Song quoted here is from Awake and Alive, by Skillet.

The medical condition described here is imaginary and was made to fit the plot, to the extent of my knowledge. I also have next to no ideas on baseball. ;A;

With that said, enjoy my insanity.


Awake
(Forever hold this heart that I will give to you
Forever I will live for you)

Alfred-

We were both sixteen, on the verge of turning seventeen, when I first met you. There can never be anything worse than first-days-of-school, in my opinion, and that day just further proved that.

I don't know what it was about me that attracted bullies like flies to something rotten. I looked slightly feminine, given my hair; my French mother insisted against my getting a hair cut. But I was assumed to be a girl - until third period, when the teacher finally did a roll call and it was revealed that my name was Matthew Williams.

I got a beating after that. It was like in those old movies, where the victim gets trapped in an alleyway, and all exits are sealed by the bully's so-called henchmen. Once, twice - he landed a solid punch to my waist and then another to my head with enough force to slam me against the wall. As I doubled over, heaving and wishing I hadn't left my aspirator at home, he yanked me forward by my hair and hissed, "Teach you to pretend to be a girl again." He hocked and spit. It missed me by some inches and landed on the cobblestone wall of the building I was trapped against. "Faggot."

My glasses were knocked down, and the world was a blurry mesh of colors. My eyesight was awful, but I didn't have to have twenty-twenty vision to know what was coming.

I could feel him reeling his fist back, could hear the way his jaw tightened. In a few moments, that fist would make contact with my face. I would be lucky to get away with a broken jaw alone.

And then, amongst the indistinguishable splashes of gray, blue, and red, there came a flash of yellow. The hand holding my hair was gone. I flopped weakly down to my knees.

My ears still rang from the blow he'd sent to my head. Disoriented, I could barely tell what was happening around me. As I sat there, pressing myself against the wall in an attempt to just disappear, there were suddenly gentle fingers under my chin, tilting my head up. After that, I felt my glasses being slid back in place. I opened my eyes, and I could see the world clearly again.

Blue - that was the first thing that came to me. Your eyes were the clearest shade of blue I'd ever seen (dark blue, light blue, baby blue, cerulean) and I think that was when I fell in love.

"You okay?" I didn't hear you speak those words - my ears were still ringing painfully and my head throbbed with the worst headache I'd had thus far - but I was looking at your lips and I managed to read them.

I slurred a barely understandable, " 'm fine" before the pounding became too much, and the sweet, sweet tide of unconsciousness washed in to take me far out.

The next time I opened my eyes, I was in a room filled with white. The brightness stung my eyes and I reflexively squeezed them shut again, but apparently I'd made enough noise for someone to be alerted. A few seconds later, I felt a shaking at my arm.

"-thew? ...you okay...?"

No, I wanted to groan, my head hurts oh god it hurts, but suddenly my tongue was too heavy. I couldn't speak.

So I laid there like a marionette whose strings had been cut - limp, lifeless. I managed to pry my eyes open for a few seconds long enough to catch glimpses of who I presumed to be my savior.

You were beautiful: I'm certain that I'll never be able to tell you that myself, but that was my first impression of you. Boys aren't supposed to find other boys beautiful, but I did, and things never felt so right.

I think I tried to reach up and touch your arm, only for it to flop back down at my side. You must have thought I was seeking my parents or something, because a few minutes later, I heard my mother through the buzz, heard her frantic words. But I didn't want them - I just wanted you.

"-will be all right, Mrs. Williams...refrain from...control...be just fine..."

The doctor's voice did little to calm my pounding heart. I was confused, lost in the confines of my mind. I willed my limbs to move but found that I couldn't. I willed myself to speak but found that it was difficult to make the slightest of noises.

I could feel myself slipping again, and somehow, I knew that the darkness would be back to take me again. Fear rose up in my throat and I wanted to scream; I couldn't. So I settled with expelling the last of my energy into grasping onto something - anything - that would maybe anchor me to the light and keep that darkness at bay.

The closest thing was your hand.

. . .

Two days have passed, or so I figure out from the doctor's voice.

And I'm afraid.

