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The First

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The first time he flirts with her – seriously (if that’s not contradictory), with purpose – she’s surprised into a nervous giggle, swiftly followed by a silence that is almost awkward but not quite. They’d settled back into their easy, comfortable relationship relatively quickly when filming had resumed: a few light touches, a few compliments, a few laughs that are perhaps a little bit too enthusiastic because, really, they both know separations aren’t the same as divorces. Tonight, though, they’re sitting backstage alone without a camera in sight. That’s new. Also new is the way he’s fidgeting with the hem of his shirt and clenching and unclenching his fists. She thinks he might be uncertain and it would be endearing if it also didn’t frighten her to death.

It’s delicate, this dance, delicate and precious too, she thinks. It’s been a long time since she’s been single and sometimes it feels like she’s eleven years old and has growing pains all over again. She stretches (lets herself touch the back of his neck for a moment too long) and itches (when he smiles, she wants to lean closer to soak up the warmth) and aches (she’s starting to find excuses to text him when they’re not filming) now, and frankly it’s not always a pleasant sensation. It’s been long months since she found out what a lie her marriage had been and yet there are still moments when she looks at her empty ring finger and would give almost anything to have that life back again. 

“Hey,” he says, bumping his shoulder into hers. “You alright? You drifted off for a moment there.”

She laughs softly, and feels a tightness in her chest when she sees his eyes become warmer at the sight. He seems to relax a little and that makes her feel good too. It’s dangerous, letting his moods affect hers, but it also makes her hopeful because maybe Gavin and the shitshow that has been her life this past year (maybe four or five, if she’s honest with herself) didn’t destroy her after all. She’s all too aware of how sensitive she is, how easily she attaches herself when she starts to love someone. She’s not ‘in love’ but beginning to love Blake? That is what is happening. She knows that with a confidence that is lacking in almost all other areas of her life right now.

“I’m good. Just thinking,” she eventually tells Blake, bumping him right back because she’ll take whatever contact she can get. “About you,” she capitulates, offering the answer to the question he didn’t ask. “Us.” 

He doesn’t shy away at this, doesn’t wince or look pitying or let her down gently. Instead, he wraps an arm around her and pulls her into a hug, letting her head come to rest on his broad chest. It’s strange, beginning to truly notice (and not just in an objective ‘he’s hot’ kind of way) another man’s body after so long with Gavin, and she can’t stop herself from making comparisons – not just about the physical differences but the emotional ones, too. She’s learned that Blake likes touch of any kind, craves it even, in a way that her ex never had, and she wonders how that manifests itself in a sexual relationship. She’s started to let herself think about the possibility of that, thinks that her colleague might be as well.

She’s not naive and she knows he has other options besides a divorced mother-of-three who lives in LA, but when he looks at her? She’s pretty sure she’s not alone in how she’s feeling, not alone in wondering how to navigate these waters where flirting (and maybe more) is suddenly allowed. His fingers start playing with her hair – gently, a feather-light touch that has her wanting to purr like a contented kitten – and she lets herself shift a little closer, not exactly sitting in his lap but closing the gap between their legs completely. 

 

“How much longer do we have?” he asks her, the vibration from his voice something she can actually FEEL. She takes a quick look at her phone (not long enough, dammit) and sighs heavily.

“Five. Maybe ten if we pretend we lost track of the time.” She lets the regret color her tone and appreciates how he tightens his grip on her and presses his lips to her head. It’s re-assuring and she wants to tell him so. She thinks she may have used up her daily quota of bravery, though, because instead she finds herself pulling back. Retreating from his touch is far more awkward than embracing it and she thinks she might be blushing when she accidentally brushes his upper thigh as they get up off the couch.

Blake clears his throat and god, she actually kind of wants to kiss him right now. She’s not sure if they’re ready for that (not even sure if he wants it, truly) and so she just places a hand on his forearm and squeezes.

“Thanks.” He looks a bit confused at her gratitude, his brow furrowing adorably. “Y’know, for being there for me.” She bites her lip and stares at his collar instead of his eyes. “’S’not been easy and you…”

He tilts her face, makes her look right at him, steady and sure, and apparently this kind of confidence (not Gavin’s arrogance and pretension) is hella appealing to her. Who knew. “You make it easier for me too.”

She wants to duck her head when he says that, maybe run and hide, but she also desperately wants to ask him to say MORE, to explain exactly what he’s feeling and what he means. She hopes she isn’t misinterpreting, hearing what she wants to hear. She did a lot of that during her relationship with her exes and she’s determined to stop. Or to try.

He tuts and she realizes that she’s gotten lost in her thoughts again. The sound isn’t impatient or judgmental, just slightly amused, and she gives him a soft smile. “Gwen,” he says, and it’s a rough caress the way he drawls it. (For the past few days she’s been wondering what his voice sounds like when he’s just waking up in the morning.) “Drinks tonight?” he asks, the words spoken so quickly that she’s not even sure she’s heard them correctly.

“With Adam and - ” 

“Uh, not quite,” he interjects and now he’s the one not making eye contact. “Just us maybe?” She wants to reassure him that he doesn’t need to be unsure, that she’s pretty certain she would have said yes whatever the question. Instead, she swallows the lump in her throat and takes his left hand in hers, letting her thumb stroke his. It doesn’t feel like a risk.

 

When she says “Of course” he beams at her, and she sort of wants to stop the clock and stay here forever.

Chapter Text

The last day of taping is the first day they kiss.

 Strictly that’s not true, Gwen tells herself afterwards, trying to minimize how those few seconds have completely upended her world. She’s kissed his cheek numerous times; he’s kissed her head almost as much. So it wasn’t a big step. Really. Then she remembers his lips touching hers for the very first time and ‘big’ doesn’t even come close to capturing how momentous it felt.

 

They’d been texting during a break in filming that afternoon thanks to Carson needing a quick bathroom break; she can point to that as the beginning. She’s not sure why they’ve started communicating this way when her legs are perfectly capable of taking her a few feet to her left, but she kind of likes it. She kind of likes how sometimes he uses emojis and clearly doesn’t know what they mean, and she definitely likes that he’s started sending her pictures – his horses, his lake, his tractor, his horrifyingly large shotgun. It’s not that she’s particularly interested in any of those things (except the horse was gorgeous and the lake makes her wonder if he’s ever skinny-dipped before…), but the fact that he wants to share them with her? That means a lot. The last man in her life never really, she can acknowledge now, gave much; he just took and took and took until she was empty.

She’s sent him a picture of Apollo climbing on top of a grinning Kingston and when he shoots her a strange look instead of immediately replying, her initial concern is that he’s grown tired of the game. Then her cell vibrates and she sees

Why did you apologize?

Confused, she re-reads her initial message where (oh shit) she had written a caveat of ‘i know moms can be annoying as hell showing others pictures of their kids. sorrrrrrrrry. but there so cute right!?’ She barely remembers typing those words and the idea of him scrutinizing what she says has her stomach in knots.

I don’t want to annoy u, she types and sends, resisting the urge to monitor his facial expressions the moment he reads what she’s written.

The only way you could annoy me is by stopping

Stopping?

This. Seeing ur children makes me happy. Seeing you want to share that with me makes me happy. She thinks she may have blushed or worse because she hears him chuckle before another text comes through. Don’t ever stop being cute when you get embarrassed, that makes me happy too!!!!!

She shoves her cell phone in her pocket and hears him laugh again, fuller and more real this time. The fact that she KNOWS the different laughs he has (her favorite is probably when he tries to hold it in and fails miserably, letting out a few almost-snorts in the process) should probably worry her but she chooses to delight in it instead. A few years again she didn’t even know this man’s name and now she thinks she may be in the throes of an actual crush. The word is so juvenile and teenager-y but she can’t find another. She’s spent the last few months crying, screaming, cursing, angry and depressed and it’s almost a relief knowing she can feel something good like this.

Growing up, her parents had always told her that God sometimes answered prayers in the most unexpected of ways, but this? She couldn’t have predicted this in a million years. She tries to tamp down her rising nerves and turns back to where the contestants are standing on the stage. She’s too easily distracted these days and it’s all his fault.

 

She’s yawning by the time they do their last take and not even prettily. It’s a bone-tired weariness that she chooses to blame on Zuma’s unsettled sleep last night. He’d climbed into bed at the cruel hour of three am and had wriggled around for the next four hours until she’d given up on resting and started looking through her Twitter mentions instead. Pharrell smiles sympathetically when she turns down his dinner invitation and Blake merely raises an eyebrow. They’d arranged (loosely, with the caveat that you don’t HAVE to; apparently they’re still trying to play it cool) to go and have a celebratory drink after the show but she’s in her forties and she’s tired and she doesn’t want to turn him down but…

The weight of his arm around her shoulders is surprising but welcome all the same. He leans in close and asks if she’s ready to leave and she wonders if she’s always reacted this way to him and had simply ignored what it meant before. Certainly, she can’t imagine not feeling an awareness of his physical presence.

There aren’t really any private places here anymore (they’ve been interrupted too many times) and she’s not surprised when they go straight to her car.

“You want to go home instead?” he asks and she feels that oh so familiar warmth at the way he prioritizes what she wants over anything else. She’s learned the hard way that it’s a far more rare characteristic than one desires.

“You’re going back home tomorrow, though, right?”

He shrugs and leans against the car door, letting his fingers catch with hers. She draws in a breath and leans right next to him, shoulder to shoulder. “I was planning on it, yeah. I mean, the place won’t fall ‘part without me but I miss it, y’know?”

“I know.”

 

The silence isn’t awkward and that’s something she’s come to appreciate lately. Her silences with Gavin were so loaded with meaning – the unasked questions, the unwanted truths – that to be able to relax and simply be is a blessing beyond compare.

“The kids are with Gavin if you wanted to - ” His grip on her tightens and she’s pleased at having the upper hand for once. There are days when she feels so unsure and uncertain around Blake, tying herself up in knots over the possibilities, but knowing he’s maybe in that space as well? It’s reassuring.

He takes a deep breath and brings her hand up, kissing it gently. “Not tonight.” Chuckling ruefully, he turns, her entire body now blocked by his and the coolness of the car hard against her back. She loves how big he is, how encompassing and warm and present. “You’re too temptin’ by half and I hate myself for saying no, but…”

“No or not yet?” She thinks it might be one of the bravest questions she’s ever asked, and she’s surprised into a loud laugh when he growls. “Not yet then?”

“Soon,” he replies, looking intently down at her. “Very soon. S’pect I’m gonna have to come back to LA quick.”

“LA would like that.”

 She can feel the urgency in him, the want and the need, and isn’t sure how to tell him that it’s okay, to just let go. She’d chased both Tony and Gavin and she thinks maybe that’s one of the reasons things went to shit. She wants someone to chase HER. Caressing his cheek, she revels in the scruff there, wonders how it might feel on her thighs. He nuzzles into her touch and if he doesn’t make his move soon, she’ll just die, she knows it. Blake’s watching her so intently, his eyes focused, his lips slightly parted. She knows this mouth, has heard it speak words of comfort, funny words, words of advice. She wants more from it.

I’d like that,” she finally offers, and then his lips are on hers.

She’s had a few first kisses in her time, but Blake’s? She knows she’ll consider herself a cliché later but truly, it feels like something becomes new in her the moment he leans in and tastes her. It’s an openness and a joy and something like being broken and then put together. His arms come around her and she takes and takes and takes. His lips are a little cracked and hers are a little messy from day-old lipstick. Their noses bump and it takes them a second to find the right fit but then, but then, it’s just perfect.

When he pulls away a few moments later, he’s breathing heavily and she’s just grateful for the solid car behind her holding her up. “I’d like that, too,” he says, and he’s speaking the words into her mouth, he’s so close. He laughs then, a rich, happy sound, which makes her want to grind up against him and just pray that nobody disturbs them. “God, you’re hot. So damn hot.”

“You too, cowboy,” she volleys, wiping a smudge of lipstick from his mouth (she kind of wants to leave it there, a mark to remember her by). She pushes his shoulder a little and he takes a step back. She needs to stand upright on her own, and she’s been learning how to do that recently. “Call me when you get there, ‘k?”

He nods and steals one last kiss (she sighs into it and curses him when he doesn’t deepen it), before turning and walking back to the building. She waves at his back and smiles when he waves back.

