These Things Happen


aaron3_icon.gif bella_icon.gif

Scene Title These Things Happen
Synopsis Aaron sees Bella for the first time since her abduction. She gives him two weeks of homework.
Date October 28, 2009

Bella's Studio Office

If it hadn't previously been a regular occurrence, Aaron would feel weird approaching the door to Bella's office. Well, actually he still feels kinda weird about it, mainly because she was missing last time he approached her door and he's worried he'll find it closed, locked, and with nobody inside (that he can tell) again. When he spots that it's open, he stops in front of it and can't help but heave a sigh of relief before entering. He gives his usually light knock on the door frame before he nudges the door closed behind him and sets his shoes aside. Only then does he proceed to the couch, as usual, where he drapes his long coat and takes a seat. He does not initially comment on the grey he sees shadowing Bella, despite the fact that it is somewhat shocking for him to see given the utter lack of it in all of their previous meetings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he looks tired and pale. There are faint traces of a scar on his cheek and one on his chin from the small cuts he sustained on Staten Island in perhaps the most foolish move of his adult life— though there are certainly other contenders for that prize. For now he remains silent. He smells of cranberries.

Bella doesn't display her troubles in any way most people without Aaron's special empathy could see. The only real mark of what happened to her is her limp, one that is currently invisible since she is sitting down in her armchair, already positioned to receive Aaron. Her smile is warm, welcoming. "I'd get up," she says, "But I'm trying to keep off the leg. It's good to see you Aaron," she doesn't seem to be heading towards any specific explanation of what might have transpired to make her go missing, "I'm very sorry about our missed appointment. Act of God. These things happen," she shrugs to illustrate her powerlessness over such events, "You look like hell," she says, though it's with humor and sympathy, "What've you been up to, and what's been up at you?"

Aaron's eyes immediately go from one leg to the other, and then back to Bella's face where it's clear he's not entirely convinced of any such Act of God. But, if she's not going to share, he's not going to push. "And yet, I feel so much worse," is his response to him looking like hell. "Got a day? It might take a while." And he rolls his eyes. His head immediately goes into his hands. "Things have gotten… complicated. Seriously messed up. I mean, you so picked the wrong time to go AWOL." He takes a deep breath, "Give me a minute to try and figure out where to start. As I said, things got kinda complicated and now I have to explain some things that kinda go over my own head here."

"Trust me, Aaron," Bella says, and there is a surge of something almost like hurt in her, mixed with offended pride, "If I had had any choice in the matter, I wouldn't have disappeared. I wish I could go into it, but… investigation pending," she makes a pained face, "And, after all, we're here for your troubles, not mine. Start wherever makes most sense to you. Wherever feels right."

He wants to ask how someone who is troubled can help one who is troubled, but given how he manages fairly well in that regard — though that's thanks to his ability — he doesn't. Aaron looks down a bit, shamefully, from his remark and takes a short while to try and sort out the jumble of facts in his head that are necessary to explain his current situation. "OK. So, Gillian was involved in some huge evolved snafu a while back, which gave her the ability to clone herself. One of those clones, Stef, is still around, even though she has her original power back." He feels ridiculous saying it out loud. And however embarrassing he seems to have found saying that, that was the easy part.

In typical Aaron fashion, his eyes are already twinkling with tears. "I was, uh, I was lonely one night and Peyton was leaving. I didn't want to be left all alone so I went with her. She helps out on Staten Island and, it was supposed to be peaceful. I saw Gillian there, or, I thought it was Gillian only it was Stef. She pretty much passed out in my arms and that got me really concerned because I was sure she was dying and." He stops himself so he can breathe.

"Well, it wasn't peaceful. People started to riot. And then Peyton passed out. Someone scared her into using her ability and she'd been using it non-stop since Wendy got abducted." The idea of which makes him blanch, even though she's back, and he knows it since he's been there. "She came to before Stef did, and I was helping get her to safety. Then there was fire flying through the air, some girl got incinerated, but she started to…" No, going into those details is not a good idea for him and he looks very close to fainting.

