Jack is...bouncing. Swaying. Some form of movement that is being done to his body and there’s something holding him up by his armpits and legs and it almost feels good, he is almost lulled back into - whatever the rocking and swaying lulled him out of, but.
But a voice yells out above him, a voice says something that sounds like, “watch out Ben!” and that voice sounds exactly like Sammy Stevens.
“Fuck.” Jack moans, probably out loud. Of fucking course this was another - dream, nightmare, vision, fake fucking thing devised by the Shadowmaker. It’s different then they usually are - usually, Jack’s in his and Sammy’s home and Sammy is telling him that Jack’s just too focused on King Falls, that he can’t handle it anymore, that they’re breaking up and Sammy never wants to see him again. Or Sammy’s there too, getting tortured, or Sammy’s dying.
This is different, but he’s admittedly getting used to the old ones, so maybe the Shadowmaster is trying something new.
He tries to open his eyes - they’re heavy and it’s so fucking hard why is it so hard - just to see Sammy, even if it’s not his Sammy.
It isn’t his Sammy. They never are, but usually they at least look like his Sammy. This Sammy has longer hair, spilling out of a bun tied to the top of his head. This Sammy looks older, like he’s lived a whole life without Jack.
Jack can’t see where they are; coming out of a forest into a clearing? There are other voices yelling, but Jack doesn’t now what they’re saying. All he can see is Sammy.
He’s pretty sure Sammy looks down at him before he slips off into unconsciousness, leaving behind the weirdest nightmare vision the Shadowmaker’s ever put him through.
Except. He wakes up in a hospital room, and it feels different. There isn’t the fogginess, the feeling of despair and fear. It’s just a hospital room, white and stark with that too clean smell that means they had to clean something gross up in the first place.
Sammy, the Sammy from before, with the long hair and the developing wrinkles and the sad eyes, is asleep in a chair next to him. His arm is draped on Jack’s hospital bed, and Jack realizes Sammy must have fallen asleep holding his hand.
There’s a younger guy in the chair next to him, typing something into his phone. He looks tired too, but less so than Sammy. The kind of tired that comes from missed sleep.
“What happened?” is what Jack means to say, but his throat feels raw, so it comes out garbled. The man’s face whips up, and a smile spreads across his face.
“You’re awake! Holy shit dude, I - need to wake Sammy up, and tell Lily, you’re awake!” The guy says. Despite the gigantic bags under his eyes he is energetic, bouncing as he rambles. “Fuck, Sammy just passed out, too. I mean, not that it’s bad you’re awake!” The guy is manic, looking between Jack and Sammy and his phone and the door; it’s making Jack a little nervous too, like this is all a build up to - something.
“What - where am I? Who are you?”
The guy, again in the process of typing something on his phone, stops and looks at Jack. “I’m Ben Arnold. I’m Sammy’s friend, we do a radio show together at King Falls AM? I - you’re in the Big Pine Memorial Hospital. It’s nice to meet you.” The guy - Ben - actually stick out his hand to Jack. The casual awkwardness of the gesture calms Jack; he shakes Ben’s hand. “I’ve been waiting a while to get to, like, months, so this is super awesome. I really should go get Lily though; I promised I’d get her if you woke up while she went to get food, and I promised Sammy I’d wake him up, so-” Ben gives a little shrug.
Jack breathes in. He’s still not sure if this is all real. But. Sammy is here, Lily is somewhere nearby, and he’s willing to believe it’s real if it just means he gets to see them, talk to them, again. “By all means, go ahead.”
Ben smiles, and leans over to Sammy, shaking him gently. Sammy shoots up almost immediately, looking blearily from Ben to Jack to Ben again, before locking on to Jack, all signs of sleep clearing up.
“I’ll be back,” Ben says, somewhere in the background of Jack looking at his fiance - his maybe probably actually real fiance - for the first time in way to long.
Sammy stares at him for a beat, two; hovering on the edge of his seat like he’s afraid to come clower.
It stretches on a second longer, a second too long. “If you don’t get over here now I’m calling off the wedding.”
It’s probably not the right thing to say. Sammy’s smile looks forced, but he leans over, closer to Jack, close enough that Jack can scoot up into a sitting position and reach forward and grab him, yank him down into a hug.
Sammy feels solid. Sammy feels real. This whole place feels different from the Void.
Sammy smells different. A change of shampoo, maybe, or a new aftershave. He smells different but at the same time he still smells like Sammy, still hugs Jack the way he always has - maybe a bit tighter.
Jack lets go, a little, pulls back, looks at Sammy. Sammy, who still looks tired but looks less sad, Sammy who is awkwardly sprawled on Jack’s bed, Sammy who is crying.
To be fair, Jack’s crying too.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. You - fuck, Sammy, you saved me.” He laughs, a little. It’s not funny.
