Part 11

To say that I felt like crap the when I woke the next day would be an
understatement. I turned over in bed, and tried to remember when was the
last time that I /hadn't/ woken up feeling like complete and utter shit. I
couldn't. I turned over again, and my face was buried in my hair. I breathed
in the lingering scent of my strawberry shampoo, and I suddenly remembered
how Heero had washed my hair. It felt... strange thinking about that, so I
quickly moved on. I looked at the digital clock resting on the nightstand.
It was 10:43 am. I didn't know how long I'd been in bed. I wasn't sure what
the local time had been when we'd arrived on L4, and I hadn't checked the
clock when I finally collapsed into bed last night.

I had slept fitfully. If I had not been so emotionally drained I'm sure I
wouldn't have slept at all. I had woken a couple of times, tossing and
turning restlessly. On one of those occasions, I had thought I'd seen Heero
sitting in the desk chair, watching me, but it must have been a dream. My
gaze traveled to the chair, which was in its proper position, tucked into
the desk and facing away from the bed. Yes, a dream. Why would Heero have
been watching me sleep, after all?

I groaned and rolled over yet again, wincing. My arms and legs absolutely
ached, a mix of needle-sharp prickling sensations and the itch that signaled
some of the older cuts were starting to heal. I didn't want to get out of
bed. I didn't want to face everyone. I didn't want to go to a psych
evaluation. I wanted this all to be a bad dream. I wanted my whole damn life
to be just a bad dream.

I dragged myself to a sitting position as I heard a door close down the
hall, and footsteps disappear down the stairs. Some people, at least, were
up and about. If I didn't get up soon, someone would probably be in here
looking for me. Making sure I hadn't hung myself with the bedsheets in the
middle of the night. I climbed out of bed reluctantly. I didn't want anyone
to come in here and see me in just my boxers. Only Sally had seen the extent
of the damage, and I intended to keep it that way. The others seeing the
bandages and knowing just how much I had cut myself would not be beneficial
to my new plan.

That's right, I now had a plan. One that even I knew was probably not
terribly smart, but I was desperate and I didn't know what else to do. Last
night I decided that I would shield my friends from all this. shit. If I
acted like it was all no big deal, then maybe they would, too. I would act
"normal", go to the doctor, and convince my friends that everything was
okay, and that I was better. Then they would leave me alone again, and I
wouldn't be hurting them anymore. I couldn't stand to see them looking at me
like they had been yesterday. So I would act how they expected me to act,
and then they wouldn't look at me like that again.

Of course, I had no idea how I was going to make this work. It was me doing
such a bang-up job of acting "normal" at Quatre's last time that started
this whole mess. And they hadn't /known/ then. My mind fled from pondering
this. The plan /had/ to work. I couldn't accept the possibility that it
wouldn't. I had just been tired, off my game. I can be exceedingly good at
pretending to be happy when I have to be. I'd done it convincingly enough
throughout the whole war, hadn't I? Yes, I /could/ handle this. I would.
There was no other option.

The biggest problem was how I'd acted yesterday. I grimaced, remembering
what a weepy, hysterical mess I'd been in front of Hilde, Heero, and Sally.
It would be toughest to convince them that I was okay, that it had been a
one-time thing. I still couldn't believe I'd cried in front of them. I
/never/ cry. At least that's what I like to tell myself. I couldn't let it
happen again.

Crazy plan, huh? But then again, I never claimed to be thinking straight.

First things first. I wrinkled my nose at how gross I felt. I really would
have loved to get a shower, but it just wasn't possible right then. I hadn't
felt this dirty since my days as a street rat. I must have been getting
spoiled to have even noticed how rank I was getting, though I guess teenage
boys are more, shall we say, "fragrant" than little kids. At least my hair
was clean, and once again I deftly avoided thinking about just how my hair
had gotten clean. I trudged into the bathroom, found a washcloth, and
proceeded to scrub every part of me that could be comfortably reached and
wasn't swathed in bandages. It hurt my arms terribly, but it had to be done.
I even managed to brush out my hair, though there was no way I was going to
manage to braid it myself. Maybe Hilde /or Heero.../ would do it. I did feel
better, though, just being a bit clean.

I returned to my room and pulled on the first clothes I pulled out of my
bag, which were, unsurprisingly, black and priest-style. I took the scalpel
out of the pocket of the pants I'd worn yesterday and stared at it for a
moment. As much as I wanted to take it with me, I knew it would be crazy.
With a lump in my throat I tucked it safely away in my bag. I ducked back
into the bathroom to grab my brush and my hair tie, and to give myself one
last appraisal before joining the others. I composed myself, drawing deep
breaths, and let my mask slip into place. It had been awhile, but it was
familiar, this mask, too familiar, and I knew then that I really could make
this work. I could convince my friends that yes, I was sick, but it was only
temporary and soon I would be just fine again. I opened my eyes and turned
to face the mirror.

