Please keep in mind that this is a total flight of fantasy. I don't actually believe this lies in Sean's future (although I sure wouldn't mind him and Elijah getting together, lol).
"Hey, look at this. The Hollywood Loser Show is going on right now."
"The what?" Elijah asked, baffled.
"You know, that autograph signing thing for washed up celebrities."
"Dom, that's hardly fair," Elijah said, though he'd thought the same thing himself in the past.
"Oh yeah? Take a look at the guest list. Burned-out, washed-up has-beens, the lot of them." Dom let out a snort of laughter from behind the paper. "And guess who is part of that illustrious group? None other than your old gardener, Samwise Gamgee. Lo, how the mighty have fallen, Mr. Frodo."
"What?" Elijah snatched the paper from Dom and quickly scanned the advertisement. Sure enough, among the guests listed was Sean Astin 'of Goonies, Rudy and Lord of the Rings fame'. There was a small photo of Sean included, what seemed to be a recent one. He looked older, fuller of face, but the sweet smile was still the same. Oh Sean.
He thought he had his face schooled but Dom said, "Jesus, Lij. You still carrying a torch for him?"
"No, of course not. It was just the shock." Elijah carefully folded the paper and set it down. "I haven't heard anything about him for so long."
"We should go see him," Dom said. "Get his autograph. He could use the money."
Unaccustomed anger blazed in Elijah's breast. "Fuck you, Dom. How dare you condescend to Sean?"
"Hey, I'm just looking to help a struggling fellow actor out."
"He doesn't need your pity. Sean has always managed fine on his own."
"Which is why he's doing the Hollywood Loser Show? Let's face it, Lij, Sean's career is in the toilet and has been for years, ever since he published that book and made himself persona non grata with Peter and half of Hollywood. Comic relief in Sandler flicks and voicing cartoon characters do not a career make."
"Look, drop it, okay? I don't want to talk about Sean anymore." Do you think I don't know it, Dom? That I haven't bled inside every time I think of how he's been punished for his honesty?
"Fine by me." Dom shrugged and thankfully did let it drop.
Later, after Dom was gone, Elijah clipped the ad from the paper before placing the paper on top of the recycling pile.
Of course he was going to see Sean, but not with Dom and not to get Sean's autograph.
Elijah had never imagined himself going to the Hollywood Collector's Show under any circumstances. He'd always told himself that if his career tanked to the point that he was reduced to making money that way, he'd call it quits and go flip burgers. Was there anything worse than knowing yourself to be a Hollywood has-been?
It hurt, fuck it hurt, that Sean, the most gifted actor Elijah had ever worked with, was reduced to it. If anyone deserved to be an A-lister with an Emmy and an Oscar on his mantle, it was Sean not him. But that's not how it had worked out. Sadly, nothing had worked out the way it should have.
He paid the $25 fee to get into the show, and quickly realized that he'd made a mistake by not going incognito. He was stopped every few feet by people wanting to know if he was really Elijah Wood and if so, could they have his autograph or take a picture with him? He could only imagine the ire of the show's organizers if he did either gratis, and so, though it went against the grain, he declined. Instead he made a beeline to a concession booth selling 'Hollywood Collector's Show' ball caps and grabbed one. With the brim of the cap pulled down until it almost touched his nose and with his sunglasses hiding his instantly recognizable blue eyes, he was reasonably well disguised.
As he threaded his way through the crowd searching for Sean, Elijah grew more and more depressed. He didn't even recognize the names of some of the celebrities, men and women who had made their fame and fortune long before he was born. And there was a huge discrepancy in the lengths of the autograph lines. The more popular celebs had sizable queues, but others had none at all. How fucking horrible was that? He was half tempted to go get an autograph from these poor souls simply because they looked, to his eyes at least, desolate and unloved. Maybe he was projecting, but he didn't think so.
If Sean was one of the rejected, too, Elijah didn't think he could stand it.
But a few minutes later he encountered the longest line yet, several dozen people holding photos, books and DVD cases. The names leaped out at him: The Fellowship of the Ring, Rudy, The Goonies. There was no doubt in Elijah's mind that he'd found Sean, and relief flooded through him that Sean wasn't of the ranks of the rejected.
