Write Your Own Manual


aaron_icon.gif bella_icon.gif gillian2_icon.gif

Scene Title Write Your Own Manual
Synopsis Aaron brings Gillian along to his appointment with Bella. It changes things in unexpected ways.
Date November 11, 2009

Bella's Studio Apartment Office

It didn't take quite as much begging as he'd expected it to, but Aaron managed to get Gillian to stick around for a few more days, even if he kept her from her usual things the entire weekend already. He's felt pretty bad about that, but he greatly needed it, especially after the horrific weekend he's had. For once, he doesn't look like the walking dead, even though he is still rather clingy. That's one of the reasons he's dragged Gillian along with him. Another reason is the little sheet of paper he hands off to her in case he loses his nerve to give Bella the list she wanted him to write. Despite feeling physically better, he feels quite weak— emotionally.

As he leads Gillian down the hallway that leads to the ritualistically open door, he thinks about how nice it will be to have her with him this time. That is, until he thinks about how much Bella will be happy to finally meet one of Aaron's friends/lifelines. That's when he realizes he's told his therapist an awful lot about Gillian, including things he'd promised to tell no one. His hand suddenly gets rather clammy in Gillian's hand. If he were anyone else, he might just be able to go 'oh shit oh shit oh shit, I'm sorry', but this is Aaron. His nerves are still all frazzled from the weekend, and although he seemed to be doing really good in the morning, that suddenly takes a nosedive— him along with it. The grip on Gillian's hand goes slack as Aaron panics himself (in record time) into the recesses of unconsciousness. Yes, he just fainted.

"What's wrong? I thought you were looking…" Gillian says almost as soon as they get to the open door. She had little idea what to expect of this place, other than she'd be sitting with him and listening to a shrink talk to him. It's easier than the doctor because there's no worries about IVs and other such things, or so she seemed to think would be the case. Then again, she has no idea just how much of her rather… interesting life has been a topic of discussion. She doesn't get further than that, though, because suddenly all his weight is moving. And she's not exactly strong.

Hands grab at his shoulders and she ends up going toward the ground with him, while trying to keep him from hitting too hard. "Fuck," she curses. That wasn't supposed to happen! She knows he had fainting spells, but she thought he was doing better, until… of course he seemed to panic. "Little help?" she finally manages, looking around for this person she knows next to nothing about.

Bella has fallen back into something like her normal rhythm, and the sounds of Leonard Lopate interviewing a prize winning author fold the air in a soothingly familiar way. The entrance of the unfamiliar Gillian and a collapsing Aaron creates an uncanny effect for her, and she wastes a moment staring in surprise from her perch on the chair, where she was doing what looks like the crossword. She grapples for her cane, a standard, unremarkable one, the scary metal dealy she was carrying around has been delegated to some function unknown, and makes her way over to Aaron and Gillian as quickly as possible. Her limp is light, growing smaller with the passing days.

Bella stoops to take one of Aaron's arms. "Let's get him to the couch," she says, tipping her head in the direction of the chez lounge and, forces joined with Gillian, guides the unsensate Aaron towards the appropriate Victorian-derivative furnishing. As they make their way across the room, Bella gives Gillian a smile, "And you would be… Gillian, right?" She certainly hopes she's not wrong, since that might be sort of awkward. Lucky for her she's got solid instincts.

"Yeah, I'm Gillian," the young woman rasps in annoyance as she helps get him over to the couch. The annoyance likely has many reasons, considering the situation. "I came to support him but I didn't think it'd be this literal," she manages once he's finally laying more or less on his own. The dark hair falls into her face as she pushes it aside, starting to wish she'd worn it in a ponytail. It would have made things a little easier for her. There's only a small bag hanging under her shoulder, which she sets down on her lap when she finally settles down on the arm of the couch.

Bella laughs at Gillian's bon mot, and adjusts Aaron's arms so that he doesn't end up losing circulation. "I'm happy to have the chance to finally meet you. Aaron obviously thinks the world of you, and I'm already seeing why." She eases back into her chair, turning to face the dark haired woman. "As I'm sure he's told you, I'm Dr. Isabella Sheridan, though feel free to just call me 'Bella'. This is therapy, so I prefer the setting to be familiar and unformal." She leans forward and sets her cane on the coffee table that fills the mediating space between the two chairs and the couch. "Will he come to on his own, or does he need help?"

