Don't Want To Live Without You
"When you love someone - you'll sacrifice
You'd give it everything you got and you won't think twice
You'd risk it all - no matter what my come
When you love someone."
- When You Love Someone, BRYAN ADAMS
The blood is still pumping.
The first thing Greyson registered after the shock of seeing Nate laying on the floor was the flow of his blood pumping from his arms; not small, inconsequential horizontal cuts across his wrists - but long jagged gashes straight down his arm. The kid hadn't been playing.
The blood was still moving - which meant his heart was still beating. Once his heart stopped, so would the blood flow, and it would begin to coagulate.
But it's still moving.
The amount of blood on the floor, though, frightened Greyson. Nate could still go into cardiac arrest. Greyson stepped back quick when the doctor overseeing Nate barked orders at the nurses to position the gurney. Two male nurses helped the doctor lift Nate's body onto the gurney and, in seconds, they were gone, rushing him to surgery.
Greyson stood frozen in place, staring at the bloody outline on the bathroom floor, the shards of broken glass swimming in the crimson fluids. His hands shook as he raked them up over his head.
"I found this." The nurse said, startling Greyson.
He swallowed thickly and looked at her. She held Nate's cell phone in her hand. His brow pinched as he took it from her. The alarm had been set, due to go off in fifteen more minutes.
"What happened?" He whispered then looked at the nurse.
"I heard glass break." She said. "When I knocked on the door, no one answered. The door was locked. I got one of the male nurses and he forced the door open and..." She shuddered, her lips tight. "And we found him...on the floor...arms...cut open. And that...that note on his shirt." Her eyes glistened. "What did it mean? What's now an option?"
Greyson shook his head slowly. He turned off the alarm on the phone. Nate hadn't meant for anyone to find him until the alarm went off. Somehow he knew approximately how long it would take for him bleed to death. He wanted to be found in time for his heart to still be useful to Kyle...but not soon enough to save Nate himself.
Tears burned. "Nothing." He whispered tightly then stuffed the phone in his pocket. "Let me know the second he's out of surgery."
"Yes, doctor." The nurse said softly.
Greyson walked back down the corridor towards the waiting room. How the hell was he supposed to tell Janice about this? What the fuck was Nate thinking? But then he knew, of course. Nate's only thoughts were of saving Kyle's life. Greyson would have given up any part of himself to save Ian - without thinking twice. He understood Nate's logic, as radical as it might seem.
Understood it far too well.
* * *
Was this hell?
Darkness surrounded him, pulsated and pumped like the beat of a heart. But not his heart. It couldn't be his heart. He'd given his away.
It felt like the dream he'd had of Kyle lost in the darkness. But this wasn't a dream...was it? He was dead. He had to be. If he wasn't...then Kyle soon would be.
He could hear voices, but from a great distance away. Crying. Wailing. Was this hell? Was this his reward for giving his life to save another human being?
Warm breath touched the back of his neck. He froze. Fingertips pressed lightly against his back and lips moved against the hair at the nape of his neck as they whispered, "What're you doing, Nate? This isn't what I want. This will never be what I want."
Nate's throat knotted until he could barely get a breath. "It's already done." He choked out.
"No...it isn't." Kyle's low, soft voice twisted his insides and ripped him apart. It felt like an eternity since he'd heard his voice, felt his touch. "You don't get to make this choice, Nate." Kyle's voice thickened with tears, his hands flattened against the small of Nate's back as he pressed his brow to the back of Nate's head. "I need you out there, baby. I need you to be there waiting for me. I need you to...have faith."
A tremor ran through Nate's body. "Have faith?" He cried thickly. "Have faith in what? God?"
Kyle's lips touched his neck. "Have faith that I love you enough to never stop fighting to get back to you."
Sobs rolled up Nate's throat. "Kyle..."
Kyle withdrew. His touch gone. His kiss vanished.
"Kyle!" Nate choked and spun around, reaching for him in the darkness. "No! Don't go! Don't leave me! Please!!"
* * *
The pain was the first and only thing he registered when his eyes opened.
Excruciating pain stabbing into arms like red hot daggers.
He gasped sharp and cried out as he became aware of the pain spreading up into his shoulders, through his upper chest. He tried to thrash against it but strong hands held him down. A scream lodged in his throat, choking him, as his head snapped back and forth from side to side as his whole body strained against the hands, the pain more than he could bear.
Faces blurred and wavered above him, swimming in and out of focus. His eyes clamped shut and his teeth bit down, grinding against one another as another scream swelled in the back of his throat.
"Sedate him, god dammit!" Someone ordered. Their voice was hazy, seemed to push in from far away. "He's gonna rip open the fucking sutures!"
He barely felt the needle prick above the other burning pain, then suddenly it began to fade as a comforting darkness pulled him back under. The faces and voice faded steadily as if he were slowly sinking down deeper and deeper below the surface of a lake, watching the sunlight on the water grow dimmer and dimmer until there was only blackness.
