Title: Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Summary: Billy feels like he's been wandering in a maze, trying to find the way, and now finally there are no more dead ends left.
Notes: Big thank-you to my betas, geniusartist and themoononastick.
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction, which means that while the characters depicted are based on public personas of real celebrities, the events described in the story never happened. This story in no way claims to represent the truth about the people mentioned within or the way they would behave.
Bare skin of Dominic's back flashes between the waistband of his jeans and his t-shirt when he leans forward. Worn-out blue of the jeans, bright red of the t-shirt, and naked skin in between.
Billy's not watching him on purpose, and yet . . . he's aware of Orlando's fingers hooked casually right there, behind the waistband of Dominic's jeans. Worn-out blue of the jeans, bright red of the t-shirt, naked skin in between, two fingers settled comfortably against the small of Dominic's back.
It's one of those details Billy's been noticing.
"This is bollocks," Orlando says. "I don't believe it."
They're sitting around Dominic's coffee table, with their attention focused on the small, cardboard pyramid in the middle of it.
"I'm telling you, it works," Dominic says.
"Right, mate, maybe when you're drunk enough." Orlando kicks his trainers off and reclines on the sofa, taking up its whole length and then some. "Speaking of which, why aren't we drunk yet?"
"You know where the beer is. But if you get sick on my carpet again, I'll have to hurt you," Dominic says, but he's smiling.
Orlando leans forward and wraps an arm around Dominic's neck. He drags Dominic close to his chest and rubs the top of Dominic's head with his hand. "Oi, you wouldn't let anything bad happen to me, would you? You like me too much." He places a wet kiss on Dominic's cheek before he lets go of him.
Billy's watching them both with a frown on his face. What is it about Orlando that makes it impossible not to like him, even though sometimes you want to smack him up the head with a stern reprimand, "Behave yourself!" Orlando is like a puppy--overeager, overexcited, always wagging its tail. Hard to resist.
Dominic turns to Billy. "What do you think?"
Billy curls his mouth. Orlando is like a puppy. But that's probably not the right thing to say out loud. "I have no idea." He shrugs. "How's it supposed to work anyway?"
"I don't know how it works. But there are specific rules about the dimensions and how it must be aligned to magnetic North for it to work." Dominic lifts the little pyramid shape and picks up the razor blade that's been hiding underneath. "This was pretty dull two weeks ago when I put it inside." He's holding the blade out to Billy in his open palm.
"Come on, you're shitting us. You put a brand new razor in there." Orlando says from the sofa, stretching his arms over his head. "God, I need to get laid soon. It's been way too long."
"Yeah, sweetheart, thanks for sharing," Dominic says, and then to Billy, "See for yourself."
The blade throws a steel-sharp contrast against Dominic's skin. Billy's fingers hover over it; he's curious, though he also suspects that Dominic's pulling a fast one on them.
"Dom, what're you doing later?" Orlando says, and not waiting for the reply he adds, "No offense, Billy, you're cute and all that, but I don't sleep with straight guys."
"Ah, me and my shitty luck." Billy is strangely fascinated; he presses his thumb to the dull side of the blade and lifts the sharp edge with the tip of his index finger.
"I sleep with straight guys," Dominic says.
Billy's finger slips and the blade slices through his skin. He hisses at the stinging pain that shoots through his finger and drops the razor.
"Shit, sorry! Let me see." Dominic grabs Billy's hand and brings it up to his face. A drop of blood is blossoming on Billy's skin, flowing down his finger, and Dominic sucks it and the tip of Billy's finger into his mouth.
stinging heat wet tongue sucking
Billy jerks his hand and pulls his finger out of Dominic's mouth, mindless of Dominic's teeth scraping over the cut, adding to the pain. He's standing there with his stupid finger sticking out in the air between them like an accusation, Dominic's saliva cooling on his skin, staring at Dominic, and he has no bloody idea what just happened.
"Do you want a plaster for that?" Dominic asks.
stinging heat wet tongue sucking
Billy blinks. "What?" He cradles his right hand to his chest, as if it's seriously wounded and he needs to protect it.
"Do you want a plaster?"
"Do you ever wonder if it's worth it?" Billy asks while they are putting on their hobbit getups. Dawn has barely broken through the night outside the trailer's windows, and he finishes his question off with a jaw-splitting yawn.
"What?" Dominic says, trying to suppress his own yawn. He fails and scrubs his face with both hands.
"This." Billy waves his hand around. "The films. Being here . . ." . . . so far away from home. Living everything behind. "All of it."
"You mean having to wear ridiculous trousers to work?" Dominic does the last button up and grins at Billy. "Hanging out with stupid gits with hairy feet?"
Billy smacks him on the head, but gently, mindful of the wig, and the tightness that's been growing in his stomach dissipates, leaving only a flake of anxiety. "Aye, that too."
"This"--Dominic waves his hand around, mimicking Billy's gesture--"this is better than I ever thought it could be. There's nowhere I'd rather be right now, and especially not back in Manchester, struggling to find work. Look at us, Billy." He spreads his arms. "We are lucky bastards." In a quick movement he sidesteps Billy and jumps onto Billy's back, wrapping his arms around Billy's neck from behind. "Lucky bastards with hairy feet!"
"Get off me!" Billy struggles to keep his balance with Dominic stuck to his back like a monkey. "You're choking me!"
"Let's hunt some Orcs!" Dominic yells in a perfect imitation of Viggo.
"Orcs? I'll show you Orcs." Billy reaches behind to grab Dominic's arse and pinches hard, toppling them both over onto the sofa.
