The clock said eleven a.m. New Zealand time. Elijah didn't have the faintest clue what time that meant in L.A., but his body seemed to think this wasn't a time when he should be alert and preparing to be charming. Elijah looked around the room, tried to stifle a yawn and really wished he'd had time to get coffee on the way over because starting a new job definitely required caffeine. There was an assistant of some sort who'd left him in this office. He wondered if maybe she knew where there was coffee in the building or if perhaps she'd bring him some.
Elijah waited for fifteen minutes without coffee and was standing up to head outside and get some when the assistant came back, followed by two men. One was older and balding, the other was younger and dressed in black leather pants. Elijah wondered if the man was still wearing last night's outfit this late in the morning or if he was just the sort of guy who wore leather pants before noon. Either way, Elijah fought the urge to roll his eyes, first impressions being so important and all.
"Elijah! I'm Ian Faith" said the first man. "Sorry to keep you waiting, but Stuart got a bit confused about the meeting time. I hope you weren't about to give up on us?" He shot an irritated look in the direction of Leather Pants, who just grunted and adjusted the hem of his t-shirt.
"No," answered Elijah after a few seconds of vaguely uncomfortable silence. "I was just going to see about getting some coffee."
"Missi, coffee, please." Ian waved his hand towards the office door. The assistant ran out of the room and Elijah smiled for the first time since boarding the plane yesterday.
Ian pointed at Leather Pants. "Elijah, this is Stuart. He's lead singer of 3 Foot Six."
"Nice to meet you." Elijah stuck out his hand and Stewart looked at it for a second before extending his own for a loose shake. "I've listened to some of your albums and really enjoyed them."
Actually, Elijah had thought they were poorly produced whine-fests, but that wasn't what you said at the first meeting. For the same reason, Elijah also didn't explain that he had only taken the job because his agent had convinced him that the exposure would be good and Hannah and his mother had added that New Zealand would be exciting.
Instead he smiled politely and said, "I'm looking forward to producing these tracks."
"Producing what?" Stuart looked like he was paying attention for the first time since he arrived, possibly for the first time in days. "Wait, who is this bloke, again?"
Elijah shifted in place while Stuart stared at him. Second awkward silence in under five minutes; Elijah wondered if that was a record of any sort. He smiled gratefully when Missi came back with his coffee and a handful of sugar packets. Elijah managed to open three and dump them into the coffee with one hand. The coffee tasted stale, but Elijah swallowed it like it was water in the desert.
"This is Elijah, Stuart. You asked me to hire him to produce some songs. He came highly recommended by the label." Elijah could hear the annoyance under Ian's cheery tone. "You remember, the song you liked? The one he did with BT?'"
Elijah rolled his eyes. That song was not his best work, but he couldn't say he was surprised that Stuart has liked it.
"I don't." Stuart's eyes narrowed and he shook his head. "Talk." Stuart headed into the next room.
"Just one minute Elijah," Ian said apologetically as he followed Stuart.
Elijah shrugged. "No problem. I'll just drink my coffee." He held the cup up in the air and waved his hand a bit for emphasis before slumping back down into the chair.
Missi smiled at him before sitting at her desk and starting up her computer. Elijah didn't bother to smile back, just drank the coffee and wondered if he should just leave and head back to L.A. now. He pulled out his cell phone and thought about calling his agent. Elijah should have just refused this job when he heard how dreadful the band's lyrics were. Elijah glared at his cell phone as if any of them would be able to sense his anger.
"Morning, Missi, love. How's the talent today?" A short man with tight cropped hair had come into the office while Elijah was busy intimidating his cell phone.
"Stoned, possibly angry, definitely mad as a meat axe." Missi continued to type as she answered, the tapping of the keys punctuating her words. "Generally the same as yesterday."
"Brilliant," the man said, grinning. He nodded at Elijah as he passed into the next room and Elijah couldn't help but smile back.
After he was gone, Elijah stared at the door until Missi said, "That's Dom. He's the guitarist."
Elijah blinked and felt his face get hot. "Oh?" He nodded at Missi trying to act as though he didn't much care one way or the other. He struggled for something else to say, but was spared the effort when someone shouted from the next room.
"He's bloody twelve years old!"
