What Do You Think of Me Now?


magnes_icon.gif bella_icon.gif

Scene Title What Do You Think of Me Now?
Synopsis Magnes and Bella see each other for the first time since her kidnapping. There is a reunion, some take out, and then the revelation of secrets.
Date October 23, 2009

Bella's Studio Office, Later Bella's Apartment

        Having left his place as soon as he got word from the NYPD that Bella returned, he rushed out, flew to her place, and by the time he got to her floor in the building, he's flying again until he gets to her door. The door is rushed open, not considering that she might not be decent or with a patient, he just wants to see her. "Bella!" he exclaims, wearing a dark blue t-shirt with a neon blue Superman symbol on it, a black denim jacket, black jeans, and black sneakers, floating there.

        Bella seems to be sorting through some last, needly organizational details when Magnes arrives. She's arranging her New Yorkers by date, something she'd never bother to do normally, but she is trying to remark her space after its all-to-recent intrusion by forces of violence and abduction. She's dressed very neatly, in a slate grey suit, hair up in a bun, a strange and grim looking metal walking stick resting against her chair. All in all, it's a little unsettling, at least until she looks up at Magnes. Then a very familiar sight appears, Bella's warm smile.
        "Magnes," she says, leaving the magazines alone and getting to her feet, taking up the walking stick and moving across the room towards the floating young man, "It's wonderful to see you." And she means it.

        "I filed a police report and even talked to a Homeland agent to find you!" Magnes closes the door behind him and rushes over to wrap his arms around her waist, though is careful not to hit her leg. "What happened to you? Who did this? If they haven't been captured, I promise…"

        The hug takes Bella by surprise, and her arms initially stick out to either side of her before her free arm, the one whose hand is not gripping the cane, slips around Magnes and gives him a strong squeeze, her chin touching against his shoulder. "Thank you. I wish I had known then, it would have lifted my spirits to know you were thinking of me. But I'm fine now, it's fine, everything's okay. You can't dwell on it, it's being taken care of."

        "As long as you're alright. Until you went missing, I never realized how much you mattered to me as a friend. And so much has happened to my friends, people who know me. And Abby's first therapist was killed I think, so I thought the worst…" Magnes frowns down at her, pulling one arm back, but keeping his other hand around her waist. "What happened to your leg? Does it hurt?"

        Bella's smile is maybe just a little awkward. She's sort of unused to being the recipient of emotional support. It throws her usual dynamic cleanly off. But it's not unpleasant, this discombobulation. She carefully lets the walking stick fall to the side, where it lands in the embrace of the chair, sliding a bit on the floor but then settling at an angle. To support herself, instead, she sets her hand on Magnes' forearm, placing herself in his power. It's a subtle gesture, but meaningful.

        "No offense to other therapists," Bella says, with a smile, "But I'm made of tougher stuff. My leg is fine. It'll take some time to mend, and sure it hurts, but I've been knocking back ibuprophen in a serious way."

        "Good, then, I'm glad you're fine." It might be notable that while most people might by now, Magnes has yet to ask what happened to her. Though he should know from experience not to ask someone to re-live memories of whatever they've gone through. "I thought about you a lot though, and I thought about things that I know I can't tell you, that I wish I could tell you, but then you'd be in a position as a therapist to tell someone. I don't know, I mean, I wouldn't feel like this with most friends, but I like to think you're a bit beyond an average friend, and not being able to tell you some things makes me feel like a bit of a failure there. But, I think I'd have felt even worse if you died not knowing everything about me…"

        Bella's brows knit, and her head tilts just slightly. "Certainly I understand that as both your friend and your therapist, there's a certain… concern about crossing boundaries. Generally it's best to keep things entirely professional. But I'd feel very blue if I felt, both as your friend and your therapist, you couldn't tell me everything that's on your mind, particularly as it pertains to us. We need to be able to keep our emotional connection clear and clean."

        Magnes, in a bout of possibly misinterpreting, goes a bit red in the face as his tone suddenly gets awkward and nervous. "I, uh, I wasn't saying like, I'm not confessing something to you! I meant like, well, let's start small. I've been wearing a mask to do things that I'm sure the police wouldn't begin to allow me to do. I wanna tell you more, but, is there some way I can have your word that you won't just… rat me out? I'm afraid because I don't knwo what I'd do if I couldn't see you again."

        he blush causes Bella to grin just a little, "I'm sorry. I was unspecific. I'm really just talking generally," she pauses, "And that generality would include something like that. And I can promise you, yes, that you can tell me whatever you'd like and I will not report it to anyone." God, she hopes she can keep that promise, "I just think it would be smart to make it very clear that when you do tell me something sensitive like that, it's as my friend and not as my client."

