The monster was vanquished; a hairy, suckered little demon-man who seemed more sad than dangerous. At least until you saw the withered husks of his victims. Dean wanted to celebrate. Or maybe, he felt that he should celebrate. Since they’d watched Dad’s salted corpse burn Dean had been aggressively his old self. Like if acted as if nothing had happened, as if their father wasn’t dead, he could make it come true. Sam had begged off. After a short, edged argument Dean had snarled at him and stormed out of their tacky hotel room. He slammed the door behind him so hard that a picture, one of a washed out, insipid meadow, fell off the wall.
“Stay and wallow then,” Dean yelled through the door. “See if I care.”
He clattered off down the steps. He was probably going to the bar they’d seen on the way in: the River Styx. The name had tickled him. And by the end of the night he’d be maudlin enough to appreciate it.
Left behind, Sam sat on the bed and stared at the wall for a while. The demon-man had looked sad but he’d put up a fight anyhow. Sam ached all over and there were red sucker-marked bruises on his arms and back. After a bit he got up, pulled on layers of t-shirts and sweatshirts and went out. He slammed the door behind him. From what he’d seem the clientele of the Grande weren’t interested in sleeping.
With no destination in mind he walked aimlessly through the city. A gang drove by on bikes. They yelled catcalls at him. He just hunched his shoulders and ignored them. Someone else, someone who wasn’t John Winchester’s son, might have been intimidated by the metal and leather and numbers. Sam saw the youth behind the tattooed, pierced faces. He figured that if they did cause trouble he’d only have to badly hurt one, maybe two, and they’d split.
It turned out that he didn’t have to hurt anyone. After a swooping, jeering pass the gang turned at the end of the street and disappeared. Sam didn’t act dangerous, not like Dean, but he didn’t move like a victim either.
It was nearly midnight when he found himself at the school gates. He stopped and looked around. There was a flagpole in the centre of the courtyard, faded, photocopied posters sellotaped to walls. He’d gone to schools like this. Just never for very long.
Sam walked over to one of the red, metal lunch tables and sat down; his back resting against the table and his legs stretched out in front of him. His hands dangled between his knees, big and dark and callused. He looked down at him morbidly. Jess used to laugh and put her hand in his; laughing and lining their fingers up carefully. Her hands had been long and elegant and lost in his. It made him feel like he should wrap her up and protect her from everything.
The corners of Sam’s mouth twisted up in a grimace. He curled his hands into tight fists, his nails digging into his palm.
He’d failed miserably at that, hadn’t he?
Today was their anniversary. They went on their first date three years ago; a double-date set up my Sam’s room-mate, Mark, who thought he should get some use from his lanky, sullen, weird roomie. Jess had been Mark’s date, actually. Her friend, Sam’s date, was a pretty, red haired girl with a sarcastic tongue and a wicked sense of humour. Sam had liked her; but she reminded him of Dean. It kind of killed any sexual interest he had in her.
Jess, though. He couldn’t take his eyes of her. She was so...happy and full of life. He’d never seen anything like her before.
It wasn’t that his family was miserable; not all the time, anyhow. Even filtered through the bitterness of his last argument with Dad there were moments of joy and laughter. But there was always a reason; a birthday, learning something successful in training, killing a monster or getting an A. They were never happy for no reason; just because they were alive and enjoying it.
Jess lived her whole life that way.
The short span of life she’d had.
“Penny for them?” a light voice said.
Sam snapped his head up. An old, familiar voice in his head, one that sounded a bit like Dad and a bit like Dean, chided him for dropping his guard. Another voice, one that sounded an awful lot like Jess, breathed that the girl was too young to be out at this time on her own. She was short and blonde; with a heart-shaped face and big green eyes. The trim on her t-shirt and shorts matched her eyes.
“What?” Sam asked.
The girl shook her ruler straight blonde hair back from her face. She sat down next to him; back to the table and long, slender legs stretched out. Sam looked despite himself and instantly felt guilty. She couldn’t have been more than fifteen; she was wearing keds and ankle socks, for chrissake.
“I said, penny for them,” she said. “Your thoughts. And you can look, I’m legal.”
Sam felt his cheeks heat. “Barely,” he muttered.
She glanced at him. Then she looked closer.
“You’re blushing!” she announced. Her big green eyes sparkled with glee. “That’s so sweet. Where are you from, sweetie?
A totally unexpected flicker of humour made Sam duck his head; tucking his chin into the neck of his shirt. “
His good humour seemed to sap that of the girl; like they were some sort of scales that balanced misery and mischief. When she spoke the glitter had gone from her voice.
“You can never go home,” she said. Then she shook herself, almost visibly, and flashed another smile. Although this one wasn’t quite as bright as before. “Well, you can. But they look at you like you’ve just crapped in the swimming pool or something. Doesn’t exactly make a girl feel welcome, you know?”
