"You're in London," Karl said into the phone, sliding over on the leather bench seat to let a woman with a little girl in a stroller sit next to him. He hadn't expected the airport to be this crowded. "Sight-seeing?"
"I've barely had any time off since I was seventeen," Elijah answered. "Might as well take this break as a vacation."
"Break?" Karl bugged his eyes out at the girl and she blinked back at him, smiling brightly. "Is that what we're calling it? I never did get a read on that."
Before what Elijah was calling the break, the band had been in L.A., taking meetings about a ridiculous movie soundtrack they were being asked to do when Viggo had just disappeared. Viggo had been conflicted, Dom and Elijah had wanted to do it, Bean and Karl hadn't and no one else had been quite sure. Friday Viggo had said something about "figuring the mess out" and come Monday hadn't shown up for meetings or rehearsals.
Karl wasn't sure how everyone else had felt, but he had known things had been tense before Viggo left and would only have gotten worse without him, so when they were all sure Viggo wasn't off being tortured by crazed fans or something and it came time to make a decision, Karl had voted not to record until Viggo came back. He'd been careful not to use the word 'if,' but he'd thought it.
Elijah sighed a little bit. "Yeah, Karl. Viggo'll be back from wherever the hell and we'll start up again. That's what Bernard said and he's not much of a liar."
Karl thought Elijah sounded tired for someone on a vacation, but of course, Karl was only used to talking to Elijah after at least three cups of coffee, meaning this might just be what he sounded like on less caffeine. Karl decided not to ask.
"Anyway, yes, I'm in London. I did a few club dates."
"Yeah, Daisy said that he saw one. You were great, of course?" The little girl started kicking at the bottom of her stroller and waving to get Karl's attention. He waved at her and she giggled.
"Right," Elijah laughed. "Daisy told me that you were off in the middle of nowhere recording something?"
"Just session stuff, Kiwi musicians." The girl's mother looked up from her magazine and smiled at him. "When are you headed back to L.A.?"
There was a long pause and Karl heard Elijah light a cigarette on the other end of the phone. Karl rolled his eyes and leaned back on the bench. "Lij?"
"Yeah, sorry. Um, I'm actually going to New York. I've got some more gigs and I'm going to do a remix or two for the Strokes." Karl could picture Elijah blinking and searching for his thoughts. "I'm not really sure when I'll get back home, but Dom's staying in the guest house still, so."
Elijah stopped and Karl waited, but there wasn't anything else. Karl sighed. "He's still in L.A., then. Did he get a gig or something?" Karl knew the answer and part of him thought it was mean to make Elijah answer.
"I don't think so." Elijah coughed a little. "I haven't actually talked to him, with the time difference and you know, the weird club hours. Sean said that when he suggested Dom babysit the girls the other day, Dom told him he was busy, so I bet he got something. And I'll only be in New York for a little while. Barely enough time for Dom to even notice I've been gone."
Karl had learned after hours of mixing songs that weren't quite coming together that the faster Elijah talked, the less he believed what he was saying. "Kinda like you're running away, eh?"
Silence. Karl turned back to the little girl who'd found a stuffed toy to play with. He watched her dance the little horse across her leg.
"After Viggo left, I went home, right?" Elijah inhaled and exhaled and Karl pictured tendrils of smoke. "I unpacked all my shit in my mom's guest house, sat and stared at her pool and chain smoked for three days. Then Hannah came out, told me I was being an idiot and I got over it."
"Yeah," Karl nodded to himself, the phone tapping against his cheekbone. "I didn't even need three days. But, it's different with him, Lij. I know you know that better than anyone. "
"Yeah, I do, Karl and I know you've all decided that I'm on Dom duty or something. Have you talked to him since he came to L.A.?" Karl hadn't and he knew Elijah wasn't really asking. "I've been there the whole time, I've done everything I can think of to help him get his shit together and it's not my fucking fault that he spends most of every day playing 'Nowhere Man' over and over on that banged up guitar of his."
"Okay, that is depressing." He rested his head on the back of the chair. "Maybe what Dom wants isn't what you should be helping him with, mate. The problem isn't the band. It's Billy."
"I know that too, but no matter how much I try, that's not a problem I can solve." Elijah's voice bristled a little, but Karl wasn't one to dance around things. "Just like none of us could be Viggo, you know?"
Karl knew and he knew none of it was Elijah's fault and he was trying to find a way to say that when they announced his flight. "Bugger, I have to run. My flight." Karl stood up. "Look, I know. It's not your fault and don't worry about getting back to L.A. Maybe I'll make a stop there."
