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“Don’t know how much longer I can do this, man.”


Kyle’s voice sounds small and low in the cramped interior of Sam’s car, his eyes fixed onto some point far off in the settling dusk on the other side of the windshield as he passes Sam the joint. Their fingers brush when Sam reaches for it and he takes a deep drag before he answers, takes a second to bask in the way the world grows progressively more fuzzy around the edges, softer, a layer of cotton settling over everything and numbing down the pain in his shoulder.


“What do you mean, ‘this’?” Sam asks, even though he’s pretty sure he already knows the answer. Even though he’s pretty fucking sure he doesn’t want to have this conversation right now. He’s hanging on by a fucking thread himself and watching Kyle lose it one fucking day at a time, watching him break in increments, it feels like more than Sam knows how to handle, on top of everything else.


As he waits for Kyle to answer, Sam takes another drag, the last the joint has to give, then stubs it out in the car’s built-in ashtray and tosses the filter through the crack of space between his side window and the door frame.


“You fucking know what I mean.” Kyle bites out, screws his eyes shut and leans forward until his forehead thunks against the dashboard, his hands coming up to pull at his hair as he blows out a frustrated growl. “This. Everything. I’m going to go crazy if we don’t find her. I’m losing my fucking mind, Sam.”


There’s so much anguish in those words, the same hopeless mess of emotion that’s coiled up in Sam’s own chest, and he doesn’t know what to do. He reaches out a careful hand and places the flat of it onto Kyle’s back over his spine, lets it rest clumsily in between the sharp jut of his shoulder blades. “You can’t say shit like that, man. We’ve got to keep going. We have to keep looking. We’ll find her.” Because Sam needs to believe that just as much as he needs Kyle to.


“Fuck. You don’t fucking know that, Sam. What are we even doing? Running around the fucking woods like a bunch of assholes. She could be anywhere. We could wander around these woods for months and still not cover the whole mountain. And what if this whole legend is total bullshit and this isn’t even where they’re keeping her? Whoever the fuck ‘they’ are. We don’t know shit, Sam!” Kyle still refuses to look at him, his voice muffled by his hands, something wet and ugly in it, and when Kyle’s back begins to vibrate under Sam’s palm, Sam realizes that he’s crying.


‘Shit, shit, shit.’ Sam thinks frantically, the burn of tears harsh in his own eyes. He feels so fucking helpless. He’s absolute shit at comforting people, doesn’t know what to say, where to even start, especially with something as messed up as this. All he knows is that they can’t give up, that they owe it to Kimber to keep looking, no matter how long it fucking takes. He can’t abandon her the way he did his sister. His hand tightens on Kyle’s back, fingertips digging into the shifting muscles, but he can’t find the right words to say what he needs to.


“Fuck.” Kyle bites out, again, then draws in a deep, shuddering breath and pulls his palms away from his face. He sits up until Sam’s hand falls away from his back, until he can finally look Sam in the eyes. His face is wet and splotchy and Sam doesn’t think he’s ever seen Kyle look this fucking miserable, this fucking lost. He was in a bad way when Kimber’s mom died, sure, but this, this is something else entirely and it kind of scares Sam. He doesn’t know what to fucking do, except try his hardest to keep himself from starting to cry like a fucking asshole, too.


Seeing Kimber’s bed sitting out there in the middle of the fucking woods. Freshly made, crisp and perfect as if just waiting for someone to settle for the night. God, the way Kyle’s face had crumbled at the sight. Sam can’t even begin to explain the horror of it, the hopelessness that’s been trying to settle in his chest ever since Kimber went missing, cold and heavy and all-consuming. Whitney all over again, only worse. He’s feeling the same hopelessness, the same despair he can see reflected in the watery pools of Kyle’s eyes, that same, awful helplessness that makes him want to start screaming until his fucking voice gives out. Kyle’s face is wet with tears and pulled so tight Sam thinks it has to hurt. And it does, he fucking knows it does.


