A/N:  Hey, everyone!  ^.^  I've been working on this short story for about two weeks now; and finally got it finished tonight. ^.^ Yay! ^.^  Now, to warn you; this is a slash story.  Slash is where you have a couple that's gay, or lesbian.  In this case, they're gay.  Don't like it?  Then don't read it.  It's that simple.  I guess the whole point I'm trying to make here is: I HATE HOMOPHOBES! ;;  That's all. ^.^  So, if you've come with an open heart, and mind- then please.  Do step in, and enjoy. ^.^  And don't forget to leave me some love. ^.^

WARNING:  This contains semi-graphic, and triggering references to self-injury.  Read with caution; and I urge you: don't ever become a cutter.  Please.  Once you start; it's very difficult to stop.  Use this story as a learning experience that there's more out there than the pin, blade, or razor.  Thank-you.  ::bows::  3

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"Please do forgive my being an emotional twit…But, right now...I honestly...I don't know...."

Those words still floated around in my thoughts like a tank of fish.  I still couldn't believe that she had ended something so beautiful for the sake of being afraid.

It's not that I was upset; but just; it came as a surprise.  A surprise that I didn't exactly smile about.

I brought the menthol cigarette I held to my lips, and took in the smoky, mint-like substance; breathing it in like a lover's kiss, then releasing it to the skies.  I watched it, as it eventually swirled, and turned to air as it made it's final departure into the night.

Everyone hated that I smoked.  I was always getting yelled at by friends to quit.  And I did quit.  For quite a long time.  But, the events that had taken place recently had brought me back.  Back to the bad habits that I used to be against, and once ran away from.

You see, I can't really explain my reasoning for submission…except for one thing: One friend lying about everything he had ever told me, and another friend growing scared of the bond that they had been growing with me; and running off, away from everyone she loved, as the result.

I sighed; gazing down at the black, pentacle sweatband on my right wrist.  I hated myself for this.  More than I had ever hated myself in years. 

I had always been a fighter; a Phoenix, if you will, that would always arise from whatever ashes it would be dealt with.  And whenever it would appear to have given up; it always came back to surprise everyone with a smile, and a promise of reassurance.

But, lately, all of that was a front.  A mask.  A cover-up to hide what was the real me:  a dark, wandering spirit, who had just been trashed by two of his best friends. 

I didn't have a reason to be this way, in my eyes.  I was happily married to a wonderful guy.  My high school sweetheart, you could say; and I did have friends.  A lot of friends.  But, lately, I just didn't know how to feel.  I was a Child of the Ice, if you will.  Ice Children weren't supposed to have emotions, and feelings, right?

Not in my case.

I drank the last of my Bacardi, as I tossed the bottle in the trash.  I'll take care of that later.  Right now, I was too lost in my thoughts to do anything.  And I hated it.  I hated it so much.

I leaned up against the white wall of our front room; keeping my gaze to the window before me.  It seemed like only yesterday that I was happily dropping by for a visit; and laughing with the one that had just yesterday broke the news to me.  That which would send my normally bright spirit into a downward spiral.

I shook my head.

Ok, enough thoughts.  You're going to drive yourself crazy.

I puffed the last of my cigarette, smushing it into the black and silver ashtray before me. 

This was to be a long night.  I could tell.

I took a lock of my royal-blue hair and twirled it; eventually letting it tumble over the lower, right corner of my neck; the delicate waves settling with ease. 

I had been hiding this area a lot lately.  Especially from those I loved. 

It wasn't that I was afraid to seek comfort; but, I was ashamed at what I had done.  What I had brought myself back into.  The 'crimson curse' that had consumed my very being.  The flow of red river that had brought me to my sickened release.

I let out a sigh, gazing over at the marble clock high above to my left.  Midnight.  The time of night when most were settled in their beds, fast asleep.  The night when lovers would hold onto one another in dreams; and with the knowledge that they would awaken to each other's arms in just a matter of hours.

The whole world; even my love; lay asleep.

Except for me, of course.

I hardly ever slept anymore.  At least not recently.

I laughed a bit, muffling it so I didn't wake him up.

I had forgotten what sleep felt like anymore.  What it was, even.

Call me paranoid, I don't care: But, my thoughts came to haunt me every night.  It's like: every time I closed my eyes; I could see the images that broke my very spirit.

Our so-called friend leaving; my dear, cherished friend who was like a sister to me walking out with no looking back.  No consideration for my feelings what-so-ever.  Just- just up, and leaving for no reason.

Just whenever I tried to catch even an hour; I would be jolted back by these images, and thoughts- and I'd be up until daybreak; and then some.

