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it felt like home with you

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The first thing Sam does- once the papers are signed and the dust has settled and his life is officially titled ‘Post-Lorraine’ in his mind- is make arrangements to move his life from New York.

He’d only moved to the city because it had been what Lorraine’s parents had wanted and expected- just like their entire relationship had been. They’d been friends since they were small, and it had just always been assumed they’d fall in love and get married and the Carmichael-Rockwell houses would be united. And they’d dated, in college, because they were both at Columbia and it was easy and it was comfortable. And Sam cared for Lorraine- loved her, on some level. But it had never been a fireworks exploding, heart-stopping kind of love; the engagement had been Lorraine’s father’s idea, not Sam’s, and he’d gone to Greece to try to sort out his own head before he married away his own life.

Now the city held too many memories of a failed marriage, so Sam packed up his apartment, got on a plane with his two small boys, and headed back to that same small island in an attempt to clear his head once more. The thought of Donna being there crossed his mind, but he couldn’t imagine she’d stuck around for the last seven years, so he pushed it aside and tried to figure out what he was going to do with his life now.

By the time they arrive in Athens, Adam is whining for food and Max is overtired, having refused to sleep on the plane- Sam manages to get them checked into their hotel before either boy has a major meltdown and both are sound asleep, room service trays only half-eaten, within half an hour. He breathes out a sigh of relief, and takes the opportunity to shower quickly before rummaging through their luggage- most of their things were in storage in New York, his assistant awaiting word on where to send it once Sam made a decision about where they were living.

When Lorraine had come to him, telling him in her calm, straightforward way that she wanted a divorce, he hadn’t been surprised. Their relationship had been on a downward path since Max’s birth two years ago; they slept in separate rooms and rarely saw each other, save for events at Adam’s daycare that required both of them to be present.

The shock had been when she’d informed him she was signing over her parental rights and he would have full custody of both boys; that she wanted no custody whatsoever. It was no secret she wasn’t much of a hands-on parents; they’d had a nanny since the time Adam was six months old. But when Sam had tried to argue- insist that Adam and Max needed their mother in their lives- Lorraine had merely walked away, and told him the papers would be mailed to him. She’d moved back to her parent’s loft that very night, and Sam and the boys hadn’t seen her again until the court hearing three months later.

Adam still couldn’t quite grasp it- he asked Sam when Mommy would be joining them on their trip frequently, and Sam had told him only that this was a trip their mother wasn’t a part of. Max, thankfully, was too small to understand.

Sam slides carefully into bed, holding his breath when Max moves sleepily; his son settles once he had a hand fisted in Sam’s shirt, and Sam carefully wrapped his arms around his youngest, cradling him against his chest. He falls asleep listening to both his sons breathing, and his dreams are inexplicably filled with the laugh of a little girl and golden blonde hair.

The next day, after a breakfast buffet and a bath for the boys, they take the train from Athens to the coast; the boys are fascinated by the scenery, so used to only New York.

“It’s so blue, Daddy,” Adam tells him in awe, pointing to the ocean, and Sam smiles, stroking a hand over the little boy’s auburn baby curls. Max watches the window from Sam’s lap, his thumb in his mouth.

“We can go swimming in it, how does that sound?” Sam asks, and Adam nods vigorously, clearly excited at the prospect.

By the time they arrive at the coast, it’s early afternoon; everything is as Sam remembers, right down to the people. It’s the strangest sensation of coming home, and something tugs in the pit of his stomach; the memory of blonde hair and a bright smile and eyes as blue as the sea. Max is fascinated by everything; he watches everything from Sam’s hip, green eyes wide and thumb firmly in his mouth.

By the third hotel that’s booked full, though, Sam is feeling less nostalgic and more irritated than anything else. He’s bought the boys drinks and sat them down outside one of the restaurants when a tall, dark-haired man approaches them.

“You are looking for a hotel?” he asks, his voice accented as he looks at Sam. Sam nods, standing up, and the man nods his head towards the ferry.

“The Hotel Sophia should still have rooms, it’s only been reopened for a few months now. The festival has filled everywhere else up,” he tells him, and Sam lets out a noise of understanding, some of his irritation leaking away. “The last ferry of the day leaves in twenty minutes, for Kalokairi. I’d be on it if I were you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sam says, and the man merely nods, sending a small half-smile to Adam and Max, before he disappears back into the crowd. “Alright boys, let’s go for a boat ride, how does that sound?”


The island is nearly exactly as Sam remembers it, and everywhere he looks, there’s a phantom girl smiling back at him teasingly, waiting for him to catch up.

He pushes the memories aside and guides Adam forward through the courtyard, pulling their suitcase along behind him and shifting Max on his hip. The summer sun is still high in the sky, and he can feel his thin shirt sticking to his back, sweat dripping down his neck.

The veranda is empty, save for a little girl at the side table, coloring something and happily swinging her feet. She looks up at the sound of footsteps, and gives them a beaming smile.

“Hi! I’m Sophie. My mommy will be right back,” she tells them, showcasing a missing front tooth in her grin. Her eyes are a familiar shade of blue, and something stirs in Sam’s chest.

“Hi Sophie, I’m Sam, and these are my boys, Adam and Max,” he replies, and Adam waves while Max hides his face shyly in Sam’s chest.

“Wanna color? I have lotsa pages,” Sophie offers, and Adam looks up at Sam- after a moment, Sam nods, walking over with him to help him into the chair beside Sophie’s. Her page is a myriad of bright colors, and Sam watches her offer pages to his son with amusement before sharing her crayons.

It’s been a handful of minutes when a voice comes from behind him, and his stomach drops at the familiar tone.

“Sorry for the wait, I was…Sam? What are you doing here?”

He turns, heart in his throat, to find Donna Sheridan looking at him with wide eyes, shock plainly painted in her features. Sam clears his throat, shifting Max in his arms.

“I’m looking for a room, Sheridan. Heard this was the place to stay.”


 

She’s positive she’s hallucinating when he turns around. Sam Carmichael can’t be here- not again, not after seven years.

But he still has that lopsided smile and his eyes still burn her skin just a little when he looks at her and no one else can make her heart race the way he does, and she swallows hard at the sight of him, a little boy in his arms. Her gaze falls to the second boy, seated beside Sophie, and she can’t help the way her eyes widen just a little bit.

“There are a dozen places to stay, Sam,” she tells him, watching the way he shifts his stance.

“They’re all full- there’s a festival in town. I was directed here,” he replies, and she closes her eyes, remembering the five day festival to be thrown starting tomorrow. “I didn’t know you were even still here, Donna.”

“Why are you here, Sam?” she asks, the weight of her question hanging between them for a few long moments before the little boy in the chair tugs on Sam’s pants.

“Daddy? I’m hungry,” he whines quietly, and Sophie looks up.

“Me too, Mommy,” she pouts, pushing out her bottom lip, and Donna watches as Sam’s spine stiffens at her last word. Unable to even begin to broach that subject with him, she turns to the open door and walks over to the guest book. She feels Sam follow, the aching familiarity of it choking her.

“How long do you intend on staying?” she asks, flicking pages- it’s practically bare, the hotel barely off the ground in the year since Sophia had passed away and Donna had undertaken it, trying to renovate the old structure as much as possible while raising a daughter and keeping them afloat with the money the old woman had left them. She really could use a guest, even if it is the man she’d sworn she never wanted to see again.

“At least a week,” Sam answers, voice rough in his throat, and she nods. He hands her the money in cash up front and she gives him the key for one of the larger rooms with two beds, farther away from where she and Sophie slept.

“Mommy, food!” Sophie demands from behind them, a little less pleasant this time, and Donna rubs at the skin between her eyebrows, a headache blooming.

“Let’s go see what’s in the kitchen, alright?” she asks, and Sophie nods, skipping ahead of her. Turning to Sam, she points up the stairs. “Up and to the right, second door. That’s your room.”

Not waiting for an answer, she goes after her daughter- Sophie is humming to herself as she pushes a chair towards the counter, clearly planning to stand on it.

“I think not, Sophie Samantha Sheridan,” Donna chides, and Sophie huffs dramatically, collapsing onto the wooden furniture. “What are you hungry for? PB&J? Marcos brought over more jelly yesterday from the market.”

Sophie nods dejectedly, and Donna frowns, watching her as she pulls things out of the cabinets to make the sandwich. “Why the face, Soph?”

“Can I play with Adam more?” she asks, and Donna’s lips seal together in a line. “He’s from New York, Mama. I wanna go there!”

“He’s a guest, baby,” Donna reminds her, and Sophie sighs once more.

“I know. And guests aren’t friends,” she recites, and Donna can’t help the sad twinge in her heart at Sophie’s crushed face. Her daughter takes the plate with the sandwich on it and musters up a small smile of gratitude. “Thanks Mommy. I’ll go eat in my room.”

Donna watches Sophie leave the kitchen and sinks into one of the chairs, covering her face with her hands. The less Sophie is around Sam, the better- but the sadness in her daughter’s small face is too much on top of seeing Sam again, and a few stray tears leak down her cheeks.

There’s so much to do- there are a whole block of rooms she’d planned to paint, along with figuring out the design for the new hotel sign and writing out the food order for the next day. But she’s suddenly exhausted, and plagued with thoughts of Sam and their history and the looming question she knows he’ll find a way to ask her.

