A/N: This is just a scenario I think might have happened soon after Maddie was born. The song featured is 'Back Home', which Deacon sings in the first episode. Reviews mean the world! Hope you like it!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer and spare time.
. . .
January 29, 2000
Deacon walks into their rehearsal space at the Sound Check, goose bumps lingering on his skin from the cold morning air, to find the band lounging around with their instruments all set up, discussing the upcoming tour. He sets his guitar down on a nearby table as they all turn to greet him.
"I thought rehearsal started at eleven," he says, taking his jacket off.
Alyssa, one of the back-up singers, looks up from her newspaper, "Rayna ain't here yet."
The guitar player furrows his brow, trying to ignore the worry spreading in his chest. He can count the number of times Rayna has been late for rehearsal on one hand. It isn't your job to worry about her anymore, he thinks to himself. It's something he tells himself every day, but it doesn't matter how many times he repeats it, he knows he will never stop caring. After a few minutes of tuning his guitar, Bucky walks in, with no explanation for Rayna's lateness, and they spend the next twenty minutes going over the set list.
Everyone jumps, startled, when they hear the door open, followed by a loud wail. Deacon turns to see Rayna walking into the room, dressed in a dark blue blouse, jeans and an old pair of boots with her copper hair tumbling over her shoulders, carrying a three month old Maddie in her baby carrier.
"Sorry y'all," she says tiredly over Maddie's cries, "something came up."
"Rayna what is all this?" Bucky asks, perplexed, as she sets her purse, diaper bag and the carrier on the table next to Deacon's guitar case.
"Teddy had a meeting," she answers, gently removing her baby's heavy winter clothes, the thick jacket and hat practically swallowing the infant.
"What about the nanny?"
Deacon can't hear any of it, not even Maddie's cries. He had gotten a picture of the newborn in the mail and caught glimpses of her the few times Teddy has picked Rayna up, but this is the first time he's actually seen her. She's a beautiful baby, even when she's crying. When he had first seen Ray after he got out of rehab and she had on a wedding ring with a baby bump to match, he had gone home and punched a hole through the wall. His anger had eventually faded, although it was ever present, but now, he realizes that this little girl is a part of Rayna, and Rayna is a part of him. He can't help but love Maddie Conrad. His gaze shifts to Rayna, who is softly murmuring to Maddie as she picks her up. Even though Ray looks utterly exhausted, she's still as stunning as ever. He doesn't even try to stop the smile that blooms on his face. She catches him looking at her and his heart starts pounding, her blue orbs boring into his. He can't bring himself to look away. She holds his stare for a moment before turning her attention back to her manager.
"I fired her last week," the country star declares, rocking Maddie softly, "I came home from rehearsal and Maddie was up in her room crying while the nanny was downstairs reading. When I asked her what the hell she was doing, she told me she was letting Maddie 'cry it out'. How ridiculous is that? Leavin' my daughter all alone when she's upset. I'm still looking for a replacement."
"Alright," Bucky says as Maddie's cries fade to inconsistent whimpers, "your stylist is in the back with options for that charity event next week and samplers for the tour. Take your time."
"Thanks Buck," Rayna responds gratefully before he turns to the band, instructing them to get on stage and start warming up.
Deacon leans against the table, still grinning as he watches her fumble with the diaper bag.
"And I thought I was late," he teases.
"Oh, shut up," she deadpans, unable to hide her smirk. Her purse falls off the table, various items rolling out of it. Rayna swears under her breath and shifts awkwardly to pick them up.
Deacon holds out his arm, "I got it," he says, placing her bag back on the table. "You know, I could watch her for a bit if you want."
Her eyes widen, surprised by his offer. "You know, she's been fussy all morning, I don't-,"
"Come on, I used to watch Scarlett when she was a baby. I know you need a break and I don't mind. " His eyes soften and he takes a step closer to her, lowering his voice when he adds, "Just trust me, Ray."
Rayna's breath catches in her throat, her eyes locked on his. Then she hands Maddie over to him, "Okay, everything you need is in the diaper bag. Be careful with that pink blanket, she won't go to sleep without it. I'll be in the back if you need anything."
