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Old 07-31-2006, 01:33 PM   #1
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System of A Down

First, I want to insert a warning: themes are a bit disturbing, here. No sexual stuff, but, well, if you'd rather not read anything to do with character death, cutters or alcoholism, DO NOT CONTINUE!


Secondly, it's about time I plastered this story up somewhere so it can stop eyeing me so balefully from the neglected corner of my jumpdrive it's been residing on.
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Old 07-31-2006, 01:38 PM   #2
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Do continue: you have me intregued....
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Old 07-31-2006, 02:06 PM   #3
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All restrictions and disclaimers apply. Extreme editing has been done to comply with forum rules. Provide email if you want the unedited version. Read on at yer own rishk.

System of a Down

Prologue: Mad Season


I feel stupid - but I know it won't last for long
I've been guessing - I coulda been guessin' wrong
You don't know me now
I kinda thought that you should somehow
Does that whole mad season got ya down

I feel stupid but it's something that comes and goes
I've been changin' - think it's funny how now one knows
We don't talk about - the little things that we do without
When that whole mad season comes around


We head out on the road, the Harley roaring in our ears, the wind whipping us with rain. Ann holds me tight, her delicate hands flat against my chest. Ah, but she feels so good to me! We’re alone on the road, headed for an alcove I’d seen just two days ago.
Edge and Morleigh have the children for a sleepover, leaving us alone in the house for the first time in a very, very long time. I think we spent most of the day making love. Any excuse to catch each other naked, these days.
She shivers against me, and I turn my head to grin at her.
She smiles back, and my heart turns over.
She’s so beautiful.
I can’t wait to taste the rain on her bare skin, to feel her body beneath mine in the grass; the heat of our loving will keep us warm for as long as we need it, tonight.
I mouth the words, “I love you.”

She smiles and catches my ear in her teeth, giving the lobe a little tug as one hand splays on my belly, stroking briefly before sliding lower.
I shudder with my desire for her.
More. I want more.
I shift into a higher gear, the better to speed up the trip, and the better to reach our destination that I might love her without reserve. Again.
We never saw it coming.


So why ya gotta stand there
Looking like the answer now
It seems to me - you'd come around
I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm lost and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken
I come undone - in this mad season

I feel stupid - but I think I been catchin' on
I feel ugly - but I know I still turn you on
You seem colder now, torn apart, angry, turned around
Will that whole mad season knock you down

So are you gonna stand there
Are you gonna help me out
You need to be together now - I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm lost and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken
I come undone - in this mad season



Sirens wail, people shout. I don’t know what it’s all about: I’m cold, and I can’t move my legs. Acrid smoke fills the air, and there’s a terrible sobbing from somewhere to my left. I try to move my head, try to get up; I am pushed back down, and I feel the prick, as from a distant shore, of something being inserted into my arm.
Warm rain pounds my body. I am sore; so very sore. Why?
More babble, wild and unfocused.
A scream rents the air, and I force myself to focus.
A broken, bloodied, bleeding body is being hoisted into the waiting ambulance, and I groan deep in my chest as I feel my body being strapped into the gurney.
I writhe with pain; I don’t understand when they try to pin my arms to the bed.
What’s going on? Where am I?
Whose blood is that filling the bed, splattering their arms as they lean over me, babbling in an unknown tongue?
Ann?
Ann! I reach for her – where is she?

Thunder peals, and lightning flashes. The rain intensifies.

Pain comes up to wash over me, greeting me like the thunderclap of God’s hands.
I black out.

Now I'm cryin' - isn't that what you want
I'm tryin' to live my life on my own
But I won't
At times - I do believe I am strong
So someone tell me why, why, why
Do I, I, I feel stupid
And I came undone
And I came undone

I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm lost and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken

I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm a child and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken
I come undone - in this mad season

In this mad season
There's been a mad season
Been a mad season


One: Thousand Mile Wish

Forgive me if now I wear the face of worry; this time alone could never cause any doubt, but I’ve been cold too long.
Such a strange time to find myself coming down as the rain, with all the holes my love, to fill up from the middle, this storm could stay all night
So can we stay until we close our eyes; until your dreams hold mine?
Just stay until we know we tried one more time.
Cause laughing lovers can overcome their closest demons, and they’ll go on and they won’t let go
They saw something that they know has never come so close
Can it stay here for us, for now?
Can it stay until we know ourselves?
I’m torn as I tell
You’re the story that I know and fell from
I’m so far into your story I don’t know why
We think we’re in control
When we lie between the lines

We’ll find a line to follow
It’s got to show real soon
Or we’ll never each this high

We climb a little further
Cause there’s nothing we can’t get around together
Further gets colder until nothing was all that I saw around

So we stay until the ground
That we can’t come down from splits us away
Maybe stars know why we fall
I just wish they were thinking out loud
Oh, I could wish all night


I wake with a start, shivering in the chill predawn light, my body aching with a need I haven’t felt in a very long time. Tentatively, my mind foggy with desire, I stretch a hand out, seeking warmth, a body, something to explain the sudden, erotic desire washing over me. What? Ann? Where is she? Confusion clouds my mind for a moment before I sigh, rubbing my face with my hands, with chagrin.

Damn me if I don’t want her here, right now.

I hadn’t had a wet dream in years; rarely had they been that vivid, even as a teenager. At forty four, something that vivid shouldn’t happen. And yet, it had happened; strangely enough, I am not particularly upset by it. Just proves I’m yet virile and alive.

Not that I want to be; Ann is gone, gone away from me. I still remember the wreck that killed her –

No. I will not think about it; I will not ruin the lovely memory of the last time we made love with the sight of that wreck –

I throw the covers off, scoffing. Stop it, I snarl at myself sternly, silently, as I walk naked into the bathroom of my hotel room, my lean, hard body moving gracefully.

How she loved my grace; how she loved my body, my skin, the taste of me when she…

I squelched that thought fast.

Damn, but I want you, Ann. I want you bad, right now, my love. I can’t help but remember how good it felt to fuck you on the sink when I was feeling a bit wild. And that time in the pool, where Aaron caught us. That poor kid thought I was trying to drown you or something. I chuckle to myself as I splash water over my face, then pause to stare into the mirror. Damn. I think I actually aged ten years in the past two. And yet, I still have this creepily young face, as though Time really doesn’t want to make me old.

Bono is envious, Edge wryly amused (because he hasn’t changed much either, except to lose his hair) and Adam resigned, for he’s always looked forty seven. At least he looks dignified now, after going through hell. He’s grown into his looks, and the women follow him like limpid puppies. He loves that.

I sigh again, and step into the shower, pretending once more that the dampness on my face is steam.

My tears will not lift you from the grave, my lovely Ann; my soul, my rib, my heart. How I miss you still, lover; how I
need you.

Silent, hot tears slide down my cheeks, and I bury my face in my hands, ignoring the shower water streaming over my body. Shame has no place here; no one need ever know I still grieve for her loss.

No one need ever know I still hunger for her; that my heart is shattered so completely that I will not survive it.


I pick up my razor, run it over my face until the skin is smooth and soft as a baby’s (it’s acutely embarrassing, somehow, that I can’t seem to develop the roughness of skin that most men have. Undignified, even.) and lay it down on the sink. I stare at myself long and hard, in the full length mirror she insisted had to be in the bathroom. Why, I don’t know.

Yet there it is, unwinking and reproachful.
I slide my hands down my flat belly and heave a sigh. Fuck.

I draw back my fisted hand from the destroyed mirror, not recognizing that it was my fist that shattered it; I stare uncomprehendingly at my bleeding, glass-embedded hand and snarl, brushing the shards free from my skin.

And so it begins.



Two: Obvious Heart



The obvious heart has come to collect
Cause it tore apart like a tortured insect
The obvious heart waits here to heal
And balances out a subtle reveal

Cause there’s a remedy close
In a familiar dose
This bitter pill to swallow
Is last in the bottle tonight
You’re empty it’s alright
And full of yourself
No need to explain
To anyone else
Broken in time
Taken what’s left
No need to deny
The cause or effect

This heart is not a broken one
But where have all the colors gone
It’s still among the lucky ones

This heart is not a broken one
But where have all the colors gone
You’re still among the lucky ones
And burning longer than the sun

Cause there’s a remedy close
In a familiar dose
Now you can find out who knows
Soaking the truth that she says
In taken chances



The knife slides with smooth strokes over the skin of my thigh, and I sigh with delight. Ah, but it feels so good. If I concentrate, I can forget that other pain; the one that curls in my chest, fighting to get out. I don't want to face it anymore. I can't. I can't fight it anymore. At first, I try to drown the indeterminable ache in the bottom of a bottle.

Needless to say, it didn’t work; I tried again and again, day after day, and it only got worse.

I forgot the children existed – they went to school or not, and ate or not; I no longer cared.

All I knew was the pain of loss, of hunger, of need.

I need Ann. I crave her. I must go to her.

So I vow to bleed my life out here on the toilet.

I hiss as the point glides up my inner thigh, nicking delicately the crumpled skin of my crotch, dangerous in the threat of castration. I welcome the atavistic chill that fingers my spine. Butter soft, my skin parts like a wave against the prow of a boat, and the red blood spills steadily into the water below. I watch it with half-closed eyes.


And it's been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been awhile
Since I first saw you
And it's been awhile
Since I could stand on my own two feet again
And it's been awhile
Since I could call you

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've stretched myself beyond my means

And it's been awhile
Since I can say that I wasn't addicted
And it's been awhile
Since I can say I love myself as well
And it's been awhile
Since I've gone and fucked things up just like I always do
And it's been awhile
But all that shit seems to disappear when I'm with you

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've gone and fucked things up again

Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day!

And it's been awhile
Since I could look at myself straight
And it's been awhile
Since I said I'm sorry
And it's been awhile
Since I've seen the way the candles light your face
And it's been awhile
But I can still remember just the way you taste

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem to be I know it's me
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me

And it's been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been awhile
Since I said I'm sorry

Ann! Come back to me! Ann! Ann! Is that me? My voice sounds so hollow. I reach for her, fighting the paramedics who try to hold me down. I need her, can't they see? I have to hold her, I have to! I sob wildly as they lift her into the bus, wanting to pull her close and hold her and tell her I love her. But they won't let me.

The knife licks higher, nicking the crease of the join of my hip to my groin.

Blood, like tears, falls to the bathroom floor, red and virulently innocent.

She looks at me, pain-glazed eyes wide with shock. Her lips move.

She loves me still.

Take care of the babies.



Dad!

I wake with a shock, and look down at my hands. They're bloody.
I drop the knife, my fingers nerveless as I blindly grope about me for something to stop the blood – something to stop the pain, the need, the nameless terror that washes over me as I realize that she’s gone, that I remember her gone.

Sobs threaten to spill over, wracking my frame violently as I wrap my slim fingers about the slim green neck of a bottle of Scotch. Ann hated Scotch – she had a refined taste, my sweet love.

I watch the blood streaming from my thigh and groin, my eyes wide with horror.

What have I done to myself? What have I done?

With a shiver, I pick up my bottle of liquid comfort, ignoring the dripping blood that stains my wrists and forearms. One more drink – just one more.


“Dad!”

