By Jack Llawayllynn
Chapter 32: Reclamation
Sin sat on the edge of the bed in his brother's house staring at the large backpack that held all of Matt's things. It was all he had of Matt left to him yet he couldn't bring himself to open it, to paw through it. It seemed too much an invasion of Matt's privacy.
"How long are you just going to sit in here?"
Sin looked up to see his brother standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. He could see pity in his brother's eyes but also disapproval. "I don't know what else to do," Sin admitted quietly. In the three days that Sin had slept here he and his brother had spoken very little to one another. They had argued once over Sin's refusal to tell Nathan who their father was and no one else would tell him either, saying that it was up to Sin to do but otherwise they had somehow made their peace, as if no spoken word could have opened the door but silence was a golden key. They spoke mostly with their eyes, the tilt of a head, the wave of hand, the tapping of fingers, understanding each other's gestures as if they had been communicating like that all their lives. Sin was forgiven for his misbehavior on his first visit and Nathan was forgiven for having had the lion's share of true family while Sin had been shuffled from foster home to foster home. Forgiveness too was silent and golden.
"They will let you see him if you would just go. You should go. He nearly died trying to get you back. So now what? You're still going to just walk away? Matt left his family behind, his dad in the hospital with a stroke, the band members left with a shitty singer, his boss awaiting his return to work. He did all that to find you and you're still running away? What is it with you? You don't want to be loved or you just don't want to be loved by Matt?"
Sin let his head fall into his hands, hiding his face. "You don't understand! I hurt him Nathan. I have again. What are his real chances of survival? The doctor said that piece of metal was less than an inch away from piercing his heart. Because of me."
"Yup. It was because of you and here you sit instead of being at Matt's side. As for his chances, they are slim if he continues this way. The doctors say he isn't even trying to live. He thinks he has nothing to live for. Maybe if you were there it would make a difference."
"It's not like he's been alone. Aunt Sylvia and his mother have flown out to be with him."
"Auntie Sylvia...why didn't you tell me about her? I'd like to know my family too you know." Nathan was lounging against the doorsill now but his voice held no real bitterness, he'd gotten that out days ago. "It doesn't matter Michael. If all he needed in his life was a couple of loving old ladies then he wouldn't have come all the way out here. What he needs is you."
"I can't face him, not now."
"Always running away. God, I can't believe my twin is not only a faggot but a coward too."
"Fuck you! I am not a coward! I just don't want to hurt him more!"
"You're hurting him more by staying away."
"I don't think so."
"Fine. I'm calling Gunner, maybe he can help."
"Gunner?" Sin shot up off the bed, his fists clenched at his sides. Suddenly he relaxed. "Not the Gunner I know, right? Some specialist or something like that? A Doctor Gunner?"
Nathan's eyes hardened. "No, I don't think the man is a doctor. He left Matt covered in lash marks, scars all down his back...or didn't you notice the scars when they cut Matt's clothes off in the emergency room?"
Sin's fists clenched again and his pupils retracted to pinpoints. "What the fuck are you talking about? What scars? How the fuck do you know anything about Gunner?"
"Matt told me."
"You're bluffing. You know nothing. Gunner couldn't have put any marks on Matt. He simply couldn't. I don't know where you got that crazy notion." Sin remembered all too well all the commands he had programmed into Matt's head. Matt would not let another man scar him because he couldn't let him. Could he?
"Fine, I'm bluffing a little. I know Matt has scars, I know Gunner did it but I don't know for sure how to reach him. I bet Sylvia will though, or perhaps, just perhaps, this will help." Nathan pulled Matt's cell phone from his pocket and waggled it at Sin. "Four missed calls from a man named Gunner. Coincidence? I don't think so. All I have to do is pull the number up."
"Give me that!" Sin's heart leapt up in his throat. If Gunner had put scars on Matt then surely he had restrained him in some way. But Matt knew Gunner was a Skull, he knew that if he went anywhere with Gunner exactly what would happen and Matt couldn't do that, not willingly. Those stupid commands, that's the only real reason Matt had followed him here, right?
"No, I won't give it to you." Nathan jammed the phone back into his pocket and glared back at Sin, blue steel to blue steel.
"Fuck it. Fine. Call Gunner. I don't see what he has to do with any of this."
