Breakdowns and Breakthroughs


bella_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Breakdowns and Breakthroughs
Synopsis Doctor Bella Sheridan continues to work through Odessa's numerous issues. Only one of them is really resolved by the end of the session.
Date October 18, 2010

Suresh Center - Doctor Sheridan's Office

Going from therapist to friend is one thing.

The crossing, one that shouldn't usually be made, is typically one-way. But when you have to cross back… that's when things get odd. Overstepping boundaries isn't easy necessarily, but it's certainly more swiftly and easily achieved than redrawing them.

Going from therapist to friend is one thing. Going from friend back to therapist is another.

Isabella Sheridan is not so much nervous as she is somewhat anticipatory. She believes she is capable - hell, she's pretty sure she knows she's capable - of proceeding appropriately within the clinical setting with her client. But she's the therapist, the one who holds if not the power then the responsibility of the relationship. Easy enough for her to continue following the rules and guidelines she knows are in place. Expecting her client to do so, after no proper example has been made…

Okay, so maybe Bella's just a little nervous. But she won't let it show because that will only make things worse. She sits in the chair in her office, her radio resting nearby but not turned on - she wants to make it clear than when her client walks through that door, they're in session immediately. Or that they at least are prepared to enter session immediately. She's wearing a skirt suit in navy blue, with a cream button up shirt that gives her a kind of nautical coloration. Her hair is up in a loose bun, and she's got her reading glasses on, perched low on her nose, as she reviews her notes from previous sessions. She needs to make some updates.

After this session, she will. For now… she waits.

This is weird. Very weird. Fuckin' weird. Odessa isn't quite sure what to do. What's expected of her. But far be it from her to back down from a challenge. And continuing to pursue therapy is, well, more of a challenge than initially accepting to do so in the first place.

Take a woman who doesn't really believe she needs therapy, compound it with the fact that she thinks all she needs is a friend - who just happens to be a therapist - and you've got someone who just doesn't see the point of it anymore. Except when you add in the fact that the patient happens to have a strong desire for approval. In this case from both her therapist, and her superiors.

Odessa enters the office right on time, naturally, dressed in a minidress of yellow chiffon and a black underbust corset cinching her waist. Not that her waist needs cinching. In fact, she could stand to put some more meat on her bones, as they say. Her boots are thigh-high and black patent leather. Someone isn't scheduled to work today. … Hopefully.

The patch over Odessa's ruined eye today is basic black, without one of her usual adornments visible when she sweeps her bangs away from that side of her face. That good eye flits down and up again quickly as Bella's appearance is assessed. "You look cute," Odessa concludes. Though the lift of her white brows suggests she may mean something with a bit more weight to it than just cute.

The moment of entry in her space is one Bella observes carefully. The readjustments - or lack thereof - made by a client can tell you a lot about how they will approach the session. Not that it takes a great analytical mind to spot when a truculent client meanders in and slumps into their seat. But information is information.

And cute is, apparently, not exactly cute. Which is definitely worth noting. Though Bella doesn't, by any means, actually make a note. Instead, she stands and moves over to the other woman, offering her a brief but familiar hug. "And you would know," she replies, as she steps back, smiling with a warmth that is definitely some several degrees higher than standard recommendations. Already Bella is finding her footing. You can't go back, not really. You have to act from where you stand.

"Did you bring your journal?" the psychiatrist inquires, moving back towards her seat and motioning for Odessa to settle in as well, "I am hoping you've kept up with it. If you're still finding it useful."

Odessa's smile is similarly warm, as is the hug she gives in return. She's happy to see her friend, even if it has to be for therapy. As such, her withdrawal from that hug is a little reluctant, but they are both here for a purpose, after all. From the depths of her glittering silver purse, she retrieves her frivolously-branded Juicy Couture notebook and passes it to the ginger-haired doctor before taking her seat.

