Viggo always greets the audience in Barcelona in a language that sounds like Spanish but isn't and stretches his 'c's and 's's into a lisp. He doesn't usually forget the lyrics to "Same Time Next Thursday" mid-verse, though, that part's new.
The first thing Billy does is turn away from Dom, because Dom's already cracking up, and Billy will never be able to keep it together if he keeps watching Dom. He tips his head a fraction in Sean's direction, and Sean slows down the tempo, which gives Billy just enough time to lean into his mic and chime in to finish off the verse, changing the last line from "we all lose track of the time" to "we all lose track of the words." The audience roars in laughter and cheers and Billy winks at Viggo as they both belt out the chorus, Daisy and Dom on the harmony.
To make a mess with metaphor, it's always bee the parts where they have to jump back on the bicycle one-handed that make the ride feel right. Billy glances back at Dom when Viggo's got the bridge under control, and Dom flashes him a grin and Karl gives him a quick thumbs up over Dom's shoulder.
When the song's over, Viggo leans forward, arms spread wide, guitorgan dangling in its strap. For a second, Billy thinks he might leap into the audience.
(Bernard put the kibosh on Viggo's spontaneous crowd surfing three tours back, when he leapt eagerly into the arms of Des Moines and broke his collarbone, pushing the whole tour back six weeks. Even though it only ended up being two weeks because, well, because Viggo was Viggo, Bernard put his foot down, and when Viggo stroked his chin and said, "I can see what you're saying," Bernard snuck an addendum into the bodily injury clause of the contract when Viggo wasn't looking.)
But Viggo keeps both feet firmly planted on the ground, and shouts, "Grácies moltes grácies!" Billy taps his foot in tempo. Time for the next song.
There's a problem with the catering in Madrid, and John has had just about enough of trying to explain that "no meat" also means "no fish." He'd say he's also had just about bloody enough of vegetarians, but he hit that point several tours back, when Orlando and Elijah went vegan for six weeks starting in Paris and ending with John threatening to quit on the spot.
"Orlando," John says. "I don't think that there's such a thing as vegetarian paella, you know."
Orlando frowns. "But, the fish, John, they're animals."
One of these days, John's going to serve Orlando wild boar and tell him it's tempeh. "They're not really animals, though." he cajoles. "Very low on the evolutionary chain, I believe."
Orlando shakes his head. "They've got, like, eyes, though!" he says. "And souls, probably."
Karl's helping himself to a heaping plate of paella and at this he snorts, turns to Orlando and says, "Souls, Orli?"
Orlando shoves at him. "They do!" he says, and then he catches Viggo halfway out the door with a plate of albondigas balanced in one hand. "Vig," he says. "Fish have souls, right?"
Viggo nods gravely. "They do," he says. "They most definitely do."
John sighs loudly but manages not to roll his eyes. He puts up his hands in surrender and heads off to get called Señor Rhys-Davies until he can bully them into producing an omelet or something.
Liv shuts her room door quietly and adjusts Milo in his sling, her satchel on the other arm. Milo makes a fretful noise and she bounces him once experimentally. It's nearly two o'clock in the morning and the hallway is almost silent, in a slightly heavy soundproofed silence that reminds her of the studio. She has her bathing suit on under her sweatpants and two towels in her bag as she pads around one corner, and then another, and catches sight of Dom, sauntering along in her direction.
"Whatever you did," Liv warns him with a quick smile, and Dom cackles, "I don't want to know."
"Oh, but it was brilliant, Liv," Dom protests, rubbing his hands together and looking far too pleased with himself. "It was masterful. Best work I've ever done, really. Orli won't know what hit him, the bugger."
"Dom," Liv says, and then Dom cackles again, which makes Milo laugh, too.
So far Liv's escaped any practical jokes, though her favorite unexpected incident was the bouquet of hyacinths waiting for her at the hotel in Barcelona, wrapped in waxy paper with the typed note:
MUCHOS BESOS a la mayoría de la señora hermosa
SOY SUS ESCLAVOS DE AMOR!!
Prince Felipe of Spain
She has her suspicions.
"And what are we doing, roaming the halls at this indecent hour of night?" Dom asks Milo.
"Not sleeping," Liv explains. "I'm going to indulge my amphibious habit and hopefully a warm dip will put him down for the count."
"Excellent, I love water," Dom exclaims, and immediately goes two doors down the hall and knocks loudly.
