Chapter 2:  Jim

“Time to go to sleep, kiddo.”

His mother hovered in the doorway of his room as Jim looked up from his PADD. He had the lights off but the lights from his game still lit up his bedroom.

“Mom, I’m not a kid any longer.” He made a face. “And I’m almost to the boss of this level.”

“The doctors recommend you get a lot of rest, Jim. You’ve been overtaxing yourself. You don’t want to have a relapse.”

“Just a little longer? Okay?”

She leaned against the door frame, arms folded across her chest. “Okay but like fifteen minutes and then put it away. Please.”

Jim nodded, “Okay.”

“Don’t forget your appointment is tomorrow.”

Like he could forget.

“Yeah.”

“Honey, she just wants to help you. They all do.” She came into the room and sat on his bed. “We came to this planet because she was here and she comes highly recommended. She specializes in your condition.”

He shrugged.

His mother sighed heavily. “You could actually cooperate, you know. Doctor Cassadine is an expert in dealing with trauma as well as eating disorders.”

“I don’t have an ‘eating disorder’.” He did air quotes. “I was poisoned by the fungus making it pretty much hard to eat most food.” His bottom lip trembled. “And all she wants to know is how it makes me feel.”

“I know you saw terrible things. She’s concerned about the long lasting mental damage.”

He set the PADD aside. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I’m worried, Jim.”

“Don’t be. I’m fine.”

“You barely touched your dinner.”

“It upset my stomach.”

Mom frowned. “I used the additive that’s supposed to make it more edible for you.”

“I don’t like stew anyway.”

She reached over and smoothed out his hair. “Because of the meat?”

He lowered his gaze. “Even the smell is sickening. I told that asshole.”

“James Tiberius.”

He rolled his eyes. “Fine. I told your husband and he made it anyway.”

She shook her head. “I don’t have that much of the additive left, Jim. The new shipment hasn’t reached us here. You can’t afford to waste food with it in it now. You’re not eating enough as it is. You don’t want to go back to the hospital, do you?”

“No,” he whispered.

“I’ll make you pancakes in the morning before I leave for work. Frank will take you to your appointment.”

“I can get there myself you know.”

“We don’t have enough hover cars for all three of us and he needs to go into work to pick something up. You can right with him. I’d let you come with me but I’ll be there all day tomorrow. Once your appointment is done, you can both come back here as he’ll be working from home.”

He nodded.

“And try to do some studying, okay? I know you’re almost caught up with your online school work but you missed so much that there’s still more.”

“I know.”

“Frank is trying, you know. You could try too.”

“Is he? Like he did with Sam?” Jim couldn’t keep the note of defiance out of his voice.

“He made mistakes. He knows that. We all did. I’m sorry you ever got sent to that awful place.” She touched his cheeks. “But we decided we’d work on trying to be a family when we came here. Frank knows you’re my priority. You could meet him half way.”

Jim didn’t really think Frank was trying at all and he wanted him to leave him and his mom alone and go back to Earth or Hell or wherever he belonged. But he made himself nod.

She leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Please go to sleep. Pancakes in the morning.”

After she closed the door after him, Jim rose from his bed and went to the window in his room. He sat on the ledge, looking up at the stars. He wondered where Sam was. Was he on one of those distant planets he could see? Did he ever think of Jim?

Probably not.

Out of sight, out of mind.

But he’d met someone today.

A Vulcan.

****

“Are you ready for this?”

Jim stared at Frank as he stood outside the hover car. He pointed to the earbuds firmly shoved into his ears. He could still hear but he sure as hell didn’t want Frank to know.

Frank glared at him, pointing at the door. “Get in the car. I ain’t got all day.”

Jim almost corrected his grammar but that meant admitting he could hear, so he got in and turned away from Frank.

“Damn kid. I should rip those things out of your ears. But you’d just cry to your mother.”

Frank didn’t say anything after that as he sped into the main city of Eldred. The place was a dump but it was better than Tarsus, anyway.

Jim hiked his feet up on the dashboard.

“Feet down!” Frank screamed, turning beet red.

Jim almost said fuck you but he let it go and moved his feet down a fraction.

Frank pulled up in front of the office building that housed Dr. Cassadine’s office. One thing Jim could say was that she was cute anyway. Not as cute as the Vulcan boy he’d met. Spock. Jim was having trouble not thinking about it. And when he got home later, he planned to sneak over to see Spock and the kitten. He had a feeling Spock was going to keep her.

