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Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu melech ha'olam shehecheyanu vekiymanu vehigi'anu lazman hazeh.

The Shehecheyanu

On Friday nights, before Sam was born, Miriam Winchester would take her son into the kitchen, drape a lacy veil over her hair, and place her hand over her child’s head. She would strike a match and light two little candles, then cup the light to her eyes and murmur, Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'zivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat. She would tell Dean someday he would do the same with his family, light the candles and say the blessing, as the mothers of the family do and have always done. (She didn’t know then that the child she held on her lap was not her daughter; he was her son). She would remind Dean that we don’t blow out the candles, not these ones, and then they would eat meat and potatoes and broccoli for dinner, no milk, their faces illuminated by the flickering candlelight.

Sam wished desperately, hungrily, that she could have been alive then. That her mother could have said those words to her, that she could have been her mother’s chosen daughter instead of Dean.

There’s no use in dwelling on the past, of course. That much she told herself a hundred times. But it would have been nicer, wouldn’t it, to learn the Hebrew blessings from her own mother’s voice than from PronounceHebrew.com at the age of twenty-seven.

~

After Miriam died, the lace head covering she wore during the Shabbos dinner was one of the only things, miraculously, recovered from the fire. By the time Dean was old enough to be trusted with matches, he’d forgotten what little of the Hebrew blessing his mother had taught him. So, the Friday nights he and Sam were both home alone with food on the table, Dean would clutch the lacy scarf in his hands and mutter, “Thank you, Lord, for our food, Amen,” the way Pastor Jim had taught him, and then they would eat.

One time, when she was maybe six, Sam had asked him, “You said Mom used to cover her head, and your head, too, when she did the candles. How come you don’t, Dee?”

And Dean had scowled, and said, “I’m not putting some frilly little piece of lace on my head, Sammy, besides, we’re not even technically doing it right, it’s the oldest woman in the house who’s s’posed to light ‘em—”

And Sam saw his shoulders tense and didn’t ask the first question that sprang to her mind, and instead said, tentatively, “Could I wear it, then?”

Dean looked down at the frayed white cloth, balled up in his hand, and back at Sam, and shrugged. “Guess so.”

They had an understanding, after that. It was never something they talked about, not aloud, at least. But Dean stole a few barrettes from a department store a few weeks later and left them on Sam’s bed for her to find. And a month later, Dean told John, “I want to be a boy,” and John told him to come back when you can shoot like a man, and Sam was the one who cut Dean’s hair choppily over the bathroom sink when Dean hit five bullseyes in a row.

~

Dean hated it when she left for Stanford, but she knew a part of him understood why she left. College gave her what John grudgingly had given Dean, what he couldn’t give her. A daughter could become a son, but the other way around would have been unthinkable. When Dean picked her up from school four years later, saw her hair had grown out past her shoulders and she wasn’t hunching in on herself so much anymore, the only thing he said was, “Finally caught up then, huh?” and clapped her on the back.

~

One day, when she was in her twenties still, in the motel bathroom during a vamp case in Minnesota, Sam thought of her mother’s lace scarf again. She brushed her hair, and instead of leaving it down like usual, tied it in a low bun and wrapped her head in a thin gray scarf that had been sitting at the bottom of her duffel, forgotten, for months. The scarf needed to be ironed, and she didn’t have a clue how to do it right—she looked up a tutorial and followed along as a cheery young woman with a Brooklyn accent taught her how to tie a tichel properly.

When she finished, she stared at herself in the mirror, hair hidden under a messy first attempt, and felt that she couldn’t feel less Jewish if she tried. She pulled off the scarf, wadded it into a ball, tossed it back into the duffel, and shook her hair miserably out of its bun.

When Dean got back with cheeseburgers for dinner, he asked her, “Hey, why the long face?”

“It’s nothing,” she told him.

He didn’t press it. Her burger went uneaten.