"I think, you know, just a quiet swim will -"
"Lij," Dom calls, producing a room key from someplace and opening the door.
"Maybe he's - don't you think -" Liv starts, but Dom has already opened the door and Elijah is looking up at them from where he's sitting cross-legged on the bed, massive headphones on, clicking away at his laptop.
"Hey, what's up?" says Lij. He takes a closer look at Dom. "Oh, no. Who was it?"
Dom bounces on his toes happily. "Orlando."
"Poor bastard," says Elijah, sadly. Dom looks like he's ready to perform a little jig. "Hi, Liv."
"Hi," says Liv. "Sorry if we -"
"Get your towel," Dom says to Elijah. "We're on a mission to put Milo to sleep."
"With a towel?" Elijah asks.
"In the pool, you monster."
"I'm working on a song," says Elijah.
"Towel," Dom says again.
"I don't speak fish," says Elijah.
"There aren't any fish in the pool, this is Madrid," Dom says patiently, and Elijah rolls his eyes. "Oh! Oh, right. Sorry."
"What?" Liv asks, even though she knows better.
"Lij can't swim," Dom whispers. "Sort of a disability, like."
"That's okay," Liv says, with her best straight face, at the same time Elijah throws his headphones down on the bed and says,
"It's not a disability, and fine, I'm coming."
Liv decides to wait in the hall as Dom wrestles Elijah into his shoes. "Guess who's coming to dinner," she murmurs, and Milo blinks back at her like a small owl in a blanket, wide awake and content. A harassed-looking hotel employee slumps down the hall past her and she smiles in what she hopes is an innocent fashion. Dom and Elijah stumble out of Elijah's room, Dom's arms full of fluffy white towels, Elijah clutching his laptop case, half a sandwich and a handful of CDs.
Liv leads the re-organized charge down the hall and around several corners. What is Peter and Fran, she thinks, if not a woman in flip-flops holding a baby trying to sneak into a hotel pool at two in the morning with a guitarist and a short dj armed with a computer and a midnight snack?
She's heading in what she thinks is the general direction of the elevator when a door opens on her left and Orlando pokes his head out, his hair mashed flat against his skull on one side. Dom skids to a halt.
"It's all fun and games, you know, Dominic Monaghan," Orlando begins, sounding immensely put-upon, "but truth will out, you know, and I've never even been to Brazil, let alone completed, any, you know, transactions of that nature with anyone -"
Dom claps a hand over his mouth and puts a steadying hand against the wall. "It was so good, though," he gasps, "you have to admit -"
"I've also rung Ian," Orlando goes on, sweetly, "and given him all your credit information."
"We're going down to the pool," Liv says, as Dom makes a choking noise behind her. "Want to come?"
Orlando gives her a real smile. "Yeah, alright. Let me get my things."
Orlando takes her satchel and they're off again, turning two more corners, and then there's Bernard, just getting out of the elevator, humming something that might be Mozart, or Madonna. He holds the door open.
"Hullo," says Bernard, looking at Milo closely. "Alright there?"
"Just wakeful," Liv replies. "I was thinking I'd just -"
"We're going for a midnight swim," Dom announces cheerily.
"Hopefully I can get a wireless connection downstairs," Elijah adds, to no one in particular.
"Lovely," Bernard says. "I'll just get my trunks, then."
Milo makes a delighted noise.
"Sure, great," says Liv, and she really can't help laughing this time. "The more the merrier."
Bernard is back stage and he doesn't seem to have anything to do so he heads stage left and hovers in the wings, watching. Dom is facing them, his guitar pick hovering over the strings as he waits for his cue to come in. He grins at Bernard in a way that reminds him of a boy they all used to pick on back in grade school. Before Bernard can smile back, Dom's hand is moving and he's turned away, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he plays. Bernard's left smiling at nothing but the music and the scent of electricity in the air.
The manager of the opening band is standing nearby, the band themselves long since headed off to the green room. Bernard thinks it's odd that their manager's not with them, but here he is, typing something out on the keypad of his mobile and glancing occasionally at the stage. He's bopping his head along to the music, though, so Bernard decides that even if he seems distracted, he's a fan. When Bernard looks back at the stage, the band's stopped and there's some sort of commotion at the front and Sala and Lawrence are on their way to help the security team.
"Wait, wait," Elijah shouts.
The team moves back and Bernard sees that someone's climbing onto the stage. He can't figure out who it is, but the manager next to him inhales sharply. "Fuck, is that Bono?"
