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Title: Thick
Author: Inbetweens
Original Story: Getting It by Pippinspeach
Pairing: DM/BB, BB/EW
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Sean said Wood was going to be just like one of them. That they should treat him like another one of them. So they had. More or less, anyway.

DISCLAIMER: The author makes no claims or inferences to reality or truthfulness. Moreover, this story is based upon the work of another author and recognises their creation.

* * * * *

None of it even crosses his mind until that day in dialect training. Elijah Wood pushes back for the first time, and then Sean breaks it up and Wood stomps off. For a while, it had been quite promising: he'd risen to the occasion and his freakish, bright eyes caught some wicked light as he dropped to his knees. Finally, Dom had thought. A feigned quarrel, a blowjob joke, and the moment was supposed to reach a climax before everyone in the room falls over howling.

Then he notices exactly how much Elijah's risen to the occasion.

While everything's still falling together in his head, Sean jerks the kid to his feet. "Jesus Christ, what are you gonna do if someone comes in here and sees this, huh? Quit making idiots out of yourselves. I've sat by and watched long enough. Shooting starts next week, and it's time to knock off the bullshit. You both bluffed, and you both win, all right? Cut it out."

But Elijah's red and that makes his eyes even more aggressively blue, and he mutters something about how he needs work and then he's gone, and Billy is standing slack-jawed where he was.

Sean glares around the room and slumps down in his chair. No one speaks, and Dom can't so much as move. Oh. That makes a lot of sense.

Orlando speaks first, and it's clear that he doesn't get it quite yet. "Well, who's he think he is, anyhow, walking out on mandatory classes?"

"He's a closeted mess, that's who," Dom murmurs in astonishment. He looks up: there's confirmation in Billy's eyes. Dom grins hopefully. "P'raps you ought to set that to rights some night, Bill."

"Hah!" Billy looks away, bites his bottom lip. "Oh, after you, please. I can't stand his music, for one thing, and you play the same crap all the bloody time. It's destiny. Love in the stars."

Dom giggles, feeling a bit better. Just let the moment fade. "Age before beauty..."

Billy turns back and there's a genuine smile on his face again. "Pearls before swine... Ah ah ah, quick, who said that?" He nudges Dom with a shoulder and taps his watch. "Five seconds or five pounds!"

"Guys, can it." Sean's hands are in his hair, and he's staring down at his copy of the script. "He's the lead, after all, and he's still got time to quit. And if he does, whoever causes it will be on the next plane out behind him, believe you me."

Another silence. "He's not going to quit. He's too proud for that," murmurs Billy.

"You sure about that? Seems there's a whole fucking lot you don't know about him. Not that you've ever bothered to learn." Sean sighs, rolls up his script. "This is ridiculous."

The door opens and their teacher Edward walks through. "Right, then, let's see how you're doing." He pauses, looks around, cringes. "Um, is this a bad time?"

Dom shakes his head, but Sean's already speaking. "I think a few of us need a bit of time to grow up before tackling something like Tolkien. Might want to give them some Doctor Seuss first." With that, he's up and out, slamming the door behind them.

Edward raises an eyebrow but opens his script and perches on the stool at the front of the classroom. "Er, right. Um... How about we all just sit down and start at page fifty-six?"

Dom sits and tries to lose his head in the arrhythmic names. He glances up at Billy only once, but Billy's eyes are fixed on the script and there's something wrong with them. Dom concentrates on his work after that. No use in falling behind over something stupid.

-

Dom had been afraid of meeting Elijah Wood at first. Sure, he was going to have to meet Ian McKellan and Sean Bean and other huge names, but Wood was going to be with them all the time. They were supposed to be on the same level as him, and Dom was pretty sure that wasn't going to be the case. They'd picked up a few of his movies, and even in the shite flicks like Flipper, he was perfect. Even as a kid, he was better than anything Dom had done. Fuck.

Orlando and Billy felt the same way, he's almost certain of it. Pete had been the one to suggest they buy some of his films and get acquainted with his style, but Orlando had suggested that they buy all the wretched straight-to-video ones and have a proper night of drunken bashing.

They'd gotten fabulously pissed the evening the videos arrived and watched them in Billy's bedroom. It was overall much more depressing than they'd intended. Sure, they laughed their arses off during Black and White, but there was no denying that Elijah was a high point in the film. Orlando had passed out on the carpet at about five, halfway through The Bumblebee Flies Anyway.

"He's really got it, doesn't he?" Billy murmured softly as they became more accustomed to Wood's face.

Even drunk, he could have come up with a dozen hilarious retorts, but there was something very solemn and close moment. "Yeah," he replied. "He does."

Billy clumsily grabbed the remote, paused the screen on Wood's surprised face, and turned to Dom. "You worried?"

Again, Dom went with honesty. Maybe it was because it was just Billy. "Yeah. Bloody terrified."

Billy nodded. "Me too."

They started the movie again and then Dom woke up to static and Billy's limp body sprawled against his. He shut his eyes and let Billy's breathing lull him back to sleep. That had been the first night he stayed at Billy's house, which he's since made into a weekly (minimum) habit.