"That'd be nice," Elijah exhaled heavily against Karl's ear. "Dom would love to see you, I'm sure."
They said good-bye and Karl tucked his phone into his carry-on. As he stood up the little girl smiled at him and waved. He waved back before walking away and wondered how long before she forgot all about him.
Elijah was enjoying New York. He was working a little but the kind of work that was so much fun it might as well have been a vacation. Plus, there were record stores on practically every block and he'd had drinks with Julian Casablancas three times since arriving. All in all, he was pretty happy.
Of course, he wasn't so happy that that he didn't know the answer when Dom called on the third Tuesday in November to ask "how long since Viggo left?"
Dom didn't bother with hello and his voice was scratchy from sleep or cigarettes or both.
"Five months, three weeks and four days," Elijah said without even thinking. Mostly, Elijah was surprised he didn't know the exact hours
"Yeah," Dom said and Elijah frowned wondering if Dom was as hung-over as he sounded. "Well, he's back."
Elijah looked up from his computer and blinked at the VCR clock. Four o'clock. Only one in L.A. "Is he there?"
Dom coughed. "No. Well, he's not here in your guest house, but yes, here in the city." There was a pause and Elijah reached for his cigarettes, hand stopping in mid-air when he remembered there were none left in the pack. "He called me."
Elijah waited for Dom to say something else, but he didn't. The clock ticked over to four-oh-one. "Well, where was he?"
"Tibet," Dom answered, but he sounded unsure. "Monks and meditation and all that."
Elijah shook his head. "Huh." He didn't quite know what else to say. Things were kind of a mess and Viggo had been in Tibet. Elijah laughed a little. Maybe Viggo had gotten some answers. "That's--"
"It's the typical Viggo bullshit, Lij." Dom inhaled sharply. "Anyway, I thought you might want to know."
"Tibet," Elijah said, repeating himself. "You should, you know, see him."
Dom laughed, but there was no amusement there. "Maybe he can teach me a new chant." Elijah bit his lip to hold back a sigh. "We're going to have dinner next week, I guess."
"That's good," Elijah said, but he couldn't manage to sound as enthusiastic as he probably should.
There was another pause and Elijah thought that if he stacked together all the pauses in all the conversations he'd had with the band over the last three months, he could fill three albums with dead noise that no one could ever dance to.
"How's New York?" Dom asked, his voice laced with forced cheer.
"Good, good." Elijah started to say he'd be home soon, but he didn't know if that was true and he didn't want to lie. "Weather's kind of awful, though." He knew if he stopped talking there'd be more awkward silence, but he couldn't come up with anything else to say.
It hadn't been this bad when Dom first got to L.A. They'd gone surfing a few times, had dinner with Orli and Ian and with Sean and his family. Dom had taken the girls to Disneyland one afternoon and when he'd come back, he'd thrown himself across the futon he had been using as a bed and had grinned up at Elijah. He had looked older than when they'd first met, which had made sense, but had somehow still been surprising, possibly because it had made Elijah realize he was older, too.
When they'd had sex that time-- after the band broke up instead of before it started, like bookends-- it had been different in a similarly obvious but surprising way. It had been heavier and slower, but it hadn't been dark and Dom had laughed when he came. Afterwards, Elijah hadn't even felt that weird telling Dom that Billy had called while he had been out.
He had tried to talk to Dom before leaving for London, but Elijah had never been good at convincing Dom of something he didn't want to hear. There was only one person who was good at that and Dom hadn't said anything about him in months. At least not to Elijah.
"I gotta go," Dom finally said.
Elijah sighed and he hated that he felt relieved. Maybe Karl was right and Elijah was running away. "Love you," Elijah said.
"You too." There was a moment when Elijah thought they might say something that mattered, but then there was a click when Dom hung up and Elijah stared at the phone for a minute before doing the same.
Dom dropped his messenger bag to the floor by the table and looked around the restaurant. He sat down and watched the entrance. Five minutes later, Viggo appeared at the hostess stand. He smiled politely at her and scanned the room, mouth breaking into a wide grin when he saw Dom. Dom smiled back faintly and stood up again.
"Dominic!" Viggo said, approaching the table and wrapping Dom in a hug that lifted him a bit of the ground. Viggo's shirt was soft cotton and smelled faintly of smoke and incense. "It's so good to see you."
"Welcome back," Dom said, taking his seat and nodding at Viggo to do the same. "You were in Tibet?"
