Unexpected Reaction


aaron_icon.gif bella_icon.gif

Scene Title Unexpected Reaction
Synopsis Bella makes a house call to help Aaron and things get a little strange when his ability affects her in an unexpected way.
Date November 19, 2009

Aaron and Peyton's Apartment — Upper West Side

It's one day later than he'd like to have talked about it, but Aaron's found it even harder to stay out of the apartment in the recent days than before, and he certainly didn't want to travel by bus, subway, or cab. There's no way he'd walk either, which is why he asked Bella if she could maybe come to the apartment instead of him going to her. He's far more comfortable sitting in the two-thousand some-odd square foot apartment overlooking Central Park. It's no penthouse, and he can't imagine what one might look like, but the one he's in right now is more than enough space for two people. Only one more reason he'd wanted Gillian to stay for good.

Aaron's only recently managed to drag himself out of bed, finding a note that Peyton left him to inform him that she went out and would be back tomorrow some time. Better than a text message, at least, something he still has a bit of difficulty not panicking over. Fresh from a shower and after a small breakfast, Aaron's curled up on the couch clutching the adorable plush tiger Gillian bought him.

Bella has no problem with house calls, particularly with a long-term client such as Aaron. She has to travel to his comfort zones to get her job done, so she will. She's using her cane, the non-scary one, and uses the elevator to get up to Aaron's floor after getting buzzed in. She's wearing a warm, heavy coat over a sweater vest and blouse ensemble that looks boyish, with a matching pair of slacks. Her shoes are leather, no heels, like girlish hush puppies. She arrives at Aaron's door, and knocks before calling, "It's me!"

Whether or not the image that greets Bella when Aaron opens the door is a sad one or not is really up to her. The plush tiger has relocated to hanging over Aaron's shoulder, one hand on top of it as she lets Bella into the apartment. "Sorry the couch is so far from the door," he says, scratching his nose. The apartment is fairly expansive. Nice TV, nice stereo. Wide open space in traditional and modern with clean lines and warm colours. Even though it wasn't Peyton's taste, but her parents', it's rather grown on Aaron. Once Bella's inside, he closes the door and heads towards the couch, which is also in the direction of the kitchen. "Do you want some tea? There's a pot in the kitchen."

Bella is very good at not letting it show just how sad she does find his image. Sentiment has never had much effect on her, so her chief experience is a sort of pity, mixed with professional concern. However, she masks this with a smile that says what she also says, "It's good to see you, Aaron." She steps inside, glancing around at his accommodations.

Many people find Aaron's image sad, including himself, which doesn't do him any favours at all. His question unanswered, Aaron takes a seat on the couch, the tiger migrating to his lap. It's clearly some sort of idol or something to him, the way he holds it. "Gillian bought this for me," he says with a tone that might make a person believe he's mourning. He didn't elaborate as to the reasons he was so down on the phone, so that tone could be misleading. "Doesn't really help me sleep that much." His eyes are misty, but not yet running with tears.

Bella takes a careful seat across from Aaron, setting both her hands on her cane and leaning forward onto it. "It's adorable," she says, smiling, "But I imagine it's no replacement for Gillian herself?" Her smile is soft, but knowing, "I think, if you're ready, we should talk about your feelings for her."

Aaron shakes his head at Bella's question, which is when tears come loose. And his feelings indeed. His tumultuous feelings. There's an immediate sniffle. "She's in jail. She was arrested." That news still makes Aaron feel strange. When he first heard it, it felt completely unreal, like he were dreaming. He only wishes it were actually a dream. At least that way he could wake up from it.

Oh, serious misstep on Bella's part. Her face falls. She wastes no time. She gets to her feet, with greater ease than he's likely seen for a while, and moves over to the couch. She sits right next to him, and puts an arm about him, drawing him into a hug. "I'm so sorry, Aaron," is all she says for now.

It's something he hasn't really been able to bring himself to do since he heard from her. Sure, there were tears, but Aaron hasn't actually been able to cry about it yet. Of course, crying now in Bella's arms really doesn't help, because if it hurts that bad, it's real, right? He doesn't want it to be real. "I want to wake up now."

Bella continues to hug Aaron; her touch is light, has that layer of distance that makes it clear this is therapeutic comfort, but it's still meant as comfort. "I'll help you work through this nightmare," she says, "And maybe you'll wake up to find everything's okay. But you've got to tell me what happened."

Aaron, of course, isn't clinging to Bella but the stuffed tiger, shaking all the while. "They'll probably make her disappear because she's evolved." And she made him promise he'd be there when she gets out, even if he doesn't know when that is. It's a promise he made with no comprehension, so frazzled he was from the news, but it's a promise that's kept him alive at any rate. "I don't know what happened. They didn't give her a lot of time to talk. I don't even know where she is."

