Sitting at the dining room table, Sebastian bit the inside of his mouth over and over again, waiting for the front door to open, and when it did, he hoped it was his father (a first). Indeed, it was the man, and he gave Sebastian a small and false smile before dropping a suitcase on the kitchen counter and heading towards the fridge.

"Where's your mother,' Emmett asked, though Sebastian was sure he knew.

"At Aunt Sarah's,' Sebastian answered, cracking his knuckles and looking at the ceiling. "How was work?"

Emmett shrugged, pulled out a day old rotisserie chicken and loosened his tie. "Won a relatively high profile case today, not that I think you know much of it… why should you? Football coach up North accused of fondling some cheerleaders. I don't think he did it, but…' Emmett trailed. He shook his head and remembered that he was an honorable man. "The man was innocent, but when they decide to throw you under the jail, you don't have much room to move. I was happy to do the work, but I made no friends on this case… make a bit of sense?"

Sebastian shrugged, "Sure… Yeah, I get it."

"Knew you would,' Emmett said quickly, carving some of the meat from the chicken and placing it on a tray for the oven.

"I'd be lucky to help people the way you do when I get older,' Sebastian began. Of course, this was hardly true. He wasn't even eighteen yet, and he knew that his father, like most lawyers, had enough honesty in his body to fill a half pint jar. Doubly, he wasn't particularly interested in the law or anything else really— he was sure he could get into local politics, hell, likely even state politics, but he wasn't shooting for success in Lima, Ohio or Ohio at all. All the same, Sebastian wanted to please the man before he began his line of questioning, and he knew kissing ass was going to get him there much quicker than anything else that he had previously tried (and failed at).

"Lawyer dad, law professor sister,' he trailed. Savannah could be a sore subject; even comparing himself to her usually tracked downwards. She was, still, the favorite child, and that's why her fall from grace had been so disappointing. "I guess I'll have to be the law breaker."

Emmett laughed. "As many calls as I've gotten about you, you seem to be heading that way,' he raised his eyebrows and put the tray into the oven before setting the temperature and a timer. "Have you been thinking about college, Sebastian?"

The boy nodded.

"Any particular major in mind? Degree?"

Sebastian looked at the counter for a few seconds. "Marketing, business, maybe? I could take either of those to law school."

Emmett sucked his teeth as if to ask a question but instead nodded. "I'm assuming you haven't been taking this tennis thing too seriously then, have you?"

Sebastian furrowed his eyebrows and looked up. He thought for a few seconds. "I think I would have had to been a bit better by now, don't you think?"

"You're good, Sebastian. Better at tennis than you were at lacrosse or soccer. Better than anybody at that school, that's for damn sure… I think you should see that out; I think you'll find some discipline there, and it'll pay off. Not to mention: pay well."

"I hadn't really thought of it—"

"Well, you need to,' Emmett cut him off quickly. "As much as I'm paying for lessons… you need to live and breathe tennis; I half-heartedly want to say fuck school, fuck the grades, but,' he winced. "Those matter… what's your practice schedule looking like?"

"I mean, I'm,' he began to stutter. What was his practice schedule like? Sebastian had been telling his dad that he'd been practicing every day, but he hadn't really. He was definitely working out to some degree daily, but there had been more than a few afternoons that instead of going to tennis, he had taken a nap in the school parking lot or gotten together with Hunter or one of the guys from school for a couple rounds of golf or a smoke session. He wasn't a smoker, he was always sure to mention that, but he was stressed. It was a stressful time! It was the beginning of December, and Sebastian hadn't applied to any colleges yet. He had a few missed calls from his sister and though he had, for all intents and purposes, resolved the issue with his friend group (it had died down as quickly as it flourished), he felt that he would have to do more work extremely soon to make sure that there were no other schisms before the end of the school year. He was turning eighteen soon, and his mother kept making snide comments about him 'taking more financial responsibility for himself', and ever since he and Mercedes had gone to the lake together, she had been eerily contemplative during all of their conversations. Either way, he had put her (and Quinn) on ice by using golf as an excuse, but it was no understatement that most of the things in his life were mounting in some way, and the only relief came from a nicely rolled joint. Since a mutual friend, some sophomore stoner, had taught Sebastian how to roll, his car had become a local paradise for himself, Hunter and a few other guys who needed a break from the hard and fast times at… William McKinley High School. Sebastian also felt like he'd likely benefit from even a mediocre blow job, but he was convinced that somehow Mercedes would hear about that too ('I mean', Sebastian thought, 'How the fuck did she find out about Quinn that fast?'), and he couldn't deal with any more conviction. Perhaps that was the paranoia talking.

