Unifying Principle


bella_icon.gif magnes_icon.gif

Scene Title Unifying Principle
Synopsis A bad apple and a white knight catch up.
Date December 1, 2010

Siann Hall - Magnes and Sable's Apartment

Wanting to figure out a few things before the auction tonight, Magnes called Bella over early in the afternoon. He lets her in, and she instantly gets a nice view of his apartment. Two bookshelves of graphic novels and thick college books. There isn't a phone visible, or anything wireless. There's a computer next to the entertainment center, not connected to the internet, and instead of a television, there's a large computer monitor.

He's in a Green Lantern shirt and a pair of blue jeans right now, pointing to her purse. "Could you remove the battery from your phone? It's a precaution so technopaths can't spy."

"He takes how long to call me?" Bella says, chiding but good natured, stepping into Magnes' apartment and drawing her phone from her purse, "and then he tells me to deactivate my phone? Maybe you want my exclusive attention you should ask for it more regularly." But she complies, snapping the battery free and depositing both pieces back in her purse.

The psychiatrist is wearing her winter gear - dark green peacoat and nice warm turtleneck, this one brown and very wooly. She's even sporting boots lined with faux fur, which protect some part of legs that otherwise rely on corduroy and (unstylish and invisible) long underwear. The coat is removed, offered to Magnes - the host - to take care of. "I respect your paranoia, though. It's not a delusion if it's called for."

Magnes takes her coat, then hangs it up near the door on… the air, walking to plop down on the couch. On the coffee table, he's made little mini pizzas, not disgusting microwaved ones, but fresh pepperoni and cheese with all sorts of little green spices litter them. "Sorry, I didn't know who else to call, you've always given me good advice. See, my girlfriend broke up with me, because, well, I've been flying around in a costume, and she says she can't handle my life, the stress that comes with worrying about me. Then this other girl wanted me right after the break up, but I kept saying it felt like cheating. Then, last night, I slept with Elaine again, the girl who just broke up with me. We decided to sleep together, on the condition that I wait one month before I date anyone else, and let her know before I sleep with anyone. She said that once I sleep with someone else, me and her have to stop."

See, this is something Bella can appreciate. No circumlocution. No making her coax it out of him. No fucking around. The slight puzzlement on Bella's features is not due to her being updated with so little prelude. She's down with that. It's just that… "That's rather elaborate," Bella admits, meaning the whole arrangement/agreement/whatever. But Magnes has never, in any of her experience, had a typical love life.

Come to think of it, no one she knows really does. But that's New York City for you.

Bella spies the pizzas and makes her way over to them at a rate that suggests she appreciates them, but that she's not just diving for them. It would be rude to ignore them, too. Plus they look delicious, and Bella has mostly just had latte to eat today. "So, how do you feel about all this?" She's not genuinely sure what position she's supposed to take. "What is the State of the Magnes?"

"Don't get me wrong, this breakup sex is amazing, it's just that I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm trying to use this as my second chance to prove that I can change, but the thing is, I'm not sure I can. Eventually, I don't know when, I'm going to have to save soemone else and put my life at risk." Magnes sighs, reaching for one of the mini pizzas. "And then she'll be gone for good. In a month, I don't know, maybe I should date someone else, but I'm not sure if that's even wise, I don't know what Elaine is thinking."

"I'd guess that she's holding out some hope for you, but she doesn't want to be so close as to be hurt," Bella suggests, "admitting that I don't know the particulars, and met Elaine just once. I can't say that I have clear reading of her character. I was, I admit, worried that you were biting off more than you could chew with your sexual arrangement. But I think that's more just me being a fuddy duddy," she gives a small shrug, much more informal than if she were operating in true therapist capacity. She leans forward and snags a pizza of her own. "How important is your white hat vigilante career to you? You make it sound like it's a calling. Or an addiction. If there's an appreciable difference."

"I can give up being a vigilante, it's everything else that I can't escape. People wanting me to save the world, or go on missions to rescue people. You know i helped stop a child prostitution ring?" Magnes asks before munching at his mini pizza, licking his lips. "Did I ever tell you that I met Elaine on the night that I propositioned you? I was still running on the high of trying to get into your pants, then suddenly I have this other redhead in my apartment, and well…"

"Please," Bella says, hand lifting in an abortive spread, interjecting very firmly, "these are not details I require." As the kids say, 'TMI'. "And so you feel obligated to do these things when called upon? I just want us to be clear about your priorities. Trust me, I don't think it's any sort of crime or defect to have a passion that isn't a person. Or a loyalty that's to something that's not also someone."