Shiny leather boots creak softly as one leg crosses over the other and Odessa smiles expectantly. "I've missed a day here or there. I've been a bit busy with my work. I'm sure you know how it is." One doctor to another, of course. Though it isn't terribly off-base to speculate that she's simply losing enthusiasm fro the assignment itself. "Have you told Agent Harper that you're having me keep a journal, by the way?"

"I encourage you to keep it up," Bella says, leaning forward to take the journal and setting it in her lap, not yet opening it. Her gaze remains on Odessa, her attention focused on the white haired woman for the moment. "Even if you just write 'nothing to report', it's part of a process that can be helpful. It's about looking at yourself, and your feelings. It's about starting to notice your own patterns and, eventually, getting the option to break out of them."

The mention of Agent Harper never fails to make Bella's expression go just slightly sour, though the effect is brief in this particular case. "No, certainly not. Our sessions are wholly private, as are all aspects of treatment. They can ask me for advice, ask about your general wellness, but any and all details are strictly confidential." If there's any defensiveness in her tone, it's directed not towards Odessa but rather at the Institute. "If they tried to twist my arm, I would stonewall them. We're both ex-Company. I think we've both had enough of inappropriate oversight."

Neatly trimmed fingernails catch the edge of Odessa's journal, flipping it open. She turns through the pages, locating the entries she hasn't yet read. Her eyes dart up to Odessa for just a moment, and she offers the woman a smile, seemingly spontaneous, before returning her attention to the journal. She reads, fingertip keep her place.

"There's nothing wrong with my patterns," Odessa responds defensively. Her posture mirroring her tone in the way her shoulders hunch up a little and she shrinks back into her seat. But the assurance that Bella doesn't have to, or want to, share the details of their sessions with management puts her mostly at ease again.

"Harper knew about Ellie's journal," is offered as explanation. "But knowing Ellie, she told him all about it. Stupid, stupid Ellie. I can't believe she-" She cuts herself off before she can launch into a rant about her rival/friend. Frenemy. "Sorry. I'll let you read."

Bella's eyes cut back up to Odessa as the woman adopts a defensive tone. She's not smiling this time - rather, she is frowning very slightly, though in moments her brow has smoothed. "I will never talk about right and wrong as it pertains to values," she says, "I am not interested in values at all, save what you and I define, together. So yes, there is nothing wrong with your patterns. But if they make you unhappy, then we should at least consider why changing them might potentially make you happier. Because that I do care about." Odessa's happiness, that is.

"And Harper," Bella says, eyes returning to the journal and drifting over the last few lines, "is an intrusive little goblin." As if that's all there is to say on the matter of him.

A brief aside: reading the journal is actually much, much harder for Bella than she lets on. An empath could track the (for her) rapid ups and down, the proliferating doubts and considerations that swarm Bella's mine as she reads certain lines, certain names. There are things she needs to address but… she can't be sure they're not being overheard here. It will need to wait 'til later. When they can be assured of their privacy.

She's done reading, and once she is she sets the journal on the table between them, establishing it as existing in a common space. She removes her glasses from her nose and folds them, sliding one arm through the front of her shirt and letting the lenses dangle, peering at Odessa at a line perpendicular to the redhead's own gaze. "There are a few things I want to talk about, though of course you can declare anything off limits if you'd like. You can even choose not to show me your journal, if ever it makes you uncomfortable. However, while we have it before us…

"First, I want to discuss your feelings about Agent Bishop leaving. She seems to have been one of your few sources of support. An unreliable one, which is… disappointing. But still, I think it's important to discuss your feelings around the matter. Her presence, and absence, haunts this entry.

"Second, I want to discuss your feelings of professional adequacy, about your place in this organization. You feelings towards Dr. Luis, for example, and Dr. Stevens. I sense a certain ambivalence in what you write down. I'd like to unpack that.

"Third, and I understand if this has be bracketed but… you self image and feelings about sexuality should probably be addressed. You do a little of your own analysis, and though your conclusion - 'stupidity' - isn't one I'd ever endorse or apply, it's worth discussing."

