The Beginning

"Oh, God…my head hurts," he thinks upon waking. At least, he thinks he's awake.

Is it possible to be in this much pain and still be asleep? He doesn't think so, which must mean he's awake.

He tries to open his eyes, but his body doesn't want to cooperate. So, he continues to lie there wishing that the throbbing pain residing between his temples would just magically go away. He rubs his eyes with his hands, willing them to open. He takes a deep breath, trying to rouse himself further into the land of the living, and stretches his arms over his head before bringing them slowly back to the covers that blanket his chest.

Slowly blinking his eyes open, he tries to focus on the room around him, but the blinding sunlight peering around the corner of the curtains causes him to shut his eyes quickly. The bright light only succeeds to increase the pain that still lingers annoyingly in his head.

With only a moment's notice, he rushes towards the bathroom where the contents of his stomach empty into the toilet bowl. It seems like hours pass as he sits there hugging the icy porcelain while resting his forehead on his shaky arms and waiting for the nausea to pass. He vaguely becomes aware of the fact that he's completely naked, but further thoughts are driven from his mind as he once again pays homage to the Porcelain God.

Feeling as if there's nothing left inside that could even remotely travel upward, he slowly begins to push himself up off the cold, tiled floor. Using his hands to steady himself on the wall, he leans in and turns on the shower. As he waits for the water to heat up, he briefly wonders where his roommates could be. Stepping into the shower, he realizes that having the room to himself in his current state is an added bonus. He really doesn't need any witnesses to this morning's events.

The hot water streaming from the shower head helps sooth his tired body. His mind begins to wander over last night's events. He remembers playing at the dance club and finishing the set with his band. A group of girls joined them for drinks afterwards, and he remembers chatting with a few of them while downing a few beers before progressing onto shots…shots of tequila, he thinks.

After that, his recollections become decidedly blurry.

Knowing that his roommates will probably return sooner rather than later, he reluctantly turns off the shower and reaches for the closest towel. He dries himself off rather quickly and then wipes the steam off of the bathroom mirror. The reflection that greets him is difficult to recognize. Whatever happened last night has done nothing to enhance his looks. He literally looks like a dog's breakfast.

He pops his head out of the bedroom door and glances around the room. Still no roommates, noting to himself as he steps out into the room.

Ump, he thinks. Maybe they did get lucky last night. That would explain why they aren't here.

Without bothering to wrap himself in a towel, he saunters over to his bed and looks around for his jeans. No luck; they aren't there. He moves around the room and finally finds them on the floor next to his shoes by the small kitchenette. He pulls them on, not caring about underwear, and reminds himself that he really needs to do some laundry.

He also needs painkillers. His head is still throbbing badly. Painkillers first; laundry can wait.

He idles back over to the bathroom and begins to forage through the contents splayed across the bathroom vanity looking for a packet of painkillers. Locating some, he grabs three and tosses them down with a glass of water.

Coffee. Coffee was next on the list.

Taking a deep breath in order to focus his mind on the task at hand, he moves back out to the kitchenette, fills the kettle with water, and puts it on to boil. Looking over the counter laden with unwashed cups, glasses and plates, he finds a relatively clean coffee mug. He grimaces as he washes out the mug under running water the smell of the soiled and dirty dishes and cups turning his stomach. He tears open sachets of instant coffee and two sugars. After the water comes to a boil, he fills his mug and gives it a cursory stir. No milk today; strong and black is what he needs.

As he throws the teaspoon back into the sink filled with yet more dirty dishes, he notices a folded piece of paper leaning up against the phone on the bench. Picking it up absentmindedly, he heads to the small round table near the kitchenette, coffee in hand. He sits down and takes a long swig of coffee, wincing as the bitterness reaches his tastebuds. Dropping the note on the table and placing his coffee next to it, he rubs his temples with his finger tips, wondering how long it will take before the painkillers kick in. Surely those little nasty people in his head would have to stop their jack hammering soon.

