You're mine. To do with as I please.

The voice echoed in Sebastian's mind. That sinister calling, haunting voice that beckoned to him even though it had been several weeks since—that time. Anything he could do to avoid it, he'd tried to no avail. Just when he thought he was rid of the voice, it came back. Invaded his conscious like Ruvik was still there, probing each painfully sensitive part of his mind and digging deep when he found the perfect spot. Toying with him, teasing him and leading him to believe that Ruvik was still out there.

After everything there was a high chance he'd escaped through Leslie, but Sebastian hadn't seen anything of him. He hadn't seen anything of Joseph, or Kidman, or anyone. It was just him, for now, alone, and he hated it. Before, he'd been used to it. But for different reasons. This time, his loneliness was excruciating. Every passing moment brought another heartbeat he just couldn't bring himself to acknowledge.

"Shut up, you fucking piece of garbage. You don't own me," Sebastian growled to his empty bedroom. There were dreams and thoughts that still whirled inside his mind, memories of the past he so badly wanted to forget, but every time he tried, it was like Ruvik still had a grip on him. Made him remember each horrifying moment, every one of their encounters and the resulting rush of panic it brought to him. Sebastian was just surprised he'd made it that long. Any normal person would probably have been six feet under at that point. But Sebastian had been through a 'normal' person's worth of suffering three times. Once when he lost his daughter, again when he lost his wife, and the third time being the hell he'd just survived.

You think you're so tough, don't you? I might not be 'real' in your terms, but I'm real enough. I know you can feel me here. I'm still here, whether you want me to be or not.

"I said, shut up, goddamnit!" Sebastian snatched up the nearest object, a half-empty water bottle, and tossed it hard at the wall across from him, as if that would do any damage to the remnants of Ruvik's voice. The water bottle hit with a satisfying crunch of plastic before rolling to the floor and remaining there. That stupid voice, that smug, awful, pretentious everything about it made him want to writhe, an instinctive reaction he couldn't override. He absolutely loathed it.

When there was no response, or even a threat of one, Sebastian felt himself finally start to relax. This had been growing problem, and yet even now he still couldn't find the best way to deal with it. If he tried talking to someone about it he'd get a look like he belonged in a nuthouse, or better yet, they would give up and send him along a string of "professionals" who just didn't like dealing with the really off ones. And of all things, a hospital was exactly the last place on earth he wanted to go now. And willingly at that. If only, he could find Joseph. Contact him, somehow. Joseph would understand. He always did.

Sebastian reached for his phone. There were probably ten messages left to Joseph from the past few weeks, but maybe, just maybe this time he would answer. The phone rang for a minute, before going to voicemail. Sebastian began to speak unsteadily into the phone, but after a moment… something happened. The line picked up.

"…Sebastian? Is that you?"

"Joseph, thank god," Sebastian sighed, voice full of relief, just glad to know that wherever Joseph was, he was alive. After this long Sebastian had begun to think that his partner had slipped out of existence. "I didn't think you were…"

"I… I'm definitely alive. I don't know how. But I am. I just… I woke up, somewhere. I can't remember, but… there were officers everywhere. Too many people. I tried to find you, but… you were gone. I ended up getting stuck in the hospital, because they didn't know what to do with me. And I didn't know what to do with me. I wouldn't say that was the best of decisions," Joseph said bitterly, but his tone was still heavy with his own sense of reprieve as well. "But. I can't do anything about it now. I'm sorry I couldn't call you sooner. I didn't have access to a phone…"

"Well… fuck, I thought… After…" Sebastian struggled to put words together. His partner was still alive. Still breathing, not another casket to bury, or another dying bouquet of flowers to remember. Another tally to be added to the list of people he cared about that no longer existed.

"You, too. I'm just… you're alright?" Joseph said after a moment. "You sound exhausted."

"You fucking think so?" Sebastian replied with a grim chuckle. "You should see my face. I look like shit."

"Come on, Seb, it can't be that bad." Hearing the nickname brought some comfort to him. Almost like things were normal again.

Something he missed.

"Joseph?"

