Fruit Bowls and Sunscapes
By Kick Flaw
/Sometimes…sometimes it’s just the only way/, he murmured, not out loud, because the idea of his voice was more comforting than hearing it at times. The unspoken words were an old attempt at justification that placated him until he lay awake in the dark hours of the night and thought about his soul. He wondered if his soul was in his voice, and if that was why he never spoke in these moments –to keep the reality from seeping in and ripping the wings from his spirit. Not that he’d ever used them to fly.
He hoisted himself onto the countertop, sitting sideways so his right foot was in the sink. This way he could look at the process in the mirror but not have to look at his face. He hated to see the actual working, preferring instead the stark detachment of reflections, of distorted but still honest truth. The water he twisted on poured out icy, like the deceptively velvet layers of snow outside, over his ankle and shin. Hitching the right side of his robes up to his hip, his gaze fastened on a discarded puddle of breeches on the tiled floor, and didn’t waver even as his fingers found the blade beside him. There was a twig smothered by the soft, undyed cloth, haplessly entangled. /Oh, so that’s what was poking me in the knee all afternoon/, he realized, with the same sense of surreal indifference he associated with the mirror.
The knife rose.
/The rose knife/, he thought to himself. /The rose…knifed./ And blood bloomed in a shade of redness no rose, even the precious ones grown in the Herbology greenhouse, could match. There wasn’t much. Just a few droplets welling out. He shifted his eyes to the mirror and watched as he sliced the sharp end through the wound again, making it slightly deeper, making it hurt a little bit more.
This ritual was something he performed rarely, to the point of almost never. It had been at least a year and a half since his last exploit into willful self-destruction. But, oh, how he wanted to self-destruct. He wished he had a big red button on his stomach, right where his bellybutton sat, labeled in big red letters SELF-DESTRUCT, so he could press it down and cease to exist immediately, with no time to think twice. The twice-thought was what always halted his hand. Instead of pushing the knife further into an artery he would let it clatter to the floor, and smear what little blood had seeped out onto the surrounding skin with his finger. Because the pain of death was so marginal compared to the pain of life and the pain was what he wanted most.
The knife fell.
He idly daubed at beyond-rose red, considering the art of fruit bowls and sunscapes. /I like the sun/, he crooned without a voice, /because it tans my freckles away. I like fruit, because it’s still good after it falls./ Not many people knew he had a light spattering of freckles, purely because he spent enough time outside to maintain a dark enough pigment to blend them away. Besides, he like the idea of light brown hair, light brown eyes, and light brown skin. Like a chameleon, his colors let him blend into the woodwork. Everyone has a little vanity. He brushed his hair behind his ear and wished he could fall.
If just so that he could climb back up.
Then he wondered if flying was really falling, or if falling was really flying, and if you could do either without wings. He knew wings. But he couldn’t look in the mirror, because then he might lose them. Then he might shatter this sacred space, this ritual, and he didn’t want to, even though he sensed it was about to be shattered.
Apparently, by the clicking of the doorknob and the abrupt thrust of woodwork inward.
/If/, Remus thought, /my life were a book, this would be the end of a chapter./ He looked into the mirror, noting the shocked-still form of Sirius Black. /And if Sirius’ life were a book, this would be the beginning of one. I wish it were./ Such a flow of words would dull the humiliation of returning reality flooding his veins. Shock would be less lightning-like in the thrall of literature. Language on paper was soulless. Language in the air was soul.
Sirius’ expression melted into eerie blankness as he calmly turned and shut the door on the world beyond them. It stayed that way while he picked up Remus’ pants and hung them over one of the towel rods, and even when he began to shed his own. Remus looked on through the mirror with a sort of dazed, apathetic bewilderment. The black-haired boy was the picture of vacancy hanging his pants as well, slipping onto the counter beside him, hefting the knife and weighing it in his palm, dipping his left foot into the ice water, drawing his robes up.
/Vacancy is what happens when you’re empty/, Remus noted distractedly. /Empty of emotion, but not of intent./
He only woke from his spell when Sirius slashed the knife more deeply than he ever had across his own pale, unfreckled flesh. His eyes tore from the mirror and a cry tore from his throat. Black-red blood streamed out, cascading into the puddle around their feet, onto the counter.
“Sirius! Fucking hell!” Remus dropped clumsily to the ground and rushed to press hands over his best friend’s wound. Blood stained his hands. It got under his nails and onto the webbing between his fingers. It dripped onto his robes and feet. It filled his eyes.
Or maybe those wear tears.
“Sirius.” He moaned. “Sirius.”
“Shut up.” And the boy who seemed more fey than human at times shoved him. The mask of impassivity crumbled away, leaving ice-cold rage in its wake. “Just shut up, you stupid, fucking bastard.”
Remus’ jaw snapped closed of its own volition.
