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Title: You're A Map Of A Place Maybe Someday I'll Go Ch. 12/22
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, 11

First posted July, 2006

Long minutes later, Dom began to shiver in Billy's arms.

"Let's get you out of here, yeah?" Billy immediately said, sitting up straight again. "I'm under the hot water, but you're not. Let's get you dried off. Do you feel up to moving, Dom?"

"Yeah. Want out."

"Okay. Hold still a minute." Billy carefully pulled his legs back, got his feet underneath him, and still crouching, shuffled back to let Dom do the same. He held onto Dom's arms and rose with him as Dom stiffly, tremblingly stood.

Dom's vision swam. "Fuck--"

"It's okay. I've got you. Just stay still for a minute, it'll pass."

Sure enough it soon did and while he still felt weak as a newborn kitten, Dom was upright, and that was enough for the moment. He stayed where he was as Billy turned and shut off the showerhead and the taps, then stepped out of the tub, water streaming onto the mat from the hems of his jeans. "Give me a hand, Bill?"

"Of course, you silly wee twat," he smiled. "I just wanted my feet on firm ground before I helped you out." He held out his arms, letting Dom grasp them tightly just above the elbows, standing steady as a rock while Dom leaned much of his weight against him to lift first one foot, then the other, out of the tub and onto the now distinctly soggy mat. "There we go. Now I'll just get you a towel--" Billy took a step to the side and leaned over to yank a towel off the rail. Dom went to take it from him, but Billy pulled it back. "No, let me. You just stand there."

Feeling helpless to do anything else, Dom obeyed, and he closed his eyes as Billy dried his face, his neck, ruffled his hair with the towel like his dad used to do after a bath, and then roughly scrubbed his back, chest, and arms dry. He opened his eyes again to watch Billy give himself a quick version of the same treatment before dropping the towel on the floor and grabbing the second clean dry towel off the rail.

"Okay, let's go get changed out of these wet things, shall we? You won't warm up with sopping jeans on." He gently ushered Dom out of the bathroom, heedless of the water dripping from their trousers, and into the spare bedroom. He handed Dom the dry towel. "Take your jeans and pants off and dry yourself well. I'll bring you some clothes." Turning away, Billy began rummaging through the dresser drawers. He pulled out socks, pants, trousers, and a long-sleeved t-shirt.

Dom undid his jeans, began pushing them down, but it wasn't easy when they were soaked. He finally sat on the bed and worked them off the rest of the way, before unsteadily getting to his feet again to get rid of his wet pants. He faced away from Billy, whose back was still to him at the moment anyway, and dried himself off as best he could. He didn't want to lean over too far in case he toppled like a swaying tower of blocks.

Billy crossed to the bed behind him, laid the pile of clothing down. "Get yourself dressed, I'm just going to run and change as well. I'll be back."

"Okay. Thanks, Bills," he said, his voice still rough.

Ten minutes later Billy brought a cup of tea out to where Dom sat on the sofa, handing it to him carefully before sitting close beside him.

Dom sipped at it, set it down, and pressed himself back further into the sofa, his hand plucking rapidly at the loose fabric of his sweats. When he spoke, his voice was fast, choppy. "There's--there's something wrong. Something's wrong. I'm--I'm--everything's--"

Billy quickly stroked a hand down Dom's arm. "It's the side effects from the inhaler, Dom, that's all. And you took a double dose, so maybe the side effects are worse than what they'd normally be. Didn't your doctor warn you?"

"No--" He shifted, tucking one leg up under himself, then putting it down again. He leaned his head back only to immediately lift it up.

"It can make you a bit anxious, Dom, but it won't last long. I asked about side effects when they brought it, and they said it wouldn't last for more than an hour."

"I can't stop shaking," he muttered jerkily. "My hands are shaking."

"No, they're not," Billy said gently, picking up Dom's hands to prove it.

Dom stared at his hands. "I can't see it. They're not shaking. But they're shaking, Bill. What about my heart? Feels like it's racing, Bill, feels like it's pounding its way out of my chest it's beating so fucking fast."

Billy put the fingers of one hand to the pulse point on Dom's throat, did the same on his own to compare them. "No, it's not. It's faster than mine, to be sure, but you're fretting, Dom. You're anxious and worried and fretting over it, but your heart isn't racing, I promise."


"Shh, Dom, it's all right," Billy said, his voice soft and low. "Come here." He opened his arms.

Dom stared at Billy's arms for a moment, at his chest, before the way his body felt made the decision for him. He crawled into Billy's lap, constricting himself into a ball, trying to feel some sort of pressure, whether from his own body or Billy's, against as much of him as he could. "I'm shaking apart, Billy," he forced out. "I'm shaking into bits, I'm falling apart into pieces."

