When the Circus Came to Venice by Lbilover

A bit of romantic comedy inspired by this entry in Facebook (from when Elijah filmed the pilot for his TV show 'Wilfred'): so there'a a ruckus two houses down from me...all these people in the street...my water was turned off...i go down all pissed off, ready to regulate...as i walk up this tiny guy turns around, and I ask what the hell is goin on...i realize its elijah wood...and he tells me he's shooting a tv show there...I'm still pissed, but how does someone get mad at Frodo? Indeed! :-)


It was starting out to be a very bad day. After working the late shift at the university library, Sean was awakened at the crack of dawn by a ruckus on his street. It sounded as if the Ringling Brothers Circus had come to Venice, complete with trumpeting elephants and a hurdy-gurdy. He groaned and pulled the pillow over his head, but when someone started shouting incomprehensibly over a loudspeaker, he gave up and rolled out of bed with a dull throb in his skull and vengeance in his heart. As he stalked toward the bathroom, he decided that after he showered and dressed, he'd go out there and give those inconsiderate clowns a piece of his mind.

Sean shed his boxers, stepped into the shower, reached for the handle and turned it.

Nothing happened. Not so much as a trickle of water emerged from the shower head.

He stepped out of the shower, and tried the sink. Nothing.

The clowns had shut off the water.

A piece of his mind? he thought as he hastily tied a bath towel around his waist. Screw that. He was going to give them the whole enchilada - with extra cheese.

He stormed through the house, out the front door, and down the walk to the street. His ire along with his blood pressure went through the roof when he saw the cameras, the Klieg lights, the fancy motor homes, the line of tables covered with white tablecloths, coffee urns and commercial food warmers, the beehive buzz of activity created by innumerable tee-shirt-and-jeans-clad people wearing headsets and holding clipboards and Styrofoam cups of coffee.

It wasn’t the circus after all. It was something far, far worse. It was a film crew. Hollywood had invaded Sean’s quiet side street, to which he’d moved for the specific purpose of avoiding these parasitic life forms that inhabited southern California.

Sean’s eyes fell on a short, slight guy in faded jeans and an equally faded green tee shirt standing off to one side with his back to him. He was miraculously sans headset or clipboard, and looked like the ideal recipient for Sean’s boiling, bubbling wrath - a hapless gofer who was even shorter than him. Perfect.

Hopping inelegantly over the tangle of black cables that snaked every which way across the street while he clutched at the towel around his middle, Sean approached the short, slight guy and tapped him briskly on the shoulder.

“Would you mind explaining to me exactly what the hell is going on here?” he demanded. “I happen to live on this street, and I don’t appreciate being woken up at an ungodly hour by your infernal racket, and then discovering my water has been shut off when I’m about to take a shower.”

The short, slight guy turned around. His eyes, very big and very blue eyes, Sean couldn’t help but notice, widened as he took in Sean in his bath towel.

“Oh geez, I’m sorry,” he said, but his gaze seemed stuck at the level of Sean’s bare chest, and Sean belatedly became aware that maybe he should have put on some clothes before storming outside.

Or maybe not.

A distinct tingling sensation had invaded his body as those very big and very blue eyes stared at his nipples.

“We’re filming a TV show,” Mr. Short Slight Guy went on, wrenching his gaze away from Sean’s chest and looking up. “I’m very sorry if we’ve caused you any inconvenience.”

Even the most adorable puppies and kittens must be weeping with jealousy right now, Sean thought, because they had nothing on Mr. Short Slight Guy when it came to heart-melting expressions.

But Sean hardened his heart. He would not be distracted from his purpose. He had a grievance, and he intended to air it. “Sorry isn’t going to cut it. I don’t want apologies, I want solutions. If my water isn’t turned back on in the next fifteen minutes, I’m going to call the police. There are laws about these kinds of things, you know.” He actually had no idea if there were, but it sounded like an effective threat.

“I’m sure we have all the proper permits, but I promise you, I’ll talk to the director and see what I can do.” The melting expression upped a notch and the adorable puppies and kittens turned suicidal. There was something irresistible in the way Mr. Short Slight Guy’s brow furrowed, as if he honestly felt Sean’s pain and sincerely wanted to help him.

“Thank you. I’d appreciate it,” Sean said, then added gruffly, “I apologize if I came down hard on you. I didn’t get home from work until midnight, and I’m kind of short on sleep.”

