It takes him weeks of manipulating the system to get it all done; Jim taught him how to do proper forgery but he doesn’t have the skill to pull it off as fast as his boss was able to. By the time he gets everything sorted, Jim is already in psychiatric care, physically whole if healing, and mentally somewhere completely different.
The doctor explains that the damage to his brain isn’t from a bullet. He fired a blank into his mouth and apparently didn’t account for the shockwave that fractured his skull and rattled his brain. The doctor puts it into more technical terms but Sebastian doesn’t care about the fancy words; he just wants to see that Jim is okay.
He doesn’t recognize Sebastian at all and looks uncharacteristically frightened when he enters the room Jim’s been staying in. He visibly flinches when Sebastian comes closer and he glances nervously to the nurse.
“He does this with everyone,” she says quietly, “Mr. Brook, everything is alright. Mr. Moran is here to take you home.” Her voice is soothing and Jim’s tense state lessens, but only fractionally. Sebastian approaches him slowly, like he’s a wild animal that might either bolt or attack if startled. He lowers himself to his knees next to Jim’s chair.
“Do you remember who I am?”
He stares back and it makes Sebastian’s stomach twist because it doesn’t look like Jim. Those big brown eyes that are usually sharp and calculating, scraping over him and taking in every detail are trained on his face, but they’re wide and fearful and absolutely lost. He gives a very small shake of his head. No, he doesn’t remember.
“Do you know what your name is?”
His opens his mouth and closes it again. Jim sighs quietly, frustrated, and tries again. “Richard.” His voice is dry and cracked; he hasn’t been speaking much. “They told me. My name is Richard Brook.”
He lets Jim keep the new name, if only because everything about the man is the exact opposite of the Jim he knows. Jim is solid and dominating, dark and angry, a powerful force inside of a small body, while Richard is sweet, wide-eyed and curious, utterly lost and dependent on Sebastian. He knows things but he doesn’t know things. He can dress himself and tie his shoes and handle basic needs most of the time. He can work Sebastian’s laptop easily and he can brew a cup of tea as long as he isn’t interrupted. Half the things he remembers how to do are muscle memory and he loses the ability to do them if he tries to think too hard about it. The other half are random, nearly useless things that cling to his mind like spider webs and won’t let go.
One night, when Sebastian gets out of the shower, he panics when he can’t find Richard on the sofa where he left the man watching old episodes of QI. He grabs his coat and runs out the door of the flat, only to find Richard standing in the street outside, staring up at the sky.
“Andromeda.” He says, and points to a group of stars. “And Cassiopeia, Cephus, and Cygnus.” His finger moves slightly, pointing to each constellation as he names it, but Sebastian can’t follow. He can’t see the shapes in the stars at all.
He stands silently next to Richard while he points out more constellations, naming more than Sebastian has ever heard of, saying the name of each factually and without hesitation.
When he finally stops and pulls his hand back to his side, Sebastian asks him, “How do you know those?”
Richard shakes his head and sniffs quietly, speaking in that little lost voice that irritates the hell out of him, “I don’t know. They’re just in my head. I can’t make them go away.” He’d seen Jim staring at the stars before during nighttime excursions and he’d often wondered what Jim was looking for. He never would have suspected that Jim might be naming the stars.
He takes Richard by the wrist and gently tugs him back inside.
Sebastian tests the other things that Richard remembers. He can still do calculus problems in his head, though they take Sebastian several minutes of fooling around with a calculator to work out, and he can still pick a lock when he’s given the right tools. But he can’t remember how to properly tie his necktie and his fingers can’t seem to find the correct keys when a mobile is in his hand.
There are some days when Sebastian reminds Richard that he needs to get dressed and finds him an hour later, sitting on the floor of his room wearing denims and an unbuttoned shirt, still trying to get the first button through the hole. Sebastian takes pity on him and does them for him while Richard leans against his shoulder, fighting back tears of frustration and repeating over and over, “I can’t do them. They’re easy and I can’t work them out. I can’t do it, I can’t. Why can’t I, Sebastian?” and it breaks Sebastian’s heart. Jim is gone completely but it’s still the same razor sharp mind in there, trapped under the chains of damage and unable to fully function. The worst part is that Richard knows how smart he is, knows that he should be able to do this. Sebastian thinks it would be so much easier if Richard just thought that he’d always been like this and that it was something to get used to all over again.
