This kid was good. The smooth lines, noticing the growing bulge almost immediately- it was all far more impressive than Sam could have expected from the new guy. It made hi want to push the flirting, the eyefucking, even more than he already was. If that was even possible. “Nah, something tells me you’re staying on my very good side for a while.” He let the words roll off his tongue, almost in a whisper. If he was going to keep control in this little battle of words, he had to work harder than usual. And Sam Rockwell always won.
“Didn’t have to do anything,” he said with a smile, silently loving that he had Emerson sitting on the billiards table. He really couldn’t move. Closing the few inches of space between them, the black-haired boy rested a little weight off his legs forward against the other boy’s knees. Not necessarily that intimate, but still suggestive. And that tent in his pants was getting closer and closer to the new guy. “I really have PAD. You’re just that sexy.” It was true. He did like sex, sure, maybe a little more than most people. Helped him control his temper sometimes. But Emerson was really, really fucking hot. He just didn’t realize it.
Why was this guy so smooth? It made Emerson feel…odd? Good? Both? Belfry was going to screw with him anyway, so he might as well not question whatever Sam was getting at anyway. Emerson didn’t have experience with this. He’d dug himself into this hole far too quickly. Was it a hole, though? Most people would probably assume so. Emerson, however, was foggy when it came to that decision. He couldn’t make it. Probably because he could see it both ways. Looking up at Sam, he shrugged, still smiling. “For a while? Glad you can make such a big statement like that with barely knowing me.” He licked his lips and rose his eyebrows at him. As much as he kind of liked the flirting, he was scared. Not so much scared. That wasn’t the right word. The right word was nervous. Anxious. Would they actually do something? From the judgement of Sam’s…happy manner…Emerson could only assume.
Plus, when had he ever been called sexy? That was new. Very new. Especially coming from a guy. Sam had him in a deer in headlights look, had him going in different directions that he wasn’t used to going in. Gulping, Emerson looking away from those piercing blue eyes for a moment to try and collect himself. Looking back over at him. He tried to come up with something to say back. Anything. “G-glad I can seduce you with inadvertently being sexy?” He cleared his throat, tried to prevent himself from another awkward stutter. “I think you’re rather…too enticing for your own good. Did y-you know that one?” And for Emerson’s own good, but he could leave that out. For now. Right now he had to deal with what was to come. What he needed to expect. Whatever he needed to do, he knew he had to get rid of the nervous stutter or he’d be going no where.
Hm, this guy was good. Imitating his exact tone of voice on the word “fuck”? Was he down for it, too? Sam could feel a bulge starting to grow in his jeans. Oh, well. It was either a tiny embarrassment or it led to something great, so he really didn’t give a shit. Hopefully this guy would notice and act quick.
“Hypomania.” He’d heard a few of the nurses talking about it a few days back, apparently in reference to Emerson. It was interesting- needing adrenaline to function. Sam could understand it. He liked excitement too. But he definitely wasn’t anything close to a hypomaniac- just bored with himself the vast majority of the time. “Interesting. I like it. And hey, never said there was anything wrong with you,” he cooed, returning the lean in and getting pretty close to the boy. He was pinned against the pool table at this point- if he moved, Emerson would get a nice big feel of the growing tent in his skinny jeans (not that it wasn’t visible already.) So he just stayed put where he was quite comfortably, hoping the other boy would get even closer fairly quickly.
“I’m apparently too passive-aggressive for my own good. When my temper comes out, it comes out. So you better stay on my good side, new kid,” he teased. He didn’t mention that his personality came with a love of getting a little rough (okay, a lot rough) between the sheets. Those big brown eyes could figure that out for themselves up close and personal.
Emerson Looked up at Sam from where he was sitting. He didn’t really know what Sam was hinting at or honestly why he was getting so close but some part of him liked the warmth that seemed to radiate off him. Cocking his head to one side, Emerson smiled at him. “You could’ve been thinking it. A lot of people can be judgmental here.” Shrugging, Emerson looked Sam in the eyes before roaming down to his t shirt. It looked comfy. The material, anyway. More than his. Blinking softly, Emerson could tell by how he was standing that something was…off. Not off…maybe on. He gave a look down at Sam before looking back up, a smirk on his lips again. “I’ll try my best. I get on people’s bad side without even trying though. I guess I get annoying like that.”
“But uh..” Should he mention it? Maybe…maybe not. Emerson couldn’t decide. Reaching up, he rubbed the back of his neck (constantly moving) and crossed his ankles as he sat on the pool table. He had to make sure. And he felt it. He wasn’t quite sure how to take it. Normally it didn’t happen so fast. Normally he had to try a little harder. Normally…just..didn’t apply here. He had to say something. “You uh…seem rather…happy,” he commented. Looking up at him and blushing. He wasn’t a virgin, no, but he never did it so spontaneously. Well he did, but with people he knew. Which probably made it worse but it actually helped the adrenaline oddly enough. Leaning back on his hands, Emerson looked up at him with a more intensity than usual. He wanted to get to know Sam. He was surely intriguing enough from what he had seen so far. Because a temper? He seemed…rather easy-going. Which was probably the punchline.
“You’re very quick. What did I do?” His eyes shifted towards the window, where he nibbled his lip for a moment. He was actually quite curious. If he wanted to get to know Sam then he’d have to get to know everything, right? Including what apparently turned him on. Quirking one eyebrow, Emerson swung his legs back and forth as well as he could with the little space that Sam gave him before laughing. “Or are you a pathological liar and you said you had PAD when in reality you have hyper-sexuality disorder?” He kept the smile on his face, innocence well played.
