Don't Give Me Any Reason To Be Less Than Gentle


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Scene Title Don't Give Me Any Reason To Be Less Than Gentle
Synopsis Aaron seeks professional help.
Date September 10, 2009

Bella Sheridan's Office

Bella's Company workload has been a little lighter lately; if there are terrible psychological events being visited upon the field agents, it appears they're coping on their own. Nothing a little dose of self medication can't cure. Which is all well and good considering her private practice has been on the upswing, particularly since the opening of the Suresh Center. She's not at the point where she has to start refusing new clients, but she's finding less time to kick around listening to the radio and baking - for the best, she supposed. She didn't go to med school so she could listen to 'All Things Considered' and get pudgy on cookies. She went to med school to get rich, and more patients mean more money.

Of course, from her breezy demeanor, with windows open and afternoon sun heating the bricks outside, one might easily mistake her good cheer for that of someone who really likes helping people. And that's not to say she doesn't like being good at what she does. She's dressed in a white cotton skirt and a cream yellow blouse, with hoop earrings dangling under hair that's half up, half down, free without being inconvenient. She checks the clock on the wall. Almost time. She waits in her armchair, waiting to see if her visitor will knock, or just open the unlocked door, her curiosity catlike, though hopefully less fatal.

It took Aaron until he reached Dr. Sheridan's door to realize he should have brought Peyton along, if only for emotional support. Things have been very, very strange for him since Peyton had the vision of Cassidy O'Shea's captivity with the help of Gillian. It's been like one prolonged withdrawal from his ability since then, nothing quite taking the edge off. It doesn't help that there's not much negative emotion to keep sapping from Peyton. That well is pretty much dried up because he's almost constantly using his ability on her. No wonder she's so much more well adjusted than he is.

Only one session was needed with the previous psychiatrist to know that it wasn't going to work. It was always too awkward, and he couldn't feel he could admit being evolved to him. That and he was just plain creepy, and expensive. No major pay difference between the two, at least this one is recommended for evolveds.

So it is that Aaron Michaels, dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and windbreaker, worn jeans, and with hair only slightly beyond dishevelled, comes to Bella's door and knocks.

A knocker. Note number one. Bella doesn't get up, she calls out. "Come in!" Her eyes on the door.

Aaron looks at the door a moment. He'd be confused if his head weren't throbbing. He opens the door and steps in, closing it quietly behind him while looking around to get his bearings. Open windows. He keeps his jacket on. "Doctor Sheridan?"

Now she gets to her feet, crossing the hardwood and stopping at twice arm's length from Aaron. She extends her hand, offering a shake. "Call me Bella," she urges, "And you're Mr. Aaron Michaels?" it only sounds like a question.

She has to be cute. And not at all that old. Perfect. Just what he needs, a cute shrink. There's only a slight blush as he shakes her hand and he gives a nod of his head. "OK, Bella," he says with only a bit of uncertainty. Using her first name blurs the lines even more.

Bella steps back and gestures towards the therapy area, where a chair and a chez lounge await her clients. "Please, take a seat. Whatever makes you most comfortable," she moves to her own seat, but doesn't take it. "Thank you for coming in, by the way. Can I ask how you heard about me?"

While he may normally be more inclined to sit, he takes the couch in an effort to relax some. After only a moment of lying down, he sits up and takes off his jacket. "Someone at the Suresh Center mentioned you might be a better fit than the doctor I was seeing." He manages to not say 'headshrinker' or 'shrink'.

Bella takes her seat now, crossing her legs and smoothing out her skirt, hands coming to rest on her knee. "That begs the question, why am I a better fit?" she says, smiling a little, "But we can get to that in a little. What brings you here, Aaron? I don't have you file, so you'll have to fill me in until I get your information from your previous practitioner… assuming you want that to carry over."

And she goes and jumps right to the hard questions.

