The fic that ate my brain both in writing and editing. This one would not be here if it wasn't for the puppyslashers, whose AU genres I'm slowly but surely hauling kicking and screaming into lo-trips, also my Marywise, who is the reason I wrote it in the first place and finally Dee, my lovely writing partner, who poked, prodded and plotted with me. My undying love goes to the crack team of beta reader-y people who continue to show great bravery in the face of my tense changes and manfully hunted down them all down: Dol, Demelza & Soul. I kiss you. :g:
The first signs showed up when Elijah winced while taking off his shirt in wardrobe. The skin on his back was slightly bruised around the shoulders but everyone chalked it up to a fall he'd taken while shooting Moria. And that's what they continued to think as the bruising got deeper and the skin on and around his shoulder blades seemed tighter and redder, it was a valid excuse and all, poor Frodo did take quite a few nasty knocks over the course of the film.
Elijah didn't seem to mind them, sure he didn't like being pounced on from behind but otherwise he took it in stride and soon everyone forgot about the bruises. Everyone apart from Orlando, who noticed the small things: like the way Elijah would often sit shirtless when they weren't filming and twitch his shoulders, and the way the muscles in his back shifted when he did that, like they were alive under the skin. He also noticed the way Elijah continued to wince when he took his shirt off or when they painted make up over the bruises for the scenes where his back would be visible.
Orlando didn't talk about them much and certainly not to the rest of the cast, but he had mentioned the bruises to his mother during one of their phone calls and she'd suggested looking into something herbal, because that's what her mother had used on her bruises when they were small. The actual herb used escaped her mind. Orlando noted that down and a couple weeks later, during a week off from filming he'd gone into a herbal shop, cute smile at the ready and asked the girl behind the counter about what herbs would help his friend's bruising. After some thought, she'd suggested Witch Hazel, so he'd bought some, smiled at her again and headed over to Elijah's house. Elijah was lying stomach down on the couch, shirtless as usual, watching the television. The skin on his back was still angry looking and painful. He didn't get up, just waved hello and pointed in the direction of the kitchen. "There's beer in the fridge, if you want one."
Orlando nodded his thanks and stepped into the kitchen, grabbing a beer from the small fridge and returned to the lounge. Clicking open the beer, he dropped into the armchair closest to the couch and sprawled out, the bag with the cream still clutched in one hand. "I. Uh, I brought you something for the bruises. s'Witch Hazel. Mentioned the bruises to my mother and she suggested it, thought you might like to try it."
Elijah's shoulders shifted again and Orlando watched the muscles move, looking alien under the skin. "Yeah, sure. I'll give it a shot," Elijah sat up and reached for the box, "tell your mother I said thanks."
"I will. You want me to put it on?"
Handing the box back over, Elijah lay down again. "Yeah, that'd be good."
Orlando read the instructions carefully and squeezed a dollop of the pale green cream on to his hands and rubbed them together. Elijah squirmed when he ran his hands along his back. "Am I hurting you?" Elijah shivered. "Nah. It's just cold."
"Ok. Let me know if it does." Orlando continued his ministrations, inhaling sharply when his fingers touched the angry red patches of raw looking skin on Elijah's shoulder blades. "Do the--. Does it hurt?"
"A little. My skin just feels really warm and itchy. Think I'm allergic to the soap powder they're using in wardrobe."
Orlando nodded, hands still rubbing up and down Elijah's back. "Maybe you should see if it can be changed or something?"
"Mmm. Maybe, I'll see if it carries on first."
The room was silent, apart from the TV and the occasional sigh and rustle as Elijah shifted under Orlando's hands. When he'd made sure Elijah's back was all covered, Orlando stood up from his perch on the side of the couch and sat down in the armchair again. His hands felt slick from the cream and he tightened his grip on his reclaimed beer.
He wasn't turned on by the feel of Elijah's skin beneath his hands at all.
