?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Title: You're A Map Of A Place Maybe Someday I'll Go Ch. 11/22
Author: Pip
Pairing: Billy/Dom
Rating: this chapter PG-13, NC-17 overall
Disclaimer: Don't know 'em, never met 'em, this is all lies.
Feedback: Would be treasured beyond pearls.
Archive: Not without permission.

A/N: Thanks to fitofpique and elmathelas for the brilliant betas, and to buckle_berry for the fabulous Britpick. This fic would not be the same without you three, and I thank you from the bottom of my squishy little heart.

Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

First posted July, 2006



An hour later, the two walked in to the music shop Billy had wanted to visit. Dom left his hoodie up, but Billy pushed his back as he looked around for the local music section that he'd heard was quite good. He made a beeline straight for the rack once he'd found it and Dom smiled, knowing he'd lost Billy for a good half hour at least. He didn't mind, though. Every time Billy came across a new Glasgow band that he liked, if he didn't already know someone in it, he did before a month was out. Dom knew that he'd made so many good contacts, and met so many truly talented musicians, that if he ever decided it was time to try recording an album of his own, he had only to pick up the phone to collect a backup band. Music afforded Billy such a bone-deep pleasure that Dom felt fortunate just to be around him when he was consumed by it, to be able to absorb some of it by association. Like radiation, only slightly safer.

"Hey, Bill?" he said as he wandered past.

"Mmm?"

"What d'you say we try and catch a couple of bands while I'm here? Show me what's new."

Billy looked up, pleased. "Really?"

"No, I'm just taking the piss. Yes, really, you daft git." With a grin, he walked off again.



When they left the store, Billy had four CD's in his jacket pocket, and Dom two. Billy checked his watch, and increased their pace. "Come on, or we won't have time to get a drink before the show starts. You took too long in there."

"I took too long? Nice try, arsehole. Where is this thing, anyway? Surely they don't like people mucking up their plush little theatre seats?"

"In an old church. They added on to it and turned it into a restaurant. I actually haven't tried it yet," Billy said thoughtfully. "I've heard it's good, though. Anyway, upstairs is the stage and bar, and for this lunchtime thing they put out wooden tables and chairs. You get a ticket for whichever type of pie you want, and they bring it right to you, piping hot out of the oven."

"This is sounding better and better," Dom said, giving Billy a little nudge with his shoulder. "Is there a waiter to bring me my bevvie as well?"

"Yeah--you're talking to him." Billy grinned his cheeky little grin, and Dom felt his stomach flutter. He looked over at Billy, unable to help the silly smile that spread over his face in return, and would have walked into a lamppost if Billy hadn't grabbed his arm and hauled him to the side. "Jesus, Dom, I know I'm mesmerising, but watch where you're going, all right?"

Dom flushed, but didn't quite lose the smile.



After the play ended and the applause died down, Billy drained the last of his pint and stood up. "C'mon, I want to say hi to Kath."

They skirted around the edge of the room to the door the cast had disappeared through, and Billy poked his head into the hallway beyond. He could hear voices coming from a room down at the end, so he pulled Dom after him and headed that way. Before they got there, though, a young woman wearing a headset walked out.

She cocked her head at them, as if finding them vaguely familiar. "Can I help you?"

"I hope so. Is Kath Howden here today?" Billy smiled at her.

"Yes, she is, actually. Can I tell her who's here?"

"Just tell her Raymond."

Dom glanced at him.

The girl returned to the room just down the hall, and Dom could hear a low, murmured conversation culminating in a harried sounding, "But I don't know a Raymond--" just before a short tawny blonde woman an inch or two taller than Billy stepped into the hallway.

Dom watched as her face changed from annoyed to pleased, lighting up when she caught sight of Billy.

"Billy!" She hurried over to give him a huge hug. "Raymond indeed. I nearly had you thrown out on your ear," she teased. "Glad you could make it."

"Same here," Billy said with a grin, giving her a squeeze and then releasing her to introduce Dom.

Kath held out her hand. "Nice to finally meet you, Dom--Billy told me a lot about you."

"Same here," he said, shaking her hand. "Sounds like you and Raymond had a great time on Crazy Paola."

Laughing, she said, "That we did. Well, except for Inverness, eh, Billy?"

Billy groaned. "Aw hell, Kath--"

Dom sensed a good story. "Inverness, hmm? I don't seem to recall hearing about Inverness, actually."

Kath feigned great surprise. "What? He didn't tell you about getting absolutely stocious on some shite whisky and singing half of Pirates of Penzance and then nearly falling in the Moray Firth?"

Dom laughed delightedly. "No, oddly enough he forgot to mention that one. Come on, Bill, give us a bit of Major-General."