From the woman's words, Gillian looks a little startled, and then glances away. The praise has taken her by surprise, and obviously so. "Aaron helped me a lot too, so…" the excuse begins, but doesn't continue much beyond that. It looks as if she wants to, though, before she looks down at him and pokes his forehead. "I've actually not been around him when he faints that often. I know he does, but… this is one of the first times. I don't know how long it'll take him to come out of it." No slapping, at least, but she does nudge him a few times. "He was looking forward to this and then as soon as we got here he started going fucking clammy and then…" Hand waves up, then falls down. Boom.

"A fair number of Aaron's symptoms appear to be acute. Honestly, that's not a bad sign: acute symptoms are, on average, much easier to treat and have a much better prognosis," Bella says, lapsing automatically into light professional jargon; she tries to make what she's saying entirely comprehensible, but with that technical flourish she hopes will inspire confidence in her own competence and expertise. Gillian's good will and trust is valuable to her. "Well, this affords us some time to get to know each other," she says, "Has Aaron talked with you about what we're working on?"

"That makes sense, I guess. Easier than just going 'you're a little depressed, go take a pill'," Gillian says quietly as she finishes trying to poke at him. She seems to decide he must need a few minutes, so she looks back and focuses on the therapist. The doctor. "I know he's trying to get his life back together and that you're helping him out with that. Course so are we, but I'm not exactly the best person to go to to get lives together." She shifts the bag and reaches inside to pull out the paper he'd handed her earlier. "He handed me this too, but I haven't read it. Homework or something?"

Bella sort of lights up at this, extending a hand to take the assigned list, unfolding it and reaching over to the coffee table to get her reading glasses. She sets the wire-rims on her nose, and peers through them at the items inscribed. "Homework?" Bella repeats, smiling, "You're a piece of work, Gillian. And that's a high compliment, one woman to another. Yes, I asked Aaron to write down those things in his life he has, and what it is that he wants. An exercise in taking an emotional inventory," she frowns very slightly, though it's obviously a thoughtful expression rather than an upset or concerned one, a tiny wrinkling between her eyebrows. She looks up at the other woman, folding the list in her lap, "As his friend, what do you think Aaron most needs in his life right now?"

"I think that's one of the few times it's ever been meant as a compliment," Gillian says softly, eyebrows lowered a bit. The situation seems out of place for her, but even as things continue she does start to relax more. Even if she's sitting on the arm of the couch instead of the couch itself. Aaron's not the smallest guy in the world and he's taking up most of it anyway. "I think he could use things to do during the day. Routines, a job, stuff like that. I can't drag him out of the apartment every day, even if I try, but I think it'd be better for him if he did go places more often. Meet people, maybe play a few gigs with his music, that sorta thing. But with how things sometimes are in this fucking city it's hard to blame him for being worried about going out when he does…"

Bella nods, "Much of Aaron's trouble is situational. I was talking to him about this earlier. He keeps getting dealt, pardon my French, shitty hand after shitty hand. And this is stopping us from being able to tackle the deeper issues. One of the reasons I'm so glad you came in is it will give us a chance to discuss how to help structure Aaron's life in a way that will make him both active and safe," she removes her glasses and gives Gillian an inquisitive look, "Then again, I don't want to assume your level of commitment. I'm paid to help Aaron, it's my job. I realize you have a life of your own. But any help you can offer, I'm sure Aaron would greatly appreciate and benefit from it."

"Sometimes all I speak is French," Gillian says with a sudden grin that makes dimples appear on her cheeks. Of all the things to relax her, a therapist cursing seems to have done it. She looks back over at Aaron, but the sudden relaxation doesn't fade as she does. "Things could be a lot worse, but yeah— he seems to get the shit-stick more than he deserves. Being friends with me actually did not help with that at all…" It's said absently, and hoping the poor woman doesn't have too many details. "I'll be here as much as I can. I mean he was there for me and honestly helping someone else out does me just as much good as it does him these days."

