Chapter one: Maria.

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It was as if he had never left. The flowers, the pictures, all of it arrayed to a simple perfection on the fresh turned dirt. If he squinted he could even see the people that had been there hours ago. Ghost figures draped in black, whispering and murmuring condolences, wiping away tears with delicate gestures as not to smudge their painted faces.

He sighed. So many ghosts, and not one of them the one he wanted. But he wasn't crying now. That was done with. He hadn't even cried that day, standing in the hot sun. He'd practically baked in the black tux he'd rented from the cheap pawn shop two houses down from his complex, staring as the light flashed on the smooth wood of the coffin - the last bed he'd ever see her in.

No, he wasn't crying now. He wouldn't cry now. He felt warmth, and opened his right hand, staring at the crimson rivulets running across his palm. The rose he'd been holding fell, broken. He picked the thorns from his hand and turned to leave, but... her name caught his green eyes. He spoke, letting it fall from his lips like the rose fell from his hand. Let it lay like a blanket on the still autumn air.

"Maria."

He lay in their bed, staring at the ceiling, not thinking or seeing or even fucking hearing anything. The bed felt empty. So unbelievably empty. He didn't like it - would never get used to it. Coming home, alone like this, everyday. There was no way the horrid ache in his heart would stop hurting, no way. It'd be there every morning, slapping him in the face and reminding him that she was dead. Dead, and not coming back to his arms.

It was as if someone had drawn a line through the room. One side was filled with useless junk, clothes tossed carelessly onto every surface, the bed rumpled and obviously unmade for a few days. The other side was clean. Even the other side of the bed, pillows piled in a way that invited the head to sink in... but she would never lay there again, never be beside him again. But he wouldn't cry.

The phone rang.

"Do you love me, Regan?" Her blue eyes sparkled as she looked shyly up at him. He laughed, hugging her tight.


"Love you? Maria baby, I do, and I always will."

"I always will." He became aware of the phone laying on the floor, beeping. Whoever it was had hung up. "Always... will."

Something wet slid down his tired face. Wait, tears? No.

I won't cry I won't

But he was crying, uncontrollably, and he couldn't stop. The tears were empty, though. He didn't feel them ripping at his heart, pulling at its strings. There was no choking pain in his chest, no ugly twisting of lost love and grief - just those tears falling and a sandpapery numbness inside him. Slowly, he fell sideways, stretching out on to the floor, cheek resting on the damp carpet.

And he fell asleep, sprawled out in the dust and tears of the empty apartment.

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When he woke up, the phone was ringing. It, like he's thoughts, seriously needed to fuck off.

"What?" He asked after picking the damn thing off the hook, not bothering to get off the floor. It was almost as low as he felt, after all.

"Regan." Oh hey, Mom. The fuck's up? Having a good day, 'cause I sure as hell ain't. "Honey. How are you feeling?"

He rolled onto his back, staring up at the white ceiling. "Fine."

"Are..." She stopped, changing her mind. "Would you like to come live a home for awhile? Just until you... calm down?"

Home? Home was the farthest place from his mind. The last place he wanted to go. Concentration Camp, Hell, the Arctic, local library, the fucking supermarket - he'd rather go to any one of those places. Home would feel too far away from—

"Regan?"

"I..." He whacked his head on the floor, like the thud that followed marked the ending of his will to argue with his mother. "...yeah. Sure. I'll be there Monday."

"Really?" Why did she sound so happy? "That's—" Regan hung up. Great. Fucking great.

He sighed and stood, keeping his eyes focused on his grey socks, noting he was getting a small hole in the left big toe. It reminded him strangely of the homeless man that used to live on his street when he was a kid. Not because said homeless man always had holes in his socks, even though he probably did, but because he'd been shot in the foot with a nine milometer pistol on Reagan's sixth birthday. He'd come crashing into the party, screaming something about 'dirty Russian bastards who have no right to live anywhere but their super-sized frozen spot o' land!', took a piss on the cake, and set fire to most of Reagan's presents. He had cried. Asked his mother if he was a dirty Russian bastard and hid in his room for three days when she didn't answer him.