Bernard looks again, squints a little and yeah, greasy hair, sunglasses inside: the man walking up to shake hands with Viggo is definitely Bono. Bernard just shakes his head and shares an amused look with Lawrence as he passes. The manager turns to Bernard and Bernard should probably feel bad that he can't remember the lad's name.
"Does this kind of thing happen all the time? You must have a lot of crazy stories from watching all these concerts." He doesn't wait for Bernard's answer, just edges closer to the stage and holds up his phone.
The truth is, the whole band has a lot of stories, but Bernard's actually only seen Peter and Fran play a whole show a few times, the first of which was in New Zealand. He was there trying to track down an act he was supposed to work with, some glam rock outfit that called themselves Rhys, but the lead singer had completely disappeared. Bernard heard he might show up at this little bar called the Prancing Pony, so he wandered in, ordered a pint and waited. About three sips into the second pint, Peter and Fran started setting up to play what was only their third real gig.
(If Viggo weren't on stage playing the outro of "Palmgroves and Irrigation Canals," he'd say it was fate, to which Bernard would reply that fate must have a rather skewed sense of humor, because back then he thought the glam rockers were difficult, but he had no idea.)
Four pints in, Bernard was tapping his feet. At six, he decided they were all geniuses and assaulted them as they came off stage to tell them how much he loved the show. Then Daisy bought Bernard's seventh pint and Bernard declared that he knew he liked the lot of them. They liked him well enough, too, and as anyone could tell from the sheer number of them in the band, that's about all they needed to add someone to "the collective" then and there.
(If Karl's telling this story, he likes to remind Bernard that after eight or nine pints he heard that last bit as "theocrative," but after eight or nine pints that still sounded like something he'd be willing to join, something Karl seems to think is a sure sign that Bernard's cracked, but then, Karl joined up too, didn't he, so he doesn't have much of a leg to stand on.)
After that, Bernard didn't see a show for years because he was always unloading equipment, or loading equipment, or charming bar owners into excusing the fire Viggo started on stage and the beer Billy spilled in the air conditioner and whatever other bit of havoc they came up with. Bernard's other main role was to drive the van. They said van, but it was really a converted make-up bus that Bernard bought for 275 New Zealand dollars on his second day as manager after he realized that trekking all their gear was not only tiring, but attracted the wrong kind of attention from both the New Zealand police and criminal element.
(At this point, Elijah always interjects that the van actually cost 275 New Zealand dollars and three hours of Elijah's precious time volunteered to dj someone's wedding for free. He played three hours of Lionel Ritchie for that van and he never lets anyone forget it. Though, Bernard has noticed that to this day Elijah looks a little queasy if he hears "Say You, Say Me.")
Bernard's title is "manager," but he's never done quite as much for any of the artists he worked with before. Sure, he scheduled gigs and before Ian came along he scrounged up interviews and made sure they got paid and he still does all that. But, Bernard also runs interference with the over-eager fans, babysits Liv's newborn (and both of Sean's girls before that), listens when Billy gets frustrated with Dom, and buys Dom a pint when Billy gets so frustrated that he won't let Dom back into their hotel room. Before Peter and Fran, Bernard had a hard and fast rule about never lifting things, but now he carries the Aeolian Wind Harp. Before Peter and Fran, he didn't actually know what the hell an Aeolian Wind Harp was, nor did he care. He's the manager, but he's a lot of other things too. Once, he even found himself playing doctor, stitching up Bean's arm after Orlando accidentally sliced him with a kitchen knife.
(The "slicing incident" is still a particular bone of contention. Orlando maintains that he was pushed into Bean, but he's never been able to identify the assailant and to the best of Bernard's knowledge, everyone has a reliable alibi. Daisy and Cate swear up and down that Orlando threatened Bean's life over the outcome of a football match and Lawrence thinks the whole thing started with something Bean suggested about Orlando's mother that Lawrence wouldn't dream of repeating. Meanwhile, the injured party himself has never had anything to say about any of it other than "Bloody fuck mate, hurry up and close the thing before I bleed out all over the van.")
The thing about it all is that Bernard doesn't do any of it just because it's his job and he's never enjoyed any job quite so much. So, backstage in Dublin, almost six years since that fateful meeting, Bernard lets Sala and Lawrence supervise things and indulges by actually watching the entire show, from "Bard and Pirate" through Bono's appearance and the subsequent rendition of "Until the End of the World" (Viggo singing and Bono flailing at Dom's guitar while Elijah made the actual music) and political speechifying (note to self: never allow Bono and Viggo to share a stage again), through to the second encore of something that Bernard thinks is an experimental funk version of "the taste of strawberries."
