Broken

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Poppy, not to me.

Author's Note: Well. The pairing is weird, and I'm not sure if it worked or not. And I'm not even sure if it's technically a pairing or not...it's all just sort of implied. Sort of. (I know. It's all very vague.)

When Ann broke up with Steve, she broke up with Ghost too. Well, not technically. Of course Ann and Ghost were never going out to begin with, but everybody knew that Steve and Ghost were closer than close. Close like brothers, close like soulmates. So Ghost knew all of Steve's tales of Ann; the ones Steve told him and even the ones that were never spoken out loud. And to Ghost, it always felt like some part of him was going out with Ann. He assumed that it was just the part of his brain that was connected to Steve that made him feel that way. And he told himself that continually, told himself that there was no reason that he should feel so broken after Ann left, it wasn't like she left him. There was no reason to feel that way.

Although, once he thought about it, maybe there was. Maybe there was a reason, one incident. It happened about a year, maybe less, before Ann and Steve broke up.

Ghost woke up in the middle of the night, gasping. Nightmare. The kind that only Ghost had, the kind that usually brought Steve running into his room, full of worry. Ghost sat bolt upright in bed; Steve didn't come.

So Ghost made his way carefully down the hall, aware of every shadow and creak of the floor, until he finally stood in the doorway to Steve's room. In the faint moonlight creeping around the sheet Steve used as curtains, Ghost could just barely make out the form of Steve sleeping in his bed.

Even as a twenty-one year old, Ghost didn't really mind admitting to being frightened, but the truth was normally he didn't need to. Steve usually came to him whether he confessed to needing it or not. Except this time, Steve didn't come, so Ghost had to go to him. With the thought that cowering in Steve's bed wasn't really any worse than cowering in his own, Ghost picked his way across Steve's messy floor to his bed. He worked his way in next to Steve, careful not to wake him, and in his sleep, Steve pressed up against him and his hand drifted down to rest across Ghost's hip. Ghost smiled and snaked his arm across Steve, expecting it to come to rest on cool sheets or maybe a pillow. Instead, his hand met warm flesh, and Ghost tensed. He realized suddenly who it must be – Ann – and felt a rush of embarrassment. Being in bed with Steve, fine, he could deal with that. But being in bed with Steve and his girlfriend? Forget it, Steve probably freak out if he woke up now. And things would be awkward, and Ghost didn't want that. So, logically, he was about to draw his hand away, and unwrap himself from Steve's arms and slink away back to his own room when he felt a hand wrap around his own. Long slender fingers intertwined with his, and a female voice whispered, "Ghost?" He cringed, and raised his head up a little, to look over Steve. Having adjusted to the darkness, he could see Ann's big eyes peering up at him. She smiled. "Hey," she said, and did not seem at all bothered by her boyfriend's best friend being in their bed. Steve shifted in his sleep and Ghost's instincts told him, again, that he should get out of there before Steve woke up and things got weird. Well, weirder. But Ann, almost as if she could read his thoughts, tugged on his hand. "Stay," she whispered, and closed her eyes, fingers still tightly wrapped around Ghost's.

Stuck in Ann's grip and too tired to argue properly, there was nothing Ghost could do but lay back down, his body warm against Steve's. Steve shifted once again, and pressed his mouth against Ghost's forehead. "Hey," he mumbled into Ghost's hair, and Ghost nearly flung himself out of the bed in shock.

So Steve was awake. Ghost tried to twist himself, so he could check out Steve's face, see if he looked mad, or annoyed, or any other emotion that would tell Ghost to take his cue and leave. But Steve merely held him tighter and muttered, "Just go to sleep, Ghost."

And so he did. With Steve's arm heavy across his waist and Ann clinging to his hand like she was afraid to let go, Ghost slept. And it was the soundest, deepest sleep he'd had in a long time, lasting until past noon.

Nobody said anything when they awoke (and Ghost thought that maybe they woke simultaneously, because suddenly they were all awake, blinking at each other) and then Ann broke the silence by making them all go out to the kitchen to make pancakes.

After they ate, Ann left, but before she walked out the door, she kissed Steve firmly on the mouth and then pressed a kiss just as firmly to Ghost's forehead. For once, Ghost could not tell what Steve was thinking when their eyes met, so he just cleaned up the dishes in silence.

It never happened again, as Steve began having Ann over to the house less and less, and Ghost tried to will himself back to sleep after any more nightmares. And then Steve and Ann broke up, and Steve refused to talk about it, practically refused to think about it, and to make things easier, Ghost too tried to make himself stop thinking about Ann.

He talked to her, once or twice, to make sure she was okay, but she just looked at him, big eyes full of pain. And Ghost felt her emotions seep inside of him, and refract off of Steve's pain, and shatter into a thousand sharp and tiny pieces. After that, Ghost stopped trying to talk to Ann, because it hurt him too much.

Ann knew that, Ghost thought, because as he left her house that last time, she said goodbye to him. And it was a final goodbye, the kind you say to somebody who is moving far, far away, or to somebody you know is dying.

The kind you say to somebody when you are truly breaking up with them; the kind of goodbye that makes you realize why they call it breaking up.

So no, Ghost never went out with Ann, but when she broke up with Steve, she broke up with Ghost too.

-end-