Things We Found

Chapter 8

By Dabeagle

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I came home two days later. I'd slept most of the way in the car and climbed out of the backseat stiffly. I was still sore and my soul felt like a ship's sail that has been through a hurricane. Beth hugged me as I entered the shop and it felt good, like home. I climbed the stairs to the apartment over the bookstore and dropped my bag as I saw Tris, standing by the couch with a look of trepidation. We stared at one another for a long minute and then he took the first step. I matched him and we crashed together, holding tightly as if someone would try to pull us apart.

Although I'd done a great deal of it over the past several days, I cried again. Tears of relief and joy that the most wonderful person in the world was still here for me. I don't deserve him. I'd never deserve him. I hoped I could keep finding reasons to get him to keep loving me, to keep forgiving me.

Tris pulled back a little and stared into at my face. I blinked the tears from my eyes and before I could do more he was wiping them away with his thumb.

“There you are,” he said in a husky voice. “I thought I'd lost you.”

“They found me,” I said softly.

Emily topped the stairs behind me and said hello to Tris. He nodded at her and then pulled me to the couch to sit. Obviously they'd expected him to be here when we arrived. A wave of affection washed through me that he wanted to be here when I got home.

“What were you thinking?” he asked, his soft tone laced with anger. “Why would you run?” In spite of his words and even his tone, he pulled me to him and ran his fingers deep into my hair and kissed the top of my head.

I closed my eyes and clasped my hands together. “I didn't expect that you'd go against your parents. They're your family and I thought...Piper can't come pick me up anymore. I thought I'd lost you.”

Tris sighed and let out a small laugh. “I don't believe this.” He turned and cupped my face in his hands. “Ehren, Piper got into an unholy, mother of all fights with my parents after you left. I've never seen her so angry. My parents took her car keys away from her after she called them soulless trolls.”

I frowned. “So it wasn't that...she wasn't allowed to give me a ride anymore? I thought they were cutting me out of your life,” I said and wiped my eyes.

“I'd like to see them try,” he said with a snort.

“But, your parents must hate me.”

“They aren't your biggest fans, no. I think they're of the mind that you've turned their kids against them. But you know what? They'll have to get over it. And they will, at some point, make peace. I'm not sure why they think this is okay. I mean, they're adults and we're kids. Hello? We make mistakes. We're supposed to get chances. My folks think that, somehow, you don't get more chances with them? Fuck that.” He reached over and pulled one of my hands and held it between his. “So are you telling me you ran because of me?”

I stood quickly and walked a few feet away. My emotions were twisting and I couldn't seem to find any control. Had it all been over nothing? Had I just gone through all...that for absolutely nothing? The idea that I'd screwed myself over so colossally was overwhelming. Just as in that cage of a room I'd felt powerless, stupid and worthless, so now did those feelings threaten to consume me whole.

“Oh my God,” I whispered and covered my face with my hands. Tris was there, pulling me back into him and holding me loosely, just letting me know he was there. I couldn't look at him.

“Ehren,” he said, placing his lips by my ear. “I love you and I'm here.”

“How can you?” I asked, my voice feeling dead. “Do you have any idea what I've done to myself?”

“No. I know you ran away and I didn't understand why. But I need you to promise me something, Ehr. Please. You can't run from me. You have to let me help.”

I started to pull away and he held me fast, yet not pulling me tightly. I turned, feeling as if I had a candle of hope fluttering inside me while the rest of my soul had gone dark.

“I didn't think I could.”

“You always can. I'm always here for you. I love you.”

The flame brightened. “Tris, you don't know...what I've done.”

“If you're talking about coach, you don't have to tell me. I've already had nightmares. You know I don't like hearing how you used to earn money like that once in a while. It kills me to think of anyone else touching you.” He swallowed and smiled tightly. “I'm jealous like that. Possessive, I guess.”

I couldn't tell him. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I'd only done it because I didn't have Tris, but now that hadn't been true and...and what did that make me? My guilt doubled and the candle flame in my soul guttered.

“It's okay. I'm here with you,” he said and pulled me in. I fell into his grasp, feeling worthless and yet yearning for the peace of his scent, his touch. I turned my face down and closed my eyes against his shoulder and tried to block the world out. I was amazed that he stood still and just held me after all I'd done. That he let me try to reach a calm place by sharing of himself. It reminded me of how I'd thought of him and his scent to get through the ordeal. How I'd been comforted and strengthened by him, even when he wasn't there.

