Kaidan has never seen himself as a very selfish person.
Last year, however, came with the not-so-pleasant insight that he just might be. First because he cheated on Jeannie while she was suffering from post-partum depression, which in itself is such an asshole move that it keeps making him want to punch himself every time he is reminded of it.
Then he tells her that he’s cheated. Honesty is the foundation of marriage, someone claims and he feels like he’s let everyone down already so he grabs everything in sight just to pull himself upright.
In retrospect he really shouldn’t have because in all truthfulness the confession doesn’t help them in the least, it doesn’t even ease his guilt. All it does is wreak havoc on his life and – even worse – on his family’s life.
Jeannie has been handling things much better with the kids this time around, but she’s still not well and definitely not well enough to be a reasonable adult about her husband’s betrayals and idiocy, so of course they don’t have that conversation he had imagined they would have.
They don’t have a lot of conversations at all after his confession.
She wants to know the details, wants to know the circumstances, the contexts. Her mind works like that, creates a large web of information for every problem she encounters. Usually she can solve anything. It’s her superpower. This, though, he is afraid she can’t even begin to understand and he’s not offering much help either.
He doesn’t know what to tell her so he tells her that, that he just doesn’t know.
She’s not angry and this is almost the worst part. Anger is good, his mother says in his head. Anger means you’ve got fighting spirit and that will take you a long way. But Jeannie isn’t angry, she’s just sad and composed in that awful way she’s been ever since Adam was born, really. Subdued. Like she’s not even herself.
“It’s not fair,” she tells him, too, and he can’t argue with that.
It’s not fair on her that he’s cheated and it’s not fair on her that the reason he cheated is because she’s been depressed and closed off and he’s felt lonely in his own corner of their marriage. It’s petty and it’s ugly and he despises himself for not having the decency to remain faithful. What kind of bastard cheats on his wife when she’s having a terrible time?
Instead of thinking too closely about that, Kaidan buries himself in work. He works overtime every night of the week and dreads the weekends when he can’t. Then he misses his kids but can’t bring himself to go the house to see them because Jeannie is there too and he can’t look her in the eyes, not yet.
He rents a horrible little flat a few blocks away from their home, or what used to be their home. While his dad had offered to put up a spare bed in the attic, Kaidan had declined because returning home would somehow make this whole thing even more sad. Like the ultimate failure.
“I’m not planning on staying here,” he protests every time and Cordy rolls her eyes.
“Look, we all hope you crazy kids work things out but chances are you’ll have to live here for a while. Nobody likes a cheater. Or so I’m told.”
The worst part, he learns, is to find out that Jeannie is doing really well on her own. Of course this is not bad news for the kids or for her, but he can’t help but feel that it’s a bad sign for him, for them.
One night when he stops by after work to hang out with his children, he finds her laughing away with Phil, a co-worker from the library. It hurts even though it shouldn’t, because Kaidan can’t remember when she last laughed with him.
Next time he comes to see them she’s cut her hair and he thinks god, she’s beautiful and wonders briefly if he should tell her, or if that would be bad right now. In the end he ends up telling her she’s got “nice hair” and it feels stupid and inadequate but at least it’s something.
They have a nice dinner, too, much less stilted and forced than the ones they’ve shared over the past few months. Kaidan compliments her food and plays with the kids and knows, deep down in his heart, that he needs to find a way back here because this is where he’s supposed to be.
After dinner they put Olivia to bed and Kaidan goes upstairs to gather some more clothes for himself, glad to see Jeannie tagging along. She hasn’t, not for a long time, wanted to be in the same room as him when the kids aren’t there.
Then Kaidan takes a deep breath, inhaling courage.
“I just… I want to come home, Jeannie. I’m willing to work every minute for this, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.” He sounds desperate but it doesn’t matter because he sort of is. In his mind, the walls of that horrible flat close in on him, squeezing his heart and his sanity to pieces.
His wife sighs. “Not yet.”
“But it’s possible?” He can hear the catch in his own voice, raw against the winter air. “In the future? For you to forgive me?”
She’s quiet for a long time before she replies. “Yes, it’s possible.”
That’s all he can ask for at the moment. That’s all he needs. A sliver of hope.