It's just a pen. He's handled a lot of pens. It's such a simple act, this thing they've been building towards for more than a year. It's anticlimactic, almost. Just some papers, all that stands between a man and his status as human being. So much tension in such a little thing. Tom's not looking at him or anyone else. He's staring at the ground like there's something really interesting down there. Sebs'll leave him to it. He doesn't need that piercing gaze on him in addition to the weight of what feels like the entire hospital staff's eyes on him as well as that of the necessary officials. He needs to stop thinking about it. He looks to Tom again, seeking a reminder of purpose.
This is one of the few times in the last year or so that he's seen Tom in natural light(the lobby of the hospital's got more windows than all the damn rooms put together) and it sinks in for Sebs just how much of a toll the place (and the meds) has taken on him. He's paler, and Christ, Sebs didn't think that was possible, bleached-pale, as if those harsh phosphorescent lights had sucked all the color out of him. His eyes seem to sit a little deeper in his face, his skin tighter, veins a little closer to the surface. It seems like it's lost some of it's elasticity too, his skin; the vague lines in his face are more pronounced than they used to be. The worst part, somehow, is his eyes. His eyes that now lack the certain level of (scrutiny) keenness they used to have. In its place is just...blank.
Tom's still in there and Sebs knows it, he's seen him. Seen him in the flashes of rebellion, the way he's slowly claimed his range of motion back, heard him in the occasional full-voiced laugh, the not-quite-jokes. And it's all Tom, he's never going to stop being Tom, but it's confusing, like layers of ice in a frozen pond, water in between. You can't always tell where the water is, how close it is to the surface.
He signs the thing, having read it through twice as was his habit, though he'd known what it would contain for months before now and passes it to Tom, who stares at it, though Sebs is fairly certain he's not reading it.
Not even seeing it.
Tom knows what it says, Sebs knows that. Even if Tom didn't have the greedy literacy of some kind of hungry word-piranha, they've been over this. They've been over it, they've been over it with him...Tom would take offense to the idea that he needs his hand held, things repeated to him. Would've, might, probably does, but he hasn't said anything. That bothers Sebs, the quiet. The last time he'd gotten quiet, something had been very, very, wrong.
But Tom signs it, slowly, the same handwriting Sebs remembers, just a little shakier, looser from lack of use. He holds onto the pen a few moments too long, then drops it in one sharp, sudden motion and lets it fall to the desk.
Sebs can see the way his shoulders tighten and his limbs stiffen, the way he pulls his hands close to him like he's not allowed...
He places a hand on Tom's shoulder blade and squeezes gently, rubs it lightly for fear of hurting or alienating him. It was a gesture born from a childhood memory of weak, lemony tea and bodily weakness and being in bed for what felt like ages, clean garden smell with a touch of sweetness and the contented safeness that only a child could feel.
An echo of soft voice and gentle touch... As he'd gotten older, he'd realized that his mother's idea of 'weak tea' was what most people called over-steeped and bitter and that her perfume smelled more like scented chemicals than real flowers.
Tom doesn't seem to react to the touch, doesn't lean into it or relax(shit he's so tense). He's stiff as fuck and Sebs wonders if he's steeling himself, not moving or making eye contact so as not to betray an involuntary attack of emotion.
Tom doesn't shy away, either. Doesn't flinch or move, which Sebs takes as permission, of sorts. He keeps his hand in place, though he ceases the pressure, the movement. It's firm. Solidarity.
Tom doesn't move.
Sebs feels a mild splintering at the base of his mind, sudden cold fear. Who would give him this responsibility? How could they trust him with someone else's life, someone who he'd already failed?
There's nodding and words and a bottle of pills pushed in his hand, his usually meticulous mind wading thorough the directions like water due to the awkward silence roaring in his ears. He knows already what's being said; he's asked about the schedule, the side-effects, he's got it all in a little blue notebook sitting in his drawer at home. Memorized. He keeps an ear trained, though, for the suggestion of anything new. There isn't.
Don't get him wet, don't feed him after midnight. Standard stuff.
He's glad they get to leave, the staring-watching-Tom's clearly uncomfortable and, honestly, it's starting to weigh kind of heavy on him, too.
