Someone Lost, Something Gained



High-pitched whines break through the haze, and Niall disappears in a puff of smoke, though his kiss lingers on her lips. She can still feel the softness of his skin beneath her fingertips, his heartbeat strong and steady under her palms, the heat of his body resting over hers. The way she felt full, complete.

A sharp bark, then Veda bolts upright. A dream. That’s all it was. A wildly inappropriate dream to be having about one of your closest friends. She shivers as cool air rushes across her overheated skin, damp with a thin sheen of sweat. Her stomach clenches when she realises just how much the dream affected her.

“I’m fucked,” she groans before grimacing at her choice of words - not the right time to be using that particular phrase.

The whimpering comes again from her left, and Veda turns her head to see David Barkie nearly dancing at the top of the stairs. Her brain clears of its fog as the meaning behind the wiggle registers. She curses under her breath, scrambling out of bed and down the stairs. He’s close on her heels the entire time.

Hoping his recall is good, Veda doesn’t bother taking the time to grab his leash or harness. She just unlocks and pulls open the front door, pushes the screen door out of the way, and watches him nearly fly off the stoop. Thankfully, the pup is too focused on finding a satisfactory patch of grass to pay mind to the early-morning bustle of the neighbours.

Veda hesitates for a split second then ducks back into the house to grab a waste bag from the canister on the leash. DB is sniffing at a fire hydrant when she steps outside again, and she hurries down the steps. If he decides to take off, she wants to be as close as possible to have a chance to stop him. However, he stays by her side as she cleans up his mess then follows her obediently to the bins.

It isn’t until she is in the kitchen washing her hands that she realises the entire block just saw her in nothing more than one of Granddad’s old shirts. It’s been her favourite shirt to sleep in since she was young, but it doesn’t provide nearly as much coverage now that she’s a grown adult. Sighing, she dries her hands on the towel hanging by the sink and frowns down at David Barkie.

“Today just isn’t my morning, is it?”

He cocks his head, ears flopping with the movement, and whines. It’s effective; Veda can’t stop the smile that spreads across her face. At least I have you, little dude, she thinks. She mutters to herself and heads up the stairs to get ready for work.

Once she’s dressed in a tank-top and a pair of baby-blue bottoms, Veda shoves the matching top in her bag and hurries through the rest of her morning routine. The click of nails against hardwood is familiar, peaceful. It means she isn’t alone.

Crap. She sighs and crouches down to pet DB. “Sorry, baby boy, you’re gonna have to wait until you get home for breakfast, because I have literally nothing but a half-gross peach.”

He scratches at his ear in response then flops onto the floor. Veda laughs and sets off in search of something she can carry him in for the trip. Hattie’s oversized purse still hangs in the cupboard, the sweet scent of disuse and old mints lingering in the air.

To Veda’s surprise, David Barkie fits perfectly. Only his head pokes from the top, and he looks completely content to travel in a bright yellow bag dotted with pink flowers.

“Don’t you dare pee in there, mister, or I might change my mind about pup-napping you from your daddy.”

His tongue lolls out of the side of his mouth, a dopey smile on his face, and she loves him just a little bit more. She hefts the makeshift carrier more securely onto her face, stuffs her phone into her purse, and steps outside. He barks quietly as she locks th door behind her.

“Have a good day, Veda!”

Veda grins and waves at Nonna Costa. “Thanks, Nonna, I’ll try my best.”

Waving at her neighbours, Veda briskly makes her way down the block. No one mentions her appearance earlier, nobody acts any differently, and she knows these people. But she can’t stop wondering if they are all silently judging her.

Screw it, they can all deal with seeing my Oogie Boogie underwear. Veda wishes she was actually as confident as her inner voice. Instead, she’s a mess - and not only because of the whole ‘showing off her panties in an old T-shirt’ debacle.

The dream.

The dream that was so realistic, she could feel Niall’s hands on her body, the heat of his breath ghosting across her skin. The taste of his kiss and the tender light in his eyes. The softness between her fingers as she buried her hands in his hair and he buried himself in her.

