Ghost of a Good Thing
A/N: First off thanks to everyone who reviewed 'Bad Habit'. You guys are so sweet. So, technically, this sequel has three parts (which I *have* finished Lisa so you can't yell at me) but I need you all to tell me whether I should just leave it at this part, or post the other two. As always feedback is much appreciated :)
Ghost of a Good Thing
Spoilers: Nothing real specific for Buffy, as for AB, I’m thinking anytime pretty much after Burnt Offerings, but again, nothing real specific.
Summary: Sequel to ‘Bad Habit’. The aftermath of the end of a relationship…
Disclaimer: Joss owns all things BtVS, Anita Blake belongs to Laurell K. Hamilton
Author’s Notes: For everyone who asked for a sequel, this one’s a three-parter. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback, you guys are awesome. The title is from a song on Dashboard Confessional’s album “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar”.
Feedback: I live for it!!
1: Mr. Self-Destruction
“I don’t understand…” whispered Richard despondently. He was sitting listlessly on his sofa, arms resting limply at his sides, head bent, dark circles around his bloodshot eyes. He looked…like crap, Louie had to admit with a sad shake of his head. It had been two hours since he had gotten the hushed phone call that had brought him to Richard’s house on that late Tuesday evening, his best friend’s torment obvious. What he found when he arrived hardly surprised him really, it was only a matter of time, but that didn’t mean that it would hurt Richard any less. So he was here to do his duty as a best friend, and just listen to him vent.
But the Ulfric hadn’t vented at all. In fact, he had barely spoken a word since Louie walked in the door. Instead he had plopped himself down on the couch, staring off into space, a crumpled note he could only assume was from Willow in his left hand. The deafening silence only occasionally broken by Richard’s depressed mutterings.
“Why did she leave?” he choked out, his voice thick from tears. Louie looked up from where he stood by one of Richard’s bookcases, eyes meeting those pleading ones of the miserable brunette.
The professor would have laughed at the absurdity of his question if Richard’s tone hadn’t been so completely innocent and sincere. Instead he frowned down at the hunched werewolf, his eyes incredulous.
“You didn’t see this coming?” Richard stared up at the wererat in utter confusion, his messy brown hair sticking up in spots, hanging lifelessly around his normally handsome face now streaked with tears.
“What the hell does that mean?” he growled, his heart hurting, disbelief spread across his face.
“This was a long time coming, Richard,” Louie replied gently, breaking his gaze, unable to stomach the pitiful sight that he made any longer. “It was obvious.”
“Why would you say that?” the broken man whispered, his voice echoing pain.
Louie sighed, not really looking forward to this conversation, but knowing it had to be said. “She gave you everything, Richard,” he started calmly, reasonably. “She put her all into your relationship. You never did, you couldn’t.”
The shorter man, feeling uncomfortable standing, crossed the room to sit across from him in a vacant armchair. He leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, chin sitting on his clasped hands.
“You haven’t been yourself since the breakup,” Louie said, speaking slowly and softly as if to a child. “You gave your whole self to Anita and she broke your heart.” The Ulfric’s face screwed up in remembered pain, but Louie trudged on. “You never got over it. Whether you want to admit that or not, you know it’s true. And you have to admit, you’ve never gotten over her.”
“That’s not true,” Richard interrupted with a violent shake of his head, the first real movement Louie had seen since his arrival. “Anita and I will never be together, I know that. After everything she’s done, everything with Jean-Claude, it wouldn’t be the same.”
“Doesn’t matter,” the professor shrugged. “You may realize it will never work out between the two of you, hell, you may even not want to love her, but you do. You never stopped. Love isn’t something you can just decide. It’s obvious to anyone that looks that you’re still head over heels for Anita.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it—” Richard countered angrily, hands clenched at his sides.
“Really?” Louie asked evenly. “Then why does it get to you when Jean-Claude speaks her name? Why do you seek her out?” He took a deep breath, staring blankly at his steaming friend. “Why did Willow leave?”
