Title: Once

Author: Bazaar Malay

Rating: Fiction Rated : K

Type: One Shot

He had tried. Once.

It was late; she had already fallen asleep, spooned up against him. Not a sound could be heard throughout the entire compound. But his ears were filled with noise, pounding filling his mind. His eyes stared straight to the wall across from him, and his breath was forced to sound steady and calm even when he wasn't.

He was nervous.

He was going to do it. He had psyched himself up the entire day; he was going to do what he never thought he would.

He was going to tell the women who lay asleep beside him that he loved her for the first time.

Yes, the first time, they'd been together for years but he still never said it. Hell, for the first eight years he didn't even feel it necessary to do so, she knew how he felt, so there wasn't a problem. But then…

He almost lost them all, almost lost his life, his child's, and the life of the woman next to him, who, in truth, meant the world to him. And in the few moments all those years ago, when he actually thought his world was lost to him, all he could think about was what he hadn't said.

I love you.

And when he was given a second chance he wasn't going to let it pass him by – even if it has taken him ten years to get up the nerve.

Truth was that he was suppose to tell her that morning, when she was just waking up, he was going to say those three words and put her in a daze that would last a week. But when she actually did wake up and look over to him, a smile appearing at the surprise of seeing him still in bed so late in the morning, he couldn't do it. Sure he said it in his head, but somehow on the way from his brain to his vocal cords his message was lost in translation, ending in a useless huff.

Well that was alright, he still had the rest of the day. The deal he had made with himself was that he was to say it before the day ended. He had plenty of time.

By 7:30 he wasn't so confident that he was going to meet his initial deadline.

They were sitting at dinner, together and alone. Their children were off at friend's houses, her parents on some vacation. This was his chance. Again.

She was already off, chatting about something that had happened to her that day. God how that woman talked. And as usual he only half listened, but this time because he was far too busy thinking of something else:

He was going to do it, he could do it…

Well of course he could! Look at who he was. He did anything he damn well pleased.

He could, he would.

She kept talking. He could. And talking. He would. Talking…

"Are you listening to me?"

He looked up from the meal he was burning a whole through with his determined glare.

She had an annoyed look on her face, accompanied with a strong 'tsk' that left her mouth. "You're useless." She said sarcastically.

The only one brave enough to say things like that to him. All his life he'd never met a woman with that kind of –

Damn it he was getting distracted! It was important for him to do this, to say that.

He shook his head, clearing his mind.

He was going to tell her. He was.

He just needed a little time, a little time to straighten out his thoughts.

9:30 PM.

Damn. He's been telling himself for the past week that today was the day. He was going to tell her. She was probably going to start crying, she always cried about sentimental crap like that. And this was the moment that he was going to say some of that sentimental crap he always looked down upon.

She sat down next to him. "Something wrong?" She ran her fingers through his hair, scratching his head.

Slowly his eyes closed, he loved when she did that.

"You've been really quiet today." She turned his face to look at hers straight on. "Are you alright?"

He just stared at her a bit before nodding. The expression on her face showed that she didn't believe him, but she let it slide. "I think I'm going to head up to bed." Her soft, pink lips met his before she went up stairs, leaving him alone in their family room.

He was going to, this was his last chance. He was, he had to.

She deserved it.

So as this was at the beginning, he lay there, staring at the wall across from him. He was ready.

His hand hovered above her sleeping from.

Eighteen years she'd been with him. She's said it a countless number of times. If she could say it to him, he would say it to her.

He shook her lightly.

"What is it?" She said groggily, yawning as she looked at her husband.

The world stopped.

Say it.

Say it.

All these years, she needed to hear it, even if she acted like it wasn't important to her.

He could see it in her face, sometimes, before she went to sleep. She had this look of…disappointment.

But he knew that is was far more than that.

It tore him apart knowing that the pain in her face was his fault, his pride that kept those words from flowing free. The disgust he felt for himself when he thought of it was immeasurable. And if only he could say it then all that pain would go away.

She had hinted a few times that it wasn't that big of a deal – the fact that her husband had never said that he loved her, even though he did.

But that made it even more important for him to say it.

He had to say it.

She turned all the way to face him. "What's wrong?"

Just say it, forget your pride. Forget everything.

Just open your mouth and…

"Nothing, go back to sleep."

The face was back, but she draped her arm across his chest anyway and closed her eyes. "Okay…"

He didn't go to sleep that night.

All he could hear was what kept him from saying what he had wanted to say in the first place.

His pride.

And over and over again it would reason –

You tried.