Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: Here it is, the humorous, angsty, awful, wonderful sequel to Future's So Bright. If you haven't read that, I highly advise you to...that said, all you really need to know is that twenty years from now both Sam and Dean are married with children, and Sam's daughter, who inherited his visions, recently died.
Yeah, maybe you do need to read the first story.
"Come on, let's go!" she enthuses, hopping in the room, dropping to the bed like a five-year-old on crack.
Sarah almost smiles despite herself, this sad little routine becoming more and more the bright spot of her days. "No," she sighs simply, same response as always.
Ava glares at her mischievously, no clearly not being an acceptable reply. "We're going to the spa," she says evenly, only the final word stressed, drawn out into a mysterious whisper. "I've already made the appointment, and you can't say no because they'll charge me anyway, even if we cancel, which we won't," she tosses with authority while aimlessly perusing the unopened books on the nightstand – guides for grieving, who would want to read that? "Dean's already not talking to me over a minor $300 purchase the other day."
Sarah rolls over and peeks through slitted eyes, newfound light in the room – who ripped open the curtains? – making her squint. "Three hundred dollars?" she inquires with a lilt.
Ava waves her hand dismissively. "Ballet," being all she says, which, really, is all she needs to say for Sarah to understand. She went a little overboard with the leotards and tutus and leg warmers and slippers. But how could she not, Sammy looking so darn cute pirouetting through the living room, kitchen, backyard?
She smiles at the image of her young demanding niece, throws her arm across her face and says, "And he's not talking to you? That's rich." The implication of which is simple, he's the one who spoiled that kid into her current rotten state, so who's he to judge?
"Yeah, well, I guess he doesn't realize that the whole no talking thing is actually a much needed break. I mean, you have no idea how rare it is for that man to just shut up."
"I have some idea," she grumbles, working to bury herself back beneath the covers.
"Ha," Ava exclaims, grasping the quilt and sheets and ripping them from the bed – an oft practiced routine with two teenage boys at home. "He won't even stop during sex," she says, rambling on while tossing the bedclothes in a corner, turning to rifle through drawers for something cute and clean. "I mean, it's always, come for me baby, you know you want it. Or, open wide, let daddy in."
"Eww," she whines, rolling over on the bare mattress.
"Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's nice. Sometimes," she says almost dreamily, crooked grin on her face, "it's naughty."
"Okay," Sarah says, pulling herself up, letting her legs drop over the side of the bed. "Okay. I'm up. Just…stop."
She'd been out of the house. It's not as though she'd spent the last month and a half in total seclusion. How could she? There was still a gallery to run – though admittedly Dana had it under control, issuing out random updates whenever Sarah called to check in. And there was also a house, a family, to look after – never mind the fact that Rachel was now gone too, hundreds of miles away, and her husband might as well be.
Still, she'd been up, out of bed. Last week John took her grocery shopping. The week before, she went to the post office to mail Rachel some extra linens. The week before that, well, okay, the week before that she might have actually spent everyday in her room.
But so what, where was the crime in sulking just a bit longer? Didn't she have every reason to not want to get out of bed? After all, it had only been six weeks. Six weeks since burying her daughter. And that in no way compared to the sixteen years of misery she concluded was warranted to even out her sixteen years of joy.
So she might appease them every so often, Ava's too excited plans for fun girl's day out.
Or John's sad and pleading smile, so like his father's, as he'd ask if she'd go for a walk with him.
Or Michael's I finally got it! expression, lighting up his features every time he came to her with a new and fun idea.
Or Dean, sitting still and quiet and smaller than she could ever remember him being, issuing out a tired, "Come on, Sarah," in desperate tones.
But one day, one hour, outside these walls, outside this bed, would never cure her of her malaise. Nothing would. Nothing will. Of that's she's already convinced.
"I don't really understand the whole seaweed thing," Ava wonders aloud, contemplating the merits of all the seemingly bizarre spa treatments out there. "I mean, the mud, I get. Mud's fun. Hell, I think Michael spent half his childhood in mud."
"And now he has beautiful skin," Sarah offers as they both sit for their pedicures.
"Oh," she exclaims, turning excitedly to her sister-in-law, "speaking of Michael, you'll love this." She takes on a sort of conspiratorial whisper as she rambles, "He has this new girlfriend, Cynthia. Or Francine…I don't know, something like that. And she's this sweet little blond thing, his age. Very polite, kind of quiet, great with Samantha. So, perfect, right?"
Ava stops just long enough for Sarah to raise her brows, but not long enough to permit her to speak, the mere fact that she's paying attention being enough incentive for her to go on.