"Bugger off, Monaghan," Billy growled, lips twitching.

Kath grinned. "I love embarrassing Billy. It's so damned hard to do, the man has no shame." Before Billy could protest, she carried blithely on. "So did you like the play, then, Dom?"

He nodded. "I did, it was really sharp. Your lead had great timing."

Proud, she said, "He did, didn't he? I was lucky to get him--directing isn't my forte, so any help from a talented actor is always appreciated."

"You did a great job, Kath, and you know it," Billy said warmly.

"Thank you, Billy. That means a lot, coming from you." Kath looked grateful, but then she started and checked her watch. "Shite, I have to go, I'm sorry--I have an audition in Edinburgh early this evening."

"We won't keep you, then," Billy said quickly. "Just wanted to drop in and say hi and tell you the play was good."

"I'm so glad you did, and I wish I had more time--"

"Don't worry about it. We'll catch each other another time," he promised.

"Listen, I'll be free on Tuesday or Wednesday week, maybe we could go for dinner--and hopefully you'll still be here, Dom?" she asked.

"I--" Dom began.

"Actually, I'm afraid we're a bit tied up next week," Billy interjected smoothly. "But now that I know you're in town for a while, I'll ring you, yeah?"

"Sounds great. I really have to run, but it was nice to meet you, Dom."

"Same here," he smiled. "Good luck with the audition."

"Thanks. Good to see you again, Billy." She gave him a quick hug.

"You too, Kath. Good luck tonight."

"Thanks. Talk to you soon, then," she gave his hand a last squeeze and hurried away.




As they walked down the busy sidewalk Dom asked, "Why did you tell Kath we're tied up next week?"

Billy shrugged. "Because we don't know what we'll be doing. We might not feel like going out, or we might be on a road trip, who knows? Besides ... " He hesitated, then finally said, "I don't know how long you're here for, and I don't know how long it will be until I see you again. This visit is for you and me."

Still gazing down the street sloping in front of them, Dom said, "I'm not complaining. That sounds good to me." He suddenly grinned, and archly said, "Besides, if we keep getting adventurous, maybe by next week you--or I--will be tied up." He laughed when Billy made a strangled noise. "Was that a sound of interest or disgust?"

Billy cleared his throat before carefully saying, "Surprise, actually. I wasn't aware that was ...  an option."

It was Dom's turn to be startled. It took everything he had not to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and grip Billy's arms and demand to know if he was serious. Instead, he simply asked, "Would you like it to be?"

Billy was silent for so long Dom wasn't sure he was going to answer at all. Finally he hedged by asking, "Would you?"

Dom looked down at the pavement as they walked, stopping at a crossroads and waiting for the traffic before stepping into the street. When they reached the other side and passed a cluster of school kids in their navy blazers, he said, "I'm not sure what you want to hear, Bills."

"Would you like that to be an option?" Billy echoed his words.

Dom sighed, apprehensive about where the conversation was going. "Have I ever tried that before? No. Do I desperately need to try it? No. Would I try it with you? Yes. Will anything change if I never do? No.  Does that cover everything, Bill?"

"Yes, Dom, it does." He directed Dom across the street, down a narrow lane behind a large building. "A shortcut," he explained quietly, then said, "I'm sorry if I ticked you off."

"You didn't. You didn't tick me off, Billy, honestly. I just ...  I'm not sure sometimes if you really want the entire truth, or if you just want a bit of it at a time. So it's easier." Dom didn't know if that would make sense to Billy, if he'd understand what Dom meant or not--not that he would ever lie to Billy, not willingly, but he certainly would screen the truth, if it meant not hurting or scaring him.

"Nothing about this is easy, Dom. But I need the complete truth, if I'm to really ...  understand everything." Billy was quiet again for a minute, and then with a little smile, as if he was the one trying to reassure Dom for a change, he said, "Except maybe kissing you. That seems to come fairly easily."

Dom snorted, then leaned sideways to bump Billy with his shoulder. "It does, does it?"

"Aye. Although I suppose I could probably use a little more practice."

"They say practice makes perfect," Dom agreed mildly.

"So they do, Dom. So they do."




Half an hour later, they stopped at Starbucks for a coffee. The tiny shop was packed, so they took their cups outside and sat on a bench near the kerb, watching the traffic stream past.

"Does Glasgow ever slow down?" Dom asked. "You know, some places are a madhouse until nine o'clock, and then everything closes and it's practically deserted, and good luck to anyone who wants a bit of fun of a weeknight."

"There are areas that shut down. Others are always busy. There's almost always traffic on the main roads, people in the areas where the clubs are, around the pubs and theatres and cinemas. Why, looking for some excitement tonight, Dom?" Billy grinned. "Bored of me already?"

