Even though it's been weeks since sleep stopped being deadly, old habits, as brief as they might have been, are tough to kill. Whenever Sam's about to fall asleep, Jake has to force himself not to shout at the kid to wake up, to stay awake, and to not fall asleep. After being awake for as long as he had, Sam more than deserves to sleep in peace. Peace is a luxury though; all they seem capable of is having nightmares. Nightmares where their loved ones are dead. Nightmares where they see each other dead.
They don't talk about it.
Maybe it isn't healthy, and maybe they should be talking about it, but they don't. They never even need to say not to talk about it. They just do not mention it. They don't talk about how Jake sometimes sits bolt upright when he's about to fall asleep either. They don't talk about how Sam can sometimes only sleep after crying into his pillow for hours. They don't talk about what's going to happen next.
Mostly, they talk about the pointless things. Daft games, like what they'd be willing to do for a million dollars. Where they'd like to go, now that the world was basically open for all. What they'd like to do, seeing as there was so much to be had in the world, with barely anyone left to take it.
It's why Jake wasn't expecting Sam to be so serious when he woke up one morning, bleary eyed, but apparently determined to tell Jake about something he was certain was simply off the table. They're sat opposite each other in somebody's house, eating breakfast like normal people who've just woken up.
“I dreamt about you last night,” he announced. Jake opened his mouth to reply, about to tell Sam that nightmares were something they weren't supposed to talk about. But Sam was already continuing, probably to avoid an interruption, realising what the older man was going to say. “Not like a nightmare,” he was swift to assure him. “A dream. An actual...happy, normal dream,” he said slowly.
“Really?” Jake asked, plunging his spoon back into his cereal. It's unbelievable how much he loves this kid, the little brother he'd never had. When he closes his eyes at night, he sees Megan's corpse all over again. But Sam is here. Sam's okay.
“Yeah,” Sam said, suddenly seeming self-conscious about his dream. In retrospect, it was a rather meaningless one. The fact it was a dream is what got him. It made him think that it won't be so bad whenever he falls asleep. However,he isn't used to talking about something so...plain. Not with Jake, at least.
But he'd clearly wanted to talk about it, and Jake wasn't about to stop him. So he gestured with his spoon for Sam to go on, nodding his head slightly in encouragement. Sam swallowed a mouthful of cereal, put his spoon down, and took a breath before he began his tale.
“We were just driving. Without worrying, you know? Like there wasn't this huge struggle to be awake,” Sam said and the corners of his mouth twitched. “We had these ridiculous shark costumes on. And we were laughing and being normal people. There were other cars driving by too, so we weren't as alone in the world as we are right now.” Now Sam was fidgeting with the hem of his shirt, looking melancholy. “But I dunno. It was just nice, I suppose,” he said, voice quieter than it had been when he began.
Sometimes, Jake forgets that Sam's only thirteen. That he's only a kid, really. They treat each other as if they're equals, not that there are whole years separating the two. Now, though, Sam really looked his age, and Jake physically hurt on behalf of the younger boy. To have had everything snatched away from him at such a young age...it makes Jake feel uncertain about whether the kid will ever be one hundred percent okay. “Shark costumes, huh?” was all Jake said in reply, his own mouth pulling into a smile.
And Sam laughed, the smile becoming a grin. “Yeah!” he exclaimed. The fact he has the energy now to be so enthusiastic is amazing in itself. “Shark costumes! Me, you, and the open road. No worries about anything,” he said.
“You know we can actually do that, right?” Jake asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Where the hell would we find shark costumes? It's not like Amazon can deliver any more,” Sam reminded Jake, diving back into his bowl of cereal, apparently much more interested in it with his dream off his chest.
Jake made a noise, something close to a 'pfft'. “Please. There'll be a costume shop around somewhere and failing that, Walmart has anything,” he said decisively.
“Are we really going to do this?” Sam asked, obviously trying to keep his excitement contained. But his eyes were alight and he bounced in his seat slightly, cereal forgotten once again. Jake simply shrugged in reply.
“Why not? The world's basically ours to do as we please. Nobody out there to stop us,” he pointed out, grinning.
They need to go and out and do and enjoy these things. Life's too short; the lack of almost everybody else is definitive proof of that. And if Sam dreamt of driving down a road, in shark costumes, laughing away, why shouldn't Jake help him to fulfil it? It's not as if they have anything better to do. It'll be a distraction from the nightmares and the horrors that come with even blinking.
And okay, maybe actually finding the shark costumes is a little harder than Jake made it out to be. But they find them eventually – they have the time to look basically everywhere, after all – and actually live out what started as a dream.
In a world where sleep itself was a nightmare, living out dreams is the closest they can get to life really, actually being okay.