So, maybe he forgot she was coming over. It’s just that it was his ex’s night with Marcus so the last thing he was expecting was to get a call. And she’d sounded wrecked , hoarse and sick and miserable, and so what else was he supposed to do except go get his son? By then, it had already been well into the afternoon, and Marcus is a sweet kid and was worried about his mom, and the only thing that would distract him was the promise of pizza and hours on hours of video games--and it’s okay, it’s a Friday night, and it’s not like they make a habit out of it. It works , anyway, and that’s the real object.
There’s a knock at the door a little more than twenty minutes after he calls in the order. He pauses the game and says, “Remember, if you hit play before I come back, it’s cheating,” as he pushes to his feet because it’s a trick he’s seen him try.
It's really a testament to how well she can read him these days--there was, apparently, one hell of a learning curve--that she grins almost as soon as he opens the door and says, with a note of certainty that should annoy him, “You forgot I was coming.”
Eyes narrowing, he opts not to respond and instead steps forward, one hand sliding around her waist, to press a kiss to her lips. He’s conscious of the kid behind them, keeps it chaste and quick, but she starts a little and pulls almost completely out of his reach at the cheerful, “Hi, Miss Elizabeth,” that pipes next to his hip.
“Hi, Marcus!” she says, recovering quickly and smiling warmly down at him.
“We thought you were pizza!” he informs her with that happy frankness only kids can ever really pull off.
With a laugh and a sympathetic look, she says, “Oh, yeah, I am, unfortunately, not pizza.”
“But,” Rio cuts in neatly, fluffing his fingers through Marcus’ hair, “Pizza’ll be here any minute, why don’t you go wash your hands?”
“I should go,” she offers after he leaves, smile fading and face going uncertain. “I didn’t know he was coming over.”
For all that she claims she’s happier divorced than she ever was married, for all that she’s happy to see and be seen with him in public or private or any context-- almost any context--for all that she insists she wants to be with him, she’s been staunchly resistant on the point of both of their kids. If it were just her kids, he’d think it were about him--or rather, what he does, who he is outside these walls (and very occasionally, as much as he tries to keep the parts of his life separate, inside these walls). This, though? This is more mundane. He gets it, he thinks he gets it, that her anxiety has more to do with her being worried that they’d be dragging kids into something temporary or volatile.
He can admit that they’re probably more of the latter than the average couple, but they haven’t been the former in a long, long time.
“You should stay,” he responds, finding her hand with his and tugging her forward. “It’s just pizza and video games,” he murmurs against her lips. “Maybe a movie.”
“‘Just pizza and video games, maybe a movie,’” she repeats in undertone, sugary-sweet and mocking, but she sighs, shoulders slumping just so, as if she put up much of a fight, and drops his hand and goes to the door to take off her shoes. When she turns back to him, she asks, all business, “Well, were you planning on all that from the doorway?”
Rolling his eyes, he turns on his heel and takes up his spot on the couch, keeps his gaze on the screen ahead of him as she drops her purse on a chair and fits herself between him and the arm. Doesn't matter where they are, she's got a way of doing it, parking one foot under her but settling too stiffly to come off as convincingly comfortable, that sorta pisses him off on her behalf because he's got a good feeling why she's so skittish. Instead of mentioning it, he huffs a quick breath and knocks his shoulder into hers, and just like that the tension holding her up cuts in half and she settles more naturally, not quite pressed into him but close enough that he can feel her where they're not touching. With one hand coming to rest on her knee, he explains, “It wasn't my night, but his mom called me up all sick.”
“I know what your nights are,” she responds, idly dragging the backs of her fingers over his beard. “Will she be okay?”
“Stomach thing,” he says with a grimace that she mirrors.
