A Long Time Since Freud


bella_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title A Long Time Since Freud
Synopsis Bella conducts her first session with Odessa and attempts to discern her patient's motivations.
Date August 26, 2010

Doctor Sheridan's Office

She hasn't been able to get a new room, but Bella was able to commandeer a nice halogen lamp, replacing the brutal gaze of the fluorescents with a comparatively soft glow. The nasty buzzing is gone too, which is definitely an improvement, particularly considering the fact that this place, however hastily assigned, is now supposed to be a place of mental health. And as Poe luridly demonstrated, any incessant sound becomes the very sound of madness. So, yes. No more fluorescents.

It has been some time since Bella spoke with Dr. Knutson Price. It was admittedly a little unnerving to encounter someone who surpassed herself in both youth and professional accomplishment - wunderkinder are always unsettling, all the moreso when you are only so many years their senior. How much experience may have changed Odessa - compared, of course, to Bella's own changes - is something that remains to be seen. But Bella has every intention of seeing it. Though there are few specifics attached to this assignment, the general theme - initial assessment and consideration for ongoing treatment - suggest what might become a longer working relationship. And not one as colleague and colleague.

Bella waits in her (new, terrible) office for a client today. She is dressed as such, in a skirt suit (not the same she wore to her meeting with Elle, this one is an earthy brown), her legs crossed, her pad and pen nearby. Waiting, though ideally not appearing 'in wait'.

If nothing else, this had better serve to break up some of the damn monotony. The click, click, click of canary yellow high heels on the floor at an even pace sound like a metronome in the hall. They stop right outside the door to the office, but the tapping of knuckles replaces it for three more beats. The woman waiting to gain entry is dressed in a black pencil skirt - a heart detail at the hem, that same bright yellow cut diagonally with black stripes, trimmed with distressed threads - and a simple cap-sleeve shirt in horizontal black and white stripes.

Odessa remembers Doctor Sheridan well from her days at the Company. Of all the psychiatrists and psychologists she ever met there, perhaps Sheridan was the one she butted heads with least. That doesn't make her any less apprehensive about this meeting. For starters, Odessa doesn't talk to anyone licensed about her problems. She cries to people who just couldn't care less.

By her own admission, this has gotten her nowhere in the past.

It's time for a change. Odessa absently wads the fabric of her skirt into a ball in her fist, fabric shifting easily across her backseamed stockings. When she's told to enter, she steps into the room all doe eyes and trepidation. "Hello, Doctor Sheridan," she greets with a shy smile. Not the girl she was before she simply wandered away from the Company. "It's… good to see you again." Let's go with good.

"I admit," Bella says, greeting Odessa with a smile and rising to her feet, "I was very surprised to see your name on my docket." She crosses the room and, after a moment's consideration, eschews a shake in favor of giving the woman a light embrace. Not so much like old friends (which they are not) but old acquaintances (which they are, at least moreso).

"You look devastatingly fashionable," Bella says, stepping back and giving Odessa's ensemble a proper, upclose look, "you'll have to help me keep my mind on our session, or else I'll be tempted to question you on dressing tips." A sly smile, an admission, a secret shared. Very informal, the tone so far. Bella hopes, in the higher, more calculating regions of her mind where she dictates the details of her behavior in-session, that this will be taken well. Those doe eyes and that hesitance suggest that Odessa could use, first and foremost, a little comfort.

Speaking of which… "Please, take a seat. I apologize for the room. Our employers always seem to have some difficulty understanding that there is just as much utility in a nicely appointed room as in a spartanly maintained one. I'm going to try and find us a better space but, for now, we'll just have to make do."

Odessa returns the embrace in kind, with some hesitation born only of surprise. She steps back after it seems socially acceptable to do so and blushes when Bella compliments her attire. "The magazine says it's called rockabilly," she explains. "Do you like it? I've also been experimenting with gothic lolita. I… thought this might be more appropriate." The talk of fashion sets the younger woman at ease.

Reaching up, she pulls away the stark white hair she had purposely styled to make the black eye patch over her left eye less obvious, tucking it behind her ear so only a few stray strands fall across her face, forgetting why she'd styled it that way in the first place. "It's not nearly as cosy as the last one I was in," Odessa observes as she takes a seat on the couch. "But it's not bad."

