Rating: R, overall for violence, language and sexual situations.
Summary: The world of Lotrips mingles with Stephen King's The Stand (and The DarkTower). For those who've survived Captain Trips, life has become dangerous and strange. Las Vegas is destroyed, Randall Flagg fled from the world, but what will become of Dom?
Feedback: is much loved and appreciated.
Disclaimers: This is entirely fictional. No disrespect to anyone, real or fictional, is intended. The Stand was written by Stephen King. The title comes from T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men.
Previous chapters: Chaps. 1 through 45; Chap. 46; Chap. 47; Chap48
This Is the Way the World Ends, Pt. 49
Dom remembers things. He does. It's only that the things he remembers best stop at about 1990, the year MC Hammer had a hit with "U Can't Touch This." That, he gathers from what the others say, was a long time ago, because it's now 2007, and the world has moved on.
In his head, most people who aren't his family still speak German and he hasn't quite got used to the fact that they don't. In his head, he's lived in Manchester for a year and a bit. Despite extensive exploration, he's still just managing to find his way around.
He's not in Manchester anymore, in much the same way Dorothy wasn't in Kansas, only the rainbow he's gone over seems to have been a terrible one. He's just as glad he can't remember that part.
Except that he does remember, most times, when he dreams, and that's why he tries to sleep as little as he can, even though sleep is the only time when the hurting stops--and he hurts all the time, in ways he didn't know a person could hurt.
The others want him to sleep. They're always telling him, "Sleep, Dom, you'll feel better when you wake up."
But when he wakes up, really, he mostly feels afraid, and that's because he usually wakes up screaming.
Terrible things happen in his head when he sleeps.
There are people dying, many people he loves. In his dreams his beloved, maddening, embarrassing, impossible-to-live-without dad is gone, along with his sometimes-enemy but always loved brother, Matthew, and he never got to say goodbye to either. In his dreams, there are wolves that are almost human, or humans that are almost wolves, and he's running, running, running from them, but he can't get away. In his dream there is a demon, in the shape of a smiling man, because demons exist for real these days, despite all he wants to believe. In his dreams he's riding through a horrid wasteland with a rotting corpse, preparing to deliver a bomb that will murder hundreds of people.
Dom knows none of this can be true. None of it. He refuses to accept the things he sees.
Except he knows his refusal is nothing more than a lie he's using to protect his sanity.
In his memory, he's strong and healthy and clever, footie-mad, quick as an almost-fourteen-year-old can be, but here, over the bad rainbow, he's blind. His hearing goes in and out oddly so that it's hard, at times, to decipher what people say. There's the never-stopping pain, and though he knows he's a grown man now, and should be capable, he can't seem to accomplish the simplest thing. Even drinking from a straw is an ordeal, and he can't manage a cup at all. They give him spoons to eat with, slowly and clumsily, because he can't handle forks without hurting himself, or the food falling off onto the table or the floor. The others, especially Sean, are very kind to him, very patient, and they clean him up after, so that he's always tidy.
The shame of it is nearly unbearable.
He cries all the time, from the pain, from frustration, from sheer weariness, from humilation. He cries because he misses his mum and dad and Matthew fiercely, even though in 1990 Matthew was at a difficult age, and would rather, given his preferences, not have had a little brother in general, and Dominic as a little brother in particular. He misses Gisela, the girl he fancied in Bern, and Roger, the boy he fancied at his new school In Manchester--though no one was allowed to know that secret, not even his mum, who generally susses out nearly every thought in his head.
Gradually (though it's been difficult, sightless and with his hearing wonky as it is), he's come to know the others a bit. Most of them are Americans, except for Orli, who's English like him, only from Canterbury, and Billy, who's Scottish and harder to understand than the rest, especially when he's upset.
Billy gets upset quite often, which from what the other others say when they think Dom can't hear them, is Not In His Nature. They're worried about Billy, almost as worried as they are about him.
Billy keeps reminding Dom that they're married, which is confusing and, by the standards of 1990, unexpected. He tells Dom long, hard-to-decipher-in-his-Scottish-accent stories about their life together, stories Dom can only assume are true, since Billy relates them so sincerely. Frequently, Billy cries too, and holds Dom closely and tenderly, which is lovely, though it invariably makes him sad.
