Billy cared for genuine self-owned musical expression over commercially viable music whoredom as much as anyone, but he thought it would be just brilliant if the next tour they could afford two band buses.
He knew it must be getting bad when even their dwindled number felt crowded: Sean wasn't with them for this leg because of a prior commitment. Bean and Viggo were on some crazy kick where they wanted to drive together separately from the bus so they could argue all night about the true nature of performance or whatever they were on about this week. Liv, Daisy and Karl were all humpty with the same watery cough and sleeping it off in their bunks. So Dom and Billy were sacked out in the common space and Orlando and Elijah were in the kitchenette, but to say it like that implied two distinct rooms and a space between then was more than a meter and some change. And Orlando and Elijah had never, ever learned to use their inside voices when they were stoned.
"This is going to be brilliant," Orlando said, cackling. "Seriously, Lij, like, best idea ever."
Billy was sitting on the couch with his eyes closed, so he couldn’t see exactly what they were doing, but from the smell of it, they were cooking something. And based on the smell, it was a bit of a stretch to call it "brilliant," by any definition of the word.
There was a loud clatter and Elijah shouted, "Shit, sorry, oh my God, oops!" Beside him, Billy heard Dom snicker, and felt the weight of Dom's head drop against his shoulder. He opened his eyes. When he'd first closed them, Dom had been sitting cross legged and putting a lacquer his fingernails, now he was leaning into Billy with his hands stretched out, his fingernails a wet, shiny black.
"Bed, yeah?" Dom muttered into Billy's shoulder.
Billy moaned. "Can't move," he said. "Never leaving this couch ever, ever again."
"Not even if they set the kitchen on fire?"
"Not even," Billy replied. "Would you go up in flames with me?"
Dom laughed and said, "Probably going to end up there eventually anyway."
It wasn't like Billy hadn't known, when he'd gotten on a plane from Glasgow to London at Bean's direction ("Getting the band back together," he'd said. "Among other things."), that he'd eventually see Dom. At that point, though, every motion Billy went through had been half a step away from sleepwalking, and so he hadn't really thought about it until he'd stumbled off the plane and Dom had been sitting there, molded into a plastic seat and looking quite wrecked.
Later, Dom had told him that he'd actually had no idea Billy was about to show up, either. He'd been so keen to avoid small talk with Sean during the 12 hour flight from L.A. that he'd gotten extremely shitfaced. When they'd de-planed, Sean had said, "Sit here and I'll go get our bags," and Dom hadn't been in a position to be uncooperative.
At the time, though, Billy had taken one look at him, a look that had involved Dom staring back at him like Billy was a bit of a hangover-induced dream. "C'mon, c'mere," he'd said, and hauled Dom up and into the nearest public convenience stall so they didn't make an embarrassing scene.
They'd leaned up against the door of the last stall and sort of slumped into each other; a hug that had been mostly about relief and exhaustion, but also about love, too, because Dom had smelled like the inside of a Jack Daniels bottle and Billy wouldn't have tried to crawl inside him unless Billy had been totally done with the idea that it was easier to try not being together, fuck whatever else happened with the band or anything else.
"No more saying no," he'd said. "That's over, and this is, we're--"
Dom had sort of nodded against Billy's neck, and somehow everything had gotten better from that moment on.
Eventually they'd actually had conversations, and he'd let Dom get halfway through confessing that he'd slept with Elijah during the break before Billy said he already knew and also didn't care. It had helped that the band had also sorted itself back in line reasonably well, and Billy wasn't the kind of person who was going to spend a lot of time dwelling on whether their time apart had made them better together, he was just glad that it was over, now.
Billy was jerked back to the present by the realization that the awful smell that had been coming from the kitchenette was now twice as powerful, possibly because the crockware of origin was being held right in front of him.
"You guys are in for such a treat," Elijah said gleefully. "This is, uh, it's a very special recipe -- Chicken Surprise!"
The crockware was bubbling over with something that looked beige and soupy with occasional unidentifiable lumps and a generous topping of crushed tortilla chips. Orlando was holding it out proudly with a pair of pink leopard print oven mitts, looking every bit the picture of a demented housewife. Elijah clapped his hands together behind him. "C'mon, you guys," he said. "Grab a plate."