It seemed only minutes had passed when he opened his eyes again and early morning sunlight was shooting bright rays past the tall buildings scattered throughout the city. Nate stared at the white ceiling overhead. The pain was now a low throb centered in his forearms but pulsing up to his shoulders. But it was nothing like before. It still hurt, but it was bearable.
He swallowed through a dry throat and longed for a drink of water, but didn't move, just stared at the ceiling. It hadn't worked. He'd failed Kyle.
This isn't what I want. This will never be what I want.
He wasn't so foolish as to think he'd actually been talking to Kyle. It was just a dream. Just some fucking dream. He knew Kyle well enough to know he wouldn't have been that calm. He would've lost it on Nate. Yelled at him, possibly punched him. Probably asked him if all queers were so fucking dramatic.
Though unwelcome, a smile twitched Nate's lips. Tears filled his eyes and dripped down his temples. God, he missed Kyle's smart ass mouth. His cocky grin.
Nate's eyes closed, more tears squeezing out from under his lids. Why hadn't they just let him die? Had they fixed him up just so he could stand by and watch Kyle die right before his eyes? How fucking thoughtful of them.
Soft, muffled crying forced his eyes open and he looked towards the sound. Janice stood at the window, her back to him, arms hugging her waist. Her head was ducked and her body trembled with quiet sobs.
"Janice..." Nate's throat felt full of gravel and his voice rough, scratchy.
She turned suddenly, the pain in her eyes hitting Nate hard. He waited for the outburst, for her demand how he could do this to her. But she said nothing, just came to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tight, kissing his hair.
Nate broke and cried with her. "I couldn't just...stand by and let him die." He choked on a hard sob. "I couldn't..."
Janice hugged him tighter, trembling. "If Kyle woke up...and you were gone." She shook and pressed her face to his cheek. "He wouldn't want to be alive."
"I just...I wanted to...give Kyle back to you." He cried. "You need your son. You think I don't see how much you need him?"
"I need you both." She shuddered. "And you need each other. One of you...can't be here without the other."
Janice drew back and Nate looked up at her, anguish squeezing his chest. "I don't want to be here without him." An ache tightened his jaw as his eyes filled with more tears. "But we're losing him...aren't we? I..." A sob broke his words. "I had to try to save him. I had to." He broke again and shoved his head back into his pillow, squeezing his eyes shut, his body shaking with his cries. "I couldn't just wait for him to die!"
A strangled sob wrenched out of him. He tried to raise his hands to his face, but the instant he moved his arms, the low throbbing pain began to scream. A sharper cry erupted loose. Janice hugged him again, crying against his shoulder.
"Don't try to move, baby." She choked softly.
"I don't want to be here." Nate cried, shaking. "I don't...I can't...just watch him die."
Drawing back slowly, Janice tugged a couple Kleenex from a box on the bedside table and gently wiped the tears from Nate's face. "Maybe." She whispered, grabbing fresh Kleenex and wiping her own eyes. "Maybe...when you're better...you should go home for a couple days. Just..." She licked her lips and cleared her throat. "Just take a break from all this. Get some rest...in your own bed."
Nate shook his head slowly, new tears forming. "I can't just...go home and leave you here to face all this alone."
"Nate." Janice whispered thickly. "If you had died...I would have been alone then."
Guilt tore at Nate's heart. "I'm sorry." he cried softly. "I wasn't trying to...leave you...I just..." He closed his eyes, his chest heaving and hitching with sobs as warm tears drained down his temples.
"No." Janice trembled and touched his face. "Baby, don't. I'm not angry with you. You love my son so much that you would give up your life to save his. Do you know what it does for me to know Kyle is so loved?"
She stroked her fingers through his hair. It was soothing, and reminded him when he was younger and would spend the night at Kyle's house. He remembered how she would give each of them a kiss on the forehead at night when they went to bed, run her fingers through their hair...and tell them she loved them. Nate had never gotten that at home...just yelling and cursing. She had been more of a mom to him than his own mother.
"I always envied Kyle." Nate whispered as he opened his eyes. "Envied his relationship with you and Jim. And the way you both loved him. I wanted...so much to be a part of your family." Tears slid down his face and Janice wiped them away.
"You were, Nate." She said softly, eyes shimmering. "You are. And always will be a part of our family."
Nate gazed at her, his chin trembling, tears filling up and slipping free. "I wanted to marry him." He whispered unsteadily. The ache in his heart forced out fresh tears as his chest squeezed tight. "I never wanted anyone else. Never loved anyone but Kyle."
Janice bit her lip gently and nodded. "I know, sweetheart...I always knew." She smiled through her tears and stroked his damp face with her fingertips. "And Kyle knew that too."
"I should have told him." Nate shuddered. "I should have told him I loved him...when he asked me to." Anguish swelled in his chest, creating a painful pressure. "And now...it's too late."
* * *
The thought of it...
