Chapter Twenty-Two: Sam
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Chapter Twenty-Two: Sam
Sam looked at his watch as he skimmed over another page in the ancient leather-bound book he’d taken off one of the shelves in Giles’ apartment. If he’d been a normal kid who normally went to school, he’d probably be halfway through third period by now. But he wasn’t a normal kid and, for the first time in a very long time, he was glad about that. Because he’d never been to a school with books like the one in his hand. And most school librarians looked askance at him whenever he handled anything aside from the dictionary or a paperback.
Something caught his eye at the bottom of the page. It was a grouping of symbols that he’d seen before, but he couldn’t decipher the surrounding text. “Mr. Giles?” he said, tentatively, not wanting to interrupt the quiet that had settled ever since Xander and Anya had left to get lunch. “I was hoping you could help me? I’m trying to translate this passage, but I guess my Ancient Sumerian isn’t as good as I thought it was.”
“Let’s have a look at it, then,” said Giles, waving him over. Sam took a seat on the couch next to the Englishman and opened up the book. “Ah, yes, you see here? This symbol indicates that the text is actually written in Akkadian, not Sumerian. Although scholars believed the two derived from the same Semitic root, it’s been discovered that they are actually sprachbund
“Languages that are technically unrelated,” Sam said, “but share commonalities through loaned words and linguistic adaptations?”
“Yes, that’s right.” Giles removed his glasses and peered at Sam. It was an expression Sam had seen before from teachers taken aback at the intelligence of the new student whose list of previous schools was often longer than the class roster. However, Giles surprised him with the next remark. “I suspect you’re fluent in Latin as well? Any exposure to Babylonian or Etruscan?”
Sam nodded in response to Giles’ questions. “I can read Latin well enough. We’ve got a family friend with quite a collection. Nowhere near as extensive or as old as yours, but enough to keep me busy. We’d sometimes stay with him when Dad would go on extended hunts, anything that lasted a month or two, before Dean was old enough to drive.”
“And what sort of formal training have you had in regards to the supernatural?”
Formal training? Sam wasn’t sure he understood the question. Dad consulted his journal when they came across something he’d seen before. If he hadn’t, he would call Bobby or Pastor Jim, rattling off attributes like a list of symptoms. They’d prescribe cures in the form of a beheading, salt and burn, shot through the heart, or something else equally macabre. “You mean like whether to use a stake or a silver bullet? Or the proper way to exorcise a ghost?”
“While such knowledge is essential, especially to hunters like yourself and your family, I was thinking more along the lines of academia.” Giles stood up and walked to his desk, returning with a hardbound book that looked worn through much use. “This is The Watcher’s Handbook
, given to me when I first joined the Council. I think you’ll find it an interesting read.”
“Wow, Mr. Giles,” said Sam, unable to find words equal to the gift he’d been given. “I... thanks.”
“Think nothing of it,” Giles said, starting to look flustered. “Willow was disinterested, citing her inability to maintain emotional clarity, although I believe she’d be quite welcome among the ranks. As for Xander...” He paused, searching for a tactful way to express his thoughts. “He has... many wonderful talents, but he-he’s less suited to the role of Watcher.”
Sam turned over the book in his hands, opening it to find Giles’ name scrawled neatly on the cover. “How old were you when you began training to become a Watcher?”
“From birth, I suppose,” said Giles, a sad smile on his face. “My father was a Watcher, as was his mother, my grandmother, before him. I fought like the dickens against it. Who in their right mind would want to spend hours on end looking into dusty old books for fragments of abstruse prophesies whilst wearing tweed? Dear God, I’ve become my father.”
Giles shook his head, though Sam could tell that it wasn’t really an unexpected or wholly distasteful discovery.
“I was ten when he revealed his plans for me,” Giles continued. “Expected me to fall in line and carry on the family tradition. I showed an aptitude in magic and was already proficient in Latin as well as having a rudimentary understanding of several ancient and esoteric languages. Much like yourself, Sam.” He leveled his gaze at the tall, scrawny, dark-haired boy before him, perhaps recalling his past self. “I can sense the essence of magic in you, some latent ability. You’ve a keen intellect combined with the versatility and quick thinking of a hunter. I think you’d make a fine Watcher.”
Fighting against the supernatural wasn’t the life Sam wanted when he grew up, but it was most likely the life he would lead. Becoming a Watcher was a far more appealing path than following in his dad or his brother’s footsteps – despite the tweed. They still worked to rid the world of evil; they just did it with more refinement than most of the hunters he’d met. At least, Giles did, though that could just be a side effect of being British. “You really think so?”
