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Ryan and Sam's mum have a little talk

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players only. backdated to May 2015, after Sam and Ryan decide to brave a holiday with the in-laws.

Sitting in the expansive great room overlooking the ocean below, Jeanne looks up occasionally from her book, the view before her far more interesting than what she's reading. Her husband and Ryan's father have disappeared into the bar again, playing darts or billiards she thinks, and who knows where everyone else has gone. They're spending enough time together at meals and in the evenings though so this small break is actually nice. She considers getting up to get a glass of wine or a mimosa but she's far too comfortable, almost sleepy in fact, until she spies Ryan entering on the far side of the room. She waves at him.

Ryan is on his way through the massive round lounge, more than 180 degrees of it looking out onto the water, headed to the kitchen to ask whether the whole rowdy bunch of them can be accommodated on one of the west-facing patios for dinner. But he changes direction when he sees his mother-in-law's wave. He and Jeanne have never spent much time just the two of them, but neither has he ever felt like they particularly needed to; they seem to be somewhat matched as to amiable temperaments. And anyway, it's his own mum who is the widely acknowledged well-meaning menace of the extended family.

"Hey," he greets, ducking down to give her a quick kiss on the cheek before perching on a club chair close by. "How's your afternoon going?"

"It's going very well," Jeanne says with a smile. "But I'm not getting very far," she holds up her book. "The water's too beautiful."

"It is gorgeous," Ryan agrees, gazing out at the sea. "And it amazes me how it really feels like we're the only ones in the world, but the horizon just goes on forever..." He shakes himself a bit, and gives her a bashful smile. "Sorry, I'm waxing badly poetic. My dad had us all swimming before we could walk, it seems. I always felt a really strong connection to the water."

"Me too," Jeanne admits, setting her book down. "I'm a Pisces. Not that I really believe in that sort of thing but it explains a little about how much I love the ocean." She smiles. "Where's Sam?"

"Uhh, reading, I think?" Ryan scratches the back of his head, creating an opportunity so he doesn't have to meet her eyes. Napping, more like, but he's not comfortable enough with Jeanne to be telling her things like that. Sam, suddenly feeling like a sleep-in during the middle of the afternoon? Yeah, no. "Just so long as he's not getting roped into my younger brothers' nefarious plans to throw me over a cliff for giggles, you know?" he tells her with a grin.

Jeanne laughs. "I've told Sam time and again how lucky he is to be an only," she says, amused. She smiles. "How is married life treating you?"

"Oh, it's amazing." Ryan's cheeks flush a bit, but at least this is a question he can answer with full honesty. "Your son..." He smiles shyly. "You raised him very well. He's a truly good man."

"Thank you. Your parents did the same with you and we're so glad you found each other," Jeanne says sincerely. "What about your work though? You're traipsing around the world making sure Sam's taken care of, but are you still writing? Are you... doing things for you?"

That's a delicate question. And it's one which Ryan doesn't quite know how to answer without sounding... ungrateful. "I do some. Probably pretty much the same amount of writing as I ever did, really, because when the muse hits? It hits, and I just start scribbling away. And I travel with a full-size keyboard plus my acoustic guitar, which is usually more baggage than Sam even carries on long flights," he tells her with a laugh. "I'm just lucky he puts up with it all."

Jeanne laughs. "I know who's lucky in this relationship, and it's not you," she tells Ryan, amending quickly, "Well, it is, but not the way you mean it. You'd have to be blind not to notice the way you take care of him, the way you make sure his every need is met. It's lovely and I can tell he's appreciative – because I'd kick his ass if he wasn't – but you need to make sure you do for you as well."

"Oh. No," Ryan says, shaking his head with a crooked grin, his cheeks flushing again. "Every time Sam looks at me and smiles... That's for me." He's gotten ribbing enough from his family about definitively marking himself as the sentimental sop in his marriage, but he finds he doesn't mind if Sam's mum knows it. "He loves me so much, he just... fills me up." And fuck. Now Ryan blanches, wide-eyed, because that last bit did not come out right.

"He does, does he?" Jeanne says with a smile, unable to resist.

"Yeah." Ryan ducks his head, covering his face with his hand for a long moment before he looks out to sea again. But a persistently dreamy smile lingers on his lips. "But I'm sure you already knew, long ago, that he's not the tough guy all the action movies bank he is. Or... not only that tough guy."

Jeanne nods. "That's why I'm glad you found each other," she says. "I knew the wrong person could end up taking advantage of him."

Ryan frowns a little, and nods too. "I really appreciate that you never looked at me that way. At least, even if you did, I never felt like you thought I was a golddigger," he tells Jeanne with a laugh. "He pretends sometimes, to worry that someday his career will just suddenly crash in on itself, and he'll suddenly find himself homeless and broke, and have to go back to brick-laying." Ryan grins at the adorable factor of the mere thought. "I'd love him every bit the same."

"I know you would," Jeanne says with a soft smile. "And it was obvious to us from the first time we met you how serious you were about Sam. Besides, I've never worked outside the home. I've always taken care of everything for Ron and Sam and made their lives better. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

"Right." Ryan smiles at her with a touch of wonder, suddenly realizing how rare it is to meet someone vanilla who just understands his perspective; but of course, that aspect of their respective roles in life isn't so different. "And everyone's happier for it." He grins at his mother-in-law now, dimples winking. "So, tell me what you want. Somehow everyone else in the family has managed to pipe up and put their two cents in, but you always keep quiet and let others speak for you."

Jeanne smiles. "I want you two to be happy," she says firmly. "If that means children for you and grandchildren for me, I'd love that, but it's not something I'm going to push. I'd like you to get Sam to come and visit a little more often. We're not always to going to be here and I think he sometimes takes it for granted we will be."

Ryan scratches at the light stubble on his jaw. "I think he likely doesn't let himself think on it at all," he confesses. "I mean, I try to get his papers in order sometimes, make sure his life insurance policies are all lined up, make sure he knows what to do if something happens to me, and..." He shrugs a little. "Nah. He just won't hear me. But I understand what you're saying. And I'll try to make it so. You don't think Ron will mind traveling to California to see us a bit more as well?"

"He'll grumble," she says with a laugh. "But if you promise him a visit up to that fancy estate of yours, I'm sure we can convince him."

"Ohhh, the Sonoma place." Ryan nods. "Yes. He has very good taste." He laughs. "And you can sit on your choice of gorgeous sun-washed patios overlooking the vineyards and the mountains and the lake, drinking wine and not-reading all that you want." His smile sparkles like sunlight on water.

"Sounds perfect." Jeanne smiles back.