“Knock, knock,” says a voice from the doorway, and I don’t grit my teeth.
“Hi,” I say, instead.
“Can I come in?” he asks.
I wave an expansive hand.
He pulls a chair up on the other side of my desk. “So, what’s up, Travis? How’ve you been?”
“I’m fine,” I say.
“Coping with the new job?” he asks.
“Yes,” I agree.
The shrink sighs. “You know, I think you should consider moving back to a standing appointment. You have Mondays free.”
“I have karate practice on Mondays,” I say, hoping Sensei Domino will forgive me the slip.
“Doesn’t take all day, Travis, why are you avoiding me?” he asks.
“I don’t want you to alienate yourself, here,” he tells me. “I know it can be pretty stressful to move from armor to mask. I want to make that easier for you.”
I blink at him. “It’s really not that hard.”
“Well, statistically,” he laughs, and shakes his head. “Never mind, let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about you. What are you up to?”
I stare at him. “I’m taking the kids out on patrol later today.”
“Oh, good, that’s good,” he says, “that’ll be a learning experience for them.”
“I hope so,” I tell him.
“So, I hear people are writing stories about you,” he continues.
“I’ve heard that, too,” I agree.
He nods. “How do you feel about that?”
I stare harder. Maybe if I stare hard enough, he’ll catch fire. Who knows? I could have a secondary power just waiting to manifest, I really could. “I’m cool.”
“Really?” he frowns. “You’re not, you know, feeling nervous?”
What, did management get its first death threat against me? “They’re just stories. No one I know is writing anything about me, I did make sure to warn them about that.”
“Stories,” he agrees, “pictures, videos, essays. How have you been sleeping?”
I raise an eyebrow.
He looks pointedly behind him, at the closed door, and then down through the window, at the empty gym below us.
“Aside from getting woken up to deal with puke and the inability to stand up for longer than ten minutes at a time, fine,” I say.
“You can’t stand up?” he asks. “Ah, no, right. Are you okay with dealing with that?”
I wonder exactly how threatening he’ll find my telling him to get the hell out of my office. “I don’t know why I wouldn’t be. I’ve dealt with it often enough before.”
“Well, I know you two were having some problems,” he says, patting my fucking arm.
My finger twitches, and nothing worse happens than my shoelace coming untied, but damned if I don’t know why he keeps me cuffed in his office. “All arguments that can be resolved at a later date, when, you know, neither of us is trying to puke out our livers.”
“Travis.” He steeples his fingers, because of course he does. “You can talk to me.”
“I fucking know I can talk to you,” I tell him, and a poster tears off the wall behind him, but at least it doesn’t make any noise and goddamn that was an ugly poster anyway, “I just don’t have anything to say.”
“Okay,” he says, “okay,” but then he just sits there.
I wonder if I should’ve gotten breakfast. If I’d gone down to the cafeteria, assuming no one bothered me, I’d be more than a minimal level of caffeinated right now, and quite possibly had something decent to eat. Today’s shaping up to be a fine fucking day.
“Travis,” he says again.
“What?” I snap. “I got six kids, okay, one of them is the world’s most gigantic asshole, one of them thinks he’s some sort of genius for hiding the fact that it’s someone – someone who won’t join the program or even come in for an eval – else’s tech he’s using, one of them keeps trying to sneak up on everyone, one of them keeps trying to hit on everyone, one of them is playing some sort of fucking game whose end goal I can’t even imagine, and one of them I can only remember even exists about half the time, and that’s usually when my friends are accusing him of something.”
“I see,” Dr. Waters says, and my god, I will fucking strangle the man.
I drop my head into my hands.
“Go on,” Dr. Waters says, with a slight look of consternation. I almost laugh.
“You forgot him. You forgot him, too.” I shake my head. “Look, whatever, let’s hope Doc Jerry doesn’t, and we’ll all be fine, but, yeah. Six students.”
“And one of them is up to no good,” he repeats. “Have you told Dr. Skye?”
I shrug. “I’m pretty sure they’re all up to no good; they’re teenagers. Only one of them’s being repeatedly accused of doing something and even that’s probably not a big deal.”
He makes some sort of intrigued noise. “You think they’re all up to no good?”
I snort. “All teenagers do something. If they’re not doing something, it’ll just turn out worse for them in the end. When the repressed finally go, they go big.”
“I see. You’re worried about that?” he asks.
God fucking damn it, he’s tricked me into a session again. I am going to be having words. With whom, I do not know, but words.
It’ll probably be Vector, won’t it. Vector listens to my rants. I mean, her sympathetic nods are about 67% sarcastic, but she listens to them.
Vector will in no way get this guy off my back, but I think Perry would just be confused. Darren glares bloody murder if I so much as bring up any of the shrinks. Apogee plays it off like she just Does Not Understand The Concept (god, I wish I could plead Cultural Differences). It’s sort of fucked to play on Hunch’s responsibility to me when he’s got no authority over Dr. Waters, and I don’t know the rest of the team well enough to try it. (Oh, can you imagine if I talked to Eli about it? Of course, he’s probably got issues of his own with these guys, so.) Yeah, it’s gonna be Vector.
I guess I could talk to Paragon about it, but he’ll probably have no idea what I’m talking about. I wonder if the Minnesota shrinks even bother him.
“Yeah,” I accede, “I worry the kids’ll get themselves into trouble.”