I've done the best I can to format the story in HTML, but it was a bit tricky. This story is really designed to be read on a printed page. If anyone knows of a better way to achieve the script look, please tell me!
Title: Elijah’s Collection (2)—Lines
Pairing: EW/OB, LotR RPS (First Time)
Rating: R (mild non-con situation, not explicit and non-ship)
Length: 8,900 words
For: Sandy--happy birthday!
Disclaimer: I don’t know any of these people—it’s just a lucid fever-dream.
Summary: Elijah is obsessed with lines.
[Update: That migraine made me a bit absent minded (Hey, I heard that comment about my normal mental state from the peanut gallery. Be nice!), and I forgot to put in a link to the first story in this series: "Elijah's Collection (1) - Gaydar." So there you are.]
Notes: I’m thinking this is part two of four, but who the hell knows.
Thanks to the wonderful website, The Most Complete and Most Useless Collection of Pick-up Lines.
Viggo quotes some of his own poetry, from “Communion,” which can be found at: Special Realms.
Apologies to William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. If you’ve never read this play, it’s worth your while to have a quick look at the Cast of Characters, because you’re in for a lovely surprise (and Elijah’s quote will make more sense too). The full text of the play is available here: http://www.bartleby.com/70/index20.html.
Caro Brixton and Tom Swanick are original characters; they are not based on real people in any way. StarTRAX is also an invention of my fevered brain. As far as I’m aware there is no band called Bent--the songs attributed to them, “night train” and “High Voltage Lover,” are (copyright to me (email for more info).
Finally, an extra big thanks to my wonderful betas, who had to put up with a lot this time around: Scot and rosiegamgee. What would I have done without you!
Elijah’s Collection (2)—Lines
Act 1—Pick-up Lines
“Okay, take a break guys,” said Peter. “It’s going to take a while to fix this.”
Elijah’s mind was so focused on the job, that he automatically translated it into script...
Okay, take a break guys. It’s going to take a while to fix this.
...before he realised what Peter had actually said. This kind of auto-translation happened at some point on every film, and usually sooner rather than later. It had kicked in on Rings a few weeks ago.
And now... his whole world was lines.
Hurry up, Lij. I’m dying for a coffee and a pee.
Okay, okay. I’m coming.
I don’t care about your strange sexual kinks, I just want coffee!
Suck it up Astin, because as that great twentieth-century philosopher, Mick Jagger, once said…
SEAN and ELIJAH
… you can’t always get what you want.
Yeah, well that’s easy for him to say. I bet he drinks tea.
This time, Elijah was finding his obsession with lines something of a challenge. The big difference with Rings was the sheer size of the script. Elijah could usually memorise a whole script without batting an eyelash. And if it had just been memorising, it wouldn’t be so bad. But, of course, the Collection had felt the need to get in on the action. By this point he had Collected so many lines that the inside of his head was starting to feel like a huge real-time screenplay.
Enter Philippa, running.
Sean! Elijah! There you are. Here are your new re-writes.
She hands out the scripts.
(Takes the script)
(Takes the script)
Can’t wait to read it!
(Pats Elijah’s arm)
There’s some good stuff in there for you, Elijah! And you too, Sean. Anyway, gotta run. Bye!
Elijah’s brain seemed to be not-dealing with the overload of lines by translating everything straight into script. Whether he was working or not. He no longer casually chatted to people; he Delivered. He no longer went places, or turned up, or walked anywhere: he Entered and Exited. He could barely remember what it was like to think in the first or third persons, or in the past tense.
The daily re-writes and constant memorisation of new lines weren’t helping, either.
He and Sean reached catering...
INT. CATERING - DAY
Elijah and Sean enter, reading scripts.
Oh, hey, what a change of pace. I get to cry in this scene.
What I wouldn’t do for a bit of manly crying! Because, surprise, in this scene I get to reprise my tour de force as a faithful and adoring doormat.
They head for the buffet table and start filling their plates.
Enter Dom, Billy, Orlando and Viggo, who join them at the buffet.
Have you guys seen this re-write yet?
Yeah. It’s going to be a challenge for you to find a new way to cry, isn’t it?
Now, now. That’s no way for a nicely bred young hobbit to be speaking.
The hobbit thing just never gets old for you, does it?
Billy’s motto is, “never say a good line just once if you can repeat it.”
And repeat it.
And repeat it.
(Waving a serving spoon)
Not to mention repeating it.
Well, you know what they say. Repetition is the sincerest form of mockery.
You’re just saying that because you want my body!
(Holding up a hand)
If that’s your best attempt at a pick-up line, it leaves something to be desired, Billy.
I dunno. It’s better than, “Hello tall, dark and brooding, can I offer you eight inches of strength and sensitivity?”
Hhh. Is that that all you’ve got to offer? Come back when you’re a bit... bigger.
You should know better than to throw down the gauntlet like that, Viggo!
Now it’s a matter of honour!
You have honour? Since when?
We do when it comes to maintaining our image of debauchery and lechery.
How about, “You know how they say skin is the largest organ? Not in my case.”
Or, “There are 265 bones in the human body. How would you like one more?”
Make it stop. Please, God.
“Do you know what winks and screws like a tiger?”
(Billy winks) ORLANDO
Or, the one I got last night at that bloody art show you dragged us to, “I’m a Love Pirate, and I’m here for your booty! ARRRGGGHHH!”
“No way,” said Elijah, interested enough in the conversation for the mental script to derail. Because they were talking about lines. “No one would actually use a line that bad!”
“Wanna bet?” said Orlando. “‘Cause I have plenty more where that came from.”
“Hey!” said Billy, dramatically holding a hand to his brow. “I’m getting an idea... and it’s brilliant.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” muttered Sean.
“A playoff,” said Billy. “Two rounds. We all pick our best and worst pick-up lines. Usual point system.”
“Yeah,” said Dom, full of enthusiasm. “Twenty bucks in the pot each. The person with the most points wins.”