Bernard still thinks they're probably geniuses, but he's also sure he'd rather be part of the whole thing even if it means never getting to watch. Billy's the last one playing and eventually he fades out as well, leaving just Daisy's soft singing which no longer seems to be made up of actual words until the lights go dark abruptly and the opening band's manager drops his mobile due to enthusiastic clapping.
(But, from his post behind the stage right amp, Sala could tell you that Bernard doesn't see any of this because he's already backstage making sure security's lining the hallway and that the catering staff has towels and bottled water ready for the band.)
It's two hours until final set-up, three hours to doors, but Sala isn't thinking about either of those things. He's also not thinking about the hassles with the venue crew, who obviously don't believe in getting an early start on much of anything except a round down at the pub before dinner and have just started trickling in, or the mass of instruments and equipment that have only been half-unloaded from the vans.
Instead he's standing in a loose semi-circle with the roadies and some of the crew, watching in respectful silence as Orlando and Elijah do battle in the small orchestra pit. Technically, it's a free-form fight, but it's no street scrimmage - etiquette is strictly enforced and absolutely obeyed: each combatant may employ any and all moves in his repertoire according to his school or mastery. A neutral third party provides the hacky sack.
Frankly, Sala is impressed that Elijah has lasted this long. The kid is good - better than good - and Sala's never seen anyone combine East and West Coast American technique with quite the same lighting invention, or plain balls-out panache.
No one knows who taught Orlando. Orlando refuses to talk about it.
"I heard a rumor he was self-taught," Lawrence said to Sala once. They were watching Orlando destroy Karl's defensive attempt at Sideways Bridge of Stars with a precise, fatal Hanging Butterfly. "That's what the others think, anyhow."
Sala considered it a possibility, though the only self-taught hacky masters he'd ever heard of had both come out of Japan in the early '90s, and both of them had vanished. He considered it a possibility, until Orlando tripped over a shoe leaving the room and nearly cracked a rib against the catering services table. Again.
Still, somewhere between London and Wellington Orlando had mastered hacky sack and turned it into something like a sacred art. His march across Europe towards total domination seemed inexorable, unstoppable. Urban, Boyd, and even Monaghan were met and demolished in a series of contests carried out in venues, hotel rooms, public parks, and airports. There was no one left, now, except Elijah.
Sala feels a bit sorry for him.
So far the second round has been fierce and fast, but Elijah's beginning to flail, exhausted. He tries Tree of Secrets, Flowers of Fire, even Neck of the Swan with an unexpected Southern California drop of the ankle, but Orlando is just starting to get interested. He counters with a deceptively slow Chilean Poison Lily and then a lightning Fisher King Stab, faster than Elijah can rejoin, and Sala's palms itch with adrenaline, he can feel Orlando coiling himself up to end it at last -
Then Elijah's hand snaps out of nowhere, snatching the hacky from mid-air as he gasps, "I call!"
Orlando steps back immediately. "Call," he says.
Elijah retreats to his corner where Dom and Billy immediately leap up from where they're crouched and pull him into a defensive huddle. Sala weaves quickly through the murmuring crowd to where he can hear Elijah saying, nearly broken, "I can't, he, every time I think I've got an opening, he starts with his Jedi mind tricks, I can't -"
"Remember what we told you," Billy says quickly. "You know things he doesn't, too. Pacific Rim Strike, Harlem Dancing Dog -"
"What good is Harlem Dancing Dog going to do me against - against - that thing he just pulled, I don't even know what that's called, Jesus," Elijah interrupts. He looks pretty rattled, Sala thinks, and with good reason, too.
"It's called Canterbury Iron Hand," Sala says. "You haven't heard of it because he told me he invented it last week."
Elijah rubs a hand over his face. "Jesus Christ. I'm so dead."
Sala can't come up with any kind of convincing counter-argument to simple truth, so he simply shakes his head, slaps Elijah on the back and returns to his place in the crowd. Bernard steps up next to him companionably.
"Care to make a wager?" Bernard is all smiles. Bernard also won a sizable sum of money and three rounds of beer off Sala during the last tour.
