stuart's my secret kind-of boyfriend and I'm into it, or if it's more like he's basically halfway molesting me on the downlow. But then he'll have to explain the whole backstory. Though if he honestly wants advice, he'll probably have to do that anyway.

He turns toward Dominic, who blinks awake and squints at him. Out of the four of them, Sean probably looks the most hobbity now that he's put on most of the mandated weight for Sam. The rest of them are too thin for hobbits really. Elijah's gained a little weight in solidarity with Sean and also because it seems like it'll help show how Frodo gets worn down by the Ring if he starts out a little pudgy, but even with daily chocolate and eating every time Sean does, Elijah's only put on eight pounds.

Pippin's young enough to be thin so Billy's off the hook. Dom's been fitted with a padded suit because with his build and twitchy metabolism he'd probably have even less luck packing on weight than Elijah's had.

So Sean looks the most hobbity overall, but Elijah thinks Dominic's the closest match just going by his face. The bridge of his nose curves steeply to a round broad tip; it's like someone drew it that way on paper without really considering how it would look in real life. And his ears are really kind of unbelievably big and stick out, which looks perfect with the pointy latex tips on.

But his eyes really make it. Even without the makeup, Dom's eyes are sort of exotic-looking, a little tilted up at the outer corners, and his eyebrows run straight across in contrast, so the effect is kind of alien, almost. Elijah's used to people cooing over his big eyes but Dominic's eyes look like something out of a storybook.

"What?" Dominic prompts.

How do you know... I'm not sure... What if, hypothetically... Fuck it. Elijah asks, "Do you think I'm an asshole because I haven't read the books?"

"That's not why I think you're an arsehole," Dom grins. He sounds quieter than usual, his voice a little deeper and rumbly.

"Okay, but like, removing other factors. Would you say I'm an asshole for not finishing the books."

Dom has a domed and skull-intensive forehead. It's almost strange and unattractive, but then again it looks interesting and maybe even kind of noble when he puckers his brow, like he does now. "Ehn... for that, no."

"But you think I should."

"Yeah, Elijah, of course I think you should. They're great books, I think everyone ought to have a bash at them."

"It's just that, I've read all the parts with the hobbits. But the rest of it conflicts with the scripts and mixes me up. Faramir's really different, lots of stuff is different. I'm trying to hold the big picture of the script in my head when I read it so I know where Frodo's at and how to show what he's going through for the whole arc. And it feels like the books don't really help with that, so..."

"You don't need permission from me, Lijah," Dom shrugs. "If I thought you were unprepared or coming at it wrong in the story meetings, I'd pull you aside and tell you outright, yeah? But it's going well. We read with Sir Ian McKellen and it was good. If you can hold up with him, you've nothing to worry about."

"I'm not fishing for compliments," Elijah says quickly.

"I know you're not, you're no Stuart."

Elijah's guts jolt a little. "Uh. How do you mean?"

Dom mimicks Stuart's accent, "What about that line reading, Peter, do you think I should be more menacing? No? Less menacing? No? So that was just the right amount then? I nailed it, then? You'd say that was perfect? Good. Good. I thought that was perfect as well. You're sure you thought it was perfect? What about my gesture, I wonder if that shouldn't be a little more pronounced? No? Good as it is? Only good? Great, then? Yeah, I thought it was great, myself."

"Fuck," Elijah says, "I hope you're not this mean about me behind my back."

"You've not given me cause."

"Yeah, but. Jesus. I'd hate to hear how you sound when you do me."

"Ooer," Dom waggles his eyebrows; Elijah pokes his shoulder.

"You know what I mean, asshole."

"Yeah, yeah. It's easy doing you, I just curse every other word and pretend to smoke a lot. So like uh, guys," Dom puts on a passable American accent and fakes inhaling, long fingers touching his mouth, "what's up? Cool, cool... I'm just fuckin' chilling. Shit, man, anyone wanna play Tekken?"

"Psfft," Elijah pokes him again, half-heartedly. "I thought Stuart was just being, you know. Soliciting feedback." Funny, but he really didn't see it as Stuart begging compliments until Dom's imitation made him realize Stuart really does sound a lot like that.

Dominic makes a dubious noise deep in his throat. "Feedback, nice way to put it. Doesn't matter how many times we've gone over a bit, he's always whinging and pestering for Pete to give him a pat on the head and a biccie. You want my advice-- ask Pete any questions you have about our scenes with Aragorn ahead of time, cos on set, he'll not have a moment to breathe with Stuart asking exactly what he thought of every single take."

"Shit, man," Elijah says, thinking of the scenes he has with Stuart. He's been worried about whether their... relationship, fucking arrangement, whatever... was going to affect the work, he didn't consider whether Stuart was going to be hell to work with for other reasons.

