But Zeno's Arrow Never Could Reach Out


bella_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title But Zeno's Arrow Never Could Reach Out
Synopsis Doctors Sheridan and Price are forced to have a long overdue discussion about where their boundaries lie.
Date November 15, 2010

The Octagon - #108

The apartments of the Octagon are among some of the most prime pieces of rental real-estate in New York City. Bright, open, and clean, these apartments are all painted an eggshell white and feature floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a sweeping, unobstructed view of the East River and Manhattan skyline. Hardwood floors spread from wall to wall and through the spacious bedrooms and private laundry rooms complete with washer/dryer utilities.

The open-concept kitchen in the apartment features stainless steel appliances, polished granite countertops, cherry finished cabinets and ceramic floor tile with all the convenience of a modern kitchen. The bathrooms are finished with classic subway wall tile and porcelain floor tile in bathrooms with elegantly designed corner-set curved showers providing more spacious shower area along with porcelain pedestal sinks.

Each apartment comes in two or three bedroom designs, each with spacious walk-in closets with individually controlled heating and cooling. The apartment is also set up with free Cable TV and Internet hook-ups in multiple locations.

It's back to the ol' public transit for Isabella Sheridan. All for the best, really. Do you have any idea what the premiums are on a car like the one Bella crashed on the fateful 8th? Talk about white elephants, of a sort not merely psychologically theoretical, but rather automotively material. And costly.

Still, martial law makes the streets very safe for someone who sports a DoEA badge, and so Bella is not worried about the lateness of the hour at which she visits Odessa. Okay, so it's not that late, but curfew has redefined the meaning of 'lateness'. It's getting on towards winter, and the sun has already set, so it's dark, and darkness is - to Bella - effective lateness.

She arrives at Odessa's door wearing a dark green pea coat and wearing a large, floppy black beret, her style understated but very New York. Bella's got something clasped in her arms - a book from the looks of it, hardcover and quite thick. She holds it tighter as she reaches out to knock. Her arrival was foretold in calls, so this visit should not come as a surprise.

Odessa answers the door in a fuzzy yellow robe over, well, presumably over some form of pyjamas. It's hard to say given her track record and the fact that the robe is floor-length and cinched tightly enough to hide whatever may or may not be beneath. Her white hair is damp, clinging about her face and neck from the shower.

The smile Bella receives is a tired one. "Hey. Come on in." The door is held open for the russet-haired doctor to step inside the apartment. "I like your hat," Odessa compliments easily. "And your coat, too. See? You do so have cute stuff." Once Bella's in from the hallway, Odessa locks up the door behind her. "I heard about your car. Bummer."

Bella's smile is warm and almost entirely natural. There is maybe some consciousness on her part in the production of the expression, but it's meant to convey a genuine sense of happiness she feels. It's meant for Odessa's eyes, but that's not because it's not real. She steps in, giving her friend a hug, feeling, momentarily, her waifish slightness. Bella kisses Odessa's cheek lightly.

"It's wonderful to see you," is said with maybe a little more vehemence than a casual meeting demands, but this is the first such since all hell broke loose, and it's never quite until Bella sees Odessa that she realizes what a relief having Odessa is. She glances down at herself upon receiving the compliment, and eyes Odessa, smiling while checking her for sincerity. "Thank you," she says, "but it's really all I wear during the fall. It will seem less impressive each day you see me in it, I promise you.

"And it's fine, really," Bella adds, moving further into the apartment, "it was absurd that I even owned that thing. It was a gift, I never would have bought it myself." She turns to face Odessa. "If you need to get dressed, please go ahead. I mean, I don't mind but…" this line of thought fades, in favor of extended arms and a proffered book. "This is for you. I decided to give it to you… God, weeks ago. But never got around to it until now."

The book: The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood.

Odessa reaches out to take the offered book with a smile and a look of surprise. She examines the cover for a moment before pulling it in to her chest in a sort of hug. "Oh, thank you! That's a lovely gift. I actually just finished my latest book, so your timing couldn't have been more perfect." She gives a grateful nod before turning toward her kitchen.

"Do you feel overdressed, Bella dear?" Odessa asks coyly without glancing over her shoulder to the redhead. "Teasing aside, if it makes you uncomfortable, I have no qualms about getting dressed." The Robber Bride is set on the counter before she stretches her arms up over her head with a quiet yawn. Odessa drops her arms to her sides and then reaches one up to rub over her face, suddenly gasping when she separates left-swept bangs from skin. "Oh Jesus. My eye."

