ptahrrific: Jon and Stephen, "Believe in the me who believes in you" (fake news)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2011-12-16 12:32 am

Fake News - didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted

Title: didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted
Rating: R
Pairings/Characters: Jon/"Stephen", families, OCs, Al Gore
Warnings: Children in danger, religious abuse, language, random tense changes.
Disclaimer: #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement. Characters belong to the Report. Names of real people are used in a fictitious context, and all dialogue, actions, and content are products of the author's imagination only.

Scenes from three summers in the Expectingverse. Stephen, trauma, childhood, water, and a brief history of Sweetness.

Refers to this Formidable Opponent. For my [community profile] hc_bingo round 2 card, prompts "archaic medical treatment" and "drowning".

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn't Frank just slip on the ice,
didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted

didn't the night end,
didn't the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn't my body
rescued, wasn't it safe

didn't the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn't they just end, wasn't the back garden
harrowed and planted --

—Louise Glück, "October"


George squirmed with such excitement that Stephen could barely fasten the water wings. "How come we didn't fill up the pool until today? If we had it full all winter, we could go skating! Or we could get a hot pool like the ones monkeys use in Japan! How do the monkeys heat those? How come Other Daddy has a pool anyway when there's the ocean on the other side of the house? Are you coming in the water with me?"

"I'm gonna lie in the sun for a while," said Stephen, choosing to ignore all questions but the last as he did up the final snap. "Some of us are pasty Irish Catholics who need all the tanning time we can get. You have fun, okay?"

"'Kay!" agreed George, and scampered across the pale-stone tiles.

"And no running!" yelled Stephen.

His baby boy jumped into the water, twin spots of orange dizzying the eye against the chlorine-blue. His three next-oldest kids and both of Jon's others were already there, with Jon himself somewhere in the middle and Charlene cooling her heels at the edge. Stephen retreated to the faded folding chair next to Tracey's and marveled at her ability to tune out the symphony of potential disasters assaulting her ears.

After several minutes of trying to mimic that relaxation on his own, he gave up. "Trace. Tracey!"

His wife-in-law looked up from her book, a paperback that could have been a romance novel except that there were no women on the cover. "What's up?"

"That...." Stephen waved at the riot of beach balls and foam noodles, the glorious arc of spray Mary was splashing into Nate's face, the way George kicked and giggled as Jon pulled him around the surface. "That's all normal kid behavior, right?"

Tracey tipped the book forward and scanned the chaos. "Looks about average to me. As long as they're all okay with it. Did you hear someone yelling stop?"

"No," admitted Stephen, allowing himself to sit back. "No yelling."

"Then it's fine." She peered at him over her sunglasses. "Hey, are you okay?"


The former Vice President couldn't be two people at once, so they had a pre-recorded bit waiting for the ending.

Stevie, though in awe of the guest, found his feet as he got into the swing of the debate. Stephen was left with no defense but to dig in his heels and snap "Recession!" every time a point landed. Tyrone only dropped in long enough to snark about Stephen's weight; later, he'd complain to Jon about how Stephen was the least mature party in an argument with an eight-year-old.

"We'll just adapt to the new situation!" insisted Stephen at the prospect of sea levels rising to lap at the feet of his studio.

"Okay! Let's give that a try," said Al Gore, as a tub of water rolled up in front of them.

As ever, Stephen's eyes were drawn to his own reflection. "What's that for?" he asked distantly. He didn't really care; random mirrors were fine by him.

A hand cupped the back of his neck, and the face watching his melted from a shut-down pundit into a scared child, floppy-haired and wide-eyed and mouthing the words oh God hold your breath—


He's forgetful, sure, but that just means not one of those eggheads who lets facts rule their life—

And if he looks at his parents sometimes like he doesn't know them, let alone honor them, he's probably just a bad kid who needs to be brought in line—

(The whole class heard you, boy! / Are you calling Ms. Foster a liar? / Sweetheart, you said it to my face)

They tried pinning him to the ground and shouting, Bible verses and Latin crushing his ribs. Now the words are muffled, his muscles thrashing from brain-stem survival instincts that run far deeper than faith, and God isn't making the holy water any easier to breathe.

