Afraid to Love: Holding On

By Black Rose

I've never seen him so... small.

Squall's always been strong. Larger than life. From the moment he walked into my office the first time, all black leather and a huge blade slung across one shoulder; he's always been strong. Solid. Alive.

I've never seen him look so small. Fragile, lost in a sea of white sheets and sensor wires.


He laughed when I said I would meet him at the airstrip with an ambulance. He said it wouldn't be necessary, he would be fine. He all but called me paranoid. I hoped he was right.

I stopped hoping when the faxed list of what he was on came from Balamb Garden immediately after his plane left the ground. I didn't even recognize half of it, six syllable long pharmaceutical names, but Levih, the doctor appointed in charge of this fiasco, looked a far cry from happy. I asked for it in layman's terms. He said if you wanted to knock a rabid torama out for a few days, this was a good start.

When the plane arrived Squall walked down the steps by himself. I have no idea how. I've seen corpses with better color than he had. They caught him at the base of the steps before he could collapse and he didn't even protest. He couldn't. He wasn't coherent.

The best medical technology and personnel on the goddamn planet and I've never felt this fucking helpless. They've done everything that they can and it's not /enough/. There's nothing they can do but try to treat symptoms, wait and watch. And there's nothing I can do but sit, and hope, and pray.

He's burning up. His skin is so hot to the touch and he does nothing but shiver, curled on his side and shaking. The nurses watching the monitor banks say he's awake more often than not. They've given him every sedative known to man at Balamb's recommendation and he's still awake, still aware.

Hurting. He's hurting and there's nothing we can fucking do.

I won't leave his side. I can't. I've probably slept more, sitting on the edge of the bed, than he has laying on it. His hand in mine is burning hot and dry, hardly any strength in his grasp at all, but he won't let go. I won't let go.

He warned me before hand what an awful patient he makes. I was prepared for arguements, for stubborness, for trying to get up before he should and for angry bitching the entire time he was down.

I wasn't prepared to hear him beg.

The doctors try to put it in words the rest of us can understand - balance centers, spatial stability, disorientation - but the one word they have to fall back on most often is 'psychosomatic'. There's nothing wrong with him, nothing in his body that can be bandaged or stitched or healed. All of the symptoms, the pain that the sedatives and narcotics barely put a dent in, the fever that is eating him from the inside, the inability to keep even water down and the labored gasping breaths that have lead to a trail of IV drips and oxygen tubes... all of it has no basis at all in his body. The doctors assure me that he is in perfect - even superlative - physical health.

Fuck that.

Awake or no, he won't open his eyes. Only his hand moves, reaching out, and I meet it with mine. He holds as tight as he can, as long as he can. The grasp of his fingers on mine is strengthless and desperate.

The first time he reached for me his voice was whispered, rough, and as close as I have ever heard him to tears. "Make it stop."

I would have done anything. "What hurts?"

"World," he whispered. "Moving... make it stop."

But all I could do was hold him. He did cry then, gasped sobs shaking through him as he clung to me, until his breath gave out and the shudders came in silence.

I wanted to kill something. I still do.

Balamb is supposed to be the leading authority on this and all they recommend is the sedatives. Drugs to force him to sleep, to cushion his mind. The amount he's on now could fell a small dragon. The doctors swear it's doing some good. If this is good then I don't want to see worse.

Nothing to do. Nothing that can be done. So I sit and I hold his hand in mind, hoping that it helps. Praying that it will stop. Wishing I could take all of it from him.

Hour after hour. Day after day. Lover, father... the labels don't matter any more. Not now. There is only this - the pulse and hiss and hum of the machines and the press of his hand in mine. His pain. My anger. I don't fucking care what you label it.

You do not fucking do this to the people I love.

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