He reaches for the coffee mug with both hands, grasping it almost as if in prayer, and takes another long swig of the hot brew. He closes his eyes and wills time to pass more quickly.

With a long sigh, he opens his eyes and looks again at the note on the table in front of him. He picks it up to read it, thinking how odd it would be if his roommates had left him a note explaining their absence, Seeing as he has no idea how long he'd actually been asleep, it could be a possibility.

The note is brief and obviously hastily written, but the handwriting is unfamiliar. He's taken aback as he reads it again. It makes no sense to him, and he wonders for a moment if the note is really meant for him. Flipping it closed, he sees his name clearly written on the front. Opening it yet again, he reads the note for a third time.

"What the hell?" he mumbles aloud.

Confusion deepens as he thinks back over the events of the night before. The gig. Drinks at the bar afterwards. Girls. There are always girls. Most of them are up for a bit of flirting, while some are often looking for a bit more. It's the 'bit more' girls he usually leaves for his band mates; groupies just aren't his thing. His previous relationship had lasted two and a half years, and though he's single now, a revolving door of groupies just isn't his style.

Focusing on the task at hand, his memories from last night are still vague to say the least. He struggles to recall more details – tequila shots, moving outside for a smoke, a few more beers. Dope? Did he really smoke dope last night? Rubbing his hands over his jaw, he wracks his brain. It would at least go a long way to explain why his mouth felt like chickens had come to roost in it for the night.

Taking another sip of coffee before setting the mug down, he flips the note back onto the table and gets up, pushing his chair back until it hits the wall behind him, to make his way towards the bathroom to brush his teeth. Standing in front of the mirror and looking at his reflection for the second time that morning, he still doesn't recognize the stranger with the tired eyes staring back at him.

Rinsing his mouth and gargling for good measure, he places both his hands on the vanity, leans forward and stares at the man looking back at him. He drops his head and rocks back and forth, finding it disturbing that he can recall so little from the night before. The dope bothers him. Sure, he smokes. It's part of the scene around the band; it's inevitable really. He knows he will stop one day, but right now, at his age, smoking doesn't bother him. Dope does though. He's only done dope a couple of times, and while he enjoys the high, it's the after effects he hates.

He smiles to himself as he realizes that he really must have done dope last night; his current state is a testimony to his memories. Yep. Same after effects. Stupid. Just stupid.

Taking another look, he lectures to the man in the mirror. "You might be able to hold your liquor, dude, but alcohol and dope are not a good combination for you. Remember that next time."

Pushing back off the sink, he strolls out of the bathroom and over to the bed. He flops back onto it lost in thought and still shirtless. He throws one hand over his eyes while rubbing his fingers up and down the dark wiry hair along his midline.

The pool. He remembers moving out to sit in chairs by the pool at the resort. The girls were still there; his band mates, too, at that stage. There was a girl – petite, long hair, sitting on his lap, laughing.

His thoughts are just images, flashes really. Still pictures, like photos moving quickly through his vision. Everything seems so disjointed and hazy.

He closes his eyes and hopes that everything will start to make a little more sense. Instead, all the images just disappear. Gone.

Lying there on his bed, he starts to get more and more frustrated with his lack of coherent thoughts. He swings his legs over the side of the bed and gets up in one fluid movement, realizing just a little too late that such a thing is not a good idea in his current state. Reaching out to steady himself on the bedside table, he rolls his eyes and again tries to focus on making slow, steady motions that his brain can keep up with.

He decides that collecting his laundry is a simple, practical task he can manage for the moment, so he begins to move around the room slowly picking up pieces of discarded clothing.

He smirks as he looks around. Three single men living in confined quarters for a couple of months during the summer definitely doesn't do anything to help promote tidy housekeeping. Every piece of furniture, from the beds and chairs to the small loveseat in the corner, is covered with laundry – some of it clean, some of it not. Knowing the difference is difficult to tell. He goes back to the bed to throw back the covers looking for socks or underwear that could be lost in the bottom of the bedsheets. What he sees stops him in his tracks.

