Author's note - This is the short sequel to my Riclaire oneshot, Out Of His League. See, I was reading through the reviews for it the other day and noticed that some people were wondering if it foreshadowed a Mary x Rick pairing. So, I thought about it and that's how In Love And Bitterness was born. Enjoy everyone!
Oh, and if you're looking for a happy resolution to what was quite a sad story in the first place, you'll disappointed. This one's worse!
In Love And Bitterness
On the 4th of Winter, almost two years since their fateful midnight meeting on Mineral Beach, Mary and Rick were married. Just a season before that so were Gray and Claire. And, if the rumours were to be believed, River View's young farmer was also pregnant.
Personally, Mary wasn't so sure about that, but then neither did she like to think of them together. At all. And as far as her imagination was concerned, they certainly didn't share a bed.
Just like her and Rick actually.
Of course, the pair of them were perfectly civil to Gray and Claire when they saw them at festivals or whenever else they absolutely had to see them.
It was far too painful otherwise.
The odd thing was that no one else in town noticed. They seemed completely oblivious to the fact that while Mary and Rick clearly had a great affection for each other, great passion had evaded them from the start.
Even simple things like the Cow Festival could be traumatic. If Claire was to win - and she often did - Gray would give her a typically shy kiss on the cheek and Mary would find herself looking away quickly. Then, Claire, the more passionate of the couple, would usually take her husband's hand and instigate a more romantic embrace, usually to the point where you couldn't tell which body was which.
It would then be Rick's turn to take an unusual interest in the state of his shoes. Or his glasses. Or anything else that didn't happen to be Gray and Claire kissing. Maybe he'd even clasp his wife's hand out of comfort and unstanding. Maybe...
He could remember the night before he proposed to her. At midnight, he was still unsure whether or not to go through it, so he wrote a little list to help him decide. It was a list of all the things he and Mary had in common.
Ten minutes later, he wrote down 'Glasses' at the top of the page. It was a bit ridiculous, he knew that, but it was a definite similarity. After another half an hour of thinking he added, 'Lonely' and left it at that.
It wasn't the fullest list, by far, but it was either ask her or face a life of loneliness. So he did and Mary was obviously thinking the same thing as her answer was 'yes'. Not an ecsatic sort of 'yes', but a happy one. And that would do; it would have to.
One warm Summer evening, the year after they were married, Mary's world was on the verge of falling apart. She was making her way home from the Library, deeply imersed thoughts of her uncompleted novel, when someone came rushing up the path towards her, arms flailing wildly and yelling her name.
She only realised who it was after they'd pulled her into an unexpected hug and released her again, leaving her speechless at their identity.
It was Gray.
He stood in front of her blushing at what he'd done, yet still unable to let the huge grin slide off his face. "Sorry," he smiled out form under his cap. "But I'm just so - excited!"
"Oh," was all Mary could manage, as she wasn't sure if she was going to like this news or not. What she did know, however, was that her stomach was already doing somersaults at the mere sight of him.
"I've - I've got a daughter, Mary!" Gray burst out, brimming with excitement and pride. "She was only born an hour ago and she's so beautiful already. I don't know what we'll call her yet, but you should feel free to come around and visit whenever you want. Claire's really tired at the moment, but maybe in a few days?"
The words hit Mary like rocks to her head. She felt herself nodding and smiling, but the motions didn't really reach her. Inside she was breaking down - breaking down slowly and painfully as the words took effect.
He had a daughter, for Goddess sake. Of course this relationship was meant to last - how could she have been so blind?
As Mary felt tears pricking her eyes, she began to panic. But instead Gray seemed to mistake them for tears of happiness. "I knew you'd be pleased," he said, touching her arm and sending a shiver through her. "Right, I've got to go tell Gramps now. I'll see you around, Mary."
And that's how he left her standing there, feeling emptier and colder than ever before.
Mary didn't remember much of how she'd got home, but just as she reached the entrance to Poultry Farm, Rick emerged from the house.
"I was just coming to look for you!" he cried, when he clapped eyes his wife. "Where've you been?"
Mary told him everything that had just happened and watched as her feelings of horror mirrored themselves on her husband's face. "I - I'm just going for a walk," he murmured. "Yes. For a walk."
As the door to the farmhouse clicked shut behind Mary, Rick wandered across the yard over to the chicken's pen. He leant on the fence and sighed weakly.
He though Mary was wonderful and he'd made his mother so happy by finally marrying her, but...she wasn't Claire. Just as he was not Gray. He and Mary got on well, they were companionable, they had fun, but could he honestly say those three little words and mean it? Really, truly mean it?
...No...no, because his longing to be the father of that little baby at River View was so great it physically hurt. And that wasn't love. Both of them seemed to realise this and they accepted it; it was like an unspoken agreement.
Rick let out a long sigh and stared upwards into the purply-grey sky. There was a small reddish tinge on the horizon, he noticed, just near River View. Another deep sigh escaped him and he began to make his way inside in an almost defeated manner.
His thoughts had returned to her again.
He found they always did.
Inside the farmhouse, Mary scrambled to her feet at the sound of her husband's entrance. "Oh, hello dear," she sniffed smoothing down her hair and giving her reddened eyes a quick wipe. "I'll - I'll put the dinner on, shall I?"
Rick gave an unconsious nod. He glanced at his wife apprehensively for a moment and wondered whether he should go and put his arm around her. In the end he decided it was best not to.
"Is it Gray?" he asked her somewhat nervously.
"Y-Yes." Then she looked away quickly.
She didn't add 'and it always will be'.
...She didn't need to.