“But,” said Billy, “it’s got to be a line you’ve either used yourself, or was actually said to you.”
“I’m going to regret this,” said Sean, juggling his plate and coffee mug so that he could pull out his wallet. “Let’s at least hide in the corner, because this is going to get embarrassing.”
“Wimp,” said Dom, leading the way to the distant table.
“I’m so going to win,” said Elijah, catching up with Dom and handing over his money. “You would not believe the crap fans say to me.”
“You know,” said Viggo, passing a twenty over to Dom, and taking a seat at the end of the table. “This probably makes me sound infinitely old, but I find it faintly disturbing that Elijah has a collection of pick-up lines at his age.”
“Not disturbed enough to leave, obviously,” said Billy, handing over his own money.
Viggo shrugged. “It’s this, or discussing the finer points of the Ashes with John, Bean and Ian.”
“They’re talking about cricket?” said Orlando. “Where?”
“No you don’t,” said Billy, grabbing one of Orlando’s arms and pulling him down onto a chair. “Not after last time.”
“You know their cynical shit just upsets you,” said Elijah.
Orlando nodded reluctantly and fished a wrinkled twenty out of a pocket. “So, who’s first?”
“We’ll do it alpha by surname,” said Dom, folding away the wad of money. “So that’s you, Astin.”
“Bad line first, right?” asked Sean, and at Dom’s nod, “Okay. How about, ‘If you were a chicken, you’d be impeccable.’”
“Woah,” said Dom. “Starting out with the big guns there, Sean. It’s not rude or tasteless, and yet... it wouldn’t pick up lint if it were covered in felt.”
“It has,” said Viggo, with all the savour of a poet, “a delightfully piquant shittiness.”
“Agreed,” said Billy. “Ten points.”
“My turn,” said Orlando. “How about, ‘I’d rip out both my eyes just so you’d have more holes to screw me in.’”
There was a stunned silence for a moment.
“I think I speak for us all,” said Sean, “when I say, eeww!”
“Twenty points,” said Billy. “I’m next, and I’m going to go with, ‘My love for you is like diarrhea, I just can’t hold it in.’”
“That,” said Elijah, “is a craptacular line, man.”
“What were they hoping to pick up?” asked Orlando. “A bog-roll?”
“Fifteen points,” said Dom. “It’s good, but it doesn’t have quite the yuck factor of Orli’s effort.” He paused for a moment. “Mine is, ‘Hey, baby, wanna lock crotches and swap gravy?’”
“I think I just lost my appetite,” said Sean, putting down a piece of pineapple he’d been about to bite into.
“Ten,” said Billy. “Orli’s is still the worst. What do you have, Viggo?”
“Just to make this more interesting, I’ve decided to go with a theme of your choice,” Viggo said.
“Blow job,” said Dom, without hesitation.
Viggo gave him a faintly pained look, took a thoughtful swig of coffee, and said, “The worst line I’ve ever been inflicted with, on the theme of blow jobs, is, ‘Let’s play Titanic. When you say Iceberg! I go down.’”
“My kind of game!” said Dom.
“You are a sick, sad little man,” said Sean, wearing a mock frown.
“I know,” said Dom, grinning at him. “That’s what makes me so lovable.”
“Ten for the line,” said Billy, “and five for the theme. Your turn Lij.” And with a leer, “Give us some wood.”
“You’ve just been waiting to say that, haven’t you?” said Elijah. “I pity your weak efforts at innuendo. Now, watch the master and boggle! The single most common pick-up people try on me is what I call the Angel Variation. There is no definitive line. There is, instead, the top-ten hall of shame.”
Elijah stood up, rolled his shoulders, and slid smoothly into acting mode. Before the appreciative audience, he transformed into a pose of adoring fatuousness and fluttered his eyelashes. Then he began to recite...
CLOSE-UP of Elijah as:
One—“If God had a refrigerator, a picture of you would be on it.”
Tabletop drumroll from Dom.
Two—“Was your father a God? Because there’s nothing else like you on earth!”
The group begins to drumroll each line.
Three—“When I marry you, I wonder if God will be mad that I stole one of his Angels.”
Four—“Are you an Angel? ‘Cause you’re the answer to all my prayers.”
Five—“Am I dead, Angel? ‘Cause this must be heaven!”
Six—“Are you okay, Angel? Because heaven’s a long fall from here.”
Seven—“I didn’t know that Angels could fly so low! Welcome to Earth.”
Eight—“Would you touch me so I can tell my friends I’ve been touched by an Angel?”
I think I’m gonna be sick.
(Makes retching noises)
Nine—“I know we’re gonna have a religious experience tonight, Angel, ‘cause you’re gonna take us both to Heaven.”
And the most annoying of all. Number ten—“Oh, those are shoulder blades, I thought they were wings!”
Catcalls from the audience.
Sean’s shocked expression. “Oh, my God,” he said.
“I can’t believe anyone is deluded enough to think you’re a bloody angel,” said Orlando. “Where the hell do they get it from?”
“I have it on good authority,” said Elijah, smugly, “that my eyes are divine windows to my divine soul.”
“You know,” said Dom, “suddenly that line of Orlando’s is starting to look more appealing!”
Viggo snorted, covered it up with a fake cough, and then pretended to be very interested in the bottom of his coffee cup.
“Hey!” said Elijah. “Jokes about eye-gouging are never, ever funny!”
“Points,” said Billy, heading off the imminent argument about the good taste, or lack thereof, of jestful eye-gouging, “are tricky in this case. The rules said one line.” He held up a hand to forestall Elijah’s protest. “But, the theme had amusement value, so I’m saying fifteen points.”
Elijah pouted. “Don’t think you’re going to stay in the lead long,” he said to Orlando. “I’m just getting warmed up.”
“We’ll see,” said Orlando, with a wicked little smile.
“Your turn again, Sean,” said Dom.
“I’m going with an oldie, but a goodie,” said Sean. “‘I would kill or die to make love with you.’”
“Lame,” said Dom. “Lamety, lame, lame!”
