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It’s maybe a little bit childish of her but she’d planned on today going a certain way and it’s not and she just wants to cry a little bit. Or a lot. 

“Mommmm,” Kingston says, a growl in his voice. “Zum literally just hit me again and you’re not even punishing him.”

She wants to protest, say it’s CHRISTMAS DAMMIT JUST BE GOOD FOR ONE DAY, but she’s meant to be a mature, cool kind of mother and so she tells her two eldest boys to behave themselves, giving Zuma a little swat on her backside for good measure. Once she’s sure they’re absorbed (King has his phone, Zuma the TV), she heads back to her bedroom, needing a quick breather, a recharge. She wants this to feel ‘right’, even perfect. It’s their first full Christmas Day together as a family, for goodness’ sake. 

Blake’s laying on the bed when she gets there, his feet hanging off the end of it because he’s always too long or tall for her furniture. 

“A little monkey came and found me,” he says with a grin, raising an eyebrow at her youngest son, currently precariously balanced on her boyfriend’s belly. 

“And thinks you’re a tree?”

Apollo laughs out loud at that, making her wince as his small body collapses atop Blake’s. She wants to mark all sensitive areas as off-bounds so she can enjoy them later but kids do what they want to. 

“Is Blakeee a tree, baby?” she asks, sitting down beside them and reaching for him. 

He props himself up on his elbows and leans in for a kiss, his lips still sticky from the syrup on their pancakes they’d made earlier. His voice a temptation, a warmth, a promise. “Can I tell him how much Momma likes my trunk?”

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He squints an eye open, trying to make out what’s happening onscreen from his vantage point, half-squashed into the back of the couch by a sprawled out toddler. 

“That policeman dog being a good boy?” he asks, knowing full what the response will be. Anticipating it, he puts one of Gwen’s large pink cushions over his ears. And waits.

“HIS NAME IS CHASE, BLAKE. UGH. CHASE.” Throwing his small hands up in frustration, Apollo lectures him on the characters’ names for what feels like the twentieth time. He really has no idea whether teasing a child to the point of tears (well, the boy getting red in the face) is exactly a good thing for a parental figure of sorts to do, but…

He presses pause and twists his body to let Apollo rest on his chest. They’ve been watching for a few hours now while Gwen runs some errands, and it feels both incredibly normal and banal and crucially important at the same time. “Gonna keep watching, bud? One more episode and then we can do see if there’s some new eggs, ‘k?” 

“Baby chickens?”

“Nope. Just eggs. Otherwise I’ll have to eat a little boy named Apollo for dinner, and I don’t think his mom would be very happy.”

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Sometimes he likes to close his eyes just so he can open them up again and seeher. It shouldn’t feel different than just staring at her non-stop (which, yeah, sounds a little creepy, but really, he’s pretty sure it’s not for them) but it weirdly does. Because, yep, she’s right there, her legs clamped around his, her cool hands resting on his sweaty bare chest, her eyes smiling backing at him.

And isn’t that just the best sight in the world? Her hair is somehow still in its tight bun and he finds himself reaching for a few loose strands in front of her face, tucking them behind her ear and kissing the pale skin there. She’s so goddamned beautiful and he wishes everyone could see her radiance like he does. 

“Mmm, you’re insane, y’know,” she says huskily, shifting on his crotch ever so slightly, just enough to make him wish he was ten years younger and already recovered enough to go again. “I swear, can we just cancel dinner plans with Luke and Caroline and stay here instead?” 

“He’s gonna be hurt that having sex with me rates higher than his company, to be honest, but I’m not gonna complain…”

She laughs into their kiss, short pecks followed by a deep sigh and an even deeper hum in the back of her throat. “I swear, Blake, I just… I didn’t even KNOW.”

And neither did he. He’d had expectations for his life, things he wanted (children), things he anticipated (a marriage longer than a few years), and yet instead of that, he has this. 

The phone rings.

And them. He grins at his girlfriend, and tosses her a shirt. “Wanna get that?”

Her nose scrunches up adorably, and he watches as she re-dresses, taking her cell from the dresser next to their huge bed. 

“Hey guys!” he says, waving the minute Kingston and Apollo’s faces crowd out all the other space on the phone’s screen. “Your mom’ll just be a minute.”

They chat for twenty minutes, maybe half an hour, Gwen curled up at his side, and all three boys excitedly talking over each other at them. Apparently their father (it feels weird saying ‘Gavin’, like it’s giving him more importance than he wants for him) took them out earlier in the morning for breakfast, but they’ve spent the rest of the day indoors. Blake gives them a quick tour of the room, promises them that next time, they’ll have a family vacation and do plenty of fun stuff. Gwen tells Kingston that the beach isn’t THAT different from the ones in Los Angeles, so he’s not missing out too badly (Blake doesn’t correct her). Apollo exclaims loudly that he wants to come home, and that’s when he feels the tenseness in his girlfriend’s body grow. She loves being here, he knows that, but in some moments, she misses the kids more. 

And weirdly, after two years of their home being his, he gets that, too.

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She says “it’s big,” and he doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I mean, she’s not wrong exactly, and what was he even expecting? Some super hot super famous megastar to go into raptures over his cornfields? Blake only realizes he’s tensed up at her words when she’s suddenly looking at him, concern in her warm brown eyes. “You okay?” She’s hesitant and worried and he hates that he still accidentally does that to her. 

“Yeah, good,” he tries to reassure her, putting an arm around her shoulder and then drawing her into his chest. “Just glad you’re finally here, y’know.” 

“Me too,” she says, pressing a kiss to his hand. “I’ve seen photos, but I just… I didn’t expect it to be this pretty? The colors, I mean. Cos the pink is just like woah.”

He takes a deep breath (gratitude) and chuckles into her hair. “The pink is definitely woah. I was worried we wouldn’t make it in time for the sunset and I just wanted that to be the first, the first thing you saw, right?”

She turns around in his arms and the look in her eyes blows him away. It’s love (and he still can’t quite believe she loves HIM) but it’s something like contentment, too, and god, he hopes this is going to work. They’ve talked about it a bit, how he *needs* to go home and recharge and how his property here will always be that place for him. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t need her even more, though, and he hopes she gets that. 

“Welcome to Oklahoma, pretty girl.”

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“I swear, Blake, if you go…”

He pushes out his chest, and yeah, he probably just looks even fatter than usual, but it makes him feel more manly, so… 


Oh. Mom!voice. Complete with stern look and hand on the hip. She approaches him like a human trying to gentle a wild beast, her hands out in front of her. 

“Babe, he’s not worth your time. I promise. I’m not exactly a fan of what he said either, but it’s not like it means anything.”

Skeptical, he sighs. “He said they’re going to resent me when they’re older. Cos I’m overstepping my bounds or some shit like that.”

Her hands are cold on his bare skin and she pushes him towards their bed. He lets himself fall back onto the mattress, lets her climb onto him. 

“I just… What if he’s right, y’know?”

Her response is a laugh, almost maniacal, and she strokes his face, her long fingertips smoothing out the worry lines on his forehead. “They LOVE you, Blake. Truly.”


“Deeply. Just like I love you.” He raises an eyebrow. “Well, not JUST like that, but…” 

“I didn’t expect anything, y’know, not really. It’s hard when someone new comes into the picture, and so, well, I’m just grateful.”

Her kiss isn’t a surprise but it’s always a revelation.

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When he finally catches up with the boy, Blake’s puffing and panting and christ, he feels sixty instead of just-about-forty. Hands on his knees, he glares at Gwen’s son, rolling his eyes when Zuma laughs right in his face. 


“Zum, I swear I’m gonna die and the only person your mom’ll blame is you for making me do all this running.”

Taking mercy on his old, old soul, he takes a moment to adjust his glasses and then drags Blake back inside. Kingston’s with his tutor and Gwen’s been trying to keep Apollo occupied while she works in her office, and so Zuma is his, so to speak. They’ve fallen into a pretty comfortable pattern these past few weeks as they’ve adjusted to Blake living here with them. He’d worried it was too soon, but he’d kind of forgotten how damned resilient children could be, and honestly, he’s just so glad he could spend every night with Gwen beside him. 

“Hey, bud, you wanna grab us each a soda and we can go check up on your brother?”

“And rub it in that he has to do extra homework?” Zuma grins, his smile slightly gummy and why is that as endearing as it is to him? “Yes, please.”

“He says with relish.”

“You would too if it was your brother!”

“Been there, done that. Richie was a lot older than me, though, y’know.”

“He’s the one that died, right?” Zuma says, his tone mildly curious but without the edge of sadness that he always associates with conversations about his loss. He’s not sure how that makes him feel, honestly. “Blake? You listening?”

“Yeah, just got distracted, sorry. He is. A long time ago now.”

Zuma takes his hand again, pats it gently, like he’s trying to be a comfort. And it is.

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He’s not exactly sure when things shifted but as Blake’s walking out the door, Apollo’s hand in his, it’s clear they have. Gwen’s just behind both of them, her hand on his lower back, and she gives a little shove as the brisk wind starts curling around all their bodies. 

“Go on then. On your best behavior.” Apollo is skipping on the spot a little, restless as ever, and Blake turns to face his girlfriend, kissing on her flushed cheek. 

“As always. You won’t be too lonely?”

“King very generously informed me he’d Facetime me around dinnertime, so that’ll be nice. Besides, your bed is awfully big and warm, even with Betty keeping me company.”

“What, and a tent isn’t?”

She laughs and it warms him from the inside. Gwen crouches close to the ground and gives her son a big hug. “You make sure to do what Blakeee tells you to, okay? And have fun.”

“Course!” he squeals, adjusting the straps of his tiny backpack. He’d wanted to help, of course, and so duties had been relegated to him: a water bottle and a box of matches. And a few plush toys. “Let’s go! Now! Blake!”

Chuckling, he waves goodbye to Gwen. “I’ll try and text you later, ‘k? Not sure how much service we’ll get but I’ll try and climb to a spot that isn’t too bad.”

“Love you.”

They walk for about twenty minutes before Apollo starts whining about his legs hurting. They make it another ten minutes, the young boy sitting atop Blake’s shoulders, before stopping to set up camp. Good enough. The tent is one he’d let Apollo pick out himself just for this occasion (when he’d found out Zuma and Kingston had gone hiking with Blake the previous year, he’d been apoplectic) and it’s too small and covered with neon bugs and creepy-crawlies. Perfectly conspicuous. 

“Hey, ‘pollo, gonna help me out? The battery’s goin’ to die if you keep playin’ on my cell phone, y’know. Besides, there’s not goin’ to be any marshmallows unless we get some fire start’d.”

“I light it?”

“Not today. But you can definitely help me doin’ the roastin’, okay, bud?”

“I eat them all myself. Lots and lots and lots and lots.”

“What, and get so fat your mama’ll have to come drag us back in the morning?!” he asks, getting on his knees besides Apollo. He puffs out his face. “Pop me?”

The boy pokes his cheeks and he falls back on his ass. “You’re getting too old, I think. I reckon you might be strong enough to find me some sticks, hey?”

He watches as Apollo races to the nearest tree, plucking off three low-hanging twigs. Too green. And skinny. And well, it doesn’t really matter. “Teach me fire, Blakeee!” 

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It’s not something she should be thinking about her own child probably, but god, Apollo is being a BRAT. He’s been whining for what feels like hours and even a few episodes of Paw Patrol haven’t helped settle him. She’s meant to have been working on some designs today, but instead it’s been a non-stop ‘try to amuse Apollo’ kind of day. 

“Want some juice, baby?”




“How about we play with some trucks?”


And on and on and on. She knows the real problem, though, and she even knows what might help solve it. Unfortunately, however, it requires driving over to the set of The Voice and disturbing Blake’s workday. She occasionally stops by, but when they’re filming auditions all day, it’s not usually worth the trip. Her kisses are too much of a distraction, he says. Adam claims her presence hurts because he gets ignored. 

And yet.

“Blakeeeeeee,” Apollo whines. “Please.”

Gwen crouches down to her son, taking his hands in hers. “But Blake’s at work. He’s super busy.”

Her son scrunches up his nose and his mouth is one long frown. “I want to go.”

Fifteen minutes later, purse and keys in tow, she’s buckling Apollo into his carseat, and before the day’s half over, they’re making themselves comfortable in Blake’s trailer and figuring out what to order for lunch. 

“Ah,” he says with a grin, his long legs eating up the space between them as he enters his trailer. “Looks like my favorite people in the world have come to visit.”

Gwen gets up and throws her arms around him, but not before Apollo can do the same to her boyfriend’s legs. He makes a contented sort of snuffling sound into the denim of Blake’s jeans, and like always, she feels her heart pitter pattering. When she’d finally made the decision to file for divorce, she’d sort of assumed that that was it for her, couldn’t even envision a world where she’d be with someone else who wasn’t Gavin.

Blake leans down and kisses her softly. “Missed you, baby.” And another kiss, his lips chapped but still so welcome. “Adam’s being an asshole,” he adds. “Not that that’s news.”

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She’s determined not to call him. 

When his face appears on her cell just before she sits down to have dinner with the boys, however, she knows it’s a tiny bit over the top how quickly she reaches to respond to the ringtone. They hang up after ten minutes and she’s proud of herself for not pouting afterwards.

Zuma comes into her room at midnight wanting cuddles, and she doesn’t have the heart to say no. Besides, maybe it’ll stop her from wanting to cry all over their sheets. 


He sends her texts all the time, whether they’re in the same city or not. The first one arrives just as Apollo climbs into her bed to beg for some pancakes for breakfast. She shoots a short video of her son dancing around on the bed and sends a shot of his pillow for good measure. Along with three crying emojis that she’s not even embarrassed about.

He sends back a photo of a perfectly non-used pillow on his hotel bed in New York accompanied by the words ‘i miss u too’.


“Shane just told me what you posted,” he says with a laugh, his voice slightly crackly. 

“What’s up with the service?”

“God knows. It hates me or something. And you’re ignoring what I said, darlin’…”

Maybe she is. I mean, it’s only been a couple of days and they’ve been Facetiming constantly, for god’s sake.

“I can’t wait to come home.”


King passes the phone before she even asks for it, rolling his eyes as he brushes a kiss to her cheek. “Here you go, Mom. Hey, can you ask him to bring home some pretzels from that place we went to last time?”

“You can ask him yourself, y’know? We put his number in your phone, didn’t we?” she asks, suddenly worried that she didn’t. He’s an emergency contact for them at school so the idea that she didn’t do something so basic….

“Oh.” Kingston looks sheepish. “Yeah, it’s there. Sorry, Mom. I didn’t know if he’d want me bothering him.”

Later that night, her eldest son shows her the reply he got, a photo of what looks like $100 of pretzels. Kingston’s beaming. 

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The first time Adam suspects that, well, that maybe something’s going on is while he and Gwen are boarding the plane. Her inane grin as she texts somebody is driving him crazy and so yeah, he totally looks over her shoulder and tries to spy on her. She slaps him away and darkens the screen. “Blake’s so right about you,” she says, rolling her eyes. And since when did she and Blake start talking anyway?

The second time Adam thinks that they’re hiding something from him is a few minutes after the stop in Oklahoma. He and Blake have been friends for years now and so he doesn’t mind saying that he gets a bit churlish that he’s left hanging a few feet away while Gwen hugs his buddy for what feels like forever. Literally *clinging*, he’d say if he were a petty, selfish kind of guy. 

The third time Adam wonders if it’s a possibility is when he catches them going into Gwen’s hotel room together, hand in hand, a spare shirt thrown over Blake’s shoulder. He shakes his head, sure he’s jumping to conclusions. And then the door slams shut. Hard.

When Adam steals Blake’s phone and sees the background, he’s nearly sure he’s not losing his mind. Because why else… “Hey, bud! Gonna give that back?” His friend’s voice is casual but there’s a thread of steel in it, and it makes him want to retreat damned quickly. “Didn’t know you’d turned spy.” A few moments later, cell safely back in Blake’s pocket, they jump in the cab together. “We’ll talk when we get back to LA, ‘kay?”

Gwen’s blushing and Blake’s grabbing his chest like he’s about to have a heart attack, and all Adam can do is feel justified in his speculation the past few days. Cos, hell yeah, there’s something there, even if they haven’t bothered to fill him in yet. Which they better, dammit. He nudges Pharrell and raises an eyebrow. “They know the cameras are on, right?” The other coach simply smirks. 

Adam nuzzles into Behati’s neck. “I swear, I don’t know why we bothered inviting them. They haven’t spoken to anyone else, I don’t think.” His wife laughs and strokes his cheek gently. “Jealous, babe?” And maybe he is. Just a little. He sees how it is and he’s grateful, genuinely. Blake deserves this, deserves someone as amazing as Gwen clearly is. “Mmm, love you,” he murmurs. 

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His guitar is out of tune and five years ago, even three, he would’ve noticed. It’s weird, really, because if *anyone* should have problems with their hearing, it should be her, what with all the rock concerts and small clubs and well, everything. 

She makes herself more comfortable on the couch, carefully adjusting the blankets around their newest grandchild. Aden’s a tiny little bundle of happy gurgles and curious hands, and sometimes she finds herself just staring at him. She offers to babysit whenever they’re back in Los Angeles, and it’s not enough, will never be enough, but…

“Reckon this is any good?” 

