“Casey, stop pacing, you’re gonna make everyone freak out,” Cal insisted, tapping his foot as he watched Casey walk back in forth in thehospital waiting room, chewing his nails with an arm wrapped around his stomach.
“I-I can’t help it, I’m so nervous, I can’t believe it.”
In order to somehow calm him down, Lex stepped forward and pulled him into his arms, hugging him tightly and rubbing his shoulders, his piercing eyes moving between the doors to the ICU and where Brad was standing. He wasn’t okay with him being there, and he didn’t care how much he’d changed the past three years. Showing up with Cal and Casey had every protective nerve Lex had burning on overdrive. Not to mention how Sam may react seeing him there.
Casey melted into his arms, lying his head against his shoulder with a sigh, twisting the ring on his left finger, “It’s been so long.”
“I know, I can’t wait to see him!” Annabelle was bouncing on her feet beside Cal, her eyes glowing as she too watched the hospital doors, and she took a few steps closer so she was beside Lex and Casey when it opened and Sam stepped out.
His ragged appearance had everyone frowning, and Sam didn’t even try to smile when he saw them. Instead he just stopped, staring at the floor for a moment before speaking, “He doesn’t remember me...”
Another lapse of silence as Casey lifted his hands to cover his mouth, and Annabelle gave a weak laugh, “Wh-what?”
“Or you,” Sam added looking up, “He doesn’t remember any of us.”
Cal wrapped his arms around Annabelle from behind, and Seth swallowed thickly as he spoke, “Explain.”
“Amnesia,” Sam started, “Marin called it regressive amnesia. He has no memory of high school, it’s likehis brain reset to just before he started freshman year,” he stopped, chewing on his lip a moment so he wouldn’t start crying again, “Marin doesn’t know why it happened, or the extent of his memory loss. He said there were two possibilities for why it happened. The bullet took out those pieces of his memory when it hit his brain, or he unconsciously locked away the memories, repressed them, because of the trauma.”
“W-will he remember?”
Sam shook his head, “There’s no way to know for sure. We don’t understand the human brain as much as we could, it’s too complex. There’s no way to guess that his memories will come back, cuz we don’t know if those parts have been just repressed or destroyed completely,” his voice choked, and he pressed his lips together, “He didn’t recognize me at all...”
“Oh my god,” Annabelle buried her face in her hands, and Casey turned around in Lex’s arms.
“M-maybe this is a good thing?” he suggested, and everyone looked at him, “No one can surrvive that much mental trauma, I should know. Maybe forgetting about it is a good thing! He can start over now! He can be happy!”
“He was happy,” Sam hissed, but it was obvious he wasn’t angry at Casey, “He was...”
“Casey’s right!” Annabelle added, trying to ease Sam’s sorrow, “Think about it, how many times have you wished to remeet someone?” she forced out a laugh, “And this time there’s nothing to hold him back! No fear, no pain, no trauma! H-he can meet us all again... maybe he’ll smile this time.”
“And everything we’ve been through?” Sam asked desperatly, “He doesn’t remember any of it! He doesn’t remember meeting you, he doesn’t remember how you all helped him! He doesn’t remember me!” the tears were finally falling, “Do you know how hard it was to finally get through to him?! How long it took for him to... to say he loved me back?” he bowed his head, “Now... it’s like he never did. I never existed... never.”
“Sam,” Seth choked out his name, and Sam lifted his eyes to him, “I’m sorry-.”
“Why the fuck,” Sam hissed out, “is he here?”
Seth blinked and looked behind him at where Brad had been standing, his body tensing up when Sam’s menacing glare landed on him, “I just... wanted to see him.”
“Bull shit,” Sam stormed forward, pushing Lex and Seth aside as he got into Brad’s face, “He doesn’t remember you either!”
Brad winced, his teeth grit as he tried to speak, “I-I just, I wanted to apologize to him-.”
“It’s too late for that, Richardson!” Sam screamed, shoving his hands against Brad’s chest and pushing him back, “You’re the reason this is happening! It’s your fault he put that gun to his head! Your fault he was in a three year coma! Your fault he can’t remember! You’re lucky we haven’t told people who it was that fucking raped him!”
Brad was hunching his shoulders like a wounded animal, taking small steps back as Sam continued to walk towards him until his back hit the wall and Sam grabbed onto his shirt collar, screaming in his face, “I just wanted him to know how much I regreted-.”
