[ Sky – Master Post ]
Title: The White Crest
Characters: Sin, Sebastian, some guy
Warnings: Implications, expletives, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, paranoia
Notes: This actually started as two separate ideas, but I couldn’t find enough to say about the first one, so I left it as an introduction to the second. Sin goes to a conference. Sebastian is not okay.
Sebastian had declined to come to the conference. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the time — he had the whole summer off — it was just that he was opinionated and angry, and those were generally bad things to be in a building full of academics who believed in the system. That and as the guest of an attendee, he wasn’t actually going to be able to go to any of the lectures, which would have left him looking for something to do in Salt Lake City for most of three days.
And, when he put it like that, Sin could see the point pretty clearly. It was, in fact, a horrible idea. So, he’d kissed Sebastian goodbye and gone to the conference by himself. He wasn’t actually presenting — didn’t have any material on this year’s theme, since his speciality was the role of untruth in the politics of Europe in the Middle Ages, not the role of women in the Classical era. It didn’t matter, though, since he still had enough of a background in the subject to embarrass a few people without Sebastian’s help — not that he intended to do anything that might get him booted from the PhD program… All the same, it promised to be three days of people rehashing the same crap he’d read as an undergraduate.
"There is no new thing in this world," he muttered, walking out of a lecture on the anti-feminist implications of Lysistrata. There were so many things wrong with attributing modern perspectives to ancient literature. He smiled to himself, imagining the rant Sebastian would have started in the middle of that lecture. In fact, he was so entertained by the thought, that he nearly missed the young man shouting after him.
"Mr. Nilsson! Mr. Nilsson!" the student called, waving an issue of some journal as he ran up the hall.
Sin’s ears flattened and he whirled to face his unfortunate follower, his braid uncoiling from where he’d worn it wrapped around his neck.
"You — you’re Everett Nilsson!" the student wheezed, finally having caught up.
"I am not. Everett Nilsson only exists on paper." Sin’s eyes flashed, with irritation. "I am Singularity, but one doesn’t get to publish without a first and last name, like so much of the Western world has, in recent times."
The student’s mouth quirked, mischievously. "But, you do admit to publishing with that name?"
"I do." Sin eyed the journal, trying to figure out which one of his articles he was about to be asked about.
"Great, well, you’re absolutely right about the Welsh, but I think you’re conflating the two Athelstans. Page twenty four, about halfway down." The student held out the journal. "Merrick Lyman, by the way."
Sin grinned in amusement and snatched the journal. "Mr. Lyman, if you’ll buy me a drink, I’ll listen to any damnfool thing you have to say."
"Done and done!" Lyman grinned back and kept rattling his mouth, all the way to the bar, on why some of the references on page twenty four had to apply to Athelstan the Ealdorman, because of the age and health of the king.
By the time they ended up in Sin’s room, they were on Charlemagne and the potential place of Jesus in the Carolingian lineage. By the very sticky next morning, they’d progressed from the lineage of Christ to the lineage of Simon the Zealot, and then back up the line to Constantine and the Christianisation of Rome. Lyman was good, both in bed and out of it, but Sin found himself in complete control of the conversation, and that was generally unacceptable.
Still, decent company made light work of an otherwise hideously irritating weekend. Lyman had the wit and sense to grab Sin’s sleve and pull him back down, in the middle of a lecture on Sparta, at the very point Sin had made to stand up and shout, "Don’t say stupid things!"
It was, all in all, best that Sebastian hadn’t come along. They’d have been dangerously obnoxious, together. Still, he couldn’t wait to get home, where he’d be free to shout at the top of his lungs, for a few hours, on the lack of original thought. And, sure, Lyman was good, but he wasn’t great, like Sebastian. No one else ever would be.
At the end of the conference, Sin said his professional and uninterested goodbyes to Lyman, and left, with no remorse. He had somewhere else to be, and better things to do.
"Honey, I’m home!" Sin called into the apartment, but there was no answer. An unclean scent wafted through the air, toward the open door.