I stare with unremitting focus into the bottom of the bottle, wondering hazily where the rest of the liquor went. After a distant fashion, I raise my eyes and focus on my son, who is staring at me like I’m a stranger to him. Perhaps I am; the man he once knew is gone – dead on the tide that claimed Ann’s life from me.

He looks at me with soft blue eyes.

Worried.

Needing.

Damn him.

“Leave me alone,” I scowl harshly. “Why aren’t you in school, anyway?”

“You said I didn’t have to go today, Da. Remember?” He explains softly, lower lip trembling. Tears gleam luminously, but he manfully swallows his tears; he’s learned, in the past three months, that tears will not help him. I snarl silently, and fling the bottle against the wall violently, taking an unholy delight in the destruction and the little thrill of fear that makes him flinch away from me.

“So go find something else to do besides stare at me.”

He bites his lip, swallowing a protest.

Protests, too, are futile.

Damn him for looking like her. Damn him for reminding me of the last time I held her in my arms.

I lever myself up from the floor, using the wall for support. I make my unstable way over to the liquor cabinet, fishing out another bottle to devour. I raise the bottle to my lips, anticipating with a fierce, dark joy the pleasure of the burn of whiskey down my throat, in my belly.

Ah, that’s it, I sigh mentally, feeling a sexual little thrill as the bottle neck touches my lips. Let me forget just a little while longer.

I never taste a drop.

A large hand pulls the bottle away from me, and I whirl, fetching my shoulder against the wall to remain upright. I glare ferociously at Adam, who is standing there with the bottle in hand, frowning at me. “What the hell ! How dare you...”

“How dare you !” He snaps forcefully, gripping my right shoulder forcefully, slamming my back against the wall. His voice is low with controlled fury. “Drinking yourself to death in front of your children? Damn it, when is the last time they ate? Or had clean clothes, or been to school? Did you know Ava called me because she’s worried about you? And Aaron! Damn, man, that kid’s a mess!”

“It’s none of your business,” I begin heatedly, trying to wrench free of his grip.

“Wrong, Larry. It is my business.” Adam glowers at me, setting down the bottle and gripping my other shoulder with his now free hand. “Look at you, Babyface: what have you done to yourself?”

I push against his chest, trying to escape his implacable grip. “Nothing!” I growl.

“You’re killing yourself.”

“Who cares?”

“I care. Your children care.”

“We care.” This from the doorway: Bono, Edge, and Gavin are standing there, watching me. “The children are with Ali, Lar. They’re staying with us until you get yourself together.” Bono continues, his face drawn and tired. “Those kids need a father.”

“And I suppose you’re it, huh?” I howl, furious and frightened by turns. “Who do you think you are? They’re mine, and I’ll do with them what I please – “

“The hell you will!” Adam shouts. “I won’t let you destroy them on top of it all! I know it hurts to have lost Ann – we all hurt – but you can’t keep on like this! Do you think she’d appreciate you killing her gifts to you?”

“Don’t you understand? She’s gone! She’s gone!” I begin to sob uncontrollably, dropping to my knees when my legs rebelled, clutching Adam closer to me. My cheek against his belly, I cried like a child, begging him to help me die, to help me be closer to her.

I feel him sigh, resting his fingers against my temple. “All right, Babyface. All right.” His voice is so distant – the roaring in my ears is so close.

My arms weaken, and I barely notice when the guys catch me just before I hit the floor.


I drift, aimless and lifeless, in a gray cloud of pain. Faintly, the beeping of machines threaten to overwhelm me with their taunting little sounds; metronome-like, they keep pace with my heart and breathing. I cannot bring myself to care.

Ann.

I cry, then, silent hot tears that dampen the pillow beneath me, my shattered heart clawing its way out of my chest. Fingers slip through my hair, caress my cheek.

She’s gone, my love, my heart, my very soul. She’s gone.

And I can’t have her back, not ever again.



“He’s perfectly healthy, physically, other than a bit of dehydration.” A voice is saying to someone I can’t quite make out from beneath salt-crusted lashes. A female voice, soft and gentle and quite pleasant, really. Pragmatic, pedantic, perfectly composed – she saw this all the time. “The cuts are surface only. He’s not trying to kill himself, not really.”

“But he damn near bled to death – “Bono, wild and haggard, objected.

“Alcohol and lack of food, sir. The wounds are really very shallow, barely going into the muscle. It’s a phenomenon called cutting, where the victim hurts herself - or in this case, himself – in order to avoid feeling the pain of a trauma or loss. You told me he recently lost his lover – they were together for years, right?”

A silent, pregnant pause.

“Look, sir, he’s not dealing with it very well right now. Emotionally, he’s a wreck waiting to happen. If you take him out of here, he will kill himself, purely by accident, so badly does he want to stop hurting. Keep him here, and I can help him.”

“How?” That is the Edge, ever pragmatic. He’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.

“Extensive therapy.” Her tone is implacable. “He’s also got the alcoholism to deal with, so it’s better if he remains in inpatient treatment for the next thirty days at the least.”

“We can’t – “

“We have to.” Adam cuts him off sharply. “Like it or not, B, we have to. He needs to be healed more than we need to worry about some idiot reporter getting wind of it. And so what if it happens? If it saves a life in the long run, Larry won’t care.”

“Besides, I took the liberty of making up an alternate name, anyway.” This was said with a bit of a laugh. The woman - whose face I haven’t yet seen – moves closer to the bed, unhooking the chart from the foot of the bed. “For now, he’s James Dixon. Completely innocuous. It helps that he got here in the wee hours of the night. Of course, I told the director of the hospital about it, and he’s perfectly willing to use the alternate name for the records, just to keep this private for Mr. Mullen. We’ll keep him safe, I promise.”

“You’d better.” I could hear the glower in Bono’s voice.

“Do stop glowering at her, B.” Adam retorts tiredly. “She’s got it well in hand.”

“And Adam will be staying with us as well, won’t you, Adam?”

“You bet.” Adam sits down, next to my foot, and absently rubs his hand over the top of it, from ankle to toe.

It’s a soothing motion, and I drift off to sleep, retreating from the world at large again in the warm wake of their love and care.


I wake to the sound of Adam’s melancholy bass playing, and stretch as much as my abused body will allow me. I yawn and manage a little smile for him when he looks at me, quizzical and hesitant all at once. “Do you need anything..?” He asks.

I gather I’ve been drifting in an out of sleep for quite awhile by the tone of his voice. He looks more rumpled than ever, as though he hasn’t really stirred from my side in days and days. I try to smile reassuringly. The expression feels strange on my lips; I’ve forgotten how to smile. “Water.” I croak, unsteadily.

“Sure.” He pours a glass for me, and helps me sit up to drink it.

“So...” I allow my voice to trail off, uncertain.

“You gave us all a scare, Babyface.” His voice cracks and I react unthinkingly: I hug him close, and he wraps his arms around me, resting his cheek on my head. I can feel him shaking with tears.

Sorrow fills the void where my heart once was.

I hate myself for hurting him; for hurting my mates and my children.

It’s such a long way out; but I have to make it through. I have to.

“Adam?”

“Yes, darling?”

“I am an alcoholic. Help me.”

“Never doubt it.” He slips a finger beneath my chin, forces me to look at him. “As long as it takes, I am with you.”

I smile, then, shy and vulnerable. He holds me close to his chest, protective and brotherly.

The healing has begun.


Epilogue: Twenty Four



Twenty four oceans
Twenty four skies
Twenty four failures
Twenty four tries
Twenty four finds me
In twenty-fourth place
Twenty four drop outs
At the end of the day
Life is not what I thought it was
Twenty four hours ago

Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And I'm not who I thought I was twenty four hours ago
Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You

Twenty four reasons to admit that I'm wrong
With all my excuses still twenty four strong

See I'm not copping out not copping out not copping out
When You're raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now



Two years have passed since that terrifying time when I tried to follow Ann into the grave; it’s been difficult, and I still have nightmares. Shy before, I am now as fragile as spun glass, even now; my mates keep me closer still. My children are no longer afraid of me, nor are they afraid for me. Ali and Morleigh have become their surrogate mothers, with Susie acting as an aunt. They know I’m sick, that I’m getting well, and that I need their love to help me. That’s all. Adam – dear, steady Adam – has been my constant companion, and my sponsor in the recovery from alcoholism. He’s there on those nights when I pace with the need to drink, to drown the hungry, aching terror I feel when I need my sweet Ann the most.

He holds me when I’m a shivering wreck. It’s like that doctor said.

“He knows what it is you need the most – he’s been there, Larry. Let him love you and stop trying to be so damned tough. You don’t need to be around them.”

I don’t know how she knew I needed to not be tough, but she did. And I am eternally grateful for her support – she actually gets me through the grief, and the cutting.

I came to find out that she used to do it, too.

Today, we’re celebrating my forty ninth birthday.

They’re all giggling over the fact that I don’t look a day over thirty five, still. Though I’m trying to glower and sulk about their teasing, nobody much pays attention to me.

The sun is warm; I bask in it, for once at peace with myself and the world without Ann.

I know I can survive her loss now.

I also know it’s perfectly all right to grieve for her still.

“Dad!”

I open my eyes lazily. My babies – half grown little wretches that they are – are calling me to jump into the pool. After a moment’s reflection, I decide to do it, just to prove to my mates – who are in their fifties, and inclined to be lazy – that age is no excuse to not have a good time. In I jump, tackling Aaron on my way in.

Yes – life is good; I miss Ann, but I still live.


And You're raising these twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts
But I want to be one today
Centered and true

I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
You're raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You're raising the dead in me

I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And You're raising the dead in me
Twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts.
I'm not copping out. Not copping out. Not copping out.



Hours later, I climb into bed, curling up in the middle of the bed with my dog Reiki, a gift from my mates. Missy died about a year ago, and I hadn’t felt right about not having a dog. Weird, how comforting they are, dogs. No matter what, they love you.

Remembering Ann’s gentle steadiness, her arms around me, I begin to cry, silent, soft tears that fall into Reiki’s thick fur. She frantically licks at my face, not understanding and trying to cheer me up. I sigh and hold her closer.

There’s a brush of fingertips against my shoulders

I jump and look around. Nothing.

And yet, somehow, I know. Ann.

My soul. My heart. My love.

I close my eyes and sigh, and know nothing more.

Good night sweetheart, Good night, sweetheart,
Till we meet tomorrow,
Good night sweetheart,
Sleep will banish sorrow.
Tears and parting
May make us forlorn,
But with the dawn
A new day is born,
So I'll say
Good night, sweetheart,
Tho' I'm not beside you,
Good night, sweetheart,
Still my love will guide you
Dreams enfold you,
In each one I'll hold you,
Good night, sweetheart, good night.

We find him like that the next morning, his arms around the gangling, oversized puppy, with the most peaceful expression on his face. He died a natural death, we are assured; he just didn’t want to continue without his beloved Ann. Maybe there is a God out there; maybe He heard Larry’s need to be with her.

I hope so, for his sake. I’ve kept his secret from the rest of them: the fact that he knew he wouldn’t live to see fifty. He’d been failing from spinal cancer, though you’d never know it from his drumming. He looked healthy, if a bit thin – but then, Larry has always been thin.

Looking into the ornate chrome and black casket, I brush his thick, golden hair, and stroke his baby-fine cheek. Even in death, he taunts age. In death, he looks very close to twenty.

