Unwind

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bella_icon.gif deckard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Unwind
Synopsis What Deckard wants and what Bella's interested in providing collide somewhat awkwardly in the aftermath of Tuesday night's disturbance at Fort Hero.
Date May 18, 2010

Fort Hero


The power failure is something Bella cannot help but take personally. The past week has failed to take the bloom off the rose of having basic amenities. Things like running water, running hot water, warm meals, meals at all, and a steady flow of electricity - they are treasured as luxuries for the first time in Bella's well adorned and always privileged life. And then, tonight, some asshole had the temerity to rain on her parade!

At least, that's how it started. The shouting, the sounds of barely-controlled panic, the figures of swiftly moving agents in the dark hallways outside Bella's temporary quarters - these augmentations to the state of exception a power failure always made Bella swiftly reconfigure her stance on the issue. Irritation became apprehension, and peak became fear. She remained in her room, sitting on her bed with her back to the wall, her blankets pulled up around her, as she waited for whatever would happen to happen, since no one had spent time informing her what was, at that moment, in the process of happening. Like a child in the shadow of parental emergency, Bella's was a state of dread tempered by simple non-comprehension.

When the lights came back on, she dared to stir forth. With light, order, and with order, perhaps safety, and with safety, maybe she could risk trying to find a goddamn explanation. The shrink, decidedly unbusinesslike in plaid pajama pants, mismatched plaid slippers, a t-shirt and a silk robe that is much too nice for the rest of the ensemble, peeks out from behind her door and pads out into the hallway, glancing down in either direction like a pedestrian checking for traffic.

In the short time since the lights have been back on, the situation has settled. Somewhat. Troop movement has decreased to a trickle, urgent footfalls reduced to an occasional straggler hustling from one report or meeting to the next.

But meetings are for people who are important and/or know what they're doing and Flint's long since filed his two lines or so of grunting dialogue about dark tunnels and doors that wouldn't open. He hasn't really slowed down though, is the thing.

He's still kind of excited, adrenaline shiver worn down to a change-in-a-can rattle that keeps his pupils blacked wide and his senses too sharp for prowling empty hallways without direction or intent. Maybe he was going somewhere but he keeps forgetting where and surely not to bed because he isn't isn't isn't tired. Maybe he wanted to change clothes and hit the gym.

Whatever the case might've been, it falls out of his skull for the seventh time a split second after he's crossed the T at the end of Bella's hallway and turned back to squint at her and her pajamas down its empty length. He looks bad even for himself. Cagey. Navy polo clung cold with old sweat and hair drying into a roadkill kind of spiny mess.

A familiar figure! If Flint passed by this door in the tightly controlled mayhem response, Bella could not know, but now, with light streaming down upon them, revealing the just and unjust, the kempt and the less-than-kempt, she recognizes him. She lifts an arm, waving him down, as if there were anything else in the hallway to distract his noticing her, redheaded and silver-robed.

"Flint!" Bella calls out, shuffling across the smooth floors with the sussurance only slippers can provide, "Please tell me you know what's going on." She fidgets with the tie to her robe, cinching the fabric tighter around her waist, "This can't be business as usual. What the hell is happening to this city?"

"I dunno." Despite this being the preface to nearly every answer he ever gives, in this case it's clearly a lie because he's already drawing back a breath to elaborate with. "There was a guy trying to escape and this other motherfucker went postal and tried to shut everything down. And a mind controller or something. Maybe." He answers quickly. Speaks quickly. Looks her over quickly once he's closed the rest of the distance and breathes quickly, a little wild about the eyes in about the llleast reassuring way possible. "A bunch of guys are dead. I shot someone." With a dart but it sounds less totally sweet that way right??

He's standing close too. Maybe a little too close. And not just because he smells like he's run ten miles down a burning metal pipe.

Bella hasn't seen Deckard riled up quite like this before. Closest, maybe, was during their last private practice session, and that doesn't set a fabulous precedent. Unconsciously Bella wraps her arms about herself, both a warming and self-protective pose. Her brow furrows in unalloyed worry. None of the things Flint has related translate, when filtered through Bella's assessment, as good things that make her feel awesome about her personal safety. And there is nothing on God's green earth more important to Ms. Sheridan than her continued safety.

"Am I keeping you? If there are… things you should be doing, I won't get in the way of your doing them," Bella says, vagueness a product mostly of her continued lack of full and rich understanding. At least it's a lack Deckard may, to some extent, share with her. "Otherwise-" otherwise what? "Well, I've sort of been cooped up in my room for the past I'm not sure how long, trying to convince myself that it was a routine power saving measure or something. I could-" only a slight hesitation, "Use a little company. You look out of sorts yourself." This last is a grasp for a certain normalcy. Concern for Deckard's mental well being is habit at this point, with all of habit's soothing power.