Emerson. Definitely not a typical name. But it seemed to suit the other boy pretty well, even if it did sound a bit like a girl’s name. “Yeah, well, don’t know you very well.” Yet, he added mentally. Because there was definitely a large part of him that wanted to get to know this guy better. “Gotta make sure I’m not offending you, right?” He didn’t know if flirting was off limits or not, so he played it a little safe. This guy was either interested or just too happy, and the line was fairly blurry to try and interpret. But hey, since when was Sam Rockwell one to play anything safe?
“Nah, my favourite word isn’t shit. I like fuck better. Any form of it.” He resisted the urge to add a wink onto the end. Too campy. He was smooth, not ridiculous. “How about you, Emerson Shmitt? Got a favourite word?” Now this was more like him. The real Sam Rockwell. Flirtatious, smooth, mysterious, intriguing. All things he worked hard at. Maybe that was why he was so passive-aggressive- his temper just wasn’t something he focused on. But that was the doctors’ job to diagnose, not his.
Ugh, he could die looking into those big brown eyes forever. They were gorgeous. And that smile was seriously starting to become infectious. Yeah, this guy was far more intriguing than both of the twins combined, as hard as that might have been to believe to some people. “Nah, don’t apologize. It’s interesting,” he purred. It really was. This guy noticed things that Sam never bothered to take the time to even glance at. Maybe hanging out with him would help him find new and interesting things in this damn pla- who the fuck was he kidding? This place was hopeless. Or was it?
“So. Emerson Shmitt.” He liked saying the other boy’s full name. It had a certain roll and ring to it. “What are you in this craphole of a building for?”
Did he have a favorite word? Pursing his lips, Emerson looked up at the ceiling and thought about the question. Sam was playing back. Which was kind of rare with the other patients around here and he was actually a little more interesting than one would expect. Emerson liked that. It was a nice breath of fresh air. This place couldn’t knock him down though. Emerson would never let it. “Favorite word…” he drawled out, glancing over at Sam with his eyes. “Nope. I use far too many to like just one. Plus, if I did give you a favorite word it would just change by tomorrow so I don’t think it would matter.” Shrugging, Emerson continued to smile before bending over and resting his chin in his hands. “However, ‘fuck’…hm..I suppose any form of it would be good,” he said back, voice imitating the tone Sam seemed to have.
Emerson looked down at the table covering, noticing how old it was. Who made the first pool table? Questions. He was far too much of a busy-body to look for the answer. Standing straight up again, Emerson sighed and brushed off some of the dust from his hands. He eyed Sam, narrowed his eyes and dropped his smile to a smirk. He asked the question everyone did. “I’m in here for my um…lack of boring tendencies apparently.” Emerson always had fun answering these questions, though. And either Sam was gonna like it or he was going to hate it. Time to see which side of the fence he fell on.
“I’ll tell you why I’m here..” he said with a sort of eagerness in his voice. Almost immediately after he said that started skipping around the room, smiling like an idiot. “Hypomania. See, people like to think that it’s basically ADHD and ADD which I don’t even know the difference between those nor do I actually care but see the thing is is that hypomania is more than just a bundle of energy.” Going over to one of the chairs in the corner of the room, Emerson stood atop it and put his feet out halfway off the edge. “It’s kinda like…enjoying an adrenaline kick. Looking for a rush.” He leaned foward enough to increase his momentum. He probably looked like he was going to fall but just in time he caught himself and landed on his feet. “I don’t like sleeping either. It’s boring. I’m wasting time doing that. Plus, it takes too much work to actually lay in bed and tell your mind to shut down.” He made a head start to the table before flipping around to face Sam again and sit right on top of the piece of furniture. “It’s my lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with me.” Leaning forward just a bit, he grinned. “Promise.”
As the source of the footsteps came into view, Sam first sighed a bit of relief. Not hospital staff. Just… a boy. Kind of short, big eyes. Pretty good-looking. Maybe his expression was a little too eager, but that was forgivable. And hey, he’d made an accurate observation. “Accidentally,” he responded, blushing a little. “Just kind of found this place. But it looks damn exciting to me, compared to the rest of this shithole. Oh, uh, sorry,” he added, unsure if swearing would offend the other boy. Normally he wasn’t nearly this talkative… Was he actually nervous right now?
“Oh, shit, sorry, I’m rude. Sam Rockwell”, he offered, sticking a hand out for a proper shake. Those big puppy-dog eyes had Sam’s stomach twisting in ways it hadn’t in a long, long time. Yep, this was definitely the best thing he could have stumbled upon at a time like this.