“Donna-” she looks up at the voice, finding one of the men from the docks in the doorway. “Sorry to disturb you, but you wanted me to let you know when the new shipment came in.”

“Right. The new shutters. Can you just leave them in the courtyard, Marcos?” she asks, swiping at her damp face, and the man nods before disappearing again. Donna rubs at her eyes again before pushing herself into a standing position and clearing away the lunch dishes and then takes stock of the pantry; once she’s written her list, she tucks it into the pocket of her overalls and heads for the courtyard.

The crate with the shutters is off to the side, and Donna closes her eyes the moment she takes the top off. The shutters were supposed to be blue, but she’s looking down at a bunch of white wood, and that’s apparently just how her day is going to go. It won’t be too hard to fix- just a few coats of paint, really- but just the thought of adding something else to her to do list makes Donna want to tear her hair out.

Unable to look at the new load of work that’s just piled into her lap, Donna makes her way back to the main office. There are stacks of bills to go through and file because of simple neglect on her part, and with a sigh, she begins the task of separating them by month and placing them in the corresponding files.

It’s mind-numbing work, and she doesn’t even realize how long she’s been doing it until Sophie skips into the room, humming.

“Mommy, I’m bored. I finished my book and it’s hot in my room,” she tells her, and Donna brushes her hair out of her face, lifting an eyebrow at her daughter as she hops up onto the now cleared-off desk. “What are you doing?”

“Well, I did just finish cleaning off the desk, though it seems to be occupied once more,” Donna replies, tickling her daughter’s side and earning a squealing giggle, making her lips curve into a half-smile. “Come with me to check on the laundry? I could use another set of hands to fold the sheets.”

“Okay Mommy!” Sophie says, sliding off the desk and extending her hand, waving it impatiently when Donna takes a moment to rise and follow her. She chuckles, low under her breath, and takes her daughter’s hand in hers, allowing the younger girl to swing their clutched fingers between their bodies as they headed for the linen lines.

“Okay, Soph, hold that end for me,” Donna instructs, handing Sophie one half of the sheet; her daughter nodded, eyebrows furrowed in concentration, and Donna couldn’t help but smile as together they folded the shirt into a neat little square.

“Mommy,” Sophie starts, and Donna looks at her, waiting for her to continue. “How do you know Adam’s Daddy?”

Donna pauses at that, throat going dry, and she rubs at the back of her neck as she closes her eyes briefly.

“I knew him a long, long time ago, baby. For a summer,” she answers, stroking a hand over her daughter’s soft hair. “Before I was your mommy and he was Adam and Max’s daddy.”

Sophie’s nose crinkles.

“That was forever ago,” she replies, and Donna laughs, hugging her daughter to her side before she bends to kiss the top of her head.

“You’re very right, Sophie. It was forever ago.”

She picked up the next sheet, handing her daughter one end. “C’mon, these won’t fold themselves.”


 

“That lady’s pretty, Daddy,” Adam tells him as the door to their room shuts behind them, and Sam can’t help but huff out a laugh. He sets their bags down, and then plops Max on one of the beds; the little boy lays back, giggling as he rolls a little on the soft surface, and Sam feels his chest lighten a little at the sound.

“She’s very beautiful, Adam, you’re right,” Sam tells his son, beginning to unpack some of their things; depositing their toiletries in the bathroom and some of their clothes in the dresser. Adam’s stuffed turtle ends up on the pillow beside Max’s trusty security blanket, and Sam watches as both boys’ eyes droop with tiredness after a quick lunch of bread and cheese at the balcony table in the sunshine.

Not wanting to stray far from the boys lest one of the wake from their nap early, Sam sits at the balcony table and sketches what he can of the view; they have the ocean below them, crashing against the cliffside, and his pencil flies across the page. The urge to draw anything remotely scenic and not strictly blueprints hadn’t struck him in nearly eight years, and the reason behind this sudden inspiration wasn’t lost to him.

By the time Max stirs an hour later, Sam has charcoal-stained fingertips and nearly a dozen sheets of sketches; the hotel and the ocean and faces. He tries not to dwell on the latter; tries not to think about the tangled mess his thoughts are about the beautiful little girl in the lobby, looking like a miniature replica of Donna. The little girl whose age fit perfectly with the summer that—

“Daddy,” he’s pulled from the cyclone of thoughts by Adam’s voice, and he pushes himself up and out of the chair, heading for the bedroom. His eldest son was sitting up on the bed, rubbing at his eyes and his auburn curls still tousled from sleep.

“Hey there big man. Sleep well?” he asked, carefully picking him up and cradling him to his chest. Adam was almost too big for it- still only allowed this kind of affection when he was half asleep, so Sam treasured the way his son clung to him, still sleep warm and soft.

Max was still dead to the world, soft snoring sounds leaving his mouth, so Sam shifted Adam to his hip and headed out the bedroom door, shutting it quietly behind him. Adam’s more awake when they reach the courtyard, arms slung around his father’s neck, and his voice is quiet when he speaks.

“Daddy, I have a question,” he says, and Sam shifts, setting his son on the ground and kneeling until they were level, stroking his hair out of his face.

“What is it, son?” he asks, and Adam’s face is young and open and earnest as he asks his perfectly innocent question.

“Is Mommy going to come soon?” he asks, and Sam feels irrational annoyance well inside of him, though it isn’t directed at his son. It’s centered entirely at Lorraine; for leaving him to field these questions and to raise their sons alone.

Sam takes a breath, squeezing his son’s shoulders and gathers all his patience before he answers his son’s question for what must have been the fifth time of the trip.


Donna’s hanging the newest load of laundry up to dry when she hears them; Sam’s voice is quiet, but it carries on the wind, and she closes her eyes, hands gripping the damp towel in her hands tightly.

“Is Mommy going to come soon?” it must be Adam that’s talking, his voice small, and Donna swallows thickly at his question. The thought of dealing with the woman Sam had left to go home to marry is just too much for her.

“I told you, Adam, your mother isn’t coming. That’s why we left New York,” Sam’s voice is gentle, but has a tone to it like he’s explained this before- Donna recognizes it from her own life and explaining to Sophie why she didn’t have a dad like the other kids. “Your mother decided she wanted a change.”

Donna frowns at that. It didn’t sound like something a happily married man would say, and it certainly didn’t support the picture-perfect family portrait she’d had in her head. She hangs the towel in her hands up, wiping her hands on her jeans, and rounds the corner; Sam is kneeling before Adam, brushing some of the auburn hair from his eyes, and Donna feels her stomach swoop a little at the motion.

Sam looks up, lips quirking into an instant little half-smile that makes her knees weak, and she clears her throat, forcing herself not to smile back.

“Hello,” he says, standing up and dusting off his knees, picking Adam up and putting the boy on his hip; Adam smiles at her, giving a little wave. She softens, smiling at him.

“Hello. Sophie and I were about to make dinner…” she starts, and throwing caution to the wind, continues on, despite the anxiety pulsing in her throat. “Would you and your boys like to join us?”

“We wouldn’t want to intrude…” Sam says, but Adam pats on his shoulder.

“But I want to see Sophie again!” he says, and Donna’s smile widens just a touch.

“I think that settles it then,” she replies, picking up her empty laundry basket from behind her. “Come by the kitchen in about twenty minutes.”

With that, she heads for her room to drop the basket off and to find Sophie; her daughter would be over the moon to know she’d be seeing her New York friend again, which was enough to soften Donna’s heart. The traitorous organ was already thrumming with a hint of excitement at the prospect of a meal with Sam, much to her chagrin.

She leaves the basket by the foot of her bed, and tells herself it isn’t for Sam that she changes out of her sweaty overalls into a cotton summer dress, and pins her hair back in a loose bun, strands floating around her shoulders and against her neck. When she peeks her head into Sophie’s room, she finds her daughter flipping through an old picture book.

“C’mon, Soph. I’ve got a surprise for you,” she says, and her daughter’s eyes widen before she scampers off the bed, taking Donna’s hand and skipping along beside her as they head for the kitchen.

“What is it, Mommy?” she asks, allowing Donna to quickly braid her hair out of her face and secure it between her shoulder blades, before she steps onto a chair next to the counter.

Before Donna can answer, there’s a knock on the door, and they turn to find Sam in the doorway, Max and Adam stepping in ahead of him.

“Are we early?” he asks, and Donna shakes her head.

“Right on time, we were just about to get started,” she answers, and pulls another chair up, beckoning Adam over. “Would you like to help Sophie make the salad?”

They’re the surprise?” Sophie asks, turning to her as her entire face lights up- when Donna nods, Sophie throws her arms around her, squeezing tightly. “Oh, Mommy, thank you!”

Donna kisses her head, unable to help the smile. “You show the boys how to rip the lettuce apart, okay?”

Sophie nods, then very seriously begins explaining to Adam and Max how to take the lettuce head apart and divide it into smaller pieces. Donna watches fondly before she pulls the cheese and meat out of the fridge, and nods her head to the counter.

“Can you cut the bread? I figured we could do panini sandwiches,” she directs Sam to the other counter from where he had been watching her quietly as she moved around the kitchen. He nods, setting to work, and Donna heats the stove, pulling out the iron press and setting it aside.

