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Meet Me In The Hallway

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He should have seen it coming really. His suitcases were always the last ones to come around on the conveyor belt. It didn’t matter where he’d travelled from, he was always the last person waiting for his suitcase without fail. And normally it didn’t bother him. Normally he would be wearing his earphones and playing one of the many artists who inspired him growing up.

But in typical Taron fashion, he’d managed to pack his earphones into his suitcase before he left his hotel in New York ergo they weren’t on his person. Leaving his earphones in different hotel rooms was something that happened more often than one would think. Truthfully, he’d lost count of the number of times he had to buy new ones.

And without the things that helped him escape from reality, he was stuck listening to the crackly intercom giving multiple warnings about leaving baggage unattended, and the odd person having a real conversation with another human being. Part of him, in a completely weird way that even he didn’t know how to describe, was thankful that he’d packed them. It meant that he had to be present in the world that turned around him.

Having no music filling his ears meant that he heard every tiny thing he never normally heard. Truth be told, he’d forgotten what somethings happening in the airport sounded like. The wheels of a random golf cart on the shiny floor, the beeps of the tills in duty-free, the sound of heels clicking on the floor and even the sound of the squeaky chairs he sat on.

But, he also berated himself for forgetting them. His head started to hurt from the absolute carnage that was the sounds of the airport mixing together. No single sound was cohesive enough for him to hear completely. If he managed to focus on the sound of feet tapping on the floor, the sound of children screaming took over. All he wanted was to plug his earphones in, listen to Sam Cooke and pretend that he was at home reading a book.

It’d been almost an hour since his plane landed in London Heathrow after a three-hour delay in New York and all he wanted to do was grab his suitcase and head home to fall face-first into his plush bed. But he couldn’t while he was stuck waiting. He was stuck waiting in a busy airport knowing that there was paparazzi waiting for him just around the corner. If he had his earphones he would be able to ignore them better…but he didn’t.

Now, had he have had his head screwed on back in New York, he could have headed to duty-free and bought a new pair even just for the plane duty–or for backup on his next trip. But he’d been so tired after a week of doing press that buying new ones was the last thing on his mind. He’d been so tired that as soon as he sat down on the plane he fell asleep for a measly 15 minutes before being woken up by the sound of the engine.

Taron wasn’t afraid of flying, not even in the slightest. But he felt uncomfortable when he couldn’t escape the noises that came with flying. The engine and chit chatter of everyone around him mixed together in the perfect recipe for a headache. And boy did he feel it.

He was in the middle of a solo pity party when he saw the little girl walking towards him. Her eyes were red and puffy with tears spilling from them. Just by looking at her, Taron thought that she couldn’t be any older than four. Of course, he couldn’t tell for certain but she was a lot smaller than his sisters who were still young themselves. His heart broke at the sight of her trying to look around her for someone that she knew. But she didn’t find them.

It took Taron all of one second to bend down to her height when she bumped into his leg.

“Hi, little lady,” he whispered so as to not scare her. “Have you lost someone?”

The little girl only nodded, sniffling loudly and pulling her thumb into her mouth. She was clearly scared and Taron understood. Whoever was taking care of her probably warned her not to talk to strangers but he just wanted to help. She looked so frightened and he couldn’t begin to imagine how she must have felt at that moment.

“Who are you looking for?”

“My mummy,” the young girl responded. When she finally looked up at him Taron watched her bottom lip tremble incessantly. Taron’s heart broke watching her on the brink of tears and he wanted to do whatever he could to help her. It didn’t matter if he missed his suitcase coming through to him.

Luckily, just before he could respond, he saw the case coming through so he grabbed it super quickly and pulled it to his side. The little girl remained by his side, looking around for her mum before looking up at Taron with soft eyes.

“Do you think you could take me to the last place you saw her?” Taron asked her gently, holding his hand out for her to take so she wouldn’t wander off away from him. “Come on then.”

Taron let the little girl guide him to the last place she saw her mum–which wasn’t too far away from where Taron had been standing to start. When the girl stopped, she looked up at Taron with a mix of sadness and confusion. He squeezed her hand a little tighter at the same time as he looked around to see if he could see anyone looking for their missing child.

“Lila?” He heard faintly coming from his right.

The little girl immediately perked up and look at Taron expectantly. “Is that your mummy?”

“Yes.”

“Okay let’s wait here and see if she comes here, yeah?”

“Okay.”

To say the little girl was young, her speech was clear enough that Taron understood what she was saying. Which he was thankful or. It made communicating with her a lot easier than it could have been.

“What’s your name?” She asked quietly. Almost too quietly for Taron to hear her.

“I’m Taron. What’s your name?”

“I’m Lila-Mae. Like my mummy shouted, silly.”

The smile on her face as she chuckled at him made Taron smile too. He missed his little sisters when they were super young making comments that had him laughing from deep within his belly. Lila reminded him of his sisters and made him wonder when he would be lucky enough to have a baby of his own, to look after and teach to talk and walk and be independent.

“Lila-Mae there you are! You had mummy worrying!” A woman called as she ran up to Taron and Lila, grabbing the girl gently and holding her close. “Thank goodness you’re okay. Please don’t ever run away from me like that again, okay?”

“Okay. I’m sorry, mummy.”