With a growing certainty I knew I couldn't survive without that, not anymore. I was no longer independent or free, whatever those words meant. Tris was the center of my universe. No matter how much it tore at me, I would have to tell him and face the truth of who and what I was with him. And if he should then reject me...I was done. There was no recovering. But I knew I owed that to him, even if it finished me.

“Can we...go into my room?” I asked him quietly.

“Of course. Let me get your bag,” he said, reaching over while keeping a hand on my arm. He glanced at me, let go for a moment as the bag was just out of reach and then put his arm around my shoulder as we walked into my bedroom.

The building was old, had probably been a small warehouse or something in a past life. The walls were brick and the windows large with rectangular panes of glass standing on their end marching row by row. I had a dresser and a single bed, much more comfortable than the bed I'd had when I'd been on my own. I snorted. I thought I'd been free. I walked to the window and looked out at the building next door, anything to not face Tris.

“I know I can't do this without you. As great as Emily and Beth are, they can't be you. This whole civilization thing doesn't mean anything to me without you.” I paused and steeled myself. “I thought...when I thought I'd lost you, I couldn't handle it. I didn't want to be here without you. I was ready to go back to the street, to live anywhere to avoid the pain of being here and knowing you were here, also and...having lost you.”

“I just don't understand why you would think that,” he said, standing behind me but not yet touching me. “Yeah, it didn't go well. Yeah, my parents were rude. Yeah, my house is all in a mess right now, but Ehren. Babe, it doesn't mean my parents don't love me or that I stopped loving you because they're not listening.”

A wave of despair washed through me. “I'm stupid.”

“No,” he said and placed a hand on my shoulder then applied gentle pressure to get me to face him. “You never had a family. You don't know that we sometimes yell at each other and disagree. Brandon is probably the best example that you've dealt with – he's about as thorny as a guy can be, but look how he growled at Tim when he sat down with you at lunch. Then he growled at you, misguidedly, on my behalf.” He took one of my hands in his and rubbed my fingers. “There are going to be disagreements. You have to stay and work them out.”

There had been fire and disappointment in his last statement and I felt ashamed.

“Take my house, for example,” he continued, his tone returning to something more normal. “I've never, ever heard Piper scream at my parents. In fact, I think Pipes and me are are generally well behaved. I know, you met her in a bad moment, but you've been around us. We respect our folks and generally do as asked and as expected. But this,” he said and took a breath while shaking his head.

“I'm sorry,” I told him sincerely.

“I know, Babe.” He looked at me with such an expression of affection, of...love. “You have to accept that these things happen. Even though I'm really upset with you, above all that, I love you. I've been through some shit. I know what it means to have it all fall apart. I recognize that you are what makes me go, now. We'll disagree, sometimes. Maybe even yell at each other. But you have to always remember – I love you.”

My lip trembled and I blinked moisture from my eyes.

“It's not all on you, though,” he continued with a little smile. “My parents have a point, although it's a small one. Like Piper said to them, you literally risked your life to help her. Even if I wasn't completely, hopelessly in love with you we should still be doing the right thing by you. Instead, my parents basically decided that what you did was nice, but they were calling CPS anyway. Then they doubled down and pretty much told you they'd throw you under the bus again.”

I looked away from him.

“They should have thought of a few things before they came to that conclusion,” he said and squeezed my hand. “First is that you've only been in so-called 'civilized society' for, what, six months at the most? You survived by running away. They threatened you to the point you felt you'd lost me, so you ran. They should have known better, especially when you consider that's what happened the last time.”

“Sounds like you've thought about this,” I replied softly.

“Nothing but,” he agreed. “For days there has been no other thing on my mind but you. To my point, though, when Piper and I lost it on them, they punished us by grounding us and taking Piper's keys. They didn't forbid her from giving you a ride, they were punishing us for the argument we were having. We haven't spoken to them in days.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You're not speaking to your parents?”

He shook his head. “Not a word. Our house is ready to explode. But, Ehren, we still love each other. They're still my family even if I'm ashamed of them right now.” He lifted my hand and kissed my fingers. “Just like I still love you and you're mine, even though you running away again was like a knife in my heart. Do you have any idea how worried I've been?”

I looked down and let out a breath. It was time to explain.

