The fluorescent lights were flickering overhead as he hurried down the hospital hallway. Usually he didn't notice it, but right now it was like a strobe light adding to the confusion to his already overworked head.
"Jason," a firm voice from behind called. He whirled around as a familiar face stopped though a set of doors into the waiting room he was standing in.
"Where is she? Is she alright?" he demanded.
The man in front of him didn't reply at first. "She's...do you know what happened?"
"I don't give a fuck what happened, they just said she was here! Is she alright?"
"There was an accident," he replied calmly. "She was unconscious when the paramedics got there. And...she was bleeding pretty badly. "She didn't have her belt on."
He could feel his voice breaking. "Is she alive?"
The man nodded. "Yeah."
"Is she going to stay alive?"
The man swallowed. "She," he started hesitantly, then paused. "Everything will be fine Jason."
Jason breathed out. "Fuck," he whispered, in relief, and tears began flowing down his face. "Oh God I was so scared." He grinned suddenly, wiping the tears away. "I was so fucking scared. Where is she?"
"We can't go in yet."
He nodded, then turned suddenly to the man, as if now only realizing that he was there. "Why are you here?"
The man hesitated. "I was...in the other car," he said slowly.
Jason's fist clenched. "So this is your fault?" It was more an accusation than a question.
"Hey, she was drunk! She ran a red light and she hit me!"
Jason shook his head. "Sheila wouldn't do that."
The man sighed. "She did Jason."
"I don't believe you."
"Jason this really isn't the time."
"Time for what?"
"It isn't time for us to argue about the past!"
"What are you talking about?" he cried. "I'm talking about tonight, right now." He could feel the tears returning with his anger. "Sheila isn't that stupid!"
The man looked away. "The accident was her fault. She's lucky she's still alive."
"Why would she do that though?" Jason whispered.
The man looked at him. "She's a lot on her mind lately. It's not an excuse but it's been weighing her down."
Jason's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about? She's been fine. Sheila's always been fine."
"No one's always fine Jason," he said softly. He looked over at Jason with a mix of sympathy and frustration, but kept silent.
"What?" Jason demanded. "If something was wrong, she would have told me!" No reply. "She would, she'd tell me!" Still, no answer. "Wouldn't she?" He turned away, a new feeling boiling in his gut. He sank into one of the chairs next to them. "Why wouldn't she tell me?"
The man sat across from him. "I don't...I guess she just didn't want to burden you."
"You've had hard times too, Jason, she just didn't to add to them."
"So what, did she talk to you?"
He paused. "She needed —"
"Bullshit, how could she come to you! How could she trust you?"
"I don't think...she just needed to vent one day."
"Well how could she not come to me? What could be so horrible that she wouldn't tell me?" he demanded, in both anger and despair.
"You had your own things to deal with," he said sympathetically. He leaned forward, and grasped his shoulder. "You just—"
"Get your fucking hands off me!" Jason yelled suddenly, shoving him away. "Don't talk to me about my problems. You're the fucking root of them!"
The man jumped back a bit at the outburst, and looked around cautiously, at the people passing by. Funny that he'd notice that now, since he'd been yelling practically since he'd gotten there.
"Let's not do this now," he pleaded softly.
"Oh you're never gonna fucking do this Jeff! You don't even feel bad about it!"
Jeff looked hurt. "Of course I feel bad about it!" he protested. "Jason, I've never lied to you, I meant everythi—"
"Tell that to the bitch you're fucking."
He didn't reply. He just sat staring brooding-ly off down the hall.
"You're right," he said softly. "This isn't the time." He was quiet for a moment longer. "Where is she?"
"I told you, we couldn't go in there yet."
His eyes narrowed. "But I thought you said she was okay?"
Jeff swallowed. "I said everything would be okay."
The panic returned. "What's wrong with her?"
Jeff shook his head. "I don't know."
"Yes you do! Fuck you do, you do! What's wrong with her?"
"I don't know," he replied.
"Tell me what's wrong with her!"
"I don't know Jason!" he yelled suddenly, his calm exterior fading. "When we were brought here, I was getting myself checked out! Okay? I don't know what's wrong with her, or how bad it is, I don't know anything!"
The tears were back, sparkling in Jason's eyes. "Then how do you know she's alright?"
Jeff looked up at him. His own eyes were glassy. "Because she has to be," he whispered.
They sat in silence again. His previous fears had returned, as well as some new found anger for Jeff.
Finally he broke the silence.
"What's wrong with her?" he asked softly.
Jeff sighed exasperated. "I told you, I don't—"
"No! The other stuff! The stuff she told you. What was wrong with her?"
