Title: Singing In My Sleep
Summary: In which Elijah sends Orlando mixed tapes, and Orlando tries to listen.
Notes: This fic is meant to be read in the same way one listens to a mixed-tape. It's jumbled up and not chronogically in order, but hopefully it still makes sense. Many thanks to Bene for the beta!
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.
Track #1: The End Is The Beginning Is The End
"Does it make you happy that you're so strange?" - The Smashing Pumpkins
"You idiot." Dom's voice was soft, and full of a mixture of incredulity and scorn. "You classic, total plank."
I took a step back, well, because. Because Dom looked more confused than menacing, and I should have been afraid, or worried, but I had a feeling that I may have just made a massive mistake that cost me something very dear.
"How could you not have known?" He looked down at the various tapes and CDs on the table, shaking his head, then looked up at me again. There was something unreadable in his eyes. "You're just- mate, I really can't help you here."
As I looked down at the table of music paraphernalia, my head was swimming and I had to blink a bit, and I thought back to where all this had started, three months ago. But if I really thought about it, the ball had started rolling so much earlier than that, back when me and Dom and all the others were in another country far away, in another time as well.
When I opened my mouth to ask him something, I looked up just in time to watch the door swing shut after Dom's abrupt departure.
Maybe he was right.
Track #2: Singing In My Sleep
"Now I'm falling in love too fast, with you or the songs you chose." - Semisonic
Here's what happened three months ago: I got the last mixed-CD that I would ever get in the mail from Elijah. I remember grinning in delight as I ripped open the manila envelope. Inside was the usual burned CD with its accompanying jewel case, as well as the notes that Elijah took care to attach to every single mixed tape or CD that he made for me. After making sure that Sidi was happy and fed, I took a long, indulgent shower, then sat about in my bathrobe for a while, reading the papers.
Popping Lij's CD into the stereo, I idly flipped through the tracklisting, not too surprised that I didn't really recognise any of the artists Elijah had picked. Sometimes he would throw in the customary Jamiroquai or Ben Harper track to keep me happy, but most of the time, I got the idea that he was more keen to introduce me to good music.
I can't remember exactly when Elijah had started making all of us the mixed tapes that we would receive regularly over the years, even long after Rings. God knows that he talked about music all the time, he and Dom, and the rest of us learned to roll our eyes and stay a safe distance from the stereo while the two of them battled it out for control. To be honest, music is something that I had always thought of as a pastime, a hobby, something meant to be enjoyed in the background while life happened. Elijah, on the other hand, seemed to believe that music was life itself.
The mixed tapes would soon progress to burned CDs, and later still, Itunes playlists for the others, but Elijah stuck to CDs in my case because I still stubbornly had no interest in figuring out whatever the heck Itunes was. Every few months or so, a new package would appear in the mail, and I found myself listening to the songs he chose not out of obligation, but because some of the stuff really was bloody good.
And sometimes, late at night when it was so quiet that there were even no crickets, I would pop one of Elijah's CDs into my Discman (which Dom kept pestering me to bring to an antique appraisal show, the bastard) and just sink into the music. Looking up at the dark, clear, inky Caribbean night sky, I would think about the last time I was so far away from home. Elijah's music was always the perfect soundtrack to those thoughts, making me feel as though he were right beside me, twiddling with the stereo, and maybe if I reached out, I could touch him, making up for all those opportunities in Zid that I had missed out on.
The Discman whirred as the CD finished its last track, and I closed my eyes and tried not to think about Elijah as I jabbed at the 'Play' button again.
Track #3: Until You Understand
"I wish there was a way to make you read the signs I'm bringing you this evening." - Kings Of Convenience
Dom was in town, en route to Hawaii, so we managed to meet for a hastily arranged lunch at a vegan café that belonged to one of my friends. I was pretending not to notice the face that Dom was making at the tofu appetisers, or the way his hand kept sliding under the table to feed scraps to a very willing Sidi. I was far too pleased to see him, even though he looked almost unrecognisable with the deep, rich tan that Hawaii had blessed him with. With the 100% cotton beige shirt that he was wearing, open at the collar, he looked like some hippie fresh off the beaches of Goa, seemingly unperturbed by fellow diners whipping out their mobiles for a quick picture of the two of us.