"Yeah. And while I'm slandering away at him, I don't care how many times he's read the books, I don't think Stuart's really fitting the part. Aragorn's not meant to be sullen, for fuck's sake."

"See, okay, you do think I suck for not reading them."

"Fuck off, Lijah, I'm saying Stuart's not on form regardless, and you're doing well, regardless."

"Yeah, okay... yeah." Elijah leans a little closer, as if in confidence. "I just don't want everyone to think I'm a jerk for not finishing. I feel like I've got a handle on it. I mean, Frodo's not going to know what the fuck everyone else is up to, right? So I don't really need to know every tiny bit of it either. It's not like I'm going to be climbing up the side of Mount Doom and suddenly realize, oh shit, the Silmarillion says that in the Ninth Age, the Capulets exterminated all the unicorns! That's why Frodo breaks down and claims the Ring!"

"The Capulets," Dom laughs pretty hard, the way he usually only does at Billy; Elijah must have surprised it out of him.

It's such an awesome feeling to make Dom laugh. This is what it ought to feel like to have a secret boyfriend-- warm, happy, private, safe-- and easy, sweet and easy, just like lurching a tiny bit closer and kissing Dom's lips.

Dom lets him, but doesn't quite kiss him back, and Elijah pulls away a little, because the last thing he wants is to be an oblivious asshole about it like Stuart.

He tries to scrape up a smile and shrug it off, faking a short laugh. Dominic smiles back a little, lifts his hand and touches Elijah's face.

His fingers are light on Elijah's jaw, and his mouth touches Elijah's softly, and then it's gone, and Dom backs off and studies him. Elijah stares back, breathless and trying to beam yes keep going more okay yes at him, and if this doesn't work, he'll never believe a word of his own press about his expressive goddamn huge myopic eyes ever again--

Dominic kisses him, more deeply this time. Elijah braces for the click of teeth as they get closer, that's happened a couple of times with Stuart. But everything just glides, smooth and soft; the lap of Dom's tongue over Elijah's lips and even into his mouth feels as natural as the tide coming in. Dom's fingers on his jaw subtly direct him to tilt his head a little, this way, that way. And he touches a thumb to Elijah's chin too, stroking in a way that kind of naturally suggests when Elijah should open his mouth more, or close it.

Okay, technically it's not? Not even close. But Elijah's counting this as his first kiss, because for real, this is what a first kiss ought to be like. This is it.


They move closer through a series of kisses until they're basically congruent. Elijah can feel Dominic's hard-on right alongside the ache of his own.

Elijah hates to give it up, but he draws back and ends the kissing. "I need to cool it or I'm not going to be able to calm down in time for the party."

"Tch. I am willing to give you a hand with that, Lijah," says Dominic.

Elijah feels kind of clumsy and naive again, because yeah, of course, Dom would go there. They could do that. And he trusts Dom.

He trusts Dom enough to tell the truth. "That's a little fast for me."

"Mm. All right." Dom ekes away from him a little, but he leans back in to give Elijah a last little closed-mouth kiss. "Sleep, then?" He smiles wickedly. "Or would that be just too tempting?"

"Might be," Elijah admits. "I could take the sofa after all."

"Or we could go right to the taste-testing. I dunno about you but I feel quite awake."

Elijah rolls his eyes, "Yeah, yeah," and they get up and head into the kitchen.


"Oh my god, you totally outdid yourself," says Elijah after a bite of cannoli. "It's so cool that you can actually cook."

"Way to a man's heart," says Dominic.

"I thought you were trying to get into my pants," Elijah grins at him.

"Why choose," Dominic smiles. "I'll just start with the stomach and then do the whole tour."

Elijah can't help kissing him, and they grin like fools at each other, and it's like: this is what's been missing that made him feel so turned around about the thing with Stuart. He hasn't felt like they're connecting when they sleep together.

They get along okay and sometimes Elijah felt like they were friends when they were hanging out, but when they have sex it doesn't feel friendly. It's just the two of them doing stuff to each other. It feels good, and Stuart's hot, but Elijah wants the friendship to carry into the bedroom. That's what it's probably going to take to make him comfortable. And that's not happening with Stuart.

He needs to break it off, he realizes. Whether this flirtation with Dominic goes anywhere or not, Elijah shouldn't be doing what he's doing with Stuart. He should've trusted his instincts and stopped it before it started that first night. He just... wanted to prove he can handle himself. He wanted everything to be okay. But it's not okay and this isn't going to make it okay. He should end it.

Elijah gets to taste lots of things but eventually Dominic has to shoo him away and work on getting the rest of the food ready. So Elijah does end up dozing on the sofa for a while after all.

He's coming around and groggily thinking about firing up the Playstation when there's a knock at the door and Dominic calls, "Can you get that? My hands are all eggy."

