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Oh please, just don't ask me how I've been

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Waking up for Dom had been an arduous process for as long as he could remember. He wasn’t a morning person like Carol, who seemed to treat each day with a kind of wide eyed wonder that was only occasionally forced, or Barry - who liked to be up earlier than everyone else out of a desire to perform antiquated ideals of masculine bread-winning. Which meant mum *Carole* had to be up around the same time too. Heaven forbid he make his own breakfast. Kyle had been a morning person too and anyone who spent half a minute with Lofty could draw the same conclusion. Arthur hadn’t been, not really, but the idea of spending a day lounging around in his pjs was something that Dom had introduced him to and, despite his occasional protests, had secretly loved.

It was easier to think about Arthur now too, Dom mused, than it had used to be. He missed those moments in the early morning, the handful of minutes before the coiled anxiety had taken root, when Arthur was docile and bleary. With his eyes still closed Dom took a moment to luxuriate in those memories. He allowed himself to dwell occasionally, even though it hurt, the pain was duller - more bearable. Dom even missed those bloody pinstripe pajamas.

Honestly, if he could, Dom knew would probably spend a day a week completely encased in the warm, fluffy embrace of his bed. Free and safe from life's pressures and complexities.

Today was different.

He transitioned from calm musing to full awakeness with a start, violent and alert, accompanied with a feeling of palatable wrongness and unfamiliarity. This was not his bed. Looking around the room in an attempt to get his bearings, his mouth parched with the decaying dryness only red wine can bring, Dom had an acute awareness that he was naked. He’d woken up in strange bedrooms a number of times in his life but never with such a deeply profound pit of unease gnawing.

Barring clothes strewn across the floor, the bedroom was eerily tidy and decorated in bland, masculine tones. There’s only so many variations of Navy one can abide. The only signs of human inhabitants in the space was a laptop on the desk, a few weights tucked into a cubby hole and an - oh god, he recognised that coat.

He was in Isaac’s bedroom, in Isaac's bed.

Dom allowed himself a moment of heart splitting, ears ringing, screaming panic before pushing it back down.

This wasn’t the bed they had shared together many moons ago in that clinical apartment that had been so void of his own belongings - a space that had come to represent so much pain and terror. That nagging sense that he was always going to do or say something wrong. No it was clearly a different space, his dad's house most likely, but there was something so distinctly Isaac about the dark muted colours and obsessive cleanliness. He felt that same choking sense of being trapped return, dull in it’s familiarity, as his hungover brain floundered on what on earth to do next.

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12 hours earlier

The last hour hadn’t been the finest of his life and that was saying something. Begging Isaac to stay with him outside the hospital and being left alone, again. A kind of agitation had overcome him and going home hadn’t felt like an option. The Sailors Arms was a small grubby pub about half an hour from Albies that Dom knew from past experience, a few misguided late night attempts at bar hopping and a mediocre date, wasn’t a hospital haunt.

Good, he thought viciously, no one to see how sad and pathetic you really are begging the man who, the man who, well.

Dom didn’t want to think about that right now, all of the right and wrong, the reality of what had happened suddenly seemed less decisive. Maybe it was what he deserved, maybe he was destined from birth to be left outside in the cold, maybe he was poison and Lofty had made a lucky escape. He took a large gup of his third? double gin and tonic decisively clenching and unclenching his fist. He didn’t know what to feel - anxiety, anger, hurt. Tick, tick, bloody tick.

Vaguely registering a phone buzz he pulled it from his pocket. He let out a shaky exhale. There was no rule that said it needed to be opened. The smart thing to do would be to delete it - go home, go to bed and -

and what? Wake up alone again. No harm in looking at what he had to say and Dom could still go home.

‘Where are you?’ Nothing more. No apology, no promise, no anything. Just ‘where are you?’

He wasn’t going home.

There was a self destructive part of him that festered for so long, often lying dormant and insisting he wasn’t worth shit, that kept him firmly planted to the grubby barstool. Taking a deep steadying breath he replied with a map stamp of his location. He looked around the room, almost wishing for a familiar face to pop out and sequester him to safety, but by his own design there was none. No one was coming to save him this time. Terrifying but almost perversely thrilling - lots of people had hurt him. Why should Isaac get the monopoly on being the big bad villain of his story? He’d been hurt too after all.

