Here’s the thing- Honey was pretty sure that, for once, this bullshit wasn't even his fault. It's not like he'd started the fight with the guy- he'd simply ended it. And if anything, everyone should be admiring his patience. He'd put up with nearly two months of transphobic comments and thin veiled threats before the asshole had the audacity to grope his ass and snap what was left of Honey's (admittedly minimal to begin with) self control. As far as he was concerned, breaking that fucking neanderthal's arm was practically a public service. But had his foster parents seen it like that? Noooo, of course not. They'd lost their minds, throwing around annoying buzzwords like 'patterns of violence' and 'lack of self control' and, worst of all, 'a danger to the other children.' Which, okay, seemed like a bit much. He’d tried to cut in a few times to defend himself, but eventually he had seen that it was a pretty pointless endeavor- they had already made up their minds that he was no better than a rabid dog. It probably didn't help that the poor fucker whose arm he'd broken just happened to be their biological son. Oops.
So, just like that, they'd washed their hands of him. If Honey was being honest, he couldn’t say that was a particularly upsetting turn of events. It wasn't the worst foster home he'd been in (not by a long shot) but it hadn't been that great either. The parents were clearly the type of people who had good intentions, and they'd at least had the decency to respect Honey's name and pronouns, albeit with a frankly insulting air of indulgence. The other children left a lot to be desired, but that was pretty much par for the course. One of the girls had a bad case of sticky fingers (which was annoying, but manageable- it wasn’t like Honey had anything of real value these days), one of the younger boys had anger issues (which honestly, was pretty understandable, given his general situation), and the biological son, well... see above.
With all that in mind, Honey would have been perfectly content to pack up and head for his next prison- oh, excuse me, home - if it hadn't been for the bombshell his newest social worker, Wendy, dropped on him as his latest/former house disappeared in the rear view.
"What do you mean, this is my last chance ?" He demanded from his place in the backseat. Which, could Honey just say, was fucking bullshit. He was plenty old enough to sit in the front. He resented being shoved into the backseat like some unruly five year old. Wendy was probably too scared of his “uncontrollable temper” to sit next to him, which he resented. His temper was perfectly under control, thank you very fucking much.
"I mean exactly what I said, Honey," Wendy answered him, her tone infuriatingly calm. To her credit, she looked and sounded fairly unshaken. Huh, maybe it was just pettiness keeping him banished to the backseat like a damn toddler. "In the past 13 years that you’ve been in care, you've been in 23 different placements. Twenty-three! That's unacceptable, and speaks to an unsettling pattern on your end."
Honey couldn't stop himself from rolling his eyes. "God, that's fucking bullshit and you know it. Not all of them were my fault! Sometimes parents decided not to foster anymore, or were declared unfit. Besides, half of those were caused by R-..."
"Listen, kiddo," Wendy noticed his stumble, softening a little out of obvious pity. Which, eww . The last thing he needed was for some overworked social worker who hadn’t known he existed six months ago to start feeling sorry for him. "Even if we wanted to keep re-homing you indefinitely, it's just not possible. It's not as if the system has an infinite line of foster parents eager to take in sullen, trouble-making teenagers. We've basically run out of potential placements for you. This is the last family willing to give you a try; after this, our only option is a secure care facility."
"I could just get emancipated. Then I wouldn’t be anyone’s problem anymore,” he snapped, more venom in his voice than he’d intended. He sank down in his sea, crossing his arms over his chest. God, re-home . It made him sound like a mangy dog or something.
“You know I didn’t mean it like that, Honey. You aren’t a problem, it’s your behavior that’s problematic.” Wendy said patiently, trying to catch his eye in the rearview mirror. When Honey steadfastly refused to play along, she gave up, letting out a soft sigh. “And as to your other point, you and I both know that no judge in their right mind would look at your history and declare you responsible or mature enough to take care of yourself."
Honey didn't bother acknowledging what she said. He knew he wouldn’t get anywhere on that point- he never had, no matter how hard he tried. "Where are we headed, then? Tell me I don't have to stay in this crappy town. If I still have to be confronted by that smarmy cock and his friends every day I can't promise I won't break the other arm."
Wendy cut him an unimpressed look in the rear view mirror but otherwise didn't reprimand him. She was learning to pick her battles- very smart of her. "No, you aren’t staying here.You're going to Charlotte- it's this tiny little fishing village a few hours north of here. Cute, but quiet. We’ve decided that a more rural environment might be beneficial to you."