It feels comfortable and domestic and the longing in the pit of Donna’s stomach grows as she watches Sam; he’d moved to help the kids with the salad after he’d finished with the bread, and Sophie giggled at his suggestions of ridiculous things they could add to the salad. Her heart clenched, and she found herself studying them; trying even harder to find bits of Sam in her daughter, as though she didn’t already spend most of her days doing just that.

When they sit, Sophie and Adam sit on one side, and Sam sits with Max in his lap, the younger boy suddenly shy as he clung to the collar of his father’s shirt. Donna ended up beside Sam, Sophie wanting her mother directly across from her, and she could feel the heat of him, barely an inch between them on the bench. She took a drink of water to alleviate the sudden dryness in her throat, smiling at Sophie as they all started to eat.

“Tell us about New York! Is it big? Does it get cold? What’s snow like?” Sophie asks, questions pouring out of her as she picked up her sandwich, and Sam’s lips twitched in amusement; Donna opened her mouth to tell her daughter to slow down, but she was interrupted by Adam’s excited reply.

“It’s only cold in the winter, when it snows!” Adam answers her, and Donna sat back, letting the two of them talk, Sam chiming in occasionally to correct some fact or add something to a story Adam told.

They were nearly done when Max lifted his head from Sam’s chest, and stretched out his arms- directly to Donna. Her eyes widened, and when Sam realized what his son was doing, he shifted him a little.

“No, Max,” he told the boy softly, frowning when tears welled up in his eyes. Donna bit her lip, and extended a hand hesitantly, touching his upper arm.

“It’s okay. I’ll take him; it just means that you get to clean up,” she suggested. She knew the beginnings of a tantrum when she saw one, and she didn’t want this evening to end. Not yet. She couldn’t put words to it- couldn’t justify it to her head, but her heart told her to hold onto this moment. Just for a little while longer.

Sam looked at her carefully- studying her face, his blue eyes dark and achingly deep as they traced her features for any signs of hesitation- before he nodded; he carefully shifted Max until he could place him in Donna’s lap, and the toddler happily snuggled into her, thumb in his mouth and head nestled beneath her chin. It had been too long since she’d had the opportunity to hold such a young child; not since Sophie had been that age. She breathed in his baby scent, mixed with just a touch of Sam’s aftershave, and inhaled deeply; imprinting it in her mind.

“I’ll help you, Sam!” Sophie offered, beaming up at him and helping him collect the plates; Sam smiled softly, starting the water in the sink and helping Sophie pull a stepstool over so she could reach, Adam joining them a moment later. Donna watches them work together, Max settled comfortably in her lap, and for just a snapshot of a moment she forgets about the pressing issue of Sophie’s parentage and her feelings for Sam that had clearly never disappeared over the years and the affection for his sons she could feel welling inside of her.

For a singular moment it feels like home and she does everything she can to lock the feeling away before it grows roots inside her.

Chapter Text

By the time Sam, Sophie, and Adam are finishing up with the dishes, Donna knows Max is sound asleep; his fist is curled into the neckline of her dress, his breath slow and deep against her skin. Something in her chest starts to melt; the wall she’s spent so long building starts to crumble, just a fraction.

His hair is blonde- in a way that Donna suspects Sam’s must have been when he was young. It’s just long enough to start to curl; it curls over his ears that stick out just a little bit, and Donna lifts a hand to stroke over the hull of one gently, the skin soft and smooth under her fingertips. Max shifts closer, his nose nuzzling into her dress as he lets out a soft, sleepy sigh.

She’s weak against the wave of affection that crashes over her, and when Sam comes over, drying his hands, she swallows before she speaks.

“He’s pretty out, but I know from experience the second he moves too much he’ll be awake- why don’t I follow you to your room to put him down?” she suggests softly, and Sam strokes a hand over his son’s head before nodding, lips curved up in a half-smile, eyes full of an emotion Donna can’t quite name.

“Come along, Adam,” he says, holding his hand out until his older son took it, and Donna stood carefully, waiting a moment and adjusting Max as he shifted sleepily in his arms. Sophie trailed behind Sam, hair catching in the dying light of the setting sun.

Halfway up the stairs Max starts to stir, letting out a whine; she pauses, rocking him gently. His face scrunches up, the whine in his throat building, and Donna hushes him softly; when even that doesn’t quiet him, she picks a lullaby Sophie had loved, and starts to hum it softly.

Max settles almost instantly, whines melting into whimpers as he presses his face against her shoulder. She waits another moment, still humming, before she continues to climb the stairs- when she stops humming, Max whines, so she continues with the song until she reaches Sam’s room. He’s watching Adam and Sophie on the balcony, leaning against the doorway; he pushes himself off and helps her lay Max down on the far bed.

Donna settles on the side of the bed, stroking Max’s hair back as Sam rifles through a suitcase and pulls out a pair of pajamas for his son. She slips away so he can change him, going over to the balcony; Sophie and Adam are coloring together at the table, but her eyes catch on a few sheets of loose paper on the edge of the table.

Sophie’s likeness stares up at her, a charcoal grin curling her lips and hair falling into her eyes. It’s Sam’s work- Donna remembers the way he used to sketch her, though she forces herself to shove the memories back down- and it’s absolutely stunning; there are three of Sophie and a half-started one that may have been Sophie, though the jaw is too sharp and the cheekbones too defined for a seven year old, and she can’t allowed herself to think about who he’d been sketching when she hears footsteps behind her.

“He’s sound asleep,” Sam murmurs, relief in his voice, and she can’t help the half-smile that quirks her mouth. “I don’t know how you did it, he’s usually a terror when it comes to bedtime.”

“I have practice,” Donna answers, nodding her head towards Sophie. Hesitantly, she lifts the sketches upwards, swallowing. “These are really good, Sam.”

“Just a few warm ups- I haven’t sketched in years,” he brushes off the compliment, eyes on Adam as he watches his son intently coloring in the tail of a mermaid on the page. Donna’s eyes trace his face in a moment of weakness, her fingers aching to touch the familiar lines of his jaw. “You can keep them, if you’d like.”

“Thank you,” she says, tone genuine, and holds the sketch paper to her chest, treasuring the gift. She watches as Sophie rubs at her eyes, a telltale sign she was starting to get tired, and allowed a small smile to touch her lips. “Alright Soph, I think it’s time to say goodbye.”

Sophie frowns, but sighs and nods, starting to help Adam put the crayons back in the box.

“Are the ferry times the same? I figured I’d take the boys over to the mainland for part of the festivities tomorrow,” Sam asks, and before Donna can answer, her daughter pipes up from where she had come to stand at Donna’s hip.

“Mommy, they should come with us!” Sophie exclaims, and Sam lifts an eyebrow in Donna’s direction.

“We were planning on going to the festival tomorrow as well,” she explains, glancing down at her daughter- who seemed quite intent on keeping Sam and his boys around as much as possible. At least with Sophie and his boys there would be buffers, so she takes a breath and continues. “You’re more than welcome to join us.”

“Please come with us, it’ll be so much fun!” Sophie chimes in, beaming up at Sam and pressing her interlocked fingers underneath her chin- it’s a hard image to say no to, Donna knows from experience, so it doesn’t surprise her when Sam caves after only a moment.

“As long as we aren’t imposing, we’d love to,” he tells her, and Sophie nods vigorously, blonde curls swimming around her shoulders. Donna swallows a small chuckle.

“We’ll take the three o’clock ferry over,” Donna informs him as Sophie and Adam say goodbye to each other, starting the process of making their own personal handshake. “They should have a late shuttle back around nine to bring us home.”

“Sounds good,” Sam replies, voice soft, and she can feel his gaze on her, warm and gentle and everything she can’t accept from him- not now; not yet. She’d thought not ever again, but something inside her felt like it was softening; like some sharp edge was being worn away. She couldn’t explain it- didn’t have the words or the energy or the understanding yet. But something was starting to shift between them, though how long that would last once he knew the truth about Sophie, she couldn’t even begin to guess. “Come on Adam- it’s time for Sophie and Donna to go, son.”

“Bye Sophie. Bye Miss Donna,” Adam says, his voice going shy at the end as he looks at his shoes, cheeks turning pink before he turns his face into his father’s leg. Sam’s head cups the back of Adam’s head, looking down at him affectionately before he follows them to the door.

“We’ll see you tomorrow,” he says, and Sophie waves before he closes the door behind them.

Donna hides her amusement as her daughter practically skips ahead of her down the stairs, heading back towards their rooms- she can’t even find it in herself to be frustrated that the seven year old seemed perfectly content to continue to bring her and Sam back into each other’s orbit continually. She couldn’t fault Sophie for wanting to be around Adam- there weren’t many other children on the island, and school didn’t start for another few weeks. It had been a long summer of being lonely for Sophie, Donna knew.

“Mommy, will you read to me?” Sophie asked, tiredness creeping into her voice, and Donna strokes a hand over her daughter’s hair as she nods.

“Of course, honey. Go pick out a book and get into your pjs, I’ll be right there.”

Sophie nodded and skipped the last few steps into the hall towards her room, but Donna hesitated before she headed towards hers; turning, her eyes moved to the balcony of Sam’s room without thought. His figure was shadowed by the setting sun, gazing out at the ocean, and something in her stomach warmed.

