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15 March 2007 @ 04:15 pm
 
So this is a very late birthday fic for phineas_gatsby. Her requested fic was "birthday for one of them. doesn't have to be happy, but no dead Rex!" And so, I finally (FINALLY FINALLY) deliver. ;-) Hope you enjoy!

Untitled (because I suck)
AUTHOR: Juno
RATING: PG (nothing to see here)



At what would be exactly forty-two years old at 4:26 in the afternoon, Rex Van de Kamp felt old.

And why wouldn’t he? Recovering from a heart attack, forced to rely completely on the wife who now despised him, he felt feeble and lonely when he had not so long ago felt invincible. It was how he imaged old to feel like, and in his opinion, he was old before his years. He had not expected to ring in his forty-second year with such a grim future lying ahead. He had not expected to feel that already his best years were behind him, and all he had to look forward to were more health problems and more loneliness until he finally died. He had not expected to feel so…old at forty-two.

Bree had in the past liked to tease him about it. Every year she would teasingly tell him that he was turning into an old man. A year and a half younger than he was, it was her prerogative. She would tease him about the graying of the hair at his temples, about the lines forming at the corners of his mouth. And worst of all, he couldn’t even mock her back, because she was still as lovely as she had been the day he had met her. Even more so, perhaps, now that soft curves bestowed upon her by pregnancy and motherhood had taken the place of the body of a young woman—one who had been really been more girl than woman still.

However, the taunts had never bothered him when he was holding such a beautiful woman in his arms. He exhaled shakily as he vividly recalled the scent of her perfume, the smoothness of her skin and swell of her hips underneath his hands, and the gaze she shot him under lowered eyelashes, eyes dark with arousal.

He had never felt old, because he was healthy and happy and successful. He had never felt old because she was beautiful and she loved him.

And now it was gone, the health and the happiness and the beautiful wife who loved him. And the worst part of it was he was fairly sure now that if he had done something differently, done something, it wouldn’t have had to end this way.

A sudden brush with death had put clarity and perception back in his life after it had been missing for a long time. Suddenly it seemed to matter less that Bree had a perfectly organized cleaning schedule and that she had to color code the towels and that left-overs were put into clear, symmetrical containers that were neatly stacked and labelled and thrown out exactly two days later and that there was never a dish in the sink. It seemed to matter less that he wanted a more carefree existence and that he wanted her dominance in bed instead of all other aspects of their life. They seemed unimportant, inconsequential—annoying, perhaps, but nothing to ruin a marriage over. But now it was too late and he couldn’t turn back.

When he had woken up after surgery and she had spoken to him with ice in her voice and pain in her eyes, getting what he wanted suddenly didn’t seem worth the terrible price he had had to pay. And he had realized at that moment that although he had told Maisy that love or passion was a terrible choice to have to make, he had already made his choice and he was already beginning to think that maybe it had been the wrong one. That at some terrible point he had decided to sacrifice his wife for some pleasure, that he had not loved her enough.

He hated that, too. He hated feeling as though he did not love his wife enough, the way he had promised to love her over eighteen years ago. But then again, perhaps it was not a matter of love but a matter of strength. He loved her, but he didn’t have the willpower to resist the tempting siren call of black leather and high, slender stiletto heels.

And that was almost as bad, that he could love her as much as he did, but he was simply weak and she deserved better than that. Bree, despite all of her attempts, was not perfect but she did not in the slightest deserve such betrayal. And he had made his decision between love and passion and it seemed now that he had broken them down so far and brought them so low that it was too late to change his mind.

Yes, the heart attack had given him perspective and he had seen just how much of a mess he had made, and he feared that after everything, he had pushed her a little too far and a little too hard away and they would never be able to find their way back to each other again.

They had reached a sort of détente in their relationship. He stopped offered apologies and seeking some hint of weakness in the icy shell she had built around herself to keep him out. They didn’t fight, but instead coexisted in a veil of silence, and Bree robotically saw to his needs. The warmth was gone from her, and since he had called her out for using the good china and placing flowers on his tray, she made sure to do nothing that might be mistaken for affection. She made sure to not prepare his favorite meals, she made sure to not use his favorite linen to make up the sofa bed. She made sure to only speak to him when she had to, she made sure to not spare him a smile or a glance the way she used to, the little things that reminded him that she loved him.

He missed her. She was there, in the same house, every day, sitting across from him for meals, but she wasn’t his anymore. Little things he had taken for granted, like the warmth of a rare, honest smile, or the freedom to put his hand on her shoulder when he passed her chair, had been suddenly stolen away from him. Of course he missed her. He had lost her before he had time to let her go.

