Sleight of Mind

Jonathan Levinson sat in the waiting room of one of Sunnydale's better psychiatric clinics and glowered. He didn't want to be here. Everything was messed up.

It hadn't been that bad, for a while. For a few weeks after his suicide attempt in the now-destroyed school clock tower he'd held out hope that things might get better. People were generally kinder to him and they finally took some notice. His parents doted on him and found a really nice psychiatrist who actually helped. When the Mayor ascended during graduation he was fighting right alongside his fellow students, and for just that once he felt like they were his fellow students. He felt like he belonged. And then...

Then school was done, and people drifted away. People seemed to think that he'd had plenty of time to get over things, and they stopped paying attention. His parents were still overcautious, but they seemed happy to pretend that all his problems were sorted out. And now had come the final nail in the coffin. His therapist had decided to skip town, purportedly because he had a sick aunt he wanted to spend more time with but actually, Jonathan knew, because he'd finally wised up to the weird-ass things that happened in Sunnydale and had decided to get the hell out of Dodge.

So here he was. Stuck in a sterile waiting room with a bunch of other people who didn't want to be here either, waiting for a new therapist when he'd much rather be staying with the old one. It just sucked.

He squirmed in his chair. He hated psychiatrists' waiting rooms. Everyone was sitting awkwardly, pretending to look at magazines, or books, or paintings; anything to avoid having to look at the other people . It was like an unwritten rule; there might be about ten other individuals in the room with you but everyone knew you had to pretend you were alone.

"Hey, you're the guy from the clock tower, right?"

Everyone, obviously, except this guy. Jonathan raised his eyes to the speaker, who had blond hair and an expression of blithe curiosity on his face. He frowned at the guy. "Yeah."

"Wow. That was totally all over the school, you know. I mean, before it blew up and all, obviously."

Jonathan stared at him pointedly. "Uh huh."

"Yeah. Everyone was talking about it. So, who are you seeing?"

He gritted his teeth. "New doctor."

"Oh, right. That'd be why I haven't seen you before. 'Cause usually they have regular days here, and before, your days would have been different to mine but now we've got times that are almost the same. That means I'll see you again, too. Cool."

Cool? Jonathan almost shook his head in disbelief. Good god, the guy really was completely unaware of social etiquette. He didn't even seem to notice the looks that a few other people in the waiting room were giving him, or the fact that the secretary was tapping her pen on the desk with an irritated air. Jonathan felt a sudden stab of sympathy. If he was seriously this out of touch people must have given him hell at school. And it wasn't as if Jonathan had anything else to do for the next few minutes. "So what are you here for?"

The blond guy looked faintly pleased to have gotten a proper response. "Family problems. I'm Andrew, by the way. The school recommended I see someone so my parents just went 'okay' and here I am."

"Family problems?"

"Yeah." He shrugged. "I wonder what the new doctor's like? I'm seeing Doctor Wang. He's cool but sometimes his accent's really strong so it's hard to tell what he's saying. It's gotta be really clever stuff though, because he's got heaps of qualifications and plus he's like a wise Chinese guy and he kinda looks like Mr Miyagi."

Jonathan had to agree that Dr Wang looked a lot like Mr Miyagi. He had yet to find someone, however, who used that as a basis for how suitable he was as a doctor. Andrew was kind of amusing, in a 'What planet is this guy from?' way. "Well, I used to have Dr Rush, until he decided to skip town."

Andrew nodded. "He probably finally figured out all the weird stuff that happens in Sunnydale. Scaredy cat."

Jonathan felt himself smile. "Well, I'm not sure whether that's..."

"Jonathan Levinson?"

He jumped slightly at the secretary's call. "Uh, yeah?"

"Dr Haise will see you now."

As Jonathan pulled himself up, Andrew gave him an encouraging smile. "Good luck. See you again."

He sighed and smiled back. "Sure."

************

Dr Haise was a tall, unassuming looking man with a carefully cropped beard. He smiled as Jonathan slunk into the room. "Hello there. Jonathan?"

