and Dad, how'd ya get so rad?
"You don't look much better," Spike pointed out, and he was right. The entire upper half of her body was covered in tiny little nicks and scratches from the light exploding. And all three of them were covered in about a couple hundred dollars worth of drugs. Faye started giggling for no good reason and then collapsed on her bed.
"Bebop-Bebop is nuts, nuts, nuts!" Ed pointed out through a huge yawn. Spike and Jet looked at each other and laughed. When Ed called you nuts, you were in some serious shit. They laughed for about five minutes straight and then passed out.
* * *
The next day, the Brownstones trudged their way into circle group looking like zombie movie refugees. They were barely able to keep their eyes open and barely able to lift their feet off the ground. Spike was wearing a pair of Jet's pants, which were about two sizes too wide and one size too short. He also walked with a strange, lopsided little limp. Faye managed to cover most of her battle scars with makeup so she didn't look like she lost a fight with a lady Bic. She just looked strangely orange. Ed did her best to over compensate, marching into the room with her arms swinging wildly and her knees practically hitting her chin as she led her sorry posse to their seats.
"OK..." Harlow said slowly as she watched her star pupils stumble into their chairs. "I trust everyone had a good nights sleep?"
Judging from the response of the room, it seemed the Brownstones weren't the only ones to have a decidedly long night.
"All right then," Harlow smiled in what she thought was a warm way. "Let's dive right in then. Today we are going to discuss the dynamics between parental authorities and children."
Ed suddenly made a yelping sound for really no conceivable reason and then quickly covered her mouth. The Doctor Person was staring at her and she didn't like it at all.
"You have anything to say, Spot?" Harlow asked her. Ed shook her head without removing her hand. She looked like one third of the See No Evil monkeys.
"Are you sure?"
She nodded, hand still firmly in place.
"Why don't you put your hand down, Spot? Let me see your pretty face?"
Ed looked to her friends for conformation and they all nodded. Slowly, she lowered her hand to reveal one of her trademark grins that took up over half of her face.
Harlow gasped a bit in spite of herself, shocked to see that a human mouth could actually stretch to such extremes. What was the mother on when she was carrying her, anyway? "Well, I think Spot just volunteered herself and her father for our first exercise this morning," she said as if she was a game show host awarding a consolation prize.
Spike's eyes got huge. "Exercise?"
"Yes. Why don't you two come to the center of the floor?"
Both Spike and Ed made their way slowly to the center, Ed once again assuming the identity of Upside Down Girl. "Spot, dear, why don't you stand on your feet like a good girl?" Harlow asked her.
"Spot is no more! Only Upside Down Girl!"
Harlow looked at Spike expectantly. Spike just shrugged. "Eh. The blood'll rush to her head eventually."
As if on cue, Ed toppled over and then rolled to a sitting position. "Spot is back," she said, wobbling a bit from the dizziness.
Harlow shook her head. "Now let's do a little role-playing. Lee, you'll be the father..."
"Whew," Spike cut her off. "For a moment I thought you were gonna cast me against type."
Harlow narrowed her eyes. "You know Mr. Brownstone, sarcasm is the refuge of the weak."
"I'd like to call it the salvation of the extremely bored," Spike shot right back. They held another brief showdown with their eyes. It was getting to the point where mornings at circle group were more like high noon at the OK Corral.
"Ok. Spot," Harlow said sharply, making it a point to deliberately turn away from Spike. "Let's pretend you have just broken something very valuable of your father's."
"Cigarettes!" she cried enthusiastically as the rest of the group chuckled.
Harlow was about to object but the smug look on Lee's face told her it wasn't worth the trouble. "Fine. You smashed your dad's cigarettes. Go tell him," she said. "And Lee, I would like you to react as you normally would."
Ed shot up to a standing position and marched stiff legged over to Spike as if she were about to face a firing squad. "Father Person," she said with an air of great importance. "Spot has squished your cigarettes," she said in a long, sweeping bow. The she looked up at Harlow. "How was that?"
"Fine, Spot. Now, Lee, how would you react?"
"How would I react?"
"Yes. In a normal situation."
Spike shrugged and ambled over to where Faye was sitting. He reached into her jean pocket, which caused her to squeal in protest, and emerged with a pack of her own cigs. He walked back to his chair with them, sat down, and lit one up.
Harlow was about to point out that really was only a short term solution and did not in any way address the actions of the child, and also that there was no smoking, when she noticed Mrs. Brownstone leaving her seat from across the room.
"Ass," Faye snapped, snatching the pack defiantly back from his hand. "That's my last pack." Spike blew a puff of smoke in her face as he snatched them right back.
"You mean my last pack. I bought ‘em."
"You so did not. I bought it. I remember distinctly we were in that bar in TJ and I bought one off that transsexual hooker with the lazy eye," Faye huffed as the rest of the group gawked in voyeuristic glee.
"Yeah, and you asked to borrow five woolongs to do it cause you had just blown your money on a cock fight. Remember? You bet on the little black one with the gimp cause you felt that "it was due," Spike made air quotes. "What the hell was its name..."
