Can't Always Get What You Want
“Deacon, it’s you…” he heard Rayna say and just stood there for a long moment, staring at her, completely confused.
“Wait…what?” he finally asked her, shaking his head, still not putting it together. “What are you talking about Ray?”
Her expression turned guarded and he saw a flash of regret pass over her features, as if she wished she could then take back what she’d said. “It’s…it’s complicated, Deacon. It’s just…you know how it is. The whole legal system is built on pleas and loopholes. Maybe it’s just better to choose the lesser of evils, you know?” she said, babbling.
He shook his head. “No, I don’t, actually. And explain to me please, how it’s complicated. Because while I may not be a lawyer, from where I’m standing, it seems pretty open and shut. The bastard attacked you, hurt you, and tried to rape you. There was enough evidence to convince the DA of his guilt or he never would have pursued the case in the first place. And apparently the grand jury thought so too or they wouldn’t have indicted him yesterday on the charges that they did. The case isn’t complicated Rayna. The evidence and the facts support your story…they support you. Which leads me to believe that this isn’t about the case at all—and that it’s about something else entirely. So tell me, Ray. What’s really going on here? What aren’t you telling me?” he demanded softly. When she started to shake her head and went to walk away from him, he grabbed her by the shoulders and lightly shook her head. “Damn it, Rayna, stop running away from me. Tell me what’s going on. Whatever it is—whatever’s got you scared, just tell me and I’ll fix it. I’ll take care of it.”
She pulled free of his embrace and moved away, shooting him an exasperated glare. “No. Damn it, Deacon, I don’t want you to take care of it or anything, don’t you get that? I don’t want you to do anything. You can’t always waltz in and fix everything, Deacon. I know you’re only trying to help and I love you for that—for wanting to make things better—but you can’t always do that. I can’t keep letting you put your life on hold or your future on the line for me,” she said, with both her expression and her words thinly-veiled. “I have to do this on my own, Deacon. Including deciding what’s best in this case,” she said.
“What’s best—“ he scoffed at her. “I’m sorry, Ray, but you’re not a damn lawyer. You don’t know what’s best. That’s what DA Jensen is for, to help you figure out what’s best. And I could tell just from his tone earlier that he’s not happy about this anymore than—“
“His tone?” she interjected, brows raised, hands on her hips accusingly. “Wait. What the--you talked to him?” she asked, whirling on him.
Deacon nodded. “Yeah, you know what, I did. He called me to let me know that there was a chance I wouldn’t have to testify at a trial…because there might not be a trial. Imagine my surprise when I heard that one. Hell, I thought he had to have gotten his cases mixed up or something because there’s no way in hell that the Rayna Jaymes I know would give up without a fight and let a no-good, piece of scum like Luke Wheeler get away with what he did to her. But lo and behold, here I am, and it sounds like that’s exactly what’s happening,” he said, now angry.
Fury danced in her own eyes. “Give up—you think that’s what I’m doing, Deacon—that I’m giving up?” she demanded.
He shrugged. “If you make a plea deal with that creep, then yeah, you’d be giving up. Hell, Ray, you’d be giving right in to what he wants. How can you not see that? How can you, of all people, be okay with not fighting him for this?” he asked.
“Did you ever consider that maybe I’m sick and tired of fighting, Deacon?” she asked, feeling weary and doing her best not to let it show. “It’s all I do. It’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve been fighting my entire life for what I wanted and to get here to where I am. Everything I have, everything that I am, all of this—I fought tooth and nail to get. You know that better than anyone, Deacon. And I don’t regret it, or resent any of it—I wouldn’t change anything…not a single thing. I have what I want. I have a successful career doing what I love. I have two beautiful, perfect daughters. I have more than I ever could have dreamed of having, but I’m starting to realize that it all comes at a cost that I’m just not sure I’m willing to pay anymore, Deacon. I’m really not,” she admitted.
