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It's OK, restless as you are (rest with me)

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~*~*~

 

It’s late on a Tuesday night when the knock on the front door startles Eric out of his train of thought. The line of code he’d been putting together in front of his minds eyes scatters apart and he curses quietly under his breath before he claps the lid of his laptop shut with a frustrated sigh. He’s not expecting any visitors and for a second he contemplates just ignoring the person on the other side of the door until they give up and go away, but the knock sounds again, louder and clearly more impatient this time, and Eric discards that hope with a sigh.

 

He puts his laptop to the side and heaves himself off of the couch.

 

“Who the fuck-” Eric starts as he pulls open the door, ready to tell the person in question to fuck right off, half expecting it to be some old junkie friend of Sam’s looking for a fix or some shit, but the words die in his throat. Because the person standing in the hallway, right underneath the broken light bulb in front of their apartment, is Sam Walker himself. Or, it kind of is.

 

Because Eric honestly has some trouble reconciling this new version of him with the Sam he’s known all these years. The young man standing in front of him looks nothing like the gaunt, run-down shell of a human being Eric remembers. Sam is cleanshaven now with just a hint of stubble, something he never used to bother with, his hair a little shorter and a lot healthier looking, like it actually saw a comb up close in the not-too-distant past. And Sam’s put on some weight, too. He’s still a skinny little fuck, but he doesn’t look like he’s halfway to starving himself to death anymore.

 

And there’s a gleam in his green-blue eyes, something lucid and awake and sharp, as he stands there with a sheepish grimace on his pretty fucking face. Something Eric had gotten glimpses of over the years, every now and again, but never had the pleasure of seeing in full before. It’s almost a bit much to process and it takes Sam opening his mouth and actually speaking to him to snap him out of his stupor.

 

“Sorry, I think I might have lost my keys.” Sam says, a tiny little smile twisting one side of his mouth upwards, full lips smooth and pink instead of pale and chapped from dehydration.

 

“Shit, man. I – I wasn’t expecting you. Come in.” Eric takes a step to the side and Sam gives a curt nod, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, before he takes up the invitation and walks past Eric and into their living room. Where he stops, his eyes taking in the furniture, the layout of the room, like someone walking back into an old, not entirely pleasant memory, before his eyes land on Eric again and Eric can’t help thinking that he looks a little lost.

 

“It’s been a while.” Eric says instead, walking over to the couch and gesturing for Sam to follow, to sit with him, hoping that’ll be enough to unfreeze Sam and take some of that sadness out of his expression. And it does, even if just a little.

 

“Yeah, a couple of months.” Sam sinks onto the worn cushions of the couch next to Eric, his knee starting to bounce with some of that restless energy that Eric still remembers all too well. But it doesn’t seem to be as urgent or as target-oriented as it used to. “It took a little longer than I thought it would to get everything sorted with the FBI and to finally get the Hell out of fucking Drisking again. But I think we’re finally there, all losoe ends wrapped up and shit. You did get all those E-mails and texts I sent you, right?”

 

“Yeah, I did. I fucking answered all of them.” Eric shoots back dryly and watches Sam pull a face, self-conscious and a maybe bit more nervous than the occasion should warrant, but Eric isn’t going to judge. He feels plenty off his game, too, he’s just always been better at hiding it. “You look good, Sam.” He can’t help but tag on. And he fucking means it, too.

 

Sam blows out a derisive breath and there’s a sarcastic lilt to his voice when he mutters a “thanks”, but the hint of color in his cheeks is real enough. So is the smile Eric can feel creep onto his face in response. God. Even with all of the shit Sam had put him through, all of the shit they’d been through together, Eric can’t deny that he’d really fucking missed having Sam here with him. The apartment had felt empty as fuck these past months, but he’d been able to console himself with the thought that Sam had finally found a way to slay his proverbial demons and move on to what was hopefully a better fucking life for him. Exactly what Eric had always wanted, but hadn’t dared hope for, for him.

 

“I honestly didn’t think you’d be back, though.” Eric goes on, because he really needs to get that out of the way. “You didn’t say anything. And, if I’m real honest, I might have been hoping that you wouldn’t be. What about your friends? Didn’t you say that you guys were setting up shop in California? It sounded like you were planning on staying with them.”

 

“Ah, I am actually.” Sam says, one of his hands coming up to comb through his hair, messing it up a little and making it look a bit more like what Eric remembers. Sam’s eyes slip away from Eric’s face as he goes on and Eric tries not to let the quiet hurt settling into his chest weigh him down too much. He’s happy for Sam, he really fucking is. “I just came back to say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’, I guess. In person. I already went to see Lea earlier today. She seemed pretty happy with how everything turned out. She actually fucking cried. God, that was so awkward.”

 

Eric can’t help but snort at that. Yeah, he can imagine only too well. “I’m glad to hear that, Sam.” Eric says, and he fucking means it, too. Kind of hard to put all of what he wants to say into words, he can’t figure out where to even start, so he doesn’t. Hoping that somehow Sam will pick up on a bit of it on his own. “How long are you staying before you have to head back?”

 

“Uh, I – I have to head out tomorrow. Kimber’s waiting for me and there’s actually still a bunch of shit to take care of. I just – I kind of ran off to take a fucking break from everything. It’s been so good having her back and Kyle, God. He’s getting better every day, more lucid and all. He’s still stuck in his wheelchair, but the doctors say with enough patience and physical therapy he’ll be able to use his arms fully again soon and he might even be able to re-learn how to walk, but that one’s still a little wobbly. A lot of muscle atrophy over all those years spent sedated out of his fucking mind. We’re just kind of taking it one day at a time. And we still haven’t told him everything. We’re still trying to figure out how and-” Sam cuts himself off with a sigh and deflates a little, sinking deeper into the lumpy cushions of the ratty old couch. He looks really fucking tired, but not in a way that seems unmanageable.

