Take Good Care of the Poor BoyI'm not happy with myself these daysI took the best part of the script and I made them all clichésAnd this red bandana's surely gonna fadeEven though it's the only thing the fire didn't take Everybody says you'll grow a lot from this experienceMaybe become zen after awhile, become a presidentBlessings get disguised sometimes but all I knowIs I finally learned the difference betweenGoing back and going home-Going Back/Going Home, Butch WalkerChapter Eleven: Fly Away Home"Jack, I'm hungry, and no one's seen him," Blink said."Then you go home," Jack said, parking the car in front of another gas station. "I have to find Sean.""You've been looking since dawn," David said gently, as they piled out of the car. "It's three, Jack, we need to go soon. Denise needs to call the police.""We still have time to find him! Damn it..." Jack groaned and slumped against David for a moment.Itey cleared his throat. "You guys go ask inside. We'll go..." He looked around, "We'll go hit that McDonalds and get food for everyone, you meet us there, okay?""Sure," Jack grumbled. "Come on, Davey."David nodded and shot Itey a grateful look as they split ways. And, as he'd been doing since almost six in the morning, Jack walked into the gas station and asked the guy behind the counter if he'd seen a skinny pretty boy, maybe smoking or something. But the guy just shook his head.Jack sighed. "Thanks anyway.""Come on." David steered him back outside. "Don't worry.""I can't not worry! Dave, there are, like, no more gas stations or libraries or anything else anywhere around. Where the hell could he be?""We'll find him, okay?""Where? How?" Jack demanded.David ducked the question. "You're cranky. Low blood sugar. Let's go get you something to eat, too.""I don't have time to eat--""You sound like Sean. Just calm down," David said, as they crossed the street to the waiting McDonalds. Everyone else was inside, still in line."No luck?" Itey asked sympathetically."No," Jack grumbled.--Sean sat outside, his teeth chattering, knees pulled up to his stomach. He now wished he had sprung for a coat after all; he'd been cold before, but never so cold. It had stopped snowing, thank god, but it was freezing out. He'd climbed out of the dumpster early, when the sun came up; it was starting to warm up, which was great, but he didn't know when they might empty the dumpster. So he'd climbed out and sat down, hoping that if the metal of the dumpster got warm, it might help keep him warm.He couldn't even go inside anymore; he smelled, well, like someone who'd spent the night in a dumpster. He was disgusting. His clothes had soaked through with all sorts of foul liquid, and frozen; it was on his skin and in his hair and he couldn't get it out of his nostrils... But then he'd become immune to it, after a few hours.Still, the fresh air had been nice enough.Except now it was freezing. He'd finished all of his books; he'd left them wedged under the dumpster all night, wrapped in the plastic bag from the bookstore. They'd been fine. But now that he'd finished them, he had nothing to do. He hadn't eaten in two days; he was dizzy. He felt like he might pass out.And the stupid McDonalds employees kept staring at him. Every time they came out the employee exit. Even the manager had come out and given him a long, sympathetic look. But hadn't said anything. Hadn't called the cops or anything.Sean was surprised. Usually, all adults dicked him over. Especially strangers who saw that he was just some poor skinny kid with no coat. Maybe they even told themselves they were doing the right thing... but no, the manager had just looked at him, and then shrugged when Sean glared back. Walked back inside.Sean lit up a cigarette. It was almost warmth.--"What do you want?" Itey asked, as the last person in front of them finally slid away with their meal on a tray. "I got it.""Not hungry..." Jack mumbled."Okay, Sean," Blink replied."That's what I said," David said with a sigh. "Itey, get him a Big Mac and fries, okay?""Okay.""I'm NOT--""Jack, come on," Dutchy cut in. "We'll find him. He's anorexic and cold. How far could he get?""Far enough..." Jack mumbled. "I mean, we haven't found him yet, and he's--""Um..." The boy behind the counter, a bored looking dark-skinned boy whose nametag read 'Luis', cleared his throat and said, "Did you say skinny?"There was a pause. "Yeah, so?" Jack snapped."And cold? Like...no coat?"There was a longer pause this time, and Jack swallowed, before saying, "Yeeaah?""'Kay... uh, one sec," Luis said. He turned around, stayed firmly rooted in his spot behind the counter, and shouted, "MR. BOTHERIT!"No one answered."MR. BOTHERIT!"And a man in his early forties peaked his head out from behind the deep frier, and bellowed, "Please come and get me, Luis!""These guys are talking about the dumpster kid.""What?" Jack exclaimed."Have you seen him?" Blink said at the same time.Mr. Botherit hurried over to the counter, rubbing his hands on his apron. "I...oh my, okay, can you just make your way over to the side please?" He walked over to the side of the counter, and stepped out from behind it. "Luis, keep working," he added over his shoulder, as Luis stared at them with a bored, slack-jawed expression."Have you seen Sean?" Jack asked immediately."Well, I'm...not so sure, if it's...this angry boy came in last night, barely ordered a thing--""Oh my god, you found Sean!""Jack, let him talk," David said calmly, putting his hand on Jack's elbow. Mr. Botherit cleared his throat, and continued. "Real skinny kid, stringy hair, no jacket. Really grumpy kid." Mr. Botherit paused. "He stayed out back by the dumpsters. I figured...I figured I'd call the cops if no one came looking for him, but--""Oh my god, thank you," Jack interrupted. "Oh my god, I... I love you, I really, really do--" And Jack enveloped Mr. Botherit in an awkward, weird, grateful hug."Is he still by the dumpsters?" Itey asked, stepping up next to Jack, and, with the help of David, delicately pried him off of Mr. Botherit."Sure is," Mr. Botherit nodded. He looked at Jack. "I'll, uh, I'll take you out back now."Jack looked so relieved that Dutchy laughed a little when he said, "We'll just wait here, Jackass." But they all looked relieved also. Jack smiled back at all his friends, breathing kind of heavily, as Mr. Botherit lead him behind the counter and through the back."I've never seen the back of a McDonalds kitchen before," Dutchy said suddenly. Everyone looked at him. "I wonder if it's like Willy Wonka's factory."There was a slight pause before Itey replied in monotone, "I doubt that, Dutchy."