He was crouched down right next to his bed, his head between his knees and his hands folded over his neck. He would never get out of this. The dream was over. Dom hadn’t rescued him after all. Or had he? Matt didn’t remember. Everything felt blurry and the world was caving in around him as he moved his fingers up and down between his hairline and the collar of his shirt, feeling the outlines of his cervical vertebra. The walls were getting closer and the door seemed to move away from him. Further and further, into the distance until it was nothing more than a black dot on the white-walled horizon.
Matt’s head started to spin and his stomach felt like it was about to empty itself. Bile was already rising in his throat and the only thing he could do to stop the world from moving too fast, from tumbling down, was to squeeze his head tighter between his knees.
Then the door came shooting back. It was so fast, in fact, that Matt could hear it rushing towards him. For one quick moment he glanced up through his lashes, fearing that it might smash him into the wall. But then it stopped and suddenly the room was back to normal. A coughing sound came from the speakers and echoed through the room. Matt shut his eyes again. Then a quiet creak announced the arrival of his tormentor… Suzanne. His whole body went rigid and he tried to make himself smaller, cowering into his corner. But then a soft, uncertain voice said his name. His head shot up immediately.
The singer’s eyes went wide when they took in the slim frame of his best friend, blonde hair dishevelled and blood trickling down from his lip to his chin in a thin line. Dom, he wanted to shout, his lips aching to finally speak his name again. But they didn’t move. They were cold and hard and his tongue felt like lead.
Dom took one step into the room, looked around and spoke Matt’s name again and again. But the brunette remained unable to answer. His heart pumped wildly, like it was on a rampage. The rest of his body refused him all cooperation, though. There was nothing he could do but to stare at his friend and hope that he would see him. And then, yes, Dom’s grey eyes fell upon him. They narrowed in suspicion and Matt felt all the words he wanted to say die in his throat.
“Matt?” the blonde whispered in disbelief and remained in the doorway.
Matt wanted to nod and tell him, Yes, it’s me! You came! Please… I need you!, but he couldn’t. The singer felt suffocated as Dom took one more step towards him and slowly shook his head, a slight frown appearing on his face.
“What did you do to him?” he asked.
What did he mean? What did he do to whom?
“Where is Matt?”
I’m right here in front of you! Please, just look! It’s still me! the voice inside his head screamed at the drummer, but remained unheard. Instead Matt tried to convey his desperation through his looks. Looks so full of fear and helplessness that he felt ashamed of himself.
“You’re not him,” Dom announced bitterly. “You look like him, but you are not. You’re hollow. Empty. You’re not Matt.”
The singer’s heart stopped beating right then and his throat seemed to close. His eyes watered and he wasn’t sure if it was for the lack of air or Dom’s cold words. Please, just look at me! Dom, please! The words never left his mouth.
The blonde turned his back on him and dragged his feet as he slowly walked back through the door. His hand closed around the handle and pulled it after him. Matt’s whole body was in painful agitation that he just couldn’t act on. Dom needed to stay, needed to take him with, but now he was leaving him!
“You killed him,” Dom’s voice said through the small gap between door and frame before it finally fell shut. It was as if the sound released him from his paralysis and Matt ran to the door to follow Dom. It was once again locked, and he cried out loudly while his body slid down the cold metal. He was alone, and he would never leave this place.
London – 27.08.2013
Watching Matt sleep had always been one of Dom’s favourite pastimes. Matt was a bundle of energy, a Duracell bunny unable to stop moving and talking until its batteries had run out. In Matt’s case, these batteries never seemed to run out, however. But when he was asleep he was the calmest and most relaxed. His features remained mostly soft, but sometimes a small smile graced his lips. Did the brunette dream about a new song? Or about something as silly as his next dinner? Or maybe, just maybe, he dreamed about Dom?
Whatever he was dreaming about now, however, wasn’t pleasant at all. He was sweating profusely and his features had turned into an ugly grimace a while ago. Dom had watched him toss his head to both sides more times than he could count by now, and his right hand kept twitching at his side as if he was trying to reach out to something. It pained him to watch Matt struggle, but there was nothing he could do. He adjusted the brunette’s thin blanket to make him more comfortable and held his hand loosely, then waited for him to wake up.