"It's all right, Dom," Billy said, holding him tightly, one arm wrapping around the tucked-up knees to his lower back, the other around his shoulders, both hands pressing firmly into him. "I'll hold you together, taisgeal, I won't let you shake apart, I'll keep you from coming apart."

"What is that? What is that word you keep using?" Dom asked from between clenched teeth. "God, this is almost as bad as not breathing. I need to move, I need to move, but if I move I'll shatter into pieces, Billy."

"It's Gaelic. This is not nearly as bad as having trouble breathing Dom, and it will go away soon, I promise. And you're not going to shatter, you'll be fine. Do you want to walk a bit?"

Dom nodded furiously. "I'll try. Can't stay still or I'm going to burst into a thousand tiny pieces."

Billy let him go. "And that might get messy, so we'll just try and keep that from happening, all right?"

Dom scrambled to his feet, moving far too fast, and Billy had to grab him to keep him from hitting the floor. "Easy, you wee fuckwit." When Dom was sure he had his balance back, he wrenched away from Billy, wrapped his arms tightly around himself, and began to frenetically pace back and forth and around and around the living room.

"I don't like this, Billy," he said, his voice fast and uneven and the words tumbling over each other. "I don't like this, I'm never using that fucking inhaler again--"

"Not unless you have to," Billy interrupted calmly. "But if you have to, you will."

"No I won't, I swear I won't, I can't explain this, I can't explain what this feels like but I feel like I'm just going to suddenly shatter like a glass ball thrown at a rock, everything is racing and I'm about to crawl out of my skin and I have to get out of here but I can't leave, I don't want to leave, I never want to go outside again because it's too much, it would splinter me into a thousand sharp and jagged pieces that could never be put back together I'd be like a glass Humpty Dumpty on his fucking wall and it's itching under my skin, Billy, all over it's just itching under my skin driving me mad--" He suddenly staggered. "I can't do this, I don't have anything left and my knees are telling me to sit the fuck down but I'm going to shatter, Billy, there's nothing to hold me together--"

Billy swiftly rose to his feet and crossed to Dom, gripping his arms tightly. "Come with me, Dom." He pulled him over to the sofa. "Lie down."

"I can't, I can't--"

"Lie down, Dom, I'm going to keep you from shattering, I'm going to hold you together. I'm going to help," he promised, looking directly into Dom's slightly manic eyes. "Lie down."

Dom made a noise of frustration and despair and lay down full length on the sofa, twitching as Billy quickly lay down beside him. This wasn't going to work, it couldn't work, no one could hold him together, not even Billy, he was about to fly out of his skin--

Billy rolled to face him, wrapped one arm right around Dom's head and the other one around his neck, hugging his head in tight, and then with the full length of his body pushed Dom into the back of the sofa and down into the cushions.

Dom was trapped, and for a moment it alarmed him and he struggled, nearly throwing Billy off, but then he suddenly stilled.

He was trapped.

And if he was trapped, then he couldn't fly apart, could he? All at once he felt something--either the sofa back, or the seat, or Billy--pressing against him everywhere, and Billy held his head, and the only thing not surrounded and compressed was his feet, but really, he didn't think his feet were too likely to explode on their own although they were clawing restlessly and nervously at the sofa even as Billy was crushing him into the cushions and holding him together. Then he felt the warmth, the heat from Billy's body seeping through their clothes and curling its way into him, sending tendrils of fever-hot relief all through him, and he sobbed once and then just lay there clutching Billy tightly.

"That's it, Dom," Billy said softly, not relenting in his weight and pressure in the slightest. "It's all right, you're okay, I'm not going to let you shatter, you hear me? Wheesht, taisgeal, wheesht now. I've got you, and this is almost over, and I'm holding you together no matter what. I'm like glue, my wee Dom, like superglue, and I prefer to be called superglue rather than Crazy Glue, and I'll thank you to remember that in future," he teased gently. "I'm like a thin coating of superglue all over your body, strong enough to resist any force that tries to break you, from inside or out, and you'll never shatter as long as I'm surrounding you, Dom."

"Billy--" Dom breathed from underneath his arm, fisted his hands in Billy's shirt and then both were silent.

Forty minutes later they still lay on the sofa together, but Billy had eased back, no longer crushing Dom into the cushions. "Better, Dom?"

Eyes closed, head on Billy's chest, Dom murmured, "Yeah."

"How do you feel?" Billy kissed the top of his head.

"Not like I'm going to shatter anymore. But everything hurts."

"What do you mean everything hurts?" he frowned slightly. "Hurts how?"

