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The Persistence of Gravity

Summary:
"Everyone knows his father was a complete screw-up who hurt and abandoned everyone who needed him, but he tries very hard to be a good kid, a good student, a good friend and son. And he swears to himself as he watches Leah sleeping now that he'll always be good to her." The untold story of Sam/Leah starting from before he became a werewolf.


Notes:
A ridiculously old WIP I'm finally finishing. Because I'm really interested in Sam and Leah as characters and their relationship we don't know many details about, I wanted to write a fic trying to show their story in a very personal way that would make the heartbreak it caused Leah (and also the guilt Sam has over it) very real and understandable. But I was totally unprepared for how invested in this I actually became and how much it ran away with me and got much longer than expected, so I'm really crossing my fingers that there will be readers interested enough in these supporting characters to enjoy this fic in a bittersweet way like I enjoyed writing it.
As a nitpicky note, I know Seth's age in this is way off. At the time I started it I somehow had the idea that he's only about three years younger than Leah, and I just left it because it's a kind of integral detail in one part that would have been hard to work around fixing.


4. part 4/7

Rating 0/5   Word Count 5648   Review this Chapter



The next weekend they go out to eat in Port Angeles. The restaurant has a twenty minute wait for a table when they get there and Leah has left her jacket in the car, so they go back to the parking lot and idle around there for a while. At one point while she is saying something to Sam she sees he's looking past her at something in the distance, not seeming to be paying attention and also looking a little annoyed.

"Hey," she says, nudging him in the side. "You okay?"

He looks back down at her and shakes his head. "Oh, yeah," he says. "Sorry. It's just those pricks talking over there."

Leah steals a glance behind her long enough to see a couple of guys at the other end of the parking lot who are sitting on the hood of a car smoking. "So?" she asks, not understanding. "What's wrong with them?"

"They were just...noticing you," he says, seeming to feel a little ridiculous about it now that he has to explain. "And saying some...you know...typically pricky and degrading kind of things about your appearance."

Her eyes go a little wide in surprise. "What, were they there checking me out when we were inside before or something?"

"No, I mean just now."

She goes silent a moment and glances back at where they are again. "You're telling me you could hear something those guys were saying from all the way over here?" she asks, looking more perplexed than ever. "No way, your ears can't be that good."

Sam is looking at them again, too, seeming to question himself now. "Huh...Yeah," he says, sounding a little distant, and then he looks around them at all the other few people he can see around the parking lot. "I guess I didn't hear it from there..."

She starts to look a little amused, giving him a light smile. "You sure you weren't just hearing yourself thinking indecent things about me?" she asks.

He pretends to have to think about it and then shakes his head. "My mind doesn't exactly sound like that."

Leah holds his hand and starts swinging their clasped hands back and forth a little. "I bet I know what your mind would sound like," she says in a know-it-all kind of tone.

Fixing her with a challenging look, he says, "Okay, so what am I thinking right now?"

"Hm...Well, you have something to tell me."

His face betrays a little bit of surprise. "Which would be...?"

Leah looks very closely at him, her expression getting eager with slightly held-back excitement as she tries to read his face. "Oh, I'm gonna feel really bad now if this isn't it—Did you? You got the scholarship?"

Sam's face falls a little like he's disappointed, but the corners of his lips start twitching a bit. "Well, now that you've made the reveal as anti-climactic as possible—"

"Oh my God, yes!" she says, throwing her arms around his middle and squeezing him.

"How the hell did you know?"

"Gee, it wasn't really that hard." She laughs as she lets go of him. "I knew you'd be hearing about it soon. Then you called in sick today for the first time ever so you could spend the day taking me to dinner instead of working. And your mom let you have the car today. So I had a guess you must feel like taking it easy and celebrating something."

He slowly nods. "Yeah, I guess that would make it all pretty obvious...Though I haven't actually had a chance to tell my mom yet. She just doesn't want to rely on the car right now because the wipers are still screwed up, so I was already going to take it to work anyway."

"Oh, I forgot about that. Why is there always something going wrong with her car? It's not even terribly old."

He shakes his head, rolling his eyes. "I don't know. But you'll have to forgive me if this turns into a pretty lame date because we get stuck not being able to drive in the rain."

"Whatever. You know me, I'm an easily impressed date."

"Thank God for that," he says with a smirk.