Viggo nodded, his eyes brightening as he started rattling on about monks and meditation and prayers and quiet. Dom played with his napkin and rolled his eyes. It was a simple question and now Dom had to sit and hear about the food and the smell of the temple fires and the color of the sky at dusk and the way snow looks at a high enough altitude.
But Dom didn't interrupt with the joke he knew about two Tibetan monks and the Dali Lama walking into a bar and he didn't even pretend to listen. Instead his mind wandered to the bad Brad Pitt movie about Tibet that he had watched with Billy, Liv and Daisy one night on tour in Portugal because it had been the only thing on in English. Liv had liked it, but later Billy had laughed and said she was just a sucker for a pretty boy, just like Billy himself.
Dom blinked back to reality and Viggo was looking at him expectantly. "Hmmm... What was that?" Dom asked.
"Sorry, sorry, I'm sure I'm boring you." Viggo sipped from the beer that had been brought to him while he was talking. Dom shook his head a little, but didn't ask Viggo to go on. "What are you doing in L.A.? Is everyone here?"
Dom blinked and took a long drink of his Corona. There was a cut on his lip that stung when the lime touched it. Viggo waited, sitting forward in his listening position.
"Sean's in town and Orli's here, I think. He was working for a while, but he's back now."
"Working?" Viggo tipped his head to the side.
"He's gone back to the acting. He had a little part in some war movie, but mostly he's taking some classes, reading some scripts. I think." Dom twisted his ring around his finger. "I haven't seen him in a few months."
Viggo bit his lip and looked like he was considering. "He gave up music, then?"
Dom laughed and he wondered when his laugh started sounding so harsh. "Vig, he's never been a musician. Just, you know, in the band."
"The tambourine is highly underrated, mate." Viggo grinned and if Dom were in the mood he could have said it in unison and with a much better version of Orli's accent than Viggo managed. Instead Dom just shrugged at Viggo and his smile faltered.
"But, he's not in the band anymore?"
Dom squinted and opened his mouth. He closed it again, looked down. On his hand he'd written "point of view" in thick blue ink. He looked back up and frowned. "There's no band to be in, is there Vig?"
Viggo stopped, his glass halfway to his mouth from the table. Dom didn't give him the chance to respond.
"You get that, don't you? It's our band, yeah, but you left. You disappeared and we were all fighting about shit anyway and--" Dom finished the Corona. "What the hell did you think was going to happen?"
Dom hadn't been angry. For a little over five months, Dom hadn't been angry. He hadn't been angry when Bernard said Viggo was "fine, but you know him. He'll be off for a while." Dom hadn't been angry when Karl and Sean and Orli didn't want to keep on without Viggo or when Dom got back to Manchester and his friends and family acted like he was a different person, he smiled and tried to be that person. And when that didn't work and he just gave up and left, he still wasn't angry.
Dom hadn't been angry even a little when Billy wouldn't move to the States or when after a month apart Billy decided that long-distance wasn't enough. Dom wasn't angry when he couldn't find another gig and he couldn't really afford his own place. When Elijah had tired of spending half his time watching Dom get high and play video games and the other half having sex with someone who loved him but not really that way, Dom had understood completely and he hadn't gotten angry at all.
Viggo set his glass down carefully on the white tablecloth. "I don't-- But, we were in the middle of the live album. I told Bernard you should finish it and start on the next LP. I--" Viggo closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, like he was centering his chi or some bloody bullshit.
"Fuck you, Vig." Dom stood up. "It's our fault that we let you twist us into something that's completely wrapped up in you, but you are so fucking oblivious to everything going on around you." Dom wanted to pace, but he was in public and it was early for dinner in L.A., but there were still people. "You can't leave. You can't go to Tibet for five months, four weeks and two days and just expect that we're all here waiting just the way you left us. People change."
"Of course they change." Viggo was still sitting. He had his patient face on and Dom resisted the urge to throw his fork at it. "I don't expect you to be the same. I just didn't expect that you'd break up the band." Viggo frowned and then looked at Dom like he'd just figured something out.
"Don't," Dom warned, bending to pick up his bag. Clearly all the anger had just been waiting for the right person.
Viggo leaned down, hand outstretched like Dom was a potentially unfriendly animal. "Where's Billy, Dom?"
"Fuck Tibet, Viggo." Dom stood up quickly, Viggo's hand brushing his shoulder. "And fuck you."
Dom stormed out of the restaurant and the air outside tasted like sulfur and citrus.