He hesitated. "I don't think I should tell you."
"It's not really my place."
"I need to know," he whispered. "Please. When she ...wakes up, or whatever, she needs to know that I'm here and that I care, and that it isn't a burden." His voice was breaking. "It must be bad. It must be really bad, if she had to do this. She must need help. She must need me. Please, please tell me."
Their eyes met. For the first time in months Jeff didn't look away in shame.
"It's her father."
"Sheila doesn't have a father."
Jeff rolled his eyes. "He's been in touch. He says he's clean, but Sheila doesn't believe him. He's got another kid now, and she's scared. For the kid, for her father, for herself. And then on top of that her mother is as irresponsible as all fuck. And she hasn't heard from her brother in months, and she's worried. And she misses him. And then graduation is coming, and she's under a lot of pressure. It's just building up on her." He stopped. "I won't get into the details, I'll let her do that." He paused for a moment. "Something must have driven her over the edge tonight."
Jason looked away guiltily. "Why do you care so much anyway?"
Jeff didn't answer at first. "I love her too, Jason."
All the calm that had settled over him evaporated instantly. "What!"
"No, it's not like that. Not like...us. I just care for her, a great deal. She's a beautiful and special person. I know I don't need to tell you that."
"How do you know that?" he demanded. "How did you get so damn close to her without me knowing?"
"She just...she didn't want to make you upset, or to hurt you. So she didn't say anything."
He hesitated before asking the next question. "Were you sleeping together?"
"No. No, it wasn't like that. It almost happened once, but that was just...it was an accident."
"What is wrong with you?" Jason whispered.
"What do you mean?" he asked softly.
"I mean you're supposed to be our teacher! What are you doing? I mean, are we the only ones, are there others? Are you fucking the whole damn school?"
"You are the only one," he said softly. "Sheila was just...just an accident. And nothing actually happened, we came to our senses."
Jason sank back in his chair. "Why did you do this to me?" he sighed, tiredly. "Why'd you fuck me over so bad?"
"I couldn't help it," he whispered pathetically. "It's stupid and it's worthless I know, but I just couldn't help it. I wanted you – I want you – so much. But it's not fair to you. You should be with someone who doesn't have to hide you away."
"But all I wanted was you," Jason hissed. "It wasn't about me, admit it. You were afraid of being caught, or losing your job, of being labeled a pervert. It's either that or you're just full of shit, and you used me up and threw me away. Which is it?"
He could see tears forming in Jeff's eyes now. "Jason, I got scared. I did care for you, I do care for you. I'm serious, I meant everything I told you. I just," his voice trembled. "I got scared."
Jason shook his head, and sunk back in the chair. He couldn't reply, just couldn't deal with this right now.
They sat in silence again, watching the hospital personnel hurry by. After a while, Jason looked over at him, and noticed the bandages around his wrists and arms.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
Jeff looked up confused. Then he looked at the bandages. "Oh. Yeah I'm fine," he whispered shifting uncomfortably, trying to draw attention away from them.
"Mr. Larmy," a deep voice came from behind them. Jeff turned to face a young nervous looking doctor. He stood up swiftly. "Um Miss Frayl—"
"Wait," Jeff interrupted. He grasped the doctor's arm and led him aside. They spoke a few moments in hushed voices. Jason watched with dread as Jeff's face fell. He looked over at him for a moment, and swallowed. Then the doctor walked away, and Jeff was left standing, looking completely lost all of a sudden. He stared at Jason helplessly.
"Where is she?" Jason asked. No answer. "Where is she?" he repeated, with a touch of hysteria.
"She's...she's in room one-oh-five...on the bottom floor."he said softly.
Jason stood up. "Then let's go."
"No," he shook his head. "Let's just go." He strode past Jeff to the elevator. Jeff hesitated before following him, that same helpless look on his face.
There was complete silence in the elevator. The only thing Jason was even aware of was his pulse pounding in his ear. Next to him, Jeff was fighting to keep his composure. Then the elevator dinged, and they both stepped out into the scarce hallway.
He hurried down the hall, counting the room numbers. In his sudden desperation, he blatantly ignored all the signs explaining where he was, and what he had to expect. Jeff just followed along helplessly until Jason finally stopped at an empty doorway.
His reaction was delayed. He could see her, but she wasn't in a hard hospital bed. There weren't any wires that hooked her up to any machines. There was just a flickering light over a metal slab. And she was lying motionless on top of it.
"Sheila," he said hoarsely, still unable to piece it all together.
No reaction, no reply. There was nothing.
"Oh God," he whispered. A single silent tear fell down his face. Then he erupted.
