Chapter Thirty-Three

"Andy...he has been in here before – he knows what it's like." Traci allowed a bemused chuckle of disbelief to escape her as she stood in the middle of the floor watching the whirlwind formally known as Andy attempt to rearrange her condo in preparation for picking Sam up from the hospital.

"I know...ok...I know. I just want everything to be perfect – I know it's not his home, I just..."

Traci reached out and wrapped her hand around her friends arm as she whipped past her for the fifth time, forcing her to stay put in one place for longer than a second, and offering a reassuring smile. "It will be. I'm sure you will be one nursemaid he will be very happy with."

"Uuurggghhh – no I won't. He's a horrible patient, and I know he's going to hate me fussing over him."

"So don't fuss."

"I can't help it!"

"Andy – the condo is fine. He would have been ok at his house too you know."

"I want to look after him – what's wrong with that?"

"Nothing...just as long as you look after yourself too."

Traci knew that her comment had hit home with the look Andy leveled at her, and temporarily let it go – unwrapping her hand from her friend and perching on a stool next to the counter. "How can I help?"

Andy leaned across and reached behind her friend – sheepishly presenting a hastily scrawled grocery list on the back on an old envelope and attempting to smile sweetly. Traci raised a questioning eyebrow in response. "Please? Perfect remember? And I have been looking after myself...Dr Lemi cleared me to go back to work didn't she?"

"I know...but you've only been back a week, and you're already taking time off."

"Only for a few days...just while Sam settles in...That's all."

Traci quirked an eyebrow at her friend again. "You do know they wouldn't discharge him if he couldn't look after himself to a certain extent."

"It's just a week Trace...As nice as it is that you miss me..."

Traci rolled her eyes, and held up her hands in mock surrender. "Ok...ok...I won't mention it again!"


After five blissful days of being holed up in her condo with Sam Andy finally felt like she may have been turning a corner – the absence of her sleepless nights, and the nightmare plagued darkness being well and truly left behind. Having Sam wrapped around her like her very own security blanket made her feel safe and untouchable, and although she still had to battle with herself to let him sleep while trying to force herself to stay awake and monitor his breathing, she felt happier and more complete than she had in a long time – had been reminded how much she loved waking up tightly wrapped up in his arms.

It was perhaps the hope of leaving it all behind, and her sense that things were going to be ok that made the nightmare that emerged on the sixth night that much more terrifying, and horrific – shaking her to her core. The nightmare was no longer about Sam – the fact that she was spending her days practically glued to his side, and witnessing him getting stronger each day did wonders to dispel those little horrors from her subconscious – it was more like flashes of memories, moments stored in her brain and the reliving of every torturous detail of the one afternoon of her life that she never wanted to think of again – the cold damp of the room and the flickering light from the lamp in the corner, the stomach churning from their voices, laughter and the things they were saying to her – she felt all of it all over again, the pain, the horribly humiliating disgusted self loathing...every minute detail down to the way their breath on her face made her skin crawl.

It was Andy's elbow connecting sharply with his rib that first alerted Sam to the fact that all was not well, winding him enough to force out a large puff of air. It took a couple of seconds for him to find his way through half sleep induced haze and register the agitated movements of the woman laying next to him, her shaky shallow breathing combining with the occasional heartbreaking whimper. Sam instinctively reached out and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly to him in an attempt to offer comfort and reassurance, and also to hold onto her tight enough that her elbows were no longer capable of breaking a rib. "Andy? Andy...wake up...Andy...Andy?"

Sam sensed more than saw when she actually woke, his face buried in her hair when her strong limbs stopped battling against his hold, and there was a sharp swift gasp of air being sucked into her lungs. She momentarily froze – her completely tense body not even twitching a muscle and then tore herself from his grip before he even realised what was happening, flying out of the bed and into her bathroom. He pulled himself out of bed and followed her, padding softly across to the bathroom door just in time to be met with the sound of her violently emptying the contents of her stomach on the other side of the door. Sam reached for the door handle, his concern growing when he discovered that she had locked him out – he tried the handle twice to make sure, before rapping his knuckles gently on the wood and leaned against the door allowing his forehead to connect with the wood. "Andy? " His voice was quiet and still raspy from sleep, but he knew it was loud enough for her to hear him. "Andy, open the door...Andy?"

