Part 13

As I stepped out into the hallway, I stuffed the pamphlets Dr. Mitchell had
given me into my pocket without looking at them. Sally passed me and stepped
into the office again, closing the door behind her. Everyone else quickly
stood and looked at me expectantly. I eyed the closed door warily before
turning to face the others.

"Well, that didn't take too long, how did it go?" Quatre asked, trying to
sound cheerful. It took every last shred of my willpower to keep my cheeky
grin in place. I was feeling quite shaken from my time with the good doctor,
but I couldn't let them know that. My mind scrambled for something to say.

"Oh, it went just fine. She's... nice. She wants me to have sessions three
times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday," It was all I could do not to
grimace at that part. I didn't want to come back here, /ever/.

Hilde frowned slightly. "Really? So often? Did she say why? Is... is it
that serious?"

I had the sudden realization that Hilde was very scared. She was scared for
me. My heart ached, and my grin wavered for a moment. It was so unfair of me
to be doing this to her. God, why did they have to find out about all this?
Now, when it was too late? I had to shield them, all of them, from this
whole damned mess. But I didn't know anymore if I could do it. Fifteen,
maybe twenty minutes with the doctor and I had fallen apart, admitted to
cutting before. Already it stung that I had allowed that to happen. I
shouldn't have told her that! But I still had to try to protect them.

"Apparently it's pretty standard for new patients, you know, get acquainted
and all. No biggie. I told you guys, this is not a big deal. I probably
won't even have to see her that long," Damn, I hated lying to them. I wasn't
supposed to lie. But I realized then that lying to them wasn't really
anything new. Hadn't I been lying to them every time I'd smiled when I
wanted to cry, every time I'd laughed when I'd just wanted to scream?

She smiled a little, and seemed reassured. Thank God. Just then Sally
stepped back through the door, her face unreadable.

"I guess that's it for today. We can head back to Quatre's. You're expected
back here tomorrow at two, Duo," she said.

"I know," I said brightly, successfully fighting back the urge to snap at
her. Did she think I was a child? So that was why she'd gone in to see the
doctor again, to confirm when my sessions were.

        The limo ride back to the Winner estate was uneventful. I chattered
incessantly, as was expected under normal circumstances, though I have no
idea what I said. I did notice, however, that Hilde, Quatre, and even Wufei
were visibly relaxing little by little. I felt pretty certain that they were
buying it. I didn't blame them, not really. It was easier for them to
believe that I was the Duo Maxwell that they had always known. That the
recent events that had brought us to that point were isolated incidents,
well on their way to being taken care of. Sally, on the other hand, spent
the ride staring out the window, her face grim, her mouth set in a firm
line. Heero and Trowa were as unreadable as always. I had not idea what they
were thinking.

When we arrived at the estate, Sally had a message waiting for her, so she
left the room to deal with it. The rest of us went to the large living room.
There was time to kill before dinner. I wanted nothing more than to retreat
to my own room and sleep, but I couldn't. They would expect me to be happy,
have energy. I had to keep the mask firmly in place. Besides, maybe a
distraction would help.

"Hey, guys, why don't we watch a movie or something? I bet you've got lots
of great movies, huh Quatre?" I asked cheerily.

Quatre smiled. "That's a great idea, Duo. I do have quite a lot of movie
discs," He walked over to a huge cabinet set in the wall and opened it,
revealing row after row of movies. "Why don't we have a look and see if we
can find something everyone will enjoy?" Hilde, Trowa and I joined him at
the cabinet and started examining the movie titles. Heero and Wufei,
apparently not caring which movie we watched, seated themselves on one of
the couches.

Sally reappeared. She did not look happy. "That was the clinic. They're
really short-handed, so they couldn't give me any more time off. They need
me there tomorrow, so I have to leave for L2 as soon as possible. I'll be
back to see how Duo's doing as soon as I can, Saturday at the latest. Thank
you for having me, Quatre."

Quatre nodded. "You're welcome, Sally. Thank you for everything. We'll look
forward to seeing you again." The others voiced their agreement.

"Duo, could I speak with you alone for a moment before I leave?" Sally
asked me. Inwardly I groaned. But outwardly I grinned and nodded. I left the
others still perusing the movies as I followed Sally to her room. I felt
guilty, but secretly I was very relieved to hear that Sally was leaving. It
would be a lot easier to fool the others without her there, doubting my
every word.

Once we stepped into her room, she went immediately to her medical bag and
started to pull out rolls of gauze, surgical tape, and what looked like
tubes of antibiotic cream. She spoke without looking at me.

