Rosso Knows

This is a special birthday fic for Nicole. Thanks for all your dedication to the Angsty Artists, and for making Spepper/CrAsh manips. You always dazzle the thread with your art and sense of humor. Plus you also think Joey's hot so that's a bonus.

Because I know you're such a Freaks and Geeks fan like myself, I've decided to use one of your favorite characters, Jeff Rosso, in a Degrassi fic. It's basically one of the scenarios you wanted, with Rosso taking Ms. Sauve's place. I don't think anyone has to be a Freaks and Geeks fan to get it, though I do drop in some F & G stuff now and then.

I tried to make Rosso somewhat in character (a warm-hearted, understanding counsellor), with the Degrassi kids slightly exaggerated, so this is a parody. But it's a well-intentioned parody, so if I make fun of the kids, don't be offended. I usually DO treat them well in my other chapter stories, because I genuinely like them all. :) A couple changes: The graduates (Craig, Ellie, etc.) are still in high school, as is Sean, even though this takes place during season six. Craig's coke problem is mentioned, and Jay's still a student, though a lackluster one. Anyways, hope you enjoy it Nicole. Happy Birthday! (Nikki virtually hugs Nicole)

Boys in the Barroom is the property of the Grateful Dead.

Love Kills is the property of the Ramones.

Jeff Rosso shines his new nametag with his thumb, smiles into the tiny gold plate. With a little polish, he knows anything can make you look and feel good. That's how he approaches his students. A little saying always helps. It's not cool to drink, but it is cool to think. Yeah, he came up with that himself while chewing on a Johnny Rockets hamburger. He got ketchup on his tie, which stunk, but hey, he got that cool saying. The rest of his appearance is fine, though, with his dirty brown, long beard, and combed, thin hair. His brown suit with the tailored pants, also a winner. Decided against the elbow patches, because they were too old in his opinion. I don't look old at all, he thinks. How can a Deadhead be old?

Walking down the corridors of Degrassi Community School with Ms. Sauve, he glances through the trophy cases nearest to him. MVP Degrassi Panthers: Jimmy Brooks. Debate Champion: Liberty Van Zandt. Some pretty straight-lace kids already. When he decided to accept an offer to fill in for Ms. Sauve for three months, he was anxious to move from McKinley High. He said he's stay there for as long as it took for Daniel Desario to graduate; who knew that would take eight years? At least Daniel installed a new car stereo for him as a thank-you gift, a stereo that played only one station. NPR. Rosso cringes as a conversation between a couple fogies enters his brain. Oh, well, it's the thought that counts, as Ms. Sauve leads him to her office.

"Awesome office, Tara," compliments Rosso.

Ms. Sauve flustered, shudders. "Just...just thankful to be out of here. These kids...these kids..."

"These kids are in desperate need of guidance," finishes Rosso, evaluating the many certificates on Ms. Sauve's wall.

"No!" moans Ms. Sauve. "They're impossible is what they are! I swear, Jeff, it's a different problem every week."

"Come on, it can't be that bad," says Rosso. "Look, at McKinley, we got a lot of kids doing the smokey-smoke, the hokey-poke under the bleachers...you know, shaking, getting all close and horizontal..."

He winks at Sauve, who is quickly clearing her desk.

"Ewww," whispers Ms. Sauve.

Man, nearing fifty, and he's still got no game. All the Woodstock ladies loved him, especially when he serenaded them with his guitar. With a little Who music, Jethro Tull. No Monkees, though. He'd have to say "ewww" himself.

"Anyways," says Ms. Sauve, pointedly. "It's more than that. There's been a shooting, STD outbreaks, nude e-mails and dirty pictures popping up in the school system. Daphne thinks it's a faze, but as soon as I get my house paid off, I'm out of here."

Oh yeah, Daphne Hatzilakos. That's one hot lady he'd play the Monkees for. Too bad her son was such a brat, lying and saying the girls' washroom was the men's bathroom during his first interview, catching it all on tape, threatening to show it to his mother if he didn't get a hundred bucks. Little blonde blackmailer. Best not to rock the waters, so he paid him off.