"Nah, not quite. Yet. Ow!" he yelped as Billy elbowed him in the ribs. "That was highly uncalled for."

"On the contrary, you deserved that. I am fascinating and thrilling and exciting and ought to be a tourist attraction in my own right," Billy declared loftily.

Dom laughed, coughed, then said, "According to your many and varied fansites, you are a tourist attraction. In fact, I'll bet there are thousands of trips booked to Glasgow when word gets out you're home for a bit."

"Now you're just being silly," he declared. "There aren't thousands of holidays booked when I'm here--just hundreds."

"You're so modest, Bill."

"I am, aren't I? Humble, too."

Dom chuckled, then coughed again.

"All right, there, Dom?" Billy asked, glancing over at him.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Must've got a bit of foam from this cappuccino down the wrong pipe." He coughed, then cleared his throat. "That's better. So," he continued, leaning back against the bench, "Have you decided where you're taking me, oh great tour guide?"

Billy made an apologetic face. "Not really. We could head up to Renfrew Street and across, if you like, there are a few things I could show you there, and that way we can give the shops on Sauchiehall Street a miss. Or would you rather go somewhere else?"

Dom shook his head with a smug little smile. "Your call, Mr. Guide."

"Bastard."

"I try."

"You succeed. All right, you ready to continue?" At Dom's nod, Billy stood, and they continued toward the city centre.



Two hours of walking and discreet sightseeing later, Billy glanced over at Dom. "Are you all right? You've been a bit quiet the last little while."

Dom smiled. "I'm good. Just ...  you know. Looking around. Listening to you."

"Okay," he said, a trifle doubtfully. "Let me know if you've had enough, okay?"

"Yeah." Dom was torn. He was having a good time, but he was ...  something wasn't quite right. He felt odd, and couldn't quite figure out what it was; he wondered if his allergies were bothering him. Some bloody tree spring pollinating somewhere, maybe? His chest felt tight, but he wasn't having trouble breathing, so he decided to just ignore it and he could take an antihistamine when they got back to the flat. But maybe he should suggest that they head back soon.

"While we're in the neighbourhood, do you mind if I show you another place?" Billy asked diffidently. "It's only a wee walk from here."

The tone of his voice told Dom Billy was looking forward to whatever he had up his sleeve, and Dom didn't want to be a spoilsport now, not when they'd obviously headed this particular way for a reason. "Sounds good to me," he said cheerfully, suppressing a cough. A block and a half later, he saw exactly what Billy wanted to show him, and grinned. "What is that fuck-ugly place?"

"Gobshite," Billy chuckled. "Mind if we go in? I'll show you around a bit, and if he's in his office, there's someone I'd like to say hello to."

"One of your teachers?"

"Yeah. The one who got me involved in that youth mentoring project. I just want to see how the current year is shaping up." Billy explained as they walked up the steps into the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where Billy had finally begun to work toward what he truly wanted.

Dom watched him out of the corner of his eye. "This place really changed you, didn't it?" he asked with a smile.

"In every way, shape and form," he agreed simply. "Down this hall, it's less busy. I don't really want us to get stuck here for ages, so we'll keep this short."

As they walked quickly through the labyrinth of hallways, Billy paused once or twice to point out something of special importance to him. He showed Dom the small studio theatre he'd done his first one-act in, told him how he'd nearly thrown up backstage before going on in his first mainstage production, paused to show him some production photos from years gone by in the gallery. He pointed out three pictures of himself to Dom, and Dom marvelled at them, amused and affected by how very young he looked, even though he'd been older than his classmates, nearly considered a mature student.

Billy was a little disappointed to be unable to find his old professor, but when Dom suggested they wait for a bit and see if he showed up when classes changed, he shook his head. "Thanks Dom, but it's fine. I can give him a call in a week or two. I just, you know, wanted to show you the place, more than anything else really. Why don't we get out of here before some of these kids decide to mob you?"

"Me?" Dom hooted, then coughed again. "Something tells me, in these hallowed halls I would be next to invisible. Which would be only right--after all, you're the living proof that their chosen goal isn't a futile one, aren't you?" He arched his back a bit, stretching his arms up over his head.

Billy snorted. "Hardly. Listen to you--twenty minutes in here, and you're spouting melodrama like a first-year." He led them through several back halls to an exit on the opposite side of the building from where they'd entered.

When they got outside, they were dismayed to find a fine, steady drizzle falling. "Ahh, to be in Scotland, now that spring has sprung," Dom said wryly.