He slumped into one of the chairs near the window. "Yeah. Hi."

"You don't seem terribly enthusiastic there."

Yah don't think? "Not really."

The Doctor turned to face him and made a note on the pad that was sitting on his knee. "Something wrong?"

"Not really," he repeated and fidgeted. He didn't feel like being co-operative.

"Oh?"

"I'm just not having a great time of it, okay? You already know that. It's why I'm here."

Dr Haise turned to fish a folder off of the desk. "According to the notes I got from your last therapist, things were getting a bit better."

He felt a stab of resentment. "Too bad he didn't stay around to check."

"I see."

Jonathan scowled. "Of course you do. You know exactly what's wrong with me and why. I may as well sit back and not say a thing."

The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "I hope you don't mind if I speak frankly."

"Go ahead."

"I think you're being a little too prickly here. I can understand you're frustrated with the absence of Dr Rush, but I would appreciate it if you gave me a try."

Jonathan felt a slight stab of guilt. He was being a little too grouchy to the poor guy. The doctor was only trying to do his job, right? He relented slightly. "Things were going better. But now they're just sliding back to what they were before. That always happens."

Dr Haise looked interested. But then, that was what he was being paid for. "Always happens?"

He shrugged. "Whenever things are looking up. It never lasts. It always goes back to like it was before. I've graduated now, sure. But I have a horrible feeling that college will be just like school."

"And how was that?"

"You know..."

He held up a hand. "I've read the notes, certainly. I'd really appreciate hearing you tell me. Tell me a little about what you've had to deal with. Explain what others have done to make you so depressed. Tell me how that made you feel. If I know that, I can help you a lot more. Okay?"

Jonathan blinked. "Umm... okay. I guess."

Doctor Haise smiled encouragingly. "Then go ahead."

*************

"So, how was he?"

Jonathan sighed to himself. A week later and he was back in the waiting room, and sure enough Andrew was here too. This looked like something he was going to have to get used to. "He was okay."

Actually, if he was honest with himself, Dr Haise had actually been pretty darn good. They'd spent the session going over some of the stuff that had happened to him at school, the constant name-calling, the bullying, the loneliness. And he didn't know whether it was just getting it out in the open, but he felt a little better. He was even quite looking forward to this session.

"Just okay?"

He looked at Andrew in irritation. "He wasn't bad. He listened."

Andrew nodded wisely. "It's good when they do that. I mean, that can't really help much when they're not listening, right?"

"Yeah." Jonathan frowned at the clock.

"So what did you talk about? With Dr Wang we mostly talk about my family and sometimes school. It really sucks there."

Jonathan seized gratefully on a subject that wasn't related to his own dysfunctions. "You're still in school?"

Andrew made a face. "Only for a year more. I'm not doing that great. The teachers say I don't concentrate, and I don't really have any friends. It sucks."

Jonathan felt a kernel of sympathy. "It was pretty much the same for me." He paused, and then added, "I've graduated now."

At this, Andrew looked at him with something resembling seriousness for possibly the first time since they'd met. "It does get better, right?"

Jonathan frowned and had opened his mouth to reply when the secretary called his name. As he hastily got up and walked to the Doctor's room, he couldn't help but feel somewhat relieved that he didn't have to answer.

*********

"So, where were we?"

Jonathan settled himself into the chair. "Uh, I dunno. Just talking about stuff."

Doctor Haise looked at his notes. "About school, right?"

He nodded and fidgeted. "I think I was about to tell you about the day I got taken hostage by the fake policewoman."

"Ah yes." The Doctor looked interested. "That must have been very scary."

He shrugged. "It seemed like that at the time. But then weird stuff kept happening to me. Like, the whole of Sunnydale needed someone to pick on and I got to be the target. It's not fair! Why does it have to be me? I haven't even..."

"Wait, wait." Doctor Haise raised a hand. "I'm sorry, but let's take things one at a time."

"What..."

"The time you were taken hostage? How about you tell me about that first?"

"Oh. Well, okay."