"Keyzer Soze," Faye pouted the answer. "And that was the last last time we were in TJ. I might have borrowed money from you last last time but last time I bought them myself."
"Please. It was last time. I lent you the money to buy these cigarettes therefore they are technically my property."
"Jet!" Faye stomped her foot for some support and then caught her faux pa. "I mean...Chuck! Whoever you are!"
Jet sighed. "It was last time," he admitted reluctantly. "Not last last time."
"Ha!" Spike said in triumph.
Faye muttered a neat little string of profanity before huffing, "Whatever," and storming back into her seat.
There was a brief moment of silence, and then the entire room burst into thunderous applause. They even got a standing ovation from a few of the other therapy members.
"Whoa, whoa, WHOA!" Harlow waved her arms in the air to silence the group. "That was a typical reaction?!?"
Jet nodded. "Yeah...that's pretty much how it would go," he sighed.
"Yes!" Ed leapt up from her place on the floor. "Very, very lifelike!" She sprung herself into a headstand. "Upside Down Girl gives Mother and Father Persons two toes up!"
Harlow shook her head in wonder. "You honestly feel that was an appropriate conversation to have in front of your daughter?" She looked at their blank stares and decided to rephrase her question. "Wait. Forget that. You honestly feel these are appropriate hobbies for parents to have? I mean, cock fights? Lazy eyed hookers? Jolly holidays in Tijuana?!?"
"She's used to it," Spike shrugged. He really couldn't see where she was going with this. Its not like they asked Ed to go along on these little excursions and the mere discussion of cock fights and whores wasn't anywhere near the level of dysfunction of these other families. And even if they did take her to see cock fights and whores. So what? What is so emotionally damaging to a child about pissed off chickens?
"She's used to it," Harlow repeated. "Have you ever considered once what kind of effect this is having on her?"
"Well, it's not like we're keeping her here. She can leave if she wants to," Spike said in his defense, and then realized exactly what he had just said. Most 13 year old girls couldn't pick up and leave if they wanted to. Sure, Ed could. She had joined up with them just as easily and she was clearly more than capable of taking care of herself. But not all families were like that. Most families had their kids captive by law. He suddenly realized how unfair that was.
Harlow was beside herself. "Mr. Brownstone," she said, her voice practically shaking. "A thirteen year old girl cannot simply pick up and leave if she wants to. You are a family. You're not just...just...roommates!"
Spike seemed slightly taken aback by that declaration. He looked quickly around the room. Once at his partners, and once at the others in the group. Finally, he shrugged and asked, "What's the difference?"
Harlow's face turned beet red, as if she was trying to contain a primal scream. It was in that moment that a security guard poked his head in the door. "Excuse me, Dr. Harlow. May we borrow Lee Brownstone for a minute?"
The room looked at Spike much in the same way a second grade class would regard a kid just called to the office. "I think Dr. Harlow would like nothing better than for you to borrow me," he said wryly. He winked at her once, just to rub it in a bit, and then walked out of the room. There were about nine other guards waiting for him as they quickly escorted him down the hall. "Can I ask where we're going?"
"Dr. Lesseps is curious to meet you," one replied curtly and Spike grinned.
"Interesting. I'm curious to meet him too," he said as they practically tossed him into the office and slammed the door behind him.
A huge executive chair swiveled around to reveal the decidedly un-imposing form of Joe Kahn. He was only about 5'3, and the friendly beard and dainty spectacles made him more like an elf at the mall than a dangerous drug dealer. "Good afternoon, Mr. Brownstone," he said in a silky voice.
Spike laughed a bit. "Shouldn't you be stroking a white cat or something?"
"I heard there were some patients out past curfew last night," he said quickly, ignoring his remark.
"Would you know anything about that?"
"You seem to be in a bit of pain, Mr. Brownstone," he observed casually. "I saw you wince a bit as you took your seat."
"Indeed. Would you mind lifting up your shirt then?"
"Dr. Lesseps, are you trying to seduce me?"
"Don't fuck with me, kid," the good doctor suddenly snarled. He had dropped his smooth operator demeanor and now spoke in a tone more becoming to a casino bookie.
"Or what?" Spike shot back, leaning forward in his chair. "You can't do shit to me here. It'd be real bad publicity if patients disappear from your facilities. Don't think it won't get out."
"You're right," Kahn relented. "But at the same time, I can make it very difficult for you and your uh...family. And in much more legal and interesting ways. For instance, from what I've been hearing, you and the Little Mrs. haven't exactly been shining examples to your lovely daughter. It would be a shame if the state should be compelled to...intervene." He said the last word with such chilly malice that Spike had to make a conscious effort not to shudder.
"You're bluffing," he said, though he wasn't sure that he was.
"Hmm...well, I guess you could venture out of your room again, and we'll find out."
Spike narrowed his eyes, feeling a sharp sense of both rage and panic build in his throat. "You lay a hand on my uh...family," he said darkly. "And we'll play another little game of cause and effect."
The two men regarded each other for a moment, neither one doubting for a second the other was dangerous, but both entirely unaware of the other's true motives. "Good afternoon, Mr. Brownstone," Kahn repeated sharply as the door swung open and Spike was escorted roughly out of his office.