2009-11-16: Maybe Not The Best Person



Date: November 16, 2009


"Cassie" goes looking for some reassurance and receives more than she'd expected from her therapist.

"Maybe Not The Best Person"

Greenwich Village, NYC - Hope Hearth Distress Centre

Stepping out of her office, Sydney pads to the reception area, her black stilettos (how is she walking, anyways?!) clapping loudly against the tile floor. Today she looks like a therapist. Or a professional at the very least. She's dressed in a black pencil skirt and a white short-sleeved blouse. As she approaches, she turns to Tara, the receptionist of the day (they have yet to find someone good willing to work for so little), "Hey Tara, do you think you can squeeze me in to see Amy? I know she's busy, but there's a matter I need to discuss with her."

The receptions chews on her gum noisily, almost like a cow chewing cud, ruminating on it time and time again. Nonchalantly the rather vacant looking brunette tilts her head vacantly, "All of her appointments are booked for today."

Taking a deep breath, Sydney manages to maintain a smile, "I don't need an appointment. I need fifteen to twenty minutes to discuss business. She's my boss. I have something I need to deal with a work situa —"

"She's not available until Friday…" Pause. "And neither are you." Sydney rolls her eyes.

The door opens, admitting a swirl of November-cold air and Lena. The teen is looking especially disreputable today in baggy black pants, old sneakers and a faded red hoodie with the hood drawn up to cover her hair. She pauses just within, looking around with the cursory attention of someone who doesn't want to admit that their surroundings are intimidating. Reception is spied and it's in that direction that she wanders, one hand stuffed deep into the pocket of her sweater while the other riffles carelessly over the tops of the brochure stands. Displacing a few. Not bothering to pick them up again. Teenagers.

"Hey…" Lena cuts into the conversation between receptionist and therapists, blue eyes cutting back and forth between the two. "This is like a walk-in clinic or something, right? I gotta talk to someone about something, like…now maybe?" At least she's trying to sound polite.

The receptionist looks up lazily at Lena, "As I was just saying to Ms. Falkland, there's no appointment times available until Fri —"

"Ignore her," Sydney urges Lena before she rolls her eyes. Another one bites the dust. "I can see you now if you like, despite what Tara says," she waves Lena to follow her into her office.

"But Ms. Falkland, what about —" the receptionist objects.

But Sydney pretends not to hear. She ushers Lena into her office. It's pale violet in colour. Serene. Calming. Shelves of books line the walls and a desk sits off to the far side of the room (it's loitered with papers in disorganized chaos). A brand new green coloured couch (after Joel's complaining, Syd got it replaced) is across from a black armchair. She motions for Lena to have a seat on the couch.

For all that Lena's outward demeanor projects an aura of casual disregard, the moment she sets foot in that serene room, there's a rush of nerves. Anxiety almost, possibly even fear. The girl has both hands sunk in her pockets now, and her shoulders come up to hover near her ears. It's a defensive posture. "You're not gonna get in trouble or anything? I mean, I appreciate it and all but she seemed kinda pissed," Lena observes, gaze casting about the office to take in the little details as she crosses to the couch. Cue an undignified sprawl.

Sydney closes the door after Lena comes in, "No, I won't get into trouble. I don't think Tara really likes working here is all." She shakes her head slightly as she pads to her chair. Her seated position is much more structured than Lena's: two feet planted firmly on the floor. "And she doesn't believe me, but I really don't have any prior appointments. I work on my research in the afternoons which is a standing appointment unless I have walk-ins or something important." She offers Lena a warm smile, "I'm Sydney… what brings you here today?"

"I heard a commercial on the radio about this place. When shit's going down in your life, you can talk to people. And they won't tell anyone, right? I read that somewhere too, shrinks aren't allowed to tell anyone what you tell them." Lena squints at the woman seated so primly over there; it wouldn't take an empath to read the distrust in her expression. Oh, wait. Introductions. The teen hesitates a moment before blatantly lying about her name. "I'm Cassie. It…I…you are a doctor, right? So you know your stuff?"

"Yeah. Hope Hearth is a place for people to talk things out," Sydney nods. "And yes, our session is entirely confidential unless you divulge to me that you are willfully planning to harm yourself or someone else." Sydney reaches for her pad of paper and pen which are sitting on a small table next to her chair. "Well it's a pleasure to meet you, Cassie. I'm not officially a doctor yet. In another month or two hopefully, but I am a well-trained and experienced counsellor. I can assure you, I know my stuff." She continues to smile.

