Sam had never noticed how alone he was until Amanda hugged him.
He was always filling the void created by his abusive family with drugs and flings, never staying with one girl for more than a week at most. At school he had no friends to hang out with, no one to just call and chat. And as much as Sam said he didn't care...
When they finally made it back to their Earth, Sam looked at all of them, the first three real friends he's had in years. They were bruised and tired and had seen way too much for anyone their age. They fought against enemies and fought against themselves, often taking any chance to betray the other. But in the end, they always stuck together and despite the odds, made it back to a place where they weren't sure they belonged anymore.
Mike Jaundice. Sam knew him before from just being the loser kid who bought weed a couple times. He never quite had enough money but Sam could tell he was struggling and let it slide. He's definitely payed him back now, not in money, but in life debts. As shitty as his family life was on Earth, Mike was the one who wanted to come back the most. That's one thing Sam will never understand.
Hannah Lee. The Asian sophomore who didn't even exist in Sam's world until she screamed out in the mall cafeteria on the day that started it all. She was smart and as much as he joked about the stereotype, her wits was one of the only things that got them home. They argued. Oh hell they argued. But Sam loved the kid for the bitch berserker that she was. That she still is. Even if she traded her stone axe for a pen, she still has the fighting spirit inside her.
Amanda Hess. Where could he begin with Amanda? She was beautiful, brave and bubbly, using her smile to try and charm a monster before shooting it right through the head with an arrow. Honestly, Sam fucking hated her in school; she was a preppy bitch who lied about her life to be the centre of attention. But after getting to know her, Sam could see her insecurities, her want to be seen in a house of two absent parents, to be recognised in a school where she is just average in sport and academics. She opened herself up to him and he did the same to her, secrets passing between the two that no one else would ever know. Sam's biggest regret was not saying anything to her sooner.
The day they got back they all just stood still and stared at the world around them. Their simple suburban town was still there, nothing had changed, their absence certainly didn't shift reality.
Hannah left first, running off to her obviously fearful parents to assure them that she was alive and hopefully hide the scars covering almost every inch of her skin, some still oozing. Then went Mike, kind of giving a half wave and dawdling off to a street where no mother would rush to his side. She probably never even realised he was gone.
Just Amanda and Sam remained, fiddling with their fingers and tapping toes on the ground.
"I guess we made it." She said softly, half smiling at Sam. He couldn't tell what she was feeling.
"Yeah," was all he said in response, messing with the zipper on his windbreaker. Why was it suddenly so awkward? They'd been stranded in every sort of environment and always had some snide remarks to throw at each other. But now their adventure was over.
Sam wasn't the hero he had grown the reputation of being. He was just a deadbeat drug dealer who was as equally scared of his abusive dad as he was his own shadow. And Amanda, the girl who would kill with a wink of an eye and pair up with Sam to do whatever fucked up shit there was to do in whatever world they were in, was once again the rich snob who wanted attention from everyone in school, boy and girl alike. Here they didn't even belong in the same social circle. People would talk. It made sense that she would want to ignore him.
"I guess I should go see if my parents are home." Her voice was so unsure, making Sam look up and stare at her through his glasses that he was still wearing, even though the sun was well set. The streetlight was making her light hair glow and her old clothes that they had put back on right before heading here made her look so different from the medieval girl that he confessed to. Here she was so... Amanda.
She caught his eye and her lips tugged up even more, but it was much more of a sad smile than anything else. "I mean, you could come over if you like, I'm sure they won't mind."
What was she implying? Sam just continued to stare, fingers twitching at his side. Is going back with her more than just a pity invite? Is it a sex thing or a friend thing? Why does she look so sad? "I... don't know," he replied.
She looked away from him and up at the night sky, that same sad smile on her lips. The stars reflected in her own glasses and Sam couldn't help but gawk at the beauty in her movements. She was so perfect and he didn't want to ruin anything by talking, as he usually does.
"It's funny how no matter where we go, the stars always look the same." She moved her eyes back to him and stepped forward. She slowly placed her hands on his shoulders and then, as if not to scare him, pulled him into a soft hug.
Sam figured she would let go after a second but she hung on, her arms wrapped securely around him. Slowly, he felt himself loosen up and then he brought his arms up and hugged her back.
"I know how hard it is for you to come back," she whispered. He could feel her warm breath on his ear. "Just know that I am so proud of you for coming with us. It was, like, the bravest thing I've ever seen you do, and I've watched you do some pretty crazy shit."
Sam breathlessly chuckled and the two shook in union. As much as he hated it, a tear rolled down his cheek, landing on her shoulder. "It's not that big of a deal, Amanda." He said, dropping his arms and trying to pull away. She just held on even harder.
"Please, just come back to mine tonight. We don't need to tell Hannah and Mike, I just don't know if I can face my parents alone. Not after everything... everything that has happened."
Sam was shocked. He knew that Amanda and her parents weren't close but he never thought she'd be scared to face them. His heart ached for her and he squeezed her again and finally she pulled away. They looked each other in the eyes through their glasses that they both refused to take off out of habit, and smiled.
"Of course, of course I'll come."
She smiled so hard that Sam thought her face would break. Tears spilled out from under her glasses. Sam reached up and wiped them away with his thumb. Her cheek was so soft, the small scars marring her skin only adding to the beauty.
"Thank you," she whispered, barely audible but of course Sam heard her.
He took her hand in his own and slowly they began to walk back their old lives that hopefully weren't going to follow the same lonely narrative. Hopefully now all their new memories and relationships would continue on into whatever challenges that were thrown at them next.