Surely God wanted his angel back.

Bono and Edge put a hand on my shoulder, and I nod to them. We don’t need to speak. We know what has to be done, and it is done. He left his most precious possessions to me: his children.

Imagine that; I don’t even like children. But there’s something about his children that’s different, even from Bono and Edge’s. All three of them inherited his quiet serenity, his alert watchfulness. It’s been spooky for Susie and I, having them around. They never seem to fight or get rowdy like other children. And yet, when they plan mischief, it’s always too funny to really punish them.

Maybe he wasn’t kidding when he named his youngest Adam Clayton Mullen. That kid’s the worst of the three. Charm to spare and enough mischief for six. And they all have his sweet gentleness beneath the tough maturity.

Good to know Larry and Ann live on through them.

As we leave, I swear I can hear the drum solo of 40 floating on the wind as they lower him into his grave, next to his Ann.


Goodnight, sweetheart
Well, it's time to go
Goodnight, sweetheart
Well, it's time to go
I hate to leave you, but I really must say
Goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight
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Old 08-19-2006, 11:38 AM   #4
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can i have the original version
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Old 08-20-2006, 02:43 PM   #5
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Wow Dev, this is intense. I did not know you had this serious side to you.

Very good work
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Old 08-21-2006, 12:28 PM   #6
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^ Oh, it's there. Regrettably, the trouble is in expressing it in a way tht doesn't clap people's ears back.

It'll be out to ya, Targon!
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Old 08-23-2006, 03:45 PM   #7
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So: you know how I said bad things happen when I get bored?

Moobs, I did it again! (< corny. ass. joke. )
System of a Down has been edited. Again. Hit 'em up style. With details, even! (though you'll still have to email for certain bits not allowed here for the sanity of the mods.)

Enjoy!
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Old 08-23-2006, 04:03 PM   #8
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Author also has no legal claim to any lyrics that appear; all lyrics are copyrighted to their respective writers.

Adult themes; strong language

Do Not Read if you are sensitive to character death, self-mutilation, or alcohol and child abuse

System of a Down


Prologue: Mad Season
I feel stupid - but I know it won't last for long
I've been guessing - I coulda been guessin' wrong
You don't know me now
I kinda thought that you should somehow
Does that whole mad season got ya down

I feel stupid but it's something that comes and goes
I've been changin' - think it's funny how now one knows
We don't talk about - the little things that we do without
When that whole mad season comes around


We head out on the road, the Harley roaring in our ears, the wind whipping us with rain. Ann holds me tight, her delicate hands flat against my chest. Ah, but she feels so good to me! We’re alone on the road, headed for an alcove I’d seen just two days ago.

Edge and Morleigh have the children for a sleepover, leaving us alone in the house for the first time in a very, very long time. I think we spent most of the day making love. Any excuse to catch each other naked, these days.

She shivers against me, and I turn my head to grin at her.

She smiles back, and my heart turns over.

She’s so beautiful.

I can’t wait to taste the rain on her bare skin, to feel her body beneath mine in the grass; the heat of our loving will keep us warm for as long as we need it, tonight.

I mouth the words, “I love you.”

She smiles and catches my ear in her teeth, giving the lobe a little tug as one hand splays on my belly, stroking briefly before sliding lower.

I shudder with my desire for her.

More. I want more.

I shift into a higher gear, the better to speed up the trip, and the better to reach our destination that I might love her without reserve. Again.

We never saw it coming.


So why ya gotta stand there
Looking like the answer now
It seems to me - you'd come around
I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm lost and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken
I come undone - in this mad season

I feel stupid - but I think I been catchin' on
I feel ugly - but I know I still turn you on
You seem colder now, torn apart, angry, turned around
Will that whole mad season knock you down

So are you gonna stand there
Are you gonna help me out
You need to be together now - I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm lost and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken
I come undone - in this mad season



Sirens wail, people shout. I don’t know what it’s all about: I’m cold, and I can’t move my legs. Acrid smoke fills the air, and there’s a terrible sobbing from somewhere to my left. I try to move my head, try to get up; I am pushed back down, and I feel the prick, as from a distant shore, of something being inserted into my arm.

Warm rain pounds my body. I am sore; so very sore. Why?

More babble, wild and unfocused.

A scream rents the air, and I force myself to focus.

A broken, bloodied, bleeding body is being hoisted into the waiting ambulance, and I groan deep in my chest as I feel my body being strapped into the gurney.

I writhe with pain; I don’t understand when they try to pin my arms to the bed.

What’s going on? Where am I?

Whose blood is that filling the bed, splattering their arms as they lean over me, babbling in an unknown tongue?

Ann?

Ann! I reach for her – where is she?

Thunder peals, and lightning flashes. The rain intensifies.

Pain comes up to wash over me, greeting me like the thunderclap of God’s hands.

I black out.

Now I'm cryin' - isn't that what you want
I'm tryin' to live my life on my own
But I won't
At times - I do believe I am strong
So someone tell me why, why, why
Do I, I, I feel stupid
And I came undone
And I came undone

I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm lost and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken

I need you now
Do you think you can cope
You figured me out - I'm a child and I'm hopeless
Bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken
I come undone - in this mad season

In this mad season
There's been a mad season
Been a mad season


ONE: Thousand Mile Wish


Forgive me if now I wear the face of worry; this time alone could never cause any doubt, but I’ve been cold too long.
Such a strange time to find myself coming down as the rain, with all the holes my love, to fill up from the middle, this storm could stay all night
So can we stay until we close our eyes; until your dreams hold mine?
Just stay until we know we tried one more time.
Cause laughing lovers can overcome their closest demons, and they’ll go on and they won’t let go
they saw something that they know has never come so close
can it stay here for us, for now?

Can it stay until we know ourselves?
I’m torn as I tell
You’re the story that I know and fell from
I’m so far into your story I don’t know why
We think we’re in control
When we lie between the lines

We’ll find a line to follow
It’s got to show real soon
Or we’ll never each this high

We climb a little further
Cause there’s nothing we can’t get around together
Further gets colder until nothing was all that I saw around

So we stay until the ground
That we can’t come down from splits us away
Maybe stars know why we fall
I just wish they were thinking out loud
Oh, I could wish all night..


I wake with a start, shivering in the chill predawn light. Tentatively, I stretch a hand out, seeking warmth, a body, something to explain the sudden, erotic desire washing over me. What? Who? Where is she? Confusion clouds my mind for a moment before I sigh, rubbing my face with my hands, with chagrin.

Damn. I hadn’t had a wet dream in years; rarely had they been that vivid, even as a teenager. At forty four, something that vivid shouldn’t happen. And yet, it had happened; strangely enough, I am not particularly upset by it. Just proves I’m yet virile and alive.

Not that I want to be; Ann is gone, gone away from me. I still remember the wreck that killed her –

No. I will not think about it; I will not ruin the lovely memory of the last time we made love with the sight of that wreck –

I throw the covers off, scoffing. Stop it, I snarl at myself sternly, silently, as I walk naked into the bathroom of my hotel room, my lean, hard body moving gracefully.

How she loved my grace; how she loved my body, my skin, the taste of me when she –
I squelched that thought fast.


Damn, but I want you, Ann. I want you bad, right now, my love. I can’t help but remember how good it felt to fuck you on the sink when I was feeling a bit wild. And that time in the pool, where Aaron caught us. That poor kid thought I was trying to drown you or something.
I chuckle at myself as I splash water over my face, then pause to stare into the mirror. Damn. I think I actually aged ten years in the past two months alone. And yet, I still have this creepily young face, as though Time really doesn’t want to make me old.

Bono is envious, Edge wryly amused (because he hasn’t changed much either, except to lose his hair) and Adam resigned, for he’s always looked forty seven. At least he looks dignified now, after going through hell. He’s grown into his looks, and the women follow him like limpid puppies. He loves that.

I sigh again, and step into the shower, pretending once more that the dampness on my face is steam.

My tears will not lift you from the grave, my lovely Ann; my soul, my rib, my heart. How I miss you still, lover; how I need you.

Silent, hot tears slide down my cheeks, and I bury my face in my hands, ignoring the shower water streaming over my body. Shame has no place here; no one need ever know I still grieve for her loss.

No one need ever know I still hunger for her; that my heart is shattered so completely that I will not survive it.



Ann! How could you leave me? You promised, love. You promised me you’d fight it out for me.

You tried, I know.

I love you.


It's been six months, love, and I have yet to really accept that you're gone.

I don't want to.

I pick up my razor, run it over my face until the skin is smooth and soft as a baby’s (it’s acutely embarrassing, somehow, that I can’t seem to develop the roughness of skin that most men have. Undignified, even.) and lay it down on the sink. I stare at myself long and hard, in the full length mirror she insisted had to be in the bathroom. Why, I don’t know.

Yet there it is, unwinking and reproachful.

I slide my hands down my flat belly and heave a sigh. Fuck.

I draw back my fisted hand from the destroyed mirror, not recognizing that it was my fist that shattered it; I stare uncomprehendingly at my bleeding, glass-embedded hand and snarl, brushing the shards free from my skin.

And so it begins.

I dress in a silk polo and baggy nylon cargo pants; I strap on my sandals and scoop up my keys as I head out the door. Somehow, I know I'm late for the band meeting.

I can't bring myself to care, much. The guys would be surprised at this; I'm usually the one who growls at everyone for being late.

Well, fuck that. I just don't care anymore.

Two: Savin' Me

Prison gates won’t open up for me
On these hands and knees I’m crawlin’
Oh, I reach for you
Well I’m terrified of these four walls
These iron bars can’t hold my soul in
All I need is you
Come please I’m callin’
And oh I scream for you
Hurry I’m fallin’

Show me what it’s like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I’ll show you what I can be
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I’ll leave this life behind me
Say it if it’s worth saving me



I meet the band in the main room, where we all eat breakfast and talk. Only, I don't much care for the food; I don't care for company, either, though I put up with Bono's antics for as long as I can before my patience wears thin and I hurl a butter knife across his nose. It's close enough to shave him, actually.

I am made obscurely proud of my accuracy, even as I begin to regret my rashness.

I stand, pace, my hands on my hips. I can feel the too-familiar scowl darkening my face; the tension in the room is thick and heavy as everyone stares at me, concern writ with dangerous intensity in their faces.

I wonder if anyone has notices we all have the same eye color, except Edge: his are more green than blue.

Still. It's strange.

Adam stands, stretches, and asks me in the mildest possible tone, "Larry? Is there something you want to tell us?"

I swing around to glare at him, heated rage simmering in my chest. His Susie still lives. She was with him last night. In that moment, I hate him so much I can barely speak. "No. I have nothing to say to you."

With that, I slam out of the suite and back into my room. I throw the lock and turn to the mini bar. Ah, it's been well stocked.

I need it; it's all I can do to drown the pain.

I pick the weakest - port. I swallow it down, feeling it burn my throat, my chest, my belly. I find more, and down that, too, in very short order.

And, very soon, I have cleared the whiskies, the burgundies, the champagnes, beers -

The room grows foggy, humid, and dizzyingly distant.

I sink to the floor, two bottles of whiskey in my grip as I slide down the cold support of the wall. I down the whiskey, wishing, for the hundredth time, that it would kill me. I cannot stand this ache anymore; I cannot live like this. Not without my Ann!

