Title: Ad Aeterno
Characters: Sam Winchester
Category: Character study
Spoilers: Up to 3.16, but nothing really specific.
Summary: The things Dad and Dean fight—yeah, those are real too. But they aren't part of the world of books, of glowing fish and fireman poles.
Word Count: 1578
Disclaimer: If I owned Supernatural, there would be rainbows and kittens and a hug in every episode. Since there isn't, well, you do the math.
Author's Note: This story is weird in that it's in present tense and has no dialogue, two things I almost never do. Let me know if it works.
Sam first discovers it at Uncle Bobby's place. Dad is on another hunt, leaving them behind, and Dean is busy messing around with old cars in the salvage yard and chattering at Bobby about things Sam doesn't understand and doesn't care about, sparkplugs and carburetors and camshafts. That leaves Sam to his own devices, which is pretty much how likes it, most of the time.
He has always loved libraries. At every new school he and Dean have attended (it is always a new school—they are never there long enough for Sam to call it "my school" or just "school," but always "the new school"), he always seeks out the library as soon as he has a free moment. Poor and limited, with dusty books and titles lingering on from the thirties and forties, or new and well-lit, with brand-new books standing on the shelves near the door screaming for attention, Sam loves them all.
He loves fiction, the cute little books by writers like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary ("Normal People Stories," he calls them in his head), because they let him see what kids are like, kids who have a mom and a dad and a dog, friends and relatives and teachers, problems and triumphs and heartaches and joys. He loves the Hardy Boys, because they always solve the case and no one ever dies, and Nancy Drew because she's smart and pretty and it amazes him to think that a girl like that could exist. He loves fantasy stories because dragons are awesome, and science fiction stories because spaceships are, too. He can never really get into Goosebumps or the R.L. Stine stuff, though, even though his classmates rave about them. Even before Dean told him the truth, somehow those books didn't feel enough like fiction to him. They feel too close to reality, and so they aren't fun.
Non-fiction is great though, the stuff from the real world, the world of earth and sky and sea, where there's an explanation for everything and bold explorers can always find something new. Sam devours books about the strange fish that live down where the dark never lifts, and what the daily life of a fireman is like, and simplified explanations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These things are real, they are true, and they help Sam shape his world. The things Dad and Dean fight—yeah, those are real too. But they aren't part of the world of books, of glowing fish and fireman poles. That's the world that lives outside the edges of the frame, far away from the school libraries with their florescent lighting and smiling ladies offering to help you find just the right story for that book report due next week.
And so it is that twelve-year-old Sammy peers at Uncle Bobby's stacks and piles of old books with an eye of trepidation. These are books, which he loves, but this isn't a library. It's an old house with seventies-style wallpaper, and it has not known the touch of a friendly, smiling lady for many, many years.
But if he just sits around for much longer he's going to get dangerously bored. Maybe Bobby has some Sugar Creek Gang or a G.A. Henty or something. He seems like the type. Sam fumbles through cracked leather covers and crumbly yellow paper, looking for something that doesn't have a title with the words "demonology," or "occult," or "sourcery."
And there it is, on top of a small stack in the hinterlands of the old oak desk, far from the towering metropolis of hunting tomes. Latin Literature: A Book of Readings from Cicero, Livy, Ovid, Pliny, The Vulgate, Bede, Caedmon, Medieval Poetry by Frederic M. Wheelock.
It doesn't look like a book about demons or spirits. It isn't as well-thumbed as those books, and the cover isn't worn from constant handling. This book is new, though the typeface is old. And "literature"… Well, that sounds about as far from hunting as you can get.
Sam ventures in, past the preface and the references and the table of contents, straight into Cicero. "Quod erat optandum maxime…"
He pulls back. Oh. It's in Latin. Well, the name of the book should have been his first clue, probably. Dean's voice snickers in his head. Way to go, genius.