Sure enough, later in the night as they're on their way back home some light rain starts sprinkling. They make it just outside of La Push before it starts pouring heavily enough that Sam knows he won't be able to see out of the window much longer and has to pull over onto the side of the road for a while.

Leah sighs, in a resigned rather than annoyed way, and then leans her head back into the seat, closes her eyes, and draws her arms into her chest to cross them tightly like she must be cold. "What is it about rain that makes you feel tired?" she muses.

Now sitting back turning a toothpick around between his lips, Sam shrugs. "I think it's just the cold."

She rolls her head to the side to look at him, her face in a look of calm contentment, and then moves over to him. He brings his arm around her waist and pulls her close, letting her settle comfortably into his side, and then with a look of surprise she raises her hand up to feel his chest.

"How do you feel so warm when I'm freezing?" she asks, sounding almost annoyed by it. "All you're even wearing is a shirt."

"Guess you're just a wuss," he says lightly. "There's no need to nag me when I don't think to take a jacket with me anywhere, you see?"

Leah scoffs softly. "I do not nag," she says in a very touchy voice.

"Uh-huh. Just tell that to your brother."

She just shakes her head adamantly. Then after a while she closes her eyes again, completely relaxing next to him. The drumming of the rain on top of the car is a soothing constant sound in the background as "Under the Bridge" is playing softly on the radio. Where Sam's hand is rested at her hip, he starts moving just his thumb to the slow and mellow beat of the music, tapping it against her skin right under where her shirt rides up. As she leans her head into him with her eyes still closed, he sees her faintly and peacefully smile for a moment.

After a while he tilts his head to the side to rest it on top of hers, rubs his hand up and down her waist. "You know I'll still see you a lot," he tells her quietly. "I won't be going that far away."

She opens her eyes and gives a small nod. "I know," she says. "I'm not thinking about that today. I'm just happy for you...Today everything feels perfect. Even us getting stuck here together is kind of perfect."

"Yeah," he agrees, feeling like he knows what she means. "It's not bad at all."

Then he turns to kiss the top of her head and whispers close to her ear. "Leah. I love you."

She brings her hand to her hip to rest it on top of his and says back in a soft murmur, "I love you, too."

After a long time the rain still hasn't shown any sign of letting up at all, and Leah seems to have regained her energy after the long drive left her a little lethargic. She turns around and starts searching through everything in the back seat, and after a while Sam asks, "What the hell are you looking for?"

"I'm seeing if that umbrella she always keeps in here is around," she says. "I guess she took it."

"Yeah. Why, you actually want to try to walk in this?"

"We're not even a mile away," she says, turning back around and looking at him. "We might as well just run to your house, don't you think? I don't think this is going to stop any time soon. You could come back for the car later."

Sam looks outside at the drenching walls of water around them and looks quite reluctant to agree.

"We've got to see Mary and tell her the news," Leah says. "And besides, our show is on soon at eight."

He smiles and rolls his eyes a little, unbuckling his seatbelt. "Of course. How could I forget?"

Within twenty seconds of them stepping outside and leaving the car behind, the rain completely drenches their clothes so that they're heavily sticking to them as they run off quickly hand-in-hand. Leah screams when they unavoidably splash through deep puddles and soak their shoes and then laughs it off. After a few minutes of her struggling to keep up with Sam, he grabs her and picks her up to carry her the rest of the way. Holding her arms around his neck, she throws her head back laughing more than ever as he keeps running just about as fast as he was before as if carrying her weight makes little difference to him.

When they finally make it to his house at nearly half past seven, Mary seems to have gone out for something. The house is locked up, and when Sam calls for her inside there comes no answer.

Dripping water all over the floor, Leah starts to shiver like it is only now hitting her how cold she is. "Wow, she'll have fun getting back from wherever she is if she doesn't even have a defective car," she says.

Sam has just unbuttoned and thrown off his shirt, and for just a couple seconds, without meaning to, she goes still staring at him peeling his thin white undershirt away from his wet skin.

"At least she's got an umbrella," he says, turning to her and then maybe catching for an instant how she doesn't seem to have completely heard his words as she recovers from her distracted look. He looks her up and down, taking in the whole sight of her darkened wet clothes, and gestures toward his mom's room. "You better just go find something of hers you can wear."

Leah smiles in a way that seems a little sudden and forced, as if she feels silly because she didn't already think of that and was just standing there dripping like a concentrated rain cloud. As she walks off, he stares after her a few seconds and then his shoulders shake with a light, silent laugh.