Her irreverence startled another smile from Sam; accompanied by an almost snort of laughter.
“Not on good terms?” he asked.
She pulled one leg up, the knee butting against her chest and foot hooked on the seat, and shrugged.
“No worse than usual,” she said. “They never approved of me. Now, well, I guess it’s easier for them when I’m not around. Especially for Mummy Dearest. Give her a few more years and she’ll have remade me into the pretty, pretty pink princess she always wanted me to be.”
She stopped and folded her lower lip between her teeth; green eyes checking Sam sidelong to check he was watching.
“I shouldn’t say that,” she said.
“She’s my mother. I should be more...understanding. Even if she always was a heinous bitch to me.”
Sam smiled at her sadly. “You say that now but if something happened to her-“
She rolled her eyes. “Oh please. Celeste? You’d have to stake her through the heart and bury her under a crossroads in Ikea. Even then she’d probably rise from the dead on sales day to bitch at Dad for not buying her a nice funeral plot under Saks. You ever answered me, you know, about what you were thinking? Maybe I should raise the stakes? A kiss instead of a penny?”
She turned from near-teen moaning about her mother to sultry siren in a heartbeat. The tip of her tongue touched her lower lip and she leant towards him. Her breasts brushed his arm and she put her hand on his thigh to balance herself. Sam panicked and blurted the answer.
“My girlfriend, Jess. It’s our anniversary.”
She didn’t move. Her fingers curled and relaxed against his thigh muscle; like a cat kneading a cushion.
“Why aren’t you with her?” she asked. “You didn’t forget did you?”
A muscle twitched in the corner of Sam’s mouth. “She died,” he said. Maybe one day he’d get used to saying it. He wasn’t sure, though, if he wanted that or not.
The girl blinked. For a minute he saw sympathy in her face. Then she leant forwards and pressed her lips to his. Her skin was cool and she tasted of sugar, liquor and a hint of something floral. Sam had barely registered the kiss was taking back when she drew back. He stared at her.
“Why’d you do that?”
She smiled, smug as a cat, and curled up back on her side of the bench. She tucked her legs up under her and brushed an imaginary piece of dust from her bare knee.
A kiss for your thoughts,” she said. “That was your deal. You didn’t expect me to welch did you?”
She lifted a sandy brow at him. Sam shook his head. Somehow, after only five minutes in her company, he was sure that she’d never welched on anything. He licked his lips and tasted the bite of alcohol again.
“Are you drunk?” he asked.
She laughed. “No. Are you?”
“Why not? It’s a traditional mourning activity. That and tearing your hair,” she reached out and tugged on a bit of his hair. “And you’ve clearly been doing that already.”
Sam shifted away from her. He smoothed his hair down with one hand. Even to him it felt sticky and matted.
“It’s been a bad few...” He started to say days but thought better of it. “Make that a bad year. A really bad year. Look, I better head back. Dean will worry if I’m not there when he gets back.”
“Where is he?”
The girl raised her eyebrows. “I hope he can take care of himself. That’s a bad part of town.”
Sam smiled. “Don’t worry about Dean. He’s pretty tough.”
“So is Liam Fitzpatrick,” the girl said. “Weevil told me that one of Liam’s dealers tried to make a little money on the side once. He cut the drugs with Drano or something. When Liam found out he made the guy drink a bottle of bleach.”
Worry for Dean cut through Sam’s misery. He had no end of faith in his brother’s ability to take care of himself. But if Dean didn’t know what he was walking into...
“This Liam hangs out in the River Styx?”
“He owns the River Styx,” the girl said. “Him and his family. They’re bad news. And they don’t like outsiders.”
“Shit,” Sam breathed. He scrambled to his feet; realizing that he wasn’t sure how to get back to the hotel. He hadn’t been paying attention to where he was going. With a sigh he turned to the girl. “Look, I’m sorry, but can you tell me how to get to the
She bounced to her feet.
“Better than that,” she said. “I’ll show you.”
Sam clenched his jaw; warring between gratitude and guilt. He settled on gratitude and tossed guilt a sop with a promise that he’d make her wait outside.
“Thanks,” he said.
She smiled and caught his hand. “This way.”
They cut through the school; ducking under the bleachers and across the car park. A dark haired man with a haunted expression, carrying cans of bleach, stopped and watched them. He didn’t say anything. The expression on his face was vacant.
“The caretaker,” the girl said. “He’s kind of...”
She twirled a finger at her temple.
Sam looked back and watched the guy disappear into the school. A chill ran down the back of his neck.
“And he works at the school?”
She shrugged. “He has connections. Around here that’s all that matters. If you’re rich and famous enough then you can get anything. Or get away with anything. For a while.”
There was a shadow of bitterness to her voice.
“What’s your name?” Sam asked. “I’m sorry. I should have...”
“Lily,” she interrupted his apology. “My name’s Lily.”