Friends of a Feather

Sometimes, even therapists have things in their own lives they need a little help with. And, as it turns out, providing guidance to others is much easier than trying to do the same for yourself.

At SHUSH, things were actually going very well for Dr. Moira Rousseau. Despite her initial concerns about possibly having to choose one field over the other, she had been successful in managing her schedule to allow time for both clinical and forensic work.  Having been settled in for several months now, she was happy with where she was professionally.  She loved her job and truly wanted to help people, and that showed through her gentle words and warm, friendly smile. And the confidence she had gained in her abilities, paired with the humility and kindness doctors these days all too often seemed to lack, made her generally well-liked among other SHUSH employees.

As such, she had become at ease interacting with many of the people she ran into there day-to-day.  Once she left the office for the day, however, and it came time to interact with people in other environments, her confidence would wane and things would become a bit... trickier.

Enrolled at a young age in a special 'head start' program designed to set children on a faster path towards their college degree than traditional schools, Moira had spent most of her life focused on her studies rather than her social life. What social skills she currently had came mostly from textbooks rather than real-world interactions. And her preferred pastime was enjoying quiet time, alone, curled up on her couch with a feel-good book or movie.

But she was no longer content with that.  She tired of being lonely, and SHUSH being the only place where she felt socially competent. Always overhearing co-workers make weekend plans with each other had become almost painful. Why should she have to stay home alone when she could be out having fun, too? All she needed was a friend or two... but that was nearly impossible when she lacked the courage to approach others. And that was an embarrassing problem to have when your chosen career often put you in the position of helping others with similar issues.

And that was exactly why she had decided to put her foot down, and finally give herself the push that she often had to give her patients.  She had given herself a simple mission: to go somewhere unfamiliar, and strike up conversation with someone.

The bank seemed an easy enough place to test the waters.  So, having requested that her pay to be give to her in the form of a physical check this time, Moira had no choice but to go to the bank herself and interact with a stranger in person if she wanted groceries and to pay her bills for the month.  It should only require minimal interaction... but baby steps taken in the right direction still counted as progress.

Moira shifted the purse on her shoulder as she walked through the entrance of the bank and got in line for the teller. The line was short, and everything so far seemed pretty quiet.  She was glad she'd chosen to come in on her day off, at a time when most other people were still at work.

Once it was her turn, she walked up to the counter and gave the teller a timid smile.

"Hello. I'd like to make a deposit, please."

She'd noticed right away that the teller seemed like a nice person before even saying anything (and so pretty too!), but it did little to put Moira at ease.  As she handed over the check, smile became almost apologetic, and might as well have said aloud what Moira was thinking. 'I'm totally new at this and I'm so sorry if I mess something up and take up more of your time.'

    • DarkwingPsycho
      DarkwingPsycho

      Jacob smirked, appreciating Moira's attempt at humor.  "If you like, I can get someone else to do it.  Would you like me to drive you home, Doctor?"

      Meanwhile Ariana's arms tightened around Elliot at his soothing voice.  "You didn't..." she murmured between sniffles.  "And thank you...for helping us."

      Her blonde head turned toward Moira, although she didn't loosen her hold on the ginger.  "Thank you so much, miss...you...saved my life."

      • Elliot Hudson
        Elliot Hudson

        Elliot let out a half-hearted chuckle. “That’s my job.  I only wish I had been better at it.”

        Lesson of the day: barricade rope is not an effective substitute for handcuffs.

        ”I’d still like to make it up to you.  Can I... buy you dinner?  Drinks?  Both?”  Elliot didn’t normally ask girls out without the intention of at least mildly flirtatious behavior, but he truly did feel guilty.  And he couldn’t just leave her feeling like this.

        “Yes... thank you both,” the young agent echoed Ariana’s sentiment.  Knowing she’d never been in a situation like this, he gave Moira a reassuring smile.  “You were amazing.”

        • Dr. Moira Rousseau
          Dr. Moira Rousseau

          In any other situation, Moira would have politely declined Jacob’s offer; she did not want to be a burden.  But she felt walking home alone in her current emotional state would not be wise, and Elliot already had his hands full consoling Ariana.

          ”If it’s not too much trouble, a ride home would be great,” she said, almost apologetically.  “Though... aren’t we witnesses?  Is it really okay for us to leave a crime scene like this...?”