There's people outside. He can see them. Not a lot of them, but clearly people who know what's going on. They came out to watch the show, he supposes, though there's not much to see. It could be a hell of a lot worse, he knows that. There's no handcuffs, no straight-jacket, no police or special cars and thank god. But on the other hand, this isn't exactly ideal and there's something that can be said about discreteness on the part of the hospital. He supposes he should know better by now than to expect people to do the right thing, especially where Tom's concerned and he himself, as well.
Beggars can't be choosers.
He hates to do this, fucking hates this right now but this is bullshit, he shouldn't have to...
He turns to a doctor.
"Can we use the back exit. Please." He doesn't want to fucking ask these people for anything, he wouldn't and Tom wouldn't and he knows he can't speak for Tom but he's sure that he's pissed and god this whole thing sucks so fucking hard.
Tom doesn't need this, he's not a spectacle.
"It's alarmed," The doctor's not exactly smug but Sebs knows this is a power thing, one last Parthian shot.
He grits his teeth.
"Then reset it."
He's far from a coward but this isn't about him. This is about his best friend and making sure his fractal fucking brain doesn't shatter again after being so slowly reassembled. This is about making sure his friend doesn't get shot on his way out of the parking lot.
"We're not doing that."
He uses the hand that's still resting on Tom's shoulder to steer him in the direction oft the door; might as well get through this quickly. Tom's moving the least amount that he possibly can dead weight and his refusal to really help is only making this slower. They make it through the lobby and out the door(light's even brighter out here). Sebs chances another look at Tom, who's only looking through him. Sebs locks his eyes forward, fixing them on some point in the distance. He squeezes Tom's shoulder confidentially and they walk. People move back which is something he's thankful for. He hears murmuring but not distinct words and he hopes Tom is utilizing the same ability right about now. It's not so many people, but it was more daunting when they were near you, practically surrounding. The two of them move with the solemn slowness of a funeral march but they make their way to Sebs' borrowed car nonetheless.
"You're touching me." Tom points out, when Sebs pauses to fish the keys out of his pocket.
"I've been touching you." Sebs replies, trying to remain undaunted. The beep of the car unlocking itself startles them both. Sebs crosses to the other side of the car and takes the driver's seat. Tom stares at the door like he's contemplating it before finally lowering himself in, stiffly.
Sebs refrains from starting the car, waits for Tom to buckle his seat-belt.
"I'm not gonna break, Sebs," Tom says with the faintest shadow of amusement.
Sebs felt his face warm with self-consciousness.
"I know. I was just...You look like shit, you know." His voice had raised the end of the sentence in a way that he hoped sounded jocular.
"Yeah." Tom laughed in the not-quite-there way that used to make Sebs just the slightest bit concerned. "I know."
Now it was pretty much the only way Tom laughed.
Sebs was trying to keep his eyes on the road, waiting for anything else Tom felt like sharing. He found himself waiting for a rather long time. As they got closer to Sebs' apartment, Tom made some kind of noise in his throat that made Sebs turn his head if only for a second.
"What is it?" He tries not to react too fast, not to jump down Tom's throat and gag him on Sebs' own over-protectiveness, especially when everything has equal potential to overwhelm him.
"We're getting close, that's all. I know that I'm staying this time and nothing can change that."
He can only guess what this means for Tom, never having to go back there. Not being confined or controlled or handled anymore. It occurs to him, too, that he himself will never have to go back there again. Never have to get searched for contraband and hit with dirty looks and jump through hoops just to see his friend. Tom's going to be around again and he can't help the slight happiness that surges through him when he realizes that.
Tom doesn't speak for the rest of the ride and Sebs figures he can give him that right.
Sebs parks, carefully, and waits for Tom before heading into the building. Tom moves slow still, not like he's in any hurry, but had Sebs not known there was an eye-patch on the face of the familiar shape in front of him with the too-long hair, he might've mistaken it for before and he knows it's not before and it never will be again but he's hoping for improvement, for Tom to be something like happy again so he'll wait and he'll work with it. The time of day is good for avoiding people in the lobby and that works for Sebs. He can't say if Tom would have any positive feelings towards their presence either, but he's guessing not. When they enter Sebs' apartment, he becomes aware of the fact that Tom is drinking it in, staring at it like he's just fallen down the rabbit hole. Sebs hadn't changed anything about it, or he doesn't think he has but-
"It's the same." Is all Tom says.
