Ted didn’t think life could get any more heinous than getting pushed off a cliff by evil robots, but he was wrong. Very wrong. It turns out surviving the fall is much, much worse.
It’s not some miraculous trick on his part, he doesn’t get snagged on a branch or stray rock outcropping or wake up in some cool afterlife like what happens in all the movies, he just lands. Hard.
It’s almost like getting the wind knocked out of him when he falls back on his bed too fast, only about a gazillion times worse.
His body lights up like a firework on impact, pain shooting through every part of everywhere all at once, like a burst amp, or a nuclear explosion. It makes his vision cut out for a few seconds, sudden and splotchy and nauseating, and when he comes back to he’s choking and trying to find the air that should be in his lungs.
But he can’t breathe.
He’s just laying there, twitching and flinching and gulping in nothing like a beached fish as hot dust settles over his face. But he tries.
Ted squeezes his eyes shut against the pain, against the too bright sun and the swimming sky and tries to make his lungs work.
For one minute.
And then all at once the breath comes crashing back to him and instead of relief everything just hurts on a whole new level of bogus.
There’s pain in his ribs and chest every time his lungs expand, splitting up his sides and making him cough out a sound that’s somewhere halfway between a gasp and a scream. Something hot rises in his throat and before he can think to stop it he’s spewing his guts out all over the rocks and dirt, leaving him trembling like he’s just gone through another one of his and Bill’s Halloween horror movie binges, only this time with a severe lack of candy and popcorn.
Ted really wishes he could be cowering against the couch cushions right now, heavy with piled on blankets and an oversized T-shirt and able to squeeze Bill’s hand every time there’s a jump scare, but he’s not.
Ted screws his eyes shut, letting out another shuddering wince as his back pops in a way it’s most definitely not supposed to, and finds he suddenly can’t seem to open then again. Everything feels stuffy there, behind his eyelids. His brain is all washy and hard to hold onto, like static, almost, or like he’s been riding The Great Gutbuster at the county fair too long.
Too much spinning, he should really get off.
Ted takes another breath, and is just aware enough to catch a confused shout echoing down from the cliff above before everything goes dark.
He wakes to a sharp blow to his side.
“Woah dude you were right, he’s totally still alive!”
“Yeah, and looking most triumphantly fucked up too.”
Ted groans and squints at the blobs of color going in and out of his vision. There’s another blow to his stomach and he makes some high wince of protest, but he can’t think clearly enough to do much more.
Someone snickers, and he must be really out of it because it almost sounds like his own voice. “Let’s just leave him here dude, it’s not like he’s going anywhere.”
“Most astute observation Evil Ted!”
There’s the harsh sound of metal clanking against metal, another rough kick to Ted’s ribs, and then nothing.
He wakes up the second time to a dry mouth and much too clear a head for his current situation. He blinks a few times against the sunlight, licking something sour from his lips, and freezes when his arm comes into focus.
He stares at it for a moment, and then swallows thickly. “Oh.”
Ted thought, or hoped, that the whole thing was just one, big, post-breakup-snack-binge-induced nightmare, but…
His arm is twisted at a weird angle, a little too wrong to be right, too bumpy and flat in places, and there’s red patches seeping through the arm of his hoodie.
“Bogus,” he mutters breathlessly.
Though, to be fair, the rest of his body isn’t doing much better.
His cheek is tacky with what smells most non-triumphantly like dried bile, and there’s a bone deep ache running hot under every inch of his skin. It’s only accentuated when he tries to adjust his head and gets a stab of pain to his lower back instead. Ted hisses and immediately stops the attempt, slowly settling back to his previous position.
From this angle he can only really see his left arm and the top half of his chest, and beyond that miles and miles of desert rock. His head definitely landed at a most inconvenient angle, he thinks.
“Heinous,” he mumbles into the dirt. “Hey Bill, dude, can you move?” he calls over casually. Ted really wants to sit up, or at the very least move out of the sun. The midsummer San Dimas heat is not helping his usual case for extra layers; he feels like he’s being baked alive.
“Bill?” Ted tries again after a few seconds. There’s no response. His throat is already scratchy enough as is, but the slight flush of panic that rises from his gut at the silence just makes it feel that much worse. There are a few tense moments in which Ted’s mind goes to all sorts of bogus places, a sudden rush of badbadbad, and then it hits him.
“Oh.” He lets out a small sigh of relief. “Right.”
