Sammy wasn’t doing great. He’d barely spoken a word the entire ride to a safe place, staring out the window with a thousand mile gaze. When they’d arrived and trodden inside, he’d yanked the three of them into his arms in a crushing hug, one that was returned with a fervent desperation. They’d all stood there for a moment, just drinking in each other’s presence, grateful that they were all still alive and together, that they still had each other. But slowly, they’d broken away to attend their own business, to process the events of the night in their own ways.
Lily was bitter. Beyond bitter, Ben could tell. Jack (?) had not only said cruel things about her, but had ignored her completely to focus on Sammy. He knew the words had struck a little closer to home than she’d ever admit, and that knew she’d be working through this for a while. Emily was shaken, sticking close to Lily with the excuse that she was looking after her, but everyone could see that she wanted someone else close. And that someone happened to be Lily.
That left Ben with a trembling Sammy, and he immediately pushed all his own fears aside to focus on his best friend. He couldn’t imagine what Sammy was going through, couldn’t fathom how he must be feeling. He’d thought losing Emily was a nightmare, but this, what Sammy had heard, was nothing short of horrific. Sammy’s eyes were still distant, locked on some faraway point as Ben guided him to sit on the couch, fussing over him as he drew a blanket over his shoulders. He knelt next to Sammy and pulled him into his arms, relieved when Sammy hugged back automatically, tight enough that it almost hurt, but Ben wouldn’t dream of pulling away. He was still shaking, and Ben wanted so badly to make this all okay again, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get a kind word out right now, even to his best friend.
The terror had faded sometime during the car ride, driven back by Lily’s quiet sobs and Sammy’s silence. Now, Ben was mad. Scratch that, Ben was livid .
He didn’t want to believe that the creature that spoke to them was actually Jack. It couldn’t be him, not really, no one who loved Sammy would ever say such cruel things to him, would use his insecurities against him. And yet, a pragmatic part of him nagged that it was completely within the realm of possibility. It was the possessiveness in Jack’s voice when he spoke to Sammy. The covetousness. The hunger. The greed . Just the memory of it made his skin crawl, made him want to hide Sammy away where no shadow could ever find him. It didn’t strike Ben as the craving of a creature with a vague idea of what love was, it sounded like a man warped and changed by darkness, one who would do anything in his power to take back what he thought of as his .
Jack or no, if that shadowy fuck thought he had any claim to Sammy, Ben would take grim joy in setting him straight.
“I’m sorry.” Sammy whispered then, and Ben was pulled from his morbid thoughts.
“Sammy, you have nothing to apologize for.” he hurried to say, making the effort to keep the protective fury from leakier through his voice, “Absolutely nothing, you hear me? Whatever the fuck happened tonight was not your fault, okay?”
“I yelled at you guys.” he said, keeping his face hidden in Ben’s shoulder, “I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”
“Yelled at... Sammy, we’re not mad about that. There was a lot going on, a little yelling was perfectly justified. Imagine what a dick I’d be if this was Emily.” Sammy pulled him closer at that, like Ben was the only thing keeping him together. Ben’s heart ached for him.
“If you guys weren’t there, I-“ Sammy’s breath hitched, “I don’t know what I would have done. I... I wasn’t thinking straight, I-I probably would have tried to... I’d be in the Void right now. Or dead. Gone, either way.”
“Don’t-Don’t think about that.” Ben said, alarmed, “Don’t think about that, okay? We’re here, we’re safe, and I’m not letting you go. Nothing’s gonna happen to you or me or the girls, because we’re gonna keep each other safe. Okay?” Sammy nodded once, taking a deep, shaky breath like he was attempting to hold back tears. Bottle it all up inside like he had for years before that night when he was outed. Ben didn’t want that, didn’t want Sammy to try and shoulder everything alone again.
“I should check on Lily.” Sammy whispered, though he made no attempt to move, and Ben clung just a little tighter.
“She’s with Emily.” he said softly, “You need to get your head back on straight. And no, that wasn’t a gay joke.” The quip earned him a tiny puff of laughter, and he counted that as a win, “But seriously, you can cry. It’s okay. You can cry on me.”
“How will crying help this situation?”
“It won’t. But it’ll help you.” Ben said, firm yet soft at the same time, “I personally find I always think clearer after a good cry. Go on, give it a try. No one here is going to judge you.”
“Ben.” Sammy’s voice broke, “What the hell did I do to deserve a friend like you?”
“If I read off that particular list, we’d be here all night.” he smiled despite the wetness threatening to spill from his own eyes. What he wouldn’t do to take all of Sammy’s pain. What he wouldn’t do to see Sammy smile, to see that inner light of his that shone through the old photos Lily had of a time before King Falls, to see him happy in the arms of Jack Wright once again. The real Jack, not that avaricious shadow that dared speak his name with such a cooing tone. He unconsciously clutched Sammy tighter, fighting back the urge to sob.
Sammy did end up crying that night, and Ben held him through it. His mind was a whirl the entire time, spinning with plans and hopes and ideas on how to salvage this, to make it better. For Sammy, for Lily, for Jack. For all of them.
That night, when all were asleep in a pile together, he dreamed that he was in Perdition Wood, calling for Sammy, searching madly for him. He dreamed he found him at the mouth of a cave, exposed and freezing and crying silently. He dreamed that Sammy was wreathed in flame, begging Ben to shoot him, pleading with him to end his life.
He dreamed he pulled the trigger.
He woke up sobbing, and Sammy was there, ready with soft words and open arms. Ben flung himself at his best friend, trembling with the aftermath of the dream, and in his terrified state, he made a promise to himself that Sammy would always be there. Ben would make sure of it.
Any other option was unacceptable.