How Far Beyond The Line


bella_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title How Far Beyond The Line
Synopsis Her priorities and values haven't really changed, but that line in the sand? Obliterated. Somewhere along the way, she caught the clue that it's not about the career… it's about the job that needs to be done.
Date Nov 10, 2009

Bella Sheridan's Office

As she steps into Bella's office, Elisabeth is feeling a little… off-kilter. Considering what she knows the therapist herself has gone through, truth be told she wasn't sure she should even keep this appointment. But she figured she'd offer the woman the option to opt out for herself in this case, if she wants to. She hovers in the doorway, her eyes on the redhead, and then closes the door behind her. "Good afternoon, Dr. Sheridan," she greets quietly.

If only Elisabeth knew what a comfort and terror her own story was to Bella while in captivity. Everything she experienced had to be thought of as 'well, this is not as bad as what Elizabeth Harrison went through' and all future projections had to include the possibility of being shot in the head and dumped in the river. A true double edged psychological sword. If nothing else, however, it's with a unprecedented level of empathy that Bella greets the police officer, getting to her feet, her leg steadily improving. "Elisabeth!" she says, "It's wonderful to see you again. Please, settle in. We have lost time to make up for!"

Well…. that wasn't exactly the demeanor she expected. Elisabeth smiles faintly. "I'm glad to see you all in one piece, Doctor. I'm sorry I haven't been by earlier," she says quietly. Truth be told, Elisabeth's feeling more than a little bad about the fact that she didn't arrest Teo for that little bit of bullshit too. The thought has been coming more and more often that the things she knows on the side are making her a huge hypocrit, at least in the eyes of those around her - it's a conflict that is slowly building. She moves to sit down, feeling vaguely ill at ease. "I'm actually surprised that you'd want to keep working on this particular case, honestly." For just a moment, Elisabeth misses Ariel Martinez with a physical ache in her heart. She pushes that away.

Bella furrows her brow, settling into her seat again, very carefully crossing her legs with the slight help of one hand. "Why's that?" she inquires. The fact of the matter is that, previous to her liberation, she's not been at all involved in the follow up work. She, rather blindly really, trusts that the Company will dispense the appropriate amounts of vengeance or clemency as best suits their, and, by inclusion, her, ends.

"I think if I'd tried to help a hostage right after I'd been held, I would have been…. too involved," Elisabeth admits. The reactions she has these days are a little more muted, but there are some things she is still struggling with. "If you feel the need to refer me elsewhere, I'll understand."

Bella dips her head. This is a very fair point, and one she's given only glancing consideration. Her conduct may have been a little… reckless of late. But she's very good at excusing herself her faults. That it might effect others negatively doesn't so much not occur to her as doesn't stick; her confidence in her own abilities remains supreme. "I wouldn't dare compare the events," she says, "My situation was civilized, businesslike. You were at the hands of maniacal fanatics. I wouldn't insult you by suggesting an equivalence, and I wouldn't want to set back your progress by forcing a referral."

With a brief nod, Elisabeth replies, "I trust that you know your own limits." She smiles a bit. "So, uhm…. I guess mostly I'm just checking in?"

Bella gives Elisabeth a single nod. "All right," she smiles, "Report, officer."

Her grin is rueful. "Report, indeed." Elisabeth pauses and looks around the office. "I, uhm…. have made a point to work on overcoming the fear of the dark," she tells the therapist. "It hasn't gone as well as I'd hoped. I thought I was doing okay, and then I went to my father's." Her father who didn't, at last meeting, know about what happened to Elisabeth. Bella knows that she hasn't reported anything. "The lightbulb blew while I was in the shower, and I…. pretty much freaked. Couldn't move." Her smiles fades, her blue eyes restlessly skimming the office. "I, uhm… there were a lot of … flashes."

"Flashbacks? Memories of the trauma?" Bella prompts, wanting clarification.

Elisabeth nods without looking at Bella. "Just…. sounds. Smells. It was so dark in there, like being blindfolded again."

"Normally I like to treat the root of the problem, not the symptoms themselves," Bella says, lacing her hands together in front of her, "But in this situation, the symptoms are getting in the way of recovery. We've been working on your aversion to discreet reminders… like that picture. Trying to replace the panic-enducing cognitions with distant, safe ones. But if darkness itself is a persistent trigger, we may need to tackle that phobia directly."

"Mmmm. Well, I walked in a dark subway tunnel without losing it," Elisabeth admits with a small grimace. "But I had a flashlight. And I was…. pretty anxious. It was the pervasive blackness that was problematic. My father….. " She blows out a breath. "Yeah… you were right. I should have told him sooner. He's still pretty pissed that I didn't. I, uhm… didn't have a lot of options after he tried to get me out of the shower and I screamed. I think we're both lucky it wasn't enhanced. I'm not sure I could have enhanced it at that moment if I'd tried."

Bella makes a small wince, at the possibility of what Elisabeth's enhanced scream might do to a bathroom. "The easiest method of treatment would be immersion therapy. Again, it's about actually bringing up the terrifying stimulus, making you endure it with as much calmness as you can muster, so that your brain can figure out that nothing terrible is actually going to happen, just because it's dark. It's about rearranging your cognitive pathways, and your behavioral responses."

