Title: The Chronicles of New Zealand
Rating: NC 17 (for series)
Summary: Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan meet in New Zealand and fall in love during filming "The Lord of the Rings". As their relationship develops the problems and obstacles increase, but of course nothing stands in the way of true love.
Author's note: This work is pure and utter fiction and the product of my vivid imagination. Special thanks to my lovely beta spikessweetgirl.
Word count: 4420
Author's note:I'm aware that the filming of Elijah's last Frodo scene as it's described in this chapter actually happened during the pick-ups in 2003, not at the end of principal photography. However, I changed it for the story because a) I don't know what the last Frodo scene during principal photography was and b) it's so touching and fits the situation in the story perfectly. Besides, at that time they didn't even know they would be back for pick-up scenes, so this makes more sense anyway.
The first day of summer brought mild, pleasant temperatures. The warm season was about to develop in the following month, at least on the North Island of New Zealand where summer would normally create a warm, humid climate. Though the natives knew better than to rely on calendar-based seasons. There was a reason why the weather in New Zealand was commonly described as “four seasons in one day”.
But the first day of summer with all its positive characteristics did not get the attention it deserved. The sunshine and increasing temperatures almost went unnoticed for some people couldn’t care less. Because the first day of summer in the year 2000 was also the last day of principal photography for the, what soon would be called, biggest movie trilogy project of all time.
Dominic and Elijah were standing in front of the movie studio complex in Wellington, watching countless people pass by and enter the building. As stressful and rushed as the past days had been, the atmosphere on this very day was the complete opposite, despite filming still going on. A mixture of melancholy, relief, sadness, anticipation and broodiness engulfed everyone involved, leaving cast and crew with a sense of helplessness. Elijah took a deep drag from his cigarette and handed it to Dominic. He studied the solemn face, the pensive expression, the absent-minded motion of his hand as Dominic raised the cigarette to his mouth without really being aware of it.
Leaning his shoulder against the studio wall and crossing his arms, Elijah broke the silence. “Do you already know what you wanna say in there?”
Dominic who had been staring at the ground looked up at him. Elijah wasn’t sure at first if he had heard him, but then the pondering, preoccupied expression turned into comprehension as Dominic slowly shook his head. He puffed briefly and Elijah thought he saw the hand holding the cigarette tremble lightly. Then Dominic gave it back to Elijah and leaned his back against the wall, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his pants.
“No,” he said quietly as he gazed at the stream of people that was now subsiding. Almost everyone was inside. “Guess words will come to me spontaneously, as they usually do. Not sure if that’s a good thing though.”
He chuckled at his last sentence, making Elijah grin as well. Indeed, everything was weird these days. Normally Dominic had no problem speaking in front of a crowd. He would goof around and make a few jokes, always playing the entertainer. But this was different. Today no jokes or goofy behavior was expected of him. He was about to bare a part of his soul to the people he had worked with for fourteen months. Billy and Dominic had already filmed their last scenes while some of the other actors had yet to experience that emotional moment. The moment when Peter would say “Check the gate” for the last time when he was shooting a scene with them. It had been strangely sad for Dominic and Billy to say good-bye to Treebeard. All the sometimes painful hours up in the crushing hands of the 14 feet high animatronic puppet were over. The friendly giant had become sort of a friend. Dominic remembered sitting up on the big shoulders with Billy, drinking from bottles of water, eating cakes, singing songs and stretching their backs as it used to be very uncomfortable. He was just glad it hadn’t affected his love life.
Elijah would film his last Frodo scene later today. The mere thought of it made him feel like crying, he had no idea how he would cope. Doing the final scenes together with Sean a couple of days before had been hard enough. A lot of hugging and overwhelming emotions had followed the final take. Elijah knew saying good-bye to Frodo, the character he had been for over a year and that he had come to identify with on such a deep level, would be even harder. He smoked the rest of the cigarette and put it out with his foot.
