Sebastian isn't quite sure how he got here. He can barely remember the drive here or the paperwork to get in or how he found this room. His mind had stayed mercifully blank the whole time, refusing to let the reality of the situation hit him, the ridiculous idiosyncrasies of the building and the people that would make it more real (he's in a fucking mental hospital). He's here for Thomas, that's all he needs to focus on right now. That's all he's here for.
Tom looks bad. Face colorless and drawn, the dull chalky pale that comes from not sleeping. Dark shadows that look like bruises under his eyes. Eye. Jesus. Worst of all he's got that look. Like he belongs here. The face of someone who's completely given up. He's staring at nothing, his eye under Sebs' gazebut above floor level. His features are slack, completely lacking in animation. His goddamn eye (Sebs will never get used to that) is glazed over, all the childlike excitement it used to hold drained away and looks like it could never come back.
He's sitting in a chair except he's not so much sitting in as curved around it like he's part of the goddamn thing. He's bonelessly draped on it, body following the L shape exactly. Not sitting up straight or lurched over, just like he has no interest in supporting his body weight at all; chin on his chest, arms hanging by his sides (ugly black and blue marks on his wrist, Jesus). It looks uncomfortable and unnatural and it's making Sebs feel even more awkward than he already does. He moves forward in his own chair, closer to the edge, resting his chin on his fist. He feels like he needs to move if Thomas won't.
Tom moves slowly when he moves (not that that's all that often) and Sebs knows that it's not all because of the depth perception. Despite how awkward he seemed to be in his own body at times, Tom's always been ridiculously sure-footed regardless of darkness or other obstacles. Deft as a goddamn bat, even when he's blind-drunk.
It's like watching a wounded animal and if Sebs wasn't sure that his tears had dried up years ago he'd probably want to cry.
He's looking at a man who once seemed too innocent for his own good, who he had more than once pointed out was pretty much a child in a man's body and he wants to say 'it wasn't him, it couldn't be him' but he knows he'd be lying to himself. He's seen the flares of anger that were just a tad too feral, the darkness bubbling up behind the wall. He'd assumed it was no worse than anyone else's; god knows Sebs has had a few moments in his life when he thought he'd lose control. What Tom had done was no crime of passion, however. No jealous rage or lashing out in anger. It was, however sloppily carried out, an organized plan of attack. It had been Tom's revenge on everyone, Sebs included.
"So, how's it going? Stupid question, right? It's not like anything could be going well."
Is that the right thing to say? Pointing out the obvious will probably do nothing but irritate him but being in denial can't possibly help. 'Why'd you do it?' was useless and Sebs already knew why. 'How come?' seemed more appropriate. 'How come you did this now? What set you off, finally?' 'How come you didn't tell me it was this bad?' 'Don't you know I would have done something?' 'How could you do this to me?' Me, me, me.
He can't stand the silence. He's never liked silence. It's not peaceful so much as it's constricting and oppressive, even at the best of times.
He moves his eyes around the room, searching for a distraction or a topic of conversation. It's a cell of cement and metal and plastic, not an organic-looking thing in the place besides the two of them. It's thoroughly industrial and determinedly impersonal. The chairs are metal with a hard plastic 'seat'. His chair is cold (the whole place is cold) and it hurts. He hasn't seen it himself but he knows Tom's supposed to have injuries on his back (medical report? He can't remember) and with the top of the chair-back digging into him the way it seems to be, they must hurt like a bitch.
"It's goddamn freezing in here. Would it kill them to turn the heat up? Or on at all? If it's bothering me it must be killing you. I know how much you hate the cold..."
The word "kill" keeps coming out of his mouth. Words keep coming out of his mouth. Why is he talking? Why isn't Tom talking? His voice keeps getting higher and more desperate, approaching manic. He needs to coax a response from him, anything.
"So, it's…uh…been awhile, huh?"
He would have come sooner. He wanted to. He didn't even get the call until after the holidays and then he'd had to work…Always the job. The idea of Tom waiting here, abandoned, not knowing if Sebs or anyone was coming for him made his stomach twist with guilt.