        The blush causes Bella to grin just a little, "I'm sorry. I was unspecific. I'm really just talking generally," she pauses, "And that generality would include something like that. And I can promise you, yes, that you can tell me whatever you'd like and I will not report it to anyone." God, she hopes she can keep that promise, "I just think it would be smart to make it very clear that when you do tell me something sensitive like that, it's as my friend and not as my client."

        "Well, I don't have an appointment today, so we're just friends right now. I don't think we've ever had a discussion in front of the TV, come on." Magnes leaves her where she is, but she'll find a lack of gravity and very little reason to put weight on her leg. He releases her to go and grab the stick, and her purse. "Let's grab take out, I'll pay, then let's go to your real place, watch TV, and talk. That work for you?" he suggests, smiling and holding her stuff out to her.

        Again, Bella feels taken by surprise. She's never had anyone over to her apartment. Ever. She blinks. "I… okay…" she says, not having to think too much about it, though almost a little perplexed at how little she does think about it. The imbalance she felt at being supported returns, this feeling that tables are turning, that the ground is… well… to some extent, with gravity altered, it is falling a bit out from under her feet. It feels like it's close, at least. She reaches out to take her purse, but she hesitates with the stick. "You know… could I lean on you instead?" she says, "I'd rather leave that thing here, for now."

        "Sure, though I'm not responsible if Claire spots us and pulls out her shotgun." Manges half-jokes, though with how frequently he jokes about Claire having a shotgun, one might get the impression that that part isn't the joke. He places her stick against the couch again, then walks around to the side of her good leg, offering his arm. "I'll lower your gravity a bit while we walk, so it'll be less weight on your leg. Alright?"

        "I'm sure Claire knows she is your whole world," Bella says, and the comment hangs between earnesty and irony. She slips her purse over her shoulder and takes his arm, steadying herself, getting used to the altered gravity. "You must tell me how things are going. Well, I presume? But later, when we've both got food."

        So the first order of business is getting food. After some discussion, Bella insists on getting Thai. A good pad thai, she insists, is just what she needs. Laden with paper take out boxes, they arrive at Bella's actual apartment, up on the fifth floor of her building. The elevator pulls them up, and it's just a bit down the hallway. She gets out her keys and unlocks the door, opening it for Magnes, and ushering him in, though of course she needs his help to enter as well. "Welcome to my little hole in the wall."

        "Man, I really am earning my investigative degree. I assumed you didn't live in your office 'cause there wasn't a television, but judging from what I know about you, I imagine that not having a television might drive you insane." Magnes closes and locks the door after helping her in, holding the bags of food in his other hand. "So, I guess to break the conversational ice. I uh, got to third base."

        Bella's brows lift high, way high, and her smile is lopsided. "Third base?" she echoes, "I feel so out of touch, but… what does that mean again?" she lifts an abortive finger, "You don't have to detail. Just… did you end up using any of the information I gave you? Yes or no?"

        "Yeah, I used the information. And uh, without going into detail, I didn't go all the way, but I know what a naked girl looks like." Magnes' cheeks are completely flushed, but it's far easier to say those things to Bella than most of his friends. He moves over to the couch, continuing to guide her with his bashful smile still on his face, then sits the food on the coffee table and helps her down on the couch.

        Her apartment is very neat and tidy. This is not because Bella herself is exceptionally tidy, it's just that she doesn't spend all that much time her. The house is, in fact, decorated like a nice IKEA catalogue, furniture that's nice to look at but not too expensive, tastefully arranged, but without much real personality. Her TV is quality, but not huge, not ostentatious. It's all very nice, and all very derivative. There's little in the way of personality here, in the outlining of her things, small bamboo plant by the window, the classic photographs of pastoral ruins framed on the walls.

        Bella settles on the couch, and nods to the remote control, which rests on the glass-top coffee table. "Congratulations, Magnes," she says, "And congratulations Claire. I'm sure you'll be asked for a encore."

        "The only reason we didn't, uh, go all the way, is 'cause it was so late. We were just kind've way too tired for anything else or to even keep doing what we were." Magnes sits down and starts taking the food out, laying the containers on the table after turning the TV on. "Now I feel like, I don't know, I'm seeing the world differently. When I look at a woman, well, now I kind've know what undressing with your eyes means…" He makes no move to look anywhere in her direction when he says that, but given the bashful look on the side of his face, it's clear he's thinking something.

