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Scene Title Catharsis
Synopsis The second session is always so productive. Aaron finally breaks down. Of course, there's still plenty of work that needs doing.
Date September 16, 2009

Bella Sheridan's Office

Second sessions are always so much more productive, Bella reflects, and as if commenting on that fact, she's wearing a less breezy, more professional look. Skirt suit and wire-rimmed glasses place hard lines where there were previously gentler waves. It's not precisely overwhelming: the outfit looks entirely appropriate. But it is a noted change.

She is reviewing the file she's compiled on Aaron, refreshing her memory. Depression, insomnia, a suggestion of post-traumatic stress. This will take some work, but they're in the thick of it now, the initial defenses, she hopes, bypassed. The door is left open, again this check to see if/when Aaron will enter without knocking.

Defenses shouldn't be a problem for the most part, given how exhausted Aaron is at this point. Taking care of someone experiencing withdrawal is not the most enjoyable task. When he comes upon the open door he is for a moment confused — it's unexpected — but he nevertheless enters only with a light knock on the door frame and a mildly exasperated, "D… Bella?"

Bella smiles at Aaron when he enters. "Come, take a seat," she says, "And fill me in on what's happened since we last spoke. Any concerns on your mind? Is the medication producing any negative side effects I should know about?"

He'd nearly forgotten about the little capsule he takes every evening. It may be an odd time to take a daily medication, but he thought he'd start taking them immediately after finally finding them for a measly fifty-eight dollars. The pharmacist felt badly for him, but what could he do?

Aaron lies down on the couch again, rather than sitting. He's paler than he was last time, if that's possible, and for once it isn't due to his ability. The depression played a bit of a role, but mostly it was staying up with Gillian as she detoxed. But this afternoon is his time — Peyton's got her. "If you were one of my mostly non-existent friends, I'd say 'don't ask', but, I imagine that doesn't fly much around here. The weekend was smooth and ended with a friend of my roommate showing up sick. I guess she's kind of my friend now too — nothing like bonding over the toilet bowl." He rubs his hand through his hair, "Aside from lightening my wallet, I can't say I've noticed anything."

"Well, I hope that we'll soon be seeing positive effects," Bella says, with a quirked smile, "I'd hate to think I helped you spend some of your hard-earned and well-fought-for money," she peruses his file, looking for key points, "Who would you describe as your friends? Who would you esteem with that label? Would you tell me about them?"

She has no idea just how hard-earned or fought-for Aaron's money really is. The topic of friends is a bit of a brutal one, though. He's lost more than he's gained. "I'm not one of those people with a million friends they hardly know. Especially not anymore." Because he needs friends who care and not superficial ones. "Abby," he says, "My old boss." Old boss because he hasn't been to Old Lucy's since August 13th. "She helped me through a bad couple of days once. And Peyton, who gave me a place to stay — though she hardly knew me — when I lost my other job." Peyton, who was abducted and is the reason he jumps whenever he hears his cell phone make the sound he knows means there's a text message.

"Peyton, you've talked a lot about her, would you mind if we discussed your relationship with her further?" Bella says, "With your specific gift, it must make for an interesting dynamic."

"You could say that," Aaron says. He should have known she'd come up at some point, and already feels guilty for talking about her without asking. "I mean, she's my roommate, there's not much to tell. If she feels gloomy, I make it go away." It just doesn't work the other way around. "We've both lost people, and…" he shrugs.

"Could we talk about that?" Bella continues, not missing a beat, "Who you've lost? We've touched on the subject, but we should discuss the effect of grieving on your depression."

There mere idea of talking about it quickens his heartrate. He tried talking about it once. Being drunk had helped, and he only talked about one. That helped too. And now he's had a roommate abducted amongst all of the other stuff. Needless to say it compounds on things, and despite Bella insisting he doesn't have to answer every question, feels obligated to. "I," he begins, already tearing up. "Everyone." He shifts a bit on the couch, holding onto the cushion as though trying to balance himself, tensing up, "My childhood … friends. My bandmates. P-parents…" Fiancee, or soon to be fiancee. But he can't talk anymore, trying too hard to breathe.

Bella leans forward, hand going out to touch upon Aaron's shoulder, giving a light squeeze. "Don't rush it. Let it come on its own," she urges, softly.

And there's more tensing up the moment she touches him, but he does seem to finally get his breathing under control. If it were possible, Aaron would sink a bit into the touch, but it's only him relaxing a bit more, though he can still feel all of the tension in his stomach. He takes a deep breath and then sheds his jacket, draping it over the side of the couch. "I lost everyone that mattered, my home, there was nothing left. Insurance company went bankrupt. I was on the street for eighteen months." He still labours to keep breathing and finally just closes his eyes. "Can I get a glass of water?"

At his request for water, Bella lifts her hand from him. The touch was a risk, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. She just nods, setting his file to the side and moving to the kitchenette to get the glass and the filtered water. She lets him have a rest for the moment, pressing no more questions.

