Will You Fight?


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Scene Title Will You Fight?
Synopsis Dr. Everleigh Madison stands at the edge of the rabbit hole.
Date September 8, 2019


It’s a lot harder to create an environment conducive to comfort and healing in a location not entirely built to facilitate that. Everleigh’s regular office was carefully curated with bright colors and quirky touches to catch people off-guard. The ordinary was not what she focused on, so why would her office be any different? What Dr. Madison has created in this particular room certainly fits that bill.

The room is absent a desk. Instead, there’s a side table next to a comfortable chair for any paperwork that needs doing. Across from the chair is another pair of chairs, each with a plush throw pillow. A couple of spare throw pillows are down near the floor nearby. However, the rest of the room is mostly covered in swaths of fabric—just dark enough in color that the light in the room comes through as hazy instead of bright and clinical. It gives the whole thing a tentlike feel, almost a borderline blanket fort.

It’s here that Dr. Madison sits, legs crossed, leaning heavier on one arm of the chair, scribbling some notes in a black hardcover notebook.

There’s a quiet knock on the door before it swings open without waiting for an answer. The patient is expected, after all. The knock is just a polite announcement, in case Dr. Madison couldn’t hear the soft soles of Odessa Price’s shoes in the hallway that leads to her new office space.

A guard stands on the other side of the door, nodding to Everleigh as he hands off his responsibility to her. He won’t be far, but he won’t be hovering around the edges of their session either. This is their time and it’s confidential.

The notes left behind by the previous doctors to assess Miss Price say that she’s reticent, and that shows in the timid way that the petite blonde makes her way into the space. Her eyes, wide and blue, look around the space and its decorations with uncertainty at first. Ultimately, however, she seems to approve. Something in her posture shifts, signaling that the decor is having the desired effect and making her feel a bit more comfortable.

“Hello,” Odessa greets in mild voice and tone. Fingers trace along the back of the chair, dragging slowly over the upholstery as she comes around the front and lowers herself to sit. Given to whimsy, her file had noted. Her hands fold primly in her lap. “Doctor Madison, right?” Her smile is polite, if tinged with a hint of something that might be sadness. “You’re the fourth therapist I’ve had since April. They don’t last very long around here. If you want to give up on me too, I won’t be offended.”

Her chin dips, staring down at her clasped hands for a moment before lifting just her gaze to look at Everleigh from beneath a veil of mascara-laden lashes. “Just thought I’d put that out there right away.”

“That’s a fair warning, but an unneeded one.”

Everleigh Madison leans forward in her chair, offering a genuine looking smile in Odessa’s direction. “It’s unneeded because that’s the wrong approach. If they’re so easily willing to just pass you off, they didn’t deserve you.” Her hands lace and fold neatly in her lap. “So I will make you a deal. If you don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on you.”

The hands fly apart and she gestures around her. “As you can see, I’m not particularly fond of the rather spartan office that was here before. That’s not just a matter of preference—something clinical like that doesn’t help anyone. I’m not here to fix you, I’m here to treat you as a person. I’m here to let you be a person, even if this is the only space for you right now to get to be who you want. That’s what you get in here. I’d like to just put that out there for you.”

Her hands flutter back to her lap. “And I think, in your particular case, calling me Everleigh is fine. I want you to feel that we can trust each other. May I call you Odessa?”

Odessa’s head tips to one side as if considering her new therapist’s proposal. This notion that she’s the deserving one. There’s a flicker in her eyes of something a little too calculating to allow her to fully portray her innocence. It’s gone as quickly as it’s noticed, softening again to convey that uncertainty.

“Of course,” she acquiesces. “You can call me whatever you like.” As if to say that Everleigh holds the power in this situation, without being quite so blunt about it as that. “I think I’d prefer to call you Doctor Madison for now, if that’s okay with you.” It was a good while before she came around to referring to Director Waite as anything other than his title. That smile returns, with its same lack of mirth. “No one really calls me Doctor Price anymore,” she offers as an aside.

“Do you like being called Doctor Price?” Everleigh seems genuinely curious. “Or does that feel like a relic from your time before?”

She leans back slightly to let her back rest against her chair, her gaze fully on the other person in front of her. A patient, but more importantly a person. A very complicated, interesting person. “I want you to understand that this is for you. There are legal requirements, of course, I know you aren’t here because you want to be…but I am. I am not here to meet some minimum effort. My job is to help you understand yourself and your actions better, and from there maybe even understand the world around you in a new way. I don’t expect anything from you other than that you be honest.”

