I know it has been a while since I updated this, but this chapter is a bit longer than the others if that makes up for it!
I hope you enjoy the chapter!
The next morning, the nurse brought Jeff breakfast. "The doctor says you can leave later this afternoon once he's checked up on you," she told him as she placed a plate of golden waffles drizzled with maple syrup and topped with berries and whipped cream.
For a moment, Jeff just stared at the food. It actually looked somewhat edible, unlike most of the food they served here. The maple syrup was thick instead of watery and the waffles were golden and crisp instead of soggy and yellow.
The nurse smiled pleasantly. "You get the good stuff in here," she told him with a wink. With that, she left him alone in the infirmary to run the hospital office.
Jeff frowned. He wished he was actually hungry, because this actually looked good. He settled for picking the blueberries off the top to eat, since a little food was better than no food at all.
Just as he forced down the last blueberry, Nick stepped through the infirmary doors.
Jeff sat up. "Nick?"
Nick held a finger to his lips. "Shhh. I don't really have permission to be here," he whispered, glancing warily around the room. "Darke won't leave me alone even though I'm technically off house arrest." He tiptoed to the side of Jeff's bed farthest from the door.
"He let you off house arrest?"
"Yeah. Apparently taking you to the infirmary showed 'good judgment' or something."
Jeff laughed quietly. "Well, I'm glad I could help?"
"I'd rather still be on house arrest than to see you suffer," Nick said in an almost dismissive tone a voice. Like it was no big deal to just say something like that.
It took a moment for Jeff to find his voice. "I'm fine," he stammered finally. "I'm not suffering. Not anymore, thanks to you."
"Alright, don't get cheesy on me, little dove," Nick teased. "What's done is done. At least Eric is being punished. He's on house arrest until further notice, at least… As if that means anything."
"Is that a new nickname for me?" Jeff asked with a small smile. He didn't want to talk about Eric right now—it made Nick too angry. "Dove?"
"Sure, why not," Nick answered casually. "I think it suits you."
"Why did you get a tattoo of a dove?" Jeff asked, remembering the faded tattoo on his chest from yesterday.
Nick laughed. "Hell if I know. I was stoned out of my mind when I got it," he answered airily. "I'm just glad it turned out alright."
So there was no story behind it. "Oh," Jeff said.
"Not surprised?" Nick said with a strange smile. "As you might have realized, I was high or drunk for the better part of three years. Reed thinks it was my way of avoiding reality or something…"
"Was it?" Jeff asked carefully.
"No," Nick muttered. "What would I have been avoiding? I had a good family life. Hell, I probably stole a few thousand dollars from my parents over the course of those three years, and they hardly punished me for it."
"Then why did you get so involved with drugs?" Jeff asked as innocently as he could. Weren't there usually underlying psychological problems behind early-age drug abuse?
Nick said, "If you've never been high before, I don't expect you'd understand. It just…feels good."
"Like I said, you wouldn't understand." He suddenly changed the subject. "I see you haven't eaten your breakfast yet." His eyes were a little accusing.
Jeff frowned. "I'm not hungry."
"Are you ever?" Nick muttered. "I told you, you need to eat."
Jeff looked at the plate of cooling waffles in front of him. "I can't," he murmured plaintively.
"What do you mean, you can't?" Nick said.
"I don't know," Jeff muttered. "Forget it."
"Seriously, Jeff. What's wrong?" Nick demanded.
Jeff was a little taken aback. That was the second time Nick had used his actual name. He hesitated. "Honestly, I don't know," he answered finally. "It's like… I feel nauseous just thinking about eating. And every time I actually eat anything, it just makes me feel really sick."
"How long has this been going on?" Nick asked quietly. His green eyes were hard to read, but Jeff felt like there might be some concern there.
"Since I was first arrested, I guess," Jeff mumbled. "It's not really a big deal, though. It's not like I'm starving to death."
"You look pretty damn close to me," Nick pointed out. "Maybe you should tell Reed about this."
"Why?" Jeff suddenly felt defensive. "It's really not a big deal. I'm fine. It's not like I'm anorexic or something. It's probably not even a mental problem."
