A/N: This takes place a little after the first chapter; Riley and Mark have been dating almost two years, and living together for one :) Enjoy~Meowser
In hindsight, it wasn't even something they should have fought about, but in the heat of the moment, Riley had never been so angry with Mark.
She could barely remember what they were fighting about; there had been an issue with the kids at school and now here they were, in Mark's study with the door locked so none of the kids could hear them.
"I just can't believe you didn't call me," Riley said. "Did you think I wouldn't come?"
"Of course I knew you'd come, but like I said, I got it," he said, a false patience in his voice.
She shook her head. "You aren't her parent, Mark," she said. "My daughter was scared and confused and instead of telling the school to try again, you didn't even tell me what was happening."
"I was closer," Mark said, voice measured. "And I didn't want her alone any longer than she had to be."
"You don't get it," Riley said. "I found out three hours after the fact from a sterile voice mail left by the principal's assistant. I drive to school feeling like I'm losing my mind because Kyle tells me he had no idea about Katie either, and when I get there, she was gone. Picked up by you."
"I already apologized for forgetting to text you," he said. "But in my defense, the school had already tried you and Kyle multiple times and I figured you were just busy."
Riley scraped a hand over her face. She knew that Mark wasn't the enemy here, but her emotions had run over, and she was fraught with tension. They had never really fought like this over parenting, never really had to discuss what the plan was for situations like this, because there had never been one before. "This was just not a good day," she said. "And everything with Katie was icing on the damn cake."
It was Riley's start to an apology. She did regret what she'd said, all of it before the past few minutes.
Mark looked up though, face emotionless. "You don't trust me with Katie," he said, flat out. "Or Travis. That is what this boils down to. I trust you implicitly with Zach, you know that. But at the end of the day, you don't give me the same."
Riley flinched, realizing it was true. They'd been living together for almost a year; together for close to two, but there was a part of her that hadn't opened up to Mark like that. Not yet.
She could see the look on his face, and he wasn't angry anymore, but she could see another emotion there. Disillusionment. Hopelessness.
Her heart dropped. "Mark, I...maybe I don't," she said. "But I'm trying to. You know I have scars from when Kyle left, I can't lie and say that they aren't still with me. But that doesn't mean I don't trust you, just that I-I-"
She didn't even know how to finish that sentence. Mark walked behind his desk, sinking into the chair. "Why don't we take a break from this conversation?" He said simply, and, seeing the look in his face, she left the study. She felt dazed, and she climbed the big front stairs to Katie's room, going to check on her daughter for the third time since she'd been home.
Katie was snuggled in bed, hugging her stuffed rabbit. "Hi, mommy," she said, and Riley sank onto the bed next to her.
"Hey, sweetheart," she whispered, brushing the hair from Katie's forehead. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there this afternoon," she said, and Katie frowned.
"You already said sorry," she replied. "It's okay, Mark came."
"Baby, I know Mark isn't your daddy," Riley began, but Katie interrupted.
"Mommy, I know he isn't," she said earnestly. "But he was nice today. It's okay. I know you and daddy were busy."
Riley felt truly shocked. There had been a time when Katie flat out hated Mark. Even after they'd moved in together, things had been rough with Katie and Mark. Travis had taken it in stride, and while he was definitely still a little stiff around Mark, she could tell he'd accepted Mark's place in their life.
Katie had always been her daddy's girl, though, through and through. "So you were okay when Mark got there?" She asked, still troubled.
Katie nodded. "He fixed my bandaid because he's a doctor," she said. "And he yelled at the nurse for being mean."
"He yelled?" Riley asked, quirking a brow, and Katie giggled.
"He angry talked," she corrected herself. "I told him that she said it was my fault, and he hugged me and said it wasn't."
"Well, he was right," Riley said. "Falling off the swings could have happened to anyone."
"It was scary," Katie admitted, and Riley felt her heart splinter. "But I'm okay now. He got me ice cream on the way home too."
"That's good," Riley whispered. "Listen, baby, why don't you head back to sleep?"
"Okay," Katie said, already yawning. Riley kissed her daughter again, and shut the door carefully behind her, walking slowly back down the stairs. Zach had a playdate today, and Riley had made sure that Linette could pick Travis up for a few hours so that she and Mark could talk.
