Sebastian shifted, feeling clean sheets around him. His head felt fuzzy, painkillers most likely. Trying to sit up caused a sharp pain to spike in his abdomen. No moving then. He lay back and stared at the ceiling. It had those little arches in it. Sebastian wondered what they were called.
The door opened. Sebastian turned to look at who had entered.
"Hello," Delilah said. She spoke slowly, concentrating on each syllable. "You're been in a comuh...co-ma," she enunciated. "The doctor said the stress was too much for your body."
"Are you okay?" Sebastian asked. Delilah's eyes were red and she was pale.
"N-no." Delilah walked towards the bed, her left leg dragging a little. "Jakob is..." She inhaled. "Jakob is..."
"He's dead," Sebastian said.
Delilah nodded. "Ganuah stabbed him and...and...I saw him...and..."
Sebastian held out an arm. He tried not to wince as Delilah crawled onto the bed and cuddled close to him.
"I still hate you," she said.
"I'm just going to stay here for a while."
"Okay," said Sebastian. "I don't mind."
"I want to see him."
"It wasn't a request."
Susannah sighed. She waved the people around her away.
"Everything is chaos right now," she said. "We finally got the riots to stop, but we still need to clean up. No one's in charge. Half the Faithful are still free. People don't know what to think. The whole planet just watched their prince get murdered. We're trying to get the scanners released, but the army is afraid of retaliation. I don't have time to humor you."
Sebastian crossed his arms over his chest.
"I want to see Jakob," he said. "Do that for me and I'll leave you alone."
"It's not something you want to see," Susannah said.
"I need to. Please."
Susannah rubbed her forehead. "All right. Tonight."
"Thank you," said Sebastian.
"Did you see him?" Delilah asked.
Sebastian nodded. He closed the door and leaned against it.
"Are you okay?"
"I'd like to be alone." Sebastian's voice was husky. He walked towards the bed, staying at it like he didn't know what it was for.
"That's probably not a good idea," Delilah said. "Sebastian--"
Delilah took in the expression on Sebastian's face and fled, slamming the door behind her. Sebastian fell forward, bouncing against the mattress. He couldn't stop picturing Jakob's body, pale and waxy, a sheet drawn up to his chin. Sebastian had lifted the sheet, staring at the gash in Jakob's chest. It looked too small to have killed him, a narrow slice of red.
"He's dead," Sebastian repeated. "He's dead. He's dead. Jakob is dead."
Nothing felt real-- the bed, the floor, Delilah, nothing. He needed to know Jakob was dead or it would be like this forever.
"Jakob is dead," Sebastian said, twisting his fingers in the blankets. "Oh, Seti, Jakob is dead." He curled up, body shaking with sobs. "Jakob is dead," he choked out. "J-Jakob is...Jake is...Seti, Seti...oh, god...Jake is...please, oh, please, Jake."
The funeral was open to the public. It was held in the center square. A dais had been erected in front of the tower. Jakob's coffin sat in the middle, draped in green fabric. Huge banners hung on either side, bearing the crest of the royal family. Chairs had been set up below, an aisle dividing them in half. Sebastian and Delilah sat near the front, Riley a few rows up. Behind the chairs, people were packed so tight they couldn't even wiggle their fingers.
"Our prince was not with us long." Tepriht's voice carried through the silent square. "But he felt a bond with all of us. Neemah was a hero, working to free us all from bondage."
"This is ridiculous," Delilah muttered. Sebastian glanced at her.
"Calm down," he said.
"His sacrifice saved us all," Tepriht continued. "Although we mourn, we should rejoice in the chance to rebuild out world. Neemah would not--"
"HIS NAME IS JAKOB!" Delilah stood up. She pushed her way down the row, ignoring the angry muttering. Sebastian hurried after her. Delilah ran along the edge of the crowd and disappeared into a building.
"That was dramatic," Sebastian said.
