|Hard Times, Come Again No More Repost w edits
Author: fanfar3 PM
Darry-centric One Shot. Picks up where Touchstone left off. Darry takes Maggie on their first official date, and it doesn't go as planned.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Darry C. - Words: 2,881 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 3 - Published: 10-10-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6388569
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"I can't believe the way Darry is acting," Soda stage-whispered to Ponyboy as if I couldn't hear. "He's been in that closet for half an hour, like he hopes something different might suddenly appear."
Ponyboy stood in the doorway, just watching. But if I wasn't mistaken, there was a little smirk on his face, too.
"I'm telling you, Dar," Soda said for the billionth time, "The black pants and the white dress shirt."
"Soda, I want to look like her date, not her waiter!" I growled irritably.
"What about the blue one?" Pony suggested, even as I pulled it out for another look.
Sighing, I pulled on the black dress pants Soda was such a fan of and the blue collared shirt went over my undershirt. "Not bad," I admitted, studying myself in the cracked mirror on the inside of the closet door. I couldn't remember ever feeling so worried about clothes before.
"Darry," Pony said, "It's almost seven. Weren't you supposed to pick Maggie up at seven?"
Shoot. Between nerves and wondering what the hell I was doing, my stomach was jumpy. I was glad I'd opted out of Soda's latest creation, though I'd been hungry at the time.
"Geez, Dar," Soda grinned, "You're worse than a girl!"
"I'm what?" At the flat, cold tone of my voice, Soda made a face.
"I think Miss Maggie is gonna take one look at you and swoon," Pony teased. He stumbled around comically and collapsed in Soda's arms. Both of the clowns started laughing like loons. I couldn't quite muster up the irritation that date-related ribbing usually caused. It was too good to see Ponyboy acting his age again.
"Keep it up," I threatened. But they saw right through it.
Soda clapped a hand over Pony's mouth, dipped him deep, and pretended to kiss him passionately. That brought a wave of irritation that had me rolling my eyes.
"Knock it off, you two," I said, shoving Soda so he lost his balance and the two of them toppled over.
"Owww, Soda!" Pony complained. Just as I started worrying that I'd hurt him, he let out a crazy laugh and pinned Soda on the rug. Soda just heaved him off and leapt to his feet in that way he has. Cat like. Springy.
"I'll see you guys later," I said, giving my cuffs a final tug and heading for the phone to let Maggie know I was running a little late.
"Darry and Maggie," Soda sing-songed the worn out old tune, "sittin' in a tree—″
"Shut up, Soda!" I called over my shoulder, leaving them behind in my room. Still, the mood in this house hadn't been so light in quite a while, so I couldn't really be annoyed for long. Tonight, God willing, no one would get in trouble or sick, no one would bleed, no one would break anything, and no shoes would drop.
There's just something about holding a girl close. If she's the right sort of girl, it feels like home. Easy. Comfortable. Right. Holding Maggie was just like that. Granted, it had been a disgustingly long time since I'd had a slow dance with someone I really cared about. So it might have just been relief that I had a girl at all. But I didn't think I'd feel the way I was feeling with just any girl.
Maggie moved easily, almost lazily as Unchained Melody's haunting echo swirled around us in the glittering darkness of the American Legion ballroom. And when she nuzzled her cheek against my neck, I felt it everywhere in my body, like liquid electricity rushing through my veins.
We were barely moving, so close it bordered on obscene, at least so far as public dances were concerned. I felt the wispy fabric of her dress slide under my fingers as she swayed, and I breathed the soft lavender of her shampoo.
"Darry," she said softly.
"The song's over," she breathed a laugh.
"So it is," I sighed, turning her gently as if to imply I'd kept dancing on purpose. And just then, the lights came on and the night crashed to an end. Disappointment zipped through me. Where had the last three hours gone?
Maggie smiled up at me, faint amusement twinkling in her eyes. She tipped her chin toward mine. My mouth fell on hers, and I was consoled.
"Oh, no," I said, as we exited the American Legion post. A soft rain fell. "I guess I should've brought the truck, after all."
"I think it's nice," Maggie answered, tipping her head back to revel in it. Her pleasure was contagious. She put her hand in mine and tugged at me gently. "Let's walk," she said. Hell, I'd have followed her anywhere if it meant she'd look over her shoulder at me like that again. Besides, she was right. The rain was gentle enough and the night warm enough to make the walk more romantic than torturous.