        Bella points towards an open doorway, one that clearly leads to a small kitchen area. "Plates and utensil are in there," she says, "Plates in the upper cabinets, utensils in the drawer just left of the sink. If you could grab some?" taking care of business. She sets a hand on her thigh, pressing her muscle with her fingers and giving it a minor massage. "Well, now there is a real, unexplored territory under every blouse and skirt. It changes one's perspective. Enjoy that intensity and novelty, Magnes. Young love has an expiration date. It evolves into something else, something just as good, maybe even better, but you do want to really experience what you've got now."

        Magnes spends a few minutes in the kitchen, rewashing a few things that may be a bit dusty, then walks out and places a plate in front of her, and sits as he places one in front of him. When he sets the utensils, even ones they may not need, he knows where everything goes, he had a strict upbringing and needs to impress! "It's weird, I mean, not weird weird, y'know? But the idea that girls aren't Barbies under their clothes, it's so… I don't know what it is. Sure makes it hard to look at my hot therapist. But I don't plan for me and Claire to be ending any time soon, I hope that whatever we change into is something together."

        Bella dips her head at the compliment, performing her usual appreciative deferral. "Well, when things start to change, however they do, please bring it up with me if you feel you want advice. Love is tricky business, but there are some pretty established patterns, notable forks in the road. I'd like to help you choose the right path, when the time comes." She examines the setup of knives and forks, "This looks… thought out. When is it you learned etiquette?" She doesn't sound incredulous; at most she's pleasantly surprised and curious. She opens the boxes and starts to draw noodles onto her plate.

        "I don't really remember most of the hardcore etiquette stuff, my parents weren't too strict about enforcing the classes, but setting the table always had to be done properly, and we always had to use the right kind of forks. I did tell you my parents were very strict about things." Magnes reminds, though some people exaggerate, he meant it. He starts to carefully serve the noodles on to his plate, looking over at her occasionally to see if she needs help. "I don't know about changes, I mean, I think we're happy. Man, if we're not happy, then the other night would be in a very weird context. But uh, you wanna talk about that stuff, you know, the stuff I want secret? I'm warning you, it might, uh, change how you see me, and there's illegal stuff…"

        Bella gives Magnes a level, frank look. "While I'd not want to be seen as anything less than law abiding…" she begins, in a classic caveat, "I have no illusions about the sort of sausage making grisliness involved in legislation, so don't peg me as some sort of legal idealist. If something you tell me bothers me, I'll do what a friend ought to do and tell you how and why, without leaping to conclusions or making judgements. So, don't be afraid. Don't hold back."

"Alright, well, I told you that I've been out, doing things in a mask. One thing I've been helping with is Shard's mission to save Staten. I've been doing my own investigation into Refrain, and I've been investigating Humanis First whenever possible. The thing is, I've hurt people, I may have killed two, I don't know if I killed the first, not sure if I want to know, but… do you wanna know about this?" Magnes asks, treading lightly on the subject, trying not to upset her in the process. He's looking into her eyes quite seriously, giving her an out.

Refrain? This is information Bella would be very interested in hearing, but she can hardly pursue a line of questioning that is too obvious. Magnes seems to be getting deeply involved in the darker corners of the city, but he's a young man with exceptional gifts who wears heroic t-shirts and is uninterested in cynical ironies, so what else can he do? Bella simply nods, looking sympathetic, listening closely. "Of course, Magnes," she assures, "The very fact that you feel you must keep it secret means you should speak about it. Tell me everything. Every fear and doubt, and every accomplishment."

"Alright, with the exception of things that would get other people in trouble, I'll tell you everything." Magnes decides, though his demeanor suggests that there likely isn't much that would be missing from what he's telling her. "First, I guess I'll start with the big thing. A few days ago, I killed a man. I was in my mask, we were supposed to help with Shard's shipments so we could pass out medication to people on Staten, but these Evolved people started trying to take our stuff, and were endangering people. One man touched me and stole my ability, then started flying to one of the boats, so I chased him through the air, pulled my gun out, and when he landed, I shot him in the head. I was so afraid of someone using my ability to hurt people, I was afraid of it being my fault that people died, so I killed him…" The regret in his voice in deep, and he can't even look her in the eye after his confession.

Bella reaches out to place a hand very lightly on Magnes' shoulder. "It upset you in particular, the idea that he would use your own ability, the one you use to help people, to harm people," it's mostly a statement, though there's room in her tone for contradiction should he want to interject, "If he hadn't taken your power, do you think you would have done the same thing?"

"I don't think I would have, but I know what I'm capable of, I didn't know how else to stop him. But sometimes I think, what if he didn't steal my ability? What if he just had the same one? I'm always gonna ask myself things like that…" Magnes hunches slightly, resting his elbows over his knees, her touch on his shoulder more than welcome. "What do you think of me now?"