"Well yeah, I mean, how could I not feel obligated? If I don't go, people could die, or the world could end, or god knows what. If I avoided Operation Apollo, do you know what would have happened?" Magnes motions his arms, indicating the entire room. "Everyone would have died in Argentina, and then failed to stop the bomb at all, and the entire world would be flooded right now."

"I think that's a very ethical position, and I think if it's truly something you stand beside, stand for, then you should try to create a life where you can do that and still be happy," Bella says, matter of factly. Not like it's obvious, but definitely like it's common sense. She lets him consider her level headed (in her mind) advise, as she eats her pizza. Her bites are not quite dainty, but close.

"I think that maybe, in the end, the choice really is that I need someone more compatible with me." Magnes admits as his mini pizza is carefully slipped inbetween his lips. "But Elaine is who I love, which is what makes this difficult."

"I'm in no way doubting the sincerity of your statement," Bella says, brows lifting very slightly, but only up to the height curiosity, not skepticism, "but what do you mean when you say 'love'?"

"Well, I think…" Magnes has never quite thought this through before, but he answers very quickly. "I can't see myself with anyone else, the idea of being with another girl feels like cheating even now. Everything in my entire life becomes better when she's around…"

"That's quite a feeling," Bella allows, "and have you ever felt this way before about anyone else? Think about your greatest longings. Try and recall how they made you feel, and how they make you feel now."

"There's Claire, I think I'll always love her. The love is strong, but it's different. I don't know if it's different because we never quite had sex, or if it's because she's a different girl. Elaine is the first girlfriend I've ever slept with." Magnes looks to her lap, then to her eyes, cheeks going red a moment. "Uh, mind if I, like…" He leans over, a gesture that suggests he's going to lay his head in her lap. "And there's Abby, god, Abby. I've only ever kissed her, never had a relationship, and I've wanted her, like, there's this fire in my stomach with her name on it. I learned she married some criminal, married, I mean, how could Abby marry that guy? And that means, she's like… god I don't even want to think about it."

Now Bella's brows lift all the way. Seems like Magnes has a rather descriptive passage ready for each of these women. "People make their choices," she says, with the mildest of shrugs, "we can advise and then we have to accept what they choose, and what that means for them. But it sounds like, if you don't mind me saying, that you have strong feelings for a number of women. That, even if these feelings are different, they all carry this label 'love'. So… what can we even say about a thing that seems to be so strikingly different in each case? Is it fair to say we know what it is that word even means?"

"Love is an abstract social construct, subject to interpretation in the way that a vague religious text may be." Magnes starts whipping out the big words, knowing that Bella can more than handle them. "My interpretation of love is that it's different for every person, and can be different levels. I don't believe it's possible to fall out of romantic love unless they've truly done something to warrant it, and even then, who knows. Take you for example, I don't love you romantically, but I'm not afraid to say that I've always had a crush because you're so intelligent. But then there's another side of me that loves you as a friend, but even at the friendship level, it's not the same love that I have for my other friends, I love you for entirely unique reasons."

Bella nods her assent. "All right. I can accept that interpretation. I just have one question about it. What single unifying principle or shared quality makes all these described varieties of feelings 'love'? If you're proposing a system of classification it can't be simply arbitrary." A pause. "And thank you, Magnes. I love you as well, albeit according to my own specifications."

"Unifying principle? Someone I'll give my life for, who I'd walk through hell to rescue, even if someone perfectly capable was already on the job. A person I'd trust with my life not to hurt or betray me, who I always want to see smile…" Magnes lays out his unifying principles, counting each on his fingers. "I think these are all the things people I love have in common."

"This unconditional orientation," Bella says, nodding, setting a ring of minipizza crust down on the platter, "you feel it for a number of people. But it doesn't always match with romance. It might have some undercurrent of desire, but that's normal. Emotions are less clear than people like to pretend. However, you can imagine feeling it for someone new, someone who might be romantically compatible? Because you claimed otherwise. You said you couldn't imagine being with anyone else. But you seem, actually, to be able to imagine yourself with other women, for whom you also feel love, if of a different quality."

"I don't know, maybe it's because Elaine feels fresh… it's like a freshly open wound." Magnes crosses his legs on the couch, not really eating anymore. "Do you think I should stop sleeping with her? I mean, can I really move on if I keep doing this?"

"I can't tell you what to do, not with cerrtainty," Bella says, eyes leveled on Magnes, "but I can tell you that you should consider abstaining, yes, if you feel like it might help. Some relationships need time to mend. But some break and that's just it. If it's stronger than distance, then you'll find each other again through simple mutual attraction. But if you try and force it, or handle it roughly, and you're much more likely to ruin even what you have."

"I'll talk to her tonight. It's weird, after we had sex, the breakup somehow feels easier, if that makes any sense…" Magnes reaches for another mini pizza now. "I think I can be her friend now. And, Bella, you're very helpful."