"Dr. Reed is here to help, you know," Nick pointed out. "If something really is wrong—which I think there is—then he'll get you the help you need."
"I don't need help," Jeff snapped. "And why should I spill my guts to Reed when all you ever do is treat therapy like some big joke?"
"Chill out there, blondie," Nick eased. "I never said anything about spilling guts. Like you said, it might not even be something psychological, which means it could be a physical problem. So it'd be best to get some sort of medical help."
It couldn't be psychological. Starvation only happened with anorexics, right? And Jeff wasn't preoccupied about his weight in the least. If he could eat, he would. So maybe Nick was right.
Still, he didn't want to tell anyone. That meant accepting that there was, in fact, something wrong with him. Jeff wasn't sure he was ready to do that yet. "It's my own business," he said to Nick. "I'll tell Reed if and when I want to."
Nick didn't look satisfied with this response, but he didn't argue anymore. "Fine," he gave up.
"I'm already working on it anyways," Jeff assured him. "I'm trying to gradually eat more, so I don't make myself sick."
"Alright, well… If you still have issues, I really recommend talking to Reed," Nick said. "I know I act like he's just a big joke, but he's really not bad. He's helped me with some things before, whether I like to admit it or not. And before you ask, no, I'm not telling you what they are."
"I knew you'd say that," Jeff said. Nick wasn't the type to talk about himself. Ever.
"I like to keep my demons to myself," Nick said dismissively.
Jeff decided that he didn't want to talk anymore. "You should probably get going soon," he told Nick. "The nurse will probably be back soon to check on me, and she said the doctor would be in soon. I wouldn't want you to get into more trouble right after you got off house arrest."
"Alright, blondie. I'll see you later, then," Nick said without protest. He started for the doorway, but stopped halfway around the bed suddenly. "But first…I wonder what kinds of medicine they have lying around back here…?" He went for the cupboard above the counter to investigate.
"Medicine?" Jeff echoed in confusion before he realized what Nick meant. "No! You can't do that!"
"Sure I can. You wouldn't turn me in, would you?" he said almost challengingly. "Let's see… gauze, hydrogen peroxide, bandages, aspirin, allergy pills, sleeping pills… Sweet!" he suddenly grabbed something from the cabinet. "A full bottle of cough syrup!"
"Nick, seriously," Jeff protested. "Put it away."
"Oh, come on, blondie," Nick sighed. "It's just cough syrup. It's not illegal. It's not dangerous. And it'll brighten my day a bit."
"It is dangerous because you're going to abuse it," Jeff said seriously. "You've been clean for years. Don't ruin it for a bottle of cough medicine."
"I honestly don't give a shit about staying clean," Nick muttered. "If I could get my hands on something better, I'd take it in a heartbeat. But I guess I'll settle for the cough syrup."
"Nick, please," Jeff protested. "Don't take it. Please, put it back."
"God, it's just cough medicine!" Nick snapped. "Why the hell does it matter so much to you if I take it? It's not like it's the worst drug I've ever done."
"I just can't stand to think of you doing that to yourself," he blurted out without thinking.
"It's not a big deal, pretty boy," Nick insisted. He wrapped the bottle in the sleeve of his jumpsuit, which he wore half-undone around his waist as usual with a white undershirt.
Perfect timing, too, because as soon as it was out of sight, the nurse returned. She opened her mouth to speak to Jeff when she noticed Nick. "Um, I don't think you're supposed to be back here," she told him uncertainly.
"Oh, I didn't know," Nick said very innocently. "I was just leaving anyways. Sorry." He didn't look at Jeff again and quickly retreated out the door.
The nurse looked at Jeff. "He didn't do anything back here, did he?" she asked in a serious whisper.
Jeff bit his lip. "No."
"He didn't take anything?" She went to the medicine cabinet and scanned its contents.
"I don't think so," Jeff lied. It was almost painful to do, considering what Nick planned to do with that cough medicine.
The nurse stared at the cabinet a moment longer before sighing and closing it. "What was he doing back here?"
