Original Stories: For A Price: Orlando by kyuuketsukirui and telesilla and Noticing by kyuuketsukirui and telesilla.
Pairings: SB/OB and DM/OB implied
Summary: Elijah likes to think of himself as an observer.
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.
Elijah likes to think of himself as an observer. He'd read it in a book once, that all actors should observe the world around them, and had liked the idea so much that he'd made it his personal motto. He watches people; the way they move, their behavior, how they interact with one another. It's a fascinating hobby, better than stamp-collecting or restoring sports cars, which have never really interested him anyway, and it gives him something to do when he's bored, or even just scrounging for new ideas and things to do with his character.
Observation comes with a healthy amount of eavesdropping as well, but he's learned from prior experience that most information can be gleaned from body language and the things that aren't said. Between the two, he picks up 95% of the gossip before anyone else learns it. He doesn't consider himself particularly nosy, but it is fun to put the pieces together, to construct the complicated puzzle of relationships involved on any given shoot. Film, he's found, is an incestuous business. And now he's here in New Zealand, surrounded by new faces and bright smiles, tracking the spider's web of exchanged looks and marveling at the possibilities.
Sean -- Elijah can't help thinking of him as Sam already -- is his rock during the first week. They hit it off almost immediately and are on basically the same schedule, trudging around to costume fittings and dialect lessons and concept meetings with the rest of the principal cast. Sean has been in the business as long as Elijah has, and they exchange stories over coca-cola: bits of industry gossip that haven't yet turned up on the tabloid pages and possibly never will.
It's Sean who first warns Elijah about Sean Bean, although he hardly needs to -- Elijah's heard it already from casts of past movies, mostly from the actors one generation up, but also whispered from a young co-star not long ago.
"He's trouble," Sean warns, echoing words Elijah has heard several times before. "Not a bad bloke, not at all, I have every respect for him, but..." Hesitation, which Elijah knows means that Sean feels he is treading ground he considers inappropriate for Elijah's age, and is struggling to protect him. "He can tangle people up, that's all. And if you're not comfortable with him, well, then you shouldn't feel like you have to stay around, in that sort of situation."
The point Sean is really trying to get across, somewhere in that convoluted mash of mixed messages, is that Sean Bean has a reputation for being something of a rake, which Elijah already knows but has never had the chance to observe in person. He actually likes Sean; he thinks that the man is a great actor and a genuinely warm human being, fun to joke with, and good to talk to about simple things like kinds of beer and the mystifying world of English football. But he also sees what Sean Astin and the others had meant: the trickle of influence that spreads in every direction and grows until everyone knows, somehow, that Sean Bean can get things done for them.
Elijah himself keeps his distance, which is fine because Sean seems to have his hands full with everyone else, and hasn't expressed interest in more than a cookout or a pint where Elijah is concerned. There's something with Stuart, which Elijah only knows about because of the split-second hesitation when Stuart accepts a loan from Sean one night at the pub, and something with Richard, because Richard is no good at keeping secrets. There are probably more, but it's difficult to sort out the Sean-things from the others, to know which relationships have developed naturally and which have been given a little push.
Sean gives him a wink one day while Elijah is watching him have a rather earnest conversation with Liv, and Elijah spends all day contemplating what exactly that means, and whether the observer is being observed as well.
He's settling in. He won't say that he's not homesick, because he is, or that he doesn't miss the familiarity of friends and family and chain restaurants where he knows the menus by heart. But he's making an effort, and the fun he's having in New Zealand far outweighs any pangs he might have for home. He likes the guys, and has made himself one of the gang even though sometimes he feels a bit left out, particularly where Dom and Billy are concerned. He knows better than to think he can be a part of that dynamic, so he contents himself with watching them when they're together, and joining in whenever they break out of that close-knit bond and invite him into their circle.
Orlando hangs out with him sometimes, on nights when Billy and Dom only have eyes for each other, wrapped up in communion. They're not lovers; Billy is straight, and even if Elijah suspects Dom might not be, all he senses between them is a deep friendship. It's still enough for him to be jealous of, though, on nights when he's lonely and wants someone to talk to. Orlando is fun, but he has stars in his eyes, and too many times when they're hanging out at a local pub Elijah sees his gaze stray towards the older, more experienced actors, often with more than professional interest.
So Elijah is what he is, and if it isn't quite enough to make him the center of attention with his fellow hobbits, at least they don't ostracize him. Sean Astin is around when he's not with his family, and Elijah is tempted on more than one occasion to spill everything he's gleaned from weeks of observation, to ask Sean's opinion on things like whether Dom is enamoured of Billy at all, and whether Sir Ian's gruff, kindly attitude with Orlando is the result of platonic fondness or something else, something triggered by the way Orlando looks at everyone with maturity and a lengthy filmography. But Sean isn't one to gossip, and his mind is on his family, not taken up with the intrigues of cast and crew.