Passing me his digital camera, Dom was insisting that I flip through the too-bright, happy photos of Evi and other cast members cavorting around on the set of Lost. Absorbed in the photos, I was barely aware of Dom, who was busy picking at his food anyway, until I realised that his eyes were fixed on me, and I looked up with a raised eyebrow, realising at the same time he did that I was mouthing along to the words of the song playing on the café's soundsystem.
"Wait, wait." Dom's forehead was creased in a frown. "How do you know this song?"
"Eh?" I was busy trying to squint at a blurred photo of what looked like Josh Holloway.
"You know this song? You?"
I was more amused than offended at Dom's incredulity. "Yeah, what's the big surprise?"
"You never know anything!"
"Really, you should give me more credit than that, Dommie."
"Come on." Now Dom looked uncharacteristically serious. "How in the world do you know Kings Of Convenience?"
I lifted a shoulder in an ambivalent shrug. "Lij. They're on one of the CDs that he burned for me."
"Huh." Dom's tongue was flicking over his teeth. "Didn't figure he'd think that they were your type of band."
"He sends me tons of stuff that I thought I wouldn't like at first. But the little fucker sure is persuasive." I chuckled, handing the camera back to Dom. "His notes are pretty hilarious too."
"Yeah. Like how he wrote that Kings Of Convenience are this Norwegian band who quite possibly got their name from a portable loo they saw in China." I took another sip of wheatgrass. "Typical Lij stuff, you know? Like why he likes the song, where he first heard it, yada yada."
Dom was staring at me as though I was some optical illusion he was trying to figure out. "Orli, you say that he sends you notes with every CD that he makes for you?"
"Yeah. You get those too, right?"
Dom's laugh was a short, sharp bark. "Orli, for someone whose nickname is Captain Obvious, you're denser than tar, mate."
"What the fuck?"
"I'm pretty sure," Dom said slowly and deliberately. "That the rest of us don't get the same special treatment. I know I definitely don't, he just sends me Itunes playlists. It's the same with Bills, and I'd pretty much wager that Sean gets the same deal, as does Viggo. And I don't think Lijh can be arsed to send mixed CDs to anyone else, let alone with those notes you're talking about."
I was silent as I pushed around the remnants of my portobello mushroom sandwich on the plate, avoiding Dom's steady gaze.
"I'll be honest here. I was absolutely gutted when you and Lijh hooked up back in Zid. I was arse over tits for him." Dom sighed. "I don't know what happened after filming, Lijh never really talked about it." He stirred his avocado smoothie, took a sip, then continued. "I hung about for a while, even moving to LA with him, being hopeful, I guess. Then I wised up, then.....yeah."
I couldn't really bring myself to react to what Dom was saying, because it was something I had suspected all along, right from his reaction when he first caught me kissing Elijah behind Philippa's trailer all those years ago. Still, it was rather surprising to have him bring it out into the open.
"Whatever happened with you and Lijh, anyway?"
I fiddled with my rings and cleared my throat. "It's too long a story." Truth be told, I was not sure exactly what happened either, or why we had drifted apart.
"I think he still feels for you." Dom drummed his fingers on the table. "Do you still?"
"I don't know, man." I was thinking of the stack of mixed CDs in my apartment, all painstakingly labeled, all accompanied with notes that Lijh must have spent hours scribbling, wanting to share with me the exact moment he first fell in love with the song, or what it made him feel. I was thinking of the possiblity that he didn't do this for anyone else. And I was thinking of all those unsent messages in the songs he chose, a deliberate measure perhaps, a way of trying to tell me without telling me anything.
"Let's head to your place," Dom announced. "Then I'll show you what is so painstakingly obvious to everyone else but you."
Sidi barked at that exact moment, and for a moment, I wondered if it really was obvious to everyone but me.
