A/N: IIIIt's chapter time! Duhn duhn duhn!
So technically this is the second chapter after the show was over but the previous one was just a few days later... It's been over two weeks now and it's a new months, so I'd like to thank anybody who's still here reading this :)
As usual I also want to thank everybody who read, follow(/ed), favorited and reviewed. I love your reviews. Special thanks to my wonderful beta who's still sticking with me, joyteach.
I'm a bit behind on my writing, some RL stuff is making it hard to write even when I do have the time. I usually have at least one chapter finished (pre-beta) before posting, but sadly I haven't finished the next one yet. Still, I'm about to finish it and I'm quite certain I will post it on time. Hopefully I won't have to take a three-week break later on.
This chapter takes place two months after the previous one. Since it is Stephen-focused, I would like to remind that Stephen has his own ASD and his own characteristics beyond that; and that generally people with ASD may differ greatly from one another. What's true for this fictional character may not be true for a certain person with ASD you may meet in real life.
The Big Bang Theory does not belong to me, it belongs to Lorre and Prady. If it did I would have done a spin-off with the grown-up versions of my OCs :P (which do belong to me).
Chapter 25: Help
Yesterday, 17:47, was the time my emotional turmoil started. My mother came into my room, asking to 'talk', the non-specific term raising my suspicions. She engaged in the proverbial 'beating around the bush', before revealing her true goal – Making me participate in a social skills group for adolescents.
I felt an emotional upheaval, which I was not able to pause and define, as I have been taught, since a response was quick to come out. "No! Stop it! I'm not going!" I yelled.
"Stevie calm down, I won't force you," she said. She tried to reach for my hand, but I moved it away. "Stevie, I just thought it would be good for you, since you are now starting high school, and new challenges may come. You also don't have Riley there anymore to help you, and you refuse to let Cara help you in making friends," she reasoned. I should inform you that Riley had graduated from high school and started the Elite-Minds program of UCLA, Harvard and Yale; and that Cara is my assistant in school. Her job is to help me because of my ASD. I preferred my previous one, Zoe, because she could draw superheroes well, but Cara is doing a good job in helping me when I am overwhelmed and when I misunderstand my teachers. That is all I ask of her.
"I do not need that group, and I do not need help! I have my superior mind to help me in any worthy endeavor," I said.
"If I had a dollar for every time I'd heard that…" she said.
"Then you'd have earned several hundreds of dollars," I answered, "because you have heard that at least 397 times from Dad and another 13 from me."
"Yes," she smiled for a brief moment. "Stevie let's think about it, let's look at their site," she said and was reaching for her phone.
"No! I don't need it!" I yelled and ran out of my room.
My mom followed me as I climbed down the stairs and walked into the living room. "Stephen! Stephen!" she yelled.
After finishing my descent, I turned to her, my arms crossed.
"What has gotten into you lately?" she asked, "You were never like this."
My feelings changed into fright. "Like what? Am I speaking another language? Am I turning green and big and muscular? Am I moving in a way that might suggest foreign control of my body?" I asked.
"No, no, honey, I'm sorry," she said, "I wasn't clear. I meant you have always been willing to get help, but lately you keep refusing it."
I exhaled in relief. "That's because I do not need any help anymore. I only go to psychotherapy because Dr. Jacobs has so much to learn." He doesn't know all the Doctors Who, and mixes up the ones he does know! That is truly unbelievable.
Then Lizzie meddled. "Stephen be quiet! Kotie needs to concentrate!"
"Mom, Lizzie is the person who needs help here! She's letting people soil her face!" I pointed out. Dakota had been smearing colors on my sister's face, which my mother had apparently failed to prevent.
"Fun extinguisher!" Lizzie insulted me.
I gasped. "Inefficient time allocator!" I retorted.
"Thick-crust-pizza lover!" she retorted.
"Salty ice-cream eater!" I yelled back.
Lizzie gasped, "That was one time just to see!"
Then my mom shouted, "Enough! Enough you two!" She then turned to me, "Stephen, Lizzie is engaging in a ritual that is crucial to her acceptance in female society. This is a cornerstone on her way to eventually be granted permission to brush the silky golden hairs of a class goddess." I should inform you that by 'goddess' my mother means a girl of high social status in a school context.
Dakota chimed in, "If you want to get into that position you gotta know how to make yourself shine, so that others will trust you with their looks. And try not to stare at her in awe when you finally get to the hair brushing. That would get you kicked out of a slumber party faster than wearing your DIY deodorant. Anyway," she turned to Lizzie, "since you don't have a naturally radiating skin like myself, well who does, I've used a glitter cream and some more glitter to compensate. Here, take a look," she said, and gave her the mirror that was on the table.
Lizzie looked at herself and gave a piercing squeal, making me rapidly cover my ears.