Chapter Text

She’s written songs in the past few months, of course, mostly variations on her new favorite theme: ‘I hate you, Gavin, you lying, cheating sack of shit. How dare you.’ Usually, they’ve arisen out of hours of agonizing and emotional turmoil, and more often than not they’ve been worked out to completion. She’s scribbling in her notebook now, though, just a few words, unstructured and loose. It’s a stray thought that’s been bothering her for the past few days and it needs exploring.

As enjoyable and relaxing as this trip has been with the boys, after all, she finds herself thinking of Blake in odd little moments. She’d expected – especially after their kiss – that she might have dreams, might even wonder about how he’d feel against her in bed, but he also flits across her mind when she’s riding horses, when she’s singing to get to Apollo to sleep, and even when someone mentions her favorite candy. It’s too early to talk about this with anyone and so instead she’s stuck in her own brain. Is this just some kind of fucked up protective measure; wanting desperately to feel good and latching onto the first available man who crosses her path? Is it an attempt to force Gavin out of her mind, replace his smooth charm with Blake’s warmth and rough edges? She knows that Blake’s had a rough time as well lately and the idea that maybe she’s using him doesn’t sit too well.

Unless he wants to be used.

She writes it down. Use him, don’t abuse him. Distract me with your body and I’ll distract you with mine. Maybe it’s enough. Groaning, she burrows into her pillow and blankets. While the writer’s block has disappeared (thank god; she was worried it never would), she’s started spouting verse that will need a hell of a lot of work before it makes it to an actual song. And that’s okay, really. Working is a good distraction too, she thinks.

 

“Moooooo-oooom,” the call comes and she quickly ties her hair back and puts her iPhone on the bedside table. She’s had to replace it too many times in the past few years thanks to the boys and their inability to stay still. “Mom!!!” Zuma speeds into the room, launching himself onto the bed with his usual energy.

“Wide open spaces for running are outside, honey,” she chides gently, wrapping an arm around him and tugging him into her. Her middle child has always been a wriggler and so she enjoys the short moments she can wrangle him into quietness and cuddles. “What’s up?”

“The horse had a baby! It’s like brown and a bit white and it’s a boy and called Hero which is kind of an awesome name don’t you think. You and Daddy should’ve called me that! Charlie would be soooooooo jealous!” he exclaims and she smiles at him. He’s so enthusiastic and sometimes she wishes it would rub off on King. He’s been even quieter lately and, while she knows it’s not a bad thing, per se, his clinginess is starting to worry her just a little. Gwen’s always wanted to be honest with them but a little goes a long way and she’s not sure how much her oldest understands about WHY things have changed so much. It’s probably more than he should, frankly.

“That sounds pretty cool,” she agrees and brushes his long locks back a little so he can see better. “Gonna go riding today with me?”

“I can!?”

“Sure,” she laughs. “Maybe after lunch. Kingston, too. I mean, we can’t let the cowboy boots go to waste, can we?”

Zuma twists out of her grip and shoves a boot in her face, narrowly missing her nose. “I didn’t even get ‘em that muddy, see?” She’s proud and tells him so, and grabs her iPhone again. “Photo?” she asks, grinning when she nods. The kids might – usually – hate the paps but Mommy taking their picture? Yeah, they still love that, thankfully. And so she gets him to stand next to the bed (“No, not ON the bed, buddy”) and snaps him looking all proud and horrifyingly grown-up, his button-up plaid shirt and cowboy boots reminding her of the one person she shouldn’t be thinking about right now. Again, damn it.

“Hey, Zum,” she begins hesitantly, needing to run this by him first. She’s pretty sure that that kiss with Blake will go further the moment they’re in the same room together next, and after that who knows. She kind of doubts it’ll be more than some hot sex and a few sorely needed conversations about how fucked up cheating on your spouse is, and so dragging the kids into the relationship (whatever it does or doesn’t become) seems like a bad idea. They already know him, though – and liked him, which made HER like him more, too – and so it’s not weird that she wants to do this, she tells herself. “Alright with you if I show a friend this photo? I think they’d really like it, like, a lot, y’know.”

Zuma jumps onto the bed again (and one day, he’ll climb on normally and then she’ll probably miss his rambunctiousness, contrary person that she is) and takes a look at her screen. “Sure. Who you sending it to?”

“You remember Blake, right? From when you visited me on The Voice. He’s a real cowboy and I think he’d think your boots are pretty neat.”

(And basically, I need an excuse to text him because I’m running out quickly and don’t want to seem too obsessed)

“Besides,” Gwen adds, adjusting her son’s collar and pressing a kiss to his cheek, “you’re looking pretty cute and I want to show you off.” He looks appropriately horrified but nods. Her kids have been such a godsend and it would be so easy to just hate Gavin if it weren’t for the blessing of their little family. It means she can’t just wipe him out of her life and it means she can’t vent how she’d like to, but having this little one in her lap, scrolling through her contacts to find Blake’s name? That makes it worth it. “Yep, that one,” she confirms as Zuma presses her co-worker’s name next to a frankly far too attractive photo of the man himself.

 

After the photo is sent, Zuma gets bored and races out of her bedroom, probably trying to locate a brother to irritate. If she were a perfect mom, she’d follow him, make sure he was behaving himself. Instead, she waits for a reply. It comes within two minutes and that fact is strangely gratifying.

Do I need to take out a restraining order? Single white female-ing me with your kids, G?

Cute, tho. Rather see what you look in my boots n shirt.

She grins and starts typing a response when another text comes through. Sometimes she wonders whether she’s becoming slightly addicted to the buzz of this, having him pay attention to her. It’s not that he’s younger than her or that he’s sexy as anything. But he seems to LIKE her and that means the world.

And nothing else.

She snorts a laugh, and sends him a quick selfie of her wrapped up in blankets.

No skin for you, sorry cowboy. She hesitates then takes a shot of her notebook. Hopefully, he doesn’t take this wrong. Been writing a song about you! Never thought THAT would happen lol.

Before she has time to regret telling him, he’s calling her on FaceTime and his delight and awe is so clearly not feigned. She knows she can’t quite trust her own instincts when it comes to honesty (she’s been burned too often), but she so badly wants to believe him. That’s a choice and that’s the one she makes.

“Wish you were here.”

Chapter Text

Since getting back home, they’ve Facetimed nightly, talked daily, and met up for coffee twice. In that time, they’ve shared exactly five kisses.

And yes, she’s been counting.

 

One of the downsides of fame is that exploring whatever this thing is between them has to do be done circumspectly. Going out to a bar, getting drunk and sloppily making out with him against the wall wouldn’t exactly fly even if it does sound incredibly appealing to the side of her itching to just do whatever the fuck she wants for a change, and so instead they’ve patiently waited for it to be Gavin’s turn with the kids, and she’s driven over to his rented house. Gwen knows exactly what the purpose of this visit is (sex, please, lots and lots of sex) and Blake’s not exactly bothered pretending it’s anything else either.

Don’t bother dressing up (or dressing at all!), he’d texted her that afternoon, complete with a winking face. He’s stepped up his emoji game recently and she kind of finds it endearing, oddly enough; maybe it’s because he likes to pretend he’s not tuned in to modern culture and is some dumbass country hick. While he IS country (and she’d never want to change that about him), he’s also super, super clued in and it’s an appealing combination of traits.

When he opens the door to her, she greets him with a kiss (and that makes six) and he laughs into it, and that’s how she feels too, this bubbly excitement and anticipation. It’s been a long time since she’s slept with anyone but Gavin and while there’s a certain amount of trepidation in taking this step, she knows that she’s fit and that Blake’s extremely attracted to her. They’ve spent enough time pressed together while devouring one another that she likes to think she could identify his dick in a line-up, actually, and she doesn’t say that lightly…

He slams the door shut and quickly spins her so her back’s against his wall (predictably beige and undecorated), and when his tongue enters her mouth before she can even say hello, she doesn’t have a single regret.

 

She’s down to her bra and panties, and she’s finally got her eager hand wrapped around his cock for the first time, when the phone call comes. Blake curses blind and she doesn’t bother hiding her frustrating either. She has kids, though, and priorities, priorities, Gwen, so she picks up.

Gavin sounds tired and frustrated and she feels that old desire to soothe him before collecting herself. She’s definitely out of love with his cheating ass, but stopping caring has proven far more difficult. Habits, as she well knows, are hard to break. She tries to put her shirt back on, but Blake’s hand stops her, its pressure on her hip bringing her to sit in front of him on the sofa. His jeans are back on, zip down, and he’s still semi-hard behind her. Christ. One day they’ll get their timing right, she swears it.

“What’s up?” she asks her ex, and yeah, maybe she sounds impatient but she only dropped the kids off a few hours ago. He’s a good father for the most part, Gavin is, so she’s torn between wanting to tell him to fuck off and being fearful that something’s seriously wrong with one of the boys.

“Apollo won’t go to sleep, hon, and god, I have tried everything but he won’t go down and Zuma’s getting annoyed and whiny and can you maybe - ”

Sighing, Gwen makes herself more comfortable, reaching for Blake’s hand and playing with his long fingers (and yeah, she’s half wondering whether they’ll feel as good as they look like they might be) while she tries to concentrate on the conversation she’s having.

“Look, can you maybe just drive over and get him to sleep or something?”

“Seriously, Gavin?”

His voice gets louder (and that’s always been her key to placate him but that time is over) and there’s that underlying coldness that’s always there. “What, too busy?” he asks innocently and yeah, she knows he knows what’s going on. She’s never been that good at hiding her feelings, and everyone close to her has noticed the seriously big turn-around in her mood lately. “Can’t make time for the kids?”

And that hits the mark because he knows she hates how things are, that she’d felt so damned guilty at not being there for them every morning and every night. It’s his fault but she’s the one who feels worst about it, and that’s always been their way. Blake’s rubbing her back now and she knows he can hear the entire conversation. Good man that he is, he doesn’t butt in, just waits patiently.

“Really, Gwen, I don’t think Apollo’s sick or anything but he keeps calling for you…”

“Okay, okay. Um, give me twenty minutes and I’ll be there. And tell King and Zum that they better be in bed when I get there or else.” Sighing, she hangs up and turns to apologize. Before she gets there, his finger is on her lips, and then his lips are there instead. It’s soft and it’s gentle and doesn’t ask anything, just tells her that’s it’s okay, that he gets it. And so she doesn’t say sorry. “Can I come back after?”

It’s presumptuous but he doesn’t seem to mind. “Of course. Always. Take your time and give him an extra kiss from me, ‘kay?” He tells her the code she needs, gives her a key and helps get her to rights, managing to cop a feel while tugging the shirt over her head. Can’t blame the man, considering she’s leaving him in quite a state. She kisses him the cheek and leaves.

 

It’s one in the morning when she finally walks back into Blake’s living room, trying to be as quiet as she can. She feels like the worst kind of thief, actually, creeping around like this. Not hearing a peep from the man of the house and getting ready to leave again, she about squeals when she feels his strong arms wrapping around her from behind. “Christ!”

“Blake, actually, though that’s flatterin’.”

“Dad jokes without the kids? Impressive, babe.” He laughs then, and presses a kiss to her neck. “Sorry I took so long. The boys are usually pretty good but it’s been a disruptive time, y’know…” She trails off and gets a touch worried when he doesn’t respond. He’s a re-assurer, Blake is, always trying to make her feel good and she appreciates it. When it’s not forthcoming there’s always a moment of panic, even though he hasn’t let her down. Yet. She knows that’s an awful negative way of looking at any relationships, friends or romantic or whatever else, but Gwen’s been burned too many times, honestly. A little caution is a good thing, she thinks. And then Blake’s lifting her up in his arms and frigging CARRYING her and she tells caution to fuck off.

His bed is large and inviting and the sheets are tangled and there’s a slight dip where he must have been lying. Waiting for her? Suppressing her delight, she keeps her arms around his neck until he lowers her to the mattress. Blake’s beside her, then, large and comfortable and she needs to be naked with him soon or she’ll just die of frustration. Her hand’s over his boxers in seconds but he stills her. She withdraws then, moves just an inch further away, and his eyes are knowing and kind.

“You look exhausted,” he says and she knows it’s not a rejection. “Just sleep, Gwen. Please.”

She thinks it might be the most welcome invitation she’s had in years, and so she curls up, back to his front. She takes in the way his breath is soft on the back of her neck, and memorizes the weight of his hand under her tanktop, resting on her belly.

Blake nuzzles into her hair and there’s a sharp intake of breath when she lets herself wriggle back against his body. “God, woman,” he groans. “Is it too early to make plans for tonight?”