"Yeah, well, turns out he's only dating her – and I use that term loosely, because no matter how much he and Dean tag team me with their whole fifteen's so not fair argument – because it's completely fair! The girls never had a problem with it. Well, at least Rachel didn't. And Maya," she pauses briefly, stunned at how easily her name passes over her lips, how casually.
Sarah doesn't so much as avert her gaze, despite Ava's eyes sullenly falling to the floor. "You can say her name," she says almost as a chide. Then, softly, thoughtfully, "I always loved her name."
But Ava doesn't say a word, only glances back up, eyes shimmering with regret.
Sarah turns in her seat, smile taking over her face. "You know why I named her that? And I did name her, Sam had picked…God, what was it? Becky, as in Becky Thatcher."
"His favorite book," she replies, words barely discernable.
Sarah nods. "I said no."
Ava sits further upright, tries to regain that casual, unbattered demeanor. "So," she starts slowly, "why Maya?" this time the name rolling from her tongue with a lyrical familiarity.
Her eyes seem to sparkle as she speaks, a trait anyone who's ever known Sarah would describe as her most unique quality, the truth behind the phrase, A smile that lights up the room. A trait hardly anyone has seen in over a month. "When I was college we studied ancient Mayan art. Beautiful, exotic, almost epic. And they didn't have the tools they needed, the tools we would have needed…to carve the hieroglyphs and inlay jade. I don't know…it just, made me feel…small. But in a good way. Insignificant, but part of this…big, beautiful monster of a world." She stops and locks eyes with Ava, says simply, "That's how she made me feel, first time I saw her."
A moment passes before either woman speaks, both lost in a far off memory, a fleeting image from the past. "Dean thinks we named Michael after the archangel…you know, strong and powerful and on the side of God. But really…" she trails off shortly, "Michael J. Fox."
Sarah's face goes from somber to hysterics in the blink of an eye, unrelenting laughter like she hasn't felt in weeks erupting from somewhere deep inside. "Michael J. Fox?" she ekes out.
"I grew up on Family Ties reruns," she says in mock defense. "Besides, he's foxy."
The giggles continue, fairly incoherently for a moment or two, before drifting off into nothing, leadening the air with an uncomfortable silence. "I just like to hear her name," Sarah says softly, seemingly tired voice breaking in. "No one says her name anymore." She turns to Ava, simultaneously taking a deep breath, preparing to change the subject, eager to keep herself from the tears she can feel rising in the back of her throat. "So why's Michael dating Francine?"
And never one to pass up a much longed for change of topic, Ava dives right in with, "I think it's Celine." Smiles and light laughter gingerly return to the two as she goes on. "And he's dating her because he's really got a thing for her sister. Her older sister."
"That's what I said. But Dean…"
"Patted him on the back and said, that's my boy?" she asks coyly.
Ava seems to mull the question over for a moment before saying, "Not exactly. But there was definitely this big proud, dopey grin on his face when he said…what was it? Dangerous game."
Sarah quirks a brow. "Almost as though he knows from experience."
And laughing beside her, Ava concurs, "Almost."
She brings her home for dinner, forces her to be around the loud obnoxious family she's been trying so hard to avoid. And she seems to enjoy it, for the first hour at least, sitting in the kitchen with Ava, helping chop vegetables while listening to John and Michael argue in the next room.
The house is hectic, in a way Sarah's never was, even when the boys and Samantha came over. Because for her, they've always been good kids, not angels, hey, they're Dean's after all, but good kids. Here, it seems they have to step over the line – say by calling one's brother a man-whoring thief, at the top of his lungs – before being reminded there's a line at all – like by being informed by one's father, also at the top of his lungs, that everyone needs to calm down, grow up, and shut it!
After dinner they have s'mores, Samantha's new favorite food ever since a girl scout camping trip last month, and she shows Aunt Sarah just how to make them, burning the marshmallow ever so slightly over the fireplace flame. Dean lurks in the background, concern flooding his face as he wonders if eating marshmallows cooked over artificial logs will have any long-term health effects.
By eight Michael's gone, over to Celeste's – Celeste – and John's eyes are glued to his computer screen upstairs. So Ava offers to take her home, even though she'd hoped that Dean would, the two barely having spoken two words all through dinner, and only a few more than that throughout the last several weeks. But Sarah had a full day already, no need to push it.
So she drives her back, doesn't even think twice about putting the car in park and following her in, this house being nothing if not a second home. Sarah thanks her politely at the door, smiles bashfully as thought this were some sort of childishly romantic good night moment, and heads up the stairs to bed.
Ava calls after her, "We're doing this every week from now on. I don't care what it costs," and stops herself from backing out the door only when she hears a too familiar scoff come from the kitchen. "What was that?" she inquires slyly, peeking her head around the corner.
Sam doesn't so much as look up from his reading when he says, "Not your money you're spending."
