Written in the Stars
“It’s going to be okay, Sammy.”
Sam looked at his brother, who was sitting beside him on the carpeted floor of Mary’s bedroom. The words were so familiar, too sacred for a song, more tangible than any prayer. There was no need for blind faith when your source of comfort was as solid as Dean Winchester.
“It’s almost midnight.” Sam glanced at the moon clock on the sky blue nursery wall. Its luminescent face glowed happily down at him. He turned his gaze to the ceiling where a revolving light cast a scattering of stars.
Dean pointed to a small cluster over Mary’s crib. “Look, it’s your old favorite constellation, Draco.”
Sam appreciated his brother’s attempt to distract him, but couldn’t muster the strength to pretend to be diverted by the childhood memory. “Shouldn’t Caleb have been back by now?”
Dean shifted the shotgun he was holding, resting it against the wooden chest of drawers behind them, and keeping the weapon within easy reach. “He’s doing one final sweep. You know how he is, more paranoid than Dad.”
More like because of Dad, Sam thought, but then Sam had been the one to send The Knight to recheck the salt at the door and windows downstairs for the third time. Sam was his father’s son. “What if it’s not enough?”
Dean’s shoulder brushed against his, offering Sam an anchor for his thoughts which were tumbling ahead into dark possibilities. “Nothing is going to happen to Mary. She’s safe.”
“She’s six months old.” Safe was an illusion, one Sam was more acutely aware of as a parent. He didn’t want to draw parallels, but couldn’t help to see the repeating pattern. Sam was a single parent. Understanding for the first time what kind of panic and sheer terror John Winchester endured. "You know what that means, Dean.”
“What I know is that Mary is sound asleep in her crib, which is encircled with salt and protected with every charm known to The Brotherhood and Joshua’s coven. Triad magic blankets the entire townhouse and we’re here on the frontline. Nothing is going to get past us.”
“We’ve thought of everything,” Sam said. He knew it was true. Sam had planned for this night for months with Dean, Caleb and Joshua’s help. He was determined to be prepared for whatever might come out of the night to ruin the life he’d sculpted out of the war’s rubble. “But I won’t feel better until this night is over.”
“Nothing happened with the boys,” Dean said. “Nothing is going to happen now.”
“I hope you’re right.” Sam held his brother’s gaze, not voicing what he was really thinking. Ben, JT and James shared DNA with Sam, but not his tainted blood. If one of their children was going to be marked by evil Sam feared it would be his direct lineage. Like Caleb, Sam believed the risk of procreating was too great. Lidia was under the impression she was unable to conceive. They intended for a long happy life together without children. Things had not gone as planned.
Dean’s gaze was unwavering. “I am.”
“What if I’ve cursed her to my fate?” Sam bit the edge of his thumb, letting his eyes travel the length of the room. The castle painted on the far wall gleamed in the artificial moonlight. Familiar dragons with grinning snouts stood sentry while a silver winged horse flew over head between two perfect cotton ball clouds. Sam almost expected to see himself staring out from the tower window instead of a tiny blonde princess with flowers in her hair beaming down on her faithful constituents. Maybe Lidia had been right all along and Sam was being selfish.
“Being your daughter has not doomed Mary to some terrible fate, Bro.”
“Unless that terrible fate is inheriting his looks.” Caleb’s entrance spared Sam a reply. He watched The Knight’s shadow fall across the intricate mural Caleb had painted. ”Let’s hope she takes after the Ice Queen in those regards.”
“Don’t call her that,” Sam said. He and Lidia may have had a parting of the ways, but they had agreed to stay civil.
“I have other names for her.” Caleb kept his voice low. He crossed to Mary’s crib, careful of the salt lines as he came to the edge of her bed. “I try to hold my tongue in front of the runt.”
Dean snickered and Sam cut his eyes to his brother. “Don’t you start.”
“What?” Dean feigned innocence.
“You know what,” Sam said. Caleb had definitely been the more vocal of the two after Lidia’s decision to return to Europe permanently, but Sam knew Dean’s feelings about the situation ran along the same course of those of his best friend.
“I had my peace with the woman,” Dean said. “I’m not saying another word about it.”
Sam pointed to Caleb. “Maybe you could teach him how to mind his own business.”
“I keep him on a short leash.” Dean folded his arms over his chest, shaking his head as if explaining one of Boo Radley’s infractions to a perturbed neighbor. “But he refuses to wear the muzzle.”