Emerson walked into the room, assuming that since he was being spoken to he was allowed to take part in whatever this guy was doing. Oh. His name was Sam. It fit him. He looked like a Sam to Emerson. He nodded his head slowly, leaned against the pool table, palms resting on the edge, fingers still tapping. “You say sorry a lot,” then he smiled. “Just pointing that out.” Shrugging, Emerson lifted up his hand to shake, he squeezed just enough pressure before letting go and resuming his tapping. “I’m Emerson Shmitt. Nice to meet you.” Emerson grinned at him for a moment, taking in the light blue eyes, the dark hair. He was pretty. Emerson had never actually thought too deeply into a guy before but honestly, he’d take whatever adrenaline he could. It didn’t have a gender. Therefore he could admire Sam’s blue eyes and think about them as he fu—
“Is your favorite word shit?” Hypomania. It always had his mind going in different directions. Laughing, he looked down at his shoes, noticed how one was more bent at the toe from the constant bouncing. He didn’t have a problem, though. He didn’t need to be here. He was just having more fun than most people. “I tend to say ‘yeah but’ a lot. I’m always talking and when someone interrupts me I just go right back into whatever with that phrase. So I guess we all have that sort of thing going…” He pulled away from the table and slowly circled around, fingers acting like they were a man running along the velvet top. “I’ve always liked blue pool tables. They’re different.” How many times was he going to change the subject? “I’m not so sure about blue tennis courts though.” Shaking his head, he chuckled to himself. “Guess it’s my turn to apologize. My minds a bit…sporadic.” He hadn’t realized that he hadn’t really stopped smiling. Maybe he was too happy-as some of his old friends said.
It was the same old thing, day after day. Sam knew he was in for a load of boredom and bullshit, but this level of monotony was absolutely absurd. Yeah, fucking around with the twins was sometimes decent, and some of the girls were nice to check out. But he could only take so much of the singalongs, arts and crafts time, and group therapy. He was fine. Yeah, his temper got a little out of control sometimes. Fuck that. He didn’t need to fucking be here.
Wandering down an empty hallway, Sam stopped to look around, realizing he had absolutely no idea where he was. He thought he’d already explored every inch of this hospital, backwards and forwards. But this just didn’t look familiar. The paintings on the walls, the names on the doors, the eerie silence- none of it registered in his mind. And then he realized.”Oh, shit, the old floors,”he murmured. He’d been meaning to explore them, hearing all the tales their crumbling walls and antique furniture held. He realized he must have wandered up an extra flight of stairs.”Can’t complain about something adventurous,”he said quietly to himself, taking more careful and gentle steps down the hallway. He didn’t know how much weight and pressure the old flooring could take (not that his lanky, toned body weighed much to begin with- he guessed the food here had him at 160tops.).
Turning into a doorway, he smiled to himself. The room was lined with old books, browning with age and calling to him. In the middle, an old chandelier caught the specks of light that shone through the boarded up window, casting a rainbow glimmer on the billiards table below. In the cabinet just to his right sat a few bottles of booze, unmarked and just waiting to be drank.”Paradise,”he said a little louder, not caring who caught him. He’d found just the cure for his boredom. As he scoured the room for a pool cue and some balls to shoot around with, he heard some footsteps outside. Shit. He was trapped. There was no way he was going to talk his way out of this one if it was hospital staff. But how often did the staff really come up here?”Who’s there?”he called, risking himself. Fuck it. It could only make things more exciting, right?
Emerson had just been released from one on one therapy and honestly, the silly shit had been pointless. He didn’t really understand why he had to waste his time-valuable time, thank you-in this place when he could be pestering the clerks at Wal-Mart. That was fun, not this. People probably thought that he couldn’t have fun with it but it was Wal-Mart; those employees take their jobs too seriously. It wasn’t like he could actually go, though. Emerson wasn’t even sure he saw a Wal-Mart or anything similar on his way here. Being stuck here sucked. The therapists were sticklers, the grass had brown patches, and the gate looked like the newest part of the entire scenery. It was downright boring.
Which was probably why he decided to explore. Funny how he could think about how much this place was an enemy when he had only been here for a few days. The only things he was excited about: the old floors and the ghosts. That had to have some sort of adrenaline to it, right? Hell yes. He didn’t even care about being gentle walking on the older floors; added more of a rush, you see. So he flicked at some of the walls, watched the dust fall off and dissipate into the beams of sunlight. His footsteps were making noise and he was kind of tempted to make a beat with the random squeaks and thuds. But then he heard something-someone?
Well, whoever yelled that was clearly delusional.
Emerson decided to check it out anyway. The question that was asked as he reached the doorway hung in the air. Emerson waited a moment, let their heart rate pick up, before revealing himself. Part of him had hoped it had been a ghost. Another part of him was happy he had a nice view in front of him. Pretty boy. With an edge. Edge brought good adrenaline. He liked people, loved them even. They were fascinating and oddly pleasurable. Emerson hadn’t technically come here to make friends but maybe it’d make his short time here bearable (they’d said a year, right?). Pressing his hands against the door frame, Emerson raised his eyebrows as his lips turned up in a smile. “Party for one? Looks exciting,” he said, a small laugh escaping. Maybe he was too happy and hyper, like everyone said because even with a distraction of talking to someone, he still found himself bouncing his foot up and down, his fingers tapping against the wood.
Aw, and there it was. Emerson being so damn adorable, hiding his face in the skin of Sam’s neck. He almost hit the bandage on the back of his neck. Right. The tattoo. He had yet to show that off. But now that wasn’t at all the priority. Right now, his focus was on the kiss they were sharing. The way Emerson’s lips were both new and familiar each time they kissed. The way he’d pronounced Sam’s name in a semi-Portuguese accent, after all these years of botching it. Everything, despite yesterday, was just so perfect.
Letting his tongue meet his husband’s own, Sam sighed happily, wrapping his good arm around Em’s waist to keep them close. Yep, this was definitely what they needed. Suddenly, their kiss and moment was interrupting by a big, panting, black ball of fur. “Of course you want in, pretty girl,” Sam said with a laugh, not having to move his lame arm much to scratch her back. “Our family.”