Now the blonde’s head tips to the other side as she thinks about that question. “Well, I don’t technically have any sort of degree that’s legal,” she reasons, gaze sweeping toward the ceiling as she leans back in her chair. Slowly, she’s becoming more comfortable. “So I suppose asking people to call me Doctor isn’t exactly appropriate.” She smiles thinly, reestablishes eye contact. “Odessa is fine.”

Unfolding her hands, she stretches out to settle her arms on the rests of the chair. So far, she feels calm and unharried. Odessa watches Everleigh for a long moment, reaching out toward the other woman in intangible ways that she doesn’t fully understand yet, trying to discern what the doctor is really feeling. These sessions have always been good practice in the past, even if she’s never enjoyed the result of her efforts.

“Tell me something, Doctor Madison. You volunteered for this assignment? You didn’t just draw the short straw at your practice and get sent here because nobody else wanted it?” Her patient’s brows lift, entreating and mischievous all at once. “You can tell me. I won’t tell a soul.”

“Then we shall simply have to go with Odessa then,” Everleigh smirks. “I like everyone to be called what makes them comfortable, but there are limits. I wouldn’t, after all, seem very professional if I called you Princess Fluffybutt. And, while Doctor Price seems perfectly reasonable to me, you yourself said it would be a touch off to the rest of the world.”

Doctor Madison shifts slightly in her chair, the smirk still staying as a wide grin at the ‘secret’. “Well, since I did say the rule was honesty… I absolutely volunteered for this. This right here is why I went to medical school. You’re a complicated woman, Odessa, but I don’t think that you being here means you deserve any less than anyone out there. I legitimately want to help you.”

The corners of Odessa’s mouth turn down and her eyes lid for a brief moment as she dips her chin, impressed that this woman across from her actually jumped at the chance to come counsel the crazies. “Listen, I didn’t spend my entire childhood and adolescence in captivity in a secret underground facility learning anatomy, medicine, and genetics just to be called Miss.

That’s a joke. See? We’re friends now.

“Alright, Doctor. You’re going to save the world, one psychotic criminal at a time.” In spite of her dubiousness or maybe disdain for Everleigh’s apparent optimism, there’s no bite or scorn to Odessa’s words. “I can respect that.” A strand of hair is swept behind one ear as her gaze slides away from the other woman’s face and to the tapestry draped on the wall behind her. “I thought I could save the world once, too.”

“I don’t have lofty goals of saving the world,” the Doctor chuckles, looking entirely amused at that prospect, “I only want to help those I can. And, I might add, I don’t save anyone.” Everleigh looks quite serious now as she speaks, in spite of the amusement. “I just show people how to save themselves. I’m not doing any of the real work here, unfortunately that’s your burden to bear.”

The serious expression fades and Everleigh turns back to her former expression of calm amusement. “So tell me, Odessa, how did you think you were going to save the world?”

“Everyone should want to save the world, shouldn’t they?” Odessa counters, brows lifted in quiet challenge. Ultimately, the question is rhetorical, however. They aren’t here to question Everleigh’s views of the world. This is about her. And Odessa is both her own favorite and most hated topic of discussion.

Settling back into her seat, Odessa tips her head back and lets her eyes roam the expanse of the ceiling. “When I was young, I was told the world was dangerous - especially for people like me. It needed saving. I always thought they — The Company — were protecting me from the rest of the world. I think sometimes, now, that they were actually protecting the rest of the world from me.” She doesn’t entirely comprehend what’s real and what isn’t anymore. What was her life and what was some sort of fabrication layered over true memory to block out something unspeakable.

“But they told me that if I learned what they wanted me to learn, if I could become a good doctor, that I could help them save the world. And if I could make the world safe, then I could be a part of it. That’s all I ever really wanted,” she laments. It’s one of the most honest things she’s admitted so far.

“The world seems to do that a lot, doesn’t it? Sometimes even literally it tells you how to behave, how things are ‘supposed’ to be. And sure, some of that groundwork keeps society going, some of it is necessary. But people ultimately have their own goals, their own beliefs in what should happen and how it should,” Everleigh explains, though she’s certain Odessa knows all this—she’s just emphasizing the fact.

“So, you know what you really want and you were told how to do it. But that didn’t bring you closer to that goal, did it?”

