by Schuyler

Twelve seats at the table, but only eleven people, chatting and laughing and just sitting down. Orlando did a quick count and then looked around, searching. "Orlando?" Sean took his seat at the head of the table and then looked up at his friend.

"Have you seen Lij?" Sean shook his head and drew his napkin across his lap. "Order me a drink, right? I'm going to find him."

Sean may have replied, but Orlando was already gone. Week thirteen of the shooting and Elijah had started disappearing for an hour or so at a time. The night's shooting had been canceled due to rain and they had agreed to meet in the restaurant in their hotel for dinner. Elijah had promised. Orlando knocked on Elijah's door once, but he didn't think Elijah would be in there. If he didn't want to be found, it would be the worst place to hide. Orlando had seen Elijah once, a few days before, heading for the staircase at the end of the hallway. He looked back at the elevator, the others would hardly notice him gone, then dashed down to the staircase.

Once inside, the doors could only be opened by room key, and Orlando's floor was down, so he kept going up and up. It felt like the stairwell, all cold concrete and steel was getting narrower and narrower, and he lost track of how high he'd gone, up and up. The door at the top said only Roof. He pushed through and there was rain in his eyes. It was coming straight down, like silver nails falling. He squinted and put his hand up to shield his eyes. Elijah was sitting on the other side of the roof, on some metal fan contraption, just staring out at nothing. "Lij!" He walked up beside him, not wanting to slip. "Lij, are you okay? You'll freeze."

Elijah didn't seem to notice it was raining. Water droplets were gathering on his long brown lashes and he blinked. "I was just looking, y'know." He looked up at Orlando, his eyes all perfect blue in the gathering dark. "Everything looks so different here, but if you sit right here," Orlando sat beside him on the cold steel, "and look off that way, towards the river and the bridge, it looks just like the Mississippi and the Centennial Bridge over to Illinois."

Orlando nodded a little. Elijah swore he wasn't homesick, that he'd never be. He was lying. "Come on in, now. We'll get you dried off and warmed up and maybe some room service, because I'm starved." He ushered Elijah up and back to the door, down past Elijah's floor and onto Orlando's. And as they stood outside Orlando's door, Orlando could hear Elijah's teeth chattering.

Inside, Elijah just stood uncertainly. Orlando drew the bolt and stood in front of him. "You'll go the bathroom and dry off, then you can get in bed and warm up, all right?" He pressed his hand to Elijah's cheek and felt it cold and clammy under his palm, his skin deathly pale. Elijah nodded, slowly, then went into the bathroom and closed the white door. And Orlando shook hard. He pressed his hand to his forehead and tried desperately to calm down. Elijah could have frozen to death out there. Well, maybe not literally, but it couldn't be safe. He counted his breaths and turned down the sheets.

Elijah stepped out in the white hotel bathrobe. "I hung my clothes on the shower bar."

"Great. Come get in bed." Orlando wasn't sure Elijah would move. News traveled fast among the cast and crew, so he knew Elijah knew about him, about his preferences. Orlando wasn't sure he would take the offer. Elijah looked up at him, then down, then shuffled across the floor (his toes looked blue) and climbed into Orlando's bed. Those eyes of his didn't shut, he laid his head on the pillow and stared off into nothing. "I said I wasn't gonna get homesick because I've been away from home before, y'know? No big deal. But America is home. All the mountains kind of look the same and all the fields kind of look the same. And fuck, the money and the stamps and the magazines and the stores. It's not so much that I've been gone for five months, but that it's so long till I go back."

"Yeah." Orlando sat on the bed and looked down at him. Elijah's hands were curled up beside his head. Orlando took one in his hand and squeezed.

He closed his eyes when the tears started to fall. "Thanks for coming to get me."


Elijah looked so peaceful while he slept, all pale like snow, like the pillow. His hand steadily warmed in Orlando's and he curled into a ball, all swaddled in white terrycloth. Orlando leaned against the headboard, still in his t-shirt and jeans, and watched Elijah breathe.

When Orlando woke, just before daybreak the next morning, Elijah's hand was still clasped in his. Elijah was awake, but laying down, staring off into space again. "You feeling better?"

"Yeah." Elijah didn't turn. "Thanks for, you know."

"No problem. We're gonna be here for a long time. It happens. But I don't want you going and getting yourself killed. It'll mean long, painful reshoots for me." They both smiled. "Here's what, if you feel all terrible again, come find me and you can cry on my shoulder or whatever you need." Elijah pressed his face towards the pillow, but he was still smiling. "Just come up and," Orlando smirked, "come up and tell me you need a fag."

Elijah burst into laughter. "Fuck."

Orlando didn't think Elijah would ever take him up on the offer. Elijah still got pale and drawn sometimes, disappeared when he wasn't needed. Orlando wanted to help, wanted to chase him down and make sure he was all right, but it wouldn't do anyone any good to make Elijah feel smothered and self-conscious. He'd wait.