"No!" he screamed. A harsh sob came out as he turned to run. "No, fucking God no!" He barely made it three steps, before hitting the floor. "Oh God no!" he shrieked, his sobs raking his whole body. He pulled himself up against the wall. "Oh God Sheila, please no!" He voice broke, as he sank slowly back down to the floor, in uncontrollable sobs.
He felt Jeff's arms close around him, but that only increased his hysteria.
"Fucking asshole!" he screamed. He leapt back to his feet and punched Jeff across the face. "You fucking lied to me! You said she would be alright, you said it had to be al-fucking-right! This isn't alright Jeff!" he screamed. "This is far from fucking alright!"
He tore down the hall back to the elevator, mashing desperately at the button.
"Jason," Jeff said, suddenly right next to him again. His hand reached out and cupped the side of his face.
"Fuck you!" Jason screamed again, and tore away, kicking open the door to the stairs.
He ran up the stairs in a sick rage, feeling the tears pouring down his face, as he fought down the nausea that was beginning to form in his stomach. Vaguely he could hear Jeff behind him struggling to keep up.
He burst through the door on the main floor, and slammed it hard behind him, hoping it would deter Jeff.
Then he tore through the hospital hallway, refusing to acknowledge the people who stopped to stare at the sobbing wreck that flew past them, no doubt followed by a slightly older but equally upset man.
The outdoors hit him with a gust of cool air. He paused for a moment, taken aback by the sudden calmness of the spring night. It seemed unnatural for it to be so calm outside when war was raging in his head.
Hands gripping his shoulders tightly shook him out of his thoughts. Jeff pulled him around gruffly to face him.
"Jason!" Jeff cried, his voice shaken, and strangled. "Please just calm down for a moment—"
"Calm down?" Jason screamed. He shoved Jeff's hands off, backing away. "Calm down? Calm down?" He was still sobbing as he back away. "Fuck you!" It wasn't a scream anymore. His voice broke off, as the sobs became sharper. "Fuck you! Oh my God, I hate you so much." His voice was barely a whisper now, as he sank down to the ground. "I hate you so much." The sobs took over completely. And then as if it couldn't get any worse he suddenly felt the instinct to reach into his pocket and call Sheila on his cell. The pain suddenly increased to an impossible level, and he let out an indistinguishable cry, and sobbed even harder. "How can she be gone?" he demanded. "How can He take the thing that means most to me? How?" He broke off, his sobs almost choking him now.
"Jason." It was soft, calm, and infuriating. There was no way he can be that calm when something so horrible had happened. He was just a fake. He was fake just like this night.
"You're so fucking fake!" he screamed.
Jeff looked slightly taken aback. "What?"
"You! You sit there so goddamn calm, and, and collected and Sheila's...Sheila's...oh God," he fought back his sobs painfully. "That's all you are! You're just so goddamn...I hate you!"
"Jason! Please, just stop for a second—"
"No!" It sounded childish even through his blind rage, but he couldn't be bothered to care. "I tried to love you, and you just...used me, and exploited me, and tossed me away!"
"It doesn't matter! It doesn't fucking matter! I have another fucking plan!"
Those words didn't even make sense to him, but it didn't matter anyway.He got up, and ran again, toward the parking lot. He slammed against the car, suddenly forgetting how to stop. He fumbled with the key-chain for a moment, before pressing down on the button to unlock the doors, and the yanked the door open.
He had barely shut the door, before Jeff slipped into the passenger seat. His eyes were wide and glassy, but Jason just couldn't believe them.
"Jason," he said hoarsely. "Give me your keys."
"Get out of my car!"
"Jason, I'm not leaving you. You're in no condition to drive. Just-Just give me your keys."
His voice was shaking. It was that bit of humility that cleared his head up, if only slightly. He shoved his keys into the ignition, and shoved the car into gear.
"Fuck," Jeff breathed next to him, and pulled his seatbelt on.
The sobs began to subside, as he tried to concentrate on the road. Soon they turned into sharp gasps, but the tears continued relentlessly.
"How could I not know things were wrong?" he demanded. "How could I not notice that she needed help? What is so fucking wrong with me that my best friend, my best friend can't even come to me when she needs it, or that I don't even notice? Why? Why fucking God why?"
His speed increased the louder he yelled.
"Am I so goddamn selfish? Did she try to come to me? Did I just not notice? Is that why?" He began to hyperventilate. "I didn't even know her, did I? I had no fucking clue about anything!"
"Jason, pull over," Jeff said harshly.
Jason looked at him, his eyes bloodshot and wide. "Are you scared?"
