Disclaimer: I own nothing. Even sold my soul to the devil for a pack of Marlboros.

A/N: Ahh... Now *this* is more like it. Angst. My personal specialty. As much fun as it was to have Pietro force Todd to take a bath, this is way more my speed. It is, again, in my happy little world where the Brotherhood is perfectly alright- no women, no betrayals, thus making life good. Er... ish. Good-ish.

Warnings: Slash, Pietro-angst, language, suicide attempts, cutting... All the wonderful things you heard about in preschool.

"spoken"

'thought'

~*~

After the Applause Dies Down

by Wolfie

~Prologue~

'I'm getting paler...'

He stared down at his wrist, at the alabaster flesh and the blue veins beneath. He was trembling, if only slightly, trying to fight back the sickening urges that kept rising up within him. In his mind, he could still envision the last time he'd given in- the contrast of crimson on white, the sweet, searing pain... Lower lip caught between his teeth, he curled his arm in, against himself and shook his head.

He wouldn't.

He wouldn't.

A single tear spilled down his cheek.

"Pietro!"

His small frame jerked in surprise and he quickly looked toward his bedroom door.

"We're leavin'! If you're gonna ride with us, you better get your ass down here!!"

He exhaled, barely aware he'd been holding his breath. Angrily, he wiped at the tear that had dared to fall, and then, at Quicksilver speed, grabbed his backpack and ran downstairs to where Lance waited in the Jeep.

"Shotgun!" The snowy haired teen cried as he leapt over the door and into the passenger's side seat. Lance gave him an odd look, but said nothing, simply drumming his fingers on the steering wheel as Todd and Fred left the house at a much slower pace.

"Man, I hate it when he does that," Todd was grumbling, glaring at Pietro as he got into the back seat with Fred. The speedster flashed a grin, then smacked the dashboard a few times.

"Alright, alright! Let's go!"

~*~

Todd watched silently as Pietro chattered, a bright smile on the slightly older mutant's effeminate face. He couldn't help but feel that Pietro was acting... odd. Cheerful was fairly normal, but it seemed different that day. It was almost... too much. As if Pietro was overcompensating for... something. Todd wasn't completely sure. Sometimes he envied Pietro for his quick wit, and even quicker observances. Maybe, if he was smart like that, he'd be able to see what- exactly- was wrong.

"You alright, Todd?" Fred asked, nudging the smaller boy gently. Todd gave a vague nod.

"Yeah... Just thinkin'..."

"Don't hurt yourself," He forced a smile.

"Yeah, man. Don't worry," Slowly, he stood, taking his lunch and tray with him, "I got some shit to do... I'll see ya later," And with that, he left, not bothering to look back to see the confused looks on his friends' faces.

"Wonder what's wrong with him?" Lance asked, looking down at the 'food' the cafeteria staff tried to convince him was edible. Fred didn't seem to be having too much trouble with it, but he wasn't so sure...

"I dunno. We should keep an eye on him, though," Fred stated with a nod, "He's lookin' suicidal or somethin' like that," Pietro's gaze darkened imperceptably.

"Nah. I'm sure he's fine. Probably just girl troubles..." Lance and Fred gave him an strange look, but then both shrugged, and let the subject go.

~tbc~

Whee. Ok, no- the slash won't be Pietro/Todd- just in case you got that impression. Really. I would never *ever* do that to poor Pie. ^_^'' Not that I don't love the Toad, but... Yeah. No.

So, uh, review now, huh? Constructive criticism is welcome. Flames, however, are not. They will be laughed at, and then used to burn flamers at the stake. Review responsibly now!