Zach pushes open the door, stepping inside the hospital room to the jarring beep of the monitors keeping track of Chris’ heartbeat. His own heart rate quickens, his chest squeezing uncomfortably. There are tubes everywhere, needles running into his veins, and air being pushed into his nostrils.
His face is covered in bruises.
Full recovery, no permanent damage.
The doctor’s reassurances march through Zach’s brain, and he tries to latch onto them, tries to believe them. But it’s difficult; impossible.
Chris’ face is too pale, and the bandages wrapped around his torso are stark; frightening. Zach feels queasy, but he does his best to ignore it and crosses the room—slowly, because he’s a fucking coward, and maybe by the time he gets there, it will turn out it’s just a dream.
Just a dream that Chris stormed out of the house this morning, so furious he forgot his cell phone. The sound of the door slamming still echoes in Zach’s ears.
It was such a stupid fight, pointless—Zach can barely remember what it was about. And he can’t stop wondering if it’s the reason Chris is in here, if he was too pissed to pay attention to the oncoming car—too preoccupied to swerve out of the way.
It’s his fault Chris is here, his fault that these bruises mar his skin. Because he’s stubborn, and couldn’t just apologise when he should have.
Zach swallows as he sits carefully in the chair beside the bed, wanting to touch—to be reassured that Chris is whole—but not knowing how.
He looks so small.
Heat crawls up Zach’s throat, but he forces it back down again, carefully stretches out his fingers to settle them weightlessly on the one patch of Chris’ arm that isn’t bandaged. But as soon as he does, the tight feeling only gets worse. Letting his shoulders drop, he leans his forehead against the mattress and tries to force himself to breathe as the ping of the monitors continue their steady announcement.
Fingers settle in his hair, and startled, Zach inhales sharply and lifts his head just an inch. Chris is blinking at him, eyes bleary but aware. He’s smiling softly. “Hey, baby.”
Tears fill Zach’s eyes, but he doesn’t bother to brush them away. ”Hi,” he warbles. ”Chris…” It comes out more sob than name and Chris’ fingers brush against his ear.
Carefully, not wanting to jounce him, Zach cups his hand, covers it with the other so it’s sandwiched in between his own. Chris is still smiling, and even with bruises covering his face, it doesn’t diminish the affection that’s always there.
Except this morning, when there was only anger and hurt. Tears well up again, but Zach swallows them down. He holds Chris’ hand as tightly as he dares. ”I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I shouldn’t have let you walk out—”
"It’s not your fault," Chris says quietly, words scratching. His free hand flaps. "This is not your fault. I wasn’t paying attention—"
Zach wants to point out that’s on him too, but he doesn’t want to argue. He shushes him gently while he straightens, squeezes his hand again. ”It doesn’t matter,” he murmurs, leaning down to kiss his forehead , as gently as he can. “I love you,” he whispers. “So much.”
Chris’ voice is still scratchy when he mumbles, “Love you too…”
Zach breathes in, deeply and kisses him again; grateful. More grateful than he’s ever been in his life and he knows he’ll remember this, the way it felt when he got the call from the hospital—the panic.
The relief is just as overwhelming.