Part 12

During the short trip to the hospital, I chattered incessantly, though the
only ones who offered the occasional response were Quatre and Hilde. The
others seemed lost in their own little worlds. The breakfast I'd eaten felt
like a lump of stone in my stomach, and I was feeling nauseous again. I kept
punctuating my chatter by waving my hands around, even though it hurt my
arms terribly, because when I tried to hold my hands still, they trembled.
In short, I was a nervous wreck.

All too soon the limo pulled to a stop in front of an unremarkable
fake-brick building. The sign out front proclaimed it to be the Everett
Psychiatric Hospital. I swallowed, my mouth feeling quite suddenly very dry.
I had a moment's panic when I thought that maybe they had lied, maybe they
really were going to just leave me here or something. I quickly pushed that
paranoid thought aside, though I was still, well, scared. I couldn't think
of a single time in my life when I had been as scared as I was right at that

Though we were only going to the outpatient wing, we still had to go
through some pretty heavy security, and we were issued clip-on passes that
identified us as visitors. All of it was just making me more and more
uncomfortable. What was I doing here? Just visiting or not, I didn't belong
here amongst crazy people that needed to be kept under lock and key, did I?
I... I wasn't like them, was I?

"These things should say 'Sane', not 'Visitor'," I joked weakly, flicking
the blue pass clipped onto my shirt. No one laughed.

After security there was a reception area. Sally spoke briefly with a
stern-looking woman who sat in a cubicle surrounded by plexiglass. She
passed a clipboard to Sally through the small rectangular slot at
counter-level. I eyed Sally suspiciously as she began to fill out the forms,
fears of being committed rising once again.

"What are those?" I asked, my eyes narrowing. She looked up.

"I'm the referring physician. I just have to fill in some information on
your medical history and the reason for the referral. It'll just take a
moment," she replied. We waited in awkward silence while Sally quickly
filled out the forms. Once she was finished, she spoke to the receptionist
again, asking for directions, and then finally, she turned to us.

"Dr. Mitchell's office is down this hallway and to the left," she said,
indicating the corridor to our right. Without a word, we started to walk
towards the doctor's office. It is... nearly impossible to describe what I
was feeling right then. I was walking down the hallway of a mental hospital,
on my way to see a psychiatrist. I was accompanied by six of my friends.
They had just discovered that I was not exactly the person they thought I
was. Despite my efforts at damage control, the fact remained that they
/knew/ that I had cut myself. Even if they believed that that was the one
and only time, they still /knew/. Lord knows what was going through their
minds. It all felt so unreal. Terrifyingly, suffocatingly, all-too-real
unreal. If you know what I mean.

We arrived in front of a door marked 'Dr. Valerie Mitchell', and Sally
knocked. She was answered by a heavyset woman who looked to be in her
mid-thirties. She wore a white lab coat and wire-frame glasses. Her bright
red hair was twisted into a loose bun at the nape of her neck. She smiled
brightly, though she did look a little confused by the large number of
people outside her door.

"Hi, I'm Dr. Sally Po. I referred a patient to you, Duo Maxwell," Sally
said, gesturing towards me when she mentioned my name.

"Oh, yes! The last-minute call yesterday from a Mr. Winner, I believe," Dr.
Mitchell exclaimed. She peered at me over her glasses for a moment before
turning back to Sally. "You have the referral forms?" she asked. Sally held
up the clipboard in confirmation. "Great!" She turned back to me, holding
out her hand. "Duo, I'm Dr. Mitchell, but you can just call me Valerie if
you like. I'm just going to talk to Dr. Po for a moment and then we'll talk
for a bit, okay? Why don't you and your, ah, friends take a seat?"

I shook her hand. "No problem," I replied as casually as I could manage
with my heart threatening to hammer it's way up my throat. It's not that she
appeared threatening. If anything, she looked and seemed like someone's
ideal doting aunt. But I had just met my psychiatrist. MY psychiatrist. I
had a psychiatrist. It boggled the mind.

Sally and Dr. Mitchell - I couldn't really imagine calling her Valerie -
disappeared into the office and the door closed behind them with a click. An
awkward silence descended over us and we sat on the benches that lined
either side of the hall. I couldn't think of a single witty thing to say to
lighten the mood. I wondered nervously what Sally was telling the doctor. My
hands were clenched tightly in my lap to try and keep them from trembling. I
looked around at my friends and wondered for the thousandth time why they
had insisted on coming to the hospital, why they had come to Quatre's at
all. /Because they care about you, stupid, they want to support you,/ part
of my mind answered. Another part of me balked at that explanation. There
had been so many times since I'd known them that I would have given anything
for their support. Where had they been then? On some level I knew it was
unfair to think that way, but I couldn't help it. It had /hurt/ all those
countless times that they hadn't noticed how much pain I was in. And now
they had to go and have it thrown in their faces because I couldn't hold my
liquor at Quatre's party. Damn, I was such a fuck-up.

