A/N: This isn't my usual type of story, and it was written in a rush so might not be up to snuff, but it's Valentine's Day, and I love Valentine's Day, so I don't really care. Happy Valentine's Day! (also, please forgive my love affair with the passive voice in this story [and all my others]).
"If I confess that your body is the only civilization I long to experience... would it mean that we are close to knowing something about love?" -Aberjhani, Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black
The first time Rayna Jaymes had ever gotten flowers from a boy, she was 14. Her crush—James—had walked her to class, handed her 4 roses, and tried to kiss her. She'd realized what was happening and quickly turned her head, not sure she was ready for that type of commitment; he'd kissed her cheek, instead. The next week, she'd found a new crush, and the 4 roses were tossed unceremoniously into the trash.
The second time she'd gotten them from a boy, she was 17, and they were from Deacon Claybourne. It was before a small show, some county fair somewhere, and there were 8 of them, one for every show they'd played together so far. She'd had big ideas about flowers back then—not as many big ideas as she'd had about Deacon—but, still, big ideas. Though she'd blushed when he gave them to her, the fact was, in the three-year hiatus she'd inadvertently taken from flower-receiving, she'd managed to decide she was wholeheartedly against them.
"How can you be against flowers, Rayna?" He'd asked her, shaking his head, but laughing nonetheless. He was amazed at her ability to constantly surprise him.
She shrugged, "I just think… they're a waste."
He'd raised his eyebrows, "A waste?"
She nodded, "I love them, they're beautiful, thank you," she said, leaning forward to kiss him gently on the lips, "But they're going to die, be thrown away, and then where will they end up?"
He shook his head, "I guess we'll never know." He looped his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him, "But, there's one thing I do know."
"Oh, yeah?" Her voice was playful, "What's that?"
"That I love you." He kissed her full on the mouth, "And that I'm going to give you as many flowers as I damn well please as an outward demonstration of that love, whether it's a waste or not."
Her eyebrows shot up, and she laughed at his phrasing, so unlike his usual way of speaking, "An outward demonstration?"
"Yes." He tickled her waist, "From now on, flowers from me are an outward demonstration of my love." He tapped his finger to her nose, "For you. Okay?" He tickled her again.
She laughed again, and swatted his hands away, "Okay." She agreed. She rolled her eyes, but she couldn't stop smiling as she took her place on stage for the show.
The thing about Deacon Claybourne and promises was this: if he had any control over them, if he wasn't fighting some addiction—we admitted we are powerless over our addictions—he was remarkably good at keeping his promises.
And so, at every opportunity during their relationship, he gave Rayna flowers. Roses of all colors, all sizes. She'd find them in her dressing room, on her pillow, long-stemmed ones stuck in her boots. Sometimes a single rose, sometimes half a dozen—she never knew when, or where, she was going to find them.
One time, after a massive fight, they hadn't spoken for three weeks. They'd been avoiding each other, barely speaking, not looking each other in the eye. Things got so bad, she was beginning to think that maybe they were really through this time. One night, after a particularly tense night at rehearsal, Rayna heard a quiet knock at her door; she'd opened the door to see a single pink rose on her doormat. She'd started to cry immediately, then she picked it up, and clutched it to her chest, noting that he'd carefully plucked all the thorns off. They still didn't speak for a week after that, but the rose kept vigil on her kitchen counter, a reaffirmation of a promise.
When he was on his way to rehab for the third time, he'd had Coleman stop by her apartment. She'd been cleaning up the broken furniture with Tandy, when she heard the doorbell. Opening it, she saw Deacon standing there, holding an orange rose. Water welled in his eyes, and though she knew she should be livid, she took it from him, and then wrapped her arms around his neck, closing the door to shield him from Tandy's view. When his arms circled her waist, she whispered in his ear, "Me too."
On the day of her wedding to Teddy, Rayna was sitting in the bride's room, staring out the window, when she saw Tandy rush by with a vase full of a dozen beautiful, full red roses. Rayna watched with a careful gaze as Tandy made her way to the trash can. Finding it full, Tandy looked around for another place to put them, her eyes frantically scanning the venue. Rayna flung open the door.
"Tandy!" She called, her voice rising. "What are you doing?"
Tandy, still holding the vase, peered around the flowers. "I… uh…" She stammered, "These were the wrong color, so..." Not a particularly good liar yet, the color rose in her face.
