THE STING


by Talya Firedancer


It was sweet nostalgia, it was ashes in his mouth, it was a tight enclosure of cold that emptied him of all sensation. Idly he wondered as he watched thick crimson pooling in his palm if this was how Heero felt, most of the time. All of the time, he corrected himself with a little laugh, as he watched another drop unfurl in a soundless explosion once it hit the water. At the same time he wondered, closing his eyes and scrunching deeper into the tub, how he could laugh in a situation like this.

Then again Heero really couldn't feel anything anymore, now could he?

Under the surface, the cloud of water-softened chestnut hair diffused into the red. He watched it clinically. The fingers of his left hand still felt stiff and numb at the same time but he managed to curl them around the handle of the knife.

Sinner. He was a sinner.

It was only fitting he died a sinner's death.[1]

Tears sprang to his narrowed violet eyes as he sliced into soft water-slick flesh and the crimson welled up at once, a steady flow that joined with the water below. Just one fluid returning to another. Vaguely Duo recalled that his body was supposed to be made up of something like seventy percent water anyhow, so what difference should this make? He licked one salty drop away as it tracked down to the corner of his mouth. It was for the killing. It was for a soft-voiced nun with cool steady hands. It was for a cheeky little boy who'd taken him under his wing. Wing... It was for the boy with empty, searing blue eyes that matched the taut feeling beneath his breastbone. Dead now. Only fitting because he had taken the lives of others. And Heero had died without...

With a clogged sigh he dropped the knife and it skittered across the bathroom tiles. But the tears were not for pain. He didn't owe the pain any of his tears. He owed the others.

"Look what a mess I've made," he sighed. He wasn't sure if it was himself or Sister Helen he addressed, because he could see her disapproving expression etched against his eyelids. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Sure, suicide was wrong, but weighted against the sum of everything else he'd managed to fuck up in his life it was a negligible thing. He was already tripping down the merry path to toasting his toes.

A thick little sob stuck in his throat and as he watched the beads of shiny red shimmy down his arm he knew this part of it was self-pity, pure and simple. He had never gotten to say goodbye to Heero and for that he was sorry. For himself, because *he* was the one left behind, who hadn't gotten to do something -- Heero was already dead and couldn't care. And he mourned his lost friend, his only... One hand fisted around the loose spill of blood.

The door shook with a soft tentative knock. Duo's eyes snapped open and he stared at it, wide-eyed. He was filled with unaccountable guilt, a sudden rush that flamed up his face. This wasn't supposed to happen.

"Duo? Are you okay? You've been in there a long time," Quatre's worried, boyish tones came through the door.

"I -- I'm fine!"

His voice cracked and he cursed himself.

"Do you need fresh towels?" The doorknob began to turn.

"NO!" Trying to brace himself against the edge of the tub, he slipped on the slick holly-bright lines of blood and fell heavily against the side. Shit.

"Daijoubu ka!?" Quatre demanded, bursting into the tiny bathroom. His face froze. One hand lifted to his slack mouth. "Oh God...oh God Duo...oh, my God..."

Such a stupid thing, Duo mused bitterly. He'd slipped on the tub, and all because Quatre wanted to know if he needed fresh towels.

Duo huddled into a ball, wrapping his arms tightly around the knees drawn up to his chest, bleeding wrists tucked inward. Not that it was possible at this point to hide what he'd been doing.

"Just go away, Quatre. Please, go away," he begged without much hope. This was the worst kind of disaster. No one was supposed to see him until it was done. Then, he wouldn't have to see the horror and shock filling those cornflower-blue eyes, and the pity. "Don't look at me!" He hugged his knees tighter.

Quatre turned instantly to the bathroom closet, and he could hear the blond boy rummaging around. He shivered as the cooling water rippled at the draft coming through the open door. Jesus, just anybody could come along and see him like this.

"Go away." It was a nearly incoherent plea as he turned his face against wet hair and bony knees.

Strong hands seized his shoulders, and Duo struggled but he was weak and dizzy, and ineffectual against Quatre's surprising strength.

"Lemme go...shit..."

"Shut up, Duo."

Quatre's tone was so stern and flat that he was stunned and lapsed into silence. The Arabian lifted him out of the tub and wrapped his chilled flesh in huge warm towels. Lastly he bandaged his wrists with gauze. A lot of it. His blue eyes were intent, fingers steady as he worked.

"You slit along the vein," Quatre observed, expressionless. "You meant business."

