Make Your Life Here


bella_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Make Your Life Here
Synopsis Odessa is surprisingly forthright with Bella during one of their sessions.
Date September 18, 2010

Suresh Center - Doctor Sheridan's Office

There's a clock in this room! That's what excites Bella the most. Checking a watch or a cellphone can make a client feel uncomfortable, it suggests impatience, boredom, things that (while Bella has felt them towards clients, as do almost all mental health workers, being only human) she cannot, as a professional, appear to display.

There are other things as well. Like real lamps, a real carpet, a shelf on which Bella can place innocuous items to lend herself an air of domestic personality. But the clock is the best. Hung behind the client's seat, so only Bella can see it, set at a level where she can very discreetly check the positioning of its hands.

Not that Bella is interested in being strict about session length with this upcoming client. She was already looking forward to meeting with Odessa again - she's already curious about what manner of bold style will walk through the door. But the journal… that makes things ten times more interesting. It sits on the coffee table Bella has placed between herself and the couch and chair, between which the client is free to choose. Not perched over. Present, as a matter of discussion.

Right on time, high heeled shoes can be heard sounding in the hall just before knuckles come up to rap on the door. Odessa lets herself in without being told to. If there's actually someone inside to interrupt, she'll apologise. Or maybe she thinks she's just that important. Tough to say with this one. Her attire is perhaps disappointingly subdued compared to what she's worn previously. A simple white, long-sleeve shirt and a long peasant skirt in fashionably raggy layers of varying shades of muted greys.

"Sorry if I've kept you waiting," Odessa murmurs, taking a seat on the couch without wasting any time. She twists to rest her back against the couch arm and lifts her legs to stretch out across the cushions.

She's rather uncareful about her turquoise heels on the couch, but they're clean - possibly new - so it could be worse. "It's good to see you, Bella." Doctor Price offers with a distracted sort of smile. She brings her fingers away from fiddling with the identification badge she has clipped to the hem of her shirt, her hands instead resting over her lap, tapping restlessly at her legs.

"It's your time," Bella says, remaining in her seat this time, the formality of rising already seeming superfluous. First name terms, that's good. Casual posture, good, good. These things can be turned into defense mechanisms in time, but for now Bella trusts that they represent some level of ease. More, she trusts, than with her previous therapists. Who sounded like idiots or bastards, the way Odessa put it. Bella's inclined to trust her on this point.

"Of course, I'm going to want to talk about your journal, but first, let me thank you for taking the suggestion seriously - that you're willing to work with me is very flattering, and I promise that I will try my best to deserve what trust you've given me," Bella states, setting her elbows on the rests and steepling her fingers, "and before we get into what you've written, is there anything on your mind? Anything you'd like to talk about? News, changes in your life? Recurring thoughts?"

Odessa stares at her hands, rather than watching Bella as she speaks. "It's something I hadn't tried before, so… I guess if I want to be serious about all of this, I need to take your suggestions." Her shoulders come up in a shrug, like it's no big deal.

Her index finger taps faster against the knuckles of her opposite hand. "I… No. Nothing, really." Though perhaps the scraps of paper trapped in the spiral binding of her notebook, indicative of torn out pages, suggest otherwise. Odessa smiles quickly as if to make some assurance that nothing really is on her mind. "I just… This new agent status is… something I'm not sure how to approach, I think. But…" Finally she turns to look at Bella and waves her hand dismissively, "It's nothing I won't sort out in time. Not worth taking up our time with."

"There is nothing that doesn't have its place within our dialogue," Bella says, firm enough to border on emphatic, "in this space, you can say whatever you want. There is no priority. I will, of course, make suggestions as to what we might want to explore further, but if there is something you want to talk about, then we should talk about it. As I said, this is your time. And the conversation belongs to you, so…" she dips her head, "please. Go on."

How do you tell someone who reports to your boss that you were approached by someone from the past - or maybe the future? - and offered a chance to travel through time to change your life? "Everything I say has to stay between us, right?" Do the laws of confidentiality apply when you work for shadow organisations?