“It was mostly Ben.” Sammy says, smiling for real. “He never let me - well. There were times I didn’t think I’d ever see you again either. He helped prove me wrong.” Sammy’s smile takes on a different edge, a playful one. “He has - had - a notebook.”
Jack laughs. How long has it been since he last laughed? “God, you just can’t escape them, can you?”
And then, because he can, Jack leans forward and kisses Sammy. It’s wet, and it catches Sammy off guard, and it probably wouldn’t even rank in the top ten of their kisses done when one or both of them was crying, but. Well.
It’s kissing Sammy. It’s kissing his Sammy, even if he’s changed a bit since Jack got taken.
They pull apart, and don’t get to say anything else, because there are thundering footsteps and Lily, Lily’s there at the door.
“Jack Wright, I am going to kill you.” she says, and then she’s on the bed too, hugging him and Sammy and crying and then there are doctors coming in saying they need to check on him and.
It all feels real. Somewhere in the course of that day, he lets himself believe it is.
Jack is kept at the hospital for a few days. There’s nothing wrong with him physically, or any of the others who got dragged out of the void with him; the couple of doctors who apparently had experience in the more supernatural side of medicine (yes, King Falls and the surrounding towns apparently had those) were expecting malnutrition, dehydration, some physical damage to his body from being in the void for so long.
Sure, he has some marks of his time there - scars from digging his fingernails into his palms to try and end dreams, bruises and scratches and cuts spattered across his body, and a deep unrelenting fatigue - but the only real trauma the doctors can find is all psychological.
They recommend some psychologists, make sure the bruises are healing normally, but that’s all they can really do. Ben offhandedly mentions that Sammy went to one of the therapists on the list and that he ‘sucks shit’, and Jack is swept away yet again by the realization that not only has Sammy had to live a life without him, but that these strangers Jack is just now meeting know more about the life than Jack does. Still, seeing Ben get into a rant about the therapist that ends with Sammy elbowing him in the ribs so hard that Ben wheezes out some inside joke about suplexing makes it hard to be jealous. At least, not bitterly jealous, just sad.
The extensive tests Lily and Sammy insist the hospital run to really, really make sure Jacks okay take days. Jack doesn’t mind; as bad as hospitals are, they’re nothing compared to where he’s just been.
He doesn’t sleep well. He’s always tired. Things aren’t fogg anymore, but he sometimes has trouble staying awake, and then he has trouble staying asleep, because when he’s asleep it's so dark.
Sammy and Lily are always there when he wakes up, though, Sammy running his fingers through Jacks hair and Lily bringing up some shitty story about when Jack was little and was too scared to sleep alone and would sleep in Lily’s bed instead of his own.
He gets a lot of visitors over those days, too, though most of them are really there to see Sammy or Lily, or Ben, who has taken up a semi-permanent residence in Jack’s room.
There’s the King Falls Sheriff, Troy, who is apparently also best friends with Sammy and Ben, and once he brings a deputy who spends more time with Lily than anyone else. Troy is nice - he brings over breakfast from some diner everyone loves the first time he comes, pancake puppies, and talks in such a calming manner that Jack can’t help but feel safe around him. Jack’s already adopted one of Sammy’s best friends - though it could be argued it was Ben who adopted him, considering Ben has already mentioned four time that he knew Jack would be awesome and had been desperately waiting to meet him - and he’s pretty sure he and Troy will be friends in no time too.
There’s Emily, Ben’s girlfriend, and another potential best friend. She sits and talks with him for a bit at one point, when Ben convinces Sammy and Lily that they should come get food with him to stretch their legs. She had also been taken, apparently. The situation was completely different, but it’s comforting to see how far she’s come, to hear how she’s struggled and fought, to see how happy she is.
Plus, she’s just plain amazing.
Other people visit too, but they all start to blur together until they’re just remembered as a group of people who love Sammy, who Sammy helped, who helped Sammy, who made King Falls his home.
It’s sad, knowing Sammy and Lily have this whole part of their lives Jack will never really know. He’s been gone over five years, and he’s never getting that time back.
He’s discharged after five days at the hospital. Day four, when the doctors tell him he’ll be discharged, Sammy sits down with him and gives Jack his actually-serious-no-teasing look.
“We - Lily and I, we’ve been staying in Ben’s apartment in King Falls.” he says, “But if. I mean, if King Falls is too much, if this whole area is too much, we can. I don’t know. Get in my car and drive for as long as we can and stay at the first motel we see. Try and make it all the way back to California.”
Sammy and Jack haven’t had much time alone - he doesn’t want Lily, or even Ben, to leave, but he hasn’t had much time to really talk with Sammy. But seeing Sammy joking with Ben, smiling at visitors, talking about ‘The Sammy and Ben Show’. Having Sammy hold his hand and smile at him and even kiss him in front of everyone who walks in, friends and strangers alike.