--Jack knew the trip to the dumpsters wasn't even a minute long. Must have been about forty seconds. It felt like an hour. He felt like all of this weight was sitting on his shoulders, on the verge of being lifted. He wasn't going to really believe everything was fine until he saw Sean again.And it was when Mr. Botherit opened the door for him, and Jack actually saw Sean, sitting slumped against the dumpster, with his legs sprawled out in front of him, that Jack realized how worried he'd been. Not just because of Denise. He'd actually been worried."Oh, for fuck's sake," Sean snarled. "Leave me alone!"Jack didn't say anything. He just took two big steps forward, fell to his knees, and pulled Sean forward by his skinny wrists into a gigantic bear hug."L-Let me go!" Sean sputtered.Jack sighed, and as Sean spat and wriggled and swore at him, the weight on Jack's shoulders was gone, and he smiled into Sean's bony shoulder.Sean shoved him away almost as soon as he'd been touched. Not so quickly that Jack couldn't tell he was freezing, though. He shrugged out of his coat and handed it to Sean, who stared at it."Put it on," Jack said."I don't need your damn coat." "Have you been out here since yesterday? Oh my god, Sean, put it on already.""It'll get dirty.""So?" Jack rolled his eyes. "It's just a coat. I'll wash it."Sean looked a little taken aback by that, but nodded. Pulled the coat on, but didn't move."Come on," Jack said, standing up. He offered Sean a hand. "Let's go home.""It's not my home.""Sean--"Sean's eyes were starting to get a little red, and he looked incredibly child-like all of a sudden. "It's not my home. Denise is not my mom. You're not my brother. You made that pretty clear. So leave me alone.""No," Jack said. "No, I can't do that. We've been worried, Sean, all of us. We've been looking for you since last night.""Yeah, right.""I'm telling the truth. Mom has been flipping out. She's going to call the police any minute, and you don't want that, so just come on!""Why the hell should I? So you can smack me around some more? So they can put me in a home for kids like me? Fuck that."Jack took a deep breath. He didn't even point out that Sean had hit him first. "I deserved it when you hit me, I really did. And the groin shot, maybe, even. I don't know. But I do know that I... I was seriously a fuck up yesterday. I shouldn't have said any of that shit about you or... or your dad, or whatever. It's none of my business.""No, it's not.""But, like, I don't know. I've gotten used to having you around. At least it's not boring. And Mom..."He trailed off. Sean waited."Mom doesn't want you to go, either. She's been on the phone with your case worker a bunch of times since yesterday. Like, begging him to let you stay with us. She doesn't want you to get taken away, she wants you to stay.""Why would she want that? Is she stupider than you?""She's not stupid!" Jack caught himself quickly. "She cares about you.""Then she is stupid.""She wants to help you. She helped me, you know. Otherwise, I don't know where I'd be. Reform school, probably."Sean stared up at him then. His expression was a mixture of sadness and extreme hostility. "Look, I just--""Sean, don't you want to stay with us?" Jack asked suddenly, desperately."What?""With me and Mom. Don't you want to stay?"Sean said nothing.Which, Jack knew, meant he wanted to stay. He was just too proud, or too scared, to say it."Well, we want you to," Jack said. "But it's up to you. Your social worker said you'll be hard to place anywhere anyway, so if you want to stay, you probably can. It's up to you.""Jack...""Your teeth are chattering," Jack said. He held out his hand again. "Come on, I'll get you a coffee.""I got it," Sean said, standing up finally."With what money?" Jack asked, leading Sean inside, being very careful not to wince at Sean's stench."The money I stole from some asshole yesterday.""Yeah?""Yeah, he was a dick. Deserved it.""Nice." Jack laughed half-heartedly. Sean kind of smirked.--The sight of Sean was unpleasant. Not because David wasn't happy to see him. They were all happy to see him, but Sean...well, he looked beyond unwell. His skin was pale, and his lips were chapped and red, and he was shivering a little. He also looked child-like in Jack's coat.For a minute, David felt what Denise must have felt when she first saw Sean. And when she first saw Jack, so long ago. The need to protect them, no matter how difficult they got.He kind of got that with Jack now, anyway."Spot!" Dutchy exclaimed. "Aw...you look so crappy.""Fuck off, whore.""You hungry?" Dutchy asked."No."Mr. Botherit cleared his throat. "You kids just get whatever you want...it's free." Then he paused. "...Please don't take too much advantage of that."Dutchy and Blink looked very, very tempted."Um," Jack looked at Mr. Botherit, who was going back behind the fry maker. "Thank you."Mr. Botherit shot a look at Sean, and then Jack. He half-smiled, embarrassed, and then ducked his head and disappeared into the back of the McDonalds.No one said anything for a moment, as it started to sink in that Sean was back, and he was cold, and probably ferociously grumpy. No one wanted to say a word that might entice him to think twice about agreeing to go back with Jack.Finally, Jack's stomach rumbled.And that was all anyone had to say."Someone should call Denise," David finally said. Jack looked hesitant to leave Sean's side, so he added, "I'll do it.""Thanks, Davey," Jack said, sounding grateful. David walked over to the pay phone."So I see you're still gay," Sean muttered."What do you want to eat, Sean?" Blink put in quickly. "Nothing.""You haven't eaten all day," Blink said firmly, "and I don't remember you eating lunch yesterday, and you were gone before dinner, so that's two days where you haven't eaten at all. Eat something."Sean shook his head."Well, look," Itey suggested, "why don't you get some coffee to warm up, and, like... an apple pie or something. It's not much, but maybe it'll just... help or something."Sean glowered. But nodded, and Blink and Dutchy ran off to go place a bunch of orders.David finally walked back, looking shaken. "Is Mom okay?" Jack asked quickly."Yeah, and relieved. I just... I have to go grab a bus, I have to get to Tony's house.""That dick?" Jack asked, scowling. "Why?""Because some asshole beat the crap