She ignores the tuning issue, turns her head so she can watch Blake play. It’s always fascinated her, the way his long fingers touch the strings, and she knows he’s not the greatest guitarist in the world, but he’s definitely her favorite. Gwen’s not sure how many hundreds of nights she’s spent watching him perform to thousands of adoring fans. Or just to her and her boys. 

“I thought maybe we could actually get something out for Christmas, y’know. It’s been a few years and the label said they think it might go down well.“”

“You want to go down that path?”

He grins at her, his lined face as handsome as ever, she thinks. “They promised I could do most of the promotion from home.”

“Oklahoma home?” His wink makes her snort with laughter. “You’re terrible. One day we’ll get you to publicly acknowledge that you don’t throw a fit every time you spend more than a few hours in LA.” 

“That’s our dirty little secret, sweet girl.” He gently puts the guitar down on the ground and motions for her to hand the baby over. “I need my cuddles. King said they’d be back before midnight, right?”

“No later. Apparently. Thinking I might steal this one for good, though. He’s way too delicious.”

Blake walks over to her and winces as he lowers himself to the couch beside her. He nuzzles into her shoulder and chucks Aden under the chin. “We’re so lucky.”

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One of the strangest things about entering a new relationship after many years of another is that he finds himself being self-conscious about things he barely remembers worrying about in his previous life. It’s not even like Gwen *knew* him before he turned grey, so… He groans and buries his head in his pillow and is still flopped all over the bed like a beached whale when his girlfriend comes out of the bathroom a few moments later, a fluffy towel wrapped around her waist and her black lacy bra begging him to take it back off. Or something. 

“Alright there, babe?” she says, a note of curiosity in her voice that doesn’t bode well for him. 

“Didn’t want to look too enticing for you, so…” He indicates the tangled sheets and pats his belly as he turns to his side. 

Gwen grins wryly before removing the towel and gracefully lowering herself to sit beside him. “And yet, you still do.” Her slender fingers curl into his hair and he closes his eyes at her touch. “Gorgeous.”

Blake hesitates, takes a hold of her hand and sets them both down on the mattress. “You don’t mind, do you?”


“I mean, I know that it could be dyed or whatever, but it would feel wrong, like I was trying to fool people, and I - ”

“Your hair?” she asks, her brow furrowed and her hand still on his. “Blake. I literally think it’s the cutest. Like when you wake up in the morning and it’s just like - ”

“Like a rat’s nest?”

She rolls him over, her legs astride his and her core up against his dick. “You. Are. Gorgeous.” Each word punctuated with a kiss. “And I love your lips almost as much as your hair.”


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It’s a weird in-between kind of feeling and tension  that she only has vague memories of from her time with Gavin on tour back in the mid-nineties. Of course, back then she’d been half sick with worry that he was hooking up with other women (justified worries, she can admit now) and now? Well, Blake’s still clearly hurting from his own betrayal and she knows, believes with all her heart, that he’ll be loyal to her for however long this… this thing lasts. 

His hand - so large, so strong - comes up over her waist and rests on her stomach, and when she sighs happily at the contact, he nuzzles closer, his whiskers brushing against the back of her neck as he spoons her. They’ve spent the night together a few times now and she loves getting used to it as much as she fears the day when it stops being her normal and is something she only has memories of. Jen’s told her that’s not a good way to think about things, that being positive is healthier, but god, she’s just had so many letdowns lately that, well, she doesn’t want to get her hopes up.

He’s all in, he’d said to her just a few days ago as they Facetimed, his expression sincere and solemn. And she’s all in, as well, she is. It’s just that she also has three young children to think about and unlike him, her divorce doesn’t just happen overnight with no strings attached. She has a thousand and one strings connecting her to her ex and somehow she needs to get used to them being there but not let them pull her in his direction.

“Gwen,” he says huskily, his voice a low drawl that still sounds kinda foreign to her, especially half-asleep. “Do you ever stop wriggling?”

She can feel herself tense up at the words, even pull away from a little, and she hates feeling him respond in kind. In one of the first proper conversations they’d had after, well, after all the shit went down, he’d sheepishly admitted that his ex had sometimes - or it had seemed to him - withheld physical contact from him to punish him. He’s a total cuddler and she *loves* that. 

“’m sorry,” he mutters, and the sound of it makes her hurt inside just a little. 

She turns in his arms, her head coming to rest on his bare chest, still a little sweaty from their exertions earlier in the morning. “No, no,” she tries to reassure him. “Not that. You didn’t do anything wrong. I just… It’s sometimes like an echo, y’know. Hearing you say something he did once and it…”

“Oh.” He squeezes his eyes shut, his forehead furrowing. “I didn’t mean to.”

“Babe, unless you can read my mind and know every conversation I ever had with the boys’ father?” He shakes his head. Definitely not. “I didn’t think so. It’s fine. I’m fine.”

He presses a soft kiss to the top of her head, his hands stroking down her back, up down up down. “We’re gonna be better than fine eventually, y’know. Swear it.”


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“Wow, looks like you found Mamaw’s chocolates, baby?” Apollo grins up at her, the pink of his lips barely visible under the brown of the candy. Bending down, Gwen brushes a kiss to his unruly hair and pats his butt lightly. “C’mon, kid. Time for a nap, ‘kay? Zelva’s gonna get you a nice bath first. Clean you up.”

She feels Blake before hearing him, a warm presence at her back as she stands up. His arms encircle her, his chin resting on her shoulder, and she rocks back against him. 

“Mmm, you helpin’ or?”

“You want me to take him over?”

“If you don’t mind.”

Her boyfriend - and seriously, the word still sounds so damned strange to her - takes her son by the hand, and she watches them go, unable to stop a small smile crossing her mouth. She’d worried, of course she had, about how it would go, introducing him. So far, so good. It’s the second Sunday in a row that he’s had lunch with the family and spent the afternoon with them, and she can almost see him getting more relaxed hour by hour. 

She finds him again in the kitchen, staring at two jugs on the table. He shoots her a sheepish grin. “I swear, you’re gonna have to fill me in. Bottles and jugs need to be clear so I can tell what the hell’s being served, y’know. Not this mess. Neon pink? What’s that, grapefruit?”

Gwen pours him a glass, pushes it towards his restless hands. “Water, babe. Drink up.”

He doesn’t, instead quickly glancing behind her towards the rest of the house. It takes her a moment until she realizes why, and then she’s so busy kissing him that she doesn’t realize anything at all. Learning his kisses has been precious, every curve of his lips, every flick of his tongue, something to be memorized and treasured. His hands are on her ass and she’s standing on her tiptoes, straining up against his large body. 

“Oh my…” The sound of disgust that follows is enough to make her immediately pull away, push him forwards. Kingston’s face is enough to make her wince, and she rushes over to him, an apology on her lips. He brushes her off a bit, unsure, but eventually lets her take him in her arms, hug his slim body. 

She knows, in the back of her mind, that Blake’s still hovering a few feet away from her, but her boys have always been her priority and still are, and he knows that. “Hey, hey. I’m sorry. We didn’t - “

“Expect me,” he states flatly. “Apparently.” Kingston takes in a deep breath. “‘m sorry, too. I didn’t mean… It’s fine. Just…”

“I know, baby, I know.” Gwen turns back around to see how her boyfriend’s doing, thankful he hasn’t moved or run away. There was always going to come a point where the kids would see them as a couple, not just Mom and Mom’s friend. They just hadn’t exactly talked about how that would go, anticipating it would be some nice slow introduction, some handholding, some hugging, not this, well, dirty make-out against the counter in her parents’ home.

Blake’s hand is warm on her lower back, and then he bends town, almost kneeling so he’s at King’s eye level. “If it’s not okay, we can talk about it, right? Anytime. You just let me or your Mom know. Your rules.”

Her son nods and she’s suddenly struck by how grown-up he’s gotten this past year, coping with the changes far better than she’d honestly expected. She thinks, in time, Blake and him might even be able to be good friends, but for now, she’ll take this peace.

Chapter Text

He always feels like something’s missing when she’s gone from the house, but tonight, there’s enough noise and fun and love to take that small tightening away from his chest. 

“Turn it up!” Kingston shouts, leaning forward in his chair and gesturing at the huge television on the wall. “Hurry up, Blake!”

He grins, and tosses the remote control towards the pre-teen. “Do it yourself, then, lazy.”

The boy rolls his eyes but makes a good catch and immediately makes the room echo with the announcers’ voices. 

“You know the game isn’t starting for another few minutes, right, champ? You’re not gonna miss anything.”

I will if you both don’t stop talking,” Zuma says through gritted teeth, shifting closer to the TV on his bum, inch by inch. “Hey!” he suddenly exclaims. “Can we bet?”


“Cos Mom’s gone. Y’know. Bet.”

Blake tries not to laugh out loud at the excitement on the boy’s face, focusing on loosening Apollo’s grip on his shirt as a distraction. “Yeah, that would be a no, guys. Mom’ll check it at some point and there’s no way I’m going to be lying to her.”

“Don’t want to get kicked out of bed,” Kingston says with a sly smile, and it takes him aback a little, because he, well, he’s still a child, dammit, and he shouldn’t… 

Blake clears his throat. “You can bet candy but that’s it, ‘k?

“CANDY,” Apollo demands, his hands winding into Blake’s hair and twisting none too gently. Christ almighty. The kid’ll be four soon and time seems to be going too fast but not fast enough at all. He loves watching them grow but sometimes he just wants to rush forward and see how they turn out, wants to know if Zuma will decide football’s better than basketball, if Kingston can convince his Mom to let him start a YouTube channel, if Apollo ever stops calling him Blakeee and switches it up to something more… He shakes his head. Not going there. 

“Of course, bud. Let’s steal some from your brothers.” With a laugh, he launches Apollo over the pile of blankets and cushions in the middle of the room towards the large bowls of snacks he’d gotten together earlier in the evening. “Make sure you bring me some of the chips, though, or I think I might just starve to death.”

Five minutes into the game, Apollo decides Blake’s chest is a good place for a nap, and Kingston decides he misses his Mom after all and asks her to join them via Facetime. 

When Blake tells her he loves her and misses her, Zuma simply pretends to vomit.

Chapter Text

Zuma nudges her as they walk side by side by the aisle. “You know you won’t get lost if you let go of his hand, right?”

“Grab me a tin of tomatoes, bub.” She points to a low shelf with her free hand, watching as her middle son obediently - if sullenly - grabs what’s needed. “Thanks. Just in the cart.”

“If you didn’t hold his hand,” he continues stubbornly, “then you would be able to get the stuff yourself.”

Blake laughs at that, puts a stabilizing hand on the cart as someone walks past and accidentally knocks into it. “You have a smart kid, Gwen, there’s no gettin’ ‘round it.”

Zuma beams, and she rolls her eyes. She’s not exactly sure when she became the bad guy, and Blake became some kind of God, but… “Thanks, Blake!” he exclaims. “Hey, did you want me to go find the dip for you?”

Sheepishly, her boyfriend turns to her before answering the nine-year-old. “We’ll get there eventually. Let’s just do it like yer Mom wants, ‘kay? And I’ll let you in on a secret. The only reason she’s holding my hand is cos I asked.”

“I just don’t understand grown-ups sometimes,” he sighs. “I don’t mind holding Mom’s hands but yours is like just sweaty and big and gross.” He appears slightly chagrined when Blake raises an eyebrow. “No offense but really.”

“Well, I LIKE his hands,” Gwen says, and maybe it’s a little too defiant and defensive, but whatever, she does. He has wonderful hands and all the superlatives in the world can’t describe the simple pleasure of being able to hold it whenever she damned well pleases, whether at that’s in the supermarket or, well, in bed late at night. 

Chapter Text

Lazing in bed has always been one of her favorite pastimes (if it can legitimately be called that), but lazing in bed with Blake? Easily takes top spot. He usually has the sheets over one of his long legs but not the other, and she’s never quite been able to work out why. He doesn’t know either, apparently, gets a bit of a wrinkle in his brow every time she asks him. 

“So, we gonna start this or what?” he says, patting the empty space between them, and helping her shift right into it, her side coming right up against his, his shirt riding up in the process (and even though he’ll never get it, that’s something she won’t ever complain about). “I swear, you tell me every single time we finally get a night to ourselves that you’ll use my gun on me the next time I fall asleep before the movie ends, but then you choose *this*?” 

He’s whining a tiny bit, but he’s adorable doing it and the pout is just… “Let me give you some incentive,” she says in as tempting a voice as she can manage after a day of the kids running them ragged. He responds to the kiss immediately, his large hands grabbing her ass and pulling her up on top of him, his belt poking into her stomach. “You’re not getting away with it,” she swears. 

And then promptly lets him strip off their clothing. 

Forty minutes later, Blake helps her back into her bra and tugs his briefs back on, before finding the remote control. 

“So. The movie?” He smacks a warm wet kiss on her bare shoulder, before reclining back on their pillows and pulling up the blankets. “I promise I’ll be good.”

He’s asleep within twenty minutes.

Chapter Text


“You can sit down, y’know?” he says as she comes into the studio for the fourth time today (and yes, he might be counting). “Got a real nice couch here just for you.”

“A coincidence that it happens to be the one entirely taken up by your ass?”

Blake pats his lap, laughing at the skeptical expression on his girlfriend’s face. He’s been loving recording here at his house, and while he’d done vocals in his LA rental in the past, this is just on a completely different - wonderful - level. 

“Didja want the drinks now or?” 

He groans as he gets up from his seat, and indicates for the engineers to stop the playback for a moment. They may’ve taken a break for lunch an hour ago, but who is he to turn down what she’s carrying… “Here, let me help.”

“So generous,” Gwen says with a laugh, brushing him off and sitting down, one of her legs resting under the other like she’s a schoolgirl instead of a forty-something mother-of-three. 

“So flexible,” he says with a wink. 



He wakes up to the sun almost blinding him and it takes him three minutes to realise that they didn’t close the curtains and another two to remember why. Groaning, he rolls over in their bed, tugging Gwen closer to his side against her half-hearted protests. 

“Babe…” he croaks out. “Plans for today are canceled. Literally just…” He reaches out a long arm and searches helplessly for some water on the nightstand. Christ almighty, he’s too old for this.

She tries to laugh but coughs instead, burrowing her head against his chest. Her small hands are cold against his bare skin and he can’t resist taking one of them in his and sucking one of her fingers lazily into his mouth. Gwen shudders and then kicks his leg under the blanket. “No freaking way, Blake. I am too old and too tired and too hung over and…”

“Too horny,” he tries to say, her mouth swallowing his words as she pushes herself up onto his body. 



He’s been sharing his music with her for what feels like a lifetime (and he wishes it had been) and he knows there’s a logical reason he’s so nervous this time, but he really, really hates feeling this way. Gwen seems to pretty much love everything he does, but there are definitely tells when something moves or impresses her beyond normal. 

And he so badly wants to impress her.

“Alrighty, so, you gonna play me this masterpiece?” she asks with a grin, curling up against his side. “I swear, you’re about to jump out of your skin.”

“Reckon so,” he admits, before pressing play and letting the sound of acoustic guitars fill the room. He’s tempted to talk his way through the whole track but resists the urge to justify himself, and instead just watches her face.

It lights up when he mentions the damned Revlon thing, and she presses a kiss to his lips, quick but firm. 

“You like it?” he says when the final chords end, his heart still beating way too fast. 

“I like it. And love you,” she whispers into his neck, her eyes glistening just a little. It’s enough. 

Chapter Text

He thinks he’s still on some sort of high when they finally crawl into bed at god-knows-o’clock in the morning, partly from his performance earlier but mostly from the anticipation that’s building as they prepare for the block party and concert on Saturday night. Gwen shifts around next to him, just as restless, finally coming to a stop curled up at his side, her fingers circling way too close to his nipples. Tease.

“You were so good,” she says into his neck, her breath warm on his skin. “So, so, so good. Can we move all your concerts into venues like that, cos, god, it was yummy.”

“I mean, I’d prefer it to sound good over tasting good, but…”

She half-heartedly kicks out at his shin and rolls her eyes, and he’s a lost cause because he’s pretty sure her adorableness just made him fall in love all over again. 

“You were great too, y’know. The kids have fun?”

“Yeah, the bits they saw. Apollo got a bit restless and wanted to come up at one point.”

“Maybe another time, hey?”

“What, get him up?”

Blake shrugs, trying to stop his heart from racing just that little bit faster. He’s occasionally played guitar with the older boys (officially, they get lessons when they go to their dad’s, but considering most of their time is spent with him and Gwen, sometimes it works out a little differently), but Apollo’s been too young to do anything more than wail along and bang the body of the instrument. How young is too young to start playing anyway? He needs to look that up…

“Blake?” she says, a note of curiosity in her voice. “Got a bit lost there?”

“A little,” he admits. “Just thinking.”

“About how you’re going to go around to every single person that was in the audience and explain what on earth you meant by saying we were messin’ around?” she asks, the corner of her mouth turned up in a small smile.

“Oh, I think they know what I meant,” Blake laughs, tucking Gwen in closer to him, a hand coming to rest on her hip. Beautiful. “And not a single one of them would blame me. Also, have I told you how cute you are when you blush?”

“Have I told you how cute you are when you’re on your knees apologizing?” she retorts.

Blake raises an eyebrow, lets his hand stray close to her upper thigh. “What about on my knees not-apologizing?”

Laughing, Gwen gracefully lowers her body on top of his. “Fuckable.”

