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sad lizard jackson just wants a friend [userpic]
Take Good Care of the Poor Boy
by sad lizard jackson just wants a friend (queenitsy)
at July 30th, 2012 (11:33 pm)
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Take Good Care of the Poor Boy

You've got lots to say, don't take this too seriously
(There's plenty of believers)
We hang on every word, almost deliriously
(Yes, we're the believers)

You could say it's borderline fanatic
Hit the chord, we're basically ecstatic
We can't afford to lose you, can't you see

You won't sit around waiting for it to happen to you
(There's plenty who will listen)
If you hide yourself away, your country may honour you
(A brighter future glistens)

Pulled alarms in shows of mere defiance
Draw the looks, don't choose this reliance
Crown of our creation, we're on our knees

Take good care of the poor boy
Oh well he's new in town and he won't settle down
Take good care of the poor boy
Oh well he's new in town and he won't settle down
Good luck saving the the poor boy
Oh when the city's down and he's gone underground

Hey poor boy, hey poor boy, he'll never settle down
- Sloan


Chapter Fourteen: The Beginning



Denise walked in to find Sean and Jack sitting on the couch together. Sitting close together. Close enough that if Sean had been a girl (or, Denise thought wryly, David) she'd have wheeled right around back out of the room. But it was Sean, and so the fact that he was huddled against Jack was suspicious.

They were watching something on TV. It was an old cartoon movie about dinosaurs.

"Uh, boys?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "Everything okay?"

Jack said nothing. Sean looked up at her, looking... not good. "I feel shitty," he mumbled. "Puked a few times."

"You need a doctor?"

He shook his head no.

"Okay... are you sick, or...?"

"Or," he said. "Look, uh, I don't... don't want to talk. Just veg."

"Okay, kid," she said. She threw a glance at the TV. "Are we regressing?"

"My childhood was crappy and Sean didn't have one at all," Jack said lightly. "So we're reliving it. For the first time."

Denise smiled. "Is it okay if I join you?"

Jack glanced at Sean. Who finally, barely, nodded. So she dropped her briefcase, kicked off her shoes, and sat in the armchair.

"I always liked cartoons," Denise said. "I like how unreal they are."

"I wish I could make an anvil drop out of the sky," Jack said.

"They aren't going to be anvils in a dinosaur movie, Jackass," Sean said, but without his usual malice. Just monotone.

"I like dinosaurs, too..." Denise trailed off. "Ooohhh, it was a long day. You guys want take out?"

"Chinese," Jack said.

"Sean?" Denise asked, as casually as she could.

"Sure."

Denise started to stand, but Jack glanced at her, and said, "Watch for a bit."

So she did.

--


The take out arrived around eight, and Denise was glad that Jack got a call from Sarah around the same time. He was hungry, and the thing with having Jack around when there was food was, you had to be quick. Or else he grabbed it and you starved.

"They made up again," Denise smirked, as she heard Jack shut the door. "I don't know about those two."

"She's a total brat," Sean said, slumping into the kitchen chair.

Denise chuckled a little as she took out the containers from their plastic bags. "I don't know, I like Sarah. She's smart." Denise smiled at Sean. "Doesn't put up with Jack's shit. And Jack does have shit."

"I'm aware," Sean muttered. He was staring at his fingers, and picking at a hangnail. Denise sighed a little, and went for the drawers to take out some chopsticks. Obviously, something had happened that Sean and Jack weren't about to tell her.

But it didn't worry her...after all, they seemed closer, somehow. And that made her very, very happy.

"Hey," Sean said suddenly.

Denise looked at him, and handed him a container of plain rice. "Yep?"

"You have a shitty childhood?" Sean asked.

Denise blinked. "How do you mean?"

"You know what I mean. Like Jackass. And me." Sean didn't look like he had much control over the questions coming out of his mouth. Which might have been a good thing.

Denise clucked her tongue, and took a container of sweet and sour pork. Took a slight breath. "I guess so."

"I can tell."

She looked at him with a smirk. "Oh, can you?"

"Yeah, you can always tell."

"Well, it was a long time ago," she said, and took a bite of pork. "And I'm happy now, with how my life as is. It's the past."

Sean looked at his rice, before fumbling with his chopsticks.

"...c'nIhaveafork?"

Denise spared him the laughter. The thought of Sean Conlon being unable to use chopsticks was...quite cute. "Here, okay," Denise said, placing her food on the counter. She took his hand in hers, and she was a little startled.