“No,” Odessa admits readily. “The Company lied about everything. All of it.” Her eyes narrow faintly, without any clear emotion behind the shift in demeanor. “I finally got tired of waiting for freedom. I left on my own. Sometimes I wonder if my life would have been better had I stayed. If I’d… Waited for liberation. Maybe the government would have freed me and I’d have been given a chance at a real life. Instead of stumbling around in the dark like I did.”

Nudging a toe against the heel of the shoe on the opposite foot, she wedges herself free, then repeats the process with the other shoe before drawing her legs up to sit with her feet tucked to one side of the chair and her knees on the other. “More than likely, I would have been trapped inside the building when it went up in flames. Or I’d have been shot like a rabid mongrel.”

Which is a way of saying she doesn’t wholly regret her choice to run away from the relative safety the Company provided. “One of the prisoners on Level Five,” a designation she doesn’t bother to clarify, as such details are infamous by now, “used to tell me the world was sick, and that it needed a doctor. I always wanted to be that doctor. I wanted to heal the world.”

“You don’t strike me as the passive type. I think you were always bound to have left on your own,” Everleigh says, tugging the notebook into her lap. She doesn’t open it for the moment, it just sits there as she thinks. “You had the strength to get out of a situation that always told you that you had to be a certain way, you had to act a certain way, that it was the only way. You escaped that bed of lies.”

The Doctor uncaps her pen next, but doesn’t seem to write anything. She’s focusing, listening, the pen and paper are an afterthought to be used or forgotten on a whim. “How did you want to heal it, Odessa? You said that you were told the world was sick. Do you still believe that? And, most importantly… do you still feel that way? Do you still want to heal the world?”

There’s a small smirk that ticks up one corner of Odessa’s mouth at the notion that she’s not passive. “I have my moments,” she admits. Sometimes she’s rebellious, but others she’s subservient to a fault. Neither tendency has served her particularly well, in her opinion.

She watches the pen, as if she might be able to discern whatever it will put to paper just by watching its movements. “I believe the world is what it is. For a while, I believed the evo— SLC-Expressive were a cancer that needed to be excised. I believed people like me — like I once was — were the problem. How couldn’t it be? Humanity isn’t meant to achieve such greatness.”

This sounds a bit like she’s reciting old propaganda. She probably is, after a fashion. “The Vanguard thought powers were a corruption. A blight. I believed that I wanted to be the last one standing. The most powerful person left on the entire planet. I had been in captivity for so long, I hated the world and everything in it. I hated it for having been kept from me. I hated it for having gotten along without me just fine. I hated it for not embracing my kind. I had no connection to anything or anybody.

“Or so I thought.” Finally, Odessa looks up from that pen, rumination disturbed by the ramifications of her own statement. Like she isn’t sure this was an avenue she had meant to turn down.

The pen hovers near the closed notepad, as if ready to write as soon as the book opens. But it doesn’t. The book never opens. The pen is capped and both pen and notebook are set aside on the table again. There’s no need for them, it seems. Everleigh seems to have forgotten about them as soon as they were tablebound, her attention solely on Odessa.

“People have been musing on the nature of the SLC-Expressive for as long as anyone has noticed someone who was different. And, scientifically, while we know a lot more about the genetics surrounding the whole situation, we’re still left with the complication that… people are still people. And people are complicated in both emotional and moral ways. I don’t think the world will ever agree on that, unfortunately.”

“So your original desire to heal the world, did that fit in with your goal there? In your mind, was the world healed with you on top after all was said and done? They do say it gets rather lonely at the top, and pushing away connections seems to leave you isolated up there. What do you stand to gain, in such a place of power?” Everleigh leans forward, genuinely interested.

There’s an uncertainty and a vulnerability to Everleigh’s patient as she listens to what she has to say. She glances down at the for-now-abandoned notebook, to Everleigh, then back to the notebook. Not because it’s particularly interesting, but because it’s something to look at that won’t possibly look back at her with judgement.

Odessa’s brows furrow as she comes to realize something. She has yet to experience any sense of disgust or acrimony. There’s the internalized sort, of course, but she knows that intimately. It is so intrinsically part of her that she couldn’t possibly mistake it for anyone else’s distaste for her. Either this doctor has perfect control over her emotions — doubtful — or she means what she says, that she wants to be here and help.


“Connections make you weak,” she declares, expression hardening. “Nothing good comes from letting yourself get attached to someone else. One way or another, they only leave you in the end.” Odessa looks up again, perhaps daring Everleigh to say she’s wrong. She doesn’t leave her the opportunity. “I’ve come to realize the world will never be healed. But I thought, once, that if I…” There’s some hesitation on the pronoun, like there’s more she wants to say, but isn’t sure how to, or doesn’t want to reveal. “If I were the last one standing, that would be okay. I didn’t want to rule anything. I just wanted to be left the fuck alone. And with my ability, there would have been no one could stand in the way of me living my life how I wanted to.”