“What are we gonna do, Sam?” Kyle’s voice wavers in the enclosed space of the car’s interior, thick with strain and hurt, and Sam wants to say something to make him stop, to make him get his shit together and push on the way Sam knows they need to, because Sam is having a hard enough time keeping himself going and he thinks if he has to start carrying Kyle, too, then he’ll just fucking collapse or something. Sam just doesn’t think he’s fucking got it in him. It’s like Kyle’s eyes are pinning him to the spot, like they’re piercing a needle through his chest and Sam’s not even sure he’s still breathing.


“I don’t-” Sam starts, but he doesn’t get any farther than that, saved from having to figure out how to end that sentence by the shock of Kyle’s sudden motion. Sam flinches harshly when Kyle’s hands shoot out towards him, expecting another burst of violence because there’s already been plenty of that in the past couple of days, his fading black eye throbbing dully as a reminder and his fractured shoulder stings sharply at the sudden movement. But Kyle’s palms aren’t aiming to hurt when they clasp Sam’s jaw, and the next thing Sam knows, Kyle is leaning in and mashing their mouths together gracelessly.


The kiss – because after a startled second of blankness Sam realizes that that’s what’s happening – is wet and messy, teeth clashing harshly, bruising soft tissue, and Sam can taste salt and bitterness, shocks of stale tobacco and weed beneath the sharp sting of desperation. When Sam gasps in surprise, Kyle uses that to shove his tongue into Sam’s mouth, hot and slick, and Sam makes a broken little sound at the back of his throat. It takes way too long for Sam’s brain to catch up with him, but when it finally does, he shoves at Kyle’s chest with the one arm that isn’t trapped in a sling until Kyle reluctantly backs off and Sam can press his spine against the driver’s side door, desperately trying to catch his breath.


Kyle’s hands drop away from Sam’s face and Sam feels the loss of their warmth in a way that seems so disconcerting. It makes his head swim and his thoughts scatter all over again. This isn’t – Kyle just fucking kissed him. His best friend. Who’s in love with Kimber – his other best friend – has been ever since Sam has known him. Kimber, who’s been missing for almost two fucking weeks now. Who might be dead already for all that they know.


None of it makes a lick of sense, for fuck’s sake. Kyle has never made any allusions to wanting to do something like that, so why fucking now of all times? Or has it been there all along and Sam’s just never seen it? He doesn’t even fucking know anymore. It’s all too much.


“What the Hell, man?” Sam finally manages, anger, of all things, manifesting as the prevalent emotion, and he can feel his hands ball into fists where they rest, ready to throw punches again if he has to, even if he knows he’s probably just going to end up hurting his rucking shoulder in the process.


“I just need to feel something, Sam. Something that’s not…this.” Kyle gestures helplessly, encompassing the whole fucked-up situation, everything they’ve gone through these past couple of weeks. Ever since that car accident. Maybe ever since Sam’s sister disappeared all those years ago.


“What about Kimber? What are you going to tell her when we find her? What is she going to think?” Sam blurts out, grasping for straws, latching onto the first clear thought his mind manages to produce. Using her name like a shield he can put between himself and Kyle. His lips still throb insistently with the ghost of Kyle’s mouth on his, his heart racing along in the same wild rhythm, bitterness sharp on his tongue.


“Don’t – fuck! She doesn’t mind as long as it’s you.” Kyle says, the words so rushed they jumble together and Kyle is already trying to lean in again, crowding Sam against the door, by the time Sam manages to make sense of what he just said.


“Wait, you- you talked to Kimber about this?” Sam’s blurts out stupidly, his head spinning and his good hand planted on Kyle’s chest, Kyle pushing back against it with a look in his eyes that scares Sam a little. Something so unlike the guy that’s been his best friends since age 12 that it feels like Sam is looking at a fucking stranger, even as Kyle’s unruly mop of red hair glints in the light of the slowly setting sun. Grief and despair and a twisted kind of need pulling at Kyle’s features until they’re barely recognizable anymore.