"I can't stand this." Delilah banged her fists against the wall. They were in a narrow hallway; an apartment building, Sebastian thought. "They're all acting like he's a martyr, like some kind of hero. That woman up there is talking like she knows him. Jakob wasn't a hero. He was selfish and amoral and he wasn't some fucking martyr!" Delilah covered her face with her hands. Uncertainly, Sebastian touched her shoulder. He was surprised when Delilah moved towards him.
"I want to go home," she said into his shirt.
"I know," Sebastian said. "I'm almost finished."
"You know what the worse part is?" Delilah asked. "No one on Earth will care. Our parents won't even notice. It's just us."
"I won't forget," Sebastian said.
"God, we're pathetic." Delilah sniffed. "I keep expecting to hear swelling violins and plonking piano notes.
Sebastian couldn't repress the smile.
"I think we're entitled to a little melodrama," he said.
"I just want to stop feeling like some weepy heroine. I want Jakob back."
"So do I."
"The stupidest things make me cry. This morning it was my glass. It was blue. Jakob always liked blue glass. Our mother though it was tacky, but Jakob liked it anyway." Delilah pulled away, wiping her eyes. "Let's go raid the kitchen. I need a sandwich."
Sebastian's stomach growled. He blushed while trying to remember the last time he had eaten. Somehow it felt wrong to eat. Nothing tasted right anymore. Sebastian had gotten used to Jakob reminding him to eat; dragging him away from whatever project he was working on or arriving with snacks. Now every meal was just a reminder that Sebastian would never see him again. Delilah must have seen his thoughts on his face, because she tugged on his sleeve, a small smile forced on her face.
"Come on," she said. "I know how Jakob makes them."
"Okay," said Sebastian, returning her smile. His dimples didn't appear. "Okay."
Sebastian sat back on his heels, looking up at Riley. He was dressed in a military uniform, his eye patch dyed to match.
"What is it, Riley?" Sebastian asked. Riley tugged at his jacket.
"Your ship looks nice," he said.
"It looks like hell," Sebastian replied. "The welding is crooked and three of those panels are barely active."
"Will it work?"
"It'll fly. I'll have to do more repairs, but it will get us off this damn planet."
"I'm not going," Riley said.
"Riley, you don't have to stay with me. You can live with Delilah or get a job on a transport ship or..."
Riley shook his head. "No. Delilah...Delilah won't talk to me. She says it's my fault."
"Jakob's being killed." Riley sat down, crossing his legs. He stared at his fingers. "She thinks I should have moved faster, that I could have shot Ganuah before he--But I couldn't Sebastian, I really couldn't. I was inside and the man was fighting me and he hit me and Susannah was hurt and I got there as fast as I could, but I couldn't--"
"Riley," Sebastian interrupted. "Riley, stop."
"I'm sorry," Riley said miserably.
"No it's not! Jakob is dead and I should have saved him. He was my friend, my first friend." Riley began crying. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He wiped away the tears. "Susannah doesn't like it when I cry."
"Screw her," Sebastian said. "Cry all you want."
"Are you sure want to stay here? I don't mind if you stay with me. I kind of got used to having you around."
"No," Riley said. "People listen to me here. They ask for my opinion. I...I'm a hero. Me. It's scary, but I like it here. I like being a part of things. I just wish I could talk to Delilah. I don't want her to hate me."
"She doesn't hate you. She's just grieving and angry."
"She won't forgive me." Riley looked up. "You forgive me, don't you?"
"It wasn't your fault."
"Please, just say you forgive me, please."
"I forgive you," said Sebastian.
"Thank you." Riley stood up. "I'm going to go now. I have to talk to some people. There's lots of things to do." He hesitated. "Goodbye. Thank you for not flushing me out an airlock."
"Goodbye, Riley." Sebastian watched him walk away, feeling an odd twist in his gut. He thought he might miss the annoying bastard. At least if Riley had stayed with him, then Sebastian wouldn't be alone. Delilah was going home, and he would be alone. No, not alone, not really. Jakob would be haunting him, memories everywhere. Sebastian leaned forward, letting his head rest against the side of his ship. The metal vibrated slightly, the hum shaking free his thoughts. Sometimes he wish he had never met Jakob. Every thought of him brought up a dull, throbbing ache that seemed like it would never end. It was unbearable; a bleak, empty existence punctuated with sharp bursts of pain.
