The next day it was Leah´s turn to talk to Andrew.
“Leah, please sit.” Andrew welcomed her t Loki´s studio which had become his temporary office. “I´ve learned a lot about you this past days.”
“That doesn´t mean you know me Dr. Garner.” Leah replied feeling more than slightly annoyed by his familiar tone.
“Call me Andrew.” He suggested kindly, it was unlikely she would open up to him if she saw him as an authority figure.
“I´d rather not.” Leah refused sternly; instantly she felt a pang of regret. It wasn´t his fault, he was just doing his job; so she added. “I don´t know you that well … maybe later.”
“It seems fair to me. You look a little tense. Have you been in therapy before? You seem rather uncomfortable.” Andrew knew they were in for a rough start.
“This wasn´t exactly my idea, if you know what I mean.” Leah volunteered. “It seems everyone thinks I need help; either way I have nothing to lose.”
“So, you don´t think you need therapy?” Andrew asked her dryly.
“I just need to know how to stop the panic attacks.” She acknowledged. “That´s why they are so worried.”
“And you´re not?” Andrew questioned curious of her answer.
“No.” She answered quickly, it wasn´t true and she knew it; but it made her feel weak to acknowledge it in front of a stranger.
“Leah, this isn´t going to work if you lie to me.” Andrew scolded her kindly.
“How do you know that I’m lying?” Leah asked him, did it showed?
“It´s just a thing you learn to pick up when you have a job like mine.” Andrew volunteered.
“So you get lied a lot?” Leah asked curious.
“Yes, but this isn´t about me. As you said you´re friends are worried about you, Loki is worried about you; that´s why I am here.”
Leah pouted like a scolded child, he was right; she was doing it for Loki. She needed to behave and let Andrew help her.
“If I´m not mistaken Bruce already taught you some techniques to help you with the panic attacks; and even so you weren´t able to stop by yourself when the last one happened.” Andrew dryly told her.
“That doesn´t mean I´m crazy.” Leah growled upset.
“No one thinks that you´re crazy, that´s not why I am here.” Andrew volunteered. “I know Bruce explained you what a panic attack is, it doesn´t mean you are crazy although you might feel like you´re losing your mind. I´m here to help you find a way to cope with whatever is triggering the attacks.”
“I already know what´s triggering the attacks … I´m scared. Are you going to wave a magic wand and make it all go away now?” She bitterly spat at him; she couldn´t help herself, she was angry.
“If this could be solve by magic I´m sure Loki would´ve fix it by now.” Andrew dryly answered her, as Leah didn´t responded he continued. “I can´t make all your fears disappear, but I can teach you how to deal with them. As you grow more confident you´ll be able to stop the panic attacks.”
Leah kept pensive considering his words, wasn´t it worth the shot? Worst case scenario nothing changed, best case scenario the panic attacks would stop.
“All right.” She sighed defeated. “I have nothing to lose.”
Andrew smiled, he thought he was going to get a harder time convincing her to embrace the therapy. “Where do you want us to start?”
“I don´t know.” Leah admitted.
“How about we start at the beginning? I´ve read the police and the ER report from that day, and your friends have filled me in with the details they know.” Andrew volunteered.
Leah shrugged her shoulders as she frowned trying not to show how annoyed she felt. “There´s nothing to say. We went to have breakfast with my parents as we always did on Sundays. We didn´t change route, has any arguments or did anything different… and then he just hit us. I´m not hiding anything about it; if I don’t talk much about it is because after hitting my head against the window on impact everything went black until I woke up in the ER. Believe me there´s no hidden drama or anything to psychoanalyze there.”
“That´s the moment your life changed, you really mean to tell me you really have nothing to say? No anger, no guilty feelings, just nothing? I find that hard to believe.” Andrew told her calmly.
“It´s hard to be angry at the dead Doctor, you can´t fight with them, you can´t argue with them.” Leah volunteered. “And I know by now I won´t get any answers about surviving, at least not the one´s I want.”
Andrew pondered puzzled at her last remark, he knew she was hiding something even if she was trying hard to dismiss it. “All right, how about surviving the second time?”