He gave her a narrowed look. “What are you talking about, Ray?”
She ignored the ignored the real question he was asking and carried on. “I’ve been thinking about a trial and what it would mean—how it would affect my life and those around me, primarily the girls. You know what it’s going to be like the minute this gets out, Deacon. The media is going to have a field day and there’s not going to be a moment of peace, for anyone. There will be reporters camped out here, at the courthouse, the studio, the label…even your place, too once they find out your involvement. And we both know how much you value your privacy, Deacon.” When he started to say something, she shook her head, cutting him off as she continued on with her argument. “They’re going to dig, Deacon. Into everything. My past, my family, my love life—every move I’ve ever made—every man I ever looked twice at—will be called into question. You know how many fans Luke has. You know as well as I do that they’re going to paint me out to be some whore who deserved it. Or worse, they’ll say I wanted it. Do you have any idea what that will do to everything I’ve worked this hard to create, Deacon? My reputation, my brand? I have a company and a label to run, people that have invested a lot in my dreams and the promises that I’ve made them...one of those people being Scarlett, your own niece,” she said, sighing sadly. “What worries me the most though, is that the girls aren’t so little anymore, Deac. They’re old enough to understand what’s going on. If I go through with this and take the case to trial—what about them? How long do you think it’ll be before they start hearing things being said by their friends or see some pictures or articles in some damn tabloid at the checkout counter at the mall? Before reporters start camping out outside their school hoping to snap a photo of them or get some kind of gossipy sound bite from some pissed off parent in the car-pool?” She sighed and shook her head. “It was bad enough on them with Teddy and the divorce leak and that was nothing compared to what this will bring. So tell me, Deacon…is it worth it? Is fighting him really worth all of that?” she asked, finally lifting her gaze to meet his.
He searched her eyes, seeing something unreadable inside them that he couldn’t quite decipher no matter how hard he tried. “Ray, I-I understand all of that. I do. Do I want the girls to have to go through all of that? Hell no. You know, I would never want that. But I know you, Ray. I know that the last thing you’d ever want is to do something that the girls would be less than proud of you for…and I think this is one of those situations, Ray. God, you’re the strongest woman I know. Hell, you’ve stood up to drunken fools in dive bars, performed for tens of thousands of people in arenas around the world without batting an eye. You made it to the top and you’ve stayed there all these years after everyone said you wouldn’t make it a month in this business when you first started out remember, Ray? You did all that because you never once backed down. You stood your ground. You fought for what you wanted, what you knew was right. Are you really telling me that you’re just going to let some jerk like Wheeler come in and scare you off—after everything?” he asked her.
Again, tears fell down her face, this time at his kind but stinging words. “You don’t understand--“ she sobbed.
He had crossed the room and had his hands on her upper arms before she could blink or react. He ducked so that he was at her eye level and moved his hands to gently cradle her face, making it so that she had no choice but to look him in the eye. “So help me understand, Babe,” he told her, pleadingly. “God, please, just tell me what he’s got on you,” he begged her, wanting more than anything to erase that helpless look in her eyes.
She tried to shake her head and to push him away, but he held fast. “Deacon, please don’t make me,” she pleaded back with him. “Please just let this one go, please…” she cried.
“I can’t,” he said firmly, tears in his own eyes. “I can’t do that, Ray…not when I can still see him pushing you up against that truck, his hands—you crying…I can’t get that image out of my head, Rayna. Do you know how guilty I feel for not getting there quicker? Damn it, Ray, I was right there. Yards away. Hell, if I hadn’t put on that show myself after the festival with Gunnar to piss off Teddy, you probably would have already had gone home with the girls that night. So don’t tell me to let it go, because I can’t, Ray. I just can’t. And I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what this is really about, so you might as well just tell me,” he said.
She pulled back then, just enough to look at him. She could tell that he was serious. Exhausted, she realized there really was no point in holding back. Deacon was going to find out one way or another come Monday what was going on, so he might as well hear it right from her. Sighing, she nodded. “On one condition,” she said.
