Title: Sepsis
Author: pari106
Pairing: implied Krit/Zack
Warning: implied slash
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Disclaimer: DA's not mine.
Feedback: please :)
E-mail: pari106@hotmail.com
Archive: if you want it, ask
URL: http://www.geocities.com/pari106/index.html
Summary: You've had your heart broken before...and the pieces
always fit back together nice and pretty. But there's never been any
regret to wear away at the edges, like there is now...

Thanks: to Owl, my beta.

A/N: Hope you all like this :)



Ah. The many fringe benefits of growing up with a military
background.

There are so many that they never mention in those campy old tv ads
you still see from time to time. "Be all you can be" they always say,
but little else. They never mention the impressive military vocabulary
with which a soldier can impress his friends. Probably because
friendship isn't one of the fringe benefits of a military background. At
least, not one like yours.

But they don't mention other things either. Like fear. With your
Manticore military background, you've never been afraid of the things
other people fear. You know that other people used to be afraid of the
dark when they were kids. Or the Boogeyman, whoever the fuck that
is. Or spiders. Some people are still afraid of those things, but you
never were. No, when you were a kid Manticore gave you a whole
other world of things to be afraid of.

In your dreams. Because showing fear elsewhere would have been
unacceptable.

But in your dreams you didn't fear spiders or the Boogeyman or the
dark. You still don't, although *real* men and women occassionally
creep you out and you've never liked dogs. When you dream you
dream about Armageddon. You dream with a vividry and an attention
to details of which most people are incapable, lacking your training.
Once, when you were about eight, you dreamed about a Nomalie. You
had a nightmare that one of the anomalies in the basement broke out
and ate three of your toes before you could get out of bed and fight
back. And the scary part wasn't losing your toes. It wasn't the
Nomalie. It was the fact that you hadn't been on your guard; that the
damned, freaky thing had gotten near you without you knowing it. And
the only reason he'd been able to take two more, after that first little toe
dissappeared, was because you'd been frozen in your bed. So terrified
by what your TAC leader would say in the morning that you couldn't
move.

Yeah…you were a pretty fucked up kid.

Oh, what a difference seventeen years has made. Now you're still a
fucked up kid. But you're old enough to drink. And drive. And buy a
gun. And have sex, and thereby possibly create more fucked up kids
with which to populate the fucked up world. Cheers for time and all its
done to improve your life.

Fear. Thanks to your background, you don't really fear anything
anymore. Except for returning to the place you came from, and you
and Syl swore to die before that happens. You don't fear death. But
sepsis… You don't really fear anything anymore except sepsis.

"Sit still," Syl grumbles as you squirm.

"I'm trying," you complain. And you are.

In fact, from your point of view, you're sitting absolutely still. But the
amount of liquor you've consumed throughout the evening might have
something to do with that. Maybe. Speaking of which…

You take one more swig from the near-empty bottle in your hand,
knowing that it will soon be confiscated. Then you tip the bottle and
pour its remaining contents over the bulletwound in your shoulder. The
wound Syl had been trying to clean.

"Jesus, Krit!"

You are *so* going to pay for that when you sober up. If you don't
bleed to death; drinking and getting shot really don't mix. But if killing
the creeping/crawling things you imagine flocking to the gaping hole in
your body means risking death by whiskey shower and an angry Syl, so
be it. You're game. Because nothing is worse than that; than infection.
Sepsis. The bacteria that can flood a cavity left by a bullet, causing
more damage than the bullet itself. Even after the surface of the wound
has already healed, if you aren't careful.

Which is why you're always careful. Careful not to get shot. Careful
to keep clean when you get shot anyhow. You're always careful so you
don't get shot often and you've never gotten an infection. But how
lucky can one man be?

Syl is swearing like a sailor as she recleans your wounds and reaches
for the bandages. The world is going fuzzy, but you have enough sense
left to realize that she'd have smacked you by now if you weren't
already in such bad shape. "What the fuck were you thinking,
anyhow?" she asks.

You don't answer. To be honest, you don't think you were thinking.
Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you think too much, and that's when
you really get yourself into trouble.

"There were, like, four of them and you knew they were packing. If I
hadn't been around, you'd be so much bloody pulp by now. Were you
trying to ruin my night?"

She's pissed. More importantly, she's worried. And maybe scared.
Syl's told you that the thought of you getting yourself killed and Zack's
smile are the only two things that have ever scared her, and she's
scared. So, naturally, she acts even more pissed than she was to begin
with. That's her defense mechanism, you know: anger. Yours is
humor.

"It was a slow night," you say. Humor is your defense mechanism.
That isn't to say that you're actually funny.

Syl is purposefully ungentle with her ministrations to tell you so.

"Ow!"

"Serves you right," she grumbles. But now she's rinsing out the towels
she used to clean away your blood and is wiping your brow; running
her fingers through your hair, soothing. You're slumped practically to
the floor on her kitchen chair, the cracked vinyl of its seat digging into
your bare back. Syl's kneeling by your side.

