“What would you say to him, if you could say anything?” John keeps his hand on the back of Sebastian’s neck, partially to keep him in place against his cooling skin, partially for comfort. He knows, in the rational, cold part of his mind, that it’s cruel to take advantage of his warm pliability, his vulnerable drowsiness. He knows how much it hurts to be shot in the back, kicked at the one moment you let your guard down. But he doesn’t stop.
“You mean besides ‘fuck you’?” Sebastian says after a pause thats just a split second too long. He tries to laugh but the hitch in his breath is easy to misinterpret.
“If he walked in the door right now. If he came back.”
“Doesn’t matter. He won’t. It’s not like you—”
“If. I said if.”
Sebastian is silent for a long moment, and John can feel the muscles in his face tense against the skin of his chest. Sebastian’s teeth are pressing together, his eyes squeezing tight. He sits up, pulling half away from John.
“I can’t. I can’t do this now. I—”
John follows him and runs his hands down Sebastian’s arms, holding on and covering as much skin as he can reach. He presses his cheek against the back of Sebastian’s shoulder and hums, pulling him in as close as he can.
“It’s okay,” John whispers, frightened of himself. Sebastian’s breathing stops to mask the catch in his throat; he'd rather suffocate than give himself away. “He shouldn’t have left you.” The words come to John out of a fog, like he isn’t even choosing them. Like he’s reciting lines from a play he knew as a kid and hasn’t thought of in years. “He shouldn’t have done that.”
Sebastian’s face screws up as he ducks his head and tries not to breathe. Breath finally comes in a gasp and his fists clench, trying to stay still.
“I’m sorry he left you,” John says, rubbing his cheek against smooth skin. He should let go, turn away, go to his own room and pretend this never happened. But he can't. Sebastian grunts with the effort of keeping still, teeth clenched in a grimace that looks like torture, like the middle of bad fever, like infection. “It’s okay. Just me.”
Sound, not a word, not even a pitch or a syllable, just sound rips out of his mouth before he can bite his lips shut. Wounded is the only thing John can think. Wounded and angry and cornered. He moves one hand off of Sebastian’s arm and across his heaving chest.
“I’ve got you. It’s okay.”
“Can’t,” Sebastian forces out, just the one word, over and over until it no longer has meaning. “Can’tcan’tcan’tcan’t.” Until it’s just consonant sounds with no breath behind them, stuttering into a low muffled moan.
John marvels in the shaking of the body in his arms. It’s like watching the man be gutted before his eyes, by his own hands, but he feels no coldness anymore, no contempt, no pity, even. It’s like, he decides, holding in his arms a part of himself that he had forgotten, that he had disowned and abused and denied until this moment. With that thought he raises himself up on his knees and presses his lips against the side of Sebastian’s neck, his temple, his cheek. He is radiating warmth, he’s been cut open and wrapped around this shuddering, scarred body, and the painful joy of it nearly makes him weep.
“I can’t breathe,” Sebastian gasps out, each word ripped out like a punch to the gut. “He took it with him. He took my lungs, all my bones, my arms, my legs. I can’t— Johnny, I can’t fucking breathe.”
John keeps his cheek pressed against Sebastian’s, refusing to notice whether it is wet or dry, and splays his fingers wide against his chest. He inhales slowly and blows warm air through his nose, pressing down on the ribs in front of him. With each breath he releases and presses, working Sebastian’s body like a bellows until he catches on to the rhythm and his breathings syncs up. Slowly, slowly, slowly his shaking subsides and he slides his fingers between John’s, helping him press into the scarred flesh. In and out, with each breath, they are one broken body, a single worn-down machine.