~

The headscarf idea didn’t leave her, even clouded with the shame of initial failure. She and Dean had only gone to shul a few times since adulthood, but she looked up Jewish history and folklore and found a book of “Hebrew Children’s Bedtime Stories” in the library and read it as a sort of introduction to herself during long nights after Dean had fallen asleep. She read about the matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. In all the art the books and webpages had of them, beautiful and clever women, they had their hair covered in colorful scarves.

~

Ruby happened, and then Castiel and the angels happened, and Sam was too busy these days for any sort of personal reflection. She focused on staying alive, staying one step ahead, balancing Heaven and Hell and leaving no room for a religion that questioned both of them. It wasn’t ideal, but she was doing her best. Her best was never good enough, and she knew it, she knew it, but she was trying. She was.

~

And then: Lucifer.

The less said about him—

~

She recited the Shema in hell, sang it, in an undertone and wavering, until her voice gave out and she forgot the words.

Though—that’s not exactly right. It wasn’t exactly singing. The Cage wasn’t the sort of place a person could have a physical form in. But Sam’s atoms vibrated with the words, her flayed-bare being attuned to it.

When her voice gave out, Adam sang the melody for her.

~

Once, Sam read in a book somewhere that the human body completely remakes and replaces each cell over the course of seven years. On the seventh yahrzeit of John Winchester’s death, she took a shower and relished the feeling of warm water on skin that had never been touched by her father’s hands.

When she got out of the shower she lit the memorial candle, read the accompanying prayer off her phone screen, then went out with Dean to drink herself into oblivion for the rest of the twenty-four hours the flame burned.

~

Sam was thirty-three years old when she decided to be more active and dedicated about religion, and she promised herself that night in bed to google the nearest synagogue the next morning and ask the rabbi there about attending. It might end up being a bit of a drive, she thought as she drifted off to sleep, Lebanon doesn’t exactly scream Jew-City. But she slept well, satisfied with her resolve. She had wanted community for years. By God, she was going to find it.

She met Him the next day in the form of a scruffy ex-prophet, confessing His disguise to her and her brother after teleporting them back to their bunker with a fingersnap. He told them He knew about all the suffering. He had chosen to go hands-off. He had left them all for dead.

“You let six million of us die,” Dean said, voice trembling, “babies, children, families. Six million in a few years. Your chosen people, huh?” and Sam looked over at him, startled. She’d never heard him mention the Holocaust. She’d learned about it the same way he did, in school, from a bored history teacher who was just trying to get through the lesson. Impersonal. Disconnected. Dean’s hands were shaking.

“What do you want me to say?” Chuck said, and Sam stopped listening before she fell further down into herself; as Chuck and Dean talked on, she found herself thinking of her father, of long nights alone in motel rooms under flickering lights.

~

“Do you think we need to convert?” Sam had asked him, once.

“Convert to what?” Dean said, not looking up at her, cleaning one of his handguns at the dingy kitchen table.

“Judaism. Since we never really did anything growing up, never went to temple, never had anyone… do you think we really count as real Jews?”

Dean scoffed. “C’mon, Sam. Mom was Jewish, so we’re Jewish. That’s good enough for any rabbi, I’d say.”

“It just doesn’t seem fair,” Sam said, “to the people who’ve converted, or to the people who inherit it from their father and have to prove themselves or go to a Reform synagogue. Y’know?”

Dean gave her a hard look. “What do you know about it, anyhow?”

Sam ducked her head, stayed quiet.

“Look,” Dean said, “do you want to convert? Or do you just feel guilty?”

“I—” Sam said, “I guess I don’t really want to. I just want to—I don’t know.”

“Then you don’t need to convert. If you don’t want to. Okay?” Dean said, making eye contact, making sure she got it.

She got it. It didn’t make the guilt go away.

~

Miriam Winchester, Mom, came back courtesy of God’s sister Herself, blonde and twenty-eight and fiercer than Dean’s stories. The three Winchesters danced around each other for days, until Sam sat her down and explained the gender thing, terrified, knuckles white, but trying desperately not to show it. Miriam took it in stride, all things considered. She didn’t yell or cry, just went for a long walk away from the bunker and when she came back she didn’t call Sam “he” or Dean “she” anymore. It was a welcome relief for everyone.