I'm afraid that I'll never be able to walk again. I'm afraid that I'll never be able to ride my bike again, read my favorite book, or write and write and write. I'm afraid that I'll never be able to go out and breathe the cool wind that I miss so much.

"...going to get better, sweetie...promise..."

The buzz threatens to overwhelm my mind and I force myself to relax. I wish I can reach up to cradle my head, but my arms are dead weight.

"We should leave...for now, Mrs. Williams...to be left undisturbed..."

Don't leave, I want to cry after them. The last thing I want is to be left alone, please don't leave, please, please, it's so dark.

My hand lies open from when you'd shaken off my grip two days ago, when I first held it. For a second, I feel my skin tingle, until that is gone as well.

Numbness comes. Sleep follows suit.

I fight it - or, I try to. But the light is fading and darkness is creeping and somewhere, a lullaby slowly lulls me to sleep.

. . .

"I'm not entirely sure if you're awake."

The voice rattles me out of the warmth of sleep. I open my eyes to darkness, and I know that somehow, my body is still laying there in that hospital bed, prone. My eyes are closed, but they feel open, don't you see, they're open, open-

"Your name's Matthew, huh?" A chuckle. "Kind of suits you. Somehow."

Will you leave me too? I think incoherently. The rest of my thoughts are a jumble.

"...I bet you're not even awake, and I'm actually wasting my time here, talking to no one."

Nononononono, I'm right here, I'm awake, can't you see? My eyes are open.

"Anyway, if you can hear me, they've arrested the guys who did this to you." Pause. A shuffle. "The doctor said that even through comas, sometimes people can still hear people talking to them. But if you remember this conversation when you wake up, mind not telling anyone? It's kind of embarrassing." An awkward laugh.

Somehow, I think it's endearing.

"I'll be leaving, then." I hear footfalls against what sounds like tile, and then: "I really hope you get better, Matthew."

I don't think I've ever wanted someone to say my name so much in my life before.

You leave. I hear the click of the door through the buzz.

. . .

The doctor speaks, and I strain myself to listen: "...comatose...unsure of when he'll..."

His voice drifts. Frustrated, I let the darkness wash over me again. The light bobs in the distance. Another voice comes in, but it's just as distorted and I give up trying to make out what they're saying.

Maybe I really am in a coma - or maybe it's some form of paralysis. I regret not paying a little bit more attention in science class.

Funny how these little things suddenly come back to you when there's nothing else.

. . .

Somehow, whenever you walk through that door, I sense that it's you. I see a flash of gold hair and blue eyes and suddenly I feel more like a lovestruck schoolboy.

I'm barely aware of the way the bed dips - have you sat down?

I feel something brush my arm.

"Man, they've got you hooked up on so many wires."

If I could smile, my cheeks would probably split apart. I wonder why someone like you would bother with someone like me, and at the same time, I don't want to question it. I want to bask in the limelight, even if it's going to be for just a little while longer.

Not wires, I think hazily, they're IV drips, since I'm obviously in no condition to take in solids. IV drips, not wires. Not wires...right?

For the life of me, I can't remember.

You laugh. It's a breathtakingly clear sound, cutting clean through the dull buzz. "That face you just made." I'd made a face? "I guess the doctor really was right."

I struggle to try and do it again, whatever I did before. Twitch an eyebrow, a lip - anything?

"You probably think I'm some creepy stranger now," you say, "but...something keeps telling me to come back to you. Like, I feel that I'm, I don't know... Supposed to be here or something."

Pause.

"Oh, god, that must've sounded really weird."

I would laugh if I could. What I would give to see your face...

"They're all saying that you've been unresponsive, but you held my hand that one time, didn't you? And just now, you frowned. If they could see you do that, they wouldn't talk about you like they do now."

They talk about me? Of course-

-but how?

Am I the weak one who was pummeled an inch away from his life by a group of teenagers? Am I the poor guy in comatose, unconscious for three-or-so days?

"...I really hope you can hear me, Matthew."

Against my will, the darkness comes floating back to shroud me in its embrace. You keep talking, but I fade away without knowing what else you might be saying.

The buzz grows louder.

. . .

"So, I'm back." You sound sheepish. "You must be getting sick of me."

No, something whispers in the back of my mind. It's the total opposite of that.