Elijah came up one night after shooting. Orlando and Billy were chatting in front of the hotel, taking a moment to be social. Elijah looked so small, with his eyes cast downward, scuffing his feet across the sidewalk, sidling up to them. "Orli?"

"Yeah," Orlando smiled a little, thinking he knew what was coming next.

"Could I have a fag?"

"Yeah, up in my room, come on." They were silent on the elevator ride up, and the walk down the corridor, and while Orlando slid his key in and opened the door. Orlando turned to face Elijah and smiled, a tiny, sympathetic smile. He half-gathered, Elijah half-fell into his arms.

"Just for a little while."

Orlando shuffled and pushed and prodded until they were up on the bed, Elijah cradled in against his shoulder.

And they stayed there, very quiet and very still, Elijah's nose pressed into Orlando's shoulder and Orlando's hand clasped around Elijah's upper arm. He hoped it felt protective. Elijah shook once, clasped Orlando's shoulder and shook again, and Orlando thought he heard crying. Elijah's hand slipped, past the collar of Orlando's shirt and onto bare skin. Orlando suppressed his shiver. Something bizarre about Elijah touching him like that, something intimate and wonderful. He loved it, he wanted it. And Elijah had come to him for help.

"Did you tell anyone?" Elijah asked, in a voice barely heard. "About ... this?"

"No. Never, Lij." Elijah nodded, almost a thanks, and went back to being still. "Talk to me, Lij. What's wrong?"

Elijah tried to pull himself together. "It's nothing, I'm just being stupid."

"Go on and be stupid, then. I'll be here." He slid down a little further on the bed, kicked a blanket over them and settled in.

The next day, he slipped a People magazine under Elijah's door.

It was one thing to wait around, for Elijah to wait around until he was on the point of breaking and then run to Orlando, but not a very brilliant thing, because people were starting to wonder about his periodic disappearances. It would make far more sense to hang around a lot with Orlando, so he was always getting a steady, low-level dosage of understanding. Like a nicotine patch.

This was the way Orlando reasoned it.

Because he hadn't quite figured out why Elijah was camped out on the floor in his hotel room with a box of Honey Maid Graham Crackers sent by a friend back in the States, flipping through the channels on his television.

Orlando was crosslegged on the bed, staring at the back of Elijah's head. "There's a television in your room."

"But you're not in my room. It's boring." Orlando smiled, because Elijah couldn't see him, then sighed dramatically and fell backwards on the bed. "Oh come on. We're bonding for the good of the movie. Have a cracker." Orlando lifted his head to see Elijah's hand waving over his head, half a sheet of graham cracker offered back towards Orlando. "It's an American delicacy."

Orlando got up from the bed, "It's a cracker," and leaned over Elijah, snatching the cracker away with his teeth.

He stopped dead, and Elijah looked up at him, let his arm fall to the ground. Elijah was just staring at him, and Orlando couldn't tell if it was a question or an acknowledgement. He could feel himself start to blush and snatched the cracker away from his mouth, wiped at the crumbs on his face with the back of his hand. Elijah turned back to the tv. "Sit down."

Orlando thought it should have felt like pedophilia, if he and Elijah weren't so close in age. Elijah had shown up at Orlando's door in his pajamas. "Peter cornered me today to lecture me about my smoking," and Orlando couldn't think of a retort that didn't sound dirty.

Elijah was asleep now, pressed all against the length of him, and breathing softly against Orlando's neck. Orlando had his cheek pressed against Elijah's forehead, could feel Elijah's curls on his eyelids as he drifted off to sleep. And he liked this.

Sitting on a bench under a tree behind the cameras, Orlando sighed. He wondered if he could sigh angrily, and tried again. A morning of all around shitty takes, a tear in his cloak, an argument with Sean Bean. He wanted to go and shut himself up in his apartment back in London, read a book and take a nap. But he was stuck in New Zealand.

Elijah came up and sat beside him. He was quiet, he'd been getting quieter over the last few weeks. Elijah just leaned his head on Orlando's shoulder, like he had before, when he was the one who needed comforting. Orlando ran a hand up Elijah's upper arm, leaned his cheek against Elijah's forehead, and exhaled.

Elijah was standing there all alone when shooting was finished, waiting for Orlando. He smiled warmly when Orlando came near and Orlando laid one hand across Elijah's waist, drew him off to the side. "What's wrong, Lij, do you need me?"

"No, I just thought you could use a friend tonight. We could watch tv and ignore the rest of the cast."

"Yeah, right, okay."

An hour and a half later, Elijah and Orlando were sitting on the floor in front of Orlando's bed, watching Shortland Street. Orlando's eyebrows were knit together. "This is kind of awful."

