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Fearful Conclusions

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The video had haunted him—not in the sense that it tormented or frightened him, but in the sense that he could not bear to think of anything else, when his mind was left to its own devices. He could already see the ways in which it was affecting his studies; even in class, he thought instead of the sights and sounds, the cowering and the whimpering. When he closed his eyes at night, it was the disturbing image of Bernadetta von Varley which he saw... and he was not sure he would have it any other way, were he to be quite honest with himself.

But there was nothing wrong with taking up this interest, necessarily—nothing wrong with celebrating the torment he had (inadvertently, to be fair) visited upon Bernadetta. It all meant, after all, that his creation had worked: he had synthesized a nearly-invisible and practically odorless gas that inspired what appeared to be terrifying hallucinations, to the point where the victim could not distinguish their own actions from those of the nightmares oppressing them. It was... dangerous, and it was not difficult to see the applications for such a toxin.

Naturally, his method for administering and testing would raise some eyebrows. But he had an excuse for this, didn't he? The toxin didn't work on him; why? It didn't work on Pamela, either, but that was easier to explain: her physiology was undergoing such dramatic changes that she would not make a reliable test subject in any case. Sooner or later it would likely be too risky for her to partake of average human medication, if he had to guess. As for himself... the exposure to his own work was his best guess, but how does a fresh graduate student find enough lab time to grow immune to toxic vapors?

Perhaps it had more to do with the intimate relationship he shared with fear, having been able to witness snapshots of gruesome and frightening events ever since he was a child, as long as another human was in reach. Maybe his quirk had not just one, but two effects: if the first allowed Jonathan to glimpse fear, then perhaps the second insulated him from the terror that he witnessed. Just because he could see and feel that which might terrify the people he touches, there was no way for him to absorb that fear—to take it and make it into a fear of his own.

In truth, Jonathan Crane could hardly recall any moments of his life where he would have described himself as "scared" of something; perhaps this was why Bernadetta's therapy session—and that pure and primal expression of terror which had come alongside it—had stuck with him for so long; that, he could tell, was real fear, accompanied by tears and tremoring voice and everything else one should expect. It had been a complete ensemble, an orchestra, a symphony of the reactions and emotions people brought to bear when confronted with the things that frightened them most.

He tried to keep himself in check, though. Jonathan knew that ascribing such enthusiastic and grand feelings to his breakthrough was—in a word—disgusting, and he could not be sure if his excitement was driven by scientific curiosity or something of even greater concern.

Either way, he spent entire hours of every day poring over the recording he had made of Bernadetta's reaction to the "fear toxin", watching for anything he may have missed in the notes he had taken at the time—or in the subsequent days. Sometimes—when he was certain he had the time to do so—he would try to step through the footage with a fresh mind, taking notes on things he knew he had already observed quite thoroughly, but endeavored to retrace his steps in case the revelations engendered by a slightly different perspective might bring him some other tidbit of interest—some other morsel that he could suck from the fruit that his labor—the toxin and the therapy—had brought him.

He acknowledged—to himself, leastways—that his fascination with the video was borderline perverse, although he certainly did not get any of that type of satisfaction from watching it. But the fact that he only watched it by his lonesome made its viewing something that felt even more illicit; Linhardt was almost certainly beginning to suspect that Jonathan was distracted with something he'd rather not share, given how Jonathan would conspicuously close whatever he was viewing—or otherwise shut or silence his laptop—whenever Linhardt returned t o their shared room .

Such inconveniences would not stop him, however. There was a lot that he stood to gain from his video—from his research— even aside from p roving the effects of his homemade toxin. And since Bernadetta was avoiding him, the video was all he could rely on in order to bring him closer to answering the questions on his mind.

A s an example, there was the issue with Geiger.

He considered himself lucky that the results of one branch of his research—the p rototype fear gas —might lead him to the answers he expected from another: the mysterious and frankly confusing relationship between Bernadetta and Max imillian Geiger.

Why was she afraid of him, in particular? Someone who had promised to help her, and who—by her own accounts—was one of the only people to ever show her kindness? In J onathan's footage, Geiger is the first person Bernadetta asks for help... but he was also the one assaulting her in the hallucinations, which somehow presented themselves so convincingly that she had begun to undress in the middle of her counseling session, of all things.

There was much he did not know; of that he was certain. For some reason, Bernadetta and Geiger felt compelled to keep secrets—secrets which, it seemed, only concerned the two of them. At a glance, it simply appeared to be a textbook situation of a professor badly abusing their student, but something itched in Jonathan's mind and liver and told him that these circumstances were not so convenient and simple.

