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Title: Shared Custody
Author: Ghani Blue
Original story: The Truth Is by Sparcck
Disclaimer: None of this really happened. Furthermore, the story is based upon the work of another author.
You watch yellow cabs screeching by while dust gathers on the windowsill. New York never seems to slow down, never sleeps. You could sit here all day smoking cigarette after cigarette until your lungs burned, and the cabs would keep on coming and coming and coming. No stop. No sleep. No rest.
New York is like quicksilver; in the winter it freezes your brain, in the summer it will melt it. Even this early in the morning the air starts to flimmer, Fata Morgana puddles gathering on the streets. The air conditioner is already running.
Billy called yesterday. You stared at the blinking phone and listened to him on voice mail, you didn't pick up, not even when his voice got shrill and angry. If you sit there and let me talk to this sodding machine, I'll hit you. Are you there? Elijah, talk to me. Instead you went to sit by the window, back against the wall, and lit a smoke.
You've been up all night, thinking. About the business meeting you have today. Over the last years you've taken control of your professional life bit by bit. At first it was frustrating, terrifying; you thought you didn't exactly have a mind for business, but fuck all if you wouldn't at least try. And about why Billy would get angry, even though you know the answer.
Down on the street corner, there's a little cafe. The owner, Ruth, an old lady with blue hair, gives you a smile when you come in and you don't even have to say a word to get home-made apple pie and a cup of the best coffee in town. It's quiet and homely and you think you'll never come back here until you hear the little bell over the door chime, and see Ruth smile at you from behind the counter.
When Dom calls you barely remember your name, no deep thoughts before you've had your coffee, thanks. He talks about L.A., she misses you, about how awful it is there without you, and you hate Dom a little. Enough to snap at him. Enough to bite back tears.
His words make your skin prickle. You can't help it, just can't help the words tumbling out of your mouth. If Dom would only keep quiet, you could wear Dom, Elijah and Dom, around a chain on your neck like Orlando does with his memories. Quiet is good. Quiet doesn't hurt.
The bell rings. The cab you ordered yesterday. Just... you suddenly wish you could ignore it. There's a pause and a choked sound on the other end of the line when you ask, "why?".
The bell rings again, longer. You exhale, unaware you've been holding your breath, and it's suddenly easy, so ridiculously easy.
Dom makes you talk when you want to keep quiet and silences you when the force of your words almost chokes you. It should hurt, but it doesn't, not right now.
Dom tells you he misses you and something eases inside of you. You laugh, breathless and a little high. You know he'll call again later.
You didn't remember whose idea it was. Not like you asked Dom to live with you or anything, it just happened. Dom decided to move to L.A. You already lived there. You had enough room and your mom liked him, so. It wasn't like an engagement or anything. It was convenient, cheaper than a hotel room; and it was fucking nice to come home to Dom.
Curled in a blanket, cigarette in the corner of your mouth, cup of coffee, one sugar, no milk, thank you very much, the newest Times in your lap, it'd become your morning ritual. There's something soothing about rituals, even if they're new and you're away from home. You read the international news pages first, expecting news about New Zealand but never seeing any, readjusting your glasses various times before they finally slip off your nose when you reach for your cup. You make a mental note to see the optometrist about a new pair. You sip your coffee and get distracted by the morning rush-hour.
The ringing phone startles you and you hesitate a moment before walking over to the small table in the corner to pick it up.
"So we'll have to talk about custody," Dom says without preamble, just springs it on you, throws you for a loop like he always does.
You slide down the wall, phone pressed to your ear. The wallpaper scratches along your back where the shirt rides up. You swallow, not sure you're ready to have this conversation just yet.
You didn't want to get a single room because... that's just depressing; but it was late and the hotel was full, and you only needed a flat surface to lie down. So you sat on your small bed, stared at the wall feeling like a travelling salesman with a cheap coat and suitcase, the leather worn around the edges.
You got a suite the next day, though you ended up on the couch because the bed was too big after all. Big enough to lose almost three years in the folds of the blanket.
"I was thinking with us flying about all the time, we'll have to split it up, you know, so places don't feel left out," Dom says; and you bite your thumb leaving marks on the fleshy pad. It hurts.
You don't remember why you picked New York in the end, it's not like you desperately wanted to keep it. Maybe Ruth's café, yeah, you'd surely miss that.
It's stupid anyway, the whole conversation. Like getting a divorce and dividing the children.
"New Zealand, of course, we'll share." You hold your breath. "Opposite weekends or whatever the judge decides on."
Fuck, but that hits you like a sucker punch. You can deal with never seeing Los Angeles anymore, but New Zealand still belongs to you. You won't give it up without a fight.
When you both went to England you stayed with Billy for awhile. God only knows what he would've done if you had refused.
You all went out one night, Billy showing off his favourite places keeping up a running commentary. That bush over there, got me first kiss behind it. And over there... - couldn't continue for Dom slapped his hand over Billy's mouth. Ssh, don't give little Frodo ideas. You snickered, hadn't been called that in a while.
Finally you settled down in a nice cozy place with folk music in the background and a bartender with a moustache that hid almost half his face.
"You can both announce it over the radio." Billy said after he'd put down his glass..
"And if I don't get to be best man, I'll never speak to you again."
"Promise?" Dom asked, and Billy slapped him on the head like a naughty puppy. Dom gave Billy a grin, slipped his hand down your thigh.
On the way home you trailed behind laughing quietly to yourself when Dom stumbled Watch it, hobbit. and nearly knocked over Billy. Ow fuck, my toe.
