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The Alternator

Chapter Text

Peter Keating laughed. He was in a mood for joviality, given that he was about to depart on his honeymoon, but the immediate cause for mirth was that his maid had just come in to tell him that Dominique Francon was at the door. "Are you crazy?" he asked. He walked into the living room, and there she was.

"Hello, Peter," Dominique said quietly.

"Why, Dominique!" Peter exclaimed. "What a surprise! Please, take off your coat!" He could not think of why Dominique could be there. Surely she had not yet heard about Catherine, and there was no other reason he could think of why she would come to his apartment.

"I phoned your office, they said you were not in today. Peter, I have no time for social niceties," said Dominique, in a precise, impersonal voice. "I came here to ask you a question: will you marry me? This is a one-time offer, for this afternoon only. You must answer yes or no now."

Peter gaped at her. After a moment, he remembered to answer. "Dominique, I was married to Catherine Halsey this morning."

Dominique looked faintly surprised, but it faded quickly. "You can get an annulment," she said gravely. "Or a divorce."

Later, Keating would reflect that it was the adherence to propriety, those same external standards that Dominique herself liked to decry, that had saved him. It was not, in the moment himself, his love for Catherine, nor his ethical principles. It was simply and banally the thought of what people would say when they found he had annulled one marriage the day after it happened to contract another one.

"I see," he said. "No."

Dominique inclined her head. "Not the answer I wanted to hear —" despite himself, Keating felt a swell of pride and vanity — "but it is the right choice." And as quickly, Keating deflated. Dominique, he knew, could not have cared less about Catherine.

"You're playing games with me," he said harshly. "Dominique, I don't appreciate this at all."

Dominique laughed. "Peter, Peter. I wouldn't play games with you. Only with myself, and that's quite bad enough."

"Peter?" said a small voice. They both turned to see Catherine coming down the stairs. Catherine was artlessly dressed in a nondescript neutral-colored shift that did not do any favors for her figure or coloring, in contrast to Dominique's severely fashionable black sheath. Keating found himself preferring Catherine's dress.

"This is Catherine Halsey — I mean, Catherine Keating." And despite himself, despite the absurdity of introducing his wife to the woman who had just asked him to marry her, the woman whom he had seriously considered marrying, he felt a small bubble of pure unalloyed pleasure that Catherine was his wife.

Dominique looked at Catherine with something that was the closest to tenderness he had ever seen on her face. "Ah, I think I see… Well, Catherine, I will congratulate you on your marriage." And she shook Catherine's hand. "Peter: you have made the better choice, indeed. My compliments to you both." And, nodding to both of them, she walked out the door.

Catherine stared after her. "Wasn't that Dominique Francon? I think I saw her once, when she and her father visited Uncle Ellsworth. What did she want? What was she saying?"

Keating said, frowning, "She came to ask me to marry her."

Catherine turned his eyes on him in sudden shock. "What?"

"But I'm married already." He smiled at her. "I'll tell you about it… later. Because right now, we have a honeymoon to go to."

*

Keating wanted to take Catherine to Paris, but she didn't want to go quite so far on their first trip together, so instead they drove down to North Carolina and rented a beach house on the Outer Banks for a month.

Keating couldn't remember the last time he had spent a month apart from everything, even his mother. Perhaps he had never done so. At first, he kept listening for the jangle of the phone. He even caught himself wondering whether he should perhaps call Ellsworth Toohey or his mother. Ellsworth Toohey, the writer for the New York Banner, the philanthropist… Keating desperately wanted to call him, to hope for or beg for his approval, but at the same time he shied away from it.

"Of course, if you wish to call either of them, you must do so," Catherine said to him.

"No," he said, almost savagely. "This is our time, Katie."

Catherine smiled back, and he knew that she had felt the same way: wanting to call her uncle, and not wanting to, at the same time.

They walked along the beach every day. Catherine ran in and out of the waves, laughing like a child. Sometimes they would both swim in the water, and Keating taught her how to jump up when a wave appeared. "It's like flying in the water," Catherine said, charmed. They found pretty shells on the beach, and scared the seagulls, and once they found a Portugese man-of-war becalmed on the sand.

At night they lay in a huge canopied bed of the sort that neither of them had ever seen before this trip, and they talked of nothing in particular: the birds they had seen that day, various places in New York they intended to go together. The talking was accompanied by caresses and kisses, until the talk dissolved into silence and the caresses became more urgent.

At first they were awkward. The very first night, in fact, was an utter failure. "I'm sorry," Catherine said humbly. "I'm no good at this."

Keating hugged her. "We'll go slow. Tell me what you like and we'll do that, and just that. We won't do anything you're uncomfortable with."

It took several times, and at least one more complete failure, but as they went on, he found in her a hunger that matched his own.

*

One late night, Catherine's curves warm against his skin as they both lay sated in bed, Keating said to her softly, "Katie, I haven't told you about the Stoddard Temple."

Catherine moved her head lazily to look at him. "Uncle never talked about it," she said, "but I saw a lot of articles on his desk about the trial, and of course I know that the verdict came down shortly before we were married, that the architect was found guilty. Peter, darling, what is it?"

Keating pinched the bridge of his nose. "I did something terrible, at the Stoddard Temple trial. Katie, I've told you that Howard Roark, the architect of the Stoddard Temple, lived with Mother and me for a while."

She nodded. "You didn't like him."

"Christ, no! I didn't like him… although oddly, being with you makes me like him more. I don't know why. But… but he's a good architect. A really good architect."

"Better than you?" Keating could see her expression in the dim light: she looked as if she could not believe that were possible.

"Much better than I am. Katie, I'm going to tell you. I'm not a good architect. I'm not a completely incompetent fool, but… Roark is good." Keating closed his eyes. "No, he's better than good. He's a great architect, the kind that comes once in a generation, if that."

He felt a great weight off of him saying those words, the words that had been building in him since the trial. "And," he said, "at the Stoddard trial I told everyone he was terrible, he was a bad architect."

She was silent a moment. "Yes," she said finally, "I understand the seriousness of it. You were sinning, if you want to use that word, not just against him, but against yourself."

"Yes," he whispered.