They were very warm. And soft.

And his fingers were so thin.

"Just...hold it firmer, here, and in between..." She shifted his fingers around, and for some reason, looked into his face.

He seemed completely cut off guard, but not exactly afraid, or angry. But Denise didn't push her luck. She pulled away, put her hands on her hips and said, "Keep practicing, we don't use forks with Chinese food in this house."

Sean blinked at her. "...k." But he didn't go for a fork. Denise sat across from him at the table with her food, and they ate in silence for a couple of minutes. However, Denise could tell Sean wasn't in the mood for quiet, for once.

"I guess I had it harder then some kids," she said. "But it's okay."

"You get hit like Jack?"

Denise found it interesting that Sean could have a conversation like this, all the while staring at his rice, and focusing completely on his wobbly chopstick form.

"Well..." Denise said. "I suppose my step-father was...a real asshole, I'd say," she laughed a little.

"You have a dad?"

"He left my mother," Denise answered. "And she developed quite a dependence on men in general."

Sean gave her a quick look, then stood up. "I'm having some of the squid stuff with the big noodles."

"Sure, go right ahead."

Sean turned his back to her. She wondered if this was a strategic move, so it would be easier for him to talk to her about something like this. She was very aware, all of a sudden, of the connection they had.

After all, when she was young, she could tell when other kids had fucked up childhoods, too.

"So I guess your mom sucked, too," Sean said.

"She had problems, yes."

"So what?" Sean turned around. "You like, make yourself feel better by taking in fuck ups?"

Denise looked at Sean for a long moment, and suddenly found herself feeling so fond of him, so affectionate. Like she felt about Jack. Jack used to think she only felt sorry for him, too.

"No," she said. "I always wanted to be a mother." She looked at her nails now, too. "You know, at the right time."

Sean turned his back again and took a small bit of noodles, placing them on top of his rice.

"So?" Sean said. "How come you didn't just have a kid like a normal person?"

"I did have a kid. Not like a normal person."

"What's that mean?"

"It was my step-dad's."

She let it stay there in the air, quiet. Sean could probably guess, and if he didn't guess or didn't want to know, well, she wouldn't blame him.

Sean dropped a chopstick, swore, picked it up, and angrily stabbed at the rice. Finally, he looked up at her. "That's fucked up."

"Yeah, it was."

"So...what happened? I mean..." Sean looked back down at his food. Not at her.

"My mom didn't want to hear it, didn't want to believe me, and wouldn't let me get an abortion. Then I threatened to paternity test the kid, he knew it was his, so... I was out on the streets. Mom wanted him more than me."

"Like Jack's mom," Sean said.

Denise nodded. "Jack doesn't really know," she said, and gave Sean a long look.

"I got it," Sean said, then, "You turned out okay, I guess."

"Yeah," she nodded. "Yeah, it just took me awhile. I didn't finish high school until I was old enough to drink, and that was years after I gave up the kid. I didn't have a choice, I was living in a shelter when he was born. I didn't want him, but didn't want to abandon him. Rock and a hard place."

"So you gave up the kid," Sean surmised, "and to make up for the guilt, you take in fucked up little boys."

"Something like that," she admitted.

"Uh." He stared down at a plate of food, but didn't eat it. "So are you... you know..."

"It was a long time ago," she said. "And I've been through a lot of therapy, had a lot of help. I got away from the people who hurt me and found people I love." She paused. "That's you and Jack, by the way."

"He really loves you," Sean said. "He's afraid you'll go psycho on him."

"I won't," she said, and then looked at him. "I won't on you either, Sean."

"I... know," he said slowly. Maybe just realizing it.

They didn't say anything else after that.

--

"Look at me," Mush sighed, staring hard into his mirror, while Tony lounged on Mush's bed and David did his homework. As usual. "Look at me, guys, why don't I have a boyfriend?"

Tony and David both groaned.

"I'm serious!..." Mush pouted. "Maybe I'm not as cute as I thought I was?"

"Nah, you're okay," Tony said. David gave him a look. He shrugged. "Not that I'd know."

"You think I'm cute?" Mush asked.

"You don't need to be told that, you fag," Tony snapped. "You don't have a boyfriend because everyone is a homophobe--"

"Even Tony, a little," David interjected.

"Even me, a little." Then he snapped his gaze onto David. "Wait, no I'm fucking not!"

David raised an eyebrow. "Fuck me right here."