"They moved those three guys to juvie. There's been talk about them possibly going to jail once they're eighteen, but their charges aren't too serious. But...if something happens and that assault turns into manslaughter..."

I bait my breath.

"I really hope you make it, Mattie."

The nickname brings a tide of warmth over me. It acts as a little beacon of light above in my little confinement of darkness. If someone were to ask me how one could possibly be able to fall in love with merely a glimpse and a voice, I would shrug and say, "Well, it happened to me."

"You like that?" you chuckle. "You're smiling. I must have done something right."

You already did something right when you chose to stop and save me.

"I'll call you that from now on. Mattie."

If I really am smiling, then that smile's probably considerably widened.

. . .

I surface from the darkness and wonder how long it's been.

"...calm down, please..."

"-ill not! He is...my..."

"Mrs. Williams, he really is fine."

"-ow about it, you..."

"Look at him, Mrs. Williams. Look. He's smiling."

. . .

"-sure what you're...but keep doing it..."

"For Mattie? Anything, Doc."

. . .

"I heard that your birthday's coming up." Your voice never fails to reach my ears through that buzz. "July first, right? That's in two days."

It's two days until my birthday?

With some difficulty, I do the math: I've been asleep for almost a week now.

"I'm gonna be kind of busy in the next two days, so I thought I'd bake you a cake or something. Then I realized that you probably wouldn't be able to eat, and I can't finish a cake by myself, so I saved you a cupcake instead."

There's some rustling - it sounds like a plastic bag being opened.

"My mom was actually the one who made it, but it's the thought that counts, right?"

Through the antiseptic scent of the hospital room, I catch a whiff of chocolate. Home, I think automatically.

"I'll just set this over here. Maybe when you finally wake up, we can eat it together. Or you can eat it by yourself. Your cupcake, your choice, man."

I laugh, even though I know that in that room, where my body lies prone and you're sitting by my side, my face remains expressionless.

"Anyway, I'm running late for baseball. I'll be back whenever I can, okay, Mattie?"

I wish to be awake more than anything else right now.

"...I really need to call you that more often, if it's all it takes to make you smile like that."

Is it possible for a man in a coma to blush? My cheeks feel hot - a similar sensation I get whenever I'm blushing. It doesn't help that I fluster easily, too.

"I'll be going, then." You didn't seem to notice anything else, so maybe not, after all. I listen for the sound of your retreating footsteps and the door opening, then closing.

When I'm sure that you've gone, I let myself drift away to the sound of the buzzing.

. . .

Any other time, I don't think I would have minded being stuck like this. The darkness has become somewhat of a comfort, and I'd never really liked too much light.

My mother is an overprotective, overbearing woman of forty-two. My father left her before I was even born; she never talks about him.

Since she was first told that I had asthma, she never let me leave her sight. "It's for your own safety," she would coo in my ear. She would hold me in her lap as she swung back and forth on the porch swing; the other children would play across the street.

"Please, Maman?" I asked once. "I promise I'll be careful."

"No. What if you lose your aspirator and then we can't do anything if you have an attack?"

"I'm not, and I'll make sure I won't lose it."

"Matth-"

"Maman, please? Please? Gilbert and Francis are over there, and-"

I can still feel the harsh stinging on my cheek as she suddenly slapped me. With a clarity, I can remember the way her eyes looked so cold, so steely, the way for a second, she didn't look like my mother.

"You will stay here," she hissed, and I remember nodding my head frantically, tears prickling at my eyes.

A few seconds after that, her arms loosened around me. "Here," she said, voice considerably softer, and nudged my aspirator at my lips.

Was I hyperventilating? I inhaled nonetheless, fearing that I would be hit again if I didn't obey her.

I grew up like this - I suppose that's the reason why I started to think that I didn't need friends. What was the point of having them, if I wouldn't be able to play or talk with them anyway?

In the silence of my own mind, hate suddenly flares, although I'm not sure who or what it's directed at. The buzz briefly mutes itself, only to return a few seconds later. The sudden feeling of malice disappears.

I feel weary; I just want to open my eyes.

. . .

"Can...hear me...?"

It's the doctor. Even if I want to, I still can't nod.

