Daniel felt a definite pang of dejá vù in that moment. Sitting there on a bench, looking out on the Thames, with a fresh wind blowing and his stepson sitting to his left really felt like he stepped back in time, more than ten years back now. When he closed his eyes for a second and took a deep breath, he could actually imagine reliving that defining moment in their relationship after they had to figure out how to manage life with only the two of them.
That sensation faded quickly though since there were too many things that proved to Daniel that time had definitely moved on; there was the slight weariness in his bones at times for one and the now all grown-up adult man that was his stepson next to him for another. Though he was still a little taller than him, he no longer had to really look down to see Sam's face. He's an adult, Daniel had to tell himself every once in a while, even when he had rationally been aware of that fact for a very long time but sometimes it still caught him off-guard.
This young man was leading an independent life – he had spent a few semesters abroad in the States at the same university as Joanna and was now working part time there and part time home in the UK. Those circumstances meant that they could not see each other all the time anymore or even that they were in the same country for every single birthday but their communication never suffered because of that. Daniel felt no small amount of pride for his really well-working relationship with Sam (even if he had never really been needed again for any love related problems and hardships but he always made sure that his stepson knew that he would be there to help him with anything if he needed him).
So many things had happened and changed since that one day right there on a bench, where Sam had opened up to his stepdad and so many things had changed about that young boy. Except for his eyes though, Daniel thought, because those still held that bubbly mischievous charm and a certain sense of wisdom that had always been there, way beyond his years.
As much as they talked with each other, they had always been very good at simply enjoying each other's company without having to exchange many, or any, words at all. That day though Daniel could sense a slight nervous energy that surrounded Sam that made him more restless than he usually was – his fingers kept fiddling with something on his jacket or one of his legs was bouncing erratically. There was definitely something going on that Sam wanted to talk about and Daniel tried to already mentally prepare himself for anything, whether it would be good news or bad. (He hoped very much though that it wasn't the latter.)
He was internally debating whether he should wait for his son to start talking on his own or whether he should just outright ask him what was up; after a moment he decided on an alternative route: “So... you and Joanna are still alright?”
Not the best question, as he had literally just met her again because Sam had turned up with her so that the two could catch up for a bit. She was basically family at this point since her and Sam had gone from childhood sweethearts to close friends who were to that day still in contact all the time.
“We're still good friends, if you meant that. And yes, our relationship's still very much platonic," Sam added with a barely there amused twitch of his lips before Daniel could even ask, which he wouldn't have, of course. Really, he didn't deserve that remark just because he had asked about it once or twice in the past (“This is the fourth time you're asking me that, really Daniel?” was Sam's response the last time his stepdad dared to mention it again).
“I wasn't going to! I swear, I might be getting old but I got that you no longer need me for relationship advice," Daniel bumped his shoulder against Sam's, smiling a bit in reminiscence of him opening up about romantic feelings for the first time. He quickly sobered up though and said in a softer tone: “But you know... if there is anything going on in your life you wanna share with me, son, you can just tell me. ...even if I won't be able to do anything to help. ...and even if it's about you injecting heroin into your eyeballs.”
At that Sam gave a low chuckle and smiled at him but it was nervous around the edges: “Okay... so, yeah. There is something going on in my life I wanted to tell you about.”
Daniel, in turn, felt himself grow nervous and braced himself for whatever his son was about to tell him that was obviously such a major thing in his life that telling his stepdad would make him this antsy. It was such a rare sight that Daniel couldn't really help but feel more and more impatient, though he tried his best not to show it. Ugly thoughts of possible illness flashed up in his mind that he immediately shut down, instead he willed himself to wait for Sam to explain what was going on and to not jump to conclusions.
“So actually... truth is-” Sam suddenly got interrupted by a loud ding coming from his jacket pocket to which he reacted instantly by pulling out his phone and unlocking it in one smooth motion. A short huffed out laugh escaped his mouth as he read the text he just received and typed in a response. As he did so he bit his lower lip as if to keep himself from smiling, but he was not able to contain it that successfully, as even Daniel noted. So when Sam put his phone away, turned back to face him and was still wearing the shadow of a smile, Daniel could not say he was totally surprised when he heard his stepson say: “So. I'm actually. I'm in love. And I'm in a relationship.”
What did surprise him though was the next part of Sam's revelation: “And I'd like you two to meet like. Now.”
“...now?” Daniel knew he was gaping but to be fair, it was not everyday that his stepson dropped a bomb like that. But as he saw Sam giving a nod with the beginning of a frown, he also knew it was crucial right then to react properly and definitely positively, so he heard himself say “okay, then... let's do this.”
“Really? Great! Thanks!” The relief in Sam's voice was so blatant that Daniel felt a brief pang of shame that his boy had thought that he would have said no to that. In a second he was up on his feet and looked at his stepdad with anticipation clearly written on his face. Daniel followed him with a fond shake of his head because he couldn't help but think that even if he had grown up to this great young man, when it came to love he could still see the little boy that was full of giddy excitement.