"I love it, really," Bella says, remaining standing for the moment, though her feet start to backpedal towards her chair, "I wish I had anything close to the courage or the personality necessary to pull such a bold style off. I know, though, I'd feel ridiculous no matter how good I looked - pure personal insecurity. That's the thing with fashion, it's not just what's being worn, but how it's worn. Really, I envy you…

"But," Bella adds, with a slanted smile, retaking her seat and crossing her legs, smoothing her skirt out with her hands and then folding them on her knee, "we are not hear to talk about my quirks. We've never met in this capacity before. We've only been Dr. Sheridan and Dr. Knutson. But here, I'd rather us be Odessa and Bella. You're an educated, competent woman, and I'd like us to conduct our professional relationship like peers. You'll work with me, and I with you. Without your help, I can't do much of anything. I know you're much too intelligent to coax or cajole into a better state of mind.

"So I'd like to start by talking about your previous experience with therapy, if any, and what you'd like to accomplish in your sessions with me, both in the short and long term." Her hands part, gesturing openly at the woman sitting opposite her, "the floor is yours."

Odessa opens her mouth to start to say something about that gorgeous hair of Bella's, but keeps it to herself for now. She's right, they aren't here to discuss fashion and swap beauty tips. For a moment, she almost forgot that. Her smile fades away, and some of the nervousness settles back in, but she doesn't stand up and declare that this was a mistake. Not yet anyway.

"All right, Bella," she says softly, as if trying the name out on her tongue. "I've never… really done this much before. Doctor Salonga and I spoke a couple times and she would try to get me to open up… But I didn't like it." Especially since the other Company psychiatrist's method generally involved probing the woman's mind with her ability. "And I… spoke with Doctor Kenneth a few times at Madame Dalton's insistence, but… That didn't really work out so well, either. I… didn't feel like he understood me." Odessa presses her lips together, light brows furrowing. "I felt like he was just there to sabotage me."

Maybe when Bella's off the clock, maybe, if Bella can find some sort of excuse for it, they can go get coffee. She's already figuring out if it's possible. While it is not perhaps quite kosher in normal practice, well… things are far from normal when you're transferring from one secret organization to another (and sometimes yet another). How many people can they even really talk to about… most things?

"We're here to talk," Bella says, simply and truthfully, "it's been a long time since Freud, more than a century, but that idea - 'the talking cure' - that I still take very seriously. A lot of the time we just need to put things into words, and suddenly they are so much less scary or upsetting. And sometimes you just need to be heard. Now, if you could explain what about your work with Dr. Kenneth made you feel sabotaged? If you're comfortable, that is. I just want to avoid doing anything that might remind you of that."

Bella smiles, slanted, "I know how bad even the best intentioned of psychologists can be, just by adopting the wrong tone. I'm hoping we can communicate with zero bullshit. I figure you might be that kind of person. Too smart to be otherwise."

"I do appreciate a lack of bullshit," Odessa agrees so solemnly that she must be attempting humour. Maybe. "As for Doctor Kenneth, well… I really did like him well enough. Honest. It's just… That he was supposed to be evaluating me to see if I was ready for the world outside." Such a concept was so alien only two years ago. That there was a world below, on Level Five, and the world outside. "I… perhaps incorrectly assumed that he was merely out to tell Madame Dalton what she wanted to hear, and keep me locked up."

It isn't terribly often that Doctor Knutson will admit to faulty reasoning, so perhaps this could be considered their first 'breakthrough?' Not so much. "The Company was out to keep me for themselves, after all." It isn't paranoia if they're out to get you, right? "I'm not sure that I trust the Institute's intentions with this meeting, but…" The woman's lips curve upward into a smile sharp as a knife. The scar cutting across her lips contorts and dimples awkwardly against the canvas of her pale skin. "But you're far too smart to try and betray me, aren't you Doctor Sheridan? You know what I'm capable of."

Just as quickly as the veiled threat is spoken, it's dismissed as Odessa slings one arm casually across the back of the couch and tips her head to the side. Her smile would be more charming now, if not for the scars. "What's next?"

A breakthrough? Maybe. At the very least it's progress. And progress with some is, in and of itself, something of a breakthrough. People living under strange and dangerous circumstances cobble together a remarkable series of pathologies, being both adaptable and increasingly crazy. Either a balance is found, or things will eventually start falling apart.