* * *
"I'm coming! Cut it out already!" Billy calls from the bathroom late that night, throwing the towel onto the towel rack. He misses; the towel slips to the floor and he can't be bothered to pick it up. The banging doesn't stop until he opens the door.
It's Dominic--of course, who else--pissed, judging from the smell of alcohol, and hanging onto the door frame as if it were his mission in life.
His hand freezes in the air and his face stretches into a silly-soft grin when he sees Billy. "Oh hi, Bill. I thought you were asleep."
"And that's why you decided to keep pounding on my door?" Billy steps aside to let him in.
"Well, yeah. 'cause I come bearing gifts." With his chin Dominic points to a large paper bag cradled in the crook of his left arm.
"Here, my friend, is something to keep you warm on cold and lonely nights." Dominic pulls a bottle of whisky out of the bag as they are walking into the living room. "Macallan, so take good care of it." He hands it to Billy.
The bottle sports an expensive label and only half of its original content. "I see you already took pretty good care of it," Billy says, swatting Dominic on the shoulder.
"What can I say, it's a cold night and I'm a lonely hobbit." Dominic sets the bag down on the living room floor and plops into the cushions of the sofa. "Look what else I brought you."
Billy crouches next to the bag and peeks inside. "What's this?"
"Th-- thishle--" Dominic waves his hand, as if he's hoping the word will materialize itself in the air. "Yeah, that thing."
"I can see that." Billy takes out a potted thistle with a brilliant purple flower crowning the top. "But why?"
"For when you're feelin' homesick," Dominic says and closes his eyes.
Billy is not prepared for the sudden stinging behind his eyelids. He blinks a few times, thinking that it might go away if he keeps his head down for a bit longer. "I'm not homesick."
"Yeah, but in case you ever are . . ."
Billy sets the plant on the coffee table, sits on the floor with his back against the sofa, unscrews the cap on the whisky bottle and takes a long swallow. It forces a trail of heat down his constricted throat. He coughs and wipes his mouth, then takes another gulp. It's everything good whisky's supposed to be and that in itself is comforting.
He lifts the bottle by the neck, offering it to Dominic over his shoulder. "Want some?"
"Nah, that's for you."
The sofa cushions shift against Billy's back when Dominic changes his position, rolling onto his side to face Billy.
"Well then . . . thanks." Another gulp, more heat, and the knotted feeling in his stomach untwists little by little. He slides down, leans his head back, resting it against the edge of the sofa. Some things are easier to cope with when your eyes are closed. Dominic is breathing softly near his right ear, quite unlike his usual drunken snoring. He should be in bed now. They both should be in bed now to catch the precious hours of sleep they can never have enough of. But this . . . not being alone . . . this feels good.
"Billy?" Dominic says some time later, and Billy's surprised that he is even still awake.
"Sometimes I miss home."
And there it is again, that quiet tightness in his guts. For a moment it seems that half of the air in the room has escaped somehow because there's not enough of it when he takes a breath. He squeezes his eyes shut, tries to let go and just be.
"Me too," he whispers and doesn't open his eyes when Dominic's hand finds his shoulder.
Dominic rubs the back of his neck with his thumb, strong and solid strokes, chasing away the tension and the doubts. Billy turns his head and presses his cheek to Dominic's hand. There's nowhere he would rather be right now.
the heat. he's covered with sweat. hot, slick skin everywhere. hands touching him, not his own, stroking, grasping, small and delicate, strong and rough. sweet weight on top of him grows heavier, presses him down, traps him. he reaches out to touch the familiar curves, but finds hard angles. he can't move, but he doesn't want to move because it feels good. Billy . . . Billy . . . he wants to answer, but when he opens his mouth there's no words, just heat and sweat and another mouth covering his own.
"Earth to Billy!"
Waves crash in the distance . . . sand sticks to his calves . . . scorching heat on his skin.
He opens his eyes and immediately squeezes them shut against the brightness. He covers his eyes with his hand and shields them from the sun before he dares to open them again.
Dominic is towering over him; the sun behind him creates a shimmering halo around his body. He is luminous, his skin fair and smooth, like ivory. It's too much to look at him, like you could go blind from looking at him, and yet Billy can't look away, mesmerized.
"Did you fall asleep?" Dominic asks, and the spell breaks.
With a wince, Billy lifts his head and leans back on his elbows. His mouth is parched. "'must have."
Dominic picks up his wetsuit, shakes the sand off it and steps into it, doing a wiggly dance while pulling it up his legs and hips. He forces his arms through the sleeves and reaches back for the string attached to the pull on the zip. "The water's fucking freezing. I don't know how Orlando can stand it without the wetsuit." He bends down to crouch next to Billy and touches his arm. "Better be careful. You're already starting to look crispy."
He presses his fingers into Billy's arm and lets go; lighter spots appear briefly and dissolve again into the redness of the skin. He moves to Billy's chest and presses there too.
"Will you bloody stop poking me?" Billy says, but doesn't move when Dominic continues probing, pressing gently on his skin.
"Seriously, you need to get more sunscreen on. Or get out of the sun."
"Well, I could use some help with that. Do you want to get your hands all over my back?" Billy asks, quirking his lips, expecting Dominic to run with it because they've played the game dozens of times before. He already has a comeback ready to roll off his tongue to Dominic's reply.
Dominic smiles at him, a smile that's not his usual crooked grin, but softer, more on his lips than in his eyes. "Sorry, Bill, not this time. I have previous engagements." He winks and jogs away down the beach to where Orlando is waiting with their surfboards.
Billy watches him with a frown. Everything's the same--the waves are crashing in the distance, grains of sand tease the skin on his legs, the heat is scorching--and yet, something's missing, as if Dominic took something with him and left an empty space behind. Billy doesn't know what it is, but he wants it back.
