A/N: I've never read the book or seen the movie or anything, so this is all musical-based. Max is a seriously tormented soul and I'm not sure I buy his account of what happened in the boathouse. I keep thinking he lied to his new wife, and Rebecca's death was uglier and more traumatic than he let on. If it was really an accident, or even if he killed her deliberately in a fit of passion, I don't think he would be this big a wreck over it. So, I think it was worse.
I also think he was more in love with Rebecca than he'll admit. And I don't believe that she needs to be demonized – I think she was likely scared and desperate and dazed that night, and what little coherent thought she could marshal was all aimed at dealing with her own situation. The idea that she was instead plotting ways to ruin Max's life afterwards is just plain retarded.
Anyway, this takes place after he shoves her. Instead of her spontaneously falling dead for no apparent reason…
Rebecca lay still a moment, stunned. Before she could recover Max was on top of her, clutching her shoulders, pressing his face against her back and crouching tight over her as if he meant his body to shield her. "Rebecca," he whispered in her ear, and a thrill ran through her as it always did when a man – any man – begged her name in that particular tone.
"Rebecca, please, I'm sorry." His voice was broken and thick with anguish, but before she had time to really enjoy it he turned her over by force.
Her head spun at the movement.
"Oh!" Max cried out, covering his mouth and fumbling for a handkerchief. "Dear God, you're bleeding." He pressed it to her nose.
Bleeding. That must explain the hot and annoying tickle on her face. Rebecca sniffed and sat still, silent and almost meek, and tried to think.
Max had shoved her – hurt her. Made her bleed. That was amazing and bizarre, and she was quickly realizing that for some reason, incredibly, it excited her. She recognized the signs; she knew her body well enough to notice the clenching of her stomach, the heat, the throbbing below. She stared up into his face, wide-eyed.
Max's lips were pressed together, his brow drawn and his face dark. His grip on her mashed nose was tight and painful, while the fingers of his other hand dug too hard into her shoulder.
Max had hurt her. The knowledge washed over her again, and this time the thrill it brought was overpowering. He'd hurt her.
Rebecca had never been hurt by a lover before. As angry as she had made them all at one time or another, not one of them had ever actually beaten her. Shaken her, yes, like a rag doll… but she was usually so ablaze with anger at their words by that point that the violence made hardly any impression at all. But Rebecca you promised you would go with me! Or, But how could you, he's my brother! Stupid greedy men, shouting and shaking and trying to control her, to make her obey. All she could feel was contempt when somebody treated her that way.
But this was different: Max had hurt her because he was angry. He'd done it to punish her – Max of all people, hapless helpless little Max! He'd shoved her and now he towered over her, bruising her with his grip, still quivering with the effort of holding his rage in check. And it was, for some reason, exciting as well as frightening. He looked like at any moment he might rear back and strike her.
She found she wanted him to. Full in the face. How strange – usually it was other people's pain she relished, usually it was the sight of men groveling at her feet that made her smile. So why suddenly did she want to be hit and hurt and made to cower, brought low – and by Maxof all people? It made no sense.
But she never had been one to spoil an adventure with too much thinking. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back just a bit, offering. "I've never been hit before, Max," she said.
His hands tightened on her and for a moment she was sure he meant to do it… but then he let go with a gasp, and she opened her eyes to see him positively wilting before her, sinking down, helpless as ever. "Rebecca love I'm so sorry," he babbled, and she cringed at his tone. He was pathetic. How had she ever thought him impressive and dangerous – even for just a second? "Please darling, forgive me. You provoked me, I didn't mean to, you know I would never-… I'd never…"
"Max, it's all right." But before she could explain that his rage had surprised and delighted her, he was bowing down, creeping closer, begging with his body. She heaved a sigh and gathered him in, holding his head to her chest and stroking his hair. "I said it's all right," she repeated, impatient. "Max. Listen."
"I'm sorry." The words were muffled in her dress. "Rebecca, don't worry about the child. I can see you were upset but don't worry. I'll acknowledge it, I swear, and I'll find the strength somewhere to parent it as well. I swear. We'll be all right. No one will know."
She went stiff. "The child!" she laughed, harsh. "Oh, Max."
"I mean it." He sat up and met her eyes. "Everything will be all right."
"Max, there is no child."
"There's … what? No child? Then why did you…?"
She met his eyes steadily and heard the words come from somewhere neat and cold and far away: "I'm sick, Max."
She waited for him to fall apart, almost holding her breath for it, feeling the contempt building up in her chest, all ready to unleash it when he-
"Sick how?" he asked, sounding nearly as calm as she did.
She blinked, surprised for the moment out of all emotion. "A rot. A cancer. Ironically enough, in my womb of all places." A laugh burst out of her that contained no hint of amusement at all. "I suppose you were right. Perhaps I shouldn't have taken so many lovers after all."
He looked away, his throat jumping. When he spoke again his voice was so tight it shook. "Will it kill you?"
"The doctor said…" She, too, had to take a moment to swallow. "The doctor said six weeks. He told me so today. That's where I was, that's why I went to London. And he said…" Her voice trailed off and then she laughed again, longer, because this was truly absurd. "He said six weeks, Max. Six weeks. I can't even plan a party in six weeks, much less live the whole rest of my-… live my…"
"Rebecca we'll do something," he said, quick and quiet. He turned to her, as pale as she was, and took her hands. "I'll take you somewhere, somewhere with better doctors, other doctors, someone who can help you, and they'll-… what's the matter?"