Sometimes the thoughts would be too much; and I'd just sob endlessly into my pillow for hours.  No rest coming after, of course; but just, endless lines of tears hitting the soft plush. 

And sometimes; I'd even wrap around my love, and use his form for a pillow.  That's right, I said he.  I'm gay.  Got a problem?  I don't care.  I don't care about much of anything anymore.  If you have something to say about my preference, then say it.  I won't be affected by it.

I cannot hurt anymore.  I've forgotten how to, really.  After she ended so many years of eternal friendship; a bleak, empty numbness has replaced any hurt that I had felt from inside.  The tears flowed; but in the end; the hurt was not there.

They were simply a line of water flowing out; longing to escape my blue-green eyes. 

Eyes that once held brightness, and life- now dimmed with the stinging sensation that had become my very being.  Now laced with the sheer exhaustion that I felt; but the rest I had been conned out of getting.

But, I wasn't bothered by it anymore.  I was too far-gone to let it bug me.  I was lost.  An empty, hollow shell of someone who was once bright, and beautiful.  I was just- nothing.  No purpose in life, anymore.  Just- here; taking up space.

I sighed.

I guess that's all I've ever been.

I felt my eyes start to water; immediately wiping the drainage away. 

No, I won't cry.  Not now.  I'm not hurting anymore; so, why cry over something that you no longer can feel for?

I dried them with my left arm; using the sweatband around my wrist for a 'tear-catcher,' sniffling a bit as I did.

Ok, this is too much.  I need to do something.

I made my way into the dining room; taking my black, leather jacket off of the chair, and reaching into the right pocket- pulling something shiny out of the confined area; revealing my little, silver blade.

This was originally a knife that I had bought to take to the mountains with me.  I mountain hike; or so, I used to mountain hike, for those who ask. 

But, now: it was my bringer of sin.  My start for releasing the crimson waters.  My release from the events. 

I had never supported this act; but, now, I couldn't complain, as I was now apart of it's trap.

I sighed; rolling down the sweatband; taking a glance at the solid, red scratches that had been created just a day ago; running my fingertips along their rough exterior; taking in the feeling of an almost sandpaper; silently questioning to myself if I really wanted to do this again.

And as always:  I had no answer. 

I just needed to forget.  Even by means of submitting to a task that I had so long prevented others from doing to themselves.

After all; I had only driven people away with being me.  I mean, if I hadn't done something; then my friends wouldn't have left my side, right?

Right.

I was worthless.  A worthless, pained spirit; damned to forever walk this world in misery.

I felt a glare come to me.

Well, damn it; I'm not going to stand here and let this haunt me forever!

I quickly got a grip on the blade; bringing it's silvery tip to the underside of my flesh; ripping it apart, as rivers of blood found their ways out; gushing like a waterfall onto the tile floor. 

I'd have to clean that up later.  I knew it.  Before my love would find it.

After all; if he found out- he'd leave me.  He could never love someone who submits to self-injury.  One who's so weak, and pathetic as I.

I felt a pained sigh escape my lips; as I hit an even deeper layer; but not stopping, as I continued to drag the knife even deeper; not stopping until I couldn't take it anymore; dropping the blade with a gasping sob; spots of red falling onto the floor, as a light 'clang' was heard; the blade hitting the ceramic tile.

I sat there for a moment, watching the blood fall from my body, to the warm earth- soon cleaning it up with some paper towels; setting them in the trash, hidden in a grocery bag; as I again placed the sweatband back on my arm; sighing briefly from the contact of the cotton to the open wound.

Well, at least I did my wrist this time.  That was the place that hurt the least, in my opinion.

I knew the band wouldn't be able to hold the blood forever; but, I wasn't worried.  It would dry up, eventually; as did it always; and I'd get up really early before he did, and clean myself up; and he'd never know that I even had done this.

But, before I went to join him; I picked up the knife- quickly cleaning the floor with some sponges; rinsing the knife under some cold water; and drying the now cleaned blade with a towel; tossing it into the hamper; as I set the now-clean sponges back on the side of the sink.

Ok, I should head to bed.

I walked into the bathroom; taking a brush, and running it through my hair; fluffing it a bit, as I set the brush back in it's drawer.

Many had said that my hair was my best feature.  It fell to just above my mid-back; and it had a touch of natural wave; making me look, and sometimes feel like a girl.  But, that was ok.  I'd never cut it for the world.  Too many had said they liked it; and honestly; I did too.

It was about the only thing I valued about myself anymore.