"Well, she seems nice," Hilde commented quietly, clearly trying to break up
the awkward silence. I knew a response would be expected from me. I summoned
all my energy and flashed a toothy grin.

"Yup, yup, a very nice witch doctor indeed. I'm sure I'll have her bored in
no time, it's really such a shame she has to waste her time on /me/ with all
the really sick people running around out there in desperate need of her
services." I was relieved that I didn't sound half as nervous as I felt.
Heero cast me a sidelong glance, but didn't say anything. Wufei seemed to be
studying the floor intently. Quatre offered a half-hearted smile, and I saw
Trowa squeeze his hand. Just then the door opened and Sally stepped out,
gesturing me inside. Feeling more nervous than ever, I rose and moved to
step inside. Sally stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. I looked at her,
feeling like a deer caught in the headlights but trying not to show it.

"Just be honest, Duo. You don't have to hide anything. She's going to help
you," Sally said gently. I looked away guiltily, and stepped into the
office, closing the door behind me. I looked around nervously. It was an
innocuous enough office, bookshelves lining the walls, diplomas hanging on
the wall, a desk, several comfortable looking chairs, and a couch. Dr.
Mitchell was sitting in one of the chairs, a clipboard in her lap, smiling
at me welcomingly.

"Have a seat, Duo," she smiled.

"Heh, should I lie on the couch?" I asked, and then nearly winced at the
lameness of the joke. I bet every nervous person who ever walked into a
psychiatrist's office made that same, predictable joke. She didn't seem to
mind though, and chuckled lightly.

"Only if you want to. Otherwise you can just sit. Whatever you're most
comfortable with."

Eyeing her warily I took a seat on the couch. I crossed my arms to hide my
trembling hands and hoped that it didn't look like too much of a defensive
posture. I even managed not to wince at the pain it caused my wounds.

"Okay. I know this is an awkward situation for you, Duo, but you can trust
me. I don't expect that to happen right away, after all trust is something
to be earned, not demanded, but you can be rest assured that whatever you do
say to me is completely confidential. I can't discuss it with anyone, even
if I want to, without your permission, or else I'd lose my license," she
grinned. I smiled back and tried to relax. I felt like I might be sick all
over her nice Persian rug. "Getting started is always the hardest part, so
why don't we just go over what Dr. Po wrote on these referral forms and go
from there, okay?" she continued brightly.

"Whatever you say, doc," I grinned as cheerily as I could manage. I could
feel sweat trickling down my temple and wiped at it furiously before
crossing my arms again. Her eyes rested on me for a moment before she
glanced down at the clipboard.

"It says here that your friends first suspected something was wrong after a
party held at your friend's house almost two weeks ago. You had too much to
drink and got a little upset. Would you like to talk about that?' she began.

No, I most definitely did /not/. But that would make me sound guilty,
right? My mind scrambled for an appropriate comment on the disastrous party.
Her gaze was gentle but it felt like she was looking right through me. It
was unnerving.

"Well...," I began slowly, "You're right. I just had too much to drink. I
made a fool of myself and got sick all over Quatre's nice dance floor. It's
really very embarrassing," I made myself look appropriately sheepish. "But
anyone who drinks will overdo it now and then, won't they? Perfectly normal.
I was just so mortified the next day that I left. My friends mean well, but
they overreacted, read too much into it. I didn't 'run away' or anything, I
was just embarrassed. Who wouldn't be?" I made myself stop and draw breath.
I had been starting to ramble. Dr. Mitchell nodded and wrote something. I
suddenly wished I had x-ray vision so that I could see through the clipboard
at what she was writing about me.

"You said your friends 'read too much into it.' Do you think maybe they
were worried that you'd barely kept in touch for the previous six months?"
she asked.

Sally really had filled her in on a lot. I fidgeted. Damn my trembling
hands! "Um, well, you know, we all lead busy lives, can't always keep in
touch. Hilde's taking college courses and all and she's only 16, Quatre's
got a big corporation to run, the others are busy, too, yeah we've all been
really busy." Fuck! I had to calm down.

"Oh? And what have you been up to since the war ended? Dr. Po explained to
me how you all met and your roles in the war. So what have you been doing,
how have you been holding up?"