“Sam, come on. Sam – please.” Kyle mumbles, his wet, panting breath coming much too quickly, tear tracks on his cheeks and a look in his eyes like he’s not even entirely there anymore. All of the signs of a man crumbling to pieces and Sam can’t fucking take it. His locked elbow gives of its own accord and the next thing he knows, Kyle is right there again, pressing all up against Sam’s chest, trapping Sam’s arm in its sling between the two of them in a way that hurts as he locks Sam’s mouth in another sloppy, artless kiss.


Kyle’s hands slide into Sam’s hair and fist into the strands, Sam’s scalp stinging as Kyle holds him in place, panting into Sam’s mouth, sucking the air right out of his lungs until Sam feels lightheaded and strange and he doesn’t know what to fucking do. Because Kimber is gone and Kyle is kissing him and none of this is right, none of it makes any fucking sense.


The space is so cramped Sam can hardly move, but Kyle still keeps pushing closer until he’s almost in Sam’s lap, leaning over the gearshift awkwardly, and there’s heat and humidity gathering all around, Sam’s shoulder throbbing sharply, the wet slide of Kyle’s lips against his, Kyle’s tongue hot and insistent in his mouth and it’s nothing like kissing Emmaline at all. No softness or give, no gentle curves or sweet little sighs, only Kyle’s bulk, the rough scrape of a day’s worth of stubble, hands pressing in with enough strength to be intimidating, to make Sam’s stomach flutter with unease.


Kyle pulls one of his hands out of Sam’s hair, reaches between them to grab Sam’s, and pulls it towards himself and down. Turns Sam’s hand in his until Sam’s palm is facing him and then Sam is cupping Kyle through his jeans, the hot, hard line of him unmistakable beneath the denim. Kyle’s hand on his keeps Sam right there, presses down harder even as Sam tries to pull away. Sam freezes, overwhelmed by all of it, Kyle’s dick throbbing and swelling under his fingers.


He’s never – he’s never thought of touching another guy like that, least of all Kyle. His best fucking friend. And now Kyle is right there and Sam doesn’t fucking know what to do.


“Ah, fuck. Sam.” Kyle pulls away from the kiss to catch his breath, his hips rolling into Sam’s hand, rubbing against him, and Sam can feel him twitch excitedly. His own breath catches at the weird sensation, his head a jumbled mess, his chest clogged up with something he doesn’t know how to name. Betrayal, maybe. Heartbreak. Despair. The impossible longing to be able to turn back time and return to when things were still good and right and safe, before the bad shit started happening and he’d still believed that the worst thing the world had in store for him was getting grounded because he lost track of time and stayed out too late with Kyle and Kimber.


“Push your seat back. As far as it’ll go.” Kyle says through his panting, his words hanging in the thick air between them, weed-hazy and strange, and when Sam just stares at him uncomprehending, Kyle curses and pushes Sam around until he’s sitting with his back against the seat instead of all twisted up like he was. Then Kyle bends forward and reaches into the space between the door and the seat with an impatient hand until he finds the lever there, pulls it up, and pushes against Sam’s chest until the seat starts to slide back on its tracks as far as the narrow space will let it.


Another push and pull and Sam sucks in a startled breath as the backrest cants backwards and he’s caught somewhere between sitting and lying down and then Kyle is climbing over him. Cursing again when he bumps his head on the roof of the car, his spine bent awkwardly as he cages Sam in with his bulky frame, the space too fucking cramped for this shit, but Kyle doesn’t seem to care.


“Fuck, come on, Sam. Spread your legs. Help me out a little.” Kyle grabs Sam’s hips and pulls until he’s at the edge of his seat, climbs in between Sam’s thighs and pulls Sam’s knees up until Sam’s feet aren’t resting in the footwell anymore, one of his sneakers on the center console and the other wedged against the door uncomfortably. And then Kyle leans in and Sam can feel him everywhere. Pressed so close that every sound he makes vibrates through Sam’s chest, trapping Sam’s arm again, heat building up in his shoulder in a way that makes Sam grit his teeth to keep himself from making a sound, the hard line of Kyle’s dick shoved against Sam’s groin and even though he’s still fully fucking dressed, Sam feels exposed.


Vulnerable in a way he’s not sure he likes.


