Title: More Than This
Author: Melanie-Anne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fandom: The Pretender
Summary: Bobby hadn't known, until now, how good it felt to have someone believe in him. [Set Pre-Pretender, in my Hayley AU.]
A/N: For the lyrical_fic challenge. Not beta'd, 'cause I left it 'til the absolute last minute to do. (Bad Mel!)
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
* * *
Believe in me,
Because I don't believe in anything,
And I want to be someone who believes. ("Mr. Jones" – Counting Crows)
* * *
When Anna Campbell smiled at him, it didn't matter that his father locked him in the shed or his mother was crazy. And Anna's laugh was almost enough to make him forget the "sessions" with Dr. Raines'.
He was sitting on a bench outside school, reluctant to go straight home, when Anna sat next to him.
"Jimmy asked me to the junior prom."
Bobby tasted something bitter in his mouth. Anna was his best friend, and it hadn't occurred to him that they would attend the prom with anyone but each other.
He stood. "I'd better get going. You know how my dad gets when I'm late."
"Bobby—" She broke off, her attention focused on the red mark on the inside of Bobby's forearm. "What happened?"
"Nothing." He slung his bag over his shoulder and started to walk away.
"I told Jimmy I wouldn't go with him!" Anna called.
Bobby stopped and slowly turned around. "What?"
"I'm going with you, aren't I?" She smiled. "Don't let me down, Bobby. I already have a dress."
Bobby returned to the bench and grinned. "You had me going."
She shrugged. "It was an experiment."
"An experiment, huh?"
Her smile faded, and she reached out and gently touched Bobby's arm. "Was it your dad?"
He shook his head and rolled his sleeve down to cover the burn. "Raines."
"You have to tell the police, Bobby. They can't keep abusing you."
He knew, but for some reason he couldn't bear to hear Anna tell him. He wanted to be perfect in her eyes, and now he wished he'd never told her about the shed and Dr. Raines.
"Maybe you shouldn't go home," Anna continued. Her eyes were misty and he thought she was going to cry.
He pulled his arm away. "You don't know anything, Anna."
"Just forget it." As he walked away, he wished he'd been less harsh with her. But he'd been filled with a sudden, inexplicable rage – at what? He didn't know – and he'd been afraid he might hurt her.
He'd been thinking of hurting people a lot over the past few weeks. His mother, his father, Jimmy, Raines. But not Anna, not until now.
It scared him, more than he had ever thought possible.
* * *
They didn't speak for three days.
Bobby was no longer angry with Anna. He was cross with himself. He knew Anna was only concerned about him, but he still couldn't bring himself to apologize to her.
He saw her talking to Jimmy in the cafeteria. She glanced at him, smiled, then turned back to Jimmy. He wondered if this meant they were no longer going to the prom, and told himself he didn't care. Told himself he didn't need Anna, didn't need this shithole town.
Jimmy touched Anna's shoulder and moved closer to her. Bobby clenched his hands into fists and felt the rage flow through his veins. ("Good boy, Bobby," Dr. Raines had said, "feel it. Control it.")
Anna picked up her lunch tray and walked over to Bobby's table. "Can I sit?"
He shrugged. She sat. They were silent for a while, then Anna reached for his Coke and took a sip. He stole one of her French fries in response.
He wished everything in his life was this simple.
* * *
Friday night finally arrived and, with it, the junior prom. Bobby and Anna agreed to meet at the school – Anna's father didn't like Bobby, a sentiment Bobby shared. (Mr. Campbell liked to drink. Once, he gave Anna a black eye. The next day Bobby gave him one. He never hit Anna again.)
Anna was standing on the sidewalk when Bobby arrived, bathed in the light of a streetlamp. She turned as he approached her, and he decided she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
She smiled. "Hi."
"You look – Wow."
Her cheeks reddened and she ducked her head shyly.
"Should we go inside?"
She took his hand and wound her fingers through his. "In a minute. Let's stay out here a little longer."
"Okay." He would have agreed to anything she said right then.
She looked up at the stars, her neck smooth and pale in the lamplight. Bobby had the sudden urge to kiss the expanse of skin on offer. He was about to give in when she spoke.
"What are you going to do when you finish school?"
"I don't know. I don't really care, as long as I get out of Townsend."
Anna laughed, but not unkindly. "I want to teach."
"I think you'd be a great teacher."
"Really?" She looked at him, tilting her head slightly to one side. "I think you'd be great at whatever you decide to do."
"That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me." Bobby hadn't known, until now, how good it felt to have someone believe in him.
There was a sad edge to Anna's smile. She pressed to her lips to Bobby's for an all-too-brief kiss, then started pulling him towards the school's entrance.
"Come on, let's go dance."
He was filled with a rush of panic. "Anna, I can't—"
"It's easy. Trust me."
He let her lead him inside, because of all the people in his life; she was the only one he did trust.
* * *
"Bobby, get your ass over to the shed now!" Lyle Bowman's voice rang out through the house.
Bobby glanced at his watch and frowned. He was supposed to meet Anna in the woods in half an hour – she'd got it in her head to look for animals caught in traps and free them. Bobby was slightly more realistic and, knowing that some of the creatures would be beyond saving, had sneaked one of his father's guns out of the den.
"Bobby! Don't make me come get you!"
Bobby knew if he obeyed, he'd spend the day in the shed. He had no intention of standing Anna up. He quickly tied his shoelaces and slipped out his bedroom window. He shimmed down the tree and started running as soon as his feet hit the ground.