Lena should be reassured but there is no lessening of that inner tension. She's silent for a time, continuing to study the therapist. Finally, her face twists in a grimace of resignation and she begins to talk. "Okay. Okay. So, like…life's gotten really crazy lately, you know? I'm not maybe the best person in the whole wide world. I say fuck too much and…I do some shit that might make the cops pissed at me, right? But…but lately, it's gotten really bad and I'm just so fucking mad and scared all the time. My…um. Roommate, he got mad at me the other day 'cause of something I said," she says, sitting up to match Sydney's posture. Her hands emerge finally and clasp restlessly in her lap.

"I just…wanna find out if people can be, like…bad, and not know it. Like, really bad."

Sydney leans forward slightly in her chair as she scribbles a few notes down on the pad of paper. Thoughtfully she chews the end of her pen and nods before she speaks again, taking in Lena's words. "What did you say to your roommate?" she asks carefully. "Do you think he should have been mad?" She moistens her lips as she studies Lena carefully.

There's another moment of silence as Sydney's expression turns reflective, "As people we have choices. We can choose what we want to do and how we act." There's a pause as her eyebrows furrow, "That is… unless you have dissociative identity disorder and one of your personalities is a sociopath…"

Lena shifts uneasily on the couch, eyes casting down towards the floor. There is guilt there, unease, but also a fierce sense of justification. "I know why he was mad, but…like, sometimes there's reasons something's a good idea even if it seems bad, right?" The brunette is obviously reluctant to speak in specifics, and refuses to look at Sydney while dancing around the explanation. The matter of sociopathy brings a glance though, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "What, you mean like that…multiple personality disorder? You think I've got that?" she demands, straightening up and frowning. "What the hell, aren't you supposed to run tests or something?"

Sydney tilts her head at Lena at the notion of something bad being good, but she says nothing. "No, I don't think you have multiple personality disorder," she answers calmly. She's gotten semi-used to being yelled at from the couch. "I was merely answering the question. You're clearly not a sociopath. If you were you wouldn't be here. They don't care about others emotions and they don't identify with other people. You are not a sociopath." Sociopaths only come in for court-mandated therapy. She forces a comforting smile, "What was the conflict with your roommate about?" There's another pause, "You can speak frankly with me, you know. I'm not going to talk to your roommate or anyone about what you say. That's not my job."

Lena regards Sydney with open suspicion now, clearly not entirely reassured about the possibility of that "snap diagnosis" being false. "Well…well, maybe I am. I don't…I mean. I used to care. I did, I was a good kid once," she says, almost defensive. "I know I don't look it but I was this huge nerd when I was going to school. But things went wrong, right? And…and now, I just can't care, 'cause if it's me or someone else…I don't wanna end up…"

The teen pauses to draw a deep breath through her nose and looks away again, eyebrows drawing down sharply. "I'm in some huge trouble, okay? There are people, bad people, who might be out for me. And…and one of them maybe found out where I live. He got pissed because I was…thinking maybe we should get rid of her, so she can't tell anyone else. He's still kinda pissed at me, I think, even though we figured out something else. But if they show up again…it's self-defense, right?"

Blinking, Sydney nods a bit as she chews on the back of her pen. A few moments pass as she processes the information. Her expression has turned to all out concern. She draws the pen from her mouth. She leans forward in her seat, "Cassie, who is after you? If you're feeling unsafe I can arrange to have you stay in one our sister shelters until this blows over — your safety is important." She furrows her eyebrows, as she explains, "It's only self-defense if you're attacked first." Pause. "Did someone attack you? Did your roommate hurt you?" her tone changes considerably - still concerned, but with a sort of edge to it. A personal edge.

She sighs. "Look, life hap-pens. We can react one way or another. We have little control over what happens to us, but how we react — our own actions — those we control. And while life sucks sometimes, what I do about it defines me. Not what happened." Her tone is gentle. Not chastising, but it almost has a sort of defensiveness to it.

