Fandom: Six Feet Under
Title: Maybe Tomorrow
Characters: David and Jennifer, and a few others
Description: David has something to tell Jennifer.
Word Count: 2319
A/N: This story takes place in 1997, when David is 27. Jennifer is a bit younger… say 24. Claire should be about 12… going on 21.
Since the heat pump had broken, the kitchen had been the only warm place in the house, and the family had taken to congregating there at every available moment. At that moment, however, the population was a measly two: David and his little sister Claire.
"So what does Jack Daniel's taste like?" Claire asked, apropos of nothing. This was her idea of having David help her with her report on Alexander the Great.
"I haven't the foggiest idea. I don't drink hard liquor," was David's response. Which was something of a lie, since he did drink liquor, but usually mixed in drinks that ended in "-ini."
"That sucks," Claire said, resting her head on her hand.
"Why?" David asked, confused.
"Because I want to make my first drink something that has a man's name, 'cause that would be so much cooler."
That didn't exactly make any sense to David, but then he was still getting used to the fact that the days were gone when a pack of bubble gum and a stick of lip gloss would earn him a bear hug and a handmade card. And even more alarming, somehow she'd gone straight from elementary school to college.
"Claire, when is your report due?" he asked.
"Tomorrow," she sighed, mind still elsewhere. He looked at his watch.
"It's already seven o'clock and you've barely started."
"I know," she whined. "I hate school. I wanted to do a report on Kurt Cobain, but the teacher wouldn't let me."
Nate's influence, David thought. He only visited a couple times a year and lived 1100 miles away, and still somehow managed to trump in the big brother department. David had an idea.
"How about I write up the rest of the report and drop it off before you go to school tomorrow?" David offered.
Claire's face lit up. "Really?"
David nodded with a wide smile. "Really."
She jumped up from the table and gave him a big hug. "You're the best!" she squealed.
There it is, he thought contentedly.
"And why is he the best?" Ruth asked as she re-entered the kitchen and went directly to the dinner already underway. As usual, her children ignored her.
"And I don't understand why your father insists on lifting the lids on my pans when I'm cooking. He lets out all the steam and then my vegetables dry out. Was he here? Did he open my pans?" she asked.
Claire shrugged her shoulders absently.
"I didn't see him," David answered.
"Will you be joining us for dinner?" Ruth asked.
"No, actually," he said rising. He surreptitiously slid Claire's report into his portfolio. "I have an appointment."
"An appointment?" was Ruth's shrill reply. "What kind of appointment would you have at such an hour? It's already seven o'clock."
"An appointment with a client," David lied.
"You know," Ruth began. David felt a lecture coming on. "You are turning into a little Nathaniel Fisher if there ever was one."
There wasn't, David thought.
"And," she continued, "I really think you shouldn't be working after a certain hour. When did this became a twenty-four hour business? Everyone needs time for a good meal with their family, and that includes you, David. Your clients should be able to respect that."
"They don't," Nathaniel said, waltzing into the kitchen. "They never have and they never will." He opened up one of the pans on the stove. Ruth practically shrieked with annoyance and batted his hand away.
"You lift the lids on my pans, Nathaniel, and my vegetables dry out. See there," she waved towards the carrots. "All dried out."
"They'll be just fine, puddin'" he said and pecked her on the cheek. She was not amused.
David glanced at his watch. Time was ticking. "I better go," he announced, and after hugging Claire and kissing his mother, he slipped from the kitchen. His father followed behind him. They paused in the dining room.
"Where you off to, sonny?" he asked.
David diverted his eyes. "I… have an errand."
Nathaniel nodded his head slightly, vaguely incredulous. "Jennifer called earlier today."
David pressed his lips together. "Did she say anything?"
"Nothing much," Nathaniel said dismissively. "She said you haven't spent much time with her lately."
David rolled his eyes. "She said that?"
"In so many words."
David looked down at his feet. "So … what? You two are best friends now?"
"Nope," Nathaniel said with a chuckle. "Just thought you might want to know. Gals like Jennifer don't come around everyday. I would hate for your errands to make you lose a good thing."
David turned back to his father with marked irritation. "Is that all?"
Nathaniel patted him firmly on the shoulder before giving it a good squeeze. "Good night, son," he said and David watched as his father sauntered back to the kitchen. A few moments later, David heard a jazz song ring out, quickly followed by his mother's protests that she did not feel like dancing.
David turned and went downstairs. He opened the front door, and then paused. After a moment of hesitation, he walked back to the pastoral room and, taking a slip of paper from his pocket, dialed the number.
The phone rang several times, and he almost hung up before he heard a voice on the other line.
"Hello?" said the voice, sounding rather groggy.
"Hello," David practically whispered. "I'm calling for Justin… Justin Crawley."
"Oh. Well, this is…" David trailed off.
"I'm sorry, I can barely hear you. Is this Thomas?" the voice asked.
"Yes," David answered, clearing his throat. He looked cautiously over his shoulder. "Yes, this is Thomas from the video store. I was calling to let you know that uh, I won't be able to, um…" he stopped.
"Don't say it. You won't be able to come over." He paused. "I guess my balls are going to have to suck themselves then," Justin said and laughed uproariously on the other side of the phone. David didn't. "Lemme guess. Your wife has a problem with it."
"No wife," David answered quickly. "No wife, it's just that, um, something came up."
"Sure, whatever," Justin said, not the least bit disappointed. Which, oddly enough, bothered David.
"Should I call you… for another time?" he asked.
"Sure, whatever," Justin said. "You have my number."
"Right, yeah," David said. "So, um, bye." He hung up before Justin could even reply, and then jetted for the door.