 

“Sounds like it’s been a lot, man.” Eric tries, his tone sympathetic and he lets his hand drop onto Sam’s shoulder, allowing himself that small whimsy. Eric’s been wanting to touch him so badly ever since he opened that fucking door, but it doesn’t seem right somehow. Sam’s shoulder is solid and real beneath his fingers and there’s actually a bit of muscle softening the jut of bone underneath. There’s warmth there and Eric does his best to memorize the feeling.

 

“Yeah.” Sam sighs again, the tip of his tongue darting out to run across his bottom lip, and Eric has to force himself to drag his gaze back up to Sam’s eyes after getting caught on the movement. “But it’s been worth it. I still can’t believe I’ve got them back, Eric. Or that the worst of it is actually over. It feels like I’m walking through a fucking dream, some days – most days – even though everything feels so fucking sharp and intense without the drugs, and I’m fucking terrified of waking up one day and finding out that none of it was real.”

 

“You’ll get used to it, man. I know you will.” Eric says, his smile thick in his voice, and he squeezes Sam’s shoulder for emphasis, shakes it a little just for good measure. Sam breathes a quiet laugh, a tiny little smile of his own pulling at his lips. It’s tired and there’s a soft sort of sadness there, but it’s still genuine, the hint of hope, of happiness hiding right underneath, and that’s more than Eric can say for anything he’s seen in the half-a-decade he’s known Sam so far. So that’s a good fucking thing, to put it lightly.

 

“I was hoping I could stay the night? I don’t really have the cash for a hotel room. Or did you find a new flatmate to replace me already?” Sam finally turns to look at Eric fully again and there’s some sarcasm in his voice, some of the tease Eric is used to, but there’s also something softer, something more vulnerable underneath and it’s – Eric lets his hand drop away from Sam’s shoulder and offers him a wry smile and an unconcerned shrug.

 

“Nah, man. Still enjoying the peace and quiet. Your room and what little stuff you left behind is all still there. You can make yourself right at home.” Eric offers up, hoping it comes across as light and unconcerned as he’s going for. “You eaten yet? If not I think I’ve still got some frozen pizza I could pop into the oven.”

 

“I ate on the way here, actually.” Sam says, one hand coming up to rub across his face and Eric wonders if he made the entire 30 hour drive here in one go, if he got any rest at all since he arrived. “I think I’m just going to grab a shower and then pass out, if that’s cool with you.”

 

“Yeah, sure. Like I said, make yourself at home.” Eric pats Sam on the shoulder one last time and watches Sam shoot him a grateful look before getting up with a groan, his limbs a bit stiff as he moves, and heads towards the bathroom.

 

The door closes behind him with a soft click.

 

Shit.

 

Eric sits there staring until he hears the water of the shower sputter on, then finally gets a fucking grip on himself and hauls his ass off of the couch, as well. He doubts he’s going to get much sleep tonight, not with the mass of unnamed emotion sitting heavy in his chest, but he can at least get comfortable and pretend like he’s trying. It is pretty late. Not that he’s got anything planned for tomorrow, except continuing to work on his current “project”. But he’s almost done with it anyway and the “client” isn’t expecting the finished product until the end of the month. Just in time to make fucking rent.

 

He trudges into his room, forces himself to not glance at the door to Sam’s as he walks past, same as he’s been doing ever since Sam left with that friend of his on what Eric was more than half-afraid would end up being a fucking suicide mission. On what almost fucking had ended up being one, and God he can’t even put into words how much he doesn’t want to think about that right now. He changes into a pair of sweats and an old t-shirt for bed and then sits on the edge of his mattress and waits until he hears the door to the bathroom open again, just so that he can see Sam one more time before he disappears into his old room. Gone for the night.

 

Eric finds Sam standing in the hallway with nothing but a towel wrapped around his skinny hips, barefoot on the cold floorboards and staring at the door to his room, looking far away and a little lost.

 

“Sam?” Eric tries carefully and that gets his attention. Sam flinches, just the tiniest bit, as he comes back to himself and then turns to face Eric. Unable to keep his eyes from wandering downward, Eric gets a look at the bullet wound for the first time. Right there on the left side of Sam’s chest, a bright pink scar standing out starkly between the faint outlines of two of his ribs, Sam may have gained some weight, but he’s definitely still got some catching up to do, Eric thinks, suddenly fiercely wondering whether he should have brushed off Sam’s refusal and made that stupid pizza for him anyway, something in his chest pulling uncomfortably tight.

 

It’s Eric’s turn to startle, when Sam actually starts to move towards him, and he only realizes that he’s been biting his fucking lip once it slips out from in between his teeth and the slight sting of it starts to seep in. He looks up from Sam’s chest to meet Sam’s eyes and there’s so much there it makes Eric want to take a step back from him just so he doesn’t end up doing something he’s going to regret later, because the urge to reach out and touch is so fucking strong it almost causes him physical pain to hold it back.

 

It’s Sam, though, who takes that decision away from Eric in the end, when his hands land on Eric’s jaw, strong and careful, and he leans up until his lips are pressed against Eric’s, full and pliable and warm and that’s really all it takes to short-circuit Eric’s brain for good. He makes a low sound at the back of his throat and jerks his arms up to wrap around Sam’s back, to pull him in as close as he can, swallowing up Sam’s little gasp as he kisses back with all he’s worth.

 

When Eric darts out his tongue, Sam opens up to him like it’s nothing, like it’s the easiest thing in the fucking world and Eric’s head begins to swim a little as he tastes coffee and cigarettes and that familiar hint of something underneath that’s just Sam. As heat and warmth radiate through his chest as if someone lit a fucking bonfire beneath his ribs and it kind of hurts, but fucking hell it’s so damn good at the same time.