Sebs indicates the couch, fitted with an spare sheet and the pillows and cushions rearranged for sleeping. "I figured you'd wanna wait until you could pick out a bed yourself." He doesn't want run the risk of messing up Tom's back any more than the hospital bed already has, on top of the existing damage.
"Are you hungry? I can make something." It's probably the most food his house has seen in awhile, having made sure to acquire things that Tom would be willing to eat that also wouldn't aggravate his stomach on top of the medication.
Tom shakes his head.
"We can go get your stuff whenever you want. If you just need to decompress..."
Tom nods and shit, he looks exhausted.
"So, I'll just let you rest, then?''
Tom nods again, looks to the couch hopefully.
Sebs nodded and, god, Tom should not be asking permission to sit on the fucking couch.
"Just let me know if you need anything..."
"Wait. It's cold."
He's already under one blanket and it's summer. The air conditioner isn't even on.
"I'm still cold from...inside." He gives by way of explanation.
Sebs supposes he should have anticipated this, wonders what other aspects of Tom's perception will be messed up for a while. He also doesn't want to discount the possibility that Tom picked up some kind of bug in the hospital. He's done enough research to be aware of the fact that those places are far from sterile; infections and illnesses spreading between the patients are much more common than he'd like them to be.
"I'll get you another blanket, sure, and you have your sweatshirt ...You want something hot? Tea or something?" He realizes how ineffective he sounds, how much he's blustering and grasping but this is all he can do right now and dammit he'll do it because it's better than nothing.
"Do you have hot chocolate?" God, he sounds every bit the child Sebs doesn't want to think of him as and it actually fucking hurts a little.
"I do, I think so."
If he does, it's only because of Tom that he has it. He retrieves the blanket from the hall closet for Tom before heading to the kitchen. He hopes he'd had enough insight to remember that Tom loved the stuff and, sure enough, the efforts of digging in the cabinet yield the trademark soft, powder-filled envelopes . He waits for the water to boil, watches Tom through his not-entirely-closed-off kitchen. Tom is back. He's back, he's here, for real and nothing's going to take him away again. Well, nothing that Sebs is going to let happen again, anyway. Maybe he can't understand everything that's going on in Tom's ridiculously complicated mind but he can try to support him where he can, make the world around him easier to deal with while he wages his one-man war against life. This situation was still the unknown in so many ways; sometimes it only meant that touchy, moody Tom was a bit touchier and moodier, and sometimes it meant something else. It was hard to forget the look in Tom's eyes, the way it hardened his face when he talked about killing and Sebs wouldn't want to, not really. Tom was dangerous but shit, anybody who'd startled him from behind at too-close range could tell you that. The knowledge might make him more conscientious, but nothing was going to make him fear Tom.
The microwave beeped, prompting Sebs out of his reverie.
Sebs dumped the powder in and stirred. It was the kind with dehydrated marshmallows in it, which Tom had always loved. He made his way back to the living room where Tom accepted the drink, nursing it slowly. Sebs tries not to watch him because he knows full well that Tom can feel it even if he's not looking up but he wants some kind of reassurance, some way of knowing that Tom's okay with this even if he's not okay. His thoughts are clearly getting a little too loud because Tom responds to them.
"I know I'm not really talking. I'm just tired." He can give Tom that, the right to be tired.
"I'll let you sleep, then. Just holler if you need something."
"Sebs? Thanks. For this, I mean. All of it."
"Hey, don't worry about it."
Within his bedroom, he tries to get some work done, plodding along when the thought breaks on him, imitating realization, that there's a murderer sleeping in his living room. It amazes him how little that thought bothers him and it actually occurs to him that he doesn't care very much. Tom's a murderer, but he's still Tom.
