This fic was very much influenced by Howie Day's song Collide, as well as various Elijah interviews.
Dawn is breaking. Sean watches as faint light begins to seep through the gaps in the blinds, and shadowy objects in the room slowly assume form and substance: clothes piled in heaps on the floor, framed posters tipped at drunken angles on the wall, cardboard boxes (ten of them, Sean has counted them many times) stacked unevenly in the corner.
Sean looks at the digital clock on the cluttered bedside table. The clock with its extra large luminous red numbers had been a gift from Sean; the most extraordinary eyes in Hollywood are, ironically, nearly blind without the aid of glasses or contacts. The display, which he has deliberately avoided looking at until now, reads six a.m. Sean lets his tense muscles relax; he has at least another hour before he will have to get up.
He settles his head back on the pillow and stares at the ceiling with eyes that burn with fatigue. He has fought off sleep like an enemy, that he might hold Elijah through the night, and listen to his quiet breathing. Such opportunities have been rare in the eleven months since Elijah moved into this small house near the sea in Venice. Sean doesn’t intend to lose even one precious hour to sleep.
Sean is, in truth, hyper aware of the passage of time when he is with Elijah these days. He can almost hear it passing, as if it is counted not by some modern convenience, but by the sort of clock no one uses anymore, the old-fashioned kind that is wound with a key and measures time with a steady tick tick tick tick, counting down the minutes as night retreats and the cold light of day begins to intrude.
Elijah is tangled up in Sean, in a comfortable knot of arms and legs, sheets and comforter. His slack mouth is warm and damp against Sean’s collarbone; the spikes of his black-dyed hair prickle at Sean’s throat. His soft cock and wiry pubic hair press against Sean’s hip; he loves how they feel resting against him- so intimate and trusting.
Elijah sleeps with the boneless, unconscious abandon of a child, something that, oddly, arouses in Sean both lust and protectiveness. His restless mind has tried without success to make sense of the contradictions in Elijah, and his own reactions to them, as it has tried without success to understand how a happily married family man could fall in love with his eighteen year old male costar, in defiance of everything he’s ever believed about himself.
He shifts, feeling a slight soreness inside. They’d fucked twice last night- first Elijah, then Sean taking the bottom. It had been incandescent, perhaps the best sex they’d ever shared. Yet Sean does not feel pumped up and elated, as he once would have. The somber grayness of the bedroom echoes the melancholy Sean feels as he listens to the now familiar devil that sits on his shoulder and whispers in his ear, you are losing him, there is nothing left except the sex. There is an element of desperation to their lovemaking, and too much silence when it is over.
He knows the hopes Elijah had when he returned to California to live after his brief sojourn in New York. Those golden days they’d shared in his Manhattan apartment were the closest to pure, uncomplicated happiness that Sean has ever experienced. Hell, they’d been like a newly married couple, unpacking and decorating, making love in every room, and on every available surface. Was it any wonder they had allowed themselves to be carried away with thoughts of permanency?
This house had been bought while the dream still seemed attainable, the brass ring on the merry-go-round still waiting to be snatched. They’d never dared talk of it openly, but both had known that it would be perfect for a couple, especially when one of said couple had daughters, and there was a guest cottage out back begging to be made into a hideaway the girls could call their own when they visited.
But three thousand miles lost and a boatload of responsibility and guilt gained eventually separated the dream from the reality. Elijah’s house has become a place of unspoken words and unopened boxes.
Those boxes. There are thirty-seven of them: ten here in the bedroom, seven in the kitchen, and twenty in the living room pushed up against the walls like some avant garde fashion statement. Sean frets endlessly over the implications of Elijah’s refusal to unpack the boxes, or to allow Sean even to mention the matter, picks at them like a partially healed wound- but never hard enough to remove the scab. He is afraid of what he will discover beneath it.
He glances at the clock again- six-twenty- and feels Elijah stir slightly against him.
“What time is it?” Elijah asks in a sleep-hoarse voice, muffling a yawn against Sean’s skin.
“It’s early. Go back to sleep,” whispers Sean, stroking his hair.