"But Peter," she said, with an absolute kind of conviction, "that's over now."

"Yes," he said heavily. "I couldn't do it now. Because I would know that you would know… Katie, do you know, I feel as if we got married just in time, that we were starting to slide into a sort of morass from which we'd never be able to escape. I can't explain it any better than that."

"When you left me, the night before we got married," Catherine said, "I told Uncle Ellsworth that I wasn't afraid of him… I felt as if we had escaped just in time as well, Peter. I think this month is letting us climb out of that swamp."

*

As the month went on, he found himself unwinding from a stress he had not even known he had internalized, as if he had been holding his breath for the last ten years.

He bought paints and sat on the beach painting, while Catherine sat by, scribbling in a notebook. He was trying to capture, in the picture, something like the paradox of the waves: the energy of the rhythm of the waves' crashing being exactly what was so restful about it.

He looked at what he had done and knew it was not going to work. If he had seen another painter succeed in creating what he had in mind, he would have known it; but he could not himself do it.

Keating realized he had internalized the idea, perhaps from his mother and perhaps from Howard Roark, that creation — architecture, painting — was the only type of vocation of worth. It made him wonder what he had missed out on. Perhaps he could have been an engineer, or a teacher, or — or — a plumber. It was as if a whole vista of opportunities opened up before him.

He flipped the paintbrush up in the air; it landed in the water. Catherine looked up at the splash. "Darling, what was that?"

Keating started to laugh and found he could not stop. Finally, after several minutes, he sputtered out. "I was just ruminating on what I could and couldn't do.…Katie, do you know how good you are for me?"

"I should hope you think more of me than as a tonic," she teased. Keating grinned back, idiotically. It had been one of the joys of their honeymoon to see her relaxing, to see her coming out of her shell enough to tease him.

"Of course, my darling. But — with you I feel like I can be myself, like I can actually think about things. I don't feel stifled." He didn't say who made him feel stifled, though he thought Catherine could probably guess; after all, since his father died, he had only ever lived with one person, not counting Howard Roark.

She nodded. "I feel that way too. I never did any writing when I was living with Uncle, and on this trip I've started again… I was thinking, Peter, that when we get back from this trip I'd like to enroll in college. Uncle never wanted me to, and I tried not to want it, but — but I really do want to go."

"That's fantastic, Katie. I definitely think you should do that. You'll like college." He paused. "I've also been thinking about work. You know, Katie — I like painting, though I'm no damn good at it. And I don't actually like architecture all that much."

"Oh, Peter!"

"No, it's true. But I do like working with architects, and with customers. It's something I think I'm really good at." He gave a decisive nod. "I already spend a lot of time talking with customers, and pretending like that's not what I was doing, but I'm going to own it now. Research it. Figure out this new government market — there's going to be a lot of work there in the next ten years, I'm betting." He glanced over at her and grinned. "I'm sorry, Katie, your eyes are glazing over! It's probably not the done thing to talk about work on your honeymoon, is it!"

She laughed at him. "I love to hear anything you love talking about." She sobered. "But our honeymoon will be over soon enough, and we'll be back in the world."

"Yes. But it'll be good to be among people again. It'll be good to see our friends again, and to follow up with these plans we've made."

"Yes," she said, and kissed him.

*

When they arrived back at New York, there was some unpleasantness with Keating's mother. Keating wasn't proud of how he eventually shouted at her to leave Catherine alone, at which point his mother packed up her belongings in a huff and left to find her own place. But Catherine told him she was proud of him, and left no doubt whatsoever on this score.

After that, their lives settled down. Catherine took evening courses in English, linguistics, and child development. Keating hired a couple of good architects for the firm and concentrated his efforts on winning clients, putting in some time cultivating some government contacts. As his mother had flung at him in more than one heated discussion, Catherine was no good at cooking nor at witty dinner hostessing. However, engaging a perfectly adequate cook's services dispensed with the first problem. And as for the second objection, Catherine's obvious adoration of Keating was, while perhaps not equally as effective as glittering repartee, a more than acceptable substitute. "I envy you your wife," said one of the men Keating invited over for dinner, a man Keating knew was married to one of the most beautiful women in the country, a woman who made his life miserable, and vice versa.

"I'm lucky to have her," Keating said, and knew it was true. He shuddered to think of what it would have been like to marry Dominique Francon, and how lucky an escape he'd had; if she'd come one evening earlier, he knew he would have gone with her.

*

Both Keating and Catherine avoided Ellsworth Toohey. Neither of them discussed this.

*

During their honeymoon, Keating and Catherine had not read the papers; they'd missed all of the news during this time. It wasn't until he was sorting through the mail that he'd gotten during this time that he found the engraved invitation.

And that was how Keating learned about Dominique's marriage to Gail Wynand, the owner of the New York Banner. On further investigation, he found it had not been covered in the Wynand papers themselves, a curious omission given that it was splashed on the front pages of all the other New York papers. It had been a lavish wedding, with six hundred guests, exquisitely decorated and catered.

Keating compared his own quiet elopement with Catherine with a brief stab of envy — what must it have been like to have one's wedding be the event of the year, to have the eyes of all of New York on one — before realizing that, however gratifying it might have felt at the time, he vastly preferred his wedding to Catherine, and the simple happiness they had had together as they smiled at each other in front of the judge.

It had happened barely two weeks after Keating's own marriage; Dominique must have practically driven straight from his apartment to see Wynand in order for engraved invitations to have been sent before that time. Keating thought ruefully that this put nails in the coffin of any idea that Dominique might have secretly nursed a grand passion for him, not that he had really entertained that idea seriously at all.

"Poor bastard," he muttered, not even sure whether he referred to Dominique or to Wynand. And then he shook his head. What was he even talking about? The two of them were rich, beautiful, powerful; they had everything the world could ask.

True, Gail Wynand, the owner of the most scurrilous paper in the country, the one that pandered to the basest instincts of its readers, was not a person he would have thought would appeal at all to Dominique. To be Mrs. Wynand-Papers, he thought, must be a sort of torture to her. And the pictures of Dominique he found in the papers had a sort of concentrated suffering to them, as if she were a priestess of old, condemned to be slain.

No, he must be imagining things.