He had to stop smoking.

"Daily,' he affirmed. "When am I supposed to start meeting with the private coach?"

"First of the year,' Emmett said, searching the cabinet for something to eat alongside the chicken. He settled on sliced bread. "The first of the year, Sebastian. He will call me. You can be hungover any other New Year's Day of your life; do not fuck with this guy. He's an Olympian. Not cheap."

Sebastian took a sharp breath through his mouth. Riveting, no, fucking really. He liked tennis; he had no problem with tennis, but no one was passionate about tennis. He had never met anyone passionate about the green ball, green court, green tape on their racket. And he knew that before long he'd be putting as much time into the sport as a young, single mother put into making assistant manager at the local McDonalds, and now he couldn't even have his once-more-unto-the-breach, dear-friends moment on New Year's Eve because some Olympian twink was waning his dad for all his expendable funds.

I need to smoke, he thought. He was going to call Hunter as soon as the conversation with his dad was over.

"I'm ready. I'm really excited for this season." Sebastian lied. "I was wanting to talk to you, because I've been looking at some schools… I wanted to know what you thought."

"Where are you thinking about?"

Sebastian cleared his throat. "Notre Dame, but,' he sighed. "Maybe Cornell."

Emmett nodded, checked the chicken and pulled it out of the oven. "See Cornell through. Look at Dartmouth as well."

"Do you…' he rubbed his jaw. "How should we go about setting up some meets with scouts?"

Emmett shook his head, "Don't worry about it,' he walked across the kitchen and grabbed a plate. "I'll take care of it. Cornell and Dartmouth, you said?"

Sebastian thought about correcting his father; he didn't want to go to Dartmouth. It was far from everything, but he was sure that that was the reason Emmett had suggested it. He thought he knew Sebastian, but Sebastian knew his father better— even if he repeated Notre Dame, he knew his father had no intention of following that request through. Softly mentioning Dartmouth was his father's course correction, and by all definitions of the word, he was the captain.

And in thinking of Henry the Fifth, Sebastian was able to at least have his in-peace-there's-nothing-so-becomes-a-man-as-modest-stillness-and-humility moment. If English kept having so much real world application (and tennis continued to withhold its desire), Sebastian considered barking up that tree. English professor son had to compete even playfully with alcoholic, law professor daughter. Not that there were any comparisons being made between Savannah and Sebastian— they were both relatively sore subjects; Sebastian had reconciled that some time ago, though he was slightly more appealing to the sight. Boys would be boys. Alcoholics would be… banished from the family if they failed a stint in rehab even one more time!

Fuck it— worst case scenario, he'd become a comedian.

"Cornell and Dartmouth,' Sebastian confirmed, smiling. His father flashed him a grin, a relative rarity, and dug into what would be his dinner. Sebastian excused himself and hustled to his bedroom, closing the door and phoning Hunter immediately.

"Clarington residence." Geordie.

"Hey, Uncle Geordie, this is Sebastian."

"Hi, Sebastian. Looking for your mother?"

"Not this time,' he replied quickly. "Hunter wouldn't happen to be in, would he?"

"How about you call back, and I'll let it ring."

"Thanks… best guy,' Sebastian dropped the phone and dialed again.

"Yup,' Hunter said, acknowledging the call was for him.