"Shite. And it's impossible to get a taxi here, too--or at least, it used to be. Come on, we'll have to head down Hope Street." Billy led him across the road, and they began walking down the busy street. He looked at his watch. "Bugger."

"What?"

"Sodding five o'clock. It's going to be hell trying to get a taxi anywhere. Well, I suppose we might as well head in the direction of home, and catch the first one we can."

Twenty minutes later, they still had no cab, and Dom was trying desperately to convince himself the tightness in his chest was just allergies and not the beginning of another asthma attack. He automatically followed Billy and inwardly told himself over and over not to be such a fucking hypochondriac. It wasn't a problem.

Out of nowhere Jeremy Irons said, or maybe it was.

Shut the fuck up! he shouted inwardly. "Shut the fuck up." He didn't realise he'd said it aloud until Billy frowned at him.

"Sorry?"

"Nothing," Dom said quickly, breathing shallowly, knowing Billy couldn't hear his panting over the noise of the traffic. "Talking to myself."

"As usual, eh, Dom?" Billy grinned at him, and then suddenly hurried to the edge of the pavement. A taxi pulled up beside him.



By the time they reached Billy's building, Dom knew it wasn't just his allergies flaring up. The steel band around his chest had begun to tighten, and he hoped they'd got home in time for him to be able to relax and breathe dry, non-exhaust-fume-laden air, rid his lungs of the taxi driver's overpowering aftershave, and calm the attack before it got a real grip on him.

He discovered they had not.

The two flights of stairs up to Billy's first-floor flat left him gasping and wheezing and Billy swearing at him as he hurriedly unlocked the door.

"Jesus fucking Christ, Dom, when did this start? You were supposed to tell me if you felt it start, you great fuckwit! Go on, go sit down, I'll put the kettle on for some coffee." He helped Dom out of his jacket, waited while he kicked off his shoes, and gently steered him to the sofa. "Relax. Just sit there and breathe slowly and relax, you silly tit. Catch your breath so I can beat it out of you for not saying anything." He began to head toward the kitchen, but turned again immediately when Dom let out one cough that turned into a barking, rattling spasm of coughs.

"Billy--"

Billy was at his side in a heartbeat, stroking Dom's hair with both hands. "What do you need, Dom? Try and tell me what you need, and then stay quiet, and this'll all be over. What can I get you?"

Dom shook his head, one hand clenching into the cushion beside him even as he kept the other one flat, if tense, on his thigh. "Coffee," he choked out.

"All right. I'll go and put the kettle on," he said soothingly. "You sit here and relax and I'll be right back, okay?"

Dom nodded, trying to draw air into anything below the top fifth of his lungs. Where the fuck had this come from? Why hadn't he recognised it earlier? Shut the fuck up, Monaghan, what did that matter now? He had to force himself to breathe and to relax and to open up his lungs again, and then he'd be fine. Dom closed his eyes. He just had to breathe slowly and surely and not too deeply but not too shallowly either, and then everything would be all right.

Oh God--no it wouldn't.

Billy came hurrying back in, sat beside him, softly said, "The kettle's on, and the coffee's in your mug. I promise it's not quite Glasgow gutter mud this time. And I'll be back in about ten minutes or so."

Dom's eyes snapped open in sudden and acute panic. "No! No--can't--" he rasped, hardly enough breath behind it for volume.

"Shh, Dom, wheesht now," Billy said quickly, hands moving to cup Dom's face. "I'm going to the chemist to get your inhaler, we should have picked it up earlier, but I wasn't thinking. I'll go get it, and I'll be right back, okay?"

"No," Dom's voice grated in his throat. "No. Don't leave. Don't--fucking leave. Can't--" His fingers gripped Billy's wrists almost painfully tightly. "Can't--fucking--breathe, Bill. Can't--leave me--"

"I just need to get your inhaler, I'll be right back, I promise--"

"No," Dom nearly sobbed. "Can't--breathe--can't--oh God--"

"Shh, it's okay, Dom," Billy said urgently. "Stop, it's all right, I won't go anywhere, I'll stay here with you, shh, I promise, I won't go anywhere." His fingers gripped Dom's head, as his thumbs stroked his cheekbones. "Shh, now, enough of your talking, you bloody wee gobshite. I'll get your coffee, yeah? I'll just nip out to the kitchen and get your coffee. Do you want to go outside?"

Dom shook his head vehemently.

"Okay. Let me get your coffee, Dom. I'll be right in the next room, okay?"

Dom nodded and stiffly unwrapped his fingers from around Billy's wrists, and he started to cough again, the harsh barking spurring Billy into speed.

