A/N: Inspired by Mac's line from "Welcome Wagon": 'My shrink asked if a lifetime without a libido is such a bad thing.' The tenuous road to recovery is never easy. Hints of potential MaDi towards the end.
I don't own Veronica Mars... There, I said it.
There's a metronome on the sandalwood desk, ticking a rhythm. Mac supposes it's there to be soothing, a comfort for the addled-brain, but to her it's mind-numbing—not in a good way. Mac's been numb for a whole month now, doesn't do her any good, so she wants to let herself feel it—feel everything.
When he'd tried, Cassidy couldn't make love to her.
"Would you like to talk about that?"
Mac looks up through heavy eyelids at the woman opposite her, at the weathered, wrinkled face of a seasoned shrink. "I felt like it was my fault."
There, she'd said it. Now she should start to feel better, right? Like a weight had been lifted? That's what she'd read about this place on the Net, that at Four Walls Counselling that weight will be lifted. Not so far it hadn't been, not after two one-hour sessions a week for a month.
"Nothing was your fault, Cindy. You couldn't have helped how Cassidy felt every day, how he thought… The violence in him, that was already there."
Or had Cassidy blamed her for exposing his weakness?
"He took my clothes," Mac says blankly, as she does every time.
"Why do you think he did that?"
"The evidence. He didn't want the evidence of me, of him on me."
What Mac has are half-thoughts. She never completes them, leaves the ends hanging off. She's more scatter-brained than anything, but that's not her fault.
The metronome ticks into the hour. Mac notices the open window behind the desk, Neptune's summer breezing through the crack, laconic like some kind of joke it shares with the world. Mac doesn't get it.
They come to this point and Mac tries to think what to say, tries to remember what's written on the script but it's a blank page, always is because she forgets to write this far along. Mac wants to be here, to be normal again, but cruel Cassidy is the roadblock on the way to recovery. You can't script these things.
"Cindy, we've discussed quite a lot about Cassidy, about what may have made him the way he was, but we can't look at it like that. We have to look at you, how you're coping."
The truth of it is Mac doesn't know how to cope. How do you, knowing the boy you loved was responsible for the murder of dozens of people? That he raped your best friend once upon a time? That he jumped off the roof of the Neptune Grand and killed himself good and proper?
Cassidy was cruel, she'd seen it. He was spiteful, horrible and mean. His eyes had been cold, like he'd had Hell secretly buried there. But Mac had known a sweetness in him she'd never seen from anyone before. He'd been playful and fun, he had laughed with her through the best of times.
That's what she can't reconcile—how he'd been masterful at conning her, made her believe in him even when he was cruel.
How do you learn that kind of evil?
Mac doesn't want to know, really. Curiosity might in the end be the death of her but knowing something like that would definitely kill her dead.
"Should I learn some breathing exercises or something?"
Her voice is small—it always is. She doesn't mean to be removed from this, doesn't mean to act disengaged, but you can't unlearn this kind of messed-up—how can you cope with it then?
"Do you know why breathing is used in meditation?" A pause. "It's the same as the metronome: it gives people something to focus on, something that's away from the problem. There are no breathing exercises, Cindy. There's only the problem, and everything outside of the problem. You want to be outside of the problem, that's the goal."
Mac can't possibly bring herself to be outside of the problem, not something like this. It hurts to think about everything. She can't look at her family without feeling somehow dirty, she hasn't called Veronica in two weeks, can't think about sex or love or touching because she is reminded of Cassidy and his paradox and it hurts so much.
"That's the goal. Okay, fine. Maybe when I'm ninety-two and die alone I'll think about that."
Ms Seasoned Shrink expels a long, frustrated breath. No such thing as breathing exercises, huh? What do you call that?
"Cindy, the hour's almost up. I'm going to give you some literature, a book and a couple of pamphlets. I want you to read it all before Thursday and maybe we can discuss what you learn from—"
"I'm not in school anymore." Mac grips the arms of the leather chair. "I don't need literature. I need you to tell me how to feel better!"
She's not speaking softly anymore, and the metronome keeps a faster beat—Mac's not sure how that happened.
There's a long pause, a reconfiguration of sorts.
"Cindy, there are no answers. I've been in this profession for a long time and that is what I know for certain. But we try, because trying to figure things out is better than not bothering at all. I can't tell you how to feel better, I can't tell you to breathe differently or put your head between your knees when you're feeling sick. You need to be the one to decide how to breathe. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
For the first time in a month, Mac does understand. She knows to bring herself outside the problem means to put Cassidy away, to detach herself from what he did—at last.
She keeps quiet and listens—the metronome is at the same, soothing pace it had been before. Was the change in its timing all in her head? Mac listens as it ticks down the final seconds, and then it's one o'clock—she's made it through again, same as always. That's something, at least.
The road to recovery is long and winding, but the thing at the end of it is beautiful. Nothing was her fault, she knows this really, and Cassidy is dead now—he can't hurt her anymore, can't hurt anyone anymore. Mac wonders fleetingly about the other one who'd be haunted by the things Cassidy had done—his own brother—and she realises she isn't alone in this journey.
But not alone and together are two very different things, and she hadn't seen Dick since the funeral, where he'd told her he never wanted to see her again. He'd been drunk, that made it easier for him, but Mac had understood his anger—he's hurting, just the same as she is.
As she drives home Mac thinks to stop by the 09er district but how could she bring herself to walk up to that house?
Perhaps that's for another day, another step towards recovery. But for now, Mac pulls her Beetle into her family's familiar driveway and cradles her head in her arms on the steering wheel, crying into the woollen fabric of her sleeves.
That's the first time since that night she'd been able to cry.