Sure enough, Matt’s eyes opened slowly and he stared up at the ceiling. A deep sigh escaped his lips and his face fell into the utter picture of sadness. At that point Dom could easily guess what the nightmare had been about, so he thumbed the smaller man’s wrist and whispered his name. Blue eyes snapped up at his face, but instead of gracing Dom with a beautiful smile Matt merely frowned. Then it was gone and the singer only looked exhausted and defeated.
“Hey,” Dom whispered and leant down to kiss Matt. “It was just a bad dream. I’m here.”
Matt nodded. The words the Dom in his mind had spoken were still fresh and repeated themselves in his head, but he tried to drown them out. Dom, his Dom, had gotten him out. He was out and he was free. And Dom was here with him and held his hand even while he had been unconscious. Knowing the blonde he’d probably been with him the whole time.
“Where are we?”
“At the hospital,” Dom explained and pointed at Matt’s shoulder. “You had to be taken in because of your shoulder. They stitched you up and gave you some heavy shit so you could sleep and recover.”
Matt looked down at his arm to see a bunch of bandages wrapped around his upper arm and shoulder. He couldn’t say that it hurt, but that was probably due to the meds that were still running through his system. However, he was unable to move his arm properly, and this part of his body felt too numb, so he figured that Dom was telling the truth.
He tried to remember what had happened but there were only scattered memories he could recollect. Dom standing in his room. Them running. Blood on his hands. Suzanne dying. Oh.
“She’s dead, right?” he asked with a shaky voice. He needed to hear it, needed to know if this memory was real.
Dom nodded slowly. “Inspector Whitman shot her, yes. She’s gone.”
Seeing Matt close his eyes again and swallow thickly made Dom’s insides turn once again. He still remembered vividly the broken form of his best friend and how he’d knelt over Suzanne’s bleeding body, begging her to stay alive. His own eyes closed when he felt his eyes prickle and he had to collect his thoughts and regain his composure. But he wanted - needed - to know.
“What happened there, Matt? In front of the house when… Why did you-”
The singer’s features immediately hardened and he replied curtly, “I don’t want to talk about it.” He had reopened his eyes but made sure not to look at Dom. Like a door, he was closing right in front of the blonde. If he shut himself off now, Dom wouldn’t know how to deal with it. So instead of continuing this conversation and risking an argument he didn’t want to have, he remembered something that had bothered him since he’d slept in that cell mere days ago.
“Today is the 27th August,” he said quietly. Matt looked up. “It’s nearly 4 in the afternoon. You’ve slept for 2 days, and I have missed you for 21.”
“I… I have? You have?” Now the singer looked confused, and yes, that was good. Because confusion was better than shutting himself off.
“Yes… it’s… well, 3 weeks doesn’t sound too long, does it? But those’ve been the longest and most torturous days of my life…”
For a second there Dom thought he’d said the wrong thing. Because seriously? They’ve been torturous for him? But Matt’s frown quickly went soft again.
“I know… I… I’m sorry.”
“No!” Dom replied a bit too loudly and was immediately horrified by Matt’s reaction. “No! Nothing of this is your fault!” He drew small, soothing circles on the back of the singer’s hand with his thumb.
Matt wanted to say something more to that but went back on his decision. Instead he sighed quietly and nodded his head in an uncertain motion. “Yeah… you’re probably right.”
There was still no fight in his friend and it made Dom’s heart sink. But then again, he had just woken from a deep, meds induced slumber. A nightmare ridden slumber at that. Hopefully it was a normal reaction. It wasn’t for Matt, but still. Under the current circumstances…
With Matt now being awake it was easier to pass the time in the hospital. The singer wasn’t allowed to leave just yet because the doctors wanted to monitor him for a while longer and also make sure he had time to adjust somewhat to life outside his prison again. Watching Matt’s confused but fascinated expression every time he looked outside to see either sun or stars made Dom believe that it wasn’t such a bad idea, after all.