Tony scrambled backwards, as far away from David as possible. "WHAT?"

David grinned at Mush. "See?"

"It's because you said it, I'm surprised you even know what fucking is!"

"Shut up, Tony."

"He knows what it is," Mush beamed. "Jaaaaccckk--"

"That's getting old," David said in a low voice.

"It'll never get old!" Mush crowed.

David snorted in irritation. "Maybe you can't get a boyfriend because you're annoying!"

"No, I think it's more the homophobe thing," Mush said, smiling now. Friends were like that.

"You know, we really do need to get him laid," Tony said to David. "I mean... he gets such a hard time from everyone. He should at least get something out of being gay."

"Tony, that was kind of empathetic," David said.

"Shut up!" Tony paused. "Wait, was that a compliment?"

"You're so dumb." Mush smiled fondly. "I'm in favor of the getting me laid plan... Wait. No. I want love. I want a boyfriend!"

"You can't just whine, you have to actually go out and meet someone!" David snapped.

"Well, you were going to introduce me to that blond eye patch kid, but you never did," Mush sulked.

David sighed. "Look, you guys. I'd... like to do that, okay? I would. But I don't know..."

"Don't know what?"

"You guys have noticed that in three years, you've never once been to my house, right?" David asked.

Mush and Race exchanged glances. "Well, yes," Mush said. "But we figured you... I mean, were embarrassed or--"

"I'm not embarrassed!" David interrupted, snapping. "I'm not embarrassed about anything. But you guys are... uh... well, look, I love you and all, but you're snobs. Both of you, when you get down to it. And you mean well, but you are. And I don't want my other friends to get the wrong impression of you guys, which they would, and then it would be awkward and just bad and weird, and..."

"Oh, I get it," Race said. "You're not ashamed of your neighborhood."

"Right, exactly."

"You're ashamed of us."

"No!" David squawked, then sighed. "Well, yes, a little bit. Guys, you're so... rich."

"But that isn't our fault!" Mush insisted.

"Yeah, way to judge us," Race snapped.

"Yes, your life is very hard," David sighed. "You're both amazing friends, okay? And I like being your friend, but...just, I dunno, you guys sneer if someone wears sneakers from last spring."

Mush kind of laughed. "Because that was ages ago."

"Yeah, and some people can't afford to keep up with that sort of crap, or they look past it," David sighed. "Because it doesn't matter."

Mush let out a slight gasp. David rolled his eyes.

"Look, if meeting my friends is that important to you, you have to know that...they're not wealthy." David paused. "At all."

"Neither are you," Tony said with a shrug.

"Yeah, but you make fun of my sweaters and my like, shoes and stuff, all the time."

"But you know we're kidding," Mush assured him.

"Yeah," David said. "But my friends are a whole lot more defensive about it than I am. Plus, they don't know you like I know you. And Mush, you're cute and charming, you can win people over eventually, you really can, but Tony..."

"What?" Tony asked with a glare.

"You're a jerk to people, Tony, you know that!"

Tony sighed. "Yeah," he said finally. "I know. Sometimes, I don't even like spending time with me."

"Awwwwww," Mush cooed. "Tony, baby, don't talk like that."

"I was joking, fairy!"

"Well, don't!" Mush pouted. "Sometimes when you get all... like that, you do really stupid stuff like cocaine! So don't joke!"

"It'll be two years this month since I did cocaine, so shut up!"

They stopped yelling and stared at each other. David sighed. "All I meant, Tony, was that... you have to grow on people. You don't always make great first impressions."

"No, what you meant is that I'm a snob." Tony threw David a dazzling grin, which all three of them knew was fake and plastered on. But it was dazzling, nonetheless. "David, baby, I'm gorgeous and rich and fabulous. I'm genetically designed to be hated by everyone."

"Okay, that's it," David snapped. "Tony, enough with the fake... whatever that was. You're not a bad guy, but you act like... arg! And Mush." David turned to glare at Mush. "Enough whining. If you want a boyfriend, you go out and meet someone. You don't just pine longingly for things you know won't ever, ever happen."

"It could happen," Mush sulked.

"It won't."

"What?" Tony asked.

"Nothing!" they both chorused, and glared. Finally, David flopped down on Mush's bed.