They talked for a bit, swigging beer and half-heartedly watching the movie on the TV, until Orlando had glanced as his watch and realised that it was getting late and they had a bus to catch at some ungodly hour of the morning. Elijah got up to let him out, rubbing a hand through his hair and on to his shoulder as Orlando collected his stuff, murmured his thanks again and waved him off from the front porch. Orlando waved back as he pulled out the drive and headed back towards his house, the feel of Elijah's skin still clinging to his hands and later, in his dreams, it was still there. Smooth and sleek and warm to his touch.
The bus arrived late and they all stood around in the carpark, sipping coffee from the catering van with their bags at their feet while they waited. Dominic and Billy slept off a hangover all the way through the bus journey, leaving Elijah and Orlando to talk quietly to each other and occasionally Viggo, who sat across the aisle with Sean. They arrived at the hotel shortly before dark and once they'd installed themselves in their new rooms - which consisted of dumping their bags in a heap on the floor - they all gathered again in the hotel bar for drinks, food and random discussion.
After the gathering at the bar broke up, everyone returned to their rooms. Elijah's room was at the end, next door to Orlando's with Dominic and Billy's on the other side of Orlando's. Sean A was next to Billy and two doors down from Viggo. Everyone else was on the floor above. The Hobbits and Elf all ended up in Elijah's room, crammed on to the bed and floor as they discussed the paths their characters would be taking during this part of filming but one by one they started yawning and returning to their own rooms to sleep. Orlando was the last to go leaning against the doorframe for a moment or two and asking quietly if the Witch Hazel had worked. Elijah tugged his shirt up and Orlando was pleased to see that the bruising was less violent than it had been before. He stamped down firmly on the slow heat in his stomach and tried to ignore the way Elijah's muscles still moved like they were attempting to break free when he shrugged.
They got spilt up again the following morning. Orlando, Viggo, John and Ian were filming pick-ups for the partly completed Helm's Deep sequence and the hobbits did various parts of Mordor and Hobbiton. When they all returned to the hotel a week later, Orlando noticed the new dark circles beneath Elijah's eyes and the way he flinched when someone touched his back. Felt his stomach lurch when Elijah's shirt tugged up, showing the dark, old-blood colour of the bruises. Orlando caught up with him later that night and manhandled him into seeing a doctor as soon as possible. Elijah nodded, teeth worrying the ragged skin around his nails and promised to go see one before the end of the week.
It wasn't soon enough.
It was the wail that woke Orlando up first and he lay blinking sleepily at the ceiling for a moment until the noise sounded again. It was coming from behind his bed, from Elijah's room. Orlando practically fell out of bed, the sheets had conspired against him and after he'd managed to untangle himself from his nest of blankets and find his discarded boxers, he'd fled next door, forever thankful that this hotel was too small to have converted to keycards and that no one locked their doors when they occupied a whole floor.
The door was old and stiff and Orlando had to put some weight behind his frantic push, which meant he just about went head-over-heels when the door gave in and he shot into the room like an arrow out of Legolas' bow. Elijah lay flat on his stomach, clad in boxers with the covers and top sheet pushed to the floor and his back turned slightly towards the door. In the light from the window Orlando could clearly see the inhuman way the muscles moved under his skin, in fact Orlando thought as he approached, like his ribs were trying to climb out his back. Forcing down the bile that rose in his throat, he stepped forward and reached out to touch Elijah's skin. Elijah howled and Orlando reared back, a hand wedged over his mouth as the skin between his shoulder blades started to split beneath his fingers.
The once white sheets were slowly turning red as blood seeped from the split in Elijah's skin. Orlando took two steps back towards the door but paused as Elijah called out his name. "Fuck.. ow. Fuck. Orli."
"I'm here." He stepped closer to the bed. "Lij.. fuck.. what's happening?" Elijah didn't answer, his whole body spasmed and Orlando's stomach tried to exit via his throat when he noticed something moving in the split, forcing its way out. "I'm, fuck, I'm gonna go get the others and a doctor."
Elijah whimpered barely audible to Orlando's ears. "No doctor."
"What?" Orlando had one hand on the door handle "what do you mean 'No Doctor'? Fuck. Lij, you're *bleeding*"
Orlando grimaced and made to pull the door open, freezing when Elijah cried out again, a cry followed by a wet noise. Slowly Orlando turned around and swore in disbelief.