“The rules say it has to be one I’ve actually experienced,” said Sean. “That’s the best I’ve got.”
“You know, I wouldn’t be admitting that, if I were you,” said Dom.
“Out of pity,” said Billy, “I’m gonna waive the rule for you, Sean. Give us your all-time favourite.”
“Fine,” said Sean. “Then it’s, ‘Would you like to try an Australian kiss? It’s just like a French kiss, but down under.’”
“Hey,” said Orlando. “I like that!”
“You would,” said Elijah, the pout transforming into a grin. “Pervert.”
“Better,” said Billy. “Ten points. You’re up Orlando.”
“It takes more than that to get me up,” said Orlando, grinning at the groans the others inundated him with. “But the best pick-up line I’ve ever got was, ‘Legolas rocks!’”
Elijah felt a sudden horrible dismay. Someone on the set had been trying to pick up Orlando. And Orlando had obviously liked it, judging by the look of fond remembrance on his face. That just wasn’t fair. Orlando was... no one else was allowed to... goddammit! Orlando was his!
Elijah looked down at his hands. They were twisted together into a whitened knot.
“Well, it has a certain narcissistic value,” said Viggo, doubtfully.
“It’s crap,” said Dom, with absolute certainty. “Wipe him out, Billy. He deserves to go down!”
“Whatever,” said Orlando, who was too busy flicking furtive glances at Elijah to care.
The byplay was lost on Elijah; he could feel his face twisting into an expression that wasn’t fit for public consumption, fueled by a surge of terrified energy with no outlet. He forced his camera face on.
“Five points to Orlando,” said Billy. “My best line is, ‘Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?’”
Elijah was torn between looking at Orlando and not looking. He wanted to... but he couldn’t bear to see Orlando gloating over some slutty conquest. The trouble was, he couldn’t bear not to either.
A flicker of relief crossed Orlando’s face as he caught Elijah’s gaze, and then he smiled the most devastating smile Elijah had ever seen. The most devastating part about it was that it was familiar. Elijah had seen Orlando smile like that once before... at him... outside the make-up trailer... that day.
The day Elijah had unwittingly found himself in Orlando’s arms.
“Pretty good,” said Dom. “Ten points. I’m going with, ‘You’ve been a bad, bad boy. Go to my room!’”
And suddenly the feeling inside Elijah’s chest flipped upside down, and became something almost unbearably good. Because Elijah remembered now. That day. That had been the day Elijah had told Orlando that... Legolas rocks.
Score! Twenty points.
The point scoring and line tossing continued on around Elijah, but at a distance, and without real substance. Because he needed to think. Think fast. Think of a line that would tell Orlando that Elijah remembered that day, and that it was a good memory for him too.
Still on the theme of blow jobs: “You ordered me off my knees, into your arms. Wasn’t to beg that I knelt; only to see you once from below.”
That’s actually tasteful. And hot. Where did you get it?
Elijah frantically ransacked the Collection for a line. Something tasteful and elegant and passionate. Something that only Orlando would get. Something... Shakespearean.
It’s from one of my poems.
Trust a poet to come up with a good line!
...said Billy, with a hint of admiration in his voice. “Your turn Elijah. Better make it good, or Viggo’s going to win.”
“Oh,” said Elijah, searching, searching and finally, frantically, finding the line that he’d known was there. And god, he hoped that the British education system really was all that Ian said it was. “‘O, ominous!’” said Elijah, not quite able to look at Orlando. “‘He comes to kill my heart.’”
Elijah risked a quick glance at Orlando, who was looking down at the table, his throat swallowing. And again. Convulsively. The way you do when you’re trying not to let strong emotions out.
“What’s that from?” asked Sean. “It sounds familiar.”
“Elliot, isn’t it?” asked Billy.
“No,” said Viggo. “I think it’s...”
“Shakespeare,” said Orlando, looking up. “It’s from Shakespeare.” And his eyes were full of light.
“God, Elijah,” said Dom, “you’re such a bloody actor! Trust you to pick Shakespeare as your best pick-up line.”
“There’s a reason it’s a classic,” said Billy. “Fifteen points.”
“Fuck!” said Dom. “That means Viggo wins!”
“Age and experience shine through again,” said Viggo, smugly. “I’ll be having that money thanks, Dom.”
Dom handed over the money reluctantly. “Lines!” he said, in disgust. “I always knew they were over-rated. They never get you want you want!”
Act 2—Between the Lines
ELIJAH WOOD, An Addictive Hobbit
StarTRAX Feature Interview
By Caro Brixton
If time is the only truly objective judge of artistic merit, then at just eighteen ELIJAH WOOD is one of the most talented actors of our generation. With over a decade of experience, and twenty-one films under his belt, Wood has beaten the odds by turning his childhood stardom into a fully fledged adult career. His new film is the eagerly anticipated adaptation of Tolkien’s classic, The Lord of the Rings.
Wood won the highly coveted role of Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearer of Tolkien’s quest, after sending in a home-made audition video. As soon as the director, Peter Jackson, saw the video he knew that the search for Frodo was over. Wood is currently filming on location in New Zealand.
It was a late evening when my call went through to New Zealand, but due to the time difference it was early morning for Wood. Down the line he sounded a little sleepy, a bit subdued, but thankful for a distraction from the two-hour long process of having his prosthetic hobbit feet applied. I made it my first priority to find out exactly what it’s like on the set of Lord of the Rings.
By the time Elijah accepted the call and lifted the phone to his ear, the day felt like it was a million years old, even though the sun was only just above the horizon.
“Hi Elijah. Caro Brixton from StarTRAX magazine here,” Elijah heard down the line. “Are we all set for the interview?”
“Sure,” said Elijah, rubbing a weary hand across his eyes. Make-up could damn well fix it later. “Fire away.”
There was the slight delay as his voice travelled intercontinentally, and then the reply.
“Great,” said Caro. “What I want to know first is...”