 

Sam starts to move, starts to walk them into Eric’s room, and Eric goes along with it without hesitation. He really should take a step back and thinking this through properly, a small voice at the back of Eric’s mind chimes in, but thinking is kind of the last thing he wants to do right now. All he wants is to take whatever Sam will let him have as his goodbye, so that he’ll have something to hold onto when Sam walks back out of that door tomorrow. Into his new life with his old friends and away from all of the shit that’s been weighing him down. And that’s really all that Eric wants for him, even if Eric ends up being a part of what Sam leaves behind. It’s still more than worth it to know that Sam’s got an actual shot at happiness after everything he’s fucking been through, after all of that pain and suffering.

 

Sam’s hands are all over Eric, eager and hungry, but not out of despair, not driven by that horrible need that’d been there before, but like someone who’s just really into it, like Sam actually wants this, with him, and Eric lets Sam strip him out of his clothes happily. Does plenty of fucking touching himself, especially when that stupid towel finally falls away from Sam’s hips and Eric gets to wrap his hand around him for real, already hard and slick with pre-come and Eric doesn’t even try to fight the smile that pulls at his lips and turns the kiss sloppy.

 

They stumble when they hit the mattress and fall onto it in a graceless heap, but Eric is quick to recover and Sam moans at Eric’s touch, so fucking hot as he slides through Eric’s fist, his fingers digging into Eric’s sides where he clutches at him. Eric almost feels lightheaded with how real Sam feels, how solid, how much of him is right there beneath Eric’s palms and Eric’s chest aches with how badly he wants Sam. It’s fucking ridiculous.

 

“I – ah – Eric.” Sam presses out between gasping breaths and Eric plants a wet kiss to the corner of his mouth, his free hand carding through Sam’s hair, brushing his shower-damp bangs away from his forehead.

 

“What?” Eric mutters back, his fist steady as he jerks Sam off, nice and slow as he can make himself, wanting it to last. Though he’s not sure it will with how wound up Sam is, his whole body practically thrumming with it.

 

“I want you to fuck me.” Sam rushes, the words jumbling together and his voice breaking on the last syllable, swallowed up by a hoarse moan.

 

“I thought you didn’t like that.” Eric shoots back, his hand on Sam losing a bit of its rhythm, because, God, he wants that so damn much, but he can’t just-.

 

“I want to fucking feel you.” Sam practically breathes the words into Eric’s mouth, raw and open in a way that seems to reach right into Eric’s chest, and how the fuck is he supposed to say no to that?

 

“Yeah, yeah, OK. Just – give me a sec.” Eric scrambles to get the words out and move at the same time. Letting go of Sam is almost too much, but he needs to, if he’s going to make this work. Condoms and lube, that’s what he fucking needs. He crawls across the mattress and pulls open the bottom drawer of his nightstand, where he finds both and then hurries back over to Sam, who welcomes him with a filthy kiss that almost makes Eric drop his haul.

 

He rolls the condom onto his dick first, so that he wont have to struggle with it when his hands are sticky-slick with lube, biting down on his tongue as he does so to keep in the moan that’s climbing up his throat. Sam helps get them settled, lays back on the mattress and opens his legs so that Eric can climb in between them, his dick shiny and flushed an angry red where it rests against his lower stomach and Eric spills half of the lube he’s trying to squeeze out onto his palm all over the covers, because his hands are so clumsy with impatience, but he really doesn’t give a fuck right now.

 

Not when Sam reaches up to pull him in for another kiss, not when Sam grunts and starts to push back into his hand as soon as Eric’s got the tip of his slicked up finger into him. Sam gasps and moans as Eric opens him up, going a little faster then he maybe should, but Sam isn’t complaining, all he does is cling to Eric like his fucking life depends on it and moves with him as best he can. Enthusiastic and eager, burning bright enough to scorch the skin right off of Eric’s limbs if he’s not careful.

 

Sam pulls out of the kiss, his head dropping onto the mattress and his eyes boring into Eric’s, when Eric finally trades his fingers for his dick and starts to push into him. And, oh God, it’s so fucking good, the heat and the tight clutch of Sam’s body, Sam’s muscles trembling around him, beneath him, and the desperate, strangled sounds falling from Sam’s lips. The way Sam’s gaze clings to him as Sam’s flushed and sweaty face pulls into a grimace, his fingers digging into the muscles of Eric’s back hard enough to leave bruises.

 

Eric doesn’t stop until he’s buried to the hilt, all the way in, Sam’s thighs trapped between them, his knees hooked over Eric’s shoulders, and it has to be hard to breathe like that, but Sam isn’t complaining. Instead, he uses what little leverage he has like this and starts to roll his hips into Eric’s, making both of them moan. But Eric gets the message plenty clear and he pulls out and pushes back in, hard enough to knock the breath right out of Sam’s lungs, fucking him hard and mercilessly, making sure that Sam really feels him, just like he said he wanted.

 

Sam clenches his teeth and groans, the sounds involuntary and harsh, with every thrust of Eric’s hips, the mix of pleasure-pain painted stark across his features, wetness shimmering deceptively at the corners of his pale, oh so bright eyes and all Eric wants is to reach between them and get his hand on Sam’s dick again. So that’s exactly what he does. Sam is real and alive beneath him and it’s never been quite like this before. Not really. Because this is Sam Eric is touching, burying himself inside of, and not a burnt out shell Eric has to fight tooth and nail just to get a glimpse of the soul drowning inside of it.

 

Sam’s mouth falls open on a particularly rough thrust, moaning shamelessly, his voice rising in pitch and his thighs starting to tremble and Eric knows that he’s fucking close. One, two more pulls of Eric’s fist around him, just the way Eric knows Sam likes, is all it takes before Sam comes with a shout, muscles pulling taught as his orgasm washes through him. Sam’s dick pulsing in Eric’s fist, his muscles fluttering and clenching helplessly around Eric’s dick, Eric fucks into him one last time, the pressure fucking perfect, Sam gasping like Eric just punched him in the gut, and then he’s coming, too. Stars dancing across his vision and heat rushing through his veins.