It's pretty clear that Deckard's filter has only had time to determine that what has happened is awesome somehow, having clippity clopped over any trace of a 'not' without so much as a second glance. His having failed to factor personal safety into anything since somewhere around the middle of '08 probably helps.

The fact that she is not as wound up as he is doesn't seem to daunt him. He doesn't back up. "No," answered on a distracted delay, he swallows the scattered edge off his own pulse and shakes his head, "they don't have me doing anything. I was just — "

So far as awkward trail offs go this one could be worse. Even if he is still crowding her while he watches like a starving dog staring after the possible source of a rattle of kibble.

Bella's smile is grateful, though the potential implications of Deckard's proximity sink in enough to keep it from being altogether too grateful. "Then we can get a head start on your debriefing," she concludes. A head start and, though she doesn't state it, ahead of need-to-know enforcement. Suspension or no, Bella intends to remain informed, by hook or by crook. "Oh! Actually, I have something for you. I'll be- Hold on. I'll be right back."

The redheaded shrink disappears into her room, emerging only a handful of seconds later with a book of not inconsiderable size under her arm, a whopper of a paperback with a white and blue cover, marked with bold green letters. She holds it, clasped in both her arms, like a kid with a well loved stuffed animal. It's a disarming little mannerism, the kind of thing she no longer even has to consciously adopt in order to paint herself as innocuous. "What do you say we take advantage of the chaos and raid the kitchen?"

Bella's abrupt departure is well-timed. Cinematically so, even, or magnetically. In the same beat she steps back, he leans in, long face already setting itself into a tilt. Grit and all.

But by chance or aptly-timed ejection, he finds more open air there than he was expecting and is able to shuffle the motion back into second thought and a certain deliberate straightening at his spine while his eyes shed their (dubious) humanity. All the better to watch her behind the wall.

He's breathing deeper by the time she's back, buzzkilled and insulated after a fashion, stripped copper wiring buffered more carefully out of sight behind his lambent stare. Expression suitably inscrutable when he glances to the book. And the way she's holding it. "Do we have beer?"

"We can certainly check!" Bella says, her mood on a sudden upswing. The reminders of her continued suspension have bred a mild feeling of mutiny in Bella, and the chance to make a small act of defiance like plundering a sixer from a fridge sounds like just the thing. She sets out towards the mess hall, wasting no time - Deckard can catch up easily, she's sure, his legs being rather longer than her own. She casts her voice over her shoulder, the path to the eating area well worn enough in her mind to require very little active attention.

"How is your reintegration going?" she inquires as she turns a corner, dawdling a moment so as not to lose a line of sight with him for too long, "Any chance you'll be given an assignment outside of the range of this inhuman cold? Any chance you'll need a psychological consult on site? You could put in a good word for me, help me truncate my nonsense suspension."

Flint follows.

Of course he does, waiting only as long as it takes for the imaginary leash to run out of slack before he snaps out've standing there and lengthens his stride to catch up.

"Ryans has me watching his daughters in the city when nobody else can cover. I looked at a couple of guns for him but they won't let me have one yet." Honesty now is more distant than his more hyped up retelling of recenter events just moments ago. "I don't think they're going to trust me enough to let me go to another continent for a while." The 'good word' thing gets a glance at the back of her head that may border upon suspicion.

The double metal doors of the mess hall rear up ahead. Bella turns toward Flint, her shoulders pressing up against the sheet metal, slippered feet pressing against linoleum to maximize friction as she heaves the door open. She stays tilting against it, holding the door for Deckard, like a proper gentleman.

"That's quite a vote of confidence," Bella says, encouraging without, she hopes, sounding condescending, "There are few things a father is more protective of than his daughters. This is definitely a chance for you to regain full standing. Take the responsibility seriously, Flint." Hopefully he won't feel hurt at this statements implied alternative.

Bella holds the door like a gentleman and Deckard rubs on her like a Deckard in passing, complete with a look directly down at her (and her book) when he does it. Evidently this is what he thinks of taking responsibility seriously right this second. It's quick to pass though, more pointed defiance than drawn out molestation. Ironically there's probably a helpful color poster printed and pinned up somewhere in this very mess hall with the Company's sexual harrassment policy stamped out on it with relevant bullet points.

