A/N: The end. For now.
When Anita sent him away after the Harlequin, he went because that’s what he always did. He walked away. From her, from the pain she caused, from the heartache and the rage. From the men she loved more than him and the way she flaunted them.
He went and settled in to wait for her to make her choice. Not under duress, not in a crisis. In peacetime, on her own, he waited for her to make the decision. Him, or the monsters. One day, she would choose. If she picked him, he would be happy with her. If she picked the others, he would let her go. That’s what adults did, he always told his students. They made decisions and they tolerated the decisions of others in return.
He calls on Jason to keep him informed of what is going on in Anita’s life and when Jason makes the decision to not answer to his Ulfric anymore, to stick with the corpses for good, Richard rages, smacks him around a bit and then lets him go. There are still Stephen and Graham and they tell him enough.
There’s a new girl in town, helping Anita. Anita is sick. Something about her is messed up. After fighting down the first impulse to try and see her, to help her, he forces himself to wait. She will make a decision. If anything, her being sick from magic will only tip the scale in his favour.
The girl is Asher’s sister, the boys say and he snorts. Asher, a sister? He’d bet his left hand that’s just another ploy by the head undead, another way to ensnare Anita tighter. But he waits. She will make her decision, she will see the truth about the dead.
Micah calls him one night to tell him about the serial killer and the red alert the Coalition is giving out. It’s an awkward talk that includes Richard biting his tongue and Micah eventually volunteering without being asked, “Anita is doing better. Asher’s sister is really helping her.”
Richard thanks him quietly and hangs up, disappointed that Micah has fallen for the ploy, too. He considers calling Anita, asking her if she’s involved with the case. She’s sick. She should be at home, resting. But he knows her and he knows she would shout at him if he did. So he waits. Waits for her to maybe, finally break down under all the pressure and make her decision.
And then it happens.
The bond that ties him so tightly to Jean-Claude, the very bond that changed his life, that he hates more than he hates the corpse himself, rips and tears and breaks
. And as it does, he tastes Anita’s sweet scent in the air around him, almost feels her hand on his shoulder, in his hair. She’s breaking the connection. She’s making her decision.
Finally, finally, finally.
She comes the next day like he knows she will, comes and looks… alive. Her cheeks are rosy, her eyes bright and her insides peaceful, not churning with rage. When was the last time he saw her without fire in her eyes?
He invites her in, fairly vibrating with relief and joy and happiness. Happiness that she’s safe and with him. With him!
Oh, Anita, he wants to say and then it bursts out of him. “We’re free,” he says, “We’re finally free!”
She blinks, wide-eyed and asks, “We?”
Her face is confused first and then it falls, crumples and just falls
and the tone of her voice, oh God, the disbelief, the question.
Not we, not him and her. Only him. She set him free, she says. She made her decision and that was to let him go. Only that’s wrong, all wrong, she’s not supposed to do it that way, is not supposed to stay with the head undead. It’s not supposed to be this way!!
He sends her away, yells at her and falls to his knees as soon as the door closes behind her. For a moment he waits for her to come back, to feel his anguish and come for him but she’s made her decision. She can’t feel him anymore.
It sinks in, carves the words all across his soul. She’s gone. Gonegonegone.
Her decision, he realizes kneeling on his kitchen floor, was made a long time ago.
Fourth chapter today. Review?