Leah shrugged her shoulders while she changed her position on the couch, sitting straight made her feel vulnerable, so she leaned to a side while she bent one of her knees up; Andrew noticed her change in demeanour, it was sort of an intermediate posture between a foetal position and sitting straight, she was trying to protect herself from something.
“I got my answers even if they weren´t the one’s I wanted.” She finally told him.
“Loki saving you on account of Thor… that must have been disheartening.” Andrew suggested.
“It was.” Leah agreed. “But it makes sense; he didn’t knew me.”
“Nevertheless you must have felt lucky he did.” Andrew pressed the matter.
“Lucky?” Leah laughed wryly. “At least that´s better than everything happens for a reason.”
“That bothers you, why?” Andrew asked intrigued, he seemed to have found the source of her discomfort.
“People don´t realise what that means.” Leah bitterly told him.
“And what does it mean Leah?” Andrew asked while leaning towards her interested on her answer.
“I think you can figure it out by yourself.” Leah answered irritated. “I don´t want to talk about this anymore.” She leaned back crossing her arms as she looked away.
“Leah, I know this is hard; but you need to talk about what´s bothering you. It might not be even linked to the panic attacks but this kind of things tend to fester. If you don´t face it now it will only get harder later.”
Leah grunted angrily, she knew he was right. “If everything happens for a reason; that means there is a reason my son is dead, that my parents are dead and that Martin is dead. I don´t want to accept that …” She suddenly stopped.
“You think you are the reason they are dead?” Andrew asked her, it wasn´t uncommon on sole survivors to feel that way.
“I´m not …” Leah raised her voice; she thought she had convinced herself about that but there was always a pinch of doubt on her mind.
“Leah, survivor´s guilt is very common, there´s nothing to be ashamed of.” Andrew tried to comfort her, she wouldn´t be able to handle it unless she admitted it first.
“That´s what you would think so.” Leah grunted annoyed.
“Do you feel ashamed?” Andrew asked her kindly.
“Try not to when you´re surrounded by superheroes and gods. The look on their faces when they get a glimpse of how broken I really feel …“Leah shut up suddenly, she had nearly told him.
“I don´t think any of them expects you to be all right after all you been through, not even Thor or Loki.” Andrew tried to reassure her, as if it wasn´t bad enough she felt guilty about not meeting their standards.
“I know, that´s what they say; but they´re eyes told me differently.” She bitterly acknowledged.
“What do you mean?” Andrew asked her while considering her answer.
“There´s pity on their eyes when they look at me, too much of it. I can´t stand it and they don´t even know…” Leah shut up immediately, she had never meant to say the last part out loud.
“They don´t know what….?” Andrew asked her concerned by her reaction.
“Nothing. Just forget I said anything.” She brushed him off trying to dismiss it.
“Leah, you wouldn´t had said anything if you didn´t wanted me to know, at least on a subconscious level you want to talk about it.” Andrew told her, she was screaming for help even if she refused to say it out loud.
“No, really it´s nothing. I shouldn´t had said anything.” She could feel her heart beating faster; she refused to think about it. It was just her imagination saying stupid things, wasn´t it? It had never been her intention.
Andrew could see the conflict written on her face, cautiously he reached for her hand as he told her. “Leah, I promise anything you say to me will never leave this walls.”
“Not even for your report?” Leah asked with teary eyes, could she trust him?
Andrew smiled kindly. “Not even for my report.”
“Are you sure?” Leah asked again.
“You´re not a SHIELD operative, my report doesn´t need to be specific.” He suggested. “You are my patient now, my main concern is to help you. Please let me do my job.”
“Loki can never know about this … nor the others.” Leah pleaded.
“I won´t betray your trust.” Andrew promised her.
Leah sighed, why did she ever said anything? It was too late now to take it back, and maybe telling someone would make her good. “It was just something stupid, it must have been the alcohol; I never meant to go through with it, at least I don´t think so. I just felt so numb, I wanted to wake up.”
“Leah, what did you do?” Andrew was afraid all her rambling was taking them to one direction only.
“People think it´s easy, you see it at the movies … and it just seems easy. You don´t know …not until … it takes more something other than courage to go through with it.” Leah kept rambling, she didn´t wanted to accept it. “I tried, but I couldn´t even …I wasn´t strong, I wasn´t weak… I was angry. That´s what stopped me; I couldn´t let him win, if I had he would´ve won, he would´ve killed us all. All I wanted was the pain to be gone.” She looked at him looking desperately for absolution.