I stared at her. I hadn't been doing anything. I'd been living off the
leftovers of my "appropriated" OZ funds, and doing absolutely nothing
useful. I had spent days at a time lying in bed. I had spent hours staring
at the TV without really seeing it. I had barely eaten, rarely showered,
rarely even left the apartment since I could have anything I needed
delivered. I had drank too much, too often. I had cut. I had cut a lot. Six
months of my life had slipped into a black hole. But I couldn't tell her

She seemed to sense my discomfort and moved on. "So, your friends were very
worried about what happened. They, ah, tracked you down," she raised an
eyebrow, "and it took them nearly two weeks to do so. Would you like to talk
about what happened when Dr.Po and two of your other friends showed up at
your door yesterday?"

I closed my eyes briefly. This was moving too fast. She was going to ask
about the cutting, about suicide. I wasn't ready to talk about that, even to
make up some lie. And Sally had probably warned her that I was going to deny
everything. Damn, damn, damn! I had been so sure this morning that I could
make this work. I hadn't been in the damn office five minutes and I was on
the verge of freaking out. I clenched my hands. I hugged my arms tighter,
feeling the aching pain. It was all I could do not to be sick. I had to
answer, tell her something, anything.

"Look, I'll tell you what I told them this morning. Yesterday was a...
misunderstanding. My friends seem to think I'm seriously depressed and that
I'm going to off myself or something. They even think I was going to try to
yesterday!" I tried to make it sound like the most ridiculous notion in the
world. "What really happened is that I haven't been feeling well for a while
now. I made the mistake of drinking when I was already physically sick, and
I guess my body couldn't handle it. So it seems that I did something really
stupid. I-I... cut my arms some," The words were so hard to say. "I don't
know why. But that doesn't mean I was trying to kill myself. It's not like
I'd ever do it again. I'm not crazy! And anything Sally told you I said,
well, I was still a little out of it, I didn't know what I was saying. It
doesn't mean anything! I'm /not/ crazy! I don't belong here!" There was a
note of desperation in my voice that I absolutely hated. So much for pulling
one over on the shrink.

Dr. Mitchell looked at me levelly for a moment as I practically panted, my
breathing was so erratic. "You seem rather agitated, Duo, are you feeling
alright, physically?"

I stared at her. How could I have thought she looked like a doting aunt? At
that moment I hated her. She was ruining everything. I knew that thought was
irrational, but it was there nonetheless. "I'm fine," I muttered.

She leaned forward in her chair and looked me straight in the eye. "You're
obviously not fine, Duo. You're agitated, your hands are trembling, and I'm
willing to bet you feel like you're about to lose your lunch. Am I right?" I
glared at her. It was answer enough. She leaned back in the chair, but
didn't break her gaze. "I would guess that you are going through the
symptoms of a minor alcohol withdrawal."

I couldn't stop my jaw from dropping open. What was she implying!? "I'm not
some drunk who gets the shakes if he doesn't get a drink!" I snapped. "I
don't drink every day! The past two weeks were unusual...."

"Yes. And you don't think that two weeks of constant alcohol consumption
would leave you with some level of physical addiction, especially if you had
been drinking a lot prior to that?" She sounded so calm and reasonable, like
she was telling me two plus two equals four. But I couldn't deny that what
she said made sense. I unfolded my arms and looked down at the slight tremor
in my hands.

"Oh, God," I whispered. I jumped to my feet and started pacing like a caged
animal. She thought I was agitated before! Ha! "Oh, God!" I yelled.

"Duo, it's alright. A lot of people who are depressed turn to alcohol.
You'll feel better in a day or two. The withdrawal will pass. But it's
important that you not drink anymore." Her voice was still so calm, so

I stopped pacing and looked at her like she had ten heads. Alright? How
could anything ever be alright? Like I didn't have enough problems before,
now she's telling me I'm some kind of alcoholic? "Who said I was depressed?
I just said I hadn't been feeling well," I muttered darkly, unable to summon
up a single ounce of cheer, not so much as a half-hearted chuckle.

She gave me a look of infinite patience. "I think it's quite apparent based
on what Dr. Po has told me. We can work on a more definite diagnosis. It's
not something to be ashamed of, Duo. It is quite likely that it's caused by
chemical imbalance. Therapy and medication can help you lead a normal life,
but you have to take the first step. You have to acknowledge that the
problem exists."

I bristled at her mention of medication. "I don't need pills shoved down my
throat to make me 'normal'! My life isn't subject to the whims of the
chemicals in my brain! I'm in perfect control! Everything was fine until two
weeks ago when I went to that fucking party!" I sat down hard. My whole body
was shaking now, and I knew it wasn't from any withdrawal symptoms. Was what
she was saying true? Fuck, only this morning I had actually had an inkling
of hope of fooling everybody that I was fine, including the shrink. It had
taken her no time at all to make me very upset. Hell, she hadn't even really
done anything. I was so defensive I was making /myself/ upset. And over
what? I could have sat here and stared at her for an hour, and the others
would never even know. She certainly couldn't tell them. How had I managed
to let this get to me so badly, so quickly? Maybe I was crazy enough to be
locked away in here. My head was a mess, I couldn't think straight at all.
It was an uncomfortably familiar feeling. A lump formed in my throat and
there was a cold knot of fear in my stomach.