Bella leans forward, reaching as far as she can so that her fingertips can just brush Aaron's knee, settling there, touch light, like the perch of a tiny bird. Her brows knit, but it's a gentle expression. "One step at a time. Take one issue at a time. Don't allow it to overwhelm you. You've obviously had a tremendously difficult time. But you're here now, you're safe with me, and we're going to help work this all out."

It's apparently possible for him to look worse than he did coming in. Aaron gives a bit of a jump at the touch before deciding to be quiet for a moment and just work on staying conscious without feeling lightheaded and his eyes going out of focus. He sniffles and wipes at his eyes and a bit of colour returns to his face as he blushes. "That would be real good, repeating what I did there. I passed out." He touches the faint scar on his cheek and the one on his chin, "It was too frantic. We don't know how I got them. All I know is next thing I remembered, I was having a nightmare about it and then I woke up next to Stef. And then she woke up— I think I'm gonna lie down." Still feeling somewhat lightheaded, Aaron reclines on the couch.

Bella turns in her seat, wincing very slightly, but making no further comment, keeping her focus entirely on Aaron. She sets an elbow on the arm of the chair, and sets her chin on her hand. "Relax," she says and, after a moment, "I am wondering, Aaron, if you might want to consider using a new technique for processing these experiences. I've given it some thought, and it might be easier for you to talk about all this if we used hypnosis."

"Hypnosis?" Of course, Aaron's heard of it, but never experienced it. "I, uh, I dunno. If you think it will help, I suppose we can try it. If it makes things easier…" He didn't notice the wince, or else he'd probably comment on it, being far too absorbed trying to settle down a bit.

"Honestly, I've only had limited training," Bella admits, "But it's really just like deep meditation. It will allow us to go over those memories with a certain distance and clarity, one that will prevent panic from setting in. We need to work through all this together, but I don't want you to have to relive it and suffer every time."

"Yeah. Preventing panic from setting in would be good," Aaron admits, as though someone would agree to the alternative. "I think, though, for the rest of this story I'll be OK." So long as he doesn't think of the girl's flesh knitting itself back together. "I talked to Stef for a bit and… she was showing the symptoms Gillian was supposed to have." He's not panicking, but it certainly sounds like he might cry. He manages to push it down, though. "Last Thursday, I— Peyton was out, so I had Gillian invite Stef over to tell her. It was, weird." Confusing. Relieving. There are a great number of words to describe what he felt, and yet none quite cover it.

"Maybe we can try it out in the next session, the hypnosis. Don't worry about it for now. I just wanted to bring it up, get your opinion," Bella says. She wouldn't be prepared for hypnotherapy anyhow. She never practiced it much because she hasn't got a very high opinion of it, but sometimes you've got to leave your comfort zone, especially when it's in the name of transferring that comfort to your client, "Forgive me, Aaron, I feel like I'm catching only half of this story, and I want to understand what happened. What symptoms were these? What did Gillian tell Stef? And what was weird about it?" Other than the whole clone thing.

"I don't really know the others, but the one that Gillian told me would signal it was her ability failing. Only hers didn't, it still works even now. Stef's is failing her. I asked her how her ability was working, and it almost seemed like she was going to ask me how I knew, but then she got all defensive and ran out." Aaron sits up again, no longer feeling faint. "I was there when Gillian told Stef that she — Stef — probably wouldn't live to see November. The same prognosis Gillian got." He makes sure to spell out which she. CONFUSING. "I… I don't know how I should be feeling. I mean, I'm relieved that Gillian's not dying, but Stef is. And save for name and a bit of her personality, I mean, she kinda is Gillian, and, I don't want her to die either."

"So the condition Gillian was suffering from… it got transferred to her clone instead?" Bella asks, wanting to make certain she's following. The tale is involved, and Bella's only got so much to go on.

