Travis' voice sounds from somewhere outside, and Matty looks at his mom for permission to leave the kitchen. Libby smiles. “Go on.”
Her smile grows as she watches her son run from the house, re-emerging from around a corner some moments later trailing Travis. The man has some tackle in his hands, the boy eagerly listening as he talks, explaining things. Libby pauses in her tasks to study the pair. She wasn't looking for a relationship after everything that had happened with Nick, and she certainly wouldn't have picked Travis as a potential partner. Yet after their 'ordeal', they just stayed together, for one reason or another, and a relationship blossomed from it. Neither had to pretend to be someone else in order to impress the other. And Matty adored Travis; to Libby, there is nothing more important than that.
But lately, they have been spending more and more time together. Longer fishing trips, odd jaunts out, and while she knows she shouldn't worry, she just can't help herself. She wants to trust Travis, does in a lot of ways, but she knows she still has some work to do on that score.
Travis walks into the kitchen, his face automatically lighting up when he saw her. “We've just got to go to the store to get some fresh line for the rods for our fishing trip tomorrow. Need anything?”
“No, I'm good. Don't be long, though, dinner's nearly ready!” she calls after him, amused by the domesticity of her life with this man, but still having sharp pangs of doubts she's trying hard to quell. It's probably just nothing.
After a few weeks, however, when this has been going on for months now, Libby decides she's had enough. She wants answers and she wants them now, regardless of the consequences. She's prepared for anything, steeled herself for any answer that might come out of Travis' mouth. Matty is upstairs doing some homework, safely out of the way for a while, so when Libby hears Travis entering the house through the back door, she decides it's now or never and goes to apprehend him.
Libby's voice stops him dead in his tracks and he knows exactly what conversation is about to follow. He can tell the expression on her face without turning, knows it from the tone she just used with him. She wants answers, and he knows he's going to have to give them if he doesn't want his ass kicking.
“Tell me what you and Matty are doing.” She's stood with her arms folded, her expression determined and guarded. She's prepared to be hurt or do the hurting and Travis hates that even after their time together, she still doesn't trust him. Not that he blames her; even if she hadn't been through what she had been through, he doesn't have a great track record where trust is concerned, as in people trusting him. But with Libby, it's different; *he's* different.
But not a completely different person. Which is why he opts for blunt honesty. “I've been teaching him how to sail.”
Her mouth sags open a little, her eyes widen with incredulity, and her arms unfold of their own accord, all before she gives a short laugh in disbelief. “What?”
A few retorts spring to Travis' mind, smart-ass replies which would definitely earn him a punch in the face, or a kick in the groin, depending on how Libby feels, but he decides to behave himself. “He enjoys fishing and he wanted to know how to sail, so I've been teaching him.”
Libby has a few things she would like to say as well at that moment in time, not least of which would be to remind Travis what happened the last time she was on a yacht, or a boat of any kind for that matter. But she doesn't state the obvious; knows she doesn't have to with him, though for the sake of an argument, she's sorely tempted. Instead, she opts for another question.
Travis wants to remind her that he already answered that question under 'what' but knows that's not what Libby is looking for. Suddenly he wishes he had gone for smart-ass replies instead, at least then she might have forgotten about wanting to know what was going on by the time they had finished arguing. He caught himself before he grunted; of course, the chances of Libby forgetting anything were as remote as a working and lasting chocolate fire guard. Instead, he sighs, his shoulders dropping a little.
“I know how much you love sailing and boats, and I know how much you miss it,” he says quietly, aware Matty is in the house somewhere and not wanting him to hears things he shouldn't yet know about. “So I thought that if I taught Matty how to sail, the two of you could go off sometimes....” He trials off, mumbling some words that Libby didn't quite catch.
Actually, she caught the general meaning and her mouth goes dry, her heart beating a little faster. Taking a step towards him, she fixes him with an intent stare. “And?”
“...On the yacht that I bought for you.”
Travis had a million scenarios for breaking the news to Libby and he was pretty certain none of them were supposed to turn out like this. It is clear from her expression that she's too shocked to be mad and he supposes that's a good thing, but he starts to doubt whether his idea had actually been the right one or not. He suffered a few doubts along the way, all of which vanished whenever Matty set foot on the yacht. Seeing the young boy's face light up with unguarded joy made Travis' heart skip a few beats, because in those moments he could see more of Libby than ever.
“You bought me a yacht.” It's a statement, not a question, her tone one of shock, amusement, and love. No anger, at least not yet.
“And you've been teaching Matty to sail.”
“He loves it. Says he can't wait to go out with you.” Which was the whole truth.
A smile ghosts across her lips. “You bought me a yacht,” she repeats softly, her voice so full of warmth Travis feels like he is going to melt, and wonders how this woman ever turned him into such a teddy bear.
“Yeah,” he replies just as quietly.
He swallows and looks down. Can't say the words no matter how true they are, but knows he should. “I love you.” There. He spoke them. And it wasn't as difficult as he thought it would be.
