This is my first attempt at a Nashville story and my first story in a really long while. Canon is going to eat my storyline up in a really short while and I am a bit worried about what that will do to my motivation, but if this seems worthwhile, I will try to keep going. Cause in my mind, there is still quite a long while to go.
She took a moment before getting out of her car to squeeze her eyes shut and pinch the root of her nose. Then she blew out a breath and opened the car door.
It was a lovely sunny Saturday morning, her first one home in what felt like forever. Well, home in a certain sense, she mused, seeing as she was about to have to carefully knock on the door of her own house and hope to be admitted. It was almost ironic that the decision to take turns at the house was pretty much the last civilized act of cooperation she and Teddy had been capable of. It had all spiraled dreadfully downhill from there, what with all the second-guessing and sniping at each other.
It was time to stop it. All of this was exhausting enough – the demolition of their marriage very much under the public eye; the reluctant yet triumphant tour with a co-headliner that was uncooperative at best and downright hostile most of the time; and the ever present Deacon-issue that seemed to be flaring up again at the most inopportune time, as was its habit. In the light of all this, the fact that Teddy and she were picking completely unnecessary fights with each other was just plain stupid. So if she needed to be the bigger man here and spell it out for the two of them, well, then, that's what she just had to do.
Long evenings in countless hotel rooms had given her certain perspective when it came to this most imminent of her problematic relationships. There were some things that she just plain needed to let go of. It wasn't that she felt she didn't have a right to dictate who Teddy could bring into the house, into his life, because she did – whoever it was, he would also, in the end, bring her into the lives of their children. It was that she'd started to wonder whether she should. Or why she was so hostile about Teddy seeing Peggy Kenter. After all, she certainly didn't want Teddy for herself anymore and, at the same time, she did think that Teddy deserved to be happy.
Teddy was the kind of man who needed to be needed. The way she would never need him. Not only because she didn't love him with that kind of a passion anymore, quite possibly never had. But also because, for a while now, she just hadn't been that kind of a woman, the kind who couldn't exist without someone else.
She had needed Teddy once, had needed his stability and unblinking steadiness to stand by her, though that need had always been destined to be temporary. And she had loved him, enough to choose him to be the father to her child, enough to sincerely believe that they could make their relationship last for good, or she would have never married him. But if the last decade had taught her something, it was that she wasn't going to fall apart, she would not lose herself, for anything. All the tough decisions she had made in life had proved to her that she was willing to make them, was willing to stand by them and, for the most part, could live with the consequences.
Peggy, for all that Rayna knew about her, could well have been the kind of woman Teddy needed – ready and pliant and always slightly in trouble, if only because of her overwhelming feelings for him. Rayna certainly didn't understand women like that, but she didn't really have to, did she? After all, Teddy had never understood Deacon, had never even pretended to try and Rayna hadn't expected him to. Her goal this morning had only remotely to do with Peggy, anyway.
Flipping her hair defiantly across her shoulder, she reached out and knocked on the door. In a moment she heard footsteps, could imagine him rushing down the stairs and rounding the corner of the hallway.
He did seem slightly annoyed to see her and even though she tried to put on one of her bright smiles, if only to reassure herself, she was slightly annoyed at his annoyance.
"You're not supposed to be here until tomorrow evening," he pointed out accusingly and she only just managed to retain her grasp on her long term goals.
"I know," she nodded, wrinkling her brow.
"The girls are not here anyway," he continued.
Again she nodded slowly. "I know that too. I was hoping to catch you alone. May I come in?" It still seemed so odd, so wrong to ask for permission to enter this house.
"Yeah," he answered, stepping aside to let her enter, now obviously curious. "Of course."
She set her purse down on the kitchen counter, stepping into the sunlight pouring in through the big windows of the den. They'd been happy in this house for a little while and then, after that, at least content for quite some time longer, but that was all gone now, torn to pieces by time and circumstance and, above all, the two of them standing there now almost as strangers. Except that they weren't strangers, were they? They still shared a huge chunk of a life together and always would and although the rational sides of them had understood and tried to build a protective wall around that, it was high time they brought their emotions up to speed.
Turning towards Teddy, she contemplated him for a moment, head tilted to the side. Hands in the pockets of his pants, a slightly confused smirk on his face, Teddy looked expectant.
"You know," she said, leaning against the armrest of the couch, "if I really put my mind to it, I might recall what it is that we are fighting about. But I'll be damned if I can remember what we are fighting for anymore." She thought she saw Teddy's rigid stance relax a little. "I mean I don't think either one of us considers that there was something left for the other one to do. And I'm sure neither one of us wants to do anything about it anymore. So, could you please tell me what it is that we are doing here?"
"I'm not sure I understand what you—," Teddy began, but she waved her hand impatiently towards him.
"This, you and me," she shook her head. "Bickering and giving each other ultimatums. Accusing each other of ridiculous things. I mean, we've certainly made a mess out of our marriage, but we're correcting that, aren't we?"
"Yes," she asserted emphatically, "by getting the hell out of it. That was a good decision, Teddy. And probably long overdue. It's just, well, I think, afterwards, we've been getting bogged down in…In…" She was looking at him, hoping she had managed to engage him.
"Yeah," he inhaled deeply, flicking his gaze to somewhere above her shoulder, then looking at her again. "Guilt. I think."