"I learned most of my French in high school," Bella says, with a small smirk, "Though I picked up a little from my parents when they thought I couldn't hear them." She shifts in her seat a bit, crossing her legs in a way that indicates, to those who know her, that she's getting down to business, "We can discuss it more with Aaron when he returns to the land of the living, but while we have this time, I wanted to discuss the three things I think we need most to work on in his life. First, his sleep schedule. Sleep is vitally important, and he says he's been losing a lot of it for a while. The compounded effects are not pretty. We need to find a way to help him get proper rest. Second, his sense of general safety. Trouble has a talent for finding him, so we need to find a way to better hide him from it. Obviously staying locked indoors is not an acceptable long term solution, but it might be smart to structure his schedule in a way that reduces risks. Lastly, his ability. I got some new information about it, and it seems like he has a genuine chemical physical dependency on whatever neurological process is triggered by his ability's use. We have to let him use it, or else the withdrawal symptoms will eat him alive, but I want to structure that as well, maybe even see if we can wean him off it. Honestly, that's something we'll have to see as it goes along. We simply don't understand Evolved neurochemistry well enough yet."

"He lives in a pretty good neighborhood right now," Gillian admits, even if part of her would like him to come and work with her on Staten Island. The kids, as little as they got to see of him, liked him well enough. Music is always welcome at the house, and she's not a singer herself. "If he can get a small job a block or two away it'd probably be pretty safe, in comparison to most of the city." Like where she lives. "I've been trying to make sure he gets sleep— bought him this stuffed tiger to hold onto. Not sure how much it's helped so far, but he likes it…" The Evolved stuff makes her simples fade as she looks more serious. "Doesn't help when every single ability seems to do it's own fucking thing…"

"My eventual goal is to help find some common trait, something derived from the relationship to the linkage gene," Bella says, "But I may not be the best equipped. My focus was in psychotherapy, not neuropsychology." She lifts a hand, waving the issue away, "But that's big picture stuff. I like the idea of his having a steady job, a reason to get out of bed. Do you know anyone who could help set him up? He's smart and personable; we'd just need to find someone who'll be sensitive and understanding to his current emotional difficulties."

That adorable plush tiger helps him get to sleep, but it doesn't help him that much when he wakes up panicking a few hours later.

At first, Aaron thinks maybe he's at home still. Maybe he fell asleep on the couch. He shifts slightly. It doesn't feel like their couch. "Oh God." He already feels faint again, which shows when the colour he'd recently gained back in his unconscious state fades again. Despite the lack of colour, there's also hint of a blush in there, so clearly part of him is really, really embarrassed. Just another one of his current emotional difficulties.

"My connections are pretty limited these days, but I could ask around," Gillian says, thinking of all the people she knows with connections— many of which she wouldn't consider safe. And then of course sleeping prince finally stirs. She leans over and ruffles his hair with a hand, almost a bigger sister kind of gesture. Even if he's older than her by a couple years. "I'd like if you were a little fucking shorter. The fainting thing isn't something I'm physically able to handle. I don't have super strength." She doesn't. "Feeling any better?" she slides off the arm of the couch, pulling her bag back up to her shoulder.

Bella gives Aaron a warm smile, getting to greet him properly now. "Nice to see you, Aaron. Gillian is even more charming than I had anticipated, which is a marvel in and of itself. How are you feeling?"

Well, Gillian's not yelling or seeming upset, so that's a good thing. Of course, it could mean that she hasn't been told how Aaron squealed and broke his promise to keep the news of her impending doom to himself. Some colour returns to his face. "Oh God, I'm so sorry. I'm such a flake." He slowly works on sitting up, something he does carefully after almost fainting the last time he was in Bella's office. Oh wait, he actually did faint this time. … "Did you get the fax from the Suresh Center? Pretty good indicator of my weekend. I was doing OK." Then he blushes, because he still can't talk about why he fainted. "Well, I'm not that tired, at least."