Aaron looks confused. "I guess. I mean, I didn't really understand what was going on in the first place. It's kinda all out of my personal little universe, you know? We're not sure how it happened, but it is. Gillian's clone got whatever condition she was supposed to die of." Good for Gillian, bad for Stef. Nothing's ever easy.

Interesting. Very interesting indeed. To survive yourself, to live only at the cost of condemning 'yourself' to death. Bella would love to get Gillian into one of these chairs sometime herself, but now is clearly not the time to be networking. "It would be hard not to feel conflicted. You're relieved for Gillian, yet at the same time you know that someone who 'is' Gillian, just by another name, will suffer the fate you feared for Gillian," she purses her lips, "On a philosophical level, you ought to mourn just as much. But we're not here for philosophy. We're here for your well being. Allow yourself room for both grief and relief. There's room enough in your heart, Aaron, for both. Be glad for Gillian, glad that your friend will live, but don't push down your sadness. Feel it in its entirety, so that you can let it go when the time comes."

"I do mourn just as much. I mean, Stef didn't get a choice, it just so happened that she had this thing and not Gillian. But she kinda is Gillian. I mean, she's not, she has her own personality, but…" Aaron stops himself, but it's all crazy. At least, he'll go and make himself crazy if he keeps trying to sort out his feelings. "I just, I can barely wrap my head around all of this, and I can't tell what I feel for either of them."

"I think understanding is crucial to working through your feelings," Bella says, "But don't obsess over them. Let them happen to you, permit them, be conscious of them. Let them talk to you. And talk to me about it. Start small. What do you think of when you think of Gillian? And what do you think of when you think of Stef? Small things, simple introspection."

This is what Aaron was talking about when he said things are complicated. He lets out a groan of frustration and lies back down. "Small things, small things…." He closes his eyes. "Gillian. Well, right now anyway, she helps me sleep, and I'm pretty sure she's trying to keep my safe, trying to protect me. She was pretty ticked off when she found out I was on Staten Island. Stef… To me, she's Gillian with black hair, I just, well, she doesn't know me that well, but I think she'd try to keep me safe too." And they're both just as hot. But he doesn't say that, even if he blushes slightly at the thought.

"So you're closer to Gillian, by far," Bella infers, "How much of your feelings about and for Stef do you think is a result of her resemblance to Gillian?"

"Maybe initially, but it's not like my feelings have changed at all. I had them both in the same room together. And it was totally weird." Which Aaron already said. It was weird. "She has all of her memory and life experiences, it's kinda hard to separate them. I'm just glad they have different hair colour." Though there are a few other ways he could have told them apart.

Bella smiles just a little, "Very convenient," she says, "What do you plan to do next, Aaron? How do you see your days unfolding? How do you feel about the future?"

"Well I'm gonna stay away from Staten Island for one. Too much excitement to be had there…." Aaron heaves a sigh. "I dunno. I should probably get out of the house more, but it never seems to quite work out when I do, and I'm prone to crying. And I can barely sleep. It's kinda hard to concentrate; wouldn't be too good for holding down a job." Not that he really wants to work.

Bella quirks her mouth to the side. "Well, I think maybe we should talk about how to increase your activity levels, get you feeling better and more energized, but without risking you in any way. What sorts of activities do you think you could safely do? Things you'd be able to enjoy outside your home?"

Aaron shrugs. "I dunno. Music is kinda my thing, and I don't get much enjoyment out of that. It's also not all that invigorating unless done for a whole gig. I don't exactly have any hobbies. I think getting more than an hour or two of sleep would be a better first step."

Bella nods, "That does sound like a good step," she says, "I've a suggestion, something that sounds simple but is actually very important. I think you should start running, or doing some other sort of cardiovascular exercise," she tilts head head, "I realize it sounds… simple. But exercise is actually superior to pretty much any medication for handling depression, particularly circumstantial depression. It may also help you sleep better at night; it will certainly improve the quality of your rest."