Only moments later he was back with a steaming mug of dark coffee, and the telephone. "Here you are, Dom, drink up some of that, let that get working on you, there's a good lad. You're all right, Dom, don't worry. Just a bit of a bother, it's almost over now," Billy's voice was low and even.

But Dom knew it wasn't almost over, was afraid the coffee wouldn't be able to do much against this extreme a constriction in his air passages. He drank it anyway, jerking when he slopped a bit on his hand, but sipping at it as best as he could without burning himself so badly the pain would make him gasp and cough. He barely heard Billy on the phone over his own loud struggles for breath, just heard Billy reciting a long string of numbers, and then saying, "Quick as you can, it's urgent."

Dom slouched down, straightened, twisted, trying to do anything to work more air into his lungs, but it was futile.

Billy tossed the phone on the chair and came to sit beside him. He curled one leg underneath himself to sit sideways, facing Dom. "Everything's going to be fine, Dom," he said, his voice low and soothing. "The chemist's is going to bring your inhaler by, they should be here in about fifteen minutes, so we'll just talk you through the next fifteen minutes, just like you did before, and then your inhaler will be here and everything will be all right, okay, Dom?"

"No--can't--need--" he gasped, both hands now gripping the sofa until his knuckles were white. He tried curling over, but that was even worse, and he quickly sat up again. "God--"

"What do you need, Dom?" Billy asked, shifting closer and gripping Dom's shoulder to turn him just enough to see his face. "Tell me what you need."

"Air!" he cried, the word itself turning into a cough. He was so scared, he was terrified, this was the worst he'd ever experienced, and it didn't feel like he had fifteen minutes left.

He was afraid he was going to die.

"I know, Dom, I know--just try and calm down a bit, don't panic, okay?" Billy said softly, hand going to Dom's back to rub slow circles. "Try and slow down just a bit, can you do that for me? Slow your breaths down, just a little."

But Dom couldn't slow down, he couldn't control the fear that coursed through his veins like oxygen should have, and he began to struggle, staggering off the sofa, blind panic telling him to go somewhere, anywhere, get away from here, do something and maybe he'd be able to breathe again, because otherwise he was going to die, otherwise his own damned lungs were going to suffocate him to death.

"Dom, where are you going?" Billy asked sharply. "What are you doing?" He leaped to his feet and grabbed Dom's arm.

"Can't--" Dom was barely able to choke out. "Need to--go--have to--get--out--can't breathe--can't breathe, Billy--have to get out--" He was nearly sobbing, would have been if he'd had the air to do it with, and he blindly staggered towards the door, slamming into the wall with his shoulder.

"No, Dom, you need to stay here," Billy said urgently, catching him tightly. "Getting out won't help, you need to calm down and focus, Dom, do you hear me? A few more minutes and your inhaler will be here, and you'll be able to breathe properly again. Dom? Are you listening to me?"

Dom's breath stopped. Just for a fraction of a second, just a little hitch, but it terrified him. It was starting, he knew it was, he was going to die, and when he clenched a fist into Billy's shirt and looked at him and saw the fear written plainly across his face, he knew it was true, he was dying. His knees buckled.

Billy grabbed him, supported him, sank slowly down to the floor with him. "Jesus Christ, Dom, listen to me. You're making it worse. Don't be scared, you're going to be all right. Don't let the fear tie you up--push it aside, focus on my voice, focus on this." He pressed his hand against Dom's chest.

Suddenly Billy was scrambling, turning to sit with his back against the wall, and he pulled Dom in front of him, pulled his jumper off over his head, yanked Dom's off as well, and with his legs to either side of him, tugged Dom in tight until his bare back was flattened against Billy's bare chest. "Billy--help me, Billy--" Dom gasped, voice as rough as if he'd been screaming for hours.

"Shh, Dom, I am, I'm right here," Billy murmured in his ear. "You're all right. You're getting enough oxygen, Dom, you're pink as can be. It just doesn't feel it, that's all." He pressed his hand against Dom's rigid abdomen, just below his ribs, fingers warm on his skin. "Listen to my voice, Dominic, listen to me. Do you feel my hand, Dom? Can you feel it?"

"Billy--can't breathe--"

"Dom," Billy said, his voice suddenly sharp and commanding. "Listen, right now. Do you feel my hand. Tell me."

"Yes--yes--oh God, Billy--" He could feel Billy's hand but barely, it was too hard to focus beyond the struggle for a single breath.

"Good. That's good, Dom. Now, can you feel my chest against your back? Answer me, Dom."

"Yes--"

"Good. That's a good lad. That's my Dominic. Now, I want you to ignore your lungs for the moment, okay? Don't breathe into your lungs, breathe into your diaphragm. You don't need to try and get the air deep into your lungs, you need to bypass them and breathe from your diaphragm. Move my hand, Dom. Move it up and down with a breath for me, okay? Try, Dom, try for me, all right?"