"Mmm," said Billy vaguely, wondering how suspicious it would look if he actually started to physically inch away from Orlando. "'M on a diet, actually," he offered. "Gotta start watching me figure."
"Cleansing fast," Dom said, raising his hand. "The one with the lemons and the maple syrup and the cayenne pepper."
"Yeah, 'm doing that, too," Billy said. "Viggo recommended it."
"Now, now," said Orlando, setting the crockware down in alarmingly close proximity to Billy on the coffee table. "It's going to be fantastic. We used the microwave and everything."
Orlando looked so hopeful that Billy (and, after a well-placed kick in the shin, Dom) allowed himself to be served up a plate of the stuff. The first bite both felt and tasted like a dirty sock in his mouth, but it was bland enough that if he held his breath, it masked the taste enough so that he had only the texture to deal with.
Dom, apparently, didn't know about the hold-your-breath trick. "This is fucking awful," he said. "Orli, you're going to make a bloody terrible housewife."
Orlando, oblivious to Dom's opinion of his cooking, giggled and kept tucking it in. "Guess I'll have to, you know, get by on the strength of my other talents," he said.
"Yeah," said Dom, slowly trying to push his portion into a mountain or something, which given its semi-liquid composition, was a bit of a losing battle. "But how do we know your nob isn't secretly awful, too? Not like any of your stable of conquests is here to prove it."
"Well," said Orlando thoughtfully, around an alarmingly large mouthful, "I suppose that's true. Though, I guess there's Lij."
"You slept with Elijah?" Dom exclaimed, accompanied by the clatter of his forgotten fork.
Billy frowned; he really hoped nobody woke up Karl. He glanced over at Elijah, who'd paused with fork in mid-air and looked, on the whole, not that much less confused than Dom did.
"When--" Elijah started.
"First time we played Perth," said Orlando matter-of-factly.
"Oooh," said Elijah. "Well. Oh. Right. Okay, but only sort of."
"You sort of shagged?" Billy asked. He was trying to remember if he knew about this, but felt like any memory would have been accompanied by the sort of mocking that hadn't been seen since it was revealed that Daisy and Karl had once almost accidentally slept together, an occasion that had taken place before they were both in the band, and had involved a lot of alcohol and Daisy in very convincing drag.
"Threesome," Orlando said, shrugging. "With, oh yeah, this rugby player, wasn't he, right, Lij?"
"Um, I'm not sure," Elijah said. He was playing very intently with his fork. In his head, Billy did the math and realized Elijah had been trashed to the point of near alcohol poisoning the night after the first time they played Perth, and maybe it wasn't Orlando's performance he was worried about.
"Hey, hey," Orlando said, throwing an arm around Elijah's shoulder, "No worries, I was completely, I was completely on top of the situation. I was barely drunk, and he didn't take advantage of you or anything." Elijah laughed, but still looked slightly embarrassed. Orlando added, "It was great. I liked being with you. You were lovely, I promise."
"Enough," Dom said, waving his fork. He pointed it at Elijah. "You. I cannot believe you slept with Orlando and you didn't tell me."
"I'm sorry," Elijah said, smiling sweetly. "I didn't know I was supposed to send you a note every time I got drunk and took off my pants."
"Well," Dom said, heaving a dramatic sigh. "You know now. Don't you forget it." He poked at his casserole experimentally, bringing a forkful toward his mouth and taking a small, cautious bite. "I don't care if it was the greatest night of your life," he said, screwing up his face, "this still tastes like boiled arse. What's the surprise, anyway?"
"Oh!" Orlando said, "There's no chicken! It's completely vegan, actually, there's soy milk and some textured vegetable protein and some other bits of stuff."
Dom stood up. "I think I'm going to be sick," he said, and staggered back toward the bathroom.
Orlando frowned, and said, "Er, maybe I should go check on him."
Once Orlando got up, Billy set down his plate and, he noticed, so did Elijah. "So," Billy said, "Banged Orli, did you?"
Elijah shrugged. "Apparently? Orlando and some other guy at the same time, even. You never--" he waved his hand vaguely between Billy and the direction of the bathroom.
"Oh, no. No, no, no," Billy said. "No, you're one up on me when it comes to filling your Peter and Fran dance card."
