Surviving the Journey by Lbilover

Written for the 2013 Tol Eressëa Birthday Mathom Exchange. Various bits and bobs about Sean and Elijah during filming that I've read/heard in recent months kind of coalesced to give the story its structure, but ultimately it was inspired by the following quote, because it says so much about Elijah and Sean's relationship:

I came to feel as protective of Elijah as Sam does of Frodo .. In turn, Elijah helped me discover a lot about myself and I literally might not have survived the journey had this young prince of an actor not taken me under his wing. - Sean Astin


The phone rings at 1:00 a.m., startling Sean from a deep sleep.

"'lo?" he mumbles.

"Sean, it's Lij. I'm sorry to wake you, but I..." Sean hears him draw in a shaky breath. "Can you come over? Please?"

Sean doesn't even hesitate, already rolling out of bed as he answers, "I'm on my way."

Elijah opens the door to his apartment before Sean has a chance to ring the bell, and one look at his pallid face and pain-filled eyes has Sean impulsively scooping him up and carrying him to the sofa. Sean half expects some protest at his high-handed stunt, but instead Elijah winds around him and holds on for dear life, as if Sean is his only anchor in stormy seas.

Such behavior is completely unlike the stubbornly independent, mature-for-his-age Elijah whom Sean has come to know since arriving in New Zealand, and it leaves him stunned. Sure, he's tried to be the Sam to Elijah's Frodo, but calling a locksmith when Elijah forgets his keys is, no pun intended, small potatoes. They both know it's a largely symbolic gesture, that Elijah is fully capable, despite his tender years, of managing his own affairs and very nicely, thank you.

This time, though, it's the real deal. Elijah needs him. The knowledge is at once heartbreaking and uplifting. Sean might wish for Elijah never to experience pain or grief, but it's useless to deny the thrill of being the one he'd turned to in a crisis.

Sean cradles him with every ounce of tenderness in his soul. Offers him the solace of his body, not worrying for once about the extra weight he carries or how it is being perceived. Elijah doesn't cry; Sean has never seen him cry except in character. But tiny shudders wrack his body at intervals, and he feels too warm, like a feverish child. The tee shirt he wears is damp with sweat beneath Sean's soothing, circling palm. Sean doesn't speak; even he, Mr. Voluble, knows there are times when touch says more than words. Right now, his touch is what Elijah needs. And what, after all, can he say that will help? He's been there himself and understands that no words can minimize the pain of loss.

The apartment is silent save for the rhythmic tick of a wall clock. Time slips past; gradually Elijah's trembling stops.

"Thank you," he whispers.

"You don't have to thank me, you know that."

Elijah shifts, pushes himself up with hands braced on Sean's chest, leaves them there, one palm directly over his heart. "I honestly thought I had my shit together after Mom called. I mean, I knew that Rascal was old and might not last until I returned from New Zealand. But I guess I knew it with my head and not my heart." Now Sean can see the barest glimmer of tears in those extraordinary eyes. "When I get home he won't be there at the door to greet me, for the first time since I was six years old." He bows his head. "And I didn't get to say good-bye to him. It hurts, Sean. It fucking hurts."

Sean gently urges Elijah's head down to his chest, wraps his arms tightly around him. "I know," he says softly. "Elijah, it's okay to grieve. You don't have to have your shit together all the time, certainly not right now. I promise I won't reveal your deep, dark secret to anyone."

A half-strangled giggle greets this remark. "This is why I wanted you, Sean. You always know how to make me feel better. But I am sorry I dragged you out in the middle of the night. I hope Chris wasn't upset."

"Nah, she didn't mind," Sean replies airily, but it's a lie. Christine hadn't said anything when Sean started haphazardly pulling on clothes and told her he was going over to Elijah's apartment, but one eloquently arched eyebrow had formed the question that she wasn't yet ready to ask aloud nor Sean to answer: What exactly is going on with the two of you?

"I'm glad." Elijah yawns widely, rubs his cheek against Sean's shirt like a sleepy kitten. "Sorry," he apologizes.

"Try to sleep," Sean says. "It'll be morning before we know it and time to be in Feet."

"You aren't going home?" Sean can detect a definite undercurrent of relief in Elijah's question.

