Someone Lost, Something Gained



Veda leads Niall up the stairs to the spare bathroom, quickly showing him where the hand towels and unused toothbrushes are stored. Before she can turn to leave, his mouth opens as if to say something, but then he shakes his head. That’s something Veda understands - having so much to say but being unable to find the words.

So all she does is nod, smile, and exit the room. Claws clack against the hardwood, trailing after her to her bedroom. She glances down to see David Barkie trotting one step behind, and a giggle breaks free. She hadn’t even realised he’d gotten off the couch, let alone followed her and Niall upstairs.

“You don’t like being left alone, do ya, buddy?” she asks as DB hops up onto the chair in front of her vanity. “I guess I can understand that. Being alone sucks.”

Sighing, Veda turns toward the clothing rack that holds every pair of scrubs she owns. She belatedly remembers she isn’t by herself in the house, shutting the bedroom door even as she pulls off her tank-top. The pup watches her every move, almost as if he’s afraid she is going to disappear if he looks away for a split second.

Veda has never had a pet. Life was too unstable with Olivia - too many skipped meals because of no money, weeks with no heat in the winter or electricity due to the fact that Olivia found chasing different men was more important than caring for her child. There was no way Veda could have added the responsibility of an animal that relied on her. She never even took home the class hamster in the fourth grade, knowing that Olivia would either lose her temper and get rid of the pet - or worse.

Even moving in with Granddad didn’t change the fact that Veda couldn’t trust herself with a pet. He’d asked. He’d offered. He’d searched only to be told no, she didn’t want one, she hated animals. She couldn’t bear to tell him the real reason.

Like King Midas, Veda ruined everything she touched, only instead of gold, it all turned to shit.

A shuddering breath escapes her, and Veda blinks rapidly to get rid of the quickly-forming tears. No. No getting emotional.

She can’t change the past, but she’ll be damned if she lets it control her future. As sad as it is to say, Granddad’s death has a pretty decent silver lining: There is no reason for her family to even come around again. They know that everything is now Veda’s, and they can try to fight it. But they’ll lose. And she is a helluva lot colder than her grandfather ever was.

She’d watch the world burn before she ever helped any in the Mitchell bloodline whose name isn’t Hattie.

Pulling her hair into a tight bun, Veda calls for David Barkie and heads toward the stairs. Niall is no longer in the bathroom on the second floor; he must have finished and gone down to the living room. She double-checks that he capped the toothpaste back up then turns away.

The dark beyond Granddad’s door beckons her closer, and though she tells herself to go down the stairs, away from the memories that cling to everything inside, her feet carry her closer. The cluttered desk, the boxes of clothes, the empty bed… It’s less painful in the morning light than it was before.

A phone rings downstairs, the shrill sound echoing up to the second floor, and Veda gasps in a breath. It may be less painful, but it isn’t painless. She gives the room one last look, nudges DB out of the room with her foot, and closes the door behind her.

Niall is on the phone by the time she reaches the ground floor, and Veda pauses, listens as he assures the caller that yes, he’s still alive.

“Because it was late, and I don’t trust the late-night crowd,” he laughs, his head coming up when she steps off the bottom stair. “Oh. Hi. Okay, Harry, I’ll be home shortly.”

He hangs up without another word, and Veda shakes her head. He doesn’t seem like the type to end a call without a goodbye, but then again, she doesn’t really know him, does she? Sure, he’s proved he can be incredibly sweet, that he’s mildly obsessed with taking pictures of his dog, and he does a great job of maintaining friendships.

But he’s still essentially a mystery. Veda doesn’t even know his last name, for god’s sake. She has no idea of his hopes and dreams, or his biggest regret, or what he’s afraid of. Whether he is a tidy-as-you-go type or a complete slob. His favourite food, song, drink. Nothing. She wants to, but she doesn’t know him.

So why does he feel like home?

“You look different,” he says with a gentle smile, breaking Veda from her thoughts.

She glances down at her outfit, the black scrubs and bright purple socks, and laughs.”Yes, that’s what happens when a person changes out of leggings and into work attire.”

He grins and ducks down to scratch David Barkie behind the ear. “Harry says hi, by the way. Oh, and the lads like you.”

“Oh. That’s good.” And it is. She can’t imagine why, but it is. “I like ‘em, too. They’re funny.”

“Gotta get to work?”

“Kinda?” Veda shrugs, tugging on her sneakers. “It’s s’posed to be my day off, but my boss has been so fucking understanding and given me as many days off as I need, even without advanced notice. So when she texted earlier asking if I’d pick up a shift, I figured I might as well pay her back. Let’s be real, she’s most likely the one who covered the shifts I skipped on.”

“Okay. Well, I hope you have a good day.”

“So do I. This feels weird,” she admits slowly, and he cocks his head.

“What do you mean?”

“This is the first time since Granddad died that I’m actually looking forward to going into work, instead of it just being a way of getting my mind off things.”

Niall smiles a gentle smile, one that says he may not understand what she’s going through, what exactly she’s feeling, but he’s there for her anyway. He nods slowly then fidgets with the leash.

“So, uh, mind if David Barkie and I walk with you?”

Veda gapes for a second, surprised by the offer. Coughing quietly, she covers her shock with a, “What, mean to tell me you aren’t sick of me yet?”

Niall’s answering grin is impish, and he throws an arm over her shoulders. “What can I say. You, Veda Persephone Mitchell, are a very interesting person.”

“Oh, my god,” Veda groans. “How much do I have to pay you to ever forget my full name?”

“Babe, you couldn’t pay me enough.”