Word Count: 1,800
Spoilers: set between "Epitaph One" and "Epitaph Two"
Summary: Dominic pays a visit to Safe Haven.
Author's Note: Bam, one fic down! Meme, I will best you. This is for the prompt 'DeWitt/Dominic, absolution' from oltha_heri.
God, every road takes us farther from home
All these men that you made
how we wither in the shade
of your trees, on your wings
we are carried to the sea
God, give us love in the time that we have
-Iron & Wine, ‘On Your Wings’
He comes across an abandoned grocery store on the way back to Safe Haven. Walking through it creeps him out more than human stampedes and streets on fire. It’s dark and silent, no refrigerator hum from the frozen food aisle. It smells like rotten meat, dried-out fruit, and dust. He keeps his hand on his gun. As far as he can tell, there’s no one in there but him, and nothing happens to prove him wrong.
His knapsack’s a treasure trove of nonperishable items when he gets back; he spills them out like gold across the kitchen table, and Ballard and Priya ooh and ahh over barbeque-flavored potato chips and Oreos and that popcorn you cook over campfires. Echo smiles along with them, but she was raised on fresh berries and organic carrot sticks and never developed a proper appreciation for the kind of food that laughs in the face of its own expiration date. There’s dinosaur-shaped fruit snacks for T. (And Topher.)
Last, he hands a box of English Breakfast tea to Adelle. She lifts her eyebrows, smirking wordlessly at him. He shrugs. They look at each other, not quite smiling, until T steals the spotlight by making his fruit snacks growl.
That night, when everyone else is getting ready for bed, Adelle makes herself a cup of tea and goes out to sit in the garden. He stands just outside the door and watches her back, the surrender of her shoulders, the way she relaxes just slightly when she knows no one’s looking at her anymore. He can remember her doing that at the ends of long days, when he’d show out Langton or Ambrose or whoever was giving her trouble – shut the door, and it’d be just the two of them left in her office. (Him, she didn’t need to fool, not to the same degree at least; him, she trusted.)
He knows how much it takes out of her to take care of Topher day after day, and how hard she’ll fight before she finally admits that he’s not gonna get better. There’d been a moment earlier, one of those rare flickers where Topher was Topher again, happily spewing out T-Rex facts. He’d even gotten in a snappy remark at Ballard before he’d sunk back into – his guilt, his brain. Whatever it is that’s got him locked up.
Dominic, he’d never liked Topher. It’s not like that’s a secret. Once upon a time, he would’ve been happy to watch all these people fall apart and burn.
Now, not so much. He breathes in the night air as it cools, and watches Adelle pluck a blade of grass from the ground, then let it fall. The breeze takes it a foot or two before it gives up against gravity. There’s the faint sound of Priya singing to T. It spills out the open upstairs window.
He listens for a few seconds. He’s struck by a memory of his mom singing to him. No specifics, no song; just what it felt like to listen to her. It hit him hard when his mom died. She didn’t even make it to fifty. It’d seemed like some sick cosmic joke at the time, ugly and unfair. Now, he thinks, Thank God. It’s hard to get used to that – being grateful for the untimely demises of your loved ones, because at least that means they didn’t make it to the here and now.
The thought is heavy in him, the perfect gateway to dwelling on the futility of it all, and it’s never good to go there. Instead, he walks down into the grass. He keeps one hand and its contents hidden behind his back.
“How is it?” he asks.
She doesn’t turn around right away. “Well, if we weren’t certain about it being the Apocalypse before, here stands our confirmation.”
“Not at all. In fact, I’m rather enjoying it.”
“And … ?”
“It’s from a tea bag.”
“There is,” he says, “another alternative.” He pulls the bottle of bourbon from behind his back. “Supermarket had a liquor store in it.”
She smiles. “My hero.”
He sits down next to her, and she sets the cup of tea aside. They pass the bottle back and forth between them, alternating sips. They don’t talk much at first, but the sky starts to darken and welcome, slightly fuzzy relaxation creeps up in him. He asks how things have been here. She tells him. She laughs at the most terrible parts, and her voice doesn’t waver. Efficiently dealing with agony’s her area of expertise, after all. But she quiets, seems almost shy, when she tells him that the garden’s finally cooperating, and for the first time the strawberries grew.
“It was the best thing that’d happened to me in months,” she murmurs, looking at the ground, seeming half-ashamed of the words as they come out of her mouth. “Realizing that I’d actually coaxed something from the earth. I’m a bit more used to destroying things than creating them.”