If Elijah needed any proof that his feelings for Sean were still the same, he had it at his first glimpse of his former costar, sitting behind a rectangular coffee table covered by a white tablecloth, bottles of water, stacks of glossy 8x10s and a pile of Sharpies. He went alternately hot and cold, his head buzzed, and he had to resist a mad impulse to run at Sean as he had all those years ago and fling himself into his arms. Oh, he'd managed to get on with his life when they decided it was wisest for everyone concerned to let the smoldering attraction between them flicker and die. He hadn't become a monk by any means; several lovers had graced his life and bed in the interim. But Sean remained enshrined in a separate place in Elijah's heart, a place that was inviolate and belonged only to him. No one had ever come close to breaching it.
He could've marched straight to the head of the line. But instead Elijah queued at the back, behind a teenaged girl holding a photo of Samwise confronting Shelob. She probably hadn't even been born when that scene took place, Elijah thought. So fucking many years had passed. Too many.
The line crept forward, slow but steady, and as the moment of truth approached, Elijah developed major cold feet and started questioning the wisdom of what he was doing. Over the years he'd avoided any mention of Sean, for the sake of his peace of mind. But two years earlier unavoidable news had rippled like a shock wave through the entire Fellowship: Sean and Christine were getting a divorce. Everyone had liked Chris, including Elijah, and the Astin marriage, to outside eyes, had appeared rock solid. Only Elijah was aware of the cracks and fissures that ran through it - cracks and fissures that he'd caused. Dom might know how Elijah had felt about Sean, but he had no idea that Sean had returned those feelings. 'Resolutely heterosexual' was what Sir Ian had called Sean. Everyone believed it. Only Elijah knew differently.
But Sean hadn't contacted him once the divorce was final. If he'd been interested in reviving the past, wouldn't he, couldn't he, have called Elijah? Emailed? Texted? Dropped by? After a certain point, Elijah gave up expecting it, accepted that Sean no longer felt the same, that the past was truly dead and buried, the spark extinguished forever.
If that was the case, then what the fuck was he doing here, he asked himself.
The answer came at once: I have to know, for good or for ill, for once and for all. I have to know if I still mean something to him.
Elijah's jangling nerves worsened the closer he neared to the front of the line. He was careful to stay well out of Sean's line of vision. No ball cap or sunglasses would suffice to deceive him. But Elijah snuck as many surreptitious peeks at Sean as he could get away with, drinking in the sight of him like a parched man in the desert who'd finally arrived at an oasis - which was how it felt.
Sean looked exactly what he was: a middle-aged man inclined to stoutness. Unlike Elijah, he still had a full head of thick hair, but it was noticeably graying at the temples. Elijah thought it made him look distinguished, like the elder statesman he'd once predicted Sean would become, back when his costar still talked of running for political office. The lines at the corners of his beautiful eyes were more deeply graven, but otherwise he appeared remarkably unchanged.
Something else was unchanged, too: the warm, rich tones of his expressive voice. Elijah was close enough now to hear Sean as he chatted with his fans, and instantly the years rolled back to the junkets and cons they'd done together promoting The Lord of the Rings. Oh god, how he'd missed that voice. Missed how it spoke his name: Ee-liii-juh. Never abbreviated. Never a nickname. Only Elijah. His Elijah.
Sean took his time, signing whatever he was handed and posing for photos whenever he was asked. He was so good with his fans: unfailingly patient, good-humored and utterly charming. Everything about Sean that Elijah admired was on full display and he found himself falling head over heels for his former costar again. If he'd had any lingering doubt that Sean was it for him, it was now completely laid to rest.
But what if he were no longer it for Sean? I have to know, Elijah thought again. Even if it breaks my heart, I have to know.
It was fortunate that when Elijah reached the head of the line, Sean had his head turned away, conferring with his handler. Elijah was too keyed up with nerves to make any sense of what they were saying. At the very last second, panicking, he delved into his messenger bag, found a white paper napkin and a felt-tipped pen and, resting the napkin on his thigh, messily scribbled a question on it with a shaking hand. Then he removed his sunglasses, hooked them into the neckline of his tee shirt and sidled up to the table, the napkin held between fingers that were cold and trembling.
