Title: The Edge of Goodbye
Word Count: 1,068
Notes: For the challenge to use the dialogue “Sometimes you just need a change” in a fic. Based on Sara’s bio in the official companion book.
“Are you sure?”
The second the words left his lips, Sam wanted to take them back, the impulse only strengthening when he saw the expression on Sara’s face: the narrowed eyes, the set of the jaw, the flash of irritation in her eyes. Shaking his head, he held up his hands, affecting a rueful chuckle that he didn’t quite feel.
“Don’t shoot,” he quipped, and she tried to smile, but he’d seen a real Sara-smile, and this one wasn’t even close.
“I’m sure,” she said, in a tone that said she’d already been asked this question innumerable times, had answered it just as many times, and was thoroughly sick of it. “I have the credits… my other teachers think it’s a good idea.” The emphasis on “other” was deliberate, the word said with a raised eyebrow and a slightly mocking lilt. “And Harvard is offering me a full scholarship… I’d be crazy not to take it.”
Put so logically, all Sam could do was nod, say, “You’re right.” But still, he had his misgivings, and since he was her friend, and her teacher, he felt honour-bound to voice them. “But Sara… you’re so young…”
“I’m almost seventeen,” she protested, and when he shook his head, this time, his chuckle was genuine.
Rolling her eyes, she didn’t even try to keep the irritation from her voice. “And you measure your age in centuries Sam.” Blowing air out between her lips, she ran a hand through her hair, and he almost hear her counting to ten, trying to keep a rein on her temper. “I know you think I shouldn’t be doing this…” she said eventually. “I know you think I’m too young… but I need to do this. Sometimes… sometimes you just need a change.”
He cringed, not so much at her words, but at the soft whisper in which they were uttered, the sense of utter desolation underlying them. Recalling some of the things she’d told him over the previous two years, or rather, the whispers he’d overheard in the corridors of the school, he had a hunch as to why she was so eager to get away from here. “How are things at home?” he asked carefully, and he knew that his suspicions were near to the mark when her eyes flickered downwards, when she turned away from him.
“The same,” was all she said, a verbal closed door if ever he’d heard one, and he nodded slowly, changing the subject.
“I understand all about change,” he told her. “I’ve seen more than my fair share.” At that, she looked over her shoulder at him, the faintest ghost of a smile playing about her lips. “But I’m your friend Sara… and I’m allowed to worry about you.”
She grinned, leaning back against a tree trunk. “This is what I want to do Sam,” she told him. “It’s what I need to do.” She certainly sounded clear about it, and the more he listened to her, the more he felt himself being swayed; Sara’s clarity of thought, her wisdom that was far beyond her years, had always been one of the things he most admired about her. “I’ve thought about this… it’s not some schoolgirl whim… this is a good thing.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you Sara,” he said, taking a deliberate pause for breath before adding, “It’s the world I don’t trust.”
There was a second’s silence, then the woods rang to the sound of her laughter. Her shoulders shook with mirth, and Sam took a mental picture of her in just that moment, pushing aside once again any inappropriate thoughts. On the edge of seventeen, she was a child by anyone’s standards, let alone an Immortal of some five hundred years of age.
Still though, there was a persistent voice in the back of his mind that told him that Sara Sidle was no ordinary sixteen-year-old.
“Cynic,” she accused, and he let his shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. He opened his mouth to say something, but she stopped him by holding up one hand. “That’s not an invitation to tell me stories about your longevity.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” The tilt of her head, the twitch of her lips, spoke loud and clear of her scepticism, but he ignored the hints. “But I do understand Sara… about needing a change.”
She blinked in obvious confusion, then her face cleared and fell. “You’re leaving.” It was a flat statement, not a question.
“In the summer,” he confirmed, though unlike her, he hadn’t really thought it through, hadn’t known his decision until just this moment.
She nodded slowly, wrapping her arms around herself, her throat visibly working. She couldn’t, or wouldn’t, look at him, and her voice was shaking when she spoke. “Do you know where?”
“Not yet.” He walked over to stand beside her, leaning one shoulder against the tree. “But I’m just leaving Tomales Bay, Sara… we’ll keep in touch.”
She looked up at him then, eyes bright. “That was going to be my line,” she told him.
He shrugged. “I guess great minds really do think alike.”
A weak joke that garnered a weak laugh, but he didn’t mind that, was grateful for it. “We’re doing the right thing,” she said, and he couldn’t be sure, but he had a feeling that she was trying to convince herself, as well as him.
Which, as it turned out, wasn’t such a bad thing, because for the first time in many a long year, he’d grown used to sharing his secret with someone, wasn’t sure how he was going to go back to his solitary existence. Likewise, Sara didn’t make friends easily, and, no matter the secrecy their friendship demanded, between the constraints of the teacher-pupil relationship, and just general Immortal matters, he’d seen her come out of her shell around him, knew how much she valued the time they spent together.
Finally giving in to temptation, he reached out a hand, laid it on her shoulder. “Of course we are,” he agreed. “Like you said, sometimes, you just need a change.”
Over the last two years, he’d assured her of many things; this was the first time he’d ever been less than entirely truthful with her. Because even if he’d learned in five hundred years that change might be a necessary thing, that didn’t make it any easier to embrace.