A/N: Yes, the last chapter was quite mean of me, wasn't it? Someone asked me if I enjoyed being able to make the entire fandom cry and I feel bad for admitting that I kind of do. It's really an awesome accomplishment. Maybe I should put it on my resume.


Hanna felt numb.

His entire body was just something that took up space and matter in time, feeling heavy and unmovable in the darkness of Conrad's Escort as it raced through the streets of their town towards the interstate highway. There was no music, just the crashing sound of rain pounding on the windshield and the tires spinning rapidly over the wet pavement. Hanna should have been afraid of Conrad losing control of the vehicle and swerving into the next lane of traffic, killing the both of them in a fiery wreck, but he wasn't. All Hanna was thinking about was that morning with Alex looking nervously excited about his interview and smelling so good and standing at the door insisting that yes, he would drive safe because he always did.

"Hanna," Conrad said through the memory, pulling Hanna back to the horrible reality of the situation all too quickly for his liking. He had been slipping away so quickly into despair that Hanna hadn't noticed he was still crying. When he did, Hanna didn't bother to wipe the tears away. "Pull yourself together for fuck's sake."

"Yeah…" Hanna replied, nodding unnecessarily over and over again as he blinked and tried not to cry anymore. It was hard when it felt like someone had dropped a bag of stones in his chest, but somehow he managed to stop. That left Hanna with itchy eyes and an aching chest that made it hard to breathe without wanting to just sob. There were too many images in his head of Alex. The thought of the worst-case scenario left Hanna's vision darkening around the edges. He gripped at the console, as if it would keep from falling apart completely.

"Hanna, seriously," Conrad said, with more sternness than before. When Hanna turned his head to look at the other man, he could see Conrad's features lit only by the oncoming headlights, throwing shadows on his face. There weren't enough to disguise the tenseness of his jaw and the white-knuckled grip he had on the wheel. Feeling strangely detached at that moment, he wondered if Conrad was as blindsided by what had happened as Hanna.

"Conrad," Hanna said, after the blackness had receded from his vision, leaving nothing but that weight in his chest that felt like the oppression of a lonely eternity. He swallowed painfully before continuing: "How…did you…?" Hanna couldn't use the words he had intended, unable to say Alex's name out loud combined with the word accident because all he could think about was blood and death and not saying I love you like he should have.

"Worth called me," Conrad replied.

"Worth?" Hanna repeated, confused and his mouth as dry as paper.

"He works nights at Providence," Conrad answered. It was almost like a normal conversation, except for the fact that Hanna couldn't muster up the humor to crack a joke about Worth being a male nurse or some other seemingly-funny equivalent.

"Oh," Hanna said, because he felt like there was nothing else to say.

"He called about a half-hour ago…when they transferred Alex to his floor," Conrad added, and his voice had gone very quiet as he said those words. "He…knew it was Alex when he saw him come in…so Worth called me and told me to come get you."

"Oh," Hanna said again, trying to breathe evenly as the blackness started coming back to his vision. For Worth to truly give a shit about someone meant it was bad. To call Conrad and tell him to go get Hanna in the middle of the night told him more than he wanted to know. It was really bad. That was the only reason Hanna could fathom, his mind going immediately to the darkest of places. "Worth…he works…on what floor?" Hanna asked, because he had to know. Even though it was going to hurt, he had to know.

Conrad hesitated a moment before replying:

"The intensive care unit."


When Hanna's parents had gotten into their accident, his father had died on impact. His mother, however, lived for two days in ICU before passing away. Hanna could remember bits and pieces of that time, which mostly consisted of being afraid and crying, not understanding the situation in its entirety. His mother hadn't looked like his mother with all the tubes and wires covering her body, but he knew that it had been her, because no one had auburn hair like she had. If he let himself think about those days, Hanna could pull up sensory perceptions of smell and sound and even touch. He had been holding her hand when she died.

The ICU was not a place Hanna wanted to go again, but he found himself there once more, facing another nightmare from which he could only hope he would wake.

There were blue and red lights flashing when they pulled into the parking lot of the hospital. Hanna could see the color refracting off the sheets of rain that continued to relentlessly pour down, soaking into his hair and shoes completely. The rest of him stayed dry and it was only when they were inside that Hanna realized why: in the rush to leave before, Conrad had pulled Alex's coat off the rack instead of Hanna's. It was comforting in a way to be wearing a jacket too-big for him with sleeves so long they covered up his hands. At least no one could see him shaking as they walked through the sterile lobby. When he turned his cheek into the collar, Hanna breathed in Alex's familiar scent to try and calm himself down; to drown out the smell of cleaner and death and illness.

Conrad led him through long white hallways and rooms crowded with the sick and injured. He did this with a hand on Hanna's shoulder, strong enough to keep him from anchoring himself in place, consumed with thoughts about loving and losing and dying.

"Hanna," Conrad said, when they were in the elevator. The redhead could only give the tiniest of nods to show he was listening because his vocal chords had completely given up on him. His eyes stared straight ahead, unseeing as Conrad fumbled with his words. "It's…going to be okay…" The other man even tried giving his shoulder a comforting squeeze to emphasize his point. But the fact that Conrad was being uncharacteristically kind and Worth of all people had felt concerned enough to call made Hanna's fears triple in intensity.

People only acted that way when someone was going to die.

Hanna fought to breathe, nodding again as the doors opened to the critical care unit. It was still and quiet, staffed by nurses with impartial expressions and the fearful, hopeful glances from those waiting to hear about the fate of their loved ones trapped in glass rooms. Hanna could taste the pity and misery and the lingering warmth of a kiss that he couldn't live without. It renewed his purpose for being there and Hanna walked out of the elevator of his own volition, walking with a jerking, frantic gait towards the nurses' desk. The woman sitting there looked up when Hanna stopped there, gripping at the edge of the high counter like it was the only thing keeping him in the world at that moment.

"Alex Harper," he said, unnaturally clear and devoid of the panic Hanna could feel rising inside.

"Just a moment," she replied, checked something on the computer—for what had to be the longest minute in the entire universe—before looking back up at him. "Mr. Harper is in room 720. You may visit with him for a few minutes before visiting hours are over." Hanna could only nod dumbly, repeating the numbers mutely to himself as the nurse pointed him in the right direction. Conrad followed, but Hanna barely noticed his presence, too busy looking at every placard on the wall as he mentally compared it to the numbers the nurse had given him.

And then, he found it.

Room 720 looked like all the others Hanna had passed, but with one notable exception: Alex was in there. His Alex was in there. He was hooked up to so many machines and covered in so many tubes that Hanna was reminded of his mother, who had died looking like that, and that just made him feel sick with too much fear and regret. Hanna swayed a bit, but Conrad kept him upright, taking hold of his shoulders and pushing him into the nearest chair before his knees could give out beneath him.

Once sitting down, Hanna was able to digest everything in front of him and felt as if someone had slapped him in the face with a burlap sack full of bricks.

Hanna focused on breathing, taking in things one at a time to not overwhelm his already overwhelmed self. The first thing he noticed was that Alex's head had been bandaged completely and that the left side of his face was hidden beneath layers and layers of gauze padding. The majority of the injury seemed to be there, but then Hanna started doubting that assumption as he took in the rest of Alex's body: the wrapped and splinted left wrist, the brace strapped around his middle, the machine that was helping him breathe.

"Oh…fucking God…" Hanna mumbled, pulling his chair closer as he reached for Alex's right hand. With all the IVs and tape and tubes there, Alex's hand felt so small and fragile and cold in Hanna's shaking palms. That wasn't right. It wasn't right at all.

From somewhere far away, Hanna felt Conrad rubbing his back.

Hanna moved away from it—from him—leaning over Alex's hand and pressing his cheek gently against the bit of chilled skin, being mindful of the bruises already forming from the needles forcing fluids into his veins. Conrad at least got enough of the message to not touch Hanna and backed away to give him space. Someone came into the room shortly after and began talking with Conrad, but their conversation was beyond Hanna's comprehension at that point. All he could do was sit there, clutching at Alex's pale hand, listening to the steady hum of the monitors and the harsh, mechanical sound of the machine pumping oxygen. Hanna couldn't think or cry or do anything at all for a stretch of time that seemed infinite as much as it seemed to last only seconds.

A hand fell on his shoulder.

"C'mon, ya," said the owner of the hand. A large, flat palm. Skeletal fingers that smelled like tobacco. It took a moment fumbling through the mess of Hanna's memory to realize that it was Worth.

"No," Hanna said dully, shaking his head. "I'm staying here."

"Yer gonna come back to my place. Eat somethin'," Worth replied. His voice was still rough as gravel, but there was something almost kind beneath it. Because of that, Hanna felt the panic beginning to surge inside of him. He recalled how nice the doctors had been to him as he sat, day and night, by his mother's side with no one to take him home and no one but the cold lady from children services, waiting to take him away to that awful place forever. He had been too young to understand then, but Hanna knew now. That kindness wasn't comforting or good or a relief. It made Hanna want to scream and cry and make so much racket that Alex woke up and told him to shut up and that he was going to be alright.