 

Eric pulls out carefully after, making Sam hiss a little, and then collapses onto the mattress next to Sam, breathing hard and basking in the afterglow, feeling almost weightless with it. Sam looks absolutely ruined. Hair a mess, face flushed and breathing hard, spunk painted all across his stomach and chest. It’s a little worrying how much Eric loves that look on him. If he were any younger or his lifestyle just a bit more healthy, he might be tempted to go for another round. Just because.

 

But as it is, he’s too drained to rise to the occasion again this quickly and Sam looks about ready to pass out on him anyway. Shit. This is definitely going to stick with him for a while, Eric thinks. He groans and rolls over so that he can grab the tissues from his nightstand and hand them to Sam to clean himself up with a little, before he pulls off the condom, ties it and tosses it into the trash.

 

“Mpf, fuck.” Sam mumbles under his breath and Eric looks over to find Sam clumsily struggling to muster enough coordination to wipe his stomach clean. Eric’s not sure why, but for some reason he finds the sight absolutely fucking hilarious, and Sam glares at him when he breaks and starts laughing. He just can’t help it.

 

“Shit, man. Here, let me help you with that.” Eric manages in between calming breaths, trying hard to stifle the laughter but only succeeding partially as he takes the wadded up tissues from Sam and starts to wipe them across his stomach and chest for him.

 

“Glad to see you’re still a fucking asshole.” Sam grouses, but there’s no real bite behind the words and all Eric does is smile at him warmly, before discarding the used tissues into the trash as well, his work done.

 

Eric rolls onto his side, propped up on one elbow so he’s leaning over Sam slightly. “You can sleep here, if you want.” He says carefully, watching Sam’s face to gauge his reaction, something fluttery in his stomach making him feel a little weird as the high of his orgasm slowly fades out.

 

“You sure about that?” Sam mumbles, his voice drowsy and his eyes drooping. “I can-”

 

Eric just cuts him off, though, not in the mood for halfhearted protests. “Nah, it’s fine. If you start screaming and lashing about in the middle of the night, I’ll just turn around and push you off of the mattress. I’m sure that’ll wake you right up.”

 

“Thanks a lot, dickhead.” Sam shoots back dryly, then sobers up a little and pauses until Eric’s got the covers pulled out from underneath them and the blanket settled over both of them, until Eric is facing him again. “I don’t – I don’t actually do that a lot anymore.” Sam mutters sheepishly, a light flush creeping back into his cheeks and Eric smiles at him warmly. Yeah. He leans in to place a quick peck onto Sam’s cheek, watches Sam’s face scrunch up as Eric flops back down onto the mattress.

 

“Just go to sleep, man. You look like you’re about to pass out from exhaustion.” Eric says, and Sam sighs quietly as his eyes slip shut, a soft grunt of assent all the answer Eric gets. But he’s just fine with that. Eric lays there for a bit, watching as Sam’s features gradually soften, making him look younger and so much more carefree than he is ,and, somewhere along the way, the back of his hand brushing Sam’s underneath the covers just so, Eric drifts off, too.

 

~*~*~

 

Eric gets pulled out of sleep by the low sound of Sam’s voice and the rustling of his restless shifting. It’s still dark, when Eric groggily peels open his eyes, so it can’t be fucking morning yet. Next to him, Sam has managed to tangle himself up in his half of the blanket, muscles working and face contorted and it takes Eric a moment to realize that Sam is fucking crying in his sleep. Mumbling something agitated under his breath, the words too low for Eric to actually make out what he’s saying.

 

It’s not even close to what Sam’s nightmares used to be like, the sheer volume and violence of them, but it still makes Eric’s heart sink and something painful slither through his chest to see him like that. Of course, Eric knows that the kind of shit Sam went through doesn’t just fucking go away. Yeah, Sam and his friend got their payback and their closure, which is a hell of a lot more than most people who’ve suffered the way that they have can say. And Eric still hopes that that will bring Sam some sort of peace in the long run, will make it so that Sam can finally let go of all of that guilt and pain he’s still carrying. But it’s going to take a lot more fucking time than the handful of months that have passed since they finally managed to expose Borrasca to the world, he guesses.

 

Eric thinks about waking Sam up to pull him out of whatever fucked up dream is haunting him, but then he reconsiders.

 

Maybe he can try something else, first.

 

He reaches out a hand and settles it on Sam’s shoulder, as carefully as he can. Sam flinches at the touch, but doesn’t wake up. So Eric keeps going, until he’s got his arms wrapped around Sam’s shoulders, scooting across the mattress and pulling Sam close until they’re both on their sides, Sam’s heaving chest pressed up against his, Sam’s wet face buried against the crook of Eric’s neck.

 

This close, Eric can actually make out what Sam is saying, a quiet litany of ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry’ mumbled over and over again as he shudders in Eric’s arms, and Eric grits his teeth and tightens his embrace in response. Runs his palm up and down Sam’s spine, slow and steady in a way he hopes is soothing, and buries his nose in Sam’s hair, breathing Sam in deeply.

 

“Shh, you’re OK.” He whispers softly, until after a while, Sam starts to quiet down, his arms coming up to cling at Eric, their legs tangling as Sam shimmies closer of his own volition. Eric shifts them again, until he’s on his back and Sam is draped along his side, head resting securely on Eric’s chest.

 

“That’s it.” Eric mutters to himself more than to Sam, and just lays there like that, one hand stroking up and down Sam’s spine still, the other carding through his hair carefully, until Sam’s breathing has evened out completely and his muscles go lax again, the tension and distress draining out of him. Until Sam breathes a quiet sigh that tickles against Eric’s collarbone and Eric is finally sure that the nightmare is gone. Only then does he let his own eyes slip shut again, quietly reveling in the weight and warmth of Sam against his side and on his chest.

