A/N: My muse doesn't like to sleep. I do. She wins.
I heard this song the other day and it made me cry (it does every time). And yeah, I will cry at pretty much anything. I'm still not sure about the ending, but I had to write it that way...I just couldn't bring myself not to.
She never thought it'd be them. Never once for a moment, had she stopped to think that the two of them would be anything less than forever. They were perfect for each other, and they had fought so hard to be together, that not being together wasn't an option. It was the two of them through anything, and they made that promise to each other in front of their entire world. Wedding bands and a white gown, and whispered I love you's that everyone else still heard loud and clear.
Two babies, a mortgage, an SUV, and happy photographs of a family most would envy. They stayed that way for a while. Blissful and together and feeling completely untouchable. They had it all. They had each other, and they had their children, and their careers, and they had everything.
But then life happened. Careers became work and everything became obligations. There was a rift growing between them, and two innocent kids with light blue eyes questioning their every move sat in the middle. So she'd put on a smile, and he'd kiss her cheek, but they each knew her smile was fake, and she wasn't sure he wanted to kiss her.
They ended it. The decision was a hasty one, made by two young people, not even 30 and too buried beneath the rest of it to appreciate each other and where they started out. So they ended it amid tears and broken hearts and broken promises, and that overwhelming feeling of failure. She'd failed as a wife. She'd failed as the love of his life. And that made her question if she ever really deserved that title, or if he just bestowed it upon her because he wanted so desperately for it to be true.
She wonders now if it was too quick a choice. An easy way out, no matter how hard it felt at the time. She wonders if they could have worked harder. Stared longer. Kissed more. Made time. Stood still.
She wonders if he wonders, too.
She secretly hadn't wanted to sign the papers. She'd hesitated, looked into those blue eyes of his across the impossibly large table at her lawyer's office, and silently pleaded with him to tell her that it was crazy, and he loved her, and they'd make it work. But he didn't. He said nothing. And sitting across from him then, with mere feet separating them, she'd never felt more far away.
And so all that remained was hurt, scattered photographs of varying degrees of happiness, and two little children; the product of the love they'd shared once upon a time.
The first nights after he left were the hardest. She'd insisted he didn't have to go so quickly, that he could stay in the guest room until he settled into a house. But he'd told her that it was too much to be around her. And that broke her heart even more because she didn't know if he meant it in a good way or a bad way. An I still love you too much way or an I can't wait to leave you way.
Those first few nights, every little noise was something she needed protecting from, and every passing car was him coming home, telling her they'd made a mistake. Every minute of silence was confirmation that it was really and truly over. He wasn't breathing next to her. He wasn't reading until she asked him to turn out the light. He wasn't leaning over to kiss her forehead in the darkness. It was over.
And now, every other Friday, she packs some things into brightly coloured backpacks, buckles the only two things she has left in the world into the car, and hears tiny voices asking questions she doesn't have answers to.
He gets to be the fun one, but he almost resents it. He doesn't see them every day. He doesn't see them rush through the door with still-dripping finger paintings or grass stains on their elbows. He doesn't get to scold them for sneaking cookies or talking back. He watches movies and makes their favourite breakfast every second Saturday, and reads the stories their mother has packed.
And that's almost as close as he gets to her - his hands on those same pages.
Every second Friday, she's still the most beautiful woman he's ever laid eyes on, and he has to wonder if maybe he didn't fight hard enough to keep her. She was his, and he let her get away. He hadn't wanted to end it, and hadn't accepted that it was over until she signed those papers. She'd given him one last look before letting the tip of the pen hit the page, and all he wanted to do was shout that he loved her and he couldn't let her end it that way, but he knew that wasn't what she wanted. So he said nothing.
Maybe they could have made it work. Maybe he threw in the towel too quickly. After all the fighting they'd done to get together, they didn't fight to stay together. And that tears his heart out every single day.
But he pulls his babies into his arms and kisses their beautiful little cheeks, and pretends he doesn't feel her staring at him while she waits to say goodbye. They're all he has left, and he only gets them for what feels like moments at a time.
He wants to call out to her every time she starts down the steps towards her car. He wants to run after her and take her in his arms and kiss her the way he knows still means something. One kiss would make her see that it's all still there, just hidden behind the hurt and the pain.
Instead, he gives a lopsided smile that he knows she'll see is full of sadness, and ushers the kids into the house, spouting off about all the fun they'll have.