"Hunter… What are you doing?"

"I think dinner soon. What are you thinking?"

"You want to smoke a little?"

"Might be in a tight spot,' Hunter replied.

"Call our friend."

Hunter sucked his teeth. "I did call our friend… he got busted."

"Shit,' Sebastian said, sighing. "Not by the police? Busted by his mother, correct?"

"Pigs, man… they're cracking down. It's almost reelection year."

"This is true,' Sebastian said. "That can't be the only guy we know."

"The only other guy I know that sells doesn't have a car, and I'm not going on that side of town while the sun ain't up."

Sebastian sucked his teeth. "Black guy?"


"So, southside?"

"Yes,' Hunter said before pausing. "You thinking about that?"

"Maybe... All things considered, however, I'd rather not be a victim of inner city gun violence tonight. You don't have anything?"

"Not enough to match,' Hunter thought for a second. "Take your friend."

Sebastian shook his head, not that Hunter could see. "That's not really her thing."

"That friendship is about as worthless as it is damning."

Sebastian sighed. "Buddy."

"I'll be nice,' Hunter laughed. "We can swing that way after school tomorrow; he doesn't carry… how much do you want to buy?"

Sebastian thought for a second, his finger tapping rhythmically, almost methodically, on his desk. "I want to smoke tonight."

"I don't know what to tell you, buddy. If you're not trying to make that drive, I don't know anyone with anything quality."

Sebastian sighed and thought before an idea popped into his head. "Alright, I've got something. If I call you back, it's a plan."

"Got it,' Hunter said before the line clicked.

Sebastian dialed another number that he had only recently memorized. It rang a few times before the phone came off the hook.

Neither said anything, so Sebastian began. "Hey, Savvy."

"Hey, Sebastian, how are you?"

"Good, what are you up to?"

"Grading some papers,' Savannah replied. "It's been a while since I heard your voice. Is something wrong?"

"No, I'm okay. I've been meaning to call you for awhile, um… but something did come up, so I figured I'd go two birds, one stone with it."

Sebastian heard shuffling on the other end of the line and held his breath.

"What's going on? Do you need somewhere to stay?"

"That did sound a bit ominous, huh? No. I need to find some marijuana, preferably quickly. I recognize that that was your paraphernalia of choice while you were under our parents' roof, so I was wondering if you still had any contacts here."

The line was dead for a few seconds. "Let me get this straight. You just called me to see if I could put you in touch with my weed guy?"

Sebastian took an exaggerated inhale before breathing out heavily. "Savannah, I'm going through a lot right now. As we know, I don't even smoke that much, so, clearly—"

"That is the second time I've heard you say something to that effect almost exactly before going on to smoke, so I can't say that I, personally, know you as anything other than a pothead."

He placed a hand on his face. "I'd rather be anything but that."

"Then stop smoking."

"I will! After you help me."

Sebastian and Hunter sat in front of the driveway for minutes with their headlights dimmed, trying to determine if they were really going to see the plan through.

"This is the address your sister gave you?"

Sebastian nodded.

"And she told this guy you were coming?"

Sebastian nodded.

"Does Savannah have any reason to want to bust you? Like, any bad Smythe blood going on over there?"

Sebastian shook his head.

"Have you even spoken to her since we went to see her a couple months ago?"

Sebastian looked at Hunter out the corner of his eye. An answer.

Hunter nodded his head before running a hand through his hair. "I'm going to be real with you— I'm not going in there."

"Hunter, come on."

"I mean, I'm not going to tell you not to go in there. You should also leave the car keys with me."

Sebastian looked at Hunter with cold eyes before turning the ignition off and throwing the car keys at him. "Fuck you. Give me the money."

They swapped hands, and Sebastian exited the vehicle before walking up the driveway. They hadn't been slow to action because the area was alarming, but exactly the opposite. The neighborhood was in Fort Shawnee, a rural section of the metropolitan area and home to many of the wealthy, retired citizens of the Lima area. A two story, brick and panel tudor home with a lighted driveway and two cars on the street (and surely more in the garage). Sebastian trudged up the driveway, his heart racing, and when he came to the front door, he knocked.

