A/N: Gentle reminder that every story I write leads to an AU where recent 'events' don't happen.

Lyn - thank you so much for your review on I'm Not Here to Be Brave. I hope your surgery went well, and that you heal swiftly and wholly.


Deacon is sitting on her couch, his head pressed firmly into the back of it, the TV playing softly in the background. Breakfast at Tiffany's is on; it's her favorite movie, and she can never turn it off when it's playing. He's watched it with her—and without her, when he wanted to hold on to her memory—so many times it's become one of his favorites, too.

You mustn't give your heart to a wild thing, Deacon thinks, shaking his head as he turns to look at her. As though that ship didn't set sail the moment he ever laid eyes on her. The truth is that he hasn't seen hide nor hair of his heart since that first night at the Bluebird when he saw her, all fiery hair and eyes to match; she was the wildest thing he'd ever seen, and he'd handed his heart, scar tissue and all, over to her without a second thought—though, he thinks now, he didn't have much of a choice. He never had much of a choice when it came to loving her.

Rayna is staring right back at him, her eyes holding something he can only name as awe. She's wearing one of his old t-shirts he didn't even know she still had and a pair of flannel pajama pants, and he feels the awe creep into his veins, too, feels it coursing through his body until he's not sure it's blood that's flowing through them at all.

He can't believe he gets to see her like this again, that she is his again after all these years. They haven't talked about anything since they got back together, not really, and suddenly he wants her to know where he's been all these years. He wants her to see the roads he walked down alone, scared to face a lifetime never having her again the way he wanted to. The way he needed to.

He reaches out and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. He runs his index finger down the shell of it before bringing his hand back to rest in his lap. "These past years, Ray—these years without you, they weren't easy on me." He clears his throat, "When you left me, it wasn't easy on me."

He thinks about how much he wanted to die back then, how much time he spent imagining his own end, and he knows he can't tell her about those roads. He can never tell her that he saw his wrist as a bullseye for the first two years she was gone. He can never tell her about the pills he kept for months in his cabinet, how they taunted him every time he got his toothpaste out. He can never tell her how he got the pills out from behind a package of band-aids on the night he found out she was pregnant and counted them over and over again, trying to figure out if he had enough, trying to decide how many he had to take to get the job done and minimize the mess. The only thing that stopped him that night was the idea that she would be the one to find him, that she would somehow come over to his apartment and find him dead, just like she always feared she would. He couldn't do that to her, but he can't tell her that. Anytime he thought about it after that night—and it was way more than he ever wanted to admit to anyone, even himself—he thought about Rayna cleaning up another one of his messes, and that was enough.

"I know," She whispers, and he wonders if maybe she does; she's always guessed his darkest secrets, after all. Her voice is small, and she smiles a bit before she makes the confession. "It wasn't easy for me, either." She sighs, "Deacon, after we broke up, I used to lay in bed night after night imagining I was a paper doll."

Deacon furrows his brow, confused by her admission, "A paper doll?"

She nods, "Yes. And I'd think of future lovers," Deacon blanches at her word, but she continues "I'd think about how someday, one of them would come along and say 'show me where he hurt you.' And I'd have to point out every inch of my body, because everything hurt so much without you." She turns her head and stares at the TV where Holly Golightly is wearing a cat mask, "Sometimes it felt like you just lit a match and I went right up in flames." She clears her throat, and her voice is raspy when she speaks again, thick with emotion, "Sometimes I wondered how there was anything left of me at all. People would look at me… Bucky, Tandy, even Daddy, and I'd think how can you not see that I'm just a pile of ash?"

"I get that." His voice is heavy, and he does get it, more than most could. Back then, when she was a pile of ash, he was a used match: just a stick of wood without a purpose, and a burnt spot that used to work. Someone had used him up, and he'd never be able to set anything on fire again; somedays back then he swore he could smell the sulfur stuck in his nose.