Dom turned his face into the crook of Billy's neck. "All my muscles. All the muscles in my chest hurt. My ribs ache. My back is knotted up tighter than ... I don't know. Something."

Billy rubbed his shoulder. "Not surprising, I suppose, after what you went through. Dom--"

"Not just now, Bills, please?" he asked quietly. "I don't want to talk about any of it just yet."

"All right," he agreed easily, gently. "It can wait. Do you feel up to some dinner in a bit? Time's getting on."

"Yeah. Kind of hungry. That took it out of me."

"I know it did. What would you like, Dom, it's your pick. Whatever you feel like."

"Can we order takeaway?" Dom asked. "Then you won't--"

"Won't what?" Billy leaned his cheek on the top of Dom's head.

"Nothing," he mumbled.

Billy smiled. "Let me see if you were thinking the same thing I'm thinking. I wanted to order takeaway as well, so that I can stay here, like this, for a bit longer. So I don't have to let go of you to go cook anything."

Dom snuffled into Billy's neck. "Liar. You weren't thinking that. You're just trying to spare my feelings, make me look less of a big girl's blouse."

"I was so thinking that," he protested softly. "It scared the living fuck out of me as well, you know."

"You weren't scared. You didn't sound scared."

Billy tightened his arms around Dom. "I was so terrified I could hardly move. I can't think of the last time I was that frightened. I just didn't want you to see it, didn't want to make you feel even more afraid than you obviously already were. But it nearly paralysed me, Dom."

Dom tried to push Billy away, tried to get up. "I don't want to--"

But Billy held him fast. "Okay. Okay, we won't say anything more about it right now. But stay, Dom, please. Don't go anywhere just yet, stay here with me, please?"

Dom finally believed that Billy really did crave this reassurance too. Believed the note of uncertainty, of need in his voice, and he believed it because he was feeling the exact same thing, and he huddled against Billy and kissed his jaw and whispered, "Okay. I'm staying, I won't go, Bills. Fuck dinner, we'll just stay here like this, yeah?" And Dom thought if he were the crying sort, he'd be weeping, sobbing painfully right now, because really, it had all got to be a bit too much.

"Shh, Dom. Don't, please don't, it's all right," Billy murmured, stroking his hair.

"Don't what?" Dom asked automatically.

"Don't cry, my dearest Dom, please don't cry, taisgeal, it's all right, shh," he crooned.

"I'm not crying. I'm not the crying sort," Dom said, and didn't know what to do or say when Billy's hand moved and his thumb swiped wetness off the side of his nose. "I don't cry, you know," he choked.

"I know. Shh, it's okay." Billy's arms held Dom tightly as for some strange reason his shoulders shook. "Shh, neither of us are going anywhere, we'll just stay here like this until everything's quiet and warm and good, yeah? Don't cry, taisgeal."

"I'm not crying. What is that? Please, Billy, tell me what that is," he sobbed.

"Okay. It's a bit of a story, though. Shh, take it easy, Dom. This has been a rough day, I know, it's been a rough week and there's been a lot to take in and a lot happen and I know you're not the weepy sort, Dom. And if you don't stop crying right now, you're going to set me off, and I'm not a weepy sort either, and what kind of picture would we make, two grown men curled up sobbing all over each other, hmm? Talk about jessies, eh? Wheesht now, Dom."

Dom tried to stop the tears while still refusing to acknowledge they were there. "I'm not fucking cry--crying," he insisted. "I'm not, so just get on with the sodding story, you pillock."

Billy chuckled, but his voice was a bit uneven as he said, "I'm getting there. I just want to make sure you're going to stop not crying." He paused, rubbing Dom's back, and when he continued, his voice was low and steady again. "My Gran's gran was a Ross, from the northern Highlands--apparently the toughest old woman you'd ever want to meet. My Gran lived up there until she was in her teens, when my great-grandparents moved the family lock, stock and barrel to Glasgow. But until then she lived up in the Highlands, and learned Gaelic from her gran, and she said when she was young she used to be quite fluent. When they moved to Glasgow, my Gran didn't know anyone else who spoke Gaelic--and besides, Gaelic was still looked down on back then, it marked you as a rural ... well, peasant, for lack of a better word. One of the uneducated unwashed." He stopped, shifted slightly underneath Dom.

"Okay, Bills?" Dom whispered, tears almost forgotten. Billy rarely talked about his parents, let alone his grandmother or anyone else from his family.

"Yeah. Something's digging into my hip, I think it's the corner of the cushion." He wriggled again, sliding further down against Dom.

Dom adjusted his own position, laying his head on the same cushion as Billy, facing him, his nose inches from Billy's ear. He insinuated his knee between Billy's and wrapped an arm around his waist. "Better?"