"Actually, why don't we talk about that?" Bella says, frowning slightly at the threat, but more like it's a problem to be addressed, not as if she's angry or scared, "what are you capable of? And what kind of betrayal to you imagine would require that kind of response? Obviously, I would rather you not even have to consider doing anything harmful in this relationship, and have you never fear my attempting harm, but I'd rather that be a matter of trust rather than a balance of threats."

It's clear by the way Odessa's lips pull into a frown that she didn't expect to actually have to back up her words. She narrows her gaze just the barest bit and tilts her chin upward. "I'm capable of killing a person before anybody knows I was ever there," she offers vaguely. "I mean, that's where my strength lies. I'm done with flashy, showy murder stuff. I thought I wanted people to know why decided they had to die, and why I thought they should suffer, but you know what?

"I want them just as dead." Almost immediately it's apparent that Odessa's scowling at herself, although more or less internally. "Sorry. I got carried away."

"What made you want to do flashy killing?" Bella presses, not seeming curious, seeming less interested in the grisly thing itself, and more what exploring it might say about Odessa herself. No judgment in her tone, certainly, no implication that Odessa should feel ashamed, or evil.

Bella Sheridan is certainly in no position to judge even if she had a desire to, after all.

"Don't ever stop yourself. Don't shut yourself down. Keep talking. If I feel like we need to slow down, it will be to explore something you've said, but whenever you need to talk… just talk. Please. That's what this is for. So… go on. Please."

Odessa doesn't necessarily continue with a renewed confidence, but perhaps with a suppressed sense of trepidation. She tenses as she mulls over what she wants to say in her head. How much she wants to reveal. "There's this bitch," she ultimately decides to begin with, "and I thought she was my friend."

The woman's jaw shifts, the lower half jutting out in an angry expression. "She knew that I was in love. She knew. But she took him from me. She said she knew what I felt better than I did." It's obvious that it takes great effort for Odessa to keep her voice even. Keep from shouting. After a deep breath, she continues with a smile and a sweet tone, flippant about the topic. "So when someone asked me to kill her? Well, that was just all the motivation I needed."

Odessa shifts suddenly on the couch, leaning forward, her good eye wide. "I wouldn't have done it if it was just about me. Just about my jealousy. I mean, he can have his little pet. He'd have figured out all on his own how ill-suited they were. He'd probably have killed her himself." Of course Odessa Knutson would fall for a man as inclined to indiscriminate murder as she. "I only did it because it was for a good cause. And if I just happened to take care of my little problem while doing a good deed? Well, so much the better. It was just a winning combination."

Her laughter rings off the walls as she settles back again, tipping her head against the back of the couch and draping the back of her hand over her forehead for a moment. "It's not like I'm some sort of petty monster."

Bella receives this rendition with only minimal reaction. A lift of the brow at moments of rhetorical suspense, a slight tilt of the head at a detail yet to be explained, the dip of her chin in a nod to acknowledge an explanation when it comes.

"I don't know that you will want to talk about losing the man you loved," she says, "I don't know if you think it's important anymore… if it is, we may end up getting to it during the process. But realize, you don't have to justify yourself to me. Or to yourself. I get the sense, Odessa, that you feel a lot more and a lot less guilt about this behavior than you let on, or necessarily realize. I'm not suggesting that I know what you feel better than you do, only that what one feels is often hidden from oneself, or has roots in things deeper than just the event itself. So…"

The psychiatrist, shifts in her seat a little, a 'settling in' motion. "First, we need to dispense with the self-labelling of 'monster'. There is no norm to deviate from, just averages, means. And there is no 'morality' as such to dictate levels of humanity and monstrosity, at least not within the bounds of this discussion. I care about what you feel. So… what makes you feel like killing? What makes you both able to kill, and want to kill?"

The concept that she doesn't have to justify her actions to anyone doesn't necessarily escape Odessa, but it does leave her a little nonplussed. She blinks once, twice, and then lifts her head again to peer at Bella. "I felt like killing her because she made me mad. I hated her. I hated her so much. That it was like… Flames. Flames on the side of my face." She lifts her hands to either side of her face as if to demonstrate fire licking at the lines of her cheekbones and jaw. "Like it was just… consuming me, this fire, when he told me that she had won and he liked her better."

