So here we have...
Title: And who has not?
Pairing: EW/OB, LotR RPS
Length: 2,400 words
For: lady_of_asheru who left the T.S. Eliot quote on my LJ, in a wonderful comment about “Elijah’s Collection 2—Lines.”
Disclaimer: I don’t know any of these people—it’s just a lucid fever-dream.
Summary: Elijah has friends, really.
And who has not?
The Friendship Book had been given to Elijah, as an eighteenth-birthday present, by a girl he wasn’t quite dating. A few days later, he got around to looking at it properly, only to discover that, rather than a book of poetry, as he’d originally assumed, it was one of those pretend books he hated—in this case, a collection of quotes about friendship, surrounded by some really quite appalling art.
He soldiered on dutifully, and read the first quote:
The friendships we make at school are the strongest friendships of our lives. Anon.
Elijah slammed the book shut. It was fucking stupid! Just as he’d known it would be. He dropped the book onto the coffee table, intending never to pick it up again, except, perhaps, to throw it in the garbage.
The quote kept sliding back into his mind, unbidden, for the rest of the day. It wasn’t true, of course. Elijah had plenty of friends, and the closest he’d ever come to attending school on a regular basis had been while filming The Faculty.
Somehow, though, he didn’t think that counted.
Elijah had never quite gotten around to throwing the book out; just as he’d never quite gotten around to asking the girl on a date. As he was going through his stuff, while packing for New Zealand, he found it buried under a heap of other books he’d never finished reading.
It still looked just as tacky as it had before. He stood there, staring at its floral-and-heart motif cover: The Friendship Book.
The title seemed to taunt him.
So he wasn’t entirely surprised, a few weeks after he’d arrived in New Zealand, to find the wretched thing stuffed into one of his hastily packed bags of odds and ends.
There was obviously no getting rid of it.
The Friendship Book ended up coming in surprisingly handy. Elijah found that if he read a few quotes, he’d inevitably end up feeling lonely and sad. And although he wasn’t a proponent of Method acting, sometimes it was quite useful to be able to channel lonely and sad. Frodo was a pretty sad and lonely dude a lot of the time, despite Sam’s best efforts to cheer him up.
A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked. Bernard Meltzer
“Sad and lonely,” Elijah muttered to himself, as he walked back to the set from his trailer after an unusually effective fix from The Friendship Book. “Lonely and sad.”
“Hey,” said Sean, startling Elijah out of his reverie. “You look like your pet just died. What’s up?”
“Just practising for this scene, man,” said Elijah.
“Oh.” Sean looked him over critically. “Not bad. But maybe slump your shoulders a bit more.”
Elijah obediently slumped.
“Nah,” said Sean. “Too much. Now you look like a turtle hunching into its shell. Go back a bit.”
Elijah lifted his shoulders a fraction.
“Perfect,” said Sean. “And talking of turtles… What do you call a turtle having sex?”
“I don’t know,” said Elijah, the sad and lonely mantra instantly wiped from his mind. “What the fuck do you call a turtle having sex?”
Sean grinned at him. “A slow poke.”
Elijah stared at Sean for a long moment, and then cracked up. “You just told a dirty joke!”
“Yeah,” said Sean, looking a little smug. “Like it?”
“It is, without doubt,” said Elijah, still laughing like a hyena, “the most pathetic dirty joke in the history of dirty-joke telling!”
Sean looked thrilled. “That means a lot, coming from you, my man.”
Elijah hugged Sean. “Thanks man. I really needed that.”
Sean hugged back. “Anytime, Lij. That’s what friends are for, right?”
For the rest of the day, Sean would whisper, “Slowpoke,” at random intervals. Every time, a smile would pop out before Elijah could stop it.
He ended up ruining three takes, and being talked to by Peter.
It was one of the best days Elijah had ever had.
A friend is someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else. Len Wein
“I’m never going to fucking get this!” said Elijah, totally frustrated. He had been practising on the surfboard for over three hours today; not to mention the three weeks he’d been coming along with Orlando, Billy and Dom. He was now, officially, the only one who still hadn’t managed to stand up.
“Sure you will,” said Billy. “It’s just going to take some more practice.”
