A/N: This one is a bit… different. It has a different, specific narrator, which isn't something I've worked with in fanfic before. It could get a little weird, who knows; let's find out!
"Do you think the universe fights for souls to be together?
Some things are too strange and strong to be coincidences."
― Emery Allen
"You both have a deep mythology about this relationship." The doctor says, and they both stare at him, as though deep isn't the absolute understatement of the century.
I am sitting between them on the couch, whispering what I have been whispering to each of them since even before they met: you will weather this storm.
I have many names—providence, destiny, serendipity, kismet, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos; sometimes, I go by bastard, son-of-a-bitch. These two have, in fact, called me every name in the book, good and bad, throughout the years—actual mythologies excluded. If I have my druthers, I guess I prefer Fate, if we're being completely honest.
So, when the doctor questions the truthfulness of their mythology, I have to laugh. Because I know; I've seen it all.
. . .
I saw Deacon, cowered in a corner, Beverly wrapping her arms around him in their shared bedroom as the screams flooded their ears, echoing through the house. The screams kept them awake late into the night; sometimes, they'd fall asleep in that corner, huddled against one another.
She would whisper to him, she would sing their grandmother's song to him even through her own tears, even over the pounding in her own chest. 'You will always be a friend of mine.' She was kind back then, she loved him back then, so much.
Deacon was so small in those days, a quivering boy, all legs and knees and loose skin from too few meals and not enough sleep. His clothes hung from his frame, and he would cry so much that his eyes would be red for days—the sun at recess would burn them, so he'd sit in the shade of a tree by himself. Sometimes, at school, he would steal food from the lunches of other children, so his stomach would stop expanding; so it would stop caving in on itself.
. . .
I saw Rayna happy, her mother wrapping her in a warm hug after her first day of second grade. Virginia would pretend to count her freckles every night before bed, bringing the covers up to her chin, and dotting her finger along her daughter's tiny nose.
On this night, "One thousand four hundred and seventy six" she said, "Looks like you've gotten a few new ones today, my love."
Rayna giggled as her mother smoothed her hair, planted a kiss on her nose, a kiss on her forehead. Virginia walked to the door, and stopped before turning out the light.
"Momma," Rayna whispered, "Are they really angel kisses?" She asked.
Her mother smiled, nodded, and whispered, "Yes," She flipped the light off, "They're angel kisses from your paw-paw, from your meemaw, from your great aunt June. From so many people you never got to meet who love you so, so, so much."
Rayna smiled, and burrowed further down into her bed. She'd heard this before. "But not as much as you." She said, her voice bright, confident.
"Not as much as me," her mom confirmed, "No one loves you as much as me." She said, before closing the door softly behind her.
. . .
I was there on her worst day. On the day she woke up thinking it was just like any other day to find that it was not at all like any other day. She was twelve, fresh off a growth spurt, sitting at the bar in the kitchen when she got the news.
She was home alone when she got the call, and she doubled over, sliding off the barstool into a heap on the floor. The sobs wracked her body, made her throat raw from screaming. She didn't move for an hour; she couldn't move for an hour, and when she did it was to press her face into the cool tile as she whispered 'momma,' over and over and over again.
When she thought she couldn't possibly cry anymore, the tears came again, even harder—I hate you, this can't be happening—she screamed to the void: 'momma, momma, momma.'
I sat beside her then, whispering—you will weather this storm.
. . .
His father had his mother by the shirt collar; blood was easing out of a cut on her cheek his fist had made only moments before. His father sneered at Deacon, "When you're a man, you're gonna be just like me."
I watched Deacon flinch, step back, and shake his head. He reached for his father's arm, crying as he tugged in a futile attempt to get his father to release his mother. His father's arm flew back and out, and Deacon slid into the wall, the glass from the casserole dish slicing into his palm.
