FIC: "Grownup Stories" for chazpure Recipient:chazpure Author:hayseed42 Title: Grownup Stories Rating: Somewhere between a PG-13 and an R, but mostly for language and suggestion of physical abuse Pairings: Eileen/Tobias, Severus/?? Word Count: 5268, according to the ol' word processor count Warnings: Suggestion of child abuse? Summary: A mother tells her son what she wishes was a fairy tale. Author's Notes: I... uh... kind of feel the need to apologize for this, because I get the feeling the requester was asking for something a little sexier, but I had to kind of go with this idea because, well, you'll see. Hopefully the fact that I was encouraged to love any Snape-plot-bunnies I might have makes it okay.
"Time for m'story, Mum," Toby said firmly, tugging his blanket up to his chin.
She smiled, and her eyes twinkled like they always did before she teased him. "Well, now, if I recall, only good little boys who have done everything they're supposed to get stories. Have y'done all your evening chores, wee Toby-boy?"
He grinned. "Teeth brushed," he said, opening his mouth wide to demonstrate. "Face washed..."
Mum took his chin in her hands like she did every night, turning his face ever-which-way and checking for dirt. "Goodness, you've turned back into a little boy again. With that mucky face at the supper table, I thought maybe you'd been turned into a hobgoblin."
"I put all the clothes in the hamper too, Mum," he said with a laugh. "Even Charlie's. And his smelled really bad, like Daddy does sometimes when he falls asleep on the sofa at night."
"Oh, they did, did they?" She sounded happy, but Toby could see something in her eyes that wasn't. That happened a lot now that Charlie had quit school and he and his mates kept getting picked up for doing stupid things like breaking windows and pinching sodas from the chippy.
"I didn't mind, though," he said stoutly in an effort to change that expression. "I put them all away. And I helped Miss take up all the crayons at lunch today, too. She let me put them back in the stationary cupboard and she even gave me a gold star!"
It wasn't completely gone, but the smile she gave him was real enough. "Did she now? Well, I suppose that's worth a story, then."
He snuggled down in his blanket and looked up at her expectantly. Mum's stories were absolutely brilliant. Not even the stories Miss read to them at school out of those books with the pretty pictures were better than Mum's stories.
"I like the one about the boy with the pet dragon," Toby said, all but wriggling in his excitement. "And how the dragon gets bigger and bigger until it can't hide in his wardrobe any more, and to pay him back for raising him, the dragon takes the boy for rides whenever he wants. Are dragons real, Mum? I think they are, but when I told Charlie about it, he just told me I was being stupid and kicked me. I still think he's wrong, though."
With another one of those happy-not-happy smiles, she brushed his hair out of his face and patted his cheek.
This was his favorite time of the day. If Daddy was around, he always made a face if he saw Mum giving him a cuddle. "Jesus Christ, Eileen!" he'd shout. "Quit babyin' the lad. D'you want him to grow up to be a fuckin' queerboy?"
Daddy's greatest fear in life was apparently that Toby and Charlie would grow up to be fuckin' queerboys. Toby wasn't a hundred percent sure what that meant, but Charlie told him that ol' Hughie Morrison was a fuckin' queerboy, and Toby didn't want to turn into stupid ol' Hughie, who was a known ratfink and breathed with his mouth open, too.
But if Mum-hugs doomed him to a life as Hughie Morrison, Toby was still kind of undecided. Mum-hugs were awfully nice, and since he didn't breathe with his mouth open now, he could keep himself from starting later, right?
He reached out and touched Mum's palm with his, laughing when she brought his hand to her face and pressed a kiss into it. "Let's see, Toby-boy... do you really want me to tell you a story you've already heard so many times before?"
After some serious consideration, he shook his head. "S'pose not."
"I was wondering if maybe you weren't ready to have a more grown-up story..." Mum said teasingly.
Well, he had just turned seven last week. He was going to be a man any day now, even if he did think coffee tasted awful. Daddy drank a cup every morning, and Charlie had started drinking one, too, even though he filled his halfway up with sugar and milk before putting any coffee in. Toby privately thought this didn't quite count as coffee, but pointing this out had earned him a vicious pinch on the arm and then a taunt for being a big baby for crying over it.
Grown-up stories sounded better than having to drink coffee, anyway, so he just gave Mum a solemn nod.