"Bella's a flatterer," Gillian says with a dimpled smile, before she pulls the bag over her shoulder again. "I need to go visit the restroom, so you two can catch up without me for a bit. Don't go fainting while I'm gone." She starts to move toward the door, but may need some direction as she gets into the hall.

"Oh, there's one right in here!" Bella says, trying to wave Gillian back in, pointing to the door tucked away in the alcove off of the studio apartment's main room. "I got the fax, Aaron, yes. And it does look like you have a genuine physical addiction to your ability's effect. Which means we have a new challenge to tackle: reducing your dependency," she gets to her feet, grabbing the cane from the table and heading over to the kitchenette counter where the radio sits. She turns the volume up to create some cover noise, so that Aaron can get a moment alone with her even with Gillian just a door away. "Gillian gave me your list. I'm glad you managed to drew it up. And I think it will help. Just from the first reading, I can tell a few things. What you /have/ are friends and relationships, as well as a home; these are material things that stand in material relation to you. What you want are abstractions. Peace, love, security, even 'a life', are all ideas, things that it's hard to imagine actually capturing or attaining. We need to find a way to bring what you want into the realm of the material. To make what you want something you can actually have."

Aaron only gives a nod to everything Bella says before he covers his head in his hands. "I didn't tell her that I told you. I betrayed her trust." For which he feels like a complete shit. Not a surprise, he has so many reasons for feeling like that, but doing something wrong that betrays Gillian is definitely on his list of really, really shitty things to do, even despite the circumstances under which he told Bella. And he blushes even more because betraying Gillian like that is so not everything. "I slept with Stef." Though he has to be more clear, because he sleeps beside many people. "Had sex with Stef. On her birthday." He goes bright scarlet from that one. "She knows, but it's so awkward. I mean, she's her clone, right? I love having her around, but I'm so confused about what I should be feeling now."

Bella quirks her mouth to one side, leaning on the counter and pouring over the implications of what Aaron has just said. It's one thing to talk about projection, about 'seeing someone' in someone else. But when that someone else is, in fact, /actually/ the original someone… things get extra weird. The figurative has become the literal in a discomfiting way. "Why do you feel like it's a betrayal?"

Aaron blushes, "Not about that. I mean that she doesn't know I told you about her, Stef, and the whole dying thing." The whole dying thing takes some of that colour away again. It still bothers him. "She made me promise not to tell anyone she was dying, remember?" It's been a while, long before Bella's disappearance, but it's still burned into his brain, especially the whole nearly walking out into traffic thing. He still sees that bus whooshing by every now and again. Of course, the whole sex with Stef thing is still definitely something he needs to talk about, and he opts to turn his thoughts to that instead of his near-death. "Of course, I still feel bad for the Stef thing, too. I should have been with Gillian on her birthday. I just dropped off the map and left my phone off." And he cried with Stef, too.

Bella remains by the counter, taking more time than usual to formulate a reply. This is apparently and issue she thinks demands serious thought and consideration. "This is something we should discuss more at length when Gillian isn't present," she says, voice dipping lower, to make sure that the radio covers it, "But I think the whole event is pretty important. What it can tell us about how you feel about Gillian, Stef, and the awful fact of their mortality. But it'll take time and not everything that I might say will sound particularly nice. Facing down unpleasant truths is part of our work here, some of the hardest, but also some of the most rewarding, ultimately."

Mortality. Aaron nods his head. Unpleasant truths are pretty much all he has. He's addicted to his ability, and it clearly has a very physical effect on him. "OK," he says, agreeing to talk about it later when Gillian isn't there. It will be awkward enough alone. "This weekend sucked."

From the close by bathroom the two of them catch the sounds of raspy whispers through the door. Sounds like Gillian may have decided to make a phone call while in there. It's just barely audible, which might help indicate she's not eavesdropping.

Bella makes her way back to her seat, anchoring herself before pressing for details. "Tell me about it. What was particularly sucky?"