Chapter Text

He apologizes for his rental house about five times before she arrives, and twice more as she gets out of the car. When she gently stops him, Gwen’s pretty sure she can feel his heart beating against her hand where it lays flat on his chest (it’s so broad and she’s tempted to just leave it there). She loves knowing that he’s probably as nervous as she is, and it’s crazy, this whole thing, and yet…

“So,” he says, his voice cracking as he pulls away and gestures towards the door. “Welcome to the house.”

She follows him inside, trying to take everything in without seeming like a wide-eyed stalker-y freak. It had been pretty awkward, trying to figure out their eventual plans, in truth. Text messages between Oklahoma and Montana were, funnily enough, a hell of a lot easier, even if the distance had left her eager for them both to return to LA to see what, if anything, they can do with what she suspected they were both needing. Wanting.

“Drink?” Blake asks, making his way to a fairly comfortable looking couch. The animal heads on the wall (deer? were they real!?) are a bit off-putting and so she focuses on him, his fidgety hands and darkening eyes. It’s not like she’s ever preferred one eye color over another, hasn’t really thought about, but if pressed right on her favorite shade of blue, she thinks she’d just point straight at his irises. So intense. 

“Nah, I’m good,” she eventually replies, dropping her bag at her feet and sitting down. He follows suit and the space between them feels like fifty feet. 

So she shuffles closer. Subtle, Gwen, real subtle

“Thanks for inviting me over,” she says, hating how awkward this is getting. I mean, it was bound to be. They know each other crazy good at this point, but most of their conversations have taken place on their phones and laptops recently, and it’s just not the same. I mean, she’s not as tempted to jump the guy when she’s sending emojis to him, for god’s sake… “I would’ve asked you to mine, but…”

“No, it’s fine,” he says and Gwen’s pretty sure he hunches in on himself a little. And she hates it. She likes him confident and laughing and, well, she wants him to be THAT Blake with her. 


He looks at her then, right in the eyes, and yeah, he knows. She inhales, relieved, not wanting to put it into words just yet. It feels like she’s walking a tightrope and she has no idea if there’s something soft to land on. Because falling (and then hurting) is a foregone conclusion; that’s one of the shitty lessons she’s had to learn these past few months. 

So she reaches for him, a hand curving along his jaw and her fingers curling into the hairs at the base of his neck. “I need you.”

Chapter Text

You’re not sure if you were like this last time you fell in love (and you’re not going to ask anyone, because it’s the past and you’re trying to leave it there) but god, you don’t remember things ever feeling like this. Yes, you missed Gavin in the early days, missed him like crazy, but it was always tinged with worry. It was no secret that he sometimes hooked up when Bush went on tour back in the days you dated. Looking back, it’s probably fair to say that nothing changed after you married, either. Of course… Shaking your head, you quickly text Kingston back, tell him you’ll definitely Facetime him after dinner.

And then he’s there. He opens the door himself with the key you gave him a few weeks ago, and suddenly you’re crying like a baby and he’s hushing you in between kisses. 

“Blake,” you manage to get out between wholly unattractive sobs and shaky smiles. “Blake Shelton, you literally can’t leave me for that long again.”

His arms band around you, and he holds like he never wants to let go. You both stagger over to the couch, legs almost entwined, and fall back onto it. Landing on his lap isn’t something new to you, but you take advantage of it all the same, letting yourself shift forward up his chest so you reach his lips, kiss him until your lips are bruised. 

Later that night he joins you in bed. It’s still something you’re getting used to, having a man other Gavin in it, but you’re determined it’s going to work. And be good. Blake nuzzles into your neck, one of his arms coming around you to pull you back against his bare body. “The boys coming back tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” you tell him, unable to stop the joy creeping into your voice. “Only two days with their dad this time. Maybe…” You hesitate, not sure if it’s too early, whether you should talk to some other single moms you know who have already introduced their boyfriends to the kids in a serious way. “Maybe you could meet them sometime soon?”


“Well, not meet. I know you’ve seen them on set and said hi. But y’know, meet.Hang out with us properly?” 

“As your boyfriend?” he asks, wonder in his voice and his fingers gentle where they caress your face. 

“As anything you want.”

“That. I want,” he admits, “all of it.”

Chapter Text

Most of their conversations have taken place through e-mail and now she’s face to face with him, she’s finding it hard to concentrate. It’s one thing to give advice, to spill your guts, when you can edit or even delete your comments before sending them on. This leaves her more vulnerable and that’s something she seriously hates being right now. 

“Hey, did I say something wrong?” he asks, his forehead creasing and his hand coming to rest on her leg. They’re in his trailer, sitting on one of the couches (too closely?) and have been for almost an hour now. The boys are with their dad, filming’s over for the day, and neither of them have anything better to do, apparently. “Gwen?”

She shakes her head, puts her hand on top of his. Blake glances at her surprised, but doesn’t ask. She’s grateful. As always. One of things that’s been something of a shock to her is how crazy sensitive he is, how attuned he seems to be to saying the right thing at the right time. 

“Did you want to go? I didn’t mean to keep you, just…”

“No, no,” she tries to reassure him. “I WANT to be here. With you. My mind sometimes gets away from me, y’know.”

“Yeah, I get that. It’s weird how it works, how you remember something about them or your relationship or whatever just out of nowhere. Reckon my brain has it in for me or something.”

She doesn’t tell him that in the past few days, she’s been too busy thinking about him to even consider Gavin.

“Recently though…” He trails off, his fingers finding hers and twining with them. The contact almost makes her gasp. They’ve touched, of course, especially recently, and in a very short time, it’s become almost normal to find herself leaning on his shoulder, letting him bury his head in the crook of her neck. This, though, feels different. It’s been a long time since she’s felt anticipation of this sort, and yet she’s pretty sure that’s what this is. “Recently, I haven’t, y’know. Not as much. Maybe cos we’re so busy.”

Maybe because of this, she wants to say. Us

He inhales and Gwen’s pretty sure she spots the second he makes his decision, his eyes clearing and focusing in on her lips. 

“Yes,” she says. “Please.”

Later, laying in her bed replaying every single moment, she decides that it was absolutely, unequivocally the best kiss she’s ever had. During it, however, she’s too busy trying to escape into him, crush every doubt and worry and fear with his taste. 

“Blake,” she moans, fisting a handful of his shirt and pushing him back against the coach so she can get a better angle. “Fuck.”

He lets out a choked laugh at the word (not a command, though not just an observation either) and strokes her hair as he calms the kiss down, his tongue less aggressive, his touch more sensual. 

“More,” Gwen insists, not wanting to give this up yet. Ever.

The cowboy (the first time she called him that a week ago, his smile was all bashful and dimpled and she almost fell in love in a single moment) obliges.

Chapter Text

He can’t stop staring. 

Five fingers on each hand. Five toes on each hand. A tiny little nose, a tiny little mouth, blue eyes that haven’t quite learned to focus yet. He doesn’t have poetry on his lips, but the sheer emotion he has at the sight of each part of her - his daughter - is overwhelming and has been from the moment they were allowed to bring her home.

“Babe, you gonna ever get up?”

Blake meets his girlfriend’s eyes, shakes his head. “Don’t think so. I just…”

Gwen sits on the edge of the couch, leans her head on his shoulder and reaches over to caress their daughter’s head. 

“Was it like this every time?” he asks.

“A little different because, y’know, I was recovering from the C-sections with the boys, but yeah, it’s always just the most miraculous, special, amazing thing. I just didn’t ever think I’d get to do it again.”

“I didn’t think I’d get to do it, period,” he tells her, and it’s true. By the time his marriage to Ran was drawing to a close, he’d almost come to terms with the idea that maybe fatherhood wasn’t for him after all. Immediately jumping into a relationship with a woman with three children of her own hasn’t exactly changed that. And yet. “Thank you,” he says, smiling at her before turning back to the tiny bundle in his arms. 

He feels Apollo before he hears him, the boy’s small body barrelling into the side of the couch. His head pokes over into Blake’s space and he can’t resist holding a hand out to encourage the four year-old closer. Thankfully, all of Gwen’s kids have been super good about the new addition, all smiles and baby talk and cuddles. They’ve talked it over, he and Gwen, know that that might change at some point as they adjust to someone needing more attention than them.

“Can I touch her?” Apollo asks, his face open and curious. “The girl?”

Blake laughs, and pats a spot next to him, watches as Gwen plumps a cushion behind her son’s back. “She has a name you know, bud.”

Apollo scrunches his face up, apparently trying to remember it. No luck. “Girl.” 

“Yeah, she is.” Placing her carefully in his arms, Blake reminds his stepson (still unofficial but they all know it’s simply a matter of time) to be gentle, no sudden movements and definitely not dropping her the moment he gets bored. “Reckon she likes you,” he says as their daughter smiles. He knows it’s probably just gas, but Apollo doesn’t, laughing at the expression and bending down to press tiny kisses on his sister’s nose. 

He hears Gwen’s choked sound of pleasure and takes her hand in his. “Hey. It’s good.”

“Better than good.”

“Is it blasphemous to say it’s Heaven?”

She kisses his fingertips and climbs over the edge of the couch so she can sit comfortably in his lap. “I’ll apologise to God after thanking him for the millionth time for this miracle, hey?”

“Amen to that.”

Chapter Text

She doesn’t know what to do when it’s announced, ends up blinking into the lights as Blake gently pushes her towards the stage and at Kal, who’s waiting with open arms and a huge smile. Gwen can hear her fiancé laughing just near her ear and weirdly, all she can think about is that one time years and years ago when she won an award and Gavin had tempered his congratulations with a reminder that success is fleeting. 

“I, I can’t believe it,” she says in the general vicinity of the microphones being shoved in her face, wrapping an arm around her contestant’s waist and gesturing for him to say a few words. God, you’d think she’d be better at all of this after so many years of being in the spotlight, but after three seasons and so few finale experiences, she’d just never really thought it would be HER time. 

Eventually, the cameras go away, the families head to the cars, and it’s just her and Blake and a wall in her trailer. “The kids are super amped up, so I thought we could steal a few minutes,” he says, rubbing her arms. “You’re still shaking, baby.”

“A bit,” she admits. “I can’t believe - ”

“I can,” he insists. “Long overdue.” His kisses are sweet, his hands warm on her back under the T-shirt she changed into. “Seriously, though, I’m so proud of you.”

She melts into his embrace, lets the emotion take over and cries into his vest. “I’m sort of proud of me too, “ she admits. It’s been the strangest journey, learning to take ownership of the positivity and confidence she’s grown into during the past few years. “I don’t know how you do this every year,” she says eventually, fiddling with his collar. “It’s big, y’know.“

He doesn’t answer, pulls his phone out of his back pocket. Grinning, Blake shows her the screen. “Apparently, King’s teaching Apollo how to text.”

“Or someone typed with their butt.”

“Both pretty likely with your boys, to be honest.”

Gwen laughs, slaps him gently on the chest. “Taking after you, apparently.”

Chapter Text

They usually film on different days, but his house is empty and lonely and quiet, and so Blake’s spending his day on set, working with his team for a few more hours than they’d expected. 

He has lunch on his own on the steps of his trailer, and only looks up when he hears Gwen’s voice. It’s instinctual, weirdly, and he doesn’t want to think about how glad he is that she’s here, too. 

“Hey!” she exclaims, stopping in her tracks. “You!”

Laughing, he gets off the stoop, groaning a little when his knees decide to protest. Too damned old. “Me.” She ducks her head, a small smile on her face. He takes her in, Chucks, jeans, a T-shirt with some brandname on it that he doesn’t recognise. “Not filming today?”

“This afternoon,” she tells him. “Thought I’d show Gavin around a bit first, y’know.”

He looks around for Gwen’s husband, and the question must hit its mark, because immediately her face falls. Oh. 

“He’s here. Just taking a breather, y’know.”

“I get it.” He shrugs awkwardly. “Marriage.”

“We’re going out to dinner tonight, though,” she says, and if she sounds a little defensive, he can’t exactly blame her. Besides, at least she apparently gets to spend time with her partner once in a while. “For a date. No kids.” Her smile softens. “I mean, we love them, but it’s nice to occasionally…”

“Sure,” he acknowledges. “I’m sure it is.”

The conversation is left hanging, and he looks down at the ground, clears his throat.

“Um.” Blake gestures towards his trailer door. “I might…”

“Yeah. Of course. Sure. Sorry.”

He wants to assure her that she doesn’t need to apologize, that he wishes he could keep talking to her, that he wishes it was him going to dinner with her instead of the unappreciative jerk she’s apparently married to.

The door closes and he puts his headphones on. He’ll probably order take-out when he gets home. 

Chapter Text

He’s learned the best way to keep the kids under some semblance of control is to offer a very small number of options and try and make sure they’re attached to a time limit of sorts. 

1. Watch a movie on TV
2. Go shopping for jerseys
3. Eat doughnuts

“Why can’t we just do all three?” Kingston asks, Zuma chiming in with his usual echo. “I mean, Mom won’t be back from rehearsals for a few hours, right?”

“Right,” Blake concurs. “That’s true.”


“So all three it is.”

The noise from the television means that it takes him a few minutes to realize exactly what Apollo’s doing, where he sits curled up at his side. It’s the small hand wiping crumbs all over his jeans that first comes to his attention. 

Zuma laughs and points to the singer’s thigh. “Think you might need to change before tonight,” he says, taking another doughnut from the box. “Pink’s not really your color.”

Blake raises an eyebrow, and grabs Apollo around the waist, pulling him onto his lap so he can better keep an eye on the boy. “Hey, bud. A bit hungry, are we?”

“’m love the doughnuts. This’n a football.”

“It is, yeah.” Grinning, he takes a bite against Apollo’s protests. “Mmm. Hey, King, reckon you can grab me some wipes from the bag in the corner?”

Grumbling (apparently he’s only seen the movie three times and taking him away from it is an act of cruelty), the pre-teen does as requested, almost tossing it in Blake’s face. Good enough. 

Apollo’s little face screws up as Blake tries to get rid of all the icing, and funnily enough, he sometimes feels like these moments are his favorites, the challenging, boring ‘dad’ things that make him truly feel a part of this family. He brushes a kiss to the boy’s cheek. “There ya go. Only one more doughnut and you gotta get it all in your mouth, ‘kay? Not on the carpet.”

“On you!”

“Not on me either, but thank you.”

Chapter Text

He crawls up on the bed, resting on his forearms so he can hold himself just above his girlfriend without crushing her. He’s not exactly got the best upper body strength in the world, but for this view, her chest rising beneath his, her eyes dark and hooded? Yeah. 

One of her fingers strokes down his cheek and he sucks in a breath. “You’re too much, y’know.”

Gwen raises an eyebrow, laughs up at him as her hand comes down to his belt buckle, then zipper, and finds him. “Feel free to tell me.”

He lets his head fall to the pillow, a thrill going up his spine as she touches him way too lightly for any satisfaction. “Gwen….” Five seconds later, she’s slipped out from beneath him and he’s left feeling bereft. And determined. “No fucking way, baby girl. I thought we decided you weren’t allowed to tease me anymore.”

“Did we?” She’s standing in the doorway to their bedroom, casually stripping down to her underwear and then to nothing at all. “Find me my bikini, babe? The red one?”

“How about you just stay like that? The house is all ours.”

“Tempting but I’m in the mood for a swim.”

“One without beach balls and screaming kids and splashing? I’m shocked.” He laughs and goes into the closet to search for the bikini and to grab his own trunks. “I can do swimming. But Gwen?” he calls out. “If your bikini happens to accidentally come undone while you’re in the water, well, you’ll just have to suffer the consequences.”

She walks up behind him, her long arms hooking around his neck as she drapes a shirt over his shoulder. “Got your shirt for you.”

He shoots her a grateful smile and tosses her the first bikini he finds. It’ll do. 

“I’ve always thought making love in the pool out in the open sounded like fun…” And with that, she’s gone. He doesn’t exactly run after her (not because it’s undignified, but because his running is more of an ungainly trot and he wants to reserve his energy for, well, something else) but it doesn’t take long until they’re walking into the shallow side of the pool hand in hand. 

They see the drone within minutes, and he growls into a spot just above her breast. “How good’s their camera?” he asks, and she lets out a surprised laugh. 

“Too good.” 

“I don’t think I care,” Blake says. Her kiss tells him that she agrees. 

Chapter Text

He’s been trying to mind his language, trying to drink less, and even trying to regularly work out. Blake’s pretty sure that Gwen doesn’t exactly *care* about any of those things (they still swing wildly between hot sex and laughter, and deep weepy conversations about how their exes fucked up their lives) but if he didn’t already suffer from occasional bouts of insecurity about his appearance, being with literally the most gorgeous woman in the world? Well, it’s a boost to the ego but also makes him constantly second-guess himself. If whatever they have going on continues, and god, he hopes it does, maybe that’ll change and things will just become ‘normal’, but for now…

Gwen lets herself in and before he can utter a word of greeting, she’s jumping into his arms and her lips are on his. He laughs into their kiss, wraps his arms around her body and walks them backwards until he can get her up against a wall. The moment she slides down his body, brushing his cock with one her damned clever hands, he’s gone, mumbling something about a bed and needing her in between frenzied touches. 

“Blake, now. Please. Don’t wanna wait.”

“Christ. But…”

She tries to tug his shirt over his head and gets stuck at his head (it’s always been too big, he swears). He helps her out, takes a deep breath when her cool hands meet his chest. 

“Why are you so perfect?” he murmurs against her cheek as she explores, wincing when she tweaks a nipple slightly too hard. “Seriously. I’m going to die one day just trying to keep up.”