Billy tilted his head until the side of it rested against Dom's forehead. "Better. You're nice and toasty now. Where was I?"

"Your Gran stopped speaking Gaelic," he murmured directly in Billy's ear.

"Right. She eventually forgot most of it, and by the time people were encouraged to learn it, she felt she was too old to start all over again. But a few words and phrases stuck with her over the years, and Mum learned them, and between her and Gran, Margaret and I picked them up as well."

"And tas--tais--"


"Yeah, that. That's one of them?"

Billy nodded, his sideburn grazing Dom's forehead. "That's one of them."

"So what does it mean?" Dom asked, tilting his head up and in to kiss Billy's cheek.

"Patience now, I'm not finished the story," Billy mildly reproved, smiling.

"Does it involve a twee young Billy getting a bollocking for picking on his little sister?" Dom teased, if a little weakly.

"I was never twee, you gobshite!" Billy protested, lifting his head and turning it to look at Dom. His face softened, and he awkwardly bent his neck to kiss Dom lightly on the lips. "Poor Dom. You've had such a difficult day, you must be knackered."

Dom made a face. "Look that good, do I?"

"You look very good." Billy kissed him again, then laid his head back on the pillow, looking straight up. "Your eyes just look a bit tired, is all."

"Why is getting the definition of one bloody word out of you so difficult?"

"Because you keep interrupting me. Shut your gob."

Dom grinned and dug a fingertip into Billy's side, hiding his face against Billy's neck in self defense.

"Augh!" Billy half shouted. "Keep your fingers out of my ribs, Monaghan, or your kneecaps face the wrath of my nails."

"No, no, don't tickle my knees," Dom quickly pleaded, still smiling. "I'll be quiet, I promise."

"Yeah, right." Billy paused, and then sighed loudly. "Now you've made me forget where I was again."

"You learned some Gaelic from your Gran," Dom whispered, tucking his head under Billy's chin.

"Right. When I was--oh, I think four or five, or so, I got lost. We were in the Barras, which is a big open-air market, down the other side of the Tron. You remember where that was?" When Dom nodded, Billy continued. "And in those days, Glasgow could be a bit of a rough place, especially in that area, although more for adults than weans usually, but still ... a five year old wandering a large market on his own could be in some serious trouble. And it wasn't my fault, and it wasn't Gran's fault, and it wasn't Mum's fault, it was just one of those things that happen. I suppose someone bumped me, or I got pushed aside, and they didn't notice right away, and suddenly there were ten people in between us and I wandered the wrong way."

Dom frowned. "Didn't anyone around try and help you?"

"No. I probably followed in some adult's wake, letting them clear a path for me, so people would have assumed I was theirs. I don't really remember being lost."

"How long were you separated from them?"

Billy shrugged. "Mum and Gran were never sure. Twenty minutes? Half an hour? Three quarters? Long enough to scare them both half to death and give Gran a head full of grey hairs, anyway. They finally found me sitting on the ground between two market stalls petting a wee terrier and getting my trousers filthy."

"Your poor mum," Dom murmured sympathetically.

"Aye. I don't remember getting lost, but I do remember being found." Billy's voice thickened, and he cleared his throat several times before continuing normally. "Mum hugged me and cried and cried. Gran shouted, and then was quiet, and then called me taisgeal, and then shouted again. And she bought me an ice lolly after that."

Dom heard the warm, slightly wistful smile in Billy's voice, and tightened his arm around his waist.

"Mum and Gran both called me taisgeal after that, whenever they were feeling especially soft-hearted, and to be honest the word kind of lost its meaning after a few years, it was just ... an endearment. But it does have a meaning."

"And that is?" Dom asked quietly.

Billy shifted against him again, freeing one of his arms and using his hand to lift Dom's head from the cushion as he turned to face him. He studied Dom's eyes, his own gold-flecked green flicking back and forth, their faces only inches apart.

Dom felt his breath hitch in a much, much better way than earlier.

"Taisgeal," Billy said, his voice low sweet silk, "translates to 'finding that which was lost'." He stretched his neck forward slightly and, eyes closing, kissed Dom softly on the mouth.

Dom's mind was a whirling, swirling, kaleidoscopic carousel of incomplete thoughts and half-understood ideas, and he knew he'd told Billy earlier he was in love with him and always had been, but he'd tried to forget that moment and he'd hoped Billy had too, but now he wasn't so sure. And he wasn't sure if he wasn't sure Billy had forgotten it, or if he wasn't sure that he wanted Billy to forget it, because that last sentence of Billy's was ... it was ... oh Jesus please.