The next voice was still slightly calmer. Elijah thought it might be the guitarist who'd just come in. "You picked him, Townsend. You liked that crap song he did with BT." Elijah frowned. It was crap, but still. They had to realize he could hear them.
"Screw the song. I'm not letting a toddler anywhere near my album."
Elijah's face got even hotter and he went back to glaring at his cell phone. Missi stopped typing and coughed. "Uh, he's--"
"Your album? I thought this was our album, Stuart." A woman's voice this time. "You said this time was going to be different. Fuck this shit."
There was a moment of silence before the door swung open and a blonde woman stepped into the office. "And don't fucking call me again, asshole." The woman walked past Elijah without a glance and left the building.
Elijah waited for something else to happen, but there was only silence.
"I'm sure she'll be back," Missi offered, but she didn't sound very sincere.
Elijah shrugged and didn't look up; a few seconds later she resumed her typing. Elijah counted to ten, felt his face cool down and keyed up his agent's number. He stood up and headed outside. "I need to make a call."
Outside, the air was cool and dry. Elijah listened to the tinny ring of a phone on the other side of the world, but only the voicemail picked up. He considered calling back until his agent answered, but since Elijah still didn't know what time it was there, he just left an annoyed message and hung up. He looked toward the door back into the office, but frowned and patted his pocket for his cigarettes instead of going back inside. The smell of cloves permeated the air and he rolled his shoulders to shake out the tension. It wasn't as though this was the first time someone was shocked by his age. That was what happened to prodigies, after all. Elijah shook his head and coughed a little. Lately, he had begun to mostly hate being a prodigy.
The door next to him opened and Elijah stepped back. The guitarist, Dom, came out, cocked his head a bit like a dog unsure of its welcome. "Uh," he started.
Elijah sighed, the thought of being rude and angry flickering out of his mind before he could even consider it. He wasn't going to tell Stuart his music sucked and he wasn't going to tell his agent he wanted to take the summer off and bum around L.A. with his friends and he wasn't going to tell this guy that his band was fucked up.
"No worries, man." Elijah gave a half-hearted smile and Dom stepped a bit closer. "I'm used to it."
Dom grinned. "No business like show business, right?" Elijah nodded. "Really, though, sorry about that. Stuart's not all there, he and Charli are going through their third break-up and," Dom's eyes twinkled, "that song really was crap, mate."
Elijah laughed. "Worst thing I've ever done. No, wait. There was a remix I did for Mariah Carey, but I think I've successfully repressed the fact that it was actually released."
Dom winced. "As you should." Dom looked up at the sky and then back at Elijah. He stared at him long enough that Elijah had to resist the urge to fidget the way Hannah did when her friends told her some boy was looking at her. Finally, Dom grinned. "So, you're not twelve, right?"
Elijah exhaled smoke and squinted a little bit against the sun as it moved from behind a cloud. "Seventeen," he said, aware that that was only marginally better.
Dom nodded slowly. "Better." He looked back at the door. "Well, Charli isn't coming back this time. Stuart knows a guy, but he's in Scotland or something, so it'll be a few days until he shows up."
Elijah had no idea why he needed to know any of this, but, as sad as it was to admit, the conversation was probably the most fun he'd had in weeks, so he waited and watched Dom through a cloud of smoke.
"So what we should do is go have a few days of fun. I'll show you around, take you to a few clubs where they'll let us take over the music and won't ask you for any of your not-quite-legal identification." Dom smiled, slightly crooked and bright with pointy teeth. "Interested?"
Elijah dropped his cigarette to the ground and stepped on it before answering. "If I don't have a job here, I should probably head home." Elijah hadn't meant to be so practical, but he'd opened his mouth and that's what had come out.
Dom waved his hand, clearing the words away. "Course you'll have a job, mate."
Elijah thought about Stuart and his leather pants and his bad lyrics. He thought about his agent waking up to Elijah's request that he "get me out of this place immediately." He thought about school and his friends and easy gigs in L.A. and the rational thing to do. He thought about it all and then shrugged. "All right, then. Fun it is."
Dom's face lit up. "Brilliant. We'll start with lunch on the beach, yeah?" Dom headed towards the parking lot and Elijah fell into step beside him. "I'm Dom, by the way."