"He was just visiting," Jeff said. He couldn't just sit around in here all day when Nick just made off with a full bottle of medication that may or may not cause him serious harm. "Um, can I go yet? I feel fine."
"The doctor wanted to check on you."
"You can call me back whenever he gets here," Jeff suggested. "I just… I have schoolwork I want to finish today." She still looked uncertain, so he added, "I'll stay in my room."
Finally, she agreed. She wrote his room number down and told him to stay there until further notice. He changed into a clean jumpsuit—since the one he wore yesterday was ruined by blood—and quickly headed out to the rec area. As usual, most of the school was busy with family visits and phone calls, so the room was pretty much empty. Nick was nowhere to be seen, so Jeff scaled the stairs quickly to their room.
Inside, sure enough, was Nick. He was on his bed on the top bunk, engrossed in a cigarette. "That was fast," he said idly. "Did you chase me up here?"
"Did you take the cough medicine?" Jeff demanded.
"Nah," Nick mumbled. "I was going to. But after you practically begged me not to, it made me feel guilty." He said it accusingly. "Thanks for that."
"Where is it?"
"I hid it," he answered simply. "Hell if I'm going to risk returning it. I'll save it for a rainy day or something."
"You shouldn't take it at all, ever," Jeff said seriously. "I don't care if it's over-the-counter. You're still going to use it like you would any other illegal drug."
"What if I promised you I won't take it?" Nick said suddenly. "I don't see what you're so worked up over, but if it really means that much to you, I won't touch it. But I'm not taking it back, either. Stealing medicine isn't something that's easily forgiven here."
Jeff was wary. "But you won't take it?"
"Scout's honor," Nick answered. "I hid it in Flint's old mattress if you ever feel the need to check on it to see if I keep my word."
That made him feel a little better. "Alright," he finally agreed, "Thank you." He didn't expect Nick would give up so fast. He was a little wary to believe him, but Nick hadn't given him reason to distrust him so far.
"Sure thing, blondie," Nick said
In Group Therapy that Monday, Dr. Reed collected everyone's essays as they entered the classroom. Today, the desks were pushed against the walls and all the chairs were arranged in a circle around the room. Everyone had seats that were pre-assigned by Dr. Reed and were outlined on a seating chart on the wall.
Jeff wasn't sure that it was a coincidence that he and Nick were seated beside each other. He wasn't complaining, though. Even at his worst, Jeff preferred Nick to most of the other guys here.
Once everyone had their seat, Dr. Reed started the class. He sat in an empty chair in the circle. "Today, we will be opening up to one another in a true group therapy session," he announced. Groans of protest met these words and Jeff felt suddenly anxious. "Anyone who decides not to participate will have to write me a two-page essay over a topic of my choosing." He looked around as if waiting for someone to take his offer. Several students looked expectantly at Nick.
Nick glared back defiantly. "What the hell are you all staring at?" he challenged.
"So I take it you're going to participate this time, Nick?" Dr. Reed asked calmly.
"Not if you're going to focus on me the entire time," he muttered.
So Nick didn't usually take part in Group Therapy. Somehow, that wasn't surprising.
Dr. Reed went on. "Alright, good. I thought we could start by talking about our weekend visits, so if anyone would like to volunteer to go first?"
No one moved.
"Luke," Dr. Reed said suddenly. "Why don't you start us off?"
The boy who Jeff assumed was Luke sat back in his chair coolly. "It was normal," he said. "My dad and bro visited me and my mom stayed home—probably popping pills and sleeping all day."
"Do you wish that she would visit?" Dr. Reed asked.
Luke shrugged. "I don't care."
"Are you sure?" Reed pressed. "Does it bother you when she sleeps all day like you said she does?"
Luke glanced around the room as if searching for judgmental stares from his assembled classmates. Warily, he said, "Why should it? I'm not home anymore, so it doesn't matter to me what she does anymore."
Dr. Reed nodded. "Did it bother you in the past?"
"No," Luke snapped. "God, just leave me alone!"
