In other news, hp_yule_balls fic the third. I hadn't written Viktor since mid-2006, so this was fun.
Title: The Long Goal
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Oliver Wood, Viktor Krum, Harry Potter, Albus Severus Potter, James Potter II
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 4900 words
Summary: In Quidditch, a long goal is shot from well outside the scoring area. They don't call it a long shot because a shot isn't guaranteed to score.
Dedication: chaeldub [in hp_yule_balls]
Beta: mellafe & tangleofthorns ♥
Note: Originally posted here on LJ and here on IJ.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
The Long Goal
Oliver always went after the ugly ones.
At first he thought it was a game -- how many mingers can be fucked in one lifetime, that kind of thing. But that implied disinterest in the object of fucking, and Oliver was anything but disinterested. While average blokes gazed admiringly at pretty things in fitted robes, Oliver was busy chatting up the evening's horror show. He didn't even spare the pretty ones a glance; he would see the ugliest son of a bitch in the pub and want him naked. After that, it was just a matter of time and maybe some convincing.
Most people think the unattractive sort will take any attention they can get, but that's not true. Many thought he was just having them on, for a laugh at their expense. Why would a reasonably good-looking Quidditch star be interested in the likes of them? But as Oliver's attraction was genuine -- an admitted absurdity in a world obsessed with physical beauty -- he never went home alone. Deep down, people just want someone to love them, if only for one night, beauty or no. And Oliver had come to understand that people who valued beauty above all just didn't know how to have sex properly. Good sex bent bodies at weird angles and turned facial expressions grotesque, but nobody ever talked about that.
If it was a game, it was one he could keep winning. And deep down? Oliver couldn't stand losing. Defeat was a lurking menace shaped like his father's hand ruffling Cousin Finny's hair after a four-year-old Oliver lost to him in Gobstones. Oliver didn't like thinking about it much, but he couldn't stop it from shaping him. Throughout his school years and his professional Quidditch career, his only true goal was to keep winning. And there he had sat an hour ago, at an apogee of sorts, riding his broomstick through the England vs Bulgaria World Cup quarter-final match.
Staring at Bulgaria's Seeker.
Viktor Krum was unattractive. There was no sweetening it: gaunt, sallow-skinned, with a permanent sour twist to his mouth, and a nose to rival the late great Severus Snape's. Legions of fans strove for reasons to find him desirable, always talking about the miraculous transformation his broom afforded, but Oliver bought none of that. On a broomstick, Krum was still ugly. From a different angle. He was the reason Oliver had stopped paying attention to the game and missed a long goal shot by Stanka bloody Bostova. For the first time in almost twenty years, one game had interfered with the other, and he was furious.
"Damn!" Oliver smashed his fist into the wall beneath the coat rack.
"Even if you hadn't missed that Quaffle, Krum would still have caught the Snitch six minutes in," remarked Brevis Birch from the bench.
Oliver and Brevis were the last in the changing room -- Oliver because he took the longest showers, and Brevis because he had a tic that compelled him to do up his boot laces three times before he could go anywhere.
"You didn't hear Ginny, did you?" Oliver shot back. "She said we must have been ill-prepared indeed if I missed a move Bostova's team is famous for."
Brevis shrugged. "She probably thinks it was pointless to play against Bulgaria in the first place, since they have Krum and we don't. Are you really going to let a has-been like her get to you? She only got to commentate this match because she's Harry Potter's wife." He left his laces alone for a moment and gave Oliver a hard stare. "You let things get to you too much. You'll never make captain if you don't learn to relax."
Oliver wanted to snap back that he'd made a fine captain for Gryffindor just as he was, but that sounded ridiculous even in his head. And he knew Brevis was right. Playing for England was a great honour, but he had to think about his future with Puddlemere first. "We did do well this time 'round," he said in his best sporting voice. "Quarter-finals."
"That's the spirit," said Brevis, and bent down to his boots once again.
Oliver still needed to put his fist through something. "Listen, I've got to run home and change." England's team was having a farewell party at a local pub that evening -- now that they were out of the competition, everyone would go back to their own teams. Oliver was looking forward to neither the party nor the return to Puddlemere, but at least the former would delay the latter somewhat. "I'll see you later."
"Right. See you, Oliver," mumbled Brevis without looking up.
