Tom's job sucks. That's nothing new. He knows it sucks but today it feels like it's going to suck worse than usual and Tom's never been one to invite suckiness when he can avoid it. If anything, Tom's inclined to trust his instincts. Using a sick day definitely seems worth it. What else would he do with them? On impulse, he decided to visit Sebs, since Sebs was a much better alternative to suckiness. Sebs was a much better alternative to most things. Tom didn't really hesitate to invade his friend's personal space, mostly because Sebs never really seemed to get too bothered by it, even when he maybe should have been.
Even if he did, Tom's got no one else. He'll take the risk.
He was expecting Sebs to be home, maybe sitting on the couch, watching TV or reading a book. Maybe making himself whatever passed for dinner.
What he didn't expect was to come into a house seemingly devoid of Sebs, the coffee table in the living room serving as a resting place for a half-full bottle of vodka, a bottle of Indian tonic water, and a very wet, very empty glass.
Unease started to settle on him. Sebs was an adult and could very well do whatever he pleased, but he had the alcohol tolerance of a fourteen year old girl and was well aware of it. Sebs usually kept a strict handle on himself whenever he consumed alcohol and rarely allowed himself to get too far gone. As far as Tom knew, Sebs didn't drink alone. At least, not since they'd become friends.
Tom moved closer to inspect the display before him. The bottle of tonic water was open, but barely had any liquid missing. Clearly Sebs had started out trying to cut the vodka and decided 'the hell with it'. That probably wasn't a good sign. He's idly wondering if Sebs is in his bedroom trying to sleep it off and he's debating going in to check on him when he hears a loud toilet-flush.
Sebs emerges, slowly.
"Heyyy Tom, when'd you get...how'd you get in?"
"You didn't lock the door."
Tom keeps his tone neutral, calm.
"You'd think I'd know better, right? Who knows what could have wandered in?" He laughs, louder and more uncontrolled than usual, "Sorry I wasn't out here...You know booze makes me pee like a race horse." He laughs awkwardly at that and so does Tom, a little. This isn't so bad, he supposes, maybe Sebs just drank so fast that he powered through some of his nausea and he's close to passing out. The logical part of his brain screams at him that his alcohol-intolerant friend just drank half a bottle of vodka and even normal people aren't supposed to do that.
"I do. You know what else alcohol makes you do? It makes you sick, Sebs."
"So? I've been keeping it down..."
"I'm gonna get you some water. You need some water."
"You're worried about me? You're worried about me! You're actually worried about me. That's so cute."
"I have to be worried about you. That's our thing."
Tom trudged through the kitchen, riffling through the familiar-but-still alien cabinets searching for a glass. A big glass. He adds some chunks of ice and some water from Sebs' fancy-ass dispenser and comes back to him sitting bonelessly on the couch, dutifully holds it in his face.
"I did." He laughs, all giddy and hyper...Did Sebs actually just giggle? Oh yeah, Tom is totally using this as blackmail fuel when this is all over.
"Drink or I'll pour it down your throat."
Sebs takes a short, stubborn sip and makes a petulant face.
"So, what happened here, Sebs?"
"I happened. This is just a normal afternoon. What are you on about?"
"I know for a fact this isn't a normal afternoon. Why were you drinking?"
"'Cause it tastes goooood."
Tom gives Sebs a no-nonsense face he can recognize even in his befuddled state.
"No reason. I was just sad. You ever get really sad, Tom? Like you're never gonna be happy again, no matter what you do? And you think the moment will pass, you're pretty sure, but some part of you knows that it'll really never go away, no matter what you do?"
What could Sebs possibly have to be sad about?
"Too often. That's still no reason to get bombed off your ass." Realization hits Tom. "Did you even go to work today?"
"Sort of. Maybe."
"You shouldn't skip work. They can fire you for that."
"What's with the third degree? What are you, my mother? It's a damn sight more concerned than she's ever shown for me..."
"Besides," Sebs continued, "they can't fire me. I'm the boss. Sort of. Fuck the job."
He swigs the water with a relish like he thinks it's liquor and it makes Tom laugh.
"You love your job, Sebs. I know you do."
"I do love it. But I just hate it. You know how you can love something so much and still hate the shit out of it?"
"You're not making any sense."
"You don't make sense."
"Drink your water. Do you want anything else, some toast?"
"You're being so nice to me. Why?"
"I'll make you some toast. Your stomach's going to be bothering you if you don't eat anything."
Tom wanted to do something, anything. He was feeling the insecure panic of roles turned on their heads, the way a child must feel when it's parent is sick. Logically he knew that Sebs would eventually be fine, if nauseous and shitty-feeling for awhile, but Sebs just didn't do stuff like this.
Tom wasn't afraid to admit it. He was a little scared.
What could make Sebs this upset? He wondered again, staring at the toaster like it was going to give him some answers.
He handed Sebs the toast in a paper towel.
Sebs just stared at it.
"Eat it. You'll feel better."
Sebs looks at him with one of the most hopeless faces he's ever made
"Nothing can make me feel better."
Sebs wasn't above a little self-pity but he'd rarely let it out on Tom. He was too proud. This was so strange but it was also kind of...endearing, he hated to say. For Sebs to be so vulnerable around Tom, even if he wasn't quite aware of it...It made Tom feel trusted.
Tom gave him the toast anyway, knowing that he was pretty passive and suggestible right now. When he lowered it, however, Sebs grabbed his wrist.
"You really are cute, you know. Not like...but cute like a puppy. A little lost puppy. With sharp teeth."