God this pub was shite - he looked around and started cataloging the room to diffuse the nervous energy that threatened to bubble over. Old men downing beers they don’t really enjoy complaining about progress as if it was a personal affront, a frayed couple having an increasingly fraught conversation and a handful of awkward teenagers only a few weeks past their eighteenth birthday pretending to love the taste of alcohol. He spent about fifteen minutes nursing the last dregs of his drink and scrolling aimlessly through instagram, willing himself to just get up and leave, but knew that this place was where he deserved to be. He had no one to blame but himself. There was no Zosia to save him anymore, no Sacha and Essie, hell not even Ange, nobody that could stop him from making a huge mistake -

"Fancy finding you here Dominic"

Isaac smirked knowingly as Dom fumbled with his phone

"Hi"

"Hi yourself"

With that same nonchalance that Dom has always found so effortlessly cool Isaac motioned to the barman and ordered them a bottle of red.

"I -"

"C’mon" Isaac grabbed the bottle and two glasses, marching to a smaller more secluded table away from the bar expecting Dom to follow. He did, wordlessly, scrambling to grab his coat, bag and phone.

Isaac poured them a drink, regarding Dom in a manner than was both intent and indisceperhable.

"I’m glad you replied Dominic".

What could he say? What was there to say? Thanks, my husband just cheated on me and I feel exposed like a raw nerve and so empty and here you stand. A man that, despite everything, I had once truly, honestly loved. That I never got to properly break up with on my own terms so the feelings just lingered even though they shouldn’t because you hurt me -

"Cat got your tongue. If you want me to leave I can, I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable."

Dom stifled a short, abrupt laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

"I think this is always going to be a touch uncomfortable Isaac" Dom almost purred. He knew he should probably be embarrassed about the flirty lilt to his tone but he was just so tired, so fucking tired of feeling alone.

Isaac smiled that thousand watt smile, god he was so ridiculously handsome even with that beard and those extra lines and flecks of grey - wow ok Dom was drunker than he thought already. He smiled lazily back - he knew it was wrong but he was so done feeling like he was no one's first choice not Lofty, not Ange’s, not anyone's.

"I like it when you say my name Dom"

Dom nearly choked on his wine, he was flirting back. There was a part of him screaming, skin crawling, but another part that was just willing him forward, brazen and nihilistic.

"God that was so cheesy, even for me" Isaac smiled in a self effacing way. If he tried he could just pretend, for a second, that this was the Isaac from so many years ago before his words had turned to ash and cruelty. The charming man who had wooed him, who had met every cutting remark, who had loved him.

Their faces were closer now, the heat on his cheeks hidden in the dim light, and Isaac’s deep brown eyes, god those lips.

"I liked it" Dom whispered so quietly it would have been imperceptible over the general din if it wasn’t for his proximity. He felt a jolt, a thrill so sudden it was almost nauseating, as Isaac bridged some of the nominal gap between them, drawing ever closer, his breath on his face.

Smoke and Mint, not the same as it used to be. Isaac stopped short and raised his eyebrow - amused and mocking. The familiar sardonic expression unwelcome as Dom realised Isaac wasn’t going to make the move - it was Dom’s choice.

It was almost cruel in a way, making him an active participant in his down downfall, allowing him to sew the seeds of his own destruction. A couple of inches forward, a singular lunge and it would be done.

He thought of Lofty growing cold and distant, lips pursed, as he drew further and further away as Dom desperately tried to hold on. He thought of Ange looking at him moments after his birth and still finding him lacking. Zosia, beautiful flighty Zosia, casting him aside for bigger and better things. His mum - Carole, there but never able to be what he needed. Barry - the acute pain the first time he’d registered and understood the man's disgust. He thought of Sacha, the better man and the father he yearned for, the one he was doomed to let down in the end. Dom thought of his best friend Arthur, the self righteous brilliant fool, and the look on his face as he realised there was no getting better.

What’s a bit more hurt? Dom leaned in.