Before he could ask anything about this new and evidently serious significant other of his, Sam's phone rang and he accepted the call with an affectionate eye roll: “Did you manage to get lost? ...oh wow, I'm impressed! Yeah okay, we're actually on our way right now. ...no, you don't have to, we'll just be a few minutes, don't worry. ...seriously, don't worry, we're literally almost there. ...yeah, I'm totally sure, you idiot. ...yeah, I know where that is.” Another ding suddenly came from his phone whilst he was still talking. “...did you just send me the coordinates?” Sam burst out laughing and choked out a “see you there” before hanging up.
As hard as he tried (he didn't try very hard), Daniel could not suppress a smile as he listened to one side of this exchange; in the last couple of years he had never really experienced his son like that, all bubbly and affectionate towards someone else, and Daniel was surprised at how much he enjoyed seeing that.
“So... how long you've been together?" Daniel asked once Sam's laughter had subsided.
“Almost three months now. Since around Christmastime last year. But we've known each other for closer to a year actually.”
“Yeah? What took you so long?" he joked and was delighted to see a very faint blush forming on Sam's face.
“Yeah well... it took us some time to get our heads out of our asses, we were kinda being idiots for the longest time. Joanna always says that it had been painful to watch.” At his stepdad's questioning look, he explained: “We were both friends with her and met that way, actually. You remember last year when I was working for her band and did press stuff and was also kinda a roadie every now and then? They needed a new drummer then and so... well.”
Daniel tried to suppress a smirk: “So... another American musician then? Apparently, you have a type, son.”
“Daniel!" whined Sam, not unkindly though. After a few beats of silence he added, a bit more quietly: “I know I should've said something sooner or maybe at least told you that I wouldn't be coming alone and it's not like I actively tried to keep this a secret, it just kind of happened and we were both so busy, I'm sorry I didn't say anything, I didn't-”
“Sam, don't worry about it!” Daniel cut him off gently. “I admit I didn't expect this turn of events but... I gotta say I'm a bit excited now.”
Sam's relieved smile was directed at the ground: “I'm glad. I just hope you'll get along.”
“Hey, Samuel," he waited till his stepson looked up at him to meet his gaze. “This is serious for you, right?” He didn't have to wait for the nod to confirm what he had already figured out himself. “Then I'm sure we'll get along just fine.”
The answering smile was so much like that of younger Sam that Daniel couldn't resist ruffling his hair just a little bit, if only to evoke the oh so familiar reaction of Sam ducking and quickly slapping his hand away. Chuckling to himself, Daniel focused once more on where they were going (while graciously ignoring Sam's muttering of “Watch it, old man”) and recognised a Costa at the next corner. Waving his hand in its direction, Sam declared it where they were about to meet up with his significant other.
Here we go, Daniel thought to himself and gave his stepson another reassuring nod before he let him open the door and followed him inside the warm coffee shop. With an admittedly curious gaze he quickly scanned the coffee shop for any clues of who the person might be that his adult son is in an adult relationship with.
The only girls there that looked Sam's age were sat at a table near the entrance and looked to be on a date themselves, if the hand holding and secret smiles were any indication. Another younger woman stood in the quite short queue, though she appeared to be at least ten years Sam's senior, so that surely couldn't be his girlfriend. Or could it? Or maybe it was the girl with the red dip-dyed hair at the small table in the corner, whose nose was stuck deep in a paperback?
Within the first five seconds inside the coffee shop though, Daniel noticed that his boy was definitely not heading towards any of them but towards a table for four by the far window, which was occupied by only one person. Who was so obviously nervous with fingers tapping rapidly against the tabletop – until he caught sight of Sam and his face lit up instantly.
In his head, Daniel only managed an eloquent Oh before Sam took one of his boyfriend's hands in his own and placed the other on his waist. Daniel heard him ask “you okay?” to which his boyfriend replied with a breathy “yeah” and some vigorous nodding. They shared a quick but nevertheless intimate smile and Daniel could just tell by that alone how absolutely smitten they were with each other, which was all he needed to know in that moment, really. They let go of each other again when they turned to face him fully, but he caught Sam running his hand through the back of his boyfriend's short but tousled brown hair before resting it on his waist once more, which in turn made his boyfriend straighten up ever so slightly.
Daniel found himself thinking that they just seemed so in tune with each other already, and with that he couldn't help but be reminded of a night so many years ago during the time of a young Sam stumbling his way through his first love; how he insisted, despite Daniel trying to object gently, on there being The One for a person.
And now, with his adult son in front of him with an air of such raw excitement, which only seemed to have grown with him since his first kiss at the airport, and introducing him to his boyfriend saying, “so. Eli, this is my Dad. Dad, this is Elijah”, Daniel had to admit that maybe, possibly (evidently) Sam had actually found The One.