Rayna narrowed her eyes, "Tandy." Her voice was stern, but gentle.
Sighing, Tandy made her way to the bride's room, set the flowers on the table; Rayna closed the door behind her, and then stared at the arrangement.
Tandy started to speak, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have… I was just trying to..." She had no excuses, but she was trying to find them anyway.
Rayna's voice was quiet when she finally spoke, and she didn't take her eyes off the flowers, "Was there a card?"
Tandy shook her head, watching her sister's face carefully, "No." She stepped forward, "Let me just... take these out of here."
Rayna looked at Tandy, "No." She was crying, but her voice was firm, "Leave them. Leave them here."
Tandy stepped towards Rayna, and ran her hand soothingly over her back. "It's okay," She said, "It's gonna be okay, sweetie." Rayna was staring at the flowers again, her eyes fluttering over each delicate stem, but Tandy kept talking, "You're making the right decision. Just think about Teddy, the way he looks at you, the way he talks to you. Focus on the love." Tandy put her arms around Rayna, the sobs coming openly now, "He loves you. That's enough."
He loves you. Neither of them spoke the other side of that truth, because they knew it was a lie. He loves you, Tandy said. That's enough. And Rayna didn't ask the question: is it?
When Maddie was born, a shy young nurse delivered a dozen white roses to Rayna's room while Teddy was at home getting a change of clothes.
When Deacon eventually rejoined her band, she would find single roses on her tour bus, tucked in cupboards, on the sink. She would find them in her dressing room, sticking through the spiral of her songwriting notebook, she even found one once slid into the mic stand, the stem pressed up against the mic, the small bloom a most vibrant fuchsia. She didn't see it until she was on stage, getting ready to sing. She'd gasped a little when she saw it, and turned to look at him, but he just kept right on playing, his fingers moving up and down the fretboard with ease.
When Daphne was born, Deacon brought the roses himself, left them for Rayna while she was sleeping.
When her divorce was announced, she found a single yellow rose tucked under the left windshield wiper of her car.
6 weeks after her accident, a dozen roses came via a reluctant Bucky, all different colors. He'd handed them to her wordlessly, and given her a small sad smile.
The day before she married Luke, Maddie had come up to her at the rehearsal dinner and handed her two red roses. "They're from Deacon," Maddie had whispered, her voice dropping conspiratorially low. As though Rayna didn't already know.
And now, it was Valentine's Day. It was Valentine's Day, and it was the second Valentine's Day Rayna Jaymes would spend married to Deacon Claybourne. Her husband. Some days, that phrase was still a shock to her system in a way it never had been with Teddy. Some days, she felt so far away from that 17-year-old girl who blushed when Deacon Claybourne gave her flowers that she didn't know if she would even recognize her. Others, she felt like no time had passed at all.
This year, there had been a discussion—no gifts, they'd both agreed. Absolutely no gifts. The girls were both at Valentine's Day sleepovers—that was a thing now—so it would be just the two of them. Just dinner at home, a movie, and the love that had always been between them. That was enough.
Rayna left the Highway 65 offices early, and she was smiling as she pulled into the driveway. The crisp February air hurled itself around her as she walked from her car to the front door. She swung it open, "Babe?" She said, "I'm home."
She wasn't sure what hit her first, the smell, or the sight—but suddenly she saw Deacon, surrounded by at least 200 red roses, certainly the most she'd ever seen in her life.
"Babe?" She said again, but it came out on a breath.
"Happy Valentine's Day, baby." Deacon said, and handed her a rose.
She took the rose, and threw her arms around him, her lips finding his. He deepened the kiss, and then she pulled away, narrowing her eyes slightly. "I thought we said no gifts."
Deacon smiled, "We did. This is a compromise."
Rayna looked around the living room, roses perched on every flat surface she could see. "This is a compromise?"
Deacon nodded. "I wanted a rose for every day I've loved you, but I didn't think you'd appreciate me spending 15 thousand dollars, give or take, on roses."
Rayna laughed, "You're crazy." She leaned in to kiss him again. "Crazy!" She said again.
He nodded, "So, I have a rose for every year I've loved you. I have a rose for every year you've loved me. I have a rose for every year I've known you, a rose for every year you've known me. There's a rose for every year we've performed together; I have a rose for every year you've been alive, a rose for every year I've been alive because of you."
"Deacon," She breathed against his mouth.
