The Opposite of Apathy
If apathy was too much to ask for, she’d ask for ambivalence. However, as Kristen watched Lindsey’s hand resting comfortably on Stevie’s waist as she reached up to plant a kiss on his cheek as they said their farewells, she knew neither apathy nor ambivalence would ever exist between them. It was that strength of emotion and passion (whether positive or negative) that still existed between the two ex-lovers that enchanted the crowds. She just wished it didn’t also enchant her husband…
He was pacing in the studio when Kristen finally came to tell him dinner was ready and had been for some time. Occasionally, he lost track of the hours down there but those times had been few and far between lately, which she was grateful for. She hesitated as she opened the door, noticing that not only was he pacing, he was talking. Angrily.
"No, I just - Stevie, I mean it!"
Oh. Of course.
"You know I do, but - no, let me finish! We’ve been through this a million times before and don’t you dare suggest -" He stopped and turned where he stood at the mixing desk, finally noticing his wife’s presence. Sighing, he pinched the bridge of his nose. His voice quieter now, calmer, he continued, “Look, I have to go - no, I’m not making excuses and no, this isn’t over but - "
She left the studio, hoping he’d follow.
He sat on the sofa almost beaming, holding Kristen’s hand absent-mindedly as he read the e-mail he’d been sent earlier this afternoon. The deal was done. Next year he and Stevie would spend some time in the studio, working on some songs, and then they’d re-release Buckingham Nicks and do a small theater tour behind it. And Lindsey was thrilled.
He pointed to the screen, gesturing for Kristen to pay attention as he explained some of it to her. His voice was excited, even happy as he informed her that it wouldn’t be as grueling a process as a Fleetwood Mac endeavor, not with just him and Stevie working together. Apparently, he was confident they’d be able to make it through this next year unscathed, that they’d finally worked out how to ‘minimize conflict and maximize their strengths in a harmonious working relationship’.
As Lindsey laughed at a footnote Karen had written which obviously had come straight from Stevie’s mouth regarding her expectations of his behavior, Kristen cringed. She was glad he was happy, glad he wasn’t going to be going away for as long a period as he had last year and yet… Sometimes she resented that his face never lit up that way when he talked about her…
She moved backstage just before the show ended, Stella clinging to her hand as they tried to avoid the bustling of the crew as they maneuvered equipment around the narrow corridor. “Mom, couldn’t we have waited a bit longer, for the encore?” she asked, glancing up at her with wide, pleading eyes.
It was pathetic of her, really, that she didn’t want to watch the final two songs of the show. However, a conversation she’d overheard had made it… well, uncomfortable for her. At the best of times, watching Stevie and Lindsey acting intimate and in love onstage hurt but that last song…
"…It sounded great, right? I just wanted to say… It’s such a fitting last song but you know I don’t… I could never really say goodbye to you, you know that… Yes, that time I… I know it hurt you but don’t you forget how much it hurt me too… We both fucked things up… Yes, I know…. Guilt? Yes, of course, I do. I hated to leave like that but god, Stevie… I promise. Never. You know how much I love you…"
He was staring down at the piece of paper like it was made of pure gold. Of course, even from across the table from her husband, she could see why he was so greedily reading the long ass message. HER name was at the bottom, a signature swirl of characters she found irritated her more than it should. Really, it wasn’t so much that Stevie had written the letter but the sheer gratitude Lindsey had that she had done so.
He’d been surprised when it came in the mail, shocked when he’d read its contents for the first time. Apparently (he’d summarized it for her but not actually let her read it, something which set her on edge), Stevie had basically spent several pages complimenting his work on her latest set of songs in glowing, effusive terms. She hated that something that small, something he should be able to take for granted (her verbal or written appreciation for his efforts) was something that meant so much to him.
Because it did. He placed the letter on the table, and smoothed it with the palm of his hand, smiling softly to himself, before looking back over at her with a bemused grin. “Kit, you know what Stevie said? She told me that, to this day, she’s always surprised at how well I know her and can breathe life into her truths. Amazing, right?”
Kristen wished she was still amazed at how easily a few complimentary words from Lindsey’s bandmate could make him look so hopeful.
He was laying on their bed when she found him, legs spread, arms bent behind his head as he glared up at the ceiling. She’d gone into the studio to tell him dinner was ready and had been met with a torrent of muttered curses. Ignoring him for the past few hours while she’d fed the kids and helped Leelee with her homework had been easy enough but eventually she knew she’d have to ask him what was wrong. Things would only get worse before they got better, otherwise. He sometimes hated her intruding on his more tumultuous emotions and moods but he also hated it more if she acted as though everything was perfectly normal. God bless him, he tried.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, she allowed her fingers to run through his newly cut curls, watching with a fond smile as his eyes shut at the the touch. “So, going to tell me what happened?” she said, in a sure voice that didn’t match the hesitation she felt inside.