Billy measures out the washing detergent and closes the compartment when his mobile rings. He leans out of the little nook in the corner of his kitchen that houses his washing machine to reach for the phone on the counter.
He checks the caller ID and flips his phone open. "Dom."
"Have you got cards at home?"
"Huh?" Billy wrinkles his nose and drops a handful of t-shirts into the washing machine. "What are you on about?" He reaches into the laundry basket again.
"Cards, you know, playing cards? Have you got any at home?"
"I don't thinks so. Why?"
"I've got two decks here, but I need more. Can you buy ten decks and come over?"
"What the hell do you need ten decks of cards for? I'm busy."
"What are you doing?"
Billy eyes a pair of boxers in his hand, adds them to the load. "Laundry."
Dominic's laughter rumbles in his ear. "Did you run out of clean pants?"
"As a matter of fact, I did."
"Billy." Dominic's voice sounds like gravel smeared with honey. "You don't need to wear pants for me. I won't mind at all if you go pantless. Not to mention, it's good to give your dangling bits some freedom from time to time, for health reasons of course."
"All my dangling bits are in good health, thank you very much. Now will you bloody tell me what this is about?"
"I'm working on something and I need cards. And I need your help too. Don't tell me you would rather be doing your laundry on this lovely Sunday morning than spending time with your best mate."
Billy sighs--Dominic has a point. Sort of. "All right, see you in a bit." He flips his phone shut.
Half an hour later he knocks on Dominic's door and walks in without waiting for an answer. He drops the bag with cards onto the sofa in the living room and changes his mind about asking Dominic to please bloody explain finally what he needs ten bloody decks of bloody cards for.
Dominic's kneeling in front of his coffee table, stacking cards on top of each other. The construction spreads over half of the table surface, two levels high. Dominic lifts his head and his mouth crooks in a grin. "Don't stand there, help me."
There are questions, important ones, questions that demand answers, forming in the back of Billy's throat, like for example, What the bleeding hell are you doing? or What have I done to deserve this? but what he says when he opens his mouth is, "I need a beer."
"Get me one too." Dominic picks two cards out of the stack. His hands hover over the top layer of the construction; he lowers them carefully and sets the cards on top, filling in space in the corner.
Billy retrieves two bottles from the fridge and gets to work.
Two hours and four beers later, they have three cards left; the construction spreads all over the table, from edge to edge, twelve levels high, plus two towers. "The Two Towers," Dominic says, laughing.
Dominic picks up two out of the remaining three cards and stacks them tent-shape on top of the taller tower. He hands the last card to Billy. "Finish it."
Billy's fingers shake a bit when he takes the card from Dominic. It's the alcohol, of course, and not some stupid fear that everything will come crashing down if he tries to put that last card on top. Not the fear that their fantastic construction--which he's grown quite attached to--will collapse and it will be his fault.
"I don't know. Maybe you should do it," he says, turning the card over in his fingers.
"Don't be a wuss. Come on."
Billy takes a deep breath. "All right." He rubs the palms of his hands on his jeans, first one, then the other, and steps as close to the table as he can. The top of the taller tower is at his chest level. He's holding the card horizontally between his thumbs and index fingers. He leans closer and reaches out, but feels like he's losing his balance.
"Shite, I can't do this," he says laughing as he pulls away from the table. "You do it." He offers the card to Dominic.
"We can do it together." Dominic steps close behind him and reaches around Billy for Billy's hands, his chest touching Billy's back, his warm breath prickling goosebumps on Billy's neck. He's guiding their hands together toward the tower.
Billy is acutely aware of Dominic's hips pressed against him and the more he tries not to think about it, the harder it is to stop the thought that's rattling around his head: What if Dom has a hard-on? It's a stupid, bloody stupid thought to have, of course Dominic doesn't. And then his cheeks flush and he's out of breath. "Don't push. You're leaning on me."
"I'm not leaning. Stop wriggling your arse."
The heat grows stronger on Billy's face. "I'm not wriggling my arse."
Their hands hover over the top of the tower. Dominic rests his cheek on Billy's shoulder. His arms are around Billy; he's all around Billy, everywhere, and Billy can't move.
"Be quiet. Take a deep breath."
Billy relaxes his shoulders, leans into Dominic and lets him take over; together they lower the card so that it's touching the top of the tower.
"And . . . let go," Dominic says and they both let go of the card at the same time.
The card stays in perfect balance, as if it were glued on.
"Wow," Dominic says. "We're good together."
Billy doesn't count the seconds that go by while Dominic's arms are still wrapped around him, still holding him in place, holding them together. They are a team. They are good together like that. It's good to have a mate like Dominic. "Aye, we are."
Dominic's stomach growls, breaking the silence, and they both laugh.
"I'm starving," Dominic says, his chin moving against Billy's shoulder. "I haven't had breakfast yet. You hungry?"
Dominic lets go of him and the sudden lack of his solid body behind him makes Billy lose his balance. He overcompensates and leans forward too much, his hand shoots out trying to find support and--
The destruction is spectacular. When the cards finally stop whispering against each other, all there's left are the two lowest levels in one corner of the table and hundreds of cards scattered around.
"Wow," Dominic says again.
"Fuck, I'm sorry."
Dominic shrugs. "What for? It's only cards. Now, how about a sandwich." He walks into the kitchen area and opens the fridge. "Turkey and cheese all right?"
