The car gleams familiarly as she passes by the library. Sarah stalls on the sidewalk, grasping her purse tighter. A man unfolds himself from the driver’s seat; he’s about the right height with those licks of curls in his hair that she remembers, but even in the sun, his skin ashen, mouth drawn tight without lurking dimples. He strides to the library—“Sam?” she calls across the two-year chasm.
Sam swivels to face her, and squints against the glare of the sun. “Sarah?” he rasps, surprise cutting across his face. “Oh. Hi.”
“Hey.” Sarah moves in front of him, shielding her eyes to get a better view.
Splashes of purple hang heavy under his eyes, eyes that are as dull as his skin. His hair is longer now, but unwashed. She raises her hand as if to touch his nearly-delicate wrist, but doesn’t. If he’s here, there’s only one reason why.
Within every canvas lurks a potential-ghost. Sarah floats through auctions and galleries with thin iron rings blazing on her fingers, and canisters and canisters of Kosher salt in her trunk. Two years, and she sees more monsters instead of fewer.
She has become the person that reads the obits with her orange juice. In college, Sarah prided herself on reading the news every morning—now she pores over it. Every strange death is proof—proof of the invisible dark, some terror she’s yet to find the name of.
It’s a catch-22. Ignorance is bliss, but fear stems from ignorance.
And now, here is Sam Winchester. Back in her city. Sarah knows what that means.
She follows his retreat into the cool, shaded library. A librarian looks up over his book as they walk in, and then immerses himself back in the pages. “Where’s Dean?” she whispers over the hum of technology.
“Dead.” Tersely. His gaze drawn to the rows of books like he can’t wait for her to leave. She opens her mouth for the instant platitude. “A mugger shot him.”
Oh, is that all? Sarah thinks first. She expected something—more ghastly, to be honest. Her stomach seeps down in to her feet, and she examines the mud-cake on his boots. “I’m sorry,” she murmurs.
She hated that word after her mom died, but she can’t find another. Sam shrugs aside the apology. Doesn’t do much for him, either. “Don’t worry,” he tells her, something warm clinging to the edges of his tone, “No monsters here. I’m just passing through. Thought I’d check out the library while I was here. I’m meeting a… friend.”
“Anything I can help with?”
Paranoia had set in during that first stretching-silent night after Sam left. She saw the painting and the blood in the caverns of her dreams; she could smell the blood like lingering perfume on her skin. Sarah had considered seeing a therapist—but somehow she didn’t think ghosts are real and I’m scared would go over well. Instead, in those first dark days, she’d turned to the library.
Knowing what was out there—even if she couldn’t do anything about it—was better than watching the unknowable shadows creep over her ceiling every night.
Sam’s smile is cubist fractured, but he leads her through the library. “I’m looking for any information about Tricksters—it’ll probably be in the mythology section,” he tells her as he scans the books.
This part is familiar at least. It isn’t the first time she’s done this, after all. The two settle at a table with a stack of books, but Sarah glances up to watch him read, his face sharpened with intensity, his muscles tensed like he’s ready to take off any minute. Something sharp and fear-like twists in her stomach, and she turns the page unsteadily, barely reading anything. Just a common Loki myth—the likelihood he hasn’t read one just like it before is slim; maybe she should be angry that he doesn’t trust her intellectual prowess, but instead she swallows around a jumble of words that have nothing to do with Tricksters.
Beside her, Sam tosses a book onto the table with a loud thud than nearly covers his curse.
When Sarah was a kid, her mom used to tell her scary stories. They’d always begin, “Not so long ago…” and she’d wave her flashlight around underneath the blanket they’d hidden beneath like a tent. Sarah would push out nervous giggles as her mom told stories of dybbukim and demons, of vampiric rabbits and werewolves. Sometimes, as Sarah was beginning to drift to sleep against the heat of her mother’s side, her mom would kiss her on the temple, and say, “Everything is all right. Don’t forget that these are just stories.”
And of course, Sarah believed her. She never had any nightmares of the monsters. If anything, the stories fascinated her.
Sarah stretches her hand across and settles it over his wrist. “Sam?” she whispers. “Hey. It’s—“
“No, it’s not going to be okay,” but the anger’s drained out of his words, even as he begins to shake beside her. “It’s not going to be okay. I’ve read all of these before. I can’t—Sarah, I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I can’t pull you into this. There’s nothing you can do. Please, just—”
His hands come up and cup her cheeks, his thumbs moving over her cheekbones. He bends down, like he’s going to kiss her, but there is something dark in his eyes, he has demons in his eyes, and she tenses reflexively, that fear-like tendril sharp in her stomach. “I should go,” she tells him, too-loud for the library.
Sam releases her face, and Sarah quickly jots her number down on a scrap of paper. “If you need anything…”
But he’s already lost her number. She can tell by the way his gaze is drawn to a blonde woman eating french fries with her feet propped up on the table. “Sorry,” he says, “My friend… Thanks for your help, Sarah.”
Her stomach flips. And she tries not to look back as she walks out. Something’s changed, and it’s not just Dean’s death. That much she can tell.
For once, ignorance isn’t so bad.