“Pythagoras, please stop pacing.”
Jason doesn’t actually expect the request to work, but he has to say something. They have been getting strange looks from random passers by for the last five minutes, not that Pythagoras seems to be aware of that fact.
The pacing doesn’t stop. Jason gives him two more passes, and then stands up and grabs his friend’s hand, forcing him to halt.
“Pythagoras, he’ll be fine. The doctor has already told us he’s okay. It wasn’t a proper heart attack. He will be fine.” Jason puts as much emphasis on those last words as he can.
Pythagoras finally meets his eyes, and nods. Then shakes his head.
“It wasn’t a heart attack, but it was damn close. It might as well have been.”
He tries to pull away from Jason’s grasp, but Jason holds on and won’t let him go.
“He’s going to be fine. Do you know why? Because Hercules is too stubborn to die.”
Pythagoras almost manages a smile. It might be more convincing if his eyes weren’t so swollen and red and bloodshot, or if his hand wasn’t shaking slightly where Jason is still holding him.
Jason wants to do nothing more than gather his friend into a hug, and just hold him until he can somehow make this better. He suspects Pythagoras wouldn’t actually appreciate that in such a public place as a hospital corridor, though. He is already embarrassed enough about what happened earlier in the night.
“Pythagoras, will you do something for me, please?”
“Of course. What?” Even when he’s in shock, Pythagoras is physically incapable of failing to respond to a friend asking for help, and Jason knows it. That’s why he played that card.
“I want you to sit down. And I want you to stay put while I get you a coffee. Or a tea. Or something.”
Pythagoras raises his eyebrows at that, but then sighs and slumps down into the plastic chair next to the one Jason has been sitting on for the last three hours.
Jason tries to hide his relief. He hadn’t actually expected that to work so quickly. He suspects Pythagoras is even more exhausted than he looks.
“So, tea or coffee?”
Jason never gets an answer because at that moment a nurse comes out of the room. Pythagoras is on his feet again in an instant. The nurse isn’t one that they have spoken to before; the shift changed about an hour earlier, and all the familiar people have gone. The nurse looks at them both for a moment, and then smiles.
“Your dad is awake. Would you boys like to go in and see him?”
Jason winces and his eyes track straight to Pythagoras, who has gone very stiff at his side.
“Actually, he is my partner.”
Jason winces again. He has never heard Pythagoras’ voice so icy. He touches his friend’s arm, just to make sure he still knows Jason is there for him.
To give the nurse credit, she only looks mortified for about three seconds before she rescues her professional mask.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Would you like to see him now?”
Pythagoras nods, and then turns to Jason.
“You go on. I’ll wait here.”
Much as Jason wants to see his friend, he knows Pythagoras needs to see him more, and he knows they will need time alone. Or at least, as alone as they can get in a hospital.
“Are you sure?”
“Go. Go to him.”
Jason gives Pythagoras a gentle push, and watches him go into the room and push the door almost closed behind him. Almost, but not quite.
Jason sits back down again, and the nurse gives him an apologetic look before hurrying off to the next item on her no doubt extensive to-do list.
From inside the room he can hear low voices. He can’t make out the words, but the tones are unmistakable; worry, comfort, reassurance. After a minute or so it all goes very quiet, and Jason suspects they have stopped talking and started hugging. Or something.
Jason lets his head roll back against the wall, and closes his eyes. It is past three in the morning, and he is mostly running on caffeine and adrenaline at this point. Actually, he suspects the adrenaline ran out some hours ago, and mostly it’s just caffeine now. True, he managed to catch a half hour or so of sleep right here in the corridor sometime after one o’clock, once the doctor had told them that Hercules was really going to be okay. He is pretty sure Pythagoras hasn’t slept at all, though. Pythagoras has mostly been running on sheer panic ever since he found Hercules collapsed, and phoned first an ambulance, and then Jason. Jason can’t help but think that when Pythagoras finally crashes, he’s going to hit the ground hard.
He hears voices coming from the room again, and a faint smile touches his lips. Hercules will be fine, and once Pythagoras manages to convince himself of that, he’ll be fine as well.
Jason’s eyes snap open when one voice suddenly gets louder.
“...stupid... idiotic... I told you to cut back on the bloody alcohol...”
Jason winces. He hadn’t expected Pythagoras to start shouting until at least tomorrow.
There is a low murmuring that he recognises as Hercules’ voice, and while Jason cannot make out the words (and honestly, he really doesn’t want to), he can hear the soothing, placatory tone. Really, he feels it ought to be the other way around; Pythagoras should be the one doing the comforting and calming.
“Don’t bloody ‘shush’ me!”
Jason glances at the door, and wonders what the chances are of him closing it properly without either of them noticing. He suspects not good, and he sure as hell doesn’t want to interrupt right at that moment.
Hercules is speaking again now, still quiet and calm. The fact that he isn’t shouting back either means he is very ill, or that they have hit one of those rare occasions when Pythagoras is so far gone that Hercules has no option but to be the calm one. Jason has only ever witnessed that once before, and it is not something he ever wants to experience again.
“No. I mean it Hercules. Don’t... don’t ever-”
He hears Pythagoras’ voice crack on the last word and suddenly it all goes quiet again.