For just a moment, her eyes lower and there's something a little distant in there before she looks back up at him, smiling, and starts, “You know, we could always reschedule…”
“Listen, if you're trying to tell me you got better plans…”
“As if you don't know I cleared my social calendar for you,” she teases as Marcus runs back into the room and leaps up next to him on his other side. Her hand falls from his cheek to his shoulder and squeezes before she shifts away to rest against the back of the couch.
They’d had a conversation, months ago now, and it had been about soccer but it’s applicable now, something that had started with her saying I bet you let him win all the time and ended with see, it’s sadder if you don’t let him win, you’re in your thirties and he’s six , Rio. The sting had been taken out of the words by her wide smile and bright eyes, the way she’d leaned towards him on the park bench, head propped on one hand, as he kept half an eye on Marcus on the monkey bars. He thinks about that now, as he comes in 1st and Marcus in 6th, thinks she’s probably thinking the same thing when he looks over and catches the edge of her smirk.
After a beat, he turns his attention to his right to ask, “Aight, pop, Rainbow Road?”
“Rainbow Road!” he crows, and there's a choked-off laugh on his other side.
As he sets it up, she stands, and he can see her make her way into the kitchen. He likes the confident way she moves around his place, if he's honest, likes that she knows where everything is. His attention is on the game, but the volume isn't high and he can track her movements by sound--the opening and closing of the cabinet, that one spot of floor in front of the fridge that always creaks. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees her perch herself up on one of the stools at the island. Her eyes are on the screen when he spares a glance her way, lips twitching just a little when she catches him.
He's nearing the end of the second lap when there's a knock at the door, and before he can hit pause, she says, “I got it.”
“Cash is by the door,” he responds. “Driver can have the change.”
There's conversation at the door, but he's too busy trying to recover from being blue-shelled to listen. He's leaning forward, elbows on his knees, when he hears a faintly amused, “I hope you know I draw the line at serving you while you play video games.”
“Elizabeth, I could die,” he says solemnly.
“I don't care if you live or die.”
It's delivered so seriously it jars him out of the game and the controller goes slack in his hands as he gapes at her, “Oh, that's cold .”
Her stoic expression cracks a moment later, breaks into a bright grin with laughter in her eyes, and he feels his lips split into an answering smile until he hears a loud cheer next to him. When he looks up, it's just in time to watch Mario careen off the road even as Marcus does a victory lap.
“No!” he cries, throwing his hands up.
He ends the lap last.
“We gotta do a do-over after dinner, Miss Elizabeth did me dirty,” he says, setting both controllers on the coffee table before following him into the kitchen.
“But, Dad,” Marcus protests, “ You always say we gotta accept the consequences of our actions! And that there are no do-overs in real life!”
He's not sure which is worse, his son throwing his words back in his face, or his business-partner-cum-girlfriend bursting into a fit of laughter as a result if his son throwing his words back in his face. Without looking away from her, he pulls down enough plates for them--she slaps a hand over her mouth, but it doesn't do much to stop her giggles, and her cheeks are already bright red. She hunches over the island and turns away from him, shaking with laughter, and he asks after a minute or two, “So, you gonna be done soon or…?”
“I’m--I’m s- sorry , I’m sorry,” she struggles to force out past the hand still over her mouth, and it takes another minute for her to be able to inhale deeply, straightening, and her exhale only kinda tapers off into another snicker. “I think I’m done now,” she says tremulously.
“Mhm,” he grunts, setting a slice of pepperoni on one of the plates and sliding it across the island to Marcus. “I can’t believe I’ve been betrayed in my own home,” he deadpans.
She snatches up a slice before he can close the box and takes a bite, sharing a look with Marcus before chiding, “Drama queen.”
“I liked it better when you were scared of me,” he mutters as he rearranges boxes to get to the pizza with sausage and bell peppers.
Her derisive snort is answer enough.