"No, no," Bella says, "Yes, she'll be registered, and there may be consequences, but she won't disappear. That's a rumor, Aaron. Don't let fears like that take your life over. You need to be ready to help Gillian when she needs you. What do you know?"

"The people who helped Peyton when she manifested sure didn't think so." The people who vanished her for a while. That was before he knew her, at least like he does now. But he doesn't explore the topic any further. Aaron just shakes his head. "I don't know anything. Other than that she's in jail. She didn't have time to tell me anything, or where she was, what she was arrested for." He stiffens up a bit as he starts to get angry, mostly at himself because she'd have had time if he could have said something — anything — when she'd called. Instead he just laid there, unresponsive. He couldn't wrap his head around it then.

"Can you find these things out?" Bella inquires, easing up on the contact, just sitting next to him, cane propped between her legs, "A lot of fear lies in apprehension."

"Peyton's working on it," Aaron says. Something he's grateful for. It something he doesn't have to deal with. "Not that it matters. I mean, they've got her for not registering. That's enough to have her in jail for a while, isn't it?" He's not entirely familiar with the laws on that regard. He was lucky enough to voluntarily register, even if it wasn't exactly as voluntary as he'd have liked.

"I don't know the law well enough," Bella admits, and this isn't a total lie. She's a bit familiar, but never researched the details. "But she'd certainly want you to stay happy and healthy, and able to visit her. So the best thing you can do for her now is focus on yourself."

Aaron nods, wiping tears from his eyes. "She made me promise I'd be there when she got out." His tone almost makes it sound as if that's a bad thing. He goes back to hugging the stuffed tiger, something he's found himself doing a lot of recently. At any rate, he's been so caught up in emotion that he hasn't noticed his head aching, though now that he's worked some of those emotions out it's become quite noticeable. "I haven't used my ability yet, today." It sounds so pitiful the way he says it.

Bella frowns at this. It means he's heading for withdrawal. "She said she wanted you to be there. That means she knows she'll be getting out. She'll make it happen. You just have to keep your end of the promise," she touches Aaron's shoulder, "What does it feel like, now? Do you want to use it?"

The headache is the first sign of withdrawal for Aaron. It sure doesn't take him long to get there, either. He trembles sightly under the light touch on the shoulder. "It's just a headache right now," he says, but it takes him a while to answer the second question. That same part of him that wants to curl up and die doesn't want to use it, and he is so tired of being a slave to his ability. He sniffles and shakes his head. "I don't really want to do anything." This is one of those days that makes the Prozac look ineffective.

"Aaron, we know what'll happen if you abstain," Bella says, quite serious, "It will only make things harder. You need to feed. In time, that may change. But for now we need to keep you well enough to continue progressing."

His need to feed is only one of the many things that make Aaron feel helpless most of the time. He tears up again. "I can't. I can't go outside like this. I can't play when I feel like this." Excuses, excuses, all for the sake of saving himself some dignity, which he has a seriously short supply of these days. Anyone who thinks he's not embarrassed by the constant crying and emotionality are dead wrong. Another thing that makes him feel bad.

Bella purses her lips. "All right," she says, "You don't have to. …play for me."

… Awkward. The tears that were starting up again stop prematurely as Aaron just stares for a minute at Bella. Then it seems he's sizing her up, though not in a dirty way or anything. It seems he's just considering something. He sniffles and wipes more tears from his eyes— hopefully the last, though knowing him, far from it. "OK," he says finally, "I can do that." As luck would have it, the electronic keyboard that Peyton had has taken up almost permanent residence on the coffee table and so is within arm's reach. Not that it would ever replace a real piano, but he doesn't exactly have the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to shell out to get a good one. His fingers touch the keys before he's even turned it on, because now he has to think of something to play that hopefully won't embarrass him.

Bella folds her hands in her lap, looking straight at Aaron. She doesn't feel bad. Not at all, really, not that she can tell. She needs to give him something to work with, though. She tries to summon up foul feelings. The best she can do is think about stupid people. How many there are, how many in positions of power. How they're screwing up so much that could easily be fixed by smart people (people like her). And it works. She can feel herself getting angry.

Aaron notices Bella's attempts as he racks his brain for a song that won't embarrass him— an unfortunate side effect of the romantically-oriented music he typically deals with. Her attempts are a distraction, though. "That's really not necessary," he remarks, finally turning the keyboard on. "Believe it or not, I think what you already have will be just fine."

