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Head Above Water

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It still hurt. Clay had stared at the headstone of Hannah Baker and every time he did tears kept falling on their own accord. Hannah had lost her life and he had done nothing. His best friend had needed him and he hadn't been there. He had left her and nothing would ever change that. Nothing would ever make him feel better instead everything made him realize just how fickle life was. When he had learned the truth behind her death...the truth behind her actions everything had fallen apart. Those tapes had killed him, every word Hannah had spoke hit home. He missed her so much, everywhere he looked reminded him of her.

 "You know I miss you. I miss seeing you at work and sneaking in one of the theaters after lockup" Clay started as he placed the freshly bought flowers on the grass. He could still feel hot unshed tears "I'm sorry" He whispered. 

 He started at the tombstone for the longest time. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. The trial, the secrets, and the lies would all come crumbling down on them. Clay had fallen apart. He knew the trial would be hell, it would destroy people's lives including his. Clay still felt the guilt it ate at him every day. He wasn't a reason. He might have been the why. He might have been...He was the why. 

A tear jerked as he stared at the name on the tombstone. Hannah Baker. Rest In Peace, Beautiful soul. Daughter and friend. He felt like his knees would give in, he wished that he didn't have to be here that none of this had ever happened. Clay wished for a lot of things and one of them would always be to have Hannah Baker live. Staring at the tombstone was killing him slowly because it didn't matter how much he just kept staring hoping for some kind of miracle there would be none. Nothing would happen. He felt lost, so lost without her as his heart had suddenly turned into ice. Seating down on the warm grass cross-legged he couldn't stop the images that assaulted him. 

Clay sighed as he played with his fingers. Tears falling down his cheeks without his permission as he let himself relive the moments he had shared with his best friend, the moments that had turned out to be their last. His world turned upside down and destroyed in one swoop. The memories, the memories would always be there to remind him of just how much he had lost. 

Clay didn't know how long he sat there. When Hannah had been alive things were different with her being one of his best friends he couldn't exactly go a moment without talking to her, from the moment he woke up to the moment he closed his eyes their friendship had been one of the strongest. They spent most of their time together, the laughter, and their shared secrets. He missed her so much his heart cried for her, how had his life turned into a nightmare so quickly? He should have known and yet the signs were lost on him.

Until everything had gone to shit, there were times when Clay still couldn’t believe what had happened let alone live with it. Listening to those tapes…to his tape had left him unable to carry on with his life. How could he handle living when Hannah was gone? Where would he find the strength to carry on when all hope was lost? How could he live with himself knowing the hell that Hannah had gone through? It was his fault everything was his fault and now he had to live with that guilt, he had to live knowing that he killed Hannah Baker. It was almost funny how fucked up that was.

When Clay had presented as an Omega his world had suddenly turned upside down. Nothing had prepared him for what had happened, he had barely been aware of his own body. It had been rare to present at such an early age. He could still remember his mother's confusion, her tears and the room filled with worry that he could have suffocated. At eight years old it was rare barely unheard of but as Clay writhed and struggled with his mother holding him closely tears pouring down her cheeks. It had been after that he had been told about his presentation. Clay who had waited for the day that he would present had suddenly been thrown in a loop. He remembered the doctors, the hospital visits and his father's pride. His mom had shone with something akin to pride laced with worry. Those moments were one of the scariest of his life as he watched doctors and nurses fuss over him. He was special, the doctors told him and as a result his parents and everyone who knew treated him like fine china. No one told him just why he had presented so early but his parents had let slip of the new arrival that could have triggered it and had left it there.

It had been a stressful time for him. He had worried about his parents' reaction but all he had gotten had been love and support. It had been a well-known fact that the Jensen pack rarely ever produced Omega's. The Jensen's always either presented as Alpha's or Beta's and the last Omega had been six decades ago and no matter how many times Hannah had tried to convince him of the fact that his second gender would never define him he still worried, worried about everyone's reactions. What would his family think? What would his grandparents think? Clay had stressed so much about it that he had needed bed rest and a diagnosis of anxiety. 

"Omega's are important, Clay. Not because they can reproduce but because Omega's are special beyond words. They are cherished, they are our treasure. You are special. Never forget that but if you do I'll always remind you

Those words had stayed with him; those words had brought tears to his eyes. In his darkest time, Clay had clung to his best friend Tony Padilla like an octopus. Those words had saved his life when he had needed them the most. Tony had saved him and so much after that.