Elijah had wings.
The room was silent now, apart from Elijah's slow whimpers and Orlando's monologue of swearing. The wings waved gently in the air, still wet with blood and a clear fluid Orlando could see coating the edges. The wings were a dark grey, red in patches, feathers still stuck together and they sprouted from between Elijah's shoulder blades, the area where the bruising had been the worst.
Orlando stumbled into the bathroom and said goodbye to the contents of his stomach. Staring at his ashen face in the mirror afterward, he thought he looked like he'd seen a ghost. He grabbed a washcloth and ran it under the tap and stepped back into the room. Elijah was still, lying on the bed, face turned towards window, the wings still waving gently above him. Kneeling down next to the bed, Orlando caught hold of his hand and squeezed, exhaling in relief when Elijah squeezed back. "Fuck. Lij, you've got wings. Honest-to-god *wings*" He brandished the dripping washcloth, "I'm going to clean your back. Ok?"
Elijah nodded and the wings shifted slightly, opening up slowly to their full span. The ends curled over him, brushing Elijah's elbows and Orlando watched, eyes wide as they swayed gently to and fro, drying out in the warm air. Gently Orlando wiped at the drying blood, inhaling sharply every time Elijah murmured, the wings twitching above his head. When he'd finished Orlando sat back on his heels and stared.
Elijah shrugged his shoulders and the wings folded back down against the skin. He paused and exhaled. "Ow. Yes. I think so. Help me sit up?"
They sat there on the bed, Orlando twisting the damp washcloth through his fingers. "So, wings huh?"
Elijah was silent for a moment, staring out of the window. "Yeah. I was an angel in a play when I was six. I had white wings and I fucking loved them, use to ask at night if I could have a pair of my own and now I guess I've got them." The wings unfolded and curved over Elijah's body, hiding his face.
Orlando stared for a moment, marveling at the fact Elijah had *wings*. Real wings. "What are you gonna do?"
"I don't know. Panic?" Elijah offered, his voice sounding small and pathetic and muffled by the wings. "I suppose I'll have to, um, tell people at some point" he paused, "I don't.. I don't know."
"Maybe you should sleep on it, see how everything is in the morning."
"Stay with me?" Still small. Still... scared.
Orlando paused, eyes flicking from the bed with its stained sheet to Elijah's wing-wrapped form. "Sure."
Orlando stripped the bed of the stained sheet and wadded it up in the bottom of the laundry basket; at least it was only the bottom sheet, small mercies to be thankful for. They soon worked out that the only way Elijah was going to be able to sleep at this moment in time was on his stomach. The wings unfurled when he twitched and Orlando slid under the covers, careful not to bump into the wings for fear of what might happen if he did. It was hard to sleep with the unfamiliar rustling above his head so Orlando found himself staring up at the wings and ceiling for the rest of the night, while Elijah fell into a deep sleep shortly after they'd switched off the lights. Orlando's gaze kept coming back to the wings. Wings. Elijah Wood, his castmate and friend had wings. It was like something out of the sodding X-Files.
If he hadn't seen them come through, he wasn't sure he'd believe they were real. As it was, his stomach was stirring at the memory and he had to stifle the urge to go dry heave in the bathroom again. Definitely not something he was going to forget in a hurry. Especially when they were hanging six inches above his head. They were rather pretty, he had to admit. Now that they were fully dry he could see each feather and the achromatic colouring, from a pearly-white at the base to inky-black at the tips, with various graduated shades of grey in between. Hell, they even had the little tuft of stiff-looking feathers on the end. Orlando couldn't remember what those were called, memories of secondary-school biology lessons dancing just outside of his mental reach.
The sun was rising before Orlando managed to get to sleep.
The morning was a comedy of errors. Firstly, Elijah had rolled over and squashed his wings behind him, the resulting howl of pain had woken Orlando up and Orlando, when faced with a pair of wings sprouting from the back in front of him, had blinked, remembered the previous night and started swearing.