          Despite being inwardly distraught and desperate to retreat back to the safety of her home (or even her office back at SHUSH), Moira did not possess Jacob’s ability to guiltlessly disregard protocol whenever it suited him.  At the moment, she almost envied him in that.

          Moira blushed when Ariana and Elliot both thanked her, and smiled shyly.  “You all helped to save these people’s lives,” she replied, quick to direct the attention off of herself.  “So, thank you.”

          • DarkwingPsycho
            DarkwingPsycho

            Ariana blushed fiercely at Elliot's offer as she pulled back, looking up at him bashfully.  "Oh...I...sure, i-if you want to..."  She let him help her to her feet and glanced at him sideways.  "But you should know I...I have a boyfriend..."  The term still felt funny on her bill, and made her feel warm and gooey.  Briefly she wondered if the incident had popped up on Quiverwing's radar at all.

            Jacob unabashedly rubbed Moira's arm in a soothing way and waved his other hand dismissively.  "Ah, I know where to find you for questioning if we need you.  You've both been through enough for one evening, wouldn't you say?"

            He released her from his friendly embrace and then offered her his arm to escort her to his car.  "Doctor...?"

            • Elliot Hudson
              Elliot Hudson

              “Oh, no no.  It’s nothing like that,” Elliot assured Ariana.  “I mean... if you aren’t comfortable, or think your boyfriend would object, I understand.  It’s just... I just wanted to make it up to you, that’s all.”

              A small part of Elliot felt it was shame, as Ariana was very attractive.  But she was also very sweet and innocent... the type of person that easily triggered his protective instincts.  And, as certain events in Elliot’s past led him to no longer pursue anything beyond casual hookups, it was for the best.  Ariana clearly deserved better.  He just hoped this boyfriend of hers was giving her that.

              ——

              As someone who often longed for the security and comfort of a heartfelt embrace yet rarely experienced it, Jacob’s physical contact soothed Moira.  She relaxed at his assurance and, when offered, took the agent’s arm in hers, smiling timidly.

              “Thank you, Agent Mallard,” she said, genuinely grateful for even the slightest bit of comfort.  “I’m glad you’re here.”

              • DarkwingPsycho
                DarkwingPsycho

                Ariana's face reddened even more at having assumed he was asking her out.  Of course he wasn't, why would he?  She wasn't particularly pretty or special - she was an ugly has-been sorceress whose own family couldn't stand her.

                Self-consciously she tucked a few strands of blonde hair behind her ear.  "Oh...you don't have to, but...all right..."  She didn't really want to be by herself just now.

                Jacob steered Moira toward the other two before parting ways with them.  "It was nice working with you, Agent...?" he inquired.

                Then, when he learned Elliot's identity, he smiled and responded, "I'm Mallard.  Jacob Mallard.  Maybe I'll see you around SHUSH later.  I'm in the counterintelligence division, special agent-in-charge."

                • Elliot Hudson
                  Elliot Hudson

                  Elliot flinched inwardly.  Had he said something wrong?  It wouldn’t be the first time he’d put his foot in his mouth, but he’d only wanted her to not worry about him making unwanted advances.  So why did she seem... disappointed?  Did she want that type of attention?

                  No, no, she didn’t seem the unfaithful type.  Or maybe... was her boyfriend not treating her right?  Elliot’s expression darkened slightly at that thought, but only for a brief moment before Jacob got his attention.

                  “Uh... Hudson, sir,” Elliot replied, offering his hand for a handshake.  “Elliot Hudson, tactical aviation division.”

                  Wait- this was Jacob Mallard?  Elliot felt humbled, having heard some great things about the agent.  “It’s a real honor to meet you, sir.  I’ve heard so much.“

                  At least he knew Moira was in good hands.  He just hoped that, if Jacob had ever heard his name floating around the office, it was due to his piloting skills.  And not for his troublemaking, or reputation for being a... less-than-stellar agent.

                  Elliot’s attention quickly returned to Ariana when the other two left.

                  “So... would you care for that meal now, or should I give you a rain check?” he asked, trying to be more careful with his words.  “I mean, it’s been a crazy day, so I understand if you need some time to yourself.  But I‘d be happy to give you a ride home, if you‘d like.”

                  • DarkwingPsycho
                    DarkwingPsycho

                    Jacob's boyish smile broadened.  "All true, even the exaggerated bits."  He winked.  "I'll keep you in mind if I need a pilot for any assignments."