Dom wants to love Billy, he truly does, because he'd like to make Billy happy, and also because he suspects that Billy is altogether lovable. He believes, in his heart, that he's coming to care for Billy a bit. Sometimes more than a bit, if he drags his mind off his own troubles and thinks of Billy instead.
Dom often thinks of Billy. He doesn't mean to be selfish, only sometimes he is. It's the one sin he confessed most often to Father Padraig, in Manchester, and Father Helming, in Bern.
The one sin he never mentioned, actually, was how much he dreamt of other boys, mostly because he never thought that was a sin at all. Apparently, if Billy's right, he's kept to that opinion.
The others are an odd lot. Given their differences, where they come from, who they are, one wouldn't have expected them to come together at all, much less make up a family. Strangely, they appear to love him very much, if not quite so much as Billy loves him, and Dom's hard-pressed to know why--it's alien, that feeling of being cared for deeply by people who aren't his mum or dad or grandparents. In Germany, he got on well enough, though he was always the new boy, and just when he'd got comfortable another three years would be up, and it was time to move on again. Manchester, so far, has been horrid. Sometimes it seems as if he's wearing a sign on his back that says, "Hit me," and a day can't go by without a new bloody nose or a bruise. If it's not because he's an outsider, or small for his age, or can sometimes be found with his nose in a book, it's because some yobbo's living a hundred years in the past and takes exception to his Roman Catholicism or his Irish surname. And he can't back down. He can't ever back down. He must always stand up to them.
Dom's glad there's none of that here. He's glad to be loved, even if he doesn't understand it. He's glad, if he has to be with strangers, in a strange place, that these are the strangers he's found.
He's learnt several things about them.
For one, the women, Sonja and Toni, don't know him well; they've come late to their little group. Sonja--with a "J"--is almost Sean's wife now, though he once had another, not so long ago, and three little girls. Sonja is big and strong and talks less than the others. She had a little girl, too, called Alice, and was once a stuntwoman in the movies. Sometimes, when Dom's suffering most, she'll tell him quite interesting stories, about jumping off buildings and being caught on fire, to occupy his mind. Toni is the one who hurts him quite a lot, trying to jab needles into him, and messing him about with bandages, and he fights her, though he doesn't mean to, especially when she speaks to him in her sweet honey voice. She's from the South, from New Orleans but, for that, she isn't awfully hard to understand. Once she had a husband and two little children, only she doesn't talk about them much, as if that was something that happened to another person a very long time ago, and all that matters is that she and Viggo are together now.
There's Max, too, of the others he hadn't know before, who's a small boy and, so far as Dom can tell, more or less certifiable, though not in any way that's frightening--it only seems he's lost all his own words, and has to talk in bits of books and stories and rhymes. When one's near Max, something zings around him, like electricity, like the Van de Graff Generator Dom's dad kept in his classroom, that when it was switched on and one touched it, would send one's hair sizzling up on end.
The last thing Dom's discovered is that the rest of them, the ones who know him nearly as well as Billy does--Viggo, Orli, Elijah and Sean--are that way because they all met at nearly the same time. Once, before the bad rainbow came, they were actors. They played in three films together--wonderful films, everyone says, and the last was nominated for and won a record eleven Oscars.
Oddly enough, the films were based on a trilogy of books Dom's dad gave him to read the past summer (or eighteen years ago, depending on whose timeline one used), The Lord of the Rings, that he'd devoured in record time, unwilling to leave the Professor Tolkien's magical world behind for the dull grey streets of Manchester. It had been a welcome escape for him; he'd been almost physically homesick for Germany then.
In the films, he was Merry and Billy was Pippin, and that's how they fell in love. Viggo was Aragorn the King, Orli was the elf, Legolas, and Elijah and Sean, Frodo and Sam, respectively, which is why they'll sometimes call Sean "Seanwise" when he's being particularly care-taking, or why Elijah will say to Dom, laughing, trying to cheer him, "Be merry, Merry!"
