Author Topic: After Hours  (Read 277 times)

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Offline Satyr

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After Hours
« on: July 03, 2019, 09:08:32 AM »
Ben had written himself an appointment with Dr James Barrow, putting himself into the psychiatrist's schedule without a name. 'New patient' was what he'd typed in and no doubt the doctor would be wondering who the fuck had done it. Any staff member could've, either for themselves or for a student. Ben hadn't actively sought him out or paid him much attention, letting Ichabod organise the smaller details while Ben oversaw the bigger decisions by email.

They really did have to install a Dean. His campaign was starting to make ground now that he was attending social functions with Kerr, outing himself as a wannabe for District Leader multiple times and not having an answer when the democratic process would actually take place or who would be allowed to vote; the whole city of supernaturals or just the city central district? It was looking more and more like everyone in every district would vote which was exactly what he wanted (even though he didn't think it was fair - he could pass a law or something later that only those with business or residence in the city could vote for that district). Right now it would be good to extend to different territories. He was pretty sure he had the demon votes and there were a lot of them. It was handy having access to old Oligarchy records, and Digital on staff.

And now it was time. Time to shed his steely facade and take off his thick-skinned cloak and be vulnerable with someone other than Kerr. He wasn't looking forward to it but he and Kerr weren't making any progress. He needed professional help. He wondered (for a very small moment) if Jake was coping before he shunted his concern aside. Jake wouldn't give a fuck about how he was dealing with it. That asshole would probably even take advantage.

He reached Dr Barrow's office at the designated time and hesitated just outside the door. It was stupid - the doctor was a vampire and would feel his presence. Hell, he was a Malkavian so he probably knew it had been Ben's appointment all along.

Ben knocked and waited to be called in, because it was only polite.


Offline Billiam

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2019, 03:22:21 PM »
Dr. Barrow hadn't known it was Ben, but he did know that it was a person who was reluctant to see him. He tried to remember exactly what the voice had whispered as he saw the name NEW PATIENT set into his clinical schedule. Then it came to him.

Seems cagey.

He hadn't over analyzed the auditory intrusion, trusting that the meaning would present itself at the appropriate time. He'd spent the earlier part of the evening trying to figure out how to increase his visibility to students. His panel was still rather small, and while his classes were popular he found those students didn't want to see him for counseling. He supposed they didn't want a duel relationship, and he couldn't blame them for that. But he wondered if being a Malkavian made them fear what he saw. The doctor tried his best not to look, but just like the phrase seems cagey had entered his mind, so did visions and voices that whispered of his students.

When the appointment time came close he put away his office work and moved to his comfy leather wing chair. It was tall, poofy, and a dark maroon. The chair was very old school psychoanalyst and to match he had the famous long couch Although, it was pushed to a far side of the room. Another comfy chair sat directly opposite him, a large oriental rug covering the floor. His desk had a neat stack of old books on psychology, a fair amount of them being Freud. Despite his short amount of time in the building the office looked lived in, although it was very tidy.

When he sensed Ben approaching at first he assumed it was on another matter. It had to be work related. Ben hadn't paid much attention to Dr. Barrow since hiring him, and while it didn't feel personal it was noticeable. It was Ben lingering that finally made him connect the dots, and with a half smile at his revelation he said, "come in Ben."

The doctor's mind raced with the possibilities of what this visit would be about.
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


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Offline Satyr

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2019, 03:43:03 PM »
Ben entered the room and closed the door behind him before assessing the space. His gaze flitted from thing to thing until it rested on the doctor himself. He tried for a smile but it failed miserably in his eyes; he could feel his lips drawing back doing a bad imitation of what was a polite greeting so he dropped it and decided for serious instead. It suited him better.

"I'm your appointment," he said, though he suspected James already knew. He wondered if it would be weird talking to an employee before he realised no matter who he saw he would be paying them anyway.

Client, I'm his client, I'm his
Patient
You need help Ben
You're not getting over it on your own


He closed his eyes and willed the intruding thoughts away before he moved further into the room, choosing a comfortable armchair that was close to the doctor which could also allow him to peruse the rug. It had an interesting pattern and set of colours, and his stare had been drawn to it twice. Something to look at while he vomited his problems. No doubt the rug had been chosen for that purpose.