“Shall we go in?” he asked, seeing the answer clearly in Dominic’s eyes. Those struggling, uncertain orbs full of whirling emotions. Elijah acted on pure instinct. He reached out and took Dominic’s hand, pulling him with him as he moved away from the studio entrance. Dominic followed him without a word. He didn’t even wonder why Elijah was tugging him away from the door. It just felt like the right thing to do in this moment. They turned around the corner of the building where there was no one around but them and they were shielded from any potentially prying eyes. As he placed his hands on Dominic’s chest Elijah could literally feel the emotions that were so visibly written all over that face. Then he pressed his mouth against Dominic’s and immediately felt him lose some of the tension. Their lips moved slowly against each other, one tongue slipping and sliding against the other. Elijah wrapped his arms tightly around Dominic’s neck and sank deeper into the kiss as Dominic responded by weaving his fingers through Elijah’s hair and pulling his face even closer. The moment could have continued forever, but they both knew it was time.
When their lips eventually parted, Dominic smiled. “Thank you,” he murmured, still stroking the soft strands of hair between his fingers. He was very much aware of what Elijah had intended with the kiss.
“You’re very welcome,” Elijah said softly and forced himself to remove his arms from around Dominic. They walked back to the studio entrance hand in hand and only let go when they entered the huge building.
As much as the kiss had helped, Dominic had to struggle very hard not to burst into tears. When he had come to New Zealand to get ready and start shooting, he never would have expected the last 24 hours of filming to be this emotionally exhausting and downright heart-wrenching. He had known it would be a big project, he had known it would be a long, sometimes certainly tough adventure and he had known it would be the biggest opportunity in his still young life and career and that he was a Goddamn lucky bastard. What Dominic had not known, never would have guessed in his wildest dreams, was what tremendous an impact it would have on his personal life. Some of these people he had worked with, laughed with and cried with, would be his close friends for the rest of his life. Billy was someone he never would have thought he would ever meet. At their first encounter Dominic could have sworn he had known Billy his whole life already. He was like his Scottish alter ego, they were so alike, so on the same wavelength and with the same mind frame, yet also different on other levels, and meeting someone like that was a one in a million chance, Dominic was sure. Orlando was, well, he was Orlando. Pretty, nice, fun, adventurous like Dominic and most of all pretty. Which made it even more fun to make fun of him. Luckily he understood the twisted British humor that Dominic and Billy loved, being a Brit himself.
And Elijah. The biggest, most unexpected and most precious impact.
Dominic was standing before the crowd of cast and crew and glanced aside at the man who had captured his heart, his soul, his entire being. Running a hand through his hair, he was still fighting back the overwhelming emotions that threatened to knock him speechless. Deep inside Dominic would probably always wonder how this had happened. How and why someone as beautiful, wonderful, lovely, caring, gentle, loving and also famous like Elijah had fallen in love with a semi-attractive nobody who didn’t even have nearly as much talent as he had. He knew Elijah would heavily disagree if he could hear him thinking now, though Dominic had sometimes brought this up in the past. In Dominic’s eyes Elijah was nothing short of perfection, although Elijah would always point out his flaws like smoking and swearing too much. But all that did not make Elijah any less picture-perfect to Dominic. And he couldn’t help but sell himself short compared to this person, concerning personality as well as talent.
Taking a deep breath, Dominic placed a hand on his chest. He could feel his heart race as his mind was searching for words. It wasn’t supposed to be a long speech, just a few final words. “Just” – what an understatement. How was he supposed to say just a few short words to these people who were involved in this project that had brought him here and changed his life so profoundly? Eventually he managed to swallow the lump in his throat and his voice was even halfway steady as he spoke.
“Working on this film and being in New Zealand…allowing myself to be influenced by you people…and…watching your kids grow up…”
He trailed off, taking another deep breath. He was sure his voice would fail him after all, but he had to get those last words out.
“It made me want to become a better person and…I can’t think of a better compliment to give to you guys than…you’ve made me want to be a better person than I was.”
Dominic was vaguely aware of the sound of clapping hands around him as he felt Peter pull him into a hug. He continued looking to the ground but only until Elijah came to stand in front of him to wrap his arms around him. For a moment it seemed like the clapping and cheering was just for the two of them. To Dominic and Elijah the embrace appeared to last an eternity. Elijah noticed how Dominic trembled a little and by the sniffling it was clear that tears were flowing now.
Keeping his mouth right by Dominic’s ear, Elijah whispered: “You’re already a good person, Dommie. The best. I love you so much.”
