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Title: Cartes Postales
author: Jem ([livejournal.com profile] crazybutsound)
Pairing: DomLijah
Rating: PG
Genre: AU
Summary: Dom as a rock star trying to get over his band's break-up. Road trip. Lamest summary ever but I don't know how to explain it without giving it all away. So trust me and read? :-D
Disclaimer: pure fantasy. Fiction if you will. Not a word of truth in there.
Author’s note: all pictures taken and edited by the author. This fic was written as a [livejournal.com profile] slashababy present for [livejournal.com profile] cortie. Merry Xmas! Also, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] rynalwyn for the read through and the hand holding.



CARTES POSTALES


When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.


Ansel Adams







It gets too much one day, laughter breaking sharp and cutting against his empty mind and he knows he must take off, disappear, follow Houdini’s tracks and free himself from the ropes. He doesn’t know if anybody will notice he’s missing, but he stops caring the minute the car takes him over state lines, following half erased and dusty tracks, roads winding through the desert and beyond.


He will start to breathe again when he gets to the other side.


He left everything behind, grabbed a few changes of clothes and the bare necessities, cash and a credit card and his driver’s license… he didn’t call, didn’t leave messages, didn’t warn his friends or his family and yet, the further he drives, the lighter he feels.


He dumps the car in Barstow, rents another one, a Tahoe because it’s so far from the kind of car he’s driven since he came to the States. He thinks maybe the young receptionist recognizes him but he hasn’t been missing long enough for the news to have broken yet and she’s a professional; she smiles a lot and flirts a little but never asks for an autograph. Dom is grateful enough that he leaves her a big tip; whether it’s something that’s done or not when renting a car, he doesn’t really think it matters.


Nevada sounds almost like freedom and Dom puts the Tahoe on cruise control, digging for his camera in his bag. He doesn’t know why it counted among the bare necessities but when he packed it, he knew he’d need it as fiercely as he’d need a razor. One hand on the wheel, one eye on the road, he takes a picture and waits for the lcd screen to show a blur of colours. He fumbles one handed with the settings again and snaps another one, smiles satisfied as freedom appears on the preview screen.










He stops in Las Vegas and gets a room at the Circus Circus, stays inside for hours, trying to think and remember what made him leave. The view of the strip from the window is fascinating in its utter ugliness and he gets the camera out again, starts snapping pictures instead of thinking.


For each word, each reason that escapes him, each feeling he can’t put into sentences, his finger presses down on the button and a thought is captured on camera. The white pages of his notebook –click- the memory of the fights with Orlando –click- Elijah’s smile in his mind’s eye –click-…


The camera’s memory card fills fast but the pages of his notebook remain blank and appallingly empty. He goes to sleep on top of the covers, shivering in the room’s air conditioned chill, the notebook squashed under his cheek and the camera safely tucked inside his bag again.


His dreams are confused: Elijah shouting soundlessly at him, his producer running after him waving torn up contracts, his mom dancing and twirling, twirling, until he wakes up dizzy, his throat dry and his eyes stuck as if from too little sleep or too many tears.


Breakfast is a hurried affair, room service between showering and getting dressed. The TV’s on mute as he sips his coffee and even on MTV there are no breaking news of his disappearance. He’s not sure whether he should be relieved or disappointed.


He spots the rows of postcards near the check out desk and doesn’t know what possesses him to buy one but he does. He scribbles Elijah’s address on the envelope hastily while the clerk processes his credit card, and then leaves it at the front desk. It’s a postcard of the hotel, loud and tacky and the only word he wrote on it before sliding it in the envelope was FREE, in neatly printed block letters. When Elijah gets it, though, Dom will probably be in Utah.










By the time he’s nearing Salt Lake City, more time has passed and he doesn’t know how long it’s been since he last saw the ocean outside Elijah’s and his bedroom window. He stops by the great plain of salt and watches the sun make its slow way across the sky, burning down on him and scorching his neck and his ears. He doesn’t leave again until he’s managed to take a few more pictures and perfected his sunburn.


The second postcard is one he buys at the temple’s tourist information desk. He thinks maybe this is getting to be a ritual of some sort as he writes in big block letters NO FAITH across the back. He drops it in a mailbox outside, right before taking one last picture of the temple’s façade.