"I'm not leaving you, Elijah." Sean settles back deeper into the sofa to emphasize his point. "Now hush and close your eyes." He starts to hum softly under his breath and rocks Elijah, as he would Alexandra. It works; within a few minutes Elijah goes limp in his hold and his breathing deepens and evens.

Sean doesn't sleep. He is all too well aware that the slumbering form in his arms is not his daughter, not a child, but a young man of astonishing beauty who occupies an ever-expanding space in Sean's heart. One day, perhaps sooner rather than later, he will have to face up to Christine's unspoken question. But not yet, he thinks, and rests his cheek against Elijah's soft kitten-fur hair and cherishes him until the sun comes up.


Te Anau

Sean has days like this and though he doesn't like it, he can't help it. He's bone tired, exhausted, and he can't get away from the man who looks back at him from the mirror in his trailer, the one with a lax double chin and extra folds of flesh hanging from his body like Jabba the Fucking Hutt.

He hates Peter Jackson for doing this to him, hates himself even more for going along with it. He can't visualize an end to the slog, to the wearisome days spent hauling his overweight body around while visions of the old, fit Sean mock him unmercifully.

He feels angry at the world, ready to throw in the towel, hop on a plane to the States and leave New Zealand with its myriad frustrations behind him. It doesn't help to remind himself that this is the chance of a lifetime, that he'd beaten out fifty-plus other actors who would have killed to play Samwise Gamgee in Rings. It doesn't help to remind himself that he'll emerge from his funk soon enough and regain his equilibrium. Because while he's in the midst of it, all he can feel is fat and pissed.

When they get back to Te Anau from Mavora Lake, Sean stalks off, ignoring the other cast members who are discussing dinner plans. He's had enough of them, of everyone. Garbo had nothing on him when she said, 'I want to be alone'.

Sean has no particular destination in mind when he sets out. His brain simply screams at him 'away'. So away he goes, wishing Te Anau's town centre was the size of New York City and he could lose himself in a crowd of total strangers, but when he passes The Gateway Bookshop, on impulse he turns in the entrance. Books have always been a solace for him, a means of stilling the jitters inside him by losing himself in another world - but not Middle-earth, not right now. He averts his eyes from a set of The Lord of the Rings on prominent display and hurries past.

He wanders the aisles for a while, scrutinizing the shelves but unable to settle on a particular book. He's still too grumpy and distracted for anything to appeal, not even in the politics section, usually a sure-fire diversion.

"Hey," a familiar voice says at his elbow.

Shit. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Sean snaps with an ungraciousness that would have earned him a whack upside the head from Sam's frying pan if the hobbit were present, but he hates for Elijah of all people to see him like this.

Elijah takes no offense, however. He puts a hand on Sean's tense shoulder and says quietly, "Come with me."

"Do I have to?" The childish petulance in his question has him flushing. God, Alexandra behaves with more maturity than he is at this moment. "Sorry," he apologizes and gets up, thoroughly chastened and ashamed of his behavior.

Elijah only smiles a little, cups a hand at Sean's elbow and steers him towards the back of the store, where the children's books are located.

"Are you making a point here, Elwood?" Sean asks. "If so, it's warranted."

"No point," Elijah replies. "But sometimes those weighty tomes on the history of Bumfuckistan or wherever only make matters worse. Now sit."

He pushes Sean gently but inexorably down onto a tiny fire engine red plastic chair, and Sean says bitterly, "It's probably going to collapse under my weight."

Elijah shakes his head. "Man, you sure do have a bad case of glooms today, Astin. I'm gonna have to do something about that." He walks over to a bookcase filled with picture books and peruses the shelves for a minute or so, pulling out books at intervals and flipping through them until finally he gives a decisive nod and says, "This one should do the trick nicely."

"Do what trick nicely?"

"I'm going to read to you." Elijah drags a bright yellow chair over close to Sean and sits down beside him.

"You're going to read to me."

"Yup. A book called A Bad Case of Stripes." He holds it up so Sean can see the cover, which shows a young girl lying in a bed with a thermometer in her mouth and rainbow stripes covering her skin.

Sean can't help it. He grins, and the miasma of negativity hovering over him starts to lift. "Aren't you confusing me with my daughter?"