The way she doesn’t meet Everleigh’s eyes suggests that she’s holding back or being less than truthful. Her throat is tight and she swallows visibly, tension winding its way through her jaw.

“You know, I’ve found that any time someone says connections make you weak that they’ve simply been hurt enough times that they don’t understand what a good, healthy connection feels like. I’m not here to change your world view to whatever mine might be, what I’m here to do is help you to understand yourself and maybe what causes you to feel the way you do about the things and the people around you.” Everleigh watches Odessa closely, noting the way that she avoids the eye contact.

“I’m getting very different feelings here, however. The Odessa you said before sounded altruistic, wanting to heal the world and fulfill her purpose. This other Odessa sounds hurt, wanting only to be alone. Tell me… what caused such cynicism? I hate to sound cliche but… who hurt you? There’s very much a shift.”

Odessa scoffs quietly. “I existed to be hurt,” she says scornfully, and like she truly believes that. “I was under the Company’s thumb for so long…” Being forced to examine her past, she purses her lips and the conflict plays out on her face. “The Vanguard didn’t care a bit about me. They only wanted me for what I could do with Shanti.” There’s a quick shake of her head as she clarifies, “The Shanti Virus.” The genocide charge she was brought up on. The one she was found not guilty of. “And even then, they still brought in Mohinder because I wasn’t enough for them.”

It’s not that Odessa holds a grudge, but it’s difficult to stand in the deep shadow cast by Mohinder Suresh for so long. “He was my mentor once, you know. We actually got along quite well. Now… Well, he did testify against me, after all.” She doesn’t even try to mask her bitterness at that.

“I suppose the world is lucky that I did form connections,” she muses almost more to herself than for Everleigh’s benefit. “If I hadn’t cared for… anybody,” she can’t bring herself to say their names, “I wouldn’t have betrayed Kazimir.”

That eye contact is reestablished quite suddenly as Odessa realizes she’s misstepped. Too honest, and alarmed by that. On paper, on the record, she’s always claimed that she’d had a change of heart because she knew killing the SLC-E population was wrong. This is an admission, however vague, that she was driven purely by spite and a need to seek some sort of revenge.

Too honest? Perhaps. But Everleigh hasn’t made even the slightest flinch to moving her hands to recover the notepad and pen. Her hands remain neatly folded on her lap as she listens. “So those who you once trusted for help and guidance ended up against you, but even amidst your hurt. And you felt you weren’t enough for the Vanguard… have you ever felt like anyone’s made you feel like you’re enough?”

It’s a bold question, one which Everleigh seems unsure if she wants to immediately follow up with, but she instead leaves it as it is, leaving the question on its own.

The question is bold enough to disarm the blonde. The air leaves her lungs in a quiet whoosh past her lips. “No,” she answers swiftly, then seems to reconsider. Odessa looks down at her hands folded against her knees, suddenly very sad. “My mother.” The correction is quieter, but not so quiet as to not be heard, offered without reticence.

“She could have let me die,” she goes on. “She probably should have. But I’m glad she didn’t.” Twice her mother could have left her to her fate. Instead, she defied it and kept her safe. “I think I was — am a disappointment to her. I think she wished she had a better child. Not this… monster I grew up to be. But she did like I always read mothers would do. She loved me in spite of it.”

“Everyone wishes the best for their child. Sometimes people step back for a chance for their child to be given better possibilities. It’s not wrong to hope your children have the best in life… but maybe you’re being hard on yourself. Maybe she would have something different to say if you asked her.” Everleigh doesn’t know the situation with Odessa’s mother, but it doesn’t change what she has to say.

But there’s something that catches her attention. “Do you really believe you’re a monster, Odessa, or is that just what the world tells you that you are?”

“I’ll never know.” Sullen, there’s a brief self-deprecating smile. “She loved me, and I guess that has to be enough. I’ll never have another chance…” Which feels slightly absurd to say, because she’s experienced multiple instances of time travel, so the possibility of reuniting with her mother again exists… But something about the way her mother left her speaks to a finality of sorts that leaves Odessa feeling utterly hopeless on that front.