When he reached the spot where they'd agreed to meet, he was surprised to see that Anna wasn't there yet. It was unlike her to be late. He sat on a rock to wait, then saw something shining in the grass. He bent to have a closer look, and recognized it as Anna's necklace.
Something inside him urged him to hurry. He didn't think, he just listened to the voice telling him to go west.
And then he heard a whimpering noise.
He came to a clearing and froze. Anna was on the ground, trying ineffectually to push Jimmy off her. Bobby could feel her terror.
So he did what Dr. Raines had been carefully training him to do.
He let go of his rage.
Jimmy was trying too hard to get Anna out of her panties and didn't realize Bobby was there. Bobby tackled him, shoving him off Anna. Then he grabbed him by the shoulders and started slamming his head to the ground. He ignored Anna's screams, ignored everything except how good it felt to lose control.
"Bobby! Stop! Stop! Please, Bobby, stop!"
Anna's voice finally cut into the mist surrounding Bobby's consciousness. He let go of Jimmy and was surprised to find that his hands were covered in blood. He looked down. Jimmy's head was completely bashed in.
Bobby slowly turned to face Anna. When she saw him looking at her, she scrambled backwards, and he saw fear in her eyes.
"Bobby, what have you done?" She burst into tears.
"He was hurting you." He knew he probably shouldn't have killed Jimmy, but there was nothing Bobby wouldn't do to protect Anna. "Did he, uh, did he rape you?"
Anna shook her head. Bobby wiped his hands on his shirt, then picked up the bag he'd brought. He took the 9mm out and gave it to Anna.
"Keep this. Learn how to use it. Don't go anywhere without it."
"Bobby, you're scaring me."
"Promise me, Anna. I won't always be around to protect you."
Anna looked at Jimmy's body, drew in a deep breath, and nodded.
"I'd never hurt you. You know that, right?"
She nodded again.
"Go home. I'll take care of this."
Anna blinked, and it was cleat to Bobby that she was still in shock. "Bobby—"
He knelt beside her. "It's okay, Anna."
She stood and slowly pulled her jeans up, her hands shaking too hard to work the zipper. Bobby took care to be gentle as he did it for her.
"What – What are you going to do?"
Bobby sighed. "I don't know yet."
She threw her arms around his neck.
"Anna, I'm covered in blood—"
"My dad knows I was looking for injured animals."
"I'm sorry," Bobby lied. He was glad Jimmy was dead and wondered what kind of person that made him.
"You were just trying to protect me."
He stepped out of Anna's embrace and smiled. "Are you okay?"
"Go, then. I'll call you tonight."
He watched her leave the clearing, then turned his attention back to Jimmy's body.
* * *
Anna slipped into the desk next to Bobby's. He heard the tension in her voice as she said, "You didn't call."
Mrs. Baxter, their homeroom teacher, called out Bobby's name as she took the roll call. He raised his hand. Once Anna had been marked present, Bobby said, "I'm sorry."
"I was worried—"
"Mr. Lyle was in a bad mood when I got home."
Anna's tone changed. "Oh."
Mrs. Baxter called Jimmy's name, and both Anna and Bobby froze.
"He's absent," someone said.
Mrs. Baxter moved to the next name. Bobby and Anna didn't relax until the bell rang to signal the end of homeroom.
"Hey, let's cut school today," Bobby whispered as he followed Anna out into the hall.
"And do what?"
"I don't know. Anything. I just feel like being outside today." He didn't say that was because he'd spent the previous day locked in the shed, but he suspected Anna knew. Strangely, he didn't mind her knowing anymore. Something in him had changed; he felt stronger, more powerful.
"Okay," Anna said.
An hour later, they spread a picnic blanket at the edge of the river and sat facing each other, their knees touching.
"What did you do with the body?"
"I buried it."
"Are you okay? I mean, it must have been pretty weird."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
He shook his head. "Do you know what I really want to do?"
He kissed her. Not the innocent peck from the prom, but a proper, open-mouthed kiss. She didn't pull away, much to his surprise. Encouraged, he gently pushed her to the blanket and began kissing her neck, her throat, her collarbone.
"Tell me to stop and I will. I don't want to hurt you."
She pulled him closer. "Don't stop."
He cupped her breast, expecting her to push his hand away. She didn't, so he slid his hand under her T-shirt and slipped her breast free of her bra.
"Mm-hmm." She pulled her T-shirt up over her head, then pulled his off, discarding them both on the grass. Then she pushed him onto his back and straddled him.
"Oh, Bobby." She ran her fingers over the scars on his arms and chest.
"No, it's not." She began kissing each of the scars, until Bobby could no longer take it. He rolled, pinning her underneath him. Then he captured her mouth with his, kissing her until they were both breathless. His hands returned to her breasts. Hers moved to his waist and began working at undoing his belt buckle.
"I love you, Bobby."
And now Bobby did forget his parents. He forgot William Raines and the "vitamin" injections he'd been giving him. He forgot Jimmy and how good it had felt to kill him.
He slid his jeans down his hips, pushed Anna's skirt up around her waist, and forgot the rest of the world.
They were both virgins, and the sex wasn't spectacular or earth shattering, but they knew nothing else. Afterwards, he was still inside her and they held each other.
"I love you," Bobby said, and when Anna smiled, he began to believe that he was deserving of her love.
Life could only get better.