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Reinvention

Chapter Text

These days there was nothing more satisfying than the jangle of keys hitting the kitchen counter for Dom. This was for two reasons.

Firstly, the clear clattering chime served a quick, satisfying reminder of the shiny new Porsche parked in the apartment garage below his block. Evidence of the justice served to him, a personal F YOU to all his colleagues with unnecessarily large chips on their shoulders considering all he had been doing was fighting for reparations that, in the grand scheme of things, still didn’t come close to being a payment for the damage done to his body. He just couldn’t understand why they weren’t over it. He had nothing against THEM. Well, except maybe Lucinda from admin, who got far too sloppy after a few martinis and had some antiquated beliefs about the ‘Homosexual Agenda’, but that was neither here nor there. Even Donna was cold. Why couldn’t she just be happy for him.

But secondly, that sound represented the end of the working day. It signalled the death knell of socialisation until his next shift, and THAT was reason enough for a drink. Well, a hot, non-alcoholic drink; despite his visceral hatred of the bag scarring his side, he held some respect for its maintenance- besides, he didn’t have the mental energy for the grilling Ange would undoubtably give him if he were to fuck up the after care.

The shoes went next. Two ringing thumps as the leather hit the underside of the counter. It was almost rhythmic, his undressing. The jacket came next, the sound of rutes sliding over the skin of a snare drum as it slipped onto the back of the chair. His fingers rapped on the counter’s edge as he strolled around the island, sticking the kettle on.

With the gathering sound of the boiling water filling the room, he pulled his phone from his pocket, opening it deftly. 28 new messages across the 3 apps he was on. A smile crossed his lips. Tinder first- a few new Super Likes on his profile… he swiped through his pictures. The most recent had been taken around October of 2020- a nice posed one from a night out before the second Lockdown… Other pictures dated as far back as 2018- some shirtless, others from holidays… A few actually had Lofty in them- but he’d cropped him out, obviously. His smile spread as he gazed at this version of himself. The confident smirk- the cocked eyebrow- the tight shirts… The lack of shirts.

The messages consisted of the usual. “Hey sexy” “Fuck me you’re hot ;)” “Do you take bookings, ha ha!” “What I wouldn’t do to get my hands on you…”, an assortment of unsolicited dick pics, and the odd sugar daddy dropping his bank details. That made him laugh out loud- like he needed someone else’s money.

He responded to a few, for his own amusement, before the clock notification titled “change the bag” dropped down onto his screen.


The water started to bubble.

He touched his side reluctantly. The bag felt full. He knew he had to.

He opened Grindr, flipping through all the propositions he’d received today… All of the praise… The thirst… “Your body!”… But the truth was he wouldn’t get half of these complements if they knew. If they knew… He’d be lucky to find a sugar daddy sad and desperate enough to pay him, let alone a genuine connection.

The water boiled.

He put the phone down on the counter, pouring the water, hissing and spitting, into his mug to let the bag soak, taking a few deep breaths of the herbal aroma that the process released. His phone buzzed. Reluctantly, but simultaneously with a desperate need, he opened Plenty Of Fish.

The newest message just read “Fag”, from the very blatantly fake account of “Ben Dover 69”.

His jaw tightened as he put the phone back down. It was just a word, but it still packed a punch, even from a faceless troll on a dating app.

Seeing as his distractions were no longer offering a fun alternative to the reality of his living hell, he went to change his bag. He just didn’t look at it, it was easier to get it done as quickly and as clinically as possible. So, a few quick and easily repressed minutes later, it was done, and he was clean.

He made a quick detour to his room to grab a hoodie before going back to his drink. The hoodie had belonged to Lofty what now seemed like a lifetime ago. Forgotten- left behind in the split. Dom had made plans to ditch it- donate it, but somehow he couldn’t let go of this one stupid bit of fabric. One last remembrance of times past. Of cold walks home with a chivalrous partner who’d give up his own warmth for Dom’s comfort. It reminded him of being someone’s top priority. Someone’s person; a concept so far away and, depressingly, alien now.