*************

"He's actually pretty good."

Andrew sat in the waiting room next to him, fidgeting. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. It's weird... like, we haven't really done anything huge, just discussed some of the bad stuff I've been through. But for some reason it seems... I dunno, like all the bad stuff that I thought was important just isn't so much."

"Just by talking? I talk to Dr Wang all the time and it doesn't make me feel any better. What does he tell you?"

"That's the weird thing. He doesn't say much at all. But it's just... like, yesterday I was telling him how I got taken hostage by this crazy woman with a gun once."

Andrew looked interested. "Really? That must have been scary."

Jonathan frowned at him. "I guess so."

"You kinda oughta know so, shouldn't you?"

He settled back into the plastic chair thoughtfully. "It doesn't really seem... It's hard to really remember it much. I mean, obviously I remember what happened, but... I don't really know what it felt like. It was a while ago, remember."

Andrew looked slightly confused. "But..."

Jonathan cut in, feeling slightly ticked off. Andrew had really begun to bug him today. He wasn't even that sure why he'd started up a conversation anyway; the guy was exasperating with his constant questioning. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. The important thing is that I actually feel better. Like the past isn't dragging me down so much, you know? He's pretty good."

Andrew looked slightly hurt at his abruptness. "I guess that's good then."

Jonathan ignored Andrew and grabbed one of the magazines off the table. At least it'd give him something to do until he saw the doctor.

************

"So you've been feeling better?"

"Yeah." Jonathan smiled at Dr Haise. "Less bogged down, really. I'm sorry for being so grumpy in my first session. I don't know what I was thinking."

The doctor smiled back genuinely. "That's quite alright. Now then, since you're feeling so bright at the moment, do you think we could confront something a little more recent?"

He wrinkled his forehead for a second. "Recent? What...oh." The clock tower. Well of course, he had to get to that eventually.

Jonathan bit his lip. He didn't want to think about the clock tower, and it wasn't for the reasons that most people guessed. Yeah, he'd tried to kill himself. That was bad. That was awful. But worse was...

Worse were the feelings. Because when he'd been up there with the gun he'd never felt so terrible, so unlikeable, so alone in his life. Even now, just the act of thinking back to that time was so damn depressing. He'd been feeling so much better, and now this.

"Jonathan?"

But he was a pretty good doctor. So maybe, just maybe, Dr Haise could help. Jonathan took a deep breath. "Okay," he said. "Let's talk about something more recent."

*********

Jonathan was already sitting down and reading a magazine when Andrew walked into the waiting room. The blond grinned in the alarmingly childlike way he had. "Hi!"

Jonathan sighed and put down the magazine. Oh well, the least he could do was tolerate him. "Hi Andrew."

Andrew dumped himself into a chair. "I was almost late today." He said conversationally. "Mom forgot I had an appointment."

Jonathan raised an eyebrow at that. "Don't you come here the same time every week?"

"Yeah, but she still forgets." Andrew shrugged in a 'what can you do' way. "She never really pays much attention to me. Once when I was five she left me in the kiddie ball-room at a furniture center and forgot about me and the police had to find her at closing time."

Jonathan stared at him in minor disbelief. "Ookaay."

"So, you still going good?"

Jonathan had to nod at this. "Yeah. I'm feeling great actually." Then he added, without thinking, "I'm a bit surprised, I didn't think I would after...umm."

"After what?" Andrew asked innocently.

And weirdly enough, talking about it didn't really worry him. "We talked about the clock tower."

"Oh." Andrew looked slightly anxious at this. "That must have been bad, dredging up all the memories."

Bad. Yeah. It must have been, right? And the memories were there. He just felt... strangely detached from them. "I guess it was."

Andrew blinked at him. "You're being pretty calm, you know. Are you okay?"

Andrew was asking if he was okay? Andrew had the empathy of a slug on sedatives. Honestly, why did he think it was such a big deal? "Of course I'm okay. Why wouldn't I be?"