"Alright, Luke," Dr. Reed said evenly. He glanced around the room. "Seth, why don't you go next…?"
Reed went around the circle individually over the next fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, mostly everyone was willing to open up a little bit, and they were allowed to stop taking at any moment when they became uncomfortable. It was strange, really. For the first time, Jeff could see the human side of these "hardcore criminals."
"Jeff, did you have a family visit this weekend?" Dr. Reed asked.
Jeff frowned. "Yes," he answered uneasily. "My mom."
"How did that go?"
"Badly." He'd actually completely forgotten about it until now. He'd been too caught up with the pain of his physical injuries after Eric jumped him in the hallway.
"Why is that?" Reed asked.
"Things aren't going well back home, I guess," Jeff mumbled. "Thanks to me."
"Why do you think it's your fault?"
"She said that it was," Jeff answered quietly. "She said that I humiliated my family and my dad is depressed because of what I did."
All eyes were on him. Nick was staring at him with an expression that said, "Why am I just now hearing this?"
"Things are always difficult at first when a family member is convicted of a crime," Reed assured him. "Maybe she just needs to come to terms with things. Do you think she'll forgive you eventually?"
"She never forgives me," Jeff said. "I always disappoint her somehow, and I think she just accepts it and forgets about it. But I don't think she will this time."
Jeff was silent for a long moment. Could he go on further without breaking down or choking? He swallowed hard and unconsciously pressed his thumb into a bruise on his arm. "She…she said I'm not welcome home anymore."
A painful silence filled the room. Jeff pressed harder against the bruise when he felt his eyes begin to sting and focused on the pain.
Dr. Reed looked thoughtful. "Do you think she means that?"
"I don't want to talk anymore," Jeff said suddenly. His voice came out weak and plaintive, like a child's.
"Very well, Jeff," Reed said gently. He looked to Nick. "Would you like to talk about your most recent family visit, Nick?"
"I've never had a family visit," Nick said coolly.
"Why is that?" Dr. Reed asked, unfazed.
Nick shrugged. "Maybe my parents have better things to do."
"But they've tried visiting you before, on several occasions," Dr. Reed pointed out. "Why did you refuse to see them?"
The room fell deadly silent. All eyes were on Nick, and for once, Nick didn't seem to know what to do. With just a few simple words, Reed had unwittingly destroyed Nick's entire mafia reputation. He wasn't the family-less mafia kid everyone had thought he was. Now, he was just a teenage boy with a family who, at one point, wanted to visit their son in prison.
Nick just sat there with dismay behind his green eyes. "Nick?" Reed said. "If you're uncomfortable with that question—"
Nick pushed to his feet very suddenly, toppling his chair to the floor with the force. "I'm done," he announced. His voice was sharp and threatening, like he was just daring someone to say something to him. He kicked his chair out of the way and it flew across the room and came to a loud, crashing halt against one of the desks by the wall.
Nick stormed off toward the door without another word. "Nick!" Jeff hissed after him in protest. But if his roommate heard him, he didn't acknowledge it.
The room was buzzing with whispers now. Dr. Reed was unfazed, however, and quickly pulled the room back under his control. "Quiet down! Group Therapy is still in session. David, why don't you go next...?"
The Warblers were frantic after Group Therapy. "Wait, does this mean Nick's family isn't with the mafia?"
"No shit, idiot."
"What if it ruins our rep?"
"It won't. It's not like he's a faggot or anything. He just isn't in with the mafia."
"He's still the meanest bastard around here."
"He need to get his ass down here fast to fix this shit before it gets too far out of our hands."
Jeff's blood boiled as he listened. They only cared about themselves! The entire gang really did depend on Nick to hold them up on his shoulders. Jeff couldn't imagine what that pressure might feel like at a time like this. "I'll go check our room," Jeff announced, breaking away from the group.
"Tell him to get his ass down to the rec room!" Wes demanded.
Jeff waved to show he heard as he headed for the stairs. He took the long way around the halls in order to avoid other Dalton students who would be more than happy to taste his blood until he reached room 236.