But Elijah doesn’t go back to sleep. Instead, he slowly raises his head and stares at Sean, as the fog of sleep dissolves from his face. Even if all Elijah can see is a blurry outline in the dimness, the very air, redolent of sweat and come, hums with Sean’s tension and worry. Elijah is sensing it already, soaking it in through his pores. Their bodies have always known each other intimately, even before they became lovers. He can hide nothing from Elijah.
“Sean. Jesus.” Elijah abruptly disentangles himself from Sean, and sits up. He runs a hand over his face, rubs at his eyes with the heel. “You’re doing the guilt trip again, aren’t you? You haven’t slept at all.” It is neither a question nor an accusation but a simple, weary statement of fact.
“Elijah…" Sean begins, sitting up and reaching for the other man. But Elijah flinches away, as if Sean intends to strike him, and slides to the edge of the bed. There he remains, hunched over, head in his hands, elbows on knees. Sean watches him helplessly, not knowing what to do. For all his eloquence and his large vocabulary, Sean can’t find the words to break the silence between them.
But Elijah, who has always been the braver one, finally does.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore, Sean,” he says, in a tired, defeated voice.
And the thing Sean has feared for months has at last been given voice. The depth of the wound has been revealed.
“Elijah…” Sean begins a second time, ripples of panic and fear starting to spread through his body.
“Fuck, I need a smoke,” Elijah says as if he hasn’t even heard Sean. He fumbles on the bedside table for his cigarettes and lighter, knocking the half-empty tube of Astroglide to the floor as he picks them up.
Sean remains as if paralyzed as Elijah opens the blinds, revealing the sliding glass door to the back deck. Harsh unforgiving morning light illuminates the room, and Sean watches numbly as Elijah disappears outside. Moments later, he hears the familiar click of a disposable lighter. The scent of cloves drifts ghost-like into the bedroom on a thin cloud of pale smoke.
Stiffly, Sean gets up and goes to the door. Elijah is leaning on the deck rail, facing the distant sea that is touched with gold in the rising sun. He is unabashedly nude, and despite everything, a part of Sean can’t help but admire the graceful, flowing lines of his back and buttocks and legs. In the gray morning light, surrounded by a wreath of cigarette smoke, Elijah appears remote, almost unreal, like a sepia-tinted photograph from another time. Sean grips the doorframe with one hand, welcoming the bite of sharp metal in his palm.
“I love you, Lij,” he says with quiet desperation.
“That’s no answer, Sean.” Elijah doesn’t turn, but bows his head, exposing the vulnerable nape of his neck. It is a reproach louder than any words. Sean recalls the first time they stood together on this empty deck and admired the view. I’m going to buy a hot tub, Seanie. We’ll make love in it under the stars, and scandalize all our neighbors.
“What is the answer, then?” Sean asks. His vaunted critical thinking skills are useless in the face of this crisis that he should have foreseen, but has caught him so unprepared. How can he think, when dark waters are closing over his head? Please, Elijah, find the answer…
“Fuck if I know.” Elijah turns around and regards Sean with eyes that are filled with sad resignation. The slow fluid movement of his body as he turns, the tilt of his head as he holds Sean’s gaze, are eerily reminiscent of one of his scenes in Fellowship. “All I know is that we can’t go on like this.”
“Tell me what you want, Elijah.” The question is unfair, and Sean knows it. When has Elijah ever made demands, ever put himself before Sean’s family?
The bitter words pour out in a torrent. “What I want, Sean? What the fuck does it matter what I want? You’re the one with the wife and daughters who always come first. What I want doesn’t factor into the equation. It never has.”
“Elijah, that’s not true,” begins Sean, but the words have hardly left his mouth when Elijah has cut him off, chopping at the air with his hand, cigarette ashes flying in a shower of orange sparks.
“Don’t say it, Sean. Just. Don’t. Fucking. Say. It.” With a quick, impatient gesture, he throws the cigarette down on the deck. It lies there, burning sullenly, charring the pale wood to black. Sean, Mr. Safety Hobbit, can’t even bring himself to care.