After a few seconds, the door opened to reveal a man, about Sebastian's height, wearing a white, Patriots t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. He was a black guy, not bad looking, bald and shoe-less. They sized each other up for a few seconds before Sebastian took a step back.

"You live here?"

"No,' the man said with a cheap frown. "It's my parents' place. I live in the basement."

Sebastian and the man retained eye contact before Sebastian averted his gaze awkwardly.

"Yes, it's my place, you dick… that mentality there,' the man wagged his finger. "That's why they just let O.J. off. Just like your sister."

Sebastian could feel a laugh approaching, so he shrugged his shoulders. "What do you mean? My sister is a bleeding heart liberal."

"Your sister is a bitch,' he backed up and let Sebastian into the front door. "She's a fox though, and let her know I said that."

The man was Mark, and he and Savannah had gone to high school together. He was a chemical engineer and worked at some factory outside of Columbus. The commute wasn't terrible, so he still made it, and he smoked with Savannah every now and again. He also had an impressive plant garden, but Sebastian wasn't that interested in the esoteric details of weed farming. He just wanted to get high.

"You wanna smoke a little before you go?"

Sebastian shook his head. "I have to drive, and if you're Savannah's guy then I'm sure this is no weak shit."

Mark laughed and shook his head. "You can cut her some slack, she's had a rough life. You've had the same life, I'd think you two would see more eye to eye."

Sebastian didn't have a quick response or any really. His feelings about his sister weren't cemented, and if anything, they were more fluid than ever before. "What makes you think we don't see eye to eye?"

Mark paused, raising his eyebrows at Sebastian as if they were both in on the same inside joke. "Her and I don't mince words— she told me you were a little shit. You'd try to flex on me a bit... you're a 'growing boy' and 'arrogant', maybe she said 'stupid'... I stopped listening after a bit; you have to remind Savannah you're not her therapist,' he mused sarcastically.

"She said all that? She tell you what time I was born too?"

Mark laughed. "She cares for you, I'm sure. That's the thing with bleeding hearts... they bleed everywhere. Same blood as you."

Sebastian sighed, eyeing the latening clock. "She's a bit more emotional than I am— than everyone. That's been a weakness for her."

"Oh,' Mark nodded. "I totally agree, but emotions are what make us human. I think I'd rather see someone bleeding everywhere and feeling that vulnerability than pretending their whole life that their shit don't stink. You'll meet some people who kept ignoring the inner-workings of their mind and heart for so long, they became the robot they were posturing as... That's some cruel shit."

"You know that from smoking all this weed?"

"You're damn right I know that from smoking all this weed, and that's why I'm about to smoke some more,' Mark replied. He began to roll one on the living room table, though Sebastian was sure the guy was already fucking baked. "Working with all those scientists all day long; it's a colorless world, really. They payin' me the big bucks though, so I get to spend all the money I want on helping make sure other people don't get locked away up here,' he pointed to his brain. "You should really smoke, kid. Free your mind. You seem tense."

Sebastian got back into the car with a huff, and Hunter looked at him incredulously.

"Give me my keys."

Hunter handed them over, but remained uneasy. "Well, what happened? Did you get it?"

Reaching in his coat pocket, Sebastian threw the zip lock bag at Hunter and put the car into reverse. "How much is this? A half?"

Sebastian turned his nose up and shook his head. "Maybe a little bit more, he didn't weigh it."

"You got a half for $60?" Hunter asked.

Sebastian thought for a second and felt the heavy weight of the folded twenties in his pocket. I guess Mark must really like Savannah, he thought.

All things being considered, Hunter hadn't helped him much that night, and he likely wouldn't be having another monumental character crisis on the horizon had Hunter came in with him in the first place.

"What can I say? I know my way around a business deal."