"I thought so," she told him, tweaking his nose and gathering him up into her arms just like she always did at storytime. He breathed in her familiar smells: dish soap, hand lotion, and something spicy he couldn't ever fit to anything else except her.
(Twenty-two years later, sitting in his office and attempting to console a first-year student over her accidentally cracked wand, a startled Severus Snape would realize that the student's wand, made of cedar and dragon heartstring, matched his mother's long-unidentified spicy scent. The pang of loss would pass nearly before it was identified.)
"Once upon a time," Mum said quietly in her story voice, which was smoother and posher than her everyday voice and made Toby wonder how she'd learned it or if maybe she'd always known how to talk that way, "there was a princess who lived in a big, lonely mansion."
"Was she beautiful?" Princesses were always beautiful in Miss' stories at school, but Toby had a hard time believing it. All the girls he'd ever met who were rich and had princess-y airs looked sort of like buck-toothed weasels.
"Not especially." That was why Mum's stories were better. They were more true. "But she wanted to be beautiful. One of the first things she figured out how to do once she learned about magic was to cast something called a glamour."
"What's a gammer, Mum?"
"A glamour, Toby-boy. It's a magic spell that allowed the princess to look like anything she wanted to. But she wound up not liking it much, because it really wasn't anything but a lie."
"If I could look like anything I wanted to, I'd make myself into a scary troll," Toby couldn't help saying. "Then Charlie would be too afraid to push me around."
Although Charlie hadn't always been so bad. Back before he stopped going to school and started running around with those bad boys, he wasn't so mean. He taught Toby how to play football, and whenever they only had one piece of cake left, he'd cut it in half and always let Toby have the bigger half, and sometimes he would even let Toby pick out a record and play it on his prized turntable.
And best of all, when Daddy and Mum were fighting at night, Charlie used to let Toby stay in his room. He'd let Toby hug his neck and he'd tell him it wasn't so bad, that he would always be there. Charlie would promise in those nights that they could run away and live in their own house, and Charlie would walk him to school and make sure Daddy couldn't ever find them and bring Mum over for Sunday tea.
The last time, though, when he went to Charlie's room, the door was locked and he smelled funny smoke coming out from under it. "Aw, grow up, ya' little fuckin' queerboy," Charlie had hissed through the lock. Back in his own bed, Toby had tried not to cry, but it hadn't worked very well. Of course, he'd only been six then. Now that he was seven, he was much better at not crying when Charlie said mean things.
"If you were a scary troll, everyone would be afraid of you," Mum pointed out. "I doubt you'd have many friends."
"I'd have to learn other magic, then," Toby conceded. "If I couldn't be a troll."
"Well, the princess didn't think about those sorts of things," she continued, slipping back into story voice. "She didn't have any brothers or sisters, see, so she didn't know what it was like to be pushed around like you do, Toby-boy. And her mother and father, well, they were too busy being King and Queen to pay her much mind. So she was mostly alone in her big, lonely mansion."
"That's sad," he whispered, burying his head in Mum's stomach. And it was. Not sad enough to cry about, maybe, but still pretty sad. "Are all grown-up stories sad?"
He felt her answering sigh more than heard it. "Not all of them," she said wistfully. "And this story isn't sad in the end, Toby."
"You promise?" he asked skeptically, raising his head up enough to look her straight in the eye.
"Cross my heart, hope to die."
Satisfied, he curled back into her lap. "Well, all right, then."
"The reason it's not sad is because the princess starts out lonely, but she doesn't finish up that way," she said. "You see, one day, the princess was outside, walking in the Queen's garden. The Queen kept a beautiful rose garden, and the princess loved going there, because these weren't just any old roses."
He smiled into her housedress. They never were. Not in Mum's stories. In Miss' books, anything that wasn't what it seemed was always what Miss called a metty-four, and metty-fours were meant to teach naughty children lessons. Another point in favor of Mum's stories, really. Not a metty-four in sight.
"They were magical roses. Not only did they bloom every day, just as pretty as the day before, but they always smelled sweet and the thorns never scratched. The princess would stand in a rosebush, and they would wrap around her like they loved her. And who knows? Maybe they did."
"Do plants love anything?" Toby wondered out loud. It didn't make much sense.
Mum shrugged. "Maybe magic ones do. Anyway, this particular day, while the princess was in the roses, she saw something strange. Someone strange."