"-great progress...Alfred...big help..."

Alfred? Who is Alfred? I try to clear the haziness away and listen.

"-says that you've been smiling...think you can move for me, Matthew?"

Is that your name? Alfred?

"All right, you...your time...I'll..."

Alfred. Alfred. I open my mouth to try and speak your name, but I don't hear anything come out.

However, I do hear something clatter to the floor. Briefly, I worry if the doctor is okay, until I hear him speak again:

"...say something, Matthew?"

Had your name actually escaped my lips? I will myself to do it again, and this time, I feel my throat thrum as I manage to utter a single word: "Al-fred..."

At first, I'm not sure if it was just in my imagination that I heard my voice, but then there's more cluttering and moving around. I hear the doctor exclaim, "Get Mrs. Williams, quickly!"

Not her, my mind says sleepily. Get Alfred too.

I see your blue, blue eyes and golden hair, and suddenly, I feel hazy. My mother used to tell me how my father made her feel - light-headed and breathless. She was in love, she told me. My father mightn't have felt the same way, but she did, and it was the most exquisite feeling in the world.

Am I in love?

"-move for me...please..."

It's my mother speaking. From just the tone of her voice, I can imagine her pleading expression. So I focus on finding that energy, that motive, I get when you're around to try and make myself do something.

If I can get better, I tell myself, if I wake up, then I'll be able to see Alfred.

"Ma...ma...?" It hardly sounds like myself, but it must be me: my throat feels the raw aftermath and I feel something clutch at my hand.

"-hear us...? Ma-"

The buzzing noise increases in volume, and I inwardly cringe. My mother's voice is drowned out. I force myself to try to wait out the noise, but it seems to go on forever. The hand clutching mine eventually lets go.

I feel a sense of emptiness.

I let myself drift.

. . .

The next time, I rouse to the feel of someone stroking my hair. The gesture is warm, comforting. In some part of my mind, I even interpret it to be...loving. But I know it can't be, because it's you, and you can't possibly love me.

"I wish your mother would calm down," you whisper against the side of my cheek. Though barely, I can feel your breath warm on my skin. "If she hadn't overreacted...maybe you'd still be in the hospital."

It's then that I become aware of the fact that it doesn't feel like I'm on the hospital bed anymore. The clogging, anti-septic smell is also gone.

"Can you hear me?" Your hand moves methodically through my hair. Up, down. Up, down. "I felt you tense. Or maybe it was just me."

No, it wasn't just you.

"Can you try to say something? They told me about what happened while I was gone."

I-

"...Well, you're back home. I really hope they made the right choice with this, Mattie." Something presses against my forehead - your lips?

-love-

"I'm going to go help unload your wheelchair, so...try not to move, okay?" A chuckle. Dimly, I hear the door open and then shut, just a few seconds before a word makes it past my lips:

"-you."

. . .

I can't differentiate between day and night. You don't come by as often, so I find no purpose in making an effort to hear when the person speaking isn't you. Sometimes, I get a sense that I'll never get better, that I'll never be able to wake up, that I'll never be able to see you.

The buzz becomes unbearable day by day, and I wish you are here to diminish it.

I sleep for an immeasurable number of nights.

I dream of a blue-eyed savior.

. . .

I'm not sure what day it is anymore, or how long it's been since I last saw the world. I feel hands combing through my hair, fixing it, but the feeling isn't familiar. It isn't you.

My memory is starting to deteriorate. I try to imagine your face again. Your eyes were baby blue - or were they dark blue? I can't picture the exact hue of your hair any more.

Fear shoots into my thoughts like a bullet hitting its target.

I can't forget you - I won't, I musn't.

Because if I do, I'm afraid that I will lose myself to the darkness and never resurface. You give me life - don't you understand? You give me the will and the strength to keep going, to keep holding on, and if I lose the only part of you that I have, then-

. . .

A shriek-

. . .

The darkness is invaded by light.

. . .

"-thew? ...my god, you're awake...say something...!"

Make it go away, please, please, it's too bright.

On instinct, I try to raise my hand to cover my eyes, but I find that I can't. Suddenly, the light dims - I attempt to adjust my eyes to the sight...of my mother hovering above me?