The religion thing took longer. Sam worked up the courage to ask her after a few months, steeled herself and waited for a response. “Mom, did you ever—did you ever feel not Jewish enough, growing up?”

Miriam looked at her, then answered slowly, carefully, “I don’t think so, no. I felt too Jewish, most of the time. I went to temple twice a week, with my parents on Saturday and for Hebrew school on Wednesdays, and I hated it. Kansas wasn’t exactly the easiest place to be a Jew. I tried to give it up, especially, when I met John. Quit cold turkey. Didn’t really pass anything on to you two. I wanted to ignore it all.”

Sam smiled a little, nodding, heart plummeting.

“Why do you ask, honey?” Miriam said, looking concerned. The concern was an act, and both of them knew it, albeit one with good intentions. She wanted to care, to be there for them, even though she was years younger than Sam and a decade younger than Dean and hadn’t seen them since they were chubby children, barely talking yet, in her lap.

“I just,” Sam said, and hesitated. “I dunno. I guess I feel that way sometimes. Most of the time, maybe. You weren’t—” she cringed. She desperately didn’t want to make this about the fact that Miriam had been gone for their whole lives and couldn’t do anything about it. They’d had this discussion before. It went nowhere. It wasn’t like Miriam did it on purpose. What do you want me to say, she found herself remembering; and then the answer: ‘Sorry’ would be nice.

She shook her head to clear it. “Nothing. I tried to be more connected, sorta, last year or so. We’d been living in the bunker for a while and it was our first permanent home, since, you know.”

Miriam nodded.

“And, well—I guess I just wanted a people. A community I could call my own. Dean and I did our own thing, our own Jewish thing growing up, which was fine, but that’s not how it’s supposed to be, right? You’re supposed to be with other people.”

Miriam nodded again, but she looked confused. Sam barreled on. “Anyway. I was going to go to a synagogue and become a member. But I never did. God came back, and we got caught up in a whole bunch of shi—stuff. I mean, I guess I figured, what’s the use in faith or religion or any of it if you’ve already met God?” She let out a huff of breath, laughed a little, self-deprecatingly.

Miriam rested a hand gently on her shoulder. “I can’t say I’ve felt the same. But I think I understand. I wish I could help you, you know. If you want, I could,” she looked like she was struggling for words, “see if I could dig up my old Rabbi’s telephone number. That’s what they’re there for. Spiritual issues, and the sort.”

She offered Sam a smile. Sam tried to return it. “Thanks, Mom,” she said, and knew it was a lost cause. Dean grew up with the idea of Miriam as the perfect mother, an idea that was shattered when she came back brash and bold and angry and independent and unwilling to cook family dinner. As for Sam? Her earliest memories of her mother were false, constructed from stories Dean had told her, hazy images from her imagination of Miriam singing to Dean while lighting the Shabbat candles. Quit cold turkey. There never was any special Jewish connection between mother and son for Sam to envy; this should come as a relief. Instead, it sticks her in the chest like a too-blunt needle; a tower crumbling, one that should never have been built at all.

~

Miriam died in 2019.

No, that’s not right. Jack killed her, Jack killed Sam’s mother in an accident in 2019, and for the second time in her life, Sam was left motherless.

She didn’t blame Jack. He was a child, a baby, how could she blame him? No, she was just so, so angry; at herself, at Miriam for dying, at the world.

She tried to talk to Dean about it, tried to be the responsible one and sit him down and say, Hey, let’s get this off our backs. But Dean was caught up in his own swirl of grief and anger and shame. He wouldn’t listen.

~

She got over it, eventually. She’d always been better than Dean at that sort of thing; processing, dealing. It still hit her like a truck, sometimes: the fact that Miriam was dead.

She didn’t hate Jack for it, though. That was the most important thing.

~

“Sam?” Jack asked her, once all of it was over. Chuck was gone. A semblance of balance was restored. They had all the time in the world now.