Her folks' place was only about six blocks south and two blocks east of the post, anyway. I figured we'd make it there just a little damp, but I hadn't considered what the rain would do to Maggie's dress. In short order, it clung to her in ways it hadn't when dry, and I made a point to look at everything around us so I wouldn't have to live the pain of watching her in that dress.
About two blocks later, the rain hastened from a drizzle to something steadier than a sprinkle but far short of a downpour. She squeezed my arm and began walking a bit faster. The wind kicked up. With it came a breeze that bordered on cold. In another two blocks, we were nearly at a jog. By the last block, we were full out running for her house as rain thundered all around us, striking us like thousands of icy needles. She glanced at me and laughed breathlessly, rounding the corner so that her house came into sight.
"Oh, no!" she cried as bits of hail began to ping down on the sidewalk. I wished I'd brought a jacket so I could hold it over her head, but the evening didn't seem to call for one when I'd left the house.
We made it to her front porch none the worse for wear. Wet, yes. But the hail stones grew larger as we ducked under the shelter of the roof. She wiped her face with both hands, sliding them into the curls she'd worn in her hair tonight. Curls that were now falling flat. I followed suit, drying my own face and slicking my own hair back.
"I guess we'd better go inside and dry off," she said.
I nodded. But I couldn't resist the way she looked in the warm glow of the porch light. I slid a hand up to cup her cheek, and I brought my mouth to hers. She yielded under my other hand, which found the small of her back of its own accord. The night was no longer cold with her pressed against me, her fingers winding in the wet hair at the nape of my neck.
I went so deep under with her that when she pulled back I nearly fell at her feet. She gave me a tiny smile of regret. "We really need to go inside. We'll catch our deaths out here," she said. "I'll get you a towel. We can make coffee or some tea."
She opened the door, and I knew. One look inside at the woman on the stately blue sofa…one glimpse of the desolate look on her face, and I knew. I knew before she opened her mouth and the words wobbled out.
"He's gone," she said.
My hand on Maggie's shoulder, I felt her tremble. But she didn't cry. Just that one small quake, and then she said softly, "Oh, mama…I'm sorry."
She turned to me. Though she was holding herself strong for the lost woman on the sofa, I felt it all but seep into my bones. The depth of her sorrow was familiar. The bleakness in her eyes…I'd been a mirror of it once. I wanted to gather her up so badly just then that I literally hurt from it. If it had been anyone but Maggie, the hot, wet sting at my eyes would have mortified me. "Stay," she said softly, leading me back out onto the porch. "Please, will you stay? I'll come back for you…"
I nodded. Words would have broken her just then.
She disappeared inside with a soft click of the front door. I heard a few soft murmurs and then what might have been muffled sobs. I couldn't be sure it wasn't just the whisper of the rain, which had slowed to a mournful slide, no longer piercing or vicious.
The world was quiet again, save the hush of the rain and the rattle of dying leaves in the trees.
I guess it wasn't a night without care, after all. The shoe that dropped was not my own, but I felt it as though it were. She was older, yes, and she didn't have two dazed faces waiting, looking to her for answers. But I guess she had one. Her mother, in the brief moment that I'd seen her, had been a glimpse of what Maggie would one day become. Still slender, graceful. Soft lines at the mouth and eyes. Her gaze sorrowful but clear. I wondered then if I could count on looking like my father one day. I had his broad chest and shoulders, his narrow hips, and his strong jaw. Our hair kicked out funny at our napes, and if left uncut, curled and tumbled at our ears. Had my father's eyes ever looked so lost, though?
I pushed myself gently on the porch swing. There was nothing I could say to make her whole again. Losing a parent was like losing a piece of yourself. I knew that pain, knew there was no cure. I thought of Pony and Soda…of the way they'd cried inconsolably, of the way I'd wanted to, too. I thought of standing graveside, of how I wish I'd had those words of Pony's as I'd stood rigidly beside my sobbing brothers. Don't let go. Don't let go. Don't let go. But they'd been there, even if I hadn't had their chorus to keep me from breaking. And now Maggie was locking down so she could help her mother, keep her from drowning.
I don't know how long it was that I sat gently rocking on the porch swing. The rain stopped and started again. Thunder growled low in the distance. Time was unimportant as I wondered where everything would go from here…from this night. From her heartbreak.