"Okay, here's my plan," he said. "Blink--Ryan is having a party on Friday. You two will both be on your best, least-snobby behavior, and will come with me. Mush, you'll meet Blink and fall madly in love and get married and adopt 2.4 children and a dog. And Tony, you'll... you'll... you'll probably scar my friends for life, but there'll be alcohol. But you're going to be on your best behavior and have a good time, or so help me god..."

Mush and David exchanged startled looks. And finally, Mush said, "David... I don't know what's come over you. But I like you like this."

"Shush," David said. "So are we clear?"

"Yeah, Mommy, we're clear," Tony said with a grin.

"Don't be a wiseass."

"And we get to see you and Jaaacckkk in a social situation," Mush cooed.

"Yeah, well, he's back with my sister, so we won't be seeing much of him. Or her. Unless you walk by one of the bedrooms." David considered that and shuddered. "Ugh."

"Sarah's pretty," Mush said, defending her.

"Um," David said. "I...don't care."

"Kind of a brat," Tony added.

"Yes," David agreed. "Okay, now you two shut up, I have homework to do."

Mush and Race rolled their eyes. Tony grabbed a book from Mush's desk and flipped through it, and Mush went back to primping himself in the mirror. Then Mush paused, thought for a moment, then turned to Tony and said, "Tony, did you just call yourself fabulous?"

"It's never gonna happen, Mush," David said, without looking up from his books.

Tony blinked, oblivious, as Mush went back to pouting at his reflection in the mirror.

--

Sean shifted his position on the leather couch. He hated fucking leather couches. The noise they made when you moved was so loud and obnoxious and impossible to ignore, yet everyone ignored it anyway, which made it more impossible to ignore. He hated their smell, that new car smell, that never went away...he hated how precious everyone treated them. Like they were babies or something.

It was stupid to treat furniture better than you treated people, was Sean's opinion, and a lot of Sean's primary opinions of his shrink, Dr. Manuel, had been based off of his stupid leather couch, and the widely displayed degrees and certificates gracing his wall.

But, Sean supposed, he could be worse.

"So, Sean," Dr. Manuel said, with a slight smile. "You're looking well." Sean snorted. "You have color to your cheeks... less ashy-toned in the skin."

Sean recognized that as a Dr. Manuel type joke. "Yeah. Eating my vitamins."

"Are you?"

"Hn."

"Eating?"

"Well, not like you," Sean said, glancing at Dr. Manuel's waist. Dr. Manuel chuckled. Sean supposed he almost kind of liked how he never got under Dr. Manuel's skin, unless he was going through a really fucked up period. Well, Sean was always going through a fucked up period. But sometimes, there would be worse ones, and Sean didn't talk during those.

That was when he got under Dr. Manuel's skin. But he wouldn't get mad at Sean. He would just sit there with this worried look on his face.

"But," Dr. Manuel prompted.

"I dunno. Not yesterday. Until then, though."

"What happened yesterday?"

Sean stared off into space, then shifted and made a rude noise with the leather couch. He smirked and Dr. Manuel smiled.

"Sean?" Dr. Manuel prompted.

"Yeah, well, Jack figured out about my dad and I puked a few times."

"Ooooh." Dr. Manuel nodded. "So you two got in another fight?"

"No."

"No?"

"No, I said that I fucking puked, not that I kicked his ass."

"You wanted to?"

Silence.

"Sean?"

"Not really. Who the fuck cares?"

"So you don't think that's important?"

"What?" Sean snapped.

Dr. Manuel raised an eyebrow. "You've spent most of your adolescence pretending your father never existed, and have had serious episodes whenever he's been discussed in the past. So you don't think it's important that Jack found out about your father, and though you had some problems... well, they weren't problems with Jack?"

"Jack's just Jack," Sean finally said.

"Meaning?"

"How the fuck should I know? You're the shrink."

"Well, I don't want to assume something about you that isn't true, Sean, that isn't fair."

Sean rolled his eyes. "Right, and you've never done that."

Dr. Manuel nodded. "Yes, I have done that in the past. And with your help, I think, we've come a long way. You've come a long way."

"How do you figure that?"

"Jack's Jack?" Dr. Manuel asked. "Is it important to you that he is?"

Sean made a face. "What? What the fuck does that mean?"

"That Jack is who he is. Is Jack important to you? Is Denise?"

Sean blinked. Then averted his eyes. "I dunno."

"Are your friends?"

"I don't have friends."

"Sean, look at me."

"No!"

"Sean."

Sean sunk further into the couch, and the only thing that filled the silence was the sound of leather, and, to Sean's ears, his thumping heartbeat.

