Fandom: Murphy Brown
Timeframe: Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Disclaimer: Diane English is God, Candice Bergen is a queen, and I don’t make a single penny from this. In fact, I should be writing other stuff. So, of course I’m writing this. If Diane wants someone to novelize Murphy, I’m on board, but she won’t read this, so I’m also probably safe.
Summary: The clear tone in her voice gutted him far more than the words, and he understood the sentiment. He too had stopped drinking, and she was as much an addiction for him as he was for her.
They spent two hours in the studio. First the desk, and then tripping over each other to her chair, where he tossed her legs over his shoulders and shoved her skirt up over her hips. She asked him hard, pointed questions as she rode him, none of them suitable for Primetime TV. After, only partially sated, they’d slid into her Porsche and raced each other to the bedroom. She giggled like she used to, and it made everything in him melt and tense all at the same time and he wanted to be inside of her forever. Her sheets were flannel, and smelled of the musk of time. She didn’t get around to changing them much. Jake wasn’t sure when they fell asleep, but he woke when the sun splashed across his face. He rubbed his eyes and watched the light play across her arm and in the early dawn, he found himself wondering what he’d really meant last night when he’d asked her to marry him. What had that meant? Why had he asked it?
Had he really wanted this again? Her? The ups and downs and fights and torments? Her, with her fire and spark? Her, with the way she smiled that took up every ounce of her soul?
Yes. He did. He wanted it more than he wanted air, but for some reason, he couldn’t take a breath. There were nine hundred reasons to get married again and even more to not.
Absence made the heart grow fonder and far more romantic, but that didn’t change his feelings. Not for him. No, what had changed was life. She was no longer the starving student, the angry activist. She was the world famous Murphy Brown, and she had a house and a car and a job she was damn good at. He was the infamous Jake Lowenstein. He had a backpack and friends who let him crash at their apartments and agents who kept asking for memoirs he wasn’t ready to write. She had Emmy awards. He had scars and the occasional magazine article. He wasn’t sure there was a middle ground.
She shifted, snagging the covers over her head, and he took that as his cue. One breath. Two. She slept on. He slipped from bed, put his feet on the floor and walked to the bathroom, grabbing his clothes as he did.
When he emerged from the bathroom, she was sitting up in bed, staring at him, and he realized she’d been lying there, thinking the same things he had.
“Where are you off to?” She asked. Her voice was soft, tired, accepting.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Wherever.”
Silence. “So, the marriage proposal? What then, Jake? You didn’t even have a plan to stay?”
Silence. “I would have if you’d said yes.”
Silence. “I did say yes, Jake.”
He stared at her. She stared back. Finally, she rose from bed and slipped into a pair of loose sweats and a t-shirt. Her hair was all over the place and she pulled it into a band and walked out of the room. Jake followed. Down to the kitchen, where she started the coffee and put two pieces of toast in the toaster. She pulled out jelly and butter and the toast was between them and they had coffee in their hands before she spoke again.
“Why did you come back? You could have given this interview to anyone. You wanted to what?” Gone was the soft, accepting tone. She was building to angry and this was a fight that wouldn’t end in the bedroom.
“No. What?” the toast cooled between them. “Why come back? Was it just to toy with both of us? Because I tell you, I lied, Jake. Five days like this every twenty years might kill me.”
The confession took the wind out of him. There it was, the raw honesty. But this time, it was about her, her heart, and what could be between them. He knew, at least he had then, what no one else did. She was vulnerable under her armor. Seeing her in this moment, he knew that still remained. At least for him.
“I lose a little of myself when I’m with you too, Murphy,” he admitted. “The marriage proposal was real. I just hadn’t thought past … today.”
“We have that problem.”
“Yes, we do.” He took a sip of the coffee, set the mug on the counter, and walked around the island to wrap her in his arms. “Murphy …”
“I know, Jake.”
It wasn’t a statement of defeat. Merely of fact. Her fingers were digging into his shirt and he crushed her against his body. “I don’t have to leave right away,” he murmured. “I didn’t have any plans beyond here …”
He heard the pause, felt the flinch.
“Am I just a place to crash?”
“No,” he said. “I can stay elsewhere. If that’s … what you want?”