And then the door clicked softly again, and the world held its breath.
I stood in Maggie's kitchen, waiting wordlessly for towels. Listening to the water in the kettle begin to bubble and roil. Waiting for just enough steam to know it was ready but not enough to set the whistle to screaming. I felt her behind me rather than heard her. She held two towels out to me, and then she blotted her hair with one. Neither of us said a word as we wiped, blotted, and pressed as much water as we could from our hair and clothes. She'd long since kicked off her shoes somewhere, and she padded silently to the stove, pulling the kettle off just at the first faint tweet.
She didn't pour the boiling water over the teabags in the two mugs. Instead, she moved to the sink and reached up to the window sill above it and switched on the radio. As if the world knew her loss, the old blues song, Hard Times, Come Again No More floated from the little transistor radio. I remembered what she'd told me, knew what she wanted. I held out my hand, welcomed her in against me. We danced slowly until the kettle grew cold again.
When she whispered, "Stay," again, just as I was going to suggest that I go, I paused. Caught between what she thought she needed and what I knew would be only a momentary distraction, I tried to decide. I thought of my brothers asleep at home. I thought of my own desires back when we became just three brothers, no longer sons. Being where she was now made it harder instead of easier to know what the right thing was.
I stopped thinking when she kissed me, let her hands wander over my back. She thought my shiver meant I was still cold, and she whispered that she'd dry my things for me. She didn't ask me to stay again, but I felt it in her touch, in her mouth as it rubbed against mine. I felt it in the way she sighed as I gently pressed my mouth against the hollow of her neck.
We danced ourselves to her room. Her room in her parents' house, which would have stopped me cold if she hadn't been so wordlessly screaming that same plea: stay. I wasn't sure later just how it all happened, but suddenly we were just two bodies, skin on skin. I grew dizzy and drunk in her...our breath mingling in hot, gasping waves. Softness everywhere I touched. Silk and need. Not just her need, but mine.
Sliding against her, over her, felt like the cure to some nameless something I'd been suffering from for my entire life. Her breath was louder in my ears, her lips pressing at the hollow of my neck. My body muffled her cries as we crested the wave together and fell back into the sharpness below.
It was early when I felt her lips at my neck again. The first faint blue light of day crept in past the pulled shade. Maggie, I thought. She looked at me, her eyes dark pools that I suddenly couldn't read. I'd read them so clearly the night before, and now, nothing. Had she changed, or had I? Whatever came next, I couldn't guess.
I worried, though. I worried that she'd feel taken advantage of, and I stung with it as she slid out of bed, into a robe that waited on a chair. A glimpse of her, and then she was tucked away in folds of fabric again. A finger to her lips, she held a hand up. Stay. I nodded against the pillow. And waited again. Porch swing. Bed. It made no difference.
She came back with my clothes. Enough time had passed that I realized she'd ironed them. I barely remembered her getting out of bed to put them in the dryer, but it had been hours ago, when blackness still ruled outside.
We didn't speak. I wanted to say something, but each time I looked at her, she shook her head. Just a tiny, almost imperceptible motion. I didn't know what it meant. Would things turn awkward now? Would she tie up whatever she felt for me in the death of her father? I hoped not. I didn't regret the night before. I couldn't. Wouldn't.
Night makes us all more vulnerable. The vulnerability makes us do things we might not do in the harsh light of day. Dressed, I kissed Maggie again. Nothing in her kiss felt different. She was still open and sweet and seemed glad I was there. But when I risked words to tell her I should get home to Soda and Pony, she only nodded again. I asked if she would be ok. Her eyes closed. Her lips pursed. But she nodded again. Whether or not it was true, I accepted it.
And then we were on the porch again. The breeze was cool. The air was damp. A bank of storm clouds would hold off the sun's rise far longer than normal. I had work. Pony had one precious day left before school. Soda was off. They'd have each other to keep boredom at bay.
She looked up at me, her eyes still clear. But like the clouds reflected in them, I knew her storm was coming. I knew right then, without a doubt, that I'd be there with her when it came, if I could. If she'd let me.
"If you need me," I said, letting the words trail off when she flinched a little. Her hand on my face told her she forgave me the words she didn't want to hear, understood and accepted the truth behind them.
I stood on the porch, listening, for a long time after the door clicked softly closed.