“Fine,” he answered without hesitation.
“First off--you can’t react. You can’t yell or curse or stomp around or run off making threats. You can’t say or do anything whatsoever about it because honestly, I can’t handle anything else tonight and I just want this day to be over with. So if I tell you what you want to know, then I want your word that you’ll leave right after and just go straight home, alright?” she asked. “No detours, no revenge…nothing.”
He muttered something under his breath, not so sure he was going to like what was going to come next, but having no choice in the matter—he agreed to her terms…after all, what else could he do?
LATER THAT NIGHT…
The first thought Megan had as she walked through Deacon’s house was that he’d fallen off the wagon…that he must have slipped and started drinking again. It was the only real explanation she could come up with as she stepped over broken lamps and light bulbs, shattered glasses and plates, knocked over chairs and various other household items as she made her way through the dark house to the back of the structure where the living room was located, calling out Deacon’s name.
“Deacon?” she called again, softer this time as she walked into the room and saw him sitting on the floor against one of the walls in the dim shadows. His outline was illuminated by the moonlight filtering in through one of the now un-curtained windows. He was crouched down and had his head in his hands, muttering something she couldn’t quite make out. “Deacon?” she repeated as she neared and stooped down beside him, touching a hand to his shoulder.
He lifted his head and looked at her. Instead of bloodshot, boozy eyes like she was expecting, she was surprised to find his completely clear…and hurting…
Deacon saw the concern in Megan’s eyes and the surprise etched in her features and felt instantly contrite. “I’m sorry,” he said immediately, his voice rough. “Before you ask, I’m not drunk. I didn’t have a drink,” he informed her outright, reading the uncertainty in her gaze as she looked at him. “Not that I didn’t think about it,” he admitted, dropping his gaze to the guitar pick he held in his hand. He held it up between his fingers to show her. “Maddie made this for me a few weeks ago,” he explained of the purple, artistic, somewhat bedazzled pick. On the front she’d written “Whenever you forget, just remember…” and on the back, in curly little font “A Life That’s Good.” She’d chosen the song title, as she explained it, one…because it was her most favorite song of his, and two…because it was one of the first songs he’d written for her mother. She’d told him when she’d given him the sweet gift that it was prettier than those coins they give you at the AA meetings, and more personal. She figured that he might like a more personal reminder of what he’d be missing should he ever decide to act on the urge to drink. Well, Maddie hadn’t said that exactly, but he’d gotten the point. He’d never been more floored in his life, or more proud to be the girl’s father—for that matter—than in that moment. At just 14, she was already an incredibly sweet, protective, and perceptive girl. And so much like her mother that he couldn’t help but love her dearly. And she’d been right. Looking at that guitar pick, turning it over and over between his fingers that night, thinking of Maddie’s shy, smiling face when she’d given it to him—had really been the only thing that had stopped him from getting a bottle and going hard down that bottomless hole he’d visited so many, many times in the past when things had gotten a little too tough for him to handle.
Megan’s features softened as she took the pick in her hand and looked at it, smiling. “That was sweet of her. It’s beautiful,” she said, handing it back to him. As he nodded and started turning it between his fingers again, she spoke softly. “What happened, Deacon?”
He ran a hand through his hair with a frustrated groan. “I got a call from the DA handling Rayna’s case tonight when I was leaving a session at Sound Check with Gunnar,” he began as he stood, sliding the pick into his back pocket as he stood up. He muttered something unintelligible as he reached down to pick up a lamp that he’d knocked off a side-table, putting it right side up and turning on the light that surprisingly still worked. He grabbed the couch pillows he’d thrown, fixed and straightened them where they belonged, then sat down with a sigh. “He wanted to let me know that I might not have to testify. That there might not be a trial after all.”