(Insolent child, sure; ought to learn a little respect, okay; but possessed?)


"I tried to bite Al Gore last Wednesday."

Some days, getting her patient to talk about anything meaningful was like pulling teeth. And then there were sessions like today.

"Can't say I've ever heard that one before," admitted Janet. "What happened?"

The usual pile of stuffed animals sat in the padded basket at the foot of the couch, waiting to comfort any patient that needed it. Stevie's favorite was the oversized puppy sewn from multicolored patches. Today Stephen passed it by without a glance: he'd brought his own, a seal with bristlly grey-brown fur. Sweetness shifted in almost before he sat down: "The man in the big suit tried to kill me."

"He didn't," added Stephen. "He doesn't even know about you. Tell her, Dr. Scott."

Tempting as it was to fall into the role of ineffable authority, Janet hadn't earned Stephen's trust in the first place by pretending to know better than she did. She hadn't earned the protector alter's trust at all. "Can you tell me why Sweetness felt threatened anyway?"

"Because it made me flash back to a time I almost died. But Al Gore is not a murderer!"

"Okay, hang on," interrupted Tyrone. "What are you talking about?"

"You don't remember? It was your fault!"

"People, please!" exclaimed Janet. Later she would play back the tape and smile at the incongruity of it, calling for quiet over a crowd with only one voice. "I'd like each of you to take a turn and explain, in your own words, what happened. Stephen, you brought it up, so you go first."

Stephen sat back in a huff. The sofa was a run-of-the-mill purchase from Bed, Bath & Beyond, not the type of couch owned by cartoon psychoanalysts; he turned over on his back anyway, wingtips hanging over the arm. "You ever seen an exorcism, Doc?"

"Didn't even know they still did those."

"Well, they did when I was an altar boy," said Stephen. "Sometimes it involves pinning you to the ground and shouting at the demons to come out of you. And sometimes it's the same thing, only under water, which, and I did not know this, is surprisingly similar to the water Al Gore dunked me in for an otherwise brilliantly scripted bit. And now you know."

Gentle prompting from Janet get little else out of him. Had the exorcism been considered a success? Must have, since they never tried it again. Did he think it was influenced by the DID? Maybe; who could tell. Had he seriously feared he was possessed? Of course not. Even with—? Don't you talk about Sweetness that way.

His nonchalance was counterbalanced by Stevie, who begged forgiveness for having caused the whole thing by, if not being a demon himself, at least putting out the mat for them with his doubts about scripture. The incident was a complete blank for Tyrone, though he admitted with an uncharacteristic stammer that his habit of pulling faces in church behind Stephen's back might have raised a few red flags.

And Sweetness, hands twisting the stuffed seal with such violence that Janet was amazed it didn't rip apart, hissed that it wasn't any of the alters' fault. Her boys were good boys and no one was allowed to kill them, no matter how much money his documentary made. If any evil intruders ever did appear, they'd have her to answer to.

"So you see, there's no way Sweetness could be demonic," added Stephen. "If she were, she would've left when we were face-down in holy water, instead of choosing that point to show up."

"It really wasn't my fault?" whispered Stevie.

"Fuck, I think I'm getting the memory," muttered Tyrone. "What dickbag thought this was a good idea? We can't breathe!"

Normally Janet talked with alters during abreaction, providing a familiar voice and a responsive link to the present. This time, she found herself addressing the two alters who were most secure in their deserved survival. "Stephen. Sweetness. Can you two talk him through this?"

To her surprise and pride, they pulled it off. Stephen wrapped himself in an embrace; Sweetness tucked her seal's head soothingly under her chin. Janet was called on twice to back them up: more than she'd hoped for, but less than anticipated. In their soothing self-talk she even caught a few of her own stock phrases.


