Beta: Huge shoutout to tamarelmensdorp!!! You're a lifesaver, dear!
Pairing: Matthew Bellamy/Dominic Howard
Prompt/prompter: From stefanyeah: Clock - candles - tea. I don't know if this is what you had in mind, Stef, but I hope you'll enjoy it!
Summary: It was the Christmas of 1892 and ten-year-old Matthew found a mysterious visitor from the future in his living room.
Warnings: minor character death.
Disclaimer: No profit is made. Matt and Dom are not mine, but the story is.
Author's note: First thing first, I apologise for not being able to post the whole story today. I just panicked, because I couldn't get a feel of the story, and had to rewrite it. But I think I hit the tone now, and I know where it's headed. The parts in italics are flashbacks. Hope you all had a lovely weekend, and peaceful last days of the year.
Year After Year
Matthew had been pacing around the living room, spinning his father’s old seal ring on his index finger in the process. The candles around the room spread their warmth glow; even though Matthew had already had electricity installed in the house, he preferred candles on cold winter evenings, especially on Christmas Eve.
He stopped by the Christmas tree, and turned around to face the grandfather clock he inherited together with the house. Half an hour until midnight. He was getting more nervous by the minute, wondering if Dominic would make an appearance. For the past eighteen years ‒ well, without counting the Christmas of 1897 when he passed out drunk in some pub ‒ Dom always appeared in Matthew’s living room at midnight sharp. No smoke, no sparks, no nothing, he’d just suddenly appear on the floor.
The first time it happened, Matthew was ten years old. He couldn’t sleep, so he had sneaked into the kitchen for a glass of milk. He wanted to stealthily go back to his room, but he noticed that there were various boxes under the tree.
Matthew wondered if he got the presents he’d asked for in his letter… he could only spot Marleen’s porcelain doll, the other presents nicely wrapped. He was very tempted to look at them more closely, but he was a good boy, and most certainly didn’t want to get into trouble. The clock struck midnight, and Matthew felt a shiver run down his spine, his skin breaking into goosebumps.
Suddenly, there was a noise behind Matthew, as if someone had just plopped down on the floor.
“Ouch!” an indignant voice said.
Did Santa forget one of the presents?
“Where am I?”
Matt turned around quickly, his eyes widening when instead of Santa a blond boy about his age was lying on the floor, rubbing the back of his head.
“33 Queen Street. What are you doing here? If you wanted to rob us, I will-”
“Did you say 33 Queen Street?” the other boy asks, looking around curiously.
“Yes. This is my family’s house,” Matthew replied.
“But it looks almost like my family’s house,” the other boy said, looking around attentively. “We have that exact clock, though I don’t recognise the other stuff.”
Matthew knit his brows at the other boy’s strange demeanor. It was only as he stepped closer that he noticed the unusual clothes of the blonde boy. But if he was from around these parts, why was he so outlandish? What if…
“What… what year is it?”
“What do you mean what year? 1998.”
Matthew let out a quiet gasp. “Impossible. It’s 1892!”
“No, no, that’s…” he started checking his pockets. “May I use your phone?”
“We don’t have one…”
“What?! Everyone has a phone!”
Matthew still remembered Dominic’s shocked expression, and how humiliated he’d felt, even though only the richest in the city owned their own telephone. But then Dominic sat down beside the tree, and he looked so desolate that Matthew had to sit down as well.
“Are you really from 1998?” Matthew asked carefully.
“But how… how did you get into this house?”
“I… I got up, and then I remembered I left my comic book in the living room,” Dominic sighed, and Matthew was confused about what a comic book was, but didn’t want to interrupt. ”I heard the clock strike midnight, and then I woke up here.”
How innocent and young they were back then! After a while, Dominic’s face fell, his eyes teary. He worried that he’d never be able to go back home. How different his worries had become later! Matthew ran into the kitchen, and grabbed a couple of cookies from the table, returning with them to the living room. Dominic took his glass of milk and dipped the cookies in it quietly, Matt talking about the play he saw with his parents the day before. Dominic seemed to quiet down, wiping away tears less frequently.
Matthew was determined to stay with him till morning, if needed. He’d tell his parents who’d know what to do. But then at one o’clock, just as suddenly as Dominic appeared, he disappeared again. The only proof Matt had was the empty milk glass.
He sighed; the memory of their first meeting always spread warmth in his chest. Even though the next day, he thought he'd just dreamed the whole thing. But no, it had been real, he had lying awake for an hour after the mysterious disappearance of Dominic. He would often think about it, wondering if Dominic would ever pop up in his life again. However, nothing happened until the next Christmas. After a while, the pattern became clear: Dominic would appear on Christmas Eve at midnight and could only stay one hour, not even a second longer.
Matthew stepped to the fireplace, looking at the three photographs displayed there. In the middle was the family picture: his parents sitting on two chairs, Marleen, his little sister, between them, a big bow on her head. On the two sides, Matthew and his older brother, Paul, were standing. Although the symmetric arrangement of the picture made them look similar, Matthew and his brother couldn’t have been more different.
On the left, there was a picture of Dominic ‒ the only coloured one on the counter. Matthew had spent many hours staring at it, and yes, even kissing it. He put it back with heated cheeks; he still couldn’t believe that such a beautiful man loved him. The other picture, on the right, was of Marleen when she was thirteen, just a month before she… she’d always been so dear to Matthew, and she was the only one who had actually met Dominic.