She turns to face him, pats his flushed cheek. “Plans are overrated. Sex in the morning is not. Now go to sleep.”

Chapter Text

Two enthusiastic consenting middle-aged celebrities who are used to schedules and quick changes to them ought to be able to have sex without this many hurdles, she’s sure of it. Hurling an ugly beaded cushion across the room, she almost wants to stamp her feet and have a little tantrum while she’s at it. She’s always had a fairly healthy sex drive and now that she’s made her decision about Blake, having to wait and wait and wait is fucking hell on her body. He’s had a pretty good sense of humor about it all (probably been jerking off every night instead of being patient like she has…) and, perversely, that just gets her more frustrated.

The moment she hears his voice and his steps getting close to her trailer, she’s on her feet and opening the door for him. Maybe she’s coming across as too eager but Gwen’s pretty sure he doesn’t mind so much; it’s flattering, he’d said the other day, having such a gorgeous woman interested in him. And yeah, she’d been flattered too. As soon as he’s inside, the door is slammed shut, locked, and she’s pushing him up against the closest wall. They’ve discovered a lot about each other recently: the way he actually likes it when she bites, that her vocabulary is more than a little filthy when she gets sexually frustrated.

 

She’s starting to unbutton his shirt (the one good thing about his predictable wardrobe is ease of access) when he literally growls low in his throat and forcibly moves her away from him. Affronted, she moves to throw a punch to his shoulder but is stopped by his outstretched hand. “C’mon, not against the wall. You’ve got a couch ‘round here, yeah?”

And finally, finally, finally. “If you haven’t brought condoms with you, I’ll hate you for all time. Just so you know.” Smirking, Blake reaches into his pocket with his free hand and pulls out five. Gwen raises an eyebrow and tugs him over to the couch, tossing the unused outfits and several bags of makeup onto the floor. She’ll clean it up later if she has time. Maybe. “Sit,” she tells him and he does so, not even bothering to give a token word of protest. Gavin had always been slightly uncomfortable when she’d taken the initiative and been aggressive and maybe it was just a control thing, she’s not sure, but she enjoys seeing Blake’s very open appreciation of her in this way. She settles on his lap, giving him one brief grind as she does, and laughs at the way his brow furrows and his mouth opens slightly.

“Gotta apologize in advance, I suspect,” he says, putting a hand on her waist. “You’re smokin’ hot and it’s been way too long and – Christ!” Yeah, his nipples are too tempting a treat, and can he maybe just always wear his shirt off half like this, please? It’s not a new sight but it’s one she never fails to be excited by. His hands are light on her hips now and that’s just not enough. They’re on a break from filming but honestly, she has no idea how long they have before they need to be back on set, and she doesn’t want to have any regrets about how they’ve spent the time.

“I need to be naked right now, cowboy.” A command, not a comment. He doesn’t seem to mind, and he helps her shuck out of her shirt and bra before watching her, pupils dilated, as she slides her leather pants down and off, quickly followed by her red panties. Yeah, she came prepared too and isn’t ashamed of it. She does a quick spin for him and can’t stop laughing when he virtually tackles her back to the couch, struggling to get his own jeans off and get his mouth on her breasts at the same time. “Gotta love a man who can multi-task,” she says, tugging at his hair and forcing his lips up to meet hers. She needs his tongue in her mouth right now, needs its wetness and the way he knows exactly how she likes to kiss.

She tilts her hips up to meet his, loving how hard he is against her. He’d gone commando for her, thank god, and she relishes the heat of his skin against hers. It’s not that she’d always felt unattractive during to her marriage but she’d felt unattractive to him more often than not, especially since she’d had the boys, and that had been crushing to her. Blake, on the other hand, makes sure he tells her how attractive he finds her, complimenting her verbally but also telling her with his eyes and his body. She’s learned the hard way that platitudes can be false and words can be empty, and he seems to understand that, going out of his way to make sure she believes him. It’s like a kind of worship and she doesn’t think it’s blasphemous, just beautiful.

Course, she finds him beautiful too. He’d burst out laughing the first time she’d told him that and still seems incredulous when she makes comments about how hot he is. No, he’s not as toned or as muscular as Gavin was, and he sometimes seems uncomfortable with how his body moves, like it doesn’t quite fit. It doesn’t matter, though, she’s found.

 

Kissing his chest, she murmurs nonsense against him, and maybe the hair on his chest tickles her nose slightly but it’s also a welcome reminder of how different her new lover is, how very much himself he is. He isn’t a chameleon and he doesn’t bullshit and she loves that about Blake. His fingers are torturing her now, thick and long and oh so welcome, and one day she’ll insist on making him come first, but today is not that day. She’s already way too wet and it won’t take much before he gets her there. “Fuckkkkk,” she cries when he removes his fingers and shifts down the couch so he can put his mouth on her. He’s cruel but also an angel because god, how did his wives agree to divorces when he was this good!? At any other time, she might feel a little inhabited doing this in broad daylight when they could be interrupted at any moment, but she’s been wanting this moment for way too long, and so she urges him on, fingers gripping his slightly damp, curling hair. It doesn’t take much longer before she’s coming apart and as he lessens the pressure of his tongue against her, she sends a quick prayer up to God, thanking him for everything that’s led to this moment. Then she thanks Blake, breathless and panting and flushed in a way that she knows probably makes her appear slightly splotchy.

“You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to do that, to taste you,” he says, and his drawl is thicker and sexier than ever, a complete turn-on. He nuzzles into her neck and leaves quick soft kisses there. One of the things she likes most about him is this, the way he can make himself smaller almost, submitting physically to her. She’s willing to take the lead and it totally works for her. His breathing becomes ragged the moment she finally has his dick in her grip and she gives him a few strokes before silently asking him what he wants. “Now, now, for god’s sake. Told ya I won’t last long this time but god, just – Now, please.” She helps him slide the condom on and it’s a heavy moment because god, they’re finally doing this. He’s trying to keep his weight off her and she appreciates the effort, but it’s not what she needs right now. Guiding him to her entrance, she urges him not to hold back, that she’s with him all the way.

For the past few months, she’s found herself constantly making comparisons, measuring him up against Gavin, but the moment when he’s finally inside her, when he’s seated so completely, so tightly, her focus narrows and all that’s going through her mind is a litany of curse words and thank yous. She’s not sure what she actually says but Blake grins at her (and he’s a little sweaty and a little pink-faced and he’s genuinely never been more attractive to her) and she thinks he might be telling her how hot she is. It’s hard to think and so she chooses not to. Instead, she starts to move.

 

Later, when she’s sprawled across his naked body, tracing patterns on his chest, he’ll apologize for coming before she got there again, and she’ll brush it off, telling him she couldn’t be more satisfied. Because, yeah, he was right; he didn’t manage to last long, and that’s totally fine. As she tells him, they’ve got plenty of time for him to make it up to her. He pinky swears his promise to her and it’s almost ridiculous, how comfortable she feels with him. There’s no awkwardness and no regrets and she thinks Blake is feeling the same sense of contentment she is. They can totally make this work. Maybe it won’t last long and maybe it’ll be difficult to stay friends afterwards, but right now? She’s determined to live in the moment and she wants to be happy and she wants him along for the ride.

Chapter Text

The past few weeks have proven two things to her; namely, that Blake is probably her favorite person in the universe apart from her kids right now, and also that it’s frigging hard to keep a relationship light and without strings when the two people involved are spending every spare minute together. Especially when a large number of those minutes aren’t even spent having sex.

“I can hear you thinking,” he groans, nudging his nose into her belly. “Too loud.” He’s curled up on his side this morning, halfway down her body for some reason. It gives her a good angle for playing with his hair, though, and so she doesn’t object; she doesn’t think she’d have the energy even if she wanted to. It’s a lazy nothing-on-the-schedule Sunday and while she has been trying to attend church weekly lately, she’s decided to forgo it for the pleasure of staying in bed with Blake.

He’d fucked her last night like he had something to prove, and in the quiet, still moments afterwards, she’d found herself wondering if something was wrong. Blake was never emotionally cold or closed off, and even though it was sometimes difficult, she was pretty sure he found their talks (from the initial ‘My partner was a cheating shit and I feel betrayed’ to ‘What went wrong? Why do I feel guilty?’ and everything in between) as cathartic as she did. And it wasn’t even that there had been anything lacking in their lovemaking. He’d just seemed slightly… Well, off. It had been good, extremely good, but it had been different too, and she was too well-trained not to notice the little things like that, too much of a busybody not to wonder why.

“Gwen, seriously, go back to sleep.” Shifting up the bed, he gathers her to him, and it’s all so strange, this time of discovery, where she’s learning how he likes to sleep, and the ways his body feels most comfortable against hers, and even his morning habits. She knows this is just a hook-up for them, a way to get over their exes and simply enjoy some physical release, but it feels like more as well. There’s no romantic entanglement or complications, exactly, but neither are they running from the other person’s bed in the middle of the night like immature youths. They’re good friends now, closer than she could ever have imagined, and that’s probably just as important to her, if not more, than the sexual relationship.

She ignores his request and curls up closer instead, resting her chin on his bare chest so she can look right into his eyes. Because of their previous relationships, they’ve always – though it’s not been discussed or agreed upon – been as honest as possible with each other, and even if that’s a little uncomfortable, she knows it’s important for them both.

 

“Wanna talk?” he asks, and she’s just so damn grateful that he knows her so well already. Assertiveness is not one of her strong suits and she still shies away from any kind of confrontation (even of a mild sort) in her relationships and friendships. It’s not just a hang-up from Gavin, but she’s aware that it’s worsened over the years, that her onstage character has become more and more distinct from how she acts offstage. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but she desperately wants to learn to be more of who she’s always wanted to be. Blake helps with that. He doesn’t push and he doesn’t manage and, when he does disagree with her, the making up isn’t merely a way of brushing the issues under the rug, leaving a whole lot of resentment behind.

And so she replies with only a small measure of hesitation in her voice. “I just – Are you okay? I mean, last night, were you okay?”

He smiles softly at her when she says that, and she feels that small squeeze in her chest, relief and maybe a little love too. “Yeah, I’m good. I’m a lucky man, y’know.”

“Right back at ya. Except a woman. Obviously.”

“Very obviously.” His voice is warmth and goodness and maybe even adoration. Blake lowers his mouth to her breast, worshiping her slowly and surely, and she is almost won over to the idea of having sex again (because why not) until she remembers that she wanted to actually use her mouth for talking not just moaning obscenities. She takes his hand in hers, places them both on her hip. Almost safe. “Seriously. Last night was great but - ”

“That’s never a good way to start a sentence,” he laughs, and if this was Gavin she’d be worried he was about to blow up. But he’s not and he won’t. “If I didn’t distinctly remember making you come until you begged me to stop, I might be worried.” His eyes light up when she ducks her head into his neck, and she shoves him gently. “Miranda called me today.”

Even though she knows they’re in a good place, that his wife hadn’t exactly been faithful, that Blake isn’t going to go running back, the news makes her heart stutter a little. She’s not ready for this to be over. Not even close. 

“It was a weird chat,” he continues, and his thumb is making small circles on her wrist and it’s a comfort, as pathetic as that maybe is. “I mean, I know her so well, you know. Or I thought I did. But hearing her voice after so long? It felt both like it’d only been a day since I spoke to her but also like the longest stretch of time ever. Her voice was the same but she sounded smaller. I dunno. Not smaller like size or whatever but maybe contrite or somethin’. She admitted she done me wrong, y’know, eventually. Blamed me a bit but still.”

“Does that help, knowing for sure?”

“Maybe. Not sure exactly. Anyway…” he continues, and maybe she’s gripping him a little harder now but, even though they’ve talked about their past relationships, they avoid defining their own, and she’s worried that’ll change eventually. And not for the better. “She told me that she was unhappy. I just didn’t know what to say.”

“I started crying the first time Gavin asked me to reconsider the separation,” she admits.

I am happier now,” Blake says and it’s a little forceful like maybe he’s trying to convince himself, and she hates that. Hates Miranda a little, too, because he’s too unsure of everything for a man who is so loving, warm and generous. She’s not entirely certain what he’s saying because she’s distracted by his voice, the cracks and the roughness. “Gwen…” And then suddenly she’s being pulled on top of his body and his arms are so tight around her that she’d protest if it were anybody else doing this. “I - ” He breaks off and she wants to tell him that it’s okay, to hush him and hug him and help him.

