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Title: The Nights Before (The Mornings After)
Remix of: Benediction by gabbyhope
Disclaimer: Not in the slightest way true, and furthermore, based on another author's equally fictional story.
Dom always thought of himself as a night owl, none of this morning person shite, but here on the underside of the world he's backwards, or maybe he isn't, because he's finally figured out that the night before always dictates the morning after.
* * *
Most nights, Dom drops Bill off at his house. "Night, Bills," he says, and he's not thinking about nights or mornings or loneliness or any of it. He's wishing his mate a good night, is all.
And Bill leans back into the car he's just stepped out of, and he smiles, and he says it back. "Night, Dom. See you tomorrow."
And they do.
Some nights, when they say it: "Night, Bills."/"Night, Dom. See you tomorrow," it's all Dom can do not to lean over and drag Bill back into the car. Nights when he's just too lonely (wound up, tired, aching, exhausted, homesick) to stay a lonely night in a lonely bedroom in a lonely bed. Nights when he'll call his Mum's mobile over and over and over when he knows she's at work and has it switched off, just so he can hear her voice on the answer message.
Elijah understands about nights like that, and when he's about to rattle right out of his skin with alone he'll show up on Lij's porch and knock. He doesn't ring the doorbell, so Lij knows it's him, and they spend the rest of the night like siblings forced to share a bed, lying straight and still, not touching except to kick each other if they snore. It's not perfect, but there's another person in the room, and sometimes that helps.
Once, only once, it had been the other way around, and Lij had let himself into Dom's apartment and crept into bed with him, scared him awake. Dom's bed wasn't so big, and he didn't have so many blankets as Lij -- Lij was thin-skinned, and cold all the time -- and they'd wound up back to back to share warmth, and Dom had felt Lij's skinny shoulders trembling against his all night. It hadn't happened again, and Dom never really knew if he was relieved or disappointed.
After those nights, nights with Lij, Dom goes to Bill's place extra early. He made the mistake of staying only once. He can deal with late-night Lij, can handle him in every stage and flavour of intoxication, but morning Lij, pre-caffeine, is probably listed in the Geneva Convention under "cruel and unusual." He never means to, but sometimes -- Lij was snoring, or he was, or they took turns, and his sleep was interrupted and lousy -- the sofa looks too good to resist. It's an illusion. Sleep on Bill's sofa is always faintly discontented and never really restful, and he wakes every time to Bill sitting in the armchair watching him sleep. It sets him off balance. He's never quite sure what to do next, so he takes refuge in early morning grumpiness.
Sometimes, when he has a night like that, a screaming sobbing restless lonely night, he can't get to Lij. Maybe Lij is out of town, or maybe Hannah's in, or maybe he watched Lij walk out of the bar with a cute girl with a pixie haircut and bright eyes and he knows he can't barge in and Lij probably wouldn't hear his knock anyway. Sometimes, when it's really bad, terribly bad, he'll go to Orlando.
Orli doesn't really understand, but his house slash bed slash arms are always open. He'd have them sleeping in one big hobbit-and-elf pile every night if he could. But Orli is a restless, intrusive sleeper. When Dom is over, he'll wake up with Orli's face mashed against his on the pillow, or headbutting his ribs under the curve of his elbow, or Orli will be spooned up tight behind him, practically on top of him; or else he'll hog all the covers, or sprawl diagonally on top of Dom, or do both, so that Dom's shoulders and feet wind up cold as ice and his arm falls asleep where Orli's head is resting on it.
Once, only once, Dom went to Viggo. Figured the old hippie would understand, and he did. Maybe a little too well. He asked why Dom didn't just go to Bill, crawl in beside him like he would with Lij. Go where he really wanted to. Dom couldn't find the words to explain that that wasn't what he wanted. Isn't what he wants. He doesn't want from Bill what he gets from Lij. He'd rather have what he gets from Bill, which isn't much, than have Bill thinking that all he wants is another person in the bed, in the room. Not to be alone.
After those nights, bad nights, Dom doesn't want to go to Bill's at all. He shows up late, and he knocks -- the only time he ever does -- and they stop just short of snarling at each other, and it makes the whole day flat. Even Richard notices.
Still, those nights -- all of them, the bad ones, the bad ones, and the not-so-great ones -- don't happen very often, and so neither do those mornings.