Track #4: Passenger Seat
"With my feet on the dash, the world doesn't matter." - Death Cab For Cutie
I generally don't like driving, especially in foreign countries, so it was a mystery how Liv ever managed to cajole me into becoming her personal chauffeur for a good few months in New Zealand. I had the dyslexia excuse at the ready, but so did she, and she laid out such a masterful and cunning mixture of charm, guilt-tripping and nagging that I found myself all meek and docile at her mercy, doing it without complaint. I didn't really drive anyone else around, preferring to hitch rides with Viggo or the hobbits or the crew, or just any poor bloke wandering about who couldn't run away fast enough. They thought I was lazy, or bothered by the dyslexia, but I just liked to daydream, really. Staring out of the windows at the passing scenery - and Zid has some fucking unbelievable scenery - and thinking, or dreaming, or taking mental snapshots in my head, always planning to return later with my camera.
So when I was elected to drive Elijah home after he came down with some mild food poisoning during a night out, I was too concerned about him to worry about driving. He did look rather green, and was muttering as he clutched his stomach, refusing the water I offered him. Billy helped me carry him out of the bar, and Dom threw me the keys to his rented jeep. "And please for fuck's sake, get him out of here before Astin sees him and we get a lecture on the evils of salmonella," Billy hissed as he fixed Lij's seatbelt, then closed the door with a wave.
"Aye aye." I closed the door on my side as well, cutting off Dom's threat over getting the merest scratch on the jeep. He thumped on the window and flipped me off with a grin before he headed back inside the bar with Billy, and I started the engine. Elijah lurched forward with the car, seemingly a little greener, but he didn't ask to pull over so I just focused on getting him home as quickly and safely as possible.
"Can I switch on the radio?" He glanced sideways at me, noticeably less green now.
As Elijah turned the knob, The Stone Roses started blaring immediately from the speakers and I quickly turned down the volume with a grimace. Definitely one of the hazards of driving Dom's jeep. At Elijah's quiet laughter, I poked him in the side, grinning as I kept my eyes on the road.
"What, you don't like the Stone Roses?" Elijah pretended to inspect me closely. "Are you sure you're British, man?"
"Fuck off," I said without any real heat. "I'm a gentleman of acquired tastes."
"Like what? The Spice Girls?"
Another poke elicited a squeal, and I had to laugh at how predictable he was. "So I see that you're feeling better now. Enough to torment me about my 'shit' taste in music anyway, according to you."
"It's true." He seemed smug. "I can give you bonus points for Jamiroquai and Ben Harper, they aren't half-bad. But U2? Come on, man."
"What's wrong with U2?" I was indignant.
"Fucking Granddad rock." Elijah laughed as he dodged another poke. "Come on, I'm sure you'll like the Stone Roses if you give them a chance. Here." He pressed the 'Forward' button a few times, to one of the quieter songs.
It was actually not half-bad, and not for the first time, I thought Elijah should take up DJ-ing. He always played good stuff at parties or gatherings, or the Feet trailer in the mornings whenever I happened to pop by.
"This one is nice. What's it called?"
"This? 'I Wanna Be Adored'. One of my favourites."
"You seem to have a lot of favourites."
"Shut up." He laughed, leaning back and looking through the sunroof at the brilliant night sky, resting his feet on the dashboard. "I love this. Driving around with a friend at night, listening to music. Me and Han used to do this all the time, the moment she was old enough for me to force my musical tastes on her."
I chuckled, turning towards the exit that would take us on the road with a longer, scenic route. "Poor Hannah. Poor me too, really. Held captive by a band led by a bloke who looks like a monkey."
Elijah was leaning back, his eyes closed, and for a moment, I thought he had fallen asleep. But his voice startled me. "Dom will have your fuckin' balls, man, if he hears you calling Ian Brown a monkey."
I couldn't help smiling. "You're right, this is nice."
His answering grin said just as much.
