H is for Home…

Possible scene for Broken, a work in progress

All he wanted was some toast. Was that too much to ask? Tom Dubanowski clung to the hospital issued walker as he shuffled across the impossible expanse of Jack’s apartment. His gut twisted. He shook, a quaking leaf helpless in the storm of pain coursing through him. It was a stupid metaphor, but it was all he had to work with.

In the small kitchen, a loaf of Canyon Bakehouse was in easy reach next to the refrigerator. Thank the gods. When he plunged the bread into the toaster, another eddy of pain gripped his side. The walker shook under his grip. He scooted it away from him and grabbed the counter. Every damn move he made, every breath he took, hell, every thought he had, knifed his innards.

“Get it together,” he whispered.

Jack could not find him like this. There would be no reasoning with him, no way of convincing him that he was okay on his own. He wanted to be in his own apartment, miserable with himself, engaged in his own private, pity party.

“Come on,” he said to the pathetic husk he had become. He bent over the sturdy counter until his weight rested upon it. The granite was cool against his swollen cheek; the darkness in the kitchen shrouded him. He could do this. He had to. He could not take his pain medication on an empty stomach.

The front door closed with a gentle snick.

Shit. Jack.

The toast popped with a snap.

Startled, he grabbed his belly. With both arms around the pain, he calculated what it would take to push away from the counter, unfortunately not quick enough to follow through with an actual plan.

“Tomi?” said Jack, stepping softly into the kitchen.

Dammit. Tom’s broken whininess was on full display for Jack to see. One traitorous tear, a beacon of distress, leaked from his unpatched eye, ran over the bridge of his nose, and dripped onto the counter. He sniffed. “Take me home, Jack. I want to go to go home.” A sniveling little baby was what he was.

Jack pressed a warm hand against Tom’s back. “Tomi, Tomi, Tomi,” he said. His voice was soft and comforting.

It threatened Tom’s resolve. “Please, Jack.”

“Uh, huh,” he said, agreeably.

Jack reached into a cupboard above Tom’s head to grab a bowl. When he reached for the toast, he shifted his hands upon Tom’s back. The solid pressure between his shoulder blades became his focus, an anchor against the tide of pain that rolled over him. It took him to a place of calm, a place he could not find on his own. Dammit.

The crisped bread scraped against the basket inside the toaster as Jack pulled the slices from it. He broke them into large pieces and dumped them into the bowl.

He was closer now. The warmth of his body seeped into the back of Tom’s legs and backside.

“You think being on your own is a good idea?” said Jack. His breath caressed Tom’s ear as he wrapped his arms around Tom.

“I don’t want you to see me like this,” said Tom.

“I see. You can watch my blubbering breakdown into insanity, but I can’t take care of you.”

One of Jack’s shoes tickled Tom’s bare right foot.

“You ready?” Jack said into the back of his head.

“I can’t,” he whimpered.

“Yes you can. There’s a chair right behind me.”

“I can’t do this, Jack.”

This. This was relinquishing autonomy. This was molly coddling. This pathetic, mewling kitten act was not him.  

Jack pulled him away from the counter.

Before he could process the wave of pain that flooded him, he was sitting in one of Jack’s comfortable dinette chairs. Jack crouched in front of him, holding his hands against his quaking knees.

“Okay. Here’s what is going to happen next. I’m making hot milk toast with honey. You will eat it. We will get those medications into you. Then I am wrapping you into that bed over there.”

Tom looked across the living room of Jack’s apartment through the open door toward Jack’s bed. He didn’t want to be in Jack’s bed broken and needy. He wanted…he wanted something…he wanted what he didn’t have the energy to accomplish right now. Tom shook his head. “I want my own bed, Jack.”

“What you want and what you’re going to get are two different things now, aren’t they, Tom?” He squeezed Tom’s fingers.

Unable to speak, Tom sniffed and raised his eyes, meeting Jack’s gaze. Determination glittered in a deep, shimmering well of love. Could Jack see how scared he was? Could he see how grateful he was? Could Jack see how much love he felt for him in this moment?

Jack winked. As he rose to warm some milk, he kissed Tom’s cheek, lingering, so his next words ghosted reassurance across his lips. “You’ll get through this, Fly. No worries.”

Tom sighed. Maybe it was his neediness. Maybe the pain dissolved his reticence. Maybe his heart was whispering, “Everything you require is here, right now.”

Why was he trying to run from it?

Jack was his port in this storm.

Jack was his home.

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