“Shut up! You have no right!” Sam was livid, but tears were pouring down his face to show how weak he actually was.
“It doesn’t matter!” he refused to let Brad finish a sentence, “You had plenty of chances to change when you were fucking him bloody! It’s too late now!”
“Sam, please!” Seth had his arms wrapped around Sam’s waist, trying to pry him away from Brad, “We’re gonna get kicked out!”
Lex and Cal were the ones who managed to pull him off of Brad, who continued to lean against the wall as Sam yelled at him, “If you’ve changed, then prove it!” he screamed, “Turn around and leave, don’t ever come back! If you’ve changed, prove it by never coming back into his life!”
Brad shook his head, “I have to apologize.”
“For what?! For something he doesn’t remember?!” Sam laughed, “Just get the fuck out! You have no reason to be here, no right after what you did! Get out! You never existed, so make good on that! If you’ve changed, if you really regret what you did, if you want to apologise so badly, then fucking disapear!”
“ENOUGH!” Casey screamed, and Sam froze up like he’d been scolded by his mother, wide eyes flashing to Casey.
Guilt filtered into his green eyes, and he hesitated as he turned to Brad, whose head was bowed. Before anyone could speak, he stood way from the wall, turning away and moving towards the doors, leaving without saying goodbye.
Silence reigned, until Casey walked up to Sam, slapping him across the face. Sam gaped down at him, one hand touching his cheek as Casey hissed.
“I can’t believe you,” he started, “That isn’t what Chris would want! He didn’t do what he did because he hated Brad, he didn’t do it because he blamed Brad, he did it because of what he did to us! To his friends! Do you really think Brad influenced his choices that much?! Maybe at one point he did, but at the time he shot himself, Brad was unimportant!”
Sam choked and wiped at his eyes, “I...”
Understanding filled Casey’s eyes, and he sighed, hugging Sam, “I know it’s hard to be understanding,” he said, “but the Winchester Project is about acceptance, helping people who are hurting. Whether you like it or not, Brad is hurting, and he has been, maybe longer than the rest of us.”
“I just...,” Sam had his face against the top of Casey’s head, “He doesn’t remember me...”
“Then make him remember you,” Casey pulled back and smiled up at Sam, “You love him, and even if he doesn’t remember, he loves you just as much. If he should remember any one out of us, it’s you. Memories might get foggy, but emotions don’t. He’ll remember you. Maybe not with his head, but with his heart... definitely.”
“You’re married,” Chris repeated, staring at his hands, “You... have a kid...”
“Yea,” Dylan reached out to take Chris’ hands, squeazing them, “Remember Rowan?” Chris nodded, “We got married when you were in ninth grade. We had a kid three years ago, her name is Danielle.”
Chris nodded again, slowly, before looking up at Kitty, “And you have a girlfriend.”
Kitty nodded, squeazing Cameron’s hand, “We met two years ago,” Cameron blushed and ducked behind her to hide from Chris’ gaze, and he smiled before looking over at Rita, who was standing beside Ben.
“And what, you got married to?”
Rita blushed, shaking her head, “Absolutely not! I’m his physical therapist!”
Chris winced, “Ewe, mom, gross!”
Kitty burst out laughing, and Rita blushed, “Chris!”
Chris grinned, looking back at Dylan, “So... I didn’t miss a lot then? In the three years I’ve been.... sleeping?”
“Not really,” Dylan admitted, “It’s been really quiet.”
“And the four years before that, where I aparently went to high school?” Dylan frowned and looked away, which had Chris leaning forward, “What happened to me? Why aren’t you telling me?”
“Was I mugged? Was I beat up? Was I kidnapped by the Russian Mafia, what?! Why was I in a coma?!”
“You got shot, Chris,” Dylan said, looking up to see Chris’ reaction.
He was silent, slowly lifting his hand to feel across the scar hidden by his hair, “That,” he spoke after a moment, “That explains this then.”
Dylan sighed out, “Chris, do you remember anything? Anything at all?”
“A name, I think,” Chris nodded, “Sherry.”
“Is that like a nickname?” Dylan asked, “For... like Sheryl Crow?”
“How should I know?” Chris shrugged, “I woke up and that word, or name, or whatever it was was in my head, and it hasn’t left. I don’t know what it is, who it is, or what it’s supposed to mean, or why it’s the only thing I can remember, but it is,” he gave an exasperated sigh and fell onto his back, staring up, his hands folded across his stomach, “and... I think a voice...”