He dismissed Dominique Wynand from his mind, and he thought no more of her until the business with Cortlandt came up.

Chapter Text

Almost six years after Keating's marriage, he had abandoned even the pretense of doing primarily architectural work. He had finally made his peace with knowing that his gifts were in interacting with and managing people, not in architecture itself; and he structured the firm of Francon & Keating accordingly.

When Guy Francon eventually retired, Keating went to Claude Stengel, a previous draftsman of Francon's who was now an architect himself of some note, and asked Stengel to come back to the firm to be his partner. He had expected Stengel to refuse, but, after grilling Keating for two hours, the other architect accepted. Keating had never known exactly what convinced Stengel, and Stengel had never enlightened him.

Stengel treated Keating with a combination of respect and contempt. Sometimes he would refer to Keating as "you sales magician, you!" in a way that was not clearly either complimentary or insulting. At other times he would solicit Keating's opinions, though not usually on architecture; he might ask Keating about wines, or about their clients. Keating, for his part, tended not to critique the aesthetics of Stengel's architecture, but he frequently could and would comment on whether the designs filled the need of the customer. "Mr. Quinn requested pillars on the facade," he would say, laying a hand on the offending part of the design. "Sales magician!" Stengel would mutter under his breath, but he would change the drawings.

Keating had not talked to Ellsworth Toohey in all this time. He did not articulate, either to himself or to Catherine, the reasons why he did not choose to do so. He only felt a dim inchoate fear when he thought of talking to Toohey, a sense of fragility that he did not examine too thoroughly.

Instead, he concentrated part of his efforts on contacts for governmental contracts. The depression had hit the architecture business as much as any other, wiping out many of the rich men who were the backbone of the architecture business. The number and scope of government contracts had risen to fill the gap, and Keating found himself in meetings and dinners with government officials, in much the same way that he had once attended dinners and parties with private clients, except that the food was generally much worse.

Of those government contacts, Keating found a curious dichotomy centered around Toohey. Some of them brought up Toohey's name at every opportunity. These were the ones who, Keating found, eventually stopped returning his calls, or, if they answered, made vague excuses as to why they could not meet. The others, the ones who never mentioned Toohey's name at all, might be slow in responding, but they generally did respond to Keating, and from those, a steady stream of small government contracts started and continued to flow towards the firm of Keating & Stengel.

It was Stengel who brought up Cortlandt. "Pete, think you can work some of your magic here for Cortlandt Homes? It'd make our fortune if we could get such a big government contract. I know Toohey's boys are all over it, and you've had a falling out with him —" he held up a hand —"no, no, I don't want to know, I try not to think of Toohey more than I can help, but still, I've been hearing that his darlings Prescott and Webb got turned down, so it's not just him, we might have a chance."

Keating nodded without smiling. Stengel and he completely agreed, without having ever said so outright, on the subject of Gordon Prescott and Gus Webb. Prescott and Webb were known everywhere as the current architectural darlings of Ellsworth Toohey; their buildings were devoid of both aesthetic and engineering architectural merit. Stengel had once made the careless remark of one of Webb's houses, "It's a marvel: a marvel, that is, that it doesn't fall down." Keating himself, when he had designed buildings, had not designed perfect buildings, nor innovative buildings, but Webb's and Prescott's designs were so viciously incompetent that Keating preferred not to think of them at all.

So: Cortlandt. He went to dinner four different times that week with four different governmental officials, and at the end of it he knew what had happened. The government was looking to hit a particular efficiency measure: they wanted units that could be built such that the government could rent them profitably for fifteen dollars a month. Gordon Prescott and Gus Webb, pets of Toohey as they might be, could not give them that.

He turned the problem over to Stengel. Stengel came to him a couple of days later, scowling. "Pete, I'm sorry to say this, but I've broken my head over it. I can't quite give them what they're looking for. I can come close. Do you think we should submit a design that's close, or —?" Keating did not reply to the question, but abstractedly took the designs Stengel proffered.

That evening Keating looked at Stengel's designs, spread out across his desk, annotating various parts with a pencil. Keating did not himself design any more, but he retained — even honed — the capacity of understanding the quality of other architecture. He saw what Stengel was trying to do. He saw why Stengel could not succeed. Stengel, while a competent architect, even a good architect, was not a great architect. He did not stretch the boundaries of materials design the way Keating knew it would have to be stretched in order to do what the government wanted done.

He thought ruefully that the only person he knew who could do it was Roark.

Wait. He turned that over in his head. Turned Howard Roark himself over in his mind. Roark wouldn't be applying to build Cortlandt; he'd never be able to jump through the government hoops. Whereas that was exactly the sort of thing Keating himself excelled at.

Howard Roark. Keating chewed the end of his pencil meditatively. There was always the possibility Roark was too busy. Roark had built a house for Gail Wynand — for Gail and Dominique Wynand, Keating amended. Rumor had it that Roark and Wynand were the best of friends, and it was a matter of record that Wynand had kept him busy on a number of other projects, such as the massive Stoneridge development.

And then, the last time Keating had seen Roark, it had been at the Stoddard Temple trial. Keating winced, thinking of the things he had said then about Roark's work. Roark would, of course, be completely within his rights never to talk to Keating again. And yet, Keating knew, Roark was not that kind of person.

"Claude," Keating said the next day, "what if we asked Howard Roark to help?"

"I won't work with him," Stengel said immediately. "Or, to be more precise, he won't work with me. Come on, Pete, you know him, it's all his own design or nothing. But if you could get him—! I certainly would like to see what he did with this. That would be amazing."

What harm could it do to ask? It was the kind of project Roark would love to do. Keating picked up the phone and dialed; identified himself to the secretary; waited for her response.

"Will four o'clock tomorrow afternoon be convenient for you, Mr. Keating?" said the secretary. "Mr. Roark will see you then."

*

"Howard," Keating said, looking at the other man. "It's been a long time. First, I want to apologize for the Stoddard Temple — "

Roark said, "There's no need, Peter. Let that be behind us." Keating nodded. "Peter, why are you here?"

Keating leaned forward in his chair. "Cortlandt, the housing development." He saw Roark become perfectly still. "You're probably aware that they've been looking for an architect for a while." He detailed what he'd found out about it.