“What?” She asked, eyes widened. She walked over and sat down slowly on the coffee table in front of him, smoothing the lap of her black pencil skirt before leaning forward and placing her hand on his knee in a gesture of support. “What did he mean? Did Rayna withdraw the charges?” she asked.
He scoffed at the question. “No. But she might as well have.” At her questioning brow raise, he sighed and continued. “She’s considering a plea deal with the bastard.”
She sat back then, shaking her head. “Wh-wow. I wouldn’t have expected that. Are you sure? I mean, I don’t know Ms. Jaymes all that well, but I somehow don’t see her backing down that easily. What kind of plea arrangement are we talking about here?” she asked, the lawyer in her starting to show.
“I don’t know the full details, but apparently he’ll plead guilty to the assault charge if she drops the attempted rape charge,” he answered, his anger starting to renew by talking about it again.
Megan nodded, taking a moment to think about it from a lawyer’s perspective. “It would figure he would. He’s got a good lawyer. From a defense point of view—it’s smart. With just the assault charge itself, he’s home-free, and his lawyer knows it. It’s a misdemeanor. Considering his clean arrest record and his public image, chances are the judge will give him probation, 6 months jail time tops. The attempted assault is the heavy felony charge. He could get up to seven years. He’ll be a convicted felon, have to register as a sex offender when he gets out. Shows that he’s desperate, though. That's a good sign. She’s not seriously going considering taking the deal, is she? I mean, I know a trial will be tough on her and the girls, media wise—because let’s face it, this is going to be the talk of the tabloids for weeks, if not months,” she said. “Sorry,” she apologized when he gave her a not-so-thrilled look. “I’m just saying that in my professional opinion, she shook take it to trial. Jensen’s a hell of a DA and from what you’ve said and what I’ve heard through the lawyer grapevine—this Wheeler guy doesn’t stand a chance.”
He nodded, then shook his head as he laughed in disbelief. “I know. But it’s even more outrageous than that,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Megan asked, brows together.
“Apparently he’s threatening her. Hell, he’s fucking blackmailing her is what he’s doing,” Deacon muttered. “If she doesn’t take the deal—if she refuses to drop the charge and goes forward with the trial—then Wheeler’s going to press charges…against me. For assault,” he said, slowly, waiting for her reaction.
“That’s—you’re kidding right? Deacon, please tell me you’re not serious and that you heard wrong…or something,” Megan said as she stood and started nervously pacing. When he just hung his head, she swore. It was one of the few times he’d heard her curse and the previous times had been while in a fit of anger, so he knew she wasn’t taking the news well…although considering the warpath of household items that were scattered everywhere he looked, he had to at least admit that she was taking it better than he had. Momentarily, she stopped pacing and faced him. Her face was ashen, her expression worried. “That certainly changes things,” she finally said. He found that the cool and collected, lawyer-y tone in her voice as she spoke to be quite unsettling. It wasn’t a good sign, he knew.
He shook his head and shrugged. “Not the way I see it, it doesn’t. I know Wheeler. He’s just trying to get into Rayna’s head and he’s using me to do it because he knows we have a long history together,” he said. “He won’t do it.” He swore. “Hell, even if he does, who cares? It’s not as if it’ll hold water in any court anyhow. The bastard was trying to rape her. I pulled him off of her and stopped him. I was protecting her. All a judge has to do is watch that cell phone video and he’ll see why I did what I did,” he said. “It’s nothing. It just…it pisses me off that he’s got her so worked up, you know? She doesn’t need this. And I—what?” he asked, stopping when he saw the look on Megan’s face.
“Deacon...” she started, slowly. “Listen to me, this isn’t nothing. This is…this is serious, Deacon. Really serious,” she said, her voice faltering.
Sensing her anxiety, he stood and walked over to her, taking her hands in his. They were cold and shaking. “Megan, what we talking about here? Just tell me,” he said, his tone steeled for the worst.
