He is constructing a god
out of my body
and I do not stop him.
This will make
a ghost of him
he needs an altar
and I'm not here to be brave.
-Dream Girl, Clementine von Radics
He came to her on the second anniversary of Vince's death. It was the dead of night, and she knew his knock fell upon her door at the exact time of the accident, right as the clock turned to the first minute of Deacon's life without Vince in it.
She was by herself—Teddy and Maddie were at his mom's house for the weekend, some little place on the Cape that she is sure she would have loved in a different life.
The sight of Deacon on her doorstep rocked her; when she thinks about it, it was his eyes—it was always his eyes. Really, everything that ever happened between them was because of his eyes.
He'd been crying for hours, she could tell—the rims of his eyes were pink and raw. Like my lips when he used to kiss me, she thinks, and then chastises herself for it. Those thoughts were relegated to her memories now, to the hallways in her mind she pretends she doesn't walk down anymore, though the truth is she haunts them frequently.
"Ray." It was one word, but she hadn't heard it in years. She'd heard that name fall from his lips so many times, in so many ways, but she hadn't heard it in years—let alone heard it so raw, tumbling into the space between them, nestling down into the space she'd carved for it—and only it—in her heart.
On his word, the door falls open, though she knows it should close, and he stumbles in, though she knows she should keep him out. But she is powerless against his entrance, powerless against him.
"I need to hold you." His voice breaks on the last word, and he runs his hand through his hair, pulling on it a little bit, the roots holding it in despite his efforts. "I need to hold you, Ray."
She keeps her palms at her sides, staring at him.
"I just…" He whispers, "I need to feel your skin against mine… please."
His words sail on the air to her ears, and she feels her stomach drop—she hasn't heard him this desperate since the night after Vince's death, when he sat on the edge of their bed trying to decide between despondence and emotion, between hate and love. He'd made the wrong choices back then, and she knows he's trying to make the right choices tonight.
"Deacon," she breathes, standing in the entryway. She knows what he needs, she knows he can only find it with her.
She is married to another man, but she is tired. She's buried her love for this man underneath every good intention her husband ever had, underneath every bit of rationale Tandy tattooed on her wrist to read back any time Rayna was feeling weak—she's tucked her love for him underneath the stacks of rehab bills, underneath the sound of furniture breaking, underneath the taste of her own tears, underneath the taste of his.
But even under all that weight, she could somehow always feel it rising up, trying to break through to the surface, like some kind of dandelion after an apocalypse: everything should be dead, but there it is, still living. She could never eradicate it or banish it completely, her love for him; she knew this to be true because she'd tried, back when she thought everything would be easier if she just didn't love him. As it turns out, though, she can't not love him, even after everything, everything.
"Please." He says, and suddenly she's taking his hand, leading him to the guest room.
She closes the door, even though they are alone in the house.
"I don't know what you look like anymore. I can't remember the shape of your body, how it feels against mine, Ray." He is on the verge of crying, but she doesn't know if he has any tears left, so his brow just creases in the middle and she swears she can see every ounce of pain he's ever felt. She can see where Vince's death marked him, where her leaving cut him open.
She knows she and Vince were the only two people he'd ever really loved, and she knows he feels scared that he will lose her, too. Scared that he already has, because he can't remember the feel of them together.
She can't remember, either, not really, and there's a part of her that hates herself for forgetting, another part that hates herself for wanting to remember - for needing to remember when another man's ring is so heavy on her hand.
"I'm not..." Her voice is pale, "I don't look the same…" She speaks to him softly, gently, letting him know that Maddie has changed her.
He shakes his head, but he doesn't speak. She knows what he's saying.
She reaches a tentative hand to the top button on her shirt, undoing it. The rest of the buttons follow – one, two, three, four, five, and six – she counts them as her shaky hands work them through their holes. When they have all been undone, she shrugs out of the shirt, lets it float down to the carpet. She reaches behind her, unhooks her bra, and lets it fall—it lands on top of the soft fabric of her shirt, and she closes her eyes at the sound, so loud it hurts her ears. She reaches for the button fly of her jeans, undoes them one by one, and pulls the garment down over her hips, stepping out of it. She is standing before him now in only her underwear, and she doesn't know that she's ever felt more vulnerable; she doesn't know that she's ever felt safer.
When she gathers the strength to open her eyes, she finds that Deacon does have tears left. They are sliding down his cheeks now and he is silent, his eyes fixed on her.
She walks to him, and puts her hands under the hem of his shirt, her fingers grazing the flesh of his abdomen. He raises his arms, and she pulls it over his head, dropping it to the floor. She unbuttons his jeans and reaches for his zipper, but her hands are trembling and she pulls away, staring up at him.
He looks at her softly as he undoes his fly and lets his jeans fall to the floor. She takes his hand as he steps out of them, leading him to the bed. He sits on the edge and stares at her, his eyes tracking up and down her body—she's surprised to find that his gaze is not lustful; instead, it's reverent, worshipful. The realization drops emotion into her throat and she swallows around it, her heart heavy.
"You're beautiful." He says it plainly, simply. Like it's the last truth he's sure of.
For the first time since she gave birth, she believes it. The tears come, and she glances down at the floor at his bare feet, thankful that they brought him here tonight instead of anywhere else.
He lets her hand go, and swings his legs up onto the bed, pressing his back into the softness of the mattress. He closes his eyes, and Rayna thinks how tired he looks, but there is something else on his face that she hasn't seen in years, and the sight stuns her: peace.
She flicks off the light next to the bed, and slides her body on top of his, her naked chest pressing into his. He feels warm, and solid, and somehow still unbearably soft, like everything she's ever remembered: the dandelion in the apocalypse, desperate to sow its seeds, even if they won't grow.
She nestles her head into his neck and she hears him sigh as he wraps his arm around her back, his palm pressing itself into the dip in her lower back. He traces his hand up and down her spine as she moves her fingers gently along his collarbone.
"Thank you." He whispers, his breath tickling her hair. She can hear the gravity behind his words, but she can't respond.
Instead, she just shifts against him and closes her eyes, drifting softly to sleep. Because whatever they've been to each other all these years, she can be this for him now—hallowed ground, a breath of air into tired lungs. She can pretend that he's not the same for her, but she knows the truth. She doesn't stop to think about what this will mean for them tomorrow, who they will become after this night—she already knows. But there have been ghosts between them for years, so she doesn't see a problem with one or two more.
When she wakes in the early light of morning, she feels well rested for the first time in months; she knows he is gone before she turns to look at the pillow next to her, but she turns to look anyway. She has always had a thing about actually seeing that he is gone.
On the pillow beside her, nestled in the indentation his head made, is a small bronze chip. She reaches out for it, and twirls it between her fingers testing its weight. It feels lighter than she thought it might. Her breath hitches in her throat as she reads the prayer on the back. He left this for her, so she would know that this one belongs to her. What he hasn't told her is that they all do.
And, so, maybe everyone was right, she thinks. Maybe she is his addiction—maybe he is hers. But, she wonders, can you really call that which is part of your blood an addiction?
She falls back to sleep clutching the chip in her palm; she dreams she is standing in a barren world filled with nothing but dandelions, as far as her eyes can see. And she is smiling.