Rating: R, overall for violence, language and sexual situations.
Summary: The world of Lotrips mingles with Stephen King's The Stand (and The DarkTower). When wolves attack!. And the aftermath.
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. Max's words are from Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.
Previous chapters: Chaps. 1 through 45; Chap. 46; Chap. 47; Chap. 48; Chap. 49; Chap. 50
This Is the Way the World Ends, Chapter 51
"It's like a friggin' clown car!" Sean yells, which is both the most inappropriate thing he could say at the moment, and the most apt.
Seconds before, there had come an unholy screech of ripping steel as the back door of the lorry, meant to roll up smoothly on its tracks, was instead torn aside instead, leaving a triangular gap as high as Billy's chest. It's out of this hole the wolves pour.
Billy shoots them rapidly, two by two--like the animals of sodding Noah's ark, Billy thinks, in the instant that he's still thinking, before his body switches over to absolute instinct and he becomes pure killer, through and through. Pure killer and almost out of ammunition.
"Sean, give me your gun!" he shouts.
Sean's pistol is out, held in both hands, shaking so hard Billy knows there's no possibility he'll hit anything he aims at. He fires twice. Both times the recoil knocks his shots up and away from their destinations, drilling harmlessly into the back of the lorry.
"Sean, don't waste your bullets. Toss me your gun!"
Sean glances at him wildly, just as Billy fires his final bullet into the head of a wolf that's circled round behind him, its taloned hands flying out to pull Sean down. Suddenly, there's fur and blood everywhere. The smell is gut-wrenching.
Sean blinks, his face a mask of red, the pistol sliding out of his newly-slippery hands.
"Fuck!" Billy dives, barely managing to avoid a second hairy body as it hurtles in his direction. The wolves are no longer even remotely human, though they still go, more or less, on two legs. Neither are they exactly lupine, despite their yellow eyes and tooth-fringed canine muzzles. The words "a debased and terrible form of life," drift through his head, and for a moment Billy can't remember where those words come from, all he knows is that they're absolutely appropriate. He's never seen anything so debased, so absolutely corrupt, in his life.
The pistol's in his hand, though, and he's firing, firing, dimly aware of Toni's voice, somewhere very, very far away, screaming their names, screaming for Viggo and Sonja to come, come now, come armed.
Billy's yelling, "Sean, my guns! Get my guns! Get them loaded!" and Sean's fumbling on the ground, shouting out--
"How? The ammo's in the damn truck!"
"Inside, Sean." That's Viggo's voice. "In the pantry. Bring out all you can!" He's firing then, the big shotgun, which must be loaded with buckshot because the wolves are literally flying backward. A fine crimson mist fills the air.
Billy slips in blood, goes down, skinning his knees on the sharp gravel of the drive, though in a second he's scrambled to his feet again. Nearby, Sean's bellowing, "Dom, get your ass back inside. You can't be out here right now-it's dangerous." Then his guns are back in his hands. He fires one empty then hands it back to Sean, who loads it as Billy fires with his other revolver. Sonja's with them, too, like Xena the fucking Warrior Princess with her cold blue eyes flashing and a samurai sword in her hands.
How can there be so many wolves? It seems impossible.
Dimly, he can hear Dom calling Max's name. It's late; surely the little boy must be asleep. Though how he can sleep through this would be anyone's guess.
"Max, get down here now!" Dom's shouting, then with a kind of despair. "Don't make me come up after you. Please, Maxie."
He shouldn't see this, a wee lad shouldn't see this, Billy thinks--but isn't Max exactly who should see this? He's the one who saved them from the wolves the last time.
Sean's late returning his gun to him and a wolf gets close, swiping Billy hard across the hand and wrist. Red gouts from the wound and he's looking down at his own tendons and bones, laid bare, the revolver falling out of his suddenly numb fingers.
"Sorry. Sorry," Sean pants, as Billy staggers forward a little, fetching up against one of the largest wolves, its hair sharp and greasy against his cheek, the stench more than he can bear close to. He retches, and in that moment of weakness something scrapes across his belly, crossways from his ribs to his hip.
The next moment, he finds himself flat on his arse on the ground, still feeling vaguely sick, his trousers soaked through and sticky, and something coiled in his lap, coiled like one of Dom's beloved snakes, or two of them, or ten, only dark-blue and pulsing with blood. He feels very dizzy, then, light-headed, unbelieving.
When the pain finally hits, it's beyond anything his mind or his body can contain. In the distance, someone's screaming, a shrill, terrified sound.
He realizes, finally, that it's his own voice, and that Toni has hold of his shoulders, tugging on him, dragging him backwards out of the fray, which only makes him scream more. The gunslinger senses have left him altogether.
"Ssh, ssh, now," Toni's saying, making him lie back in a bit of lawn, her hand on his wrist, where Billy can feel his pulse tick-tick-ticking away like a metronome set on its highest speed. "Hold still, now, sweetheart," she's saying. "Hold still, let me see."
Toni's tugging his shirt back then; the tattered wet strips of it flap across Billy's skin. "Oh, fuck," she says suddenly, and when Billy looks up he sees her bloody hands pressed to her mouth. "Oh, Billy. Oh, shit."
It occurs to Billy that he's never heard Toni curse before, and he'd tease her about it now, if he didn't feel so very strange.
From somewhere, not so very far away, he hears Max's soft, sleepy voice, "And Max said, 'BE STILL!' and tamed them with his magic trick of staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once."
The noise doesn't stop. The guns fire, the wolves snarl, Sonja grunts as her katana travels through through the more and more wolves' rank, uncanny flesh.
