TITLE: The Quality of Darkness
SPOILERS: Anything from the series is fair game.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Drake & Josh. All are owned by Dan Schneider, et al. I am not profiting in any way except creatively.

A/N: Here I go again - even the title tells you that it's not exactly a happy story! My intention is to alternate between present and past, what's happening now and the things that led up to it. I will even be switching tenses, so I hope it's not too confusing.

Chapter 1: Best Laid Plans

"Are you sure you're alright?" Josh asks, concern edging his voice despite the reaction he knows it will elicit in his brother.

Drake rolls his eyes and pastes his characteristic smirk in place. "Yes, Mom," he says sarcastically. He grabs Josh's hand and presses it to his forehead. "Do I feel hot?"

Josh knows Drake is just joking, but he chooses to take him seriously, carefully analyzing the temperature of Drake's skin beneath his palm. "No," he finally says reluctantly. He's not sure why a part of him wants Drake to still be sick; all he knows is that he doesn't want to leave him.

"See?" Drake drops his brother's hand and shifts his weight impatiently. "I'm fine," he says. "I don't need you to mother hen me."

Josh knows he should be relieved – this is the first time in almost a week that Drake has been out of bed, dressed, and interactive. He's even shaved for the first time in days. But when Josh looks at his brother, he can't keep the niggling feeling of worry from creeping into the back of his mind. Drake has lost weight and his usually tight clothes have a little extra room in them; dark circles accent his dark eyes, which are currently looking back at Josh with a bemused expression.

"Well, if you're sure…" he says and lets the thought trail off.

"Go," Drake insists, walking past him and over to the desk, where he busies himself shuffling papers. "I've got plans, too, you know."

This piques Josh's interest and he turns to face Drake. "Oh yeah?" This is a good sign, he thinks. He hasn't seen Drake go out anywhere in a long time. "What's her name?" he asks.

Drake turns his head and shoots Josh a look and Josh can see his brother's mouth curve into a small smile. "What makes you think it's a girl?" Drake asks.

Josh laughs, lifts his eyebrows. "Is there something you want to tell me?" he asks jokingly.

But the dynamic in the room suddenly shifts and Josh sees something raw flash in Drake's eyes. It vanishes so quickly, Josh isn't sure he's really seen it. "Nah," Drake says, shrugging it off casually. "Me and Scotty and Devon are gonna go see that new slasher movie." He looks so earnest that Josh forgets all about the look in his brother's eyes a moment ago.

"Blood Brothers?"

Drake laughs, a sound like music to Josh's ears. "Yeah. Ironic, huh?"

Josh doesn't have the heart to tell him that it would be more ironic if he and Drake were seeing it together, so he leaves it alone. "Yeah," he says. "Ironic."

"What time are you supposed to pick Sarah up?" Drake asks, the look on his face reflecting what Josh already knows – his "mother hen" routine has made him late.

Josh looks at his watch, his face falling. "In five minutes," he says sheepishly as he looks at Drake, sees the half-smirk on his brother's face.

"It's only your second date, Josh," Drake admonishes.

"I know, I know," Josh says, exasperated. He pats his pockets for his keys, digs them out of his left one.

"Four minutes," Drake reminds him and Josh can tell by his voice that he's enjoying himself.

Josh takes one last look at his brother. The feeling of worry is still there, but he ignores it. Drake looks okay; he's acting okay. Josh opens his mouth to speak.

Drake cuts him off. "Go," he says, pointing to the door.

Pausing, Josh thinks things over one last time. Finally, he nods. "Right. I should go." He turns on his heels and heads for the bedroom door, quickly descending the stairs. When he reaches the front door, he's startled when he hears Drake's voice right behind him.

"Stop and buy her some flowers on the way," he says. "Daisies," he adds, smiling. "Nothing says 'please forgive me for being late' like daisies."

Josh turns, focuses his eyes on Drake, who's standing in the doorway to the stairs with his arms crossed over his chest, smiling. "Daisies, huh?" He's now officially very late, but still he lingers, unable to leave.

"Trust me," Drake says.

A sudden pang of worry seizes Josh again and he tilts his head, asks again softly, "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Josh." The note of aggravation in Drake's voice is balanced by a note of affection.

"Okay, okay," Josh says, surrendering. He turns once again to go. His hand is on the doorknob when the urge to say just one more thing overtakes him. "Call me if you need anything," he says pointedly.