I studied my reflection critically. Still too pale and thin, eyes looking
hollow, but if I forced myself to eat then I knew that soon I wouldn't look
quite so haggard. "I am Duo Maxwell," I said out loud. "I am a Gundam pilot.
I am Shinigami. I do not cry, I do not become hysterical, and I most
definitely do /not/ fall to pieces. I am a happy person." I grinned
wickedly, and if it wasn't for the gauntness of my face, I could almost
believe that it was just as convincing as every other false grin I'd ever
flashed my friends.

As I made my way downstairs I heard voices coming from what had to be the
dining room. It seemed that the others were just sitting down to either a
very late breakfast or an early lunch. I couldn't help but pause outside the
door and listen for a moment. I remembered ruefully how I had done much the
same thing the morning after the disastrous party.

"Maybe someone should go see if he's up yet?" Quatre was asking, his voice
laced with concern.

"He needs rest. If he's still sleeping we should let him be for now. The
appointment is at one, so if he's still sleeping at noon someone should wake
him then," Sally responded.

"You still haven't told us what happened yesterday," Wufei said. There was
a pause during which no one spoke. Just as it seemed the silence would
stretch on forever Hilde spoke up.

"Well," she began hesitantly, "I'm not really sure what to tell you. Duo
did say he would prefer for us to tell you than for him to do it himself.
But he didn't say whether or not he wanted to be here when you were told."

"Surely there is /something/ you can tell us? You can't just show up with
Duo looking like... like /that/ and not tell us /anything/." Wufei pressed,
sounding irritated. I could almost picture the vein on his temple starting
to throb. I actually had to repress a snicker. It always amazed me that even
when I was feeling my lowest, I can still usually find humour in things. And
I could laugh. Really laugh. I didn't understand it. What kind of sense does
it make that someone who seriously contemplates suicide could be able to
laugh? Maybe it's what lent a much-needed air of credibility to my joker's
mask. I really could laugh in the face of death.

I heard Hilde sigh. "We showed up at Duo's apartment early yesterday
evening and things were... bad. Really bad. We argued, but eventually Duo
agreed to come with us. It was necessary to stop by Sally's clinic before we
left L2. That's all I'm really comfortable saying without talking to Duo

"We understand that, Hilde, it's just that we are concerned." Quatre said.
He sounded very tired. "I know that it was best for just the three of you to
go, no matter how much I wanted to go with you. I can't even begin to say
how on edge I was here, waiting to hear from you. And then when Heero called
from the clinic, I didn't know what to think."

"We certainly didn't mean to worry you all further. It's just that certain
things are best discussed... face to face." Sally replied.

"It is really bad, isn't it?" Quatre sounded distraught, and guilt tore
through my heart. His voice lowered then, to barely above a whisper, and I
had to strain to catch his words. They made every muscle in my body freeze.
"Did... did he try to... kill himself?" He was met with silence.

I decided I had listened long enough. I took a deep breath, forced myself
to relax, pasted a bright smile on my face, and strode into the room.

"Good morning! And how is everyone this fine day? I hope there's lots of
food to go around, I'm famished!" I said, surprising even myself with just
how cheerful I sounded. Everyone was looking at me as if I had two heads,
and believe me, that was a funny expression to see on Wufei's face. I
grinned. "What, cat got everyone's tongues?" I seated myself between Hilde
and Sally, and across from Quatre.

"D-Duo?" Hilde asked, staring at me wide-eyed.

"You were expecting someone else?" I joked easily. At least it seemed as if
it was easy. In reality, I don't think I'd ever felt more on edge in my
life. Everyone was staring at me. Three of those people /knew/, knew the
most shameful thing about me. The others were about to find out. It was
going to take my best performance to play this down. But hearing the pain in
Quatre's voice as he had uttered those last few words had reminded me why it
was important to do so. My resolve was hardened, and I would not fail.

"Of course not, it's just that I wasn't expecting... well, frankly I just
wasn't expecting you to be in such a... good mood this morning," she finally

"Because of yesterday? Oh, that, yeah, I haven't... been well. I really
hadn't been feeling well for a few months and I guess it all caught up to
me." I didn't feel the need to mention that those few months could more
accurately be described as a couple of years.  "But it's not like the end of
the world or anything, you know? I'm sorry I freaked you guys out. I'll go
see the doctor, and I'm sure he or she'll be able to help me out and
everything will be fine." I hoped I sounded sufficiently flippant.

"Duo, this is really serious. You can't just brush it off like this. You
don't have to pretend that everything is fine. We were in fact just
discussing with the others what happened yesterday...," Sally began, but I
cut her off.

"Oh, that," I gave my best embarrassed laugh. "It's really rather
embarrassing. I can't believe you guys saw me like that." I forced myself to
grin, and I practically had to spit out my next words. "You can go ahead and
tell the others, no secrets amongst friends, right?" Another embarrassed
laugh. "Geez, I really don't know what came over me. Nothing like that's
ever happened to me before." The lie tasted bitter, though I tried to tell
myself it was just a white lie, that it was for their own good. I still knew
it was a lie. "And I'm not brushing it off. I know it's serious. I'm here,
aren't I? I'm going to the doctor. It's just not the big deal you seem to
think it is. Everyone doesn't feel well now and then, right?" I poured
myself a glass of orange juice, studiously ignoring Sally's gaze.

