Word Count: 711.
Spoilers: Episode 51
Summary: Salem/Nina afterlife fluff. Because they’re cute and I can.
What Friends Are For.
He was crying when she found him, sitting alone under a gnarled apple tree in grass-stained shorts and a muddy blazer. “What’s wrong?” she asks.
“I’m dead,” he says dully.
“Oh.” She flops down in the grass next to him, her big, shaggy dog laying its head across her lap. “That’s too bad.”
He looks up at her incredulously. “You’re dead too, you know.”
“I know,” she says cheerfully, “but it’s not too bad. Mommy and Alexander are here with me, and someday daddy and Ed and Al will be here, too. What about you? Didn’t you have someone waiting for you here?”
“No mommy or daddy?”
She takes a moment to consider this, then stands up, brown braids swinging like the whippy branches of the apple tree. “I’ll be your mommy, then!”
He stares at her a moment, then laughs. “You can’t be my mother. You’re a girl.”
She frowns with a tilt of her head. “Mommies are girls.”
“Not little girls.”
“That’s alright,” she says. “I can stay with you. That’s what mommies do.”
“That’s what friends do,” he says perfunctorily. “At least, I think.”
“Then I’ll be your friend.”
He ponders this for a minute, then nods. “Alright,” he says. “Friends.”
“Why were you crying?” she asks one night. They’ve finished playing hide-and-go-seek (here, there are always new places to hide, but no one ever gets lost and you’re always found before the game gets boring) and are watching a series of contented explosions on the horizon from up in their apple tree.
“Because why?” She breaks a branch from the tree and tosses it into the grass for her shaggy old dog to fetch.
“Because I was dead.” It comes out harshly, with a thick, ugly sound and a definite quaver. He’s ashamed of it immediately.
“You’re still dead,” she points out, leaning back on her branch and tugging off one of the always-ripe apples.
“It’s better now,” he assures her.
She smiles. “Good.”
It starts out with one of her questions, like all of their conversations. “Why are you here?”
“Because I’m dead.” It’s stopped being a painful thing to say. Saying “I’m dead” is like saying “I have brown hair.”
“No,” she says, splashing into the pond. “Why are you dead?” No answer. “Salem?” She twists around, slipping in the mud and tumbling into the shallow water with a small splash and a shower of rainbows. “Salem!”
She finds him under the apple tree the next day. “Are you okay?” she asks. He’s buried his head in his knees; all she can see of him is dark hair and pale, shaking hands. She shakes him worriedly as her dog licks at his fingers.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “Are you hurt?”
“No,” he says, looking up, but she can see that he’s been crying; his brown eyes are red-rimmed and his face is tear-streaked.
“You’re crying.” Sullen silence, just like before. “I can help,” she says.
“No you can’t.”
“Yes I can!” Beaming, she bends down and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “Kisses make everything feel better.”
He scowls and hides his face in his arms. He doesn’t want to admit to her that it worked.
“My father killed me,” he tells her. It’s been a long time since she first found him under the apple tree, and he’s gotten stronger little by little, but it’s painful to say this aloud, even to her.
“Your daddy?” He nods unhappily and waits for the inevitable wave of questions, for her whys and hows, but she leans back in the grass and catches a scrap of paper that whips by on the light evening breeze, a picture of a sandy-haired girl with a teddy-bear. She holds it for a moment, then lets the wind carry it away again. “I’m sorry,” she says simply, and puts her arms around him in a reassuring embrace.
His breath catches in his throat, but he relaxes into her hug with a smile and a sigh. “Thank you,” he says.
“For what?” she asks.
“For helping,” he tells her. “Mother always said to thank people who helped you.”
“Oh, that.” She grins up at him. “That’s just what friends are for.”
Salem needs some fan love. Read, review, hug the poor kid.