“When I thought I'd lost you I...Coach Belcher was someone that had paid me before. I thought of him as safe, easy money.” I looked up at Tris and the pain in his eyes caused pain in me. I wasn't sure I really understood how he felt, thinking of someone else touching me, but I knew he didn't like it. “Should I stop?”

He shook his head. “You tell me whatever you need to. I'm here.”

I looked at him doubtfully. “I feel like you deserve to know, Tris. You should know what you're getting with me,” I said softly and looked away from him. “I'm broken.”

“Then I'll help you put everything back together,” he said and wrapped me up once more in his arms and his scent gave me strength.

I inhaled and tried to focus like I had while chained to that bed. To find a measure of peace so I could tell him how he wouldn't be smart to want me, damaged goods that I was. “Belcher has a thing for feet. Foot rubs feel nice and I didn't care that he got off over it. It was easy money and I needed it for food and water for a few days.”

He moved his head and looked me in the eye. “If you want a foot rub or your shoulders rubbed or anything else, I get to do that. Okay? No one else gets to touch or kiss you. I'm your boyfriend and that's my job. Can you live with that?”

I couldn't help but smile a little and nod at him. “I can't imagine that. It's always been people paying to – what are you doing?” Tris had turned me from him and pressed me toward the floor as he sat on my bed. I folded my legs under his pressure, confused. Without saying anything, he started to rub my shoulders. Tightness that I'd been carrying for weeks began to loosen as I relaxed into his touch.

“Go ahead, Ehr. I'm listening.”

“Anyway he said there was this guy that would pay for pictures.” Tris's fingers jerked and then moved up to cradle my neck, pushing gently and deliberately, stretching the muscles. I pressed forward. “It was just my feet, really, so I didn't care. But he told me the guy would pay big if I did more for pictures”

“Jesus Christ,” Tris whispered.

With a tremble in my voice I said, “So we went to his house. At first it seemed okay. He offered me a hundred and fifty bucks to jerk off on my foot. It would have been easy money.”

“Babe,” he interrupted and pulled me back against him. He placed a hand under my chin and leaned over so we could see one another. He stared at me again and said, “No one gets pictures of you, except if you decide to send them to me. Okay? Sometimes couples will do that with each other. I know your body belongs to you, but as long as we're a couple, only I get to see you, besides you and your doctor. Agreed?”

“Um. Okay,” I said and nodded in agreement. He let my head fall forward and he began to run his fingers through my hair, caressing my scalp.

“So, um, he drugged me. He....”

“Oh. Oh, no,” he said softly and pulled me close. I grabbed onto him tightly. In a whisper I told him about the rapes. I told him about the old man. I told him about the fight. I told him that the only thing that gave me the strength to hang on was thinking of him, thinking of his scent that made me feel safe even in the dark of that cell.

He was crying by the time I was done. I was afraid he'd never want to touch me again, that he'd think I was filthy; stained. Instead he said he was tired and he pulled my shoes off before kicking his own away.

“Is it okay if I lay down with you?” he asked, stopping suddenly.

“If...if you want to.”

“No, you're not hearing me,” Tris said gently and turned my face to his. “Will it...I don't want you or me to feel terrible because I'm laying in bed with you. After what you just went through.”

“Will you? Please?” I asked as I rolled onto the bed and pulled the blanket over myself. He climbed in with me and slipped under the blanket, head on the pillow and looking at me. I held him and pushed my nose into his hair and inhaled. He held my hand and the guttering candle of hope inside me bloomed into a blaze. I still had him and he'd fight for me. He loved me. I was broken, but maybe I could be whole again.

~TWF~

We spent a very tense week waiting to hear if I'd been infected with anything from Not-Larry or the old guy. I went from one extreme to the other as I waited, wondering if I'd survived only to be handed some sort of lifelong sentence for my stupidity. Tris was proactive, looking up various things and what we'd have to do to take care of it. In a certain sense it was depressing, thinking of all the things I could have caught. On the other side, it was galvanizing to see Tris preparing for any eventuality. In the end, I was okay. Something looks out for idiots and small children is what Hastings said to me.

A few weeks later I went with Tris to meet his parents at a diner. I didn't really want to go back to their home, knowing I wasn't wanted there. It was a difficult thing to do, seeing them again. I'd not felt like I could say what I felt, before. But now, I knew Tris wasn't going to dump me for not agreeing with them. I wasn't sure where that line was, and I didn't have much intention of finding it, but I'd not let them push me around, this time.

