Part 10

As the shuttle got closer and closer to L4, I felt panic starting to set
in. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that I was sitting on a private
Winner Corporation shuttle with Heero, Hilde, and Sally, on my way to a
psych evaluation. It still didn't feel entirely real that the three of them
knew about the cutting, but it was starting to sink in, surely and
painfully. And before the evaluation, we would be going to Quatre's, and he
and Trowa would find out as well. My hangover was also coming back with a
vengeance, causing my stomach to make unpleasant flip-flops. I'm sure it's
possible that it was more than just the hangover that was making me
nauseous. I tried to remain calm, pressing my bandaged arms so tightly
against my body that I had to grit my teeth to keep from crying out, but it
wasn't working. Heero, seated next to me, had noticed my distress. He
frowned at me.

"Are... are you okay?" He sounded so awkward, so unsure of himself. Not
like himself at all. I took a deep but shaky breath, and actually managed to
flash some kind of grin at him. I probably looked like a maniac.

"Fine, fine, I'm just fine. Just have to ah, go to the washroom," I hastily
replied, my voice lilting crazily. I fumbled with my seatbelt, my hands
feeling strangely numb. I finally managed to unclasp it, and I lurched out
of the seat and all-but fled down the aisle to the washroom. I could
practically feel three pairs of eyes burning into my back as I went.

I ducked into the small room and slammed the door behind me. I locked it
and leaned back against the cool steel. I was suddenly aware of how hot I
felt. Sweat was dripping down my forehead. /Calm. Calm. You have to calm
DOWN!/ I scolded myself. I leaned forward over the sink, my hands gripping
the sides so tightly that my knuckles were white. My whole body was
trembling. I stared at my face in the mirror. God, I looked like crap. My
skin was pasty, my eyes looked hollow and sunken, and my hair was a greasy

I knew how to make the shaking stop. How to ease the tension, clear my
mind, and make /everything/ better.... My hand still shaking, I slowly
withdrew the scalpel from my pocket. I stared at the blade. Already my mind
was slowing down, focusing. With no thought at all my other hand reached up
and removed the clear plastic cover that protects the blade. It was wickedly
sharp, glinting under the fluorescent light. My breathing was slowing, my
whole body relaxing. I felt almost... hypnotized.

There was a sharp banging on the door, and I jumped, torn from my reverie.

"Duo, are you okay in there?" It was Heero, still sounding so damned unsure
of himself.

I shook my head, bringing my hand up to rub my temple. What had just
happened? I stared at the scalpel gripped in my other hand, realization
dawning. My legs suddenly feeling rubbery, I sank to my knees. What the hell
was wrong with me? I shook my head again, this time in disbelief and horror.
Had I really been about to cut? Here? Now? Was I absolutely fucking
INSANE??? After what had happened today, and with my friends right on the
other side of the door, KNOWING about the cutting, I had almost done it
again. Had I seriously thought I'd be able to hide a new cut from them, NOW?

"Duo?" Heero's voice was louder, sounding more urgent. The knob jiggled.

"I'm fine!" I called back, my own voice sounding strained and maybe a
little hysterical. Trembling more than ever I hastily replaced the cover and
shoved the scalpel back into my pocket. I sat back on my haunches, wrapping
my arms around my body, feeling the needles of pain from all the cuts.
Suddenly I felt so cold, the sweat from only moments ago chilling my body.
How could I have been about to do that? How could even /I/ be that stupid? I
fell forward a bit, my head banging lightly against the sink. Stupid,
stupid, STUPID! I banged my head again, harder.

"Duo, open the door," Heero ordered, sounding calm and reasonable. Oh,
yeah, I was definitely feeling hysterical now. My eyes burned, and a few
tears started to track down my face. God, I remembered a time not all that
long ago when I never cried. Now it seemed like I was doing it all the time.
I couldn't stop shaking. Why the hell couldn't I stop shaking? This was a
nightmare. How had things ended up like this? I rocked forward, banging my
head harder still. It felt good. Reassuring. Real. I banged my head again.
There were voices shouting now, but I didn't pay them any attention, I just
kept rocking my body back and forth, hitting my head, trying to stop
shaking, trying to stop crying, trying to stop /feeling/ like this, all
unsuccessfully. Suddenly, my nausea reared its head. I quickly crawled over
to the toilet, just making it as I started to retch.

Dimly I was aware of more voices and shouting, and the door suddenly
slamming open. Then Hilde was kneeling beside me, one hand stroking my back
while the other wiped my bangs from my sweaty forehead. I still hadn't eaten
anything, so I was dry heaving again. There are few things in the world that
feel as awful as dry heaving. Trust me. It felt like my stomach would turn
inside out. I would, in fact, not have been terribly surprised to see my
entire digestive tract come spilling out of my mouth.