He yanked it on over his head as he walked back to the kitchen, finishing making the tea with a splash of almond milk, before retreating to his armchair. Sipping the drink, he opened his phone one last time. Even in the last few minutes he was flooded with new, thirsty DMs. No more for tonight, he thought, opening up his Google account.

23 years ago, today. Damn his synced account with Carole.

Pictures from his first day at school. The neatly ironed uniform.

The unrecognisable boy he was.

How had he gone from that… To this. 34. Divorced. Dysfunctional. Alone.

Through all the reinvention… All the struggle to be who he was meant to be; he’d still ended up exactly where he’d feared he’d be all those years ago.

Depressed, no friends, on the pudgy side… Hating his body.

Clearly, he needed to retrace his steps. He’d gone wrong somewhere.

There had to be an easy fix somewhere.

An explanation.

A solution.

There just had to be.

Chapter Text

The soft closer on the door made the quietest rustle as the catch flicked into its place, the dim blue light of the ward shining through the door into the Consultant’s Office, illuminating the desk and chair.

Dom turned on his heel and surveyed the room’s interior- the books on the shelves, the drooping house plants dotted around in a depressingly homely fashion- the eons old shutters on the window that didn’t fully close nor open any more- stuck in a permanent state of slant.

The screaming absence of laptop, desk light, and personal effects on the desk’s scratched, worn top.

His thin lips twitched into an empty smirk. His lone laugh void of satisfaction.

This room was hardly unknown to him. Infact, he remembered the first time he’d walked in- on his induction day one mild April day over 8 years ago the guide had showed them around the wards in the break... He’d seen the piles of files, smelt the ever-present perfume of coffee, heard the whir of the air conditioning system... He’d known then that he was going to end up right back there, but as the owner of such an office- maybe not this one... But he would be a consultant. Well. He was back here. In that very office. Not only consultant, but Clinical Lead. Well- acting, he reminded himself.

Despite this recent promotion, he had hardly avoided this room over the last 8 years. He’d be the first to admit he had never been a golden boy- God no.

He trailed his fingers over the wood of the desk as he strolled around the edge of it, his tred heavy on the floor...

He’d been in hot water enough times in this room. Summoned.

***

“See me at the end of the shift.”

God- I mean he had always understood the universal crush on Ric Griffin’s voice, but, in that instant, he had never felt his stomach drop so far in dread. He’d felt sick- though that might’ve had something to do with the fact that Mr. Tomlin had just... Gone on the office chair.

***

“Nurse Chiltern you’ve been physically assaulted by a patient, you’re within your rights to press charges; do you want me to call the police?”

“... No. Technically he’d been discharged so he wasn’t a patient-”

“Well, he’s been readmitted now, hasn’t he? He’s being prepped for emergency surgery.

Whatever this was about, I hope that it was worth it. Get him cleaned up.”

The phrase headmaster’s office came to mind with that one. God, the fuzzed, chaotic mess of those 48 hours. Of Zosia- of Lofty...

***

He shook his head lightly and sat down at the desk, adjusting the height with a few pumps of the pedal until it was comfortable... Then he scanned his eyes across the room from this new perspective... The same but different. Come to think of it, it wasn’t all that new. A few memories he’d made himself forget sprang to the forefront of his mind as he sat behind the desk...

***

“So... Next time- let's try not to get caught.”

“Next time?”

“Yeah. Sure- I- Ric's office is empty now... Isn’t it?”

Though he’d feigned reluctance, his feet couldn’t move quickly enough to propel himself after Isaac and his intoxicating lust for risk.

Pressed against the wall, first, Isaac’s lips meshing with his own as his hands roughly held his waist, Dom had felt nothing but thrill and fear, yet he’d wrested a hand free and pushed it firmly against Isaac’s chest to get a few words in.