On the third day, Chris and Tom decided to pay the 2 of them a visit. Dom had been in contact with them and updated them on Matt’s health constantly, but he couldn’t hold it against them that they wanted to see him for themselves. Especially Tom hadn’t had the chance to, yet, so he could only imagine that the man was dying to see his friend as soon as possible.
Dom was reading fanmail to Matt when they entered. First Chris, then Tom, as quietly as they could, but Matt heard them nonetheless. His head turned in the direction of the door and Dom could see a soft smile spreading on his lips as soon as he realised who was visiting.
“Hello.” His voice was quiet but warm, and Matt was immediately enveloped by Chris’ strong arms in way of greeting.
“Hello, mate,” the bassist said and let go of the small body. “Hope we’re not intruding.”
Dom shook his head at that and folded the letter in his hands. “Nah, never. We were just reading some stuff.”
Tom took a step forward then and looked at Matt as if he were a ghost before he launched himself at the singer and hugged him tightly. Dom couldn’t help but grin at that. Tom could be so dramatic sometimes. Then again, he could be excused, given the situation. Just this once.
The photographer whispered something into Matt’s ear that neither Dom nor Chris got, but Matt nodded which seemed to be the right answer. Tom grinned from one ear to the other once he let go of the singer and pulled a chair up to sit next to the bed. They chatted for only a few minutes, Matt not being the loudest for once, while Chris unpacked a couple of things he’d brought from home. A nurse entered at some point to check on Matt’s IV, but didn’t disturb their conversation, and only helped Chris briefly when some things needed to be put inside the bedside table. Once she was gone it was decided they’d take a trip to the cafeteria downstairs to get nourished. Matt didn’t particularly agree to it, but he didn’t have the heart to tell his friends no, either. So instead, he searched for Dom’s hand and didn’t let go until they were seated. Tom and Chris had already set off to buy something, and Dom was just about to leave as well when he asked Matt, “What do you want to eat?”
“A tuna sandwich? You love tuna. Or something else?”
He wasn’t really hungry. And he didn’t want Dom to leave him. He didn’t want to sit here all by himself. He didn’t want to be alone again. Boy, did he feel pathetic...
“I’m not… I’m not hungry,” he whispered through gritted teeth.
“Just a coke then?” Dom asked. Matt shook his head.
Dom had caught up on his uneasiness then. He could easily put 2 and 2 together. “You know what?” he said and sat down next to the singer. “I’m not really hungry, either.”
They both knew it was a lie. Dom hadn’t eaten since last night when he’d basically run out of the room and sprinted to the cafeteria while a doctor had taken care of Matt. The drummer staying with him warmed his heart, but still, he felt guilty for putting this on his best friend.
“Sorry,” Matt sighed. “This is stupid and I-”
Dom kissed him then to shut him up and comfort him at the same time. “No, it’s okay. I’m here. It will pass.”
Just then Tom and Chris came back and the bassist shoved a cheese sandwich in Dom’s hands. When he looked up he could see the taller man wink at him. He also produced a small chocolate bar and handed it over to Matt who simply thanked him and unwrapped the sugary goodness with wonder.
They dug into their respective sandwiches and chocolate and ate mostly in silence until Tom piped up and chattered about random things just to entertain the group. Matt took the time to watch every one of his friends eating as if it was a whole new concept to him. In a way, after everything he’d gone through, it was. He’d never thought he’d see any of them again, and sitting here now felt so surreal and special that he felt like every single second was a miracle. The train of thought was weird, even for him, but it didn’t change the fact that it was true. Matt looked over to Dom who stared at his sandwich as if it held all the answers in the world.
The blonde was indeed deep in thought, but that had nothing to do with his cheese sandwich. He could still hear Tom’s voice explaining something about photography to them all, but his mind was in another place and another time. Just 3 weeks ago they had been sitting in a café together, just like now, eating and chatting together. But they had been waiting for Matt, while the singer had already been imprisoned and humiliated. Dom had to remind himself that he wasn’t back to the 4th August of 2013. This was the 30th August, and Matt was sitting next to him this time.