Viggo had learned a lot of self-discipline from the monks, so he managed to wait until it was a reasonable hour in England before calling Sean. It meant he had to fight his jet lag to stay up past nine o'clock, but he meditated a bit and chanted and had three shots of espresso. The monks hadn't mentioned the caffeine part, but they had been big on using the resources one had at hand.
"Sean," Viggo said before Sean had even finished saying hello. "You let the band break up?"
"Viggo Mortensen, as I live and breathe." Sean chuckled. "How was Tibet?"
"I told you where I was going. Did you tell them?" Viggo couldn't believe Sean was laughing. "I thought you were going to release the live disc."
"We did. Called it Good Morning, Antwerp, Sean's idea, I think or maybe Lij." Sean's voice sounded rough from sleep. Viggo's definition of reasonable might not be the same as some other people's, but Sean was always a morning person.
"Bernard was going to send you a copy, but I guess you can't trust the post in Tibet. How was that, by the way?"
Viggo shook his head, momentarily distracted by the album title. "Dom and Billy broke up."
"Yeah, I know. I saw Billy last week, actually. I think he's seeing some dancer." Sean paused and Viggo sat down on his living room floor. It was worse than he thought. "How was Tibet, Viggo?"
"Will you stop asking me that?" Viggo stretched one leg out in front of him on the rug. It was made of hemp and dyed a brilliant red. "Billy's dating someone else? How the--"
"Dom moved to L.A., Billy stayed in Scotland and turns out they're not the long-distance type. Same as the rest of us, apparently." Sean's voice was carefully casual, but Viggo could hear the disapproval underneath. "Now, Viggo do tell. How. Was. Tibet?"
"Jesus!" Viggo slammed his hand against the coffee table. "Tibet was fucking perfect, all right? I was centered and it was everything I hoped and I figured a lot of shit out. Tibet would have been one of the best things I ever did if I hadn't come back to fucking chaos." Viggo flexed his hand. He maybe shouldn't have had so much espresso.
"Well, Viggo, what did you expect? You left." Sean sounded less casual now and Viggo could hear the iced metal tone Sean took when he knew he was going to have to disagree with someone and he really wished it could all just work itself out. Viggo had never been a fan of that tone.
"And? I expected things to go on without me. I'm not the frontman, Sean. No one knows that better than you guys. I thought you'd all be fine." Viggo was just starting to realize how ridiculous that sounded, but he couldn't help holding onto it. The monks would be disappointed as well-- one was supposed to let go of the baggage and the weight of the world. But letting go didn't sound as easy as it had in Tibet. "You were supposed to keep them together while I was gone."
"Vig, no one could keep that lot together. We weren't working even before you left between the fighting over the movie soundtrack and the constant travel. I think even Orlando was yelling at people. I couldn't have done anything." Sean sighed and something rustled on his end of the phone. "I don't think anyone could have, mate. Not even you, center of the universe or not."
Viggo laughed and pulled his legs into the lotus position. He tapped a beat against the rug with his bruised hand. "So," Viggo started and then stopped when he realized the beat was "Because of the Guatemalans." He hummed the melody and Sean laughed.
"How do I fix it?" Viggo asked after a few seconds. "I mean. Can I?"
Sean sighed and it sounded fond and vaguely amused in a way that was so uniquely Sean that Viggo really wished Sean weren't all the way across the ocean. Viggo also sort of wished he had never gone to Tibet, but clearly it was too late for that.
"Vig, you can always fix it. But, for future reference? Running away to Tibet isn't the best way." Sean paused and Viggo could practically see him thinking. Viggo pressed his hands against his knees, inhaled, exhaled and waited. "All right."
"There's a plan?" Viggo had fucked things up, but whatever Sean planned would work, Viggo was sure.
"You're coming to England. Band meeting, gather the troops, come to Jesus and all of that. Getting Dom and Billy in the same room will probably fix that problem, knowing them. Then we'll hammer out the rest."
Viggo nodded and stood up quickly. He would have to pack and call Exene to have her keep Henry another week or so. "There's going to be shouting, isn't there?"
"'The faults of others are easy to see," Sean quoted, "but the faults of our own are difficult to recognize.'"
"Oh, fuck off," but Viggo was laughing.
"Pack your bags. I'll have Bernard get the plane tickets and I'll make sure everyone's coming." Sean paused and then laughed. "We're putting all the expenses on your credit card."
When Viggo hung up, he felt calmer than he had in ages. Maybe spending more time with Sean would have been just as good as any monastery in Tibet. He sighed and went to repack his things and didn't bother to meditate before going to sleep.