When Maggie came over, Emerson laughed. She always had to be in the middle of whatever he and Sam did. It was just something she knew; she was such a smart dog. Emerson couldn’t have asked for a better one. He may look at other dogs and say he wants them but of course they had Maggie and that’s all they needed. He didn’t really want anything else. Reaching over Sam, Emerson patted Maggie’s head in apology for yesterday. It hadn’t been the greatest day. Tilting his head up, still petting Maggie, Emerson pecked a kiss to Sam’s jaw, then met his lips lightly once more before he pulled away and smiled.
“Our perfect family,” he corrected. They were so close, all snuggled, and Emerson didn’t want to get up for the rest of the day. The hours yesterday had to be made up, of course, and naturally 24 hours of doing nothing and being together was exactly what Emerson thought was needed. While he’d much rather not revisit yesterday, Emerson had to know. “So…what’d you do after..you know..that?” Though, he was almost positive he knew where his lovely husband had gone, he liked hearing Sam talk about it because it made him so happy. Emerson loved seeing Sam happy.
The words began to spill from Emerson’s lips, and Sam did the one thing he knew he had always been good at. He listened. Every word his husband spoke, he held onto deeply and processed. It was what he hadn’t done yesterday- he at least owed Emerson that much. The poor man just felt so bad about yesterday, and in Sam’s eyes, he didn’t even hold all the blame. Emerson had been doing just what he’d said- trying to help. He always was. It was part of him, to be that good-hearted and sweet and kind. And Sam had absolutely slammed that.
“Alright, I should have taken notes.” He smiled to let Emerson know it was just a joke. “But really, baby. I love you, too, but you were just being you. I was bitter, and panicked, and I made everything a horrible scene. I needed to get out my frustration, and I definitely didn’t do it the right way at first. Yes, I was a little frustrated at how I completely lost your attention when the puppies showed up, but that’s always the case, and we can both make changes and adjust to it.” Smiling softly, he did once again what he did best in the relationship. He was the head, and Emerson was the heart. That was how it’d always worked, and why change something that wasn’t broken?
Because that was the real truth. At the heart of this, they weren’t broken at all. In fact, they were both going to get stronger. Sam physically, and both of them emotionally. “I love you, Emerson Philip, and I love us.” Softly, he cupped his husband’s cheek, leaning in for a kiss.
Emerson looked up at Sam, a little smile playing on his lips as he murmured, “Puppies hold my attention for ten minutes. You manage to keep me held and still while watching a movie. Not to mention, you barely have to try-even without your cute factor. I think you win.” Burying his face in Sam’s neck to hide his goofy Smile, Emerson couldn’t help but feel so relieved. He had needed this conversation to make him feel better. He could only hope it was making Sam feel better, too. They had their issues yesterday, but they were minor, in the end. They could work through this and be fine because that’s how they cooperated. They were such a perfect match, it was almost crazy.
“I love you, too, Samuèl Adriano.” Shutting his eyes as he felt Sam’s warm hand touch his skin, Emerson barely even let Sam settle on his lips before he pressed back himself. They were so good at working things through. It only felt like the world was ending with this fight because it was their first one. And it was during such a fragile part of their lives. Emerson couldn’t describe how happy he was that Sam was alive and that their fight had finally blown thru. Emerson pulled away from their kiss a moment to take a good breath before going back for more, his tongue lightly roaming Sam’s bottom lip. He cupped Sam’s neck with his left hand and cupped his cheek with his right. Tangling their legs together, Emerson sighed into the kiss, needing this more than ever.
Sam didn’t even realize how fast he’d fallen asleep until the light of the late morning shone directly in his eyes. Shit. He’d forgotten to close the blinds in the living room. Had that woken Em? Either way, Sam blinked a bit before turning to hear Emerson muttering something, sitting up on the couch mostly out of the view he had lying on the ground. On Maggie. After a quick yawn, he lifted his head so that their sweet (very comfortable) dog could move and stretch out after a night serving as a makeshift pillow.
Last night had been the worst, most eye-opening night he’d had in a long time. Even more so than his nights after the shooting, in the various parts of the hospital he was transferring between. Sitting up straight, he stretched his arms before clambering up onto the couch. Was Emerson… crying? Oh, no. That wasn’t good. This morning was supposed to be better. Wrapping an arm around his husband, he kissed the man’s cheek. “Hey,” he said softly. “Good morning. I mean it. Let’s make this better.”
Emerson had been too focused on his thoughts and trying not to cry that he barely even noticed that Sam had woken and was already making himself comfortable on the couch. Continuing to bite down on his lower lip as he looked into Sam’s blue eyes, Emerson gulped. It was impossible not to admit how good it felt being so close to Sam, how nice it was to feel his warmth. It made him want to forget everything that had happened. And once he felt those familiar lips on his cheek, along with that familiar voice he knew and loved so, so much, Emerson felt an impulsive need to apologize.
“I’m so sorry, I’m..I-I didn’t know that-I just..God, I’m so sorry. I probably didn’t think too much when we were arguing and, and I guess I am sort of selfish and I wanted to say that me going to doctors wouldn’t be because I don’t want to accept this the way it is but because I love you and want you to be happy. Whether you have a limp arm or not I’m still going to love you, you have to know that. I’d never want to do something that..that you didn’t want me to do or were embarrassed by and I’m sorry I can be that way sometimes, I just…” he took in a gulp of air, having to take a breather from the run on sentences that probably didn’t make much sense anyway. “I’m just sorry. I’m sorry and I love you.” That probably wasn’t near good enough but it was morning, he was still coming out of the pills and he just needed to make sure that Sam knew he loved him no matter what.