Gwen tuts, takes his hand and leads him to the bedroom. She’s been here a few times now, always claiming the same side, and he’s not complaining. He loves that she feels comfortable enough to take what she wants. 

He wants to give her everything. 

Chapter Text

He’s standing sidestage, watching Gwen (well, Gwen’s hips) with one eye and the audience with the other. Blake’s discovered that one of his favorite things about his girlfriend’s concerts is seeing the reactions of her fans. I mean, it’s the same for his own stuff, really, but he has this sort of amped up pride that wells up in him, seeing how much she means to other people. That’s all he wants, for her to know how loved she is, not just by her own family and him for by every other freaking person who’s met or heard her, too. 

The phone vibrating in his back pocket distracts him from the young girl reaching out in the front row, and he pulls it out just to check it’s nothing important.

Except it is. Probably.

“Hey King, what’s up?” he asks, wincing when he hears his voice sounding as concerned as it does. “Is everything okay?”

He hears a laugh on the other end of the line. “You hyperventilating, Blake?”

“Shush, you. Really, though, things okay?”

“Apollo won’t go to sleep, but other than that, sure. He wants to know if we can watch Mom for a bit. Todd says it’s okay if you say it’s okay.”

He pulls the phone away from his ear to check the battery. “Ah, I’d love to, bud, but I reckon I have about ten minutes of power left on this thing. I can try your mom’s, maybe?”


A few minutes later, he re-finds his spot and holds the phone up so the boys have a decent view of the stage. “Just a couple of songs, okay? We’re only about halfway through the set, I think.”

And so he watches Gwen along with her sons, and even though it’s not in-person, it feels almost as satisfying, especially when he hears Zuma’s voice through the speaker singing along. 

Chapter Text

“I swear, if you’re not quieter, I’m gonna have to stop,” he threatens, smiling into her shoulder when she scratches his back and growls in response. “Unless you want three young boys running in here wondering why Mommy’s in pain, you’re gonna have to, Gwen. It’s been long since you’ve practiced keeping the volume down, babe.”

He can picture her scowl in his mind, and concentrates on the reaction he *really* wants from her instead, none too gently shifting further down the bed and grabbing her ass to keep her in place. 

“But what you really need to do,” he continues, “is take these pretty panties off before I’m forced to remove them myself.”

She tilts her hips up, lets him drag her thong down and off. “Blake Shelton, if you don’t hurry up, I will actually scream.”

“I mean,” he injects, pressing soft kisses to her inner thigh as he works his way up towards where he really wants to be. “You’re gonna scream either way, sweetheart…”

Chapter Text

It isn’t nighttime and she’d kind of assumed it would be, had even dreamed about what might happen. They’d be sitting together in his kitchen, sharing a glass of wine hours after they’d finished dinner, talking about banal things. Then at some point, his hand would reach for hers and he’d lead her to his bedroom, not rushed, not frantic, just perfect.

This isn’t perfect and it sure as hell isn’t approaching midnight, she thinks as she opens her eyes momentarily and sees the sun glaring on the other side of the room through the glass. His kiss, though, it feels like some kind of weird acknowledgement of how long they’ve been waiting for this. It’s somehow more purposeful than all their previous kisses, and as good as those were (and they always are) this is shifting something inside of her, dislodging some of her fears and hurts. 

She runs a hand through his hair, tugging slightly to adjust the angle of their kiss. He groans at her and turns them around, cradling her butt in his hands and pressing her up against the wall of her room. “God, Gwen, I can’t believe - ”

Shutting him up with a kiss is one of the most pleasurable experiences of her life, only to be pushed down the list a moment later when he groans into her shoulder and bites down on some of the exposed skin there. She’d always had athletic sex with Gavin and it had been good, really, but there’s something about this man being so much bigger and so much gentler that somehow makes the passion and roughness with which he grinds up against her core better.

“We don’t have to,” he manages to say between kisses, still holding her up, his fingers curled into her ass. “Just tell me to - ”

“Take your jeans off, Blake,” she says raggedly against his already swollen lips. 

“Can’t,” he forces out, and she swears she can almost feel him growing against her as the seconds pass. “Can’t let you go yet.”

Gwen laughs, and smooths his damp hair back “I’ve got a bed, y’know.”

“Now. Need you now.” He lifts a hand to her already bared breast, cups it and brushes one of his callused fingertips across the nipple, causing her to ride harder against him. 

She manages to find the wherewithal to drag her mouth away from his, hating every moment she doesn’t spend touching him, making out with him. “Blake, please. Bed.”

He lets her slide down until her feet touch the floor, but doesn’t move back, one of his hands braced up against the wall and the other on her ass, holding her up against his cock, now straining against his jeans. 

Once more she begs, and again, he doesn’t obey. He bends his head, tonguing her breasts in a way that sends every thought fleeing her head. Her world has been turned upside down and all around these past eight months, and this, god, this must be her reward. “Stop teasing,” she urges as he circles closer before moving away, casually licking further from the tip. So fucking rude

Moaning in frustration, Gwen moves her hands from his shoulders to the back of his head, pulling his mouth where she needs it. His eyes meet hers and he grins. Bastard. She’s not sure what she expected in terms of him as a lover, the playfulness, yes, but this, this certainty and confidence? She manages to grab his ass as he laves her breast, and she’s left laughing breathlessly when he stops for a moment to glare at her. “Okay,” he concedes. “Bedroom.”

She takes a moment to shove her laptop off the bed and pull down the sheets, and then she’s got a hand on his chest (and since when did gray hair become attractive anyway?) and is shoving him down onto the mattress. Gwen follows, taking a second to tug his pants and briefs down before sitting astride him. He’s looking up at her with awe and she won’t lie, it does wonders for her bruised ego. 

Blake takes a deep breath and she watches the way his chest rises and falls with the inhalation. “I can’t believe we’re doing this,” he finally says, his large hands coming to rest on the outside of her thighs. “Finally.”

Laughing, she leans forward and kisses him hungrily. “Two weeks ago, you didn’t even know my middle name.”

“I knew the important stuff, though: how much amazing talent you have, how much love you have in your heart, what a good mom you are, how fucking gorgeous you always look.”

She grinds down on him, relishes the way his blue, blue eyes close in pleasure. 

“I can’t wait to know more, Gwen Renee Stefani. Everything. I can’t wait to learn what sound you make when you come.”

Chapter Text

Blake’s seen plenty of blood in his time, both from decades of hunting and from the past few years of scraped knees and cuts courtesy of Gwen’s children, but for some reason, he’s completely taken aback and winces when Apollo runs up to him, his tooth hanging by a thread and blood dripping down the boy’s chin. 

“Woah, buddy. What happened there?”

“I was just eating and it, like, just came out!”

“Were you eating a brick!?” he exclaims, holding his arms out and gesturing for Apollo to come closer. He gets a quick hug and then the boy’s wiggling his tooth right in front of Blake’s face. 

“Nooooooo,” Apollo says in a world-weary manner that makes him seem far older than his years. “An apple, Blake.”

He uses the collar of his shirt to wipe away some of the blood staining the kid’s chin and lips, and pulls him up onto his lap. “So, we gonna tell Mom? She’s been super excited, y’know.”

“Me too! Kingston said I was NEVER going to lose the tooth, that it would sit in my mouth forever and forever and forever, but I did too lose it.” He wiggles it again and god knows how it’s still hanging in there. Oh. And it’s not. Blake picks the tooth up from where it lands on the tiled floor and puts it in Apollo’s hand. There’s a long moment of silence, and after turning it over and examining it, his eyes meet Blake’s. “So, it’s a nice tooth. Can the tooth fairy bring me twenty bucks, please?”

“It’s only one tooth, how about one dollar?”

Looking skeptical, Apollo wriggles on Blake’s lap before putting his finger into the gap left by the tooth. “No. Tell him twenty.”


“Please. Or else.”

Chapter Text

“How are you even comfortable right now?” he asks her, and it’s a fair enough question, considering the way Gwen’s currently sprawled across his body on their bed. “I mean, I think I’d have to have a crane lift me out of position or something.” He taps her ass fondly and checks his e-mails with the other hand. Restless, she shifts position, eventually rolling right off him and grabbing the iPad on the nightstand. 

“Wanna watch something, babe?”


Gwen laughs. He literally never stays awake for a whole film, so she shakes her head. YouTube, the timekiller of all timekillers. The boys are already in bed, hopefully sleeping, but she’s feeling a little out of sorts for some reason tonight, and just wants to cuddle up with her boyfriend for awhile before trying to get her shuteye. 

“Let’s watch you prowling around onstage looking gorgeous, then. That won’t put me to sleep.” He leers at her and it might be intended to be sexy, but it’s kinda dorky and endearing instead. She kisses him for the effort.

Half an hour later, she’s curled up against his side and watching Blake trawl through the sidebar suggestions, mostly No Doubt concert clips and a few solo ones, too.

“HOLY SHIT!” he exclaims at one point, and she rubs his belly in a motion intended to be comforting, because honestly, he looks slightly queasy. “I mean, seriously, Gwen. Holy shit. Please tell me you didn’t break your neck.”

“If I had, I doubt a fan would’ve uploaded it to YouTube and gotten so many likes, babe…”

Blake shifts on the bed, draws her even closer like that’ll somehow protect her from her climbing rigs at concerts back before she even knew him. It’s cute. 

“I was careful, y’know.”

“Yeah, I know. ‘Course you were. It’s just kinda scary, I guess, watching how high you went without rope or anything. Just takes one mistake…”


He kisses her forehead and puts the iPad down on the mattress next to them. “But it was also super hot.”

Chapter Text

Blake’s standing in the entrance, arms open, when the boys barrel through the door. Zuma crashes into him, almost knocking him backwards, and Gwen can’t stop the smile that crosses her face at the sight. One of the things that had almost convinced her to stay with their dad had been the fact (she thought) that she wouldn’t be to cope not seeing the boys every day. Years later, it’s still difficult, but she’s found ways to cope. Not even just sex. Having a partner who so obviously relishes being a parent in all the important ways is just… Well, it’s everything.

“I gotcha something!” her middle child exclaims excitedly, tossing a small bag straight at her boyfriend’s chest. “Hurry up! Open it!” 

He grins and puts an arm around around Zuma, ushering him towards the kitchen. “How about we grab a snack and then we can check it out? You got it at school?”

Gwen’s feeling jittery and she knows Blake’ll respond well, but she hopes it’s genuine, too. She comes over to where they’re standing at the countertop and picks up the faux velvet bag. Nice. She knows he’s not their father, but they didn’t want him to feel like he was missing out this year, and so to the school stall Zuma went. 

“It’s for Father’s Day!” Zuma shouts. “We’ll be at Dad’s that weekend, so I thought you might want, well, y’know.” He trails off and Gwen can feel the emotion welling up when Blake leans down and kisses the side of her son’s head affectionately.

“You are amazing, you know that, right? Super dooper amazing.”

“King and ‘pollo said this is from them too. Cos I thought of it and they didn’t, but I was nice and said it could be their present too.”

“Well, we better have a look right now then.” He calls for the other boys, and they come running, crowding her boyfriend in the center of the kitchen, their faces open and excited. “Woah,” he says, pulling the drawstring and withdrawing a large dark-colored ring.

“You like it!? Apollo shouts. “Daddy’s is silver but this one is black!”

She watches as Blake turns the band over in his hand, a small soft smile on his face. He tries to put it on his right hand ring-finger, grinning ruefully when it refuses to go all the way down. “I think it might be a little small, guys.”

King’s face falls for a moment before he recovers and taps Blake on the arm. “Do you want, maybe we could put it a string or somethin’? Like a necklace? Would you wear it?”

“Bud, you should see the godawful necklaces I used to wear. This one? I’d be proud to have ‘round my neck, y’know. Super proud.”

Gwen blinks away the tears she can feel building. She’ll cry later, once she and Blake are in bed together, cry and maybe laugh a little, too. Because god bless her kids, but she’s just grateful it wasn’t a shiny bracelet. 

Chapter Text

He hasn’t drunk like the drunk he supposedly is for years now, not that it’s stopped the tabloids from speculating and the management from portraying. Him, too, if he’s being honest with himself. It’s easier to fall back into jokes about weight and alcohol than to acknowledge that his life has completely turned upside down and he’s sure not what it’s gonna look like when he comes out the other side.

Blake turns on his side, can hear the way his heart starts beating a little faster when he sees her lying there next to him, her lips in a thin line, and one of her hands curled up under her chin. They’d drunk too much last night, and even though he knows a lot of it stemmed from wanting to obliterate the doubts and regrets and bitterness, it had been strangely enjoyable too.

“C’mere,” she whispers, her voice deeper than he’s used to hearing. “Need you.”

He doesn’t need to be told twice, shifts closer to her and wraps his arms around her body, cradling her so her head rests on his bare chest. She’s not a short woman, but she feels small like this, small and delicate. Her eyes are still a bit red-rimmed from earlier in their evening, the sobbing-loudly-into-his-shirt part that came just before the making-out-like-the-world’s-about-to-end part.

Gwen opens her mouth to speak and apparently he’s weaker than he thought, because all he can think about is her lips and how good they would feel wrapped around his… “Hi,” she says, and he can just about make her expressions out in the moonlight coming through his curtains, and he thinks she feels as unsure as he knows he is. “So.”

“So hi back.”

She stifles a laugh, and cuddles closer. “I’m going to regret all that drink in the morning, y’know. I swear, it’s been too long.”

Blake wants to ask her if she’s going to regret everything else, but he’s too tired, too scared. They haven’t really talked about what’s going on between them much yet, only acknowledged that it’s something worth pursuing. He swallows down his questions, rubs up and down her back in long, slow motions until her eyes are closed again and there’s a small smile on her face.

“Mmm,” Gwen murmurs, and he’s not sure if she’s fully asleep and just dreaming or something else altogether, but he’s trying to memorize every word, every touch. Just in case this doesn’t happen again. “Love you.”

He lets the words sit there unanswered, lets himself believe for just a moment that she meant them for him.

Chapter Text

Sometimes he lets himself read his Twitter feed, even though it’s inevitably a bad move. As Blake scrolls, he finds himself getting more and more frustrated with the comments he sees, whining about how he loves Oklahoma more than his girlfriend. He’s like a freaking duck or something. Even if these strangers online don’t see it, he’s constantly kicking his feet under the water, propelling himself forward for work. And if he takes a single day to relax and recharge, so what. Imperfect metaphor, his mom would say, but hey, out in the woods, there’s nobody to judge him except for the deer. And they’re too busy avoiding his arrows to worry about grammar and shit.

He gets back to the lodge just before the sun sets, having been almost completely unsuccessful in bagging anything. That’s not really the point, though. As a kid, he’d assumed a day of hunting and no results was a waste of time, but now that he’s older (though probably not much wiser) he appreciates just being out in nature, having some peace and quiet. And being able to pee without having to worry about the paparazzi taking photos of him… 

Facetiming has been his lifeline ever since the day he and Gwen exchanged phone numbers, and today’s no different. The moment he sees her face, it’s like a cloud he hadn’t even known existed, lifts. 

“Hi!!!” she says, waving at him through the screen. Apollo’s sitting on her lap (he’s pretty sure they’re on the bed and he’s crazy envious of the toddler right now) and waves too, and he never gets sick of that sight. “Miss you!”

Blake doesn’t need to say that he misses her too, but he does anyway, wants her to understand that as much as he loves spending time in the woods, he loves her even more. “You too, baby. It’s so quiet here without you and the kiddos.” 

“How many more days do you think you’ll be?”

“Well, like we talked about, we have meetings in town tomorrow, and I thought I’d try and spend the weekend with Mom. Then Monday and Tuesday, I promised a buddy we’d try and catch a buck.” He screws up his face, makes an exaggerated expression of disgust. “Ned’s a godawful shot, though, so…”

Gwen laughs and he does too, unable to stop himself from leaning in towards his cell’s screen, as if that makes him any physically closer to his girlfriend. 

“The boys behaving themselves?”

“Without your terrible influence, absolutely,” she replies with a wry grin, giving Apollo a high-five when Blake gasps in mock outrage. 

He returns to Los Angeles one day early.

Chapter Text

They’d actually planned to tell him, sit him down and carefully break the news. They’ve been through the process a few times now, with family early on and more recently with some close friends. Blake’s felt bad leaving Adam out of the loop, especially after those first days after… Well, his friend had been there for him, and so keeping the relationship under wraps, something so precious and important, had been necessary but left a bad taste in his mouth. 

Best laid plans, however, he thinks to himself as Adam glares at them from across the table. “So,” he says, “were you ever gonna tell me or?”

Gwen looks back innocently and damn, she’s even fluttering her eyelashes. He’d be impressed if he weren’t so busy pretending they weren’t just caught with his hand in his girlfriend’s lap. 

“Is that a ‘eventually, Adam’ or an ‘um, nope, figured you’d use your mad detective skills and find out yourself’?

“The former,” Blake concedes, his hands now sitting on top of the table, his fingers inching closer to Gwen’s every second. Magnets. “Really. We just don’t want it getting out yet, y’know?”

His friend raises an eyebrow. “Maybe try not looking like you’re desperate to make-out while you scoff down your ribs then, Blake.”

“Now that’s a challenge.”

“Also kind of gross.”

Adam leans over and puts a hand over Blake’s, rubbing the backs of his knuckles fondly. “Seriously though, bud, really?”