He’s not sure he likes anything about this whole fucking mess, but at the same time, he has no idea how to stop it. Because this is Kyle, and Kyle needs him, and Sam doesn’t know how to say ‘no’ to him without making everything worse, even though a part of him is sure that they’re both going to regret this – whatever the fuck ‘this’ is – later. A mean little voice at the back of his head revels in the rising despair, whispering ‘you’re ruining everything, this is all your fault, you broke what you had, you started this and now look where you are’.


Sam doesn’t try to fight it when Kyle kisses him again, frantic and hungry, like a dying man grasping for a lifeline. Doesn’t try to stop him when Kyle pops the button and zipper of his jeans and gathers Sam’s hand up again to shove it past the elastic band of his boxers. Wrapping his fingers around Kyle’s dick feels so fucking strange. Familiar, but in a warped, twisted sort of way, the angle all wrong and the feel of him off. ‘He’s bigger than me’, a detached part of Sam thinks faintly, as Kyle helps him pull his dick out so that Sam can get a better grip.


Smooth skin, hot and firm, the sticky wetness gathered at the tip making it easier for Kyle to set up a rhythm for him, Kyle’s fingers wrapped firmly over his. The sounds Kyle makes hanging in the space between them, floating around like bloated dead bodies in a lake, and every time Kyle lets go of Sam’s hand, Sam’s rhythm falters and Kyle groans in frustration. Until eventually Kyle gets fed up with him and pulls Sam’s hand away, and Sam has about a half a second of relief before he can feel Kyle reach for him. Kyle’s hands rucking up his sweater, palms rough on Sam’s stomach and making him suck in a startled breath. Fingers shaky with impatience as they yank at Sam’s fly until it gives and Kyle tugs it open.


“Kyle, wait-” Sam chokes out, but Kyle isn’t listening, he just leans in to kiss Sam again, to shut him up as he reaches into Sam’s boxers and pulls out his soft dick. Sam flinches at the first touch, his hips canting away and his knees digging uselessly into Kyle’s sides. Sam’s good hand flies up to Kyle’s broad shoulders, the other fists into the front of Kyle’s shirt, desperately looking for something to hold onto, to anchor himself with, because it feels like he’s fucking floating, like he’s losing whatever it was that kept him grounded, and it’s fucking scaring him. His fingers dig into the muscles of Kyle’s shoulder until Kyle groans into the kiss.


Kyle wraps his hand around Sam’s dick and gives it a tug, but it’s too fucking dry and Sam makes a wounded sound at the back of his throat, wincing and gasping. That gets Kyle to pull back and curse quietly under his breath, reach up until he can spit into his palm and then go for it again. It’s easier this time with the additional slick, at least the physical part of it, because Sam’s got his best friend’s hand on his dick and this was never something that he wanted but it’s happening anyway. His blood rushes south just because there’s someone other than himself touching him, even if it’s nothing like he’d thought it would be if he’d be doing this with Emmaline. Even if the hand jerking him off is big and rough and the grip bordering on too tight, tears gathering at the corners of Sam’s eyes as he clings to Kyle helplessly.


Once Sam is fully hard, blood rushing through his ears almost loudly enough to drown out both his and Kyle’s panting breaths and wet, choked-off gasps, Kyle lets go of him and grabs one of Sam’s legs instead. Hooks Sam’s knee over his shoulder and leans in until Sam feels like he can hardly breathe anymore, the muscles in his leg burning, stretched beyond what he’s used to as his thigh is pressed up against his chest.


And then Kyle’s dick is sliding against his own, against the soft stretch of skin right beneath his navel, hot and slick and Sam stops thinking altogether.


He’s too busy trying to pull air into his aching lungs, trying to ride out the sharp sparks of pleasure shooting up his spine where they mingle with the sharp discomfort of his position, feeding into the sense of wrongness, of that awful vulnerability he doesn’t want, fueling a strange kind of nausea deep in his gut even as he can feel himself getting closer.


Kyle’s lips moving against Sam’s as his hips snap back and forth in a sloppy, desperate rhythm.


