The Flowers You Let Die
Sunny's running away again.
Basil watches the other boy turn around in slow-motion, watches as Sunny's shaking hand fumbles for the doorknob as fear reflects dimly in his eyes. Basil's room is dark but he sees it all perfectly clear. Sometimes when Basil looks at Sunny he sees Mari. He remembers the fear in her eyes too. Remembers how she'd looked as they hung her head in that noose; her open eye had shone like a glinting accusation in the moonlight.
Sunny's eyes are the same color, the same shape, hold the same light. As he grows older they only look more and more similar.
A shiver jolts through Basil's body and his fingers blindly grab for the scissors he'd left on his desk. He's bolting forward before he can second-guess himself. He can't let Sunny leave. Not now. Sunny gasps as his head slams against the door and Basil only feels a numb pang of guilt as he holds his friend down. He has to do this; he has to free them both.
He's never been a fighter.
That doesn't mean he isn't something worse.
Basil feels his thoughts bounce off the walls as he stares down at the boy cowering beneath him. He sees the darkness behind Sunny's back and takes a shaky breath. He can do this. He tightens his hand around the weapon lying in his sweaty palm and tries to force himself to be brave.
"Stop struggling! I have to do this—" Basil feels hot tears on his cheeks but he has to kill the monster that's making Sunny bad. Sunny will thank him afterwards and then maybe they'll be friends again. They'll be friends and everything will go back to how it once was.
Sunny's bitten nails scratch at his face, desperately searching for purchase, but Basil is bigger for once. Sunny was never the peak of athleticism and the last four years haven't improved that in the slightest. Basil's slightly shorter but Sunny is so thin and pale that he can hardly fight back. (How did someone so tiny murder Mari? His hands hardly have any force behind them. See, it can't have been Sunny. It isn't possible.) In fact, underneath him, Sunny feels tiny and weak and Basil has never felt stronger than someone around his age before. Usually he's the one being picked on but now suddenly the positions are reversed and he's the one on top.
He doesn't know how bullies do it. He feels sick to his bones. His fingers shake around his safety scissors and Sunny's eyes widen as he catches sight of them in the dull moonlight streaming through the window. Basil's sure his own eyes look just as scared, look just as haunted.
"Just hold still. I won't h-hurt you—" he whispers and stabs downwards. His aim is panicked and rushed and Sunny cries out as a gash slices across his forehead. That isn't what Basil had meant to stab. Sunny flails out and punches Basil in the eye, forcing him backwards, and the scissors skitter across the floor towards the bed. The shadow behind Sunny flairs and Basil suddenly feels like they've transported back four years.
If Mari's eyes still haunt him, Sunny's eyes from that day terrorize him. And now they're looking at him again.
They look accusing.
"W-Why are you looking at me like that?" Basil whimpers, clutching a hand to his bruised eye. He's just trying to help. He just wants to make everything better again.
Tears stream from his eyes and something flickers across Sunny's face. He looks frozen, transfixed by the purple mottling Basil's swollen skin, and then he collapses onto the floor. He shakes, his eyes distant and far away, and Basil crawls backwards on aching hands and knees. His fingers curl around the scissors again and he's breathing so hard it feels like his ribs are going to break through his skin. Bile prickles at the base of his throat.
He gets up to his feet and limps back over to the other boy. Sunny doesn't look up, he just keeps staring off blankly into the distance. He looks like a doll like that, lifeless and limp, like he's not even really there.
Maybe he can see the monsters too.
"I'm going to save us," Basil promises.
The world is a blur but when he looks down he sees the shadow. The monster. It's not behind Sunny anymore; it's curled up tight in the other boy's eye, staring up at Basil like a target. A white beacon.
Basil takes a shaky breath.
And then he kills the monster.
Basil wakes up in the hospital.
His eyes open and a stream of pure white light welcomes him back into the world of the living. For a moment he wonders if he's dead. If he's dead then maybe he'll finally be able to tell Mari that he's sorry. Maybe she'll even smile at him again and forgive him for telling such a horrible lie about her. For doing such a terrible thing to her.
Then the white light flushes with other colors and he looks up at his friends' blurry, worried faces. There's Kel and Aubrey and Hero...and— No, there's someone missing. His head feels light and numb and like it's padded with cotton on the inside. He tries to sit up but none of his limbs move how he wants them to. He can't remember what happened. All he remembers is blood. Lots of it.
Basil looks down just as Sunny stumbles into the doorway of his hospital room. There's a white bandage tied around his eye and Basil's mind is blissfully blank as he stares at it. There's no shadow behind him. Sunny looks at him—really looks at him for the first time in years—and he starts crying as a broken smile curls up his split lips. That breaks through the cocktail of medications the doctors must have him on because Basil feels a trek of wetness slip down his cheek as well. It's all going to be okay.
He did it. Sunny is back.
The monster is gone.
Sunny opens his mouth and Basil feels his eyes slip shut again in pure relief. Four years of guilt slip off his shoulders and he sinks heavily into the mattress as Sunny's voice spills into the small room and he tells their friends about the terrible thing the monster made them do.
The weighty fear that had been cemented at the bottom of his stomach clears and Basil feels free. Feels light and boundless. The darkness recedes and finally he sees clearly again.
Hero and Aubrey and Kel's faces look horrified but Basil doesn't even care. He reaches out blindly towards Sunny, straining important tubes and bags of liquid, and pulls the other boy close.
"Thank you," he whispers hoarsely. "Thank you."
