Sean hears the rhythmic thumping of a mattress in its shelf before he sees that the curtain that divides the bunks from the rest of the bus has been unceremoniously drawn closed. By then, he already has a pretty good idea what's going on.
"Elijah," he hisses, but Elijah doesn't look up from where he's sitting on the other couch because he's got his big ear muff headphones on.
"Elijah," Sean hisses, slightly louder, although why he's the one trying to keep it down so he doesn't wake anyone up, he has no idea.
Elijah looks up from where he's camped out listening to his iPod and scribbling in a notepad and slips off his headphones. "What?" he says.
Sean jerks his head toward the flimsily closed curtain. "Someone is having sex in the bunks," he says.
"Yeah?" Elijah says, questioning. Then he tilts his head and says, "Oh, yeah. Yeah, you're right."
"So?" Sean says.
"So?" Elijah answers.
"So, there's a rule about having sex on the bus," Sean says, waving his hands. He lifts his laptop from his lap so he doesn't accidentally knock it over. He was trying to edit footage with the sound off, but there's no point now. "There's a rule," Sean repeats. "A no-sex-on-the-bus rule."
Elijah smirks irritatingly. "There is not," he says. "You propose a rule every tour and every tour you get voted down."
"Yeah, well," Sean says, folding his arms across his chest, "this is why."
Elijah laughs, which makes the whole thing even more annoying, because if Elijah's content to live out the dorm experience he never had, that's fine, but Christine's supposed to bring the girls out soon, but he can't exactly have them stay here if it's going to smell like a flophouse all the time. And Sean's not the only person in the band who has kids who might want to come out for a stretch. Really, this is exactly why he wanted to get two buses this time, instead of the one bus with the option to drive separately or fly to shows if you're Liv and you have the baby, because two buses would have solved a lot of these problems and Sean's the one who would have been the most inconvenienced by it, he's the one who would have been bopping back and forth between three buses to get all the footage he needed, but--
"I wonder who it is," Elijah says after a while.
"Yeah, me too," Sean agrees. "I didn't think I saw anyone get on after the show."
Elijah shrugs. At the same moment, there's an unmistakably masculine but at the same time unidentifiable grunt and the thumping stops. Elijah giggles. "Maybe in a couple minutes I'll go back and have a cigarette and see what I can see."
One rule Sean has managed to institute this time around is that all smoking on the bus -- cigarette or otherwise -- is relegated to the bathroom. As a result, the bathroom smells like an ashtray that's been doused in bong water, but it's better than the alternative. For a group of people who profess to be environmentally conscious, Sean finds his fellow band mates to be woefully ignorant about the effects of second-hand smoke.
When Elijah emerges from behind the curtain about ten minutes later, his forehead is wrinkled with confusion. "That was really weird," he says.
"Well, it was Orlando and some guy."
"Oh yeah," said Sean, rolling his eyes. "That's really surprising."
"No, shut up," Elijah says, walking over to re-arrange himself on the couch. "That wasn't the weird part. The weird part was that I'm sure I've seen him before. The guy."
"Like, someone who's famous?"
"No, not like that," Elijah says, shaking his head. "Like I've seen him before with Orlando."
Sean rolls his eyes. Stranger things have happened, he supposes. But not on this bus.
Dom's favorite part of touring is going to sleep in one place and waking up in another. If he could always sleep in a moving vehicle, he would, even if it meant that he had to share his space with Sean's camera and Orli's wheat juice and Karl's books left everywhere for him to trip over. One night, they pile onto the bus in Pennsylvania and when he wakes up, it's hot and sticky despite the air conditioner and the driver tells him they're in Kentucky and it's something like time travel.
It's early still and Dom's tired, but now he's awake, so he gets up, dropping to the ground as quietly as he can. He decides he wants a smoke, but someone's in the loo, so he makes the driver stop. Dom steps out into the morning and if it was hot on the bus, it's like Satan's sauna outside. Dom strips his t-shirt and drops it on the ground before lighting the fag and looking up at the sky. Sean comes out and smiles, sitting on the bus stairs.
Dom nods and exhales, the smoke disappearing into the light. "No camera?" He grins a little to take the sting out of his tone.
Sean shrugs. "'Cause I don't have enough footage of you smoking?" He laughs and looks up at the sky. "Also, I need to get more film from the crew bus and they didn't stop."
Dom laughs and Sean stays there as Dom smokes, their comfortable silence broken only by some birds in the distance. When Dom finishes, Sean holds out a plastic cup with a bit of water in the bottom for the fag end.
"Thanks, mate." Dom grabs his shirt and follows Sean back inside, taking one more look at the hazy early morning before the driver closes the door behind them.