Elijah comes close to spilling anyway, one night when Orlando doesn't show up at the pub as promised and Elijah knows he saw something in Orlando's eyes on set that morning, and an answering something in Sean Bean's. He fidgets until Sean Astin leaves for the night, and is so distracted that he doesn't notice Billy watching him until the soft burr of his voice breaks into Elijah's thoughts. "Penny? I'd give you a pound, but I wouldn't want to break with tradition."
Elijah turns and meets Billy's eyes, bright and sharp in spite of the drinking they'd all been doing. "Orlando," he says without thinking, and imagines he sees Billy relax a bit, although he doesn't know why. Billy claps him on the back and shoves a pint at him across the table, shrugging sympathetically.
"He'll be around. Probably off chatting up some poor bird, or trying to fix a flat tire for an elderly couple he passed on the road. You know Orli." Billy pauses, probably to see if Elijah chooses to follow up, but Elijah just nods and accepts the fresh drink. He doesn't know why the thought of Orlando with Sean bothers him -- perhaps because Elijah had been warned, and maybe Orlando hadn't, because Elijah had certainly never thought to pass the warning on. It's not that Elijah thinks Orlando can't handle himself, it's just that he's...young. Which is a stupid thought for Elijah to have, he realizes, being the youngest of them all, so he takes a swig from his pint glass and stops thinking about it.
At least until the next day, when Orlando shows up with dark circles under his eyes and a bright, sleepy smile, and his hand lingers over Sean's at the table when he passes across a butter knife.
Orlando and Sean are an item. Elijah is as sure as he can be without confirmation from either of them, even though Miranda leaves filming one day in a breezy cotton sundress, and laughs, "I have a date," when they ask where she's headed. She leaves with Orlando, which puzzles Elijah for a moment until he notices Sean watching the departing Jeep, his eyes dark and intent. He catches Elijah staring after a moment, and his smile is as sharp as his gaze, just predatory enough to make Elijah shiver and look away, heading back into the safety of the makeup trailer.
He ends up catching a ride home with Viggo, one of those things that somehow transpire without any real planning, and they have dinner -- hamburgers cooked in special sauce, no cheese, with huge slices of onion because Elijah wanted it that way -- outside on the porch watching the sunset. Elijah likes Viggo a lot, and time spent with him never seems to require anything; no unnecessary conversation, no entertaining, certainly no small talk. It's quiet, peaceful.
Elijah lets his mind wander, and loses track of time until the crunch of gravel directs his eyes to the road, where a red Jeep is making its way towards the house. He jerks forward slightly, and squints until he can see that the driver isn't Orlando, and the Jeep continues on past. He settles back in his seat with a little sigh, barely more than an exhale, and Viggo glances briefly in his direction.
"I think he was going to be out late tonight," Viggo comments, and Elijah isn't really startled by the way Viggo can read him -- Viggo is an actor, and a master of observation that Elijah can only hope to emulate -- but he feels a bit uncomfortable at being so obvious.
"I know," he answers, and neither of them say anything about Miranda, or Sean, even though Elijah is sure Viggo knows as much as he does, and possibly even more. Viggo rolls a joint with practiced care, and offers it to Elijah after the first puff. Elijah considers it for a moment and then accepts, inhaling the sweet smoke and blinking to clear his eyes.
They smoke for a while in silence, and then Viggo remarks, "Some people say that growing up is about knowing what you want."
Elijah slants his eyes sideways, although Viggo is hard to read at the best of times, and right now -- sitting in the dim light, half-obscured by shadows -- he's nearly impossible. He doesn't think it's just a comment about the drug; Viggo never says anything that easy to interpret, not after a shared bottle of wine and half a joint. But if it's about him, then he's missing some context.
He thinks about Orlando instead, and the way he looks when Sean is around; eager, nervous, hopeful. "I know what I don't want," he says finally, inhaling again and feeling the tickle in his skull that he's only experienced a bare handful of times before.
Viggo chuckles, a dry, genuine sound that makes Elijah smile in turn. "Ah, the wisdom of seventeen," Viggo says, and Elijah thinks he might be being teased, but Viggo's tone is still friendly and the marijuana has mellowed Elijah out, so he just keeps smiling and lets it go.
By the time they turn in, the sky has faded to black and all of the stars are out, and Elijah has completely forgotten the entire conversation.