After a minute, Sebastian sat up and returned to his wiring. He didn't notice the tears drying on his cheeks.
"You're watching that again? It's not healthy."
Delilah paused the video, pointing at Jakob's face.
"I think Jakob knew something we didn't," Delilah said. "Look at him. Listen." She played the video.
"Please," Jakob said. "Don't. Don't kill me."
Delilah stopped the video again.
"That doesn't sound like Jakob. He wouldn't say that."
"He was terrified," Sebastian said. "He was about to die."
"No. No way. Jakob wouldn't beg. Look at where he stops, center of the screen, his arms up. He was posing. It's too perfect. Jakob wanted everyone to see Ganuah stab him."
"You think Jakob would sacrifice himself?" Sebastian asked.
"Yeah, right." Delilah rolled her eyes. "I think he had a plan. Come on, don't you think it's weird?"
"Delilah, Jakob is dead. I saw his body."
"He's dead!" Sebastian snapped. "Just stop, okay? This isn't helping."
"Fine, don't believe me. I don't care." Delilah turned back to the screen. "I'll figure this out myself."
"It's time to go," Sebastian said.
"Delilah, if I have to knock you out I will."
"I need to do this," Delilah yelled. "Just leave me alone!"
"I saw his body!" Sebastian shouted back. "Jake is dead! You have to accept that. It's been two months, Delilah. He's not coming back!"
"You don't care! You never cared! You said you loved him, but you didn't! He was just some hole for you to--"
Sebastian slapped her, then stepped away, horrified. Delilah touched her cheek in shock.
"Do what you want." Sebastian clenched his fists. "Let yourself get twisted and deranged, wrapped in this forever. I don't care. But never, never say I didn't love Jakob," Sebastian said, his voice shaking. Delilah gaped at him. "I'm leaving in an hour. If you want to go, be there or I'll leave with you."
Sebastian strode out, slamming the door so hard the screen crashed off the wall.
Sebastian waited by the door of his ship. The hour was nearly up. With a sigh, he turned.
Sebastian looked back.
"I'm sorry," Delilah said, eyes downcast. "I just-- I'm really sorry."
"It's all right," Sebastian said. "You coming?"
"Yeah," said Delilah. "I need to get some place that isn't completely fucked."
"Good luck," said Sebastian. "Did you say goodbye to Riley?
"I don't want to talk about him. Can we just go?"
"What about that girl? The one that is always following Marl around?"
"Trin," Delilah said. "She doesn't understand why I'm leaving."
"Maybe when she's older." Sebastian waved her inside. Delilah took one more look around, then climbed onboard.
"She wants me to visit," she said without turning.
"I can give you a lift," Sebastian replied. "If you want."
Pausing, Delilah glanced back at him.
"Ask me again later," she said. "It's...it's...just, not now."
Sebastian nodded. He knew what she meant.
The BH2D was stable, the paradox engine online. Sebastian eased the ship out of the atmosphere, then programmed the coordinates for Earth.
"You'll be home in two weeks," he said when he heard footsteps.
Sebastian whirled around, tripping over his feet.
"Great," he said. "I've progressed to full-on hallucinations."
"I'm not a hallucination." Jakob walked towards him, running his hands down Sebastian's chest. Leaning forward, he brushed his lips over Sebastian's.
"So you're an especially vivid hallucination," Sebastian said.
Jakob bit Sebastian's ear.
"Ow! That hurt!"
"Mmm." Jakob sucked gently at the spot he had just bitten. "Better?"
"This is insane." Sebastian pulled away, backing up to the wall. "I saw you die. I touched your corpse. I was at your damn funeral!"
"So was I," Jakob said. "Delilah made a scene. I was touched."
"You're a bastard," Sebastian replied. "Two months! You let me think you were dead for two months!"