"One is never too old to be read to, Sean." Elijah, hunched on the chair which even for his slight frame is far too small, spreads open the book on his knees and says with mock severity, "The audience will please to be quiet now. The performance is about to begin."

Sean makes a zipping his lip motion with thumb and forefinger and folds his hands on his lap.

"Camilla Cream loved lima beans," Elijah begins. "But she never ate them. All of her friends hated lima beans, and she wanted to fit in. Camilla was always worried about what other people thought of her. Today she was fretting even more than usual."

He slants a pointed look at Sean, who protests, "Hey, don't look at me like that. I'm a card-carrying member of the 'I eat lima beans and I'm proud of it' club."

Elijah elbows him in the ribs. "Don't interrupt or I'll sit you in the corner."

Sean sticks out his tongue. Elijah giggles and continues reading, with Sean peering over his shoulder to admire the vivid, colorful illustrations. Eventually, he rests his chin there, his cheek almost touching the soft warmth of Elijah's, and gives in to his inner child, loses himself in the misadventures of poor Camilla Cream, afflicted by a bad case of stripes. Boy, can he ever relate, and of course, that's the point. But the cure for him isn't lima beans, it's the young man bringing her story to life as only an accomplished actor can, with humor, drama and verve.

"'I'm cured,' she shouted. 'Yes,' said the old lady. 'I knew the real you was in there somewhere.' She patted Camilla on the head, and then she went outside and vanished into the crowd. Afterward Camilla wasn't quite the same. Some of the kids at school said she was weird, but she didn't care a bit. She ate all the lima beans she wanted, and she never had even a touch of stripes again. The End."

"I'm cured, too," Sean says as Elijah closes the book on Camilla Cream, her bad case of stripes and his bad case of glooms. But he doesn't shout; he speaks softly, gratefully. "You aren't going to vanish now like the old lady, are you?" He's only half joking.

For answer, Elijah slides his arm around Sean's shoulders and hugs him. "Never," he replies, and he's entirely serious. Then he gets up from the tiny chair and holds out his hand to Sean. "Come on. Let's go get dinner. Maybe we can find someplace that's serving lima beans."

Sean lets Elijah pull him to his feet, but when Elijah goes to return the book to the shelf, Sean stops him. "Don't put it back, Lij. I'm taking Camilla home with me. I'd like to have her around for emergencies. She might come in handy." He knows that unlike Camilla, his cure isn't permanent. His inner demons can't be vanquished quite so easily.

"Good idea," Elijah says, handing the book to Sean with a smile. "You can read it to Ali when she's a little older."

They head to the sales counter at the front of the store and Sean thinks, If I could, I'd take you home with me, too, Elijah, because when I'm with you it makes sense somehow - what we're doing here, why it matters, how I fit into it. I feel like I can survive this journey after all, as long as I have you.

But he can't take Elijah home with him, because home is where Christine is - if no longer his whole heart.


Lyall Bay, Wellington

"I cannot believe I let you talk me into this." Sean shakes his head dubiously as he zips up his wetsuit.

"It'll be fucking brilliant, Sean, you'll see," Elijah replies. "It sounds more dangerous than it is."

"Elijah, the only advantage I can see to surfing at night is that no one will witness me wiping out and eating sand." Sean hoists his surfboard up and rests it on his head as they follow the dim shapes of Dom and Billy down to the water's edge, where modest breakers pound the beach. "Or possibly breaking my neck," he adds with a frown. "If New Line knew we were doing this..."

"Fuck New Line."

"Thank you, but I'll pass."

"Sean, stop."

Sean halts. "What?" he asks.

"Look around you," Elijah says, describing an arc in the air with his free arm. "How can you not want to be a part of this?"

Sean turns slowly in a small circle. The hills of Wellington surround them on three sides, with lights from houses and businesses winking like fireflies. A three-quarter moon sheds a radiant light on the dark water, gleams on the rippling waves, whose white caps wear a ghostly hue. It's an enchanting sight. Sean's gaze returns to Elijah, the most enchanting sight of all, and he knows Elijah is right: how can he not want to be a part of this?