Something was not right.
Sin kicked the door shut and left his bags in the entryway. "Batty?"
He stopped in the living room. Sebastian was curled into a ball, on the couch, unmoving. It took a moment’s staring to see it, but he was still breathing. Sebastian didn’t usually sleep heavily enough to have missed that much noise, but Sin was willing to attribute the living motionlessness to sleep, for a few more minutes, while he took a look around, for alternate causes.
The kitchen was exactly as it had been, when he left. Nothing else had been cooked, and none of the dishes from their last dinner together had been washed. That was really unlike Sebastian. He loved to cook almost as much as he loved to eat. Sin’s comprehension of the situation advanced from ‘not right’ to ‘moderately bad’.
Sin knelt down beside the couch. "Batty? Come on, you have to wake up, now."
Sebastian whined, thinly, curling up more tightly. He wasn’t sleeping and hadn’t been.
"Come on, love. It’s me. Nothing here but you and me."
"You’re not real!" Sebastian insisted. "None of this is real!"
Sin got chills. "Batty, love? What day is it?"
"Friday. You just left, yesterday, so you’re not back. You’re not real." Sebastian sounded terrified.
"Oh, shit." Sin got up and went to the kitchen, coming back with a glass of water. "I’m going to go turn on the television, Batty. I want you to tell me a channel that’s probably showing news."
"Fourteen. Fourteen has news at five, seven, and ten." His perception of time of day didn’t seem to be skewed, but the count of days was pretty badly off. "But you can’t turn on the TV, because you’re not real."
Sin twisted the dials on the television. "Except that I am real. And you’re going to listen to the news, until you can tell me what day it is." He put the glass next to the couch. "And you should probably drink that water."
Sebastian had lost touch, before — there were a few notable instances, when they were in college — but he’d never lost quite so much time. Sin had left town on Thursday night and returned on Monday evening. Sebastian was missing three days, and Sin knew that meant he probably hadn’t eaten or slept. Sebastian had most likely spent most, but not all, of the intervening time curled up on the couch or the bed, with all the lights turned on, waiting for the demons to come for him. Hunger and tiredness didn’t register while he was seeing things that weren’t there.
Sin knew Sebastian would come back, in a few minutes. He washed the dishes while the nightly news chattered on, in the other room — it was just something to keep his hands busy, so he wouldn’t try to talk to Sebastian, again, just yet. He was considering calling for a pizza, when Sebastian realigned with reality.
"What the fuck!?" The shout from the living room was followed by a bout of coughing. "It is the fuck not fucking Monday!"
"It’s Monday. I promise," Sin called from the kitchen. "I’m really home."
As Sin walked back into the living room, Sebastian started to shake, and Sin tossed him an apple. "Eat something, before you die. I’m gonna call for pizza. Sausage and mushroom?"
"Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good." Sebastian stared at the apple in his hands, distractedly. "It’s still not fucking Monday, because if it’s Monday, I don’t really want to consider where my weekend went."
He ate a few bites of the apple and drank some water, before the shaking got so bad he couldn’t hold on to the glass. He set it down, next to his feet and dropped the apple into the top of it, but didn’t sit back up, just resting his head on his knees. "I’m sorry… I’m so sorry. You didn’t need this."
"Don’t say shit like that, Batty. Especially not while I’m on the phone. I’ll be right there." Sin finished ordering the pizza and returned to the living room, to sit on the couch.
Sebastian hadn’t moved. "I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to take care of me."
"And you shouldn’t have to pay my rent, but that seems to be how this works." Sin reached out and dragged Sebastian into his lap. "You pay the rent and cook, I clean and make sure you don’t kill anyone — yourself included. It’s a good split."
"You’d better get that grant, next year, or we’re both going to die," Sebastian muttered into Sin’s chest. "I don’t make enough to keep doing this."
"Yeah, I know. But, I figured it’d give you some perspective." Sin’s fingers caught in Sebastian’s greasy hair. "I’m only bothered because you forget to eat. One of these days, that’s going to kill you. And then where will I be?"