"Yeah, that's good." It should feel like they have wasted time because there's nothing to show for all their work, but it doesn't. Billy picks up some cards, not trying to separate them into complete sets, just gathering them onto stacks. He scoops a big pile off the middle of the table and drops them back on the table. "What the--"
In the middle of the table, under the pile of what must have been the lowest level of their construction there's a weta. Dead, by the looks of it. Billy pokes at it with his finger and picks it up. He carries it to the kitchen counter and sets it down next to the cutting board where Dominic is layering slices of bread with turkey.
"Did you know this was on the table under the cards?" he says.
"I found it this morning on the windowsill and it was already dead, poor thing. I thought it deserved a grand burial." Dominic squeezes a generous dollop of mayonnaise over each half of the sandwich.
Billy sighs. "You're certifiably insane."
"But you love me anyway, because I make the best sandwiches in Wellington." Dominic grins and stacks the slices into sandwiches. He hands one to Billy. "Want crisps with that?"
"Salt and vinegar?"
"Coming right up."
They eat their turkey and cheese on rye in reverend silence, standing on the opposite sides of the kitchen counter, with the dead weta between them, like a reminder of the frailty of life.
Later, much later, Billy falls asleep on Dominic's sofa in the middle of a film they've been watching, with his head pillowed against Dominic's leg and Dominic's fingers in his hair.
The wooden boards of the patio are nicely warm under his bare feet and even the splinter hazard doesn't discourage Billy from being barefoot. The scent of burning charcoal heating up for grilling reminds him that he skipped lunch earlier and is more than ready for the promised dinner. He closes his eyes, blessing a Sunday without anything to do or any place to be--life is good. For the most part.
"Keep your shoulders straight."
"Not so stiff. Here, yeah, that's good. Don't clench the bow so tight--good. Draw . . . and . . . release."
Billy takes a long pull of his already warm Guinness. He grimaces and fumbles around to set the bottle down. It topples and clunks against the floor, spilling the leftover beer. Stupid poncy elves and their bows.
"Shite," Dominic says. "You forgot to mention that part about aiming."
Orlando laughs. "You should've seen my first try. I was off the target by, like, a mile!
"And look at you now, sunshine," Billy murmurs under his breath, confident that Dominic and Orlando are too far away to hear him.
When Billy opens his eyes there's a bottle of beer in Viggo's outstretched hand, condensation gathering on the glass. He accepts it and nods his thanks. "Good thing our dinner doesn't hinge on Dom's skill with that thing, or we'd starve here."
Viggo lowers himself to sit in the chair next to Billy's.
In front of them, some distance off the patio, Orlando is standing behind Dominic, guiding his body into the correct position. Dominic aims at a target set about forty feet away and--thankfully--facing away from the house.
"Try again," Orlando says and wraps his long arms around Dominic from behind. "Remember, straight but not stiff."
Billy almost rolls his eyes at Dominic's reply--"But I am quite stiff and not very straight."--and both Dominic and Orlando snort out laughter. Dominic is pliant in Orlando's hands, eager, it seems, to be rearranged any way Orlando wants him, and the thoughts of Dominic's arms wrapped around him, how it felt, come uninvited and not quite welcome.
"Orlando is good at this," Viggo says, raising his bottle to his mouth, but not taking his gaze off Orlando and Dominic. There's a smile breaking out in the corners of his mouth.
Billy watches a stray drop of beer escape Viggo's mouth until it's captured by Viggo's thumb. He's not sure if Viggo's talking about archery or other things Orlando is good at, but he's not particularly eager to find out. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
An arrow swooshes again and this time it hits the target dead in the center of the red circle.
"Fucking A!" Dominic yells pumping his fist up in the air and turning towards them. "I aced it! Billy, did you see that? I aced it!" He hooks his arm around Orlando's neck and pulls his head down to rub the top of his Mohawk. "Bow to the master!"
"Sod off!" Orlando laughs and tries to get out of Dominic's grip, but Dominic's not letting go, so he grabs Dominic at the waist. They wrestle, lose their balance and tumble to the grass.
It's not that Billy's watching them, but they happen to be in his line of vision. They are rolling in the grass, back and forth, before Orlando manages to straddle Dominic and pin his hands to the ground.
"Who's the master now?" Orlando says.
Dominic arches up, tries to shake him off, but then admits defeat--too quickly for Billy's taste.
"What's bothering you, Billy?" Viggo asks, after Dominic and Orlando have gone inside and they are alone.
Billy turns his head to Viggo who is watching him from under half-closed eyelids, intently, like he watched Orlando a few minutes ago, but the smile is gone from his face now.
"Nothing. I'm tired, is all." It's been a rough couple weeks, with early calls to feet every single day and barely any breaks. He has a right to be tired. He takes another pull off his beer. "Why do you think something's bothering me?"
Viggo leans forward and touches Billy's face. The tip of his finger slides slowly down Billy's forehead, to the bridge of his nose, smoothing out the frown on Billy's face.
"Much better now." Viggo smiles and leans back in his chair. "You haven't seem like yourself recently. Sometimes it's good to talk to another person."
Billy is silent for a long moment, picking at the label on his bottle.
"How do you know if . . . if something's right or not?" he asks finally, raising his eyes to look at Viggo, and he regrets the question almost before it's finished. He feels like Viggo's not just looking at him, but seeing things about him, seeing things inside him.
"Does it feel right?"
Billy curls his lips down and shrugs impatiently. "I don't know."
"You don't know, or you don't want to find out?"
With a loud bang Billy sets his bottle down next to his chair. "What are you now, the Fellowship shrink?" Viggo doesn't answer, but watches him with raised eyebrows and a look in his eyes that Billy refuses to call pity. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "'m sorry. I'm an arse." He rubs his face with his hand. "I--It's just that--" There are words deep inside him, but he doesn't know how to string them together so that they make any sense. What's worse, what he is really afraid of, is that he doesn't know if put together those words would form a question, or an answer. "Fuck," he says quietly.