“Yeah, really,” he admits, a little bit sheepish and a lot proud. “Best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“And she’s coping with being you okay?”

Gwen laughs, rests her head on Blake’s shoulder for a second before straightening back up again. “Second best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“After meeting me, naturally,” Adam says smugly.

Chapter Text

Sometimes she envies normal divorced parents with normal jobs, who have nice, normal, predictable custody arrangements. At first, that had been the case for her and Gavin, but since everything was finalized, she’s been forced into more contact than she wants with the guy, solely so she can make sure the kids are feeling loved and wanted (and get to stay with her as much as possible, if she’s honest with herself.)

“Kingston!” she calls out when a crashing sound comes from the vicinity of his bedroom. “Everything alright?”

“Fine, mom,” he yells back, his voice somewhat muffled. “Just trying to find something!”

Shaking her head, she puts Dodo back in the cage, and takes a sip from the glass of wine Blake had poured her earlier. Moments later, two small arms are wrapped tightly around her legs and Apollo’s face is smushed into her stomach. “Hey, baby, whatcha doin’?”

“Hiding,” he replies, and she’s pretty sure she just wiped snot all over her $800 jacket. Par for the course. “Blake said he’s gonna eat me.”

“We’d better make sure he eats up all his dinner then, so he’s all full up, hey?”

He pushes against her legs, propelling himself backwards, and crosses his arms, looking up to Gwen with consternation. “He’s not *allowed* to eat me.” Changing tack, he spins over to the bench, jumping up to grab the cookies left there earlier by Zuma. “Mommy?”


“We goin’ t’ranch after dinner?”

Gwen gets down to her knees (and god, she’s getting too old to be doing this judging by the crack she hears) and strokes his cheeks, still babyish but not enough for her liking. Time’s going too quickly. “Aww, sorry, baby, no. But tomorrow you’ll get to Daddy’s and that’ll be super fun.”

Frowning, her youngest son gives her one of his cookies. “What about if I give you one of these? THEN can I go see the horsies?”

She decides, then and there, that it can’t hurt to ask. 

Chapter Text

He’s got two children on his lap, and he likes kids, he really does, but this was a BAD idea. Blake cradles Dusty in his left arm and tries to cajole Apollo into sitting still on his other leg, mostly because the toddler always seems to wriggle in such a way to cause maximum discomfort to his groin. 

“Hey, bud, wanna play on the phone?” 

Apollo pouts at him, and for whatever reason, it’s an expression that always makes him think that people who think the kid’s the spitting image of his father are totally wrong. Because he’s all Gwen right now.

He hands over his cell and finds Apollo’s favorite app, hoping it’ll keep him occupied long enough that he can have a little time with Adam’s daughter. He’s met her, of course, but not on the set, and weirdly, that makes a difference. She’s looking up at him with wide eyes but not crying, and that’s a win, considering that only half an hour ago, he could hear her wailing from inside his trailer. 

“Blakeeeeee, Blakeeeee, Blakeeeeeee, loook!”

He feels a tug at his shirt and adjusts his grip on Dusty long enough to pry Apollo’s hands away from the buttons. “I can see. Pretty cool!”

“LOOK.” And then he feels his hold on the baby loosening. Gwen’s son is grabbing at the soft pink wrap, tugging it - and her - away from Blake. Christ almighty. 

“Hey, bud, how about we let Dusty be.”

He shifts and tries to sit on Blake’s other knee, forcing him to hold Dusty almost on the arm of his red chair. One of the things they’ve been trying to teach Apollo is how important sharing is, but it’s not exactly his favorite thing in the world, and, more than anyone, Blake kind of gets how easy it is to let things slide with the baby of the family.

He changes tack, encourages Apollo to gently touch Dusty. “Look, she’s smiling. I think she likes ya, ‘pollo.”

For a few blessed minutes, he plays happily with the baby, and only stops to make a simple request. “Blakeee, she has to stay here. I don’t want her home.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes she purrs, literally curls up next to him (or on him, if he’s lucky) and *purrs*. He’s not sure if it’s because he was starved of affection for so long or simply because he finds everything she does endearing as fuck, but he loves it. 

“You’re doing it again,” he murmurs, gently tucking some loose strands of hair behind his girlfriend’s ear. “The kitten thing.”

Gwen raises her head, props herself up on his chest with her forearms. 

“A comment, not a complaint,” he clarifies. “Though I’ve got the marks to prove the claws are real.”

“Scratch my itch and I’ll scratch yours, right?”

“Somethin’ like that,” Blake agrees, hooking his right leg around hers to keep her close. She’s only wearing her tight workout pants and a bra and he’s not gonna lie, she feels damned good. 

“Babe?” Her hand reaches up to his face, scratches his beard. “Promise me you’re not gonna shave.”

He laughs, presses a kiss to her fingertips. “What, ever?”

Gwen nods and hums approvingly, continues her path across his jawline and up to his ears. He’s let his beard grow out a bit these past week as they’ve vacationed back in Oklahoma. It’s not like anybody sees him except for family and friends see him anyway, and until Apollo runs away in fright or Gwen locks him out of the bedroom? Well, it stays. 

“Ever it is, then.”

Chapter Text

She’s seen the commercials, even experienced the highs. Valentine’s Day is a time for expressing your love for your partner, showing your commitment, blah blah blah, and oh god, why can’t he just leave her alone?

Usually she craves Gavin’s attention, desires it more than anything else, but there’s something about the way he treats her on Valentine’s that makes her feel a little sick inside. Not that she’d ever tell anyone. No, she’s too busy squealing over the floral arrangement and pretending that she totally *does* prefer dark over milk chocolate. 

Her husband’s hand falls to her knee, and she pastes on a smile as he turns to her, presses a slightly too hard kiss to her lips. “Love you, babe,” he says before turning back to the television. Her favorite film, because “You deserve the world.”

It’s just… Well, today highlights what’s missing every other day, and maybe that makes her selfish and an ungrateful bitch, but god, she hates wondering if this is the real him. Or that is. Sophie says that it’s both, that people are complicated and Gavin’s no exception. And she knows that. But it’s becoming harder and harder to remember why she fell in love with him in the first place, no matter how gorgeous he is (he’s becoming more of a gym rat than her, and she’s tired of trying to keep up) and how many times he promises her it won’t happen again (it always does). 

Gwen lets her head drop to his shoulder, breathes in the smell of cologne still lingering to his body. She mouths the words - I love you - but she still feels hollow inside. 

Chapter Text

There’s a completely different rhythm to their days out here on the lake, and Gwen doesn’t hate it. She’s even come to enjoy the early mornings, those hours spent lounging at the back of the boat, watching Blake gently helping Zuma untangle his fishing line, relishing the unabashed joy on King’s face when he reels in even the tiniest of fish. 

Monday morning arrives, and with it, Apollo climbs into their bed, his body squirming and wriggling until it finds its favorite spot between her and Blake. Her boyfriend squints an eye open and gives the toddler a half-hearted tickle to his tummy, before rolling over and burying his head in the pillow. Laughing, she gathers her son to her, presses a kiss to his forehead. “Hey, baby. You miss Mommy and Blakeee, didya?”

“Pancakes,” he whines, his hand tangling in Blake’s hair as he tries to climb onto the man’s long, sturdy frame. “I wants some now.”

“What’s the time?” Blake asks, turning his head so he can speak without his words being completely muffled. “Breakfast?”

“Not even close,” Gwen tells him. “Few more hours. Maybe try and get the monkey back to sleep.” She reaches across and tugs the sheets down a few inches, runs a hand down his chest. “I’m too distracted by this to care.”

Blake guffaws, and she adds fingers from her other hand, circles his nipples, partly because she loves hearing him laugh but mostly because she has a serious obsession with his chest. He might not be the fittest guy in the world nor the most built, but he’s strong and broad and for some reason, the gray hair *really* does it for her. If she lets herself indulge in pettiness, she also enjoys the stark difference between what she has now and the way Gavin used to occasionally wax off even the tiny bit of thin, straggly hair he had. 

“Seriously, Blake, can you just not bother with the shirt today?”

“What, and tempt all the ladies out there on the lake with my manly manliness? How cruel of you, Ms. Stefani.”

Apollo yanks a hair from high on Blake’s chest, and she winces sympathetically. “My son apparently disagrees. Sorry.”

“You look it,” he replies with a grimace. “I think your idea about getting him back to sleep was much better, frankly.”

Chapter Text

He’s held children before, his nephew and niece obviously, but most of his friends are married with little brats now, too, and so more than one baby’s been thrust into his arms.

It would be a lie to say he hasn’t wondered what it would be like if it was his own kid instead. It seems more unlikely by the day, though, and he’s getting used to the idea. Watching Gwen with her little ones makes it harder, weirdly, and he’s not sure he wants to know why.

“Would you mind - ” she says hesitantly, her youngest cradled close to her body and her two older boys yanking on her arm, whining about lunch. “Just for a moment? He’s almost asleep.”

He wants to ask why on earth she’s struggling with them all on set when her husband could be helping out, but really, he doesn’t know their schedules and it sure as hell isn’t his business, anyway. So he simply says “of course” and lifts the small body from his colleague’s arms into his own, letting the boy’s head rest on his shoulder. 

Gwen smiles gratefully - and weirdly, a little wistfully - and promises to be back in a few minutes. He hasn’t seen his wife in nearly a month and he’s not so high and mighty these days that he can’t acknowledge that he’s a super tactile guy and really misses cuddles. Of any sorts. Rubbing Apollo’s back makes the baby wriggle with pleasure, he notices pretty quickly, and it makes him grin.

He’s not smiling so much as wincing a few seconds later when he suddenly feels a tight grip on his ear. Fuck’s sake. He’s in the process of gently trying to extricate himself when Gwen returns, no longer any boys in tow. Blake looks around, and she must realize what he’s thinking because she puts a hand up, waves it airily. “One of the sound guys offered to take them to get their lunches. Thought you might be struggling so…” She trails off and he tries to put a genuine smile back on his face. Because of course she thought he’d struggle with the baby. Everyone assumes it, assumes it’s him who has been putting off having kids. 

Blake takes a deep breath, tries once again to remove Apollo’s strong fingers from the shell of his earlobe. Gwen finally spots the struggle going on, and the sweetest smile crosses her lips momentarily. “He likes you,” she tells him, her head almost touching his back as she leans in to kiss her baby’s cheek. “His brothers did it as well, the ear thing. Kinda weird.”

“But cute.”

“Definitely the cutest,” Gwen agrees. “You wanna come back to mama, sweetie?” she coos and yeah, Blake might think baby-talking is annoying as fuck, but this moment right here, he wants this for himself, for his life. 

Chapter Text

“I cut my kids’ hair, y’know,” she says, almost burrowing into his armpit as she curls into his body. Blake laughs because he’s only just started getting used to her non-sequiturs and they never fail to put him in a good mood. It’s that simple for him. “Real good,” Gwen adds.

“My mom’s a hairdresser.”

His bemusement turns to adoration when she turns to him, wide-eyed and open-mouthed like he’s just told her the most interesting fact in the world. He’s made friends in the past few years but he doesn’t remember ever opening up this much, this quickly, to *anyone*, let alone the hottest freaking rock star on the planet. He still has to pinch himself sometimes, tries not to think too far into the future. 

“She cut mine as well. One time I tried to do it myself. Borrowed her scissors and everything and hacked off huge chunks of hair. Pretty sure I was grounded for a week.”

Gwen’s fingers had been on his chest, her thumb rubbing lightly on his clavicle, but they creep upwards behind the shell of his ear to his still damp hair (courtesy of his shower, not bedroom exertion, sadly…). “So gorgeous. I’ve always loved guys with curls, y’know.” He can’t help himself, closes his eyes and hums in satisfaction. Laughing lightly, she increases the pressure, scratches gently with one hand and twirls his curls around the fingers on her other. 

“I think I love *everything* about you,” he says emphatically, and maybe it wasn’t quite as under his breath as he’d anticipated, because her head lifts off his body and she faces him. “Shit,” Blake mumbles. “I didn’t - ” 

“If you tell me you didn’t mean it, I might just cry.”

She looks like she’s about to cry regardless, and it makes him want to just gather her up in his arms and hold her, well, forever. They’ve had so many conversations end in tears over the past two months and he’s hoping, hoping so hard that they’ve turned a corner. 

Gwen half chokes on her words, her fingers tapping restlessly on his shoulder. Rhythm - in every way - one of the best things about being with a musician. “If you tell me you mean it, I might cry too…”

He tips her head up to meet his, presses a soft but sure kiss to her lips. “I do. Mean it.”

Chapter Text

She’s never been great at hiding secrets from those she loves, especially her mom, but the years have helped teach her evasion and obfuscation. Every “things are fine” had been met with increasingly skeptical acceptances, and the past few months have put them all to lie. Because, yeah, obviously things weren’t fine and Gwen doesn’t really remember the last time they were

“Hey, King, Mema’s asking for the dressing. Wanna pass it over?”

Her eldest son rolls his eyes but does as he’s told, leaning into her body a little in the process. He’s become clingy since her and Gavin had sat the two older boys down and explained what was going to be happening, and on the one hand it’s not surprising (Kingston’s always been more sensitive and highly strung than Zuma) but it’s also just one more thing that keeps her up late at night worrying. 

Blake’s told her numerous times that it’s perfectly normal, that he’d be more worried if there was *no* reaction, and she knows he’s speaking from experience, so she swallows down the doubt as much as she can.

It’s ten o’clock when the boys finally settle down and fall asleep in one of her parents’ spare rooms (Apollo surrendered much earlier). It’s become something of a pattern, this year, spending their Sunday afternoons and evenings together after church, and Gwen feels blessed every single time. Her dad pours them all a glass of wine and they sit on the couches, the television muted in the background, talking about everyone’s plans for the week and avoiding Gavin’s name as much as possible. 

The first text comes through at 10.43pm and Gwen can’t stop herself from responding as soon as she realizes who sent it and what it says. Blake’s been in Oklahoma for a few days now and she honestly can’t believe how crazily she misses him - the sex, of course, but just his voice and his hands and his amazingly pretty eyes, too. 

hey babe. love that pic!!!! bettys adorable!!!! with parents havin nice quite evening. u?  

She looks up to find her father watching her, a confused expression on his face. Gwen gestures to her phone, sputters out a mumbled explanation, something she wouldn’t be able to repeat if asked. When she finds herself laughing over Blake’s response only a minute later, she knows it’s time. 

“So, uh, that was Blake.” Two blank expressions. Wouldn’t want to make it easy for her. “Shelton,” she explains. 


“He’s, um, he’s been really helpful. You know. With everything.”

Her mom takes pity, moves closer and takes Gwen’s hand in her own. “I saw a magazine saying his divorce is final.”

“Yeah. Only took ten days. I’d say he was lucky but honestly, it’s been hard for him. His, Blake’s ex cheated on him.”

‘Too’ is left unsaid, but the sympathetic expressions from her parents make it heard regardless. It’s bubbling up in her, the desire to just spill everything. They’ve noticed the change, of course, nobody could miss it, but she’s assuming they’ve chalked it up to her learning how to be her apart from Gavin. Or something like that… 

“We’ve been, well, seeing how things go, y’know?” Gwen says hesitantly. “It’s good, real good.”

“So far.”

She feels the sudden urge to defend him, defend their relationship. It’s only been a couple of months but even with all the upheaval and angst and crying and uncertainty, she can’t remember the last time she felt this damned happy and hopeful. “We’re not telling the boys yet, but we’ve talked about it.”

Arms wrap around her - tight, so very tight - and she lets her head fall to her mother’s shoulder, buries her head in the crook of her neck. Her scent is so familiar and so dear, and she’s pretty sure she’s about to cry. 

“I think I’ve found what I was looking for, Mom.”

Chapter Text

‘What style house do you like?’ has always been a bit of a non-starter with him, because who the hell knows. Normal? Country? It all just sounds a bit generic and like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Which he doesn’t. He has enough to do without pouring over design and architecture magazines, after all. If he was asked to sum up what he’s seeing right now though, he’d be at a total loss for words, unable even to bluff.

“Woah,” Blake says, trying to take everything in without losing sight of Gwen, who’s currently walking excitedly beside him. He’s not sure if she’s as nervous as he is, but she has no reason to be - he’s in. For everything. “Wow,” he reiterates, suddenly spotting huge portraits of her children on the wall. “Sure glad my mom didn’t do that.” She shoots him a curious glance. “I was an unfortunate looking kid. To put it mildly.”

Gwen puts a hand on his forearm and it makes his heart stutter a little. He’s still not used to her touch, especially how open and free she is with it. Miranda was never exactly keen on PDA, and towards the end, she’d get prickly if he even suggested he wanted a cuddle in private. Not the time, he reminds himself. 

“This is freaking amazing, Gwen,” he finally says, gesturing towards the bright splashes of color on the wall. “It’s like weird but cool too, y’know? Modern.”

Her nose crinkles a little, and she looks uncertain. And fuck, why can’t he be more eloquent? “I know it’s a bit…” She hesitates. “I like it but I know it takes some getting used to.”

And would it be too forward to say that he hopes she gives him the opportunity to get used to it, to learn where the kids keep their toys, to know where in the pantry the cookies are kept, what the comfiest spots on the couches are? 

“Did you wanna, like, have a proper tour or something, or maybe get some lunch or?” 

“There’s no rush, Gwen,” he reassures her. “I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

Chapter Text

It’s not like they’re constantly talking every moment they’re together, but neither has the silence between them ever felt quite this awkward. 