Dominic nodded faintly and managed a smile through his tears. He was clinging to this incredible man, wishing that it was really just the two of them right here and now, wishing he could pull back a little but only to follow the overwhelming need to kiss Elijah like he had never kissed him before. There were just no words to describe his gratefulness towards whichever higher power had brought them together. No reason he could understand why fate had chosen him of all people. It all went beyond Dominic’s comprehension and that left him inexpressibly happy and dumbstruck at the same time. He knew there were other people who wanted to hug him, so he forced himself to release his tight grip, but not before he could reply in a whisper.
“I love you too, baby…you have no idea…”
Elijah let his fingers gently wander over the rough paper of the heavy book. The mumbling voices around him hardly penetrated his consciousness as his mind drifted back in time. So many memories, so many emotions, so many stories. Frodo’s Red Book of Westmarch contained his journey which was now coming to an end. In every way. At the same time, Elijah imagined that the book also contained his own, personal journey, from the day he had arrived in this beautiful country that had swept him off his feet right away, even though he had been full of fear and self-doubts, to this day. And now he was about to finish and close it. The thought that everything was supposed to be over now went beyond his comprehension. He was Frodo for the very last time. Tomorrow he would pack his things and fly home. Home. Somehow that word didn’t sound quite right. New Zealand had been his home, there was no other expression for it. He felt wetness prickle in his eyes and quickly blinked it away.
Slowly the noises around him brought Elijah back to reality. He looked up from the desk that was Bilbo’s and now Frodo’s desk in the study of Bag End. Peter was sitting behind his monitor with an unreadable face, his eyes on the screen. Elijah knew the director was just as emotional as everyone else, but he wouldn’t show it. At least not until everything was finished. Crew members were standing around them, waiting for the scene to begin. Elijah let his gaze travel some more and stopped when he saw Dominic and Billy stand behind Peter. Billy was chewing on the nail of his thumb whereas Dominic just stared at Elijah with a slightly tilted head. He was wearing some weird poncho that Elijah had never seen before but that still looked good on him, as anything. When their eyes met, Dominic briefly smiled at Elijah and nodded slightly. Elijah returned the short smile and then he took a deep breath.
The cameras were rolling, but he shut them out completely as he looked back down at the book.
“’There And Back Again, a Hobbit’s Tale’ by Bilbo Baggins. And ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by Frodo Baggins. You finished it.”
Elijah listened to the female voice serving as a stand-in for Sean’s Samwise and put on a faint smile. “Not quite,” he said softly and looked up and aside. “There’s room for a little more.”
The wetness threatened to fill his eyes again and he blinked. Basically he couldn’t have been in a better state of mind for this particular scene. Earlier they had done the first part of the brief talk. The wound from Weathertop that had never really healed. That had been emotional enough to last a lifetime. But it was nothing compared to this. And nothing could have prepared him for this either.
Peter’s voice broke the silence. “And one more, that’s nice, Elijah”, he said, not looking up from the monitor. “Just give us more of a sense that you’re distancing yourself from Sam, that you’ve already made your decision and you’ve now got to cut your emotional ties with him.”
Cutting emotional ties. Elijah wondered how he was supposed to do that when it was the last thing he wanted to do. Of course he was professional enough to see the difference, the importance of the scene for his character and the fact that it concerned his character, not himself as a person. But the situation slowly drained him emotionally. The cameras were on again.
“Not quite. There’s room for a little more.”
Silence. At least thirty people were present on set, but no one uttered a single word. Instead, everyone looked from Peter to Elijah and back at Peter. The atmosphere was heart-wrenching.
Dominic kept on staring at Elijah, not even realizing that he was barely breathing. The scene sucked him in and he could only imagine what it would look like on the big screen. What Elijah would look like on the big screen. Dominic had seen bits and pieces of separate Frodo and Sam scenes, and judging by those he could hardly wait to see the entire finished result. Elijah had an on-screen-chemistry that Dominic had hardly ever seen in an actor before. He was vulnerable as well as strong and he oozed wisdom and innocence at the same time. And his eyes…he could say more with his eyes than some other actors could say with a thousand words.
“Thanks, Elijah. Could you just give us a very slow and melancholy one now? Even slower and more disconnected from Sam.”
