Anti-Semantic Psychosomatic

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bella_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Anti-Semantic Psychosomatic
Synopsis Finding solace is exceptionally difficult for those with chequered pasts.
Date April 8, 2011

Chelsea: Ch√Ęteau de Sheridan


Odessa Price longs for the days where she would have been stepping out of the shadows in the hallway as Bella Sheridan approached her apartment door. Stepping out to say something like fancy meeting you here. As though the whole thing were some sort of coincidence, when it obviously was not.

Instead, Odessa Price stands outside of the building, wrapped up in a tan trenchcoat against the spring's chill. Her finger is pressing to the buzzer that will alert Bella of the presence of someone requesting entry to her home. "It's fucking cold out here, Bella," Odessa mutters. It isn't really that cold. But she did grow up in Texas. But beyond that, she grew up in climate controlled environments. She reminds herself that, comparatively, this is nothing. She endured a portion of the never-ending winter in a building that lost power. That wasn't altogether fun.

Right. Business at hand. Bella, Bella, have a care, and let me up the fucking stairs. Odessa bounces impatiently, pressing the buzzer a second time. Much too close together after the first time to really justify the second go.

No one ever, ever uses the buzzer. This may have something to do with the fact that the buzzer doesn't work properly. It does perform its eponymous function, buzzing with a horrible, strep-throat yodel, but nothing intelligible emerges from the nearly painted-over speaker grill.

Bella was already jumpy, recovering from the latest invasion of her rathole sanctum. The unexpected caterwaul gives her a momentary flash of panic, one that subsides into confusion as she tries to discern what the hell that noise is, where it's coming from.

It's a good thing that the sound comes twice; 'Dessa might have been stuck out in the cold at least until she had the sense to call. A pajama'd Bella stands before the speaker with her reading glasses low on her nose, a finger jabbing at the button, it's supporting spring depressingly weak

"Hello? H- hello?" A few more jabs at the button, but the feeble resistance it gives inspires no confidence. And with nothing but a scraping whisper coming from the speaker, Bella must decide - does she venture down to the door. Is it important, or is it just some very ill guided Jehovah's Witness? Caught between her dread and curiosity, the scales tip to the latter with the former's aid. What if she needs to answer? What if this case is exceptional?

In minutes she is in slippers, keys jangling in her hand as she treads down to the entrance hall and…

Goodness gracious, "Odessa?" should maybe sound more pleased and less surprised, but she had no idea Odessa knew where she lived - she has never breathed a word herself. It should also be louder, since there is a door between them. Bella opens it and ushers her in.

"It's fucking freezing out here," are the first words out of Odessa's mouth as she hurries into the entry way. A reiteration and re-emphasis of earlier sentiments. "May I come in?" is an afterthought, as she is already in. Sort of. Just not in the apartment. "I… wanted someone to talk to. And you've insisted on being my therapist."

Odessa stares back out at the street, rubbing a hand over her face anxiously, wearily. "I'd have come to see you at work, but… I just didn't have the time. I'm so far behind as it is, that I-" She turns back, expression plaintive. "Do you mind?"

Bella would hug Odessa, but she has this strange sense that the other woman isn't actually here, that she couldn't be, that- But it is cold, and Bella presses the front door closed, continuing to look at Odessa with astonishment and no little concern. "Talk? Of- of course," she steps forward, closing the gap between them a little, though there is some hesitation still, that lingering incredulity.

But what nonsense. Bella steps up and takes her friend by the arms before drawing her into a hug. "Of course I don't mind. Come on up."

For a moment, there is plain fear of rejection written in the scarred lines of Odessa's face. But when Bella draws her in for a hug, it's reciprocated warmly. "Thank you." She falls silent for the time it takes to be escorted up to Bella's home, and let inside. She peers around the space with a sort of wide-eyed curiosity, uncinching the tie at her waist and then working free buttons. "Is your cat around?"

It's not a long walk, and Bella makes it very briskly, unlocking the single deadbolt she drops even when just poking out the door - a certain survivalist paranoia - and drawing the door open for Odessa to pass. The interior is a mix of truly shabby and strangely upscale, with what look like framed fine art prints as well as a shelve for books, a rather respectable kitchen-dining table, a couch and an arm chair. The television sits there, drab and not often used - Bella's book has its place held by the back of her couch.