After dinner, he and Marcus play a few more rounds--she declines to play even when he offers her next, probably because he doesn’t sound 100% sincere when he offers, definitely because he thinks it’d be entertaining to watch her try--but, out of respect for the fact that Marcus used his life lessons against him, they don’t do Rainbow Road again. He does his best to find an actual movie in his Netflix queue that Marcus will watch, but he’s on an ocean kick lately and keeps insisting on Blue Planet , and he goes to sit on the floor just far enough away that Rio doesn’t tell him to budge back.
“He’s going through a phase ,” he tells Elizabeth, not quite apologetic.
“Mm, consider yourself lucky,” she responds quietly, nudging into his side until he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “At least your kid likes nature documentaries. If I ever have to watch the new Beauty and the Beast again, I think I may actually die.”
“The new one?” he asks, with prejudice.
“Please,” she rolls her eyes, unfazed, “You’re about eight years late to be judging me on the movies my kids obsess over. You can’t predict these things, you can just hope it isn’t the Final Destination series.” At his raised brow, she lifts one shoulder and says, “Kenny’s right in the middle of his horror movie phase.” Pulling a face, he squeezes her shoulder before wedging his arm between her back and the back of the couch and letting his hand fall to her hip which has the added bonus of bringing her closer. After a beat, she lifts her head and frowns at him before, “Wait, how do you have an opinion on Beauty and the Beast?”
“Because I like Disney movies, okay? I was a kid, I got a kid, shit happens,” he replies. “A man can’t have a princess movie preference now?”
She smiles right into his face, unbothered, and lifts her hand up to scratch lightly at his scalp in a way that kinda gives him goosebumps. “So,” she starts in a tone that he knows means he’s gonna regret this conversation, “Are you going to tell me who your favorite princess is?”
“Get out of my house,” he says without making any move to let go of her--she just laughs, anyway, and settles back down into his side, head dropping onto his shoulder.
They get through the first two episodes before he needs to untangle himself to go to the bathroom. Her discontented grumble is almost compelling enough to make him ignore his bladder, but then she pushes up, releasing him. He’s only out of the room for a few minutes, but he comes back to find Marcus mid-lecture, having stolen his spot on the couch with the series paused.
“--and then--and then they dive and use their clicks to find the squids and they eat the squids!” he’s saying excitedly, and Rio hangs back, watching Elizabeth lean forward and ask something he can’t hear. He does hear his answer of, “Sonar!”
“That’s right!” she laughs, beaming, and something warm swells up in his chest at the sight of it.
When she looks up, he doesn’t try to hide that he was watching, and her smile softens a little. He comes forward to lean on the arm of the couch opposite hers and, as Marcus turns towards him, makes a show of checking his watch before saying, “Okay, time for bed, yeah?”
“No,” he laughs, cutting him off and swooping in to haul him up under one arm. “Nope, bed.” He catches her eye, pretending to struggle with the kicking child in his grasp, and he can see from the way her lips are pursed that she’s biting back something --not a criticism, by the way she’s still clearly smiling. “Not you too,” he sighs.
“I didn’t say a thing!” She raises her hands defensively.
“You didn’t need to,” he says wryly. “Say goodnight to Miss Elizabeth.”
Marcus goes boneless, dead weight, and says obediently, “Goodnight, Miss Elizabeth.”
“Goodnight, sweetie,” she replies, glancing up to pin Rio with with a quietly amused look.
He carries Marcus into his bedroom and orders him into his pajamas, and he can hear Elizabeth in the kitchen, can hear the conspicuously noisy sound of opening and closing pizza boxes. “C’mon, into bed,” he says when he notices some serious dicking around.
“Why can’t I stay up?” he whines even as he tries to hide a yawn while he climbs into bed.
Stifling a smile, Rio crouches down next to the bed and pulls the covers up around him and explains, “Because you’re gonna sleep through breakfast if you do.”
This seems to be enough because he nods seriously and settles back into the pillow. He declines his offer for a story, but he does ask, just as Rio’s thinking about standing, “Is Miss Elizabeth coming to breakfast?”
Now, he does smile. “You want her to?”
An enthusiastic nod.