The question is much more her speed. These are the questions she’s comfortable grappling with. “I must be, mustn’t I?” The answer is sort of flippant, but it sees the sadness slowly ebb away. Her gaze roams the room, enjoying the ability to flit from distraction to distraction, while still remaining focused on the topic at hand. “That’s what I was molded to be. The Company made sure I didn’t truly understand humanity. My own or anyone else’s.”

Shoulders sag with a heavy exhale. “I suppose I’m supposed to have some sort of revelation that I’m capable of being a good person, deep down, but…” Odessa seems to catch herself again. Her mouth presses shut and her fingers curl into fists.

“You’re very good at this,” sounds faintly accusatory.

“When a crafter makes a mold for something, they shape it and make it designed to look a certain way. They pour the material in and there are so many variables that change what something looks like. The heat, the air, foreign particles, bumping the mold, anything and everything could change the way the creation turns out… the mold itself could even be imperfect,” Everleigh gestures with her hands, naming off all the ways something can go wrong.

“You might resemble, on the surface, what you’ve been molded to be, but things still change you. There’s no threshold of what makes someone a man and what makes them a monster. Anything and everything can shift someone either way. You’re telling me what you’re supposed to be, what the mold made for you. What I’m asking is what you believe. It doesn’t have to be that you’re capable of being a good person, I’m not asking you to tell me what you think the right answer is. I really want to know how you feel about yourself, how you’ve turned out, what you’re capable of.”

The Doctor grins slightly. “And I appreciate the compliment. I owe it to everyone around me that I do my job to the best of my ability. You, believe it or not, deserve to have someone help you.”

“I am a monster,” Odessa insists after a moment of thought. “I’ve done terrible things in order to ensure my own survival. I’ve done terrible things to people just because I never bothered to consider how they might feel. I was treated as an instrument, and so I treated others in kind. If that doesn’t make me a monster…”

The shame is evident, not just in the way she bows her head and stares down at her folded hands. “And I want to get out of this place,” she admits in a soft voice, “but I think I’d just hurt people again. I turned against my own kind more than once due to my own feelings of jealousy. I’m supposed to be given the opportunity to learn how to change here, but I’m afraid I never will.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” Everleigh says, clasping her hands together as she leans forward. “You’ve never been given the tools to express what you’re feeling in a way that allows you to move forward from it. You might be right. If you were out of here tomorrow you might just hurt people, you might just do something you regret. I’m not going to tell you that you’ll become a better person by sitting here and talking to me.”

She pauses for only a moment. “What I can tell you is that we can work through those feelings of jealousy, the feelings that make you want to hurt those of your own kind. We can figure out what it is causing those feelings and urges and help you overcome them. I won’t give you empty promises, but what I will offer you is hope. If you work hard at it, if you want to get out of here, I’ll help you achieve control. You won’t be an instrument. No one will control you, not even your emotions.”

Odessa can’t help but laugh at that last assurance. Just one short bark that sees her hand clamping over her mouth to cease it from becoming anything more, a concerned expression crossing her face at her own outburst. A shake of her head is the only apology she offers for the momentary fit before her hand slowly lowers back to her lap.

If she only knew how ruled she is now by emotion.

“I’m sure you’re a very nice person, and I believe you mean what you say, but so did the other guys. We’ll see how long it takes you to decide I’m not worth redemption.” Again, she issues the challenge. She’s irredeemable and it’s only a matter of time before Dr. Madison comes to realize it herself. “But sure, as long as you’re willing to stick it out, we can go through my Publisher’s Clearing House of issues.”

“I think you’re misjudging my goals. I think every person is deserving of the chance to understand themselves and take ahold of their life and their actions and do so with their free will and full knowledge of themselves, as much as can be humanly possible. I’m not here to judge your worthiness or to redeem you in any way.”

Everleigh presses her lips together in a firm line, searching for the words. “You think this a competition, a challenge for someone to come in and change you, to liberate you from your shackles. But you’ve gone through therapist after therapist and no one has… so, in your mind, clearly you are not enough, you are not worthy of being redeemed. After all, they’re professionals, they should be able to fix you.”

She shakes her head. “That’s not a game I’m playing. I’m not here to save you or redeem you or even make you a better person. My job is to help you get through the bullshit, pardon my language, and to allow you to be Odessa, whomever that may be. Maybe that Odessa is a monster, maybe she has the potential for more. That’s your decision. I’m just finally giving you the chance to make that choice with clear eyes and full understanding.”

