Disclaimer: If I owned Treasure Planet, I'd have lots more houses than I do now.

Author's Note: All right! It Was Nine, revised and reposted! Special thanks to everybody who reviewed with constructive criticisms; I hope my revisions made this story better. Please enjoy.

It Was Nine

It was six.

He hadn't come home that night. He never did. Not any more.

She lay in her bed. Counting the hours. Hours and hours and hours and...

It was seven.

He came in through the back door. Customary. Predictable. So wonderfully, hideously predictable. She was in the kitchen, waiting. He was there.

"Where were you?"

"Out."

"Out where, Leland?"

"Just out."

"Did you sleep at all?"

"No."

It was seven-ten. The clock ticked. Ticking. Tormenting. She couldn't help herself. "Were you out with...someone?"

"What? Nonsense."

"Leland..."

"No, I said. Why would you think that?"

"You just...you never tell me anything anymore."

"Maybe that's a good thing."

She watched him. He went into the bedroom and didn't come out again. She followed him. Maybe he's gone to sleep. Maybe he's gone to sleep and everything will be okay when he wakes up and...

Bags. Suitcases. His clothes.

"What're you doing, Leland?"

"Packing."

She didn't understand.

"How come?"

"Because."

So she left him alone.

It was eight. The clock ticked. Counting. She counted the seconds. The minutes. One by one. He came back into the kitchen. She stood.

He carried bags.

Bags, suitcases. His clothes.

"What are...?"

"I have to go."

"What? Where?"

"I don't know. Away."

"What?"

"I have to go away."

Bags. Suitcases. His clothes.

"Leland..."

"I can't stay here anymore. I have to go."

"You're joking...right?"

"Why in the....Why would I?"

"I don't know."

Going away. Can't stay here anymore. What did that mean?

"When will you be back?"

"I'm not coming back, Sarah."

Beasts. Bags. Suitcases. His clothes. She grabbed for them. He held them from her. Kidnappers. They couldn't take him. They couldn't!

"Leland... Stay."

"I... can't."

"Don't do this, Leland, don't leave me..."

"I have to."

"You have to stay...!"

"Don't lie to me."

Lie!?

"About what? I'm not! Stay!"

"I can't anymore."

"Why?"

Why, why? It was all she could say. All she could think. Why? He'd been upset. That she knew, but upset enough to leave? He couldn't leave. He'd never warned her how upset he was...Or had he tried?

A rising voice.

"I have to go. Don't ask me again! You hear me?"

"Stay, Leland, you can't go..."

"Why? Huh? Why? What's here? I don't have anything here for me anymore, Sarah! Nothing!"

Nothing! Nothing? He had her. Was she nothing? Something on her face. Water. Tears. Little tears were falling down her cheeks, off her face.

"Don't cry! Stop it! Listen to me!"

She tried to stop them. She couldn't. Let them come. Hot, little tears. She touched his face.

"I don't want you to leave..."

He closed his eyes. "I know...But I have to."

"No! You do have things here, Leland! People who love you! People who need you. I need you, Leland, stay for me!"

"Too long...Somehow I've stayed alive here too long for you. Because of you."

Her fault, then. He was leaving because of her.

"I..."

He pulled her hand from his face.

"I'm sorry, Leland, for whatever I did. Stay..."

"No. No...You don't get it..."

"Stay! I'm sorry! If you can't stay for me--If it's me...stay for your son."

His eyes flashed.

"No."

"But Jim--"

"No, dammit! Why'd you mention him? My son! Why'd you mention him? He's--"

"--Stay. Stay for Jim--"

"--He's the reason I can't stay! You're the reason I can't stay!"

"We need you, Leland..."

"Don't lie to me!"

There it was again: lie. Was she lying?

"About what? Needing you? We do need you, Leland! You're Jim's father! You're my husband! My..."

"No!"

"...We do need you, Leland. We do!"

"Don't lie to me!"

He had her shoulders. Her back--her shoulders--slammed against the wall. His grip. He was hurting her. Banging. His fist banged the wall beside her head. Frightening her.

"Don't you lie to me!" Banging. Banging.

Terrified.

"I won't... I won't."

"Listen: I'm...not...staying."

"But we need you to."

Hot tears.

"I can't, Sarah! I can't! You're lying to me! Don't need me! Do you not understand anything?"

"I do. I do. I understand..."

"No. No, you don't, dammit!"

Her shoulders. If he would let go--

"Don't need me! I'm not worth needing or loving or anything like that--I'm leaving, for God's sake! And you're not stopping me! I can't stay because you need me!"

She didn't respond. She couldn't understand.

"Listen. Listen, Baby. I'm trapped. I'm trapped here, you hear me? You need me. Jim needs me. I can't do it! Need someone else, because I'm trapped and I'm dying here--"

"--I--I didn't know that--"

"--And I'm leaving!"

Stay. Why? Trapped? She had never known that. He'd never told her. Had he tried? She couldn't remember.

He had her shoulders. Why? Why? Stay. Say something! She wasn't speaking! Say anything! Make him stay!

She crumpled in his hands against the wall next to the table in front of the window with the sun bleeding into the kitchen.

Resigning.

She couldn't make him stay.

"Don't cry. Don't cry, you hear me? Don't make this harder on me, dammit, not you, Sarah, don't cry, please..."

He let go. Held her arm. Pulled her down.

"Sit. Sit here, right now. I'm not going to yell anymore."

Had he been yelling? Had they both been yelling? Was she actually crying? He was leaving. That was all she knew.

She obeyed. Sat. Covered her face with her hands. He kneeled down in front of her and looked at her.

"Sarah... Stop."

Trembling. Was his voice trembling?

"Stop, Baby. Stop. Don't make this harder on me, Sarah. Don't, please? Stop it."

Her mind began to work again. Formed the words.

"Why? ...Why are you leaving?"

"I'm trapped. Sarah, I'm going to die here if I don't get out. You don't know what it's like, Sarah, to be lonely and miserable in your own life. But it's killing me, Sarah..."

"...Lonely. Do... Do you not love me anymore?"

No answer.

"Leland?"

"I don't know, Baby."

She couldn't look at him. She couldn't make him stay. She was helpless. Resigning....Desperate. Panicked. Make him stay. Make him stay...

A plea.

"Leland. Stay."

Silence. He was up again. Standing over her, crying. He was quiet. Quiet when he picked up his bags. Quiet when he opened the door. Quiet when he didn't stay.

It was nine.