I see her hand come up and touch my cheek. Her mouth moves, forming frantic words, but none of them reach my ears. I stare dumbly ahead, a lifeless marionette sitting on the edge of the sofa.

"Matthew," she sobs, and this time her voice is much clearer, if not only a little distorted. "Please, cher, say something."

I want to move, I want to speak, I want to do something to make her stop crying. If she doesn't, then I'll end up crying.

(If I could, even.)

Eventually, her sobs die down, and she gets up. Out of peripheral vision, I see her pick up the phone and dial a number. She's calling the doctor, no doubt.

And maybe Alfred too, but I don't let myself get my hopes up too high.

. . .

The doctor arrives with a suit case. He shines a small light on my face, test my reflexes, inject something into my arm. Nothing he does cures my inability to move.

So for the entire time, I stare blankly ahead, my eyes perpetually fixed on an invisible spot on the wall. When the doctor steps out of the room with my crying mother, another figure steps into my line of sight.

A jolt runs up my spine, and I think I jerk forward slightly; it's you. Your eyes, a mixture of all shades of blue, are concerned, your golden hair is tousled, you're wearing a baseball uniform, and there's beads of sweat dripping down your temple.

"Matthew?" you whisper hoarsely. You stare straight into my eyes and I stare back. "Mattie?" Your voice cracks halfway through.

You're so beautiful.

"Say something, Mattie." You intertwine our fingers. "For me?"

I'm here, Alfred, I cry out, I can see you.

My lips do not move.

. . .

I stare unceasingly forward, no matter how hard I try to move my gaze from the wall. At times, my mother sits beside me, and I can feel her frail body trembling. Sometimes, she cries. Sometimes, she just speaks to me about how she misses me.

Occasionally, I see you. Baseball's practically your whole life now, you've told me. If you become good enough, a scout might pick you to play for a big baseball team. "But don't worry," I remember you saying once, "if they do pick me and I have to move away, I won't. I'll stay with you, Mattie."

Then you laughed and said: "Even though you've never once spoken directly to me, I think I've..."

You didn't finish, and I never found out what you intended to say.

Your parents don't approve of you driving all the way across town just to visit some immobile kid. Nevertheless, you still come to see me, and I feel a surge of warmth every time I think about it.

But there are times when that, even though sunlight streams in frequently from the open windows, I feel like I'm in the darkness again.

. . .

Years pass.

I don't know how many.

I think the doctor has given up on me.

An IV drip is attached to my arm, feeding me the nutrients I need to keep breathing. Sometimes, I wish it would break, so that I may starve. I would rather die without you than live while knowing I can never have you.

. . .

You finally get picked.

You have to move two states away in order to play.

You protest, but your parents win; a week later, you're all packed and ready to go.

You stand in front of me, a suit case in hand. Outside, a car honks impatiently. You scowl, but your expression softens when you kneel down in front of me. "I...finally got picked, Mattie."

I wish I could smile for you.

"My contract says that I have to move, to be closer to the team and shit." You sigh, rubbing the bridge of your nose. "My parents are convinced that you're a hopeless case, but I know that's not true, Mattie." I feel you take my hand. "If only I can prove it to them, they'll let me stay here with you."

You've aged, but your eyes are still that gentle blue.

"Please...do something."

I stare.

"For me?"

I can't.

You stand silently, dropping my hand. You stand in front of me for a few moments. Then, just when I start to think that you're going to walk out, you lean back down and kiss me.

I'm sorry.

. . .

A week passes. My mother never fails to make sure I'm doing all right each and every day, and I hate that I can't tell her how grateful I am. All those years that I resented her - I wish I can take them all back.

"I have faith in you, Matthew," she whispers to me, and it makes me feel all the more worse.

I'm sorry.

. . .

The next time you come back, your parents come in with you. "Just try not to speak so loud," my mother told them, before she hesitantly left the room.

"Mattie," you say. My lips tingle for a second, as I remember the kiss.

I know what you want.

"I just wanted to tell you that I'm gonna be gone for a while," you say, smiling half-heartedly. "I've got a pretty big game coming up, and Coach wants us to be training this whole week."