Dom's sock feet slid on the wood floor as his hips rose, as he tried to arch his back up, as he tried to pull in more air.

Billy held him fast. "Come on, Dom. Focus on your diaphragm, focus on that space under your ribs. Feel me breathing. Feel my stomach against your back, Dom, feel it move as I breathe." Billy exaggerated the motion of his body so Dom could detect it even through his own heaving struggle. "You feel that?"

"Billy--"

"Do you feel it?" Billy insisted, trying to hold his attention. "Come on, Dom, focus."

"Billy--oh God--need to tell--you--" Dom gasped, terror-stricken.

"Tell me later. Feel me breathing, Dom."

"Not later--tell you--love you, Billy--love you--always have--Jesus--can't breathe, Billy--love you--never stopped--need you--to know--don't have--time--" Dom tried to arch his back again, tried to replace the precious oxygen he'd just used, needed Billy to know he loved him--because he was slowly dying.

"Shut the fuck up, Monaghan," Billy suddenly snapped. "You can goddamned well tell me later, don't you dare even fucking think like that! You stop fucking talking and focus on your goddamned breathing, do you hear me?" He held Dom tightly against his chest. "Fucking breathe with me, Dom, please. Breathe at the same time as me. Slow it down and pull the air into your diaphragm, bypass your lungs completely."

Dom felt Billy's abdomen rising and falling as he followed his own instructions, heard his breath against his ear, and part of him knew that it was much, much faster than Billy normally breathed--and yet still slower than his own shallow, gasping pants.

"Come on, Dom," Billy whispered in his ear, "I can tell you hear me. Match my breathing, Dom, you can do it."

Dom couldn't do it. But he tried, he tried to force his spasmodic muscles to ease, tried to slow his breathing and his hammering heart and tried to visualize sending the oxygen streaming past his lungs to his diaphragm and focusing took a tiny bit of the edge off his terror, but he couldn't seem to feel any difference in the clawing, burning, gasping struggle for air, couldn't feel the band around his chest loosen.

"Try again. Come on, my Dom, try again, breathe with me." Billy kept murmuring, kept soothing, kept encouraging, and Dom distractedly realised Billy was not about to let him die right there in his living room. But he still couldn't breathe.

"Dom. Dom." Billy was trying to get his attention again. "You said steam can help. Let's try it, until your inhaler arrives, okay, Dom? Let me take you to the bathroom, we'll get the shower running, and that'll help. Okay, Dom?"

He couldn't answer, he just didn't have the excess energy or air to form words, but he nodded slightly against Billy's shoulder. He felt Billy's hands on him, sitting him upright, and he began to cough again, hacking gasping wheezing, and Billy had to stop and put his palm on Dom's abdomen again and talk him through it. When the coughing subsided back into simply labouring for oxygen, Billy carefully, slowly, gently helped him to his feet, supporting him as they shuffled down the hall to the bathroom.

Dom sat on the closed toilet seat, arching, twisting, hunching, trying to find the one position that would allow him to pull air into his constricted lungs, as Billy cranked the hot tap wide open. "Bill--hurry--" he begged breathlessly. "Can't--"

"Shh, Dom, wheesht now. It's all right. Keep focusing, keep trying to slow down, breathe from your diaphragm, you can do it, taisgeal, I know you can do it," Billy said, his voice low and calm, and with a frown he watched the steam dissipate far too quickly. He fiddled with the taps, turning the cold on.

"No--oh God--need--need--"

"I know. I know, Dom. Come here--get in the tub." Billy checked the temperature of the water, then turned back to Dom. "Get in, I'll pull the curtain, and it'll keep the steam in. It's the quickest way." He helped Dom to his feet, steadied him firmly as he stepped over the edge into the tub. "That's it, that's my Dom, now sit down at the end, you're going to get your trousers wet but I don't think that matters too much right now, yeah? That's it, sit down--carefully now." He made sure Dom was safely on his arse and couldn't slip, then turned the showerhead on and drew the curtain across. He leaned into the tub right beside the wall, the curtain open only slightly at his end.

Dom closed his eyes as the spray began, the water sprinkling his toes and wetting his jeans up to the knees as he sat with them pulled up to his chest, using his knees for something to hold onto, waiting for the steam to gather. He could feel the water was hot, almost too hot for comfort, but comfort was not his priority at that particular moment as his throat rasped and a muscle in his back suddenly and painfully knotted up and he tried desperately to pull any air he could into his body.

"Easy, Dom. Remember, into your diaphragm for now. Wait until there's more steam before you try and breathe into your lungs," Billy warned softly, his hand rubbing slowly up and down Dom's bare back.

