Douglas barely slept after they got home from the hospital. He took a hot shower to try to calm himself down, but then tossed and turned restlessly once he climbed under the covers. He couldn't stop thinking about how differently the evening could have ended had his mother come home just a few minutes later.
Eventually, he yanked his pillow from the bed and retreated to the sofa, afraid he was keeping Anne awake. He turned the TV on low and found some procedural repeat to watch. He drifted in and out of sleep until the first light of dawn streamed in through the living room windows. When it did, he threw off the quilt he'd pulled over his legs and gave up on trying to sleep once and for all.
Quietly, so as not to wake Anne, Douglas retrieved his phone from his bedroom night table and went into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. Once that began percolating, he checked his and his mother's calendars and made a list of those appointments he would need to cancel for the day. He knew they would both want to be at the hospital.
As soon as it was a reasonable hour, he made the phone calls needed to clear the Secretary's schedule--claiming an unnamable family emergency--then he found some clean clothes so he could head to the hospital. He wanted to be there when visiting hours began.
Anne woke up as he was combing his hair in the bathroom, coming up behind him to wrap her arms around his waist. "Did you sleep?" she asked.
"Some," he responded. "Not a lot."
"He's going to be okay," she tried to reassure him. "Your mom got to him in time."
Douglas put down his comb and met her gaze in the bathroom mirror. "I can't stop thinking about what would have happened if she hadn't."
"Why do you think he did it?" Anne asked him.
"I don't know," he answered, sighing. He turned around--her arms still encircling him--and looked down at her. "But I am going to find out." He kissed her forehead and slipped out of her embrace before checking his watch. It was nearing eight-thirty.
"Let me get dressed, and I'll come with you."
Douglas shook his head. "Can you come by a little later? I think we need to ease him into a big group visit."
"Are you sure?"
He nodded. "I'd better go. I want to be there right at nine."
"I'll go into the office and deal with my e-mail and the couple client meetings I have, then I'll come by around lunch."
"Sounds good." He bent down to kiss her, then went back into the bedroom to get his wallet from the dresser. "I'll see you then."
It only took twenty minutes to get to the hospital, and Douglas walked through the front doors at nine o'clock on the dot. He signed in at the front desk under an assumed name (the desk nurse didn't even bat an eyelash) and then made his way up to the psych ward where his brother had been admitted the previous evening.
His mother was already there, standing just outside T.J.'s room, consulting with Dr. Blake, the physician who had been put in charge of T.J.'s care. His father, he hoped, was on the way. T.J. needed his entire family around him.
Douglas hurried to their side. "Is T.J. okay?" he asked the pair, not even bothering with pleasantries.
Elaine put her arm around his shoulders and squeezed. "He's fine. Or, as fine as he can be after what he did to himself."
"Can I see him?" Douglas aimed his request directly at the doctor this time.
The doctor nodded. "He's still pretty weak, and he needs time to get over the effects of the carbon monoxide, but he can handle visitors."
"Excellent," Elaine said. "Let's go, Douglas."
"Alone, Mom. I want to go in alone."
"You know I don't play the twin card often, Mom, but I'm going to now. I need to talk to T.J. alone first."
His mother paused for a beat. "Please just remember that something happened that made him decide he didn't want to be here anymore. Go easy on him. We can't lose him."
Douglas nodded. "I'll remember." But he wouldn't promise to make it easy. T.J. had assured that when he'd turned on the engine of the car with the intent to kill himself.
She placed a kiss on his cheek. "Take all the time you need. I'll get a coffee and wait down the hall."
Douglas reached for the handle of the hospital room, but remembered to say, "I cleared our schedules today, Mom. I pleaded family emergency."
Elaine smiled. "Thanks."
Douglas nodded, then proceeded into his brother's room.
T.J.'s eyes were closed as Douglas approached his bedside. He still had a nasal cannula delivering oxygen into his system, but he was not quite as pale as he had been the last time Douglas had seen him. They had also removed the cuffs which had tethered T.J. to the bed. Douglas couldn't honestly imagine why, but decided to take it as a good sign.
Douglas just stood and stared at his brother, thankful beyond measure that T.J. was still there to stare at. They were close, he and T.J. Or he'd thought they were. They had shared so much, from their mother's womb to a childhood spent first in the Governor's Mansion in North Carolina, then in the White House. They had shared knock-down, drag-out fights and secrets no one else, to this day, knew.
Douglas had been the first person T.J. had told when he'd realized he was gay--way before T.J. was unceremoniously outed. And Douglas had stuck by T.J.'s side, even as T.J. spiraled out of control time and time again. But T.J. had not shared this. T.J. had not come to Douglas to ask for help when the other option was, apparently, suicide. Douglas shuddered at how close T.J. had come to completely excising himself from Douglas's life.