His hand is still resting on her bare hip, and she can feel the soft huff of his breath against her neck, unsteady and keeping pace with her heartbeat. Gwen hadn’t meant to say the words but she can’t take them back now, doesn’t even know if she wants to. In the moments afterwards (she can still hear the conviction in her voice as she’d whispered ‘I love you’), he’d withdrawn and quietly tossed the condom in the bathroom can before returning to his bed, curling up behind her like it was his place and his only.

On other nights she’d found herself wondering, long after he’d gone to sleep, whether there’ll come a time when she’ll be able to make love with someone else. It’s kind of bizarrely precious how quickly she’s adjusted to him, the weight of his body on hers and the way his arms feel around her in the early hours of the morning. 

“It’s okay, y’know,” he says against her skin. “Sayin’ that.” She’s pretty sure he’s trying to reassure her, but it makes her tense up instead. For god’s sake, she hadn’t meant to say it, not really, and definitely not yet. His nose tucks into the curve of her neck and she tries to relax, concentrates on breathing (in, out, in, out). “Really, Gwen, all I need is honesty. You know that, right?”

The vulnerability in his voice calls to her, the deepest, darkest part, and that’s how it’s been since the moment he’d met her eyes and she’d known. She laughs and it’s so brittle that she feels sick. “I know.” She turns around and looks up at his face, her fingers automatically reaching for his cheek. His beard is thicker than she’s ever seen it before and when she’d asked about it yesterday, he’d sheepishly admitted that he doesn’t always take good care of it when he’s in between filming. She doesn’t mind, likes it, even. 

“You’re not taking it back, are you?” he says, forcing a grin that’s as twisted as her stomach currently feels. Because yes, she meant the words, feels the words, but they haven’t even really figured out what they are, let alone what their future (if any) might look like, and christ, it’s just like her to run straight into a situation like this.

She doesn’t answer his question, just presses a slightly desperate, sloppy kiss to his lips. He groans, responds, but eventually sets her back, his chest heaving and his breathing staccato. 

“Please don’t take it back,” he says.

“Blake…” He closes his eyes against the hesitant way she says his name like he’s waiting for the final death blow. “Babe. I’m not gonna take it back. I just… I don’t know what I’m doing here, y’know. My head’s spinning because I’m just so, it’s so good but my life is so bad too, and I have no idea what things are going to look like a month, y’know. You don’t even live in Los Angeles, for god’s sake.”

“And you don’t live in Oklahoma,” he adds with a wry smile. “Or even Texas, god forbid.”

Gwen kisses his shoulder, smiling at the small indent near his clavicle. Accident with a fishing pole as a child, he’d told her. “Can I stay?”

“You don’t need to ask. Answer’s always yes.”

And that’s good enough for now.

Chapter Text

He’s not sure whether he feels more sorry for himself and his godforsaken flu-ridden body or sorry for the fans who are now stuck back in the city without a concert to go to. Not that it has to be either or. Groaning, Blake rolls onto his side, facing the closed dark curtains in his bedroom. No more thinking; his brain is gonna just explode.

Switching between a basketball game and a sitcom he half-remembers fills up an hour. Trying to force some soup down his throat takes twenty minutes. Sleeping (thank god) takes him all the way through to lunch. 

When she first arrives, Blake’s instinctual thought is that he’s still stuck in that weird half-dream, half-fever he feels like he’s been in for the vast majority of the day. And then he reaches for her, smooths out the worried lines in her forehead with his fingertips, and nothing’s ever felt so real. “Gwen,” he manages, his voice scratchy and tight. “How - ”

She shushes him, silently climbs onto their bed beside him, her arms unable to wrap around him but making their best effort nevertheless. “Missed you,” she whispers into his chest. “Don’t like you being sick when I can’t be with you.”

“Don’t like being sick at all,” he retorts, palming her ass and shifting her closer so she’s laying half on his body. “Don’t want to make you sick.”

She glances down at the way their hands are entwined over his shirt, shrugs. “I’ll be fine. Having kids means I’m basically immune at this point, I think.”

Blake presses a kiss to the top of her head, can feel the pressure lessening. It’s always that way with her; everything’s just better. “Guess I’d better stick around then.”

Chapter Text

They’ve been in her hotel room all of ten minutes and she’s not sure that they’ll make it past twenty without at least one orgasm. Which, y’know, not necessarily  a bad thing… 

“Door locked, right?” she manages to ask between gasps. 

He lifts his head from her breasts for a mere second, nods, and then his tongue and his teeth and his stupidly wonderfully rough fingertips are giving her nipples attention they haven’t had in what feels like years. 


And then his mouth is on hers again and it’s like the whole world just shrinks down to the emotion it stirs in her chest. It’s weird, both heavy (because yeah, she’s pretty sure this is IT for her) and freeing (because nothing’s felt this good and right). Nothing exists except for the dim light in the room and the warmth and pressure of his tongue. Gwen knows his taste now, knows the press of his body against hers and the need that has her reaching for the zip on his jeans. 

She grabs the lapels of his jacket and pulls him closer, wondering how many steps back they need to take before they reach the comfort of the mattress. For now, though - Blake tilts her head back and deepens the kiss, one hand sliding down to grab her ass - this is just perfect. 

Until it isn’t.

There’s no knock, no warning, just Adam’s shout of ‘oh my GOD’ and his expression of both shock and accusation, both of which they’ve become accustomed to over the past month of telling family and friends how their lives have turned upside down and inside out. “Oh my fucking GOD,” he repeats.

“So maybe the door wasn’t locked after all,” Blake mumbles apologetically as he turns around so he’s facing his friend as well. Maybe? Adam’s still staring at them and doesn’t seem like he plans on saying anything else and honestly, Gwen wants, needs, to fill the gap. It’s awkward as hell and she hates that. 


Chapter Text

They’re curled up in bed together and she’s facing away from him. That shouldn’t be something that’s keeping him awake, knotting his stomach and tightening his chest, but it is. She’s stayed over at his rental a few nights now, and every single time she’s slept so close to him that he feels every minuscule movement she makes. Right now, not so much.

Blake shifts closer so her butt is pressed up against him, drapes an arm around her tense body. “You okay?” he whispers, letting his fingertips drift down her slim but toned arm (she’s always got goose-pimples, and it’s endearing as fuck).

“‘Course,” she mumbles, and yeah, that’s definitely a no. He knows her voice now, and it frustrates him that she so easily fibbed, especially considering everything that’s happened in the past couple of months, all the conversations they’ve had. She relents, turns in his arms and looks up at him. Even in the darkness of his bedroom, he’s struck by how damned open her eyes are, how guileless and young she looks. How vulnerable.

“I want to believe you,” he says, can’t take the words back even as he feels her flinch. “Sorry. I didn’t mea…” Sighing, he presses a kiss to Gwen’s lips. “Can I do anything to help?”

"I thought he was it, y’know, was so sure of it. I don’t want to be wrong again, Blake. I can’t go through it again.”

Her eyes are focused somewhere in the vicinity of his bare chest as she speaks, and every word feels like she’s ripped pages from his non-existent diary. It’s one of the most difficult things about moving on with her, oddly. It’s a comfort, sucha comfort, that she gets it, understands the betrayal and the anger and the bitter disappointment. And yet it sometimes means he’s wallowing in his feelings more than he’s comfortable with. It’s a good thing, his mom has said, but he’s not convinced. 

It hurts. 

“I won’t leave you, Gwen,” he says, imbuing the promise with sincerity, hoping she can hear it. “Won’t give you a reason to leave me. I swear it. I won’t do you wrong. I might fuck up, sure, but I’m a guy and I’m pretty sure we’re hardwired that way, ‘fortunately.”

She smiles at that, just a small twitch of her still-swollen lips. 

“Hey, c’mere.” he holds his arms out, waits for her to come to him. She does, her fingertips splaying across his stomach and one her legs twining with his. Blake closes his eyes, breathes in and out in time with her. “It’ll be okay.”

Chapter Text

It still sometimes surprises her, leaves her a little short of breath. That’s her boyfriend up there being so freaking amazing that young girls and ancient grandmothers are both screaming for his attention. It’s not like she hasn’t experienced it all for herself or watched her ex lapping it up, of course. And yet…

“Mommmmmm.” Apollo tugs at her jacket, whining with way more energy than he should have at this time of night. “‘m hungryyyyy.” Louie’s there within seconds, handing her baby a handful of potato chips, and she shoots Blake’s assistant a grateful smile. 

Kingston’s on her left, his feet drumming incessantly against the box they’re sitting on, and she swallows the urge to tell him to stop it, hates the thought of spoiling his fun. Touring is home away from home to her, having now spent decades criss-crossing across the country and the world, but her boys, not so much. Everything is still exciting and thrilling for them, and along with that comes the joyous exclamations as well as the grumpy, overtired crash as they all bundle into the bus at the end of the night. 

“D’ya think he can see that woman over there?” King asks, pointing towards an older lady near them, who seems to be fixated on getting Blake to notice her through the tried and tested method of waving what looks like a large 1999s headshot of the musician in the air. 

“Probably,” Gwen says, pulling Apollo onto her lap as he starts whining again. “When people are way back, you can’t really see much, but that close to the stage? Sure. You remember, right, the other year when you guys came out with me? The first few rows are pretty lit up.”

“Yeah. Don’t remember them waving photos of you wearing a mullet around, though,” he says with a grin. “Thankfully. Bet Blake loves staring out at that all night.”

Laughing, Gwen ruffles her boy’s hair. “Maybe if you don’t go to sleep when you’re told tonight, we’ll have to get Danilo to study up and give you a mullet too, hey?”

Rolling his eyes, Kingston jumps down from the box, stands next to Zuma, who’s currently energetically leaping around to a song that Gwen’s pretty sure would be classified as a ballad. 

“Mooooom?” She brings her attention back to her youngest, kisses his flushed cheek. “When’s my song?”

“Soon, baby, real soon.”

Chapter Text

Becoming a part of someone else’s life is definitely a process. She’s been introduced to at least five people tonight whose names she’s never ever heard before, and even Blake’s comments, giving her biographical and geographical information, aren’t enough to stem her confusion. And so she smiles, gives them hugs and handshakes, and takes at least two dozen selfies with people.

“Doin’ okay?” he says into her shoulder, where he’s nuzzled in nice and close. “We can tell them to all fuck off anytime, y’know.”

Gwen laughs, grabs the glass of wine they’re sharing and takes a long sip. “Before midnight?”

His grin is naughty and honestly, she’s kind of tempted to just drag him back into his lodge’s master bedroom and make love to him through the waning hours of the year. “Yeah. Right now. Mom can squeeze them all into her home. Everyone’s taking up your attention.”

She knows he’s not being serious, that he actually enjoys spending time with his old friends and extended family, and so she simply taps him affectionately on the nose. “I’m sitting right on your lap while I talk to you, so I’m not sure your argument would hold up in court, Blake Shelton.”


His thighs are solid beneath her and she leans in to him, resting her head against his broad chest. They’re sitting almost in the center of this weird space Blake has at his lodge, surrounded by close to sixty people, but she’s never felt more at peace. Something about Oklahoma, his home in particular, has called to her since the very first time he nervously showed her around. It’s not just the sounds of nature at night or the way she can see the stars, but that all plays a part too. It feels like she can breathe here, be someone different, better, more real. She loves living in Los Angeles, it’ll always be home, but wherever she goes now, she’s reminded of moments in her past, so many of them with Gavin. 

Here, she’s turning over a new page. With him. 

“Kiss me.”

Chapter Text

He’s never been more uncomfortable in his own home, and he’s not sure whether that’s because half of the furniture and decor is new, or because he can hear the soft whines of Apollo’s voice coming from his bedroom from where he stands in the hall. Neither is a bad thing, not even close, but it has left Blake feeling like he’s living in some kind of alternate universe. He moves closer and leans up against the door, watching as his girlfriend sits beside her son, calmly running a hand through his curls, muttering what sound like nonsense words. It still sometimes surprises him, the fact that he’s lucky enough to see Gwen Stefani this way, her make-up barely there, her hair in a messy knot, and a weary expression on her face. 

“Hey,” he says, “mind if I come in?”

Gwen shoots him a rueful smile, tucks a strand of black-dipped blonde behind her ear. “It’s your room, of course you can.” 

He perches on the very edge of the bed. Sleeping at Gwen’s house in Los Angeles happens more often than not these days, and so he knows there’s no reason to be so freaking awkward right now just because her kid is right there. And yet. 

“The boys are alright?” his girlfriend asks, and his chest becomes less heavy because that’s trust in her voice, and that’s all he wants. “I swear, Zuma looked like he was ready to put that game machine thing in the plane and take it back with us in a few days.”

“I’m sure he’d appreciate you calling it a ‘game machine thing’ too. But yeah, they seem like they like it. I was worried, y’know, about whether they’d get bored. One night in and looking like I got away with it.”

“Love you.” The words aren’t new but he’s still occasionally taken aback by them, how freely and genuinely they’re used by her. She doesn’t expect anything in return, doesn’t use them as a bargaining chip. ‘I just want you to know,’ she’d said in the early days before they’d figured out anything beyond how good sex between them happened to be.

Apollo’s still on top of the sheets now, on his side, his hands curled into tiny fists and his eyes shut. Blake had thought about what this kind of normal would look like a long time ago, of course, back in the days before he realized Miranda would sooner adopt fifty new puppies than birth an actual baby. He just hadn’t realized how it would feel, the quiet contentment of watching the rise and fall of a child’s chest as he falls asleep. 

He swallows the lump rising in his throat, and lies down across the blankets, his head on his brand new (white) pillow. If he reaches out, he could probably touch Apollo. 

Gwen looks surprised when his fingers gently stroke down Apollo’s back, and he can’t quite meet her eyes as he tries to explain. “My mom,” he stutters. “Mom used to do that when I wasn’t feeling good. Just rubbed my tummy or back for a bit, y’know.”

Her mouth opens and he finds himself desperately needing to know that she approves. It’s been a guessing game so far, and while he doesn’t think he’s fucked anything up too badly in the few months he’s been spending quality time with the boys, he doesn’t want to count his chickens yet.


Rolling her eyes conspiratorially at him (like they’re partners in this), she quickly presses a kiss to his lips before walking out of the bedroom. “Be back in a minute. It would be nice if they avoided killing each other on their first full day in Oklahoma.”

“Waiting at least a few trips would be preferable. Wouldn’t want the bedroom I’ve set up for them to go to waste.”

She laughs out loud, and for the first time, he lets himself imagine them all here together again a year from now. 

Chapter Text

He’s replying to a text from Espo when he realizes. Gwen’s sitting on his lap, half an eye on her own phone and the other making sure Apollo doesn’t accidentally squash Ginger while playing with him. She hasn’t been to a country awards show. It’s a weird thought, actually, because sometimes it feels like they’ve been together forever and then reality intrudes and he remembers that there are some parts of his life that she still hasn’t been introduced to. After-parties are one thing, but front row (and it will be front) at the ACMs or the CMAs for that matter… Well, it’s just different. 

She leans her head on his chest, curls up against him in a way that never fails to make his hands restless and yearning to touch. “Thinking I might go to the awards this time,” he says casually. “Wanna come?”

Like a band-aid, Blake. Rip it off. He knows it’s not painful so not the best analogy, but it’s a first, and firsts always come with a certain amount of, well, discomfort. For him, anyway. 

“You can make them all wildly jealous of me,” he teases, his fingertips stroking down her side. “And wear a pretty dress.”

She shoots him a soft smile and kisses his cheek. “I’ve been to awards ceremonies, y’know.”

He makes a face. “Not this one. I just…”

“Hey, hey. It’ll be fine, babe.” Gwen’s brow furrows. “Do you know if you’ll be performing yet?”

“Not sure. Probably, though. They wouldn’t have thrown me a nomination if they didn’t want me there. We’ve got the boys that weekend? You sure you wanna?”

“We’re still working it out, but I’ll probably have to be there a few days earlier, anyway, y’know. For the announcement thing?”

“Oh.” Blake feels himself relaxing slightly. “I think this’ll be the first time you’ve both been the same room,” he continues, hesitating over the words. “You and Miranda. I just want you to realize cos I have a feeling the tabloids will be all over it. Trying to get a shot, y’know.”

She grins, squeezes his hand. “I’ve got your back. Besides, when aren’t they all over us and our five sets of twins?”

A yelp comes from the other side of the room, and he gently lifts Gwen off his lap and goes to investigate. Apollo’s got Gingerbread’s ear in a tight grip and the poor little guy looks uncomfortable as hell. Carefully, Blake encourages the boy to drop, and he does so. He always feels a jolt of pride whenever that happens, when one of them does as he asks. They’re pretty obedient kids anyway, but it definitely took some time (and mistakes) to feel out exactly who he is to them and how much of a parental role he’s able to take. “Everything,” Gwen had once whispered to him as they lay in bed one night almost a year ago now. “You can be everything to them.”

When Blake returns to the couch, Apollo on his hip, Gwen’s looking up at him with a soft smile that he knows is his and his alone. He can’t stop the words leaving his mouth, doesn’t even want to. “Love you both so, so much.”

Chapter Text

When he’d moved to Nashville, it had been a ‘thing’, unloading the trucks, arranging the furniture, making sure every moment was captured on camera. It had been exciting and even a little scary, though he never would’ve admitted it to his mom at the time. 