"Who?" he asked, unable to resist bouncing a little. "Who was it?"
"A boy," she replied, smiling at his enthusiasm. "A little boy not much older than the princess herself. He was wearing muddy old clothes and he had a pocketknife."
"Oh, no," Toby gasped. He could see where this was going.
"Oh, yes," she told him solemnly. "The boy was about to cut one of the Queen's roses. Which was not only a very bad thing for the boy to do, as it would be stealing, but it was dangerous, too. Because the roses could feel pain just like anything does, and the princess knew that if the boy hurt the roses, they would not be kind to him.
"So she called out to him. `You, boy,' she said. `Stop!'
"But the boy, who was really quite a rude boy, didn't listen to her. He just said a very bad word--"
"Like the ones Daddy says whenever a copper brings Charlie home," Toby interjected. Charlie said some of those words sometimes, but the one and only time Toby had tried, Mum had stuck a bar of soap in his mouth and spanked his bottom. He'd cried buckets, because he was used to Daddy slapping him and Charlie kicking him, but Mum never hit, and he promised never to say those words again.
(Four years later, after Charlie had gotten himself shot to death in a bar fight and Toby held a bright, shiny Hogwarts letter in his hand, listening to the old bastard Tobias tell him the number of horrible things he would do before letting a child of his go to a freak school for freak wizards, Toby had actually said a few of these choice words and threatened to slip poison in the old bastard Tobias' supper if he didn't let him go. Once at school, he marched up to the lady reading the names and informed her that his name was certainly not Toby. It was Severus.)
"Like those," she agreed without skipping a beat. "And the princess was surprised, because she hadn't ever heard anyone say a word like that out loud, and she was very tempted to let the boy go ahead and hurt the rose, just to teach him a lesson."
Toby wrinkled his nose. "But she didn't, did she, Mum?"
"No, she didn't," she said with a nod. "Not so much because she wanted to keep the rude boy safe, but because she didn't want any harm to come to the roses. So she shouted and waved her hand, and the knife was knocked out of the boy's hand.
"The boy was quite surprised, because where the boy lived, there wasn't any such thing as magic. And just like anyone would if they saw something brand-new for the first time, the boy was scared. And angry. So he shouted at the princess. `What did you do?'
"'You were going to cut the roses,' the princess said. `And then they would have hurt you. These are special roses, you know. So I had to keep you from doing it.'
"'That was you?' the boy asked, still scared. `You... you witch!'
"'I'm not a witch,' she said. `I'm a princess. And you're just a rude, stupid boy!'
"Really, that wasn't a very smart thing for the princess to say," Mum said in a reasonable sort of tone. "Because if you're talking to someone who's as scared and angry as the boy was, the last thing you want to do is go and make them even madder, but the princess hadn't spent much time around people, so she didn't know that.
"'I ought to clobber you for that!' the boy cried.
"'You do and I'll tell my father,' the princess said. `He's the King around here, and if you hurt me or the roses, he'll tell his servants to give you a good thrashing.'"
Toby's eyes widened. "But the boy didn't know the roses were magic," he protested. "That's not very fair."
"Many things aren't fair, Toby-boy," she replied. "But the princess' words made an impression on the rude boy. He looked down at the ground and shuffled his feet. `I'm sorry,' he said in a very quiet voice. `I just wanted to bring a pretty flower to my gran. She's sick, and she can't look after us like she should. That's why Teacher says I'm encouragable. On account of my broken home.'"
"What's... encouragable?" Toby asked, confused.
(Seven years later, Severus Snape would realize that his mother had been saying incorrigible, but only because Professor McGonagall had called him the same thing. He would go and sit in the greenhouse after this happened and wish that Hogwarts had a rosebush somewhere. If confronted, he would have denied shedding a single tear over this incident, but truth be told, he shed several.)
"Well, the princess asked the very same question," Mum told him with a little shake of the head. "And the boy replied that he didn't know either, but it couldn't be good, because Teacher wouldn't let him in class because of it. `You're lucky,' he told the princess, `bein' a princess an' all, because you don't have to go to school and be encouragable.'
"'I'll go to school one day,' the princess told him. `When I'm eleven, my mother told me I have to go to a school and learn all about how to use magic.'
"'That's dumb,' the boy said, just as rude as he'd been earlier. `Magic isn't real. Not even for princesses.'