Keating finished by saying, "I know you want to build it." It had always been his great gift: that he could know what others would do, how they would feel, as if they were himself. But now Keating knew what to do with that knowledge. "The government boys have given me the go-ahead on it, but I can't do it.

"Look, Howard. I'm not a great architect. I never was, even though I might have once thought so. But I've found what I'm good at. I'm good at recognizing good work — even when we were at school together I knew you were amazing, didn't I? — and I'm good at figuring people out. So: let me get the contract, and you can build it."

"So you're asking," Roark said, enunciating each word, "for me to design this, and for you to put your name on it."

Keating closed his eyes briefly. He thought of Catherine. He opened his eyes again. "No," Keating said. "Well, yes, we'll have to put my name on it, because they'll see me fighting for it, but your name will be on there too."

Roark blinked. "You've changed, Peter."

Keating laughed. "Don't give me too much credit. Part of it is that I know these government guys. I've thought a lot about how it'll work. They'll never be able to resist mucking with it, changing this and poking at that, or putting some horrible hack like Gus Webb on it as associate designer. But if your name is on it — well, you're famous for not letting anyone do that. I'll be able to convince them you'll take to drastic measures before you'll allow them to do that." He shrugged easily. "So, what's your thought? I'll do the parts you can't do; you'll do the parts I can't." And yet, with all that said, he wondered if Roark knew what a temptation it had nevertheless been. Probably, given what had happened between them in the past.

Roark smiled. "You've said all the things I would have. I do want to do it, you're right. I've worked on the problem of low-rent housing for years. You want a unit that will rent for fifteen dollars a month? I can do it for ten." He waved away Keating's involuntary motion.

Keating said softly, "I know what you'll ask in return. For it to be erected exactly as you have designed it. I knew it when I came. I think I can do it, Howard. The key is going to be to have a ironclad contract with the government. With that in place, everything else will fall in line."

Roark laughed. "You understand. I think this will work." He sobered. "You really have changed," he said slowly. "I used to think people couldn't change, I didn't see why they ever should… but you have, Peter. And it… gives me hope."

"Wait, Howard. What do you mean, it gives you hope, that people can change? Not hope for yourself, surely?"

Roark's incredulous smile, tipped with just a trifle of disdain, was his answer. Keating said, "I didn't think so. You'd never change even if the world ended around you. Then — who?"

Keating knew how much Roark thought he had changed when Roark said, "Dominique —" and stopped.

"Ah," said Keating quietly. "Dominique Wynand?" Suddenly a great deal of things made sense.

"We're not going to talk about it," Roark snapped.

Keating leaned back in his chair. "And I've heard that you are such friends with Gail Wynand, her husband… the kind of epic friendship that comes only once in a lifetime…"

"Peter," Roark said, "I've said that we aren't going to talk about it."

Keating nodded. "It's none of my business. Let's talk more about Cortlandt."

 

*

And that would have been all, except that Keating and Catherine went out to a play the next evening. Catherine had scoured the reviews and found that No Skin Off Your Nose had a number of good ones.

When the curtain fell for the intermission, Keating and Catherine looked at each other. Keating laughed first. "Darling," he said, "let's make a note of who wrote those reviews and not use them next time."

Catherine's lips turned up. "The Fougler review in the Banner said that anyone unable to enjoy this play was a worthless human being. Well, I suppose I'm a worthless human being, because that made absolutely no sense."

"Except for the muskrat," Keating teased.

"Oh, well, the muskrat," said Catherine, smiling.

They gathered their coats and made their way down the large double stairs of the theatre. Near the bottom of the stairs, Catherine almost ran into Dominique Wynand. "Dominique!" Keating said, once Catherine had made her apologies. "My goodness, I had… not thought to see you here."

Dominique's eye took in the two of them as well as their coats. "Surely you're not leaving already?"

"Well," Keating said. He thought about proffering a previous forgotten appointment but discarded that idea. "Yes, we are." He added, not sure whether he was trying to make an excuse or not, "It did get good reviews."

Gail Wynand had appeared as if by magic at Dominique's side, and was glancing from Dominique to Keating. "Well," Dominique drawled, looking at Wynand, "that's the same reason I picked it. The good reviews in the Banner, that is." Wynand's face was perfectly calm, and he made no reply to Dominique. It was only in Keating's imagination, he thought, that it made any sense that he thought Dominique's face looked like that of a knight, girding for battle; and Wynand's looked curiously open to whatever blows Dominique might inflict.

Keating turned his attention back to Dominique. "Listen, Dominique, I'm glad to see you here." He thought for a second. How to say it, with her husband right there…? "I've been working lately with Howard Roark, whom I think you know. It's been a good partnership."

As he said Roark's name, he saw something flare brightly in her eyes and as quickly be ruthlessly suppressed. Dominique, Dominique, he thought, what are you doing? Wynand did not seem to notice, his own eyes kindling at the mention of Roark's name. He said eagerly, "Howard is wonderful, isn't he? What's the project?"

"Cortlandt," Keating said, "the big government housing development."

"Ah," Wynand said, "he's mentioned that. Yes, now I remember, he said he was working on it with a friend."

Keating felt a little blip of warmth at Roark calling him a friend, but replied blandly, "We did know each other at college, though he's being generous if he said we were friends then." He very carefully did not look at Dominique as he said, stressing the words, "But I do think that we're friends now."

Keating extricated himself and Catherine from the conversation after that, and they called a cab. Catherine said quietly, "All right, I'm slow at this sort of thing, and I didn't want to intrude in what you were doing, but… Dominique Wynand? And Howard Roark, the architect of the Stoddard Temple? Didn't she write all those articles lambasting him, and then make that statue for the temple, and then give that incredibly confusing testimony about him at the trial?"

Keating laughed and took her hand. "I really should have figured it out before this — when you put it like that, it's clear that she's been obsessed with him for years."

Chapter Text

"Why didn't you wear your emerald bracelet to the party tonight?" asked Peter Keating.

Catherine smiled at him. The years had been good to her, Keating thought; she just seemed to get more beautiful as the years went on. He did not concern himself with whether this observation was objective or subjective; he only thought that he was in more love with her than ever.