“- Ise- What if he comes back- what if someone else comes in-” He whispered, trying to sound serious and rational, however his tone was grandiosely undermined by the fact that he was so breathless he could barely string a sentence together.

Isaac’s demeanor had barely changed, a smirk ever-present on his lips. “So what if they do, Dominic? What if I want them to see that you’re mine- what if I want Ric to know that his precious little Dr Copeland belongs to me? What if I want him to see you pinned to a wall with that adorable expression on your face, hmm?” he murmured challengingly.

Dom took a few deep breaths- indignant... But he couldn’t deny that he was thrilled by it all.

“I’m just- saying we could get into trouble-” he said eventually, a hand still on Isaac’s chest.

The older man swooped his head in, using his superior strength to fight Dom’s hand’s resistance against his chest and plant a deep, commanding kiss on his lips.

“Good.” He’d purred against Dom’s mouth “Where’s the fun in being well behaved?”

Thoroughly subdued, Dom had submitted himself to the make out, his hands rubbing over Isaac’s arms and chest appreciatively, knowing there was no persuading Isaac that this location was not sensible... Thinking that this was all it would be... Yet after five minutes, his partner was tugging him to the desk.

Dom hesitated- it had been covered in papers, pens, all sorts of ornaments and work...

“No- Ise not there- that is not a good idea-” he hissed, hanging back.

Isaac’s eyes had sparkled as he scoffed “Learn to live a little, Dominic; God, you’re such a goodie two shoes- it's exhausting-” He tugged him, jolting his arm.

Dom snatched it away “Isaac-” He stepped away, “I’m being serious- can't we just- kiss over by the wall- or- just lets go back to yours... Come on...” he had implored, holding his arm a little protectively to his chest.

“Are you being serious?”

Dom gulped.

“After the day I've had- Dom- being hounded by Ric because of this morning- I'm just trying to have some fun! Get my own back at the old fucker- come on- this is meant to be therapeutic and fun for both of us!” Isaac had protested frustratedly.

Dom looked down “But...

Well... It’s...”

It wasn’t fun. It was stressful and nerve-wracking and basically the Oxford Dictionary definition of the antonym of “fun”.

He couldn’t say it.

“It’s what, Dominic?” Isaac prompted; his arms crossed as he stood at the desk.

“- It’s... Not fair if- you get to have all the fun-” He corrected himself, walking quickly around the desk to join him; and, with a surge of confidence pushed Isaac to sit onto the edge of the desk, his back to the office door, and stepped close to him, slipping his arms around Isaac’s waist.

The look of surprise on the older man’s face was something to marvel at. It almost made Dom forget what he had been worried about.

“Now who’s got the cute expression, Mr. Mayfield?” He had teased with a small smirk.

“Oh, shut up-” Isaac had cut him off, leaning up and connecting their lips once more, his eyes sliding closed.

Dom had returned it, his head tilted and one eye open- keeping tabs on the door from his vantage point... To make sure they weren’t about to be disturbed.

***

He stood up and backed away from the desk, the chair rolling back as he stumbled into it.

He didn’t want to remember. It was hardly a heinous memory, but he couldn’t go back there. Not for too long.

He hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath until now as his chest heaved to get enough air in.

Back against the wall, he tried to relax- collect his thoughts-

***

“Good. Where’s the fun in being well behaved?”

***

All he could feel was his strong lips on his own, his weight against his body- suffocating him in place against the wall. He lurched forward, gasping slightly, ending up stood in the middle of the room, his head spinning.

Everywhere he looked- he could hear his words, feel his eyes burning into his mind...

Slowly sinking to his knees, Dom slipped his hands over his ears, forcing himself to breathe in a regular, deep manner.

***

“It’s what the counsellor tells me to do- you shut your eyes, cover your ears and sit on the ground. It’s like a reset button for your mind if you get to thinking too much.”