The morning after the pick-up line contest, when he’d first arrived at the make-up trailer in the not-quite dark of pre-dawn, Elijah had turned the radio up loud. Music was the one sure thing that distracted his brain enough to keep his obsession with lines at bay. He just couldn’t cope with a headful of script yet; he had a bad case of stage jitters. Orlando had said he’d bring coffee around this morning, and even though Elijah wasn’t expecting him for another hour or so, he was still feeling nervous.
After the contest yesterday, he and Orlando had, by mutual, unspoken agreement, backed off and given the... whatever the hell it was that was happening between them... a bit of space. Elijah had been grateful at the time, but now he was finding it hard to keep still. He really wanted to see Orlando.
“Lijah!” said Karen, “Stop moving or you’re going to end up with wonky feet!”
“Sorry,” said Elijah, and did his best to put a lid on his jitters.
“What’s up with you today?” asked Sean. “You’re as bad as Orlando after his third cup of coffee.” Then, with the dawning suspicion of a coffee addict who hasn’t yet had his morning fix, “Hey! You don’t have a secret stash you’re keeping to yourself, do you?”
“No way, man. My life’s not worth it!” said Elijah. Then, without even a twinge to his conscience, he shamelessly sidestepped the whole Orlando issue. “I’ve got this stupid phone interview with some movie magazine coming up in a bit.” He shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “I just want it over so I can focus on the rest of the day.”
“Yeah,” said Dom. “Gotta get into the right mindset for your big crying jag.”
“Says the man who’s going to spend the day being out-acted by a horse,” said Elijah.
... what’s it like filming in New Zealand, so far from home?
Actually, it’s great. I love it here. The people I’m working with are the best, and the whole experience is so intense that it’s bonded us together like a real Fellowship. In fact, we’re considering getting tattoos as mementos.
At first, I thought being so far from home would be scary. But instead, it’s been like finding a whole new family. I’m never going to forget working on the Lord of the Rings and the people I’ve met because of it. The whole experience has been a blessing.
The knock on the door made Elijah’s heart leap for a moment, until he realised that Orlando wouldn’t be knocking.
A head poked around the door. “Flowers for Mr Wood,” said the man, in a broad American accent.
“Over here,” said Sean, waving at a tiny vacant spot on the otherwise cluttered bench.
The man wore an eyesore of an overall with the logo, Faster Flowers, stencilled over the pocket. He seemed to take up a lot of space in the cramped quarters as he came in and put down the huge arrangement of roses and carnations.
“Who’re they from?” asked Elijah, not particularly interested.
“Someone named Caro Brixton,” said the man. “Whoever that is.”
Elijah searched his memory. He was starting to get a weird vibe, which he’d learned over the years usually signalled a psycho fan. Then, with a flash of relief he placed the name.
“It’s the feature writer,” said Elijah. “The one who’s doing the phone interview this morning.”
“She’s keen,” said Billy. “They never send me flowers!”
“You can have these ones if you like,” said Elijah. There was really only one bloom he was interested in that morning.
What’s it like to be a part of such a big ensemble cast of actors, especially as some of them, like Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee, are legends in the business?
Watching Ian and Chris is a real education. They have so much talent and style. But the whole team is great. It’s a relief to be part of such a big cast, actually. Frodo is such an intense role, especially the way all three films are in production at once. So knowing that so many other fabulous actors are involved too makes the whole thing easier. And it takes the focus off me a bit, which is nice.
Dom let out a sudden yelp as a prosthetic went where no prosthetic was meant to go. Elijah glanced over for a moment to check he was alright, and when he looked back the delivery man was closer.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” the delivery man said. “It’s been a while.”
As Elijah looked up at the man’s craggy face, his spidey sense began to tingle in a really worrying way—even though the man must have been signed through by Security—and even though he didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary.
Elijah was suddenly hyper-aware that there were seven other completely clueless people in the trailer with him. He took a closer look at the man, who was finally starting to look vaguely familiar. Elijah wracked his brain for a context to put with the face. He slid into his Elijah-role while he stalled for time.
Hey, yeah! I know you.
The man smiled, and Elijah had to squash down a flood of panic. It was a smile full of want, and, like a trigger, that was all it took for the memory to fall into place.
No one else seemed to have noticed the vibe yet. Elijah sent up a little prayer that it would be Sean or Billy who realised first.
From The Good Son wasn’t it? You’re... Tom?
The man looked thrilled. “Tom Swanick,” he said, holding out his hand.
Do you feel a lot of pressure, being the star of such a huge film?
There’s always pressure on a film. Lord of the Rings is pretty intense because it’s so big. But Peter is completely in control and knows exactly what’s happening all the time. So it’s a really safe environment to work in.
Elijah forced himself to take Tom’s hand; it was calloused and warm, and Elijah could feel goosebumps swimming out from his palm and washing up his arm.
You’re a long way from home, Tom.
The man nodded. “Had a good reason to come to New Zealand, didn’t I?” He waved his empty hand at the cluttered insides of the trailer. “You’ve got a nice setup here, Elijah. Bet that little prick Macaulay would be spitting venom if he could see you now.”
Elijah tried to slip his hand away, but Tom held it firm.
“But he’s gone,” said Tom. “Washed up.” And then, with a squeeze of his hand, “Always new you’d make it though, Lijah. Knew from the first moment I saw you with those gorgeous baby blues. I’m real proud of you.”
From the corner of his eye, Elijah could see Billy finally looking up with a frown on his face.
Elijah felt intense relief. He wasn’t alone any more. Billy was smart; he’d know what to do. Elijah just had to keep Tom distracted for a while.
I never liked Macaulay either. I mean, what was all the fuss about?
The smiled wiped off Tom’s face, “Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. His career derailing like that saved us a lot of trouble, didn’t it?”
It was the creepiest thing Elijah had ever seen. He was suddenly and intensely grateful that Macaulay was living on another continent.
You’ve been acting for over a decade; do you still feel you have new things to learn as an actor?