Elijah set the napkin on the table in front of Sean.
Will you have dinner with me tonight? He'd written.
Without glancing up, Sean pulled the napkin toward him, read what was on it. He frowned. It was clear that he didn't recognize Elijah's handwriting - no wonder since the words were almost illegible. Elijah could see him mentally preparing a gentle rejection of what he considered an overture from an overeager fan.
"I'm sorry..." Sean began, as finally he looked up. His eyes met Elijah's, and instantly widened with astonishment. For a dreadful moment, Elijah feared the worst, then Sean said in a wondering voice, "Elijah?" and jumped up from his chair.
He came around the table with arms outstretched, the napkin clenched in his fist. Elijah met him halfway and they embraced as fiercely as Frodo and Sam at the Grey Havens, but this time Elijah prayed that it would be never to part again.
"Oh my god. I don't believe it," Sean said into his ear. "Elijah, Elijah."
Elijah was incapable even of saying Sean's name. All he could do was hold on for dear life.
When they finally separated, tears were running unheeded down Sean's cheeks. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I saw an ad in the paper. Sean, I had to come. I heard the news," he didn't have to say what news, "but you never contacted me and I..."
Sean shook his head slightly; Elijah became aware that they were the cynosure of all eyes. Phones had been whipped out to photograph this unexpected hobbit reunion and Sean's handler was close enough to hear everything being said.
"Later," Sean said, "we'll talk later. But for now..." He reached for a Sharpie, spread the crumpled napkin on the table, and wrote one word, underlining it twice.
"Here," he said, returning the napkin to Elijah.
It said, simply, YES!
They'd arranged to meet at a small Mexican restaurant not far from the Marriott. Elijah had contemplated inviting Sean to go home with him, but despite the enthusiastic YES!, the nagging question of why Sean hadn't contacted him in the two years since his divorce left Elijah uncertain. Was Sean simply reconnecting as a former LOTR colleague?
By the time Sean finally arrived, Elijah had drunk two Coronas, gnawed the cuticles around his thumbs raw and cursed himself a thousand times for quitting smoking. He'd also wrestled with a persistent fear that Sean would change his mind and stand him up. He would start smoking again if that happened.
The relief that swept through Elijah when he saw Sean, wending his way through the tables to the discreet booth in the back where he was seated, almost made him dizzy.
"Hey," Sean said, sliding into the booth next to him.
They came together in a hug that was less desperate than their earlier one, and entirely to be savored. Elijah couldn't get enough of the feel of Sean in his arms. Even more, he couldn't get enough of the feel of Sean's arms around him.
When at last they separated, Sean said, "I'm sorry I'm so late. It was tough to get away."
"'Sokay," Elijah replied.
"Really?" Sean took his hand and examined the shredded cuticles. He raised the thumb to his lips and lightly kissed it. "I'm sorry," he said again, letting go Elijah's hand, and his eyes were sad and serious. "For everything."
"At least I didn't resort to cigarettes," Elijah said lightly. "I quit, you know."
"You did?" Sean sounded amazed.
"It was fucking hard, let me tell you." And worth it, to see the genuine relief on Sean's face. He'd worried. He'd never said anything, but he'd worried.
"I'm glad," was all Sean said in a quiet voice.
The waitress approached and Sean ordered a beer. "I guess we better decide on what we're eating," he said. "Let's save the serious talk for later, okay?"
That suited Elijah just fine. Right now, being with Sean was enough. Looking at his dear face was enough.
They consulted the menu, placed their orders and caught up on the less weighty news in their lives over their meal: Sean's daughters, Elijah's family, their LOTR friends. Whenever they skirted too near the 'serious talk', such as when Elijah started to ask how the girls had handled the divorce, they danced away.
"I haven't congratulated you yet on your Oscar," Sean said. "Watching you up there on stage accepting the award... Elijah, I can't tell you what it meant to me, to see you get the recognition you deserve."