“Do you know what I really want right now, Sean?” Elijah says, and begins to walk toward him, his beautiful cock swaying gently with each step. “I want you to take me back to bed and fuck me again.”
The words Elijah does not say reverberate in the silence as he steps close to Sean, puts his hands on his shoulders, kisses him. One last time. But even as his body responds to the need in Elijah’s eyes, to the heated velvet of his kiss, even as his cock twitches and stirs and his hips thrust forward to meet the growing hardness of Elijah’s own erection, Sean can’t help but protest, “It’s too soon, Elijah. You must still be sore. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Elijah doesn’t reply, just pulls him into another kiss, harder and more demanding. And Sean realizes how patently absurd his words are. Has he done anything but hurt Elijah since he told him ten months ago that Christine was pregnant again, that his first responsibility was to her and their unborn child?
So he lets Elijah lead him back to the bed with its rumpled sheets, watches as he lies down and stretches out a hand to pull Sean to him… so beautiful, he is so fucking beautiful… Sean tries his best to take things slowly, to be gentle. He enters Elijah with exquisite control, but Elijah will have none of it. He pushes up, wrapping his legs tightly around Sean’s waist. His small fingers dig into Sean’s ass so hard they will leave bruises as he urges him deeper. “Fuck me, Seanie,” he whispers. “Please.”
There is pain; Sean can see the tightening of Elijah’s mouth, the sudden contraction of his eyebrows as Sean pushes deeper. But to his relief, the pain seems to pass as Sean angles his body so that his cock brushes Elijah’s prostate. At the touch, Elijah cries out softly, in pleasure not pain, and throws his head back on the pillow, arching his neck, as a flush of color turns his skin to rose. God, that he can do that to Elijah… Yet even as he claims the silken soft skin of Elijah’s throat and marks it with his mouth, even as he joins his hand to Elijah’s where it is wrapped around his erect cock, and helps him to stroke himself, even as he moves in the long, steady thrusts that he knows Elijah prefers, a part of him is standing to one side watching. Watching and memorizing. How the sheen of sweat on Elijah’s skin catches the light. How his eyelashes cast shadows on his flushed cheeks. How the angles of his face grow sharper with his growing need. How his hand cups the back of Sean’s head as he pulls him down into a kiss. How his seed spills warm over their entwined fingers as he comes. How he breathes Sean’s name like a prayer as lassitude washes over him and he waits pliant and open for Sean to finish.
But the silent observer vanishes as Sean feels himself nearing his own climax. Everything dissolves into white-hot sensation, and the driving need for completion. And all too soon, it is over. Reality comes crashing back. The last time. For a moment he is afraid he has spoken the terrible words aloud, but Elijah does not react, just strokes his hand gently up and down Sean’s damp back as he heaves for breath. Sean stays inside him, unable to break this connection between them. He buries his sweat-streaked face in Elijah’s neck, willing time to stop, but he can hear the clock ticking again, so loudly it seems to drown out everything else.
He is shaking. “Shhh,” he hears Elijah whisper as he continues his slow caresses. “Shhh.”
Gradually his shaking stops. He becomes aware that he is lying with his full weight on Elijah, crushing him. He carefully pulls out, feeling Elijah wince despite his care, and eases to the side. As he does, he catches sight of the clock. It is precisely seven a.m. No, he thinks. Please. Not so soon.
“You have to go.” Elijah’s voice is quiet and emotionless.
“I’ve got a meeting with my agent at nine o’clock. But if you want…" It’s a futile offer, and he knows it.
“Go and shower, Sean.” Elijah moves away from him, toward the edge of the bed. “I’ll put on some coffee.”
The familiar ritual of leaving commences. Sean showers, fighting back tears as all evidence of their lovemaking is washed away- for the last time. Elijah enters the bathroom while he is still in the shower. He hears the toilet flush, the water in the sink run. Elijah won’t be joining him in the shower this morning, grinning wickedly and offering to scrub Sean’s back. Sean sags against the cold tile wall.