Dom had been talking about the whole how-to-treat-him problem one afternoon and Sean had sat on their bench with a smile. "You guys are scared? Honestly. He's just a kid. He's going to be a hobbit just like us."

"Exactly," Orlando cut in with a frown. "What the hell are we supposed to do with him?"

"What you do to every pretty boy you see in Wellington." Dom grinned wickedly at him.

Orlando nodded calmly. "Oh, you mean what I did to your mum last night?"

Sean rolled his eyes but couldn't hide his grin. "Treat him like you'd treat each other. Treat him like he's just like one of you guys." He paused. "Just a smarter, better-smelling version of one of you."

"RUDY!" Billy and Orlando roared in unison, tackling him and rolling about in a mess of limbs and laughter. Dom reached down, tickled Orlando until he screamed, and was promptly pulled into the fray.

After they'd all run out of breath and Alan had shrieked at them for horsing around so close to the set, Orlando brought it up again. "Think it will be weird, trying to see him as one of us?"

"Yeah, but..." Billy shrugged. "Sounds like a good idea. Just give him a few days before you try to get him into your arse."

Orlando smacked him on the back of the head and they all fell into a heap again.

Sean, the most experienced actor of the four, said Wood was going to be just like one of them. That they should treat him like another one of them. So they had.

More or less, anyway.

-

Dom's never met anyone like Billy before. He had mates in school and still talks to some of them on the phone, but no one's been like Billy. The first time they stood face to face, Dom knew that Pete had done something right. They were going to be Merry and Pippin: and from that moment, he would have trusted Billy with his life, his house keys, his porn collection, and the name and phone number of the first girl he ever slept with, the one he secretly still imagines as the mum of his children. Hell, he trusts Billy with the knowledge that he does want children of his own and that he wants to be married, even if it's to a bloke, and he worries that he'll never find anyone that will be able to stand him for long enough to make those kinds of plans. They can just sit by each other and Dom will have the most amazingly fun night of his life. They think at the same rate, and sometimes in the same ways, and they can keep up with each other. Even bickering with him is comfortable and kind of fun.

He seeks Billy out at dinner, sits by him even though he doesn't look too talkative. He sits down, pats him briefly on the back, and digs into his chicken. Billy grunts softly in greeting, worrying a bit of broccoli with his fork. He has that concerned, doubting feel about him, and Dom keeps silent. They both know that sensation plenty well enough. If Bill wants to say something, he will.

They eat in silence; or rather, Dom eats and Billy fidgets, taking the occasional sip of tea. Dom and Billy both get into these quiet holes, while Orlando and Sean get loudly and extrovertedly irritated. Dom and Billy work well together even silent and a little scared, and Dom's actually a bit thankful for the silence.

His own mind is in a bit of a frenzy over the afternoon, specifically about Elijah's reaction. He's not above mocking a man for sporting some wood, but the moment and the hard-on don't go together, or shouldn't, at any rate. Not just messing around with the blokes. Not looking up at Billy.

Dom looks up. Bill's cup is empty.

He goes up and refills it without a word. When he sits back down, Billy gives him a genuine smile. "Thank you." Everything becomes much better.

Until Sean sits down across from him. "What the hell are you thinking?"

It's so unexpected that it takes Dom a good two seconds to come up with an answer. "That Orlando really wouldn't look as good with tits as you might expect, yeah?"

Billy snorts into his tea and Sean stares at him. "Act like a professional for just a second, would you?"

"Hey, there's no " Dom tries.

"You too. Just act like it. That's what they're paying you for, remember? Now." He turns back to Billy. "What are you trying to do, toying with Elijah like that?"

"We were trying to treat him like one of us." Billy speaks softly and evenly, expression cool.

"Like hell you were! You were trying to break him, to knock him down!"

"You're the one who told us not to treat him like anything special." His voice goes funny around the word special, and Dom's not quite able to place the sound.

"Don't even try. He's under more pressure than you can even imagine. You're going to make him snap. Do you think for one second that any of us can do what he's doing?"

Dom grits his teeth and chokes back a "yes," because it would be a bloody fucking lie.

"And if he goes, do you think anyone else is going to be able to carry the film? Do you think we can just find another Frodo?"

"He's not going anywhere," Billy says quietly, stabbing a piece of broccoli and actually eating it.

"You think not? Then you better fucking make sure of it." Sean stands up, glares down for a moment, then storms off.

They say nothing for a long, stunned moment.

"And who does he think he is? Elijah's mum?" Dom demands when he comes to his senses.

"Just." Billy shakes his head and pushes away his plate. "I don't know."

Dom steals the roll from the plate to see if he can get a rise out of Bill. He can't. Bill is still sitting there with that quiet, angry look on his face.

"We were treating him like one of us," Billy finally announces. "It just was that we became us before he was around."

"And that he can't handle the teasing?" Dom can't help asking. "What, he's never been around a group of blokes before.

"Probably not," Billy muses, expression softening.

Dom mulls over that for a moment, trying to picture it from Elijah's eyes. "He really is just a kid," he marvels. He can't imagine living as an actor, a real actor, and still being so young. Not really having a childhood, or anything to grow up into.