"Max… I tried." She shook her head, slowly. That today's news should still feel like a surprise to her was absurd, but she couldn't quite wrap her mind around the concept even as she explained it aloud. "I've been everywhere. To see everyone. This man was supposed to be a specialist, able to save the ones that nobody else can. But even he said… it's too late. This was my last hope, and now it's gone, and… and I guess that's it."
He gasped. "You've… you've known? That you were sick? And you didn't think to tell me? I would have… oh God…" He pulled back, covering his mouth.
"You would have what?"
"I-… Dear God, I've been… oh, Rebecca…"
She frowned, not understanding. In her agitation it took her far longer than it should have to read his posture and see guilt. "You've been praying for my destruction, haven't you," she realized at last. He began leaking tears and she sneered. "Well, I hope you're proud of yourself." His misery brought her a hot rush of pleasure, and she kept on. "In six weeks your wish will be granted. Won't that be nice for you? And I'll just-…"
But all of a sudden the world blurred. She realized that she was about to cry, and then for a while knew nothing except Max's arms around her and his sobs in her ear.
She let herself be rocked. She sobbed too.
When at last she grew too exhausted to cry any more, she finally noticed that she was laying in her husband's lap. She was far too exhausted and wrung-out to move. When she sniffed it filled her mouth with the smell and taste of blood, and she gagged.
Max helped her onto her side to cough, and rubbed her back. He no longer clung to her – now, he sat up and held himself apart, solicitous but distant. She found she missed the warmth. "Max?" she said.
"Why would you tell me you were with child?" he asked quietly. "Why? Do you hate me that much? What have I done that you would just invent ways to… to torture me?"
She had been so badly broken today that it seemed her sympathy had become cheap: when Max's voice cracked she felt bad enough to give his knee a weak little squeeze. "Please don't think that. I don't hate you."
"You do. You despise me."
She shrugged. "You're no worse than any other man."
"And you certainly have known enough of them to be sure," he shot back, but almost immediately bent to hold her. "No- no, forgive me, darling, I didn't mean that. I didn't."
"Yes you did, but I don't care." She took a breath. "I wanted to provoke you, Max. I thought if you got angry enough you might pick up that pistol – I left it out for you, loaded – and end my misery for me."
"End your-…? Rebecca! You thought I might… kill you?" He could hardly force the word out.
"Will you, Max?" Her voice was sweet and guileless and hopeful, like a child making a request of its favorite uncle. She had mastered this tone so well that even now, even now, it was perfect. "Will you please? I know I shouldn't have tried to make you do it in anger… It's much better if I can persuade you to do it in love. Because I know you still do love me, much as you don't want to."
He was silent. Then, at last: "I can't."
"You can't love me, or you can't shoot me?"
"For God's sweet sake, Rebecca, listen to yourself!"
She could hear how upset he was now. How weak. If she pressed with just enough force, she could win. "The doctor told me what to expect as the end nears. Do you want to hear it?" Before he could answer she sat up and draped herself around him, clinging tight and pressing her lips close to his ear so that he wouldn't miss a word. She went through all of it, everything she had been told, ending with the description of what her corpse would look like when it was all over – emaciated and wasted away, sucked dry by the poisonous lump inside her. "My yellow eyes will be closed then at least, but you'll still be able to-"
His voice had risen and she matched it. "If you can't bear to hear it how can you condemn me to live through every second of the whole thing? You know how I'll suffer, Max, how can you-"
"You must! I ask it, I demand it as your wife! I've never asked you for anything, Max, never a single damn thing-"
"-And now you mean to deny me this? To condemn me to a slow and terrible death, to watch me disintegrate from the inside out while my-"
"Enough," he hissed, fighting with her, trying to cover up her mouth. "Enough!"
She peeled his fingers away. "Do you just want to see me suffer, is that it? Are you really that cruel? Or-"
He hit her, lashing out mindlessly and catching her in the jaw. It stunned her long enough for him to press a hand over her face. "Be quiet or so help me I'll beat you til a cancer is the least of your problems!" he snarled, wild. "How could you? How could you? You unholy little slut! Enough. Not one more word."
She went still, and finally he let go.
Rebecca licked her lips. "That's twice in one evening you've done me violence, Max. I can hardly believe what I'm seeing."
"I was provoked. Sorely provoked." He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry I called you names."
"Just one name – and I've heard worse."
"What? From who?" This was news incredible enough to distract him even from the nightmare at hand. Everybody loved Rebecca! Who could have been saying such terrible things about her?
"From you, dear. When you drink. You're something of a vicious drunk, you know. You have a temper. Though you're usually crying too hard forme to take any of your threats seriously."
"I… threaten you?" He felt a dull satisfaction at a mystery solved: apparently that was what he did on those nights he couldn't remember. He cried and threatened his wife.
"Sometimes very colorfully. Impressive variety, and such language, Max!" She gave him a smile that was cold and flirtatious at the same time. "If you weren't so dreadfully in love with me we could probably have had good times together. I wish you would have put your jealousy aside long enough to try."
He gaped at her.
"But I suppose it doesn't matter now, does it."
She watched coolly as his heart broke, and satisfaction at the victory helped distract her from the thought of what was coming next. "The gun, Max. Pick up the gun."
"Pick up the gun."
Still crying, he stood up and moved to obey her.
She nodded at his back and smiled.
Actually, I kind of think it gets even *more* traumatic and scarring after this – I think she wants one last lay and makes Max give it to her – but I think I've had enough for now. So this is the end.
Please let me know what you think!