It looked fantastic. Sam absolutely loved adding ink to his body, and he hadn’t done it in so long. So the feeling of having another part of yourself brought from the inside to the outside, a feeling he loved, was almost all-new again. “I have to show-” he started, but stopped himself before finishing the sentence. It was no surprise what he was going to say. His husband. Emerson. Emerson would love it, kiss the tattoo before kissing his lips, curl up next to him after because, even with another tattoo, Sam was still the same old Sam, and Emerson the same old Emerson.
That was it. They were the same people. They’d fought, for the first time, and that had hurt a lot. But that didn’t mean they weren’t themselves. And they were both so heavily defined by their love for one another. Sam knew it was time for him to go home, to apologize. A tear formed in the corner of his eye, but he wiped it away before Jack, Sheila, or Randy saw it. He could cry later, with Emerson. For once, Em wouldn’t be the only one crying, Sam just knew it.
As if his husband was psychic, Sam’s phone buzzed in his pocket with a text message. Are you coming home tonight? There was no point in responding. It would be better than texts, than words even, just to physically show up there and deal with things in person. Without replying, he tucked his phone back into his pocket and turned to his former coworkers. “You know I’ll be back,” he said with a small smile, trying not to let the immense emotions he was feeling completely overcome him just yet. Once everyone had gotten another hug and Sam had paid the minimal employee-discount price for his new tattoo, he stepped out of the store and into the night.
The darkness had fallen fast. Sam knew he probably didn’t have enough cash to get himself into Brooklyn by cab, so he headed in the direction of the 6. Up one stop to Union Square, then the L a few stops over to Metropolitan, then the G to Myrtle and Willoughby. Easy enough. Only two quick transfers. Unless the L or the G broke again, which they had the tendency to do at the worst times, Sam would be home in forty minutes. But first, another cigarette.
It was strange, how quickly one could fall back into old habits. It was like Sam had never gently eased out of smoking. Inhaling as he carefully lit up another American Spirit Black, he sighed. Emerson wouldn’t like that he’d been smoking. Either that, or he’d ask him to share the pack. But tonight wasn’t a normal night. Who knew if he’d want a cigarette again in the near future? As he continued to puff on the nicotine, he made his way over to Astor Square, stopping next to the cube statue in the center. Another staple of his college years. A great place to smoke weed without the cops really caring. God, he was being so nostalgic tonight. As he finished up the cancer stick, he stomped it out carefully and reached for his Metrocard, heading down into the subway. Hopefully, with all his time spent in the hospital, the card wouldn’t have expired.
It hadn’t, thank goodness, and had still a number of swipes left before it ran out. Sighing with relief, Sam headed down into the tunnels of the subway, just making the uptown 6 before it left the station. As he held the rail with his good arm, he looked around at the people. It was oddly empty, for this time of night. An old woman knitting. A young hipster playing Temple Run on an iPhone. A businessman holding his contracts to his chest like his life depended on not losing them. A few others here and there. And yet, none of them were looking at him. None of them knew his story, knew that his arm was partially paralyzed. They wouldn’t unless he tried to lift it. It wasn’t like he wore a sign proclaiming that he was handicapped. And that’s when it really registered with him. His life wasn’t going to change that much. Sure, it was going to difficult at first for himself, and for Emerson. But on the outside, to strangers, nobody was going to care. And that made it just a little easier.
As he transferred over to the L train, which luckily was not running delayed for once, Sam smiled to himself. It was as if nothing had changed, on the outside. Girls and guys alike still checked him out as he walked by, hoping he batted for their team and would look back. Reaching carefully, Sam was just able to clutch his wedding band and engagement ring gently with his fingers, feeling how easily they fit on his hand and how lovely they looked stacked on the same finger. Hopefully, the man whom these rings signified, the one he loved, would still open his arms to him when he entered their home, and would forgive him. Hopefully.
After a few stops and a ride under the river, Sam made the switch from the L to the G in Brooklyn. Home. It felt so nice, so familiar, to be back in his borough, even just underground in the tunnels of the subway train. After a few more stops, he finally disembarked the train for good, and climbed the steps slowly up to Bed-Stuy. Nostalgia once again flooded his whole self. The street lamp on the corner had finally be fixed, and no longer flickered obnoxiously. The bodega across the street was closing up for the night, only to open up again in the early morning to catch the crowd with work and class. Rounding the corner, Sam saw his little walkup. His home. And inside, hopefully, would be his dog and his husband. But this reunion wasn’t going to be television-perfect, he knew. But hopefully, it would suit them.
As he climbed the flight of stairs past Billy and Nana’s place, he yanked his keys quietly from his pocket and let himself into the apartment. Sure enough, a sleepy black-furred blue-eyed dog came bounding at him a little slower than usual, so happy to see her other dad. “Hi, pretty girl,” he cooed quietly, scratching her behind the ears and happily accepting her wet, sloppy kisses. All of the lights were out. Hm. Was Emerson home?