It was an uncomfortable meeting. There were many sentences begun and left unfinished. There was more than one apology, half-apology and attempts to make me understand.

I shook my head. “Mrs. Malone, can I be honest?”

She blinked at me a few times and folded her hands, one over the other. “Please.”

“I'm not here for you. I used to like you, but I don't anymore. You don't have my best interests at heart. I'm here for Tris and Piper. It's why I went to your house last time; for Tris. I'd do anything for him.” I hesitated. “I have enough problems trying to handle everything in my life. I'm doing the best I can to make Tris proud of me and not hold him back. But I'm not a horrible person. I'm just not.” I took a breath and continued, “I've had some horrible things happen to me. I don't understand this....civilization. But Tris wants me to, so I'm working hard. It'd just be better for all of us if you didn't hate me so much.”

Mrs. Malone leaned forward with her hands clasped as if in prayer. “Ehren, sweetie, we don't hate you. We...have a hard time with wanting to keep our children safe versus...” She paused, licked her lips and said, “You frighten me. Everything that has happened to you – your parents, life on the street – it all frightens me to no end. All I can see is my children and trying to protect them from that.”

I looked at her steadily. “I won't be taking Tris to live on the street. I won't be...” I choked up, swallowing the horrible thing I was going to say. “I just won't. If there is anything we can agree on it's that we both love him.”

There was more to it, but essentially the past was to be left in the past. It still took me another six weeks to set foot in their home.

Returning to school was another hurdle for me. The Belchers were no longer employed there, for starters, and rumors swirled around the school. I was only one of about a dozen attached to their departures. Brandon eased up considerably with his attitude. I can't bring myself to ask, but I think he got a clue when news broke about Not-Larry's arrest. I even heard him, once, growling at Tris to go easy on me.

On my third day back in school he entered first period with a very smug expression. It was only notable because he normally frowned or was sort of anti-social in his own way. Smug wasn't a look I'd normally associate with him.

“I'm a genius,” he told me as he pulled his books out.

“Did someone tell you that or...?”

He cocked his head at me and his smugness grew, if that was possible. “People are stupid. You know that?”

Thinking of my own exploits I nodded. “Yeah. Sometimes you'd think that's all they were was stupid.”

“I've started four rumors this week about the Belchers. I've already heard three of them coming back around to me. Nobody really knows what happened to those two losers,” he said and let out a satisfied cackle.

I felt humbled and grateful. Not so much for myself because fuck these other people. But for Tris and what he probably was going through, with people whispering things in the hallways....

“Thank you,” I said to him with as much sincerity as I'd ever said anything with in my life.

He shifted uncomfortably and his smug expression lessened dramatically. “Let's not kiss or anything all right?”

I smiled at him. “Thank you, you prick.”

He grinned. “You're welcome.”

Tristan insisted that we stay after school every day for extra help. It was called homework club and there was no way he needed to get help. Instead he spent the time helping me catch up in math, primarily. He turned a deaf ear to my complaints about feeling like a burden and would get angry if I got huffy about the situation. It happened everyday without fail. Nothing was so difficult for me as math and, though I tried my hardest, it was a struggle to master.

It was during my second week back that I visited with the counselor for the first time. She was a solid looking woman with a cheerful smile and wispy blond hair wrapped behind her head with sticks rammed through a knot to hold it all in place. She invited me to sit and I chose a chair with close sides and she sat across from me.

“I'm Carolyn, Ehren. Really nice to meet you,” she said and nodded. “Do you have any goals for yourself in therapy?”

I rubbed my hands on my pants. “Only general ones.”

“Okay, that's a good place to start. Why don't you give me an idea of what you'd like to work on?” she asked and leaned back a bit in her chair.

I frowned lightly. “I'm in an unusual situation. I don't know how to work with people, except as a means of survival.”

“Wow” she said and smiled brightly. “There aren't very many people at your age that could identify that.”

I drew my brows together and was unsure how to respond.

“Well, quite a bit of what we do is about survival of one kind or another, right?” she asked. “Like high school. People are trying to wear the right clothes, do the right sports, listen to the right music or what ever. That's one form of survival as it applies to a social setting. Is that what you mean?”

I shook my head slowly. Quietly I told her about losing my parents and my life on the street. The can collecting, my books, Mahmoud's, even trading myself for food or cash.

“Can I say, you sound okay with all that? Like, you don't feel like that was a problem?” she asked, spreading her hands out.