Odessa's lips pull into a small frown at… Well, each topic brought up for discussion. The frown is deepened just a touch at each one. Though calling Harper a goblin did previously elicit a smile. After a deep breath, Odessa leans forward, resting her arms on her knees. "Starting with Ellie, then."

There's a moment of quiet as Odessa mulls over her words. A nod signals her intention to speak before she actually does. "She was not a fit for the Institute," she offers almost carefully, as though she might be speaking to someone like Desmond Harper or Roger Goodman rather than her therapist. Another brief frown accompanies a shrug that's somewhat helpless. "She didn't belong here. She had to go. I… I am a little angry with her, though. She said she wanted to make a real try at being friends. And… I believed her. I started to want it, too. After all the years she and I spent at each other's throats."

Now frustration colours Odessa's expression, her fingers curling into loose fists. "But she went and fucked up so bad. I tried to warn her. I tried to tell her that we needed to stick together, but she wouldn't listen to me. She just did whatever she pleased and look at where it got her." Her lips don't quite pull into a pout, but it's close. "I think if she'd really cared about being my friend, she might have taken my advice. Or she would have told me that she was unhappy here instead of just acting out. Isn't that what friends are supposed to do?"

"I don't think your expectations are anything near unreasonable," Bella affirms, "all relationships are based upon a few key factors. Communication is one of the most important, perhaps the most. We speak differently to different people based on our relational position. The word 'friend', I feel, and it seems like you feel as well, is applied to relationship where communication is open and passes between established equals.

"So she disappointed you. That she left, it sounds, doesn't upset you. Or, rather, you understand her reasons for leaving. What upsets you is that she left without coming to you first. Without letting you know, without heeding your advice, without consideration for your feelings. And without thinking about what such actions would communicate to you, about her regard for you, about the value of your relationship."

Here's the tricky part, and Bella briefly wrinkles her nose to demonstrate, openly, that she finds it tricky. "Our own situation is a little strange, so please forgive me if I'm a little tentative. Far from being an indicator that my feelings are weak, it's quite the opposite. I just… I don't wish to seem manipulative. So… let me lay it out for you as clearly as I can, understanding how mutually supporting my statements are," which is all to say: "As your therapist, I want to commend you for taking the time to think about what a friendship should be, and think you should invest in those relationships you feel meet those standards. As your friend… I want you to know that I will do my best to meet those standards. I know that's sort of cheating, since I'm basically telling you to invest in me… but both statements are true, independent of each other, I promise."

Odessa's clear eye grows a little wide as Bella proves she understands where she's coming from. "Yes, exactly. She… She was my only real link here. At first." Which is a roundabout way of saying she feels she has a link to Bella now. "I thought she and I were in this together." Yes, disappointed is definitely an apt descriptor of how Odessa feels on the subject.

When the topic shifts subtly to more uncertain ground, Odessa is quick to hold up a hand and shake her head. "Don't worry about it. Seriously. I know I'm a special sort of case." Which is perhaps a bit of an ego-centric way of looking at it. "I trust you. I mean, if you go and fuck me up worse than the Institute thinks I already am, it doesn't reflect very well on you as a therapist, does it?" There's a grin flashed at that. It's a joke! "So, in a way, acting in my best interest is in your best interests." Christ, she misses the ability to actually wink after delivering a line like that.

Bella's smile is a little lopsided. "I am usually the most intense of cynics, and yet I find myself hoping there is something rather more to us than mutual interest and shared risk," she says, "more than hoping - believing. I'd like to think myself capable of acting against my self interest on your behalf," part of an ongoing project of hers, this, "but if less noble motivators put you at ease… then I'll take it. Though I'd like to think we'll move into less economic forms of mutuality.

"Is there anything else you want to say about Elle? Anyone she reminds you of? Other experiences that you recall in relation to this one? Don't force an association if there isn't one," Bella's smile widens for a moment, eyes crinkling at the corners, "we do have two other issues to address, if you want to move onto them. Your feelings around your professional and personal life, specifically."