His free hand under the table searched for Matt’s knee and squeezed it carefully. He didn’t need to turn to know that Matt was staring at him, while Tom still prattled on about different lenses and their effectivity.
London - 31.08.2013
Dom was engrossed in this morning’s paper while Matt turned on the PSP Chris had brought him for entertainment purposes. Even before the main menu had loaded he knew that the game wouldn’t be able to hold his attention for long. Nothing was, though. Not these days. The only thing he could count on to distract him and make him feel better was Dom. Dom, the man currently hidden behind a hideously huge picture of the German Chancellor who’d apparently said something to another politician who was now quite unhappy. The usual business. He was just about to pull the paper down to get Dom’s attention when there was a knock at the door. They both turned around to see Whitman walk in quietly. He closed the door behind himself with as little sound as possible and walked up to the bed to greet them both. He shook hands with Dom before he extended his hand to Matt.
It seemed to take him a moment to recognise Whitman. He’d only ever seen him once, after all. But then he smiled, although a little tired, granted. Still he hesitated for a second as if the memory of the CI needed to be categorised first. Then he lifted his free hand and returned the shake. In the process the light sweater Chris had brought over for Matt to wear because he’d been unnaturally cold for the past day slipped a bit from his wrist to reveal the shadow of what had been a nasty bruise. Dom’s breath hitched and Matt’s eyes immediately shot back to the drummer. Then they followed Dom’s, widened for the fraction of a second and he pulled his hand away quickly to cover his wrist again. Whitman was oblivious to this, though, and sat down in the free chair on the other side of the bed. He cleared his throat and both men returned their attention to him.
“I’m sorry, I meant to come in earlier, but Mr Wolstenholme only just told me that you’re awake and I didn’t want to interrupt anything. But now… well, I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.” The CI crossed his legs and observed first the singer’s and then the drummer’s face.
Matt coughed and sat up a bit straighter. It felt awkward and uncomfortable to be lying around so vulnerably while someone he practically didn’t know was sitting with them. With Dom that was completely okay. He was Dom, after all, and had already seen him at his worst.
“Thanks,” the brunette nodded slowly. “I appreciate it. I’m… okay, I guess.”
“That’s a start,” Whitman smiled.
“So you are… the inspector in charge of… my… my case?” It was hard to speak of his hell as a case. To try and imagine what it had to have looked like from the outside. To see it as something this trivial.
“I am,” the CI confirmed.
“He kept us up to date on everything and helped us whenever he could,” Dom elaborated. “Took our statements and all. Without him we probably wouldn’t have gotten through this.”
Matt’s gaze had returned to the drummer and he gave the faintest nod of understanding at his explanation.
“He’s also the one who didn’t imprison me after my prison break.” Dom gave an odd, suffocated chuckle and swallowed.
“Mitigating circumstances, Dominic,” Whitman shook his head with a smile. “Better not talk about it again. We don’t want Thompson back in the picture, do we?”
“Thompson?” Matt asked in confusion.
“Yeah, he’s the inspector who wanted to put me away for apparently having killed Napolitano, her accomplice.” The drummer’s hand carefully closed around Matt’s again.
Oh… his kidnapper. It was absurd to even think Dom could’ve done anything like that. It had been brutal and horrifying and… Matt shook his head to get rid of the images that were still as fresh as ever. He didn’t want to think about anything, really. Sleep hadn’t been too bad in retrospect. Yes, there’d been nightmares… but at least they weren’t real whereas his memories were nothing but a reality he’d lived through.
“Thanks for saving us back there,” Matt croaked in order to get his head back into the here and now.
“It’s my job,” the CI winked at him. “And I figured you might need some filling in about what’s going on right now.”
“That’d actually be great,” Dom replied in Matt’s stead and leant forward in his chair. “We haven’t heard much about that lately.”
“Good,” Whitman nodded and then looked at the singer again. “Are you up to this, Mr Bellamy?”
Matt didn’t seem as certain about wanting to know as Dom did. The drummer picked up on his friends indecision right away and squeezed his hand in more reassurance. The brunette swallowed thickly and inclined his head a little.