"Well, there was this mean doctor, for one," Aaron says, recalling Dr. Brennan. "Asks me a few questions and then just turns my ability off. I didn't even know people could do that. I mean, one second I'm seeing Peyton like I normally do — she's the one who suggested I go seem him. She wanted to make sure I wasn't hurting myself by using my ability. Anyway, I'm seeing her like I usually do and suddenly I can't. I can just see her and not her pain. I freaked out, and then ran my mouth off, and then he's all 'when you get serious about seeking help, I'll consider seeing you.' He was going to get blood, but didn't. He just left, like somehow what he did was OK."

Bella frowns slightly, "What did it feel like, having your ability deactivated? Tell me everything you felt in that moment."

"I can't really describe the sensation. It was like, things suddenly didn't look right to me at all. Not everything, just people. At first, I thought something was wrong with me, or that Doctor Brennan had done something to me. Then Peyton told me it was only temporary. The doctor said he was just experimenting." Aaron calms himself a bit. "I kinda swore at him. I didn't think what he did was appropriate behaviour. Apparently, he thought my response wasn't, either. He wasn't happy to see me again two days later, even though I was serious the first time about getting help. Ended up passing me off to another doctor, after spending the night in my room negating me. Finally found out what it's like to recover, at least. Of course, what happened after he left wasn't nice at all…. not that I'm entirely sure of what happened. It's a little fuzzy." His major episodes typically are, but the whole issue of hallucinations, mental confusion, the nosebleed, and mild amnesia were noted on his chart.

"Whatever the issues with his professionalism, your doctor did give you some valuable information," Bella says, "Life is possible without your ability. That, in fact, your ability creates its own need. It's parasitic in that regard, which means we have to view it with the appropriate ambivalence." She pauses, "This is going to sound like I'm repeating myself, but I think I need to be clearer on a certain point. How did it /feel/ not being able to see people's pain? As in… emotionally? Did you feel relief? Shock? Confusion? You had a hostile response, and I'd like to know exactly why, since that will tell us exactly what feelings of yours are wrapped up in your ability, in this sight you have."

Aaron doesn't seem to have a problem with the repeat question. "Shock and confusion, I think would describe it well. I've been able to see people's pain for like, three years. It's all I know. It was horrifying, and someone had done it to me."

"But it wasn't until after the suppression ceases that you experienced the withdrawal symptoms, the irregular neurochemical activity?" Bella asks, wanting to confirm what she believes is the case.

The door to the bathroom finally opens and Gillian's sticking a phone back into her purse as she steps out. "Had to make a phone call while I was in there— how's it going?" She only catches the end, with the science talk. "Telling her about the Suresh Center stuff?"

"When Doctor Brennan was in the room… well, I guess it was still irregular. I still had the symptoms, but they were getting better at least. Until he left, anyway. Then, from what I recall…. well, it all came crashing back." And Aaron's actually glad he can't remember it all clearly. He gives a nod to Gillian, in case what he said wasn't answer enough.

Bella smiles at Gillian as the woman re-enters. She nods, "Yes. And while the experience sounds really pretty hellish, the thin silver lining is that we now have a better understanding of how Aaron's ability operates," she fixes Aaron with a look, "Learning to control and suppress your ability should be given a high priority. It's a self perpetuating need that I cannot believe is unconnected to your other difficulties. We're talking about a neurological anomaly that deals directly with misery and its recognition slash absorption, an anomaly that has clear physical and psychological holds on you. To act as if your depressive symptoms are unrelated would just be getting lost in the forest because we're distracted by the trees. It may not be the whole puzzle, bit it's a very, very large piece."

"The doctor seemed to think it'd be safe for him to keep using it," Gillian says, looking at the woman curiously as she moves over to take a more comfortable seat on the couch instead of one of the arms. "But with all the side effects if he doesn't… it would be nice if there was a way to control it better so it doesn't hit him so hard on him when he can't use it for some reason— not that there's ever going to be such a thing as a room full of happy people everywhere. Everyone's got issues, so there'll always be something for him to snack on." There's a pause. "I don't mean it in a bad way, really, just— Do you think there's a chemical way to control it or maybe he just has to learn to… do something with it?" Kinda like how she learned how to knot her ability up instead of let it all leak out all the time. But as far as she's concerned, this woman doesn't know she's Evolved at all. And she's not going to offer that.