“It’s not good, Deacon. You’re right, its blackmail…and its smart blackmail. Definitely underhanded. Not that I’m surprised considering who he has for counsel. Tristan Jackman’s old money and comes from a long line of prominent Nashville attorneys. The firm only handles high profile, prestigious cases like these and they have connections everywhere. They have a high success rate, likely because they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get a win for a client. They have researchers whose only job is to do dig into peoples’ pasts, which looks to be the case here...though it wouldn’t have taken too much digging for someone to have found the connection between you and Rayna—especially with her and the Mayor’s recent divorce scandal and that whole tabloid leak that you got pulled into. I mean, I don’t read the things, and even I remember hearing about it,” she told him.
He shrugged. “So we have a history. Big deal,” he commented.
She sighed and ran a hand through her hair, nervous. “It is a big deal, Deacon,” she argued. “I was your lawyer, remember? I’ve seen your arrest record. You have two DUI’s, half a dozen drunk and disorderly complaints and collars, and as many complaints for bar fights. You have a habit of getting angry and fighting people,” she said, her tone honest and direct.
He narrowed his gaze and took a step back. “Correction, Megan…I had a habit of doing those things...and might I point out, I was usually three sheets to the wind when that happened,” he said defensively.
She nodded. “I know that, Deacon. I do,” she said softly. “I know you’re not that person anymore. I’m just telling you how it looks,” she reminded him.
“How it looks—Damn it, Megan, the guy was attacking her. He had her pinned against the truck so she couldn’t move, his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t yell for help, his other hand in her—“ he stopped as the bile rose in his throat from rehashing the details and thinking about it and inhaled deeply, waiting for the wave to pass before continuing. “She was crying. He was about to rape her, for Christ’s sake. What the hell was I supposed to do? Stand there and wonder how it would look weeks later when some prick lawyer decided to use it to get his guilty client off the hook?” he asked accusingly.
She held up a hand in protest. “Hey, I’m on your side here, obviously Babe. You wanted me to tell you what you might be up against and well…this is it. This is how it’s going to look to a judge, who doesn’t know you,” she pointed out. “A judge who’s going to look at your record and then look at that cell phone video evidence—which the defense will trim and use to their advantage in any way that they can, by the way —and then take into account Wheeler’s injuries sustained in the attack and decide whether or not the assault was excessive. And before you say anything, I know. I know that you were in the moment and just trying to protect Rayna and naturally, you weren’t thinking clearly—but that might not matter to the judge. He could say that you were in your rights to pull him off of her and restrain him from continuing or pursuing the attack again—but outside of your rights when you had him on the ground and were beating him to the point where another individual—Gunnar—had to physically pull you off of him to stop you. I fully understand why you did what you did, but a judge might not.”
“So what exactly are we talking about here, Megan?” he asked. “Some probation, time in County lock-up—what?” he asked, trying to get a picture of what he was up against.
She looked away a moment and when she looked back; he could see the unshed, scared tears in her eyes. She shook her head. “Worse, Deacon. Far worse. If they’re threatening to do what I think they are, then they’ll try to have you charged for felony assault. They’ll say that you were excessive in the attack—that you were motivated by personal and emotional reasons. Considering you have a romantic history with Rayna, chances are they’ll try and say that you were jealous of Wheeler—they might even go so far as to say that you overreacted and misinterpreted what you saw—try and undermine the rape charge while they’re at it. They’ll say you inflicted excessive and serious bodily harm against Wheeler. They’ll use the drinking and the fighting and anything else they can dig up to show a pattern of violence. And if the judge buys it—which I’ll be completely honest with you, there’s a very good chance that he might—then you could lose, Deacon. A felony assault charge carries an automatic minimum 5-7 years in state or federal prison, Deacon and up to 15 years, maximum sentence. It’s serious, Deacon,” she repeated quietly, her voice strained with emotion.
