A/N: Dark, unhappy Danny on the verge of mental breakdown. My muse is an angsty one. Also, I was going to wait longer to post this on the Pit, but due to a rather flattering/maddening turn of events on livejournal, I thought I'd establish here that THIS FIC CAME FIRST, OKAY!

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I love fine point ink pens.

There's always one around, in my pants pocket, in my hand, on my desk, hiding in my backpack. It doesn't matter what color, but I use black the most. They're the easiest to get, and the most inconspicuous. They're also the starkest, the most spare… the most real of any color.

You see, I need to draw. I need to draw my emotions, the expressions on a stranger's face, the particular set to shoulders on a given day, the crook of an elbow of a sleeping classmate.

The subject matters in the same way that the pens do.

It's all well and good for artists to draw pictures of paladins and Xena and angels. It's a good escape, and some of them even have a wonderful style that I might emulate if I felt the need.

But I could never draw fantasy like that. Drawing, for me, is all about that one slice of reality. The one second that the guy sitting diagonally in front of me cracks his knuckles, the two years that lunchbox has spent sitting underneath that desk. It's about the way Dash's hands look when he always grabs the nerds by the collar, or the way that Sam's eyes narrowed today when she glowered at Tucker's hamburger.

I draw them on notecards: easy to hide underneath a book or a hand, and they fit in my pockets.

Here, the pens matter most of all, for without a pen, I can't draw the subject, and it will torment me until I can (fucking compulsions). Stroke after stroke, black ink fills the paper, lines upon lines forming two-dimensional veracity.

I use ink because it flows onto the paper like my frustrations, like my emotions, and like a torrent. It smudges, and blurs, and is generally imperfect at everything, and I can't erase any of my mistakes. None. Even when the sketch is finished, you can see what I did to get there. The guidelines and wrong turns are there in plain sight, immovable.

They're my best-kept secret, considering Tucker and Sam know about the halfa thing. If either of them were to find any… well, I don't want to deal with their harping or praise. "Oh Danny, you're such a good artist, you should get an art degree" or "Oh Danny, why don't you draw pictures of something interesting". It's not about praise. It's not about how good I am. It's not about how good they want me to be. It's about life.

No one would understand, I think, about my need to grasp that small bit of truth by the horns and hold on as much as possible. The sketches… they're like my tenuous connection to the world I used to live in, full only of homework, bullies, and family. I draw reality, the small things that are mundane to everyone but someone who bleeds ectoplasm. I draw the mistakes that everyone makes, the blunders of the permanent past. That's why I use ink; it mirrors real life more closely than graphite.

These representations, they're my counselors, the little things reminding me that if I don't keep up the fight, keep pushing day after day, that poster won't be there to curl up at the edges, or that bumper sticker won't be around to offend. Each sketch is a physical reminder that I have to pull myself back from the edge, a way to ground myself.

But the edge, it's there all the time. I don't know how to stop it, only to stall it. I see it in the way the sketches just suddenly stop at the edges of the postcard, and in the sharpness of the lines, but I also cage it there, away from my occasional mental freaks.

I'm afraid, though, that one day, Tucker will borrow one of my textbooks and find a notecard.

I'm worried that Jazz will find my stash of black ink pens and take them for herself.

I'm terrified that Sam will notice something's up.

They're still teenagers, still human. They wouldn't be able to understand, much less help. No one can.

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