 

~*~*~

 

Eric’s already been up for a couple of hours, situated at the kitchen table and typing away at his laptop, when Sam finally emerges from his room. Sleep-drowsy with his hair all tousled, and naked as the day he was born, one hand rubbing groggily at his eyes.

 

“Morning, princess.” Eric chimes happily, just for old-time’s sake and does his best not to stare too much as Sam shoots him a halfhearted glare. An expression that falls more than flat and Eric can’t help the fond smile that tugs at his lips.

 

“Morning.” Sam mumbles, then pulls a face and groans a little, and Eric notes the small hitch in his step with a hot little thrill shooting through his gut. Yeah, he definitely is a bit of an asshole, Eric thinks cheerfully to himself, not feeling sorry in the least. “God, I need another shower.” Sam tags on and glances at the door to the bathroom.

 

“Knock yourself out.” Eric tells him, his gaze returning to his computer screen.

 

“Thanks.” Sam shoots back dryly and Eric glances up one more time, just to get a glimpse of Sam’s cute little ass before he disappears into the bathroom. The good mood doesn’t really last, though. Not when Eric knows that Sam is about to pack up his last remaining stuff and take off, walking out of Eric’s life for good. Sure, they’re going to stay in contact, Eric’ll make damn sure of that, but it’s never going to be like this again, the two of them here together. Sam is going to leave this shitty place behind, off to a better life with his friends, and that’s so fucking good.

 

Eric will put a fucking bullet through his own skull before he tries to mess with that for some selfish reason, no matter how much he might be tempted to. He’s plenty good of dealing with that sort of shit in private, and privacy is something he’s had a lot of these past couple of months, will have a lot more of in the months to follow. But yeah, he’s not going to let that dampen the relief he feels knowing that Sam is going to be alright, maybe not today or tomorrow, but definitely eventually.

 

Half an hour later, Sam drops the duffel bag with the last bits of his meager belongings stuffed into it next to the door to the apartment after having cleaned out his room for good, then drags himself back into the kitchen, where he grabs a glass out of the cupboard over the sink – since Eric is already using their only cup – and pours himself some coffee. With that in hand, Sam sinks down into one of the folding chairs across from Eric, wincing slightly as he does so.

 

Eric takes a quick sip of his coffee to hide his grin, but from the slightly pissed look Sam shoots him, he guesses that didn’t really work. Sam looks more awake, more together, and Eric sets his cup back down, sobering up a little.

 

This is it, he thinks, this is goodbye. He tries hard not to let it hurt too much, but it feels a little like a losing battle. He’ll have plenty of time for things to settle and get easier as soon as Sam is gone again, though, so whatever. He can get his shit together then, just so long as he doesn’t make this harder for Sam than it has to be.

 

“So, uh – what’re your plans from here?” Sam asks carefully, not quite meeting Eric’s eyes, and Eric shrugs once, fingers pushing the cup in front of him around as he tries to not let the awkwardness of the moment settle in too firmly.

 

“You know, the usual. Live from one job to the next. Find a new flatmate, who’ll actually pay his share of the rent, maybe. Nothing super exciting, but enough to get by on.” Eric says, the jab there but not filled with any real malice, and he smiles at the face Sam pulls at his words. “How about you?”

 

Sam sighs and takes another sip of his coffee before he answers. “Yeah, a lot, actually.” Sam says, the nail of his right index finger scratching at the chipped tabletop absentmindedly. “Lea actually came through with her contacts, again, and hooked us up with a facility in Cali. So a shit ton of therapy for all three of us. God knows we can fucking use it. Physical therapy for Kyle. Kimber actually got herself a job already. Social worker at a local youth center, of all things. Though I’m sure she’s gonna be great at it.”

 

“For a little while I actually thought about trying for custody of my nephew and my little sister.” Sam scoffs at that, the sound self-deprecating and tired, but not as bad as it maybe could be. “Can you imagine the absolute shit show of me trying to take care of two little kids?” Sam huffs out dryly and glances up at Eric, only to let his eyes drop away again. “Not to mention that the state would never even consider giving custody to an ex-convict junkie like me, so yeah. They’re in the system now. But I’m doing what I can to make sure that they get settled into good families. Hoping I can stay in contact, you know? Maybe try to get a fucking job. It’s a lot.”

 

“Yeah.” Eric smiles, even though Sam isn’t really looking at him. “But it sounds pretty fucking good, if you ask me.”

 

“It does, doesn’t it?” Sam almost sounds a little confused at that, as if he’s not sure what to do with himself now that shit actually seems to be working out for him for the first time in over a decade. His eyes flick up to Eric’s again, just for a second, and Eric gets it. He does. It can be scary, to suddenly have shit worth living for, after so long with nothing at all but the pain and the guilt eating away at you. Scary to have shit you can actually lose. But he’s plenty sure that Sam’ll get used to it. He’s been doing great so far, no reason that should change.

 

“You know, I-” Sam starts, straightening up out of his slouch and wincing a little, his hand restless on the table in front of him, and this time he actually manages to hold Eric’s gaze once he catches it. The stark earnestness in Sam’s eyes throws Eric off his game a little and he just sits there and stares like an idiot while Sam fumbles for words. He’s really not used to this new version of Sam yet, to the fact that there’s so much of him there now.

 

“You know we got this place in Cali and it’s – it’s not huge, we definitely can’t afford huge – but there’s room and – I mean – it’s kind of rundown and the neighborhood isn’t the best, but it’s a damn step up from this shithole here and it might get a little cramped with four people but – I know this is home for you, you’ve got absolutely no reason to want to leave in the first place – I don’t know anyone here so it’s easy for me, I only ever ended up here because of you anyway – but you’ve got friends and work contacts and shit and – I really don’t –“

 

“Sam.”

