A/N: This came to me as I was sitting in the freezing cold paying for parking this morning. I'm not usually a Fili girl, but a recent convo with kkolmakov (whose work you should really check out) got me on a Fili kick. Don't worry, this won't interfere with my update of my other story :D By the way, everything is owned by Tolkien except the title which is a lyric from a Garth Brooks song.


The first time she saw him, he was dropping his three daughters off at the daycare while she was dropping her two boys off. They were young, the littlest probably not more than ten months old, and all three shared his thick golden blond hair. The air of sadness and despair over him was almost tangible, and the children all cried as he left them, the second youngest wailing and screaming brokenheartedly. She thought they must just be just starting at daycare, maybe their mother going back to work after staying home until they were finished having children. She saw barely withheld tears in his eyes as he reluctantly exited the facility. As she walked to her car after her sons ran into the group, ready to play, she saw him standing beside his van, his head leaning against the window on the passenger side, holding a diaper bag. She couldn't help but approach him, as his van was parked right next to her car and she had to sneak past him to get into her door. She considered crawling through the passenger side to avoid an awkward encounter but thought it might be stranger than if she interrupted him.

The snow crunched under her boots as she approached, alerting him of her presence. "Sorry," she mumbled. "I just need …" She gestured to her car door. She trailed off as she saw the tears streaming down his cheeks. She noticed the dark shadows under his eyes and the pale sheen of his skin, looking as though he'd been unwell lately.

"Oh, sorry," he mumbled, turning away to put the diaper bag in the van and let her pass.

As she fumbled with the keys to her car, she felt she needed to say something. "It gets better," she said, turning to him. He looked down at the ground instead of at her but paused. "It'll get easier, to leave them. This is a good place, but it's heartbreaking at first. Every parent goes through it."

He laughed at her words, a cold unkind laugh, staring at the ground. He nodded once before slamming the van door shut and walking around to the driver's side. She stood watching as he threw the van into gear and sped out of the parking lot.

She didn't see him again for a long while after that. They were on different schedules, and she saw his girls there every morning when she dropped her boys off. She next daw him at the daycare Christmas party ten months later. Her boys loved the daycare Christmas party. They dragged her to the ball pit and demanded that she watch them try to surf over the surface. She wondered how many kids had already peed in the pit, blocking out the thought and hoping her kids wouldn't be one of them.

She saw his blond hair first, long and thick, hanging free over his shoulders. He was standing with his back to her and was holding his toddler in his arms, watching the two older girls get their faces painted. One was a cat, and the other a butterfly. He turned his face to the youngest he was holding in his arms, and she saw he looked happier, healthier than when she'd first seen him. She smiled at his youngest, stroking his finger over her cheek as he asked her a question. She nodded, and he put her on the floor where she stood beside him holding his hand while gnawing on a cookie.

"Mom!" her youngest yelled. "Mom! You're not even watching!" he shrieked over the jumble of voices. Several parents turn to glance at her. Leave it to her youngest to be able to yell loudly enough to drown out even the loudest conversation in the room.

She turned back to him, watching as he attempted a backflip off a platform into the ball pit, succeeding in an awkward twisted belly flop. She clapped and cheered loudly, and he grinned at her, waving. She noticed two blond headed girls with faces painted jump into the pit as well. Eyeing her loud son warily as he made a loud war cry and pretended to karate chop his older brother, they joined hands and moved to the other side of the pit away from the hyper boys, where they tried to float on the balls on their backs, giggling to each other as they glanced back at her boys, who now have each other in headlocks.

"Hey!" she said, in a tone that is unmistakable. "Knock it off." Her boys conceded begrudgingly before deciding to race from one side of the pit to the other, laughing at their impeded progress from the balls.

"Always looking for trouble," a low voice said close behind her. "My brother and I were the same way."

She turned to see him standing there, smiling as he watched her oldest son body check the youngest and try to push his head under the balls.