"Cat?" Bella echoes, not really sure what Odessa me- "Oh! Oh, no. No he- I'm afraid he ran off." This can be generously interpreted as mostly not a lie. The practical upshot, at least, is the same. "I'm sorry if it's a mess," which it's not, really, just run down as run down buildings in the slums tend to be, "I- didn't expect you. Or anyone."

"Awww." Odessa had been hoping to see the cat that she was about to describe as like her, with a tap to her eye patch. That is to say, the ginger-furred thing missing one eye. "I'm sorry to hear that." To bring up that she misses 'Inger would be old news. Nothing Bella doesn't already know.

"They made me move, you know," Odessa offers without preamble, shrugging out of her coat and draping it over one arm. Then the back of the armchair as she sits down. Though her head comes up quickly and she fixes Bella with a questioning look. "Oh. Should I let you sit here? And I sit on the couch? Like in your office?"

What the loss of the cat means to Bella is a thing apart, but she has no interest in it being news at all. Part of the benefit of the highly unethical practice of turning therapy into a personal relationship is that the 'therapist' is permitted to say very little about themselves - priests don't given their confessions to parishioners.

Bella steps over to the doorway into Flint's room, left ajar in a form of neurotic feng shui, and closes it while speaking, her answer serving as something like a diversion. It feels ugly to be secretive around her friend, but if she can avoid being asked direct questions, she won't complain. "Please, take the couch, if it'll help the process," there's a light formality to her voice. If this is therapy, this is therapy, insofar as Odessa needs it to be. The door clicks closed and Bella turns to face her friend.

"Eltingville, isn't it? It's a great big relocation, a lot of the Suresh Center SLCs got shuffled over there," Bella shakes her head, moving to stand at the back of the armchair, "it just gets worse and worse, all the time."

Odessa is distracted by her own thoughts for the moment. The one-eyed tom, the merits of armchair and sofa. She doesn't notice the way Bella swings closed the door to Flint's room. And it's the sofa that wins out, Odessa moving herself over to leave her shoes on the floor in front of it, and take up a sprawl across a cushion and a half. "Is that how you think of us? SLCs? Like we're something… different from you?"

Fine talk from someone who's put the Evolved above the rest of the human race. With words like how do you people even live like this? But that was then. And Odessa's fast learning a life lesson about equality, and what separates two seemingly different groups. "It's been ten years since I manifested. I could barely remember what life was like before then… But I'm starting to now."

Bella gives Odessa a reproving look, thinking it better than a defensive tone, however reasonable. "To say that Jews were sent to concentration camps is not anti-semetic. To send them to concentration camps is. I'm describing what's being done to whom, I'm not saying it's right. In fact, I'm saying it's wrong."

The psychiatrist moves to take her seat, a bird's perch rather than a cat's sprawl. Bella folds her hands in her lap after smoothing out her skirt and fixes a steady blue gaze on Odessa. "You used your ability that frequently? Or was it just the knowledge that you had it available to you that shaped the way you experience to world?"

Odessa's gaze casts downward, standing corrected by Bella's semantics. The words hit a little close to home as she recalls a place called Dessau, in Germany, at the tail end of the second Great War. When she looks up again to answer Bella's question, however, the thoughts are banished, and she actually smirks. "I used my ability all the time. I got so much more done in a day than anyone else." Her life expectancy is likely much shorter on account of it than she'll ever appreciate. If only because of the way she keeps moving (ageing) while time stands still around her.

Or perhaps the use of her ability will come to haunt her in much the same way it has Hiro Nakamura. That's a situation that would trouble Odessa greatly if she knew. "The days pass by much too quickly now. I can't keep up with anything."

"I'm afraid there's not much on the books about the cognitive effects of temporal deceleration," Bella says, tone half-joking since this isn't much of a joke, "I think it's something you'll have to get used to. Which may mean you'll never get used to it. But you'll learn to live with it. The brain is very adaptable, this fact I've seen time and time again. For better or worse."