"Listen, Tara, I always say that if you can't put a cover over the volcano, let it erupt first, and then clean up the damage, even though the air's toxic," explains Jeff.

"What does that even mean?" demands Ms. Sauve, lifting her box of things.

Huh? They always understood his sayings at McKinley. Dude, not feeling the Sauve love anymore.

"Have a good break," offers Rosso.

Ms. Sauve nods. "Be careful. These kids are seizure-inducing. Especially Hogart. Watch out for Hogart."

"Ah, I remember that name on my sessions list," says Rosso, smiling.

"Whatever," waves off Ms. Sauve. "Good luck with all that positive mumbo jumbo. I'm heading to the islands for some peace. Well-earned peace, I might add."

Ms. Sauve walks out of her office, Rosso settling into her soft, rolling chair. Ah, it feels good to be back.

II.

"Sean Cameron and Ellie Nash, to see you, sir," announces Barbara, the secretary, over Sauve's intercom.

Rosso drops the cream cheese bagel he'd been eating. Wow, visitors right after lunch? These kids must be itching for help. He smiles, wipes his hands with a napkin.

"Tell them to come in," says Rosso.

The door opens, Rosso viewing a boy in a jean jacket, jeans, pretty much covered in all denim, with a black bandanna over his head. He spits into one of Sauve's potted plants, flops into a chair. His girlfriend, Rosso guesses, has fiery red hair, dressed in a short black dress and boots, with fishnet stockings, rolls her eyes. On his session sheet, Ellie's name did appear regularly, with some scribbles on how she was smart, a little shy at times. Sean's name, nowhere to be found. She droops herself in Sean's lap, playing with her necklace.

"Uh, there's a chair there for you, miss," points out Rosso, gesturing to another chair next to the boy's.

"So?" replies the girl.

Girls with attitude. Hmm, he knows that well. He had to go through this with Lindsay Weir. Smart, aloof, a little too much into the boys, changing for the boys. Mmm hmm, sounds like this Ellie girl.

"So...yeah," says Rosso, confident that he's pegged her right. "Ellie, you're here for career counselling, right?"

"Nah, Armstrong caught us necking," says Sean. "Big whoop."

"But no whoopee," jokes Rosso, laughing.

He continues chuckling for a bit, sees Ellie and Sean stare at him blankly.

"No, but for real, there's nothing wrong with physically showing the other how you feel," says Rosso. "However, it should be at appropriate times. Ellie, I understand that you already have a scholarship and all that, but you usually pay attention in class and that's why you've got good grades. You want to be a journalist?"

"I don't know if I want to go to college," admits Ellie. "I don't like entitled kids."

"What?" cries Rosso. "In this day and age, it's a shame if you don't go."

"College is whack," speaks up Sean. "That's why I'm opening up a shop, and not wasting any money on school."

"Hmmm, I know the solution for this," sighs Jeff, pressing the intercom button. "Barbara, have the next student come in."

Sean and Ellie look at one another, then at the door. Amy enters, takes out her gum, flings it into Rosso's trash. Rosso gives Amy a warm smile.

"Hi Amy," says Rosso. "Tell us, what are your plans for after graduation?"

"When's graduation?" says Amy. "Oh. May, right? I'm trying out for that Pussycat Doll reality show."

"Yeah, but what if that doesn't pan out?" prompts Rosso. "Do you have a plan B?"

"Marry the guy that takes pictures of me at the ravine," answers Amy. "His dad's loaded."

"Thanks, Amy," sighs Jeff.

"Vampire skank," whispers Amy to Ellie, before going through the door.

Ellie shoots up, starts to go after her. They all hear Amy laughing behind the door. Ellie takes a deep breath, calms herself, sits in the chair next to Sean's. Good, thinks Rosso. Bringing in an example of what not to do works everytime.

"Ellie!" whispers Sean, urgently.

"Sean...I don't want to...end up like that," stammers Ellie.

