"Sarah?" Sam stared at his sister, mouth partly open in shock. It was New Years Eve, perhaps the last day of the year he would ever expect Sarah to travel to Toronto, especially when they'd just seen each other a week earlier. Unbidden images of his niece and nephew injured and in hospital flashed through his mind. "Is everything okay?"
"Ed and the kids are fine." Sarah gave him a reassuring smile. "Can we talk?"
Sam stepped back so she could enter. "Come in."
She shook her head, "not inside. There's something I want to show you."
"Sam?" Andy's voice came from the bedroom where he'd left her to answer the door.
"Just give me one minute," Sam said to his sister, disappearing down the hall.
She leaned against the door frame, listening shamelessly as Sam told Andy who was at the door and that he was going out for a bit. Sarah was rather impressed at Andy's ability to feign innocence. Impressed, and grateful. If Sam guessed what they were up to he would dig in his heels and the hours Sarah had spent with her therapist over the last week working her way up to today would be wasted.
"Alright," Sam grabbed a coat and his keys, "where do you want to go."
"I'll drive." Sarah said, steering him towards her car.
Sam raised his eyebrows but complied, sliding into the passenger seat and fastening his seatbelt.
They drove in silence, Sarah focusing on breathing in through her nose, out through her mouth and not getting lost. She'd never actually driven in Toronto before she realized. She hadn't gotten her driver's licence until after Mitch was born. Until she'd had a baby depending on her she hadn't felt it necessary. The few times she'd ventured into the city to visit her brother, she'd always let Ed drive.
She could feel Sam's eyes on her and knew he was probably worried. Not that she could blame him, she'd never shown up unannounced before, let alone by herself, unannounced on New Year's Eve. She'd wanted to come sooner, but she knew this was his first day off since Christmas, and besides, she'd needed the time to prepare herself for what had to happen.
It wasn't until she turned off Jarvis onto Shuter that Sam realized where they were going. "Sarah..." His voice was strained, "What are you doing?"
Her hands tightened involuntarily around the steering wheel. She guided the car into a curb spot between a silver Audi and a blue mini-van and killed the engine before turning to face him. "Do you trust me?"
Sam looked skeptical, but he nodded once.
Sarah could tell from the furrow between his eyebrows and the set of his mouth that he was deeply unhappy about being here, but trying to hide it. She forced her lips to smile, hoping he didn't see the quiver. She hadn't set foot in Moss Park for nearly thirty years. It was long past time. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the keys out of the ignition and opened the door.
She stood quickly, so she wouldn't have time to second guess herself, and shut the car door. She could see the tennis courts through a stand of leafless maples just meters away. The December air bit at her nostrils as she drew in another steadying breath. It looked different. The maples were taller and broader than she remembered, and the aluminum bleachers she could see by the baseball diamond were nothing like the wooden ones she remembered from that fateful night. I can do this, she told herself and for the first time in a week she believed it was true.
Sam watched as the anxiety melted away from his sister's face, replaced by a calm acceptance. His own emotions seemed to be stuck full throttle on anger. He curled both hands into fists. He didn't know why she had brought them here, he just wanted them to leave. Sarah doesn't need to be here he thought, though a niggling voice whispered that it was he who didn't want to be there.
"Walk with me?" Sarah asked, rounding the car.
Sam nodded stiffly. She'd asked him to trust her, so that was what he was going to do. Even if it killed him.
Sarah tucked her arm in his and led him to the park's paved paths. "I remember when these were gravel," she said in a forced light tone. "When did we get so old Sammy?"
"You're not old." Sam said automatically. He was only half listening to her conversation. The rest of his attention was glued to the park around them. Two women and a chocolate lab walked towards them on the path, a man and his daughter were playing catch meters from the patch of grass where they'd found Natalie Frances' body, he could hear shrieks of laughter from the playground. All around him, people were enjoying the day. He wanted to scream.
Sarah didn't speak again until they were at the baseball diamond. "I cut through here that night."
Sam closed his eyes reflexively as if that could block out the story he knew she needed to tell him.