Now she wasn't sure what she and Mark were talking about. She'd been so angry, but she was humble enough to realize that she'd really been angry with herself. She was so mad she'd missed the call.
Mark had more than stepped up to the plate. He'd left his shift at the hospital for her kid, and he'd gone straight there. His only thought had been Katie's safety.
Riley remembered the look on Mark's face, and she shivered. She'd never seen him so shut off, and she remembered the last days before Kyle had left. He'd hidden so much, he'd stopped sharing.
She went back to Mark's study as if in a daze, standing outside for what felt like hours, trying to drum up the courage to walk in, but in the end, she went to the kitchen and started something for dinner.
She didn't know what to say...besides a desperate, pleaded "don't leave me."
Dinner was tense, but Katie chattered; Travis and Zach both enjoyed the homemade pizza Riley had ended up doing. Mark sat on the other end of the table, picking at his food, and Riley tried to be normal.
She was helping the kids with homework after dinner, as usual, and Mark loaded the dishwasher. She waited for him to brush against her; kiss her head, or clasp her waist, but he didn't.
He was cold; distant.
Riley was fucking terrified.
The kids made it to bed on time, and Riley found herself back downstairs, nursing a glass of wine. She ended up calling Lacey, trying to get some advice, which showed how desperate she was. Lacey was busy with her own kids, however, and the phone call Riley had wanted to be a comfort ended up with Riley comforting Lacey instead.
She sighed, hanging up the phone and pouring another glass before making her way to the study.
He'd left the door open. That was a good sign, right?
Sometimes she still didn't feel like an equal partner in this relationship. She lived in a huge house-Mark's. She still felt like she had to ask permission sometimes, even though Mark had made it clear more than once how unnecessary that was.
She took another big sip of wine, and walked in.
He was at his desk, still in shirtsleeves and slacks. He glanced up, and she saw his eyes shutter when he realized it was her. "I wasn't exaggerating the amount of work I have," he said carefully. "I left my shift early so I've been making a lot of phone calls."
"Of course," she hesitated. "But I thought we could talk."
Mark rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I just don't want to do that right now," he said carefully. "I'm not trying to be rude, I swear. I just can't do this right now."
The wine overtook Riley's mouth, and she blurted out the words that were making her heart beat twice as fast. "Are you going to break up with me?" She said, and hated herself for it. "I understand if you want to kick me out, and I can figure something out. I'm sorry."
Mark stood up when she spoke, and Riley couldn't face him, whirling to face the window while reluctant tears poured down her face. She really hated herself right now; she hated how much she was scarred from how Kyle had treated her.
She felt Mark's hands on her arms, and she started to cry harder, unable to stop the tears. This wasn't her. Riley didn't cry. She couldn't even remember the last time she had, but in this moment? She was fucking terrified, and the emotions from when Kyle had left were all rushing back, crushing her heart.
Mark's hands were rubbing up and down, and then he was stepping around, pulling her into his arms. "Riley," he whispered, kissing the top of her head. "Riley, don't cry. I didn't mean it like that."
"I can't lose you," she whimpered, the words coming out in choky gasps. "Please, Mark."
"You aren't losing me," he whispered, holding her tighter. "I mean it. Yes, I was angry about this afternoon. But the last thing I wanted to do was make you doubt our relationship." He pulled away enough to kiss the top of her head. "I hate that I made you feel like this again," he said.
Riley finally raised her face to meet his, feeling completely drained. Mark leaned in, pressing his face against hers, embracing her as they stood cheek to cheek. He whispered, near enough her ear that she could hear perfectly. "Riley, I love you," he said, his hands rubbing circles on her back. "I am never leaving you. We will fight, for sure. We will definitely circle back to this argument, but one thing is for sure. I am not leaving you. I promise."
She pulled back, her breath finally beginning to come normally. "I'm so sorry I got so angry," she whispered. "I think I was angry with myself."
"Fights happen," he said, hands still moving in soothing circles. "But I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere."
"Okay," Riley managed, and met his lips for a kiss that succeeded to wipe away the rest of her worries.
They were okay.