"Hm?"

"Can you come over? I… I need to see you. For real. So I know, that I can convince myself that I'm not just hearing things. Maybe if I see you standing in front of me it won't be so hard to believe… it's like some sort of fucked up nightmare. And I thought the worst of it was over with…"

Joseph breathed softly as he paused for a moment to think of something to say. "Alright. I'll come over. Just… wait for me, okay? I might be a while."

"As long as I can see you."

With that the two said goodbye and hung up. Sebastian didn't want to end the call. He wanted to keep hearing Joseph's voice, have that reassurance that he wasn't going completely crazy. But again, that voice floated up and began to taunt him.

He's not going to save you. He can't save you from what's in your head.

"No, but he can damn well distract me. And that's good enough for now. If I don't give you shit, you'll go bother someone else."

You really don't know how this works. I'm the one in control here.

"Just. Shut up."

Oh, I struck a nerve, I'm sorry. But you know it's the truth. Even with his help, no matter what, I'm still going to own you. Control your every thought from the deepest parts of you. Even now, it's happening, and you don't know it. I can make you relive every painful memory you've ever had.

Sebastian stood up and left his bedroom, going out into the hallway and quickly heading for the bathroom. When he pushed open the door, he went straight for the sink and turned on the cold water, splashing some against his face. He needed it. Anything to bring him back to his senses. While the cold water helped, his reflection in the mirror was another sight he'd still have to get used to. His face looked a lot thinner than it had, more despairing. The eyes that stared back at him still had a hint of life to them, but he just looked so tired that any attempt at an expression only made his frown deeper. Not even a smile was possible at this point. Not while he was like this. He just didn't want Joseph to see him this way. It was hard enough what they'd been through, but Sebastian knew he would get past it eventually. He'd done it twice before… maybe the third time was the charm after all.

After drying his face off on a towel, Sebastian made his way into the kitchen, where he snatched the last can of beer from the fridge. He popped open the tab and took a sip, making a face. It was some crappy stuff he'd had stashed in there for emergencies, unfortunately, but it would work for now. He just had to keep his mind focused on something other than the voice. So, Sebastian turned on the TV and sat down with his drink, watching some game show he long since forgot the rules to, while he waited for Joseph. As he drank he felt himself calming down, just a bit. The layered distractions of the television noise, the sound of cars outside, and the alcohol starting to kick in provided just enough comfort for him to try to pretend everything was normal.

Sebastian drifted off into some state of half-consciousness, eyes drifting shut every so often, but he would catch himself. If he fell asleep now he'd give in, and he didn't feel ready enough to try to fight off his brain one more time.

"Joseph, hurry up…" Sebastian grumbled, just louder than the static noises and faded-out talking that radiated from his television.

What felt like several hours later—while in reality being about ten minutes—Sebastian heard a faint knocking at his door, followed by the sound of unlocking and Joseph stepping inside. As soon as his partner walked in, Sebastian felt relief wash over him. Joseph was here. He was real. He could finally see so with his own two eyes.

"Joseph," Sebastian said, forcing himself into an upright position so he could stand. Joseph stood in the doorway, slipping his shoes off, leaned over to put them against the wall. "Don't worry about your damn shoes…" his voice was full of need, just to see Joseph up close, to be able to rest a hand on his shoulder, so his brain would know without a doubt that Joseph was alive. There would be no more excuses for anxious thoughts, delusions of Joseph, lying on the ground somewhere bleeding, eyes a dead stare…

His partner's voice brought him out of his sudden fall into a daydream. "Sebastian… are you alright?" There was so much worry in his voice. An equivalent amount of need that finally surfaced. As if Joseph had the same thoughts as well… that Sebastian could have died, or been stuck somewhere, injured and unable to move… that he could have died and Joseph would have had no idea.