There's a space of time here - Bella ought to ask a question, prompt Odessa to continue. But for the moment she is sadly distracted by her own thoughts. This missing of a therapeutic beat is simply not like Bella. Neither is the strain of worry around her eyes.

"Uh- have you considered scheduling? Making time tables? That measure of control may help counterbalance, however slightly…" Bella doesn't much care for what she's saying even as she's saying it, and she trails off, brows suddenly furrowing, the strain turning into outright tension.

"I- I'm sorry, 'Dessa," Bella says, lowering her head to her hand, fingers propping up her forehead, "I'm maybe not- not really in great shape for this. I'm- I'm sorry, I really am."

But… Bella always has her shit together. That's why Odessa is forever turning to her when her world's on its head. And so it's with no small amount of surprise, confusion, and even a dash of alarm that she peers wide-eyed at her friend. "Do… do you want me to go?" is fearful, but a question she wants an honest answer to. Her full lips form into something of a pout, but not the sort usually seen on the face of a toddler before tears over not getting the toy they wanted. Thankfully.

"Absolutely not!" Bella exclaims, sound rather strident really, though her vehemence may be more reassuring than polite reassurances. If Bella is schooled in controlling her affect, she is doing a fine imitation of someone losing that control. Or she may just be genuinely scared. "I'm alone in this apartment every night. I've been alone since- since-" it's not that she has a hard time saying it; the cut of her eyes, troublingly red and dangerously dewy, up to Odessa betrays the specificity of the problem - saying it to her is hard. But if not to Odessa, then to whom?

"Calvin Rosen broke into my apartment, three days ago. I came home and he was- here. There-" she lifts and points a finger at her bedroom doorway, "just standing. He had gone through my things, read- read my personal documents. He physically intimidated me, that son of a bitch - he insulted and belittled me, then grilled me for information he already had."

"Cal' was here?" is perhaps not the best response Odessa could have ever offered. But an assurance that the man hasn't yet wound up in a ditch with a bullet in his skull is something of a comfort to her. "What did he want?" she asks not quite as an afterthought. "Did… He didn't hurt you, did he?" Suddenly, her eye is questing for signs of physical trauma on Bella's person, stopping just short of reaching out to touch and examine.

Bella does not look injured. She doesn't even look made up - there is nothing to conceal the fatigue gathering darkly under her eyes. But it's time and strain that's given her those, not contusion or assault. "He wanted the- he wanted information. I- I don't know if I should tell you anything else, Odessa. I don't want you implicated if there's ever an inquiry. This-" pause, "this isn't exactly the first time I've sold out our employers. And I'm not precisely discreet about my- dissatisfaction."

Her hands rise to hide her face. "I just can't live like this any more. I- I could manage when- when I wasn't alone this often, but I- I really can't stand it. I can barely sleep. When I do it- it's not restive."

Odessa crawls over to bridge the space between her and Bella, wrapping her up in her arms. "I know exactly how you feel." That's really rarely reassuring. Especially when it's an assurance she never accepts when it's offered to her. "Forget about all of that. Our employers already think I'm poised to stab them in the back." Which is how she's in her current situation. "You may as well tell me what's going on." She withdraws, but leaves her hands resting on the other woman's shoulders, imploring her to continue.

Bella is amendable to hugging. She practically clings to Odessa, and leans back with initial reluctance when her friend withdraws. Her arms slip free of the other woman, wrapping around herself instead.

Confession is easy: "Amphodynamine, the- the dosages in the initial incident. The- the discovery," at least up until a point. Her ferocious admission to Calvin of the discovery's pure accident had been a product of fear and a misconceived defiance. She feels no such pressure from Odessa. But ought she to? Not feel pressure - to tell, though pressure maybe also, a wish to be totally honest with her friend?

Her friend the proudly self-declared traitor.

"I don't know why he wanted to know. But he said he had access to the Institute's archives. He- I just don't know- honestly," Bella closes her eyes and speaks, hushed, "I don't know anything. And I don't want to."

Bella's eyes open. "What if I had a way to get out?"

Odessa's hands lift, rise up to trace the curves of Bella's face with her fingertips delicately. She isn't sure where she learnt such movements. Perhaps too many romance films. "Out of the Institute?" White brows furrow over eye and patch.