Oliver Apparated home, fully intending to at least kick the shit out of his sofa. But there were several irritated owls tapping at the kitchen window, and by the time Oliver was done with them, his fury had abated somewhat. And it really wasn't the sofa's fault. And Brevis was right; no matter what Oliver did, Krum would have still got the Snitch. Sighing, he looked around for his Quidditch bag; he needed to return his Team England robes, and there were still several hours until the party. Then he realised he'd left his bag in the stadium's changing room. Oliver Apparated back. Brevis was no longer there, but somebody was in the showers -- strange. Oliver stepped around the corner, careful not to slip on the sodden floor.
He'd expected to see a wizard in blue robes sending water round the stalls to rinse them off, but what he actually saw was Viktor Krum, celebrated Seeker of the undefeated Quidditch World Champion team. Viktor Krum, blinking dazedly through wet fringe. Viktor Krum, hung like a fucking dragon.
It was a good thing Oliver's jaws chose this moment to fuse together in shock, or he would have blurted something extremely embarrassing.
"Oh," said Krum. "I vos told your team vos finished here."
"Ug," replied Oliver, doing his very best to keep his eyes on Krum's face. "We were. I just forgot something. Thought you were one of my-- um. Teammates. I'll, uh-- was there something wrong with your team's showers?"
Krum, who didn't seem to notice Oliver's strained tone and wandering eyes, made a see-saw gesture with his hand, sending a cascade of water droplets to the floor. "My teammates, they don't let me shover in peace."
"Sorry," said Oliver, backing up a step. "I guess I'm doing the same." His eyes cut to Krum's crotch again, but he quickly pretended to find the greying floor tiles fascinating. "I'll just be off. Congratulations on the game, by the way." Oliver glanced up. Krum's eyes had narrowed slightly. A trick of the light, had to be. Oliver turned and walked out into the changing room, snatched up his bag and Disapparated.
"But Dad, it's a better view from the railing--"
"No, James, use your Omnioculars -- you promised Mum. Sit. Down. Sorry about this, Oliver."
Oliver nodded without lowering his own Omnioculars. Harry's eldest was, as always, causing trouble, but Oliver wasn't about to complain. Harry was the reason he could come to Bulgaria to watch the World Cup semi-final, so any of his children could burn the stadium down for all Oliver cared. He watched Krum swoop high over Japan's Seeker, Shunsuke Kimura. The spectators roared. The match had lasted an hour already; Oliver was starting to suspect that the Snitch hadn't even been released, and both Seekers were just pandering to the crowd.
Then Kimura's broom dipped sharply, and he dove. The clamour grew deafening as Krum sped towards the same spot from the opposite direction, but Kimura's hand was already up, the struggling Golden Snitch clasped tightly between gloved fingers. The Japanese commentator shouted something excitedly, but the Bulgarian commentator suddenly gave a loud whoop of joy and pointed towards Japan's goalposts, where the referee's wand spewed blue. A goal. Bulgaria had scored just before Kimura's catch. The crowd hushed as the scoreboard's wheels spun.
Bulgaria: 260 - Japan: 250
The ensuing pandemonium was a bit much even for Oliver's ears, but he kept his Omnioculars on Krum, wincing a little as a woman seated nearby shrieked in hoarse Bulgarian. Krum and Kimura were on the ground, shaking hands. High above, the Bulgarian team members were circling around Stanka Bostova -- her again! -- alternately clapping her on the back and waving at the crowd. Kimura handed the Snitch to the referee, who examined it and then called the game though no one actually heard him.
A hand appeared in front of his Omniocular lens, blocking his view. "Some game, huh?" shouted Harry.
"Yeah," replied Oliver, lowering the Omnioculars. "If it's not Krum, it's the long goal -- has anyone ever won against these wankers?"
"Dad, look, Dad! What are they doing?" screeched James, who had taken advantage of Harry's diverted attention and clambered up onto the box railing.
The Japanese players stood in a line, faces tilted up to seven identical balls of white fire.
"That's a custom," said Oliver, as Harry was too busy yanking his son down to respond. "They burn their broomsticks if they lose."
Al, who hadn't followed his brother's example, spoke up. "They're really good brooms, though. Even the Thunderhead can't go that fast."
Oliver nodded. "The Committee doesn't like it either. Waste of good wood, if you ask me."