Viggo's a bit older than the others, as befits a king, strong and wise, fatherly in a slightly offbeat way and, somehow, also a bit daft (as Billy would say), perhaps because he, too, has lost his son-or perhaps, as Dom gathers from the others, Viggo was always that way. Whether or not that's true, he's the one who found this safe place, and he's fierce about looking after them all.
Orli's a bit daft too, in a drifting and forgetful way. Elijah says he's been over his own bad rainbow, had his own bad times, with the smiling man from Dom's dark dreams, and he's not the same as he used to be--which was, Dom gathers, sunny and kind and perhaps a tiny bit gormless--but he's getting better. "Then," Elijah always adds, "Ya know, who is the fucking same?"
Elijah's little and funny, the youngest except for Max, and he smokes and curses quite a bit more than one would expect, even in front of Max, which Sean chides him for quietly sometimes. He's the one who has the tiny, flat box, called an Ipod, that holds more music than Dom can imagine inside-though how Elijah manages to keep it operating Dom hasn't managed to understand either. When Dom's most upset, Elijah cuddles him and plays him Beatles tunes to make him happy again, which is lovely too, and Dom tries very hard to put on a happy mask for him, though he's not always sure he succeeds.
Sean is the one who sets a good example, who is even more fatherly than Viggo, the gentlest and kindest of them, the one who doesn't get upset about things like messes and tears. Sean and Sonja expect a baby in the spring, which is hopefully a happy thing. If not for the Superflu, which is sometimes called Captain Trips.
Because that was the bad thing that killed everyone he loved, both his dad and Matthew, and the ones Dom can't really remember, only the pain of them being gone, and it still might kill Sean and Sonja's new baby when it comes.
Dom doesn't think he could bear that. He thinks it would be the very Last Bad Thing in the long line of Bad Things.
He thinks it would be The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back.
Just now, he's lying beside Billy, in the big bed upstairs. Dom sleeps in the bed to please Billy--or lies in the bed not sleeping--just as he climbs the stairs to please Billy, because it helps Billy think he's getting well. Who knows? Maybe he is getting well. Maybe a week ago he wouldn't have been able to negotiate so much as one or two of the steps, and now he can climb the whole flight, even if it's only barely, and he's breathless and aching when he reaches the top. Most likely it's good for him. It's some form of exercise, after all, and since he can't seem to manage much else, it's better than nothing.
Billy doesn't snore, exactly, but he whistles a bit in his sleep, which is nice because one always knows he's there. That's a good thing, because otherwise Billy's very quiet. When he gets up to use the toilet in the night, Dom scarcely feels the bed shift, and he doesn't hear Billy's footsteps on the carpet at all. It's a bit of a contrast to the way he himself blunders about like a rhinoceros, and knocks over tables (until they were taken out to leave his way clear) and runs into walls or the door.
When he does that, Billy usually gets up to set him right again, holding him a moment and telling him, sleepy-voiced, "It's all right, Dom," or "Ist okay," or "Ist gut," so that he knows he's accidentally been speaking in German again, and Billy's answering in the same language, as Viggo taught him (because Viggo has at least has a nodding acquaintance with many languages), to soothe Dom a little.
Though he's not really sure if "okay" counts as German. But that's what they say.
Billy always asks him, "Do you need my help?" and Dom always answers, "No, I'll manage," but when he can't find things in the always-dark, when he gets turned around, and lost, Billy comes in to help him after all. The times he does all right on his own, Billy's sitting on the edge of the bed when he gets back, waiting to tuck him in again.
Which is yet another reason to love Billy, though what Dom can't understand, most of all, is why Billy loves him? Because, really, why should he? Why should he?
Dom's terribly afraid that whilst he's trying to catch up, learning to love Billy in return, Billy will be the one who stops loving him.
He wants to tell Billy, Wait for me. Please, wait for me, Billy, please, because I'm so close to being there.
Billy never touches him, except for the cuddles sometimes. He never kisses Dom like a lover, which Dom wishes passionately that he would do, despite the pain, and even though it's 1990 in his head. Billy has no way of knowing that inside Dom it's seventeen years ago, and Dom certainly won't be the one to tell him. It's one of his great difficulties, that he has a man's emotions, but only a boy's memories, nothing but the most terrifying fragments of his adult life left to help him steer by.