Donna shook herself, walking down the hall and scolding herself for the moment of weakness.


 

Sam spends most of the most on the beach with the boys; neither of them want to go in the water, but they build an elaborate sandcastle and walk along the water’s edge. The phantom blonde trails ahead of them everywhere he looks no matter what he does, and he can’t help but wonder if everywhere he went on this island would be haunted by her ghost.

He takes the boys up to wash before they have to meet Donna and Sophie, and he tries not to focus on why he changes into a nicer pair of slacks and a clean shirt, rolling the sleeves up over his forearms. He makes sure the boys’ bag is packed before he picks Max up, then gestures towards the door.

“I’m sure the girls are waiting, let’s go,” he says, checking his watch- they were doing well on time, but he didn’t want any reason to annoy Donna. He wanted a fun afternoon- and part of him wanted to keep spending time with her and Sophie. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt drawn to them- even more than he had been to Donna eight years ago. He didn’t want to let that feeling go.

“Adam!” Sophie’s voice coming from behind them catches their attention just as they reach the dock, and Adam turns, waving vigorously once he saw her.

“Hi Sophie!” his voice pitches with excitement, and Sam watches in amusement as they immediately dive into working on their handshake once more.

“Did you have a good morning?” Sam turns at Donna’s question, hiding his surprise with a small smile.

“We did, I took the boys down to the beach. Built a rather impressive sandcastle, if I do say so myself,” he answers, feeling pride well up at the soft laugh he pulls from her. “And you?”

“I attempted to get some work done, but that one only wanted to talk about everything she was going to eat at the festival today,” Donna shakes her head in amusement, looking at her daughter. “Her appetite rivals the way yours used to be.”

Something crosses her face after her words that Sam can’t quite pinpoint, and he tries to lighten things.

“There’s no ‘used to be’ when it comes to my appetite, Sheridan,” he replies, and there’s a few tense moments before she allows herself to snort, shaking her head with something Sam doesn’t allow himself to believe is fondness. Before he can say anything else, Max reaches his arms out for Donna without a word, and she lifts an eyebrow before she effortlessly begins to take him, even as Sam protests.

“Oh, it’s fine. He just likes my hair,” Donna waves off Sam’s words just as Max’s fingers wind their way into the blonde hair she’d left loose around her shoulders. She looks at him, a triumphant look in her eyes and lips curled in amusement. “See?”

Sam lifts his hands in defeat, his own lips tugging upwards.

“Sam! Mommy showed me the pictures you drew- can you teach me how to do that?” Sophie asks once they’re settled on the ferry, and Sam looks at the young girl in interest.

“Do you like to draw, Sophie?”

She nods, blonde hair spilling around her face that she shoved out of her eyes in annoyance.

“She’s really good, Sam,” Donna adds, Max settled comfortably in her lap and setting off something deep in Sam’s chest, awakening feelings he’d spent nearly a decade burying.

“I can give you some tips then, of course,” Sam tells Sophie, who grins at him. He can see so much of Donna in her smile that it makes his chest ache with memory, and selfishly, he wishes he could make Donna smile in the same carefree way he once had. He looks at her out of the corner of his eye, watching the horizon, and makes a promise that he would try to do just that in his time back in Kalokairi.


 

The mainland is bustling with activity when they dock, and the first few hours they’re moving constantly between vendors and street performers and food stalls. Adam has an appetite to rival Sophie’s, much to Donna’s amusement, and they stop quite frequently to sample different foods.

“You remember my favorites,” Sam comments innocently as she sets baklava down on the table, Sophie and Adam digging in instantly. Donna lifts an eyebrow but doesn’t reply, pulling off a piece for herself and popping it into her mouth.

“Mama, can we go see if the flower lady is open now?” Sophie asks, and Donna checks her watch before nodding. “Yay! Let’s go.”

Donna rolls her eyes, cleaning up after her messy daughter before taking her hand and guiding the group through the streets back towards the flower stall that had been closed when they’d passed it earlier. It was now surrounded by customers, but Donna allowed Sophie to sniff a few of the flowers from one of the buckets.

She pulled a few notes from her pocket, and once Sophie had picked the flower she liked, she handed them to the woman in charge of the stall, who tried to refuse to take them, until Donna insisted. The older woman eventually took them, putting them into her pocket, and smiled at the group of them, taking a smaller flower from a higher up bucket and shortening the stem on it before leaning towards Sophie.

“A beautiful family,” the woman says, tucking a flower into Sophie’s hair and smiling at the five of them once more. Donna goes to protest, but she goes to help another customer, and the words die in her throat. She turns at the tug on her skirt, and finds Adam holding a flower up, a shy smile on his face.

“So you and Sophie match,” he tells her, ducking his head, and Donna smiles softly, kneeling down and taking the daisy from him.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” she replies, touching his cheek with two fingers behind she straightens up. Sam steps forward, lifting a hand.

“May I?” he asks, and after a moment she nods, placing the flower in his outstretched palm. Carefully, he tucks the bloom behind her ear, mirroring what the woman had done with Sophie, and heat blossoms down her spine at the brush of his fingers against her skin as he secures it. “There.”

He steps back, checking his work, and the look in his eyes is enough to send another rush of heat over her skin.

“Beautiful,” he murmurs, voice so low she almost misses it, but the single word makes her swallow, warring emotions flooding her.

“We match, Mama!” Sophie says, smiling up at her, and Donna nods, softening at her daughter’s joy. “Sam, can you take a picture please? It’s for my memory box.”

Sam chuckles and nods, pulling out his camera and motioning the two of them together. Donna knelt down, wrapping an arm around her daughter and pressing their cheek together, grinning at the camera. Sam snapped a picture before recapping the Nikon, and Adam pointed to the next shop.

“Can we look there, Daddy?” he asked, and Sam smiled, ruffling his son’s hair.

“Sure, son. Then we have to get going, we have a dinner reservation, remember?” Adam nods at his father’s words before scampering off, Sophie following close behind. Sam and Donna walk slowly, naturally finding a matching pattern together as Max toddled between them. Donna barely registers when tiny fingers reach for hers, instinctively holding them, and it isn’t until she realizes Max is holding both her and Sam’s hands that the woman’s words come back to her. A family.

Donna shakes the words away, trying not to let them cling to her, and allows Sophie to pull her towards one of the stalls, trying to convince her she needed yet another blue dress. This was her family. Sophie. That was all she needed- all she had needed for the last eight years.

Sam laughed a few feet away, pulling her attention towards him, and a tiny part of her wavered for just a moment before she could quash it. He looked up, as though sensing her look, and caught her eye before she could look away- tension settled between them, thick enough to cut with a knife, and Donna broke the gaze after a few moments.

“We should head for the restaurant,” she looks up at Sam’s words, watching him scoop Max up, and she nods, relieved for something else to focus on.

“Come on, Sophie,” she reels her daughter in from where she’d skipped ahead one too many stalls, the blonde head ducking in and around people in the crowd before nearly bowling into Donna’s knees. “Alright, slow down, speed racer. Let’s go eat.”

Sophie tugged on her hand, already rattling off everything she was hungry for, and Donna tried to focus all her attention on her daughter, and not on the lingering look she could feel Sam giving her out of the corner of his eye.


 

It’s nearly nine by the time they leave the restaurant, and it’s still a twenty minute walk to the dock- and almost forty minutes until the next ferry. Max is nearly asleep in his father’s arms, Adam walking between the adults as Sophie walked on Donna’s far side, her head resting against her mother’s side as she yawned loudly.

“Daddy, I don’t want to walk anymore, I’m tired,” Adam whines, tugging on his father’s hand as he starts to lag between Sam and Donna- they can both hear the overtiredness, and Sam lets out a sigh.

“You’ll have to keep walking, son- your brother’s nearly asleep, and I can’t carry you both,” Sam tells his eldest, and Adam’s eyes start to glimmer with the beginnings of tears. Donna stroked a hand over Sophie’s hair, then cleared her throat.

“I’ll take Max,” Donna tells him, and when Sam turns to look at her, she can see how tired he truly is. It takes her only a few moments to make a decision, shoving down the protests that her mind conjured up. “You carry Adam. There’s an inn about a block away that nearly always has empty rooms specifically for families with children during the festival- we’ll just stay overnight, rather than try to make it back for the late ferry. We’ll just head back to the island in the morning.”

“Are you sure? You don’t need to be back tonight?” he asks, and she shakes her head, unable to help the way her heart softens just a touch at the look on his face.

“You’re my only guest, you know,” there’s a note of teasing in her voice, and Sam’s face splits into the smallest grin. “Come on, give me Max. It’s only a few minutes away if we walk fast.”

Sam stoops, carefully depositing Max into her arms; the little boy shifts sleepily before he buries his face in Donna’s neck and huffs out a breath, eyes sleeping shut once more. Donna hums softly, rubbing his back as she sways gently from side to side, watching as Sam scooped Adam up, kissing the side of his son’s head and soothing his exhausted whines.

“C’mon Soph,” Donna beckoned her daughter forward, and Sophie wrapped a hand in her shirt as they walked through the darkened streets. The inn appears around the corner, and relief blooms in Donna’s chest when the girl at the front desk produces a room key for them in a moment once she explains why they need a room.

