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Before Sam could leave the morgue, the medical examiner stopped her to ask what she would like done with the bodies. After a few moments, she gave the older gentleman Sarah’s sister’s phone number and told him that she would be sending Ryan’s body back east. At the time, it sounded like a good idea but, after it sunk in, she realized that Ryan didn’t have anyone on the other coast to bury him. She didn’t really care if he sank into the ocean but she knew how much his parents would want him laid to rest with them; they had never harmed her and she would do what was right by them.

She was dreading telling AJ that she would be heading back home; she knew that he would say or do whatever to keep her from doing that. The more she thought about it, the worse she felt about her decision even though she knew she had to do it. The house that she shared with Ryan and all the assets and money would need to be dealt with as well as his burial arrangements. Sam wasn’t sure she was strong enough to handle it alone but she wasn’t sure that having someone around was the best idea either. Once she was back in her room, she called Lauren to ask her opinion.

“Honestly, Sam, I’m not sure what the best or right thing to do is.” Lauren answered after her friend explained the situation. “It comes down to what would make you the most comfortable.”

They talked a few more minutes and then hung up, leaving Sam with a million things to think about it. She would appreciate AJ’s support through this whole thing but she didn’t know if he could handle being in the place where she endured some of the worst pain of her life. There was also a chance that he would want to shield her from everything that was uncomfortable and she wasn’t sure that kind of protection was the best. She didn’t get much time to think about it as he seemed to materialize in her room before she could gather all her thoughts.

“Are you ok?” he asked hesitantly, taking a seat next to her on the bed. “Can I do anything?”

Sam started to shake her head and change the conversation but it occurred to her that there would never be a good time to tell him about her decision so she just blurted it out.

“I have to go home.”

“Anytime! I can have the doctor release you…”

The look on her face stopped AJ midsentence and he suddenly realized that she wasn’t talking about his house. It hit him like a ton of bricks when her plans dawned on him and he was dead set about changing her mind.

“No,” he demanded, “you’re not going back there.”

“I have to do this. Ryan…”

“You don’t owe that asshole anything!” AJ yelled loudly. “How can you even contemplate going back there? Didn’t he hurt you enough or are you so brainwashed that it doesn’t mean anything to you, opening old wounds?”

He regretted that last statement the minute he said it; he wished he could take it back when he saw the pain cross her face, the tears welling in her eyes.

“I’m so sorry Sam.” he said quietly. “I didn’t mean it.”

“I think a part of you did.” Sam replied with determination suddenly passing over her face. “I know you don’t get why I need to do this or maybe you really think that I like punishing myself. Whatever reason you have for doing this, I need to let you know that I’ve already made a decision. I am leaving for Boston when the doctor discharges me in a couple of days.”

That idea shocked AJ; he thought he would be able to talk her out of it if he had a couple of days. The doctor had said that she would be mobile enough to move around in the next few days but they didn’t want her overexerting herself. Making the trip to Boston and dealing with all of what was waiting for her was a terrible prospect and he was determined to be there for her.

“I’ll make us plane reserve…”

“I’ve already made one.”

“I’ll go home and…” It took a second for AJ to register that she had said she made one reservation. “I am coming with you right?”

Sam shook her head and his heart broke a little. He knew this was something she needed to do but if she was going alone, was she planning on coming back?

“When’s your return flight?” he asked quietly.

“I don’t have one.” Sam replied. “I don’t know how long it will take for me to sort this all out AJ.”

“You are coming back, right?”

Sam didn’t say anything and averted her eyes from his. She loved him but her life had been blown apart by everything that had happened in the last few days. Wanting a life with him meant she would have to deal with the past and facing the past made her fear that she would fall apart again. Nothing about this was easy for her to do but she knew that she needed to do it and she hoped he would eventually understand.

AJ got up off the bed and started to pace around the room. He was angry that she was doing this in the first place but a part of him ached that she was doing it without him. Just looking in her eyes, he saw something had changed within her, something that wasn’t going to change back. It scared him more than he wanted to admit that this might very well be one of the last times he would see her; the thought of losing her sucked all the breath from his body and he sank into a chair.

“I’m sorry AJ.” Sam whispered. “I don’t know what I’m doing right now and the last thing I want to do is hurt you.”

He would regret his decision later, but he rose and crossed to the door, turning to look at her right as he was walking out.

“You just did.”