Once seated on the chair, he stared at the man who Lisa-Joe had found for the trial. It was another benefit for seeing James Barrow over anyone else; he kind of already knew the story.

"Are we in session now or do I have to do something else first?" he asked, rubbing his palms on his jeans. It was a nervous gesture and he made himself stop. "I haven't done this before. Seen anyone before. I...

don't know what to do

...don't know... what... to do."

Well shit, he hadn't meant to echo his thought.

Offline Billiam

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2019, 03:58:01 PM »
For someone who was already establishing a reputation as a talker, James was mostly silent as Ben entered. His expression was warm, but free of any real emotion. He was already making observations, quick mental notes about body language and sentence construction. He was already intrigued because it was Ben Samson who was speaking about him. From the little James had been able to learn about Ben, Kerr, and how the whole academy came to be the doctor suspected he had a good story to tell. He kept his mind free of assumptions, or tired too. The events of the trial were recent, and his testimony had been painful to hear. Then again, Ben might have another issue in mind. He'd learned to let the client set the stage.

For all those reasons he was quiet as Ben fumbled along through an introduction. James found it clever that Ben asked if session had actually began or not. Most people just went straight into it, or needed him to start with a stiff and formal introduction. This was different. James liked different. It was almost like asking a reporter if they were on the record, and he smiled slowly and nodded.

"We are in session yes. It begins as one walks through the door." He kept his eyes as warm as possible. It was merely education, not a correction. Now Ben would know going forward. He crossed his legs as Ben spoke, and wanted desperately to smoke, but ignored the urge.

"Well, let's start with what you think therapy is and what you want to gain from using it," he instructed. "Or, you can talk to me about how you're feeling right now, or you can tell me what factor in your life made you think you needed to see me."

The doctor liked to give his patients options. The content wasn't as important as the process, so Ben talking about the issue in what way felt best maximized that James would be able to help him.
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Dragon(Jake)~ Harpy(Lisa-Joe)~ Two-Face(James)~ Satanist(Thesdea)~ Saint(Tyler)~ Lamb(Freddy)~ PrivateEye(Drew)~ Wolf(Flick)~ Huntsman(Ari)~ Slayer(Lacy)~ Majesty(Mithras)~ Comrade(Benny)~

Offline Satyr

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2019, 04:23:35 PM »
He didn't really know the doctor, not having spoken with him much, but that had been Ben's purposeful doing. He thought if he'd become too familiar with the man that he wouldn't be able to tell him his darkest thoughts, or blackest fears. Sitting here, not knowing what to expect or how the guy usually acted, he believed he'd done the right thing. They couldn't be friends, not when they were boss/employee, or more importantly doctor/patient.

"Privilege," he said, then gave an embarrassed laugh and tried for the whole sentence this time. "I know there's doctor/patient privilege. That you can't tell anybody else what I said. That's... important to me." It was bad enough that he would be telling James things, he didn't want to know he would be talked about as well. "You can control your... uh... your bloodline, can't you," he said. It should've been a question but it was more of a demand.

Rude, yes, but necessary. Digital was the only other Malkavian he knew. He was prone to outbursts. He knew that there were different affectations of the madness, and he suspected he knew what James' affliction was. Everyone had seen him at the trial. He might even see it during this session. If he did, he would stop.

"Therapy is working a problem out with someone who isn't emotionally attached to the problem, isn't it?" he askedat the end.

Offline Billiam

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2019, 04:48:48 PM »
James let out a smaller laugh when Ben had his. He found laughter often helped with tension, and he looked attentive as Ben brought up the rules of their engagement. He took patient/doctor confidentiality seriously and was more than happy to reassure the patient.

"Yes, you have it right. I can't, and wont, tell anyone what we talk about, and won't even confirm or deny if you're seeing me. If you ever have concerns about your confidentiality feel free to address them with me. I can also see you off campus if you prefer. I have an office in the North District."

The comment about his clan was a bit more of a sting, but this session wasn't about him. Also, Malkavians had a way of being noticed for the wrong reasons. When he looked at Digital he couldn't help but wonder what people thought about him. He knew it was judgmental, but what could he do? He was only vampire. He didn't show his displeasure at the comment, and answered with the same cool tone he'd spoken in since Ben arrived.