“Might just as well get it over with, I guess.”
“Well then…” The CI knew this reaction, had actually encountered it quite some times before. But they both needed to know. “Rachel Harrison or, as you might know her, Suzanne MacConnel was a wealthy music collector. How wealthy she actually was we have only just found out. She inherited most of her money from an aunt who died about seven years ago. Her family still lives in Birmingham but she moved to London in 2008 in order to expand her collection. A plan she’d been quite successful with to say the least. From the calendar on her computer we gathered that she took the job as a waitress roughly around the same time you and your band went back to the studio to record your latest album. And as there are no coincidences, at least not when it comes to criminal investigations, we dug a little deeper. It seems she’d been planning this abduction for quite some time. About 2 years to be exact.”
“What?” Dom breathed as his eyes widened in disbelief. “2 years?”
“Yes,” Whitman replied with a grave look in Matt’s general direction. “Napolitano only came into the picture this spring. She hired him in order to get some information she couldn’t get on her own, and in the end to abduct you.”
“He loved her…” Matt whispered more to himself and slightly shook his head.
Again Whitman nodded. “We guessed that much from her calendar entries. It looks like she used his feelings to control him. Which doesn’t make him less guilty, but well…”
“Yeah,” the singer whispered and looked down at his IV’d arm. The colourless liquid slowly flowed into his veins to mix with his blood and he wished it to just knock him out. Thinking felt horrible.
“So far we couldn’t find any living relatives of Napolitano, but there’s a team already on the way to Birmingham to interview Harrison’s bereaved. Both bodies have undergone post-mortems, but with a case like this it’s mere routine as we don’t expect a third party to be involved. There’s still something we need, though.” The CI looked at Matt with a sad expression. “You need to give us your account of what has happened since your abduction. Considering the circumstances we will not summon you to an interrogation, but I still have to ask you for a written statement.”
“Oh.” Matt’s lips curved around the sound as this request sank in. He would have to relive everything. He knew about those written statements. They needed to be as detailed as possible.
“Isn’t it… I mean, couldn’t he do that later? It’s all still so fresh and-” Dom interjected but got interrupted by Whitman.
“That’s exactly why we need this statement as soon as possible. Because the memories are still fresh. Look, I know it’s a very difficult time for you right now, Mr Bellamy, and this won’t be easy. But your statement is of paramount importance to the case, even now.”
“No… No, I know. Of course I’m gonna do it.” Matt’s voice was quiet but clear, and it took Dom by surprise.
“Thank you,” the CI said with an honest smile and got up with a groan. “Ugh, I’m not getting any younger. Anyway, I need to get going. Still loads of paperwork to do. But I’ll check in on you again. And if you ever need anything, my door’s always open for you.”
“Thank you, really,” Dom smiled despite his discomfort at Whitman’s request and then showed the inspector out.
The brunette closed his eyes and willed sleep to take him over again when his friend returned to his side. Dom’s index finger drew small circles on his palm and involuntary goose bumps rose on his arms and neck.
“You know, there is still something I need to return to you. I actually thought about waiting until we’re home, but I just couldn’t,” the blonde said softly and Matt could feel the twitches in his hand while he was fumbling for something in his jeans pocket.
“Huh?” The singer’s eyes opened again in confusion as Dom pushed his free hand under Matt’s on the mattress and laid his other, closed one into his palm. Then he opened it and something delicate dropped onto Matt’s hand.
“What is it?” he asked before even looking at it.
“Just… just have a look,” Dom replied and could only just repress a good-natured eyeroll.
Curiously Matt lifted his hand to his eyes and studied the object. His eyes widened as he recognised his silver chain necklace. The one he’d thought broken and lost forever, and how fitting it was to think of the recovered object in these terms.
“Dom, I… you… how? Where?” He almost choked on a breath.
“I found it under a cupboard in your house when we were… um… anyway, I got it repaired and carried it with me ever since. The thought of returning it to you kept me going…” The blonde’s words trailed off and Matt studied his face for a moment.
