Disclaimer: Characters belong to the Bell's, CBS, et al and appear here for non-profit entertainment purposes.
Rating: PG 14
Genre: Angst
POV: Jackie and Eric
Spoilers: All of it. Everything that's aired on the show up until Friday (October 7th) and all spoilers for the next week (October 10th through the 14th) that have been posted to various message boards.
Summary: Leaving tortured souls alone with their thoughts is never a wise thing to do.
Note: This is all simply speculation on my part of what will be happening over the next few weeks.

Candles might have been nice. Thick square candles with three wicks. Lots of flickering light and the light smell of vanilla. I wrinkle my nose and run my fingers through his silver hair. No, not vanilla. That's too happy a scent. Too pleasant for an occasion such as this.

The sheets rustle as he shifts in his sleep, his hand grazing my breast. Bright moonlight spills in through the windows, falling in on my bed and casting odd shadows in the corners of the room. I glance down at him, his head resting in the crook of my arm. His breathing is deep and even, the silver light catching a drop of perspiration that rolled down from his hairline and splattered on his lashes.

No, it was better without the candles. The glow from the flames would've broken the fragile dam on my emotions. The darkness cloaked so much. Shadows hid the pain in my eyes as we fell into the bed, heavy breathing replacing the sobs that would've come if I could see him clearly. Not being able to see him is the only way that I could allow him to keep coming back. How I can deal with feeling alone even when he is lying next to me.

I pull my arm back gently, careful not to wake him, and fold it beneath my head as I stare up at the ceiling. Hadn't I told him I'd been alone for the majority of my adult life? That I didn't expect it to happen…again. Why should I be surprised? Nothing's gone at all the way I planned it.

Marriage to Massimo was comfortable, but dull. I just never quite fit into the niche that he had carved out in his life for a wife. Never conformed to his idea of what a wife should be. He didn't love me. He loved the idea of having a wife. He may have once, but rarely does the infatuation and lust of our youth evolve into a long lasting marriage.

And then there was Deacon. A breath of fresh air, if ever there was one. He was everything Massimo wasn't. He saved me from a lackluster marriage and a life where I lived someone else's expectations of myself. He made me remember the Jackie that existed before she became Mrs. Massimo Marone. But it was the wrong time for us. We both had too many demons that were more destructive than we could ever have been.

But this is far worse. Being so close to Eric, yet so far away and feeling utterly, utterly alone. Would I die alone too?

I frown as a history lesson from my schoolgirl days whispered to me. Napoleon divorced his empress, his incomparable Josephine, for the good of a child he hadn't even sired yet. He sacrificed his beloved and let her die alone. Of course, Napoleon had an empire to think of. Eric just had his daughter and unborn grandchild. Our unborn grandchild.

The ceiling stretches out to infinity, the corners where it met the wall faded away into the dark. It wasn't love between us. Not yet. We aren't sacrificing love, just the chance that it could blossom. Which is the most tragic thing of all: sacrificing what may have been. Killing something before it even began.

I doubt he even considered me before he jumped feet first into this sham of a marriage with Brooke. His daughter was his priority. The only priority, as he saw it. I sigh and shift closer to him in the bed. But isn't that the way it's supposed to be? Putting your child's happiness, their needs and desires, before your own? Hadn't I done that for so long with Nicky?

To understand Eric is one thing. To live with what he's done is quite another.

Conscious thought fades away as the weight of darkness settles on my chest, holding my heart within its viselike grip. His breathing echoes in my ears, a low drone in the silence of the penthouse. It's a marvel how he can sleep so peacefully. How he can sleep so soundly after everything.

He's content with the way things are. And why shouldn't he be? He has everything he needs. His daughter's happiness during the day, his remarriage to Brooke ensuring that. And me at night, a carnal pleasure that only exists when the sun goes down.

It would be the right thing to do. To say "no" and move on with my life, such as it is. But I let him just the same. Take him into my bed almost every night, my body the reward he seeks for living a lie all day. And I let him. I continue giving myself to him because it's better than the alternative. But it means waking up to an empty bed with cold sheets in the morning. Taking my coffee alone as the sun rises slowly in the sky.

It's something at least. A connection to another human being and all the warmth that comes with it. The promise that one day things would change. That perhaps my life would finally turn out the way I'd like it to.