Odessa turns sharply to hurry toward the bathroom, her hand held over her left eye, missing its patch. "I'm so sorry. You should have said something!" she calls without looking back.

"I am always punctual," Bella states, proudly, citing that most bourgeois of virtues. Overdressed maybe by just a little, the psychiatrist sheds her coat and tugs off her hat, folding the former under the latter and setting both by the door before crossing after Odessa, towards the kitchen. Beneath her coat was, lying in wait, a thin black turtleneck sweater and a pair of jeans. Comfortable.

"Now what about my conduct thus far suggests I would feel uncomfortable?" Bella asks, a ruddy brow arching. She cracks a small smile. "You can gad about as scantily clad as you like, Odessa. At worst it will make me redouble my resolve to feed you something!"

When 'Dessa makes a break for the bathroom, however, Bella's smile slips and her hand reaches out to catch the snowy-haired woman by the arm. "Odessa," she says, stepping up to bring herself face to face with her friend, "darling. I don't mind. I won't have you be the least bit self conscious around me, not if I can avoid it." She reaches up to brush Odessa's hair out of the way of twisted knot of scar tissue. Its revelation affect no shock or disgust - being a doctor helps in this regard. Triage after the Bomb was not a pretty thing. Bella doesn't even have to fake the lack of revilement as she cups Odessa's cheek in her hand. Her expression all softness and sympathy. "You're fine with me. I promise."

Odessa actually stumbles when Bella deftly snags her arm, her forward momentum thrown off by the sudden redirect. "No no no!" she wails. But to her credit, she meets Bella's gaze - or rather she doesn't attempt to hide her ruined eye, still looking toward the bathroom she attempted to flee to. "I forget sometimes, when it's just me…"

Colour touches Odessa's cheeks in stark contrast with her pale skin and paler hair. She reaches up in a mirror of Bella's touch, cupping the other woman's face before she closes her eyes and leans in to kiss her on the mouth. Unlike the other couple times they've done this, Odessa's lips don't taste of Riesling and marijuana.

An observer, witnessing the pair and their orientation with one another, someone with a cinematic eye, would have seen this coming. The set up is near perfect. One can just imagine how it would be shot, the precise camera angle.

But Bella just thought she was being nice. A supportive friend. The kiss is an absolute surprise to her, however much it shouldn't be.

This accounts for the slight lag before Bella answers. And she does answer. She returns the kiss, but it's only briefly, because in the next moment she's drawing back, as gently as she can. It's definitely an evasive maneuver, though not without tenderness. There is a slight tilt to her brows.

"Odessa," Bella intones, quietly, "maybe we should sit down for a minute?" Obviously something needs to be discussed.

Odessa immediately shows regret and fear in her features, shrinking back and away from Bella before nodding like a child who knows she's about to be scolded for her untoward behaviour. Defeatedly, she pads into the living room in her bare feet and takes a seat at one end of the couch. "I'm sorry. That was… so out of line. God I wish I could rewind time." She winces, head tipped downward and a hand scratching at the back of her head for want of something to do with her restless fingers.

Bella moves after Odessa, settling down just moments after the other woman has taken a seat. She sits close, leg touching Odessa's, arm going around her waist, securing her. Neither of them, the clasp says, are going anywhere.

"I'm pretty sure," Bella says, tilting down to try and catch Odessa's eye, adamantly refusing to be embarrassed - though that's much easier for her, "that we've been pretty hazy about lines, and what counts as being out of them." The redhead gives her companion a small squeeze. "I'm sorry for stopping you short. I-" okay, how can she say this, "need to be careful, is all. For my sake. And for yours, but mostly because of me. So…"

A hand takes Odessa's chin, tilts it upwards, and Bella sets a very light kiss on her friend's lips. It's definitely more intimate than merely friendly, but it invites no advancement. Honest it may be, but it's pointed honesty. "It's not that I wouldn't like to. So don't you dare think that. But you deserve to know the- well-" she gives a very small, breathy laugh, just a touch nervous, "it's complicated."