I begin to cry again, harsh, wracking sobs that threaten to tear me apart.



Heaven’s gates won’t open up for me
With these broken wings I’m fallin’
And all I see is you
These city walls ain’t got no love for me
I’m on the ledge of the eighteenth story
And oh I scream for you
Come please I’m callin’
And all I need from you
Hurry I’m fallin’

Show me what it’s like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I’ll show you what I can be
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I’ll leave this life behind me
Say it if it’s worth saving me

Hurry I’m fallin’



Some hours later, I wake to find myself curled up on the floor, in the same spot I'd fallen in. My head is pounding in time to some strange rhythm I can't quite discern - maybe it's my heartbeat, stuttering in my chest like a wing-clipped bird trying to escape its gilded cage. I rub at my sternum, propping myself up with one hand. I am nauseated by the stench of alcohol soaking into the carpet.

I must have missed a shot.

The pounding begins again, louder. "Larry!" Comes the agitated shout, and I wince at the noise. If no one has known we're here, they know now.

"Larry, get over here and open this door! Now!" I wince again, and push myself off the floor. Stumbling to the door, I wrench it open, holding my head with one hand.

"What the hell do you want, Edge?" I snarl, my voice sounding ominously dark in my own ears.

He stares at me, arms crossed over his chest. Slightly pudgy with age, he is nonetheless quite formidable when he's angry; he's clearly very angry now.

"An explanation, for starters. Bono's nose is bleeding. You slam out of there like you've lost your mind, and - " He stops, nose wrinkling as he takes in my disheveled state. "How much have you had to drink, by the by?"

"None of your fuckin' business," I begin harshly, starting to slam the door in his face.

"When you're trying to destroy yourself that makes it my business." Edge tries to shove the door back open, but I'm quicker and stronger. I slam it, and snap at him to leave me alone, I'd be fine in the morning. I can tell he's debating having management open the door for him, because he's pacing. I can see the shadow under the door.

And then, I hear Adam's muffled voice saying, "Edge - I think we need to let him be for now."

"Dammit, he's drunk - "

"Yes. And do you know why?"

Edge stops pacing. "Do, please, tell me." His tone is acidic.

"For an intelligent man, you can be incredibly dense, my friend. Hasn't it occurred to you that he's still grieving Ann? Shit, man, it's been a bare six months! He took the funeral a bit too well, you know. The whole thing. He's crashing. But until he's ready for us to pick him up, we'll have to wait."

"I'll be damned if I let him hurt himself -" Edge objects.

Adam sighs, "Darlin': you'll have to. Same as I had to crash and burn before I got better."

They move away, Edge still objecting.

I crawl into bed, shivering with the need to be held, too proud to ask for it; it's lonely in this room, without Ann. Without my mates close by. But I just can't ask. Not now.


The roads are slick, the night dark. Rain pounds my shoulders, the pavement, gleaming white-hot in the headlight of my Harley Chopper. I bend into the wind that tries to whip me off the bike and fling me against the rock face. Ann clings to me, no doubt wondering why she allowed me to talk her into a ride during a rainstorm. But she is willing to go along with it, for my sake; she loves me. That's always been the case: no matter what, she takes her chances with me.

I feel exhilarated, wild, and free; I grin roguishly over my shoulder at her. She grins back.

Tonight, I think we'll try making love in the pool again. The children are with Ann's mother.

I turn back, and in that instant, I feel the wheels go. The front explodes with a deep, bass rumble as we skew sideways, toppling over onto the concrete. The rear wheel fishtails out, slicing through a giant puddle of water. Ann is thrown against the cliff face by the heavy bike and pinned. I am thrown clear, and am slammed up against the guard rail.

Ann screams as the bike explodes, catching fire and blanketing her in orange flames.

I scream for her, and try to reach her.

Halfway across the road, I black out.




I sit up, taking a gasp of air to still the reflexive scream gurgling up in my throat. I rub at my face, moaning softly as my head whirls.

Nausea wells up; I rush to the restroom and vomit everything I'd put into my body in the past twenty four hours.

Ah, my God, that hurt.

I curl up in the bathroom and hug my knees to my chest. I can't even cry anymore. I'm too weak; too tired. I miss her so much.

I think of the three weeks I spent in the hospital. I hadn't been badly injured - a concussion and a broken rib. Nothing that wouldn't heal soon.

Ann, however, died in surgery.

They kept me for three weeks because I wanted to die. Someone was with me at all times. They let me go, reluctantly, when Adam told them that he and Sebastian would be taking over my care, and would not leave me alone for any reason.

The funeral had been a blur. The four of us - Adam, Bono, Edge, and I - carried her to the grave. Ali and Aislinn, surprisingly, joined us. Morleigh, too, came, and stood by my side while they lowered her into the ground. Aislinn held my hand.

They hated each other, Aislinn and Morleigh; but they managed to get along, just for my sake and Edge's. I was eternally grateful for that.

I don't remember much of what happened after that; it's all been a haze of drinking and pain, waiting for my bruised body to knit, and my broken heart to mend.

Through it all, Adam has been my rock, my shelter. He doesn't lecture me when I drink too much, or try to stop me when I go wandering in the night. He just puts on some jeans and goes with me, holding my hand, listening to me speak of nothing important, nodding as though it were of major importance: the secrets of the universe, perhaps.

I am eternally grateful for that, too.

Wobbly, I rise, and pull off my shirt. I wash my face and brush my teeth to get the foul taste out of my mouth. I leave the bathroom, stare at my rucked-up bed. I begin to tremble.

I need to be held tonight.

I open the door, walk down to Adam's room.

Please be alone tonight, Adam. Please.

I lift my hand to knock.

The door swings open before my knuckles meet it.

"I thought you'd be along shortly." Adam says gently, holding out his hand to me. "Come in, Larry."

I come in, nervous and shy, and stand chafing my arms with my hands.

Adam sits down on the bed, pats a place next to him.

I sit, half-prepared to fly out the door the second something untoward happens. He wraps his arms around me, murmuring soft and reassuring words that soothe my tired, shattered soul.

I crumple against his chest, holding him tight against me.

Tonight - tonight I need to forget; tonight, he lets me.

I kiss his throat, and he strokes my hair. Lifting my chin, he presses a kiss to my cheekbone. "Sleep, love. I promise I'll be here in the morning."

I nod. I know he will.

Safe in his embrace, I do sleep. And I don't dream this time.


Three: It’s Been Awhile

And it's been awhile since I could hold my head up high
And it's been awhile since I first saw you
And it's been awhile since I could stand on my own two feet again
And it's been awhile since I could call you

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've stretched myself beyond my means

And it's been awhile since I can say that I wasn't addicted
And it's been awhile since I can say I love myself as well
And it's been awhile since I've gone and fucked things up just like I always do
And it's been awhile but all that shit seems to disappear when I'm with you


I claw myself into consciousness, fighting a wave of nausea as I fight to disentangle myself from the arms and legs that weigh me to the bed. "Adam," I whisper softly. "I need to.."

He grumbles, arms tightening possessively around me. I fight my panic, push at his shoulder. "Adam!" He opens his eyes slowly. "What?" He asks, softly. This is the third night I've ended up in his bed.

He never seems to be upset by my need to be close to him; he welcomes me to his room, and holds me for as long as I need it. There's nothing sexual about my need for him; it's just that I ache so much, and he makes me feel safe.

He'll even watch me drink myself into oblivion without scolding me for it, though I can see the worry in his doleful gaze every time I get drunk.

I manage to convince him to let me up long enough to go relieve myself and crawl back into the bed. He sighs, looks at me.

"Larry. This can't go on."

I stare at him, confused.

"You can't drink it away, Larry. It won't go away; it won't stop hurting." He speaks calmly, as one who knows what he's talking about. I growl.

"What do you know about it, then?"

He cups my cheek in one big hand. "Plenty." I start to object, and he presses his thumb against my mouth, effectively silencing me. "You'll remember the fiasco of my life just ten years prior?" I nod. I still can't speak with his thumb on my mouth like that.

I feel an obscure need to suck his thumb.

I lower my lids to hide my sudden, unbidden whim.

He raises an eyebrow at me, and continues. "I kept trying to drink myself to pieces. But it just kept coming back. I felt like an outsider; unloved, and unwanted. But you guys - none of you rejected me. I was rejecting myself. Larry -you can't drown this pain. I hold you while you cry in your sleep, looking for Ann, begging her to come back."

My lids snap open; I try to speak. "I don't remember any of that!" I manage, my word muffled by his thumb. He drags the pad across my lower lip, roughing it a little.

I bite my lip, then briefly run my tongue over the tip of his thumb. I can't resist.

"And yet you do it." Adam raises an eyebrow at me, eyeing my tongue as though it's a new and interesting specimen he's never seen before. "And last night, you tried to seduce me. Not that I mind , " He stresses as I flush. "I just thought you'd like to know what the alcohol is doing to you."

"Adam.."

"Yes?"

"I.." I couldn't speak.

"You miss Ann. And I'm a warm body." Adam nods, gently stroking my cheek. "Believe me, I get it. And I'm not upset with you. I want to help you, Larry. I want to help you not hurt so badly. And if it comforts you to hold on to me, then do it. Just stop drinking. Stay with me, hold me, kick me, punch me - whatever it takes to let go. I'll be here. I love you."

I stare at him, and my eyes water. He makes it so difficult to drown in self-pity, as much as I want to. Ironically enough, he's letting me do just that: own my self-pity, my grief, my anger, my hurt, and my self-blame. And it's mine until I'm willing to give it all up. with a sigh, I curl up against him, once again taking shelter in his strength, trusting him to keep me safe.


And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've gone and fucked things up again

Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
just one more peaceful day!

And it's been awhile since I could look at myself straight
And it's been awhile since I said I'm sorry
And it's been awhile since I've seen the way the candles light your face
And it's been awhile but I can still remember just the way you taste

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem to be I know it's me
I cannot blame this on my father; he did the best he could for me

And it's been awhile since I could hold my head up high
And it's been awhile since I said I'm sorry


The knife slides with smooth strokes over the skin of my thigh, and I sigh with delight. Ah, but it feels so good. If I concentrate, I can forget that other pain; the one that curls in my chest, fighting to get out. I don't want to face it anymore. I can't. I can't fight it anymore. I can't drink - Adam won't let me. Traitor. So I vow to bleed my life out here on the toilet.
I hiss softly, feeling oddly, sensually hungry and aroused, as the point glides near my scrotum, nicking delicately the crumpled skin. Butter soft, my skin parts like a wave against the prow of a boat, and the red blood spills steadily into the water below. I watch it with half-closed eyes.

Ann! Come back to me! Ann! Ann! Is that me? My voce sounds so hollow. I reach for her, fighting the paramedics who try to hold me down. I need her, can't they see? I have to hold her, I have to! I sob wildly as they lift her into the bus, wanting to pull her close and hold her and tell her I love her. But they won't let me.


The knife licks higher, nicking the column of my penis.

Blood, like tears, fall.

She looks at me, pain-glazed eyes wide with shock. Her lips move.

She loves me still.

Take care of the babies.

Ann!