out of Michael, and that's where he is. And he's refusing to go home or go to the doctor. She said Tony's been trying to reach me for hours, Sarah finally called Denise to say...""Oh, man, Dave. I'd give you a ride, but...""I know," David said. "I have to go." And David, no doubt stressed and drained beyond belief, hurried out of the McDonalds.Jack glanced at Sean, expecting him to say something mean, but instead Sean said, "When the food gets here, can we go? I want to go."Jack blinked. "Okay, sure."Sean was still shivering, and looked awful. Jack paused."You want to go... to the doctor or anything? I mean, you can feel your limbs okay? No... frostbite, or whatever?"Sean snorted. "I'm cold and I smell, Jackass. I want to go get a hot shower.""Okay." Jack nodded. "You do kind of smell. You weren't, uh, in the dumpster, were you?"Sean stared at him."Okay, I'll shut up.""Good plan."As they waited for the food, they took to sitting in a booth by the window. Jack sat by Sean, closely, and despite Sean sitting as rigidly as wood, he wasn't pushing Jack away either. Dutchy and Blink sat across from them, and Itey was still at the counter.Jack glanced out the window, and watched as David ran a block down to the nearest bus stop. He sighed.Sean rolled his eyes. "You can drive your boyfriend, jackass, I'll be fine.""Nah," Jack said. "He'll be okay." Then his face dropped. "He's not my boyfriend!""Did any pimps try and pick you up?" Dutchy asked Sean. Blink and Jack stared in slight horror at Dutchy, while Sean glared at him. "What?" Dutchy asked. "He's pretty.""No one likes smelly merchandise," Jack said, smirking a little, and Sean frogged him in the arm. Jack noted that Sean punched just as hard, no matter how cold he was or how little he had eaten.Itey came to the table them, a tray full of food. "You eat too much, Jack...""I'm a growing boy," Jack said. "Gimme our bags, I'm driving Sean home. You guys wanna--""Nah, we'll hang out for today," Blink said, smiling a little at Sean before looking at Jack. "You guys go, okay?"Jack nodded his thanks, grabbed his own three bags of McDonalds, and one for Sean."Here's your coffee," Itey said, handing a cup to Sean. "It's really hot."Sean observed him, took the cup, and mumbled, "Thanks.""Itey! You got me large fries!" Dutchy exclaimed, as Jack and Sean walked away. "Aaaww...any pimp would be lucky to have YOU.""What the hell is he talking about?" Itey asked Blink. Blink shook his head, smiling, feeling incredibly relieved.Jack looked down at Sean as he held the door open for him, and walked out of the McDonalds."Itey got me large fries too," Sean muttered, peering into his bag."You can save them for later, if you want," Jack said simply."What the hell do you have three bags of?""Big Macs are BIG.""Redundant," Sean said, taking a bite of his fry, and sipping his coffee. "...That's really hot." Then he swore, "Fucking...my tongue! Fuck!"And Jack laughed as he opened the van door for Sean."I'll drive," Sean said.Jack blinked. "You'll what?""Drive. The van. You want to eat, I want to drive, it works out for everyone."Jack wanted to protest, but Sean had driven the van before, after all, so it wasn't like Jack really thought he'd crash it. So he shrugged. "Fine, but no smoking in it.""Fine," Sean agreed, and slid his skinny frame over to the driver's seat. Jack handed him the keys and they were off, with Jack stuffing his face. At a red light, Sean even took another sip of coffee."So... you like driving, or what?" Jack asked finally, after pointing out the way. Sean didn't know all the roads and wasn't really sure where he was."Yeah," Sean said. "I like cars.""Well, this van is a piece of shit.""I know. Better than nothing, though. I want a car, someday. That's about my only life goal.""Yeah?" Jack said. "They're expensive.""I know. But I want to be able to...""Yeah?""To drive off. When there's too much shit. To have a car so I can just go and get away from it all.""Beats sleeping in a dumpster, I guess," Jack said."You wouldn't know.""Nah, but I get it. Life can be shitty. I know you don't care, but things were really shitty for me before Denise. That's why you piss me off so much, you know. She can help you if you just let her. She helped me.""I'm not like you.""You're kind of like me. We were both alone. Trouble makers. Skinny...""You're not skinny.""But I was. Turn right here, it brings you back to the main drag."Sean nodded and turned."Anyway, I guess, it's up to you if you want to stay. I know they'll take you out if you want to go.""No one would miss me.""Dutchy would," Jack said, and smirked. "And... I dunno, Blink would.""Yeah, right. Dutchy just wants to get laid, and Blink...""Yeah?""I dunno.""Well, if you didn't act so miserable all the time, we'd all miss you. We have tried, you know.""Yeah," Sean said. "But then again, I get why you act the way you do.""Doubtful.""Well, I get some of it, anyway.""Why are you being so nice, Jackass? I got you in the nuts.""I know, pissing still hurts.""And that's why you don't piss me off.""I dunno..." Jack said. "I just..." Jack paused, and chose this moment to take another bite out of his Big Mac instead of answering Sean. At the red light, Sean ignored him, but wasn't surprised when Jack finally answered, "I was kind of worried about you."Sean glanced at him."So, you know...I figure that means I like being nice to you more than yelling at you, and making you run off, and not come back. Since I didn't like it when you didn't come back." Jack took another bite, and said, with his mouth full, "I also figure being nice to you can keep you from kicking my nuts anymore.""I can kick nuts whenever the hell I want.""Anyway, I was worried, and...yeah." Jack paused. "I'm still hungry."Sean didn't respond, and for almost the remainder of the drive, they only spoke when Jack gave him directions, and Sean mumbled in response. But as they drove down the block, closer to home, Sean said, "Didn't think you'd look for me."Jack watched him, as Sean slowly bit into another fry, and took a sip of coffee. "Didn't think I'd find you," he replied."So is Denise like... pissed?" Sean asked."Mostly at me. Worried about you. Angry at your social worker... you know.""Not really. No one... no one has really given a shit about me before this, you know, so it's kind of new to me." He paused. "I guess Denise is all right. I don't get her, though.""What do you mean?""I dunno, if I were her I'd be relieved.""She wasn't relieved, she was scared shitless. We thought you'd freeze to death or something.""I'm not that stupid.""Stupid enough to run away.""That wasn't stupid.""Was so.""It was not, asshole! I had to--to get away from...""Me?" Jack suggested."Yeah. You and her and everyone else. I don't play well with others. And it was just... too much.""Yeah?""Yeah.""Well, look," Jack said, as they pulled up to their block, "how about next time it's too much, you settle for only punching me, and then shut the door to your room and stay inside, instead of kicking me in the balls and running away to freeze? How would that be?""I don't know," Sean said. Then, sounding... different, he added, "She really wants me to stay?""Yeah, seriously. And you'd better be willing to say so, too, because otherwise they'll take you away."Sean said nothing. Just parked the van in the driveway, grabbed his coffee and bag of food, and walked side by side with Jack.