Coming Home || Sebastian and Richard
The pervasive stun kept Sebastian immobile, or so he thought he was, despite how quickly he was running. His legs moved of their own accord, used to doing their job no matter what was rocketing through the sniper’s mind, or apparently, even if it was shut off entirely. He had seen Jim pull out the gun. He watched him pull the trigger. He saw him fly back and bleed his brain out into a puddle on Bart’s roof.
It was a woman’s voice on Jim’s mobile, apparently the only personal article he had on him, with a laundry list of numbers saved in the contacts, but only one with a name. ‘Tiger’. She thought maybe he was a friend, maybe he was family, maybe he could identify the man who’d just been brought in with a gunshot wound to the head, and was somehow miraculously still breathing.
Sebastian was off running even as the words continued to leave her mouth, and he answered them all with the pre-determined answers he and Jim had went over so long ago. Should anything ever happen that landed one of them in the hospital, they had go-to identities to use, and cover stories for one another. Jim was Richard Brook, the storyteller, and Sebastian was his flatmate, an old friend from Uni who was trying to ‘do music’ but worked at a bank to pay bills.
When he arrived, they wouldn’t let him in at first. Family only, they’d said. But Sebastian professed himself to be “Richard’s" only friend, as his parents had both passed and he had no siblings or other relations. It took an hour to convince them, and by the time they let him through, he was nearly ready to strangle them all.
He stopped cold in the doorway of the shared room, Jim hooked up to a beeping machine and separated from the next bed by only a curtain while his neighbor moaned in pain. He turned his back, unable to face him, to see the blood-soaked bandages around his head, the white hospital gown draped over a body that appeared to be lifeless.
He needs to be moved. Sebastian insisted on that point until it was made reality, promising swift payment for a private room. Somehow, it was even harder to walk into that room, smaller and even cleaner-smelling, and almost worse for the silence between mechanical beeps. But he did step in, and he stood alone at Jim’s bedside, jaw clenched tight as his cheeks grew damp, though he’d deny the fact until the day he died.
Standing turned to sitting in a pulled-up chair after not too long, and with his back to the closed door, he could hold Jim’s hand while blocking the act from sight, and he could hear the door open to put it down before anyone could come in and see. This went on for an hour or two, until the tube down Jim’s throat jostled and his heart-rate spiked, and a team came swarming into the room.
A moment later, a loud vacuum-like machine was set on the desk next to Jim’s bed and attached to his breathing tube. It was then that Sebastian learned how much he preferred the silence, though he said nothing as he watched the liquid, speckled with what looked to be globs of blood, pass through the tube and into the vacuum.
The team left as quickly as they came, and Sebastian stopped a nurse to ask what the hell had just happened. She explained that Mr. Brook had swallowed quite a bit of his own blood while lying on the roof, and some of it had gotten into his lungs. If it happened again, he was to hit the red call button, and someone would come suction him with the new machine.
It happened five times before Sebastian they tried to force Sebastian to leave, but he refused, unwilling to abandon him lest he wake up alone in the middle of the night, or worse, die with no one at his side. They agreed to let him stay one night, and only one. Then two, then three.
On the third night, Jim had stabilized enough that the suction machine was only used once, and his vitals were all fine. They made Sebastian leave, only to see him return the next day, freshly showered and shaven, with flowers and a stack of thick books.
He spent the day reading to Jim aloud from his very favorites, from Dante, Blake, Nietzsche, Poe, Grimm, Hawthorne, and Plato. He sent for delivery food for himself and snuck kisses to his lover’s cheek. So he spent the next day and the next, for a whole week. And then two weeks. Then three. Each day he came walking into Jim’s room at the very first moment he was permitted, and each day he left only at the last possible second.
So it went, tirelessly, every single day. The nurses knew his name and face by then, and they smiled sadly as he went by. He could see the pity in their eyes, and he suspected they knew at least a shred of the truth. Sebastian wasn’t just Jim’s flatmate and old friend. But though they might have realized that, they didn’t know Jim.
They didn’t know how stubborn he was, how determined, how bloody brilliant. They didn’t believe he’d wake up, but Sebastian knew better. He returned their smiles day in and day out, and every night when he left, it was with complete faith that tomorrow could very well be the day.
"…I love you, ya bastard…" He whispered the phrase often, though never when anyone else was around. Sebastian wasn’t shy to admit how much he missed him, how desperate he was to have him home, and even playfully jab at him for taking so long to get over one silly little bullet hole. He’d laugh and take Jim’s hand and kiss the back of it, then he’d squeeze for a moment, despite never feeling a squeeze in return.
Until one day, he did.