Sebs half-crosses his legs, resting his ankle on his knee, feeling the need to move out of sheer discomfort.
"All this white is enough to drive a person crazy…"
Sebs hates himself for that one. It's like his mind is forcing him to be inappropriate. Maybe he thinks if he says something bad enough Tom will have to respond. The fact that he doesn't know why he's saying what he is worrisome. He's starting to feel like the crazy one.
"Goddammit Tom! Say something. Fucking say something!"
Tom looks up at him, lifting his head as slowly and with as exertion as possible while still making it look like he's lifting a thousand pounds. There are bruises on his neck; Sebs can see now, bad ones. Nasty shades of green and yellow. Tom stares at him pathetically and Sebs can feel all his malice leave him. This isn't the kicked-puppy, 'fell on the playground and skinned my knee' sad-child look that usually fills Sebs with the disgustingly strong urge to give him a hug (which he might actually do more often if Tom wasn't so weird about physical contact) and a lollipop. No, Tom's face is thoroughly contorted in misery and pain, the confused defeat of having your whole reality cave in on you. Which is essentially what happened, he tells himself. He shouldn't have to keep reminding himself of this.
But this is not Tom. This lifeless thing with half its face covered in bandages and a dead stare is not Tom.
He needs Tom. The real one.
From the first time Sebs had met him, Tom had seemed like a sweet, fun, energetic person who just needed a bit more attention than most. He'd spent short goofy days and long crazy nights with him. Tom was his friend and seeing him as this empty shell…
It's not right.
Sebs isn't stupid and he's not blind. He knows that Tom's fucked up and he knows that Tom's dangerous. But Sebs doesn't care because Tom is his and there's no way in hell they're taking him away. Taken away. Little late for that. But they're not keeping him, no way in hell are they keeping him. He goes cold when he realizes that what Tom has done didn't bother him so much as the fact that he did it. Like a house-trained dog that pees on the rug. The act is inherently disgusting but it's the violation of agreement that causes the problem. I thought we'd settled this already. You know better. Bad dog.
Sebs has always felt that he knows Tom. He knows that he's from some grape-ridden little town in California. He knows that Tom has serious attachment issues. He knows that Tom can go from 'happy, best day ever' to 'stay away from me, so help me god' in five seconds flat. He knows that sometimes, when Tom has had a little too much to drink, he starts monologuing in Spanish. But he doesn't know who his parents are, or his siblings. He doesn't know about what school was like or if Tom graduated from college. He doesn't know about past lovers, if there are any (not that that seems likely but Tom seems to have a penchant for surprising him, lately). Tom hasn't volunteered any of it so Sebs doesn't know.
Tom could have a history of violence, for all he knows. He might have done something horrible in California and had to leave because of it. He might have done things like this in every major city in America. Maybe he's befriended other people who he's left befuddled and trying to pick up the pieces. Sebs doubts it though, can't even convince himself. He may not know but he knows that Tom's never done anything on this scale before, doubts that he's ever killed, or hurt anyone like this, before. Tom's as transparent as a pane of glass and sometimes just as fragile (one wrong move and everything's broken) and Sebs couldn't even see what was wrong.
He's supposed to be Tom's friend (his best friend) and he couldn't help him when he needed it the most, in his goddamn hour of need, Sebs couldn't do shit, couldn't even see it coming. Tom's his best friend (only friend) and the least that Sebs can do is return the favor.
"Look, I'm just...I'm sorry, dude. Fuck. I, I fucking failed you, okay? I tried. I swear. I care more about you than I think I've ever cared about...hell, anything. I'm pretty sure you're the most genuine person I've ever known and, selfish me, I wouldn't to lose that. I failed you and, and I'm sorry. And you wanna know the really fucked up thing? I'm mad at you. That's right. The first thing I thought of when I heard about it was 'how could he do this?' 'How could he do this to me?' I…you…I mean, you freak out sometimes but you're you. Now you're here and everything…it seems unreal but at the same time like someone just threw a bucket of cold water over me. I just…I don't know how to help you, man. I'm sorry. "
Sebs' voice hears his voice echo off the walls and realizes that has been getting higher and more manic. He also notices that he's standing now. When did that happen?
