“You shouldn’t push yourself,” Mary-Louise said, pushing Chris in the wheelchair down the hall towards the gym and physical therapy room, “You won’t get very far if you continue stressing your body by trying too hard.”
Chris just sighed and folded his arms, staring down at the floor, “How long does it usually take for coma patients to start walking again?”
Lou was silent for a moment as she stared ahead, “Maybe a month, if they’re lucky,” she answered, and Chris gave a noise of disbelief as he shook his head, so she reached down and squeezed his shoulder, “It’s only been a week, Chris, and you visit the physical therapist every day. That’s more than most do.”
Chris just shrugged, “I want to walk on my own so I can leave this place.”
Lou laughed softly, “As soon as Doctor Marin passes your health, you can leave. You just need to continue your therapy.”
Chris nodded. When they reached the therapy room, Chris looked up to see patients struggling around him in the large room. They were lifting light weights, walking, more like shuffling, while holding onto the bars beside them. It had Chris’ stomach flipping to know he was one of them, there because he couldn’t walk.
He sat there numbly with Mary-Louise beside him until Doctor Marin walked in with Benjamin Everet, Rita, and Sam. Chris was rarely alone when it came to Sam Novak. He was always there at the hospital, sitting in his room or standing outside it. He didn’t talk much, he almost always looked sad, but he was the one person who was there nearly 24/7, and Chris appreciated that immensely. He was afraid that if he was left alone, then the bits and pieces he was starting to remember would fade away, and the possibility scared him.
Ben and Sam both stood to the side, leaning against the wall, but Marin and Rita came up to Chris. Rita bowed down to kiss his forehead as Marin offered a smile.
“How are you feeling today?” he asked, and Chris mumbled.
“Fine,” he looked up, “Can I start walking now?”
Marin’s smile was weak as he nodded, “You have to take it easy, though. The therapy is meant to help you, but if you push yourself, you’ll just get stick, and you’ll be stuck here for a lot longer.”
Chris’ lips pulled down and he nodded in understanding as Rita took Lou’s place, pushing the wheelchair towards one of the parallel bars before winding an arm around the middle of his back and helping him stand so he could grab onto the bars.
With anyone else, Chris would feel uneasy and pathetic, but after three years of helping Ben with his physical therapy to keep him mobile, Rita had become a lisenced physical therapist. It made Chris feel a bit more at ease. His mother had taught him to walk once before, so teaching him again should be easy.
Marin stayed with them for a while, giving Chris tips and scribbling down notes on his clip board as Chris struggled to walk forward. After about fifteen minutes, though, Marin, Ben, and Mary-Louise had to leave, leaving Sam and Rita with Chris.
Sam remained against the wall, simply watching, while Rita stepped backwards in front of Chris, hands holding his elbows as he held onto her shoulders, never grabbing the parallel bars unless he felt like he was going to fall on his face.
When Rita’s phone began buzzing in her pocket, she ignored it, but Chris offered her a crooked smile, “Are you gonna get that?” he asked, and Rita scoffed.
“Whoever it is can wait.”
“It could be important.”
“Nothing is more important than my baby.”
“What if it’s Kitty or Dylan?” Chris asked, and Rita hesitated, so he pulled his hands from her shoulders and grabbed onto the parallel bars, “Go on, I’ll wait for you.”
Rita nodded and backed up, pulling her phone from her pocket and hurrying from the room. Chris held himself up as he watched her leave, chewing on his lip as he looked down and set both feet against the ground.
With the way he was holding himself up, only a little weight was being held up by his legs, so it wasn’t hard to stand like he was, but after looking back at the door to make sure Rita wasn’t back, he started to slowly ease his entire weight onto his legs, staring down and biting hard onto his bottom lip as he did so.
His legs started to tremble as he tried to move, taking a small step and putting weight down, but he instantly started shaking and his knees gave way. He would have hit the floor if it weren’t for Sam grabbing him at the last second, pulling him up against his chest, arms securely around his back and shoulders.
“What did Marin tell you about pushing yourself?” he asked, and Chris felt his face burn badly from embarassment as he let out a squeak, his cheek against Sam’s chest.
“I-I-I just want to get out of that stupid chair,” he whined, and Sam sighed before helping Chris to stand straighter, hands on Chris’ hips.
“Alright, I get it,” he said, “Put your hands on my shoulders and don’t let go, I’ll help you, but don’t try putting all of your weight down, you’re not strong enough for that yet.”
Chris nodded his head furiously, staring at his feet and grabbing Sam’s shoulders as he started backing up. Chris shuffled after him, his steps clumsy and unsure as he put most of his weight against Sam, who willingly helped him along.
