A Million and One Reasons Why
Damn it, damn it all! Life's just so unfair sometimes that it makes him sick. His drink is cold and hot and bitter as it slides down his throat. It seems to cling to his esophagus like well-made gravy. Damn, it's the worst-tasting fucking thing he's ever had to drink, but it works well; he's already forgotten what it is.
It doesn't matter, though. Nothing matters.
Oh, but he's only bitter. He tries to hide his scratched, bruised heart beneath his anger, but the anger isn't real and everyone knows it. He knows it.
He calls for another drink, and before his glass is even full, he's trying to bring it to his lips. Alcohol splashes on his breeches but he doesn't notice. As the liquid burns its way down his throat, the sound around him falls away. It's only him. He's left with the memory of her, of who she once was, because it's almost like he doesn't know this stranger that's taken her place. He wants to know her so damn bad, wants to get to know her, but she tries to hide herself from him, from everyone. Even from Fersen.
And he doesn't understand why.
Shit. He hates nights off. He'd rather be working than be stuck with time off. Empty hours, they are. Stupid pieces of shit, too. They give a person too much time to think.
She's hurt and that's why she hides. But he's hurt, too, and he's so tired of hiding that he can't do it anymore. That's why he can't understand why she's still bothering with it. Maybe hiding was what got him hurt in the first place.
What in the world had he been thinking when his hands had pulled away from her shirt, tearing the delicate fabric? Why had he pushed her down like that, forcing his lips against hers? He hadn't even been drunk. No, he had been perfectly fucking sober, and when he pushed her down, he had, in the same instant, pushed her so very far away.
She's already forgiven him, but he can't forgive himself. He's been pushed away and pushed away from the only thing he's ever wanted, and now he's so far away that he's worried things will never be the same again. No, he's not worried. He knows.
It's impossible for things, for anything, to ever go back to how they were before he let his desperation grasp him like that. He had been such a fucking idiot, and he could have stopped himself. He could have refrained from holding her, from kissing her, from pushing her and pushing her. His love was so forced, so abrupt…
She'll never think on it again, she said, but he knows better because he can't forget it. It's been one long month and six days, and the memory is still in his mind. He still loves her, still cherishes every last thing about her. But there's no way that she doesn't think about the disrespectful way he treated her, and it breaks his heart because it's something that neither of them will ever be able to forget.
Maybe some day they'll push it out of their minds, far enough away that it won't come to mind whenever they see the other. But when he sees that brilliant hair, those blue eyes… he trembles to remember how her hair had tumbled across the bed, strands of it brushing against his hands as he tried to hold her still so that he could kiss her, and how her eyes had opened in a wide array of emotions that were all negative.
That woman, the one that was probably still in her office in the French Guards barracks isn't Oscar. She can't be. Oscar's eyes are lively and full of dynamism. The woman who looks over paperwork with the fire in her eyes gone can't possibly be her.
But it is. It is, and he knows it, and no matter how hard he tries not to think about it, he believes that he's done it to her with his own hands. Maybe it's the stress talking. Maybe it's because the other soldiers talk badly about her and put her down day after day. Maybe it's the alcohol. But the guilt's been there all along, from the moment he walked out of her room, leaving that scrap of her clothing on the floor.
He hadn't meant to tear her clothes. He hadn't even meant to remove them. He'd pulled, and the fabric was not strong enough to withstand his hand as he tried to…to what? Lift her up off of the bed so that he could press more kisses against her unyielding lips, against the soft skin of her neck?
He can't remember anymore and he's glad. He'd love to forget it all, but that'll never happen, so he looks down at his drink and, noticing that his glass is full again, begins to down it.
Life's just so fucking unfair. He's loved her for an eternity, and she tried to leave him. Of course he wouldn't stand for it, but he can't believe that he tried to convince her of his worth, of his true, undying affection in such a manner.
The silence is unbearable.
One month and six days of silence, of her speaking to him and him hearing nothing. Of him speaking to her and saying nothing. He can't take it anymore, but he doesn't know what else to do. He really has no right to love her, now, but from the beginning he knew that once he admitted to loving her to himself, he would forever drown in it.