“Where we puttin’ this, Blake?” He can see Kingston struggling under the weight of a small barbecue, and he takes mercy on the kid, grabbing the other side so they can maneuver it through the kitchen. Gwen’s oldest son lets out a heavy breath when it drops to the cement paving out back, wipes his hands on his jeans in a way that makes Blake bite back a grin.  “Sure glad most of your stuff is in Oklahoma, y’know.”

Laughing, he gently claps a hand to Kingston’s shoulder and pushes him back inside. “So’s your mom, bud.”

“And mom insists she’d happily find space for even more gross animal heads if it means you’d be here full-time,” Gwen says, coming up behind him, stretching up to press a kiss to his cheek. She’s been extra affectionate today and honestly, he doesn’t remember the last time he’s been in this good a mood either. There’s none of the fighting that came with moving in with Miranda, and none of the trepidation when he and Katt first bought a place. 

“You haven’t seen the half of ‘em yet, so I wouldn’t make no promises,” he jokes. “Apollo given up yet?” Last Blake had seen, Gwen’s youngest had been attempting to unsteadily drag a box of old LPs into his own bedroom. 

“Not even close. He’s now unpacking them one by one and sitting them on his bed next to the stuffed animals. The one of Reba is a sparkly dress seems to be his favorite so far, so I’m starting to question me asking you to move in, after all.”

Kingston groans and walks away the second their mouths meet in a kiss, and even though a month or two ago, it might have made him a bit uncomfortable and self-conscious, now Blake happily backs Gwen against the wall, one hand on her hip and the other loosely tangled in her hair. 

Their lips break apart with a wet pop, and she laughs into his chest. “I had a, uh, sometimes I like to image what twenty-five year old me would think if I told her what her future would like like, y’know…”

Blake takes her hand, traces along the lines of her palm. “I sure as hell know what twenty-five year old ME would’ve thought.”

“And what’s that?” she asks, her voice mostly curiosity, but something else in there that he doesn’t even want to guess at.

“Pretty much the same as thirty-nine year old thinks, to be honest,” he admits. “That this can’t be real life, that one guy couldn’t possibly be that lucky.”

Her kiss is even more hungry, more heady. And its his every night now. 

Chapter Text

Sometimes he feels like the worst kind of cliche, a television star who lives in LA (albeit one who refuses to fully conform) swanning about on a farm pretending he knows fuck all about how to grow produce. There are differences, of course, ones he tries to remind himself about so he doesn’t get too resentful of those who have decided he betrayed the music and life he still holds dear. 

“Bud, you need a hand or you gonna - ”

Kingston doesn’t let him finish the question, just grits his teeth in some semblance of a smile and keeps trudging up the hill with the plant. Lemon? Some kind of citrus, anyway, he thinks. They’d taken all the kids (and Todd, who pretty much counts) to the Atwoods in Madill a couple of hours ago and they’re still working through the consequences. 

“Just gimme a yell, King! Anytime!”

Gwen’s oldest boy shoots him a glare, and he finds it hard to keep a straight face. When he’d thought about having kids back in his thirties, it had always been images of tiny babies and unsteady-on-their-feet toddlers. A pre-teen, able to be teased and tease back, hadn’t once crossed his mind, and yet it feels pretty much perfect.

Hearing a war-cry from behind, he turns just in time to put out a hand as Apollo comes barreling into his legs. It doesn’t knock him off balance but it comes close, and Blake quickly - with only a small crack to his knees - squats down on the still damp grass. “Almost got me that time,” he laughs. “Your Mama tell you to come attack me, did she?”

“No!” he retorts. “My idea! You’re meant to be helping ME.”

Blake holds out his hands, palms up in apology. “Well, okay then. I’ve been told. You gonna show me what I need to be doin’?” He lets himself be dragged over to a shady spot near the lodge, bemused when no family members, saplings or potted flowers can be seen. “Apollo?”

The four-year-old hides his face against Blake’s jeans, almost between his legs. Ah. So that’s the lay of the land. 

“‘pollo?” He tries to sound stern, mimicking Gwen’s tone as best he can. It sometimes works, and sometimes, well, it doesn’t. 

He can feel Apollo shaking his head, and sighs. Distraction it is. “So, can I try on your new jacket? I reckon it would look real good on me.”

A small, soft laugh. A win.


Chapter Text

He can count the number of times he’s been to church since he was a kid (ignoring weddings, of course) on a single hand, but Blake’s pretty sure that even if he went every single week for the next year, he would feel slightly jittery leaving the car. And of course it has nothing to do with church; it’s the fact that the fucking paparazzi apparently feel like they have a standing invitation as well.

Apollo’s in his carseat, head lolling against its back, and Blake shoots King a strained grin. “Think  he’s about as excited as I am to get screamed out as we try and fight out way inside.”

Kingston seems sympathetic but gets to work unbuckling his younger brother and then opening his own door. He’s talked to Gwen about it before but he’s genuinely amazed by how composed the kids are when confronted by flashing cameras at every step. It’s absolutely insane and if it was just him, he’d probably be tempted to try and intimidate them until they scurried off. But it’s not just him.

“Blake,” Apollo whines, his arms reaching out, hands making grabby motions. “Blake. Blake. Blake.”

Gwen turns to watch them for a moment, her eyes soft and calm in a way that centers him like pretty much nothing else. “Think you can walk today, bud?” she asks. “We’re parked pretty close and you’re such a big boy.”

The four year old shakes his head vehemently, reaches out again to Blake. What’s a guy to do? The moment the door closes behind them and the paps start shouting, he feels the beginnings of a headache. Of freakin’ course. Just perfect. 


“It’s alright, Gwen, I’ve got him. He’ll have enough time to run around like a madman later on at your parents’, I reckon.”

Apollo’s weight is familiar and after making a slight adjustment to his grip, Blake starts making his way towards the church’s side entrance. The boy tucks his head into Blake’s neck, Apollo’s breath warm against his skin. He tightens his hold. 

“It’s okay. I’ve got ya.”

Chapter Text

Nobody had ever told her that the hardest thing about divorce would be learning how not to want his touch. During the in-between months, there’d been moments where they’d been taking the kids to the park or tucked Apollo into bed together, and she’d found herself being repulsed by the sight of Gavin while simultaneously fighting the desire to lean into him or run a hand down his back. It was the most natural urge in the world until it wasn’t.

“You ever turn your big brain off?” Blake’s voice has never exactly been silky smooth she’d bet, but the gravel in it as he turns over in bed to face her, the corner of his mouth tugging up in a smile, makes her want to strip him naked before he can get another syllable out. When the actual words register, though, she ducks her head, knowing that if the room was any lighter, he’d see the tell-tale flush creeping across her neck. She’s fully aware that she’s not going to be winning any awards anytime soon for her academic prowess, but he looks so genuine as he compliments her that she wants to believe it’s possible. 

“About as often as you, I bet,” she volleys back clumsily. He laughs at her words, a full-throated belly laugh that has her immediately curling into him so she can feel the vibrations in his wide chest. “You’re way too cute, y’know,” Gwen continues. “Dunno how I managed to get so lucky.”

His eyes widen, and she wants to kiss the wrinkles on his forehead. So she does.

“I wish that didn’t surprise you.”

His hand comes to rest just above her ass, his large fingers playing with the string of her underwear; she’s pretty sure her boyfriend (it’s a new word and she’s not quite sure it feels right yet, but…) doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. His fingers stroke down her cheek. Oh. Yeah, he realizes…

“You ever stop your big hands moving?”

Blake raises an eyebrow. 

“Please don’t stop your big hands moving,” she amends, one of her own reaching for his briefs. “Ever.”

Chapter Text

He’s never quite been sure what the difference between jealousy and envy is, but Blake’s almost certain he’s feeling both right now as Pharrell motions for Gwen to sit on his lap and she happily obliges. Is everyone allowed to get all touchy feely with her except for him? A year ago, he wouldn’t have thought twice about wrapping his arms around Gwen and giving her a hug, but now there’s like this almost paranoid sense that if he does, every freaking person in the building will know. Whatever precious cocoon of a relationship they’ve managed to build will be punctured the second someone realizes. He thinks. 

“Somethin’ on your mind?” Adam asks, making himself comfortable on an arm of Blake’s chair, his fingers plucking at a string bracelet that looks cheap but probably cost Behati a grand. “You look a bit…”

“You’re gonna follow that up with a compliment, right?” he jokes. “I’ve had enough break-ups this year without having to divorce you for cruelty, buddy.”

Adam looks at him, quizzical. Damn. It’s not as though he doesn’t still have seriously deep wells of anger and resentment over what happened earlier in the year, but yeah, recent developments have kind of made it lighter somehow, less of a heavy pressure weighing down on him. He’s pretty sure it’s Gwen’s smile what’s done it, but he can’t say that out loud except in the privacy of his own apartment (which would be weird even for him). And so he stumbles over a mumbled half-truth of explanation about his family and friends helping him keep things in perspective. 

“I’m gonna take a break, yeah? Don’t start without me.”

Not like they have a choice. Adam waves, still looking bemused.

He’s been in his trailer for a whole three minutes before he hears her knock - three taps, a hesitation, and then one more tap, much louder. Blake finds himself smiling in anticipation, and the moment the door closes behind his lover, she’s in his arms, bearing him backwards towards the couch. They don’t have time to talk and he’s not sure he wants to anyway (lately, he’s found himself bursting to say things that he knows neither of them are ready for, may never be ready for). 

“I saw you sitting on Pharrell’s lap,” he manages to huff out between long, intoxicating kisses. “Wished he was me.”

She starts at the admission, her breath stuttering against his cheek. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes it feels like they’re still having what must be - in the history of the whole wide world - the best first date ever. Even after three years, there’s so many stories she doesn’t know, that he hasn’t heard. And she wants everything. Her boyfriend’s on the couch, head in her lap, both legs slung over the edge so that his socked toes are awkwardly pointed towards the ceiling. 

“So you cussed them out?” Blake asks incredulously, his eyes focused so intently on her that she can’t (doesn’t want to) look away. 

She scoffs. “Course I did. They were being the actual worst, y’know. I mean, it was normal, but…” She waves her hands about, gesticulating in a way that could probably indicate a thousand different things to somebody who doesn’t know her as well as Blake does.

“But that doesn’t mean you liked it.”

“Yeah,” Gwen confirms softly. “Exactly. I was just so excited cos we’d never been to Vegas before and we actually got to spend an extra day here after the gig. It’s like, don’t ruin this for me, right?”

Blake’s head tilts backwards slightly, his brows knitted, and she absent-mindedly rubs his temples. He always get the worst headaches, and while this doesn’t make them go away, he swears it helps. 

“Anyway, they all apologized. Like they always did. You’d know it wasn’t genuine but, like, what are you goin’ to say? It’s pretty much the same as it feels with the kids, I think. You can’t force someone to mean their apology.”

Blake laughs, just short of bitter, and she bites back a grimace. Yeah, he knows. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago that they were both being fed lie after lie after lie. She doesn’t like remembering, and she knows he doesn’t either. For whatever reason, though, he seems to find it harder to push those thoughts aside.

“Hey. Handsome. Look at me.” Gwen runs a finger along his jawline, resisting the urge to tell him to forget about shaving for a few more days (she’d never expected partially-gray, partially-white scruff to become such a turn-on). “How about you use your pouting mouth for something else?”

Chapter Text

His Suit

It’s not as though she’s never seen him wearing a suit before but not this suit. There’s nothing special about it, and honestly, while it may have a designer’s label on it, they probably could’ve picked one up off the rack at half a dozen mens’ clothing stores in Hollywood. Gwen smooths a hand down the lapel, smiles at the askew flower poking out through the buttonhole. Still would’ve needed adjustments, she thinks, admiring his broad shoulders. He often walks around half-hunched as though he feels like he’s taking up too much room. Today he’s standing tall. 

Her Dress

It’s white. I mean, of course it’s white but in the back of his mind, he had occasionally wondered if she’d wear something different, something to set this apart from what every little girl dreams of for their first and only. He wouldn’t have minded if she walked down the aisle in freaking neon green and yellow, to be honest, but… She lifts her head as he tries to stop his thoughts jumbling, and then everything is just her shining eyes and huge smile. Blake’s heart is beating a million miles a second, but seeing her walking towards him also eases something in his chest, unties a knot he hadn’t realized was even there. 

His Hands

She should be listening to the priest, but Blake’s hand is reaching for hers and it’s taking all of her limited concentration to stop herself from winding herself around his body like a vine. His ring is large and solid and non-adorned (perfect for her man), and she can feel it against her own slim finger as they join hands. It’s been over four years since Gwen last felt that sensation and she hates how much she’s missed it. She starts when they’re pronounced husband and wife, pretty certain she’s going to have to watch a video of this back later because her mind is racing and she’s not going to remember a thing. Then he kisses her. More than sure.

Her Lips

She kisses like a dream, always has. The first time, Blake had been taken aback, not quite sure how to respond. Now he knows she likes all his responses, from the short peck on her lips when he gets back from the set late at night to the long drugging make-outs in bed before they need to get the kids to school. Apollo’s getting a little bored and restless, and he adjusts the cushion the young boy’s sitting on. He’d been insistent on sitting with everyone else at the head table. So far, so (mostly) good. A lithe arm reaches around from his other side and before he can blink, his wife’s mouth is on his, not slow and not hesitant. She breaks the embrace a moment later, regret in her eyes, and so he pulls her down onto his lap, drops a soft kiss to her temple. A promise for later.

His Words

Blake hates giving speeches. It’s just one of those things. Along with guava and the way Zuma purposely doesn’t tie his laces. She watches him from beside the cake (so much frosting she thinks she might put on thirty pounds just looking at it), takes note of the way his fingers are tapping at the sides of legs and the fact he’s avoiding making eye contact with the guests. He’d told her there was no way this wedding wouldn’t be everything she’d always dreamed of as a little girl, speech and dancing included and damn his discomfort to hell. Which she doesn’t want to, not really. It only takes a few seconds to make her way to his side, to reach for his clammy hand and take it in her own. His smile, warm and grateful and genuine, is better than any flowery, romantic speech in history, she thinks.

Her Silence

He wakes up at half past three in the morning, the room shrouded in darkness and his wife’s body curled up against his own. 

His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife.  His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife.  His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife.  His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife. His wife.

He brushes a kiss to her slightly parted lips, can’t stop a sleepy grin from crossing his face when her brow crinkles and she emits a soft groan. It’s been a long day, a happy night. 

Gwen shifts closer to him, still sleeping, still silent. 

Chapter Text


When he tells her (over the phone because he’s a chicken and also a little bit drunk), the news is met with silence. Anger and resentment he can deal with, has been for years, but this… “Did you hear me, Kait?”

“Loud and clear. Even with the slight slurring.” He can hear the disappointment in her voice and god, like he hasn’t fucked up enough already. Eventually she sighs, and he’s sure it’s the question he knew was coming, the one he doesn’t really have an answer for. Except he does. She cheated on me. The whole time. It’s embarrassing and humiliating and the worst thing is that I’m not sure I’m not a little to blame. 

“So, um, it’ll be officially done - ”

“The marriage? To her?”

“Yeah. In ten days, apparently. I was, um, wondering if maybe you wanted to come for your week with me a little earlier this month?”

Because I’m lonely and I don’t think I can get through faking on The Voice without having something to look forward to at the end of each day. 

“Could you ask your mom for me?” Blake clears his throat. “Only if you want to, of course. I miss you…”

Three days later, he requests an early finish on set and picks his daughter up from the airport. He’d swear in front of a jury that she’s grown another inch or two since he last saw her. The drive back to his apartment is almost silent and even though he’d usually try to fill the gap with music, he’s not in the mood. 

“Thanks for coming,” he says. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

She shoots him a sympathetic glance, and he’s struck by how mature she seems. Not like him at the same age. Or even now, really. 

“Gwen’s getting divorced too,” Blake tells her, not sure why the words are suddenly spilling out, or whether he should even be telling anybody to begin with. “She has three kids, y’know.”

Kaitlyn is staring out her window now, her fingers lightly tapping on her holey jeans (Kat says they’re in style, but Blake sent some extra money last month just in case). “I don’t really need to know that,” she eventually responds. “Y’know.”



“Are you seriously still on the phone?” his daughter says, swinging her legs over the back of the couch in a way that would probably give him a hernia if he did the same thing. “I swear, I thought teenagers were meant to be the addicted ones.”

“Like you’re not,” Blake scoffs, shooting the thirteen year old a fond grin. He’s been doing that a lot this week, according to her. “Adam can’t go five minutes without hearing my voice, poor guy.”

Laughing, Kait scoots over, rests her head on his shoulder. Their relationship has always been pretty close, considering how much his job has kept him away, but he knows this year has been tough on her, on them both. So it’s reassuring, seeing things slowly repair themselves, seeing that she hasn’t grown too old for her father. “You’re such a bad liar, Dad. Say hi to Gwen for me, okay.” He rolls his eyes, tries to keep from grinning like an absolute idiot. “You seem a lot happier than when I came out to LA, y’know? Like a lot, a lot.”

“I reckon I am.” He puts his phone down, facing up so if Gwen texts him, he won’t miss the notification. It’s been a whirlwind, a few weeks of incredible self-doubt and confronting his trust issues, but also some of the best, deepest conversations he’s ever had with a human being. And that it’s been with Gwen freaking Stefani of all people? Well, it’s been a trip. “We’re not…” Blake hesitates, not sure how much to say. His daughter’s a teenager now and he’s not naive about what she knows, but…


“Anything, really. Not yet, not exactly. She’s just… She’s a friend. The best.”