Josh is surprised when Drake doesn't roll his eyes. Instead, his brother just looks at him unblinking and says, "Goodbye, Josh."

"Yeah," Josh responds. "See ya."

When the door closes behind Josh, Drake lets out his breath. Finally. He stares at the closed door for a few seconds, then walks over to it and slides the deadbolt into place. Turning from the door, he stares into the living room, closing his eyes to listen to the silence around him. His mom and Walter are in San Francisco on a long weekend, Megan's spending the weekend at a friend's. He has the house to himself.

The relief at finally being alone almost overwhelms him and he takes in a long, deep breath, lets it out slowly. For the past week, he's felt like he's been living in a fishbowl with the rest of the world pressing their faces against the glass, watching his every move. When he inhaled, they inhaled. When he blinked, they blinked.

What's wrong with Drake? they all wanted to know.

"Nothing," he answers them, his voice carrying into the empty room. "Not anymore."

He turns to his left and walks into the kitchen, his stomach growling for the first time in weeks. The sensation brings a smile to his face – he's ravenous and the feeling makes him giddy. He opens the refrigerator and stares into it, his dark eyes scanning the contents. Settling on a bowl of tuna casserole, he reaches for it, pulling it out and letting the refrigerator door close on its own with a soft sound. He grabs a fork and peels back the plastic wrap, stabbing a forkful and putting it into his mouth. He thinks for a moment that it's the best thing he's ever tasted in his life and the thought brings instant, hot tears to his eyes. Chewing deliberately, he forces himself to swallow, then blinks away the moisture in his eyes as he replaces the plastic wrap and puts the rest away. He drops the fork in the sink like always and starts to walk away, then suddenly turns and washes it, placing it carefully in the strainer.

He doesn't want to leave a mess.

Flipping off the light as he pushes through the swinging door into the living room, he makes his way to the end table by the couch, leaning down and clicking off the lamp. He's in shadow and he realizes that he has been for a long time now, really. He smiles at the symbolism but it's brittle and soon crumbles away.

There are two more lights to take care of in the living room and he quickly extinguishes them, leaving only the light in the foyer. He steps up into the foyer and heads for the stairs, his fingers lingering on the light switch. With one last look over his shoulder, he flips the switch, plunging the entire downstairs into darkness. Only the porch light remains on, casting an elongated pattern through the glass onto the wood floor.

He climbs the stairs slowly and when he reaches the top, flips off that light as well. He turns off the hall light on his way into his room. He stands on the platform and looks around, a sigh escaping his lips. Josh's part of the room is right in front of him, neat as a pin – his bed is made, his pajamas are folded and put away under his pillow, his clothes are hung up, his shoes are matched and in alignment with one another. Josh's side of the room is a reflection of him – organized and well thought out.

Drake focuses his eyes on his part of the room and thinks that it, too, is a reflection of its occupant – chaotic and in disarray. Jumbled and disordered. But that's not how it is anymore. He's focused now. For the first time in a long time he feels in control of his life. He has a plan and he knows what he needs to do.

So he walks to his side of the room and starts to tidy it up. He makes his bed, smoothing the covers with his hands, fluffing his pillows. He puts the dirty clothes in the basket, folds and puts away the clean ones. He pairs up his shoes and lines them up on the floor at the foot of the loft bed. He collects all the empty soda cans and candy wrappers and puts them in the trash.

When he's done, he stands back and surveys his work. It's the neatest it's ever been and he's proud of himself. After all, he doesn't want to leave a mess – a mess would mean that he didn't think it through. And he has thought it through. To the end.

He doesn't know how much time has passed – he doesn't want to look at the clock – but when he looks out the window, he can see that it's completely dark.

It's time, he decides, and the realization calms him. A surreal feeling of serenity washes over him and he can feel the corners of his mouth lifting in a tiny smile. He takes off his shoes and places them next to the others in the line on the floor. He turns to the desk and pulls out the upper left-hand drawer, feels inside towards the back, secures his fingers around what he is looking for – he knows it's there because he put it there himself a week ago. He pulls it out and closes the drawer, walking over to Josh's side of the room. Climbing up, he sits on the edge of Josh's bed and stares into the dark hallway, the utility knife heavy and solid in his hand.

He holds it in his right hand, the back of his hand resting on his knee, his thumb pushing the slider along its side up and down, up and down. He slides the blade out and looks down at it – its dull gray surface dully reflects the light, but when he turns it slightly, the polished edge of the razor blade glints brightly. It's a new blade; he opened the knife with a Phillips-head screwdriver and replaced the blade himself after he took it from Walter's toolbox a week ago.