"I was in a hurry, and Jesse Ramirez was going to be there." She gestured to the empty bleachers. "There were three boys sitting on the bleachers. I remember one of them whistled at me and I felt so cool."
"Sarah," Sam's voice was pained, "You don't need to..."
Sarah stopped and faced him head on. "Yes. I do."
For a moment the siblings stared at each other. Sam nodded so slightly she almost thought she imagined it. "Okay." He said.
They continued their walk, Sarah continuing in a clear, steady voice that belied the quivering fear in her belly. This was harder than she'd thought it would be. When she finished telling her story she stopped walking again and looked around the familiar park, giving Sam a moment to calm down. She could feel tension radiating from his every pore.
He turned away from her, his arms crossed defensively across his chest. "I should have been here."
Sarah shook her head, so like her brother to assume responsibility for a thirty year old hurt he could never have prevented. "You were nine, Sammy."
He grumbled something she didn't quite catch, but didn't relax.
"Talk to me." She said softly. "I promise, it helps."
"Right," Sam snapped, "talking makes everything better."
"It's been 29 years Sammy, you need to let it go." Sarah placed a gentle hand on his arm.
Sam sighed. He knew she was right, but the helpless, hurt anger surging through his veins wasn't going away just because she told it to. She'd just told him enough details of that night that he now knew exactly what had happened to her. It made his sick with impotent rage. He wanted to break things. He wanted to find those men and show them even a tenth of the hurt they'd caused his precious sister. He wanted to go to Dubray's house and rip the psychopath's testicles off. At the very least he wanted to shake off Sarah's hand and walk away until the anger subsided, but he didn't. Sarah needed this, and he was going to give it to her.
"You need to let someone in." Sarah continued, "It doesn't have to be me. But you need to talk to someone."
Sam shook his head. He could feel tears prickling at the back of his eyes which only made him more angry.
Squeezing his arm before letting it go, Sarah continued. "Andy's pretty special, but if she's not the one, that's okay. She's young, she'll recover."
That brought Sam's eyes to his sister's face. How dare Sarah try to threaten him with Andy? They'd only been together for two months. He hadn't even had time to screw it up.
Sarah's lips twitched as she suppressed a smile. "I'm not saying she's going to leave you, so you can stop looking at me like that. I just want you to be happy, that's all I ever wanted." Her voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. "I will never forgive myself if I destroyed that for you."
The guilt and sorrow in her expression melted much of Sam's anger. He pulled her into a hug. "You didn't destroy anything," he said fiercely, his mind's eye picturing Dubray's smug face. He knew, deep in his gut, that Dubray was the man. He didn't have evidence, but he knew he was right. It was only a matter of time.
Sarah pulled back and took his face between her hands. His face was hard, closed off, determined. "Promise me."
A brief flicker of confusion crossed his face, to be replaced by an eerie resolve. "He'll screw up, eventually. And then I will make him pay."
Sarah dropped her hands as if they'd been burned. She felt tears prickle at the back of her eyes. How had she never noticed before? How had she never seen how her fears had affected him? All this anger hadn't surfaced overnight, but somehow, she'd never seen it before. She'd seen what she wanted to see, the happy smile, the rock solid little brother who could face down every demon with a sardonic smile and come out on top. "No, Sammy," Sarah shook her head. A single tear escaped, trickling down her cheek, "you need to promise me you'll let this go."
He looked at her as if she'd asked him to jump off a building, or shoot her in the head, betrayed and hurt and so confused. "I-uh.." He turned away from her, running a hand through his short black hair.
"Please, Sammy." Sarah swiped another tear from her cheek.
A new image flickered in his mind's eye. His thirteen year old sister, sitting in the living room of their Toronto home, her knees tucked up to her chest, arms wrapped around them, eyes staring vacantly at the TV even though it was two in the morning and all the stations were playing static. He saw himself, nine year of age climbing up beside her, whispering so mom and dad wouldn't wake up, telling her the newest joke from his joke book. He saw the street lights reflected in the tears on her cheeks. The first tears she'd cried in two months. His heart contracted painfully.