She retrieves a plaid shirt and black sweatpants from Mary's room and then goes into the bathroom, where she takes off almost everything of hers to hang up and then gets a towel to dry her hair a little before changing.

"Hey Lee-lee, you want anything to drink?" Sam calls from outside the door.

"Uh...just some water would be good, actually," she answers.

A minute later she comes out wearing the clothes that are one or two sizes too big on her with the shirt sleeves rolled up to her elbows. She finds Sam in the kitchen now changed into a fresh T-shirt and pair of jeans; he is closing the freezer door after putting some ice in her glass of water, and then he goes still when he finally notices a note left for him on the fridge.

Coming to his side, she follows his fixed gaze to the paper with a brief message on it and stands there reading it along with him.

Kathy asked if I could watch Sandra tonight so I won't be home til after 10:00. Enjoy some leftovers. Love you.

Sam doesn't look away from it until Leah does and reaches for the glass of water he is still holding. Her fingers slowly brush over his, making him look down at her as she takes it from him. Then he leans to his side against the refrigerator and faces her, and she leans back against the counter, looking away from him, and takes a long drink of water. After she lowers the glass, the sound of her swallowing deeply seems very loud in the house where it is just them, standing still and saying nothing. It is just them for the rest of the night.

Leah wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and sets the glass down on the counter behind her. Then, certainly and unhesitantly, she reaches over and takes Sam's hand. He closes his hand around hers securely and then starts to lead her away out of the kitchen. Into his room. She goes in ahead of him and then stands with her back to him as he closes the door behind them.

Sam walks around her and turns to face her. She looks up at him with a deep calmness in her eyes and they stand looking directly at each other for the first time since the moment they saw the note and knew. They both know; it is there and clear in their faces, and there is nothing left unsaid to say, just this.

She comes closer to him and leans her face into his chest, bringing her hands up to the middle of his back. He takes hold of both her upper arms and pulls her against him even closer, and she just closes her eyes and breathes him in deeply. Their breathing and the soft rushing downpour of rain on the roof are the only sounds in their world.

Sam lifts a hand under her face and then tilts her jaw up with his thumb, bends down to delicately kiss her neck while she runs her hands slowly down his back. Then she takes the bottom of his shirt and pulls it up. He is so tall she can only lift it up so far before he pulls it over his head himself. The moment she touches his bare chest, he flinches a little and then takes both of her hands in his with a light smile.

"Your hands are still cold," he mutters, and she softly smiles back as he presses them back to his chest with both his hands covering them to let them get warm against his body heat. Then he starts to kiss her, in a slow and building way, both of them starting to breathe more deeply with a thick anticipation they can feel in the air. He leaves her hands at his chest to reach down under her long shirt and slide the sweatpants down her hips, letting them loosely fall to the floor. Leah pushes at him gently to lead him towards the bed and steps out of them as he starts stepping backwards. She reaches down and starts undoing his fly before they make it, and then he pushes his jeans down and off before they both drop to the bed.

They stay sitting up, Leah half-kneeling as she leans in trailing kisses from one of his shoulders to his neck and inches closer to him until she is straddling him and sitting up a little taller than him. She grabs onto his hair as she kisses him vigorously, then lowers one hand down and brushes the backs of her fingers down his stomach.

"They feel warm now?" she whispers against his lips, and he smiles slightly again as his face moves in a small nod.

In response, she slides her hand down farther and into his boxers; his breath hitches and he freezes tightly as she so suddenly closes her fingers around him and starts stroking him slowly. Then his breath falls out in a long sigh, his shoulders sinking a little as if in some kind of surrender, as he leans into her and buries his face in her neck. As the momentum gains, his whole body getting more rigid and ready, he kisses her deeply holding tightly onto her with his hands raking back into her damp hair. He can see her eyes darkening with growing need as she sees him react to her touch, her eyelids hanging heavier. Then soon they are both moaning softly and beggingly as he brings his hands under her shirt and feels her all over, all of her skin completely naked underneath and so incredibly soft after just drying. Leah reaches up and starts undoing the buttons of her shirt from the top, and he starts at the bottom.

They get three buttons freed before they hear, soft but impossible to miss, the sound of the front door of the house opening.

Both of them go completely still, then look at each other wide-eyed. There is the following sound of the door shutting and then some light footsteps before they start moving quickly, both cursing under their breath.

