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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Figuring Out The Path
By fickitten


You've got a bit of a situation on your hands, and you can't quite see how to extradite yourself without making a complete and total mess of everything. It's your own fault you're in this position and if it were happening to someone else you'd be laughing your head off but it isn't, it's happening to you, so it isn't quite as funny. Lying on Ella's bed, staring up at the ceiling, you can't stop thinking about what's going to happen tomorrow night and about how you'll both handle it when it does.

Ella talks about resurrecting Cassie as though it'll have no impact on either of your lives. As if she doesn't understand what kind of position it automatically puts you in, even though you know that she does; that she must do, has to. Losing Cassie shattered your world into pieces, turning everything known into unknown as it made the familiar unfamiliar, and knowing that you're going to get her back now only confuses your feelings even further than they've already been confused.

Not only will this undoubtedly strain your relationship with Ella, which is strained enough and complicated enough on the best of days, but it's going to turn your romantic life into something worthy of The Jerry Springer Show. Because you and Ella have… something, definitely something, but Ella hasn't exactly given up dating Leon and you still sneak into Roxanne's dreams sometimes, even though you've sworn to yourself a thousand times over that you aren't going to do it again. Adding Cassie back into that equation just seems like more than you can reasonably be expected to handle, especially given that this is all supposed to be about defeating Malachi anyway.

It's just that you remember how, late at night under the comforting cover of darkness, Ella once confessed that she'd been jealous of the closeness that you and Cassie so obviously shared when she first arrived. You'd told her that that'd been fairly obvious, and she'd rolled her eyes in response. You'd followed that by wondering what it would be like to have Cassie back one day but she hadn't answered, pretending to be asleep even though her breathing wasn't steady enough and her body far too tense. At the time, you'd wisely decided to let the question slide, but now you really wish you'd forced an answer.

Because the thing is… you still don't know what you really mean to Ella, even though you think you're pretty sure you know what Ella means to you. After all there's a reason that, despite everything you've been through and everything you've done to each other, you're still united today. There's a reason that it's your name Ella calls out on the rare occasions that she lets herself have something you know she thinks she isn't supposed to want, and there's a reason that she's been shadowing your every move, twenty-four seven, since she told you she was planning on bringing Cassie back.

It makes your head hurt to think about it just like it makes your heart ache to think of having Cassie back again, because you still miss her, you still miss her every damn day, and you've wished a thousand times over to have her back anyway possible. Yet now that the possibility's real, you find your thoughts are surprisingly full of Ella and your fears focused more on how she'll react than how you will.

Ella isn't good at love, you know that. Cassie wasn't particularly good at it either, at least not with you, but Ella… Ella's near-hopeless. She's all 'I have a duty' and 'I'm too old for you' and 'You're a ghost, Thelma' and 'I don't want to hurt Leon, he's been so good to me.' Which is fine, because you don't really want to hurt Leon either -- well, maybe just a little bit, but not like that and only from time to time -- it's just that you're tired of having to be one who gets hurt so others don't have to. You might be a ghost but you still have feelings, and this upcoming reunion is playing hell with all of them.

Part of you wants to track down Ella right now and demand an answer to the question of how she feels about you so you can put this uncertainty to rest, but another part of you trembles with anticipation at the thought of getting to see Cassie again. She was your first love, your first 'something,' and you never really got the chance to have her the way you wanted. Last time you saw her she kissed you and you still remember the way her lips felt against yours, and the way she tasted underneath the saltiness of your combined tears.

Deep down you know that, despite all your complaints about Azazeal and Leon, Cassie and Ella are no worse at choosing what they really want when it comes to love than you are. You can't pick between them. You can't decide which of them you really want because you're too afraid of being wrong and missing out with the other or ending up all alone. And despite how many times you say that Ella and Cassie aren't good at love, you're not really sure how much better at it you are, because if you had any idea what you were doing you're sure this situation wouldn't seem as desperately difficult as it does.

If you're ruthless with yourself, you think that maybe you can break it down; make it simpler, make it make sense. You're sleeping with Roxanne in her dreams and with Ella in the reality she created for you, when she cast the spell that enabled you to touch her, but out of those two relationships (if you can call them that) only the one with Ella really matters. Which… actually doesn't help you at all because that just leaves you choosing between Cassie and Ella, and hasn't that always been the problem?

You've faced losing Cassie and you've faced almost losing Ella more than once, and although you don't like to remember any of those occasions you're surprised to realise that almost losing Ella scared you more. You eventually learnt to live without Cassie but you aren't sure anymore if you could learn to live without Ella.

You cover your face with a pillow as you silently complain that this isn't fair, that these weren't the rules you were brought up with. You were brought up to believe that people got to live to a 'grand old age' before ascending to the pearly gates of heaven. Your parents made it sound as though that was every person's right, as though the people who died before they knew what it was really like to live were just anomalies; genetic flaws in the complexity of the world's make-up.

It just figures that you'd end up being one of those anomalies because you've always walked a different path, and you try and tell yourself that that's all this is… just another fork in the road, another moment where you have to make a choice.

The truth of it is that you can stand still and contemplate your choices for as long as you like, but just contemplating them won't do anything. Eventually there'll be nothing left to do but make a decision and act on it, because you have to move forward; you can't stay in one place forever. Left or right. Cassie or Ella. And less than a day to figure it all out.

You groan loudly into your pillow and almost -- almost but not quite -- wish that you were the one who'd never come back.

The End

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