“Oh?” Dylan perked up, “What voice?”
“I dunno, but they’re saying that name, Sherry. I swear if I have kids I’m not naming them Sheryl. Terrible, terrible name.”
“What gender is the voice?” Kitty asked, walking over to sit down on the other side of the bed, watching Chris as his nose wrinkled.
“Male... I think... I dunno, maybe it’s a girl.”
“Anything else you might remember?”
Chris closed his eyes before his lips sealed together, “I remember... being annoyed... cuz someone was talking... about history, I think...”
Ben limped forward, his eyes curious, “Four times four x plus two times x equals seventy-two. What’s x?”
“Four,” silence echoed, and Chris opened his eyes, “How do I know that?”
“Interesting,” Ben murmured, “You remember facts, but not how you know them.”
“That doesn’t answer my question,” Chris pushed himself back up so he was sitting, glaring at Ben, “What the hell is happening to me?”
“What it seems like is regressive amnesia,” Ben said, eyes bright, “I don’t think that’s it. I think you chose to forget certain things, like social interaction and things like that, but seeingly useless facts, like what you learned in high school, math and history, you remember that, because it doesn’t hurt you.”
“What is that supposed to mean?!”
“It means your mind is fine,” Ben explained, “The bullet didn’t hit anything vital like memory transmitors, or anything like it. You’re unconsciously repressing your four years in high school, willingly, and it also means there’s a high probability that you’ll regain those memories.”
“That’s.... that’s good!” Chris nodded, “But why did I repress them in the first place?”
Silence answered, until Ben spoke again, “We don’t know that. Only you do. Usually when things like repressed or blocked memories are common in patients, it’s because of trauma, it’s a self defense response of your mind and body. Forgetting, or not remembering, is your minds way of protecting itself.”
“I don’t remember anything traumatic though.”
“Gee,” Kitty arched both eyebrows, “I wonder why.”
“Stop being smart, you’re supposed to be cute,” Chris scolded, looking over at Rita, “Is it cuz of dad?”
Rita shook her head, “I doubt it, sweetie.”
Chris sighed and rolled his eyes before looking at Ben, “I want to remember. How do I do that?”
Ben shrugged, “Being around people who were there might help. Your friends from high school, being near them will definitely help,” he looked at door, “Where are they anyway? Sam called, didn’t he?”
“Little while ago, yea,” Kitty answered, watching as Chris played with the folds of the sheets around him.
“Um... that man that was here earlier...,” he trailed off, red dusting across his features, “Was he my friend in high school?”
Kitty beamed, “You mean Sam?”
“Is that his name?” Chris mumbled, “Yea, him.”
“Chris, you and here were a tiny bit more than friends!” Kitty said, and Chris drew down his eyebrows.
“Like... best friends? Like we had homeroom together.”
Kitty opened her mouth before closing it, sighing and rolling his eyes, “Yup, besties.”
“Then he can help me remember, right?”
“Maybe,” Ben said, and Kitty arched an eyebrow.
There was a knock before the door opened, and Casey stepped into the room with Seth, Lex, Cal, Annabelle, and Sam behind him. He smiled at Ben before his eyes started to sparkle, landing on Chris. He rushed forward, wrapping his arms around his shoulders in a tight hug.
“Chris! We missed you so much!” Chris wiggled uncomfortably until Casey let him go, and he inched away from him, eying him ervously. It made Casey hesitate before smiling, “Right... amnesia.”
“Do I know you?”
“Yea, I’m Casey Ryan, we’re friends, we met in high school.”
Chris searched his face before pressed his lips together, “I don’t... remember.”
“That’s okay,” Annabelle piped up, standing beside Casey, “We’ll help you!” she held her hand out, “I’m Annabelle Divine. I haven’t known you as long as Casey, but we’re friends too!”
Chris tmidly took her hand, and Seth sat down on the bed, “I’m Seth Ackley, I’m Rowan’s younger brother.”
Chris’ eyes widened, “Really?”
Seth laughed, “Yea. You’re my brother by marriage.”
Chris glared at Dylan, “Thanks for leaving that out.”
Dylan shrugged as Cal wrapped his arms around Annabelle’s shoulders, “I’m Cal Creed, Annabelle is taken, and you owe me forty bucks,” Annabelle lifted a foot, jamming her heel onto the toe of Cal’s shoe, making him reel away and hop on one foot while whining, “Not cool, not cool!”
