As Gene took off running, I whipped around where I sat, eyes widening slightly in surprise. "Gene! Wait!" Brinker called, hurrying down from the platform. "We haven't got the facts yet!" A strange emotion seized me then; my face contorted with hatred as I turned on him. Him and his stupid facts. Rising unsteadily, I snapped, "You get all your facts, Brinker! You collect every f-ing fact in the world!" I was surprised by the tears that stung my eyes. I turned and hurried as fast as was possible across the marble floor and towards the doors, but before I had reached them, a series of loud, painful cracks and thumps from the staircase erupted, freezing me in my place.
Gene. I started off again, this time with more urgency. In that moment I stopped caring altogether what Gene may or may not have done to me. Right then, the only thing that was on my mind was getting to him. "Gene!" I shouted frantically. I reached the top of the staircase then, catching sight of the crumpled form at the bottom and my eyes adjusting quickly to the darkness; "Gene!"
It was truly horrible. My friend lay in a bloodied heap, and as I quickly but careful descended the staircase toward him, I assessed the damage. There was a small pool of blood forming around his chest and stomach area; a white rib poked through his chest, and the gash it formed appeared to be the source. His eyes were open, but they were unfocused, staring blankly forward; his head sported a distinctive trickle of blood. Blood – his whole body, at least the parts I could see, was covered in little nicks and cuts that oozed the stuff. I forgot everyone else in the moment that I saw Gene there, broken as I had once been.
All in all, it wasn't a pretty sight. I reached him then, and as I sunk (albeit a bit wobbily) to the floor beside him, I slipped my hands underneath his form. "No! Don't move him!" Brinker ordered from somewhere behind me. Instantly I withdrew from him. I didn't want to hurt him any more than he already was. Settling down next to him, I tuned out the frantic voices around me and focused on his tired eyes. They drifted shut as I stared and I ignored the urge to shake him awake.
"Don't go to sleep," I managed to choke out. Please, I added silently. Don't die on me. My silent prayers were answered as Gene's eyes opened again. "I've sent Brownie to go fetch Dr. Stanpole," Brinker assured me. "Phil is looking for the light switch." I nodded, saying nothing. Before long the lights came on and I blinked against the sudden brightness.
I didn't know how long I sat there. After a while, Brinker got someone to find a blanket, and I wrapped him as best as I could. The spots of blood that stained it made me cringe. Eventually, Brownie returned with Dr. Stanpole; he'd rushed to fetch him from his house, as Brinker had reasoned that with only a night nurse present the Infirmary would be a waste of time. I sat back and watched as Gene was examined silently; Dr. Stanpole lingered on his ribs and one wrist, and also seemed to take note of an extremely large gash on one leg. He had a chair brought in, and then Gene was being lifted upwards into it, away from me. I rose, peering sadly down into his unfocused eyes, and just as I did so I saw them focus briefly before falling shut.
They went to get Gene into the doctor's car, and I, knowing I would only be a burden, went back to our dorm room. I didn't know what else to do with myself. Eventually, I fell asleep; when I woke up again, it was to loud knocking sounds at the door.
"Finny! Let me in!" Brinker called, and, groaning, I got up and reached for my cane. Shuffling to the door, I opened it and gave him my best glare. Before I could tell him to leave, he pushed past me and into the room. "Dr. Stanpole's sent me to fetch Gene some things," he explained shortly. I blinked, all traces of hostility vanishing at the mention of Gene. "I'm coming with you," I told him, and he nodded simply.
After we had packed a bag, Brinker and I made our way to the infirmary. Inside, it was as dreary and oppressing as it had been the last time I had been here. Gene was sitting up in bed and clearly awake, but he was staring at nothing, his expression weary. He didn't even glance up when we entered. "We've brought your stuff," Brinker mumbled, looking a bit embarrassed to be there. He should be… this was all his damn fault! I blinked, surprised at the sudden anger I'd experienced.
Gene said nothing, still staring at his lap. As Brinker set the bag on a nearby stool and hurriedly exited the room, I felt a surge of annoyance run through me. It was as if he expected that he still had to forgive me. Why should I have even bothered coming, then, if he was only going to ignore me? What right did he have to angry, anyway?
But as I caught a glimpse of his eyes from beneath his bangs I knew that wasn't right. No, Gene was not angry… or at least, if he was, it wasn't at me. His gaze was sad and full of self-loathing. I sighed at the realization. "Gene..," I began, faltering. His head angled down even lower at my voice.
"Gene, I'm not angry – well, okay, maybe I am, a little, but I can forgive you," I murmured. "I understand. You tried to tell me back in Boston, and I didn't listen – but I remember it now. You didn't mean to do it, not really. It was just an – just an impulse, wasn't it? Yes, an impulse. I know you couldn't have hurt me for any other reason – and I know you didn't mean for all of this to happen." My voice wavered as I spoke, but I tried my best to keep my eyes dry. "I forgive you, Gene. Really, I do. I understand, and I forgive you. I don't –"
I fell silent in surprise as Gene snapped his head up and interrupted me; "How can you believe that? How can you believe that?" he cried, and I found myself shocked at the tears that escaped from his eyes. "That was it, that's what it was, but I – I – I don't know how to show you, Finny, how can I show you that I didn't mean it, that I never meant for any of this? It was just something crazy in me, and I'm so sorry, so damn sorry, but I can't show you that, you'll never know that!"
I stared at him for a long while, unable to disguise my own shock. Then I let my expression soften. Gene looked away as if unable to meet my eyes for any longer, and I spoke then: "You've already shown me." He glanced back to stare at me, face still wet with tears, and I continued, "You've already shown me, Gene, and I believe you." I smiled softly at him, hoping to alleviate his stress – and then gaped when his tears started up again with even more abandon.
Maybe he needed to be alone. I knew the feeling. He sunk down lower in the bed, and as I watched, he winced visibly; I still didn't actually know just how badly he was hurt. From the looks of it, though, he was definitely hurt. Staring sadly at him, I sighed and then turned to leave. "I'll be back later, okay, Gene?" He said nothing, though I could still hear his quiet sniffles as he tried to dry his tears. I wasn't going to press the issue.