“That’s okay. I can totally understand why you're upset,” Mr. Short Slight Guy said in a soft, sympathetic voice that made Sean want to wag a non-existent tail and climb into his lap.

“No, it’s not okay," Sean said, his righteous anger completely swept away by a surge of protectiveness for the hapless gofer. "I expect you already get dumped on more than enough working with this lot.”

He gestured disdainfully at the headset-and-clipboard crowd scurrying around them. The fact that not a single one of them seemed to notice the presence in their midst of an irate man wearing only a bath towel spoke volumes, in his opinion.

“These Hollywood types are notoriously arrogant and demanding," Sean continued, scornfully. "I bet the star of this fiasco runs you off your feet fetching and carrying for him. Hell, he probably considers himself too important to get his own coffee.”

Mr. Short Slight Guy bit his lower lip, revealing small, square front teeth with an oddly attractive gap between them. “Um, no, he doesn’t, as a matter of fact. He’s a pretty low-key guy, actually, and even gets his own coffee most of the time.” He smiled, a smile that held a hint of impishness.

The adorable puppies and kittens began throwing themselves from bridges, and it occurred to Sean that he hadn’t yet introduced himself. Considering that he was naked except for a towel, a fact of which Mr. Short Slight Guy was clearly and flatteringly aware, it was ridiculous to stand on ceremony. But before he could open his mouth, a head-set-wearing man waved his clipboard in their direction. “Elijah, we’re ready for you on set,” he called.

Mr. Short Slight Guy waved back.

Uh-oh, Sean thought, a flush starting to rise to his cheeks.

“Sorry, I’ve gotta go,” Mr. Short Slight Guy, aka Elijah, said. “But I promise I’ll see what I can do about getting your water turned back on.” He took in the rictus of horror that was Sean’s face, and nodded. “Yeah, I’m the star of this fiasco - you know, one of those arrogant and demanding Hollywood types who thinks he’s too important to get his own coffee.”

“Oh god.” Sean’s body was tingling again, but this time with prickles of intense embarrassment. Unable to think of a single other thing to say in the face of his monumental faux pas, he turned and, with as much dignity as a man naked except for a bath towel and hopping over a tangle of electrical cords could possess, which wasn’t much, retreated.

It was, he later thought, somehow inevitable that he should catch a bare toe on one of the cords, trip, and lose his grip on the towel - with predictably disastrous results, as it immediately went south, baring all. He bent and snatched it up from the ground, certain that his now-exposed buttocks were as flaming a pink as his face. It didn’t help that he heard several undoubted sniggers coming from behind him. Oh god, he mentally moaned.

Sean quickly wrapped the towel around his waist again, and even though he told himself he shouldn't, he snuck a peek over his shoulder, all the while fervently praying that Elijah hadn't been witness to the peep show. No such luck. His very big, very blue eyes looked bigger and bluer than ever and his mouth was hanging open, but when he met Sean's eyes, his mouth snapped shut and the next instant he had disappeared behind a bank of Klieg lights.

Beyond mortified, Sean returned to his house, wondering if he'd ever have the nerve to leave it again.

To complete his humiliation, not twenty minutes later he heard the hiss of water coming from the bathroom and the shower he’d inadvertently left on. This evidence of Elijah’s honorableness only added to Sean’s growing conviction that he should have followed the adorable puppies and kittens and thrown himself off the nearest bridge.

He showered - a short, cold and penitent shower - dressed, and proceeded to spend the next hour roaming moodily around his living room, resisting the urge to stare out the window in hopes of glimpsing Elijah, who didn’t know his name and never would now. Sean would forever be the Unpleasant Guy in the Bath Towel who whined at him about not being able to take a shower, insulted him, and then mooned him for good measure.

Let’s face it, he told himself, you blew it. Big time. There was something between you, a spark; you felt it and he felt it and then you went and ruined it. You are a Supreme Fuck-Up, with a capital 'S' and a capital 'Fuck'.

Duty eventually called in the form of his job at the university library, and Sean had no choice but to leave his house, out of which he crept in the manner of a burglar fleeing the scene of a crime, with his shoulders hunched and the collar of his sport jacket pulled up. He kept his eyes carefully averted from the goings on just up the street as he dove into the shelter of his car, started it and backed down the driveway.

