How to Date a Sociopath


magnes_icon.gif bella_icon.gif

Scene Title How to Date a Sociopath
Synopsis Magnes brings pizza to his session with Bella, and learns a few things about his current romantic interest.
Date July 30, 2009

Company Owned Studio Apartment

A studio apartment the Company has graciously provided for Bella and her clients.

The thunderstorms of the last few days have abated for the day, but only for the day, and rain still threatens. Confronted with the clamor of the heavens and the attending downpour, Bella has gotten her bake on. The psychiatrist is using the perfectly functional oven, perched on the edge of the counter, apron donned over her black skirt and dark green blouse. The unmistakeable smell of baking brownies wafts about the studio apartment. She checks her watch, comparing the actual time against the countdown on the oven. They should be ready before Magnes gets here… if only barely.

Having stopped by Panucci's on his way to therapy, Magnes used the oven to make a pizza, wanting Bella to try out his few years of almost non-stop pizza making. Knocking, he says, "Panucci's Pizza!" and walks in, before locking the door behind him. "Something smells good." he adds, meaning something other than the large pizza box.
From afar, Rose wanted to revisit the subject of Tamara/Bella. My availability is not great these days, but it's still on my radar.

Bella glances over her shoulder, smiling as Magnes steps in. "You shouldn't have!" she declares, slipping off the counter. There is a 'beep beep' as the oven timer runs out, and Bella lifts a finger. "One moment." She tugs her oven mitts off of a small steel hook, dons them, and opens the oven. Two trays of brownies sit on the interior grill. She draws them out, sets them above the stove heating elements, to cool. She tugs the mitts off. "Meal first, then dessert? Give them time to cool?" she suggests, replacing the mitts and moving to Magnes, offering to take the boxes off his hands, "Thank you. These smell exquisite."

"I made the pizza myself, Mister Panucci taught me, he basically took me in after the bomb." Magnes does not add in a pun about how Peter is totally not 'The Bomb', just 'A Bomb'. Welcome to the 90s. He walks over to the couch, taking his usual seat as he removes his jacket, seeming just generally comfortable today. "Veronica's back, so I have another friend to talk to."

Bella looks genuinely impressed, stealing a peek of the pizza before moving to pull out plates from the kitchen cabinets. "Remarkable! I've never been a particularly good cook. I was never any good at practical chemistry, even in pre-med. I've heard it said, and I agree, that cooking should be rightfully considered one of the fine arts, up there with painting and sculpture." She lifts a pair of pieces for them each, then brings the plates over to their powow spot, offering one of them to Magnes, "Ms. Sawyer. I met with her briefly. She seems like a remarkably competant young woman," she folds the pizza in one hand, proper New York style, "Did you attend the company beach event?"

"I did…" Magnes' cheeks go red, surely not remembering all the boobs as he takes his plate. "It was really, uh, interesting, I just wish Elle was there. I mean, not to see her in a bikini or anything. And I wish I didn't have to wear shorts and take off my shirt, people stare." At the not really bony anymore Pizza Boy, who still sees it that way.

Bella arches a brow, "Staring isn't always a bad thing," she says, "Though it takes some getting used to. I'm sorry I missed the party! It would have been fascinating to see everyone interact." Her smile is just a touch devious, but performatively so. She pauses for a moment to take a small bite out of the pizza. She nods her approval at Magnes' handiwork, chewing, swallowing. She brushes the corner of her mouth with her wrist, lightly. "How are things with Elle?" Important information. Bella is… in the air about relating certain facts regarding Ms. Bishop.

"Apparently she had an accident with an Evolved girl I've known for a while. It's a long story, but Elle got hurt and I guess she's been home recovering. I plan to check on her soon, I just wanted to give her some space." Magnes answers, trying to, well, not get on Elle's nerves with his protectiveness. "I'm sure we'll have other parties."

"Which girl was this? How do you know her?" Bella inquires, head tilting in that inquisitive way, pizza primed for eating but hovering as the psychiatrist waits for an answer.

"My friend, Gillian. We've known eachother online for a long time, but only recently started meeting. We didn't even know the other was Evolved until she saw me on the news. I'm a bit worried that since she had an accident with Elle, the Company might go after her…" Magnes is clearly conflicted, staring down at his pizza with a bit of a torn look. "She's my friend, I have to protect her, but, I don't know what that might mean."

Bella gives a small nod, setting the pizza down for the moment. This requires something more than light discussion. "I'd think of it this way, Magnes. Who would be better suited to helping make sure no accidents happen again? Some registration-fixated non-Evolved police officer, or a member of the Company who will be able to hear your opinion on her character?" she offers a smile, "If she needs a character witness with some clinical clout, I'd be happy to meet with her and give my full assessment. But you should really discuss the matter with Carrie. She'll know the best course of action."