Elijah nodded, laughing. "I know." He reached into his pocket and clicked his cell phone off.
Four days and still no bassist. Dom didn't much care as long as the bloke showed up before the money ran out. Until then, Dom as doing fine avoiding his fearless leader and spending time with young Mr. Wood.
The fourth night, they went to a new club. Some poncey British kid they'd met at a coffee shop near the drama school had recommended it so Dom wasn't surprised when it had cute guys and cheap alcohol. The music was bloody awful though, and the dj resisted all their attempts to crash the booth. Around midnight, Dom stopped Elijah on his way to the bar, pulling him close enough so he could hear what Dom was saying. Elijah giggled and pushed even closer, something he did most of the time. One of his most endearing qualities, actually.
"Lij, let's go, yeah?"
Elijah pressed his hand to Dom's waist and turned his head to Dom's ear. "The music sucks!" His lips brushed over Dom's skin and Dom pushed back against Elijah. "It's worse than your band's."
Dom feigned insult, but he was laughing into Elijah's hair, so it probably didn't make any sort of impact. Dom wrapped his hand around Elijah's shoulder. "Which is why we're leaving." Elijah didn't move away or towards the door, but instead danced against Dom in a way that was wildly inappropriate considering Elijah wasn't even legally allowed to purchase the beer he'd been consuming. Dom shook his head. "Among other reasons, of course."
He turned Elijah around and guided him out of the club and into a taxi.
"My hotel," Elijah said. Dom started to protest that he had to be up early and suggest the flat he was staying in, but Elijah was trying to climb on Dom's lap, so he didn't bother.
Dom gave the driver the address and tipped his head back so Elijah could drop kisses along Dom's neck. Elijah paused to ask, "Okay?" Dom laughed, nodding. It was very much okay and when they arrived at Elijah's room, in the mirrored wall, Dom could see a bruise already forming just above his collarbone.
Dom was staring in the mirror, so was unprepared when Elijah shoved him against the door and clawed at him, practically breaking the zipper on Dom's trousers. Dom shook his head, laughed and pushed Elijah back so he could pull them off himself.
"Better," Elijah said, slightly out of breath and the words only a little slurred. He dropped to his knees and with no fanfare at all, took Dom's cock in his mouth. Dom gasped and braced himself with a hand against the wall.
This wasn't the first night they'd done this. They'd had sex Elijah's first night in New Zealand-- after meeting at the studio and spending the day on the beach and the night at a club-- because Dom had gone into rock and roll for all the usual reasons and he wasn't shy about it. But, the first time, Dom had felt vaguely uncomfortable, had muttered something about "corrupting a minor," but it had quickly become clear that Elijah wasn't just a prodigy when it came to electronica music.
As evidence of that, Dom came quickly, arching away from the door, a metal hook scraping his neck. Elijah looked up, smirking a little and looking nothing but sincere when he said, "I like you."
Dom laughed. "I like you too, Lij." He pulled Elijah up by the elbow and turned him towards the bed. "There now."
Elijah launched himself onto the bed, somehow bouncing and pulling off his shirt at the same time without tripping. Elijah was the only person Dom had ever met who actually got more coordinated when he was drunk. He pulled Dom along with him using a hand that seemed to come out of nowhere, and they ended up a tangle of knees and elbows with Elijah's mouth making hot little clouds of breath against Dom's shoulder as he came.
Dom tried to twist away afterwards, but Elijah hung on like a drunk and determined sea urchin or something, so Dom laid still for a few minutes and tried not to think about how many hours there were until he had to be awake, sober and prepared to deal with Stuart
Eventually, Dom pulled out of Elijah's super kung-fu grip and rolled out of bed, groaning slightly with the effort. "Really, Lij, I have to meet with Stuart and the new bassist bright and early." He stood up and flailed his arms a little for balance. "My flat's closer to the studio. I need to go home now before I pass out."
Elijah laughed. "Your crap band is more trouble than it's worth."
Dom reached around in the dark, found his pants and got them on without too much trouble. His t-shirt was a little harder and got tangled somewhere between his neck and his shoulders as he tried to stop the room from spinning. "My crap band pays the bills and the guitar part is always bloody brilliant. At least I'm not remixing hack R & B music like some people."