"When I asked her about it Dr. Mitchell said that you refused to have your
bandages changed at the hospital, that you said you could handle it
yourself. You'll need these supplies. Are you sure you wouldn't like me to
do it for you before I leave?" She finally turned to look at me, her face
grim. She knew what the answer would be.

"No, no, that's okay. I can handle it," I replied.

"Fine," she sighed. She moved around the room, throwing the few things she
had brought into her travel bag as she continued speaking. "The easiest way
to clean up before putting the fresh bandages on would be to shower. I'm
sure you're anxious to do that anyway. Make sure you use the antibiotic
cream, you don't want to get an infection. Don't forget to change the
bandages every day. And /please/ ask for help if you need it." She was
finished packing. She turned to look at me again, a strange look on her
face. I realized that she was upset. Fuck, it seemed like I was having that
effect on a lot of people lately.

"Everything's going to be okay, Sally." I tried to look reassuring. She
gave me an incredulous look. The next thing I knew she had thrown her arms
around me, though gently, being mindful of putting too much pressure on my
arms. I was shocked. Sally had never hugged me before. The only person who
had since. since the Maxwell Church was Hilde. I had playfully slung my arms
around other people's shoulders, but no one except her had actually /hugged/
me. Tentatively, I returned the embrace. She finally pulled back to look at
me. Her face was full of concern.

"God, I wish I didn't have to go. /Please/ Duo, talk to Dr. Mitchell, let
her help you. And don't hide from the others, either. I think I can
understand why you seem to be trying to deny that anything's wrong. You're
embarrassed. But Duo, something /is/ wrong. You can try to brush off what
happened yesterday as 'nothing', but it's obvious to me that it wasn't
nothing. Maybe the others will believe it if you persist in denying that a
problem exists, but only because they'd rather believe it than believe that
you've been in such pain for so long without us knowing. Please, Duo, don't
persist in denying the truth. Please let us help you, all of us. I'll be
back by Saturday at the latest, okay?" she said.

Mutely, I nodded. I didn't know what to say. I felt shamed by her concern.
I didn't deserve it. Hell, I was even glad she was leaving, since her
concern was causing me trouble. I felt lower than dirt.

"And please don't hurt yourself anymore," she added softly. I just looked
away, flushing furiously. She sighed.

We stopped at my room to drop off the med supplies she was leaving me
before making our way back to the living room. I took the only available
seat that was left, on the couch next to Heero. The others said their
good-byes.

        "Take care of him, guys," she said, and then she was gone. I
struggled not to blush again, and just grinned goofily as the others looked
at me.

"It's a shame Sally had to leave," Quatre remarked.

"Actually, I will have to leave in the morning as well. The foundation will
be needing me back. But I can return on the weekend, to see how Duo is
doing," Wufei said, shooting me a glance.

"You know guys, it's always great to see you all, but you don't have to
rush back on my account. Why did you all feel the need to be here for this
anyway? It's no big deal," I said, hoping I sounded casual. I really was
confused as to why they /all/ had shown up at Quatre's like this.

Hilde chuckled. "Well, that's a stupid question, Duo. We're you're friends
and we /care/ about you."

I grinned sheepishly, but I didn't think it'd been a stupid question. They
hadn't shown such concern during the war. "Well, don't the rest of you have
lives to get back to, like Sally and Wufei?" The less people actually
hanging around here the better in my opinion.

"I can do most of my work for Winner Enterprises right here, and it's not
like the office is far even if I do have to go in," Quatre replied.

"The circus is performing here on L4 for the next several weeks," Trowa
added.

"I'm only doing a couple of courses right now, and I told my professors I
would be missing some classes. They were very understanding. A lot of the
course material is online anyway, and I can e-mail any assignments right to
them," Hilde said.

"Things have been quiet lately. Barring an emergency, Noin can handle
Relena's security for the foreseeable future," Heero said.

"Great," I said with a smile, my hopes of any more of them leaving dashed.
This was going to be hell, with the four of them hanging around me all the
time. "So, um, did you guys decide on a movie?" I asked, changing the
subject.

We ended up watching a bland comedy from a couple of years before the war.
Afterwards we ate dinner, roasted chicken that looked wonderful, though I
had to choke it down since I had no appetite, and was still feeling slightly
nauseous. But convincing the others that I was okay included a healthy
appetite, so I ate. I also chattered incessantly through the meal, and was
even gratified to get a few irritated glances from Wufei and Heero, just
like the old days. Maybe this could work.