"Take it," she offers without confirmation that that's what Bella means at all. "Get out and don't look back, if you can."

Maybe if Odessa had told her she shouldn't, she would have argued for why she should. As it is, the moment Odessa favors the idea - and it does seem that she has discerned Bella's meaning correctly - Bella immediately assumes the opposite stance.

"But I couldn't!" apparently, so why did she bring it up, "if I disappeared, they'd look to you at once, and you already said you're on thin ice with them. I will not get you killed just because- just because I can't fucking cope. Because I'm too fucking soft and suburban and cowardly." The abuse she hurls at herself is vehement - you wouldn't want any parent talking to a child this way, ever.

Bella pulls her head away from Odessa's hands. Why she does this, she's not sure. She doesn't want to. She regrets it immediately and wants to take it back. But it's too late by then, and the look she gives Odessa is guilty in too murky a way for her reasons to be obvious.

"If they want me dead, you disappearing won't be the reason for it," Odessa insists. She doesn't even necessarily disagree with what Bella thinks of herself, sorry, but does look somewhat pained when the russet-haired doctor withdraws.

"And if they find out you want out, and they… If anything happened to you, I wouldn't be able to cope." Her hands lower to her lap with a shake of her head. "I worry about you. You're so brilliant, and…" Odessa's gaze slides off to one side, staring past Bella for a moment. "I'd feel better if you get away from these people. I… I can't. Not while they still have my ability hostage like this. I have to hope I can get it back…"

Emotion wells up at points of indecision, hinges where the mind is bent unbearably, and force to conform in some new way to sustain the pressure. When a course of action is laid, it becomes easier. Bella reflects on the value of having something - just something - to move towards. Death rates in nursing home residents were considerably lessened among subjects who had a plant to water each day. Just a single plant, and they gained years.

Bella wonders, briefly, if this means she is retiring. Something that, itself, increased the death rate, particularly in unmarried professionals. Retiring at age thirty. And she had so much more to give to her field. To the human race.

"I'd like to- to devise a way to stay in contact with you, if that were at all possible," Bella states, her words oddly formal, a stone block dam against still stirring latent emotion.

Odessa nods numbly, tears welling up in her eyes as she watches Bella make her decision. Even though the process is internal, there are external cues that one can pick up on, if they know what they're looking for. She reaches out again to hug. "I'd like that. We'll… think up something. We're smart women, right?"

Arms around her frame tighten as the first of the tears begins to fall from Odessa's eyes. "I—" Words are halting. Sentiment may be affirming of worth, but may also make the choice harder. Again, she withdraws, but not entirely this time. And not for long.

Scarred lips crush against unmarred, single blue eye squeezing shut in that moment of emotion. Blinding herself to the act, for fear of it being not so well received.

It takes Bella by surprise every time, the act itself or its initiation. Never enough presence of mind to slip away, and little too much desire for self gratification to want to. People liking her is what Bella misses most. Odessa likes her. Bella likes to be liked.

But it doesn't last very long because the very next moment Odessa can feel great big teardrops thudding against her cheek. Bella skips preliminaries and just cuts straight to sobbing. Her nose will run soon. It's is rather minimally sexy.

But that doesn't mean Odessa is going to get away. Bella pulls the other woman into a tight hug, burying her face in Odessa's shoulder and giving over to personal melodrama. The moment was so right. She just did what she had to do. She couldn't help herself.

Slender arms hold tightly to crying Bella, fingers brushing through her hair. Odessa rests her chin atop her friend's head. "It's okay," she murmurs. "You're going to be okay. Better than that once you're away from all this." She can't imagine for a moment that a life outside of the Institute could be anything except better than this. Just like life outside of the Company was better.

But not easy. Never, ever easy.

"You won't be alone."

It takes some time for Bella to regain herself. She's not a soulless woman, though she doesn't believe in souls, just maybe a damned one. But the saved are very few in number, at last conservative count. The odds were against her to begin with. God plays with weighted dice.

She lifts her head from Odessa's shoulder after some time, the last moments mostly silent save for the occasional sniff. Her eyes are red, but at least she has no makeup to make runny. There is the very slightest protrusion of her lower lip, a silly little tell, the missing link between instinct and intention, the very first con.