Honey groaned, slumping further down in seat, until he had almost slid out of his seatbelt. Fuck, could this get any worse? Small towns were the worst , especially if he was supposed to be behaving himself. Not only would he probably have to deal with twice as many ignorant assholes, but there would be fuck all for him to do with his time. He couldn't even resort the old standby of recreational drugs and alcohol, since this was apparently his last chance. God, a year and a half of boredom, country bumpkins, and being on his best behavior? If Honey made it out of this with his sanity intact, he would be shocked.
Honey had to hand it to Charlotte; it may be a podunk shithole, but at least it was pretty podunk shithole. Well, it probably would be on a nice day. It was currently living under an oppressive shroud of angry grey clouds and miserable drizzle. Other than that though, It looked like the quintessential cute seaside town- one main road along the coast with a few quaint shops and local businesses, a nice beach (abandoned currently due to the weather), and a singular gas station with a little Tim Horton's attached. It looked like a damn postcard.
Honey hated the place on principle.
The drive had remained blissfully silent after Wendy's earlier revelation, mostly due to Honey putting on headphones and stubbornly pretending that the world outside his window was endlessly fascinating. Wendy gave up on trying to engage him pretty quickly after that. As they began to make their way down the main road at an annoyingly slow speed- curse small towns and their snail’s pace speed limits- Honey deigned to remove his headphones, leaning forward to poke his head between the front seats.
"This is it?" He asked, as if the charmingly weathered sign proclaiming ' Welcome to Charlotte!' hadn't been quite convinced him. "This looks like the kind of place old people come to die quietly."
"Don't be so negative," Wendy admonished, although she didn’t look too enchanted by the town either. Hypocrite. She turned her blinker on when they came to a stop sign, waiting for a moment before turning down one of the residential side streets. "Think of this as a fresh start, rather than a last resort. I think you could really enjoy this place if you give it a chance."
. "Yeah, sure, Wendy. This is clearly where I belong, in the most stereotypical tourist trap town known to man. I'll try not to cream my pants out of sheer excitement for this amazing opportunity."
"Well, I don't know about tourist trap," Wendy countered, grimacing at his overly vulgar statement. "From what I've heard, today's weather is pretty standard fare around here. Not quite a common vacation destination.”
Honey scoffed. "Great, that makes it so much better. Not only am I trapped in the shittiest fishing village known to man, but I’m also going to have to live in a cliche horror movie location. You realize the black kid never survives until the end, right? If you’re trying to kill me off, there are easier ways to do it."
Surprisingly, Wendy had nothing to say to that for a few moments. They drove up the hill, coming to a cul de sac populated by a few nice, two-storey homes. They pulled into the driveway of a charming home with a large front porch and navy blue shingle siding. The front door and shutters were a bright sunny yellow, which Honey thought was kind of daring. Once the car came to a stop, Wendy turned in the seat, meeting Honey’s eyes. "I know this isn't an ideal situation. Hell, if I was in your shoes, I'd probably be feeling the same way. But this is where your choices have gotten you, Honey. Plain and simple. You can continue on as you always have- make rash, thoughtless decisions, and ruin your last chance at something good. Or, you can grow up and finally make an effort at belonging somewhere. In the end it's up to you, but I know what option I'd go with."
Honey stared at her, processing her words. He didn’t think he had ever had a social worker be so painfully blunt with him. He found his opinion of the woman rising a few notches. It wasn't until Wendy reached for the door, giving it up as a lost cause, that he finally spoke. "I'll try my best, okay? No promises."
Wendy smiled tiredly. That was the best she was going to get, and she knew it. The pair climbed out of the car together, Honey reaching into the SUV's trunk to grab his single duffel bag. He couldn't help the familiar tingle of trepidation as the climbed the drive way toward his new, hopefully not too temporary, home. What if he didn't like his foster parents? What if they didn't like him? What if they were abusive, or racist or transphobic, what if he-
His train of thought was cut off by the sunny yellow front door swinging open, revealing a woman. She didn't seem too old, maybe in her mid to late forties, with long grey-streaked chestnut hair gathered at the nape of her neck with a large hair clip. Her face was pretty, yet careworn, light wrinkles around her kind brown eyes and smile lines around her mouth. She was average height, maybe an inch or two taller than Honey, and seemed to be of medium build in her striped blouse and faded jeans. Honey didn't let her warm, inviting appearance fool him, however; he had been around the block two many times for that. Plenty of people could put on a good show around social workers. Oftentimes, an appealing exterior only served to disguise an absolutely rotten interior. It was only after Wendy left that he would be able to get a good idea of what kind of person this woman was.