She enters the kitchen, sits down across from him at the table, eyes dancing over the loads of files and papers in front of him. "Neither are you. It's Dean's treat," she says with a smile.
"Does he know that?"
She ignores the question, offering up a scoff of her own before stating the obvious, "You missed dinner."
He flaps his hand to indicate the paperwork before him. "Had work."
She nods unconvinced. Then, furrowing her brow in confusion, "Why aren't you doing this in your office?"
He mutters distractedly, offers up a mere, "Dunno," as his fingers flip furiously through the file in his lap.
But she knows him better than that, even without having been around him so much for the past twenty years, even without having shared her children with him, and him sharing his with her. Even without having seen his confident posture in the courtroom or when on the arm of his wife, this now slumped and drawn form before her perfectly juxtaposing that Sam, she can tell that he's lying.
"I think Sarah had a good time today," she says lightly, as though simply making conversation. "Really."
And he plays along as far as he's willing, replying with, "Good."
"I'm gonna try to get her to go to the gallery on Thursday. I know she misses the place, so it shouldn't be too hard."
"Okay," he says absently.
She moves her hand across the table towards his, grabs a hold lightly of his wrist as he reaches for another stack of papers. When he glances up at her, finally meeting her eyes, she can almost hear her heart crack and break. "You look like shit," she says with such astonished sincerity that he almost laughs in response.
"Uh, thanks," he mutters, twisting out of her grip. "That's nice of you to say."
"Why don't you go upstairs, go to bed?" she suggests, a hint of motherly demand to her voice.
"It's eight o'clock," he tells her simply.
"Well, you don't have to go to sleep," she intones, voice ripe with innuendo.
But his face goes stern when he says, slow and deep, "Ava, stop."
And maybe she'd let it go, see that it's not her business, she's overstepping her bounds. Maybe she'd back off gracefully, leave this sad little couple alone to their too private grief. Maybe, if she were anyone else.
"You know," she starts, rising from her seat, a clear sign that she's had enough – enough of his constant evasiveness, consistent push for distance, "You're acting like you've got the corner market on grief, Sam." Her eyes go wide with frustration as she begins to pace. "It isn't fair."
He glares at her, fierce stare from slitted eyes, as he cocks his head in her direction, feigns confusion, "I'm sorry," he bites out, "What's not fair?"
But she's not intimidated. No doubt about it, Sam Winchester can be one scary son of a bitch when he tries, and she knows that better than anyone, having seen a part of him few others have. But that was the same part that lies within her as well, and as wrong as it might be to gather confidence from a place of evil, she can't help but do so in standing up to him.
"Don't do that," she tells him, voice firm, order clear. In very un-Ava fashion, she speaks deeply and deliberately, words curling with anger and sorrow. "You act like you're the only one who lost her. Like the rest of us don't matter, our feelings don't matter."
He scoffs at her before guiltily averting his eyes. "That's not true."
"Sam," she tries, tone softening as she crosses the room towards him. "Your wife is upstairs right now, all alone. This whole day, out with me, at home with my family, our family, the whole time she was still completely alone."
"Ava," he interjects with a wag of his head.
"She needs you Sam. And you need her. Why is that so hard for you to see?"
"Me?" he shoots bitterly. "Why is that so hard for me to see?" He rises from his seat, turns to face the wall instead of her when he begins, "She won't talk to me. She won't look at me." His head drops sullenly. "She doesn't see me."
And Ava can't help but wonder, let her mind wander, about what all those horrible statistics mean, about marriages failing following the loss of a child. Because she'd thought a lot about what that would be like, over the last month and a half, couldn't help but wonder what would happen to her life if one of her kids was suddenly no longer in it.
She knew she'd die, that much was obvious. But if by some miracle she could find the strength to go on, the idea that she and Dean would not lean on each other for support, the image of them being torn apart, distance taking the place of their child in their family dynamic, seemed utterly ludicrous.
But it seemed insane to think that would ever happen to Sam and Sarah either. From the moment she met Sarah, she knew how much Sam loved her. And not just loved but…adored, everything about her. It was in his eyes, that light that was so rare, a happy glowing quality she could only see when he was with her. Dean, never one for public speaking, had made a heartfelt toast at their wedding, thanking Sarah for bringing his brother to life, giving him a life, making him who he is.
After twenty years, Sam without Sarah would simply not be Sam.
"Have you talked to her?" she asks gently.
He turns, sad, swollen eyes boring into her. "And say what? I'm sorry our daughter's dead? I'm sorry I killed her?"
"Sam," she breathes, hint of bitter disappointment to her words. Everyone knew he blamed himself. Hell, it seemed as though the entire family had been taking turns at blaming themselves. But, "You didn't kill her."
"Might as well have."
