25, Vivi to Arthur, post-reunion? :3c
25. “I’m going to ask you how you are and I would like you to answer me honestly.” (source)
Vivi watches from the couch as Arthur paces across the room for what feels like the hundredth time that day. She's not technically allowed to do much walking, between the concussion and the large gash in her side and the memory-fuzziness that's still making her feel faint at random times, so she's been stuck letting other people – mostly Arthur, if she's being honest – bring her things while she struggles to read over her notes about what the hell has been going on. She feels more than a little restless, but it's better than falling and hitting her head again.
The ghost– Lewis is off somewhere, probably in his room (his room, he has a room in this house because he was their friend– ). Trying to sort through his own side of this mess, freshly freed from his own memory problems. The only source of activity in the house is Arthur, who she's pretty sure hasn't stopped moving since he woke up.
–Actually, has he even gotten any sleep? None of them slept the night after everything that happened, there was too much to do and talk about and it would've only been a few hours' worth anyway, but the night after that, Vivi had crashed pretty hard, and she'd assumed he had too. Now that she was thinking about it, though, it... didn't seem very likely that he'd just gone to bed and been fine. It was much easier to believe that he'd pulled another all-nighter.
And now he was spending another day running around, trying to do repairs on the van and intermittent checkups on his arm and cleaning the house (because honestly it had been too long since they’d actually cleaned, they’d been too busy investigating) and grabbing things for her and making sure Lewis was still doing okay.
She closed her eyes briefly, biting back a sigh. You did it, she thought bitterly. You found Lewis and brought him home, and everyone's safe and the only thing left to do is let the dust settle and you still can't let yourself relax.
From behind the darkness, she heard him say as if on cue, “y’doin’ alright, V-vivi? Any- anyth-thing I can get you?”
She forced her eyes open, inhaling. “M’fine, just tired.” Then she blinked at him.
She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d been actively trying not to look at her, just so she couldn’t see what she was seeing now. The dark bags around his eyes, the pale cast to his face, the bruises on his cheek from– who knows, crashing the van or either of the long falls or getting tossed around by the monster that had taken over Mystery. For the first time, now that she was actually looking, she wondered if there were more bruises she couldn’t see. It seemed likely.
And even if there weren’t. The ghost– his friend– Lewis had almost killed him, and then he’d been chased and knocked around by a monster from his nightmares – and he’d spend the past few months running on fumes, barely sleeping or eating.
It had happened so slowly that she hadn’t noticed at the time, but he almost looked more dead than the ghost now. Like something had hollowed him out, drained him of all his life. He should be resting, as much as he could, not running around trying to make sure everyone else was okay.
All that went through her mind in just a few seconds while she stared at him, as he stacked up the cups and towels she’d left on the table. As he was standing up again, she finally decided to say something.
“Actually... can you sit down with me? Hang out?”
“Just... I wanna have some company. For a little bit.”
“O-oh. Uh- I should really-” his eyes darted around the room, tension building in his shoulders. She could practically hear his internal debate – he wanted to do what she asked him to, but he didn’t want to stop moving – and it just made her heart ache more. Eventually, one side won, and he set everything back down.
“I-I guess? Just for- f-for a little- a little while.”
She waited for him to get comfortable next to her. He couldn’t seem to settle down and stop fidgeting, his eyes continuing to dart around the room. Eventually he focused on the books on the table.
“S-so- uh- how is this go- going? Do-”
She touched his shoulder, lightly tugging him back into the couch. “Arthur.”
He gave her a wide-eyed look, pulling back a little, his shoulders hunching forward. “Y-yeah?”
“How are you doing?”
“Fine.” The answer was almost immediate and very confident-sounding, which would have been nice if it wasn’t obviously entirely false.
She took both his hands in hers, putting them in his lap and forcing him to focus forwards, on her. “Okay. Let’s try that again. I’m going to ask you how you are, and I would like you to answer me honestly.”
He took a deep breath, seeming to shiver a little. “A-alright?”
“How are you?”
“F-fine! I mean- I’m a little tired but- but I- I don’t-” his voice snagged and he broke out of her hold to put one hand on his face, shoulders shaking suddenly with a quiet “shit.” He sniffed and tried to start over, shaking his head, but it was increasingly less convincing because he couldn’t stop crying.
She leaned back and shifted, slowly, carefully, to ease him into her side. It took him a minute to accept, and then he leaned in and buried his face in her shoulder. She put her arms loosely over his shoulders, careful not to entirely encircle and trap him.
“I don’t-” he tried to say after a moment, “I’m s-s-sorry, I-”
“Don’t,” she said, trying not to let how much that hurt show in her voice. “Don’t apologize. It’s okay. You did great. Everyone’s safe, you don’t need to do anything else, just relax.”
He shuddered with a soft whine in her arms, and she pulled him in a little more.
After a while, he went quiet – not that he made a lot of noise when he cried anyway, but his breathing evened out – and she realized he’d fallen asleep. He was finally resting.
A small movement in the corner of her eye, and she turned to see the– Lewis standing there.
“Hey, Lew,” she said without thinking, and then was surprised a half-second later by how relaxed and easy the greeting was.
He seemed almost at a loss for words, looking at her and Arthur in turn. She had no idea what he was thinking, but she forced herself to not immediately assume the worst, that he was jealous or angry about it.
“You look... comfortable,” was what he eventually said. His voice was soft – maybe with some emotion, or maybe (more likely) he just knew he had to stay quiet or he’d probably wake Arthur up. Honestly, it was impressive he hadn’t the second someone new entered the room. He must be exhausted.
“Actually,” once again her mouth was moving before she processed the words, and she decided to just go with it, “do you think you could help me move him? This probably isn’t the most comfortable spot to take a nap.” Much as she would have liked to just carry him to bed herself, she was in no shape to lift anything heavier than a book.
“Oh- ah- sure.” He floated forward and knelt, easily scooping him up. She saw his hand move towards her for a second, and then he seemed to think better of it.
She reached out and took it, following him and leaning on him slightly as he stood.
He just stared at her for a moment. His eyes were wide, brow slightly creased. “...Vivi-”
“Shh,” she cut him off, “this is a very delicate operation.”
At that, he ducked his head slightly, the corners of his eyes crinkling with what she knew was shoved-down laughter. There was a small twinge in her chest at the sight, like long-dormant butterflies.
...Maybe she could get used to this again, after all.
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