"Yeah, well..." Duo avoided his eyes. They were too piercing. "I didn't intend for anyone to find me until it was done."

"How considerate," Quatre said dryly. "Can you get up?"

Shit, he was a bad guest. First Maxwell Church and now this.

"I think so," he acquiesced to Quatre's control.

With the blond wedged under his arm to act as human crutch, Duo made it to his bedroom. Quatre found some clothing and helped to dress him, Duo's face burning fiercely the entire time. Only Heero had ever seen him naked. He should've thought this through better.

With his track record, he mused, he shouldíve accounted for failure.

"You won't want to wake up wet and naked," Quatre told him, turning back the bedclothes. There was a forced sort of cheer to his tone.

"I didn't want to wake up at all," Duo retorted.

"BAKA!" Quatre turned on him so fiercely that he shrank back, stunned. "Duo, you idiot. You idiot!"

Duo silenced the whimper before it was even half-voiced.

A dark band of upraised eyebrow. A still, emotionless, but beautiful face regarding him steadily. That flat, quiet voice. *"Baka."*

That face dissolved. It was replaced by a ghastly parody of the youth's beauty, Heero's face staring in shock at something only he could see, blood trickling down. Still. Dead.

"I'm sorry." Warm arms folded around him tightly, a warm body hugged him hard. It made his chill skin feel queer and tight around his bones. "I'm sorry, but Duo --killing yourself won't help. It will only make things worse. Don't you see?"

"No," Duo muttered back. It was the simplest solution. He could take himself out of this chesspiece battleground now, where too many pieces had already been smashed. Or broken.

"If this is some stupid, misguided notion of penance..."

Duo started.

"Aha!" Quatre exclaimed, holding him at arms' length, sincere blue eyes drilling into him. "It is, isn't it?"

Duo blinked at him. He couldn't lie, so it was better to keep his mouth shut. That way it wasn't an outright admission.

"Duo..." Quatre sighed, his expression crumpling. It turned a wrenching protest in his chest. Here was one more person he'd hurt, which only confirmed how useless he was. The only thing he deserved was... "Killing yourself won't bring them back. It won't bring *Heero* back."

"It's what I deserve," he replied obstinately.

"Duo...did you ever stop to think that if you kill yourself now, you're wiping out any chances to make up for what we've done, later?"

Duo remained mute. Quatre had said 'we.'

"Do you think you're the only one who feels this guilt? You're not, you know," Quatre continued. "You're not the only one who was denied the chance for a normal life. But you're *alive,* Duo." Quatre's hands still gripped him firmly, and now they gave him a little shake.

A tiny sigh. He hiccuped. Too bad crying was impossible.

"You *are* still alive," Quatre repeated, his voice softer, but still charged. "Donít you know what that means?

* * *

It was still an emptiness that swelled inside, hollowing out the space behind his sternum, his eyes as he stared fixated at the thick white gauze covering his wrists. He turned his face away. He was sure he could rip away the fragile tissue, force the sluggish welts to bleed again but frankly he was tired and that would take too much effort. Besides, Quatre would be coming back soon with food and his stomach told him he was hungry.[2]

Once he had told Heero he was afraid that someday he would lose his smile.

It hadn't been real at the time. Oh, yeah, sure it had been a possibility. But he didn't *really* think it could ever happen.

Now that there were no smiles left in his heart, for now, the difference between then and now and his naivety made him want to sneer. Or laugh, like it was some colossally cosmic joke. Sometimes, things hurt so badly the only thing left to do was laugh.

Heíd been laughing for so very long.

Duo flopped over with an effort, away from the door, and pulled the comforter over his head. Maybe sleep was the only thing he had left, the only thing possible for him to enjoy. He squeezed his eyes shut tight over Quatre's words. They burned, right now in the wake of his failure; they stung like his cuts did and maybe in a few days they would mean something. Maybe, if Quatre kept repeating them.

*"You're alive, and that's your chance to make things right."*

 

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Eep. *hides*

[1] In the Catholic religion, as in many others, it's a sin to commit suicide. Duo is Catholic.

[2] It seems petty, but hell, even after a suicide attempt, you *can* still feel hungry. And can and will think about food. ^_^;;;

Authorís Note: Iím not trying to glamorize suicide. Itís a horrible thing. PLEASE, if you are in this situation ever, *PLEASE* seek help. Not all of us are lucky enough to get the kind of help we need, but we can still survive. This is not a story about going through with it. This IS a story about surviving.