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it felt like home with you

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At first, she’s not sure what wakes her; she’s warm and comfortable, a solid weight over her waist holding her in place. Sunlight flutters over her closed eyelids, filtering in through the thin fabric curtains, and Donna shifts, peeling her eyes open slowly.

Her surroundings come rushing back in a moment once the three children in the bed opposite come into view. It takes another heartbeat for her to realize that Sam’s arm is wrapped around her waist, holding her against him; she swallows hard as his heart beats against her back.

Sometime over the course of the night they’d naturally settled together in their sleep; even nearly a decade apart couldn’t erase the memories of the nights they’d spent in bed. Before she can help herself Donna’s thoughts slip to a life where she woke up every morning like this; Sam beside her and contentment in her stomach and the world tilted just right.

Max made a noise, squirming, and Donna knew it was time to get up and tend to him, if only to give the other three in the room a little while longer to sleep.

It takes everything ounce of will in her body to carefully slide out of Sam’s embrace and tiptoe over to the other bed; she glanced over to watch as Sam curled around her vacated pillow, nose buried in the fabric. Her heart clenches, and she refocuses back on Max, who had sat up and was rubbing his eyes, starting to whine softly.

“Hey there little guy. What’s up?” Donna comforted him softly as she picked him up, rubbing his back softly as Max molded himself to her side. “You just need to be changed, don’t you?”

Bending down, she rooted through the bag Sam had brought until she pulled out set of fresh clothes and diaper for Max and then brought him into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her softly with a click.

“Let’s get you cleaned up, okay sweet boy?” Donna keeps talking to him softly as she changes him, stroking his stomach softly to keep him calm. Max made a contented noise, kicking his legs out, and Donna couldn’t help but smile, bending down to brush her nose over his.

Once she’d put his clean clothes on, Donna leaves Max playing with his old shirt while she washes her hands and tries to comb her fingers through her unruly mass of hair. Casting another glance at herself, she picked Max back up and then headed back into the bedroom.

Placing Max on the bed between Sophie and Adam, she nudged him softly. “Wake Sophie and your brother up, okay?”

Giggling, Max crawled up the bed and began to pat Adam’s face.

“Up!” he said, turning to Sophie and tapping her cheek as well. “Up, p’ease!”

Donna’s lips twitch in amusement as she watches Sophie and Adam wake up, Max giggling all the while as the two older kids rise to consciousness. She starts to pick things up, tidying the room as she listens to the soft chatter of the kids fill the morning air.

“Daddy!” Adam’s voice is high and bright as he beams at Sam, and Donna keeps her focus on the task of repacking Max’s bag and avoiding the heavy gaze that settles over her.

“Mommy, I want breakfast,” Sophie says from where she’s now sitting up, bedhead a mess and blue eyes bright as the sleep left them. Donna wavered- part of her simply wanted to get back to the island, but her own stomach was telling her it was time to eat as well.

“It’s a half hour ferry ride- I’d much rather tackle it with fed children,” Sam tells her, and when she lifts her head, finds him looking at her with a small half-smirk, his own hair ruffled from sleep and cheeks rough with morning stubble. Her stomach warms before she can stop herself at the memory of that stubble against her skin, and she swallows hard before she nods, dropping her gaze.

“We’ll stop somewhere on the way back to the docks, sound good?” Donna directs her question to her daughter, who nods excitedly before scrambling out of bed and sinking down to hug her, thin arms around her neck. Donna softened, kissing the side of her head. “Go on, wash your face before we leave please.”

By the time she straightens up after sending Sophie into the bathroom, Sam is up, Max in his arms and Adam standing beside him.

“Is he in different clothes than last night or am I losing my mind?” Sam asks, a confused look on his face Donna would call adorable in another life, and her lips twitch against the smile they want to curve into.

“I changed him. He was up before any of us- I didn’t want to wake you,” she tells him, her eyebrows contracting after a moment at the look on his face. “What?”

“And he let you?” Sam asks, shock filtering through his features. Donna nods, cocking her head, and Sam looks at Max, shaking his head. “He never lets anyone else change him- he’s usually grouchy in the morning.”

“Oh, I wonder where he gets that from,” Donna teases, watching Sam’s cheeks color high on his cheekbones.

“I’m ready Mommy!” Sophie barrels into Donna’s legs, nearly knocking her over, and Donna reaches down to steady her. Sam’s lips twitch, and he lifts Max a little.