Getting used to Tom's presence over the last few weeks, trying to be responsive to him while giving him space, well, it's been nigh-on tiring. Tom must agree because he's spent a fair amount of that time sleeping, or remaining comatose on the couch. When he does interact, he's run the gauntlet between spending minutes staring at Sebs, looking like he wants to say something to snapping at 'hellos' and 'goodnights'. Sebs was never entirely sure what mood he'd come home to, or what form it would take. Sebs makes sure he eats and drinks, encourages him to shower and to change his clothes. Tom spends rather inordinate amounts of time in the bathroom on the latter occasions, doing what Sebs can only guess isn't showering so much as standing under the water. He imagined it had to do with not having the threat of someone yelling at him for taking too long and demanding he get out because 'showering couldn't take that long' as he'd related to Sebs while he was still in the hospital. "Maybe I should tell them I'm trying to drown myself," he had mused, "I don't think they believe I'm sorry enough."
Sebs is trying something a little different tonight.
"Come on, Tom, it's time to eat."
He's considered the idea that to ask him to eat at the table now would seem like a control thing but it's not, not really. He wants Tom to engage again and Tom's not going to do that without initiation. Tom ambles into the kitchen stiffy, something Sebs takes notice of. He wanted to give Tom the chance to bring up the bed issue; he's got a room that would fit it and all, but Tom hasn't exactly shown interest in moving lately, or talking to Sebs, let alone other people. He turns around from the preparations he was making and realizes Tom's just standing there, waiting.
"Okay, wash your hands." He does and, inside, Sebs is still taken aback by it; stubborn, pushy Tom so pliant and taking his directions...but it's become the groove, like so many other things he's gotten used to.
Sharing a table gives him the opportunity to get a good look at his friend without staring and he can tell that Tom's definitely looking better. He's got some of his color back(as much as he gets, anyway), and his face looks a little less lined. That's not a great gauge, mind you, considering his face tended to fluctuate between gaunt and puffy depending on how dehydrated he was on a given day on top of the medicine's damage. But he's started to lose that pinched, slightly starved look the hospital had given him, and his eyes were looking much less hollow.
Tom's poking at the food like it's some unknown alien entity and Sebs tries to keep his tone light and joking.
"What, you got a problem with my cooking?" It's not the execution that's the problem, he knows that. Sebs' macaroni and cheese is something Tom used to love and he'd have eaten it by the pound if given the opportunity. He'd known he'd be running the risk of Tom not being able to eat something so rich with his stomach still so sensitive but he'd hoped it'd encourage a little before or at least a little enthusiasm.
"I'm just not used to it. I can't taste it. I can smell it. It smells the same and I'm sure it tastes the same but everything tastes like paste now."
"Do you want something else, then? Some bread or soup or something?"
Tom shook his head.
"I'll eat it."
Sebs hears a level of defeat that should never be capable of accompanying fucking macaroni and cheese. He takes note of how Tom's holding himself, how he can't lean back.
"How's your back doing?"
" 'S too soft. The couch, I mean."
"You want to go check out beds tomorrow?" He'd gladly have given Tom his own bed but he knows Tom wouldn't take it. Tom had always been territorial and now more than ever it's important for him to have his own space, something he can claim. This isn't just a favor or a gesture and he doesn't want it to come off as such. It's just Tom and the fact that Tom needs things and now he just needs a bit more than he did before. And if there's something Sebs knows that he himself needs, it's Tom.
"You can have my bed tonight, if it'll help."
"I'm fine. I don't need it or anything." He's getting a defensive edge to his voice and, Jesus, are they really going to have an argument about a fucking bed?
"Your back's all wrenched...you don't need to be in pain when there's a bed right there. It's just gonna get worse."
"I'm not your little pet psycho, Sebs. You don't need to-to take care of me." Tom's eyes flash and he's baring his teeth but Sebs knows any potential for attack is blunted by drugs and a small but significant influence of still-present physical weakness and conditioning.
"Someone has to." He may sound cooler than he intended but Tom merely flares his nostrils, pushes the chair back sharply (ignoring its squealing protestations) and stomps into the bedroom.
No longer hungry for something he'd never particularly liked eating in the first place, Sebs pads to the living room. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he squeezes his eyes shut and resists the urge to go shout some sense into Tom, sits heavily on the couch that smells like the stale blankets that he hasn't washed yet per Tom's request. It was worth any frustration Tom took out on his bed if he actually slept on the damn thing and felt a bit better. He might not be able to stop Tom from being a dipshit but at least he could see it coming. And, hey, being a dipshit meant that he was starting to care again, which was something. It wasn't going to be easy, but the wheels were in motion and Tom's recovery was moving forward one way or another.