"Are you concerned about the reaction to Lila Prescott's star sapphire? Dear, you know it makes no difference. I don't like star sapphires. I love the bracelet you got me, but it was a bit fancy for my dress."

Keating laughed ruefully. "I know it doesn't make a difference, darling, as long as you like it. Ah well." It was not, he thought, that he was different around Catherine, not that his love for her made exceptions; it was that Catherine made him more his best self, that he was with her what he always wanted to be. "What did you think of Knowlton's party?"

Catherine said, "Vincent Knowlton does talk quite a lot." Knowlton was a new friend of Keating's, a prominent young society man, and Keating had complained to Catherine before about his volubility. "I did have an interesting conversation with him about history; his college major was economics, but on his own he's studied quite a bit about the American Revolution, did you know?"

"No," said Keating, putting his arm around her. "Really?" Part of him was honestly interested and fascinated by this new facet of his friend; the other part of him was calculating how he could use this to his advantage. And that, he had learned, was all right; people were complicated, had multiple motivations, even those who professed themselves single-minded.

The phone rang. Keating rolled his eyes at it. "Who's interrupting my quiet evening with my wife?" he said, annoyed; but rose to answer it. At the voice at the other end of the line, he said heartily, knowing that Catherine was listening interestedly but would not care what he said, "Dominique! What a pleasure. May I tell you how very beautiful you looked last night —"

"Peter?"

"Yes?"

"Stop it."

He laughed softly. "Sorry, Dominique; I'm not above a little petty revenge. But just a very little bit. Let's get to the point, then. I assume you're calling to set up a lunch appointment with me. Without Wynand. Should I ask Katie whether she's free to lunch with us?"

"Peter," said Dominique's voice, "you've changed."

"So I've been told." She would, Keating thought, have known who would have told him that he'd changed.

There was a hesitation on the other end of the line, which Keating noticed precisely because he had never heard Dominique hesitate before. Dominique finally said gravely, "You may bring Catherine if you wish."

He went into the other room. "Did you hear?"

"Yes," Catherine said, still sitting, laughing up at him. "You'd better tell me how beautiful I am later, mind you. So are you asking me whether I can go to lunch or not? I can, in fact."

Keating grinned. "The most beautiful woman in the country. And yes, that's the gist of it. I'll tell her so."

He went back to the phone. Dominique named a restaurant Keating knew, a rather expensive place, and a time, and he assented.

*

Dominique regarded the tomato aspic on her plate; her fingers placing the spoon in it; the spoon being lifted to her mouth. To think that this was in the same world as Howard Roark; to think that this was in the same world as Peter Keating; one thought gave it a sense of unreality, the other a sense of reality.

Keating and Catherine sat across from her. Catherine was wearing a silk blouse of clearly expensive construction that to Dominique nevertheless seemed to accentuate the thickness of her waist more than any of the other more traditional parts of her anatomy, making it look rather, to Dominique's eyes, like a sack. On her wrist was a gaudy emerald bracelet. She noticed that Keating seemed to admire the bracelet.

"How is he, Peter?"

Keating did not pretend to misunderstand whom she meant. "The same as ever, Dominique. I've changed, I think; I didn't like him when we were in college together. I like him now. But he hasn't changed."

He did not press her with any questions about Roark or about Wynand, for which she was grateful. Catherine said almost nothing.

Keating described the plans for Cortlandt briefly: the six buildings, fifteen stories high, each made in the shape of an irregular star with arms extending from a central shaft; the layout of plastic tile and light metals combined in a complex modeling of triangles. Dominique said, "It's going to be wonderful."

"It's going to change the way architects think about light metals," Keating said plainly. "Stengel's had a look at the plans, and he's already on me to pitch some of the techniques to more budget-conscious clientele."

He rose. "Which reminds me: I'm sorry to leave you, Katie, Dominique, but I have some lawyers to go to talk to now." He kissed Catherine and departed.

Dominique drawled, "Now, has Peter left us together on purpose?"

"No," said Catherine thoughtfully, "I don't think so." She looked at Dominique. "It's the sort of thing he would do, don't get me wrong. I think you know that. But I don't believe that's the case now. I think he really is stressed about the lawyers. It's something to do with Cortlandt; he's been frustrated about that lately. Not about Mr. Roark. That part is going extremely smoothly, he says. It's the lawyers that are making things difficult, Peter says."

"I take it from the lack of detail," Dominique said, "that you don't know exactly what's going on." She leaned forward, watching Catherine tearing her bread into strips. "How can you not care enough to know that?"

Catherine shrugged. "I love Peter, and I love listening to what he tells me about his work. But he's not my whole world, nor am I his. I teach kindergarten." Something about her plain face was illuminated as she said the word. "Dominique," Catherine said softly, almost timidly, "do you think that maybe you should… get a hobby?"

Dominique wanted to laugh. This girl in her shapeless frocks, her hair just slightly unkempt, this teacher of small sticky children who were dependent on her, she thought she could tell Dominique what she should be doing?

She did not laugh. Something in Catherine's manner — she didn't know quite what — made her not dismiss her immediately. "What do you mean?"

Catherine said humbly, "I know you had your newspaper job, I know you are good at a lot of things, but…" She hesitated. "You… do everything you do, either for no purpose at all, as far as I can tell, or for a man. I mean, I love Peter very much, and I do a lot of things for him. I understand that. But you -- you gave Peter a lot of commissions at one time, which of course was very nice of you, he certainly did well with those, and I think it helped him understand what he was good at. But now, it seems, you did that all for Howard Roark. And you married Gail Wynand for his sake, after the Stoddard Temple… I understand it, a little; I don't think I'll ever understand it totally, but I accept it was what you needed to do. But I think it would be better, for you, if there was something you did for yourself, if you had a life outside of your love for that man…"

"Do you think," Dominique said, sitting quite straight, "that I should teach a lot of small savages instead? My dear, that's the epitome of living for others."

A flush rose in Catherine's cheeks, but her expression remained calm. "I know I am being awfully forward, perhaps even insulting. Perhaps I deserved that. And you can think that, if you like. But Dominique, if you believe that human beings are as wonderful as all that, don't you think that developing their minds, turning them from little savages into little people — don't you think that's worth something?"