"No," Hanna said again, shaking his head slowly, brushing his cheek over the scabbed cuts on Alex's knuckles. There was barely any breath in his body as Hanna forced out a quiet, but determined: "I…I'm staying…"

"Don't be a brat," Worth replied, and the niceness disappeared entirely from his voice. The hand moved from his shoulder to the back of his neck, where Worth gripped him with fingers made of frigid bone. "Visitin' hours're over. Get up, 'er else I'm gettin' ya up." The threat would have frightened Hanna had he not been so detached from everything at that moment. All he knew was that he couldn't leave Alex like this; not when Hanna knew he needed to be there with him.

"Please…let me stay…" Hanna whispered, trying for a different tact; anything that would be able to keep him there in that uncomfortable chair in the too-cold room by Alex's side. He moved his thumb over the back of Alex's hand, so focused on the feeling of his skin and calluses and everything else seemingly insignificant that truly wasn't, that Hanna missed whatever Conrad said. Worth lessened his grip and moved away.

"Ten minutes," Worth said. Hanna heard his aggravated footsteps exit the room.

"I'll…be outside…" Conrad added, to either give Hanna privacy or just to escape the awkwardness that the situation had caused. Without another word, Conrad left, closing the door softly behind him, leaving Hanna and Alex alone. After a moment, Hanna forced himself to lift his head, looking at the damage done to the person he loved more than anything and everything. It was so gruesome and awful that Hanna couldn't blink or breathe, just watch, hoping beyond hoping that he would see Alex's eyelashes flutter slightly, like they would do before he woke in the mornings. Hanna had watched him that same way earlier in the day, that morning when the alarm went off and woke him up. Alex, always slow to rise, had hit the snooze button out of instinct. Even though it had been so early and Hanna didn't have to be to work until the afternoon, he stayed awake to watch Alex for those few moments of complete vulnerability. He couldn't help it. There was something amazing about lying in bed with someone and watching them slowly come into the world.

Hanna hoped it wouldn't be the last time he experienced that.

"Alex…" Hanna said and it was almost immediate that his eyes felt hot and painful behind his glasses. Ignoring this sensation, Hanna moved his free hand towards Alex's cheek, pulling back when he realized that there was no amount of skin he could touch that wouldn't cause pain. The bruises were already swelling an angry black and blue. There was a cut through his eyebrow held together with three butterfly stitches. His eyelashes weren't moving at all, because he was too far away to even dream.

Too far away to hear Hanna's voice.

"I love you."


It was past two in the morning when Hanna found himself on the sagging couch in front of an ancient television set in Worth's living room. There was some show on with too-pretty people and possibly half-witty comments, but the sound was so low that Hanna couldn't hear it. It wasn't as if he could follow it anyway, or want to for that matter. He barely even recognized that Conrad was beside him or that Worth was smoking one cigarette after another in the kitchen. Worth also had a roommate, but Hanna didn't care enough at that moment to acknowledge him. Hanna could only sit there in front of the muted television set with his hands curled up into the too-big sleeves of Alex's coat, trying to smell his aftershave over the tobacco and booze. But Hanna couldn't and even when he searched his mind, he couldn't remember the smell. He could only bring up the drudging recollection of hospital rot and the cold, latex scent of Alex's skin. It made Hanna feel like he was being kept together with bits of thread that were slowly snapping and breaking as everything began oozing over and breaking through the weak constraints of sanity.

It was only when a plate of eggs and hash browns was set down in front of him that Hanna lost it entirely.

Everything broke, drowning Hanna in a deep, thick vat of helplessness. He could only sit there and cry, shaking and sobbing, gasping for air for what felt like hours. Someone was holding onto him, rubbing his back. It was only when Hanna stopped crying that he realized it was Conrad, looking scared and awkward and not quite sure what to do. Worth's roommate, a dark-haired man with warm, chocolate eyes, made him breathe into a paper bag for a good five minutes until Hanna calmed down enough to apologize. He was exhausted and his eyes felt like they were bleeding and as if his face had puffed up three times its normal size, but he meant it when he said he was sorry.

"It's alright," said the man, and he was smiling in a way that reminded Hanna of Alex, so the redhead looked down. The plate of breakfast food sat there, untouched and cold. It looked just like Alex prepared it and the sight of it made Hanna's stomach twist and turn unpleasantly.

"I didn't mean to…freak out…I'm sorry…" Hanna replied, feeling hollow and full of splinters now that everything inside had been pushed out so quickly.

"It's alright," the man said again.

"Th' kid's smart. Knew ya were a bad cook before he ate anythin'," Worth said, moving the plate away from Hanna. He shoved it at the man. "Get ridda tha' before 'e pukes ever'where, Lamont." The roommate took the plate, but didn't retort with anything snide, and began eating it. Hanna watched him for a moment until Worth forcefully turned his head with fingers of iron. He pushed Hanna's glasses up, flashing a light into his eyes for a few bright seconds. Then his glasses fell back onto the bridge of his nose and Hanna watched disinterestedly as Worth took his pulse and blood pressure. If it had been any other time, Hanna might have been amazed that a man who delivered milk was so knowledgeable about medicine, but it wasn't any other time, and everything was just standing in the way of him being with Alex at that moment.

"Drink this."

Hanna blinked, coming back to reality to realize that Worth was shoving a cup at him. Taking it, Hanna drank obediently, not registering the bitter, alcoholic taste until a few seconds after he swallowed. Before he could put it down, Worth forced it back into his hands. "I ain't gonna babysit ya," he said disapprovingly, and so Hanna finished the vile concoction without any other choice present to him. The drink warmed him considerably, taking away the harshness he felt in his body, allowing Hanna to focus on more than his inward pain, like the apartment and the people in it. Lamont was gone, probably in bed, because the clock on the wall said 3:38. Beside him, Conrad was dozing on the arm of the sofa.

"Thanks," Hanna said, though it sounded more like a croak than anything from all the crying he had been doing.

"Yeah," was all Worth said, lighting another cigarette. Hanna had never been alone with Worth before, so it felt kind of awkward to sit there and watch him smoke while Conrad was right there, but not conscious. Instead of looking at the other man, Hanna let his gaze drop from those intensely dark, ringed eyes to the long, pale fingered hands holding onto the pack of Pall Malls and the crap lighter with barely any fluid in it. "Want one?" Worth asked, pulling a cigarette out of the crushed paper, which he offered to Hanna.

"Sure," Hanna said, taking it. He knew enough from college how to light one, but smoking was more difficult than he recalled. At first, he coughed and gagged, but after that passed, Hanna actually enjoyed it. The nicotine and whatever had been in the drink made him feel calm and warm and buzzed. He was separating himself from everything, but in a better way, it felt like. It was more pleasant than before. Less painful, almost. "Thanks."

"Yeah," Worth said again, took a long drag, and flicked the ashes into a tray on the coffee table. "Ya know, Alex is gonna be alrigh'." Hanna looked up at him, not believing that Worth of all people was attempting to comfort him. But when he met the other man's eyes, he didn't see the sort-of-friend-who-was-fucking-his-other-sort-of-friend. He saw a doctor telling him that it would be alright, and not in the half-assed hopeful way some doctors did. It was Worth telling him, as a medical professional, that he was almost one hundred percent guaranteeing that Alex would be fine.

"Yeah?" Hanna asked, hope leaking into his tone as if from a broken sieve.

"Yeah," Worth said. "Bump on th' head an' th' ribs're th' worst o'it."

"But…aren't…head injuries the worst…kind?" Hanna asked, biting his lip. His mother had died from hemorrhaging in her brain. What if Alex met a similar fate?

"They're when th' patient don't wake up," Worth answered, taking another drag from the butt of his cigarette before putting it out. "Alex was awake when they brough'im up."

"He was?" Hanna asked, and damn if he wasn't on the edge of the couch, practically throttling Worth to tell him more than that.

"O'course," Worth replied, fiddling with the lighter, as if debating if he wanted another cigarette or not. Eventually he decided to have one, and lit it with an expert flip of his wrist. "I gave 'im sedative ta 'elp 'im sleep."

"Really?" Hanna asked, knee bouncing with nerves as he took in the information. "Then…then why was he brought to ICU? If he was awake and…" Hanna couldn't say okay because Alex wasn't, but being awake made him more okay than before.

"BP was low," Worth replied, and then when Hanna looked at him for more than that, Worth continued begrudgingly, gruff voice listing off everything precisely: "'e wasn't gettin' enough oxygen, showin' signs o' trauma, so they brough'im up ta us. Usually, folks in accidents an' such're sent up ta us fer th' nigh' fer observation. Hospital protocol."

"So…he really is going to be alright…" Hanna said, though still looked to Worth to assure him of that fact.

"Yeah. 'e's gonna feel like shit fer a while, but 'e's gonna be alrigh'," Worth said. Hanna wrung his hands, hopeful and relieved, praying it wasn't a lie, but accepting it because he just had to believe it.