"No, Joseph. I'm not." It hurt Sebastian to say so, but it was the truth. He might as well start accepting it now. He wasn't sure if he would ever be able to feel "alright," in its previous context, at least not for a long while. It was hard enough to keep himself from breaking down at the moment… Sebastian took a step toward Joseph and suddenly he found himself with his arms clasped tightly around the other man in a desperate embrace. He buried his head in Joseph's shoulder, taking in the soft scent of his shirt. Now, he could see, Joseph was warm and alive. His reality finally began to sink in, as Sebastian breathed in a comforting trace of Joseph's favorite light cologne that lingered on his clothes.

"…I'm just… I'm just glad you're still here," Joseph muttered after a moment, wrapping his own arms around Sebastian to pull him close. "Seb, I… I don't want to be alone like that again. I thought I was losing my mind. But… now that I'm here with you, it's like… everything's just a little bit better now."

Oh. Isn't that sweet? You're so close now. I wonder if Joseph knows just exactly what kind of thoughts have been floating around in here? I've seen quite a few of your secrets. I know. You have such beautiful memories, it'd be a shame to let them go to waste, when you finally die. You should share them with the one person you actually love. Let him see just how broken you are.

Sebastian heard Ruvik's voice resurface again, he could almost hear the conceited smirking, teasing him in that horrid way. He tensed up, suddenly feeling claustrophobic in his own skin. The idea that Ruvik, or whatever conjuration of the man his mind created, knew anything about his deepest secrets, his emotions, his love… it bothered him more than anything. It was horrifying to think that someone other than himself had such a close view of every tiny little detail about his existence. It was true, he loved Joseph, and Joseph loved him.

There were moments when they thought they wouldn't live to see the next day, when they spent a few desperate nights together, sharing each other's company, knowing what they were doing was out of a need for something more—but it brought them comfort. They had so much of a connection, it just made sense, even if they never brought it up after the fact. They loved each other in the deepest sense. And even if they hadn't said the words as often as one should, they felt like it almost didn't need to be said. What happened, was just something that happened. How they showed how they felt, because words weren't enough. Having been separated for so long didn't help Sebastian's feelings either, but he knew nothing would ever make him forget how he felt about the other man. No amount of trauma could ever do that. After this many years of being around Joseph, he still wasn't sure what they were. Friends, lovers, partners… or maybe some mix of the three. And Sebastian liked it that way.

"Sebastian?" Joseph asked quietly, letting go of him enough that he could look into Sebastian's eyes.

"I need a moment. Need some fresh air," he said, pushing past Joseph to shove open the window and collapse against the floor, leaning against the sill almost frantically as he struggled to keep calm. Outside of Beacon, Ruvik had no control over him. He had to remember that. Or at least try to convince himself that. Joseph walked over to Sebastian and sat down on the floor next to him, offering a hand against his shoulder as if it would help, giving it a soft squeeze. "I won't let… won't let him… get the better of me…"

Joseph remained silent as he put the pieces together, realizing what exactly was wrong with Sebastian. "He's gone, Seb, we're safe."

"Are we?!" Sebastian snapped a little more harshly than he intended, and Joseph flinched and scooted back in response, just to give Sebastian a little bit more space. "I can't fucking think on my own without hearing him mocking me. I hate it! It's like, he… like he… like he's in my head. Joseph, what do I do? What can I do? I can't live like this."

There was a brief silence between them. Sounds of cars and people bustling outside began to fill the room in place of the stillness. Somewhere outside of the apartment, outside of their world right now, people were carrying on their normal lives, unaware that anything happened save for the occasional conspiracy theory on television or seeing an article in the newspaper. It wasn't important, what had happened, it just did. Happened and was gone, as time continued moving forward with the rest of the town and the people. As long as they weren't involved, they didn't care. It was human nature. Best not to worry about what doesn't involve you. If only Sebastian could feel that same amount of distance to their problems…

"I don't know… I wish I could help… I don't think you'd like anything I'd have to offer," Joseph spoke, voice hushed in defeat. This was one of the few times Joseph felt like he really couldn't do anything but offer his company. They'd both been through so much, it was hard to try to put anything to words at this point in time.

"Go for it. Anything… anything's better than nothing." Sebastian said between slow, deep breaths. He finally could feel himself calming down. Maybe now it would be easier to think rationally. He closed the window and pulled the curtains back before shifting so his back was against the wall. At least it was more comfortable to sit that way.

