Chapter 1: What the Rest Have
“Shouldn’t she be socializing with other babies?”
Josh hadn’t meant to say that out loud. It was just a thought that popped into his head as he watched his first (and hopefully not his last) baby with Sam in the Hartleys’ backyard. Sam had just gotten done squealing adorably with Ashley, expectant with her and Chris’ second already. (Damn, his best friend worked fast!) Now she was by Josh’s side with the drinks she walked off to get for them almost twenty minutes ago. He looked down at her and decided to play it off as a joke.
“I mean my kid, right?” he tried to laugh, “The isolating is to be expected.”
Sam didn’t look convinced though as she looked over at the children in the grass. Grace Munroe with her little brother, Mike Jr. were running around the trees and through the bushes with little Josh Hartley (he was pretty honored by that name choice, to be honest). Lizzie, short for Elizabeth (Beth, God rest her soul, would have hated that they used her full name) on the other hand was off by herself. She was not much younger than little Josh, about two months maybe. Yet she had no interest in joining the other kids playing. She looked content just sitting on her blanket with one of those obnoxious toys people gave kids that drive parents crazy. It was a gift from Matt who had no kids of his own with Emily yet.
“I guess it is a little weird,” Sam said as if she had never considered it, “That she doesn’t really have any friends yet.”
Josh felt like shit after that. It had been a stray thought and now his, uh well whatever Sam was to him, was fretting over it. Really he needed to learn to keep stupid thoughts to himself.
“Well I mean, I was a loner for years til I met Chris. I turned out fine,” he said as happily as he could manage to. Sam looked if anything even more worried. Ouch. That was probably why this relationship went undefined at the moment.
“Maybe we need to put her in a daycare for few hours a day,” Sam continued as if he has said nothing, “You know speed things along.”
“Sam she is fine,” Josh tried his best to backtrack pulling her to face him, “She will figure it out in her own time. Shouldn’t we let her do that?”
Sam sighed bringing her eyes back to the baby still alone and seemingly happy that way. She looked just so very sad about the idea that something could be wrong with their little Lizzie. So sad that Josh decided her should relent and let her have her way. God he was the king of screwing shit up.
“You’re right,” he said releasing her, “You are always right. The last thing we want is for her to end up like me.”
“Josh,” Sam said crossing her arms, “That’s- it’s complicated.”
She looked behind her as if this wasn’t the place for this but then she quietly pressed on.
“Josh there is so much about Lizzie that reminds me of you,” her voice was barely above a whisper, “Things that make me so happy. She laughs big like you. She is dramatic like you. She is one of the most loving babies I have ever seen. Just like you her dad. There is so much of the you I love in her.”
Josh felt a little light when she said that. She had used the word love. She LOVED him. In some way, in some capacity she did. But Sam’s next words dragged him off cloud nine.
“Can you blame me if I just don’t want her to be like you in that one way?”
Josh nodded. He felt pretty awful but he had brought it on himself. He sucked in many, many ways. Proof being that the thing both he and Sam loved most in the world came about because of one stupid night he came to her distressed and ended up in her bed. A night she said maybe they should just forget when they woke up the next day.
But they couldn’t and not for any of the reasons Josh hoped she wouldn’t, but because of Lizzie.
“I think I’m gonna go ask Ashley and Jess which daycares they use,” Sam said stepping back from him, “She might do better with a familiar face or two.”
“Good -” he could barely get the word out, “Good plan.”
With that she stepped away from him and over towards Jess hanging off Mike’s arm by the grill. It was no wonder how they had popped out two kids already with how crazy they still were about each other all this time later. He glanced to two best friends to see Chris with his head against Ashley’s stomach as if he was listening to something. Emily and Matt had gotten married last fall, it was enough to assume they would follow soon after his other coupled up friends on the baby front. They rest them had…
Josh looked to his daughter still on her blanket in the grass more sure than ever her, him and Sam might never really be a family.
Chapter 2: Saying it
Song Prompt: Dark Star by Jaymes Young
Rating: K+ mostly tame
“We could go somewhere else if you want to?” Sam asked sitting up to look down at him.
“I’ve drifted through the universe just to lay beside you,” Josh drawled dramatically, “We are staying. At least for another hour.”
Sam laughed. She always thought he was kidding when he said overly romantic things like that to her. She claimed he was just being cheesy on purpose to make her laugh. So with a smile Sam lay herself back into the bend of his arm, head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest to feel his heart beating. He hoped hers was just as fast. He felt his body stiffen and she must have too.
“So which star did you come from then?” she asked pointing to the night sky far up above their heads. She thought he was teasing. She always thought he was teasing. She never understood how very literal he was being when he said these thing. Josh really and truly felt he had traveled vast space for a long time to be with her.
“The darkest one,” he sighed. She sat up again worry, and god so much love, etched on her face after he said it. He must have sounded as bad as he felt.
“Josh we can leave if you don’t want to be here,” she smiled in a very silly way as if to mock him, “Anywhere you want me to take you, I’ll go.”
“I want to be here,” he answered, “So long as it’s with you.”
She snorted a laugh and annoyed Josh say up next to her. Why? Why did she think he couldn’t be serious about loving her? Why did she always think it was a joke?
“You don’t understand,” he bit but of course she didn’t. No coherent thought could really explain it, “My heart was born out of the fire.”
She looked no less confused. Why couldn’t he say it in real words?
“I’ve lost love a thousand years ago,” he stressed, “And, still I can’t find her. Unless- except with you.”
Now she looked worried again as if he was speaking nonsense. Of course she did because he WAS speaking nonsense. He hit his own head with both his fists. How was this so hard for him? How come he couldn’t just say he loved her more than anyone could love another person? That he felt dead until he was with her? How was that so very hard?
‘Because,’ his own mind answered, ‘You’re lying to her.’
Yeah he knew that.
“Sam,” he started sadly, “I need you to know that I’m a dark star.”
“What?” she asked as if she had missed some joke he told.
“Sam, if I told where I’ve been,” he asked quietly, “Would you still call me baby?”
She looked scandalized by the very thought as she said firmly, “No!”
“Josh, I care about you,” she insisted, “Nothing you say could change that.”
He wanted to believe her so he could just say it. Say it how a normal person would. Say ‘I’m fucked up in the head.’ Say ‘maybe this isn’t the best thing for you.’ Say ‘I really just don’t know how to be close to someone who isn’t Beth or Hannah.’
“My heart was born in the fire.” is what he ended up saying out loud though. He would give anything for her not to look confused anymore. Anything.
“I’ve got stories I could tell you,” he continued on as if she wasn’t staring at him like he was, well, exactly what he was: crazy.
“If I want to,” he petered out, “If you want to.”
“Of course I want to,” She was just as quiet when she spoke as him.
“And if I told you everything,” he felt like he was asking himself as much as he was asking her, “Would you call me crazy?”
“Never!” God, how could she be sure? She didn’t even know what any of it was. She didn’t know any of it. He sighed one last time. He tried to push it but he couldn’t. No matter how he tried he couldn’t.
“I’ve looked a long time to find you,” Josh whispered with forced joy in his voice. She smiled, a laugh behind her eyes. Then she rolled those same gorgeous eyes at him.
“It’s not funny to scare me like that,” she said, “I thought you were being serious.”
She tackled him to the ground after that giggling, “I’d be mad if you weren’t so damn cute.”
“Sorry,” he said pulling her back to lay on him as he looked passed her head to the night sky. It’s too bad she might never know what it was he was sorry for.