Odessa’s face falls as Everleigh explains her position and her role to play in her patient’s life. She looks a bit like a petulant teenager who doesn’t like what the adult authority is saying. Naturally, she’d like to hear that it’s possible to fix her. That she can be redeemed if she follows a simple outline of steps. Nothing is ever so easy, however.

“‘Kay,” she responds simply, setting her teeth together and picking at a fold of fabric over her knee. Whatever is tacit. She’s shifted very quickly from receptive to this process to moody and difficult. That shouldn’t be too much of a shock, given what Everleigh’s read of Odessa’s files.

“I know that’s not what you want to hear, Odessa, but this is on you. If you really want to get out, you’ll do what it takes. And if you want to stay out, you’ll do it for you. Only you will be able to determine if you can be that better person. You’ll have to fight against those feelings of being unredeemable. It all depends on what you want. Either way, I’ll be here to help you figure things out. It doesn’t have to be all at once.”

Everleigh offers a smile. “I’m on your side, believe it or not. I want you to find answers, whatever those might be. But it’s your fight.”

Unpainted nails drum against her knee as her lower jaw juts out, working from one side to the other as she tries to decide how she wants to respond to that. “Yeah, okay,” is about as committal as she’s going to get for the moment. Just her index taps restlessly now, the wheels clearly turning.

“I really wanted to save the world,” Odessa says with a quiet sigh. “I listened to what others told me about how to do it. They knew so much more than I did, I thought. They spoke with authority. Surely they knew what to do. But I regret the things I did in the name of making the world a better place. I think most of the Company remnant feel that way.”

There’s a haunted look in her eyes at that supposition. Woods. She wonders if his guilt haunts him the way hers does.

“I think people don’t realize that peace can’t be won without bloodshed. Someone has to be a martyr or a sacrifice. Well-kept secrets are an intrinsic component of harmony.”

“It’s kind of arrogant to think only one person or one small group of people will save the world. It’s a matter of scope. There are so many people and so much geography to the world that there’s no realistic way anyone can ‘save’ it. But the idea of making the world a better place isn’t a bad one, or an unrealistic one. People do that every day, even in small ways. That can be done, even in here,” Everleigh explains, though she catches Odessa’s expression and studies her thoughtfully.

“People are scared of bloodshed. They want peace but most haven’t been exposed to bloodshed in person or in any other way. They don’t understand it, and beyond that, they don’t want it. Bloodshed will exist as long as people are selfish and do not care for the lives of others. But I don’t know that secrets keep harmony. Often, secrets break trust. I’m curious as to your thinking. How do secrets keep harmony?”

Odessa considers how to explain that. How can she explain that, in an alternate timeline, the Evolved and humanity actually seemed to get along? At least until the terrible secret of what had to be sacrificed to achieve that peace was let slip. “If I had to think hard about where tacos come from, I wouldn’t be able to eat them,” she settles on. Like not knowing the nitty gritty of how animals are slaughtered is the only thing standing between her and Taco Tuesday.

“Point is,” she insists, “there was peace before 2006. Our little secret was maintained and we all got along just fine.” Sort of. Not that she’s any kind of authority on the state of the world before 2008. “That secret gets out? Everybody loses their minds. The blood of tyrants had to be shed before we could even think about returning to peacetime.”

Which might sound rich, coming from someone who fought on the side of the tyrants.

“Here’s the thing. All of us are flawed individuals. A utopia isn’t possible unless you were able to wipe feelings of greed, hatred, and that sort of thing from the hearts of individuals. Peace is just a little less chaos and a little more order. But the question is, who gets that peace?” Everleigh shakes her head a bit before continuing.

“Before 2006 there might have seemed like peace. But really, did all individuals feel like that? Did they feel safe? Did they fear being hunted or treated like an outcast? Secrets build, Odessa. The longer you hold onto a secret, the more dangerous it becomes. It might seem safe to keep it, but would you really want to risk the nuclear fallout of it not coming out on your own terms? I certainly wouldn’t take a risk that big.”

She clears her throat. “What I’m hearing from all this is that trust is something we should bring up. You seem alright with keeping secrets from a greater public. What about those who you might consider close? Where does your trust lie?”

“Trusting people is dangerous.” Again, Odessa refuses to make eye contact with her therapist. She stares at the wall through the corner of her narrowed eyes, disdainful. “The only person you can really trust is yourself. No one else has your best interests in mind. Everyone’s looking out for number one, and as soon as your goals are at odds? That’s it.”