"I don't either but if you won't go to Matt something tells me Gunner will."
"It won't help. Gunner's a Skull."
"Never mind. You'll never understand."
"I understand Matt is dying and you won't go to him."
Sin sank back down onto the edge of the bed, defeated. "What the fuck am I supposed to do? Go watch him die?"
"Yeah. You made him follow you here so you be there when he breaths his last. It's the least you could do. Besides, Aunt Sylvia is convinced you would turn the tables in his favor. He just needs you by his side."
Sin flinched at the words "you made him follow you here" and felt his stomach tighten with nausea.
"I nearly got him killed, again. I won't have that happening over and over."
"No, it won't happen again if you just let him die."
"There's nothing I can do!"
Nathan opened his mouth to argue but the house phone rang and he turned away to go answer it. He was only gone a few minutes.
"That was Aunt Sylvia. Matt's worse. This may be your last chance. Get dressed, I'll take you to the hospital."
"No, I'm not going."
"Fine, then give me your jacket."
Nathan's face hardened. "I said give me your god damned jacket, brother. And that shirt you are wearing too."
"What the fuck for?"
"I'm going to impersonate you. His eyes are still bandaged. He can't see but he can hear and he can smell and if he's to die at least he'll think you had the balls enough to see him through to the end at least."
"You're out of your fucking mind!"
"Michael, he thinks you are dead. No one can convince him otherwise, no matter what they tell him. He's given up. So no, I'm not out of my mind. I save lives everyday in my line of work, impersonating you will be no great stretch. Now strip off your damn shirt and give me your jacket."
Sin stared at him stonily. "It's for the best that Matt believes I'm dead," he said dully. In truth he wanted to go to Matt, god how he wanted to go to Matt but how could Matt ever forgive him? How could he ever forgive himself for all he had put Matt through? He was still sitting there warring with himself in his mind when the phone rang again. With a disgusted sigh Nathan left the doorway once more. This time he was gone only moments.
"Well, well, well, it seems I was right after all. Miss Sylvia pulled some strings and guess who is at Matt's bedside right this minute? Gunner."
Sin felt like someone had slammed a baseball bat into his gut. "You're lying."
Nathan smiled a wolf's smile. Sin shook his head and stripped off his shirt, throwing it to his brother. "Fine, whatever. You two have at him."
"Fucking coward," Nathan growled and stalked out, taking Sin's jacket with him.
Sin heard the front door open and Mary and Fawn come in.
"What's going on?" Mary's voice asked, floating in its sweet dulcet tones down the hall.
"I'm going down to the hospital to impersonate my brother. Matt is dying. He thinks Michael is dead. If I can comfort him, even a little, I will. Michael is too much of a fucking coward to go himself."
"Nathan! Watch your mouth! Fawn can hear you!"
Sin heard the front door slam and Nathan's car back out of the driveway. The patter of little feet ended at the doorway to the bedroom where Sin sat shirtless on the bed. Fawn's little face peered in, her expression mixed between puzzlement and agitation.
"Daddy said bad words about you," she informed him with childlike authority. "He said you was a fucking coward."
"Fawn!" Mary scolded as she rushed down the hall and scooped up her child. "Don't ever repeat those words again! They're bad words!"
"But true," Sin said with a sigh. He heaved himself off the bed and glanced around for a clean shirt to put on. He didn't have one. Slowly he knelt and opened Matt's pack. On top lay a stack of folded pages. He opened these up and stared at them in puzzlement. He could tell that each one had been written out slowly and painfully. He read each one then read them again. Realization hit him hard. Matt's father had written these strained missives, he had no doubt. Old Darvins had not only forgiven his son for being gay he had given him his blessing to come and find his lover. Sin carefully folded the papers back up and slid them into a side pocket of the pack. He rummaged through the clothes and came up with a tee shirt. Something hard and circular fell out as he pulled the tee shirt free. Sin stared down at the slave collar a long time before he could finally force himself to pick it up. It was black and beautifully tooled, graced with ravens and Matt's initials. Matt hadn't only followed him to get him back, Matt had followed him to collar him.
* * * * *
"How is he?" Nathan asked as his Aunt Sylvia rose to hug his neck.
"Bad, really bad Nathan," she said sadly. "We can't convince him that Michael isn't dead. He drifts in and out but mostly he's out. The doctors say he isn't fighting at all."