 

“I mean, I totally get it, I shouldn’t even be bringing it up, but –“

 

Sam.” Eric tries again, with a little more emphasis, and this time Sam actually snaps out of his rambling, his mouth shutting with a click of his teeth and he’s looking at Eric as if he’s expecting Eric to fucking punch him or something.

 

“What?” Sam mumbles, his fingers wrapped around the glass with his coffee in it so tightly Eric’s a little worried he’s going to fucking break it.

 

“Are you asking me to move to Cali with you, Samuel Walker?” Eric says, a little incredulous, but mostly teasing, mostly just to see the color rushing into Sam’s face, the way he fumbles and stutters, all flustered. The bright burst of something that’s flooding Eric’s chest is making him feel a little lightheaded. A little out of it. And he’s not sure what to do with it except grin like the fucking idiot that he is, his cheeks aching with the strain of it. ‘Bashful’, of all things, sure as hell isn’t an adjective Eric ever thought he’d get to use to describe Sam, but he’s definitely not complaining.

 

“That kind of depends on whether or not you’d want to.” Sam finally makes himself say, squirming restlessly in his seat, and Eric is pretty sure Sam can still feel him every time he shifts, will feel him with every fucking bump in the road for the entire drive back home. And maybe that shouldn’t make Eric quite as gleeful as it is, but hey. He’s got better things to do than try to pretend to be a decent fucking person, so whatever.

 

“What? Just like that? No ring, no nothing? I’m a respectable young man, Sam. I can’t just run off to live in sin with you and your two best friends, if you’re not gonna tie the fucking knot.” Eric says, his eyebrows waggling as he speaks and watches the mortification creep onto Sam’s face.

 

“Oh, God, I can’t believe I forgot how much of a fucking asshole you are.” Sam blurts out, suddenly bursting into motion as he pushes himself up out of his chair and turns to dump the rest of his coffee into the sink. Then starts to walk towards where he’s got his duffel stashed. “Just – forget I said anything. It’s a stupid fucking idea anyway. You’ve got your life here and –“

 

Eric gets up out of his own seat and steps into Sam’s path, making him startle for a second, before he tries to duck around Eric, but Eric stops him again with a hand on his arm. “Sam.” He says one more time, just to get Sam to look at him.

 

“Fucking what?” Sam bites out, vulnerability making him lash out, but Eric just grins down at him, too fucking happy to do anything else.

 

“Shut the hell up.” Eric murmurs, before fisting his hands into the collar of Sam’s sweater and yanking him in so that he can lean down and fucking kiss the words right out of him. Sam goes stiff for a second, then all of that awful tension seeps away and he melts into Eric as if that’s what he was fucking made for. Right now, Eric really can’t think of a single fucking thing holding him here. All there is is Sam, with his arms wrapped around Eric’s neck, kissing him back with all he’s worth. And that’s always what’s it’s been for Eric, ever since he met him way back when.

 

Sam, Sam, Sam.

 

~*~*~

 

Eric wakes with the spot on the mattress next to him empty, sunlight streaming in thick and warm through the window. He groans and takes a moment to rub his hands across his face before he sits up and heaves himself out of bed.

 

His clothes are still in boxes, stacked up against one of the walls of Sam’s bedroom where they left them when Eric got here last night. Sam’s and his bedroom, now. There aren’t a lot of boxes all together, only four and a duffel. Packing up his shit had been a bit humbling, realizing how little of it there actually was, but it had made things easy, too, and that was plenty fine for him.

 

It’d taken Eric longer than he would have thought to get everything in order, cancel his lease on the apartment, tie up all losoe ends, say his goodbyes to the few people he’d actually miss, save up enough money for the move. He’d had to rent a car to lug his stuff all the way across the fucking country. Plus an overnight stay in a motel along the way, because maybe Sam was crazy enough to make the 30 hour drive in one go, but Eric really wasn’t. None of that had exactly been cheap. But he’d made it, and now he’s here.

 

It still feels kind of odd, to be honest. He’s never been to California before and there’s plenty that’s different from Chicago, that much is fucking obvious, but he’s pretty sure that that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. And Eric’s confident that he’s gonna get used to it quickly enough. He’s always been good at adapting to his circumstances, and Sam really wasn’t lying when he said that this place was a step up from their old dump of an apartment. At least that’s what he can say for the bit of it he saw last night before Sam ushered him to bed with a smile on his face that made Eric forget he cared about anything else at all pretty fucking quickly.

 

Dressed and decent, Eric trudges down the hall and into the small living room with the built in kitchen space. It’s a little cramped for four people, but it’s not beyond manageable, that’s for sure. There’s a bright orange post-it note in Sam’s handwriting stuck to the fridge’s door and Eric leans in until he can decipher the messy scrawl.

 

Hey, asshat. In case I’m not here when you wake up: There’s coffee on the counter and fruit loops in the cupboard above the fridge. Sam’ is what it reads and Eric can’t help the fond smile that creeps onto his face at the words. Fucking charming as always, his Sam. Not to mention the fact that Sam fucking hates fruit loops. But they are Eric’s favorite. How very thoughtful, Eric thinks, the smile on his face only widening.

 

Before he goes for his cereal, though, Eric scours the cupboards until he finds the cups – more than one, actually, which is a nice change – and pours himself some coffee. Then turns around so that he can lean his hip against the counter and take a careful sip, the bitter bite of it doing almost as much to wake him up properly as the caffeine hitting his system will in a second.

 

“Morning.” A flat, male voice sounds form the direction of the living area.

 

“Wow, shit!” Eric startles so badly he almost fucking drops his cup, some of the hot coffee spilling out over his hand, and he sets the cup down on the counter and grabs the dishtowel by the sink to take care of the mess, cursing quietly under his breath, before he turns to face the person who was talking to him properly.

