Dutiful
By: Manna


oXo

The irritating beeping of his alarm clock made him want to grind his teeth and throw his bedside lamp across his bedroom.

For the twenty years he'd lived in his house, he'd awoken to that particular sound, and for twenty years, he'd peeled his eyes open to see her curled up beside him on her side, her head on his arm, her left hand twisted in the fabric of his shirt.

And every day, he dutifully pried her off of him and stumbled down the hall to the bathroom to get dressed. After twenty years of doing it, he had given up on cursing the hours of the early morning that had been, in his younger days, far too early to be awake. He would simply look at her as she slept through the incessant beeping, and he would brush her bangs out of her eyes, lay a kiss on her forehead, and he would leave with a heavy heart.

When he arrived at work, Wallace, his boss, would laugh and carry on about the work that had to be done for the day. While in theory, he paid attention, and he had never missed a day of work no matter how sick or tired he was, his thoughts were never really on his job.

For twenty years he had heard that alarm go off; for twenty years, he had been fortunate enough to wake up beside her. He had a feeling that if he were lucky enough to have twenty more years with her, he would feel the same way. As he clamored over scaffolding and pulled his hard hat off of his head to wipe the sweat from his forehead, he would think of her smile, her laugh… and suddenly, all was right with the world.

He would go to work every day for all of eternity if he could feel as wonderful as he did when he stepped through the door in the evening when she would be waiting at the kitchen table, a smile and a kiss for him despite the fact that he was dirty and sweaty and she had food splattered on her apron.

This particular day was different. As he brushed her bangs away from her forehead, he heard her sigh lightly at his touch before she opened the eyes that he could look into for the rest of his life.

She yawned, wrapping an arm around him and squeezing him tight. "Morning already?" she asked, her voice clouded with sleep.

He smiled lightly at her, his dark eyes soft. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to wake you up."

She closed her eyes, but did not let go.

His heart ached with indecision. It was chilly outside… and the blankets were so warm and inviting…

I'm getting too old for this, he thought.

She slowly opened her eyes and smiled at him slyly. "I know you want to stay," she whispered, poking him in the chest.

"Of course I do," he answered her, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "But I have to work today…"

The alarm continued to beep in the background as she pulled his arm around her and sighed contentedly, the side of her face resting against his chest. "You worked for two weeks without a day off, Kent," she said. "I think you deserve this weekend off…"

"I can't, Lyndis…"

"I know, I know." She shook her head, smiling anyway. "Do you want me to make you some breakfast?"

"No," he whispered. "Just go ahead and go back to sleep. I'll see you after work, okay?"

"Okay." She reluctantly let him go and snuggled down into the warmth the blankets had to offer, clearly missing her husband's body heat. "I love you," she said as he shut off the alarm clock.

He answered, grabbing the clothes that he had set out the night before, "I love you, too."

He made his way down the dark hallway to the bathroom and put his clothes on, leaving his pajamas on the bathroom counter, neatly folded. After a half-hour, he was ready to leave, having eaten a piece of toast and poured a thermos full of piping hot coffee.

When he opened the door, however, he was startled to see that the ground was covered in a layer of snow, several inches at the very least. The sky was starting to light up thanks to the rising sun, but he shook his head at how thick the snow was falling. He pulled back into the house, shutting the door behind him before he set his lunchbox and thermos on the table.

He sighed and picked up the phone. There was no way he would have time to heat up and clear off his car before he left for work…and he would have to drive slowly to make it there in one piece… Oh, yes, he'd be rather late.

I'd better call and let them know, he decided.

He dialed the number for his boss's cellphone; the phone rang once before it was picked up. "Kent!" The voice of his boss sounded surprised. "I'm glad you called me… I was just getting ready to call you. Have you left, yet? I was hoping to catch you before you could leave…"

"I called to let you know I'll be late," the auburn-haired man informed him, glancing out the kitchen window at the pile of snow on top of his car.

"No, no," Wallace said. "I'm calling everyone to let them know construction is canceled today. The news is going on and on about how bad the roads are… I guess there's a jack-knifed tractor-trailer on Route 75, and a lot of cars in the ditch. Just take it easy today! I'll call you tomorrow morning to let you know if the roads are clear enough to continue our work. I'll be working you pups twice as hard to make up for it, though." Wallace's booming laugh could be heard even when he pulled the phone a few feet away from his aching ear.

Kent was almost speechless, but managed to mutter out a word of thanks before he hung up.

Work…was canceled? A grin crept across his face as he slipped out of his work boots and made his way back to the bathroom. That meant that he could go back to bed, back to sleep, back to his wife!

As he changed back into his pajamas, he couldn't help but feel like a kid playing hooky from school (not that he had ever done such a thing, himself, of course). Within a few minutes, he found himself sliding back underneath the covers, glad for the warmth.

Lyn immediately snuggled up to him, murmuring, "I thought you left for work…"

"I'm staying home today," he answered, wrapping an arm around her as he ran a hand through her long hair.

She half-opened one eye. "I've got you all to myself today?" she asked. When he nodded, she continued after kissing him fiercely, "In that case, let's go back to sleep… Later, I'll make us a nice lunch…and then," she grinned, raising an eyebrow, "we can stay in bed for the rest of the day."

He flushed a little, but couldn't help the smile that crossed his face as he buried his face in her hair. "I should get to sleep, then," he laughed, already feeling drowsy from the warmth the bed had to offer. "I'll need all the energy I can get."


Author Notes:

I wasn't sure about this one. It certainly is something, ahh, different. I don't know how I feel about it. There are a lot of things I like about it, and a lot of things I don't like about it. After sitting on this and pre-reading it more than 10 times, I decided to go ahead and post it, and let all of you decide how you feel about it.

Thank you for reading!