I wake with a shock, and look down at my hands. They're bloody.
I drop the knife, my fingers nerveless.

I watch the blood streaming from my thigh and genitals, my eyes wide with horror.

What have I done to myself? What have I done?

Terror lends strength to my voice.

“Adam! Adaaam!”

He’s standing in the doorway, staring at me as though he’s never seen me before. “Larry.” His voice is ragged as he lifts me into his arms, heedless of the blood. I wrap my arms around his neck, shivering as I become cold; faint and cold.

“Damn it, Babyface, are you trying to kill yourself?” He growls at me, and all I can do is shudder at the masterful tone of his voice. I nod, pressing my face against his neck. I can’t look at him.

As I begin to drift away on waves of nausea and shock, I can hear him frantically calling the others, and the even fainter sounds of sirens in the distance.


Four: Obvious Heart

The obvious heart has come to collect
Cause it tore apart like a tortured insect
The obvious heart waits here to heal
And balances out a subtle reveal

Cause there’s a remedy close
In a familiar dose
This bitter pill to swallow
Is last in the bottle tonight
You’re empty it’s alright
And full of yourself
No need to explain
To anyone else
Broken in time
Taken what’s left
No need to deny
The cause or effect

This heart is not a broken one
But where have all the colors gone
It’s still among the lucky ones

This heart is not a broken one
But where have all the colors gone
You’re still among the lucky ones
And burning longer than the sun

Cause there’s a remedy close
In a familiar dose
Now you can find out who knows
Soaking the truth that she says
In taken chances


I drift, aimless and lifeless, in a gray cloud of pain. Faintly, the beeping of machines threaten to overwhelm me with their taunting little sounds; metronome-like, they keep pace with my heart and breathing. I cannot bring myself to care.

Ann.

I cry, now, silent hot tears that dampen the pillow beneath me, my shattered heart clawing its way out of my chest. Fingers slip through my hair, caress my cheek.

Words I can’t quite understand are murmured against my check, kisses pressed to my temple.

I whimper a plea; touch me.

Hold me.

I need this; God – I need this.

She’s gone, my love, my heart, my very soul. She’s gone.

And I can’t have her back, not ever again.


“He’s perfectly healthy, physically, other than a bit of dehydration.” A voice is saying to someone I can’t quite make out from beneath salt-crusted lashes. A female voice, soft and gentle and quite pleasant, really. Pragmatic, pedantic, perfectly composed – she saw this all the time. “The cuts are surface only. He’s not trying to kill himself, not really.”

“But he damn near bled to death – “Bono, wild and haggard, objected.

“Alcohol and lack of food, sir. The wounds are really very shallow, barely going into the muscle. It’s a phenomenon called cutting, where the victim hurts herself - or in this case, himself – in order to avoid feeling the pain of a trauma or loss. You told me he recently lost his lover – they were together for years, right?”

A silent, pregnant pause.

“Look, sir, he’s not dealing with it very well right now. Emotionally, he’s a wreck waiting to happen. If you take him out of here, he will kill himself, purely by accident, so badly does he want to stop hurting. Keep him here, and I can help him.”

“How?” That is the Edge, ever pragmatic. He’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.

“Extensive therapy.” Her tone is implacable. “He’s also got the alcoholism to deal with, so it’s better if he remains in inpatient treatment for the next thirty days at the least.”

“We can’t – “

“We have to.” Adam cuts him off sharply. “Like it or not, B, we have to. He needs to be healed more than we need to worry about some idiot reporter getting wind of it. And so what if it happens? If it saves a life in the long run, Larry won’t care.”

“Besides, I took the liberty of making up an alternate name, anyway.” This was said with a bit of a laugh. The woman - whose face I haven’t yet seen – moves closer to the bed, unhooking the chart from the foot of the bed. “For now, he’s James Dixon. Completely innocuous. It helps that he got here in the wee hours of the night. Of course, I told the director of the hospital about it, and he’s perfectly willing to use the alternate name for the records, just to keep this private for Mr. Mullen. We’ll keep him safe, I promise.”

“You’d better.” I could hear the glower in Bono’s voice.

“Do stop glowering at her, B.” Adam retorts tiredly. “She’s got it well in hand.”

“And Adam will be staying with us as well, won’t you, Adam?”

“You bet.” Adam sits down, next to my foot, and absently rubs his hand over the top of it, from ankle to toe.

It’s a soothing motion, and I drift off to sleep, retreating from the world at large again in the warm wake of their love and care.



They surround my bedside, looking at me with worried, shocked eyes. I close mine, unable to look at them. It hurts too much, knowing I don't want to survive her loss, unable to tell them so.

Adam knows. So does Bono.

Bono was there when I wanted to die before. He pulled me through then; he wants to now.

Edge cradles my face in his calloused hands, and kisses my forehead gently. We're of an age, he and I; somehow, he understands it, too - perhaps we all understand of a loss so deep it pulls you under.

He's whispering, chanting something against my forehead.

The Lord's Prayer.

To my surprise, tears well up, slide down my cheeks. And here I thought there were no more tears. Adam stuffs his hands in his pockets, then moves closer to the bed. Finally, he settles at the edge, grabs my hand, and kisses the knuckles.

My fingers clench around his; he winces involuntarily. "Quite a grip for a man who wants to die, old chap."

I manage a weak smile. Trust Adam to come up with something that random at a time like this. Bono gives him an odd look, but subsides at a sharp glance from Edge before he could scold Adam.

"So - you have to stay here for seventy two hours, suicide watch. We're waiting with you." Bono says quietly. "We're not leaving you alone again. Adam can't watch you alone. You're our brother, and we're not letting you go."

I stare at him wistfully. "Bono.."

"I'm listening."

"It hurts." I manage, thickly.

"I know."

"I need her so." I close my eyes, the tears still falling. "I don't want to live without her. I just don't."

"It's a horrible feeling." Bono agrees candidly. Edge and Adam nod slowly, still holding me. They don't seem surprised by my admittance of wanting to die.

"Please.."

"Please what? Adam asks gently when I stop.

"Stop this," I whisper, drifting away despite myself. "Make it go away. It's a nightmare."

The morphine kicks in, and I dream.


I walk along the rocky shore, hands in my pockets. It's a soft day, this day; warm, with gray skies overcastting it all. The gulls scream, tauntingly, overhead. I stop to watch them, look around at the barren beach. I hadn't noticed I am alone out here.

A hand touches my shoulder.

I look around.

Ann.

So beautiful, my Ann - a pixie of a woman, she barely comes up to my shoulder. She's beautiful again. The burns are gone.

She holds me tight, her head on my shoulder. "It's not your time, yet, Larry. Our children need you."

"And they don't need you? I don't need you?" I whisper thickly against her hair, willing myself to become a part of her.

"It's not your time. You have to stay, Larry. Please? I need you to stay." She looks up at me with tear-stained eyes. "I know you miss me; I know it's hard to go on. But you have to. The children need to know you love them. They need to know you need them."

" Ann..." I bury my face in her hair, and sob brokenly. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have taken you out there..oh, my sweet Ann, I just wanted to show you what it's like. I wanted to make love with you in the rain.." I couldn't say anything more.

She holds me close, murmuring against my temple, "It's all right, love. It's all right. It isn't your fault; nobody blames you. It's all right.."

And somehow, I begin to feel whole again; the pain fades to something bearable, and my shattered heart is helped back to where it needs to be.

I'll never stop grieving her; but maybe I can wait, now.



I wake with a start; my band mates are gone. I am completely alone in my room. I sit up slowly, and stare at my wrists. I'd done a job on them, I could see from the wrapping they'd encased me in. I grimace; there's no telling what that'll do to my career.

I lift the sheet and stare at my long, lean legs. One long scar spiraling up my right thigh, disappearing beneath the flimsy gown; from the way my genitals throb, I'd tried to excise that, too.

"You're still pretty." Her voice makes me jump, and I drop the sheet with a squeak.

The doctor who looks at me over her glasses reminds me of one of those wolfhounds: tall, elegant, and strong; no trace of the frilly femininity that tangles most women up. She's sure of herself, and knows her way around.

Her grin tells me she's teasing me a bit.

I flush.

"So - I'm relatively sure that this was a one time occurrence, brought on by anxiety about your wife's death."

"She wasn't my wife." I retort, angrily trying to recover my dignity.

"Dear, sweet man, you don't do that to yourself for less than a wife of your heart." She moves further into the room, and my heart wrenches. She reminds me of Ann, in the pixie-like features, though she is far more exotic, with her dusky skin and gentle Island accent. "You cannot tell me that Miss Acheson was not your wife in your heart after thirty one years."

I have to admit she's right, damn her.

"How'd you know about.."

"It's been everywhere; the news has been trying to find you for the past half a year." She grins devilishly. "Adam and the rest have been running interference for you, so no one knows where you are." She sits on the bed, patting my hand gently. "We'll get you through this, Mister Mullen."

I turn my head away, facing the wall. I don't want to talk about it. "She touches my shoulder gently.

"Buzz the nurses when you want to eat."

I get the feeling she'll be back. And she won't be so easily put off next time.


Five: Outside


And you bring me to my knees again
All the times that I could beg you please
In vain
All the times that I felt insecure for you
And I leave our burdens at the door

But I’m on the outside, I’m looking in
I can see through you, see your true colors
Cause inside you’re ugly, ugly like me
I can see through you, see to the real you

All the times that I felt like this won’t end
It’s for you and I taste what I could never have
It was from you
All the times that I’ve cried my intentions full of pride
But I waste more time than anyone

But I’m on the outside, I’m looking in
I can see through you, see your true colors
Cause inside you’re ugly, you’re ugly like me
I can see through you, see to the real you

All the times that I’ve cried
All this wasted, it’s all inside
And I feel all this pain
I stomped it down, it’s back again
And I lie here in bed all alone
I can’t mend
But I feel tomorrow will be okay

But I’m on the outside, and I’m looking in
I can see through you, see your true colors
Cause inside you’re ugly, you’re ugly like me
I can see through you, see to the real you


And, in due course, she’s back. Her name is Maureen. Doctor Maureen Mallory, if one wants to get technical about it. But she doesn’t want to get technical about it; indeed, she encourages familiarity from her patients. “Makes people feel like human beings,” she retorts firmly when a colleague eyes her disapprovingly from the doorway where he’s observing her care of me. I wish vaguely for his absence. He annoys me, always hovering over her as though he owns her.

My hands ball into fists, tangling the sheets between my fingers.

“That’s a good sign,” Maureen says brightly, looking down at my hands. “The tendons weren’t destroyed. Looks like you’ll be drumming awhile yet, my friend.” She smiles at me.

Suddenly the room is warmer.

Much too warm.

I scowl at her. She laughs at me. “Should I cower in fear?” She mock shudders, holding up black-nailed hands as though to ward me off. I grab her hand, study the nails. Black nail polish. Not what one would expect in a doctor. I’m not sure I approve.

“Do stop trying to look like a priest. It’s not convincing. And hey, it’s only nail polish. Doesn’t mean I worship the devil, or anything.” That devilish grin is still there.

“Patients should always see a professional, Dr. Mallory,” opines Dr. Gargoyle (also known as Dr. Keenan) from the doorway, his mouth pinched tightly. He never comes into the room, as though I’m going to murder him, or something. Suddenly, I decide I like her black nail polish very much.