With Sam helping him, Chris was able to concentrate on how he walked, slowly making his legs stronger, slowly easing himself to be able to stand on his own two feet. When Rita returned to the room, she just stood back and watched. She understood how painful it must be for Sam, to know Chris couldn’t remember him...
Letting Sam stay with Chris, help him like he was now, there was a possibility it could help Chris remember, and in fact, with Sam’s hands holding his waist, Chris could feel the aching of memory at the back of his head, and since he was conentrating so hard on walking, he wasn’t trying too hard to remember, which made it so much easier for the images to form in his mind.
He didn’t remember much, but he did recal a voice, a voice he knew that he knew, and the things he remembered that voice saying had his heart seizing in his chest, face burning a hot cherry red.
I will not leave. I promised I wouldn’t. I won’t lose you, Chris.
Who was talking? Who was the one that said such embarassing things? He didn’t know, he just knew that whoever that voice belonged to meant something to him. Whoever it was meant a little more than smothing to him, and he was thinking that when the voice continued to speak, more memories echoing.
I don’t want you somewhere other than beside me.
Chris’ heart continued to thunder in his chest, his face getting hotter as the voice spoke yet again, closer this time, louder, not echoed.
“You should take a break, okay?”
Chris lifted his head to gape up at Sam, his eyes wide and his mouth parted as he realized that the voice that he kept remembering was his.
Noticing the look of awe, Sam frowned, “What? Is there something on my face?”
Chris shook his head quickly, “No, I... I think I remember you...”
Sam’s frown etched deeper, his green eyes filling with pain, “Don’t say that unless you mean it, Chris,” he insisted, and Chris shook his head again.
“I do, I know I do! I-I remember a voice,” he looked down, “It was the first thing that I remembered when I woke up was that voice, a-and I think it was yours.”
Sam pressed his lips into a thin line as his eyes searched between Chris’, “I don’t know,” he admitted finally, starting to slowly walk Chris back towards his wheelchair, “What was I saying?”
“That you wouldn’t leave,” Chris said, “and other stuff... I don’t know, I just remember your voice. Oh, you’re the one who says the name Sherry!”
Sam slowly helped Chris sit down, looking pained and hopeful, “What?”
“The first thing I remembered was that name, and I think you’re the one who says it.”
Sam nodded slowly, kneeling down, “It... it’s not a name,” he admitted softly, “It’s... and it’s not Sherry, it’s chéri. It’s French.”
“Really?” Chris looked shocked, “So you are the one who says it?”
Sam nodded, “Yea.”
“What does it mean?”
Sam was staring down, his hands curled into fists and set on his knees, his eyes glassy as he held back tears, “It means... it’s the French word for darling.”
Chris’ face burned a hotter red, and another memory came to him, Sam’s voice whispering, Je te aime, ma cherie.
“Sam...?” Chris reached out, confusion evident on his face, “Who are you to me? Or... or who were you? Before I went into my coma? What can’t I remember?”
Sam just looked up and took Chris’ hand in his, squeezing it before standing up and walking away, the tears flowing freely as he passed Rita, who went to stop him but stood back when she saw the tears. So instead she let him leave and walked back over to Chris, who was chewing on his nails, looking down.
“I think I like him,” Chris looked after Sam, “Like... like a crush... but I don’t get it... am I gay? I don’t remember. Does it matter?”
Rita laughed, “Oh, Chrissy, it doesn’t matter at all, and if you like him, you should tell him.”
“B-but what if I’m dating someone and can’t remember!”
This made Rita roll her eyes and shake her head, “I’ll let you figure it out, hun. You’re doing really well, and I’m proud you’ve remembered what you have.”
“Most of it’s about school though,” Chris mumbled unhappily, “I wish I could remember people, my friends... I wish I could remember Sam...”
“You will,” Rita assured, raking her hands through his hair and feeling over the scar before pushing his hair back and kissing the rough skin there, “The first thing people remember are emotions, and your strongest emotions are tied directly to Sam Novak. I can’t tell you much, because Marin warned me if I tried then it could overload you and put you into shock, which could hurt you, but trust me. You will remember. You believe me, don’t you?”
Chris stared after Sam before staring down at his hands, nodding, “I believe you.”
Sam leaned his back against the closed door before running a hand over his face, taking a shaky breath before pushing himself forward, practically sprinting down the hall. He found Jack in Marin’s office, standing beside the desk with his arms folded, looking down at what Marin was working on.
When Sam shut the door, both Jack and Marin looked up in time to see him slide down the door to the floor, “Sammy, what happened?” Jack pushed away from the desk, and Sam shook his head.
“He... remembers me. M-my voice.”
“Really?” Marin stood straighter, awe in his eyes, “That’s amazing.”