 

“Let go,” she whispers instead, wiping a few tears from his cheek. It hurts to see him cry but it’s precious too, his vulnerability and openness. She has sobbed on his shoulder far too many times to count, but she’d never expected him to break like this. It’s not a gentle cry or a soft one, but jagged and uncomfortable and her tank top is going to have wet patches later on, probably. And that’s okay.

“Please don't leave.”

Chapter Text

She’s been re-learning how to pray recently, abandoning some of the more ritualistic, rote prayers of her youth for something more akin to conversation. God’s not exactly speaking right back at her but she likes to think that he’s hearing at least. Maybe answering too. She really has no other way to explain the presence of Blake in her life, after all.

Gavin’s had the boys for the week and it’s been difficult (because it always is) but amazing as well. One of the positives about the situation, she’s learned, is that she and Blake can have sex whenever and wherever they want and, luckily, she can be as loud as she wants. She’d always had an intense sexual relationship with her ex and it wasn’t like she actually thought the boys would overhear if she let go of her inhibitions, but at the same time, it was always in the back of her mind, the whole not wanting to traumatize them thing. But now? Blake likes making her scream and she likes it, too.

 

He’s asleep in her bed, legs and arms stretched out, trying to reach each corner of the mattress, it looks to her. He’s not exactly a restless sleeper but he always likes to be touching her, a hand on her waist, his foot between hers, his lips on the back of her neck. She’s not sure if it’s just a habit, something he used to do with Miranda, but she suspects not; there’s a hint of surprise sometimes when he wakes up and finds himself entangled with her.

“Babe…”

He doesn’t answer (he never does) and so she shifts closer to him, curls into him, her head on his chest and an arm slung over his stomach. Blake has taken to sleeping naked when he stays over and it’s hard to muster up a single complaint about that. Even though he likes to joke about his manboobs and his flab and how ungainly he is, she knows he’s thinner than he was a year ago and is pretty pleased about it. She is, too. He’ll never be some perfectly chiseled sports fanatic like Gavin, but his forearms are tanned and strong, his shoulders are wide, and his dimpled smile makes everything else fade away when he meets her gaze. And, really, she values that more than perfect abdominal muscles and whipcord tightness.

“Blaaa-aaake…”

Still nothing. Laughing quietly, she nuzzles into him, loving that his instinctual reaction is to turn slightly into her. It’s a little too early to get up but she kind of likes mornings like these, where she can watch him as he sleeps, enjoy the way the room lightens as the sun rises. There’s not a lot of color in her bedroom but she’s recently started adding things here and there – a few new photos, a strange but interesting vase, some art (sunflowers, just because) – and it almost feels like new. She and the kids are going to have to move sometime next year but, for now, she’s determined to make her space into a positive one.

 

“Dear God,” she whispers into his shoulder, eyes squeezed shut (because old habits die hard), hoping he keeps sleeping. “Thank you for this moment, all these moments. He’s really special and I don’t know if this is good karma or fate or what, but I’m just really happy. And it’s nice. Please keep the boys safe and happy too, and please, God, let it last this time.”

It’s not something she’s done before, prayed specifically about Blake. He’s on her mind a lot lately, though, and her father had once said that God likes to know what you’re thinking, that He cares. Only a few months ago, she had thought that that was an out and out lie, that if God existed at all, He probably hated her guts. Now, though, things are feeling good, right even, and she thinks she can feel His presence in her life again. Maybe she’s a little flaky and maybe her faith isn’t very strong, but she chooses to find comfort in God anyway.

 

Blake’s still snuffling slightly, not quite a snore but not silent either. He does this just before he wakes up, starts emitting little noises and wriggling a little. It actually reminds of her what Zuma was like as a toddler and that’s kind of a weird thought but whatever, her life has been nothing but weird lately. “Hey, time to wake up.” She puts a hand on his upper arm and she swears it’s firmer than it used to be. She needs to be down at the studio in an hour and Blake needs to get home and so she shakes him a little. “C’mon…”

He grumbles a little and squints at her through one half-closed eye. His hair is an absolute mess, some of it from sex and some just from the way it seems to find itself after sleep. It’s curlier than she’d imagined the first time she’d met him, grayer too. Gavin had always been meticulous about his appearance and being with a man who considers combing and shaving about the height of self-care is kind of appealing. Relaxing too, mostly because he doesn’t have standards for himself but neither does he have standards for her.

“Hurry up, big boy. Busy day.”

“Fuck off. I’m tired.” He turns over, buries his head in the pillow he’s been using. They very definitely have their own sides of the bed and she likes that she can still smell his presence there after he’s left every morning. His own brand of shampoo has made its way into her bathroom, and it’s domestic enough that she finds herself considering their future more than she probably should be considering what they have and haven’t talked about so far.

“Blake, I swear that you won’t get any sex for a whole week if you don’t move your very cute ass to the kitchen to get me a coffee…”

“I might feel threatened if I thought you’d be able to keep that promise." 

Gwen laughs at him, loudly and happily because she can now. “I have great self-control, thank you very much.”

It’s a dare and he responds as such, pulling her on top of him with a speed that she only sees in the bedroom. His cock is hard against her and so she lets herself slowly grind, just the once, just to tease him. Then she slowly leans in for a kiss before clambering over him and standing up next to the bed. He’s pouting just a little and so she offers one more kiss, with tongue this time because she’s nice like that.

 

“I’m going for a shower. My coffee better be waiting when I get out, babe.”

Blake rolls his eyes and huffs unhappily, but she knows that when she plods into the kitchen in twenty minutes, she’ll see her favorite brew as well as some fresh fruit and oatmeal. He’s a good man and on days like today she badly wants to keep him.

Chapter Text

Her brain knows that she shouldn’t be missing Blake, but the ache that she feels tells her that her heart has altogether different ideas. Or maybe it’s just her body that is missing him; that would be slightly more palatable. Maybe. 

Kingston’s next to her in bed, hand in hers, and he’s been like this a lot lately - more touch-feely - and she’s not sure if he’s trying to bring her comfort, or if he’s just a little needy after the divorce. He’s always been more sensitive than Zuma, quick to anger but also far quicker to notice when his parents were fighting or when she was upset. Someone had once called him high-strung but it’s a phrase Gwen’s never particularly liked. One of their kids was bound to a have a temperament like his, and she chooses to embrace it. It does mean, though, that he’s very visibly struggled with the break-up of her and Gavin’s marriage.

 

“Hey, King,” she says softly, brushing a kiss to his forehead. “Gonna sleep in your own bed tonight?”

He huffs and turns on his side, curling into her body. She knows it’s going to be impossible to carry him back to his room later on and that he’ll have to stay all night, but she can’t bring herself to force him to leave. He won’t cry if she tries. Instead, he’ll be stoic and controlled and she thinks maybe that’s worse.

“Honey, you can’t keep sleeping here forever…”

Kingston bites his lower lip and it’s something she’s seen his father do so many times, but seeing it on her son’s face squeezes her heart in sympathy instead of frustration. “I’ll go,” he eventually says. “I just - ” Sighing, he puts his head on her chest and wraps his thin arms around her. He’s growing up, her eldest boy, and she knows this means he’s going to start shutting down more, that he won’t be willing to talk to her like this in a few years time. She cuddles him back. “It’s still weird, Dad not being here.”

Oh. 

“His house is pretty awesome and everything but it’s not home. You’re not there.”

She blinks back tears (and curses her predictability) and holds him tighter. He’s not a wriggler like Zuma, and so there’s no protest. He does jump a little, though, when her phone lights up several times over. He grabs for it and she laughs, tugging it back. “No way, champ. Those are MY texts.”

He raises an eyebrow and she has a sudden image of what her little boy will look like at fifteen, even sixteen, able to charm all the girls he wants. It takes her breath away and she loses the battle for her iPhone.

“You’re the worst,” she says, giving up and flopping back down on the bed. “Like the absolute worst.”

He’s opening the texts when suddenly she remembers… Shit. “Hey, King, mind giving me back the phone now?”

“Before I read these!? Not a chance, Mom.” Drawing a quick breath, she prays that there’s nothing incriminating. She and Blake text a lot now and not always just exchanges about the weather or a Voice contestant. In fact, they’re skating dangerously close to a line she hadn’t thought she’d ever cross. “Ugh, boring,” Kingston says, and boring is good, boring is fantastic. “This is Blake from the show, right? He says he can’t sleep either. Kinda sucks." 

“Yeah, it does,” she admits, putting the phone on the mattress next to her. She can reply later; he normally doesn’t mind waiting. “He’s getting divorced too, y’know. It’s not just us going through it.”

“He doesn’t have kids, though, right? I don’t remember seeing any when we visited. Probably easier for him.”

 

Gwen sighs, not sure exactly much she can or even should be telling of Blake’s story. “It’s still not easy. His wife cheated on him and he didn’t know for a really long time.”

Kingston gives her a look and it’s so perceptive that it makes her uncomfortable. She knows he knows but they’ve never talked about it. Maybe they never will. From how he talks, he still loves his Dad, loves spending time with him, and she kind of hopes that that continues. Even though Gavin was pretty much the shittiest husband she could’ve gotten, he was and still is a great father.

“We’re friends, Blake and me.”

Kingston takes her hand in his again, drops a kiss on it. “Good.” He leaves the room with his blanket over his shoulder like a patchwork cape, and her heart swells with gratitude. Sometimes she feels like she doesn’t deserve kids as great as hers, but most of the time she just thanks God for them, the way they can pull her out of whatever crap is going on. It’s a real blessing and one she almost wishes Blake had. Because, yeah, it’s easier to actually get a divorce and detach from the ex when there are no children, but she also knows how isolating and lonely it was for him in the days and months after he found out.

 

The phone vibrates again, and she grabs it with a pace that should probably frighten her. She anticipates these exchanges now, feels a stutter in her chest, a quickening of her heartbeat, when he replies.

still cant sleep. help meeeeeeeeee.

Grinning, she makes sure the bedroom door is shut and gets comfortable, tugging the sheets up to her chest. 

I know you’re still awake dammit. answer me. 

Wow. Someones needy

My bed’s missing you…

 

Gwen likes that Blake doesn’t play games with her, that he’s never shy about telling her what he thinks or even how he feels. There are a lot of things they haven’t addressed about their relationship (if that’s even what this is) but when they do talk, he’s invariably honest, and that quality is absolutely the most important to her these days. He’d even admitted to her that he’d cheated on his first wife, had told her that he’d understand if she wanted to back out of their arrangement because of it. She hadn’t been able to stop the niggling worries about what that meant exactly, but she also hadn’t backed out of anything. She knew he was hurting over Miranda’s lies and making him feel guiltier about something he clearly regretted wouldn’t help anyone.

Cant leave the kids. whatcha doing anyway?

Trying to ignore how hard I am. U? 

Nope. Stop right there. Picture pls.

OF MY COCK!? Shameless, gwen.

And yeah, maybe she was. It would be easy to pretend that she’d simply meant that she’d wanted a photo of his face, but she wasn’t a liar either. Quickly she snaps a shot of herself, eyebrow raised, shirt oh so carefully arranged to show off the lack of bra. He can enjoy that, while she enjoys her own little fantasy.

Tit for tat? Tit for cock?

He has a point. By the time she’s stripped down to her panties and he’s nude, a grand total of twenty messages have been sent back and forth, all with varying levels of completely inappropriate comments underneath. It feels weird, swapping such personal photos, but they’ll be easy enough to delete if need be. She’d tried having phone sex a few times in the past but it had never quite done it for her. But maybe it had been the man involved. Because, as yet another photo comes through, his hand confidently stroking his length this time, she feels more then turned on.

Still there? he asks as she puts off sending a response. Because what the fuck is she even meant to say? Can we facetime?

You only need one hand to hold the phone right?

Shit, Gwen. Don’t say things like that and not let me see…

 

And so she does. At first, they’re a bit hesitant, a bit unsure, because, while they’ve never been afraid to shed their inhibitions, this is another step altogether. And then Blake is literally just watching her while he jerks himself off and she needs to touch herself and so she does. His eyes light up when her panties are kicked down the bed, and his smile when she finally gives herself over to what she’s feeling feels like triumph. 

She comes far more quickly than she’d thought was possible, considering the oddness of the situation, and he’s not far behind. It’s hot, being able to watch him like this, knowing that he’s doing it for her, because of her. When he finally groans his release and clutches the sheets like he’s in the most pain it’s possible to feel, she feels a momentary wanting, the need to be there with him, but she tries to ignore it. 