"It's hard for Ellie to remind me of anyone else. Sometimes other people remind me of Ellie, though. I've known her since… Since we were very, very young. We've never liked each other. Her father used to pit us against one another in ways that neither of us understood at the time." Odessa's smile is sad at that. "We may have had a chance at being childhood friends instead of rivals if we both didn't compete so hard for the Bishop's approval." It's so very, very Odessa to refer to the man by some sort of odd title, rather than a proper name. Perhaps it's a sign of endearment. It signifies something, at any rate, if not affection.

"He was the closest thing to a father I ever had. But I never really… had the notion of what a father was meant to be at that age. Parents were alien concepts." Odessa winces and shakes her head. "I'm getting off track. I… I don't want to talk about growing up in the Company. Not today. I think… I think I'm done talking about Ellie." Her nose wrinkles. It's a difficult topic to dwell much on. There's a lot of bad blood between the two of them.

"I didn't… I owe you an apology," she offers now in a quiet voice. "I'm used to putting things into terms of what's in it for you, what's in it for me when it comes to… things like this. Interpersonal relationships have always been more like… Strategic alliances. Things that ensure my ambitions, or my continued survival. But…" Odessa picks at the hem of her skirt restlessly, though she meets Bella's gaze. "I want you to know that you're different. I really think… I like you. You're different. I do consider you a friend. Like, because you just want to be friends, even. Not because you think you have something to gain. I… I appreciate that. Thank you."

She doesn't want to talk about her childhood? Bella was certainly interested in that line of discussion. But she won't press - she explicitly said that Odessa could draw the line when she needed to. And really, no need to bite off more than they can chew. Dr. Sheridan contents herself with a small nod. "We should talk about those things eventually. But only once you're ready. Here and now, coping with the present, is our current job."

Another strange impasse for Bella. How does she respond sufficiently to what Odessa has just said. It's not a small thing for her to admit, nor a small thing for Bella to hear, and while she's not surprised… actually, she's not really sure what she feels. Which makes it all the stranger. Bella has emotions and impulses that she doesn't understand, but that is usually because she disavows them, is unaware of their operation. To feel something consciously without being clear on just what she's feeling - that's highly irregular. Maybe Bella should talk it out with her therapist…

What she does is a repetition of a previous action, though Bella, her clarity obscured somewhat, does not realize it is so. She leans forward, across the space between them, scooting to the edge of her seat so that she can even reach, extending and arm and taking Odessa's hand in hers. She clasps it, brushing thumb over knuckles. Same hand. Same gesture. Not deliberate. At least not consciously so.

"That means a great deal to me," Bella says, trying her best to sound sincere without sounding purposefully sincere - a distinction that someone as perennially wry as her needs to make, "and I appreciate the considerable trust you've placed in me. We are in this together - we do share interests. But the greatest benefits come not from mutual selfishness, but mutual selflessness."

She tips back into her seat, hand releasing Odessa's. She stays on the edge of the seat, however, not fully relinquishing the crossed distance. "What would you like to discuss next, then?" her smile is lopsided, "I figure we should stay on track, at least for the duration of the session."

When Bella reaches for Odessa's hand, the latter's gaze drops to where they're joined. Against pale skin, colour is more readily apparent when it creeps into cheeks. When she looks up again, Odessa smiles a small, shy smile. There's conflict beneath the surface. Feelings she can't explain to herself simply. Some that don't need explanations, just acceptance. She doesn't bring them up. Not here.

"You said you wanted to talk about my feelings of professional adequacy," Odessa both reminds and questions. "I'm… not sure what there is to say about it. I don't have the experience of some of my counterparts within the Institute. My feelings are… Irrational. Mostly. Pretty sure." Lips pull to one side in an expression both thoughtful and rueful. "I just worry that… You know, I'm not entirely sure what I'm worried about. I know that I worry I won't be considered useful. But if that were the case, I wouldn't be here." See? She doesn't need a therapist at all. Harper's on crack.