"Honey," she tries, soothingly, though the words come out more as a reproach, "You didn't have any more control over having these abilities than she did, than I did."
"I know," he admits deeply. "But I could have helped her more. Maybe if I wasn't so…angry at the fact that she had them…I could have done more."
"So could I," she says with a straight face, despite the gravity of her admission, that if Sam was to blame for Maya's death, if he was in anyway complicit, then she was just as much so.
He doesn't deny her apparent regret any more than he does his own, doesn't tell her it's okay, she's not to blame, no one is. He simply looks away, says in a little boy's voice, lost and airy, "I miss her. I miss her so much."
And Ava nods, because it's all she can do, the words, "We all do," falling from her lips despite herself.
But he shakes his head, no. "Sarah," he corrects. "I miss Sarah."
"Then go to her," she nearly exclaims. "Go talk to her, be with her," trailing on as she nears him once more.
"I can't," he says, turning on her, plastering himself up against the wall in an attempt to get further from her, as though her encouragement were some sort of threat he had to flee. "I can't."
"Why not?" she asks, almost fed up. It all seemed so simple in her head. "You live together. You love together. You had these kids together. Grieve together."
"I don't want to," he says simply, petulant lilt to his voice.
And it takes her a moment to respond, so taken back by the idea that he wouldn't want to share his pain, ease his burden. Until she realizes that he doesn't feel his burden should be eased, the weight of it breaking his shoulders even now. But still she asks, wanting to hear him say it, admit to it in the hopes that he'd see just how ridiculous it is, "Why not?"
But he doesn't answer, only drops his head once more, gaze falling to the hardwood.
Ava moves closer, almost whispers next to him, "She was always your girl, Sam," at first not even realizing which of his girls she's speaking of. Not until, "Always just like you," flows out in a slow, soft tone.
He nods, says, without looking up, "It isn't fair."
And she knows just what he means. It isn't fair. Any of it. "Maya never blamed you," she says, relieved to hear her name echo beautifully, not bitterly, in her own ears.
His tone is desperate, demanding, when he asks, glaring at her from beneath hooded eyes, "How do you know?"
"I know," she declares with unwavering faith.
Again, he nods. Again, his eyes drop to the floor, shoulders slump enough to lower his frame a few inches, shorten him enough that she can easily slide into him, her much smaller body fitting into the curve of his as he continues to lean against the wall.
At first she simply stands there, leans into him a bit, a comforting presence, a hug without the awkward intimacy. But he is so quiet and so slumped and so…broken that she can't help but move closer, always being of the mind that physical comfort speaks louder and more directly than any words could. She's a hugger, a kisser, still insisting on holding her children tight to this day, despite two of them being nearly men, as tall as or taller than her. So it feels natural to lay her head on Sam's shoulder, melt into the crook of his neck until his head tilts towards hers.
He throws a heavy arm around her hips and falls further into her, allowing his weight to be at least partially supported by her. And she can feel his tears on her own face, hot and eerily familiar, as they roll and fall from his. She shifts, pulling her head up and away so as to look into his eyes, lets her hand drift up to his cheek to wipe away the tears.
"Sarah doesn't blame you either," she says so softly she almost wonders if she said it at all, especially when he offers no response.
Her hand stays, small and steady, on his face, and he leans into it, closing his eyes and pressing out more tears for her cool flesh to absorb. His head falls lower, closer to hers, his breath hot and heavy in her ear as he murmurs, "You don't know that."
And it's true, she doesn't. Because every time she brings up Sam in their conversations, Sarah shuts down, so really, she has no idea how or what she feels. And that mere fact, more importantly, the sad fact that Sam knows it, draws her even closer, pressing her face into his as though, if only she could somehow melt into him, she could give him some strength, allow him to steal away some comfort.
It feels like an eternity, the two them standing there, leaning on one another, breaths complimenting though never matching, skin growing hot where pressed together. It seems like an eternity of quiet nonexistence, where she is not Ava, nor is he Sam, and neither are anything more than two people who share such an awful and inherent bond that their bodies simply mesh, despite their hearts belonging to others.
It seems like an eternity, but it's really barely a moment they spend, loosely holding one another, before their lips brush past and against, together, in a too familiar dance, a lingering, mournful kiss.
And when they do break apart, neither feels embarrassed, though they know they should. Neither turns to run or breaks into stuttering apologies, though both are warranted. Neither even look away, avert their gaze from the other, both sets of eyes showing more despair than remorse.
"How could she ever love me now?" he says, tone measured and clipped. "How could she ever forgive me?"
And it's all Ava can do to keep from reaching for him again, letting her touch quell some of his pain. But it's not her place. No matter what she may feel, she knows it's not her place. So instead she turns to leave, gaze lingering on his streaked eyes for only moment as she says simply, "How could she not?"