This time Andrew looked worried. "Cause you were talking about how you tried to kill yourself? I mean, it's not like I know or anything, but you must have felt really depressed and stuff back then, right?"

Jonathan stared at him. You must have felt really depressed and stuff back then. But he had, hadn't he? Except...

Suddenly he felt a small coil of panic weave it's way down his back. Something was wrong here.

"Jonathan?"

He refocused on Andrew's worried face. "Uh... I have to go to the bathroom. Back in a sec."

***********

He stared into the mirror.

You must have felt really depressed and stuff back then.

Right. He must have. It made sense. It was only right.

He didn't remember.

He remembered what had happened. He remembered it with crystal clear clarity. He'd gone to the top of the clock tower, and he'd put together the gun, and then Buffy had come and she'd talked him out of it and...

He didn't remember how he'd felt about that. All the feelings, all the emotions that were attached to that event were... gone.

And the hostage attempt. He'd been taken hostage; it must have been scary, right?

He didn't remember. He didn't remember any of it. Everything that he'd told Dr Haise, every single event... There were no emotions attached to those events. No wonder he'd been feeling so much better. All the bad things in his past... He didn't remember what any of them felt like.

He stared into the mirror.

"Oh my god."

************

Andrew looked up as he numbly walked back to his seat. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"

Jonathan stared at him. What was he supposed to do now? "I'm okay."

"You're so not!" He lowered his voice. "Come on! I'm not going to tell anyone if you don't want me to. You just look really out of it, y'know?"

Oh hell, why not? What harm could it do? And if he didn't believe, what did it matter? Jonathan leaned down towards Andrew and very solemnly and very quietly said, "I think my therapist is a demon who's been eating bits of my memories."

Andrew stared back at him for a few seconds. Then, to Jonathan's utmost astonishment, he broke into a grin. "That's so cool!"

He blinked. "What?"

Andrew hissed at him earnestly. "I mean it's not cool that you're being brain-sucked and stuff..."

"Well thanks so much!"

"But it's so cool that you just happened to be talking to me about it!"

Jonathan was now thoroughly confused. "Huh?"

"'Cause I know all about demons and stuff! We can get something together and banish him back to the dark pit from whence he came!"

"Hang on." Jonathan stared at Andrew, not quite believing what he was hearing. "You know stuff about demons?"

"Sure!"

"Really."

"Yeah." He looked slightly miffed. "Honestly! I mean, it's not as though you can miss the fact they're everywhere in Sunnydale, and so I just decided to do a little... dabbling."

"You dabbled with demons?" Now he really didn't believe what he was hearing.

"Yeah! In fact..." He looked around quickly and then spoke even lower. "In fact I actually had something to do with a very prominent appearance of demonic animals at Sunnydale High."

Jonathan looked bemused. "Demonic animals?"

"Yeah." When Jonathan didn't look enlightened he added, "At a social event?"

Now Jonathan looked appalled. "You summoned the demon dogs to attack the Prom? I don't believe it! I was there, you dipshit!"

"Keep it down!" Andrew looked crushed. "And I did so not, okay? The demon dogs were my stupid brother!"

"Your brother summoned..."

"I summoned flying monkeys to attack the school play! Remember when they were doing Romeo and Juliet?"

"Oh." Jonathan paused. "Well, okay." He frowned, and when Andrew still looked disappointed he added, "That was kinda cool actually."

Andrew brightened. "Really?"

"Really. I mean, no one got hurt, but all the really snotty girls were screaming..."

"Yeah, they were so scared." Andrew looked wistful. "That was cool."

"Umm, yeah. So..."

"Hmm?"

"Demon brain sucking?"

"Oh. Oh! Right. Sorry. Well, I've got a whole lot of arcane references that I managed to buy and also I had them out from the school library before the school blew up. We could go back to my place and find out how to get rid of him or at least get your memories back."

"That'd be good. If you really think we could find something..."

"There's bound to be something."

"Can we sneak out now? I think they're about to call me and I really don't want to have to deal with Dr Brain Drain right now. I think I can skip one therapy session without my mother going into a full blown panic."