"Huh? What, Chi? Fuck no! Jesus…he was the one who got me away from the guy who was smacking me around." Lena is indignant on behalf of the absent man, frown turned fierce. As if Sydney could have known that. "I can't tell you who's after me, you'd think I was fucking crazy. And I'm not safe but I'm not going to any shelter, either. He knows some folks, we're gonna hole up somewhere else…I mean, no offense, lady. But no one at some shelter's gonna be able to do shit about these people." She pauses then, reaching up to rake a hand through her hair; the movement shoves the hood back. Sydney's summing up is confusing, too touchy feely for the practical-natured teenager to digest. But she gives it an honest try.

"So, like, if they come after me and I take them out, it's okay then? 'Cause that's self-defense then and I'm just making sure I'm safe, right? I'm looking after myself."

The outburst just causes the therapist to blink, but Sydney does manage a very sincere apology, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions like that." In fact a good analyst would say the conclusion says more about Sydney than anyone.

She suppresses a sigh, before assuring Lena, "Believe me, I've heard some very unusual things from the couch, and I've yet to have someone committed." True enough. A nod is given to the bit about self-defense, "If someone is coming after you, you're allowed to defend yourself, but they must actually try to harm you first."

Lena's eyes shift back to the therapist and rest there, wide, blue, unblinking. The street tough has flaked away and there's just a girl now, frightened, looking at an adult for reassurance. Fortunately, she knows nothing about counseling, and can't leap to any judgements about Sydney's behavior. "You gotta fucking swear you won't tell anyone, okay? I'm serious, this is for real. It's…you know those crazy conspiracy theories about the government? How they grab people for secret experiments? Secret labs, brains in jars, that kinda shit?"

Sydney maintains that eye contact, and nods a bit. "I swear I won't tell anyone," she promises solemnly as her eyes narrow. "Yes, I'm aware of a number of conspiracy theories…" And the validity of such theories… Her lips twitch as she returns the pad of paper to the small table and just gazes at Lena intently.

"Don't you dare fucking laugh," Lena mutters, gaze shifting down again. She misinterpreted that twitch, taking it for amusement. Her eyes close tightly for a moment, against the sting of frustration. "It's real, I swear to god. Someone told me and he would know. They are grabbing people. I could be on a fucking list somewhere, just waiting for my name to come up. I probably am. There's this guy, I thought we could trust him, but he's with them. And the chick I mentioned…she's sleeping with another one, and maybe told him everything. I fucking helped her. Helped her, saved her life. So she buys me shoes and tells him about me." The teen gives a low bark of laughter; her hands open and close, bunching into fists against her knees.

Then she stands up and swipes at her eyes before pulling the hood up again. "Yeah, this was a mistake. I gotta go."

"I, I believe you," Sydney blinks hard and swallows hard as she rises following Lena's lead. "I… I know… about…" Her lips twitch uncomfortably. "A friend of mine told me last week." She swallows again as she smoothes her skirt. Biting her lip, she doesn't know what to say. What not to say. What can she say? "Wait. Please."

Lena goes still, head cocked at an odd angle to allow her to aim a narrow, speculative look at the therapist. Her eyes are glittering with the remnants of angry tears that she's managed to fight back. And suddenly, she doesn't quite seem to know where to put her hands. Let them hang at her side? No. Maybe put them back in those pockets? No… "What do you know about it?" The question is just shy of aggressive.

"Not much I'm afraid," Sydney admits as she reaches for a kleenex box on her desk. "My friend told me that people like him…" Like her. "…people with abilities, are being taken." She blinks at Cassie. She knows more, but what if this is some elaborate trap. Some way to get her to give up Gene. So she says nothing more.

Lena makes no further move towards the door, even shifts around again to face the woman, but her eyes closely track that reach. A girl can't be too careful. Once it becomes clear that Sydney isn't about to draw a Man in Black or a gun or the phone, she glances up at the therapist's face. She wants to be trusting, really she does. But this is a little awkward. "Your friend. Is he…like does he work for…for a company or something?" she finally inquires, the words emerging almost stiffly.

"No, my friend doesn't," Sydney shakes her head. "But… I have an acquaintance that does," Oh yes, Joel has been downgraded to acquaintance. "Do… do people know about your ability, Cassie? I know that the government hasn't been able to track everyone down. Some people can easily hide…" She blinks at Lena.

The decision is made to shove her hands into her pockets. It's a good sign, although Sydney may not realize it. "I was hiding, till those fuckers burned down Mr. Ling's. That's what started this. This chick saw it, saw me…her boyfriend's government. And she told him everything…about the two guys who could do shit. Probably about me too." Because really, why wouldn't Hallis bring up the third freak in that particular show? Lena's face twists in a scowl. "But he already knew about the mutants, right? So I ask this other guy for help, figuring he's in security, maybe he knows what I can do and then he ends up being some goon who figures out what I can do."

