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you were my picket fence

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Chilled by the cold afternoon air, Billy’s cheek is cool in Sean’s palm, his eyes closed and his mouth slightly parted. Sean can practically feel his heart in his throat, thumping in a steady, if somewhat faster than usual, rhythm, and he feels like a cartoon character as he shuts his eyes and leans in.


The lawn is not quite tidy, because Sean really isn’t very good at mowing the grass, that should be Billy’s job. The paving slab at the end of the path, closest to the gate, is cracked slightly. There’s a couple of weeds sprouting through, but it’s raining and Sean can’t bring himself to go outside to pull them. The weather should be picking up soon, he’ll do it in a few days, when the sun’s out.

That, and paint the fence where the white’s flaking off.

It’s a nice house, suburban detached, big enough for the two of them and cosy enough to feel like home. Sean never really pictured himself living out of the city but it’s starting to grow on him. He’s adapting to being away from the bustle and even starting to crack a smile at the neighbours; the old lady next door who sometimes leaves a freshly (if not well) baked pie on the doorstep on lazy Sunday mornings, and the young family across the street with the baby and the dog.

It’s idyllic and picturesque and it’s taken some getting used to, but he’s here now, and he’s not doing so badly anymore.


‘Dignam.’ Ellerby’s voice is gruff and Sean jerks back, pulls his lips away from where they were brushing Billy’s forehead. He looks over his shoulder, sees Ellerby looking at his feet, hands crossed behind his back. Everyone is pointedly looking away, not disrespectfully - yet, though Sean doesn’t doubt that’s to come. He doesn’t care, he’ll take whatever they throw at him and give double back - triple.

He straightens up and lets his hand slip from Billy’s face, pausing briefly in its withdrawal to straighten the black tie. He knows he’s taking too long, but he can’t bring himself to care. He steals one more look at Billy’s face and strides away to stand next to Ellerby. He can feel eyes on him and doesn’t have to wonder who it is and what he’s thinking. He just looks at his feet.


The rain is still coming down, slow and steady, a constant patter on the skylight as he brushes his teeth and spits into the sink. Too rigorous, again; there’s a splatter of red mixed with the white foam. He spits again, then flicks the light off and goes to his cold, empty bed. He gets his regular four hours sleep, then wakes alone.