He was dragged from his reverie by the feeling that he wasn't the only one staring. T.J. was awake and regarding him with worried eyes.
"You look like shit, Dougie," T.J. rasped.
Douglas chucked darkly. "You should talk."
"Is Mama here?" T.J. asked, craning his neck to look past his brother.
Douglas nodded. "But I asked her to wait outside so I could talk to you alone." He looked behind him to find a chair. There was one right beside the window, and he pulled it up near the head of the bed, sitting down with purpose.
T.J. sighed. "I don't need a lecture."
"You need something. Last night our mother found you inside a car trying to poison yourself to death with carbon monoxide."
T.J. sighed again. "And a lecture it is."
Douglas leaned in close so his nose was only a foot from his twin's. In a voice filled with barely controlled rage, he asked, "What the hell were you thinking, T.J.?"
"Do we need to talk about this now? Really?"
"No, I guess we don't," Douglas admitted. "But I think we should."
T.J. pushed his head deep into the pillow and squeezed his eyes shut.
"T.J. Talk to me." He reached out and covered his brother's hand with his own. "We always used to talk. What happened?"
T.J. lifted his other hand to cover his eyes before saying, "I made a mess of things. Again. I didn't want anyone to know. Least of all you."
"Oh, T.J.," Douglas whispered.
"And there it is," T.J. announced wearily.
"Sympathy overkill." T.J. lifted his left hand away from his eyes and his right hand away from under Douglas's before turning his head to pointedly meet Douglas's gaze.
"I will not apologize for being sorry that my only brother wouldn't come to me when he was in trouble."
"And there's guilt. Right on schedule."
"Stop it, T.J.," Douglas hissed.
A moment of silence passed before T.J. spoke again, so softly Douglas almost missed it. "He told me he loved me."
Douglas pulled in a sharp breath. He didn't know what he'd thought had driven his brother to suicide, but love gone wrong had not entered his mental picture. T.J. didn't do love. He did one night stands and trysts with high paid escorts. Douglas couldn't even remember the last time T.J. had come close to an actual relationship. He recovered himself quickly to ask, "Who?"
The name sounded vaguely familiar and it didn't take long for the Rolodex inside Douglas's head to provide the link. "Representative Sean Reeves? The congressman from Ohio? That Sean Reeves?"
"God, T.J." It was impossible not to let a little frustration show.
T.J. shook his head violently. "Don't, Douglas. I've already heard this from Mama. How I'm an idiot for falling for Sean. How he's married and would never come out of the closet. How the way he made me feel didn't matter."
Gently, Douglas urged him on. "How did he make you feel?"
T.J. hauled in a deep breath. "Like a different person. Like I was special because I was me, not because I was Bud and Elaine Hammond's son. He told me he loved me. He told me he hadn't known what love at first sight was until he met me."
"Then what happened?"
"Someone got pictures of us together. They blackmailed him with them to get the vote on that children's bill, and he let them. Then he told me that what we had was just sex. Sex that left him disgusted with himself. He ran back to his wife like I never existed. So, I decided not to exist anymore." T.J.'s voice hitched on these last words, and tears ran down his face.
Douglas blew out a breath in a huff, wanting nothing more at that moment than to put his hands around the throat of the man who had reduced his brother to this. It would be worth the prison time.
He struggled to drag himself away from the vicious thoughts and focus his attention back on T.J. Reaching his hand out once again to his twin's, Douglas used the leverage to lean forward and rest his forehead on T.J.'s. "He's not worth it, Tommy," he whispered vehemently. "Not even a little."
T.J. allowed Douglas to draw him into a hug. Douglas held on tight, still acutely aware that he was lucky T.J. was still there to hold onto.
"I'm sorry," T.J. murmured into Douglas's neck. "So, so sorry."
Douglas pulled away from his brother far enough that could cup T.J.'s face in his hands. Looking T.J. straight in the eyes, he insisted, "You'd better be. And it better not happen again." He let T.J.'s face go, but didn't move his own away just yet."I hope there's not a next time, but if there is, you have to come talk to me before you do anything else. Promise me, T.J."
Douglas nodded, too. "Okay."
T.J. leaned back into the pillows behind him, eyes closed, clearly exhausted by the conversation.
"I'll go get Mom," Douglas said.
T.J. acknowledged the announcement with a nod, although his eyes remained shut.
"I'm glad you're still here, T.J. I love you."
T.J. opened his eyes and offered Douglas a small smile. "I love you, too."
They were the best words Douglas had heard all day.
End (11 August 2012)