The first time Sam sees him, he’s 15, just hitting his first noticeable growth spurt and getting interested in his own body. Not that he hasn’t been interested before; he’s male, there’s a certain curiosity that comes from having a sensitive part of your body on the outside, constantly rubbing on things, but lately the interest sparks new feelings, new sensations and he’s unable to overcome the desire to explore, to test out these new sensations as often as possible. Even when he - frequently - has a silent witness or two.
He doesn’t know why they come to him, some of them, while others stay removed. He doesn’t know why he can see them but is unable to hear them. He knows their mouths move; some of them rail and scream out, he can tell by the grotesque stretching of their mouths and the anger, desperation, fear on their faces. Some are content to speak in what he can only assume are conversational tones, gesturing expansively with pale, delicate hands, or folding them demurely in whispy clothing; some clearly whisper as they lean in and brush against his ears, his cheeks, the cool presence of non-breath against his skin.
It would all be very “Sixth Sense” if he could just manage to hear one of them. Instead, he can feel them around him at odd moments during the day, or when he’s riding in his school bus in the afternoons, passing by hospitals or random street corners. Once, there was a displaced spirit haunting a Starbucks when his brother stopped in for coffee and pastries one Saturday - she was young, too young for coffee, and Sam had never quite determined why she was there. She just smiled, waved, and said something about the daily special.
She may have been the least weird experience of his life, all things considered.
He’s been seeing ghosts - spirits, whatever you want to call them - for as long as he can remember. His dad and brother used to think he was making up imaginary friends and, hell, why not go with that. He thought they were too, for awhile, right after the stage he went through where he was sure everyone could see them but wouldn’t admit to it. Looking back, that makes no sense to him, but little kids (he thinks to himself, fifteen-year-old-him) think the damnedest things.
It may have had something to do with his mother dying when he was a baby. But then, he’s never seen her spirit, so there’s no way to know for sure. It’s just a part of who he is at this point, and he’s ok with who he is.
But this first time he sees the ghost he will later come to call Nick - or Lucifer, depending on who is in control at the time - it’s about an hour after his normal bedtime and he has both feet planted against the footboard of his bed, his boxers hitched down to his thighs, and is working really hard for his second orgasm of the night. He doesn’t have any particular fantasy in mind - he’s 15, it doesn’t take much more than friction at this point - and he has his eyes screwed tight and his fist in his mouth when he first feels the chill in the air.
No, no, not now, he thinks to himself, but doesn’t want to open his eyes when he’s so close to coming.
But the spirit, whoever it is, seems to be content to stay on the other side of the room; he can feel it there, waiting. Something about the idea of it watching him sends an even more illicit thrill through his body and, legs shaking from the strain, he pushes up once more into his fist and comes all over his stomach, weak, watery spurts that do little more than dot his skin.
There’s a cold wash of intensity that follows in the wake of his orgasm and he blearily opens his eyes to find cool blue interest peering back at him. This is Nick, he finds out later; but for now this stranger’s intensity makes him grab for the edge of his sheet, quickly pulling it over his spent and aching dick. He hisses a little at the contact against his oversensitive skin; the spirit’s eyes flash at that, moving down from his study of Sam’s face and flicking to his waist instead.
Sam can’t help the way his throat constricts at that; as if sensing this sign of weakness, the spirit’s eyes snap back to Sam’s face - and he smirks, a dangerous thing that sparks want and fear simultaneously. This - this is Lucifer, Sam will soon learn.
Hello, the spirit mouths to him; I’m Nick.
For some reason, Sam’s body decides it’s ok to fall asleep in the presence of this voyeuristic ghost, and the next thing he knows, it’s morning and he’s itchy with dried semen and his ethereal roommate is gone.
Sam doesn’t think too much about it that first time.
After the second time, the third time, the fourth appearance, he notices that other ghosts don’t appear to him in his room anymore, and he seeks it out more often as a safe haven whenever he feels the need to hide from the prying eyes of spirits he finds almost everywhere else in his daily life. If his dad and brother notice that he stays in more often than he goes out now, they probably attribute it to the looming finals and end-of-grade studying. Both of them are too busy with work and too tired at the end of the day to question him beyond the usual, how was school, Sam?
He thinks he’d be pretty lonely if he weren’t constantly surrounded by what used to be people.
Sometimes Nick is there when he gets home, leaning against a wall, giving a silent nod whenever Sam gets there and tosses his bookbag up on the bed. Other times, he’s perched on Sam’s desk, knees to chest, lips pursed and brow furrowed as he studies his hands clasped between his legs. Sometimes Sam has to ask him politely to move so that he can get his homework done, and Nick always hops down and gestures with a dramatic flourish and a smirk towards his blotter. It never fails to make Sam grin and feel lighter and he tips an imaginary hat back.