“Diggers... I don’t want to sound like a prick-”

“I’m sensing a but-”

“- bu-ut... Look I don’t think your anxiety disorder is anywhere near similar to me panicking over the latest EastEnders's cliff hanger.”

“Look, do you want my help, or do you want to keep hyperventilating into your Ready Meal?”

“The latter, thank you very much.”

“Fine. Just do it quietly, my documentary is about to start.”

***

Dom found that slowly his mind stopped racing... His thoughts coming to a relatively leisurely jog... His heart stopped pounding...

Just him... Sitting on the floor in his office, his ears deafened with the heavy silence.

He felt better, but he didn’t feel anywhere near right.

This was wholly unfair, he thought; as here he was... Consultant. His own office- his own ward and workforce, just as Ric Griffin had once been over him... But it felt... Hollow.

A promotion is a promotion; yet without the friends around him to drink to his success...?

Dom let his legs relax flat on the floor, leaning back until he was laid out, his chest rising slowly before falling sharply with a forced sign.

Well. What now?

Chapter Text

562 days.

562 days after Lofty left him at the altar of their renewals, he was ready to ready to stand at another and tie the knot with someone else.

Just barely 18 months.

That’s how long it took Benjamin ‘Lofty’ Chiltern to move on.

Dom had to admit it stung a bit learning of his ex-husband's engagement through a mistakenly sent e-invite to save the date; Lofty had emailed the clinical lead email, under the assumption that it belonged to Sacha- as it once had.

"Mr Benjamin Chessington Chiltern & Mr Joseph Joshua Barden invite you to Save The Date || 28/06/21" sprawled across his screen in a swooping, embellished font.

He pulled a face, instantly masking his shock and offence with a snarky, muttered comment.

“Calligraphy? Who does he think he is? The man ate nothing but BLTs for years because he insisted it was the only Real Sandwich...”

Ok... It wasn’t working. He was still processing the words in front of him.

“Joseph Joshua Barden” he muttered, “more fool him...”

Still wasn’t working... He instantly searched him on Facebook... and sure enough, a fairly innocuous looking man of that name with shoulder length wavy brown hair and a beard had his arms around Lofty in his profile picture.

Dom sat back with a heavy sigh, head banging against the back of the chair as he slumped.

Ouch.

* * *

“What is it? A funeral or a court case? …"

“... A wedding... Sorry... We didn’t want to rub your nose in it.”

“Ah. Yeah, Lofty’s wedding.”

“.. Are you ok?”

“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Let me fucking think why I wouldn’t be ok, he thought as his friends turned their backs and walked away without another question. Why wouldn’t I be ok that my ex-husband is getting married to some hippy today whilst I work another shift in a hospital full of people who hate me, with a bag attached to my side that is essentially making me repulsive to all dating prospects and ruining what little of my youth I have left? Oh, I don’t fucking know!? Why wouldn’t I be ok!?

He thought all this as he stormed back into his office, shutting the door hard and flicking the lock across, placing his hands on the back of his neck and taking a few deep breaths as he paced. Calm, Dominic; knowing Lofty, it would all end in flames anyway.

Good, he thought, I hope their marriage is nothing but tremulous, upsetting, and shit until it ends in an abrupt, embarrassing divorce.

He sat down heavily, knowing how irrational he was being, but too bitter to exert the self-control to stop himself. The truth was he was so painfully jealous that Lofty had moved on... And so fast too! Christ, the man was a serial committer for someone who allegedly had trouble committing.

How dare he move on and get to be happy whilst Dom was stuck like this... In this body that not even he could love, let alone a partner- so he couldn’t even blame them!

Weddings, he tried to reason, were stressful. Well, his had been, at least. Hell, the morning that they had tied the knot, he had been sleeping on the sofa in their flat whilst Lofty took the bed... So spontaneous and... In hindsight... Rushed. Like he’d elect to put himself through that again...