After dinner we returned to the living room, and this time I picked out a
couple of old vampire movies from the 20th century, "The Lost Boys" and
"Near Dark." Once again, I sat next to Heero on the couch. The movies were a
couple of my favourites, and a welcome distraction. Particularly once I
noticed that every now and then, Heero would shift in his seat, and each
time he would end up ever so slightly closer to me. Finally, when we were
well into the second movie, his knee actually touched mine. I tried to
ignore it and concentrate on the shootout between the vampires and the cops
that was playing out on the screen. He shifted a little closer. A blush
started to creep into my cheeks, and I was suddenly very grateful that it
was now evening and no one had bothered to turn on any lights, so the room
was dark except for the glow from the television. What the hell was he
doing? And why the hell was I blushing?

About ten minutes later, Heero shifted again, and his whole thigh was in
contact with mine, our shoulders almost touching. Was he doing it on
purpose? I couldn't see how he could possibly be doing it without meaning
to. I had to consciously keep my muscles relaxed. He was making me very
nervous! He'd never done anything like this before. Thankfully it wasn't
long after that that the movie ended. As casually as possible I rose to my
feet.

"Well, guys, I'm pretty bushed. I'm going to get a shower and go to bed.
Good night!" I said brightly, then all-but fled up the stairs.

I sighed with relief when I was safely in my room. Heero had been freaking
me out. And despite how nervous he'd been making me, I had kind've liked his
thigh touching mine, which was even more confusing. I shook my head. I
really was pretty tired, and I had to shower and change my bandages. It was
best not to think about this crap right then.

I gathered the supplies Sally had left for me and went into the adjoining
bathroom, making sure the door to Heero's room was locked, since we shared
the bathroom. The last thing I wanted was Heero to walk in on me naked. Just
the thought of it made me blush harder than ever, though my foremost concern
was that he would see the extent of the damage.

I looked at myself in the mirror. The extent of the damage. I hadn't really
seen it myself, at least not with a clear head. I'd still been fuzzy-headed
from my hangover when I first woke up at my apartment. Then, at Sally's
clinic, there had been the sedative she'd given me. I knew it was bad, but
suddenly I didn't want to see just how bad. With more than just a little
trepidation, I slowly removed my clothes until I was staring at myself in
the mirror wearing only the gauze wrapped around my arms and thighs.

I swallowed hard, and with resignation started to pull on the tape holding
the gauze onto my left arm. I wrinkled my nose at the resistance the
adhesive gave before letting go of my skin and the fine hairs. Slowly I
started to unwrap the gauze. Inch-by-inch my arm was revealed, until finally
all the gauze had been removed. I stared, the food I'd forced myself to eat
at dinner turning over uncomfortably in my stomach. I leaned back against
the wall, suddenly feeling a bit faint. It was bad. Of course it was bad. I
had /known/ it would be bad. But it was still nauseating to actually /see/
it. I was more grateful than ever that I was the one doing this, not Sally
or some anonymous nurse at the hospital.

I took a deep breath and brought my arm up to examine it more closely. The
freshest cut was the one on my wrist from yesterday, when I had. when I had
been going to kill myself. God, was it really only yesterday that that had
happened? There were more cuts, of course, from as recently as a couple of
days ago on up to a couple of weeks ago, in various stages of healing. The
more recent ones were still gunky and crusty, really rather disgusting
looking. A lot of them were fairly deep and gaping, and Sally hadn't been
able to steri-strip closed the older ones that had already started healing.
I knew from experience that they would heal into thick, tough scars. Old
scars, ranging from thin, barely noticeable faded lines to fresh, angry red
slashes, criss-crossed the new cuts in a roadmap of pain. I couldn't wrap my
mind around how many there were. And that I had done them all to myself. I
knew that deep down, on some level, I felt a certain stirring of perverse
/glee/ that I had done this to myself. Like I was screaming hysterically at
the world, 'Look! Look how much pain I'm in!' God, I was fucked in the head.
My chest ached, and it was hard to breathe. I blinked back moistness in my
eyes. My mind was spinning.

I noticed a small patch on the back of my arm that was actually unlined, by
either old scars or fresh cuts. My mind wandered to thinking about the
scalpel I had stashed away in my room..