"Shh," Elijah waved his hand in Orlando's face and kept watching, his knees drawn up to his chest.

"Seriously, Lij, if we could watch..." Elijah's hand shot out haltingly in front of Orlando's face and Orlando sighed and waited.

Once the commercial had come on, Elijah turned to him. "You were saying?" Elijah always looked like that, hopeful and eager and excited. Good.


Far later than he should have, Elijah left Orlando's room. He stood in the doorway and Orlando was having an awkward time of saying goodbye. Elijah was just staring at him, and he meant to say something, but how does one say goodbye to someone they'll see again in seven hours. This hadn't been so hard the day before. "Goodnight, then."

Elijah cupped Orlando's jaw in his hand and leaned in on his toes, kissed Orlando square on the lips, a quick press of lips. "Feeling better, Orli?"

Fuck. Orlando did. This all, this arrangement, it was supposed to be for Elijah's benefit, poor little American boy bearing the weight of the Great Trilogy on his back. And Orlando had been reaping benefits as well. But with Elijah pressed warm against him, in a sweet hug, it was impossible to feel guilty.

Elijah pulled cleanly away and walked off towards the elevator as if he had nothing at all on his mind. Orlando took a step to the right and shut the door before staring at the wall until he could think again. He wanted to see Elijah again, immediately, wished horribly for Elijah to break down, so Orlando could comfort him, sleep next to him again. And what did that say about Orlando?

The pub was filled with the sounds of glasses clinking and clattering against tables and people talking about nothing at all, but Orlando imagined he could hear what Elijah was saying, across the room, talking to Billy and laughing, throwing his head back when he laughed. Orlando imagined he could hear that sound, wanted to hear it again, though he had it memorized. And when he came back into himself, Dominic, beside him, was looking pointedly away.

Orlando turned back around to the bar and ordered another. And there was a man beside him. Not a boy like Elijah, not a star or an actor, just a man, about his own age, waiting for his drink. "Hello."

He turned his head at Orlando, looking at him at an angle. "Hey." The bartender slid a whiskey in front of the student? construction worker? librarian? He could be anything. Took the first sip and winced.

"The first one's the worst, eh?"

"I find that the second and third aren't all sunshine either." They laughed a little, the ice cracked. He turned his whole body to face Orlando. "Wes."

"Orlando." Orlando resisted the urge to shake hands.

"That's not a name you hear very often around here."

"Or around anywhere." Wes had green eyes, not sort of green, sort of blue, definitely, no mistaking green eyes. And one crooked front tooth.

"So, Wes, what do you do?" He raised his beer to his lips and knew that Dominic was gone.

Wes, who was a carpenter, was very charming, laughed at Orlando's jokes, and was the sexiest thing in the world when he smiled. Orlando had slid forward off of his stool a little and Wes had followed suit until their knees interlocked and they could murmur at each other. Orlando had his eyes narrowed in the way he did when he was trying to be seductive. Wes was a little drunk and very responsive. Orlando had his lips almost to Wes' ear, whispering a sentence with more than one meaning when Elijah appeared at his side. Orlando stayed close to Wes, turning to look up at Elijah. "Yeah?"

"I've got a headache. Wondered if you'd take me home." He seemed a little more fragile than usual, looked about twelve. The rest of the gang was still back in their corner booth, watching intently.

Orlando looked at Wes, sipping another whiskey, and then back at Elijah. "Sure, yeah." Orlando downed the last of his first beer and stood up. He didn't bother to say goodbye to Wes. He pushed the door open for Elijah and drove the speed limit.

Elijah didn't say a word.

Orlando went downstairs to his own room and punched the wall and promised himself he wouldn't speak to Elijah for a week. How dare he? Elijah had no claim on Orlando. None at all.

It was a minor sprain, he'd be right as rain in a few days, but all Orlando heard was the yell when Elijah slipped. Orlando knelt close behind Elijah, let Elijah lean against his chest. Sean Astin, kneeling by Elijah's feet, kept staring at the ground. "'S not that bad, Orli," Elijah whispered, then winced and dug his fingers into Orlando's thigh as the medic prodded at his ankle.

Orlando whirled his head around and glared at Peter. The others were all looking away. Peter sighed and rubbed his forehead, then looked at his watch. They'd lose the light in seven minutes anyway. "Go on home, all of you." Orlando used up the last of his patience while the makeup and hair people tore and wiped and got them ready to go home. The medic had given Elijah something for the pain, but told him not to take it until they were back at the hotel. Orlando just barely got Elijah settled in bed, a pillow under his swollen ankle, before he was dead asleep.

He waited there, trying hard not to think, fending off the others, until Elijah woke up. He leaned out of his chair and crawled across the bed until he was leaning beside, leaning over Elijah. Orlando smiled encouragingly and Elijah smiled back. "D'ya need anything?"