"What the…?" he says aloud to himself.

Blood. Blood stains on his bedsheets.

Had he hurt himself last night? Did he fall in his doped up and drunken state? He thinks back to his shower this morning and looks at his elbows before rubbing his hands over this chest and abs. Nothing. No cuts; no abrasions. He runs his hands through his hair and over the back of his neck. Again, nothing.

He blinks hard and frowns. Well, that's a mystery.

Still lost in thought, he jumps as the door to his room bangs open and his two roommates stumble in.

"Dude!" they chorused. "So how was it bro?"

"How was what?" he answers them as he throws the covers back on his bed.

"Oh man, come on. The girl. How was she? The sexy little brunette with the cute little ass. Did you score?"

Turning his back to his friends, he continues to pick up pieces of laundry from the furniture around him. A girl? He needs time to think. He doesn't know what the hell they are talking about. He runs a hand through his hair again, confusion evident in his voice as he eventually replies, "Brunette?"

"Oh, gawd man, can't you remember? Really cute, about this high," one of them says, raising a hand about shoulder height. "Nice little swagger," he continues as he moves to the bathroom.

Looking at them, he just shakes his head. "Nope; no idea what you're talking about."

Picking up a t-shirt and tossing it over his head, and then searching for the laundry bag, he starts to pack it full of washing. His roomies look at him questioningly, watching him seemingly engrossed in his mundane task.

Reaching down to put on a pair of slip on shoes, he pushes past his two roomies and leaves them looking dumbfounded as he heads for the door.

"Oh, we get it," said the shorter one, nudging his mate and giving him a wink, "you're too much of a gentleman to kiss and tell." They both laugh.

He stops with one hand on the door knob and just shakes his head before heading out and closing the door behind him. Once outside, he moves off down the corridor.

Deep in thought, he smiles weakly at a fellow lodger as he makes his way to the laundry room. He is not in the mood for idle conversation this morning. His roommates are under the impression he came back to their room with a girl, but which girl? Keeping his head down, he turned the corner, each step taking him closer to the laundry and away from his friends.

Last night's events are really starting to bother him. Specifically, not remembering details about last night's activities after the gig is making him feel decidedly uneasy.

He doesn't get blind drunk that often. He is usually the one who makes sure that his drunk-assed roommates get home unscathed after a night's drinking. It sure as hell doesn't sound like the favor was returned last night. He came back to his room; they didn't. Was he alone? His mates didn't seem to think so.

This is just all too confusing. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he recognizes that he missed the door to the laundry room. Doubling back, he reaches out to turn the handle to let himself in when he's bombarded with mental images.

Flashes from the last twelve or so hours parade across his thoughts. Long, brown hair. The smell of strawberries. Smooth bare shoulders. Wispy hair at the base of her neck. Kissing her. Up against a door; the door to his room. Their sounds. Her kisses. Her taste, a mixture of alcohol and cigarettes.

Leaning his head against the laundry door, his hand still on the handle, his mind continues to throw images in front of his closed eyes. Her skin, soft like silk. Stumbling blindly into the room. Swearing as his arms get caught in his shirt sleeves as she tries to pull them off his shoulders.

"Oh, my god."

He did take a girl back to his room last night. He remembers her there in his arms. The heat of her body. The sounds they were making. These images rush fast and furiously through his mind.

"Oh, my god."

He exhales slowly and opens his eyes. He is still leaning up against the laundry door, his head resting wearily against it. Last night. Last night was…..

"Fuck!" he says a little too loudly. "Fuck!"

Without a moments hesitation, he pushes off the door and begins to walk briskly back towards his room, the laundry all but forgotten.

"Please don't let them find it…please don't let them find it," he whispers to himself over and over again as he makes his was back to his room.

