Rayna Jaymes was a hugger. She hugged everyone—fans, reporters, fellow artists, children, her sister, members of her band, even her father—she'd wrap them in her arms as if to say thank you, you're welcome, I love you, I've missed you, I'm sorry, it's okay, I'll see you soon, I may never see you again.
It was one of the first things her husband, Teddy Conrad, noticed about her. She arrived on their first date in a flurry of madness, absolutely dazzling in a navy blue dress, her hair swept to the side. She'd come in to the restaurant, the cold air fluttering in behind her, and wrapped her arms around him, her body warm against him despite the cold outside. "Sorry I'm late," she'd said, her hand patting his back before she pulled away.
He hadn't realized it was a reserve she had for everyone until he was with her backstage at a meet and greet before one of her concerts, and he watched her hug every single fan that came up to her. Teddy watched as the fans looked shocked, and then elated, gushing about how much they loved her, how much she'd changed their lives, how she was singing just to them.
It was one of his favorite things about her, how freely she gave of herself—it never bothered him, actually, until six years into his marriage when he realized one night that there was one person Rayna never hugged. She was on tour, scheduled to come home to him the next night, and he was imagining wrapping her in his arms, when his mind made the connection. He couldn't even pinpoint why his mind had made the leap, but he suddenly realized that there was one person he'd never seen her hug.
The next night, after the girls were finally wound down from their 'mommy's home!' high and fast asleep in bed, Teddy stared at Rayna planted on the far end of their couch, writing in a notebook.
"Hey," He said, his voice loud in the quiet living room, "How come you never hug Deacon?"
Rayna snapped her head up, "What?"
"Deacon," Teddy said again, "Why don't you ever hug him?"
Rayna closed her notebook, the pen shoved in to mark her place, "That's a weird question." She said, running her fingers through her hair.
"Is it?" Teddy asked, coming to stand in front of the couch.
She nodded, "A little, yeah. Kind of out of the blue."
Teddy shrugged, "Well?"
Rayna sighed, the way she always sighed whenever Teddy brought up Deacon. "I do." She thought about it, "I don't… not hug him." She put the notebook down on the coffee table, "Can we go to bed? I'm exhausted." She stood and stretched, looking at him.
Teddy forced a smile, and then he did what he'd been doing for the last seven years, the thing he'd become an expert in when it came to conversations and fears about Deacon Claybourne—he let it go.
He nodded, "Sure."
And then, he did another thing he had become practiced in over the past seven years: he watched.
He watched Rayna and Deacon say goodbye at dozens of industry parties, he watched them say goodbye after concerts, after charity events, after rehearsals. He watched her touch his shoulder, he watched her grasp his arm and squeeze, he watched a mutual forearm squeeze most of all; sometimes, he watched her wave goodbye without touching him.
Until one night, after a show in Knoxville; Rayna's show was over, and Teddy was headed backstage—he made his way through the throng of people, weaving in and out of people responsible for closing out the show, and arrived at her dressing room door.
The door was ajar, and he started to knock on it, started to push it open, and make his presence known when he heard voices from the other side. He looked inside, and saw Rayna and Deacon, facing each other.
Rayna's voice was soft and quiet as she spoke, "I'm sorry about your mom, Deacon." It was barely above a whisper, "I know… I know nothing can make it better, but… I'm here."
Deacon's voice was thin, "That does help, actually, Ray," he said, and there were tears thick in his voice.
Teddy watched Rayna chew on her bottom lip; then he watched her step forward, reach her arms out, and embrace Deacon. Her fingers clutched at his back, pressed into his skin. Deacon slid his hands around her waist, returning the hug, resting his head on her shoulder, his head buried in her hair.
Teddy felt his entire body go cold, he felt his stomach drop, and a lump form in his throat. He'd never felt like an outsider quite like this before, watching them.
He let out a little breath from his nostril, as realization swept over him. They looked for all the world like lovers, standing in that embrace, holding each other like they were roots of the same tree; like if they let go one or both of them would fall completely apart, crumble down into the carpet, where no one would be able to separate his pieces from hers.
He'd never seen anything more fucking intimate in his damn life.
They stood like that for a moment, holding each other, until they finally pulled away, and stood silently staring at each other.
Teddy stepped away from the door, waited to go in until he saw Deacon leave. They drove home that night in comfortable silence, went to bed that way, too. That night, he thinks maybe he never really asked the right questions, but he doesn't think he should start now.
Teddy never asks Rayna the question again, he doesn't need to—he knows why she doesn't hug Deacon. He thinks now that maybe he's always known it; maybe somewhere in the back of his mind he's always known that there's more than one way to be a lover to another man's wife.