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Jedidiah stares blankly at a spot on the wall. He grips his lab coat in one hand and his desk in the other. He can hear him in the other room, walking around. He can hear him, dammit, he can audibly hear the life in his steps. His fingers begin to absently drum on the surface of his desk. It quickly turns to just one finger maniacally tapping. His vision begins to blur and his breathing speeds up. He can still fix this. He can still stop this. He could have stopped it, he could have fixed him, he broke him, he’s so cold. He’s so breath-takingly cold. Heartstoppingly cold. He reaches a hand out to touch his cheek, to brush the hair from his pained expression, to deny the fact he’s gone. Warm fingers clutch the cold rosary hanging from his neck, clinging onto any dwindling faith he has in himself, in anything. Anything. Anything at all, he pleads, anything at all. Someone to tell, someone to help, some source of light in this unbearable cold. He shakes. He shivers, he pleads, he lets out silent pleads of forgiveness, warm, silent tears bubble out of him. He puts his ear next to cold, dead lips, praying that he hears breath. The clock stopped ticking hours ago, no ticking or tocking or beating or breathing, just cold, dead silence. Cold, dead silence. He stares on. He keeps tapping, filling in the air, filling in for what is lost and irreparably damaged, wasting time, losing time, breathing, breathing, breathing…

A cold hand meets his shoulder.

Tears start to flow and he breathes even faster, still staring at the same damn place on the wall.

Sydney takes his hand off Jedidiah. It clearly didn’t help, no use in keeping it there. After careful consideration, he walks in front of Jedidiah’s desk and interrupts his vision, breaking the trance that he was stuck in. Jedidiah’s eyes widen and his pupils shrink even more than they had before. Sydney puts a hand on top of his, grazing his thumb over Jedidiah’s white knuckles. He looks into his eyes and coos, “Jeddie? Are you okay?” Instead of answering, Jedidiah shakily replies, barely above a whisper, “You’re… so… cold.” Sydney chuckles slightly. “Of course I am. It’s wintertime, sweetheart.” Jedidiah starts to calm down. He takes a few deep breaths, as instructed by Sydney, and gazes at the palm in his hand. It’s warm now, and full of life. It has flowing veins and a pulse and it can move. He places his thumb on Sydney’s wrist. He knows that it doesn’t take an accurate pulse if you use your thumb, but it’s all the strength he can muster right now, and a pulse of any kind is comforting.

Jedidiah looks up to the chest in front of him. His eyes trace the green and brown stripes woven into the sweater Sydney wears. He takes the time to ground himself in the warmth of the hand in his own before he looks Sydney in the eyes. The flitting hazel-blue eyes that look so deep that he could drown in them. His free hand quiveringly reaches up to card through the curly black locks that tangle around him. Sydney’s expression is strained, trying to figure out what Jedidiah is panicking about, trying to find a way to help him. He reaches up with the hand his pulse isn’t being taken with and wipes away the tears streaking his partner’s face with his thumb. Sydney keeps his hand there after, just cradling Jedidiah’s face. His eyes flutter shut.

“Oh! Jeddie, the whole reason I left was to get warm milk, do you want any?” Sydney quietly asks.

Jedidiah breathes out, preparing himself to talk again. “Uh,” he starts, “I don’t know?”

“That’s okay, you don’t have to know. It’ll be here.”

“Thank you, Sydney…” His voice cracks on his name. Sydney stifles a laugh.

Jedidiah twirls a lock of Sydney’s hair nervously, embarrassment suddenly starting to creep up on him. His face flushes and he struggles to keep eye contact. He doesn’t understand why Sydney has forgiven him, he did so much that he could have hated his guts for, but he doesn’t. It doesn’t make sense; he wants to know what Sydney sees in him. He doesn’t feel worthy of affection, of being called a person, he’s barely a person at all, for God’s sake! It doesn’t seem fair to Sydney, or to him. He wants to know why, why does Sydney still like him? He needs to know, if he could just know, if he could just know, if he could just know, if he could just know, if he could just know, if he could just know,

“Jedidiah. You’re thinking so loud right now.”

“Sorry, I’m sorry, Sydney, I’m so fucking sorry…”


Jedidiah’s face contorts again into one of remorse and guilt.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry that you have to be here, to deal with me, to still be around me, Sydney-”

“Jedidiah Abraham Adonias Martin, last time I checked, I was the one who wanted to be around you.”

Sydney looks into his eyes with the asphyxiatingly blue ones of his own. “If I hated you, why would I have stuck by you since elementary school? Why would I still be here, in this camp, waiting for you to come back and visit every goddamn year? I love the campers, but I don’t stay here for them! Who else would I stay here for? Lucille?”

Jedidiah winces. He knows who Sydney would stay here for, and it’s not him. The deep, dark, monstrous guilt in his stomach rages and he wants to cower away from him like a beaten dog. Sydney knows exactly who he is thinking of.

