Title: All Through the Night (Reprise)
Fandom: The Dark Is Rising Sequence
Rating: U
Originally posted: 20 August 2002
Summary: A sleepless midsummer night in Wales forces Will to confront his past, present, and future -- and Bran can only watch.
Disclaimer: All original works are copyright of their respective owners; I lay claim only to this particular story.
Notes: The second of a pair of linked stories, this one set four years after the end of Silver on the Tree. Warning for (secondary) character death.


All Through the Night (Reprise)
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)


I wake up out of a sound sleep and I don't know why.

No, wait, I do -- it's the mattress creaking. Strange. The noise never bothered me when I was in bed, but lying on the floor beside it the springs sound like a gun going off right over my head.

I roll over, eyes already closing, but something's blocking the bit of moonlight that comes in from the window. A dark figure, sitting up in the bed with his knees making a tent of the blanket.

Will.

He's awake, too.

I almost had to fight him to get him to take the bed. I'm not having a guest in my own house kip on my bedroom floor and I told him as much, but he's so damn -- English, I guess -- that he kept on protesting until I told him I'd knock him out if it came down to it.

He didn't argue after that.

Da went to bed early tonight, before nine. He was tired; he'd been mending fences all day. Nothing wakes him when he's really sound asleep. Will and I went to bed at ten after both of us started nodding off over our books.

Will, of course, took the bed. I threw some blankets on the floor -- too hot for a sleeping bag.

I'm not going to be able to fall asleep again any time soon.

Damn it, I didn't want this for a summer.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Will and I were supposed to go running about like we always do, swimming or hiking or into Tywyn to the cinema. Everything we usually do, that we've done for the last few years whenever he comes to visit.

A phone call changed that, this time.

Last week of school, I think it was. I'd stopped off at the Evans' house to practise on their harp before I started my homework, and I went into the kitchen to see Mrs Evans and collect the cup of tea she always has waiting for me.

She was on the phone, talking to someone in English. Well, not talking exactly. More like listening, and going 'Mm' or 'I see' every so often.

I was about to drop my schoolbag on the chair and head for the sitting room, but she turned and saw me standing in the doorway, and the look in her eyes made me stop where I was.

She cupped her hand over the mouthpiece and said in Welsh, 'Stay for a minute, Bran. I'm almost done here.'

So I sat, and waited for her to finish. I wasn't eavesdropping then -- there wasn't anything to eavesdrop on. The person on the other end was doing all the talking. She just listened with this stiff, tight expression on her face, as if her skin had frozen on her cheeks. A mug of tea was on the table, with the tea bag still in it and the water nearly black. It hadn't been touched.

She said goodbye and hung up, but stood still for a moment with her hand on the receiver.

'I'm glad you're here,' she said quietly, in English.

Her Welsh is remarkably good for a Saesnes, so when she spoke to me in her native tongue I knew something was very wrong.

'What is it?' I asked, alarmed. 'What's the matter?'

Her gentle voice cracked, husky and rough. 'It's Will.'

Two words and they numbed me to the core, like the jab of painkillers the dentist gives you right before he pulls your tooth out.

She started talking then, mixing English and Welsh until she got so muddled that she had to stop and start more than one sentence over again. She told me about Will's parents and his older brother and a plane from Jamaica, and that those three things were connected in a very bad way. All the time she kept repeating that Will was all right, he was still at school, but that there were a lot of legal things that had to be taken care of and that he was coming to spend his entire summer holiday in Wales while everything was being sorted out in Buckinghamshire.

School went by pretty fast after that.

I don't think the whole thing sank in properly until the day Rhys and I went to fetch him from the station in Tywyn. Bumping along in the car, Rhys kept telling me that we should act as normal as possible when he was here, be cheerful, not tiptoe round him like he was some sort of delicate invalid. I wondered how much of it was Aunt Jen talking, but mercifully he shut up and we rode in silence the rest of the way.

I don't know what I expected when I saw him get off the train. Maybe I thought that he'd look different, that because he was an orphan now he would be all scrawny and underfed and wild-eyed -- that he'd have turned into Oliver Twist or something like that. But there was Will with his bulging knapsack, brown hair still falling in his eyes, as ordinary as I've ever seen him. The ordinary Will who'd spent a summer month on the Evans farm since we were eleven or so, except that now he was sixteen and his parents were dead.

He hugged Rhys, and me, and said hello how are you doing. And that was the last he spoke until we got back to the farm.