The glass door behind them slides open and Dominic walks out with a plate of uncooked burgers in one hand and a metal spatula in the other, with which he swats Billy on the thigh. "Why do I have to do all the work around here? Make yourself useful, you lazy git, or I'm not going to marry you."
"Who would want to marry you with those ears anyway," Billy says, rising from his chair to follow Dominic.
Billy stops and turns to look at Viggo.
"You'll figure it out."
"And . . . cut! Ten minute break!" Rick says and everybody files out of the room, leaving them alone and stranded.
"They feel guilty watching us suffer," Dominic says, and in the same breath he adds, "My arse is on fire." He leans forward, leans back, shifting his body. "I have some amazing bruises in places that shouldn't be bared in public--unless you're Orlando, of course. Because he can bare anything he wants in public and I'm sure nobody's going to complain."
"Will you stop moaning?" Why can't they go one bloody morning without Dominic mentioning Orlando? Billy reaches between his legs and tries to adjust himself into a more comfortable position, before he remembers that there's no such thing as a "comfortable position"--a conclusion they reached after the first day of being strapped to the animatronic Treebeard. "Close your eyes and think of England."
"Well, there was this bloke I was dating back in Manchester, real good looking, too. Tall, dark, and handsome, the whole works." Dominic laughs, his voice turning raspy and low. "You know, the kind of bloke you walk into a room with and people stare at him, wondering what he's doing with an ugly mug like mine." He scrunches his nose in a grin. "But that's where my other special talents come into play." He winks at Billy from under Merry's wig.
You're not ugly, Billy wants to say, but the words are knocked out of him by an image in his head of Dominic with another man, a stranger, who is touching him, and Dominic is touching him back, his long fingers grasping possessively, his mouth open around a gasp, and it's wrong. It's wrong because that's not the Dominic Billy knows, not his mate Dom, not his Merry. It's wrong because that other Dominic doesn't belong to him, that other Dominic, who had a life Billy wasn't part of.
"What happened?" he asks.
"Nothing." Dominic blows Merry's hair out of his face. "I came here. And I started dating you. Except that it's a bit awkward with you having a girlfriend an' all."
It feels like a punch in the gut. For a moment Billy can't catch his breath and it hurts. He's trying to hold on to something, doesn't want to let go of it, but it's slipping out of his hands anyway, shattering, shattering. He says quietly, "I haven't got a girlfriend anymore. We broke up."
There's another moment of silence before Dominic says, "Shit, Billy, why didn't you tell me?"
Billy swallows hard past a lump that's grown in his throat. "Wasn't anything to tell." There was an evening he spent alone after the phone call, drinking and feeling like the right bastard. "It just doesn't work that well if you're half a bloody world apart."
We can work at it, she kept saying, and Billy kept repeating that it was not going to work. It was only later, facing the empty bottle of whisky instead of the phone receiver, that he admitted to himself that he didn't want to work at it. He must have picked up the phone a dozen times to call Dominic that night--because that's what you do when you break up with your girlfriend: you call your best mate and you get pissed together--but he never made the call. Why didn't he call? And why didn't Dominic realize that something was wrong? Why didn't he ask? Why does everything have to be so bloody complicated?
Out of the corner of his eye he can see Dominic reaching out to him, like he wants to offer a hug, but they are too far apart to touch.
"I'm sorry," Dominic says.
"Are you? Really?" He looks Dominic in the eye and Dominic's the one who looks away first.
"Billy . . ."
"Forget it." Billy drops his head and presses the heels of his palms to his forehead. Shattering, everything's that's been solid and unshakable is shattering around him, and there's no safe place left. "Just fucking forget it, alright? Doesn't matter now." He wants Dominic to say something, but he has no idea what he wants to hear. A headache's creeping up behind his eyelids, and that's just what he fucking needs right now.
"Billy . . ." Dominic says.
Billy refuses to look at him. He wraps his arms around himself and folds in onto himself.
A group of techs coming back from the break saves him, but not for long. He buggers up every single one of the next six takes because he can't make eye contact with Dominic. Shaking his head, Rick takes mercy on him and announces another break, this time letting them both off Treebeard.
He escapes to a small storage room around the corner from the blue screen studio and sinks to the floor, leaning against the wall. This can't be good for his prosthetic feet, but he doesn't care. He pulls his knees up and wraps his arms around them. Where have things gone so wrong? Everything's bloody wrong. The anger inside him has boiled over, leaving him tired, dead tired, and bruised. He wants to go home, bury himself under a blanket, press his face into the pillow and sleep, and not think about anything. And especially not think about Dominic. So many things he used to think were black and white, turned out to be twisted and complicated and all shades of gray and blue.
He lifts his head when the door clicks open and Dominic slips into the room.
Dominic's standing by the door, just inside the room, his shoulders slumped, his hands hanging down his sides. Billy's first thought is that Merry--his Merry--should not look so broken. Where have things gone so wrong?
He wants to tell Dominic not to worry, that everything will be all right, but instead he tips his head down and looks at his hobbit feet that seem even more silly against the green vinyl floor. "I want to be alone."
"I'm sorry I upset you."
"Dom." Billy lifts his head to look Dominic in the eyes.
Dominic's ready to leave, his hand holding the door.
It's not you, it's me, he wants to say, but that's what he told her that night they broke up. Dominic deserves better than a cliche. "I'm sorry. I don't know what . . . I don't know what I'm bloody doing."
"It's all right. I--If you--" Dominic stops and takes a breath. "Billy, you and I, are we good?"