"Always!" she sighed, smiling at him. He held the toddler again, whose entire face and hands were covered in sticky crumbs from the cookies, which she'd smearing over her dad's grey t-shirt and mashed into his hair.

She tried not to gaze at the way his t-shirt clings to his hard muscled chest, pulling her eyes away as she felt a blush stain her cheeks.

"I never thanked you," he said.

"Sorry?" she asked, her thoughts pulled away from her salacious thoughts.

"I never thanked you, for your kind words that day in the parking lot." His blue eyes sought hers. She noticed the dark shadows were gone and his skin had a healthy glow to it.

"Oh! That's ok. I haven't even seen you!" She blushed again, realizing she had given away that she'd been looking for him. "I mean, I know how hard it is. When I first left my boys at daycare, I sat sobbing in my car for a month."

He nodded. "Well, I was a bit rude, and I've always felt bad for that. But I never see you, and so I never got a chance to apologize or explain."

"That's absolutely fine," she said. "There is no apology or explanation necessary." She smiled, hoping to put him at ease. Her smile gave way to a cringe as she heard her oldest yell in pain. Turning, she saw her youngest punch her oldest in the side of the head, and the oldest was shielding his ear, unwilling to fight back because he didn't want to hurt his younger brother.

"Hey!" she yelled. "That's it. Out of there now!" The two boys made their way to the edge of the pit and climbed out. They argued loudly as they moved to their mother's side. She pulled one to either side of them, tightly grasping their shoulders to hold them still.

"These are my boys," she said. "Jason," she nodded to the older, "and Joel."

He smiled down at them. "And your name?" he asked.

"Oh! Jenna … Wilson." His blue eyes danced at her as she smiled.

"Mrs. Jenna Wilson?" he asked. Was he flirting with her?

"Uh, no, Dr. Jenna Wilson." She looked down at her sons as she blushed, purposely misunderstanding his question.

"Well, Dr. Jenna Wilson, I'm Phil, and this is my youngest daughter, Clarissa. Those," he nodded towards the two blond heads in the ball pit, "are my older two, Abby and Emma."

She nodded. "Well, you have a beautiful family." She squeezed her son's shoulders. "Should we get going?"

Her youngest looked up at her. "Mom, can we have popcorn when we get home?"

"We'll see," she said, starting to push them through the throng to the doors. "It was nice meeting you," she said, smiling up at him. He only stood a couple inches taller than she was, but he had broad shoulders and a wide chest that gave the impression of size.

"You too," he said. The toddler had fallen asleep on his shoulder.

She didn't see him again until the following year's Christmas party. Her boys were arguing. The youngest had just kicked the oldest in the shin because the oldest wouldn't let the youngest play with his new toy car. "You guys aren't off to great start," she said. "Keep this up and we're out of here."

"But Mooom," the oldest whined. "It's not my fault. He kicked me!"

"And it won't kill you to share with him and let him play for a few minutes," she said. Then she looked at the youngest, "And if I see you even thinking of kicking or hitting or biting or anything else that hurts another person, we are leaving immediately." The youngest stared at his feet, sniffling.

"Hi," a voice said behind her. She turned to see him standing there. He was alone.

"Hi," she echoed, looking up at him. She was surprised to feel her stomach lurch.

"Mom, can we go play?" her oldest asked.

"Fine," she said turning to her boys. "But no fighting." She gave them a stern look.

She watched them leave as they headed towards the bouncy toy. She heard him chuckle, a deep warm sound that seemed to erupt from deep within him. "There goes trouble," he said.

She sighed and shook her head. "They seem to be fighting all the time lately." She turned to him. "Where are your girls?" she asked.

He nodded towards the finger painting station. The toddler had grown a lot in the past year and was being watched over by her two older sisters as they sat smearing paint together. "Why can't mine get along like that?" she asked longingly.

He shook his head. "It's not always like this." Turning to her, "Do you want to sit down, maybe have some coffee?"