Yes. This film has really challenged me as an actor. I’ve had to do things I’ve never done before. That’s what I look for in a project. So Lord of the Rings has been really rewarding and challenging in that respect.
“I’m glad I finally found you,” said Tom. “It was a real bitch, believe you me!”
Elijah nodded. In the background he heard Billy say, “Shit. I left my fucking re-writes at catering. I’d better go get them, or Philippa will rip me a new one.”
Dom was in Elijah’s sightline as Billy spoke, and he could see Dom looking puzzled and opening his mouth. Elijah felt a moment of pure terror, because no matter what Dom said, it could only be bad. Then Sean was shoving a huge piece of muffin in Dom’s face, and Billy was sliding along the edge of the trailer towards the door. The make-up artists had gone suspiciously quiet, and Karen was no longer tugging at Elijah’s feet.
Elijah locked his gaze with Tom’s, and used every trick he new to fix the man’s attention entirely on his face.
Do you have family here, Tom?
Elijah’s efforts worked even better than expected. Tom stepped closer, and the whole world narrowed down to the space between their bodies. Then he clasped his hands together, so that Elijah’s was wrapped tight in a double grip. “Just you, Angel,” Tom whispered. “You’re the only family that really matters.”
Elijah couldn’t see what was happening beyond Tom’s bulk, but he felt the quick fwap of fresh air rushing in as the trailer door was opened and closed.
Why did you wait so long to find me, Tom?
Tom’s thumb stoked along Elijah’s wrist. “Well, you’re legal now,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been right if I’d come for you sooner, Lijah.”
The Lord of the Rings has the longest shooting schedule of any film ever, doesn’t it?
Yeah! (laughing) And some days it really feels like it! But I guess that’s the price I have to pay for an otherwise ideal lifestyle.
How fucking long could Security take, Elijah wondered. He already seemed to have been stalling Tom for an eternity. And the question that he was dreading was sure to raise its ugly head anytime now.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Tom, as though reading Elijah’s mind. “I have a place with everything we’ll need.”
And just one personal question, because your fans will definitely want to know. Is there anyone special in your life at the moment?
Well, maybe. It’s a bit too soon to tell. I’m so busy on the film, it doesn’t leave much time for dating.
I can’t leave now, Tom. I’m due on set in a few minutes. I could meet you somewhere later, though. Just tell me where. Then we can have a proper reunion, in style.
Tom dropped to his knees, finally letting go of Elijah’s hand. He pressed his head into Elijah’s stomach and wrapped his arms around Elijah’s thighs.
“But we’ve waited so long already, Angel,” said Tom.
The intrusive warmth of Tom’s breath, and the intimate clench of his hands reminded Elijah, in a vaguely horrifying way, of Viggo’s pick-up lines about blow jobs.
“I’ll do anything you want, Angel,” said Tom, his voice rough with suggestion. His head was nuzzling gently against Elijah’s stomach, and it seemed that Elijah wasn’t the only one thinking about dick sucking.
Do you have any fans down there in New Zealand?
Well, I haven’t had a chance to socialise much, so I can’t really tell you. But the local community is really behind the film. Some days it’s so crowded, it feels like the entire New Zealand population is on set with us.
And then, finally, Security was there, bursting into the trailer and pulling Tom away from Elijah in one quick, ruthless grab.
“No!” screamed Tom. “No, no, no.”
Elijah stepped back, pressing himself against the wall, and out of the way of flailing fists and heavy boots.
“Angel,” said Tom, managing somehow to lean towards him, despite the three men restraining him. “Elijah. Tell them. Tell them to stop. Tell them, Angel.”
Despite the kicking and yelling, Security manhandled him out of the door and away. Through the thin walls of the trailer, Elijah could hear Tom calling his name all the way across the set.
What plans do you have for after Lord of the Rings?
A holiday! Definitely. Maybe here in New Zealand, or over in Australia. And then a new job. I’d really like to do an indy film after this. Something small.
I really love that aspect of acting; that every job is so different. It keeps things fresh, you know.
“Are you sure?” asked Peter, sounding unconvinced.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been attacked by a wacko, Peter,” said Elijah, wanting it to be over. “It comes with the job. I know the drill. He didn’t hurt me physically, and I’ll call my therapist tonight. Promise.”
“If you need a day off...” Peter said.
“No!” said Elijah. “I want to work. I want things to be normal today. As normal as possible.”
“I think that’s probably a good idea,” said Billy, and Elijah wanted to bless him.
Elijah’s phone went off, and that seemed to be a signal for the crowd to disperse, helped along with a bit of encouragement from Billy. Elijah almost didn’t bother answering it, then remembered.
“Shit,” he said. “The interview.”
“I can fob her off, if you like,” said Sean.
Elijah thought it over for a moment, the phone vibrating in his hand.
“Nah,” he said. “I’ll just have to do it later. Might as well get it over with. The show must go on and all that.”
“I sent some flowers,” said Caro. “Did they turn up okay?”
“Yeah,” said Elijah, feeling reality slip away from him a little at the mention of the flowers. “They got here, safe and sound.” And then, realising more was needed, forced himself to say, “They’re lovely. Thank you.”
“No,” said Caro. “Thank you. Our readers just love you, and they’re going to really love this interview. They’ll all want to see the film.”
Outside, Elijah could hear Orlando’s raised voice asking what the bloody hell was going on.
“Great,” said Elijah, and finally let himself wrap it up. “I have to go now, Caro. I’m being called. Bye.” He pressed the off button and dropped the phone down amongst the other clutter.
“Elijah,” said Sean, reaching out and touching Elijah’s shoulder.
“I’m okay,” said Elijah, letting Sean’s arm rest there for a moment before moving away. “I just need to get to work.” He reached over and turned off the radio. “I have to keep busy for a while, Sean. You know?”
“If that’s what you need,” said Sean, looking worried, “then that’s what we’ll do.”
Elijah nodded. Then he picked up his script and headed for the door. He really needed to get out into the fresh air for a bit. And he needed to see Orlando, who he could hear talking to Peter.
