The Woodjin: The Audition by Lbilover

the woodin and dr sean
the woodin and dr sean

Mack had rarely been so nervous in his life, even when he auditioned for his sitcom. But then, meeting your brother's new partner for the first time — a partner who from Sean's descriptions sounded like a combination of Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Doctor Doolittle, with a hefty dose of Paul Newman (both blue eyes and charitable deeds) thrown in for good measure — was enough to make anyone nervous.

In fact, the current situation was remarkably like an audition, because his presence or absence in Sean's life was largely going to depend on the impression he made on Elijah. Considering what a fuck-up he'd been for much of his adult life, sponging off his wealthy older brother and making minimal effort to stand on his own two feet, Mack was petrified that Elijah would take one look at him, say, Don't call us, we'll call you, and give him the metaphorical boot out on his ass.

Somehow Mack doubted that a hit sitcom and a recent appearance on the cover of TV Guide were going to weigh very heavily in his favor. Elijah didn't seem like the kind of person who was impressed by celebrity.

"We're nearly there," Sean said, interrupting Mack's unhappy musings. "Only a couple more miles to go."

"Great," Mack said with forced enthusiasm, and wondered if his brother would mind pulling over so he could toss his cookies in the bushes. Talk about performance anxiety.

Funny, he'd never given a shit about Chris's opinion of him - but then Sean hadn't been in love with Chris. He was definitely in love with Elijah, though. It was written all over him in letters a mile high. Mack had never seen Sean like this, not since the death of their father anyway. There was a glow of contentment and happiness about him that was in stark contrast to the increasingly sad and bitter man he'd become during the years he'd lived in the city with Chris.

“Everything okay, Mack? You're kind of quiet." Sean glanced at him, frowning. He'd been talking almost non-stop since he'd picked Mack up at the Philly airport, which was entirely typical of him, and Mack had hoped his own minimal contributions would go unnoticed. He should have known better.

Sean would never stop being Mack's big brother, looking out for him, worrying about him. Mack realized just how much he'd taken that for granted, and even more, just how much he'd miss it if he flunked this all-important audition for the part of brother-in-law.

"I'm just a little jet lagged," Mack said. "You of all people know how these fuckin' red eye flights mess with your biorhythms." It wasn't a complete untruth - more of a self-preserving fib.

"Well, if you need to take a nap when we get to the cabin, don't hesitate." Sean huffed a laugh. "Of course, I'm impatient as hell to start showing you the sights, especially since Elijah says we'll be getting rain in two days, but sightseeing can wait until tomorrow if you're too tired."

"Too tired? What sort of wimp do you think I am, bro?" Mack said with mock indignation, and Sean laughed and looked distinctly relieved. He was so damned anxious for Mack to see everything and meet everyone, especially Elijah. Elijah, who could predict the weather, talk to animals, and was some sort of... well, Mack still wasn't totally sure exactly what a Woodjin was, but that it meant Elijah was very, very special, Sean had made abundantly clear. So if he didn't like Mack... shit. He was toast.

"This is it!" Sean said a few minutes later, slowing the car to turn in a sandy lane that was only distinguishable from the other sandy lanes they'd passed because of the presence of a black metal mailbox mounted on a wooden post. Sean hadn't been kidding when he told Mack that his new home was off the beaten path.

The drive was long and winding - over a mile long, according to Sean - and under any other circumstances Mack would have enjoyed the sight of the deep green pine trees on either side that were framed by a sky of cloudless blue, but he was currently experiencing every symptom of pre-audition nerves: sweaty palms, churning gut, light-headedness, and a total inability to recall his lines.

The symptoms ramped up a notch when they rounded a final curve and a house so perfectly homey that it looked like it might have been stolen from a Hollywood studio’s back lot came into view. Mack half expected to see Grandma and Grandpa Walton sitting in the old-fashioned glider on the front porch.

But the Waltons hadn't owned a small blue Toyota pickup truck with oversized wheels, and the slight, dark-haired young man waiting beside the truck with a fluffy rust-orange and black cat sitting at his booted feet definitely wasn't John-Boy.

