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Sometimes, Claire doesn’t think she’s cut out to be a weed dealer.

Oh, she has the street smarts, and the connections, and the attitude. The problem is she doesn’t have the people skills. Every meetup with a buyer was like her own personal hell, because for some reason they could never just treat this like the business transaction it was and wanted to form some kind of friendship with their plug. Having to pretend like she cares about their stupid little lives and stupider little troubles is like pulling her own teeth out, and she normally ends up snapping before long. This is why, Alex always tells her, her only loyal customers are a few “weirdo recluses” like the pretty girl with bags under her eyes or the advanced placement nerd constantly looking over his shoulder for his mom.

Whatever, she likes her weirdo regulars, and her clandestine nature gets plenty of first timers directed to her.

Like this next buyer she’s currently driving to meet. Patience had hooked him up with her number, which is odd since Patience doesn’t deal or even smoke, but it’s Patience and Patience just seems to just know everything about everyone. Claire has stopped questioning it.

Their one text conversation was only two texts long, just enough to sort out where to meet, so signs were looking good he wouldn’t be a total annoyance.

She pulls up to the designated spot— a multi-level parking lot behind a line of stores that included a thrift store, two fast food restaurants, and a build-a-bear.

She parks in a spot on the near empty third level and climbs out her station wagon, looking around. At first, it looks like the guy isn’t here yet, but then someone is stumbling out of an old chevy impala and holds up a still hand in some kind of mix between a wave and a salute.

“Hello!” he says. “Are you Claire?”

The guy looks awkward and non-threatening, which is nice— after the first couple of guys who thought it was just “so hot” that she’s a girl who smokes weed, like the concept is as rare as a damn unicorn, she started carrying a pocket knife. She doesn’t mind threatening people with it, but it’s preferable to not be harassed in the first place.

“Yeah,” she says. “You’re Jack, right?”

She takes a seat on the low wall and Jack follows, more like he’s mimicking her than a natural action— weird.

“Yes, I’m Jack.” He nods, though her question was mostly rhetorical.

“Well, Jack, what’s your poison?”

He scrunches his face in confusion. “Ummm...marijuana? Preferably of the non-poisonous kind?”

Wow, she could probably sell this kid oregano, still in the jar with the label on.

“I mean, are you looking for any particular strain? I’ve got a few on me.”

She doesn’t particularly want to watch him flounder, so she heads back to her station wagon without waiting for his answer and pulls out a few individual baggies of everything she has on her right now.

“Okay,” she starts, laying everything out on the wall between them. “So this is Ice Cream Cake, it will mostly make you feel relaxed as shit. This—” she points between baggies as she goes. “Is OG Kush, which will make you feel happy as shit. And finally we got Pineapple Express, which is like...kinda energizing, I guess.”

He’s staring at the baggies thoughtfully, like he expects her to quiz him later or something.

She rolls her eyes. “It’s hardly Sophie’s choice, dude. So, what do you want?”

“Ice Cream Cake is my favourite Red Velvet song,” is what he finally says.

Claire has no idea who that is and she doesn’t care.

“Ice cream cake it is,” she says decisively. “How much you in the market for?”

“Uh...not a lot, I guess? It’s my first time, what if I don’t like it?”

Jeez, she could rip this kid off so easily. He’d have no idea how much he should buy, or how much it should cost. It’s not like she’s never charged preppy college kids $30 for a gram before. She’s in this for the money, not to guide people through baby’s first bong rip. It’s just...this kid should annoy her. He’s fucking clean cut and clueless, and these are normally things that would have Claire wanting to cheat him on principle. But the way he’s looking at her now, unsure and earnest...there’s just something about him that makes her want to take pity on him, or whatever.

“Tell you what—” Claire sighs as she feels her deeply buried soft side take over. “I’ll roll you a freebie. If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to buy it, no harm done. Well, probably no harm done. You might green out, but whatever, I’m sure you can find some excuse to tell your mommy when you come home with vomit on your shoes.”

“Oh, my mom’s dead,” he says plainly.

Oh.

“Didn’t ask for your life story,” she mutters under her breath, reaching into the pocket of her leather jacket for her stuff.

She doesn’t meet Jack’s eyes as she grinds up a blunts worth (with a holographic rainbow grinder she stole from the pretty girl with bags under her eyes) and packs it into her cherry flavour rolling papers (store-bought) and lights it up with a battered black zippo (her dads, though god knows why he had it when he never would have smoked anything lest he get smited by the lord).

She takes the first toke, because she can, before passing it over.

“Don’t cough your lungs up,” she says pleasantly.

Jack holds the blunt awkwardly, pinched between two fingertips, and brings it to his mouth.

He coughs his lungs up.

The second toke goes down smoother and he smiles at her. “I think I’m getting the hang of this.”

She laughs, unbidden, at his unabashed sincerity, like she’s a teacher he’s trying to impress.