"The emotionally irrational can never be dismissed," Bella states, "emotions themselves can be defined as constitutively irrational. They are attachments and associations formed and held outside and beyond pure logical considerations. So while, yes, your insecurities are irrational, they are the furthest thing from irrelevant or dismissible.

"So tell me, why does it bother you that you are not as experienced as professionals who are, some of them, twice your age? Are you concerned about proving your worth? About the consequences of failing to? Lay out your anxieties. We'll sift through them and see how best to deal with them."

Odessa nods slowly as she listens to Bella's words of validation. "I still feel a little silly for being quite as concerned as I am." She sighs quietly and sucks her lower lip between her teeth, worrying at it while she listens and thinks.

"I worry that I'm not valuable in comparison to my colleagues. That I won't be called upon to weigh in on various situations that may arise, that I would perhaps want to apply my skills to. Does that make sense? I'm worried that I'll be passed over." Doctor Price's brows furrow. "I'm used to being one of the more talented individuals to be consulted. But here, I'm just not. It's… an adjustment."

"Of course," Bella says, "and judging from what you said about your relationship with Elle, you've long been guided towards comparison-based measures of your worth. Worth, you've been taught, is always in relation to others. More or less. Better or worse. Competition, rather than collegial cooperation.

"What I'd suggest is to try and shift the terms of your thinking on the subject. Instead of worrying about how you compare, consider how your talents and perspective are distinct, and useful in their own right. Differential worth, worth in the very fact of your difference. You contribute, along with all the rest of your colleagues, and your contribution is worthwhile because it is yours and no one else is, definitionally, capable of making it. Because it is yours and yours alone."

Bella uncrosses and recrosses her legs, smoothing her skirt over her legs after doing so. "We're encouraged to see each other in a competitive framework, in great part because they need us, and fear what we are capable of when banded together. While it may not serve the interests of the Institute admins, we, the intellectual laborers, have everything to gain from working together and maintaining a sense of collegial fellowship. I, at the very least, try and foster that mindset. We are stronger when working together than when divided."

The notion of working together is not an alien one in and of itself. But perhaps working together for some reason other than just furthering her own selfish goals is. Odessa purses her lips in consideration and tilts her head to one side, her white hair spilling over her shoulder. "You're right, of course. Absolutely correct. They need us. We're stronger united. It's like a union!" Something she's only read about in books, of course.

As to the subject of how her skills differ from her colleagues, there's a small shrug of Doctor Price's shoulders. "I wager I'm the better surgeon between me and Doctor Stevens. Especially if you factor in both our abilities." There's a sly grin at that notion. "Though his results, if he uses his SLC-expressive powers, are cleaner than mine. But strictly in terms of surgical prowess, I think I have him beat." One has to wonder if she's formulating some scenario in which they could test that when her eye looks ceiling-ward. "Doctor Brennan says I'm a hit with the children, which… surprises me. I fully expected them to be afraid of me." The idea is shrugged off quickly. Irrelevant.

"We are laborers," Bella says, her smile containing a hint of humor, a touch of irony, "intellectual labor is still labor. And we have a right to solidarity as well. Easier, of course, when you get along with your colleagues. Something that can be difficult, at least when dealing with those colleagues that you don't find so instantly and thoroughly charming."

Odessa's comparisons are kind of exactly what Bella's talking about. "See, this is exactly what I'm talking about," is, therefore, what she says, "don't worry about comparison, at least not as it pertains to worth. And, God knows, it's not like we don't need more surgeons, regardless of their comparative skill level," a quirked grin, "I can see you doing very well with kids. I don't think you'd talk down to them, and that's pretty much the most important thing when dealing with children. Why do you imagine, though, that you'd scare them?"

Odessa points at her face with a wry twist to her lips. Duh? "I know as I kid, I just recognised it as the mark of an agent who didn't get themselves killed, but I grew up around that sort of thing. I've learned that isn't exactly normal for a child to think. Scars are scary to children. Let alone my eye." It'd be worse if she didn't wear the patch.