"Don't talk to me about that! I've repressed!" Elijah laughed, the sound slightly muffled by the pillow.
Dom grinned and gave his socks up as missing so he could focus on finding his trousers.
"Fine, then," Elijah said once he'd stopped laughing. "Go. Give my love to Leather Pants. Find a way to convince the bassist to stick around after he meets the band."
Dom found his shoes before he found the trousers and the difficulty of getting the latter on over the former was too difficult so he decided just to carry them. What was the point of being a rock star if you couldn't walk around half naked in the middle of the night, he figured.
"I'll convince him." Dom bent down and kissed Elijah goodbye, loud and wet. "I'm very persuasive." Dom waggled his eyebrows, but it was dark and Elijah just scoffed. His breath was warm and a little sour.
Dom left, closing the door carefully behind him and started down the corridor, trousers clutched in one fist, blinking quickly against the light. Walking seemed harder than usual, but he chalked that up to the beer and kept moving forward. The lift wasn't that far. Behind him, he heard someone laughing and turned quickly.
"I couldn't get my trousers on over the shoes," he offered as an explanation to the short man standing in front of a door a few down from Elijah, ice bucket in hand.
The man blinked and kept laughing. "Of course." He looked Dom up and down and smiled brightly. "You're also aware, then, that you're wearing two different shoes?" His accent was thick, Scottish maybe.
Dom looked down. His own trainer was on his right foot, but the one on his left belonged to Elijah. Dom scowled at his feet. Elijah's trainer was a half size too small, which explained some things. "Well, bugger."
"Could go back in your room, change the shoes and even put on your trousers in the process."
The man had bright green eyes and a bit of a sunburn. Dom thought he was kind of cute, actually and he tipped his head to assess the situation.
"Or you could stand there looking like you're about to topple over and stare at me." The ice bucket looked like it was starting to drip on the floor. "Might have to go back into me room at some point. I've an early start tomorrow."
Dom nodded. "It's not my room, though."
The man blinked. "Guess you don't have a key then."
Dom was impressed that the definitely very cute, green-eyed man understood that Dom was answering the question he'd asked earlier, rather than responding to the last thing he said. Especially impressed because Dom wasn't entirely sure what he was talking about himself. "Right," he agreed. "My flat's 'cross town."
The man held up the ice bucket. "I'm sure you don't need another drink, but I do. If you want a place to put on your trousers, you can use me loo before heading 'cross town." Dom took three steps towards the man and watched as he unlocked the door. "I'm Billy," he said as he held the door for Dom.
"Dom. I'm a rock star." Dom teetered a little as he walked into the room and Billy reached out to steady him.
"Aye, that would explain it," Billy said, laughing still.
Dom laughed too as he kicked his shoes off in the direction of Billy's bed.
"I know I've only been in the band for a few days," Billy said, propping his bass in its stand. "But I think we need some sort of executive order that Leather Pants has to show up on time." Billy had quickly adopted Elijah's name for Stuart after he'd heard the story of Elijah's first encounter with their vocalist.
Billy looked over at Dom, who shrugged and plucked a few notes on the guitar. Billy sighed and turned to where Elijah was sprawled out on a couch that looked about five hundred years old.
"I know I've only been producing for the band for a few days, but I don't think that'll work." Elijah sat up and drank from what Billy had quickly realized was an ever-present coffee cup. When he finished, he looked at Dom. "If he's not here in twenty minutes, I say we go to the beach. Maybe surfing lessons?"
Dom tipped his head, considering and then turned to Billy. "Sound good, Bills?"
Billy nodded and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Elijah frown a little bit. "Been wanting to get to the beach since I got here," Billy said.
"Surfing lessons it is." Dom played a few notes on the guitar and Billy picked up the tune and hummed something to go along with it.
Billy thought about picking his bass back up, but he was having trouble keeping it in tune and wanted to wait until Stuart showed up and they were actually laying down tracks. Instead, he wandered over to the table where Elijah'd left the book he was reading, Siddartha.
"I read this once." Billy held up the book and Elijah looked over. "Like it?"
Elijah nodded. "It's great. I've never thought about things from that perspective."