There’s nothing to worry about, Bill just hasn’t woken up yet, that’s all. It was a most intense fall, and while the two of them have been lucky enough to sync up quite excellently on most things over the years, even Ted can admit that regaining consciousness at the exact same time would be a rather improbable display of coordination.
So he decides to let the next few minutes pass in relative silence, trying to focus instead on finding a way to breathe that doesn’t make make his lungs feel like they’re gonna explode. He finally settles on going slow and careful through his nose, because even though his chest still protests at the movement, it’s much more bearable than getting a mouthful of dust every time he inhales.
Now all that’s left to do is figure out whether the wet patch he can feel spreading across his back is something he should be worried about or not. Well… that and the fact that he still hasn’t heard any indication of Bill waking up yet.
Ted swallows harshly around the lump growing in his throat.
Yeah, that second one’s one’s definitely the more pressing issue.
“Bill?” he asks tentatively. He can’t see him with how he landed, and trying to do so would require fully turning his head, just the idea of which makes his back ache all over again.
“Bill?” he tries again. “Dude?”
Still no response.
Ted takes another slow breath in through his nose and cracks an awkward smile he knows Bill can’t see. “This really is a most non-non-non-triumphant situation we’ve found ourselves in, huh dude?” he jokes, making a half assed attempt at a chuckle and getting a zing of pain to his ribs as a result. He cringes at the feeling. “Yeah, sorry, not the right time.”
He waits patiently for a reply. Maybe a tired, “Shut up Ted!” or a noise of agreement, or even just a little huff that lets him know Bill is there and alright. He can’t even hear him breathing, Ted realizes, somewhere in the back of his mind, but he pointedly ignores that line of thought.
“I’m, uh,” Ted licks his lips nervously, “bleeding and stuff, I think.” Because yeah, that wet spot is definitely getting bigger, and yeah, the humid air wafting up from his collar is indeed carrying the most deplorably harsh smell of a bloody nose. Then again, Ted can also feel warm liquid dripping all over his lips and chin, so maybe he’s just getting things mixed up.
“It would be kind of cool if it wasn’t, you know, super painful and, uh, probably not good for me and stuff,” he settles on saying.
There’s still no reply. Ted can feel the worry from earlier rising again, worse than before, spreading out into his lungs and throat like a swarm of sick butterflies.
“Bill?” He closes his eyes, trying to block out the thoughts flooding in, the ones that he doesn’t ever want to have, and swallows tightly against the taste of iron. “Dude, you alright?”
When he gets more silence in response, Ted takes an unsteady breath. He just has to check, he tells himself. Bill is fine, just knocked out, but he has to check to prove to himself that he’s overreacting about the whole thing.
Everything is fine, Ted reminds himself, and then he grits his teeth, turns his head to the side in one excruciatingly fast moment, and Bill is—
He’s only laying a few inches away, staring right back at Ted, and for a second he lets himself pretend like that’s all it is. Ted lets himself grin in relief, and he lets himself believe that Bill is about to laugh, or smile, or call Ted a fag for being so close.
Because that’s what Bill would do. That’s what Bill… what he would’ve done… what he should’ve… should’ve...
But he doesn’t smile back, and Ted knows he won’t, and he can feel the moment that realization breaks him.
“Oh,” he whispers, and his voice cracks as he says it. “No no no nonononono . ” Ted drags his arm up towards Bill’s face, ignoring the way it makes his shoulder burn in its socket and his muscles flinch and shake. He needs to touch him, he needs to.
His fingers slide under Bill’s cheek, smooth and slick because there’s too much blood, and he freezes when he feels just how cold he is.
“Oh god dude,” he rasps out.
Bill has a nasty scrape across his temple, his jaw is slack and a little too off center, and his neck is bent in just the right way to make Ted’s stomach twist in a variable plethora of knots.
There’s blood pooling beneath his neck, too, wetting Ted’s fingers and clotting dark red to the curls sticking to Bill’s cheek and forehead. His hair is too pretty for this, Ted thinks. It should be soft and clean and smell like the shampoo he uses that Ted can never place the scent of. It shouldn’t be dirty and matted, it shouldn’t be wrong.
The eyes are the worst part of it by far, though.
Bill’s eyes, on the best of days, are bright and gorgeous and maybe, just maybe, get Ted to stare a little too long. They light up in this certain special Bill way whenever something good happens, like during a particularly savory jam session with Jo and Liz, or when Ted surprises him with pizza and a rented movie when he gets sick, or even if he’s just heard a really good joke. Bill’s eyes are always alive and aware and amazing and now they—aren’t.