"I promise my condition won't interfere with my ability to do my duties," he assured, assuming Ben meant his mental illness, not his psychic abilities. He used the double meaning to push forward a treatment strategy.

"My clan's gifts may be useful in this process. Depending on how things are going, would you be open to hypnosis, aura reading, or other talents of second sight?"

James relaxed into his chair more, but still felt tense. Ben had already made the doctor aware that boundaries were important to him; and distance. He highlighted emotional detachment in his response. While therapists weren't friends or family, it was rare their was no emotional investment. The treatment relationship was one way to help people get better. He considered that might take some time with Ben, and reminded himself to be patient.

"I'd say therapy is working on a problem with someone," he validated. "And again true, I am not attached to your problems. I hope you know that doesn't prohibit me from having feelings about them and caring about them. It just means I don't have to go home to them."

Patients needed to know he wasn't totally cold to their suffering. Only rotten therapists were fully detached from the people they wanted to help.

Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Dragon(Jake)~ Harpy(Lisa-Joe)~ Two-Face(James)~ Satanist(Thesdea)~ Saint(Tyler)~ Lamb(Freddy)~ PrivateEye(Drew)~ Wolf(Flick)~ Huntsman(Ari)~ Slayer(Lacy)~ Majesty(Mithras)~ Comrade(Benny)~

Offline Satyr

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2019, 05:07:13 PM »
"Sure," Ben said, dropping his gaze and feeling uncomfortable. Someone else caring about his issues felt oddly invasive, but he understood about compassion. It was part of the problem though. His gaze on the rug, looking at vibrant colours, Ben continued. "I'm open to anything," he said, then made sure to lift his gaze, making eye contact with the doctor. "Whatever works, I'm willing."

He'd come here without Kerr but he knew what Ben was up to. Ben had selected his first appointment as solitary, though it included Kerr as well. Maybe they would have a session together. Who knew?

"Should I just, go ahead then? Talk about it?"

He rubbed his palms on his jeans again, swiping them as if they were sweaty.

Offline Billiam

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2019, 08:29:13 AM »
James nodded at Ben's question and leaned back in his chair.

"Yes, please tell me what brings you in," he instructed.

He was hoping for an interesting story.
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Dragon(Jake)~ Harpy(Lisa-Joe)~ Two-Face(James)~ Satanist(Thesdea)~ Saint(Tyler)~ Lamb(Freddy)~ PrivateEye(Drew)~ Wolf(Flick)~ Huntsman(Ari)~ Slayer(Lacy)~ Majesty(Mithras)~ Comrade(Benny)~

Offline Satyr

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2019, 10:01:28 AM »
"You know about the rape. I described it in that... ridiculous trial," he said, bringing his hands up from his legs and folding his arms across his chest. Ben was aware of how it closed him off so he made himself put his hands back down onto his legs again, but didn't swipe them this time. "I've been dealing with the aftermath with my partner's help. Kerr is also my sire and it actually... helped bring us back together. I'd still been reeling from his return from death and going through that, uh, that trauma actually helped me appreciate him. I felt comfortable with him again." He smiled, though thinly. He could feel the tension growing in his body when he started talking about the issue that he'd come to get help about. "But now there's a new... problem. I... I can hold his hand and flirt with him and... and kiss him. But when we start getting serious towards having sex I... I can't... I don't..."

Ben sighed, figuring that the doctor knew what he was getting at, but he felt he should say it anyway. It came out in a gush once he'd made up his mind to spill everything, but even though he said everything in an even, calm tone, his hands made fists on his lap.

"I don't want anything or anyone inside me, and it pisses me off because the last person to fuck me is Lazarus. I keep thinking of it that way, that I want to replace that honour to my boyfriend, but I can't seem to get past it. He doesn't want to push me and I've even told him a few times to just keep going even if I don't behave like I'm into it but he hasn't been able to because... he doesn't want to force me and I get it, it's not sexy. Not to him anyway, because he's not a monster."

Ben fell quiet after blurting everything out and lifted his gaze from the rug to Barrow's eyes. He didn't feel embarrassed like he thought he might; rather, he was curious what kind of suggestion the doctor would have for him.

