Well baby I don't want to take advice from fools
I'll just figure everything is cool
Until I hear it from you.
- Gin Blossoms
Fall Semester, Week 2
Enobaria's probationers fall into two boats: dumb and 'where the hell do you find these guys?'
In seven days Clove has met a member of the Latin Kings, a Blood, no Crips, but two chronically homeless men, a crystal meth junkie, and a former ward of the state.
Getting to know her new homie g from the Latin Kings was definitely the bright spot in a rather shitty first week of school. Clove was barely able to taper the impulse to ask if he chose the thug life or if the thug life chose him.
The world becomes painfully monotonous when she returns to work on Monday. Where is the bustle and excitement? She expects a few acid trips and fist fights in the lobby, not the dead wind of office work.
By the time she and Enobaria finally bustle into daylight for afternoon home visits, she's happier than a clam. And when they set foot on Autumn Hill Apartments, she trails hesitantly behind.
I am going to be in so much trouble.
You don't mix business with pleasure, and you don't take work home with you. She's broken at least one of the rules, and probably both.
Unfortunately, there is nothing extraordinary about their client, Casey Clark - she's looked over his file more than a dozen times - and that's exactly what makes him extraordinary. Usually, she can pinpoint their critical error, and chime "Aha! That's where you ruined your life."
Casey Clark is a paragon of normalcy.
He's a white, high-school educated laborer. Not exactly the archetype of oppression.
The forty-two year old man is not a sex offender, does not appear to be an addict, is not affiliated with any street gangs, not periodically homeless, he's just... Well, from what she's gathered, Casey Clark is just a bad guy.
And Clove is beginning to wonder if the second floor of her complex is merely a ruse for a joint housing program by Virginia Department of Corrections and Charlottesville Police - envisioned as something tacky like "a second chance for the last-time offender."
Six doors separate Casey Clark and Wilbur Cray. As if the broken glass litter the parking lot didn't terrify her enough.
Clove barely has enough time to choke on her unease before Enobaria is beckoned in.
The first thing Clove notices about Casey Clark is that his apartment is much tidier than she thought it would be. The second thing she notices is his ankle bracelet, and this is all before she catches his face.
He drops down onto a leather couch. "And I thought the minx came to play," Mr. Clark says deviously. "Shame the kit tagged along," he adds, eying Clove warily.
Mr. Clark is the poor man's Bruce Willis: tan, ridiculously muscular, with a thin layer of blonde hair, blue eyes, suited in a wifebeater.
"How are your courses going?" Enobaria inquires, her tone dull. She prompts Clove for his paperwork, and leafs through it. "Last we met, you'd moved towards section nine. You should have progressed to stage eleven by now."
"There are better things to do on the internet than take classes, sugar tits."
"Mr. Clark, are you aware that I make recommendations to the court on your behalf?"
"Don't get dressed this nice for anyone, minx," he drawls.
"Then try to behave." He smirks at that, and she mocks, "Congratulations on four months sober."
He's been her client four months. He's always been sober.
"I'm not one of those welfare bitches living off the government," he scowls.
Yeah, they're actually trying.
"Have something to say, sweetheart?"
I need to work on my poker face?
"Probation is a lot more expensive than food stamps," Clove says. "But, hey, college students work for a nominal fee of, well, nothing and they come with a lot of repressed knowledge to freely distribute, so there's that."
"That's not all they freely distribute," he says, edging dangerously closer to her with a predatory smirk.
"Brutus!" Enobaria yells, slamming her fist on the coffee table, moving herself in between the two of them.
Clove backs away, startled, and hits the wall hard. Swallowing, she observes Brutus' face contort in surprise, before he recovers with a seductive glance and a sleezy grin.
"You hot for me, Barry? You don't have to get territorial. There's plenty of me to go around," he says, huskily. "Name's a little kinky, but I'll take it. If that's what you're into."
Enobaria's eyes flash furiously.
"Mr. Clark, are you aware that you've never violated a curfew, never tested positive, have not earned so much as a speeding ticket, but are dangerously close to probation revocation anyways?"
His Cheshire cat grin widens, "You'd still keep in touch, though. Right, babe?"