Inside, he found Nick pacing the room, cigarette in hand. He turned when Jeff entered. "Is Reed looking for me yet?" he asked right off the bat.
"I don't know," Jeff said. "Group Therapy just ended. The other Warblers are freaking out… are you okay?" he asked.
"Fine," Nick said bluntly. He smashed the cigarette on the bottom of his shoe and threw it out. "Are you okay?" He turned and looked at Jeff very seriously.
Jeff blinked, confused. "Uh, yeah…?" he answered uncertainly. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"What you said in Group Therapy. You never mentioned that before," Nick said.
"I actually forgot all about it," Jeff said. "My mom is always like that. My dad will probably be more understanding when I'm released. It's not a big deal."
"Are you sure?" Nick pressed on. "You seem pretty blue most of the time, and you said something about not being able to eat the other day. And…" Nick reached into his blazer pocket and pulled out a tiny, silver razor blade. "I just found this hiding in the bathroom."
Jeff felt his heart sink. "Th-that's—"
"I know it's not mine," Nick said grimly. "So I assume it's yours? But you're not the type to use this on someone else."
He had a feeling he knew what Nick was insinuating. "What? No! Its mine, yes, but I've never used it, not on myself or anyone else!" he protested.
"Then why do you have it?" Nick demanded.
"I grabbed it when I stole all of that stuff from Darke's office," Jeff told him quickly. "I didn't even mean to, I just took whatever I grabbed first. I didn't trust any of the Warblers with it, so I kept it and I hid it in here. I couldn't think of any way to get rid of it without getting caught with it. It has never even crossed my mind to…to use it on myself. Or anyone else, for that matter. I swear." He unbuttoned his sleeve and pushed it up to expose his bare arm and extended it to Nick. "See? No cuts." There were a few bruises left from when Eric beat him up, but his skin was otherwise unmarked.
Nick examined Jeff's arm as if searching for some hidden self-injury, and when he found nothing, he seemed to relax. "Okay. Good," he said. He turned the razor over in his hand idly. "Why didn't you tell me you had this earlier?"
Jeff frowned. "I was afraid that you might use it on someone," he admitted. You ARE here for stabbing someone, after all…
Nick smiled faintly. "That's understandable, I guess," he acknowledged. "But I would never use a weapon. It would destroy my reputation around here, and you know all hell would break loose if that happened."
"Of course," Jeff mumbled. Fighting with bare hands was respected here. Using a weapon was considered cowardly. "What are you going to do about what happened in Group Therapy?"
Nick shrugged. "I'm not worried about it. I'm a little pissed off that Reed blew my mafia story, but it doesn't change anything. I'm still the toughest guy here and I'm not afraid to prove it to anyone who questions it," he said. "I am a little worried about you, though."
"Why? I thought we just went over this."
"When I found this thing, my first concern was that you might be using it to hurt yourself," Nick admitted. "And is it any wonder why? I really think you should talk to Dr. Reed."
"About what? I'm not cutting myself!" Jeff snapped. "I never have and I never will. There's nothing wrong with me."
"I'm not saying that there is anything 'wrong' with you," Nick insisted patiently. "I just…I think I would feel better if you just talked to Reed about what's been going on with you and the fact that you haven't been able to eat much of anything…"
"I don't want to," Jeff protested plaintively. He knew it probably sounded childish and pathetic, but he really didn't have any other excuses.
"What if I told you that I see Dr. Reed every so often for problems of my own?" Nick asked a little warily.
Jeff looked at Nick incredulously. "You talk to Dr. Reed?"
"Sometimes," Nick admitted. "That's why my private therapy sessions are so long, compared to yours."
"What do you see him for?" Jeff asked curiously.
Nick frowned. "Will you agree to talk to him if I tell you?"
He hesitated. Nick was willing to open up—even if just a tiny bit—about himself just for Jeff's sake? "Fine," he agreed reluctantly. "I'll talk to Reed."
Nick nodded and looked at the razor, which he still held in his hand. "I've never told anyone this, so I expect you to keep it to yourself, alright?" he told Jeff with the hint of a threat in his voice.
