He was falling asleep in Orlando's bed that night when he remembered that there were no curtains in his kitchen.
Orlando's house was littered with stuff. It had come furnished, but Atti had sent a box of trinkets from Orlando's place in London, a cheap vase filled with silk flowers, a tiny replica of a Monet, a handpainted plate, a tiny purple rug, a set of obscene placemats. And there were American things there too, half a box of Jelly Belly jellybeans, a snowglobe with the Golden Gate Bridge in it, three TV Guides for the Greater Malibu Area. These were Elijah's.
As for Elijah himself, he was usually sprawled across the armchair in the living room, reading his books and picking at the stuffing through the split seam. And Orlando would stare, sprawled invitingly on the sofa, until Elijah looked at him, all lean and aloof and waiting, and let himself be lured away from the chair, lured up and across into the bedroom, pressed against the doorjamb with the full length of Orlando's body and feel Orlando's hot breath across the back of his jaw. And he would rumble low in his throat and push back until Orlando was laid out on the bed, legs open and body bare.
Sometimes Elijah was on top, sometimes Orlando would get fierce and ride him and nip and scratch, but Orlando was never inside.
Dominic was so nice to Elijah. He'd let him into his apartment on a Friday night for this. "Come on, then. If you can't say it, you sure as hell can't do it. Talk." Elijah glanced around to make sure they were alone. Dominic looked confused. "Door's locked, Lij. I don't know who you expect to show up."
He whispered anyway. "I've never been fucked." Dominic took a deep breath and looked away. "I mean, Orlando's never pushed, and we've never even talked about it. But I feel like I ... should."
"Well, Lij, you don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with."
"Right, of course, but ... It's like I'm not gay until I've done this."
Dominic looked down and laughed. "I've caught you with your tongue halfway down Orli's throat, Lij. You're queer as they come."
Elijah laughed just a little too. "But what do you think I should do?"
Dominic looked up at him again. "I have no idea."
He wondered if Orlando knew too.
Everyone was just the same to him as always. They probably each of them had a hot bit of gossip ruining their good names at any given moment. But Elijah was no closer to an answer. Instead, he spent a lot of time sitting in the empty costume trailer, staring into the mirror, looking at a boy who loved a boy, but maybe not enough.
It was Sir Ian who was the first to knock on the door. Elijah looked up and he came in. He was done for the day, dressed to go home and looking for all the world like somebody's favorite uncle. "I've made brunch reservations for Sunday, just the two of us. I'll pick you up. Orlando's?"
Elijah suppressed a smile. Everyone knew where he was at all times. With Orlando. "Probably."
Ian smiled. "Fine then. Eleven o'clock. Be on time." And he was gone.
Elijah squinted at his sleeve. "Um, yeah."
"And your shoes are brown..." He held his teacup in both hands.
"Ahh." Ian took a calm sip. Elijah drank his juice and felt about seven years old. "There has been a bit of ... whispering among the cast and I thought I might speak to you, set you at ease."
"About you and Orlando having sex." Elijah's hand clamped tight around his spoon. Ian had another sip.
"You mean, if we do?"
"No, no, Elijah," he chuckled. "We are all quite sure that you are having sex. It's more about the way in which." He added a bit of lemon to his tea and tasted it again. Elijah could feel his nails digging into his palm. "Dominic's a sweet boy, and he's worried about you." Elijah was going to kill Dominic. Ian leaned back in his chair.
So he stayed away from cast gatherings, dinners, etc. When he wasn't needed on set, he hid in his trailer and didn't make any noise. After shooting was done for the day, he slipped into the car beside Orlando and didn't say goodbye to anyone at all. He was fairly sure people were going to think he'd developed some sort of drug problem.
But all the avoidance in the world couldn't help Elijah on the following Friday when he stepped out of his trailer to find Ian waiting for him again. Elijah blushed and stammered and stuttered and his clammy hands grasped blindly backwards for the doorknob. "Great," Ian said brightly, "you're done. Let's go then." Ian grasped his elbow and Elijah's feet slipped on the steps and followed. Ian, seemingly unaware of the massive fear and panic of the boy behind him, strolled along towards the main road. Elijah wondered what he was thinking. Probably, "Lovely day, I think I'll terrorize the American boy."
Ian hailed a taxi and pushed Elijah inside. Elijah was waiting, waiting for Ian to speak, wondering what he was going to say, but Ian seemed content to watch the streets of Wellington go by. Not terribly dangerous, just an English actor who cared about his cast. And talked loudly about sex. In public restaurants. Elijah blushed again.