Bella plays it off like it's no big thing, sucking her stomach in and drawing close against the door like she was taking up too much space and Deckard basically had to squeeze past her. She even gives him an apologetic look. Of course, the drawing back and the tacit 'sorry' could well be interpreted any which way. In any case, she doesn't seem visibly uncomfortable, and that such disregard can itself be a provocation can't be totally lost on her. If things get out of hand, well, maybe she'll find and point out the poster.

The shrink slides out from in front of the door's natural swing, her hair puffed lightly by that closing arc. Now it's her turn to catch up, and catch up she does, picking up the pace and padding past Deckard, making a b-line towards the kitchen doors. Beyond, the crucible in which their charmingly institutional foods are honed, crafted to meet that ideal ratios of quantity, speed, nutrition and objectionable blandness that comprise the height of the art. She shoulders her way through this next door, and escapes from Deckard unaugmented view, into the regimented brushed steel of the kitchen. She scans the unfamiliar territory, trying to find a refrigerator that might just contain beer. That Deckard would be a much better scout occurs to her quickly enough to prevent her from wasting time going from giant fridge door to giant fridge door. She turns towards the door she passed. "Come on!" she says, voice a stage whisper, "I need those eyes of yours."

The air's colder in the more open space of the Mess and Flint glances up after vents that effectively remind him five minutes too late that he was on his way to take a shower and change into dryer clothing. Which seems awfully mundane in the scheme of more exciting things he could be doing as Agent Deckard. Surely there is a room somewhere here specifically for setting things on fire or practicing dodging gunfire between cover with forward rolls.

Shoulders slumped somewhat once she's vanished and left him to stare blandly at an unoccupied buffet line, he scrubs both hands over his head and gives his dim reflection in the closed doors a dirty sideways look.

He's still standing there when she reappears, persistent undercurrent of distaste exchanged for blank preoccupation until he realizes what she's implying and tunes back in enough to follow her back through the second set of doors. It takes him about five seconds to open the right one.

"Beauty!" Bella says, smiling wide as the cool white interior lighting of the fridge illuminates a full crate of twenty four beers. Tecate. Not bad for not great beer. "Would you be a dear," Bella says, tugging open the cardboard aperture and removing a pair of beers, "And scan the area for limes?" She sets the drinks on an island counter, placing the book next to them, and gets on tiptoes to search a line of cabinets, rummaging for nothing in particular, but something snackworthy in general.

Would he? Deckard gives her the kind of lingering look as he starts to turn to comply that suggests she is wasting wishes with her x-ray genie. No big surprise that he wanders off to do it nonetheless, finding first grapefuits, oranges and lemons, which are enough to grit his teeth for him. Fortunately the limes aren't much farther away. Less fortunately he returns with a pair of limes and a knife that is a little oversized for the task of bisecting citrus. "They don't have little umbrellas. I already checked."

Bella is more than aware of her flippancy in enlisting Deckard's ability as a matter of convenience. This is an unconventional setting for anything resembling a session, but this frees Bella to use unconventional tactics. Her chipper demeanor - a marked upswing in someone who, minutes ago, claimed to be shivering with fear in the dark - is not so much false as willfully adopted. This is another aspect Bella has stored away, a persona she inhabits when it's useful: girlish, entitled, free spirited. A tactic so long used that it's become constitutive of her personality.

Sliding her thumbnail under the tab of one beer, she tilts and cracks it open, releasing that first fizzle of carbonation. Bella pushes the can over towards Deckard. "All for the best. If we were to get caught, having accoutrements like that would make us seem insolent. And anyways, umbrellas are only acceptable in lurid cocktails at beachside bars. Or at Chili's." She cracks open her own can, "Ready those limes, and then tell me what your unexpected first day was like, Agent Flint Deckard."

Limes to halves, halves to wedges, Agent Flint Deckard is disconcertingly fleet of finger with his knife. One of those learned skills.

He leaves the second one intact, exchanging the beer she pushes his way with a sliver of sour green so that he can flick his fingers free of juice and suck the rest off. …Without staring at her while he does it, even.

"I can see in the dark, so I was told to secure the transit tunnel exits deeper underground." He doesn't actually take a wedge for himself, preferring to sip his beer clean and cold and slower than he probably needs to in order to mask anything like pleasure. Or relief. "One of our detainees was trying to escape that way and I hit him with a dart. Some other guy was yelling at Ayers for being limp wristed. Then I came back up here."

A look of brief but serious concentration passes over Bella's face as she squeezes the lime juice into her beer, aiming with great care before turning the lime over, checking to see if she missed a citrus section. Satisfied by the thoroughness of her work, she presses the wedge down into the beverage itself. She moves to a nearby faucet, turning it on and running her fingers under it. Georgia Sheridan did not permit finger lickin' at her table, and old undefied prohibitions tend to linger.