“You have a lot of nerve—”
“I’m telling you the truth,” Louie argued, his eyes darkening to almost onyx in frustration. “You’re still in love with Anita Blake, a woman you should have never gotten involved with in the first place might I add,” He couldn’t resist saying, “and anyone with eyes can see it. Jean-Claude can see it, I see it, so can Sylvie, even Anita knows it, but most importantly Willow knows it too.”
“You’re wrong,” Richard murmured hoarsely, but Louie continued on.
“You don’t even have a damn clue how much you hurt her,” the professor sighed tiredly. “She had to watch you fawn over your ex every time she walked into the room. She would be standing right at your side and you would forget she was even there the minute Anita graced you with her presence. How do you think that made her feel? Honestly, we were surprised she stayed as long as she did. She didn’t want to give up on you Richard, but you didn’t give her any other choice.”
For once Richard couldn’t think of a response. He sat, motionless, ignoring the hard stare coming from his best friend. He tried to deny all the things Louie had accused him of, wanted to rail at him for even implying that he had treated the tiny redhead unkindly, or inconsiderately. But all his denials were hollow as he allowed his thoughts to wander back to all those moments Louie had drudged up.
He would love to say that the wererat wasn’t right, that he wasn’t speaking the truth, but he would only be lying to himself. Anita had been such a large part of his life the past few years that it was to be expected that she would play a large part in his future relationships. She had hurt him so deeply with her betrayal with Jean-Claude that he thought he may never find love again. She had taken everything he offered her and threw it aside carelessly and while he knew she felt horribly for it, there would always be a part of him that would never forgive her for it.
But Louie was right. Anger didn’t make anyone less in love. Hurt and sadness didn’t magically make all those feelings disappear. He would always love Anita, just like there was a part of her that would always love him, but they had no real future. They may have been mystically tethered together for all eternity, but that did not mean there was any hope for any sort of relationship between them. Not with all the past hurts, not with Jean-Claude still there waiting in the wings. The best they could ever hope for is friendship, and even that would be a long time in coming.
But Louie wasn’t right about everything.
“I’m not in love with her,” Richard said faintly, his voice void of any emotion.
“Richard,” Louie sighed in aggravation. He had been fully prepared to listen to Richard mope and moan, but his patience was beginning to ebb.
“No, wait,” the Ulfric pleaded, his eyes desperate. He looked to his friend and waited. “Just listen, will you?”
“Go on,” he shrugged, sitting back in his chair, waiting for Richard’s urgent revelation.
“I love Anita,” he admitted sorrowfully, as if speaking those very words pained him. “I will always love her. We were supposed to be married; she meant so much to me. But Louie, I’m not in love with her. She’s not the same person she was when we met. She’s changed so much that sometimes it scares me. I’m not in love with the woman she’s become. I love the memory of her, I love the small part of her that hasn’t been changed by the likes of death, violence, and vampires, but I’m not *in* love with her.” He paused, his rushed pleas stealing the breath from his body. He took a shaky breath and leveled his friend with a steady eye. “To be honest, I don’t think I’ve truly been in love with her since I found out she slept with Jean-Claude.”
“That’s great Richard,” Louie said after a long drawn out moment of awkward silence, his comment completely sincere. “It really is. But that doesn’t change what happened.”
“I know,” he whispered with a slow, regretful nod.
“You may not be in love with Anita anymore,” the professor remarked, running a hand through his loose, shoulder-length hair, “but what about Willow? What are your feelings toward her?”
“I—” he tried to reply, his throat choked up. “I—I love her, Louie. I do.” He let out a shuddering sigh. “I used to tell her that all the time. I…I guess she didn’t believe me.”
“Can you really blame her?” his friend asked gently and Richard shook his head, messy brown hair flitting about.
“No, but…” his words halted and the expression on his face was one of pure desperation, “I need her, Louie. She can’t be gone, she just can’t. I need her back here…with me.”
“Yeah,” Louie nodded in understanding. “But how do you plan to get her back?”
The eternal question, Richard mused sadly, giving Louie a tired, forced smile. “I don’t know…”
End: Mr. Self-Destruction.