Eventually, Elijah figures out that he was mistaken. He'd always thought that if he was going to take an interest in anyone on the set, it would be Dom. Dom with his crooked smile and twice-crooked teeth, who teased him and pranced about on set like a lunatic, who could chug an entire beer without taking a breath and burp his name afterwards. He'd actually thought about Dom, considered the possibility. But it isn't Dom. It's Orlando.
It takes him a while to realize, because his thoughts about Orlando are all tangled up with his misgivings about Sean, and his own guilt at not having stepped in to warn Orlando that he was perhaps making a mistake. But Orlando seems happy, elated even...and it's only then, watching Orlando's eyes sparkle as he laughs at one of Sean's jokes, that Elijah realizes the feeling he's still having with regard to Orlando isn't guilt at all; it's jealousy.
It only takes him a few days after that to realize that he's not the only one. He's watching Orlando dance one night, seeing the lights spangle off of his twisting hips and his head thrown back in a graceful arch, silhouette curved along the line of his shaved skull and bared throat, and when Elijah tears his gaze away to say something, anything, to Dom, he sees that Dom's eyes are on Orlando as well. There's a look in them that Elijah has never seen from Dom before, but he has no doubt as to what it means.
When Sean appears on the scene, with a drink in his hand that Elijah is certain is meant for Orlando, something azure blue and swirling, Dom looks away. Elijah keeps watching, observing; he sees the way they move together, comfortable, and the subtle way Sean's fingers brush Orlando's wrist, the small of his back. Orlando shines like someone has turned a light on inside of him, and when Sean leans in, teasing him about something, and grabs the back of Orlando's neck to squeeze and shake him a little, Orlando's entire body goes liquid, like he's melting into the touch.
Elijah stops watching after that, because Sean suddenly looks at him, straight into his eyes, and there's too much knowing in them for Elijah to feign innocence. He tries not to flush too hard at being caught, and Sean's lips turn up in a tiny smirk as he leans in and murmurs something -- intimacy excused by the pulsing, throbbing volume of the music -- into Orlando's ear. Orlando nods, looking half-dazed, and Elijah turns to Dom because he doesn't want to watch anymore.
Dom's fingers are clenched around his glass, too tight to be casual, and he sets it down much harder than his level of inebriation can account for. "I think," Dom says, almost as if he's not really speaking to Elijah at all, but to the table in front of him. "That I'm going to go home now."
Elijah nods and starts to rise, but he's knocked off-balance by a gangly body, which turns out to be Orlando, flushed and tangled in his own limbs. "Going now," he announces, his breath alcohol-sweet next to Elijah's face. Elijah steadies him, sneaking a covert glimpse at Dom as he does, and isn't really ready when Orlando leans in again, nearly knocking them both over, to whisper in his ear. "Have you ever been spanked before?"
Elijah's eyes go wide before he can control his reaction, and Orlando laughs, a bright peal of mirth that carries over the music and shivers into Elijah's chest. "It's amazing," he sighs, and then Sean is there, clucking his tongue and lifting Orlando out of Elijah's arms as if he weighs nothing, supporting him with one possessive arm around Orlando's waist.
Elijah looks over at Dom, but Dom's expression is unreadable, his hands clenched into fists. And Elijah doesn't need observation to tell him what's going on here, with all of them, and that there's no possible way it can end well. Not after this.
There's a twist that Elijah never in a million years would have seen coming, and he only finds out because he's there when Dom stumbles out of Sean's trailer, looking pale and shaken, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Elijah starts to go to him, but Dom sees him coming and changes direction, a sharp veer to the right that carries him towards the wardrobe trailers and away from Elijah. Elijah frowns, standing in place because he's not sure where to go from here, and that's when Sean comes out.
Elijah's body twitches in anticipation of movement, but his brain isn't fast enough to send a coherent signal, so he's still standing there when Sean strolls over, looking relaxed and laid-back, without a care in the world. Elijah's brain marvels at that, at how casually this man can manipulate the lives of everyone around him and still be so cool, so put together.
"Elijah," Sean says, an enigmatic smile on his face, and Elijah flashes back to the night before, the way Sean had looked over and seen right through him. It's like that now, the same look of understanding, only something has changed, something subtle. He's not sure what it is until Sean's hand rests on his shoulder, a brief clasp with just a fraction too much strength behind it. Then he knows, because he's seen it happen with others, this same dance of touch-and-smile, the same look of confident patience.
