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on rebuilding

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He hadn’t been at this long. Maybe a couple weeks. But either recovery was a lot harder than he’d thought, or Habit was just a natural-grown bastard.

Well, sure. He’d closed the Habitat. He’d moved back to town, in his little house on the outskirts that he was pretty sure no one but him had ever set foot in. He’d planted the lily he’d been given, along with every other flower he had time to care for (which, as he was currently unemployed, was a good bit of time). His yard went from barren and lonely to lush and colourful.

He’d e-mailed Kamal, first and foremost, to apologize and reconnect. And then came Wallus, and Tiff, and everyone else for good measure. He’d gone to the café with the Flower Kid for coffee and paid to have their teeth fixed (possibly because he was guilty, or maybe just because he continued to be loaded).

And, upon Kamal’s request, Habit had phoned a therapist and had started doing sessions. She was nice, and had helpful insights, but he didn’t have a blessed clue what to do with them. Who'd've known there was a trick to these things?

He’d dismantled his own issues a long time ago - spending most of your time alone will do that to you - and yet he was lost on how to put those pieces back together. And doubted even more that he was actually capable of it.

Habit had assumed this would be like a steady, gentle slope into good health. A brisk couple months of self-improvement and he’d be as good as all the other schmucks he saw on the street. Childhood trauma? Medical malpractice? Surely you're hearing things, because there's a new man in town.

But when he stared his task in the eye (metaphorically, of course) all he could see was a cliff. A real canyon of an issue. Insurmountable, despite what everyone else said.

Habit wasn’t the kind to give up easily, but he did seriously consider it. For several hours. In bed, with the lights off, in the middle of the night, like a well-adjusted human being.

He had to reconsider every time Kamal glanced nervously over at him, or subtly tried to cover his mouth while he talked, and Habit had to suppress both the urge to lay on apologies until he ran out of breath and the urge to throw away their fragile friendship and start ripping on him again, because what the hell was the point of it like this? Did he really need Kamal around if it made his heart feel like it was pulled tight as a drum?

And he reconsidered it every time the Flower Kid showed their fake teeth, and he had to both hold back his “I’m so sorry I did this to you, are you ok? Do you need anything else? Just say the word, I'll do anything” and his “You don’t deserve those. You did nothing to earn them. What makes you think you’re better than me?”.

And so on.

Each time, he would mask the erratic beat in his chest, the sick lurch of his gut, and plaster on a fake little smile and pretend everything was fine. He was “better” now, right? He was “responsible” and “a good person” now, right?

He should be.

So why did he still end up alone on his kitchen floor when the world was asleep, trembling hand pressed to his chest, wondering if he could just rip the little thing out, if that would make it easier, because clearly it wasn’t made for doing good?

And the other half of his ailing mind, the one who’d been calling the shots in the Habitat, who’d decided Habit and Habit alone was what the world needed to be happy, said to damn Kamal and the kid and move far away, set Martha up again and retry.

And a little itch in the back of his brain wondered if he should’ve urged the kid to ignore the “No Punching” signs and deal him a good one right then and there. ‘Least it’d be quick.

Yeah, he was in some shape.

...

And yet.

He couldn’t help but wonder if he really could do it. Become a "good" "man".

If nothing else, it would be a learning experience.

May as well try, right? Nowhere to go but up.

(Even if he’d still be the same old man with the same broken smile and the same loneliness hanging around him like a shroud.)

So he’d tuck himself into bed and drift off, and do it over again the next day, with the same mask of a grin, acting like everything was just fine.

It’ll get better, right?