A deep breath is exhaled through her nose, like an agitated animal. There’s obvious conflict on her face. She’s considering her brother. Her cousin. Surely she can trust them, right? “Even family will turn their back on you,” Odessa insists, more to herself than Everleigh. “Keeping secrets from them keeps them safe. The less they know, the safer they are.”

“Every single person I’ve heard feed me the line about ‘the only person you can trust is yourself’ is simply because they’ve been hurt by someone they’ve trusted before. But it’s a cynical point of view. After all, there are people who can trust just fine. People are married, have kids, raise those kids well. Sometimes they’re even well-adjusted and relatively ‘normal’. There’s no guarantee someone is trustworthy, but there are trustworthy people.”

Everleigh seems to be deeply considering her words as she brings them about. “You said you’re keeping them safe by keeping secrets. You’re trying to protect them. But does that mean they should trust you? You want them safe, after all.”

People are married seems to trigger something in the way that Odessa seems to shrink in on herself. Drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs, she rests her chin on the peaks and stares past Everleigh again, to the wall.

“No one should trust me,” she responds numbly. “I can’t keep anyone safe.” Memories that aren’t her own play out behind her eyes as she shuts them.

Molly Walker.

Peter and Gillian.


Oh, god. Jimmy.

Odessa’s breath hitches in her throat and a shudder runs through her slight frame. “I’d like to go back to my room now.”

Everleigh doesn’t answer right away. She lets the silence linger in the room for a moment before she speaks. “I see we’ve hit a bit of a nerve. That’s alright, that’s important… now we know what needs to be worked on.” She presses her lips together in a firm line, clearly torn between pushing a little and letting things go for the moment.

She decides to push, just a little. “Are you saying that you can’t protect people or that you can’t protect people from yourself?”

When her request isn’t immediately granted, Odessa purses her lips and glares at the wall hard enough that she’s surprised she doesn’t bore a hole into it. Or that the tapestry doesn’t burst into flames.



Everleigh finds that gaze snapping back to her, but she sees more pain there than anger. “Both, okay? I’m fucking awful.” She doesn’t apologize for her language. What are they going to do? Add time to her sentence for having a foul mouth? “I hurt everyone who puts their faith in me.”

“I see,” Doctor Madison says, observing Odessa calmly. “And is that what you want? Do you want to be an untrustworthy person? Do you want to hurt people who put their faith in you?”

Odessa stares at Everleigh like she’s sprouted a second head. “Of course not.” But she wonders at it all the same, evident in the way she breaks eye contact again. “Maybe once. I wanted people to trust me so that I could… I don’t think I ever did it for the sake of hurting anyone. I just… It was a way to further an agenda.”

Her gaze lowers, roaming the floor for details to distract from her racing thoughts. “I never used to care about anybody. No one cared about me. When I started forming attachments…. I wanted to be able to keep the people I cared about safe.”



“I couldn’t.”

“So you want to be a trustworthy person? Someone who can keep people safe? Someone those attached to you can count on?” Everleigh asks her questions with a gaze carefully measuring if she’s gone too far in her line of questioning.

This feels like a trick question somehow. “Yes,” Odessa responds cautiously. Looking at the legs of Everleigh’s chair is as close as she gets to looking at Everleigh herself. “That’s what people are supposed to want, isn’t it?”

“I’m asking you because I want to know how hard you’re willing to work so that you’ll never have to feel that pain you felt just now again. I want to know if you’re willing to try. All of those feelings you’re experiencing right now, how much do you want to escape them?”

Everleigh leans forward in her chair. “Will you fight? For them?”

Odessa falls silent, her gaze still fixed on that place where floor meets chair leg. “I’m so tired of fighting,” she breathes out in a small voice. “It feels like that’s all I’ve done since I escaped the Company. “I just wanted a normal life for so long. I wanted to… Find someone who cares for me and just settle down somewhere. Quiet. Peaceful.”

A wry smile twists Odessa’s lips and she finally looks up at her therapist again. “Turns out, I don’t know what to do with quiet and peaceful. Except ruin it on purpose.” She’s changing the subject a bit, but she’s not saying no to Everleigh’s question either. “You didn’t fight in the war, did you?” She doesn’t wait for a response, certain she already knows the answer. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to find someone you want to fight with? Fight for?

She doesn’t wait for that answer either. “When the war started to turn, and it started to become apparent that we weren’t going to win, a lot of people deserted. Or tried to.” Her gaze takes a faraway look as she recalls what happened to those who were caught turning coward. “I thought about it, myself. I used to have this recurring nightmare that I was trying to escape through the woods. Branches catching my clothes and my skin, tearing at me, but I didn’t care. I had to keep running. But every time, they’d find me. But I was never afraid, until I would see him.