Offline Billiam

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2019, 10:59:27 AM »
Dr. Barrow had wanted an interesting story, and his young employer hadn't disappointed. He was startlingly direct, and while the face of a trained therapist stared back, internally his mind was burning like a wild fire. The hardness of the word rape dropped into the room and Ben's expulsion about the trial carried with it something spiteful, tasting like a ripening fruit of contempt. Barrow's feelings about the trial had been mixed. It had been overly showy and full of theatrics, but the good doctor liked the idea of public trials for the supernatural. It was time they moved beyond princes and oligarchs. On a personal level it had been excellent for business, and Dr. Barrow wondered much much it might've helped lead to his employment at the academy. After all, it had been his audition.

Dr. Barrow didn't move much during Ben's statements. He wasn't exactly still, but more receptive, basing his body language and expression to be in sync with Ben's story. When he needed validation Barrow nodded. When he looked away Barrow did too. When he went for eye contact it was ready and waiting. He thought the comments  about Kerr were especially interesting. There was ambivalence here, and he wondered about the death of of the sire. James hadn't been provided the details, just Ben's public comments, but he imagined some of this current presentation came from that time.

The idea of being penetrated was a violent metaphor for openness, and even the violence of Ben's words seemed to show what the lad thought of the issue. Was connection a violent thing? Rape proved it could be. Was that Ben's reaction to the rape, or was that simply Ben? Barrow intended to find out. He needed to do it without penetrating him though, and he swore off reading his aura without direct permission. He didn't want to add anymore unwelcome touch. He didn't think Kerr was a monster, but Barrow considered some monster haunted Ben. It was likely Lazarus, but James kept an open mind for the moment.

"First off, that trial was utterly ridiculous," he validated, leaning on the part of him that had hated it, and ignoring his more true ambivalence. He followed it up with a warm smile, before moving forward in his seat slowly. His eyes shined through the frames of his glasses. "Second, it doesn't sound like you're looking for sympathy, but I'm sorry that you went through that experience. It's more common than one might think, and I know many vampires who've been treated in a similar way." Barrow was calm and even, but his eyes dipped low when he talked about knowing other vampires like Ben. It was a sad moment, laced with something unknowable. He returned his eyes to the patient's.

"It also sounds like you value your partner's support. It's good to have resources like that. Feel free to bring him in a later date if you think it would be helpful for me to meet with you both."

He very much wanted to meet this Kerr. Who was the man that came back from death? He thought of Cain, and he missed the beauty. He'd text him once this session was done. 

"And to make sure I understand the problem correctly, you're saying that since the rape you've been unable to engage in penetrative sexual intercourse with your partner and you feel like it's putting stress on the relationship and yourself?"

He phrased it all as a question, but inside was Barrow's first attempt at interpretation. He'd kept it vague to see how Ben responded to that form of intervention. Some people wanted Barrow to tell them what was going on inside them. Others hated it and fought him the whole way. He wondered which Ben would be. 

Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Dragon(Jake)~ Harpy(Lisa-Joe)~ Two-Face(James)~ Satanist(Thesdea)~ Saint(Tyler)~ Lamb(Freddy)~ PrivateEye(Drew)~ Wolf(Flick)~ Huntsman(Ari)~ Slayer(Lacy)~ Majesty(Mithras)~ Comrade(Benny)~

Offline Satyr

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2019, 11:49:31 AM »
Ben listened without reaction, the agreements about the trial and the explanation of rape being a common woe weren't important to him. He nodded imperceptibly (to a mortal's eyes) at the suggestion to bring Kerr another time. He knew Kerr would want to come, if only to hear possible solutions first hand. It was a way of feeling less helpless, Ben thought.

The last question rocked his foundation and he tensed. Dr Barrow had perfectly and succinctly stated what Ben was after. Out loud it sounded like there was something wrong with him.

There is something wrong with you
That's why you're here, to get help


"Yeah," he said, the word breathy and without strength. He noticed his clenched hands and undid them, letting them open and resting on his legs.

Offline Billiam

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2019, 06:41:03 AM »
Dr. Barrow noticed both Ben's tension and his defeated reply, but chose not to comment on these observations. They were clues; incomplete breadcrumbs of his mind. If he prodded too much, or stripped away too many defenses he might be just as vile as Ben's attacker. Still, he made note of it, and decided to take a look at how he'd phrased the deductions. He decided there was still a bit more assessment needed. Then he had an activity he wanted to try. He told Ben the order of events, his tone even and neutral throughout. Then he went to his next question.

