Octavia kicked off her pumps and loosened her hair after a tiring session with a new client. As she sank down on a chair, she looked up and noticed Blake lurking in the doorway. He wore jeans today, and a rainbow-coloured T-shirt under his denim jacket.
"Come in, I'm just going to slip into something more comfortable." She beckoned him as she took off her jacket and opened the buttons of her white blouse. "The best part of a dress suit is taking it off, wouldn't you agree?"
Blake came inside and closed the door behind him. With a guilty look on his face, he lingered by the door, rubbing his hands together. "I'm sorry I interrupted again…"
She chuckled. "I hope you didn't run into him on his way out? He was a little spooked. I think it added something to the experience."
"Nah, I went for a stroll in the park." He looked down at his boots and started to take them off.
"So, is this a social call?" Octavia walked to the cupboard to hang her blouse and suit up, and then she pulled on her silk robe over her lingerie. "Or do I need to get dressed?" She looked at him across the room.
He stood there with his jaw clenched, staring apologetically at the floor. The jaunty colours of his shirt contrasted with the serious expression on his face.
Octavia sighed. "Sit down, Blake." She closed her robe and put on some slippers.
He slunk down onto a chair and stared at her with his big, puppy eyes as she approached.
She leaned on the table, looming over him with a sad look, and said: "I'm your lover and friend, not your therapist."
He blinked, as if he was thinking about something for the first time. He softly asked: "Does that mean you shouldn't use your skills to help me?"
"It means that I'm too close to you." She gave him an affectionate look. "Changes in your well-being affect me personally, and I cannot always provide you with the help you need. If you were to become dependent on my help, I would have too much power over you to keep our relationship healthy. Either one of us needs to be free to revoke their consent and end the relationship."
He reached out to touch her hand. "Are you gonna get in trouble?"
"If I were a therapist, having a personal relationship with a client could get my license revoked. And offering therapy without a license is against the law." She smiled and shrugged. "But I'm a sex worker. I don't do therapy."
"Are you gonna get in trouble?" He insisted.
"Not right now, sweetheart."
"Cause I can just go…" He glanced at the door.
"I'm not going to get in trouble." She grabbed him by the shoulder. "But you are, if you don't start telling me why you need my help."
He swallowed and clenched up under her piercing gaze, but he said nothing.
"If I were a therapist, my dear, I would sit you down on a sofa and let you talk endlessly about what ails you. But that's not what we're doing, is it?" She touched his jaw as she stared him down. Her voice softened into that sultry, seductive tone. "If I were a therapist, I wouldn't be able to get all up in your head and push your buttons like this. I wouldn't be able to entrap and entrance you with my eyes like this. I wouldn't be able to take control of you like this. If I were a therapist, you wouldn't let me, you wouldn't enjoy it like this. And you do enjoy it, don't you? Falling into my eyes, falling deeper and deeper into trance."
A sigh escaped his lips and he sagged in the chair. His shoulders rose and fell slowly with his breathing, matching the cadence of her voice.
She could tell that she had him now. "Take a deep breath for me, my dear. And as you let it out you can just drop all the way down." She reached for the back of his neck and tipped his head forward.
His eyes closed and his chin came to rest on his chest. One of his hands slipped off his lap and hung limp next to the chair.
With her hand on his shoulder, she observed him closely. "This is a good moment to let your mind wander, sweetheart. Just easy and free, as if you're dreaming. And of course the memory that comes to mind now, is the moment that's been bothering you. You remember it clearly now. This is why you want my help. This memory right here, take a moment to feel every part of that moment as if it's happening again. Feel my hand touching you, reminding you that you're safe with me. You can feel this memory with all of its emotions and I will keep you safe."
His jaw tightened and his previously limp hand now balled to a fist. Even though his eyes were still closed, his head moved up and his brow furrowed as if he was angrily glaring at someone.
Softly, in a calming voice, she said: "And now that you're safe with me, now that you can examine this memory in detail, you start to understand why it upset you so much. And you might even understand something about it that you didn't realise before."
The anger drained from his face and he grimaced, recoiling from her touch on his shoulder as his hand reached up to rub his eyes.
"You can just sit here with me and process your feelings. Take your time. I'll be here." She retreated to the counter and retrieved some canned soft drinks and a bar of chocolate from a cupboard. She sat down on the other chair, opened a can of lemonade for herself and drank from it.
Blake leaned forward on his knees, holding his head in his hands. He heaved a heavy sigh and then rolled his shoulders as he sat up to look at Octavia. "How do you keep doing that?"
"Anything you care to share, my dear?" She ripped the wrapper open and broke off a piece of chocolate, leaving the rest on the table, invitingly close to his arm.
"Doug and I had an argument." He opened a can of ginger ale and took a large gulp. "I've been avoidin' him for a while now. He's changed and at first I thought it was because I let him down, you know? Because I fucked up…"
She leaned towards him and gave him a sad look. "I've heard you say that a number of times, sweetheart, and I think you're being too hard on yourself. You did the best you could. Not all of it is your fault."
"I know…" He hung his head. "He's been gettin' worse over the past months. Some other people butted heads with him and I couldn't stand idly by anymore. So I confronted him."
"Doug has known you longer than anyone else… Did he use that to lash out at you?" Her voice was soft and affectionate.
"He said some things and it got ugly. I lost my temper…" Blake broke off some chocolate and stuffed it in his mouth. He finally looked her in the eye and chewed slowly, as if it was hard to swallow.
"Do you think he said those things with the intention to hurt you?" She asked before raising her can to her lips to drink.
Blake sighed and shrugged. "I lost my temper 'cause he was right. I am afraid to fail. I couldn't admit that he was right about me."
"There's no shame in being afraid of failure." She patted him on the arm. "It means that you care. You're only human."
He stared at her, his eyes brightening with an epiphany. "Octavia, you're right! He said those things 'cause he wanted to hurt me. He wanted me to back down. He's scared to face me."
"That sounds very likely." She said thoughtfully. "If he knows you well enough to hurt you, then you can also hurt him."
He finished the ginger ale and crushed the can as he pushed himself up from the table. He started to pace the room with a tense look on his face.
She rose from her chair and approached him, stopping him with a hand on his shoulder. "But you don't want to hurt him, do you?" She gave him an affectionate look.
He bit his lip. "Maybe?" He averted his eyes. "Is that bad?"
"I understand, my dear." She embraced him. "I love you regardlessly."
He rested his head on her shoulder as they hugged and the silence was soothing. He took a few deep breaths before he finally whispered: "I can't deal… Can you make it stop?"
She rocked him in her arms, one hand on the back of his head, feeling how he started to lean on her. "Hush, my dear. I can make it all go away. For a little while. All you have to do is listen to me. I'll take care of everything. All your thoughts, all your worries, let me just take all of it off your hands. It's easy to let go. When you fall into trance, my dear, you can let all of it go. Take a deep breath for me now…" She braced herself and then she tripped him and guided him to the floor. "... and drop."
He flopped, every part of him a dead weight in her arms. His head lolled against his shoulder as she laid him down and his mouth hung open. She sat down on the floor next to his head and tenderly stroked his cheek.
"It's so quiet here, my dear." She murmured to him. "Just the two of us in this secluded place. You can just rest here with me. I'll keep you safe." She inhaled softly as she wiped a tear off her cheek.