“Elijah…” he starts, venom spitting out his throat for him, “...does not love me.”

He shifts in his seat across from Jedidiah, rubbing his hip and lower back. Today is not a good pain day for him, ironically. Ever since he had gotten battered getting down from the pyre, he’s been in a lot more pain. It has only been, like, a day since then, but his point stands.

“Sorry about the pyre, I had to get you down somehow, I’m sorry you got bruised and everything, um…”

Sydney sighs. “Jeddie, you’ve got to stop apologizing so much. You saved me from there; I would be dead without you.”

Jedidiah stares.

“Um, I mean, I would be dead-dead. Like, not… alive? Am I… nevermind. Not right now.”

He laughs. Jedidiah awkwardly joins in, trying to lighten the mood. Sydney looks so cute when he laughs, he thinks. So gorgeous, fuck, how did he end up with him? Everything about him is so beautiful, it’s so overwhelming to look at him, everything is a lot to take in with him around.

“Hey, you know that I can feel your pulse too, right?”

To his own horror, Jedidiah starts to grin. He can’t help it.

Sydney giggles. “You’re cute when you smile,” he says, leaning over the desk to kiss the corner of Jedidiah’s mouth. His heart swells, bubbling over and out of his mouth through giggles of his own and the guilt is still there but Sydney is too, and that’s good enough for him. He shivers and slides his hand further into the fluffy black hair and leans his forehead against his. Sydney’s hand intertwines with his instead of resting atop of it. He looks into his partner’s vivid brown eyes with his own half-lidded ones. Jedidiah opens his mouth as if to say something, but it closes almost immediately.

“What was that, Jeddie?”

“Can I, um…” Jedidiah starts nervously.

Sydney rolls his eyes jokingly. “Yes, Jedidiah, you may.”

Jedidiah leans in and kisses him for the first time in years. They’d kissed all the time in college and somehow labeled it as practice or platonic or any other word that wasn’t romantic. He’d always pushed those feelings down back then, but now, now… it’s… it’s okay that he has these feelings. He can kiss him and feel romantic and gushy and let the fluttering in his stomach go wild. He brings his other hand to Sydney’s face and leans in even more, grinning all the while. Sydney slides his hand into Jedidiah’s hair and dammit, he swears he’s floating. He starts to feel lightheaded. Sydney pulls away, to his own dismay.

“Are you breathing?” He asks worriedly.

Jedidiah takes in a gasp of air and starts panting. “Oh, shit. Yeah. That’s… important.”

He laughs. “Is kissing me really that scary?”

“A- A little bit! I mean, the last time we did this was in, like, college? And I just got, um, really scared fifteen minutes ago…”

“Sweetheart, that was a panic attack,” Sydney coos.

“No! It was not, I’ve only had two! You saw one of them!”

“Panic attacks don’t have to be visually loud, darling,” Sydney begins, “Sometimes, they can be staring at the wall and shivering.”

Jedidiah does the same opening-and-closing-his-mouth-as-if-to-say-something thing again. He never considered that before. It did feel like a panic attack, but it couldn’t have been as bad as the other ones he’s had, right? Someone had died that other time, and the first one was church-related, so how could that have been a panic attack compared to that?

“...Jedidiah, what were you thinking about?”

He closes his eyes and breathes. “...You, cold, dead… You were dead, Sydney, it felt like I was there, crying next to you again, curling up, clutching my rosary and shaking, it was so… cold… I was in high school again, throwing up and praying and hiding and you were dead. It was before I had… Oh my God, Sydney, are you okay? Fuck!”

Sydney’s breathing had become tattered and heavy. He was rubbing his chest and had a strained expression, desperately trying to pay attention and listen.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, please, no, Sydney, please, no,” Jedidiah mutters frantically, frozen again in his chair.

“No, I’m-” he coughs, “-I’m okay, really, Jeddie, I’m– fine. I’m okay, I’m still here, you can keep talking if you want, but I think you had a flashback. A really bad flashback. It manifests as a panic attack and usually includes symptoms of it too. That’s why you felt like you were reliving it, if I had to take a guess. Or, you just have some crazy-wizard-bitch powers that let you time travel or whatever. I, honestly, wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what was going on in here for most of the day.”

“I’m sorry, Sydney, I forgot that happens, I’m sorry,” Jedidiah blubbers.

“Hey, hey, hey, no! I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to tell me. I’m curious too, you know.”

“Okay. Don’t let me do that again.”

“No promises.”

“Please don’t die on me again, then?”

“That I can promise.”

“Can you- can you hug me?”

Sydney embraces Jedidiah, throwing his arms over his shoulders and burying his face in his collar. Jedidiah starts to cry again, but Sydney doesn’t mention it. He sits there and rubs his back, just like he’d done so many times before.

“I love you, Jeddie. I really, really do.”