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by Kira Harp
It tasted like nothing. The end slid easily into his mouth between his open lips, like the lover he would never have. His tongue touched cool metal, and he barely noted the faintest, dull tang of oil. Shouldn't something this important taste more...real? But all the burning acid, all the sharp, bitter flavor of shame and despair was in his mind. The gun waited patiently to do its job.
A shocked voice from the doorway said, "Seth! Don't!"
He jerked, banging the barrel against his teeth, and stared at the wide-eyed face of his older brother. Heat flashed over him, turning his face scarlet with embarrassment. He yanked the gun down and tried to hide it behind his back as he sat up straighter on the floor of his room. "Jory! What are you doing here?"
"Stopping you from doing something really stupid, apparently," Jory said. His voice had a studied calm, but his fingers held the edge of the doorframe in a white-knuckled grip. "Seth, give me the gun."
"Gun?" Seth's voice cracked. God, that hadn't happened in years. He swallowed and tried again. "This? I was just playing around, Jory. Not really serious."
"Bullshit!" Jory took two careful steps toward him and held out his hand. "Come on, bro. Hand it over."
Seth hesitated, but really, what was he going to do? Shoot Jory? Wrestle him for the weapon? He hadn't won a serious wrestling match with Jory in his whole life. He sighed, slid the safety on, and held it out. He saw his brother's expression when the safety clicked. Jory took the gun slowly, and they both exhaled deeply as it passed out of Seth's hands. Jory set it on the dresser behind him and leaned against the polished wood edge. His eyes still looked scared.
"Seth...Jesus Christ, Seth. What was that for?"
He was going to bluff some more, stick to the story that he was just messing around, but he didn't have the energy. It didn't matter anyway. The moment had slid away from him now. His resolution had faded, and he was moving from the brink into a dark, sticky soup of not caring. So he'd wait, just breathe, live through it. If it got bad, got sharp enough again, well, he'd come close before; there were other ways, even if the gun was gone. "You wouldn't understand."
"Tell me anyway."
"Just go away. I'm fine."
"Not a chance." Jory settled his hip onto the dresser and folded his arms. "Spit it out. Whatever it is, we can fix it, okay? So tell me. You're wanted by the law; you finally killed your friend, Greg?"
Seth blinked hard. "Don't make fun of me."
"Not trying to." Jory gritted his teeth. "Okay, so...you have AIDS?"
"I don't have AIDS! Jesus, Jory, I've never even got laid."
"And you're gonna kill yourself before you find out what that's like?"
It was so easy for Jory. Baseball team, swim team, top ten percent of the class at graduation, and a string of girlfriends who probably did give him all-you-can-ask-for sex. And now he was at college, going to parties, and living in a place of his own. He had no idea. Seth bit his lip hard, tasting the rust-sweetness of blood on his tongue.
Jory just waited for an answer. And suddenly, Seth simply wanted it over with.
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