Breathing into Sam’s mouth, throaty moans and salt, and Sam doesn’t fucking know whether it’s still Kyle who’s crying or himself and he can’t bring himself to care, either. Their breath mingles hotly and he can taste the grief on Kyle’s tongue, sharp and heavy. It’s like he’s breathing it into Sam and Sam’s not even trying to push him away, he’s not sure he could, and he doesn’t want to fucking find out, doesn’t want to risk making himself feel even more helpless, even more trapped than he already does, if he fails. This is already so much more than he knows what to do with.


His orgasm hits him without warning. He’s too agitated to pick up on the usual signs and it takes him by surprise, stars exploding beneath his skin and burning along his fizzling nerve endings, and it’s good and it hurts and there’s so much intensity behind it that Sam’s a little scared it’ll just wash him away. He can feel his spunk land on his exposed stomach in sloppy stripes, hot and sticky-slick. Kyle pulls away from the kiss with a groan and buries his face in Sam’s neck, the wet, overheated skin of his cheeks pressing in, and a second later, Kyle comes, too. Hips stuttering erratically and sending aftershocks racing up Sam’s spine to blaze up behind closed eyelids like TV static in a pitch black room.


Sam can feel Kyle’s dick throb where it’s sliding through the mess on his stomach, Kyle’s come mixing in with Sam’s, and it’s already starting to feel fucking gross, Sam’s skin crawling with the sudden need to get rid of it. To make the evidence of what just happened disappear, even though he hasn’t even had a moment to catch his fucking breath yet. Kyle is a panting mess pressed up against him, the hand he’s got buried in Sam’s hair tugging Sam’s head to the side so that Kyle can mouth along his neck wetly. But at least he’s finally let go of Sam’s leg, and it feels like Sam can actually breathe again.


Sam shudders, makes himself let go of Kyle’s shirt, and shoves at Kyle’s shoulder weakly, goosebumps spreading up his arms and pebbling along the back of his neck as his stomach clenches painfully. “Kyle.” Sam tries, his voice a mess, choked-up and all wrong, and when Kyle lifts his head to look at Sam, his eyes are clouded and Sam’s not sure Kyle is seeing him at all.


“Sam.” Kyle breathes, sounding lost somewhere in the no-man’s land between miserable and reverent, and Sam feels so fucking helpless, he’s at a loss. Kyle leans in and plants a wet kiss to the corner of Sam’s mouth, to his cheek, then another onto his lips, chanting Sam’s name quietly as he goes, like some sort of fucked-up mantra.


“Kyle!” Sam repeats, his voice harsher, pushing at Kyle’s shoulder harder to get him to back the fuck off, and that’s finally enough to make Kyle pull away and really look at Sam.


“What?” Kyle breathes, tears and snot drying on his blotchy red face. But he looks calmer now, even with all that. More like his old self, like the stupid kid Sam used to know. Sam has to grit his teeth against the way his heart clenches at the thought.


“Can you just get off of me, man?” Sam presses out and watches the expression on Kyle’s face change, watches Kyle’s eyes shutter as he breathes a quiet ‘oh’ and then reaches to tuck himself away, motions jerky, before he awkwardly climbs back into the passenger’s seat. Sam sags against the backrest of his own seat, staring up at the roof of the car – Whitney’s fucking car – and doing his best not to look at Kyle.


“Sam? Fuck, I didn’t hurt your shoulder, did I?” Kyle tries softly, too much emotion in his fucking voice that Sam doesn’t want to think about right now. Sam screws his eyes shut and pulls in a shuddering breath.


“Are there any tissues in the glove compartment?” He makes himself say instead, and he can hear Kyle’s quiet ‘uhm’ and then the background noise of him popping open the glove compartment and rummaging around in it.


“Yeah, here.” Kyle murmurs and Sam blindly reaches to the side until Kyle pushes the half-empty pack into his hand, curls Sam’s fingers around it carefully, and lets go as soon as Sam pulls away again.