She runs a hand through her hair and gladly accepts the bottle when he hands it to her. She takes a jerky, determined sip, the kind specifically tailored to drown something.
He tells her about the butcher that almost got him. He was down, no gun, gaping head wound. The thing was right up in front of him, nothing but inches in between them, so close he could smell it, all reeking breath and ripe flesh, sweat and shit. He can smell it even now, just looking back, even though the night around him smells like grass and calm and Adelle, who somehow still smells as good as she always has even though he’s pretty damn sure she’s out of perfume.
“I knew it had me if I didn’t do something in like two seconds,” he continues, and pauses to take a drink. He’s glad to have the bottle to wrap his fingers around. Still, a sick current of memory runs through them. “And so I reached up and I stuck my fingers in his eye and I dug it out.”
She grimaces. “Lovely.”
It’s such a – he doesn’t know, British response – that it’s heartening. It loosens him up.
“And it was just like – like, even as I was standing there, it seemed unreal. I had this eye in my hand, and he doubles over in pain, thank God, and like for a few seconds, I swear, I’m frozen, and it’s almost funny, how sick it is, and all I can think is, ‘Dude, this is disgusting.’”
“Dude,” she repeats. He’s willing to bet it’s a historic occasion. Adelle DeWitt saying ‘dude.’
“Dude,” he confirms, chuckling. “It was – it was just crazy. I had this guy’s eye in my hand. I dug it out with my fingernails.”
“A charming story,” she tells him, with something that’s almost a giggle. “You should save it for cocktail parties.”
“Right,” he says, mock-serious. Laughing, which kinda wrecks the ‘serious’ part. “Put it on my résumé. Ya know. In case I ever get back into security.”
“I’ll be sure to write you a glowing recommendation.”
They laugh a little longer, then sink into quiet. She leans against him.
“I felt like one of them,” he admits. It feels good to admit it. “I just can’t shake that one, for some reason. It was like – what makes me better? Here’s some kid, this teenager who didn’t even have any choice, and I ripped his eye out and once he was down on the ground I kicked him ‘til he stopped moving.”
“You had no choice,” she reminds him.
“Yeah.” He looks at her for a couple seconds, then at the nothing-in-particular in front of him. “I don’t know why it bugged me so much. I’ve always been willing to get my hands dirty.”
“So long as none of it gets on your suit,” she adds sagely.
He laughs. “Exactly.”
“We were very neat about it, weren’t we?” she muses. “Back then?”
“Yeah.” He thinks of them the way they were, king and queen of their twisted little Eden. Of luxuries like order and authority and – yeah, okay – business attire. “You miss it?”
“Yes,” she says, without pausing. Then she relents, “And no. I’m much better here, I think. Far less capable of wreaking havoc. My evil powers have been checked at last.” She smirks bitterly, takes a sip. “Rather too late, I suppose.”
He can’t quite argue that one, even now with her warm against him and a little bit drunk. He doesn’t hate her anymore. That doesn’t mean he’s gonna lie to her, tell her that, well, whoops, she sure did mess up, but hey, everybody makes mistakes, that’s all right. She’ll carry this one in her bones ‘til she dies, and he’s not going to interfere. He tells himself she wouldn’t want him to.
She inhales. “I’m sorry.”
He looks at her. Something in her expression makes him realize that this apology, this regret, it’s just for him. For old wounds. Then he realizes that he doesn’t really need it. Hey, at this point, the Attic sounds like a damn spa vacation. At least there, the rest of the world wasn’t crashing down into hell along with him. There, it was a nightmare he’d almost earned.
“That’s okay,” he says anyway. He’ll give her this one.
Her hand twitches in the grass, like she’s reaching up to touch him. He’s drunk enough to want her to, or to acknowledge that he wants her to. Something along those lines. Doesn’t matter. She catches herself and lowers it. One of these days, he decides, he’s going to kiss her. Before he leaves again. That way, he’ll have the memory to carry around with him, even if he doesn’t make it back. Her shoulder rests against his now. It feels good after so many years of staying carefully apart.
There’s one last swig in the bottle. He lets her have it.
“You know what I like about living here?” she says, wiping the back of her hand against her mouth. She sets the empty bottle down in the grass, and it falls over on its side, threatening to knock down the abandoned mug of tea.
He rights it for her without thinking, a habit. “What’s that?”
“The stars.” She cranes her neck, considering the sky. “You never could see them in the city.”
“No,” he agrees, following her gaze up.