And then Dom realised Billy was kissing him rather ardently and he was just lying there like a great lump having a little mental short-circuit. Without breaking the kiss he propped himself on one elbow, that hand splaying across Billy's shoulder, long fingers reaching to his collarbone. Dom slid his other hand underneath Billy's neck, supporting it and at the same time pulling him ever closer, and with eagerness and gentle abandon, did his level best to kiss the living daylights out of his best mate.

Billy made soft, pleased noises into Dom's mouth, humming against his lips, his tongue, skimming Dom's teeth and tongue and lips with his own. Dom's arm--the one propping him up--began to tremble, and somehow, with some magic pushtugpull, Billy rolled onto his back with Dom on top of him, and Dom held himself up with both elbows and his fingers cradling Billy's head. Billy breathed sharply, hotly into Dom's mouth as he felt Dom's prick harden between them and his own immediately responded.

Dom groaned and tore his mouth from Billy's to whisper against his skin, "Bills. Need you. Want you so much." He punctuated his words with kisses and nibbles and nips down Billy's jaw to his chin.

Billy pressed his head back into the cushion, his back arching slightly off the sofa, presenting his throat for attention.

Dom obliged. He licked a light, long track from Billy's chin down to the little hollow at the base of his throat, breathing hotly, heavily against Billy's clean-smelling skin, and he pressed a kiss into that hollow, murmuring barely audible words of want and desire.

And then his back cramped up. "Fuckshitedamndamnfuck!" he swore as he arched back, writhing, trying to ease the muscle spasm by changing position.

"What?" Billy asked, mildly alarmed. "What's wrong?"

"My back," he growled, frustrated nearly to tears again, but he took a couple of deep breaths and the urge to weep disappeared as fast as it had arrived. "Christ, what the fuck next?"

"It's okay," Billy soothed. "It's not surprising, you said earlier your back had knotted up. My poor Dom." He ran a gentle hand over Dom's hair. "You've had just about enough for one day, haven't you?"

"More than fucking enough, thank you very much," he muttered, feeling a little childish, but not really caring. It wasn't every day one thought one was dying and was given hope that one's beloved loved one back, so he figured a little latitude should be allowed.

"Yeah. Come on--come with me." Billy eased carefully out from underneath him and stood up, holding both hands out.

"Where? I don't want to get up, my back hurts."

"Come on, numptie," he teased lightly. "Stop your whinging, as well-deserved as it may be, and I'll help you with your back."

"'M not whinging," he muttered, but with a little lift at the corner of his mouth. He took Billy's hands and, wincing, stood. "Bloody hell."

"You've never felt the utter bliss of a full Billy massage, have you?" Billy led him toward his own bedroom.

"Well, you've rubbed my shoulders before, sure. And I've done yours."

"Ah, but a wee shoulder rub is like the appetiser before the banquet. It just cannot compare."

"A banquet, hmm?" Dom asked skeptically as they walked down the hall.

Billy's voice lowered and turned seductive. "A veritable feast. Are you hungry, Dom?"

Sudden heat sparked low in Dom's abdomen, and he yanked back on Billy's hand and pushed him up against the wall, trapping him there with his own body. Mouth inches from Billy's, eyes flicking up and down between lips and wide dark eyes, he roughly said, "I'm starving, Billy," before kissing him hard, seeking Billy's tongue with his, mouths wide and devouring, hands grasping, hips colliding. When Billy moaned and slid his hands down to Dom's arse, pulling him in tight, Dom thrust his pelvis forward, aching for heat hard friction, but the motion sent a sharp twinge flashing up his spine again and he wrenched his mouth from Billy's with a pained groan. He bent his shoulders forward and laid his head on Billy's shoulder. "Ow."

"Christ. I'm sorry, Dom. I'm sorry," Billy whispered, sounding shaken.

Dom held his breath, waiting to see if Billy said anything else. He sounded far too stricken to merely be apologising for aggravating Dom's back.

He remained silent.


Billy drew in a shuddering breath, but all he said was, "Come on. Come and lie down."

"I'll just go to bed, Billy. I'm kippered anyway," Dom said quietly. "Goodnight." He straightened up as much as he could and began to turn away.

"Dom, no--" Billy whispered, almost desperately. "Please ... "

He paused, and without looking up asked, "What is it, Bill?"

"I--I can't--  Please, let me do this for you. You'll sleep better--and--and it'll hurt less tomorrow. Please."

Dom stared at the floor, trying to sort out what the hell was going on, but he just couldn't wrap his head around it. "No more today, Bills. I can't do any more today, I can't take any more, not today," he muttered.

"I know. I know, taisgeal, and I'm sorry," he whispered, holding one arm out to Dom.