*

After Catherine had gone, Dominique still sat in the restaurant, turning her napkin absently around in her hands while she thought about what Catherine had said.

She had, in a twisted way, enjoyed writing for the Banner. She was a good writer and a fast writer. She could harness that; she could use it to write other things, greater things. There were books and novels in her, she knew; worldbuilding and characters and subtle complex plots, and the working out of profound philosophies, and the ways in which all of them combined. The things she could write —

No; if she could not bear the thought of Roark and his architecture out in the world, how could she bear the thought of her own writing there, to be pawed over by any unthinking, unseeing reader?

And yet, what Catherine had been saying stuck with her. Not to do her own work was the worse sin, the worse betrayal -- and now that she had been married to Wynand for six years, she understood much better the nature of that betrayal. She did not know what Wynand's great work would be, and perhaps he did not know it himself, but she had seen how he had chosen the fact of power over the person he could be, the work he could have done.

"I am like Gail," she said aloud. It was not a nice thought.

She had not given up her own work for power. But she saw, through Catherine's eyes, that choosing to battle against Roark for Roark's own sake, that the very form of the battle she had chosen, was a giving up of her own identity and her own work. She saw now why Roark had told her he would not stop her, that she must find her own way.

She could, she thought, simply write for herself. She could keep the papers private, separate from the world, something sacred: only to be seen by herself and by the people she trusted to know her meaning. Roark. Perhaps Wynand. Perhaps there would be one or two others.

And yet some part of her understood, dimly, that this too would be a betrayal.

She rose from the table. Her steps took her to the building that housed the New York Banner.

She opened Wynand's office door. He looked at her, no expression on his face; she could not tell what he was thinking. "Gail," she said, "I've come for my old job on the Banner." She paused. "Not quite my old job."

Wynand frowned. "Dominique, I've told you that you're forbidden to enter this building." And so it had been, for all the years of their marriage.

"Yes," she said, "and that's wrong. Don't you see that, Gail?" He was silent. "Howard comes here, you know."

"Not anymore," he said, his voice rough.

"So," she said quietly, "let's change it. You think you have all the power? You think you can tell people what to do? Let's tell them. Let's show them what there is to see. Let's show them Howard Roark, and Dominique Francon Wynand, and Gail Wynand."

He looked at her. She looked back, a level, challenging look. He was the first to look away.

"I could fight against you, and I'd win," Wynand said. "But I won't, because I love you. All love is exception-making; well, this will be the greatest exception I'll make for you. All right, you're on the staff of the Banner again."

She nodded, feeling no sense of victory. After a moment, she said, "Gail? You need to fire Ellsworth Toohey."

"Is that an order?" he said, the ridges on his forehead standing out.

"No," she whispered. "Not this. But… I've told you before, Gail. He's dangerous. And I talk to Alvah, sometimes." Alvah Scarret, the editor-in-chief of the Banner, had sometimes visited Dominique after her marriage. Alvah had told her about how Toohey was peopling the Banner with his own men; how the newly-formed Union of Wynand Employees always seemed to have him lurking in the background, though Toohey himself had no official office in the union. She did not trust him. Or, to be more precise: she trusted him to be up to no good.

"Alvah!" Wynand said scornfully. "As if he would know anything. It's my paper, Dominique. And Elsie! How could he be dangerous?"

"All right, Gail," said Dominique.

 

*

A couple of weeks later, Roark, absorbed in trying to calculate the load a key pillar in his design could bear, only barely heard the sound of a knock at his office door. He sighed, rose, and went to the door, still working out diagrams in his head.

Keating opened the door before Roark got to it and barged into the room, scowling horribly. He looked as if he hadn't slept in a month. His hands shook a little as he removed his coat and threw himself into a chair.

"Peter," Roark said, "what is it?" He knew it could not be something too terrible, for he recognized the grim triumph under Keating's haggard expression. It was the same expression he saw in the mirror when he'd worked out the answer to an architectural problem, even when he had to stay up several nights in a row to do it.

Keating looked at him and laughed shortly. "I look awful, don't I? Well. Everything went wrong. But I think I may have a solution. By the way, Howard, I'm supremely annoyed — some at the government, perhaps a lot at the government, but mostly at myself."

Roark waited. After a moment, Keating went on. "I thought that having an ironclad contract would be the answer, something that made it clear they couldn't change the design without our permission. Well, I checked with several lawyers on this one, and it's a good thing I did. They said if the government even signed it — which they doubted — if they broke the contract, we could sue, but probably what we'd get was only the right to have our names disattached from the project, not even money."

"Money isn't —" Roark started.

Keating held up a hand wearily. "I know, I know. 'The defense rests,' right? You've said the Stoddard Temple's behind us, well, let it be behind us. You don't have to start one of your lectures. I know that you'd rather have the designs built to your specifications than money. What I'm saying is that the lawyers told me we weren't likely to get either one."

"That's not acceptable," Roark said. "I'd rather not see it built at all than to see it corrupted. I'd rather blow it up than for it to be built not to my specifications."

"Howard, don't say things like that!"

"Why not?" Roark asked. "It's true."

"Because it's stupid," Keating said. "You can't blow up people's houses because you don't get what you want!"

"Houses they would not have had but by my work and ability," Roark pointed out; "you forget that, Peter."

"Fine," Keating said. "But also because people worked to build those houses, Howard, and you don't have the right to destroy their work just because you don't like what was done with your work. Or would you be willing for pencil manufacturers to destroy your designs because they don't like the way you grind down their pencils? Anyway, it's not an issue because it's not going to happen. Cortlandt's out. We can't give the government what it wants, they can't give us what we want. No deal."

Roark inclined his head gravely. "I was afraid of that. It's why I can't work with the government."

"Listen, Howard! The government wanted the Cortlandt units to rent for fifteen dollars a unit. Your design will make a unit that rents for ten. Why don't we build them ourselves? We'll find more than enough people who will want to rent them at that price. Hell, now that I've seen some of your techniques I half want to rent one myself. I've got capital, I'll finance the building of it. Not as part of my firm, but as a private investor. Claude Stengel wants to come in on it too, although he says he'll understand if you don't want him. This thing is going to make money hand over fist, and while we're not hurting for money we certainly don't object to making more.

