“This is going to sound crazy, but it’s true and I can prove it. I’m not actually Black, I’m his twin brother White.”
Gram felt his heart drop. His friends were all talking over each other, but he couldn’t hear them as his mind raced. He’d been spending time with someone else for… who knows how long. All the times he’d invited Black somewhere and received an excited grin instead of the usual begrudging acceptance… hadn’t been Black at all.
Maybe that should’ve given it away.
Black had never been that nice, too much hurt to conceal behind sarcasm and a cold exterior. It’s not like he was completely ignorant to Black’s changed behavior. Right away he noticed that things weren’t the same as before, but he’d hoped it was a good thing. Black had been right to scoff at Gram’s ‘useless optimism’. All hope had got him was a misconception. Seeing a smile on Black’s face was something so rare, and it had been happening so often. How could Gram lament a change like that? To see someone he holds dear, the person that ignited a fire in his eyes and his heart, happy like never before.
But it wasn’t Black.
It felt like drowning, a dizzying feeling that made his chest ache. Black wasn’t getting better, instead he had been gone for weeks, and Gram hadn’t realized. He had spent every day thanking the universe for giving Black a break from hardship for the first time. Gram felt so stupid. While he was sitting around on campus, laughing with some stranger, Black was…
“Wait.” Gram interrupted the group, “If you’re here, where’s Black?”
White looked over, his mouth bending slightly into a frown, “He’s in the hospital in a coma, and that’s why I’m here.”
Time seemed to freeze for a moment before Gram’s brain caught up with those words. White was still talking, probably explaining himself. He felt like he was going to throw up. Gram had been walking around happy and safe while Black was hurt, stuck asleep and alone. He tried to rewind whatever White had been saying… had he mentioned an attack? That Black had been beaten? When? Why hadn’t he asked for help?
“What hospital?” Gram was already running to grab his helmet. “White, tell me the address right now!”
White looked a little shaken, and Sean was glaring at him, but Gram couldn’t care less, committing the address to memory and speeding off on his motorcycle as fast as he could.
His hands felt unsteady as he maneuvered around cars, desperate to see the one person he missed in every second they weren’t together. Tears escaped from his eyes, but they were quickly dried up by the wind. It was the first time since Black had taught him to ride that he didn’t feel free. If freedom was the oxygen of the soul, worry was a stretch of fabric pulled tight around his neck.
His hands began shaking to the point of becoming practically useless, but he refused to slow down. When he was learning, his hands had been shaking too. Black had sat behind Gram on the bike, pressed all too close, and reached over to cover Gram’s hands with his own.
“Don’t be so scared. If we get in danger and you’re too nervous to drive, I’d have to save you myself, then we’d both be in trouble. Just relax and trust me when I say that there’s nothing to be afraid of. You know I wouldn’t tell you to do this if I thought you couldn’t. Just drive and I’ll be here if something goes wrong.”
Gram remembered his thoughts from that day perfectly. Immediately, he had sworn that the same would go for Black, in any situation. He would be there if something went wrong. If Black was going down, so was he. Even if he had never said it out loud, for fear of making his heart too clear, it had become a core part of him. And he’d broken that promise.
He parked his bike outside the hospital, not caring to find a real parking space. The front desk workers seemed put off by his panicked state, and he couldn't blame them. Still, they gave him some visitor paperwork that he scribbled through as fast as he could manage. After waiting a few more minutes, a nurse was finally leading him down the twisting hallways, towards Black.
“He’s in this room. The patient is in a coma, so please don’t be too loud,” the nurse looked at him for a moment, “Are you close to the patient?”
Gram nodded, wanting to end the conversation quickly.
“Okay. You can hold the patient's hand, but refrain from any other sort of contact. He is still healing from severe bruising and we don’t want any complications.” The nurse opened the door and took him to Black’s bedside before heading back to her duties.
Black had once slept over. They’d both been a little drunk and Gram’s place was just down the street, so they stumbled their way there. Black was further gone than him, so he was leaning most of his weight against Gram, already half asleep. It was a vulnerable state to be in, still Black trusted him to get them home. What better way was there to make sure Black was safe than keeping him near? He had laid Black down on his bed, and sat down on the floor so he could look at Black’s sleeping face. He never had that serene expression when he was awake, and Gram had already filed it away as one of his favorite of Black’s faces.
This time it was different.
That lovely sleeping expression was covered in bruises and cuts. One of his eyes was blotted purple and swollen, worse than any black eye Gram had seen before. A particularly nasty gash ran across one of Black’s cheeks. Unconsciously he reached out towards Black’s face, his palm hovering just above the damaged skin. Tears ran down his face as he took in each mark on Black’s body. Every patch of exposed skin has some sort of injury. Whoever did this to Black spared no mercy. They hadn’t just been trying to rough him up… they wanted to kill him.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were in trouble?” He sobbed as his knees buckled. “Why did you have to face this by yourself?”
Gram pressed his forehead into the side of the hospital bed, reached up, and took Black’s hand. He held on gently, too scared to upset any injury and cause more pain. He recalled White’s injury in the fire, how he had bandaged his hand because he knew Black wouldn’t have treated it on his own. He had needed Black to know he never had to suffer by himself. All that concern wasted on a stranger, when the real Black had almost died alone.
“I won’t leave you.” Gram whispered. “I will stay here and remind you why you have to wake up, okay?”
Of course, Black didn’t reply.