"Therapy is, perhaps, how to answer your recent health problems," Doctor Foley said, guiding Vlad Masters through the hospital's reception room. "Perhaps even an answer to some of your other problems as well."

"Maurice, I can assure you that I am in no need of therapy..." Vlad protested, clacking along next to the doctor. "Do I look like a man with problems?"

"Appearances mean nothing," Maurice murmured, walking over to a door and opening it for Vlad, who went inside.

Sitting down on Doctor Foley's couch, Vlad mumbled, "So everybody says..."

"You don't seem to agree."

"Are you analyzing me, doctor?"

Maurice sat across from Vlad. "Why, yes, Vlad. I am."

Vlad muttered incoherently, swearing on pastries and other things which sounded just as delicious. "Look; if you're going to do this, stop babying around and ask your damn questions."

"Therapy takes time, Vlad -- and patience." Maurice smiled. "And patients."

Vlad groaned. "Ha ha."

"But, if you insist, I will ask my 'damn questions'." He held up air quotes, which only made Vlad roll his eyes. "What is the earliest childhood memory that you can recall?"

Vlad steepled his fingers, placing his forehead into the nook between his forefinger and thumb. "You expect me to remember? Pffsht." Despite his remark, Vlad replied, "I was fourteen, and my family and I were snuggled together in the house."

"Your family? Could you be more specific?"

"My father, my sister, and I."

Maurice arched an eyebrow. "...What about your mother?"

"She wasn't there."

"I sort of gathered that. Do you know where she was?"

Vlad pulled away from his hands and began brushing them through his ponytail. "Haven't the faintest. In fact, I don't believe that I remember her ever being there..."

"...Did this effect you?"

"Are you really that stupid? Of course it effected me." He patted down any loose strand of hair he found, smoothing them into place. "I just learned to move on."

"Could you tell me more about your childhood, Vlad?" Maurice asked, leaning forward in his chair.

"I could."

"...Will you?"

"Yes, doctor, I will answer your ridiculous questions."

Maurice sighed. "You said this was when you were fourteen. Are you sure that's the furthest back you can remember?"

"Yes, doctor. I'm positive."

"...Vlad, I think that you're blocking out some painful memory."

"Or, perhaps, I'm just a forty-year-old man who can't remember things that happened thirty years ago."

Maurice rolled his eyes. "Do you have to be so stubborn?"

"Do you have to be so anal?"

"Vlad, can you please bare with me here?"

Vlad sat up straight, folding his hands in his lap. "Sorry, doctor. I'll be a good little boy."

"Good. Now can I --"

"My God, you thought I was serious? Can't you hear sarcasm, doctor?"

"Vlad. If I may?"

"Yes, doctor, please continue. I'm so interested in what you have to say."

"...What was your father like?"

Vlad put his hand to his forehead, leaning against the wall. "Oh, doctor! It was terrible! Every night, he would take a whip and beat me across the back! Oh, the pain! Oh, the agony!"

Maurice groaned. "Can you be serious with me, Vlad? Please?"

Vlad grimaced. "Well, what is there to say? He was just my father. Nothing important to be said there..."

"It doesn't seem like you thought too highly of him."

"There was nothing to think highly of. He was just sort of...there."

"What do you mean?"

Vlad laid back on the couch, stretching his neck. "What I mean is that he and I never really conversed much. The only talking we ever did was 'Hello,' 'Love you,' 'Goodnight,' or 'Goodbye.'"

"Really? Don't you think that was ever a problem?"

"Of course it was." Vlad spread himself out, getting comfortable. "But nothing I did ever changed that. Even if I said something to him, I could hardly ever get much of a response. He didn't hate me; he was just...there."

"That sounds pretty terrible."




"Ugh." Maurice leaned back in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Is that all you have to say about your father?"

"Well...he always got me what I asked for during the holidays. He never questioned my wishes... he merely got me whatever it is that had made my list that year."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"Personally, I would have to say that it was." Vlad turned over on his side, away from Maurice. "I could have asked for a damn pack of cigars and they would have been under the tree with my name on them..."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying, doctor, that he didn't care." Vlad flicked his wrist above his head, gesturing to Maurice what not caring looked like. "He just got me whatever would get me to shut up."

"...Am I sensing hostility?"

"No, doctor -- you're spidey sense is just malfunctioning."

Doctor Foley sighed. "Growing up, did you ever try and change this?"

"Oh, yes. Plenty of times."


"And? And? It didn't work, that's what!" Vlad clenched and unclenched his fists, calming himself down. "I tried pleasing him, but he never rewarded me...I tried to anger him, but he never scolded me, either..."

"So, you feel that you didn't get enough attention."

"Yes, that's what I'm saying..." Vlad agreed.

"And your sister? Did she get any more attention?"

"Nope." Vlad rolled onto his back, crossing his arms behind his head. "In fact, she went a bit mad during her Senior year. She strung herself out on drugs and got herself killed."

Maurice stared at Vlad in surprise, but Vlad just kept talking: "My father and I went to her funeral. Neither of us cried. We didn't talk about it. Life went on."

"I'm...I'm sorry to hear that."

"Oh, please. No you're not." Vlad stretched his arms above his head, before letting them lie on his chest. "You're just trying to cure some nonexistant depression."

"Well, Vlad, even if I'm not sorry about your sister's death -- which I am -- I would be sorry that you were not sorry."

Vlad groaned."Are we almost finished, doctor?"

"Yes, Vlad. In fact," he looked over his shoulder, at the clock, "we've been finished for about twenty minutes."

Vlad stood from the couch, heading toward the door. "Oh, God, I've just wasted twenty extra minutes of my life...A shame to know that I'll never get them back."

As Maurice watched him leave, he somehow doubted that those twenty minutes were really wasted. And he also had a feeling that Vlad would come back to see him again.

But perhaps that was just his spidey sense malfunctioning again.