Chapter 20: Something Beautiful Remains

December 25, 2004 7:34 p.m.

In all his scenarios and separate lives, all the ways he could've changed and the different paths he could've taken, she still seemed to be there, in every single life he could've lived. She seemed to be the only real thing that did stay, the only real constant.

And he couldn't push her away, he couldn't make himself stop loving her. Because it was this thing inside him, this thing like air that stuck to you so tightly you couldn't loosen it and you didn't want to. It was overwhelming, so strong and powerful he could drown in it.

It was this feeling like you knew you wouldn't have to wake up and fake your way through dinner again; wouldn't have to touch a cold pillow; wouldn't have to fall asleep in a cold sweat wondering who you'd be tomorrow, who you'd be with tomorrow, and who you wouldn't be with; it was this feeling like if the whole world fell, the world just fucking fell from the sky, you had this one thing -- this one thing that kept you up, kept you sane and whole.

When he found her, she was sitting on the stoop of her apartment, ice skates untied, cigarette dangling from her mouth.

"I didn't know you smoked, " he said through the snow.

"I don't, " she replied as she blew a straight line through the cold air.

"Everyone's picking up habits again these days. My brother had a beer, I'm having a cigarette, and we'll all die with our addictions."

"Sam, " he leaned forward, looking in her eye, "are you all right?"

"Jack, for God's sakes. My best friend fucking bled to death in my lap and I can still feel it, can't wash it out of my clothes, my hands."

"Samantha, your brother --"

"No, no h-he didn't. He may be depressed and anti-social, but he wouldn't throw all that away. He's...he's going to be okay. He's stronger than me, I think."

She threw the cigarette into the bushes, wiped her hands against her pants.

"I went to his apartment earlier, picked up these and the symphony tickets and watched It's a Wonderful Life. You know, it's a hard movie to watch when you don't exactly agree with the title sometimes and your best friend, who you bought it for, can't watch it with you. It just...just fucking sucks, Jack, " she said, tears threatening again.

"He bought you those?"

She nodded. "I can't skate, so he was going to teach me. And now I have these and I still can't skate."

"And the symphony tickets?"

"Still have them. The show's at ten, but it's -- it's not much fun going alone."

She tapped the tips of her skates together.

"Where's the happy ending, Jack?" she asked, her voice cracking with pain.

"I haven't found it yet. It's...it's close. Samantha, what do you need me to say?"

She smiled sadly up at him until it occurred to him what he'd never said.

"This is it, Sam, this is me, " he spoke, pointing to his heart, "this is me saying I'm sorry and I screwed up and...shit, this is it."

"This is what?"

"My apology."

"For what?"

"For losing you in the first place."

For a pause, they remained separate, thinking of their past and future.

"Sam, " he said, "I hear you don't know how to skate."

And for the first time in days, she allowed herself a smile.

"Can you teach me?" she asked.

He nodded, pulled her up to him and held her with a fierceness he couldn't comprehend. He had started, he realized, in the years since he'd met her -- measuring his life by her. He built his life through her and around her and what she needed, he needed. Because they became the thing he breathed. They were flawed apart and perfect together and he could touch his faith now in tangible increments.

Their lips met through the snow, flakes falling softly on her hair.

"I thought of a thousand ways to love you, to tell you so you would know and all I've got it this: Sam, I just love you and I need you because if you're not with me, I feel like this lost soul."

She smiled at him, tears of continued pain and joy shining in her eyes, and returned the sentiment.

That thing, that thing that bled through his veins with the same blood that pumped his heart was Samantha Spade.

She was the one he could stop breathing for.

[ end ]