"Billy--" he rasped. "Fuck--it's not--it's not--"

"Shh. It'll take a few minutes. There's not much steam here yet. Hang in there, wee Dom. You're doing fine, I promise." He gripped Dom's hand tightly and held it up. "You see? Your fingernails are still pink. So are your lips. You're getting enough oxygen, Dom, so slow down. Easy, now."

"Water--hotter--make it--hotter--" he pleaded, wheezing.

"I don't want to burn you, Dom."

"Hotter, Billy--please--can't fucking--breathe--" His left leg suddenly straightened out stiffly in front of him and he twisted frantically, trying to shift the steel strap compressing his chest.

"Shh, stop talking. Okay, I'll turn the hot up a touch." Billy's hand withdrew from his back, disappeared, reappeared at the other end. He twisted the hot tap slightly. "Okay there, Dom? Not too hot?"

"No--" he choked out.

"Good." Billy returned to Dom's end of the tub, flicking the curtain just to the side to reach in. He stroked the top of Dom's head, now damp from the indirect spray. "You're going to be fine, Dom, don't worry. I won't let anything happen to you, taisgeal, I'll look after you, I promise."

"Billy--scared--" Dom gasped. His hand flailed, reaching and grasping at air until Billy grabbed it, held it tightly, so tightly it almost hurt but for Dom it was a welcome pain, a lifeline.

"I know. I know you're scared, but you don't need to be, Dom," Billy murmured, his other hand moving from Dom's head to his back, and he resumed caressing him, slow circles over his shoulder blades and ribs as he shook and twitched and ceaselessly shifted. "No need to worry, Dom, I'm watching over you, it's all right. Can you see the steam now? There's lots of good hot steam in there now, so I want you to take a slow, careful, shallow breath into your lungs, all right? Let's get that steam in you so it can start dilating all those passages, all those dry, dusty little passages like a maze of corridors in a castle, aren't they, taisgeal, with torches in brackets on the walls, but now you're going to slowly breathe in the steam, and it will cleanse the dust out of all those corridors, large and small, up the stairs and down the stairs, and one by one those burning torches will flicker and gutter out, and everything will be dark and cool and clean, my wee Dom, and that's it, you're doing great. Can you feel it helping at all?"

"A--a bit--" Dom was still frightened, but oh, the images Billy had just created for him helped so much, he could picture those corridors clear as day and he could concentrate on cleansing them one by one, and he thought maybe--just maybe--the steam was helping a little.

"Good, that's good, Dom," Billy said encouragingly, sounding pleased. He gave Dom's hand an extra-hard squeeze. "Another breath into your lungs, then, pull the steam in just a little further this time, you can do it, I know you can."

Dom tried, but he tried to breathe too deeply and set himself to coughing again, sharp hard barking coughs that hurt now, and his alarm returned full-force. But for each horrible cough out, there was the reflexive spasm of trying to draw air in, and the steam began ever so slightly to make a noticeable difference.

"Shh, Dom, it's all right," Billy said urgently, leaning even further into the tub to wrap his free arm around Dom's shoulders and brace him. "You're okay, Dom. Yeah, that's it, easy now, slow it down, you're just making yourself panic, don't let it ensnare you, because I'm keeping you safe, taisgeal, I swear, and you're going to be fine. That's it. That's better. Slow down, Dom, there's a good man. See? You're getting better already, you're breathing that little bit deeper, aren't you?"

Dom didn't bother trying to speak, he just nodded his head once, sharply.

He didn't hear a thing over the water and his gasping, but Billy suddenly said with what sounded like an overwhelming relief, "There's the buzzer, they're here with your inhaler. Don't move, Dom, just sit here and keep pulling the steam into those dusty corridors, all right? I'll be right back with your inhaler and you'll be fine in no time."

Dom nodded again, unclenching his fingers from Billy's hand, saw he'd been holding him so tightly that their fingers were white. Billy disappeared, and Dom had to squeeze his eyes shut to prevent himself from calling out, from begging Billy to come back and not leave him alone, and he forced himself to focus intently on another dusty stone corridor, visualize the steam sweeping through and washing it clean and clear. He clenched and unclenched his fists, one foot sliding compulsively back and forth on the wet slippery floor of the tub, and he concentrated as hard as he could and tried not to notice that Billy was gone and he tried to slow his heaving, gasping, desperate breaths.

No Billy.

Dom worked himself down the tub, heedless of moving right underneath the water cascading from the showerhead, reached for the cold tap with a shaking hand, and turned it down. He moved himself back to the end, flinching as he passed through the nearly scalding water, and tried to cleanse another passage in his chest.