"Go on," he smiles, "I got her."
Rayna smiles, leaning up to kiss Maddie on the cheek, "Momma will be right back, baby," she coos, struggling to not show the effect Deacon's closeness is having on her. She hasn't been this near to him off stage in over a year, close enough that she can feel the heat radiating off of him. Rayna pulls back abruptly, separating herself from temptation, and starts walking away.
"Hey, Deacon," she says, turning back to him, but it feels like her heart is caught in her throat at the sight that greets her. He's standing there, holding her daughter, their daughter, for the first time. She's always thought Maddie looked like him but it seems obvious to Rayna now as he holds the infant: The same blue eyes, soft brown hair and gorgeous wide smile.
She clears her throat. "Thanks," she chokes, swallowing the lump in her throat.
As Ray walks away from him, he admires the familiar swing of her hips, and then he tilts his head towards the baby girl in his arms, "Alright, darlin', let's go have some fun."
. . .
Rayna knows that she made the right decision marrying Teddy. Seeing how he is with Maddie is her daily reminder that she made the right choice. He's a good man, a good husband and an even better father. She loves him for it, but…
Nothing could ever stop her from thinking about Deacon, even if she wanted to, and she can't help but feel like he and Maddie should have met sooner. The thought has lingered in the back of her mind ever since the nurse handed her a screaming pink bundle, but every time she alluded to it, both with her sister and with her husband, she was eventually convinced that it was better, more manageable, this way. She always wondering though; constantly wondering, worrying, second-guessing, questioning-it just never stops.
He's been sober for almost a year now, and Coleman tells her that he's doing well; that he's stable. She's proud of him for it, she truly is, but she has heard those words before. There's a part of her that believes that he's better now, reminding her every day that if she had waited another few months, she wouldn't be lying to the true father of her child. Maybe they'd be the family that she and Deacon used to whisper about in the darkness of the early morning as they lay entangled, bare in each other's arms. The other part of her, the part of her that dragged him to rehab kicking and screaming and broke down behind closed doors when he was too drunk to hold her up, reminds her of what he became. Of what he could easily become again. Rayna tries to extinguish these thoughts, and try as she may, she can never forget them for long. He may think she lost faith in him, and hell, maybe she did, but it stopped mattering when Maddie became a factor.
She's distracted all through her fitting, and if Bucky can tell, he doesn't show it. After trying on a few things and approving her stylist's choices for the tour, smiling the whole time, she heads back to the main stage, only to find that neither Deacon nor Maddie are there. When she asks the band where they are, everyone just shrugs and continue to go through the instrumentals for her newer songs. Rayna returns to the back hallway, poking her head into a few writing rooms until she hears the sound of a guitar. The door to the lounge is open, the familiar resonance of Deacon's voice fill the air along with the melody of a song she knows all too well.
Fireflies dancing in the yard, under the blanket of stars
The sound of that rusty string guitar playing songs we know
And all that I have to do is think one little thought of you
And I'm back home, I'm right back home…
The lyrics are hard to swallow. She knows that he's singing about her. His words wash over her, drowning her, because he's still her home, too, and she's not sure that anything can change that. Rayna hovers outside the door until the song is over, eyes tightly shut, reveling in the comfort his voice brings her. With a deep breath, she enters the room. Deacon is sitting on the couch with Maddie in her carrier on the ground in front of him.
"Not a traditional lullaby, wouldn't you say?"
Deacon looks up, "Yeah, well…it was the first thing that I thought of. She doesn't seem to mind too much."
Rayna walks over and sits next to him on the couch, and sure enough, Maddie is staring at him with a lopsided smile, quiet giggles spontaneously bursting free from her throat.
Silence envelops them for a moment, neither one able to look away from the baby girl in front of them. It's Rayna that breaks the silence, "I really appreciate you watching her."
Deacon smiles and bumps his knee against hers, "It was my pleasure. She's great, Ray."
