Cal dies on a Saturday.
Cal DIES on a Saturday.
It's like everything stops. The world shrinks until all that's left is Ethan and the cold, bloodied corpse of his big brother and Ethan loses his mind.
He's aware he's crying, aware that the only thing he can say, is his brothers name and no, no, no and he's aware of all this but it's like he's watching from above. Watching on as life as he knew it ends. As he as he knew it ends as his brother does.
How is this possible? How can it possibly be that Cal was talking to him not half an hour ago and now he's rigid, cold, dead before him.
What happened? What HAPPENED?
Cal's lips are blue, his skin is blanched white. And Ethan remembers the pang of envy at new year when they were in the Bahamas,Cal in a stupid straw hat and his swimshorts, bronzed and smiling, the colour of liquid gold and he swallows down the rise of vomit that builds in his throat. No. No. No.
Someone must take him from his brother but he can't remember that part because he finds himself in the staff kitchen, Max before him, a hand on his knee, hot tea in his hands. He must lose time then because the next thing he knows he is striding from the hospital, out of the entrance into the rain. Someone is shouting at him, arms trying to grip him and he's walking and walking and walking.
It's raining so heavily, he can't see. How long was Cal out here? How long?
Max had said 'It's Cal…we think he was hurt outside the hospital' after he found them in the pub. It hadn't been Lily as Ethan had thought. He hadn't even considered Cal, he had taken his attention off the most important person in his life, hadn't even thought for a minute. He felt it then. Felt it the minute Max said 'it's Cal' felt it like a sick impending punch lying thick and heavy and dark in the pit of his stomach.
The closer his feet brought him to the hospital entrance, the more the darkness crept and crept up in his throat till he was almost choking on the sheer terror. His senses had screamed and screamed at him, every single one of them too late, too fucking late. Cal had been gone then, Ethan thinks on some level he knew that before Dylan or Charlie had even opened their mouths.
His insufferable, infuriating, lovable big brother…dead, not just dead, murdered, stabbed to death. Stabbed. Christ.
Ethan pauses. He can't breathe, he can't breathe.
Is this what Cal felt? Bleeding out without Ethan? Alone?
His hands are still flecked with Cal's blood, and he can't stop seeing him. His chest clearly brutally shredded beneath the sheet his white, white skin, the tube in his throat. How will he ever see anything else when he closes his eyes?
And now, and now…
He can not breathe.
He slides down to a curb, hands curling in and out, the spots of his brother's blood illuminated under a street lamp. 'Caleb…'
Charlie finds him. Someone puts him in the car. He's at his apartment. He's back at home but no Cal. No lights left on everywhere, no loud obnoxious music blasting, no clothes strung around the kitchen, no 'Nibbles? Take out?' Nothing but silence and murmuring of concerned colleagues. It might be Alicia, or Duffy. Charlie's definitely here. Ethan doesn't care. He doesn't care.
Someone's trying to force tea on him again, he can't hold it, his hands are shaking too much. He's on his feet and he goes into the bathroom and he locks the door behind him. Cal's towel lies on the sink, his toothbrush obnoxiously glares out at Ethan. His stupid hair gel still open, finger marks still in it. Ethan turns the tap on, turns his palms upside down, watches the water turn red. Cal washes away. He washes away.
Ethan turns the shower on. People are banging on the door. He gets into the cubicle and his feet give way. He's sat beneath the spray. He's shaking, can't stop shaking but the steam suggests the water's hot enough. It doesn't feel hot. It feels like he'll never be warm again. He can't seem to catch his breath. Cal's shower gel lies next to him. Ethan wants to rip his own skin off.
Someone gets him out of the shower. What's left of his bathroom door lies in pieces. He and Cal had rowed about that door. Cal thought the place was too clinical, too ocd, Ethan wanted white, clean, simple, Cal wanted colour, all of the colour. Cal had all of the colour at the end, all of that red, bleeding out of him, dark and endless and real. Too much colour. Ethan shields his eyes. He's lying down now. Someone is checking his pulse.
I'm not the one who's dead, he thinks. And he wishes he were.
He lies there for hours, it could be days, or years even. Ethan has no concept of time. Time stopped with Caleb. Time stopped in recuss. It doesn't get to move on if Caleb doesn't.
The murmuring has stopped so Ethan thinks maybe he's alone now. Maybe they even said goodbye. He doesn't feel wholly like he's here right now. Maybe he imagined a hand on his forehead, an offer to stay, maybe he's imagined all of this.
The clock by his bed reads 2.45am. He's lost a lot of time. He automatically reaches for his phone.
1 missed call.
Ethan slams the phone down. No. No. No. No.
He ignored it.
He ignored his brother.
Was he dying when he phoned? Was he calling Ethan to say goodbye as he bled out? Was he ringing for help? Why didn't he answer? Why would he chose then? In all of the times Cal called to ignore it? Why that time? Why this moment?
Ethan hates himself. He will never, ever forgive himself for that and he can't listen to it, can't hear the desperation in his brother's voice as he bleeds out, can't hear a living breathing reminder of the worst failing of his life. He pulls a pillow over his head. It's Cal's pillow. Someone clearly thought they were being helpful by putting extra pillows on his bed. It's Cals. Ethan remembers the ridiculous sense of over accomplishment his brother had had at buying some overpriced linen. 33 years old and excited about bedsheets.
'Caleb, you're a grown up you know?'
'Nibbles, the ladies are going to love this, I expect to see plenty of these sheets this year'.
It smells of Cal, earthy, musky, that distinct smell of aftershave and shower, distinctly Caleb.
Ethan burrows his face into it. Holds his breath until he can't any longer. Air and must and Cal fills his lungs and he despises himself. Despises the world and for a moment despises his brother along with it.
Who said Cal could leave him? Who gave his brother permission to do that? How could he leave Ethan all alone? Totally and utterly alone.
You've got me for life Nibbles.
So life was one month was it? One month from that moment? One month was all he had his brother for? But then that was typical Caleb, ducking out when the going got tough, running away from responsibility. Well Ethan could do that too. Ethan could run as long and as far as Cal, be more Cal. He'd show his brother.
Only he wouldn't would he?
Because Cal was gone. Slowly rotting in some morgue, being dissected and gutted like some biology project by the police, he's not in the apartment, he's not sleeping next door, or making horrifyingly loud sex noises just to embarrass his brother, nor is he singing in the shower, or clattering around making himself cereal. He's cold and in pieces and nothing will ever be Cal again.
Ethan throws up.
Cal's pillow doesn't smell of Cal anymore.