I killed the light; walking down the hall, and silently opening the white, wooden door before me; darkness consuming my senses; as light, soft breathing filled the void; with the exception of the little fan that whirred it's way back and fourth; hitting me just right; as I closed the door gently; not wanting to wake up my darling, and rounded the corner of our bed, onto my side.

Slipping off my boots; I set them to the side; along with my other clothes, and garments; but leaving the sweatband by itself on my wrist.  There was no way in hell that I'd be taking this off.  Especially if I didn't want the other man to see my latest inflictions, if any.

I turned down the covers; my love shifting slightly, as I made my way in; pulling them to my chest, as I turned towards him; watching his features, as I felt a lump rise in my throat.

Great.  This again.

But, I couldn't help it.  He was just so good to me; and I turned around and betrayed him like this. I promised him that I wouldn't ever hurt myself; and what did I do?

Exactly what I promised I wouldn't.

I had lied; just like so many had lied to me.  But, this was worse.  I had lied to the only one who had ever really loved me.

He had done so much for me.  He had saved me.  He had even married me about ten years ago; and how did I thank him?  By doing the one thing that he hated I do.  I submitted; and I was stupid for ever doing it.

I choked back a sob; quickly grabbing my pillow, before breaking down into it; wrapping my form around it's soft, feathery plush; the all-so familiar tears flowing out onto it; squeaks and sobs of pain emitting from my throat, as I cried yet again to nobody.  Just the winds of the night.

I didn't deserve him at all.  I didn't even deserve to go on.  Not after this.  But, damn it, I was still here.  God, why do you insist on keeping me in this pain?  Why can't I be the man I used to be?  The bright, and passionate friend that had always been there to catch his own when they fell?  Why, damn it, why?

I must have been really whimpering or something; as I felt a shift from the other side; a groggy sigh emitting from the one that I had hoped wouldn't catch me in this state; a form settling to face me.

"Sweetie?"  a still-sleepy voice spoke; lightly opening his right eye; the other still submerged in the pillow; a single sparkle of sea foam green being pointed out in the blackened abyss that was our bedroom at night.

I sniffled; drying my tears, and coughing, "I-I'm fine, darling.  Please.  Just go back to sleep, love."

I forced a smile; leaning down to place a single kiss upon his tanned cheek.

My love's face faulted, "Dear, you must really think I'm stupid."

I took in a shaky breath, "W-What?"

I was scared.

Damn, I knew he'd leave me.  Damn it, you stupid fuck.  You drive everyone from your grasp, don't you?

"Zoicite, I know you're crying.  I know you all too well.  And I'm not going anywhere until you tell me why.  Sorry to break up the party," he added, leaning in with a smirk.

"Darling, really.  It's not important.  You have work tomorrow, and I don't want to-"

"Work can wait.  You're my husband.  And when you're in pain; then I am too."

Those words took me by surprise. 

I felt the lump rise again; taking in a few sniffles, before the tears consumed me once again; facing the deep, peach bed sheets; a single tear finding it's way down my scarred cheek.

"Jake-" I managed to get out; breaking down into a sob; feeling myself collapse into the arms of my lover; his own wrapping around my slender form; holding me like a delicate china doll that would break at any wrong touch.

I couldn't handle it anymore.  I couldn't hold it in.  It had become too much.

Jake continued to hold me, as I cried onto his well-built form; rocking me slightly, and running his fingers through my now matted mess of blue pouf; a gentle kiss being felt upon my pale cheek.

"It's ok, my darling.  It's ok.  Really.  You don't have to pretend for me, you know.  You can't be strong all the time," he cooed; tightening his grip just slightly.

"It's-" I got out, choking back another sob; eventually regaining the ability to speak clearly; burying myself in his cerulean hair; taking in it's honeysuckle scent; my cheek brushing up against it's silken texture; speaking once again, "It's not that.  I don't want to pretend around you anymore-"

Jake lightly pulled away; sitting up, and helping me to the same position; meeting my eyes with concern, "Then…then what is it?"

I sniffled; coughing a bit, and drying my eyes.

Jake grabbed a tissue from the nightstand, and lightly tracing it along my now reddened eyes; drying the last of the tears, and setting the damp Kleenex aside; giving his full attention.

"It's just.  I-It's everything.  Everyone leaves me.  Anton, Amanda, and I'm sure you'll be next-"

I took the time to sniffle; shaking it off, and continuing, "God, I drive everyone away, don't I?  I'm so fucking stupid."