"Thank you…" Hanna replied, breathing out a sigh of relief. Beside him, Conrad made a small sound in his sleep, shifting uncomfortably in his upright position.

"Yeah," Worth said, pocketing his cigarettes and lighter as he stood up from his spot on the leaning coffee table. "Now, it's time ta get ta bed. C'mon, Peaches." He nudged Conrad, who started awake, but blinked sleepily, blearily from behind his glasses.

"Whaaaat?" Conrad groaned as Worth pulled him up off the couch by his wrists. The dark haired man stumbled a bit as he was forced to stand, leaning against Worth as he was led towards one of the far doors, which must have been the bedroom. Hanna watched them go, removing his shoes before pulling his feet up on the couch. He didn't take off Alex's jacket, wrapping himself in its warmth with his mouth tasting like bitter ash.

"'e's such a baby," came Worth's voice as he returned the living room.

"Connie's that way all the time," Hanna replied, sniffing into the collar of Alex's coat as he clutched his knees beneath it. He was feeling better, but that still did not ease his anxiety to get back to the hospital first thing in the morning to make sure Alex was alright. Something soft landed on his feet. When Hanna looked up, he saw a tattered blanket and old pillow at the end of the sofa.

"I noticed," Worth said and made to return to the bedroom.

"Hey, Worth," Hanna said, and he stopped.

"Wha'izzit?" he asked, turning around when Hanna didn't say anything immediately.

"Um, thanks for, you know, calling him. Getting me up here tonight….um, letting us stay here, everything…" Hanna said.

"Yeah," Worth replied, because apparently that was how he answered every phrase of gratitude. Before he could leave the room, Hanna added:

"Um, and I'm sorry…for…the way I've been acting…I'm just…" Hanna stopped, put his head into his hands as he tried to get a grip on himself. "I'm just…really…"

"Yeah, I know," Worth said. There was something about his calm, leveled voice and the washed out light of the television that made him seem harder than ever before. His eyes looked deeper, darker, and Hanna knew then that Worth really did know. Was it working in the ICU that had given him this knowledge, or had Worth sat by someone's bedside too? "It's natural ta act tha' way."

"Oh," Hanna said, and before he could stop himself, asked: "So…if Conrad—" He stopped short at the look Worth gave him. It was darker than before, as if someone perched on the precipice of complete insanity.

"Ya won't want ta see me on tha' day," Worth replied, so steely that Hanna felt like it physically could cut him. He stayed silent after that, listening as Worth walked down the hall and into the bedroom, where he closed the door quietly behind him. Hanna meanwhile, pulled the blanket over his body and stared at the high ceiling of the apartment. Eyes aching, Hanna removed his glasses and rubbed at his lids. He could still see Alex lying there in that hospital bed; could still feel the icy chill when Worth's dark, burning gaze landed upon him. And Hanna knew he had to sleep, but had a feeling nightmares would chase him all night. He wished he wasn't right about those sorts of things.

They began howling even before he was completely asleep.


Hanna felt like he was drowning in rain all night.

His dreams were all about rain and crashes and blood. They would start out normally, like he and Alex would be somewhere and it would be raining, but it was alright because they were doing something silly and normal together, like walking home from the grocery store or the Laundromat. And then there would be a car or a truck or a motorcycle that lost control and Alex would always push Hanna out of the way just in time. But then Alex would be there and their groceries or clothes would be strewn about, getting soaked and the umbrella was gone, blowing down the street while Alex bled and bled onto the pavement. The red moved in streaks and swirls and wouldn't cease flowing, no matter how hard Hanna tried to make it stop. He couldn't stop crying because he could feel Alex slipping away through his fingers. And he begged and he sobbed and cried out pleas for him to live because he couldn't die, he just couldn't, not when Hanna needed and loved and couldn't live a day without him.

It was only when someone physically woke him that Hanna escaped his dreams. He felt more exhausted than when he had laid down, but at least there wasn't any blood on his hands, so Hanna took it.

"Hey, Hanna." The same person shook his shoulder again. "Hanna, c'mon and wake up."

"Lamont…?" Hanna rasped out, his mouth dry, like he'd been eating chalk in his sleep.

"Yeah," he said, and when Hanna pulled on his glasses, he saw the other man leaning over him, looking somewhat embarrassed. "Sorry for waking you, but you've been…having nightmares…"

"Oh…" Hanna groaned, sitting up as he rubbed his throat. His face felt hot and the pillow was damp beneath his fingers. "Sorry," Hanna added as an afterthought, realizing he must have been sobbing loudly to have Lamont come and wake him.

"It's alright," he said, and the gentle way he said it made Hanna feel like it was okay. "Well, I just got off my first shift. Do you want me to drive you over to the hospital?"

"Uhm, please? Would you really?" Hanna asked, because Christ if he wasn't desperate at this point.

"Sure," Lamont said. He straightened up a bit and pointed to a small pile on the coffee table. "I got you some fresh clothes. They might be kind of big, but they're clean." Hanna nodded as Lamont added: "If you want to take a quick shower too, we just got the hot water fixed."

"Okay," Hanna said and took the offer. He was surprised to find that the bathroom wasn't as grungy as he would have thought—being Worth's apartment and all—but definitely not as clean as Alex's place. Hanna stood under the scalding water for the longest time, thinking about Alex's apartment and their life and the Chia Pet on the windowsill and the laundry they hadn't gotten to yet. Alex's coffee cup had still been in the sink when he had left that morning. Hanna had forgotten to make the bed, just as he had forgotten to sort their laundry the night before. Just the thought of those small, seemingly meaningless things made Hanna realize: it was their place and he couldn't return to their place without Alex. He wouldn't be able to step through the door alone, into the house that held all of their things and their life together.

He couldn't.

With the weight of this on his shoulders and the feeling of the water beginning to turn cold, Hanna figured he had to do something else to move forward. He had to take it moment by moment, because the thought of all those what ifs in the future were too hard to bear. It went from memory: the routine of washing his hair and then rinsing, bathing, drying off. He went on autopilot as he used the new toothbrush on top of the pile of clothes; towel dried his hair, pulled on the too-baggy clothes that smelled of a foreign fabric softener. Then Hanna took a big breath and went out to face the world.

Step by step.

Lamont made him eat some toast. It tasted like sand, but Hanna knew he had to do it or else Lamont wouldn't give him a ride. He consumed it as fast as he could, pulling on Alex's coat as Lamont lead him out of the apartment and to the car. It was raining, but Hanna knew he was awake and didn't fear the nightmares.

He feared reality instead.

"Where's Worth?" Hanna asked, to distract himself from what was happening. The parking garage was cold and cavernous. Hollow, almost, and Hanna felt the need to fill it with something. Substance, conversation. He was trying.

"Working," Lamont said, as they got into the car.

"At the hospital?" Hanna asked. The word felt heavy on his tongue.

"Delivering," Lamont replied, checked his watch, then his mirrors before continuing: "He drives all morning and usually gets home around noon or so. Then he sleeps until eight, gets up and goes to work at the hospital at nine."

"Oh," Hanna said, rubbing at his eyes as the car began moving out of the garage. "Why does he have two jobs? I mean, doesn't the hospital pay well?"

"Yes, it does, but there was a rough patch for a while when the hospital began cutting hours, so he picked up the job to make some extra cash," Lamont said, and shrugged. "He was supposed to quit months ago, but he hasn't yet."

Hanna wondered if it had anything to do with Conrad, but couldn't muster up the energy to care enough.

"Oh," Hanna said again, staring out the window for the rest of the ride. Breathing. Blinking. Trying not to fall apart. It was hard because it was raining and he wished it wasn't because it was hard enough going to a hospital when it wasn't raining. So the rain just made everything worse and it made him wish that everyone walking down the streets wasn't carrying a black umbrella, because that was even more depressing. He also wished that Death Cab for Cutie wasn't wallowing out their usual moody lyrics quietly through the speakers on 104.4. Lamont tuned the radio to a different station—probably after realizing that I Will Follow You Into The Dark was not the best choice of music at the moment—and put on something bouncy. It felt wrong with the rain and the black umbrellas and the looming building up ahead, where Alex was lying in a bed covered in tubes and wire. But Worth said he would be okay and maybe that gave Hanna enough strength to keep breathing as Lamont pulled up right outside of the outpatient door. They sat there for a moment as the hazard lights cast a blinking amber hue in the downpour; Lamont didn't turn off the car. The windshield wipers went back and forth and back and forth for a few minutes before Lamont tried an awkward, yet well intended:

"Do you want me to come with you?"

"No, thanks…" Hanna said as he nodded. "I'm alright."

"Okay... I'll send Conrad over when he gets back from work?" Lamont replied, though it sounded like more of a question. Hanna had completely forgotten about his job, but hoped that Conrad would have enough sense to let Ples know what had happened. Mr. Tibenoch would take care of things while he was away, Hanna knew he would.

