It was dark, so very dark, but it was a darkness Sam had gotten used to, something he had accepted as inevitable the moment his light had faded that horrible day three years ago. Whenever he shut his eyes, it was all he could see, whenever he was left alone to his thoughts, it was all he could think about, which was exactly why Jack hated leaving Sam alone to his own shadowed thoughts.
All around him, it felt like an almost misty chill, a cold that started deep in his bones, traveling down his legs and arms, slithering like snakes around his chest, constricting his lungs, making it hard to breathe as he curled up into a tight circle, his knees pulled to his chest and his hands up, pressing against his forehead, his fingers tangling through his brown hair as his nightmare became more vivid.
“Okay?” the echoed voice was filled with sorrow, weakness and regret, and he remembered when he’d spoken them, three years ago in Lex’s apartment, holding Chris close to his side, his arms wrapped securely around the unconscious boy, “He was raped! He won’t be okay! I’ve already watched one person I cared about die, I can’t watch another!”
Sam winced at the sound of his own voice, and the things he had said, a disgusting feeling of nausea travelling up through his stomach as he covered his eyes, the darkness around him all consuming as he started to shake. He could hear the echoes from his past, but he couldn’t see it, he could only see darkness. The memories were eating him alive, and his chest twisted and throbbed painfully, his mouth gaping open in a silent scream as the words echoed around him, so loud that he was pretty sure his ears were bleeding.
“You really don’t get it, do you Brad? You think I’m here to get Chris in bed? I’m not. I’m here to look after him. Do I want to be intimate with him? Yea, I do, but not because he’s hot, or cute, or easy to control. I’ve been in love with him since freshman year. Meaning if you touch him again, I will end you. Every scar you gave him, I’ll erase them. Every bad memory, I’ll replace with something happy. I am not going to lose him.”
I am not going to lose him...
The phrase repeated itself, and Sam choked on his sobs as he dug his nails into the skin of his temple, more memories from his past playing out around him as he lay on the cold hard ground, like a movie put on repeat for a small child who wouldn’t stop screaming.
He had tried.
He had tried so damn hard.
“Would you be my boyfriend?”
But it hadn’t been enough.
More tears, so many tears, cutting into his raw cheeks and drawing blood as he rolled onto his back, his sobs hitching in his throat as he grabbed onto his chest, pinching his eyes closed and trying to get the memories to stop, to leave him alone.
“I love you... I love you.”
“Je te aime, ma cherie.”
Stop it, no more, he was already broken. Seeing all of this again just made the pain worse. Why, why were his memories so cruel to him? Why couldn’t he just forget?!
“Hang on, I have to go get something from my locker.”
No... don’t go...
“I’ll come with you.”
“Idiot, you’ll get in trouble for being late. At least I have an excuse. I’ll see you in a little.”
“I don’t want you somewhere other than beside me.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Chris. Don’t take too long.”
Stop, stop, stop, no more, it hurts too much! Chris, please! Please!
Sam’s dark green eyes snapped open, and he inhaled a sharp breath of air before rolling onto his side and coughing, tears still falling from his stinging eyes as he laid across his bed, gasping for breath, hands around his throat as he struggled to steady his breathing. His father had slipped onto the bed beside him, pulling him into a tight hug and rocking back and forth as he hushed him and whispered gently, running his hands through his son’s dark hair.
“You’re okay, Sammy, you’re okay,” Jack soothed, rubbing his hand up and down Sam’s back to try and help him relax, setting his chin on top of Sam’s head, waiting for him to calm down enough to speak, “Deep breaths.”
After quite a bit of crying, heavy breathing, and whimpering, Sam pulled away, sighing heavily and wiping at his eyes, “I’m... sorry,” he croaked, guilt heavy in his tone, “I woke you guys up again, didn’t I?”
“It’s fine, Sammy,” Jack reassured, sitting up with Sam huddled in his arms, “No one can blame you for your nightmares,” he bit his lip as he pushed his son’s hair back, “Therapy is still an option, you know. It may help you.”
Sam scoffed and pushed Jack’s hands aside, slipping away from his father to sit on the edge of the bed and grabbing his phone from his bedside table, looking down at the time, “Forget it, I’m awake now, and I’ve gotta get ready for work, I don’t have time to argue about shrinks.”
Jack slipped off the bed at the same time Sam did, watching his son move across his room to where his dresser was set up, “Fine, not a shrink, but you could always call Casey. He’s close enough to one, isn’t he? And you haven’t seen your friends in months,” he paused to let Sam reply, but when he son remained silent, he spoke again, “Stiles said he’d call if something changed, Sammy, but... three years is a long time to be in a coma. It may be time to start accepting-.”
“If you love me at all you will
finish that sentence,” Sam hissed out bitterly, tearing his shirt off and tossing it into his hamper as he pulled a clean one from his dresser, refusing to turn or acknowledge his father in any way, “I will not just accept it. As long as he’s breathing and his heart is beating, I will never just accept it!”
Jack tensed up, watching Sam seriously, “Even if the only reason he’s breathing is because of life support?”