"Hi, you must be Honey," the woman greeted him, coming down the steps to shake his free hand. Honey privately put one point in her favor- he hated when foster parents tried to greet him with a hug right off the bat. It always came off as fake and uncomfortable. "My name is Helena."
"Nice to meet you, ma'am," He greeted politely, if a bit blandly. No need to start of rude, after all. He would have plenty of time to be a little shit if she turned out to be less than ideal.
The woman waved him off with a soft smile. "Please, call me Helena. You'll hopefully be staying here for a while, no need to be formal. Now why don't we head inside, get you situated?"
That was Wendy's cue to head out, apparently. She reached out and gave Honey's shoulder a soft squeeze, which he tolerated with minimal resentment. "I better head out, kiddo. It's a long drive home. We’ll be in touch soon, I’ll come and check on you in a month or so, depending on when I can get out here. Remember what I said, and try to stay out of trouble, huh?"
Honey gave a noncommittal shrug, refusing to make eye contact.He already made a tentative agreement to try to make this shitshow work, he didn’t owe her anything else. Seeming to recognise that he was at the limit of his patience with her for the day, Wendy released his shoulder and went back to her car. Honey did his best to ignore the little tug of apprehension he always felt when left alone at a new foster home. He didn’t have time to be a pussy.
“Do you want me to carry your bag for you?” Helena offered, catching Honey’s attention. When he shook his head mutely, Helena didn’t press. “Alright, then. Let’s go inside, it’s a bit chilly.”
Honey nodded and followed Helena into the house, making sure to slip off his red low-top sneakers at the door. He did a quick glance at the shoe rack as he placed his sneakers on it, noting that there didn't seem to be any children's shoes. Most likely, he was the only foster child at the moment. He gave an internal cheer; other children were the worst. Helena led him up the staircase right beside the front door, glancing back at him.
"Sorry in advance for the state of your room. We haven't had any placements for a while, so we’ve been using it as a guest room for the last few years. It’s pretty bare bones right now. If you don't like it, we can go into town next weekend and buy some new things, help you make the space your." Honey nodded along absently, trying to seem like he was paying close attention. He'd been through this whole rigmarole enough times to know that taking his new foster mother up on the offer would be a bad idea. No need to get emotionally attached to new shit that he most likely wouldn't even get to keep when he left. He'd just stick with whatever was already there.
Surprisingly, what was there was pretty fucking awesome. It was spacious, and if Honey didn’t know any better, he would have said it was the master bedroom. The walls were painted a bright mustard yellow that Honey instantly fell in love with. There was a huge picture window on the far wall, a white desk set up underneath it. A large white furry carpet covered the light colored wide planked hardwood floors, and a king size bed with an upholstered navy blue headboard was tucked into the corner, pressed lengthways against the wall closest to the door, the headboard sharing a wall with an unknown door. There was a tall white dresser on the other side of the room, and the closet seemed far too big for Honey’s meager wardrobe. Honey made his way further into the room, setting his duffel bag down on the ground with a soft thump. If this what Helena called bland , he was curious to see just what constituted as properly decorated in her world.
"I'll let you settle in," Helena said from her place by the door. Thank god, she wasn't going to be one of those annoying hover parents who tried to hold his hand through everything. "I'll call you down for dinner, but until then, feel free to unpack or nap or whatever you want. I'm sure today has been pretty tiring for you."
Honey nodded, already making his way over to the big, comfortable looking bed. Not wanting to be rude to the woman who seemed relatively chill so far, Honey smiled at her. "Thanks, I appreciate it. I'm pretty beat."
Helena hummed softly, breezing out the door and closing it behind her. Honey noted that the door has a lock which -thank fucking god- locked from the inside. After a quick detour to flick off the lights and engage the lock, Honey stripped off his pants and sweater, then crawled into the bed. Unpacking could wait, he'd earned a fucking nap
If there was one thing Honey could always count on to hold true, it was the mind-numbing boredom that came with the first day in a new foster home. He'd managed to eke out a measly hour and a half of rest before his traitor of a body decided that he didn’t need anymore sleep. He'd wasted another hour taking all his clothes out of his duffel and filling up half of the dresser and a quarter of the closet, which served to illustrate just how desperately he needed clothes. Hell, if Wendy had been telling the truth about the miserable weather here, then a good portion of his wardrobe would probably be useless. Once he finished internally bemoaning his lack of job and disposable income to buy new clothes, he was brought squarely to the end of his list of time wasting activities with at least another solid two hours of time before dinner could realistically be ready.