Billy nodded, remembered being seventeen and suddenly thinking about things for the first time. Though, Elijah was smarter than Billy had been then. Billy let Elijah talk about the book, nodding and agreeing in all the right places. He couldn't tell if Elijah liked him-- they got along well enough, but there was a tension that had Dom's name written all over it.
When Billy met Elijah, on his second day in New Zealand, Billy had realized immediately exactly whose hotel room Dom had been sneaking out of that night. Dom had told the story of their meeting and Elijah had smoked furiously, laughing in a way that made him look even younger than the twelve years Stuart insisted he was. Billy'd tried as best he could to make it clear that he and Dom had just talked and joked that night, without actually saying it out loud, but Billy couldn't shake the feeling that he made Elijah uncomfortable.
Billy looked over at Dom who was deeply focused on walking his guitar pick across his knuckles. He didn't seem to be paying attention to Billy and Elijah's conversation, but then he flashed a quick grin at Billy. Dom rolled his eyes at the blue paperback before going back to the guitar pick which had gotten stuck on the silver ring he wore on his middle finger. Elijah was still talking, but Billy couldn't quite make himself look away from Dom and he wondered if maybe Elijah was exactly right to feel threatened.
"So, yeah. I'm almost done, but I think I'll read some of his other stuff, but most of it went over my head, you know?" Elijah smiled at Billy and it felt sincere. Dom had said something about Elijah being the most earnest person he'd ever met and Billy thought that might be true.
There was a moment of silence and Billy realized a beat too late that he should have said something. "Um, anyway, I'm going to smoke."
Elijah glanced at Dom on his way out and Dom grinned. "If Stewie shows, we won't start without you."
"Producer," Elijah laughed, pointing at himself. "You kinda need me." He headed out the back door and one of the tambourines hanging next to it jangled a little when it closed.
Dom finished the melody he was playing and put the guitar down. "This is mad. I'm quitting." He looked over at Billy. "Let's start our own band, yeah? Lij can produce and we'll write a song called 'Leather Pants' to celebrate our auspicious meeting."
Dom's grin was extremely goofy and it never failed to make Billy smile back. "Can I play the drums?" he asked. "I've always wanted to play the drums."
Dom nodded and started pacing. "He likes you." Billy raised an eyebrow. "No, really. Don't worry. He'll produce our band's record."
Billy scoffed. "Because that's exactly why I was worried." But he felt a little better. Dom seemed to get Elijah in a way that Billy wasn't sure he ever could. He worried it was the age difference. Except Dom seemed to get Billy in way that most people didn't, so maybe it was just Dom.
Billy sighed a little, tried not too look overly concerned and asked, "Are you and he still--"
He was interrupted by the arrival of their band manager, Ian or Ethan or something similar. He was frowning. "Mates, Stuart's not here."
"We got that, Ian. We're here, though," Dom said. "In case you hadn't noticed."
"We've actually been here for over an hour," Elijah said, coming back in and jangling the tambourine again.
"No, no. I mean, he's not going to be here. He's left the band." Ian looked confused and like maybe he had a case of indigestion.
Billy looked at Dom, who was grinning. "If he quits, our contracts get paid out, yeah?" The manager nodded. That explained the indigestion look. "Brilliant." Dom did a little American cheerleader-style leap and Billy laughed. "Shall we go surfing, lads?"
Elijah giggled. "Absolutely." He went to the table and slung his messenger bag over his shoulder, shoving his book into it. "Bills? Coming with?"
Billy smiled at him and nodded. "Surfing it is."
Dom lead the way out and Billy and Elijah followed right behind, leaving Ian to clean up Stuart's mess. Billy guessed it was something he was used to.
"Need coffee, Lij?" Billy asked and Elijah looked up from the clove cigarette he was lighting and smiled. "There's a place down the street that I heard was good."
"Dude, yes. Coffee." Elijah ran a few feet ahead, practically bouncing.
Billy smiled at Elijah's back and then looked over at Dom. Dom was already looking back at him and Billy's smile faltered a little.
Dom bumped his shoulder. "We're not." Dom smiled and shrugged.
Billy smiled again, even wider and didn't need to ask what question Dom was answering. "Aye?"
Dom nodded and then looked away, down at his shoes and back at Billy.
"Good to know," Billy said finally, before running ahead to catch up with Elijah. He could hear Dom right behind him.