There was a big dinner that night. Da and I went, and John Rowlands was there, and some of the other men from the farms nearby. Aunt Jen hovered over Will the entire time, slipping him the best bits of the roast and piling his plate so full of food that she almost couldn't balance it to hand it to him.

He ate all of it, and asked for more.

I could see the relief in her eyes.

Strange how summer days fly by when you're working. There's always something to do on a farm, something to make or mend or tear down or clean up. I came over most every day to help Da and John Rowlands, and Will was there, too, working. He didn't speak much to anyone, just 'Thanks' or 'I'll get that' or 'Could you please?' to whoever he was working with. He even picked up a bit of Welsh, and didn't slaughter the words like he had when we were younger.

Slaughter. I never knew how hard it was to avoid mentioning death before. Even something like, 'Oh, I could just kill So-and-so!' took on a whole new meaning when Will was nearby. So when someone said 'death' or 'kill' or 'murder', no matter the context, there was a lot of shuffling of feet and eyes that didn't know where to look.

So since the others -- since we -- never knew what to talk about with
Will around, there wasn't as much chattering and the work got done faster.

Which left us with free time.

Lots of walking, that's what we did. Long walks, endless walks, just the two of us, for hours on end, all over the mountains and valleys. We might've crossed Snowdonia National Park three or four times, I think. And once I discovered (after two hellishly awkward days) that I didn't need to make small talk the whole time, the walks were silent ones.

At first I was the one leading the way, but by the end of the week he was the one in the lead, following paths that I'd never taken before and I know he'd never taken before. I never thought to ask where we were going -- he was the one who wanted to walk, and we were always home in time for dinner however far we went. I just wanted to spend time with him, because Lord knows there's little enough for me to do at home by myself. And Da didn't mind me being out all the time, oddly enough. He was positively welcoming when I suggested that Will spend his last night in Wales sleeping over at our house. Probably, he was proud of me for being so kind to poor Will Stanton, when he needed it most.

As if poor Will Stanton ever needed anything from me.

He's shifted position now, and there's something in his hands. It looks like a piece of paper, but just then the moonlight hits it and I can see that it's smaller than that. A postcard, maybe, from back home.

He hasn't gotten any post since he arrived, though. Scratch that idea.

'Did I wake you up?'

That's more than he's said to me in a while, and for a moment I'm too startled to reply.

'No,' I say at last. 'No, you didn't.'

He leans back on the pillows. 'Sorry.'

Suddenly I'm angry.

'Look, you didn't wake me up, okay?' I say, sitting up and wincing a little. Sleeping on a floor isn't good for your back, no matter how young you are. 'I was already awake, and the question is: why are you? You've got a train to catch tomorrow -- no, today,' I correct myself, checking the alarm clock on the table.

He doesn't look at me. 'I had a bad dream.'

Iesu Crist, what do I say to that?

'Do...do you want to talk about it?' comes out of my mouth before I can stop it, and I immediately want to beat myself senseless.

He leans over and switches on the light. It hurts -- I have to blink several times, and when I can see again I see him gazing at me, very calm and thoughtful-looking.

'All right,' he says quietly, and pats the blanket beside him.

I scramble onto the bed and tuck my legs up under me.

He's silent for a moment before he speaks.

'You met Stephen, didn't you? When you came to visit last Christmas?'

I think quickly, running through his brothers. There were the twins, the flute-playing one, the Naval officer -- yes, that was it. 'Yeah, I did.'

'Stephen's been in Jamaica for a long while, with his ship.' The choice of tense bothers me, but Will continues calmly, like he was telling a story that someone else had told him. 'He had shore leave coming up, and he invited my parents to come to Jamaica for a holiday. They haven't had a proper holiday in years, you know. With nine kids you don't go places that often, especially not to the West Indies.'

He purses his lips, thinking. 'Dad had been overseas when he was younger, but Mum had never been out of the country. They sent me lots of letters and postcards, full of chatty details. They really loved it there, all that sun and sand and beautiful weather. They were supposed to fly back with him when his leave started. He -- Stephen, that is -- got a new posting, at the base in Portsmouth, and he wants to spend time with all of us before he has to go to Hampshire.'

How the hell do you tell if someone's going mad? I mean, I was there when Caradog Prichard just went off his head, screaming and raving and so bad they had to hold him down until the doctors came, but Will's not like that now. Really, if it wasn't for that shifting between past and present, I'd swear that nothing was wrong.

But then he looks at me, and he's not looking at me but through me, as if I'm not even there, and I shudder. I can't help it, and I wonder if I should call Aunt Jen even though it's two in the morning but I can't move, not even an inch.