Odessa accepts the kiss and the explanation without argument, her own face having gone a shade closer to red. Still, she looks incredibly sullen. "Complicated. Right." Either she isn't buying it, or… Well, it's not an easy thing to hear, at any rate. Taking a risk only to be met with rejection is never an easy thing. "I'm sorry," is all she can think of to say. She turns her face away, though she won't move to squirm away from Bella's grasp.

Something wilts a little in Bella, in the face of Odessa's ill temper. Though, honestly, what did Bella expect? 'It's complicated' is a miserably vague and dismissive, and she should have known better than to express herself that way. But the cliché presented itself as a clean alternative to burying Odessa in explanation which, in and of itself, is a miserable way to do things.

"Shit…" Bella murmurs, face falling, "Odessa, please. Please, don't- don't…" don't what, Dr. Sheridan? She bites her lip, pretty hard, blanching it into paleness. Her eyes close. "I hurt someone. Badly. Enough that they- well, let's say I'll be lucky never to see her again because I don't think I'll walk away. I don't ever want to do that to you, for you to- to have you think of me that way.

"You are a Godsend to me, Odessa," Bella insists, "and that's saying a lot, coming from an atheist. I have needed this so badly. Needed you. But I don't want to suck to dry. And I'm afraid I will. So please- please tell me we can figure this out, okay? Because it's not that I- it's not that I wouldn't. It's that I don't know that it could last and I-" the redhead gives a small gulp here, swallowing emotion that's building, "I really can't lose you. I just can't."

There may, in fact, be the slightest tinge of moisture at the corners of Bella's eyes. She has just enough self awareness to be astounded at herself. At the spontaneity of her feelings. And their lack of containment, swelling up in her faster than she can push it back down.

"Bella," Odessa fixes her friend with a bit of an incredulous look, "I'm a runner. You can't suck me dry." That is to say, she'll be long gone before she'll let herself be wholly taken advantage of in that way. Or at least, she's reasonably certain of it.

Smaller arms wrap around the red-haired woman's frame so Odessa can cuddle up close. "I don't think you could hurt me like that. I just can't see it." That isn't to say she doesn't think Isabella Sheridan capable of hurting her, just not willfully. She reaches up with one hand to wipe away the first of the tears. "You… You've seen me at my very best," meaning her days with the Company, "and my absolute worst," the days following her recruitment to the Institute. "And you haven't left me to ruin myself yet."

Odessa's tongue clicks against the back of her teeth as she searches for more words. "I don't… feel the way about women. Generally. I played at it with Ellie, but… I didn't really feel it. You're different. You're special to me, Bella. I… I'd like to give this a try. You're not like anyone else I've felt this way about." Gender aside.

Oh dear. This is all going too fast. Bella doesn't usually feel like she's lost or confused, not when it comes to talking. Even if her interlocutor is lacking in locution, even if they are an insufferable stonewaller, she knows where she stands, a besieger biding her time. But right now, Bella doesn't feel like she can keep up. Things are getting… serious. And fast.

She just came here to give Odessa a book!

"I-," Bella says, arm still around Odessa, but with brow furrowed, "I really- I… You can't know what that means to me. And how I-" she lifts her free hand to her brow, rubbing the creases there, "this is happening very quickly. I'm sorry. I need to think about this. I'm not- please just bear with me," her eyes cut over to Odessa and she looks a touch desperate, needing to know that her companion understands, needing her to understand, "you remember that call? The someone I live with? You know there's someone.

"I mean, we haven't explicitly established what's going on," Bella reasons, even handedly - at least in theory "but it's serious, defined or not."

Odessa shrinks and slides out of Bella's grasp finally, moving to stand up from the couch and pace away from it. "I'm sorry." Away from Bella. "You're absolutely right. This is just… Me freaking out after… After what I saw with my parents, and then the riots…" Her mismatched eyes squeeze shut and she shakes her head. "It's given me this misguided need to take stock and re-evaluate what's important to me. Obviously. You're right. This is really a very… Rash decision on my part."

The wounded doctor paces toward the windows, not staring through them and to the city beyond, but at the reflection they create and back to Bella. Odessa crosses her skinny arms over her midsection and worries her lower lip between her teeth for a long moment, contemplative.

"You should probably go."