--Denise was waiting for him, and so was his social worker. There was a long silence, which Jack broke, obliviously. "Sean smells really bad, Mom. He's gonna go shower. Can we order pizza? I'm starved and so's he."She blinked. "Sure... Sean, do you want anything on your pizza?"Sean stared at her and swallowed. Stared at her, stared at the social worker, and finally said, "Yeah, uh, extra cheese. And a root beer.""Great," she said, smiling. "Now go shower, Jack's right, you stink. We'll talk after, okay, hon?""Don't call me hon," he said. Then waited a second and said, "Yeah, whatever," in answer to her question. And then he stalked away. Sean made a habit of never looking in the mirror before he stepped into the shower. If he didn't have to see how skinny he was, then he didn't really care. After all, he didn't eat because he wasn't hungry.Usually, that was the reason.He wasn't sure what it was about his mood that made him slowly turn and glance in the mirror as he started running the water for his shower. He didn't know what had made him curious. He did turn, and he did look.That glare was his. So was that hair. The rest seemed kind of...weird. His ribs stuck out, but they had since he was fourteen. He didn't know he was that pale, though, and he didn't know he had so many bruises. He supposed that was because he didn't have any iron or protein or whatever...so he bruised easily.He sneered a little, at the sight of himself.He was really, really, really skinny.He continued staring until the mirror fogged over.--"Pizza ordered," Jack said, finishing off his fries. The social worker sat awkwardly at the kitchen table. "You want some fries?" Jack asked. "I'm fine.""Okay," Jack said, grinning slightly. He was trying to appear as happy as possible, just to show off how suitable Denise was as a mother. Jack was firmly rooted in the belief that Denise was the best mother anyone could have. Whoever could take Jack, the way he had been, and turn him into...well, what he was now? That was genius. That was a miracle. Jack hadn't been too unlike Sean, back then. Not as bad, because Jack was slowly, slowly discovering just how fucked up his foster brother was. But just because Jack wasn't as fucked up didn't mean he hadn't been any less miserable.Denise had saved him. So whatever Denise wanted, she'd get. "You want fries, Mom?" Jack asked.Denise blinked, obviously slightly distracted. But she smiled absently at him. "Sure, sure..." She reached over, and took only a couple. "Thank you."The sound of the shower upstairs was oddly loud in the silence."Look, Ms. Kelly," the social worker said. "When Sean's out, I'd like to talk to him alone for a time. See where his head's at."Even Jack knew that meant he wanted to talk to Sean without them eavesdropping or influencing him. But Denise nodded. "Of course, no problem at all." She smiled and Jack knew she was on her best behavior, too.The shower turned off long before the pizza arrived, but Sean didn't come back immediately. And they waited, by unspoken agreement. The pizza finally arrived and Denise paid for it hurriedly. Jack helped himself, but was careful not to eat too much or too fast. He had to make a good impression, and leave some for Sean.When Sean finally came back in, he was wearing a sweatshirt. The only one he owned. Jack figured he was still cold. But all Jack said was, "Hey, I'll get you a plate."He half expected Sean to snap that he wasn't hungry, but Sean nodded, and took the plate, and a piece of pizza. He ate it, clearly choking it down by the end. But he did eat.And that was when Jack realized Sean was on his best behavior too."How are you feeling?" asked Jared, the social worker. "I dunno. Fine, I guess," Sean said."You guess?""I'm full. I'm pretty tired. Didn't sleep so good last night.""Well," Jared said, "if you're full, why don't we go talk in your room? Just you and me.""Oh, great, that sounds so fun," Sean said. Jared sighed."Sean, I'm only doing what's best for you; we've been through this before," he said as they stood up and walked out of the room. Denise and Jack sent him looks so supportive, Sean almost laughed at the goofiness of it. "Look, the reports I've been getting from Dr. Manuel about you have show positive trends, and the reports from your school... well, they could be worse. And Denise gave me the impression that you were feeling okay here."They arrived at Sean's room, and Jared took a seat in the uncomfortable chair by Sean’s desk. Sean sat awkwardly on his bed.“So do you?” Jared prompted. “Do I what?”“Feel okay?”"I feel fine.""Then why did you run off? You've never done that before. You might not believe me, Sean, but I do care about you. I was worried.""Yeah, right. I'm your biggest problem case.""Yes, you are," Jared agreed. "I'm not going to lie. I know how you react to that. So--""I left because of, uh, escalation.""What?""Like Dr. Manuel said," he said quickly. "About when I get upset. Instead of escalating the situation, I'm supposed to remove myself from it. I was really pissed at Jack, I didn't... I didn't think it was a good idea to stay around him. But we're okay now.""Oh?""We talked some. I dunno."Jared sighed."And how is Jack treating you, Sean?" Jared asked.Sean shrugged."Is he beating you up? Are you getting in fights?"Sean made a face. "Jack couldn't beat me up if he tried.""Is he treating you well, Sean?"Sean suddenly realized how easily he could get Jack and Denise in a lot of trouble. That was how delicate of a case he was with Jared. And with all those other officials involved. Sean