Why was it that on that day, so many, many years ago, he had thought love wasn't really so bad, that one-sided love wasn't as terrible as people made it out to be? It is terrible! It's a curse, a horrible, grotesque curse that can drive men absolutely insane! It changes him, warps him, turns him into a beast; men who become beasts are destined to an eternity in hell.
As if he doesn't feel like he's there already. No, he thinks. Nothing is worse than this hell that he's living in now, this life that consists of her lifeless dull eyes and the desire, even after what he's done, to hold her.
What about second chances, God? Why didn't you give us all second chances?
He'd love a do-over, a chance to storm angrily out of her bedroom instead of blaming and then hurting her. And how could he have blamed her when she felt something so similar for Fersen that he felt for her? It hadn't been her fault. Nothing had been her fault. She didn't realize what she was doing to him, and how could she have when he had hidden everything from her for so long?
Fersen… Hans Axel von Fersen would never hurt her, not intentionally, and he knows it. But the man makes him so angry sometimes.
He'd give anything to be the man that his beloved pined for. He'd give a lot more than his eye for that luxury. It would almost be like sitting on the right hand of God, he thought. It would be such an honor, a blessing, a miracle.
But he's only a stupid man who made a stupid decision. He'll find himself on the left hand of God instead, and all for what? For nothing!
Before he knows it, he's riding home, wherever that is. The de Jarjayes mansion? The barracks? Oh, but wait, he's got the night off, and he lets his gelding make its way to the stables belonging to Oscar's family. The horse knows the route well, but his unsteady weight doesn't make things easy for the poor animal.
He tells God he's sorry, over and over, because he wants to go to Heaven. He wants to go there because he wants to spend an eternity with his beloved. Oscar's forgiven him, but has God?
He doesn't even realize that he's in the stables on his knees praying until Oscar returns home from work. It's so late in the evening that it would normally alarm him to know that she had ridden all the way to her father's estate at such an hour, but he's drunk and that trivial thing doesn't even matter.
No, even with dark circles under her dull blue eyes and weariness evident in her posture, she's still positively radiant, and even though he doesn't want to stop looking at her, he turns his head, suddenly feeling unworthy, as if he's in the presence of someone far greater than himself.
Oscar's so tired she's having trouble keeping her eyes open, but the sight of André on the floor of the barn, his hands clasped together worries her. He's praying, she determines, and puts away her mare for the night as he tries to avoid her gaze.
When she returns, she can hear him speaking.
"God, please forgive me," he's murmuring, over and over again. It's a mantra, and it's startlingly depressing and altogether unnerving.
"André," she coaxes gently, trying to raise him up by his elbow. "Let's get you inside."
She's stressed out. Worn out from days and days of struggling. It takes everything in her not to both burst into a passionate tirade and into tears at the things that the soldiers of Company B keep doing to her. It's wearing her thin, and she hasn't slept well in weeks. Not since…
No, she doesn't want to think of that. What André did was inexcusable, but…
"Please… God, please…"
He is merely a man. She reminds herself of this every time the incident flashes back to her mind. She's certain that he didn't mean to tear her shirt, to expose her like that. He's a man. A man who loves and hurts and feels, just like she does. And he had loved and hurt and felt enough things in twenty years to make him snap like a twig beneath her boots.
It was all unintentional… Somehow she had known she was hurting him, but she had never stopped to realize how much. He had been aching inside, his love for her was overwhelming him, and she's sorry now that she didn't see it all for what it was to begin with.
Maybe they could both have been saved a lot of difficulties if she had not been so very blind.
He's still crying to God for forgiveness, and when she bends down to sling his arm over her shoulder, she sees the tears making their way down his face.
She doesn't say anything to him as he continues to pray all the way to his bedroom, his pleas turning into moans as she lets him slump onto his bed. She doesn't know what to think of everything, of their situation. She's never felt awkward around him before, and she tries to cover it up every day, now, but she knows he feels the same way around her, and it's difficult to work around. Neither of them know what to say or do anymore.
"Oscar," he says suddenly, as if he is just now realizing she's there.
She gives him a hesitant smile and starts nervously as he grabs the front of her military jacket.
"I'm sorry," he tells her earnestly, his words slurring. He looks down and sees his hands and abruptly lets her go, letting his face drop into his open palms. His tears continue to fall. "So sorry, Oscar, I'm so sorry."
