Hey guys. Basically, I've taken a funny show and done what I do best- added a splash of tragedy. I'm really very sorry.
But I hope you enjoy it and please review and let me know what you think? I haven't seen Black Books for quite a while, so did I get the characterisation right? Sorry if I ruined it... I promised myself I wouldn't touch Black Books. It was too brilliant for me to get my messy handprints all over...
Alright. I'm going to shut up now- enjoy :).
Bernard stumbled down the stairway, glassy-eyed, half-drunk even though it was only eleven o'clock in the morning. He found his way to the desk and collapsed into his seat, instantly reaching for the bottle sat upon it. He didn't even bother pouring it into a glass, he simply gulped the wine straight from the bottle.
The more he drank, the more numb he became. Was it because he was trying to fill the space, the silence? Was there even a space that needed to be filled? Hadn't Bernard spent the last four years praying to be rid of him? Wasn't this how it should be?
Ah, but life didn't work that way. Instead it had a curious way of taking your wishes and throwing them back in your face. Had he meant it when he told Manny not to come back? He didn't think so. But life had taken him seriously.
Perhaps it was the satisfaction it would give him when Manny came crawling back, wanting his job and home back. Maybe he just wanted him to grovel. Whatever it was, he hadn't been serious. But then he had to go and crash that bloody car, didn't he? He couldn't even drive. What the hell had he been thinking?
Should Bernard have taken him seriously? Maybe. Perhaps it hadn't been an act of foolishness that caused Manny to take off in that unreliable old Ford of Fran's. Perhaps it had been intentional.
But Manny was never suicidal. That was just said in passing. He mentioned it once, a childish retort.
"I'll just go and kill myself shall I? Will that make you happy?"
It wasn't something said seriously. It was just said in the heat of the moment. Something similar to what Bernard himself might have said.
Bernard looked up as the bell on the door went, foolishly hoping it might be him, somehow back. A miracle. But, of course, it wasn't. It was someone vaguely woman-shaped.
"Fuck off." Bernard grunted, even ruder than normal. He reserved the word for only the blackest of his moods, which was where he was now. The person ignored him, instead crossing the room and sitting down. Of course, it was Fran.
She blamed him, naturally. She didn't say anything, but it was there, in her eyes. The woman Bernard might have once held a flame for. Once upon a time, he would have been pleased to see her. Now he just felt an incurable sense of despair.
"Bernard?" she asked, her voice cutting through the silence.
He didn't bother to speak, just grunted to show he was listening.
"Do you think he suffered?"
Bernard thought he might have been able to stand looking at her, so he did. Subtly, of course. He really didn't care, but he was curious.
Fran seemed to be taking it better than him. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her skin was pale, but otherwise she seemed alright. And then she gave a stifled sob and the waterworks opened.
Bernard looked away. He was wrong, he couldn't look at her. Or maybe he was wrong about caring. Some unidentifiable emotion was lurking just out of his reach. It took him a moment, but he figured it out. Empathy.
"Shhh." he comforted, reaching out to pat her arm and then thinking better of it and heading for the unopened bottle on the table. He opened it, took a swig and then offered it to Fran who followed suit.
They sat in subdued silence, sharing the bottle of wine, the only sound the soft ticking of the clock and the occasional sob or hiccough from Fran that grated on Bernard's nerves. Eventually, Bernard could feel his head drooping and his eyelids closing. Understandable, given he had been unable to sleep most of the night.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang and Bernard jerked awake.
"Manny?" he mumbled confusedly. Then his mind cleared and he looked around, disorientated. Fran was gone. He looked at the clock and realised it was almost three in the afternoon. And his head hurt.
Undeterred, he opened another bottle of wine and drank it down, seeking to drown out this new pain. What was wrong with him?
"Manny?" he called again, doubtful but hoping. Of course, there was no answer. Manny was-
There. Manny was there. Right there. Tidying the books in the middle of the room.
"What Bernard?" he asked, irritated.
"Y-you're-" for once, Bernard Black was lost for words. Manny simply stared at him.
"Bernard?" Fran's voice cut through the eerie silence. He felt her enter the room behind him. "Oh good, you're awake. I was starting to worry." her voice was still subdued. Still full of misery. But couldn't she see him?
"Manny's back." Bernard said, looking round at her.
"No, look." Bernard leapt up and moved around the desk, barely keeping his balance. How much had he drunk? It didn't matter. "He's here."
"Bernard there's no one there." Fran said cautiously. Bernard pushed Manny forward.
"He's right here. You must be blind not to see him."
But the image of Manny was fading. Bernard grasped at him. He felt solid, but he was drifting away, getting fainter and fainter until he was gone.
"You're not well Bernard." Fran muttered sympathetically. This angered Bernard. He didn't need her sympathy.
"I'm fine." he returned icily, staggering back to his seat and slumping into it, only to stare into the distance despondently. Fran hovered beside him.
"I was thinking… you need cash, and I need cash… We could sell some of Manny's things-"
"Get out." Bernard said in a low voice. This was the final straw. How dare she?
"But the bookshop's going to close. I can't afford to pay my rent. We're-"
And she went, with no further argument, perhaps because she knew it was no use. Another time, Bernard would have jumped at such a suggestion, eager to make Manny's life as uncomfortable as possible. But for now everything should stay just as it was.
'Why?' a voice in Bernard's head whispered. Bernard groped for an answer, something that made sense, but nothing came but the truth.
"For when he comes back." Bernard whispered to himself, as though confirming something. His alcohol-drenched mind couldn't cope. It couldn't process that he would never see Manny again. So it ignored the fact he was gone.
He was still there, in the kitchen, tidying the mess from the previous night's almost-meal. Bernard could hear his happy whistling, his footsteps. The last few days had simply been a bad dream, nothing but a figment of his imagination. This was the reality. This was truth.
"Manny?" Bernard called. "I'm going for a nap. If any customers call… don't let them in."
And so, mumbling something about the 'swine' that he constantly had to deal with, Bernard shuffled up the stairs and to his bed. From that day on, Manny was the model of good behaviour, as far as Bernard was concerned. He didn't play music, he didn't go out with his friends and he rarely disagreed with anything Bernard said. The one thing that bothered Bernard was that he found himself doing a lot more housework to maintain a semi-habitable living space. It seemed as though no matter how much Manny cleaned, it never seemed to get any tidier…