"I've talked a little to your buddy Roger Enright, he knows a couple of solid guys who can handle the business administration side of it. In fact, he offered more than once to take it over, but —" he smiled — "I told him, not this time. This time, I'm the one on the ground floor. So to speak. The only catch is, any thoughts you've had on the Cortlandt-specific spot will have to be discarded."

Roark nodded. "Switching the specific site was something I was prepared for in any event. Yes, I'll do this with you."

"Great," said Keating, rising and going to the door. "And now I am going to go home and sleep for a week, and then get up and work even harder on the business plans. Howard, you got the easy job here."

"I know it," Roark said.

Keating paused, leaning against the doorframe, to grin at him briefly. "But I bet I'm having just about as much fun as you are," he said, and with that he departed.

Chapter Text

It started with a small thing, as major revolutions sometimes do. It started with whispers which were impossible to pin down, as large amorphous rumors almost always do.

"You shouldn't have hired Dominique back," said Alvah Scarret, the editor-in-chief of the Wynand papers. He gnawed on a pencil, looking at Wynand worriedly. "Don't get me wrong, I love Dominique, I love her like my own daughter. But everyone's talking about it."

"Who's this everyone?" Wynand snapped.

"Well, Ellsworth, for one, he was just saying that it doesn't look good. Especially with the kinds of things she writes, Gail! It used to be, once in a while she'd bust out with something odd. But now it's every time! None of her columns make any sense, Gail! The Organization of Concerned Women just came to me and told me that they're pulling their advertising dollars."

"You may not think her columns make any sense, but you're wrong," Wynand said. "I've told Dominique she can write what she wants. Her columns are just fine. And Elsie! What does he know, anyway?"

"It just doesn't look good," Alvah repeated obstinately.

Wynand dismissed him and thought no more of it.

But the whispers continued, and then more than whispers. Dominique's work was called "unwomanly" and "needlessly inflammatory."

"I can't understand it," Alvah whimpered to Ellsworth Toohey. "He doesn't let her on the paper for years, and now this!"

Ellsworth Toohey laughed. "It was bound to come to this one way or another," he assured Alvah. "I didn't think this would be the crisis at hand, but let's just say I'm not surprised by the overall shape of the situation." He frowned as he said it. Dominique was a satisfactory way to precipitate his plans for the Banner, but he had hoped for something more. Something with, ideally, Howard Roark. If only Peter Keating had not had that wholly inconvenient marriage to his niece… well. It was years too late for that, now. And he had his key men in the Union of Wynand Employees; that was the important thing.

More businesses pulled their advertisements from the Banner. The Union of Wynand Employees put out a statement saying that they fully denounced the use of nepotism and favoritism on the Banner. The statement, without saying anything directly, managed to imply that non-Union employees were almost wholly Wynand ex-mistresses and their paramours.

Dominique said to Wynand, "It isn't working, what you're doing."

The ridges on Wynand's forehead stood out. "No. I've been amassing this power my whole life. I've been gathering it for something like this. And I'll use it, damn them all."

He wrote a savage editorial that started angrily and ended in pleading for the readers of the paper to think: to judge any writing on the paper on its own merit rather than on who wrote it. In response, the Union of Wynand Employees went on strike. The only ones who were left were old men, young men, drunks, incompetents, and Dominique.

Dominique was a competent hand wherever a competent hand was needed. She wrote a sports article on skiing; she had never skied. She edited at the same time as fixing one of the copy machines. Sometimes, after a long day, she and Wynand would look at each other across a room. They would not smile, but there would be a moment of communion, of support.

After three weeks of this, Wynand said to Dominique, "We're taking the weekend off."

"We can't," Dominique replied. "Seventeen more employees just walked off today, and there's a gaping hole in section B of the paper."

"Nevertheless, we're going to our country home. Tonight. And we're taking Roark with us."

Wynand was almost jittery from pent-up energy, as if the exertions of the day had not impinged upon him at all. "Go on to bed, Dominique," he said tenderly. "You as well, Howard. I'll come up in a few minutes."

The two of them went up the stairs and looked at each other.

"He's on a crusade to save me," Dominique said. "We are. We're partners in this doomed venture, we're ruining the Banner together. I love him, Roark; not like I love you, but I do love him. And we're doing all this, together… And I'm not even his."

"It's not that you are his, but that you are you," said Roark. "And you know it's necessary for him; this was bound to happen. If it weren't you he was risking the Banner for, it would be me. Perhaps if Peter Keating hadn't turned down Cortlandt, some flash point might have happened there… But I take your point, yes. I don't like it either. But I will defer to you in this. I always have."

"Then tonight, before it gets any farther," Dominique said, with a sudden finality. "Before he risks the whole Banner for me. We'll speak."

From the lifting of Roark's shoulders she knew how much it had been weighing on him. "Yes," he said, his voice underlying her resolution.

They looked at each other for another long moment. "Dominique," Roark said. His voice was unsure. Dominique remembered Wynand telling her once that all love was exception-making, and thought that she had never heard Roark being unsure about anything. "Dominique, if there were a way — I love him too. And he loves us both — if he agreed, if there were a way —"

"If there were a way," Dominique echoed. "I never thought that far. But perhaps. Perhaps—?" And she saw a light in Roark's eyes, in his face.

*

When Wynand let himself into his house late that night, he found Dominique and Roark waiting for him. They had heard the door and were standing at the foot of the stairs. She stood so that Wynand could see her whole body. There was a space between Dominique and Roark, and yet the whole set of his body seemed attuned to her, as if the two of them were connected by a thousand invisible strings.

"What's this?" Wynand asked gaily, his voice refusing all possibility of negativity. "I thought I told you both to go to sleep."

"Gail," Dominique said. "I want to tell you something."

Wynand looked at her, and then at Roark, and then back again to her. "That sort of declaration," he said, "seems to be common in the worse sort of book, and always seems to be followed by something the listener doesn't want to hear. Well, what is it?"

"I love Howard Roark. I've loved him for years. He was the first man who had me."