"I suppose I could do that," Aaron says. Running's not hard, just tiring. "I know, endorphins and all that. I'll try pretty much anything to sleep through the night." And he's certainly tried a few things.

"What have you been using?" Bella inquires, "Self medication isn't necessarily bad, but it's a fine line to tread."

Fine line, indeed. Aaron flushes red a bit at the inquiry. He decides not to elaborate on how he discovered what he presently considers a totally embarrassing sleeping aid, unless he's asked. "I…" He goes a bit redder. "I told you, Gillian helps me sleep? She holds me and I sleep." Redder. "She doesn't need to hold me, or anything. I can sleep fine with her just at my side, but she does."

Bella smiles, softly, "Well, as long as you can keep her by your side, I think that's a very healthy sleep aid," she says, "We need to focus on getting your life in order, Aaron. Chaos and trouble seems to crowd around you. You have a real shot at happiness if we can just help you gain a certain level of stability and normalcy. I'm not saying everything will get better automatically, but it would allow us to get real work done, lasting work."

Aaron sighs. "That would be nice, but, she only stays with us once or twice a week, and I, I don't think Peyton can handle me this way. When I break down, she just doesn't know what to do. And she's always going out. She was there, that time on Staten Island. We could have died. And she does that on a regular basis!"

"Going to Staten Island, you mean?" Bella says, and she can't hide the incredulity from her voice. Why in God's name would anyone want to go there unless they intended to play the hero?

Aaron nods. "Yes. Or at least, I think she does. I know she's been there a few times, 'cause she seemed rather familiar with the place. Other times, she just goes off. She doesn't always say what she's doing or where she's going, probably because she knows it would freak me out. But I mean, it freaks me out not knowing, too."

Bella nods, "Have you brought it up with her?"

"Kinda of, and kind of not. We've sort've talked about it, but, she really wants to do this. I think it's her sense of purpose, or something," Aaron says. He shakes his head. "It's suicide, is what it is." Then he looks down, "She's a heck of a lot better at it than me, though. I mean, I went and fainted, and she dragged me and Stef to safety. How lame is that?"

Bella braces her arm against the chair and draws herself up with a certain amount of effort. She heavily favors one leg, making a couple hops over towards Aaron until she is able to settle herself down by his feet, joining him on the coach, increasing her proximity in hopes of augmenting the comfort she provides. She offers him her hand. "The last thing you need is to get down on yourself, Aaron. What you need is to find a space where you can feel safe and comfortable. You're wearing yourself out."

"No, don't." Aaron says. For Bella's benefit, not his own. He doesn't want to see her strain herself, but she does it anyway and he takes the hand when it's offered. Bella's one of his three lifelines, four if one counts Stef. "I just don't know where that is. I don't know where's safe or what's safe anymore, and I don't exactly trust my own judgement." After all, he's nearly walked into traffic, and, because he was feeling lonely, joined Peyton on Staten Island, which from his perspective, only endangered her more because he was a burden.

Bella nods, "Then let's figure that out, together," she says, "We know you feel safe beside Gillian. Hold onto the idea of that feeling. Can you describe it for me? Can you close your eyes and call it up?"

"It's not just with Gillian. It's just, when someone's there, I don't feel alone. And then I can sleep. I might cry a bit first, too." Because Aaron does that, particularly when held. It's embarrassing. "I don't know how to describe it. It's just peaceful, and believe me, I've tried calling it up. If it were that easy, I could probably sleep on my own."

Bella nods, "It's a feeling, then, that is present only in the presence of someone else?" she asks, "Barring some way to be sure someone's always there, which is never a certainty, we need to find some way to extend that feeling, to make you feel that comfort even when you haven't someone to hold you. Is there maybe some object you could ask for, some keepsake or talisman that you could use to help you when you try and call up that feeling?"

