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Sam still reads the paper every morning. The death doesn't strike him as odd; college kids get drunk and do stupid things far more frequently than other people, and Stanford is a big place-- with that many people, some of them must be dying. It's sort of like the law of averages. A kid takes a bungee cord to the eye and falls into a pool, drowns. It's sad, but stranger things have happened.

But the spoon stops halfway to his mouth a few words later-- another male student, similar in build and basic physical characteristics, drowned nearby exactly five years ago. Sam pushes his cereal bowl aside and grabs his laptop, pulling up the newspaper's online archives. It's there until 1994-- a death in late September, drowning in a pool, lake, or ocean, every year.

Sam loves the library closest to his dorm, all ancient oak shelves and tables, light filtering in through enormous windows like it's a church. It's there he finds the answers: Lizbeth Johnston. Her boyfriend drowned her in a lake, September 27, 1974. Apparently she was pregnant. The boyfriend was a Stanford student, similar in build to the kid who died a week ago.

It's an easy hunt, a simple vengeful spirit salt-and-burn gig, only half an hour door-to-door from his dorm to the Gates of Heaven Cemetery, where the Lizbeth Johnston is buried, at least according to MapQuest. If it was any harder, Sam probably would've called Bobby to let him know what was going on, give him the chance to call another one of his contacts. As it is, Sam's thankful he doesn't have to do that-- how would Bobby react? Sam doesn't know. And there's always the chance, however slight, he'd send Dad and Dean, and that would be... uncomfortable, in all likelihood.

Carl, Sam's roommate, is practically catatonic in front of his computer; he doesn't look up when Sam comes in, barely grunts when Sam says "Hey, what's up?" Sam loads his stash of hunting supplies from the back of his closet into his duffel bag and mentions something about probably being out overnight. "Yeah, man, that's cool," he hears Carl say as the door closes behind him.

Finding a car's not really an issue. "Hey, John, it's Sam. Can I borrow your truck? Just for tonight, I'd have it back by morning, man. I gotta run down to Sunnyvale. Yeah, it's just a family thing." John's kind of a pothead, Sam's learned, and he'll buy pretty much anything. He's a nice guy, and Sam hates how easily he lies.

Sam hates the highway. Growing up, it was a prison, an endless limbo between the heavens and hells contained in the towns he lived in and had to leave. To find himself on it again in the middle of the night, albeit in John's truck rather than the Impala or dad's truck, is disconcerting. But old habits are hard to break, even beyond scanning the paper every morning for suspicious deaths or incidents alongside the latest world and national news, so he's driving to the hunt instead of studying or sleeping, pilfered spade in the backseat next to the coffee can Dean packed with rock salt and the dish detergent bottle filled with lighter fluid.

Finding the grave is easy, although it's the first time he's done this himself. Normally he'd have Dean next to him, matching him stride for stride, and maybe Dad in front of them, a dark silhouette pointing the flashlight. The night feels empty, somehow, hollow, when he's alone, with only the night's natural noises for company-- the thick leaves of the trees rustling in the wind, the swish of the occasional bird's wings. The cemetery is all wide and well-defined paths, though, and Lizbeth's grave is relatively easy to find.

What he finds, though, is a shock.

A mound of dirt is next to it, and it grows in time with the rhythmic sounds Sam knows to be the shoveling of dirt from a grave. His right hand creeps of its own volition to the back of his waistband and silently pulls out the knife he tucked in there earlier. His left hand aims the flashlight's beam down into the grave.

It takes him a moment to identify the figure-- the short, coppery hair is matted with dirt, and he doesn't usually wear clothing so dark, but it's definitely Jake from Sam's Intro to Foreign Policy seminar.

"Jake?"

"Oh, uh, this isn't what it looks like... wait, Sam?"

Sam grins sheepishly. "Er, hi?"

"What are you doing here?" It's kind of funny, actually, or it would be if all of Sam's senses weren't screaming things like Danger! and Abort! and Shit! and This is not supposed to be happening!-- Jake's all streaked in dirt and sweat from the exertion of shoveling the fucking grave to get to the same body that Sam was trying to destroy. He's shorter than Sam even on level ground, but in a hole four feet deep, the height disparity makes the authority he's trying to project over his nervousness as he squints into Sam's flashlight beam laughable. And even though the situation's totally fucking weird, and he's got all of these weird feelings in his stomach, dread and anxiety and ohshitohshitohshit, he's still got the upper hand, because he's not knee-deep in a grave. For all Jake knows, he's visiting someone's grave to leave them a duffel bag's worth of flowers in the middle of the night. Sam's struggling to maintain his composure when Jake gets it. "Oh... Sam Winchester."

"Yeah." Sam says. "Like the rifle."

"You wanna lend a guy a hand, then?"

They work in quiet companionship, spades thunking into the earth and out again. They're done in almost no time, and as soon as the flames leap from the grave, Sam turns, packs up his stuff, and goes.

Jake jogs after him. "My dad's not like yours. It's just a weekend thing for him. Our family's been doing it for generations, but never a full-time gig like your dad. It's just something he does-- we do-- to make the world a little less ugly." He pauses. Sam feels Jake watching his face for a reaction. "We're never gonna talk about this again, are we?"

"I'd prefer not to. I mean, you've heard about my dad. I'm trying to start over."

"Who says it has to be one or the other?"

"My dad." Sam closes the truck's door.
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