When Sophie sways tiredly, Sam doesn’t hesitate before shifting Adam slightly and scooping her up, nestling the two of them in his arms to carry upstairs. Donna follows, unable to help the way her heart skips a beat at the way Sophie looks in Sam’s embrace, and unlocks the door to their room before pushing it open so Sam can carefully place Adam and Sophie on the far bed.

She follows, waiting until he’d tugged the shoes off the two of them and readjusted them on the bed before setting Max down on Sophie’s other side, gently pulling off his sandals and brushing back his messy blonde hair. He shifted, eyes opening briefly as he mumbled something sleepily that sounded dangerously close to Mama before he settled back down.

Donna bends and presses her lips to Sophie’s temple, squeezing her shoulder before she moves towards the bathroom. Splashing water onto her face, she looks at herself in the mirror, studying the familiar cheekbones and messy blonde hair just as she did every day. Sighing, she returned to the bedroom and settled on the second bed as Sam disappeared into the bathroom.

When he returned, she lifted an eyebrow at his hesitation.

“I won’t bite, you know,” she says, working hard to keep the amusement out of her voice. Sam snorted, shaking his head. “I think we’re capable of sharing this bed like adults.”

“I’ll make do on the floor, Donna- it’ll be fine,” Sam says, taking the second pillow from the bed and looking at the space between the two beds, lips curling into a small grimace at the thought of a night on the unforgiving wooden floor. Donna felt her resolve waver, and eventually patted the bed.

“It’s not like we’ve never shared a bed before. Just get over here, Sam,” Donna says, nudging the covers back and turning onto her side, swallowing as she focused on keeping her breathing under control. It took a moment, but finally the bed dipped as she felt his warmth slip beneath the sheets. She closed her eyes, fending off the memory of eight years prior and the last time she and Sam had indeed shared at bed.

It was just one night. What harm could it do?

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

The world seems to move in slow motion as Sam stares at her, expression dark as his eyes scan her face. There’s a long, painful pause, and finally he speaks.

“Might?” he asks quietly, and all she can do is nod. “I might have had a daughter for the last seven years? Were you ever going to tell me?”

“I don’t have the answer to that,” she tells him honestly, rubbing at her face. “You left me, Sam, to go home and marry someone else. The other two were just- just friends. Flings, because I was heartbroken and miserable because I loved you and you lied to me and then left me. They were gone before I even knew I was pregnant. I’ve done this on my own from the moment I found out.”

“I left to tell Lorraine I couldn’t marry her!” Sam’s voice rises in pitch and Donna lifts her head sharply, shock filtering through her features at the impossibility. “I broke off our engagement and flew right back here to find you and explain everything, but- when I came back, the woman at the bar told me you were with someone else.”

“You- you came back?” is all she manages, unable to comprehend it, and Sam takes a step closer to her, swallowing before he speaks quietly.

“I never- the life in New York was never what I really wanted. It was me putting one foot in front of the other. But here- with you? I felt like I could finally build a life I really wanted- a life that had love in it,” his voice softens, and Donna feels her heart beating in her throat, choking her with the thrum of it. “I only went back to the States because I thought you meant it when you said you never wanted to see me again. I was…I’ve been heartbroken from the moment I left you, Donna.”

They’re both quiet, and Donna watches the movement of Sam’s throat as he swallows again before he speaks once more.

“I married Lorraine because it was what her family expected, and I didn’t have it in me to fight anymore. I didn’t know what else to do with my life, and I did care for her- we’ve been friends since we were small. It’s affection on some level, but…not love. The only good things to come from it are the boys, and now she won’t…even speak to them. Wants nothing to do with them- said she wants her own life, and she can’t do that as a mother. When we divorced, she signed away her rights,” Sam explains, and Donna feels her heart break at the heaviness in his voice. So many things made sense- why he’d been in Greece in the first place all those years ago, the things he’d tried to explain to her when he’d told her about Lorraine initially. “She walked away from them without a second glance and I can’t- wrap my head around it. Max is still too young to even understand it, but Adam…Adam keeps asking questions I don’t know how to answer. Regardless of what our marriage was, we signed up for parenthood together for the long haul. And now the boys…the boys will grow up thinking their mother never wanted them in the first place.”

Donna barely even realizes what she’s doing until her palm is resting over Sam’s heart; her pulse rushes in her ears as she touches him, but she doesn’t move her hand. The feel of his heartbeat under her fingertips is a familiar, comforting thump, and she swallows, thumb swiping against the fabric of his shirt.

“I’m so sorry, Sam,” she whispers, finally understanding the lost expression she’d seen on his face over the last few days, staring out at the ocean with vacant eyes. “But why did you come here?”

“I thought I could…think,” he huffs out a gruff laugh, the sound vibrating against her hand. “This place always felt like home when I was here with you. I needed to get away from New York- I never wanted to raise my sons there.”

He looks down at the ground for a moment before looking back up at her.

“Leaving didn’t make me stop loving you, Donna,” he tells her, and she stops breathing. His eyes study her face, the touch of his gaze scorching on her skin, and everything is suddenly hot and pressing. “I’ve loved you every day for the last seven years. And if those seven years have shown me anything, it’s that I’m tired of wasting time.”

“What are you saying, Sam?” she asks, voice barely above a whisper. Sam’s hand slowly lifts, giving her time to stop him- she doesn’t, and his fingertips brush her cheek gently before tucking her hair behind her ear, his palm shifting to cup her jaw.

She only remembers their location at the sound of footsteps, and they spring apart instantly, cheeks pink and eyes avoiding each other.

“Mommy, there you are!” Sophie runs directly into Donna’s knees, and she lets out a little ‘oof’ at the collision, hand coming up to cup her daughter’s head. “Hi Sam!”

“Hi, Sophie,” Sam says, looking at her with a new softness in his gaze, and Donna feels her heart stutter a little in her chest.

“I think Max is waking up,” Sophie informs them, fiddling with the hem of Donna’s shirt. “And Adam and I are hungry.”

Donna chuckles, running a hand over her daughter’s hair as she shook her head affectionately. She lifted her gaze to meet Sam’s, finding him watching her and Sophie with a softness that hits Donna like a bunch in a gut; like something she’s always wanted is just out of reach, brushing against her fingertips.

“Let’s see what we can put together for dinner, how does that sound?” she says, causing Sophie to nod her head vigorously and tug on her hand, leading her towards the kitchen. Donna casts one last glance at Sam, unable to quench the hunger rising in her that she knew couldn’t be satisfied by anything her kitchen contained.

Dinner ends up being pasta with chicken and a fruit salad Donna throws together with what she has, but Sophie and Adam eat it enthusiastically, and Max happily munches on the strawberry Donna gives him. Unable to help herself, she spends most of the meal watching Sam out of the corner of her eye; in return, she can feel his own gaze on her when she looks away, heavy and warm on her skin like honey.

Max giggles happily from Sam’s arms while Donna does the dishes, Sophie and Adam having been allowed to go play out in the courtyard; she can hear their laughter through the open window, and her lips curl gently into a smile. Allowing herself the daydream, just for a moment, she thinks about having this every day for the rest of her life; dinner with the five of them and Sophie having something to play with- a brother, her mind whispers before she can help herself.

It’s a decadent daydream, something she’s never felt she was allowed, and she clears her throat, dislodging the image from her mind’s eye.

Max makes a humming noise, reaching for her as soon as she’s finished drying her hands, and she’s weak enough to admit something eases inside her as he settles against her side, small and warm and happy as he talks nonsense in her ear. Sam follows behind them as they move outside to where Sophie and Adam are playing tag.

“Daddy, come play with us!” Adam calls, waving with his hands, and it takes no more persuasion than that for Sam to join their game, chasing them around the square and allowing them to chase him in return. Donna settles in a chair off to the side, the hotel’s ledger off to her side that she half-glances at, while Max settles contentedly in her lap, playing with her hair and continuing to babble.

Within an hour Max is fast asleep and the other three have tired themselves out considerably; Sophie comes and settles at Donna’s feet, head in the free space of her lap, while Sam and Adam were in the other chair.

“I think we’ve all had a pretty big couple of days- how about bed?” Donna suggests gently- Sophie gives almost no fight, belaying her exhaustion, and Sam scoops Adam up easily, the little boy wrapping his arms around his father’s neck. “Soph, go brush your teeth please. I’ll be there after I help Sam put Max down, okay?”

Her daughter nods and walks slowly towards their room, letting out a long, loud yawn and rubbing at her eyes; Donna watches for a moment before turning and heading after Sam.

In a way that shouldn’t feel as easy and natural and domestic as it does, Donna gets Max ready for bed while Sam helps Adam. Together they tuck the two boys into bed, Adam curling around Max instinctively in his sleepy state, and Sam is warm beside her as she steps back after pulling the covers up over them.

Sam’s hand is guiding but gentle on her hip as he pushes her lightly towards the door; heat flutters over her body, and she swallows against the sudden dryness in her throat. Once the door is shut behind them, Sam turns them so Donna’s back is against the wall, their faces mere inches apart.

“I believe we had started a conversation before we were interrupted,” he murmurs, and her breath catches in her throat.