Aaron nods to Bella. It was only a matter of time before his ability were once again attributed to his emotional state. And it's not like he hasn't given that some thought, either, since he has. He just hasn't had any conclusive evidence to link them together. He makes himself comfortable next to Gillian and, for now, content to let her talk. He does give her a bit of a look when she mentions he'll always have something to snack on, though. Of course, he's tried to control it before, but hasn't been successful. He doesn't speak up, though.

Bella purses her lips. "We're totally in agreement over the issue of control. Dependencies are often things we just have to learn to live with; it's a matter of making sure they don't make life unmanageable. Sadly, the amount of research on Evolved is not great enough that I can even start to guess at the kind of medicine to use in this case. We don't even understand what part of the brain is responsible and, in my opinion, it'll be like so much of brain function: less specific parts but rather the way in which they communicate. We may have to be traditional about this. A training regimen in which the ability is used in moderation, with conscious control, to try and do just as you say: avoid it hitting him hard. More control might also give us some insight into what hidden effects the ability might have on the overall experience of depression."

"Might also help to control how much of the… pain stuff he takes in, too. Find people who are just moderately fucked up instead of totally fucked up," Gillian says quietly, thoughtfully, thinking of her own training a year ago to get to where she didn't leak energy every which way when she walked into a room. Never learned to turn it off completely, but she doesn't leak nearly as often as she did before— and that helped quite a bit. "See if it's any different, the withdrawal stuff, depending on what kind of pain he's… taking away."

Bella smiles, "You're bright as hell, yes, that'd definitely be something worth checking out," she says, "We're on a psychological frontier here. The more scout work, the better. Ideally we can find some assortment of variables, some arrangement that will improve Aaron's quality of life."

"Yeah, quality of life could definitely use some improvement," Gillian says, looking over at her friend even though she's talking about him. It's a sure sign that she cares, though, and she gives him a small smile, one that still shows dimples. "I think he could use a pet too. Tempted to have him and Peyton take care of my cat for a while. Chandra— that's my cat, really liked sleeping on top of him. Big fuzzy warmth leech."

Aaron finally blushes when he gets the feeling that they're talking about him like he isn't there, despite Gillian's small dimpletastic smile. He's not entirely sure how he'd handle a pet, though. He's never had one. Although he hasn't noticed, he's gravitated, slowly, towards Gillian, almost to the point that they touch— but not quite. "Yeah, but if I do that, I have to find more people. And what about you and Peyton? I can't just let you two suffer." As though they hadn't gotten along at all before he showed up in their lives.

"Aaron, this is not to be unkind, but consider how much pain you'll spare them if you can get your ability under control enough to make /you/ happier," Bella says, sounding earnest, even urgent, "This ability is self-perpetuating, Aaron. It makes you miserable, and that makes those around you miserable, giving itself more food, and thus more fuel to continue the cycle. Addictions almost always work like that, and this is no exception."

"And how are you supposed to help us if you keep hurting yourself, dumbass," Gillian says, though the dumbass somehow comes off as an affectionate. She reaches across, closing the small distance to push against his shoulder as she does. "I'm doing a lot better now thanks to you, and that's what's important. You shouldn't be a crutch or an easy pill, or something, you should be there when I really need you, which isn't all the fucking time. Some of the fixing is my responsibility more than yours."

And yet Aaron still feels responsible. Just like he feels the need to constantly help them, even at the expense of himself. He doesn't view it was the source of his misery, though. He blushes slightly when she mentions hurting himself, and once she's done pushing against his shoulder, he closes the small distance. He doesn't quite lean on her, but he's definitely seeking comfort. "I've tried to control it. I mean, I can stop using it, but we've seen how bad that turns out." Subject change, anyone?

"This isn't a matter of all or nothing," Bella says, "On or off. It's about being in command of your ability instead of the other way around. Taking agency back. That is something I think you very much need Aaron. Because, on your list, your wishes are very passive. Good, and true. But passive. You need control over your ability and control over your life."