Back to the desk, then. The next book down in the stack is a Latin Primer. Below that, more dictionaries and reference books, more "Selections from Latin," and the Aeneid, in the original. Everything he needs. Sam opens back up to Cicero and runs his fingers over the ancient language, wonderingly. It's a siren to him, this old tongue. Already he can hear the rhythm through his fingertips passing over the words, the "um" and "us" and "que" that end the nouns, the "ad" and "ab" and "hic" that string them together like beads on a necklace. He recognizes some of the roots from scientific words in his favorite non-fiction books—the glowing fish, the jungle cats, the slimy things that live in the dark fastness of caves. No one speaks this language anymore, but people still learn it. These words and meanings still matter. This is the realm of science, astronomy and biology, ancient literature and new discoveries. It's everything real and permanent and true.
Sam picks up the Latin Primer and dives in without hesitation.
By the time Dad comes back, limping from a banged knee, bruised across half his face, hugging Dean gingerly with a sore shoulder while the sixteen-year-old fires off question after question, Sam is already deep into the first book he found. He still has to look up a lot of the words, but already he understands the conjugation system (it's so logical, so easy!), and he's starting to get the hang of the feminine/masculine thing. He's a big fan of Ovid, and Cicero is growing on him. When Dad asks him what he's been up to, he just shrugs. They wouldn't care. This is his world.
Uncle Bobby saw, though. When they get to the motel, Sam finds the primer and Latin Literature tucked under his t-shirts, he's surprised by how much this warms him. Bobby knows that you don't have to talk to understand each other. Sam likes that about him.
At the new school, Sam asks the friendly, smiling librarian (this one is in her late twenties, with soft brown hair and gentle eyes) to help him find more about this old language. She gives him a history book, written for fourth-graders, too simple, but still interesting. He loves the stories of Spartacus, Scipio, Julius Caesar.
At every school after that, he asks for more. He gets into the Greek stuff, too, though Latin is always first in his heart. High school is great for this—finally, the libraries carry more complete books, thick and dense. Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles. A tangential reference in one of the books starts him studying constitutional law and legal structure. So many of their terms are in Latin, because Latin is the best and clearest for explaining things. Before Sam knows it, he wants to be a lawyer. He wants it really bad.
When he's eighteen, Dad finds the Latin books stashed under his bed where other teen boys keep their skin mags. (Dean has known for several years—he's never been good at keeping things from Dean.) At first Dad is happy—his son already knows all the pronunciations; he can do exorcisms now. But Sam yells that that's liturgical Latin, not classical, and he's not interested in liturgical Latin. Classical Latin is pure. It's what scientists use. Liturgical Latin is not the same thing at all.
They fight and fume and storm away from each other while Dean makes small noises in the background, trying to calm them down. Sam feels bad for Dean, always trying to fix things that are irreparably damaged, but not enough to give up his dream. He goes to college.
Stanford is wonderful. He has friends and teachers, a beautiful, loving girlfriend. He can read all he wants. Latin is living to him now, real and vital, vibrating with life. He lives and breathes and dreams it. Everything he wants, he has.
Then it all gets taken away from him, one piece at a time. Jess. Law school. Dad. Dean.
And here Sam is, still poring through books of Latin, feeling the rhythm on his tongue, through his fingers, "us" and "um" and "que," "ad" and "ab" and "hic." But this is liturgical Latin, now. These books have titles with words like "demonology" and "occult" and "sourcery." This is the world that is real, the world of spirits, demons, monsters.
And Sam doesn't care anymore. There's only one thing he wants back. Something from these towers of cracked covers and well-worn pages will help him. It has to be here. He's going to find it. There's no other option. It feels like his entire life has been leading him to this—his long love affair with Latin has been preparing him for this, and only this. Somewhere in these dusty pages, there has to be a litany that will open Hell and give Dean back to him. There has to be. The world of Latin is so huge, so broad and open and full, surely this one thing must exist in it somewhere.
He's going to find it. It's all he wants.
It must be there somewhere.