The homeless man's name was Kevin, and he'd taught Reagan one of his very first life lessons: don't ever shoot a hobo in the foot.

---

Three hours, two cups of coffee, and one episode of House later, Reagan screamed.

Life was redundant to him now. Fucking tedious and stupid and pointless, less useless than he felt but much more meaningless than he was. Stuck in the middle of knowing it should have purpose, but feeling like it just doesn't. After those three hours, two cups of coffee, and one episode of House, life seemed like a blind man choosing between a blue or red car. Not only would this blind man not care, but he wouldn't be buying a fucking car — he's blind, for the love of God. Indifferent and stupid. Life was stupid without...

So Reagan was going home.

Home.

That phone call seemed to remind him that the world went on without... her.

Without Maria.

And he had no choice but to go on with it. He rested his elbows on the sink counter for a moment before wandering back out and into the kitchen, noticing for the first time how dirty he had let the place become. She would never have allowed that—

No. Stop.

He set about tidying the apartment, a welcomed distraction. White walls, white ceiling, white lights - white like the colour of Maria's dress. Blue skies, blue flowers, blue curtains, and her eyes were blue. Yellow banana's on the kitchen table, like her hair, like the sun in her hair on that Thanksgiving morning, before she was gone. Before his world became a relentless game of breathing and a barely beating heart.

And Reagan didn't know it, but he was standing in the bedroom. Their bedroom.

"I bought all this..." He walked slowly forward, staring around with dull eyes. "...for you." One hand reached to trace the rough hearts carved in their four poster bed. "I made this for you. I bought all this–" He seized a vase from her bedside table. "For YOU!" The vase smashed down on to the mahogany dresser, cracking the wood. "I BOUGHT! ALL! THIS! FOR YOU, MARIA!" Over and over he smashed his fists into the shattered shards of glass, punctuating every word. Pierces dug deep into his knuckles, blood staining the carpet. Maria had always wanted it red, anyway.

As suddenly as his rage had captured and murdered any other feelings that might've found way into his being, it left. Ran away like the moon from the sun. Now he was just tired, always tired. He raised his head and stared into the mirror above the dresser, gripping the edges. A haggard, blood-flecked Reagan stared back. He nodded.

"Right then. Let's go get a drink. Then..." he sighed, running bloody fingers through dirty hair, "...we'll go home."

---

The bar was dimly lit compared to the bright autumn afternoon, the few patrons probably testament to the quality of the drinks, but Reagan selected a stool that seemed relatively stable and sat. The middle aged woman serving gave him his drink, and waddled off, passing crude remarks with some other men at the bar. The liquor was cheap, and burned his throat going down.

"Rough day, mate?" The voice, coarse yet amiable enough, startled Reagan. He looked up and met the dim glassy eyes of an old man sitting two stools down.

"What? Oh... Yes. Rough day." Bitter humor entered Reagan's voice. He dropped his eyes back to his drink. In his peripheral vision the man nodded.

"A rough day for us all, mate. Miserable weather for it, too." The man turned on his stool, gazing pensively out the window as if searching for an explanation as to why the weather was mocking them so rudely. Reagan nodded uncertainly. Crazy old men were always a pick-me-up, in a creepy 'small children dressing up like the devil and asking you for candy is normal once a year' kind of way.

"Miserable, indeed..." The stranger didn't respond, only continued to stare out the window. Reagan looked back to his drink, assuming the conversation over.

"Almost makes you wonder what you're missing."

Reagan jumped again and cursed as his drink sloshed over the side of his cup. The old man affected not to notice, or at least didn't offer any apologies. Indeed he was still staring out the window. His expression, however, had changed from a mildly absent look, to a keen, piercing stare that was clearly focused on something other than the busy street at which his gaze was currently directed. Reagan looked from the man to the window, trying to discern what it was the stranger was seeing. Reagan assumed his vision wasn't sharp enough, for he saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Shaking his head he tossed a five on the bar top and left, muttering something about crack heads and drunks on his way out and into the bright sunshine and rush hour pedestrian crush. He paused on a street corner, reflecting idly on the man's behavior, before dismissing it and stepping off the curb.