I wrinkled my forehead. “It wasn't. Everything changed with Tris and Piper, and then again with Beth and Emily. I guess there were good and bad things about that change.”

“Yeah, change is a pain,” she agreed. “What were some of the good things?”

I tilted my head to one side. “I could read more instead of collecting cans or something for food. Emily and Beth have lots of food. Nothing is better than Tris, though,” I said and felt my heart rate increase.

“Wow, a guy that's better than food?” she asked with a grin. “Tell me more!”

I let out a small laugh. “I hated him at first sight.”

“What?” she asked and shrieked with laughter. It was a happy sound. “Why? How did you go from hating him to liking him more than food?”

I smiled a little and shrugged with one shoulder. “It goes back to his sister. She was in my end of town and some guys were trying to take advantage of her. They'd drugged her and she was trying to get away.” I looked at her directly and said, “They think I'm some big hero, but I'm not. I had to think about what helping her might cost me. I considered leaving her.”

“Yeah,” she replied softly and nodded her head. “But you didn't, did you?”

I pursed my lips slightly. “No. We got away from those guys and I took her back to my place. I helped her get home the next day.”

“Well, I understand why they think you're a hero, Ehren,” she replied and leaned her chin onto her fist. “People are confronted with decisions all the time. We all make some kind of cost to benefit analysis in our heads, even if we don't always listen to the cold facts. Sometimes we follow our hearts – or our better natures. When we do that, we're heroes. It doesn't mean you wear a cape and never do anything wrong. It means that for that one opportunity, you chose to follow your better nature.”

I thought about that for a moment. I wasn't convinced, but some of her logic seemed sound.

“So when did you meet Mr. Better Than Food?” she asked with a toothy grin.

The corner of my mouth pulled in a smile and I told her about meeting Tris and how we'd slowly developed into friends and fallen in love. More slowly I described my flight from his home the first time and how I'd ended up on the beach with a gun to my head. She didn't ask a great deal of questions, except to prompt me forward. The story didn't take that long to tell, in truth. I only slowed down when describing my time with Not-Larry. That was harder to talk about. Embarrassing.

“So he was waiting for you when you got home?” she asked and, as I nodded, she let out an 'Aw' sound.

“It makes Tris very upset to hear about other people touching me,” I said to her.

“You mean sex, right? Not just shaking your hand or something?” she asked. “Just clarifying.”

“Right,” I said with a nod.

“Is Tristan your first romantic relationship?” she asked.

I thought for a moment. “Well. There were a few guys I'd trade with who were nice. Cool. I didn't mind seeing them. Not like Tris, though. He's the only one I've ever loved.”

“Healthy romantic relationships are going to have reciprocal feelings,” she said and smiled. “What I mean by that is if one person loves then the other does, too. When that kind of a relationship happens then there are some expectations that usually come with that. Frequently, one of them is monogamy.”

I frowned. “I've never cheated on him. He made that clear and I never went to one of my old trading partners while we were together.”

“I should point out that you're following your better nature, again.” She smiled and raised her eyebrows and I wasn't sure if it was in expectation or what, exactly. “You're respecting his wishes for your relationship. Another item of note in a healthy relationship is equality. For instance, if it isn't okay for you to be sexual with someone else then it wouldn't be for Tris, either.”

I frowned much harder. “Tris isn't like that.”

“Isn't like what?” she asked gently.

“Tris believes that anything like that is between us. He said that, besides me or my doctor, he's the only one that should see me nude.” After I'd said it I wondered if it had been a wise thing to say. It wasn't normal to talk about the intimate details of my conversations with Tris.

“And does he apply that same rule to himself? Or more accurately, do you apply that rule to him?”

I felt a wave of confusion. “Tris never traded like I did. I don't understand.” Then, in a flash, I did. My eyes widened and I spoke even as she parted her lips. “You mean cheating? Tris? No, he'd never!”

She held up her hands and gave me her toothy grin that was somehow disarming. “I wasn't asking if he would. I mean does the rule that no one touches you sexually apply to him as well? Would you be angry if he allowed someone to be in a sexual situation with him?”

I glanced away and was suddenly consumed by a wave of jealousy.

“Ehren?”

I tightened my jaw. “I think he knows I'd be angry. I've never said anything to him.”

“Does he know about Not-Larry?”

I looked down. “Yes.”

“Was he upset.”

In a whisper I said, “He was very unhappy.”

“Did he yell?” she asked gently.