"Lead on, Mr. Frodo," Sean says, giving in, and they wade into the cool water, mount their boards and glide out to where Dom and Billy are already sussing out their first wave.

Sean doesn't actually do that much surfing. He rides a few waves, but he finds it difficult to balance himself at his Sam weight, and just hauling his body upright onto the board is a considerable challenge. But instead of the usual embarrassment, annoyance or aggravation at his physical limitations, what he feels is a strange sort of peace. He's content to drift or paddle idly around, watching the other hobbits surf, listening to their laughter and piss taking and shouts of encouragement or dismay when they wipe out.

From time to time, when they notice his idleness and chide him, he'll make an effort, but for him the magic lies not in the surfing, but in Elijah's exuberant enjoyment of it and the sound of his irrepressible giggle echoing through the night. Increasingly Sean's time in New Zealand is framed and defined by Elijah, by the need to be near him. It is only then that the innumerable frustrations, the self-doubt and bouts of depression lift. 'I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon,' Sam had said, and Sean stares at the glittering path the waxing moon casts across the dark water, and thinks that he would do the same for Elijah, without a second thought.

Billy, the surfing addict, would gladly have stayed out on the water all night, but Dom and Elijah aren't quite as obsessed and eventually call a halt.

"We're heading in," Elijah says, gliding over to Sean. In the moonlight his face is flushed and aglow from exertion, his eyes sparkling with delight. "One more ride, together?"

Sean nods and goes belly down on his board. His eyes have long since adjusted to the relative darkness, and he has no trouble picking out and measuring the next gathering wave. He paddles like hell then scrambles to his feet, senses Elijah beside him, although it's too perilous for his shaky balance to look over at him. He bails early, before he can wipe out, not wanting to end the night with a graceless tumble into the roiling sandy water.

Elijah, seeing this, pulls out, too. He tilts his head inquiringly at Sean across his board as he steadies it with his hands in the choppy water. "You didn't do much surfing," he remarks.

"Didn't need to." Sean smiles a reassurance. "I had fun, Elijah. Thanks for inviting me."

"As if I'd ever leave you out of an adventure like this. You're my Sam."

The way Elijah says it, so calmly and matter-of-factly, suffuses Sean's heart with warmth. They wade out of the water, boards under their arms, spent waves swirling around their ankles, but further down the beach Dom and Billy are still waist deep, and though Sean can't hear what they are saying, their body language is eloquent. When they kiss, he isn't surprised - he knows how it is between them; everyone does - but he looks away, pricked by a sharp stab of envy - and not for the first time.

"Ugh. I'm all over sand. I'm gonna rinse off." Elijah plants his board nose-down in the sand and starts to unzip his wetsuit.

"Good idea," Sean says, and follows his lead.

He isn't expecting Elijah to strip all the way, however, discarding not only his wetsuit but the swim trunks he wears underneath, and Sean doesn't know how to react to the sight of Elijah's nude body, pale and perfect in the moonlight. He's seen Elijah naked before, as well as the other hobbits, and Orli and Viggo. But that was in the course of their work, inevitable and natural in the sort of boys' locker room cum boarding school cum traveling circus life they lead. This is entirely different, and he has no roadmap to guide him.

He's not unaffected by the sight, nor surprised by the ache of wanting. He's long since privately acknowledged his attraction to his ten-years-younger costar. What he hasn't done is openly acknowledge that attraction, either to Elijah or Christine. He hasn't acted on it, crossed any line from which there is no going back. And he has no idea what Elijah now wants, if there's anything more to this skin baring than what appears on the surface. Elijah may not be innocent, but he is an innocent in the purest sense of the word: open and guileless.

Sean stands there, wetsuit hanging from his waist, hedged round by uncertainty.

"You coming?" Elijah tosses matter-of-factly over his shoulder. The smooth lines of his slender torso and rounded buttocks are limned in palest gold as he splashes through the shallows, following, perhaps unwittingly, the path to the moon.

You promised to go with him, remember? Sean hears Sam's voice in his mind, and that jolts him out of his stasis. "Yeah, I'm coming," he says. He quickly strips down to the buff and wades after Elijah.