Syl's nice. That thought suddenly strikes you, and it would have struck
you as hilarious if you'd been more like yourself. Syl - nice. Right.
Except it's true, where you and the others are concerned, and you're not
much like yourself at the moment, so this realization isn't at all funny.
It's a little sad.

The last thing you need right now is Syl being nice to you. You don't
need anyone to be nice to you. Life hasn't been very nice lately. And
anything that has just makes it hurt that much worse.

"Krit..."

You don't recognize the tear streaking down your face for what it is
until you hear the way Syls says that. "Krit..." She never says 'Krit'
like that. It's always: "Krit! You bastard!" or "Krit! Get out of here,
I'm in heat!"

Well, maybe not the second one so often, but it certainly feels like it.
Mostly it's always different variations of the first. It's never "Krit..."
like you're her favorite puppy and someone's kicked you.

"You gotta stop doing this," Syl is saying, and you're not quite sure
what she means. The drinking, the fighting, or the crying? You
certainly know which one is the easiest to end, so you wipe away the
moisture on your cheek with one grubby hand and...

Oh. Well what do you know? Syl didn't confiscate your whiskey after
all. You were holding the bottle this entire time, and now it's dropped,
forgotten, to the floor, shattering all over Syl's dirty linoleum. She
simply sighs, and you know you're pathetic when Syl doesn't kick your
ass for polluting her already polluted apartment.

"Did you really think it was gonna work?" she asks. And you really
wish you weren't quite sure what she means. The drinking. The
fighting. Or the reason that you were crying. But you know. And
usually you'd just fake it, act dumb; avoid the conversation you'd like to
avoid indefinitely. But you feel guilty. For the peices of broken glass
on the floor, and the pieces of the heart Syl's helped you put back
together one too many times. For the blood staining the cracked vinyl
of the chair you're sitting on and the hot date you know Syl lost because
she had to run off and save your lousy ass again.

So you don't fake it. And to be honest, it feels kinda nice to just let the
act drop. You still don't have much use for anything "nice", but you
really don't need to feel guilty right now, either, so it's a trade-off.

"I don't know," you say. Your words are more slurred now from
exhaustion than alcohol. And you really don't - know, that is. You
think it could have worked. Not the fighting or the drinking, but the
other thing. That other thing. It could have worked.

"You know how Zack is about Max," Syl says.

Yes, Max. Zack is obsessed with Max. You know that. 'Gee, thanks
for the reminder, Syl,' you think, but don't make a sound aloud. You
know Zack is obsessed with Max; you all know it. You all say
"obsessed" rather than something a little more sentimental. The others
do it because the thought of Zack getting sentimental disturbs them.
And Syl does it for your sake. You do it because it's easier to handle
that way.

And not. It's not easy thinking about why Zack might be obsessed with
Max. Why that obsession can't rub off a little on his thoughts of you;
you who look just like Max, except for being a man and her a woman.
It's not easy thinking that maybe Zack is obsessed with Max *because*
she's a woman and looks just like you. It's not easy thinking that
maybe Zack was only ever with you when he was because you look just
like Max and he couldn't have her.

You're thinking too much again.

"It's gonna be okay, Krit," Syl says. And you know it will, even though
it doesn't feel like it at the moment. One more benefit of your military
upbringing: you know it will always be okay. You'll always be okay.
You'll survive until you don't, and there's nothing that will happen
along the way that will slow you down for long. There's nothing that
can. Because you were designed to survive anything; to heal.

You'll heal. Like you have a thousand times before. You've had your
heart broken before, and you've always moved on. You're usually more
careful than you were with Zack, so you don't break often and even
when you do, the peices always fit back together nice and pretty. But
there's never been any regret to wear away at the edges, like there is
now. No real regret. And the hole in your body feels like it's a little
further left than where you know you were shot. It feels like you've
been bleeding for a lot longer than a night.

"If you're lucky," Syl is saying, "Maybe I'll even forego wreaking
vengeance on you tomorrow, for making a mess of my only Saturday
off this week."

Worried. Syl is still worried, and a little scared. But she's not angry
anymore, and she's joking around to tell you so. And you're still tired,
and your shoulder still hurts, but you smile. You hear Syl's words and
smile. She doesn't notice that the smile is totally fake, but you're still
too preoccupied with trying not to do that other thing besides fighting
and drinking to care.

"Zack doesn't believe in luck," you say. You're half-asleep, but wide
awake at the same time. Scared, too - but not of creeping/crawling
things anymore; of pain that doesn't seem to realize it's coming from
the wrong side of your body. Of sepsis, but of another kind than the
one Syl's cleaned and bandaged your shoulder in order to prevent.

You're scared because you've always been so careful. But the one time
you chose to be careless it was with Zack. And Zack's never believed
in luck, but you do. You've never let a heartbreak slow you down for
long, but you believe in luck. And you believe yours has just run out.