"Zoi, you're not stupid.  It wasn't your fault.  You didn't do anything.  In fact, you only helped," Jake replied, reaching for the pillow, and propping it up behind him; laying back on it; still facing me.

"W-What do you mean?" I asked, hurt eyes meeting warm, and loving eyes.

"I mean; that you're wonderful," Jake stated, reaching out to brush some of my hair from my eyes with a truthful smile.

I scoffed, "If I'm so damned wonderful; then why did they leave me?" I asked; gazing down onto the bed once again.

Jake reaching out, and lifted my face to his own, "For starters; Anton was a moron.  He didn't understand something; and then lied about understanding.  Love, he carried on a friendship based on lies.  Whenever you'd open up; he'd lie in saying he understood; and when all the stakes were down- what did he do?  He backed away, and never was there for you; and yet; you were always there for him."

I took a moment to nod, staying silent, as I listened.

"He what?  Used you for a free ride?  Invited you to his place; and then tossed you out onto the streets after he had gotten done with his sick pleasure?"

I gazed down at my form.  Jake was right about that.  Anton *had* used me.  Mostly for his satisfaction while his own love was away.  That I did agree on.

I only nodded.

"That's right.  I mean, what kind of friend is that?  Nothing to cry about, that's for sure," Jake continued.

I met his eyes once more; this time in curiosity.

"I-I guess you're right," I meekly replied, sniffling yet again.

Jake's voice softened, "Of course I'm right.  Because I sensed it from the start.  I'm just so sorry that I didn't get a chance to seek revenge on him sooner.  That he had to hurt the love of my life- to reveal his true colors."

I bowed my head yet again, "I'm not that special," I got out; locks of blue silk concealing my still-swollen and puffy eyes.

"Yes, you are," Jake began, reaching out to brush some of it back, "If not, I never would have married you.  I never would have fallen in love with you back in high school.  In fact, not getting the pride to ask you to be mine sooner is the greatest regret I'll ever face."

I stayed silent.

Was all this true?  Did he love me, despite my faults?

Maybe…maybe he would understand…seeing my inflictions.  But, I was still nervous.  I couldn't show him now.  Not now.  Later.  But, not now.

"And Mandy-" Jake began, my attention being placed on him solely once again.

"She's just facing a rough time.  She loves you like a brother.  I know she does.  I saw how you guys interact.  You're family.  You guys would die for one another.  She didn't have a choice, you know.  And I can sense in her letters that she regrets her decision.  But, it's not like she's saying goodbye as a whole, right?"

I dried a lone tear, "I-I guess not."

"Yeah.  And besides," Jake began; lightly stroking my hair with his free hand, "In a few years; when the boundaries that keep you guys from seeing one another on visit will disappear; and things will be back to normal.  I promise you."

I nodded, sniffling, "Thanks, Jake."

My darling smiled, "Always a pleasure, sweetie.  Always."

I let one cross my face; laced with emotion, as I lay there, silent.

He does love me.  He does.  He'll never leave me.  I was so stupid to ever think that.

I let myself sink into the embrace that he had me in; nestling into his chest, as he continued to stroke my hair; soft breathing filling the room, as the wind from the fan was our only voice for the moment; just enjoying each other's company.

I felt myself relax; the voice of the fan starting to fade, and fade, as I sank even deeper into the strokes; my tears ceasing, and a groggy, drowsy state following suit; my eyes closing slightly.

"Mmmph," I got out; yawning slightly, shifting into his arms with a content sigh.

Jake giggled, "Tired, sweetie?"

"Mmmhmm," I got out, letting my eyes close completely; feeling myself start to drift off.

I really must have been in another world, because I didn't feel when the lock of blue on my right side was moved back; a shift from Jake breaking the silence:

"Zoi, what the hell is that?"

I blinked in my thoughts, "What's what?" I spoke, the longing to sleep taking over.

I felt a soft brush against my neck; snapping me from my state, as Jake's voice spoke again, "This?  This- red scratch mark-thing?"

I gulped, my eyes now completely open.

Oh, shit.  I'm toast.

Yeah, smooth move, smart one.  Now he'll leave you for sure.  You idiot!

I didn't know what to say.

"I-" I got out.

Oh, yeah.  There's a great explanation.  Yeah.  You really know how to keep 'em.

Jake's face faulted; frowning at the infliction, as he quickly stood up; tossing on his black bathrobe; tying it around his waist, as he walked out; leaving me in fear.

To my relief, I saw him return; some items in his arms. 

He made his way back to the bed; sitting down, and flicking on the light; revealing what appeared to be some medical tape, bandages, and a lone, damp facecloth.