"Yes dammit pull over!"
"Good!" he screamed. "I want you to be scared! I'm scared! My best friend is ... I'm fucking terrified! I can't live without her! I can't do it! I'm really fucking scared, and I want you to be scared too! Because this is all your goddamn fault!"
He sped up deliberately, a small strangled laugh now escaping him. "It all your fault," he whispered tearfully.
There was a strangled silence for a moment. Then Jason slowed abruptly and pulled to the side of the road. She shifted into park then turned to Jeff.
"Turn off the car Jason," Jeff replied, that insufferable calmness back in his voice.
"Get the fuck out of my —" and then Jeff slapped him. His head rocked back, and he stared at Jeff completely bewildered. It didn't hurt it was just ... unexpected. They were deadlocked in a stare for a moment, cold, vacant eyes against glassy fear filled ones. Then Jeff slapped him again harder this time. Then he dove forward grabbing the keys in the ignition and twisted the car off.
"Hey!" Jason cried in surprise, grasping at his hand, but Jeff elbowed him hard in the stomach. This time it did hurt, and he cried out. Jeff pulled back, the keys tight in his hand. He stuffed them into his pocket quickly, then faced Jason.
Jason's breath had become ragged, from the gasping sobs, and from having the wind knocked out of him. He was staring at Jeff accusingly. But as much as he didn't want to Jeff knew that it had nothing to do with his hitting him.
"Jason," he began again softly, his voice starting to choke again.
Jason shook his head, then turned and got out fo the car.
"Jason!" Jeff cried out, as the door slammed. He got out quickly after him.
Jason was walking fast paced down the side of the road on the grass. The sobs were returning. "This is your fault," he said shrilly. "This is all your fault."
"Jason!" he said it harshly this time, and tackled him. They hit the ground hard, and Jason began to struggle. Jeff grabbed him around the wrists and pulled him up into a sitting position. His arms locked around him, he pinned him against his chest. "Stop it! Just fucking stop it!"
"This is all you fault!" Jason screamed again. He struggled relentlessly against Jeff's grip, then collapsed. "Everything would be fine right now if you hadn't fucked it up! If you hadn't come, if you hadn't fucked me, then I would have noticed! I would have noticed that something was wrong! She wouldn't have freaked out, she wouldn't have gotten drunk, she wouldn't be...she shouldn't be dead right now!"
Saying it out loud was the last straw. They all seemed to hit at once then. He began to sob, gasp and hyperventilate all at once. Jeff's grip loosened on him and he tumbled forward, suddenly gasping for breath. Jeff's hands gripped his shoulder comfortingly, and squeezed, as he gasped for air, and then broke down in sobs again.
After what seemed like hours he finally rolled over and curled into the fetal position, still shaking violently. Jeff pulled him up, and face down into his lap, cradling him lovingly. When he was sure that he had finally calmed down enough, he let his own tears fall, and buried his face into Jason's shoulders, drawing him closer.
After could have been hours he realized that Jason's trembling, probably wasn't entirely from the tears.
"Jason," he whispered softly. "It's cold, we should get back in the car."
Jason didn't reply. He just sniffled softly. "I'm just fucking shit, aren't I, Jeff?"
"No," Jeff breathed, pulling him closer. "No Jason, this isn't your fault. None of this is your fault. You're beautiful, and loving, and perfect, and she didn't do it because you didn't love her enough. It wasn't about you. She loved you, and she knew you loved her. It wasn't, it was never you." His lips brushed against Jason's earlobe. His shoulders started to shake harder beneath them, rubbed them comfortingly. He nuzzled against the back of Jason's neck. "You couldn't have been better Jason, I mean it," he whispered. "This isn't your fault. You're perfect."
Jason rolled over to stare at him. "Then why couldn't you love me?" he whispered.
Their eyes locked, and Jason felt both their heartbeats quicken. Suddenly he was aware of everything around them. The smell of moisture in the air, the cars moving in the distance, the gentle breeze, feel of Jeff's breath mingled with his. And then Jeff had lowered his mouth to his own.
The kiss was chaste and gentle, and the most intense thing he'd ever experienced. They broke away gasping, tears spilling down both their faces.
"I love you so much Jason," he whispered. "I...I got scared," he whispered, his voice shaking. "I just got scared, that's all." He kissed his forehead and his cheek, and his temple, and his lips again. "You're so beautiful, so perfect. I love you so goddamn much." He closed his eyes, and rested their burning foreheads together.
"What are we going to do?" Jason whispered, as their tears mixed together.
"We'll figure it out," Jeff replied softly. "Everything will work out...It has to."