2010-12-16: The Italian Ladies Sing



Guest-Starring: Dr. Jeffrey Miles


Date: December 16th, 2010


Maggie's crusade continues as she makes her way back to the top. Her present is revealed. Laurie finds he has a cause.

"The Italian Ladies Sing"

NY Psych Institution

She sat down this time. It's not because she especially wants to be here, or that she's conceded to settle in; the lines Maggie's red-and-black-clad form make are too precise and hardened to denote any comfort as she sits across from the desk of Dr. Jeffrey Miles. What she has done is decided to listen — the expectant, intent look she levels at him says as much. It says little else; she's calm, a statue.
"I'd like to know," she sets in, her voice almost as calm as her demeanor but invested just so in what she's saying, "how you think he's doing. I mean really doing: the grand scheme. What's going to happen to him?"

He stood for her; he always has, and so Dr. Miles is easing into a chair a step behind his guest. It isn't the same one he started out in. Called to have a meeting, the doctor's chosen a massively encompassing armchair to settle in, out from behind the oppressive blockade of his desk. In silhouette, the chair almost gives the impression of a throne. Dr. Miles rests against it comfortably enough, tipped slightly to one side where his elbow touches the chair arm, his hand poised as if to hold something, but there are no distractions there.

He stares sympathetically forward, starting with a soft nod of the head. "Well, Maggie, let's start with how it's been going in your work sessions. How have you found him to be in your time here?"

At first, Maggie doesn't answer; she regards Dr. Miles for several long, silent moments. It doesn't seem to be in consideration of her answer; her gaze is too outwardly focused on the psychiatrist himself. One thumb taps the arm of the chair her arm lays on. Then: "Well," she begins the same way he did and, after another moment's pause, only goes on to state modestly, "…okay considering."

"Okay," Dr. Miles describes, without admonishing; he seems more amused than anything else, "is a very noncommittal word. But it is sometimes all we have…" General impression being that he is not included in that we. Framed by that chair, and the many degrees around the edges of it like a certifiable halo, the doctor is likely never short for a word. "How about you elaborate on your use of 'considering'…"

Maggie's eyes narrow an increment on the psychiatrist; however, a short-lived indication that she might be politely withholding her own version of how about you… — she clarifies with even, soft-voiced neutrality. "Okay means what it means. I'm fairly certain 'noncommittal' isn't in its dictionary definition," she says first. "Considering where he is and why he's here and what he's gone through and… considering his past and his mind are being judged because of it." A blink; her gaze returns to its expectant watch.

"Words are often used outside of their definitions," mentions Dr. Miles, the corners of his mouth only having the notion of turning up around Maggie's narrowing. "Especially in front of psychiatrists." A slow, accepting nod is given over the rest. Though his face might fade thoughtfully, his eyes briskly remain on the woman without waver. "All things that must be taken into consideration," is the eventual approval and, his elbow dropping to put his hand joined by the other in his lap.

"Never are these things cut and dry, and it is often difficult to chart, as the mind is a masterfully complicated thing— " his head tips, indicating, "That being said— Laurence is clearly more lucid than many of the others here. However," as his voice lowers, it tinges not regretfully, but perhaps disappointed for a small loss, "The paranoia on its own is cause for enough concern. That, and a remarkably calculating dedication towards self-harm…" Awe and bemusement are both contenders for his next emotion— though neither seem ones the doctor is capable of lowering to. "He has a talent for going around the typical methods."

A small shift in composure, and a literal shift in her chair, mark Maggie's reaction to the latter words of Dr. Miles; a half-quashed frown and a glance to the side pass by. "Uh, yes…" she murmurs in reluctantly unavoidable agreement before her eyes settle the same as before. "What do you mean, though — about paranoia?"

"I believe it's a byproduct of his former work," illustrates the doctor, not even having to hesitate over words or thoughts; they are all there, and his gaze never loses focus on her. "He— imagines conspiracies. Everyone's double-crossing him. He can't feel safe, or confide. And if he does, the tiniest suggestion of rejection can cause, really, irreparable damage to the relationship he concocts in his mind. He was all alone undercover… I don't believe he's left that mentality behind." A tiny turn of the head, "You've noticed him become more distant recently, perhaps. Maybe physically."