He doesn’t need to have a heart to heart about what the past five years have been like for Sammy. He wants to, he wants to know everything, he wants to know why no one will mention why Sammy moved in with Ben, why Ben looks proud everytime Sammy does the aforementioned PDA with Jack. But he doesn’t need to.
He grabs Sammy’s hand, relishes in getting to do that - he’d always known he loved touching Sammy, but now he appreciates it so much more, knowing what the both of them had to go through to get the chance to do it again. “This place, Ben and Troy and everyone else, your radio show, all of it, it’s your home. I’m sorry I missed it, I’m sorry I let some obsession get in the way of us and our future, but I want to be a part of it from here on out. You’ve made a home here, and it seems like Lily has too, and all I want is to go to your and Ben’s apartment and get caught up on all the TV Ben’s told me I missed.”
Sammy says, throat thick, “I was the one who took too long to find you, who - who gave up on finding you. The only reason you’re out is because of Ben and Lily, not me.”
One hand still holding Sammy’s, Jack reaches out and cups Sammy’s face. “You,” he says, pulling Sammy into a quick kiss to punctuate his point, “are a complete fucking idiot. You saved me, Sammy, big hero moment and all. If we weren’t already engaged I’d be swooning into your arms and begging you to marry me.”
“You really want to stay here?” Sammy asks, and it’s with the same scared hesitance he had when they talked about dating, about moving on from Florida, about the ‘Shotgun Sammy’ persona. It probably sound bad, or selfish, but it’s nice to see that on Sammy, further proof that he’s still the man Jack left behind.
“I want nothing more, except maybe for it to happen today.” Jack makes a face. “Troy can sneak in as many pancake puppies as he wants, I’m still sick of hospital food.
“This is it!” Ban says, gesturing to the apartment. It’s small, cramped. Jack doesn’t recognize much of the stuff in it - there’s one of Sammy’s hoodies flung on a sofa, a blanket he knows is Lily’s because he’d bought it for her and a few of her suitcases, but that’s about it.
Sammy and he had a house back in California. Sure, it had been small, since it was a house in California and you had to be a millionaire to have a big one of those, but it had been a house between just the two of them, big enough to not be cramped and small enough to be home. Jack’s heart pangs at the thought of what he’s lost, what he abandoned; it’s been doing that a lot since he woke up.
But then Lily flops onto the couch and turns on the TV to HGTV, and Sammy - Sammy who has been hovering at his side since he woke up, since before he woke up, who held his hand out of the Hospital and held his hand while smiling shakily at neighbors on the way into his apartment - Sammy leads him over to his room, pulls him onto the bed. Jack sees Lily move like she’s going to get up, but she must decide to give them time alone because she shifts back down onto the couch.
At first the room looks so different from any room Jack’s shared with Sammy that it’s hard to look past that.
But then Jack sees the picture of he and Sammy hanging on the wall, the one Lily had taken on their first day in Florida and Jacks hair had been puffy from the humidity and Sammy had sweat stains on his shirt, in the stupid ornate frame that Jack had insisted on putting it in that was almost bigger than the picture.
The band poster from the first concert they’d gone to together in college, the one Lily had gotten so drunk at they’d had to leave early do she could puke in the bushes, hanging on the closet door like it’s still a college dorm.
The blanket on the bed is theirs, the grown up one they’d bought when they’d bought their house. The desk pushed under the window is his - it’s got Sammy’s stuff stacked on it, but it's his, it even still has the paint rubbed off on the bottom edge where Jacks knees would rub when he sat there. Sammy’s meds are on the night table, alongside a glass of water. All these little things that make the room feel like home.
“The - our stuff is all in a storage unit near our old house. We’ll have to. If you really want to stay here, we can make a trip up to get some of it.” Sammy says, into Jacks shoulder. “We’ll have to take Ben - we went to get some of my stuff when I moved in here, he thought it would help, and he’ll insist on coming this time to.”
“That sounds nice.” Jack says. “I want you to show me the town, too. I’ve never been here before, so it might help. Might be overwhelming, but definitely might help.”
He chuckles. Pulls Sammy tighter. Physical contact is nice - holding Sammy is nice in general, and any touch helps ground him. Sammy’s noticed. He’s still doing that awkward hovering thing where Jack can tell he’s afraid of being too much, but any time Jack needs him to hold him he seems to know.
The room is different. Scary different. The town, what he saw of it driving here, is small and different from the big city he’s used to. Sammy is different. Jack’s different.
But as he sits here on a bed that will be his in an apartment that will be his, with Sammy holding him tight and the teasing lilt of Lily’s voice coming from the room outside the door, he thinks he can work with different.