Billy is sitting in the little booth at the front of the bus, two mugs of tea on the table in front of him. Dom takes the one closest to him and nods his thanks, leaning against the little counter that constitutes their kitchen to steady himself as the bus lurches to a start.
"Have we been to Kentucky, before?" Orli asks. He's sitting across from Billy, eating a slice of strawberry from the edge of Viggo's pocket knife. "This part?"
They all look at Sean, standing next to Dom making instant coffee. "I don't think we've, like, stopped here. But, maybe. It wouldn't look the same anyway; we haven't toured in years." Sean dumps a spoonful of sugar into his coffee and winces a little when he drinks it, from the bitterness or maybe the heat, Dom isn't sure.
"I hope we have." Orli smiles and lifts another berry from the green plastic basket in front of him. "It's a nice idea, you know? That we just keep passing through the same places and they keep changing enough that we don't recognize them." He cuts a bad spot off the berry and then slices what's left and lifts the knife to his mouth.
Billy chuckles into his tea cup and looks over at Dom as if to say that Orli is clearly cracked. And he is, of course, that's a given, but Dom thinks that maybe he understands exactly what Orli's talking about, that it's a lot like the way Dom feels about sleeping on the bus. So he raises his eyebrows and shrugs a bit at Billy, who just chuckles again, this time at Dom.
Dom sips his tea and when he's done, heads back to his bunk, stealing a berry from Orli's basket on the way. He hears Billy's cup clatter into the sink and pauses to wait for him, wondering where they'll be the next time they wake up.
It's Daisy's first real hotel shower in a week and he's determined to enjoy it. Even if he has a total of ten seconds to enjoy it in. The shampoo is ecstasy, conditioner is a triumph, and who can blame him for pausing in front of the mirror to floss twice before applying product?
He's putting the cap back on the toothpaste when someone slams at the door and then yanks it open.
"Daisy, fuck. Move." Karl's in the bathroom and dragging Daisy out again in a matter of moments, throwing a pair of jeans at him without even a thought to their cleanliness or appropriateness for the weather. Daisy catches them and wrinkles his nose. "No." Karl holds up a finger.
Since the activity from the previous evening consisted of Daisy throwing down his rucksack onto the odd lumpy chair in the corner of the room, pulling off his clothes, and falling dead asleep on top of the bed, there isn't much packing to be done. Karl manages to make a disaster out of it anyway, throwing Daisy's still damp shampoo bottle straight into the bag with Daisy's dirty socks. Next Karl leans down to pick up the sneakers by his feet and flings them over at Daisy who is currently balanced precariously on one foot, hopping, and attempting to drag the rather unclean and wrinkled jeans on while still mostly damp himself.
Daisy thinks that the least Karl could have done was throw him a towel first. He tugs on his shoes and is bending over to tie them when Karl comes barreling towards him again, Daisy's rucksack swung over his shoulder.
"No, no. No bloody time for tying." Karl tugs Daisy out the door, down the corridor, and onto the elevator, hitting the large red "L" button three times before he steps away. "Holy fuck mate, it's not a six am morning show. It's lunch. There are small children sitting there, on bloody carpet things, waiting for this."
"Christ, it's only--" Daisy scowls and peers at the little digital clock built into the elevator wall. "Oh. Alright," he frowns.
"Yes." Karl coughs. "Exactly."
"Hate the little buggers anyway." Daisy kicks at the elevator carpet and crosses his arms. "They always want to know about my eyeliner. As if a man doesn't have the right to wear eyeliner?" Daisy sighs. "How far to this library anyway?"
"They're ten year olds." The elevator has mirrored walls and Daisy can see Karl looking disapprovingly at him in the reflection. "You don't enjoy ten year olds, you just hope you can mold them into something less unpleasant."
Karl points at the clock and the doors open onto what is apparently the fifth floor. A slightly balding man steps on and nods at them, then blinks a bit at Daisy's bare chest before turning around, quickly. Daisy decides silence is the best option and bends down to tie at least one of his shoes.
Dom just wants to have a fag, but Billy wakes up so hung over that when Karl says, "if we don't smoke up right now, I'll either die or kill someone or both," Billy's inclined to agree. Which is how all three of them end up in the cramped bus bathroom at once, Billy sitting on the toilet, Dom with his bum in the sink and his feet dangling in Billy's lap and Karl standing somewhat crouched near the shower, packing the bowl with a serious expression.
"For fuck's sake," Dom says, "Sean's not here, we should just go into the lounge and do it there, this is ridiculous."
Billy holds up the ceramic coffee mug that's wedged between his knees so Dom can deposit his fag end and squeezes one of Dom's ankles with his other hand. "Now, now," he says. He knows Dom's just testy because Karl always takes forever to pack the pipe. "got a point about the second-hand smoke, he does. Especially with Milo on the bus sometimes."