“Aight, I’ll ask, yeah?” Another nod. “Good, now go to sleep.” It’s not until he actually is asleep that Rio goes back into the living room, where he finds Elizabeth hovering over one of the pictures. Sidling up behind her, he lets his hands slip over her hips, and she stiffens slightly before letting herself be drawn back into him. He turns his face into her neck, and he can smell her shampoo and her perfume and her soap. “The hell were you doing in the kitchen?” he asks at length.
“Putting away the food?” she answers, twisting in his arms and draping her own around his shoulders. She arches up to press her lips to his. “This was… nice,” she says lowly when she pulls back, still close enough that he feels the ghost of the words on his lips.
Humming, he lifts his hand to stroke down the side of her face, down the side of her neck, and smirks at the way her breath catches. “You wanna stay for breakfast?”
“Rio,” she breathes.
“Elizabeth,” he answers. Then, knowing her well enough to know she won’t be able to resist, he throws in, “I mean, Marcus asked.”
Corners of her mouth turning down, she scowls up at him and says, “Oh, that’s such a dirty trick.”
He shrugs. She’s not wrong.
“He likes you,” he says instead.
“He’s six,” she scoffs as she follows him back to the couch. “I’m a big hit with that age group. Let’s see what he thinks when he’s thirteen.” It takes a moment, but what she’s said catches up with her, and he watches the flash of horrified embarrassment light her face and bites down on a laugh.
“Stay for breakfast,” he murmurs, pressing back into her space for another kiss, deeper this time.
“Only because Marcus asked,” she lies.
He doesn't call her a liar, doesn't say anything at all, just pulls her closer, licks into her mouth, swallows her barely-audible sigh. Her fingers crush the collar of his shirt, and he only has a moment to spare a thought for the fact that Marcus’ bedroom doesn't have a door before she climbs into his lap.
It's not without significant regret that he says, “House rules, gotta keep it PG.”
“Did you honestly think,” she whispers into his mouth, hands on his shoulders, “That I was going to go anywhere more scandalous than right here with your son right there?”
Hand curling around the back of her neck, he tugs her back in for a jarring kiss, knows he shouldn't because he knows it makes her whine, and true to form, she does , and it probably shouldn't turn him on that she's trying so hard to quiet it. When her hips start to roll, torturously slow, he hisses, “That's not PG.”
“Sorry,” she says without sounding it at all. Her hands trail down his chest then back up, and she messes with the buttons of his shirt before she muses, “The bathroom has a door with a lock. That would justify at least a bump to PG-13.”
Heat stutters through him at her words and he laughs, “I'm not mad about it but who are you and what have you done with Elizabeth?”
“If you don't want to…” she trails off, sitting up and dragging her thumb against the grain of his beard at the underside of his jaw. “I mean, I'd totally understand,” she says, but there's a glint of a challenge in her eyes.
“I didn't say that,” he replies, grabbing her hips and yanking her closer, “I just didn't see this coming.”
“It's just--” she pauses, seems to mull it over, and suddenly her face colors and she chokes on a laugh. “I like it--you being a dad.” Then, frowning, she adds, “Watching you being a good dad.”
Sitting back until his shoulders hit the back of the couch, he only breathes, “Huh.”
“That's what you're going with, I'm--”
Standing, and picking her up in the process pretty effectively cuts her off, and he kisses her hungrily as her feet find the floor. “Could go for R,” he suggests offhandedly, fingers tangling with hers as he fairly drags her to the bathroom.
“Mm, try NC-17,” she counters, leaning back against the door and locking it with one hand as the other slips down his stomach.
“What's the difference?” he asks distractedly, working at the buttons of his shirt and watching her lift her dress up inch by inch.
“Female orgasm,” she giggles breathlessly.