It's unfortunately developed into an almost unconscious habit when he gets his headaches. Out pops the little Excedrin bottle. The sad thing is that they don't really even make a dent anymore. "Because you're evolved — I don't know, sympathetic? At any rate, evolved-safe." He scratches his head, "I could have them fax you, I guess, or whatever it is they do. Probably better to hear first hand, though, right? Make your own observations that way." Like the fact that he's avoiding the question as long as he can. He hasn't quite twisted the cap off that bottle yet.

"Would you like a glass of water for that?" Bella inquires, uncrossing her legs, ready to rise should he say 'yes'. "You paint me in kind colors, Aaron. I'm an evolved specialist. It started as scientific curiosity, but yes, I consider myself sympathetic, and I certainly hope I'm safe! The challenges faced by evolved are unique, and I think it requires special attention," a small pause, "May I ask what your ability is?"

It should become obvious he needs no water when two pills expertly pop out of the bottle and into his hand (and subsequently his mouth). Then he chews them. That's right, he chews them. Of course then he blushes and tucks them away. "Sorry. Bad habit." Because his head hurts. Yeah, that's real smooth. He swallows again because of the bitterness, and in an attempt to be a grateful guest, he says, "Actually, a glass of water would be good, thanks." He gives his head a rub as he tries to come up with some way to phrase what his ability is, still not happy with Wendy's and the registry's classification of 'empathy.' In the end, he has nothing. "I suppose you could call it some kind of empathy. I only recently figured out I was evolved, but thinking back I've been for at least since just before… the Bomb." No, he doesn't like talking about the Bomb, and just mentioning it makes him fidget a bit. "I'd get you those records too, but they were, kind of destroyed."

Bella gets up and drifts over to the kitchenette, opening a cabinet and removing a tall glass, waiting until Aaron finishes speaking before removing a filtered jug from the fridge and filling it. She returns, stopping by the couch and offering the potable. "Empathy? I can imagine that comes with a lot of trouble, if it means what I think it means. But we can get to that later. I don't want my professional curiosity to get the better of me."

Aaron takes the glass and drinks from it, sitting up first. Then he remains seated on the couch holding the glass. Who knows, maybe he'll be thirsty later. "Can't say it's traditional, or, I wouldn't think. More like addictive empathy, considering I get withdrawal when I don't use it. And it's weird…" He that train of thought goes to another station. "You asked why I was here? It's because … I'm a mess. I can barely sleep, I sleep away half the day and I'm still tired when I get up. I don't go out anymore. I snap at people I hardly know. I just …" He takes a drink. "I don't feel like I'm in control anymore. I don't feel like I'm me anymore. I used to play music for my own enjoyment, and now it's just going through the motions. It's meaningless now."

This could be straight out of the DSM IV. Irregular, unrestful sleep - lethargy and asociability - loss of pleasure in things that used to be pleasurable. Bella makes no motion towards her pad. Bella's next question nearly asks itself. "When did this begin for you?"

Aaron sinks into his seat. Of course, the other psychiatrist asked the same question. This time he's prepared for it. Well, more prepared for it. Which doesn't stop his eyes from tearing up. "Uhm," he says, wiping at his eyes. "About the same time as…" Only he can't say it again. "November. Of oh-six."

Bella retakes her seat, tilting her head to the side, expression one of gentle sympathy. "Understand, there is no question I ask that you have to answer. But I will only ask a question if I think it will help. So, I'm going to ask: what did it feel like? Did your ability play a part in the experience?"

"No, no I do," he replies. "I have to do this." At least he's motivated in the right direction. "No, my ability… well, I was seeing a counsellor because I was just a little blue, you know? I thought the world had lost its colour. But it wasn't depression. Well, not mine. It was other people's depression." Aaron licks his lips and starts talking with his eyes closed, blinking hard to try and banish the tears, "I see people's pain. It's kind've hard to explain. I see them like anyone else, but I also see them in part black and white. Well, monochrome, I guess. If people are bright like normal, they're happy, if they're grey then they're in pain. I've seen a few people that're in really bad shape." His eyes pop open again, only red-rimmed but no more tears. For now. "And that's another third of my ability. I can take it away. It's not permanent or anything, but, it's effective. But I didn't know about either of those when it happened. But I…" He can't say how he lost everything, so he skips over it. "The insurance company, they went bankrupt. I was on the street for a year. I had to drop out of school, not that NYU was the safest place after it happened. I only finally got back to any semblance of normal about a year ago, and then everything went to hell again." And then some.

