Wake Me Up Before You Go
Warnings: Slight OOC, Descriptions of Injury and Medical Procedure
Kongpob both anticipates and dreads these visits from a man who disappears as suddenly as he shows up.
Kongpob thinks he should be used to it by now.
Given, it’s only the fifth time it’s happened, but the visits come with a confusing mix of dread at the knowledge that these visits only happen because of an injury, but relief because at least it usually not serious enough to justify an urgent visit to A&E.
After all, this is the blunder of most of those who work in first aid, or very much any medical facet, although Kongpob had never imagined in his meagre years as a high school nurse that he would be tending to more than minor scrapes, a few sniffly starts to colds, and the occasional slacker with a ‘headache’ that somehow morphs into shoulder pain and then food poisoning.
No, this is quite different.
“What’s your name? I never asked.”
The man–because that’s about as simple of a word that Kongpob can use to describe whatever this guy is—hesitates a moment, as if gauging the level of trust he has in Kongpob to share this seemingly private information.
Maybe just a few basic things wouldn’t hurt; after all, he’d been the one who’d knocked on Kongpob’s door at 2AM, asking to be stitched up so he didn’t bleed out and die on the streets, or if not, then of an eventual infection.
“I won’t tell anyone, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Kongpob doesn’t meet his gaze, still carefully tending to the open cut. “I don’t have anyone to tell, anyway. I live alone, and I essentially spend my days in the same room as teenagers with fake leg cramps all day.”
The injured man snorts, shaking his head, then after a pause,
Kongpob nods, running a piece of cotton wool soaked with wound disinfectant around the area. He’ll probably need stitches, he thinks.
“You told me that the first time I was here.”
So he had. The first time Arthit had come crash landing onto his balcony was almost three months ago, when Kongpob had awoken in the dead of night to find a man—a whole person— outside the sliding glass door.
When he’d first heard the noise, he’d been convinced it was a burglar, although why someone would choose his bare bones shoebox studio to rob, he has no idea. He has no elaborate or luxury possessions, unless you count his laptop, or the comically large and surprisingly well-equipped first aid kit his sisters had gifted him as a joke at his graduation from nursing school.
But then Arthit hadn’t made any move to attack or steal, only groaning as he laid on his side and clutching as his ribs in agony. And then he’d knocked on the glass, indicating that indeed, this was no burglar.
Nevertheless, Kongpob had had a moment of panicked sweating, perhaps more than he professionally should, before opening the door and crouching down next to the injured man. Arthit had winced painfully as he lifted the side of his shirt to reveal a large scrape across his rib cage, the wound already beginning to cake with blood.
And Kongpob had picked him up to lay on his bed, removed the debris, cleaned and dressed the wound without question, and let him rest there, rambling about this or that (more so to calm himself than Arthit). As he’d gone to the bathroom to wash his hands, he’d returned to an empty room. It had left him in state of unrest about whether or not the mysterious man’s injury would heal properly or not, and with about a million questions about how he’d landed on his tenth-floor balcony to begin with.
He’d been certain he would never see Arthit again, until several weeks later when the man had, like this evening, rung his doorbell and held up a gash along the top of his forearm that looked something like he’d been scratched by a tiger, or, as Arthit soon revealed, a possibly rabid cat that he’d accidentally spooked in an alleyway. Once again, Kongpob had tended to him without query, but now, after three months of administering what was essentially free and illegal use of his nursing registry, he thinks he deserves at least the barest of answers.
“Why can’t you go to a hospital?”
Arthit sighs. “They would ask a lot of questions.”
“And what is it that you think I’m doing?”
“You’re….asking a lot of questions,” he admits with a smirk that Kongpob doesn’t see. “But I’m still here and alive after several visits, so something tells me you’re not about to report me to the government and subject me to being drugged and experimented on.”
Kongpob quirks a smile. “Guess you hit the jackpot by landing on a school nurse’s balcony, then,” he quips, then frowns slightly at the gash on Arthit’s shoulder. “You’re going to need stitches. I don’t have any numbing fluid, though.”
“It’s fine, just do it.”
“It’s going to hurt, though.”
“Not more than being stabbed with a Swiss Army knife, I would guess.”
“Mm,” is all that Kongpob hums in response, digging through the enormous kit that he’s now oddly grateful to have, searching for sutures. “What is it that happened this time? A knife fight?”
“Something like that. The guy was trying to mug a homeless woman and had a Swiss Army knife on him. He backed off, but not before blindly nicking me in the arm. That’s the trouble when he can’t see me, I guess.”