"It should have been you," Elijah blurted out. "Not me, you. You're twice the actor I am, Sean. Instead I'm the one with an Oscar while you..." He bit his lip and looked down at the remnants of his enchiladas.
"While I'm doing the Hollywood Collectors Show?"
Elijah's eyes flew to his. "I didn't..." But his voice faltered.
Sean smiled crookedly. "You didn't have to, Elijah. It's written all over you."
"Sean, I swear, I'm not looking down on you."
"I know that. But let's face it, actors with flourishing careers aren't found at the Hollywood Collectors Show. I burned my boats very thoroughly with my book and with how badly I behaved during The Return of the King awards season." He didn't sound in the least bitter, only matter of fact. "I came to terms with that ages ago, Elijah. Accepted it. Moved on."
"I haven't, though," admitted Elijah.
"Don't be sorry for me; I don't want or need your pity," Sean said, again in that matter of fact voice. "I still get regular work, even if it's not the kind of work I used to dream about."
"Never. I would never pity you," Elijah said passionately, thinking of Dom and his fury at his friend's smirking condescension. "Sean, I know what really matters to you - the girls, your family..."
"And you." His hand came to rest warmly over Elijah's where it was fisted on the tablecloth. "Always you, no matter what you might think."
"Then why-" He broke off; they were dancing close to the edge of serious again.
"Haven't I contacted you since the divorce?" Sean completed Elijah's sentence a second time.
Elijah nodded. Clearly Sean was ready to begin the serious talk.
He tightened his hold on Elijah's hand. "At first it was because I didn't want you drawn into the mess. I didn't want you to figure in the media as the home wrecker, and you would have. Chris would have made certain of that."
"Did she threaten you?" Elijah was appalled.
Sean huffed a laugh. "It was more than a threat. It was a certainty."
"But surely it didn't need two whole years for the certainty to diminish, Sean. Not even TMZ would make a leap like that after so long."
"No," Sean admitted. "But it took me a while to find my feet, Elijah, and I needed to do that before I made any other moves. The truth is, I relied on Chris far too much. It was easier to let her manage the household and my life, and of course the more reliant on her I was, the better she liked it. She no longer had a claim of love over me, but dependence on the other hand..." He sighed. "I was a fool."
Elijah turned his hand under Sean's, twined their fingers. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that."
"What did I ever do to deserve such loyalty from you?" Sean said. "I was a fool, though. And later, when I might have contacted you, every time I tried to screw up my nerve I got cold feet. It was so long since we'd seen each other. What if you were in a committed relationship? What right did I have to come barging and bumbling back into your life, potentially upsetting whatever peace and happiness you'd achieved?" He huffed a laugh. "What were the odds you still felt the same about me as I did about you?"
"100%," Elijah said. "I'm not saying I haven't had lovers, but none of them was ever my love."
Sean's mouth twisted into a rueful smile, but his eyes glowed at Elijah's reply. "I put the odds at about 10% or less," he confessed.
"You always were a cautious gambler, Sean."
"Then it's a good thing for both of us that you're not."
"Are you kidding? I was scared shitless, and for the same reasons you were."
"You came to see me, though."
"Because I never stopped loving you, not for a second, and I thought that if there was a chance you still loved me, too, it was worth the risk."
Sean's grip tightened almost painfully. "Thank you for taking the risk, Elijah. I think, I hope, that eventually I'd have stopped being a chicken shit and called you, but my hair would have even more gray than it already does."
"I like it," said Elijah at once, and added what he'd thought when he saw Sean at the Collectors' Show, "It makes you look distinguished."
"Distinguished, huh? Feel free to keep stroking my ego," Sean joked. "Considering that you haven't aged a day since I met you, I can use it."
Sean had always been insecure about his looks, and despite his jocular manner, it was clear that he still was. "I'll be glad to, but maybe this isn't the best place." Elijah hesitated. "Sean, will you come home with me? Spend the night?"
"Just the night?"
"Well, I'm kinda hoping you don't have anything planned for the next, oh, forty years or so. We've got a lot of lost time to make up for."
"Make it fifty and you have a deal."
"Then fifty it is."