"Sit your ass down, Mr. Clark!"
Brutus puts his hands up in surrender, "Lighten up. You're too tense."
Enobaria crosses her arms, considering his words. "Mr. Clark, I have been in your home for fifteen minutes and we have had two lines of dialogue about your case progression. Or, maybe, more accurately, the lack of progression. There are several individuals in my workload whom actually need my services, and instead I am being harassed by you."
"But, honey, I do need your services."
There's an abrupt, uncomfortable silence. Brutus raises his eyebrows suggestively, but Enobaria doesn't respond at first. It's then Clove notices she looks ready to laugh.
She's losing it.
Enobaria stands up tall, then works in vain to veil her impatience. "You know, it's too bad such a sweet talker spouts such foul words."
"I speak the gospel, nothing less," he says, not missing a beat.
"And exactly what good has the done you?"
He smiles, relishing in the dialogue. "I live by my convictions. Now, Mrs. Abernathy, can you honestly say you live by yours?"
He sounds fond as he says her name. It almost turns Clove's stomach.
"I can honestly say you need to schedule more appointments with your therapist."
"She doesn't understand me like you do," he says, grabbing her hand.
It takes her a second to yank it away, and then Enobaria retorts coolly, "Do not forget your five o'clock curfew."
"Aw, Barry, that's not fair! Barry!"
Clove scurries out behind Enobaria, closing the door. "Spreading the gospel?"
"That fathead also happens to be a skinhead."
"But you're not..."
"White?" Enobaria finishes, and Clove nods. "Anything with a pulse. Hell, anything that will give him the time of day. Still want to roll the die in this line of work, rook?"
They're returning to the car when Clove catches Finnick and Cato leaving Mr. Cray's residence for the second time. "I'm still figuring that out," she says to herself as she watches Finnick pat Cato's shoulder encouragingly.
Cato meets junior Marissa Volpe just before September 11th, on that very same Monday. The lithe redhead flags him down on a visit from the Prosecutor's Office for a file transfer request, breezily reassuring him Clove will soften up in a few days and they'll be the best of friends, before extending an invite to Rec Club's executive council meeting that very same night.
He attends, but as it turns out, Clove doesn't feel the need to address him.
Then again, she doesn't have much of a chance with vice president Darius' thirty-seven minute monologue about the value of inviting the co-founder of the Black Panther Party to give a guest lecture.
But, there's a catch. A $6000 catch.
Cato hangs back, artfully withholding commentary, even though he can see the smoke rising from Clove's ears. It's Katniss who asks the pertinent questions, who saves Darius from a capital sentence.
By Wednesday, he's all but given up on Clove.
The girl beside him hands him the stack of graded papers, and begins talking to her group partner about having been born in Rhode Island. Today's assignment is to gather information about the first year of your partner's life - their family life, hometown, siblings, and other mementos passed on from their parents.
Cato retrieves his assignment from the pile, then burrows for Clove's.
He wants to bury the assignment, pretend he never saw it. In red ink is a big, fat 0.
Cato hands it to her gingerly, its angry aura hot to the touch. "Dr. A made a mistake with your paper."
And to think he was going to complain about scoring a 29 out of 30. He skims his assessment, appraising for mistakes. Clove's date of birth is redacted in green ink. His sloppy '1991' is stricken out, corrected in tiny print with 1992.
Yeah, there's mistakes all around today, because that can't be right.
He's not aggrieved enough to care.
"Better luck next time" Clove says from behind him.
"Clove, zero is not a statistic. Even writing the paper should have gotten you a few points."
Cato turns around, trying to read her paper upside down, before he gives up and hijacks right out of her very hands. She leans back into her seat, entire uninterested in his tirade. "You know, I don't have my doctorate," he begins, "but I'm willing to bet this is probably one of the better-written papers he read."
Clove forces a shrug, to which Cato continues to stares her down. "You don't say anything, I will. Who knows how many other students' papers he's wrecked."
The threat inspires motion. Clove violently snatches him by the collar of his t-shirt, and grits harshly into his ear, "Don't even think about it."
"Then tell me what's going on."
"It's none of your business."
