The Long Night
by K. Stonham
first released 15 April, 2020

It has been years since Jack Zimmermann thought "I don't want to be alive anymore," and did something about it.

This doesn't quite feel like that, but it's close enough that he shuts the door in Bittle's face and can't stop shaking as he slides down the other side of it.

Kenny. It's always Kenny.

No, that's not true, he forces himself to correct his own thoughts. He's in a better place now, Jack tells himself even as he can't stop trying to gasp for air. He has Shitty and his team and he knows his parents won't... won't...

...Won't be disappointed. They said so. They promised.

Worthless, Kenny's voice whispers in his mind.

He's not worthless, he tries to fight back. And fails.

He fails, he fails, he fails...

He tries again. Kenny's full of lies, full of shit, he called Jack's team shitty, which they aren't. They're one of the best D-1 teams in the country, and even if Jack can't be proud of himself, he can be proud of them. Kenny can take it and stuff it.

Worthless.

"Shut up," Jack grates out, not knowing who he's talking to: Kenny, the voice in his head, himself. Maybe all three at once.

He can't stop shaking, can't stop crying, and he hates, hates, that someone he used to love could do this to him, could make him feel like this.

He hates the draft, hates the pressure, hates how it turned what used to be something good into poison.

Hates Kenny, for dripping poison into his ears.

He got given tools in therapy, ways to step back from the situation and assess. Trying to use them now feels like climbing a mountain using only his fingernails.

Jack tries nonetheless.

He fails, and fails, and fails again.

Worthless.

He sits there, cold and shaking, tear ducts burning dry, as the noise thumps on from below until it quiets down until at last thin winter dawnlight spills in his window. He is stiff, he is sore, he is empty.

It's better than the last time this happened, when he woke up in the hospital and could only despair that it hadn't worked, that he couldn't even get killing himself right.

He suddenly wonders whatever became of his note. It never got mentioned within his hearing. Did Kent destroy it? It is somewhere hidden in his father's papers? Does his mother have it tucked away in a drawer?

The black humor should make Jack feel shittier, but somehow it makes him feel a little better.

He failed to destroy himself that time, and Kent hasn't destroyed him this time.

Fuck Kent for thinking he could come into Jack's life, tear it apart, and rearrange it to what he wants. He had no right, and because of what Kent tried last night, Jack is never, ever going to sign with the Aces.

Head thumping back against the door, Jack finally manages a deep, aching breath and pushes himself up to his feet. He's tired and his eyes are burning, but more than anything else, he wants a hot shower, to wash the night from himself.

And if he uses up all the hot water, maybe he'll get to hear Holster shriek when he takes his turn.