He's leaned hard on Billy, perhaps harder than he should have, reckoning only someone who knows him so well might be able to lead him back to himself.
Dom reaches out, feeling carefully as he can for Billy's chest, not meaning to wake him, though he wouldn't mind so much if Billy does wake-and there's that selfishness again. Suddenly, he's sick of the bandages on his fingertips, keeping him from feeling anything, and though his fingers are very sore he strips them off one by one, hissing a little as he does it, and feeling shaky by the time he's done.
He hasn't any fingernails. Why, for fuck's sake, hasn't he any fingernails?
"Billy!" Dom blurts out, suddenly scared. "Billy!"
"Dammit, Dom," Billy slurs, sounding almost unbearably weary, and Dom remembers, with a pang of guilt, that Billy'd had rather a lot to drink that night. All the others drink quite a lot, except for Max and Sonja, of course, and he wishes like hell he could join them, but the one time he tried, the smallest sip of the stuff burned his sore throat like acid and then made him beastly sick.
"Nothing," Dom says, and manages to touch his newly-bare fingers to Billy's chest, running them lightly through the soft, fuzzy hair. "Nothing. Nothing. Sorry I woke you."
"Did you want a cuddle?" Billy asks him, still knackered, but remorseful, too, as if he'd just recognized the tone in his own voice when he'd said Dom's name. Resentful, it had been--even Dom's bad ears are able to catch that--perhaps more than a little pissed off.
"No, that's all right, love," Dom answers, adding the "love" because it makes Billy happy when he says it, as it does when he calls Billy, "céile," which means spouse or partner or beloved in Scots and, he gathers, is their special word. "Go back to sleep. I'm sorry."
He hears Billy turning in the bed, then Billy's hand cups his cheek, clumsily, as Billy leans forward to press his lips to Dom's forehead. For a moment there's Billy's breath, warm and smelling of whisky, then he's gone, turned away again, with a great space of sheet between them.
"But you could," Dom tells him softly, "If you liked."
Dom lies awake through the night, listening to the noisy clock on the bedside table, listening to Billy breathing, feeling the stretch of bedsheet like the Sahara Desert between his front and Billy's back. Once or twice, he thinks Billy might be weeping--there's the slightest hitch and catch in his breath--once or twice he nearly speaks Billy's name, and might have done in fact, if hadn't realized, suddenly, that Billy's actually well on his way to trollied, lost in his own, uncomfortable space.
And if Billy hadn't, when Dom wanted him so badly, turned away from him in the first place.
It's not that he's angry with Billy for that. He knows he might have asked, and Billy would have held him then, as he longs to be held. Only the others all give him so much these days without being asked, Dom doesn't like to ask for anything more. He especially doesn't want to take from Billy, afraid he'll drain him dry.
Towards what Dom guesses might be dawn, Billy leaves quite suddenly, the door slamming behind him.
Dom sits up in bed, painfully, scooting his way up against the headboard, bunching the covers nervously in his lap. There's something he should do, isn't there? Follow after Billy, bring him Paracetemol--or, rather, aspirin, he supposes; it's aspirin they give him here--and cool water from downstairs.
He'd just be in the way, though, wouldn't he? One more thing to trip over, like the area rugs that have been taken up all over the house so as not to tangle under his feet, or Squire's plumey tail. He'd never make it back up the stairs carrying a cup anyway.
Dom rests his cheek against the smooth, cool plaster of the wall. On the other side, in Elijah's room, he can hear someone sobbing, Orli he thinks.
Elijah's voice follows, tender and gentle. "Time to wake up. Time to wake up, Orl. See, it's okay, you're here with me. You're only dreaming. Nothing here to be scared of, Orli."
The sobs go quiet then, as if buried in pillows, or someone's skin, and Lijah's voice becomes a murmur, too soft to make out words. Dom's sorry he's listening then; this is private, not meant for him.
Outside his own door, sometime later, there's a stumbling footstep, someone's hand on the knob, hesitating, a second footstep, turning away.