Andrew sighed upset, all her rambling made sense under one perspective. “Pills?”
“No, pills would´ve been painless. I didn´t deserved painless.” Leah bitterly acknowledged. “Am I not a drama queen? All that fuzz and not even hesitation marks to show for it.” She laughed hysterically, within seconds her laugh had turned into tears. “I´m … poison.” She suddenly added. “Why did I thought I deserved a second chance?”
Somehow everything was connected, but how? He had to start pulling the thread carefully to see what it would reveal.
“Why wouldn´t you deserve a second chance?” He questioned her calmly.
Leak looked at him horrified, whatever her answer was she wouldn´t give it up easily. “I’m poison.” She repeated as if explained it all.
“No, you´re not. Why you keep saying that?” Andrew questioned her.
“Everyone arounds me dies.” She suddenly spat as thick tears ran through her cheeks.
“Loki isn´t dead Leah, nor Eerika or any of the Avengers. What happened to your family was an accident; a horrible accident but it wasn´t your fault. Nor it´s your fault you were the only survivor.”
“You don´t know that.” Leah spat bitterly.
“Why would it be your fault?” Andrew asked her, it made no sense going through the branches at that point.
Leah looked at him pained, she had an answer but she didn´t wanted to give it. She only nodded her head negatively.
“Leah, I know it hurts but you can´t keep hiding it.” Andrew told her, she felt guilty about something which lead her to believe she would be punished, it must be the source of her fear he thought.
“I shouldn´t have kissed him…” She said in a whisper.
“Loki? Why not?” He asked while frowning, she had to be referring to the first time they kissed.
“I … betrayed him.” She answered while looking away.
“Martin?” He asked her, it would make sense.
Leah couldn´t answer and only nodded her head affirmatively. “We were together since … always and it took me nothing to betray him.”
“Leah, he died, you didn´t betrayed him.” Andrew told her sternly.
“I know.” She yelled while crying. “He would say the same, he would never reproach me. But I know … in my heart I know I did.”
“Leah, there isn´t such a thing as a manual about this sort of things, there aren´t rules, any stipulated times you have to keep. There isn´t something as a designated mourning time. Sometimes love comes back our way even if you´re not ready for it.” Andrew explained her “And if we´re lucky enough we might just let it in.”
“Again with the lucky part…”Leah bitterly snap back.
When it appeared she was opening up she kept trying to shut off again, he couldn´t let her. “Why did you kissed him?”
“Why does it matter?” Leah raised her voice again.
“Because you don´t want to tell me.” Andrew answered calmly.
“I don’t know I was drunk and alone, he´s handsome, what does it matter?” Leah spat angered.
“Stop lying to me, you know that´s not the reason.” Andrew scolded her “Do you want to get better or not?”
Leah looked at him baffled, she did wanted to get better, why did it had to be so hard? “Yes.” She bitterly acknowledged, she was trapped.
“Then tell me, why did you kissed Loki that first time?” Andrew asked again, he hoped she would answer this time.
“Because … because I was a fool wishing, hoping for something I thought it was there.” Leah yelled at him. “And I got lucky…” She laughed hysterically covering her mouth, it only took a moment for her to break up again; she raised her hand to cover her eyes as she cried.
Andrew let her cry for a while before asking “What were you hoping for?”
“For him to rescue me again, to save me form the pain like he did in that split second when he looked into my eyes …” Leah confessed.
Suddenly it made sense. “Leah, did you fell in love with Loki then?”
Leah looked at him horrified. “Who do you take me for? A moody schoolgirl who falls in love with the first guy she sees? My husband had just died!”
“Leah, it´s not your fault. We can´t rule our heart.” Andrew tried to explain her.
“No, I don´t want to hear it. It wasn´t my fault, it wasn´t my fault.” Leah covered her ears as she clenched her eyes rocking herself while repeating that it wasn´t her fault as if by saying it enough times she could make it true.
Andrew knew it was a decisive moment and rushed to her side, he raised his voice as he tried to remove Leah´s hands from her ears. “Falling in love doesn´t make it your fault.”