After that night when I drove Elijah home, I found my first mixed tape waiting for me in my trailer the following morning. Viggo nodded towards it, murmuring "Special hobbit delivery. I already checked it for suspicious smells or sounds. So far it's clean." Shaking my head in amusement as Viggo left for sword training, I popped the tape into the Cuntebago's lone battered stereo and looked through the notes that came with the tape.
Start with this, and hopefully this will begin you on your quest for less shit tastes in music.
"That little fucker." My grin was far wider than it had any right to be, as 'I Wanna Be Adored' started booming on the old battered stereo.
Track #5: Flying Over Bus Stops
"I belong with your arms wrapped around my neck, your lips glistening in the light of some headlights passing by." - Athlete
"Did you get the tape?" Elijah asked me as we were walking home from dinner at the Green Parrot. Dom and Billy were far ahead, talking indignantly about some script changes that involved Merry and Pippin, and I had hung back to walk slowly, hands in my pockets, trying not to be hyperaware of Elijah walking somewhere near me. Actually, right beside me, lighting one of his ever-present clove cigarettes.
"Yeah, I did." I grinned down at him. "For someone so bossy, you actually managed to pick some songs that I found decent."
"The faster you admit it and bow down to my greatness, the better off we'll all be, actually," he said with a straight face, and we cracked up, clutching onto each other on the sidewalk.
"Which ones did you like?" he asked, wiping the tears of mirth from his face.
"I liked the ones by that band...Pavement, was it? And Boards Of Canada."
"I thought you would."
"You think a lot of things."
"All of them fucking brilliant." Elijah puffed out his chest proudly.
"Yeah?" I came to a stop. "What are you thinking about now?"
For some reason, Elijah looked down, suddenly uncharacteristically coy. "Something not so brilliant."
"How do you know it isn't brilliant," I said slowly, "Until you've tried it?"
For a very long moment, Elijah finally put out his cigarette on the pavement, then looked up at me with those endless eyes of his.
I wasn't sure who leaned forward first, whose mouth opened first, whose arms slid around whose neck first. All I was aware of was his warm, wet mouth, seeking mine hungrily, tasting of cloves and coffee, and I didn't even care that Dom and Billy might have turned and saw us, or Viggo, Bernard and Bean who were walking some distance behind us would catch up and spot us. All I cared about was the feeling of those short, strong arms around my neck, that tongue exploring my mouth greedily, those hips clumsily bumping against mine.
When he broke apart for breath, I blinked down at him. Elijah looked so uncertain but hopeful. "You were wrong, you know?"
"What?" I felt his arms loosening, but grabbed him before he could pull away completely.
"It -was- a brilliant idea." I laughed at the look of relief on his face, before he smacked me soundly on the arse. "Let's go home and listen to that tape of yours, together. Then you can tell me every single boring fact about every single song, and where you first heard it, and all that other nonsense."
Elijah laughed, resting his forehead against my chest. "Now that is really a fucking brilliant idea."
Track #6: White Lips Kissed
"Our love is a fickle love, keeps itself locked in a suitcase, to be ready to go always." - Mew
"Do you want me to send you to the airport?"
I ran my fingers through his hair, stroking it away from his forehead. It seemed strange to get used to Elijah without Frodo's curly wig, and I felt like I had to get reacquainted with him every night. It sent a jolt through me, though, to think that today was the last day I would ever see Elijah in a curly wig. "Sure, if you wanted to. But-"
"But what?" He looked up at me, from where his head was resting on my lap, and I sighed, my fingers sliding down to stroke along his jaw instead.
"I thought it might be less...I don't know. Less painful, maybe. If you weren't there."
Elijah didn't say anything.
I wanted to lean over and kiss him, I really did, but I was just trying not to dread the idea of tomorrow, when I would have to fly back to London, and Elijah to California. The cast party had been hours ago, and most of us had stayed up the whole night, just talking, making plans to meet up in the future, and I knew that I would see Elijah again, along with Dom, when we were going to India and Thailand. Still, that seemed so far away, and I wasn't sure how keen Elijah would be to meet up before then. Would it seem desperate? Or that I was trying to prolong the death of something that was going to subside by the end of filming? Elijah hadn't told me what he wanted, out of us, and I suspected that if he asked me, I wouldn't have been able to answer him anyway.