"So do you still want to meet Viktor?" Harry asked Al.
"Why would we?" interjected James. "He lost to the Japanese bloke. I want to meet him."
"You're not meeting anyone," snapped Harry. "You promised Mum you wouldn't climb on the railings, and you couldn't even keep a simple promise like that. You're going to wait for us with Mum and Lily."
James immediately began to resemble a kicked puppy. "But Dad--!"
"No," said Harry, and turned to Oliver. "I'm going to take Al to meet Krum -- d'you want to come and say hello?"
Oliver hesitated. He hadn't been able to get Krum out of his mind since last month's encounter. He'd even done research into Krum's life outside Quidditch. Despite women throwing themselves at him for decades, Krum had never married, and all of his relationships were mere rumours. He guarded his private affairs from reporters, and in this line of work, that usually meant a very interesting private life. Interesting to men like Oliver, at any rate. For fuck's sake, he had come all the way to Bulgaria. Not, as he'd told Harry, to see Kimura -- hailed far and wide as the next Viktor Krum -- in action.
"Sure," he said to Harry, grinning.
James protested loudly all the way to the commentator's booth, where Ginny and Lily sat amid scores of reporters, all shouting instructions to their quills. Ginny smiled brightly upon spotting Harry, stood up, and waved him over. Oliver attempted to blend in with the reporters, as he was still annoyed with Ginny for what she'd said at the quarter-finals. Talk about being unpatriotic.
"That was quick," said Ginny. "I didn't even see you on the field -- didn't you ask Viktor Krum to see you?"
"We haven't been yet," said Harry. "I'm dropping James off with you before we go down there."
Ginny's hands flew to her hips. "What did you do?" she demanded, turning to James, who shrank a little.
"C'mon, Al, Oliver," said Harry, smiling slightly, and -- Oliver thought -- not without a little malice.
Oliver's stomach did funny things as they made their way through the crowd towards a larger group of reporters surrounding the players. This should not seem strange to Krum, he told himself. He just happened to be at the game with Harry, and was coming by to say hello to a fellow player. That was all.
"There he is," said Harry, waving. Krum stood in the middle of the fray, besieged by a minor army of reporters shouting questions in a cacophony of languages. Spotting Harry, he waved back and began to weave his way through the reporters, some of whom began to run towards Harry with shouts of "Harry Potter!"
"This way," muttered Krum as he shouldered past. Al in tow, Harry followed him, as did Oliver. A door appeared in the air, and Krum ushered them through. The door shut in the faces of several reporters, drowning out the stadium's clamour.
Oliver looked around. They were in a cramped little office, its walls plastered with strategy drawings. Piles of parchment teetered in the corners. "Manager's office," said Krum, pointing his wand at the window, which flew open, letting in blissfully fresh air. "Sorry about this," continued Krum. "I did not know the game vould be so interesting today." Harry and Krum shook hands. "It is good to see you, Potter. This is your boy, yes?" said Krum, peering down at little Albus.
Harry grinned. "How can you tell?"
"How do you do," said Al, his back unusually straight. "My name is Albus Potter." Harry gaped at his son as though he'd grown a tail. So did Oliver.
"I am Viktor," said Krum, extending a thin, sallow hand towards the boy. "I haff known your father many years."
Al shook Krum's hand somewhat gingerly. Suddenly, his face cleared. "You lost on purpose, didn't you?" he burst out. "Because you wanted your teammates to win. You did that in Moldova too, and--"
Krum grinned. Smiles could usually make any person seem more beautiful, but this didn't apply to Viktor Krum. And yet his smile was utterly unselfconscious. "No," he said. "Kimura, he has a good reflex. I lost -- how you say -- square and just."
No one corrected him. Al looked a little crestfallen.
"You are Vood," said Krum, turning to Oliver. "From the shover."
Behind him, Harry's eyes widened in horror. You didn't, he mouthed.
"No!" blurted Oliver, to Harry. "I mean, yes, I am Wood. I'm sorry about that time," he continued, turning to Krum.
"It's OK, don't vorry," said Krum, waving a dismissive hand and returning his attention to Al. "Vant to see Vrasta Vultures training ground?"
"Would it be okay?" asked Al, glancing up at Krum, and then at his father. "I mean, you won't get in trouble, will you?"