They’re blank and empty, and they’re wrong. It’s all wrong, and it’s at that moment Ted knows crying can’t ever have hurt this bad for anyone else, because no one else has had to lose Bill. He’s the first, and he can say with certainty that it is the single most heinous thing to ever happen to anyone. Ever.
Ted hiccups and tries with little success to wipe some of the blood and grime off Bill’s cheek, only really managing to smear it around a bit. He wishes he could do more, but it hurts too much when he moves his fingers.
He takes a shaky breath.
“I’m sorry dude,” he whispers, “I should’ve—” Ted cuts himself off with a shudder and tries to make use of his tongue again. It feels so heavy and slow.
“I should’ve... done something, I don’t know. Maybe tried harder to convince you those usses were bad, or tried to fight them or-or I don’t know, I don’t—” his breath catches again and then all at once everything’s coming out way too fast and Ted can’t seem to stop. “I’m sorry dude, I'm so so sorry, I don’t know what I should’ve done and now we’re here and you-and you-and I don’t know what to do or what I should’ve done and I just don’tknowI’msosorryIshould’ve—” a high pitched wine crawls out of Ted’s throat and crashes into a sob.
His fingers tangle tighter against Bill’s scalp, scrambling for purchase, for something to ground him and let him know things will be okay.
Bill’s always been the one to talk him down when he gets like this, when he gets too fast and too much and starts losing himself in his own head. He was there when Ted’s mom left, he was there when Ted broke his arm after falling off the monkey bars in fifth grade, and he was there to comfort Ted after every one of his dad’s blow ups over the years. He’s always been the one to hold Ted’s hands and help him breathe and tell him he’s going to be okay and that things will be alright and somehow make it seem like he’s telling the truth.
But Bill can’t do that anymore, can he? There won’t be any more whispers of Dude, focus on me, or warm arms pulling Ted into a hug, or hushed insults about Captain Logan that never cease to make him laugh. There won’t be any of that now, because Ted’s on his own. He’s alone for the first time since kindergarten, and it’s terrifying.
He doesn’t want to be alone. He doesn’t even know if he can be alone.
“Looks like I’m a certified mess without you dude,” he whimpers in between gulping breaths, cracking a momentary smile that quickly fades.
“I’m not sure what to do about anything right now. I’m not sure and I just want to be sure, and I just wish you were here with me dude and I-I... god Bill.”
In a split second decision, Ted turns his whole body over onto one side to curl closer to Bill. It makes his vision spin and flash like his lids are full of pop rocks, and between what feels like a bomb going off in his nervous system, he’s pretty sure he blacks out for a second or two.
But it’s worth it.
It’s worth it because then he has something, then he’s a little less alone because he has Bill. Quiet, cold, wrong, Bill, but Bill all the same, and that’s enough. Ted will make it enough.
He lays there for a few agonizing seconds as his body settles back to its regular ache, his mangled knees bumping against Bill’s thigh as his breathing slowly evens out. And then, when he finally feels like he can move without blacking out, Ted lifts two, trembling fingers and slowly slides Bill’s eyes closed.
It’s a courtesy really, for both of them. This way Bill can just be sleeping, and Ted can still pretend his eyes are right. He lets out a small huff of relief at that, tracing his fingers down Bill’s face.
They pause on his lashes, delicate and light, and Ted never really noticed how pretty they were before now, did he?
The thought snags at his train of thought, and maybe it’s an after effect of moving so suddenly, or maybe the growing tug behind his eyes is something more than regular exhaustion, but he's suddenly hit with the realization of just how much he missed before now. He missed details and opportunities, chances to hang out and albums to listen to and... well there’s a lot he didn’t get to say to him, either.
Ted guesses he’s always had the notion that they’d have all the time in the world for that stuff, that they’d always be Bill and Ted, be able to grow up together and discover the world and figure things out along the way, together. But now…
Ted lets his hand drop back down to the gravel and stares, eyes tracing over Bill’s face.
He could’ve told him so many things, probably should’ve, too. Important things.
But maybe... well Ted’s never been a punctual kind of guy, and there’s no time like the present, right? What’s he got to lose?
He takes a deep breath, something sticky tickling the back of his throat.