Sam fumbles with the tissues, uses them to wipe as much of the mess off of his stomach as he can, then balls them up and tosses them out of the side window, not giving a shit about whether he’s littering. He doesn’t fucking want them in his car. Trying to clean off what landed on his sweater only makes it worse, so he gives up and decides to just throw the damn thing into the trash when he gets home. Sam tucks himself away with shaky hands and straightens out his clothes before he reaches down to get his seat back into its original position.


He feels raw inside, like someone took a meat tenderizer to his fucking chest or something, but kind of numb at the same time, still foggy from the remnants of his high.


“Sam?” Kyle almost whispers the word, his voice is so low.


“What?” Sam bites out, a little more harshly than he’d intended t, but he can’t take it back once it’s out. His fingers make a mess of trying to grab the key and turn the ignition. Such a simple fucking task and still he can’t manage. He feels so goddamn useless. Story of his life.


“You wanted that right? Sam?” Kyle actually sounds scared now, panic leaking through, and Sam grinds his teeth against the lump climbing up his fucking throat. “You wanted it. You – come on, Sam. Fuck!”


The curse rings loud between them, and then Kyle groans in a way that makes Sam’s gums ache and folds forward, his hands coming up to pull at his hair as he rocks slightly in his seat. Every muscle in Kyle’s body pulling fraught with tension, Sam can see them bulge where ever skin is showing. “I keep fucking shit up. Everything I do just makes it worse, every fucking thing.”


For a moment Sam thinks Kyle is crying again, and Sam is too shaken to say anything, too fucked-up to know how to handle this goddamn situation. He’s 17 years old, for Christ's sake, he shouldn’t have to be dealing with any of this, he’s not fucking equipped to. When Kyle sits back upright in one jerky motion, though, his face is pinched but his eyes are dry. No more fucking tears. Maybe Kyle is just beyond that now, his desperation having reached a level too high for that and it fucking hurts so bad to look at him.


Tell me you wanted that, Sam.”


Kyle presses the words out as if they cause him physical pain and Sam can’t – he can’t fucking take it, the look in Kyle’s eyes as he’s staring at Sam like a knife twisting between his ribs.


“I wanted it.” Sam whispers, the words tumbling out of his mouth of their own accord, his voice detached and alien as he hears himself speak. Those words aren’t his, and it feels like something in his chest splinters as they pass through. But it doesn’t fucking matter, because they make Kyle screw his eyes shut and thunk his head back against the headrest of his seat, breathing out a long sigh as he deflates and the tension drains out of him.


“OK. Fuck. OK.” Kyle breathes and wipes his hands across his face before turning to look at Sam again. “Lets just get out of here, man. We should get some fucking sleep if we’re gonna be back out here first thing tomorrow.”


Kyle still sounds fucked-up, but there’s some hope creeping back into his voice, some of that determination and drive of his and Sam clings to it desperately. Even with the disgusting, sticky feeling of the remnants of Kyle’s and his spunk drying on his stomach under his sweater, the remnants of Kyle’s touch something he can’t fucking shake, not quite. A part of him is really fucking scared of how fragile those things are now, of how fragile Kyle is. How his best friend is slowly breaking apart, slipping away, turning into a person Sam’s not sure he knows at all – isn’t sure he wants to know. And that hurts so goddamn much.


Sam finally manages to start the car, gravel crunching under the tires as he pulls out onto the road, the woods around them drenched in darkening twilight, ominous and wrong through and through. He sees a flash of blinding white blink through the trees, there and gone again, and it sends a rush of ice water through his veins. Something’d been fucking watching them.




Sam has no idea what’s going to happen if they don’t find something soon, only that it’s going to be bad. But, somehow, he has the sinking feeling that maybe that would be the better option – that maybe it’d be even worse if they did.


Next to him, Kyle is staring out of the window, his eyes unseeing as the dark trees blur past. So far away with his thoughts that a stupid part of Sam wonders whether he’d be able to touch Kyle at all if he decided to reach out now, or if his hand would just pass right through him. Like a fucking ghost. The ghost of his best friend sitting in his passenger seat.


Sam trains his eyes back onto the winding road ahead of him and tries not to think at all.