Some nights Bill has had a rough day, so that when he leans back into the car to say "Night, Dom. See you tomorrow," there's a crease between his eyebrows, or his mouth is pressed in a tight straight line. Sometimes it's just the circles under his eyes or the tremble in his fingers that gives him away. On the mornings after those nights, Dom explodes into Bill's house and pounces on him, so Bill jumps awake and burrows under the pillow and calls Dom "ya idiot" in a sleepy mumble, and when Dom says "Morning, Bills," against Bill's neck and hears an answering chuckle in return he knows already that it will be a better day than yesterday.
But even those nights don't happen very often, and Dom always worries that he might miss one, some night when he's too wrapped up in his own misery to notice Bill's. It bothers him, the idea that Bill might have a bad night without laughter the next morning.
Still, most nights and mornings, nearly all, nine out of ten, "Night, Bills."/"Night, Dominic. See you tomorrow," happens, and Dom goes homes, and he sleeps, and he doesn't think once of home-home or Mum or Lij or cold-far-lonely. Then he wakes a split second before the alarm sounds, silences it before it gets a chance to, and yawns and stretches and curls his toes against the sheets in the hush of the world before the sun comes up.
A hasty shower, and a shirt from the basket of clean laundry that never seems to make it closer to the chest of drawers than the chair by the door, and whatever jeans or trackies he wore yesterday or can pick up from the floor first, are all the concessions he'll make to morning ablutions in his own apartment. He stopped buying coffee for his own fridge a month after they got here, and the packet of filters on the shelf in his kitchen has gathered a thick layer of dust, and he never quite got around to subscribing to a newspaper of his own. If he times it right, he passes the paper delivery van three houses down from Bill's, and he leans out and takes the paper from the box as he turns into the drive. He lets himself in and sets the paper on the table, and he measures the water and coffee into the machine on Bill's counter, making a mental note to buy more next weekend even though he knows he'll forget, and Bill will buy it like always, but he doesn't flip the switch that sets the machine hissing and sputtering. Not yet.
When the machine is set up, but not running; when the paper is opened, ready to be read; when he has everything set just so, he creeps down the hallway. Bill's door stands a little ways open, as always, and he sleeps with his back to it, peacefully, like the proverbial baby. And when, in the mornings, Dom stands there, he watches Bill breathe in the dim, reflected glow of the kitchen light, and he breathes with him, and he thinks, yes. This is a good morning.
Then, once he knows (because he knows but he doesn't know, not until he sees) that Bill is there, he can creep back down the hallway and flip the switch, and read the paper while he waits. He doesn't pour Bill's mug until he hears the slender beep of Bill's alarm and his sleepy morning noises -- "mmphm," and he sounds more Scottish in that just-awake moment then he does the rest of the day, but Dom can't tell him that because Bill doesn't know he's listening -- so that the coffee is still steaming hot when Bill shuffles in and wraps his hands around the heavy ceramic and blinks slowly at him as he sips. Bill likes his coffee scalding, black and bitter, and Dom's learned to brew it so it's strong enough to suit and has almost convinced himself that he likes it that way as well, so he no longer complains when there's no milk in the strange clutter of Bill's fridge, and only sometimes drops an ice cube in to keep her from burning his tongue on the stuff.
That is this morning, and yesterday was a good day, and last night wasn't a bad night; and the coffee is set up, and the paper spread out, and Dom is watching Bill breathe in the distant glow of the stove lamp, because the kitchen fixture went with a muffled pop when he flipped the switch by the door. He'll have to remember to get that, and he puts it on his mental list right next to coffee.
Bill is asleep -- but not peacefully asleep, not with his back to the door, and there's a crease between his brows and his mouth is tight and straight, and Dom wonders if he missed something last night. This is already not an ordinary day, because of the light, and now Dom can't find that moment where he knows that this is a good day, and it's not too late and he could go out and come back and pounce and wrest a chuckle out of Bill.
But. That's not what he wants to do.
His heart is going so loud he wonders why it doesn't wake Bill as he toes his shoes off and crawls into the far side of the bed, and -- not too late, not too late! But it is, when Bill yawns and Dom's fingers come up to touch his lips, trying to keep this softness on them instead of the hard thin tightness of the moment before.
"Morning, Bills," Dom whispers as he slips his arm softly around Billy's waist, the way he can't with Elijah because they don't touch, the way he can't with Orlando because they touch too much, and this is it, right? This is the part that changes everything, but Bill doesn't move except to turn and look at him with a question on his face.
"Dom?" Dom half-smiles at Bill, and Bill only smiles back. "Morning."
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