His father roughly released his mother, "Don't ever touch me again, boy!" He shouted, towering over Deacon. Deacon pressed his eyes shut, stiffened his body as he braced for impact. It was the opposite of what you were supposed to do, he knew (and how sad that he knew that, at twelve). But, instead, he heard the door slam.
He opens his eyes, and crawls to his mother. Beverly comes, too, and they hold each other, soft sobs between them—blood between them.
I am there: You will weather this storm.
. . .
Rayna is fifteen, growing in to her beauty in ways that are subtle and delicate. She wears her red hair long; she wears brown cowboy boots with her school uniform, the plaid skirt falling just below her knees.
There are whispers as she walks by in the hall, but she doesn't listen. She pretends not to listen, anyway, but she hears them all. She could let them break her, some days she thinks she might, that it might be easier that way. Instead, she thinks I'll show you.
At home, she plays the piano, tapping out sad melodies with her long fingers. They're all for her mother, they're all about her mother, except the one she writes for herself. At night, she stands in front of the mirror, trying to count her freckles one by one—inevitably, she loses track.
One day, she's sitting in Geometry, and she sees a new freckle on her right hand. She lets out a little gasp as the tears come. Thank you, mom, she whispers. Thank you.
. . .
His father is raging at his mother—but something has changed. Two days shy of 18, Deacon has grown into his body; he has learned how to inhabit it completely. So, when his father raises his fist to his mother, Deacon steps in.
His father pulls his hand back, and Deacon seizes his fist, hot with rage. He yanks his father's arm back, pushes him against the wall. He gets up in his face, the same face that has tormented him from the time he could crawl, but when he speaks, Deacon's words are measured, not wild.
"If you ever touch my mother again, I swear to god, I will kill you myself." He speaks through gritted teeth, "Understand?"
His father is silent. His mother is silent. His sister is silent.
Deacon releases his father from his grip, and steps away. "I fucking mean it," he whispers, and it is abundantly clear through the thick air that it is true.
His father never touches his mother again.
. . .
I am there the first day they meet. There is no reason Rayna shouldn't be good with guitars. Her mother played beautifully, and her grandfather was one of the best pickers of his time. There is no reason, except for me.
They are heady teens when they first see each other; she's seventeen, he's nineteen, and they can't keep their eyes or hands off one another for very long. They try to fight it, they try to pretend—but it doesn't work. The thing is, it almost never works.
"You like bad boys?" He whispers up against her ear one night.
"I like you." She says, pressing her body into his, pressing her lips into his.
And just like that, they're both gone, because he likes her too, except 'like' isn't the exact right word for either of them to use.
She has a new manager who thinks it's just lust—who tells her to be careful, tells her not to put everything on the line. He tells her to watch her heart, because Deacon Claybourne is known to break them. Hearts, that is.
Bucky would be right, except for this: me.
When they are laying in bed one night, limbs wrapped round and round each other, placing soft kisses to tender spots on the other's body, one of them gets serious: "Doesn't it just feel like… we are exactly where we are supposed to be right now? Like everything in our lives has somehow led us here?"
And the thing is, I explain, that's precisely what it is like.
. . .
She is on the outside of her own apartment, her back is against the door, and she is crying. I haven't seen her cry this hard since she was twelve. She turns to face the door, presses her mouth against it, and tries to say 'Deacon,' but no words come out. She is crying too hard to speak, she is crying too hard to move, she is crying too hard to feel.
He is inside, broken furniture all around him as he tips over a bookshelf, stomping on it after it falls. His alcohol-laden breath comes heavy, tears falling as he looks down at his palm, just now realizing he has cut his hand on something. He sits down on the couch, the legs kicked out from underneath it, and puts his head in his hand. He is crying.
It will be his fifth time in rehab, and I will follow him there, with the same refrain I am entirely too broken to sob tonight. Something about storms.
. . .