"I try," Bella says, finally smiling and going after her own pizza, "and I hope it works out, Magnes. You have trouble enough as it is, with the world needing what I take to be regular saving. And it's true, who else will? I'm certainly not cut out for that sort of thing."

"There's something else, Bella." Magnes adds as he gently nibbles his pizza. "I met my father, if you watch the Advocate I'm sure you saw. He said I was a disappointment, and that he raised me better than to be where I am now. And, there's another thing, he's apparnetly in some high position with a place called the Institute."

Blink. Blink. This is news to Bella. Magnes' dad… one of her bosses? This is something she might have noticed if she paid more attention to the goings-on and less to how to avoid doing anything remotely like non-therapeutic work. She is, honestly, about two steps away from Office Space irreverence.

"The Commonwealth Institute's upper echelons," Bella states, crisply, once she's regained herself (it doesn't take long), "are filled to the brim with hateful people and black hearts. I'm sorry your father is involved with them. And I don't think you should worry about what he thinks is disappointing. You are a good man, Magnes, one of the finer people I know. More forgiving and more generous spirited than most of the people I've met. If that disappoints him…"

Bella shrugs. "Fuck him."

"I asked how he could be involved with a place like the Institute, and he just says I don't understand what I'm talking about, or what they're doing. I say they hired a monster with four brains who tortured my ex, and…" Magnes closes his eyes for a moment, raising a finger and a thumb to hold the bridge of his nose. "He just says I can't judge them all based on one bad apple."

Well, if not Magnes, then who? "In strict confidence," Bella states, reaching into her purse and extracting a laminated badge. Lifting it to eye level, she gives proof of her employment by the DoEA. "I know there is a ripe crop of rotted fruit in that hellish organization. I'm one of the fresher bits of produce, in fact. And I understand my own dubious quality."

"They recruited you?" Magnes sounds a bit surprised, but he doesn't seem angered for whatever reason, apparently keeping an open mind. "I guess that explains why you're not being hunted like the other people from the Company. But what I don't understand is, well, what could they possibly want with a therapist?" He reaches over, placing a hand on top of her's. "I really, really dislike the Institute for taking Gregor and letting him do what he did, and hurting so many of my friends, but if there's anyone who could be considered 'Most compatible on the planet with Magnes', it'd be you. I'm willing to listen to any explanation you give me."

"I was recruited some time ago, actually," Bella says, sliding her badge back into her bag, "when I was still also part of the Company. It's a long, complicated series of events in which I was pretty much powerless over my circumstances," or so she's since revised, "and there is no explanation for my involvement, really, beyond that," which one guesses might be sort of an admission of guilt, kinda, "I've done my best to do as little harm as possible. I, at least, try and do as little as possible, which amounts to the same thing."

Magnes squeezes her hand in a comforting manner, nodding. "I understand. If you ever need help, you tell me, alright? I won't let you stay trapped in something that you don't want to be in. I enrolled in Columbia like my father told me to, since I kind of think it's a good idea. I can talk to my father, tell him you're my friend. He's an asshole, but he's still my father."

"Oh," Bella says, hand turning to squeeze Magnes' in turn, though her expression is marked with a certain tension, "I'd really rather not have our association be widely known. Not- not for myself," okay, maybe a little - some people Magnes knows, or people that know people that Magnes knows, might well want her dead or imprisoned or one and then the other, with pain and misery stretched between, "but if things go south for me, well, I'd rather you be able to help me without being and instant suspect."

"Whatever you need, Bella. Even if you run out of all your friends, I'll always be there." Magnes stands up now, still holding her hand in case she wants the help. "You should probably be getting home, my roommate might be here soon. She knows I, uh, well two out of three women I've slept with are redheads, so I don't want her to get the wrong impression."

The hand is offered and taken. Bella doesn't consider it meaningful to refuse help - there are not gendered grounds enough, at least from the sense she gets. On her feet she regards Magnes with a coolness that is still essentially friendly. "I think your roommate would be drawing rather bold and unsubstantiated conclusions if she were to infer what you think she would infer," she states, "but I'll make myself scarce, if you'd prefer to keep me a secret."

"For my former therapist, I don't think you know me very well sometimes." Magnes snickers, opening the door for her, a friendly smile forming on his lips. "You can come here whenever you want, even if you need to hide or anything like that."

"I shall consider it amongst my first choice of holes to slither into," Bella remarks, a touch of smirk in her own smile, but only for a moment. "You take care of yourself Magnes. Don't go risking yourself over too many broken heels."

"I have no idea what you mean." Magnes says almost playfully, leaning in to peck her cheek before he's closing the door, sighing. That's a load off his mind. Yay therapy!

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