"If you go to college, we can't be together," complains Sean. "El..."

Ellie throws up her hands. "Gotta get to chemistry."

She stands, exits, leaving Sean narrowing his eyes at Rosso. Rosso smiles pathetically, shrugs.

"I know under that tough exterior, you're a scared kid who really craves some affection," says Rosso. "Tough rebel with the sweet interior."

"I make cars with sweet interiors," argues Sean. "I don't have one."

"Come on, Sean," encourages Rosso. "Rosso knows. He knows that you're dying to be heard, that your home life isn't ideal, that you'll miss your girlfriend..."

"Stop it," interrupts Sean, weakly.

"That you wish your grades were higher, that you hope to graduate, that you..."

Sean's shoulders shake, and he releases a cry of anguish. If he could, without it hurting to stretch, Rosso would pat himself on the back. Memorizing those files really did help.

"It's true!" laments Sean, sniffling. "It's all true."

"Let it out," soothes Rosso.

"The Montreal Crew Boys think I'm a wuss, so Jay cut me off. Towerz won't tell me if he feels the same way. Ellie's off to U of T, where she'll meet some older guy who's emo. You save the school and what does it get you?"

Sean grabs the bandanna from his head, blows his nose hard into it. Rosso grimaces. Maybe that's why kids called those things do-rags. Dew like wet. Ohhhh, thinks Rosso.

"Sean, I'm sure Degrassi appreciates you, but you have to appreciate yourself," says Rosso. "Confidence goes a long way. No more pity parties, you got me?"

"Okay," mutters Sean. "Thanks, man."

"No problem," replies Rosso.

Sean rises, glances around suspiciously. "This place isn't wired, is it? I got a reputation to protect."

"Go in peace, Bender," says Rosso, happy to throw in a Breakfast Club reference.

"Uhhhh, yeah," says Sean, clearly puzzled.

III.

Barbara buzzes again, forcing Rosso to jump, hit his knee against Sauve's wastebasket. He winces, says "fudge", because you never know if the next person is conservative or not. He said a couple dirty words in front of Cindy Sanders, and boy did his boss get on him for that. Perhaps he should've said the other word, noticing this girl's very revealing clothing, a red mini-skirt and crop top. She throws back thick, black hair, sits in the chair opposite his desk.

"Hi," says the girl, breathily.

"Hello, Manny," greets Rosso. "How are you today?"

"Fine," replies Manny. "I don't know why you called me in, though."

Rosso goes back to his seat. This would be a joint meeting, and he decided to take Ms. Sauve's warning seriously. Besides, if you can kill two birds with one stone, why not? That repugnant buzz sounds again, Manny squirming in her chair. Jay Hogart, lean, tall, sunglasses on his grinning face, strolls in, seems to slide down into the other chair like a snake.

"What's he doing here?" demands Manny. "I refuse to..."

"It's all good, mamacita," says Jay, propping up his sunglasses to view her. "You're definitely not bothering me, with your broadcasted assets still etched in my mind. I got the e-mail, same as everyone else."

Manny shivers, positions her seat further from Jay.

"Moving along, the reason I called you in here today, is that you both are suffering from the same problem," informs Rosso.

He'd gone over their records intently, and detected a similar pattern of activity. Acting out for attention, bad relationships with fathers...yes, all pretty clear.

"You guys are addicted to sex," says Rosso, bluntly.

"What?" shouts Manny.

"Who isn't?" returns Jay.

"I like sex," says Manny, grinning. "Don't get me wrong. But..."

"Manuella, you have a constant need to be around men due to an unsatisfying home life. So you seek satisfaction in other ways. It leads to pretty bad decision-making on your part. And you, Jason, your sexual conquests are so high..."

"Thanks," interjects Jay.

"That's not good, Jason," scolds Rosso, shaking his head. "You know what you'll end up getting?"

"Gonorrhea," mutters Manny under her breath.

"Well, if there's no protection," says Rosso, overhearing her. "Or herpes. That's bad. I have herpes."

The smile on Jay's face fades, while Manny's eyes bug out.