His voice is rough when he finally starts talking again. He hasn’t bothered to clean himself up and that’s kind of hot too, strangely enough. Blake’s not entirely self-conscious about his body but she also knows that he rarely believes her when she tells him how attractive he is to her. “So…” he says, and there’s a slight hint of disbelief in his tone. She feels it too, that ‘Oh my god, did we really just do that?’ kind of thing.

“So, maybe I can ask Jen to mind the kids tomorrow night?” she says, laughing because, really, even though it’s a joke, the idea is actually tempting. “Seriously, Blake, like, what the fuck even was that?”

“Sexy. Hot. Gorgeous. Hot. And hot.”

 

They talk for a few more minutes after that, about absurdly normal and everyday things that probably have no place in a moment which, ten minutes earlier, was all heavy breathing and moans and pleas to Christ. But oh well.

“Gonna get some sleep, Gwen,” he says eventually though a yawn. “Call me in the morning, ‘k? I miss you.”

She says it right back because they can do that now, admit to missing each other. There’ll probably never be a time when she’s comfortable saying the rest of it, telling him about that unsettling feeling that maybe she’s starting to fall for him, but for now, ‘I miss you, too’ is enough.

He blows her a kiss, and then the screen goes dark.

Chapter Text

She knows she’s having a shit day for real when Blake’s text comes through the moment she’s finished showering and doing her make-up. It’s an apology and a promise and she tries not to feel like he’s let her down. If he’d been Gavin, after all, there wouldn’t have even been a heads up, just an absence. And so she texts her lover back.

no problem! See u tomorro?

He sends her an actual thumbs up in response (he says his hands are much more attractive than an emoji, and she can’t and doesn’t disagree) and she replies with a kiss (her lips are more attractive too).

 

Plans for the afternoon scrapped, it’s an aimless few hours. Kingston calls her at four to tell her about his basketball game and eventually begs her to stop asking questions; she knows she’s too far gone when even her son realizes she’s trying to fill in time with inanities. Eventually, she decides to just take a nap because why not, it’s not like there’s anything pressing to do. She’s still getting used to not having the boys underfoot all the time and when Blake’s gone as well? She guesses she’s not as fond of laziness as she thought she would be. Removing her make-up is the work of a few minutes and then she crawls under the sheets.

 


 

The room is dark when she wakes up, all shadows and moonlight and corners that she wouldn’t be able to see even with her glasses on. Naps are so not a good idea. She pushes her head into the pillow and groans, feeling worse than she had done before she’d make yet another shitty decision. Knowing her luck, it’ll now take until the sun actually rises before she gets to sleep tonight. She stretches, pointing her feet towards the end of the bed, kicking off the sheets in the process. And that’s when she senses his presence.

“Holy shit!” she shouts. “What the hell, Blake!?”

“As happy to see me as I am to see you, I guess,” he laughs, turning the light on (ouch, her eyes are so not ready for that) before coming to sit beside her on the bed. She presses a kiss to his wrist and takes his hand in hers, because it might not seem it, but god, she IS happy to see him. “Sorry, I know this looks a little creepy.”

“Like actually the stuff horror movies are written about,” she agrees. “Christ, I was so not expecting that.”

“For what it’s worth, I did only just get here. All the lights were on downstairs so I wasn’t exactly ‘pecting to have to come up here to find you. I usually wait for an invitation before entering a woman’s bedroom, but…”

She laughs then because he so does not. He does wait for her to boss him into doing so, though, and maybe that’s close enough to the same thing.

 

He reaches for her, his fingers lightly caressing the sides of her face. Tender. “Hey you.”

“Hey you back,” she responds, amused. Gwen’s not quite sure what happened to his plans and why he’s even here, but there’s no question that she’s glad to see him. “Gonna tell me why you’re here?"

“Can I just sit here and stare at your gorgeous face instead?” 

And then it hits her. Does she even have mascara on? Foundation? Anything? She tries to stem the rising tide of panic she feels because she’s trying not to be that person anymore. He’s not looking at her with disgust, not with dismay or disappointment either, after all, but god, even if she’d wanted him to see her this way, she would’ve tried to mentally prepare herself. She’s not ready.

 

His fingertips are rough and calloused and her eyes shut tightly when he traces the lines there. Of course he noticed her completely over the top reaction, the flinching. “Do you want to talk about it, Gwen?” he asks gently and no, of course she fucking doesn’t. She wants to hide back under the covers and have him return after she’s put her face back on. “It’s the make-up thing?” he continues, and she thinks it’s maybe better that he’s actually acknowledging it instead of letting her come to her own conclusions. She’d learned her lesson quickly with Gavin. The compliments were forthcoming at VERY particular times, and never at others. The fact that those particular times were only if she was heavily made-up hadn’t been lost on her. The fillers helped a little, as did the botox, but there was no escaping her age when her face was bare.

“I didn’t know you were coming over,” she admits, hating the way it sounds like an apology. It’s an explanation, just an explanation, but she knows she sounds defensive. “I just - ”

His lips and his wonderful, hungry kiss silence her, his arms coming around her as he lowers her back down to her mattress. “Gorgeous.” His voice is a rough, low caress and she almost believes him. Maybe that’s enough. “You. Are. Always. Gorgeous.”

It wouldn’t do to start crying all over him and so she just kisses him back instead, indelicately and wetly. His jeans are rough against her bare legs and she craves his skin instead, starts trying to tug his pants down, undo his shirt. It’s only been a few weeks of this, of the touching and the pleasure and the way she now knows sex can be fun, just fun. She’s still learning his body and it’s intriguing to her – the way his muscles contract when she caresses his back; the way his tan is so clearly marked by the sun and not a salon; the way his nipples are ridiculously sensitive to her touch.

It’s not even just that he’s ‘new’. She understands how it is with kids; how they get so excited and enthralled by a new plaything that everything else comes second, but that it passes quickly. Blake’s not like that. It’s not just the thrill of the unfamiliar. Really, she thinks the more she gets to know him, the more time they spend together, the MORE thrilling it is. And scary.

 

“Sweetheart, look at me,” he urges, and she realizes she’s been trying to avoid his gaze, almost like she’s ashamed. It’s odd, how emotions can be so attached to old moments. It’s instinctive, that desire to hide, that hint of embarrassment that she feels in her stomach. His eyes are warm and knowing and a little concerned, and it makes her feel silly and immature that she’s getting worked up over something so insignificant. 

“I look old,” she admits, looking away again, almost muttering the words into the soft cotton of his plaid. “And washed out.”

“I’ve looked fifty since I was about twenty-five, Gwen, complete with pudge and manboobs.”

It’s hard not to smile at that, at his self-deprecation. She slides a hand up under his shirt, pinches his stomach. “I like your pudge, cowboy. You’re getting too skinny now.”

And the irony, she gets it.

“I just… It’s only really family who sees…” She waves a hand at her face dismissively. “This, you know. Me like this.”

“I’m not family, but I am honored.”

 

Honor. It’s a word she’s heard in church services her entire life, that whole idea of respect and lifting a person up, of acknowledging their worth and praising it. He honors her. There’s a tightness in her chest, and she places a soft kiss over his heart, needing him to know how much his words (he) means to her.

“You don’t need to wear make-up if you don’t want to. Not around me.”

“But what do you prefer?” she asks, because maybe her high maintenance habits are a turn-off for him, maybe he hates that she’s vain and obsessed with her appearance. Neediness is not an attractive quality, she knows that. One of her first break-ups with Gavin had been preceded by an argument about it; him lecturing her about how nobody wants to feel pressured into staying in a relationship, that nobody – and especially not him – was going to marry her if she was such a clinging crybaby all the time.

“I prefer you to be comfortable, however that is. But mostly I just want you happy.”

 

He’s cuddling her again now, a comforting, familiar embrace that is going to be hell to give up when that time inevitably comes.

“Are you? Happy?” he asks, curiosity and a hint of something else (apprehension? fear?) in his eyes. As much as she wants everything good and right for him, she also finds herself thankful that she’s not the only one with vulnerabilities and worries. Blake might be the perfect person to have in her life at this moment, but he’s, in some ways, just as fucked up and imperfect as she is.

“I am. Right now, right here, with you, I am.”

Chapter Text

They’re not dating but she thinks this might be a date. They’d been curled up on her couch watching The Golden Girls (she finds it sweet how he knows almost every line; he finds it embarrassing) when he’d suggested it, going out for dinner instead of staying in. “Not claustrophobic being here or anything,” he’d unnecessarily reassured her. “I just thought it might be nice for a change.”

And so she’d left him downstairs while she quickly removed her make-up, showered, did her hair, changed her clothes, and re-did her make-up. He might genuinely think she looked fine how she was but if cameras, god forbid, DID catch them? Well, she needed to be prepared. When she’d returned, purse in hand, he’d been laying on his belly, face smooshed into the cushion, hair poking up in every direction that existed. “Hey cowboy, gonna take me out or what?”

His smile when he turned over, the way it was immediate and full and joyful, had left her a little breathless. He’d been careful not to crease her clothes when he pulled her down on top of him for a hug, and when they’d left the house five minutes later and he’d been the one to set the alarm and lock the door, it had felt scarily (wonderfully) normal and domestic.

 

“Gonna tell me what’s on your mind?” he asks, and the way he’s stroking her fingers, slow and steady and way too sensual for her own sanity, has her wanting to skip the dinner and just go home already. She thinks that maybe it’s the newness of everything that has her so damned sensitive to his touch, but maybe not. Somehow it has started to feel like – for her – that this relationship has become less about getting over Gavin and more about wanting to be with Blake.

“I was thinking about us,” she admits, because honesty is something they’ve talked about a lot recently and if this has any chance of working (no matter when the expiry date is), they owe the truth to each other, freely and willingly offered. “I mean, this is – Well, it feels like a date.”

“Would you want it to be one?” he asks, and there’s a hint of insecurity in his words which she sympathizes with. “It can just be dinner out with a friend. Or, y’know, it could be - ”

“A date,” she says, completing his sentence. And nods. “Gavin used to take me on apology dates, you know. I realized what they were eventually. Whenever he’d fucked around on me, I’d get a new piece of jewelry. Or a date night without the kids. And I was grateful. I was so goddamned grateful for what a gentleman he was, keeping the romance alive.” Gwen trails off, knowing that the admission probably makes her seem like the most gullible woman in the world but also knowing her lover won’t judge her for it.

 

The big difference in their situations, she’d learned fairly early on, was that she might not have known about the nanny or the boyfriend but she’d sure as hell known that her husband barely got through even a short tour without sleeping his way through as many groupies as offered. Blake, on the other hand, had stumbled happily (or mostly contentedly, at least) through his marriage and hadn’t had a clue until the end. She wasn’t sure if one was more devastating than the other but in both cases, she knew that sometimes the feelings of embarrassment (or cowardice in her case) were actually worse than those of betrayal.

“I want it to be a date,” she tells him hesitantly. “If that’s okay with you. I mean, I know we’ve just been - ”

“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want - ”

“Oh.”

“Oh, indeed.” Blake chuckles and his dimples appear and she’s struck again by just how handsome he is. He likes to think of himself as one of those ‘weird crushes’ she sometimes sees lists for in magazines, but he’s so, so wrong. He’s conventionally attractive in the best of ways – tall, broad-shouldered, blue eyes, stubble, curly dark hair and yes, the dimples. He’s reaching for the bottle of wine when she blurts it out, just says it.

“You’re looking super handsome right now.”

He stops, hand mid-air, and looks quizzical, a little shy too. Gwen loves that about him, how sometimes he displays this side of him which is so vulnerable and so disbelieving that she actually likes him.

“I mean, really, Blake.”

“I look the same as I always do?”

“You were laughing. It suits you.”

And it does. For the past few years, the strain to her marriage had led to less and less laughter. Sure, they had good times together, especially when the kids were around, but more often than not, smiles and happiness were accompanied by her wondering when the other shoe was going to drop, when she’d be confronted – yet again – by the reality that he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants, no matter how many times he promised her he would. At first, she’d tried to explain it away, that guys just had a libido which couldn’t be denied, that maybe he was an actual sex addict and couldn’t help it. Then she’d blamed herself, tried to visit him more on tour, tried to be more adventurous in bed. Eventually, she’d given up, had accepted that things weren’t going to change. And smiling became harder.