And Elijah just stared up at him, head tilted just a little so that he looked as if he were seeing something new. Elijah reached up, held Orlando's face still between his palms. "Those aren't your eyes."

"Hmm?" Then Orlando blinked and realized that he was still wearing his contact lenses. It seemed so normal for Elijah to be touching him like this. He wondered if it would be like this for all of them in the end, if he would touch Dominic, or Billy would touch him like this. He prayed not. He wanted it to be special. He wanted it to be just between them. "D'you want me to take them out?"

"Yeah," Elijah said, still a little distracted. His eyes were watery, swimming, and his voice lilting and dreamy. It was the drugs, Orlando knew. He'd been there once, said things he'd never meant to say. Orlando pulled back and Elijah's hands fell away. In the bathroom, he nearly blinded himself. But he felt like he had to get back, like leaving a pot on the stove while you answer the phone.

"You were going to sleep with him." Elijah was staring at the ceiling. "If I hadn't...right?" Orlando turned his head and Elijah was just staring at him. He nodded. He was embarrassed of what had happened in the pub, guilty though he'd done nothing wrong.

"Would you have slept with me too, if I'd asked?"

It was the drugs. It had to be the drugs. Orlando looked up at the ceiling now. He couldn't bear Elijah's eyes on him. "Yes," he whispered. It hurt to tell the truth. He wondered if his eyes were watery.

"Slide down," Elijah rolled onto his side and tugged weakly at Orlando's sleeve. "Come on." He was whining now and Orlando let himself be pulled. Elijah was saying things he couldn't mean, so Orlando was going to pretend they weren't being said at all. Elijah curled up tight around Orlando and yawned. Orlando pressed a sweet, comforting kiss to Elijah's forehead. "I love you, Orli." And then he was asleep.

Orlando froze to the spot. He wasn't going to fall asleep now, he could hardly blink. He began to try to slip away, but Elijah moaned pitifully in his sleep and held fast, letting Orlando drag him along. At this rate, Orlando was going to jar Elijah's ankle.

The door swung open and Sean Astin stuck his head in. "Hey," he smiled, "taking advantage while he's knocked out?" Orlando tried his best not to look horrified and managed a weak laugh. "We'll be in Billy's room. Give us a holler when he's ready for company." Orlando nodded and Sean left again. Then Orlando could finally exhale, close his eyes, and pray that Elijah would forget everything he'd said.

Orlando must have fallen asleep at some point, because now he was waking up; he was being kissed awake. Someone over him, kissing his eyelids and his cheeks and pressing hot, chaste kisses to his mouth. Someone whose left leg was being held very carefully still. So it must be Elijah.

His eyes shot open, half-expecting to find nothing at all, just waking from a strange dream, but there was Elijah, eyes clearer than they had been and smiling. "I love you too."

Orlando pulled himself quickly away, his back slamming against the headboard and Elijah squirmed into his lap, favoring that left ankle as best he could. Orlando couldn't remember saying anything, but Elijah was on him again and Orlando didn't push him away. He let Elijah kiss him, even slid his tongue into Elijah's mouth, delighted in the gasp he got in return. Elijah's head fell to his shoulder, licking at his collarbone and whispering frantic things in his ear while his hands worked their way into Orlando's fly. "I can't believe it took so long. I wanted, yes, wanted you for days. Been waiting." He began to pant and Orlando felt dizzy when Elijah's hand closed around his dick.

Orlando took a shaky breath in. "Watch your ankle." And then he held Elijah close and laid him on his back. That's when he finally looked. Elijah's eyes were clear and bright and his cheeks flushed, his lips parted and he looked...ready.

Orlando pressed down against him, slow and steady, and Elijah bucked up quickly and wildly and whimpered low in his throat and Orlando felt terrible for denying him his pleasure. He tugged his pants off with one hand, kicking them into a ball under the sheets, then pressed down again, his cock falling into step beside Elijah's. Elijah's eyes were closed and his head was thrown back and he was smiling. He pulled Orlando clumsily down for a kiss and didn't let him go until he needed the air. Orlando's mind was blank, his body moved on its own, and everything in the world was waiting, waiting for Elijah to let out a tiny shriek and shudder hard and clutch Orlando's biceps until it hurt. And then Orlando could come.

"I want you to know that...that this was the first time I've...touched you like that. I would never have taken advantage."

Elijah was sitting in bed, covers pulled up to his chin. "I know."

Orlando sat on the blankets beside him, still naked and rubbing at his eyes with the heels of his hands. "And I don't remember saying it, I think I would remember something like that. So I'm gonna say it now." He took a deep breath, but Elijah cut him off.

"I know." Elijah nodded once, and watched. He watched while Orlando sighed and crawled under the covers, held on to him and then sobbed inaudibly and shook with the force of it. Elijah's arms came up around him.