Odessa closes her eyes and conjures the image in her mind. “The one person I fought for and couldn’t bear to disappoint.” Her eyes open again and she shakes her head, as if to banish the lingering pictures. “I stayed throughout all of it for him. The abomination in the ranks. I worked hard to stay alive. To keep us both alive. We sat together and said goodbye to the forests. We stood shoulder to shoulder as we watched them burn.”

A tear slides down her cheek. She still mourns the desecration of the country in the name of Us vs. Them. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Alive, or in prison, probably.

“It sounds like he did a lot for you,” Everleigh watches carefully, but the look is compassionate. “I feel like he might still be a driving force in your life. Regardless of what happened to him, life or death or something in-between, his impact in your life drives you forward.” She offers a tissue box in Odessa’s direction before continuing.

“What would you do, if you were free from here? What drives you now?”

Odessa finds herself wishing she knew what truly happened to Michal Valentin. Life, death, or somewhere in between, indeed. Reaching out to grab one tissue, then a second, she uses the corner of it to wipe at her face before she blows her nose as discreetly as possible.

“If they came to me tomorrow and said I’d served my sentence and was free to go?” Because that’s a drastically different scenario than the usual way she tends to find her freedom. “I don’t know. I’d probably reconnect with my brother and his family first.” The change of subject banishes some of the storm clouds around her, slowly but surely. “I don’t suppose I’ll ever be allowed to practice science again, so I don’t know what I’d do with myself beyond that. After the war, I worked to help heal spinal injuries for wounded soldiers. That’s how I wanted to give back and undo some of the wrong I’d done.”

Whether or not she was personally responsible for any of those injuries, her presence in the war was not, she imagines, simply a drop in the ocean. They didn’t prosecute just anyone for war crimes, after all. Many members of Humanis First and their sympathizers continue to walk around the Safe Zone just as free as anyone else.

“To be honest, I’m not sure what kind of life I can even have after all this. Rehabilitated or not, where do you go from here? I’m one of the most notorious living war criminals of our age. You think I’m going to get a job at a shop and live my life in relative obscurity?”

“I think that entirely depends on how you choose to approach things, what you want out of life at this point. If I were in your shoes, I’d want to make amends, I’d want to show to both others and myself that I had made mistakes but that I didn’t want to follow in my own footsteps again. That’s just me, though, and this isn’t about me, it’s about you,” Everleigh offers a small smile as she sets the tissue box on the table at her side.

“I don’t think we get to live life without a fight, as tired as we may be. I don’t think anyone gets that luxury. Those that look like they do usually have the most to hide. So I think when you get out of here, and I think that will one day happen, you should be ready for a new fight. You must know what you want and how you’ll get it. I hope to prepare you for that. That’s what I’m here for—to help you figure out what you need, what you want, and how to improve yourself to get that.”

Everleigh smiles again. “So I think that’s what you should think on. What matters to you, what you want, and how you can make up for the mistakes you’ve made. And when we meet next time, you can tell me just what has come to mind and we’ll go from there. That sound alright?”

Odessa seems to consider this for a moment, staring off into space again. “Yeah,” she replies absently at first. Then she nods her head and seems to come back to the here and now. “Yeah, that sounds fine.” It’s homework and she’s never liked that when it comes to therapy, whether or not she agrees with the necessity of the component.

The blonde wipes at her face one more time and starts to rise from her seat, planting both feet back on the floor again and pushing up to stand. “You seem really nice,” she reiterates, expression serious. “I hope you stick around a while.”

“As long as they’ll let me stick around, I will. I don’t turn my back on people who need something I can help with,” Everleigh says, rising to her feet as well, moving to stand out of the way to give Odessa a clear path to the door. “Also, I don’t know if your other therapists have offered, but…” She reaches over to the table beside her chair, picking up a small card before handing it to the other woman.

“There’s a number on there where you can reach me. If something happens, if you feel you just need someone to talk to, something like that before our next meeting, see about calling me. I’ll make time for you.”

The card is taken and looked over front and back before it slid into the pocket of her track jacket. “Thanks. I’ll do that.” Maybe she will or maybe she won’t. Odessa is at least keeping her mind open to the possibility.

“I’ll see you next time, then.” She offers a thin smile before opening the door, pausing a moment for the guard across the hall to notice her and motion her forward to escort her back to her room.

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