Her hand gives him a small squeeze. "That you're very wise to think about it, to consider the consequences of your actions, and to share them with someone you trust," Bella says, softly, "That you are stepping further into a frightening world, but you're doing so with open eyes and an ear to your conscience. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently? Or, better than that, how will you handle the next situation that puts you in that position?"

"Knowing what I know now, I certainly wouldn't have gone for a kill shot, he didn't even seem to have a gun, I could have taken him down. We were over the water, my fear was getting people hurt, I could have fought him. In the future, above all else, I have to learn to think and weigh my options faster." Magnes explains, sitting up again to turn and look at her, smiling at her understanding demeanor. "It's a lesson I've slowly been learning, especially after shooting Flint Deckard in the arm. It wasn't his fault, I was masked, he didn't know who I was, and that was my intention. I pulled my gun thinking I could interrogate him, but he kind of freaked out and pulled his gun first, so I shot him. That whole situation turned into a huge mess. But I'm learning, the lesson finally sunk in after I killed that guy…"

Well, if and when she next sees Flint Deckard, she'll have a certain insight into the kind of trouble he's been getting into lately. Then again, that's a big if seeing as he was referred to her by the man who shot /her/ in the leg. Lead seems to be shuttling around pretty quickly in the increasingly small world of the NYC Evolved. "Well, I don't know much about comics, but is there a series about Batman learning the ropes? His early years?" she smiles back, looking slightly bashful, "I saw 'Batman Begins', of course, but movies make learning that sort of thing seem relatively easy. You won't get it right every time. You have to acknowledge your mistakes, accept responsibility, and then move ahead." Even in matters of killing? Bella's somewhat odd moral standards emerge momentarily from their usual shrouded murkiness here, but it's in the name of comfort and encouragement.

"Batman Begins was inspired by a few different comics, so, yeah. Every hero has to learn the ropes, every hero has their ethics and beliefs tested. Batman and many other heroes refuse to kill, and Batman himself has the added belief of never using a gun. I've always thought of myself as more closely related to Cable, a lot of my plans have been inspired by him too. Cable is a time traveller, he does what he needs to do, in his time he's the modern Captain America, even has his shield for most of his life, but even if he'll kill or do whatever, he still has his ethics, he fights for peace, he's a nice guy, and he always plans and thinks ahead, about the long term outcome of his actions." Magnes explains, in detail, trying to get her to understand a bit more about who he is, or at least who he's trying to be. "I feel like I'm being tested, and my test is to learn from my mistakes and be better at what I do."

Bella treats the exposition on Cable's techniques and ethics as explicative of Magnes' own aspirations, which is precisely what it is. She nods her understanding as she tries to parse the relevant details from the things that mystify her, all that stuff about a shield or something or other; she gets the sense that it's less the objects and more their relation that matter. Still, she is a little tentative as she offers: "You're accepting that this is a work in progress… but it is what you want to do, what you want to be?"

"What I want to be is someone who makes the world a better place for everyone else. I don't have any delusions of being a superhero, if it were up to me I wouldn't even be in the news. What I want to do is help, in any way that I can." Magnes opens his jacket, pulling out printed scans of some sort of journal as he hands her the papers. Each paper has a heading: Mysterious Organization, The Triad, The Governments, the Symbol, The Company, Refrain, Norman White, Emile Danko, Operation Hero Worship, and Cop Stuff.

The pages have of course been edited, all names were blocked out before the prints were made, except Adam Monroe, John Logan, Flint Deckard, Norman White, Emile Danko, and Dean Parker. "These are prints from my journal, I thought I'd share them with you…"

Bella takes the papers, her brows knitting in an emotion that she'd like to have interpreted as concentration and consideration. In truth, it's the expression of quick thinking and considerable concern. 'The Company'. It was at Magnes' own pre-wipe request that she remain in his life, but already she finds herself wondering what her function really is. To what extent is she doing this for him, and to what extent is she keeping an eye on him for her superiors? What precisely does she need to report? The whole Teo Laudini debacle was bad enough…
"This is…" the word doesn't come. She looks up at Magnes, gives him a smile that can't hide her concern, "I've got to admit, I've got this awful motherly worry about you getting in over your head, Magnes. Everything I do understand frightens me, and what I don't understand frightens me more."