“Perhaps a pentagram or two, just for decoration,” I suggest mildly, looking at her through drooping eyelids. I’m suddenly very sleepy, and like a child, I nestle into the soft pillow, letting my eyes shut. Distantly, I feel her disentangle her fingers from mine, and tuck me in. I sigh contentedly.

“Maureen?” I whisper.

“Yes?”

“Come back later?” I ask, my voice muffled and thick.

“Sure thing, Babyface.” Her laugh is sweet and sunny.

So even the doctors are going to call me that, now. Well, that’s fine with me. I can live with it.


Three days later, I am released from the hospital, Dr. Mallory assured of my continued good behavior. Adam is, for whatever obscure reason that only she knows, appointed my Watcher. The one who will keep me from doing this to myself again.

For all her gaiety and lack of ‘proper decorum’, she is sharply astute. She actually nailed me with a lecture just before I left. “You’re by no means out of the woods. You’ll need more care than this,” She indicates the hospital with a disparaging wave of the hand, “can give you. Promise me you’ll get better care at home?”

I want to promise, I really do; another part of me wants to refuse. And yet – her blue-gray eyes are so sternly appealing that I cannot help but flirt with her, just a little. “I’ll promise if you kiss me and make it better.”

She snorts. “I do believe he’s recovering, folks. That was a joke. A definite joke.”
To my blushing, pleased surprise, she plants a kiss on my nose. Dr. Evil scowls, and Bono scowls right back, bullish in his protectiveness. “Simmer down, boys.” Adam chuckles at them both.

“This is highly unprofessional.”

“Stuff it, Dr. Keenan. It’s called levity. Even professionals like you can appreciate the necessity.” Irrepressible as always, Dr. Mallory waves us out of the hospital. “Out, out, damn spot!” She teases me.

I notice she’s got pentagrams on the ring finger of each hand.

The minx actually took me up on it.

I like her. Damn me, but I like her.


Six: Dying


I’m dying: dying to wake up without you
Got you in my head again
I’m dying: dying to forget about you
That you ever lived
There’s a shade come over this heart that’s coping with
Laying down to rest

I’m dying to live without you again

I’m dying; dying to find a distraction
Get you away from me
I’m dying: dying to reach a conclusion
So that the world can see it’s the same old story
Of love and glory that brought the fury back
I’m dying to live without

The first time you left I said good bye
Now there’s not a prayer you can survive

Dying: dying to die just to come back so we can meet again
Dying: dying to say what I’ve always, always should have said
It’s a strange emotion this, but there’s still hope in this as long as there’s a prayer

I’m dying and I can’t live without you again

It’s a strange emotion this, but there’s still hope in this as long as there’s a prayer

I’m dying and I can’t live without you again
I’m dying and I can’t live without you again


“Dad!”

I wake with a shock, and look down at my hands. They're bloody.
I drop the knife, my fingers nerveless as I blindly grope about me for something to stop the blood – something to stop the pain, the need, the nameless terror that washes over me as I realize that she’s gone, that I remember her gone.

Sobs threaten to spill over, wracking my frame violently as I wrap my slim fingers about the slim green neck of a bottle of Scotch. Ann hated Scotch – she had a refined taste, my sweet love.

I watch the blood streaming from my thigh and groin, my eyes wide with horror.

What have I done to myself? What have I done?

With a shiver, I pick up my bottle of liquid comfort, ignoring the dripping blood that stains my wrists and forearms. One more drink – just one more.


“Dad!”

I stare with unremitting focus into the bottom of the bottle, wondering hazily where the rest of the liquor went. After a distant fashion, I raise my eyes and focus on my son, who is staring at me like I’m a stranger to him. Perhaps I am; the man he once knew is gone – dead on the tide that claimed Ann’s life from me.

He looks at me with soft blue eyes.

Worried.

Needing.

Damn him.

“Leave me alone,” I scowl harshly. “Why aren’t you in school, anyway?”

“You said I didn’t have to go today, Da. Remember?” He explains softly, lower lip trembling. Tears gleam luminously, but he manfully swallows his tears; he’s learned, in the past three months, that tears will not help him. I snarl silently, and fling the bottle against the wall violently, taking an unholy delight in the destruction and the little thrill of fear that makes him flinch away from me.

“So go find something else to do besides stare at me.”

He bites his lip, swallowing a protest.

Protests, too, are futile.

Damn him for looking like her. Damn him for reminding me of the last time I held her in my arms.

I lever myself up from the floor, using the wall for support. I make my unstable way over to the liquor cabinet, fishing out another bottle to devour. I raise the bottle to my lips, anticipating with a fierce, dark joy the pleasure of the burn of whiskey down my throat, in my belly.

Ah, that’s it, I sigh mentally, feeling a sexual little thrill as the bottle neck touches my lips. Let me forget just a little while longer. ]

I never taste a drop.

A large hand pulls the bottle away from me, and I whirl, fetching my shoulder against the wall to remain upright. I glare ferociously at Adam, who is standing there with the bottle in hand, frowning at me. “What the hell ! How dare you...”

“How dare you !” He snaps forcefully, gripping my right shoulder forcefully, slamming my back against the wall. His voice is low with controlled fury. “Drinking yourself to death in front of your children? Damn it, when is the last time they ate? Or had clean clothes, or been to school? Did you know Ava called me because she’s worried about you? And Aaron! Damn, man, that kid’s a mess!”

“It’s none of your business,” I begin heatedly, trying to wrench free of his grip.

“Wrong, Larry. It is my business.” Adam glowers at me, setting down the bottle and gripping my other shoulder with his now free hand. “Look at you, Babyface: what have you done to yourself?”

I push against his chest, trying to escape his implacable grip. “Nothing!” I growl.

“You’re killing yourself.”

“Who cares?”

“I care. Your children care.”

“We care.” This from the doorway: Bono, Edge, and Gavin are standing there, watching me. “The children are with Ali, Lar. They’re staying with us until you get yourself together.” Bono continues, his face drawn and tired. “Those kids need a father.”

“And I suppose you’re it, huh?” I howl, furious and frightened by turns. “Who do you think you are? They’re mine, and I’ll do with them what I please – “

“The hell you will!” Adam shouts. “I won’t let you destroy them on top of it all! I know it hurts to have lost Ann – we all hurt – but you can’t keep on like this! Do you think she’d appreciate you killing her gifts to you?”

“Don’t you understand? She’s gone! She’s gone!” I begin to sob uncontrollably, dropping to my knees when my legs rebelled, clutching Adam closer to me. My cheek against his belly, I cry like a child, begging him to help me die, to help me be closer to her.

I feel him sigh, resting his fingers against my temple. “All right, Babyface. All right.” His voice is so distant – the roaring in my ears is so close.

My arms weaken, and I barely notice when the guys catch me just before I hit the floor.

Dr. Mallory wants my head on the proverbial plate. Once again, I’d tried to destroy my body, leaving long scars on chest and belly. I looked like I had been on the losing end of a fight with a rabid tiger. I tried, weakly, to defend myself. But she would have none of it. Sharply, sternly, she reprimanded me for failing to follow through on outpatient treatment.

“What do you care, anyway? Afraid you’ll have a black mark on your record? Dr. Keenan was right! You’re too involved with your patients.” I growl angrily, having failed at all other attempts to fend her off.

“Larry. You don’t want to die or you’d have done yourself in already. So what’s keeping you here? What’s the payoff, hmm?” She utterly ignores my accusations. She digs in to the depth of the problem, in just the same way Adam did not so long ago.

“I don’t have to answer that.” I snap, fury rising as I try to get out of the bed. She pushes me back down with one hand. She’s far stronger than she looks, and pins me down without effort, it seems. It only serves to make me angrier, and I grip her slender wrist in my hand, crushing it.

She doesn’t even wince; her nails dig into my skin and I shiver. “What’s the payoff?” She barks.

“My kids, okay? They need me.” I cry desperately, writhing to disengage her fingers from my body. “Wrong!” She snaps. “Try again.”

“I don’t know.” I growl. What the hell does she want from me? To admit I’m too afraid to die? Too afraid to live?

“Try this: You’re running away from the grief, Larry. You don’t want to grieve, because to grieve means to let Ann go. You don’t want to let her go, and that’s fine; but at least be man enough to say so.” He voice is softer, but no less stern. I stare at her, my lower lip trembling. Damn her, she’s right. I don’t want her to be right, but she is. I turn my head away, eyes closing in defeat.

Knowing she’s won, she lets me go, and I jerk the covers up to my chin, trembling and worn. “Fine. I admit it; I don’t want her to be gone. What now? You gonna turn me over to some shrink who will make me better with drugs?” I ask rebelliously.

“No, Larry, I am not.” She sits at my bedside, stroking my thin hand gently. “I’m going to help you find your way in the darkness.”

I stare at her. “How?”

She cups my face in her hands, kisses my forehead. “Trust me?”

“Yes.” Childlike, I reach for her. “Stay.”

“I promise.”

I believe her; I curl up close to her and let my eyes drift shut.


I wake to the sound of Adam’s melancholy bass playing, and stretch as much as my abused body will allow me. I yawn and manage a little smile for him when he looks at me, quizzical and hesitant all at once. “Do you need anything..?” He asks.

I gather I’ve been drifting in an out of sleep for quite awhile by the tone of his voice. He looks more rumpled than ever, as though he hasn’t really stirred from my side in days and days. I try to smile reassuringly. The expression feels strange on my lips; I’ve forgotten how to smile. “Water.” I croak, unsteadily.

“Sure.” He pours a glass for me, and helps me sit up to drink it.

“So...” I allow my voice to trail off, uncertain.

“You gave us all a scare, Babyface.” His voice cracks and I react unthinkingly: I hug him close, and he wraps his arms around me, resting his cheek on my head. I can feel him shaking with tears.

Sorrow fills the void where my heart once was.

I hate myself for hurting him; for hurting my mates and my children.

It’s such a long way out; but I have to make it through. I have to.

“Adam?”

“Yes, darling?”

“I am an alcoholic. Help me.”

“Never doubt it.” He slips a finger beneath my chin, forces me to look at him. “As long as it takes, I am with you.”

I smile, then, shy and vulnerable. He holds me close to his chest, protective and brotherly.

The healing has begun.

Seven: Maybe I

You were right: it came over me
What never been before, you slid under my door and now I find
The reason to admit I’d been too lazy
But in this life in this atmosphere
I’m starting to believe the other side of me but whose to know
So honey surely one of us is crazy

Maybe I’ m not so easily stung
Maybe I’ve got some love to someone
Well maybe I’m not the story for you
Well maybe I’ll be the do you ought to do

So now I stand
I never stood before
What’s better left unsaid is done buried and dead
And you’re alive
Girl I think you might just stay the night

Maybe I’ m not so easily stung
Maybe I’ve got some love to someone
Well maybe I’ll write a story for you
Well maybe I’ll be the do you ought to do

I’m not trying to take it easy baby
And I’m not trying to help you see
I’m not trying to take us over babe
I’m jus trying to believe

Maybe I
And maybe I
And maybe I
And maybe I, I, I
I

Maybe I’m not so easily stung
But maybe I got some love to someone
And maybe I’m just the story for you
And maybe I’ll be the do you oughta do

So maybe I, I’m not the one for your love
Well maybe I, I’ll be your heaven above
And maybe I, I’ll write a story for two
And maybe I, I’ll be the do that you do



Days – weeks – pass, and she always makes time for me. She talks, I listen; she listens even more when I talk. And slowly, very slowly, I begin to grieve, to let go. Some days I rage like a wild, trapped animal; some days I crumple like a paper machete child, trying to hide behind a wall of tantrums. Through it all, Maureen is there, always giving me what I really need, not what I want.