"Besides," says Karl at the end of his first long, contented exhale of smoke, "there's no point." He passes the pipe and lighter to Billy and adds darkly, "He'd smell it."
Despite the bathroom's current unfortunate resemblance to a clown car, the bus is actually pretty empty this morning: Sean's driving separately with Christine and the girls, Liv has opted to fly with Milo so she can get in early and meet up with Roy and Viggo's on the crew bus having some kind of State of the Harp Strings pow wow with Sala. There aren't even any overnight guests to be accounted for, Billy's pretty sure. Even Orlando hasn't had someone on the bus in a week.
Still, when nearly half the population of the bus is packed in the bathroom, it feels very crowded, and with the door closed, hot boxing is inevitable, so Billy's grateful for the illusion of fresh air when the door opens. It's Orlando on the other side, cell phone in one hand and a confused expression on his face. "Oh, hey, hi, hello," he says, three greetings to mean the same thing.
"Orlando!" Dom says, waving from his perch on the sink. "How are you, lad? Good to see you, welcome to our fine establishment. Would you like to--" he's momentarily overcome by a fit of giggles and Billy wonders if it's just that they've been together so long that he actually thinks it's cute how red Dom's nose gets when he's stoned. "Would you like to hear today's specials?" Dom finally manages, before he collapses with laughter again. Billy grabs ahold of his ankle again, this time to keep him from falling out of the sink.
Karl reclaims the pipe from Dom and gestures in Orlando's direction. "Catch of the day," he says. "Very fresh."
Orlando shakes his head. "No, thanks," he says. "I was just going to," he waves the hand that's holding his phone slightly, but trails off without finishing his sentence. "You know, anyway," he says, and starts to slip away.
He's trapped, though, because Elijah's right behind him, a book of matches and his smelly clove cigarettes in hand. "Oh, come on, you guys, you gotta let me in," Elijah moans. "I'm completely dying here."
"Why don't I go up front and tell them we want to stop for a smoke break?" Orlando says, and slides past Elijah like he's on wheels.
"It might be the," Karl gestures with the pipe again and Elijah shrugs, reaches the short distance across Dom and Billy and takes it, "talking," Karl continues, but what was he on about?"
Billy shrugs, which is about all he's capable of when his brain feels like big tufts of cotton. When Elijah finishes taking a hit, Billy reaches out his hand, figuring he might as well cooperate with the inevitable.
Viggo looks up when Orlando slides into the common space with a little secret smile, half a hard-on, and tosses his phone onto the couch cushions.
Viggo's kneeling on the floor. He glances up from the mess of polaroids and sketches on the floor between his knees and chuckles. "Tell me," he says.
"Hm," Orlando says, swerving over towards him and collapsing onto the carpet belly up by Viggo's left ankle. "What."
"Tell me you didn't just get off that phone with your mother," Viggo says. He nudges Orlando's shoulder with his big toe and a stack of bright polaroids dislodge smearing across the floor under his foot.
"I can't help it, yeah?" Orlando has the grace to blush minutely. His grin is loose and pink and slightly loopy. Then, collecting his deadpan expression, "You know, she just starts off on the state of the back garden and something comes over me."
"Mmm," comes a voice from behind the couch. Viggo didn't know anyone was hiding out back there. He thinks it might be Dom. "Perennials, yeah. Dead sexy."
"Botanicals," Orlando agrees with the couch-voice, tasting the consonants. "Hothouse." He gives a shimmy against the rug. "Ambrosial. I’m all tingly."
"Replete," says the voice, with relish, "superabundant. Verdant."
"Ah, stop," Orlando moans. Viggo snorts. The snapshots sift through his fingers, vivid and slippery.
"Prolix," pronounces the couch-dweller. "Yeah, baby."
"Oh god, oh," cries Orlando, and rolls over onto Viggo's pile of bits and scraps, scrabbling weakly. "I'm spent." His hand wraps around Viggo's ankle and Viggo smirks at him indulgently.
"Help," says Viggo. He waves a hand. The snapshots crinkle and slide in Orlando's hair when he rolls again.
"Eh," Orlando hauls himself up onto his elbows. "What's this?"
"Another book, could be. For the fall," Viggo gestures at the mess on the rug. "Pretend you don't know me and pick which ones should go in it. Please," he adds, when Orlando's spread hands hover, ghosting over a snapshot of a big rust-colored multimedia piece: "Dante, 1999".
"You're trusting his post-orgasmic judgment," the voice behind the couch drawls, in disbelief. "You're cracked, Vig."