Today was different, as well. His birthday. Of course she knew, after eighteen years of marriage and over twenty years together, it would be hard for her to forget. But she did not break from her detached treatment of him. Apparently, this was not an exception. Birthdays in the past, always the perfect wife, Bree had bent over backwards to make him happy. His favorite foods and a perfectly prepared, home-made (of course) cake and that sly smile, full of unspoken promises that always made his heart beat a little faster.

But this year, Bree had not given so much as an acknowledgement that it was his birthday. He was not foolish enough to expect the same treatment he had received in the past, but her cool and utter indifference cut deep, loath as he was to admit it. His children had, of course, wished him a happy birthday but his wife had continued to go about her routine silently and automatically, going through the motions of an average day that would be followed by another average day, over and over with no change until death.

No, he hadn’t expected the treatment of a loving, content, eager-to-please wife, but he had hoped for something, some small gesture that could possibly open the door to reconciliation. Something that showed that she still thought of him with some measure of warmth, that he could, however difficult it may be, work his way back into her good graces and eventually her heart. But Bree would not give an inch and all he received from her for his birthday was the familiar sinking feeling that his sessions with Maisy were not worth the price he had to pay. Worth the money, perhaps, but not worth the price.

Part of him wanted to sulk like a petulant child at the absolute unwavering air of her. For months she had begged him for reconciliation, and now that he had finally decided that he did want a second chance with his wife, for his marriage, she didn’t have a single kindness in her heart to spare him? She was being exactly what he had accused her of being, those months ago in the hospital—cold. But he had no right to complain, and he knew he was lucky that his children had intervened enough that he had good and thorough care since his heart attack, however reluctant the provider may be.

Still, it was disappointing, and it was with a heavy heart that he pulled back the covers of the meticulously made sofa bed, hearing the mattress squeak as he tried to get comfortable. It was a bit early, perhaps, but all the day had done was mark that he was even older, and haunt him with memories of better years past, and he frankly just wanted to get it over with.

Sleep was elusive, and he tossed on the uncomfortable sofa for a good hour before he finally felt himself start to drift off. And, of course, such was his luck, it was right when he started slipping towards sleep that a hand landed on his shoulder and someone was calling his name.

He twisted uncomfortably, a soft moan escaping his lips. He tried to move away from the intruder, but the hand was insistent and was shaking him a bit now, still calling him. And as he started to wake back up, opening his eyes blearily, he realized that he recognized the voice and so he rolled over lazily to face his wife.

She looked like a statue in the darkened living room, so tall and thin and her skin white and glowing. She had a reluctant look on her face, as though she were being forced to address him against her will. If he had been a bit more awake, he would have wondered what was wrong, but in his half-asleep state all he could do was stare up at her, waiting for her to speak.

“Happy birthday,” she said abruptly when she saw that he would not speak first, removing her hand from his shoulder and clasping her hands together demurely in front of her. And as soon as it was said, she was off, turning on her heel and heading towards the staircase, her mission completed.

As soon as his cloudy mind had time to wrap around what she was saying, he was stumbling off of the sofa bed and following in her footsteps, instinctively reaching for that chance, reaching for that gesture that he had been waiting for that told him that though she may not talk to him nor even look at him unless absolutely necessary, she still thought of him.

“Bree,” he called after her, and she stopped halfway up the darkened staircase. He could only see the outline of her silhouette as she turned back towards him.

“Yes?”

Now that he had her stopped, he didn’t know what to say. She was waiting with a strange air of patience, perhaps feeling that now that she had had her say, he should have his. Bree, even in her anger, believed in fair play. But now that he had her attention, after so long, what could he say? A thousand thoughts rushed through his head, but he was too ashamed or reluctant to speak most of them, and he was fairly certain that they wouldn’t be well received if he did say them out loud.

“I feel old,” he admitted finally, in defeat.

He saw her soften, the smallest bit. He couldn’t see the expression on her face but her shoulders dropped ever so slightly and she approached him again, stopping two steps above where he stood, at the base of the staircase.

“Yes, well. Me too,” she told him, and looking at her carefully, she did look older. She had lost the bloom on her, the look of a woman who was content with life and knew that she was well-loved. She had lost her sparkle, her joie de vivre. She looked tired and worn, like a woman on the verge of giving up because she simply did not have the strength to continue on.

He felt a terrible pang of compassion for her at that moment. Often he was so caught up in his own fears and loneliness, so lost in his haze of self-inflicted misery, that he forgot about the awful wrong he had committed against his wife. His wife, the woman he had promised to love and honor, to forsake all others for. Back then, he had made the promise in full truth, because he honestly could not imagining ever wanting another woman. And, well, even now the problem wasn’t wanting another woman. But the reason didn’t matter. He had still betrayed her.