“I do.” He put his glasses back on and turned his attention back to the book Sam had brought over. “Why don’t we start here and see what you know so far?”
“Well, this symbol here means ‘yellow’,” said Sam, pointing to the section he’d read earlier. “And this one is for ‘eye’ or ‘eyes’. I think this one is ‘fire’.”
“That’s correct.” Readjusting his glasses, Giles exuded the demeanor of an Oxford professor as he elaborated the point. “The color yellow has been found in some of the earliest forms of cave art, and the Ancient Egyptians associated it with gold, a highly valued metal as seen in the treasures of the tombs. It may have been used in the context of money, hence the transference of the symbol between Sumerian and Akkadian.
“As for the rest of the text,” he said, “I believe it describes an ancient ritual to one of the early pagan gods. It reads, ‘And two tributes were given. One was sacrificed to ensure a bountiful harvest. The other was released into the wild. The scapegoat was appeased, and his eyes flashed yellow’. Within the context, I believe that ‘flashed’ works better than ‘fired’, don’t you agree?”
Disappointment seeped through Sam as he mulled over the text. He’d been hoping for something more substantial, something to help them find the thing that had killed his mother. “Does it name the pagan god?”
Giles studied the book, flipping through the pages. “I’m sorry, no. There’s only reference to the ‘scapegoat’.” He cast another measured glance at the boy. “This isn’t about the gem, is it?”
“Umm...” Sam swallowed, wondering how to get himself out of this mess. He was sure that a Watcher would be able to help them discover more about the yellow-eyed demon, but he’d spent so many years hiding his past, keeping his family’s secrets, that it was difficult to overcome.
“From my experience,” the older man said, his eyes so full of sorrow that there was no room for pity, “the circumstances in which a person finds himself faced with the supernatural and decides to become a hunter are usually personal. And quite painful.”
They sat there for a few moments, each burdened with his own memories. Sam wondered what Mr. Giles had lost on his way to becoming a Watcher. It had seemed a much brighter solution than the life of a demon-hunter. It wasn’t driving for hours until they reached another crappy motel in another crappy town where something was wrong but they weren’t exactly sure what. It was structured and communal; hours spent in rigorous training or poring through texts. They had resources on a much grander scale than those at his father’s disposal, if Giles’ apartment was anything to go by. But he talked about loss in an intimate way, something he’d experienced first-hand.
“Anya,” Xander said as he threw open the door, “I don’t know how many times I have to say this to get it through that pretty little head of yours, but threatening to eviscerate someone if they get it wrong only does one thing: ensure that they spit into your food. Especially when you’re using the drive-thru.”
Sam quietly thanked Giles as Xander and Anya continued to argue in the background. The moment had passed and he’d failed to work up the nerve to ask for help. He just hoped he’d be able to find the courage before he left Sunnydale.
“Hey, Mr. Giles,” said Dean, standing in the doorway to the apartment. “I’m here to pick up Sammy.”
“Please come in.” He stepped aside to let the younger man in.
“Dude, you ready? We gotta go.” Dean shifted nervously as Sam gathered the stack of books he was borrowing. “Thanks again for keeping an eye on him, Mr. Giles. I’ll probably go down to the school tomorrow to get him enrolled.”
“Call me Giles,” he said. “It’s no trouble at all, really. He’s been a great help with the research. And Buffy’s friends are always welcome in my home. All
Sam smothered his laughter as he walked over to where his brother was standing. “Thanks for the books, sir. I’d really like to continue our discussion. Maybe next time?”
“I would like nothing more, Sam,” said Giles, following them to the door. “Of course, you’re free to call me at any time should you have further questions.”
“What was that about?” Dean asked as they made their way to the car.
“Nothing really,” said Sam with a shrug. But he knew that his brother wouldn’t be satisfied with that answer. “Just talked about books and etymology.”
“You mean like bugs and stuff?”
“No, that’s ento
mology.” He probably shouldn’t have been surprised that his brother knew the word, but it was easy to forget that Dean was pretty damn smart. He just never got the point of going to school or earning grades when Dad didn’t care how well or poorly they did. “Ety
mology is the study of languages and words; how they grow, evolve, and change.”
Dean muttered something under his breath as he got in the car, probably along the lines of what a geek his brother was. But Sam didn’t mind because he had his own fuel for teasing his older brother.
“Man,” he said, “you suck at meeting parents.”
