bella_icon.gif calvin_icon.gif

Scene Title SLC-Expression
Synopsis A psychotherapy session with Bella arranged by Calvin for Calvin is about as straightforward as might be expected.
Date January 06, 2011

Bella's Office

There's a clock, high on the wall, opposite where Bella sits. Counting down time in analog segments, second hand making halting advances across an endless field of white, it's actually a little dismal to watch if you're feeling dismal. As it happens, Bella is only dismal in the most self indulgent of ways. Holiday's well over, called back to the proverbial grind, there are any number of post-festive-season headcases making their way through the Suresh Center's publically funded support system. Being a public servant is not what Bella ever intended, and while she's not been sneering enough to suggest she's a little too well educated for councelling, she's well and away sneering enough to think it with some regularity. A thousand and one problems she's really just rather throw medication at.

So impatience does make that clock a bit frightful. But not in any profoundly existential way. She just wants it to be her lunch break already.

Her offices are somewhat improved, made cozier, more like her old studio, pre-big freeze. A couch is provided, instead of her old chez lounge, an affectation that, in retrospect, embarrasses her a little. There's also an armchair - she's not about to give up her first little mental diode, however superfluous it's sorting. She's had a set of shelves installed, and then had to drag all the books she's already read too recently to re-read just to stock them, creating a regimentary line up of her tastes, fictional and otherwise.

The woman herself holds court from her own armchair, low set with broad arms that support her notepad without much risk of it tumbling off. The pen's perch is somewhat more precarious, the pocket clasp all that keeps it from rolling down and off the top page, on which is scrawled the name of this, her last client before lunch. 'Calvin Rosen' works here. That makes this session somewhat important, though that importance is tempered by the degree to which Mr. Rosen is 'in' on the various levels of secrecy and absurdity that make up life at the Commonwealth Institute's New York Branch. Field agent status suggests 'in' enough. If they let him carry a gun…

"Fuck. Sorry I'm late." Click, Calvin closes the office door behind himself without ever having knocked, suddenly there the same way bumpers or pedestrians tend to be when you look up from fiddling with the radio or texting while driving. He's an unorthodox entity, no taller than 5'11", wearing rust orange dreads swept scythelike back from the stark arches of cheekbone and brow and enough eye makeup to keep two transvestites happy. Still in his overcoat, too — he sweeps it off after an awkward hitch of a beat and glance Bella's way, black wool tossed down onto the couch to leave behind a suit the same shade as arsenic. No tie.

"Got stuck behind someone's granma in the parking garage. Not yours, I hope." For some reason. That he declines to elaborate on where he can study the armchair instead, right hand traced uneasy across one rest before he wavers back to the couch and then back to the chair again. Where he sits. Finally.

Bruising's mottled green and blue across the right side of his face, from jaw to brow and partway under the socket of the eye on the same time. A concussion looks likely to have been involved, for all that he's as lucid as he's likely to get now, the clamp of his mandible under soft anchor beard and hooded brows already defensive. "M'Calvin."

"Why, did you give the old timer something to remember you by?" Bella inquires, eyes coasting to follow Calvin's uncertain path between choice and choice. Anxious, maybe? Obsessive-compulsive personality elements? Not necessarily pathological, of course. Even Bella doesn't like stepping on a crack with one foot without evening it out on the other foot. But enough grains and sand and you have a beach. Or at least an ant farm.

The eyeliner isn't analyzed so much as simply and rather happily accepted. Two lists form, one designating Calvin as client, the other as co-worker. Not deigning to pathologize a bend in gender, she slots the observation in the co-worker column, to his benefit. She won't say that it takes balls to rock make up. That's an unpleasantly masculinist expression.

"That's quite all right," Bella reassures, a single small sweep of her hand inviting him to sit even as he is already doing so, "I'm Dr. Sheridan. Though you may call me Bella if you'd like. I respond to either," a slight smile is proffered, calculated on the basis of what seems to be Calvin's sense of humor - not a bad social coping mechanism, "and if my grandmother got out the home, she's on her own." See, she can joke too.

Word has it the action faction of the Institute was up to something or other recently. Just knowing things is dangerous, and Bella has been claiming allergy to 'exciting' things for some time now. The topography of contusion that decorates Calvin's face only reinforces her belief in her own wisdom. She peers only momentarily, and even then it's mostly to see if Calvin has tried to use concealer or foundation to mitigate the unsightly mark. Seeing just how extensive his make up dabbling goes.