"I keep strict confidentiality," Bella assures Odessa, and is even reasonably sure that she's telling the truth. If nothing else, no one from the Institute has yet informed her otherwise, and if they try… she may just dig in her heels. She feels much more loyalty even just to this woman than to her superiors. Odessa, like Bella, is part of a growing collection of morally dubious individuals with capable minds, and Bella does not like to think of herself as the resource she's sure she's seen as.

"You have my word that this will remain between us."

Odessa nods her head slowly and returns to starting at her fingers, her brow furrowing. "I've been having thoughts about… About my parents. My father, mostly. I never knew him. He was killed shortly before I was born, and my mother died giving birth to me." All details that were never included in her files with the Company, and probably not provided to Bella by the Institute either.

"He was a telekinetic, I'm told." Odessa pauses and turns her face away from Bella long enough to pull her silver eye patch far enough from her face to scratch an itch beneath it. Only once it's settled in place again, hiding away the knotted scar tissue making up her useless eye, does she turn back. "I believe he was murdered for his ability by a man named Samson Gray." Her look is expectant, watching Bella's face for any sign of recognition.

Time at the Company gets you in The Know about some things. Sometimes it's not specific knowledge, just a name with some weight, some… associations. Recognition is there, but it's given freely. Bella nods, confirming that she follows. "How did you come to this conclusion?"

"Just… things I've read in my parents' files. It's what makes the most sense. The timing is right. The M.O. is right." Odessa shrugs and rests her hand over her chin, careful not to cover her mouth so her speech isn't muffled. "The killings stopped after my father's murder. Tracking the killer, they found… A brain in a jar. And… Bella, you can't tell anyone this, but I think it's my father's. And I think the Institute has it now."

One thing can be said for psychological work done within clandestine organizations like the Company and the Institute: the stories you hear… Bella registers only the minimum level of shock necessary to be polite, a lofting of her brows, then a gentle lean forward, indicating privacy through a purely formal increase of closeness.

"And what are you thinking about doing, now that you know? How are you handling having these suspicions?"

Odessa worries her lower lip between her teeth as she allows Bella to react and ask her question. When the therapist leans forward, the patient brings her legs back around, settling her feet on the floor again before she leans forward herself. "I have no idea what I should do. But it's why I'm here. I… Doctor Broome asked me if I knew where to find something he was looking for, and from what I've heard, it was where I told him it was… And… I think Doctor Broome may actually be being honest with me."

Shaggy white hair shifts over sagging shoulders, and confusion and conflict is reflected in that single dark blue eye. "He certainly doesn't tell me everything I want to know, but I don't think he's been lying to me, either. Not like anyone else I've ever worked for. I want to trust that he'll give me those answers in time. But… There's a part of me that wants to… cheat. And find the answers for myself."

Bella retains that lean, a conspiratorial edge to it, something she likes to encourage as a measure of demonstrating trust and suggesting a feeling of safety. The space between them feels tighter, the band of information passing between them appearing more secure. "What would cheating involve? How would you find the answers? I'm not going to play Big Sister, at least I'm not trying to, but I want to make sure we figure out your motivations, and also determine the consequences for following this desire."

Nervously, Odessa glances around the room as if expecting Rene to step out of the shadows at any moment. Or that insufferable smartass Harper. Once dismissing such notions, the woman's focus returns to Bella. "I could go back through time. I could go back and find my parents."

Lower lip is pulled between her teeth again, pinned between rows of teeth as Odessa contemplates her next words. "I wouldn't even have to change events. But… But I could find out if things unfolded the way I suspect they did." It's a roundabout way of revealing her dilemma, without saying how her opportunity arose. "I mean, if I saved my parents, that would change everything." She leans back on the couch again, slowly. Her chin tilts up, look apprasing Bella as much as she's being appraised herself, if more overtly. "I wouldn't be the person I am today at all if I'd been raised by parents instead of the Company."