Andrew seemed delighted. "Okay! I didn't really wanna talk with Dr Wang that much anyway. He's kinda repetitive."

"Right." He hesitated, and looked at Andrew with mild bemusement. "You know, most people at this point would have asked me whether I'm really actually sure about the whole brain sucking demon thing. Or possibly said that I was completely insane."

Andrew shrugged. "This is Sunnydale. And you said you lived here for ages, right? So I think that you oughta know if your brain's being sucked by a demon by now."

Jonathan shook his head ruefully. "And the really sad thing is that that makes sense."

*******

Andrew's place was a small, ordinary looking house just off the center of town. He led the way eagerly, pointing out the rooms as he went past. "So that's the kitchen, and that's the dining room, and the bathroom's past there, and the living room... Hi Mom! ...is over there. And this is my room. The magic books are in the corner over there."

Jonathan scuttled behind him uneasily. "Don't you think you should keep it down?" He hissed. "Your Mom's here."

Andrew looked at him blankly for a second and then shrugged and called out. "Mom, I'm just bringing this guy from therapy over because we think his doctor is a demon and we need to banish him from the earthly plane. That okay?"

"Keep the noise down. I'm watching television."

"Okay Mom." At Jonathan's astonished expression he added. "Mom doesn't really pay attention to me."

Jonathan didn't quite know what to say. "That's really... ummm."

Andrew looked philosophical. "It doesn't really bother me that much anymore. Okay, so here're the books I've managed to get. These three here are really good for identifying demons. We should probably look through them and see if we can find something that fits. Also, this one's got some defensive spells in it; do you want juice? Or we've got Kool-Aid..."

Jonathan frowned at him. "You know magic as well?"

Andrew looked confused for a moment. "What? Oh, the spells. Not really, no. This is one of the books I got from the school library. I just thought I'd look at it. I can't really get them to work though. Summoning demons is a lot easier, you don't have to concentrate as much." He offered the book. "You could have a look though. Maybe you can find something that we can use to hold him while we de-summon him. Y'know, just in case we have to confront him face to face."

"I don't know anything about magic."

Andrew grinned at him. "Well, that's good! Maybe when you know a little bit you'll find out that it's your secret talent."

Jonathan took the book dubiously. "I guess I can look."

"Cool. I'm going to look in the demon books. If I see something that mentions brain-sucking I'll tell you and we can see if it fits."

Jonathan sighed and sat down on the bed. "Right then. Did you say you had juice?"

***********

Several hours later the day was stretching to late afternoon and Jonathan was lying on Andrew's bed using a pronunciation guide his host had provided to recite something that was written in a bizarre dead language he'd never heard of before.

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis." He frowned. "It's not doing anything. This is stupid. I don't think I'm going to be able to get any of these to work."

Andrew glanced up from his text. "What was that one supposed to do?"

"According to the book it will 'holde creatures of the most vicious kinde beforth they be sent to helle'. Umm. I think this is pretty old."

"The Sunnydale school library had a lot of old stuff. It was kinda cool."

He gave Andrew a look. "Or pretty weird, depending on which way you look at it. Anyway, it's useless. None of them work."

Andrew went back to scanning through his book, still talking as he did so. "Well, maybe they don't work because you don't have the conditions. I mean, we don't really have a 'creature of the most vicious kinde' in my room, do we?"

"Well no." He admitted. "But surely if they were going to work I'd feel something. Like a tingling in my fingertips or something?"

"I don't know!" Andrew bit his lip as he deciphered a particularly difficult phrase, and not for the first time Jonathan wondered how he managed to hold a conversation at the same time. "Maybe you ought to memorize that one just in case it works on Dr Haise. It can't hurt or anything."

Jonathan sighed and turned back to the page. "I guess not. Encantie dimish est remit tudor..."

"Ooh!"

"What? What happened? Did it work?"