As for Libby, she's frozen to the spot. Though she's become very close to Travis, she never thought she'd love again after Nick. Actually, that wasn't completely true, she did have one true love in her life; her son, Matty. Yet here was a man who had given up everything for her, been attacked by her, and shot for her, telling her he loved her after buying her a yacht and who wanted nothing in return.
Travis feels hands on his chest and focuses on them because he doesn't dare look her in the eyes. She brings her forehead under his chin and breathes in deeply. “Travis....”
His hands settle onto her shoulders. “You don't have to say anything,” he says.
“Does the yacht have a name?” she asks after a while.
“*Evening rain*, though I'm pretty sure we can get it changed if you don't like it.”
Libby looks up and makes sure Travis makes eye contact before replying. “I love it. And I love you.”
The kiss that follows is mature and tender, without a great deal of passion because it simply isn't needed in that moment. They both know how they feel about each other, both understand each other's stories. They're not a perfect match by any conventional standards, but they're good for each other and to them, that's all that matters.
“You want to see it?”
Travis doesn't need any special abilities to know that Libby's heart sped up when he asked that question, can tell her discomfort from the rigidity in her body, and he knows she's trying to fight it. He loosens his grip on her, gives her the chance to move if she needs to, but she doesn't. She takes a few deep breaths, almost like she's trying to breathe him in, and then she nods.
Travis smiles at her, his eyes warm. “Matty! Come down here!” he calls loudly, then lowers his voice again. “I'll give Matty the keys, he knows where the boat is and how to get there. I can pack you up some food and....”
“You're not coming with us?” Libby is smart enough to have figured that out after the first five words, it just took the rest of the sentence for the shock to wear off.
He shook his head. “I told you, I taught Matty how to sail so the two of you could enjoy some time together, and because I know what happened the last time you were on a boat with someone, I figured if I taught him rather than him asking you, you might just go for it. And because of what happened before, I thought I'd be a better idea if I wasn't there at all.”
“You'd do that for me?”
“Hell, I got shot for you, didn't I?”
It's a joke, but she hits him all the same, before laying her hand over the scar left by the bullet wound, a wound made by her dead husband. As always, Travis closes his eyes and lets Libby's calmness wash over him. The simple touch of her hand does that to him.
“I just think you need to do this,” he says softly. “I think it'll help you move on. And you enjoy it. It's something Matty can enjoy as well.”
“What about you?”
“I'm sure I can keep myself occupied while you're gone.”
Libby lays her other hand against his face, her thumb caressing his cheek. “Thank you. I don't know what else to say.”
“You don't have to say anything. Just...enjoy yourself. And don't panic or worry, okay?”
They hear Matty bounding down the stairs at that moment and separate. It isn't that he objects to Travis' role in their lives, it's just they would rather keep their feelings private, because of the man he is and the woman she has become.
“Yes, Travis?” Matty asks as he comes into the kitchen.
Travis kneels in front of the boy. “I told your mom about the surprise. She found us out, son, I'm sorry. But....” He fishes in his pocket and brings out a set of keys. “...Now she knows, how about you take her out and show her what you know?”
Matty's eyes grow wide and he grins. “Really? Cool!” He takes the keys, turns and hugs his mother tightly. But then he freezes and turns back to Travis, picking up on the unspoken vibe in the room. “What about you?”
“You don't want me getting in the way while you spend some quality time with your mom,” Travis says with an easy smile. “Besides, you know what you're doing and so does your mom. And I have some things I need to take care of. You want me to make you some food to take with you?”
“That would be great.”
“Okay, how about while I'm doing that, you go and put some warmer clothes on.” At the suggestion, Matty sprints away and back up the stairs. Travis looks at Libby. “That goes for you too, Parsons.”
She salutes. “Yes, sir, Mr Layman, sir.”
He scowls. “Go away, Parsons.”
She doesn't tease him again, instead opts for kissing him again and then follows her son upstairs. Only when he's alone does Travis allow his true feelings to surface. He wants, had hoped, Libby would change her mind and allow him to go with them. He wants to show her it's okay to trust people...that it's okay to trust him. But maybe, in time, she will. He sighs and absently rubs his shoulder where the bullet wounded him. What kind of life would he have if Nick hadn't framed Libby for his supposed death? What kind of life would she have, married to a man like that? They are both damaged people...was being together making them any better or any worse? Not that he doubts his feelings for her, or hers for him, but at times it made him wonder.
“Bye, Travis!” Matty calls, waving as they go out of the front door.
Libby stares at him for a moment, mouths 'thank you', and then she too is gone.
And suddenly the house is too damned quiet and he feels too damned lonely, and he wants the first numbing drink he's craved in months. Bowing his head, Travis knows it's going to be a long few hours on his own.