Bella takes the time to close the cupboard she opened during her rummaging - unsuccessful rummaging, revealing only latex gloves and detergent in bulk. When she returns she leans on the counter, elbows resting by the edge, her beer held in both hands. She sips. "What was it like, taking orders? Taking action? Shooting at someone?" With a dart, sure, but still…

Deckard, who's starting to feel slightly crusty now that his shirt is finally drying itself out, mirrors her lean closer to the hip, head bristled against closed cabinets in a tip that lasts nearly as long as he has to think about his answer.

"I'm used to people telling me what to do," is the fairly dismal conclusion he comes to, punctuated by a look back down at her. Kitchen, pajamas, beer. Could be weirder. "I got worked up and found you and wanted to fuck but you pretended not to notice. Now we're having beer. With lime." A wedge of which he finally straight takes a bite out of, only to immediately have his nose rankle when it bites back.

"This isn't tequila. Or the British Imperial Navy," Bella says, smiling a little, "Squeeze it into the beer. Like you would with any other Mexican beer." She takes another sip, her brow arching at Flint's words. "It's not that I didn't notice, Flint. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable, though. If you'd like me to address your desires directly, I can do that. But I'm more interested in why you'd feel like fucking after what happened. Where did the desire emerge from? What exactly did you feel?" Apparently Bella isn't going to let the topic veer off of Deckard himself.

"Nobody squeezed limes into my beers in Mexico," countered with stubbornness enough for him to continue to do it his way despite her even if his way is terrible, he glances to her can and tries to swallow the rest of the zing out of his mouth. Too much lime.

Having been more or less aware that she didn't didn't notice, he eyes her as she goes on all reasonable and.

Reasonable.

He's increasingly wary in turn. Of excessive reason and of the territory this conversation is suddenly nudging at. Also it's weird when she says 'fucking,' like having your grandma or school counselor trying to relate with talk of phat beats and the hood. He stares at her.

"That's just cruel," Bella says, "Denying a poor gringo the full experience." Because Bella is precisely the person to speak on the authenticity of cultural cuisine, and the intricacies of inter-ethnic relations. "But please, I'd like you to air your feelings. Your adaptation to the rigors of an Agent's life is more or less the only job I have right now so, for my sake if not for yours, speak your mind."

More staring. Flint takes a long sip of his beer and a longer breath to go with it, brow furrowed and wires in his shoulders tuning gradually into a tauter configuration under persistent pressure. Like maybe he is only just now becoming aware that this is something to be ashamed of or otherwise defensive about. If he didn't feel uncomfortable before, he looks like he does now that it's called desire and has to have a reason why.

So he makes like he might actually start to say something and doesn't, frustration working his narrow jaw until he deflects it down into a frown at his can.

Bella doesn't say anything more, but her expression is all prompting. Her brow creases a little, and she looks up into Flint's face, the way she might if she were asking for a teeny tiny favor that would mean the world to her.

Deckard's pretty good at the quiet game. Virtually undefeated within the Ferrymen and the crippled spider of his various other relationships. Usually they talk more to fill the gaps instead of staring at him imploringly, though.

"I like you," he says finally, quietly and with an awkward crack in his voice, like it's literally being dragged out from beneath a pile of limestone blocks in him somewhere. "That's why I tell you things. Even though sometimes you're kind of creepy and a liar. And I like fighting."

Bella can't exactly take his criticism of her character too personally. She did lurk around an illegal facility, injecting human subjects with weird drugs while wearing a black veil and black gloves. This is not a matter of opinion - it is simple fact. So she acknowledges it with a nod and a: "If you ever need to discuss your reservations about me, I'm entirely open to it," before carrying on, "Does your like of fighting and your like of me meet up in your mind in any ways? Can you see any similarities between the two kinds of like?"

The small sigh Flint shuffles out at her reassurance that she is willing to discuss his reservations sounds a lot like resigned tolerance at her expense. He doesn't acknowledge it otherwise, sipping his beer again instead. "I dunno."

"You don't have to," Bella insists, "But I'd like for you to think about it. You have a chance to reconsider how you go about forging relationships, and I think you ought to take it." She straightens her back, taking a longer drink from the beer, setting it down and dabbing at the corner of her lips with the side of her thumb, "I won't press any further today, if you'd rather I not, Flint. We can just unwind. Plus," she taps her fingertips against the big fat book, "I wanted to give you this."

Probably for the best that she says so, because he's closing off like the way mud dries: slowly but obviously at the surface, taking any intent of answering more questions on the subject with more than encrypted grunts with him into the crust. Mouth pulled flat to one side, he forces himself to refocus on the book, dustily interested even through lingering malaise from saying as much as he already has.