Bella listens intently, and as he begins to describe his ability, it's effects, she finally reaches for her pen and paper, starting to jot down notes as he continues. "So, you've had your own troubles, easily enough to make you blue. But then you're burdened with the troubles of all those around you, and they're serious," she makes a quick mark on her pad, "You'll have a hard time handling your own emotions with the emotions of others intruding. But you described your ability as addictive? I'd like to know precisely what we're working with, so we can figure out how best to relieve some of the considerable pressure."

"I don't feel them, I just see it, and I don't take it on. I just …" He remembers Abby asking him when he last fed. "I eat them." Addictive, though. "Well, that was probably bad wording. I have to use my ability or I …" The sad thing is he knows damned well what it is, it's just hard to say it aloud. It's so weird. Intrusive. "I get withdrawal." As some sort of concluding statement on the matter, he taps his pocket, where the bottle of Excedrin ended up.

"I'm sorry if this is painful," Bella says, brows furrowing very slightly, "But could you describe precisely what happens when you do eat… and when you don't? Understanding your ability is crucial if we're going to find some way of improving your situation."

Talking about the ability is way easier than talking about the other stuff, so Aaron has no problem — or less problems — talking about that. "If I do, I'm fine, as far as my ability is concerned I don't get headaches or anything else." And he can't even let himself off the hook. "I'm still not myself even when I do, but when I don't, or don't get enough, I get headaches, I can't sleep. If I go too long, I'll literally be conscious for days at a time. Over-the-counter sleep-aids don't touch it. I can barely keep anything down…. I knew this healer, she tried fixing it and it came back within minutes. I think after about a week, I start to hallucinate and get really sick, but the one time that happened is … fuzzy."

"I see," Bella says, "And when you do 'eat', what are the effects?" All so technical, at least for now.

"Nothing. Well, if I had withdrawal from it, the symptoms go away pretty quickly. But that's it. I'd like to be able to say taking away a stranger's pain is somehow pleasurable, but nothing's more frustrating than being able to make everyone feel better but me." The last bit comes out with just that, frustration and bitterness. Because Aaron is bitter, even if the sentiment is a bit selfish — and he knows it. Nobody's managed to make him feel much better, save Peyton. When she needs him and is around, he feels a little better. He actually feels a little more like he used to, before everything blew up.

"That's remarkable," Bella says, "As a therapist I can appreciate it all the more. Being able to ease another's pain. It's profound. But yes, there is a terrible irony there. So I'm very glad you're here. It's your turn to have your pain eased. I'll do as best I can," she quirks her mouth to the side, "Your symptoms are consistent with depression, in intensity and duration. How do you feel about medication? I'm seriously considering prescribing you an anti-depressant. Not as a final answer, but as a stopgap to help you keep your head above water."

"Which would be good," Aaron says. Keeping his head above the water has been an immense struggle as of late. "Hey, I chew aspirin. I think I can handle a one-a-day." There's a near half-smile, but anything resembling a positive emotion is a rare appearance on Aaron's face, so it disappears almost instantly. It ends up sounding sarcastic.

Bella answers Aaron's smile and makes up for the rest of his share, a brilliant flash of white between pink lips, "I'm glad to hear it," she says, "I'm going to start you on fluoxetine. That's good ol' fashioned Prozac. You'll have to give it some time to start working, and I'd like to meet with you before so we can talk about how you handle the side effects." She rises again, pen in hand, moving to the kitchenette and opening a drawer in the island counter, removing her prescription pad and making out the prescription. "We can discuss other options if it doesn't sit well with you," she looks up, "How's your love life?" Apropos of something, her expression promises.