How she understood, she finally told me – all of us, actually, for the band developed a deep interest in a doctor that seems to want to help me, not the ‘cutter and alcoholic’ in room 616 – one night when all was quiet on the floor.

“How come you get it when no one else seems to?” I ask, resting my chin on her shoulder. She rolls her white coat’s sleeves up, displaying a myriad of scars. “Most of these came from my youth; I used to deliberately get into accidents where my skin would be scarred. And then I’d scratch and peel at the sores, causing them to get worse. My mother was abusive, you see.” She pauses, thoughtfully. “She invested shame in me, telling me no one should know, it’d make her look bad, and all. So I’d half rip my skin off, hoping someone would notice. But no one did. Not even the black eye wore to school one day after she hit me in the face with a coat hanger one day, just because I didn’t like the hairstyle she did for me.”

I blink at her in confusion. “Over a hairstyle?” I usually just let Ava try and fix her own hair if she doesn’t like what I do to it – looks are important to little girls, I guess. Even little girls who aren’t prissy.

“Over a hairstyle.” Maureen smiles thinly. “Eventually, I learned to pretend it didn’t exist. And I damn near killed myself; I never took a knife to myself, but I overate; I refused to care. I refused to care about my looks, myself. Well, let’s just say I know what it’s like to feel isolated in your grief. Because I grieved my lost childhood.”

We looked at each other, shocked by this; this self contained woman who never seemed ruffled had been hurt and hurt badly, and yet, she’s still here.

I think I fell for her a bit then; certainly, I feel quite warm towards her now.

Eight: The Taste


So I seen her
In a land that was forgotten
She brought a candle to my mind
But it got no easier then
So I snuck out of her apartment
I went down to buy a premium
But all that settled was my mind, for a time
Till she showed me what a fire was
I will be a happy man if you’re my sacred son
I could be a dividend if you’re my only one

So I bought 12,000 acres
Suddenly it was a dozen
And for a moment I was blind but for the time
I caught a glimpse inside the universe there
I couldn’t handle the dimensions
See 2+2 can = 5 here
So I sold off unto a lamb, but it was a scam
And he giggled like he’d won the lottery
I will be a happy man if you’re my sacred son
I could be a dividend if you’re my only one
And all the children started singing
There I fell into a coffin
Brought the water in my eyes
(Surprised) I wondered at the miracle there
When it all was finally over
I thought about our time here
Here where everything’s divine

Well I find I still got the taste for you
I still got the taste for you
I still got the taste for you
I still got the taste for you
If you’re my only one.


I flirt endlessly, she deflects; she knows I want her, want her desperately. And yet, she never outright refuses me. Even after my second release from the hospital, I continued to see her for outpatient care, and the subsequent blood work to make sure my body isn’t going to give up the ghost soon.

Fortunately, even with all the drinking, my body has survived admirably.

“Your liver function is absolutely normal!” She grins happily at me; I grin back. We had been worried about it, for I remain weak, though stronger than I had been.

And then, she kisses me. I am too surprised to do anything about it, and castigate myself for my cowardice.


“Truth or dare time,” I look at her challengingly, grinning delightedly at her mock-grimace. I’ve invited her to my villa in France, just to treat her for being such a good friend and doctor to me. She’s pulled me through Hell by the ear, and I’m exceedingly grateful.

And, if I care to admit it, I want to seduce her a bit.

Actually, a whole lot.

“Dare.” She hazards. I grin. She’s very obviously sick of me asking her exceedingly inappropriate questions about her love life, or lack thereof. American men can be so stupid. They apparently can’t see how attractive her long lean body and handsome face are.

Ah, well. Their problem, not mine.

“I dare you to kiss me – ” I pause for dramatic effect, “ – here.” I point to my bellybutton, flicking a finger over the thick blond line of hair that obscures it. She chuckles at me. “Hedonistic pig.” She accuses with no heat at all. So far, I’d gotten her to kiss my mouth, my neck, and my chest. I wonder how far I can get her to go before she refuses me.

On the other hand, she’s gotten my mouth on her body, too. Maybe she likes it, this wicked way to get to sex. With another grin, she lowers her head, her lips brushing my hard belly, pressing against my bellybutton with such sensuality that my heart races, my blood rushes to my nether regions.

I hadn’t realized how good it could feel to make love again. I feel so alive.


We crash, hot and exhausted, into the couch again, curling up where we lie, stroking each other wonderingly, spent.

Is this what it’s like to love again, after having lost so much?

I wonder; I want it to last forever.

I wonder if my mates will approve.

Then again, who cares?

Nine: NYC Weather Report

Gotta get away from here
Gotta get away from all these thinkers
Drinking up my thoughts again
Gotta get away from here
Gotta get away from all these choosers and losers
Drinking up my thoughts again

Sit back, New York City; you’re not cute but you’re oh so pretty
When the rain comes, you fall up again

Sunny: you are a part of me
Sunny: you are the heart of me

Gotta get away from here
Gotta get away from all these people who need people
You know, it really makes me sick
Gotta get away from here
Gotta get away from expectations, recreations just for the sake of it

Sit back, New York City; you’re not cute but you’re oh so pretty
When the rain comes, you fall up again

Sunny: you are a part of me
Sunny: you are the heart of me

Hey yeah, hey
Hey, yeah hey

Hey yeah hey
Hey yeah hey

Sit back, New York City; you’re not cute but you’re oh so pretty
When the rain falls, you come up again

Sit back New York City friend

Gotta get away from here
Gotta get away from what I’m thinking
I’m thinking it’s too much for anyone
Gotta get away from here; gotta get away from what you’re drinking
And drinking so I’ll take another one..

No, no, no..
No, no, no…


Free again, in New York, we begin another concert on the ever lengthening Vertigo tour. It’s all pretty much a blur to me – my body hurts more than ever; not surprising after all the abuse it’s been through in the past nine months. I’m forty five today – a thing I had to be reminded of, much to everyone’s amusement.

We’d actually decided to come out with the truth of why we’d stopped the tour; I am still touched by the outpouring of support and love the fans have given me without reserve. They’d been supportive and gentle, and even seemed to back off trying to get me to sign stuff when I was just out walking. There’s even been a few ‘We Love You, Larry’ signs floating out in the audience of a night.

Tonight, there’s even one that says, “We like you sullen, Mullen!” out near the kit that’s set up on the catwalk. I try very hard to look grumpy about it all, but I can’t. I laugh, and several audience members giggle right back at me. I wave to the girl holding up the sign, and sign it for her. She looks so happy she might melt. I grin, walk on to the kit, and continue the concert.

Three days later, I get a gushing letter of thanks. Maureen chuckles, “There you go, breaking young hearts again.”

I stick my tongue out at her, and she dabs a bit of ice cream on it.

Chocolate. My favorite.

We grin at each other like children, and suddenly, I realize the old wounds are just that – old. I love Maureen, not quite as intensely as I had loved Ann, but it isn’t needed.

Maureen is Maureen, the love of my mature life, for as long as that is. I’m happier for it.

Ten: Epiphany


Your words they make just a whisper
Your face is so unclear
I try to pay attention
And the words just disappear
Cuz it's always raining in my head
Forget all the things I should have said
So I speak to you in riddles
Cuz my words get in my way
I smoke the whole thing to my head
And feel it wash away
Cuz I can't take anymore of this
I wanna come apart
And did myself a little hole
Inside your precious heart

Cuz it's always raining in my head
Forget all the things I should have said
I am nothing more than
A little boy inside
That cries out for intention
That I always try to hide
Cuz I talk to you like children
Though I don't know how I feel
But I know I’ll do the right thing
If the right thing is in fear
Cuz its always raining in my head
Forget all the things I should have said


Dazed, I watch as her hands slide over my body, feeling, for the first time in a very long time, the need to make love. My breathing becomes shallow, my body shivering with that wild, undulating hunger. “Maureen.” My voice is so husky. “I need this; God help me, I need this. I need you.”

It’s been a long six weeks, recovering again. And I try; I try hard for Maureen’s sake (and somewhere along the line, her indomitable spirit infects me; I want to do it for myself.), for she is so determined that I make it. And she’s so sensible. Despite the knowledge that she must not get involved with a patient, I’ve managed to convince her that I’m not going to stop flirting with her.

And, well, I suspect she just plain wants to do me.

Not that I mind.

She looks up at me, her midnight dark hair falling about her face in sensual, silky curves. I stroke them back, out of her face.

We kiss.

It’s a slow, soft thing, building carefully on the fear that we will be interrupted ere we get too far.

God, I hope not.

I taste her; slowly, oh so slowly. It’s fragile yet, our sensual need for each other. A sneaking caress here, a brief kiss there; Adam, for whatever reason (who knows why Adam does anything at all?) has decided magnanimously, to cut his visit short this evening, though he’s still somewhere in the hospital. He’s probably charming some nurse somewhere, distracting them from wondering why Maureen hasn’t left my room yet – if they’d even noticed.

I love Adam, so much.

And then there’s no time for anything but loving.



My release from the hospital after undergoing emergency surgery to repair a herniated disc is a media circus. I really rather wished we could have escaped in the middle of the night; however, Paul insists the public needs to know I’m healthy and hale, now.

Fuck the public.

I snarl at the blaze of flashbulbs that greet me, ignoring the questions fired at me from all sides. I’m not talking. Absently, I wind my fingers in Maureen’s, hoping against hope I don’t collapse I’m still tired, honestly. There were an awful lot of blood tests after I crashed and burned a week ago, becoming lethargic even when Maureen was near me. The other doctors always said she’d make me smile even while pumping every bit of blood out of my body. If they only knew, they’d fire her. Fuck them, too.

Into the waiting limo we pile, Adam, Maureen, and I.

Adam sighs, melodramatic. “Well, Babyface, you’ve managed to survive the media. What next?”

“Disneyland.” I quip, and we all laugh, relieved and strained all at once. We worry, of course, about the tests. Maureen’s managed to assign herself as my personal physician.

I don’t mind at all that her legs are tangled with mine.

Adam raises his brows and grins at me. “Naughty, naughty man.”

“Feck off.”

“Yes, sir.”

We grin again, understanding each other perfectly.

Somehow, I feel the sun has begun to shine again; I’m learning to love; to live. Not for long, I know it somehow, but what I have is long enough.