 

Dinner is easy. He makes her laugh and she makes him laugh, and he gets something without meat just so they can share. She knows that she’s being a little juvenile, that people would probably mock the way there’s probably literal stars in her eyes.

She doesn’t care.

When they’re finished eating, he takes her hand in his and doesn’t let go until they get back to her house. Strangely, that’s what she thinks she’ll remember most about the night, how very right and normal it feels to have his fingers entwined with hers. They still haven’t talked about where they see this relationship going, if it’s going anywhere at all, but she chooses to be a little hopeful.

 

She chooses his warmth and his goodness and the way he doesn’t let go.

Chapter Text

They’ve fallen into a routine, one which involves tentatively scheduling their activities – such as they are – around the fact that they’re still on The Voice and want to avoid attention, his need to watch corn grow, and her need to be with her children. They’re together enough that they can spend the evening watching old corny movies but not together enough that she thinks this night will end any way other than the way it always ends – sex. It’s not that she’s always horny or anything, exactly, but god, she’s really horny these days. 

She chooses to enjoy their night in while leaning back on him, her head resting against his broad chest and his hands possessive and warm on her thighs. It was strange at first, realizing that the way she would cuddle and relax with Blake would be different than in her marriage. Gavin had been possessive as well, but it had never felt like it was because of her so much as needing to know that she was his. With Blake, she feels oddly treasured in a way she rarely remembers being before and it makes all the difference in the world. Maybe it’s because she went into her prior relationships with men at a time when she wasn’t famous-legendary-Gwen-Stefani-of-No-Doubt or maybe it’s just because her new partner is fundamentally decent in a way that the ex wasn’t.

Gwen’s spent so long defending Gavin to others but, more importantly, to herself, that it’s deliriously freeing, being able to admit that he was just a faithless, immature, jerk of a human being. It comes with a side of embarrassment, of course, but she hopes that that will recede eventually. Along with the grief. Blake’s told her that he’s okay with it, with her maudlin weepiness and occasional lapses into wishing everything was back the way it was. It’s not flattering, though, snottily crying into your lover’s shirt about how much you miss how things used to be.

 

Tonight it’s a completely random scene in the middle of the film, one silhouetted shot of a man holding a newborn, which sets her off. “Hey, it’s alright.” He doesn’t try to talk her down from her emotions or her need to express them, never has. Instead, he turns her in his arms, cradles her to him, and simply brushes kiss after soft kiss to her forehead and to her lips. He can probably taste the salt from her tears but he doesn’t say anything, just comforts her in the way he knows best.

“It’s really not,” she tells Blake on a choked half-sob, her voice cracking unattractively. “It’s been literally months now and I shouldn’t - ”

“You should do whatever you need to do.” His hands rub up and down her arms, again and again, a soothing motion which calms her breathing down a little, helps her regain a little of her control. “Except murder, maybe. Dunno that that would go down too well.”

“But would you bail me out? Like that’s the real question.” She nuzzles into his neck, relishes the feeling of scruff on his chin. Gavin was always clean-shaven and this is one difference she’s embraced whole-heartedly. It’s super hot and she’s half-tempted to ask him to maybe even grow his beard a little thicker sometime when The Voice is done for the season. She’s just curious, basically. About everything.

“’Course. That’s love, baby.” And she knows he doesn’t mean it like that, but hearing him talking about loving her now that they’re in this new relationship-of-sorts, maybe even dating (she’s not too sure but they’ve been out for dinner twice now and the cinema once, so…), it means something different somehow.

She doesn’t ask him, of course, just takes his fingers and entwines them with hers. Squeezes gently. Thank you.

 

By the time the film ends, he’s asleep, snoring softly and his arm around her middle, legs stretched out on either side of her. Her home is quiet, still. When the boys are here, it’s quiet late at night as well, but she still feels their absence now as she does every night they’re not here. That’s really the one thing she’s struggling to forgive Gavin for. The specific affairs were a surprise to her but the cheating never has been, and that makes it easier in a way to move on from him specifically. Having to give up almost half of her time with her babies, though? She doesn’t think she’ll ever learn to be thankful for that. There are positives, of course. This burgeoning thing with Blake probably would never have gotten off the ground if she’d had full custody of the boys and she definitely wouldn’t have been as productive in the studio. Those are the things she clings too on the nights when she can’t physically cling to Blake instead.

He shifts under her, a slight movement which lets her snuggle even closer. His shirt is slightly unbuttoned and she takes advantage of the bare skin there, pressing one, two, three soft kisses just on his clavicle. She knows he’s sensitive about his body but she loves it; how broad his chest is, how heavy his weight is on top of her when they make love, even his love-handles (he HATES those) which make cuddles better than she’s ever experienced before.

She feels the moment he wakes up, the way his breathing changes and his grip on her tightens. “Hey,” he says affectionately, his drawl thick and ridiculously sexy. It’s strange, how falling in love with someone (because that’s what has happened, even if she only admits it to herself) makes so many new things attractive - gray chest hair, Southern accents, even his stupid blue T-shirt which seems to be his ‘casual’ wear for mornings, for heaven’s sake.

“Hi.”

It’s a little awkward then, her just looking at him and him just looking at her. She thinks she probably has a stupid lovestruck expression on her face because there’s this moment where his face sort of, well, softens a little.

“Hi,” she repeats, because she needs to stop the words ‘I love you’ from crossing her lips. His smile is sweet, the corners turning upwards slightly lopsidedly, making her want to touch. And so she does, her fingers knowing the path they follow now. As exciting as things have been these past couple of months, for her there’s also a thrill (and a comfort) in familiarity and normality. 

“Can I stay?” he asks, rubbing small circles on the palm of her hand, lulling her. She wants to say yes but she hesitates, and he notices because she can sense the second he tenses up.

“Hey, no, I - ”

His words all come out a rush, an insecure mess of thoughts that she recognizes all too well – half apology, half defense. She lets him speak his piece, trying not to worry too much that she’s managed to ruin everything in one fell swoop. Eventually he slows down, looks her in the eyes with a questioning expression which is far too easy to read. 

“I want you to stay. I do, Blake. And no, I’m not saying it just because I saw your reaction right now. I just, I hesitated...”

“I saw,” he acknowledges with a small smile. “It’s just - ”

“Another first,” she says, jumping in. “It’s kind of scary, you know. You’ve stayed over before since we started this, well, y’know, but it’s always been a falling-asleep-straight-after-sex-no-point-in-leaving type thing.”

“And this?”

“As gorgeous as you are, as attractive as I find you, I’m tired.”

Blake laughs, his chuckle warm and fond and all the things about him which she’s grown to love. He’s light. “I was too until I managed to bail on our evening together and fell asleep instead. Sorry about that, by the way." 

She wonders if they’ll make it to that point in a relationship where apologies don’t have to be spoken, excuses don’t have to be made. Hopefully.

 

Suddenly, she’s being tossed out of his lap and onto the couch. She almost protests but before she gets the opportunity, his hands are under her legs and she’s being held by him as he stands. Quickly, she locks her arms around his neck, laughs into it. When they first started talking about their respective divorces, he’d – at first – tried to appear rather nonchalant about things but eventually, she’d learned how much he actually invested in small gestures of love, even big ones. Each time one was knocked back, it had been dispiriting at best and crushing at worst. He hadn’t thought Miranda did it on purpose, assumed it just wasn’t part of her make-up.

He likes spoiling people, she knows that now. Emotionally he doesn’t hold back, would compliment her all day long if she let him. Sometimes it’s actually tempting, letting his kind words, his beautiful words, make up for all the years of nothing that she’d escaped from. She protests, though, of course, shushes him when he gets too silly and flowery. He knows she appreciates it, though, because her kisses and her eyes say so.

 

They finally reach her room and then they’re next to the bed (it took awhile before it became ‘’my” bed and not “our”) and he’s pulling back the covers awkwardly, refusing to relinquish his hold on her hip while he does so.

“You can let go, you know,” she tells him teasingly. “Of me.”

He growls, dumps her in the bed none-too-gently, before coming on top of her. “Never ever ever,” he swears, kissing his neck, her face, her everything. She wants to believe the words, wants them to be more than a playful comment about their ridiculous physical magnetism. She knows better than to get her hopes up, though.

She pushes at him, shoves back. “Go get naked, cowboy.” He laughs, sucks at a sensitive spot on her neck.

“Thought we were skipping the sex for once?” he says, eyebrow raised. “I mean, I’m happy if you want to reconsider, of course…”

“Oh, shut up!” Gwen squeals, slapping his ass as he turns away to go to the bathroom. While he’s cleaning himself up a bit, she removes her own clothes, tossing them onto the closest chair. She doesn’t bother pulling the sheet up, wanting to see him see her new matching lace bra and panties. Bought for him. Because she’s hopeless when it comes to men, apparently.

“Christ!” is his very flattering summing up of the situation when he finally emerges wearing, she notes with satisfaction, exactly nothing. She feels like echoing her statement but she IS tired, and encouraging him is never a good idea.

She pats the bed, watching appreciatively as he walks towards her. The room is already darkened and she knows he’s not entirely comfortable baring all but she appreciates that he can do it with her. One quiet morning together, he’d admitted being in one relationship where he’d worn a shirt in bed with the woman for almost a month. More than anyone, she knew that there wasn’t much point overwhelming him with instant compliments he wouldn’t believe anyway, and so she’d decided upon a different method – sure and steady, a murmur of appreciation here, a contented sigh there.

He lays beside her, pulls the sheets and comforter up to their chest, leaving her breasts exposes. “Easy access,” he says with a wink, and she laughs way too loud. “Seriously, you look so hot in that bra, though. Red is most definitely your color.”

“Fashion expert Blake Shelton.” 

“Professional tease Gwen Stefani.”

 

His hand comes to her waist under the blankets, gently pulls her in so that they’re spooning. She’s still in a place where it’s hard not to compare, and this is yet another way where Blake comes out way on top. Maybe it was a symptom of it being a long relationship, the way she and Gavin rarely went to bed at the same time, rarely spent much time together just talking and cuddling. That’s one explanation, one justification. Jen had insisted to her, though (with a frown and that familiar wrinkle of her brow which Gwen had tried to ignore), that not all relationships were like that, that while marriages are hard work, there’s contentment and friendship and warmth too. She’d had that with Gavin in dribs and drabs. Just never enough of it, never enough reciprocated…

“Stop thinking,” he mumbles into her back, his breath warm on her skin. “Just be.” 

And so she does just that, closing her eyes and just enjoying the feeling of the man she loves beside her. Sophie had asked her last week how things were going and she’d been co-erced (well, encouraged) into being truthful, saying that she was pretty sure she was in love. Her friend had been concerned, she’d known that, but there’d been relief in her eyes as well.

Relief was good. Relief was the knowledge that life wasn’t over, that there were still decades to go and that Gavin hadn’t ruined who she was or what she could become. Maybe she’d become that person alone and that would be fine, but the more nights they spend together, the more time she spends talking to him, being with him, the greater the hope grows, that maybe she’ll have a partner standing by her as well.

She wants it to be him.

Chapter Text

The house is quiet but it’s not that awful silence that comes with loneliness, nor is it the stillness that comes with tension and avoidance. Rather, it’s peace. Blake’s fingers are entwined with hers in her lap, his thumbs occasionally rubbing up and down her own. She doubts he’s very aware of it, that small movement and how it warms her from the inside out. Sometimes she’s tempted just to tell him how his touch affects her, even though she knows it makes her far too vulnerable for the nebulous place they still occupy. He deserves it, though, after what seems like a long relationship of crappy communication at best and downright withdrawal of affection at (not quite but almost) worst.

“Mmmm, did you use a different shampoo this morning?” he asks, sniffing her hair so loudly she almost breaks into laughter. He’s silly, Blake is, and it’s a characteristic she’s pretty sure she’d underestimated in terms of its importance in a relationship. Gavin had been darkness, and while that intensity had always been attractive, while that mystery had been addictive, it had drained her as well. “Seriously, though, how do you always smell so good?” He nuzzles into her neck, leaves wet kisses all over her sensitive skin. 

“Babe, you gotta stop that like right now.”

“Don’t wanna.”

 

Sometimes, because he’s so gentle with her and everyone else, she forgets how much strength he actually has. In one absurdly smooth motion, she finds herself on her back, his body bearing down on her in a way which she should probably find claustrophobic but instead finds ridiculously sexy. “I’ve got things to do today,” she says into his chest, her hands burrowing under his shirt because how the hell can she resist that?