"So what about this Gunner fellow, any reaction to him at all?" Nathan asked, glancing around.
"Not so far. He's in there with Matt now, talking mean to him, trying to stir him up. It's not working. He's not Michael. What's in that bag?" she nodded to the large paper bag under Nathan's arm.
"A lie," he admitted. "It's Michael's shirt and jacket. I thought maybe, just maybe I could fool Matt with it, impersonate my brother, convince Matt that Michael isn't dead."
Aunt Sylvia gave him a long look then nodded. "It might work. It might not. Best you talk to Gunner first. He'll have to coach you a little bit."
"Coach me? What the hell for? We're twins. The only difference is he has long hair and I don't but hell, he wears it tied back most the time and Matt can't see anyway."
"Oh honey, you just don't understand at all. You may be twins but you are nothing at all alike. There are words you need to say, ways you need to say them. Gunner will help you to pitch your voice right and to mask your accent. You need to make Matt angry enough to stay with us and fight this out."
"Are you sure that's safe? Making him angry? He's been horribly injured."
"It's the only way I'm afraid. His mother and I have tried the smothering him with love bit. What he needs is something to fight for and if not that then something to fight back at."
Nathan nodded thoughtfully.
"Oh my god, please tell me you're gay," a male voice said behind him and Nathan whirled to face a man decked out in all black. Gothic only barely described him. He wore a tight black tee shirt tucked into baggy black jeans that dripped with straps and chains. His hair was dyed jet black, he was covered in tattoos and piercings and he wore an armband with a skull and crossbones high on one bicep.
"No, I am not. You must be Gunner." Nathan glared at him coldly.
"Yes I am. And you must be Nathan, the angelic twin. Such a waste that you aren't gay."
"My wife and daughter would disagree greatly," Nathan said evenly. "Look, my aunt tells me I need your help. I intend to impersonate my brother. I've brought some of his clothes. You, it seems, must be my speech coach."
"Hmph," Gunner snorted. "Might work, might not."
"It's a good idea and it might work," Sylvia said softly. "Nothing else has worked so far. Go on and change Nathan."
Gunner followed Nathan into the men's room. Nathan chose to change his shirt in a stall rather than have the strange and unnerving Gunner ogle him bare-chested. When he came out wearing the shirt and jacket the look in Gunner's eyes was bad enough.
"Okay, here's the deal. You want to piss Matt off. You want to try to make him want to get out of that bed and beat the crap out of you. Or better yet to fuck you."
"You don't have to be disgusting."
"I'm not, I'm serious as death. Matt's death. If you can rouse him, either with anger or passion it will help. Don't go in there and act nice. Don't ask him how he feels or any other inane questions. Go in there and demand to know what the hell he thought he was doing in following you across the damned country. Tell him off. Yell at him. Then start giving him commands. Tell him he will get the fuck better, tell him he will fucking live. Pull his hair, bite his neck, squeeze his balls, hurt him."
"Are you out of your fucking mind?" Nathan demanded, his eyes huge. "The man is dying."
"Which is why he needs to fight."
"I can't bite him or squeeze his balls for fuck's sake!"
"Try." Gunner grinned evilly showing crooked but beautifully white teeth. "Need me to show you how?"
"Keep your fucking hands to yourself punk or I'll have you arrested before you can blink. I am a cop you know."
"Ohhhh, I'd love to see you in uniform. Reckon you could lend one to Sin?" Nathan scowled harder and Gunner shrugged. "Speaking of your pussy ass brother what's gotten into him? He's never been like this before. He's always been in control. Now he goes off the deep end when he's most needed."
"I hear he goes off the deep end rather frequently."
"Not like this. When he loses control he goes berserk, he doesn't turn pussy ass and run."
"Well he has this time."
"Why? There has to be a reason."
"I didn't ask him."
"I warn you," Gunner said, his smile now gone, his eyes very hard, "if I get my hands on Sin he'll pay for this."
Nathan shrugged. "I have a feeling he'll be long gone by now. He probably stole Matt's motorcycle from the house the moment I left."
Gunner stared at Nathan silently for a moment then shook his head. "I just don't get it. This just isn't Sin's style."
"Does it really matter? Come on, you'll go in the room with me. Just stay silent. If I'm doing something wrong signal me."