“You were saying something, as I remember it,” she replies, pressing her palms against the wall, the cool cement helping to ground her. Sam’s eyes study her, their blue dark and clear and warm as they move over her face, one of his hands coming up to brush hair from her face, leaving a trial of heat where he touched.

“I was saying that I want to come home, Donna,” he whispers, and the words make her stomach swoop to her knees, like she’s hanging over the edge of a cliff, about to freefall. “If there’s even a chance Sophie’s mine, I don’t want to lose any more time with her- I don’t want to lose any more time with either of you. This place was our dream- the two of us, together. Let me help you make it a reality.”

“We can’t just…pick up where we left off, Sam,” Donna says, shaking her head, though her traitorous heart is rebelling against her words in her chest at the picture he was laying at her feet, exactly like she’d dreamed of earlier.

“Then we don’t pick up. We start new. Together,” he tells her, and the thought of sharing all this- the thought of being on equal footing with a partner in this venture, makes Donna weak in the knees. And with Sam- the man she’d thought about constantly since the day he’d left her; the man she knew she hadn’t stopped loving, not for a moment. “I come with two sons now. We may have a daughter. It’s not just us anymore.”

“And you want that? To make your sons’ lives here?” she asks softly, leaning into his hand. Sam leans forward, touching his forehead to hers.

“My life has always been here, Donna,” he murmurs and she closes her eyes, pressing both palms to his chest as his mouth covers hers.

Sam kisses like she remembers; soft and warm and all-encompassing, like summer rain. One hand twines in her hair as the other falls to her hip, tugging her against him; she slides her hands up until her arms can loop around his neck, pressing their torsos together. Sam groans, his grip on her tightening, and Donna feels a moan build in her throat, heat spilling down her spine.

I can have this every day is all she thinks about when they pull apart, panting, Sam’s hands still pulling her close. She reaches up, kissing him again- softer this time, warm and sweet and gentle before she pulls away once more.

“I have to go put Soph to bed,” she whispers, fingertips skimming his cheeks. “And we both need to get some sleep.”

Sam nods, squeezing her hips gently before he lets her go.

“Sleep well, Sheridan,” he replies, voice low and rough like she remembers, and Donna swallows. “See you in the morning.”

She nods, unable to speak, and watches him slip back into his room, leaving only the tingling on her lips and the warmth in her chest. It takes another moment for her to move down the stairs, fingers pressed to her mouth, trying to stifle the grin her lips want to spread into- to spotlight her joy, show the world.

Donna allows herself a small, quick smile, brimming with happiness, as she makes her way back to Sophie.

Chapter Text

Sophie is an unusually clingy sleeper that night- she ends up sleeping in Donna’s bed with her, something that was becoming rarer and rarer, so she allowed it, the little girl pressed to her side and breathing against her neck.

Donna herself has a harder time falling asleep; she keeps replaying the kiss over and over in her head on a loop, feeling the press of Sam’s mouth against hers and the warmth spreads throughout her body all over again. It leaves her dreams jumbled and hot, waking her in intervals with a dry mouth and an ache she can’t shake the next morning.

“Good morning,” Donna jumps at Sam’s soft greeting in her ear, breath warm on her skin as she turns to face him, dish towel clutched to her chest. He’s grinning at her, eyes bright, and she can’t even be annoyed at him, because a pulse of joy shoots through her at the simple sight of him.

“Coffee’s in the pot, Soph’s eating breakfast and there’s enough for Adam and Max,” she tells him, lifting an eyebrow and half-suppressing a smile back. Sam gives her a wink and heads for the kitchen, where she can see Adam settled beside Sophie, Max attempting to get on the bench across from them; Sam scoops him up, settling him on his hip as he pours himself a cup of coffee.

Donna hangs the last of the laundry on the line and goes to join them, pouring herself another cup of coffee and settling next to Sam. Max instantly reaches for Donna and she takes him happily, the little boy snuggling under her chin contently. She takes the bowl of fruit from Sam and picks out a piece of mango, offering it to Max, who immediately takes it and puts it in his mouth, juice dribbling down his chin and soaking his shirt.

“You, sir, are getting very messy,” Donna teases him, offering him a melon piece this time. Max giggles, cheeks turning pink in delight as he beams up at her. Her heart flutters, squeezing the little boy a little tighter. When she looks up, Sam is looking at her in blatant affection, and her throat tightens a little, unsure of how to accept it; she ducks her head, tucking some hair behind her ear as she feels her cheeks flush.

“Mama, it’s hot out. Can we go to the beach again please?” Sophie asks, a little bit of begging in her voice. Donna thinks about how much she really should get done today- repaint the shutters, look at the liquor order, take a look at the guest list for the coming days. But in all honesty, all she wants is a day on the beach with Sophie and Sam and the boys.

“I think that sounds like a wonderful idea, Sophie,” Donna tells her, then looks at Adam. “What do you say, Adam? Another beach day sound alright to you?”

“Yes!” he yells excitedly, then turns to Sophie. “We can make an even bigger sandcastle this time!”

The two start to chatter excitedly about what they can build, and Donna looks over at Sam’s, who was already looking at her with a half-smile. She lifts an eyebrow, shifting Max as she gives him another piece of fruit.

“Does another beach day work for you, Mr. Carmichael?” she asks quietly, watching the way he shifted in place at his formal name, and feels a little thrum of heat split through her. Sam uncrosses his legs, sitting forward until his mouth was near her ear.

“Depends on what suit you’re wearing, Ms. Sheridan.”

Donna swallows quickly, throat suddenly dry. She can feel Sam’s smirk, and she kicks his ankle under the table, causing him to snort. Max lifts a sticky palm, clearly waiting for more food, and Sam shakes his head, handing him another piece before he takes him gently from Donna, swinging him up onto his hip.

“We should go get ourselves ready- we can meet by the stairs in half an hour?” he suggests, and Donna nods, watching Sophie help Adam off the bunch with a small smile.

“I’ll pack a picnic lunch, I have stuff for sandwiches,” she replies, and Sophie claps her hands excitedly. “Go upstairs, Soph, wash your face for me. I’ll be up once I’m done.”

Sophie nods and darts off; Donna clears off the breakfast dishes and then packs up the worn picnic basket with sandwiches and lemonade and fruit salad. She’s checking that everything is set when hands grip her waist and spin her around; she gasps, palms settling naturally on a familiar chest before warm lips cover her own.

Donna sinks into the kiss, hands slipping up to twine in Sam’s hair, and sinks her teeth into his bottom lip. Her tongue darts out, licking into his mouth, and his hand slides down to palm her ass as she presses herself impossibly closer to Sam. Nails scratch at his neck, eliciting a low groan from Sam that sends a pulse of heat through Donna, making her gasp into Sam’s mouth.

“Mommy! I need help, my ties are undone,” Sophie’s voice on the stairs make them spring apart, and each of them is breathing hard; Donna wipes at her mouth self-consciously before she leaves Sam standing there to go help her daughter.

“I’m here sweetheart, let me see,” Donna says, heart still beating furiously in her chest as she re-ties the halter top of Sophie’s swimsuit. “Good as new. Go take a seat while I go put my bathing suit on, okay? We’ll do sunscreen once everyone’s ready.”

Sophie nods, grinning, and Donna kisses her forehead before heading up to their room. It takes her an embarrassingly long time to choose her swimsuit; she tosses aside two one pieces and a blue two piece that hasn’t fit since before Sophie was born, if she’s being honest. She finally settles on a yellow two piece that’s vaguely modest by bikini standards, but still exposes a decent amount of skin.

She pulls on a thin cotton dress over it, and grabs the sunscreen from the dresser before she returns to the kitchen, where Sam has returned with Adam and Max. She holds up the sunscreen, looking between the kids. “Who’s first?”


 

The kids conk out under the umbrella after lunch, Max between Adam and Sophie on the old quilt they’d brought with them. Donna and Sam eat at a more leisurely pace, enjoying the ocean and the impressive sandcastle the kids had constructed.

Once lunch is gone, Sam’s fingers skate over her shoulder and trace her collarbone. Donna hums, head falling back and spilling hair between her shoulder blades as she rests on her elbows, sun on her face. Warm lips follow, trailing up her neck, and she swallows the moan it elicits in her throat before it can get out.

“The kids…” she starts, and Sam shakes his head, kissing her pulse point again.

“They’re asleep, Donna. And I want to kiss you,” Sam’s voice is soft, and after one more quick glance at the kids, Donna melts into him. Sam stretches out over her, pressing her back against the sun-warm blanket- his skin is nearly scorching where it touches hers, and Donna slides her foot down his calf, keeping them close.

Their mouths meet in a soft, sweet kiss- he tastes like the strawberries he’d been sharing with Max, and Donna scratches her nails through his damp hair, smirking when he nearly purred. Sam moves his mouth to the hinge of her jaw, biting gently before he continued to her neck.

“If you leave a mark, I will kill you and bury your body where no one will ever find it,” Donna murmurs lightly, and Sam pulls back to look at her- her eyes are shut, cheeks flushed pink, lips red from his mouth. She opens one eye, humming in question. “Yes?”

“You’re so incredibly beautiful,” he says- and so easily, like it’s something he said every day, like it wasn’t a revelation. Donna bites her lip, squirming slightly in embarrassment.

“I have sand in my hair,” she replies, shaking her head, and Sam’s thumb is gentle as he touches her bottom lip.

