His phone disturbs the peace and Connor checks the display. When he sees it's Raquel he puts the phone on the table. She's beautiful but toxic, crafting her earlier texts for maximum impact. Jennifer keeps brushing her fingers through his hair, soothing him. He'd let her treat the burn, let her comfort him and it's so nice to rest his head on her lap feeling safe and wanted. A thought enters his head that this is what mothers are meant to do but he has distinctly unmotherly like feelings for Jennifer. She hasn't bombarded him with questions or asked why he'd want to hurt himself. People think self-harm is all cutting and razor blades but he tried it once and it wasn't the same. Scalding water causes him a pain so intense that he can't focus on those who hurt him. His arm hurts but someone knows his secret and it's okay.
"I bet you wish your agent hadn't found you someone so fucked up."
"I chose you, Connor, yes from a short-list but I don't regret my choice. Everyone is damaged and I'm not going anywhere but what I saw you do was pretty scary."
Connor closes his eyes. He moves his hand and presses on the bandage. Jennifer closes her hand over his and lifts it away.
"I was meant to boost your profile not be a burden." Connor turns onto his back and looks up at Jennifer. There's concern in her eyes for sure but perhaps pity too. "As coping mechanisms go it's not therapist recommended. I used to try and hide it at first but then I was more blatant hoping my dad would notice and fix me. He never did, didn't care enough to ever find out how I'd hurt myself."
"How does it help you?" Jennifer asks.
He can answer easily, having defended it to himself many times over. "It quiets my mind when everything feels too much. Makes it hard to think about anything else but the pain. For those few moments nothing else matters, it stops my brain focusing on my flaws. The only thing that came close was getting the crap beat out of me in a bar."
Jennifer touches his face, her fingers finding the ridge from his stitches. "This was deliberate? That's scary, Connor."
He nods. "Not at first but then I provoked the guy so he'd hit me again. I'm not coming off as sane here at all but I don't need this all the time. I promise I'll be good, do my stuff at work and be seen wherever you want us to be. Just please don't leave me."
"I'm not leaving."
He can feel himself about to cry, hoping she means every word. A lifetime of trust issues make it hard to take people at their word. Her expression softens and she kisses her finger tips and presses them against his marred skin. Connor takes a deep breath but it comes back out as a shaky sob. It's fear but relief too and completely mortifying but Jennifer holds him through it. Again she calms and comforts him without judgement. Maybe she's the angel he always prayed would show up to save him.