"If you do it wrong he'll know anyway. But hey, I'm game to watch."
They went down the hall together silently. Sylvia and Matt's mother were sitting red eyed and teary in an otherwise empty waiting area. They both shot Nathan a pleading glance as he passed them by.
"Remember, be rough with him," Gunner warned again just before they pushed into Matt's private hospital room. Nathan took a deep breath trying to steady himself. Matt looked dead already, almost as pale as the pillow he rested on. Only the constant beeping of machinery connected to him reassured Nathan that Matt was still alive. Gunner stayed by the open door while Nathan approached the bed.
"Wake up Matt," Nathan said quietly. Gunner growled and Nathan glanced at him sharply. Gunner silently placed a closed fist into an open palm and mouthed "be harsh!".
Nathan looked doubtfully back down at Matt. There was a bandage around his head from where they had removed a piece of metal debris thrown by the explosion. Luckily it had not penetrated his skull, only left a deep and nasty gash above his ear. His eyes too were bandaged, seared by the explosion flash. The left side of his chest showed black and blue around layers of gauze that covered the surgery sutures where shrapnel had been removed from his lung and near his heart. How in the hell could he be even remotely rough with this poor man? Nathan wondered.
"I can't. I can't do it," Nathan muttered to Gunner. Gunner rolled his eyes. Nathan took a deep breath and tried again. "Matt, wake up! You hear me man? I said wake the fuck up!" Nathan shook him gently.
Matt groaned, his head moving ever so slowly against the pillow. "Sin?" he croaked through cracked lips.
"Yes, it's me, I'm here."
"You're dead. I saw you die."
"No, that wasn't me," Nathan gently took Matt's hand. "It was someone else. I'm here with you. You've got to fight Matt. They say you aren't trying to get better."
"Why should I? You're dead."
"I'm not dead dammit!" Nathan growled and squeezed Matt's hand.
"Then kiss me."
Nathan jerked and glanced frantically over at Gunner. Gunner made a kissy face and gestured toward Matt. Nathan swallowed hard. He'd never kissed a man before and he didn't want to now. Matt though seemed to be slipping away again, back to his refuge of unhealthy sleep.
"Wake up! Fight this, damn you!"
Nathan took a breath and just did it. He leaned over and pressed his mouth to Matt's quickly. Matt let out a sarcastic gurgle.
"Nice try Nathan, and I thank you. Now leave me be." Matt weakly pulled his hand from Nathan's. "And don't come back, especially wearing Sin's clothes. He's dead. You may smell like him but you can't fool me. A nice performance though."
"Indeed, very nice," Sin's voice said from the door and he applauded sarcastically, three short, sharp claps. Each clap made Matt's body twitch on the bed.
"Michael!" Nathan said with relief even as Matt's voice quavered out "Sin?"
"Step away from my boy brother. I'm here to take back what's mine."
"Sin?" Matt asked again, struggling to sit up. Alarmed Nathan tried to push him back down but Sin pushed his brother out of the way to stand by Matt's bedside.
"They let you keep your collar, even here?" Sin asked, hooking his finger under it.
"He would become violently agitated whenever they removed it. They felt it better to leave it on him," Gunner explained from the door.
Sin didn't answer, he just used the collar to haul Matt up and kissed him harshly, violently, then pulled him higher into a sitting position, Matt's face twisting in pain from his injuries. "That is how you kiss a man," Sin said and sneered at his twin.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Nathan demanded.
"I want to see if it's true. I want to see Matt's back."
"Oh, it's true, luv," Gunner snickered. "Too bad they weren't deep enough to be permanent. They'll fade all too soon."
Sin surveyed the pale streaks that ran across Matt's shoulders and down his back. "He let you do this?" Sin demanded of Gunner.
"Let me? Begged me, darling, just begged me. How could I say no? But the mark Razor left, well now, that he didn't want and fought like the devil against him."
"Razor?" Sin tangled his hand in Matt's hair and jerked his head back. Matt moaned in agony. Sin eased the bandage down low enough to look at Matt's eyebrow and hissed when he saw the two slash marks that were Razor's trademark, now white with scarring. "How the fuck did Razor get to him? I left him with Stan."
"Stan couldn't take his collar. Too much of a teddy bear. He thought that Razor could do it instead. Razor failed too, but not before he marked him."