"I was stuck, at that hospital, for the longest time. It was a bad idea. But… I figured out that writing about it helped. Or talking about it. Even talking to myself about it. It was too weird for anyone else to try to understand, but maybe we can talk about it together. Think about it. We'll convince ourselves to keep going, to put everything that happened behind us, and learn from our experiences. We're both not dead. If what doesn't kill us makes us stronger—if that's even true—we can make it out of this okay. Together. We can do this." Joseph slowly reached over again to slide his hand into Sebastian's own, a light trembling in both of their bodies. "We'll work through it together."

Sebastian nodded, but remained there on the floor. He didn't want to move. He wanted to stay there with Joseph like that as long as he could. Even if the position he had against the windowsill wasn't exactly the most comfortable one, it was the best he'd felt in a long while.

"Together."

I'm still not letting go of you. You're going to have to do better than some sad excuse at teamwork to get rid of me.

Sebastian closed his eyes and let out a low hiss in response. Joseph caught the change and moved closer to Sebastian, hoping the proximity to his partner would help him feel better.

"What's wrong?"

"The goddamn voice," Sebastian groaned, pulling his knees to his chest and leaning his head against them. "I can't get rid of it. Since last night. I can barely sleep, I'm losing my mind. I keep hearing things. Nothing helps…"

A sigh left Joseph. It was a gentle noise. Not one of irritation, but more of a wordless agreement. In all honesty he hadn't slept either, at least not the kind of sleep he would have liked. The hospital kept him under such a close watch it was hard for him to get anything done. Until they finally realized, he would be better off outside. No progress was being made keeping him cooped up like that, it was almost making everything worse. Convincing them to let him leave was nearly harder than trying to tell a child that eating candy before dinner would spoil their appetite. He was just glad to be out of there. He just couldn't quite vocalize it to Sebastian yet, so a sigh would have to do for now. After a moment, he added, in a quiet voice, "I could keep you distracted."

"How? Nothing could—"

Joseph slid closer, so he was in front of Sebastian. He put a hand under his partner's chin and tilted it up, to look him in the eyes. Maybe, being like this, trying to show with his body how much he cared, would be better than any string of words his mind could put together. If it would help, he'd try it. Even if he didn't want to admit the feeling of Sebastian's lips against his own would bring him back to reality faster than anything else.

Sebastian closed his eyes and adjusted his position so he could pull Joseph closer, and they shared the first kiss they'd had in a long while. It wasn't long before Sebastian slipped his tongue into Joseph's mouth and gentle kisses quickly turned into frenzied ones. Joseph's warm hands drifted across Sebastian's chest, eventually wrapping around him to pull him closer… and Sebastian's hands trailed down Joseph's back until they came to rest on his hips, just above his rear.

Even though Sebastian had his back pressed to the wall he moved his legs so Joseph could sit between them, making it easier for them to be there like that. When they broke the kiss for a moment, Joseph spoke up.

"It's… been a while, hasn't it? The last time we kissed…"

The last time they kissed, Sebastian thought Joseph was dying. The kiss itself was almost a plea, back in a time when they thought there was no way out of hell, a wish to keep him alive. Anything to keep Joseph with him for a few moments longer, and his diversion worked until they were torn apart again. By Ruvik. And Sebastian could do nothing but watch as the world shifted around him and Joseph vanished from sight. Looking back, he wasn't sure if it was a dream, or his mind playing tricks on him. He wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. One often thinks of things to avoid the harsh reality of the truth…

"Yeah. I know," Sebastian said. "I… Joseph, I don't want to lose you again."

"For what it's worth," Joseph replied after another kiss to Sebastian's lips, "I don't want to be lost again. I love you. I don't ever want to leave, Sebastian… I feel safe with you."

"I love you, too…"

Soon their lips tangled together again, Sebastian finally letting his hands drift down to Joseph's pants and cup his rear, giving a soft squeeze. And thankfully now, there was no sign of that awful voice from before, like it had given up for now. He didn't want to think about it too much as he was afraid of tempting it, making it want to return and ruin the moment. It was too late to let that happen now. He wouldn't allow that.