"Please stay," and it would be utterly cruel to refuse. Utterly. You can tell by the look in her eyes.

"Of course I will." Silly. Odessa smiles faintly and brushes away the traces of drying rivers from Bella's face. "It's my birthday today," she informs her quietly. "The first one I've ever… known. I didn't know my date of birth until last year, after the day had passed. So this is the first. I…" She leans in a fraction, but doesn't close the distance yet. "I wanted to spend it with you."

Bella may just be blinking back the last trickle of tears, but she looks surprised enough. "You're serious, you never knew?" Bella says, sounding rather less than the smart woman Odessa counts her as, "That's really tragic, you've never had a birthday celebration? It's- it's the personal holiday!" The only kind she observes, apparently, besides pagan Christmas.

"My last birthday was pretty much bullshit by most standards," comes with something that looks almost like a smirk, lips twisting like wire. "How old are you today?" Bella lowers her head and gives Odessa a level look, "You are permitted to lie to me but you should know you absolutely under no condition should have to." Her eyes narrow, "Bet you're twenty five. Fucking wunderkind."

The rapid pace of Bella's chatter, it's sardonic edge, do a lot to help her regain her composure. A kind of fighting retreat, she still holds on to Odessa pretty tightly for all that she is yammering through the subject. She remembers, a little late, the last thing Odessa said. She looks almost ashamed.

"I'm- honored…" sounds lame, and she knows it. But it is not untrue.

She doesn't fight back when Bella wheels on her and makes Odessa the focal point of their discussion then. Whether it's because she recognises the tactic for what it is - a way to cope - or not is debatable. "Twenty-seven," she admits freely. In a couple of years, perhaps the numbers will start to bother her. But for now, knowing her precise age is a marvel and it brings one of those very rare bright smiles to her face.

"I mean, I don't have any other friends," doesn't diminish one ounce of that cheeriness, for all that it probably should, "and even if I did… Nobody can compare to you. You… know all these awful things about me," does take away from some of that glow, "and you're still here. And not even because you have to be. Because I know you." She pauses a half a second to correct, "At least, I like to think I do. You wouldn't put up with me unless you wanted to. Even the Institute couldn't force that. That's… what I like so much about you." Though what it is precisely, Odessa doesn't really elaborate on.

Bella gives a snort. Twenty seven. The surgeon, the scientist. Of fucking course. Scorn is the iceberg tip of Bella's fondness. "I decided," she says, leaning back and taking Odessa's hands in her own, "that life isn't meaningful without some things that are unconditional. Some things you don't compromise on. I- I'd much rather be the things I love, whatever- whatever that may mean, but I'd much rather," stumbling a little on her words, "be that than- than something else. The alternative."

"We talk an awful lot." Dark lashes create a veil for a cobalt gaze at the downward tip of chin, and subsequently face, head. "I'd like to stop talking." Rather than let Bella worry about what that might mean, Odessa captures another kiss. Her hands come up to settle on either side of the column of her throat, slowly winding fingers into the hair at the nape of Bella's neck.

They may not see each other again for a long, long time after tonight. This gamble is worth the risk.

This is taking a turn for the torrid. And it's not as if Bella was unaware that this would emerge again. It's Odessa's birthday. 'I wanted to spend it with you.' And in what matter spent? Bella entertains ignorance because she is lonely, and because she finds Odessa beautiful, but she worries, why so beautiful? And why so lonely?

Bella pushes back into this kiss but promptly retreats from all the ground she's gained, pulling a gap between them. She tries to get Odessa's eye. "I-" no, you can't think about how to say this, there is no positive spin, "can't. Not- not on this couch. Not in that bed. Not- not here. I'm- I'm sorry, Odessa. I-" her eyes close and she draws a long breath through her nose, out through her mouth, "I love you. I don't mean that lightly. I am very very serious about that word. But I am in love with someone, and if I do this- with you here and- here and now, I frightened about why- why and how I'd be doing it. What I'd be doing to you."

Bella's hands have lifted to hold Odessa's own hands in place. Refusing to let her relinquish the intimacy of the gesture. Not letting her take it back. "I am not rejecting you. I would never reject you. But I know that it wouldn't be healthy for me. And I won't see you hurt. I won't abide it."