"I know, I just uh, I understand Elle says it's an accident, I'm just afraid she'll get all vengeful. I always get this feeling that under her happy 1950s housewife attitude, she's the type to get really serious." Magnes is only assuming, he has read Batman… "Gillian is a good person, and I'd vouch for her in a second."

Okay, that brings it to the wire. He already has his suspicions and… "Elle doesn't much like psychiatrists, does she?" Bella comments, instantly winning the 'statement of the obvious award', "Has she ever talked to you about why?"

"No, I figured most people don't like them." Magnes points out, being the overtly trusting guy that he is. "We don't really talk about her much, I guess. I don't think she takes me seriously sometimes, but that's probably normal, we still barely know eachother."
Bella lifts a hand and taps her jaw. "Well, she has some good reasons. I don't want to compromise her privacy, though. I just want you to know the full story."

"What is it?" Magnes asks, suddenly hunching over and nibbling his pizza intently. A chance to learn something new about Elle! "It's nothing really bad, is it?"

Bella's mouth quirks. It serves her well, she imagines, to seem more conflicted about this than she is. "I swear you to secrecy, because this is technically a breach of conduct for me." Right, because Bella is Ms. Ethical Conduct 2009, returning champion.

"My lips are sealed." Magnes agrees, taking a bite of pizza to signify just how sealed they are! "I just wanna learn about Elle."

Excellent. This went better than expected. Bella folds her legs, adopting that straight 'business posture'. "I've reviewed Elle's psych file. It's hard for me to check the methodology of the psychiatrists she's seen before, but… well," how do you put this nicely, which she /does/ want to do, "Elle has been diagnosed with some severe problems. Ones that, as someone close to her, you should, I feel, rightly know about."

"I won't judge her based on her problems," Magnes is quick to add, looking up from his pizza. "But I do wanna know, so maybe I can support and help her."

"She exhibits anti-social tendencies," Bella says, bluntly enough, "No feelings of guilt, remorse, some sadistic behavior. She's someone who does need help, but someone you have to be careful around. That she's an electrokenetic is appropriate. Like electricity, she can be useful, and illuminating when directed correctly. But she can also be dangerous. So I want you to be careful, Magnes."

"So that's why she keeps shocking me…" Magnes rubs his lips, going quiet for a while as he tries to process just what this might all imply. "I, well, I'm not sure what to think. I can't tell her I know,

Bella wrinkles her nose. "I think your knowing is all that's needed," she says, "Just so you know what to expect, or rather so you can put some of her behavior into context. She's not diagnosed with a /disorder/, mind you. Just a personality style. Just… be careful. She may break your heart, and while that's a valuable experience, it's also a pretty awful one."

"Does she feel feelings at all? I mean, sometimes I feel like she cares about me, in some way." But of course Magnes has absolutely nothing to compare her with. Elle is the standard. "And uh, do you have any advice?"

Bella takes another bite of pizza, trying to enter a more casual sort of mode, at least more personal, less clinical. "I'm very hesitant to say I can ever know if someone has feelings or not. What goes on inside someone's mind is an incredible mystery, something that makes my job both fascinating and frustrating! But Elle… she has trouble with people, with relationships, and with her position towards them. My advice: be thoughtful, keep a certain distance, both for your and her sake, and otherwise go on as normal. She'll find it easier to follow social cues if you're clear about them."

"I'm definitely gonna help her, I won't abandon her just because she has a problem." Magnes makes a fist and firmly nods, the ultimate gesture of determination! "But I have one question, and I want you to answer honestly. If you were me, but uh, thought like you, what would you do in my situation, after learning about Elle?"

Bella's smile is lopsided, wry, "If I were romantically involved with her?" she says "I'd try and give her the support she could well need, but always /always/ remember that I'm not responsibly for her happiness, and that what I give might not be what she needs. But I would certainly try."

"I like Elle, I think she's a good person, so, I really wanna give her a chance. And uh, I was thinking about the last session we had, and uh," Magnes, cheeks flushed, awkwardly rubs the back of his neck. "Do you think she was making a pass at me?" Extremely delayed reaction.

Bella laughs at this, good naturedly, "Do you want my professional opinion?" she asks, rhetorically, "I think that was definitely the subtext. But, and I know it's awful to hear it, I'd suggest you wait it out. Provide emotional foundations before becoming particularly physical. She's likely unused to forming strong relationships, and physicality may be a sort of short-cut for her, a way of creating a sense of intimacy without the confusing emotional context. But she needs that context if she's going to have a healthy, lasting relationship."

