There are a lot of things that Dustin can blame Mark for. Like, when Dustin goes to get some of his candy stash and sees that all of his Red Vines are gone. Or when Chris calls with a painstaking sigh to ask who hacked a presidential candidate’s Facebook account to change his relationship status to Barack Obama is currently trying to steal Chris Hughes. (Okay, maybe that one was really Dustin. But he said it was Mark, which he’s pretty sure Chris didn’t believe anyway.) He can definitely blame Mark for the times interns have teased him about late nights and bruises that his shirt collar doesn’t quite cover.
But if he’s being really, truly honest with himself, even Dustin can’t blame Mark for this one.
Hospitals are noisy, terrifying places under the best of circumstances, and, with his head and arm competing for the title of most horrifically aching body part, Dustin doesn't see how this can be considered the best of anything. He doesn’t really know what’s going on, but through the pain and confusion, he tries to get two things across to the people around him: I need to find Mark and You need to call Chris.
He thinks the second one might have gotten through, but everything’s too noisy, too bright, too much, and Dustin can’t keep his eyes open anymore.
The blackness finally gives way to stark white, and it takes Dustin a moment to remember where he is. And then it comes back, in bits and pieces.
He can remember headlights.
Crushing pain in his arm and explosions in his head.
Mark’s hand going limp in his.
“Where’s Mark?” he tries to ask, but it comes out as a rasp.
“Dustin?” There are hands curling around one of his, and Chris’s concerned face looms over him. “Hey, it’s okay. Do you know where you are?”
“The ’ospital,” Dustin says, sitting up. It’s a bad decision. The room lurches around him, and everything goes black for a moment before he blinks, hard, and Chris’s hands on his shoulders drag him back to reality. Chris looks just as pale as the walls surrounding them. His face is pinched and Dustin wonders just how long they’ve all been here. Dustin looks up at him, squinting against the bright light, and says, a little desperate, “Mark.”
Some emotion that Dustin doesn’t want to name flickers across Chris’s face, but he shuts it down immediately. “Mark is alive, and he’s going to stay alive,” he says, keeping his voice pitched low. “They’re running tests on him now, so you can’t see him anyway. I am going to do everything that I can to make sure that you get to see Mark as soon as possible, but right now you need to lie back down, because you have a broken arm and a concussion. Okay?”
“Okay,” Dustin croaks, partly because Chris is right, but mostly because he’s about to pass out again. Chris looks relieved, and lets go of Dustin’s shoulders, sinking back down into a chair at Dustin’s bedside. And then the waiting begins.
Eduardo shows up somewhere in the fourth or fifth hour. By this point, Chris has stopped trying to keep Dustin from bothering the nurses for updates on Mark. He stays in his chair, occasionally sighing or running a hand through his increasingly rumpled hair. Dustin’s sure it’s a relief for him when Eduardo pokes his head through the door.
“Jesus, guys,” Eduardo says softly, taking in Dustin’s appearance. Dustin hasn’t seen the full extent of the damage—mostly just the bandage that keeps obscuring his vision, and the full arm cast that keeps him from being able to get comfortable—but he figures he has to look like something out of a horror film to earn him the look Wardo's giving him. “I, um, I heard a few of the nurses talking,” he continues, looking a bit awkward. “Mark’s awake, but he’s—Dustin!”
Dustin’s out of the hospital bed before Chris or Eduardo can stop him. He lurches a bit, the blood rushing to his head, and Chris seems to materialize at his side, catching him under the good arm and holding him up. Eduardo hovers, looking like he doesn’t know what to do. “I am going to see Mark,” Dustin says.
“I noticed,” Chris says. He gives Eduardo some kind of significant look, and Eduardo hurries out of the room, returning with a wheelchair soon after. Because apparently Chris can make wheelchairs appear on command now. Dustin thinks the painkillers might be getting to him a little, but whatever.
Chris rolls Dustin down the hallway with Eduardo trailing after. They’re met with a surprising lack of fuss from the nurses. Dustin’s reminded of Chris’s promise from earlier, and he smiles crookedly. Chris, sweet as he may look, is terrifying on a mission, and Dustin’s not sure he wants to know what Chris said to these people to earn them a blind eye. But it doesn’t even matter, because they hit Mark’s room, and Dustin can’t think straight anymore.
Mark looks bad. There’s no getting around it. One of his eyes is swollen shut. Half of his face is bruised or cut, and bandages cover his forehead. His bed is set up at an angle, keeping him sitting upright, and Dustin’s pretty sure that means busted ribs. But he’s alive, and he’s watching his nurse chatter, a confused look plastered over his face, one of his hands knotting in the threadbare blanket covering his legs.
“Look,” the nurse says brightly, gesturing toward Dustin, Chris, and Eduardo. “I told you your boyfriend was making a fuss.” Mark glances over at them and relaxes a little, letting go of the blanket. She gives Chris a good-natured, teasing smile, and walks over to them. “He’s a little disoriented,” she says, before flashing them a five minutes hand sign and walking away, shutting the door behind her.
Chris wheels Dustin up to Mark’s bedside and then moves to stand back with Eduardo. Dustin’s got so many things bursting in his brain—from I love you and never do that again to I think Chris blackmailed the nurses to get us in here—that all he can do is smile and say, “Hey.”
Mark looks from him to Eduardo and Chris. “So which one of you had to say you were my boyfriend to get in here?” he asks.
Dustin’s pretty sure heart dives into his stomach, or something equally melodramatic. “That’s not funny,” he says, staring.
“It’s not. They should’ve let you in as my roommates,” Mark huffs. He winces, a hand coming up to splay across his side. It seems to take him a second to notice that everyone else in the room has stilled. “What?” he asks.
Chris takes a few steps forward and adopts that same low tone he’d used with Dustin earlier. “Mark? Do you know what year it is?” Dustin slumps back against his wheelchair because fuck, no, this isn’t happening, this kind of thing only happened in shitty romantic comedies, this wasn’t real—
“It’s 2004,” Mark says, and Dustin can nearly feel his heart stop.