Title: Better to Burn

Rating: R for ... well, for some pretty ugly stuff. Not pretty.

Notes: Ah, Jono. My walking ball of bundled flames. Makes a perfect victim for a good angst story, the unlucky sod. Moving on... The song you probably recognize is a lovely lil' ditty by Metallica called "No Leaf Clover." The one you don't recognize is one I actually wrote specifically for this story. :)

******

Better to burn out than fade away

Better to go the fast an' easy way.

Better to die to be recalled

Than live forgotten by one and all.

Jono stared down at the familiar lyrics, words he had written long ago at a time in his life when he was supposed to be happiest. And why hadn't he been? He certainly had no reason. At the time, he had carried decent marks in school, despite the fact he often stayed up until the early hours of the morning binging on whatever drug or alcoholic substance happened to be on the table. He had a pretty, loving girlfriend who adored him, a promising talent as a musician, and a band that was just starting to gain popularity in the powerful underground market.

So why had he still been completely miserable?

The Brit stared down at the notebook in his hands, barely listening to the song playing on the radio across the room.

Then it comes to be that the soothing light

At the end of your tunnel

Was just a freight train comin' your way.

He gave a humorless laugh at the words, then turned his attention back to the notebook, scarcely noticing the words that were scrawled out on it. His thoughts had been drawn back to his memories of his old home and old way of life.

He glanced down at his right arm, bare and exposed from his short-sleeved, beaten up Nine Inch Nails shirt which, appropriately enough, advertised the Pretty Hate Machine album on the back. Turning his arm over, he cringed at seeing the remaining scars of long, deep gashes running along the inside, forever marring the porcelain white flesh. Angelo had noticed them once, asked if his powers had finally driven him that far. Jono went along with it, not willing to admit that it had actually come about before he had any idea he was a mutant. He simply couldn't stand the thought of Angelo considering him a psychotic invalid like his parents had.

Jono shivered, remembering how he had let his darkest thoughts overwhelm him one night. Scared and alone, even though he had been lucky enough to be born into a loving family and be surrounded by any number of friends, he stumbled blindly into the bathroom to find the medicine cabinet, pulling from it the bottle of painkillers that had been given to his mother for the nerve she had pinched in her back while at work. He swallowed a handful of them, not bothering to count them out.

By then trembling violently at what he was about to do, Jono barely had the courage to hunt through the basket sitting on the counter to find a small box of unused razors. The plastic was pulled away and thrown carelessly to the floor, skittering across the ceramic tiling.

Staring down at the notebook, Jono clutched the spiral a bit tighter, feeling it bite deeper into his flesh, vaguely reminding him of the way the blade had torn through skin and muscle and vein. The painkillers hadn't done much to ease the pain of it all, causing him to cry out in surprise as he fell to the ground, staring in surprise at his arm and the evidence of his troubles.

Don't wanna live this way

Always perfect, always sane.

Can't live like this

The one no one will ever miss.



Never asked to be the one

No one suspects when all is done.

Never wanted to live the life

Of one so always empty inside.



Still I smile, still I laugh

They never question cheerful ones.

Still I act like nothing's wrong

They never care for happy ones.

He had written the song two days before that night in the bathroom, seeking any way to get his feelings out without telling anyone. He wouldn't have them pitying him, staring at him with sad, sympathetic eyes for the pathetic little psycho. When all else failed, he wrote.

He wasn't as talented with words as Gayle, who accounted for a good deal of the band's songs, but he thought he could hold his own when the mood struck. Unfortunately, he realized, that particular song had been the most revealing he had ever written. Too revealing, as it had been a solid factor in his parents' decision to put him into counseling.

Jono had awoken in an uncomfortable hospital bed to find himself in the company of his girlfriend, his best friend, and his father. All of them seemed less than thrilled to be there. Looking down at his arm, he found heavy gauze and bandages wrapped around it from his elbow down to his wrist.