"Here," Sally said, handing Hilde a glass of water. She pressed it to my
lips and I gratefully took a few swallows, turning my head to throw it back
up into the toilet. It felt /much/ better than dry heaving. We repeated the
process a few more times until finally, after what seemed like an eternity,
the fit passed, and I was able to keep the water down. I sat back, leaning
against the cupboard, my knees drawn up to my chest. I closed my eyes, my
breath coming in short gasps. Someone wiped a cool cloth across my face.

"If you were sick you should have said something back at the clinic, Duo, I
could have given you something," Sally said.

I gave a short hysterical bark of laughter and opened my eyes. Hilde was
still kneeling on the floor, damp cloth in hand. Sally and Heero were
standing just inside the doorway, seeming to tower over me in the cramped
quarters of the crowded washroom. I couldn't stand to look any of them in
the eye, so I lowered my head and shut my eyes again. Maybe this was all a
bad dream. Maybe I would wake up soon, back in my own bed, and no one would
ever look at me the way the three of them were looking at me now.

"Well," I finally answered, hating how thin my voice sounded, "I had...
other things on my mind at the clinic." Nobody had anything to say to that.
Heero and Hilde helped me to my feet, and we all returned to our seats. I
leaned heavily on Heero as we walked down the aisle, since I was feeling
light-headed and my steps were unsure. I was still trembling, whether from
lingering nausea or for some other, less tangible reason, I could not say.

We spent the remainder of the trip in an awkward silence. I stared out the
window. I had never felt so drained in my life. I still couldn't believe
that this was happening to me. And very soon we would arrive at our
destination, and Quatre and Trowa would find out, too. How could I have let
my life reach this point? I should have quietly ended it all as soon as I
was no longer needed to fight the war. I had no other purpose, after all. It
had been stupid to linger, living a pathetic half-life. I should never have
given the others a chance to find out. They didn't need this. They deserved
better. I should have disappeared, never to be heard from again, or arranged
an "accident" or something. They would have grieved and moved on. They
didn't deserve to have to deal with this shit. How could I do this to them?

The shuttle was docking. "Quatre said he'd meet us here, with a car to take
us back to the estate," Heero said. Panic welled up in me again. This was
really happening. Quatre, sweet, innocent Quatre was going to find out I cut
myself, had been going to kill myself. My pulse raced, blood pounding in my

"I can't tell him," I said suddenly, knowing that they would know exactly
what I was talking about. "One of you do it. I can't." If I thought I had a
chance in hell of convincing them, I would have begged them not to tell him
at all, but I knew it was pointless so I didn't bother.

"Don't worry about it," Hilde replied, patting my hand reassuringly, and I
wanted to cry. Again. None of this should be happening. She shouldn't be
here. None of us should be here. I should be dead, and they should be going
about their own lives.

I was still unsteady on my feet, so Heero helped me again as we left the
shuttle. Outside in the shuttle bay I groaned as I spotted Quatre. Not only
had Trowa come with him, but Wufei was with him, too. Oh God. The three of
them gaped openly at my appearance. What can I say? I really looked like
crap. Worse even than the last time they had seen me, fleeing from Quatre's
desert estate on Earth after the disastrous party. Old instincts kicking in,
I actually tried to smile at them. It didn't really work, coming out as more
of a grimace than a grin.

"Hey, guys. How's it hanging?" I croaked weakly, my voice thin and ragged.
Oh God, this was going to be bad.

Quatre stepped forward hesitantly, his eyes shining. I realized with a
start that he was holding back tears. Suddenly he threw his arms around me
in a tight embrace. I couldn't hold back a small cry as pain shot out from
my arms, but I hugged him back just as tightly all the same. Quatre was
happy to see me. Quatre had been worried about me, just like the others. It
still didn't feel real. I didn't deserve friends like them. Mostly, they
didn't deserve to have to deal with me. Yet again, tears were burning in my
eyes. Duo Maxwell, the weepy mess. Who would've guessed?

Quatre drew back slightly, his eyes searching my face. He was probably
wondering why I had cried out, and why I was now trembling in his grip.

"I'm sorry," I murmured, unable to meet his gaze. I was too ashamed.

"For what?" he asked, clearly confused.

"I don't know," I replied, my voice dangerously close to breaking.
"Everything?" I finally looked up and let my eyes meet his, but only for a
moment, and then I had to look away again. Before I did, I saw him
practically flinch at the anguish he must have seen in my eyes. He turned to
look at Heero, who I suddenly realized was standing right next to me. Heero
shook his head curtly, presumably meaning that he would explain things
later. His face was grim.

Quatre frowned, and it looked completely alien on his face. Now it was my
turn to flinch, since it was my fault that he was frowning. He quickly
regained his composure though, and smiled warmly.

"Well, it's been a long day, and I'm sure you're all... tired, so let's go
home, all right? Rashid has a van waiting for us." He turned and grasped
onto Trowa's arm as if looking for support. I looked at Trowa and Wufei,
having forgotten for a moment that they were even there. Wufei was staring
at me in open-mouthed shock. It was almost funny. Trowa simply regarded me
with a look of quiet understanding. I remembered that he had looked at me
the same way the last time that I had seen him. I gave him a weak smile and
he returned it.