“I don’t understand,” Sam pulled his knees up and settled his folded arms over them, staring down, “How can he remember my voice but not... me?”
“All in all it’s a good thing,” Marin said as Jack walked over to the door, getting down on one knee and stroking back Sam’s hair to comfort him, “He’s starting to remember.”
“Some things I don’t want him to remember,” Sam said, and Jack sighed as Marin walked around his desk to kneel in front of him.
“I know you want to, but you can’t pick and choose what he remembers. The mind doesn’t work like that.”
“I know,” Sam acknowledged quietly, “If... if he could just remember me... that would be fine. The way he is now, it’s like he was when we first met. He’s not as defensive, he more open, he-he doesn’t cringe away when people try to touch or hug him, and I’m okay with that, it’s like I have another chance to protect him right.”
“Try to keep thinking that way,” Marin suggested, “I know it must hurt you, the fact he can’t remember you or what you’ve been through together, but... if he remembers his emotions, what he felt when he was around you, then there’s a high chance that even if he can’t remember you like you were, you and he could start something else here and now.”
Sam nodded, lifting a hand to wipe at the tears that had slid down his cheeks. He gave a cruel laugh before hiding his face in his arms, “It took me four years to tell him how I felt, and not days later... three years later and it’s like it never happened. I never told him. We never met.”
“So remeet him,” Jack said, and Sam looked up at him, “and tell him again.”
The knock at Casey’s office door was familiar, common, but he felt honestly surprised when he looked up to see Deon Rivera standing there, shifting back and forth on his feet. The cuts and bruises Casey remembered seeing before were now patched up, a bandaid taped over the cut above his eyebrow, the cut on his lip a little swollen, and he looked uneasy as he stood there.
Casey could understand why, and offered a smile as he sat back, “So you decided to stop by? I’m glad, come on in.”
Deon shuffled forward, closing the door and looking around the neat room. There was a couch pushed up against the wall directly across from the door, situated beneath the windows, and Casey’s desk was to the left, while the right wall had a row of bookshelves situated there. On the same wall where Casey’s desk was there was a file cabinet, posters and photos were pinned to the wall behind him, and there were two cushioned arm chairs in front of the desk itself.
Deon stepped further into the room and sat down in one of the chairs, setting his bag at his feet and folding his hands beneath his knees, staring down with sealed lips, “Coach made me come, I don’t wanna be here.”
“That’s fine,” Casey shrugged, not looking up as he flipped through the file in front of him on his desk, “I’m having issues anyway. A friend of mine just woke up from a coma, so my family has been a bit stressed.”
Deon stared dumbly at Casey for a long time, “A coma?”
“Yea,” Casey nodded, turning a few more pages and making little notes, “He has amnesia and can’t remember any of us. He doesn’t even remember his boyfriend,” his smile was sad, “It’s been hard on everyone.”
“I’m... sorry I guess?” Deon looked uncomfortable and shifted in the chair, “I... don’t really know what I’m supposed to say...”
“Just listening is fine,” Casey said simply, “Oh, right, you thought I was a shrink,” he laughed, “If it means anything, I am studying to by a school counselor, but I’m still in school. Online college. A few more months and I will be a shrink, but right now I’m just one of you.”
“Didn’t you graduate from here, like, four years ago?”
“Just three, yes,” Casey said, and Deon shook his head.
“Then why would you want to work here?”
“Because I want to help people,” Casey smiled, sitting back and setting his hands on his lap,playing with his sleeves, “When I attended this school, there was a lot of bullying, a lot worse than what it’s like now. I was a victim of that harassment, both vocal and physical abuse, not only at this school but at my own home,” he looked down, looking at the scars that had faded so much since they’d been created.
“Shouldn’t that be a good reason to never come back here?” Deon asked, voice choking, “If it had been me I’d ditch this school, this town, as soon as I could.”
“I considered it,” Casey admitted, “My original plan was to leave, but a few things changed. I met someone, first of all,” he smiled, “I was hurt badly because of my time here, added with the trouble I had at home, and all of it was because I came out as gay,” Deon winced, and Casey laugh, “Yea. After a few months of harassment and abuse, I started cutting myself,” the revalation had Deon’s eyes growing wide, and Casey tugged up his sleeve before lying his arm on the table for him to see, “I know, it looks bad, but these are scars.”
“How...,” Deon sat back, “How did you stop?”
“Like I said, I met someone,” Casey pulled his arm in and pushed his sleeve back over his arm, “Lex Divine. Despite everything, my scars, my trauma, my suicide attempts, he still stayed with me, loved me regardless, and him being near me, knowing that not everyone hold prejudice aganst gays, it gave me the strength to stop this. He saved my life. Or maybe I should say he loved me enough that I felt the need to save myself.”