The story about Ling's is one Sydney's heard before, from Hallis. She blinks as she sits down in her chair, her face paling. Everything is coming together: Cassie is the girl with bad hair. Her eyes twitch a bit as she nods. "I… I don't know who in the government isn't to be trusted other then…" Ivory. Even now, Sydney can feel butterflies in her stomach as she thinks of him. She furrows her eyebrows and raises a hand to her forehead. "Okay. So the boyfriend knew about people with abilities? And then another third party figures out what you can do? Did he work for the government?"

"Yeah. The lady said that he wasn't like us. Me. But he knew all about it. And she tracked down where I lived for him." Lena is watching the woman closely now, forehead rumpled with a number of different emotions: frustration, fear, confusion. "Ch—my roommate and me, we're gonna hide for a bit in case…" But no. The girl decides to omit just how that situation was dealt with. She glances at the door, considering, then sidles slowly back towards the couch. "The other guy…I thought he was cool, you know? I met him when I thought it was just me who was a freak. He said he was in security, so I asked him to look into the two guys at the convenience store, right? But then he went all spook on me, tried to get me to admit what I could do."

"Why did she do that?" Sydney asks rubbing her temples. Yes, she's obviously upset. "Yes, make sure that you and your roommate hide. I don't know exactly what's happenin, but if they managed to fill a train full of people with abilities… that's incredible…" There's a pause. "Is there a way I can contact you? I can talk to my friend and see if there's something else you should be doing… I don't really know to help, but my friend might." She studies Cassie further.

Lena expels a breath in a snort. "Why? Because she's a goddamn junkie spy who cares more about shoes than people, right? I saved three people from burning to death and she took the credit. If she's lucky, she won't ever remember where we live, 'cause I swear to god…my brain's staying in my head." Oh yes, she's still bitter, even after Hallis' odd apology. "Uh uh, no way. No offense, lady, but…hiding is hiding. No one's gonna be able to find us until this shit calms down. I just…" Lena shifts uneasily on her feet. "I wanted to make sure I wasn't…wrong to want to protect myself, you know? Your commercial…" She takes another breath, lets it out slow. "Maybe I could come back, next week or something. There's that coffee shop nearby, right?"

Sydney nods at the answer, still pale. "Okay, I won't mention anything to anyone. I swear. This is between you, me, and the walls." She presses her lips together and then nods again, "You're not wrong to protect yourself. There is something amiss with the government and you need to make sure you can't be found." She blinks again, "Yes, there's a coffee shop around the corner. And we can talk some more. I might be able to find out more about what's going on before then…"

"Are you gonna be okay?" See? Lena isn't entirely bad, although the question has a reluctant note, as if she's hesitant to tear herself away from growling at the world long enough to check on Sydney. "You look like you're about to throw up." Pause. "I guess…maybe next Monday? That oughta give me time to find a safe place. So you can talk to your friend. If he can help, that'd be fucking awesome because the guy I know can't do much. They're already following him."

"I'm sorry, it's just… been one of those weeks," Sydney manages a weak smile. "Thank you for the concern though." She takes a deep breath. "Alright. Next Monday. How about the afternoon again? We can touch base and I'll try to talk to my friend and figure out what's going on. Maybe there's a place or something he'll know of that's safe… he's very very bright…"

Lena shifts again on her feet and looks towards the door; an escape seems imminent. "Yeah, around this time. I'll bring him with me too, I tell him everything and he can handle himself if shit gets bad." Not the most subtle of warnings, but then, she seems the type to prefer using a club rather a scalpel. "I should get going, he gets antsy if I'm gone too long. Thanks for…for not freaking out on me," the girl goes on, beginning to walk backwards towards the exit. "I didn't think this shrink stuff was any good but I do kinda feel better."

"I'm glad I could help," Sydney keeps smiling weakly and manages to stand to her feet to see Lena to the door. "Good then. It's decided." Her lips tighten up as she pads to her office door to see Lena out. "Be safe, Cassie," her tone and expression are sincere.

"Yeah, you too. Uh." Lena pauses long enough to search her memory for the name. "Sydney. Don't barf, okay?" At least not until the teen can slip out, which she promptly does.

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