He opened his phone to surf the internet for a while, but frowned when he remembered he didn't have the wifi password. Sure, he could go ask Helena for it, but that felt so… Awkward. He would wait until dinner, when he could hopefully bring it up without it seeming weird and out of place. He flipped through his contacts halfheartedly, knowing there wasn't anyone left that he had any real desire to keep up contact with. Sighing, he gave up, flopping down on the bed. Just as he was settling down to force himself back into a light doze, there was a light tap at his door.
"Yeah?" Honey called out, tone pleasant enough. Internally, he put a tic in his foster parents' favor for knocking rather than trying to barge right in.
"Hey, I’m sorry to bother you, but would you mind running down to the store for me?" Helena asked from the other side of the door. "I was going to make strawberry shortcakes for dessert, but my husband, Wendall, must have gotten into the strawberries last night, and we used all the whipped cream last time."
Honey bit back his initial response, which was to ask why she'd even bother making it when she was missing two thirds of her ingredients. This was the perfect opportunity he needed to distract himself before he completely lost his mind from boredom. Besides, what kind of monster passed up strawberry shortcake? He got off his bed, pulling his pants back on and shrugging back into his sweater. "Sure, I can do that."
"I'm sorry to bug you," Helena said again as Honey pulled his bedroom door open, sounding genuinely regretful. "But Wendall is out of town for a few days, and I'm in the middle of a project."
"It’s fine," He shrugged it off, shooting her an easy smile. "I wasn't doing anything, a little adventure should be fun."
Helena handed over a twenty dollar bill, already turning away to disappear up to the third floor. "Thank you so much. The Ready-Mart is on the main road, about a ten minute walk to the right."
Honey vaguely recalled passing a building bearing that name on his way into town, and wrinkled his nose. If that tiny thing was the grocery store, he dreaded to see what passed for good retail aroud this shit hole town.
He jogged down the stairs, stopping at the door to pull his shoes back on. As soon as he walked out the door, he noticed that the earlier drizzle had given way to a steady, miserable rain. He briefly considered saying fuck it and turning right back around, but pushed forward, twitching his hood up over his already frizzing hair. It wasn't like he had anything better to do. Besides, it couldn't hurt to put himself in Helena's good books.
By the time Honey made it to the Ready-Mart, he deeply regretted his decision. There wasn't an inch of him that wasn't cold and wet from the rain. His socks were soaked from underestimating the size of a puddle less than a minute into the walk, and he probably looked like a half-drowned cat, murderous expression and all. He trudged through the automatic doors of the handkerchief-sized grocery store, silently thanking whatever power was listening that the heat was cranked inside. He pushed the hood off his head to stave off any suspicious looks from employees as he made his way over to the truly pathetic produce section near the door. From the look of things, it didn’t seem like he was going to be eating anything more exotic or exciting than grapes for a while. He put off his scathing internal review for long enough to pick out the package of strawberries that seemed the farthest from rotting to his untrained eyes, He then moved on, moving through the aisles until he found the fridges at the back of the store and grabbed an aerosol can of whipped cream. Quest complete, he went up to the cash, setting his purchases down with a light thunk. The cash register was being manned by a short, chubby brunette with shockingly blue eyes. She gave him a funny look as she scanned his items.
"You're not from around here." She said, more statement than question.
“And thank God for that fact,” Honey found himself saying without thought. He winced slightly at the vicious glare the cashier sent his way. Awesome, he was alienating the locals already.
“That’ll be $7.83,” the cashier said, voice clipped. Honey held the $20 bill out, and she snatched it from his hand, practically shoving his change at him. Well , he thought as he took his bag, guess I can’t count her as my new best friend.
Because his luck was absolute shit on the best of days, Honey ran into with someone on his way out of the way out, literally. The force of the collision was enough to knock him on his ass, straight into a puddle of dirty water. The other person, a tall, douchey looking teenager with hard blue eyes and over-gelled black hair, glared down at him.
"Watch it, faggot," He spat, he and his two asshole friends brushing past into the store. Honey took a deep breath, reminding himself that getting into a fight in the middle of a grocery store on his first day probably wasn’t a cute look. He wasn’t that unhinged, after all. He forced himself to climb to his feet, brushing the dirst off his ass before making his way around the parking lot, glad that Helena hadn’t sent im for something easily breakable.