Andrew gave him a chastising look. "No, silly! I think I found something that fits the signs you were telling me. Listen..." He looked back at the tome. "The Rastac demon keeps itself on this plane by finding its victim and stealing emotional memories. The demon will often start by enticing its victim to share feelings associated with less important events so that the victim does not suspect what is happening. Slowly it will begin to take more important sentiments until the demon is stealing emotional memories literally as they are created. Eventually this constant draining will cause the victim to be reduced to an emotionless blank slate as they lose the ability to create new emotions. If the demon is dismissed from this plane before this stage the victim's memories will return. However, if this stage is reached there is no cure."

Jonathan felt cold. "What else does it say? Does it have anything else on how to identify them?"

"Umm... Well, it says they're very organized. And they like milk. Apparently it's like a rare treat in their own dimension, 'cause there aren't any creatures there that actually will let you milk them."

Jonathan closed his eyes and visualized Dr Haise's office. The windows with the brown curtains, the green leather desk, the pens lined neatly up next to the pile of alphabetized folders with a glass and a jug next to it full of...

He opened his eyes. "That's it. That's what he is."

Andrew was delighted. "Really? You're sure?"

Jonathan nodded definitely. "It has to be. It completely fits." He hesitated. "He was going to leave me an emotionless slate!"

Andrew referred back at his book. "It does say that's what usually happens. Maybe 'cause he's got a lot of patients he was just going to stick with the badder memories and take them from heaps of people. That way he could stay on this plane without anyone knowing for ages."

Jonathan scowled. "It doesn't matter if they're bad memories or good. The point is, they're mine and he's taken them."

Andrew looked up from the book seriously. "Yeah, I know. It really sucks and stuff, and I'm totally with helping you which, incidentally, I think I can do because they've actually got a de-summoning rite right here and it doesn't even look hard or anything. I was just thinking? About how you were saying earlier about feeling better? And you did... y'know. With the clock tower. So you must have been pretty depressed and stuff."

"You think I should let him steal my emotions?"

"I don't know. It's not even up to me anyway. What do you think?"

Jonathan stared at him.

Andrew pulled himself up. "Anyway, I'll get the stuff together we need. It's only basic things like candles in a circle and burning bits of herbs and playing this tune on a flute. We could probably do it tonight if he's doing overtime writing notes in his office, which a lot of the doctors do, I noticed. 'Cause we need to have him in the circle, did I mention that? So we would have to confront him. If you wanna do it. Which is up to you." Andrew looked uneasily at his companion, who simply continued to stare. "Jonathan?"

Jonathan blinked. "Let me think," he said.

***********

Andrew was right, Dr Haise was working overtime in his office. Unfortunately, he hadn't thought about how they might go about getting in the office with Dr Haise.

They sat hiding in the bushes just outside the waiting room, Andrew carrying a jumble of items which included a flute, candles, a bunch of parsley and, oddly, a stick of celery.

"We could break open a window."

Jonathan squinted at his companion through the dark. "Yeah, 'cause that's not going to get us in trouble."

"Do demons call the police?" Andrew wondered out loud.

"Well, since no one knows he's a demon I don't see why not."

"Ooh, good point. Well, maybe we can pick the lock."

"Do you know anything about picking locks?"

"It doesn't look that hard in the movies. You just stick a paperclip in and jiggle it a bit..."

"Forget it. This is nuts. I may as well just go home."

"Oh! I know!"

***********

Dr Haise frowned and looked up at the sharp knocking, then went to have a look at what had caused it. He walked over to the glass reception door and was surprised to see...

"Jonathan?"

Jonathan looked miserable. "Dr Haise. Hi. I... I'm sorry about today. I just..." He looked like he was about to cry. "I just felt really, really depressed. Like...like I might do something bad. I... I'm sorry to come here when it's so late but I just... I need to talk to you before I... Please?"

The doctor looked concerned and began to open the lock. "Of course, Jonathan. You should know that when I take on a patient I take them on all the time if necessary, not just once a week." He pulled the door open. "Come in."