Jesus, where the sodding fuck was Billy?

Even though there had been enough of an improvement for him to be able to feel it, Dom was still frightened, and he suddenly wondered what would happen if he passed out. Would he land face down? Would Billy get to him in time before he drowned? Would he drown? He compulsively tried to grip the slippery enamel of the tub, and a noise of terror escaped his mouth. Fucking hell, think about another corridor in the castle, see the torch burning on the wall, and yes, Billy had no idea how right he was about that, his lungs ached and burned, now pull the steam in and see it drift through the corridor, see the flame extinguish, feel the pure air left behind--

Without warning the shower curtain was yanked aside, and Dom gasped in shock, then began coughing again, painful bone-deep coughs that wracked him inside and out.

"Shh, Dom, it's all right," Billy said quickly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Sorry it took so long, he had to show me how it works and I had a few questions." He climbed into the tub, jeans and all, but he was partially under the spray and he stiffened, jerking. "Bloody hell, that's hot. Jesus, I hope you haven't burned yourself, Dom." He crouched down in front of him and gripped his chin tightly in one hand. "I need you to listen to me, Dom. I'm going to tell you what to do, and in minutes you'll be able to breathe deeply again, so listen carefully, all right?"

Dom nodded urgently.

Billy pressed the inhaler into his hand. "Put that end into your mouth," he pointed, "but don't close your lips around it. Let all your air out--"

Dom made a sound that, at any other time, would have been a snort of derision.

Billy grinned at him, and Dom felt the edges of his fear curl back once more. "I know, I know--like that's going to take long, right? But listen to me, Dom. Let your air out, and at the same time as you press this down, breathe in as deeply as you can manage. You need to pull the drug as far into your lungs as you can, and I know that won't be very deep, so you'll probably have to do it a second time, but wait a minute before you do, all right?"

Dom nodded, feverishly put the inhaler to his mouth, both hands clutching it tightly, and he expelled what little air he had with a fatalistic huff before pressing down on the top and sucking in greedily, desperately. He gasped the medication into his lungs, but doing so made him want to cough, and he clapped a hand over his mouth to try and suppress the urge, his chest heaving but the drug staying where it was needed.

"Shh, Dom, it's all right," Billy soothed, forehead creased in worry, and he leaned forward, resting his hands and his weight on Dom's thighs.

Dom looked up at him suddenly, his eyes wide. His chest rattled and his throat rasped, but he drew in a breath. And then another. And then another.

Billy smiled at him with what looked like utter and profound relief.

Dom put the mouthpiece of the inhaler between his lips again and gasped in one more dose. When he was done, Billy took it from him and set it aside and listened as Dom continued to draw deeper and deeper breaths, the rattling wheezing struggle easing with every second that passed. Dom reached for Billy, needing to hold something, to clutch something in his hands while he felt almost lightheaded with the sudden surge of excess oxygen in his blood.

Billy sat down between Dom's knees, his own legs going to either side of Dom's waist, and he pressed his feet flat against the back of the tub behind him. As Dom quickly seized his arms, grabbing onto him, Billy put the wet palms of his hands on the sides of Dom's head and cradled him in his fingers.

As Dom's breathing began to deepen, it also began to slow, and he let his eyelids fall closed and focused on his chest, imagined he could almost feel all his air passages dilating. Soon he was no longer wheezing at all, and while his throat was still rough and raspy, his lungs suddenly seemed free and clear. He opened his eyes, surprised to find them full of tears.

"Shh, it's all right," Billy crooned, thumbs stroking Dom's temples. "You're fine now, taisgeal, everything is fine now, I told you I'd take care of you and keep you safe, now, didn't I? That's it, just take it easy, stay quiet for a bit, okay? Just keep breathing slow and deep, Dom. I think you had a bit of a panic attack, there, along with the asthma, didn't you? No, don't be embarrassed, Dom, there's no need. I don't blame you one bit for being frightened. Wheesht now, everything's all right."

"Don't let go," he whispered hoarsely.

"I have absolutely no intention of doing so," Billy smiled fondly at him. "You won't even be able to take a piss for the next few hours, because I will not be able to let you go even for that long."

Dom huffed a laugh, and then a gruff cough.

"Shh, I'm sorry, I won't make you laugh for a bit, okay?"

"You can't help it," Dom croaked with a smile.

"No, I often can't, and that's exactly the reason why," Billy said softly, one hand moving down and his fingertip tracing Dom's lips. "Because of this smile."

Dom slumped forward, resting his forehead against Billy's collarbone, and Billy wrapped both arms around him and ever so slightly rocked him from side to side.

Chapter 12