This serves as a pretty excellent segue, which may have been what Bella had in mind. Bella's brows furrow a little and she nods to acknowledge Odessa's words, though not to agree. "So you are surprised that people don't react to your scars, your appearance, the way you expect. You may want to consider that carefully. Whatever the innate 'truth' of childrens' words, they certainly lack some of the filters a grown adult. They aren't failing to react out of politeness. They're no reacting because, to them, it doesn't matter. What we do know is that your scars matter to you. Quite a lot, if your journal is any indication. You know I think you are stunning, as I've made quite clear," there's a smile whose full content is mixed and little ambiguous, "but I don't wish to simply assuage your fears. I want to know why you worry about being 'unpretty', as you put it."

"Plenty of people do react to my scars, or I wouldn't have an expectation about it." Odessa points out. "So yes, when people don't react that way, I am surprised. Pleasantly, mind you, but surprised nonetheless." A blush again touches Odessa's cheeks when Bella reminds her that she finds her stunning. "You are quite honestly too kind," she insists.

When pressed to explain herself, Odessa pauses. "I… I've looked at the same face for twenty-some-odd years. Overnight, it was suddenly different. I don't look like myself anymore. Not how I see myself. And… And people like you…" She stops and gives herself a moment to find the right words before continuing again. "You know what I used to look like. I think some part of you still sees me that way. Not to be the one assessing you here. But I think that makes a big difference in this case."

"I can't deny that," Bella admits, hands spreading for a moment, a gesture of contrition, "though it's interesting that you assess that the way my memory effects my reaction is different than the way your memory effects your reaction. What is the difference? How do you think my remembrance of your appearance affects my perception of your appearance now? You seem to experience that remembrance as one of loss. Why is what I see different?"

"Because the loss isn't yours," Odessa reasons with some amount of resolve. "You look at me, and you can see former glory, as it were. You can recreate it in your mind. I look for it, and it isn't there anymore. And…"

Slowly, Odessa's head tips down, her voice grows small. "It's a reminder that I failed. And… And that I let my rage consume me and turn me into this ugly thing. If I had managed to kill that little bitch, it would have been fucking worth it!" Suddenly, Odessa's on her feet, pacing in front of the couch. She's letting anger override the other emotions attempting to take hold. She does not want to start crying. Not in front of Bella.

Bella had meant to get to that redacted line. 'for trying to kill Eileen' She had intended on coming to it gently, and on her own terms. Looks like that's not an option. Odessa is up on her feet, agitated, and Bella's eyes shift to follow her. Her mouth thins a little, betraying her uncertainty. This would be confusing even without their relational bifurcation. As it is…

The redhead gets to her feet and steps around the table, intercepting Odessa mid-patrol. She lifts her hands and catches Odessa by the upper arms, her grip as firm as it can get without being forceful. She wants to steady the other woman. She tries to catch her eye.

"I don't remember glory, Odessa," Bella says, as clearly as she can and with a steadiness that is not quite slow, but is anything but rushed, "in truth, you are, to me, who you are now. This you is the you that matters to me. And you are not ugly. You are angry, and you're disappointed in yourself. That what you see in the mirror changed just gave you a convenient way for you to exteriorize the trauma. This 'failure', as you see it. What we need to do is to look at that. That is the real scar. And that- that can be healed."

Perhaps at their last session, Odessa would have wrenched herself away from Bella's grip on her arms. But here and now, Doctor Sheridan's interception placates the pacing patient. "I-" How does she even begin? "This failure ruined everything. I lost my practice, I lost my home, I lost the friendships I was trying to form." That single dark blue eye lids heavily. "I fucked up so badly, Bella. I lost S- I lost everything."

And what now? A point by point refutation? A incisive inquiry into how it is this one failure could be so responsible? A careful bracketing, to avoid further salting the wound? None of these feel sufficient. None of them feel authentic.

