I know this plotline has been done multiple times before but I couldn't resist. I started this back when Bandstand played in theaters and finally got around to finishing it. I hope you enjoy!
"Donny… Donny. It's okay. I'm here, Donny. You're safe. Everything is okay."
Julia sat over her husband, rubbing his arm in hopes of waking him. Two months into their marriage and this was the fifth or sixth time she had to wake him from a nightmare. She expected as much, however, it didn't make these moments any easier.
Donny's eyes shot open, his face soaked with tears. He hated Julia seeing him like this. Yet, once these dreams began, it was difficult to recover.
"I'm sorry," he said, new cries rising from his throat.
Laying back down, holding him tightly in her arms, Julia said, "Don't apologize. I know you can't help it."
"I want it to end, Julia. I can't take it. I'm tired."
Keeping her voice soft, she agreed. "I know you are."
She didn't say anything more until he began to calm down. When she felt as though he'd come back to reality enough, she kissed him atop the head before sitting up again. "I'm going to get you a glass of water. Are you going to be okay?"
Running his hand down the length of his face, Donny nodded. "Yeah. I think so. Maybe some booze?"
"Not now. You need water."
Too tired to argue, he let her leave to room without another word.
Julia returned within two minutes, glad to see Donny sitting up and breathing almost steadily. Going round to his side of the bed she handed him the glass, sitting on the edge next to him.
"I want you to drink at least half of that," she said.
He took a couple quick sips before setting the glass down on the side table. "Eventually."
"You'll end up dehydrated one of these nights."
"Can't be any worse."
Julia sighed. She wished she knew the right words to comfort him. But she also wanted to help him move past these moments as best she could. She didn't see that happening giving in to the drinks and the despair. Unfortunately, she knew from previous episodes that he didn't respond well to her advice. Then again, who could blame him? While she could sympathize with and superficially understand what he's going through, when it came down to it, she really couldn't imagine.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked after a minute or so passed. She knew the answer but she couldn't sit in the tense silence any longer.
She glanced at the clock. "It's nearly morning. How about an early breakfast?"
Reaching for the water again, Donny said, "No, I'm not hungry. You go back to sleep. We have a gig tonight."
He took another sip before taking her hand. "What good is it if we both go without sleep?"
"As I said, it's nearly morning. A cup of coffee and I'll be good as gold."
"I appreciate it, Julia, really. But I feel bad. I keep doing this to you and it isn't fair."
"I'm not looking for fair. For better or for worse, remember?"
A small smile touched his lips. "You're getting a lot more of the worse than you deserve."
"Knock it off," she said, giving his cheek a firm tap. "I love you and you know it."
"I didn't say you don't. I'm saying you should be…" he trailed off, looking away from her.
"Stop it, Donny," Julia said, knowing where he was heading.
"You can argue all you want," he said. "I'm never going to think otherwise."
"What good is it thinking that way? Michael isn't here. If I can accept that why can't you?"
"You know damn well."
Julia stood, moving to the center of the room and over to the dresser. Her only reason was to keep herself distracted long enough to organize her thoughts. Fiddling around with the items on top, straightening the brushes and combs and then the photographs – much in a way that made her think of Wayne – she gave herself the moment of space she needed to keep her own emotions under control.
When she turned around, she saw Donny hunched over with his face in his hands. He wasn't crying, she could tell. Nevertheless, her heart sank. First taking a breath, she walked back over and climbed back into bed. Her hands shook the slightest bit as she reached for his and revealed his face. Forcing him to meet her eye by guiding his chin, she said, "Yes, I loved Michael. Yes, I miss him. Yes, I still think about him every day. But that doesn't change what I feel for you. You're my husband now. What we have can never replace what I had with Michael. I've never lied to you or pretended I don't feel this way. Even still, what we have can't even compare to what I had with him. We've been through so much more. Most importantly you haven't tried to erase Michael's memory. Any other man would."