It felt good to be a hobbit again, even without Sean there. You needed to drag Billy to L.A. more. And Orli. Or you should all just go back to New Zealand and never leave again.
There's a message from Orlando on voice mail. Hey, mate, remember the book I gave to you in Tokyo? You know, about that guy? I couldn't find it. Do you... wait a sec... Katie says 'hi'. Um, anyway, how's... where are you? Shit, man, have to go. Call me.
You're not quite sure what the message is about - book, what book? But then you never are anymore. Somewhere between New Zealand and here you've misplaced the ability to always know what's going on in Orlando's head. Or Viggo's for that matter. They both made sense once. The realization hurts somewhere low in your belly, a feeling like you haven't eaten in days. You'll call Orlando later. Maybe he's in New York, too.
The need for a cigarette creeps up the back of your neck, makes you shiver slightly. You're probably not allowed to smoke in here, there are no ashtrays that's for sure. You use a coke can instead. Later you'll open the window. Nobody will know.
Dom started smoking because of you; that's what he said, anyway. Things change. Second-hand smoking's even worse. Just make sure I get a pair of nice new lungs when mine're shot to hell. He didn't smoke much, though. Just now and then he put an arm around your shoulders and leaned in, face too close to yours. Have a fag break with me, Lij. It was when he started wearing eyeliner, too. Dom looked feral with his dark-rimmed eyes. And like a terrible show-off.
"I think this isn't working," Dom said.
You needed a smoke badly, just to take the edge off, to make the acid burn take away the scream gathering force deep in your belly; but you had already smoked three packs today. Had been unable to stop yourself from smoking cigarette after cigarette since Dom'd picked you up from the airport yesterday, tight-lipped and absent-minded.
Scenes make everything worse, brighter and uglier. In the end vases will crash against walls and kids will hide in their rooms. You stared at your feet and nodded, listened and waited.
Dom ran a hand through his hair, looked at you with the tip of his tongue between his teeth.
You didn't say a word, instead searched and found the distant taste of clove in the back of your throat. If you concentrated hard enough, it might be enough.
In the end Dom stayed and you took your stuff and slept in Hannah's room. At least you were only separated by the back lawn.
You were dancing, carefree and with abandon, not caring about anything in the world. Dom's eyes were resting on you. It was loud and smoky, stale air and laser light. Not your usual place but it felt right when you had walked by.
Someone fell against Dom and he stumbled against you. "Arsehole," he muttered, clutched your shoulder and gathered himself up. With a grin he pushed off you, but you held on to him.
You bent your head, whispered into his ear, "No one cares." One arm sneaked around his waist.
Dom looked around, shook his head. "You're nuts." But didn't back off.
You shrugged, slid your hand inside the back pocket of his jeans feeling the muscles of his ass ripple when he moved.
Dom swallowed making his Adam's apple bob. The music changed, the force of the drums now pulsing in your veins. You watched him beneath lowered lashes.
He narrowed his eyes, frowned and grabbed you by the wrist. "Come on."
You followed without protest, towards the back of the club weaving your way through the dancers, sweaty, glittering, laughing, touching; an amorphous mass with a thousand arms and legs.
Dom led you to the men's room, held the door open for you. The moment you stepped in he had you pressed against the wall, tiles cool under your palms; Dom, hot and panting, against your back.
"Not here. Not like that," you gasped.
"Not like what?" His lips opened over your pulse point. "Like this?" he murmured into your neck. Sucked your skin into his mouth.
Someone could come in at any time. "I still want to fucking work here," you croaked. Suddenly, sharp teeth. "Fuck."
"Yeah." He wormed his knee between your legs, pressing in and up - "'Twas your fucking idea." - forcing you to widen your stance.
Bastard, you thought. The neon tube on the ceiling flickered, greenish yellow light like a bruise. It hadn't been your idea, at least not as far as you remembered. It wasn't as if you'd woken up and said 'Hey, Dom, let's come out to the world.' It'd been his fucking decision, too. You opened your mouth to protest but your throat constricted; no words came out.
"What?" Dom growled. His eyes gleamed dark and dangerous when you glanced at him.
You blinked. "I need a smoke."
"Fuck you," Dom hissed.
New Zealand was sweet-flavoured, green and wide. Unbelievably wide. It was like the whole world crammed together in two islands. Mountains so high their peaks were snow-covered and blinded your eyes. Valleys of lush green grass, sheep gazing lazily at you when you drove past. And the ocean.
L.A. had its ocean, too, but here, now, it was almost impossible to believe it was the same one. It looked different, wilder somehow, untamed. And it smelled different, too, tangier. It left a thin layer of salt clinging to your skin.
It was warm, the gulls were shrieking overhead, and most of all it was a day off; a day meant to be spent on the beach.
You sat on a granite rock down by the water. Dominic was there with you staring out into the blue. After a while you tugged on the sleeve of his sweater. Look at that! On the horizon there were dolphins playing. Propelling themselves out of the water. Together you stared at them.
Orlando was there, too, wandering up and down the surf grinning when he found another shell or stone or whatever he considered a treasure worth keeping. A breeze whirled the hat off Orli's head, took it away with it to wherever. He laughed and tried to catch it. Ally, Sean's little girl, joined him, and together they ran down the beach. Viggo came back from the cars, fresh supply of beer in hand. Billy greeted him on his knees like a repentant sinner.
"Come on, hobbit, you're in training," Dom said, grabbed you by the forearm and hauled you off the rock. You laughed, waved the dolphins goodbye. A nice, cool beer was calling your name.
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