"I don't know what you're trying to pull, Duo, but it's not going to work.
We are all your friends here. You don't have to hide from us. You don't have
to be embarrassed or ashamed of what happened yesterday. It's not going to
change how anyone feels for you." Sally said softly.

I swallowed hard. "Hey, who's trying to hide? I'm here, I'm going to see
the doctor like you wanted. It's not like I did it on purpose. Like I said,
I hadn't been feeling well, and I had been drinking too much, not smart, I
know. I didn't know what I was doing. Man, you don't really think I meant to
do it, do you? That it's like, a serious problem?" I forced out some
laughter, though it sounded a bit more nervous than I had intended. I
started helping myself to the scrambled eggs piled in a serving dish.

"You don't expect us to believe it was an accident, do you?" Sally asked in

"For Heaven's sake, what are you talking about? What happened yesterday?
Why did you have to go to the clinic?" Quatre suddenly cried out, startling
everybody. Silence reigned for a few moments.

"Duo... hurt himself," Heero said, speaking up for the first time. I looked
at him. He looked back at me, his face expressionless, except perhaps that
his lips seemed firmly pressed together. And, well, he seemed to be looking
at me rather... intensely. I quickly turned away, flushing slightly.

Wufei's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean... hurt himself?"

I swallowed hard again. It was taking all of my self control not to bolt
from the room. /I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.../ I repeated
the words in my head like a mantra.

Heero didn't seem forthcoming with any more information, so Hilde spoke up,
her voice strained and barely above a whisper. "He c-cut up his arms... all
over his arms, with a razor blade," That's right, she hadn't seen my thighs,
only Sally had. "Right before we showed up, he had been cutting his w-wrist,
he was going to...,"

"No!" I snapped, startling everyone again. "I wasn't trying to kill

"B-but you even said...,"

"No, I wasn't trying to kill myself. I was still half-drunk if I said
otherwise, or you just misunderstood me! I don't know why I... I... did what
I did," I couldn't bring myself to say the words. "But I'm not suicidal or
anything!" I made myself laugh. The air in the room was just getting too

"You... cut up your arms?" Quatre asked, his voice hollow, his expression

I closed my eyes briefly. God, this was horrible. "Yes," I admitted, my
stomach twisting. "But it's never happened before and it most certainly
won't happen again! And I /wasn't/ trying to kill myself. I was sick, out of
it. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't do it on purpose!" I insisted,
using all of my self control to keep the desperation out of my voice. God, I
hated lying.

"What about the scars...," Sally began.

"So I have scars, so what?" I snapped, sounding a lot more irritable than I
liked. "Everyone sitting at this table has scars from the war. Before that I
lived on the street, and life could be rough. It's nothing!" I smiled,
hoping I looked convincing.

"Nothing!? But-" Sally argued.

"It's nothing!" I repeated vehemently, keeping the smile on my face so that
I didn't look desperate. "I had a bad... incident, but I'm all bandaged up,"
I waved my arms about in the air a bit for emphasis, managing not to wince.
"But everything's okay. Oh, that reminds me. Hilde, would you mind?" I
asked, holding the hairbrush out to her and producing the hair tie from my

"Oh, um, sure," she replied, looking dazed. She rose and stood behind me,
brushing and then braiding my hair. Silence reigned in the room for the time
being. I forced myself to eat some of the food I'd piled on my plate, though
I was anything but hungry, and I tried not to think about how nice it would
have been to have Heero braid my hair. I was glad the hoped for distraction
of Hilde braiding my hair had worked, and I took this opportunity to study
the others. Sally looked to be quietly fuming, but then I'd suspected she'd
be hardest to sway. She was a doctor, and she'd seen the damage, cleaned and
bandaged it even. Wufei and Quatre were both picking at their food, both
looking terribly confused, like they didn't know what to think. Quatre also
looked like he might be trying to keep himself from crying, and I felt bad
about that. Trowa looked as unaffected as usual, though he did reach out to
rub Quatre's back in a reassuring manner. Quatre smiled at him gratefully.
Trowa's eyes met mine briefly, and yet again I was struck by the quiet
understanding I saw there. Heero had returned to eating, though he kept
glancing at me with narrowed eyes that made my heart flutter uncomfortably.

The silence was beginning to weigh on me. "So, uh, Quatre, how's business?"
I asked as cheerfully as I could manage. Quatre looked up, looking grateful
for the distraction. We spent the rest of the meal that way, in mindless
chatter about trivial things. At least, Quatre and I did, with the others
adding the occasional comment. I could tell that they still felt
uncomfortable. I couldn't blame them. I can honestly say that I'd never felt
more awkward in my life, but I think I covered it well.

Eventually, it came time to leave for the hospital. It seemed that everyone
was going. I didn't know why everyone felt the need to go, but I didn't
argue, as that may have suggested that I was uncomfortable with the
situation. I most certainly was, but they couldn't know that. I continued to
act as lighthearted as possible as we all piled into one of Quatre's limos,
even though I felt like I was on my way to an execution.


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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