"Yeah, we're not asking you to never use it," Gillian says, not quite changing the subject. "You proved this weekend you can resist using it even when you go into deep withdrawal, so you don't need to prove that again. But there might be smaller ways to draw on people's pain, smaller pains, whatever, and you could find a way to take enough to sustain yourself, without making yourself totally fucking miserable. See what kind of pain is best, which one has worse side effects, that kind thing. Trust me. If you become your ability's bitch, you'll be hating yourself more."

Neither of which he feels he has, because circumstance has forced him into thinking he is totally powerless. The weekend didn't really help change that much, either. Aaron sighs, "I'll really have to learn how to control it, then. Find some way. I mean, I can't exactly isolate one person when I use it. It's all or nothing." Or so he thinks. He's still unaware of what he leaves behind for him and others to get wrapped up in.

"Right now, perhaps, but Evolved abilities almost always reveal greater levels of nuance and accuracy when they're honed and practiced," Bella says, "This fact is backed up by enormous amounts of evidence." And years of development with the Company itself, but no need to go into that. "And much of that is /believing/ in your control. You have to believe it is possible before it makes itself a possibility."

"It's just like learning to drive, except they don't have a manual for all the damn abilities that exist in the world," Gillian says with a shrug of her shoulders, something a little too knowing in her eyes. Not half a year ago she'd been a collection of abilities, and she gave up trying to learn all of them, but she got more than a taste of many of them. Their strange details, the way each one wanted to tear her in different directions, the way they felt and moved. The way they controlled her, and the way she controlled them. She never got to experience Aaron's ability first hand, but she imagines it has it's own manual. "You'll figure it out."

"Well, I figured out how to stop it from working, so clearly I can control it," Aaron remarks, though he doesn't sound entirely convinced. Even if he should be. After all, as near as he can tell, it always functions when he performs music. Yet when he concentrates, he can stop it from doing so. Not exactly the control he'd like, though. "Hah. Manual. That'll be the day, right? You register, and they hand you your manual."

"Well," Bella says with a laugh, "That might make registration a more attractive proposition. It would be a trade, then. Let the State know about you, and the State helps you learn about yourself. Of course, it doesn't work that way, and really… for the best. Who better to understand yourself than yourself?" This is an opinion some of her discipline's originators would disagree enormously with, but she's of a new school, "And you'll have help, after all."

"Yeah, you'll have to write your own manual," Gillian says, reaching over and pushing against him yet again. She's seen it function without music before— she knows there's more to it. "But that's why you got friends to help you figure stuff out. Maybe keep a journal. Talk about how much you use your ability, how dark they were when you did it, how much you could focus on, try to focus on one person in a group— try to stop yourself before taking too much— that kinda thing."

Just what he wanted to hear. He has to work even harder to make his life easier? He doesn't groan, though he wraps an arm around Gillian to stop her from shoving him. She really is behaving like a sister. Which is a little awkward given what happened between him and her clone. He blushes ever so slightly when his arm wraps around her. "Help. Any ideas beyond a journal and focusing on one person?"

"Starting small is not a bad idea. I don't want you overwhelmed. You've a lot to accomplish, even with our help," Bella says, "I mentioned to Gillian trying to find you some steady employment," she takes the whole of the idea on herself, not to grab credit but to avoid implicating Gillian should the suggestion not go over well."Something to help you structure your life."

"Yeah, getting out more would be nice," Gillian says, looking over at him, but noticing that he's stopping her from shoving him. It's awkward for him, and awkward for her, because the just friends talk has already happened, and it's one of the many things she definitely doesn't need right now. "You live in a good area. See if there's a job a block or two away, something close, and then you won't have to worry about going very far. It doesn't have to be anything big. Just— something to do during the day."

"You watch, I'll get stuck doing retail again," Aaron says with a slight smirk. Because he's talked quite adamantly about not going back to retail. Of course, last time he swore he'd never go back to retail, oh look, he went back to retail. He relinquishes the arm from Gillian, blushing harder. This was precisely why he was saying to Bella that the sleeping with Stef thing was a mistake. It makes him feel weird about showing any affection towards her. "I don't know. I'm kinda paranoid about just bursting out into tears one day if something bad happens." And in retail, it almost inevitably does. Customers can be so mean.