The drive to Quatre's was short and seemed to go by in a blur. As we walked
into the main foyer, I remarked to myself that after over six months of
avoiding everyone I knew, here I found myself a guest in one of Quatre's
estates, surrounded by friends, for the second time in two weeks. My doubts
about how much they really cared for me clamoured for attention in the back
of my mind, but they had to care, didn't they? Everything that happened
today had to prove that, right? I remembered Hilde's tears, Heero's concern,
Quatre's warmth, and for that moment at least, I believed. But those doubts
still wouldn't be completely quiet.

"Would anyone like anything to eat or drink before you retire? Or maybe
you'd like to wash up?" Quatre asked, ever the considerate host. I grimaced
at the mention of food, but Sally spoke up.

"You really should eat something, Duo. Perhaps just some dry toast?"

I sighed. I didn't have the strength to argue with her. "Fine. What I'd
really like is a shower, but I can't really...." I let my voice trail off,
suddenly not wanting to elaborate with Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei present that
I had bandages all over my limbs that I couldn't get wet. "Even just to wash
my hair in the sink or something, but I don't think that would work,
either...," I mused, mostly to myself. I'd still get my arms wet, not to
mention that I just couldn't move my arms as much as that would require.

"I'll wash your hair," Heero said. Every last person in the room stared at

"Huh?" I said intelligently, blinking at him.

He shifted, uncomfortable now that he was under everyone's scrutiny. "I'll
wash your hair in the sink. Okay?"

"Um... okay," I murmured, too stunned to argue with him.

Quatre showed us to our rooms upstairs, purposely giving Heero and I
adjoining rooms with a shared bathroom, featuring a nice big sink. After
digging through one of the bathroom cupboards for a moment, he produced a
white hose, and showed Heero that by attaching one end over the tap, it
became a shower attachment. He gave us one last smile, said someone would be
bringing toast and juice up to my room, and bid us good night.

Heero and I stood there awkwardly for a moment. Finally I grabbed my
shampoo and conditioner out of my bag, glad that one of them, probably
Hilde, had thought to pack it. I set them next to the sink, and then removed
my hair tie and tried to brush out my gnarled, greasy braid. I looked up,
startled, when Heero moved forward and took the brush from my hand. He must
have seen how much pain it was causing me to move my arms so much. He
resumed brushing my hair, and he was surprisingly gentle. I sighed, closing
my eyes. I couldn't remember the last time someone had brushed my hair for
me. It must have been Sister Helen, and I felt a pang in my heart when I
pictured her kind, gentle face. What would she and Father Maxwell think of
me now?

I realized that Heero had managed to untangle all of my hair. Without a
word, I leaned over the sink, and Heero turned on the water and began
running the shower attachment over my hair, soaking it. It felt /heavenly/.
I was practically purring under his touch. Again, he was surprisingly gentle
as he worked the shampoo in, his fingers massaging my scalp. I breathed in
the strawberry scent, actually relaxing a bit for the first time in God
knows how long. He rinsed the shampoo out, and then repeated the entire
process with the conditioner. I sat back on the closed lid of the toilet as
he toweled my hair dry. He even combed it out afterwards without once
pulling on a snag. I was strangely disappointed when he was finished. I
slowly opened my eyes, feeling like I was waking from a dream.

I looked up at him. He was staring down at me intently. He hadn't spoken
once the entire time. "Thank you," I said softly, and I wasn't just speaking
about my hair. He nodded, understanding. Then he turned and went through the
adjoining door to his room. I sighed deeply. I rose and gave my pale, gaunt
face one last look in the mirror before entering my own room.

As promised, there was a tray with a glass of orange juice and two pieces
of dry toast waiting for me. I sat on the bed and drank the juice, grimacing
as I nibbled on the toast, wondering how the hell I had gotten myself into
this mess. And if there was any way to get myself out of it.


She who is No Longer Acquainted With Sanity (I *WISH* I was just kidding)
#1 Angst Addict
Proud owner of Alex, Real-Life Psycho Kitty,
and Koibito Kuma, the Unbelievably Cute Little Teddy Bear
Resident #17 of Shinigami's Private Hell, The Hentai Library of Insanity

"There's nothing to writing. You just sit at the keyboard and open a vein."
"Both ways... it's the only way to swing."
"You can't commit me... who'll feed my cat?"
"My life has been a nightmare,
My soul is fractured to the bone,
And if I must be lonely, I think I'd rather be alone."
        - from "Save Yourself", Stabbing Westward
"Cut my life into pieces,
This is my last resort,
Suffocation, no breathing,
Don't give a fuck if I cut my arm, bleeding."
        - from "Last Resort", Papa Roach
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