Title: All Through the Night
Fandom: The Dark Is Rising Sequence
Rating: U
Originally posted: 24 December 2001
Summary: A sleepless January night allows Will's guilt and anger over his mother's injury to emerge. A missing scene from The Dark Is Rising.
Disclaimer: All original works are copyright of their respective owners; I lay claim only to this particular story.
Notes: The first of a pair of linked stories, this one set immediately after the events of the second book.

All Through the Night
Holl amrantau'r sêr ddywedant
Ar hyd y nos.
Dyma'r ffordd i fro gogoniant
Ar hyd y nos.
Golau arall yw tywyllwch,
I arddangos gwir brydferthwch,
Teulu'r nefoedd mewn tawelwch
Ar hyd y nos.

(English version)
Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee.
All through the night.
Guardian angels God will lend thee
All through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping.
God his loving vigil keeping,
All through the night.

-- 'All Through the Night', traditional Welsh lullaby
(Welsh lyrics by John Ceiriog Hughes,
English lyrics by Harold Boulton)

Mrs Stanton was having a sleepless night on the old sofa in the family room.

Climbing the rickety stairs of the Vicarage was all but impossible with her injured leg, yet she had cheerfully refused all offers of help from her large family in favour of a makeshift bed on the sofa. No amount of cajoling or bullying, even from her husband, would persuade her to go upstairs and get more comfortable. So the family, grumbling at her obstinate behaviour, had left her with as many pillows and blankets and cushions as they could find, and went to bed themselves.

Will, creeping down the chilly stairs later that night, knew she would still be awake. The sprain she had suffered had been a bad one, and despite all the reassurances of Doctor Armstrong and her calm outward demeanour, he could sense the constant pain that she hid from the concerned eyes of the family.

Only he knew the real reason for his mother's current state. The powers of the Dark, thinking to entrap both his sister Mary and himself, had created a ear-splitting and wholly unexpected clap of thunder -- perfectly timed to his mother's arrival at the top of the long flight of stairs. One more problem to consider, one more distraction that had threatened to turn his mind from thoughts other than that of preventing the Dark from rising.

Now, after all the affairs of the Light had been taken care of -- the Signs joined, the Circle gathered, Merriman returned back through the Doors to some time unknown -- the only thing left for Will to think about was his family. The ageless Old One had retreated into the background, replaced by the scared, lonely eleven-year-old boy. All he wanted to do was see his mother, to reassure himself that she really was all right --

The clock struck two.

Will, startled, missed the last step from the bottom and stumbled forward. Cursing silently at his clumsiness, he scrambled to his feet.

'Who's there?' he heard his mother call out.

He peered around the corner, staring into the family room. The rugs were still soggy from the great deluge of floodwaters that had swept through their home a day ago, but the big sofa was high and dry. On it sat his mother, wrapped in so many quilts and blankets that she looked like a caterpillar in a multi-coloured chrysalis.

'Will?' she whispered, catching sight of his tousled head. 'It's late...what are you doing up?'

'I...I....' Words failed him.

Mrs. Stanton sat up, wincing a little as she arranged the blankets over her legs. 'Is something wrong, Will? Come here.'

Everything was wrong, and he couldn't explain why. His legs automatically carried him forward, stopping in front of the sofa. Standing in front of her, he was struck by an intense feeling of loneliness -- this wasn't something his mother, or anyone, could help him with. But if he didn't say something, he was certain he would go mad under the strain.

There was only one way he could talk to her, make her understand. There was only one way she could help him.

'Mum...I...I had a bad dream.'

He saw her face soften, pity and compassion mingling in a comforting smile. She opened her arms, and he climbed onto the sofa, leaning his head against her chest. The thick woollen blanket was warm and soft against his cheek, and he pressed closer to her.

'Tell me about it,' she said softly, wrapping her arms around him.

'I don't remember all of it,' he mumbled, the lie sinking like a stone in his heart.

'Then tell me what you can.'

Will shuddered with the memory. Flashes of it came back unbidden, so vivid that it was as if he was reliving the horrible experience. 'It was so cold, and windy, and dark outside. I was standing in the snow, and there was a old man in a bright green coat on the ground. He was lying there, lying in the snow...and I knew he had fallen. Fallen from...from a great height, and landed in the snow. His back was broken.'

Mrs Stanton stroked his hair, but said nothing. She was waiting for him to continue.

'I wanted to help him, but I couldn't do anything. He looked up at me and said something, and then his eyes...his eyes....' His throat closed, hot and swollen, and he couldn't continue.

'It's all right, Will. I'm here.' Her voice seemed to come from very far away.

Will had to swallow several times to clear his throat before he could speak again. When he did, the quiet despair in his voice frightened him. 'He faded away. I can't describe it, but...it was like watching a candle being blown out. Like watching a fire go out, cold and dead. The light went away deep in his eyes, and he was gone. There was nothing left. Just a shell -- an empty, dead, cold shell that used to be a man, a human being. And I watched him die. I let him die.'

'Shhh,' Mrs Stanton said, trying to calm him down and keep her voice steady at the same time. 'Shhh, Will. It's all right. It wasn't your fault.'

Abruptly, Will's entire body stiffened, and his head snapped up, staring at his alarmed mother with eyes that burned, furious and fevered. 'It was my fault!' he cried. 'I watched him die right in front of me, and I...I...I couldn't help it....'

His face crumpled, the terrible rage dissolving as hot tears ran down his cheeks. He buried his face in the blanket and wept -- great, heaving, shaking sobs that threatened to tear his body apart.

Mrs Stanton stroked the trembling back, murmured soothing nonsense sounds into unhearing ears, and held her child close to her. He cried for what seemed like hours, fighting a sick, helpless internal struggle against demons that only he knew. All she could do was hold him, press him close to her body, and rock him back and forth.

Only gradually did the sobs dwindle to silent tears, which then slowed down and eventually stopped. His breathing evened out and grew deeper. His tense body relaxed, though his white hands still clutched the blanket tightly. Finally, he slept.

But even as the night faded and the faint light of dawn began to grow, Mrs Stanton stayed awake and upright on the couch, her arms cradling the sleeping boy. Her normally mild and genial face was firmly set, as hard and unforgiving as stone. The dull pain in her leg had been forgotten long ago.

The only thought in her mind was to protect her youngest son while he slept...to keep the silent watch against the terror and the fear that had come with the dark.

Continue to 'All Through the Night (Reprise)'

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