Author's Notes: Written for Round Two of the "Taragh Word Limit" Competition on the HPFC forum.
Word Limit: 1000 Words
Prompt: Doing What We Do
Also for my hc_bingo card with the prompt "Substance addiction".
Warnings: Drug abuse, attempted suicide (arguably).
Taking pills was something that Rabastan had always done.
He never thought of it as wrong. He never thought of it as an addiction, as something that he ought to be concerned about. It was how he dealt with all the tragedies and pains in his life – by disappearing into the lavatory and counting out a little pile of tablets and swallowing them back until nothing hurt anymore. And why shouldn't he? He could think of no reasons not to…
Ever since he was a child, he had been swallowing down pills whenever he thought that he needed them.
It was what his mother did, after all.
So Rabastan would go to the medicine cabinet and take handfuls of whatever he wanted. Pills to make him go to sleep, pills to wake himself back up, pills to make him happy and pills to calm him down and no one would ever notice.
No one would ever care.
One night when he couldn't sleep – plagued by nightmares – he crept into the lavatory to take sleeping pills. It was nothing unusual for him. He took them almost every night and he only meant to take one or two – really, he did, three at the very most – but his hands shook when he poured the pills out of the bottle and into his palm and he ended up with a handful of tablets and then he couldn't bring himself to put them back in. He tipped his head back and poured the whole handful of pills into his mouth and barely managed to choke them all down. While he was doing it, swallowing over and over and wishing that he had had the presence of mind to get himself a drink of water before he tried to take them, he had a moment of fear.
I'm not supposed to be taking this many.
His heart beat quickly and a cold sweat broke across his forehead because he knew that he wasn't supposed to take that many, but he had to, he couldn't spit them out…
Rabastan clung to the edge of the sink, then sank slowly to the ground. His hands and legs were shaking violently and he hoped that it was from fear and not from the medicine.
Stop. You're being so childish. They can't have done anything yet. You're just frightening yourself for no reason.
Rabastan pressed his hands against his face. His fingers felt cold and clammy, but perhaps that was just his imagination. Yes, just his imagination, nothing was wrong…
He would just go back to bed…
But his legs wouldn't support him.
You're going to faint, Rab. You know what to do. Lie down. Breathe.
He had fainted before, so many times, and he was used to it. It wasn't an event, it was just a part of his life – he fainted even more often than he took pills…
But this didn't feel like fainting. Rabastan didn't feel like he usually did when he was about to lose consciousness. His eyes weren't full of swirling spots, his stomach wasn't clenching and heaving or his breath coming in short, sharp little gasps that hurt his throat. He just felt dreadfully tired.
He lay down and tried to breathe, rubbing his eyes.
Just take a moment. Close your eyes, gather yourself, then get back to bed.
The tile felt nice and cool against his skin. He turned his head so his cheek was against the floor and enjoyed the sensation – it was wonderful, so pleasant and calming and he felt so much better…
…Still so tired…
He would just go to sleep. He would take just a little time to rest…
Yes. It would be fine to take just a little rest and then get up and go back to bed.
Everything was going to be fine.
So he closed his eyes and curled up…
And then he felt a pair of strong arms wrapping around him, heaving him up, and his brother's voice, both incredibly loud and incredibly far away.
I've got him! He's breathing, Mother – please don't call Father, I'll take care of him and Father would be so angry…
Rabastan tried to croak out his brother's name, but he couldn't make his mouth work. He felt so limp, so apart from his body, but he was aware of Rodolphus holding him close against his chest, half-dragging and half-carrying him, and then he was lying in bed and he could see his brother looking down at him.
"Rab, can you hear me?"
"Y… y…" It was so hard to speak, but Rabastan couldn't stand the expression of concern on his brother's face. "Yes…"
For just a moment, Rodolphus looked terribly relieved, almost ecstatic. For just a moment, Rabastan felt a little wave of relief because he didn't want his brother to be upset, and then Rodolphus drew back a hand and hit Rabastan hard across the face.
"What were you doing?" Rodolphus demanded. His voice cracked. "You were lying there – covered in vomit… I thought you were dead!"
"Don't tell me that you're sorry!" Rodolphus cried. He shook his brother roughly. "You could have killed yourself – what – what were you thinking?"
"I wasn't," Rabastan whispered. Speaking was becoming a little easier but the words he was saying still hurt.
"Never do that again!" Rodolphus ordered him. Tears were sparkling on his cheeks. "Never, do you understand me, Rab? If I ever catch you taking pills again, I swear…"
Rabastan stopped listening. He closed his eyes and laid back and let his brother's anger wash over him.
He wasn't going to stop taking pills. He couldn't have, even if he had wanted to – and he didn't want to. The pills kept him alive and he needed them, no matter what the risk was.
So he didn't stop.
He ignored his brother's orders. He took them whenever he needed and no one said another word after that night.
It was just what he did.