"He's eighteen years old." Billy's voice is clipped and he's staring off into nothing.

"I wasn't that young at eighteen," he replies.

"Not young." Billy's voice has that off sound again, the one that clenches something around Dom's lungs. "Just alone."

Dom shakes his head. "More like oblivious."

"Yes," but it's said with thoughtfulness, not a hint of teasing or lightness at all.

"A bit thick, if you ask me," Dom tries.

"Alone," Billy repeats, and it sounds even more like... whatever it is, and it grinds Dom's teeth.

"So we baby him? What are we supposed to do? Speak only in Hobbit-talk with him? Master Wood, perchance we might..." He trails off. "Hey, it's nothing. It will be sorted out and everything will get back to normal. Better than normal. We'll ease off on him and things will be fine."

"Yeah. Ease off." Billy's eyes are distant again, and Dom can tell that this isn't getting anywhere.

He picks up his plate. "Don't let it get to you. Everyone's had a rough day. Stop by if you feel like it later, okay? Or give me a ring."

"Sure. See you."

"Yeah." Dom pats him on the shoulder, wanting to stay but fairly certain it wouldn't do any good. He leaves Billy with that funny, pensive face and a tightening feeling in his own chest.

-

He wakes propped against the sofa in front of a "GAME OVER" screen, sound muted and controls still in his hands. "Fuck," he mumbles through cracked lips, rubbing his eyes. The skin on his face feels too tight.

He switches the telly off, wincing as he stretches out, and glances at the clock. 3:04. Oh, marvelous.

He looks down at his cell phone and frowns, checking the messages anyway. Nothing.

He thinks about Sean's rage, Billy's soft voice. Fuck it. He calls him. Billy hates being woken up too early, but it's not as if he hasn't done it to Dom plenty of times. That time after the unsuccessful gay bar visit, and that time he got it into his head to go fishing, and that time he became convinced that they should all go play pranks on Viggo, and the time he was so fucking scared that no one wanted nobodies like them in these roles.

Billy doesn't answer, and Billy always answers, whether Dom's calling because he just got this brilliant idea about what they should try to do to Orlando's hair or because he's drunk and bored or because he's so fucking scared that no one wants nobodies like them in these roles. He answers grumpy, but he fucking answers. Dom tries not to freak out like some girl, tries to go to sleep on the couch.

That attempt lasts all of five seconds. He gets a coat and walks over to Bill's.

The air is cool and delicious, and the sky is perfectly clear. There's a crescent moon, thousands of stars, more than over the roofs at home. He doesn't really care about the sky right now, but it's a lovely image and he tries to look up every time he gets too worked up.

Billy's door is unlocked. Dom doesn't let himself worry about it: Billy never locks his door, none of them do, it's so that they always have somewhere to go if one of them is lonely... Fine, fine, he only lets himself get a little worried about that.

"Billy? You awake?" he asks the dark room. There's no answer. He shuts the door behind him, rubs his hands together to warm them, and begins to look around slowly. It feels like a scene out of every fucking horror movie he's ever seen, and his heart is pounding so hard that he can feel each beat against his fingers, toes, ears, and lips. Fuck.

He steps softly, slowly, into the main room. The telly is on, but there's nothing but static on the screen. He licks his lips and takes seven steps across the carpet, rolling his feet to keep from making any sound, praying for the first time since he was a teenager. Please, please, please, God. He opens the bedroom door.

Billy's bed is made. He turns on the light, says "Hello?" rather loudly. Nothing. "Hey!" he shouts (breathy, not enough air) for his own comfort. Nothing. He checks the closet out of pure paranoia and feels like a bloody idiot when no one's in there.

He checks the bathroom and his brain starts going as fast as his heart. What if he went out for a walk and got hit by a car, bitten by some mutant Kiwi bug, mugged? He walks into the main room and switches on the lights, glancing around the room for some hint a struggle, a note, anything.

Elijah's movies are still sitting beside the telly in a neat stack. The VCR light is on.

His heart doesn't slow but he suddenly has enough air to move, and he bends down, presses eject.

He pulls out the video and studies it for a moment. The Bumblebee Flies Anyway.

Dom's never felt like the dumb one before. Sure, he's felt like he's the comic relief, the inexperienced one, the funny-looking one, but he's never thought himself to be the thick one of the Fellowship. Not until now.

He throws it down so hard it bounces. That's not right, that's not fucking fair. That's not the kind of thing you do to someone who fucking loves you. It's Elijah fucking Wood, the baby, the golden one, and he's not supposed to be the one Billy goes to. He's supposed to be the thick one. Not Dom. Not Dom.

For Billy, it's not Dom, apparently. His heart is still pounding away and the chest feeling is back and he wants to fucking scream, has half a mind to go over to Elijah's house, wherever it is, to pound the daylights out of both of them and drag Billy back to where he belongs.

He takes a deep breath and notices his body trembling. He opens the door slowly, steps outside into the beautiful night, and walks back home slowly, trying to become acclimated to the role of a fool.

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