“And how does that make you feel?” he asks.
I swear, I will stab Dr. Waters in the eye with a fork.
“Relax, Teke, I’m joking,” he says. “You seem tense.”
“Tell me about your nightmare.”
Fuck it, I’m going straight for the spoon.
“Yes, Dr. Waters?” I say, and, no, it comes out sounding pretty much like how I feel. Oops.
“Travis,” he sighs, “if you don’t want to talk to me about Agent Donahue, and you don’t want to talk to me about your nightmares, and you don’t want to rehash the incident – and I understand that, I do, take the time you need – why are you here?”
I stare at him incredulously. “Because I’m mandated to be?”
“You know I’m here to help you,” he reminds me, yet again.
“Oh, sure, I know that,” I agree.
“These sessions,” he stresses. “You’re mandated to talk to me because talking helps.”
“Oh my god,” I say, and whoops, that was out loud.
“Travis,” he says again, and then just stares at me like I know what he’s going to say.
In point of fact, I have no idea what he’s going to say, so it’s less than helpful.
“Pick something,” he grumbles, “pick something to talk about. It doesn’t even matter what.”
“People keep telling me to get a dog,” I say, dropping my head back on the chair and staring up at the ceiling.
“To keep Klepto away?” he asks. “I hear most people who run into him say something like that.”
“Darren’s allergic, though,” I add.
He pauses for a moment. “Is that the only reason you’re not getting one?” he asks me.
I literally have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.
“Would you like to have a dog if you could, Teke?” he asks.
“Sure,” I say, “I like dogs.”
“But you’re irritated by people telling you to get one,” he says.
“Because I can’t,” I tell him.
“Okay,” he says.
“What?” I say.
“Do you want to tell me about that?” he asks.
“About what, dogs?” I say, “sure, dogs have a common ancestor sometime way back when with modern wolves, although there’s been a lot of gene introgression, so –”
“About why it annoys you so much that people keep bringing them up,” he says.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I tell him, “imagine you had to have the same conversation over and over again with completely different people and it just kept happening.”
“It’s not really that difficult to imagine,” he tells me, the corner of his mouth twitching.
“Ha,” I say. “So. You know what I mean.”
“It’s not about dogs, though?” he asks.
“For fuck’s sake,” I say, “how would it be about the actual dogs themselves?”
“I heard you visited your friend’s dog this weekend,” he says.
“Fucking hell,” I just-barely-do-not-scream, “I like dogs, okay, yes, I visit them, I go to the dog park or whatever, I feed random stray dogs biscuits, Hunch likes dogs too, talk to him.”
“Travis, I have to ask you why you’re bringing up Hunch,” he murmurs.
I smack myself in the face. With both hands. “Obviously you think dogs are a metaphor or something, ok, cool, glad to know that, but I’m pretty sure we’re not having the same conversation.”
“Okay,” he says, “I had to ask.”
“I’m pretty sure you didn’t,” I tell him. “I don’t know what regulation you think – oh my god, is it a sexual harassment thing? It’s a sexual harassment thing, isn’t it.”
Dr. Waters shrugs.
“What the fuck does liking dogs have to do with sexual harassment?” I ask him. “Like, because we share a common interest with 100% of the population – you know Hunch and I are friends, right?”
“I did know that, yes,” he says.
“Like, fuck, bring up Arsenal if that’s your point,” I tell him. “Shit, he even likes dogs, too.”
He frowns. “Has Arsenal done something?”
I smack myself in the face again.
“Travis, if he’s done something,” Dr. Waters says, “I want you to know you can feel free to tell me about it, and I’m not going to say anything unless someone’s in danger, okay?”
“I won’t say anything without your approval,” he adds. “You don’t have to report it.”
“For fuck’s sake, he has a crush,” I say, “it’s just a crush, it was just a poorly timed joke, please don’t make a big deal about this.”
“But the crush bothers you?” he asks.
“Of course it fucking bothers me, he’s a baby,” I tell him, “I remember what he looked like before he had to shave, and if that’s not weird, nothing is, but it doesn’t bother me like that.”
“I think he may still not have to shave yet,” Dr. Waters jokes, and it falls a little flat, but at least he’s not going in that direction anymore, so I can work with that. I eventually manage to escape. Not before he questions me on my coffee addiction, my aversion to polyester, my clearance, statistical variance of secondary powersets by age group, Ultraviolet, bigotry, marijuana, the film industry, and whether I felt I had enough of a chance to give Walker a proper send-off (???), but eventually. I hurry to my office before he changes his mind. I have just enough time to close the door behind me, but not to lean against it and sigh, before I notice there’s someone sitting at my desk, using my computer. I open my mouth to greet her.
“I’m legally obligated to inform you I’m a licensed memetic,” she says, and immediately turns back to the screen.
“Oh?” I say.
She cringes slightly and nods.
“What kind?” I ask.
She sighs, swivels the chair slightly, and looks me in the eye. “Truth-value.”
“Well, damn, that’s got to come in handy,” I tell her.
“That’s kind of my desk, though,” I add.
She frowns, clears her things off of it, and looks around the room. “Which one’s free?”
“Any,” I say.
She nods, and heads toward the one in the corner.
“Oh, shit, not that one,” I tell her, “Sensei Domino uses that one.”
She sighs, and picks a different desk. “I’m Lisa.”
“Um, hi,” I say. “Hi, Lisa.”
She quickly turns on the computer at her desk, and sets her stuff up again. I watch her fiddle with paperwork for a minute before realizing she’s the intern for the kids’ program.
I have never had an intern before.
“Um, Travis,” I tell her. “Kuiper. Uh, Teke, actually. Or people call me Fox.”
“Teke,” she says, “I was here last year. I know what I’m doing.”
“Well that makes one of us,” I tell her.
She glances at me, a slight smile ghosting her lips as she looks me over. “The problem with truth values is that they’re highly subjective.”