"Sure," Hanna said. With a last, terse nod, stepped out of the car and hurried to the main door. After shaking rain out of his hair and off Alex's jacket, Hanna took the elevator up to the correct floor. It took him a long time to find the critical care unit from the other end of the building, but eventually, Hanna arrived. The ICU looked more awful than it did in the dark; the weak afternoon light through the rain clouds brought out the tones upon tones of gray and puce and other dull shades. There were no plants or bright colors or vibrant vending machines, just a feeling of stillness tainted by tears and dust and death. It was suffocating and quiet, pushing in from all sides with such force that the redhead found himself drained of all will completely. Hanna could only stand there for a moment and take it all in, all while trying to remember that he was supposed to be breathing and walking instead of standing there, looking as lost as he felt inside.

After a moment of collecting himself, Hanna began walking towards room 720.

"Excuse me, sir. Where are you going?"

A nurse blocked his path. She had a stethoscope and a clipboard and a name tag, so she had to be someone important. Or at least someone who knew what they were doing.

"Um, hi..." he said, not really knowing how to start, because it wasn't the same nurse from the previous day, so Hanna wasn't sure if she would be as nice. "Um...I was here last night...to see Alex Harper? Can I go in and see him now?"

"The next visiting hour isn't for another forty minutes," the nurse said and she didn't sound mean, though Hanna still felt wounded by her words. Forty minutes? Forty minutes of waiting out there?

"I'm sorry?" Hanna replied, shaking his head as if hadn't heard her correctly. Her name was Melodie and she was actually kind of nice as she led Hanna towards a waiting room and explained hospital protocol. Apparently there were certain times for visiting patients in ICU; every three hours, one person was permitted to visit with the patient for one hour. Another three hours later, they were permitted to go in and visit again. Hanna thought the system was stupid and cruel and he wanted to shout and cry about it, because Alex was only a few doors away, needing him. And instead of being with him, Hanna was banished to a badly-lit room with an ancient television and yellowed magazines. There were other people inside, huddled together in the neutral colored chairs. Their faces were drawn and sad, pinched around the edges in silent pain. No one was watching the TV or reading. Hanna joined them in their silence, staring at his shoes as he tried his hardest to not watch the clock. Watching clocks just made things go slower.

Forty minutes dragged on for hours it seemed, before a few people in the room stood up and made for the door. Hanna got up too, forcing his stiff legs to follow after these weathered veterans. There was a clipboard that they had to sign and mark with the time, so Hanna did that as quickly as humanly possible before making a beeline for room 720. As much as he dreaded walking into that room, Hanna knew that waiting was a hundred times worse.

Someone had cracked the blinds. The natural sunlight, although weak through the light rain, chased away the harshness of the florescent lights. It didn't make Alex look any better, though, and it was with only heaviness that Hanna went to sit beside him in the same uncomfortable chair from the previous night. The only consolation was that the breathing machine was gone. But even that wasn't as much as a relief as Hanna would have liked, because the bandages and bruises and cuts still remained in abundance. When he moved his hand around Alex's, Hanna once again found himself struck by how small and weak he seemed. It took breathing and repeating Worth's assurances to keep Hanna from breaking down right there. He managed not to, held Alex's hand and watched him intently, hopefully, as the hour passed in silence.

He didn't wake up.

When a nurse came in to take him away at the end of the visiting time, Hanna wanted to lash out at her. Surely she could see that Hanna needed to stay there, but she took him away anyway for a nothing less than excruciating three hours. Hanna wanted to rip his own skin off in that waiting room because every second he couldn't see Alex, his mind wandered to horrible possibilities…Even though Alex was fine and Worth said he would be alright, it didn't keep Hanna's thoughts from turning dark. These horrific imaginings made Hanna get up and pace up and down the hallway. After a while, he broke down and fished some change out of his pocket to get something to eat from the sad-looking in the corner vending machine. Tucked into a pale alcove, Hanna forced himself to eat a stale bear claw and tried not to choke on it because he was close to tears and he felt so stupid, but couldn't help it.

At least he had gotten a grip on himself by the time the next visiting hour came around.

The second visitation was much like the first, where all Hanna could do was sit and hold Alex's hand. About halfway through the hour—when the silence and the hum of machinery became too much—Hanna started talking to Alex. It was about stupid, nonsensical things: their apartment, the Chia Pet, the laundry they still had to do. He brought up things he could remember from Toni's last day at work, about what was on television the other night. Hanna even apologized for making a mess of the kitchen, because he had tried to make spaghetti, really he had, but it had gone to shit and he couldn't help it… And when Alex didn't wake up to tell him it was alright, Hanna didn't know what to do or how to feel. All he knew was that he was in love with Alex and the only thing that mattered was telling him this, over and over and over again because ho could Hanna have fucked up so badly and not have said it before? It just made things more painful when the nurse came around a second time and asked him to leave, because Hanna didn't want to release Alex's hand or stop talking about stupid things or not be able to lean over and kiss him gently, whispering that he loved him.

It was nearly impossible to leave him that second time, because Hanna thought for sure he would die if he had to spend another three hours away from Alex's side.

The nurse from earlier, Melodie, found him an hour later, wandering up and down the hallways by the waiting room like a ghost and made him sit down and told him to wait. But the moment she was out of sight, Hanna went back to pacing for a little while until he couldn't stand up anymore and just tucked himself into that little space between the wall and the vending machine and sat there, staring at his knees. Sneakers and scrubs walked by a few times, but no one stopped for a long time. Then:

"Get up."

Melodie had come back and she was angry. She forced him to stand up, nearly knocking his head against the side of the vending machine as she did so. He then had no choice but to follow her brown ponytail down the hall and into a small room that Hanna had never visited. There was a bed and a chair. She made him sit on the empty bed and forced a cup of hot coffee into his hands.

"Drink," she said. And Hanna obeyed her, taking the bitter drink while trying not to think about the way Alex made coffee. It would just make things worse. "Eat," Melodie said, after he had drained the cup. It was a plastic bowl full of something yellow and green. Hanna didn't register the taste. Probably cafeteria food, but he wasn't going to refuse. When he was done, she sternly made him drink a few cups of water.

"Thanks," Hanna said, after she was done bullying him around.

"Luce told me to keep an eye on you," she replied. It took Hanna a minute to figure out who she was talking about.

"Worth?" Hanna asked.

"Yeah," she said, and maybe she was a little prettier when her mouth wasn't set so meanly. "He said he didn't want to have to get you out of the psych ward."

"Great…" Hanna sighed. "I'm crazy now."

"He wanted to make sure you weren't too hard on yourself," said Melodie. And yes, she definitely looked a lot nicer when she wasn't scowling. "And that you ate something, because you probably didn't sleep last night." It bothered Hanna a little to know that Worth understood him so well.

"Oh," Hanna said, defaulting to his single monosyllable with a lack of anything better to say.

"The guy you're here to see, the one from the car accident…" she began, and Hanna did everything he could not to flinch at her words, his fingers clenching at the sleeves of Alex's jacket. "Worth said he's your boyfriend."

"Yeah," Hanna said, nodding stiffly.

"I'm sorry," Melodie said. Sympathy made her look ten years younger. Maybe the ICU and all its bitterness had made her seem older and meaner than she actually was. Perhaps that explained a lot about Worth, too. "I know it's hard, but he'll be alright. I mean, after an accident like that, he's not going to just get up tomorrow and be fine. But his vitals are much better today, which is a good sign."

"Thank you," Hanna said, sighing out a relieved breath at her sincere honesty. She patted his shoulder, threw the trash away and then went to the door.

"You can stay here if you want to sleep for a bit. I'll have Katerina come get you at eight for the next visiting hour," she offered, but Hanna just shook his head and left. She went one way and Hanna went back to the vending machine. He sat next to it for a while before standing up and walking back into the waiting room. The same people from earlier in the day were there, so Hanna did his best to not look at them. He didn't want to wonder about who they were there to see; what had happened to that person. Instead, Hanna watched the television. It was the History channel. Something about aliens, the pyramids. Hanna lost track after a while, but at least the rest of his waiting went a bit faster than the last time.

When it was eight on the dot, Hanna got up with the others and left.

Signing the clipboard, Hanna went towards Alex's room, only to find that there were two nurses still inside. He stopped in the doorway, finding it hard to breathe for a moment, thinking the worst, until the one woman in pink scrubs stepped aside. Alex was sitting up in bed, looking like utter shit, but at least he was awake and alive and when he saw Hanna, he smiled, even though it probably hurt all the cuts and bruises on his face to do so. It was such a relief to see him that Hanna didn't care about the nurses or the social implications or anything, just getting across the room and putting his arms around Alex at that second.

That was all that mattered.

"Hey," Alex said, and even though he sounded weak and thirsty, it was still Alex. His Alex. He put his uninjured arm around Hanna, pulling him closer. And that gesture, the familiar brush of stubble against his cheek, the steady warmth returning to Alex's skin, let Hanna knew everything would be alright.