        I blinked. What the...? I hadn't really just been thinking that, had
I? I sat down hard on the closed lid of the toilet. I had. Fuck, I really
had been thinking it. Literally seconds after contemplating the mess I'd
made of my arms, and feeling all the disgust and self-loathing at what I'd
done, I see an unmarked patch of skin and start imagining what it would feel
like to run a blade through it. Like it was a blank canvas, just waiting for
the blade. I held my head in my hands, rocking back and forth slightly and
taking deep, measured breaths to keep from screaming or sobbing. It was then
that I knew with dead certainty that no matter what Sally or anyone said,
there was absolutely /nothing/ that /anyone/ could do for me. I was too
screwed up to save. I didn't even /deserve/ to be saved, so why bother
trying?

I sat back, clenching my fists in front of me. I had to pull myself
together. This was pointless! I stood and moving as quickly as I could, I
removed the rest of the gauze from my other arm and my thighs. I carefully
avoided looking at myself more than was absolutely necessary. I also chose
to studiously ignore how much I was trembling, and how much I just wanted to
curl up on the floor and bawl.

The shower helped a little. It had been days since I was really clean. The
water stung my cuts, but I ignored that as well and concentrated on the hot
water pounding down on my head as I washed my hair and body. I wished my
soul could be cleansed so easily.

I stepped out of the shower reluctantly, and began the arduous process of
re-bandaging my wounds. First carefully patting them dry, then applying the
antibiotic cream, and finally rolling on the gauze and securing it with
surgical tape. It was awkward doing each arm one-handed, but as I'd told Dr.
Mitchell, I had lots of practice. I tried not to think about what I was
doing, though. I mean really, one has to maintain a certain level of
detachment when tending to nasty-looking injuries one has inflicted on
oneself, or else said person will fall apart. I barely managed to repress
the sob that threatened to break free at that thought.

Finally I was finished. I hurriedly cleaned up all the evidence of what I'd
been doing, burying the old bandages deep in the trash can. As I
straightened up from performing that task I accidentally made eye contact
with myself in the mirror. For a moment, I was frozen. Then I quickly turned
away, and just managed to lift the toilet lid before vomiting the entire
contents of my stomach into the bowl.

After brushing my teeth I gathered up my clothes and went into my room. I
put on a clean pair of boxers and a tank top that I retrieved from my bag.
As I was folding my clothes to put them away, I found the pamphlets Dr.
Mitchell had given me in my pocket. I rolled my eyes. I still couldn't
believe she'd done something as lame as give me /pamphlets/ to read. Who did
she think she was, a high school guidance councilor? I sighed. I may as well
have a look at them. She'd said she'd want to talk about them tomorrow.

I finished putting my clothes away and sat down on the bed. I looked at the
first pamphlet, titled simply 'Depression.' I sighed again and started to
read. 'Everyone feels sad or down at some point in their lives. But these
feelings shouldn't go on for weeks or months. You shouldn't feel down or
anxious and worried for no reason at all. If you've felt like this for some
time, you may be suffering from depression. Millions of people do. Many
don't even know it. Others are reluctant to discuss it. Depression is an
illness like diabetes or asthma. It can happen to anyone. You may feel that
you should be able to get out of it on your own. Don't. The earlier you seek
help, the sooner you may begin feeling like yourself again. Your doctor
understands and can help.' (1)

I resisted the urge to rip the paper into tiny shreds. I didn't like the
way reading that had made me feel, like a cold knot of dread twisting in my
chest. Why should a stupid pamphlet be doing that to me?  I grit my teeth
and continued reading. The rest of the pamphlet seemed to be some kind of
checklist, 'The Aurora Depression Self-Test.' The instructions for the
eleven questions said that you should answer them based on how you had been
feeling for the past two weeks, and that if you answered 'yes' to five or
more, then you were probably suffering from depression and should see a
doctor. Pretty simple, huh? Except that I barely remembered the past two
weeks. I figured I may as well take the test and answer based on how I'd
been feeling for the past few years. It was all pretty much the same, only
steadily increasing in intensity. I reached over and found a pencil in the
nightstand drawer.

Okay, question one. 'Have you been feeling sad, depressed or down most of
the time?' Well, that was an understatement. Definitely a yes.

Question two. 'Have you been less interested and less able to enjoy the
things that once gave you pleasure?' I thought about that for a moment. It
was true that over the months I'd had less and less energy to do things that
I liked, like read or hang out with the others. I had actually used to like
spending time with them, before it had just become too much of a drain,
trying to act 'normal' for them. Another yes.

Question three. 'Have you felt tired or without energy most of the time?'
Another understatement. I was tired /all/ of the time. I never had energy
for anything. Sometimes not even enough to get out of bed.

