worth· less | \ ˈwərth-ləs
: lacking; having no real value or use
Sting hits rock bottom three weeks before Christmas.
“Holy shit, are you okay?”
The voice coming from above him is familiar, but when Sting squints up at the person it belongs to, he doesn’t recognize them. To be fair, they’re nothing but a vague blur of blue and pink.
“’m fine,” he mumbles, tipping his head back against the wall and sighing at the cool brick against his skin. He expects the person to leave – they usually do – but instead, there’s a warm hand on his forearm.
“Hey, c’mon, look at me.”
Sting frowns, looking down at the hand and then back up to the person. Now that they’re closer, Sting can see that the pink is their hair. He’s pretty sure he knows someone with pink hair, but everything is fuzzy and kind of numb right now, so it’s not important.
“Go… ‘way,” Sting says, batting feebly at the hand on his arm. His arms are heavy, and moving makes the whole world spin until it’s nothing but a blur of colors and shapes that tug at whatever’s left in Sting’s stomach.
He leans forward and throws up.
“Fucking hell!” the person shouts, scrambling backward as Sting tips to the side, gagging on the taste of liquor that’s stuck in the back of his throat. He tries to push himself back up, but his arms aren’t really working, and Sting’s pretty sure that’s not a good thing.
“S’rry,” he slurs, then throws up again, tears forming in the corners of his eyes as he tries to gasp in air.
“Sting, what the hell?” The voice is still there, and the pink blob moves back into Sting’s space, warm hand now on the back of his neck instead of his arm. Sting flinches and tries to shove the hand off, but they’re stronger than him. Everyone always is.
“Don’ touch me.” He tries to sound assertive, but it comes out more like begging – please stop, please don’t hurt me, please just leave me alone because I can’t feel anything and that’s fine.
“Call 911,” the voice says to someone else, and Sting’s fear starts to turn to panic.
“N-no,” he mumbles, forcing himself to keep his eyes open and actually look at the person in front of him. It takes him a second, but he eventually realizes it’s Natsu. They had worked together at the café until Sting had fucked up and gotten fired a few weeks ago.
“’m sorry,” Sting manages, trying to shrug off the hand that’s still on his shoulder. Where is he? Everything’s just vague shapes that move in ways they shouldn’t, but Sting’s pretty sure that’s an Exit sign above Natsu’s head. The wall behind him isn’t really a wall, it’s metal bars, and… “Stairs.”
“Yeah, you’re on the stairs,” Natsu says, keeping his hand on the back of Sting’s neck. “Are you hurt?” Another hand starts to move across Sting’s body and Sting finds enough strength and coordination to shove Natsu away.
“… said don’ touch me.”
Please. Don’t hurt me. I won’t do it again. I’ll be good, I’ll be better, I’ll—
“Sting, I’m not gonna hurt you.”
Someone else is nearby, another blurry shape that’s saying things like drunk and maybe high and agitated into a phone.
“It’s gonna be okay,” Natsu says, and a wounded, angry noise breaks from Sting’s throat as he tries to shuffle further back. He misjudges and everything tips beneath him again. The ground reaches for him, dragging him down until his cheek meets concrete.
He can’t feel it. It doesn’t matter.
“Not,” Sting mumbles as he tries to push himself up. He can taste blood now, but that’s nothing new. “Jus’… don’t.”
“I’m sorry, I won’t touch you.” Natsu’s voice sounds distant, like the words are fighting their way to Sting, and that’s fine because he needs to get as far away as possible. “There’s an ambulance on its way, you’re gonna be okay.”
“You are the farthest fucking thing from fine,” Natsu says, and there’s that sharp edge that Sting’s been waiting for. He can’t bring his arms up, they won’t listen to him, but it doesn’t matter because everything is numb anyways.
“Just keep breathing, okay?”
Sting’s pretty sure he’s not in control of that anymore, and now his body really isn’t listening to him because everything’s going tight and it hurts like hell and he can’t stop shaking, and suddenly, he’s certain he’s going to die.
Waking up is so unpleasant that the first few time Sting does it, he refuses to stay conscious and fades back into something numb. Eventually he can’t keep himself asleep, so he cracks one eye open and immediately wishes he hadn’t.
“If you weren’t already half-dead, I’d murder you.”
Pink hair again. Natsu’s sitting next to Sting, hair mussed and eyes red with lack of sleep. Sting blinks a few times. When he finally realizes he’s in a hospital room, he isn’t really surprised. It’s not the first time.
“You almost died,” Natsu says, leaning forward and rubbing his face. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“I…” Sting’s not sure what to say to that. “’m sorry,” he manages, closing his eyes against the headache that’s starting to pound in his temples. His cheek hurts, and he vaguely remembers falling face-first onto the concrete.
For a few minutes, the only sound in the room is the soft beeping of whatever machinery is hooked up to Sting. Then Natsu sighs, sitting up and running his hands through his hair.
“You’re an idiot,” he says, glaring at Sting. “You know how long you’ve been out?”
Sting squints at him. There’s still a foggy haze around everything, and his tongue feels too big for his mouth.
“Two days,” Natsu says before Sting can answer. “You had a seizure before the ambulance could get there. I thought you were gonna die.”
Sting tries to focus his gaze, then gives up and squeezes his eyes shut. “Sorry,” he mumbles, bringing a hand up to rub his face. The other is attached to an IV that aches beneath his skin.
After a minute he opens his eyes again and frowns at Natsu. “Why’re you here?” he asks, realizing as soon as the words leave his mouth how ungrateful he sounds. He’s about to apologize again when Natsu interrupts him.
“Because you don’t have anybody else.”
Sting’s cheeks burn and he tips his head back onto the pillow, trying hard to blink away the tears that are quickly filling his eyes. “Fuck,” he whispers. His throat hurts and his stomach aches and part of him wishes he had died.
“I’ve...” Sting tries to talk but the words come out as more of a sob. When Natsu’s hand covers his own he flinches, but Natsu doesn’t let go.
“Do you wanna quit drinking?” Natsu asks gently.
Sting can’t stop the tears, so he just lets them fall, streaking down his cheeks and dampening the pillow. Natsu already knows. When they’d worked together, he’d caught Sting sleeping off a hangover in the back room. Sting had managed to stay sober for six days before that, but it hadn’t stuck. It never does.
Sting nods, rubbing the tears from his cheeks. “Yes, fuck, I...” He’s hit by a wave of nausea and he tenses, squeezing Natsu’s hand out of reflex. When the feeling passes, Sting lets out a quiet, gasping breath. He feels so small and stupid.
“You can stay with me,” Natsu says.
The words don’t register at first. Sting’s too busy focusing on not throwing up that it takes him a minute to process what Natsu’s said.
“Stay with me,” Natsu repeats. He’s still holding Sting’s hand. “At my apartment. You don’t have anywhere to live, right?” Sting shakes his head, still dazed. “If you’re really gonna quit, you can stay at my place, but you’ve gotta be serious about it.”
Sting can’t look at Natsu because if he does, he’ll fall apart completely. He doesn’t deserve help. Part of him wants to refuse, wants to push Natsu away before Sting hurts him, too. All he does is fuck up and hurt people.
But he’s scared and exhausted and so goddamn lonely, and he desperately wants to be more than this.
“Okay,” he says, and the words scrape the inside of his throat, but they feel right.