A horn honked and he barely had time to register before he saw the car, sunlight glinting off the jet black hood, tires smoking to a stop but too late; he braced himself against the coming collision. Nothing happened. No collective scream of onlookers, no crunch of bone over metal, no searing pain. He opened his eyes and found himself still on the street corner, completely unharmed. Passers-by didn't even glance at him.

"Crazy," he said. The light changed then, and he joined the flow of people crossing the road.

He was becoming used to coming home to an apartment quiet and empty of life. The shock had worn off, it seemed, and he wasn't sure if he liked it. Would his memories fade in time as well? Was he to simply move on and forget his love? Reagan shook his head. In the hallway, his answering machine blinked reproachfully at him. He pushed the button and allowed the sound to wash over him as he went to the kitchen.

"Reagan, hey, how the hell are ya? Gimme a call and we'll go for a drink or somethin'. I... we're worried about you buddy, call me!" His brother's voice clicked off. Reagan shook his head and grabbed a glass from the cupboard.

"This message is for Mr. Maette, if you'd like to give us a call please contact the office at..." The sound of water running from the tap conveniently covered the droning voice of his secretary. The office, it seemed, had decided his grief vacation was over. He shut the tap off and wandered in to the living room with his water.

"Reagan?"

The glass fell to the floor; shattered.

No. No no no no no no no no no—

"... don't know how long I'll be, I'll pick something up on the way, don't wait up..."

He hadn't erased the old messages. Shit, he hated himself, but hearing her was amazing. Felt horridly, unbearably amazing. The voice of her ghost, the past speaking to him as if unaware she was...

"Dead. Maria, you're dead, you're dead..."

"I love you," she replied, followed by a long beep. Almost the same as the beep in the hospital, but not. This beep kept going. Going and going and going—

"I..." Reagan shuddered, staring simply at the still white walls. "I love you too."

—and it stopped.

---

Five am the next morning, and Reagan couldn't sleep.

"Reagan, meet Maria. She's a little broken right now, but— "

He couldn't stop remembering all the good times. There weren't very many before her, and now that she was gone, really gone, Reagan was scared.

" —she's the shit, I promise. Stupid girl just doesn't know when to give up."

So he rolled out of bed and called his brother.

"Hel... hello?"

Often in times of crisis Max was the only person in the world Reagan could stand. That, and pissing the living crap put of his little brother was bound to make him feel better, right?

"Hello, Maxim."

"Reagan? What the— don't call me that." Reagan heard Max (who's name really was Maxim, but would end anyone who dared to call him as such) sit up. The idiot had probably been sleeping on his shredded, beer-can-covered, straight out of the 1970's sofa, like the stupid college kid he was. "What's up?"

"Nothing. I couldn't sleep, so" Reagan smiled. "I decided to go old school and not let you sleep either."

"How awfully sweet of you, Reg." They had shared a room from the day Max was born to the day Reagan moved out. If one of them was up all night, they were both up all night. It was like Christmas tree lights. If one goes out, they all go out. Annoying, but inevitable. "Always looking out for me, you are."

"You bet, Maxim."

"Don't—oh, whatever, five am, call me whatever the hell you want."

"Can do, Maxim."

"Okay, time to stop now."

"Okay, Maxim."

"Reagan?"

"Yes Maxim?"

"You know those arms you're so fond of? The ones attached to your body?"

Reagan smiled, looking out the window at the still city. Talking to Max was like clockwork - simple, comforting clockwork. "Yes. Maxim."

"How badly do you want to loose them?"

"Why, not at all, Max— "

"— stop! —"

"— im."

The rest of the conversation went on something like that, and Reagan only thought about Maria three hundred and twenty six times. He counted. Each thought was happier than the last, however, and only laced with a strong sense of longing.

Six months later and life was moving on.


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So, me and M. Massacre started this a while ago. We've got a few ideas, but feel free to shout some at us. :D

Go read her story, which is new and totally awesome. She's in my favourite authors. Do it. (heart).

Oh, and review. Please.