The highly-inappropriate and privacy-violating dream.

The dream she knows she can never have again but wants to so badly, she aches.

That dream.

As amazing as it was, it can never, ever happen again. Niall is a friend. And friends don’t have sexual dreams about friends. End of story.

Not one of the other passengers look her way as she finds a seat. No one but a small child and her father. Veda lets the little girl pet and kiss David Barkie to her heart’s content, and DB preens under the attention.

“What do we say to the nice lady for letting us pet her puppy?” the man prompts, and Veda’s heart clenches at the brilliant smile on the child’s face.

“Thank you, Miss Nurse Princess!”

“You are very welcome, honey. Thank you for asking first. Not every dog is as happy with strangers as DB is, and you could get hurt.”

“Daddy, can I stay with Miss Nurse Princess?”

Veda stifles a laugh at the exasperation on the father’s face. “As much as DB and I would love that, I have to go to work.”

The little girl gasps and bounces in her seat; pale blonde pigtails dance with the movement. “I’ll watch him like my mammy watches me! Daddy has a lot of work and he can’t be home with me, and Mammy and I can watch the puppy!”

“Mammy has a surprise for you, Dani, which means the puppy has to stay with Miss Nurse Princess.” He flashes a sheepish smile in Veda’s direction, his dark eyes full of sympathy - or is it embarrassment? “I’m so sorry.”

“I’ve been called a lot worse,” Veda giggles.

She says goodbye once the subway reaches her stop, stepping out of the car to Dani’s chorus of “Bye, doggie! Bye, Miss Nurse Princess! I’ll miss you!” Tugging the strap of her bag further onto her shoulder, Veda shakes her head with a smile. Leave it to an adorable little kid to put her in a much better mood.

The dream was almost out of her mind.

Niall sits hunched over on a bench - the same one Veda waited for him on the day before their friendship started. She stops at a nearby coffee-cart, buys two drinks, then weaves her way through the foot-traffic until she stands in front of him. He doesn’t seem to notice her presence, staring blankly at the ground.

“Please tell me you aren’t going on the subway?”

If the situation was different, Veda would find it comical, how long it takes him to react. He blinks slowly then twitches, dragging his gaze to her face. But… she’s worried. He can barely keep his eyes open.


“Are you going on the subway?”

“No. Liam’s on his way. I think. Yeah, I rang him.” He yawns and pushes to his feet. “So who knew flowers could make DB actually look cute?”

Veda lets him change the subject, though the concern still ripples under her skin. “Excuse you, sir, but he’s always cute. Florals just accentuate that.”

“C’mere, buddy,” he murmurs as he reaches for his dog, but Veda steps back.

“Actually, could you, uh, take the bag, too? I don’t wanna risk my coworkers having an allergic reaction.”

“Yeah, ‘course. I’ll return it the next time I see you.”

“Perfect.” She carefully removes the bag from her shoulder, passing it over, then ducks to kiss DB’s nose. “You be a good boy, okay? Remember, what happens at my house is a secret.”

Niall frowns at her words, and she shakes her head. It’s nothing more than a stalling tactic - how is she supposed to explain that to him? Especially when she isn’t sure as to why she’s trying to put off the inevitable. Concern for him? Yes. Not wanting to say goodbye to the pup? Absolutely.

Not wanting to be away from Niall himself? Without a doubt.

Putting that into words, especially after the dream… it’s not a good idea. So instead, she thanks Niall for letting her keep his dog overnight and moves in for a hug. One he willingly returns, even if she isn’t expecting him to lean so heavily against her.

She also isn’t expecting her mind to completely lose itself or to find herself kissing him, his lips soft beneath hers, as she’s pulling away.

It isn’t until she’s turned to walk off toward Saint Francis that she realises what she has done. Her steps falter, but she doesn’t face Niall again. She takes the coward’s way out, instead: She speed-walks through the morning crowds until she all but disappears from his sight.