She pressed her lips together in a sad smile. Guilt was exactly right. Guilt over failing, over not being good and strong and skilled enough to make it work, but, most importantly, for turning the lives of their children upside down through no fault of their own. The most important job of a parent was to make sure that the children were secure and protected and right now their daughters probably felt anything but. Hence the guilt, spectacular and enormous, quick to rise to the surface, dark and sticky, as soon as they felt they were losing their grip over the whole messy situation. Which was, at least for her, about once every hour lately.
"We have to put it aside, Teddy," she contended, reaching out to put her hand on his arm for a moment in a show of solidarity. "We need to at least try and forgive ourselves or we'll just keep making it worse."
Teddy let out a mirthless laugh. "Do you have any bright ideas about how to do that?"
"Well, I think we can start by letting each other off the hook," she said, tossing her hair out of her face. "I mean, I know that the lawyers will be doing their thing and there are a thousand little details we still need to battle out amongst each other, but that's just inevitable – taking apart a decade of life together shouldn't be easy anyway, but…"
Teddy nodded, "Yeah, we have a hell of a reason not to be petty and we just have to keep reminding ourselves of that." He turned his gaze toward a big portrait of Maddie and Daphne on the mantel.
"Think we can do that?" she smiled, easier now. He returned the smile, in a way of affirmation. She decided to take a step further.
"So, in the spirit of letting each other off the hook, I have decided to lift my veto."
Teddy looked confused again. "Your what?"
"My veto on Peggy Kenter. I assume you are still seeing her?" she raised her eyebrows in question. Teddy squinted, careful not to admit or deny anything until he was certain of where she was going with it.
"I've decided that my objection at this point would be, well, pointless," she went on. "We're all adults here, we've made our decisions, our marriage is over and, when all this dust is settled, when we start to remember again who the other one is and what we've meant to each other, I do want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy, Teddy. So, if she makes you happy and as long as you are discreet, " she looked at him in warning, "well, then, I am lifting my veto."
"Umm," Teddy still wasn't quite sure how to react, "ok?"
"And I hope that, should there be occasion to, you can show similar openness towards me?" she asked expectantly.
"Yeah, let's hope so," he laughed, finally starting to relax. She punched him in the arm lightly. "Yeah, sure, I'll try my best," he conceded.
This had been easier than she had expected, both saying what she came to say and Teddy's acceptance of it. To give herself a moment to contemplate where they had come, she pushed herself up and walked to the fridge, grabbing a bottle of water from the shelf. Taking a long gulp, she realized that it felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders and she could breathe a little easier. Things were a long way from being alright, but it seemed she had managed to take a tiny step towards restoring her equilibrium.
It appeared that Teddy had used this moment to take stock as well.
"So, we're really good? About… things?" he asked, tilting his head and smiling hesitantly as if still not quite believing what had happened.
"It's gonna take a moment to get used to, isn't it?" she mused. "But, in principle, I would say, yeah."
Now Teddy smiled openly and bashfully at her, biting his lip. "You wouldn't want to, by any chance, convince your father of that as well?" he asked, looking almost boyish. Rayna burst out laughing.
"Oh, no," she adamantly shook her head. " No, no, no. You got into that particular bed all on your ownsome."
And she meant that, even if she did commiserate with him a little. She did, after all, understand the impulse that had lead to Teddy accepting her father's dubious offer of support. In her weaker moments she even felt slightly responsible.
She knew that in order to feel fully confident in himself and in his masculinity, Teddy needed to lead. He wasn't, maybe, the most natural leader. Not like her father who forced himself into every situation he could find and then proceeded to micromanage them. Teddy was more the kind of leader that had to be allowed to lead. But, the way Teddy had been brought up, in a highly political family, him assuming a leadership role was what had always been presumed of him, was always a given, even for himself.
The way life had worked out for them, she had pretty much taken that from him as well. Without quite meaning to, she had assumed the leadership role in their family, by being the more obvious of them at the beginning, the more visible one. And then, in time, also starting to earn more until, almost without realizing how it had happened, she was suddenly the one with all the financial responsibility. They wouldn't have survived otherwise, but that was now beside the point. Without that role Teddy was prone to become insecure and start flailing and making desperate moves. Hence whatever that financial mess he had gotten himself into and making an alliance with her father. She could only hope that now that Teddy actually was the uncontested leader, the mayor of the city, he could find enough confidence to really break free and be his own man.
"You'll be fine," she reassured him now, out of habit and sincere goodwill. "In the end, Lamar is just your regular schoolyard bully."
"I think we both know he is a little bit more than that," Teddy replied, but he seemed somehow hopeful, as if he still had a few more tricks up his sleeve himself.
She nodded encouragingly, picking up her bag. "I'd better get going before the girls come back. I'll see you tomorrow evening for the handover."
He walked her down the hallway in contemplative silence. Just before they reached the door, he stopped, looking at her with a wry smile.
"So, Deacon, huh?" he asked, his voice surprisingly free of any venom. Which was what prompted her to answer with candidness that even she herself would not have expected. The topic of that man had always been the most sacred taboo in this house.
"I don't know about that one," she sighed. "Deacon is… Deacon, actually, has a girlfriend."
Teddy couldn't control the snort.
Giving him as sad smile, she shook her head. "No, he really seems to think this might finally be his chance to be happy without me. And, well, after everything, I just don't think I deserve to go ruining it for him."
Putting his hand on the doorknob, Teddy looked her in the eye with what seemed to be benign resignation. "He won't be. Happy. Without you." He let out a loud breath. "You might want to remind him of that. Might save a number of people a lot of heartache."