"It's bad luck to bet on your friends," Lawrence puts in, seriously. Lawrence is entirely too serious sometimes.
Sala grins. "Elijah to win?"
"A blind dog wouldn't take that bet," says Bernard, still smiling, and wanders off to find a more foolish crew member.
Across the circle, Sala sees Dom straighten up, looking grim. He says to Billy and Elijah, "This isn't over. We've held him off for too long to fall down at the end. Wait here."
Dom makes his way over to where Orlando is slouched against the edge of the stage, waiting. He sips from a tall plastic cup of iced coffee. Dom puts his palms together in front of his chest and bows, waiting until Orlando sets his coffee down and does the same. Chatter amongst the crowd quiets.
"We do battle here to bring honor to both sides," Dom intones, loud enough to be heard by everyone. Orlando gives a brief, zen nod.
"But there is no honor in slaughter," Dom says.
"Agreed," Orlando says solemnly, then dampens the effect somewhat by taking a slurp of coffee through the straw. "State your terms."
"No Backwards Summer Crane, Folding Lotus, Disrobing Monk or Nine-Tailed Tiger," Dom says. He pauses, licks his lips. "And no Winged Serpent of Quetzalcoatl."
Orlando looks away, considering. There is absolute silence from the gathered circle. Sala wonders if he will take the bait. The ban on Winged Serpent is a tall order, indeed.
Finally Orlando says, "Horse Descending Staircase?"
Dom swallows, but says, "Allowed."
"Agreed," Dom says. They bow again in tandem.
Billy and Dom take their places across the circle, arms folded in an identical pose. Then Elijah is coming forward again with renewed determination. Orlando pushes away from the stage slowly, sets down his coffee. They stand opposite each other and Sala feels the crowd breathe in, waiting. It's an hour and forty-five minutes until final set-up, and no one is the slightest bit concerned.
Orlando's being flirted with, heavily.
"And the tambourine fucking makes 'Bard and Pirate'" The kid looks straight at him when he says it, smiling like it's something he's sure Orlando needs to hear and doesn't get enough of.
"Thanks," Orlando nods. "That's very kind."
The kid's name is James, or maybe Jamie. He's at least five years younger than Orlando, possibly more, and he's lovely really, but Orlando actually only stopped to sign an autograph or two and be polite. That was all. No matter what Elijah, who's smirking horribly at him, might be thinking.
The last time he was in L.A., Orlando's therapist said that perhaps in the past Orlando's been a bit too eager to engage in sex when he ran out of things to talk about. Actually, Orlando might have actually been lead into saying that himself, but it's all the same really. In either case, he can see how there might be other ways to keep a person hanging around, but sex is something he's rather good at.
"Really, the club is brilliant. You should go while you can."
The kid has his hand on Orlando's elbow, arm lifting just high enough to lift his shirt and show a patch of skin on his hip. Orlando looks at the hand and tries to keep his frown mental. There's a book in his knapsack that he'd rather be spending time with.
"It does sound lovely. I'll have to remember it for next time." Orlando smiles and nods towards the van. "We've got to head out now though."
"Oh. Right then." The kid's frown is quite visible. "Well, why don't I give you my number, for when you get back?"
"Sure," Orlando nods. "Sure. Just write it down."
Back inside the van, Orlando stretches out on the back seat next to Liv. She's counting to herself and knitting something red and orange. It looks like it's going to be a hat. Liv's his favorite Peter and Fran member at this point in the touring process. She doesn't force him to join in on stealing Karl's underwear and then run and hide when an angry Karl starts hurling smelly socks at the suspects. She also tends to understand when he's too tired to answer questions in complete sentences. Unlike Viggo, who seems to think that everything he asks should be given at least a full paragraph for a response.
Orlando leans against the window and looks back out the venue. The group of fans that was there is disbursing slowly and Orlando wonders if there'd be a way to go out and dance and hang out, have a drunken conversation about the latest episode of some television show, and then head back to the hotel and sleep. That could be nice.
Liv pokes him. "Hand me that bag over there?" She points at a green bag closer to Orlando's feet than hers. He drags it up and passes it over, then watches as she wraps more red yarn around one of the knitting needles.
"You want to rent a movie when we get back?" Liv looks up at him again. "I'm totally craving popcorn."
Orlando grins and nods a little, rubbing at the back of his head. Reading alone in a hotel room is a bit grim for a Sunday evening. "Yes, perfect. But not too much butter on the popcorn, yeah?"