"I am team captain," said Krum. "Captain never gets trouble. Let's go. The old guys, they can follow us." He took Al's hand and led him out through the creaking door.
"I'll show him old guys," muttered Harry, following. He was smiling.
"The captain never gets in trouble, my arse," added Oliver, trailing after Harry. He had few other choices. Krum had taken them to Vrasta, and Oliver couldn't just Disapparate -- he'd get lost. And, curiously enough, he couldn't think of a place he'd rather be than getting a free tour of the Vrasta Vultures' training grounds.
Though Krum's English was not the most comprehensible in the world, he was full of stories about the place. There was the Chaser who for a time insisted on bringing his overly excitable Crup to every practice session. The animal didn't like it when people shouted and would bark up a storm every time Viktor began to give instructions. Then there was the Keeper who hung tinsel from the goal-posts for a month before Christmas, confusing the hell out of Viktor and the reserve Seeker. They were the kinds of stories every regional team had in abundance; Al was obviously enchanted, as was Harry.
For his part, Oliver was even more convinced he wanted in Krum's pants, preferably as soon as possible. Krum, still in Team Bulgaria robes, fresh from an hour-long match, seemed to come alive here on home turf, and Oliver thought he could understand why witches sent this man their knickers even now, in the twilight of his youth. Not that it made any difference to Oliver; he fancied Krum just fine without needing to squint.
After forty minutes or so, Harry called an end to the audience. "My wife will start to get worried if we're not back soon. Thanks for this, Krum -- I really appreciate it."
"I'd like to stay a bit longer," said Oliver. "If that's all right. Professional interest, you understand."
Krum gave a distracted nod, as though it didn't matter one way or another if Oliver stayed or went. Was it discretion or contempt? All Oliver knew was that he'd never find out with the Potters there.
"Bye, Mr Krum," said Al, clutching a miniature Vrasta Vulture -- Krum's parting gift.
"See you, Krum. Oliver," said Harry. The door shut behind them.
"They are gone," said Krum and turned to Oliver, who had the distinct feeling the mood was about to change. He was either going to get a few choice words about checking out Krum's equipment in the shower that time or, well. Or.
"Yeah," said Oliver, suppressing an inane urge to hide his eyes. All of a sudden, Krum became so bloody intense. "Um, thanks for--"
"Vood." Krum's voice was rough as he stared up at Oliver. Was it Oliver's imagination, or was Krum--? "Ven do you go back to England?"
"Tomorrow night," said Oliver. "I wanted to see a bit of Sofia--"
"I can show you it, if you vant." There was no mistaking it, this time. Krum's dark eyes bored into Oliver's. Ve both know vot you vant.
Oliver grinned widely. "Yeah. That'd be great."
The bit of Sofia Oliver would see the most of turned out to be a bedroom with a window to a sleepy alley lined with chestnut trees.
Before that bedroom, there was the restaurant. Sofia had no wizarding district, and the locals got their nightly doses of entertainment alongside the Muggles. The restaurant was a fancy place with an unpronounceable name and equally flabbergasting dishes. Krum said it was the nicest in the area because everyone put on suits and evening dresses to eat here. The logic escaped Oliver -- he'd always thought people wore nice clothes to classy restaurants because, well, they were classy restaurants in the first place. But he had worn the suit as instructed, and the food had been surprisingly nice, and there had been a waiter standing near their table the entire time, at a distance that should have been respectful but wasn't. Oliver could only hope the waiter didn't speak English, because if he tried to look up Quidditch on the Internet...
"I do not like to lose," Krum said suddenly over dessert, after they'd finished discussing the strengths and weaknesses of Japan's team.
"You didn't lose today," said Oliver charitably.
Krum smirked. "The team did not. I did. They said last veek Kimura could be Viktor Krum of tomorrow. Tomorrow, papers vill say it like fact."
"Don't say that. There's plenty interesting about the current Viktor Krum," said Oliver.
Krum's eyebrows rose slightly, and he only half-smiled in response. Oliver looked away, slightly discomfited. Had he made Krum doubt his sincerity? He'd meant what he'd just said, but flattery was a tricky thing with those who weren't beautiful.
Krum's suit didn't flatter him; it only accented his sallow complexion and awkward build. It struck Oliver then that despite his unattractiveness, Krum looked comfortable. In a suit, in his team's robes, even naked -- he lacked the trepidation so abundant in Oliver's usual targets. The memory of Krum in the shower surfaced bright and vivid at the forefront of Oliver's mind.