"Don't go!" Dom calls out, and though his voice is raw, it doesn't sound desperate. "Don't go, Billy." He's not pleading thank God, even if that's what he feels--it's a reasonable request. "If you go downstairs, I'll only follow you." Dom tries to inject a bit of humour into that, make it teasing. "Really, I will. You'll regret it."
"Dommeh," Billy sighs, and what's likely his head thumps against something hard, probably the lintel.
"Billeh," Dom mimics, as Billy drifts into the room, a little heavier of foot than he'd usually be. The mattress sags suddenly as he drops to the edge. It makes him easier to place. "Too much to drink?"
Billy makes one of his undefinable Scottish noises, one Dom supposes means "yes."
Without much difficulty, Dom locates Billy's shoulder, bending down to kiss it at the place where it meets his neck. Billy's skin is damp and chill; he's showered in the cold, cold water. He smells a bit minty too, like toothpaste--hungover as he is, Billy's tried to clean up for him.
"You're frozen," Dom tells him. "Come under the duvet with me and get warm." He kisses the back of Billy's neck, just behind his right ear. "I'll cuddle you this time instead of you cuddling me. And I promise to be very quiet and still."
"You're incapable," Billy answers, though they both know that's not true, not these days.
Sighing, he lies back on the pillows, as Dom arranges the covers over them both.
In Dom's arms, Billy shifts a bit uncomfortably. "Don't want to lie on you too hard. I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't hurt me. Ssh."
"Room's spinning." Billy tenses, but Dom shushes him again, bringing him nearer still, stroking Billy's forehead softly with his thumb, until Billy's monstrous headache and sore stomach and the spinning room are drawn away from him, and he's sleeping in perfect peace, quietly and deeply.
For breakfast in the morning, as they do every morning, they feed Dom on soft things, because his teeth are painful and his throat's so sore: applesauce and poached eggs, the eggs cooked cheerfully and noisily by Sean. The food feels slimy and revolting in his mouth, so that he'd like to be sick, but he doesn't dare. The others worry too much when he's sick. They hover and discuss and in the end they just force him to try again, something different but equally horrid, which means it's better to just swallow the nasty stuff down fast as he can, then shut off his throat and think of England. Nine times out of ten, it works. Actually, more often now. Perhaps even nineteen out of twenty. His stomach doesn't seem quite as bad these days, even this morning, when he has the leftover pleasure of Billy's hangover.
Dom wonders about that, actually--what he'd done in the night to make Billy better. How he'd done it. How he'd known he could. It's connected, somehow to his awful dream of the rotting man in the desert, that feeling of almost driving the rotting man on, siphoning the sickness out of him so that he can go, and go, and go, when he should have by all rights been decently dead.
It's a horrible memory, one Dom doesn't want to venture near. His head hurts enough as it is.
"What's that look?" Billy asks him, bending down to kiss the top of Dom's head. "Feel how your hair's coming in again? Soon you won't be shiny anymore."
Dom rubs his palm over his scalp. Billy's right, his hair has started to come back, and not just the fuzz--actual prickles of hair. He's inordinately pleased by this. His face feels funny for a minute, and he realizes he's just given Billy a smile. Not the ghost of one, either. A full, beaming smile.
"That's my Dom," Billy says softly, after a moment. His voice sounds choked. "That's my lad."
Dom knows he shouldn't ask, but he can't help himself. "Billy, do you have to go out?" The moment he speaks the words, he knows it's the wrong thing to say.
By day, Billy, Sean and Toni scout through the neighboring towns, where they search for food, hardware, medical supplies, anything that hasn't spoiled and might be of use to them in the months ahead. Winter will be there before they know it; they've no idea how many days they have left, how long the roads will be passable. By lingering behind to look after him, the three of them are already late on their way; the others have been at work for well over an hour.
"Never mind." Dom makes himself smile again, though he guesses Billy knows it's not true. "Stupid of me to ask, really. Give me a proper kiss, though, before you go on your way?"
Billy strokes his cheek softly with the backs of his fingers; his thumb-tip rests briefly on Dom's lips.
"It's all right," Dom urges. "You won't hurt me. You won't."
"I…" Billy begins. Dom can hear him swallowing heavily.