Knowing now it was an endearment, and knowing what it meant, the name did him in. Dom walked into Billy, pressing his face into the crook of Billy's neck, sagging against him as Billy's arm went around his shoulders.

"Come on," Billy murmured, leading him to the bedroom, letting go only to pass through the doorway. "Take your shirt off and lie down."

"Bill--" Dom's voice shook, from weariness and fear and love and anger and every possible emotion in between, and he didn't even know what he was going to say, but apparently Billy had an idea.

"Just your back," he assured him softly. "Just your back, and then sleep."

"Just my back," Dom doggedly insisted, resisting a little.

"I promise. I promise, Dom. Go on with you--take off your shirt and lie down so you're comfortable."

After a moment of fighting with himself, afraid this wasn't a good idea for his own sanity, Dom gave in, because his back truly was all knotted up and the idea of going to sleep and waking up like that was not a pleasant one. He pulled his shirt off over his head and, after Billy shoved all his bedding onto the floor, lay down on the soft cotton sheet.

In response to Dom's questioning look as he stretched out, Billy explained, "It's easier for me to move around you if I'm not getting all tangled in the covers. Relax, Dom--this will help, I swear."

Dom started to fold his arms up under his head, but Billy had him stretch his arms down by his sides. "Don't know if I can stay like this for long, Bill."

"You won't have to. Just until I'm finished with your shoulders, and then you can move." After turning off the overhead light, leaving just the bedside lamp on, he went over to his dresser and began rummaging in the top drawer. "I know it's here somewhere," he muttered.


"I've got some oil. Ali--" he paused, bit his lip, and then continued. "Ali insisted on doing this properly, and she said you should always use oil. I'm--I'm sorry. That's not helping, is it?"

"It's all right," Dom spoke against the sheet. "'S not like I don't know about her, is it? And it's not like you're talking about her while you're kissing me, at least."

Billy couldn't help but chuckle. "Don't worry, I can't really see that happening."

"I think I'm glad to hear that. Don't bother with the oil, Bill, I'm sure I'll survive."

He shook his head. "I want to do this right. Ah--there it is." He pulled a small bottle out of the back of the drawer and uncapped it to sniff. "Smells like ... I don't know, really. It's okay, though." He walked over to the bed and climbed on top, kneeling beside Dom, and held the bottle near his nose. "Doesn't make you cringe, does it?"

Dom lifted his head slightly to smell. "No. No, that's nice, actually. Sandalwood or something. This isn't going to get too messy, is it? I don't think I'll have enough energy for a shower afterward."

"No, no. You just use a bit. Trust me, it's worth it."

Dom sighed. "All right. Whatever you think's best, Bills."

Billy's smile was evident in his voice. "Now you're starting to talk sense. Is it all right if I kneel over you?"

Dom just nodded, closing his eyes. He felt Billy shift, felt one knee pressing into the mattress on either side of him, felt the denim of Billy's jeans brush against his sides, but Billy kept all his weight on his knees, not putting any on Dom's aching back.

"Are your shoulders sore too?" he asked quietly, rubbing his hands together to warm up the oil.

"Yeah. Everything's sore."

"Not for long." Billy curled his hands over the tops of Dom's shoulders and began gently kneading them, the oil providing a slight slick between hands and skin, and friction that would have eventually begun to burn was translated into a stroking warmth. The scent of sandalwood rose up around them.

Dom couldn't prevent the tiny moan that escaped him.

"Is that a good noise?" Billy asked, but the smile in his voice indicated he knew very well it was.

"Mmnph. Yeah. 'S grand, Bill."

"Good. Tell me if I do anything you don't like. I don't want to hurt you."

Dom cracked one eye open, trying to look back and read Billy's face, strongly suspecting he meant that in more ways than one, but Billy simply put a soft, slightly oily fingertip on Dom's temple and gently pushed his head back down. "Relax, taisgeal. Stop thinking so hard."

Dom closed his eyes again. "I don't think I know how not to."

"How not to think?" Billy pressed his fingertips into the muscles that ran across the backs of Dom's shoulders.

"Ah, fuck," Dom muttered, twisting slightly. When Billy's hands immediately withdrew and he started to apologise, Dom interrupted him. "No, keep going. That was a good 'fuck'."

"I didn't think there were bad fucks," Billy grinned, his hands returning to lightly begin kneading again.

Dom snorted. "Then you've been a remarkably fortunate man, you wanker."

Billy chose to let that conversation drop, to Dom's relief and--oddly enough, he thought--disappointment. "What do you need in order to be able to stop thinking?" Billy asked instead. His fingers dug in between Dom's shoulder blades.

Dom gasped. "Bloody hell. Okay, that hurts," he croaked.