"You'd never know, would you?" says Rosso, nodding. "Yeah. But if you're sleeping with all these people, you'll end up getting nothing from it too. It's dangerous, unfulfilling behavior. That's why..."

Mr. Rosso stops speaking, pulls out two pamphlets. He loves pamphlets. They explain everything so clearly.

"It's a therapy group for sex addicts," he says, handing each of them one. "SAA. Sex Addicts Anonymous. Who knew Toronto had a branch, right?"

"I am not a slut!" cries Manny.

"I am," says Jay, laughing.

"I'm so sick of people misunderstanding me," whines Manny. "My dad, Emma, Craig, J.T., Darcy, Ellie, Ashley, Sully, my agent, the janitor, this guy I passed in the hall on the way here..."

"Manny, there's no need to get defensive," says Rosso. "I'm here for you."

Manny covers her eyes, slumping over. "I can't believe this..."

"Talking always helps," encourages Rosso.

"You guys are just jealous!" exclaims Manny, getting up. "I am a confident, sexually free young woman with dimples!"

"They're pretty dimples," concedes Rosso.

He sees Manny cave a bit, grateful for that. She's a spitfire, to be sure, but he could deal with those types too.

"Will there be guys at this meeting?" asks Manny.

"Yes," says Rosso.

"I'll go once," sighs Manny. "Two, if there are any cute ones."

Rosso eyes her approvingly, which pleases Manny. True to his assessment, any approval she can get from a guy she enjoys. Awww, such a sweet little spitfire. Manny leaves, rifling through the pamphlet.

"And you, Mr. Hogart?" says Rosso.

"No way, man," replies Jay. "The more action I get, the better."

"Jay, you're lost and..."

"This ain't Saved by the Bell, alright?" says Jay. "I don't become sensitive in only thirty minutes, learn the error of my ways, just because some old guy says a few words to me. Sauve pulls that mess all the time."

Rosso leans back in his chair, grins. A resistant one. Yes, Tara might be right about this one. He'd have to pull out more than a pamphlet for this troubled young man. He ducks under his desk, retrieves his guitar case. Jay eyes him nervously. Yes, he must know music is the key to the soul, the gift that will reveal anyone's feelings, that call to open up. He's seen that look before, especially on Daniel Desario, the other rebel he overtook. Opening the case, he takes out the guitar, hums, tunes, starts to play. Jay shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

"Does God look down on the boys in the barroom,

Mainly forsaken but surely not judged.

Jacks, kings, and aces, their faces in wine,

Do lord deliver our kind.

From singing for whiskey three strings on the fiddle,

Four on the guitar and a song that I love.

Many's the night we spent picking and singing,

In hopes it be pleasing both here and above.

Jack's string fiddle to my sawtooth bow,

Who loves loneliness loves it alone."

Jay shakes his head, avoids eye contact. Rosso smiles, watching Jay's gaze become heavy-lidded, thoughtful. They glaze over with each chord, each discovery that he's not doing right, not living the life he could be. Yes, Rosso, you have him, he thinks. Jay wipes his eyes.

"Got you all sentimental, didn't it?" asks Rosso, laying the guitar across his lap. "You'll always be lonely if..."

"I got allergies, quack," returns Jay. "Pollen."

Eh, yeah, he doesn't look too sad at second glance, moans Rosso inwardly. Eh, maybe the next meeting.

"You're free to go for now," says Rosso.

"Yes!" shouts Jay, hopping up.

As the door clatters behind him, Rosso strokes his beard, a tear rolling down his cheek.

"One step at a time, Jeff," he tells himself. "One step at a time."

IV.

Two more beeps interrupt Rosso from his self-doubting spell. He'd been depressed for ten minutes straight. He hates when he can't get through to them, especially when the Grateful Dead is wasted on them. Didn't this generation appreciate anything? Good food, good music, good art? Well, hopefully this next girl does. She is a poet, after all.

"Hi," says the girl tentatively, holding a composition book close to her chest.