"Want to get out of here?" he asked, eyes on Krum's too-broad hands folded on the table.
They walked from the restaurant to a low, ancient-looking building, and Oliver's heartbeat sped up with every step. Every high step up a spiral staircase into a flat that smelled like time. Shadows stretched across the bedroom's wood-panelled floor, and Oliver wanted to disappear into them for the night, forget about Quidditch and reporters. He had the world's biggest crush on the world's best Seeker, and he hadn't had a real crush on anyone since he was about twenty-four or so. It felt good, exhilarating, like his retreating youth. Since Harry and Al's departure, this had been a question of when not if. When?
"Now," whispered Oliver, and Krum turned around to face him.
Oliver hooked a finger in Krum's tie and leaned close. Krum stood quite still, his even breathing like a whisper in the back of Oliver's mind. Oliver pressed his lips to Krum's temple and exhaled. In the dark, Krum's hand moved to Oliver's zip, undoing it deftly enough to prove he'd done this before. He was having his cock stroked before he could do anything, his fingers clinging to Krum's tie, his free palm pressed against the wall. Very business-like. Was this what it was like for Krum? Sex like a transaction, always in the shadows, cloaked in fear. Was this how he kept his private life hidden -- living in the dark? "Stop that."
"You do not like it?" Krum sounded genuinely astonished, and Oliver's heart lurched.
"That's not it," murmured Oliver, moving Krum's hand away and edging closer, pushing him up against the wall. He knelt, shucked his suit jacket, and let Krum's trousers fall to the floor. "I'll like this better."
Krum's hips shot forward when Oliver took his cock in his mouth, but he made no sound, and soon he was thrusting into Oliver's mouth in short, measured strokes that spoke of habit and boredom. Oliver pulled back and stared up at him.
"I vos too rough?" Krum sounded startled again. He really did have sex by the numbers, didn't he?
"No, that's not it either," replied Oliver, squeezing the base of Krum's cock between thumb and forefinger. "I don't want you to move. Can you do that?"
"It is an English game?"
"Yeah." Oliver's cock gave a twitch, and he didn't know if he was turned on more by the prospect of making Krum lose his composure or the oddly touching trust in Krum's voice. "You lose if you move."
Krum didn't ask what would happen if he lost, as Oliver knew he wouldn't. To men like them, losing was a consequence of its own. He began to stroke Krum's cock, letting the head just touch his parted lips, and he could feel Krum struggling not to move, heard him begin to pant -- slight, delicate sounds, ashamed of themselves and half-smothered before they could come out. Oliver sucked lightly at the head of Krum's cock, the tip of his tongue circling lazily against the slit. Krum's panting became more audible as Oliver took him in deeper, relishing the feel of smooth flesh against his lips, the heavy throb against his flattened tongue. He pressed his free palm up against Krum's thigh, which quivered with the strain of standing still.
"H-How long must I--" Krum gasped, and Oliver pulled back instantly, earning a frustrated grunt. "You are cheating."
Slowly, Oliver stood up, pushing his trousers and pants down. "It's all part of the game," he whispered. "Lift your arms. It won't count as moving; I'm telling you to do it."
Krum obeyed, his eyes bewildered and a little fearful, and Oliver kissed him -- deep and fast, all tongue, tugging Krum's tie off with one hand while the other caressed the head of his cock.
Oliver bound Krum's hands with the tie, pressing close, rubbing his cock against Krum's, his movements becoming sloppy as lust and need clouded his mind. Soon, he wouldn't care if Krum moved or didn't move; he probably wouldn't even notice. But that wouldn't do. He meant to make Krum moan, to make him lose control. "It'll be harder not to move now," he whispered into Krum's ear, and then took the earlobe between his teeth, reaching down to Krum's cock once more.
"I said you vere cheating," Krum whispered back. "I vill not lose."
Oliver bit down on his earlobe and Krum gasped, but did not buck forward as Oliver expected him to. Oliver's cock slid easily against Krum's belly now, leaking everywhere, but Krum was no better off; Oliver's palm was slick with him. He reached down, cupped Krum's balls and squeezed gently, then let his fingers slide forward until they were nudging Krum's arsehole. Wet. Oliver leaned back, surprised. "Did you--"
Krum smiled indulgently. "Before ve left restaurant. I do not like interruptions." Still so self-possessed, even as Oliver worked two fingers into him. He let them sink in slowly, eyes on Krum's face. His eyelids fluttered slightly but that was all. "So how do you like it?" whispered Oliver. "Fast or slow?"
