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Title: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Author: Cassandra – AirgiodSLV @ Original Story: Since We’ve No Place To Go by frisbyg
Pairing: EW/BB, EW/DM, EW/OB, (BB/DM implied)
Rating: R
Summary: “It used to be the three of them, together, always.”
Notes: Title taken from the song “Last Christmas.”

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.

* * * * *

Dom wanted a Hawaiian Christmas. He was determined; all of them together again, the old gang, complete with palm trees and surfboards. Just like old times. He had a new life, he wanted to share it with those he cared about. He begged, he pleaded, he cajoled. Elijah let himself be bullied into agreeing, and pretended it had been his intention to go all along. Of course they’d have a Hawaiian Christmas, Dom. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

He hung up the phone knowing that it would never be like old times, but that they would pretend anyway.

* * * * *

“Dom doesn’t know,” Sean stated over a long-distance line, and Elijah pursed his lips, blew out smoke.

“No.” Of course he didn’t. What was Elijah supposed to say, he’d had a rebound fling with their mutual friend, who also happened to be Dom’s best mate?

And now Dom had decided he was in love. Killer irony, that.

“At least try to make an effort,” Sean tried defeatedly. “It is Christmas.”

“Of course I will,” Elijah answered, irritated. He forced the edge from his tone, smoothed it out. “Are you coming?”

“Are you kidding?” Sean shot back. “I’m staying with the girls. The three of you in one house together, it’s like a time bomb just waiting to go off.”

“And Viggo,” Elijah added absently. He paused, waited to make sure Sean was still there before pushing ahead. “He’s in New York, you know. I think I might swing by before we leave for the islands.”

“Elijah,” Sean said; warning tone. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

“Relax, Sean,” Elijah replied, cool as the winter air outside his window. “Everything will be fine.”

* * * * *

When he’d come to New York, Billy hadn’t known anything more than that Elijah was depressed, homesick, lonely. After a while, he must have gathered that Elijah had just been through a bad breakup, but he didn’t let on if he did know, and they never said a word about it. Billy was just there when Elijah needed a friend, and Elijah was grateful for it.

There had been expensive but delicious meals on the patios of restaurants, tours through the more interesting sightseeing sections of the city, visits to strip clubs and dance parties just for the hell of it, which landed them in the gossip columns as good mates having a bit of fun.

And after dinner and quite a few drinks, Elijah had stood in the doorway, motionless, and he hadn’t needed to say a word after the first soft, “Billy.”

Billy had stayed for six nights in New York, and had only spent one – the first – in the guestroom.

* * * * *

“Stay for the weekend,” Elijah suggested, eyelashes lowered, head held in carefully-angled profile; posing for the artist. Viggo liked beautiful things.

“I can’t,” Viggo answered, kind but simple. “Dominic already booked my flight.”

“Change it,” Elijah said, a little too harshly. He knew he’d already lost, could tell by the look in Viggo’s eyes. He forced himself to soften, to blur his edges into something more pliable. “Please.”

“Elijah,” Viggo said quietly, with too much patience and understanding to be anything other than a rejection, and Elijah pulled away, stung. He left the house in too much silence, with Viggo at the front door watching him go.

And he slept with Orlando instead.

* * * * *

They’d had a fling.

It hadn’t lasted. Dom had wanted more, always more...wanted intimacy, partnership; wanted consummation, a step which Elijah was in no way ready to take. Dom wanted to be Elijah’s oxygen, and when they were together, Elijah couldn’t breathe.

“Elijah, let me,” Dom had whispered once, while they were chafing each other’s skin, lubricated friction, and Elijah’s entire body had tightened, twisted away from brushing fingertips as he dropped his head onto Dom’s shoulder and gasped out, “No.”

They had fallen apart sometime after that, in little ways that neither of them noticed until they were strangers living in the same house, and then Elijah had moved out. Dom got a job across the ocean, and Elijah pretended he liked the cold. They talked on the phone, and through friends. Eventually it was almost as if nothing had ever happened.

* * * * *

“Which one of them are you trying to hurt?” Orlando asked, and Elijah looked up, startled, to see him lounging in the doorway. He didn’t like how perfect Orlando looked, too perfect to be real; it made him too aware of his own imperfections. And it was easy to forget how perceptive Orlando could be, when he chose. They all tended to take him for granted.

“I’m not,” Elijah answered, knee-jerk reflexive.

Orlando stared back at him, unconvinced, and Elijah lowered his eyes. “I’m not going,” Orlando said, and Elijah looked up again, sharp but blurred with confusion. Orlando straightened and walked three steps toward the bed, came to stand a few feet away from the edge. “I have to work,” he explained, almost an apology. “I can’t make it to Hawaii.”

Elijah swallowed, shrugged it off and tried to keep from feeling betrayed. “Too bad,” he said. “We’ll miss you.” He held out a hand and waited until Orlando took it to draw him back beneath the sheet. Orlando wasn’t gay, either. He understood limits.

The truth was, Elijah just didn’t want to be the one alone.

* * * * *

He never told Billy that Dom was the one. That would have been unfair; poisoning the well, so to speak. It might have been unfair to take comfort as well, with Billy’s hands, lips, his body...but that was hindsight.

Dom had wanted Billy for a while. Even when they’d been together, Elijah had known that. He’d ignored it, put it to the side, and made the most of what they’d had together. And when Billy had offered, later, Elijah hadn’t been able to say no. He’d told himself not to think of consequences, and he never had. He didn’t know what Billy told himself, or what he fantasized after the lights went out. He’d never had the courage to ask.

Elijah noticed that he and Dom didn’t talk about Billy at all while discussing the holiday vacation, even though Billy seemed to be an obvious candidate for this nostalgic little get-together. Perhaps he’d already told Dom he couldn’t make it, knowing Elijah would probably be there.

Or perhaps, as seemed more likely, Dom was afraid of the same thing Elijah was: that his voice would give too much away if he used it to speak Billy’s name.

* * * * *

Dom sounded young on the phone, like he’d somehow let the cares of the past few years slide over him like water; only to emerge clean and youthful on the other side of his coming-of-age passage. Elijah just felt old, worn-down by years and lies and friendships that he somehow lost along the way. Dom said, “You’ll love it here, it’s fantastic,” and made jokes, and Elijah let him win like he always did, turned the conversation away from unpleasant things and kept it light.

He tried to talk Dom into coming out to New York for the holiday, partially because he thought Billy wouldn’t come if he did, and partially because if he had to face Dom like this, he wanted it to be on his own turf. He needed the upper hand, and right now he was completely adrift.

“Five days, all of us together, just like old times, it’ll be bloody brilliant...”

It used to be the three of them, together, always. Elijah didn’t think that it ever would be again.

* * * * *

Elijah scheduled the last possible flight for Hawaii that he could manage and still make it to Dom’s for the planned Fellowship Christmas brunch. New York was better suited to his mood; bleak, gray, dreary.

He didn’t sleep the night before his flight was slated to depart. He stayed up and drank hot chocolate turned cold, and wrapped himself in a blanket instead of turning on the heat. He didn’t know what he’d say to either of them, when the time came.

And there was only one person left to call.

* * * * *

“Billy,” Elijah said as soon as the phone picked up, a familiar accent blurring the syllables of greeting.

“Elijah?” Billy’s voice was surprised, which he had every reason to be. Elijah plunged ahead before anything else could be said; before he lost his nerve.

“Don’t go.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line, and Elijah’s heart dropped from his chest to his stomach, sick with foreboding even before he heard the reply.

“...I’m already here.”

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