also realized that he didn't want Jack or Denise to get in trouble. He really didn't."He's fine, whatever. He's normal.""But you're fighting.""Everyone fights.""Does everyone run away after they fight, Sean?"Sean made a face. "No, but I'm fucked up, aren't I? I ran off because I..." Sean sighed. "Uh...I dunno, didn't want to make the situation worse. Then I felt stupid for running off, and I figured Jack would come and get me.""What about Denise? Did you think she would come and get you?""Yeah. She's fine. She feeds me and all that."Jared raised his eyebrows. "Well...that is a change." Sean didn't reply. "Almost everywhere you've been...they've given up on trying to get you to eat. What has Denise done?""She wouldn't let me leave the kitchen, that's what."Jared almost smiled at that. "Okay. That's good, then, actually.""I guess. Whatever, I'm not usually hungry.""Have you spoken to your doctor about that?""Yeah.""I wasn't called about it.""Because I'm fine," Sean snapped, exasperated. "And how's school? Do you like it?"Sean gave him a dark look."Well, uh, do you dislike it more than usual?""It's fine, I guess.""There are reports you've been in several fights, Sean.""So what else is new? I didn't start them.""You tried to kill a basketball star?""I didn't try to kill him. He'd be dead. I learned some from my old man."Jared looked a little disturbed at that, and Sean cursed mentally. He didn't want them to put him in some psych ward. He'd been in one for a few weeks, once; it sucked even worse than the boys' school had."Anyway, he was a dick. He had it out for me, 'cause I'm gay.""Have you told many people you're gay?""I didn't deny it when he called me a faggot.""Do you feel safe at school, Sean?"He hesitated. But only for a second. "Yeah, I'm fine. I've got... some people who are with me sometimes. They watch out for me.""'Some people'?" Jared quoted."Jack and... his friends.""Jack looks out for you at school?""Yeah," Sean said. "And, I don't know. His friends aren't so bad. One is in my classes. Sometimes we talk.""About what?""I don't know, regular shit.""Would you call him your friend?" Jared asked. "These people... friends?""I don't have friends," Sean said. "But I don't hate them, if that's what you mean." "So you're making friends?""I dunno.""Okay. Good." Jared sighed, and ran his hands through his hair. "Okay, then I guess all that's left to ask is...I'm sure you know why I'm here. You're not stupid.""No, I'm not.""Do you want to be here, Sean? Do you feel safe in this environment?" Jared said immediately. He had on his 'serious social worker' voice. It was supposed to catch Sean off guard. But it wasn't easy for an adult to catch Sean off guard anymore."I..." Sean made a face, then shrugged. "Like it. Here. I guess.""You like it here?""Sure."Jared watched him. Then he asked, "Would you want to be adopted, in the future, if that came up?""I don't know.""You have time to think about that, but, you really feel safe in this environment? You're not trying to cop out of a boys' home?""No.""If you run away from home again, Sean, there won't be coming back to Denise and Jack," Jared said, his voice growing more grave."I won't run away again."Jared nodded. "...Okay. Then I guess all that's left is some more questions for Denise. And I'll want to talk to Jack as well. There's still a chance I won't find this home suitable for you, but..." Jared paused. "I admit, this is the best I've seen you."Sean thought that was interesting, since he'd spent the night in a dumpster.They walked back to the living room. Sean felt totally blank. He didn't know what he was supposed to feel. He wasn't pissed at Jack anymore. He didn't know why he suddenly wanted to stay here so badly. But it wasn't just to get out of ending up at the boys' home or reform school.He had his own room. Denise trusted him, and she cared enough to make sure he had something to eat every day. Jack had spent all day and night searching for him. Blink was kind of funny, when he wasn't trying to impress anyone. And even Itey and David and Dutchy were kind of growing on him. Not that he'd ever admit that to anyone.But there had been people before. He'd had a few friends, even. He'd sort of had a boyfriend, once. They'd been close.But he'd ended up hurt there. And it had hurt badly, too, because he'd really thought the guy cared about him. No one had cared about Sean before that, not ever, really... But he'd been like the rest. Shallow. Empty.He didn't know what he'd do if Denise and Jack turned out like that. What he'd do if they got bored of him, kicked him to the curb. He'd sworn he wouldn't ever let anyone do that to him again.But still, he didn't want to sleep in a dumpster again. Jack had searched for him. Denise was worried. Maybe they wouldn't turn on him. That maybe was the closest he'd ever come to trusting anyone. He shoved his hands in his pockets and sank down on to the couch."Well, I have some questions, I'd like to talk a little," Jared said. "I'd like to know some more about these boys at school.""Which boys at school?" Sean asked dully."Your friends.""They're not my friends. They're Jack's friends. But they let me sit with them at lunch.""They are your friends, Sean," Jack said. "They want to be, anyway.""Yeah, well," Sean snorted, but shrugged. "They're okay, I guess.""Sean has had difficulty making friends in the past," Jared explained to Denise and Jack. Jack made an 'are-you-kidding-me?' type of face. "So it's very important if he's made any here. Sean?" Jared said. Sean glanced at him. "Have you met any friends outside of through Jack?""Not really.""What about Jess?" Jack asked. "You didn't meet her through one of us.""That's different, she was assigned to me. She doesn't count.""Yeah, but like, she's your friend. She..." Jack cleared his throat. "She hung out with you, at the party.""Which party?"Jared looked surprised. "So you've been to more than one party?"Sean found it weird that a social worker wanted Sean in a high-school party type of situation. 