-CHRISTIAN & NICHOLAS-

There were some times when Christian wondered if Nicholas got some kind of thrill out of seeing him worry. Then Christian would feel like a complete asshole and do something nice for Nicholas. He refused to be a doubter.

The mood Nicholas had fallen into while they were in Seattle had decided to linger. He was broody and quiet, deigning to spend time reading in his bed to indulging his love of the night life. He didn't smile very much and sometimes his eyes looked so dull and lifeless that Christian had to check that he was still breathing.

"What happened in Seattle?"

Christian glanced at Julianna, noting the frown pulling her lips down. "He's in one of his moods. I've done everything to try and pull him out of it, but I think we're going to have to let things run their course."

"He wouldn't try to hurt himself or anything, would he?" she asked.

He managed to give her a soothing smile and pulled her across his lap on the couch. She was starting to put on the serious baby weight, but he didn't mind. He enjoyed nuzzling against her rounded belly, whispering to the baby inside.

"Nicholas would never do anything like that." I wouldn't let him. "It might take him a little while, but he'll be back to normal in no time. His moods never last very long, I promise."

She cuddled against him, pressing a kiss against his forehead. "Do you think he'll be back to himself by the time the baby is born?"

"I'm certain," he said, wanting to believe it was possible. He always felt off-balance whenever Nicholas was in one of his darker moods, being drawn down himself. He always followed Nicholas into everything, even depression.

"Is there anything we can do to help him?"

Christian stroked a hand through Julianna's hair, letting the fine strands sift between his fingers. He could smell her cucumber-melon shampoo. "We just need to be supportive and keep an eye on him. Knowing that we're there for him will help a lot. He just needs to know that he's not alone."

It was more that he hoped Nicholas was going to be all right. He always feared that something was going to happen and Nicholas wasn't going to bounce back. He didn't know what he was going to do when that day finally came.

"It's going to be all right," Christian said. "We just have to keep an eye on him. That's all."

Julianna looked at him for a long moment, but didn't say anything. She just cuddled closer against him. He was grateful.

They sat there as the sky darkened through the windows and the automatic lights began switching on, a low glow shining across the floor. He shifted so his legs were up on the couch and she settled comfortably against him.

"I don't know what's going on in his head and it worries me. I don't think he even knows what he's going to do next," he whispered.

"Do you think he'll hurt himself?" Julianna asked.

Christian held silent because he honestly wasn't sure. He didn't want to believe that Nicholas would do anything to harm himself, but it wasn't something he could be sure of. He wanted to believe, but he just couldn't say that he was certain.

"I don't know," he said. His voice came out like gravel in his throat. "I don't want to think that he could ever do anything to hurt himself, but... He's scaring me."

Julianna wrapped her arms around him, hugging his head to her chest. "We'll watch after him. It's going to be all right."

"Sometimes I don't know that it is. He's such a part of me, Julianna. The better parts of me."

"I don't think you give yourself enough credit," she said.

"I'm a different person without him," he warned. "Being his friend has made me into a better person than I was turning out to be. He brought excitement and life into my world." He fell silent, his eyes glazed as he stared at nothing, all of his fears overwhelming him for a moment.

The death of his parents and being shuffled back to boarding school before the bodies were even cold. The hatred that had been burning a hole inside of him until he'd been ready to explode. The distrust he'd felt toward everyone around him and his inherent shyness that had kept him from interacting with his peers. - All had been alleviated by the presence of Nicholas in his life. Nicholas had been his magical panacea.

"He saved me when I needed him to."

Julianna murmured something and kissed the top of his head. He closed his eyes.

* . * . *

He was lying on a pile of his laundry - clean, mostly still folded - and he realized that he couldn't do it anymore. He couldn't be this mopey person haunted by the image of his dead cousin. It was just too coming of age movie.

Nicholas forced himself to his knees and crawled off the bed and started crawling across the floor to the bathroom. He thought about standing up, but the energy seemed like too much and besides the crawl was working. He was making it toward his goal.

He crawled into the shower and sat there for a long moment before he began to work off his sleep pants and shirt. It took a small forever to get his clothes off, but he wadded them up and threw them out of the shower.

He used his fingertips on the glass to get the door moving, sliding it shut. Then it seemed like a lot of work to reach his arm up and turn on the water, but he forced himself to keep moving, knowing that if he stopped then he wouldn't be able to get going again.

"You're already in the shower and naked. It would be more work to give up and get dressed again."

The water drummed down on his head and shoulders, and he couldn't even force his face up to the spray. He let his hair be soaked forward around his face and stayed there with his arms wrapped around his legs as the water poured down on him.

Eventually he reached for the shampoo and the soap, but washing himself seemed to take forever. His hands felt clumsy and he was just so tired.

When he was sure all the soap had been washed away, Nicholas gritted his teeth and forced himself up on his feet. He stood there for a long moment, then he forced his arm forward to shut off the water.

Then he forced himself out of the shower and dried off with a towel. Then he brushed his teeth at the sink. Then he walked out into the bedroom and dressed. Then he forced himself out of the apartment and went in search of Christian to plead for help.

He found that as long as he kept his tasks simple and straightforward, he could make himself keep moving. He ignored the voice that called for a little break, and the other voice that whispered that climbing back into bed would be so nice. No, he focused only on what he was doing and he made himself keep going.

And when he reached Christian, he didn't let himself hesitate or think. He just blurted out, "I think I need psychiatric help. I think I need it right now."

Some part of him seemed to be expecting Christian to freak out. It was as though his brain thought Christian was a completely different person and not Christian.

Because there was no drama or gnashing of teeth. There was no wailing and moaning. It was just Christian looking at him steadily and saying, "Okay."

And Nicholas felt as though the world could be normal again. It seemed natural to let Christian bundle him up and they got into the car. Nicholas even played music on the radio and they shared a few observational comments during the drive.

And Nicholas let Christian check him into the private hospital and it was all right. Because Nicholas knew that Christian would never leave him there and that if he needed to get out he could. So he stayed for two months and he let them get his head somewhat back in order and the media was kept away so that he could just let himself be disconnected from the world for a while.

Christian visited him every day.