Not All Hugs are Rainbows

Depression hugs him like a friend. Warm and thick and all-encompassing. A bad friend though, because he's one dropped mug, one accident, one negative word away from crying. He would be better off elsewhere, but the hug won't end.

So, he stays within the hug, where everything is grey and constant. Nothing can get to him there. Nothing can get through. Here, he decides, is safe. Here, he doesn't have to think about what led him into this state.

He's numbed beyond thought, beyond control, his breath caught in his chest, a tightness there.

Then, there's a knocking sound at his door. He pulls the sheets higher, over his head.

When that doesn't mute the sound - as the knocking doesn't let up - he returns the sheet and uses the second pillow on his bed to cover his head, clamping it down with one arm. That blocks out more, but not enough. He manages a groan of protest.

"You can't stay in there forever." Stella. Of course it would be Stella. Part of him rebels against the rest of him, is happy to hear her voice. But the thick grey pulls him back into its embrace.

"Mac?"

He groans.

"I'm coming in," she informs him, and he hears the distinct click of his front door opening and closing. The blanket pulls him in further. Why did he give her a key again?

Outside, in his apartment, Stella moves around. Things clank and hiss.

Then, footsteps approach his door. Stella knows, he can feel it. She knows him too well.

He says nothing. His brain shuts off and he can't thick what to say.

"I made tea," Stella tries.

The part of him that's glad she's here warms.

"It's probably not great tea," she adds, "but…"

He can almost see her shrug, as the depths of his mind pull at a memory. He pushes it away, not ready to relive a happy moment. Not yet.

The bedroom door opens. Slow, hesitant. Then a mug clanks onto his bedside table.

He squeezes his eyes shut tighter and doesn't realise he's holding his breath until Stella's weight pushes down the bed. He can feel her through the sheets - not her warmth yet, as the quilt is thick and it'll take time to steal her heat, but her shape. Her thigh is pressed against his side.

"You know," she tells him, conversationally, as if she isn't basically sitting on top of him through his bedsheets, "none of that was your fault."

He freezes. Of course it was his fault. How could it not have been? He let the bad guy win, and people died. He should have saved them.

"I know you don't agree with me right now, but you'll see it soon enough."

He swallows.

"Mac? I'll be right here if you need me." She hesitates. Then, clarifies. "In the other room, I mean. I have a book."

Something pats his shoulder through the sheets, and then Stella's weight and heat leave the mattress. He waits until the bedroom door clicks to shift the sheet back off his face. His face feels warm - not just from being under the covers with no air flow, but from his own behaviour.

He's an adult. He can't hide from this, not forever. Soon enough, he'll have to deal with it and move on.

He lays in bed for another hour before he talks himself into climbing out of bed and pulling on a clean shirt. He leaves his room, expecting Stella to be gone, for there to maybe be a note in her place, but she's curled up on his couch with a book, her attention absorbed by it.

"Hey," he says. His throat catches as he says it, so he tries again. "Hey, Stella."

She looks up. Smiles. "Mac. Good to see you."

He stares at her awkwardly for a moment, shoves his hands in his pockets. He manages a small smile. "You mentioned there was tea?"

A nod. "I'll make us a fresh batch."

He in no way is fixed and the pain is still livid inside of him. But having a friend there to help him through this is more than he could have hoped for. It makes him hopeful that he'll find a way past this - or that if he doesn't, at least he won't be alone.

fin.