“Hey, Jack,” Hiccup greets, cheerful. “What’s new?”
Jack doesn’t answer, but Hiccup doesn’t mind. He carries on as if his boyfriend is listening: “I brought Alice in Wonderland. We’re almost finished.”
He glances out the window, admiring the light snowfall. Jack adores winter weather. He always spends too much time outside, skating and participating in other fun seasonal activities. Hiccup blinks, avoiding that particular train of thought, and says softly: “I saved the last few pages for today.”
He smiles at his beautiful boyfriend, taking one of his hands and intertwining their fingers. Jack’s pale skin is cold, but that doesn’t bother Hiccup. He pulls up a plastic chair and plops down beside the bed, opening up the paperback novel.
“Alrighty, then. Here we go.”
Hiccup grins and removes his bookmark, picking up where they left off: “She found herself lying in the bank with her head on the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.
‘Wake up, Alice dear!’ said her sister, ‘Why, what a long sleep you’ve had!’”
Hiccup’s breath hitches. Squeezing his boyfriend’s hand, he steels himself and continues: “‘Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!’ said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; and when she had finished, her sister kissed her and said, ‘It was a curious dream, dear, certainly, but now run in to your tea: it’s getting late.’”
Hiccup’s eyes flit off the page, landing on Jack’s still face. He recalls the past year of reading, ranting, raving and kissing lips that won’t reciprocate. He has prayed constantly, begging for the nightmare to end. Hiccup coughs up the frog in his throat and presses on. He’s determined to finish the book without collapsing in a puddle of tears.
“So Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been.”
What a wonderful dream indeed. Waking up each and every morning with his nose buried in his boyfriend’s hair, peppering his freckled cheeks with kisses until he awakens from his slumber. Listening to the glorious sound of such joyous laughter, melodious as the tinkling of bells. Sleepless nights where they talk for hours, holding each other until daybreak. Jack’s warm eyes and bright smiles, radiant as the sun.
Hiccup tugs on his braids, biting his lip.
Why did Jack have to be a hero? Why did he have to be such a good big brother? Why did he have to jump in after her? His bravery didn’t matter: his sister is dead, and now he…
Jack isn't going to wake up.
The clock reads ticks their precious seconds away. He’s running out of time. Hiccup swallows, trembling, and opens his mouth again. Picking up speed, he stumbles over nearly every word. He longs to hear Jack’s voice again or kiss him one last time. He wants another piece of his boyfriend to cherish forever, but his wish won't ever be granted. His vision swims as he utters the last few lines:
“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood―”
Someone raps on the door. Hiccup pauses, but chooses to ignore the knocking. He isn’t finished yet.
“―and how she would gather about her other little children and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long-ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows and find pleasure in all of their simple joys, remembering her own child-life and the happy summer days.”
Gasping, he wipes his eyes with his sleeve. He can’t seem to stop crying, even though he’s spent the past thirteen months constantly shedding tears. He always weeps during every visit. Hiccup does nothing but cry anymore. His family and his friends are worried about his health, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about anything other than Jack, and now…
“The End,” Hiccup chokes, closing the book. He feels eyes on him and lifts his head, spotting the nurse watching him through the door. She’s covering her mouth with the palm of her hand, so he guesses he has at least another minute, but that isn’t enough time. He didn’t get enough time. They weren't given enough.
Hiccup stands with wobbling legs and leans forward, resting his forehead against Jack’s. Sobbing, he tries to memorize every inch of his boyfriend’s face. Hiccup removes Jack’s breathing mask and presses a brief, final kiss against his chapped lips. Of course, Jack doesn't move. Forcing himself to pull away, Hiccup whispers for the millionth time: “I love you.”
He crushes Jack’s hand with his own, and then he lets go.