Question four. 'Have you had trouble sleeping or do you sleep too much?'
Both. Sometimes for weeks I'd barely be able to sleep a wink, and I'd just
lie in bed staring at the ceiling for hours on end. Other times I might
sleep twelve or fourteen hours at a stretch. Though I still usually had no
energy, regardless of how much or how little I'd slept. Yes number four.

Question five. 'Have you found it difficult to concentrate or make
decisions?' I thought about that one, too. Near the end of the war it /had/
been increasingly difficult to maintain my focus. I should probably count
myself lucky that I hadn't ended up getting us all killed or done something
stupid like blowing up some hospital or school instead of an OZ base. That
was definitely an unpleasant thought. So another yes. Five questions in and
I already had my five affirmative answers that said you probably had a
problem. What a surprise.

Question six. 'Have you had an increase or decrease in appetite or weight?'
No question there. I had no appetite to speak of, and hadn't had one for
months and months. I'd lost so much weight I was little more than a
skeleton.

Question seven. 'Have you had feelings of worthlessness or guilt?' I
chuckled without humour. You could say that.

Question eight. 'Have you felt frightened or panicky for no apparent reason
at all?' That one was tricky. Did practically having a panic attack over how
fucked you are count? I thought back to how reluctant I'd been over the past
few months to even leave my apartment. How I could find myself becoming very
tense the few times I'd /had/ to go out for some reason. A sinking feeling
in my stomach, I marked that one as a yes as well.

Question nine. 'Have you felt restless and found it difficult to sit
still?' Another definite yes. There had been times when I'd felt so restless
that I'd thought I'd jump right out of my skin. It had been quite convenient
when the others had been around. They'd mistaken it for me being energetic
and lively, not agitated and fidgety.

Question ten. 'Have you been feeling anxious or worried?' Christ, was I
going to end up answering every question as a yes?

Question eleven. The last one. 'Have you felt like you just cannot go on,
or had thoughts of death or dying?' I stared at the word on the page. There
was a special note that if you answered yes to that question, you should see
a doctor no matter how you answered the other questions. Had I had thoughts
of death or dying? My eyes strayed to my left wrist, where underneath the
layers of gauze was the flesh and blood proof that I had. But there was no
way I was marking that yes on the paper. I tossed the pamphlet on the floor
without marking yes or no.

       Eleven for eleven. When five meant you 'probably' had a problem, what
did eleven mean? Abandon all hope? It's not like I was surprised the thing
said I was depressed. Anyone who needs a test to tell them they're depressed
can't be all /that/ depressed! But eleven out of eleven? That cold knot of
dread in my chest twisted tighter. It was just more proof that I was fucked
beyond belief. I glanced at the other pamphlets. There was another one about
depression, one about alcohol abuse, and one about self-injury. I eyed the
last one curiously for a moment, but finally tossed all three of them on the
floor with the first one. I didn't need to get into that right now, not with
the way I was already feeling. I could look at them in the morning.

       I reached up and flicked off the lamp, then climbed into bed. I was
exhausted, but my mind was racing with so many thoughts that I knew that it
would be a while before I fell asleep, if at all. And my chest just /ached/
so much. It was not a feeling I was unfamiliar with. It was the awful, cold
certainty that I was beyond help, that I would never feel any better than I
did now. That there was, in fact, no reason to believe that things would not
continue to get worse. It was the pain of being /alive/. I turned my face
into the pillow, fighting back tears.

       Suddenly, there was a knock at the door, startling me. I composed
myself as best I could, and called out for whoever it was to come in,
relieved that my voice didn't crack. The door opened a little, a shaft of
light spilling into the room from the hallway. I rolled over on my back to
look, and I could see the dark outline of someone poking their head into the
room.

       "Duo? We're all going to bed now. Are you okay? Do you need
anything?" It was Heero. I swallowed hard before answering.

       "No, Heero, I'm fine. Thanks. Good night."

       I could see from his outline that he gave a curt nod. Then he seemed
to hesitate in the doorway, like he wanted to say something else.

       "Good night," he finally said, and closed the door.

       I lay quietly for a moment, staring up at the ceiling. It was too
much. It was all just too much. I turned over suddenly, curling up into a
tight ball, trying to ease the pain in my chest, and let the tears come. I
buried my face in the pillow to muffle the sound of my wracking sobs.

TBC

(1) Taken from http://www.feelingblue.com, as is the rest of the information
quoted from the pamphlet.



Amanda
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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