As always, Tracey's question stopped Stephen in his tracks. She cared enough to ask; she knew enough to understand the real answer; and of all people who fit both categories she had the least patience with the way he progressed, not in a straight line, but in winding circles. (Are you crashing again, are you having that nightmare again, didn't you just have a breakthrough, didn't you deal with this already—)

"I've been better," he admitted at last. "But I—"

"Daddy!" interrupted George, clear as a trumpet blast above the general commotion. He had clambered unsteadily on Jon's knee, one fist clenched in Jon's wet curls for support while he waved. "Daddy, watch me, watch me!"

"On three, okay?" said Jon in the distance. "One—two—"

He brought up his knee as George pushed off, erupting out of the water before falling back in with a splash that Stephen only half heard. It's Jon, he insisted, as Sweetness growled and Tyrone shielded Stevie while a throng of greyed-out strangers hovered around them. It's just Jon. He won't let George get hurt. He won't. He—

"Did you see?" cried George, paddling frantically in the water before grabbing Jon's outstretched forearm and hanging from it. "Did you see, Daddy?"

"I saw!" lied Stephen. "That was very impressive, honey!"

Maggie latched onto Jon's other arm. "Me next!"

"Easy there," laughed Jon. "I'm an old man, remember? Let me catch my breath."

The rising hiss in the back of Stephen's mind gentled, snarl melting into a long sigh: a decision made, resignation, release. Phantom wings cloaked him; a brush of feathers pressed against his skin and dissolved.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose. His eyes ached. When he opened them, it was to a newly sharpened world.

"Not to worry, kids," he declared, abandoning his seat. "Obviously you need a younger, more virile man to come to the rescue. And where can you find such a man? Right here!"

Water lapped at the cement inches from his toes, its surface throwing off a million shining patterns that broke and swirled and rearranged with every second.

Stephen aimed for a patch that was clear of kids and toys alike, took a flying leap, and soared.
politicette: (Default)

[personal profile] politicette 2011-12-16 07:02 am (UTC)(link)
I was just trawling through your archives when this popped up, and I was wondering how I possibly could have missed it when I realized that it was BRAND NEW. So exciting!

His wife-in-law

Adorable! :3333

later, he'd complain to Jon about how Stephen was the least mature party in an argument with an eight-year-old.

Awwwww. :33

Even with—? Don't you talk about Sweetness that way.

Aw, Sweetness. My favorite creepy bird-person. :3

And Sweetness, hands twisting the stuffed seal with such violence that Janet was amazed it didn't rip apart, hissed that it wasn't any of the alters' fault. Her boys were good boys and no one was allowed to kill them, no matter how much money his documentary made. If any evil intruders ever did appear, they'd have her to answer to.


I love the shifts in this, from adorable and domestic to creepy and horrific and back again. And that last line. :3
kribban: (Default)

[personal profile] kribban 2011-12-16 01:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Awww this was sweet. I see you changed it from Steve's house to Jon's. Gotta work that NJ mansion in somehow! I think it's sweet that Lorraine let three of her kids visit.

I love Stephen calling Tracey his wife-in-law. :D And she's reading published male romance! Makes me think of this guide-book:

I totally get about Tracey wanting progress to be linear and being impatient.

Jon playing with the kids in the water = <3

I'm glad Stephen made some progress in the end. Sometimes you need to make a decision to get over your fears.
ladyjaderains: (Default)

[personal profile] ladyjaderains 2011-12-16 04:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm blown away by the exorcism. The fact that the event created Sweetness is absolutely brilliant.

I love that Stephen's reaction was to want to bite Al Gore.

Dr. Janet Scott- All I can say is: Brad! Janet! Dr. Scott!

And if he looks at his parents sometimes like he doesn't know them, let alone honor them, he's probably just a bad kid who needs to be brought in line—

Oh, Stephen! This line got me so much, especially after watching Stephen yell "I'm a good boy" repeatedly on last night's show.

Aside: Sweetness and Stephen mistletoe scene, holy *&$%#@!. The first thing that came to mind was A Dry Kind Of Love and Trigger Happy.

Now you've made me want to go back and reread this entire story! I really should be working on A+, oops. Guess I'll have to use it as a reward:)