She smiles sadly, "Then I'd think that these lovers would never ask me to show them where you'd loved me. And I'd think thank god, because I'd have to do the same damn thing. I'd have to point out every inch of my body." Her voice is a whisper, laden with the weight of carrying this around all these years, but she doesn't say what else she thought back then: I'd have to rip out my heart and show it to them, saying 'here—here is where he loved me, and I'm sorry, but you can't touch it, because it's still his.'

Deacon feels his heart in his chest, it's stuttering a bit, and he doesn't want to ask, but he feels the sudden desperate need to know, "Did you ever talk about me?"

She rolls her head back on to the couch, tearing her eyes away from the TV, focusing them on him, "With a lover?" She asks, her voice gentle.

Deacon nods once, "Yes, with a lover." He grits the word out, the taste of it bitter in his mouth. He doesn't expect it to hurt so much, but is not surprised to find that it does. He's holding his breath waiting for her to answer.

"Deacon," She turns to face him, bringing her hand up to cup his face; the look she gives him is one he can't place, somewhere between sadness and incredulity, like she can't believe he doesn't already know the answer to the question he just asked, "I've never had another lover." She breathes it out, and it's the sweetest phrase he's ever heard.

His breath hitches in his throat, and his eyes feel suddenly wet as he releases the breath, letting it work its way into the space between them. He knows exactly what she means, and it's everything he wanted to hear, but never thought he would.

She thinks she should feel embarrassed admitting she spent fourteen years with another man in her bed and didn't love him, not for a second. But Deacon's looking at her like she just handed him a life-jacket and he hadn't even realized he'd been drowning, so she can only feel relieved. She hadn't realized the weight of that truth had been perched on her shoulders all these years.

"I've only ever loved you." She says, and she's amazed she's not crying, but she runs her hand along the stubble of his chin, marveling at how it still feels the exact same underneath her fingers as it did the first time she ever did it.

Deacon closes his eyes and he thinks for a moment of the women who cycled in and out of his bed through the years, how he never talked to them about Rayna, but how they all somehow still knew—how sometimes her name would fall from his lips, and they'd both pretend that it hadn't. How he couldn't love any of them, how he never even tried, how he never even wanted to.

He can love no one but her. He knows this now, he stopped fighting it a long time ago. He will never love anyone but her; should the sun burn out, should the rest of the stars implode, should everything in the universe suddenly disappear, he knows his love for her would remain. His love for her has kept vigil; his love for her will always keep vigil.

"I've only ever loved you, baby." He whispers, and it's a promise. He only ever will.

She smiles, and he adjusts himself on the couch so he's closer to her, their knees touching.

There's something else he hasn't told her, not really, and he wants her to know, "I loved watching your success." He says, "If I couldn't be here," He places his hand on her knee, "Like I wanted to, if I couldn't be with you… I'm glad I got to be with you on stage."

She smiles, and takes his hand in hers and then she presses it against her heart, "You were here, too. You were always here." She leans forward and presses a kiss to his lips, "I wouldn't have any of it if it weren't for you." At his look, she smiles, then glances at the TV, "Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot." She laughs; she's no Holly Golightly, but it's true—whenever she looked in the mirror and couldn't see the girl she was when she started her journey, she just had to look at Deacon. She knew he saw her.

Deacon shakes his head, "I owe you." He whispers against her lips, because she saved his life even when she didn't know it was in danger. The thought of her kept him sober, kept him grounded, kept him alive.

Their lips come together like a vow: they can love only each other.

He pulls back to look at her, overwhelmed, and then he presses his lips to hers again. He opens his mouth against hers as she kisses him back and it feels like the stars are imploding. He runs his hand up the hem of her shirt, his tongue gliding over hers. She sucks in her breath at the feel of his rough hands on the soft skin of her stomach, inhales against his mouth as his hand creeps lower, dipping into the top of her sweatpants, reaching lower, lower.

As his fingers glide against her, he sets her on fire, but it's a different kind this time.