A lot of images and memories shot through Dominic’s mind as Peter had the scene done once more. This could have been so different. Dominic wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t been there to talk Elijah out of quitting, even before they had shot a single scene. He couldn’t picture any alternative scenario. Elijah was meant to be Frodo. It was the role of his life and he was nothing short of perfect. Yet he had not been able to see it at the very beginning. All his confidence had been buried underneath a pile of uncertainties, self-doubts and fear. But seeing him in full costume for the first time and doing the first scene with the four hobbits together, Dominic knew there never could have been any other way. Elijah had been dedicated, immersed and simply wonderful. And Dominic had never been more proud of him than at this very moment. Not only because of his intense performance. Not only because he had continued and not ran away, but also and because he had gone from insecure, scared little boy to committed, strong young man. Remembering the Elijah he had gotten to know here in New Zealand, watching him struggle with his personal issues, his sexuality and then witnessing his enormous development in the course of the past year, it all filled Dominic with pride, admiration and even more love that he deemed possible. From the very first day on, Dominic had known that Elijah was a truly, truly special person. He had been determined to find out what sort of emotional whirlwind was going on behind those deep, bright but melancholy blue eyes. And what kind of character was behind the professional shell. Slowly but certainly not easily he had managed to pull that person out. Would Elijah have been able to do that on his own? It was a question Dominic couldn’t help but wonder about every once in a while. Though it didn’t matter. Dominic was a firm believer in fate and he was convinced that this task had been up to him. That, in fact, it had been his destiny. And what really mattered was the result. The here and now.
Peter looked at the monitor and scratched his beard. All eyes were on him, including Dominic’s, although all he could really see was the muddled hair of the director. Dominic felt his heart race in his chest. Any second now. Any second now Peter would say “We’ve got it. Check the gate” and that would be it. The very last Frodo shot. Elijah’s final performance for the character that had grown so close to his heart. His curtain call. But Dominic sensed that those three words would not leave Peter’s mouth.
“Alright, one more.”
A mellow smile appeared on Dominic’s face. Peter had already got it. He had got it three takes ago. There was no need to do the scene over and over again, yet there was. Peter didn’t want to stop and neither did anyone else. Nobody wanted to say good-bye to Frodo, the character who essentially was the heart and soul of the story. Dominic looked at Elijah and immediately noticed how more and more tense he became with each new shot. But he remained professional as always and got ready to say the line and pour everything out one more time.
“…and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by Frodo Baggins. You finished it.”
“Not quite. There’s room for a little more.”
Silence. Elijah didn’t know how long it lasted. He had lost all sense of time. He wanted to continue, but at the same time he didn’t. Frodo had crept into his heart and become a part of him. No matter if the movies turned out to be a success or not, he knew the little hobbit would always own a piece of his very soul. Elijah was not scared anymore. He had started to lose that fear a long time ago, when Dominic had been holding him on the floor of Peter’s bathroom, after Elijah’s mental breakdown. That memory felt like ages ago, but it would stay in his mind forever. Falling in love was a slow and steady process that needed time, but Elijah knew that moment between Dominic and him had initiated something. Dominic had been very much aware of the turmoil in Elijah’s head. He had said exactly the right words and he hadn’t just said them to comfort Elijah. He had meant them from the bottom of his heart. And today, on the very last day of filming, Elijah was sure it was back then when he had realized that Dominic was not only a beyond exceptional and fascinating person, that he didn’t attract Elijah for no particular reason. No, Dominic was indeed different from any other guy Elijah had ever met and that was not just a silly cliché statement. What Dominic had done for him could not have been done by just anyone. He had saved Elijah on so many levels and he had never asked for anything in return.
The thoughts kept on whirling around in Elijah’s head in the completely silent room. He proceeded looking at the imaginary Samwise at his side.
Dominic glanced at the back of Peter’s head and finally saw him nod faintly. This was it.
“And cut! That’s great. We’ll check the gate.”