Ian bundled Elijah out again at his apartment building. Elijah stared at their reflections on the inside of the gilded elevator doors. Where people lived said a lot about their personalities. Ian had a penthouse flat full of nice things. Orlando had a house on the beach, just secluded enough that he could sit on the back porch naked with his morning tea if he wanted to. And Elijah, well, Elijah had a dark, empty flat in a neighborhood he didn't know well because he spent his nights on that porch with Orlando. He thought a moment about Orlando, nude but for his cup and saucer. And then thought about giving up the flat.
Ian lived in number 1214, which had big windows and lovely views of Wellington and the sea beyond. But the sun had already set and the vertical blinds were all turned shut. Ian flipped on the lights, tossed his coat across a chair, and led Elijah into his study. Neither of them had said a word.
Ian pulled out a leather chair for Elijah and then walked over to study his drinks trolley. "Have you eaten?"
Elijah shook his head and then realized that Ian could not see him, had his back to him. "No."
"Wonderful." He sat across from Elijah with three glasses and a cut-glass decanter full of dark, dark liquid. Elijah watched as Ian splashed a careful shot into each glass. When he was done, he set the stopper back in the top and folded his hands on the table. He looked so old by the light of the single lamp, so wise. So English. "This is what I had the night I..." he gestured vaguely, "first had the pleasure." He leaned back in his chair. "So go on, then. Drink up."
Elijah knew then that his eyes had gone dinner plate wide. And Ian just stared, hands folded in his lap. Elijah couldn't quite tell if Ian was smirking. Elijah had a feeling he was.
He was going to. He really was, he'd been planning to. He had wanted it to be one perfect night, sometime after he had stopped being scared. Not that there was much to be scared of, if one judged by the way Orlando screamed, and bucked, and clawed, and panted.
And now he had to. God, how he had to.
He picked up the first and threw it back fast. And then his head exploded. Whisky, cheap and rough and leaving a burning trail behind as it tumbled down to his empty stomach. Over his coughing, he could hear Ian say, "The faster, the better." Elijah slammed back the second, eyes watering, and felt nothing of the third. "Let's get you off then," Elijah heard him say, but he couldn't trust his senses anymore. He was being pulled up and out of his chair, thought he'd vomit in the lift, then saw the world crystal clear for a moment when the night air slapped him hard across the face. The taxi had waited for him and he was so glad. Ian pushed him inside and spoke to the driver. "Goodnight, Elijah." Elijah turned in his seat and felt himself waving out the back window until they turned the corner.
He sat silently and still then, waiting, and his mind ran wild. It was going to be hedonistic as hell, he decided. He was going to march into that house and Orlando was going to make him feel very good. He spread his legs a little to make room.
When the car stopped in front of Orlando's little house, the driver looked back at him in the rearview mirror and said, "Your friend took care of your tab. Go on in."
Elijah smiled back and carefully turned the door handle. The steps up to Orlando's were always sandy and Elijah walked slowly, making sure he didn't fall and thinking about the way it slipped and crunched under his feet, like real beach sand should. His neighbor in LA had a yard full of imported red Texas clay, ground into the most perfect dirt, never dusty, soft under your feet and didn't hurt too badly when you fell playing frisbee. One afternoon, they had made up a poem about it, but he could only remember the first three lines: "Dirt, dirt - why is life dirty? / What dirt may come / so that we shall be free?" It had felt brilliant then, but now he couldn't think of the rest, couldn't make his brain think about anything but how soft that red Texas clay was. It was always what he thought of when he thought of dirt. And this, pale New Zealand sand that he could hear scratching under his shoes and falling into the gaps between the weathered boards would forever he be what he thought of when he thought of sand.
When he got to the top, when he looked up, Orlando was standing there, shirtless and framed by the light, just watching him. And Elijah loved him. So he said so. Orlando smiled at him and stepped out, barefoot, onto the sandy porch, and slid his palms around Elijah's waist, up under his shirt and his bare palms sent shivers through Elijah. He pressed the length of Orlando's body and licked his way inside Orlando's mouth. "I've had a bit of a drink," he whispered.
"I can taste it."
He worked one of his thighs between Orlando's and ground slowly. "I would have, Orli, I wanted to. But tonight, tonight I just had to." He used a roll of his hips for punctuation and Orli's eyes closed and he groaned, just the faintest breath of Elijah's name.
Elijah liked that and twisted his hips a little more sharply this time. "Lij," he said out loud.
"Yes?" Elijah responded, dipping his thumbs to the spot just inside Orli's hips.
"Inside," he rasped and pushed Elijah hard through the door, went in after him, and let it bang shut on its own.
Three feet past the threshold, Elijah kissed Orli again, smiling, feeling seductive. And Orlando pushed him away. "What?"
"Lijah, slow down a little. We've got all night."
Orlando smiled. "I think all of New Zealand knew. But yeah, I've known for a while. Worth the wait, though." Elijah was in love.