It was scary, Sean guessed, when you realized your guard had been let down.

And it was scarier when you realized that you were kind of happy about it.

"I don't mind," Sean mumbled. "Them. I guess. I don't mind them."

"Do you feel as if they've become family?"

"I dunno. I guess."

"In what sense?"

"I dunno, okay?" Sean snapped. "I've never had a fucking family, how am I supposed to know what it feels like?"

"Well, compare it to other homes where you've stayed."

Sean snorted. "That's it, right? I've stayed in other people's homes. I never fucking had a home."

"And Denise's...?"

"I don't know, okay? I have my own room. I've got posters. Is that fucking normal enough?"

"We aren't trying to make you normal, Sean. We're trying to make you healthy."

"Who the fuck is we?"

"Me. Jared. Denise. And when you aren't being too stubborn, you."

Sean snorted and stared out the window for a while. Then he said, his heart beating faster than he would have liked, "I'm going to a party. Tonight. At my friend's house."

"Care to elaborate?"

"What the hell do you want me to say about it? My friends are all slackers and screw-ups. Blink gets beat up all the goddamn time and is a total fairy. Dutchy's a pothead whose only goal is to fuck a supermodel someday. Jack just got grounded for beating the shit out of some guy who called his slutty girlfriend a slut. David is a fucking princess. And Itey, uh." Sean paused, searching for a thing could have done that could be considered interesting. "Itey dropped off the basketball team."

"You have five people you actually consider friends?"

"You know, I really hate these fucking sessions."

"I'll take that as a yes, then."

"Don't take anything--"

"You've gained weight, too," Dr. Manuel continued. "Couple pounds, or so. Not enough to make you healthy, but certainly something..."

"Stop giving me doctor's eyes," Sean said darkly. "I hate--"

"You hate doctor's eyes, yes," Dr. Manuel finished. "I'm not going to make you one of my cases for a book. You know this." Sean dropped his gaze again. "You're a very smart young man. You wouldn't have let anything past me if I was like that."

"Yeah, well," Sean said. "You're not a total fucker. Except for your office. Look at this fucking office." Sean looked up again and spread his arms wide. "Take down your degrees, oh my god, we get it."

Dr. Manuel laughed. "I will if you stop wearing 'fuck' on every single article of clothing that you own."

Sean smirked slightly. "Fuck you."

"So how are you feeling, Sean?" Dr. Manuel said, in that kind voice that he tried to hide, because he didn't want to sound like he pitied Sean.

Sean knew he did. But he let it go. Dr. Manuel wasn't the worst kind of guy.

"I dunno."

"Better?"

Sean stared out the window. Coughed a little. "Yeah."

And Dr. Manuel smiled at him, and Sean kind of let him.

"So... you're going to a party tonight?"

"I said I was."

"Small party? Big party?"

"It's all the alternative kids and emo losers and assholes. The cool kids won't go to Blink's house, even though his dad bought him all this fucking beer and there won't be any parents or anything."

"You're planning to drink?"

"I'm planning to get fucking smashed out of my mind. Oh, and chain smoke." He gave Dr. Manuel a challenging glare, but Dr. Manuel just nodded.

"We'll work on that once your mental health is--"

"I'm not fucking mental." Sean's voice dropped dangerously.

Dr. Manuel blinked. "I didn't mean to imply that. However, you have been... ill. Considering you've refused every prescription we've tried to give you, you've coped well; but you have been unhealthy. Eating disorder, anxiety--"

"Shut the fuck up!" Sean yelled. "Goddamnit, I gave you the benefit of a fucking doubt and I never fucking do that!"

Dr. Manuel took a deep breath. "You don't want me to lie, Sean. I don't lie to you. My point was that yes, you've had some problems upstairs. But you're getting better. Look me in the eye for a second." He waited, and Sean slowly turned to him and glowered angrily. "Sean, you've been unhealthy, but you are not your father."

Sean's mouth opened a little, as if he was about to say something. And he winced slightly, and turned a little whiter.

Dr. Manuel was intelligent. He understood Sean, in ways that Sean didn't like people understanding him. Or maybe, in ways he wanted his...friends to understand him. Because it was pathetic that all he had was a shrink, and he didn't even want to talk to him.

"I know that," Sean said. But the uncertainty was evident, and Sean's eyes turned very young.

Dr. Manuel didn't push it. That was for another day.

"So," Dr. Manuel said in a lighter tone. "Have you got a boyfriend, Sean?"