'Yes, booze and drugs, that's what NORMAL teenagers get fucked on, Sean!' This was why Sean hated social workers."Yeah, Sean made a friend besides us," Jack said."She's called here a few times," Denise added.Jared looked expectantly at Sean."Okay, I have a fag hag. You can get those in your sleep, doesn't count."And Jess didn't count. Sean didn't really mind her, he guessed, but she wasn't a friend. But she wasn't that bad, either."Jack," Jared said, moving on. "How are you and Sean getting along?""Uh, better," Jack said, kind of laughing. He was uncomfortable. "Much better.""Why was it going badly before?""I dunno, we're both kind of aggressive. And I don't really like it when Denise doesn't pay attention to me, so..."Oops."So Denise hasn't been paying attention to you?"Denise snorted as Jack said, "No no no! I just mean, like, I can be a total spoiled brat. Like, if she was telling Sean to eat, I'd be eating, and I like, would be spoiled. I dunno. It was me, I can be a total jerk sometimes."Sean snorted. Jack rolled his eyes. "But we've been getting along better," Jack finally said. "I mean, except for that fight yesterday. But that's the only time we've really been in a serious fight. And it was my fault. And I'm sorry.""It wasn't all your fault."That was all Sean said. But Jared nodded and made up his mind right there."Well, Sean. It seems as though you... you're making bigger strides here than you have before, in any other environment. But I also know that you're a very smart young man, and easily able to say things you know I'd like to hear, in order to get what you want." He gave Sean a meaningful look. "I won't fall for that again, either."Sean shrugged. "Believe what you want.""I very much want to believe that this--everything you've told me--is real. But I also can't ignore the reality that you ran away, that you spent a night out in the cold with no coat. You could have been mugged, or died of exposure, or... Well, that was just not acceptable, and it suggests you need closer supervision, regardless."Sean said nothing. He knew what 'closer supervision' meant. It meant a home with guards and an electric fence at the perimeter. He didn't want that."Jared, please," Denise said quietly. "You're right that I wasn't home yesterday. But isn't it more important to have a stable family situation for Sean, than to base your whole decision on one unfortunate situation?"He sighed. "I'll need to discuss the situation with you. Monday, during my regular work hours. We'll need to brainstorm some ground rules to keep this situation... stable.""Certainly," Denise said. "I'd be more than happy to arrange a meeting. Just let me know what time is convenient for you."He nodded. "I'll call you Monday morning, then. Sean..."Sean said nothing."Well, you know what I said before. You need to be on your best behavior. After an incident this severe, I'll need to take smaller instances more seriously. No more fighting.""I'm not gonna stand back and let some asshole jock beat the crap out of me, to make you happy.""Sean--""But yeah, whatever. No more fighting.""We'll review this situation soon.""Yeah.""All right, then. Thanks for the pizza." He stood up. "Ms. Kelly...""Monday," she said firmly. "And I'm sorry about all the trouble.""It wasn't her fault," Jack mumbled, as Denise walked Jared out the door. She turned back and looked at the two of them."Sean, Jack. That is never to happen again," she said firmly. "Any time you're feeling that much trouble, you call me. Promise.""I promise, Mom," Jack said quickly.Sean shrugged. "Yeah," he said. "Whatever.""Good. Now, Sean, I know you haven't felt very at home here. I'd like to know what we can do to make you feel like this is your home. Somewhere you want to stay. Somewhere comfortable." She sat back down on the couch.Jack smirked. "Ask for anything, Sean. That's her guilty mother voice, you'll get it.""Jack, be quiet," she said, but she smiled at him. "Sean?""Uh," he said. "I want some posters. For my room. And a coat.""Those both sound eminently reasonable. We can go shopping tomorrow.""And a library card.""What?" she asked."I want... I want a library card."And she grinned at him. "Absolutely."--David was reminded how long the bus ride was from the poor side of town to the mansions. There was something epic about that thought, but at the moment, he just really hated buses. He also kind of wanted to be with Jack.At the same time, this was partially due to the dread he felt in his stomach at the thought of seeing Mush, one of his favorite people, beaten up black and blue. Sometimes, David wondered if he was strong enough to keep playing this mother role. But that didn't stop him from getting off the bus, walking two blocks, and knocking on Race's very big, very fancy door.There was about a minute of waiting before Race opened the door. Race's fancy shirt was untucked, and disheveled, and his hair was a mess. The expression on his face made him look very young, and in over his head.David had seen that expression on his face way too often. He hurried inside. "Where is he?""The bathroom...I don't know if--""He's conscious, right?" David asked quickly, rolling up his sleeves as he stopped at the foot of the stairs. "Which bathroom?""Up, up, you're going the right way, he's conscious." Race sighed, and ran his hands through his hair. "Oh my god, he looks...Davey?" David stopped, and looked at Race. "He...he doesn't look so good, okay?"David nodded. "Okay."And still, David wasn't really prepared when he stepped into the bathroom. It wasn't so much how badly he was beaten up, it was how upset he was. Mush was very strong, and very proud, which people didn't expect since he was so feminine sometimes."Michael..." David said.Michael's face was a mess of bruises and bandaids. He was icing a badly swollen eye; at least Tony had managed to get him cleaned up, got some of the cuts covered. He was shirtless, however, and his torso was also a mess of bruises and cuts and... David glanced around the bathroom and saw the remnants of his shirt, which was soaking in the sink. To get blood out. He looked as bad as Sean had, the night David had seen him after he'd gotten so hurt in the parking lot. "Hi, Davey," Michael mumbled from around the ice pack."So why aren't you at a doctor's office?"Tony snorted. Michael said, "Because I can't go until I talk to my parents, and I can't talk to my parents until I look less shitty.""Why?" David demanded."Because if I went home looking like this, Dad will call me a pussy and Mom will cry. Then when Dad gets pissed off and stomps out to go drinking, my sister will call me a fag and Mom will cry some more.""So why not skip that step and go straight to the ER?""Because they'd call my parents, and then all of that would happen in the middle of the hospital. No thanks.""But..." David sighed. "Is it just cuts and bruises?""Chipped tooth, I swallowed some blood," Michael said. "It hurts a lot