“Yeah, looks like a pretty clean cut. Shouldn’t be too difficult to stitch up.”
“Can nurses give stitches? I mean, legally.”
“Uh,” Kongpob cleans the tip of the curved needle. “The simple answer is no. But some registered nurses are allowed to do them on non-vital areas, so like, no internal organs or muscles, tendons, or anywhere with a lot of blood vessels.”
“So…not this type of cut, then.”
“No, technically not.”
Kongpob simply nods, then pauses. “I’m going to like, do it, now.”
Arthit visibly tenses, mashing his lips together in a tight grimace as the needle makes its first piercing into the edge of the cut. Immediately, his entire face scrunches up in pain, but he makes no obvious noise.
“Y-yeah…yeah. Just…uh, could you…talk? It helps.”
“What do you want to know?” Kongpob’s feet become a little numb, trying to keep his breathing steady as he pulls the thread gently through into a tidy stitch.
“Uh…do you have a girlfriend?”
“You have sanitary pads in your apartment,” he nods towards at the open suitcase on the floor. “It’s not that far of a stretch to ask.”
“I’m also a high school nurse,” Kongpob counters, wincing at Arthit’s hiss of pain as he carefully pulls the needle through a second time. “And no, I’m single. And gay.”
Arthit says nothing, but stiffens again, although Kongpob isn’t entirely sure whether it’s because of what he’s said, or because the pain is overwhelming.
“I’m fine, just…give me a moment.”
He takes several long, deep breaths, sucking the air through his teeth. Kongpob hovers with the suture in his tweezers, gulping as he watches the muscles in Arthit’s back tense with the sharp pain.
“Okay,” he finally grunts after a few moments, although he’s still stiff. “You can keep going.”
“This is the last one,” Kongpob says quietly, to which Arthit nods. This time, as the needle pulls through flesh, Arthit audibly groans, fists gripping the quilt under him so tightly that his knuckles turn white.
And with the final stitch to seal the wound shut, Kongpob cuts off the end of the thread, then whispers a quiet shhhhhh in an attempt to soothe him, like he would with kids who stumble in from P.E. with a particularly nasty scrape.
Then, he cleans the tweezers and pulls off his gloves cautiously, still watching Arthit closely as he exhales through the worst of his excruciating pain. Eventually, though, his breath evens out, and he relaxes a little. Kongpob gets off of the bed from behind Arthit and stands in front of him now, holding his hands up.
“I’m…going to go wash up.”
“Okay,” Arthit nods, leaning back on one wrist. “Thank you.”
Kongpob doesn’t move, though, pondering until Arthit slowly looks up, eyes questioning.
“You’re not going to disappear on me again, are you?”
He finds himself blurting out the question before he can stop himself. Arthit immediately lowers his gaze again, as if having had his mind read.
“I’ve…caused you enough trouble for the night.”
“You shouldn’t be moving around so much with your shoulder like that. You could tear the stitches.”
“It’s fine, I can—”
“I’ll be worried.”
There, he’d said it.
Arthit blinks at him, stunned by the sentiment. Nobody, in his years of dashing around the Bangkok night, had ever shown even the slightest concern for his well-being, and even as his employees would scramble at his feet and leave generic store-bought gifts on his desk vying for his affection, he would return most nights to an empty penthouse, save for when housekeeping staff were on the tail end of the job as he unlocked the door.
A part of him knows that letting anyone in on his secret is a risk that would not only put his life in danger, but hadn’t he been the one to seek help in the first place? As the fates would have it, and as his weakening state that night had almost given him away as he flew home to somehow will away his latest injury, he’d taken a leap of faith and ducked into one of the balconies of the nearest building.
And Kongpob had nursed him, patched up the near-infected scrape, and not asked any questions.
But worry? Perhaps Arthit had assumed that, much like his strange abilities, he could disappear out of sight and consequently out of mind, to become once more a wallflower. Apparently, he’d underestimated this strange friendship he’d formed with the nurse, having decided for both of them that it would be best if he kept his distance beyond necessity.
Now, he watches Kongpob’s pinched brows await his response, and can’t help but feel an odd warmth spreading in his chest.
“Okay. I won’t disappear this time.”
Kongpob nods, seemingly satisfied, although he reaches past Arthit to grab his bloodied shirt. “I’ll wash this for you. You can borrow one of my shirts. In the third drawer over there,” he nods at the plain dresser, the top of which is lined with stacks and stacks of comic books.
Arthit hears the water from the sink running, and gingerly stands to retrieve a clean shirt. He pauses, though, thumbing gently through the tall stacks, most of them seemingly placed in order of release date, many tucked carefully into sealed plastic pouches, not a wrinkle in sight.