"So, since you were the one who arranged this session, rather than our commandants in the corner offices, I'm relying on you to explain the purpose of the visit," Bella says, one hand or the other lifting to add slight gesture to her words, before returning, each in turn, to her lap, "what brings you to me?"

"I didn't, but I should have." Attempting to conceal bruising to the extent the long planes of his face feature it would likely only call attention to his efforts. And so the bruising itself. A counter-intuitive cover-up.

He's obviously had it long enough not to react overmuch when she peers, having grown used to whatever questions people are brazen enough to ask. At relative ease despite restless tension that adjusts his posture into more of a slouch, he shows his teeth back at her when she does the same for him — only a shade less sincere. The difference a matter of degrees between a grin and a smile.

"Naturally. But first I'd like to know the extent to which I'm covered by patient-doctor confidentiality with respect to Big Brother and His special interest in the days of our lives."

"To save time," Calvin adds on not even a beat later, "I should specify that I do not intend to kill myself or anyone who matters to the guys pulling levers."

"Well, if she gets in your way next time," Bella suggests, tone conciliatory, "you know her face now. Or at least her licence plate number." Big Brother has his advantages, as long as you get your kicks that way.

But now on to Calvin's all important, very reasonable question. It's a weight off Bella's chest, honestly. She prefers to have the ethical problematics of her position out in the open, where they are less likely to be discovered. That really very rarely works out well.

"Well," Bella says, parting her hands, splayed palm, unarmed, "I'd like first to point out that if I were tasked with making regular reports to our shadowy superiors, then I'd be very unlikely to tell you about it. I am not, of course, but if I were…" her shoulders lift minutely, "you understand. As it happens, though, I have no interest or intention in letting anything you say leave this room, and what notes I take I bring with me, and keep safely stored in your file. I can also choose not to take notes, which I usually don't, not for sensitive matters.

"That said, while I'll remain tight lipped to even the most imposing of suited goons or snide superior," the doctor amends, "if I end up with a gun to my head, I'm afraid I'm probably going to tell them what they want to hear. I don't expect them to, but, in the interests of total transparency…"

Bella shifts in her seat a little, crossing her legs, a cue to indicate that this line of discussion can be over shortly, should Calvin so wish it. "That," she says, "is nice to know. I trust your problem is of a somewhat more pedestrian, less homocidal nature, then?" She sounds pleasantly hopeful at the thought of this.

"Right," says Calvin, who doesn't look like he's heard anything he didn't expect to but manages some persistent discomfort or hesitation all the same, clear blue eyes sharply defined in their stare at her across the intervening space until he catches himself and looks away. 'Sideways' is good enough. There is bound to be something over there worth looking at.

A click in the back of his mind draws his brows into a knit, fog shaken off with a flustered start that burns out inwards before it can go much of anywhere.

"I mean — no. It does. Ahm… Just, you know. Mostly homicide of people The Institute'd probably want dead anyway." Vaguely, rationally apologetic for having more or less mislead, Cal scuffs at his chin, stare veered ceilingwards while he tries to pull his thoughts back into order again. "Most've my friends are a little more close-minded about the most direct and final solution to certain problems."

It occurs to Bella, now, that Calvin wasn't just checking to 'make sure'. That he wasn't worried about whatever his problem was (feelings of inadequacy, fear of the sound of gunfire, impotence whenever he hears the theme from Jeopardy, whatever) getting to their mutual employers because it was embarrassing.

He's talking about killing people.

"I think most friends, most people, on average, tend to have problems with killing, at least outside the line of duty or the abstract," Bella grants, not willing to concede that the abnormality belongs to Calvin's fellows, "may I ask who it is you want to kill, and why? The Institute's shit list is fairly long, I'd wager. Is- uh- your desire for efficient problem solving causing strain amongst your social peers?"

"I didn't really want to kill anyone, s'the thing. Didn't and don't." Tenses are occasionally tricky, and Calvin has to take a moment to verify with himself that he means what he's just said. Or that he's said it correctly. Also that he's telling the truth. His brows twitch — he seems to think hei s. "Just sometimes things get a little out've hand, you know? You have this problem and it's really eating you and it builds and gets more massive until it's all there is and it's smothering you. But it happens really quick. Like a balloon. Weak like a balloon, too. Kind've off guard and defenseless, so all you have to do is," pop — his middle finger strikes an exclamation park down solid against the armrest under it.