Maggie sits with the psychiatrist's words, more clearly, keenly invested in them than — perhaps, maybe — any others thus far. Little indications of sympathy worry at her features and, for an instant, warm her eyes before she hardens into focus. "That's understandable… considering." There's that word again, considering. It feels heavy with meaning, a summary of all that's been said. "And physically… touching is against your hospital rules," she then points out with a flash of a smile throughout; and it's gone. "So what's next."

"Understandable, perhaps, but no less damaging," Dr. Miles warns, then changing little between sentences, "And contact is not the only way one can become physically distant, Maggie. Even if I didn't believe you two capable of bending your way around my hospital's rules." Judgment is lacking in what might otherwise sound like a reprimand. Here, it is only fact. And afterwards, he very calmly removes his hands from his lap, wrapping old fingers around crisp leather chair arms. "Next, we continue to encourage progress. Now that he's settled a bit more, we can step up treatment. Exact specifications of which I am not at liberty to discuss outside of my patient, but you may notice some behavioral changes in the next month. Those, too, will even out with time."

"Even out," Maggie repeats, calm but with a skeptical undertone; she calculates the phrase until she interprets: "Behavioural changes… changing him, you mean… evening out… until he's not himself anymore." Slowly, and ever-so-slightly, she tips her head to the right; from this altered analytical tilt she settles into regarding Dr. Miles anew, befitting of the detective title he's since stopped calling her by. "Because your treatment plan is to medicate him without his permission."

"Yes," the doctor replies, batting aside her cynical hints with smooth readiness, "Until he no longer harbors behaviors that are harmful to himself and others. So, in a way, he will change. But he will also, we hope, be able to find balance." No flinch escapes to her reveal. If anything, his brow wrinkles adamantly for her sake, the burden of coming to these conclusions. "Many patients are wary of medication for personal reasons, or because of the side-effects. This does not alter the need for them." All of his fingers rise and then fall, creating a small patter of impacts against the chair. "Right now, Laurence's mind is his own worst enemy. To disarm him is to give him a chance at peace."

"In theory," Maggie says quickly, a just as fast up-and-down look studying Dr. Miles. "Peace is … only peace if it's recognized. I'm not a psychiatrist, but going on what I do know about the types of drugs you probably want to use, I'm not convinced it would be peace, it wouldn't be anything. I'm not disagreeing … that his mind is his own worst enemy," and in saying so, certainly sounds knowing first-hand, "but I'm not sure… that it's his only enemy." Silent a moment, she only stares pointedly with a questioning lift of brows. "Are you sure, Dr. Miles… that this plan is for the right reasons? That it's for him?"

"Yes." Not so slow so as to be doubtful, not so fast so as to be defensive. His hands rest comfortably against the arms of the chair without tightening and he stares, almost languidly, back at Maggie. His posture remains open.

The calm deportment Dr. Miles maintains only hones Maggie's gaze more sharply on him. Yet her pose is unchanged; almost the same as his in shape, minus the comfort. "You said yourself that he's lucid." Thus started, she becomes adamant. "He has his problems but he's not insane. But you might make him that way, not to mention… isn't being dependent on more drugs the last thing he needs. His mind might be against him, but Miles… needs his mind. It hardly even seems moral. It can't be the only way. How could you do that to someone," she says, sounding more honestly wondering than accusing— until, "He's your son." She looks at Laurie's father quizzically, a wondering study leaving her with a bit of appall. "And he's not some reflection of the past."

With the lowering of eyebrows, it's as if the entirety of Dr. Miles' high bald forehead sinks, darkening wrinkled features. Not in cruelty or anger — he appears in this way, but briefly, saddened. For her. This generous donation is passed by his eyes across the room. "Your concern is touching," he decides, his hands rolling off the leather, returning to the home-base of his lap. "But unfortunately biased. It's rather you who needs his mind— or what portion of it you've glimpsed. Laurence has struggled since childhood and the truth is that, as much as you may wish to mold a burden towards good— sometimes, it still fails."

