hail mary.

"Your coach told you what?"

Henry is busy stuffing his face full of pasta as only a pre-teen hitting his hormonal glory days can, tomato sauce splattering the front of his jersey. She sighs and tries to remember where she put the stain sticker detergent (if she even bought it at all) and mentally calculates the time it will take to get this jersey clean before the next game.

"He said I have natural talent on defense." He's practically bouncing in his seat in excitement, and it's the first time since he started playing this stupid sport that he's shown more than a glimmer of real engagement.

(He started because of Neal - because of his father's insistence to ditch the books and be areal man. Henry was so desperate for his father's approval that he had come home that night, begging her to let him play, and god dammit - she couldn't resist those big brown eyes.)

"Defense? Really?"

Henry frowns and his shoulder's drop and she immediately hates herself. She sighs and pops a bit of spinach in her mouth, tilting her head to the side and pressing his pasta bowl closer with her pinky.

"I just meant I can't see you as a lineman." He pokes and prods at his dinner. "Safety, though? Absolutely."

He grins and she smiles in response, the warmth that accompanies each increasingly rare moment of affection from her son anchoring in her chest. The conversation moves to weekend plans and the girl Lily she's caught him texting on and off and she decides to let him run off to his room when his skin turns so red it looks like he's about to burst in flames.

(It take four washes to get the pasta sauce out, but she smiles the whole time, running her thumb over the SWAN stitched across the back and thinking of the little boy who used to climb into her bed at 7am with his book of fairytales - nestled safe in her arms.)

-/-

She's going to kill Neal.

Murder him on the spot, actually.

She takes the turn into the school parking lot at an alarming speed, narrowly missing the curb and jerking to a stop. The two silhouettes at the picnic table closest to the school straighten up at her dramatic entrance, and she's already halfway across the asphalt when they rise to greet her.

"Henry, I'm so sorry. I didn't have my phone and - "

"It's cool, Mom." Henry waves his hand in dismissal and she abruptly shuts her mouth. It isn't like Henry to take his father's shortcomings in such stride. This isn't the first time Neal has forgotten to pick him up from practice, but it is definitely the first time Henry hasn't been in pieces by the time she finally got there.

(Sometimes she wishes they never came back to New York, that they just stayed in Boston and Neal never had the opportunity to find them. But karma is a bitch, and she would have had to pay up in some way, some time.)

"Killian hung out with me." She ruffles his hair with a relieved sigh, turning her attention to the man hanging back by his side, hands deep in his pockets. She gives him a tight grin as she pulls Henry closer, taking in the stubble that covers his cheeks, the lean lines of his body. She doesn't know what she was expecting when Henry described his football coach, but it certainly wasn't this.

(Blue, blue, blue eyes and a soft smile that crinkles his eyes - holy shit.)

"Thank you." She manages in a breathy voice (god) and Henry's eyes narrow in consideration. She rolls her own in response because sometimes the kid is too damn astute for his own good. She coughs to clear her throat (she is not a teenaged girl) and forces a smile. "I'm sorry you had to wait so long, but I appreciate it."

Killian shakes his head after a moment, blinking rapidly and running a hand through his hair. "It's not a problem." Oh, an accent, perfect. "I'm sure Mr. Swan just got caught up, aye?"

She snorts and Henry snickers into her shoulder. At the blank expression Killian tosses the both of them, she hastens to explain. "Oh, no. It's just us. Henry and I. I mean, there's Neal, but we're not - he's not - "

"My parents have never been married. I was an accident when they were stupid teenagers." Henry gives them both a wide grin before turning and heading towards the car, helmet tucked under his arm. "Thanks, Killian!"

There's an awkward silence as they watch Henry climb into the back of the yellow bug and she fidgets, painfully aware of how close he's standing.

"Thank you again." She whispers and he tilts his head to the side, ducking down slightly and peering up at her through his eyelashes. His grin is soft and bashful and the setting sun reflects off the windows of the school, casting them in a dim light that has her fingers itching to card through his hair - see if it's as soft as it look and what the actual fuck is going on?

"It was a pleasure, Ms. Swan." The way his lips wrap around the words makes her stomach do stupid things. He nods a bit and she takes a step backwards. "You have a remarkable boy."

Her car horn honks and he chuckles - a rough, warm sound that goes straight to her belly. Henry is half-leaning out the car, complaining about how hungry he is, and she is grateful for the distraction. She shoves her hands in her back pockets as she backs towards the car and then -

"Mom, can Killian come to Granny's with us?"

Color rises high in Killian's cheeks, rivaling the bright red and oranges that streak the sky with the setting sun. "No, no - I don't want to intrude - "

"Yeah." She cuts him off because fuck it. This man just sat with her son for two hours past the end of practice because his father got to pick him up, again, and she likes the way he smiles. The least she can do is buy him a greasy BLT. "Want to follow us down?"

He blinks, surprised no doubt, and then a slow smile curls the corner of his lips. He nods, taking half a step closer, and her breath catches in her throat.

"Looks like your son is more suited for offense." He murmurs and god - no one should sound like that. She smirks and backs away from his warmth, turning on her heel and walking towards the car.

"See you in ten, Coach."

-/-

(His laugh is warm and rich as he steals fries off Henry's plate, his knee bumping with hers underneath the table and okay - if she stares at him a little too long the next game, if she volunteers for the bake sale just to see what his mouth looks like with pink frosting in the corners, if she happens to kiss said frosting off his lips tucked behind the shed with her fingers in his hair, well then -

- she always did like offense.)