Wearing dark jeans, and a black shirt under a jean jacket, she's extraordinarily tall, though not as tall as him, thank goodness. Her thick, wavy bob flutters as she walks to the center of the office.

"Ashley Kerwin!" greets Rosso. "Winner of this year's poetry competition. A young Sylvia Plath or so Sauve tells me."

"Yeah, whatever," says Ashley, sitting down.

"Why am I more excited about it than you?"

"Nobody gets my poems," sighs Ashley. "If it's not about roses and love, people don't care, you know?"

"Rosso knows," says Rosso, patting her shoulder. "Rosso definitely knows."

"We're living in dark times," continues Ashley, opening her composition book. "Listen to this. Goth girl stares out the window. Cold, alone. Boy relegated to wheelchair, intimacy issues are born. Bipolar boy weeps, weeps, tragedy too known. Stepbrother won't get off the phone, phone, phone."

"Wow...that's deep," praises Rosso. "I had a stepbrother too. What a narc."

"These are all problems I had to deal with," groans Ashley. "People say all my poems are self-involved. That's not true. I wrote about this girl in a war, and they laughed. I write about me, and they love it."

"Ah, artistic conflict," identifies Rosso.

"I can't win," shrugs Ashley. "That's why I'm not writing anymore."

"Why?" exclaims Rosso. "Ashley, you shouldn't let what other people do affect who you are, what you do."

"But I..I do it all the time," stammers Ashley, turning red.

"That's not a good pattern to have," says Rosso. "How about doing something that none of your friends are doing? Uh, playing music..."

"Half of them are in a band," interrupts Ashley.

"Sports?"

"Half of them play sports."

"Um, not getting involved in petty dramas and having a fun, relaxed school year?"

"Hmmm, no one has done that at Degrassi before," says Ashley, mulling it over, then grinning. "Sure, why not? I can't have any more identities."

"Excellent," says Rosso, leaning over to shake her hand.

"I feel like a new woman," gushes Ashley. "Oh, perfect catalyst for a new, dark poem. She finds herself amidst the one, unexplored avenue in the crowded halls..."

"Totally Bell Jar-ish," compliments Rosso.

V.

Rosso's relieved the day is almost over, but the file sitting on his desk is threatening to spill over. It rivals that of Kim Kelly's, the remembrance of an overload of pink disciplinary slips making him sweat. After counselling Ashley, he has renewed faith. However, this next kid had Ms. Sauve writing all kinds of notes. Daddy issues, mommy issues, cockiness, a different problem every year. This is no Sam Weir skipping gym, or Neal Schweiber talking back to the history teacher, that's for sure. Speaking of Neal, that smart little guy still owed him twenty bucks, for betting against himself for not making valedictorian. Quirky little cheat, thinks Rosso. It's not like he couldn't have pawned that mannequin of his, since Rosso got him off the doll. It's not like he can track him down, though, eh? Eh? Man, he's already speaking Canadian after only being in Toronto for only two weeks.

Barbara buzzes him, Rosso quickly taking a seat. A tall, lean boy walks in, leather jacket covering his thin frame, curly hair askew. He makes sure something is in his pocket before heading towards Rosso. Probably drugs, thinks Rosso, eyeing his coat. Red eyes meet Rosso's clear ones. He looks shaky too, notes Rosso, ushering for him to have a seat.

"Was Ashley in here?" he asks.

"That's none of your concern, Craig," says Rosso. "Sauve told me we have lots to talk about."

"Like what?" barks back Craig.

"You like that nose candy, don't ya?" asks Rosso.

"What?" exclaims Craig, darting his eyes.

"Let me tell you about this guy I met in Buloxi...no Hoboken. Well, it was one of those screwy city names I can't spell. His name was John, like the Beatle, and he was a musician. He liked to snort it up, cut up, tear it up on the stage."

"You sure like the word up, huh?" laughs Craig.

"Anyways," continues Rosso, staring him down. "His body ended up in a brook, festering, with his eyes sunk in, and ravens picking at his carcass."