But most of all, Elijah needed some kind of artificial stimulation. It slowly dawned on him that he’d been more shaken up that he’d realised when the first thing about Orlando that he noticed was that he’d remembered to bring the coffee.
Act 3—Crossing Lines
It was an intervention, Elijah decided. That was the only reasonable explanation for what was happening in his loungeroom.
Sean was busy on the phone ordering more pizzas than even a whole village of hobbits could eat in a single sitting, along with several miles of garlic bread, a few million gallons of fizzy beverages, and several dairies worth of something called IceCreamDreams. Dom, Liv and Billy were slogging it out to the bitter end in the most cut-throat game of Monopoly Elijah had ever been privileged to witness. He, Sean and Orlando had washed out over an hour ago.
Viggo and Ian were arguing with John and Beany about some esoteric artistic movement that Elijah had never even heard of. But apparently it involved a whole lot of semiotic ridicule of the current modes of post-global-capitalist expressionism. Peter and Fran had dropped in earlier, but had left shortly after Dom had tuned the TV into The Top Hundred Hottest and turned the sound up to party volume. Elijah didn’t think that conjunction of events was a coincidence. At least the music was keeping his brain nicely anaesthetised, which was, no doubt, the point.
Orlando had just taken a load of dirty glasses, ashtrays and chip bowls into the kitchen. Elijah could hear the faint sounds of water running, and the squeak of the dishwasher being loaded over the sound of Bent belting out the extended remix of their latest hit.
...on the night train
the windows are a mirror full of tired and worn out faces
and I like to watch the traces
of expressions that flash and fade away
when they sense that someone sees...
Elijah got up and stretched, and then felt completely self-conscious as every person in the room looked his way. As far as Elijah was concerned that was the final straw. Another round of concerned questions and he’d actually be tempted to commit that desperate act everyone seemed so convinced he was verging on. He bent to pick up a couple of glasses that Orlando had missed, and with an air of defiance, headed into his own kitchen and some relative privacy.
“Hey,” said Elijah, depositing the glasses on the sink.
Orlando looked up briefly, and then went back to rubbing at the bench with a sponge. “Hey,” he said to the pot plant sitting on the window sill above the bench.
“Don’t,” said Elijah, feeling a desperate need to connect with at least one person without a lot of weirdness getting in the way. “Please, Orli.”
Orlando threw the sponge into the sink and turned around to face Elijah. He crossed his arms and stood there, wearing a completely inscrutable expression. Bent echoed in from the other room, in an all too appropriate soundtrack.
...on the night train
I can see a couple fighting without words or thought or touch
it’s so bad it hurts to watch
and their silence shows the minefield
that’s the wreckage of their lives...
“Are we fighting?” asked Elijah. “Because if we are, could we please put it on hold until tomorrow. I really need to talk to you.”
Orlando’s stance softened at once, his arms unlocking and falling to his sides. His expression remained unreadable. “We’re not fighting, Lij. I just...”
After a moment with no further conversational developments, Elijah prodded, “Just... what?”
“I’m really bloody angry, that’s what,” said Orlando, his expression still serene. “And you’re the last person I want to inflict it on.”
“Angry about what?” asked Elijah, putting his own discomfort away, for a moment, at this unexpected revelation.
Orlando crossed his arms again and said nothing.
Elijah stepped closer and reached out, tentatively sliding his fingers over one of Orlando’s bunched fists. “You can tell me anything, Orli,” he said. “You know I...” and his throat closed over the rest of it. He tried again.
Anything, Orli. You’re my...
“Don’t do that!” said Orlando, suddenly radiating intense anger. “You’ve been doing that all fucking day, like a bloody acting robot.”
“What?” said Elijah, taken aback.
“That thing,” said Orlando, sliding out from under Elijah’s touch, and then, once he was clear of Elijah’s space, thrusting an arm out in a hard jabbing gesture. “It’s like you put on a mask and just step back from what’s happening. It freaks me the fuck out when you’re not doing it for a camera. So don’t do it around me anymore!” Orlando took a deep breath, and reigned in his anger with an obvious effort. “Not if you really want to do this,” he said, waving meaningfully at the air between them.
Elijah swallowed, feeling a fringe of panic shiver his skin. “You can tell when I...”
“Of course I can,” said Orlando. “I’m not stupid, Elijah. You do it every time something freaks you out.”
Elijah freaked out. He took the couple of fast steps needed to reach the doorway before remembering that his loungeroom was hosting a sit-in. He felt like he was stuck in glue, and he didn’t know what to do with himself. He stood in the doorway, stranded.
...on the night train
someone has a vision of something that can’t be
they say it’s god’s geometry
and their clothes smell just like glue
and their eyes are full of pins...
“I’m sorry, Lijah,” said Orlando. “That was out of line. Who am I to tell you how you should or shouldn’t cope with the kind of weird shit that happened today.”
Elijah felt stripped bare; he hadn’t realised how much he’d come to depend on his camouflage. Somehow this wasn’t the kind of nudity he’d been tentatively starting to consider in relation to Orlando.
“It’s not you I’m angry at anyway,” said Orlando. “That’s why I didn’t want to get into this now. I knew I’d end up acting like a total bastard and freaking you out.”
Elijah half turned so that he was definitely more in the kitchen than out of it, but was unable to look at Orlando. Somehow he managed to ask, “Who then?”
“Him,” said Orlando, anger making his voice sound rocky and uneven. “That man.”
“Makes two of us,” said Elijah, and the relief of finally admitting it was almost euphoric.
“Sean said he touched you,” said Orlando, and it wasn’t quite a question.
“He wanted to suck me off,” Elijah admitted. “I think that’s what he wanted. He put his head right...” and Elijah’s hand pressed against his stomach, where the ghost of Tom’s breath lingered.
“Shit,” said Orlando.
“Yeah,” Elijah agreed.
“That definitely constitutes reasonable grounds for freakage,” said Orlando.
Elijah snorted and took another step into the kitchen. It felt like he was walking a bungee platform rather than the prosaic lino.