"More, Maxie," Dom urges gently. "It's gonna take more."
This time, when the little boy cries out, "BE STILL!" there's a weird breathless suction, as if all the air's been sucked out of the world at once, as if everything is holding still, even their heartbeats, even the wind in the trees.
"I stare into your yellow eyes and tame you," Max murmurs. "I tame you, I tame you, and I don't blink once."
"That's it, love," Dom croons. "That's it. Only a little more now."
The wolves are creeping toward Max, toward him and Dom, where they stand at the edge of the porch, Max's back pressed against Dom's body, Dom's arms circled protectively round the boy's shoulders.
The wolves are on all fours now, and their talons tear scars into the neat earth, the soft green grass.
"No!" Billy pleads. "Oh, Christ, please, Dom, no. Please, no." He's panting, using all the strength he has to form the words. It can't be. It can't be. They're so defenseless, the two of them, standing there with only one another for protection--and what protection is that?
"Be still," Max says, in a small, tremulous voice and steps forward, out of the circle of Dom's arms--though Dom follows him, one hand on Max's shoulder so that he doesn't lose himself.
Their feet are bare, Billy realizes, and it must hurt to step down onto the sharp gravel. But they do, the wolves snarling, growling, cringing around them.
"Tell them again to be still," Dom says. "Tell them to be so still they can't move at all, so still they can't breathe, so still their hearts don't beat."
Max does as he instructs, his small, piping voice barely audible over the wolves' noise.
Only then there isn't any noise, any smell, any movement. The wolves have collapsed slowly one over another, until they're nothing but a sodden pile of brown fur, a half-melted mass on the moonlit drive.
"Turn into butter," Max says, with contempt, and collapses into Dom's arms.
Billy thinks he must have passed out for a minute. He's feeling very sick, very weak. His heart seems to be beating in the midst of a vat of extra-thick treacle. Dom's leaning over him, his long fingers brushing back Billy's hair, his eyes like very bright blue-tinted mirrors.
"I'm a little scared," Dom confesses, like a secret. "But not too scared. Don't worry about that, Bills."
Billy's irritated for a moment. Scared? What does Dom have to be scared of? It's not his guts spilling out over his lap.
But then the penny drops and he's suddenly terrified. No!, he wants to shout. No, Toni--anyone--get him away from me!
Only a faint gurgle comes out. His mouth's filled with a nasty, metallic wetness that spills stickily over his chin.
Dom bends down to kiss his forehead, the way he will sometimes, and there's such sweetness in the gesture, such tenderness, Billy's eyes tear with more than the pain.
"I guess Sean told you," Dom says. "I'm sorry I don't remember, Billy. Wish I did. Know that I'll love you forever, though, no matter what I remember. You do know that, right? Wherever I'm going, if I'm going somewhere, I'll still love you." Gently, his thumbs wipe the tears from Billy's cheeks. "See, I knew you were crying, you big girl's blouse. Sentimental, that's what you are." He bends to kiss Billy's mouth, then, though Billy wants to tell him not to, because it's bloody and disgusting.
Dom kisses him anyway, sweetly, for a long time, before straightening again to look at Toni. Vig's there, too, Billy realizes, and Sonja, and Sean. He wonders what's happened to Orli and Elijah--they can't still be picking apples in the dark.
"Okay, then," Dom says briskly. "S'pose that's it."
"Dom." Viggo's hand rests on Dom's shoulder. "You don't have to. No one will think less of you."
"Bugger that!" Dom answers fiercely. "It's my Billy." His eyes close, and his hand drifts downward, covering the rents in Billy's abdomen. There's warmth where Dom touches him, and also incredible pain. "It's my Billy," Dom murmurs faintly, swaying a little now, until Viggo kneels behind him, taking Dom into his arms.
"I have you," he says quietly. "Don't worry, son, I have you. I won't let you go."
"I won't let you go either, Bills," Dom breathes. "Not if there's anything at all I can do."
The warmth's spreading now, away from his belly, into his chest and his legs, even down to the very ends of his fingers and toes. It's lovely, even if the pain is terrible, and Billy can't help but relax into it, feeling his breathing quieten, the pulse of blood out of his insides slow and dry up again. It's strangely like the feeling he had on their wedding day--or rather the morning after their wedding day, lying in bed in their room at the Kinloch House Hotel, everything blue and green like the sea, except for their kilts--Boyd red/blue/green/gold and Monaghan green/maroon/gold--spread out blooming on the floor like strange flowers (along with the various other pieces of their swiftly-shed kits), Dom fast asleep in his arms, Dom's hand on his chest with the ring new and bright on his finger, his breath warm on Billy's skin. He'd tried to wake Dom, telling him, "Perthshire awaits!" but Dom had only snuggled closer, murmuring a sleepy, "Love you," before going deep again. It was no wonder Dom had been sleepy: he'd been so nervous before the wedding he'd barely slept for days.
Billy had felt so loved, then. So perfectly, perfectly loved and at peace.
He feels at peace now, as Viggo lays Dom gently down beside him, Dom's head on his shoulder, Dom's hand still resting gently on his abdomen, long fingers trembling a little now, as all of Dom is trembling. There's a strange feeling of contraction in the center of him, as if things are knitting, pulling back together, and Billy thinks perhaps he should stop Dom now, that he might still survive if he stopped this now, and Dom might survive, and all would be well in the end.
Only he's lost the power to move or speak, and in the end he can't change anything.
All shall be well and all shall be well
- Fic: This Is the Way the World Ends, Chap. 51