"'It is so,' the princess said. `And I can do lots of magic. Everyone in my family can. It's not my fault if you can't.'
"'Well, maybe I could too,' the boy told her. `Only no one's ever given me a chance. None of my brothers or sisters ever let me do magic, you know. And my gran's too sick to show me anyway. I bet I could do lots of magic too.'
"'How many brothers and sisters do you have?' The princess was very curious, you see, because she hadn't any at all, but she'd always wanted some.
"The boy's reply wasn't very happy. `Too many. They're always forgetting about me,' he said. `An' now they're all off gettin' married and havin' babies and leavin' me to look after our gran. No wonder my da' ran off after Ma died. I would too if I thought I could.'
"The princess felt kind of sorry for the rude boy, then. Because it sounded like he was just as lonely as she was, in a way. `If you ran away,' she said, `you could live here in the rose garden. I would make sure to bring you food every day, and you wouldn't have to be encouragable if you didn't want to.'
"'Yeah, but what about when you go off to magic school?' the boy asked. `I don't think I'm as magical as you, so maybe I couldn't go. An' what if I did go, even, and they didn't have a rose garden there? I wouldn't have anywhere to live.'"
He couldn't stand it. He had to interrupt. "You promised this wouldn't be a sad story!" he cried. "But this is even sadder!"
She threaded her fingers through his hair and scratched comfortingly at his scalp. "Be patient, Toby-boy. Grownup stories take a lot longer than little-boy stories."
"Well..." he drawled, still unappeased.
"Have I ever broken my word to you, Toby?"
And he had to shake his head at that. Mum always kept her promises. Even when it meant Daddy yelled at her and said, "For fuck's sake, Eileen," and slapped her for it.
"All right, then," she said sternly, but her eyes were still twinkling. "Where were we?"
"The boy didn't have a place to live," he said, trying not to sound too depressed about it, because Mum was going to keep her promise in the end.
"The princess realized that the boy was right. A rose garden wasn't really a very practical place for someone to live, and she couldn't keep him like a pet. So she made a deal with the boy. `You can come here whenever you want,' she said. `The roses will tell me when you're here.'
"'Why would you be so nice to me?' the boy asked suspiciously.
"She didn't really know what to say to that, so she just smiled at him. `We're going to be friends, aren't we? And friends should be nice to each other.'
"'Never had no friend before...' the boy told her.
"'Well, I haven't either,' she said. `But I've read books about it.'
"And the princess and the boy were friends for a long time," Mum said softly. When Toby looked up at her face, her eyes were a long way away, not like her usual stories. "The boy came to the rose garden almost every day, and they spent long hours playing together. Soon enough, though, the day came for the princess to go off to her magical school. The boy was very angry and refused to come to the rose garden to say good-bye."
His head snapped up. "That's mean!"
She smiled. "The princess was angry with the boy, too, but she wrote him letters. Every week, she sent him a letter using an owl. Owls, you see, can deliver letters even if there's no address. They can find anyone in the whole world."
"Really?" he asked with wide eyes. The only thing Miss ever told them about owls was that they ate mice and slept during the day. But then again, Miss didn't seem to know much about magic. In art one day, Toby had painted a lovely picture of himself fighting a great giant and he'd told Miss all about the families of giants that lived off in the mountains and how they didn't know proper English and ate people instead of real food, Miss had just smiled at him like he was an idiot.
"Oh, yes," Mum said. "That's why all wizards use owls. And the princess was learning to be a wizard, so of course she'd use an owl. But the boy never wrote her back."
"Not even once?"
"Not so much as a single word," she told him with another one of those far-away-somewhere looks. "But she still wrote him, every week, until she was eighteen years old and all done with her magic school. In the last letter she wrote him, she told him she was coming back to the big, lonely mansion, and she would be waiting for him in the rose garden, just like always."
He frowned in confusion. "But if the boy was so mean to her, why would the princess want to see him again?"
"He wasn't mean to her, Toby-boy," Mum said, but Toby didn't believe a word of it. "He was... afraid."
"Afraid?" he echoed in disbelief. "Of a girl?"
She laughed, and he couldn't figure out why. "Not quite, darling. But maybe the boy was worried that once the princess went off to her magical school, she would realize that a magic princess shouldn't have anything to do with an encouragable boy."