But then his mind wandered... Oh it wandered to the champagne tinted blur of the uber home... To the stumbled jolts up the stairs to their flat, arms around each other as they dissolved into hushed giggles... To the giddy bliss...

* * *

“- All I needed was the love you ga-aaave!”

“Lofty- sshhhh- shhhh stop-” Dom interjected as he giggled.

“- All I needed for another da-ay!”

“Lo-”

“- And aaaaallll IIIIII EVerr knewwwww- Only you!”

Dom smacked his chest as they practically fell through the door, kicking it shut behind them, snorting hysterically.

“We probably woke up the whole complex you idiot!” Dom tried desperately to sound serious, but he was practically shaking with laughter as Lofty sprawled half on top of him on their cold, hardwood floor.

“I don’t care! Everyone needs to know that WE’RE MARRIEEEED-” Lofty fell into more fits of laughter, struggling to get off of him, just a little too tipsy to pretend to be remotely sober.

“You oaf- You're crushing me!” Dom helped shove him off, so they were both laid flopped on their backs in the hallway of their flat.

The surgeon raised his hand up in front of their eyes, admiring the silver band on his ring finger... Where he hoped it would stay for life.

“Did we really just get married?” He whispered with an ear to ear grin.

“I think we did” Lofty whispered back, his own smile matching Dom’s.

“Thank you for the cl- clarification... Mister Husband.” Dom slurred and turned his head to the side, looking at him with a wry smile.

“I am never going to get tired of you calling me that... Husband~.” He replied with a chuckle.

Dom pushed himself up a bit and slung his leg over Lofty’s lower torso, sliding to straddle him, looking down into his dilated, deep black pupils with a curious little grin on his lips.

“Now who’s the oaf?” Lofty retorted up at him- but he didn’t mean it. He didn’t care. His warm, reassuring hands slid up to hook around Dom’s ribs as the man on top of him lowered himself so that they were chest to chest; nose to nose...

Dom’s own hands moved to hold the sides of Lofty’s jaw and his neck, his fingers looping into the soft twists of curls that sprouted from the back of his neck and behind his ears, his thumbs gently rubbing his cheekbones... Instead of kissing him, he leaned their foreheads together, taking a few deep breaths, his eyes closed... All he could feel, smell, and sense was Lofty. Lofty’s arms holding him; Lofty’s nose squashed against his own; Lofty’s heartbeat pounding strongly against their chests; Lofty’s breath on his face; Lofty’s skin on his skin, his hair on his fingers.

“I love you.” This wasn’t a casual ‘I love you’ that Dom would chuck at the end of a text, nor one he’d call as Lofty left to go to Tesco’s.

These three words spoke of more than just the material love that was so commercialized by the society they lived in. This was a: you complete me; my heart only filled up half as much before you entered my life; my finger was formed to carry your ring; my mind is never void of a thought of you; my lips never stop tasting you; and my eyes never stop seeing you. You are my love, and you always were. You are mine in this life and you will be in the next, too- you were before, and you will be again.

Lofty let his thumb rub the curve of Doms back gently. He knew what it meant.

“And I love you.” He replied, which was all Dom needed to hear, because it was true, and he, too, knew what saying it meant.

Dom rocked their foreheads apart, the tips of their noses still gently pressed together. He smiled softly and tilted his head to the left, latching his lips against his husband’s.

Kissing Lofty was the only time in his life Dom had understood the phrase ‘butterflies’, because, the truth was, kissing him made him feel lighter than air, like he was lifting up through the atmosphere from the inside out... But he never felt scared of floating away, as Lofty never kissed him without holding onto him- even a little bit... A gripped cuff of a jacket, a linked pinky finger, or- in this case- a full body embrace.

Lofty sat up a little, holding Dom in his lap as the kiss went from softly loving, to impassioned, to full of unbridled need, hands gripping at shirts, fingers tangled in hair, hearts racing and breaths shortened.