Kait’s eye soften at his words, and he opens his arms to her for a hug.

“Apart from you, of course.”




He can’t say that Kait’s utterance doesn’t sum it up, to be honest. It’s not the first time he’s been to Gwen’s place, but it is the first time since they started officially dating, and it’s definitely the first time he’s brought his daughter. She’s only in Los Angeles for a few more days after all, and it’s been so hard to find time to spend with Gwen that when she asked, well… Here he is.

“Oh my actual god.”

“And I was under the impression you got your smarts from your mom, not me.”

His daughter sticks her tongue out at him, tugs him by the hand as they walk towards the open door. Gwen’s waiting for them, a tiny furry dog at her feet, which flings itself into Kait’s path almost immediately.

“Hey,” he says to Gwen, reaching out for a hug. He can feel her smile against his cheek and resists the urge to kiss her, taste the longing that is mirroring his own. “Thank you.”

On the way home from Gwen’s home after dinner (lasagne with a side of apologies that she’d not had time to make it herself), his daughter doesn’t talk much, too busy on her phone. He’s learned not to ask too many questions because it’s an ‘invasion of privacy’ but a gentle nudge generally seems appreciated. “One of the girls from school?”

“Mom,” she corrects. “She was curious how tonight went.”

“And?” He no longer has any feelings for his ex, is pretty sure he’d mistaken friendship for romantic love in the first place, but Blake doesn’t mind admitting that her opinion matters. Gwen’s told him that she’s not sure when she’ll be ready to go public with their fledgling relationship and sometimes he has doubts that either of them ever will be, but regardless, they have kids to think about, one of whom is still pretty much a baby. “What did you tell her?”

Kait rolls her eyes, turns the screen off on her cell. “None of your business. It wasn’t bad, though, so don’t get all on edge and red in the face, ‘k?” When he puts the car in park and undoes his seatbelt, he’s met with his daughter’s slim arms around his neck. “I like her.”

Chapter Text

They don’t need to sit on the floor, calendars in one hand and highlighters in the other, to co-ordinate their schedules, but she’s pretty sure that if they did, they’d manage that successfully as well. 

“Looks like they’re okay if I skip that weekend and shift the East Coast dates forward,” Blake says, looking up from his cell phone. “You’ll have the boys by then?”

Gwen tucks her feet up under her legs, leans on his shoulder. One of the things she loves most about Blake is how he never discourages her from her desire and need for constant physical contact. “That’s the plan. Of course,” she adds, trying not to sound bitter (sometimes she lets herself wallow in envy that Blake doesn’t have to deal with his ex on a weekly basis) “a plan is always able to be changed on a whim according to some people, so…” 

“There’s a zoo we can go to, right?”

She laughs, pecks him on the cheek. “What, want to check out some more animals to get for the ranch? Steal a giraffe?”

“More like Apollo wants to go,” he says, somewhat sheepishly, and Gwen wants to reassure him that the fact that that’s even a consideration for him makes him a million times more attractive. “Apparently zebras are cooler than the horses I showed him photos of.”

“How rude.” 

“How much more time do we need to spend talking?” His hand reaches around to her back, his callused fingertips rough on her skin as he gently unhooks her bra. “Also, I’m now remembering why I wanted to cancel my whole tour and just follow yours around,” Blake adds, a joke but one with a tinge of longing behind it that makes her heart beat that little bit faster.

Chapter Text

It’s no secret that he hates feeling vulnerable at the best of times. Today, this year, really, is decidedly not the best of times. Betty nudges into his body where they lay on the couch (and he seriously needs to buy one that fits him better) and all he can think about is how undeserving he feels of the tiny bit of hope that’s currently keeping the darker feelings from a month or so ago at bay. 

She’d sent him a song. Him. And not just any song. A song about him. Which honestly, he thought he was imagining things the first time he heard it, like maybe his brain had finally given up the good fight and just abandoned common sense altogether. Because how the fuck was he in a world where Gwen freaking Stefani liked him enough to write a song about it? 

It had been a little awkward, sitting right next to her as she pressed play, as word after word came out from the speakers about how she felt and what she thought she might want. She’d grabbed his hand afterward, managed to look him in the eye and ask him his impressions, and Blake had been pretty sure he’d never felt more awed by another human being. 

He, on the other hand, is a chicken, a cowardly, embarrassed chicken.

I just sent it, he texts, quickly adding the mp3 attachment. You dont need to listen to it right now of course. Just thought you might be interested. Its nothing as good as yours. Just something I dreamed awhile back. :) :) 

During his years in Nashville, he’d worked hard at the craft, honing his skills, buying rhyming dictionaries and studying meter and a fuck of a lot of other things. He’s written a few good songs, he thinks, some released, others too personal and too unfinished. Gwen, though, she breathes beauty when she speaks, and when she writes, it’s like he’s getting a glimpse into what art should always be like.

When his phone rings ten minutes later, he hesitates before picking it up, desperately needing to know if she likes it but also scared shitless that she won’t. The one saving grace is that she’ll tell him the truth. When they first started emailing, that had been the big promise, the first one, the one he’s confident she’ll always keep for as long as their friendship (relationship?) lasts.

“Ohmyactualgod, Blake Shelton, why didn’t you tell me you wrote!?”

He takes a deep breath, hears himself exhaling like an old, asthmatic man. So attractive, Blake… “You already listened to it?” he asks.

“Um, of course I did,” she says with a laugh, and he can’t stop from pressing the phone closer to his ear like it will somehow bring her closer to him. “Like two times already. Just as well Apollo’s down for his nap or I’d probably make him listen to it too!”

“You think he’d have any suggestions for a bridge?”

Gwen giggles at that, and yeah, his chest might metaphorically puff out a little bit. “You’re actually the dumbest, sweetest man, y’know? I actually cried a bit when I heard your voice on the chorus. It’s like I could hear you crying, right, and so it just made me want to curl up into a little ball and weep.”

“I have plenty of spare tissues for the tears if you ever feel the need.”

“Ah, but is your bed as comfortable as mine? Because I’ve spent a lot of time this year showing my sheets what crying really looks like and so they’re pretty much used to the luxury now.”

“You’re welcome to try,” Blake tells her. “And that’s totally not as suggestive as it sounds,” he reassures her. “Unless you want it to be?”

Betty’s paw comes to rest right on top of his chest, and the poor dog doesn’t deserve the resentment he feels right now that it’s not a woman’s hand (slim fingers, painted nails, soft touch) instead. 

There’s still silence on the other end. Gwen didn’t answer him. And oh god, he’s already sent her running. Well done, Blake. Smooth. “Uh…”

A rustling in the background and a breathless apology quickly follows. “’m so sorry! I thought I heard Apollo waking up and he’s just crazy right now with everything that’s going on. Mom says it’s probably normal because his schedule isn’t as predictable as it used to be, but I dunno, I worry so easily, okay, because it’s not his fault his dad couldn’t keep his dick in his pants and I had to separate from him, right? Ugh. Anyway, I just  - Sorry. I wanted to like tell you how much I loved your song and that you should totally record it and then my life just spurted up and ruined - ”

“You still breathing there?” he asks, interrupting, amused in spite of himself. “I can bring an inhaler over or something.”

Ask me. Ask me. Ask me. 

“Or an oxygen tank. I keep one handy for emergencies like my best friend having a panic attack from caring too much even though she’s the best mom in the world.”

“I think just your presence might be enough, actually,” she admits. “You seem to make everything better these days for me. Happier. Calmer.”

“Even when I play you depressing songs about devils and crying?”

“It could be a song about Old McDonald and if you sang it, it would probably make my day about 1000% brighter. You have a warm voice and I think we both need warmth these days, if that makes sense.”

Blake sighs. “Warmth is good. Being burned by fire, not so much.”

She laughs, only a little bitter, before quickly shooting him a text of an air-conditioner unit somewhere in her museum of a house. “This is California, Blake. I’m prepared. Come see me. I need to see your face.”

He needs her. Hanging up, he grabs his cap and locks the door behind him.

Chapter Text

He’s never been a beach person, but in a hypothetical world without Oklahoma to tempt him, he thinks he could happily retire here in Antigua with Gwen and spend all day sipping drinks out by the pool. I mean, the goddamned view alone is just…

She adjusts herself where she lays draped over his body, her sun-tanned bare legs coming to rest between his own pale, hairy ones. Letting his fingers trail along her body is second nature to him after so many years, but it never fails to make his chest tighten just a little when she tenses as he reaches her upper thigh and gives him a stomach-curling enticement of a smile.

“I swear, every moment your hands aren’t on me is pretty much a waste, Blake.”

“That project Zuma’s doing on the environment, can we include that in that list of resources that get wasted every year? ‘Five hundred hours of time where perfect bare skin isn’t getting caressed.”

She laughs out loud, pokes a finger into his chest. “You’re such a dumb ass.”

“I’d say ‘better a dumb ass than a fat ass’ but I’ve got one of those too, so…”

Her sigh is a happy one, and it’s so different than the deep, angst-filled sighs of foreboding that used to fill the quiet of his house that he has to fight back the urge to tell her how grateful he is. They don’t make a habit of bringing up the past, as inevitable and cleansing as it sometimes can be, and so he uses his mouth to worship her slightly parted, soft pink lips instead.

Chapter Text

He’s seen naked women before (and not just on his computer screen, he silently points out to a hypothetical scoffing Adam Levine), plenty of them in fact, but this… This is something altogether different. He’s not sure whether it’s because he has vague memories of lusting over her as he caught glimpses of her abs and fuckable red lips on MTV back when he was still trying to sell a song for a couple of bucks, or whether it’s just because it’s HER, the person who’s become his best friend, but whatever the case, he’s not sure he’s going to last long if she intimates she’s actually ready to take the next step tonight.

 “Feeling a bit underdressed right now,” she says, suddenly moving her arms up to cover her bare chest. Apparently his staring is leaning further towards weird and stalkerish than sexy and smouldering, and he can’t stop a laugh bursting out of him at the thought that she apparently finds him sexy at all, in any incarnation of expression. Holy shit. “Could you maybe, like, get naked or something too?”

 “I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me so politely, y’know. I’d be honored.”

And that’s not even a joke. He walks over to her from where he was standing at the dresser, takes her hands in his own, unable to avoid taking a long look at her tits as they’re exposed again. Just for him.

“Why are you so perfect? And also why am I so not?” He gestures down his body dismissively. “Even the weight loss can’t disguise the blinding white of the flab, I’m afraid.”

Gwen rolls her eyes at him, and then, in a swift move that has his brain freezing and his cock hardening, her small, strong fingers grasp at him beneath his too-loose jeans.

“We’re doing this?” he says on an intake of breath, his heart-rate ratcheting as she takes another step closer, so close he’s worried his shirt buttons are going to imprint on her breasts. “Please tell me we’re doing this.”

Instead of telling him, she shows him.

Chapter Text

He wipes the sweat from his brow, hefting the chairs on his back to a more comfortable position. “I swear I was never this busy as a kid,” he says to Gwen, keeping a hand on her lower back as they pretend not to see the paparazzi staring at them from mere feet away.

“You’d think it would mean they’d happily collapse into bed early every night too, and yet…” She sighs heavily.

“Apollo nearly unmanned me last night, I’m pretty sure. One more kick and oops, there go my balls.”

Her expression is something between a wince and a laugh, and he saves it in his memory bank of ‘favorite Gwen looks’ because it’s ridiculously endearing.

“You’ll need to replace me if  the boys keep the violence up.”

This time, his girlfriend rolls her eyes, gently tugging her youngest son along next to them, trying to help him keep his footing as he gets distracted by the iPhone he’s holding in his right hand. Blake’s iPhone.

It’s kind of funny, really, the way things evolve. Five years ago, his family (well, Miranda) knew his passcode and his family (much bigger, much more everything) do now too, but for entirely different reasons. Zuma has no interest in checking his texts, but he is keen on downloading every game he can in order to beat King’s records.

Gwen pats his cheek, apparently not caring that the pap’s cameras are still flashing (he still hasn’t found a way to accept it with so much equanimity). “I’m not ever replacing you. Just so you know.”

He adjusts the chairs again, takes her hand in his and squeezes.

Chapter Text

He doesn’t use his words. He overuses his words. He stumbles over the actual question. He literally can’t stand back up after kneeling. All entirely too possible, sadly. Burying his head in the pillow, he winces as one of Apollo’s sharp elbows jabs him in the stomach. “Hey, kid,” he mumbles. “Wanna try being a bit gentler on the old man?”

Apollo giggles at the complaint, is old enough to interpret it as a dare, not a warning. The next jab goes only slightly to the left of his groin, and yeah, too close, way too close.

Blake’s arms reach for the five-year-old, drag him down to the mattress so he’s trapped between the two adults. Gwen’s still asleep and he honestly doesn’t know how. When they’d first gotten together, she’d told him that mothers had some kind of spidey sense, always woke up the second their children did, and so on and so forth. Maybe there’s an expiration date, though, when the kid reaches a certain age and then mothers are gifted all the sleep they missed out on.

A finger lands in his nose and he laughs out loud, can’t help it. “Alright then, guess it’s time to get up, hey? Think your brothers want some breakfast too?”

They’re halfway through eating their waffles when Kingston and Zuma join them, bleary-eyed and walking like zombies. Saturday mornings aren’t always this relaxed, considering the amount of activities Gwen’s boys seem to fit into their hours back in LA, so it’s welcome, this, the comfortable almost inane chatter, the passing of various utensils and spreads. 

It’s almost ten before Gwen makes her way into the kitchen, some ridiculously silky see-through shirt thing over her bra, as if that removes the temptation even one little bit. Coffee first, then food, as always, and he still kind of finds it bizarre that he even knows Gwen Stefani’s daily routine, let alone can take it for granted like this.

Her fingertips pass over his back as she reaches around him to grab the milk from the fridge, and he rolls his eyes at Zuma, who’s making disgusted kissy noises at them. Well, screw that, he’s glad she’s in an amorous mood.

“So,” he says, totally casually because no, he’s not nervous about how today’s going to go. Not at all. But damn, his heartrate is too fast. “Thought maybe you guys would like to go and hang with some friends today. Mom and I have some boating to do.”

Kingston looks up from his phone; apparently even the lures of Oklahoma haven’t entirely erased his bitterness at missing out on spending the weekend with Lola. “Seriously? You need to go boating on your own?” He looks skeptical and sure, maybe this isn’t the most subtle move he’s ever made. King seems to agree. “You finally gonna ask her to marry you?”

Blake shoves another handful of pistachios in his mouth and ignores the question.

Next time (there won’t be a next time) he’s checking the weather forecast. The sky is getting darker by the minute, and he hadn’t exactly envisioned celebrating an engagement by getting a metric ton of rain dumped on their heads.

“So, you going to tell me what has you sitting on the edge of the seat like you need to go to the toilet, babe?”

Mr. Sexy strikes again. 

“Or not,” she says, raising an eyebrow and coming to sit next to him. He’d dropped the anchor twenty minutes ago, wanting to be able to actually talk to her, not have his attention kept by trying to avoid crashing into the shore. “You know…” Her voice is hesitant and he takes her hand in his automatically, wanting to send whatever peace and confidence resides in him into her as well. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, you know. I’m not looking for that.”


She waves a hand at the lake, the grey water and small choppy waves. “I don’t… I mean, I don’t think I’m imagining this, right? What today’s about? Why you pulled out the only nice shirt you keep at our house just to go out on the boat?”

Sighing, he lets his head fall back against the pole. “No, you’re not.”

The corners of her mouth tilt up. “So?”

“I tried to rehearse a speech, you know.” He laughs self-deprecatingly. “You know, you’d think I’d have this down to a fine art at this point, considering.”

Gwen squeezes his hand. “I don’t care about that, either, the history. You know me, Blake. You know how happy I am with you, how lucky I feel.”

“I hope so,” he says. “I do. Making you happy is… Well, that’s what I want to do forever, right? Get to wake up to that smile, your light. Be the cause of some of it.“ He looks up at the sky, the droplets of water starting to fall in earnest now, and shoots his girlfriend a wry grin. Shit. “I wanted to make you wet when we celebrated today. Just not quite like this, sweet girl.”

Her laugh is more like a snort, and she plants a quick kiss to his lips. “C’mon then, let’s get this done and we can go back to dry land again.”

’Let’s get this done’, she says. Such a romantic. The tabloids just wish they could see you now,” he chuckles. “Seriously, Gwen. You know I want this, right? Not just because people expect us to, not just because I do keep track of what you like on Instagram, not even because the boys keep dropping hints. Because I love you.” His large hands frame her face, tuck several loose strands of hair behind her ear. 

It’s not until he tears his eyes away from her shining eyes that he realizes she’s one step ahead of him. The ring is sitting on his lap, the box open, the diamond sparkling up at them. “The benefit of you wearing pants that are too loose and having pockets the size of my head,” she says. “Didn’t feel a thing.”

Blake slips the ring on her finger. “I feel everything,” he says. “Please marry me. Be my wife.”

Her voice is a little shaky as she says yes. “I practiced too. And yet…” Her lower lip wobbles. “The words are gone,” she admits. “I just want to kiss you forever.”

Just as when, in five months, the priest asks if they do, the only answer the universe hears is yes.