"The hell it is!" Cato balks. A few classmates turn and stare, then return to their work. He raises his hand despite Clove's string of vulgarities. If someone like her can get a zero, what's to stop him from being next?
Dr. Abernathy wanders over painfully slow, and leans onto an empty desk beside Clove. "Yes, Mister Elroy?"
Cato hands him the paper in a flurry, "There was a mistake on Clove's assignment and she was too embarrassed to let you know."
It's like clockwork. Clove turns away from the conversation, cringing.
"Ever heard of FERPA, Mister Elroy?" Dr. Abernathy asks apathetically, but with just enough contempt to leave Cato reeling. "Ms. Holloway's work is her own business."
After their professor's returned to another pair of students, Cato turns to Clove and accuses, "Professors love you."
"We've had two classes together. You've hardly seen a representative sample," Clove says, leaning into her arms with a haughty huff, eyes closed in resignation.
"You could go to the dean."
"Pretty sure I'm lucky he's not going to the dean."
"What did you do?" he asks conspiratorially.
Clove looks up, fixes her posture, reaches over his shoulder, steals his paper, and pulls him out of the classroom all in a single motion.
"My hometown is not Stoneybrook."
I don't have a dog named Happy."
"That is a pretty stupid name."
"My parent's names aren't Piper and Leo. My most influential teacher wasn't Ms. Honey. My best friend's names aren't Emma and Manny. I don't have an Uncle Jesse, or an Uncle Joey. I have an Uncle Brick in South Dakota, but he wasn't a cast member of Full House or anything!"
Entirely lost, Cato dares to ask, "What?"
"None of the answers I gave you were true," Clove spells out for him.
"Yeah, I think I got that much," he replies slowly, " but why?"
"Because you missed our first meeting."
Cato's heard of an eye for an eye, but this is more like an eye for a hangnail. And she actually thinks this is a fair trade-off, like it's a reasonably normal level of retribution to potentially ruin someone's grade for something so trivial.
"So, let me get this straight, you tried to sabotage my grades because I ditched your stupid club?" he shakes his head, whispering angrily. Looking down at her spitefully, he snaps, "Are you crazy?"
Clove is in his face in an instant, jabbing at his chest. "If it's so fucking stupid, then why the hell did you join?" Clove snarls.
"I made a mistake!"
"I'll make sure to tell Dr. Emerson that," Clove hisses, icily.
"No," Cato shakes his head in frustration. "I made a mistake by missing the meeting, but don't you think you are blowing things out of proportion?"
Her body language begs to differ.
"Then you better never have kids, Clove, because they'd be fucked."
There's a flash of raw vulnerability across her face, then Clove is grabbing her things from the desk, and hurriedly dumping them haphazardly into her bag.
She pushes past him, and sends him off with a very poignant "Fuck you!" before storming out of sight.
Cato exhales, returning to his seat. Dr. Abernathy moves on from consulting with the last pair of students, and says in a dry tone tone to the class. "Drop deadline is this Friday."
"Maybe there's a nice poetry class you'd rather be taking."
Cato runs his palms across his face and releases a sigh.
"On the phone!"
"Then I hope you don't mind the apartment burning down!"
The mess of blonde waves bursts into his room impressively fast. So, that works, he notes. Glimmer takes a second to catch her breath, spinning in all directions, "Uh-uh, Ca-to, where's the fi-fire?"
He drags her towards the chair he's sitting in. "You didn't tell me you know Clove."
"Who?" Glimmer asks, disoriented. She leans over the shoulder of his desk chair, and smacks the side of his head. "You can't just yell out fire for no reason. Pretty sure that's in the constitution, genius."
"No, it's not, and besides, this is important." Cato redirects. "What if this was the last time you ever saw me? How would you live with yourself knowing you just callously ignored my cries for help?"
"I'd say thanks for the free 4.0."
"Do the words negligent homicide mean anything to you?"
"If this is your audition for the school play, you might want to consider hiring a better script writer." Glimmer yawns.
"You realize I have over a thousand friends on Facebook, right?"
Cato rolls his eyes, "Yes, and you're gorgeous and super smart too. Can we feed your fat ego later?"
"God, it's like living with Kimmy Gibbler. Open her page."