It's a comment that may be very strange for Bella to hear as Aaron starts to play Beethoven's piano sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor— the "Moonlight" Sonata. He takes great pains to do the song justice on an electronic keyboard. It lacks pedals and the majestic tones of a real piano, even if it has decent samples, but he does a commendable job, clearly a piece he has a great deal of experience playing.

Bella doesn't quite know what he could mean, not at least in what she's feeling. But she understands that she does not know every part of herself. There are unconscious feelings, tensions, stresses that she knows she repressed from even realizing them. She assumes, thus, that he can see these. Funny, she thinks, that her job is to work hard to see what Aaron can never stop seeing. She listens to the beautiful music thrum in the air. She brushes hair behind one ear, so as to remove all impediment to the sound.

It's a talent Aaron never really mastered— repressing his feelings. Of course, had he, he could very well be in an even worse emotional state than he is now, so it's likely for the best. And it's true, Aaron can see deep-rooted pain, even if it's very, very buried. Turns out he just has to look long and hard for it. Naturally, his ability works on it, too, just like any other, slowly plucking bits and pieces of it away, drawing it out like venom being sucked from a wound.

Some have called him human Prozac. For Bella, it's much more like Xanax. She feels… relaxed. She smiles, almost dreamily, and leans back into the couch, cozying in. Her eyes are serene and even a little unfocused. "Wow…" she says, and he's never heard her sound like this, use her 'recreational drugs' voice, "This… this is really something. This feels nice."

As soon as Aaron hears that strange, untherapistly voice, his fingers lift from the keys and he turns to face her. The thought going through his head? 'Oh God, I broke my therapist.' He comes a bit closer, his own mood declining rapidly as he closes the gap between them until he's literally staring Bella straight in the face, "Bella? You OK?"

Bella lifts her hands to his cheeks, cupping them lightly. "Juuust fine," she says, smiling, maybe a little slyly, "Too bad you can't turn this sucker on yourself. That'd cheer you up!"

"Don't remind me," Aaron says bitterly. "I'd say I'm not paying you to laze around all high, but I'm not paying you, so I guess I can't argue, can I?" Clearly the whole Bella going all soft and cheerful has done little for his own mood. He doesn't mention how much he appreciates that she's been seeing him for free, even though he'd literally cry with gratitude for it in almost any other situation.

Bella makes the great effort to lift her head and bump her nose very lightly against Aaron's, before her hands fall away and her arms flop to either side of her. "Oh… okay, this is embarrassing unless you start having some fun as well. You can't leave me alone like this, y'know?"

"Oh God," Aaron mutters lightly to himself. She's going to be like this for over a day, isn't she? Fuuuuuck. The silver lining? This very strange scenario has completely derailed Aaron's practically suicidal line of thinking he'd previously been entertaining. Now he's just wondering if he can in good conscience let this woman leave the apartment alone before the effects of his ability have worn off, and what he's going to tell Peyton when she gets home. "Sorry, fun isn't in my vocabulary. You should know that." If she were thinking straight.

She's seeming to gather herself a bit, her eyes focusing again, and she slides up into a proper sit. Aaron is still pretty close, though now his head is hovering by her torso. "Aaron!" Bella says, "Be a gentleman!" Her tone is chiding, but in a joking way. She's not really bothered, it's just a joke.

Aaron lets out a groan and gets up to sit back down where he had been. "I just got my therapist high. This…. I wonder if you'll even remember all of this when it's over." He remembers how giddy Helena got, but this is something else entirely. Now he has no headache and a problem with which to deal.

Bella turns on the couch, curling her legs up on to the couch, though of course she first pushes off her shoes. Her stockinged feet tuck up beneath her as she gives Aaron a considering gaze. Her intellect isn't less sharp, it's just less organized, it seems. "I will almost certainly remember some of it. And if I don't, you must tell me what happened. This is a research opportunity, for both of us."

"Sure. Soon people will be using me for recreational purposes, all at my expense." More bitter words. That's the thing Aaron hates most about his ability. It seems to benefit everyone but him. After all, he's not the one getting all comfortable and thinking about how awesome a research opportunity it is to have his ability used on someone.

"Aaron!" Bella exclaims, in what is close to genuine shock, but there's no negativity there. She's almost pleased that something shocking has happened, because it's interesting. "Recreational use of clients is a very clear line that can't be crossed!"

"I don't know if you've noticed, doctor," Aaron says, and he specifically chooses his words carefully, "But it kinda already has been crossed, in case you didn't notice how high you are thanks to me. And I'm sorry for that, by the way…." His temporary anger fades really quickly and he gets all sad again. "I wasn't expecting this kind of reaction. I've… really never seen someone respond that way before." Sad and confused.