She looked at him surprised. "Sure," she said. "As long as I stay within sight."

He nodded. "Same. How about I go get some coffee, and you stay here in charge of keeping a watch on everyone?"

She nodded, and sat down at a table near the play area, keeping her eye on his blond girls and, with more difficulty, her busy boys. She wondered at the message the difference in their behaviour said about gender stereotypes as she watched her sons pick up two foam bat and start beating each other with them. Maybe it was parenting, and she started to wonder at the inadequacy of her parenting, resulting in her boys' rambunctious behaviour. She stared longingly at the three blond girls sitting calmly together finger painting, wishing for only a moment to have that kind of stillness and peace in her life. She felt a pang of guilt at the thought, knowing that she would never change her boys for anything in the whole world. She wouldn't mind a little break though.

He sat down across from her, two steaming cups of coffee in his hand. She took hers gratefully and said, "There was a time when I would never have had any caffeine after two pm." He smiled at her and pushed his hair back from his face. She noticed a flash of pink on the end of a long braid that stemmed from the nape of his neck. "I like your hair," she smiled, nodding at the braid.

He looked down and smiled sheepishly. "They wanted to braid my hair, and I told them they could if it was somewhere hard to see. I didn't anticipate the pink bead though," he laughed. "But they'd notice if I took it out."

She liked his smile, the way it lit up his face and made his blue eyes crinkle and dance.

They sat in silence for a few moments, watching their children.

"So, uh, what are you a doctor of?" he asked suddenly.

"What?" she looked confused.

"Last time I saw you, you introduced yourself as doctor."

"Oh," she blushed, remembering how she evaded his question about her marital status. "Uh, well, I'm a dermatologist."

"Do you have long hours?" he asked.

"No, not really. It's a specialty that lets me work regular days and be home on time to pick up my kids. Sometimes they have long days at daycare, but I'm able to be home every night."

"Their dad isn't able to pick them up ever?"

"Uh, no, he doesn't live here," she said, glancing up at him before staring into her coffee.

"Ahhh," he said, and silence fell upon them again.

"What about you?" she asked suddenly. "I've never seen you here with the girls' mother."

He shook his head. "No, she passed away, two years ago."

"Oh, I'm sorry" she said, and suddenly remembered the first time she'd seen him. "That day in the parking lot …"

He nodded, "It had only been eight weeks, and they'd never had to go to daycare before. She'd been a stay at home mom, and I couldn't take any more time off work."

She looked at him sadly. "That must have been so hard."

He nodded. "It was, but we're doing okay." He looked over at his daughters and smiled before looking down at his coffee.

She impulsively asked. "Do you want to get together sometime? Like everyone? Maybe an afternoon, or come over for supper?"

He raised his eyebrows at her. "Sure," he shrugged. "Maybe our kids will like each other."

"Okay, when?" she asked.

He shrugged again. "Anytime works, we are pretty flexible. How about this Saturday? You three can come over for pizza night." He grinned at her.

Saturday rolled around, and she found herself more nervous than she expected, realizing she wasn't clear on the purpose of this get together. She found herself wondering what she should wear. At first she had a tshirt on, but then she found a spaghetti stain on it. Then she put on a black cardigan and blouse, but all she could see was her deep cleavage and felt like it was inappropriate. She settled on a white button down shirt and jeans, hoping she wasn't badly dressed.

Their kids didn't get along too badly. The oldest girl organized them all in a game, and then her oldest son got them all to play a rowdier game that the girls seemed to enjoy as well.

She sat talking with him in the kitchen, hands wrapped around mugs of coffee.

"You have a beautiful home," she said, glancing around the cheerful kitchen.

"Thanks," he said. "It can get pretty crazy at times."

"Trust me, you haven't seen crazy until you've been to my house on a Friday. By the time we make it through the week, there's no food, and it looks like there were several explosions. Sometimes I wonder why I spend the weekend trying to clean it up when it's just going to look like that again right away."