"Why not?" he asked blankly. Grownup stories were confusing.
"Well, lots of people believe that you should only spend time with people exactly like you. Princesses should only be friends with princes and other princesses, and that sort of thing."
"But... but that's just stupid!" Toby exclaimed. "What does it matter whether your Daddy makes a lot of money or doesn't make a lot of money? Davey Jenkins' Daddy works right beside my Daddy in the factory, but Davey is horrible! He pulls girls' hair and steals the little kids' pocket money. I don't want to have to be friends with him!"
Her hands were cool against his cheeks, and he felt himself calming down almost instantly. "That's because you're a smart boy," she told him, giving him a little hug. "And you don't judge people based on what they have. You judge them based on what they are, which is just the right way to be, Toby-boy. And you need to hold onto that, because lots of people in this world will try to change your mind."
(Twelve years later, Severus Snape would be listening to Lucius Malfoy explaining to a perfect stranger that Severus couldn't help being a penniless half-blood; it had been his mother's fault for being a blood traitor. This would be one of the many reasons he later found himself at Dumbledore's doorstep. If his mother had been alive then, he liked to think she would have understood. )
He wasn't sure what she meant, but he nodded his head in agreement, hoping she'd go back to the story now. "What happened to the princess in the rose garden, Mum? And the encouragable boy?"
"She did exactly as she promised. She went right down to the garden and waited for the boy, for hours and hours, but the boy never came."
"He didn't?" Something in his belly twisted, but he kept quiet, because Mum had promised.
"No, he didn't. Someone else did, though."
"What do you mean?"
She gathered him back in her lap and rocked him gently back and forth. "Just as the princess was ready to give up hope and go back into the big, lonely mansion forever, a young man came climbing over the wall. He was very silly-looking to the princess, because his hair was slicked back and he was wearing a suit and he had the most nervous look on his face he'd ever seen before.
"'Who are you?' the princess asked curiously.
"'I, uh... your hair got long,' the young man said. Which it had, but since she'd never met the young man before, the princess had no idea how he could have known that. `Are you a magic princess now?'
"'I suppose I am.' The princess was beginning to become afraid, talking to this bizarre stranger.
"'And you wouldn't want to have anything to do with an encouragable boy, I expect,' he said. `Even if he'd found himself a respectable job and bought a suit and all.'
"Suddenly, the princess realized who she was talking to."
"Who?" Toby exclaimed.
Her lips quirked in a smirk. "Haven't you figured it out, Toby? The young man was the encouragable boy, all grown up. The princess didn't realize it until she looked in his eyes and saw the same boy she'd befriended all those years ago. And it was difficult to remember that so much time had passed, because she didn't quite see how much she'd grown into a young lady herself. But once she knew who it was, she started to smile at him.
"'I'd miss the mud,' she told the young man. `But I suppose I could get used to suits. As long as he still wanted to come visit the Queen's rose garden with me. I might want him to stay longer, though.'
"'How much longer?' the young man asked. He still looked worried, but the princess knew what to do.
"'Forever," she said, reaching up and giving him a kiss."
Oh, gross. "A kiss?" Toby asked dubiously. "Why would that be the right thing to do?"
Another far-away-somewhere smile. "That's how most grownup stories end, Toby-boy. The princess kissed the encouragable boy, and he kissed her back. They were married and they lived in her rose garden forever."
"Why would they live in a rose garden?" he asked, unable to accept this as the end. Mum's stories generally tied up better than this one. "What happened when it rained? Or when it got cold in the winter? If the encouragable boy had a job, couldn't they just buy a normal house? Oh, but maybe because she was a magical princess, she couldn't live in a normal house..."
"Slow down, darling," Mum interrupted, laughing at all his questions. "I suppose I didn't mean that they lived in a real rose garden."
"Oh," he said glumly. Maybe this was going to turn out to have a metty-four after all. Like brush your teeth, or don't hit girls, or some other dumb thing that he'd always known to do.
"But when you're in love, like the princess and the encouragable boy, wherever you live is a rose garden," she said. "And they were always in love, forever. That's what you have to remember, Toby. No matter how angry the encouragable boy was, no matter how rude he was or how many bad words he said, he always loved the magical princess. And no matter what the magical princess said, or how worried she got, she always loved her encouragable boy. Forever. That's the happy ending. Forever love."