Elijah hauls himself up and goes to the door. His newfound resolution crumbles a little, because it's Stuart.

"Hi," says Elijah. "Uh, you're a little early, but not as early as me. We've been getting everything ready. Come on in."

"Can you come out?" Stuart asks.

"Sure..." Elijah steps onto the porch, pulling the door behind him.

"I'm leaving."

"For where?"

"Leaving the project," says Stuart. "Look, did you talk to anyone? Tell anyone?"

"Tell-- no," Elijah answers. "Why? What's going on?"

"I'm leaving," Stuart repeats. "Creative differences. Peter's been so keen for me to play the part so long, and now I'm out without a solid answer why. Can't help wondering."

"But..." no matter what the talk, Elijah never really believed Stuart would go. "Are you sure? I mean, have you talked to Peter?"

"Yeah, I sort of couldn't help talking to him while he was sacking me," Stuart scowls.

"But they've tailored your costumes and weighted your sword and everything. Peter always liked your take on the character. How can they...?"

"How? Like complete wankers, that's how." Stuart's jaw is tight. "New Line says I'm in breach of contract. Me. I've been talking to Peter and Fran about their treatment since they pitched it to Miramax. The new guy won't have time to work anything up, he'll be playing my take on Aragorn, everything I developed. I've been on this manky little island for months and they don't want to pay me."

"That's fucked up," says Elijah. "But it always starts out that way, right? They always try to get away without paying if there's any wiggle room. And then the lawyers work it out."

"Meanwhile I'm out on my arse. Peter asked me to take this job. I told him I was too young to carry it off. I said he should put me in as Legolas, I could have worked with whoever got Aragorn. He said it would work out and now he's sacked me."

"I'm really sorry," Elijah says honestly. "I thought you were great in the part."

Stuart shoves his fists in his pockets and sighs. "I'm going tonight, I don't want to spend another moment here."

"I can't believe they waited til now," says Elijah. "I can't believe they did it at all, but now? Three days out from shooting?"

"They've hired someone else," Stuart says. "Got him signed up, turned right around and let me go. He may already be on a plane. Good luck to him, poor bastard."

Elijah can't help wondering who it is. He can't imagine how someone new could step in at this point. They've all put so much work in already. "It sucks that it went down like this."

Stuart shrugs. "I rang you earlier... it got a bit heated, and I told Peter and Fran that everything since I've got here has been a fucking nightmare. And since everyone around here is so fucking chatty, it occurred to me that might get back to you. It's nothing to do with you. We had fun. But the rest of this has been such a massive cock-up, I can't wait to leave."

"I wish it had worked out differently," Elijah says.

"You'll be all right," says Stuart.

Elijah goes to hug him, and there's a moment's awkwardness when Stuart doesn't quite bend to accommodate the height difference.

"Take care," Elijah says, at a loss.

"Yeah," says Stuart.

Elijah watches him go. When he turns to go back inside, he has to knock because he pulled the door and locked himself out.

"What was that about?" Dominic asks, standing aside to let him in.

"Stuart's been let go."

"Now? Why now?"

"It... sounded like maybe it was a lot of little things adding up."

"It'll be announced at the party tonight, won't it," says Dominic. "Brilliant, all that cooking I've done and all anyone's going to care about is Stuart's ouster."

"At least your priorities are in order."

They're quiet for a few moments.

"Well," Dominic says finally, "remind me to bin my call sheets."

"They're going to have to reschedule everything," Elijah says. "I don't see how it's going to work. We only have Gandalf for so long, we only have Boromir so long..."

"They must have hired someone else before they gave Stuart the boot, yeah?"

"Yeah. I don't know who, but Stuart said he's probably already on his way."

"So we'll be shooting three films at once, minding all the scale differences, directing our doubles, filming on green screens, and in the midst of it all, we'll have an all new Aragorn to break in," Dominic says, and waits a beat. "That's all right then! Easy peasy."

"Well, if you want to get to good, aim for impossible," says Elijah. Despite everything, he feels kind of hopeful.

After all, what are the odds he'd hit it off with Sean the first time they met, that he'd have so much fun with Dom and Billy, that he'd feel so comfortable with Orlando and John and Sean Bean and Ian? The Fellowship's already beaten the odds eight times. Maybe they can do it once more.

"Aim for impossible, that seems a bit of a stretch," Dominic teases; Elijah finds he doesn't mind. "What about aiming for unlikely? Where does that get us? Good enough?"

"Pretty good," says Elijah. "I think that'd get us to pretty damn good."

Dominic jostles close to him, kissing his cheek. "Wrap it up," he says, "I'll take it."

slashababy was created by megolas, revised by yueni
fabulous artwork ©2002 by Hope
now moderated by MSilverstar & feelforfaith