Sean snorted. "No."

"Why not?"

"Because everyone at my school is either straight and an asshole, or gay and fucking annoying." Sean paused. "Wait, don't ask me shit like that! It's none of your business. 'Do I have a boyfriend,' do you?"

"Yes," Dr. Manuel said with a smile.

Sean's eyes widened. "...Oh."

"It only seemed fair to tell you. I trust you."

"So what, you don't want people to know?"

"I don't really care who knows. But I don't tell most of my patients, no. Sessions aren't about my personal life. So." Dr. Manuel stretched. "It is my business to ask you; your life is my business. No boyfriend?"

"No." Sean snorted. "Who the fuck needs a boyfriend? I just want a piece of ass."

Dr. Manuel raised an eyebrow. "You want to be sexually active?"

"I am sexually active, queer. Just, uh, not in... a few weeks. I fucked a girl, it grossed me out."

Dr. Manuel looked suitably shocked at that. "You were intimate with a girl?"

"No, but we fucked."

"Do you think you might not be gay after all?"

"Fuck no," Sean snapped. "I'm a fag."

"Interesting that you use such a derogatory word for yourself. You only called me a queer. So if you're gay, why...?"

"You look grossed out," Sean snorted.

"No, no." Dr. Manuel paused. "Just surprised."

Sean snorted. "How the hell did I not know you were gay before?"

"I'm a professional, Sean."

"A professional? So what's the going rate for a blowjob?"

"Sean," he snapped, but then smiled a little. "A professional therapist; these sessions are not about my personal life. They're about yours. So either you tell me why you call yourself a fag, or you tell me why you had sex with a girl. Your choice."

Sean made a noise, a whine, almost, and finally said, "Because it's funny."

"Derogatory terms?"

"Yeah."

"You think so?"

"Yeah. I think so."

"And as for intimat--"

"It wasn't intimate," Sean said, grossed out. "I dunno. She has this fucking boyfriend who's..." Sean paused for a moment, thinking of Steve and his sweet, sweet ass. "Hot as hell, and the biggest dickhead, and she's this total puppy who does whatever the hell he wants, so I was--"

"You were teaching them both a lesson?"

Sean snorted. "What's that supposed to mean? I don't care what they do."

"Is she a friend of yours?"

"I don't hate her."

"It's very troublesome, Sean," Dr. Manuel said. "The way you view sex, and devalue it." Sean gave a short laugh. "If you're having sex with someone you are in no way emotionally or sexually attracted to--"

"Just drop it!"

"It could mean you're looking for any means to feel good about yourself, be it sexually, emotionally, mentally--"

"I'm not mental."

Dr. Manuel sighed. "Were you able to...with this young woman, were you able to-"

"Come?"

Dr. Manuel gave a disapproving look, but was otherwise unfazed. "Climax."

"Yeah."

"Did you enjoy it?"

Sean made a face. "Do you ever not enjoy getting off?"

Dr. Manuel waited.

"No, I didn't fucking enjoy it. Her tits kept getting in the way and..." He shuddered. "Christ, I didn't want to relive that, thanks."

"So you had sex with her to climax, even though you didn't enjoy it."

"Yes, Jesus, what the hell are you, some kind of fucked up pedophile? You get off on--"

"No," Dr. Manuel interrupted sharply. "I'm your doctor. That act says a lot about your mental state, and not a lot that's very positive."

Sean snorted. "Sure, that's it. Do you want me to describe it to you? Maybe tape it next time?"

"Are you planning on having sex with her again?"

"Fuck no!"

"No? Regardless of everything that drove you to in the first place?"

"Her boyfriend and his asshole friends jumped me in a non-sexual way in the parking lot that week. Jared said if I get in another fight too soon, I'm out of Denise's house. I'm not going to fuck Jess again just to piss off her dickhead boyfriend."

"So you care more about maintaining your placement with Denise and Jack than about proving a point to some... boy?"

"You can say dickhead."

"No, I can't." Dr. Manuel smiled, amused. "But am I right?"

"How should I know? You're the one who went to," he squinted at the diplomas on the wall, "fucking Harvard and Columbia and Princeton. Jesus Christ."

"I'm proud of the things I've accomplished," Dr. Manuel said, and raised an eyebrow in a way that reminded Sean all too keenly that he was... well, he was probably the best adolescent psychologist in the northeast, if not the country. The man had written half a dozen books and published a bunch of articles. He was off speaking at universities and conferences all the time. He'd turned down three different teaching gigs.