"Hey," Hanna finally managed to get out, loosening the embrace in fear that he was unintentionally hurting Alex. The nurses at least had the sense to leave, so the gentle kiss they exchanged was a quiet, private affair. Hanna felt all of his stress and anxiety fall off him in that moment, like he had dropped a weighted vest from his body. It felt good and right to have Alex back with him like this again.

"Sorry," Alex said, after they parted, and he looked kind of embarrassed when he added: "My breath is probably awful…" And Hanna didn't know why, but for some reason that made him laugh. It wasn't just a chuckle, it was a full out laugh that had him holding his sides and shaking with mirth for a solid five minutes. "That bad, huh?" Alex asked, and it had Hanna laughing again. Maybe he was just hysterical, overcome with relief that Alex was really alright, Hanna wasn't sure. But it felt good to have Alex upright and talking again instead of lying there, unmoving and sickly looking with his too-small hands all bruised and cold.

"No, no…" Hanna said, shaking his head as he sat down on the edge of the bed. He wiped at the corners of his eyes and continued: "I'm just…happy to have you back…"

"You know me… I wasn't going anywhere," he replied and his smile was kind of tired but there. Hanna rubbed at his eyes again to try and keep from crying, but he was at least happy while he did it. "Hey…are you okay?" Alex touched his arm gently when he asked and Hanna sniffed to suck it up.

"I'm supposed to be asking you that…" Hanna mumbled weakly.

"I'm on really good painkillers right now, so I'm pretty okay…" Alex said and when Hanna looked at him, he could see the dilation to his pupils and the loopy sort of way he held his head that proved it. His eyes narrowed a bit and the tilt to his head became a bit more pronounce as he asked: "But are you? Hanna...did you sleep at all?"

"A little," Hanna replied, curling his fingers around Alex's.

"Hanna...you have to take care of yourself..." Alex said, sounding like his usual self despite the drugs and his injuries.

"How was I supposed to sleep...after what happened...?" Hanna whispered, biting his lip because it sounded accusatory when he didn't want it to be. "I thought...I thought you were going to die..." Alex's hand squeezed Hanna's gently.

"It's alright," Alex said, and leaned a bit closer. He kissed Hanna's cheek, then jaw, chin, lips, all with the lightest of breaths against Hanna's skin that chased away all the fear and uncertainty he had harbored up until that moment. Hanna was so relieved to find that Alex hadn't lost that ability to make everything feel so sure.

Alex said it was going to be okay.

So it was going to be okay.



Hanna was relieved.

It was only another day in the ICU before Alex was transferred downstairs to a regular hospital room. Even though Alex had to share a small room with another patient—who mostly slept, when he wasn't watching reruns of Cake Boss on TLC—and the rain kept up without pause, Hanna liked it much better than the ICU. There were no restrictions on visiting hours or number of visitors, so Hanna was able to stay as long as he wanted. Plus, he didn't have nosy nurses working for Worth who could spy on him, which was always a bonus.

However, the new room situation was not welcomed for Alex, who had been taken off the good pain medication and given some less potent version of the same stuff on the new floor. To make matters worse, the nurses rationed the weak stuff like gold and only came around once or twice in a twenty-four hour period to relieve Alex of his lingering pain. In the hours that stretched between their visits with morphine, Alex lay on his side and clenched at Hanna's fingers in fitful slumber.

"You don't have to stay," Alex said, every day around lunch time, when the pain became especially bad. He always attempted to hide it with some sort of excuse about not wanting Hanna to be bored or giving Hanna some kind of gentle lecture about proper eating habits and rest. But Hanna wasn't fooled in the slightest and remained steadfast by his side; Alex underestimated what could be said with just his eyes.

"You couldn't keep me away if you tried," Hanna replied, and held Alex's hand through the worst of it, debating on whether or not he should talk about what he had confessed before. He wanted nothing more than to tell Alex that he loved him, but the time seemed wrong somehow. With Alex trying to deal with the pain and recover enough strength to heal, Hanna felt like telling him would be laying another hurdle down for him to jump over, and that seemed like too much. So, Hanna kept those emotions to himself and simply held Alex's hand when he needed it, wondering if he would ever find the right time to say it again.

He hoped he would.

When the pain wasn't so bad and Alex could stay awake without cringing his way through a conversation, Hanna caught him up on all the things he had missed, which mostly concerned Worth-who Alex could not believe was a doctor of all things and worked in the Intensive Care Unit of all places, because it involved taking care of people and that just did not seem to be Worth's style at all-and Conrad's budding sort-of romance. And Lamont's girlfriend, who happened to be the supposed hooker from the bar they had been in that one night to see that one show where Hanna got too drunk and spent the night at Alex's house.

"Wait. What?" Alex asked, either slow from the pain medication that had finally been administered or the fact that he was in complete shock about the entire thing.

"Yeah, that's how I felt," Hanna replied, and told the story about the incident: Conrad had driven him back to Worth's the previous night and there they discovered Lamont and Adelaide on the couch, making out like high school kids under the bleachers at a football game. As if that wasn't disturbing enough, her bouncer friends from that night were there with their backs to the couple, playing Xbox and eating nachos of all things. "You should have seen Conrad's face. I thought he was going to die."

"I can't believe I missed this…" Alex said, and seemed quite disappointed to have not been present when Conrad nearly shat himself in fear and disbelief.

"It was pretty fantastic, I'm not going to lie," Hanna answered and had to describe, in detail, the entire scene. Adelaide, who actually looked like less of a hooker wearing pants and flats, had removed herself long enough from Lamont's pelvis to tease Conrad mercilessly about being too shy to fuck her while her two bouncer friends—still pale and vampire-like, but much less imposing in casual clothing and covered in cheese, Hanna assured him—killed other people ruthlessly in Call of Duty. When everyone had finished poking fun at Conrad, they all sat down and had a drink or five together before continuing to embarrass the crap out of their bespectacled friend. Then, Worth came home at about three in the morning, dragged Conrad into the bedroom, and fucked him so loudly that everyone felt awkward enough to leave.

"I can't believe I missed this…" Alex said again, but he was smiling so Hanna knew he didn't mind the retelling, so long as he was up to speed with everything.

"I could have missed that last part," Hanna replied, and made a face. The walls were thin and Conrad didn't know how loud he could be, or maybe he did and deliberately shouted to make Hanna feel weird as a payback for laughing at him with everyone else.

The third day after Alex had been moved downstairs, Toni and Veser came to visit. They brought flowers and wine—and when they realized that wine wasn't allowed in a hospital, took it home with them so it didn't go to waste—and, of course, stories. Toni talked about moving and her scripts and the make-up crew—she was pissed because they wanted to take the blue out of her hair completely and give her bangs of all things, which must have been traumatic for a girl, Hanna supposed, but wasn't really sure—almost non-stop. Veser interjected every now and then with something inappropriate while he ate the hospital food Alex refused to touch that night. He went on about the pudding when Toni needed a breath and Alex replied with something about how plastic food had to be bad for the digestive track. Veser's argument was that beggars couldn't be choosers and he nearly mauled Alex's food tray to get the last few scraps of the meal. Hanna had a feeling he was high and had the munchies, but wasn't going to say anything. It just made the visit more fun, he thought. Their company was vibrant and excitable as always, which Hanna could tell cheered Alex up a little, despite his earlier hesitation about seeing anyone with his "train wreck" of a face.

{"The doctor said it's going to scar a little…" Alex had told Hanna, pointing along his bruised left cheek, where a row of stitches stretched in a curved line toward his ear. He seemed very apprehensive about this, until Hanna mentioned something about it being ruggedly sexy. It made Alex clutch at his injured ribs as he laughed for the first time since the accident.}

At the end of the week, Alex was discharged with a prescription for Vicodin and strict orders for almost constant bed rest. Alex was happy to get out of the hospital—because it turned out that, as his roommate improved, he developed a fondness for daytime television soaps and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, which had Alex practically clawing his own eyes out every day—and Hanna felt relieved that he could finally go home. Though the thought was generous, Hanna couldn't bear to spend another night on Worth's tortuously uncomfortable couch, alternating between listening to Worth and Conrad fucking on one side of the apartment and Lamont and Adelaide fucking on the other.

"Home sweet home," Hanna declared, when they finally arrived. He had only been back one time since Alex had been in the hospital and that was the afternoon prior, when Conrad had driven him back to go pick up his car. Hanna tried to straighten up a bit, but he had been so anxious to return to Portland that he hadn't done a good job. The place was disorderly and there were dishes getting crusty in the sink and mold in the coffee filter and the herbs in the Chia Pet were wilting. Alex stood in the middle of the destroyed living room with his left arm in a sling and the bruises fading to yellow on his forehead, looking at the chaos closely. When Hanna went up to him to apologize, Alex put his uninjured arm around his shoulders and said fondly:

"It's good to be home."


The next few weeks were the hardest Hanna had ever experienced.