"I know, I'm sorry. These are the muscles that took the brunt of your asthma attack. I'll try and be gentle. You can put your arms under your head now if you want."

Billy paused, and Dom awkwardly shifted to drag his arms up and folded them under his head again, lacing them under his pillow. "What do I need to stop thinking? Dunno. I think I'm always thinking, really. Even when I'm doing yoga, I'm still thinking."

"Have you started yoga again?" Billy asked, sounding pleased. He stroked his hands across the entire middle of Dom's back, spreading a thin film of fresh oil. "Good for you."

"Yeah. Doctor said the breathing would be helpful during an asthma attack. I just started, I'm not really back up and running yet, so to speak."

"Back up and stretching," Billy smiled. "But I thought you weren't supposed to be thinking while you're doing yoga?" He pushed his thumbs up and under Dom's shoulder blades, then dragged them back down and out.

Dom sucked in a sharp breath, reflexively tried to curl one leg up beneath him.

"Shh. Shh, I know it smarts. Practice your yoga breathing now, Dom, because this will get better in just a minute, I promise," he murmured, and continued pulling his thumbs across slick skin, circling and rubbing outwards.

Dom tried to focus inward, tried to locate the very centre of his being, tried to ignore outward pain for inner concentration and calm, but there was just too much working against him--it had been such a terribly long, fraught day and he couldn't summon up the strength and balance he needed. Not to mention the intense distraction of Billy's strong fingers pressing into his naked flesh. That alone was enough to send any attempts up in flames and, much to his humiliation, Dom couldn't prevent the little whimpers that formed in his throat.

Billy's immediately lightened all pressure, his thumbs simply gliding across his skin rather than digging in. "I'm sorry, taisgeal. I'm sorry, I'll go slower. Shh, it's all right."

"Fuck," Dom said miserably. "Sorry--"

"Wheesht now. It's my fault, I underestimated how sore you were," Billy said gently. "I can still make you feel better, it's just going to take a wee bit longer. Do you mind if I rest some of my weight on you, Dom? My legs are a little tired," he admitted with a smile.

"This isn't going to work, just forget--" Dom muttered, trying to move, but Billy's knees suddenly clamped tight against his ribs.

"It will work, I promise, Dom. Do you trust me?"

"It has nothing to do with trust."

"Of course it does. Do you trust me, taisgeal?"

"Billy--" Dom whispered wretchedly, then turned his face into the pillow.

"That's my Dom," he murmured. He began rubbing flat palms up and down Dom's back, to either side of his spine, not pressing hard but with just enough weight to heat the oil up and send soothing warmth into the knotted muscles beneath his hands, to begin the process of loosening them up so a more intense massage wouldn't hurt.

Dom turned his head to the side just enough to be able to breathe and speak, but not enough that Billy could see much of his face.

"What can I do, Dom? What can I do to help you keep from thinking for now?" Billy continued to simply rub his hands up and down Dom's back. "Does this feel okay?"

"Yeah. 'S all right," Dom answered, his voice a bit hoarse. "I don't know what you can do, Bill. I really don't. Just ... talk to me, I guess."

"I can do that," he said softly, lightly. "Is there anything in particular you want me to talk about?"

Dom was silent for a moment. There were so many things he wanted to know, so many questions that he wanted (needed) answers to, but ... could he really hear them tonight, could he really deal with the answers tonight?

"What is it you want to know, Dom?" Billy asked quietly, palms pressing slightly harder now, but Dom found it didn't hurt, it just felt warmer. "I don't promise to tell you right now, but what is it you want to know?"

Dom opened his mouth and closed it again. And then opened it again. "I--I want to know ... why you called me taisgeal. You told me what it means, but not why you gave it to me. And ... and I want to know ... you said when Ali told you she was leaving, that it was over, you didn't react very well. What did you mean? And for two fucking weeks I was calling you over and over and you wouldn't talk to me, and I know you were on a bender, and I want to know what was going through your head. Why were you like that? What--what were you thinking, that had you so upset? I mean, specifically? I--you still haven't told me much about it, and I don't get it, Bill."

Billy released a long, slow breath. "You really are fretting, aren't you? I think that's a bit too much for tonight, Dom, for both of us."

"I know. Never mind," he muttered.

"I didn't say I wouldn't explain. If you want the answers to those questions, then I'll tell you, but ... not tonight, yeah? I don't think I'm up for it, and I think you're far too fragile tonight to discuss it."

"I'm not fucking fragile--"

"All right, all right," Billy chuckled. "Wrong word. On edge, then, is that acceptable?"

"It's better," he said grudgingly.

Billy put slightly more pressure behind his fingers. "Is that okay?"