Sam slammed his drawer shut and stormed towards the door, “I’m leaving. I have work.”
“Are you going to visit after?” Jack asked, following Sam out of his bedroom, and Sam gave a scoff before answering.
“Of course I am.”
“Alright,” Jack nodded as they both walked down the hallway, “Do you have your wallet? Your phone?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Sam asked, lifting up his phone and waving it.
A deep frown pulled at Jack’s lips, and he hesitated before speaking, “It might be time to get you a new phone, Sammy. The one you have is pretty worn.”
“I don’t need a new phone,” Sam growled, grabbing his bag from a chair in the kitchen and walking to the door, looking over his shoulder at his father, “I’ll see you tonight.”
Jack nodded his head quickly, “Alright. I love yo-,” Sam shut the door before Jack could finish his sentence, leaving the man alone to worry silently.
Outside, he zipped up the front of his jacket to keep the cold at bay, then stuffed his hands into his coat pockets as he watched his breath ghost into clouds in the cold morning air, walking down the sidewalk towards his workplace.
Three years... it had been three years since that day. It still played so freshly in Sam’s mind. The last time they slept together, the last time they kissed, the last time they touched, the last thing he said, and remembering it all hurt so badly, Sam often found himself wanting to simply curl into a ball and die there.
That day, hearing screaming out in the corridors, someone shouting that there was a crazed psycho with a gun at the school, naturally Sam had gotten worried. He remembered jumping up and bolting from the room despite the teachers yelling at him and telling him to sit back down. He didn’t give two shits about following the rules when Chris was out there with a psycho gunman!
At the time he had been so sure who that psycho gunman was, too. Brad Richardson.
Sam had tried to call Chris, but he wouldn’t answer his phone, which only served to worry Sam more. Turning a corner, he saw something he hadn’t been expecting. Chris standing in front of Brad, gun to his head, his back to Sam, who screamed Chris’ name, far too late as the gunshot echoed in the hall.
Sam gasped and jumped as a car horn blasted in his ear, shaking him from his terrible thoughts, and he stumbled back onto the sidewalk before scowling after the powder blue prius as it bulleted past.
Three long years. Chris was still alive, but barely. That’s what people would tell him at least, but he was sure, he was so sure Chris would be okay. If he was meant to die, then he would have succeeded in killing himself that day three years ago. April twenty-second, 2015, Wednesday at 8:30 AM, before the school day had even started. Sam remembered it perfectly.
After revealing that Chris was still alive, the EMT’s had carried his limp body out of the school and into the ambulance, where Sam demanded he ride with them. He remembered screaming because the EMT’s had wanted to deny his request, but in the end their empathy won out, and Sam was allowed to ride with his boyfriend.
In the back of the ambulance was where one of the two men had quickly checked over Chris, discovering that the bullet, though it had pierced through his skull, had stopped in the tissue of his brain, before getting deep enough to hit something vital, truly ending Chris’ life. Sam thought it was luck, fate, but the police investigation revealed that the truth was he simply aimed the wrong way, causing the bullet to stall and stop. Whatever, as long as he was alive, Sam didn’t care.
After an intensely long and stressful surgery, Doctor Stiles Marin, a close friend of Jack’s, came out to say that Chris was alive, but the damage to his brain had put him in a coma. A coma he’d been trapped in for three long years.
Sam was twenty-one now, and working any job he could find. After the incident at his high school, he’d pretty much given up on college, so he had no career skills that would be able to help him find a steady job. Instead he’d finished up his senior year and stepped back from school completely.
He was still living with his father, who didn’t seem to mind. In fact he seemed much happier knowing where Sam was, knowing that he was still in his bedroom, unless he was working or looking for a job. With the trauma he’d witnessed, Jack didn’t want Sam living on his own, he was far too worried of what might happen, so he pretty much demanded he stay.
Jack would constantly suggest to Sam that he contact a therapist, but Sam wanted nothing to do with it, so usually he’d just leave the room whenever the subject was brought up. When talking about a therapist didn’t work, Jack would instead mention Sam’s friends, suggesting he contact them, saying Sam needed social interaction in order to heal.
The problem was that Sam didn’t want to heal. He wanted to remain in his own world, his own little routine, going to work, going to the hospital to sit with Chris, coming home after midnight, sleeping with nightmares, and starting all over again. Sure he missed his friends, he wanted to see them and talk to them, but he couldn’t. He was too afraid of what he’d say or do.
He knew enough to know his friends were doing quite well.
Calvin Creed was studying to get his degree in teaching history, while his girlfriend, Annabelle Divine, was working towards a law degree, set on helping people with family issues, people from abusive homes. From what Sam understood, her plan was to make bullying illegal, but that would probably take some time.
Annabelle’s older brother, Lex, was working from home, studying human behaviour and psychology, and would sometimes aid the police in evaluating the mental state of prisoners or criminals they were hunting. His husband Casey, on the other hand, was on his last year in college, and already had a job at their old high school, working as a guidance counselor.