“What?” Dean shot a sideways glance at his brother. “Giles is not
“Nope.” Sam tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t keep the sarcasm from his voice as he continued, “He’s just a male authority figure in her life whom she respects and admires, the person she goes to when she needs advice and whose orders she follows.” He paused, waiting for a retort. “Should I go on?”
“Okay, maybe you’ve got a point,” said his brother. “So what do I do?”
This was a first for Sam – his brother was asking him
for advice about a girl? “I think you’re gonna have to do a little more ass kissing if you want his approval.”
“The hell do I need his approval for?”
“You seriously don’t get how this dating thing works, do you?” Sam said, shaking his head.
“Sammy, how many second dates have I been on?” said Dean. “There’s not much of a reason to stick around after you hook up.”
“Pretty sure you and Buffy are past the hooking up part.” He tried to keep the bitterness from his voice. Dean was actually making an effort to be with her, so it had to be serious. However, Sam couldn’t help feeling a little jealous towards his brother. “Look, Giles is just trying to get to know the person his Slayer is spending so much time with. You were with Buffy when she got into that tussle with Spike and have been hunting with her for the last two days.”
“Yeah, running around campus flashing Harmony’s picture in a yearbook isn’t what I’d call hunting.” Dean winced, recalling the day’s activity. “I bet half those people thought I was some stalker ex-boyfriend.” At least she has a picture
, Sam thought. He’d taken dozens of school portraits, but he’d never stayed at a school long enough to get a yearbook with his photo in it. Not that he’d ever had a yearbook. It was one of the few times when he actually hated being at school, seeing all the other kids looking for photos of themselves and their friends, exchanging books, writing “Have a nice summer!” in the pages.
“Man, does this mean I have to hang around and do research? I hate research.” Dean tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, a frown darkening his face. “You really think he doesn’t like me?”
Sam’s laughter filled the car, prompting Dean to crank up the radio to drown out his brother’s voice.
Sam jolted from sleep. The sheets twisted around him, jerking him back to the bed as he tried to sit up. He took a deep breath to calm his racing heart before he worked to free himself from the tangled mess. His eyes adjusted to the darkness, and he shot a glance towards Dean, hoping he hadn’t woken his brother up.
But Dean wasn’t there.
Panic started his heart beating double time again, his eyes searching the darkened room for clues. He flipped on the light. Dean’s bed was rumpled, like he’d lain there, but his shoes were gone. So wherever he’d gone to, he’d done it of his own free will. Probably just getting a soda. In the middle of the night.
Sam opened up the mini-fridge and saw the cans of beer and soda. On top of the fridge was a bag full of snacks, so Dean hadn’t run out to the vending machine either. Which could only mean one thing.
“He’s gonna catch some shit from Dad,” Sam muttered. Of course, that would mean someone would have to tell him. And then he’d have to give a crap. But Dad didn’t like it when his orders were disobeyed, so there would be some form of punishment.
A thud came from the room upstairs. It was probably what woke him up in the first place. Considering the type of motel it was, the guy had to be pretty cheap or had overpaid for a hooker. Just another one of those random facts that he’d picked up on the road with Dad and Dean.
He put on his jeans and shoes and opened the door, minding the salt line that they’d laid before going to bed. Sam stepped outside, feeling the chill of the cold fall air as he slipped a t-shirt over his head. The Impala was still parked in its spot just in front of the room, so Dean must have walked somewhere to meet Buffy. Sam strode past the car, wondering which direction his brother had gone. There was a bar in one direction, which would be Dean’s usual late night haunt if they weren’t restricted to the motel. But there was a diner in the other direction, which seemed more like the kind of place Buffy would want to go.
“My, my, won’t you make a nice treat,” said a voice from behind him.
Sam stiffened, cursing his stupidity at leaving the hotel room unarmed. There was a full arsenal of weaponry in the trunk, of course, but to get to them, he’d need a key. And to get the key, he’d need to get back in the room. Assuming Dean hadn’t taken the keys with him, wherever he’d gone.
Maybe he was overreacting. Maybe, when he spun around, it would just be an older woman making inappropriate comments to a minor.
He turned, slowly and precisely, doing his best to remain focused enough to assess the situation. A female figure advanced from the shadows, moonlight creating deep lines in the ridges on her forehead, distorting her face even more. Her dark hair and business attire meant that she probably wasn’t the vampire that Buffy and her friends had been searching for. She bared her elongated fangs, her lips curved in a sinister smile, and she prepared to strike.
