Notes: For my (LJ) kiss_bingo card prompt, "location: hospital." That pretty much sums up what is coming when it comes to this fandom.
Warnings: Canon character death, mentions of suicidal thoughts. Probably a little on the triggery side.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fictional parody in no way intended to infringe upon the rights of any individual or corporate entity. Any and all characters or celebrity personae belong to their rightful owners. Absolutely no money has or will be gained from this work. Please do not publicly link, repost or redistribute without letting me know first.
In the end they had four - not quite five - months to finally get it right, to put things back to where they should have been all along. They had been the happiest months Eric Bottler could remember, despite the cloud of the inevitable hanging over him.
At first he refused to leave Linus' side out of regret, out of hating himself for flaking out on his friends… for not even bothering to tell Linus that they were over. Slowly, the regret and shame subsided and he let himself realize that he was making it about himself when he wasn't the only one laying awake at night in the small apartment's single bedroom not saying what they knew they should be saying. They never talked about getting back together, it just seemed right… it didn't need someone to say it was happening. It didn't even matter, really. Nobody bothered asking when Hutch made an offhand remark about mommy and daddy getting back together after the nasty divorce.
Linus was happy, that much he was sure of. He spent all the time he could scrape together making absolutely sure that Linus was enjoying himself. Thankfully, it didn't take much… he seemed to be content simply spending his days watching Eric draw, sometimes leaning over his shoulder… sometimes lurking somewhere in the room scribbling story ideas in his notebook. They wrote an entire year's run of books together, the last one only mostly complete before he had to make the phone call in the middle of the night.
Then, they were just there… sitting in a generic hospital room at three in the morning on a Thursday. He held Linus' hand as long as he could, listening to the steady drone of the heart monitor slow and even with an underlying hiss of oxygen from the outlet on the wall to a mask covering much of his face. He had slowly grown weaker, sleeping most of the day and forcing himself to eat most of the time. When he didn't get out of bed to even put on a show for the hospice nurse, they both knew it was time to look towards the end.
That night he had gone to bed early, asking Eric to come and lie with him. They talked about everything, about the past and all the things that they wished they had done when they were too stupid to know that was what they were supposed to be doing. Then Linus talked about the future, told him that he would have to cope and move on without going back to the person he kept trying to be. "I'll haunt you." Linus threatened.
"You can be like my Obi-Wan Kenobi." Eric answered, drawing his fingers across the softness of Linus' skin - fearing the cool chill enough to stop and pull his blanket up higher.
"Yeah, I'd like that." He paused, a faint smile still curving his lips. He was silent for a long time, and Eric had drifted almost to sleep when he spoke again. "I don't want to die here, Eric… I only want you to remember me alive here."
It wasn't what Eric wanted to hear, no matter how many times he forced himself to play the facts in his head and go over the list of what to do when IT happens, he took solace in the thought that it wouldn't be today. Over the last few days he had begun to wonder how many not-todays were left. He only nodded, leaning in to gently kiss Linus' familiar lips.
By midnight his breathing had shifted from the steady ebb and flow against Eric's ear to a much weaker struggle. It was time. There was no ceremony, no grand hoopla of bags to pack and family and medical personnel. He took his already packed hospital bag from the closet and added a sketch pad and Linus' notebook. "Wake up, Linus…" He leaned over their bed, kissing his face with a solid hand across his chest - just in case.
"Mmmm, sleepy Eric." Linus muttered, opening one eye. "G'way."
"Not now, Linus. It's time to go to Cleveland."
"Dun wanna go to Cleveland." He groaned, closing the eye and turning his head away - letting out a soft cough. "Stay here."
"Mercy's a shithole; don't make me take you there. It's less than an hour to get to where your doctors are. If I call now Dr. Roth will probably be able to meet us there." Linus didn't reply and Eric's guts felt like they did a back flip. "Damn it, Linus. Don't make me put you in the chair."
"I hate that damn chair." Linus finally responded to him, loosening him up… just a little.
"I know, come on. I'll help you put your shoes on and you can walk with me." He pulled away and retrieved Linus' sneakers from their spot by the front door, actually a bit surprised to see him sitting up in the bed.
"I can do it." He spoke, his voice slow and sleepy.
"Don't push yourself." Eric knelt down at the edge, taking Linus' foot in both hands and angling it for the shoe. "I've got it."
He remembered high school mythology, or was it English, something about Native Americans dressing a corpse to prepare for their transition into the afterlife. Before he could take the thought into dangerously dark territory Linus' hand on the top of his head brought him back to reality. He slid the worn sneaker over his foot, his eyes half lidded as the cool fingers stroked over his hair and then down his cheek. "Thanks, for everything, Eric."
Eric gently set down the finished foot, taking the opposite side much more slowly. "You're due for your meds again when you're ready." He avoided the topic, knowing far too well where it was going. Sometimes he wondered if Linus ever thought about how easy it would be to control when he went, to completely take away the whole time bomb effect. All it would take is a handful of pain killers and he'd just fall asleep and be gone without another word, without another trip to the hospital only to watch him bounce back just enough to let him go home and wait for it to happen again.
Linus seemed to consider it, but shook his head. "No, I'm good."
They slowly walked arm in arm to his sedan, then made the quiet trip up I-71.
It was happening. Dr. Roth had indeed met them in emergency after an unexpectedly short run through triage and sent for tests and an IV immediately. The questions were the same as always; how long since he last ate, how has his sleep been, when did his breathing change, has he been taking the pain killers; they seemed to go without end, making a point of ignoring Linus even as he squeezed Eric's hand tight. They had gotten used to the song and dance over the last month, and Eric had learned more about being a caregiver than he'd ever intended to. Somehow though, it all felt okay. He supposed if it had to happen he was glad Linus trusted him enough to let him handle the whole thing.
Eric held on through the silence, through the waiting. Then it was time, as his breathing slowed and everything Eric Bottler knew about the world changed again, he leaned in close and kissed him one last time.
"I love you."