Billy tries to find a smile for Dominic, but it comes out more like a grimace. "Aye, we're good. I just need some time to . . ." He hopes that Dominic understands what he's not saying. Some time to get used to you. "I just need some time."
Dominic returns his smile, a surprisingly shy one that is far away from his usual cockiness and yet still so much Dominic. "That's all right. Take your time." He closes the door shut behind him.
Billy leans his head against the wall. Dominic's gone, but he's left behind something that fills up an empty space in Billy and warms him up inside. He doesn't feel so miserable anymore.
The night is cold and the ocean looks like thick and vast nothingness. Dominic and Orlando squabble over the best method of building a bonfire out of a pile of driftwood and dead branches they gathered the day before. Billy pulls his knees up and wraps a blanket around himself, shrinking into the dubious warmth of his jacket.
"I told you!" Orlando's triumphant voice announces the tiny flame flickering to life. He kneels down from his crouch and blows on it with caution. The flame grows stronger, hissing as it licks higher. "Viggo would be proud of me."
They add more wood onto the pile, building it up. Billy scoots closer with his blanket.
"Are you all right?" Dominic asks, sitting down in the sand next to Billy, their knees touching.
"'m fine," Billy says. He shivers in spite of the heat seeping from the fire. "It's cold."
"We're going to look for crabs," Elijah says. "If we're not back in half an hour, send a rescue expedition." He drags Orlando down the beach, towards the water line--two beams of light dancing across the sand.
A few minutes later they hear Elijah's shrieking laughter and the two torches go out.
"You all right there?" Dominic yells.
"Orlando is a wanker!" Elijah yells back.
"Tell me something I don't know!"
"When's the sunrise?" Bill asks, his throat like sandpaper.
Dominic flicks the torch on to check his watch. "In about two hours." He turns it off again and they watch the sparks from the fire drift up into the night sky.
"Whose bloody idea was it again?" Billy murmurs into the corner of the blanket. His feet and calves are warm, hot even, from the fire, but the cold keeps creeping up his back.
"Don't be a grumpy old man. It'll be worth it."
"Unless I freeze my arse off first."
"C'me here." Dominic nudges him on the shoulder and throws an arm around him, pulling Billy to himself.
There's a sliver of hesitation in Billy before he leans into Dominic. The touches, the hugs that he used to take for granted between them feel somehow different now, and he can't pinpoint the moment when they changed. Sometimes he thinks that they haven't changed, that he's the one who has changed.
Dominic tucks him under his shoulder and Billy relaxes, but he's aware of Dominic's body. He's always aware now, even when he's not trying to be. Even through the layers of fabric Dominic feels angular and hard, but his body folds around Billy into a protective, comfortable space.
"Fuck, it's cold if you sit still," Dominic says.
"Told you. D'you want to get under the blanket?" Billy asks.
"Now, that is the worst pickup line I ever heard."
Dominic's breath flutters against Billy's ear, warming his skin, and before Billy can think anything of it, he lets out a little murmur of pleasure and tips his head down, exposing his neck. "It is pretty bad, isn't it."
"Bloody awful. No wonder you never get laid."
Dominic's fingers slip into the collar of Billy's jacket; they brush the back of Billy's neck, and Billy's stomach coils heavy with heat. "Who says I never get laid?" he says, closing his eyes. The fingers slide along his jaw to his cheek and everywhere they touch, his skin tingles.
Dominic's voice drops to a whisper muffled by Billy's hair. "So when was the last time?"
And when was yours? is knocking at the back of Billy's teeth, but instead he says, "Your hand is cold."
Billy is afraid to open his mouth again because Dominic's fingers are right there, tracing the outline of his lips. They flutter and tease, and everything happens in slow motion when Billy turns his head toward Dominic and Dominic's mouth brushes the corner of his lips.
"Is there any more beer left?" Orlando asks behind them.
Billy jumps and jerks away from Dominic as far as Dominic's arm around him lets him go, which is not very far, because Dominic seems unfazed by Orlando's presence. Part of the blanket slips off Billy's shoulder and he scrambles to fix it, glad that his hands have something to do.
"There's more in the car," Dominic says. "And if you're going to the car, bring the thermos."
Orlando nods. "Keep an eye on Elijah. That kid is trouble," he says laughing and walks away.
It's still a long time until the sunrise.
Billy sleeps through the sunrise curled up under the blanket on the back seat of Orlando's jeep. He sleeps through most of the drive back home. He sleeps through makeup and after shivering through the scene they are shooting that morning, Peter sends him home before they break for lunch telling him to rest, drink fluids, and get better.
* * *
Sometimes Billy feels ancient, compared to the others, as if he belongs to another generation--one that doesn't shriek, giggle or prattle so much.
They've come over to "visit the sick." Which means that Elijah's rummaging through Billy's CDs--they are spilling all over the floor in front of the stereo--nattering on and on about music and his current greatest band discovery. He's also playing songs from the two CDs he brought--"No wait, wait, listen to this one!"--while Orlando is laughing, what about Billy has no bloody idea, because he can't focus long enough to pay attention to him.
It feels as if somebody's peeling the inside of his brain off with tweezers. He squirms on the sofa where he's been camped out since he came home early today, pulls the blanket higher, almost over his head, trying to tune them out. He loves them, but his love has its limits.
"Will you get'em out of here?" he asks Dominic who's coming out of the kitchen, much to Billy's relief. "I already feel like I'm dying, without them cheering me on."
Five minutes later, after much well-wishing and many enthusiastic hugs, which Billy endures with as much patience as he can muster, the place is quiet. So quiet that for a moment he frowns, thinking that Dominic has left, too, but then he hears the kettle whistling in the kitchen and the cupboards being opened and shut.