It's one of those 'why didn't I think of that?' moments. "I could try, that, I guess," Aaron admits. He wishes they discussed this all sooner. "I guess next time I see her I'll ask if there's anything like that she could give me."

Bella gives a soft smile, "It's at least worth a shot. Treat it like meditation, Aaron. You're a smart man, but your thoughts can crowd you, push out what little peace you can cultivate. When it's time to sleep, try and use that object to focus on the /presence/ of the person who gave it to you, just feel that feeling, and don't let thoughts get in the way. Clear your mind," she squeezes his hand, "Allow yourself that quietude."

Aaron squeezes Bella's hand back and gives a nod. He rubs his eyes with his other hand. "I just, I need to get a good night's sleep. Peace sounds good. I mean, the last time I had this much trouble sleeping, it was my ability doing it, but I take measures to make sure that's not the case." And by measures he means he uses it as often as he can stand.

Aaron nods. "Not too complicated. The only control I have over it is in not using it. Whenever I play music, sing — hell, even whistle — it works. I can choose not to have it work, but given what that does to me, I don't really do that often. It's also gone active a few times I've been really emotional. At least, that's the active part, where I take away people's pain. I always see it. I don't have a choice for that. I just see people with less colour the more pain they have…. there was this one person— I don't know if it was a man or a woman. That person wasn't just grey. Black. The person seemed to radiate it to the extent of me not being able to see the person." That still disturbs him to this day, even though he has not seen the person since that one time. "I mean, I normally see people, simultaneously, like everyone else does. Or, I think like everyone else does. But this person. Just blackness."

"I don't know why, but I just see me," Aaron says. "I guess my ability doesn't work on me, or not that part of it anyway. Hell, it doesn't take my pain away, why should I be able to see it, right?" He gives a shrug. "I can see pain in anyone else. You, Wendy, Peyton, Gillian…." And Wendy looking as OK as she did still makes him scratch his head.

Bella doesn't ask what she looks like. This is information she both wants to know and does not want to know, and it is not necessarily appropriate to inquire in this setting. As she previous said, this is about his troubles, not hers, not that she's even troubled, at least that she knows of… which of course is why she's curious. "Which must make it hard to grapple with your own sadness, when it's visibly apparent in others. But what I want to suggest you work on is concentrating on /you/ and /your/ needs," she gets carefully to her feet again, hopping back to her chair, settling back down, "I want you to write a list of the things you want, and the things you have by our next session. Be exhaustive. I want you to enumerate what you've got, and what you'd like to have. A sort of taking of accounts."

It sounds like a lot of work, especially since, beyond feeling better, Aaron hasn't the slightest clue what he wants. Well, he wouldn't mind his life back, but that's not possible. He can certainly have a new life, but the old one's gone. "OK," he says, although it's a rather drawn out 'OK,' showing that he's unsure of it somehow.

"We need a guideline, Aaron," Bella says, "We need to get our bearings. Figure out what keeps going awry, and what's missing in your life. It's time to get active, and this is the first step. You need to remember what you have, and what it is you want next. You need to start building a new life."

A new life, not the old one he had. Aaron gives a nod. "When are we meeting next?"

"I feel badly saying this, but I need to wait until the week after next," Bella says, "Personal reasons. But two weeks from today… would that work for you?"

Well, at least it will give him time to compile his list. It might take two weeks. Aaron gives a slightly tearful nod, only because it's been a while since their last session and now he's apparently going to have to wait as long. On the plus side, at least this time she won't be missing. "OK." He can only guess personal reasons involve something related to the pain he sees in her, but he doesn't share those thoughts. It doesn't stop him from looking curiously at her though, wishing he could somehow gain insight into the catch-all emotion he can see.

Bella isn't telling; she almost never does. "Get home, get some rest, and keep what we talked about today in mind," she says, "I'll see you in two weeks. Stay well, Aaron, all right? Stay safe."

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