Craig holds his throat, starts to throw up, but holds it in. That story works all the time for drug users, thinks Rosso. Too bad he doesn't know if it's really true. He thinks it is, but he was high on pot a lot during that time.

"Don't want to end up like that, do you?" asks Rosso.

"No," says Craig, softly.

"Good," says Rosso. "Now for these other things. You have a guardian, correct? Joey Jeremiah? Ha, that's a very good rock n' roll name. Like Jim Morrison...you know who that is?"

Craig rolls his eyes. "Yeah...of course."

He did? Whoa. Finally, a kid with some degree of musical taste.

"Sent us a note saying that you haven't been going to therapy sessions," informs Rosso. "What's up there, buddy?"

"I just want to take my meds, and not have anyone bother me," replies Craig. "The whole school always knows what's going on with me, and I hate it."

Rosso skims through the paperwork. Craig ended up on the streets one year, then apparently his nose bled onstage in a newspaper clipping Sauve attached to a piece of paper.

"Craig, you make yourself a spectacle," insists Rosso. "Poor choices result in you becoming popular, attention you don't necessarily want."

"How do I change that?" asks Craig.

"Get off the coke, for one," says Rosso. "Just because you had a bad life doesn't mean you abuse the good fortune that comes your way. People like Joey care for you, so don't take advantage of them, and they want you to succeed. I do too."

"You've only known me a day," counters Craig.

"It only takes a day to care," replies Rosso. "I bet no one tells you that they care everyday. But I will. I care, Craig."

Craig wipes his eyes, starts to cry.

"Hush, now," coos Rosso. "Let me sing you a song."

Rosso finds the right key, the key that will unlock Craig's poor, wounded heart. This is the moment when it all makes it worth it, for him, for them. Helping, singing, caring.

"Sid was a punk rock king, Nancy was a broken queen
Their lives were so glamorous, Sid and Nancy were a mess
When you're hooked on heroin, don't you know you'll never win
Drugs don't ever pay, you really did it your way
Love kills... Love kills...Love kills..."

Craig bops his head to the music, banging on Rosso's desk. Rosso strums harder, tapping his feet in time. Craig hops up, starts to sing, snapping to the music:

"Sid never meant any harm, he shot some dope into his arm
All he wanted was some fun, now she's lying in a pool of blood
Always loaded, always high. Why did you have to die?
I'll say one thing is, it leaves me with a bitter taste
Love... kills... Love kills... Love kills.
..."

"Exactly," says Rosso, stopping at the close of the song. "You sing better than Nick Andropolis."

"Man, I never realized," says Craig. "Music can all make it make sense, you know? That's why I play."

"Rosso knows," says Rosso.

"You're so much better than Sauve," compliments Craig.

Wow, really? He may be high now, but he'll take that as a high amount of praise. They stare at one another, Rosso giving him a hopeful grin. Craig sniffs, a small bit of blood trickling to his upper lip.

"Oops, my bad," says Craig.

Rosso twists his lips in disappointment. Oh, well, clean kids weren't built a day.

"Go to the nurse and we'll meet next week," says Rosso, handing him a tissue.

"Okay," says Craig, hurriedly scurrying off.

Finally alone, Rosso takes in the weight of all his counselling sessions. The majority of them went okay, with the kids promising to get some type of help, or return. Ellie and Ashley had even made strides that would benefit them in the future. All in all, a job well done. Grabbing his suitcase, he packs up his guitar, leaves the office, viewing Barbara blowing on her newly painted, red nails.

"It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it," he says to her.

"What?" she says, blankly. "Oh...yeah."

Rosso grins happily, going down the hall as the final bell rings, goes through the front glass doors. His car shouldn't be hard to find, a classic eighties' Civic, worth every penny. He stops midway, sees white whipped cream against the windshield. It says: Rosso Blows. Heading to the car, he opens it, retrieves a towel from the back seat. Glancing behind him briefly, he sees Jay snickering, peeping from behind a wall.

He calmly wipes the whipped cream, shakes his head.

"Hmmm," he says, smiling. "Kids."