David was sitting crossed-legged at Jennifer's breakfast nook—eyes furiously flitting between an old encyclopedia volume and his laptop—when Jennifer walked through the door. It was a full minute before she even noticed he was there. Without even turning on the light, she threw her purse on the sofa, turned on and then muted the TV, kicked off her shoes and had her stockings halfway down her legs before she paused suddenly.
"David," she gasped. "You're home. Or here, anyway," she corrected herself. "I thought you were going to be late or not come at all or something."
David stood up. "Nope, I'm here," he said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and came over to where she was in the living room; they shared a quick peck. David turned to go back to his typing when Jennifer spun him around and leaned in for a longer kiss, one that was warm and wet and lippy, just like David liked. It was a kiss that made him feel excited and awful at the same time. When she pulled away he opened his eyes.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"I missed you," she said. "I know it's silly. It's only been four days, but I still missed you."
David shook his head guiltily. "I'm sorry. I've just been so busy." She covered his mouth.
"I understand," she said reassuringly, then patted his chest tenderly. She nodded towards the kitchen. "What you working on in there? Another pre-need?"
"No, no," David said, shaking his head. "I'm… well I'm writing Claire's report on Alexander the Great. It's due tomorrow."
She gasped, then poked him in the ribs. "You cheater!"
"I know, I know," he moaned. "But I just, I guess I feel like she's pulling away from me. One day she was my precious little kid sister, and now she's like, I don't know, Miss Brat California. She asked me today about whiskey. And she likes Nate better. I know it."
"So, doing Claire's homework for her helps her how?"
"It makes her like me better," David said, flashing a bright smile. Jennifer shook her head, then leveled a playfully stern look at him, her pointy finger outstretched.
"You won't come near our kids when we have them, you hear me?" she quipped, and walked past him to the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of cranberry juice. David followed her.
He leaned against the counter and watched attentively as she took thirsty gulps of the crimson juice.
"Do you love me?" he asked all of a sudden.
She stopped drinking—so abruptly that she began coughing. David patted her on the back and hurriedly handed her a napkin. "David!" she shrieked when she finally caught her breath. "Of course I do." She wiped the moisture from her eyes. "Why would you even ask me that?"
"I dunno," David said. Sometimes he wondered how she could. He just figured that at some point, she might want more. He kept waiting for the day when she would stop him at the door, tearful but brave, and give him the "it's not you, it's me" speech. Because relationships ended all the time, didn't they? Relationships with better matches… relationships with more promise.
She approached him and wrapped her arms around him, tucking the top of her head under his neck. "Never, ever doubt I love you, OK?" she pleaded.
"Yeah," David said, trying to hide the sadness in his voice.
"Is that what you were going to tell me?" she said, suddenly looking up.
And then there was that. Because tonight was supposed to be the night. And it could have been. Coming back from Justin's—all dirty and guilty and smelling like man—he could have done it tonight. He would have been in the right mind for it—selfish and reckless. But then came Nathaniel and his lectures about "errands". David's soul sighed in agony on the inside while on the outside he was all…
"Tell you what?" he asked.
"I dunno," she said, rubbing his back. "You said you were going to tell me something, remember? You called last night and told me you had to tell me something." David shook his head, feigning complete amnesia.
"Must have been nothing," he said.
"Good," she nodded, relief spreading across her face. "I'm glad to hear that. Because by the tone of your voice, I thought you were going to push back the wedding date again." She took his face in her hands and kissed him on the forehead. And then… something came over her, he could see it: some mixture of relief and longing and adoration. It was a pure look, a look of yearning. It was the look that used to make him believe his own lies, but that now sometimes made him want to drive to the Vincent Thomas Bridge, park his car and jump off.
"Do you… love me?" she whispered. A determined look, and firm, came across David's face.
"You know… " David insisted, and then stopped. He closed his eyes, and leaned forward until their foreheads were touching.
Because the truth was … he did love her. She had somehow grown to become one of the most important people in his life. And that fact only made things that much thornier.
She pressed him for an answer. "Say it, David." He felt her pull away some. Maybe she was angry or hurt, which almost felt like it might be a good thing. "Say you love me," she whispered.
"I… love you," David said. "With all my heart," he added. He leaned forward into a kiss, but stopped a hair's breadth away from touching her lips. Their eyes met at a place that seemed to catch the exact entryway to each other's soul. He felt it, and he knew that she did too. He was entranced—motionless and still, except for his quickening breath—and she started to grip his back, pulling him closer.
"Kiss me, David," she whispered, so faintly he wasn't sure if she'd actually said it or if she had passed the words directly from her mind to his. He landed on her mouth, hard and hungry… and hopeful. That this time, it would be real. That this time would be the time that made this all true.
They lay on the shaggy carpet of Jennifer's living room, post- coital, sweaty and raw. David lay on his back, his arm cradling her body, and her head against his chest. They never did quite make it to the bedroom.
"That was amazing," Jennifer sighed, her arm carelessly draped across his body.
"Yeah," David replied. And suddenly he was glad it was dark.
"We haven't made love like that in a long time," she continued. She ran her hand up down the length of his chest. "You were so…" she laughed a little to herself. "So present. So urgent." He could feel her smiling against his chest. "So amorous."
"Yeah," he whispered.
"Was it good for you too?" she asked, sitting up a little and looking at his eyes.
"Yeah," he said, his voice catching. She nodded contentedly, dropping back down onto his chest.
"Good," she cooed. She snuggled in more and David thought she might be falling asleep. Which was just as well.
When all was quiet, he let out a slow breath and then turned his head, hoping she wouldn't see the tears that were streaming down his face.