"Fuck!" Sin let Matt fall roughly back against the pillows. Matt gasped in pain but he was struggling now, twisting on the bed.
"I saw you die!" Matt finally managed to wheeze between the tides of pain.
"No. You saw John Gooddeer die. Nothing but a worthless punk ass piece of shit that trashed my bike."
"Michael!" Nathan gasped, scandalized. "He was just a kid!"
"A worthless one."
Matt began to laugh, a horrible, wet gurgle that wet his lip with flecks of blood. "You're...you're alive and ...well, you...bastard," Matt gasped out. "You left then you made me watch you die and now you pop up alive and well. Get out! Get out of here now! You sorry piece of shit!" The blood began to turn foamy on Matt's lips. The regular beeping of sounds of the machines picked up speed and urgency. A nurse appeared in the doorway.
"Clear the room!" she ordered, appalled at the appearance of so many rough looking men in her patient's room. Her eyes traveled in horrified disbelief from Nathan, looking tough and angry in Sin's leather jacket to Gunner in his gothic gear, grinning evilly to Sin whose eyes blazed with a mass of restrained emotions. She wasn't sure which of the men was the most dangerous. She was afraid of them all. "Leave or I'll call the police!" she squeaked out, trying to sound brave.
"Lady, I am the police," Nathan said stonily. "But you're right. We're leaving. All of us." Nathan snagged Sin's arm and steered him out the door behind Gunner leaving the nurse to fuss over Matt.
"Well, that went well," Gunner said, bouncing on his toes. "Matt is royally pissed. Question is, are you gonna hang around and see it through Sin or are you gonna tuck tail and run again?"
Sin spun around and jabbed his fist into Gunner's grinning face. "Shut up you fuck! You have no idea what's happened between Matt and me. I did not tuck tail and run!"
"The hell you didn't," Gunner glared at him as he wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. "And I saw the mess you left behind. Matt came to me of his own free will. He felt abandoned. He was abandoned."
"You sure Matt came to you with free will?" Sin's voice held an odd note of doubt that Gunner couldn't puzzle out.
"Of course I'm sure. What is it with you? Did you think you could keep him on a leash even when you weren't there?"
Sin looked away. He had thought that. He had thought he had Matt's mind trapped, brainwashed, permanently programmed. He wasn't sure if he was relieved to find it not so or disappointed. At least now he could shed that guilt. He didn't have Matt under his control. Matt had not followed him simply because he had too. And considering that collar Sin had found it seemed Matt had ideas of his own as to what would happen next in their relationship. Suddenly Sin wanted to know very much what those plans were.
Nathan had been watching his brother's face. He put a hand on Sin's shoulder and turned him roughly to look in his eyes. "Something's changed, hasn't it? I don't understand what just happened but something did."
"Yeah, I think it did," Sin said, his attention not really on Nathan. He pulled free and stalked back to Matt's room. Nathan followed. The nurse was wiping flecks of blood from Matt's lips as they entered.
"Leave," Sin barked at her.
"What?" she asked shakily, standing slowly as if afraid to startle him.
"I said leave the room!" Sin demanded.
"It's okay, I'm a cop, here's my badge." Nathan flashed his badge at her and the nurse slowly left the room, glancing back at them fearfully as she shut the door.
"Who's your Daddy Matt?" Sin demanded, leaning over the bed. Matt lay there wheezing, his face tightened in pain. "I fucking asked you a question!" Sin growled and twisted his hand in Matt's hair. "Who's your fucking Daddy?"
"Who's your fucking Daddy Sin?" Matt gasped out. "Have you told Nathan yet?"
Sin released Matt and let him fall back, ignoring his gasp of pain. Sin tilted his head back and laughed, loud and wicked then becoming almost hysterical. Nathan grabbed Sin and shook him. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" Nathan demanded.
"He didn't answer," Sin muttered between choking breaths. "Oh god, he didn't answer the question right." So, it was true. Whatever spell may have been cast over Matt at one time was now broken. Matt was a free spirit and had come here by his own free will. Relief and grief mingled and washed over Sin so completely that his knees went weak. He grabbed Nathan for support but suddenly he was crying, crying his heart out and he couldn't stop. Nathan gathered him close in a hug, not understanding but offering support as the sobs rose in Sin's body and broke in waves.