When Alex was released from the hospital, Hanna had thought things would get easier: not having to see his boyfriend in the hospital, no longer having to sleep on Worth's uncomfortable couch, finally not sharing uncomfortable conversations with Lamont and Conrad every time they were in the same room together, etc. But when Alex finally came home, Hanna saw how a lot of things he had taken for granted were suddenly on his shoulders. It was Hanna's turn to take care of Alex, who was still in near-constant pain because of the bruises to his torso and spine. His back was of most concern to the doctors, who told Hanna that Alex was to do as little as possible until they healed, which encompassed everything from walking to making a cup of coffee. But Hanna was more worried about Alex's wrist, as he still hadn't seen Alex move the splinted limb willingly since he had woken up. Between his own observations and the doctors' orders, it was difficult for Hanna to leave him alone all day, constantly wondering—while he was shelving books or doing some other menial task—that Alex might need him or had fallen down or some other horrible equivalent. It usually led Hanna to dashing home on his breaks like a madman to make sure Alex was alright.

{Which he usually was, but still, that didn't stop Hanna from doing it twice a day, every day, in constant fear.}

But the worst part about the entire situation was something that Hanna hadn't thought of: Alex was a horrible patient.

"Didn't the doctor say something about staying in bed? All the time?" Hanna asked, one night when he had come home from work and began the process of making dinner. Or trying to make dinner. Alex lurked just outside of the kitchen, sitting in one of the hard backed chairs next to the small table; he was watching Hanna's every motion, as if making sure he didn't make a mess. After all, when they had come home from the hospital, it had taken all of Hanna's strength to keep Alex from going into the kitchen and scrubbing the mess that had been left over from his attempts at spaghetti.

"I don't recall that he said all the time," Alex said, and then added: "You have the heat up too high."

"I recall that he did," Hanna replied, lowering the heat like he instructed.

"Are you going to tell on me?" Alex asked, and his smile was daring.

"I might," Hanna said.

"Put more butter in the pan," Alex said, not rising to Hanna's half-threat.

"Go back to bed and I will," Hanna replied.

"I've been in bed all day," Alex answered, and he made a pained face. "I'm so bored."

"You could watch TV," Hanna suggested.

"There's nothing on TV during the day," Alex said and then added: "And I'm not watching any more of that housewives show. No way."

"Read a book," Hanna replied.

"I've read all my books," Alex countered childishly. "Unless you'd let me read your book."

"Fat chance," Hanna replied, grinning at Alex's attempts to guilt him into such a thing.

"There's nothing to do..."

"You shouldn't be doing anything. You should be sleeping"


"No, really, you should. That's the best thing."

"I'm not an invalid, Hanna."

The look Alex gave him was enough for Hanna to feel badly for a moment.

"I'm just saying…the more you rest, the sooner you can get up and not be bored anymore," Hanna informed him. He went into the fridge and grabbed the butter. When he closed the door, Hanna saw Alex shaking his head as if he disagreed, but had no further argument. He didn't get up and go back to bed, either, but helped Hanna cook a rather decent meal from his chair.

"I'm sorry," Alex said after dinner, when Hanna wouldn't let him help with the dishes. He was back in the chair again with a tired, defeated sort of air about him. The accident had made him look smaller somehow. Maybe it was the way his shoulders slumped as if too exhausted to be broad and straight anymore. The sling and brace made his arm appear weak and sickly. Vulnerable: that was the word that came to mind after some thought. It made Hanna tread gently, as if he didn't want to break the last little bit of Alex that kept him upright.

"For what?" Hanna asked.

"For earlier," Alex replied and gave him a small shrug with his right shoulder. "I just feel really useless right now. The boredom isn't helping anything."

"You're not useless," Hanna answered, and shut off the faucet, abandoning the dishes because Alex was more important than the chore. He wiped his hands on the dish towel, keeping his gaze level with Alex's as he added: "You're hurt and that's not your fault. You just have to rest until you're better."

"But I can't do anything," Alex said, and Hanna could tell that this had been gnawing at him for a while now. "I mean, I can't help you wash dishes or fold laundry or... make myself a cup of coffee. And…you won't even let me take a shower if you're not home... This whole thing is just ridiculous. I didn't lose a kidney or have brain surgery or anything like that. I can take care of a few things, you know? I'm fine." His tone was nothing short of frustrated, which was something that Hanna had never heard before. There was too much self-hate in his voice, spurred by the condition that was the fault of a teenager who thought driving and texting was an awesome idea. Alex was beating himself up over something that was out of his control; it hurt Hanna to hear the blame and abhorrence for his inability to do anything for himself. It drove Hanna to go to him, kneel down in front of Alex to hold his hand and say:

"I know this sucks. I know, I really do, because…I know that you've taken care of yourself for a long time and this is weird because it's someone else taking care of you for once, but… just bear it another few days, okay? Just another few days and then you can start doing things again." Hanna dropped his gaze, bringing Alex's hand to his cheek as he closed his eyes. Under the lids, his eyes felt hot and his chest hurt as he continued softly, honestly: "I'm sorry to ask you to do this, but I thought…I thought you were going to die and…I…I was really scared of that, Alex…I mean, really, really scared of that…and now that I know you're okay, I just want you to get better. The fastest way to get better is to let me take care of you." Hanna sniffed and then he laughed quietly. "I know… I kind of suck at doing it, but I'm trying."

"You don't suck at it, Hanna," Alex said, his old tone replacing the self-loathing with nothing but his usual kindness. His thumb moved over Hanna's cheek to assure him of those words. The gesture was familiar. It made Hanna feel a bit better.

"I can't cook," Hanna said, and he laughed again because he really couldn't. It was the first night that he had made something even remotely edible, though Alex had been a soldier through all of it and ate the over-cooked, over-salted, over-marinated everything without complaint.

"You're learning," Alex replied. "Don't be hard on yourself." He let out a soft sigh, not able to regularly do so with his ribs in their state. "I'm sorry I brought all this up, especially when you're working so hard to take care of me…on top of all those extra shifts, too…" Alex looked nothing but guilty when Hanna glanced up at him, because he was undoubtedly thinking of all the extra hours that Ples had given him to make up for the week he had been up at the hospital. Hanna had a feeling Mr. Tibenoch was trying to help Hanna make a bit of extra money to take care of Alex while he was injured and out of work. He sent Hanna home with expensive tea bags and bitter smelling salves that Ples claimed were organic and helped with aches and pains. It was nice of him and Hanna didn't mind the extra work, though it did keep him away from Alex more than he liked.

"It's okay. With my cooking skills and the fact that I didn't do the laundry yet…we're even," Hanna replied, turning his cheek to kiss Alex's palm. He didn't want Alex to worry about anything: chores, work, and especially money. That was the reason why Hanna hid all of the bills under the couch and looked at them only when his boyfriend was asleep at night. Stretching his single paycheck to make ends meet was hard, especially with his old apartment adding an extra expense. But before Hanna made any decision about it, he wanted to talk to Alex. And that was something that Hanna wanted to talk about when he was better.

In the meantime, the less he knew, the better.

"I'll make it up to you, I promise," Alex said and he was smiling in the way that Hanna adored, which made everything feel alright. Hanna grinned, feeling like it had been ages since he had done so.

"I'm counting on it."


Hanna felt bad about asking Alex to commit himself to bed and rest, so he did the one thing he said he wasn't going to ever do:

He let Alex read his novel.

The morning before he left for work, Hanna put his laptop on the bed next to Alex and told him that, so long as he took it easy, he was allowed to read the untitled novel and give him feedback on it. Alex looked like a kid who had been given a gift card to a candy store and even pinkie swore that he would follow Hanna's conditions. All that day, Hanna fidgeted as he thought about Alex reading his story. What would he think? What part would he be at by now? Would he like it? Hate it? Enjoy the characters? Maybe he would think it was flat? A flop? Somehow strangely amazing? Hanna didn't know and wanted to call, but the check-out lines seemed never-ending and he couldn't break away to do so.

When he went home for lunch, Hanna found that Alex was still in bed, laptop propped up on his knees, staring at the screen with an intent expression on his face. It took him at least five minutes to realize Hanna had returned before he immediately launched into talking about Hanna's book and the intricate plot with the witty tone and the dynamic characters. It was probably the most Hanna had ever heard Alex say in one sitting, which may have been the result of the medication or the fact that he honestly fell as in love with the story as he claimed.

"Why haven't you sent this anywhere yet?" Alex asked, once it sounded like he was running out of air from all his praises. He hadn't even taken a bite of the sandwich Hanna had made him for lunch.

"I dunno…I'm still working on it and I don't like the main character's name and it doesn't have a title, so…" Hanna mumbled, cheeks hot as he rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed.

"You should name him after yourself," Alex said. "I hear your voice so clearly through him."

"That's really self-centered though," Hanna pointed out.

"Maybe, but I think Hanna would fit him perfectly," Alex continued, snacking on one of Hanna's sea-salt chips.

