Air

by: Kasey

Character(s): Sam
Rating: TEEN
Disclaimer: I don't own them and no money has changed hands here...'cept for what Josh paid the pizza guy.
Summary: Sometimes, new challenges confront us. Sometimes, we confront them. Elements Series #002.

Oh, c'mon, what was I supposed to do? "Take it in stride"? I don't think so.

You probably can't have the slightest idea what that was like...This guy I really liked telling me he was sick? Really sick? And he had been for most of his life but never told anyone else?

"Shocking" doesn't BEGIN to describe it.

I had to talk to SOMEONE...who? I didn't know...

So I called Dad.

That was predictable, wasn't it?

When Margaret answered and found out it was me, she immediately asked what was going on.

"What are you talking about?" I asked innocently.

"He looks like he's seen a ghost and said no calls or visitors except for Sam, Josh, or you, so I was wondering-"

"It's a long story, Margaret, could you please just put me through?"

"Okay," she said in that 'I know something's up' voice.

"Baby?"

I don't know what it was about hearing Dad's voice on the line that made me break down. But one moment I was smiling faintly at Margaret's tone of voice, and the next I was crying.

It threw Dad a little to be sure, and he took a second before he muttered that Sam would be okay and everything would be fine.

"How could he not tell anyone?"

"I dunno, Baby, prob'ly 'cause he didn't want everyone to be all overprotective and besides - he thought there was no reason to worry about it."

"Yeah," I said quietly, playing with the phone cord. "He said if I didn't want to stick around, he'd understand -d oes he think I'm that much of a fair-weather -"

"He's scared, Baby, I think, he said when he was sick before he was a kid...You know how kids can be, they proclaim 'friends forever' and it lasts a couple weeks if that...and if something happens adults can be just as quick to run away..."

"Yeah...I should let you go..."

"You gonna be okay?"

"Yeah." We hung up and I laid on the couch, starting at the ceiling and thinking.

That lasted all of ten minutes before I grabbed my coat and car keys and ran downstairs to my car.

When I arrived at Sam's, I fidgeted and hesitated before I knocked. Josh answered the door. "I she here? Because if he's, like, trying to sleep, I'll come back another-"

"Nah, he's in the kitchen, we just ordered a pizza..." Josh lowered his voice. "How ya doin', kid?"

"I'm okay. You?"

"I'm okay."

Sam appeared in the living room. "Josh, who are you talking-..." He trailed off as he saw me. "Mallory," he said quietly, a little surprised. "Please come in."

"Yeah, I was, uh...just leaving..."

"Josh, it's fine with me if you stay, it's not a-...I don't know." I entered. "Sam, I'm sorry I asked you to leave."

"You were surprised, it was...understandable."

"Even so."

"Yeah."

An uncomfortable pause. "Listen, Sam, I really like you a lot-"

"Is this a break-up or is it a-"

"Absolutely not." I paused. "Sam, I really like you a lot, I don't wanna cut-n-run." I offered a tiny smile. "Just tell me what to do and how to help."

Sam's face lit up like a Christmas tree and he hugged me. I held onto him tightly, hoping it'd be all right. "Thank you," he whispered, and his breath gently tickled my cheek. After a minute, he pulled back and turned to face Josh as well, his arm around my waist. "You, too, Josh - thank you."

"We haven't done anything yet."

"Y'haven't run away," Sam said with a faint smile. "That's something."

"It's what best friends do," Josh shrugged off, and I could see him mentally adding //And what brothers do, and what sons do...//

"I appreciate it," Sam whispered, getting a little choked up, and I suspected when he was sick as a kid, he was also alone.

Kids can be cruel like that sometimes.

There was a knock on the door and Josh opened it - pizza guy. Sam went to the kitchen and grabbed 3 beers before opening the pizza box on the coffee table. "Dig in, guys."

Josh and Sam sat on the couch, and I sat cross-legged opposite them, but none of us ate much. We picked at the pizza and drank a little beer and tried to make awkward conversation. None of us wanted to bring up the *thing* looming over us, but what else was on our minds?

Finally, Sam muttered "This is ridiculous." After our puzzled glances, he added "We're all avoiding the subject." Josh took a swig of his beer and I stared intently at the coffee table. "I've got an appointment next week with an oncologist, I'll know more then. Until then, it's just speculation, so it's just as well not to worry until we know more."

How could we NOT worry, though?

Josh raised his beer bottle. "To longevity."

Sam smiled and raised his own bottle. "To Josh knowing the word 'longevity.'"

"To high SAT-word scores!" I laughed.

"To laughter," Sam said quietly, his eyes meeting mine. "And happiness."

"To laughter and happiness," Josh and I chimed in.

We clinked our bottles together and hoped the things we were toasting would come true.

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