They dive into the waves, twisting and turning like a pair of playful dolphins, letting the water wash away the gritty sand that had snuck inside their wetsuits. Other things wash away as well, for Sean at least: inhibitions, worries, doubts. He has the strangest sensation that he is being reborn as the cool water caresses his naked body. They don't touch, but when Elijah's head pops up beside him, dark hair sleeked back like a seal's, and he blinks away the moisture, it's all there, every emotion that has gone unspoken. An innocent, maybe, but there is nothing innocent about what Elijah is telling him with his eyes.

His heart thundering, Sean moves closer. "Elijah," he whispers, and then Dom yells, "Hey, you two, get your arses in gear," and the moment is lost. But as they swim back to shore, awareness hums between them, and Sean realizes that a substantial if subtle shift in their relationship has occurred. Where they will go from here and how it will end he has no idea, but they sit close together in the back seat of Billy's car, metal to magnet, and when Billy stops to let Elijah out, it's all Sean can do not to go with him and he can tell it's all Elijah can do not to ask.

Someday, Sean thinks as he gazes through the rear window at Elijah's retreating form, and for the first time seriously wonders if a future for them is as impossible as he's thought, or if perhaps they might eventually climb to the moon - together.



It's late, but the Powderkeg Restaurant is brimming with hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and Men, in that state that Tolkien would have called 'filling up the corners' - although in this case it's more like drowning them in whisky and beer after a long cold day filming on Mount Ruapehu.

As usual in the booth where the four hobbits have taken up residence, piss taking punctuated with uproarious laughter is the order of the evening. Sean, squashed between Elijah and Billy on a brown leather banquette, is the least voluble of the group, because while alcohol turns Elijah giggly and loquacious, it has the opposite effect on Sean. In this instance, however, it isn't so much the whisky as the topic that has just been introduced by Elijah: performance in bed.

"All right, since it's your idea, you go first," says Dom.

"I am fucking awesome in bed. I've never had a lover who wasn't totally satisfied by me," Elijah states smugly, jabbing his forefinger into the air for emphasis.

Dom and Billy hoot with drunken laughter. Sean pours himself another shot of Thomson's best and tosses it back like a pro.

"Piss off, you two." Elijah knocks Dom's elbow out from under him with his own and snickers as Dom's chin nearly hits the varnished table top littered with bread crumbs and spilt beer and liquor. "I'm serious. The last guy I had sex with came so hard he couldn't move for two hours."

"That's total shite, Lij," Billy slurs.

"No, it's not." Elijah's brilliant blue eyes focus on Sean, who tries to ignore their laser like beam. But he knows it's futile. He's seen Elijah in this mood before. "What about you, Irish?" he asks. "How you are in bed? Come on, let's hear the details. Inquiring minds want to know."

This is not a line of questioning that Sean is interested in pursuing, because one, he is increasingly desperate to get Elijah into bed, and two, it's over between him and Christine, who has returned to the States and is consulting divorce attorneys. She'd finally asked him the painful question - What exactly is going on with the two of you? - and Sean had answered it with equally painful honesty:Nothing is going on with us, not yet, but I'm in love with him, Chris. He's not ready to shout that news from the rooftops, however, which he might as well do if Dom and Billy find out, so he mumbles something inaudible into his glass tumbler.

"What did you say?" Elijah asks, leaning close, his beer-laced breath hot on Sean's already burning cheek.

A chubby bespectacled man with a mop of disheveled black hair emerges from his booth and slaps his hands smartly together. "All right, you lot, it's time to clear out and let these poor souls go home and get some rest."

Saved by the bell, or rather by the Peter Jackson, thinks Sean with relief. Actors and crew get up, grumbling good-naturedly at the disruption, as they always do, and start to disperse. Sean watches first Orlando and Viggo leave together and then Dom and Billy. He knows exactly how those duos are going to conclude their evenings, and he experiences another stab of envy, like a poor third wheel who didn't make it onto Noah's ark when everyone else was pairing off. Dispiritedly, he pushes back his chair and rises.

And staggers slightly as the floor makes an unexpected move to smack him in the face.

An enchanting giggle, the same giggle that has been keeping him up nights and filling his mind with fevered imaginings, sounds in his ear and a supportive arm slides around his ever-expanding waist. "Sean Astin, are you drunk?"