“Yes, it does.” Leah shrieked heartbroken. “I´m the reason, what else could it be? I´m the reason they´re dead.” She wailed in pain, she had agreed with everyone about it not being her fault, even with Martin on her dream because she didn´t wanted to accept the truth that weight heavily on her heart, but now she couldn´t deny it.
“No, Leah, no, you can’t think that.” Andrew sternly told her trying to meet her eyes. “I understand now why you are so afraid; you think that because you fell in love with Loki that same day you´re the reason everyone died, that it is your fault. That you will be punished because of that, and what could be worse than losing Loki and Eerika?”
“I deserve it …” Leah sniffled, there was no point on hiding her feelings now.
“No, that´s not true.” Andrew told her, he understood now why Clint felt so irritated when she put herself down.
“It is …” Leah stubbornly claimed.
“Leah, you could´ve meet Loki months afterwards and you probably would feel the same way. Surviving means you have to go on living. And love is a part of life, you just happened to found it in an unexpected moment. That doesn´t mean every one died for that moment to happen, maybe what it really means is that it happened because you needed it to.” Leah had stopped crying and was listening to him attentively, it seemed he was finally starting to reach her. “You already told me you had suicide thoughts at some point, what stopped you from trying again?”
“I had to find him. When I didn´t go through with it for a moment I thought about quitting but I already had sold the house, all our belongings, there was no one waiting for me.” Leah softly acknowledged. “I knew that instant that hunting for him was the only thing that was keeping me sane. I feared finding him as much as not being able to do so because I didn´t knew what would I do next. But I didn´t let that stop me, I didn´t let anyone stop me.”
“What do you mean anyone?” Andrew frowned, what else was she hiding?
“You don´t think I managed to find him just out of luck, do you? I had more than one rough encounter with the wrong people, I learned the bad way but I learned fast.” Leah confessed between ashamed and proud, she had mixed feeling about all the things she had done to find Loki.
Andrew made a mental note about asking her further about that later. There was another matter on his mind, one less stressful.
“Leah, do you mind if I ask you something?” He asked her politely.
“You are seriously asking me that at this point Andrew?” She raised her eyebrows a little amused by his polite question.
He smiled, it seemed she had decided to accept him on her inner circle. “It doesn´t hurt to be polite sometimes.”
“As you wish, what could you possibly want to know that everyone else couldn´t tell you?” She wryly asked him.
“You know they did because they care about you? They never wanted to betray your trust; they genuinely want to help you.” He volunteered.
“I know, try having your life under the microscope from now and then. It´s not that fun.” She admitted.
“Probably not, either way; I know now you fell in love with Loki right away but you didn´t saw him again until several months later. “ What would the best way to ask this, he pondered. “I think you know Thor was interested in you all that time, he even offered you to recognize your child as his and take you to Asgard.”
“I knew, he´s not very good at hiding his feelings.” Leah admitted. “I never wanted to mislead him. And I know what everyone thought, that I should´ve chosen him instead of waiting for Loki.”
“Why didn´t you?” Andrew asked, fixing their relationship wasn´t on his job description, but with Loki gone in the mission it would help them if they could somehow be more comfortable around each other.
“Because …” She stopped for a moment choosing the right words. “When he looks at me, sometimes he isn´t, he sees right through me, I can see in his eyes how broken I am. When Loki looked at me …. I didn´t saw that, somehow he looked at something inside me I couldn´t even fathom, something better, or at least he used to…” Leah sadly ended
“Leah, he´s just worried about you. And … he feels guilty.” Andrew confessed.
“Guilty?” Leah asked surprised. “About what?”
“He thinks that if he hadn´t felt in love with you; you might be safe.” Andrew volunteered.
“Now you know how far away from the truth that is.” Leah bitterly admitted.
“What do you mean?” Andrew frowned while realising the meaning of her words. “You mean you …?”
“Yes.” Leah interrupted him. “Sooner or later I would´ve tried again. I had nothing.”
“And now?” Andrew asked her preoccupied.
“Now I got too much to lose … again.” Leah sorrowful admitted. “Whatever happens I need to get better for them, or I will lose them one way or another. Will you help me Andrew?”
“In any way I can.” He asseverated, it was going to be a very hard week for both of them.