“Will you hold him while I freshen up before we leave? Since you seem to have won his favor so easily,” there’s teasing in his voice, and Donna rolls her eyes as she nods, taking Max from him and settling the toddler on her hip. Max instantly glued himself to her side, settling comfortably in her embrace as she went about straightening up the rest of the room.

Adam and Sophie helped- as much as two seven year olds could- and by the time Sam reenters the room, the four of them all ready to get food.

They eat breakfast at a place Donna knows that serves a mix of Greek and Americanized breakfast foods, not sure what Adam and Max would be comfortable eating. Sophie happily ordered pancakes and bacon, Adam copying her, while Donna got fruit and Sam got waffles for him and Max to share.

Sophie and Adam derive a silly word game to pass the time before the food arrives, and Donna watches in amusement, unable to help the smile that curves her lips. A lightness that she hasn’t felt in years has settled around her shoulders, and for the short time she has it, Donna wanted to enjoy it.

The table falls quiet once food arrives; Sam feeds Max, and Sophie practically falls face first into her pancakes. Adam is slower, and Donna leans over, smiling kindly.

“How about I cut those for you, make it a little easier?” she asks, and Adam nods, pushing the plate towards her sheepishly. A waitress walks by to check in on them, and she grins at Adam, ruffling his hair.

“Such a nice mama you have,” she tells him, winking as she walks away, and Donna feels her mouth dry a little as she places Adam’s plate in front of him once more. She avoids Sam’s eyes and the gaze she can feel settle over her, picking at the fruit she has left, her appetite suddenly gone.

“Next ferry leaves at 10- we have half an hour,” she says simply, watching Sophie try to shovel more pancakes in her mouth. “Breathe, Soph. You don’t have to speed eat.”

She looks over at Max when he makes a noise of contentment, waffle bits all over his hands and face and grinning, and finds herself unable to stop the smile her lips curl into. Her eyes dart up to Sam, who’s looking at her with a face she can’t quite get a read on- there’s some emotion in his eyes that she can’t define. Her heart hammers against her windpipe, and she swallows hard before she drops her gaze.

When it’s time to leave, Sam refuses to let her pay, and she allows it with a roll of her eyes, Sophie’s syrup-sticky fingers holding one hand, Adam’s clinging to the other. The dock is only a few minutes’ walk away, and they arrive with time to spare before the next ferry departs. They find seats along the side, Sophie and Adam sticking their heads out over the railing and staring into the clear blue water.

“Mama, can we go swimming when we get back?” Sophie asks, and Donna strokes her hair back, beginning to braid it out of her face.

“I have to do some work when we get back, Soph,” Donna answers gently, and Sam leans forward.

“I can take her. I was planning on taking the boys down to the beach anyway, she’s more than welcome to join us,” he offers, and Donna lifts her head, meeting his gaze.

“We can build a sandcastle! It’ll be so much easier with four of us instead of just two!” Sophie exclaims, bouncing in excitement in her seat, and Sam’s lips twitch into a smile.

“Just be back by dinner, alright?” is all Donna requests, and Sam nods. He looks like he wants to say more- she can practically see the words he holds back- but he stays silent, rubbing a sleepy Max’s back.

When they arrive back on the island, Sophie scampers off to her room to change into her bathing suit and gather her beach things, leaving Donna with Sam and the boys.

“Thank you- for allowing us to tag along with you to the festival,” Sam says before she can think of anything, and she feels her cheeks flush slightly. “Say thank you, boys.”

“Thank you Miss Donna!” Adam’s reply to immediate and joyful, his tiny face lighting up as he looks at her. Donna strokes a hand over his hair, smiling back.

“It was my pleasure,” she tells him as she lifts her hand to touch Max’s tiny cheek, eliciting a sleepy giggle from him. “He looks like he’s about to fall asleep- do you want to leave him with me so I can watch him while he naps?”

“You’re busy, I’ll-”

“Sam, he’s going to nap. I still have Sophie’s old playpen, I can set it up in the office. He’s hardly going to be a bother,” Donna stops him, offering him a smile. “Otherwise you’ll end up with one cranky boy and I think we both know you don’t want that.”

Sam huffs out a laugh.

“You’re right about that. As long as you don’t mind,” he replies, and Donna nods, already taking Max from him, who snuggles into her immediately.