“I can’t believe you. I can’t believe you could be such a flaky,” He fell back a step, “malicious, hateful,” another, “mother fucking,” and another, “wretch.” then his back his the wall. “It sickens me.” Sirius spat, and Remus choked on the very air he breathed as he slid down to crumple, broken, on the floor, never looking away from the other boy’s dark eyes.
/My accuser, my accuser, my accuser/, his mind chanted. /My rightful accuser./
“I –you don’t –I have to –please…” he hitched.
“Have to what?” Sirius sneered. “Punch it up? Make it worse than it already is? What’s your problem? Need some help? Hey, I could rough you up, if you want it so bad. I’m sure Jamie’d be happy to hold you down. We could have a fucking party!”
He would not let them spill, he would not cry, Sirius didn’t understand. He had to do it sometimes. Sometimes it was just the only way. It hurt so much in his heart; the real pain was a distraction from that misery. Misery like ice cold wind and water and eyes. Misery like being crumpled on a bathroom floor while the one person you held in regard above all others smashed your already broken pieces to dust. Misery like watching that person bleed, and knowing it was because of you. Misery because something deep inside of you liked that.
Suddenly Remus’ whirling heart went quiet, and he traced back. /That’s it/, he gasped in his silent voice, /oh god that’s it./ The breaking realization forced Sirius and the world outside into haze for a moment. He’d been wrong about the whys. The knife rose, the rose knife, he’d said to himself, when it wasn’t about the knife at all. Before he could stop it, the explanation tumbled into the air.
“I need to hurt things. I need, sometimes, to cause pain, to cause suffering, because there’s more power in that than in anything else I’ve ever known. I want power. I’ve never had power over myself, and it’s all I want, just some simple, fucking control. But I can’t hurt anything, anyone, I can’t because then everything will true, what they say. I don’t care what they say! I just don’t want them to be right! If they said I was a docile puppy I’d go out and rip them to shreds, I think. I want to own myself. I want –to hurt. To prove that I’m really here. But I can’t, so I hurt myself. The wolf hurts itself because it can’t hurt anybody else, and I’m the same. I’m the wolf. The wolf is me. And it’s all about power. Why? Why me?”
Remus sagged, clutching hopelessly at the lost words as if to pull them back inside. He watched Sirius desperately and waited for the black-haired creature of spun and delicate magic to turn his back on him. A part of him worshipped the other boy, idolized him. In his mind there was a halo of moonlight around his envisioned likeness. Poetry blossomed in him wherever Sirius Black was concerned, though he couldn’t comprehend why. The moment he’d seen him his world had changed. Sirius was magic to him –spun, delicate, intense, old magic.
/Losing him will not be permitted/, came a dark whisper. He agreed. If Sirius turned his back, Remus would spin him around.
“It’s always about you, isn’t it?” Sirius scorned. “Poor ickle Remmie.”
The other boy’s mouth curled disgustedly. There was a flash of red inner-lip in the expression, paler than the red shining wetly against his whitened flesh. He seemed unconcerned by the still-oozing wound. “Of course it is! You precious, unfortunate thing. Cursed as a child, condemned by the world, reduced to nothing but sniveling weakness by circumstance. It must be awful.”
“I didn’t know you were such a weakling. If I had, suffice to say I wouldn’t have wasted this much time caring about you. All you ever think about is your pain, your suffering, your perfect, pure troubles.” Sirius slipped off the counter, looking down on the werewolf’s stunned, pained figure. To Remus he looked like an avenging hero finally driven beyond compassion. “Have you ever stopped to consider what it does to those around you to care for you? We’d never choose not to you know. And all you do is wallow in your bloody curse. ‘Oh, I can’t, the moon and all’. Be happy, you?” he snorted. “You won’t fucking let yourself. Stop feeling so sorry for yourself all the time!”
There was silence. A tear finally freed itself from one of his eyes, streaking down kamikaze. Because it was true. It was so horrifyingly true.
/I like fruit bowls and sunscapes/, he choked. /Fruit bowls and sunscapes. But not myself./
Then the anger in Sirius melted away, replaced by a profound sadness. “Oh, Remus, Remus.” He whispered, crashing to his knees in front of the boy. “Don’t you understand?”
Aching, Remus shook his head.
“You say you want power. Don’t you see that you have it? In us, in me. You say you want to hurt things, so you hurt yourself. Don’t you see that by hurting yourself you’re hurting us? Hurting me?”
Remus glanced away from Sirius’ supplicating eyes, across the room. He took in the streaks of blood on the counter, the red-tinted sink water, the droplets on the floor. He examined his hands and their smeared bloodstains. His heart throbbed. He wanted to apologize, but when his stare returned to the entrapment of Sirius’ gaze words could not be formed.
“I promise you.” Sirius whispered, his vow too sacred for anything else. “That you will hurt me. Every time you hurt yourself, you will hurt me. For every cut on your body there will be one on mine. I promise.”
/Sirius/, Remus thought, /is a lot like fruit bowls and sunscapes. He has fallen with me, for me, but he’s still far better than good. He perfects my imperfections. And if this were a book, there would be a happy ending. Right now./
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