Sam raised her head. “What’s up?”

“Cas told me you and Dean are Jewish, right?”

She blinked. “Yeah, we are, sort of. I guess. Yeah.”

“Do you think we could go to a service together? At some point?”

“Like, um. At a temple? Er, synagogue?

Jack beamed. “Yeah! Castiel told me about them, services, I mean, and I thought it sounded like a nice thing to do.”

“Yeah. Yeah, sure, we could do that,” Sam said, and coughed, “I just, uh. I haven’t gone in a long time. I wouldn’t even know where to go. The nearest synagogue is probably hours away.”

“That’s okay,” Jack said, “if you want, I could fly us there.”

“Let’s do some research first, okay?” Sam said. She googled it with him: synagogues near Lebanon, Kansas. Predictably, the nearest one was a four hour drive away, a conservative shul with a congregation of probably ten. The last time Sam had gone to services, it had been with Dean, after Bobby’s death. Sam wanted to go when Mary died, to say kaddish for her and have actual, breathing people around her to hold her up in her grief. But Dean said he wasn’t going, and that was that. It wasn’t like she was going to go on her own.

She wasn’t so sure about the conservative temple. The few services she’d ducked into during the high holy days or on an uneventful Friday night had all been conservative, and she’d felt a sense of—she wasn’t sure. Clarity, maybe. Even if she couldn’t always follow along with the Hebrew in the more traditional services, at least she felt like it was, if not a place where she belonged, than a place where she could belong, someday. But then again, Sam wasn’t oblivious, or blind; she knew not everyone was instantly understanding and accepting of people like her, especially in more traditional congregations.

She didn’t say as much to Jack; didn’t want him to worry. She told him she’d take him over the weekend, and they’d make a trip out of it. She was no stranger to long hours in the car.

The way it ended up working out was this: they left after dinner, stocked Cas’ car with Capri Suns and animal crackers, which Jack liked, and Billy Joel CDs, which Sam liked. They talked at first, and Sam was content to entertain Jack’s questions, and listen to his happy ramblings about school and the recipe he and Cas made for dinner and everything else on his mind. After his energy started to wear off she clicked on the radio, and Jack fell asleep by the end of the third song. The wheel was steady under her fingers, and the whine of the engine and road noises faded away. She stole glances over at Jack, head resting against the window, breathing quietly and undisturbed, and felt an ache in her heart so sudden and intense she mistook it at first for physical pain.

They got to the hotel close to midnight, and Sam shook Jack gently by the shoulder to rouse him, and led him into the check-in lobby half-asleep. She’d picked a hotel on Cas’ suggestion, because they had the money now, why not stay someplace a little nicer for an outing as important as this one? “It’s not that important,” Sam had mumbled, but Cas had given her one of his piercing looks, and said, “It’s a holy place. You’re going to have a long drive. You deserve a good place to rest, even if it’s just this once,” and she hadn’t been able to protest.

In the morning, she was glad for Cas’ advice: while the hotel was no Ritz, the beds were soft and the bathrooms warmly-lit and scrubbed clean. She and Jack got dressed before breakfast, and she told him how they had to dress a little differently for the service—nicer clothes, sturdy shoes, and once they got there, there’d probably be kippahs or lace to clip on their heads.

The problem came in front of the bathroom mirror: Sam was washing her face at the sink, and when she looked up from splashing water on her face she saw Jack, looking like he was about to cry, standing perfectly still next to her.

“Jack, buddy,” she said carefully, “you gotta wash your face and brush your teeth before temple, okay?”

It took Jack a minute to respond. “I don’t like brushing my teeth,” he frowned, staring at the toothbrush in his hand. “It hurts.”

“Oh,” Sam said. “Well, um—what about it hurts?”

Jack thought about it for a moment, still upset. “The bristles hurt my gums. And the toothpaste burns my mouth. The mint.”

Oh. Phew. That wasn’t so bad. “Okay. Okay, stay here for a few minutes, Jack, you can do that, right? And I’ll run down to the front desk and see if they sell baby toothbrushes.”