"Let's just enjoy the rest of tonight. Today, I mean." I could see dawn breaking from the soft light streaming through the window. "Yeah?"
Elijah nodded against my lap, his grip still tight on my hand, but I could already feel he was slipping away.
Track #7: Against All Odds
"You're the only one who really knew me at all." - The Postal Service
After Dom had left, I walked around my apartment in a daze, barely noticing even when Sidi started barking loudly at a pigeon which was waddling around on the windowsill. Maybe Dom was right. Maybe Elijah never said anything directly to me, never told me the exact words, but he was saying everything he wanted to say in those songs, in those carefully crafted notes he sent along with them. It wasn't the way I would have picked to tell him, but then again, I remembered that music was Elijah's life.
I stared at the pile of Elijah's CDs and tapes that Dom had made me gather and place on the table, and to Dom, it had been as clear as day that Elijah had made a whole bloody lot of effort and was trying to tell me something. And maybe I was listening, but I didn't know what to do, or how to react. Or maybe I was thinking that I was reading too much into things, that I was still hoping for us to pick up from where we left off in New Zealand, and maybe that hope blinded me to the fact that every single song Elijah had sent me was a love song, and the wistful words of Billie Holliday and Death Cab For Cutie were the language which with he was trying to speak to me.
I thought first of calling him, just telling him everything, but as I looked down at the pile of CDs, I had a better idea.
Track #8: No More Keeping My Feet On The Ground
"And this could be my last chance, no more keeping my feet on the ground." - Coldplay
I had to ask Sam to help me, because I really was shite at computers, but she helped me to burn the CD and didn't ask me any questions. I wrote the notes myself, and stuck them with the CD the same way Elijah did, then sent the package via Fed-Ex to his address in LA.
Now, all I had to do was wait.
Track #9: Good Goodnight
"You talk in your sleep, I hear you say beautiful things. I love you, I do." - Aqualung
It reminded me too much of the night before we all left Zid, and maybe that was why I was holding onto Elijah's hand tightly, our legs tangled together. Still, it was different from that last night, because he looked so completely different, just like Dom did, but I could still see the Elijah I knew in his eyes, in the way he smiled, the familiar way he cupped his hand to cover the flame as he lit a clove. Right now, his head was just beside mine on my pillow, and we were both breathing heavily and sweating, trying to recover from making up for too much lost time.
"What gave you a clue?" Elijah was smiling, panting. "Was it the last CD I sent?"
"Maybe it was," I admitted. "And Dom helped by knocking a hefty load of sense into me."
"He did?" Elijah was surprised. "You know, there's something I should-"
"I know." I stopped him with a hand on his chest, which went on to do a little exploring. "But that's not important now."
"It's not?" Elijah's eyes met mine, then he smiled. "It's not."
We lay there quietly on the bed, and I could hear Sidi padding through the apartment, looking for his favourite chew toy, and I still remember the overwhelming reception he had given Elijah, slobbering all over him only slightly less than I did. I found myself grinning, then leaned into Elijah's touch as he traced my lips.
"Do you still talk in your sleep?"
I raised an eyebrow. "What? I do that?"
Elijah chuckled. "Yeah man, didn't you know? All the fucking time. Viggo even recorded this one time when you were arguing with someone in your dream about eggs, and he played it for us in the Cuntebago. Man, we all cracked up."
I laughed. "So that was what you bastards were laughing over when I came in!"
"Damn right." Elijah's smile was softer now. "But you say other things too. Nice things. Cool things."
"Hmm." I turned my head so I could place a kiss on the center of Elijah's palm. "Like what?"
"Like the things I've been trying to tell you in the songs."
We leaned closer, and I placed a chaste kiss reverently on his forehead. "Then I am glad I finally heard you."
END OF TAPE