Creeping into the living room, Sam was surprised to find his husband dozing on the couch. At this hour? With these feelings? And then he saw it. The sleeping pills on the coffeetable next to him. The way he hugged the massive pillow as if it was, well, Sam himself. Oh, god. Sam’s mind immediately jumped to the absolute worst, and he darted over to Emerson to check for a pulse. Oh, good. Phew. There was one. Slow, but there. Emerson must have just wanted to wake up to a better day. And maybe that would actually be the case. Quickly going into the bedroom, Sam dumped his dirty clothes and backpack on the bed, changing into a pair of fresh boxers and sweatpants. Once his teeth were brushed, his hair combed, and the bandage on the new tattoo changed and cleaned, he went back into the living room. There was absolutely no way he was sleeping alone in their big bed, and he couldn’t carry Emerson over there anymore the way he used to. So, grabbing a throw pillow and a quilt Allie and Mrs. Shmitt had made for them, he curled up on the floor next to the couch. When Emerson came out of his pill-induced sleepy haze, he’d see his husband next to him, or as close as he could come to that with such a tiny couch. And everything could be worked out.
Curling up against the hard wood, Sam heard the patter of paws coming closer. Maggie. She seemed… nervous. Had Emerson shooed her away earlier. “C’mere, girl,” he whispered, opening his arms. She laid down atop the throw, offering herself as both a cuddle buddy and a pillow. Sam gladly accepted, resting his head exhaustedly on his soft black belly and easily letting himself doze off. He was home. With his husband. And everything was going to be okay.
Emerson awoke to a pain in his back. He’d been asleep for so long, and it had been such a hard sleep, that he hadn’t moved. He was stiff as board now. Softly blinking, Emerson adjusted to the light coming in from the various windows of his apartment. He was still very groggy and turned so he was laying on his back, looking up at the ceiling. His hands rested on his stomach and he tried to ignore the way his arm felt like pins and needles were being stuck in it. Dammit, it fell asleep. He couldn’t even feel it now. Reaching his hand up, he opened and closed the spaces between his fingers, admiring the way the light came in through them, trying to get the silly thing to wake up.
Sighing, Emerson licked his lips, nibbled on the bottom one as he tried to make way through the weird daze his mind seemed to have fallen under. The sleep had made him feel very good, recharged. Emerson was almost in a really good mood. But what he couldn’t understand was why he he had collapsed on the couch anyway. A couple more blinks and a glance at the sleeping pill bottles on the table gave him some memory.
His fight with Sam. Their first big fight. The yelling. The words. The anger. The sadness. Oh. He remembered why now. Turning on his left side-facing out-to switch up the position, Emerson buried his face in the pillow, wishing he could go to sleep again. Had Sam even come home? He remembered…he remembered texting him. Had he replied? Groping around to find his phone, Emerson felt a blanket lightly underneath his fingertips. Snatching his hand away he peeked over the edge of the couch.
His heart heated and nearly dropped. Sam. Sam was here. He’d come home He had chosen to come lay by Emerson instead of their bed. Emerson’s eyes were wide as he continued to stare at the moppy black hair nuzzled into Maggie’s stomach. One look at her and he felt guilty. He had been rude to her last night, hadn’t he? “I’m sorry,” he whispered. To her. But maybe it was also towards Sam. Covering his mouth with the pillow so he didn’t wake Sam up, half of Emerson’s face popped out like a cat. Eyes still as big as they could get, he prayed that the storm was over. That they could be okay. He still felt like he was exactly what Sam had called him-selfish and immature-and the thought made his eyes sting again.
“God dammit,” he muttered, reaching up to try and wipe the tears away before they could fall. He was such a girl, such a little baby. He was selfish. Thinking about himself this way when Sam was the one who had the problem right now. They had to keep each other strong, right? That’s what came along with getting married. Emerson would have to pretend like Sam’s words didn’t eat at his heart and that he really wanted to help his husband more than anything.
The drive in the cab was incredibly peaceful. Sam almost never took cab rides- the subway was usually faster and cheaper- but right now, the last thing he wanted was crowded traincars, screeching electric rails, and the electronic voice informing the patrons of every stop and future stops. He needed quiet. He needed to look out at the city, to see the town he called home.
They really had been pretty far uptown. The drive took fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, to get to the block of tattoo shops, Chinese restaurants, and famous punk thrift stores. It really was Sam’s other home. The place he’d hung out in college. He’d been to every bar on the block at least three times, and knew their best tap beers and mixed drinks. All the bartenders (or at least, the ones who had worked back then) knew his name and his order. And to top it off, the tattoo shop right at the end of the block. His real home. His first major place of employment. And now, he couldn’t even work for them anymore.
Handing the driver a twenty, Sam told him to keep the change as he stepped out of the taxicab and simply stood at the edge of the street. He was told he shouldn’t smoke right away (or at all) after being released, but fuck it. What he needed right now to calm his nerves was a cigarette. He hadn’t been much of a heavy smoker since college (or, well, since Emerson re-entered his life, when he thought about it), but right now, the craving was just so strong, and Sam felt just so weak. Looking around, he spotted the convenience store on the corner. A familiar haunt for his college self, buying beers and cigarettes late at night without getting carded. Walking in, he reminded himself simply to not use his right arm. He didn’t want any further humiliation.
“American Spirit blacks, please.” He hadn’t smoked a black since high school, let alone an American Spirit. But this wasn’t a normal mood, a normal day. Something told him the rest of his life wasn’t just going to go back to normal, not with the condition his arm was in. The guy behind the counter didn’t even verify an ID, just handed him the pack and a complimentary pack of matches- the convenience store’s little signature on all their purchases, Sam remembered well. Handing over some cash, he thanked the guy quietly and headed out, immediately tearing the plastic packaging off the pack and prepping it before opening. It had been so, so long since he’d done this, but it was still as much second nature as it ever had been, and he pulled one out of the now open pack and struck the match up expertly, inhaling as he lit up.