But that night when he pulls out the book she's packed for him to read, and he hears his youngest complain that Mommy does the voices, he feels like he just might cry. This is his family, and as much as he wants to have her standing in the doorway, laughing at his failing attempts to speak like a bunny the way she does, he knows he simply can't.
The closest he'll get is a stolen smile on his porch, or a glimpse of that spark that he used to see in her when his blue eyes met her perfect green ones.
Every other weekend, she sits in the silence of her bedroom, waiting for giggles and footsteps she knows she won't hear. They won't rush into her room and jump into bed in that adorable way that only children can. They aren't there. She wonders if maybe they're doing that at his house. Maybe they're burrowing beneath the blankets and snuggling up to him as he smiles like he used to when it was the four of them together.
She wonders if he still looks over to send her a grin before remembering that she isn't there any more.
She makes herself French toast, knowing he's doing the same in that house across town and, out of habit, she drizzles a happy face onto her breakfast with the syrup. She smiles despite knowing that there's no one there to see it.
Things she used to love, she now can't bring herself to enjoy. She tries to read a book, but no words are as perfect as his words, and those promises and metaphors about the love she still feels, but he doesn't, break her heart. The quiet stifles her and scares her, and she worries that there's another tragedy lurking around the next corner. She puts the music on loud because she misses those little voices arguing over Spongebob or Dora; That's my drink and give me back my basketball.
And in the silence of the house they used to share, she wonders how they got there. She remembers all the reasons, but they all seem to pale in comparison to the overwhelming feeling of empty she feels without them around her. Without him around her. She doesn't just miss a man, she misses him. Socks on the floor at the foot of the bed, and I missed you today and an arm draped over her stomach as she falls asleep. His calloused hands rubbing her shoulders as they talked about their days, and kissing him in the kitchen after the little ones were tucked away and sleeping.
But she counts the hours until she has her children back, and do nothing for two days.
Because nothing is better than all the somethings that remind her of what she doesn't have.
He packs them into the back seat of his car and asks if they have all their things, and they insist they do, though he knows that after he gets back, he'll find a sock or a stuffed bear or a tee shirt. And every time he finds those stray items, he wonders if he could go back to her house, just to see her blonde curls and that shadow of a smile when she answers the door.
He drives through town towards the house he once called home. He still sometimes thinks it is his home. He breaks up fights in the back seat over who stole whose toy, or who hit who first, and gives his sternest looks in the rear view mirror. He can't hide the love in his gaze, but when he catches a glimpse of his own blue eyes that used to hold so much life, he wonders where that went. Then he realizes it's sitting in the very house they're headed for.
They unbuckle themselves and run up the steps and into her waiting arms, and he's just a little bit jealous that he doesn't get to do the same thing. He smiles a genuine smile as he hears them recount their weekend as quickly as they can, talking over each other and correcting each others' mistakes, and he takes their things from the car and starts to make his way up the walk and towards his entire world.
He tells her they were great, even if they weren't, and she thanks him for driving them home, though he's been doing the same thing every second weekend for the past year.
Every time he stands on that porch, with their children clutching her legs and her hands resting on their shoulders, he wonders if he should just tell her he wants to come home. This is his home. This house, and her, and the two little people who need them both. But he's mid-thought when he hears her tell the kids to say goodbye to daddy, and he knows she's over him and over it, and he doesn't want his heart to break any more. So he kneels down and wraps that little boy and that littler girl into his embrace as tightly as their tiny frames will allow, and he tells them he loves them.
She doesn't know that I love you is meant for her, too.
He hears the door close just as he's stepped off the last step, and he convinces himself for the thousandth time that they're doing the right thing.
And so he takes the memory of those few, fleeting moments when his family is together, and he carries it with him until two Fridays from now, when the three of them will come and stand on his porch. Two bright smiles and one that he recognizes is nearly as sad as his own.
And then, the 38th time he walks to her door, and the kids run inside, he boldly takes her perfect hand in his. She turns back to him quickly, and in her eyes that have been so full of hurt and confusion, he sees just her. She doesn't pull her hand away. He admits to her for the first time what he's felt so long.
I miss you.
Her face changes. Her eyes close and her chin quivers and she gives him a beautifully broken smile. And she nods. And when he pulls her body against his like he's wanted to do so many times before, she says the words he thought he'd never hear her say again.
I love you.