“You are wearing entirely too many clothes right now-” Lofty pulled away to pant, tugging Dom’s grey shirt over his head quickly.

“Pot- Kettle- Button up!” Dom pointed out breathlessly, his hands shaking a little as he undid Lofty’s buttons in a rush, opening his shirt before kissing him again, skin on skin now; hands roaming over chests and arms.

Lofty held the back of Dom’s neck a few moments later, his curls a little damp on his forehead from the sweat “Bed?”

“Definitely bed-” Dom confirmed, scrambling upright, hauling his husband up with him.

Lofty grinned and kissed his cheek as he tugged him into their room, falling onto the bed in a tangled mess of limbs as the hastily swung door closed behind them.

* * *

Later, Dom doom-scrolled through the pictures Sacha and Donna had been tagged in by the wedding photographer and other guests... And Lofty. The sunny smiles on the faces of all present just made him feel ill. And increasingly cynical.

They are celebrating a momentary snapshot of a relationship that is nowhere near this polished and happy as the photos let on. No one knows what's going on behind the scenes. They probably hate each other...

But one photo of the supposedly happy couple broke down Dom’s bitter facade.

A back shot of the grooms looking out across Wyvern Lake, the backdrop of their venue... Joseph had his hand rested on the small of Lofty’s back as they stood side by side.

His eyes watered. Lofty had always been immensely uncomfortable with anyone rubbing his lower back. It sent him into shivers and made him freak out- often flinch away. No funny anecdote as to why- just one of those things... Like hating nails on a chalk board to the sensation of stroking velvet. In the 28 months he spent as Lofty’s other half, he could count the number of times he had touched him there on two hands.

Yet here was a casual picture of someone else doing just that. Holding him gently, fingers splayed just above his hips and pressed against his back.

Dom’s eyes blurred with tears. Lofty must really love him. Love him in all those little ways that they never voiced but both assumed.

Dom left a like on the picture after heavy consideration, and then opened the personal messaging window with Lofty... The most recent message had been sent on January 2nd, 2020, from Lofty.

“Div. Papers mailed off today. Should get a letter confirming the annulment in 14 days give or take.”

Dom had never responded. What could he have said?

He quickly tapped out a message:

“Hi Loft, congratulations!! I’m glad the weather was kind to you. You both look fab x”

He stared at it for a while... Then amended it to:

“Hi Ben, congratulations. I’m glad the weather was kind to you. You both looked perfect.”

Then again to:

“Ben, congratulations. I’m glad the weather was kind to you. You look perfect for each other.”

Rubbing his face, he sent it, instantly shutting off the screen and rolling over.

It was only 9:24, he doubted Lofty would be asleep yet... But he also knew that he and his new husband would likely be far too busy to answer text from an embittered ex on their wedding night.

Better to sleep. He needed today to be over.

* * *

Dom’s cheek pressed against Lofty’s chest, the pair slowly caught their breath; legs still tangled beneath the covers and their skin dampened with sweat.

“Lofty...?” He whispered.

“Mm...?” The older grunted, eyes half shut.

“This is the start of the rest of our lives...”

“Yes, it is...” He murmured back, yawning a little.

Dom’s eyes sparkled as he nestled closer to him, hooking a leg across his waist and pressing a soft kiss to his collarbone as Lofty’s hand trailed lazily up and down his back.

“I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you...” Dom whispered a few minutes later.

“Mm... Me too...”

“I just want it to be tomorrow... So that it can all just... Start already!” Dom beamed...

No response, as Lofty’s breaths got deeper and more regular... Sound asleep...

Dom chuckled fondly and settled down too, eyes closed.

Better to sleep. He needed today to be over.

* * *

A few weeks later, Dominic Copeland was in a walking queue at the vaccine clinic in Holby Central, his pride mask clamped around his mouth as the guidelines required. Second jab time.

Lofty had read and liked Dom’s message but had not responded. Fair enough, the doctor had thought, he had probably deserved that after 17 months of radio silence on his end.