He gets back on the I-80 and doesn’t spend the night in Salt Lake. He played the town once, remembers spending a couple of days in some expensive hotel, arguing with Orlando about chords and lyrics and who had fucking written what. It was right after they’d gone to Memphis to record their last album, not long before the break up. Elijah hadn’t been around then, too busy with filming to join Dom on the tour at that point. Dom can feel the memories of painful fights and sleepless nights wash over him again as he drives out, phantom pains from a time he’s supposed to have long ago gotten over.










The I-80 takes him through Wyoming and he only stops for sleep a couple of times. He’s driving without aim, snapping pictures of things that catch his eye, stopping when he’s hungry or tired or troubled… his notebook is still as empty as it was when he left and his guitar hasn’t even yet left the trunk of the car. He keeps driving, keeps looking through the eye of the camera trying to find the answer to the question that still linger: where is he going and why?


Time finally catches up with him around the time he leaves the I-80 for the I-25, heading south to Denver. The TV is on in the diner where he stops for lunch and even though the sound is off, he still catches the news. There’s Elijah looking frantic, too many mikes thrown in his face trying to catch a reaction. Later, Dom stops to fill the tank and finds some magazines by the counter, his face on the cover, quotes from Elijah and Orlando thrown in next to the picture of the three of them on the beach that last summer. The picture is old, and the magazine is dusty, but the date under the magazine’s name is that of two days ago. Dom buys the magazine and another postcard.


He gets to Denver late and sits in his car in the parking lot of a Motel 6, writing LOYALTY on the dusty postcard from the gas station before sliding it into the already addressed envelope. He’s got a stash of those with him, addressed and stamped, ready to send as the whim takes him. He leaves the card at the front desk when he goes to get his key then hauls his bag and his guitar to the second floor where his room is.


It feels weird to get the guitar out, to tune it and try to play. His fingers are rusty and it’s more painful than he remembers, but then he hasn’t played in months. He closes his eyes and he can hear Elijah telling him about practice, about needing to play no matter what, about betrayal being only within oneself. He still doesn’t really know what Elijah meant by that but when his fingers give, he feels the sting of disappointment and for once it doesn’t have much to do with Orlando.


When his hands refuse to cooperate any longer, he props the guitar onto a chair and grabs the camera again, gets close to the strings and starts snapping.










The I-70 takes him from Denver to Kansas City through a whirl of pictures and emotions. Everywhere he stops, he makes sure to have a TV in the room and watches endless hours of old video clips, of more recent interviews of the people he now knows he was running away from, and of Elijah trying to avoid the cameras. His producer in LA, his agent, the suits from the record company, every single one of them has something to say, something that makes him laugh painfully at how hollow his life had become before he drove away. They make noises, whispers of breach of contract and pursuits, of songs and money owed and Dom is relieved to have left his phone behind, to have completely given up on all modern means of communication. He’s still sending cards, one or two words written down as they cross his mind. BETRAYAL and HURT, MEMORIES and FORGIVENESS, and today’s message of TRUST.


He hopes Elijah understand better than he does, because the words don’t come any easier than that and Dom saves them, lays them down to rest on bits of paper for his lover to keep. He thinks Elijah will know, because Elijah knows him well and knows how precious words are to him. His notebook however remains as blank as the day he bought it.


He doesn’t know if it’s fate or just a coincidence but as he gets to the outskirts of St Louis, the announcer on the radio he’s listening to starts talking about the band and the break up, about Dom and Orlando and the legal fights that followed the release of their last album. Dom thinks maybe he should have gone to Memphis, to see the city where it all turned even sourer than it had always been, but St Louis works as far as irony and fate go.


He stops to buy a map of the city and looks the Pageant up, writes down the directions from where he is to the venue and drives over, doesn’t even get lost on the way. The place looks exactly the same, smaller than the stadiums they’d gotten used to playing that summer, yet ten times more familiar to Dom. The kind of venue where you could get a real feel of the audience, the kind of venue Dom had always known he could own yet the kind of venue Orlando had always said would be a step down from what their popularity meant they had achieved.


It hadn’t been the start of the end but rather the last step, the one place where they’d come to blows and finally given up on patching things up. The legal battles that had followed their last concert in St Louis had been about cancellations and refunds and finding a way to agree on splitting their shares from the writing rights. It had been painful and difficult mostly because neither of them could remember who had written what, which line had been born in Orlando’s eyes and raised into Dom’s words, or vice versa.


