The Uses of Sorrow
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

-Mary Oliver

A/N: This takes place in season 3.

It's the night before her wedding to Luke Wheeler, and Rayna Jaymes sits in her music room, the record player spinning an old album. The sound is old-timey and familiar, warbling and sad. She has sweats on, paired with an old t-shirt; her hair is pulled back from her face, and her legs are tucked underneath her, her feet pressing into the cushions.

The copy of Rolling Stone is at her feet, and there is an open box in front of her. She's gone through its contents three times in the last two hours, she's re-read all the letters, looked at all the concert stubs. She even wrapped the small piece of well-worn silver jewelry with Forever etched into around her wrist, amazed that the clasp still works. She brushes her finger over the bracelet; it's scratched and dull, full of history, marked with memories.

Tandy is asleep upstairs, and so are the girls, which is why she is alone, surrounded by memories. She shakes her head and lets out a chuckle into the open room when she thinks about Tandy. Tandy. Her sister couldn't have tried harder to push her towards Luke: He loves you, that's enough. Rayna imagined that it sometimes was.

But sitting with Tandy tonight had felt exactly like sitting with Tandy over a decade ago, her words different, but so eerily familiar. And when Tandy spoke tonight—think about the way he talks to you, the way he looks at you—Rayna wondered if she would have to acknowledge the fact that the man conjured by Tandy's words wasn't, actually, the man she was supposed to marry tomorrow.

Sitting in the music room now, Pandora's box effectively open, its contents strewn around her, she reckoned that she probably would.

She picked up one of his letters, the blue ink against the white paper slightly faded, but still legible. I'm so sorry, it said, in various ways throughout. She wondered how many of these she'd received through the years—scrawled on napkins, post-it notes to her mirror. She tucked this particular note back in the box, and leaned back into the couch.

We all have choices, her momma used to tell her, back when she'd made some bad decision or another and was searching for an excuse. She'd used that line on Deacon many times back in the day, figuring it was true enough, but some days she struggled with it more than others. Some days she thought it was the truest thing in the world, and some days she thought it was the biggest lie ever told.

Because of all the men in the world to love, especially back then, if it was ever really about choice, maybe she would have made a different one. An easier one.

Her heart falls into her stomach when she makes the realization, and it comes sweeping over her all at once, sending a jolt through her body. The truth: she did.

The record player clicks as the record ends, and Rayna pulls out her phone. She scrolls through it and pulls up a video Maddie recorded in secret and sent her a few months back. It's a recording of the ceiling of The Bluebird, but it's the audio that's important.

She hears Deacon's voice coming through the small speakers, and she sighs as his words float over her. She hadn't listened to it then, couldn't. But, she thinks, she has to listen to it now.

I know how to love you now, he'd told her, standing in her kitchen. And then, apparently, he'd written a song about it.

The last chords of the song come through, the crowd claps, there's static, it ends, and suddenly she's crying. Hot tears roll down her cheeks, and she laughs because if crying the night before your wedding is a talent, Rayna Jaymes sure does have it down. She shoves everything back into the box, slamming the lid on top. She presses 'play' on the video again, and before she knows it, rage has filled her body. She takes the box and throws it against the wall, its contents flying in every direction, scattering across the music room—love notes, sorry notes, I hate you so much, but that's the wrong word notes.

Like a habit, she recites every reason she shouldn't be with Deacon. Every reason they're better apart than they are together. She's practiced them for years now, recited them as she fell asleep. She knows she could wake Tandy up and get a few more; she could close her eyes and fly deep into the past, into all the reasons why she shouldn't. But as the video plays in the background, she feels a revelation. You always have.

She's spent the better part of her life running from the pain; I don't want the pain was a constant recitation, right after all of her reasons why not. She never stopped to think about the fact that she was running from the joy of it all, too.

She knows she should wake Tandy, she should call a friend—maybe she would if she had one, but she suddenly feels so tired of running, so she grabs her jacket, instead.

And she's on his porch, knocking frantically at his door, and before she has a chance to think or run, he opens it.

"Play me the song." She says, her jacket pulled tightly around her. She brings her hand up to push a piece of hair that has fallen out of her ponytail behind her ear, and something glints in his dull porch light.

Deacon doesn't ask what song, doesn't need to. He pushes the door open, and she comes inside. He closes it behind her, and he walks over to his guitar. She leans against the arm of the couch, she doesn't take her eyes off of him.

He's staring directly at her, and his voice breaks in the middle of the song, and she thinks maybe her heart does too, but maybe that's okay—maybe that's what it was meant to do.

When he finishes, he quietly takes the guitar off and sets it back on the stand.

"Thank you," She whispers, and then her voice is so quiet he has to strain to hear it, "But… you always have."

She says it because it's the truth, and because she's so very tired of not telling the truth. Because sitting in the music room tonight, listening to Deacon's voice, she realized that the man sitting before her now has always known how to love her. He knew how to love her when she was 16 and trying to stand on her own two feet, when she was 23 and tasting fame for the first time. He knew how to love her when she was 27 and hating the spotlight almost as much as she loved singing. He knew how to love her when she was 30 and selling out arenas. He knew how to love her when she was sad, when she was lonely, when she was just this side of despondent; he knew how to love her when she was married to another man, and how to love her when she wasn't. He'd known how to love her in so many ways, for so many years.

Maybe now he's just learned how to love himself—how to forgive himself.

And maybe, then, she should learn to forgive herself, too.

She crosses the distance between them; it's short, but she will look back later and swear she'd never before taken a longer walk. She puts her hand on his face, her thumb grazing his lip.

She stares at him, her eyes imploring him to understand, to read the words stuck in her throat, to hear the ones she manages to get out: "You always have," she says again.

And then her lips are on his, her tongue is in his mouth, and she feels the heat spread throughout her body. They're all hands and breath and tongues as they fall on the couch, their bodies remembering each other with fervor. He's inside her, she's crying out, and her nails are scratching down his back as he grunts in her ear, whispering her name.

When it's over, Deacon has tears in his eyes, and so does she.

She can't look at him without remembering the pain—she knows now, she'll never be able to look at him without remembering the pain. But, she thinks, it's a small price to pay. So she resigns to stand in it, to let the sorrow take her in, but resolves to not let it overtake her—someday, she'll eventually learn that it can't. There's too much happiness when she really stops to think of him.

Later, they're in bed, her head is on his chest, her fingers dancing patterns along his skin.

Tomorrow, she will cancel a wedding, she will break a heart; tonight, for the first time in a very long time, she has found hers.

"What changed?" Deacon breathes, his lips tickling the hair on her head. She is naked now, and his fingers skim over the old silver bracelet on her wrist, the engraving thick beneath his touch.

"We all have our choices," She places a tender kiss on his chest. "I'm tired of pretending you're not mine."

A/N: I have always felt very confined in my writing by the stories the writers gave us. Until last night. So, in this story, Deacon was at home the night before Rayna's wedding.