Summary: In which the match begins and a pawn is captured.
Pre-reveal Notes: From Wikipedia: En passant (from French: in passing) is a move in the board game of chess. En passant is a special capture made immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, and an opposing pawn could have captured it as if it had moved only one square forward.
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit, non-commercial work of fiction using the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events herein actually occurred, or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged in or condoned by the real persons whose names are used without permission.
Billy is accustomed to leaving. He likes leaving. As far as he's concerned, leaving is the best part of any journey; every step is full of excitement and expectations, and no regrets yet to mar them. Okay, yes, leaving means you'll miss people, but Billy has long ago mastered the art of losing. So when he first notices it as he steps out of the cab at Heathrow, he finds the nervous fluttering in his stomach rather more curious than unpleasant. Curiouser and curiouser, he thinks to himself, down the rabbit-hole you go, and laughs a bit.
The driver drops his bags on the curb as Billy fishes in his pocket for his wallet and pulls out a handful of coins and some bills, rubbing them between his fingers and casting one last wistful look at the Queen's visage before handing them over. He wonders if New Zealand's bills have the Queen on them. Dollars. He knows that much. In New Zealand they have dollars. Maybe they have portraits of the Red Queen, Alice. Have you brushed up on your chess game lately? Pawn to Terminal One. Does that count as two squares forward or one?
Behind him, the cab starts with a shudder and pulls off. Your move, Boyd, and despite his continued insistence to the contrary, some part of Billy knows it's an important one. Billy slips his messenger bag over his neck, and his frame seems to crumple, seems to shrink in on itself, as if curling around the lump of insecurity that has suddenly burst into a cold fire at his core. The lines on his face deepen as he allows himself a rare moment of self-indulgence before he straightens his shoulders, shakes his head at his own foolishness, and makes a mental note to stop at the currency exchange before boarding.
"But what if there's no good whisky," Billy whines, plaintively, "How will I live? I'll have to have you ship me some every day!"
Margaret laughs, and promises to do just that should the situation reveal itself to be so dire, "But I'm sure New Zealand will have more than enough decent whisky for you and the rest. And plenty of sheep, Bill, don't forget the sheep," she teases through the phone, "You'll never be lonely! Hey, can you make a U-Turn?" Billy rolls his eyes at the old and unfunny joke, but chuckles anyway.
"Make her turn, I could make her eyes water," they finish together before Billy goes unusually quiet, all the as-of-yet-unacknowledged fears and pressures struggling against the words in his throat.
"Love you, Maggie," he finally squeezes out, "I'll speak to you on the other side, yeah?" At least there's always Maggie to come home to, to call on when things get rough. It isn't really fair, is it, to feel lonely with her around? No, it isn't, and she'd be the first to tell him to stop feeling sorry for himself and remember that he is about to fly off to bloody great NEW ZEALAND for a year and a half.
"Aye, Bills, that you will. Fly safe, and phone me when you get there, no matter what the time."
"Of course I will. Goodbye!"
"Bye! Love you, too."
Billy slips the handset back into the cradle, and with a deep breath and the beginnings of a smile hovering at the edges of his lips again, steps carefully across the crowded terminal hallway toward the nearest foreign exchange.
The young man in front of him on line is, well - twitchy is the only word Billy can think of to describe that peculiar blend of nerves and long, lithe limbs. His whole body is practically humming with energy. It's as if something inside of him is so big that it can't be contained simply by bone and muscle and skin. Billy doesn't think this lad can go more than three seconds without stretching or shifting, craning his neck to take in everything around him with bright, curious eyes and a wide grin.
One... two... and there he goes again, this time lifting himself smoothly up on his toes as if it will help him to better see over the head of the much shorter woman at the window in front of him, and rocking back and forth a bit before settling back to a grounded stance and crossing his almost too-skinny arms across his chest. Skinny, yes, but only from his relative youth, and attractive nonetheless, Billy thinks, gazing appreciatively at the swell of his arse as the woman moves off and the dark-haired lad steps up, peering past the glass at the list of exchange rates.
"Hi," he says, "erm. Could I," Smooth voice, Billy registers, and vocal training, "could I get some New Zealand dollars, please?" And suddenly everything snaps into place - tall, slender, pale but somewhat glowing complexion, trained voice - this lad is - must be - "You must be an Elf!" Billy's spoken before he's made the conscious decision, and the lad spins around, glittering brown eyes meeting his own clear green as he hears himself say, "I'm Billy Boyd, I'm Pippin!"
"Billy Boyd!" The elf all but shouts, and suddenly Billy finds himself caught up in a ridiculous tangle of limbs and bodies which sorts itself out as those long arms wrapped around him tightly in a surprisingly warm hug. For just a second, Billy relaxes into the embrace, returns it, and feels his body begin to react to the promise in those lean muscles, to the strength of the fingers clawing at his back. Ach, maybe it has been a while, he thinks, Control yourself, Boyd.
"Man, it is you isn't it," the appealingly ungainly youth asks, pushing Billy back to arms length, and Billy's skin is tingling now, as if the man's energy is contagious. Or maybe it has nothing to do with his energy, and more to do with the points where their bodies are still touching. Too long, too close, too much, Billy thinks, and fights the urge to back off, wills himself to enjoy the feeling instead of moving away from it.
"I had no idea what you were going to look like, you know," the Elf says, examining his face, "but wow, you do, you look just like a hobbit! Man, this is brilliant," he says, and throws his head back to laugh, exposing the column of his throat, and Billy licks his lips and tries to will his eyes to focus on something more appropriate and less, well, sexy.