Joseph leaned into the touch, body pressing against Sebastian just enough. As they kissed, Sebastian felt his hips moving lightly against Joseph's, who, once he caught on through the thick haze of desire that hung over them, obliged by grinding slow against his partner. Each little movement was deliberate, almost painfully so, but it felt great.

A faint moan slipped out of Sebastian's mouth and Joseph kissed the corner of Sebastian's lips, wearing a hint of a smirk. That was a face Sebastian hadn't seen Joseph make in a while, but it was one he enjoyed, given its rare occurrence. It was an expression of honesty that hid the right amount of danger. It pushed his buttons in all the right ways, and he could feel it starting to get the better of him, his mind alight with the pleasurable sensations they shared, his body tingling each time either of them moved in just the perfect spot.

"Joseph…" was all Sebastian could manage, hands kneading against his partner's pants, enjoying the feeling of the other's soft skin in his hands, only one layer of fabric in the way… but it was better not to get too carried away for now. Joseph, on the other hand, didn't seem to think so. He enjoyed the fact that he'd managed to keep Sebastian distracted and was able to keep himself distracted as well, and very much so.

"Seb…" Joseph finally said, the name leaving his lips in the form of a barely audible whisper. He kissed along Sebastian's jawline and began to make a small pathway down his partner's neck until he reached one particularly sensitive spot, which he worked between his teeth, biting down softly. Sebastian's breath caught in his throat as Joseph worked at the spot for a while longer, sucking and flicking his tongue against the skin until the patch there was noticeably red, enjoying the way Sebastian shivered with pleasure beneath him.

"Goddamnit, Joseph…" he hissed breathily, biting his lip as he tightened his grip on Joseph. Joseph really knew how to get him worked up, something he hadn't forgotten even after so long… Sebastian never wanted it to end. He was happy, just like this. Even though Joseph left bruises it was exactly what he wanted. It made him feel real, knowing what was happening was actually happening, not just a dream, and that he'd have memories of it for the rest of forever. The idea of that was just as pleasing as everything they were doing while they were caught up in the moment, in each other's presences.

In hearing Sebastian's soft swearing, Joseph hummed quietly and pushed against his partner a little harder this time around. Sebastian bit down again on his lip, but it didn't stop the second swear from slipping out. It was by now very noticeable how much Sebastian was enjoying himself, the way his pleasure showed through in his pants. Naturally now it was a lot more difficult to try to ignore and attempt to focus on the moment.

"Fuck…"

And that was what Joseph wanted to hear. The hushed yet needy vocalizations Sebastian made that put him so on edge, and the feeling of his own growing need spreading a heat through his body was almost overwhelming. Even the way Sebastian grabbed at his rear made the need worse. For a moment, he moved slowly against Sebastian and paused, so he could trail a hand down to rest over the bulge in his partner's pants. Sebastian leaned forward and his teeth were suddenly at Joseph's neck, muffling a needy whine as his body reflexively arched up to meet Joseph's hand. In response to Sebastian suddenly biting him, Joseph squeezed down on Sebastian's crotch on accident, which drew a long, low moan from his partner.

"Joseph, just do it, you're driving me crazy here," Sebastian muttered between quiet gasps for breath, "…please…"

"Are you sure?" Joseph asked softly, glancing up at Sebastian to watch his reaction. Maybe this was getting too carried away, even for a distraction, but Joseph wanted to do what little he could to keep their minds off of the past. Keep them focused on what was going on now.

"You passed the point of no return about two minutes ago, Jo, just keep going," Sebastian answered with a very faint, hesitant chuckle as he urged his hips up against Joseph's hand. His body ached with a need for release, the fresh marks on his shoulder finally starting to sting, but the way the air of the room hit his neck only made the sensations more intense.

Joseph made a soft noise of approval. "Alright. I just… didn't want to go too fast."