There's a flinch. "Seriously. You're going to …. what, blindfolding me?" Elisabeth grimaces. "That's why I've been trying to not avoid dark situations. I'm doing better. I'm less worried about getting shot in the head from afar. Sort of." She forces a grin. Danko's being held in Ferry custody right now, so maybe that's helping her mindset. "My friends have all been pretty supportive, the ones who know. And I got assigned a new partner. I told him…. some of the basics. We've got to watch each other's back, I couldn't leave him entirely in the dark."

Interesting turn of phrase there. Psychoanalysis may be bunk for any real therapeutic practice, but it still tickles Bella as she takes note of the way Elisabeth puts things, very Freudian slippy. "You're smart to try and carefully push your boundaries. Just be careful you don't go in over your head. When we do immersion therapy, which may involved a blindfold or a dark room, it'll be a for-sure safe environment. That's the sense we need to establish to help you recover."

Considering the man she's dating, Elisabeth has the option of doing the 'safe environment' thing on her own. Though she hadn't really thought of it. "I'll think about it" is what she tells the therapist. "Uhm…. other than that incident, I think I'm mostly holding up. I'm down on the anxiety meds to just the basic once-a-day dose. Uhm… not sure what else to tell you about it all."

Bella nods, "Well, it's all brass tacks, nuts and bolts. And you seem to be managing. I do think immersion therapy is the next best step for you, but take some time to think about it. If we're done with practical matters, though," she tilts her head, "Let's talk about you. And how you're feeling. About your partner, for example."

There's a wince there. "I don't know if I like him yet. He's…. " Elisabeth pauses. "He's sort of like looking in a distorted mirror and seeing myself, I guess. I am not a monogamous woman — not even serially monogamous." At least until recently, when she's been mostly a one-man woman. Though whether that's lack of opportunity or subconscious choice, she hasn't bothered to delve too deeply, truth be told. "I am, however, in general discreet about my liaisons. And I tend to choose men who are my friends, first and foremost. Men who…. care about me as a person and that I care for in return. It's always worked well for me, so far as I know. My partner …. is an absolute slut. He'll sleep with anyone who twitches their tits in his direction, and…. honestly? He sort of makes me feel slimy. He's kind of… twelve. All talk about his conquests, bragging about who he takes home and how many times he can make her orgasm and shit at work, and it's just….. unprofessional."

Bella makes a face of sympathetic distaste. "But you're concerned, with this idea of the distorted mirror, that what he's doing isn't necessarily so very different from how you behaved yourself? I just want to be clear about what identification you're performing. What, in him, do you see yourself in?"

Elisabeth considers, "Yeah — maybe. A friend of mine pointed out recently that he didn't know why I hadn't bought into the whole fallacy of womanhood — finding a guy, getting married, settling down to raise kids. And … well, it's kind of weird, but on most levels? I haven't. I don't think poorly of myself for the men I've slept with — we've all had a mutual respect and have been honest. I think maybe it pisses me off so much because I've had to fight assumptions about who I've slept with to get my job. So I see him doing this juvenile bragging, and it just pisses me off that it's okay for him to pull that shit, but the double standard being what it is, they all think I got my job on my back." She grimaces. "It's funny…. the one relationship I've had with another cop in a decade, and I actually let it come out…. after we'd called it off. And we both kind of encouraged the rumor mill. He's in love with a guy who's in the closet, and we both wanted to cover for that guy. Though I think that's moot now, what with the fact that the guy I slept with came out in the middle of the squad room yesterday." She snorts faintly. "I'm pretty sure his lover's gonna be pissed."

"Who knew law enforcement had such a lurid gossip loop?" Bella comments, a bit dryly. "Honestly, what you're saying… I have a hard time being objective and clinical about it. Because, honestly, I don't think it has anything to do with you or your head. Your head is what's right. It's everyone else's head that's on crooked," she sets a hand to her chest, "As an unabashed feminist, I can basically only agree and share your anger, particularly now that such a blatant misogynist is sharing your shift," she frowns, "Maybe you can try and change your attitude about it, treat him as an object lesson, a trial of patience. Or maybe you should ask to be reassigned. Does he reel it in when talking to you? Or do you have to inform him that your face is actually a few degrees north of where he seems to think it is?"

"Oh, you don't know the half of what some cops'll gossip about," Elisabeth says on a genuine laugh. "Well, at least I'm not insane. I don't have enough cleavage to interest my partner," she smirks. "Which is all to the good — I'd rather he was watching my back than my ass. I don't want to get shot while he's busy fantasizing or something, right?" She grins. "The guy I'm seeing likes me exactly the way I am, so… I have some hopes for that relationship to be long-term."

"How do you feel about that long term?" Bella asks, "You said you sidestepped the usual traps for a career woman. You have confidence that your lover, or however you think of him, understands your desires and expectations?"