Josh's mattress is soft, he realizes, as he shifts his weight on the bed. He wonders briefly if his brother will be able to sleep in this room after tonight. He's not sure he'd be able to if the tables were turned. He thinks about leaving Josh a note, has thought about it all week, but again decides against it. What would he say? Dear Josh, I'm sorry. But if you lived inside my head, you'd want to die, too just doesn't seem like enough.

He slides the blade back down into the utility knife and stands up, turning to smooth the covers carefully back over Josh's bed. He wants to leave everything as it was.

Turning off the light on his way out, he walks down the dark hallway to the bathroom, his fingers finding the light switch and flipping it on. He blinks against the sudden brightness as he steps inside and closes the door behind him, turning the lock on the doorknob.

He sets the utility knife on the counter next to the sink and stares at his reflection in the mirror. He does look sick, he realizes. No wonder everyone's been hovering around him like nursemaids. Everyone except Megan, who has shown her concern by not pulling any pranks on him.

He touches his face, his fingertips brushing across the freckles that stand in stark contrast to his pale skin, then over the dark circles that shadow his eyes. When he pulls his fingers away, he realizes they're wet.

No, he tells himself as he wipes the tears away fiercely. No.

He takes a deep breath and exhales slowly, bringing his focus back. He cannot falter now, not when he is so close to achieving the peace he wants more than anything. That's what this is all about, after all – quieting the demons that live inside his head.

He squeezes his right forefinger and thumb into the little change pocket on his right hip, pulling out a tiny orange tablet and dropping it into his left palm. He repeats the action three more times until the four pills he stashed there earlier that evening rest side-by-side in his palm. He looks down at them, lining them up with the tip of his right index finger, then shaking his left hand to scatter them again, the tiny pills clicking softly against each other.

He has been taking them for a week – one a day for the last five days. He hopes it is enough. He's been siphoning them from Walter's Coumadin prescription – a medication used to keep the blood from clotting. Walter takes them to help him live; Drake is taking them to help him die.

The irony, this time, is completely lost on Drake.

Drake watches in the mirror as he presses his left palm to his open mouth, feels the pills land softly on his tongue. He takes his hand away and presses his lips together, tasting the bitterness as the pills start to dissolve. Finally, he turns on the water and bends his head to the faucet, cupping water to his mouth and swallowing the pills down. He finishes the action by splashing water over his face, then stands up and stares into the mirror again, watching as the water drips unimpeded down his face and soaks into the collar of his t-shirt.

After a minute, he walks over to the shower and turns it on, adjusting the temperature until it is as hot as he can stand it. Then he begins to undress. He takes off his socks and lays them on the back of the toilet. Then he peels off his shirt, folding it neatly and placing it on the counter. He takes off his jeans, stepping out of them as the steam starts to build up around him. He folds those neatly as well, placing them on the toilet lid and stacking the shirt and socks on top of them. Finally, he removes his boxers, folding them in half and laying them on top of the stack.

He turns back towards the mirror, watching as his reflection begins to disappear behind a thin veneer of condensation, closing his eyes and breathing in the steam in long, slow lungfuls. When he opens his eyes again, the mirror is completely steamed over.

Taking the utility knife in his hand, he pushes open the curtain and steps into the shower, the hot water stinging his skin. He stands under the stream, letting his body adjust, pushing his face into the water, the sound loud in his ears.

He stands there until he can see the veins in his wrists stand out prominently against his skin. Then he lowers himself to the bottom of the tub and leans back against the cool tile, drawing his knees up. He slides the blade of the knife out as far as it will go. He rests the back of his left wrist against his knee and lets his hand relax, the fingers curled slightly.

He lifts the blade to his wrist, placing it carefully against the protruding vein. "Forgive me," he whispers as he presses the blade into his skin, drawing it slowly down the length of his vein. He doesn't feel any pain, and has only one regret – that Josh will be the one to find him. He watches, detached, as the first drops of dark red blood appear, spilling down his arm. He stares in silence as the blood gets washed away, follows the thin red ribbon with his weary eyes as it disappears down the drain.

He's glad; he doesn't want to leave a mess, after all.

To be continued...

I'm a little hesitant about this one considering the subject matter, so please let me know what you think. Be honest, but don't be mean! Please review; thanks!