“Whoa—“he said as he released his breath quickly, feeling like he’d just been sucker punched in the gut. He had definitely not been expecting the answer she’d given him. Feeling light-headed, he turned and sat down heavily on the couch, running a hand through his hair as he closed his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. “Shit,” he finally said a long moment later. After a few minutes, he finally opened his eyes and lifted his face to Megan, who was looking away, trying to keep her composure. “So what can we do?” he asked, his voice gritty with anger.
She shrugged before she turned and looked at him. “Nothing. There’s nothing you can do but wait and see what happens…well, what Rayna decides to do, I should say,” she said, her tone icy.
“What do you mean, ‘what Rayna decides to do’?” he asked. “And why did you say it like that?” he questioned. “This isn’t her fault, Megan,” he pointed out, again defensive.
“I’m not saying that it is,” she responded. “But your life is literally in her hands right now, Deacon. You realize that, don’t you? I mean, I feel horrible for what happened to her and for what she went through—truly, I do. And it sickens me that she’s being manipulated by a creep like Wheeler, the system, and a professional—granted not a personal one—but still a colleague of mine. It does. But this is important, Deacon. This isn’t just your life and your future that could be at stake here, but your actual freedom we’re talking about,” she told him.
“You think I don’t know that, Megan? I get it,” he said, frustrated as he stood up and started pacing again.
“No, I don’t think that you do, Deacon. I don’t think you fully understand the ramifications of what could happen if Rayna turns this deal down and Wheeler follows through on his threat. By that I mean seven years in prison, Deacon. Seven years. If not more, God forbid. Think about what you’d be giving up and losing. Forget your freedom. How about not seeing your friends and loved ones, except from behind a window of Plexi-Glass? Missing out on your niece’s budding career. Heck, think about your own career. You’re finally getting what you’ve always wanted. You just signed a solo record deal. You spent hours at the piano and playing your guitar until your fingers bled and your hand throbbed in pain writing those songs. You’ve spent hours in the studio laying down the tracks for this first album. You’ve worked so hard for this, Deacon and you’re so close to finally having your dreams come true. Not Rayna’s, not anyone else’s…yours. And you deserve the success and the praise. You deserve all of it. This could jeopardize all of that. You could lose everything you’ve worked for,” she pointed out.
He swore hotly. “A damn record deal—you think I care about that?” he asked her, shaking his head in disbelief. “It’s just a record, Megan. A damn vinyl disc. Its numbers and money. Hell, its goddamn glitter. In the end, that’s all it is. I don’t need it. I don’t need any of it,” he shot back, his tone heated.
She scoffed at his response, crossing her arms. “No? Then what me? Do you need me, Deacon? Does how I feel counter into any of this, or am I just as expendable as your record deal?” she asked, hurt. “Better yet—how about Maddie? Do you need Maddie?” She sighed. “You just got her back, Deacon. The circumstances aside, you lost out on 13 years of her life. Her first words, her first steps, her first everything up until now. The next seven years are going to be the most crucial ones of her life, Deacon. There’s still her first crush, her first broken heart, her prom, her singing gigs, her high school graduation, going off to college…she needs her Dad there for those things…you, Deacon. She needs you there. And you need to be there for her. You deserve to be there. Are you really willing to sacrifice all the progress you’ve made with her these past few months and take a chance like this? Because trust me, Deacon—she’s not going to care that you did it for her mom or that you did it because you thought it was the right thing to do. All that is going to matter to her is that you weren’t there,” she told him quietly.
He turned his tortured eyes to her. “Why are you saying these things?” he asked. “You know how I feel about Maddie. How I feel about you. The last thing I want to do is hurt her,” he said. “Either of you,” he added.
“Then why are you so against Rayna taking this deal?” she demanded, walking over to him and placing her hand on his forearm, pleading to understand.
He sighed. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Try me,” she challenged.
He muttered something under his breath, shaking his head as he pulled away and walked over to the window. “It’s her. It’s Rayna…,” he began softly, shaking his head sardonically, as if trying to understand it himself. “It’s always been Rayna…”