Andy relinquished her grip on the toilet in the hope that anymore projectile vomiting had been cleared from the cards...she was pretty sure she didn't have anything left inside her to come out. She shuffled towards the shower, not trusting her wobbly legs to carry her and pulled herself to her feet with a white knuckle grip on her towel rail – turning her shower on to full power and a temperature as high as her skin could take without scalding her, stepping underneath the pounding water without even bothering to remove the shorts and vest top she had been sleeping in. She had heard Sam on the other side of the door or at least heard his voice – but she couldn't make herself answer him...he had sounded really far away, and she was refusing to burden him with this. It wasn't his fault, and he had been forced to deal with the fallout and repercussions of this kind of horror once before – she was not going to be the reason for him having to do it again, would refuse to let him do it. She sunk down onto the floor – the water plastering her hair to the top of her head, and soaking through her clothes and closed her eyes – willing the steaming water to wash away the dirt and the horror and make her clean again. It didn't help, not really...even when she tried to scrub at her skin with her mango body scrub until parts of her were almost red raw and eventually the tears came, burning her skin almost as much as the shower water – she shivered despite the heat of the water and the steam, and pulled her legs up to her chest – wrapping her arms around them in an attempt to curl up into a defensive ball – but the tears only increased, battering her breathing and forcing her lungs to gulp for mouthfuls of air.

As soon as he heard the shower Sam had to force himself to stay rooted to the spot – battling against the overwhelming urge to go straight out the door and down to the holding cells of Maplehurst – where Jerry had informed him that they were holding those responsible for this current situation until their trial next week. He knew what she was doing, still remembered his sister emptying the entire hot water supply of their house – it had been months before he had been able to take a warm shower after what had happened to her. He knocked on the door again, slightly louder so that she would hear him over the spray of water. "Andy? Please...open the door and talk to me."

It took Sam 20 minutes to find something the right size and shape to unpick the lock on the bathroom door, after spending ten minutes trying to get her to talk to him with no response. Her tears had dried by the time he got to her, shivering under a torrent of steamy water. He turned the water off, kneeling on the floor next to her and wrapping her quivering body into a fluffy white towel followed very closely by his arms, pulling her onto her feet and out of the shower cubicle in one swift movement. He didn't take them very far – finding a spot leaning back up against the bathroom door and sinking back down onto the floor – pulling her with him. For a long time neither of them spoke, Andy's shivers eventually subsiding and she leaned back into him – close enough to feel the expansion of his rib cage with each breath against her back, and her soaked hair dripped onto his skin.

"I'm sorry...I..."

"Sssshhh...It's ok. You don't have anything to be sorry for...it's going to be ok." Sam wrapped his arms around her a little tighter, dropping a gentle kiss on her shoulder and nuzzling in at her neck.

Andy shifted around in his arms to face him, half pulling him to her and half climbing on him – her fingers digging into the skin on his neck and shoulders tight enough to leave a mark and kissed him fiercely – every cell in her body desperate to erase any memory that had been loitering. He kissed her back, matched her intensity as an automatic response – he always wanted to kiss her but he pulled himself away from her when he felt her cool fingers edging under his waistband – they weren't Andy, not really – they were blackout moves, the same wrecked desperation and as much as he wanted to help her to forget, he knew it wouldn't help – not really.

Sam wrapped his fingers around her wrist and held onto her tightly, stopping any downward progress. "Sam...?" her voice was completely wrecked, his name a breathy whispered plea and it broke his heart a little bit to push her away, but he did – just far enough to give them some breathing room.