It takes a few minutes for him to calm down to the extent that he's breathing normally and the dizziness has passed, and when that happens he sits up on the couch. "Two days…" He shakes his head. "You want to know what the first text message I ever received was? I'll never forget. I remember it every time my phone beeps: Help, kidnapped by taxi driver, going over Brooklyn bridge." He takes a breath and puts his head in his hands. "Two days after I move in with Peyton and Humanis First abducts her."

The water is proffered, and once he takes it, Bella resumes her seat, though she's sitting nearer the edge now, producing greater proximity, a certain confidential intimacy. "You seem to assign significance to it, though correct me if I'm wrong. The sort of 'cursed' feeling?"

Aaron lifts and head and takes the water. He sips at it in silence for a moment. "You don't have to be cursed to have bad shit happen constantly. We do a pretty good job of doing it to ourselves." He holds the water glass between his legs, the contents quivering slightly in his shaky grip. "I had a panic attack while telling the cops and this Fed everything. She took me into her home and gave me the first real connection I've had for nearly three years, and just like that, she was snatched away." There are other things he wants to say, but he just can't. There are some things he's afraid to talk about, though it's pretty obvious by him bouncing his legs that there's more to it. He takes a breath and sips more on the water. Tears come to his eyes, "She came back, though. Thank God, she came back."

Bella remains soft voiced, brow furrowing just a little to convey her sympathy, her concern, her interest, "Then what are you afraid of now? What do you feel is threatening you?"

"I… Humanis First? I mean, I don't know why they'd want me, but they don't exactly seem that picky in who they maim; they kidnap Feds for God's sake." He blushes slightly because of his 'idiot, who do you think?' tone, and nurses his water for a bit. He wipes the tears from his eyes.

"The threats your face could be very real," Bella says, "I accept that. More, I accept that they almost certainly /are/ very real. But what produces fear is memory and anticipation. Nothing in the here and now, but what has happened and what you think may yet happen. And those things you have a certain personal control over. Those are yourself, your thoughts."

"And how do you control it? Because I certainly don't want to afraid. I don't want to wake up from nightmares where Peyton's been abducted or maimed and be so terrified I have to go check to make sure she's still in her room and only then can I breathe…" Aaron flushes red. Did he actually say that out loud? Even his ears go scarlet and he looks down into his water, wishing it were something a little harder than water. Whiskey, maybe.

Bella's used whisky in-session before, but this doesn't feel like the right psychiatric moment. "You need to confront those memories and contextualize them. Tame them. You need to experience them with the control and safety of distance, in this place, with me."

"I just," Aaron wipes more tears from his eyes, "I don't know how to do this. I don't kn…. I just want the hurting to stop. I don't want to feel like I'm getting my life back only to have it slip away. I don't want to feel like I'm OK only to feel like I'm gonna die."

"You have to find a balance, Aaron," Bella insists, softly, "Between accepting the uncontrollability of much of your life, and taking responsibility for that which you do control. You can't afford to be a victim, to see yourself that way."

"Which is what?" Aaron asks. Because honestly, he doesn't see himself as having much at all. "What control can I possibly have? I can't even live the way I want to. I get incapacitated if I don't use this ability I have. I chew painkillers that don't even touch the headaches I get daily. Do you know what that's like? I can't do anything I used to do. I don't have a life anymore. I have this husk of a memory of what was." His tone's raised up a couple of notches towards bitter.

"That's something we'll discover together, and help you work out," Bella says, "But you can't have control over that which you don't understand. So understanding yourself, your circumstances, and your power will all increase the reach of your control."

Aaron takes the water to his lips again and rubs at his head. At this point he mostly just sits there. What little energy he had dried up with his anger. "I'm just tired," he says, eyes closed. If he could sleep, he'd probably do it right there. "Can I go home?"

"You can," Bella says, with a nod, "But you've still got time. Why don't you lie back, we can do this in a more relaxed way. Question/answer. We can even quid-pro-quo if you would feel better knowing more about me," she smiles, "I hate to be a total stranger asking for your trust."

He has to think a moment before he nods, and sets the glass of water down on the floor. Then Aaron lies back down. "I think I can do that. Just no hard questions. And I won't ask you any hard ones, either," he offers.

Bella's smile is momentarily beatific. "All right. I'll go first. Tell me, Aaron… what were you like in high school? What clique did you run with, if any?"

And it's an inadvertently hard question. It takes a moment's clenched jaw for Aaron to say, "I guess you could say our band was it's own clique. It was popular enough with the schools, anyway." He pauses to think of a question for Bella. "What got you interested in psychiatry?"

"I wanted to understand people and, then, to help them understand themselves," Bella says. This is a lie, of course. She did it for the money. She did it because she seemed good at it, and she likes to be good at what she does, "And because I think I have a knack for it." A little honesty there. "What did you imagine you'd become after school?"