Tony who had always been there for him. Tony who brought a smile on his face. Tony who had been there for him when Hannah took her own life. Tony who stayed with him when he felt the walls closing in on him. Tony who had held him as he broke down. Tony who had saved him from falling off a cliff. Tony who was the only good thing in his life. Tony who smelled like his home.

There had been a time he had thought that Tony would shun him for being an Omega, a time when he had worried about losing the Alpha and losing his friendship and the feeling he always had when he was close to the Alpha. However, the Alpha had surprised him damn near shocked him when he had launched himself at him enveloping him a tight hug and promising him eternity. Acceptance. Love. Home. 

The very moment he had laid eyes on Tony had been when he had been nine years old in the playground. Nine years old and his life had changed. Nine years old and he and the Alpha had formed an unbreakable bond, a bond that would last for eternity. A bond that had sent his parents into a near breakdown once they had met Tony's parents and once they had laid their eyes on little Tony Padilla as if they knew a secret that they couldn’t share. A secret so precious that they felt him safe with the Alpha.

Clay couldn't help but chuckle as Hannah's voice rang in his head. Clay missed her so much. Her smile. Her laugh. Her presence. 

Thirteen reasons why...

Thirteen reasons why...

Those reasons still broke Clay. He couldn't help but think maybe just maybe he could have done something to help her. He could have helped her. Knowing that his best friend thought that she had no one hurt especially when all he had always been there always willing to lend a helping hand.

“You’re brooding”

Clay wanted to laugh so hard that he would feel his insides turn but instead, he just turned his head to stare at her “I’m grieving”

“Okay. You’re brooding and grieving”

She gave him a small smile barely noticeable but he just shook his head turning towards the tombstone once more “You’re supposed to be dead”

“Low blow, Clay” She sighed throwing stones at her own tombstone 

“Sorry” He mumbled.

“I’m sorry, Clay…” She started throwing some more stones straight at her tombstone without missing.

He wanted to look at her and ask her all the burning questions in his head, he wanted so much to just forgive her and move on but he couldn’t. He couldn’t move on and he couldn’t ask her the questions that burned at the back of his head begging to come out. She hurt him, she destroyed him and there was nothing she could do to fix that. The tears he had cried for her and the pain he still felt still fresh in his memory. He could have helped her, tried to help her instead everything had fallen apart. His whole world had gotten with her and he couldn’t look at her and not want to follow her. Ever since they were children they had promised to be in each other’s lives, promised to always protect each other and yet when she needed him the most she had forgotten him. That’s what hurt the most.

“Yeah, well I’m sorry too, Hannah”

The silence between them could be cut with a knife and despite his refusal to even look at her he knew she was still there. She was always there and even when she wasn’t she was never far away. He could blink and not miss her. He could hear her breathing from beside her, she was dead and yet still breathing like she was alive. He wondered whether she even slept or did she spend all her time haunting him and making him relive the most painful memory of his life.  Did dead people even sleep?

Yes, his brain answered for him. Dead people were already dead therefore sleeping.

“You should go home, Clay. You need to go home” She was careful at how she said that. If there was anyone who understood what Clay was going through it had to be Hannah but as they sat there staring at her tombstone as if she would eventually wake up and pretend like it had been a dream she realized that if she wanted her best friend to start the process of healing she needed to be the first one to help because…because she had caused his pain. She was the source of his pain.

“Are you kicking me out, Hannah?”

“Unless you’re prepared to sleep on my grave and cramp my style then yes…” She breathed “I can’t have you cramp my style with your snores when you have a perfectly comfy bed back home”

“I don’t want to go…” He turned his head to towards her staring at her.

Hannah shook her head “Why?”

“Because if I do then it means I’m leaving you behind” He whispered barely recognizing his own voice.

“You’re not leaving me behind, Clay. I’m right here.” Hannah replied carefully choosing his words “I’ve always been right here even after what happened.”

The Omega could feel hot unshed tears threatening to take over his eyes “How can you say that?”

Hannah was suddenly seating in front of him her eyes locked with his “Because I can.”

He didn’t know how long he sat there staring at her, he was so tired and so exhausted that he wondered just how comfortable the ground would be. How bad would it be if he just lay down only for a moment? He wanted so badly to make the pain go away and just feel the peace that would follow. He hadn’t slept in so long that his body reminded him of the ache. Breaking the eye contact with Hannah, he closed his eyes just to take the fresh air in. He was so tired that he could feel his heavy eyelids fight to stay awake except he just couldn’t find it in him to fight any longer. Hours and seconds seemed to fly by as he sat there unable to move. Why would he when he was so comfortable?  He knew that Hannah was there because he could feel her eyes on him before he allowed sleep to claim him.