"Must be nice," is all Odessa can find to say. For all that Bella doesn't mean to hurt, Odessa is. It's written in the way her brows knit together above the bridge of her nose, and the way her lips pull too tight and then draw into a pout.

Then, she sniffles. But rather than start crying, she shouts. "So then where the fuck is he if he's so damned important? Why are you always alone? I'm here for you when you ask me to be. And where is he?" One hand does withdraw so Odessa can make a sweeping gesture to indicate the otherwise empty apartment. "It doesn't matter how good I am to you, or to Sylar, or to Ethan, Nick, or Calvin!"

Odessa yanks her other hand away and drags herself up off the couch. Because she feels so much better to do all this yelling while standing. And there's something to be said about the perception of being taller, or above Bella while she does it. "Nobody fucking cares!" Her chest is tight, and it's difficult to breathe. And there's pain.

Not emotional pain.

Odessa cringes back, staggering with a sharp hiss, and reaches to press heel of her palm against the patch over her left eye. Then fingers pry at its edges to quest beneath it, without lifting it away to flash a look at the ruined eye to Bella. The pads of her fingers come away bloody. Her breathing quickens, coming now in short, panicked gasps.

Only it isn't blood that Bella sees at all. Just the moisture of tears. And after Odessa rubs her fingers together to thin out the sanguine wetness, she sees it for the saline as well. A second examinary swipe with the pad of the opposite thumb comes away clean as well. She looks confused, and more than that, she looks scared. A look is flickered up at Bella only briefly. She knows better than to hope for an explanation.

Or she'd rather not hear the explanation.

The shouting has Bella recoiling already, her grip easily loosening, eventually retreating with the rest of her as she flinches beneath the battery of Odessa's questions and imperatives. It's cheap, perhaps, the wounded look Bella uses, but it's not a choice as much as an instinct. Don't hurt me, please don't hurt me, why would you hurt me?

Of course it's Odessa that's actually hurt. And when Bella recovers from the initial horror of someone being upset at her, this sinks in. Her cringe loosens into a slowly straightening sit, and while her hands knit together in a nervous tangle, her expression is no longer flinching. She'd start to speak. Maybe to try and appease Odessa, to assure her of the depth of Bella's appreciation, gratitude, affection- the virtues and sentiments would form a starry chain.

But then Odessa begins to act strange. Confusion bridges over into concern, and Bella forgets that they are fighting long enough to get to her feet and reach out- though not long enough to reach Odessa. "What- what happened, 'Dessa?"

"I don't know," Odessa responds honestly, and breathlessly. She rubs her fingers over the fabric of her shirt, drying them and then making a move to slip her shoes back on, the intent being to then go grab her coat so she can get out the door. "I'm sorry. I should never have come here. Should never have… bothered you." She doesn't even get the back of her sneaker all the way around her heel, the green canvas folded over on itself in her haste. "I should go." She turns then, the rubber sole of the Converse slapping on the floor from the awkward wear of it as she makes her way toward where her trench still sits draped over the armchair.

Bella goes for Odessa's wrist. A last moment, desperate, poorly thought out decision that has her struggling just to stop herself from falling off the couch. This means the moment she gets ahold of her friend, storming away for a second time, she is force to either topple over or pull back - and take Odessa with her.

The decision was made with some small room for consideration. She did want Odessa to stop.

"Leave me alone!" Odessa cries out before she goes falling over onto the couch, onto Bella. Leaving one shoe behind on the floor. It's an awkward sprawl of limbs, narrowly avoiding a knee pressed into Bella's stomach. A crushed spleen or something equally squishy at this juncture would only serve to make things further complicated.

Odessa stares down at Bella, and if she had vision in both eyes, it would be a cross-eyed look for their proximity. "There's something wrong with me," she whispers. "I need to go." Rather than subject her best friend to whatever this is. A bout of insanity?

It's a bout for a bout. Bella finds herself wanting to say things like 'don't leave me' or 'let me help you', textbook co-dependency lines that look flattering on no one. There's no answer from Bella, and no move to right them both to sane configuration, for a good few seconds.