Elijah made no objection when Sean pulled out his credit card to pay the bill. He understood why it was necessary. No one noticed them leave the restaurant together, which suited Elijah fine. He wondered at it, though, because it seemed to him that happiness as radiant as theirs must be visible to everyone.
"I never thought I'd see this place again." Sean was in the center of Elijah's living room. "It hasn't changed much," he threw Elijah a teasing look, "except it's a lot neater than it used to be."
"Not always," admitted Elijah. "Organization, or the lack thereof, is still my bugaboo, Sean. But I wanted things nice for you."
"For me." It wasn't a question, but an affirmation spoken in almost reverent tones.
"Yes, for you. I didn't know what would happen today, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping to get you here and into my bed."
"So seduction was on the menu?" Sean looked ridiculously pleased and flattered. And it pleased Elijah that he could bring such a look to Sean's face. It was clear that the intervening years and a bitter divorce had done little for his perpetually shaky self-esteem.
"Big time. And now that I've wined and dined you, how about we move on to some appropriate mood music?" He crossed to his record player and clicked it on.
"Mood music? Are you the same Elijah Wood who said at least a million times that music and sex don't mix?"
"You're the exception to prove the rule. For you, there's music," Elijah said, lifting the arm and setting the needle with infinite care on the turning vinyl. After a few seconds, the music started.
Wise men say only fools rush in but I can't help falling in love with you.
"Okay, where's the real Elijah and what have you done with his body?" joked Sean. "Elvis? You're playing Elvis?"
Elijah grinned. God, how he'd missed the teasing. "You're ruining the mood here, Astin. Now shut up and dance with me."
And there in the middle of Elijah's living room, they danced, as they had once before. But that had been at a convention on a stage in front of hundreds of fans, and they'd maintained a respectful distance from each other, only their tightly clasped hands communicating the desperation of their repressed emotions. Now though, they were free to hold each other as closely as they liked, and they did, pressed so close that their bodies touched from chest to knees and the dance was little more than a sway.
Elijah rested his cheek against Sean's shoulder and closed his eyes. As they turned in a slow circle, a quiet joy that was once alien to his nature filled his heart and soul. Any sense of urgency was in abeyance; at last, they had all the time in the world. The rest of their lives, in fact.
Whatever secret fears Elijah might have harbored on the drive down to Venice from Burbank were laid to rest. He'd spoken often in interviews about the enduring bond of friendship and fellowship that existed between him and his LOTR cast mates, but with no one had that bond been as deep and as rich as with Sean. Physical changes, life experiences, relationships in the years since... none of those mattered. To be together again was to be instantly connected on the deepest possible level, the one where heart spoke to heart in truths that required neither questions nor explanations.
Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life, too
For I can't help falling in love with you
For I can't help falling in love with you
The song came to an end, the skip-click of the record player replacing the romantic crooning of the King. But Elijah didn't move, even if it meant the needle was trashed. He couldn't move. Endless happiness. Hadn't there been something in Tolkien about that when Sam found Frodo in the tower? Well, Tolkien knew a thing or two about reunions, that was for sure.
It was Sean who spoke first. "That needle is going to be history."
"Ask me if I care." He lifted his head and looked straight into eyes that were gazing back at him with a calm he couldn't remember ever seeing there before. He'd glimpsed so many emotions in Sean's expressive eyes in the past, from laughter to anguish to desire, but never this pure, undiluted tranquility, as if every tempest that had troubled his life had finally been swept out to sea. "Sean," he whispered. He slid his arms up and around Sean's neck, tangled his fingers in the soft curls at the nape, and pulled him in for a kiss.
It wasn't their first kiss.
Once, and only once, had he and Sean let the reins of restraint snap. A few too many drinks at a party at Rydges in Queenstown, followed by finding themselves unexpectedly alone outside under a star-strewn New Zealand night had proved too heady a combination to resist. They'd managed, somehow, to keep it to a single kiss. But such a kiss.
Even after all these years, it lived on in Elijah's memory when every other kiss had faded into obscurity. He could instantly summon the taste of Sean's mouth, hot and hungry on his, see finger-shaped bruises on his arms as if they still existed, feel the hard ridge of Sean's erection burning against his abdomen.