The tap repeats itself at more of a nervous patter a short silence later, him with his mouth left slightly open and his eyes distant. Hm.

He shakes it off again, nose rankled.

"I meant to start a little smaller when I came in. How are you doing? You look very nice."

The balloon metaphor, for all that it seems somewhat hastily constructed, is consistent and descriptive. Which makes Calvin's backtrack a little sudden. Bella's already followed him to the end of his comparison, involving the easy poppability of traditional latex party balloons, and finds herself a little stuck there. At the implication.

"I see," she says, and maybe all too well, her face shifting into blankness for lack of any other expression to post there, "I can imagine that might be… frustrating." Though she doesn't bother trying to actually imagine. That's a space she's not terribly interested in actively entering. She detests enough people to a extent she considers sufficient.

"I- thank you," is more an automatic reply than anything else, containing little more than the most basic of customary substance, "but I don't think that's strictly relevant, Calvin," she shifts forward in her seat, regaining her bearings enough to adopt a look of active inquiry, "insofar as you can afford to tell me… what sort of problem is this? If it's such a defenseless, unwitting problem, how is it a problem in the first place?"

"You're welcome." Too forced to be genuinely bright in return, there's some effort all the same. Just enough to fall short while he examines the cuff of his sleeve and then the inside of his left hand, where another recent outside-of-work injury is beginning to scar from thumb to wrist.

"Virtually any homo sapien problem is easy to solve with murder s'long as they aren't expecting it and y'don't get caught." Diction catches sharp on the consonants, his accent the conglomerate result of a non-specific blend of European (and other) influences on something that might originally have been American. "Morality is where things get tricky. You can't just kill everyone who gets in your way. It's uncivilized. And sort've fucked up besides." There's a pull at the corner of his mouth all the same, almost at her expense.

"Does it ever depress you that you're a normal?"

Usually Bella finds this sort of straight talking, amoral stuff kind of insufferable. Revision: she finds it insufferable when delivered by idiots, in a way she cannot respect. Further revision: she finds it insufferable when people who are not as smart as her deliver it. Last revision: she finds it insufferable when she is not, personally, the one espousing amorality.

But Calvin doesn't strike her as stupid, nor does it sound like he's trying to be scarily impressive. Bella has had a lot of cracked people come through her doors, and a not unappreciable segment of them seem to feel the need to be 'bad ass'. Calvin, however dread his locks, doesn't seem to be going for 'bad ass'. She tips her hand just very slightly with the intentness of her gaze.

"You're asking me a lot of questions," Bella says, tapping her chin with her index finger, "I thought we were here to talk about you? I'm happy to answer some questions, if you'd like, but not if the purpose is to evade discussing your own situation." Her hand drifts over to her notepad, fingers rolling the pen halfway back and forth, letting the clip bump into paper on one side, then the other.

"And no, it doesn't depress me that I am SLC-negative. I think it's important for me, in order to retain the appropriate clinical distance. And I'm rather content with the genome I have. I think it's a pretty good one."

"Maybe I prefer a little give and take in my psychotherapy." There's another tap at the rest, and Calvin pushes himself smoothly up onto his feet. As if he's just had an epiphany and thinks he is in a made for TV movie. "Maybe that's important for me. To feel like I know the person I'm confessing my deepest and darkest to."

It turns out the reason he stood up is because he has plans to turn and seat himself on the armrest of the chair she's in as casually as he might a park bench on a nice day, cushion straddled like a saw horse with one leg overlapping her own by necessity of nearness. "It is relevant, if my saying so makes my sudden non-compliance less irritating. Why is it, do you think, that being a normal," he uses the word again in lue of more politically correct vernacular, "grants you clinical distance."

His near leg gives a restless swing, bumping hers like a prompt, intentionally or unintentionally. "Unless you're implying a connection between evolution and psychosis."

Calvin's rise produces a concurrent lift of Bella's gaze. She keeps her face within the range of polite interest, though this becomes a task when suddenly he is closing the distance between them and then sitting on her chair. No time given to reply to his 'maybe's' and his 'why', Bella actually flinches back when her personal space is so suddenly invaded. She turns in her seat, buying herself small but what feels like - in the moment - degrees of breathing room, and as she does her back bumps against her notepad, toppling it over the side of the chair and to the floor.

The clatter of pen and flutter of page seem to give Bella an idea. She can just… get up. And she does, disentangling from the minimal but, to her, highly disconcerting contact and popping to her feet. "Please," she says, lifting her hands in a warding gesture, lips tugging down at the corners in a frown of discomfort she isn't composed enough to fully suppress, "I'm fine with trading questions, but I'd appreciate it if you'd return to your seat. You're- I'm feeling a little uncomfortable."


