Title: Leavings

Author: A.j. (Aj2245@yahoo.com) Rating: PG

Category: AU

Spoilers: General show knowledge, but definitely season 1. Futurefic.

Summary: "And in the early morning light, there was nothing but me alone with the weight."

Notes: A bit of an odd thing that popped into my head a few days ago. Major props to Amanda who went through it and kicked my butt about tense. Oh, tenses. Thou art mine enemy!

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Leavings

by A.j.

***

Sam will hate her early morning routine. Rather amusingly because she'd gotten up earlier on a regular basis for so long. But it will be different and still foreign after several years, so she will hate it, but do it anyway.

Her alarm will go off promptly at six, but she shall allow herself to hit the snooze button three times before stumbling out of bed and into the shower. Her hair will be washed every other day, and conditioned while she props against the tile and thinking about the inventory she'll have that day. Her hands will be quick and efficient at cleansing, lingering nowhere for any length of time and resting on slick ceramic when not in motion.

Her shampoo will smell of watermelon. She had worn darker smells - vanilla and cinnamon or ginger and orange - but she won't be that person anymore, and Susan will smell of watermelon and apples that attract bees and mosquitoes during summer. She'll never touch peppermint because that would smell of them, and wears her insect bites like tiny badges, reveling in the little pains.

On a night far away, when she's just a bit drunker than usual, she'll reflect on this and wonder when she turned into such a masochist. Then she will drink the rest of her bottle of brandy - never whiskey - and tell herself that the water on her face is sweat.

When she exits the shower, she will brush her teeth methodically, and put in her eyes. The oddity of seeing herself with green eyes won't go away. She'd never thought about it before coming here, but the way you look in your head does not shift all at once. She will be sure that it will only take a bit more time.

After brushing her hair, still wet from the shower, she will walk past empty bedrooms and the large, stately staircase that uses entirely too much wood wax every summer, and down the back stairwell into the kitchen. This place will be the only area in the house where she can feel right and comfortable and something like she had once been. The garage/workshop will be a different story, because there she can be herself again, if only out of necessity. In the kitchen, simple whites and blues will war with only each other and not mountains of knick-knacks and souvenirs that mean very little. Every thing will have a place. Clean, simple, and bright.

The oatmeal will be sitting on the microwave ready for water and sugar, and when it's hot, Sam will read the paper while lingering over the cooked oats. Once in a while, she will close the Metro section and stare over the back of the chair opposite her. Her green eyes will be distant and sad, and the single lock of brown hair will twist around her finger over and over.

On those days, she won't smile at patrons, and will take her lunch outside. Even if it is snowing and bitter cold.

She will finish the metro and sports sections quickly, skimming past the comics and entertainment articles with ease created through long practice. She will remember enough to chat with Julie in the breakroom over tea. Commenting on game scores and the latest movie to distract the younger woman from a rather strange obsession with a certain, canceled cable sci-fi show that Sam can't watch, even in umpteenth reruns.

Unless she is later than normal, she will rinse out her bowl and set it in the drying rack for the next day. The water will be warm across knuckles that are just starting to hurt with cold weather. She'll know that the ache won't get better. Foggy, distant parts of her mind will remind her that while her father's arthritis disappeared not long after his sixty-third birthday, that option is not open to her, nor will it be ever again. She will smile sadly and close her eyes at the rush of memories for several minutes.

When she opens them again, Sam will dry her hands on a tea towel, and open the door from the livingroom so that Elsa - the lovely woman down the road who comes for a few hours every day to clean - won't have to work the latch. Like everything else in this large house, the catch will be old and will take a bit of fiddling to work correctly. Sam will be proud that she's only sad about that occasionally.

Sam will hate her morning routine. Up until she leaves for work, because that will be different than the rambling old house and its memories of not. Work will be rows upon rows of books and the smell of her mother's den. Old books and papers, dusty but cared for.

It will be quiet in the stacks, only the humming of carefully dimmed lights and air conditioning to keep her company. The control will be comfortable to her, as is the lack of natural lighting. She'll walk down the cramped rows and run her fingers over the crumbling spines and metal casings. There'll be a physicality to it, a connection to something outside herself. Something real.

When they hire her, they'll ask if she can do some minor bookkeeping. She'll tell them that she's done very poorly at maths and if they needed someone with that type of experience, they'll do best to keep on looking.

She will work in these archives for the rest of her life. It will not be the road she saw herself walking, but neither is the one she created for herself. Sam will only think of this when everything is too much and too hard, and the gold ring on the fourth finger of her left hand is too heavy. This will happen mostly in the evening, and when it does, she will take a bottle of wine out to her workshop, fire up her welding equipment and make something.

Wires and metal and solder will melt together, and for that time she will lose herself. The walls will become gray stone and the hours will disappear. In her mind she will be thirty and invincible, poised on the edge of something fantastic. Her shoulder muscles will loosen, releasing the stress of being Susan, a humanities major from Duluth.

She has never liked the name Susan. She'll laugh when she reads the papers containing her new old life. For the first time in weeks, she'll laugh hard and long before letting the tears fall.

Sam still will not be quite used to Susan. This new and different person with brown hair and green eyes who likes mystery novels and Richard Gere films. Susan had learned to bake out of sheer stubbornness, and will go out for a drink with the girls on Friday. Susan will go home on time.

Occasionally, she will forget Susan's name and stare blankly at the rows and stacks of books until someone will take her arm. She'll bite her lip to keep from screaming, and stamp down the urge to pull their arm behind their back and slam them into the nearest wall.

Neither her smile nor her apology will reach her eyes.

Sam won't cry when she finishes her machine. She'll run her hands over the patched metal, smiling here and there at an ugly seam, then walk to the door to watch the sun come up over the horizon. She'll stare at it rising, and in that indeterminate space between day and night, she'll remember the smiling and the camaraderie of the men and women Susan never knew.

A friend who drank too much coffee and knew most of her secrets. Another who never said much, but understood all. The woman who taught her to appreciate a good practical joke. A commanding officer who taught her the depths of respect. A girl who let her be a mother, if just vicariously.

She'll say goodbye again. A wave or a smile or a sneeze. Something that will end the moment.

She will walk back to the house then. Her head high, her mind off going through her morning routine.

She won't look back.

-fin-