“There’s Elijah,” Sean said, waving through the windshield to him, and there was such a depth of love and pride in his voice that Mack actually felt tears prickle his eyes. "And that's Maggie with him."

Mack had guessed as much. He'd heard so much about Maggie, who from what Sean said was not so much a cat as a human in calico clothing, that he was nearly as nervous about meeting her as he was Elijah. Not to mention Rocky, Fred and all the other critters that were part and parcel of the Astin-Wood menagerie.

Sean parked the BMW next to the truck and shut off the engine. He turned his head to look at Mack, and caught him wiping his damp palms on the legs of his jeans. "You're not nervous, are you, Mackie?" he said in surprise, the childhood nickname he'd had for his brother slipping out. "There's absolutely no reason to be, trust me."

"Easy for you to say," Mack retorted, trying to will the butterflies in his stomach into submission.

But Sean only grinned and unfastened his seat belt. "Come on, shake a leg," he said.

An unfortunately apt expression, Mack thought ruefully, because his legs did feel kind of shaky as he climbed out of the car. He took a couple of deep, fortifying breaths of clean pine-scented air, such a stark contrast to the sickly yellow smog of the LA basin, and was struck by how quiet and peaceful it was here, without a sign of civilization in all its noisy glory. He understood at once what had attracted Sean to this place, although he had never shared his brother’s long-standing fascination with the Pine Barrens.

"Sean," a voice said from behind him, and in that one simple, softly spoken word was all the answer Mack needed to the question:Does Elijah love my brother as much as my brother loves him?

Mack turned around just in time to see Elijah fling himself with abandon into Sean's waiting arms. Despite his butterflies, Mack couldn't help but smile as he compared Elijah's enthusiastic greeting with the one Chris would have offered Sean - a flawlessly made up cheek to peck. No wonder Sean had a happy glow, he thought. Who wouldn't?

The two men separated after a few seconds, and Sean faced Mack with shining eyes and a smile that could’ve illuminated the famous sign in the Hollywood Hills. “God, I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this moment," he said emotionally. "Mack, I’d like you to meet Elijah. Elijah, this is my baby brother Mackenzie.”

Audition time.

Mack stepped nervously forward with his hand outstretched. "Hey Elijah," he said. "It's great to meet you at last."

“Same here,” Elijah said, taking his proffered hand not in one, but both of his own, and if he noticed the telltale dampness of Mack's palm, he didn't show it. “Although in a way I feel like I already do know you. Sean has told me so much about you.”

“All of it good, I swear!” Sean said, laughing.

“I'm glad to hear it, bro,” Mack replied. “And ditto, Elijah — Sean has waxed eloquent about you oh, a few thousand times or so, and I don’t need to tell you that everything he said was better than good.”

As he spoke, he was staring down into the bluest eyes he’d ever seen. Sean had told him that Elijah had extraordinary eyes, and he’d emailed Mack a few photos that seemed to confirm it, but nothing had prepared him for the reality. It wasn’t simply their unusual color and size, but how straightforwardly and openly they met his gaze, while at the same time seeming to delve right into his soul, seeing it all - every foible, every weakness, every strength.

Mack held his breath, wondering if he’d pass muster and hoping he wouldn't disgrace himself and pass out from the tension as the seconds ticked past. And then Elijah smiled, no polite upcurve of the lips, but a full-bore, I'm-so-glad-you're-here smile that lit up his face like a jack o'lantern.

“Welcome to the pines, Mack,” he said in a quiet, serious voice, and there was no doubting that this was Sean's mysterious Woodjin speaking, and that this was the welcome that counted.

Mack had landed the part.

The butterflies vanished in a flash, as if they'd never been, and Mack recalled a certain promise he'd made to Sean months ago, when his brother called him early one morning for advice about a special young man who had saved his life, and with whom he'd fallen deeply in love.

Strictly platonic, Mack mouthed at Sean, and then put his arms around Elijah and hugged him hard.