"I'm Orlando, by the way. Orlando Bloom. I know, a mouthful. My mum, you know?" His smile is rueful, and he rolls his eyes good-naturedly, "but my mates mostly just call me Orli now." He shuffles them out of the way of the others on the exchange line and waves the next person forward. "I'm... wait. You guessed Elf correctly, but let's see if your powers of deduction are good enough to guess which Elf, Mr. Holmes." Orlando rolls the end of an imaginary mustache between his thumb and forefinger.
Billy reaches across his chest with one hand and upwards with the other to mime the smoking of a pipe and assumes an expression of deep concentration. "Elementary, my dear Mr. Bloom," he says. "Legolas the Elf, am I correct?" At Orlando's whoop of confirmation, he drops the character and continues in an exaggerated Gypsy accent, "I am the great Madame Boyd! I know all, I see all!" He giggles and they both grin. "Actually, if you want to know the truth - oh, and Orlando? If you tell anyone, I'll kill you in your sleep - but I haven't, erm, exactly finished reading the book yet."
"Oh thank God," Orli groans and claps him on the shoulder, "I thought I was the only one! I thought for sure everyone on this film was going to know as much about Tolkien as possible, and twice as much as that about the damned book! I thought they'd all be nattering on about the length of a hobbit's foot hair and which dialect of Elvish was more proper while I sat by myself and thought about surfing! Have you ever been surfing, Billy? I hear it's amazing down there, simply amazing. And bungee-jumping! Oh, I can't wait for that! We're about to spend the next year and a half in the adventure capital of the world, you know?"
The twinkle in his eye is more than just a little infectious, and Billy has the somewhat disorienting feeling that he's going to really like this elf-boy, although they've only just met. "I'm going to finish the book before filming starts, of course, it's only right," Orlando chirps on, "but can a guy help it if there are more things to be excited about than ink and paper?" Billy laughs in surprise at the improbable echo of his own long past thoughts from his days at the book bindery, and shakes his head.
"No, no, I suppose he can't at that, Orli. And I've had that same thought myself, a time or two," he says with a wry smile.
Never able to stand still, Orlando throws his hands above his head and reaches, full out, seeming to pop every vertebrae in his long spine while the hem of his shirt rides up to reveal an enticing sliver of skin above the waistband of his trousers. For a moment, Billy hesitates, and time seems to stretch between them like taffy, the air thick with needs unspoken and only barely acknowledged. But then, this is neither the time nor the place, thinks Billy, and both pawns have such a long way to go yet before they advance. Orlando stifles a yawn, and settles back down, still smiling, and the moment passes. Forward two squares, then, thinks Billy.
"Listen," he says out loud, "we've got time yet before the flight. What do you say we finish our business here and then grab a wee dram before take-off? You can tell me more about this surfing phenomenon you're so fond of, and then we'll see if we can't arrange to get seats together on the plane, hmm?"
When they ask at the gate to have their seats moved, the pretty Kiwi agent tells them with all sincerity that she's sorry, it isn't possible - until Orlando turns on the charm and happens to mention their imminent movie star status. And before Billy can blink, they've been reassigned to seats in first class. "Just how in heaven's name did you manage that," Billy asks, incredulous, as they trot up the gangplank. Orlando simply rests his finger against the side of his nose and winks, refusing to say anything else at all on the subject from that moment on.
Although the first class section is mostly empty, they haven't spread themselves out. Somehow it just seems right to stay together. The flight passes in a comfortable haze; the warmth of good company and laughter keeps them both floating just high enough to barely notice the innumerable hours in the air. At some point during a particularly long stretch, one or the other of them has ordered champagne, and Billy's skin is more than humming now, it's popping and fizzing like the bubbles in his glass, especially after Orlando's hand casually brushes his on the edge of the pages. Again. Odd how that keeps happening. Something rises up in Billy's chest, and he thinks it feels a little bit like hope.
They've set themselves the task of learning the "One Ring" poem at the opening of the book, but by about the tenth time through, they've given up on seriously memorizing it and started reciting it in as many funny voices as they can come up with between them. Billy's Al Pacino is a special favorite (Orlando had vetoed Sean Connery on account of it being too easy for a Scot, so Billy was forced to improvise), although Orlando has very nearly topped it with The Lord of the Rings as sung by Robert Plant.
"Nine for mortal men doomed to DIEEEEEEEEEEE," Orlando screeches, holding his now-empty champagne glass near to his lips and screaming into it as if it were a microphone. When he gets to the "Dark Lord" phrase, he pulls a hilarious face that sets Billy off into gales of laughter. Damn, and just when he'd gotten himself under control again, as well. Fucking gorgeous bastard.
He doesn't realize he's spoken the thought aloud until he catches sight of Orlando's face during one of his gulping intakes of breath. Orlando has gone suddenly, impossibly still, his lips curved up in a sort of half smile and his eyes blinking slowly in the dim glow from the overhead seat lamp.
"What did you say, hobbit?" he asks, so quietly Billy can barely hear him. "Taking the piss again, are you?"
Billy's head is spinning, his thoughts running through so many scenarios at once that they all blend together into some bizarre sort of puppet play in his mind, and just like that, he's no longer sure which one of them is pulling the strings. He swallows.
"Course, you poncy Elf," he grins. "You already know you're a bastard, don't need me to tell you."
Orlando turns his smile up to full brilliance, and that nervous fluttering Billy had experienced earlier starts in again, but this time Billy doesn't find it curious at all, but somehow normal. Expected. He reaches for Orlando's glass and fills it, topping off his own as well before raising it toward the sky. "To Fellowship," he toasts, and Orlando slides forward and wraps his arm around Billy's and then back, tilting his glass while Billy does the same.
"To Fellowship," Orlando says, "may it be the first toast of many." Orlando's eyes are smoldering, and Billy thinks, Check, mate.