He bites his lip as her thumbs hook into the waistband of her panties, but as she drags them down her hips, then her thighs, she lets the skirt of her dress fall. Frustrated--he wants to see --he surges forward for a bruising kiss that's more teeth than anything else, and she lets out a choked little moan that she barely cuts off. He pulls back, cupping her jaw and pressing the pad of his thumb to her swollen lower lip and says, “Think you can be quiet for me? I need you to be quiet, Elizabeth.”
Both because he doesn't wanna scar his kid and because he does wanna hear her try. Eyes wide and dark and hot, she stares up at him and nods slowly enough that she doesn't dislodge his thumb.
“That's good,” he murmurs, voice hoarse.
For a long moment, he just looks at her, eyes lingering over the flush creeping down her throat and the curve of her breasts and the panties around her ankles, but he can't do that forever, needs to touch her. The way she's looking up at him, watching him, he knows he could fuck her against the door--can almost feel her weight and the hold her thighs would have around him--and he wants to, but another idea comes to mind that makes his mouth go dry. Hands going for her hips, he pulls her forward until they're chest-to-chest and turns to press her back into the vanity. She arches up to kiss him, open-mouthed and messy, and he could get lost in it, he really could, and he has to remind himself he'd had a plan . He grins, all sharp edges, at the noise she makes when he twists her around--quiet and surprised and desperate--and he thinks the way she plants both hands on the countertop and rocks back into him is meant probably at least a little as punishment. He buries is groan into the back of her neck as he fists his hand in the slippery-light fabric of her dress to wrench it up.
“God-- God--” she whimpers, breathing staccato, as he strokes his hands over her bared ass, her hips.
“Rio's good, you ain't gotta--”
“That joke is never funny,” she chokes, meeting his gaze in the mirror. “Please, I just--I want you to--”
He could make her say it, knows she's got a surprisingly filthy imagination and knows the way her cheeks go scarlet as she tells him what she wants, but he needs it just as badly, can't drag it out. For a moment, the only noises are their breathing and the sound of his zipper as he pulls it down, and their eyes are still locked and--
There's a quick knock at the bathroom door followed by the rattle of the knob being tried before a drawn out, “Dad, are you almost done? I gotta pee.”
“Shit,” he hisses, yanking back as he catches her horror-stricken reflection. He's righting his clothes as he calls, “Yeah, pop, just a minute.”
“This was a monumentally bad idea,” she laughs quietly, darting into his space to peck him on the lips as she takes over buttoning his shirt.
“Yeah, who's idea was that again?”
When they're about as decent as they're gonna get, he shoots a quick glance her way before opening the door to a bleary-eyed first grader. For several beats, no one says anything, but then Marcus asks, “Dad, why's Miss Elizabeth in there with you?”
“Just,” he hesitates, ignoring her look of panic, “Showing her how we wash our hands, can't be too clean, right?”
The stare she's giving him now that he's pretending to ignore seems to say, incredulously, that she's gonna kill him. As she passes him, pausing to tell Marcus goodnight again, she mutters, “I'm gonna go get changed. In your closet.”
Somehow, she makes the words sound like an indictment, but she touches his hand on her way so he assumes she's more embarrassed than angry. By the time Marcus pees, washes his hands, and is seen safely off to sleep again, she's made herself at home in his bed, sitting up against the pillows with her legs crossed.
“Kids,” she says dismissively when he sits next to her, “Better than a cold shower.”
He can't help it, he laughs, barely stifling it enough not to wake up Marcus again. “So, we learned today--”
“That open concept loft apartments are evil?”
“That we gotta keep it PG.”
Worrying her lower lip, she shrugs, “That too.” Then, switching gears, she shoves herself further down the bed and curls toward him on her side. She stares up at him, expectant, until he does the same, and she turns her head into the touch when he strokes down her cheek. She opens her mouth like she's going to say something but closes it without a word and instead reaches for him until they're tangled in each other and the comforter.
It's not until he thinks she's fallen asleep that he hears, “Breakfast better be amazing.”
He snorts, nose buried in the top of her head.