Elijah fluttered nervously as the time approached to go downstairs for breakfast. He was wearing an unbuttoned shirt and kept complaining bitterly about it itching and feeling trapped. Orlando could see the wings shifting, their movements matching Elijah's look of anxiety. Dropping a hand onto the other man's shoulder, Orlando made soothing noises. "Look, we'll grab Billy, Dom and Sean first and go from there."
"Wings? What kind of crack are you smoking?" inquired Dominic, one eyebrow raised and it wasn't until Elijah dropped the shirt and turned around, wings fanning out behind him that the other hobbits believed them. There was a combined chorus of "Holy Fuck!" and Orlando nodded,
"Indeed. Just be thankful you weren't here when they, uh, sprouted."
Billy reached over towards Elijah and paused, hand in mid-air. "Can ah, can I touch them?"
The feathers ruffled, rearranging themselves briskly. "Yeah, Just be careful, they're still..tender." Billy nodded and stroked a hand gently along the edge of the nearest wing. "That hurt?" The wings shook and Elijah abruptly folded them down again. "A little."
Elijah shrugged, sliding the shirt back on and buttoning it up. "It's ok."
After the initial shock, costuming was easily overcome, the baggy nature of Hobbit clothing and Frodo's ever present cloak helped disguise any lumps and bumps that the wings caused. When he had to go outside, Elijah took to wearing Orlando's T-shirts, being larger, they hung off his shoulders and allowed the wings to move slightly without being strapped flat to his back but otherwise, inside, he preferred being shirtless, the wings either folded down or outstretched.
Orlando learnt to judge Elijah's moods by the state of his wings. When he was happy, the wings barely moved, seeming quite content to just stretch, they ruffled themselves continuously when he was upset, drooped when he was tired and flapped angrily when he was in a dark mood. When he didn't want to deal with anyone, they curved round him, obscuring his face and upper body. He was often tired, the long hours filming and the split healing meant that quite often, Orlando found himself crashing in Elijah's hotel room and then, when they returned to the city, his house. Waking up at odd hours to check on Elijah and gently rub more Witch Hazel into the skin around the wings. The split healed, the skin going from the old-blood bruised to red and then pink, where new skin and extra muscle formed and Orlando got used to the feel of feathers brushing against his shoulders and head when Elijah wandered into the kitchen in the mornings, boxer-clad and wings shaking themselves out of sleep-ruffled kinks, to nudge him out of the way of the fridge, kettle or toaster.
It took a month of this before Orlando gave up, shrugged and moved all his stuff into Elijah's place. The rest of the cast called them an old married couple, Orlando just gave them the fingers, grinning all the while. They went out, they got drunk and Elijah refused point blank to give up surfing, informing everyone that his wings would have to learn to love the wetsuit. Dominic ruffled his hair and told him to go get 'em trooper. Elijah kicked him in the shin and they ran off, laughing towards the waves, leaving Orlando and Billy to shake their heads and in Orlando's case, wonder what in the hell he saw in Elijah.
There was a mental pause and Orlando blinked, why would he see anything in Elijah anyway? He shrugged the thought to one side and took off after them down the beach, board under his arm and sand flying out from under his feet. Caught up with them at the waters' edge and thundered past, yelling, "last one in the water is a dead Orc!" as he started paddling his board through the swells. The waves were good that day and Orlando managed to not think about Elijah until near the end of the day, when his careful concentration slipped and he felt his board jar under his feet. He had enough time to get out a 'Oh, fuck!' before the harsh sting of salt water invaded his eyes, throat and nose and his board skipped past his head. Came up spluttering and let the waves push him into shore where he lay for a moment, head against the hard packed sand until a pair of feet trotted into his vision and poked him gently in the side.
Rolling over, Orlando grinned up at Elijah and hooked a hand around his ankles, tugging him down to the sand with a 'oof'. Billy and Dom soon followed, both falling prey to the mischievous hands of Orlando and Elijah. They lay there, feet dangling in the water as the sun started to set. Orlando was uncomfortably aware of the way Elijah's body slipped in next to his, salt-spiked hair resting easily on Orlando's shoulder.