"What? What do you want?"

"You." She opened her eyes and looked at him for the first time since he pushed her back slightly, her bottom lip quivering slightly and the fresh sheen of tears evident. "Don't you want me?"

It took a beat too long for him to register the question, and she pulled her wrist from his fingers – scrabbling to her feet, the hurt and embarrassment from what she thought was his rejection written plainly across her face. He reached out for her again, but forced himself to his feet when she avoided his grasp cupping her face in his hands and forcing her to look at him. "Is that seriously what you think? That I don't want you?"

Andy pulled herself out of his grasp again, and backed up into the far corner of the bathroom leaning against the edge of the sink and staring at the floor. "You've barely touched me since you've been here...its ok – I get it, it's just..."

"No...No you don't. You think I don't want you? Jesus, Andy...I never stop wanting...I may not have...Andy look at me." When she refused to look up from the spot on the floor Sam took three large steps up into her personal space, running his hands up and down the edge of her arms and bending his knees slightly in an effort to meet her eyes without success. "Andy, please? I want you ok? You couldn't be more wrong...I want you so much that sometimes I think it's going to kill me – but I didn't want you to feel uncomfortable around me. I was trying to wait until you could let me know that you were ready."

"How am I supposed to do that? I would have thought that what I was trying to do just now was letting you know that." Andy forced her eyes away from the floor and back to his face, but couldn't read his expression.

"Was that you wanting me or wanting to forget?"

"I want you. I want you to touch me...I need you to – you promised you wouldn't do this..."

"Andy, I..."

"No! You promised me!" with a violent shake of her head Andy tried to step around Sam, but he reached out an arm and wrapped it around her waist, holding her so tightly against him that her shoulder blades dug into his chest and she tried to squirm out of his grip – her wriggling only making him hold onto her tighter.

"I'm not trying to handle you Andy...I love you, there's a difference."

"Don't! Don't touch me...let me go! Sam! Let go!" She attempted to make her words harsh and biting to cover the waiver of tears threatening to fall once again, but when he refused to loosen his grip she flailed her arms around awkwardly – trying to hit out at him when he was holding her from behind was a lot more difficult that you might expect, although her elbows managed to make contact quite substantially a couple of times – she heard the air they forced from his lungs. She didn't want to break down in front of him, really tried to hold the tears in – but there was no budging Sam's hold on her. She eventually gave up the struggle when the breakdown came, crumpling to a heap on the floor and dragging Sam down with her – clinging onto him desperately and trying to bury her face against his shoulder. "I thought they'd stopped...I just want it to stop. I can still feel them...please just make it stop..."

"I wish I could sweetheart...if I could I would...I would do anything."

Andy clambered back onto his lap, pawing desperately at him again – her words breathless heartbreaking whispers between sobs and kisses. "Please?...Please Sam?...I need you...I need you to remind me... how it's supposed to feel...make me feel like I used to...how good it can be...please?" This time his hands pulled her closer, reaching behind her to peel her still wet vest top away from her skin and up over her head – searching out her gaze for confirmation that she did in fact really want to do this as he threw the top over into the corner of the room somewhere behind her.

She answered his silent question with an intense kiss, and he trailed gentle kisses down the column of her throat when she pulled back for air – mumbling compliments of how beautiful and amazing she was until he bit down gently when he reached her shoulder – following it up with "It scares the shit out of me...how much I love you."

"I love you...I love you...I love you." She was no longer sobbing, gasping for air...but her words were broken with her tears still falling – she increased her grip on him, forcing his face upwards so she could crush her mouth onto his and pulled him so close to her that they almost welded together. "Please Sam...?"

"Ok...sweetheart...ok."


A/N...I'm very sorry this is a week later than promised...uni work piled up on me already, so the updates may take a little bit longer to get through. In any case...I hope you have enjoyed this one...and please leave a little note to let me know what you thought. xxxx