She doesn't know what to say. She's forgiven him a hundred times in her mind. She forgave him only moments after it happened. She knows he's sorry, that he regrets everything immensely.
"I forgive you," she tells him one more time. "I forgive you forever."
This time her smile comes fast, and it's completely genuine.
He knows it is, and he falls back into the bed after clumsily removing his boots. "Oh, God… I'm so sorry."
"Go to sleep, André," she tells him, patiently pulling his blankets over him as he watches her with unfocused eyes.
"God forgives you, too. He knows you're sorry."
He looks so lost and desolate that it breaks her heart. She hasn't seen him like this since his first few months at the de Jarjayes estate, and it hurts. It hurts because she knows she's the cause, and she can forgive him, but she can't forgive herself for letting things come to this stinking pile of horseshit.
She knew all along that he loved her, but when had his love turned into a desperate, seeking, needing love? She loves him, needs him, but she can't understand his desperation, because she's never felt quite the same way.
But if she had known…
What would she have done?
That question can't be answered, so she just smiles reassuringly at him even though she feels anything but assured, herself, and he seems to settle down, his eyelids fluttering closed.
He's asleep in an instant, and she wipes his tears away with her handkerchief. How had they been reduced to this, to tired, lovesick fools? She's unaware of the time she spends in his room, just watching him sleep. He's exhausted, the poor dear, and it's all her fault.
But, she tries to reason with herself, he didn't have to follow her to the French Guards. That was his own choice. But why would he choose to do it when it brought him so much pain? Gently, she pulls his hat off of his head, letting his slightly-curling hair fall about his face.
It's love, she realizes. Love makes a person do stupid things. It can make you embarrassed and worried and scared and bold, terribly, desperately bold.
With one last look, she leaves him, placing his hat on one of the short posts at the foot of his bed. Her head's throbbing and she fights off a yawn, but she'll be up for several more hours.
She's got a lot of thinking to do.
He's up early, a hangover from hell beating at the edge of his consciousness, but he's got no time to waste. He has work to get to, and suppressing a groan, he tumbles out of bed. He remembers a little of the night before, and he can only hope and pray that he didn't touch Oscar. He had promised her that he wouldn't, and if he went back on that promise, he would die a hundred times over.
Oscar's in the stables, saddling her horse when he gets there, and she nods at him politely as she tightens the girth, buckling it into place as if she's done it a thousand times.
She's exhausted, he can tell. He wishes she could get more sleep, because she worries him when she wears herself out, but there's not much that he can do about it. So he saddles his gelding, wondering if she'll wait for him or take off without him.
He snaps after the silence becomes too much, and no matter how hard he wants to fling something heavy at the barn doors, as much as he would love to fly into a furious rage at the awkwardness, he doesn't.
"Oscar," he says instead, fighting down the urge to run to her and wrap his arms around her before crushing her to him in a fierce, much-needed hug. "We're still friends…" Hesitation. It gnaws at him, but one tired blink from her, and a particularly bad jolt of pain makes him finish, "Aren't we?"
"Of course we are, André," she says gently, and he wishes to hear that tone in her voice again someday soon. She mounts her horse and without another word, leaves the stables.
Chevis snorts and André realizes that he's held the bit against his horse's face for far too long. The cold steel wasn't quite inside the animal's mouth yet. He shakes his head and finishes tacking up before he swings into his own saddle. He takes off after her, riding slower so that he doesn't have to catch up to her.
She's so glorious, so radiant! It would tear him apart to look at her, knowing that he had hurt her only one month and seven days before.
Alain thinks he's an idiot, and so does everyone else. He loves her, and she hurts him. It's a never-ending cycle, an ongoing personal hell.
And yet…he continues with it. He continues to love her, to want her and stay by her side.
And why? Why?
He can't explain it to anyone. He has his reasons. Maybe she's his reason for living, the reason God put him on this earth.
But he doesn't need to explain anything to anyone.
He has a million and one reasons why he loves her, why he lets her hurt him over and over again, why he keeps coming back for more even though he knows the consequences, the heartbreak. Nobody else needs to know what these reasons are.
He knows, and that's good enough.
First, the notes on this are…well, they're not extensive, per se, but they're long, so if you want to know more about this story, feel free to check out the link in my profile that will take you to my journal.
Thanks for reading! Feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated.