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there's the part you've braced yourself against, and then there's the other part

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Juno’s psychiatric evaluation does not go well. It’s eighteen months since Benten died, and he finished the academy and his mother is in jail. He’s just graduated from the academy – barely – so now he’s applying for a job as a cop. Not in Oldtown, he can’t go back there anymore.

 

Part of the application process is seeing a shrink to see if his head is on his shoulders right. Juno can tell you now – it is not. Juno is currently exceedingly addicted to prescription painkillers and wearing out his liver drinking himself to sleep when he isn’t out all night getting fucked up in bars. He can admit that to himself. He’s not certain he wants to be alive, now that Benten isn’t. But he’s not going to say that to his prospective employer.

 

So when he sits down across from the smiling woman, he’s already defensive. She’s young, only a few years older than him, and her smile is too wide and her hair is too blonde. Juno irrationally hates her before she says anything.

 

“Hello, Juno,” she says gently. “My name is Callista Barton, and I’ll be conducting your psychiatric evaluation today. We’re just going to talk about a couple of things you put down on your written evaluation and talk about why you want to be an officer.”

 

Juno nods. Doesn’t speak. He hasn’t had a drink today or a drug this week – they test his blood and urine after he’s done here - and the fluorescent lights are like nails through his skull.

 

“I understand your brother recently passed away?”

 

Juno is flooded with rage that he wrestles down before he opens his mouth. “Murdered. My mother murdered him. He didn’t pass away, he was killed.”

 

Callista opens and shuts her mouth a few times. “My mistake.” She leans forward. “I did watch the video of your testimony at your mother’s trial. That must have been difficult.”

 

“Yes,” Juno grinds out, after a moment.

 

Suddenly, she’s all business. All disinterest. Inspecting her fingernails. Juno is instinctively suspicious. “Look, Mr. Steel, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. Just talk to me for a bit so I can check this box that says the HCPD can hire you. Can we do that?”

 

Juno tries to snap himself out of it. He needs the job. “Yeah. We can do that.”

 

“Great.” She picks up her notebook. “You grew up in Oldtown?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I did.”

 

“Rough part of town,” she comments.

 

“Yeah,” he says noncommittally.

 

“What was that like?” she asks, not unkindly.

 

“It wasn’t great,” Juno admits, scratching the back of his head. “Not a lot of money. Lots of crime and drugs. I ran away a lot.”

 

“Where did you go when you ran away, Juno?”

 

“Sewers, mostly.” Juno smiles despite himself. “When Ma got really bad, I’d hide down there.”

 

“When you say she got bad…” It’s a leading question, and a lifetime of if you say a goddamn thing to anyone, little monsters, they’ll split you two up and you’ll never see each other again makes Juno’s spine stiffen.

 

Juno blinks away the memory. “She killed her kid. Clearly she was a violent maniac.”

 

“Well,” Callista starts, but Juno interrupts.

 

“I really don’t want to talk about my mom. She’s not important anymore. She beat me, a lot, and killed Ben because she thought Ben was me, but that doesn’t matter. She’s in prison.” Goddamnit. Juno is fighting back tears. He wants to be stonefaced. Expressionless.

 

“She thought you were your brother?”

 

Juno stands up sharply. “You watched the goddamn testimony. I’m not interested in talking about how much my mother hated me. It doesn’t affect my work as an officer.”

 

“Okay,” Callista compromises, and Juno takes his seat. “Let’s talk about right now. How much sleep do you get?”

 

“Enough, like six or seven hours?” Juno estimates, and firmly does not count the two hours he usually spends in the middle of that shaking and crying and drinking post-nightmare.

 

“Good. Eating healthy?”

 

“Yeah,” Juno says. Maybe takeout isn’t healthy, but he’s eating enough to get by.

 

“Are you in a relationship?”

 

“No,” Juno says. “I’m, uh, trying to focus on getting a job.”

 

“Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?” This is important. Callista leans forward.

 

“No.” Juno does not mention that he has never been to a therapist before this exact moment.

 

“Juno, I ask that because your written evaluation came up with some flags for depression and potentially post-traumatic stress disorder,” Callista says earnestly.

 

“I’m grieving,” Juno says flatly. “My twin is dead.”

 

“I understand that, Juno.” Callista backs off a little bit. “How are you coping with grief?”

 

“Uh.” Juno is stumped. He can’t say drugs or alcohol or rough sex because then he might not be able to be an officer. Ben wanted him to be an officer. “Talking to friends?” Getting drunk with Mick and Sasha every couple of months had to count for something.

 

“That’s good.” She makes a note. “What do you do with your friends?”

 

“Uh, we go to a bar usually?” Juno hates that everything he says in this stupid little office is a question.

 

“Hmm. How often would you say you drink alcohol?”

 

Juno frantically casts around for a non-concerning number. “Uh, like twice?”

 

“Twice a week?”

 

“Yeah.” Twice a day, usually, especially now when the whole world is expecting him to move on. Like he can ever move on.

 

“Do you take any other drugs?”

 

“I used to, as a kid,” Juno admits. It’s always better to lead with some truth before outright lying. Ma taught him that, and he hates it. “Kicked the habit the year before I joined the academy. I did hard drugs, mostly. Not anymore, though.”

 

Juno only realizes he’s fiddling with his sleeves when he sees her eyes flick to them. He puts his hands flat on the table, sees the scars and nails bitten bloody, and stuffs his hands into his pockets.

 

“Okay. How did you quit taking drugs?”

 

“Sheer force of will,” Juno lies. “I wanted to be on the force. Had to quit to pass the drug test for the academy.”

 

“Why do you want to be a police officer, Juno?”

 

“I, uh, want to help people. I’ve always wanted to make Hyperion a better place, but I’m not cut out for politics or social work. My aim’s too good for that.” Juno shifts in his seat. She seems to want more of an answer. He eventually bites out, “And my brother wanted me to join up.”

 

Callista nods sagely and marks something down that Juno cannot read upside down. “That’s great, Juno. I’m sure he’d be very proud.” She pulls a sheet out of a folder, and Juno recognizes his own handwriting. “Let’s go over your questionnaire. In the past two weeks, how often have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?”

 

“Uh, what did I write?”

 

“You filled this out a couple of months ago, right? Don’t worry about that, just tell me how you’re doing now.”

 

“What are the options?” Juno wonders what this question is really asking.

 

“Not at all, several days, more than half the days, or nearly every day,” Callista reads crisply.

 

“The last one,” Juno says reluctantly.

 

“Do you prefer to stay at home rather than going out and doing new things?”

 

“Doesn’t everyone?” Juno laughs harshly.

 

“That’s not the question.”

 

Rolling his eyes, Juno says, “Yeah. I prefer to stay home.”

 

“How’s your sleep? You said it was going all right?”

 

“Yeah. Just, um, a lot of nightmares. They wake me up.”

 

“That’s understandable, Juno. Nightmares can – “

 

Juno cuts her off. “I don’t want to talk about my nightmares, okay?”

 

Callista holds up her hands in defeat. “Fine, fine. One more – have you had any thoughts of suicide over the last year?”

 

Juno feels his mind come to a screeching halt. He denies thinking of suicide too quickly, and both of them can tell.

 

“Juno, you can tell me. It’s just information. Clearly, you didn’t actually do anything.”

 

Juno stifles a cruel laugh. This woman has no idea what she’s talking about. No one does. “Yeah. When your own mother thinks your twin is you and shoots him, it makes a lady think he might want to join his brother.”

 

“Have you…”

 

“Attempted?” Juno scoffs. “No.” It’s not entirely a lie.  Not caring if you live or die – crossing streets without looking, taking more drugs than you can handle, letting anyone who wants to take you home, treating your body like it’s disposable - is not technically attempting suicide. Technically.

 

“Okay, Juno. That’s good to hear. Have you considered regular counseling?”

 

“No,” Juno says. “Doesn’t work for me.”

 

“Have you tried?” Callista gently prods.

 

“No, but I haven’t tried a sleepover in the Martian desert, either.” Juno is getting a headache.

 

“Counseling can be difficult to get started, Juno,” Callista says. “I could refer you to a colleague.”

 

Much as Juno wants to snap, wants to yell and scream, he shoves it down. “I don’t think I’m able to afford that right now. I’m sorry,” he says as politely as he can manage. “Besides, officers get free counseling sessions, right?”

 

“That’s correct, Juno. I just want to make sure you’re safe and healthy.”

 

“Yeah, all right,” Juno says, squirming in his seat. “Do you have other questions I need to answer for the evaluation?”

 

“There are a few more, yes. Can you tell me what you would do in the following situations…”

 

***

 

Callista has been doing this a while. She’s screened hundreds of fresh-faced recruits and kept dozens out of a profession they aren’t suited for. She’s not sure about Juno. He's clearly a self-destructive mess, but the extent isn't clear to her. Eventually, she stamps his file with the words “HIGH RISK,” and tries to pull her boss aside to ask what he thought.


Captain Hijikata is a tall, broad, soft-spoken man who rarely smiles. She asks to see him in his office, where he offers her a coffee from his private coffeepot. She accepts graciously.

 

“Captain, sir, Steel’s eval didn’t go as well as I would like, for him to join up,” Callista starts haltingly.

 

Hijikata nods, sips his coffee. Says nothing.

 

“He’s clearly suffering after his brother’s death, but I don’t know if he is struggling with grief or deeper-seated mental health instabilities. I know you took an interest in Steel, but at this time I think he’d be a liability – “

 

The captain raises one hand, palm out, silencing Callista. “I’m hiring Steel,” he says, setting his mug down.

 

“But he’s unstable and –“

 

“I’m sorry, did I ask for your opinion?” Hijikata stands, paces over to the window. “Tomorrow morning, I would like a psychological evaluation on my desk that I can greenlight.”

 

Callista nods, then realizes Hijikata’s back is to her. “Yes, sir,” she says hastily.

 

“The kid’s an incredible sharpshooter,” the captain remarks. “We could use that in the 151st. Make it happen, Barton.”

 

“Yes, sir,” she repeats, and slips out of the captain’s office. She has some paperwork to re-file.