The inhale alone calmed him down partway. Blowing the smoke out in a heavy sigh, he felt his muscles loosen up, the tension building up both physically and emotionally start to ease, and his brain finally slow down just a little. His thoughts started to move a little less rapidly, and the frown permanented on his lips started to ease into a much more neutral expression. It was a little sad to him, that he had to smoke again to feel this much more at ease, but that’s how stressed out that fight had made him- he had to result to the same habits he’d developed to cope with him and Emerson’s breakup to feel okay again. He could only hope it didn’t end that way again.
Moseying down the street, Sam rolled up his sleeves as best he could, occasionally lifting the cigarette to his lips with his tattooed arm. It was funny- the one arm he could move fully was the one covered in art. Hopefully people wouldn’t judge him too intensely for that. But, then again, it was New York. He could marry Emerson without a problem. People should, and hopefully would, be open-minded to his tattoos. He looked around as he inhaled again on the sweet nicotine, taking in his surroundings. Not much had really changed. A Pinkberry had opened on the middle of the block, but that wasn’t too new. He’d had their yogurt a few times. The shop he and his college buddies had bought all their weed paraphernalia at, Tibetan Dreams, was still there. Search and Destroy, of course- he’d bought his favourite pair of white combat boots there. All of the great memories he had there came flooding back, and most of them were just of him. Not Emerson. And right now, that was what Sam needed.
After finally stamping out the cigarette, Sam arrived at the tattoo parlor. His home. He knew exactly who’d be working, and that they weren’t expecting him to come back into work for at least a couple of weeks. But he wasn’t going to work. He couldn’t. In that moment, he knew the other thing that was going to calm him down. Walking in, the familiar ring of the bell on the door and the sound of soft indie music met his ears, and he finally smiled. His first smile since exiting the hospital. “Guess who’s back, bitches?!” he called out, feeling a total shift in his mood. Sure enough, two of his favourite junior employees, Randy and Sheila, and his boss, Jack, came bolting out of the back lounge at the sound of his voice. “Buddy!” Jack called out, enveloping Sam in an embrace. It was almost as if he had never left.
“Hey,” Sam said with a laugh, breaking the hug to give Randy and Sheila turns, too. “How’re you feeling? They finally let you out of that hellhole hospital, huh? They wouldn’t let us visit you, but we tried!” Sheila was an adorable, perky blonde who resembled a pinup girl from the 40s with a little more ink. If Sam wasn’t gay, she’d probably be the kind of girl to make him do a double-take. But he was 100% homosexual, and married at that. “Yeah, they did. Out today, actually. And, uh, I wanted to let you guys know first.”
Oh, god. This wasn’t going to be easy. But these guys, his friends and coworkers, weren’t like Emerson. They’d take the news very different. “Um, the muscle in my arm is permanently damaged. I’m partially paralyzed.” To emphasize his point, and further induce the looks of horror on their faces (they were funny expressions, really), Sam lifted his arm as far as it would go, which wasn’t far at all. “And this is my inking arm…” He didn’t even have to finish the sentence. Jack knew what that meant, and brought Sam into another hug. For a tall, super skinny, tattooed-and-pierced tough-guy, the man was certainly sentimental and emotional. “I understand, Sammy boy. Well, you know we love you here, and we hope you recover as best you can. And you always know where to find us. And hey. Keep the employee discount.” That remark brought giggles all around, and nods from Randy and Sheila in agreement. “Thanks, man,” Sam said appreciately. “Speaking of which, that’s part of the reason I came in.”
He’d been planning this tattoo for months, figuring out the font, colors, and where it would go. And just now, after his whole ordeal and the beginning of his recovery process, he knew it was the perfect time to just do it. Reaching into his wallet, he pulled out a tiny crumpled scrap of paper, handing it to Jack. “You know what I want.” He’d told the other man about the idea so long ago, and Jack had absolutely loved it. It was inspired by The Avengers, a quote that had been in the comic and now the film, much to Sam’s happiness. A quote that had inspired him for ages. And he knew Jack’s signature messy script would be the font to do it justice.
Nodding, Jack motioned to his chair, right in the front window. Eagerly, Sam took a seat, lifting the hair from the base of his neck so Jack could clip it up and out of the way. The back of his neck was still surprisingly virgin territory for a new piece, and this was the perfect spot for it. Jack sat behind him, getting a fresh needle installed in the tool and prepping the black ink. Freehanding wasn’t normally something included in protocol at the shop, but having his boss and best friend’s writing on his neck was something he wanted, potential goofs and all. As soon as he felt the sharp needle enter his skin and begin to draw out the quote he so loved and cherished. Yep, this was exactly what he needed.
For Sam, tattooing and being tattooed was de-stressing. The jolt of the needle easily flowed into a feeling of comfort and familiarity. He let a tiny smile rest on his lips as he felt the needle dig into him, permanently etching a new mantra into the back of his neck. After a long period of half-sleepiness, half-relaxation, Jack finally stood, pulling the needle away and dabbing away the blood and excess ink. “It looks great, man,” he said honestly, and Sam smiled as Randy and Sheila held up a mirror to reflect in the big mirrorwall so he could see it. Yep. There it was. Freedom is life’s great lie. Spoken by Loki in the film, and Tony Stark in the comic books. A beautiful quote, and only fitting for someone permanently maimed in the line of duty. Freedom had done this to him, and yet, he still believed in it, and always would.