When he emerges from the bathroom, rubbing his hair dry with a towel, Elijah is dressed in boxers and a tee shirt and he is stripping the soiled sheets from the bed. Though this, too, is part of the ritual, Sean can’t bear to watch. It seems such a final act. He averts his eyes and quickly dresses while Elijah gathers up the sheets and disappears to the laundry room.
The familiar scent of the Starbucks coffee Elijah favors reaches Sean’s nose as he makes his way into the living room, carrying his overnight bag with him. The ritual dictates that Sean should now pour himself a cup of coffee and make some little joke about how Elijah brews coffee so strong, it could be used as paint thinner. The thought makes him nauseous. He walks quickly past the entrance to the kitchen, and sets his bag down by the front door.
Elijah is watching him from the kitchen doorway. “Are you going to leave without saying goodbye?” he asks sadly. He looks as lost and forlorn standing there as Sean feels inside.
They stare at each other across ten feet of varnished wood. It might as well have been ten thousand miles of desolation like Mordor.
“Elijah. No, of course not, I was just…” Sean gestures at the bag by his feet.
Elijah begins to walk toward him; he is limping a little, sore from their lovemaking. It should be Elijah’s turn now to make some little joke about how he can’t place his heels on the floor from being fucked so hard.
Sean can’t bear it, the distance and the sorrow. He opens his arms. Elijah launches himself into them, as he did the very first time they met, and clings to him. They hold each other without speaking for a very long time. Elijah draws back first. He takes Sean’s head between his hands, and kisses him gently on the brow: Frodo saying good-bye to his Sam for the last time. Sean can no longer hold back the tears. They gush out, painful and horrible. He tears himself away from Elijah, grabs his bag and fumbles his way out the front door.
When he comes back to self-awareness, he is seated behind the wheel of his car, still parked in front of Elijah’s house, and the engine is running. He has no recollection of how he got there.
Sean rests his forehead against the steering wheel. The sun beating down through the windshield cannot warm the coldness inside him. Surely this can’t be the end his brain begins to rationalize. His cell phone will ring any moment now, and he will hear Elijah’s voice on the other end saying, “I love you, Seanie,” and everything will be okay again, and he will be free to call Elijah next week, or the week after, or any week from now until the end of time, and Elijah will say, “Of course you can come over. I’ll be waiting for you.”
But if he is wrong…
He tries to imagine his life without Elijah in it. He cannot. But he will never truly be without Elijah, will he, even if they never come together as lovers again. Their bond is too close, too strong. Eventually, they will be able to meet as simply old friends. Eventually, Elijah will find someone new, someone free to love him as he deserves to be loved. Eventually, the gaping hole in Sean’s heart will close. Eventually.
Sean doesn’t know how long he sits there with his eyes closed and the engine idling. When he opens them again, he has traveled in his memories from LA to New Zealand to New York and back again. He has searched his heart, his soul and his conscience.
He has come to a decision.
The house is quiet when Sean lets himself in with the key Elijah had given him so hopefully eleven months ago. The silence is shocking; he has never entered Elijah’s house when there wasn’t music playing loudly. If anything tells him the truth of Elijah’s feelings at this moment, it is the silence.
Elijah is sitting cross-legged on the bare wood floor of the bedroom, a mug of black coffee cold and untouched beside him. He is staring at the boxes, those ten unopened boxes that Sean has counted so many times. But he has made no move to open them; his hands dangle limply over his knees.
He looks up as Sean comes in; his eyes are red-rimmed and shadowed, though there are no tears on his face. His shock when he sees Sean is followed swiftly by a leap of hope that he can’t hide. His throat convulses as he swallows hard. His hands clench into fists.
“Sean…” he whispers. His eyes ask the question he cannot voice aloud.
In reply, Sean smiles, and sits down beside Elijah. He holds out his hand.
“Well,” he says, his voice cracking a little, “I’m back.”
He watches as the dawn begins to break for the second time that day, gloriously, in Elijah’s blue eyes.
Elijah takes his hand. “Wanna help me unpack some boxes, Irish?” he asks.