"You’ll feel better if you do."
"You won’t," he said with a bitter laugh. Frowning, Kristen removed her hand and placed it on his chest. “Look, I had just gotten off the phone with Stevie. Apparently, she’s decided her solo career is more important than the promise she made to me about us being back on the road soon."
"She’s allowed to change her mind, darling, surely?"
"She’s meant to need me."
She loved watching him performing, even after all these years. Playing a scorching guitar solo and bathing in the adulation of the crowd seemed to take years off him, and his flushed face and wide grin was a welcome sight, especially after his recent somberness at home. The sweat not so much but… After taking a bow, he moved off the stage and brushed past her to reach for a bottle of water and towel. Kristen tried not to bristle at being ignored; she knew how focused he was sometimes, how blinded to what else was happening around him.
As he bounded back onto the stage, she caught sight of the albums being held up in begging hands. It was gratifying to see so many copies of most recent LP but, as always, one album got his attention first. Yep. “Ah,” he said loudly, grabbing the battered copy of Buckingham Nicks being offered up to him. “Now THIS looks familiar.” He unscrewed the marker lid and scrawled a signature on the back but not before taking a long look at both the front and back sleeve. He always did that and it was the joy and pride she saw on his face during that inevitable moment when his gaze lingered over the two young, almost-naked lovers that she found hard to take.
Yes, sometimes he confessed his resentment of Stevie to her, how much he hated how well she’d done without him but when it came to THIS album, their baby, there was an inordinate, infinite well of pride in both their work and their relationship. It was a reminder of what he’d had. And what he’d lost.
And what he wanted again.
Kristen knew she should have stayed away tonight. Far away. She’d learnt fairly quickly into her marriage with Lindsey that when he and Stevie were in a melancholy mood post-show, she didn’t want to accidentally overhear what they were talking about. A particular memory from late one night years ago still occasionally made her bit her lip to try and control her emotions. They’d apologized profusely, promised it wouldn’t happen again, that they were just upset and it was natural to want comfort. It shouldn’t have been natural for them to still seek out each other for comfort and reassurance…
Leaning against the entrance to the large dressing room, she fiddled with the hem of her top, her fingers restless as she watched Lindsey reach out for Stevie and she came into his arms, burying her head on his chest. “Shhhh, shhh,” she could hear him murmur. “It’ll be alright.”
Stevie’s eyes were suspiciously bright when she looked up at her musical partner and Kristen couldn’t tear herself away from observing the way her arms wrapped comfortably around Lindsey’s waist. “I know it’s stupid but…”
"It’s okay to be sad about it." Lindsey tucked a strand of hair behind Stevie’s ear and kissed her lips softly, lingering just a moment too long. “I’ll miss you too."
The tone of the lyrics had changed. Kristen had gone down to the studio earlier in the evening, curious to hear some of the new material Lindsey had been so excited about for the past few months. He’d sat her down on the sofa and grinned proudly as he started playing the first track for her. He was always so gratifyingly eager to hear her feedback on his songs and she was almost always eager to give it. There had been some occasions when she’d held back some questions she’d had about certain lines or a certain longing and sense of loss that ran through so much of his later albums but, for the most part, she tried to ignore her lingering doubts and concentrate on the fact that she was the one with his wedding band on her finger.
That sense of loss seemed to have been replaced on the five songs he had lined up for her, however, and Kristen wasn’t entirely sure that was a good thing. She’d given up her dream of one day listening to her husband’s music and realizing all the love songs were for her, but this was a different thing altogether. Every damn one of the lyrics she heard spoke of hope for the future and a hope that was to be found in a woman - a woman who was tempestuous and passionate and someone he knew soul-to-soul in a way no one understood; a woman who he couldn’t help dreaming of night by night and thinking of day by day, a woman who had finally said ‘yes’.
And she knew that woman wasn’t her.
They sat side by side in the waiting room and Kristen finally put a hand on Lindsey’s leg, trying to stop its constant nervous jiggling. He shot her a warning glance and she took her hand back, put them both primly in her own lap. He’d gotten the call while they’d been out shopping for Stella’s birthday and they had been here ever since. The sky outside had darkened and rain was falling (and how goddamned appropriate was that?…) and she only hoped that Will had been listening to her when she’d rung earlier and told him where to find some dinner to heat up for him and his younger sisters.
Her gaze being fixed on the opposite wall from them in the hospital, she almost didn’t notice the small movement from Lindsey at her side til she heard a ragged intake of breath. She turned in her seat to find her husband, bent over, head between his knees. She rubbed his back and when he looked at her she could see the tracks of his tears, even as he made no attempt to rid himself of them. He looked so lost.