Instead, Bella steps in closer and gives Odessa a hug. A tight one, one meant to sustain potential sobs, to provide stability should Odessa's fail. It anticipates the force of the white haired woman's emotion, and thus validates its forcefulness. A simple hug can be complex. That is, it can be intended complexly. How it is received…

Odessa's arms wrap around Bella as tightly as anticipated. Perhaps not quite as anticipated, she buries her face into the other woman's shoulder. "I feel so stupid. I wanted to help people. But I let my anger get in the way." The first tears are signalled by a shake of shoulders and a sharp inhale of breath. She even indulges them for a few moments, provided she's allowed to.

There is no way Bella will prevent Odessa's weeping. Such tears are cathartic, as far as the psychiatrist is concerned, necessary in the passage out of anger, through sorrow and, hopefully, eventually, into understanding. That, at least, is the aim.

If nothing else, being a friend means being a shoulder to cry on, even or especially in the literal case.

The redhead's embrace gains strength in response, offering as much security as Odessa wishes to ask from her. She turns her cheek against Odessa's hair, and when she speaks, it's quietly, so as not to thunder in her ear. "I know exactly what you mean."

And Bella really thinks she does.

Odessa lingers in the embrace. A minute or two in conversation feels like nothing. A minute or two spent crying feels like an eternity. When she finally does extract herself, it's only after she's stopped crying. "I'm so sorry you had to see that," she murmurs as she turns away. She gives Bella her back so she can flip up the patch over her ruined eye and wipe away the tears that were pooling in the small well contained by the curve of her cheekbones. Perhaps she doesn't quite realise that this sort of thing is what therapy is supposedly all about.

"Never apologize," Bella says, lingering in the space behind Odessa, hands clasped before her. She doesn't step forward to further comfort Odessa. She judges it best to let her stand on her own for the moment. No need to smother her, to make it seem like Bella doesn't think she can cope. "Not to me, not about something like this. You have endured so much. You have every right to lessen your load."

And now she steps forward. Her fingers touch the side of Odessa's arm with great lightness. "We don't have to talk about this any more right now. But I think we will have to talk about it soon. I think this could be key in coming to terms with where you are now, who you are now."

The space granted is appreciated for the duration it lasts. When Bella steps forward again, it's only as Odessa has recomposed herself and begun to turn back once more. "I… think I'm kind of glad to be where I'm at now," she says honestly, and as though the answer surprises her some. "Being here. The Institute… I think it's good for me. I think it's where I need to be. I think that I can accomplish a lot here." Her smile makes an appearance as she reaches to take one of Bella's hands and give it a squeeze.

The squeeze is returned, the smile answered in kind. "You have no idea how glad I am that you're here," Bella admits, eyes slipping away from Odessa for just a moment, a rare instant of bashfulness - this session has gotten rather muddled, but it still feels like some kind of success. "And I will keep you sane if only just to keep you at all," is said as her eyes return, and the smile takes on a slightly sardonic edge, "I'd like to believe we're good for each other."

Odessa's own smile, somewhat shaky as it is from the sudden outpouring of emotion, takes on its own darker edge to it. "I dare say that I agree with you, Bella." She swings their hands to and fro gently. "And you can definitely keep me."

That there might be some sort of subtext going on in this discussion does not occur to Bella, in what would be much to her shame and chagrin if it did occur to her. Why her mind, usually so in tune with verbal cues and secondary verbal meanings, can't pick up on it… that can only be guessed at. The practical upshot, however, is that she continues the script, unwitting. "We should get a drink, very soon," is said with intentions she considers clear as anything, "there are some things that we need to talk about that… well, we need to not be at work. In this setting."

A satisfied smirk settles in, banishing the bulk of the earlier sorrow and anger. It will have to be dealt with sooner or later, but Odessa would much prefer later. "We should do that soon, then. Bee-Why-Oh-Bee at my place later this week?"

"That sounds perfect," Bella says, "I imagine your place is ideal for privacy," she glances down at their hands, linked and still in motion. "I'd… like a little feedback. As to how you think this session went. This was… irregular, as I'm sure you know."