                    He escorted Moira out, leaving Ariana with Elliot.  She was still slightly pink and flustered.  Suddenly she grabbed onto his forearm.  "Oh no - please!  I..."  Then she seemed to realize what she was doing and let him go, flushing deep crimson.  "I'm sorry, I just...I don't want to be alone.  Can we go now...?   It doesn't matter where..."  That wasn't quite true, but Ariana was too discombobulated to think straight.

                    • Elliot Hudson
                      Elliot Hudson

                      “Thank you, sir,” Elliot replied with a respectful nod before watching Jacob and Moira leave.

                      Seeing her reaction, Elliot gave Ariana an understanding smile.  “No problem.  Is there anywhere in particular you’d like to go?  I usually go for a flight when I need to get away and calm down.”  He paused, remembering something.  “You know... there are some very nice beaches just south of here.  They’re westward facing so the have the most gorgeous sunsets. And the sun will be setting soon- ooh!”  His expression turned to one of excitement, like a child’s.  “Would you like to see it with me?  It’s nearly impossible to get to on land, so they’re always deserted.  But I‘ve flown there in my plane a dozen times.”

                      Wait.  Was he inviting her on a plane ride to watch a sunset on a deserted beach?  A woman he’d only just met?  From the innocent smile on his face, he obviously saw nothing wrong with it.  Why would he?  He had no ulterior motive, after all.  Elliot knew she was taken; he just wanted to help her feel better.

                      • DarkwingPsycho
                        DarkwingPsycho

                        At his enthusiasm and encouragement, Ariana smiled.  "You're a pilot?  I've...never been on a plane before."  And watching a sunset would be lovely...and calming.  The only hesitation was that such a romantic idea was not with Drake.  But this man seemed nice and had a smile that made her melt a little.

                        "A-all right...that would be wonderful."

                        • Elliot Hudson
                          Elliot Hudson

                          While his heart was in the right place, Elliot still wasn’t quite used to interacting with women outside of work unless he was flirting or trying to impress them.  So it took the agent’s excited, distractible mind a few moments to register Ariana’s hesitation.  When he did, he flashed her a sheepish grin. 

                          ”Oh, uh... I’m not being too forward, am I?  Because if that makes you uncomfortable, we can just stick to dinner.  I’d still love to take you anywhere you’d like, but only if you‘re sure it‘s really okay.”

                          He didn’t want to make things more difficult for her.  And goodness knows the last thing he needed was another grudge-holding boyfriend on his tail.

                          As they talked, Elliot led her to his motorbike and handed her a spare helmet.  It wasn’t the biggest or loudest of bikes... in fact, it looked pretty low-end.  On the bright side, it probably wouldn’t be too scary fast.  Probably.

                          “So, is the beach okay?  Or should we just get food?” He chuckled a little.  “I have to warn you, though... my flatmate back in London says that I have all of the culinary refinement of a three-toed sloth.  So if you want good food, we’ll probably want to go with your suggestions over mine.”

                          • DarkwingPsycho
                            DarkwingPsycho

                            Instantly Ariana stiffened and shook her head reassuringly, not wanting to make him feel bad in the least.  Even if it was true he was being forward.  "Oh no!" she responded.  "Not at all!  I don't...you don't make me uncomfortable, it's just...usually wouldn't that be something you do with a...girlfriend?"

                            She looked down at the helmet curiously, then watched him put his on.  She mirrored him and then looked over the bike with wonder.  She hadn't seen a motorcycle up close before.  They had always seemed so...dangerous but...in a fun way.  Climbing on after him, she leaned against him only so she could say, "Why not both?  Sometimes there are lovely little places on the boardwalks..."

                            • Elliot Hudson
                              Elliot Hudson

                              Elliot was happy to see Ariana didn’t think badly of him, at least... he really had no clue how to talk to unfamiliar women without coming off as flirtatious, and it had gotten him in trouble more than a few times.

                              For a brief moment, the agent looked a little pained when Ariana asked about this being something usually done with a girlfriend.

                              “I, uh, don’t have a girlfriend.” Not anymore, and probably never again.

                              He quickly recovered, however, and gave her a smile.  “I just like to share things I like with my friends.”

                              When she mentioned boardwalks, he grinned.  “I think I know a place.”

                              They soon arrived at his hangar at the St. Canard recreational airport.  Inside was an old but well-kept Cessna.  “Isn’t she great?” he asked, looking fondly at the aircraft.  “She was my first plane... I learned to fly in her.”

                              He turned to Ariana and grinned.  “You ready?”