"But Hanna's not a boy's name," Hanna answered dully, repeating what he had heard from near infancy when people found out his name. Always the same line, without question, without fail.

"Hey, that's a good title," Alex said and the moment he did, Hanna couldn't say anything because it kind of was. "I mean, if I saw a book with that title, I would want to read it."

"But what if people think it's about a transvestite or something?" Hanna asked, wrinkling his nose a bit at the thought of people not wanting to read his book because of that theme. Or people wanting to read it because of that, only to be disappointed that there were no transvestites in it.

"Write a really witty summary for the back," Alex suggested, and nabbed another chip from Hanna's plate. "Or add a subtitle for it so that people can distinguish it's a paranormal comedy and not something to be taken seriously."

With all those good ideas in his head, Hanna returned to work with a dazed smile. It was like he went on autopilot for the rest of the day, thinking of titles and replacing names with new ones and making things "witty" and awesome like Alex suggested. That night, he had to practically wrestle his computer away from Alex to write, for the compulsion to get something on paper was so strong that Hanna could barely contain it. And it was awkward having someone reading over his shoulder, but kind of endearing, too.

"Hey, Hanna," Alex began, that night when they were settling down to go to sleep. He had just taken a Vicodin, so his voice sounded light and airy when he spoke.

"Hmm?" was Hanna's reply as he sat on the edge of the bed to take off his socks.

"The zombie…in your story," Alex said, yawned, and then continued: "Does he ever find out his name?"

"I can't tell you that," Hanna answered, grinning as he got into bed.

"Oh," was Alex's far off reply. His eyes were already closed. "I guess that makes sense…"

"Do you like his character?" Hanna asked, taking off his glasses. As he was setting them on the nightstand and turning out the lamp, Alex replied:

"Yeah…" It came out like a sigh, even softer when he said: "But...I don't know if…I want him to remember or not…"

"Why's that?" Hanna asked, pulling the blanket over them.

"Because it would be sad…either way, wouldn't it? If he remembered his past and left the detective…or if he never found out about anything…" Alex said and Hanna knew he was smiling in the dark. "That sounds dumb, huh? Drugs make me...sentimental."

Hanna smiled too and kissed him.

"Don't worry. It has a happy ending."


Alex healed slowly and steadily over the next few weeks.

His body still hurt after the painkillers ran out, Hanna knew, but Alex was a trooper and pushed his way through it. Most days, Hanna would find that Alex had done light chores around the house, maybe even worked for a few hours on the book he had been in the process of translating before the accident. But some days, Hanna came home and found Alex still in bed, too miserable and aching to get up or eat or do anything at all. The bruises were healing and the stitches had come out, but there was still something wrong.

"What did the doctor say about your wrist?" Hanna asked, after one of Alex's follow up appointments with the local doctor. Alex looked at him and then down at his hand, like he was considering the question.

"Well, she said I might have to go to physical therapy for a while," Alex said, not seeming happy about this, whether because he knew it was going to hurt or because he knew it would be expensive.

"What's…wrong?" Hanna asked, because he had been worrying about the injury since the accident. There was something about the way that Alex continuously held it that bothered him.

"Dunno," Alex said and he gave his one-shouldered shrug again. The left didn't move, like it couldn't make the motion. Hanna suddenly felt a rush of hate for the driver of the other vehicle. If he hadn't been texting, he wouldn't have run the red light. If he hadn't run the red light, he wouldn't have hit Alex, crushing his car so hard into the guardrail that there was nothing but the fender and trunk left. What if the kid—who walked away from the accident with nothing but a broken leg and an angry parent—had crippled Alex for life? What kind of text message was that important?

None. That was the answer.

"Hanna, I'll be alright," Alex said, as if knowing where Hanna's thoughts had ventured. After that, they didn't talk about it for a while. Hanna still thought about it, though, every night when he lay beside the other man. Sometimes, when Alex was so deep asleep, Hanna would run his fingers over the hard brace around his wrist and say prayers to Gods he didn't really believe in. He begged silently, wordlessly to these beings that Alex would heal completely, because he just couldn't bear his lover being punished in such a way.

It just wouldn't be fair.


The bills got paid when Alex submitted his final translated manuscript to the publisher.

"You should have shown these to me ages ago…" Alex said, sitting at the table with the stack of bills from under the couch. He leaned his chin against the back of his hand as he typed away on a calculator and somehow magically got things to balance in both of their checkbooks. It was that night that Hanna felt it was alright to sit down with him and talk about his apartment.

"I think, you know, that is…I mean, maybe I shouldn't be there anymore…" Hanna admitted, stirring creamer into his coffee. He didn't want to be forceful in any of it, because Alex had been nice enough to make room for him, but had not officially asked him to move in. Maybe he had been waiting or wanting to let Hanna keep his independence in that way. Whatever the case may have been, Hanna did not want to impose in case he overstepped a line he hadn't seen.

"If you want to keep it, to have a place to call your own, then you should," Alex said, putting his pen down, "but you have this place, too, with me." He smiled even though he was as serious as Hanna had ever seen him. "Unless I'm too hard to live with."

"You're not hard to live with," Hanna said, shaking his head with his own smile. "I'm hard to live with."

"No, you're really not," Alex replied. It was almost midnight and it smelled like paper and ink and vanilla when he asked: "So do you want to move in? For real?" And Hanna should have felt afraid to give up his space, his previously independent way of life. But he wasn't at all. In fact it would be a relief to say goodbye to that place, that part of his life that seemed so distant and foreign now. In truth, it felt nothing but good and right to hold Alex's hand and without a thought, simply say:



Alex went to physical therapy the following week.

In between work and moving out of his apartment and driving Alex to his therapy sessions, Hanna felt exhausted. By Thursday, Alex was two sessions into therapy and didn't want to talk about it. Hanna had a fight with Ms. Blaney that day about the security deposit and the rent that she wanted him to pay for a month when he wouldn't even be living there any more. It made both of them moody and depressed that night. Neither of them wanted to cook or eat or do much of anything, so they went to bed early instead. Even though he was out the moment he hit the pillow and thought that he could sleep for a million years without waking up for anything, Hanna woke up with a jolt in the middle of the night. He didn't know why, but his heart was racing, like he had just run a mile and he felt scared for some reason. Alex wasn't beside him in bed. At first, he didn't know what had woken him and why he felt so panicked, but then he heard it: a low, painful keen. It took Hanna a moment to comprehend that it was the sound of quiet sobbing. Disoriented, Hanna got up out of bed and followed the sound, knowing that it had to be Alex while at the same time unable to believe that it was coming from him. Of all people, Hanna could never imagine Alex crying like that, or at all, for that matter. But Hanna found him in the kitchen, sitting in the dark with his knees to his chest.

His low, agonized sob died down to nothing but breath after a moment.

"Go… back to bed, Hanna," Alex said, his voice thin and wavering. It sounded like he had been crying for a while, but Hanna didn't turn on the light to confirm this.

"Alex…what's wrong?" Hanna asked quietly, kneeling down next to him. He could feel Alex shaking; hear him straining for breath. When he didn't receive an answer, Hanna moved his arm comfortingly around Alex's shoulders and held him against his chest. Almost immediately, Alex folded up into him and he felt smaller than Hanna had ever thought possible. All Hanna could do was hold onto him and rub his back, but not much more than that. Some time later, when he relaxed a bit, Hanna discovered that Alex had taken all the frozen food out of the fridge to wrap around his left arm.

"I…didn't want…to wake you up…" Alex murmured, after admitting to the pain that had been lingering all week, but had finally become too much to bear. Everything from the tips of his fingers to his neck was nothing short of fiery pinpricks of agony, but when Hanna said they should go to the hospital, Alex refused. More in control of himself, Alex put the food back in the freezer, took too many Tylenol PMs to be healthy, and went back to bed. Hanna tried to help, applying some muscle rub to his arm and shoulder to ease the pain, which seemed to help, but not by much.

"You should have told me," Hanna said, holding onto him in the dark, like his arms could keep the pain at bay.

"You have too much to worry about…" Alex replied.

"It doesn't matter. You should always tell me things like this," Hanna insisted. Alex gave a weak apology, and soon he fell asleep. Hanna, however, was wide awake and nervous, his heart refusing to slow down and take a break. It was nearly three in the morning by the time Hanna sat up and came to terms with the fact that he wasn't going to sleep for a while. So he went out into the living room and found his cell phone. He found a name at the end of his small list of an address book and dialed.

"Wha'th' fuck ya want?" were the first words out of Worth's mouth when he answered the phone.

"I...just thought I'd call...to see how things are going..." Hanna lied weakly. He could almost see Worth rolling his eyes as he lit a cigarette and made that aggravated motion with his hand that basically said you're so full of shit.

"We ain't friends're we? Callin' ta gossip'n shit?" Worth replied.

"Yeah, you're right," Hanna said and sighed, putting his head into his hand. "I really called because...I've got to ask you something."

