The drive home from the hospital was much longer than the drive there, and it felt longer still. Sam sat in the passenger seat of Mik’s car, staring out the window, lost in thought. If she hadn’t insisted on leaving, she knew the hospital would have preferred her to stay a bit longer. The memories were still sharp in her mind, and the guilt still tore at her like thorns, but the ache was beginning to dull. It wasn’t much solace, but it was enough; it’d seemed for days as if she would never begin to recover.
The hospital insisted that she not drive, at least not until they could work out the underlying issues behind the incident. Mik had been more than happy to take her home, and he’d been thrilled that she was doing even a little bit better. Sam, for all Mik had told her, couldn’t help but feel like she was being too much of a burden on him, like she didn’t deserve his friendship after everything. She didn’t voice these feelings, though, since she knew it would only hurt him.
“I went ahead and took those…things from the basement when I cleaned it up,” Mik remarked, breaking the silence. “I think it’s best if you don’t have to deal with them.”
“Your fluffies are doing pretty well. I’ve been keeping them up-to-date as best I can, given they don’t really understand. They’ll be happy to see you.”
“Sam. Brooding will only make things worse.”
“I KNOW! Just…just let me try to move at my own pace.”
“Sorry. I’m just worried.”
“Don’t be. I’m fine.”
“I told that lie to my therapist too many times after the incident to fall for it now, Sam.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t know. I just want to know that you’ll be okay.”
“I’m fine, Mik. Don’t worry about me.”
“Sam, listen. I don’t think it’s a good idea to let you be alone for now.”
“I can manage.”
“I know you think I can’t understand, but I’ve been where you are now. I couldn’t manage then, and there’s nothing shameful about not being able to be alone for now. I know how bad it can get when there’s nobody around to pull you out of a downward spiral. I don’t want that to be you.”
“I’m already relying on you too much.”
“Then ask Rebecca, or Alice, or someone else. You need support right now, and I’m sure they’d be happy to help. It might not be the best circumstances, but I know they’d missed you lately.”
“I just want to be alone, that’s all. I’ll be fine.”
Mik glanced at Sam, concern in his eyes.
“Do you really want to be alone?”
“MIK, I WANT TO BE ALONE BECAUSE THIS IS FUCKING HUMILIATING! I hate feeling like everyone sees me as a child! I don’t want to be taken care of, Mik!”
Mik breathed a long, sad sigh.
“I know, Sam, I know. I felt the same way.”
“Then why are you insisting on this?”
“Because acting on that feeling cost me years of my life. Because when I was too ashamed to ask for help it almost killed me. Because I wanted to be alone and nobody was there to help me when I couldn’t feel anything but despair or see anything but bad memories. Because in the good moments I wanted to pretend like the bad never happened. You think all of these scars come from that night? I don’t want that to happen to you!”
“Christ, Mik. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’m sorry for being so pushy.”
“I’ll ask Rebecca if she can come stay at my place for a few days.”
“Thank you. I’ll give her the run-down on what to do and what to look out for. Just…take care of yourself.”
Sam fumbled with her keys for a moment, preparing to open the door. It seemed like it’d been forever since she’d been home, even though it’d only been a few days. As she reached for the lock, Mik placed his hand on her shoulder.
“One more thing. I told your fluffies that the smarty had rabies and had to be put down, that you were protecting other fluffies from him. It’s better that way. You’re dealing with enough right now, you don’t need them being afraid of you.”
“They deserve to know the truth, Mik.”
“They don’t need to know. It would only make them more stressed, and it’s been a rough few days for them too.”
“Thank you. I hadn’t even thought about what I’d tell them.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Sam opened the door. Even now, the house smelled faintly of disinfectant. The clinical scent wasn’t something Sam ever thought she’d be glad to smell, but it was much better than the blood she could still smell in the back of her mind. A small comfort, but she’d take what she could get right now.
“MUMMAH!” Knight shouted as soon as she opened the door. His voice quieted to the closest approximation to a whisper he could manage. “Am 'ou otay, mummah?”
“I’m fine, Knight, don’t worry. Let’s go back to the saferoom.”
She walked to the saferoom, a little unsteady still. Under her façade of normality, she still felt the dread and fear gnawing at the back of her mind. She shook slightly, but it was imperceptible to the limited sight of the fluffies.
Upon reaching the safe room she was greeted by a cacophony of overlapping cries of joy and relief. For all Mik’s assurances, they’d no doubt been sick with fear over what had happened. Slowly, as Sam held the fluffies as best she could, the cries morphed into tears of relief, until the only noise in the saferoom was a soft “Huhuhu.”
[Note: Never doing that multi-colored text for multiple fluffies speaking again. It’s too much of a hassle.]