As he drove off down the block, the rear view mirror ambushed him - out of habit he glanced in it, and what he saw there caused him nearly to hit a car parked by the curb as he swerved violently. In the nick of time, he straightened the car, while he wondered if he was losing mind.

It wasn't the glimpse of faded denim and green that made him question his sanity, for real or not, that was a logical delusion. It was the glimpse of a man dressed in a giant dog costume standing next to Elijah that made him question it, for that was simply too bizarre and random to be real.

It must have been a hallucination induced by exhaustion and all those thoughts of adorable puppies, Sean decided. He definitely had to get a good night's sleep tonight.

~*~

It was hard to focus on answering students’ research questions when he not only felt like shit, but his mind kept replaying his encounter with Elijah. Instead of fading as the hours passed, the event grew in importance, and Sean felt ever more keenly the opportunity he’d blown. Elijah had seemed kind, honest and sympathetic, and physically he was exactly the type Sean had always found most attractive. Guys like that didn't just grow on trees, as his years spent dating fruits and nuts of every possible size, shape and variety had proved.

The evening eventually wound to a close and it was time to lock up the library and head home. As he approached his street, Sean couldn’t suppress an illogical flare of hope that the film crew would still be there, even though it was nearly midnight. So what if they brought madness and mayhem with them? They also brought Elijah.

To whom Sean was simply a rude asshole in a bath towel, his unhelpful brain reminded him.

As soon as he turned down his block, he could tell that the circus had left town. The street was quiet and deserted as usual. Not a single electrical cable had been forgotten in the confusion of packing up, not a single white Styrofoam coffee cup had escaped the trash. It was as if Elijah and the rest of the crew had never been there.

Well, that’s that, Sean thought, trying to muster relief at his narrow escape from involvement with a segment of the southern Californian population he’d done his best to avoid since a disastrous relationship with an egotistical soap star, and failing.

But then, in the sweep of the car’s headlights as he turned into his driveway, he saw someone sitting on the curb in front of his house. A short, slender someone dressed in jeans and a faded green tee shirt. It was Elijah. He had his arms wrapped around his knees and his cheek resting on his kneecap as if he’d been there a while.

Sean was stunned, and utterly baffled. Why was Elijah sitting on the curb in front of his house at this hour? Surely as the star of the TV show, they wouldn’t go off and leave him behind. Hell, they’d packed up every Styrofoam coffee cup. But if they had... Indignation burned in Sean’s breast.

But then another explanation occurred to him. Perhaps Elijah had waited around to tell him off for his rudeness. Or was it hubris to assume that he was in fact the reason for Elijah's presence there on the curb?

His mind in a whirl, Sean parked his car in the driveway and shut it off. By the time he got out, Elijah was on his feet and ambling in Sean’s direction. Not hubris then. He had been waiting for Sean. Oh god.

Sean’s heart was beating fast as he walked toward him; they met by the car's rear bumper.

"Hi," Elijah said. He didn't sound angry, and in the soft luminescence cast by the nearest streetlight Sean could clearly see his expression: calm, pleasant even, and definitely not angry.

"Hi. What are you doing here so late? Is everything all right? Do you need a lift somewhere?" Sean's innate protectiveness, which Elijah seemed to bring out in spades, overrode every other emotion. The nerve of those bastards, leaving Elijah behind as if he were no more than an inanimate prop!

Elijah smiled. There was something curious about that smile and the way it tucked in the corners of his mouth - something private, as if what Sean had just said answered a question Elijah had had.

"Everything's fine," Elijah replied. "You mentioned getting home from work at midnight, and I wanted to talk to you, so I walked over a little while ago to wait for you." At Sean's puzzled look, he explained, "I live in Venice, too, just a few blocks from here."

"You shouldn't walk around alone late at night. It's not safe," Sean said, frowning. "There have been muggings in this neighborhood." He was relieved to know that Elijah hadn’t been treated so shabbily, but horrified by his recklessness.

"I was right. You are a nice guy. I thought so." Elijah nodded a little, as if to himself.

Sean flushed, feeling totally unworthy of the compliment. "I don't know how you can think that after the way I insulted you, Elijah. By all rights you should think I’m a total asshole."

"Well, I don’t think that," Elijah said. "Which is why I came over and waited for you - so I could tell you, because you looked really upset when you, um," he hesitated, and Sean needed no psychic powers to know why he was hesitating and what image was in his mind, “went back to your house.”