"It was good," Odessa's quick to assure, her smile fading so as to indicate seriousness. "I don't think traditional would have… worked out right. I'd probably have started throwing things or something. This was better."

"I'm glad," Bella says, and her relief seems pretty genuine, near visible, "if I had to choose, therapist or friend, I'd choose friend without a second thought. But I think you need this. I know you may not think so… but I really think you stand to benefit from the process. You have so much pressing down on you, Odessa. I really want to see that weight lifted."

"Do I really need something so official, though? Do I really need therapy sessions?" Odessa scoffs at the notion, though without any real conviction. "I mean, shouldn't a friend who happens to be a therapist and knows all the right things to say and ways to say them be good enough?" Her lip curls faintly. "If I fired you, we'd eliminate a whole lot of moral dilemma, I think." And that draws a grin.

This… had not occurred to Bella. It is about the simplest of solutions, but not one that she could have conscienced suggesting, if only because it would be a selfish act, a way to resolve her ethical issue while ignoring what might be Odessa's mental health needs. Which needs Bella considers very real. But now Odessa brings it up…

It's still a difficult issue.

"I… I mean, yes. Yes, that could work. I mean, it would eliminate the dilemma," Bella says, her articulation failing a bit as her mind tries to assess the implications. Something Odessa has her doing a fair bit, it seems. "But I don't want you lose an important outlet… if it's important. I… if you think I'd help you more without these constraints, then yes… I think that'd be doable."

Odessa's grin widens when she realises that she's rendered Doctor Bella Sheridan inarticulate. "I think you're the one that will benefit more without the constraints. I have no expectations about what therapy is or isn't supposed to be. But you do. And I know our being friends steps outside those boundaries and makes you uncomfortable." Now who's being analysed?

No no, don't give Bella more to think about! She's still working on that last part, the last points raised. The new ones… they sound sensible, but she has to address them and weigh their validity and… "I'll inform Harper that you are to be referred to another therapist," she says, simply, figuring - more or less - 'what the hell?', "I'll do the research to make sure they're bearable. I am guessing that ends our session, hrm?" Her smile is lopsided. This feels a little like playing hooky (something Bella never did), a mix of nerves and excitement.

"Oh, God. Don't tell him that," Odessa begs in a long-suffering tone, and a dramatic roll of her eyes. "He'll make me do it. I don't want to see anyone else." The very idea leaves a bad taste in her mouth! "Just… Tell him we're trying alternative therapy. Something other than regular sessions. Or better yet? Just tell him that it's none of his damn business whether or not I need therapy. And I don't, by the way." Like she really has everything all figured out? Ha!

"O…kay," Bella says, slowly trying to catch up with developments as they happen, "I'll think of something. Something we can both survive." She arches her brow. "This is…" a pause, "I hope you know I'm going to be a very nosy friend who tries to fix you. I mean, so far that hasn't seemed to be a problem, but you should be warned."

"You seem to have no issues with boundaries," Odessa concludes very matter-of-factly. "I expect you will be an excellent nosy friend." She wraps her arms around Bella again, more brief and less desperately than the last time. When she leans back, she narrows her eye faintly and asks, "Does this mean I can stop keeping the journal?"

Bella returns the hug, though she's still a little bit left for the loop. She had been so invested in navigating the difficulties of the hybrid terrain that now, the relative smoothness of a simple defined relationship feels… weird. But it's certainly not a bad thing. It may, heaven forbid, be relaxing? Bella had pretty much come to terms with her stress level being almost forever high.

But it's not like Bella can't or doesn't hear Odessa. Bella's brows are lifted, their position marking the exact height of skepticism. "No," Odessa's erstwhile therapist says, "it does not. You will continue to write that journal. But you don't have to share it with me if you don't want to."

The woman with white hair sighs quietly, tucking a strand behind her ear. "Fine. I'll keep writing in it." It was worth a try, right? Only a little wind is knocked out of her sails. "But only for you," Odessa insists.

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