"Of course," Jeff promised. "I wouldn't betray your trust."
"Good." Nick drew in a breath and wandered across the room a few feet away from Jeff. "Well… I see Reed at least once a month—sometimes a little more—because I…" he trailed away for a long moment and took in another deep breath. "…I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," he admitted finally.
Jeff tried to keep his expression neutral despite his surprise. "You do? I never would have guessed," he said carefully.
"It's not the kind of thing you'd see on the surface," he replied. "I have nightmares every night andDr. Reed says my anger issues and drug use are my ways of coping with it when I'm awake. Sometimes I get flashbacks if someone says something that reminds me of... of what happened to me. But it's been getting better, I think."
"What happened?" Jeff asked quietly. "If you don't mind me asking…"
"I don't want to talk about it," Nick murmured. "I'd rather not get into the finer details."
"Okay, I understand. Sorry," Jeff apologized. Nick seemed like such a strong person. What could have possibly happened to him that was so horrible? He wanted to know, but it really wasn't any of his business.
"It's fine," Nick reassured him. "But I don't want you to feel sorry for me. And I don't want you to look at me any differently now that you know. I'm still the same person I've always been."
"I know. Thanks for telling me," Jeff murmured. "If you ever want to talk about this—or anything else—I'm here to listen."
"Don't get all touchy-feely on me, blondie," Nick warned good-humoredly. "But thanks for the offer. If anyone else here knew about it, they'd probably take it as a sign of weakness. I don't even want to know how it would affect my rep…"
"I won't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me, I promise," Jeff insisted.
"I know. I'm not worried about you telling anyone. I trust you." He held up the little razor. "Since we really can't get rid of this without one of us getting in serious trouble, I'm going to hide it in Flint's old mattress. That way, we can pretend like we've never seen it before in our lives if someone finds it."
"Good idea," Jeff said. Maybe he should have thought about that. Nick might have never found it if he'd done that to begin with.
Nick moved across the room back to Flint's old mattress. "So you're going to go see Dr. Reed now, right?" he asked as he searched for a good place to hide the razor.
"Right now?" Jeff frowned. They had made a deal. He couldn't just back out and say he'd changed his mind.
"There's plenty of time," Nick pointed out. "We have, like, an hour before dinner and four hours of rec time afterwards." He finally found a place for the razor and he tucked it away. "I'll come with you, if you want," he offered.
Jeff shook his head. "No, you don't have to do that," he assured. "I'd rather go alone."
"Alright." Nick accepted that without a complaint. He approached Jeff again and didn't stop until he completely closed the space between his and Jeff's lips.
Although he was slightly caught off guard, Jeff didn't hesitate to close his eyes and return the kiss. It was briefer than the first two, but the touch of Nick's lips somehow put his mind a little more at ease.
When the kiss was broken, Nick offered up a small smile. "Good luck."
"So what's troubling you, Jeff?" Dr. Reed asked Jeff in his office.
Dr. Reed hasn't asked for any explanations when Jeff approached him and asked, "Can I talk to you about something?" He readily agreed and took him to his office. It was a warm room with a splash of color as opposed to every other room in this facility. There was a sofa against the wall which Reed had told Jeff to sit on, while he took a seat at an armchair across from him. There was a large, neat desk on the other side of the room and a locked filing cabinet beside it.
"Um… well, it's hard to explain," Jeff began slowly. But it really wasn't hard to explain at all. He just didn't want to do it.
"Well, do your best to explain and I'll try to keep up." Dr. Reed smiled reassuringly.
Jeff sighed. "Alright. Well… since right before I got here, I've… been having some trouble with eating."
"Trouble with eating?" Reed echoed. "How do you mean?"
Jeff shrugged. "I just haven't been able to do it. To eat," Jeff admitted. "It makes me feel sick. I haven't finished a whole meal in the entire time I've been here."
"Do you think it's because of the food we serve here?" Reed asked.
"Not really," Jeff said honestly. "When I was in the hospital wing, they gave me waffles that looked like they'd be delicious. But I couldn't eat any of it. I literally only managed to eat a few blueberries before I felt nauseous."