Taron didn’t want to be rude and stare at the woman but he found it very difficult. She was beyond beautiful, with her hair pulled effortlessly out of her face. Even in a baggy hoodie with her black jeans she looked so put together. Her eyes met his as she let her lips turn up into a gentle smile, relief written all over her face.

“Thank you so much for standing with her,” she spoke once she’d given her daughter a once over. “I looked away for two seconds and she’d gone and I got worried and-”

“It’s fine,” Taron interrupted to stop the woman from getting herself too worked up. “Happens to the best of us at some point.”

“Oh, you have kids?”

Taron shook his head quickly, realising how his comment sounded to people who didn’t know him personally.

“Oh, no.” The woman’s eyebrows furrowed deep into her forehead as she tried to work him out. “I have two young sisters. They did the same thing when they were Lila’s age.”

Something bubbled in the pit of his stomach as he spoke with the woman with the angelic voice. Words seemed to fall so effortlessly from the tip of her tongue and they sounded delightful as they danced in his ear. He was entranced by her presence and he found it difficult to pull himself together enough to hear what she said to him after that.

“Oh I’m sorry,” she rushed out as she stood up, holding Lila’s hand tightly so she couldn’t wander off again, “I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Taron insisted, smiling at her. “I’m Taron.”

“Y/N.”

******

Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton played through the speakers dotted around the gazebo. Lila-Mae sat with Taron’s parents as he and Y/N danced for the first time as a married couple. His hands sat on Y/N’s waist as hers rested around his neck, holding him close enough where she could plant sporadic kisses to his lips.

They’d had the best day, celebrating their marriage and three years spent together with their closest family and friends. The couple spent weeks at a time away from one another while Taron was working but the night before the wedding when they weren’t together felt different. They ached to be with one another more, to snuggle in bed and reminisce on their relationship up until that point.

The second Taron saw Y/N walking down the aisle, his heart exploded and he couldn’t contain the tears. He never knew love quite like that and seeing Y/N and Lila walking down the aisle together, towards him and their new life as a family hit him deep. He was getting the family he’d always wanted.

“You know,” Taron whispered into Y/N’s ear breathily, “I’m kinda glad I packed my earphones like an idiot that day.”

“Mm,” Y/N hummed in response. “I’m kinda glad you did too. I owe you my life for making sure that Lila was okay.”

Her breaths were shaky and Taron knew that she was on the verge of tears. But they’d promised one another that there wouldn’t be any more tears that day. He pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead and held her even closer to him, swaying them both from side to side as they danced in time with the music.

“You don’t owe me anything, gorgeous. I wouldn’t have left her wandering around on her own. I’m just glad you didn’t think I was a weirdo for holding her hand.”

“If Lila didn’t feel comfortable with you, she wouldn’t have let you hold her hand.”

Taron let his eyes fall on his official step-daughter and he smiled. His mum had her arm around her shoulders holding her tight and they both smiled wide. For three years, Taron had been in her life, taking her to school when he wasn’t working, making her breakfast on a weekend morning and watching cartoons with her while Y/N slept in, and taking her to her dance classes. He really felt like her dad and he was thankful that she felt comfortable enough to let him do those things for her.

At some point in his relationship with Y/N, Lila started to call him dad. The first day that she did, he went to bed and cried to Y/N because he was so ecstatic that she saw him as her dad. Of course, Y/N got emotional too because her daughter’s father was never in the picture and all she’d wanted for Lila was a dad who loved her. And she’d finally found that in Taron.

“I love you both so much.” It was Taron’s turn to have a wobbly voice.

“And we love you. We love you so much that there’s something we wanted to ask you.”

Taron was beyond confused when Y/N pulled away from him slightly to motion for Lila to join the two of them on the dance floor. Taron lifted her into his arms instantly and breathed deeply when she snuggled into his chest.

“Lila, do you want to ask daddy?”

“Can you, mummy? I’m scared.” Taron kissed the top of Lila’s head softly.

The wedding continued around them but they felt like the only three people in the universe. No one else mattered as Y/N nodded and smiled tearily at Taron.

“Since I’m now Y/N Egerton,” she started. Neither of them could hold back their smiles at the sound of Y/N’s new name. “How would you feel is Lila became Lila-Mae Egerton?”

“Wh-huh?”

“Lila wanted to know if you could become her real daddy. She came to me a few weeks ago and,” Y/N paused to take a shaky breath, feeling the tears threaten to fall. “She sees you as her dad and understands that you stepped up when you didn’t need to. Her love for you is something I’ve wanted to witness since the second she was born.”

“Baby,” Taron breathed, slowly understanding what was happening.

“Will you adopt our baby girl?”

“Please daddy?”

Taron was the first to let the tears fall. They ran down his cheeks and fell onto his suit as he held his two girls as tightly as he could. Nothing could prepare him for becoming a father and he’d spent a while worrying that Lila wouldn’t ever see him as a father figure. But she did, and she wanted to make it official.

“Of course I will!” He exclaimed as he twirled them both around. “There’s nothing I want more.”

Taron really was thankful that he packed his earphones into his suitcase that day. That one thing that he’d berated himself for was the start of him gaining a family. Two women who he vowed to protect for as long as he could. His girls.