“You read them, too?”
Kongpob says, looking over as he pulls a hanger off the rack in his closet and drapes the damp shirt onto it. Arthit carefully replaces the volumes into their tidy pile, then tilts his head side to side.
“A few here and there when I was a kid. It’s…much less glamorous in practice.”
Kongpob chuckles, hooking the hanger on the closet door. “You don’t have a superhero name or a cool lycra suit, then?”
“No,” Arthit lets out a laugh, and Kongpob bites his lip, because it’s the first time he’s seen Arthit smile. Granted, he’s usually bleeding out and in pain, but it’s still a sight to behold. “I’m not some hero. Just a lonely nerd who can fly and become invisible.”
“What about a tragic, rags-to-riches backstory?”
“Oh, I suppose I sort of have one of those, although it’s really not that tragic. Not an orphan, but my parents shipped me off to boarding school at age ten and I essentially haven’t spoken to them since I was eighteen.”
“And the rich part?”
“I…run my own business.”
An understatement if he’d ever made one, but Kongpob doesn’t need to know just how deep his pockets really are.
“Cool,” Kongpob says simply, before remembering that Arthit is still very much shirtless and standing in front of him all muscled and roughed up.
It’s entirely expected, given that most of the superheroes he’s grown up reading about are in top physical condition, but it’s one thing to look at sharply coloured illustrations and an entirely different thing to see the real thing up close, goosebumps from the chilly air forming over warm, pale skin.
He averts his gaze before Arthit catches him staring. “I, uh…I can get you a waterproof plaster if you want to take a shower or something.”
Arthit looks down at himself, noting his somewhat dishevelled, sweaty state. A shower sounds nice, but…
“Are you sure? I don’t want to intrude on you any more than necessary.”
“It’s the weekend. If I had a life, I’d be out on a Friday night, not lying around my apartment ready to nurse an injured superhero.”
“I’m not a superhe—”
“Right, so you’ve said.”
It falls quiet between them, before Kongpob reaches up to scratch the back of his own neck. “Don’t worry, I may never have had another man sleep in my bed, but I’m not desperate enough that I would do anything to you beyond accidentally kicking you in my sleep…you know, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort,” Arthit smirks at Kongpob’s rambling. “So…you’re…not…you haven’t—”
“I’m a huge virgin, yes, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“I was going to say ‘haven’t been in a relationship before’ but I guess that works, too.”
“Right,” Kongpob’s blush darkens. “But no, not that either.”
Arthit smiles gently. “Neither have I.”
“I would say I’m surprised, but the way you keep showing up here and bleeding everywhere, I can guess what you’re doing most nights instead of dating,” he nods at the stitched up cut. He swallows, realising that amidst his rambling, he’d indirectly suggested that he found Arthit good-looking. “Uh…well, speaking of which, I’ll get you that plaster.”
It takes everything within him to shake off whatever nerves still linger in his body as he tidies his supplies back into the enormous kit and straightens out the bedsheets while Arthit showers.
No, he has no ulterior motives in asking Arthit to stay other than to make sure he doesn’t accidentally tear open his stitches, but a man in his bed is still a man in his bed, no matter how innocent the context.
An extremely attractive man, at that, and Kongpob has no idea how to behave. The last time he’d shared a bed with anyone had been at camp in high school, during which his classmate had snored all night and hogged the blanket, leaving Kongpob to shiver on the wooden plank of a mattress.
He’d handed Arthit a clean set of clothes before the man had slipped into the bathroom, and now, he flicks the lights off, the way they’d been before the doorbell had rung. Somehow he can’t bring himself to relax, laying on his side as he stares out the window for some time before he hears the bathroom door click open, and the soft padding of bare feet on his tiled floor.
A few shuffling noises here and there, and then the space on the mattress next to him dips down slightly, and there’s a faint warmth behind him as Arthit tucks himself under the blanket.
Kongpob doesn’t move, focusing on breathing, as he imagines the man next to him is, too.
He’s safe, he tells himself. He’s been stitched up, and he’s fine now.
His quiet self-reassurance allows his shoulders to loosen slightly.
“Arthit?” he says softly into the room.
“I know it’s like, your thing, or whatever…but…don’t disappear again without saying goodbye.”
Arthit turns his head slightly to glance at the back of Kongpob’s head in the dark.
“I promise. Go to sleep.”
“Good night, Arthit.”
Kongpob finally allows his eyes to fall shut. If he doesn’t turn around, maybe he won’t open them in the morning to an empty pillow.
“Good night, Kongpob.”