A/N: Sorry for the double post - just a few minor edits. Anyway, this is it - a little sooner than expected, but I'm finally calling time on Koz and Tasha's journey.
I'm going to turn my attention in earnest now to Ink. Although, unlike you lucky people in the US, I've still got quite the wait for Season 4 - so maybe I'll have to indulge in another little project to distract me, if the inspiration hits. Maybe some one-shots or something I can finish up in just three or four parts - those never work out quite like that for me though. Most things tend to turn into sprawling epics, with sequels and off-shoots everywhere lol!
Thank you so much to everyone who's been reading this series though and stuck with it since it all started out with Casting Shadows. I've grown so attached to these two, but I think the time's right to let them go - although, that said, I do hope to finish up Sparks as I hate to leave anything hanging.
For now though, we've jumped six months since the last chapter - but this does start with a flashback. Hope you enjoy!
"You need a man to take care of you – not some fucking has-been with a crocked ... everything!"
"Are you done feeling sorry for yourself?" Tasha demanded, finally running out of patience and rounding on her future husband after the outburst he'd all but spat. "Seriously, Kozik, you're in real danger of turning into a whiny little bitch!"
Shocked out of his sulk, he stared at her wide-eyed with disbelief. "Did you ... did you just call me a bitch?"
And with that, she started to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
"I can't believe you called me a bitch!" he muttered. But he had the good grace to look embarrassed by his earlier hissy-fit.
"Oh baby, I'm sorry," Tasha sighed, trying to wipe the smile off her face. "But honestly, you have been getting kinda hard to deal with lately. Talk to me – I thought your physio was going well? Steve said ..."
"Oh well, if Steve said ..." Kozik groused under his breath.
"Come on, sweetie ..." Tasha coaxed, sitting down on the couch beside him and lifting his still cast-covered arm so she could slip under it. "Is this okay? I'm not hurting you, am I?"
"As if a little thing like you is gonna hurt me," he scoffed, but she could instantly see he was all wounded pride and bruised ego and didn't know why it hadn't occurred to her before.
"Of course not," she nodded, laying her head on his shoulder. One hand resting gently on his broad t-shirt covered chest. "Just checking 'cause I'm kinda tired – I haven't been able to get comfy lately, but this is really nice ..."
Looking down at his pregnant girl in sudden concern, Kozik's grumpy expression softened. She looked exhausted and, combing his fingers through her hair, he swore to himself he'd let her stay there all night if it helped.
"Sorry I'm a moody fucker ..." he said, his tone gruff as he grazed his lips against her forehead. "I shouldn't take this shit out on you. I dunno why you put up with me sometimes ..."
"Because this baby needs a daddy and that's only ever gonna be you," Tasha said softly, taking his hand and guiding it to the swell of her stomach. "Plus, you are so not doing me out of a wedding now ..."
"Minx ..." Kozik growled, but even he had to laugh at her playful teasing. The apology a proper one this time, as his hand rubbed softly on her ever-expanding bump. "I really am sorry, babe – I promise I'll try to be good-"
"Aww, but I like you better when you're bad ..." she pouted. A twinkle in her eye as she cuddled up to him, pressing soft kisses along his stubbled jaw.
"Damn, girl, you need to cut that shit right out 'til I'm in some kinda shape to do something about it – or else you're gonna be helpin' me take a hell of a lot of cold showers," he groaned.
"If that's not incentive to work harder with Steve, I dunno what it," Tasha grinned, trailing off when she saw his face fall. "What is your problem? Is Steve pushing you too hard?" she demanded, inadvertently pissing him off even more.
"Hell no!" Kozik glared. "I can handle whatever that little shit wants to throw at me, okay?"
"Oh, Koz ..." she sighed, starting to get where this was coming from. "Steve's just trying to help, you know that."
"The prick don't know jack, I know that. And I've seen how he looks at you."
"At me? Are you crazy? He doesn't look at me at all!" Tasha laughed.
"You're too trusting to see it," Kozik told her. "Seriously, if I hadn't told him my trigger-finger still works, he'd be all over you like a fucking rash."
"Woah, woah, woah – let me get this straight," Tasha shook her head in disbelief. "You threatened to shoot your physiotherapist?"