I shook my head. “No. He held me and reminded me he was there for me.”

“I'm hearing a lot of things you might need to deal with. You were neglected and abandoned by your parents. You became very independent but in an unhealthy way.” She steepled her fingers. “Adults are supposed to provide support and guidance, and you had none of that. You were forced to focus on survival instead of being a kid. Now you're being thrust into the world around you without the social skills parents should have helped you to develop as a little kid. One of the most common expectations of a relationship, a romantic relationship, is monogamy. Even if Tris expects that of you and you understand and agree with it, out of respect for yourself the same should be made clear to him. Even if you don't have any fear of his cheating, you owe it to yourself to ask for what you want in a relationship.”

“But he's already had to deal with so much crap from me,” I said, my voice wavering. I looked up at her and wiped an eye of moisture. “I don't understand things in his world. Books got me somewhere, but not everywhere. How much is too much for him? I can't lose him!”

She nodded sympathetically. “I'm not talking about you losing him. What I am talking about is being an equal in your relationship.”

“Tris always asks me stuff. He doesn't force me to do anything,” I told her firmly.

“I'm not saying he does, silly!” she said and gave her toothy grin again. “Let me try and come from another direction. When couples come in for counseling once of the biggest reasons they fight is money. If one makes more than the other it can have some odd effects. For instance, the one that makes more might feel empowered to make more decisions. The one who makes less might feel inadequate or subservient.”

“We don't have money,” I protested.

“I know,” she said and smiled reassuringly. “I'm talking about older couples. It creates an imbalance in some couples. The same can happen if they take on a lot of debt and they struggle to make ends meet. The key is always communication and validating the other's feelings while keeping things as an equal partnership.”

I shifted in my chair. “I feel like Tris and I are equal.”

“That's great!” she said and held a thumb up. “I do want you to realize, though, that you mention what Tristan doesn't want you doing but you don't say the same for him. You might feel like it's implied but when you talk about it, it kind of, sort of sounds like Tris makes the rules.” She tilted her head down and looked at me over her glasses. “Does he?”

I thought for a moment. “If he thinks of something, he always asks for my agreement. I've never felt like he was making rules for me.”

“That's encouraging,” she said with another smile.

“Why are you asking so much about things between Tris and me?”

“Hmm. Long answer, okay?” she asked and I nodded. “So most kids are going to have their first impressions and rules formed by watching relationships around them. Normally their parents or their parent and whoever their partner or partners are. Does that sound reasonable to you?”

“I never thought about it but, yeah, okay.”

“So Tris has his parents, for all the good and bad parts of their relationship, as a model. He's not going to do things exactly like they do, but they set an example. How close do you think his example is compared to the one your parents gave you?”

I cleared my throat. “Not all that close.”

“Sure, right? So as you guys both hit puberty you had different restrictions and, ultimately, different ideas about relationships and the role sex plays in them. For instance you see or saw sex as a transaction for a good – food, money, maybe a shower and a clean bed. For Tris, it's likely more to do with romance and feeling good – both physically and emotionally for himself, and depending on his maturity, for his partner.”

I opened my mouth to defend his maturity, but she spoke before I could.

“One of the wild cards in there, believe it or not, is porn. You might not have seen a great deal because you were on the street and there are fewer pornographic magazines out there than in the past – but I'm willing to be Tris has had internet access and has looked up his fair share of porn.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I demanded, feeling like she was criticizing Tris.

“Porn isn't realistic. It sends an unhealthy example about love and intimacy. Think about it from the perspective of someone who doesn't know you or Tris. You lived on the street and saw sex as trade. He, maybe as an average suburban teen, has viewed porn and thinks the goal is to have sex.” She winked. “Trust me, that's the goal for a lot of teenagers.”

“Tris and I aren't having sex. The closest we came was once in the shower, but that's it!” I protested.

She titled her head and smiled gently. “I think that's fantastic. Do you know why?”

“Fuck if I know,” I growled.

“Because you don't see Tris as a transaction and he doesn't see you as just a way to get laid.”

I looked at her for a few minutes. “This is weird.”

“Yeah, it is,” she said with a nod and laughed. “But you're very open and I'm having a more honest discussion with you – a more direct discussion – than I can have with most patients.”

I shrugged and looked at her expectantly.

“It sounds like you have a healthy relationship.”

“Because we're not having sex?”

“Because sex isn't the focus. You guys are.”

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