Bella wraps her arms around Odessa in order to guide them both into a sit, and it is only when they are sitting, some adjustment later, that she speaks, still maintaining a hold on the other woman. She's a flight risk. Restraint is necessary.

"Please. Please, don't leave like this. Stay I- just tell me what happened," and then, sublimely ridiculous, "I'm a doctor."

"So am I," Bella is reminded with a hint of bitterness. Different kinds of doctors. Semantics. Odessa sits still, obedient, however. Like a bird tethered 'round one foot to the arm of a handler, to further the analogy of flight risk. Perhaps Bella should be wearing leather gloves.

"My… No. No. This is absurd. I'm not talking about this." Because maybe it will just go away if Odessa doesn't admit out loud to having phantom pain from healed injuries.

"Please," once again, a word like a battering ram, no nuance, just the steady pressure of her earnestness and care, a besieging affection, "don't make me worry about this too," admittedly selfish, "please," Bella says again, "I know you're upset at me, but I'm begging you."

"Why should I stay for your peace of mind?" Her gaze narrows then, contesting Bella's need. "You reject me for some absentee boyfriend, and then expect me to stay?" It's selfish, and Odessa will regret her words later. When she isn't so wounded. When she's had time to realise what she's said, and what she really meant. "I thought- I thought that—

"I thought…"

It's not as if Bella can contest these points. Her defense is to look wounded once more, but she catches herself at it this time, not so surprised, not taken aback. She chooses, instead, to marshal her features, attempting composure as she lifts her own hands to Odessa's neck, mirroring the other woman's motion previous. It then logically follows…

But Bella doesn't kiss her. She finds her eye instead. Her brows tilt minutely, pitifully, up at the center. "Please," she says, "stay with me." No justification or reason - but every explanation that flutters in the file cabinet of Bella's interpersonal archives seems insufficient, unkind or even just untrue. So instead, "Please," she asks, "stay."

Odessa's lips pull into a frown. But she… She can't say no. Not when Bella looks at her that way. She can't stay angry. "I- I… There was blood, when I…" She makes a vague gesture upward toward the left side of her face. "And… then there wasn't."

She tips her head to one side slightly, watching Bella's face curiously. "I'm not good at this," Odessa says. "And… I think I'm losing my mind."

Bella rewards Odessa's forgiveness by drawing closer, thumb giving the nape of Odessa's neck a light brush. She leans forward to peer at the spot Odessa indicates, the space dominated by her patch. Bella looks to Odessa's good eye, a question in her look that is echoed in her words. "May I take a look?" Meaning she wants to draw back that patch which she knows Odessa is sensitive about, but Odessa also knows she shouldn't be ashamed of, not with Bella. Reassurance offered in exchange for compliance.

"If that's you're worry," she adds, smiling softly, "then I'm precisely the right kind of doctor, too."

Nails hook under the patch and Odessa draws it away from her face. Her gaze lowers, she's afraid of whatever she'll see on Bella's face when she looks. Her eye is ugly and ruined as ever, but there's no blood. No sign of further trauma or damage. No crimson damp. Just the remnants of earlier tears.

Bella slips the patch back down. "You look just fine," she says, and leans over to kiss the center of the patch. "But your experience- it looked vivid. It looked very real to you," her brow knits, "that's a very severe symptom but- well within the range of the stress you're suffering right now. The acute stress-" need she say, the loss of her ability? Compounded with rejection, a whole summoned list of injuries, their combined weight. "If it happens again, anything like it, let me know, okay?"

Odessa nods her head slowly and then leans in to rest her head on Bella's shoulder, wrapping her arms around the woman's torso. "It hurt, but… it doesn't now." It sounds dumb to her as soon as leaves her mouth. "I'll stay," she relents finally in words. Confirmation that she won't try to run away again. "I'm sorry… I shouldn't… have yelled at you."

What a relief. Bella's forgiveness is easy and absolute. "I understand entirely," she says, petting Odessa's head, "and you are here. And I'm so glad you are," she turns her cheek to kiss Odessa's head. Painting a portrait of reconciliation.

A few moments of companionable silence follow in the wake of that moment. Then Odessa lifts her head and asks, "Do you have anything to eat?"


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