“Baby toothbrushes?”

“They’re softer,” she said, “they don’t hurt your teeth as much. But I gotta hurry, or we’ll be late to the service. Stay here, okay?”

She jogged down the hall to the elevator, and at the front desk on the first floor the receptionist pointed her in the direction of the gift shop. Luckily, the hotel came prepared with baby toothbrushes in a variety of bright colors, accompanied by little tubes of non-foaming, berry-flavored toothpaste.

Jack positively beamed when she showed him the new supplies. “I didn’t even know they had good toothpaste! I’ve gotta tell Cas when we go home,” he told her, and she squeezed his shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief.

~

They arrived at the synagogue on time, entering quietly with the rest of the people shuffling through the entrance hall. Two polished wooden boxes were on display to the left, the first filled with lace doilies for the women, the second filled with kippot for the men. Sam took a doily, and after a moment’s deliberation, Jack took one, too. She showed him how to pin it to his hair, and he beamed up at her.

The service was beautiful. Having Jack with her was a bit like taking a toddler to service, which Sam guessed wasn’t far from accurate. He asked her questions constantly, though thankfully kept his voice down after she told him, “It’s respectful to be quiet when people are talking or praying, but if you need to ask me something, you can whisper.” Her Hebrew was pretty atrocious—she could read most of it if she went slowly, but she couldn’t understand a word—but luckily, translations and notes were provided on the opposite page of each spread, explaining the meaning and pronunciation of the readings and prayers.

The rabbi was a large, cheerful woman with dark curls and bright, shining eyes. She spoke about caring for one’s neighbor and community compassion, and she seemed to make eye contact with every single person in the room, Sam and Jack included, to say, I see you. Welcome. Relax. She made a self-deprecating joke about her lack of singing ability that made the congregation chuckle warmly, and then handed the bimah over to the cantor, an elegant woman with waist-length locs and a voice like honey. Sam found herself closing her eyes to sway along to the music, enchanted by the melodic Hebrew lyrics. That was one advantage that real congregations had over the internet, she thought. All the audio samples of the prayers and songs online had been painful to listen to, read tunelessly by people who always, inexplicably, sounded incredibly congested.

Sam faltered when the Torah was lifted from the ark; an older man hoisted it up and carried it through the congregation, between the rows of seats, and she couldn’t remember reading about what one was supposed to do here in any of the sites she’d visited. The woman standing next to her and Jack noticed their uncertainty, and tapped surreptitiously on Sam’s shoulder. “Reach out with your book towards the Torah when it passes,” she whispered, “and then kiss the book. It’s okay if it doesn’t actually touch.”

Sam threw her a grateful smile, and squeezed Jack’s shoulder. “You hear that?”

Jack nodded, and as he did, the man with the Torah on his shoulder reached their row of chairs. Sam and Jack tapped the Torah with their prayer books and kissed them, and the woman reached out with the corner of her tallis shawl to do the same.

The woman noticed Jack eyeing her shawl once they’d taken their seats again, and she leaned in to whisper again. “You like it?”

Jack nodded. “It’s really pretty. How’d you get it?”

“I had to be bat mitzvah’d first,” she said, and smiled. “You could ask the Rabbi about it later, if you like.” To Sam she said, “I’m guessing this is your first time?”

“How could you tell?” Sam said wryly.

“Can I give you a piece of advice?” the woman asked. Sam nodded. “Take it easy. Enjoy the service, and don’t worry too much about doing things right. That’ll come with time. We’re happy to have you here.”

“Thank you,” Sam said, touched, and she reached out to shake the woman’s hand. “Nice to meet you, I’m Sam Winchester.”

“Leila Baum,” the woman replied. To Jack she said, “And you are?”

“Jack Kline,” he said cheerily. She smiled at him. “You’re a lucky boy, Jack Kline, to have a mother who takes you to services.”

“Oh, I’m not—” Sam began, but Jack grabbed her hand and squeezed it, stopping her short.