"Yer loverboy dyin'?" he asked and Hanna flinched away from the phone as if Worth had slapped him.

"No, at least I hope not..." Hanna murmured, picking at the tassel on the old throw blanket across his knees.

"So dramatic, ain't ya?" Worth said, and Hanna heard him inhale on his cigarette. He wondered if Conrad was there or if Worth was alone, drinking in his bedroom while Lamont fucked his too-pretty girlfriend who was actually studying something important in school. What it was escaped Hanna at the moment, but it had sounded impressive when she had told him in between shots of cheap vodka. The memory was disjointed and fuzzy. Maybe Hanna had been imagining it. He wasn't sure. What he did know was that he had taken too long of a silence because Worth huffed out a breath and Hanna heard him slam a glass down on a nearby table as he growled into the receiver: "If ya ain't gonna talk, don't call." And he hung up right there, leaving Hanna sitting on the couch in the dark in the middle of the night with nothing but the dial tone in his ear. After what felt like eternity, he managed to call Worth back. It took three tries for him to answer with a jumbled mess of swears.

"There's something wrong with his arm," Hanna said, ignoring the colorful phrases. "Something really wrong." Without waiting for Worth to ask what the symptoms were, Hanna told him. Everything from his own observations to the description Alex had given him earlier. And Worth actually listened, maybe even pondered for a minute as he smoked and threw back a slosh of whiskey before replying with:


Hanna wasn't sure if it was his accent or if the word was just complicated, but he didn't understand. Worth eventually dumbed it down for him so that he could get it: nerve damage. Under pressure, nerves, which were fragile to begin with, could be damaged, severed, and killed. The pain, numbness, and everything in between was known as Paresthesia. Apparently it was just a general term, because there were all kinds of conditions and symptoms where paresthesia was one of the major causes.

"Can it...be fixed?" Hanna asked.

"Depends on th'nerve an'where it is," Worth replied, "an'how bad it is."

"Oh," Hanna said. And felt kind of hollow as he said: "Thanks" before hanging up. It took him a long time to get up from the couch and go into the bedroom, where he sat in bed next to Alex and wanted to cry, but didn't. Alex was always his rock, and now it was time for Hanna to be his.


Tests were run.

Worth was right about the damage. Apparently the physical therapy had been good for the muscle, but bad for the nerve. It had been trying to heal when the forced motion had ripped it, causing intermittent pain and numbness. Because of that, a surgery was scheduled for the following month in order to repair the injury. They said that if it was successful, he would make an near complete recovery, which meant he would live with occasional weakness and numbness, though not often enough to be troublesome. However there was always the possibility of something going wrong, which could result in paralysis, more pain and a lifetime of surgeries. When given the options, Alex had selected the surgery despite its risks. When they returned home from Portland, Alex told Hanna why he had done that.

"I figure...I have to at least try. I can't live my life with this pain, always wondering if the surgery would have fixed it," Alex said. Hanna could tell he was still afraid: afraid of being maimed and crippled, unable to lift or hold anything without difficulty. It was an artists' worst nightmare, losing a hand. Painters, writers, cooks: all relied on the dexterity of two hands and ten fingers. Hanna didn't want to think about the one thing Alex loved to do suddenly being ripped away from him and he was sure that Alex was trying not to think about the exact same thing.

"I think...you'll be alright," Hanna replied, moved closer to Alex on the couch, and kissed him reassuringly. That was all he could do at that moment in all the uncertainty with the bills piling up and the fear of losing Alex to all the depression and pain he was trying so hard to fight. All Hanna could really do was show Alex that he was there and not going to leave, no matter what.

"Me too," Alex said, always the optimist, though Hanna could see a shadow of doubt already lurking behind his eyes. Hanna knew then that they both had their limits. He couldn't promise Alex that he would get better or not feel any pain anymore, just as he couldn't fly to the moon or turn water to gold. But Hanna could promise one thing, and one thing only.

"Just know, that no matter what happens, I'll be here," Hanna replied. The words came easily, without hesitation, with nothing but clear, honest sincerity. Hanna then realized that he had come far from the stuttering, jittery mess he had been and that was all because of Alex. It was Alex who had given him so much and asked for so little; who Hanna wanted to give the entire world and the moon and the stars to. But because he couldn't do that and he couldn't cook or do laundry or grow rosemary properly, Hanna had to settle for the most meaningful words in his expansive vocabulary:

"I love you."

And Alex smiled a smile filled with amber and honey and sunshine as he said simply:

"I know."

"How?" Hanna asked, dumbfounded and frozen in that gaze that still had that amazing ability to hold him captivated.

"I just know," Alex said, and swept his thumb along Hanna's jaw, over his lips and softly down his throat. The gentle caress left Hanna aching for more touch, missing that contact over the weeks of Alex's recovery.

"How?" Hanna asked again, blushing as he added: "I've...never said it before..."

"You didn't have to," Alex replied, and kissed him with more meaning than Hanna ever thought possible. He knew how Alex felt without him having to say a word, because Hanna could feel it in him: that warm, cozy nook that had been created the moment they first began. And it was just expanding with warmth and happiness and overflowing with so many good things of which Hanna could not get enough. It was right and perfect and quietly impressive instead of blatantly showy. It was them, in their place with their things and their stories and their lives together.

And that was all coffee and sugar and spices and love in a nutshell.

"I wanted to," Hanna said, because he did; because words mattered to writers more than anything sometimes. He moved forward; put his arms around Alex's neck and held him. "I wanted to say I love you. That I'm in love with you. I just wanted to say it out loud, because...I almost didn't get to say it. And I was afraid that you wouldn't ever know..."

"I worried about the same thing," Alex replied, and his words were soft against Hanna's ear. There was something so raw in the way he whispered honestly: "I was scared that I would die and you wouldn't know how I really felt."

"Yeah?" Hanna asked. He and Alex sharing that fear comforted him somewhat. It also made that moment more important, because they were both there and alive and able to say it, finally.

"Yeah," Alex said, and his arms secured themselves around Hanna's waist. Then he said the words that Hanna should have understood in every action, every touch, every kiss, but only found himself completely able to comprehend in that moment when he said: "I love you, Hanna." And it might have taken a long time to fully allow that fact to sink in, but when it did, it was nothing short of wonderful.

They didn't think about the surgery or the future or the bills for the rest of the night.

All they did was kiss for the longest time, until Alex moved back a bit, lips caressing along Hanna's jaw, down his neck. The fingers of his uninjured hand slid under Hanna's shirt, traveling over the familiar skin and leaving trails of heat in their wake. Hanna's body responded to Alex's touch, moving like it was supposed to with the stimulus, reveling in the feeling of being caressed and loved and kissed so fully. But after a moment, he forced his eyes open and stilled Alex's hand, because going further wasn't possible.

"Why?" Alex asked, and there was a bit of pout in the strained question as his tongue flirted unfairly with Hanna's ear.

"You're still recovering...we can't..." Hanna replied weakly, holding Alex's head in place, unable to push him away.

"We can," Alex insisted, sliding both his injured and uninjured palms over Hanna's thighs. "You can't just start all this and not finish it..." It took a bit more convincing before Hanna agreed to go to bed with Alex. The taller man laid down against the pillows, allowing Hanna to take the lead in things from there and he did. He slowly took off each article of clothing, methodically kissed every bruise and scar on Alex's still-healing body. Then, Hanna gave where he needed to give and withheld when he knew he should not be so generous. It was new for both of them to have Hanna on top, and the redhead found it a bit stressful at first—concerned that he was hurting Alex more than he was letting on—but then the whole thing became quite enjoyable for the both of them by the end. Alex held on to his shoulders the entire time, moving when he could and clenching when he couldn't. There were hot, whispered words of encouragement and low, breathy pleas for more, harder, faster. Hanna gripped at the pillow as Alex scrabbled for some sort of hold against his back. It was raining outside and they were so alive in that moment.

And at the brink of completion, Hanna felt infinite.

He kissed Alex until he fell asleep, leaving Hanna to lie there in the wrinkled sheets that smelled like cloves and sex and aftershave. He listened to the rain and the hum of pleasure in his ears and the soft inhales, exhales of Alex's breathing. They were scared and happy and in love and there were boxes upon boxes of Hanna's things everywhere. He had to go to work in the morning and they were almost out of coffee and there were too many bills on the table.

But it was perfect in its own way of being imperfect that Hanna wouldn't have it any other way.


Yeah, a little late, but finally here. It was a little emotional for me to write, because I struggle with Paresthesia on a daily basis with my CTS flare-ups. They're so bad that I'm practically crippled on some days. What you read in the text might seem over dramatic and out of character, but I did that one night after I tried the exercises the doctors suggested I do. My mom thought I was dying because I thought I was dying, so I kept telling her I was. And when she realized I wasn't, she got pissed because the green beans were all unfrozen 0_0

Anyway, despite all of that drama, I hope you enjoyed, because I certainly did! I have the epilogue ready to go by the end of the month which will wrap everything up~!