As Dom looks up at the Pageant’s façade and remembers, he doesn’t reach for his camera but closes his eyes. He’s satisfied with the image he sees, then, a mix of memories and clearer newer images: Orlando laughing openly, his head thrown back and his hands wrapped lovingly around the neck of his guitar; Elijah backstage, smiling and observing, the lights and the music and Billy shouting for them to hurry up and get their asses on stage…


He drives to the nearest hotel, asks for a double and tells the clerk he doesn’t know when he’ll be leaving. Inside the room he gets the guitar out again, turns the TV on and puts it on mute before starting to play. It’s hours before he lifts his eyes from the way his fingers are moving over the strings and he’s surprised to see Orlando on the screen, reaches for the remote and hits the volume button.


Orlando looks good, rested and happy even though pale, but that might be normal given that he’s gone back to England. He’s spent the last couple of months working in the studio, supposedly on the next brilliant opus of no doubt a long string of gold records. Dom swallows back the bitterness, taken aback by it because it’s been too long for jealousy to resurface, really. He turns his attention back to the TV, tries to listen and make sense of what Orlando is saying.


It’s a lot of rubbish, questions that have been asked a hundred times over about them, the friendship, the creative partnership, and the comparisons that even then neither of them wanted to acknowledge. But in the middle of it all, Dom catches something, a smile, soft and sad, a flash of something in Orlando’s eyes and the words, the words he’s been looking for forever.


“It’s hard to go from four hands to two. We’d never have made it further together but I miss him, I always will. I’m writing again now, but it took time. It’s not the same really.”


Dom stares and stares again, watches without seeing as the interview wraps up and Orlando smiles one last time, traces of the boy he was among the lines of worry on his face. Dom’s hands are brushing the strings of the guitar still in his lap, chords and notes and hope and he puts the guitar down. He grabs his bag and fumbles inside, pulls the camera out only to drop it on the bed and go back to the bag again, searching for his notebook instead.


He stays in his room for three days, survives on room service, too much coffee and no sleep. When he gets out again on the fourth day, he walks down to the Arch with his camera in his hand, looks up at the sky and squints, smiles as the sun warms his face. He snaps a few pictures but when he looks at the preview screen all he can see are pages and pages of ink, words falling over each other on pages no longer blank and empty.


He buys the last postcard in the Arch’s shop, writes THANK YOU on the back and doesn’t bother with an envelope for once. He asks the clerk at the hotel’s front desk how long the card will take, if the post will get it to LA before the end of the week and the clerk nods, assures him whoever he’s sending it to won’t have to wait long.










He goes back up to the room, falls on the bed fully dressed and goes to sleep with the familiar hardness of the notebook’s cover under his cheek. He spends the next three days sleeping a lot, catching up on all the sleepless nights he spent on the road and with his guitar earlier. By Saturday he’s been here a week and the room feels almost like home. The maid calls him by his name and he’s had every item of food on the room service menu.


When Sunday comes around, it’s not the sun streaming through the windows that wakes him up but the sound of his name in Elijah’s voice. He opens his eyes to find the familiar face of his lover in front of him, all wide eyes and pale pale skin. Dom reaches out and touches Elijah’s cheek, thinks he’s maybe not dreaming after all and drags Elijah down, hugs him tight and kisses him, apologizes with silence and caresses.


They lay in bed for a while and Elijah takes everything in: the camera on the side table, the notebooks on the floor, the ink and the calluses on the tip of Dom’s fingers as well as the guitar on the floor, next to its open case. He lifts himself up and looks down at Dom, smiles and kisses him again.


“You want to fly back, now?”


Dom considers this, doesn’t say a word at first and closes his eyes, tries to conjure up images of LA and their house and the studio where Billy is sure to be waiting for him, furious yet delighted. He thinks about Orlando in Liverpool, thinks about his mom in Manchester and Elijah next to him and smiles. He thinks maybe he’s running out of ink for his pens and out of pages in his notebooks.


“Yeah, I can fly.”


Elijah squeezes him and laughs, happy and beautiful as he kisses Dom’s ear, his words warm and loving as he whispers: “I always knew you could fly, Dom, I always knew.”





THE END

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