They stripped off in the dirt strip pretending to be the parking lot at the beach, Elijah pulling a T-shirt over his wet suit first before shimming it down to his waist and letting out a little half-whimper as his wings fluffed themselves up, after being trapped in the wetsuit all day. They got dropped off first and Elijah shucked the shirt, falling down on the couch, unwilling to move, even though the remote control was wedged against his hip. Orlando dumped his gear on the floor of the bathroom and grabbed a tube of Witch Hazel before heading back to the lounge and nudging Elijah till he moved over enough for Orlando to sit down and apply the cream to his back. Once he'd finished, he helped Elijah up and half-carried him down the hall to his bedroom.
He was halfway out the door when Elijah called him back. Orlando leant over the bed and the next thing he knew Elijah had tugged him down on to the bed and kissed him. Orlando stiffened briefly and then relaxed into the warm lips covering his own but it was when Elijah's fingers brushed along his ribs, the tips sliding under the elastic at the waist of Orlando's swim-shorts that he panicked, pushing him back, and sliding off the bed in his hurry. Ran a hand through his hair and backed towards the door, "Um. Woah. I'm gonna. Gonna go. yeah." and scurried down the hall to his own room, leaving Elijah staring after him, looking like salt-dried sex with wings.
Orlando could still taste the salt on his lips.
The ceiling looked familiar at two o' clock in the morning. Orlando couldn't sleep because the kiss was still playing in his head. The slick-soft touch of Elijah's lips against his own, the taste of salt and something uniquely Elijah sparking off his tongue and teeth and he could still feel Elijah's fingers against his skin. Closed his eyes and tried to sleep and all the tactile memories came sliding back into his mind. The first time with the Witch Hazel and the way Elijah had squirmed up against his hands. Every other time after that, the wings brushing against his forehead as he'd worked the cream around their base. He stared at the ceiling for another hour, his digital clock mocking him with every red-lit number he was awake to see, before giving up and climbing out of bed and padding down the hall to the kitchen.
Elijah's door was closed as he passed but Orlando didn't look too close to see if there was light spilling out from beneath the door. Ended up in the kitchen, staring into the fridge like the meaning of life, the universe and everything would be found within its electric light. There was no point in going back to bed, Elijah would be up in an hour, and they'd both need to be on-set for five o' clock feet, ears and wigs. Ran into Elijah halfway down the hallway and just stood there, Elijah looked like he'd had about the same amount of sleep as Orlando, that is, none and Orlando felt faintly guilty.
"Uh, look. Sorry about.. all. That."
Elijah smiled, Orlando wasn't sure if it was genuine or acting, and shrugged it off." It's ok, forget about it," flashed a grin, "I'm just not your type, hey?"
Orlando nodded, plastered on a look of relief, "Yeah. Who'd want a bug-eyed shortarse?" and danced away from the playful slap, hooting with laughter.
He didn't say that if he didn't have a type before, he did now, and oddly enough, it was bug-eyed shortarses, with wings. Just smiled and made coffee, thumb-wrestled for the shower and got ready to leave for the set. Just another ordinary day, of course.
Things went back to normal; Elijah still played computer games, leaned his shoulder against Orlando's leg while he did. Still rested his chin on Orlando's shoulder and nudged him out of the way with his hip in the morning. They still wrestled for the bathroom and Orlando still rubbed Witch Hazel into Elijah's back when he needed it. They still went out and got extremely fucked with everyone else.
Which is how they found themselves like this: Orlando flat on the couch, Elijah straddling his hips, hands on his shoulders, bending over to slick-slide kisses across his jaw, below his ear, on the corner of his mouth. Orlando's hands on his waist, fingertips digging circles into the soft skin and hard muscle, while Elijah squirmed. Wings curved around them to block out any distractions. Kissed him and Orlando thought he could still taste the salt but what it really was, was beer and tequila and Elijah's clove cigarettes, still cloying on Elijah's tongue.
"Lij?" Orlando murmured, mid-kiss, watched Elijah's kiss-stung lips move away.
"I have a type. Or a thing.. for a type."
Eyes widen in question. "Oh?" Orlando nodded, tugged Elijah down, flat against his body,
"Yeah. I think I have a thing for bug-eyed shortarses," caught Elijah's mouth with his own, "but they have to have wings."