'But the plane didn't make it,' he says, and his voice makes me shiver again -- it's so cold and distant and it sends prickles of fear running through me. 'And I'm sixteen years old and I didn't think it would start like this.'

'S...start?' The word almost doesn't come out.

'Eh?' He blinks rapidly, almost as if he's waking up, snapping out of it. He looks at me, properly, for the first time, and I want to cry with sheer relief because he's Will again.

'Oh, god, I'm sorry, Bran.' He shoves his hair out of his eyes with one hand. The other is still clutching what I now see is a postcard, with a tropical beach on it. Lots of palm trees. 'I didn't mean to -- '

'No, no, it's okay,' I blurt out, because I'd do anything to keep him talking. After over a month of silence, I have to hear his voice. 'I mean, you don't have to talk about it, but if it helps you...but you don't have to....'

I fall silent. The person you think -- no, who is your best friend,
the only real friend you've ever had, and you can't even tell him you're sorry he's lost his parents and his older brother overnight.

Stupid, Bran Davies, that's what you are. A fat lot of good your I'm sorry will do for him.

He stares down at the bedclothes.

'I really don't know how you've put up with me, these weeks. I've been horrible company, and I know it,' he adds quickly as I open my mouth to protest. 'And I'm sorry.'

'Will,' I say gently. 'Honestly. You don't have anything to apologise for.' I take his hand and squeeze it to emphasise my point.

But his hand lies limp in mine, and he doesn't return the pressure. Instead, he lifts his head, and looks at me with guarded eyes.

'I saw a man die once,' he says, emotionlessly.

I say nothing.

'He was an old man.' He looks down again. Emotion slowly creeps into his voice, a pain that makes my chest tighten in response. 'Death was a release for him -- he wanted it, he had wanted it for so long that he welcomed it when it came. And there was no pain, or anything like that. He just -- was gone.' Raw anguish makes his voice bleed like an open wound. 'But I watched him die, and I couldn't do anything for him. I let him die. And knowing that he wanted to die didn't...doesn't...make me feel any better.'

He's rocking back and forth now, knees drawn up to his chest. I edge closer to him and tentatively put my arms round him. I can feel his heart racing. His breathing is heavy and ragged.

'Shh...' I whisper, though I know he doesn't hear me. 'Shhh, Will. It's all right. It wasn't your fault.'

He stiffens, and his breath catches in his throat. I stiffen as well, in response.

It's at that moment when the sleeve of my pyjamas starts to feel damp.

'It wasn't my fault,' he mutters, more to himself than to me.

'That's right,' I murmur soothingly, and now I'm the one rocking him, like a mother would her child.

There's a soft, tearing noise, and the postcard is now in two pieces.

'That's what Mum said to me.'

Another tearing noise, and two pieces have become four. The torn bits of brightly coloured paper land on the blanket, crumpled and forgotten.

And Will's next words, barely above a whisper, crack my heart into a million pieces.

'...so how am I supposed to feel when I know that she didn't want to die?'

Then he's crying, openly now, and I'm crying too, sobbing because of him and his mum and his dad and his brother and Cafall and I don't know why Cafall because I haven't thought about him in ages but it hurts all the same but don't know why it hurts like this and now Will's speaking, babbling brokenly:

'I'll lose you. All of you. This is just the start, it's starting already, you'll go away and leave me, and I'll be all alone, all alone with the dark, oh god with the DARK....'

....

I think I stop crying first. I'm so tired I can hardly see straight, but I've collected myself enough to ease Will back into bed. He's exhausted as well, though the tears are still coming. He doesn't notice when I switch off the light.

I lie down next to him. He has my pillow and the other one's on the floor with the blankets but I don't care. I'm dead tired but I don't care. He's leaving tomorrow, and I have this horrible feeling in my gut that he's leaving me for good, forever and ever, and if I don't stay awake for the rest of the night he'll vanish when the sun comes up, melt away into the morning mist like the ghosts in fairy stories.

I watch him all night.

He doesn't vanish when the sun comes up.

He gets up then, and takes a shower. I shower while he puts on his clothes. He packs his knapsack while I put mine on. We walk down to his aunt's house and eat a quick breakfast, and she hugs him tightly and drops a kiss on his forehead before we leave for the station with Rhys. He boards his train, the early train to London, and waves goodbye to us from his seat by the dirty window.

We wave back until the train is out of sight.

I don't sleep very well that night.

Or the next night.

Or the one after that.

And I don't think he does, either.


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