Maggie's shoulders inch backward stiffly at the first sign of sadness — for her — from Dr. Miles, dismissive of its relevance; she doesn't consent to require or deserve it. His words solidify what is clearly her growing disapproval. "I am concerned, not biased," she states as a pitch-perfect fact, "and I'm not trying to… mold— look." She leans ahead in her chair, gripping the arms of it, like she might rise.

"Don't you think your outlook as a … let's say psychiatrist," as opposed to father, "is a little… damned… to start with? He struggled for a long time already so clearly — that's that?" A few fingers raise from her chair in a quick gesture of stop. "Please don't answer me like I am naive," she calmly pre-empts before smoothly returning to her track, eyeing Dr. Miles with incisive blue. "To be honest, I think you gave up on him a long time ago."

"My dear," Dr. Miles offered sadness brightens into pleasantries, "I was not saying you were. In truth, this was a reflection on my own shortcomings. Contrary to what you may believe, I've long held onto hope for Laurence's future. It's testament to this that it was even able to get this far before now, before help." His mouth thins momentarily. The first sign of flickering hesitance, or some held-back emote. "I should've acted a long time ago. I can only make up for it now with the proper care." A hand juts back stiffer than his usual suave, he braces it to his chair arm, rethinks, and aborts the motion. "You're emotional. It will take time."

"Proper c— " Maggie's close watch of his gestures slides away. All at once, she sits up out of her lean, bites her lip and brings a hand to either temple to smooth through her hair and regain concentration; it takes but a few seconds. "With all… due respect, Doctor… my emotions are none of your concern." Pushing upon the chair's arms, she stands up. "Regardless of… who this is about…" Her voice softens a bit; a hint of a frown appears, then slants its way into a delicate, cheerless smile. "What you're trying to do, in court, it isn't right. It's one thing… to help a person even when they don't want it, but somewhere there… has to be a line."

"Your emotions are what brought you here," reasons Dr. Miles right back, easing more comfortably against that so shortly hesitant arm. Intrigue, and something tinged victoriously, washes over his face, erasing all of that old sorrow with only a suggestion. His chin raises only the better to regard her at her new stand. "Tell me more about this line," he instructs with interest, "Somewhere, you say. Is the location different for different people? Would… for instance, Laurence put what you're doing right now further down the scale than yourself, or do you admit you're fighting against his consent as much as I am?"

"I don't know, why don't you ask him," Maggie replies coolly back. She's unmoving from her taller stance. "I never want— to do anything against his consent." Fire, now, in her words and in the intensified stare directed at Dr. Miles — the coolness is on its way out. "I'm not fighting against his consent right now, not exactly, because I never actually believed that anything I said would have an affect on you."

"I'm asking you." Coolness to coolness. He blinks slowly, nearly smiles as he says it, affirming her as the target of his calm words and calculated eye. "And you are. Fighting. I think you know it, too. Because you want him to consent— you want him to want to. Of course it was never about me. I'm only a convenient tool for both of you in your own lack of communication."

A rigid press of Maggie's mouth, a crossing of her arms and a calculated eye of her own prepare defenses against his calculated eye, and his calm words. Only preparations. She blinks at him rapidly; her lips falter as if to speak out but she doesn't; she remains in a frozen state of near-anger, only watching him as if expecting him to say more. Since she's not going to.

And there he is, the source of all her anger and expectation: Dr. Miles leans into his chair, propping both elbows evenly and bobbing his chin near his folded hands, pondering being at rest against them. When he does find this equilibrium of pose, there's naught to do but drill that steadied gaze into her. Mapping of all the tenseness she displays, and then sympathy once again melts the wrinkles around his eyes. Only for study to crease them. "… Who was it you first had to watch struggle with their own mind—?"

Staring a moment longer without change, she's jarred off-track when confusion gradually spreads over Maggie's face but, then, she appears suspicious of him instead, wondering with furrows in her brows. "W- whhat?" she questions through an incredulous little scoff. She gives her head a dismissive shake. "No, stop it. Stop. I'm not here to be psychoanalyzed." To prove that point, she starts to turn away, quite done with Dr. Miles.