Without hesitating or even thinking about what he might find inside, he pushes open the door to his room and barrels in. His two roommates are flaked out on their beds, obviously trying to catch up on lost sleep.

They both swear at the unexpected interruption, but he doesn't care.

"What the fuck is your problem man? Make enough noise why don't ya?"

"Sorry," he mumbles as he drops the laundry bag unceremoniously on his bed.

"I thought you'd headed off to do your washing?" one of them said as he grumbled some more and rolled over away from the source of the noise.

"Busy," he replies briefly. His mind is on other things.

"Well, piss off or shut the fuck up."

"Yeah. Going. I forgot something."

"Well, find it and get out. You used up your hours last night. The room's ours for a while. Go piss off."

Finding what he's looking for, he stuffs it in his back pocket and leaves the room, slamming the door for good measure. They'll get over it.

Walking out of the building and into the bright sunshine, he immediately regrets not having the presence of mind to grab his sunglasses before bolting out of the room.

He realizes, thankfully, that the painkillers must have started to kick in because the bright sunlight, while making him squint, doesn't seem to increase his headache. In fact, he realizes that it isn't bothering him much at all now. He suspects there's just too much else going on in there for it to dominate any more.

Lengthening out his stride, he walks away from the main resort area and onto one of the pathways that leads around the resort. Instead of heading into the center of the resort towards the pool and bars, he turns and heads in the opposite direction without thinking of his destination. He just wants to get away to clear his head. Going from not being able to remember much at all about the night before to a constant barrage of disjointed images and recollections for the last twenty minutes was literally making his head spin, and it had nothing to do with the after effects of the joints he'd smoked or the alcohol he'd consumed.

Breathing deeply, he continues to make his way out of the main resort area. Having been here for a month already, he has discovered a couple of little known quiet spots that he uses to escape from people and noise from time to time. It is to one of these spots that he's hoping to get to now. Some place quiet. He needs time alone with his thoughts. Time to work through everything he is remembering and feeling.

Ten minutes later, he arrives at a small rocky outcrop on the beach. He looks around and breathes a sigh of relief. It's deserted. There's no one around to encroach on his space. Walking out towards the rocks, he pulls off his t-shirt and tucks it into the back of his jeans. The warmth of the sun relaxes the muscles in his shoulders and neck that he doesn't even realize are tense.

He finds a comfortable place to sit and stares out across the turquoise waters as the sounds of the waves and smell of the salty air wash over him. He closes his eyes and lifts his face towards the sun and breathes.

Time stands still as he begins to reflect on everything that has happened in the last fourteen hours or so. His thoughts are clearer now; his memories more vivid.

Resting his elbows on his knees, he hangs his head and focuses on the shapes and shadows of the rock beneath him. He stays this way for a long time – thinking, reflecting. Taking time for his thoughts is something he hasn't done for what seems like the longest time. It's as if all the events of his life from the last few years have culminated in this moment in time right here, right now.

He stares off into the horizon again and feels the weight of that note settle on him.

He doesn't need to read it again. After reading it three times, he knows what it says. He knows it by heart. It's as clear to him as if he was holding it in his hands this very second, instead if it being buried in his back pocket.

What it says reaches his mind and his soul more than anything else he has ever read before. How could that be? How could something so brief, so hastily scribbled on a scrappy bit of paper, be so earth shattering?

He knows this is it for him. He knows there is no escaping the message that's hidden within those words.

Who he is…who he wants to be…who he will become…is going to be decided right here, right now, on these rocks, at this beach.

And to think, he can't even remember her name or see her face.

A/N: This story came to me a while ago, and I have been thinking it through, and planning, and freaking out over it and so on and so on and so on etc etc etc.

Special thanks (hugs and winks) to Sandy for walking me through all of what has happened to get me to this point (and hopefully beyond), to Lalina whose wise words of wisdom have made me feel like it's OK just to have a go, and to Whynot for being one wonderful woman and to Grendel...a goddess.

*Special waves to all the girls on RL, TSL and C&D.