026; real life

162 14 18

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"My parents called," Awsten starts off hesitantly, "they wanna fly out with my sister and meet you and the twins. I asked them to let me talk to you about it before they went booking any flights but it looks like they already had their plans before they even called. And Geoff, Otto, Jawn, and Lucas all wanna come too. I'm trying to keep the visits spaced out but it's like they're trying to have a party with them all flooding in at once. I can try to get them to wait if you want some more time to settle in but...I like the idea of you meeting my family if you're up for it."

"How soon do they want to come?" Thea asks nervously, shifting Skye in her arms as the baby slowly starts calming down from crying over nothing and looking over to Awsten.

"My parents and sister are looking at a flight out next week Monday and staying a week, maybe two. Geoff and Jawn are looking to come together next week Wednesday, then Otto's looking towards either Thursday or Friday 'cause he can't make Wednesday. They all wanna stay a week. Lucas is working so he'll just be passing through the Tuesday after next. Is that okay with you?"

"What if they don't like me?" Thea inquires with a frown, clearly worried. Awsten laughs quietly, shaking his head and walking behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder, looking down at Skye cradled in Thea's arms.

"What if they don't like you?" he asks back in amusement, a little smile on his face. "Oh, darlin', the only reason they wouldn't like you is 'cause they love you. And that's exactly what I'm expecting. They're gonna see you, all perfect and amazing like you always are, and they're gonna wonder how a dork like me got with a girl like you, and how I managed to help make two wonderful little baby girls. And y'know what I'm gonna tell them when they ask me all of that?" He pauses, laying a gentle kiss on Thea's neck. "Y'know how I'm gonna answer their questions? I'm gonna tell them I have no idea, not a single one, that I have no idea what someone like you is doing with someone like me and I have no idea how I ended up with two lovely little baby girls with that same wonderful, amazing, perfect person and that they should let me know if they ever figure it out themselves."

"Hm, and why don't you just ask me? 'Cause I'd tell you that you're actually a lot more perfect and amazing and wonderful than you give yourself credit for, even if you are a total dork. You're a charming dork," she tells him, leaning her head back against him and closing her eyes, making sure to keep a careful hold on Skye.

"She's starting to fall asleep," Awsten mumbles, looking down at Skye. "She sleeps better when she's being held."

"Mhm," Thea agrees quietly. "She just likes being held."

"Oh, yeah," Awsten responds with a nod, "my mom will love that, she's probably gonna hold her as much as she can. Skye'll probably love it too though."

"Oh, she'll be thriving on all that attention," she comments, smiling as she lays down the now sleeping Skye in her little bassinet by the bed. "As if she doesn't already get enough from us and Elijah and Sam and everyone else who's been by since we've been home. She just loves the spotlight, huh?"

"Which one of us d'you think she gets that from?" he teases, laying down and grabbing Thea's hand to gently pull her towards the bed with him. She goes easily, laying down and cuddling against his side. "I think she gets it from you."

"Says the one who plays on stages in front of thousands of people for a living," she retorts playfully, "she's got it on both sides then, huh?"

"Guess so..." he agrees, trailing off thoughtfully. He pauses before carrying on, changing the topic. "Y'know, way back before I left for Slam Dunk when I bought us breakfast with some money from my little stash of money?"

"Mhm," Thea hums, unsure of why Awsten is bringing it up.

"C'mon, I wanna show you something," he decides, getting up and holding his hand out for her. She takes his hand after getting off the bed and they leave the sleeping twins alone for now, careful to leave the door open in case they wake up crying.

They head to one of the living rooms nearest their room and Awsten motions for Thea to sit down on the couch. Not really sure where this is going, Thea decides to just go along with it for now and sits down. Awsten grabs five of the throw pillows from his old apartment and sets them down on the couch before sitting down with the pillows between himself and Thea. He grabs the first one and unzips it, carefully sliding one of his hands in and working his way through the fluff of the pillow before pulling his hand back out with a stack of cash.

"It was...hiding away money was a habit I picked up when I was with Emily," he starts off hesitantly, setting down the rather impressive collection from just one of the five pillows. "It was my, uh...safety net, I guess. I kept it and hid it away and told myself that I'd take it and Jet and whatever else I could manage to take and leave and start over if things ever got to the point where I felt like I couldn't stay with her anymore. She found where I hid it once and...yeah, it wasn't pretty moment. But I found a new hiding place after that and built it up again and then, when I finally did leave, I had that to bring with me to LA. And I've kept it and kept building it up ever since, my runaway fund. I could always count on being able to just pick up and leave if things got too bad to handle as long as I had this. I never told anyone where it was. Not Elijah or Geoff or anyone in my family-most of them don't even know it was ever or a thing, or that it still is, or why, or...anything, really."

Awsten pauses again, trying to reign in his thoughts as they travel a little too far down the road of the day Emily found where he used to keep the money hidden. Thea holds his hands, a silent reassurance to him. He takes a deep, shaky breath before carrying on.

"When Emily came to LA, I was gonna use this money to go to New York and get an apartment out there...and then when we started becoming something, even just friends again after the whole thing with Emily showing up 'cause I knew we were headed towards being more than just friends, I kept it 'cause I was scared you'd be like her and turn on me outta nowhere. And then...what happened between us after Slam Dunk, I dipped into that to get myself back into therapy. I haven't touched it since then, but I've kept it because I think-and this isn't 'cause of you at all, this is just all the stuff left over...but I think it's because I've still been scared. I've still wanted an assured, quick, easy way out just in case, 'cause I was scared. And, in a lot of ways, I still am scared, but I trust you and I don't wanna hide things from you. I wanna use some of this money to put a down payment on a new car, something safer than what I have now for when I drive around with the twins in the car. And, the rest of it I'm gonna set aside in a bank account, and I wanna put both our names on that account and, after I've finally asked you to marry me, that account will have the money we use for our wedding."

"You don't have to," she assures him quietly, "if you feel safer keeping it, keep it."

"I don't need it anymore, not in that way, at least. I don't need it to feel safe. I have you and I love you and I want you to know that I'm all in. No secret runaway funds. I don't think...I know you won't do what she did. The, uh, the paranoia is still around but that's not you, that's something I'm working on. But I know you're not her. I know you're not gonna do what she did. See, when I told you about all this right now, you didn't get angry with me. When she found it, I got hell for it. You don't give me that like she would've. I trust you. I don't need this anymore."

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