Elijah gives Dom and Billy a ride to dinner at the Astin's because he's the closest thing the band has to a LA native. Mostly this means he's the one with access to a car while the band is in town. Elijah supposes that most twenty-four year-olds would be embarrassed about borrowing their parents' car, but he thinks he could argue pretty safely that it's technically his car and that his mom just holds on to it for him, until he needs it.
Dom drags Billy into the backseat with him when they get into the car. They've been engaged in what Bean would have called a "right annoying snog" for several minutes. Elijah, up in the driver's seat, facing traffic alone, thinks it's a bit rude and almost wishes he'd tried harder to get Karl or maybe Daisy to come along, but they were going off with Liv, Orlando was too busy getting laid to even pick up his phone, and Viggo's bonding with his son. So it's just Elijah. And the two ignoring him in the backseat. However, this also means that both Dom and Billy are fully occupied and thus unable to distract the driver with tales of whales and odd fizzy things in their breakfast drinks. This is quite possibly a good thing, because they arrive at the Astin residence without getting lost, getting in an accident, needing to make any side trips, and-- miracle of miracles-- over fifteen minutes early.
When the car comes to a full stop, Billy looks up from his spot on Dom's neck and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. "Are we there, then?"
"Yeah," Elijah shrugs, "but we're early if you two feel the need to continue for a bit."
"Sorry." Dom looks up, there's a large red splotch on the side of his neck. "It's our tea anniversary, you know?"
"Ahh." Elijah tries not to sound skeptical. Dom and Billy have at least fifty-two anniversaries. Possibly three hundred and sixty-five.
"We memorized each others' orders." Dom nods.
"Five years ago now," Billy nods too.
Elijah refrains from saying anything further.
"Right." Dom leans forward, rubbing his hands together. "In honor of dinner tonight."
"And to thank our host," Billy interrupts.
"Yes," Dom nods, "that too." He looks back over at Elijah. "And in honor of getting back on the road. We brought--" He reaches into his jacket pocket, then frowns. "Brought." He reaches into his other jacket pocket. "Huh."
Billy sighs and nudges Dom's side. "Lean up." He reaches into Dom's back pocket for him. "You've squished it, you know."
Billy holds up a little purple zip lock bag and Elijah immediately identifies the contents as A Good Thing, even squished. "Christine won't like that though."
"We'll wait," Billy shrugs. "Until she's sleeping." He reaches for the lock on his door and pulls it up. "Come along then. Can't be up too late tonight."
Dinner is lovely and healthy. They all enjoy Sean and Christine's cooking, despite the ongoing insults to Sean's meatloaf. There's also quite a bit of shocked ooo-ing over how enormous the girls have gotten. Despite being surrounded by band members with kids of their own, Elijah remains baffled by children. Henry's been hanging out with Viggo since they arrived in town and Elijah's not sure how anyone can tolerate teenagers, but Viggo seems to. Then again, Viggo's never a good barometer for anything. Sean's kids are even younger, Elijah certainly can't talk about the latest Arcade Fire album with them, but Billy and Dom have their whole make-everyone-love-us superpower, so he just follows their lead until it's past bedtime.
The girls are ridiculously cooperative about things like brushing their teeth and getting pajamas on quickly. Somehow this isn't surprising; Sean and Christine are superparents. After one chapter from some highly enriching book, the kiddies are off to bed without more than one or two complaints. Christine disappears as well. Elijah's not sure she likes anyone in Peter and Fran. She's polite enough, she seems to trust them around her children, she gets along with Liv and Daisy well enough, and she lets them steal her husband for long periods of time, but Christine's never been anything but confused about Viggo and why the band needs to go on trips to Alaska to shoot a video properly. It's important to accept these things to be a full part of the Peter and Fran family.
"'lijah!" Dom's shouting at him from somewhere. "Ee--" The noise is muffled quickly. With a squeak.
"Quiet!" Sean's quieter than Dom when he says it, but it's still no softer than a stage-whisper. Elijah's getting closer to the noises. From the thumping, he's guessing they're on the back deck.
"There are kids here, right?" Elijah says as he pushes open the screen. "They were sent to bed, remember?"
Dom looks sheepish already though. "Yeah," he nods. "I forgot?"
Elijah glances over at Sean, but he doesn't seem too annoyed. Billy's sprawled out on a chaise lounge with a large green cushion, Sean and Dom are sitting on the deck floor. Billy waves his hand about like a queen giving orders. "You almost finished there, Dom?"
Dom nods, twisting a dollar bill back and forth between his fingers. He lets the bill open in his hands and examines his work, carefully licking at the edges of the white paper. He looks around at the group, smiling. "And who's still rolling the best joints in the band?"
"Well," Sean smirks. "If you really want to know, Karl, probably."