Jonathan managed a watery smile. "Thanks so much. Umm..." He indicated behind him and the doctor saw a tallish blond boy come around from the side of the building. "This... This is Andrew. He's really been helping. He's the one who told me I should come to you, in fact. Could... could he just wait in the waiting room? Please?"

Dr Haise frowned. "Well, I'm not really supposed to. But I suppose everything's locked up..."

"I won't touch anything! I swear."

"He's been really supportive. Really."

The doctor smiled at them. "Just sit quietly then, okay? Come along Jonathan."

Andrew waited until they'd gone into the doctor's office and then ran to get the supplies he'd stashed around the side of the building. The plan was that he'd set up the circle in the waiting room, then he'd give the signal, Jonathan would lure the doctor out and Andrew would start the rite. Of course, this left Jonathan stuck with the demon brain sucker for the next few minutes, but Andrew was confident that things would work out okay.

After all, they were the good guys.

*********

Doctor Haise smiled comfortingly at Jonathan and settled back into his chair. "Now then. You've been feeling depressed? Remember, you can tell me anything, I won't judge."

Jonathan swallowed. "Uh, yes. I... I was just kind of... Well, it's the fact that I'm..." His brain flailed wildly. To tell the truth, he hadn't really thought that Andrew's plan would work enough for him to actually get inside, and now that he was sitting in front of the demonic thing they were trying to get rid of, he had absolutely no idea what to say.

"Yes?" The doctor looked encouraging.

"Uh." Jonathan stared at him in panic. His brain latched onto the first thing he could think of that seemed remotely plausible. As luck would have it, it was the truth.

"I've been thinking about the fact that I don't really have any friends."

A raised eyebrow? "Oh?"

"Yeah." He plunged on. "At... at school no one even noticed me. And Mom kept pushing me to do all these extra-curricular activities but it never did any good because they always just had the kids from school at them. But now school's over and so I should have friends. I should have found at least someone who actually likes me but I haven't really and I just..." He felt tears springing into his eyes and blinked them away furiously. "I just don't get it. Am I just unlikeable? What's wrong with me? I don't want to be alone, I don't! But I just... I don't even think I know how to make friends! It's like school's ruined my social skills forever and I'm never, ever..." He stopped and squeezed his eyes shut. He was scared, and miserable, and he didn't want to be here.

And...

You think I should let him steal my emotions?

And suddenly he was wondering. Would it really be that bad? The memories, the emotions he'd lost... If he let the doctor do that to all of his memories it wouldn't hurt so bad, would it? He could look back at the loneliness that was his school life, and it wouldn't matter. And maybe he'd be able to find some friends, some real friends, if he didn't have the little voice that sat at the back of his head all the time and said, "Why bother trying? You know no one could ever like you."

"Jonathan?" The doctor's voice was gentle. Jonathan suddenly felt like breaking down right now and telling him every single bad thing that had ever happened to him.

He heard a whistle from the next door. Andrew's signal.

"I... I just..."

"Jonathan I know it seems depressing. Maybe if we talked about some of the things that happened to make you think this way?"

Yeah Jonathan, why don't we? He stared at the doctor miserably. "I don't know."

"Don't know?"

"I don't know what to do. I thought I'd decided but I just don't know."

"I'm not quite sure what you..."

"Jonathan?" Then Andrew was sticking his head into the room, looking anxious.

The doctor frowned at him. "I told you to stay in the waiting room."

"Yeah, but there was this really... I mean, I thought that you might want to..."

"I'm talking about some very important things with Jonathan here!"

Andrew hovered, trying and failing to get his eye. "But I was worried!"

Dr Haise lost it. "For heaven's sake, go away, you irritating boy!"

Andrew looked at him, hurt. And Jonathan felt a pang of sympathy. Andrew was just like him in a way. No social skills, no idea how to get people to like him. Nobody who could empathize with his situation.

Except someone who'd been through it. He could really understand Andrew. And Thomas, the little disabled kid who lived down the block and got teased everyday. And Marie, the stringy haired girl who used to spend her lunchtimes huddled in an alcove at the back of the school reading because she didn't have anything else to do. All the loners, all the outcasts. He understood them.

