Clean Bill of Mental Health


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Scene Title Clean Bill of Mental Health
Synopsis Veronica goes to the dread psychologist and manages not to leak her secrets to the polite and charming Bella.
Date July 27, 2009

Bella's Apartment

The shades have been drawn to let a little light in. Best to take what you can get before the forecast storms really hit. And thunder and lightning have a real charm to them, come to think of it. They still give Bella something of a thrill, low in her belly. She smiles at the street below, doing a quick lean and peer to see if her next visitor is nearing the door. Not quite yet, it seems, but that would make her new client early, and Company folk tend to be pretty punctual, she's found. Leonard Lopate is interviewing some economic analyst on the radio, and the psychiatrist is close to tuning the whole thing out, but the cadence of Mr. Lopate's voice is soothing, even if the subject matter bores her. Dressed in a red and yellow sundress, it's like she's expecting a glowing, pretty day, despite the fact that the clouds are sloping down the greyscale.

There's a fly - a tiny fly - newly born that sits up on the wall. It's front legs rubbing back and forth, occasionally flitting its wings.

Best to get this over with. That's Veronica Sawyer's mentality as she makes her way to the psychologist's office. It's not like she has a choice. She's not back on the job yet, so she's making the most of it by continuing to dress in her vacation wear: cut off denim shorts, the threads of which hang down over her knees, a pair of Rainbow flip flops, and a grass-green tank top. A navy blue sling adorns her left arm. No need to impress. "Doctor Sheridan," she says by way of greeting, nodding to the woman as she enters the office.

Bella's fingers flick the dial on the small radio, and the sound clicks off. The psychiatrist smiles as she takes Veronica in. "Ms. Sawyer," she says, "So nice to meet you." She pushes off the counter, stepping towards the agent and offering her hand by way of introduction, "And please, call me Bella. Please, have a seat." She gestures to the three seats that rest near the windows, a big armchair for the doctor, next to which a table bearing pads and pens rest, a comfy chair and a chez lounge for those looking for a more classic 'turn of the century' feel to their session.

Vee takes the hand proffered, her own grip firm but not overly so. She offers a dimpled smile. "Nice to meet you, Bella. Welcome to the family." The Company is sort of one big dysfunctional family. She glances at the seating arrangement, smirking a little at the lounge and taking the chair. Crossing her legs, being sure to cross towards the arm chair the doctor will sit in, so as not to looked "closed off," she sets one hand on the arm of the chair, and tilts her head up at the psychologist to wait for her to join.

Bella settles into her generous seat, legs crossing in mirror to Veronica's, a hand brushing back a stray strand of hair that has escaped her bun, before smoothing her dress out somewhat. "I understand this is fairly routine," she says, "More a psychological equivalent to a checkup rather than a thorough mind spelunking project," she gives a small grin, slightly bashful, "That wasn't intended to seem so creepy sounding. In any case, were you briefed on anything specific we should discuss?" Obviously the file points to psychologically significant (read tragic) events, but that's no way to start a conversation.

The brunette agent arches a brow but smiles at the strange description, giving a chuckle as Bella admits that it sounds a bit creepy. "Nothing in particular. Len just said that it's routine and to make an appointmet," Veronica says with a one-shouldered shrug. "I'm not really the type to dwell on things, so … you know. Ask away I guess and I'll do my best to answer. But the short answer to everything is I'm doing okay." While she didn't appreciate Curt's rant about her being broken, she did take to heart some of the advice — don't try to come off as perfect, admit some weakness, don't go into details.

"I appreciate your open mindedness, as well as you honesty. If you don't think there's a serious problem, very likely there isn't. But there's always benefit in having someone to talk to, and that, more than anything else, is why I'm here. To talk. It doesn't /hurt/ that I can push pills," Bella gives a tiny, almost sly, smile, "But I'm most useful as way to talk about the many things that, given the nature of our employers, you can't just tell, say, the barman at your favorite dive."

"Oh, I'm not supposed to tell the bartender about the latest bag and tag? My bad…" Veronica quips, then grins. She might like Bella despite herself. She's still not going to open up much. Too much that might come spilling out, and the woman still answers to the same bosses she does. "Thanks. I appreciate that. I know it's helping Magnes, which is a good thing, but he'll probably end up with a crush on you too. That boy seriously needs some men to look up to in his life. Ones that aren't terrorists, of course." She offers another toothy smile, dimples in both cheeks.

Bella gives a light chuckle, "Magnes makes my job feel very easy," she says, "He wears his heart on his sleeve. It's a shame being stoic and withholding is usually a better courtship strategy. A shame for him and for the world." She shifts somewhat in her seat, sitting up straighter. Time to get to work. "Tell me about your job. Your feelings about it, opinions, doubts, aspirations."

Veronica nods regarding Magnes, though truth be known, the whole heart on the sleeve thing overwhelms her a bit. It's sort of like Brian, and it makes her step backwards. Eventually the person notices the stepping backwards, and gets hurt by it. Complicated.