If he is, he's drunk on Elijah. Too bad he can't get well and truly wasted on him. "I'm fine. Just stood up too fast is all."

"Pfft," Elijah says dismissively. "A likely story. But don't worry, I'll help you back to your room."

"Really, Elijah, it's not necessary." He might have saved his breath.

"Mr. Frodo insists."

Damn, did Elijah have to play the 'Mr. Frodo insists' card? He knows precisely what it does to Sean. Unresisting, he allows Elijah to propel him out of the restaurant and across the lobby to the tiny elevator, which they cram into with several of the crew. Elijah plasters himself against Sean as if he's trying to become a second skin, and it's the most exquisite of agonies.

Elijah doesn't relinquish his hold when they reach the third floor and exit the elevator, though Sean is steady enough on his feet now to navigate on his own. "Where's your key?" he asks when they halt outside the door to Sean's room, but without waiting for an answer he slides his hand into the back pocket of Sean's jeans to retrieve it. It feels suspiciously like a grope, and takes far longer than it ought to have. By the time Elijah pulls the key out, Sean's groin is aching and the fevered notion has entered his mind that Mr. Frodo wants to get Samwise into bed so he can demonstrate the prowess he'd bragged about in the restaurant.

Holy Bag End bedroom, Batman, Sean dazedly thinks. Is this finally it?

The key clicks in the lock; Elijah opens the door and gives Sean a little push. He stumbles inside, hears Elijah close and lock the door behind them. The plastic room key goes sailing past him to land with a clatter on the desk.

"Now, where were we when Peter so rudely interrupted?" Elijah says. "Oh right, you were about to tell me how you are in bed. Well, come on, don't be shy, Irish."

Maybe it's the provocative way Elijah says 'don't be shy, Irish', half a taunt, half a challenge, or maybe it's the whisky lowering his inhibitions. But suddenly the myriad issues that have stood between them and acting on their repressed feelings no long matter. All that matters is getting Elijah into bed and showing him, rather than telling him, exactly what he's capable of, the way he's longed to do since the night they went surfing in Lyall Bay.

"Shy? I'll give you shy," Sean growls. Without allowing himself time for second thoughts, he grabs Elijah, slings him over his shoulder using the method he's been practicing for the Mount Doom scene they're about to shoot, and dumps him ass downward onto the bed. "How's that, Mr. Frodo?" he says as Elijah bounces on the mattress.

Elijah's eyes are wide, his cheeks hectically flushed, his chest rapidly rising and falling. "You're off to a promising start," he says breathlessly. He's resting on his elbows, with knees bent and legs spread wide so that a noticeable bulge shows behind the zipper of his jeans.

The sight inspires in Sean a sort of heady madness. The gloves at last are off, the veil torn away, the truth laid bare. The suppressed desire of months is unleashed and Sean lets it carry him onto the bed, into the welcoming cradle of denim-clad thighs.

Elijah's elbows give way; Sean holds his head between his hands, fingers tangling in the soft auburn strands, and takes his mouth in a slanted kiss, lips moving hungrily, avidly, as he's imagined so many times. Elijah moans low in his throat, and his fingers dig hard into Sean's shoulders as he returns the kiss with equal hunger. Sean fits his hardening groin against a matching hardness, marries them so intimately to each other that Elijah's pulsing heat becomes a part of him and feeds his need like a drug.

"God, Sean, I thought this would never happen," Elijah says when Sean abruptly releases his mouth and sits back on his heels.

"Neither did I," replies Sean, but the thrum of desire is insistent, leaving no time for discussion or explanation. Those will simply have to wait. "But we're not here to fuck spiders, Elijah," he says, using one of Pete's favorite expressions. "Clothes. Off. Now." His fingers go to the buttons of his shirt.

Elijah doesn't need telling twice; he kicks off his sneakers and flings his clothes haphazardly to right and left as he strips bare in front of Sean for the first time since their surfing night on the beach in Wellington. Only now Sean can let himself react as he couldn't then. As he removes his own clothes and drops them off the side of the bed, he looks his fill, his gaze moving slowly over Elijah like a caress.

"We're not here to fuck spiders, remember?" Elijah says, impatient with Sean's lollygagging. He reaches out and touches Sean intimately between his thighs. "I want you."