"Why did it matter so much to you, how he felt? About you, and about her?" Bella asks, "You say it was like a fire… what was burning? What was the fuel for the flame. It's a worthwhile metaphor to explore. And I think not an uncommon experience for many, in quality if not in degree."

Why did it matter so much to her? "Because I wanted him to love me. Like I loved him. I wanted… I wanted to be with him." No longer trying to play detached about the whole situation, Odessa's voice becomes small. Defeated. "It was like a fire was consuming me every time I thought about her," she admits of her rival in romance. "My face felt hot and my heart felt like it would burst in my chest and I felt like it had to be her or me." And it was nearly her. "I… Maybe I… Am I doing your job for you if I say I think my own feelings of inadequacy were fuelling the fire?"

This is not a topic to smile about, but when Odessa makes her own running analysis, Bella's lips tug up just a bit at the corners. Homicidal or no, wild romantic meets vicious clinician, there is something Bella likes about Odessa. That self-reflexivity and contextual awareness that frustrates her so when lacking in others. "I am always ready to entertain the thoughts and intuitions of an intelligent person. If you know you have inadequacy problems, please, tell me about them. It's one thing to know of a thing - it's another thing to understand and overcome it."

"I…" Odessa drags her fingers through her hair, looking somewhat lost, or at least at a loss for words. Her eye fixes on some middling point past Bella's right shoulder, but not quite to the wall behind her. "I don't know what she's got that I haven't got. It doesn't make sense to me. She's… I mean, I don't think she was that much prettier than me." The usage of was should not be lost on a keen mind like Bella's. It's been implied that the rival in question isn't dead, so the usage of was is somewhat out of place. "She maybe has more street smarts, but I have the book smarts. And… And I would have thought that would be what he was interested in. I don't get it." And even though he told her, she still doesn't understand.

"But… I must be lacking in something. Inadequate in something," Odessa reasons. "Or else why would he choose her over me?"

"Not to insult the perceptions of the man you loved," Bella says, "But have you considered that the imperfection was in his eye, not in you? People are not drawn to what's best for them. You yourself said he'd probably have grown bored of her… but maybe that's what he wanted? I don't want to psychologize a man I've never met, but you shouldn't be so quick to find the fault in yourself. What may need changing is what you look for in a lover. You should find someone who will see your intelligence, your beauty - still very real - your capacity for devotion…" a pause, "not to jump to conclusions, but you strike me as a devoted person. Passionately so. Hence the fire you felt."

Like the reading of the tarot cards she received from Lydia, so too does Bella's assessment seem accurate. Odessa's lips purse faintly as she tries to reconcile this new way of thinking with her assessment of how things are in her world. "I…" Her lips part now, just slightly as her brows come together over the bridge of her nose. "I never saw him as anything but… perfect. Brilliant."

This has obviously given the young woman something to think about. She scrubs her hands over her face, head back so she can stare up at the ceiling now. "It could be him," she murmurs rhetorically. It could be him, and not her. "I would have given him anything. Everything. I…"

Again, her head lifts and she stares at Bella with guilt written on her face. "But I'm not devoted when it counts. I loved a man once who said he loved me back and… I panicked. I didn't know what else to do. I just ran. What does that say about me?"

"That's the nature of love," Bella says, smile quite wry, "it's not about finding someone perfect, it's about finding someone perfect. The difference being between the person, and how we find them. And that's fine - but you should never think less of yourself for how well you think of the one you love. A healthy relationship, a healthy connection, lifts both of the people up." Idealism, from Isabella Sheridan?

"What made you panic? Can you remember what reasons you gave for running?" comes the further inquiry, always more questions, keeping Odessa talking, "we can try and figure out what it says about who you were and how you felt. But who you are and whether you can find a new way to feel… that's still entirely open. Don't forget that."

Odessa closes her eyes as she tries to recall the end of her brief, but bright relationship with Kurt Campbell. "I was… homeless and living in an abandoned subway tunnel, when this… This wonderful man came to me and offered me coffee, and breakfast. And then he offered me a place to stay." Odessa shakes her head slowly. "It happened so fast. I… I think he really loved me."