Even while looking at Gayle's tear-filled eyes or his father's disappointed expression, or the look of simple stunned horror on his friend's face, Jono was sorry that he hadn't succeeded.

The notebook was clutched tighter to the point Jono was suddenly made aware of the metal wire digging into his palm. He pulled it away, stared at the ring imprints, then shrugged, tracing an invisible pattern on the faded white paper.

After waking, he found he felt even worse than he did before the attempt to end his life, knowing that he had hurt the people he cared most about. Knowing that he had been selfish enough not to care before then. Knowing that the only thing that had mattered to him was ending his own grief, not caring at all for what they might go through afterwards.

He was kept in the small, cramped room another day, driven nearly mad by the painful silence that reigned, until he was released into the care of a local center for troubled youth. Jono had considered it to be nothing but a psyche ward for teenagers, but he remained quiet, unwilling and perhaps unable to tell why exactly he had lost control.

The psychiatrist assigned to watch after him was a standard state psychiatrist, hired to pretend that she cared enough to hear about his problems. Again and again she would ask him what was troubling him, and every time Jono would tell her to fuck off in no uncertain terms, often in the same words. Of course, that was when he would even talk to her at all. Many times he would simply sit in the chair across from her, arms folded over his chest, slumped down in the hard plastic seat.

Unfortunately for him, he found that the more he told her to leave him alone, the more she would try to persuade him into talking through his problems. He would grow frustrated and stop talking period, then the woman would pack up her bags and leave. She would return the following day at the same time, settle herself down across from him, then start the cycle all over again.

Upon getting out of the mental rehab, so he had termed it, he tried to piece his life back together, tried to regain some semblance of normality again. The past year had taxed his nerves to the point of leaving him bitter with himself and others, something Gayle spent much of her time trying to pull him from. Just when he had thought she had succeeded in mending his battered spirit, the fire that had been literally and figuratively raging within him for the past several months erupted, taking half his body and any chance at a normal life with it.

Looking down at his treasured lyric notebook again, Jono tried to pinpoint the reason he had given in to the dark, frightening thoughts that claimed him that cold November night. He scanned the words to the song, hunting for anything that could tell what had managed to push him into the unreachable depths of his depression. He became aggravated, finding nothing at all that triggered any sort of memory.

The entire period of about a year and a half had been more or less erased from his memory, submerged in the same black pit that he himself had fallen into at one time.

*Wot in bloody 'ell 'appened t'me?* He asked himself quietly, scanning the words over and over again, eyes widening when he detected what he had been long searching for.

Lost in the crowd of all those

Who seem to care for me.

Broken, bruised, black inside

Alone in a world that they can't see.



Burden to them, they're a

Burden to me. To support their dreams,

Let them live through me.

When I'm gone, I'll be forgotten

Remembered as the pretty boy crutch.

If I die now, I'd at least be given

The chance to be what I want so much.



Don't want to be their little boy

Don't want to live to meet their means

Don't want to be their pride and joy.

Don't want to live, just want to be free.

Hot tears stung at Jono's eyes, causing him to brush them away with a shaking hand, the other one again gripping the notebook with the force of one who had just been made aware of something he had kept hidden for so long.

Better to burn out than fade away

Better to go the fast an' easy way.

Better to die to be recalled

Than live forgotten by one and all.

-Better To Burn, J. E. S. '93

A knock at the door startled him from his thoughts, causing him to drop the notebook to the floor. "Jono?"

*Door's unlocked.*

Paige walked inside seconds later, staring uneasily at her boyfriend, whose normally placid brown eyes appeared to be red-rimmed with unshed tears. "Anything wrong?"

*Nuh uh,* Jono assured quickly, following Paige's line of vision to the notebook.

"Didn't know you were a writer."

Jono stood, giving the notebook one last glance before kicking it sharply underneath the couch, then looking back up at Paige, the skin around his eyes crinkling faintly. He bent and pressed what had once been his lips to her forehead, then led her from the basement. *I'm not, Sunshine. Not anymore.*