‹ Prequel: Sanitarium
Sequel: Feels Like Forever

Hope for the Willing


Jack grinned widely as his pencil seemed to glide effortlessly across his paper. He was finally getting the hang of it, after weeks and weeks of endless practice. At that moment, he couldn't have felt prouder with himself. Then he heard it.

"No, baby, not like that," Alex said, sighing as quietly as he could manage. His own hand moved into Jack's line of vision before it lifted the younger boy's up. As the pencil was picked up, Jack made sure his gaze followed it closely.

Alex looked like he was just about ready to give up, but he still slipped the sliver of wood and lead from how his boyfriend was gripping it in his palm, as though he was three again. It was held up as Alex did his best to single-handedly readjust Jack's fingers so that they curved around the object just right.

Jack smiled (in a way that almost made him look insane) in thanks, pulling a smile from Alex as well, but it disappeared as his hand was lowered and he tried to follow along with the big letters printed on the paper. The pencil shook in Jack's hold before it fell from his grip completely, and he frowned at where it had been only moments prior to ending up in his lap.

A round of frustrated tears started to quickly prick in his eyes, and he couldn't bring himself to look back up. He knew the face Alex would be giving him. It was always the same when something didn't go right. He knew it'd been weeks since he'd woken up and he knew he should've been making more progress than he was, but he was trying so fucking hard, and Alex just didn't seem to realize that. He would do his best to be patient and supportive, and Jack wholeheartedly realized that they were both being pushed to their limits for two completely different reasons, but Alex was losing faith much quicker than Jack was.

It made Jack kind of mad, if he was being completely honest. Not only had Alex promised that he'd help Jack along until everything was back to normal in their lives, but he was also the reason Jack was in the hospital with the mental capacity of a young child in the first place.

Only, he hadn't actually been reduced to being three-years-old again.

He hadn't lost his memories, which could be viewed as a pretty good thing, but in reality? It fucking sucked, to put it bluntly. He could remember being normal, writing his name and feeding himself and being with Alex both innocently and intimately. Now he couldn't even hold a normal conversation, what with still needing speech classes. He knew the words, he just couldn't enunciate them like he could before.

That was his main issue. It was all there, every last bit of information that a man his age could possibly need to get by. And he knew it was all there. He could remember literally everything that had happened before the accident, but he just... couldn't access it, no matter how hard he tried.

It made him feel... well... useless. He was nothing more than a waste of space, time, and resources.

Then, when he'd actually start to feel like he was finally accomplishing something, that he was genuinely recovering like he should've been, Alex would tell him that no, that's not the right way, baby, try again.

He knew Alex didn't say it to bring down his self-esteem or make him feel inadequate. Alex had never been like that. No, in reality, he was just running out of steam. It disheartened him, too, seeing Jack like that; knowing his boyfriend could do so very few things on his own, and even then it was a just barely.

He could curl his fingers, sit up in bed, smile and frown and pucker his lips for a kiss (even though his features would be so very exaggerated due to little muscle control, to the point where he could only either grin like crazy or frown like he was close to throwing a tantrum), and shift his body around if he focused enough.

"Baby, hey," Alex said softly, pulling Jack from his thoughts. A hand reached down to pluck the pencil from Jack's lap, placing it on the tray with the paper before the calloused pad of a single finger was pressed to the underside of the virtually-immobile man's chin, and his face was lifted until they made eye contact once again. The older man smiled gently, allowing his thumb to sweep along Jack's skin to wipe up the few tears that had managed to escape. "It's okay," he assured. "You're doing really good, baby. You held it longer than you did yesterday, right?"

Jack wanted to snap because, if anything, he hadn't held that damn pencil even half as long as he had before, but he couldn't. All he could do was sit and stare and try to project his emotions in nothing more than his eyes.

Alex sighed again, knowing that Jack knew he'd lied, and ceased contact just long enough to gather his things and stand from the same seat he occupied day in and day out. "Alright, I'm gonna get going now. I'll be back bright and early, okay?" His palm was placed back on Jack's cheek as he leaned in. Jack lifted his head up further, his lips puckering almost comically.

A soft peck of a kiss, a murmured "I love you so much, baby," and then Alex was walking from the room with a small smile and wave, leaving Jack to think back to how he'd ended up stuck in those four walls.

A romantic and spontaneous Saturday afternoon drive was all it had been... and then a pickup ran a red light, successfully t-boning their Kia. The damage didn't necessarily make sense—Alex only had some minor scratching and bruising, not even a slight concussion or anything, even with being on the side that was hit. Then again, the passenger side had collided with the ground before scraping along the concrete. It was amazing Jack's bruises and scratches had healed as well as they had, especially in only a few weeks time, and he's lucky to have only been in a medically-induced coma for that first week. Losing all of his abilities, on the other hand, wasn't such a lucky ordeal.

Jack groaned loudly, head dropping back down to see the pencil, still on his tray and mocking him. That hopeless frown soon shifted into one of determination, and all of Jack's energy was put into once again moving his arm enough to pick it up.

It didn't necessarily hurt, but his energy was drained, causing slight pants to fall from his agape mouth. The next little roadblock, of course, was the fact that he couldn't figure out how to get his fingers to move like Alex had made them. It was with a bit of deliberation that he decided to skip that part over for the time being, and he instead began to refocus on the upper and lowercase letters printed on his paper, following along as best he could with the dotted images below the solid black ones.