...on the night train
the lost treasures of a thousand lie fallow in the aisles
foil, old news and broken smiles
they’re left to lie, unclaimed, bereft
riding to the end and back...
Taking a deep breath, Elijah decided to have faith in rubber. He jumped.
“You’re right,” he said. “About what I do when I freak. The acting thing. I’ve been doing that a long time.”
Orlando nodded. He didn’t look at all surprised. “You know,” he said, “I’ve been known to do the odd bout of defensive acting myself. Admittedly, not as well as you do.”
“I’ve never seen you,” said Elijah, wondering if there was something wrong with his acting radar.
“I don’t have much call for it anymore,” said Orlando. “Having the same name as a character in a famous play gets old really fast at school. Learning how to twist the lines in As You Like It to my own ends was basic self defence. But it doesn’t often come up now.”
Elijah frowned. “Not quite the memory I was trying to evoke with that quote yesterday.”
“No, no! That’s a great quote. One of my favourites. Even the prats at school couldn’t ruin it,” said Orlando. “But then, the whole play is great. I mean, it’s all about the nature of acting, isn’t it. How could I not love it?”
“Yeah,” Elijah agreed. “‘All the world’s a stage; And all the men and women merely players.’”
“‘They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,’” Orlando said. “Only an actor could write lines like that.”
“Of course he also wrote, ‘My affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal,’” said Elijah, “which sounds kind of pervy to me.”
“No to mention, ‘And his kissing is as full of sanctity as the touch of holy bread,’” said Orlando. “Which makes me wonder what kind of kissing he was doing, because I’ve never found holy bread all that much of a turn-on.”
They smiled at each other, tentatively, something of their usual rapport restored.
“Do you believe it, though?” Elijah asked. “That we can’t help but be actors in someone else’s eternal play?” Then, the real question, disguised as an afterthought, “Living between someone else’s lines?”
“I don’t think that’s Shakespeare’s main point,” said Orlando. “He had to say the lines too, remember; he was always crossing over from writer to actor. And then there’s the title—As You Like It. I mean, if everything is predestined by an omnipotent playwright, how can life ever be as we like it? I think his main theme is that we can be both actors and authors. He’s saying that despite the rules and conventions that we have to obey, life can still be how we make it.”
“Maybe he’s wrong,” said Elijah, remembering the unwanted press of Tom’s body, his hand betraying him with a light brushing motion at his waist.
Orlando’s eyes narrowed as he noticed the gesture. “Rot! You’re too good an actor to believe that. You know perfectly well that any line can be read at least a dozen different ways. That’s free will, right there.”
“Then Tom Swanick had free will today,” said Elijah, “and things didn’t work out as he’d like it.”
“Tom Swanick had free will,” agreed Orlando, “and he used it to try and take away yours. The first rule of acting is not to upstage your fellow cast members. He broke the rule. End of story.” Orlando shrugged. “But the fact remains that it doesn’t have to be like that. Life can be as you like it. At least some of the time.”
“Prove it,” said Elijah. His challenge was underscored by the opening, melancholy strains of a guitar solo from the other room. It was Bent again, Elijah noted, as the lonely wail of the guitar exploded into a full-on rock anthem.
...Warning! Caution! Danger!...
“Okay,” said Orlando, obviously thinking hard. “If you could have anything right now--anything at all as long as you really, really want it--what would it be?”
The teenaged part of Elijah felt a momentary urge to name something impossible, like a trip to Pluto, or a hermaphrodite pet goat. The trouble with those options was that he didn’t actually want them. Not really. What he did want was much scarier, and not nearly as impossible.
...There oughta be a regulation...
“I want...” said Elijah, and then chickened out. “Doesn’t matter. Forget it.”
“It’s freaking you out, isn’t it?” said Orlando.
Elijah hesitated out of habit, then went ahead and admitted it. “Yeah.”
“Okay,” said Orlando. “What if you don’t have to say it? What if I just give you permission?”
...There oughta be a news report...
“You don’t know what it is,” said Elijah. “What if I want to... stuff you in the dishwasher and set it on hot wash?”
“Kinky,” said Orlando. “Do you want to stuff me in the dishwasher?”
“No,” said Elijah. “But that’s not the point.”
“‘I sometimes do believe and sometimes do not,’” said Orlando. “‘As those that fear they hope, and know they fear.’”
“You really suck,” said Elijah. “You know that, don’t you?”
“Yes,” said Orlando. “I’m still giving you permission. Just do it already. I won’t bite.”
“Promise?” said Elijah, more nervous than he’d ever been in his life.
“Cross my heart,” said Orlando, with an easy, open body language which had Elijah completely envious.
Elijah stepped closer to Orlando. Closer. Right into his body space. Hesitated.
...Caution: contents hot...
“Still not biting,” said Orlando.
With a clumsy lunge, Elijah tucked himself into Orlando; he pressed his burning face into Orlando’s neck. His hands found a natural resting place in the small of Orlando’s back. For a moment it was awkward, strange, and totally embarrassing. And then, as Orlando’s hands started to gently stroke his back, Elijah relaxed, and it wasn’t sexy, it was just comfort, and it was exactly want he wanted.
“Like it?” asked Orlando.
“Mmmm,” said Elijah.
“I rest my case,” said Orlando, sounding very pleased with himself.
“Bite me,” said Elijah, without thinking, then realised what he’d said. “In a strictly metaphorical sense,” he added, his lips brushing against the soft skin of Orlando’s throat as he spoke.
Orlando chuckled. “Don’t think I’m not tempted.”
...Warning! Caution! Danger!...
“Really?” asked Elijah. “You think I’m biteable?”
“Sure,” said Orlando. “Completely biteable.”
“I think you are too,” said Elijah, his teeth suddenly itching to test the give of Orlando’s skin. The hug was edging away from comfort and into something that had Elijah hungry for more touch.
“Feel free,” said Orlando, with a little hitch in his voice.