As he walked down the street, he took a few more deep breaths, willing the tight ball of anger in his chest to loosen. So he'd run into a few assholes. Every town had them, he'd just found them a little earlier than he'd expected. No biggie. Now he knew who he had to avoid. He could handle that. Everything was going to be-
As Honey was giving himself his little pep talk, a silver Jeep Wrangler sped past, driving through a puddle sending up a spray of dirty water that- you guessed it- splashed onto Honey, soaking him to the bone. He stood there for a moment, shocked into stillness, before slowly reaching up to wipe puddle water from his eyes.
“You know what?” Honey said to himself, nodding his head. “That seems about right.”
He fucking hated this town.
After a squishy, miserable walk home, Honey trudged up the front steps of Helena’s porch, forcing himself not to fling the door open or slam it shut as he entered the house. He carefully kicked off his shoes, putting them on the bottom of the shoe rack so they wouldnt drip all over everyone else’s shoes. He made a quick detour to drop off the food in the fridge, leaving the change on a side table in the hall before he his way up to the second floor. He walked down the hall and stood at the bottom of the stairs leading to the mysterious third floor.
"Helena?" He called up, managing to keep his deep annoyance and general anger at the world out of his voice. A few moments later, Helena peeked her head around the top of the stairs. At first she seemed confused, but one look at her bedraggled form had her eyebrows flying up her forehead as she bustled down the stairs.
"I didn't realize it had started raining, or I would have just driven over myself. I'm sorry, sweetie." She apologized, looking genuinely remorseful, which Honey appreciated.
"Don't worry about it, this is mostly from some passing driver, not the rain," Honey waved it off, feeling the urge to downplay it somewhat for Helena’s benefit, although he had no clue why. "I was just hoping to take a shower, but I don't know where anything is."
"Oh, right! It must have completely slipped my mind earlier." She walked passed him, leading him, surprisingly, into his bedroom. Helena went over to the unidentified door he had noticed when he first came in, revealing his own bathroom. It wasn't anything too extravagant, just a toilet, sink, and shower/bathtub, as well as a linen cupboard, but it was more than he'd ever had before.
"Face cloths and towels are in the cupboard, I think we have some extra body wash, shampoo and conditioner under the sink, if you want to use that until we can get to a store," Helena instructs, before frowning at his wet clothes. "Do you want me to wash those, or would you rather handle that yourself?"
"I can do it, but thank you for offering," Honey answered, appreciating being given the option. The last time he'd let a foster mother wash his clothes for him, he'd never seen them again, replaced with frilly dresses and conservative floral blouses. Helena didn’t seem the type so far, but he’d rather be safe than sorry. Besides, once you got used to washing your own clothes, it felt sort of weird letting someone else handle your dirty laundry.
"Okay,no problem. I’ll show you where the laundry room is later. If you need me, I'll be downstairs," Helena said before leaving the room, giving Honey his privacy.
Honey quickly undressed, dumping his wet clothes in the conveniently placed wicker hamper outside the bathroom door. He retrieved a large black towel from the cupboard, laying it out on the tiled floor in front of the tub.He bent down to look at the products available, frowning slightly at the generic bottles of shampoo and conditioner that he knew from experience would be hell on his hair. Oh well, it would have to do for now. He grabbed them, along with a bottle of body wash, and straightened. He settled the bottles on the lip of the tub, climbing behind the grey shower curtain. He turned the water onto almost max heat, flinching away from the cool water that sprayed out before it began to heat up. All the tension seemed to bleed from his as soon as the water hit his skin. He tipped his head back, letting it soak his bedraggled curls. God bless modern comforts.
Honey must have spent close to a half hour in the stall, washing up for a while, but mostly just enjoying the steam and warmth. When he finally managed to drag himself out, he wrapped himself up in his towel and padded out to the bedroom, noting happily that Helena had closed his door on the way out. He dried himself off thoroughly before changing into a loose black t-shirt and navy blue sweats from some high school he'd attended a few foster homes back. He eyed his bed, tempted to lie down and do nothing until supper was called, but decided against it. He really wasn't in the mood to be alone with his thoughts. Instead, he left his room, following the sounds of activity down to the kitchen. May as well make himself useful. Besides, he'd always wanted to learn how to cook.