I am there the night before she marries Teddy. She spends the night crying, running her hands softly over her stomach, imagining the life growing inside. She wonders if her baby will have his eyes—if her baby will have his smile, will have his floppy hair, his laugh. She wonders if their baby will have his demons. She tosses and turns in her bed, thinking about what vows she can possibly say to Teddy without lying; she wonders if her baby will have her cowardice.
He is at a sober living house, sitting on the edge of the bed, gripping the bedframe, his knuckles turning white. Someone knocks at the door, starts to open it, and he screams "Get the fuck out!" He thinks about her, wonders if Teddy will make her happy, wonders if she told him that same story; he wonders if Teddy will take the time to count her freckles the way Deacon did, sometimes with his mouth, sometimes with his fingers. He wonders if he will keep a running tab in his memory so he never gives the same count twice.
Teddy doesn't know about the freckles, she never told him, and she never will; her baby will be only the best things of them.
I don't whisper this time, I shout: You will weather this storm.
. . .
I am on the porch the night she comes to him, telling him "I love you. That has just never not been true."
I watch him find out about the baby—who is no longer a baby—I watch him pour twelve years of sobriety into a glass and drink it down, down, down.
I see the car roll over, and over, and over again, settling in a ditch. I watch him call her baby and pull her out, willing her to live, to wake up, to breathe.
I am with her in the hospital when she wakes up, when she recognizes her family, when she tells her father she's only interested in moving forward.
I watch them pretend to let each other go, knowing the truth: they can't.
I watch her choose Luke everywhere but her heart, until she finally, finally doesn't.
I am there at the cabin—I see her slap her hand across his face, and fall into his arms. I know what he's afraid of. I know he has nothing to fear.
Because I watch him live.
. . .
I don't want you to get the wrong impression about me. There are things you can change—if there weren't, these two wouldn't have blown this thing between them all to hell so many times.
I don't have much of a job really, I just watch. But, with Rayna Jaymes and Deacon Claybourne, watching felt like a job, particularly in the early days; watching was enough. It still is.
I watched them dance at their wedding, her hair swept to the side as they moved slowly together, gently rocking back and forth. It's the smallest thing, but for how many years it's taken to get here. When he carried her over that threshold into the cabin, years of baggage came off them in waves. Some remained, of course, as it does, but they will shed that too, in time. They will weather the storms-and I? I will continue to watch.
I know I will watch them dance at their daughters' weddings; they will like one of the husbands very much, and the other will grow on them bit by bit, until they can't remember what they didn't like about him to begin with. I know I will watch them welcome their first grandchild, then their second, their third, and finally their fourth, the only boy. I know Deacon will almost drink one time, on the twelfth anniversary of Beverly's death—he'll pour a glass, and then dump the bottle. I know Rayna will age gracefully, that her sixty-five will look at least eleven years younger. She'll wear her hair long, even after she lets it grow grey, enjoying the feel of Deacon's fingers running through it.
I know when he can no longer play the guitar, he will hum the music she sings to. Sometimes, when he harmonizes with her, she will feel seventeen again, she'll be looking at the nineteen year old boy she fell so madly in love with. They will think frequently about the many roads that led them to their porch, where they sip lemonade in the evenings, talking about their grandchildren, the weather, their daughters, and their first and last tour together.
I know they will still kiss each other passionately, even as their faces and bodies change. I know Rayna will never grow tired of feeling Deacon's rough hand in her own; I know Deacon will never grow tired of counting her freckles, even when the freckles have companions better known as age-spots.
I know he will never give the same count twice.
If the mythology is deep, doctor—and it is—there is only one thing to blame: Fate. That bastard, that son-of-a-bitch, that beautiful thing that brought these two here—that knows exactly where they've been, and knows exactly where they're going.
A/N: As you'll undoubtedly notice, the ending (with what Fate will watch) completely goes into AU (and on purpose). This also ends up in a bit nicer of a package than I'm used to writing, perhaps bordering on cheesy-I'd apologize for that, but I think it's just what I need right now, so I can't actually be sorry.