"So we have Kerr, your sire. Any other important people in your life? Friends? Mentors? Rivals Tell me a bit about them."

He wasn't limited to these options, and James immediately regretted not saying family, but he hoped Ben would have enough to work with. He wanted a mini picture of Ben's world, and James felt asking about the interpersonal relationships that drove Ben's life was the best option.
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Dragon(Jake)~ Harpy(Lisa-Joe)~ Two-Face(James)~ Satanist(Thesdea)~ Saint(Tyler)~ Lamb(Freddy)~ PrivateEye(Drew)~ Wolf(Flick)~ Huntsman(Ari)~ Slayer(Lacy)~ Majesty(Mithras)~ Comrade(Benny)~

Offline Satyr

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2019, 07:15:24 AM »
He didn't know what other people had to do with his sexual affliction but he answered without pause because he meant it when he'd said he'd try anything.

"My fledge-brother Ichabod, but that's more a working relationship. We used to be rivals but we patched things up after Kerr came back. His coming back made everything... civil... between us. Um," he wondered if it was wrong to discuss Ichabod with James because Ichabod was his other boss. "The Academy is a good way for us to repair wrongs in the past. I was... unfair to him."

Unfair. That was an incredibly gentle way to put it.

"I was a complete asshole to him, actually." He shook his head, not wanting to go into detail and moved onto other people in his life. "Murphy is my close friend but I haven't seen him for almost a week now. He's on a personal errand. Things between us are pretty tense too because I'd promised to sire him but then Kerr came back and I didn't want to complicate our relationship, so I broke my promise to him. He has other... options, though."

Ben had said all of this deadpan, but thinking of Murphy had him also thinking of Jake and so he looked at the ceiling as he spoke about the older vampire.

"Jake McCloud is a rival. I used to admire him from afar but when I got to know him up close and personal I didn't like what I saw. He's as bad as Lazarus, as far as I'm concerned." His gaze dropped to make eye contact with James and his tone adopted a steely edge. Jake was his favourite topic. "The two of them were lovers, as you know. It shows Jake's character, the people he surrounds himself with. Thugs and brutes. Mindless lackeys. Lazarus is a rapist and he's a murderer. I've never taken a life and he fucking brags about the ones he has. It's why I've chosen to run against him for District Leader."

He was silent for a long moment after that, turning his gaze away and calming down. Fuck, even talking about Jake got him riled up. That guy was a far-reaching poison. Eventually, Ben moved on to the last person in his life who had any impact.

"Vincent," he said, who was James Barrow's co-worker. "After Kerr died, he met me in the park and took pity on me. He trained me alongside Owen," Ben said, for everyone at the Academy knew of Vincent and Owen's committed relationship, and that Owen was Head of Security at the Academy. It revealed, also, how they'd got their positions. "He's a mentor. I haven't spent as much time with him now that Kerr's back," he said, "but you might have noticed that I always drop by his office for a chat."

Offline Billiam

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2019, 06:20:12 AM »
James didn't share Ben's fears about the information concerning Ichabod, or any of the rest. Barrow wouldn't have admitted it but he felt entitled to that level of information. He was so used to knowing things he hated when he didn't know them. At this point it made him insecure not to be given information about a person. Jimmy simply took the knowledge he wanted, but James preferred to ask.

Mr. Conners had proven to be a dutiful boss, but so far was fairly forgettable compared to Ben. The voices didn't even whisper about him. James may have thought this, but he'd never share it with either Ben or Mr. Conners. Dr. Barrow didn't think badly or less of his boss for not making much of an impression. It was just a fact for now. He hoped Mr. Conners had some dark perversion, shameful secret, or particular hate. It would make him a lot more interesting. The only thing of importance to come out of the brother was that Ben admitted to being an asshole to him. He also noticed how quickly he moved on to Murphy Hilton. Dr. Barrow knew his last name from reading his article about the trial. It had been a boon to business.

A pattern began to emerge of Ben having tough relations with the people he was closest to. His sire, his brother, his best friend; all were strained in one way or another. It was sexual for the sire, interpersonal for the brothers, and for Mr. Hilton guilt hung above Ben's head like an albatross. James thought Ben might actually be staring at the great bird as his eyes went to the ceiling.