“I know,” he said to Leila, “I’m very lucky.” He smiled up at Sam, who bit her lip and squeezed his hand, tight.

~

The service ended before Sam knew it, and blinking, she shuffled out of the main room, Jack in tow. The rabbi was standing at the door, shaking hands and making conversation with the people leaving. Sam lowered her gaze and ducked her head, hoping to discreetly exit so as not to embarrass herself or the rabbi by revealing that she wasn’t really Jewish, just attending a single service, but the rabbi caught her eye anyway.

“Hello!” she called to Sam, “you must be new! I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”

Sam bit her lip, and turned to smile tentatively at the rabbi. “Yes, I am. My… kid wanted to attend a service at a synagogue, and this was the nearest, so we decided to give it a try.” She suddenly second-guessed herself, wondering if what she had said had been desperately rude. She didn’t want the rabbi to get the idea they only came because it was close by, and not out of any real interest.

The rabbi’s smile didn’t waver. “Oh, wonderful! How far are you?”

“About four hours,” Jack chimed in.

The rabbi’s eyes widened in surprise. “For a Saturday morning service? Man, I hope you didn’t do that drive all in one go this morning; I know I for one couldn’t do it.”

“Oh, no, don’t worry, we drove last night and stayed over,” Sam said.

The rabbi laughed. “Phew! It’s wonderful to meet you, by the way—I’m Rabbi Miriam.”

She stuck out her hand, and Sam shook it. “Miriam—that was my mother’s name,” Sam said, surprising herself—there was no pain, no grief at the words. “I’m Sam, and this is Jack.”

“Hello!” Jack said cheerfully, sticking up his hand in his customary wave. Rabbi Miriam gave him a high-five, to his utter delight.

“Did you enjoy the service?” Rabbi Miriam asked.

“I did,” Sam said honestly. “It was really beautiful.”

The rabbi smiled. “I’m so happy to hear it.”

“I liked all the Hebrew prayers,” Jack piped up. “I used to know all the languages, but now I don’t anymore. Sam and I are gonna learn together, though.”

Rabbi Miriam’s face wrinkled in confusion, but she recovered quickly. “Oh, well, it’s great that you and your mother can share such a wonderful activity! Myself, I found learning Hebrew a difficult but incredibly rewarding experience. Did you know that a lot of common names come from Hebrew? Like the name Deborah—it means ‘bee’. And my name, Miriam, means ‘bitterness.’”

“Deborah,” Jack said reverently.

The Rabbi smiled. “Did you have a favorite part of synagogue, Jack, besides the language?” she asked.

Jack took the question very seriously. After a moment, he answered, “I liked how the book told you what all the words meant, and the pronunciations, and all the explanations in the margins.”

The rabbi nodded. “I like that, too. You know what, Jack, if you’d like, I can give you and your mom a siddur to take home. It’ll make it easier to stay connected without having to make the long drive each week.” She directed the last sentence to Sam.

“You really don’t have to,” Sam started to protest, but the rabbi cut her off.

“No, no, I insist. If you wait in the lobby for one minute, I’ll grab you one—we have spares in the back room.”

She hurried off, and Jack grabbed Sam’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “She’s really nice,” he remarked.

“She is,” Sam agreed.

When the rabbi came back a minute later, she held in her arms a brand new, hardcover siddur, identical to the ones in the pews.

“Ooh,” Jack said, fascinated, taking the book as the rabbi passed it over. “I like this.”

“Use it in good health,” Rabbi Miriam said, and shook Sam’s hand again with a warm smile before moving on to the next family.

~

In the car on the way home, Jack flipped through the siddur while Sam drove, studying each page with a careful eye. Sam glanced over from time to time, and caught glimpses of the white pages, soft and glossy with columns of text in Hebrew and English, and the cover of the book, made from a silky leather material with Hebrew titling embossed in gold.

“This one’s pretty,” Jack remarked, his hand pausing on one of the pages.

“What is?” Sam asked, eyes still on the road.

