Territorial Dispute


bella_icon.gif cardinal_icon.gif peyton2_icon.gif

Scene Title Territorial Dispute
Synopsis A meeting between Aaron's therapist and his friend doesn't end in cooperation but in insults.
Date June 4, 2010

A sushi restaurant

Somewhere public. Somewhere where neither of them will feel 'at a disadvantage'. Dr. Isabella Sheridan sounded perfectly polite on the phone as she proposed a meeting to discuss their 'mutual interest in Aaron's mental well-being'. Perfectly polite, just inches away from cold. No mention of what Bella knows Peyton knows. That, evidently, she considers beside the point. An entirely different issue.

So Bella waits in the paper-doored booth of one of the few upscale sushi restaurants that has reopened before the snow has entirely cleared. Battery powered lamps and fake candles provide dim illumination, since the power is still far from totally reliable, but the abundance of snow and the availability of propane make storing raw fish and cooking rice far from impossible under current conditions. The red headed psychiatrist sits, legs folded under her, upon a cushion, sipping from a steaming glass of coffee. Her expression is carefully composed - a game face.

As soon as Peyton hung up the phone on Bella, she dialed Cardinal's number for advice and guidance and possibly, just possibly, protection. Stepping around the rice-paper screens, her dark eyes fall on Bella kneeling at the table. Bella's been to Peyton's apartment, so it is no surprise probably that then young clairvoyant is dressed in all high-end designer wear, a Balenciaga bag on her shoulder, Prada boots on her feet. She's dressed comfortably but nicely for the "professional" meeting — black slacks, boots, a red cashmere sweater, and a pale ivory coat that's already been taken off and folded over her arm.

"Hello," Peyton says. "I'm Peyton — I'm not sure if you remember me." The last time she saw Bella, the woman was basically high from Aaron's power. She comes to kneel at the table, thankful for dim illumination.

A shadow dogs her steps as she approaches the booth, a subtle shade that whispers beneath the passing feet of those in the restaurant. Richard Cardinal came ahead to scout out the area, checking for signs of extraction teams or other possible dangers; aside from a few Triad members enjoying a meal together, he didn't find anything entirely threatening, so he gave the go-ahead to Peyton.

As she kneels at the table, the living shadow coils beneath it, slithering up the side to flatten itself against the bottom.

"Of course, state dependent learning aside," Bella says, her voice light with a touch of humor, "I'd offer to shake, but I don't want to insult you with pleasantries. I think we should get right to business," her brow arches, "Unless you could go for some sushi. I wouldn't mind a light lunch. Getting around the city is still hungry business."

For her own part, Bella is dressed in a dark green turtleneck sweater and snugly fitting corduroys, and her boots are left outside the booth as etiquette demands. Not that the owners of the restaurant are splitting hairs about having someone like Peyton bending a rule or two. Maybe she'll tell her terrifically wealthy friends to stop by…

"In any case," Bella goes on, "We need to discuss Aaron."

Reaching into her bag, Peyton pulls out a few twenties and lays them on the table — more than enough to cover the "use" of the booth for the time she plans on being there. "I'm not hungry, but if you would like to order, feel free," she says, her voice neutral as she looks back up to Bella after setting out the bills.

"What exactly do you want to discuss? I think we both agree he needs professional help, but I don't think you are the person to give it to him. You might have a few too many side projects to really focus on his treatment," the clairvoyant says, her eyes narrowing a little as she regards the redhead. "Call me skeptical but anything you recommend, I'm going to take with a grain of salt."

Bella nods, the picture of equanimity, "Understandably, considering the impressions you are under," she says, "You are an important influence in Aaron's life, and therefore I consider your input extremely important. But, as his therapist of some months, I hope you can recognize I have a valuable perspective as well. And, I think we can both recognize that, considering the steady degeneration of Aaron's condition, neither of us has done enough for him. So perhaps we can put aside matters unrelated to the reason we're both here? I am interested in doing what I can for my client, your friend. I was hoping we could help each other in this regard."

Folding her hands in her lap as she listens to Bella, Peyton's eyes narrow slightly. "I'm willing to listen to what you think might help him, but really, as his friend, I'd prefer that he not have anything to do with you, Doctor Sheridan. His best interest is all I have in mind, I guarantee you. One thing I'm planning on doing is finding him another therapist that he can relate to and trust, but obviously I can't force anything like that on him. I'd ask you for suggestions, perhaps, a referral, but… anyone you trust, I don't think I trust."