"Damn straight. I ain't havin' some pretty-boy jerkwad thinkin' I'm just gonna clear the way for him."
"You didn't stop to think where I might figure in all of this? Dammit, Kozik, how hard did you hit your head?" she groaned. "You really think after everything we've been through together that I'm gonna do a runner with Steve?"
He shrugged, starting to feel a little foolish.
"I might be younger than you, but give me some credit – I'm not some teenage bimbo looking for a ... a ... Steve," she told him. "He's twenty if he's a day and he keeps his brains in his biceps ..."
"And I'm forty and can't make it up the fucking stairs," Kozik muttered gloomily.
"And I, you complete idiot, am thirty and not in the market for a boytoy," Tasha smiled, cupping his handsome but grumpy face in her hands. "Oh, and then there's that small matter of being completely in love with you and being six months pregnant with your baby! Come on, Koz – before this, you were in better shape than guys half your age and you will be again. I'm not gonna put you out to pasture just yet, so don't go all mid-life crisis on me ..."
Laying back against the plump white pillows, it was hard to believe that had only been three months ago – and that three months prior they'd both still been in hospital, in the wake of that showdown with the Calaveras. But the real battle had only started after that. A long, hard fight to get Kozik back to fitness. Back on his bike and down the aisle.
And all while she was carrying his child. The baby that now, at last, lay sleeping safe and sound in her father's arms ...
Carefully cradling his baby daughter in the crook of one arm, Kozik touched a fingertip to her tiny nose in wonder. "Hey, princess – I'm your daddy." Dashing his hand across his eyes as he gazed down at the precious little bundle. Awed by how much something so small could change his life so completely.
"I saw that, tough guy."
Locking eyes with his exhausted but smiling wife, Kozik crossed the room to lay their baby in her arms and press kiss after tender kiss to her lips. "So I love my gorgeous girls, I don't care who knows it," he said, sitting down on the edge of her bed with an easy shrug. "You're incredible, darlin'... I'm so damn proud of you."
Tasha blinked back tears as she cuddled her daughter close, kissing her delicate fingers and caressing the soft blonde down of her hair. "She's beautiful, Koz," she whispered, leaning against him. "Absolutely beautiful."
"Course she is," he grinned, wrapping an arm around her. "Look at her mom and dad ..."
Much as he'd appreciated checking back in with Tacoma, catching up with Deacon and the others, Charming had never looked so good ... Not since the last time he'd returned from a run anyway.
"Daddy, daddy, daddy!"
If one thing always made leaving bearable, it was definitely the welcome he got on his return.
Spotting her father even as he parked his bike with some of her surrogate uncles, six-year-old Lily squealed excitedly and took off across the yard from where she'd been watching like a hawk knowing he had been due any time soon.
Barrelling full tilt towards Kozik, she reached him right as he dropped to his knees - just in time to catch the little girl in his arms and hold her tight. His eyes closed as he cradled her to his chest and dropped kisses on her silky blonde hair.
"Daddy missed you, baby girl," he whispered, giving her another little squeeze before he made her giggle by blowing a loud raspberry on her cheek. "Where's mommy?" But before she could answer, he'd already looked up and spotted her mother watching with a soft smile on her face. Their young son in her arms.
"Hey yourself, gorgeous," he smiled, shifting their daughter into the crook of one arm as he straightened up and headed towards his wife. Loving the sight of her, heavily pregnant as she was with their third baby. Third and last, she'd warned – but he was pretty sure he could talk her round ...
"Give mommy kisses," Lily ordered him, one little hand patting his cheek and making the blonde biker laugh.
"You heard the little lady - pucker up, babe," Kozik grinned, planting his lips on Tasha's in a playful smack. "Now, how's my main man? Hey, buddy." Setting his daughter down and smiling as she grabbed a handful of the leg of his jeans, obviously determined not to let him disappear again, before reaching to take his fourteen-month-old baby boy.
Tasha's heart just about melted as she watched him cuddle their little boy, shifting seamlessly from the tough sergeant his brothers needed to every inch the loving father he was to their kids – Leo babbling excitedly to his daddy, a cute little mini version of him with that unruly tuft of blonde hair and big blue eyes, and Lily beaming up at them both ...
Her family. His reason to come home. Their light in the darkness.