Lithe as a cat and nearly as quick, Calvin's gone over from straddling the rest to occupying the chair entire at a sideways slither enough to reach down after the spilled notepad. "So," he says. So. The pad is flipped up and around into his left hand so that he can squint critically at what she's scribbled down so far before he reaches to collect the pen to go with it and holds both out back for her. Brows knit.

"I forgot what I was going to say. Ahm…that's — really nice work, by the way."

Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but the glassy cut of his eyes tricks in a touch of venom that might otherwise be hard to achieve from behind a smile. "Y'know, truly and honestly I'd apologize for being more've the same but I get the impression that you don't really like surprises, Doctor Sheridan." He is still sitting in her chair when he says so.

Now just what the fuck is going on here. Bella has been chased from her chair, driven to her feet, and now is having analysis of her personality given by the client who has usurped her seat? With a flare of indignation she briefly hallucinates him making his own notes on her bad as he lifts both into his hands. Her eyes dart down to the small docket's surface, double checking to make sure that isn't what happened, before flickering back up to catch the lightly poisoned expression.

"Mr. Rosen," Bella says, voice rising on the Mmmister, the very mimic of offended female authority, "get out of my chair and retake your seat or I will be forced to ask you to leave." She points at the door, just in case he wasn't clear on how to, wasn't made aware of his means. "I will not be intimidated in my own office. I expect an apology and a modicum of propriety before we proceed."

An exaggerated grimace shows Calvin's pearly whites off still again at censure in that particular key, and up he goes with a twist and wrest out've his snaky recline and back up onto shiny black shoes. Because she sounds like she means it this time!! There is no other likely explanation.

He offers the chair back to her with a splay of his open right hand. Inviting. He even waits for her to resettle to fall out've a lazy pirouette and backwards grinning into the seat that is designated "his" for as long as he's scheduled to be here.

"So sorry."

Bella proceeds back to her seat with chin-lifted dignity, trying, like a king who has tripped on his robes, to resume the illusion that his authority is innate. That a king, or a psychiatrist, is something, rather than just being an unspoken agreement on who has the diploma or wears the crown. She settles back into her seat, setting her arms on the armrests in a grand gesture that also will hopefully deter any other attempts to perch.

"Your sincerity is duly noted," Dr. Sheridan remarks, a few degrees warmer than icy, "I believe we were discussing your… not desire, but rather your acknowledgment of the efficacy of murder as a troubleshooting method. Something your friends," this last word carries the ghosts of scare quotes around it, just the way a proper villain would say it, "don't share. And you wanted to discuss this with me… why, exactly?"

Calvin shrugs. It's even an irritating shrug, as far as shrugs go — lackadaisically thoughtless. The body language equivalent of a just 'cause. "I thought you might understand," may or may not be intentionally offensive after that. "Given your own aptitude for efficacy." The emphasis is just emphasis, as much as his accent as anything. No venom, this time.

"Also, you haven't answered my question."

Bella's lower lip protrudes very slightly, her brows knitting. Are her co-workers gossiping about her? Does she have a reputation? For someone who goes out of her way to be a weight and a nuisance, and a snarky, insolent nuisance at that, she seems to get awful sore awful quickly. At least for someone who ostensibly doesn't give a shit.

"I don't know how efficacious I am," she says, after a brief pause, spent in concentrated consideration, "so much as having the devil's luck. And I can't say I've ever murdered anyone, so if that is the implication, it's simply factually incorrect." For the record.

"As to your question, if I recall it correctly," Bella's tone implies that any forgetfulness will have been due to his disruption, also for the record, "I think my lack of SLC-expression," still sticking to the textbook terms, dead sounding but safely so, "helps me maintain distance because my own self interest doesn't get in the way. And it also helps me appear more legitimate, less likely to be denounced as 'biased'. As I might be because I am politically pro-Evolved rights and freedoms. Prone to argue against belief in such connections."

"It isn't," says Calvin, with a reassuring certainty that hardens through the knit of his brow. He is referring, of course, to the supposed implication of murder, but declines to elaborate on how or why. He doesn't even turn it back around on her, straightening out his lapel instead where his collar's been flipped a bit by all the chair switching and sliding around while he listens. His coarse quilled hair remains a deliberate mess.