“And you’re still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he tells her, and Donna cocks her head.

“You don’t have to do that, you know,” she says, and Sam frowns, shifting to lay beside her.

“Do what?” he asks, and she gestures a hand around vaguely.

“Compliment me. To…make up, for all the time we’ve lost,” she answers, and Sam’s frown deepens. Donna shrugs, tangling her own fingers together as she looks up at the clear blue sky. “You just don’t have to make anything up to me. That’s all.”

It’s quiet aside from the sound of the surf against the sand, and then warm fingers stroke the exposed skin of her stomach. Lips touch her shoulder, and Donna sighs softly.

“We both know I have a lot to make up for,” he starts, and when Donna starts to protest, he touches his fingers to her lips briefly. “If not to you, then to that little girl asleep three feet away.”

Donna stays quiet at that, allowing it. They’d bridge that gap when they came to it, and she lays her palm on his chest, feeling his heart beat against her hand.

“And, Sheridan- I truly do find you to be the most beautiful woman in the entire world,” he adds as an almost afterthought. Donna’s lips curl upwards, and she shakes her head again, but fondly this time.

They’re interrupted from further discussion by Max rousing from a dream in tears, and demanding comfort from Donna. No one is much in the mood for the beach after their nap, so they pack everything up and head back to the villa. The kids are all cranky from too much sun, and Donna shares a harried look with Sam as they climb the steps.

“Let me take Sophie for a bit. I know you have work to do- I’ll watch while you get what you need to done,” Sam suggests once they’re in the courtyard, and Donna looks at him in surprise.

“You’re sure?” she asks, and Sam nods, touching her shoulder.

“The boys will be glad to have her around longer, and it’s not a chore to spend time with her,” he replies, and Donna softens.

“I only need a few hours, promise,” she tells him, and Sam smiles gently, his hand lifting to touch her cheek.

“Don’t rush. We’ll be here,” he replies, and then offers his hand to Sophie. “Come along, gang. I think some snacks and a movie are on the docket for the afternoon.”

Donna watches the four of them go, hand pressed over her chest in an attempt to stem the joy that seemed to want to flow from her chest.

Chapter Text

In a way, they find a semblance of a routine.

The villa dies down as summer draws to a close; less people vacation as August surges towards September, and Donna spends more time attempting to piece together what renovations needed to be done. Sophie spent most of her time with Sam and the boys, often finding a way to drag Donna with her- though there wasn’t much resistance in the first place, truth be told.

Donna felt whatever walls she’d kept up with Sam crumble until they were heaps of dust around her feet. He was so good with both his boys and Sophie, and he’d done nothing but follow her lead when it came to both her daughter, and their constantly shifting dynamic.

“You’re thinking again,” she blinks at Sam’s soft voice, and he settles beside her on the porch swing, rocking it gently. Donna sighed, shifting until she could nestle her head against his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her; his fingers traced nonsensical patterns into the round of her shoulder, exposed by the tank top she wore.

“Tends to happen from time to time,” she murmurs, teasing in her voice as she presses a kiss to his collarbone.

“Anything good going on in that brain of yours tonight?” he asks, lifting his free hand to draw his thumb over her forehead, down between her eyes until it rests against her mouth, lips barely parted. Donna sighs, head tipping forward until it rested against his jaw.

“Sophie,” is all she says, and Sam’s palm smooths warm up her back. “I don’t…know how to tell her, Sam.”

She pulls back, swallowing thickly as she looks up at his face. She can’t quite read his expression, and she knows it’s because he wants this to be her decision. He’d gone along with her every decision when it came to Sophie and her knowing the truth of their relation, and it had started eating away at Donna.

Sophie deserved to know Sam was her father, and Donna wanted Sam to have the freedom to tell Sophie he was her dad. But she didn’t know how to bridge that gap- how to explain that it hadn’t been Sam’s fault he’d been gone from her life for so many years.

“I’ll follow your lead,” is Sam’s reply, and her chest fills with warmth. “If you want me there, I’ll be there. If you think it’s a better conversation for just the two of you, that’s fine by me too.”

He clears his throat, and Donna strokes his face as his eyes grow slightly damper.

“All that matters is I’m her dad. And I’m not going anywhere,” he tells Donna, and her lips quiver into a half-smile, overcome with emotion.

“You’re my dad?”

They spring apart at the sound of a soft, confused voice, both turning sharply to find Sophie standing in the entryway. Her hair was messy with sleep, but her eyes were bright with wakefulness.

“Sophie…”

“Is it right, Mommy?” she turns her gaze to her mother, and Donna’s throat goes dry.

“Yes, sweetheart,” she manages to say, voice wavering. “Sam is your father.”

Sophie blinks, and blinks again, eyebrows furrowing together.

“Why did it take you so long?” Sophie asks, looking at Sam, and he shifts, tilting his head slightly.

“What do you mean, Sophie?” he asks, and her lips curve as she thinks, trying to rephrase.

“I’m 8. Why did you wait some long to meet me?” she asks, and there’s a slight wobble to her lower lip that Donna feels crack through her chest. Sam’s lips part, but no sound comes out as he tries to come up with a good explanation appropriate for an eight year old.

“That’s something we can talk about tomorrow,” Donna saves him, standing up from the swing. “You’re supposed to be asleep.”

“I had a bad dream,” Sophie murmurs, looking down at her toes. She shuffles in place, and then looks back up at Sam. “You’ll still be here? When I wake up?”

Sam nods, sadness etching itself into his features.

“I’ll be here every day when you wake up, Sophie. I meant it when I said I’m not going anywhere, ever again, darling,” he tells her, voice quiet but earnest. Sophie studies him, and gives a short nod.

“Okay.”

Donna scoops Sophie up, letting the little girl snuggle her face into her neck; she turned, sharing a look with Sam that was equal parts stricken and apologetic. He merely shrugged in response, and she takes Sophie up to her room, some unsettled feeling filling her gut.

She lays Sophie down in her bed, and her daughter curls herself up, facing the wall.

“Soph-”

“I just want to go back to sleep, Mommy,” Sophie whispers softly, not facing her, and Donna presses her hand to the side of her neck, swallowing hard.

“Okay, baby. I’ll see you in the morning,” she replies, and Sophie gives a soft noise in response. She backs out of the room, shutting the door quietly, and sank to the ground beside it, tugging her knees up to her chest.

_

The morning dawns cold and damp, and within an hour of her rising, it’s a thunderstorm outside.

Sophie doesn’t leave her room, and Donna allows her the time; the bombshell Sophie had learned last night would be hard enough for anyone, let alone an eight year old. So Donna flits around helplessly, trying to focus on things for the villa and failing to do much of anything but give herself a stress ulcer.

Sam and the boys don’t come down for breakfast; she can see flickers of movement through the curtains, but the door doesn’t open, and an ache settles between her ribs.

Around lunchtime, Donna knocks on Sophie’s door, a sandwich in hand as she opens the door.

“I brought you something to eat, Soph,” she says, and finds her daughter sitting cross-legged on the bed, looking out the window. “Is it alright if I come in?”

Sophie nods, and Donna settles beside her on the bed, handing her the plate. She strokes her daughter’s hair out of her face, thumb brushing along her cheek softly.

“Want to talk about it?” she asks, and Sophie chews on her lip briefly before she speaks.

“If he’s my dad, why didn’t you say so when they got here?” she asks, looking up at her, and Donna sighs quietly.

“I know this won’t be the answer you want to hear, but it’s grown up stuff,” she answers, and Sophie huffs. “But he is your father, Sophie. And he wants to be in your life, however you want him to be. He loves you very much.”

Sophie frowns.

“If he loves me so much, where has he been?” she asks, and Donna’s throat tightens. “Why was he so far away and not here with us?”

“It’s complicated, honey,” Donna replies, and puts a gentle finger over her daughter’s protests. “If things were different, he would have. But then you wouldn’t have Adam or Max in your life, and they’re pretty awesome, right?”

Sophie nods slowly, and her eyes widen as she looks back up at her mother.

“They’re my brothers,” she says, the realization dawning on her, and Donna answering smile is soft.

“You do. You’re a big sister now.”

Sophie smiles at that, ducking her chin to her chest. “Do they know? That I’m their sister?”

“I don’t know, sweetie. That’s a question for Sam, I think,” she answers, and Sophie nods.

“Do you love Sam, Mommy?” is her next question, and Donna’s eyes widen. “I saw you on the swing.”

Donna’s lips parted, speechless, until she swallowed and shook herself.

“I care about Sam very much,” is how she replies, but it seems to satisfy Sophie. “Finish your lunch. Then you can help me pick the paint shades for the new rooms, how does that sound?”

Sophie nods excitedly, and Donna bends to kiss the top of her head. Her daughter settles into her side, and Donna thinks just maybe everything will be okay.

Chapter Text

Donna raps her knuckles on Sam’s door lightly; it had been almost three days since Sophie had stumbled upon them, learning the truth, and she hadn’t seen either him or the boys. Sophie was with Marco, watching him unload the food order, and staring at the walls of the office was making Donna go crazy.

There’s a pause, and then the door opens; warmth pools in her chest at the sight of him, hair mussed and slightly unkept, and a smudge of charcoal across his cheek.  She smiles tentatively, and feels something in her chest dissolve slightly when he gives her a small smile back.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt,” she starts, and Sam shakes his head.