"Alone in a world full of people who would fall down and worship at your feet, if you’d let them? I’m not really seeing much of a loss, here."
"Yes. And you know what they wouldn’t do? They wouldn’t pick fights with me. And then I would be sad, because you’re the only one who can really fight with me." Sin curled his fingers, and Sebastian’s head tipped back, to avoid the hair-pulling. "And I would be twice as sad, because I love you."
"That’s still upsetting," Sebastian insisted. "But, I love you, too."
"Get over it," Sin sighed, bending his neck to steal a kiss.
Sebastian grinned wickedly. "How long do we have until the pizza gets here? I think you should prove to me that you’re not just a figment of my imagination."
Sin wiped his tongue on the back of his hand and looked dismayed. "No. Eat the rest of that apple, first, and I’ll consider it."
"Oh. Oh, hell. Sorry." Sebastian covered his mouth and sat up, reaching for where he’d left the apple in the top of the water glass.
"You should come back and sit in my lap, while you do that, but let me take my shirt off, first," Sin responded, fiddling with the buttons, while Sebastian nibbled at the apple.
"What, are you afraid I’m going to dribble apple juice all over you?" Sebastian raised a slightly offended eyebrow.
"I’d almost prefer you did. And I’d also prefer not to have to take this shirt to the cleaner." Sin tugged at the knee of Sebastian’s pants. "Come here and tempt me with that apple. Come play Eve to my Adam."
"Lucifer to your Eve, you mean," Sebastian muttered around a mouthful of apple, as he straddled Sin’s lap. "I’m not the one with the closet full of dresses."
"It’s not a closet-full. I own three. And I look good in them." Sin slipped a hand up Sebastian’s shirt. "Are you aware that you’re cold?"
"I’m not cold," Sebastian declared, in a way utterly unlike himself.
"You’re full of shit, is what you are." Grabbing the hand that wasn’t holding the apple, Sin studied Sebastian’s fingernails. "Your fingernails are purple and I’m losing body heat just touching your skin. You’re cold. You probably can’t tell because you’ve been cold for days, now. Pick up your shirt and come here."
"You say I’m cold and you want me to take something off? Now who’s not making sense?" Sebastian took another bite of the apple and watched in annoyance as the juice ran up his sleeve. It was his own fault for wearing turtlenecks in the summer.
Rolling his eyes, Sin twisted the bottom hem of Sebastian’s shirt and pulled it up and toward himself, hauling Sebastian’s naked chest against his own.
"Holy shit, you’re warm. And I’m still holding an apple."
"Which you are not permitted to eat, that close to my hair, thank you," Sin clarified. "And I’m about the same temperature I always am."
"And you’re always warmer than me." Sebastian purred, quietly, and snuggled closer. "Okay, you’re real. You have to be real. You’re not warm when you’re not real."
"When I’m not real?" A cold chill crept down Sin’s spine. "How bad has it been, and why haven’t you told me?"
"You don’t need to worry about me. You do need to worry about your research."
"Necessity is not the relevant point, at this moment. I am worried about you. You’re the only family I have, Sebastian. You’re the only friend I have. You’re the only real person in the world, besides me." Sin wrapped an arm tightly around Sebastian’s tiny waist. "And if you don’t let me take care of you, I’m going to end up the only real person in the world. We’ve been over why that’s bad."
"Semi-solipsist," Sebastian accused.
"Generally speaking, yes," Sin agreed. "Fucking talk to me."
"I teach high school. It gives me flashbacks. I won’t be the teachers I hated. I will not become some disconnected control-freak." Sebastian’s fingers dug into Sin’s shoulder. "But, then I come home, and sometimes I can’t see it. I come home, and it’s not here. It’s Boston. I come home, and you’re not here, and you won’t be here, because you’re not real — just some figment of my imagination. Just something I created to make it all seem less bad. You’re not real, but he’s real, and they’re coming to take me back — they’re coming to take me back to Boston. They’re coming to take me home, to my real home — the one I know is real, because I couldn’t be anywhere else. I don’t want to go back. Don’t let them take me back!"