"But if it weren't for me…" tears flooded his eyes again. "… He'd still be here. And we wouldn't have had to go through all this. We'd be friends probably. Maybe even in the band singing together once in a while."
This was Julia's breaking point. It was never easy going deep into thought about her late husband, however, the details of death were rarely mentioned between them. Attempting to keep her own tears discreet, Julia turned away and spoke with as steady a voice as she could manage.
"But what happened… happened. There's no changing that."
"I wish there was," he said, covering a sob with a cough.
"But there isn't," she said, her distress becoming more evident.
Donny felt the tremors coming. Doing everything in his power to stop them, he said, "I'm so sorry, Julia."
"Please, stop apologizing. You didn't do it on purpose. I thought we've moved past this."
"It isn't possible."
"We have to make it possible." She finally turned to him. "I don't know what to say to make you believe me when I say I forgive you. In an ideal world, the war never would have happened in the first place. But if it hadn't I never would have met you… You've brought so much to my life, Donny. I mean that. We might go through these rough patches but when it's through you make me so happy. You love me in a way Michael never could. There's really no comparing the two of you. I was a different person then than I am now. I'm sure you are, too. That's why we can't dwell on what might have been or what should have been. It isn't easy, believe me as I speak from experience. The fact is we're here now and I'm so very glad of it. I just wish you could be as well."
"That's the problem," Donny said, his breaths coming quickly again. "I am glad to be here with you. I feel guilty."
"There's nothing to feel guilty about. Everything that happened… it was an unfortunate accident."
Once again he buried his face in his hands. This time his shoulders shook. Julia knew well any further conversation would be impossible. Carefully, she reached her arms out to him, holding him as she rested her head on his shoulder. She whispered nonsense to him, trying to keep him from forgetting where they were. It worked some, but Donny continued to cry.
"You don't deserve this, Julia. You don't."
"It's not up to you to decide. We don't have to keep discussing this tonight. You can calm down now, Donny… everything is fine."
"You don't know. You wouldn't say that if you knew."
"I can say it because it's what has to be. Fine isn't a synonym for bliss. Fine means you and I are both alive. We both love and miss Michael and he will forever be in our hearts. Our relationship will always have a certain strain because of him, I'm not denying that. But that doesn't mean don't have a future to look forward to. And we are allowed to look forward to it. You know how fondly Michael spoke of you. I'm sure he's glad that you are the one stepping into his role. After all, he chose you to check in on me."
"Yeah," he sniffed. "Check in on you and make sure you were okay. Not fall in love and marry you."
"Maybe that's what I needed."
"What are you talking about?"
"I was stuck before I met you. I was Michael's poor widow who everyone treated like a motherless puppy. I wasn't allowed to be anything else. Being honest, as much as I hated the pity I didn't do much to change it. I accepted it and fell into a mundane routine. You pushed me to sing which was my saving grace through my parents' separation and any time I was feeling low. I lost my voice when Michael passed away. You found it. You got me living again — probably more than I ever did before. I needed you to enter my life. I missed being someone's wife but never wanted to admit it. I feared I would be letting my memories Michael fade if I so much as looked at another man."
Donny shook his head. "Why me? Given what I did I should be the last man you'd want to marry.
"How many times do we have to scrutinize this?" She couldn't help but let her irritation sound.
"Moments like this it's hard to understand."
"You're not meant to search for answers in this frame of mind. In any frame of, really. I know it's difficult but you need to accept the fact that I love you."
"I know you love me. It's just that-"
Julia muttered her disapproval as she held up her hand. First kissing them, she pressed her fingertips to his lips. "No more tonight." Taking his arms and guiding him back against the pillows, she then stood. "I'm going to make us both a cup of tea. Please… try to relax. Remember to breathe. The sun will be up any minute. Focus on the sunrise. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Despite his present anxiety, Donny managed a small smile. No matter what she said he'd never believe he deserved her. No man did save Michael. He watched wearily as she left the room, saying softly to himself. "I love you, Julia."