Why do people have to seem so damned perky all the time? And ask terribly, terribly personal questions. Oh wait, she's a shrink! Aaron grunts. "Somewhere between unrequited and non-existent." The question does get him off the couch, though, as he wanders towards the kitchenette to inspect the prescription. Not that he's particularly fascinated with it, and he only wishes anti-depressants worked faster. "If only there were an evolved out there who could mirror my ability or something. The few friends I have know me as the human anti-depressant. Probably works better than that stuff, too. No side effects, at any rate." Not that he really cares if it makes him feel like he can get out of bed in the morning.

"Then maybe the libido reduction side effect will be a perk," Bella says, and it sounds like a tease the way she says it. She tears the top sheet off the pad and moves back to Aaron, offering it to him. "The generic brand is a bit cheaper, but just as effective, if you're on a budget." She bites her lip, "Well, don't go opening up your own clinic. You'll put me out of business."

If he were as riled up as Wendy gets him, he might bite back with a retort, but he manages to keep civil enough to only roll his eyes a bit at the bad humour as he takes the prescription. "Bad enough my roommate's paying for you," he says quietly. "Don't worry, I won't." For so many reasons. "Help yourself before you help others, as I think that's the saying, isn't it? Or, you can't help others if you don't help yourself? Same thing." He tucks the prescription into his jacket pocket as he moves back to the couch. "Have any openings next week?"

"I'd be more than happy to pencil you in," Bella says, remaining standing, though moving aside so that Aaron can get up unimpeded, "I've seen many people with depression, Aaron. So understand that I mean it when I say I know you can beat this. You have a strength of character, I can tell."

There's a bit of a shiver at that comment. Well, there's something. "Just, go easy with the questions. This wasn't so hard to talk about. The … Bomb is, and so is the last month. It's been a bad few weeks," Aaron says. Of course, read the news and that much becomes obvious. Which is why he actively avoids it when he can, particularly the visual mediums. Not that it helps. It's why he stays in. People talk. "I'll be here whenever, just make it happen. You might think that, but I can't keep doing this. Every day there's some new disaster going on." And the kidnappings are more real to him than the average person. His roommate was a victim.

"I'll try, but you'll have to meet me halfway," Bella says, "A great deal has changed since the turn of the century, but this is still the talking cure. So… promise we'll talk, and I'll let you go, with every blessing."

"I didn't say we wouldn't talk, it's just … it won't be easy to answer some of those questions," Aaron says. "It'll be bad, and sometimes I'll be off because of my ability, and …" there he goes taking a deep breath to slow himself down. "I'll be here, and I'll talk. Just don't … hurt me."

Bella lifts a brow and her smile curves to one side, "Then don't give me any reason," she says, tone teasing again, "To be less than gentle."

"When should I come back?" Aaron asks, resolved to leave now before that smile shows up again. "And how much do I owe you?"

"Can you do Wednesday?" Bella asks, "And that depends on your insurance. Standard co-pay is fifty dollars, if you have a PPO."

Suddenly, Aaron wishes he had elaborated on the whole insurance policy business, because he colours very red at the mention of insurance. "And if I have no insurance?"

Bella frowns very slightly. There is a moment's consideration. "Don't worry about it. I'll speak with the Suresh Center. If they don't already have a policy about subsidizing evolved care, then I intend to lobby very hard for it," she smiles, "Consider it one less thing to worry about." Why is it again Bella got into this business? The money, wasn't it?

If the fact that he had no insurance makes him blush, the fact that this cute shrink is waiving a fee, at least for now, makes him go crimson. "I … thank you." He'd hug her, but that would just be weird. "I'll be back here Wednesday afternoon, then?"

"You certainly will," Bella says, and offers her hand once more, "It was a pleasure meeting with you, Aaron."

And Aaron takes it, far more enthusiastically than when he arrived. "Thank you," he almost says 'Dr. Sheridan', "Bella." It's still uncertain. He's too used to calling doctors by their last names, even if his old counsellor, God rest her soul, had her call her by her first name too. "Thank you."

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