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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
((Dominic Stratford continued from Everybody's Changing))

Hush, little baby, don't say a word
Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird...


Time had passed.

Dominic wasn't sure how much. Time was continuing to slip away from him, faster than he could hold onto it. He thought it had been hours, but it could have been minutes. Days. Or maybe not days. There had been no nights, that he could remember, and when he tilted his head back he could still see the sun. So hours. Or minutes. Time.

His chest hurt, in a vague and far-away way. A stitch. He had run between stumps, hopelessly turned around, found a road and eventually followed it. And after that he wasn't entirely sure. Landscape had passed, his feet carrying him, and then this unsettled ache had begun and he had found himself sitting under a tree. He didn't remember sitting. But he must have, because here he was.

He wondered how long it had been. Since it had started - a long time. There were gunshots. There were gunshots, and screams, and shouts, and time passing. And the tree. A huge tree, old-growth with spreading branches and Old Man's Beard hanging from its sides like a tattered dressing gown. Cut down, the rings would number in the hundreds. But it was still standing. The loggers who had left the bare and battered stumps behind had not yet gotten to this one. And they wouldn't. The tree was safe.

He leaned his head back against it. Cut him open, and find eighteen rings. Chop him down. It would happen. It would have to happen. That was simply the way things went. Perhaps he would die here, and he would rot slowly until his bones and muscle and skin gave nutrients to the tree to spread its old and tired branches even closer to the sun. That would be - good. It would still be dying. But better. Better to go that way. Food for the detrivores. And he wouldn't have to fight. He wouldn't have to see anyone. Yes. Better.

"You're not scared, huh?"

Dominic's eyes opened slowly. He was somehow not surprised to see Abigail, sitting a few feet from him with her legs crossed and her chin resting on her hands. She was wearing the tie-dye shirt he'd made for her birthday and the jeans with the silkscreened patterns of leaves and trees. Her dark eyes were frank and honest as she stared at him, mouth working as she chewed her ever-present gum.

"They...got you too?" Words were difficult. His mouth was dry, lips already cracking, body too tired for conversation. Words rose unbidden in the back of his mind, the many times he'd passed Abby a metal water bottle and told her drink if she didn't want to get dehydrated. Water. It sounded nice. "Do you have...anything to drink?"

"Sorry." She continued to stare at him, expression unreadable. "You dropped your pack. Back with Tiffany."

"Oh." He remembered that, sort of. Phil Ward punching him. A gun, William Hearst. Yes. He'd left his pack there, hadn't he. His stomach sank, but he had long since exhausted his tears. No more crying. "Okay."

"You said you'd look after me, you know." Her tone was almost accusing, dry leaves crackling under her as she shifted in the undergrowth. "Remember? You said it all the time."

Dominic remembered. At night, before bed, brushing a fond kiss across her hair. I'll look after you. Before school for the first time. Sleep-overs. Through fights with friends, the first tentative flirtatious moments with boys. I'll look after you. He turned his head away from her, not wanting to see her eyes, not wanting to see the face that would all too soon be bloated and blue with death.

"I'm sorry."

"I still need you." His head, moving back without input from his brain. She had moved closer. One arm curled around him, smooth skin, the scent of conditioner from her hair. "Dee, I still need you. I need you now."

Dee. She'd called him that as a baby, the first syllables she'd learned to pronounce. Dee. And then Dommy, later. And Domni when she teased him. He wrapped an arm around her, slowly, wincing at the pull of fresh bruises. As she snuggled down into his lap, he saw how young she was. She couldn't be over ten. How could he have made a mistake like that, thinking she was older?

That was okay, then. She was ten, and he was thirteen and he had a job to do. Protect her, just like a big brother always would. He would protect her for now. That would be easy enough. He carded his fingers through her long hair, settling his back a little more comfortably against the wood as she closed her eyes.

Humming softly. Time passing, not fast, not slow. Just passing.

And if that dog named Rover won't bark
Dee's gonna buy you a horse and cart
And if that horse and cart fall down


Shots, in the distance. Abby curling a little deeper into his lap. The dry taste of dust in his mouth.

Time.

You'll still be the safest little girl in town.
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matt mckinnon


inside leg to outside hand
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lydia hausen


move past move on move up
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lexie diaz


light it up burn it down


(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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If That Looking Glass Gets Broke · The Woods: Inland