Then, as if overcome by sudden agitation, the singer scrambled around his bed and gripped his IV’d wrist. Horror took hold of his features as he couldn’t find what he was looking for and Dom was immediately worried.
“What is it, Matt? s’everything alright?”
“No! Dom, it’s gone! Your necklace, it’s gone!”
“Oh.” Suddenly Dom understood and his features softened again. “Look in the nightstand. Chris brought your mobile and wallet over and I saw the nurse put it in there.”
Without another word the singer did as he was told and to his great relief did find the precious little necklace in there.
He closed his hand around it and held it for a second to feel its reassuring presence. Just like it had reassured him back there… in his prison. “Dom… I hate it that she stole this from you, but…”
“But?” Dom narrowed his eyes and had to prick his ears in order to hear his friend’s subdued voice.
“But… it was good to have it. Like… like I had a part of you with me down there. I didn’t feel so alone.” He couldn’t talk about it. Not yet. The memories where still too fresh, but Dom deserved to know. He deserved to know that it was the thought of him that had kept him fighting.
The drummer nodded in understanding and smiled. It was obvious that he wouldn’t push him, wouldn’t press for details and instead give him the time he needed. Matt sighed and gave him a grateful look as he extended his hand and put the necklace into Dom’s with slightly cool fingers. The blonde closed his fingers around Matt’s, the necklace between their palms, lowered his head and kissed his knuckles.
“It’s alright. You’re not alone now. I promise.”
Matt didn’t react physically, but as Dom locked their eyes he knew that Matt believed him.
London - 02.09.2013
“Dom? Dom, are you up?”
The blonde groaned in fake annoyance as Matt prodded him in the ribs to wake him. Of course, technically speaking the singer was alright and there was really no need to keep sleeping in the chair next to his bed. But Dom just couldn’t leave him in his room, especially at night. While his back was yearning for his soft mattress and his neck wanted nothing more than a good night’s rest on one of his fluffy pillows, his heart and mind were chained to the sterile hospital room for now.
“Kinda,” he mumbled in response and straightened up slowly. “Why are you, though?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” the brunette waved him off nonchalantly. “Here.”
The drummer looked at the envelope Matt was holding out to him. “What’s that?”
“My statement. You have to give it to Whitman for me.” By now Matt was practically shoving the thing in Dom’s face as if he wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
He took it and looked up at Matt, pensive. “Your statement? But when did you write it?”
“Last night,” the singer shrugged and seemed relieved to be shut of the thing.
Dom was confused but, in a way, just as relieved. He’d seen Matt struggle over an empty sheet of paper for most of yesterday and the day before, and it’d been painfully obvious why. The singer hadn’t been able to relive his memories, hadn’t wanted to go through all of it again, even if it was just in his head. It’d been so hard not to give in and just call Whitman to tell him Matt couldn’t do it yet. His urge to protect his friend from any harm whatsoever was still growing by the minute, and those thoughts definitely counted as harm. But maybe this could also be seen as some sort of therapeutic measure. A first step in the right direction.
He fingered the paper thoughtfully and eventually slipped the envelope in the inside pocket of his leather jacket that was hung over the back of his chair. Evidently Matt didn’t want him to read his statement. He wasn’t sure if it was to protect Dom or himself, though. Maybe a bit of both? The story on those pages was definitely hurtful and would probably drive him insane with fury. Did Matt want to spare him that? But it was also something Dom needed to understand. How else was he supposed to understand Matt, after all? Was it too private? Too humiliating? Dom didn’t even know if he wanted to read it himself.
With a sigh the drummer laid his hand on Matt’s and gave him a weak smile. “I’m glad you managed to get it over with. I’m gonna get it to Whitman asap.” He leant forward and pressed a small kiss to the brunette’s temple who shuddered under the tender gesture.
“Yeah… thanks,” Matt replied and tried to return the smile but failed miserably.
“You’re gonna be okay,” the blonde whispered as he stroke through his friend’s almost shaggy strands.
The singer could do nothing but nod at the positive attitude. Maybe he really would be okay. After all, Dom was with him. Hadn’t that always helped?