How they'd ever stopped was an enduring mystery. Had it been up to Elijah, though, they wouldn't have. It was Sean who had retained some shred of sanity and self-control, wrenched himself away and stumbled off, leaving Elijah alone and stunned. Next day, and every day thereafter, by tacit if unspoken agreement they'd acted as if it had never happened: the elephant in the room neither would acknowledge.
But Elijah had never forgotten, and now, coming together again at long last, he knew that Sean had never forgotten either. The proof was in the sureness with which he returned Elijah's kiss, in his pleased murmur as they rediscovered the perfection that had been so briefly in their grasp nearly twenty years earlier.
Soon, though, the remembered wasn't good enough; there were brave new worlds still to conquer. Elijah broke off their kiss, ignoring Sean's wordless protest to take his hand and pull him impatiently toward the bedroom.
Just outside the door, Sean unexpectedly stopped. "If I take one more step, it'll be the farthest I've ever gone with another man," he said.
He spoke lightly, but Elijah didn't laugh. Instead of tugging, he cradled Sean's hand between his own. "It's not the farthest I've ever been, Sean. I'll show you what to do."
Sean looked rueful. "You know, I thought sometimes about going out and getting some experience in case this day ever came, so I wouldn't be a crashing disappointment in bed. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm 47 years old and to all intents and purposes a virgin. It's pathetic, Elijah."
Elijah swallowed a lump in his throat. "No, it's special. Like you. And trust me, you could never be a disappointment."
He moved his hand to Sean's shoulder, coaxed him forward, Frodo guiding Sam from the old life into the new. But here were no perilous Quests nor evil Rings, only a future bright with the promise of a life together, unfettered and full of joy.
Having taken that step, Sean seemed to shed his insecurities with his clothes, or perhaps it was the frank admiration in Elijah's eyes as he stripped that gave him confidence. Without vanity, Elijah knew he could have anyone he wanted. Celebrity conferred certain privileges, especially to A listers and Oscar winners. If he wanted acrobatic sex, a string of young, buff, good-looking gay boys had made it abundantly clear they were available. Well fuck that, and fuck anyone's expectations of who Elijah should want. He wanted Sean. Always had, always would.
Sean sat on the edge of the bed to pull off his socks.
For the rest of my life, I'll watch him do that.
The thought filled Elijah with an irrational, insane glee that couldn't be contained. Fuck the socks. Sean was naked where it counted and so was he. He couldn't wait one more second.
Sean looked up, one sock in hand, the other halfway off. It was too much. Elijah tackled him bodily; they went sprawling across the bed.
"Elijah!" Sean protested, but he was laughing, and so was Elijah, giggling madly, overcome with happiness. They tussled, still laughing, and the result was never in doubt, as hardening cock brushed hardening cock. One instant they were laughing, the next they were all over each other in a wild explosion of passion, mouths fused, hands gripping desperately as if afraid this was some dream that might vanish in a puff of smoke.
Elijah ended up on top, cradled between Sean's powerful thighs, his now fully erect cock pinned tightly against Sean's. The pressure was exquisite and completely unbearable. "Sean," he half-sobbed, moving against him, and Sean let out a low moan and Elijah moved again.
That was all it took. Sean needed no direction from Elijah, for he seemed to know already exactly what would bring his lover the greatest pleasure. Quickly establishing a rhythm, they moved as one in perfect harmony, until like a thunderclap from the blue, blinding release swept over them simultaneously. A fleeting thought crossed Elijah's mind that it had ended far too soon, only to be followed by another thought: What does it matter? We've got the rest of our lives to do this, as often as we like.
They remained like that, bodies cooling, breathing steadying. Neither cared about the sticky mess on their bellies or the drying sweat. There was no question of separating, not now that they'd finally made love, almost twenty years too late.
"I love you, Sean," Elijah said, as lassitude crept over him.
"I love you, too, Elijah," Sean replied drowsily, clearly on the verge of sleep himself.
"You'll be here when I wake up?" Silly, but he couldn't help himself.
Sean tightened his hold and pressed a soft kiss to Elijah's temple. "I'll be here," he said. "Forever."