“Dean!” he cried as she lunged towards him.
The vampire was strong, but he’d spent most of his life training to fight against things that were much stronger and faster than himself. Instinct kicked in, and he ducked at the right second. She flew past him, though she quickly regained her balance, readying herself for another attack. The door to the room upstairs flung open. They both turned to see Dean emerge, clutching a sheet against his, apparently naked, body.
Dean took in the scene, despair creeping over his face as he realized that he wouldn’t make it downstairs in time. “Sammy!”
A blur rushed passed him and flipped over the railing, landing gracefully on top of the Impala. Buffy was standing there in Dean’s shirt, wielding the long blade of a machete like an extension of her arm. Awe swept through Sam as he realized that he wasn’t seeing Buffy – he was seeing the Slayer.
“Sam, get down,” she commanded, her voice calm and even. He obeyed, dropping to his knees as she dashed across the car, leapt through the air, and sliced off the vampire’s head in a single stroke. The body wavered for a moment before exploding into a cloud of dust.
“Are you okay, Sammy?” asked Dean, grasping his brother’s arm and pulling him up.
Sam looked at his older brother, a cheap motel sheet wrapped around his waist, then at Buffy, gingerly walking towards them in her bare feet. And Dean’s shirt. His eyes flicked back to the light emanating from the room they’d come out of. He yanked his arm free. “I’m fine.”
He heard Dean cry out his name as he slammed the door behind him. He considered bolting the door, but that wouldn’t help. His brother would just break the window if he couldn’t find any other way to get in. So, he threw himself on his bed, closing his eyes and waiting for the inevitable.
It didn’t take long. Only a few minutes had passed before he could hear the door open. He tried to keep his voice calm and indifferent as he said, “What do you want?”
“Hey, Sam.” Not Dean. It was her. That wasn’t fair. He couldn’t get mad and yell at her
. “Can we talk?”
“Whatever,” he said.
He rolled onto his back and sat up, leaning against the headboard. She sat down near his legs and put her hand over his. It was warm and comforting, a feminine gesture that his brother and dad never used. Sam flinched and pulled his hand away, despite the hurt he saw on her face.
“I was fifteen when I learned that I was the Slayer,” she began. “Used to be one of the popular kids, hung out with seniors even though I was only a freshman. Never home on a Friday night, you know?”
Yeah, he knew. She was exactly the kind of girl Dean went out with. Maybe his first impression of her had been wrong.
“Then I was Chosen. It sort of changed the way I looked at things. Ended up burning down my high school gym when I took out the Big Bad and got expelled. So we moved here. I was sixteen, at a new school with a new Watcher, and I met new friends – Willow and Xander. And Cordelia, but you don’t know her, so...”
Sam wondered if there was a point to her story and when she was going to get to it because he really didn’t care about her or her past. She’d picked his brother; she could go bore him with the details of her life. Except that she’d just saved his. Because Dean wasn’t in the room like he was supposed to be
“Anyways,” Buffy continued, “I met someone else, too. He was tall and dark and mysterious. I kept telling myself it was just a crush, but I fell for him. And I fell hard. Even when I knew he was wrong for me. So I’m not going to tell you what you
feel or how you’re feeling it. You’re the only one that knows. But I can
tell you how I
feel. And I feel something for your brother.”
He looked up, wishing he could will those words away. At least she hadn’t disregarded his feelings for her, though she’d rejected him all the same. “He doesn’t deserve you.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t think I deserve him,” she said with a rueful chuckle.
“But, Buffy, you’re the Slayer.”
“Yup. That’s me. She who hangs out a lot in cemeteries.” Her lips twisted into a wry smile. “But your brother treats me like a person. There aren’t a lot of guys who know what
I am, let alone accept me as
I am. With him, I’m not Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, or Buffy Summers, college freshman. I’m just Buffy.”
“I liked you before I found out that you were the Slayer,” he said, unable to give up hope. “It doesn’t matter, though, does it? Because all the girls fall for Dean.”
“Sam....” She let out a sigh. “You’re a wonderful kid—guy, and I know you’re going to make some girl very happy one day. Believe me, you’ve got your very own brand of Winchester charm.” Just not the one that appeals to Buffy
, Sam thought as he looked away. “Okay, I get it. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“No, you don’t have to like it.” She reached for his hand again, and he didn’t pull away this time when she gave it a squeeze. “But you do have to let your brother in because he’s beating himself up out there.”
“Fine,” he said, gruffly. “He can come back in.”