And at moments like this, when he actually had the rare opportunity to really look at her, he realized that he had hurt her. And Rex had never seen himself as that man, the man who hurt his wife on purpose. He was willing to admit that sometimes he said stupid things that unintentionally hurt her feelings, but he never thought that he would be the man who would aim to intentionally harm. Not him. And not Bree. And yet here she was and he was forced to examine the wreckage he had left in his wake.

And it was easy, to focus on his pain and what he had lost when she looked at him like he had broken her image of a perfect life. It was less easy when she looked at him like he had broken her heart.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, but perhaps with more honesty than he had given any apology in the past. “I’m so sorry, Bree.”

Something flickered in her eyes—regret? uncertainty?—but before he could distinguish what it was, she flashed him her patent tight smile before turning on her heel without response and slowly ascending the staircase again.

“Bree, wait,” he said, and he knew there was a edge of desperation in his voice, and he cursed his weakness, but he was tired of this game that they played, tip-toeing around the subject and around the pain. “Please, just tell me what I have to do. Please.”

She turned back, more reluctantly this time, better sense telling her to keep walking. “Nothing, Rex,” she said tiredly. “It’s too late for us. Go get some sleep.”

His stomach leapt into his throat at those frightening words, and although he was strictly forbidden to, he started to climb the staircase towards her. “Wait,” he begged her. At this rare moment, where he had her willing to actually speak to him, he was more than a bit reluctant to let her go. He had to talk to her. He had to make her see. He had to take his chance.

He moved quickly, hoping that if she turned and darted off he would be able to close the distance between them, but she showed no sign of turning and walking off. She looked more alarmed at the fact that he was climbing the stairs than she was by the fact that he was approaching her.

“Rex,” she said sharply. “Stop it. You’re not supposed to use the stairs. You’re still recovering.” And she started moving down towards him, in order to cut him off, and when she was only one step above him, he reached up to take her waist between his hands.

She flinched instinctively at his grasp, but knew enough not to make a sudden move away—angry though she might be, she didn’t want to spend her recovering husband falling down a flight of stairs.

After all, if he were hurt, people might think she did it on purpose.

For a moment they stood in silence, the touch too intimate. Rex looked up at his wife with sad eyes, keeping his grip firm on her. “Please don’t say that,” he pleaded quietly. “Don’t say it’s too late.”

She flinched and looked away at the expression on his face, and he saw her physically steel herself before she allowed herself to meet his eye again. “You wanted a divorce,” she reminded him coldly.

“I was wrong,” he countered smoothly, as though they were engaged in a debate that did not matter much, as though he was not arguing to save their marriage, bartering for a second chance.

Her eyes were cold. “And so I’m supposed to just forgive you? Look the other way? Turn the other cheek?” she demanded icily. Still she didn’t move from him, and he took that as a good sign.

“No,” he said evenly, giving her waist a small squeeze. She scowled at him. “Just say that you’ll…give me a chance to make it up to you. That you’ll give me a chance to get you to forgive me. That I can earn it.”

Even in the dark, she looked weary, and at this point she gently removed his hands from her waist. “Get some sleep,” she ordered. “And I need some as well. God knows you’ve been keeping me running.”

Her cranky response only made him grin. “You’re not saying no,” he pointed out, and she crossed her arms, pursing her lips.

“I’m not saying yes,” she reminded him tightly.

“But you’re not saying no,” he replied, and he couldn’t help his smile. His smile only served to make her expression more sour, as though she simply could not bear that he might have won a round—and knowing Bree, she probably couldn’t. Bree hated to lose, even if ‘losing’ meant the possibility of a second chance at saving their marriage.

“Good night,” she insisted, turning on her heel. If she were any other woman, she would have stomped up those stairs, but she was Bree Van de Kamp and of course she had more class and dignity than that. However, it was enough for Rex to know that she wanted to stomp, and he felt his grin widen in amusement.

And he smiled long after she disappeared up the second landing and he heard the firm closing of the bedroom door.

She hadn’t said yes.

But she hadn’t said no.

And for now, that would be enough.








Comments/questions/concerns? You know what to do. ;-)
 
 
Current Mood: crazycrazy
 
 
 
zimbalist on March 16th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
aww, i loved this.
phineas_gatsbyphineas_gatsby on March 16th, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
*BIG SMILE* Birthday!!

Ha, I'm so glad that you finished this and that you didn't drop me any hints! Surprises are better. And awwwwwww with the internal monologue at the beginning. Of course he's not old when he's happy and healthy and in love.

And I loved when she came over to say happy birthday. It was clearly just eating at her...I can see her lying in bed, tossing and turning a little..."damnit I just can't get to sleep without wishing him a happy birthday."

Hee to their little bickering debate at the end. So fun.

Thanks!! (and I'll be getting to work on yours!)