"I'm going to miss her so much," she says quietly, running her hands through her hair, "I'm excited for this tour, but…I just don't like leavin' her. Teddy's gonna to bring her to visit, but it won't be the same."
"Nothing's going to be the same on this tour, Ray. I mean, you got a baby now and…" she knows what he wants to say. He wants to say this will be the first time they've been on tour and not been together, the first time that they'll be sleeping in hotels rooms and tour buses and not be able to reach out and find each other. He sighs, "It'll be alright, Ray. Always is."
She smiles at him, reaching out and giving his hand a light squeeze. Then she stands and picks up Maddie, "Come on, we've gotta get back to rehearsal."
. . .
After rehearsal is over and everyone has said their goodbyes, Rayna and Deacon walk down the hallway towards the exit, Maddie nestled in the crook of one of his arms, his guitar and the diaper bag in the other.
"I still can't believe she slept all through our set," Rayna laughs, adjusting the baby carrier on her arm.
He chuckles. "I don't know whether it's a compliment or an insult."
"I wouldn't worry about it too much," she responds as they step out outside, hovering near the door, "she isn't exactly our target audience."
"True," Deacon says gently pacing Maddie in the carrier, "alright little darlin', I'll see you 'round." He turns his attention back to Rayna, "I had fun today."
"She had fun, too," she murmurs, trying her best to ignore the bittersweet taste the words leave on her tongue.
Deacon smiles and hands back her bag, "Alright, I'll you see ladies next time."
She thanks him again and says goodbye. He starts walking towards his car, and she moves to go to her own vehicle, but she stops.
"Hey, Deacon?" She calls.
He turns around to face her. "Yeah?"
"I was wondering…" she starts modestly, "do you wanna meet up tomorrow? Do some writin'?"
"I'd like that." He's smiling at her. He's smiling at her like nothing has changed, like she isn't married and didn't just have a baby. She wishes he didn't have this damn influence on her where one look from him can unravel all her will power. She knows that she should tell him to stop, that it isn't appropriate, but she can't. She doesn't really want to.
The resonating thud of a car door shutting reverberates through the parking lot. Teddy steps out of a nearby car, and then it's the four of them, standing in the frigid mid-afternoon air, staring at each other.
"Hey, honey," her husband says after a second, talking to her, but glaring at Deacon.
"Hey," Rayna responds sweetly, noticing how clearly uncomfortable he is, "what're you doing here?"
"Got out of work early. Thought I'd surprise you."
Out of the corner of her eye, Rayna sees Deacon walking across the parking lot and out of sight, and Teddy's anxiety visibly dissipates. She walks over and kisses him, "Well I'm certainly surprised. Maddie was great today, you should have seen her- sound asleep through the whole thing."
Teddy smiles weakly, "Come on, we should be getting her home."
She hands Maddie over to her husband and they all get in the car. Even though she is dreading the jealousy she will have to alleviate when she gets home, she's happy to have the memory of Maddie in Deacon's arms. As they pull out of the parking lot, she takes Teddy's hand and looks back at her daughter, Deacon's words echoing in her head:
It'll be alright, Ray. Always is.
. . .
He doesn't hate Teddy because he has no respect for country music, or that he's basically a younger version of Lamar, hell, he doesn't even hate him despite the fact that he fits so well into that gated-community crowd that him and Ray used to make fun of. The reason, the real reason, he hates Teddy Conrad is because in the end, Rayna chose him.
He resents Teddy for taking her away from him, for stealing the only woman he's ever loved, even though he knows deep down that he drove her away. Somewhere in the middle of the pills and the alcohol, the blackouts and the late-night rampages, he pushed her straight into Teddy's arms.
Deacon watches them talking from his car and he cringes when Ray kisses Teddy, his hands tightening around the steering wheel. When Teddy takes Maddie from Rayna's arms and secures her in the back seat, a feeling that he can't quite pinpoint boils low in the pit of his stomach, almost like jealousy, even though he knows he has no right. He stays until they drive away, caught somewhere between anger and self-pity, and even as he watches her disappear down the road, towards the home she shares with another man, he reminds himself: there's always tomorrow.