I could still hear what she said well enough, but I will spare you the headache. The amount of time my sister can go on expressing delight over the application of chemicals on her face is unfathomable.
Even more unfathomable was my mom rushing to the couch after that, saying, "Now do me! Do me!"
Although I did not ask, I assume my feelings were shared by Max, who sat on the couch with a baffled expression, his hair and clothes covered in glitter. Luckily, I was far enough away to escape when he sneezed and caused a glitter shower.
Because of yesterday's events I came to school today determined to prove I did not need any help.
Some view the cafeteria as the best location to spot social dynamics in a school, so I gave myself 138.46 points for not sitting alone in it. Not only that, but I was sitting with my friend, Andrey, extra 50.92 points. I was already far exceeding my goal.
I was happy about that, but my happiness was short-lived. I was not pleased to see Chet Peters, a friend of Andrey's, join our table, and not at all pleased to see his girlfriend of three months, Kelly Barks-Mau join a minute later.
As I predicted, Andrey and Chet started talking about sports, while Andrey was engaging in inappropriate displays of affection with Kelly, such as putting his arm around her, and her eating a part of his bagel. Revolting.
"They just bit off more than they could chew, they were all over the place," I heard Andrey say, once I shifted my focus to the conversation.
"Oh dear, was there anybody available to do the Heimlich maneuver?" I asked.
The others looked at me with puzzled expressions.
"What do you mean?" Andrey started asking, but then Chet spoke to him, ignoring me.
"You're right, man. But maybe they'll learn from this."
Andrey nodded. There was a pause in the conversation, while everyone was chewing. Then Andrey asked Kelly, "So, how was 'Harry Potter'?"
Finally, they were talking about something of merit.
"Oh it was great! I loved it! You can see it's old, but it's worth it. Thanks for the recommendation, I'm totally geeking out!" she said.
Andrey chuckled, "Then Stephen here is your man, he's read every Potter book and watched every movie at least three times!"
"Really?" Kelly asked me.
I didn't know what to say. Why would he refer her to me to 'geek out'? Was that an insult?
I did not answer, instead taking a big bite of my lunch.
"Stephen?" Andrey asked.
"Dude, look alive," Chet said.
I did know what that means. They did not approve of my behavior.
Then, as if it weren't crowded as it was, Chet abruptly got up and invited another girl to sit with us.
To help myself cope with that I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. But, when I opened them, I discovered that two other girls, in addition to the one who was invited, were about to sit at our table. There were so many people, so many strangers, my breathing started to speed up.
"Are you okay there, Stephen?" Andrey asked.
"Intruders!" I said, looking at him.
"What?" he asked.
"You mean Maya and Cheyenne?" Kelly asked, "They're with Emma."
"No, we're at the same table, ergo they're with all of us, despite not being invited. This is unacceptable," I said.
"Stephen, that's how it works, they're a group, so if one of them sits somewhere the others join," Andrey said.
"What? That doesn't make sense. This rule suits a pack of animals in the wild, where there's vast space and predators from whom to defend themselves. The cafeteria has limited space and many students inside it, meaning a more likely danger is that of over-crowding, rendering the rule you just cited not only arbitrary but also dangerous!" I said. I had to get out of there. I quickly took the last bite of my lunch and stood up "I am not putting up with this nonsense!"
"What? Wait, Stephen!" Andrey said, but I went away.
As I was walking out of the school building, I thought about all those ridiculous rules, crass behavior and senseless speech that seemed to become more and more prevalent among my peers. 'Why should I subject myself to this nonsense? Why should I continue to suffer through this chaos? I could probably leave school and go to a university in a matter of days, I had finished my finals and catching up on courses would be an easy task. There, I would use my mind for things that really mattered, not reckless chewers and girls who subscribe to wildlife conventions!'
I walked toward the middle school outside area, which, in our school, is not separated from the high school outside area. After two minutes of looking around I located the person I was looking for – my close friend Sophie. She was sitting on a bench, watching a group of seven girls perform a dancing routine.
When I was a few steps away from her she noticed me, smiled and said, "Stevie! Hi, to what do I owe this visit, all the way from high school?" She seemed amused, I'm not sure by what.
I frowned, "It is 1479 feet away. May I sit with you?"
"Sure," she said, and scooted aside. She waited for me to sit down and then asked, "Everything okay?"
"I suppose. I am healthy, clean, and brilliant as always," I answered, looking at the group of girls.
"You have been saying that a lot lately, that brilliant, superior mind thing. Not as much as your dad, but a whole lot for you," she observed.
"That is a correct statement, but I do not understand its communicative goal."
"I'm just asking," she said.
"I haven't heard a question," I said, confused.
"Never mind," she said. "Wanna go to the library?"