“It’s the… I don’t know how to say it. She-hee-chay-anu?”

Shehecheyanu, with a hard ‘h’ sound,” Sam said, only half-confident in her pronunciation. She thought she read about it online once, but it must have been years ago. “It’s a prayer, right?”

“Yeah,” Jack hummed. “It says it’s for giving thanks for something new. Experiences you’re experiencing for the first time. It’s nice.”

“You wanna read it?”

“I can’t do the Hebrew right,” Jack said mournfully. “I’ll read the English instead.” He squinted at the page, then read, “Our praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all: for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season.”

There was quiet in the car for a minute. Then Jack screwed his face up in thought and said, “But I don’t get it. ’Cause we met God, and he wasn’t exactly a nice person. And I like this prayer ‘cause we just did something new for the first time, so it fits. Except if it’s thanking Chuck… he’s gone now. I don’t get it.”

“Well,” Sam says carefully, “the prayer was written a long time ago, by people who had never met Chuck, or God, or whatever, and didn’t know if he was real or not. And it is a nice prayer, you’re right.”

“Do you believe in God the same way Rabbi Miriam does? Even though we met Chuck?” After a pause, he continued, “Is Chuck the same as the God in the book?”

Sam swallowed. “I don’t know, Jack. Those are big questions.”

“Maybe Cas will know,” Jack said absently, still flipping through the pages.

“Maybe,” Sam echoed, feeling lost.

There was quiet in the car for a while, with only the whine of the engine and the soft swish of the book’s pages to fill the silence. Then, abruptly, Jack said, “I don’t think the point is God.”

Sam glanced over to him. He was looking out the window, book closed in his lap. “Oh?” she said.

“Yeah. I don’t think we went to Rabbi Miriam’s synagogue ‘cause of God. I think we went ‘cause of Rabbi Miriam. Or, not just her, but everyone. The little kids and the ladies who prepped the food for after the service and the woman sitting next to us. And you and me. I think we went for all of us.”

Sam couldn’t find anything to say.

“Does that make sense? Like, we’re there for the community. For the pretty songs and the good food and—this book!” He held the siddur up, smiling, and said again, “Does that make sense?”

Sam said, trying very hard to keep her voice steady, “It does. That’s—that’s really good, Jack.”

“Yeah!” Jack said, beaming at her, and she felt a surge of love, so sudden and overpowering that she had to tighten her grip on the steering wheel so she wouldn’t swerve off the road.

~

They arrived home in the early afternoon, the sun still beating down overhead on the Kansas plains. Cas was waiting for them at the doors to the bunker, hands in the pockets of his trenchcoat, a faint smile on his face. Sam parked the car along the grassy slopes that bordered the bunker, abloom with bellflowers and milkweed.

Jack had been practically vibrating in his seat for the last half hour of their drive home, and as soon as Sam put the car in park, he was unbuckling the seatbelt and slamming the car door behind him so hard the whole shell of the thing rattled. Sam stepped out of the car after him, as Jack hurtled into Cas’ arms, and she caught Cas’ eye as he pulled Jack into a hug.

“How was your service?” Cas asked him.

“It was really cool!” Jack said brightly. “We met a buncha new people, and—oh, I forgot my book!”

He dashed back to Cas’ car to grab the heavy siddur of his seat. “Look,” he said, opening it, “it’s got the Hebrew and the English and the transliteration and everything. Rabbi Miriam gave it to us, she’s really nice.”

“That’s wonderful, Jack,” Cas said quietly, flipping through the offered siddur. He looked up to meet Sam’s eye. “Thank you,” he said to her, holding her gaze for a long moment. She gave him a little nod.

Jack was prattling on about more things he had read in the book on their drive home—Sam was surprised that he’d taken in that much. In many ways, he was still a little kid in her mind, but apparently a precocious one too. Being God for a week will do that to you.

“—and one part said some people get the names from their dead family members, but not everyone, an’ mostly the parents choose the name for the baby, but you don’t have to, right?” Jack was saying.