The very idea of it brings a tear to the woman's eye. "He would hold me at night while I cried, and he'd say to me that he loved me for who I was." Odessa's lips press together and she snorts derisively at herself even as a tear trails down her cheekbone. "He didn't know who I really was at all. And… I was afraid that he would find out, and he would leave me. So… I left him first." A self-defense mechanism.


"Why didn't you tell him who you were?" is this next question. Obvious, in its way, but obvious questions are so often the ones that go unasked, neglected for their very size. As if they went without saying. Only they never do. What we think we know, when asked to speak it, changes in the speaking. It gains form where once there was formlessness. "And who did you think you were?"

The answer seems painfully obvious to Odessa, but she realises, perhaps, that this is about exploring what isn't so obvious about the things that seem obvious. "How do you explain to someone that you grew up within the confines of a secret company nobody knows about, and have only spent the past year gaining a true appreciation for human suffering, and learning about little basic things like how to run a laundry machine or buy groceries? How do you explain that?" Odessa's tongue darts between her lips as her head turns side to side slightly.

"I made up half-truths and approximations to explain away little things, but… I couldn't bear to tell him that I had helped kill people and didn't care." Again, her gaze fixes on that point past Bella's shoulder. "He was so sweet. And so nice. It was like… I was this impure thing and all I could serve to do was corrupt him. Ruin him. He deserved better." Selfish of her to make that decision for him.

"Well, you just explained it to me," Bella says, motioning with her hands to suggest the space between them, through which those words passed, "or at least described it. But that's past, and all we can do is learn from it. What it tells us, what might be useful to think about, is this notion of the secret life. The self you can't share with anyone. You see yourself as… what? A corruptor? And this man you loved, that loved you back, you wanted to save him from yourself? Why wouldn't you imagine that he could save you? Help heal you, help purify you? Why couldn't it go the other way? I want to understand how it is you see yourself."

"You've been drinking the Kool-Aid," Odessa points out. "You understand it, because you already knew it. Someone outside of our world? Outside of the Company or the Institute or…" the other various organisations she doesn't want to mention any knowledge of. "He was a good man," she emphasises in a soft voice. "I've got too much blood on my hands for him to wash it all away without becoming… contaminated himself. I can't take back the things I've done." Odessa smirks, but only as a self-deprecating gesture. "I've done terrible things, and I'm even proud of most of them. I don't deserve someone good. And… Maybe I don't want to hide my nature."

"What do you mean by that?" Bella says, smirking a little herself, "'Drinking the Kool-Aid?' I mean, I know what you're referencing - and there is maybe something cultish or at least cabal-like about what we do - but I don't want you to think I'm just parroting a creed. I'm just trying to challenge your presumptions about yourself, and about others. And don't get too attached to the idea of your having a 'nature'. Who you are is much more fluid than that. And even what you can't change, you can change the way you feel about. What I think you should take from that experience is not that you are evil and don't deserve goodness, but that you want someone with whom you can feel free to be entirely honest. And that is true of any functioning relationship," she dips her head, "allowing, of course, that that is much harder for you to achieve."

Bella lifts a hand to brush some hair behind her ear, "And don't forget, we can have a relationship based on absolutely honesty. Take advantage of that fact. I won't and can't cast judgment or turn you away."

Odessa sighs, "I just mean that you understand the idea of what it meant to be a part of the Company. It's something that's hard to explain to someone who hasn't seen or experienced it first-hand." She falls silent, however, to consider what she's been told. She doesn't attempt to argue with it, which suggests that it at least makes some sense to her. "It's hard to… think of this in terms of you not… judging me," she admits. "I'm trying."

"Are you aware of what I've done?" Bella inquires, brows lifting, "I have my own rather checked CV. I am not in a position to cast judgment. And, as banal as it may sound, I am interested only in improving your state of mind, of working through your difficulties and putting you firmly in charge of yourself. I am supposed to be keeping you functional as well, for the good of the Institute, but my first responsibility is to you, as my client, and as my colleague."