A sense of nostalgia infiltrated his mind, seeped down into his heart. He missed home. Missed it like crazy. The way it used to be when he would coax Kyle out of the city and up there into God's country. So many nights they'd sat up till sunrise, talking, laughing, making plans they knew were just pipe dreams but was fun to plan anyway. Every now and then, silence would fall over the room, their eyes would meet and for the briefest moment...Nate would see it in Kyle's eyes. That something that he'd searched for since they were fourteen. Then it would vanish as suddenly as it had appeared and, too afraid to believe it had really been there, Nate would convince himself he'd imagined it.
Just wishful thinking.
What would have happened if, during one of those moments, he had gotten up, walked over to Kyle, and kissed him? Would he have walked away with another black eye? Or would he now have years of memories of sharing not just friendship - but a deeper love as well? He'd been so afraid of pushing his luck with Kyle, so scared of losing what he'd had...that he wouldn't dare risk reaching for more. And all that time...
I should've been honest with you...I should've told you the truth about me.
He had loved Nate all along.
Warm sunlight reached the window, shimmered against the glass and poured in onto the floor. Nate turned his head slowly and stared out at the city. His heart ached for Kyle, for that night back in the cabin. The desire to pray for just one more of those nights with Kyle was so strong he could hardly resist. But he'd burned his bridges with God. Even if, in desperation, he wanted to reach out to God...He wouldn't be there. Not now.
But then...maybe he had never been there.
Maybe Nate had just been screaming and cursing an empty sky.
Nothing up there but endless space. No greater force to bring order to the chaos that was the human life. It all felt so random, so happenstance. Nothing made sense anymore.
Kyle was the only thing that had made Nate's life make sense. And when he was gone...it would just be chaos. Just emptiness. No purpose.
If there was a God...He didn't care. He wasn't going to drop down a miracle at the last minute and bring Kyle back. His one and only chance at saving Kyle's life had failed. They should've taken his heart...because it was of no use to him anymore.
Keep your heart, Nate...don't give it to me. I would only break it.
It's always been yours, Kyle.
The remembrance of their words that night punched at Nate's heart, tore at his mind. Had it been some kind of premonition? If Nate had listened - really listened - to what they were saying to each other...would he have realized how much Kyle needed him right then? How close he was to losing him forever?
"Forgive me, Kyle." He whispered, tasting the warm saltiness of his tears as they coursed down his face and seeped between his lips. "I'm so sorry I didn't listen...I didn't hear."
Nate felt the man's presence before he heard him. He gazed blankly out the window where, outside, down below, people were busy living their lives, unknowing and uncaring that a beautiful soul was about to be extinguished...leaving behind one more shadow in an already dark and cold world.
"You should have let me die." He whispered then turned his head slowly and looked at the man. "I didn't want to be saved."
"We've lost too much already, Nate." Stolsig spoke low, quiet.
Pain burned in Nate's eyes. "I handed it to you." He choked. "You had no fucking right to refuse it. That wasn't your call to make." His face tightened and pinched and his head jerked back to the window. "You could've saved him."
"There's no guarantee it would've saved Kyle." Sympathy softened the doctor's voice. "His body...may have rejected it...it could have all been in vain."
Nate closed his eyes, tears forcing out. "I don't care." he whispered. "You could have tried."
"And let you die in the process?"
Nate bit his lip and shook his head slowly. "Don't you get it?" He trembled. "I'm already dead."
* * *
The cool tinge to Kyle's hand chilled her heart.
The chair beneath her felt like a chunk of concrete as she sat beside her son's bed and held his hand. She wanted to cry. It hurt so much. But for the moment, the well of tears was dry. Somehow, not being able to cry made it hurt worse, as if there was no release for the pain, no way to flush it from her heart.
She stroked Kyle's hand with her fingertips. It seemed not so long ago when she was holding him in her arms, her newborn baby boy. So perfect. She could still feel his tiny fist squeezing her finger, his big beautiful eyes looking at her, trusting her to love him and keep him safe. All his life she had made good on that trust.
It wasn't fair. A parent's power to protect their child shouldn't be ripped away from them.
The tears came back suddenly, without warning. Janice curled over and pressed her lips to Kyle's hand and cried.
I'm so sorry, baby. I'm so sorry I couldn't protect you from all this.
* * *
"Doctor...are you okay?"
Greyson's throat squeezed. He stood on the far side of the ICU, watching Janice Haney with her son. He only felt the tears on his face when the nurse spoke to him with concern.
His hand trembled as he wiped his face. "No." He whispered. "I'm not okay at all."
Both Nate and Janice were spent. This waiting...hoping against hope...it was breaking them to pieces. Barely a year ago, Greyson had been in their place; crying out to God, screaming at him, cursing him, then falling down before him and begging for a miracle that he knew would never come. Holding on...when there was nothing left to hold on to.
People couldn't go on that way...not for very long. They needed to move on, even when it hurt to do so. Time healed all wounds...or so Greyson had heard.
His wounds were still bleeding. Throbbing.
And hurt like hell.