Elisabeth considers and says quietly, "I think he and I are on the same page." Saving the world comes first; happy endings are unlikely. But Cardinal was right about her on one level — she has a streak of optimism that even after all she's been through hasn't been eradicated. "I had … a pregnancy scare not too long ago. And I had enough time to really wrap my head around the possibilities. I was actually kind of … sorry. When it came up negative. So…. I'm kicking around the idea of having a child over the course of the next several years." Assuming she survives. "I don't know if I'll actually do it, but… I like the idea of it." She hehs. "I haven't mentioned that part to my lover. When it came up negative, I didn't really think he needed to freak out about nothing, and since I have no intentions of deciding for a while, I don't think it's something that's make or break right now, you know?"

Bella's own disinterest in reproduction (she thinks of it in those terms, which tells you a lot from the get go) is only coincidentally supported by her ideals. Mostly her reasons are very personal, 'selfish' if such a word would make any sense when relating to a purely hypothetical child. She feels maybe just a twinge of disappointment as Elisabeth expresses her desire for a child, however. She hides it, though. Different strokes, after all… "Having a child is all about circumstance, or at least it should be. Children are real things, real people, and so having one has got to be a very grounded decision. You might want to discuss the idea of it with your lover, but unless it's something your ready for in the immediate future, it's entirely reasonable to not worry about it."

Elisabeth shrugs easily. "I've got too much on my plate at the moment to really make the concerted effort of changing my whole life around — if that doesn't sound too selfish. The scare was due to… a medication interaction that I wasn't aware of." Not entirely the truth, but close enough for government work. "Right now, I'm more focused on where my career's taking me…. which is …. probably not as far as I'd once hoped," she says with a grimace. "There are some choices I've made in the past that are biting me in the ass. And sometimes I wonder if I'm …. if I've already crossed the line too far to come back. I don't like the sense that I'm a hypocrit. I try to live up to the oath I took — to serve and protect. But the lines are getting really blurry lately." And then she tenses slightly. "And considering who you're on retainer with, I have to say I don't know that I'm comfortable telling you much more than that."

Right. Because Bella's secret is out, Elisabeth has to keep secrets of her own. It's never simple. Blurry lines, just like she said. The psychiatrist spreads her hands in a 'what can I say?' gesture. "I wish that that fact didn't get in the way of total disclosure and honesty, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't an entirely reasonable factor to consider. I do think, however, that we should discuss it, at least in the abstract. I like to think of myself as having at least as great a responsibility to my clients as to my employers."

"I'm not unwilling to talk about some of it…. some of it's already on the record. For example… just before the Verrazano Narrows went down, I got some intel from some street sources. It entailed bombs on the bridges around Manhattan. They were right and my partner at the time had some demolitions experience. I went to Commissioner Lau with the intel because my captain at the time didn't feel that my sources were credible enough…. but we had pictures of the bombs, and she believed me. I was able to talk her into a plan to remove them that did not tip off Volken and the Vanguard terrorist faction to our movements. They were about to release their viral attack on the city, and …. well, to make a long story short, that was able to be thwarted as well because we didn't tip them off early." She's sure the Company has records on some of THAT situation too, and Elisabeth grimaces. "And now Internal Affairs is investigating me because I and a couple of other cops seem to have too much information." She shrugs a bit. "I've worked with the vigilante factions to keep people safe… and I'm afraid it's about to bite me."

Bella's brows lift. "Well, this is the whole problem with the rule of law. By, ostensibly, applying the same standards and procedures to all situations, you create inflexibility… but its done in an effort to reduce the dangers of vigilantism," she waves her hand, "But I'm sure you've thought about all that already. If it came down to it, what would be more important to you? The law, or keeping people safe? Because they aren't the same thing, as you've found out."

The blonde doesn't even hesitate. "Keeping people safe." Elisabeth looks at the woman and says quietly, "All I ever wanted to be was a cop. But if I have to give it up in exchange for …. not watching 90 percent of the world's population die of a viral attack that I could help stop? Fuck it… I've fulfilled my oath."'

"Well, keep your mind open, and think hard about it, figure out what you want, and what you can do," Bella says, "The fact is, when the crucial time to choose comes, if it does come, I won't be able to help you with it… and I honestly don't know that I could or should. This is about your deepest values, Elisabeth, about what you do and who you are," she smiles, "Heavy stuff. As if you didn't already have enough to carry."

There's a snort. "Yeah… deepest values." Like justice for one dead women versus the greater good. Like killing in self-defense or defense of others versus outright murder. Like upholding laws that she agrees with and that apply to all versus having to break the law herself to make sure people are actually alive to throw her in jail for breaking the aforementioned laws. Heavy stuff indeed. Elisabeth shakes her head and smiles a bit. "Why is it I never walk out of here feeling exactly better about things?" she wonders aloud, mostly rhetorically.

Bella gives a small laugh at this. "Because the process isn't about happiness or reassurance," she replies. "This is like Greek theatre. Catharsis. Getting it out here so it doesn't bubble up out there. It seems like a bum deal, but the point is that you are allowed to feel bad, to feel it entirely. Because that's what you don't usually get to do. You have to suck it up, power through, stiff upper lip, that whole deal. Here… you have a license to be miserable." She grins. "So enjoy it."

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