Leah dives to grab the pants she was wearing and has them on and is sloppily tying the drawstring when they hear Mary call, "Sam?"

On the floor turning his shirt right-side-out with frantic hands, he stays quiet. Smoothing her hair down quickly, Leah starts toward the door.

"Leah!" he whispers.

She is almost completely cool and collected already, muttering back to him, "It'll be fine if we don't come out together. If she sees I was in here I'll distract her and we'll just act like you were changing in the bathroom."

To be as thorough in their show as possible, she flicks the light off before she opens the door and leaves him in the dark as she goes out. He feels around blindly to finish putting his clothes back on as he hears the voices in the kitchen after Leah finds his mother.

"Hey, Mary." She manages to sound pleasantly surprised.

"Oh hi, honey!"

"I thought you'd be at the Morganroths'."

Sam creeps quietly out of his room and then makes a point of opening the bathroom door a little loudly before he goes into the kitchen, hearing the continued conversation.

"Yeah, Collin got back from a friend's birthday party sooner than he thought he would so I didn't need to stay," Mary explains. Then after she exchanges greeting smiles with her son as he joins them, she notices their wet hair and pays attention for the first time to what Leah is wearing and then sympathetically cringes a little. "Oh no, tell me you guys didn't get caught in that rain!"

Leah is amazingly convincing in the way she looks down briefly at the clothes she has on as if she forgot all about them, and then says, "Oh, yeah, I hope you don't mind...But never mind that. Mary—guess who's going to college?"

Something in Sam immediately loosens up and relaxes as soon as she says it with an excited tone, and he almost feels like laughing at how quickly she remembered that as a convenient diversion. It completely left his mind by now.

Mary looks at him with a large grin. "I didn't see you'd heard back from them! You got the letter?"

Smiling calmly, he nods. "I'm officially hooked up."

She hugs him happily, and then even Leah hugs her, looking past her at Sam with a tired smile of relief. He just smirks and shakes his head, and then looks down at the floor for a moment while sighing heavily to himself.

"Hey!" Leah then says with sustained excitement as she glances over at the clock. "And you even got back in time for us to catch The First Circle. Sam was so sad we wouldn't be able to watch it together this week."

Laughing at her sarcasm, Mary smiles over at him and says, "Oh, I'm sure."

For the rest of the night as they all sit in front of the TV, Sam is pretty sure neither he or Leah are paying the closest attention to everything that happens on the screen. As they both stare forward, her hand around his hardly ever stops moving, stroking light circles in his palm with her thumb as if she is writing secret messages there.

Later that night after he walks her home, he almost forgets about the car. His footsteps sound loud to him on the ground as he takes the walk back to where they left it parked, the night around him so still and sober after finally getting all the rain out of its system. The silence is so complete that everything that came before during the loud outpour almost seems imagined in its brief and temporary effect, now not quite real and far from reach.

The warmth the straining heat is building it's burning in his blood hotter and hotter then it yanks

The world rips open. He doesn’t know if he has gone insane, if he is awake or dreaming, if he is alive or dead.

Nobody knows where he is for two weeks.

Mary hears no sounds of movement in the rest of the house before she comes out of the bathroom in the middle of the night, and when she sees the large, dark shape of someone sitting on the couch she stops on the way back to her room with a short scream.

He does not respond to tell her anything like "It's just me," but right afterwards as her eyes adjust to the dark and he turns his face to look at her she can see for sure that it is him, just sitting still and covered with nothing but a blanket around him.

"Sam?" she says breathlessly, bringing her hand to her chest as she recovers from the shock and her whole figure seems to become heavy and weak with overwhelming relief. Then she goes right to him and throws her arms around his shoulders as she sits down at his side.

"Hey, mama," he says in a tired murmur. His voice comes out sounding raw and weak; he hasn't used it in a long time.

"Oh my God, Sam, I was scared to death," she says as she frantically fusses over him, touching his hair. "What happened to you? Where—Why don't you have any clothes? Did somebody hurt you?"

He shakes his head, no less bewildered than her. "No. I don't know, I—I wish I could tell you, I don't know what happened."

"Honey, you're shaking so hard—and you feel like you've got a fever!" she says, putting her hand to his forehead after she notices it.

He looks down at himself for a moment as if he did not even realize, then takes her hand away from him. "I...I'm fine, I'm not hurt. Something just...happened to me. Something that couldn't have happened, and I don't know what to think right now. Nothing makes any goddamn sense..."