"I uh, don't worry about me skipping context or anything, I don't really think I'm ready to go that far. I mean, don't get me wrong, I wanna sleep with her as much as you or any other girl, but it doesn't mean I'll actually do it, y'know? I want it to mean something." Magnes tilts his head a bit awkwardly, hand still on his neck. "I sound like a girl again."
"Good," Bella says, flatly, "Sounding like a girl is a very good sign in a man. It means you're interesting in emotional health, not just playing out your gender role. I can only imagine, though I don't care to, the number of men who /want/ meaningful sexual relations but deny themselves it because they /think/ they shouldn't want it. You know your heart, Magnes. That's incredibly valuable."

"But if she's making passes at me, and I keep denying her, well, do you think she might get the wrong impression?" Magnes starts to roll his pizza up, since one gets bored with eating it the same way every time when they eat as much pizza as he does. "And if she does, well, what do I say?"

Bella takes a few bites of crust, enjoying the crispness of that classic New York style, but sets it aside, preferring to preserve room in her stomach for more delicious cheese; priorities are important! "That's something I don't feel I have the right to directly advise upon. Use your best judgment. All I /can/ say is that you should at no point do anything because you feel like you /ought/ to. It's a lesson you've heard a thousand times, but that's because it's so important. Don't feel obliged. Obligation is not an appropriate basis for a relationship."

"Yeah, I guess so, I just hope my first relationship doesn't end in complete flames." Magnes pessimistically says, suggesting that he does expect flames. "You ever read that comic I gave you?"

The tip of the second slice is snipped off neatly by Bella's pearly whites, and she smiles, waiting to finish chewing before she replies. "I did! I didn't know such a shocking storyline could have happened so early! At least Bruce Wayne's parents are already dead at the beginning of Batman," she laughs, "And Peter Parker is, of course, quite charming, so the comparison seemed even more flattering… tragic death aside."

"I'm sure you won't have a tragic death, you'd have to be going out with the main character." Magnes pauses with a curious look, appearing to go over something in his head. "I'm guessing if this were a TV show, the main character would probably be Hiro. I mean, Hiro's a huge part of the comic. Then again, so is that Peter guy, but I doubt he does anything important now. You ever read the 9th Wonders comic? It's all true stuff apparently, it tells the future, or at least the future of like four years ago."

"I'm familiar with that particular Evolved manifestation, yes," Bella says, with a nod, "In fact, I appreciate that it provides a potential biological explanation for prophecy. Who knows what eclipses ushered in the vision-seers and creed-writers who made ancient holy texts? I've never actually had my hands on them, though."

"It makes all kinds of stuff like a billion times scarier, but you shouldn't worry about the future, Hiro's probably got that covered." Magnes assures, finally taking a large bite out of his rolled up pizza. "Hey, do you know anything about Gabriel Grey? You know, Sylar? Anything other than what the public knows. I met him once, and, well, I guess I'm curious about his story."

"Yes, generally speaking it's good to leave the future to those who can visit it," Bella comments, with a dry sort of humor. She quickly finishes her last piece, apparently needing the time to consider the topic of one Gabriel Grey, infamous serial killer and scapegoat. After an appropriate pause for mastication, she answers, "Honestly, I don't know a great deal about it. I'm sure someone higher up in our organization does. It is very much their business and, frankly, one of the greatest failings of a group dedicated to stopping just the sort of acts Mr. Grey has perpetrated. If nothing else, I suppose I would like to see him on my couch. Properly subdued, of course. But I'd be fascinated to see what I could learn. The effect of Evolved powers on the bearer's personality is one of my most important areas of study."

"Until he gets all moody and starts trying to intimidate, he comes off as, well, Mister Rogers. But I've seen what he can do up close, so, I know very well not to judge a book by its cover." Magnes gives that another moment of thought, then correctly adds, "Except Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane, that book pretty much lives up to the cover, and every UDON book ever."

Having never seen this particularly series, Bella cannot know how very apt and funny Magnes' comment is. But she can certainly imagine. "A book's cover is still useful information," Bella comments, "Particularly in the case of the anthropic metaphor. It tells you what the book wants you to believe its contents are. And don't think that 'up close' is any true revelation of character. It's another cover, perhaps an even more concealing one. When a frog puffs itself up to appear big, it isn't revealing its actual strength, but hiding its true weakness. The bigger the
display, the more vulnerability it is trying to hide."