on one side when I breathe.""Michael--""Look, I'm going to go home, and I'm going to go to the doctor and get it X-rayed, Dave. Just not yet.""But--""Dave," Tony said. "Leave him alone, he knows what he's doing."David scoffed. But when he looked at Michael, he softened a little. "Who was it?" he asked."No one," Michael said."Mush--""I'm not going to say, because Tony will go start a big fight and I don't want him getting in trouble and I don't need some hetero trying to cure my life.""'Some hetero'?" Race asked. "I'm your friend, bitch!""You know my point," Mush said. "I don't want you causing more of a stir around this then there already is. They'll be prancing around all week now, talking about how they beat up the fag." Mush sighed, and winced."I still want to know who did it..." Race growled."Tony, no offense, but your temper is monumentally volcanic," David sighed. He sat down in front of Mush. "So what do we do until we can get you home? You going to stay here, with Race, until you look a little more human?"Mush whimpered. "I know, I look awful."David smiled a little. "Well, you're the best-looking non-human I've ever seen."Mush laughed, but then hissed. "Ooowwww...""You won't be able to walk alone anymore, now," Race said. "You'll need me around to protect you.""If you start protecting me the way you protect Maria, I'll pass, thanks," Mush shot back."What's wrong with how I protect Maria?""Nothing, just--""I'm a good older brother!""Yes, Tony, you're a wonderful older brother, only--""What are you trying to say, huh?""Okay, Italiano," David cut in, giving Race a dark look. "I think Mush has had enough drama. Can I see your face without the pack, please?"Mush looked reluctant. "Why?""Please, Mush?"Mush sighed, and slowly removed the pack. His cheek was swollen.David shook his head. "That bastard...who did it, Michael?"Mush averted his eyes."Please tell me who did it, Michael.""It's not like they won't be bragging on Monday," he said. "And anyway, I can't say. If I say, the cops might ask you. Which is another reason not to go to the hospital or anything. I don't want the police involved. I don't want anyone in trouble.""They should be in trouble," Race muttered. "And if I hear anyone bragging about anything, they'll be in trouble.""Tony, no," Michael said. "Please. I don't want any more fighting. Two wrongs don't make a right.""But it would make me feel better," Tony muttered.David smiled a little at that. Yes, Tony was a spoiled brat, and often a dick; but he was also fiercely loyal to his friends. He didn't know how to make Michael feel better, so he'd settle for evening the score."Look, I'm assuming this was more than one guy, Tony, you can't take them out by yourself," David said reasonably."I'll find people to help me," Tony said darkly. "I have friends.""You sound like you're in the mob or something," David mumbled. "And since Michael and I are your best friends--""I'd pay people to help me, whatever. I'm not just going to sit back and--""Please, Tony. I don't want any more fighting!" Michael said, then, "Ow, my tooth..." Tony grumbled. Michael took a deep breath and winced. "My side...""Oh, Michael," David sighed, giving him a sympathetic look. "What are we going to do with you?""Find me a pretty boy to make it allllll feel better.""I don't know pretty boys," David said."Jack is pretty hot," Mush said. "From your pictures...and from when I've seen him."David snorted and burst out laughing. "You won't think he's hot if you know him too long.""But he's your best friend, what's wrong with him?""Nothing, just...his buffness wears off.""His 'buffness'?" Race asked."Shut up," David said darkly."Why can't anyone be gay?" Mush whined. David and Race looked at each other. They were very used to this speech. Mush tugged at Race's shirt. "Why can't you be gay?""Because I'm not!" Race snapped. "Mush, come on, you'll meet someone at, like...I dunno, the gym or something.""Stereotype much?" David sneered."Well, I don't know!""You're so stupid," Mush said in an affectionate voice to Race."Oh, thanks.""How are you feeling?" David asked. "Nauseated?""Not really. Just achy.""Well, that's something at least. Did they get your head?""Not sure.""Well...I want to make sure you don't have a concussion. Maybe we should take you to a walk-in clinic...""I'm not going to a walk in clinic, Dave," Mush said firmly. "I'm not going to the hospital, and I'm not going home. Until I feel like I can face them all, okay?"David sighed. "How's your head?""Not any worse than the rest of me," Michael assured him. "I didn't pass out or anything. They were total pussies, I swear," he finished weakly.Tony grumbled something angrily again."Anyway, I'd be fine if I had someone to cuddle." Michael looked over at Tony and sighed."Look, fairy princess," Tony said, rolling his eyes, but doing it kind of fondly, "somewhere out there, there is the perfect guy for you.""I know," Michael whined.And Tony looked at him, pretty obviously focusing on his body. And mumbled, "And you're pretty hot anyway, so I bet in college or whatever you'll have guys throwing themselves at you."David snorted. "Look, Michael, it's not like you're even the only gay kid in town. Just in... your part of town. And school. If you weren't surrounded by really uptight, rich pricks...""I'm not an uptight, rich prick," Tony objected."Yes, you are," David said. "But if you got out and met some other people, you'd meet someone so fast.""Yeah," Tony said.Michael sighed. "Where am I supposed to meet these alleged other gay teenagers? I feel like a species going extinct or something...""Aren't all your friends fags?" Tony asked David, but he touched Mush's cheek to show he was joking. Mush looked a little light-headed at that."Uumm..." David said. "Yes, but I dunno. Dutchy is completely wrong for you.""How is he wrong for me?" Mush asked."He just is. Believe me. And Sean is..." David laughed. "Completely a no.""Why--""Take. My. Word."Race and Mush winced at each other. "Come on, Davey, you gotta have someone who'd work with Mush," Race said. "He's dying here. Physically and...erotically." Mush laughed, and so did Race.David sighed. "Blink wouldn't be so bad, I guess." Then David blinked. "Hey, he wouldn't.""Blink?" Mush asked slowly."Let me just...let me think about that. Anyway, let's focus on you right now, and let's see how well you can walk. Have you eaten?""Not really.""Then--""On it," Tony said with a smile."Still, Davey," Mush said, as David helped stand him up. "I don't see why you can't set me up with big, strong Jaaacck.""He's not gay."Mush and Race snorted."And neither am I!"