"I love you, Ray." He said, simply.
"I love you, too."
He kissed her, his hands finding his way to her hair. She ran her hands up and down his back, enjoying the feeling of his mouth against hers before she pulled away.
"But, I didn't get you anything."
Deacon laughed, "Yes, baby, you did." He brushed the pad of his thumb against her cheek, "I'm here, right now, with you. You're my wife. That's plenty." He smiled at her.
She bit her lip, and Deacon watched as a strange look settled in her eyes. He knew she was considering something, but he couldn't decide what.
"What?" He asked.
She chewed her lip a bit more, before she made the decision. Deacon watched her gaze change, soften slightly; she grabbed him by the hand and led him up the stairs.
"What're we doing?" He asked, curious.
"I want to show you something." Her voice was quiet, full of emotion, and Deacon found himself suddenly nervous, though he wasn't sure why.
She led him to the bedroom, and pointed to the couch at the end of it. "Wait here." She said, before disappearing into her closet.
Deacon's brow furrowed as he watched her, one by one, bring boxes of various shapes and sizes in to the bedroom. When he saw her round the corner with the first one, he stood up to help her, but she stopped him.
"No. Just wait." She said. Obediently, he sat down.
One by one, she lined them up on the floor, forming a neat little line.
"What are you doing, baby?" He asked, as she set one down.
"Shhhh." She said, looking at him, a strange look still in her eyes. "One more." She said, disappearing into the closet again.
She brought the last box out, and set it on the floor next to the others. Deacon counted them—six.
She sat on the floor, her legs propped underneath her. "Well?"
Deacon cocked his head, "Well, what?"
She looked nervous, "Open them." She said, rubbing her palms on her jeans.
Curiosity getting the best of him, Deacon kneeled on the floor. Tentatively, he grabbed the corner of one of the boxes, but he was looking at Rayna. She was staring at his hand on the box, his fingers poised under the lid. She closed her eyes for a moment, and realization dawned on him—she was trying not to cry.
"Ray?" He questioned, his voice gentle.
She nodded, "It's okay. Open them."
He shifted his gaze to the first box, and he lifted the corner, but couldn't see anything. Finally, he took the lid off, and what he saw stole his breath. He moved to the second box, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and finally, the sixth. The contents were the same in each box, and he felt unexpected emotion swell in his throat, he swallowed around it. The emotion found its way to every cell in his body, and suddenly his hands were shaking. He set the lid of the last box on the floor.
He looked at her, "Is this?... are these? Did you…." He trailed off, and was surprised to find tears in his eyes.
She bit her lip and nodded, tears in her eyes, too.
"Baby." He said, and moved to sit next to her, his hands finding their way to her face when he got there, "Oh, Ray… I can't believe…"
She nodded again, "I kept them." She said, finally looking at the boxes. "I kept all of them, Deacon." She smiled, "I kept every flower you've ever given me."
And she had. In the boxes were hundreds of pressed and dried roses. Some were missing petals, all were fragile, carefully stacked in the boxes one on top of the other. Deacon reached out to touch one, his fingers delicately running over a pressed pink rose.
"Every single one." She breathed.
He wrapped his hand behind her head and pulled her mouth to his. He kissed her, his lips tenderly moving against hers. "I love you, Ray," He whispered against her mouth.
"I love you, too." She whispered back. "So much."
"Thank you. This," He gestured to the boxes, "Is the best gift you could have ever given me."
She smiled shyly, and he brought his mouth to hers again, feeling her soft lips move under his. She sighed against his mouth, and then moaned in the back of her throat as he deepened the kiss.
Suddenly, she started laughing.
"What?" He asked, smiling against her mouth.
"I was just thinking… I'm gonna need a lot more boxes."
He chuckled, "I s'pose that's true enough." He rose to his feet, and helped her stand next to him. He reached out and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, his gaze was distant for a moment, as though he were trying to find a memory, and then he spoke, "Hey… I just remembered something…"
"What's that?" She asked, her hand running up his arm.
"I thought… you were against flowers."
She laughed then, a full throaty laugh that had always made him weak in the knees. "Well, you know, Deacon Claybourne, I thought I was against a lot of things before I met you."
"Oh yeah?" He said, snaking his arm around her waist, pulling her flush against him, "Like what?"
Rayna smiled, "Well," She said, reaching for the button on his jeans, "Let me show you one right now."