“No, no- you’re not,” he assures her, and Donna lets out a breath, fighting against the awkward smile she could feel attempting to slip onto her face. “The boys wanted to draw for a bit.”

Reaching up, she brushes away the dark mark from his cheek fondly.

“I can tell,” she says, and Sam chuckles softly. “I know what happened the other day wasn’t ideal, and unexpected, but-”

“I just wanted to give Sophie space,” Sam interrupts, voice quiet, and Donna swallows thickly.

“And I appreciate that. But I miss you,” she murmurs, unable to keep the waver out of her voice, and Sam’s hand lifts to cup her cheek, stepping closer until he can rest his forehead against hers. “And Sophie does too. I came here because she wants to see you.”

Sam pulls back slightly, eyebrows contracting as he looks at her, and Donna nods, reassuring him.

“Are you sure?” he asks, and Donna nods again, palms resting against his chest, fingertips digging into the linen on his shirt.

“Yes. You’ve both waited long enough,” she answers, thumbs brushing over his cheekbones as she moves her hands to cup his face. “She deserves her father in her life, and you deserve to know your daughter.”

Sam’s eyes dart over her face, and then his mouth curves into a grin before he ducks down, kissing her firmly. Donna laughs against his mouth, grip on him tightening as the force of his kiss almost knocks her off balance.

“Miss Donna!” Adam’s voice inside the room pulls them apart, and Donna rubs a hand over her face before she peers in the doorway, smiling at the two boys at the table, paper and crayons before them.

“Hello boys. How are you?” she asks, and Adam beams at her, hair falling messily in his face as he holds his paper up for her inspection.

“I drew the ocean!” he tells her, and Donna strokes a hand over his hair, smile softening as she nods encouragingly. From the next seat Max reaches for her impatiently, tiny face screwing up, and Donna has him up and on her hip before a scream can erupt, bouncing him gently.

“No need for a tantrum, Mr. Max, I’ve got you,” she soothes him, rubbing his back as one of his hands fists in her hair, the other settling against the curve of her breast as he snuggled comfortably against her. Adam launched into a story about his picture, and Donna listened intently, though she was aware of Sam’s eyes on the three of them.

She glances up, aware for the first time she might be overstepping; but Sam’s eyes are soft, watching them, and she sends him a small smile. He returns it, and Adam snuggles into her free side.

“Do you guys want to bring your paper and crayons downstairs? I bet Sophie would love to color with you,” Donna offers, arching an eyebrow as she looks at Sam; he half-nods, and she breathes a small sigh of relief. Things hadn’t felt whole without them, and she wondered how Sam and his boys had managed to worm themselves so fully into her heart in such a short time; how it had managed to feel like they really were a little family, the five of them, with almost no effort at all.

Max refuses to leave Donna’s arms, and she waves Sam off- she’d missed the little boy’s comforting weight and warmth against her body, the scent of his hair under her nose, and she presses a kiss to the blonde wispy curls, feeling him burrow into her embrace deeper.

Down in the courtyard, Sophie exclaims in delight at the sight of Adam, and runs to embrace him, grinning. The grin remains in place when she looks up at Sam, though it turns slightly shy, scuffing her toe, and Donna brushes a hand over her hair, letting her turn her face into her hip briefly.

The afternoon slips through her fingers, Adam and Sophie coloring while Max drowses in Donna’s lap. Contentment swirls through her, and she can’t even find it in herself to care that she gets no more work done for the rest of the day.

Sam makes pasta salad for dinner that the kids devour, and Adam and Max fall asleep minutes into the movie they put on for the kids. Sophie’s eyes are heavy, but she looks up at Sam, studying him.

“I’m happy you’re here now,” she says, voice sleepy but unwavering. “And I don’t mind that it took you awhile. I like my brothers.”

Her eyes blink closed before she can say more, and Sam isn’t able to stop the tears that spill over; Donna wipes them away with tender fingers, pulling him into a gentle embrace. She tucks his head to her chest, stroking his hair, and kisses the crown of his head.

She had a feeling everything was going to just fine.

_

As the weeks pass, the hotel finally starts to come together; the woodwork in the rooms is finished, needing only to be painted, and the new plumbing is installed without a hassle. Sam is painting one of the rooms, listening to Donna humming through the open window, Adam and Max chattering in the courtyard with her, and his heart is so full it feels like it could burst.

Sophie is a dream. He hadn’t known how it would go- trying to be her father after eight years of absence, but it was like walking into a hole made for him. She was kind and sweet and inquisitive, and all she wanted to do was ask questions he was more than happy to answer. Adam and Max had taken easily to the idea of her being their sister, though Adam had trouble wrapping his head around the idea of Sophie being his sister and Donna not being his mother.

“Can she not be my Mama, too?” Adam asked, small brows knit in confusion as Sam sat down with him at the small table in their room. He’s almost glad he’d decided to have this conversation without Donna; she had a hard enough time with Lorraine to begin with- he didn’t want to think about what would happen if she thought she was replacing her in any way.

Not that Sam had any problem with Donna mothering his boys. She was everything they could ever want or need; she’d stepped in when they needed someone, and loved them without hesitation. And he knew, without a doubt, that she’d never leave them the way Lorraine had.

“She’s Sophie’s mother, and while she loves you very much, she isn’t yours, son,” Sam reminds him gently, stroking a hand over Adam’s soft curls, hating the frown that marred his eldest boy’s face.

“I’d like her to be my mama,” Adam says softly, and Sam swallows down his agreement.

“Sam,” Sophie’s voice pulls him away from his task, and he turns to find her standing in the doorway, a serious look on her tiny face. He puts the paintbrush down, wiping sweat from his brow and turning to look at her.

“What is it Soph?” he asks, squatting down so their faces are level. Sam brushes a few strands of hair from her face, and Sophie places her hands on her hips.

“I’ve been thinking,” she tells him, and he lifts an eyebrow, curious.

“Have you now?”

“Yes. I’ve been thinking that I might want to call you Dad. And I wanted to know what you thought about that,” Sophie tells him, a suddenly nervous look crossing her face, and Sam feels his heart swell in his chest. His lips curve up into a grin, and Sophie’s expression slowly mirrors his.

“I think I’d like that very much, Sophie. That’s really what you want?” he asks, and Sophie nods, blonde ringlets flying around her shoulders as a beaming grin finally overtakes her face. “Then I would be honored.”

Sophie darts forward, wrapping her thin arms around his shoulders and burying her face in his neck; Sam lifts his hands to hold her against him, smelling sunscreen and summer sweat and a scent that was just uniquely his daughter’s.

“Can I help?” she asks when they pull apart, and Sam smiles and nods, handing her another paintbrush.

“Downward strokes only, Soph,” he instructs, and Sophie nods, dipping the brush in the paint can.

“Okay, Dad,” she replies, and he pauses, emotion clogging his throat briefly at the simple word as Sophie sets to work, tongue sticking out in concentration as she paints. It’s reminiscent of Donna, the same fierce determination etched in her tiny face that Sam often found when he looked at her mother.

They’re nearly finished- and Sophie not doing a half-bad job, only a few strokes that Sam would have to retouch tomorrow- when a voice speaks from the doorway.

“Would you look at you two worker bees,” Donna says, affection in her voice as she looks at them, lips curled into a smile. Sophie beams at her, swiping at her face and leaving behind a streak of paint, earning a soft laugh from Sam.

“What do you think Mommy? I helped Dad!” Sophie tells her proudly, and Donna looks at Sam at the name, eyes widening in surprise. He shrugged and smiled, nodding towards their daughter, and Donna softened, warmth pooling in her chest.

“It looks great, sweetheart. You and…Dad did a great job,” Donna tells her, using the edge of her shirt to brush the tan paint from her daughter’s cheek. “Why don’t you go wash up? Adam and Max are with Marcos in the kitchen, we’ll be right there.”

Sophie nods and bounds off, leaving Sam and Donna alone; she steps forward, sliding her hands up his torso until she can press them to his chest.

“So, Dad,” she murmurs, watching Sam’s lips curl upwards, her own mouth mirroring his. “What prompted that?”

“She was the one who asked if she could call me Dad- just walked right up and said she’d been thinking about it,” Sam tells her, lifting a hand to brush over her hair, tucking it behind her ear. “Reminded me of you- I seem to recall a similar scenario, in a boat? Involving this very hotel?”

Donna laughs softly at that, fingers flexing against Sam’s shirt as she leaned her head into his touch. He leaned forward until he could brush his mouth over hers; she hums, swaying against him until they’re pressed together. He smells like paint and sweat and just a hint of his cologne; Donna kisses him harder, fingers tugging at the top button of his shirt until it slid loose from the hole, exposing more of his chest to her.

“Ah- didn’t you just tell our daughter we’d meet her and the boys in the kitchen?” Sam pulls away, voice slightly hoarse as Donna’s fingers press against his skin, sliding down to the next button of his shirt. Her mouth follows, drawing a soft groan from him. “Don’t tease me, woman, we need to sit down to a meal with three very much awake children.”

“Better make the most of it while you can then, partner,” she teases, licking up his neck, and Sam buries his fingers in her hair with a groan.