"But that's interesting!" Bella exclaims, scootching towards Aaron, emphatic that he hear her and understand. This is important, dammit! "Think… of what that tells you about what your power was capable of. You don't just make the depressed happy, you can cause other emotional, neurological effects too!" She prods him gently in the chest with a finger, "Buck up. You should enjoy the new knowledge! You learned something, something that could be important." She lifts her finger and flicks his nose, lightly, though.

"What did I learn? Different strokes for different folks, or in this case, different pain for different folks? This really speaks more to your character than mine," Aaron remarks, not entirely sure what his feelings are about his therapist flicking his nose like that. She's clearly gone completely off the deep end.

Bella wrinkles her nose, "I should feel irritated, but I don't," she says, "We learned there's a broader range to your ability than you knew. /And/ that you seem to get extra testy afterwards. Do you feel worried? Anxious? Frustrated?"

"Yeah, that happens some times," Aaron says. He's reminded of Abby, who felt like she should feel depressed but wasn't. She didn't like feeling good, from what he could interpret of her feelings on the matter. "I'm only testy because you're supposed to be my therapist and I don't know what to make of this situation right now. It's weird."

"I am still your therapist, /trust me/," Bella says, emphatically, "And I am entirely capable of provide comfort, understanding and, in extreme cases, /both at the same time/." She smiles, but tries to look serious. "Talk to me, Aaron. At very least, let's try and make this fun."

"You can't even look serious right now. How can you possibly try to understand my pain and empathize when you're completely devoid of it?" Aaron comes pretty close to crying when he asks the question, which may ordinarily concern him a little bit given the tameness of the question, but considering he'd been pretty much bawling before this whole mess started, it's definitely not raising any red flags for him.

Bella gives Aaron a smile that is entirely kind and understanding, even if she doesn't feel sad herself. She tilts her head. "Are you trying to make yourself lonely? You're driving me away for no reason, Aaron. Surely you see yourself doing that?"

"I don't have to make myself lonely, Bella. I already am alone." It's at that point that Aaron swipes up the plush tiger and leaves the couch. The only problem is, there aren't too many places he can go. He's already home, so he can't exactly run out the door or anything.

"Listen to me Aaron," Bella says, fixing Aaron with a level look, "I know, I /know/ that being depressed makes you feel as if you're alone. That that sense of being unable to connect with anyone or anything is real, it's there. But it's your illness, not your reality! I am here. Right now. And I know I can't feel what you're feeling. But I do understand. So do not push me away."

Now that the tears have started to fall freely again, Aaron tips his head down in shame. "You don't know what it's like to have to come up with fictional reasons to get out of bed in the morning, only they're more like afternoons because you're in bed for at least twelve hours a day. You'd like to say you've been sleeping, but that's almost always a lie because even when you can get to sleep, you wake up in a panic and have no idea why." His lips go dry and he has to dampen them. "You don't know what it's like to feel like death is better than feeling like this, but you know you can't end things because nobody else seems to feel that way. They all seem to want to prolong the agony, and you worry about hurting them so much you can't even do it to end your own suffering."

"And you think you're the only person who's ever felt this way?" Bella says. Pleasant though she may feel, she's merciless, "And that no one who ever felt this way would never ever feel better? Aaron, this is all written down. Everything you feel, it's all happened, and it's passed. But you need the will to push on through. Do you have that will?"

Aaron comes back to the couch and sits down. He doesn't really have anywhere else to go in the apartment at the moment, and he's tired. His headache may be gone, but he still is tired. Having Gillian in jail hasn't exactly helped his insomnia any. "What happens if I don't?"

Bella doesn't answer. Instead she scoots right up to him and wraps her arms around him in a hug. One hand pats gently against his back. It would be weird if it didn't seem so genuine and unplanned. Even then it's a little odd, but it's still sweet.

And there he goes crying again, the emotions surging through him bringing him to a breaking point. This time Aaron's arms abandon the stuffed tiger— despite being a totem of someone for whom Aaron feels a great deal of affection. Right now he needs real human contact, a connection he can't get through a stuffed animal no matter how much he wishes he could. He very nearly clings to Bella as he bawls. "I just want the pain to stop."

Bella sustains the force of Aaron's sadness with an equanimity that can only come from having your anxiety wiped away. Her hug lacks that previous distance. It's an honest, friendly thing, comforting in an unguarded way.

That honest comfort is precisely why Aaron finds himself capable of pouring at all the emotion pent up inside him, similar to how he once did likewise with Gillian. And as frequently happens with him, when all his emotion is spent, his crying fades to little more than the occasional sniffle as his grip on Bella slackens and he drifts away, the not precisely peace of sleep wrapping its arms around him and carrying him away. It's something he rarely gets.

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