Two hours passed where Jack sat on his bed, tongue poking from between his lips and shaky, cramped hand pressing the dulled tip of the pencil to the nearly covered paper. His writing had improved, but it hadn't been by much. That didn't stop him from feeling satisfied enough to grin down at the paper in victory. When a random nurse walked in to check on him and saw the way his features stretched, she couldn't help but smile back. And, even though Jack couldn't ask for it, she figured he'd probably enjoy a sharper pencil and a few more sheets of the paper, along with a few blanks. She was even kind enough to stick around to make sure that he held the pencil the correct way, her hand placed over his as he worked his way through the entire alphabet once before she had to leave to continue on with her rounds.

Jack worked deep into the night.


"I can't do it anymore, Rian," Alex gasped through his sobs. His hands were covering his face, and his shoulders hunched inward, shaking violently. "I don't even see the point in trying to reteach him all of these things. He's not... he hasn't..."

Rian didn't say anything as he waited for his best friend to continue, and when all he received was a bout of coughing, he sat back and pondered what Alex could've meant. "Are you... are you thinking about leaving him?" he asked after a few moments of considering all possibilities.

"Yes... no... I don't know, Ri, I don't know what to do anymore," Alex choked out over his crying. "I want my old Jack back. I want my fucking boyfriend back. I don't even know if I'll ever get him back now."

"Jack is still Jack," Rian pointed out. "He's still the same outgoing, weird guy you fell for. His personality didn't change—at least, I'm fairly certain it didn't—and I know that you're not shallow enough to only like him for his appearance, but that didn't change either... except for a few scars, but those shouldn't be important. So he's having some trouble with things—he'll get those back in time. The doctor told you that when you first saw him in the hospital, right? You gotta be patient with him. This is all hard for him, too. He can't do anything but sit in that same room day in and day out and be helpless, and he can probably tell that you're close to just quitting on him. He needs time, and he needs you to be there for him."

"But I just... I feel helpless, too. I'm the reason he's there, and nothing I do is helping him. It's been months. He still can't hold a pencil or a spoon, and he can hardly get two words out."

"That's why you need to stay. You put him there. I know it wasn't intentional, and I know you didn't think a fucking truck would smash your car. I know you wish it was you instead, and I know that he's counting on you. If it was you in there, I think he'd try and convince people that he was hurt too so that he could have the bed next to yours so that he wouldn't have to leave your side. He would be there for you every single step of the way, and you need to do that for him. You love him, and now's the time to show him that more than anything."

Alex didn't say anything, merely continuing to sob into his hands until he fell asleep from exhaustion, practically forcing Rian to carry the barely-older man into his room and the bed that was much too large for one person.


When the next morning rolled around, Alex took only a few minutes to recall the things Rian had said before he was climbing into his shower. His usual routine seemed almost mechanical at that point, and before he knew it, he was stepping through the front doors of the hospital, forcing smiles at the nurses he was close to befriending.

Jack was just blinking his tired eyes open as the elder stepped into the room, and he smiled his hello as his boyfriend helped him sit up in bed before a quick good morning kiss was exchanged. Alex's eyes caught the papers as he backed away towards his seat, and he genuinely smiled at how the writing on each seemed better, though minimally at best, than the last.

"Did you do these, baby?" he asked, picking them up and flicking through them, eyes looking towards Jack momentarily. He smiled impossibly wider at the fact that Alex seemed truly proud with all of his hard work.

The last page reached didn't have any print on the large blue and red lines along the sheet, and the penmanship was definitely difficult to read. Alex realized that was probably because there was nothing to trace over. It did, however, only take him a few moments to decipher the lines that could've passed for scribbles.

I love you, too.

At that point it looked like Alex couldn't control the muscles in his face or how wide his grin spread either. "Did you do this all on your own? With no help from any of the nurses?" he inquired, putting the other papers back down from where he'd found them. Jack even went so far as to make a humming noise low in his throat, smile still splitting his face, and Alex couldn't help but move from his chair for another kiss.

Honestly, Alex felt kind of silly as he thought about the internal fight he'd been having with himself only hours prior. What could've possibly possessed him into thinking that he'd be better off without Jack was nothing less than insane, he realized.

As he pulled away from Jack's puckered lips, he decided on pressing a handful more around his beau's face, earning a few approving noises to come bubbling from the younger man's mouth. Another small kiss on the lips, and he was leaning their foreheads together, empty hand reaching up so that his fingers could rub along Jack's jaw lightly.

A breathless laugh escaped between them before Alex finally found the words he hadn't expected to say for a while longer. Words that were much more genuine than most of the things he'd said since his boyfriend had woken up; words that were just as true as the 'I love you's he'd repeat every night before departing.

"I'm so, so fucking proud of you."
♠ ♠ ♠
idk bout this
so tbh idk how this has subs already bc i thought sanitarium stopped being relevant like a month ago
which reminds me:
i had that fic saved up for, like, seven months
if i was gonna continue it, don't you think i'd have some p good ideas for it???
i've got it covered, don't worry bout it k~
and thanks for commenting on that: jagklex, jalex_barakarth3012, notabletoconnect, LittleMiss0bvious, xMareBear14x, fioleeandjalex5ever2, jaseyslullabies, brxndneweyes, chemicalsquidgys, Bringmethe_kellic, brileigh, m0riarty, emilygrace0516, alltimelesbians, kickthepj, and alltimetrotta!
love you all!