“You’re a natural.” It comes out with less bite than intended.

“You should have some more.” He passes the blunt back into her hand. “You know, since you’re giving it to me for free and all.”

She considers it for a minute, before mentally saying fuck it and bringing it to her lips. He’s right, it is only fair.

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“Dude, how have you never heard this song?” Claire laughs.

Jack shrugs, laughing as well.

They’re still in the parking lot, sat on the ground and reclining against the wall now. They’d somehow gone from one freebie blunt to sharing three. Jack should be fucked up by now, but surprisingly he’s got the tolerance of a tank for a first timer. Claire normally smokes a little each day, just to take the edge off, but not so much in a small period. They’re about the same level of stoned, she thinks, giggling and loose-limbed.

The notes of ‘Cherry Bomb’ by The Runaways play into the air from Claire’s phone. She was appalled when Jack said he didn’t know it. Clearly, it’s time for a Claire Novak lesson in good music.

“It sounds good,” he says after a moment. “Very...busy. Kind of like the stuff Dean listens to, but better. Can I pick the next song?”

“Nuh-uh. Dealer picks the music, customer shuts his cakehole.”

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“This is the circle song,” Claire says flatly.

“Yes.” Jack nods.

“This is the song they play in geometry to teach you about circles.”

“Exactly.”

“Why are we listening to this?”

“It’s catchy.”

She can’t really argue, but wow is Jack a total square (Ha, geometry joke).

“Why are you laughing?” Jack asks.

She just shakes her head, holding down a giggle.

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“I’m hungry, are you hungry?” Jack asks.

They’re kind of lying down now, side by side, staring at the concrete ceiling.

“Fuck, yeah. I could eat a horse. Seven horses. Maybe seven and a half.”

“I think I would prefer to eat something that isn’t horses.”

“Suit yourself,” she shrugs. “Hold up, I think I’ve got snacks in my car.”

So Claire goes on a heroic mission— really, it’s very heroic of her, because she doesn’t want to move like at all right now. The spoils of her brave journey consist of a bag of takis, a snickers bar, some gum, and a warm monster energy drink.

Jack cheers when she returns, and for a moment she actually does kind of feel like a hero.

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‘Bad Reputation’ by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts plays and Jack passionately headbangs along while Claire plays air guitar, something she doesn’t normally do outside the privacy of her room.

“I know this one!” he says excitedly. “It was in Shrek 2!”

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“I think if aliens were real, they wouldn’t care about us. Humanity sucks so much even humans don’t wanna be part of it, why would aliens?” Claire says, apropos of nothing but the thoughts inside her own head as they spent the past few minutes in comfortable silence.

“I don’t know.” Jack is frowning thoughtfully, still staring up at the ceiling as if he can actually see through it and all the way up to the stars and planets where the aliens are. “Humans can be good, too. Most of them try to be good, I think.”

“Well, they sure do a shitty job at it.”

“Maybe, but doesn’t it mean something that they try?”

His voice is strained, it sounds like...it sounds like her answer matters to him, though that’s stupid.

“What's your deal?” She asks.

“Sometimes,” he breathes. “I think I’m a bad person.”

Claire, who had just been positing that humanity is garbage and people are bad at being good, finds that kind of hard to believe. Jack is...not the worst company, at least. Still, no way she’s gonna come out and admit to that shit, so instead she says something else:

“Me too.”

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Clear almost chokes on her takis in outrage.

“What the hell is this?”

“Take me to your Xbox to play Fortnite today. You can take me to Moisty Mire but not Loot Lake. I’d really love to chug jug with you. We can be pro-fortnite gamers,” Jack sings, to the tune of a pop song that Claire had found annoying enough in its original form.

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“Hey, Claire. What do you call a seagull when it flies over a bay?”

“...What the fuck?”

“A bagel!”

Jack cracks up laughing. Claire groans.

“Your sense of humour sucks.”

“You tell a joke, then,” Jack replies, unoffended.

Claire leans up on one elbow just to glare at him. “I don’t tell jokes.”

“Sure you do. Come on.”

Are those puppy dog eyes? What the fuck.

“Fine. What’s a pirate’s favourite letter of the alphabet?”

“I don’t know! What is a pirate’s favourite letter of the alphabet?”

“None. Most of them were fucking illiterate.”

A beat passes. Then two. Finally, Jack frowns. “I don’t get it.”

That look on his face does make Claire laugh.

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Claire plays ‘Celebrity Skin’ by Hole, watching Jack for his reaction. This is musical education, after all, she has to make sure her student is paying attention.

He doesn’t say much, but she can see his fingers tapping along as he gets into the rhythm of the unfamiliar notes.

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“I like this one.” He says when the song is halfway through.

“I still can’t believe you haven’t heard most of this shit.”

He shrugs. “I spent most of my life just listening to what my dads listen to. I’ve started to find stuff that I just like, but I don’t really know much about music. Sorry.”