 

There’s a tall, red-headed guy sitting in an electric wheelchair across from him, on the other side of the room, and Eric’s not entirely sure how he managed to miss the guy when he came in.

 

“You must be Kyle, I’m guessing.” Eric says, once he’s gotten his wits back somewhat. “Nice to finally meet you.”

 

“Yeah. What tipped you off?” Kyle shoots back with one eyebrow raised ironically, and Eric can’t help but think that he’s sensing a bit of hostility here.

 

“I don’t know, maybe the fact that there’s only one other dude living here that I haven’t met, yet?” Eric says, not about to let himself be goaded into saying something clumsy about Kyle’s current state of being. He’s not that stupid, thanks.

 

Kyle gives him a thin-lipped smile and uses the joystick on the right armrest to start up his chair and steer it closer to the kitchen area, stopping a few feet from where Eric is standing propped up against the counter. “And you’d be Eric. Sam told me a lot about you.” Kyle says, his eyes taking Eric in sharply, and Eric has to work not to squirm under the scrutiny. He can’t help but feel like this is some kind of test. One he’d do good to pass.

 

“That’s me all right. I hope Sam only told you the good stuff.” Eric tries to make light, keeps his posture relaxed and his tone as carefree as he can.

 

“Sam’s outside prepping the car with Kimber. I’ve got a physical therapy session in about an hour and they have to take out the backseat to fit my chair.” Kyle says, ignoring Eric’s clumsy attempt at a joke, his tone as seemingly light as Eric’s, but Eric gets the feeling that he shouldn’t let himself be lulled into a false sense of security here. “You wanna pour me some coffee?”

 

“Sure.” Eric turns to grab another cup from the shelves and pours the rest of the coffee from the pot into it. “Milk or sugar?”

 

Kyle just shakes his head, so Eric hands him the cup as it is. Kyle’s movements are slow and laborious when he takes the cup from him, but he manages, and that alone is a huge fucking testament to the progress he’s been making. Eric can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like, going through the shit Kyle’d had to endure, and he’s definitely got some mad respect for the man. It’s easy to see that the will shining through those bright green eyes is made up of pure fucking steel.

 

“Thanks.” Kyle takes a deliberate sip of his coffee, hands shaking a little but not spilling anything, then sets the cup down to rest on his thigh, and somehow Eric gets the distinct feeling that this is some sort of power-flex on Kyle’s side, Kyle showing off just for him. Well, color him fucking impressed.

 

“You mean a lot to Sam, you know that right?” Kyle’s voice sounds almost casual as he says it, like it’s some kind of off-hand remark, when it’s really anything but, and it has Eric’s spine straightening and his shoulders pulling back. He makes sure to meet Kyle’s gaze head-on when he answers.

 

“Yeah, well. He means a lot to me, too.” Eric says, his fingers wrapping around the edge of the kitchen counter loosely. “That’s kind of why I’m here, man.”

 

“I am getting out of this chair.” Kyle goes on, the remark a bit of a non-sequitur, but Eric just holds his gaze and waits him out, doing his best not to let on how his heart is fluttering around in his chest. He doesn’t have the slightest doubt that it’s going to happen, either, that all Kyle’s doing is stating a fact. “And I swear to God, if you ever hurt Sam, I’m going to come for you. I will kick in your teeth and break every fucking bone in your body. You won’t even know what hit you. I don’t care how long it takes me, but it’s fucking happening. You better count on it.”

 

Eric huffs out a breath. “Somehow, I have no trouble at all believing that.” He mumbles, feeling a little put on the spot. But he can still very much appreciate how much Sam’s friends love him. He’s fucking seen how much they mean to Sam, but being able to get a glimpse at how true that is the other way round is pretty fucking nice. Sam really deserves every bit of that. So Eric does his best not to take Kyle’s warning too personally and just accept it for what it is: Kyle doing what he can to look out for Sam. “If I ever end up hurting Sam for some reason, I’ll hand myself over and I won’t even put up a fucking fight, man. Because I’d deserve anything you decide to dish out.”

 

“Good.” Kyle says, narrowing his eyes at Eric as he takes one more sip of his coffee. Then, though, a little surprisingly, Kyle’s expression sobers up and he looks a lot more grounded when he speaks again, his gaze sliding away from Eric’s only to return after a second. “Look, man. I know we owe you a lot. And I’m not sure Sam’s actually said ‘thank you’, yet.”

 

“Because of the whole Borrasca thing?” Eric asks, feeling more uncomfortable than he had before all of a sudden, with this new mood that’s settled over them. He gives a one-shouldered shrug and tries to brush it off. “I really didn’t do much. Most of that was Sam and Kimber, man. I wish I’d done more, actually. I should have gone with them, but it didn’t really feel like my place, you know?”

 

“If you hadn’t retrieved those documents and leaked them to the press, the whole thing would have been for nothing, dude. The fact that the FBI reacted at all is on you. And you fucking made sure that someone came for Sam and Kimber when they were hurt. Sam would have bled out on that fucking mountain, if it hadn’t been for you.” Kyle pushes on vehemently, heat in his eyes. He takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair a little. “But that’s not the only thing I meant.” Kyle goes on, a bit more calmly now, but no less sincere and Eric swallows around the lump in his throat. He’s really not fucking used to this sort of thing.

 

“You were there for Sam. All those years. Despite how fucked-up everything was. You stuck with him. You kept him alive.” Kyle’s voice sounds thick and heavy as he speaks, and Eric keeps quiet until he’s said what he feels that he needs to. “I don’t know, if I’ll ever be able to repay you for that, man. You’re more than welcome here for however long you want to stay.”