"Well, not if you have to steel yourself to the act." Dom laughs, but he's impatient, suddenly.
And then Billy's gone, striding quickly away, the screened door banging shut behind him.
"Who was that?" Toni asks, coming down the stairs. "Billy? What's gotten into him?" She smells lovely, Dom thinks, like sweet almond and vanilla flower, but he wishes she'd go away again.
"Don't ask," Sean answers, gathering up dishes with a clatter. Dom can practically hear him mouth, Trouble with Dominic. "Give me five minutes, I'll have this cleaned up and we can get going."
But, instead, he sits down heavily in a neighboring chair, looking on as Toni takes Dom's blood-pressure and pokes her annoying thermometer into his ear. When Dom tries to shake her off, she slaps him lightly, playfully.
"None of that. Hold still. Your temp's up a little again."
"You're dehydrated, too. Are you drinking your water?"
Dom nods, though he has no idea whatsoever if he's drinking his water or not. It's not something he notices.
"Liar." Toni taps him again. "I've left three litres in the livingroom for you. In the bottles with the sports caps, so you shouldn't have trouble. I'm expecting to find at least two of them gone when we return. Here's your medicine."
"You sound just like my mum," Dom tells her, swallowing it down, two big droppers, one a repellent false cherry, one an ersatz grape. The grape is for allergies, so that he can be around Viggo's dog, Squire, without sneezing his head off. "Are all nurses bossy?"
"It's one of the first things they teach us," Toni answers. "Be good today. Rest, and drink your water. I've left some Ensure for you, too."
"I hate it," Dom says, which is true--it's stuff like a thin milkshake, with a nasty metallic flavor, meant to give him extra vitamins and calories until he's able to eat properly.
"I don't care," Toni tells him, bending to kiss his forehead. "You're a terrible patient, Dominic."
She's joking, but Dom feels bad anyway. He knows he is a terrible patient, and doesn't do anything to help her, though he means to be different. And before he knows what he's doing he's crying again, blubbing really, choking as he tries to pull the tears back in.
"Oh, honey," Toni croons, in her soft, sweet Southern voice that somehow just makes things worse. "Oh, honey, don't. It's okay. It's okay."
Dom turns his face away from her, wishing for just the slightest amount of privacy. Why don't they just go and leave him? It's what they'll do eventually, anyway.
"Toni, why don't you check the SUV," Sean says. "I really will be out in a minute." His large warm hands close over Dom's hands, holding them gently, as Dom sobs and sobs until he starts to feel sick again. At that point, Sean fetches a damp flannel from the bathroom, pressing it to Dom's hot face until he's got himself nearly under control again.
"Better?" he asks.
"Feel a right twat."
"Dom, it's not you. You know that. Whatever's happened to you--and the rest of us can even pretend to know how awful that was--it's going to fade. It's going to get better. Right now, if you have to cry, or throw up, or need help with something of a personal nature, there's no shame in that. It's what we're here for."
"'Something of a personal nature?'" Dom laughs brokenly.
"You know what I mean." Sean laughs too, not the least offended.
"Yeah. S'pose I do. And I'm grateful. I am."
"But you're asking, 'why me?'"
Dom nods, suddenly so tired and dizzy he feels as if he's going to fall off the chair. Sean notices at once, his firm arm going round Dom's back, supporting him out of the kitchen and into the lounge, where he can stretch out, eyes closed, on the sofa. Sean adjusts the pillow under his head.
"How's that? Good?"
"Yeah. Okay." Dom doesn't mean to say any more. He intends to lie there, get his strength back, and let Sean be on his way.
Instead, Sean's hand heavy on his shoulder, Dom spills out his secret, about everything he's forgotten. About the way it's 1990 in his head.
"Oh," Sean breathes when he's through. "Oh. Crap. That's…"
"I didn't mean to lie to all of you."
"No, it's not that. Only… None of it, not New Zealand, or working with Peter, or Hawaii, or anything? You don't ever remember acting?"
"Only what I've done since I've been here," Dom answers, though there must have been some truth in it, somewhere, mustn't there?--because he does care about the others, that much is true, even if they aren't, right now, to him what he is to them. "I do care for all of you, Sean. I think you're all brilliant, and I wish…" Suddenly, he can't say what he wishes. He's too tired, and it's past time for Sean to go. "Look, I don't want Billy to know."