"Karl!" Dom glares at him. "Ha! Karl wishes." He looks over at Elijah as well, waiting for him to speak up.
"Er." Elijah shrugs. "Can someone just light that thing?"
"Bill still says mine are his favorite." Dom is doing something with his mouth. Elijah thinks it's called sulking.
"Well," Billy sits up, reaching over to his jacket on the floor and pulling out a lighter. "You certainly look good while you're doing it." He collects the joint from Dom and lights it himself, taking a trial drag. "Personally, I like the bit where you use yer tongue." Billy smiles and holds out his hand. "Sean?"
Elijah suspects that the look Sean's giving them is supposed to convey a sort of responsible reluctance. An "I'm a parent now, and we've got a show tomorrow, but oh, well just this once" expression. However, anyone that's smoked with Sean knows that ultimately, he takes longer and more frequent drags than anyone and Viggo cares more about not smoking before shows than Sean does. Just like everyone knows that Liv rarely smokes, but when she does she'll always get drinking water ready before smoking, and that smoking with Orlando means rice cakes, veggie crisps, and dried fruits for "healthy munching."
Elijah prefers potato chips and soda. It feels more genuine that way. Even if Dom'll call it pop just to annoy him. Elijah hates it when people call it pop. Or when the water fountain is the "bubbler." Dom's always the one who's allowed to say things that annoy Elijah, Bill's always the one to know when Dom needs to be put down, and Sean's the one Elijah goes to when the other two are distracted with each other. They have a good system going between the four of them.
At the moment, Billy's leaning back, reaching his hand out to pass the joint back over to Dom and humming some tune to himself which Elijah sort-of recognizes. He's been playing it at sound checks recently.
"I like your trees." Dom says suddenly. He's staring out at the yard, looking pleased. "You found nice ones for the kids."
"We did." Sean nods and points out towards the back, where it's quite dark. "They climb that little green one."
"Which one?" Dom peers at the yard, looking intrigued.
"No, no," Sean shakes his head, frowning. "Forget I said that."
"Thank you," Billy mutters and shoots Sean a look.
"What was that there?" Dom looks at Billy. "What?" Dom leans towards him, the picture of confused innocence. "Did you say something there, Bill?"
Elijah moves over next to Dom on the deck, just in case he needs to be mind-wiped, or tackled to the ground before he damages anything, but after a mutter or two, things are fairly quiet. Elijah blinks out into the yard as well. It's dark, lit only by the lamps on the side of the house, and the swing set looks a bit menacing in the distance.
Billy yawns. "We should do a video about monkeys. We could climb trees and play our instruments in them."
"What about a tree house instead?" Sean asks. "It would be safer."
"Okay," Billy nods. "But it would have to be a pretty cool tree house."
"Tree houses are inherently cool," Elijah speaks up.
"What if the tree house belongs to some crazy person?" Dom leans back against Billy's seat, tipping his head up and looking at the trees. "Maybe they collect bugs and they have lots of jars."
"Or they have pet monkeys," Billy moves a bit on the cushion, then lifts his head up. "What? We've never used monkeys."
"Wasn't there a gorilla?" Elijah grabs what's left of the joint from Sean before he can finish it off. He takes a drag. "Or two gorillas?"
"Gorillas aren't monkeys though." Sean makes a face at him, then picks something out of his teeth.
"Right," Billy nods. "Which means we can still do monkeys."
"Maybe..." Dom pauses, looking pleased with himself. "Maybe we can have Sean's kids turn into monkeys!"
"My children?" Sean leans forward quickly. "Are we insured for that sort of thing?"
Elijah snorts. "Since when has that mattered?"
Billy looks thoughtful. "I think it matters for children."
"I think it matters for my children." Sean glares at them.
Billy waves his arm around until his hand hits Dom's head. Then he makes a pleased noise and destroys Dom's carefully mussed hair.
"Wanker!" Dom jumps up, hands clutched to his head. "I was sporting a look!"
Billy blinks at him. "Now it's better."
Dom does not look appeased. Instead, he looks at Elijah.
"Hey!" Elijah holds up his hands. "It's your tea anniversary."
Sean looks at Billy, then Dom. "I thought it was your tea anniversary last week?"
"Ahh," Billy swallows. "Well."
"It's an extended celebration," Dom interjects.
"Yeah." Elijah doesn’t believe a word of it. "Or something. Roll another one will you?"
Dom grins at him, he looks rather evil in the yellow light coming from the side of the house. "Why Elijah," he smirks. "I thought you'd never ask."
(33b: Your Sherpa Through the Wilderness)
33c: What Reruns of Dynasty are For
Sean has a stack of bids that the foreman, Jimmy, put together while he was gone. They need reviewing, but right now Sean's sitting at his dining room table, trying to make sense of all the mail that piled up while he was off on his extended holiday, carefully not thinking. If he was the type of bloke to keep a list of reasons why he was still reading mail and putting together bids in Sheffield instead of buying a ticket on the next flight to L.A., he'd be getting a bit nervous right about now.