...There oughta be a NASA countdown...
Orlando’s neck was right there, right beneath Elijah’s teeth. It just took a tiny movement and his tongue was swiping a line against the flutter of Orlando’s pulse. Elijah could feel the muscles in Orlando’s back tense. Then he couldn’t resist a moment longer. So he did it. Bit down. Hard.
...With a label for every stage...
Elijah held on for an endless moment, letting his teeth learn exactly how much pressure Orlando could take before he started to pant with the pain. He let go and gave a soothing lick before sucking in and swirling the tip of his tongue against the small patch of skin between his teeth. With each lick, Orlando was making a sound that had Elijah reaching up, sliding his fingers into Orlando’s mohawk and pulling him down closer.
...And honey, it should surely read...
Elijah’s technique was changing as he moved up Orlando’s neck, morphing from hard bites into biting kisses, and then kisses with no teeth, just suction; along Orlando’s jaw and up his cheek, towards the little crease next to his mouth.
...Danger: high voltage...
“Shit,” said Orlando suddenly, pulling away and turning towards the sink.
“What’s wrong?” asked Elijah, blood pounding in his ears.
...Cause you’re a high voltage lover
Baby, you’ve got high voltage love...
“Are you guys okay?” asked Sean, appearing in the doorway wearing an annoyed expression. “I’ve been calling you. Pizza’s here.”
Elijah took stock of the situation for a moment, and then did the only thing that came to mind.
You expected us to hear you over that racket?
“You try telling Dom to turn it down,” said Sean. “Maybe he’ll listen to you.” He turned and headed back to the loungeroom, muttering, “It’s not like he listens to me.”
Elijah turned back to Orlando. “Well, that was… exciting.”
“I take it all back,” said Orlando, turning on the tap and sticking his head under the flow of cold water. “That’s an incredibly useful skill you have there.”
“Which one?” said Elijah, licking his lips.
Orlando stood up and shook off like a dog; fortunately for Elijah, like a dog without much hair. When he’d finished, they both stood there for a moment, testing how much things had changed.
Then Orlando’s gaze flicked down to Elijah’s lips.
...You’re a high voltage lover
Baby, gimme high voltage love...
“Hurry up,” called Sean, “Dom’s already eaten three pizzas, and he’s half-way through a fourth.”
“Oh,” said Elijah, grinning, “ominous!”
“Yeah,” said Orlando, smiling back. “He comes to eat our dinner.”
Epilogue—The Final Line
Elijah was lying on a beanbag, thoroughly stuffed with pizza, completely sated with far too many IceCreamDreams, and so sleepy he couldn’t keep his eyes open. Orlando was sitting on the floor next to him, idly playing with Elijah’s hair.
Viggo, Ian, Beany and John had called it a night while the clock was still showing double digits. Only the hard core were left.
“God,” said Dom in disgust, looking around at the disaster area that had formerly been Elijah’s loungeroom. “This place looks like a fucking slumber party.”
“What’s wrong with that?” asked Orlando, sliding his fingers just so, making Elijah purr and push up into his hand.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Dom. “That’s what. A bunch of guys sitting around playing Monopoly and eating pizza. Not to mention,” he said, pointedly, “playing with each other’s hair. Where’s the beer, I ask you? Where’s the porn? Where’s the substances of dubious legality?”
“I don’t have any problem with slumber parties,” said Liv, sliding into her jacket.
“Of course you don’t!” said Dom.
“But I must admit, I prefer my own bed to the floor,” she said, bending down to brush a kiss onto Elijah’s cheek. “See you tomorrow, sweetheart.”
“MmHmm,” Elijah managed, too tired to attempt anything more civilised.
“Come on,” said Billy to Dom, “I have some porn at home you haven’t seen yet.”
“Is it gay?” asked Dom, suddenly looking perky. “Please say it’s gay.”
“Sorry,” said Billy, and then, chuckling at Dom’s crestfallen look, “It’s a three-way.”
“Bastard,” said Dom. “Let’s go!”
“Night,” said Billy, waving at Elijah.
“Yeah, that,” said Dom, tugging at Billy’s arm.
Sean stood, fidgeting with his keys. “Come on Orli,” he said. “I’ll drop you home.”
“No,” said Elijah. “Stay. Both of you. There’s enough beds.”
There was a meaningful silence, and Elijah could feel some kind of negotiation going on between Sean and Orlando, despite the lack of words. He forced himself to open his eyes and sit up.
“Come on, Sean,” he said. “You’ve been waiting for me to be needy and demanding all day. Well, here I am, demanding that you stay.”
“You do realise,” said Sean, “that’s emotional blackmail?”
“Yes,” said Elijah. “Well spotted. Yes, it is.”
“Well thank god for that,” said Sean. “I guess that bastard hasn’t done you any permanent damage after all.”
Elijah affected an indignant pout, “Hey!”
“Come on then,” said Orlando, getting up and offering Elijah a hand. “I bags the south room.”
“No,” said Sean, with a steely expression. “I’m taking the south room. You’re taking the sofa bed.”
Elijah gave a snort of laughter. “Sean thinks you’re going to come and molest me in the night, Orlando.”
“Shows what he knows then,” said Orlando, with a steely look of his own. “But the sofa bed is fine with me. Why would I need a proper bed? I’m just a guy who once broke his spine.”
Sean sighed. “Fine, I’ll take the sofa.” He looked at Elijah. “You two are as bad as each other. And we have feet in less than,” he looked down at his watch, “three and a half hours. So now that you have everything arranged exactly as you like it, maybe we can all get some sleep.”
“You guys are the best,” said Elijah, and then jumped on Sean and gave him noisy kiss on the cheek. “The absolute best!” He spun away and gave Orlando the same treatment.
“Yeah, well,” said Sean, with obvious affection. “If I don’t put up with your antics, who will?”
“Apart from me,” said Orlando, smiling hugely. “Obviously.”
“I know,” said Elijah. “I do know,” and he went off to clean his teeth with a happy heart.
On to Play.