"I made you tea," Dominic says, setting an oversized steaming mug on the coffee table, within Billy's reach.
"Thank you." Billy closes his eyes. It helps a little, but it doesn't stop the sledgehammer going in his head. "It's your fault, you know. It was your idea to sit on the beach in that cold."
Dominic ruffles Billy's hair; his fingers stay there, gently massaging Billy's scalp. "You don't get sick from being cold. You get sick from bugs."
"You're a bug."
Dominic laughs. "So, you can keep me in a jar on your nightstand." He touches Billy's forehead, brushing off sweaty strands of Billy's hair. "You're burning up. We'd better get you in bed."
Billy doesn't want to move, doesn't want to do anything that requires any kind of effort, but he will have to move sooner or later, and he'd rather get it over with now. Besides, he'll be more comfortable in his own bed. On shaking legs he covers the distance to his bedroom and it feels like he's run a marathon before he drops heavily onto his bed. His head is swimming, but he forces himself to get his jeans off and pull pajama trousers on, then crawls under the covers. The sheets are not fresh, but they are pleasantly cool against his skin, and being horizontal with his eyes closed is all he's asking for right now.
"Here," Dominic says and Billy's eyes flutter open. "Orange juice and your pills." Dominic shakes out two onto his open palm and offers them to Billy. "Take them now."
"Thanks," Billy rasps out. The pills feel like rocks when they go down his throat, even washed down with the juice.
Dominic sits on the edge of the bed. "How're you feeling?"
"You should sleep now. I'll stay here, all right?" Dominic rubs Billy's shoulder through the blanket. "Just in case."
"I don't need a nursemaid."
"Sorry, Bill, I'm under orders from Peter to take good care of you. He's going to have my ass if Pippin's not back on the set soon enough."
"Hmm . . ." Billy murmurs, and it's supposed to mean I'm not sure I believe you, but I don't want you to leave anyway, so there.
"All right then." Dominic's standing up, turning to leave the room.
Dominic lowers himself to kneel next to the bed and rests his forearms on the mattress. He leans in and cocks his head. "What is it?"
Dominic's face is so close, Billy can count his eyelashes. He can smell Dominic, too, a mix of deodorant, skin, and sweat, more skin than deodorant, and it's all Dominic. He breathes it in, a peculiar mixture of sharp and soft, and it brings back the memory of Dominic from last night on the beach. He's floating in a cloud of dense fog, light-headed from the fever and the pills, but the heat spreading inside him has nothing to do with either. The fever has taken away the strength in his body, but it's fortifying his courage in the I'm feverish, therefore not responsible for what I'm doing way.
The question that's been stuck on his mind like a splinter for a while now comes out a little rushed and a lot determined: "Is there something going on with you and Orlando?"
He braces himself, because Dominic might turn his question into a joke and take the piss out of him, and a joke he could handle, he thinks, but what he can't handle is--
"No," Dominic says.
There's a little smile playing around his lips which makes Billy feel more bold, reckless even. "Was there anything?"
Dominic doesn't answer immediately but doesn't look away either. "We'll talk tomorrow, all right? Now get some rest."
Billy nods and closes his eyes. It doesn't matter now, does it.
"Good night," Dominic says. "I'll be on the sofa. Call me if you need anything."
There's a brush of lips against his forehead, so quick, it's gone before Billy can really feel it, and then he's falling, falling into darkness, falling into sleep.
It's still dark outside when he wakes, but it feels as if he's slept for hours. His t-shirt is stuck to his skin with a layer of cold sweat and he would probably collapse like a wet noodle if he had to get up now, but the fever's gone and his mind is clear.
He checks the clock, considers taking another pill, but ends up gulping down the rest of the juice instead.
Dominic is in his bed, snoring softly on his back, with his face half-pressed into the pillow. Billy should be surprised, but he's not.
The spare blanket--the one he's been calling "Dom's blanket" because Dominic's the one using it most often--is strewn across Dominic's body in a messy pile bunched up around his hips; Billy resists the urge to straighten it out. One of Dominic's bare feet is sticking out from under the blanket, like a sign: This way to Dominic.
He rolls onto his side and lets his gaze wander from Dominic's hair, slicked on one side and sticking out in all directions on the other, to the bare skin on his belly where his t-shirt has ridden up. He's looking ridiculous and peaceful at the same time. He is also looking beautiful, and Billy has seen it before, has paid attention to it before, but never quite understood what it meant.
It feels like he's been wandering in a maze, trying to find the way, and now finally there are no more dead ends left.
Dominic makes a little sleepy noise, a soft rumbling in his throat, and Billy doesn't think about what he's doing when he reaches out and touches Dominic's belly, slips his fingers under the hem of Dominic's t-shirt, spreads them out to cover as much skin as they can. The hair below Dominic's belly button tickles; the skin there is warm and unfamiliar and Billy wants to learn it, learn everything about it.
When he looks back up, to Dominic's face, Dominic's eyes are open.
His breath catches and there's a moment when he's pulling his hand away, but Dominic is quicker--his hand covers Billy's and traps it on his stomach.
"I was cold out there," Dominic says in a voice raspy with sleep. "And lonely."
Billy doesn't know what to say--he wants to explain, to apologize, to ask questions, anything--and the only thing he says is, "Dominic . . ." and it sounds like he's pleading, and maybe he is. "Dom . . ."
"Shhh . . . it's all right." Dominic touches Billy's face with his other hand, gently, but there's no hesitation in his movements.
Dominic's fingers are tracing the outline of Billy's face, discovering its lines and shapes, his eyes, his chin, his mouth, and he feels as if he never existed until Dominic found him.