"Oi, troll, shut it," Orlando says, plucking out two more: a Montana sky in oils and a blurry photo of a gorge swollen with a muddy spring flood. "That's when I do my best thinking."
Viggo watches Orlando's wristbones bend and dip as he fishes out what he likes, brown and smooth like stones, the skin becoming paler underneath his bracelets. He's still thinking distantly of growing things. He's listening to the diesel-powered revolutions of the bus humming beneath the floor and watching Orlando's hair fall forward, locks folding over at odd angles like leaves. It makes him happy, oddly, to think that there's no camera in existence that can capture all of these things in unison.
"These," Orlando says, smoothing out more of his choices in a row, like purchases. "One, two, then this one. Like that."
"Like that," Viggo repeats, smiling with the crooked half of his mouth and watching Orlando's grin split softly open and dip behind his hand. Orlando's arrangements sit on the rug like a series of open windows, "Antologia", "Oranges", "Brooklyn". Orlando places two more carefully down like cards, Viggo adds three across.
"Tarot," Viggo says.
Orlando tilts his head. "Crossword."
"Pretentious bunkum," says the couch troll. "Chicanery. Pornography." Orlando wrenches one shoe off and tosses it behind the couch. "Ow, fuckers."
Orlando props his chin on one hand and they bend their heads down again and sifting through photographs with their fingers.
Elijah's sitting in the back common area of the bus, his headphones on, a notebook open on the floor in front of him and a cigarette held between his lips. He's listening to the night's show, shaking his head when Dom takes lead on "Barmaid," because he loves him and he's a great guitarist, but he's always flat. Everyone else went to their bunks hours ago, but Elijah doesn't sleep much at night when they're touring. He only has one dim light on, so he can see that outside, the sky is inky black and there are barely any lights on this section of highway. Elijah wonders if that's dangerous.
"If Astin catches you with that in here, you'll be in trouble," Viggo says, appearing in the doorway and nodding at Elijah's cigarette.
Elijah pulls his headphones off and frowns. He feels guilty, but he got sick of sitting in the bathroom about an hour ago. "The bathroom floor isn't very comfortable."
Viggo nods and examines the heel of his right hand. "Also, there's glitter everywhere." Viggo pulls out his own cigarettes and shrugs, lighting one before sitting down on the couch.
"Daisy. He had that interview and he went in costume, I think." Elijah shifts so he's facing Viggo and watches him inhale and exhale a stream of grey. "I didn't know you were up."
Viggo doesn't answer, just smokes and then nods at the iPod. "How were we?"
"Other than Dom being even flatter than usual on 'Barmaid'?" Elijah takes the last drag off the cigarette and stubs it out in his empty coffee mug. Viggo grins and tips his head at the doorway behind Elijah.
"I am not usually flat," Dom says behind Elijah.
"You are." Elijah turns to smile at Dom. "You're absolutely always flat and you've always been flat and it's sad, but you can't be perfect, so you'll just have to accept it."
"You're mad. I'm not flat." Dom crosses the small room and to sit next to Viggo, taking the cigarette out of his hand. "Sean won't approve." Dom takes a drag.
Viggo rolls his eyes, reaching into his pocket for his pack and lighting another. "Did Billy come to his senses and kick you out of bed, then?"
Dom stares at Viggo for a count of three before turning to Elijah. "Why don't we make him ride with the crew, again?"
Elijah reaches for his cloves and his lighter. "I think he bribed Daisy and Liv when we took that vote."
Dom nods and looks like he's about to say something, but then stops and grins broadly. "Did we wake you?"
Elijah slides back across the carpet until he's leaning against the wall so he can see more of the room rather than turning. It's Karl standing in the door this time, eyes heavy with sleep and hair sticking up in all directions.
"Does anyone sleep around here?" he asks, his accent thick. "Orli's on the phone and Daisy's singing." Karl pauses and rubs at his face. "Might be asleep, though. Does he do that? Sing in his sleep?"
Elijah's never noticed, so he shrugs. No one else answers either and Karl shrugs too. "Also, I think you woke Sean up, so I'd put those things out."
He nods at their cigarettes and Elijah sighs and reaches for the coffee cup, but it's too late and there's a groan from behind Karl. Sean is standing there, camera in his right hand.
"And this is the part of the documentary where everyone completely ignores the rules and behaves like they were raised in barns," he says in his narration voice, but he's laughing a little and Elijah doesn't think they'll be in too much trouble.
"This is the part?" Liv says, poking her head from behind Sean. "Just the one?"
Everyone laughs and Elijah looks up and out at the stars rushing by. He can still hear the show playing, tinny and distant, from the headphones around his neck and when he straightens up, Viggo's looking right at him, smile wide and eyes twinkling.