Doctor Sheridan's patient sucks in a slow breath, finally revealing what really brings the troubled look to her eye. "Or maybe I'd still be fundamentally the same as I am now. Raised by a loving family and still a sociopath? That would be more tragic than anything, wouldn't it?"

Well… this is new. Time travel is, well, she's heard it's possible. That it has, in fact, been done. Bella knows some people, even, who have been affected by it. But at the time she had at least as much suspicion that those people were simply crazy. And she doesn't think she was wrong, just that the crazy didn't apply specifically to the time travel itself. Which is a crazy notion all its own.

The psychiatrist is forced to take a moment, to figure out just where she can come down on this issue. Giving advice regarding the potential alteration of the timeline is… sort of hard. And not without potential consequence for herself. In fact, with necessary consequence for herself.

All this is to say, she can only imagine how Odessa must feel.

So she shifts it back to territory she's better equipped to handle. "I'm afraid," she first admits, "that I can't even begin to advise you. At least… not on practicalities. But…" she leans forward and touches a hand against the journal, "this does remind me of something. Something I wanted to ask you. About what you wrote. Would you be ready to talk about the journal?"

Odessa seems relieved when Bella offers to move on from the subject. Maybe by not approaching her questions actually gives the answers she suspected. Or maybe she didn't want answers in the first place. "It is kind of absurd, isn't it?" She laughs and shakes her head, tension draining from her some. "Saying it out loud is just…"

She dismisses the notion and nods to the journal between herself and the other doctor. "Sure," Odessa murmurs. "Let's talk about it. I mean, that's why I write in it, right?"

"There is a lot we can talk about, of course," Bella says, "though I do want to highlight how important the process is. Spelling out your thoughts, confronting yourself in daily life… it can be hard for a lot of us who live so thoroughly in our heads."

Her hand takes the cover and flips the journal open. She leafs through the pages until she finds the one she's looking for. "But there is one thing, in particular, that I wanted to address. One question I had," Bella states, turning the journal to face Odessa and setting a neat nail above a single incomplete fragment.

I would go back and change it all if I cou

The fragment has a line of ink running through it. A redaction.

Bella looks up, trying to catch Odessa's single, clear blue eye. "You are a smart woman, Odessa. In fact, saying that is likely quite an understatement. You crossed this out. And many other things. But you left it legible. And not just so you could read it. So I could read it, too. I'm wondering why."

Odessa shakes her head. "I don't know. It just…" She stares down at the journal and the line she thought better of and removed. "I write in ink and blotting it out entirely just seems… Unseemly, maybe?" A faint frown creases her face, dimpling scars awkwardly.

"I don't know. I change my mind and cross something out and rephrase myself. Starting the entry over to be clean would be a waste of paper, and seem a bit disingenuous." Odessa's shoulders come up in a shrug. "Sometimes the words just pour out and I stop myself short and think I'm getting carried away, or overly dramatic. And then I end up saying things that I don't think I mean at all."

"I don't want to place too much importance on what you cross out," Bella says, leaning back from the journal just a little, though she remains inclined towards Odessa, "because I quite frankly am not sure what part of it is honesty, and what part is deception. Of course, I'm not saying you're trying to deceive, nor that it's meant to deceive me. It may be a self deception. But what you want gone, what you try to erase, well…" she motions with a hand towards the open page, "'I would go back and change it all if I could'," she echoes, "prophetic, isn't it?"

"I wrote that before…" Odessa stops and places her hand over her mouth, staring almost worriedly down at the page. "I had no idea what was to come," she mumbles between splayed fingers. "That… particular line. I just… I wouldn't go back and change it. I mean, I don't think I would. Everything that's gone before has brought me here, and… maybe this is where I need to be?" Though if she caught a glimpse of herself in a reflective surface, she may retract that statement.

"A case of getting what you wish for," Bella says, giving a slanted smile as she sets her cheek against her hand, considering Odessa thoughtfully, looking more like a fellow conversationalist than a therapist in the moment - seeming engaged, not distant. "Always trouble, that. Always. Every story says so for a reason. Again, I can't possibly advise on that. But what I can say is… this is clearly a moment of great import, a huge choice in your life. Do you accept this future, bravely take charge of it, or will you risk everything to try for something better? Honestly, I think both take bravery. But I think you should choose whichever takes the most bravery."