“Go, have fun on the beach. Build a sandcastle in my honor,” she says, heading up towards the office and hiding her grin in Max’s hair at the sound of Sam’s laughter.


Sophie leads the way to “the best beach spot” as she’d termed it, and Sam follows behind her and Adam as they pick where to settle in the sand. The two kids race immediately into the water, leaving Sam to set up- he shakes his head in amusement, shouting at them to stay in the shallow waves as he spreads the blanket Donna had given Sophie to bring out.

She’d also given them a picnic basket, and he set that under the umbrella he’d snagged as well. He settles down in the shade as he watches Sophie and Adam splash in the water, laughing and playing happily. He’d brought his sketchpad with him, and he found himself lazily moving his pencil around the page, capturing the two of them in charcoal.

Adam is easy to draw- an excited blur, hair wet and spiky and unruly. Sophie is similar- there’s joy in every stroke of his pencil, built in every atom of her being. Her hair falls down her back, soaked with sea water, and everything about her is so reminiscent of her mother it makes Sam’s chest ache with memories.

When the kids tire of the water, they start the foundation for a sandcastle; Adam is in charge of the moat while Sophie brings pails of water up to smooth the sand. Sam sketches castle ideas for them, and Sophie excitedly picks the second one.

“It has so many towers, and towers are the best part!” she explains, and Adam nods solemnly, pulling a smile from Sam as he sets the picture up so they can see, and then begins helping Sophie scoop sand into one of the molds.

They’ve partially constructed the castle when Adam asks a perfectly innocent question that makes Sam freeze.

“Sophie, where’s your Daddy?”

Sam pauses what he’s doing, looking at Sophie in worry that his son had overstepped, but the blonde girl just shrugs.

“Mommy says he lives far away, which is why I don’t know him,” she replies simply, carefully placing her mold on the sand, shaking it slightly to loosen the sand and pull it up. “He left before I was even born, she told me.”

Sam barely hears the end of Sophie’s statement because his heart is beating so loudly in his ears; the possibility had been there, right before his eyes, since the moment he’d arrived on Kalokairi, but he hadn’t let himself see it. Adam and Sophie have already moved on from the topic, the way children do, and thankfully they’re too involved in building the sandcastle to notice he’s distracted.

The rest of the afternoon passes in a blur, and Sam’s shock builds into anger, deep in the pit of his stomach. By the time they’ve packed up, he can feel the heat in his veins, filling his chest.

Donna’s just outside the office, spraying the veranda off with the hose; when she sees them she begins to walk towards them, a smile curling her lips. Sophie barrels into her legs, excitedly telling her all about their afternoon, and Sam can’t help but watch them with a hollow kind of affection echoing in his chest.

 “Adam, Sophie, do you mind going and watching Max for me? I need to talk to Donna,” Sam says, managing to keep his voice even. Both kids nod and head off for Donna’s office, leaving Sam and Donna alone; she turns to him with a frown, folding her arms.

“Sam, what-”

“Who’s Sophie’s father, Donna?” Sam asks, and there’s so much in his voice- anger and uncertainty and hope and sadness all blended together in that voice she’d loved since the moment she’d heard it. Her face feels hot for a moment, blood rushing up from her toes, and she swallows.

“Sam-”

“Don’t lie to me! Who is her father, Donna?” Sam cuts her off, stepping closer to her, and she can practically feel the heat radiating from his body. She wants to shrink from him, wants to lie and continue to hide from this reality. But she knows, deep down, that neither of them deserve to live with this shadow living over them any longer.

“I don’t know,” she answers softly, and pain flickers in those familiar blue eyes. He takes another step closer, mere inches separating them.

“Is she mine?” Sam’s words are barely a whisper, the anger sucked out of them like lack of oxygen tamping out a fire, and yet they echo like fireworks in Donna’s ears. Her mouth goes dry, and she can’t speak- can’t find the voice to answer him. The sound of the ocean roars from behind her, and she can hear her heart beating in her ears; furious and fast and loud.

“She might be,” she finally whispers, voice sticking in her throat. Fear spikes through her, swirling with anxiety and dread and everything else she’s bottled up since she found out she was pregnant eight years ago and she can’t look at Sam; can’t watch his face as she tries to explain. “I don’t…know for sure. But she might be yours. There’s a chance she is.”

She looks up at him, heart in her throat as he stares back at her, eyes unreadable.