It was the Christmas of 1898, and Matthew giggled perhaps a bit louder than he should have. He really couldn’t hold it back, though - he was so happy to see Dominic again after two years of no sign of life. After all, his visits had become a Christmas tradition, and perhaps the most exciting part of the holidays. His friend looked different: his eyes were shining and filled with joy, unlike the last time… and he also cut his lovely blond locks, though Matthew would never admit that he prefered them to his short hair.
So when Dominic took out a bottle of eggnog hidden in his coat pocket, Matthew gasped, but grinned. They were trading the bottle and eating Matthew’s chocolate, Dominic telling the story of how he went out with some mates to a pub, and he fell asleep there, thus missing his meeting with his friend. Matthew wanted to admonish him, but he found that his joy was greater, so he just laughed.
The teenage boys looked up to see Marleen at the top of the stairs, peering down curiously at them. Her brother got up, and tried to cover Dominic, but Marleen had always been agile, and was in front of them in the blink of an eye.
“Who’s this?” she asked, blinking owlishly at the stranger.
“Marleen, this is Dominic. Dominic, my nosy little sister, Marleen.”
Matthew stood aside as his sister interrogated Dominic. He had to shush her a few times, afraid that their parents would wake up as well. It would have been awkward to find a stranger and an almost empty bottle of eggnog. But of course Dominic and his modern devices were endlessly fascinating, so Matthew could understand Marleen’s fascination with Dominic’s mobile phone. He wanted to talk to his friend about what he’d confessed him before his sister interrupted them, but he couldn’t in front of Marleen. She wouldn’t understand.
At 12:55, Dominic stood up. He promised Marleen that he’d be back next year too, and this time with a present. Of course, she demanded something from his world, unlike anything in hers, like every eleven-year-old would. Then Dominic pulled Matthew in a hug, Matthew letting out a soft gasp at the gesture. They had become quite comfortable with each other as the years passed, but they had never embraced each other. Goodbyes always hurt Matthew, so he closed his eyes to remember Dominic’s touch.
“Whatever people tell you, it’s not a shame,” the blonde whispered, so that only Matthew heard him. “It’s perfectly all right, and there will come a time when it is not frowned upon.”
Matthew didn’t want to let go of his friend, but they had never tried to hold to each other when Dominic had to go back. As exhilarating as it would be, Matthew wasn’t sure he could deal with possibly being stuck in a foreign world. What would his parents do? What would Marleen?
Twenty-eight year old Matthew placed back Marleen’s photo on the fireplace, then went to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Dominic liked to have a cup of his special tea - he claimed that Matthew’s was stronger and more aromatic than what he could find at home.
In 1899, Dominic returned, and now there were two happy faces waiting for him. They moved to the kitchen. As promised, Dom brought a present for Marleen: a small dog that could move and bark when you pressed a button on its belly. Matthew and Dominic usually didn’t exchange gifts, but this year Matthew got a beautiful notebook and a set of pens that didn't have to be dipped into ink, and ones that could be erased.
Matthew completely forgot about the fight he’d had with his brother earlier that evening, or his dismissive remarks about everything Matthew loved. Since he was hired at their father’s shoe factory, Paul thought that he was an important person, and that his opinion counted more than his brother’s. He snarled after Matthew’s piano performance, deeming his only interest a silly pastime.
But Dominic ‒ even without ever having heard Matthew play ‒ thought his love for music was admirable, and told him not to give up.
“Matthew is very talented,” Marleen piped in.
“Oh, no doubt. He’s such a nerd, of course he’s good at everything he does,” Dom snickered.
“What’s a nerd?” Matthew and Marleen asked at the same time.
“Oh uh… never mind. But he’s a good student, a good kid, so of course he’d be an amazing musician too.”
Matthew shook his head, and got up for a glass of water so the others wouldn’t see his blush. He tried to suppress the hot feeling swelling in his chest, but then Dominic smiled at him, and it overruled the shame and guilt of seventeen years.
It was 11:58, the kettle was whistling, so Matthew took it off the stove, and poured the hot water into two cups. He also set out some biscuits and cakes he bought at the German bakery ‒ his mother passed away years before, and he didn’t know how to bake. The grandfather clock struck midnight, and Matthew smiled at the familiar plopping sound following it. He leaned against the doorway, watching as Dominic got up.
“Hello, handsome,” Dominic whispered, cupping Matthews’s face and kissing him.
“Ahh, your hands are so cold!” Matthew exclaimed, taking Dom’s hands and warming them in his.
“Oh, sorry. I built a snowman before coming… to take my mind off things.”
Matthew leaned in, and kissed Dominic again. He couldn’t help, but remember their first kiss.
“Helloooooooooo!” Dominic appeared suddenly, spreading his arms as if he couldn’t contain his glee.
Matthew was sitting at the table, head in his hands. It was clear that something was wrong. The lights were on, and there was no Christmas tree in the room, making it feel desolate and barren.
“Matt? Where’s Marleen?”
He shook his head, the tears already escaping. “She died nine days ago. Consumption,” was all he could say before he broke down, and Dom held him tightly, and wiped away his tears.
“I am so immeasurably sorry, Matthew,” Dominic said, looking at the present he brought for her. He was crushed ‒ he started thinking about Marleen as his own sister. “Why are you alone? Where are your parents?”
“To Aunt Rosemary for a few days, in the countryside. Hopefully, it will help them. Dad can’t really sleep.”
Matthew cried again, and Dominic didn’t say anything about his soaked shirt or numb arm. Instead, he caressed his face, and kissed Matthew’s lips softly, feeling their saltiness.
“Everything will be all right,” he murmured, and Matthew clung to him and his words, even though one o’clock would soon rob him of them.