Dr. Reed nodded understandingly. "I see," he murmured. "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? It's just so I can get a better picture. Right now, I don't know enough to determine if this is a mental or physical problem you're experiencing."
Jeff shrugged again. "Sure," he agreed uneasily.
Dr. Reed retrieved a clipboard and pen from his desk. "First of all, have you noticed any other unusual or upsetting symptoms?"
Jeff considered that. "I don't know. I don't think so," he mumbled. "Symptoms like what?"
"Like… have you been sleeping well at night? Do you have any nightmares, or trouble focusing during the day, or are you often tired?"
"I sleep fine," Jeff answered. "And I don't get nightmares. But I do feel sort of weak and tired most of the time. I figure it's because I'm not eating…"
Reed nodded and scribbled something down on the clipboard. "Do you usually go to sleep before or after lights out?"
"Before, I guess... I go to sleep around 9 or 10 most nights."
"Would you say you're in a good mood very often?"
"No." Jeff almost laughed as he answered. The only time he was in a "good" mood was when he was alone in his dorm with Nick. "I haven't exactly been enjoying my stay here."
"Then how would you describe your typical mood?" Reed asked
Jeff thought about that. "I don't know. I don't really have one certain mood. I just try to get through every day in once piece."
Dr. Reed took some notes at that. "Would you say you often feel sad or down in the dumps? Or perhaps angry?"
Jeff frowned. "Not angry. But I feel sad sometimes." In fact, waking up in the morning filled him with dread many days. The only reason he made it through every day was thanks to Nick, honestly. But he couldn't really tell this to Reed without possibly telling him something Nick might not want him to know.
"Do you get along with your classmates?" Reed went on.
You mean inmates? "Not really… Most of these guys would rather beat me up than be friends with me."
Dr. Reed grimaced sympathetically. "I know a lot of the boys here can be violent, but you'd be surprised at how many of them there are that are friendly."
"I haven't seen many of those," Jeff mumbled.
"Maybe you haven't been looking very hard?" Reed suggested.
"Maybe," Jeff muttered doubtfully.
Dr. Reed sighed softly and carried on with the questioning. The session went on for quite a long while. He asked things like, "How are your grades doing? What are your dreams for the future, and do you think you can achieve them? What is your relationship like with you parents? Your brother? Would you say you're a pessimist or an optimist? Did you get along well with your peers before Dalton? What were your hobbies before Dalton, and what are your current hobbies...?"
Eventually, Dr. Reed finally wrapped it up. "Alright. I think I've learned enough to make a diagnosis," he said.
"So soon?" Jeff asked with surprise.
"I don't think you're suffering from anything physical," Dr. Reed assured him. "If you're still concerned, however, we can do some blood testing to put your mind at ease."
"Then what the heck is wrong with me?" Jeff demanded.
"I think you're suffering from depression," Dr. Reed told him honestly in a straightforward yet gentle voice.
"Depression?" Jeff echoed disbelievingly. He wanted to protest and insist that it must be something else. But now that he was considering it, depression made an awful lot of sense. He'd studied it in Health class at his old school and a lot of the symptoms were there.
"Don't worry. Depression is very treatable and you came to me before things got too bad," Dr. Reed reassured him. "I can prescribe some antidepressants for you to take by tomorrow if you'd like and I'll probably have you come in a little more frequently for private therapy."
Jeff didn't argue. "I just thought I had to get used to this place and I'd start feeling better," he mumbled. "Are you sure its depression?"
"I'm pretty positive," Dr. Reed told him. "And I think it may have been going on even before you got arrested. It's just…gotten a little worse since then."
But I could still eat then. But when he thought about it, he never had much of an appetite lately. He only ate when he started feeling too weak from lack of nutrition to carry on much longer. Eating had become like a chore for him. And he couldn't really recall a time when he felt really happy for the last few months, even when he still lived at home. He preferred to spend much of his time at home locked up in his room, and that didn't seem to have changed since he was admitted here.