She looked at him, her eyes full of something he’d seen only once before - when he walked away the last time. “I want you here, Jake. I want you here. But I think … I need it on my terms, not on yours. You see, I stopped drinking this year, Jake. I stopped smoking. I gave up almost all those vices that I thought were keeping me grounded. And right now, with you here, I feel like I did when I was drinking. If we were having this conversation in a year, or two, or three, I might say something differently. But right now, if you can’t do this on my terms, if you can’t be here … I can’t give up the control I need to give up to be with you.”
The clear tone in her voice gutted him far more than the words, and he understood the sentiment. He too had stopped drinking, and she was as much an addiction for him as he was for her.
“Okay,” he said, and kissed her. It was a kiss of movie magic, of passion, of a promise neither of them could keep. He pulled back, stepped away, stroked her cheek, turned, and left. As the door closed behind him, he pretended to not have heard the quick intake of breath and the muffled sob that had come from the kitchen.
Murphy allowed herself exactly two cups of coffee to cry over Jake. she tossed the cold toast and settled for pop tarts as she climbed the stairs back to the bedroom. She stared at the mess of sheets and set her mug down on the dresser. In quick motions, she stripped the bed - which she hadn’t done in ages - and tossed everything into the basket in the bathroom. She took the waste basket into the bathroom, fished out the condoms and flushed them, and then scrubbed her hands under as hot water as she could stand.
Out of the closet came soft cotton sheets - no flannel for now - and she dropped the suit she’d been wearing last night into the dry cleaning bin. The hose were ruined. The underwear joined them in the trash. The bra was too nice to chuck, but it would take time before she was ready to wear it again.
The coffee followed her into the bathroom, where she stepped into the shower and washed all reminders of Jake from her body. Even the love bites faded from her skin and by the time she stepped free and set about to doing her hair and makeup, she was no longer mooning over a lost love.
Well, at least that was how it looked to the rest of the world. Hopefully no one would notice that she skipped the eyeliner today. It was just too much of a risk.
Chunky jewelry, her favorite casual black suit with red blouse, black heels.
Down the stairs, she collected her coat and hung it up, choosing her short leather one for the day. It matched the suit better. And didn’t smell of Jake.
Gathering her briefcase though, something caught her eye. She stopped and walked over to the radio. There, on the top, was the cassette of I Need Your Lovin. Sucking in a breath, she picked it up, ready to toss it in the trash. Get rid of him, her heart screamed. All of him.
She couldn’t. Instead the tape was tucked into the drawer in the dresser, in the small box where she kept the ring he’d given her on day three, the notebook of his writing he’d left behind, and the handkerchief she’d used to wipe her face of mace. She placed the tape inside, locked the lid, and slowly closed the drawer. One more memory. Would it really be another 20 years before they saw each other again?
Every instinct wanted to chase after him. To race to the hotel and run up to the room, to grab him and kiss him and say they could figure it out. They were adults now, they had changed. They were sober. They were smarter.
She grabbed her keys, her hand shaking like it hadn’t since before her last drink.
What life would it be with Jake? Waiting for the inevitable call from jail, or worse? She could handle him sitting overnight in a jail cell, waiting for the bribe fund to go through. But he could be detained as a political prisoner. He could be shot. He could die. Twenty years of rough and ragged work trying to save the planet hadn’t done him in yet, but there was still time. He’d go crazy sitting here, trying to solve things from DC. She could handle long distance. She was gone more often than not as it was. She wasn’t sure she could handle waiting for the call that Jake was dead.
Hardened activists rarely went peacefully. Well, unless they were leaving the women they claimed to love more than life itself. How many hearts were broken all over the world? How many hands trembled when he walked out the door? Anger flared at women she knew didn’t exist - but had to, they just had to - and she wished them luck when he landed in their arms next.
Grabbing her briefcase, she squared her shoulders and forced the tremor from her hand. She had work to do and the news didn’t wait for broken hearts or absent husbands. One step in front of the other, she found a stable path, one she’d used to fool people into her sobriety for so long. It would work again today, and the next, and the next, until yet again Jake was just a puff of smoke, a memory to brush away as sleep claimed her. Just one last vice to help her pretend she was grounded.