There was something familiar in her expression. He'd seen it in his own. Every day since they found Natalie Frances' body. Rage. Barely contained, poisonous, helpless rage. He took a deep shuddering breath. Sarah was right. If he didn't control it, that rage would destroy him. How could he hope to build a future with Andy when he couldn't look himself in the mirror. He wanted a future with her, he could admit it to himself today. She was smart, beautiful, funny, kind and brave. She wouldn't shirk from the darkness in him, but it would destroy her too. He wondered if that was what had destroyed her mother. Tommy's rage.
"How did you do it?" He asked in a strangled voice.
Sarah smiled through her tears. "I had the world's most amazing brother, and an incredible husband, and I took it one day at a time."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "That easy?"
"It's not easy." Sarah said, "but you know what? I don't think anything worthwhile ever is."
Sam chuckled dryly.
"Alright, that was cheesy," Sarah admitted, "but I made you laugh."
Sam nodded. He scanned the park, taking in the familiar details. Even though the sun had set hours ago, the lights from the baseball diamond gave plenty of light to the field, and turned familiar trees into ghoulish shadows.
"You're going to do this your own way," Sarah said, looping her arm through his, "But I think I know a good place to start."
o o o
"Andy?" Sam called the moment he entered the house. He didn't know if she would be there. He'd been gone for hours instead of the few minutes he'd told her. It was late, nine at least. He tried not to get his hopes up.
"Sam." Andy stood in the entryway. She smiled tentatively at him. "Sarah...?"
"She's good." Sam said, closing the distance between them in four long strides.
"Good," Andy studied his face, "and you?"
Sam tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, caressing her cheek. She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. "I'm going to be."
She took one of his hands in hers and squeezed it. "I love you, you know." There was a tiny knot of cold fear in her stomach as she said those words. They didn't come easily.
Sam cupped her face between his palms and kissed her softly on the lips. "I love you, Andy." He whispered, pulling her gently into his arms.
They stood like that for several minutes, her head pillowed against his shoulder, his nose pressed into her hair. Sam pulled back first. "There's something I need to tell you, something I should have told you weeks ago."
Andy's eyes darted to his face. For a moment her heart seemed like it would pound out of her chest.
"It's about the night Sarah was attacked." He said, seeing the panic in her eyes.
Relief coursed through her veins and she managed a wobbly smile. "Okay," she said softly, taking his hand in hers, she led him to the living room.
Sam sat first and Andy curled up beside him, leaning into his chest. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders, absently curling a strand of hair around his finger.
"It was my friend Joe's ninth birthday..." Sam told his story in a voice that sometimes wavered but never quit. When he was done, Andy held him until his breathing evened out in sleep. She pulled a blanket over them both and lay her head against his chest. She could hear the steady thuh-thump of his heart. She let it lull her to sleep and for the first time she could remember, felt no desire to run.
A/N: Where to begin... I cannot believe I did it! I could not have done it without all of your wonderful, encouraging reviews. Extra special love to KittyKnighton, and RainbowWizard for holding my hand and never telling me to stop being a baby when I panicked over a chapter or plot arch, also to IceWitch73 whose well timed nudges pulled me out of more than one bought of writer's block in the last year.
I hope you all enjoyed this journey as much as I did and that no one is too disappointed with how and where I chose to end it. This ending has been the plan since at least chapter 9, but I've worried about it and nearly changed my mind a dozen times in the last few weeks. No epilogue or sequel is in my plans for this fic, but I have my next project already underway titled Looking at You Now, keep an eye out for the prologue in a few weeks.
Anyone who wants to know the story that Sam tells Andy, it's already posted as Innocence (though told by me, rather than Sam). Also, for anyone who is interested, I posted a new Sam/Andy video on my youtube channel (kwontonbejonaise) to express my angst over being finished this chapter of my life.
Thank you again everyone for all your support over the last year and a half. I am going to miss this story :S