"Well, you can ignore the stuff about the Chinese government, I'm not really worried about it anymore, I was just afraid, I was thinking of drastic measures. But, believe it or not, and don't freak out, I know Gabriel Grey. I can't say we're friends exactly, I promised someone I wouldn't see him anymore, but before that promise, my last conversation with him, he completely figured me out." Magnes moves a hand to her shoulder now, trying to comfort her when he realizes how uneasy she seems. "Talking to Gabriel was almost like talking to a therapist, as ironic as it is, considering he's a former serial killer. But he knew issues I didn't even know I had. I didn't trust the world to fix itself, I felt like I had to control everything, while other people usually know that everything will be alright in the end. He… really helped me, and I abandoned those plans."

Bella's hardly one to judge someone for consorting with potential psychopaths. Still, her face looks a bit drawn, and it takes her a moment to regain her composure. Gabriel Grey is not a name that gets thrown around. It's gravity is such that even Magnes cannot make it entirely weightless, at least not in Bella's mind. "Well, just as long as I'm not being replaced," she jokes, a bit weakly, "I'll admit that he has a point. Please don't take too much on, Magnes. Keep your wits about you. I… I do think you should be following your path. I know you wouldn't be happy doing anything less. But these are still your early days, alright? Don't accidentally martyr yourself." She tries to smile bravely, corners of her eyes crinkling, "Don't do anything that will compromise Operation Hero Worship."

"I won't, I realized that I can't sacrifice people, I can't make people go against their ethics either. I can't lose myself in this, I have to be me. I've begun to ask myself 'If I do this, will Claire be able to look at me?', and if the answer is no, I don't do it." Magnes says with a light smile, removing his hand from her shoulder to reach for his plate, placing it on to his lap. "I was gonna try to get an organization together, a detective organization. I wanted to build resources, investigate things, and once I had enough evidence, I wanted to turn it all over to the police, or whoever it might be best to handle it. Not sure how that's going these days though, because lately I've been wanting to join FRONTLINE, I just don't know how."

"Could you tell me a little about FRONTLINE?" Bella inquires, head tilting. As Magnes returns to his food, she also reaches to resume eating. She picks at the pad thai, her appetite temporarily suppressed.

"I don't know much more than the general public knows. They're a special team of Evolved formed by the government. They do good things from what I've seen. I got inspired to join when they arrived at Chinatown just in time. They're kind of like the Avengers." Magnes explains, apparently not having any insider information, but clearly looks up to them already.

Bella purses her lips. "I'd be careful, Magnes. The government has a way of taking the best of intentions and turning them into something else," she says, "Of course, I'm sure you'd rather not have to worry about the legal ramifications of doing what you do… but," she shakes he head, "I'm sorry. I suppose I'm just a little leery of the Man."

"Bella, you know I'd never let anyone twist my ethics. If I were ever ordered to do something like shoot a kid or something that obviously hurts the innocent, I'd say no, no matter what the consequences are." Magnes takes a fork full of his food, then sits back on the couch, sighing in relief. "It feels nice, not having to keep things from you, being able to trust someone other than Claire with my secrets."

Bella seems assuaged, at least somewhat, and takes a few bites of her food. "Please, do keep me informed. Both in and out of therapy. If not for you, then for me. I want to know how you are, that you're okay," a pause, she realizes how this must sound, "I'm sorry, by the way, for just disappearing. This city is getting more and more dangerous by the year. Hopefully you can help turn that tide."

"Are you sure you don't want me to help, with capturing the people responsible for taking you?" Magnes asks, his focus easily diverted from himself and on to her well-being. "But don't worry about that stuff, as long as you're alright. But remember, if something ever happens to you, just try to contact me somehow. Even if it's just a jumbled text message before they take the phone away."

"No, Magnes. I appreciate it, but it's taken care of. I really, /really/ don't want you getting involved," Bella says, emphatically. And it's really to keep Magnes from crossing paths with the Company. Should that happen, things might get difficult. For him and for her. "And rest assured, if, God forbid, anything were to happen to me again, I will do everything I can. I intend to be much more aware in the future. Though I don't intend to let my experience get in the way of my normal functioning."

"I hope not, Bella. But I think we've talked enough about the heavy stuff, let's just watch movies and do the friend thing for a while, alright?" Magnes offers, moving a bit closer so he can really dig into his food and relax. "Tell me about what grade school was like for you, I've never been."

Bella looks relieved to be shifting to lighter matters. For all her usual emotional endurance, or what is really just emotional distance management, the reality of her own recent situation, compounded with Magnes' efforts and perils, has tired her in a way she didn't expect and isn't used to. "Well, my parents insisted on my going to public school, so that I'd have a skin thicker enough to avoid pea-related sleeping problems," she says, "But, appropriately, it was my fond ambition to become a Queen one day. My rule, as I informed my classmates, would be benevolent…"

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