His hand on Dominic's stomach rises when Dominic breathes and pushes his hips up. The skin under his fingers is getting hot and moist. His thumb slips down, to the waistband of Dominic's boxers; Dominic pushes his hips up again and then their hands are moving down together--he's not sure if it's him or Dominic moving them, but he doesn't want to stop--moving down, every hair on Dominic's belly rasps against his palm, down, under the elastic band, until they find Dominic's erection.
Billy startles at the first touch of hot smooth skin against his fingers, but doesn't move his hand away. Dominic lets go of him and slides both hands up Billy's arm, grasps his shoulders. The pulsing of blood in Dominic's erection bumps it against Billy's hand. Billy bucks his hips, groaning, and closes his hand around Dominic.
His brain short-circuits for a moment--Dominic's cock is in his hand--but his fingers recognize the shape, respond to it with what they know feels good. He's hot, almost unbearably hot, but the heat is different--unfamiliar, doesn't come from within him, but from Dominic, from Dominic's body, from his skin, his quickened breath.
Dominic tips his head back; his mouth's open, his fingers digging into Billy's arm, his cock hard.
Billy's cock is hard too.
Dominic arches under his hand, gasps, and Billy reacts on instinct and rolls on top of him, knocking him flat out onto his back and setting his whole weight on top of Dominic. It feels good, bloody fantastic, hard angles and muscles, Dominic's body strong and warm underneath him. And his body knows what to do, too, knows what it wants, knows that it feels good to have another body underneath and that it feels good to bear down on that other person, and that it's easy to find the right angle, the right place to set his cock against, and it feels good to rub and push and--
"Wait, wait." Dominic's wriggles under him, shoving Billy up with his palm.
Billy lifts himself on his arms; Dominic's scrambling under him, dragging his t-shirt over his head and his boxers down his hips. His hands reach to Billy's pajama bottoms, hesitate, but Billy's nodding frantically--"Do it." He gasps when the waistband of his pajamas drags over his own cock. Dominic can't reach down far enough and the pants get stuck somewhere below Billy's knees. Billy kicks his feet to get rid of them and lowers himself on top of Dominic, naked skin on naked skin, and the heat and the scent and the friction of their bodies hit him like a head-on collision.
But it's good, it's all good, bloody fantastic, when he starts moving against Dominic, his cock sliding against Dominic's between their bellies--oh, fuck--slick and damp and hot, and it feels so good, so perfect that his thoughts can't keep up and he stops thinking and just keeps moving. Dominic wraps his arms around him, pushing them closer, tighter, harder, more desperate.
He comes first, with the heat jolting through his muscles like an electric current, until he collapses with no words and no breath. It feels as if his brain has melted and his limp body's floating somewhere, with no connection to anything physical.
Dominic's still hard against him, bucking his hips. "Billy . . . please." He grunts. "Billy."
The sound of Dominic's voice makes blood rush to Billy's head, reminding him that this is real. That it happened, is still happening, that he's naked and Dominic's naked, and the sticky mess between their bellies is his come.
His fingers find Dominic's erection.
"Yeah . . ." Dominic gasps and opens his mouth, but no more words are coming.
That's an unfamiliar angle for Billy's hand, not very comfortable, but he curls his hand around Dominic and Dominic pushes into his fist in counterpoint, and it doesn't take long before they crash somewhere between his determined hand and Dominic's fierce need.
For a long moment after that everything is still.
Then Dominic opens his eyes and a slow smile curls his lips. "Hey."
Billy doesn't know what to do with his sticky hand, so he wipes it on the sheet. He clears his throat. "Hey." It comes out raspy and wanton, and he clears his throat again.
"You all right?"
"Yes. No. I don't know," Billy says. He draws air into his lungs slowly, like there's not enough of it. "Yes, I'm all right."
"Billy." Dominic nudges him, rolls him over onto his back and climbs on top of him, holding himself up on his elbows. "Stop thinking so hard. How does it feel?"
Dominic's body is pressing down on him, sweet weight, their bellies stuck together, messy and warm. Billy finds the small of Dominic's back; his hands settle there, holding Dominic. "Good. It feels good."
"So don't worry about the rest." Dominic leans in and runs the fingers of one hand through Billy's hair.
His face is so close to Billy's that their noses almost touch; he can feel Dominic's breath on his cheek. Dominic's shifting, pushing against him again, and Billy is aware of every inch of Dominic's body on top of him. Another wave of heat rolls through his stomach when he thinks about how he was grinding himself against Dominic and how good it felt.
"I don't know what to do," he says, but Dominic is right there above him, so he leans up across the inch of breath between them and finds Dominic's mouth.
He gasps--Dominic's lips are chapped and warm and gentle at first, but then Dominic opens his mouth for him, sucks Billy's tongue inside, and there's teeth and heat and a slick tongue and Billy wants more of that, all of it, all of Dominic. He rolls them over again, grasps Dominic's head in both hands and kisses him. Dominic spreads his legs, pulls his knees up and Billy settles between them like that's the most natural thing in the world.
"This is when I make a joke about how you're doing pretty bloody well for a bloke who doesn't know what to do," Dominic says when they break the kiss. "What's that, are you blushing?"
"I'm not blushing. Shut it."
Dominic grins and his upper lip curls up in a snarl. "Make me."
The way Dominic says it, it's dirty and sexy and it makes Billy's toes curl. He doesn't know this Dominic, but this Dominic is not totally unfamiliar either--Billy's seen glimpses of him, but he's never see him like that. Naked. In his bed.
He licks his lips. "So is this how it's going to be from now on?"
Dominic pushes up against him. "Is this how you want it to be?"
"Yes," Billy says, touching Dominic's face. "Yes."