Your father makes a noise of disapproval. "You talk to him like he'll actually respond."

I see the way your jaw tightens. "He will." You add in a mumble, "Someday. If you just gave him a chance..."

"We've given him plenty of chances, sweetheart," your mother chimes in gently. "Five years, in fact. Don't you think...don't you think that this is one of those things that we just can't fix?"

"He's not broken." Your voice trembles, but you keep going: "Just because he can't move or speak doesn't mean he can't hear or understand you."

"He can't feed himself. He can't move. He can't even blink." Your father puts a hand on your shoulder. "Alfred, he's barely even a human any more."

The words cut deep, despite the fact that it's coming from an almost complete stranger.

"He is!" You push his hand away none-too-gently and glare. "He knows what we're saying. How would you feel if someone told you that you weren't a human?"

"That's irrelevant-"

"Answer the question!"

"Alfred!" your father snaps.

"If you just gave him another chance-"

"All right! One last chance." His tone is sharp. His eyes, so much like your own, are cold. "Let's see him do something, then. And if he does, maybe I'll be convinced that you're not just wasting your life away on a lost case."

You kneel down in front of me, pleading. "Please, Mattie?" you murmur, reaching up to brush a strand of hair out of my face. "Do something. Please."

I'm not broken. I understand you perfectly, Alfred, and oh god, I love you-

"I'm waiting," your father says gruffly.

"Mattie." Your hands squeezes mine.

Do something, you idiot, I shriek at myself, do something so you don't lose him! Blink your eyes, move your hand, say his name, tell him you love him. Don't make him leave. Come on, Matthew, DO SOMETHING.

I feel my mouth drop open just a fraction of an inch - too little for you to notice - but nothing comes out.

Your shoulders slump.

"Get in the car," your father orders. "You're not wasting any more of your life here." He strides out briskly, and from my fixed gaze on the plaster wall, I see my mother standing in the doorway, an expression of worry and concern etched onto her face.

You comply without another word.

The door clicks shut, my mother leaving after them, and once again, I'm alone.

A tear slips down my cheek, but it doesn't matter; no one is there to see it.

I'm sorry.

. . .

You appear again the next day. The sun has just barely risen when you suddenly walk into my room.

"I can't stay long. We're leaving in an hour." Your voice is rushed. "I wanted to stop by to see you one last time." Your smile is sheepish, but your eyes are teary. I want to tell you not to cry for me.

"And," you continue, swiping a sleeve across your eyes and readjusting your glasses, "that even though it might seem like everyone's given up on you, you shouldn't lose hope." Your smile turns bittersweet. " 'cause you'll always have me, Mattie."

For the longest of times, you kneel there, looking at me. Trying to memorize my face? Trying to figure out what I'm thinking?

You slide something onto my ring finger.

"Just a little promise," you say.

And then: "I love you."

You kiss me, perhaps for the last time, chastely on the lips.

I stare.

You chuckle humorlessly, before standing and then starting for the door. Halfway out, you glance over your shoulder and whisper, "Wake up soon, Mattie."

Then you're gone.

My dry, chapped lips move weakly to form the words: "Love...you...too..."

. . .

I don't know why I'm writing.

Years have passed since I last saw you - six, if I counted correctly. It took six years for me to finally be cured of my condition (a type of paralysis that doctors still don't fully understand), and today marks the seventh year. Today marks the search I begin for you.

As I wrote, I constantly wondered how you are.

Have you become famous? Have you gotten married? Do you even have kids of your own?

And now, the more important ones come to mind:

Do your eyes still look the same? Is your hair still the shade of gold that reminds me of the sun?

Do you remember the ring - the same promise ring that I can never grow tired of seeing on my finger?

Do you still love me?

Once I find out where you live now, perhaps I'll send this letter to you. It's several pages long, but I hope I'm worth enough to you that you'll take the time to read all of it.

And if you do - if you did - I want to let you know that I'm forever indebted to you. I want to let you know that I don't sleep through a night where I don't dream of a blue-eyed hero. Most of all, I want to let you know how much I loved you, love you, and will continue to love you, until the day that I die.

I'm awake now, and it's all thanks to you.

Yours,
Matthew Jones