Dr. Mitchell reached out and took my hand. Her voice was much warmer. "It's
scary, I know. But it's never going to get any better if you don't let it
out. Forget about your friends out there for a moment. Can you admit, out
loud to me right now, that you have a problem?"

I felt the last of my control slip away. Tears pricked at my eyes. "Yes," I
whispered. God, I was so weak. I hadn't kept my resolve for more than a
couple of hours.

She nodded encouragingly. "These past two weeks, they weren't the first
time you'd cut yourself, were they?"

I turned my head away from her, shutting my eyes as a few tears spilled
down over my cheeks. So much for not crying anymore. Another battle lost in
a matter of hours. "No," I replied, shame and self-loathing constricting my

She squeezed my hand. "It's alright, Duo, it's not something to be ashamed
of." I didn't believe her, not for one second. "You're sick, and the cutting
is a symptom of your disease. It doesn't make you a bad person, just someone
who's in a lot of pain and who needs help. I'd like to help you, if you'll
let me. Will you let me?"

I still didn't look at her, didn't open my eyes. I wanted to crawl away and
die. My heart was aching so much it felt like my chest was going to implode.
How had this happened? Why the hell couldn't I just be /normal/? "Fine," I
finally replied. I had no choice. To convince the others I was better, I had
to be seeing a doctor.

"Good. Only a couple more questions and then I think we can wrap it up for
today. The deep cut you made on your wrist yesterday, was it a suicide
attempt? And do you feel suicidal now?"

Fresh fear stabbed through my chest. They could lock up suicidal people for
being a danger to themselves, couldn't they? I couldn't let that happen. I
wiped the tears from my face, but still didn't look at her. "N-no, it wasn't
like that. When you've been drinking... you can... c-cut deep without
meaning to. It was... an accident." My face was flushed. I couldn't believe
I was talking about this, that I was saying the words out loud. I don't care
what she said, how could she not be disgusted by me, by what I'd done?

Dr. Mitchell sighed. Perhaps she didn't believe me. At that point I didn't
care. There was no way that I was going to admit to /anyone/ that I had
almost killed myself the previous day, and that it was still looking like a
very attractive option. I shuddered. It was true. I couldn't keep it
together for a few hours. What kind of life was that? I wanted to stop
feeling this way, stop feeling /anything/ if that's what it took.

"Okay, Duo. I think maybe that's enough for today. What do you say to
sessions at 2pm, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays?" she asked.

I finally turned to look at her. Three days a week? Was she kidding? The
thought of coming here, to this hospital, even once more, let alone
regularly, was enough to make me start weeping. But again, I had no choice.
I would have to grin and bear it, for the sake of the others. "Whatever," I
sighed. I felt so tired again, just like yesterday.

"Great!" Her tone had returned to its previous brightness. "I could have a
nurse change your, ah, bandages if you like."

"No!" I said quickly. "I can do it myself." I certainly didn't want anyone
seeing /that/ again.

"Are you sure? Bandaging your own arms is not very easy.."

"I've had lots of practice," I said dryly, and then nearly choked. God, had
I really said that!? She raised an eyebrow, and actually seemed amused, but
she didn't comment. She handed me a card.

"That's the phone number to the office here, and my emergency pager number.
Please, make use of either if you feel the need. And if you feel the urge to
cut, go talk to one of your friends. You don't even have to tell them about
needing to cut. Just be with another person. Okay?" I nodded obediently.
"And have a look at these. We can go over them in session tomorrow." She
handed me a couple of pamphlets. Pamphlets. I resisted the urge to shake my
head. "So I'll see you tomorrow then. Remember, today was just an informal
evaluation. Tomorrow the real work will begin." She smiled brightly.

I stood to leave the room, taking deep calming breaths. My hands still had
a slight tremor to them, but other than that I was fairly composed. As I
reached for the doorknob, I threw Dr. Mitchell one last look over my
shoulder and sighed. I knew she meant well, but I also knew that she
couldn't help me. No one could help me.

"Thanks," I mumbled to her before turning back to the door. I summoned a
cheeky grin and stepped out into the hallway. I may have blown it with the
doctor, but I was still determined to convince the others that there was
nothing seriously wrong.


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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