He mulled it over. "I s'pose that's all right, then. Forever love is pretty good for a story ending."
(Thirty-one years later, as Severus Snape breathed what he thought was certainly going to be his last bit of air, he remembered his mother's belief that forever love made for a happy ending and wanted to laugh with the injustice of it all. He would realize later, once it turned out that he was not breathing his last, that he had not yet found forever love. Or a happy ending.)
"I'm glad you approve, Toby-boy," Mum said with a smile, pressing a kiss to his cheek and tucking him back under his blankets. "Now, I've kept you up far too late. It's long since time you went to sleep, young man."
Tugging his pillow under his head, he yawned. "Thanks for my first grownup story, Mum. `Night."
"Sweet dreams, Toby."
The next morning, Toby tied one of his bed blankets around his neck and ran downstairs even before Daddy left for work.
"Jesus Christ, lad!" Daddy shouted. "What shite has yer mum been spoutin' this time?"
Which was really Daddy's way of asking, What are you pretending to be today, son? So Toby wasn't really bothered. He just twirled his finger in the air and grinned.
"I'm a wizard prince!" he cried. "I live in a magical rose bush, and I have a pet dragon in my wardrobe."
Because, really, grownup stories or not, some ideas were just too good to let go.
"Are yeh now?" Daddy asked skeptically. "An' here I thought you were gettin' too old for that pretendin' nonsense."
Pointing at Daddy's jar of marmalade, he closed his eyes and wished hard for a pot of raspberry jam instead. Usually, Mum got some for his birthday tea and he got to finish the whole pot himself, but she told him the market was out this year. Which was fine, but there was nothing wrong with wishing, right?
Before his eyes could open, he felt strong, angry hands wrap around his shoulders and jerk him high into the air.
"What the fuck did you just do, yeh unnatural little bastard?" Daddy yelled, giving him a good shake.
Toby's eyes flew open. "I didn't..." he stammered. "I was just..."
"What the fuck is this, then?" Daddy rammed a handful of marmalade in his face, smearing it all over. Some of it went up his nose and stung. Instinctively, Toby licked his lips and froze.
"But... I didn't..."
"Turn it back, boy," Daddy roared, shaking him again. "Yer due such a hidin'..."
And then light exploded under his eyelids as Toby tried to squirm away but Daddy's fist caught up with him anyway. He hadn't meant to, honest, but he couldn't help crying at the pain, which only ever made Daddy madder, and he felt something in his arm crack, and then he was screaming and...
Cool, gentle hands now. Pulling him away, letting him slide to the floor and cry.
Mum was here. She'd save him. She always did.
"Tobias!" he heard Mum shout. "Tobias, stop!"
"Outta my way, you bitch," Daddy cried. "He's your fault, anyway. Bringin' that mess into my house and then fillin' the boy's head up with your magicky foolishness."
"He's just a baby," she said desperately.
Toby struggled to open his eyes, and it really only happened just in time to see Daddy hit Mum across the face. She fell to her knees.
"Tobias, please don't," Mum whispered, and Toby heard something give in her voice, and it scared him enough that he almost started crying again.
Daddy's hand, which had gone up in the air to smack her again, wavered.
Toby's breath hitched. This was new.
Even Charlie, who Daddy loved and called son like he meant it, had to take his medicine sometimes. A lot of times, actually. And no matter how much Charlie squalled or promised not to get caught pinching from Mr. McLeod's shop any more, Daddy always kept going until the whipping was done.
But now, his hand just hung in the air, like a dead thing.
"Tobias," Mum said again. Quiet and careful.
Daddy dropped to his own knees and used his empty hand to trace Mum's cheek. "Oh, Eileen," he said gruffly. "I'm... I..."
"I know," she told him, holding his head to her chest and petting his hair like she did Toby's at story time. "I know."
(Forty-three years later, Severus Snape's left arm still ached when it rained, but he never told anyone why. Every time it happened, though, he would think about his mother and father and wonder why forever love was so difficult for them. Before he fell too deeply into his own memories, though, he would find himself pleasantly distracted by one thing or another and would be left marveling at how he wound up on such a different path. His mother was right about one thing, though. Severus Snape would live in a rose garden with his forever love until the end of their days. Not, of course, that wild hippogriffs could have forced him to admit to such a sentiment aloud.)