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Chapter Text

August 15, 1998

He was procrastinating now – putting off the inevitable, hoping with the futility of a man already condemned that he could, with just a few more moments’ thought, concoct a scenario in which he didn’t have to gently shake his wife awake and administer what was likely to be the killing blow to their marriage. All night Bill had laid stock-still in bed, staring at the ceiling. Tormented by guilt and fear of what he knew would come when he did what he knew he had to. All night he had vainly sought a way out of his present predicament, but none was forthcoming. He was trapped. And, what was worse, he had no one but himself to blame. There could be no scapegoating, no excuses. Just his own stupidity and selfishness and cowardice and lust. Now, in a momentary respite to the relentless bedside pacing he had begun hours ago, he stood, staring down at Hillary and resisting the temptation to touch her, however slightly. If he caused her to stir inadvertently, even by moving a stray strand of hair, then it would all be over that much sooner.

She looked serene. Sprawling awkwardly (but clearly comfortably) on her side of the bed, her face was blissful and free of the makeup she had begrudgingly adopted as part of her daily routine. Still beautiful. Always, he thought, beautiful, even if Hillary herself never quite managed to see it – or believe it. Of course, he hadn’t exactly made it easy for her to accept those assurances coming from him. What might charitably be termed his ‘indiscretions’ had ensured that, more than the decades of relentless, vicious scrutiny from the media and political rivals. To the best of his knowledge, however, that insecurity didn’t prey too much on her mind. Not to nearly the extent that the perpetually hovering specter of his infidelities – past, present and future, real and imagined – did. And now he was about to reopen wounds that had barely healed in the first place.

Bill took a deep breath. Like the removal of a Band-Aid, he supposed it was best to get this over with. Rip off the deceit currently holding their marriage together and see what – if anything – was left standing. He had let this situation go for far too long as it was. This was his last chance to tell her the truth before the deposition. Given everything else he had robbed her of, he at least owed her the chance to process this information with some semblance of privacy before all hell broke loose publicly.

Hesitantly, he reached over and jostled her shoulder. “Hill?” he said quietly, half-hoping his hushed tones would somehow fail to wake her.

No such luck.

“Mmmm, already?” She glanced groggily at the alarm clock on her bedside table, giving a self-deprecating chuckle at the pointlessness of that exercise without her glasses. The moment she caught sight of the grave expression on her husband’s face, however, Hillary sat bolt upright and snapped into action as only she could. “What is it, honey? Are you going to the Situation Room? Is Chelsea all right? What’s going on?”

“It’s fine. Everything’s fine,” Bill lied – he hoped for the last time that morning.