A/N: This is my response to the August fanfiction challenge. My prompt is 'Five Times Deacon Regretted the Night Before'. Thanks to Karen ES for inviting me to join in on the fun! Please review!
Disclaimer: If only Deacon were mine…
. . .
The first time Deacon Claybourne got drunk he was fifteen. It was the fall of his freshman year of high school; the blistering summer heat had finally started to dissipate and his thoughts consisted of, among other things, girls and music. His talent for guitar was an easy conversation starter, and he'd never been shy, so getting a date wasn't all that difficult, much to the chagrin of his friends.
Then one Friday night, his friend Mike, a senior, showed up at his house, the smell of his cologne filling the air around Deacon's porch and said, "Get in the truck. I'm taking you to your first real party."
Deacon didn't hesitate. Vince was already in the car, and, like him, was trying to play it as cool as possible. After about fifteen minutes of Mike give them what was probably half-assed advice about 'party etiquette', they pulled up to an apartment complex. Deacon didn't know whose party it was, but people were pouring in the door and he could hear the music with the windows rolled up. Most of the kids were older, but he didn't really mind. He found a few familiar faces in the crowd and stuck close to Vince. The evening was proving to be quite anti-climactic, but then he heard shouts near the door and a couple guys came in carrying coolers and before he knew it, Mike had put a beer in his hand.
"Drink up, Claybourne!" He yelled before disappearing into the crowd.
He stared at the bottle in his hand, unsure of how to react. He'd never really done anything like this before. He never really had the desire to, but Vince was already sipping at the beverage and everyone else seemed to have a drink in their hand. Deacon took a deep breath; after all, he figured, nobody gets drunk off one beer.
He stopped over thinking it and swallowed.
Deacon woke up the next morning shirtless on the floor next to a blonde girl he didn't recognize. His head was pounding so hard he thought it would burst, and the light streaming in through the window only served to make it worse. He sat up as much as he could, willing himself to go and find a glass of water. He groaned and squeezed his eyes closed, realizing that any movement was a fruitless endeavor. There was a note shoved in his belt that had Vince's messy scrawl on it.
'You threw up on me, so I took your shirt.'
Deacon found that reading made his headache worse, so he tossed the note to the side. He turned his head, looking for Vince or Mike but saw neither. He was certain that he would get his ass handed to him when he got home, whether he walked in the door in ten minutes or in two hours, so he buried his face in his hands and spread out on the floor. As his eyes fluttered closed, he promised he would never touch alcohol again.
Rayna was sixteen when they first met, a whirlwind of copper hair, legs a mile long and an ego to match his. She was entirely too picky when it came to her band and by the time the auditions were over, everyone was already exhausted. She was sweet, he'll give her that, with a razor sharp wit that surprised him, but she was a diva, not matter how hard she tried to deny it. He was the only one brave enough, or perhaps stupid enough, to lock horns with her when she got irritated, and she used to joke around by telling him that he was just as big a diva as she was.
There had always been a fire between them, even from the beginning, although it started hotter than most, and after spending more time with her, he was engulfed in the flames.
She was actually the one to ask him out, after months of flirting and writing sessions where he swears he could have cut the tension with a knife. Deacon made reservations at some fancy restaurant Vince helped him find and he picked her up at the door, when Lamar wasn't home, naturally. He was so nervous that he got lost driving them there. Rayna had sensed his anger and embarrassment, so she directed him to a diner, where they ate breakfast for dinner and talked until the manager kicked them out.
At the end of the night, as they sat parked in her driveway, she brushed a stray hair behind her ear and told him what a good time she had.
"I had a lot of fun, too," he said nervously, then, "we should do it again some time."
Rayna smiled and he was immobile, staring into her blue eyes. "I'd love that."
Then she suddenly looked nervous, eyes glancing at his lips before looking away, a blush creeping up her neck.
He'd never wanted to kiss a girl so much in his whole life. All he had to do was lean over, he was sure she wanted it, too, but he could barely breath.
She sighed. "Goodnight, Deacon."
Leaning over, she kissed him on the cheek and hugged him. He was stunned; the flowery scent of her perfume surrounding him, her hair soft against his neck. She pulled back far too soon.
"'Night," he choked as she got out of the car, smiling at him again before retreating into the house.
He sat there for minute, hands clenching the steering wheel, and he cursed himself, thinking instead about what his hands could be touching if only he had kissed her.
"I screwed up, didn't I?"
"You bet," Bucky said from behind his newspaper. Their other band mates were talking in the front of the bus, but Rayna sat in the back, refusing to make eye-contact with him.
Deacon folded his arms across his chest as he stared at her, hoping that if he did it long enough she would get annoyed and tell him to stop, effectively breaking her barrier of silence.
"I don't get why she's so mad at me," he said, and it was mostly a lie. Although he thought she was being ridiculous, he understood where he had gone wrong, "All I did was tell her the damn dress was a little short."
"There's your first mistake," Bucky mumbled, "you don't tell Rayna anything."
"Those stage hands were all gawking at her," Deacon huffed, "you can't sit there and say it was appropriate!"
Bucky chuckled. "I'm not saying another word on the matter."
Deacon ran a hand over his face. He knew that this train of thought would bring him no closer to Ray's good graces. These fights never lasted long, but he knew that one of them had to make a move. In this case, Deacon knew it would have to be him. He spent the rest of the ride strumming his guitar, looking at her the whole time as he quietly sang. He could tell by the way she was fidgeting that she was having a hard time ignoring him, so she eventually retreated to her private room in the rear, careful not to touch him when she hurried past.
The next time they stopped, Deacon found a little flower shop. That night when he knocked on her door, flowers in hand, all the apologies and regrets for the night before on his tongue vanished when she pulled him in by the collar and locked the door behind them.
It was almost noon when Deacon woke up, covered only by his bed sheets. He turned over to find Rayna's back to him, strawberry blonde waves spread wildly over the pillow. He reached over and ran his fingers through it, smiling when she sighed happily. Placing a kiss to her shoulder, Deacon wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her against him.
"Wake up, darlin', we're going to be late for rehearsal," he mumbled into her ear.
She giggled. "What are you talking about?"
A girl that was most definitely not Rayna rolled over in his arms.
Deacon froze, his heart plummeting, crashing into a million pieces as his reality washed over him again. The previous night came flooding back, thought it was all a bit foggy. He swiftly moved away from her, telling her as politely as he could that he had to go to work. Thankfully, she got the message. He could tell that she sensed he wanted her gone, and he felt guilty about that, but the heaviness in his chest only grew. After he had called her a cab and she collected her clothes, she was gone and he headed to the Sound Check.
He could barely look at Ray for the rest of the day.
He thought about it hard before he walked into the bar. He thought about it some more as he sat at the bar, and again when he found himself ordering the drink. The glass sits untouched in front of him for a few minutes, but then it's in his hand, the familiarity of it all both bitter and soothing.
He stops thinking the moment the alcohol blazes a trail down his throat, like meeting an old friend.
Deacon didn't regret it the next morning, not really, because although all those years of sobriety meant nothing now, he found out he has a daughter that has been hidden from him, and damn it, any man would need a drink after that discovery. Not the next night, either, because he's furious, absolutely livid and he doesn't think he's ever felt this heartbroken, this betrayed, and all he wants to do is drown himself in scotch until it all goes away.
But as he watches Maddie, his daughter, sobbing at her mother's bedside-the woman he loves, who may never wake up-Deacon has never regretted anything so much in his entire life.