“You have two dads?” She can’t help but ask, even though that’s not the point of what Jack is saying

“Oh, no. I have three. I’ve been told that’s unusual,” he says this like he doesn’t mind being unusual at all.

“I guess it kind of is. It’s cool, though. I have no dads.” She says this like it’s no big deal. The difference between her and Jack, she thinks, is that he probably really doesn’t mind being unusual, and she’s lying through her teeth about this not being a big deal.

“How come?” He asks thoughtfully. “I don’t know much about sex, but I’m pretty sure that there needs to be at least one dad for babies to be born.”

“At least one, yeah.” She laughs. “How about you explain your weird family shit first, Mr. More dads than most.”

He sits up a little straighter, as if about to give a very professional presentation. The effect is kind of ruined by the half smoked blunt still hanging from his fingers.

“Well, my father— that is, my birth father, so I guess I actually have four dads, but he doesn’t really count, because he sucked. So, like I said, he sucked. And my mom died giving birth to me, so then it’s a long story but I kind of got adopted by someone who knew my parents? and he lived with these two other guys, and the three of them raised me.”

Claire blinks. “So they’re not gay?”

“Oh, well, Castiel and Dean are together, so yes, they’re gay. Sam has a girlfriend, Eileen. She’s awesome!”

“Huh,” Claire snatches the blunt out of his fingers and takes a drag. The high has definitely been topped up, and she feels a little hazy, but mostly just...comfortable, happy. “I’m gay.”

“That is so cool!” Jack says earnestly. “I don’t know what I am.”

“You’ll figure it out, kid.” She bumps his leg with her fist.

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Jack’s next choice is something vaguely familiar to her, but she can’t place it. She’s pretty sure it’s from some kids film she’s probably only seen once, a million years ago.

“Moving right along,” Jack tells her, as if he can read her mind.

“By those puppet assholes?”

“They’re Muppets, the ‘M’ is very important, but yes.”

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If Jack noticed or cared that she never actually reciprocated on the little family sharing session, he hasn’t mentioned it. He didn’t have to tell her. Sure, she asked, but he could have told her to go fuck herself. He chose to tell her, which means she doesn’t owe him shit.

But she kind of wants to tell him.

It’s the weed, or something. It’s not because she wants someone to talk to. It’s not that she feels a weird, grudging fondness for this kid, some kind of connection with him.

“My dad fucked off when I was eleven,” she starts. She’s glad they’re lying down top to tail now, because she doesn’t want to look at him. “Just walked off in the middle of the night. Then my mom dumped me to go after him. It was...it was a shitty few years, after that. Neither of them ever came back. Eventually...I found Jody. She has a thing for taking in wayward teenage girls, apparently. So, her and Donna...they’re my moms, and I have sisters now too, so...I don’t really care, about not having a dad, or whatever.”

Jack hums thoughtfully. Her words hover in the air for a while, making her skin itch. She wants to snap and run out of there, because fuck Jack because his mom may be dead and his biological father may be an asshole but at least they probably wanted him. He can’t judge her, it’s not her fault Jimmy and Amelia Novak couldn’t be bothered to stick around, at least he can just miss his mom and not have it be tied up in resentment—

“If you ever did want a dad, you can have mine.”

Claire’s anger deflates like a pathetic balloon animal struck with a pin, because what the fuck?

She pushes herself up into a sitting position, and he does the same, so they’re facing each other criss-cross applesauce.

“I can...have them?” She repeats, voice faltering.

“I mean, I’d still have them too, obviously. I’m not giving them away, or anything, I’m pretty fond of them. But...we could share, if you want?”

“So...we’d have the same dads?”

Claire hasn’t felt like a kid in a long time, not since she watched Jimmy Novak walk away from her on the front porch, really. And that’s good, because kids can’t look out for themselves the way she had to.

Jack nods.

Something about this conversation makes her feel like a kid. Small, vulnerable, hopeful, making an impossible promise.

“I guess you can have my moms, if you want them. They’re pretty cool.” She shrugs, trying to act unaffected.

Jack grins at her, exactly like a kid making an impossible promise.

“Are they gay?”

“Oh, yeah, they’re totally gay.” A fond smile quirks at her lips.

“Cool,” he says, very seriously, and then, “so, if we have the same moms, and the same dads...doesn’t that make us siblings?”

Once upon a time, Claire was an only child. She has two sisters, now, neither by blood, so...well, what could a brother hurt? Especially since, she realises, that as stupid as it is she kind of started feeling like Jack is her little brother somewhere between sitting down and the millionth stupid song he played.

“I guess it does, yeah.” It sounds way too earnest, coming from Claire Novak, and she kind of loves and kind of hates it.

“That was gross,” she says. “Wanna go spit over the side and see if we can hit anyone?”

Her little brother looks at her like she’s the coolest big sister in the world.