Title: The Fruit of Dead Hopes
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Warnings: adult themes, sensitive topic (loss of a child in pregnancy)
Category: Angst, Drama, AU
Characters: Henry, Charlie
Spoilers: East Side Story
Summary: The end of a relationship that died a long time ago. A dialogue-heavy piece. One-shot. 1,079 words.
Disclaimer: Ugly Betty is the property of Silent H Productions, Reveille and Ventanarosa, and Touchstone Television. The story is mine.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Notes: Title from a quote by Felix Adler, "We are but reaping the bitter Sodom fruit of dead hopes and fair promises turned to ashes." Necessarily AU, because I've learned my lesson about hiatus fics. Also, my sister needed a hanky, so you might too. More notes at the end.
Beta-reader Acknowledgements: Thanks, MaddieStJ. You'll see some of what you suggested here.
He stands when she comes in, putting aside the book he'd had open.
He says, "Charlie. I've been trying to call you."
She turns a shoulder to him, her arms crossed in a tight knot, and only says, "Henry."
He crosses to her, touches her on the shoulder to get her to look at him, but she just twists out from underneath, hugging herself closer.
He says, "Where have you been?" before he notices that her eyes are rimmed red.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
Charlie shakes her head and moves across the room, stopping next to the chair Henry had left. Henry follows her.
She doesn't answer.
He tries again, "What happened? Charlie, answer me! It's been a week and you don't answer the phone, your mother won't tell me where you've been, and I've been going crazy worrying about the baby! Don't you dare shut me out."
She turns to face him and he takes a step back. There's no emotion in her face. Her eyes are wide and bright with a glimmer of tears.
"I asked her not to."
"Why? Is something wrong with the baby?"
"I," she presses her mouth closed, just for second, then continues, "I lost him."
"I didn't think it was...Henry, he was so," her mouth quivers, "He was so tiny."
He stares at her, mouth working around possible words, with nothing coming out.
She says, "I knew something was wrong. I couldn't feel him anymore. I went into premature labor and...he was stillborn."
Her face starts to crumple into grief and Henry reaches out, pulling her into an embrace. She doesn't return it, remaining stiff in his arms. He says, "My God, Charlie. Are you okay? Why didn't you call me?"
She pushes out of his arms and her face settles into a defiant tightness.
"I didn't call you because I didn't want you there. He wasn't yours, Henry. You didn't deserve to be there."
One of his hands goes to his mouth and the other searches behind him for support. Finding the side of his armchair, he sinks down onto the arm of it.
"You, you told me--"
"I know what I told you. I didn't know then."
"You, you-- Why? How could you?"
"You were mine."
"I'm not a possession, Charlie. I don't belong to anyone."
"Henry, can't you see--"
He swears and she flinches, causing the tears in her eyes to fall. She dashes them away with the flat of her hand.
They stare at each other, Charlie blinking against more tears, Henry clenching his teeth.
Charlie finally says, "You think I didn't want this baby? You think I just wanted to trap you? I thought he was yours; I wanted him to be yours. And then the test... I did what I had to, but it wasn't enough, was it? You never loved me, did you?"
"I did love you. I made sacrifices for you and you never gave me anything in return."
"How can you say that? How can you be so cold?"
"I was cold? What in God's name do you call what you did to get me here? And to lie to me and cheat on me, when I was doing everything I could--"
"It was one night, Henry, one night, and I regretted it instantly! And you can't tell me you did everything you could! I saw the way you looked at Betty."
"Whatever you saw, nothing ever happened. I was faithful to you."
"It doesn't matter now, does it? Not even that I still love you."
"That's not love, Charlie. What you did, that's selfishness and manipulation."
She pinches her mouth together, looking away from him. She bites her lip and then looks back at him.
"I suppose nothing I can say will convince you I do. Nothing I can say will hold you here. You're just going to leave again, aren't you?"
"You're right. There's nothing here to hold me."
"I made a mistake when you left, Henry. Please believe me."
"I can't pay for your mistakes, Charlie. Please don't make me. God, Charlie, you can't expect me to just forgive and forget?"
She reaches out to catch his sleeve.
"What do you want, Charlie? You made the choice not to trust me. This isn't my life anymore. I tried. You know I did. Now, the only reason I was here has been taken away."
She starts to cry in earnest.
He takes her hand from his sleeve. She grips it and he lets her.
She says, "He meant something to me. I did love him."
"I don't doubt it. I was there, too. I saw him move. I'm sorry, Charlie. I'm sorry you lost him. I know you don't believe me, but I am. You shouldn't have gone through that alone, no matter what you thought, no matter that he--" He shakes his head. "If things were different..."
"If things were different, you would stay."
"I can't believe you'd--it won't work. I don't love you. After all this..."
"Please, Henry, please, just--please stay for the funeral."
He closes his eyes for a moment, lines of pain appearing around his mouth. "All right. I will. I owe you that much."
"But not anything more."
"That's it, then?"
He presses his lips together, but that's not enough to disguise that they are trembling.
She looks at him, tears she hasn't bothered to wipe away yet tracking their way down her cheeks.
Henry doesn't say another word.
Charlie wipes the tears away, squares her shoulders, and says, "Fine."
She walks past him. He catches her arm as she passes. He says, "Charlie, I didn't want--" She shakes loose and goes on, not looking back.
Henry closes his eyes and flinches when he hears the door slam, and opens them again after a long moment.
He whispers, "I didn't want it to end this way."
He sinks down into the chair he vacated when Charlie came in. He pulls the book he had open toward him, opening it to a bookmarked page. The bookmark is an ultrasound picture and he touches the image with a quivering hand, tracing the image with his fingertips, before closing the book. He rests his elbows on his knees and removes his glasses, putting them with the book in his lap.
He covers his face with both hands. His shoulders start to shake.
Notes: After twenty weeks of pregnancy, the sex of a child can be discerned by ultrasound. Also, the loss of a child after the second trimester starts is no longer termed miscarriage. Determining the due date of a birth is still an inexact science.