"Big book."

That it is. Bella pushes it over towards him, reorienting so he can read the great slanted green letters on the cover 'Infinite Jest' and in smaller print 'A Novel'. "It's one of my favorites, though it took me two tries to get through it," she says, "I figured, if you wanted to read it, it would keep you occupied and, if not, it would make a hell of an addition to your fortress." Bella smiles, a thumb running along one corner. The book is worn, clearly something from Bella's own personal collection. The cover's shininess is rubbing off into white near the edges. "It's worth reading, though. All about drugs and family and happiness in America. Huge, tragic, and heartfelt," she gives a small laugh, "And now I sound like a book reviewer. Sorry."

Oh. Beer switched from right hand to left so that he has the former free to ply carefully through the pages he seems mellowly earnest enough in his mild, "Thanks." He doesn't look at her again though, reticence in contact as well as conversation already permeating through the fuzzy lines around his mouth when he glances to the uncut lime instead.

Bella regards Deckard thoughtfully, something like regret in the lines of her face. It's not heavy, nothing crushing, but it's there. He's closed up, and she hadn't expected that. The book is filled with blocks of dense text, separated at intervals by little graphics of a moon and strange titles: 'Year of the Whopper' or 'Year of Dairy Products from America's Heartland'. And at the back, in smaller letters, pages upon pages of endnotes. It is a daunting proposition, all in all.

At the very front, on a blank white page before the title page, is a handwritten inscription. Bella's handwriting, though Deckard may have never seen it. 'No single moment is unendurable. -B.'

"You'll have to tell me what you think," Bella says, quietly, "I'm very interested to get your perspective on it. If you find time to read it."

The endnotes in all their robustness coax a lift at Deckard's brow, the lines in his forehead more defined where grit's found its way in and dried there or repetitive movement has kept them passably clean. Somewhere between impressed and slightly intimidated, no doubt. This looks like a book for Smart People within as well as without. Or something. Certainly a ways off from his usual.

"I have a lot of time." Hours spent staring at walls or wandering around that used to be filled with drinking and whoring and stealing and arsoning. And occasionally murdering. The back of his hand scuffed idly around the side of his face, he doesn't nod until he's paused long enough to absorb the inscription with a harder look.

Consider it a vote of confidence, an appeal to the higher intellectual faculties Bella is certain Deckard possesses. Or consider it a vote of confidence, an assurance that the prose of David Foster Wallace, however serpentine, is comprehensible to one and all. Both, maybe. In any case, the book seems a gift given without motive. Bella, for all her machinations, is simply given Deckard something she hopes he will enjoy, something she herself enjoyed, and thus something they may be able to share in enjoyment. Not quite fucking - not nearly - but it's something. A book, to be precise. And Roland Barthe said that textuality is sexuality!

"It's the line that made the biggest impression on me," Bella explains, referring to the inscription, "The greatest insight of the book. I try and think that way when things get particularly painful or hard. That each second that passes, somehow I'm still there, still persisting." That the author found himself, one day, unable to persist is not a detail she brings up. It would rather ruin the sentiment.

It is something. On Deckard's part, he makes a pretty valiant effort not to look confused by what a motive for having given it might be, either ignorant of the possibility that there is none or too used to symbolic offerings not to wonder. Outwardly it manifests as muddled suspicion suppressed through the hood of his brow and a duller edge on a frown that was driftily unfocused to begin with.

By the time he looks up enough to check her for clues (and finds none) he's smothered curiosity down to an inaudible murmur and turns his head quickly in search of a trash can. To dispose of his empty beer. Not the book, which he takes up in his right hand. Hopefully never to look the author up on Wikipedia. "Okay."

Bella's eyes catch Deckard's search for disposal, then move down to investigate her own fluid level. At least half of the beer remains - all for the best, considering she's something of a lightweight. Alcohol is not her first intoxicant of choice, though it's all she's got right now. There is a moment where Bella considers asking Deckard if any of the Agents would be able to hook her up with some green, but she decides that her new informal approach to Deckard's rehabilitation should be taken in steps rather than flying leaps. She tips her beer back and quickly finishes it off, tossing the can towards a can only about ten feet away. She throws like a girl, and misses, not even achieving a rimshot.

Flint picks it up once he's dropped his own can in from closer range, but the lash of backwash tumped out on the floor with it is left to someone else.

"I should get back and shower so I can write up a statement," posed as a rickety (but honest) excuse for his own evacuation, he weighs her book in his hand and eyes her awkwardly one last time before he turns to start for the door.

He can come back for more beer later.


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