Wynand's eyes flew quickly, helplessly, to Roark. "Howard…" She thought his face was distorting with some powerful emotion. She blinked and it was gone, yet the perception remained as of a lion at bay. His brows contracted as he thought. He said slowly, "But you have done nothing since our marriage."

"No," said Dominique.

"I think I should have understood. You married me right after the Stoddard trial. And —" his voice was flat, without emotion -- "you love her, Howard."

"Yes."

"Yet you built this house for us."

"Yes."

Wynand was quiet, waiting for something, although he did not look like he knew what he was waiting for.

"You know it already; the house I built for you tells you more than any words I could say. But I will say it out loud as well. I love you," Roark said, looking straight at Wynand. Each word was spaced evenly, as if Roark was investing each with a great weight. Dominique felt the pressure of each word on her skin. "I've never told you that before, not in those words, but you know it. I have given you my friendship. I would die for you, if need be. And I would, also, give you my body and my naked need."

Dominique did not touch Roark in any way, and yet she had never been so aware of his body next to hers. "I don't love you, Gail, the way you love me," she said. "You know that too. But I care for you deeply. And I love Howard, and he loves you…"

Wynand looked at them both for a long moment in silence. Then he looked at Dominique and said, "I love you, Dominique."

He looked straight at Roark. "And I love you, Howard."

Roark took a slow step forward, and then Wynand himself had moved, whip-fast, to put his mouth on Roark's.

*

Dominique awoke the next morning in a warm tangle of arms and legs. She raised her head and looked around her. Roark and Wynand were still sleeping. All three of them were completely naked, clothes strewn across the room. Roark was sprawled across the bed, with seeming disregard to either Wynand or Dominique's bodies, which were half covering his. Roark's hand was open and relaxed beside her. She looked at it, at the strong fingers, the lines of the palm. One of Wynand's hands was curled possessively around Roark's thigh.

She sat up. Wynand opened his eyes and smiled lazily at her. "Dominique, my love," he said, and leaned over to kiss her.

Roark stirred. Without opening his eyes, he said, "Gail!"

Wynand grinned. "Yes, of course you can have one too, Howard." He reached up to caress Roark's red hair as he moved to kiss Roark.

Dominique's mind flashed back to the night before, the convulsing of the two others around her, moving together, bodies slick and taut, Roark's hand on her breast, Wynand's mouth on Roark… She found her body kindling again, thinking of it. Looking at Roark and Wynand, she saw their kiss had deepened, become more concentrated, and that their bodies, too, were responding.

Wynand broke the kiss, though he did not stop looking at Roark. Roark looked at Dominique; he stretched out an arm to her, drew her into an embrace, so that the three of them were entwined in each other.

Wynand said, "On Monday we'll go back to the Banner. We'll go back to fighting. But this weekend is ours."

*

At the end of the next week, Wynand stood alone at the window of his office, looking over the city. His posture was ramrod straight; his hands were clasped behind his back. He looked like a soldier, or like an aristocrat, considering the guillotine.

The presses thrummed steadily below him. Usually this was a comforting sound. Today it was not.

The Union of Wynand Employees had given an ultimatum: they would come back only if he fired Dominique. He had tried to hire others. He had offered outrageous salaries. No one had come. One man had spit in his face. He had stood there for a moment, the spittle dripping off his chin, and turned on his heel and walked away.

He knew he would be able to go on for quite a while as he had been going. But the dark knowledge pooled at the bottom of his brain kept rising up: he could not go on this way forever. For a long time, yes. But not forever.

He would have to give in, or he would have to close the Banner.

He thought of the new masthead rising over the door of the Gazette. The Banner.

It had been his life. Perhaps it had been a mistaken life, a life that he now knew was in search of a power that was not really his, but it had been his life all the same.

What was he without it?

He leaned on what he knew of Roark and Dominique: that he loved them both, that Roark loved him, that Dominique cared for him in her own way; that Roark and Dominique loved each other. He thought: this is something no man can do for another. I can't make choices for the sake of Roark or for Dominique, nor they for me. But I can draw strength from them; they can be a light, showing me the way to my best self.

The moment passed.

Nothing happened; the presses kept a steady reassuring beat beneath his feet.

But in that moment, he knew, the Banner had died in the most important way: it had died in his mind. Framed in his brain was the way it would have to go. He would have to buy out Toohey's men, Mitchell Layton in particular; he would have to do so quietly, so that none of Toohey's boys still there would know what was coming and block it. Fortunately, he thought, with a grim stab of humor, the vast majority of them had walked out in the strike.

What was he without the Banner?

I will find out, he thought. I will slough this off, like a snake shedding a dead decayed skin, and I will find Howard and Dominique on the other side.

*

Eighteen months later, after she had let out her kindergarten class, Catherine Keating walked to the construction site of the Keating-Roark Housing Development. Applications for Rentals Open to All Without Regard to Income, read a small sign on the fence surrounding the area.

She saw Peter Keating was gesturing to Dominique Wynand, who was scribbling something down on a pad with a small frown. Dominique had just published a book on architecture, with severely mixed reviews but steady sales, and Catherine knew she was working on a novel. Dominique had realized she needed to know more about sales techniques for the novel, and Keating was talking to her about it.

She saw Gail Wynand, talking to Howard Roark. Wynand had given up the newspaper business in New York, and he had moved to a more single-minded focus on financial systems. "You're spending too much time on this! I'm going to have to bid for your time to work on the Wynand Building," she heard Wynand say, grinning, and she saw Roark smile back at him and clap him on the shoulder. Wynand took Roark's other hand. Catherine's eyebrows raised. She had had her suspicions for quite a while, and this only confirmed them.

Dominique nodded at Keating, apparently finished with their conversation, and went to stand by Wynand and Roark. Wynand let go of Roark's hand to smooth her hair, and Roark smiled at them both. Catherine walked up to Keating, who greeted her happily and put an arm around her as she snuggled into his shoulder.

Catherine smiled, thinking of all of them. They were all important, in the interconnectedness of life: the ones who created, the ones who brought the creations to fruition, the ones who built the financial structures to support the creations, the ones who taught the future: Catherine and Dominique and Wynand and Roark — and Peter Keating.