“I’ll be back to get you so don’t fucking going anywhere, you shit.”

Jim flung open the door and got out, not at all surprised when his mother’s husband sped away immediately. Jim flipped him the bird as he turned to look at the building. He had half a mind to just skip the whole thing. But then Dr. Cassadine would call Winona and then she’d give him hell and make him reschedule anyway.

Soon as he turned eighteen in a few months he was out of there and he’d kiss them both goodbye. All he had to do was bide his time.

He pushed open the door and then went to the elevator, pushing the button for the eleventh floor. Dr. Cassadine was the only office on this floor so the elevator doors opened up onto her receptionist.

An older woman eyed him as he approached her desk.

“Sally.”

“You’re two minutes late. She’s waiting.”

Dr. Cassadine had her dark hair pulled up into a tight bun perched on top of her head. And she wore glasses, the old fashioned kind that made her look kind of bookish. She sat behind her desk, hands folded in front of her.

She smiled in welcome. “Good morning, James.”

She insisted on calling him James even though the first few sessions he’d had with her he had repeatedly told her he preferred Jim. He gave up mentioning it because clearly she wasn’t going to bother listening to him.

He sat in the big plush leather chair situated directly in front of her desk.

“Water?” she asked.

“No.”

“Very well. Tell me about your morning.”

“I don’t see how that’s relevant. And it was boring.”

Her smile widened. “How about you give me a few more details?”

Jim leaned back in the chair. He was tempted to put his feet up on her desk just to see her reaction, but he resisted. “Woke up. Brushed my teeth. Had pancakes for breakfast. Took a shower. Got dressed. Got in the hover car with Frank. Came here.”

“Pancakes. Your mom used the additive?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And did it change their taste?”

“I guess. I mean, sure, I can taste it. But I couldn’t eat them at all otherwise.” He shrugged.

“Did you want to eat them?”

“Listen, I don’t have a disorder. None of this is psychological. You can check my records. I was poisoned by the fungus.”

“I know that, James. Did you want to eat them?”

“I guess so.”

“Do you get hungry?”

“Not this again.”

“One of the side effects of the fungal poisoning is loss of appetite. It’s a legitimate question.”

He looked at his feet. “I don’t really get much enjoyment out of eating now. I eat to live. So, no, I guess I didn’t really get hungry.”

“And that’s what we’re going to work on. There’s some evidence that trauma such as you suffered can contribute to your condition. I can’t fix you physically but we can work on the trauma to perhaps help with your appetite.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“The truth. James, I know how unhappy you are. And I know about your suicide attempt in the hospital. Your mom said you agreed to come here and get treatment. We decided to start with outpatient, but if I feel it’s in your best interest to check you into my facility—”

“I don’t need that.”

“Then maybe you can start cooperating with me here. Tell me about your distaste for meat.”

“Tastes change.”

“So, it’s not about Tarsus?”

“No.”

“You flinched when I said that word, you know.”

Jim’s jaw locked. He said nothing.

She tapped something into her PADD.

“How are your studies coming along?”

“Good. I’m almost done with the years I missed.”

“Do you think you’ll make friends here, James?”

“Maybe.” He thought of the Vulcan.

Spock.

“I met my neighbor.”

****

“Get in.’ Frank barked as he pulled up to where Jim was standing outside the building waiting. “I’ve got work to do and the sooner we’re back home the better.”

Jim got in and had barely closed the door before he was off again.

“I won’t ask you how it went because I can only imagine the smartass answer,” Frank said snidely.

Jim said nothing.

“Your mama wants me to take anger management classes if you can believe that.”

Jim glanced at him. “Are you going to do it?”

“Yeah right.’ Frank belched. “There’s nothing wrong with me. Your brother was a little prick. Fuck, even you know that. He would have made anyone lose it. And I was totally justified in sending you off planet after all those stunts you pulled. You were a little punk. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Nobody did.”

Jim could blame Frank for a lot of things. Like sending him there in the first place, but yeah, as much as he fucking hated Frank, and he did, he knew Frank hadn’t known what would happen. How it would change Jim forever.

Frank pulled up in front of the house. It was much smaller than their farmhouse back in Riverside. And Jim hated to admit it, but he missed it there. This house only had three bedrooms. His, theirs and a room his mom had put exercise equipment as well as office stuff in. It was one of those manufactured houses that went up in like a day and took even less time to tear down.

Frank went immediately into the room with the office equipment and shut the door. Was fine by Jim. He hoped he stayed in there all the rest of the damn day.