“Are you talking about Hebrew names?” Sam asked him.

“Yeah, like Rabbi Miriam said!” Jack beamed. “Cas, can I have one, too?”

Cas looked a little bewildered. “Of course,” he said uncertainly.

“I don’t think he planned on taking no for an answer,” Sam murmured to Cas. To Jack, she said, “Let me guess, Jack, you already picked a name out?”

“I want to be Deborah,” Jack said, suddenly serious, and there was weight behind his words, directed to Cas, when he said, “it means bee.”

“Oh, Jack,” Cas said, and that was all he got out before a noise from behind made them all turn. It was Dean, behind the wheel of the Impala as it pulled into the drive, white plastic grocery bags piled on the seat next to him.

“Hey kid, hey Sammy, Cas,” Dean called, gathering up the bags of groceries. “Whatcha doing?”

“Sam and I just got back from a synagogue service,” Jack said cheerily, and started to say more, but Sam wasn’t listening. She was watching Dean’s shoulders tense ever so slightly.

“Oh yeah? That’s real nice, Jack,” Dean said, ruffling Jack’s hair with one free hand, hefting the grocery load with the other. “Here, give me a hand, will ya, Sammy?”

They all filed inside, and after Sam and Dean had deposited the food on the map table, Dean turned back to Jack, settling down in one of the chairs and making a vague hand gesture.

“You were saying something ‘bout the service?”

Jack launched into his retelling again, and Sam had to give Dean credit for only raising his eyebrows a little bit when Jack mentioned his new Hebrew name being Deborah. Dean’s come a long way, Sam thought to herself, only half joking.

Eventually, after Jack had finished his story, he and Cas set off to work on the garden out back, and Dean and Sam were left alone in the map room. He was uncomfortable now, left alone with her; she could see it in the way he fidgeted.

Finally, after a moment of silence, Dean shifted his feet and, still staring at the floor, said, “Y’know, you probably talked to Mom about this, back when she was, uh. Alive. So stop me if you’ve heard this before. But what Jack said made me remember. You know Mom gave us Hebrew names when we were born, right?”

Sam’s mouth fell open. “No, shit, I didn’t know that,” she said, already adding it to the bottom of an interminably long tally of fuck-ups. “It never even occurred to me. And I never asked Mom when she was alive, either—”

Dean glanced up in alarm. “Naw, Sam, that’s not what I meant, listen. I wasn’t trying to work you up. I just wanted to, you know, let you know.”

Sam let out a breath. “Yeah. Okay.”

Dean nodded. A moment passed, and then he asked, “You want me to tell you what they are, or not?”

“Sure, yeah, go ahead,” Sam said.

“I was, uh.” Dean cleared his throat. “Dinah. You know, ‘cause of Deanna. Means ‘judgement.’”

Sam nodded. “And me?”

“Aryeh Leib,” Dean said quietly. “‘Lion-hearted.’ I’m probably pronouncing that wrong, but, you know. There you go.”

Sam let that sit with her for a long moment. Then, she said, carefully, “Did Mom tell you that? The names?”

He let out a little scoff. “Ha. No. There were documents from the ceremonies Mom took us to after we were born. I had to learn the alphabet to understand what they said, they didn’t list the names in English or anything.”

“Documents?”

Dean gave her a look. “Dad kept ‘em with our birth certificates.”

“I never knew,” Sam said.

“You didn’t have to.”

It was quiet for a minute, until finally she said, “Thanks, Dean,” with deliberation, and watched carefully for his next words.

Dean shook his head, staring at the floor again. His jaw worked for a moment. Then he said, gruffly, “You want me to come with you and Jack next time?”

“Oh,” Sam said, unsure, “you don’t have to, it’s fine, we had a good time together, I managed him fine, y’know—the hotel was great, it worked out fine—”

“I think I’m gonna come with you,” said Dean, finally looking up, eyes piercing, “‘s’that alright?”

“Yeah. Yeah, it’s more than alright, Dean,” Sam said, and in the end, that was all they both needed.