“You knock that off, he just woke up!” Annabelle scolded, hands on her hips as she smiled at Chris, who was gaping at Cal like he was a cow who could sing opera, “Sorry. Cal’s your friend too, from high school, and you don’t actually owe him money.”
“Figured...,” Chris muttered, looking away from Cal back to Annabelle, who laughed and reached out to pull Lex closer.
“This is Alex,” Lex glared at her, and she giggled, “Sorry, he goes by Lex, Lex Divine, my older brother. He’s also your friend, but he’s kind of a mean jerk.”
“And... I know all of you?”
“We went to school together,” Casey explained, “We weren’t friends at first, but Sam convinced us you were a nice guy, so we all became this big group of loser friends.”
Chris twitched a little at Sam’s name and looked behind everyone to where he was leaning against the far wall, “Sam...”
“Novak,” Seth offered, “You and he were friends before we met you.”
Chris looked at Seth, “Okay...,” he looked down, “I’m... sorry I don’t remember you.”
“It’s okay,” Seth reassured, “We’ll help you all we can.”
“Yea, that’s why we’re here,” Annabelle nodded, “Ask questions if you want.”
Chris looked up, “What happened to me?” he’d gotten used to the silence that answered, so his sighed and pulled his knees up, folding his arms, “Whatever, never mind.”
“It doesn’t matter what happened,” Casey said seriously, but Chris didn’t look at him, “What matters is you’re awake and you’re alive and healthy.”
“Accept for the fact I can’t remember the past four years of my life and I missed out on three of them because I was in a coma caused by something I can’t remember cuz I have amnesia,” Chris mumbled, and Casey frowned, sitting down on the bed beside him.
“Did you consider... maybe it’s okay you can’t remember?”
Chris shook his head, “How is it okay? I can’t remember friends?”
“We don’t mind,” Annabelle assured, and Cal pouted.
“Speak for yourself. I always thought I was a pretty memorable guy.”
Chris propped his elbow on his knee and set his head in his hand, staring at Cal with a bored expression, “I remember something I think... about someone strip teasing to Maroon 5.”
Cal gave a girly gasp, “Oh my god that was me!”
“In that case I think I don’t like you much.”
Cal set a hand on his chest, “Ouch.”
Casey was beaming, “You remember that?!”
“I remember thinking how stupid it was,” Chris answered, “I didn’t know what I thought was stupid till that guy started talking,” he pointed at Cal, whose pout got deeper.
“Wait, so... you remember emotions,” Casey was grinning, and Chris shrugged in response.
“I don’t know... I remember thoughts.”
Chris stared ahead for a long time before a small smile parted his lips, “I remember... being happy, feeling accepted,” the smile faded, “Then I got scared, but I don’t know why.”
“Guilt,” Chris muttered, “I remember feeling really guilty.”
Casey bit his lip and nodded, “Okay.”
“Hey, I got an idea!” Cal leaned over Annabelle, “Feel free to shoot it down, I don’t mind. What if he spends time with each of us individually? It might help get his thoughts and memories straight.”
“Or as straight as they can be,” Seth grinned, and Cal pointed at him before laughing.
“I don’t get it,” Chris said dumbly, and Seth giggled.
“It’s a good idea.”
“He’ll be here for a while still,” Ben warned, “He’ll have to go through physical therapy so he can start walking again. Until then your one on one time will be here.”
“That’s fine,” Casey smiled, “We can help him with that too.”
Chris played with the sheets around him, staring down, “Why would you take the time to do that?”
“We’re friends,” Casey wound an arm around his shoulders, “It’s what we do,” Chris chewed on his bottom lip as Casey hugged him from the side, “Just try not to force anything, alright? We’ll all do our best to help you remember, but until then, just work on getting out of here. We won’t leave you,” he looked up at his friends, “We’ll help you remember.”
“Even if...,” Chris paused, and Casey looked back at him, “Even if maybe I shouldn’t remember?”
Casey frowned before nodding, “If you really want to remember... then yes... even if you shouldn’t.”
“Which,” Chris looked up to see Seth leaning closer, “Some aspects of your life... you really shouldn’t remember.”
“But if you want to, we’ll help,” Casey said quickly, and Chris nodded, wrapping his arms around his knees.