James had noticed the tension between Ben and Jake at the trial because frankly everyone had noticed. Then there was the bizarre academy/campaign kick off. James's own curiosity was fixed firmly on McCloud, but that's not why Ben was here. Still, it stuck out as important somehow, and so the doctor decided to make note of any Jake related mentions going forward. Ben said his rival was as bad as his rapist. Interesting. It seemed comfortable to hate on Jake, and Barrow didn't miss the ease at which the rebukes and insults flowed. James didn't know McCloud other than the trial and a little bit through Lisa-Joe, who'd asked him to testify at the trial, and honestly didn't care if Ben's perceptions were true or not. To Ben, it was reality, and that was all that mattered. One of Ben's statements stuck out from the rest.

Lazarus is a rapist and he's a murderer. I've never taken a life and he fucking brags about the ones he has. It's why I've chosen to run against him for District Leader.

"I'm sorry, were you discussing Jake or Lazarus just now," he asked, assuming it had been Jake but wanting Ben to speak it aloud. It also sounded like Ben was running against Jake for District Leader because of their rivalry. That was interesting too.

Vincent was the one relation that Ben mentioned that didn't sound strained, and he briefly thought of the beautiful - but terribly boring and awkward - Owen. They'd met when he and Cain had been snogging in an exam room. He hadn't spoken to the other since. He wanted to meet Vincent. There was something strangely calming about him from a far.

"Have you confided in Vincent since the attack? Sometimes having a person you can vent too and have support you outside of therapy is important. It also helps because he's not family or your best friend. You don't have to go home to him if you vent it all out. Perhaps Vincent can be that person for you."

"Last assessment question," Barrow promised, eager to get into the activity. "What is the best trait of your personality and..." and here he let his expression become serious. "What is your worst?"
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Dragon(Jake)~ Harpy(Lisa-Joe)~ Two-Face(James)~ Satanist(Thesdea)~ Saint(Tyler)~ Lamb(Freddy)~ PrivateEye(Drew)~ Wolf(Flick)~ Huntsman(Ari)~ Slayer(Lacy)~ Majesty(Mithras)~ Comrade(Benny)~

Offline Satyr

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2019, 11:42:11 PM »
"Sorry, they're both murderers, I kind of... merged them together in my first statement," he said, his hands making a pushing together gesture before they returned to his knees, first as fists then concsiously opened to his palms. "But the rest was about Jake. He's a fucking despot wannabe, with his sword and his..."

warmongering and his
heavy-handed limo pickups and his
stop talking about Jake oh my god


"...ugh, never mind. I don't want to talk about Jake. The one good thing he did was to let me go after the... after what happened."

Ben thought about Vincent and shook his head. "No, I can't talk to Vincent about this. I'm sure he knows it happened, everyone knows thanks to that stupid trial that took my anonymity away from me. But we don't talk about it and he doesn't look at me like he's sorry it happened and he doesn't say empty words about it so... I want to keep that untainted."

Untainted. Now there was a word that Barrow was probably going to run a mile with. If he did, he wouldn't be wrong.

Then he was asked about his strengths and weaknesses.

What's that got to do with sexual intimacy? Ben almost asked. If James was paying attention mentally he might catch the thought, but Ben held his tongue. He was supposed to be giving this a go and that meant answering questions that he believed were unrelated. He wasn't an expert in psychology.

But still - that question was his Achilles heel. He could never settle on any one thing because he felt like his traits could be both. He'd always answer it with a shrug and 'I don't know' while knowing but not having the guts to say it. He took a long time answering, but gave the impression of someone who wanted to answer, just that they were working up the courage. It seemed that way because that's how it felt.

Eventually he said: "All my strengths are also weaknesses, but there is something that stands out. I'm determined. Once I get an idea in my head I like to see it through. On a few occassions it's gone to the point of obsession, though. I've been described as obsessive a few times. I have to pay attention to that."

He pressed his lips tightly together, not wanting to reveal any more. He felt vulnerable now, stripped. He still had a lot of walls up so he wasn't there yet, but he knew that he'd certainly rubbed off a lot of protective covering.