He finds himself in the hallway. He's not going anywhere, how could he, but he feels terrible for what he's just admitted, too ashamed of himself to look at Tom. The force of emotion in the room was crushing him, maybe if he can just compose himself…
"Are you here for him?"
"What?" Sebs turns towards the sound. An orderly is standing in front of him pointing inside the room, at Tom.
"Is he your boyfriend?" He says it in the overly conscientious way of one who uses 'politically correct' terms not to avoid offending the minority in question but so that society at large won't find them uncouth. Sebs could recognize it even if he was completely senseless (and he's not) and it stirs up something inside him.
"What? Is it too much to assume that two people can have an investment in each other that isn't romantic? Or are you so homophobic that you have see 'the gay' everywhere?"
He could use a fight right now. Go ahead, try me.
"Jeez, man. No offense. Only…he's been here awhile and we wanted to make sure he belonged to somebody. Not like he's capable of telling us."
Sebs lowers his voice.
"Let me close the door," Forced condescending civility. You should be sorry.
"It's not right to talk about him like he can't hear."
"He CAN'T hear. He can't respond. He doesn't know what we're saying. Over a week and we've never gotten a response. Trust me, smarter people than you have tried to get some life out of him. It's psychosomatic. Look," he turns in Tom's direction and Sebs feels himself tense protectively, "Hey, Vegetable Boy. Wanna talk? Do you know why you're here? What you did? You could at least talk to the person who came to see you." he indicates Sebs.
Sebs flinches, don't…!
"Stop it!" Sebs hates how childish he sounds in that moment. "Just…stop. Leave him alone, alright?"
"He's not listening. He can't," the man overemphasizes, like Sebs is the one with the problem. "Hey, Vegetable Boy," he exaggerates his voice, this is clearly for Sebs' benefit rather than Tom's, "Keep your attack-fruit on a leash, will you?"
Sebs feels his face start to burn. On any other day this would have been a blow to his pride alone; he enjoyed playing with his image, projecting as stereotypically fey or not depending on his whims and someone else taking that option away, even for a moment was maddening. But to have this whole situation made ridiculous, to be put into someone else's retrospective. To see himself as a stubborn blubbering mess, a useless member of The Affected's inner circle (the kind he didn't become a defense attorney so he wouldn't have to deal with) and Tom as some nameless ward of the state, some voiceless statistic…He tastes acid rising in his mouth along with his voice.
"He can hear you. The fact that he doesn't respond doesn't mean that he's not there. No matter what he did, he deserves human respect or at least some goddamn dignity. I assume people working in the mental health profession would understand that, if nothing else. Let me give you a hint, whatever stupid things you say to him or around him are nothing compared to what's going on his head. You have no idea…you don't possess the capability to see the different things that merge in a person's head when something like this…You don't have the depth to know how it feels. And maybe, just maybe, Tom isn't talking because he can tell that whatever he can do to help himself is more than you under-qualified, over-titled nurses ever could."
The guy is talking back; explaining, angry, protesting. Sebs hears words that don't matter. He is filled with a dark pride. His words might have been clumsy and inappropriate but they did their job. They made the orderly upset, passed this burden away from him and Tom, if only temporarily, and that's good enough.
Another employee appears, telling them to be quiet, that they're disturbing people. Sebastian feels a rush of satisfaction. Good. Someone should be disturbed by this. The orderly shuffles away angrily and Sebs feels his adrenaline drain away as he begins the solemn procession back into Tom's room. He sits, feeling faintly stupid, thoughts racing, facing his friend.
Tom doesn't smile.
His face doesn't change.
But his eyes are full of gratitude.
And for the first time in his life, Sebs is completely speechless.