They come together then, holding nothing back. Sean is like a kid let loose in a candy store for the first time in his life. He can't decide what he wants most or where to begin. But Elijah, the more experienced in this particular department, shows him the way, guiding Sean's hands, shifting and encouraging him with moans of pleasure. And when Sean realizes, to his dismay, that he's completely unprepared for the final movement in their erotic dance, Elijah reaches down to retrieve his crumpled jeans and removes a small tube of lube and a handful of condoms from a front pocket.

"You fucker," Sean says, understanding dawning. "You planned this."

Elijah grins and tears open a foil packet. "Of course I did. Fuck, Sean, I was afraid you'd never make a move, so I figured it was up to me." Then it's Sean's turn to moan as Elijah quickly suits him up and slicks him with lube. "And now," Elijah rolls onto his belly and looks over his shoulder at Sean, "it's up to you. Gonna make good on that promising start, Irish?" he challenges him.

Sean does, oh how he does, and when it's over and they lie entwined, wet with sweat, sticky with come, and totally satisfied, Elijah groans and says, "I'm the one who isn't going to be able to move for two hours. Talk about fucking awesome, or rather, awesome fucking."

Sean chuckles at the word play, but he feels smug as hell and fulfilled beyond his wildest expectations. This is what sex is meant to be like, he thinks. This is what he's been missing all these years. This sense of completion, as if he's actually become a part of another person. But something is nagging at him. Something that he's left undone.

Of course. The words. Those precious, all important three little words.

Sean cradles Elijah's flushed face between his cupped palms. Tenderly he says, "I love you, Elijah. I think I've loved you since the day we met."

"I know I've loved you since the day we met," Elijah replies, and though not a single one escapes and falls, his eyes are luminous with tears. "But I never believed anything would come of it. Not until that night we went surfing. That was the first time I began to hope that maybe there was a chance for me, for us."

"To climb to the moon together." Sean recalls what he'd thought that night, how Sam's voice had sounded in his mind.

"Climb to the moon?" Elijah gently scoffs. "More like fly to the sun if you ask me."

"It's dangerous to fly too close to the sun. Remember Icarus?"

"Not for us, Sean. Never for us."

"You're that sure?" Sean marvels at such positivity in one so young. But then, in all the important ways Elijah isn't young at all, but the old soul many of their cast mates have called him.

"I am. Making Rings means we've seen each other at our best and worst, our weakest and strongest." Elijah rests his right palm against Sean's chest, above his heart, as he'd done once before. "You're my Sam, that's for always, and I will never love anyone the way I love you."

Sean covers his hand and squeezes it gently. "Then if you want to fly to the sun, Mr. Frodo, the sun it is. I'll be right beside you every beat of the way. But first," he says prosaically, "how about we set our sights a little lower and walk to the shower?"

"I've got an even better idea. Some of us have Jacuzzis in our rooms."

"Ah, the perks of being the Ring-bearer. Jacuzzi it is, then."

They reluctantly disentangle and get up. Sean sticks his head cautiously out the hotel room door and looks to left and right. Seeing that the coast is clear, he takes Elijah's hand and they run, giggling like naughty children and naked as jaybirds, down the hall to Elijah's room. As soon as they're safely inside, Sean pins Elijah against the door and kisses him, long and hard, and it's quite a while before they finally make use of the Jacuzzi.

Later, when they're spooned together in bed with the lights out, drowsy now and ready to snatch a few precious hours of sleep, Sean thinks that being together won't be easy, especially after the wide world outside gets wind of their relationship. But if he's learned one thing over the years, it's that nothing worthwhile is easy, and after all, Samwise never gave up hope even in the blackness of Mordor. Can he do any less? Whatever troubles await them on the journey ahead, they can survive and defeat them because, like Frodo and Sam, they are infinitely stronger together than they are alone.

"Night, Lij," he whispers into the dark, but the only response is a soft snore. Smiling, Sean tightens his arms around his sleeping lover, rests his cheek against the freshly washed kitten-fur hair, then closes his eyes and allows himself to give in to the pull of sleep. He doesn't have to stay awake this time, because he's cherishing Elijah not for a single night, but for all eternity.