Bella makes no outward sign of acknowledging any of the body language and positioning taking place before her. It's not her place to say anything, though she certainly takes note of it all. Information is valuable. "Anxious. You're anxious about bursting into tears," Bella says, tone self-mockingly pedantic, trying to play off the correction as a joke, "Paranoia is the fear of persecution. And, to be fair, there's a truth in that term that I don't know that you intended. I think you should start with a job that won't require a lot of customer service work. It is totally emotionally taxing thing, dealing with people in a service position, and that's not what you need. However, being part of a professional interaction will be good practice in self control. You need, like I said, to take some personal agency, to gain command over yourself. You can't control how you feel, and you shouldn't. But you can control how you behave, and once you can do that you'll feel much, much more in command of your life."

"There's lots of jobs besides service. You could end up as a paper pusher in a back room moving files around in some stupid ass company." Gillian says, shrugging her shoulders a little. Paper pushing and organizing is a lot of what she did when she worked with the library. There's one other thought, which suddenly pops up in her head. But it's not quite as safe as the area close to Peyton's. She tucks it away to suggest later, though. "I'll help you find something that's not all retaily if that's not what you want."

"I think pretty much anything that's not customer service sounds like a possibility." Though what Aaron would really like is to do music, but things really aren't working out in that arena at all. And he's been so blocked he hasn't been able to write anything new, and even if he did he doesn't have a lyricist. And he still hasn't been able to do more than touch on his band's old songs. There's still too much pain there. He looks at Gillian, "Thank you," then at Bella, "Both of you, really."

"Just doin' my job," Bella says, cheerfully, "I'm very glad Gillian agreed to be here today. It gives me great hope to know you have someone so willing to support you, and that that someone is so level headed and clever," she smiles at Gillian, "Feel free to come to future sessions. I think your involvement is invaluable. Though, I suppose, really I should be hoping /you/ think /my/ involvement is helpful." She folds the paper, the list Aaron composed, and offers it back to him, "We'll work on the things on this list one by one. I'd like to talk more about them during our next session. Same time next week?"

"I think you're more help than the people who want to solve everything with stupid tests," Gillian says, moving to get up off of the couch, and straightening her clothes. "And I like that you're not totally full of yourself. I got sent to a few therapists when I was young and if any of them had been like you I might not have stopped going." From her, that's a compliment, most likely. "I might come back again, though."

"I'm glad, too," Aaron says, giving Gillian one of the very rare small smiles of his own. He takes the slip of paper and works it into his coat. "Is there any way to see you more frequently? I understand if you're busy, but sometimes… sometimes a week just feels really long." Though having a job may help that. Right now he doesn't have a life to keep him busy. Just lots of time to sit around worrying about things.

Bella's lips quirk to one side. With the project she is heading up, her time is going to come at a premium. Commute time alone will devour hours she would normally give to patients. She lifts a hand and taps her jaw with an index finger, "I have a pretty serious commitment to the Suresh Center that's going to be very time consuming for me," she says, "But I'll see what I can do, see if I can make some time appear," her smile is apologetic, "I'm sorry, but there's so much frontier and very few trailblazers in my field. I'll try my best."

"Everyone has stuff to do," Gillian says, holding a hand out to Aaron. "I should get you home." Peyton's is home, but is it her home? That's up for debate. "It was nice to meet you, Bella."

Aaron nods, "If nothing opens up, that's cool. Just, you know, if you can fit me in, I think I'd like that." He gets up off the couch to stand with Gillian and walk with her to the door. Naturally, he takes her hand. "Thanks for everything, Bella, I really mean it." It feels so strange for him to be leaving Bella's office without having cried. Then again, he did spend a fair portion of his session unconscious.

Bella looks up at Gillian. She'd get to her feet, but she's still trying to take it easy. "And you, Gillian. I hope I continue to improve your opinion of my practice. Heaven knows it could use improving." She waves, "Take care, you too. Be safe."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License