He was really fucking good at his job. And his job seemed to consist of being a pain in Sean's ass.

"I know what you want me to say," Sean growled. "Yes. I fucking like Denise. She's the best fucking foster mom I've had, and no, I don't want to end up in some school again. Yes, Jack is a complete and total asshole most of the time. And yes, he's the closest fucking thing to a brother I've ever had. Yes, I have friends. They're assholes too, but they don't hate me and I don't hate them. Yes, I'm going to a fucking party and I want to get some ass. No, I don't want to fuck to make myself feel better. If I wanted that, I'd be fucking Dutchy. I'm not. I'm just horny. Like a normal. Fucking. Teenager."

"Well!" Dr. Manuel smiled brightly, irritatingly cheerful in response to Sean's angry rant. "As soon as we can get your compulsive need to swear in every sentence taken care of, I'd say you were cured!" Sean stared. "Just a...little joke..." Dr. Manuel cleared his throat, and Sean almost laughed a little. "No, you aren't cured. Sorry, but even though most of what you're saying seems to be true, and I do think you're doing much better, trauma doesn't just go away. But you're making progress." He smirked. "Besides, how many times have you bothered to tell me what I want to hear before?"

"Who says I'm telling you what you wanna hear?" Sean snapped.

"I am."

"You like hearing I fucked a chick?"

"I like hearing you talk."

"How romantic."

"I'm very proud of you."

Sean stopped, just as he was about to say something. Oh. Great. A dad moment. Not that Sean knew what those were like. If Denise was supposed to be his mom, Sean was never going to have that other thing...he'd never really thought about that before.

"Uh," Sean muttered. "...K."

"You've really, really impressed me. Have you impressed yourself?"

"Don't get lame."

"Aren't I always lame?"

"Yes," Sean crossed his legs. The couch made a noise, and finally, Sean snapped, "Would you get new fucking couches? They're so fucking loud."

"Sean," Dr. Manuel continued. "I want to hear you say, 'I'm proud of myself'."

"No!"

"Sean--"

"This isn't fucking television, I'm not proud of anything."

"Nothing?"

"...No."

"Are you sure?"

"I don't know! Get new couches!"

"'Get new couches'?" Dr. Manuel quoted. "Now who's being lame?"

"Fuck you!"

Dr. Manuel smiled. "I suppose proud might not be the right word, then, Sean. Here's a hypothetical situation. You come home after school and these people--Dutchy and Ryan and whoever--they're gathered around, playing video games."

"Yeah?"

"Well, how do you feel about that?"

"How do I what?"

"Feel? These people are in your house, hanging out; what do you do? How do you feel?"

Sean started to snap something out of reflex, then stopped. Because the thought of seeing Dutchy and Blink and everyone else after school, just sort of hanging out... Well. He probably wouldn't tell them to fuck off. He'd probably actually sit down and read or something. And maybe join in if they were talking. Maybe.

Sean coughed uncomfortably. "Do you have, like, water or anything?"

"Hm?"

"Fucking water! Jesus."

"I, uh..." Dr. Manuel started. "I could get you--"

"I already told you I don't completely hate them, what else do you want?"

Dr. Manuel laughed a little. "So you did, okay. All I want, Sean, is for you to be getting what you want, and need, to grow. And move on. And do you think you have? Moved on, a little?"

Sean scratched behind his head. "I guess. A little."

Dr. Manuel smiled at him, and then glanced at the clock on the wall behind Sean. "And we're out of time."

Sean looked a little surprised. "Oh."

"Passed by quickly."

"Yeah, I guess."

Dr. Manuel stood up and walked out from around his desk, as Sean stood and sneered at the leather. "I'll see you next week. It was a very good session today." He led Sean towards the door and opened it up.

"All we did was talk," Sean said stepping outside.

Dr. Manuel smiled again. "Exactly."

Sean paused, then sort of nodded slightly, as if trying to get out of smiling back, and then turned and stalked off, his hands in his pockets.

Dr. Manuel watched him go, and then glanced at the woman in the waiting room. "Nadine, hello."

She followed him inside, and they settled themselves. Dr. Manuel paused, and glanced at Nadine across from him on the leather couch.

"Nadine, how do you like the couch?"

"It's a little noisy."

"I see," Dr. Manuel made a note. "So, Nadine..."

Continued...