A part of him was relieved. Dr. Reed's diagnosis explained a lot, and it meant that he wasn't physically ill. And although he would rather have left here with no diagnosis at all, he'd always known that there had to be something wrong with him. He just didn't want to admit it.
Jeff nodded in understanding. "Okay. Thanks, Dr. Reed," he murmured.
The session wrapped up with Dr. Reed weighing Jeff on a scale and ordering him to report to his office for meals starting tomorrow to "help him get his weight up." He told Jeff that he would look into antidepressants. "If you don't want to start on antidepressants right away, we can try weekly therapy sessions instead," he offered.
"I don't care. Whatever you think is best," Jeff mumbled apathetically.
"Well, a little mix of both usually yields the best results," Dr. Reed told him. "We can discuss this further tomorrow during breakfast. You should head down for dinner and try to eat something for now, though."
Jeff hadn't realized just how long this meeting had lasted. He said goodbye to Dr. Reed and ducked out of his office. He made sure that he wasn't watching him when he skipped the corridor that lead to the cafeteria and went straight back upstairs to his room.
He expected for Nick to be down at dinner and that he'd have a little alone time to let this sink in, but to his surprise, Nick was still in their room.
"Hey, blondie," he greeted casually from where he sat with his legs hanging over the top bunk. He had an almost-smoked out cigarette held between his fingers and the room was filled with the stench of it. "How'd it go? You were gone for over an hour."
Shoot. He forgot that he'd have to explain this to Nick. In response, he shrugged. "It was alright… It felt like I was in a normal appointment with a psychiatrist." He closed the door behind him.
"I know what that's like," Nick remarked. He took one last puff on the cigarette and smashed it against the sole of his shoe before jumping to the ground. "What'd he think?"
Jeff hesitated and wandered over to Flint's old bed and sat on the bottom bunk. "Dr. Reed says that I have clinical depression," he admitted straightforwardly. There was really no point in hiding it. He couldn't bring himself to look up at Nick, so he turned his gaze down to his lap. "You can say 'I told you so' now…"
Nick was silent for a long moment before coming to sit by Jeff. "I wouldn't do that," he said softly. "I just wanted you to get the help you need."
Jeff looked over at Nick. His green eyes were nothing but compassionate and understanding. He knew what this was like, to have a mental disorder. And now they had something in common. "I know," Jeff murmured. "Thank you."
"You're taking it a lot better than I did," Nick said with a tiny smile. "Reed was the one who diagnosed me with PTSD, and I threw a fit. I convinced myself that he was just a fraud and that there was nothing wrong with me. I was in denial for months."
"I'm guessing you came to terms with it eventually?" Jeff guessed.
"I had to," he said. "I'd been suffering from it for years. I kept avoiding it in other ways, but when I was arrested and thrown in here, I lost most of my coping methods. My first year here was hell, what with the withdrawals I was going through. My PTSD got so bad that I couldn't even sleep at night and I was getting horrible, vivid flashbacks every day. I couldn't focus. Eventually, I had a breakdown one day and I cried like a bitch in Reed's office." He scoffed at himself. "I was a freaking train wreck."
"That sounds like hell," Jeff mumbled. He couldn't even imagine Nick crying. The thought of it made his heart twist. "I guess I'm lucky I haven't been going through this for as long as you have…"
"I didn't have to suffer as long as I did," Nick pointed out. "I was too proud to admit that I wasn't alright. I thought it was a weakness. You have no idea how much better things got immediately after I got the help I'd needed."
"You said it had gone on for years," Jeff pointed out. "When did it happen?"
"It? You mean my traumatic experience?" Nick guessed. "I don't really remember, actually, and I don't really care to try. The few things I do remember are horrifying enough."
"Oh. I understand," Jeff said. "You don't have to tell me anything."
"Thank you," Nick murmured. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Yeah," he breathed. "I'm feeling a little better than I was before, actually. Thanks to you." He looked into Nick's deep green eyes. "You know, you're a lot softer than you let people believe."
"Soft?" Nick smiled faintly. "Maybe a little… But only for you."
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