He held out his hand to show Deon the ring, eyes bright, “We got married just after high school.”
“Isn’t that... kinda soon?”
“You’d think so,” Casey chuckled, twisting the ring, “What we feel for each other, the love I have for him and he has for me, hasn’t lessened at all. Not in three years, not in thirty, I don’t think it will ever fade.”
“So...,” Deon was staring down, “You’re a shrink- sorry, you’re a school counselor because you think you can help people?”
“I don’t think,” Casey said, “I know I can help people, or at least I can give them someone to talk to while they help themselves,” he looked over at where his phone was when it lit up and picked it up to check the text.
It was from Sam, at it simply said: He remembers my voice.
Casey beamed at his phone before setting it back down and looking at Deon, “I don’t want to keep you, so if you have somewhere to be, you can hurry and get there.”
Deon stared at Casey a moment before talking, “What... what about me talking about my problems?”
Casey laughed, “I’m not a shrink, remember? If you want to talk more, feel free to stop by again. I’m glad you came at least once though.”
After a few more seconds of staring, Deon looked down and nodded, grabbing his bag and hurrying over to the door. When he opened it, he was met with a tall man he’d never seen before, but didn’t say anything as he sidestepped around him and hurried down the hall.
“Hey,” Casey beamed as he stood up, and Lex looked back at him after watching Deon leave.
“Another new one?” he asked, walking into the room and closing the door as Casey stepped around his desk, “Did he tell you anything?”
“They never talk on their first visit,” Casey said, holding his hands out as Lex reached him, pulling him against his chest, “Are you on break?”
“Yea,” Lex kissed his forehead, holding his waist and smiling down at him, “A few hours for lunch, so I decided to come see you. Productive day?”
“Kind of slow actually,” Casey laughed, and Lex held up a bag.
“Care for a picnic?” Casey just rolled his eyes and pulled Lex over to the couch. They both sat down and Lex pulled out a few pieces of tupperware, “Seth sent me here with some stuff from the cafe. I present to you hamburgers, french fries, and chocolate shakes,” he set three containers on the coffee table before setting out two water bottles.
Casey giggled and inched closer to Lex, curling up against his side, “All we need is candles.”
“I got you covered,” Lex grinned, pulling out two tea candles and setting them beside the food before pulling out a lighter and lighting them.
Casey just laughed and reached out for the food, “Such a romantic,” he hummed, and Lex shrugged.
“Only for you.”
Hamburgers eaten and frenchfries open on the table, Lex and Casey were taking drinks of their chocolate milkshakes as they shared conversation. Casey was sitting so his legs were stretched out over the couch, his back against Lex’s chest as Lex kept his left arm beneath his arms and across his chest, one leg folded over the other.
Casey was playing with Lex’s left hand, spreading their fingers apart and tracing the tattoo on Lex’s wrist. When he came home with it, Casey was upset, until he realized what it was. Casey’s name, his signature, copied from the drawing he’d given Lex for his birthday, their first Christmas spent together. Lex explained it made him feel closer to Casey, like he always carried him with him, carried his gift, the first thing he ever gave Lex. So Casey didn’t mind anymore. In fact he thought it was sweet, beautiful.
Around his ring finger was a wedding band, black zirconium with a single thin stripe of rose gold. Casey twisted it around Lex’s finger before raising his hand and kissing the ring, “Sam texted me. He said that Chris remembered his voice.”
“I got that too,” Lex nodded, “So did Seth. Cal probably did too.”
“It’s not much, but it’s something,” Casey laid his head back against Lex’s shoulder and closed his eyes, “Do you think he’ll ever remember?”
Lex frowned, raking the fingers of his left hand up through Casey’s hair, kissing his cheek, “I don’t know, love. Do we want him to remember?”
“I wish he’d remember certain things,” Casey said, “But everything?” he shook his head, “If he remembers he’s the one who shot himself only to... stay alive? Who knows, maybe he’ll try again.”
“I don’t think so,” Lex admitted, “Sure he’ll be surprised, but try again? I doubt it. He did it to teach Brad a lesson, to teach everyone a lesson, and he did. The school is different now, better. There isn’t as much bullying because of you being here. I hate to admit it, but even Richardson has changed. I think Chris would be proud.”
Casey smiled and looked up at Lex with glassy eyes, leaning up to kiss his cheek, “You’re right,” he said softly, “Even if he remembers everything, he’ll be okay. He accomplished what he set out to do, even if he wasn’t here to witness the change. If he was going to live for anything, it would be to see all of this.”
“Who knows,” Lex smiled, “It still might happen.”
Casey giggled and hid his face against the side of Lex’s neck, “I love you, Lex.”
“Same to you, love.”