He can almost hear Sean frowning. "You don't remember being with Billy at all?"
"Sean, I don't remember my fourteenth birthday. I don't remember growing up. How could I remember being with Billy?" Anger flashes through him, and is gone quickly as it came. "I love him, though. I do. There's something there, though I just can't reach it. Maybe you're right, and I will."
"You will," Sean tells him, comfortingly, though Dom can't tell if he believes it, or if he's just a good actor too.
"Yeah. You'd best be on your way. Toni and Billy…"
"They're probably wondering if I got sucked down a drain or something." Sean gives a funny little laugh. "Take it easy, then. Get some sleep."
Dom shuts his eyes again, pretending that he's already halfway there. "Be careful out there."
"We will." Sean leaves quietly.
How long will it be, Dom wonders, Before Billy knows?
Once Sean's gone, the house itself becomes terribly silent, though outside the air is alive with the sounds of hammers and stapleguns, with the distant voices of the Sonja and Viggo, as they put a roof on the new storage shed behind the house, with the soft cluck and peep of the chickens scratching round the garden.
He feels absolutely removed from them. Absolutely alone.
Tired as he is, Dom would like to be outside, with the sun on his face--if it's bright enough he can even see a bit of a fiery glimmer. Lately, though, the temperatures have started to dip, and though the weather's still all right for the others, it's too cold now for him, it gets inside his bones, so that he can't get warm again.
Dom's glad when Squire comes to sit on his stomach, and pant in his face with his doggy breath. He still sneezes a bit, despite Toni's nasty grape allergy elixir, but it's worth it to have someone to talk to. He wraps his arms fast round Squire's body, murmuring into his floppy ear all about Germany, Manchester, and his life in 1990, whilst Squire rests his head on Dom's chest, looking into his eyes with sympathetic brown eyes and thumping his feathery tail on the sofa, as if he listens and quite understands.
Dom dreads the afternoon, when Squire will go outside with Viggo, to run about and get his exercise, and the clock will tick and the hours stretch out, slow and sickly and dark, like treacle.
He's meant to sleep then. Actually, he's meant to rest in the mornings, too, but there's only so much resting a man can do.
Sometimes Elijah leaves his Ipod for Dom to listen to, but he's forgotten today, and he's brought his lunch out into the orchard with him, where he, Orli and Max are picking apples, so Dom won't be able to ask for it when he comes back in at noon.
When he's caught his breath again, Dom wanders for nearly an hour, aimlessly, up and down the corridors with Squire on his heels, bruising himself on edges and doorknobs, then climbs the stairs, and rests, then down again, three times, until it's impossible to move. He slumps on the sofa, dizzy and gasping, feeling his pulse race unsteadily, knowing he's overdone things and simply not caring.
"Y'know, Squire," Dom tells the dog, when he's able to speak. "Helen Keller had hobbies. Couldn't tell you what they were. Needlework, most likely, like a proper Victorian lady. Perhaps I should take up needlework. Knit fucking, badly-fitted, uncomfortable socks." He laughs a little, but that hurts, and makes him breathless again, so he stops.
He needs to do something with himself, Dom knows that, or he'll go mad. If only he could see. If only he could think properly. If only his body bloody worked.
"If Billy did touch me," he says to Squire, "I'd probably bollocks it up anyway. And God only knows what I look like. Horrible, don't you think? I must look horrible, if he wouldn't kiss me."
Squire's tail thumps twice, sympathetically, or perhaps in agreement. Dom knows he's falling into self-pity, he knows it, and he tries to help himself but it's so bloody hard. He lies down on the sofa and pulls the duvet over his head, thinking that maybe even the nightmares are better than this, this half-life, this nothing.
Without meaning to, but not fighting it either, Dom sleeps.
For once, he doesn't dream--but when he wakes again, it's to full darkness, and the sound of Toni screaming.
Billy! Is his first and only thought. Oh my God, Billy!
All shall be well and all shall be well
- This Is the Way the World Ends, Ch. 49