When she starts, Dr. Miles rises promptly from his chair. Not in pursuit of her, but only so he can stride around his desk, putting it between them, and the prospect of work in front of him. Taking the arm of this chair now, he begins to ease to the seat. Before he's done: "Careful," he'll impart meaningfully, "This dependance on him being there will only make things harder." Then with a swift flick of his arm, glasses obscure his eyes as he peers down to his work. Quite done.

Yet as Maggie pulls the office door open, and as her hand tightens around the doorknob, she stops. Barely; it's a fraction of a trip-up in her steps, but enough of a pause to look back, glaring over her shoulder at the studious psychiatrist returned to his studious desk. "I'm used to things being hard," she discloses of her own volition before she leaves and shuts the door slightly harder than strictly necessary.

On the harsh note of the door hitting its frame, Dr. Miles' head pulls up, rebounded off the noise of that slight hardness. His movement is slower than that, gauging through the rich oak what has gone beyond. A crinkle begins to form at the edge of his mouth. His hand splays away from work, taking his weight from his work now where his attention has already gone.

* * *

A splash of gold, rising and falling to each of its five regal points. But the canvas is a lot larger than a once folded envelope, and the broad strokes make a mockery of clean cut lines. The only thing this shining star has going for it is a sense of haphazard symmetry. Its fellows, splayed along the lightly tilted canvas, make nameless constellations on a vaguely off-white sky.

Morning activities in the white-walled realm are tame, awash with fumbles for wakefulness — a grasp of the day that breakfast never secured. The starmapper sits among them, barely aware of his own arm's movements as it dashes the makings of another celestial life onto the page. A droning and repetitive existence, only emphasized by the countless bodies on a white representation of this endless scape. Nothing added to nothing makes…

Into this world, a streak of daring and violent red. Laurie's back stretches out of its bend naturally after a first glance confirms the suspicion of identity. He straightens, while burden makes a similar flat line out of his eyebrows, at the sight of Maggie Powers thundering her way past the hallway, the ferocity of her own pace whipping blonde hair and red shirt like combined flags on the mast of the woman's tense body. Wonder sweeps over a face dulled by repeated thought; the pinch of skin above his nose threatens to make a trench. Just like that, she's gone.

A slight thoughtfulness and it would all be over, but Laurie's abandoning gaze catches a second landmark — one that grinds that malleable concern into an unreadable determination on his face. At first it's only him, observing the observer. But then eyes meet eyes. Jeffrey Miles cannot quickly enough deny the expression that had come over his own features in watching the detective storm from the premises; Laurie does not shift the one on his.

They both know.

And then they know that the other knows.

A beat.

The elder Miles moves. Biding to turn, he first allows his gaze to return to that original point of interest. Long, colorless moments pass belonging to everyone else, swimming sluggishly through their collective lives of broken board games and mundane activities. Arms swing. Mouths move. No sound. The blur threatens the edges of one little frozen world — something snaps.

Color suddenly blooms, noise rushes in, in a blare and torrent of presence that startles Laurie on the seat of the small stool he sits on. He glances down dully and notices that his knuckles as he grips the paintbrush have gone ghostly white. Wrenching each of his fingers apart one by one, the bland mystified look persists. Even as he slides that freed hand to the side, slipping it beneath the dreary hang of his grey tee to fetch the corner of a thin white messenger of another kind. A finger nudges under the locked lip, striking through that smaller, more precise star holding onto a different wonder.

Past the gold star, beyond the white paper, is more white paper — folded over yet more. It's a simple note that greets him, written this time in typical blue pen, but the letters curve in the same serene and slightly whimsical yet somehow practical manner that graced the envelope.

I don't usually re-gift,
or re-interpret them …
but I thought you could use the reminder.
You don't have to be alone. You're not alone.
Not while I'm around + I'm not going anywhere.
Hold onto this.
I believe in you too.
Signed, a whirling Maggie Powers.

Beyond Maggie's note is another piece of paper, worn and bearing the scars of having been folded every-which-way in the past. None of the creases are new, nor are the words inside, familiar for another reason; they were written by their reader.

We are none of us alone
Even as we exhale it is inhaled by others
The light that shines upon me shines upon my neighbor as well
In this way everything is connected to everything else
In this way I am connected to my friend

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