It isn't long after she's finished that he not-quite-interjects with a, "Yes but," and then a beat to reconsider and reconsider again, blue eyes squinted aside and then to ceiling again in search of something there on their way back to Isabella and her chair. In the end he smothers it down, bruising blacked dull across his cheek turned down after a bump of his toe against — something. Something imaginary, possibly, ginger dreads felled lank across his face when he looks anyway.


Bella's headtilt is birdish, but in a matter more raptor than passerine or even psittacine. There's a sharpness to her gaze, a peering suspiciousness. None of this makes any sense. She's had a lot of weird sessions with a lot of people, but this is a different order of strange. She purses her lips, eyeing Calvin undisguisedly. She verbs that noun visibly, as befits the noun itself.

"What exactly are you here for?" Bella asks, "you're either fucking with me or your a paranoid schizophrenic, and in either case I don't think you're here for help. I don't think you're stupid, but I do think you're trying to seem smarter than you are by playing coy. I'm going to ask you to cut the bullshit. Agreed?"

The remark about trying to seem ~smarter~ evokes a sore rankle at Calvin's nose. Resentful irritation quashed, circus lion to penny flicked at its snout.

Agreement, if it's agreement and not just the silent treatment, comes in the form of a hard look and a jut at his jaw. Which has to be sore. If not from all the obnoxious talking, than from the point of semiautomatic impact the other night.

"This is where you start explaining what you're after," Bella lets Calvin know, in a tone of voice that let's Calvin know that she's letting him know, just in case he wasn't paying attention. "Either tell me the truth or lie in a way that convinces me. I'll accept the latter as a sufficient show of skill. But I do want to know what you mean when you disagree with what I know to be true. People have died in my presence, and I have been at least somewhat involved in the deaths of others, but I have never killed anyone. If there is a rumor to the contrary, I want it put to rest."

"I've only done one," says Calvin to his shoe, quietly, enthusiasm for the ordeal of psychotherapy all but snuffed out of him. "It wasn't on purpose, I don't think."

There's a lengthy spell after that wherein he doesn't say anything and Bella could, if she wanted to, if not for the fact that he is now the one being procrastinatory about his answers and hasn't fielded the one about what he knows. If he thinks he knows something.

"I know you haven't," he says finally. "Getting your hands dirty is something else y'don't like, and murder's awfully messy, isn't it? Much easier to just — sit back and not lift a finger while someone else fills the prescription, so to speak." So-to-speaking-of which, he's simultaneously looking a little nasty again, and also like he could use a drink. Jeez. "People used to pay to talk to you?"

Bella is getting the weird sense like she's supposed to know what the hell Calvin is talking about. It's that attitude again, what she called coyness. That whole sense of 'so to speak', like he's speaking in euphemism, though for who's benefit she can't tell. It's only he and she and the ever growing uncanniness of the situation, and if she's supposed to pick up on what he's saying-without-just-saying, she can only say she's sorry, she must have missed a memo.

"Yes," Bella says, homing in on the only part of what he that she feels equipped to reply to, "they still do, via tax dollars. Are you insulting me? I'd just like to be clear, for the sake of accurate communication."

Earnestly upset about something, even if it's just the fact that she clearly doesn't get the words issuing nasally forth from his side of the room on account've not being a psychic, Calvin sits and stares Sam Eagle-like into space for a moment before he stands. Not to encroach, this time. But to collect his coat and a pillow from the couch to sling at her on his way to llleaving without so much as a thanks for you're time, Miss.

Bella is left alone with the clock which has, incidentally, swiped its way to the end of Calvin's session time. He got his tax dollar's worth, at least. The woman sits in place for a moment she'd like to pretend is thoughtful, but is really almost exclusively confused. Not someone who likes surprises, no, nor someone who likes to dirty her hands. In keeping, for a brief, vindictive span of time she considers filing for Calvin's suspension, on the grounds of mental instability.

And sounds grounds, too! thinks Bella, her hand closing around her pen, thumb depressing the button and snapping the tip into writing position. It ghosts under her tiny doodle, a curlycue with two parallel diagonal bars close around an invisible point of bisection. A tiny whisp of blue ink forms as her hand shakes minutely, nothing out of the ordinary, just the basic unsteadiness of the human form. But she stills it by pressing the tip to the paper, marking it with a small blue dot. And holding it there.

At length, she clicks the pen closed, any thought of what she might write coming to nothing. She gathers pad and pen. Gets up. Leaves.

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