It was the kind of thing that had sounded fine in his head, but once he said it aloud, an awkward pause seemed to hang between them alongside the stench of burned soy milk.
"Well," Billy said.
"Yeah," said Elijah.
Billy had figured out that Dom and Elijah had been fucking during the break-up after he'd talked to Karl, although Karl had hardly come out and said it. Billy had known, obviously, that Dom was staying with Elijah in L.A. but more importantly, he'd known Dom, and he'd known Elijah, too. Then when Billy had asked Karl about his last stop over in Los Angeles, Karl had said something like, "Well, everyone loves to flame out in pairs." From that, Billy had put two and two together and come up with a conclusion that was much more inevitable than upsetting, even then and especially now.
Even still, it was clearly a thing, in some way, and it still managed to wedge itself between them unexpectedly, like right now. "You don't think I'm, ah, upset about it, do you?" Billy said, after a minute. It would be weird if Elijah thought that, but he supposed anything was possible. It wasn't as though they'd ever discussed it.
Elijah shook his head. "No, actually, I always kind of thought you were disappointed." He said it like he knew it sounded unlikely but also suspected it was the truth.
Billy had told himself at the time that he hadn't had any particular feelings about Dom and Elijah together until they weren't anymore; until it'd trickled down the Peter and Fran grapevine that Elijah was hiding out in equal parts New York and London with Dom alone in Elijah's mother's guest house in L.A. There'd been a small part of Billy, then, that had been disappointed in Elijah for having had Dom and then leaving him, but Billy had also been pretty busy kicking himself in the arse for doing the same thing.
"Right," Billy said, suddenly remembering that he'd been near asleep before this whole mess got rolling, and he rubbed the bridge of his nose between two fingers. "Well, right, maybe I would have been if I had any time to spare, what with all the time I spent being disappointed in meself."
Elijah didn't say anything, then, and he twisted his fork in his hands in a way that made Billy think he probably really wanted a fag.
The thing was, Billy supposed, that Dom had been the one to leave, not the other way around. But the longer Dom had been gone, the more the entire thing -- their relationship and the band both, because it was the way the two had been all twisted up in each other like knots that had gotten them into trouble in the first place -- had started to seem like some kind of unfathomable dream.
The longer time had stretched out between them, the more it'd seemed impossible that they'd ever gotten paid to travel the world and sing songs and eat tacos and sleep together in a bunk on a bus every night. The days had kept piling on and it had gotten harder to believe that any of it had ever been in his control, that he could have picked up, moved to California and tried to learn how not to be allergic to sunshine, or that he could have just called Dom and told him he was fucking miserable and begged him to come home.
Elijah set down his fork, and looked like he was as minute away from standing up and making excuses about cleaning up the mess in the kitchenette. Billy thought that maybe he should just let him go, and maybe there was a reason why they'd never thought they needed to talk about this before.
All Billy knew was that by the time he and Dom had been apart for four months, he'd been certain there was nothing he could have done to fix any of it, and that the only choice had been to be miserable and take up smoking, and to be miserable at taking up smoking, and date some dancer friend of a friend who everyone had thought was his sister.
"You know, I always thought that if Dom wasn't with me, he would be with you," Billy said, after an endless silence, and it really had nothing to do with anything, but that somehow made it likely that it had everything to do with everything.
"Honestly?" Elijah said, "Me, too, maybe. But it wasn't like that. It wasn't how I thought it would be. He wasn't ever not with you. He was miserable, and just wanted someone to take care of him, and maybe I thought that he was something I wanted, but I didn't want him enough to stick around for that."
"I wasn't ever angry," Billy said finally, just in case Elijah needed to hear it, and maybe just in case he needed to say it, too.
"And I'm not sorry," said Elijah, "that things worked out exactly how they did."
Billy was trying to decide if the occasion called for a hug when Orlando burst out from behind the curtain from the direction of the bathroom, looking peakish. "It's ugly in there," Orlando said, theatrically wiping the invisible sweat on his brow. "Very, very ugly."
Billy and Elijah both laughed. "'S'okay," Billy said, pushing up from the couch. "I'll go hold his hair back." Over Orlando's shoulder, Elijah was grinning.