Sometimes, he looks at Sam with something scarily close to possessiveness, as if to demand, where have you been? It always sets off something in Sam’s gut, some churning, dark thing that he takes care of at night with his eyes screwed up tight and his cool presence watching nearby.
He’s there throughout Sam’s last year of middle school, patiently waiting for him almost every day, and when high school comes around, very little about their relationship changes until one day Sam comes home with a split, bloody lip and the words freak and fag echoing in his head. He’s seventeen, and he should’ve hit back, dammit.
He stomps up the stairs to his room to a shouted, Hey champ! from the kitchen and he slams his bedroom door, turning the lock and bracing his hands against the door before his brother decides to follow up with an in-face barrage of questions like, so you gotta girl yet, what’s her name, you’re using protection right? and his usual bullshit forms of affection. All of it would grate right now, and he doesn’t feel like lying to anyone today.
It’s only after he slides down the door in relief, realizing Dean’s not going to follow him upstairs, that he spots the darkness across the room that is usually Nick.
His face is livid, an ugly darkness staining his cheeks, and eyes that are usually so clearly blue despite his insubstantial existence are now black with anger, hatred stamped so obviously on his face that Sam is scared for himself. He scoots back flush against the door and puts his hands out when his ghostly friend - God, he hopes he’s still his friend - stalks towards him, pulling his cloud of fury with him. Sam has a moment to wonder, Oh Jesus Christ, what did I do - before Nick is on him.
For the first time, Sam can feel Nick - can feel substance coalesce into firmness as he puts a hand to either side of Sam’s head and presses against the cheap wood grain of the door until Sam can hear it groaning. Nick’s face is millimeters away from his own, he’s almost cross-eyed trying to back away, when a finger comes up to touch the stinging redness of his swollen bottom lip. Sam unconsciously runs the tip of his tongue across the cut, catching the freezing tingle of ghost-fingertip by accident.
Nick’s eyes, already black in anger, flick down and back to Sam’s eyes, and for the first time, Sam feels him try to communicate something with more than just his face, his body.
Who. Did. This.
Nick mouths, the sibilance at the end of the final word almost, almost cutting the air with sound. Sam’s gotten pretty damn good at reading lips over the years, but this time he figures he doesn’t have to be that good to catch Nick’s meaning.
“It was just… just some guys in the locker room. It was an accident, I was…”
He’s stopped by the audible slam of a hand against the door by his head and the crisp, cold feeling of two fingers turning his chin up to meet midnight blue eyes.
Not. An. Accident. Don’t LIE to me, Sam.
It’s a day of firsts, apparently, because this is the first time he’s hinted at knowing anything about Sam (other than the jacking-off sessions, or the study sessions where he’s peering over Sam’s homework and nodding, or reaching out to point out an error, or…) and Sam is brought abruptly back out of his head and into reality when cold fingers press, hard, and demanding eyes won’t let him go.
“Okay, man, calm down. We were showering after P.E. I… I got hard, ok? It happens sometimes. We were showering and I got hard and some asshole took offense cause he thought I was looking at his ass. He called me a fag and punched me. It was the end of the day anyway, so I just came home. It’s not a big deal.”
And as if it were possible, he looks even angrier now, and there’s something about this anger that Sam thinks is personal, is too close to home for his ghostly friend, and it sends a nasty shiver down his spine as he finds his space suddenly free of invasion. He’s able to breathe, now, the intensity of the moment dialing back down to levels he can tolerate with a little more clarity.
Nick turns calculating eyes on him, tongue peeking between his teeth, then says, so clearly that Sam thinks he might have heard it,
And this… this is a turning point for Sam.
His life up until now, he knows, has been blessedly free of really, truly horrible decisions (minus, again, those jack-off sessions, but all teenagers masturbate and when everyone thinks the ghosts you see are in your imagination anyway, it hardly counts, right?) and he knows that answering could change everything. He’s a smart kid, damn smart, at the top of his class, and he didn’t get there by not knowing that every action has an equal - if not always opposite - reaction.
He swallows, dizzy with a feeling he can’t name, and gives up the information.
There’s a sickening lurch as Nick seems to be in two places in the room at once, and cold, and he stumbles to his bed, unaccountably exhausted.