It goes on for many minutes as he would have expected without them getting anywhere, her continuing to ask him questions and him not knowing what he can say that will not scare her way too much. He has some trouble responding quickly and coherently, feeling like he has almost forgotten how to speak after being trapped in that...shell. The monster. That thing through which everything looks distorted and terrifying. Even now that it's over, he cannot seem to convince himself that it wasn't real because it feels so strange to be back in his own body that it had to be real. He is still adjusting to having normal eyesight back and he can't believe how much he isn't used to feeling his toes.

She starts saying things about how maybe he needs to see some kind of doctor, won't be told no because she simply can't stand that there is not something she can do or suggest right now, and he ends up yelling at her without meaning to just so she will stop freaking out. The look on her face makes him want to bang his head against something. In the first momentary silence they have reached since she found him here, his head falls into his hands and his breath keeps coming in jagged heaves as he still cannot calm down.

Suddenly he needs, he knows, and without thinking about it he says in a low moan, "Leah..."

It seems she is lying awake in bed when Sam taps on her tiny bedroom window, because right away he sees her jump a little in surprise at the sound. She rolls over and reaches for the table by her bed to turn on a small and dim lamp and sits up to peer outside through the glass, looking a little dazed like she thinks she might have just imagined hearing someone there.

Then she stares a moment with her mouth slowly dropping open a little like she could be seeing a ghost, and she tears the blankets off of her and flies out of bed and to her door. He runs around the house to meet her at the front door, where she bolts right outside barefoot and in her pajamas without closing the door behind her. She abruptly stops a couple steps away from him, just staring at him and breathing loudly for a few seconds, and then with a pained look crossing her face she swings her hand up and slaps him in the face. He just takes it, the exhaustion and softness in his expression not changing as he looks at her, like being hit by her is all he could ask for right now. Then her eyes start filling with tears before she steps forward and collides into him with a tense gasp, losing all composure.

Just seeing her face again already makes it feel almost like everything is normal and okay again. He picks her up to hold her to him, lifting her feet a few inches off the ground. He closes his eyes just feeling her body against his again, and his voice carries the wear of days and days of inescapable and torturous horror as he just says heavily, "Leah."

She is shaking a little, crying freely as he sets her back on her feet. As she keeps her hands up holding his face and looks up at him, her eyes with tears spilling out of them are full of such intense and overwhelming warmth. Of course he has always known Leah is very emotional underneath her cool and controlled exterior, but he has never seen her like this—not even close—and the deep meaning and force of it makes him feel so weakened he could just melt and dissolve into her.

"Oh God," she says with weak breath as he brushes some of her tears away with his thumbs, "tell me I'm not asleep. Tell me you're really here."

He pulls her close again, running a hand back in her hair and murmuring into her neck, "I'm here, baby."

Leah's hands make fists at his back, grabbing tight handfuls of his shirt. "I thought you could be dead," she mumbles through her tears of relief that keep coming. "I thought I'd never see you again."

"I didn't think I was going to see you again either," he breathes, shaking his head. Then he kisses her, then kisses her again, and again, and then on her cheek and her forehead and everywhere on her face.

"Where were you?" she finally asks as he puts the last kiss right at the corner of her lips.

He shakes his head again, briefly. "Let's just go inside a minute..."

They sneak quietly through the house back to her bedroom, careful not to wake anybody up after her quick run outside miraculously didn't already. In the dark the cat comes by and brushes against Sam's ankles with a low purr like even he has missed him, and Leah has to pick him up and set him aside so he won't follow them into the room. After Leah softly closes her bedroom door behind them, she sits by him on the bed and they immediately kiss each other again. It is slow and gentle and warm, and as their mouths open to each other and deepen the kiss it almost doesn't feel real to him to taste her again. He takes hold of her hair at the back of her head in a tight handful as if he's going to helplessly slip away and disappear again if he doesn't keep holding onto her.

Finally when they break apart, Leah looks at him and brushes her hand down his face, peering deep into the look in his eyes. "What's wrong?" she asks. "Are you okay?"

He sighs softly, closing his eyes briefly as he covers her hand with his to hold it in place over his face. "I think I am now."

She shakes her head, looking at him with sadness and bewilderment. "But what the hell happened to you, Sam? You completely disappeared for fifteen days! We didn't know what to think—Your mom and I, we didn't know if you could have been attacked by something in the woods or..."