"She’ll be okay, right? Kit?"
"Of course, honey. You know how strong she is."
"She’s so damn stubborn," Lindsey choked out. “So… God, I… Kristen, I think I’m going to be sick, I’m so scared, I just, I…" She made him slow his breathing down and watched as he clenched and unclenched his fists until his knuckles went white. “Kristen, I can’t lose her. I can’t live if she…" He closed his eyes against further tears and she watched helplessly. She wasn’t sure her husband was wrong.
“So, I went into our bedroom and he was just completely passed out on the bed, fast asleep. Snoring his head off too. I’d just gotten home from work and wanted to go to sleep but apparently your dad had decided it was only fair for him to stretch across the whole mattress.”
"I did not!"
"No, that’s true," Stevie laughed, waggling a finger at Lindsey from across the table. “He AND his guitar were stretched across the whole mattress."
Kristen watched as Stella giggled, poking her father in the side. “You STILL do that, Dad.”
"Wasn’t able to cure him of that bad habit. So sorry, Kristen," Stevie said to her with a grin.
"You toilet-trained me beautifully though, Ms Nicks, which my family will forever be grateful for," Lindsey retorted, obviously extremely amused at the turn their dinner conversation had taken.
In the past four days, Kristen had seen more of amused Lindsey Buckingham than she recalled seeing in the entire month prior. She just wasn’t sure how thankful she should be that that had changed. Or why.
Kristen avoided his gaze as the last song on the CD finished, knowing Lindsey was waiting to hear her thoughts. She wished she could have a few moments to sort through them in her own head first, to be honest. Instead, she blurted out the first thing that came into her head.
"How many of those are about Stevie?"
She regretted it as soon as she saw his brow furrow and a slight warning enter his now dark-blue eyes. It was inevitable that some would be, after all, she knew that. It was just the content and lyrics of some of them… If they were about her husband’s ex-girlfriend, their marriage was in a worse state than even she’d thought.
"Lindsey? Please answer me."
"Some. Most," he amended, replying through gritted teeth. “I have to."
"Why? Because people expect it?"
"No," he answered hesitantly. “I, I answer my muse when writing songs." He fiddled with the volume control in their car and turned to look at the window. “She’s still that muse."
“You can’t keep doing this, Stevie!” he shouted into the phone, cradling it on his shoulder as he walked into the family living room. “Honestly, I am fucking tired of having this same conversation.”
Kristen picked up the pair of sunglasses - she’d managed to forget them AGAIN in her rush to get out the door to take the kids to school - and placed them carefully in her handbag. Her husband’s voice was loud, audible, and curiosity got the better of her. Stalling for time, she went into the kitchen to find a bottle of water.
"I asked you, what, last year, was it, whether you wanted to and you said no. You sat on your precious high horse and told me you couldn’t do that to my family, to me. It didn’t matter how many times I told you it would work out okay, that we could keep things quiet until the dust settled and we figured out whether we would be able to do this shit again. Nope, you put your foot down. Made the rules. And now you want to break them?!" He pounded the wall and Kristen jumped at the venom she detected in his voice. “Of course I’m fucking frustrated, Stevie! I love you, I want you, but I can’t just drop everything on a whim, your whim, just because you’ve suddenly changed your mind. What if you change it again? What happens then? Oh, for christ’s sake. Darling, don’t cry, please, no, no, I do. I just…"
Kristen shoved the bottle back in the fridge and rushed out of the house as fast as she could in her new boots. Lindsey had bought them for her last week, presented them to her with a smile and a wonderfully loving kiss. She wanted to rip the boots to shreds right now.
She knew they were toning it down tonight. For her benefit. One of the moms from school had asked her a few weeks ago how she coped with the way Stevie and Lindsey talked about each other onstage, how they interacted, told her she’d never put up with *that*. But that had been a different show her friend had attended; a show where Lindsey’s wife wasn’t in the audience. And apparently that made all the difference.
She clapped at all the right moments, enjoyed watching the joy light up Lindsey’s eyes as he received rapturous love at the end of Big Love, even smiled to herself as the two bandmates shared a look during Landslide. However, as the show wound down she found herself watching them more carefully, watching how careful THEY were.
Keeping an eye on Stella and her girlfriends during the encore, she almost missed the last few moments of Say Goodbye where, even on the large screen, a tension of some kind was visible. Kristen didn’t miss, though, the way they kept their eyes on each other as they made their way to the middle of the stage and embraced tightly. She could Lindsey’s face as he hugged Stevie, leaning his head on her shoulder and closing his eyes as he took it in. He looked so…
Lindsey looked complete, fulfilled. And she suspected they didn’t even hear the screams from the audience as they enjoyed the ‘show’. The audience had it wrong, anyway. The show was over; this was the reality.