“I have the balance and grace of a spastic giraffe on rollerskates,” said Elijah. “And I’ve swallowed enough seawater to send me completely loopy,” he pulled at his trunks, which were full of sand from his last dunking, “just like in the Rime of the Ancient fucking Mariner.”
“You sure ‘crack and growl, and roar and howl’ enough to be something Coleridge would think up,” said Billy. “You know, I could be down the pub, drinking myself into a nice warm stupor, rather than watching you dunk yourself in the briny deep like a misguided biscuit in search of a cup of tea.”
“I know,” said Elijah. “But watching me has one big advantage over the pub.”
“What’s that?” asked Billy.
“God, I don’t know,” said Elijah. “I was hoping you’d tell me.”
“Guess I must like you or something,” said Billy, grudgingly. “Now get back on that board, boy. I don’t have all feckin day to indulge your martyr complex!”
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed. Carl Jung
The night after Elijah first had sex with Orlando, he roamed his house, unable to settle down to anything. Orlando was off on a night shoot, but Elijah’s body wasn’t interested in excuses. It just wanted more Orlando, and wanted him now.
In desperation, Elijah tried to read, but couldn’t concentrate long enough to follow a plot. He tried one book after another; all his usual comfort reading. Until, finally, his hand fell on The Friendship Book. In a flash of inspiration, Elijah started flipping through it, looking for the perfect epigram to describe this snarl of feeling for Orlando that was meshing his insides.
He flipped through quotes about skin and flesh and blood, and none of them were right. The feeling was too deep for skin, too universal for flesh, not liquid enough for blood.
He read about fondness and forever and affinity, and none of those were right either. This was a dark, coiling, desperate thing—nothing like fondness. Given their careers, it was unlikely to even come close to forever. And they were about as different as two people could be and still want each other, so it certainly wasn’t affinity.
Elijah ended up reading The Friendship Book for most of the night, but never did find what he was looking for.
Never explain—True friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you anyway. Anon.
“What the fuck is this?” asked Dom, staring at The Friendship Book with a look of appalled fascination.
It would, of course, be Dom who found it. Elijah didn’t even attempt to explain the stupid story about the long-ago not-quite-girlfriend.
“A book,” he said, mock-patronisingly. “You know, a repository of information. Often used for educational purposes.”
“You call this,” said Dom, waving the book with an air of great scorn, “educational?”
“Nah,” said Elijah, grinning. “I call it entertainment. Go on, read a bit.”
Dom opened the book dubiously. “‘A true friend stabs you in the front.’ Oscar Wilde.” He looked up, eyes shining. “Hey, Elijah,” he said. “Your eyes look fucking freakish. Like they’re too big for your face.”
“You bitch. I’m wounded.” Elijah clutched at his chest. “And while we’re on the topic of personal imperfections, I’d just like to say that when it comes to food, you’re the most disgusting pig I’ve ever met.”
Dom grinned even wider. “Cool. Exactly the effect I was going for!” He looked down at the book again. “You’re right; this book is the good shit. Can I borrow it?”
“Sure man,” said Elijah, “and don’t feel obliged to bring it back.”
And, as simply as that, The Friendship Book was finally gone from his life.
True friendship is never serene. Mariede Svign
Or nearly gone. For the next three months, Dom tortured them all with random quotes. Usually at highly inappropriate moments.
That, combined with Elijah’s own elephantine memory for lines, meant that although the book was gone, it was certainly not forgotten.
Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success. Oscar Wilde
Elijah was attempting to read a collection of T. S. Eliot, given to him by his latest not-quite-girlfriend. It was heavy going; none of the poems really reverberated with him much. So when the phone rang, Elijah leapt on it, like a drowning man on a flotation device.
“Orli,” he said. “What’s up?”
“Pirates,” Orlando shouted down the phone. “I got fucking Pirates!”
Elijah pulled the phone away from his ear a little. “Oh my God, man! That’s fantastic!”
“I still can’t fucking believe it!” said Orlando, at a marginally lower volume. “Pirates!”
“You’ll make a fucking sexy pirate, Orli,” Elijah said. “I can’t wait to see you doing the whole swordplay thing, and, you know, saying stuff like avast me hearties.”