That single dark blue eye casts down to her hands, alternately clutched in her lap and smoothing over her skirt. "Thanks," Odessa murmurs. She doesn't know how else to articulate the thoughts kicking around in her head other than that simple word of gratitude. "I feel like I shouldn't find murder so easy anymore. I mean, don't get me wrong, if I get the chance, I'm going to shank that bitch and leave her to rot, but… Everybody else. The people who haven't crossed me. I feel like it shouldn't be so easy to kill someone I don't know… It used to be. I thought the world was full of awful people, because the Company told me it was too dangerous. Because I was told the world was sick." Thanks, Adam.

"But… There are good people. A lot of good people. So I feel like I should be less willing to… Do the things I do." Odessa brings her gaze up again, seeking some sort of reassurance in Bella's face. "But I know I'm an asset for my moral ambiguity. And I know that if I lose my ability to kill without hesitation - to strike pre-emptively - that someone will eventually get me first." They almost did inspite drawing first blood.

"I am not going to try and explain to you that 'killing is wrong'," Bella states, "and not because I'm trying to keep you 'useful' for our employers. I'm not interested in morals or ethics. I'm interested in your experience. We can start building you up once we know what we have to work with, once we know what our options are. For now, I need to get to know you.

"I have to ask, though, why you feel that way? Do you really feel that, should you lose the power to kill, you'll necessarily be killed?"

Odessa nods her head once. "I… I don't think that I'll lose my usefulness or anything, but that… That it's very kill or be killed for me." She has the good graces to look sheepish or at least a little perturbed as she admits, "I've pissed a lot of people off."

Fingers come up and shake out shaggy strands of white hair. "I don't know who to trust. I trust whoever has the best offer on the table and promises to keep the rest of the wolves from my door." And Odessa's had a lot of trouble with people that have names relating to wolves.

Another thing Bella can relate to. More and more Bella wants to ask Odessa to join her for a drink, rather than having to do the dance of protocol. She wants to say 'yes, I know, I know about that'. She wants to empathize.

But that may not be what's best for Odessa. And Bella is holding onto what professional ethics she has left.

"That may be beyond our ability to change," Bella admits, "and that's unfirm footing on which to start our project, but… if trust is the missing element, consider it explicitly guaranteed when you're with me. Without recourse to offer or contract. The only thing I need from you is your help.

"So… let's talk about our next few sessions. Is it all right if I give you some homework?" A slanted smile, "I realize it sounds a little dopey, but I'd like you to start keeping a journal. One you can share with me, one we can work from. I'd like you to spend just half an hour every day trying to write, whatever comes to mind."

Odessa would be only too eager to get to know Bella Sheridan better. To know whether she can really trust her. Or if she'll have to arrange for an unfortunate accident. Not… that she'd ever want anything to happen to the good doctor, of course. It's dreadfully hard to assess the other woman in this capacity, though she realises the point is not for her to assess Bella, but the other way around.

"A journal?" Odessa wrinkles her nose for a moment, but then nods. "Okay. I guess I could give that a try." Though it's obvious the idea of sharing her private thoughts with someone else in a form that can be more readily documented makes her a little nervous. All the same, she can see the value in it. "Should I be sure to drop it off before our sessions so you have time to look over it?"

If it's any consolation, Bella knows what happens when she breaks trust with the wrong client. The scars on her leg, round and pink against the pale of her skin, serve as an ever-ready reminder. If nothing else, Bella will certainly be unable to say she wasn't more or less sure of what she was getting into. A death threat was already made, and Odessa has been quite open about how easily killing comes to her.

"Don't be afraid to exceed the limits of your comfort," Bella says, "we will be trying to push boundaries, cross barriers. But you can take it slow at first," she nods, "yes, if you would, if you feel ready to share it. I won't rush you. Even if I never see the journal, just writing it will be a useful exercise."

Odessa checks the old watch on a worn band of red leather around her wrist, its casing settled against the inside of her wrist rather than her outside. She stands. "I'll do my best, Doctor Sher- Bella." She holds her hand out to the other woman with a smile. It's somewhat shaky, but seemingly genuine. "I… I think this is going to be a good thing. I look forward to our next session."

Bella gets to her feet to take Odessa's hand, but she doesn't shake it. Instead she clasps it in both her own and gives it a light squeeze. Her smile possesses the stability Odessa's lacks, one offered up to be shared, if she's willing. "As do I, Odessa. Take care of yourself. Until next time."

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