by Kass


My first offering in this fandom! I hope it pleases.

Many thanks to Bone for the beta!

Tami didn't slam the door when they got in, because Gracie was sleeping in her carrier, but she did call, "Honey, we're home!" maybe a little louder than she really needed to.

"Heard the car pull up," Eric said from the next room. Sounded like he was gritting his teeth.

"Mm, noises still bothering you?"

He came out of the kitchen holding a cup of coffee like it was something holy. "Little bit," he admitted.

"Hi Dad, bye Dad, I'm going to Tyra's to study Geometry," Julie said, breezing past them toward her room.

"Need me to give you a ride?" Eric called. They could hear Julie's snort through the half-closed door.

"Looking like that? Are you kidding me?"

Tami couldn't help a little laugh.

"You hear that?" He shook his head.

"She kinda has a point," Tami said.

"Tyra'll be here in a sec, I'm gonna wait outside, see you at dinnertime," Julie said, emerging in jeans and an oversized sweatshirt. Hair pulled back, big silver hoop earrings, backpack over one shoulder. She flashed a quick bright smile at her mother as she left.

"Bye, hon," Tami said, as the door closed.

Julie did have a point; Eric looked like hell. "You look terrible," Tami said. His right eye was ringed with purple and the cheekbone beneath it was red, all scraped up. So was one side of his jaw. Lip a little puffy. If he hadn't brought it all on himself, she might've felt sorry for him.

"Feel almost as good as I look." He gestured to the couch. "C'mon, sit."

Tami put the baby carrier down on the coffee table and sat facing him, her knees pulled up toward her chest. She kicked off her sandals and tucked her toes under his thigh.

"You ought to put some ice on that," she said.

"Had a bag of frozen peas on it all morning," Eric said. He took a long gulp of coffee, then put the cup down.

"We've hardly been gone two hours," Tami said. "And you weren't exactly moving when we left."

"Well, I put ice on it after I got out of the shower. That specific enough for you?"

"I guess," Tami said mildly. They sat there for a second, but she couldn't hold back: she had to ask. "You mind telling me exactly what you were thinking?"

"Do we really have to," Eric began, and Tami talked right over him.

"Oh, yes, we do," she said. "Susan Gill asked me this morning where you were, and Josie Morales did, too. Both of 'em with a look on their face that said they knew exactly what happened last night. This is a small town, honey, and I'm willing to bet the news of your little dust-up with Mo is gonna be on Panther Radio tomorrow."

Eric scrubbed a hand through his hair. "Look," he said, finally. "I don't like Mo McArnold. I have never liked Mo McArnold."

"Don't you blame this on him like you didn't have anything to do with it."

"I didn't like the way he treated you in high school, and I don't like the way he treats you now."

"What?" Tami gave him a little shove with her toes, just because she could. "He was a perfect gentleman all week, right up until the two of you started drinking."

"That's just it."

"You don't want him to be nice to me?"

"I don't like him breezing into town with his money and his fancy car and his hospital benefit and his helicopter rides, acting like —"

"Like he's glad to see me?" She let the dangerous edge back into her voice, because honestly, this was ridiculous.

"Like he wants to make damn sure you realize what kinda life you could've had if you'd stuck with him!"

Okay, that was not what Tami had been expecting to hear. Maybe it should've been. "That's what this is about?"

"He probably has some big ol' ranch out in the hill country, and a house on LBJ," Eric said morosely. "Maid service. Vacations in the south of France."

"You think I care about all that?"

"You've been saying we ought to take a vacation," Eric pointed out.

"And I'm right, but that's another conversation." Tami took a deep breath. "It has been nice to see Mo."

"He cheated on you!"

"That was a million years ago," Tami said, unable to keep from sounding exasperated. "Honey, I walk around this town carrying Gracie Belle without an ounce of makeup on. Half my clothes smell like spitup and the other half haven't been ironed in months. You have to understand, it's...nice to feel appreciated."

"I don't make you feel appreciated?" Eric looked genuinely wounded.

Tami gave a little shrug. "You do, kinda. Most of the time. I don't figure I'm any better about it than you are."

"Huh." That wasn't exactly agreement, but it wasn't disagreement either.

"You do know it doesn't matter how much money he has. He doesn't have our daughters." That brought a little smile to Eric's face, as if he couldn't help it. "And you might remember that all those years ago? I chose you."

"You did, didn't you," Eric said. He was looking down, but he was smiling for real now, long eyelashes dark against his bruised face.

Tami's frustration melted away. She pulled her feet out from under his legs and stretched them over his lap; Eric put one big warm hand on her calf and just left it there, thumb stroking back and forth.

"Well, look on the bright side," she said after a minute. "I don't figure he'll ask us out to dinner again."

Eric laughed, at that, wincing because the movement was obviously painful but laughing anyway. "I imagine you're right."

There was a pause.

"I'm sorry I don't say it often enough," and he was looking right at her now, and everything Tami saw in his eyes made her heart swell. "But I am the luckiest man in the world."

"You are," she agreed.

"And you are the wisest, most beautiful, sexiest mother of two there has ever been."

"That's laying it on a little thick, don't you think?"

Eric tilted his head slightly, like he was considering it. "Nope."

