This story takes place between 3x08 and the Christmas Special. Enjoy!
Little Fallen Star
Nights were the hardest.
No matter how he had done in the day, no matter how distracted he had been by the mundane, it wasn't enough. He'd be losing himself in thoughts of the estate, or of the news from Ireland, when something small would trigger an avalanche. A quiet sound from Sibby. Hearing rain patter on the window as it had in their house in Dublin.
Tonight it was the footsteps of a maid in the hall. He didn't realize that he had hoped the footsteps were Sybil coming to bed until they passed. The disappointment spread across his chest like a weighted, winged creature that sank into his rushing blood and aching heart as it became the monster of grief that he had tried to keep caged all day.
Closing his eyes, he tried to will the beast away.
Not tonight when I am so tired.
But his exhaustion was what attracted the grief. It loved to attack when he was weak. And he was weak. It had been over a year but he was so very weak.
There was no use in fighting anymore. The monster had won.
With a victorious chill, the dark beast strangled his throat and clawed his heart until tears spilled from his eyes. He knew from past experience that his weeping could awaken his daughter, so he curled up on his side, burying his face in his pillow.
His shoulders shook as the beast inside fed and fed.
He felt her fingers on his cheek, saw her eyes crinkling in a smile. Oh, that smile. It had kept him alive surer than air for over seven years after Lady Sybil had first looked his way. The time felt like an eternity and the blink of an eye all in one.
How many nights had he spent restless in his cottage, pining for a love that he never dared hope could be his? How many nights had he wept for what was not to be? Then the war ended and she had said yes, and his tears were of a wholly different make.
Everything since that night in the garage felt like a dance, for he was aware of scents and sounds and Sybil's lips and hands, but the rest of the world was a confusing blur around them. It reached a fever pitch the night she was torn from him.
Unbidden, the image of her back arched as she struggled for air, the veins in her neck bulging, came into his head for the thousandth time. The beast loved to surprise him with the sharpness of that memory and he hated it for it.
Her death had been relatively swift, for which he was grateful, but the suffering… the contortions… the confusion and suffocation. So many times he wished he had done something different, said something different. But he had been engulfed by confusion and panic and didn't realize it was their final moments together. Final…
"Oh, Sybil…" he gasped, clawing at the pillow that moistened with his tears. "I'm so sorry, love. I'm so sorry…"
A part of him still couldn't accept the shock of it. That the love of his life, the mother of his child, his entire world, could die with such understatement. Just a few gasps and taut muscles and she was gone. No speeches, no grace. No sense.
No sense. Because death made no sense.
Why did it even have to happen at all?
He must've let out a loud gasp for Sibby started fussing. He quieted himself, hoping she'd go back to sleep, but when she let out a wail, he rose, crossing the room to her.
His daughter peered up at him in the moonlight, her dark hair a mess and her blue eyes shimmering with tears.
"Oh, darlin'. I've got you."
Scooping her up, he checked her diaper to make sure she was dry then carried her to his bed, rubbing her back. She stopped fussing as his heat soothed her, and he crawled under the blankets for the night was unseasonably cold.
Sibby's tears abated with her father's and he wiped at his cheeks and kissed the top of her head, relief snaking through him as her small presence silenced the demon inside. No, not small. Tremendous.
Sibby was as bright a fey light as her mother.
"Hey," Tom whispered, placing his finger under her chin so that the baby looked up at him. "I love you."
Sibby chewed on her lower lip, gazing at him with tearstained cheeks.
He used his thumb to wipe away her tear trails and as the grief started to pace and growl in his chest, chanting that Sybil should be here to adore her daughter, he silenced it by drinking in his baby's features as she sat up on his chest.
Her cheeks were round and full, and she was rather unremarkable looking for a baby, but she had her mother's coloring. And she was his baby.
While he would never begrudge the help he had in raising her, and hated himself for being all but useless to his own child in those first few weeks, he cherished moments like this the most, when the two were alone.
She was just a baby on the brink of toddlerhood and he was just a father. There were no lords or ladies, mansions or servants. Just love.
He planted a kiss on her soft cheek, relishing in the scent of her cradle head and the way her chubby flesh dimpled under his lips. The demon whispered that they had planned to have another child to keep Sibby company, and that she would be grown before he knew it, but Tom quieted the voice by tickling her sides.
The baby smiled, showing off her tiny front teeth, and he grinned.
"You know you're not a baby at all, are ya? You're a little fallen star."
Sibby smiled contentedly and patted at his chest. Tom caught one of her hands in his and guided it about, drawing shapes in the darkness. Sibby cooed, watching their linked limbs. Then nearly broke his heart when she slumped onto his chest with a happy "Dada."
He ran his fingers through her hair and the tears were back, only this time, they were from another beast. This one was made of brilliant colors and fire, baby laughs and little sounds, for it was his love for his daughter, and was the only thing that could truly silence the black-winged grief.
Rubbing her back again, he rolled over onto his side with a sniffle, adoring the way her small body instinctively curled into his warmth. She trusted him without any ounce of hesitation, even though he was so much bigger than her. And that blind faith and trust overwhelmed him every day. Nothing on earth had ever made him brim with such love.
Though he knew he should carry her back to her crib, he didn't have the heart to move just yet. Running his fingers through her soft hair, he whisper-sang a lullaby that his mother had sung to him.
"Coo roo koo, cooruku, coo ru ku, coo ku
Coo roo koo, cooruku, coo ru ku, coo ku
Oh hush thee my dove, oh hush thee my sweet love
Oh hush thee my lap wing, my dear little bird.
Oh, fold your wings and seek your nest now
The berries shine on the old rowan tree
The bird is home from the hills and valleys
Coo roo koo, cooruku, coo ru ku, coo ku
Coo roo koo, cooruku, coo ru ku, coo ku."
Sibby was a floppy, slumbering bundle at his side when his voice faded. Giving her one last kiss, he sat up to take her back to her crib when he spied his spare pillows cast on the floor. His flesh rippled with goosebumps. It was very cold.
Leaning down to snag the pillows, he placed them around Sibby in a barricade to keep her from falling off the bed, and then placed one between them because he was terrified he'd squash her in his sleep. Tucking her in, he snuggled back under the covers and slipped his arm under the pillow between them, resting a finger in her palm. Her little hand gently closed around his and he smiled, watching the rise and fall of her chest.
The last thing he was conscious of as he fell asleep was the strength of the little heart beside his, banishing even the mightiest of demons. And the first thing he saw in the morning was his daughter's sleepy smile as she gazed up him, and in that moment, the planet stilled, and he wondered how he had ever thought he wouldn't be all right.
Please share your thoughts!