I felt him brush my hair back again; flicking on the tiny lamp by our bed, as he lightly brought the cloth to my wound; caressing it softly.  Patting it dry with the cotton material of his robe,  Jake lightly applied a small bandage onto it; sealing it up softly with some tape; pulling away and cocking a brow.

I knew what he was after.

I sighed; extending my left arm, as he rolled down, and removed the sweatband; frowning and shaking his head, as he reached for the washcloth yet again; cleaning it out, as a small cringe emitted from me.

"Darling, why?  Why do you do this to yourself?" he questioned; unraveling some more bandages.

I sniffled, "I'm sorry, Jake.  I'm a failure, I know it."

My love sighed; lightly wrapping the ivory bandage around my wrist; sealing it up with some tape; as he brought my wrist to his lips; laying a soft kiss upon it.

"You're not a failure.  But, you don't deserve to do this to yourself.  Zoi, you're so much better than this.  Trust me.  If I didn't think so; then I wouldn't be here.  And you know; seeing you in this state hurts me.  A lot," he spoke, meeting my eyes with sincerity.

"I'm sorry," I got out, though it being more of a meek whisper; turning away slightly.

"No.  Don't be," Jake responded, tilting my form back to his own, "Just- just try to understand:  Anton isn't worth this.  Amanda's leaving isn't worth this.  Nothing is worth you harming yourself.  Trust me.  You don't deserve this.  No matter what people tell you; you don't.  Believe me."

I gazed up, sniffling, "So; you're not going to leave me?"

Jake smiled softly, shaking his head, "No.  Of course not.  I could never.  But, Zoicite, I don't want you hurting yourself.  Okay?  Nothing is worth your pain.  Nothing.  I love you.  More than anything in this entire universe.  And I want you to promise me right now- that if you ever are in pain; come and talk to me first.  Don't reach for that blade, or whatever you use.  Reach for my hand; my spirit.  You led my soul back into the light; and I'll always guide your own back; if it gets lost in finding it's way home."

I sat there, stunned.  Now I knew he'd never leave me.  I knew that he really loved me.  If not, would he had said such things?

What could I do? 

The only thing that felt right.

Promise him that I'd stop.

I nodded, "I love you too, Jake.  And, I promise.  I won't do this again."

A light sniffle emitted from my form; drying a few more tears that had escaped from my eyes during all of this.

My love smiled, nodding, "I'm holding you to it," he spoke with a wink; setting the medical supplied aside. 

I think he had the same idea as I did.

"Darling, let's get to bed," he smiled, noting the time.

I nodded; feeling him flick off the lights; removing his robe once again; revealing all there was to him; pulling the blankets over us; and shifting closer; wrapping me into a warm, loving embrace; being careful of my still-sore wrist; as he sighed; nestling into my hair.

I was so tired.  So exhausted all of a sudden.

I was starting to feel the affects of not sleeping; now that I had gotten everything off my chest.

I smiled, sleepily running my fingers through his hair, "Mmm.  'Night, Jake."

"Goodnight, my angel," he replied; bringing me closer.

I gladly accepted; sinking into the embrace once again; the groggy sensation finding me once more; as I let myself fall into it.

I was silly to think that I'd be left over all of this.  Over worrying about a friend; and being sad over another.  In fact, I was stupid to be sad over Anton at all.  He wasn't worth it.  My love said it.

And Amanda; well; Jake was right again.  We could always keep in touch in some ways.  It really wasn't the end of the world.

But, all I knew, is:  I had the most important thing in my own world right here.  I had married him ten years ago; and met him in my Freshman year.  I was stupid to ever think this would break us up.

I let my mind drift to our future.  If we'd have anymore kids; if we found a little spot right by the mountains, as we had originally planned; if we'd ever take that trip to Ireland.  The future.  A future filled with brightness, and light.

Light.

Something I had been denied of for so long.  Something that I'd probably have to relearn; but I'd have the best teacher right here beside me.

I gave a sleepy smile, yawning once more; as I snuggled into my soulmate with contentment.

'Mmm…Light…A future…" I murmured out loud; eventually letting myself plunge into the lake of sleep that I had been denied for so long. 

That one blissful state where you know; where you truly can tell- that everything will truly be all right.

Before I gave into it completely; I made a quick, mental note to get rid of my knife.  Tomorrow morning, first thing.

I didn't need it anymore.  I had more important things to help me release whatever tension I held in. 

I had Jake.

And that was all I ever needed…

~*~For anyone who has ever found their way back to the light; and to those that still struggle…

…There is still hope~*~

~Please R/R!  3