--They walked into the garage and were greeted with an awkward silence. It looked like the band had been in the middle of anther fight; Blink was sitting on the couch, looking pissed, and Dutchy was in the process of putting away his guitar."Wow, awkward," Jack said cheerfully. "Blink, stop being a drama queen, Dutchy, stop being sensitive and go get high. Did that cover everything?"Itey blinked. "Close," he said, and nodded.Jack smiled.But people were paying more attention to Sean than to Jack anyway. Kind of staring at him.He kind of stared back."So are you staying, or what?" Blink finally demanded, exasperated."Yeah, looks like it," Sean mumbled. "And, uh, I'm not going to say thank you for looking for me or anything. 'Cause I didn't ask you to." Jack kicked him and he kicked back. "But, uh, Denise is making us go to the mall so I can get a coat.""Finally!" Itey said.Sean glared at him. "And anyway, Jack is making me ask if you want to like... come, or something."There was a long silence."See, I told you I'd sound like a prick," Sean said firmly to Jack. "I'm not good at the nicey-nice thing.""That was nicey-nice?" Blink scoffed. "Refusing to thank us for giving a damn about you is nicey-nice?""For me it was. And I sounded like a prick, so never mind.""You didn't sound like a prick," Jack said, rolling his eyes."Anyway," Sean said, "we're going now, so if you want to hang out...""Oh, hang out?" Blink said. "Is that what you were asking?""Screw you, Blinken."Blink gave him a lopsided smile. "Back at you, Spot.""Don't call me that.""Sure we'll come to the mall with you, Spot!" Dutchy said, closing up his guitar case."Don't. Call. Me. That.""Nicknames are good," Jack told him. "It means they like you.""'Jackass' means I like you?" Sean sneered."Jackass isn't my nickname.""You have a nickname besides Jackass?""David and Blink and I call him Cowboy, sometimes," Dutchy leered. Jack shifted kind of uncomfortably."No one calls me Spot, no matter what the fuck it means," Sean snapped.Everyone filed out of the garage, in an eerily polite silence, until Itey said, "Sorry, Spotty.""SHUT UP.""What kinda jacket do you want?" Blink asked.Sean gave his body an up-and-down. "Nothing you'd wear, flamer.""Says the guy who looks more like a girl than I do.""Jack's coat was soooo big on you," Dutchy giggled. "Jack his big shoulders.""Are you high?" Itey asked, as Jack inched his way over to David. "Oh, wait, are elephants big?""You're cute when you're snitty," Dutchy said."I also thought," Sean said, clearing his throat. "That I wanted some, like, posters. For my room. So you could come for that, too.""You're so cute, Spot.""I'm going to castrate you, I swear to god.""You're so cute when you're enraged--ow!" Blink rubbed his shoulder, where Sean had hit him. "You hit hard for someone so small--ow!""Stop calling me Spot, and don't call me small," Sean said fiercely."Macho, too," Blink said, as they packed up the rest of their stuff and prepared to pile into Jack's van. "So not my type.""What, you want someone even femme-ier than you?" Sean muttered. "I don't think anyone is that gay.""Actually..." David said quietly, and everyone turned to see him."If he comes out, I swear to god I'm running away again," Sean said.Blink punched him. "Don't joke about running away, ass, we were worried! And anyway, if Davey comes out, we should support him, Spot.""I don't do supportive, and stop calling me that!" Spot snapped, as they all climbed into the van. David took shotgun and cleared his throat. "I'm not coming out, I'm not gay. What I meant was, I have a friend. At school. Who might just fit that description of, uh, gayer than Blink." He considered. "Well, not as flamey, but... much more, uh... Feminine. For a guy who works out three times a week.""Is he hot?" Blink asked."I don't know!" David said, then saw the skeptical looks he was getting. "Okay, I do know, he is. But I'm not gay, damn it.""Is he single?" Blink pried."Yes, and he complains about it a lot.""Dave..." Blink said seriously. "You have a hot, single, gay friend, and you've NEVER INTRODUCED US?! Why have you been holding out?!"Because he's been butt-crazy in love with Race for like, two years, and just got over him. "Slipped my mind," David said airily."It 'slipped your mind'? Davey!" Blink grabbed him by the collar. "David. This could change my life.""Oh yeah right, at MOST you'll hook up with him," Dutchy said. "You're a teenager.""Bit cynical, coming from you," Jack said."I'm open-minded, not blind," Dutchy said. "Er, no offense, Blink.""None taken.""He's really nice," David said. "I dunno, I'll introduce you, but I'm not much for like, blind date situations...um...""Yes, blind date, none taken, moving along!" Blink snapped. Then he glanced over at Denise in the driver seat, already looking like she was preparing for a migraine from all the noise in the van. "Hi, Denise!""Hi, Denise," they all chorused."Hello, boys," she said in a tired, but kind of loving voice."Can we stop for food?" Jack asked."Oh shut up," David said. "Bottomless pit, we'll get food at the mall.""I'm hungry now.""My friend Mush thinks you're cute," David said.Jack shrugged. "I am cute. I'm hot.""Until you talk," Dutchy said casually. Denise let out a big laugh."MOM!""Well, it was funny, Jack," she said. "You can't expect me not to laugh, when I spend more money keeping you fed every month than I do on rent.""Sorry, Mom," Jack immediately said guiltily."Don't be sorry, that's what teenage boys are supposed to do. Which reminds, me, Sean--""Yes, I had breakfast, no, I'm not eating lunch at the mall. You could cook once in a while, woman.""Don't ask her to do that, she might," Jack said. "And then she'd make you eat it, and trust me. Not even I eat when Mom cooks.""I'm not that bad, Jack!" Denise said."What, you can laugh when people make fun of me, but I can't make fun of you?" Jack said."Oh, now he's pouting," Dutchy commented. "You really are too cute, Jack. If you were gay, I'd do you in a second.""Well, I'm not, and my Mom is in the car!""I didn't say I'd do you in front of your mom, geeze. I'm not that kinky. She's hot, though, for a mom.""You sweet talker, you," Denise said, but she was laughing again. Even as, in the back seat, Jack punched Dutchy's shoulder. It was going to be a long day.
XD<3 <3 <3 <3
I love everything about you.