No... the "evil" that Geiger had committed was merely fantasy. It only appeared within Bernadetta's fears, as nonsensical as they appeared. The professor had likely never laid a finger upon the girl, but it was that torment—that betrayal—which Bernadetta feared most. Jonathan suspected that, were such abuse to truly occur within reality, his patient's deepest fear would likely change... because that is how fear worked. Once one had undergone something horrible, they may continue to dread it, but they would have already survived such torture once, which was often enough to inspire the fear of something deeper and greater than what they had previously considered an ultimate terror.

It was a spectrum. As humans grew, so too did their fears. Like the universe they inhabited, a capacity for horror was something that constantly expanded.

Which meant she was afraid of... rape? Jonathan didn't think so. If that was the case, why was it always Geiger? What was her fascination?

He thought again the the imagery he had seen inside w ithin the terrified corners of her mind . Jonathan had been granted several snapshots of that particular Geiger's heinous acts, a nd the indifference of Bernadetta's surroundings had always stuck out as particularly strange. The two may be in a classroom or in the quad, but bystanders seemed to take no note of the assault happening right before their very eyes. Everybody else in these exhibitions of terror were simply living their lives as normal, as though they had been caught in the middle of a conversation with a clever joke or browsing their smart phones.

Caught in the middle... as though f rozen, maybe?

"Just fifteen minutes," Bernadetta had said. Surely, she would be referring to some kind of limit, given how she was apparently trying to comfort herself by keeping in mind the duration of her impending suffering. If Jonathan were to think of something most people had that reached some sort of limit that was gauged with time... well, Bernadetta could only be referring to a quirk, couldn't she? And somehow, she knew both what Geiger's quirk was, as well as the duration of time for which he could use it.

And how would that come to pass? Geiger was famous for being evasive about the nature of his quirk, expertly turning the subject aside with his affable and mildly eccentric nature. So how might Bernadetta—this mousy girl, manic, depressive girl who would just as soon never leave her room—end up discovering the quirk of her professor?

People were frozen, Jonathan reminded himself. In Bernadetta's nightmare, no one looked at her, perhaps as though stopped in time. Was it truly possible for someone to have a quirk so powerful, however? Could Professor Geiger have the ability to stop time for all save for himself?

No... not just save himself. Bernadetta, as well. For some reason, she was unaffected by his quirk, which is why she was "aware" of the misery he enacted upon her. If that was the case, could it be that Bernadetta was... unaffected by quirks in general?

Of course not. Jonathan's quirk had worked upon her just fine. Perhaps, then... perhaps she shared the same quirk as Geiger ; more than that, perhaps sharing it meant that they could not affect one another. If someone could stop time, then it was not unreasonable to presume that a person with the same quirk would not ever find themselves frozen in time.

" How could you, when no one can help?"

That stuck in Jonathan's mind, too, like. Like an illness for which mankind had not yet formulated the cure, the words had plagued him and irked him, itching in his gut and behind his eyeballs, as if there was something within Bernadetta's sentence that was wrong , which ruined the whole of any hypothesis which he might conjure up.

He had been a fool, though. Now , he could see, this question was key. It was only a guess, but it seemed to match the information he had earned so far, which could lead him to this conclusion : Bernadetta von Varley and Maximillian Geiger could stop time at will, and when one of them used their quirk, it would not affect the other. Up to a certain unknowable duration per day (or fifteen minutes, in Geiger's case), the world would stop for everyone except those two, during which the two of them could do likely anything that they wanted.

And if it just so happened that one wished to prey upon the other...

Right. There would be no helping them.

He opened his laptop back up in order to record this theory, noticing a slightly unsettling little smile playing upon his lips by the grace of the reflection on his blank screen. Jonathan tried to reel himself in, reminding himself that h is interest was more academic, than anything else. Certainly, Bernadetta's and Geiger's quirks had no direct relation to the creation of Jonathan's fear gas, but this was a window which his gas had allowed him to peer through; it only made sense to take extensive notes upon it and the surrounding situation.

And with any luck, he would be able to peer through it once more—once he had improved his toxin, perhaps improving its potency or other effects. He could not confidently say what the application for such a powerful drug would be, but he was confident that his work—if he could refine it—could be a landmark discovery i n understanding human fear—and how to induce it, to treat it... or to exacerbate it.

For instance... what might the damage be if the fear gas no longer induced amnesia?

Just as he reminded himself to try and speak with Bernadetta once more, Jonathan made a note of this , too . By necessity, many different versions of this toxin would no doubt b e develped by his hand . And who's to say that they could not all be useful, in some way or another?