"Would it be narcissistic of me to worry that the world may be in trouble if I hadn't led the life I have so far? I… I know I'm not a good person, but I've done things for good reasons," Odessa reasons. Though she knows she isn't meant to have to justify herself to Bella, it's human nature to do so. As aloof as Odessa has been known to be, even she can't always fight that. "When I… Well, I'm sure you know that I'm the one who told Kazimir Volken where to find the Shanti Virus…" Her look is actually apologetic at that. "He would have found it eventually anyway. I… I wanted to be in control of it. Try to keep it under control. What if he'd recruited someone else that didn't try to sabotage the operation?"

"Do you draw meaning and purpose in your life from having played that role?" Bella asks, her brows lifting to indicate that this question is open, lacking in all rhetoric, "if they are the reason you'd choose to keep this life, I'd hope they mean a great deal to you. That they give you happiness. If not… you might want to try and find other things, beyond them, that give you meaning and happiness. I don't think it's impossible to have both. Hard, maybe. But not impossible."

Odessa smiles ruefully and rolls her eyes at one of her stray thoughts before resting her elbow against the arm of the couch and then resting her chin in her hand. "It hasn't been about what makes me happy for a long time now. I mean, I grew up without a whole lot of choice, but I was content. And since I ran away from the Company, it's… been about trying to find my place in the world. Try to find somewhere I'm appreciated for… everything that I am."

Her gaze is cast down toward the floor, eye half-lidded. "To be honest, I think I blew my best shot at happiness because I didn't know what to do with it." Odessa shuts her eye tightly, internally cursing herself. "It didn't seem grand enough at the time. And I… I was too afraid of messing up. So I ran away. Wish I could go back and fix that."

"Normally I'd say there's only the future," Bella says, a touch rueful herself, empathizing as well as sympathizing, "and you know? I think there still is. The you that would make the choice to change things… that you would never come to be. It wouldn't be a choice at all. You'd never have made it. Now… all your choices are real. And what you do… will be what you do. You can make your happiness, you just need to set your terms, and then stand by them."

Odessa absently traces the line of the deep scar across her mouth with one finger. "I worry what my old friends will think if they know I'm here…" Moving on from the difficult topic to something… Well, difficult in a different way. "I have kind of this knack for turning traitor. I've kind of turned betrayal into a bit of an art form." And it sounds like she's not ashamed to say it.

"But… I'll gladly take the credit for something like that. Except that isn't what happened this time, and I'm worried no one will believe that. I'm worried they'll think I came to work for the Institute as…" She lifts her head up off her hand and lightly brings her fist down on the arm of the sofa. "I didn't have much choice in the matter when I was brought here. I'm here to get answers. Not because it's where I envisioned myself."

Bella can ID to some extent. She's not here to get answers, though. She's here because she'd rather be at the right hand of the devil than in his path. She'd rather Satan get behind her, be rid of the whole mess… but that's not her life any more. And if she can fix Odessa, just a little, maybe, maybe, she can hope to fix herself.

And at least she didn't have a totally effed up childhood.

"What is it? Do you want them to believe that you won't betray the Institute, or that you've stopped betraying altogether? Do you want to stop betraying altogether?"

"It isn't even that. Any time I have jumped ship, it's been for a damn good reason," Odessa insists, her lips stretching in what might be a faint expression of annoyance, or thoughtfulness. "I am damn good at convincing two sides of a conflict that I am with them." And that is assuredly a point of pride on the woman's part. "But the idea that someone would misunderstand my situation and hold it against me is upsetting!"

"Why?" Bella asks, just full of questions - but then again, that's her job. Giving answers is a much smaller part - much better that a client find the answers themselves. "What matters more, what they think, or that what they think is based in truth?"

