Dan accepted the next in a long line of vending machine coffees from Brent and held it between his numb fingers. He was running on autopilot now. They all were. Desperately hanging on for any news. Calling Simon’s parents had been the hardest part. They were so far away and it would take them hours to get to the hospital. He only hoped they weren’t too — No, he wasn’t going to think about that.
“Dude,” Brent said, sitting down beside him. “Why don’t you go home, get some rest. I’ll stay with him.”
“I. Said. No. What if he wakes up and I’m not here?” Dan hissed, turning in his seat and slopping hot coffee over his skin, but he didn’t feel it. He hadn’t felt anything other than abject terror for three days, fourteen hours, thirty two minutes and twenty-eight seconds, give or take a second or two. He was immediately contrite, Brent was only trying to help, he knew that. But he couldn’t…wouldn’t leave, not yet.
Brent sighed, running a hand through his black hair. A move he had made more than once over the last few hours, Dan thought, judging by the way the strands stuck up all around his head at different angles. “If you won’t leave, at least give me the keys so I can go and get you some clean clothes.”
“Dan,” Brent’s tone was firm and so was the hand he laid on Dan’s thigh. “They’ve got blood on them.”
Looking down at the khaki t-shirt he had been wearing for three days, fourteen hours, thirty-four minutes and eighteen seconds, give or take a second or two, ‘cos who was counting, right? – Dan’s breath hitched in his throat. The blood had dried in dark obscene patches where it had seeped into the fabric and his empty stomach recoiled in horror, dry heaving painfully. He ripped the t-shirt off and tossed it to the floor – unable to believe that he had been wearing it for so long without realizing he was covered in blood — Simon’s blood.
Fumbling in the pocket of the jacket hooked over the back of his chair, Dan grabbed his house keys and held them out to Brent. He didn’t even feel the other man take them from his fingers, or kiss the top of his head gently before he left. In truth, he didn’t even hear him leave.
Downing the rest of the vile, but highly caffeinated, drink he put the cup on the floor with the myriad of other Styrofoam cups and moved his chair even closer to the hospital bed, letting his gaze travel over the prone form beneath the crisp white sheets.
Simon looked asleep, or at least he would have done if it weren’t for the tube up his nose and the I.V. firmly taped to the back of one of his huge hands, spilt blood blossoming on the gauze. He was deathly pale, almost the same color as the sheets and his wavy hair was a black pool in contrast to the pillow it spread across. There wasn’t even a mark on his beautiful face to show for his stupidity.
Shouldn’t there at least be something to show for all the blood that had oozed from the huge gash on the back of Simon’s skull, hidden by his hair? Oh, and from his ears and nose, of course. How could he forget that? Would he ever forget that? Forget the sight of Simon’s body, still, crumpled and suddenly so small on the ground where he’d missed the mis-positioned crash mat — falling two stories during a stunt.
Lacing his fingers through Simon’s, he lifted the cool smooth skin and pressed it to his bare chest, in an effort to warm the cooling flesh. “Okay, Si,” he said, trying to keep his tone light, when what he really wanted to do was scream and shout. “Enough is enough, now. You’ve proved once again that you still hold the title for being the most pigheaded ass who walked the earth. I told you to let the stunt double take the dive, but would you listen to me? Of course, you didn’t, why would you? I mean, you never have before, so why actually listen when it’s important?” He sighed heavily and bent his head, resting his lips on Simon’s fingers. “You never listen to me...but you gotta listen now, okay? Just this once. Can you hear me? Wake up, Si...please, just wake up. I know you think I’m a big ole girl anyway but I gotta tell ya, Si. I’m scared shitless.”
Dan inelegantly wiped the snot dripping from his nose with the back of his hand. “There’s something I want to tell you and I need you to be awake, coma confessions don’t count...mostly on account of the coma part of the scenario, so if you could wake up now, that would be good. I want to look right in that stupid face of yours when I say this. I want to see your eyes...’cos they’ll tell me everything I need to know. They always do.
“You remember that secret you asked me to keep for you? I never told you how honored I was, that you would trust me with something that huge and I’ve kept it for you, all this time.” He stroked Simon’s hair back from his forehead in a rhythmic motion, holding limp fingers against his own stubbled cheek as he spoke. “Funny thing is...until three days, fourteen hours, forty-seven minutes and eleven seconds ago...yeah, I’m counting, so what?...I didn’t realize that, while I was holding your secret, I had one of my own. Didn’t realize it until I heard the crack of your stupid melon on that cold ground. For a split second I thought you were gonna just get up, you know, like always...laugh it off...maybe yell at medical to get you an icepack...complain that your hair was mussed up, anything...but you didn’t move.
Taking a deep ragged breath, Dan continued. “I got to you first, of course I did, I always will and when I turned you over...fuck, Si...when I saw the blood from your nose and your ear...in that single moment I have never been so terrified in my entire life. I actually understood what real fear was. The fear that I might lose you without you ever knowing...without me having the chance to tell you...” He huffed out a joyless laugh, tasting the salt of his own tears. “Come on, Simon, don’t be an asshole, wake up. Don’t leave me here all alone. Please Si...please. Wake UP!” His voice began to rise, anger edging ahead of despair. Anger at his own helplessness, anger at the grip who had placed that mat just a few inches to the right, anger at Simon for insisting that he could do the stunt himself, anger at the world.
“I love you, are you listening to me? And I don’t mean in a slap you on the back, you’re my bro kind of way. In a great big huge wanna spend the rest of my life with you way, and if you think you’re checking out on me when I suddenly realize I wanna suck face with you for the next fifty years, you’ve got another think coming! So you open your eyes and wake up you fucking coward! Wake up, please. I love you...Simon...please...don’t leave me...” Dan trailed off, unable to force any more words past the lump in his throat. Lowering his head onto the bed beside the other man, he gulped in great gasps of air as he sobbed and his heart broke in his chest. “I love you...”
“Jeez,” a quiet, cracked voice fought to make itself heard over the sound of Dan’s tears. “You don’t…gotta be such…crybaby about it.”
“Si?” Dan’s head snapped up so fast he was sure he’d given himself whiplash as he rose to his feet and looked down into groggy, brown eyes. “Si? You’re awake!”
“’Course…awake, you’re shouting…loud ‘nuff…wake the dead,” Simon croaked. “You better…woke me up…for good reason.”
“You fucking, asshole,” Dan breathed, his hand shooting out to brace himself on the bed when Simon pulled on his arm to close the gap between them. “Big, stupid, freaky, fucking asshole.” He felt a wave of comfort and love wash over him as their lips met softly for the first, but definitely not the last time.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Simon mumbled sleepily. “I love you, too.”