There were signals, like Elijah staring at Sean's nipples, and then there were signals, like him waiting for Sean to come home so he could let him know that he wasn't angry. Only a fool could possibly misinterpret what that meant, and while he had his shining moments, like earlier that day, Sean wasn't a fool.

By god, he hadn’t blown it after all. The circus was back in town. But he owed Elijah an apology, he realized, and it wasn’t enough just to say ‘I’m sorry’. It had to be better than that. He thought fast and an idea occurred to him, the perfect way to apologize.

“Elijah, would you mind waiting here for a few minutes?” Sean asked. “There’s something I have to do.”

“Okay.” Elijah looked puzzled but agreeable, and his brow wrinkled so attractively, like one of those adorable wrinkly puppies - a Shar Pei? - that Sean almost chucked his idea in favor of wagging his non-existent tail and climbing into Elijah’s lap. Not now, he told himself sternly. Right now you have an apology to make.

“Thanks. I’ll be back as fast as I can.” Sean sprinted up the path to his front door and fished out his key. It only took three attempts to get it in the lock - not too shabby, all things considered.

It was actually ten and a half excruciating minutes later that he reemerged from his house, a mug of steaming hot coffee in his hand, and a fear that Elijah had tired of waiting and taken off in his heart. The old truism that ‘a watched pot never boils’ had never been more true. Not all his imprecations, death-glares, pleas of ‘C’mon, c’mon, c’monc’monc’mon’ or impatient dances had made the kettle boil any faster, the stubborn piece of stainless steel shit.

But Elijah, who appeared to be possessed of infinite patience, was still there, idling by the bumper of Sean’s car, and Sean decided to forgive the kettle, which after all had only been obeying the imperative of its kind - to drive humans insane.

“I made you a cup of coffee,” Sean said, holding out the mug. “French press. I added a little sugar, just in case.”

Elijah tipped his head to one side and considered Sean’s offering. "My mom always told me not to take coffee from strangers." That hint of impishness was back in his eyes, and the adorable puppies and kittens groaned in dismay. But they weren’t as dismayed as Sean, who realized Elijah still didn’t know his name.

"Oh geez, I'm sorry. I'm Sean. Sean Astin." Sean held out his free hand, and Elijah solemnly shook it. "I guess we did kind of do things ass-backwards," he added. Then he realized what he'd said, and blushed. Ass-backwards, indeed.

Elijah burst into helpless giggles. "I guess we did, or rather you did," he said when he'd got his breath back. But Sean could see in his eyes that he hadn't minded the view at all - far from it - and he blessed the electrical cord that had tripped him up.

Elijah took the mug and raised it to his lips. He blew on the surface to cool the steaming liquid and then sipped. “It’s good,” he said. “Much better than the coffee they serve on set. And I didn’t even have to get it myself.”

His eyes were laughing, and suddenly Sean could see the humor in his screw up. “Is this one of those things we’ll laugh together about later?” he asked daringly.

“Could be.” Elijah’s expression turned serious. “I’d like to find out, Sean.”

“So would I,” Sean replied with equal seriousness. “Elijah, would you like to come inside? Just to finish your coffee,” he added quickly lest Elijah misinterpret his offer, “and then I’ll give you a ride home.”

“That’d be great,” Elijah said, and Sean barely refrained from pumping his fist in triumph. “You know, I thought maybe you’d gone inside to change into a towel.”

Was he disappointed? Sean couldn’t tell, but he had to be honest. “Not on a first date.”

Elijah nodded his approval, and Sean knew he’d been right not to rush the finding out. The important things in life shouldn’t be rushed. There’d be time enough later to change into a towel for Elijah - and then lose it.

At the front door, Sean stopped, his curiosity getting the better of him. “Hey, did I see a guy in a dog suit with you or was I imagining him?” he asked.

Elijah grinned. “Why don’t you come by the set tomorrow and see for yourself?” The imp danced in his eyes. “Bath towel optional.”

Sean grinned back. “Okay, where are you filming?” If it was Timbuktu, he’d be there.

“On your street,” Elijah said, looking surprised. “We’ll be here for a few more days finishing the pilot. You won’t mind, will you?”

Sean thought of the noise, the disruption, the turned off water, Elijah... “Mind?” he repeated incredulously, wondering why he’d ever believed the circus coming to Venice was a bad thing. “Bring it on.”

~end~