A collective sigh as well as rustling noises followed Peter’s announcement. Peter took off his earphones and stood up. He smiled over at Elijah and raised his thumb briefly. Still, nobody uttered a word. Elijah got up as well, feeling drained, happy, sad and at a complete loss. He saw Peter walk up to him as if in slow-motion and approached him equally slowly. When Peter reached out his arms, it was over. The last thing Elijah noticed were the tears in Peter’s eyes and the words “lovely, lovely last shot”. Then they were locked in a tight embrace, each of them clinging to the other as their bottled-up emotions finally got their much needed release. Elijah looked over Peter’s shoulder into nothingness as he himself started to cry.
“Thank you, Pete,” his tear-stricken voice managed to murmur. Thank you…there was no way Elijah could ever thank Peter enough. The words sounded meaningless in his own ears. He sniffed even more as he heard Peter sob as well. The moment was so utterly surreal but also so utterly beautiful. Elijah had seen almost everything in film business. He had worked with all different kinds of people, all different sorts of actors and directors. Nothing came close to this, not even nearly. He had never been crying in the arms of a director after wrapping photography. He had never been emotionally involved like this. He had never experienced something like this and he knew he never would again in his life.
“Thank you…thank you…,” Peter repeated, over and over again.
Elijah was still struggling to find the proper words to express what he was feeling, but it was in vain. “It’s been so amazing, Peter,” he simply said.
He felt Peter hug him even more tightly. “You’ve been so amazing. You’ve been great.”
Peter was the first to break the embrace and placed his hands on Elijah’s shoulders. “Thank you very very much,” he added warmly. Suddenly everyone started clapping. Elijah looked around as he put his hand on his chest, partly in order to feel his pounding heart, partly to show his honor. Someone said “Frodo, everybody” and Elijah sniffed, the situation overwhelming him completely. He placed his arm around Peter’s shoulder and just remained standing there for a few seconds, feeling the emotions, the sadness and even the last bits of lingering pressure slowly pour out of him.
Like all the others standing around the two of them, Dominic hadn’t been able to hear what Peter and Elijah had said to each other, but he could easily imagine the words. And even though one camera had been recording it, he was glad that this very moment had been just between them. Dominic watched Elijah, heard everyone cheer and his pride of Elijah doubled instantly. Look at you, Lijah, he thought. Look at you, look at everyone, look at what you have accomplished. And now tell me again that you can’t do this, that you can’t play Frodo, that you’re going to ruin the films and that you’re too afraid of not living up to the expectations of millions of moviegoers around the world. Just like the people in this room now, everyone out there is going to adore you as well. Everyone is going to see your devotion, your skills and that you’re nothing short of perfect. In every way.
Various people hugged Elijah as he slowly made his way over to his friends. Dominic smiled and glanced at Billy by his side. They smiled at each other, and Billy of course knew exactly what Dominic was thinking.
Then Elijah was finally standing right in front of Dominic, his emotions written all over his beautiful face. He fell into Dominic’s embrace and finally didn’t have to hold anything back anymore. Naturally this embrace lasted the longest, but neither of them cared about possibly suspicious looks. Dominic heard Elijah quietly sniff into his ear and held him tightly against his body. He felt the soft curls of Frodo’s wig against his cheek and inhaled deeply, the sweet scent of Elijah filling his nose. At last the sniffing ceased and was replaced by a soft, loving, tender whisper.
“Thank you, Dom. Thank you so so much…for everything...”
Dominic smiled. He didn’t even bother to say that there was nothing to thank him for. His arms tightened their hold around the slender frame of Elijah’s body. He knew if he pulled back now, he would not be able not to kiss Elijah deeply and passionately. So instead he turned his face to murmur into Elijah’s ear.
“I knew you could do this. I knew you would be perfect. I’ve always known it. I’m so proud of you, baby. So proud.”
If they weren’t surrounded by so many people, he would have said much more. But there would be time for that later. Enough time. Then they had to refrain from embracing and immediately Elijah was in Billy’s arms.
Dominic looked at them hugging and wiped a tear away from his eyes. Billy had quickly pulled Elijah to him and Dominic briefly wondered if his friend had sensed that he had been tempted to lean in for a kiss. He wouldn’t be surprised. When Elijah and Billy pulled apart, they smiled at each other brightly. And Dominic smiled as well. If he hadn’t known it a long time ago already, he would know it now. These two men would be with him forever. One as the best friend he would ever have, one as his soul-mate and the love of his life.