She swung her legs down and scooted along the couch to sit right beside him. "Stupid macho posturing aside," she said, drawing it out just to see him smile, "I'm pretty lucky too."

They bumped shoulders, gently, before she turned to face him. Their knees tangled as he reached to cradle her face in his hand, to hold her steady as they kissed.

The kiss was tender, and not just because Eric was hurt, though she tasted a hint of blood on his lip. Tami just closed her eyes and sank into his hands, into the meeting of their mouths.

When they pulled apart he looked at her, his expression serious. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

"I know you are," Tami said, and kissed him again.

This time when the kiss broke Eric looked at her sideways, a grin stealing on to his face. "Julie say she wasn't coming back until dinner?"

"She did say that," Tami confirmed. Anticipation rushed along her spine, but she didn't get up. This was too fun; she wanted to draw it out a little. "You got something in mind for the afternoon?"

"I was hoping I could take the prettiest woman in West Central Texas to bed."

"I don't know where you're gonna find her," Tami said, "especially on such short notice, but --"

"How 'bout it, Mrs. Taylor?" Eric stood up and held out his hand, like he was asking her to dance.

Tami stood and picked up sleeping Gracie.

"That a yes?"

"Don't you dare wake this baby up," she said, heading for the bedroom.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Eric said softly, and stood behind her as she placed Gracie in her crib. He kissed the back of Tami's neck and she let her head fall forward, shivering a little at the brush of his lips.

Eric sat on the side of the bed and beckoned her near; as she skimmed off her shirt he reached up to cup her breasts, unhooking her bra and letting it fall open. His expression was reverent and he knew enough by now to steer clear of the places that were tender, ghosting instead along the sides of her breasts and her ribs.

"You don't think we're scarring her for life, letting her see us like this, do you?"

"She's pretty resilient, our little girl," Eric said, leaning back to twist his own shirt up and over his head.

"Oh my God." The words came out unbidden, because now she could see the rest of the bruises. Two on his chest, one on his ribs. Deep in her lizard brain she kind of hoped he'd left Mo with bruises of his own.

"Yeah, you might have to be gentle with me," Eric admitted, scooting back on the bed to push his shorts off his hips.

"You're crazy," Tami said, unzipping her skirt and kicking it and her slip and panties to the floor.

"He didn't even get why I let South Pines score," Eric muttered.

"No sir," Tami said, raising her hands. "We are not bringing that into our bed. You want to talk about Mo some more, I'm getting dressed again."

"Not a word," Eric said hastily.

"You better not." But she was mollified, and besides, he was lying right there, one knee bent, ready for her. Even with the bruises, he was an awfully good-looking man. Hell: he still made her heart pound, and she figured he knew it.

"C'mere," he said, and she went. They kissed for long minutes, lying on their sides, all tangled together.

"I don't want to hurt you," she murmured after a while.

"You won't."

"What do you want?" She nuzzled the side of his neck, carefully.

"You," he said, running a hand down her back to cup her ass. It was an old exchange, and she smiled against his skin.

"I meant right now."

"Want to make you happy," he said.

She'd meant, what kind of sex was he up for? But he had to know that; if he was going to be uninformative and sappy, well — "Lie back," she said, pushing him onto his back, and he went.

They both gasped as she sank down over him. They moved slow and steady, and warmth pooled inside her like honey.

"You are so — damn — beautiful like this," he murmured.

"You're not exactly objective right now," Tami pointed out, and clenched around him, which felt amazing. He bit back a moan. She grinned.

"Not sure I'm ever — objective," he managed, "when it comes to you."

His hands settled on her hips, holding her firm, and Tami ground down against him. "Ohh," she said, and he held her steady and thrust up again. "Oh, yeah." That was good. Too good for words.

"Baby," he murmured, and she wasn't sure whether he meant not to wake Gracie Belle or whether he was talking to her. Didn't matter.

Because then they sped up, and Eric arched beneath her. When he came it brought her over the edge, and for a long minute it seemed her body would never stop.

She must have dozed for a few minutes; she woke to voices.

"I'm'a eat your fingers up," Eric murmured, and the smacking sounds were followed by Gracie's delighted laughter.

Tami rolled over and opened her eyes. There were her husband and her baby girl, in the afternoon sunlight.

"I'm glad she's not afraid of you," she murmured.

"Why would my girl be afraid?" He uncurled her little fist and kissed her palm; Gracie giggled and pulled it away.

"You do look like something the cat brought in," she pointed out.

"Yeah, well, she doesn't know that. And we don't have a cat."

Seeing that Tami was awake, Gracie reached for her, squirming.

"Bet she's hungry," Tami said. "You want to fix us some sandwiches while I feed her?"

"Sure," Eric said, and got out of bed. She admired the lines of his body while he tugged on his cutoff sweatpants. "Grilled cheese okay?"

"Fine by me," Tami said. Eric winced as he bent for his shirt, and she felt compassion and exasperation all woven together again. "If you want to wait until I'm done, I can feed us."

"Nah," he said, though he turned in the doorway to watch them for a second. "I'm good." He turned and walked out, and after a moment she heard a cupboard open, the griddle land on the stove, the fridge door open and close.

"Yeah," she murmured -- to Gracie Belle, to Eric, to the quiet room. "I guess you are."

The End