"No, no, you seem to have been in the middle of an observation, I do not want you to change your plans because of me," I answered. "Would you inform me of the details of your observation? Research questions, data to be recorded, coding system."
Sophie smiled, "It's more of a 'sensing the field' observation, no recording, just watching."
"Alright," I nodded.
We sat in silence and watched for approximately three minutes, until one of the observed girls suddenly shouted in my direction, "Hey! What are you looking at, you creep?! Get out of here!"
The other girls stopped their dancing and looked at me as well.
I was frightened. I raised my hands in surrender, and shouted back "I come in peace!" To clarify my intentions, I did a flag waving gesture "I do not have a flag but please take this symbolic gesture in exchange," I pointed to the imaginary flag, "It is white, representing a call for truce."
They looked at me with puzzled expressions.
"Stephen, let's go," Sophie said.
Then, gradually, all the girls started laughing.
"Wait, he's that weirdo from ninth grade!" one of them said.
"Ohhh right, he's the one who told me last year that 'the organization system' of my locker was 'highly ineffective'!" another one said. The incident she mentioned happened eight months ago. I was sure I could help her sort her locker in a better way, but she gave me a strange look and slowly walked away.
"Is he retarded or something?" the first girl, who shouted at me, asked the others.
I stood up, furious, clenching my fists, and yelled, "I have an IQ within the range of 183-193! Presumably matched or surpassed by less than 1% of the world's population! Your suggestion is remote from the truth! Far far remote from the truth!"
Those girls stopped laughing when I yelled, but resumed as soon as I was finished.
Suddenly I heard yelling next to me, startling me at first. Given her usual demeanor, I was justified in not expecting Sophie to stand up and start yelling at those girls. "Hey! Leave him alone! What the he** is wrong with you?! You think you're better than him just because he acts differently?! Are you so unsure of yourselves you need a frickin' other kid to laugh at to feel okay?!"
There was about half a minute of silence, before the messy girl started, "We…"
"You what?" Sophie yelled, "Were joking? Didn't mean to?"
No one answered.
"Save it," Sophie said in a harsh tone, "Tell him you're sorry and go away."
The group of girls said 'Sorry' and went away. After they were gone, Sophie and I sat down again.
"Are you okay?" she asked, back in her usual tone.
I started sobbing, unable to avoid it, and put my head in my hands. "I believe I am not," I said.
"Oh Stevie…" Sophie said. "Please don't take those girls seriously. They're a bunch of childish idiots, they don't know what they're saying."
"I…I…" I started, but struggled, so I took a breath, "I need help."
"You want me to go get someone? Your aide?"
"Assistant," I corrected.
"Right," she said, "Cara, right? Or a teacher? Mr. Smith is supposed to be somewhere around."
"No," I said. I took a breath, stopped my sobbing, and raised my head, to look at Sophie. "No. I'm sorry, my emotional outburst has made me speak in an incoherent manner. I am not crying because of those girls," I explained, "I am crying because my inability to respond to them in an effective manner has proven that my mother was right. I still need help to be able to function socially. I needed your help with those girls, and I need help to understand what my peers are saying. I am not superior at all, I'm inferior. I can't get along." I hardly managed to speak the last words, as I started sobbing again.
"No, Stevie, that's nonsense! You're not inferior! You just have struggles. You're amazing in some stuff, and you need help in some other stuff. Everybody needs help sometimes. Take me for example, I need help with speaking to people I don't know, and with making choices."
"That's because you have crippling social anxiety you have been largely unsuccessful in overcoming for years," I said.
"Gee, thanks," she said.
"You're welcome." I was surprised she did not know that. And they say I have problems with self-awareness.
"What I meant is, you shouldn't be embarrassed to get help," Sophie said.
I sighed, "Ever since I was a toddler I have been to treatments. I've had treatments of all kinds, had groups, workbooks, assistants. I'm supposed to have learned by now."
"Well, it doesn't always work like that," she shrugged.
I looked down for several seconds, coming to accept the understanding that I still had a lot to learn. Then I looked at Sophie again, and asked, "Sophie, are you going to stay at school this year?"
"Yeah, I think so, I still have some finals to do, I'll probably finish them at the end of the year."
"Good. Because I believe I will need your help," I said, nodding.
"Sure," she said and smiled.
"But know that you will not be getting romantic benefits out of it," I informed her.
Sophie glared, "I am aware of that."
"I don't want you to develop any misguided expectations," I explained. That happened to Andrey once, and when he realized it he ate two pints of ice-cream and a full box of cookies. I don't think Sophie could handle that.
Sophie chuckled for an unknown reason, and then opened her arms and said "Hug," asking for permission for physical touch.
I nodded, and accepted it, as odd as her reaction was. Neurotypicals are so weird, no wonder I need help dealing with them.