They had gotten married rather early, right after high school and before they started college, before Sam fell away into his own world. It had been a simple service, but that was fine with the couple. They just wanted to be married, to be together, they didn’t care about big, elegant parties, or anything like it. Simply saying I do to each other was enough, and in all honesty, Sam had never seen two people more made for each other than them.
Seth wasn’t in college, he didn’t even bother to try. Instead he’d been personally given a job at the cafe where he would always visit. When he was younger he would hide at the cafe to get away from his abusive father, and the owner, an old man with no family, had taken a liking to him after so many years. He knew Seth could cook, was good with people, and knew how to make a good impression, so one day while visiting, the man had given him a job.
They were doing well, they still took the time to visit Chris, which was usually where Sam would see them. More often than not, Seth was the one to visit, seeing as he and Chris were brothers by marriage, but the others would stop by too, whenever they had time, and it meant a lot to Sam, and to Chris’ family.
His poor mother barely took the shock of what happened to her baby boy. Rita did her best, working so many jobs to afford the care that Chris needed, but soon enough the stress got to her. In the end she moved in with one of the consulting doctors, Benjamin Everet, as his personal physical therapist, and their relationship had grown into something far deeper than just friendship. They were good for each other, that’s what her eldest son, Dylan, said.
Then there was Dylan’s wife, Rowan. After giving birth to her daughter, she had quit her job at the police department to look after her baby, and was a happy stay at home mom, perfectly satisfied with her decision.
Katherine, Kitty, was the youngest, Chris’ sister. She was living with her mom and Ben, as well as Ben’s adopted son’s. She was in high school now, the same one Sam and Chris went to. It was hard on her when Chris went down, but she stayed strong, stronger than her mother. She seemed happy enough, with good friends at the school, and a girlfriend she seemed to adore more than anything. She got along well with Ben’s kids, Wolfgang best of all. She considered them as much her family as Chris and Dylan were.
Sam stopped walking and looked up to read the sign hanging on his work building, black cursive letters that read Beck’s Books. It wasn’t much, but it was the best job he’d had, and the one he’d managed to keep for the longest. It was peaceful, he could relax there, and the people he worked with were nice.
He took a breath and pulled his hands from his pockets, holding his phone and tapping the screen to get to his voicemail, hitting the only one there and putting it to his ear, biting his lip as Chris’ voice came through.
“Sam, hey... um, this is... this is really... difficult to say... but I’m happy you didn’t pick up. If you’re listening to this, that means my plan worked... a-and it means that, even though I was happy to see you, I-I really did have a gun in my pocket. I-I’m sorry, Sam, I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you like this, but there was no other way. Nothing was going to change, and you know it. We all knew it. Nothing was going to change unless someone broke. I had to protect you. I had to protect all of you. I couldn’t watch it happen to someone else, Sam, please understand!
“You’re all so innocent, you have good hearts. None of you deserve pain, and none of you deserve to be put in the position where you want to die. Casey... I put him in that position... know I did... because of Brad. He... he would have hurt even more people, and I couldn’t watch that. So... I came up with this plan. I decided I would break, in front of Brad. He’s a prick, but I know for a fact he isn’t completely heartless. When he sees me... he’ll change. For better or worse, this will change everything. I know it will. It-it has to.
“But... Sam, please don’t believe I was sad. I was happy. I was happy with you, with my friends... my family. I loved you all so much. I didn’t do this because I wanted to die, I did it because I wanted to live! I did it because I know how it feels to want to die, to want to end everything because it feels like the only option. I did it because I never want anyone else to feel the same way.
“Sam, I really was... no, I really am in love with you. I want to live with you forever. I want to always wake up beside you, I want to be able to tell people you’re mine and I’m yours, I want to grow old with you, go to college with you after we graduate, get terrible jobs before deciding on a career, buy a house or a flat together, get married, adopt some kids maybe, sell the flat because we can’t make it up the stairs and buy an old single story out on the beach, or near the woods, or closer to the edge of town. Two rockers on the porch, grandkids... I-I wanted to live and die with you.
“You saved my life, Sam. I thought love would always disapoint me, but I was wrong. Love destroyed me... but then it brought me back. I love you, baby, and I always will. I love you so much. I... I have to go now, but... but please don’t ever forget me, and please don’t be upset with me. I... I’m sure... we’ll see each other again... but until then, just... just don’t give up. I love you. I love you. I love you, Samuel Novak, and I’ll never forget you. Goodbye.”
Sam pulled the phone from his ear and looked down at the picture that lit up, a picture that Jack had taken when he and Chris were kissing. He couldn’t throw away his cell phone and get a new one like his father had suggested. If he did that, he’d lose these pictures. He’d lose the only voice message, the only voice at all that he had left of Chris.
He’d never throw away Chris’ voice, or his picture. Ever. He loved him to much to do something like that. Jack might say he was holding on too tightly to the past, when Chris was pretty much dead, and that Sam had to let go, but... Sam didn’t care. Chris was Sam’s true love. No one would ever take his place, and no one would ever convince him to change his mind.
Even if Chris never woke up.