But he's not that type of bloke, so there is, really, there's nothing to worry about.
If Sean was keeping a list like that, though, it wouldn't be numbered; no reason would be ranked particularly higher than any other. The business would be on there, of course, even though Sean realized he was just getting in the way at the business after his first six months back full time.
When Sean returned home from Wellington and announced he was going to be around full time, it was quite decent. Everyone was glad to have him around to take the blame and buy the first round at the pub when the boys had to work overtime. But after a while, well. The thing was that Sean had gone to a lot of trouble to get a really excellent foreman in place if he was going to be buggering off with the band half the time, and even though Jimmy was enough of a good chap not to point it out, it doesn't really do to be running the show with two boss men.
So Sean stepped back, only went out on site when they were short-handed and left most of the bids to Jimmy. He was better at them anyway.
Still, the welding isn't the only thing. The girls. The girls are definitely on the list, and nearly a dozen times in the last year they kept him from dialing Vig's number with his eyes closed and saying, "Fuck, I'm fucking bored," when he realized he owned a business that ran itself. But the girls, well, the girls are still mostly living with their respective mothers, because that's what happens when you bollocks up your marriage -- your ex-wife gets most of the time with your kids and nearly all your money.
The last thing on the list is Viggo, and the fight with Viggo. Except that there is no list, so the fight with Viggo isn't on it. And it's not like there was a fight with Viggo, just a slow-building mountain of miscommunication, misunderstanding and mistakes until it was all over but the shouting and even the shouting didn't last that long, it was the deafening silence that followed.
When the band was in town for the show a couple months back, they went out to a pub afterward and slowly everyone begged off in twos and threes until it was just Sean and Viggo, opposite each other like opponents in a chess match, enough shot glasses for an entire set of pieces lined up between them. They talked about nothing for a long time, feeling each other out to see whether or not they were finally prepared not to ask each other for things that the other one couldn't give yet.
Eventually though, Sean forgot all about it being better just to let sleeping dogs lie and he said, "You want to ask me to come back one more time, don't you?"
Viggo drew his finger around the rim of a shot glass. "Maybe," he said, and then, "but not again, not yet."
"Good," Sean said, "that's good," and ever since then he's known that the clock is ticking.
The truth is that it's the rest of the band that's dragging things out at this point. Viggo sends him postcards with cryptic fragments of poetry, Dom and Billy leave tall tales on his voice mail, Karl says nothing but embraces him in a way that threatens to crush Sean's ribs every time he sees him, and Elijah spends so much time overcompensating in his e-mails that Sean's starting to believe that Elijah actually prefers Astin. He knows he must have been waiting to make sure that he wouldn't be coming back just to mop up the mess again, but now everyone's doing such a good job doing so well that he's not sure what he's waiting for.
Nobody in the entire bloody lot of them can just say what they mean, and Sean doesn't have some swelled head or something, but sometimes he catches himself thinking that he's just waiting to be asked, directly and formally, one more time.
When Sean finally left New York, Viggo and Orlando came along in the taxi to the airport. Sean didn't know where Orlando's Eric had buggered off to, and he didn't ask.
It should have been awkward, the three of them sandwiched together like they were back in the bench seat of the Eurovan, but it wasn't. Most of the ride was devoted to taking the piss out of Orlando because a girl too young to be Sean's daughter had asked Orli for his autograph on a napkin and a kiss on her cheek when she'd seen him in the hotel lobby.
"You should start charging," Sean said, as the taxi veered off toward Departures.
Orlando snorted, and said, "Nah, 'M only snogging one person right now, anyway."
Sean had a pretty good chuckle over that one, and when he pointed out what unlikely mates Orlando and monogamy were, Orlando said, "Yeah, well, not like you would know either," and Sean declared, as grandly, as the confined space of the back of a taxi would let him, that he was absolutely intending to stay single for the rest of his life, that relationships were a trap and he was only ever going to consort with ladies of the evening from now on.
He realized that Viggo hadn't said anything to either of them in a long minute, and glanced over to gauge his reaction, expecting either the sour look that meant he was about to say something obvious and painful or the itchy arse look that meant he was about to take off for six months to a country where they drank yak's milk. But what Sean saw was that there was no reaction to gauge; Viggo was chatting with the taxi driver in what sounded like broken Portuguese, half Spanish and half good intentions.
Sean thinks he was ready to say yes, then. But they both hugged him goodbye with loose arms to let him go, and neither of them asked.
So, how it happens is that he's sitting at his dining room table sorting mail and there's a small package covered in air mail stamps and addressed in Orlando's unmistakable scrawl. It isn't the same as being asked, but maybe it's better.