Without that, what was he?

"Actually." He spoke up. "Could we just break for a minute? I think I might have lost my ulcer medication in the waiting room today and I'm beginning to feel really sick."

"Oh dear, that's not good."

"It really isn't. Do you think you could help me find it, Dr Haise? Or maybe someone put it in the lost property..."

"We could have a look." The doctor flashed an irritated look at Andrew and made his way out the door.

Jonathan gave Andrew what he hoped was a reassuring glance and they followed.

***********

"It's a bit dark in here but I'll see what I can..."

Dr Haise froze 2 feet from the candle circle Andrew had carefully set out and stared at it. Then he carefully and coldly turned around. "What. Is. This?"

"It's..."

"Ummm..."

They glanced at each other affirmatively. Then they both let out yells and rushed him. The doctor stumbled into the circle and fell over.

"Hold him!" Andrew ran to the desk and grabbed his flute.

"I'm trying!"

Dr Haise hissed at him and wrenched an arm away. "What do you think you're doing!?"

Jonathan tried grabbing the arm again. "Getting rid of you!"

The doctor's face contorted with rage. With a sudden burst of strength he twisted himself around until Jonathan found himself pinned. He struggled in sudden panic, and the doctor talked at him angrily.

"Getting rid of me? You ungrateful little animal!"

"Jonathan! You have to get outta the circle before I start! Otherwise you might get sucked in!" Andrew grabbed the doctor from behind and tried ineffectually to pull him off.

Dr Haise was having nothing of it. "Getting rid of me! I helped you. I helped you more than your stupid human doctors ever could!" The doctor fumed, and suddenly his face changed into something uglier and a whole lot less human. Jonathan screamed and made a renewed effort to get free.

"All I did, all I've ever done, is take away the emotions that were making you unhappy!"

Jonathan felt a surge of anger. "You were taking away the emotions that made me me."

Another twist, and suddenly the doctor's fingers were around his throat. "Stupid, ungrateful... I'm not going back there! I like it here!"

"Jonathan!"

Jonathan gasped in panic as things began to get blurry. Oh god. After everything that had happened, he was going to die from his psychiatrist strangling him to death. That was so ironic it was almost funny. He gasped. There must be something he could do. There must be something he could say.

And suddenly, it was there. Floating from the back of his head to the tip of his tongue so quickly it was scary.

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis."

The doctor-demon started, and his fingers loosened.

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis."

Now he was going completely lax, and pulling back.

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis."

Dr Haise screamed, and suddenly he was hanging limply in the air, and Jonathan was sitting upright, his whole body tingling as the magic dripped off his tongue.

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis."

"Oh my god! You did it!"

He'd done it. He could do magic. He could do magic.

Jonathan pulled himself out of the circle, his head spinning. He wasn't ordinary, boring Jonathan. He was Jonathan who could do magic!

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis. Andrew! Do the de-summoning thing!"

Andrew jumped and snatched up his flute. "Right! Right!"

He began to play, and the demon screamed. "No!"

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis. And yes. I'm afraid."

"I was helping!"

"If you think that's helping, you don't know humans at all!"

The demons face distorted as he began to fade. "You can't do this!"

"Encantie dimish est remit tudoro. Leezuz dentasis. Watch me."

He made a last, desperate plea. "If you make me go, all your memories will come back!"

Jonathan smiled. "Then," he said, "I guess I'm going to have to go back to being a miserable bastard."

And with an ear-splitting screech, the doctor was gone.

*********

Jonathan hit the ground without even feeling it. The memories. The emotions.

He was sitting at the back of class, trying desperately to block out the snipes and taunts, feeling absolute despair. He was pinned against the wall in the boy's locker room, scared out of his mind, as they took another punch.

He was climbing the clock tower steps, and he'd never felt so alone in his life.

"Jonathan? Are you alright?"

Jonathan opened his eyes and a friend watched him, looking concerned.

He blinked, and suddenly he couldn't help but smile.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm fine."

*****
Fin