Eleven: Nobody
[i]
Take off your shoes… Take off yourself
Take off your rented mental health
Take off your raincoat… settle down
Take off your nightmare and your frown
There is a place for you to go
To see another ringer in a rock show
Take my pretense for a time
Cause I want to say to you
I’m nobody without you…buddy
My long lost friend
If you’re not here to hear me scream
Am I silent like a dream
Where all the dragons are my friends
Each night we meet our bitter ends
Do I need you to make me real
Like Wheeler spinning his own wheel
Quantum strings within my brain
Popping sanities insane
I’m nobody without you…buddy
My long lost friend
Not everybody has a brain
Not everybody’s going sane
Not everybody wishes well
Not everybody’s heaven’s hell
Sometimes there’s someone to blame
Sometimes a place for shame
Sometimes good’s better than bad
Sometimes good’s better than bad
Sometimes good’s better than bad
Sometimes you’re better than me
Heaven fell on herself tonight
As the devil met me in the wishing well
And in that moment I found myself knowing
That in the end it’s just about you and me
Nothing smaller or larger
Though dragons are good for the soul
Nothing can be better than baring yourself for another…
Open for scrutiny, ridicule, and indulgence
Therein lies the balls, and the mind, and the heart…
As fear is truly the Mindkiller…
When nothing is left…
Everything is gained…
You see I wish I was a poet
But I know as we go round and round
Though endings are never ever happy
It’s the happy moments along the way
That in the end
Make it…ok...

I stretch, angling my face to the sun, feeling its gentle warmth through the window as she opens the blinds. She knows me so well; she who has taken care of me this past year as my ravaged body slowly begins to heal from what I’ve done to it; between the alcohol and the cutting and the physicality of being U2’s drummer, my body has begun to unravel. We found the cancer in my spine six months ago, and managed to halt it by main force.

Adam is a reluctant co-conspirator: I refuse to tell the guys that I will not see fifty. They would try and talk me out of it. I don’t want to see fifty. I want to die. I’m tired; I want to be laid to rest. Maureen knows; she understands.

“Morning, sleepyhead.” She teases me gently, fingers brushing my shaggy hair from my brow as I open my eyes to drink her in. She’s beautiful.

She’s not Ann, but she’s enough.

I cup her face in my hands, pulling her close for a long, lingering kiss. Her hands are braced against my chest, the fingers kneading muscle as we caress each other, learning – again – the things that make us hungry for each other.

“My, aren’t we energetic this morning,” Her lips move against my neck, the words shivering down my spine to my erect penis, and I pull her down, on top of me. “Yes. Maureen. Oh, please, lover: fuck me.” I growl, pulling her tight against me as I arch up, seeking her warmth.

Good thing we're alone tonight.



Finally we’re home in Ireland, and she gets to meet my hooligans. And they take to each other like ducks to water.

Happier still, she’s agreed to stay here with me.

Surely I’ve entered Heaven.

I should be worried by the propensity for disaster that pricks my skin every time they get quiet. Instead, I wait, blissful and serene, for the explosion of something to sound from another room. Invariably, it’s something related to science experiments and other possibly dangerous experiments.

I am relieved by how easily they accept her.

I decide to ask Aaron about it one night.

His answer makes me blink.

“She’s not Mom, and she’s not trying to take over from her. She talks to me about Mom, asks me to tell her stuff about her.” I hadn’t known she’d been the least bit curious about her, and said as much.

Aaron gives me a too-wise look out of the corner of his eye. “You don’t see her the way I do, Dad.”

“A point.” I acknowledge.

“Dad?” Wistful, that tone. I look at him, finding tears shining in his eyes.

“You’re not going to go away like Mom did, are you?”

“Son.” I begin, then stop. Why lie? He needs to know I won’t be long for this earth. “Yes, son. I am. But not so suddenly. When I go, you’ll know. I’ll have time to say goodbye.” I hope, anyway.

“Why?” He is furious and trying to be manly.

I stifle a grin.

“I have cancer, Aaron. It’s terminal. I won’t survive it.”

“What about chemo?”

“I could, but son, it’s not going to do much except make my hair fall out.”

“God forbid you get a haircut.” He snarls with a touch of asperity. “You look like a shaggy Snoopy doll.”

Great. Criticism on my looks from a twelve year old. This is ridiculous. “Never you mind that, my boy. The fact is, the chemo isn’t going to do me much good at this stage. We got it to stop, eight months ago, with chemo. I’m not doing that again; when it starts up again - and it has – I’m going to let it take me. I’m sorry, son, but I don’t want to live like that, not even for you. You’ll just have to go on living without me.”

Aaron stares at me, angrily crossing his arms. “So that’s it? You just walk out, like that, so soon after Mom? Don’t you love us?”

So much pain beneath the need to be adult.

I want to hold him, but not now. Not when he’s not ready for it.

“Elvis: it’s not about not loving you. I do; deeply. I love you enough not to force you to watch me waste away, and you know good and damned well that I am dying by inches.”

He hangs his head briefly, no doubt remembering that I haven’t eaten in three days. And I’ve lost twenty pounds I can’t afford to lose.

Not to mention the suddenly failing liver.

“So, love, I want to enjoy you while I’m alive. All of you.”

He nods, then throws his arms around me, sobbing.

I kiss his temple, holding him closer to me. “I love you.” I whisper against his hair. “I’ll miss you.”

“Me too, Daddy. Me too.”

I smile into his hair. He hasn’t called me that in years.


Epilogue: Twenty Four

Twenty four oceans
Twenty four skies
Twenty four failures
Twenty four tries
Twenty four finds me
In twenty-fourth place
Twenty four drop outs
At the end of the day
Life is not what I thought it was
Twenty four hours ago

Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And I'm not who I thought I was twenty four hours ago
Still I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You

Twenty four reasons to admit that I'm wrong
With all my excuses still twenty four strong

See I'm not copping out not copping out not copping out
When You're raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now

And You're raising these twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts
But I want to be one today
Centered and true

I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
You're raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You're raising the dead in me


I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I'm singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And You're raising the dead in me
Twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts.
I'm not copping out. Not copping out. Not copping out.


Two years have passed since that terrifying time when I tried to follow Ann into the grave; it’s been difficult, and I still have nightmares. Shy before, I am now as fragile as spun glass, even now; my mates keep me closer still. My children are no longer afraid of me, nor are they afraid for me. Ali and Morleigh have become their surrogate mothers, with Susie acting as an aunt. They know I’m sick, that I’m getting well, and that I need their love to help me. That’s all. Adam – dear, steady Adam – has been my constant companion, and my sponsor in the recovery from alcoholism. He’s there on those nights when I pace with the need to drink, to drown the hungry, aching terror I feel when I need my sweet Ann the most.

He holds me when I’m a shivering wreck. It’s like that doctor said.

“He knows what it is you need the most – he’s been there, Larry. Let him love you and stop trying to be so damned tough. You don’t need to be around them.”

I don’t know how she knew I needed to not be tough, but she did. And I am eternally grateful for her support – she actually gets me through the grief, and the cutting.

I came to find out that she used to do it, too.

Today, we’re celebrating my forty ninth birthday.

They’re all giggling over the fact that I don’t look a day over thirty five, still. Though I’m trying to glower and sulk about their teasing, nobody much pays attention to me.

The sun is warm; I bask in it, for once at peace with myself and the world without Ann.

I know I can survive her loss now.

I also know it’s perfectly all right to grieve for her still.

“Dad!”

I open my eyes lazily. My babies – half grown little wretches that they are – are calling me to jump into the pool. After a moment’s reflection, I decide to do it, just to prove to my mates – who are in their fifties, and inclined to be lazy – that age is no excuse to not have a good time. In I jump, tackling Aaron on my way in.

Yes – life is good; I miss Ann, but I still live.


Two: If God Made You

Hey Kid… Your time has come to change
Though I need you more than I’ve needed anyone in any way tonight
Hey Kid… I know it won’t be long
The Captain’s calling…come to see you back where we belong
Something inside me is breaking
Something inside says there’s somewhere better than this…
Sunset sailing on April skies
Bloodshot fire clouds in her eyes
I can’t say what I might believe
But if God made you he’s in love with me
Hey Kid…Do wishes count at all
Can you give me a sign…give me anything I won’t tell a soul you told
Hey Kid…Will you hold me when I sleep
Will you find me when the tide decides that I got to leave
Something inside me is breaking
Something inside says there’s somewhere better than this…
Sunset sailing on April skies
Bloodshot fire clouds in her eyes
I can’t say what I might believe
But if God made you he’s in love with me
Sunset sailing on April skies
Bloodshot fire clouds in your eyes
I can’t say what I might believe
But if God made you he’s in love with me
Something inside me is breaking
Something inside says there’s somewhere better than this my love
Sunset sailing on April skies
Bloodshot fire clouds in her eyes
I can’t say what I might believe
But if God made you he’s in love with me
Sunset sailing on April skies
Bloodshot fire clouds in your eyes
I can’t say what I might believe
But if God made you… he’s in love with me…



Hours later, I climb into bed, curling up in the middle of the bed with my dog Reiki, a gift from my mates. Missy died about a year ago, and I hadn’t felt right about not having a dog. Weird, how comforting they are, dogs. No matter what, they love you.

Remembering Ann’s gentle steadiness, her arms around me, I begin to cry, silent, soft tears that fall into Reiki’s thick fur. She frantically licks at my face, not understanding and trying to cheer me up. I sigh and hold her closer.

There’s a brush of fingertips against my shoulders

I jump and look around. Nothing.

And yet, somehow, I know. Ann.

My soul. My heart. My love.

I close my eyes and sigh, and know nothing more.


Good night sweetheart, Good night, sweetheart,
Till we meet tomorrow,
Good night sweetheart,
Sleep will banish sorrow.
Tears and parting
May make us forlorn,
But with the dawn
A new day is born,
So I'll say
Good night, sweetheart,
Tho' I'm not beside you,
Good night, sweetheart,
Still my love will guide you
Dreams enfold you,
In each one I'll hold you,
Good night, sweetheart, good night.


We find him like that the next morning, his arms around the gangling, oversized puppy, with the most peaceful expression on his face. He died a natural death, we are assured; he just didn’t want to continue without his beloved Ann. Maybe there is a God out there; maybe He heard Larry’s need to be with her.

I hope so, for his sake. I’ve kept his secret from the rest of them: the fact that he knew he wouldn’t live to see fifty. He’d been failing from spinal cancer, though you’d never know it from his drumming. He looked healthy, if a bit thin – but then, Larry has always been thin.

Looking into the ornate chrome and black casket, I brush his thick, golden hair, and stroke his baby-fine cheek. Even in death, he taunts age. In death, he looks very close to twenty.

Surely God wanted his angel back.

Bono and Edge put a hand on my shoulder, and I nod to them. We don’t need to speak. We know what has to be done, and it is done. He left his most precious possessions to me: his children.

Imagine that; I don’t even like children. But there’s something about his children that’s different, even from Bono and Edge’s. All three of them inherited his quiet serenity, his alert watchfulness. It’s been spooky for Susie and I, having them around. They never seem to fight or get rowdy like other children. And yet, when they plan mischief, it’s always too funny to really punish them.

Maybe he wasn’t kidding when he named his youngest Adam Clayton Mullen. That kid’s the worst of the three. Charm to spare and enough mischief for six. And they all have his sweet gentleness beneath the tough maturity.

Good to know Larry and Ann live on through them.

As we leave, I swear I can hear the drum solo of 40 floating on the wind as they lower him into his grave, next to his Ann.


Goodnight, sweetheart
Well, it's time to go
Goodnight, sweetheart
Well, it's time to go
I hate to leave you, but I really must say
Goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight
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