“No change is better than a change for the worse,” Jeremy said doggedly when he turned back to look at Sam.
“It is, but it’s not good news. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up too much.”
“What I am supposed to do?” Jeremy demanded. “Just give up on him?”
“Of course not,” Sam said as he led Jeremy to the row of chairs lining the wall near the window. “But the longer he stays unconscious, the harder his recovery will be when he wakes up.”
Jeremy hated the unspoken thought at the end of Sam’s sentence. “If he wakes up. You might as well say it. Not talking about it doesn’t make it less of a possible outcome.”
“I’m trying to stay positive.”
“So am I, but it’s hard. Even if he wakes up right now, he’s not going back to running the station tomorrow,” Jeremy said. “And that means fighting with him over who’s going to run the station in his place, not to mention listening to him go on about how if he had a ‘real’ brother, it wouldn’t be an issue because he could just ask his brother to cover for him. But since he’s stuck with a pillow biter who’d rather fuck around on Lang Downs than live up to his family name, he’ll just have to make do on his own.”
“This is not your fault,” Sam said so fiercely Jeremy could almost believe him. “Even when you tried to be who he wanted you to be, he made your life miserable. No one could expect you to live with that kind of abuse. And you didn’t tell him not to hire a new foreman after Williams retired. He could have found someone to help him, even if it wasn’t you. This was an accident, nothing more, nothing less.”
“Maybe,” Jeremy said, “but you know he won’t see it that way.”
“That’s his problem, not yours,” Sam insisted.
If only that were true, but as strained as their relationship had been since Jeremy grew old enough to see Devlin’s prejudices, enough of the adoring younger brother still lived in his psyche for Devlin’s words to hurt. He made himself smile at Sam as he reached for his hand. “Don’t ever take Neil for granted. I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but you’re lucky to have him for a brother.”
“You know he thinks of you as his brother-in-law,” Sam said. “Even if the worst happens with Devlin, you’ll still have a family.”
Jeremy blinked hard, fighting tears. He couldn’t cry here, not while Devlin still held on by a thread. He had to be strong. “You don’t know how much that means to me.”
“I do,” Sam said. “I thought I’d lose Neil if he found out I was gay. To have him accept me… I know how lucky I am. I came to Lang Downs with next to nothing, expecting to lose what little I had left, and instead I found a new family, a new home, a new relationship with my brother, and you. If I could change Devlin’s mind, I would do it because I know how much it tears at you every time he rejects you because of me.”
“Not because of you,” Jeremy said, “or not only because of you. He’d reject me for being gay even if I was still single. Having you is what makes his rejection bearable.”
Sam pulled Jeremy into a tight hug. Jeremy clung to him. Without Sam’s support…. He burrowed deeper into the curve of Sam’s neck. That thought didn’t bear consideration. He had Sam’s support, and no matter what happened with Devlin and Taylor Peak, that wouldn’t change. Sam might not be a stockman, born and bred in the tablelands, but he was Jeremy’s bedrock as completely as the land that rooted him.
Sam let him cling, waiting patiently until Jeremy no longer felt like he’d shatter into a million pieces without Sam to hold him together. Eventually his stomach rumbled, breaking the weight of the moment.
“I guess we should find food while we wait for the doctors,” Jeremy said.
“I can find something if you want to stay here,” Sam offered.
It would be so easy to agree, but staying wouldn’t change anything or