Libby follows her son's directions to the letter, though is strangely quiet throughout the whole journey. Matty pretends not to notice, thinks perhaps his mom is just shocked about the yacht, but he's a smart kid, he knows something else is going on. So when they pull up at the place the yacht's moored, and he bounds out of the car with excitement, he isn't really surprised when he turns to see his mom still sat behind the wheel. He frowns, wanting nothing more than to see her happy, and not understanding why she isn't. Travis should be with them, that much he does know; it was, after all, his idea. Maybe he was busy; Matty knows Travis likes to make sure he and his mom spend plenty of time alone. But what Travis doesn't know – or Libby, for that matter – is that to Matty, spending time with both of them is more important than anything else. He knows something happened to his dad, something other than the story his mom told him, but he's smart enough to realise that when the time's right, she'll tell him the truth. Or at least he hopes.
Libby starts when she hears her son's voice, feels his hand tentatively touching her arm. She didn't fully realise they'd stopped, didn't hear him get out of the car or come round to the driver's side and open her door.
“Mom?” he repeats.
“Yes, kiddo?” Despite his age, Libby can't help but call him that. Luckily Matty doesn't mind and views it as an affectionate nickname he'll still have when he's about forty years old.
“Are you okay?”
She nods, not trusting herself to speak. Truth of it was, she's surprised by her reaction to leaving Travis behind. She trusts him, she loves him, so why is it so hard for her to do this? After all Travis has done for her, why is can't she let go of that last little bit of doubt and accept that he isn't Nick? She's dimly aware of Matty's hand slipping into hers and squeezing. She hears him taking a deep breath, suddenly realises he's shaking a little, and she isn't sure she can handle whatever he's about to say next.
She doesn't, however, get a chance to change the situation.
“Mom, if you want to go sailing, just you and me, that's okay. If you want to just sit in the car, you and me, that's okay too.” Matty swallows, still feeling his way through the reconnection with his mom, unaware at times of how much to say or how to say it. He opts for blunt honesty, as that always seems to work for Travis. “But what I'd really like is to go home and get Travis. I like spending time with just you, Mom, I really do. But...well, I like it better when we're all together. Like a family. I know he's not Dad, but at least he's still here.”
Maybe it's too much, because for a moment, Libby looks ready for exploding. Then her faces softens and Matty is both surprised and alarmed to see tears in her eyes when she turns. “Oh, Matty.” She throws her arms around him, pulling him close to her. They stay like that for some time, just enjoying the closeness that was denied them for so many years. Finally, when Libby feels more in control of herself, she pulls away. “Let's go and get him.”
Matty doesn't give her a chance to change her mind. He scrambles across her to the passenger seat and buckles up, staring at her with expectant excitement when she doesn't start the engine immediately.
Travis is bored. The bottle in the cupboard is calling him. It isn't like he's given up drinking totally, but he did promise Libby that he wouldn't be having any more sneaky shots during the day, or topping his coffee up with whisky. In fact, he can't even remember where his hip flask is....
He wants that drink. He wants things back the way they were before he met Libby, because he knew how to do that. He doesn't know how to do this. Be with her, yet be kept at a distance. Be together, yet apart. He hopes she just needs more time, hopes that one day it won't be like this. But he doesn't know when that day will arrive. He doesn't know if it will *ever* arrive.
He makes coffee but doesn't drink it. He picks up the newspaper to read but never looks at the words. And they've only been gone a short time. He's about ready to give in and have a quick drink - just the one, Libby would never know – when someone knocks on the front door, damned inconsiderate of them, interrupting his sour patch. Grumbling to himself, Travis strides through the house, ready to pay hell with whoever it is.
The door opens, so does his mouth, and that's it. He's frozen, struck dumb, shocked.... There are probably more words to describe his situation but he can't think of them. All he knows is that Libby's standing in front of him, her face tear-streaked but her expression unreadable. He has a bad feeling about this...at least until she takes a step forward, puts her hands on either side of his face, and pulls his head down for a rather serious kiss. It's a no nonsense gesture, a very conscious statement on her behalf of how she feels about him. And if he was in any doubt at all, even after that kiss, her words that follow erase it in a heartbeat.
“Get ready, you're coming with us,” she tells him. “The maiden voyage of the *Evening Rain* should be with all three of us. As a family.”
Travis feels like he's going to start shaking, he's just so overwhelmed by the way his life has turned out. He doesn't want to ask, but can't stop the words coming out of his mouth. “Are you su-?”
He doesn't get to finish, she silences him with a finger on his lips. “Yes. And...afterwards, we'll talk about your daughter. How to go about making contact and seeing her again. Okay?”
Travis just nods. Not much else he can do. Well, actually there is. Two things. One is to kiss Libby back and hold her close to him. The second is to beckon Matty over, who has been watching everything from the car, expectantly. Travis sees the huge grin that spreads over Matty's face when he hugs his mom, and when he beckons the boy over, Matty wastes no time in scrambling out of the car and running towards them. One of Travis' arms snakes out around Matty's shoulders the same time that Libby's does and their hands meet behind his back. Lacing fingers, they hug him to them, enjoying the perfectness of the moment.
Then, after a while, Travis pulls a way a little. “Come on. Let's go sailing.”