Night had fallen sometime after Emerson had drifted to sleep. Yeah, he had slept, but it wasn’t…helpful. He could have appeared in peace but he was still aware of the things that were going on around him. He was still thinking. And God, his thoughts were not helping anything. They were actually making him feel worse. He kept thinking about how Sam had called him selfish. He wasn’t that selfish was he? Him arguing a doctor would be for Sam’s sake. Not for Emerson’s. Hadn’t he always put Sam first before himself? There may have been once or twice when Emerson thought of himself when he was taking the last cookie or soda or something but he was never selfish when he came to big situations with them. Right?
He couldn’t even remember now. He just kept digging himself deeper and deeper into the thought of Sam being right. Selfish. Selfish. Selfish. Grow up. Grow up. Grow up. His hand dropped from it’s place on the bed so it dangled as his eyes started welling up again. His tears fell very silently, his face showing none of the emotion. His gaze just held the wall, even as Maggi came up and began licking his hand. One corner of his mouth twitched the life as it tried to smile down at her. But looking into her eyes he saw blue. Maggie was Sam’s gift to Emerson. She wasn’t helping. She just made him think of Sam. His husband was probably off having a better time without Emerson anyway. Maggie was just a sore reminder now.
“Go ‘way,” he mumbled, sitting up. Maggie dropped her head, put her tail between her legs and sauntered off. He felt a little bad making her leave, but he couldn’t look at her without thinking about Sam. It felt so late, which in reality it wasn’t so bad. Emerson just couldn’t seem to make time go by fast enough. Standing up, he walked to the kitchen and grabbed a drink. It was the last soda. There he was being ‘selfish’ again.
“Whatever,” he growled.
Emerson paced around the apartment then, sighing every so often and holding the cool can to his forehead. He had a headache from the previous crying and he wasn’t going to bother with Tylonel or Advil. It never helped. The only thing that did help were the kisses Sam would give his temple or the soft sound of his laugh. There he was again. Thinking about Sam. Was Sam even thinking about him? Or was he off having a nice time pretending Emerson wasn’t around? The thought made him sick to his stomach. It was there first fight. Of course they would want to avoid it. And he knew Sam wouldn’t be unfaithful or anything…hell, like Emerson had thought, he was probably down at the tattoo shop…but it still didn’t help. They were hardly ever apart. This was such a new thing.
Emerson didn’t like it. Not one bit.
Why was he so dependent on Sam? He hadn’t even realized it until now, until Sam was shot. If Sam was gone…Emerson would feel like he had nothing. Nothing. The idea was both scary and pathetic. He couldn’t lose Sam or else he’d die. Maybe literally. He’d feel empty without those blue eyes looking into his as he smiles and says he loves him. It’d be…heart wrenching without Sam. But…to know that Emerson was so in love that he had basically lost how to be his own person. There wasn’t Emerson Shmitt anymore. There was Emerson Rockwell who was never seen without his other half, Sam Rockwell, and if that other half were to disappear very pathetic half would cease to exist.
Stamping his foot and giving a loud groan into the ceiling, Emerson scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered, as if Sam were there. “Just come home..please just come home.” Even if they didn’t say anything to each other. Emerson wanted Sam home and in his presence. If Sam didn’t come home tonight…Emerson would be crushed. Something about always having shared a bed with Sam would make tonight be so lonely if he didn’t come back.
Should he go out to find Sam? His husband had seemed like he wanted to be alone though. He was the one who had ran for a taxi. Yes. Emerson was staying home. He couldn’t go get Sam. He couldn’t find another reason for his husband to get angry with him. But God that pit in his stomach wouldn’t go away. Setting the can of soda down, Emerson wrapped his arms around his torso. curled up in a ball on the couch and buried his face in the pillow. He slid his phone out of his pocket, checked it, and his heart sunk even more.
Sam hadn’t even called him or text him. Though…Emerson hadn’t done that so why would he? Unlocking his phone, Emerson opened messages, attempted sending something to Sam. He had something typed out, too, but in the end decided not to send it. Instead stared a little longer at it.
“Are you coming home tonight?” he finally typed. Dropping his phone immediately after he pressed send and covering his face, Emerson felt more tears. He was actually scared of what Sam was going to say. Did Sam think he was annoying now? Pathetic, too? Shit. He shouldn’t have sent that. He really shouldn’t have sent that. It was clear who the ‘man’ was in this relationship. He was definitely not the one curled up in a ball on a couch wallowing in self pity.
“Fuck.” Turning onto his other side so that he was facing the back of the couch, Emerson scratched his fingers over the fabric. He wasn’t going to go anywhere tonight. He was going to stay in this exact spot. Maybe, hopefully, fall asleep again. Didn’t they have sleeping pills somewhere? Oh. They did. They did. Maybe that would help. He needed a good pass out. Yep. Standing up, he quickly made it to the kitchen, found the pills easily and popped two. Making his way back to the couch, Emerson settled down again. Sleep would be good. He could get away from this for a little bit. Nevermind the countless tissues from blowing his nose from crying everywhere that were all over the ground, nevermind that his phone had slid under the couch, nevermind that all he wanted was Sam. Or that his nose was read from sniffling or that his eyelashes were clumped from crying.
He just had to get away.
It didn’t take long, either. Emerson found himself growing drowsy in a matter of time. Curling up, he snuggled into the pillow, pretending it was Sam, and pressed his nose to the back of the couch. His blinking came more slowly now and before he new it, he was out, gone, and wouldn’t wake up until hopefully 8 hours from now. How nice would it be to wake up and have nothing wrong anymore?