Sunny smiles, small and quiet, but it's still there. A blot of red has started to bleed through the bandage covering his eye.
Basil's fingers dig into Sunny's skin and he's afraid to let go again. He's scared Sunny will walk out of the room and vanish from his life forever. He can't let that happen, not now after he has his best friend back. Not now that Sunny's finally looking at him again.
He looks around them at the others and his high dampens slightly at the looks on their faces. Aubrey's glaring at Sunny, her lip quivering like she's about to cry. Kel looks shattered. Hero's not looking at them at all. It's going to be okay, he's back to normal, Basil wants to say but his tongue is paper dry and he tastes blood in his mouth. His blunt nails curve little indents in Sunny's arm with how hard he's holding on. His heart stutters against his ribs as the drugs finally give way to reality. Anxiety hits.
A nurse walks in, rushing over to his vitals as they start to beep erratically next to his bed.
"Get out." She tells all of his friends as another grabs a bag on the other side of the bed and a third takes Sunny by the shoulder and guides him out of the room.
The world starts to blur again as a shot is inserted into the soft skin at the inside of his elbow and the last thing he sees is a smear of blood on his fingertips.
Sunny hadn't even flinched.
He hadn't tried to get away.
Basil's vision cascades into darkness again but he smiles. Maybe this time Sunny will finally stay with him. Maybe he's finally done running away.
And everything will go back to how it once was.
It's the first thing Basil asks about when he wakes up again. The answer he receives is that Sunny checked out the day before and his mom had packed him into a car and sped out of the town with him as soon as possible. A part of Basil doesn't blame her. She's already lost one child after all. Now her second child's gotten his eye gauged out and he doesn't think either of them have any energy left in them to lie about how that happened.
Still, it feels an awful lot like he's alone. Like Sunny has abandoned him again. Basil stares down at his hands and notes that someone has cleaned the blood off of his fingers. He fiddles with the starchy hospital blankets and tries to keep his tears at bay as he processes the revelation that Sunny's really gone.
A part of him feels relieved.
A bigger part of him is shattered into a million pieces all along the inside of his chest. He rocks back and forth and tries not to think about it. He should be happy, right? His breaths quicken again as his eyes dart around the sterile room.
Why does he still feel bad? Why didn't killing the monster make everything better?
He tugs at one of the tubes in his arm and watches the blood in it shoot up and down inside. It hurts when he pulls at it. He's stuck.
Sunny will come back for him. He always does if Basil waits long enough. It'd been that way during hide-and-seek, after long school vacations, he even came back after four years.
Basil lies back down on the stiff bed and closes his eyes. He's used to waiting for Sunny.
He's done it a thousand times before.
When he opens his eyes again a familiar world stretches before him. A purple sky glows above his head and a smile curves up his lips as he runs forward into the flower field in front of him. Tulips and sunflowers brush against his knees as he pushes through them. The flowers never get damaged here, they always look perfect.
Just like he always is, in the center of the field a figure stands waiting for him. When Basil gets close enough, Sunny turns around and smiles at him. Here his hair is black and his skin is completely white; Basil thinks it suits him. He still has both of his eyes in this world and Basil beams at him as he tangles their fingers together. "I did it— Sunny, I saved you out there. In the other world. I saved both of us."
Sunny smiles at him and it makes Basil's heartbeat skyrocket. His friend doesn't talk here but that's alright. Basil never needed him to. Just being together is more than good enough. Sunny tugs them down so that they're sitting in the soft, vibrant grass and Basil clings to his arm, reluctant to let go. He always is.
"You, uhm, you left but t-that's alright. I know you'll come back. You had to go, it wasn't your fault."
It's never Sunny's fault.
Basil blinks up as Sunny puts a comforting hand on his head and gently ruffles his hair. Warmth blossoms throughout Basil's chest and he smiles shyly as he buries his face against his best friend's shoulder. This is how things should be. How they will be.
"I hope you didn't miss me too much while I was in the hospital..." Basil mumbles and quietly delights in the small pout Sunny has on his face when he glances up. This Sunny lets Basil know how much he's been missed. This Sunny needs Basil too.
He knows the real Sunny needs him too, he just doesn't understand that yet.
"I really missed you too," Basil confesses quietly and tilts his head up. He stares into his friend's two black eyes and softly brushes his palm up the Sunny's perfect face. He'd stabbed this same face just a few days ago. Weeks ago? He can't remember. His thumb brushes over Sunny's eye and a sudden chill runs up his spine.
He jerks back his hand and curls his arms around his knees, pulling them in close to his chest. Sunny's brows crinkle in confusion and Basil shakes his head, "s-sorry. I think it's the medication. It kind of messes with my head. I'm okay."
He doesn't want to not be okay. When he's not okay bad things happen.
Sunny seems to sense this—of course he notices, he's you, he's just your imagination, SHUT UP—and suddenly he's hugging Basil before any more bad thoughts can overwhelm his mind. Basil wraps his arms around Sunny's back, holds him close, and stays like that. Lying in the grass around them are countless photographs. All of them have Sunny in them. They're the photographs Basil kept for himself; the ones he didn't put in his photo album. Everyone's faces are blacked out except his and Sunny's. They're the countless polaroids Basil snuck into his pockets instead of sharing with his friends. Basil takes a deep breath and calms down. Sunny always comforted him. And all around him is Sunny.
He takes another deep breath.
He lets it out.
Everything will be okay.
The Sunny in the other world will come back for him.
And until then, he can wait as long as he has to.