When he wakes up, it’s Thursday, and three days have gone by without him noticing. He’s curled up in sweat-soaked boxers under too many covers, and kicks them restlessly off. There’s a water bottle by his bed, a bottle of Tylenol, and a note from his brother in sloppy, sloping handwriting saying, call me when you wake up, there’s more homemade soup in the fridge, and he wonders why his brother is a better parent than his father ever has been. He feels like he has the flu and all of his muscles are stiff, aching, and hot.
All of his muscles - and his dick.
He ignores that for the time being and checks his phone, which is when he learns that it’s Thursday and he’s missed three days of school and he’ll probably end up missing Friday, too, with the way he feels. He’s starving and has to piss like a racehorse, but the more awake he feels, the better his body feels, so he decides to take care of his bladder, stomach, and dick in that order.
He stumbles to the bathroom and it’s only as he’s washing his hands that he realizes his lip is no longer swollen and split. There’s no trace of injury, no trace of blood; he’s pale and obviously in need of a shower, but otherwise - well, he thinks he looks good. Huh.
He stumbles downstairs, house blessedly empty at 11am on a weekday, and finds the soup Dean promised on the second shelf of the fridge loosely covered in saran wrap. He heats it up perfunctorily in the microwave to break the chill and takes it into the living room to plop in front of the TV. It’s been a long time since he could pick something besides ESPN or some other suitably manly show like his dad and brother choose, Sam squeezed between them on the sofa as they yell at the referees and players, so he takes a few minutes to flip channels with one hand as he drinks his soup with the other.
It’s as he’s doing so that he sees something and finds himself flipping a few channels back, catching the local cable news (weather on the ones! the cheerful announcer likes to remind him) and waiting to see if what he thought he saw comes back around. He sits there, silent and anxious, for eight minutes with rapidly cooling soup (tomato and rice, and it suddenly looks like blood and maggots and he can’t deal with this oh god he can’t) and then there’s a face on the news and
—seventeen year old all-state wrestler at Lawrence High School found dead hanging in his closet by his mother suicide note says “faggot” and police are questioning friends and family horrible tragedy for this small town team wearing black bands to away games in honor of—
Sam’s rushing to the bathroom, vomiting up his tomato-rice soup (maggots oh god it looks like) and for some reason his dick still doesn’t want to let up on the idea of a good old fashioned session between the sheets even after all this and Sam can’t think -
When there’s suddenly a cool hand against the nape of his neck and lips trailing down his spine and he feels like he jumps a foot off the ground trying to get away from his familiar, blessedly loyal friend who just happens to be dead.
He can’t breathe, and he presses against the wall and rushes past a startled - how do you even startle a ghost, he thinks irreverently - Nick and up to his room, closing a door that does nothing to keep him safe as he curls against the tacky shag rug on his floor for the second time this week.
Sam will come to learn, in time, that Nick had been an elementary school teacher. He will learn, in time, that Nick was beaten to death and that his killer was never discovered. He will learn that Nick was suspected of being homosexual, which meant that during the time in which he lived, his family could expect no justice for his death. That - reading between the lines of the old newspapers on microfiche at the library - you could tell the sheriff thought he had it coming. That the beating death of a gay man was well-deserved, justice meted out via public opinion. And, well, that’s just how things were.
But for now, all Sam knows for sure is that a kid is dead and somehow, Nick is behind it.
Speak of the devil, his mind supplies, on the verge of hysteria, when Nick appears at the foot of his bed, shoes almost solid a meter away from Sam’s eyes. He’s not sure when Nick started seeming more real to him than his family, but he’s beginning to suspect this isn’t something new; that this has been in the works for a long time.
Cool fingertips trace the edge of his jaw, down to his mouth, over the bow of his lip. He can feel them, like the barest brush of his own fingers; it feels good, grounding, and awful at the same time. He feels like he might float away without them and he looks up to meet concerned eyes.
Why did you run from me?
He wants to answer, because you scare me, and it must show on his face because Nick suddenly looks as though he’s been struck, like Sam is the one who hanged some kid in a closet - somehow - because the punk hurt his best friend.
I would never hurt you, Sam. You have to believe me. I love you.
And God help him, but Sam does believe him. Despite the mood swings, the way Nick’s other side scares the shit out of him and excites him, he does believe him; Nick would never hurt him.
And that’s why Sam lets Nick lead him back to his bed, why he lets Nick slip cool hands behind his neck and down his sides, lets them tug away his boxers. It’s why he opens his lips for Nick’s cold tongue and his legs for Nick’s cold fingers, and why he lets Nick’s cold body leech away his heat and energy.
And when Nick whispers “Come for me, Sam,” in words that Sam can hear, Sam does.
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