Sebs loosened his grip but still kept his hand on him. Tom lowered himself to Sebs' level, placing himself on the couch, thinking it would change but Sebs merely changed his focus, starting instead to pet Tom's hair. Tom knew better than to fear any advance from Sebs and all this did was make him feel amused by knowing how awkward this knowledge would make his normally stoic friend after the fact. Truth be told, it was kind of nice, this type of affection. It wouldn't be a terrible thing if Sebs was physically demonstrative a little more often. Sebs seemed reluctant to remove his hands from him after the actions had ceased, his dominant hand sitting on Tom's arm, the other on Tom's head.
"A puppy. With teeth. You're this hyper little fuzzy thing that makes everyone want to take care of it. But you bite sometimes too. There's not even much of a warning. And your teeth are sharp…"
Tom didn't know what to make of this. Sebs might've compared him to a dog before but this had a sound to it. Like it was significant somehow.
"What do you mean, Sebs?" Tom spoke slowly and deliberately.
"Your teeth…are sharp. You just freak out sometimes. It's scary. You scare me."
"I scare you."
"Ugh, you're doing it. You're doing the scary. I worry about you with…stuff. With people."
Tom felt a fire burning behind his eyes and in his limbs.
"You worry about me."
"For. I worry for…"
Sebs tried to rest his head on Tom's shoulder, clearly running out of steam. Tom moved away sharply, (roughly) nudging him as he did so. Sebs didn't even realize he was falling and had to settle for the couch arm instead.
Tom stood up.
"I need to piss."
Bathrooms are good for thinking and Tom wants to get as far away from Sebs as possible right now. Shut up in Sebs' stupid too-clean bathroom, with his stupid lotion and all his chrome and his stupid nice too-soft towels. He can't believe what he's just heard. The idea that Sebs had been so close to him physically and mentally for so long, spent so much time near him, all the while thinking that Tom could hurt him, could hurt other people. Tom feels dirty suddenly, like everyone can see the caution tape: Danger! Do Not Cross wrapped around him like a straight jacket. You like to play with danger, Sebs? I'll show you what it's like to play with danger.
Logically, Tom knows that Sebs doesn't know what he's saying, that a confrontation is useless because he probably won't understand or even remember it. Tom also knows that he can't stay in this bathroom forever, that he can't just sit on this because it'll drive him crazy. He needs to talk to Sebs and he's got to trust himself not to kill him.
He walks into the living room, running through things in his head, looking for the words. He's got the words on the tip of his tongue when the sight he sees deflates him like a balloon. Sebs is clearly out cold, sprawled on the couch, resting on his side. Tom wants to shake him, to yell at him. It's so damned unfair that he gets to sleep through this, to just tune out and walk away when Tom is so fucking bothered.
Story of Tom's life.
Tom truly wants to throttle him for a moment, but the heat instead fades into cold. Cold, icy fury that leads him to calmly walk into Sebs' bedroom when he'd rather break his face. He takes in the room in all of its anal neatness, everything just so. He looks at the bed with its stupid hospital corners and its padded headboard and the fruity Egyptian cotton sheets that have way more threads than anyone could ever need. He sits on it, feels how it yields under him. Firmer than he's used to. Newer.
He punches it, likes the slight hesitation it gives before it springs back into shape. He can imagine it's Sebs' reaction, that this'll hurt him even if he never permanently shows it. It was satisfying, but he's by no means ready to be done with this. The excessive neatness of the bed strikes him again, the way it's always perfect like this. You could do with some redecorating, Sebs. He smiles at his non-joke. He yanks off the comforter and throws it on the floor, making a point of walking on it as he crosses to the other side of the bed. He loosens the bottom sheet, knowing it'll come off with movement. He untucks the covers, sitting them on top of the whole thing. He drops the pillows to the floor as well, keeping one to put his feet on later. He looks at the rest of room but he's already running out of steam and besides, he doesn't want to do something he'll regret. He arranges himself in the nest of blankets and sleeps in satisfaction.
The bottom sheet is wadded up in a corner of the bed the next morning and Tom is somehow pleased to realize that his anger carried over into sleep. It's definitely duller, but still present. He's sore.
He leaves the bedroom, idly wondering when Sebs is going to wake up when he comes seemingly out of nowhere. Speak of the devil.
"Hey…" Sebs' tone is light, maybe a little unsure, "I don't remember much of what happened last night. I was being stupid, I guess—"
Sebs looked confused for the smallest fraction of second but he plowed on.
"I was probably a huge pain in the ass, I know, I was annoying as hell and I just wanted to say thanks for sticking around, thanks for trying to help me out. You're a good friend." He smiles a self-conscious, contrite smile. A smile that says 'I'm an idiot, cut me a break, please.' And Tom almost wants to, but then he remembers this smile from previous times unknown, wonders if it's a feature of Sebs' act. He wonders if Sebs even knows when he's acting anymore.
"I gotta go. You should go to work, Sebs."
"I called in already. Not like I ever take days off anyway. I am the boss. Sort of."
Sebs doesn't seem to recognize that he's just quoted himself and all it does is make Tom angrier.
"I gotta go. Bye." Tom makes his exit, looks back when he gets to the door and feels satisfied when he observes Sebs' befuddled investigation of his bedroom.
Tom feels victory buzzing in his ears; he's flushed with it. He's nearly at the end of the building's long-ass hallway when he remembers a decorative oversize key that hung in his childhood kitchen. Pewter with engraved vines trailing all over it. Beautifully scripted words in another language, an idea that confused him at the time.
In vino veritas.
'In wine there is truth', his mother had told him at the time.
There certainly is.