Glimmer leans heavier on his shoulder, staring at the picture of Clove and another dark-haired girl with a birthday cake. "Pretty sure she was one of my orientees, sophomore year."
"She's in senior thesis with me."
Glimmer shrugs, "Then I probably met her at a party."
Cato snorts. "No."
"I was on the phone, Cato."
"C'mon, Glim. I will start running with you in the morning."
"You're lucky my parents taught me the importance of sharing with the less fortunate."
Cato snorts, "And saddled you with just enough daddy issues to let you jump ship."
"Low blow," she chides.
"I aim to please," Cato says, smugly.
"That explains your lack of suitors."
"Hey!" he protests as she steals his last piece of gum off the desk.
She gives him a pointed look,"Alright, so let's start with inductive reasoning."
"What kind of second rate detective are you?" she says in exasperation, "Start with what you two have in common, because according to Facebook mobile we share one friend and that would be your very pretty boyfriend."
"Walk the stalk, Glim."
"On one condition."
"You and Jo try harder to get along."
"Do I look like a miracle worker?" Cato protests.
"You pick me up some Fabios after your meeting."
He pulls her into a bear hug, grinning, "Deal."
Their mutual friends are Finnick, Glimmer, Katniss, and Katniss's boyfriend - which is extraordinarily unhelpful.
When he arrives at the underground library fifteen minutes early, he isn't surprised to find Clove meandering through her school books. She doesn't say a word.
He can't muster any himself.
The meeting's brief.
Katniss rattles off a list of upcoming social events and day trips to a crowd consisting of mostly freshman - the county jail, bonfires, the morgue, movie nights, the crime lab, and a weekend picnic - and then they agree to meet in two weeks.
He waits for the classroom to clear - Katniss and Marissa giving him a weary look as they leave - before striding over towards Clove.
"You're a good photographer. Katniss made me look through six albums worth of portfolio material," she says, not looking up from her day planner.
If only people were that simple.
Clove pulls her hair back, and looks up, "I overreacted."
Shuffling her things in her arms, Clove adds, "You'll figure out that's a reoccurring theme in la vie in Clove. I panic. I panic all the time. And, I'm not leadership material, but I'm trying, and I hope you'll stick around long enough to see that."
He'd have thought living with Glimmer would have taught him something, Jesus, anything about how to talk to women.
"You didn't get a zero by making all my answers wrong," he wonders to himself.
Big, fat NOPE.
Clove nods at him like he's slow. "Yeah, and you can't make bricks without clay."
"Do you answer every question with a question?"
"Are you aware that was not a question?"
He blatantly ignores her droll. "I'm a certified expert in fucking things up, so I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt."
Because there are only so many hatchets they can bury in one day.
"Never give me the benefit of anything. That's rule one."
Cato loosens his shoulders, and leans back. "And rule two?"
"Hot cocoa should never be tainted by blood money."
"You have a shiny 29 because I gave Dr. A all my dirty little secrets. God, what a dick."
Occam's Razor: The simplest answer is most often correct.
"Well, most people don't throw wrenches in their own plans, Clove."
"Your cannister of cocoa sat on my kitchen shelf all weekend, which is a serious testament to my self-control. So, yeah, fuck you and all your black magic. But after I coughed up that confession, I made myself the fattest cup of cocoa and had me a merry little Christmas."
Cato scratches his head, genuinely perplexed, but he's smiling. "Didn't figure you the type for a guilty conscience."
"You're a jerk, you know that?" Clove snipes, pushing at him petulantly.
"Yeah, but I come with free mugs of hot chocolate and a lifetime supply of good looks."
"And enough hot air for the Hindenberg."
"My own Liz Lemon," he chortles.
"And you're Alec Baldwin."
"You mean Jack."
"Not at all," Clove says, dryly.
Yeah, we're definitely going to be friends.
AN - Gale/Clove and Glimmer/Cato will be clarified upon, as will Cato's issues with his mother. Each chapter will divulge more as they go further into the biography project. Free cookie to the person who figures out the most of Clove's prank references! Thank you for all the love last chapter. I'm excited to get into the thick of things, and encouragement always helps!
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