He pulls her against him and starts to rub her back. "I'm sorry," he says softly, "I didn't mean to disappear, I really didn't. I'm so sorry you had no idea what happened. The only thing I really know how to explain is...for a long time I thought I'd...lost myself. And I got really scared that I was never coming back and was losing everything. And it was hell."

Leah shakes her head slowly again, still leaning into him, and whispers, "I don't understand."

He gives a long, exhausted sigh, closing his eyes. "Can I ask you for something?...I needed to see you so badly, but I can't stand to think about this anymore right now or I feel like my head is going to crack open. Could you please just...not ask me to explain tonight? For now could I please just hold you?"

He hears a shaky, disarmed kind of breath come out of her like a final discharge of wild emotions as she starts to completely calm down after the shock of seeing him again, and she starts rubbing his upper back in small circular motions. Then she brings her left arm up and around his neck tightly, turns her head in to kiss his cheek and says into his ear, "Yeah...Okay."

She kisses him again, so decidedly and surely it seems she has easily set aside all concerns. All that matters is that he is safe and they are together again. And it starts out slow like before but then gradually flares into a more heated and desperate direction that he did not exactly expect. Then with the growing magnitude of what is happening, everything seems to weigh down into slow-motion. Leah stops a moment, eyes staying locked intensely with his in the dim light, and starts to lift her top off; the tight-fitting tank peels away from her skin inch by inch and catches slightly over the beautifully sloping shape of her breasts, then tousles some of her hair as she pulls it over her head. Right away he starts to kiss her again with more fervor than ever, and she moans very softly deep in her throat as his hands cover her breasts. Then as he starts to lean her far back, nearly lying on top of her, he slides one hand around between her bare shoulder blades to support her as they start to adjust position and move together to the middle of the bed. When he finally lays her all the way down on her back, they struggle a little with trying to quickly finish undressing while continuing to touch and kiss each other without ever pulling far apart.

This is real, he tells himself. He swears she is the most beautiful and perfect thing he will ever see, that her hair with its tousled wisps and tangles after she's been lying on it has never looked better, and breathing in her familiar smell again makes him feel like he could cry. Leah shuts her eyes tight and bites her lip through the pain as he carefully pushes into her, staying very quiet even as her stomach heaves and she grabs onto his shoulders tightly. He touches her hair soothingly, waits until she relaxes around him before starting to thrust in a slow rhythm, giving a soft groan as he falls into it and every movement in her is already starting to take him apart. Then he starts thrusting in deeper and a little faster, and though she doesn't tense up like before her eyes widen a little and her mouth drops open in a silent gasp as he fills her so completely.

"Sorry," he whispers quickly, bringing his hand to her face. "Am I—?"

"No it's okay," she says in a rushed murmur, and her hands pulling at his back prompt him to keep going, though something in her face still looks a little caught of guard. "It's just...you're really warm."

Sam frowns. He realizes in this moment that he doesn't really know whether he would prefer to be crazy or for the past two weeks to have been real. But it can't be in his head. There is something wrong with him, and others can tell.

She has no way of understanding what she sees in his reaction, but when he can't help but look disturbed after her words she raises her hand to his face and assuringly smoothes her fingers down his neck and chest. "I don't mean...It's fine," she says softly, and she lifts her head up to kiss his collar bone, her next words brushing soft breath against his skin. "It feels nice."

He closes his eyes, lowers his head down into her shoulder and says in a tight whisper, "I love you so fucking much."

She lets out a fast, catching gasp as he starts moving faster. It doesn't take long for him to easily forget everything again as they cling to each other. Then when she's getting close she grabs him closer than ever and speaks in a strained, broken voice through her ragged breaths, the words seeming to push out without her meaning to say them.

"Don't ever do that again, you can't ever leave me again Sam—"

And the world goes bright and white-hot behind his closed eyelids before he sinks into her with all of his energy spent, feeling like he could just collapse here and sleep for three days. But he waits until she falls asleep, stays watching her a while, and then leaves her to sneak back out of the house. Despite how shockingly much he has grown in recent months, he finds it is easy to creep through the house without making a sound, like a prowling animal. He makes it back home by 3:40, finding his mother back in bed fast asleep, and he leans over her to lightly kiss her forehead before going to his room.

The next day it happens again.