The days that are the hardest are the days when Richard blanks out entirely. His jaw will go slack and his eyes will go blank, staring off into nothingness. Sebastian can’t ever predict when they’ll happen or for how long, he just does the best he can to make Richard comfortable. He guides his unresisting body to the nearest chair and eases him down into it, talking to him quietly, repeating his name, and keeping physical contact as if trying to be an anchor to pull him back into the real world. The absences last anywhere from three to twenty minutes, but at least two have lasted for nearly an hour. When he comes out of it, it’s like he’s shaking off a daydream; his body shudders violently and he blinks rapidly before his eyes slide automatically to Sebastian’s and Richard gives him a smile that looks just wrong on Jim’s cruel face.
“What happened?” he asks every time and Sebastian explains again. Richard doesn’t ever remember anything happening; he says it’s like blinking and suddenly being somewhere else. Sebastian eventually has to ban him from using certain appliances unsupervised after Richard suffers an episode while trying to cook Sebastian breakfast and nearly sets the flat on fire.
It’s jarring to see him so lost and confused. He has such a childlike innocence but he is very much still an adult. He moves and acts like an adult; he can hold a normal conversation with Sebastian about his day, or the books he’s read, what’s been on the telly, or the annoying cat who sits on the window ledge in the kitchen and yowls. (Richard mentions wanting to shoot the cat with a nail gun and, for a split second, Sebastian can see Jim again.) He is less like a child and more like a wanderer who gets easily lost in a world he can’t remember or understand.
Richard learns quickly that having Sebastian around equates to being protected. He doesn’t leave the flat alone anymore, not since the first time he tried to go down to the shops alone and was attacked on the way. The man had shoved a knife into his side and would have gone for his neck next if Sebastian hadn’t miraculously appeared to save him. He knows that he used to be someone important but Sebastian won’t tell him anything, just reassures Richard that he will keep him safe. He isn’t just physical protection either. Richard knows that Sebastian will be there when he gets lost in his own head or when he can’t remember how buttons work.
It shouldn’t come as such a surprise to Sebastian when he wakes up one morning to find Richard curled up in a tight ball on the opposite side of his bed, fast asleep. Sebastian considers waking him up and making him go back to his own room, but he’s heard the shouts of fear coming from Richard’s room when he’s supposed to be sleeping and seen the heavy bags under his eyes in the morning. He sighs in defeat and lets him stay.
Neither of them says anything about it and Richard keeps coming every time that he has another nightmare. Eventually, without a word, he starts going right for Sebastian’s bed as soon as he’s tired, skipping his own entirely. Sebastian knows that he should put a stop to it and make Richard get out of his bed, but there’s a part of him that likes waking up in the morning with Richard squished against his back, radiating heat like a small sun, and that part wins most of the arguments, so Richard stays.
It doesn’t become a problem until he wakes up to find Richard staring at him, apparently having been watching him sleep. He grunts in annoyance, blaming the staring for waking him up, “What do you want?”
“Did you love me?”
Sebastian’s brain ins immediately catapulted into consciousness and his eyes snap open, “What?”
“Before. When I wasn’t…broken. Did you love me?”
He stares at Richard for a long time, inspecting the lines of his face, paranoia hissing in his ear that Jim is back and playing more mind games with him, “Why would you think that?”
Richard tugs the blankets up tighter around his shoulders and drops his eyes, unable to keep contact with Sebastian, “You saved me. When I was in the hospital. The nurses said I didn’t have any family or any emergency contacts to call. They said I was going to stay there because there was nowhere else to go. And then you showed up and you took me out of that awful place. I would have died there, Sebastian. Alone and scared, just like all the other people who are stuck there.” He lifts his chin fractionally, trying to force himself to meet Sebastian’s eyes, “You’re always saving me. From people, from the darkness in my head, from the stupid shit I do because I don’t know better.” He scowls darkly, his frustration with his own inabilities clear on his face.
“I was your bodyguard. It’s my job to protect you.”
“Nobody is paying you anymore. And your face, you..”
“What?” Sebastian growls irritably.
“Sometimes, when you look at me. It’s like you miss me, but I’m still here. You miss who I used to be, don’t you? I just want to know…if you used to love me.”
Sebastian sits up and throws the covers off, “Used to. But you’re not him anymore.” He shoves his body off the bed and storms out of the room, leaving Richard curled up on the bed, alone and confused.