"You're fine, it feels… feels good." Sebastian nodded. It was true, most of the other times they'd ever done anything felt rushed, more of a need for stress relief and comfort than anything else. This particular time, going slowly, he realized just how much he'd missed Joseph's body. While they'd always stuck to using their hands, for Joseph's sake—most of the time Joseph joined Sebastian because he felt like it was a lot better that way. Joseph thought, even if he couldn't do some of the more "extreme" things at the moment, he wanted to bring as much pleasure as he could with the resources he had at his disposal.

As it was now, Joseph had never been too fond of the actual "sex" idea of their relationship, if it could be called that… everything that led up to it, though, he'd become a master at. Their relationship was so much more than that, Joseph had always focused more on intimacy than sex. He'd learned Sebastian's mannerisms early due to his observant nature and it really showed through every time they found themselves in a situation like this.

Every little thing Joseph did, he made sure Sebastian enjoyed himself; from the way they kissed to how his body fit against Sebastian's, wherever they found themselves. And in his learning of Sebastian's body he found himself incredibly turned on by the idea. It wasn't that odd to him until he really thought about it. His body was more wired now to react to the pleasure of his partner than his own, as if focused more on a secondhand high from Sebastian's pleasure. And he preferred it like that.

While these thoughts floated around in Joseph's mind, he busied himself by slowly slipping his hand into Sebastian's sweatpants and inched his fingers down one by one past Sebastian's underwear, letting his hand finally come to rest against the bare, heated skin of his partner's member. When Joseph's hand finally closed around it Sebastian gave a soft moan of approval and Joseph began to work his hand against it, pulling slowly but with just enough force to send waves of pleasure through him.

"God—fuck—I missed this…" Sebastian whispered, breathing heavily, mind racing from the intensity of the moment. He didn't care that he was going to need to do laundry after this, it was more than worth it. Trying to strip now would be too much of an effort. "Keep going…" His entire body felt like it would burst already, but he wanted to hang on to the feeling as long as he could. That was part of the beauty of it. He wanted to come, badly, but more than that he wanted to stay this close to Joseph, to feel like it was just them in the world and no one else… a private sort of affection, this wonderful feeling that they only had and only needed each other.

Sebastian felt his hands grabbing blindly at Joseph's back until one hand held a fistful of Joseph's shirt and the other in his partner's hair, and he tugged at it. When his hair was pulled, Joseph gasped and moved against Sebastian a little more desperately now. Sebastian was so close, so enticingly close, he could feel it…

"God, Joseph… t-think I'm gonna…"

He kissed Joseph's lips frantically before he could finish his sentence, trying his best to keep his body under control but his back arched up against his will, entire body trembling from his orgasm. Joseph smiled into the kiss, flicking his tongue lazily against Sebastian's lips and making a soft pleased noise, satisfied with what he'd done.

"Feeling better now?" Joseph asked, withdrawing his hand from Sebastian's pants and smirking at the damage he'd done. The majority of it had missed Joseph's hand but he wasn't spared the thin slick of fluid that spread against his palm.

"Much better," Sebastian sighed, leaning back against the wall. "That was… really nice."

Joseph smiled. "Good. I'm glad. Now, um, about your pants…"

"I'll worry about that later," Sebastian said, simply pulling them off along with his underwear and tossing them aside for the moment. "Too tired to move."

"I'll get it." Carefully, so he didn't move Sebastian too much, he stood and scooped up the dirtied clothes before disappearing into his laundry room to drop them in one of the baskets. He also returned with a rag from the laundry room closet, along with a pair of clean underwear from the stash at the top of the dryer. Why Sebastian always kept them there he never bothered to ask, but for now it definitely came in handy. Joseph returned and handed the rag to Sebastian so he could clean himself off and then dropped the underwear by his hips before he turned around, leaning against the far wall and humming softly to himself.

"Why're you turned around like that? Was it something I said?" Sebastian asked, unsure if whether the joking hint in his tone was obvious or not.

"Privacy," he answered with a shrug.

"Come on, Jo, you just had your hand around my dick."

Joseph couldn't help but laugh. "You're right, but… Old habits die hard, I guess."