"I got into NYU's music program. I wanted to be a composer, but that kinda hit a speedbump in my final year," Aaron says, miraculously avoiding saying it was irreparably halted by the fact that he had to drop out on account of having no money and that, well, nobody finished school that year. Greenwich Village was evacuated. "What do you do when you're not working?"

This earns a small laugh from Bella. "I'm not sure I understand the question," she jokes, then, "Read, mostly. I go out occasionally, but not for long. I should do it more but… well…" she gives a small shrug, "What do you play?"

"Piano, guitar, violin," Aaron answers in part. "Classical, jazz, pop, light rock, alternative, no country and no metal." Well, technically a little country, but only the good stuff. "And I meant hobbies. Just seems like a lot of work helping everyone with their troubles all the time." And he doesn't ask another question.

"Quite the virtuoso!" Bella says, sounding impressed, "Hobbies? Oh god. Um… I like to pick an author and then read everything they've ever written, at least as long as I can," she shakes her head, "This was a bad idea, I'm revealing how dull I am. At least that won't seem sinister, at least."

"Violin was sort of a last minute addition. I can still play, but not nearly as well as the others. Or singing." Which he started doing first, and so is most capable at it. He laughs a bit at her comment about it being a bad idea. "We all have our strengths and weaknesses." And there he goes trying to be in some way consoling. "Doesn't make you dull, just well-read."

"Do you play, still?" Bella asks.

"Well, I don't have a violin, but Peyton has a keyboard and I have my guitar, so, I do. It's the only way I know how to work my ability, so I kinda have to, even if I don't feel up to it, which I haven't for a while," Aaron says.

"Tell me about that, the connection between your music and your ability," Bella says, "Oh! Sorry. Lost myself. It's your turn for a question."

"It's OK," Aaron says, "I can't think of any more anyway." He shrugs, "I don't know. I guess that's how it always worked. I play, and it works. The only control I have is to stop it from working, and all that does is make me sick."

"Of course it's my lack of hobbies that did it," Bella says, with a feigned sigh, "What's left to ask after that?" she tilts her head, "Would you play for me?"

"Maybe, in time. Peyton and Gillian say I'm really good, but I don't feel it like I used to, and I want to. I want to feel like I used to when I played," Aaron says. "Like it was all worth it. When it meant something to me."

"Why did that change, because of your ability?" Bella asks. The questions are simple, bricks building an as-yet uncertain structure.

"Kinda started before I even knew I was evolved. Things just slowly lost meaning, and now here I am." Aaron says. He slowly makes his way back up into a sitting position and takes up his glass of water from the floor, taking a sip from it.

Bella crosses her legs, sitting up straight once more. "Aaron, do you want to get better? To feel better?"

Ah, that is the question. Does he want to continue to mope in utter despair or does he want to very painfully pull himself out from under the rock. Aaron doesn't have to think long before he says, "Yes."

"Then tell me what has to change for that to become true. What you think must change," Bella says, firmly.

Somehow, Aaron feels saying the world has to change will be incredibly unhelpful. With closed eyes, he at first gives a shrug, then a sigh. Finally, he says, "I somehow need to come to peace with all of the horrible shit." And it's with tears that his eyes open again.

Bella gets to her feet and carefully takes a seat at the edge of the couch, right next to Aaron. She extends her arms. She's offering a hug. Contact, she knows, takes effort from him. This is as much a challenge as an offer of comfort.

Not long after he tried to kill himself following the fiasco with Wendy, Peyton nearly broke Aaron just by touching his hand. Contact isn't so much something of effort as a weakness that reduces him to a heap of emotion. Something to be avoided because it makes hum vulnerable and yet something that he longs for with every breath. With how taxing this session has been for him, it's an offer he accepts with little trepidation as he breaks down and cries.

Bella clasps Aaron against her, one hand gently resting on the back of his head, the other firmly pressed to his back as she accepts his emotions, as of yet saying nothing, just letting him release all that's pent up in him. She gently inclines her cheek against his head; she's a good hugger. Probably practiced, but with a certain amount of simple talent.

It goes on for several minutes and there's shaking at first, but Aaron eventually gives way to calm and stillness, drifting so close to the sleep that wouldn't come. "I should get home," he mumbles, giving his head a bit of a shake as he almost nods off. He didn't realize how tired he was.

Bella nods, letting him pull away as soon as he likes, "You can rest here a little, if you like. I can call a cab for you in the meantime?"

Aaron nods his head, though he stays in the embrace a bit longer. Then he parts, and only after he's drunk the last of the water and wiped his eyes does he recline on the couch. Of course, as soon as his head touches down, he's out. Spent.

Bella looks down at him with a fond smile, reaching out to touch his shoulder very lightly. She tuts softly, shaking her head as she rises, taking her phone and moving to the bathroom to make the call without disturbing Aaron.

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