“Hey, uh, Bill, my most esteemed colleague?” he starts, smiling bittersweetly at the words. “I um… have some stuff to say, I guess, before uh... well you know. I know you can’t hear me but… but it’s just important dude, so.”
He brushes a curl away from Bill’s eyebrow and his thumb lingers. “Um… well first off you should know that I was the one who stole your first Van Halen CD. I stuffed it right in my backpack when we were hanging out and then hid it somewhere at my old house so you wouldn’t find it. I’d give it back but y’know,” he almost shrugs, but thinks better of it, “‘s probably just lost now dude. Sorry.”
There’s a moment of silence where he realizes that he’s waiting for Bill to respond, and Ted bites his lip. “Fuck. Sorry I…” His thumb runs over Bill’s skin again and he takes a sobering breath.
“Right, so… next. Um… I totally think I lost your lucky guitar pick dude. I was messing around with it the other week and accidentally flicked it somewhere, but I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you’d be most egregiously pissed about it, I mean it’s your lucky pick dude, so I-I didn’t tell you, and I know that wasn’t the most courteous thing for me to do but I just really didn’t want you to get angry at me cause like, like I hate seeing you angry, dude, I hate—” His breath snags again and Ted has to pause before he says the next few words.
He swallows. “I hate… I hate when you’re angry at me, dude. I know I mess up a lot and stuff, so I probably deserve it, but like I-I never want to be the reason you feel bogus, dude, so knowing that I do the sometimes makes me feel… it makes me feel weird, dude, like all rotten and funky inside. I don’t want to make you feel bogus, Bill, I wanna make you… want to make you laugh and smile and stuff, and like I want to—” Ted squeezes his eyes shut and curls closer. “I want to like… I kinda want to kiss you dude. Or I did when you were... I should’ve told you that. Fuck, I should’ve told Liz that, too, I just—”
But he can’t seem to get the rest of the sentence out. His throat squeezes painfully tight and he knows that that’s what he really wishes he could’ve said.
I want to kiss you dude.
The thought shouldn’t hurt as much as it does.
Ted presses as close as he can to Bill’s side, and lets the sobs overflow again. He lets himself feel them, too, hears his voice wailing against the wind and the distant rumble of the highway, ugly and broken and crying for someone who isn’t there anymore.
Ted fits himself against Bill’s body as close as he can go and presses into his neck, and when the tug behind his eyes turns into a dull pressure spreading through his skull, when he feels his palms start to numb and finds it harder and harder to open his eyes, he lets it happen.
“I loved you dude,” he says finally, a whispered murmur as his last thread of consciousness slips away.
When Ted wakes up, he knows he must either be dreaming or in heaven, because he recognizes the arms wrapped tight around his shoulders. They’re Bill’s arms, only they can’t be, because Bill is dead.
And yet, when the arms retreat a bit, when the person pulls back, it’s Bill’s face that greets him too, normal and unharmed and looking at him with a deep set worry.
And then his mouth opens and it’s Bill’s voice as well, and it’s Bill, and it’s Bill, and all of a sudden Ted is crying again.
“Ted?” Bill asks for what he realizes must be the second time.
Ted surges forward and pulls him into a crushing hug, burying his face in his curls as he hiccups and blubbers. Bill stays frozen for only a second before he’s hugging him back just as hard, his hands fisting into the back of Ted’s jacket.
And it’s Bill. Real and solid and right.
Ted sinks to his knees and Bill follows suit, the two of them not daring to break apart for a second.
Bill’s hand comes up to cup the back of Ted’s head, his fingers threading into his hair to scrape comfortingly against his scalp.
“Hey hey hey, I’ve got you, dude,” Bill whispers, “I’ve got you.”
Ted whimpers and squeezes him just a little harder, letting out a long, shaking breath as he sinks further into the contact. Bill starts to rock them side to side lightly, nosing against Ted’s neck to murmur more gentle reassurances.
Nothing else matters in that moment. Ted’s whole world narrows down to the fact that he’s here, and Bill’s here, and that they’re both ok, and he never wants to make the mistake of taking that for granted ever again.
So, rushed and quiet and probably too slurred to really understand, he mutters, “I love you dude. I love you so much.”
Bill doesn’t stop rocking him, he doesn’t stop touching and holding and if anything he pulls Ted even closer.
“I know dude,” he hears him say, and even though it’s wry and wet and a little unsteady, Ted can feel the hot puff of air when he laughs fondly against his neck. “I love you too, Ted. So so much.”