Warnings: Spoilers for "The Hive". Swearing. Drinking. Graphic drug use.
Note: This is the third story in my "The Dark of Days" cycle. The first was "The Dark of Days". The second was "Reasons Why Not".
Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money, yadda, yadda, yadda.
He'd usually sneak out at night, after his mum had fallen into bed, exhausted from her day. She worked hard, his mammy did; she was usually gone before he got up for school, and sometimes didn't get home until well past dark. And all that work, all that effort, for what? For him. He seemed hardly worth it.
Today, though; today, unlike most days, Carson was out early. He had to be. He'd been without for far too long, and the cravings were beginning to edge over into the early stages of withdrawal. But he'd had no money, finally breaking down and swiping a few quid from his mum's stash at the back of her bureau drawer, waiting until she'd left for work before making a quick call from the phone on the corner.
Carson headed down the street, passing a couple of abandoned art-deco cinemas before he ducked into the first derelict railway viaduct. He waited there in the darkness, looking out across the sunlit waste ground towards a nearby tract of unimaginative 1970's housing. He could see kids his own age playing, skateboarding on the pavement, their shouts sharp and clear in the soft, late-summer air.
Sixteen they looked, like him, with their whole lives before them. He'd had his life before him, but already he'd...
His hand shook, and he knew that it was coming. So he waited.
He heard someone approaching and turned to see his friend there, smiling as he held a small poke of brown powder in Carson's direction.
Thank fuck, Carson thought, returning a shaky smile of his own.
Rodney showed up at his door again; second time in a week.
"I come bearing gifts, greetings and salutations," he said quickly, holding up a bottle and two clear glasses.
Carson raised an eyebrow.
Rodney shifted in the doorway and his smile fell away. "I wanted to talk to you about what we were...talking about the other day."
Carson crossed his arms over his chest and leaned a shoulder against the doorframe. "I think it would be best if you discussed this with Ronan or Teyla." When Rodney made to interrupt, he continued, his voice warmer. "They're going through same thing you are, Rodney."
"Yeah, I know. Probably, but...it's not quite the same, the situation they're in versus mine, and I think you might have more of an idea...If you don't mind, I mean, I..."
Carson nodded wearily and waved him in. "It's all right."
Carson sat on the pavement under the viaduct, his back to the damp wall, staring down at the bag in his hand.
His hand was shaking.
He shut his eyes. Closing his fingers around the bundle, he let the soft sounds of skateboards wheels and playful shouts lull him.
Liar, thief, addict, he thought, opening his eyes and staring at the far wall. "Stop!" the graffiti ordered. "Repent!" And he wished that he could. He'd undo everything. His whole life.
He set the bag down beside him and reached inside his jacket pocket, grabbing his works.
Why had he started? To be honest, he couldn't remember anymore. He shook his head. It hadn't seemed a big deal at the time - it was the summer holidays, and, away from school, he'd reconnected with his neighbourhood friends. They'd all been dabbling, so he'd figured, why not? And he'd tried to stop, that once, he'd tried, but God. Then the entire summer had gone by in fast-forward. Now his dreams were dead, and it was too late.
Gently, he poured the brown powder into his spoon and heated it with his lighter. Once the mix had liquefied, he fed it into his syringe. He swirled it gently and thought about his life: his family, his future, his friends; everything that he was throwing away.
No. Had already thrown away. All for the sake of this.
He pushed up his sleeve and stared down at his arm, clenching and unclenching his fist, getting ready.
Maybe it would help him to forget.
He pushed the needle through his skin, into the vein. His hand was shaking, and he pushed the plunger, injecting the drug quickly, before could change his mind.
He pulled out the needle, his eyes rolling back as he felt the rush.
Carson took a careful sip of his drink. "Should probably give this up, too," he said wryly. "But I gave up smoking before I joined Atlantis."
Rodney raised his own glass. "One addiction at a time." He took a sip and tapped a nervous finger against the rim of the glass. "You'd said you were sixteen."
"Aye." Carson looked down and swirled the drink in his glass, the amber liquid gently sloshing against the sides. He'd been sixteen when he'd first started. Sixteen, "So damn young," he said aloud. "And so much pressure, most of it self-imposed." His smarts had set him apart from the other kids in his neighbourhood, most of whom had ended up on drugs, in jail, or worse. But not him, oh no, he'd set his sights high, vowing to do well for his mum, for his neighbourhood, for himself.
He leaned forward, holding the glass between both hands. "There had been all of these expectations on me and I, I just shut down. I was sixteen, with all the pressure of school and everything else, and that summer came and it was like I just, I don't know, quit." He downed the rest of the drink in one fast swallow.
He was sixteen, away at public school on scholarship, caught between two worlds - that of his friends and family, and that of his peers at school. It had been...Carson took a slow, measured breath. It had been quite a bad time. In the end, he'd felt out of place in both of them. Carson poured himself another drink. "I'm not sure that was the reason, though - I'm not sure of the real reason why."