“She’s doing what she thinks is best.” Sam addressed Caleb’s back. He had lost track of how many times he’d spoken that statement over the last three months. It still rang hollow.
“Best for her.” Caleb picked up a stuffed animal from the bed, winding it. Soon the room was filled with the tinkling melody of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb. “Cold hearted bitch.”
The words were said softly with a singsong voice, but the venom still carried in the small room. “I heard that,” Sam said.
“Mary didn’t.” Caleb twirled the dream catcher mobile Missouri had made. “You’re a big boy, you can handle the truth.”
“Not everyone is cut out to be a mother.” Sam couldn’t blame Lidia. She had been honest with him from the get go. Kids hadn’t been a part of her agenda. She was relieved when Sam told her that wouldn’t be an issue with him. They had only been dating a few months when the topic came up. Sam had volunteered to take James and JT out to a movie, and Lidia wanted to come along. She was great with the boys, but made it very clear when she and Sam returned from dropping his nephews off at the farm that someone else’s children were the kind she liked best. At the time, Sam couldn’t have agreed more.
“And some animals eat their young.” Caleb moved to where Dean and Sam were, stretching out on the carpet in front of them. “I guess Mary got lucky.”
“She tried, Caleb.” They both did. Lydia had been torn about having the baby. She didn’t know if it was fair to bring a child into the world, when she was so conflicted about the role of being a mother. Sam was uncertain for other reasons, but none of his doubts were strong enough to take away all hope that they were being offered some kind of miracle.
“My ass.” Caleb snorted. “Things got tough and she ran out on you and Mary.”
“No, man,” Sam disagreed. “That’s not what happened.” There had been no running. It was more like a very slow fading away. He watched for months as Lidia struggled to be what she thought Mary needed, what Sam needed. All the while the light left Lidia’s eyes, as sure as if she were succumbing to some terrible illness. In the end Sam couldn’t bare to be responsible for one more death, even a symbolic one. Lidia didn’t run, Sam begged her to go.
Dean bumped his shoulder. “By all his brooding, you would think Damien was the one who got dumped.”
“I didn’t get dumped, jerk.” Sam punched his brother in the arm. He might have known the breakup and inevitable divorce was for the best but it still stung when Lidia jumped at her chance for freedom. Sam convinced himself she had struggled with the idea, that she was greatly pained by the separation, but in the end that hadn’t stopped her from leaving. She took another piece of Sam’s heart with her.
“Hey…” Dean rubbed his arm. “I was taking up for you.”
“Don’t,” Sam said, forcing a half grin. “You’ve done quite enough.” Sam took solace in the fact he wasn’t alone. Dean had done more than enough. He’d been with Sam every step of the way since the war. No one cheered louder than Dean when Sam graduated from law school. His brother had proudly stood up for him at his and Lidia’s wedding, was at his side the first time the nurse placed Mary in Sam’s trembling arms. Dean was also there for the long nights after Lidia left, the endless ones that bled into one another leaving Sam feeling helpless to soothe his inconsolable daughter and tempted to run away himself.
“I’m on his side, too, Deuce,” Caleb said. “I’m just watching the runt’s back, that’s all.”
Sam groaned. “Please don’t call her that.” He’d lived with the nickname far too long to see it passed down to his daughter. It was one dreadful inheritance he could spare her.
Caleb kicked his foot. “I was talking about you.”
Sam snorted. “I appreciate the concern, really. Just lay off, Lidia.” Dean wasn’t the only one in Sam’s corner. Caleb was family and there was nothing The Knight took more seriously. He wasn’t the most accepting of new people into their inner circle, but once there, he gave them his complete loyalty and expected the same in return. In Caleb’s eyes Lidia had committed the ultimate sin of robbing Mary of the most precious gift-a mother.
“Give it up, Sammy,” Dean said. “Damien’s never going to forgive Lidia for denying him the title of Godfather.”
“You could revoke Josh’s title now that Medusa’s gone.” Caleb visibly brightened. “Have your lawyer write it in as a condition of the divorce.”
“I am not changing Mary’s Godparents.” Sam and Lidia made the decision to choose Joshua and Carolyn together. The couples lived in the same city, had spent a great deal of time with one another, and the fact Carolyn was pregnant with Jocelyn at the same time had been a source of comfort to Lidia. “Besides, you’re already JT’s and James’s Godfather. I think you’ll have your hands full guiding them, trust me.”
“Are you trying to say something about my boys, Sammy?” Dean asked.