 

Eric takes a moment, just one, to let those words sink in, to let himself feel the weight of them, before he goes back to being his wonderful self and decides it’s time to break the weird mood and fucking lighten things up a bit. “Yeah, well. You can bet I ain’t going anywhere. I hear the weather around here is fucking spectacular.” Eric shoots back with a grin and it catches on, Kyle shaking off his intensity easily and grinning right back at him.

 

“That’s definitely true. I don’t think I’ve seen as much sun as I have since I got here in all my fucking life. I’m gonna be burnt to a crisp before the year is over, man. Not to mention the fashion. Girls in bikini tops and hot-pants everywhere.” Kyle says, a wicked sparkle in his eyes and Eric can’t help but think that he’s going to have no trouble at all getting along with this guy.

 

“Kyle? Car’s ready. Where the-” Sam rounds the corner into the living room, wearing a tank top and a pair of shorts, the skin that’s showing sporting a nice tan, making him look healthy and good and yeah, Eric sure as hell doesn’t have anything to fucking complain about.

 

“The fashion, indeed.” He mumbles, Kyle shooting him a look that he promptly ignores as Sam walks up to them, the expression on his face a little puzzled.

 

“There you are. Kimber’s waiting outside, we’re ready for you.” Sam says to Kyle, then turns to Eric, a small smile pulling at his lips. “You’re up.”

 

“Mhm.” Eric answers and lifts his cup to his lips for another sip of coffee, just to hide his grin. “Morning, sweetheart.”

 

“Morning, fuckface.” Sam shoots back, bristling at the endearment and giving Eric a pissy look, but all that does is make Eric grin wider.

 

“Oh, God, please tell me this isn’t what I’m going to have to deal with from now on.” Kyle groans dramatically and shoves his cup at Eric, who takes it off of his hands easily. “Please at least get me out of here before the two of you snap and have your wicked way with each other right here on the kitchen counter. I don’t think my fragile psyche could handle that.”

 

“You can fucking get yourself out of here, asshole.” Sam grouses and crosses his arms over his chest and tries to pretend like the color rising up into this cheeks isn’t there as he steps out of the way so that Kyle can steer his chair past him and into the hallway. “I’ll be there in a sec to help Kimber heave your heavy, useless ass into the car.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Take your time, Romeo.” Kyle throws back at Sam as he makes his way outside.

 

“More like ‘Juliet’, don’t you think?” Eric says through his grin and watches Sam’s eyes narrow at him even more.

 

“You fucking wish.” Sam presses out and steps over until he’s right in Eric’s space, his hands coming up to rest on the cupboards behind Eric on either side of his shoulders, effectively caging him in.

 

Eric huffs out a laugh, something happy and carefree bubbling around in his chest, and grabs a fistful of the front of Sam’s shirt, yanks and makes Sam stumble that last half-step into him before he leans down to press a kiss to Sam’s full, inviting lips. Sam makes a startled little ‘umpf’ sound, then catches himself and kisses right back, biting at Eric’s lips just to get back at him, the little shit.

 

“Oh!” Kimber’s voice sounds out from the doorway, where she’d stopped short for a second, her eyes caught on the two of them and both Eric and Sam startle out of their moment. “Hi, Eric. Nice to see that you got here OK! I hope you managed to settle in a bit. I just forgot to pack something to drink. I’ll be right out of your hair again.” She says quickly and rushes past them towards the fridge, where she grabs a bottle of water, and then hurries right back out, her long red hair practically glowing in the bright morning sunlight.

 

She seems chipper and energetic. A look that really suits her.

 

Sam groans again and buries his face against Eric’s chest, but Eric can still see the shade of red that’s crept up into the tips of his ears.

 

“Don’t worry, I’m sure they don’t mind.” Eric says, a little softer and a little less teasing, than he usually would. Sam sighs, his breath gusting against Eric’s t-shirt and making him shiver a little, then straightens himself back up and runs a hand through his dark hair.

 

“I know.” Sam admits, his hand coming back down to rub across his face. “But still.”

 

“You haven’t told him, yet, huh? The whole half-siblings thing?” Eric asks softly, noting how Sam won’t meet his eyes anymore. That particular bag of ‘fucked-up’ apparently still looming over all of their heads.

 

“No.” Sam says, his eyes finding their way back to Eric’s after all and Eric can easily see how conflicted Sam is, how it’s weighing on him. “I’ve been wanting to. It just doesn’t seem right not to. But Kimber, she’s – she’s not ready, yet, I guess. And I don’t think it’s my fucking place to take that decision away from her.”

 

“Give it some time, man. I think she’ll figure it out. It’s a lot to deal with on top of everything else. But she’s a tough one. All of you are.” Eric makes sure Sam gets that he means it, brings his hand up to cradle Sam’s cheek, his fingers slipping into Sam’s hair, soft and thick against Eric’s skin. Sam huffs out a breath, but he doesn’t fight it, when Eric pulls him in for another kiss. This one much softer then the one before.

 

A gentle touch like that never fails to make Sam melt into him, to make him sigh and quiet down, and if Eric is really honest with himself, then he can’t help but admit that he might be a little addicted to that. He smiles against Sam’s lips and enjoys it for as long as Sam is willing to let it last.

 

Eric knows that things aren’t perfect, far from it, no matter how much better they are than what they used to be. He knows that Sam’s, Kyle’s, and Kimber’s past will always be something that looms over them. Trauma like that, it sinks its claws into you and it doesn’t fucking let go. It never really disappears. They’re fucked up for good, all three of them.

 

But so is Eric, in his own way. And they’ve all found, or are still in the process of finding, their own ways to deal with it, to live with it. And it’s not going to be easy – Eric has no illusions about that – there are going to be days and nights that’ll be shitty as all hell. More than enough of them, probably.

 

But they’re all moving in the right direction and this life, however ‘broken’ it may be, is theirs, and Eric plans to be here for wherever it ends up taking them. Right by Sam’s side, where he fucking belongs.

 

~*~*~