Spoilers and/or Warnings: through "Pilot"
Notes: A huge thanks to ariadne83 for the beta; thanks for sharing my fannish brain
Title, Author and URL of original story: Five things Sam never knew about Jessica by clex_monkie89.
Excerpt from original story: Sam knows that Jess thinks she believes in ghosts, not the real ones he's seen but the Hollywood idea of them. She thinks the dorm is haunted (which, given, it is) and has told several people, including Sam. He, of course, made fun of her and implied she might not be very bright for thinking such things. He still feels like shit for that. Sam knows that Jess tried to talk to the spirit (a girl who fell off the roof drunk and broke her neck) once. Jess never told him that the girl talked back though. And Jess certainly never told Sam what the spirit, Julia, said about him. It was probably all lies anyway. Sam can't even shoot a pellet gun, she's seen him try.
Five things Sam never knew about Jessica (the family business remix)
“I fell and fell and fell,” Julia says. “I’m still falling.” Her image stutters, an intermittent signal.
She is frightening like nothing Jess has ever seen before; Julia’s spirit is not grotesque or bleeding or rotting or any of the other Hollywood conventions she halfway expected. Julia’s head sits upright on her neck with nothing to indicate that her throat folded like an accordion when she hit the sidewalk. Nonetheless, the wrong radiates off her pale skin, her dark spiky hair, the inhuman intensity of her gaze. When she moves, Julia flashes from place to place like there’s a skip in Jess’s memory, as if Jess slowly blinked her eyes and gave Julia time to walk across the dorm roof and up into her personal space.
Jess should leave; she knows that. She should inch away from the dead girl until she reaches the service door and then run like hell until the coast is clear. But she won’t. “So this is what a ghost looks like,” Jess thinks.
Sam laughed at her the first time she told him Whitman was haunted. “Come on,” he said. “Ghosts, Jess? Really?” And then he shook his head, grinning the kind of condescending grin she never expected to see him wear. Jess wanted to punch him in his goddamn dimples, but she restrained herself. Sam is usually so earnestly sweet and caring—he hand-washes her bras when they accidentally get mixed into his laundry, for christ’s sake!—that Jess can overlook the first proof that he isn’t perfect; his denial of the afterlife is not the hill she wants to die on.
Sam feels Julia, too, she knows he does—that electricity in the air on the second floor, that sense of being watched. But he denies it every time, his eyes wide and innocent like he’s not lying. Jess keeps her mouth shut now.
After Sam laughed at her twice, Jess went to the library and searched for campus deaths. Julia wasn’t particularly difficult to find. She hasn’t been dead that long. “Freshman Fatally Falls during Annual Heaven and Hell Bash”—in what Jess supposes is the worst example of taking the theme literally in party history. Now she knows why access to the roof is closed off.
Jess couldn’t pick the lock on the service door, but she could damn sure swipe the keys from the RA. Kelli is a sweetie and a sucker for blondes and Jess won’t feel guilty for making eyes at someone else when Sam is being such a dick, especially since she has no intention of following through. Unless Sam continues being a dick, in which case, all bets are off.
So here she is, on the roof with Julia, proving her boyfriend wrong.
“Can I help you?” Jess says. “Can I do something to help you?”
Julia laughs. “How, sweetie? You got Herbert West’s secret diary in your back pocket?” She flashes closer, so close that Jess can feel the hideous cold that surrounds her. “I’m dead. No undoing that.”
Jess takes a step back. “I thought ghosts only stuck around when they had unfinished business.”
“I do have unfinished business, you bitch! What about my life?” Julia is angry. All the hairs stand up on Jess’s arms; she holds her breath and wills her body motionless.
After what seems like a very long time but probably isn’t, Julia deflates. “That’s okay, sweetie. You didn’t know. Nobody knows.” She skips away to the edge of the roof, a time elapsed photograph. “Nobody knows what happens when you die.”
“But you know,” Jess says.
“You’d think. Only not so much.” Julia balances on the edge of the roof. “You fall, you die, and Roma Downey tries to lead you into the great beyond. Only she won’t say where that is or what comes next and I didn’t go.” Julia jumps and Jess stifles the urge to scream; it isn’t as if Julia can die any more than she already has.
“I didn’t go,” Julia says from behind Jess, “and now I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to.”
Jess turns around very carefully. “I’m sorry,” she says.
Julia grins and for one moment she looks the way she must have when she was living. “You know, I really think you are.”
“I have to get home,” Jess says and Julia’s expression turns ugly again.
She grabs Jess’s arm and Jess can feel the chill clear to the bone. “Don’t leave,” Julia says. “I haven’t talked to anyone in such a long time.”
“Please,” Jess says and she’s rather proud of the way she doesn’t panic. She doesn’t cry or try to jerk her arm from a grip she’s sure would not give. Just that one word and then she waits.
Julia’s face twists into something that Jess doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to describe, something from Wes Craven’s wet dreams, a distortion that she knows she will see in the dark every night when she closes her eyes. “Go then, but you’ll wish you’d stayed.” Julia drops her arm, and Jess rubs the dark marks her fingers left behind. “You’re gonna burn. You’re gonna burn,” Julia chants.
Jess stops her backward crawl to the service door. “What do you mean?”
“Put on a white nightie and call you mommy. Ask Sam what it smells like when he sets a woman on fire.”
Then Jess runs, balls out, certain that she will fling herself headlong down the stairs and break her own neck. When she is in the parking lot, she risks a look behind. Julia is on the roof walking the ledge. “Note to self,” Jess says out loud, “head toward the light.”
Jess digs up what she can on Sam in the two hours before she’s due at his place. It’s not much. His mother died in a house fire that he never could have started; he was only six months old. He moved around a lot; his university file lists more high schools than Jess has ever seen (thank you, job in Admissions) and when she calls in a favor from Hank in MIS (he owes her big time for bio), she finds the warrants. Grave robbing and desecration of corpses, specifically with fire.
“That son of a bitch,” she says. “He knew the whole time.”
She takes a shower before she goes to Sam’s apartment, but she can’t erase the marks Julia left on her arm.
“What’s this?” he says, laying his fingers across Julia’s handprint.
“Just a bruise,” she says. Sam looks like he doesn’t believe her. He opens his mouth to speak and she cuts him off. “I went up on the roof of Whitman tonight and I think I saw something. The figure of a woman maybe. I’m going back tomorrow to make sure.”
Sam panics, quietly, for several hours. He doesn’t think Jess notices, but she does.
“I have to study,” he says around midnight and practically shoves Jess out the door.
Sam goes with her to Whitman the next night, and Jess can tell Julia is gone before they even reach the roof. Jess sits with her back against Sam’s chest and together they watch the moon arc over campus. Jess knows who Sam is, who her Sam is—he makes her breakfast in bed, and he can run a mile in six minutes; he reads two chapters ahead in all his classes, and he sucks ass at paintball. The boy’s aim is off.
This new Sam? The one who makes ghosts disappear? He’s a stranger.
Jess thinks she’ll keep it that way.