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a thousand spotlights

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It's the lights that hit him first.

 

And then the screaming, shouts from photographers as they plead for him to look their way.

 

Squaring his shoulders, he keeps a firm hold on the hand of his lovely date, and for the first time in his life, doesn't worry about faking a gleaming smile for the cameras. 

 

He's nowhere near the likes of stars who have been walking these carpets for decades now, but tonight, almost all eyes are on him.

 

Or more specifically, on them.

 

He'd been a bit of a tease about it on social media (with his manager's permission), hinting that he was particularly excited about the event, and would be bringing along the most important person in his life. His fans had responded as expected, which he found mostly endearing and amusing.

 

And then Cait had replied with her well wishes, commenting that "I wish I could be there" , which only served to incense the internet population some more. There were theories and questions galore, but he wisely kept his mouth shut afterwards, wanting to save the excitement for the night to come.

 

Judging from the reaction of not only the photographers trying to capture his image, but all the people around him, be it other celebrities or their agents, he has a feeling that they may have stolen the show.

 

He can't wait to see what Cait will make of all this.

 


 

Secrecy had never been their intention when they set out on this journey together. It had become a necessity to maintain privacy in their lives.

 

Privacy, something which most people took for granted, but a rarity for those who lived much of their life in front of a camera. 

 

She'd grown used to having her personal space invaded. Such was the fate of a model, being photographed from all angles, each and every line and curve scrutinised. And then afterwards, as her hard work and perseverance paid off, appearing on screens big and small, her image was no longer hers to own.

 

It belonged to the people.

 

But the more it slipped away, the more desperate she grew for a taste of normalcy. Strolling the streets in casual wear, skin clear of products, taking in the city without having her least flattering expressions plastered over the internet by those who had no respect for her as a human being. She had no aspirations for fame and fortune, only wanted to chase her dreams and find pleasure in portraying another, giving life to a character and learning in the process.

 

It wasn't a life in the spotlight that she sought, but it was the price she had no choice but to pay when it came to shaping her career. 

 

She'd seen first hand the toll that this life took on those far more experienced than she. Families were torn apart, relationships starting and ending, all played out in the tabloids, twisted imaginings of the lost intimate parts of one's life, aired like a movie for the entire world to watch and make judgement of.

 

Caitríona knew without a doubt that she didn't want her life to come to this.

 

And so when she'd given in to her impulses, allowed herself to fall head over heels for her handsome co-star, she'd asked only one thing of him.

 

That first time, as she lay pinned beneath his body, her ankles locked around his back, crying out as he thrust into her hard enough to knock the bed frame against the hotel room wall, she'd whispered into his ear, "Let's just keep this between you and me."

 

Sam had agreed of course, though looking back on it, she thinks he would have agreed to anything so long as she didn't tell him to stop.

 

And so they'd settled for sneaking around, a late-night rendezvous here and there, quickies in their trailer more often that she'd to admit and hours spent at her flat, learning each other and quickly realising that a casual sexual relationship could not be maintained for long.

 

They'd had their first real blow up then, not speaking for months and being all the more glad their relationship was not public knowledge. The icy silence between them had quickly thawed one night, curled up together in a creaky bed at the emergency room of a local hospital, weeping openly in one another's arms.

 

And since then, they'd had even more reason to keep their private life private.

 

Though they both knew that these types of secrets weren't meant to be kept for long.

 


 

It starts when she's away filming in Paris.

 

She's lying, hanging half of the bed and indulging on room service, enjoying her time alone, when her phone lights up with a message.

 

Opening it, she finds an image of a pouting Sam, holding up an envelope that she can't quite decipher, given that he'd moved while taking the photo. 

 

"I newd a dste for the Osdcars," reads the caption, and she rolls her eyes to the Heavens before calling him, having nowhere near enough energy to decipher his messages should they continue this exchange via text.

 

"Babe," she hears him drawl as he answers, and she can already picture the grin on his face.

 

"I miss you," she tells him, even though they'd only spoken earlier in the morning, and he'd flown over for a visit just last week. Caitríona never imagined she'd be one of those people who thrived on codependency, but things were always easier when they were together.

 

"Not more than I miss you," he answers, voice slightly raspy.

 

"I'm alone right now," she tells him, teasing, and then laughing when she hears a familiar shriek on his end.

 

"Well as you can hear, I'm not. A terrifyin' princess has taken me hostage. You have to come and save me," he reports in all seriousness, and she cannot help but laugh at his dramatics. 

 

"As much as I'd love to come and help you darling, you know I'm stuck here for at least another two months."

 

She can hear his sigh of disappointment, knows that it's not directed at her, only their situation. Balancing a career like theirs while trying to raise a family together is no small feat, and it only gets harder when they're apart.

 

"So it's a no go on the party then?"

 

"I'm afraid not," she responds, knowing that her filming schedule won't allow for a quick trip out to L.A., even just for a day or two. She wants to suggest a list of possible dates for him, a friend to support him so he won't have to show up alone, when she hears a little voice in the background.

 

"I'll go to the party with you, Daddy."

 

While Sam splutters and chokes and tries to come up with a dozen reasons why it would not be a good idea (and explain so to a four-year-old), Caitríona ponders the implications it may have for their future. With Evelyn due to start school in the next year and trying to have her understand what Mummy and Daddy did for a living, it would be a good, albeit extreme, opportunity to introduce her to their world. The fears she lived with before about not being able to sustain a relationship given a life like theirs are no longer present. 

 

Sam had shown her each and every day just how devoted he was to her, to their family and she knew within her own heart that nothing in the world would cause her to turn her back on them.

 

She listens as father and daughter bicker over it and then loudly clears her throat, drawing his attention.