As Buffy got up and walked to the door, he wondered how she had convinced Dean to stay outside. Usually, he’d be up in Sam’s face, asking a million questions, checking for wounds. She’d come instead. And he watched as they held a wordless conversation at the door before Dean entered the room, fully clothed, thank God, his shirt buttoned up since Buffy was still wearing his t-shirt.
“Sammy,” his brother said in a shaky voice, “you okay? Nothing hurt?”
“I’m fine.” But he wasn’t. He just didn’t want to talk about it.
“He’ll be fine, Dean.” She put her hand on his brother’s shoulder, a reassuring caress instead of a friendly squeeze.
“Buffy.” The way his brother said her name brought an unexpected stab of pain. “I, uh...”
“I’ll do a sweep of the area,” she said, a soft smile on her lips. “Make sure there aren’t any other nasties hanging around before I head back to the dorms.” Dean made a move to protest, but Buffy quieted him with a kiss. “Stay here and take care of your brother. I’ll be okay.”
Dean watched her from the doorway, keeping vigilance as she climbed the stairs. He didn’t move until she came out of the room and left the motel. When she was gone, he shut the door, turned to his brother, and sat down across from him on the other bed. “Sammy, we talked about this. I mean, I told you about me and Buffy.”
“It’s one thing to know about it,” said Sam in a flat voice. “It’s another to see it.”
If he were being honest with himself, what hurt him most wasn’t that Buffy had chosen Dean. Girls always picked him, nothing new there. Even the Slayer wasn’t immune. It was the fact that Dean had chosen her
. He’d never done that before. Sure, he’d gone out with lots of girls, but he’d always put his little brother first.
Buffy was different. He’d let Sam go with her the night they’d met after he found out that she was the Slayer. He’d left his little brother at Xander’s to go on patrol with her, although he barely knew the guy. Sure, they’d bonded during the campus tour, but Dean didn’t trust anyone to watch his brother. Not even Sam’s Mathlete coach, Mr. Walters. He’d also twisted Dad’s orders, following the letter instead of the intent, just so he could be with her.
“I-I’m sorry, Sammy,” said Dean. “I wasn’t... I didn’t think you’d get hurt. It was selfish of me.”
“It’s okay,” he said, feeling a pang of guilt over his brother’s anguished expression. Dean had cancelled dozens of dates at a moment’s notice for Sam, to help him with homework, nurse his fever, even just because he didn’t want to be alone that night. And he’d probably do the same to Buffy if Sam really pushed the issue. Even though it would kill him. “Really, Dean, I’m okay. I’ll get over it. Besides, I’m the one that fucked up. I shouldn’t have gone out unarmed. It was a stupid thing to do.”
“Yeah, it was. But you wouldn’t have come out if you hadn’t been looking for me.” He ran a hand over his face. “Dad’s gonna kill me for letting something happen to you. Again.”
“Who says he has to know?” said Sam. It was clear, from his brother’s attitude, that he was planning to confess and take the blame. “But that means you have to tell him about Buffy.”
Dean sighed. “I guess so.”
“What are you going to do when Dad gets back?” asked Sam. “I mean, you’re gonna tell him that you’ve been going out with her, but what if he’s got another job lined up? Are you gonna try to do the long-distance thing?”
“We haven’t really talked about it.”
“Don’t you think you should?” Dean shot him a bitchface at the question, a clear signal to leave it alone. But he couldn’t. “Look, I just don’t want to see either of you get hurt.”
“Gimme a break, Sam,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s not like I’ve ever done this before.”
Sam studied his brother, recalling everything they’d been through since they’d arrived in Sunnydale. “You’ve changed, you know?”
“What do you mean? I’m still me.”
“I meant in a good way.” He’d seen Dean laugh during their prank wars, chuckle at movies, but he’d never seen him content, happy with his life. His brother may love being a hunter, but being with Buffy made him appreciate the other aspects of his life. “She makes things better.”
“Yeah, she does.” A smile formed on his lips as he mused over the thought. “I’ll figure it out, Sammy. I always do.”
Dean got up and checked the salt line, then turned off the lights. But Sam’s mind was jumbled with thoughts that refused to settle. He lay there, listening to his brother’s deep even breaths, sorting through Giles’ words, Buffy’s confession, Dean’s unspoken admission of his feelings for her, until sleep began to take over his consciousness. As he drifted off, though, a part of him sensed that Dean was still awake.
Next up Chapter 23: Buffy
Will talk of the future be a welcome present?