"I like ven it's a dick," muttered Krum, and they both sniggered.
"We've got all night," replied Oliver, working his fingers deeper in. His thumb slid easily across Krum's balls; the smell of their arousal was making him feel light-headed. He kissed Krum again, slowly this time, timing the movements of his tongue with the slide of his fingers in and out of Krum's arse. After a minute, Krum began to pant into his mouth, and Oliver could feel sweat sliding down his face as he struggled -- Krum wanted more than fingers and he obviously wanted it now. But Oliver wasn't going to give it to him until he heard an honest moan -- despite his own cock throbbing with desperate want. He didn't want to make Krum lose the fake game; he just wanted to hear him voice his need.
"This how you want me to fuck you?" he half-whispered, half-groaned into Krum's mouth. "Nice and slow, yeah?"
"Unh," was Krum's reply. His whole body was tense; his shirt was becoming soaked-through with sweat, and Oliver sped it up, trying to go as deep as he could, forcing Krum's legs further apart with his free hand. "Like that?" He licked blindly at Krum's neck, bit down on his shoulder, tonguing the strained cord of muscle there. "Yeah? Tell me."
Krum's head fell back, and he moaned as Oliver's fingers slid in deeper. The sound went through Oliver like a shock, and if he didn't fuck Krum now, he would come all over him like this, barely touched. "Game... over. Going to... fuck you," groaned Oliver, reaching up to untie Krum's hands.
Krum growled something in Bulgarian as Oliver fumbled with the tie, and once his hands were free, he gripped Oliver's arse, rocking forward, smearing more pre-come on Oliver's stomach. "Come on," he rasped. "I vant--"
Oliver lifted him off the floor, pressed him against the wall until Krum's legs wrapped around him, and then slid in, quick and smooth. Heat flooded him, spreading from his lower belly to his chest and neck, and Krum moaned again as he began to move, fast, trying to match the pace that had found Krum's voice moments earlier. He wouldn't last, not at all, and that would be embarrassing, but they did have all night. Krum clung to him, one arm round Oliver's neck, his other hand on Oliver's arse, pushing, urging him -- deeper, faster.
An absurd thought flitted across Oliver's consciousness -- I win -- and he came with a moan that drowned out Krum's, his lower body convulsing with the force of it, his mind paralysed for those few seconds of highest bliss. Then Krum's hand squeezed his arse so hard Oliver cried out again, and felt, dimly, the pulse and splatter of Krum's release against his belly. As Krum eased his legs down, Oliver pulled out, letting him stand.
"Bed," mumbled Krum, and half-lurched towards it, one leg dragging his suit trousers behind him.
Oliver's own trousers were still bunched around his ankles; he tripped and nearly fell over in his attempt to follow. Finally, they stretched out next to each other, not touching, their noisy breathing the only sounds in the looming shadows. Oliver closed his eyes and let his mind drift for a while. His arse cheek smarted where Krum had squeezed it. It was a good sort of pain.
When he opened his eyes, a ball of light floated near the ceiling. Krum stood by the window, naked, his back to the bed. Oliver caught himself thinking he wouldn't mind opening his eyes to this again. Wouldn't mind at all.
"This, it is not finished," Krum said without turning around. Like he knew Oliver was watching him. Like he could read Oliver's mind. Were all Bulgarians so blunt, or was this a Krum thing? Probably a Krum thing. No way all Bulgarians could be so bloody imperious. It might even be that Krum had guessed what Oliver's true game had been. It might be that he wanted to even the score. Or it might be something entirely different.
"The World Cup final's next month. You'll be playing against Ireland," murmured Oliver. "So you'll be in my neck of the woods."
Krum turned around to look at him. "You are Irish?"
"Close enough," said Oliver. "I can show you around. If you want."
Krum's grin was crooked. "That vould be great." The light shone on his face, bringing out the sallow cheeks, the hooked nose, the too-dark eyes -- to anyone else, this might have been a bad dream.
To Oliver, it felt like the beginning of a really good one.