"I called you taisgeal because--" he began.

"Forget it, Billy," Dom interrupted, feeling vaguely guilty and wholly miserable. "You said not tonight, so we won't talk about it tonight. Just ... leave it."

"No, it was the other stuff I don't want to get into tonight. This one is okay. I'm not sure I can answer one hundred percent for sure, but I can give you the best that I've got."


"Would you shut it?" Billy sounded like he was smiling, if a little exasperatedly. "Just keep quiet and relax and let me talk to you and hopefully keep you from thinking too hard about all this stuff that's making you so bloody tense, all right?"

Dom pulled one of his arms out from under the pillow and reached back to squeeze Billy's knee, partially in apology and partially in gratitude. "Sorry, Bills," he whispered, and left his hand against Billy's knee.

"It's all right," Billy said warmly, as he began using his thumbs around Dom's shoulder blades again. He started very gently, hesitantly, and when Dom didn't even move, continued. "You want to know why 'taisgeal'. Well, the first time it came out, it was just ... natural. I mean, it's an endearment I've heard all my life, just as other people say 'darling' or 'sweetheart', or like your mum calls you 'love'." Billy's voice was low, even. "But when I realised I'd said it, and I thought about it, it ... it seems right to me. It means 'finding that which was lost', right? And, well, this is the part I'm not one hundred percent sure of. I don't know for sure who was lost, if it was you, or if it was me."

"Both?" Dom suggested pensively, working his hand underneath Billy's knee, trapping it between Billy's hard patella and the mattress.

"Aye. I suppose that's entirely likely," Billy smiled. "Either way ... that week in New Zealand, the way you looked at me, the things we said--I was lost. And then you seemed to ... leave me behind. To lose me. And then I lost myself, until recently. You know?" He gave a weak laugh, suddenly sounding embarrassed. "Anyway--"

"I know," Dom said quickly, his voice seeming small even to his own ears. "I know. I know exactly. I felt like I lost you, and myself, too. I don't--I don't want to lose you again, Bill. I've been all right, I've been happy the past five years, Billy, but I've been fucking incomplete, and now that I've found you, now that you've found me and kissed me and held me, now that I can see and feel what it would be like to be complete, to be whole again and not have half my soul sitting in some goddamned fucking pint jar--"

"Shh, Dom, don't do this," Billy pleaded, leaning over to rest his forehead in the middle of Dom's upper back, his hands on Dom's sides. "Don't. It wasn't supposed to hurt you, it was supposed to--to-- Fuck. Shh, I'm sorry. Please, I'm sorry."

Dom buried his face in his pillow again for a moment, his hand clutching Billy's knee, while Billy continued to whisper apologies and soft words. Finally he turned his head again and roughly but quietly said, "Apparently fragile was the right word. Sorry about that, Bills. I know--I'm glad you told me, because despite my little outburst just now, it makes me feel--I feel like--bloody hell, I don't know what the word is. I like it. I like taisgeal, and I like you calling me that, and I like knowing what it means and why. It makes me feel ... good. That sounds lame, but--I don't know how else to say it."

Billy sat up again and resumed massaging Dom's back. He softly said, "I'm glad you like it. I mean it, you know."

"I know. That's part of why I like it. It feels the opposite of being lost."

"See? You do know how to say it," Billy murmured. "I'm sorry, Dom, let's not talk about anything else of importance tonight, okay? You've had enough today, and I don't want to add one more thing on top of it. So how about, in order to keep you from thinking, I just sing to you for a bit. Would that be all right?"

Dom let go of Billy's knee to awkwardly bring his arm up and scrub at his face, at his dry, scratchy eyes. "That would be more than all right, Bills. That would be--I'd really--yes, please," he finally whispered.

"Okay. You try and relax, and I'll try and work these damned stubborn knots out of your back, and I'll sing to you for a bit. Anything in particular you want to hear?" His fingers pressed in along Dom's spine.

"No. Whatever. Anything you want to sing. God--that feels good, Bill."

"Good, I'm glad. Now just let your mind drift and feel yourself soften and loosen and turn into a little puddle on my bed, yeah?" Billy smiled. "I'm just going to sing whatever comes into my head, so don't be looking for any deep meanings here, all right? I'm warning you because the first song that I thought of doesn't have particularly happy lyrics, but I'm not singing songs because of what they say, I'm just ... singing. I want to make sure you know that, Dom."

"Okay, Bills. I understand."

Billy began to sing, his voice low and smooth, the words in his gentle accent curling inside Dom's mind and softening the sharp corners and hard angles. Within half an hour, Dom was fast asleep, his back unknotted at last.

Chapter 13