Job. Right. "Well, I've been doing it since I graduated college. It's the only job I've ever had, and I'm still here. That means something's good, right?" Another smile. "I don't really have any particular goals. Just to … you know, be good at what I do, help people, protect people. That's why I'm here." Deep breath. "There's times it's hard, of course. Almost dying. It rattles you, makes you wonder what you're doing this for. But when you help someone, then you remember why you do it. Sometimes those moments don't come often enough. I mean, most of the time, the people don't know we're helping them. People think we're the enemy because they don't see all we do to protect them. That makes it hard, but I'm not in here for awards and medals. I'd be military or police if that was the case, right?"

Bella nods, "This job attracts true altruists, people who want to do good rather than receive accolades for goodness," she agrees, "But everyone desires a certain amount of appreciation. In the most meager of service industry jobs they still have 'employee of the month'," she tilts her head, "How often does the lack of appreciation bother you? Can you think of any specific moments where the ingratitude, even the hostility, of someone you were helping particularly got under your skin?"

Veronica thinks, her brow furrowing a little, and shakes her head. "No. Not … specifically. It's more the climate out there. Like we're the boogeymen or something. I know it's not the case, but it's hard to set the record straight when we're not supposed to exist, as such." She smiles. "It's okay. I mean, Agent Denton is great, and always makes me feel appreciated for my work. But like I said. I didn't go into this for the pats on the back. I probably would have been FBI if I wasn't Company, so it's not like I'd have any more public recognition, right? It's all good."

Bella tilts her head slightly, watching Veronica's expression as she says this, the furrow of that brow, the consideration she puts into explaining her feelings. She nods, "Working as, well, essentially a 'shadow organization' does produce difficulties, as we previously mentioned. Human beings collect secrets like misers collect coins, and they're often about as useful and fulfilling as a penny-pincher's hoard. But within our organization we need to be as transparent as possible, to hide as little as we can from one another. Unfortunately, secret keeping becomes a habit, almost a lifestyle, even for the people up-top. Which is why we get discontents and even defectors," no names being mentioned, "And why it's important to get any and all things off our chests while we can. So, while you may have nothing on your chest right now, just know that that's what I'm here for. And that's what doctor-patient confidentiality is for as well."

"Doctor-patient confidentiality?" Veronica echoes, though her tone is tinged with an element of disbelief. "I mean, I'm not the one paying for your paycheck, so how does that work? I'm sure you have to give some report of some sort to the higher ups… maybe not every little thing I tell you, but basics, right?" She tilts her head, watching Bella. "Even if you think it's all classified, you don't think they might find a way to read all of our files? You're more altruistic than I am, if so."

Bella lifts a finger to tap her nose, giving Vee a wink, "A clever consideration," she says, "And a question worth asking. Yes, of course they could plunder my files at any moment. Just like they could make either of us disappear without so much as a ripple. But, cordial relations being maintained, I mostly suggest courses of action, ways that the brass can make life easier and more fulfilling for the agents. No details, no 'tell alls', just general ideas of how best to assign tasks or incentives. For example, if you found that target acquisition was really hurting your morale, was really upsetting you, I'd suggest you should have a different assignment. And I'd /tell/ you this beforehand, see if you agreed. So it's more about me coming up with ways that you think will make you happier, and using my professional clout to get the brass to agree."

"I see," Veronica says and nods. "Well, I'm fine. With 'target acquisition.'" The formal words sound awkward in Vee's husky voice, though she's clearly well educated and not stupid - just used to the vernacular 'bag and tag.' "Thanks, though. I'll let you know. Maybe you could do something about the cafeteria food. That gets my morale down horrifically."
"I'll suggest you be issued meal vouchers," Bella says, her tone that of one joking, though who knows? "So, all in all you feel comfortable? I'm sure there are a list of standard questions I /could/ ask you but I'd be a poor psychologist if I couldn't tell you're more interested in /doing/ you job than talking about it."

Veronica lifts her chin slightly with a smile. "My partner's the crazy one who never shuts up. I'm sure you can get a mouthful out of him, if you want to talk to someone about their job. But yeah. I mean, I'm going a little stir crazy not being useful after a month off. You'd probably feel the same way, if you couldn't help anyone for that long, right?"

Help anyone? Those aren't the words Bella would use with /her/ therapist if she had one. But it would be more than just gauche to contradict. "I can't imagine!" she says, "I'm a stimulus freak, always have the radio or the TV going if there's no one at the apartment," a small laugh, "But enough about my psychological complexes. I'm ready to give you a clean bill of health. I'm not about to try and find problems in a perfectly functional, socially apt individual. And if you ever feel less functional, you know my door is open."

With a chuckle, Veronica rises, reaching her hand out for a farewell handshake. "I promise, if my functionality drops off, you're the first person I'll see. It was nice meeting you, Bella. Good luck with the Company." She glances at the seating area. "Do people actually use the couch?" she says with some disbelief as she heads toward the door.

Bella rises and takes Vee's hand, giving a firm shake. "The pleasure was all mine. Come back any time," her lips quirk in a smile, "I can even meet for lunch if you want to get some real food. I promise we don't even have to talk business." She moves to the kitchenette counter to see Veronica off. Her last comment makes Bella chuckle. "That would be telling," she replies, tipping a farewell wink.

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