He stepped up to the administration table, confirmed his time slot, and that he was ready and happy to have his second dose of Pfizer this afternoon.

“Right, booth... 8 is free.” The sparky young woman behind the desk told him.

“Thank you...” He hummed his response as he walked down pathway to the booth she had gestured to, sitting down into the stool, the man in full PPE ready to vaccinate him had his back turned as he pulled the correct amount of liquid into the syringe.

“Alright then mate- this is your second jab, correct?”

“Mmm, yeah, had my first in April... Missed my original slot earlier this month due to a positive LFT...” Dom confirmed, a little in his own world, not registering anything significant about this man... Until he realized he’d gone quiet.

Dom looked up, confused at the silence, only to be met with the wide, instantly recognizable green-brown eyes and barely-contained black curls of Benjamin Chessington Chiltern. He held his breath...

Lofty had definitely clocked him by his voice yet seemed speechless himself now.

Silence blanketed the unusual tableau like a thick layer of snow. Cold, still, and suffocating.

Dom swallowed and blinked a little, finding it hard to break eye contact with the man he had once held tenderly with the hands he was now fiddling in his lap.

“Do you want... Someone else to do it...?” Lofty eventually managed to whisper.

“- No... No, I don’t want to cause a scene,” Dom quickly answered, “Just do it, ok?”

The nurse nodded sheepishly.

“Right- any allergies?”

“Cats, but that’s it.” Lofty knew that, but still had to ask.

“Are you taking any medication we should be aware of?”

Dom swallowed again and looked down.

“10mg of metoclopramide three times a day.”

Lofty looked at him, confused.

“- Right...? Any... Existing medical conditions...?”

“I have a permanent stoma bag.” he muttered quickly.

Thank you, God, he thought, for your divinely satanic sense of humor.

“O- Oh Dominic... I...” Lofty had no idea, “I- When- What? I’m sorry-”

“- Just-” Dom cut in quickly, “Just do your job, ok? You don’t need to pretend you care-”

“- I’m not pretending! Jesus...” Lofty sighed, “I care about you! I lo-”

“- Please don’t say you love me.” Dom cut him off before he had a chance, his eyes brimming with tears.

Lofty went quiet... Before taking a cotton bud dipped in alcohol and swiping it across Dom’s left arm, pinching the skin gently.

“This might sting a bit...” He mumbled.

But the tears had dripped down Dom’s face before the needle had pierced his skin.

“Ok... All done.” Lofty pulled off his gloves, “It’s going to feel numb for a few days, but before long everything will get back to normal.”

“I feel we’ve had this conversation before.” Dom quipped dryly, looking at the stranger he had once loved.

Lofty looked down a little “Sorry...”

“Don’t be. I meant what I said in that text. You two look great together.” Dom surprised himself with that one... Biting back the bitter comments he’d internalized since learning of Lofty’s engagement to be the bigger man.

“Thanks, mate.”

Dom nodded a little “Take care, ok?”

“Maybe we could... Speak more, I don’t know...” Lofty suggested just as Dom turned to leave, “Text a bit. Have a pint every now and again... Be mates...?”

Dom bit the inside of his cheek hard.

“Ben, I... I think right now you need to focus on Joseph and your marriage, not rekindling a friendship with your ex.” he turned and looked at him, “Don’t repeat our mistakes.”

Lofty sighed and nodded.

“Then... Take care, I suppose.”

Dom raised his good arm in farewell as he walked through to the observation area, sitting down in the back left corner as he stuffed his air Pods in his ears and hit shuffle on his playlist.

The synthetic beats of Yazoo’s ‘82 hit “Only You” punched themselves into his ear...

And for the first time in about 594 days, he didn’t skip it.

1 year, 7 months, 2 weeks, 1 day, and a wedding he wasn’t allowed to attend.

Just over 19 months.

That’s how long it took Dominic Copeland to move on.