“It sure as hell sounded like it to me,” Caleb added. “Definitely the pot calling the kettle black.”
“What does that mean?” Sam asked.
“It means that James could have sprung from your head, Zeus,” Dean smacked his brother. “He’s just like you were at his age.”
“What?” Sam had grown used to the comparisons to his youngest nephew, as unjust as they were. “I wasn’t the one always in trouble.”
“That’s because you were too busy ratting us out for a quick buck,” Caleb said.
“I had your best interests at heart,” Sam defended. “I didn’t want to see you get hurt.”
Caleb arched a brow. “Then you’ll understand if Lidia goes missing.”
“That’s not funny,” Sam said, hoping The Knight was joking. He wished no harm to his soon to be ex-wife. The fact they were no longer together didn’t change what they had shared. Lidia was the first woman Sam had allowed completely in after Ruby. She was beautiful and smart in a way that reminded him of Jessica. She believed in Sam, her ambition and confidence helping him to further his talents as The Scholar. More importantly, she had given Sam the greatest gift he hadn’t known he was missing. Lidia had given him Mary.
“It’s a little funny,” Dean said. “Luca Brasi could at least pay her a visit if she doesn’t hold up her end of the custody deal.”
“I think I can handle my wife without help from the ‘Family’.” Lidia had not objected to Sam’s request for full custody. She hoped to remain on the peripheral of Mary’s life, a presence, however faraway. Sam wanted his daughter to know her mother, sparing her another of his regrets.
“As long as you remember the motto,” Caleb said. “One for all and all for one.”
Sam doubted he could ever forget the coda they lived by. “As long as that doesn’t entail you running my ex through with a sword, I’m good.”
“I’ll practice great restraint, for the runt’s sake.”
Sam wasn’t sure if Caleb was referring to him or Mary, but the beeping of the alarm on his watch momentarily claimed all his attention. He stared down at the glowing numbers. “It’s just past midnight.”
“Mary’s officially six months and one day old.” Caleb gave a little whoop. “I think this calls for a Triad celebration.”
“I put the beer in the fridge,” Dean said. “Grab the leftover pizza, too.”
“You bet.” Caleb stood, ruffling Sam’s hair as he passed by him. “It’s over, Runt. Coast is clear.”
Sam watched The Knight go, glancing to his brother. “It’s over?”
“Funny how time flies when you’re having fun.”
“You two picking on me isn’t my idea of fun.” Sam thought back to the conversation, how he’d been drawn from his fear by the familiar bickering and banter. The same thing had happened at the hospital the night Mary had been born, only Caleb and Dean had been arguing about a recent hunt and how Sam hadn’t pulled his weight. He briefly wondered if The Guardian and Knight planned the strategy in advance.
“Beats scared shitless any day.”
“Yeah. I guess it does.” Sam rolled his eyes, disgusted at how easily the older men manipulated him. He would have to warn James, but doubted JT and Ben would be able to thwart their younger brother so easily. “Go ahead and say it, Dean.”
Dean grinned and Sam felt some of the weight of the world slide from his shoulders. “Told you so.”
Sam shook his head, falling back onto the carpet with a heavy sigh. “We dodged the bullet but why do I still have this awful knot in my gut.” He closed his eyes picturing Mary’s sleeping face, her tiny bow shaped lips slightly parted in sweet breath, little hands wrapped around WooBee, who Dean had rescued and repaired. The image brought both peace and persecution.
Dean lay down beside him. “That’s the parent curse.”
Sam turned his head to look at his brother. “Does it get any easier?”
“No,” Dean said. “Once they escape the crib, it only gets worse.”
“Great.” Sam didn’t want to think past tonight. Tonight his little girl was completely safe, protected.
“But I’ll let you in on a little secret, Sammy.” Dean propped his hands behind his head, staring up at the stars above them. “It’s all worth it, man.”
Sam looked up at the heavenly constellations, thankful yet again for his brother’s steadfast presence by his side. “Look.” He pointed to the spot on the ceiling directly above them. “There’s your favorite.”
Dean nodded. “The Hunter’s still looking out for us.”
Sam had a feeling Orion wasn’t the only one keeping watch from above. He moved his arm, so that his shoulder rested lightly against his brother. “Thanks, Dean.”
“You’re welcome, Sammy.” Dean turned then, giving Sam a quick grin. “But if you think six months is bad, wait until she turns sixteen.”
Sam looked at his brother a moment then began to laugh. Dean joined him and the sound was far more sacred than any song, more tangible than a prayer.