"Sean," Elijah says, and he's proud that his voice doesn't tremble at all, not even a quiver. He takes a step back and Sean's hand slides off easily, with Sean's expression not betraying an iota of disappointment. Elijah waits, wary, but Sean doesn't make another move towards him, and doesn't touch him again. It makes sense. Sean doesn't need to make the first moves, to ensnare others...they always come to him. That's the look Elijah is receiving now, the look of the spider watching the fly stumble towards its web. Elijah shakes his head a little, and takes a step sideways to break the spell.
"Why aren't you with Orlando?" Elijah asks, and wants to kick himself as soon as the question is out. Sean looks bemused, as well he might; Elijah isn't usually so blunt, and he's never said a word about Sean's affairs until now.
"Things change," Sean says vaguely, and the tight knot of feeling in Elijah's stomach threatens to blossom into either hope or worry, but he isn't sure which. Dom, he thinks, staring mutely as Sean smiles again. Things have changed because of Dom.
"I didn't realize," he says, and is just taking a breath to make an excuse, any excuse, and leave, when Sean catches his arm again.
"That's unusual for you, isn't it?" Sean asks, and there's a twinkle in his eye. He leans closer, and Elijah tenses, fighting the urge to pull his arm away and run. Sean continues speaking, his voice low and hushed, like they're sharing a secret. "You usually know about everyone, don't you?"
"I, I don't..." Elijah stammers, but he's saved by Sean's chuckle, throaty and rich, and Sean's hand brushes down his sleeve as if nothing ever happened.
"Things change," Sean says again, and winks at Elijah before stuffing his hands into his pocket and strolling away, whistling. Elijah lets out a shaky breath, and tries not to think about the memory of Sean's hand on the back of Orlando's neck.
Orlando has noticed Dom. Elijah is certain of it, has watched Orlando stumble through a week of confusion and bewilderment when Sean's attention had suddenly -- inexplicably -- turned to Miranda, and his attitude towards Orlando had become cool, almost disinterested. When that had happened, Orlando'd reeled, and somewhere amid the resulting confusion there had been Dom.
If Elijah hadn't known, he might never have noticed. If he hadn't seen Dom coming from Sean's trailer, he might not have seen the subtle way Sean was always rebuffing Orlando right into Dom's arms, setting up situations where the two of them just naturally seemed to collide. Elijah has watched it all happen in a state of half-disbelief, half-numbness, and when he comes downstairs late one night after a party and sees a glance that lasts too long, a fleeting brush of hands, he knows exactly what's happened.
It's the morning after that when he sees Dom come out of the wrong trailer, tripping easily down the steps with a lazy, satisfied half-smile on his face. He's well down the path by the time the trailer door opens again, and this time it's Orlando in the doorway and they're equidistant, poised; three points on a triangle that don't connect. Dom looks back over his shoulder and Orlando grins, and Elijah's heart does something clenching and awful, so he looks away. And sees Sean.
In that split-second of time, the triangle becomes a quadrilateral, and a crazy thought goes through Elijah's head that he never would have allowed himself to think before, had never even considered. Sean had changed the points once, connected the dots. He could do it again, and it would be so easy for him, barely any effort at all to push Dom away and make sure that Orlando fell the way Elijah had, the two of them together. He could do it. He would do it. For a price.
I know what I don't want, he remembers telling Viggo, but the lines are so blurry now that he's standing here, with Orlando's smile tipped up into the sunshine and his eyes on Dom, who'd half-fallen out of Sean's trailer looking as though he'd wanted to throw up but had managed to get here, to this point, with Orlando looking at him alone and not even aware of Sean standing barely twenty feet away.
The look on Sean's face says that he knows exactly what Elijah is thinking, can see straight through him and is willing to give him what he wants, just like that. He's looking directly at Elijah, ignoring the others, and Elijah's heart is hammering wildly as he thinks, I could do it.
Sean smiles at him slowly and turns, walks back to his trailer and leaves Elijah following with his eyes, watching Sean climb up the stairs and shut the door gently behind him. Elijah isn't even aware that he's moving until he reaches the stairs, and then there are only three small steps between him and Orlando, and they lead to Sean's door.
He climbs the stairs with his thoughts still clamouring in his head, deliberately not thinking about what happens on the other side of this door, and what has happened already, and how many lives he'll be affecting if he does this, if he actually goes through with it. Then he's lifting his hand and knocking on Sean's door, three times and more firmly than he feels right now, a haze of butterflies in his head and a knot of sick tension in his stomach.
It almost seems inevitable, now that he's here; like everything has been leading up to this moment and he's simply never known it before. Sean opens the door slowly, looking unsurprised to see Elijah standing there, and there's a question in his eyes that Elijah knows the answer to.
He knows what he wants now.