I should probably sleep. Chase away these thoughts and close my eyes. Fall asleep now while his arm was heavy across my stomach. I draw my arm out from underneath my head and rest my hand on his arm. Drift away to slumber while he's still here. It was far easier to wake up in the morning and pretend that all of this had been a dream.

The room began to glow, the faint light snaking behind my closed lids. I groan softly and fling my arm over my eyes. Morning is no longer what it used to be. The birth of a new day was just a new nail in the coffin of agony I now live in.

She rolls over next to me, turning her face into my chest. My arm falls slowly and I blink rapidly as I gaze down at her. The sunlight caught the highlights of fiery gold in her auburn mane. She purses her lips and they part slightly as she sighs in her sleep.

I tuck my arm under the sheet and drape it over her waist as I pull her closer to me. The warmth of the soft flesh beneath my arm is a reminder of what awaits me at Brooke's house of lies. Staying up until her children went to sleep and Catherine finally left for the day. The pretense had to be kept up.

With the dark of night, came freedom that didn't exist during daylight. Brooke retired to her room, often saying nothing to me. It was probably for the best that way. There was nothing left between us to say. The guest room that I was to sleep in was too cold, hardly any trace of me in there. There couldn't be. All of my belongings and personals stored in the master bedroom. They had to be. How could I explain to Bridget why her mother and I were already sleeping apart?

So I kept up the charade, retiring each night to a barren room with a bed even lonelier than the one I shared with Stephanie. At least there was warmth to cling to, even if it was only trace amounts.

To be alone at my age was an unpleasant reality. Brooke had been at the top of the stairs, following me across the foyer with hollow eyes. She knew where I was going, who I was going to see. She knew why. Her feelings for me were as dead and buried as mine were for her. But for Bridget, we'd pretend.

Her hair spills onto my chest, tickling the skin there and I can't help but reach out to finger it. She was real. She wasn't loneliness. She wasn't cold and bitter like Stephanie, whose love for revenge often drowned her love for me. But she didn't have the errors of youth that Brooke possessed the first time I married her.

I had never thought it possible to find a woman that encompassed the best qualities of my two former wives. Yet here she lay next to me, her hand tucked beneath her head. I stared into her face, my finger lightly tracing a path on her jaw from her ear to her chin. It wasn't fair to her. To use her to belie my own loneliness. Coming to her only in the shadow of night, where the dark hid the mockery my life became.

My finger ran slowly across her lips, her deep breathing falling on my flesh. Jackie had every reason to turn me away. To slam the door in my face and banish me from her life forever. And I deserved it. It would serve me right because I deserved that and so much more. It wasn't fair to her. To none of us really, but no one would ever know of her sacrifice.

But she hadn't shut me out, not yet anyway. Nearly every night for the past few weeks she stood silent, holding open the door to her penthouse. The lights in the living room were always turned low, so I never had to see how much I was taking from her. But I saw them nonetheless. Every time I close my eyes, hers appeared. Mournful and downcast, they grew to encompass my senses until it was them that I sketched instead of the newest line. Her face that I once again envisioned on my models.

My suffering and Brooke's was worth it. Bridget was happy and reveling in her pregnancy, finally convinced that any lingering feelings between her mother and her husband were laid to rest. Our sacrifice was worth it. But what of Jackie's? No one would ever know how much the three of us were giving up. Would our children even thank us if they knew?

"I can't give you up," I murmur, but it barely stirs her. To not see her would take away the one piece of happiness I can claim for myself. That wasn't tied up in what was best for my daughter and her unborn child. My time with Jackie was the only thing I could look forward to anymore.

The house would be stirring soon. Catherine came in early to look after the children. And my place is there, with Brooke. I close my eyes and remind myself again to start referring to her as my wife again.

I sigh and press a soft kiss to her forehead, my lips lingering there for a long moment. Deep regret hangs over me as I gently lift her head off my shoulder and lower it to her pillow. The silk gives with the pressure of her head, the red-gold of her hair contrasting against the navy blue sheets. She never wakes and that one is the only thing I am grateful for when day breaks. I can at least give her this. Spare her the pain of having to say goodbye. It's about the only decent thing I can do for her.

I bend down and kiss her lips, savoring the sweet taste of them. "I'm sorry," I whisper against them. My fingers brush her cheeks as I close my eyes and lower my forehead to hers. "I'm so sorry."

With a deep sigh, I push myself up from her bed and ignore the icy brittleness that springs up around my heart. A new day has arrived. New opportunities to kill myself slowly a thousand times over. Until I'm reborn again tonight.