"So Gabriel coming off as Mister Rogers means he's one tough bastard?" Magnes comes to the logical conclusion, or at least the reverse of her logic. "The crazy thing is, as bad a person he obviously is, he's somewhat trustworthy, at least with some things. I mean, he'll admit to killing lots of people, but he'll clearly state that he didn't blow up Midtown. So, I think he's more worried about people having their facts straight than really caring if they know or not."

"Mr. Rogers is a cover for his power, so people will not see him coming," Bella offers by way of off-the-cuff analysis, "While Hannibal Lecter is a cover for his feeling of impotence in the face of his drive. He appears powerless so as to be more powerful, and appears powerful so he can disguise his own sense of powerlessness. And nothing underlines powerlessness like living inside of a lie someone else created."

"I uh…" Magnes may have gotten lost in that somewhere. "Hannibal was impotent?"

"Dunno, never dated him," Bella replies, with a smirk, "Basically, when someone is trying to be scary, it's often because they are themselves scared. Like how some moths have wings that appear to be the eyes of an even bigger predator, to scare off things that would eat them. Fear breeds fear."

"Oh." Magnes seems to get it, finishing his first slice of pizza finally. "Um, what do you think I do? You can tell the truth, I can take it, I uh, just wanna know."

"You? You show how you feel. If you change how you seem, it's because you want very much to give other people what they want. But," Bella smiles warmly, "You're not quite good enough at it to ever trick yourself. And that makes you a good, healthy person. You just may not be the world's best actor. Yet."

"Well, at least I'm not, well, strange." Magnes sniffs the air after taking another bite of his pizza, eyeing in the direction of the brownies. "I had a new feeling recently, I forgot to tell you. I met this girl, she's a speedster, and, well, we combined our abilities. It was… interesting."

Bella notes Magnes's glance, and gets to her feet. "Tell me about it," she says, moving to the kitchenette and taking out a knife to begin cutting the brownies.

"Well, I met her on a roof one day, I recognized her from church when the pastor was giving people visions of the future, and she sped out. But basically, after a bit of talking, we decided to combine our abilities, so, we started flying at super speed. It was crazy, and well, I'm happy I don't have super speed." The last part of the story causes Magnes to rub his stomach, obviously a bit unsettled remembering the intense speed. "It was nice though, combining my ability with someone else."

"I imagine that having super speed might make you feel more comfortable about super speed," Bella says, removing two squares of still-steaming brownie and setting them on small dishes. "Have you told Carrie about this girl?"

Magnes shakes his head. "She says she steals to make a living, but I told her there are better ways to make a living for herself than stealing. I was hoping to maybe ease her into the idea of a better life, then talk to Len or someone about maybe recruiting her or something. I mean, super speed is useful, isn't it? But she said she's gonna be my Catwoman, and I don't think she means making out."

Bella returns with the brownies, setting one dish down next to Magnes. She takes up her own seat again, carefully picking up the brownie but not taking a bite yet. "It would be very useful," she agrees, "Hopefully she'll have the right temperament. Catwoman? How /did/ she mean it, then?"

"She seemed witty and smart, like a female Flash, I called her Lady Flash. And uh, I think she means that since she's a criminal, I should go after her, but I won't catch her, or something. I don't really see it that way though." Magnes answers with a lift of a brownie, taking a careful
bite. "This is good."

"Glad you approve," Bella says, gratefully. She takes her own first bite, and nods her self-approval. "It's a natural impulse, to try and find a role when who you are seems so radically uncomfortable in the wider world. Crime is a sort of 'place outside' that can seem like a refuge for those that feel out of place. But speed… that could easily be given a less anti-social context," maybe she should be less technical, "I think we could managed to get her on the right side."

"Any advice for when I see her again?" Magnes says 'when', because he fully intends to track her down using what bit of investigative skills he's learned so far. Can't be that hard to track down a red blur…
"Get to know her, befriend her," Bella says, "You sound like you like her company already. If you learn about her, you can help guide her in a better direction. You have an excellent moral compass, Magnes. One that you can lend others, to their benefit."

"I'll try my best. And uh, since I think time is almost up, wanna watch a movie and finish these brownies and the pizza?" Magnes suggests, since he still has a little time to kill on a therapy day.

"I have to save at least /one/ tray for a friend," Bella says, smiling as if Magnes' suggestion is somehow audacious. "But we'd have to be trying much too hard to eat two entire trays." She gets to her feet, "There's a rental place just three blocks away. Hopefully we won't get poured on on the way back. Shall we?"

"Sure. Let's uh, walk." Magnes suggests, as if there's some alternative… well, other than a car. "I'll let you pick the movies, well, except one, I wanna watch My Super Ex Girlfriend."

Bella cannot help but laugh. No way she's going anywhere near that little psychological tidbit!


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