“Wanna a sneak preview?” asked Orlando, and without giving Elijah enough time to reply, “avast me hearties!”
Elijah laughed in delight. “You’re a natural, man. God, what did your Mom say? I bet she was thrilled to bits.”
“I haven’t rung her yet,” said Orlando. “I wanted to tell you first,” and then with hardly a breath, “you’ll never believe who else is signed on!”
Elijah racked his brain for cool actors that neither he nor Orlando had worked with before. “John Cusask?”
“Close,” said Orlando. “It’s a John. Or rather a Johnny.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Elijah, feeling a tiny pang of envy. “Not Johnny Depp!”
“Yep,” said Orlando, smugly, and then with a sudden increase in background noise, ”wait a second, Lij. Something’s going on here.”
Elijah could vaguely hear Orlando speaking, even though he was obviously muffling the receiver. A long moment passed, with the muffled sounds getting weirder and weirder. It was like an out-of-tune orchestra were tuning up somewhere close to Orlando.
Then, without warning, Orlando was speaking. “I’m gonna have to call you back, Lij,” he said, sounding frazzled. “There are some movers here, trying to deliver a pianola.”
And with a sudden click, Elijah was listening to dial tone.
“A pianola?” he said to the dead air.
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. Anais Nin
“What the fuck?” asked Elijah, as soon as Orlando rang back.
“God, you’ll never believe it!” said Orlando. “I mean, I was here, and I still hardly believe it myself.”
“I certainly won’t believe if you never tell me,” said Elijah, pointedly.
“Apparently,” Orlando said, “some guy in a music shop read an interview with me, in which I supposedly said that I liked pianolas.”
“I never knew you had a thing for pianolas,” said Elijah. “You been holding out on me?”
“I don’t have a thing for pianolas,” said Orlando. “I don’t even fucking know where that came from. But anyway, this guy, the music shop guy…”
“Who thinks you have a thing for pianolas,” said Elijah.
“… yeah, this guy rings my agent. Says he wants to give me a pianola. As a publicity stunt.”
“And you agreed to this?” asked Elijah, surprised.
“Fuck no,” said Orlando, sounding pained. “Helen doesn’t bother telling me about the pianola guy, because as it turns out, she does have a thing for pianolas!”
“You’re fucking kidding me!” said Elijah, starting to snigger.
“I kid you not,” said Orlando, “unfortunately. So, these three guys the size of gorillas turn up on my doorstep. And I’m like, ‘no, no. I don’t want any pianola. I didn’t buy any pianola. Take the fucking thing away.’ And as they’ve lugged the thing up six floors, you can imagine this isn’t going down so well.”
Elijah, having stuffed a pillow in his mouth, managed a muffled sound that could, possibly, be interpreted as sympathetic.
“So, then my agent finally rings me and tells me there’s a pianola on the way. And I’m like ‘duh! You don’t say, Helen. Because it’s right here in my doorway!’”
Elijah unwedged a corner of the pillow. “That sucks, man,” he managed, the worst of the giggles over.
“Tell me about it. So now,” said Orlando, sounding resigned, “I have a fucking pianola in my bedroom.”
“Your bedroom?” Elijah said, and stuffed the pillow back into his mouth.
“The whole fucking place is still in boxes,” said Orlando. “The only room that had enough space for the fucking thing was my bedroom.” Orlando fell silent. “You’re laughing your arse off, aren’t you?”
With an heroic effort, Elijah pulled himself together. “Of course not, Orli.”
“It’s OK,” said Orlando, starting to chuckle. “It is pretty fucking funny.”
“No,” said Elijah, laughing along with him. “It’s fucking hilarious.”
They spent the rest of the evening making increasingly smutty jokes about pianolas, interspersed with Orlando playing the thing’s entire repertoire down the phone line.
The next evening, when Elijah got back to slogging through the Eliot, he finally found what he’d been looking for in The Friendship Book; that night after he’d first had sex with Orlando:
If a man has one person, just one in his life,
To whom he is willing to confess everything –
And that includes, mind you, not only things criminal,
Not only turpitude, meanness and cowardice,
But also situations which are simply ridiculous,
Where he has played the fool (and who has not?)
Then he loves that person, and his love will save him.