Jason hesitates, and then goes and gets himself a cup of coffee. He doesn’t really want or need another cup of the crap that comes out of the vending machine, but his friends do need the privacy for the few minutes it will take him to get it. When he sits back down, it is a few chairs further away from the not-quite-closed door.
It occurs to him once the coffee has all gone that he has not heard anything at all for some time. Even allowing for the fact that he was deliberately trying to avoid overhearing any more than he already has, it has been silent since that last outburst. Jason considers his options for another five minutes, another five minutes of complete silence, before he eventually puts the plastic cup down, gets up and goes over to the door. He pushes it open a fraction and looks in.
Hercules is propped half-upright, and surrounded by machines that are making soft electronic sounds. Even in the dimmed lights of the room, he looks pale.
Pythagoras is sitting in a chair at the side of the bed, but he appears to have slumped over the bed and his head is resting on his folded arms. One hand is holding onto Hercules’ arm like a comfort blanket. Hercules is tenderly stroking Pythagoras’ hair with his free hand.
Jason tries to back away and close the door, but Hercules looks up and sees him. He smiles, and beckons Jason in. Jason hesitates, and then enters and closes the door as quietly as he can.
“I think he wore himself out with all the shouting,” Hercules says, nodding his head towards Pythagoras.
Jason realises, belatedly, that Pythagoras has actually fallen asleep right there at Hercules’ bedside. He’s going to regret it if they let him sleep like that all night; god knows what it’s doing to his back and neck bent at that angle, but Jason has no intention of disturbing him just yet.
He sits down on a chair on the other side of the bed.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better than I have any right to feel, if you listen to the doctors.”
“You scared us all.”
“So I’ve been told. Loudly, and repeatedly. With some hand waving and finger pointing.”
Hercules resumes stroking Pythagoras’ hair. Pythagoras stirs for a moment and makes a soft sound, but Hercules gently shushes him and Pythagoras settles again.
“He was worried about you. We both were.”
“I know,” Hercules sighs. He gives Jason a knowing look. “Thanks for looking after him tonight.”
Jason is surprised.
“I didn’t... I mean, I was here for you. I was worried about you.”
“I know, and I appreciate it. But let’s face it, there’s sod all you could do for me. That was in the hands of the doctors. But I’d put money on the fact that you’ve been taking care of him, making sure he didn’t lose it completely. Thank you, Jason.”
Jason has no idea what to say to that, so he just nods. His gaze drifts towards their sleeping friend. He looks calm for the first time in the last five or so hours.
“Go on, get it over with,” Hercules says in a resigned voice. “I’m sure you’re going to nag me about cutting back on the alcohol and pies as well, aren’t you?”
Jason opens his mouth, and then closes it again. He thinks. Then he meets Hercules’ eyes.
“No, I’m not. Because you already know it, so either you’ll take notice or you won’t. It won’t make a difference what I say.”
Hercules looks surprised.
“Well, thanks for sparing me the lecture,” he says. “Anyway, it’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.”
This is exactly what Jason has been saying all night, but hearing it from Hercules, so nonchalant, something stirs inside Jason. Something angry.
“You might be fine, but what about him?” Jason indicates Pythagoras. “What about the people who care about you?”
Hercules looks like he’s about to protest, but Jason doesn’t give him chance.
“Do you have any idea how scared he was tonight? What he went through, waiting to hear if you were going to be okay? You’re right; I looked after him, I stayed with him, and I saw what this did to him. He was terrified he was going to lose you. All I could do was hold him while he cried in my arms.”
He swallows, his mouth suddenly dry. The memory is still too raw, even though it happened at least three or four hours ago. Hercules looks stricken, and somewhere in the back of Jason’s mind he knows that upsetting him right now is probably not the best of ideas. But at the same time, something needs to get through to him, and if this doesn’t, Jason thinks nothing will. He makes sure his voice is steady when he speaks again.
“I don’t ever want to see Pythagoras that upset again.”
Hercules can’t hold his gaze, and instead looks down at Pythagoras, still, somehow, asleep despite the conversation going on over his head. Hercules’ expression softens, as it so often does when he looks at Pythagoras.
“I don’t want to, either,” he says, his voice so quiet Jason barely hears him.
Jason knows there is nothing more to be said. Hercules has had enough of a night, without recriminations. What they all need right now, more than anything, is a few hours sleep. They can sort everything else out tomorrow. Later today. Whatever.
“You should get some rest. I’ll come back tomorrow. Do you want me to bring you anything from home?”
Hercules shrugs. He suddenly looks far more helpless, and vulnerable, than Jason has ever seen him.
Jason realises at that moment that he will be the one making decisions and being the practical, pro-active one for the next couple of days. That, at least, he can do for them.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jason says quickly. “We’ll sort out whatever you need.”
Jason looks down at Pythagoras. They really shouldn’t leave him sleeping like that. If nothing else, the nurse will probably try to throw him out when she next checks on the room.
“I should take him home,” Jason says.
Hercules nods, but then catches Jason’s arm when he reaches for Pythagoras.
“Just... can you give us a minute? Please?”
“Of course. I’ll wait outside.”
They will be fine, Jason thinks as he leaves. Both of them. All three of them. Behind him, he hears Pythagoras’ voice again, sleepy and confused.
This time, Jason makes sure the door is properly closed.