They sat talking as their kids played. He was a welder and worked early shifts, which was why she never saw him dropping off or picking up his kids.

"How long have you been separated?" he asked.

"Divorced," she corrected. "Five years. He left shortly after my youngest was born."

She looked at him before continuing, knowing the children in the other room couldn't hear her. "Our first was an accident, embarrassing I know. How many people get accidentally pregnant in this day and age? So we'd only been dating for a few weeks but decided to make a go of it. We had our second soon after. They're only a year apart. And then he suddenly decided this wasn't what he wanted, that it was interfering with work too much. So he moved to Vancouver, and we almost never see him."

"I'm sorry," he said, looking as though he was going to reach for her hand but pulling back. She shrugged. "I just feel bad for them because they don't understand. He pops up every now and then, which confuses things even more. I'm just glad that he left early, though, before they knew what it was like to have him around all the time."

He nodded as she took a breath, looking around the kitchen and seeing a framed photograph of a laughing blond woman. She gazed at it for a moment. "Is that your wife?" she asked, hoping she wasn't intruding with the question.

He looked at the picture and nodded.

"She was beautiful."

He nodded again. "She really was. That's how I like to remember her. She was so sick in the end, ovarian cancer, that it wasted her body. I like to remember her like that, laughing and full of life."

This time it was her turn to reach for his hand, and she didn't stop herself. They sat for a few moments, before he ventured a joke. "Well, aren't we a happy pair?"

She smiled and laughed, just as her youngest son came barreling into the kitchen. "Mom! They have fish and this HUGE fish tank! You HAVE to come see it NOW!" He started pulling her hand, and they went into the basement to look at the fish.

As they were leaving, he turned to her. "What are you doing for Christmas Eve?"

"Oh, umm, well we don't have any family here, so we are going to just hunker down with a movie ..."

"Transformers!" her oldest shouted.

"… Transformers," she corrected, "and some Christmas fettuccini I guess. What about you?"

"Well, my family is coming over, my mom, brother, and uncle, and we have this tradition every year of getting together for Chinese food Christmas Eve. I was wondering, I mean, you could bring Transformers here if you wanted?" He stopped, looking at her hopefully.

"Well, we wouldn't want to intrude," she said.

"We'd love it." His oldest daughter stood beside him and nodded enthusiastically.

"Well, sure, that sounds good then."

"Great, we'll see you in a few days then!" He waved as they made their way to their car.

"Mom, can we get fish?" her youngest asked, pulling on her coat.

"No, honey, but you'll get to see these fish again in a few days." He pouted on the way home.

Christmas Eve came, and they arrived at his door. She felt a flash of anxiety wondering what his family would think of her. A short woman with a laughing face and brown hair pulled untidily into a bun answered the door. "Hi! Come on in!" she said, cheerfully ushering them into the entrance.

Her youngest started kicking off his boots and coat, throwing them onto the floor in a heap before running down the basement stairs to look at the fish. "Hey!" she said, trying to get him to come back to put his coat away.

"Let him go," the woman said. "I can take care of this." She smiled as she picked up the discarded coat and boots.

"I'm Diane," she said, "Phil's mom. We've heard so much about you."

"Have you?"

"Oh yes," she smiled. "You boys sound exactly how mine were when they were growing up. So much energy. Lord knows how I survived!"

Phil came down the stairs. "Hi," he said as his mom went down to the basement to check on the kids. "Sorry I couldn't get the door. I was on the phone ordering Chinese."

He moved towards her, and she realized he was coming in to kiss her on the cheek. She felt her face flush. "Merry Christmas," he murmured as his beard grazed her skin.

"Merry Christmas," she said, realizing her heart was pounding in her chest.

Taking a breath, she said, "Your mom is really nice, so friendly." She smiled, hoping to buy time to cool her body's response to his kiss.