“Like me,” Blake says, stealing a kiss. Or ten.

“You’re my treat for later,” she admits because, really, that is kind of how she views it. Priorities, Gwen, priorities… “Once all the important stuff is done,” she adds with a grin.

“I think I’d take offense at being labeled unimportant if I wasn’t aware of how freakin’ much you want me right now.”

“Someone’s ego is big today.”

He grinds down into her, leaving her a little breathless and a lot hot. Blake’s a kind man, a generous man, but sometimes he’s just downright cruel.

“Fuck off, Blake. Really, truly fuck off." 

He raises an eyebrow but obeys, slowly raises himself so that there’s no longer any body contact. Gwen finds herself wanting to tilt her hips up to meet his again and isn’t that just perfect? She has two important appointments today and even though neither of them are the type that require full make-up and hair, she can’t afford to be late. Having Blake stay for longer than brunch was just meant to be a distraction, a way to get her mind off the fact that she’s going to have to sit across from Gavin in some horrible lawyer’s office today.

 

Sighing heavily, she reaches for him, puts her arms around his neck and pulls him back down, so that his head comes to rest on her chest.

“You going to be okay?” he asks, a sympathetic look in his eyes which verges on pity but never quite reaches it.

“Aren’t I always?” It’s a wobbly smile, the one she manages to conjure up, but he nods, giving her a deep kiss that goes some way towards calming the nerves that are starting to afflict her. 

“Even if you’re not, that doesn’t make you any less strong, y’know,” he says softly. “I had it easy getting my divorce. A few days, a little paperwork, a few hundred bucks, and the entire thing was like it never happened.”

Gwen tangles a hand in his hair, tugs one of the loose curls that’s even more unruly than usual. “Well, that’s a lie.”

His laugh is slightly bitter and his forehead creases like it always does when something’s making him uncomfortable. “Yeah, it is,” he admits. “I don’t even know that I wish it never happened, y’know. We were - ” He stops, reconsiders. “I was very happy most of the time.”

They lay there for a few more minutes, the sound of their breathing the only thing disturbing the quiet. “Alright,” she says eventually, pushing at him gently. “Time to move. I’ve got things to do and you’ve got whatever it is you do during your time off.”

“AKA nothing.”

“You’re more than welcome to take my place. My lawyers are perfectly nice people but I’m not looking forward to having to look at Gavin for an hour or more. You’d think I could get around it what with the celebrity thing but nope, gotta cross those ts and dot those is.”

“Unfortunately for you, I’m about a foot taller than you and more than a hundred pounds heavier.”

“And a man.”

“And a man.”

“You can just wait here, if you want, save your driver the trouble? You were still planning on coming back for dinner, right?"

 

Blake laughs, helps her off the couch and steers her towards her bedroom, his arm tight around her waist.

“Seriously,” she says as she starts looking through one of her wardrobes (slim-fitted suit, perhaps?). “I feel for the guy, having to chauffeur you around constantly. Must be sick of the sight of my house by now.”

“He’s compensated well enough that I doubt he minds all that much,” Blake says, touching the fabric of a navy blue silk shirt she doesn’t even recall buying. “I could drive you there.”

The statement is made in a ridiculously offhand manner, like it’s nothing new at all. It is, though. He doesn’t drive here, not her, not him, not anybody.

Apparently he takes her silence for rejection because she can see his knuckles whitening and his grip tighten on the blouse. He doesn’t claim it was a joke, that he didn’t really mean it, just clenches his jaw a little.

“Hey,” she says softly, hand on his arm, stroking. “Gimme a minute to think before you assume the worst, okay?”

“Okay,” his mouth says while his eyes distrust. “But don’t accept just because you feel bad for me.”

“I prize my life too much for that, frankly,” she laughs, trying to lighten the moment. “You really want to?”

“I just thought, seeing as you were going on your own, some company might be nice. And support afterwards. Wouldn’t want your tears making the road slippery.”

It’s a terrible attempt at a joke, but she laughs anyway.

“Really, though, Gwen? I’d be happy to help if I can. I probably need to start driving a bit here anyway, y’know. I don’t usually stick around L.A. this much so it hasn’t been an issue but - ”

He trails off and she desperately wants to ask him what he means by that, whether she’s the reason he intends to spend more time here. She’s a coward, though, and says nothing, just nods and tries to swallow the lump in her throat. “Yeah, uh, that would really nice,” she finally gets out.

His smile is a small thing, tremulous and slightly unsure.

“I’ll have to tell you the way, though…”

“I can listen to instructions.”

“And yet you’re a man. The eighth wonder of the world has finally been discovered, praise God.”

 

After she’s finished dressing (with help of a very unhelpful sort) and has put on some light make-up, they make their way back downstairs. It’s odd, getting into the car on the wrong side. It’s not that she isn’t used to being driven around but she’s never turned and seen Blake at the steering wheel, that’s for sure.

The drive is filled with obnoxious out-of-key caterwauling on his part, and Gwen knows he’s doing it mostly to try and keep her spirits up (but also because he’s a giant dork) but it doesn’t matter about the why – it works.

 

Two and a half hours later, it’s over. Blake’s asleep when she unlocks the door, his seat tilted back and his mouth open as he snores softly. She can still remember the first time she saw him sleep, having gone to his trailer to deliver a message for Adam. At the time, cuteness had been the abiding impression, just the image of such a large man stretched out and relaxed like this. All the lines on his face had been fewer somehow. Now she knows how he sleeps, the way his hand always twitches on her stomach if she moves away, the way he’s always most restless around the time the sun comes up, the way that he always sticks his damned left foot out from under the comforter.

He’s still cute.

“Blake, honey, wakey wakey.” He doesn’t move, his eyelids not even fluttering at the sound of her voice. Sighing, she opens the door a little wider so she can move nearer to her lover. “Hey buddy, I’m naked and my nipples are really hard. Touch me. Pleaseeee.”

He startles into motion and she finds herself climbing onto his lap, hands not bothering to keep their distance from her favorite parts of him. Somehow he manages to kick the door shut and get his palm on her ass to move her even closer to him, and it’s exactly what she needs now, his hunger and his possession.

“Please,” she begs, and he obliges, his lips so hard on hers that it’s almost painful. His belt buckle and the zip on his jeans are digging into her stomach as she presses herself down into him, and it’s a relief, feeling something so strongly. His tongue tangles with hers, hot and wet, and it’s only when he pulls back, his fingers on her cheeks, that she realizes that she’s crying.

“That bad?” he asks, his voice a soft caress as he starts rubbing her back. “You wanna talk about it or do you just wanna go home?”

“Home.”

 

They’ll talk about it later, she knows that. She’ll probably cry all over him, whine about how things weren’t supposed to be like this, maybe even close her bedroom door to him. One of the blessings out of this whole mess has been finding someone, a friend, who gets it, though, the turbulence of emotion she’s struggling with. His experiences are different in some really big ways but ultimately, he gets it, gets her. And that’s the kind of love she wants from him, the kind that accepts, that encourages, that cares.

She wants to give him that kind of love too.

Chapter Text

“You are so not allowed to leave me for that long again,” she commands, stern words belied by the way she has to keep brushing tears from her eyes. His arms are around her, strong, familiar and home. “Thanks for coming.” 

“Darlin’, I really don’t think you get it sometimes. I missed you too. So freakin’ bad, y’know.”

She raises an eyebrow at the open door, his suitcases in the entrance. “You didn’t stop at your place first?”

“Nope. I had something else I wanted to do. Someone, in fact.” 

Laughing, she helps him tug the bags inside and closes the door. “Come upstairs, babe. I changed the sheets this morning and they probably need inspecting. You seem capable enough...” 

“Someone really needs to work on their compliments,” Blake growls, his fingers playing with the exposed strap of her bra. She takes his hand, leads him to her bed.

 

When she wakes up (it’s dark outside and the clock tells her it’s almost midnight), he’s gone and she has a momentary pang of missing him all over again. Which is ridiculous. She knows that. Yawning, Gwen rolls over, reaching down to grab his shirt from the floor next to his side of the bed. Honestly, it really needs a good wash and it doesn’t smell all that great, but she tugs it over her head anyway before she plods downstairs to try and find its owner.

He’s in the kitchen, shirtless and barefoot, making what smells like a cup of coffee for him and tea for her. It’s the little things.

“Hey cowboy,” she murmurs, wrapping her arms around him from behind. “I needed that tea about fifteen minutes ago. Nearly done?”

“Was gonna bring it up to you. Could’ve stayed in bed, y’know.”

“And miss you being all sweet and domestic? No thanks.”

He laughs, and she can feel his heartbeat under her palm as she moves her hands up, a caress which is unnecessary but feels the very opposite. “I love low expectations.” He turns his head, presses a kiss to her cheek. “Seriously, though, you looked too cute sleeping to wake up.” 

“I’ve missed the compliments too,” she sighs, taking the cup from him and leading him back to the bedroom. “Almost as much as your body,” she adds with a smirk. “Staying tonight?”

“Sure. I moved my suitcase to one of the spare rooms to get it out of the way, if that’s okay.”

“Of course.”

 

They sit side by side on the bed while they sip their drinks, letting the dull drone of the TV fill the spaces between their inane (but oh so welcome) chat about what they’ve both done the past few days. This is the kind of thing she’s most missed about having a partner, if she’s honest with herself. Even Gavin, though she’d known he was barely interested, would play the game, exchange ‘so what did you do today, dear’s. Blake is a whole other matter, though. He genuinely seems to get excited when she’s excited, sad when she’s sad. She doesn’t need validation for her feelings but having sympathy still feels like a treat, some kind of blessing she’d never anticipated having. 

“Hey, did you wanna hang around tomorrow?” she asks eventually, trying to sound casual, like this isn’t a ridiculously big step, as they’re settling down to sleep. “With me and the boys?”

“You want me to?”

He sounds slightly taken aback and she’s pretty sure it’s just his lack of confidence talking, and so she runs a finger along the bridge of his nose, chases its path with a soft kiss. “Of course I do.”

“It’s not too soon?” No. She’s surer of this than she has been about most things in her life, oddly enough. “You’re not going to worry that I’ll break them or wreck them or somethin’?” Even more vehemently she shakes her head, punctuating it with hums of disapproval.

“I’d really love it if you stayed. If YOU want to, of course.”

He looks for something in her eyes, in her expression, and apparently finds it, because the next thing she knows, he’s rolled her under his broad body and is hugging her so tightly she can barely breathe. Eventually, he shifts his weight, looks right at her. His eyes are slightly watery and she feels that tightness in her chest which is the prelude to the main show of unstoppable tears.

“So that’s a yes?”

“Fuckin’ hell, Gwen. I just... Thank you.”

“They’re my life, Blake, you know that. You, you’re my life, too. You’ve gotta know that.” Blinking furiously, she clings to his forearm, tries to concentrate on the way he tenses and relaxes as she speaks. “I want you both here with me. I know we haven’t, well, we haven’t quite defined anything yet,” she says, before taking a deep breath. “And we don’t need to. I mean, things are great and I don’t wanna pressure you and, like, I know - ”

“I’ll stay,” Blake interrupts, his smile slightly wobbly but growing wider by the minute. “You can tell them whatever you need to: that I’m a lonely cowboy in the big city in need of some company. Or that you’re dating me. Or anything in between. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, y’know. Just, well, whatever you want.”

 

They fall asleep without making a decision, but she knows she’s just made a big one all the same. She’d never expected to have to do the ‘introducing your new’, well, ‘person to the kids’ thing, and their situation is just so weird that it probably wouldn’t be covered in any of the advice for divorced moms books she’s been guiltily looking up on Amazon lately. But if they have any chance of making this work (and she’s starting to think they might) the kids need to be onside.

She worries they won’t be.

 

The knock on the door comes at precisely 11am and Blake’s standing next to her like he’s about to burst out of his skin. It would be cute if she didn’t feel the exact same way. “You told them I was goin’ to be here, right?” he mutters into her ear, and she can almost feel his hand twitch when he goes to put it on her waist but decides against it.

“Things are going to be fine. I promise.”

She takes a deep breath and opens the door, suppressing a curse word as Apollo is thrust immediately into her arms and her other two sons start talking over each other and wrestling with their backpacks. There’s this weird period of adjustment she goes through each time they come home now, a few minutes where she has to tune in to the new normal. Blake is wide-eyed but standing his ground, and she has to laugh when everyone finally registers his presence.