The shadow listens, silently, from beneath the table; merely biding his time in case he's needed, but otherwise out of sight, out of mind.

Bella's smile thins, and she gives a small shrug, "I understand your position, however difficult it makes mine. You are not Aaron's proxy, despite the fact you seem to act as it. I would much rather go about this in a spirit of cooperation, but if it comes down to it, you may want to go about acquiring power of attorney over him - that is, if the courts will allow you. If you feel he is your sole personal responsibility, you should at least be up front about it, instead of making phony 9-11 calls and wasting the resources of a city already over-taxed."

Eyes narrowing further, Peyton shakes her head. "He is not my sole responsibility, but if he's unable to make wise decisions for himself, then yes, I will do whatever is in my power to help him. As far as phony 9-1-1 calls? In my opinion, choosing to stay at the apartment of a kidnapper after being told what you had done to people against their will pretty much equates suicide. And he was likely going to be suicidal after learning what his therapist is and does, since he had determined that you were his only hope for professional help, God knows why." She's lost the neutral tone, her words acerbic and cold at once. "He needs help — I think that might be about all we can agree on. What did you want to propose I collaborate with you on?"

"And it's up to you to decide what constitutes wisdom?" Bella says, inches from straight out goading, "He can do what he likes as long as you agree with what he does? That is precisely the state of full legal attorney. Don't sugar coat this, Ms. Whitney. If you want to overrule Aaron's choices, have the guts to own up to it." Totally confrontational now, Bella's gaze is icy, "Your hypotheticals are motivated by anger and fear, not by any informed medical consideration. I am a physician, Ms. Whitney. You…" she doesn't complete this statement, just lets it run off into implication. "Continuity of care is crucial to a recovery in a case such as Aaron's. Your introduction to him of personal information irrelevant to his treatment with me has only confused and upset him further. You carry the blame for whatever torment that revelation has caused him. And therefore it falls on you to restore my good name so that we can work towards Aaron's future health, rather than deepen his pathological splitting and undermine any faith he may have in the therapeutic process."

With an unladylike snort, Peyton shakes her head and rises from the table, pulling her bag up over her shoulder. "You are fucking delusional," she murmurs, voice dropping even as the little war across the table escalates. "Continuity of care is great until you learn that your shrink is a fucking nutcase — then it's time for change. You don't have to be a physician to figure that out."

Peyton takes a few steps toward the door, before looking back. "You are not the only person who can help him. He may have bonded with you, but your ability to be professional with him? That was already something that was a big question mark, even before I found out what you did to those people. You're not the only psychiatrist in this city, and I'm pretty sure 4 out of 5 of them couldn't do a worse job at helping him. He may not listen to my advice and there's not much I can do about that, but I'm certainly not going to lie to him. Restoring a good name suggests you had one to begin with."

Bella spreads her hands, a 'what can I do' gesture. "It makes me sad to see you're too caught up in your own righteous indignation to look out for Aaron's welfare. I won't fight with you for him, though. That would only hurt him further. I only hope he realizes just how toxic you are, and makes an informed choice. I doubt, of course, that you will deem any such choice 'wise'."

A whispered little chuckle stirs beneath the table, although it's likely easily missed in the general sounds of the restaurant. The living shadow slithers beneath the table, coiling across Peyton's ankle and sliding up along beneath her pant leg without a further sound as she rises up from her feet. Cardinal's opinions on things will have to wait for later.

"I am toxic? What did I ever do but try to help him? Believe me, at times it would be easier to wash my hands of it and let it go, but I'm not going to knowingly let him go into a psychopath's care if I can help it. You say I'm too caught up in my indignation — you're so arrogant you think you're the only person who can possibly help him. I know I can't help him by myself, but I'll find someone who can who isn't playing God." With that Peyton strides around the screen, exiting the restaurant with long strides of her long legs.

Bella regards the money Peyton left behind, the only artifact of the woman's presence. She finishes her coffee unhurriedly, then gets to her feet, ready to leave. Her internal dialogue is calm, thoughtful, working through each possible next step, and the step after that. No conclusion can yet be drawn. Nothing has been settled, but things are coming to a head.

That went about as well as anyone could have expected.

The edge of shadow glides along the collar of the socialite storming out, Richard Cardinal's voice a quiet and serious whisper in her ear. "She's your new assignment, Peyton," murmurs the Red King, "I want to know who is covering for her ass, and why she's not in a deep, dark hole somewhere. Company, government, Triad — find out what that psychotic bitch is up to. There's quite a few people that'd be interested in knowing that, I think…" I think…

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