"Thanks," he said. "She was really looking forward to meeting you. Come up and meet everyone else."

He guided her into the room where two men were sitting shouting at the football game on TV.

"Hey guys! This is Jenna!" he shouted over the noise. They both turned instantly and moved towards her. His brother different from him in every way, tall, narrowly built, short dark tousled hair. His uncle was a mix of the two, stocky, piercing blue eyes, and long flowing dark hair. They greeted her warmly before turning back to the television.

"There's only a minute left," he explained as she guided her to the kitchen.

"You can go watch," she said.

"That's ok. They'll tell me how it ended." He grinned at her warmly.

The game ended amidst shouts and groans from the living room before his brother came barrelling into the kitchen to get a beer. Her oldest son walked into the kitchen and whispered, "Mom, can we watch transformers now?"

"Transformers?" Phil's brother said before she could respond. "That is by far the best movie ever. Bring it up here and we'll watch it on the big screen."

The rest of the evening was spent visiting and listening to Phil's brother wrestle with the boys and girls. He was like a big kid of his own. She enjoyed relaxing with the adult conversation and found she liked his family very much.

He phoned her the next day to wish her Merry Christmas. There was an awkward pause before he asked, "I was wondering if I could take you to dinner?"

Her heart leapt into her throat and she had to take a moment before choking out, "Sure! I'd like that."

"Great," he sounded relieved. "Would tomorrow night be too soon?"

She paused, wondering who she could get to sit for her on Boxing Day.

"My mom and brother would take care of your boys if you'd like to bring them here," he added.

"That would be great," she said. "They'd love that." She cringed, realizing she could have said she'd like it too.

She arrived at the door with her sons. They could hardly contain their excitement at seeing Phil's brother again and burst through the door before it was fully open, dumping their boots and coats on the floor before jumping on the dark haired brother.

He ushered her out the door before she could intervene, his mother shouting after, "Don't rush home!"

She found dinner painful because of her intense attraction to him. He looked amazing in his dark jeans and sweater which stretched tantalizing over his broad chest. After an hour of awkward conversation, which was unusual for them, he looked at her and said, "Do you want to get out of here?"

"Desperately," she breathed.

They went to her place, and she was relieved that she had spent the day cleaning and tidying, hoping in the back of her mind the evening would end here.

They stripped their clothes the minute they were inside the door. They kissed hungrily, only breaking apart to remove sweaters, as they clumsily made their way to her bedroom. They collapsed onto the bed with laughter. He kissed her neck before capturing his breasts in his mouth, and she arched into him, moaning as he bit her nipple lightly. Wrapping her legs around his waist, she rolled them so that she was straddling him. She gazed down into his eyes, her fingers exploring the broad chest that she had been fantasizing about for so long. She leaned over to rummage in her bedside table before pulling out a condom, which she expertly fit onto him. She leaned over him for a kiss, and pulled him up into a sitting position, her hands tangled in his long blond hair. They both groaned as she lowered herself onto him. After stopping for a moment in blissful fullness, she rocked his hips, making him moan deeply. She rocked her hips again, setting a slow agonizing rhythm, his blue eyes gazing up at her pleadingly.

With a growl he rolled them over. She gasped as he fit into her even more deeply, wrapping her legs around him as he claimed her mouth. He withdrew completely before plunging into her again. She cried out and her head fell back. He thrust into her rhythmically, her hips coming up to meet his as they both groaned with pleasure and need. He dropped his hand between her legs. Her orgasm ripped through her harshly as she cried out into his mouth. He followed her soon after, groaning as she held him tightly to her.

He collapsed over her as they lay on the bed gasping for breath.

"Ohh," she said finally. "It's been way too long."

"Same," he said, only able to speak in single syllables.

He moved off of her and disposed of the condom. He returned to the bed where they moved together, wrapping their arms around each other contently.

"What are you doing for New Years?" she asked.