"It was necessary," Jakob said.
"Necessary? You cold, manipulative prick."
"The entire planet was full of telepaths. Anyone could have scanned your mind. You couldn't know."
Sebastian ran his hands through his hair, yanking at the strands.
"This doesn't make any sense. You got stabbed in the chest."
"I know." Jakob raised his shirt. "I have the scar."
Sebastian stepped forward, placing his hand on Jakob's chest. He felt the rough line of raised flesh on his palm.
"How did you survive?" Sebastian asked.
"Oh, that. I have a pet snake only I can see that heals me when I get hurt." Jakob shrugged. "One of the perks of being the heir of the royal family."
Sebastian stared at him.
"It has wings."
"This is why I didn't tell you."
"There is no way you have an invisible magic snake," Sebastian said. "Ow!" He rubbed his wrist.
"Well, my invisible magic snake just bit you," said Jakob. He wound his arms around Sebastian's neck. "It doesn't matter."
"I still don't understand," said Sebastian. "Why bother to fake your death? And what about your body? Someone must have helped you."
"Susannah," said Jakob. "She was there when I woke up."
"Why help you?"
"She knew I didn't want to stay, but if I survived I'd never be able to leave. I think it finally kicked in that I wasn't what Entsat needed. Or maybe she just realized that it would be disastrous when I left. Either way, she erased the doctor's memories and kept me hidden. When you saw my corpse that was a fake memory she created."
"You let her mess around in my brain?" Sebastian asked. "What else did she do in there?"
"Nothing. Don't be paranoid."
"You know I don't like people in my head! And don't say it was necessary."
"It wouldn't have been if you weren't so morbid."
"I'm not morbid. It's a normal impulse."
"Oh, mmm yourself."
Jakob laughed. He kissed Sebastian, lips still curved. His tongue explored Sebastian's mouth as thought trying to reacquaint himself.
"You're not forgiven," Sebastian said. "I was in hell."
"Suffering is good for the soul."
Sebastian compressed his lips to hide his smile.
"You could have had a whole planet," he said. "Three billion people just dying to pay attention to you."
"I don't need that," Jakob said.
"You'd never be ignored again. Everything you did would be newsworthy."
"I'd rather be here."
"All those people to love and worship you."
"One is enough."
Sebastian snorted. "Right."
"Come, worship at the altar of Jakob."
"Idiot," Sebastian laughed. "So what now?"
"What do you mean?" Jakob asked.
"What happens now?"
"We drop Delilah off on Earth and then we leave."
"And you show me the universe," Jakob said.
"For how long?"
"Until I get bored."
Sebastian raised his eyebrows.
"Don't worry," Jakob said. "It's a big universe."
"Infinite," replied Sebastian, smiling.
"So it could be a while."
"Seventy years or so?"
"A hundred," said Jakob. "If we're lucky." He kissed Sebastian lightly, then nuzzled against his neck. "Sebastian, do you still have that car I gave you?"
"It was destroyed in the crash. Why?"
"We should get another one," Jakob said. "I have an idea."
"What is it?" Sebastian felt Jakob's lips curve into a wide grin.
"Will I like it?" Jakob laughed, low and deep. "Oh, yes. Definitely." He pressed tight against Sebastian for a moment, then stepped away. Sebastian gave a regretful sigh.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Don't whine," Jakob replied. "I'll be back. I just have to go give Delilah a heart attack." Flicking his fingers out Sebastian, he left.
Head spinning, Sebastian stayed where he was, back to the wall. Jakob was alive. It was hard to process after two months of believing he was dead. His brain hadn't quite caught up. A large part of him still thought he was dreaming or hallucinating or--
A loud shriek echoed down the hallway.
"You fucking bastard! You fucking, fucking BASTARD!"
Sebastian grinned. This time there were dimples.
[A/N: I may write an epilogue, but don't hold your breath. I do have extra scenes, and side-stories that I'm going to post. I've spent way too much time with these characters, and am ready to move on. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed!]