"It started during the summer holidays, after exams," he said, raising his eyes to meet Rodney's. "I came home and fell back into neighbourhood life, reconnected with my friends there. And it was all around me. And I was sixteen." And he'd thought, why not?
Carson woke up under the viaduct, alone. He sat there a moment, trying to get past the disorientation, and watched as the setting sun illuminated the curve of the brick above him. He rubbed a rough hand across his face, then used it to help himself stand. His mum would be home soon. He needed to get home.
He wandered past scruffy shops, passing the occasional housing developments interspersed with land that had lain abandoned for as long as he could remember. Walking by one empty Victorian tenement, he stopped and stared up at the broken windows. The structure had an odd sort of beauty there in the sunlight, the sunset making the sandstone glow, setting the windows on fire. There was history, there, but it was empty, now. Wasted. Useless.
The wind whipped litter past on the empty street, and he started walking again.
"How'd you stop?" Rodney asked, his glass propped on one bouncing knee.
"Well, not by choice, actually," Carson said with mild sarcasm. "Not conscious choice, anyway." He smiled tightly and raised his glass. "It was thrust upon me."
Carson placed his hands on the sink and looked in the mirror. His mum had just gone to bed, and the house was silent and still around him. But him, he was a bundle of frantic energy, itching, twitching, desperate -
Squatting down, he reached up underneath the sink, his fingers finding the hole where the pipes entered the wall. Carefully, slowly, he grasped the edge of the bag, easing it out of its hiding place. Palming it quickly, he stood and confronted himself in the mirror. He looked sick; pale, with dark rings under his eyes. He wondered if his mum had noticed.
He shook his head and looked down at the bag in his hand. Not here, he thought. He never did drugs in the house - he just couldn't. There was something about that, he couldn't sully - he shook his head again and closed his eyes. So, out.
Edging open the bathroom door, he took a quick look down the hall. His mum's door was shut, no light bleeding from underneath her doorway. He strode quickly, down the hall and out, hitting the street in a near-run as he headed for the church opposite. Not caring who might see him, he ducked under its steps and jumped into the alcove below, standing in the disused space as he let his eyes get used to the dimness. He pulled out his works, the bag, and pushed up his sleeve in a rush.
He heard a noise, and he looked up.
"Carson," his mum said flatly, disappointment more than shock written on her face, and he felt his world crumple around him.
"So, she'd known for a while, eh?" Rodney said, his gaze sharp and open.
"Known?" Carson echoed. "More, suspected, I think. I do have to say, when she finally caught me, she gave me a kicking," he said, his smile feeling stiff on his lips. "Then she slammed me into rehab, which is where I spent the rest of that delightful summer and a good part of the autumn."
"Sorry about that."
"I'm not," Carson said with feeling. "If she hadn't caught me, I'm not sure where I would have ended up. Or if."
They sat in silence for a moment, until Rodney asked, "How did people treat you, after?"
"I missed a term, then I was back at school like nothing had happened, no one there the wiser." Carson smiled. "From then on, mum made sure I was away for the summers."
"Smart woman," Rodney said, raising his glass in something like a toast.
Carson raised his own glass. "That she was," he said.
"I worry, sometimes," Rodney said. "About people knowing. How they might feel about that. What it might do to my career, how'd they'd view my work, if they knew."
"It was not your fault, though."
Rodney shrugged. "Not," he said, his finger beating a drumbeat on the edge of his glass. "Right. Hmm." He winced. "Still."
Carson leaned forward. "Not your fault, Rodney," he repeated forcefully.
"I know," Rodney replied, rocking back in his chair, his hands flying everywhere as he spoke. "But what I told you, before. I meant that. I still mean that. If I had it here now, I'm not sure that I'd...I'm not sure. Of how strong I'd be. I'd like to think that I wouldn't, but..." Rodney shrugged, and took a long gulp of his drink.
Carson stared beyond where Rodney was sitting, his eyes coming to rest on his top dresser drawer. "You have to determine your reasons why not. Hopefully, they're strong enough to pull you back when -"
"You have reasons why not?" Rodney said quickly.
Carson returned his gaze to Rodney's, and nodded.
"And they are?" Rodney said, seemingly impatient, but Carson could tell that there was something desperate underneath the bluster.
So Carson thought, and told him.
As the door closed behind Rodney, Carson stepped to his bureau. Sliding open the top drawer, he thrust a hand under the clothing inside and grasped the box at the back. He pulled it out roughly and sat, hard, on his bed, his hand clenched around the small container.
He'd kept this for...actually, he wasn't sure why. Security, maybe, or to remind himself. Or, he thought without emotion, because he was an addict, and despite the fact that he hadn't touched the stuff in years, he was still an addict, and he just couldn't -
"Oh, fuck it," he said aloud, his voice harsh. "That's enough." He flicked open the box and, without looking, palmed the items that lay inside. Walking quickly, he strode to the bathroom and threw the bundle into the toilet. Before he could change his mind, he flushed, then watched it swirl away.
He closed his eyes briefly, then raised his head and stared at his worn face in the mirror.
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