"I don't think I should," is Bella's answer, soft but in no way uncertain. Odessa gaze is met in the glass, projection talking to projection - countertransference, "If you need me to, I will. But I'd rather not. You've been through a lot, it sounds like," no really? "And I'd rather not leave you alone to deal with that." She's being unpushy in tone, but insistent.

"Please. I'd like to be with you right now," Bella speaks smoothly, not bursting into visible emotion this time, "I've missed you, and I think you need me right now."

"I think you need to go back to your little boyfriend if you two are so serious." It's spat out like a petulant sixteen-year-old who's just been turned down for the homecoming dance. Moody. Hormonal. Odessa is scowling fiercely at her own reflection now, and past it, but not quite beyond the window at the same time. "You don't know anything about what I've been through." And despite the accusatory nature of her words, the anger is directed only inward. Perhaps that's why it's so strong.

"I know," Bella says, nodding her agreement, "which is why I want you to tell me about it. I care about you, Odessa. I'm invested in trying to see you happy. And I'm invested in knowing you. So please, let me stay, and let's talk." The smoothness of her tone starts wavering at the end. There is a touch of the imploring by the end.

Odessa's head slowly turns so she can peer over her shoulder at Bella with her brows furrowed. She looks so vulnerable like that. Being barefoot and in a fuzzy robe with her hair still stringy and wet doesn't help. "I wish I hadn't gone back to try and save my parents. And at the same time, I'm glad I did. In some ways, I think I was better off not knowing. I don't know what to think." She shakes her head. "I lied to my mother and told her that her little girl turns out okay." That is to say, Odessa feels decidedly not okay.

Bella's fuzzy on the details of this story, but this is hardly the time for clarification. And with Odessa standing there, beleaguered, burdened, and looking like she just got in from the rain, Bella can only really say one thing. "Her little girl became a brilliant doctor and a beautiful woman," is such a heartfelt thing to say, and it turns out to be too heartfelt for Bella not to add, "and someone with an enviable sense of personal fashion."

The heartbroken woman's eyes crinkle at the corners, but that's the closest Odessa comes to cracking a smile. "How can you love, and miss someone you never had the chance to meet?" She turns back to the window, if only because maintaining eye contact during this subject is proving difficult for her. "The last thing my mother said to me is that she loves me." Her tongue darts between her lips, and she sniffles quietly. "Maybe it's better this way, that they never had to see the monster I've become."

Before Bella can protest Odessa's choice of words, the woman at the window shakes her head. "It takes a monster to make the choices that will change the world. And I have so little left to lose." Her stare is blank now as she looks past the reflecting glass, unable to summon more anger or sorrow.

Bella gets to her feet and crosses half the distance between them. She stands there, not quite hovering, too steady for that. "You need to have something to lose," she says, and she sounds deadly serious, "it's a risk, always, but you need to. All the more when you've just lost something." She crosses half of the remaining distance. "I know. You know too." Half of the remaining. Zeno's arrow. "Things can be better." But Zeno's arrow could never reach out. Bella takes Odessa's shoulder in her hand and draws herself across the last separation. "I promise you that."

Odessa swallows a lump she didn't realise was forming in her throat. She doesn't lean into Bella's touch, but she doesn't pull away from it either. She simply allows it. "Having nothing to lose has always made me braver." It's also always nearly left her dead. "Things won't get better unless we work to make them better, you know."

"Bravery isn't the absence of fear," Bella says, solemnly, keeping the touch simple, pushing it no further - she doesn't want to call up what started all this. They've come some ways from that point, it feels like. "It's doing what you have to, even if you're terrified." A pause. "I read that in a book when I was in seventh grade. I've never forgotten it." She gives the slightest squeeze to Odessa's shoulder. "We can make things better together, be afraid together, and survive together. I'd much rather that."

"Semantics," Odessa mutters dismissively. "You have somebody already. You don't need me. I certainly don't need you." She winces as soon as the words leave her mouth. "That… came out more harsh than I intended. I… I simply mean that I will survive even without you. It isn't as though my world will simply cease to stop turning because you have someone in your life and it isn't me." A small shake of her head. "That's all."

"I never imagined it would stop turning," Bella says, easing one foot forward angling to face Odessa better, "but I want you in my life. And I want you to matter. You already do."

"May I stay?"

A quiet sigh escapes Odessa's lips as she turns to lean her head against Bella's shoulder. It's resignation and relief in equal parts.

"Yes. Of course you can stay."

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