"It's just that… I didn't want to leave my friends. I didn't have a choice. I don't want them to be mad at me. I was trying to change. I really was. I wanted to be a better person and I… I don't want them to think that I was lying to them. Because I wasn't at all." Odessa actually pouts at the notion, her head hanging a little, even. "I wish I could tell my friends what happened, but I don't think I'm welcome among them anymore. I mean, if they know I'm alive even."

"Is there no way you can tell them?" Bella asks, not herself knowing the answer to this question, "I think getting to tell them is important, if you can. As an act of your own. How they react… of course it matters to you, but you can't let it matter too much. You know you made the choice not as a matter of betrayal, but as a matter of self discovery. Being better, being good… it unfortunately means doing it even when it's not recognized."

The tenor of Odessa's voice lowers along with the volume. More serious now than she may perhaps otherwise admit. "I don't want to use this chance I have with the Institute to do terrible things, like I did with the Company. With the Vanguard. I… I want to believe that we really are meant to do good here, even if… other people don't see it that way."

Odessa rakes her fingers through her hair and finally meets and holds Bella's gaze. "Sometimes we have do to things that look terrible in order to make things better, right? Like… Like when you have to give a vaccine to a small child, and they think you're doing the worst thing in the world by poking them with a needle, except you're really protecting them from harm. It's… It's a similar concept, isn't it?"

"Please understand, though," Bella says, her smile gaining a certain crooked humor, "side effects of having principles may include fear, danger, internal strife, strained relationships and extremely stupid decisions. As your therapist and your physician, I'm obliged to warn you… it ain't exactly easy."

"Life was way different when I didn't care about anything, that's for sure," Odessa agrees. "Looking out for myself used to be so easy. Now… I take into account other people's feelings and well-being beyond just from a medical standpoint." And the way she scoffs at this, a small sound in the back of her throat, she finds the notion somewhat disgusting. "But… I like having people to look after. And I like having people look up to me." Brief as those moments are for someone like her.

"Then make your life here," Bella suggests, "and if you have your doubts… you can bring them to me. You can come in from the cold, Odessa. You can make the life you want - you're smart and strong enough. You just need to figure out what it is you want, maybe even learn to want different things. But that's why you're here with me. This is our work. Take it seriously, and I promise you we can change things."

"You really mean that." Odessa rubs her hand over her face and smiles briefly. "Wow. I… It's been a while since I've felt like anyone was genuinely wanting to support me." Though that's not to say that she's not entirely given up her suspicions that this is just one of those things that therapists do. "Thank you. Really."

"It is, quite, simply, my job," Bella says, "I would be helping you even if I didn't want to. But I do, as you can tell. Like I said, people in our situation can't expect to have a normal set of relationships, professional or personal. We're colleagues and associates as well as therapist and client. And I hope we can be something like friends, as long as the therapeutic process, and your mental health, come first."

Odessa nods and then turns her wrist to check her watch. "I… know I'm scheduled for more time, but… You've given me a lot to think about - in a good way. I think I'd like to head home and do some soul searching, as they say." The corners of her mouth quirk upward in the ghost of a smile.

"Be careful while you're in there, poking around," Bella says, getting to her feet and stepping around to the side of the coffee table, arms parting, inviting a parting hug, "of course, I'm sure you'll stir up nothing so scary that a tough bitch like yourself can't handle it." A grin at this. Not by any means classically professional.

The girl with white hair laughs as she stands and puts her arms around Bella. Each time she hugs someone, it's a little less awkward. Progress! "Thanks so much. I know this is your job and all, but… I really feel like I'm talking to a friend and… that makes a big difference." She draws back and squeezes the woman's shoulders briefly before stepping away and gathering up her notebook. "I'll see you soon."

"I certainly hope so," Bella says, folds her hands before her, smile bright, but tinged with the knowledge of parting. That subtle shade that is like regret, pruned so for politeness's sake, but not necessarily a lie for that. "Keep writing."

"I will. Thanks, Bella." Odessa lets herself out of the office quietly, her footsteps fading away down the hall.

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