“Well, hello.” She really needs to hire less obvious nannies, because sheesh, that eyebrow raise directly at her isn’t exactly subtle. “So, we getting introduced?”

Rolling her eyes, she kisses her friend on the cheek. “Thanks for bringing them. We’ll see you later this afternoon?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. And good luck, Blake.”

 

The door closes and there they all are, her family and her, well, her boyfriend, staring at each other. Kingston breaks the silence, gives Blake a glance (from foot to cap) before nudging his brother. “C’mon Zum, let’s get our stuff put away.”

She stops them with a firm hand to each small shoulder, turns them so they’re looking right at the two adults in the room. “I believe you remember the rule, right? About not being rude to guests?”

“S’not rude, Mom. ‘sides, he’s the one standing here to meet us like he owns the place.”

Blake’s shifting uncomfortably and oh god, why can’t something in her life just go unequivocally well for once? Apollo’s starting to get restless and she needs to talk to the older boys and she could scream if it weren’t totally impossible a thing for her to do right now... Instead, she gently pushes her sons towards the couch and gets them to sit beside her. Blake takes a separate seat a foot away and she lets the baby down onto the ground. There. One step at a time.

“Mom?” Zuma asks hesitantly, and she takes comfort in the fact that his tone isn’t confrontational. “Why IS he here?” 

“He, well, he’s - ”

“He’s her boyfriend, dummy,” Kingston blurts out, crossing his arms in front of him. “He’s not moving in, is he?” 

Her hand flies to her mouth, because what the hell? “No, of course not, King! I just thought it would be a nice idea if he hung out with us for a little while today, maybe stayed for dinner.”

 

Suddenly, there’s an ‘oomph’ and she turns to see Apollo clambering up onto Blake, feet and hands jabbing him everywhere. Her youngest has always been pretty comfortable with everyone, and apparently Blake looks like a fun mountain to climb. She can attest to that, to be honest… 

“If you want me to leave, I can,” Blake says to her stern-faced nine-year-old while taking Apollo’s hands, stabilizing him so he’s standing on her boyfriend’s knees. “We didn’t mean to spring anything on y’all. I remember the first time after the divorce that my Mom bought a friend over. I think I almost throw a vase at the poor guy’s head.”

“Why didn’t you?” Zuma asks curiously, leaning forward.

“I was pretty young and was scared what would happen if he started bleeding and died or somethin’.” 

“Oh.” 

“Oh, indeed. And I’ve already checked. This room doesn’t have anything that’ll kill me if thrown.”

“Small blessings,” Gwen adds, shooting Blake an appreciative smile. He’s trying and she loves him for that. It was bound to be awkward, after all, she tells herself, reassures herself. It’ll take time.

 

“Mommaaaaa,” Apollo suddenly cries and Blake’s hushing him and patting his back and why doesn’t this man have kids of his own again? And that’s when the guilt starts, because if they DO do this relationship thing, if things work out, there’s basically no chance he’ll be able to have that. They haven’t talked about that part of the future exactly, but she knows he’d wanted babies with Miranda, can’t imagine that dream’s just been tossed in the garbage. But if he’s with her? This is it. This is her family. Done. 

“Hey, buddy,” he says, his voice somehow softer and huskier. “Hey there. It’s alright. Momma’s just here.”

She reaches across the gap, takes her baby from Blake’s arms and cuddles him close, breathes his scent in. God, she’s missed this.

“Boys, you can go put your stuff away, okay? I think your brother needs a nap.”

They run out of the room, not even taking a glance backwards, and she can actually HEAR Blake’s sigh when they leave. “Well, that could’ve gone better…”

“Or worse, considering the story you told. Is it true, by the way?”

“Oh, absolutely,” he laughs. “Didn’t want to tell them what happened with the second guy though. Jerk turned up with whiskey on his breath and I locked the door, wouldn’t even let ‘im in. Told Mom she’d been stood up and didn’t admit the truth for weeks. Got in so much shit for that.”

Pressing a soft kiss to his lips, she murmurs a thank you to him. “I’ll be back in a minute, okay. He shouldn’t take long to put down.”

 

When she returns half an hour later (she’d been wrong, and she thinks maybe Apollo’s getting sick because he’s not normally that difficult), the living area is empty. Momentarily, there’s a weight on her chest, that sinking feeling that he’d just left, sick of waiting for her. She shouldn’t be surprised, really. There aren’t many guys out there actively trying to get involved with older women who are completely fucked up with trust issues and have three young boys. She’d hoped he was different, but…

“Hey there.” His voice is warm and his hands are warmer as he comes up behind her in the hall. “I think they’ve forgiven me.”

“Forgiven you?”

“I won them over with my charm, my good looks and my sense of humor.”

“But really?” she asks, still worried because even Zuma hadn’t been his usual friendly self earlier, and she’d kind of been subconsciously counting on that, at least.

“Apparently they really like my boots,” he says with a shrug, gently tapping her shins with one of them. “First time for everything.” He lets go, takes a step back and leans his back against the wall. She follows suit, letting their pinky fingers entwine. “Gwen, sweetheart, I get it, y’know. I’ve been where they are. Not the exact circumstances of course but… I get it. Let them have some time to get used to me.”

 “You’re not giving up?”

“Never.”

 

The boys spend the afternoon in their bedrooms, emerging once to ask what they’re having for dinner and a second time to ask Blake if he has a farm. When he shows them photos on his phone, they seem suitably impressed and she has to tamp down the hope it gives her that maybe one day, well, one day maybe they can all see it in person too. She knows she’s getting WAY ahead of herself, that this thing might fizzle out sooner rather than later. But god, please let her have this…

When, during dinner, Kingston laughs (loudly – and when had he become such a serious little man?) at a stupid joke that Blake makes, she thinks God might just be answering her prayers.

Chapter Text

She’s been restless all day and can’t quite put a finger on why, and the frustration has left her being a total bitch. Blake’s been good about it all, really, has surprisingly known not to handle her with kid gloves and patronize her, but also not to let her wallow in what she’s feeling. Distraction seems to be the name of the game, and he likes to win.

“I swear, Gwen, just stay still for one second.” Rebelliously, she bucks up against his hand, scowling when he tries to control her, holds her down under him. He’s not moving fast enough for her, and while usually she’d be reveling in the foreplay – in the way he worships her body with his own, in the way he takes his time traversing every inch of her bare skin – right now all she wants is his cock in her, pounding every last stray thought out of her head.

She scrapes her nails down his bare back, marks him, and growls when his fingers slow their pace. “In me, Blake, now.” He laughs when she grabs him none too gently, tries to put him where she needs him, but she sees in his eyes the moment he gives in, when he decides to stop playing nice. “Fuck me,” she demands, arching her back so she can kiss him properly.

 

It’s not the most satisfying encounter they’ve ever had and it’s definitely not the most romantic but afterwards, slumped on top of him, head on his sweaty chest, she’s feeling at least a little more at peace with the universe and with herself.

“Wanna talk about it?” he says eventually, his voice still slightly more husky than usual. “Up to you.” 

“Not sure I even have anything to say,” she sighs. “I dunno. Just feeling a bit off.”

“You talked to your ex yesterday, right? It’s not that?” 

They’ve never kept any secrets from each other but some things, well, some things she just doesn’t tell him either. He’s right, though, she thinks, even if she hadn’t realized Blake had been awake when she’d taken the call. They’re still in an adjustment period, she and Gavin, and it’s hella awkward still. It had almost been easier when they’d been in their limbo period, after discovery but before filing. Finding a new normalcy feels like stumbling into the unknown without a flashlight, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that the reward will for sure be worth it in the end. 

“Gwen?” he prods, his arm coming around her to keep him nearby, like he knows she’s close to making her excuses and leaving the warmth of his bed.

“Yeah, maybe.” It’s not a hard-won admission and usually it wouldn’t feel hard to say either, but her mood is still unsettled. God knows why she’s taking it out on him, but… There it is. “He’s a dick.”

Laughing, Blake kisses the top of her head. “Tell me something I don’t know.” 

“I just… I kind of found myself floundering. You heard the conversation?” 

“Just the end. Was half-asleep though, so pretty much not at all.”

“Apparently the kids were mentioning you the other night, telling him that we were thinking about taking them to the ranch someday.”

“It was hypothetical. VERY hypothetical.”

“They’re young boys, Blake. Hypothetical isn’t even in their vocabulary.” Wrinkling her nose, she nuzzles into his neck, finds herself inhaling the scent of him. And really, she’s too far gone. That should not be appealing. “Mmm,” she murmurs. “Why’d’ya have to still smell so good?” She feels his chuckle a beat before she hears it, and that makes her smile. “Seriously, babe. It’s unfair,” she whines half-heartedly.

 

His hands roam down her back, coming to rest on her ass. “Life feels more than fair to me right now. Count those blessings or whatever the saying is, y’know.” Letting her go, he rolls out from under her, reaching to the floor by the side of the bed for their underwear. “Here, stop tempting me with your beautiful self,” he says, her blue lace thong dangling from the end of his index finger. Rolling her eyes, she puts it on, letting him help with the matching bra, before finding an old shirt of Blake’s to put over the top. Way too large. “Still a temptation but I’m learning me some self-control”, he adds with a waggle of his eyebrows.

“Trying real hard.” She slaps his hand away from her still half-exposed breast, throwing his briefs and jeans in his face when he tries to tweak her nipple. “Not now, buddy. Got to get up and have some dinner.”

“’d rather feast on you.”

“Smooth.” And he is, actually. Living in California, she’s never been that exposed to the whole southern gentleman charm thing people had always talked about, but she’s found it in spades with her boyfriend. Even though he likes to play up the dumb hick thing, he has a romantic bone a mile long and doesn’t feel the need to add caveats or brush it off whenever he says something sweet and heartfelt. She revels in that, soaks up every compliment like it’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever said. And sometimes it is, if she’s honest with herself.

 

“The ranch thing?” he asks the air just above her head, as he propels her – with a gentle hand on her lower back - down the hallway in her socks. “With Gavin?”

“He’s worried,” she admits, and somehow it’s easier to say when she’s not facing Blake, doesn’t have to see his expression as she explains (because what if it’s not what she wants to see). “Y’know, just because he doesn’t know you and all of a sudden you and the boys are hanging out, and we don’t even know exactly what this is so how can he, and is it right to get the kids involved this early and - ”

She stops, is stopped, rather, and suddenly she’s been turned and is looking right up at him, his fingertips tilting her face up, his eyes filled with concern and a little bit of sympathy too. “And you’re worried, too,” he concludes. “Aren’t you?”

“I don’t want to be.”

 

They sit down on the couch in the living room, a black monstrosity which Blake keeps promising he’ll replace. Usually it’s like they don’t believe in personal space, but right now she’s feeling mad at the world (and maybe at herself as well) and so she deliberately shifts a few inches to the left. He notices, of course, shoots her a slightly surprised and disappointed glance. He doesn’t say anything, though, waits her out, his hand sitting palm-up between them. Just in case, she suspects.

She capitulates with a groan, one of those unattractive weary-of-the-world noises that she wouldn’t have been comfortable making around him only two months ago. “I feel like he’s trying to make me feel guilty. And like maybe it’s working?”

He studies her, his beautiful eyes flickering with an emotion she can’t quite categorize. “You know, Gwen,” he says eventually. “I think you probably have better judgment than you realize.”

His words feel like they hit really low in her stomach, a sucker-punch. “Yeah, my fucking great judgment,” she repeats bitterly. “That would be the judgment that led me to marry a man who I knew couldn’t stay faithful if his life depended on it, right? What a fine quality.”

“I don’t want to argue with you, Gwen,” he says softly. “I’ve done enough of fighting to last me a lifetime. But, truly, you’re a great mom and the idea that you’d do anything to harm them, even inadvertently, is bullshit.”

She ducks her head, tries to speak past the growing lump in her throat. “One day soon I’m gonna be knocked off that pedestal of yours, Blake, and I don’t - ” Gwen clears her throat, looks up at him because, at the very least, he deserves that from her. “I’m selfish. I want you to keep seeing me like this.”

“Sunshine, you called me ‘perfect’ the other night. If we’re talkin’ ‘bout pedestals…” He pauses, reaches out with his hand and rests it on her knee. Solid. Dependable. Steady. “I see you, Gwen. Just as you are. I promise. I know sometimes you fuck up, just like I fuck up. But it doesn’t make me think any less of you and it sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

 

She takes his hand in her own. Squeezes.

 

I love you too.