 

"I think you should take her. It can be an early birthday present and you know how much she loves to dress up. And that way you'll have an excuse to duck out early."

 

He chuckles lowly.

 

"Is that why you want me to take our daughter as a date? Afraid I'll have too much fun at the after party?"

 

She snorts in response.

 

While at one point in time their jealousy had known no bounds, built upon their mutual insecurity over their relationship, they're no longer at that stage in life. Though bound together on paper by nothing more than their daughter's birth certificate, Caitríona knew without a doubt that no spray-tanned, bleached-blonde model teetering on six-inch heels would be able to sink their well-manicured nails into her man.

 

"Someone needs to keep an eye on you while I'm away," she jokes.

 

"I'll watch Daddy!" the voice of their daughter sing-songs, and just like that, the matter is settled.

 


 

Wary of the excitement building around them, and that Evelyn isn't quite used to noises and large crowds, he scoops her into his arms, very careful to not wrinkle her dress, smiling when she hides her face against his shoulder.

 

She'd gotten her hair and nails done, but he'd drawn the line at make-up. No four-year-old should be parading the red carpet with fake eyelashes and enough powder to cover the entire state of California. 

 

"Are you havin' fun, Evie?" he asks, ignoring the loud shouts of his name.

 

"I'm a princess, Daddy," she whispers in his ear, one hand clumsily gesturing to the tiara they'd found for her (genuine crystal but no diamonds because Mummy and Daddy don't have that kind of cash-flow).

 

"That you are."

 

And so he walks the red carpet with an unusually well-behaved child in his arms, pausing momentarily every few steps to allow for his image to be captured, gently nudging Evelyn to smile for the cameras. When they pass by a set-up that is streaming the event live to the internet, he turns and whispers in her ear.

 

"Go on and wave to the camera, love. Mummy's probably watching."

 

Very diligently, she shifts in his arms and waves by opening and closing her fists, something she'd most definitely picked up from her mother and not him. The motion earns her a series of loud "Aaws", and he smacks a kiss against her curls, feeling prouder than ever. 

 

The evening passes by in a blur after that;

 

He hands Evie off to her sitter once they've finished posing for photos, sending them back to his hotel room and enduring the hours long ceremony with some of his cast mates. They all try to act normally around him, though he can see the questions at the tips of their tongues, just begging to be asked.

 

In the end, they leave empty-handed, and he manages to slip away before he can be tracked down by nosy reporters and pestered for an explanation. It's likely that everyone will have their own thoughts on the matter, and it's of no consequence to him, because their speculation will never quite reach the truth. 

 

And while the other attendees are off to get pissed and rub elbows with executives and celebutantes, he heads back to his room, strips off his suit and promptly falls right asleep next to the curled up form of his daughter.

 

The next morning, he books them a flight to Paris.

 


 

Caitríona is weary to the bone and ready to pass out as she trudges back to her room after another long day on location, wanting nothing more than for this to be over. 

 

She wants nothing more than to be with her family back home, not stuck here for another two weeks. Her entire body aches, her head is throbbing and she's starving but the mere thought of food makes her stomach turn. 

 

And just this morning she'd come close to heaving all over her co-stars shoes. 

 

She doesn't need a test or a doctor to confirm what she already knows. 

 

With a heavy sigh, she slides her key card into the scanner, hearing the quiet beep before tucking it back into her purse. She needs to eat something , take a shower and then go straight to bed, but she's so exhausted she thinks she may just pass out the moment her arse hits the mattress. 

 

Shoulders slumped and sighing softly, she pushes the door open and enters her room, frowning when she notices the light in the bedroom is on.

 

Before she can ponder if her baby-brain had forgotten to switch it off when she left in the morning, a blur races towards her, crashing into her legs.

 

"Mummy!"

 

Just like that the exhaustion is momentarily forgotten, for she feels nothing but joy and happiness as she bends down to pick her daughter up, grunting softly as Evie attaches to her like a monkey. 

 

"Did you see me at the party, Mummy?"

 

"I did, love. Did you have fun with Daddy?" she responds, pressing a kiss to Evie's golden curls, heart swelling in her chest when her husband steps into the hallway.

 

She can feel Evie nodding against her as Sam approaches, but he stops short of them, just standing and taking her in with his eyes, as though he hasn't seen her for a thousand years. 

 

"Are you going to let Daddy give Mummy a kiss?" he jokes after a moment, moving forward and resting a hand on her back. 

 

"No, Mummy's mine," she grumbles, tucking her face against Caitríona's neck. 

 

Perhaps it's the overwhelming emotion from the surprise of having the two of them there, but she finds she cannot contain herself when she blurts out her next words.

 

"She's going to have to get used to sharing."

 

Sam's eyes widen as he slowly absorbs the implication of her response and she nods, reaching for his free hand and lacing his fingers with her own. 

 

"Are you…" he begins to ask, trailing off before he can finish his question, eyes wide and shining.

 

"Yes."

 

"Are we?" he tries once more, a tear spilling from one eye, trailing down the slope of his cheek.

 

"Yes."

 

Choking back the tears, he leans forward, pressing a gentle kiss to her lips. It's long and slow and sweet, and by the time they finally pull apart, Evie is half-asleep in her arms, no longer protesting her parents’ displays of affection. For a moment, Caitríona considers tucking their precious daughter into bed so she can have her way with her husband, but then the day catches up with her and she finds herself releasing an almighty yawn. 

 

Sam chuckles, skimming her cheek with his thumb. 

 

“Let’s get you to bed. All three of you.”

 

They curl up beneath the covers together, Evie tucked against her father’s chest, Sam’s arm draped protectively over their little family. 

 

Whatever tomorrow may bring, they have this. 

 

They’ll always have this.