Sebastian dissolved into tears — quiet, desperate, choking sobbing — and Sin shifted slightly, to put as much of himself as he could in contact with his broken lover.
"I’m real, Batty. It’s just you and me and hundreds of miles of open desert between us and everything you left behind. Your parents don’t even know where you are. We’re closer to my parents, here, than yours. And for all that I don’t talk to them, it’s because they didn’t understand, not because they’re fucking crazy, like yours. You’re mine, now, and I’m yours, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you." Sin pressed a kiss to Sebastian’s neck. "No matter how real they seem, you can still tell me from the demons. I’m warm. I smell like me. I don’t go away when you turn on the lights. And if I’m out of town, and you’re not okay, call the fucking hotel! Holy shit. I know you have a brain. Use it! I am always here for you, even when I’m not here!"
"Why are you so good to me? What did I ever do to deserve you?"
"You can resist my charms. It makes you extremely appealing. You put me off for months. And you were a snarky little shit about it, too. You’re still a snarky little shit, and I love you more than anything."
"Why the fuck is it so cold in here?"
"Okay, now you’re back to making sense. It’s not actually cold, but you’re cold. It’s gotta be seventy in here." Sin pulled the blanket down from the back of the couch and wrapped it around Sebastian’s back. "Stay here, with me. I’ll keep you warm, until we can get some pizza into your system. Hot cheese is good for that bone-cold feeling."
Sebastian twisted around to sit sideways in Sin’s lap, and attempted to finish off the apple, core and all. "Remind me how you put up with me?"
"You didn’t have siblings, nor have you dated girls. There’s a whole set of interactions you’re missing that would make this a lot less odd." Sin pulled the blanket closer around Sebastian and wrapped both arms around him.
"There are many sets of interactions I’ve missed out on. I’m not even human. I’m a goblin or something — small and grotesque." Sebastian licked the seeds out of the remains of the apple.
"Cutest goddamn goblin I’ve ever known. Maybe that’s it. Maybe you can resist my charms because you’re actually a goblin." Sin laughed. "I’m king of the world! I’ve been buggered by a member of a sentient species other than my own!"
"If you follow that with an ‘ass-goblin’ joke, I will punch you directly in the testicles." Sebastian wiped his nose on the cuff of his shirt.
"I’d have to be buggering you, to get an ass-goblin joke out of that." Sin bounced one hip, suggestively.
"Do you just invent reasons for me to keep telling you no, on that point?" After a bit of squinting, Sebastian stuffed the last of the apple core into his mouth.
"No, I’m just waiting for the day you insist that I do it, the way you do with everything you want. I’m not going to talk you into or out of anything. You’ll either demand it, or you won’t. I win, either way." Sin glanced down the wall, toward the entry hall. "Where the hell is the pizza?"
"It’ll get here when it gets here. Land of mañana." Sebastian curled up and nuzzled Sin’s neck. "And I’m pretty sure I win."
"We win. I’ve got you, you’ve got me, and together, we’ll take over the world!" Sin jabbed the air in proclamation, and then paused, contemplatively. "Nah, that’s too much work. I’ve got you, you’ve got me, and together, we’ll sleep in, tomorrow, and spend the whole day in bed."
"This presumes an ability to sleep, on my part," Sebastian pointed out.
"You’ve been up for three days, if not four."
"Remind me when this has caused me to sleep, in the past?"
"You really are going to die, you know."
"One of these years," Sebastian muttered, rubbing his cheek on Sin’s shoulder. "Lack of sleep never killed anyone. I’ll die when the demons get me."
"Then you’re going to live forever, because I’m not going to let them take you." Sin bounced the bottom of his fist off the top of Sebastian’s head. "You and me, we’ll live forever."
"Shit, yes, in bed."