Bad Habit


deckard_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Bad Habit
Synopsis Refrain abuse, being a downer and porn all qualify. Flint drops by to check in on Joseph so that they can exchange bad news and be awkward at each other over Cheetos.
Date February 16, 2010

Grand Central

It's cold, winter chill reaching aaall the way down here, whipping icy through gaping tunnels and train tracks enough to create frost in the murky puddles come morning. Morning is several hours off, still, night falling above them and meaningless in the face of the darkness of an underground lair, all electric lamps, flashlights, glowsticks — no matter what the hour is. Right now, it's a late one, and people are asleep or shoved off home for the evening with a skeleton staff of medical experts— kind of— and people who care left haunting through open abandoned subway platforms.

Whatever function this room had, it doesn't serve its old purpose anymore. Now, there's a mattress on a creaking metal frame, with liberal applications of blankets making it lack shape and definition. One of them is dragged up and around Joseph's shoulders, liberated from the rest of the bed clothes and taken with. He never does make it very far, out the door and then leaning his back against the slightly damp brick just adjacent to it. There's pallid illumination in the form of a light bulb just above the door, enough to greasily coat the immediate area in draining light, making it hard to see the rest of the terminal from here.

That the want to no longer be confined a small bedroom in his downtime overrides the imperative to be horizontal and asleep is possibly impressive. Joseph leans and breathes air that's a little less stale out here.

The damp scuff and scrape of flat-heeled cowboy boots over ancient concrete flags Flint's approach before his eyes are visible in a wide band of shadow that's grown fat amidst a wreath of burnt bulbs. He's no Walkin' Dude, but the effect is eerie nonetheless. He's tall and lean in a shabby overcoat and jeans; the shadows pitched in under the hard edges of his face are dark.

Accompanying him is the rustle of a plastic grocery store bag and the bump of a rifle slung black over one shoulder, slender barrel swinging in a regular line across the ceiling in step with his stride. His grizzled hair is shaved off short, greyer than ever. He could stand to shave. His eyes glow. It's Flint.

"Hey," his voice rattles coarse off wet brick and arched ceilings, "I come bearing gifts." The dim light in his eyes flickers off like a slide change once he's close enough for detail to resolve itself in terms of waxen skin and overall illness. It is prevalent. Not that the light helps really, but his head tilts in stark appreciation of the damage on its own before his irises bleed out their natural color and he straightens himself slowly out. It is a silent woah. More accurately, a silent woah, you look like shit.

Woah, he feels it too. Footsteps only summon up a little bit of tension, until the illumination of X-ray eyes and a familiar voice grates its echo off concrete. Joseph takes his weight off the wall as if in a demonstration of balance, the angles of his arms pulling the blanket tight around him visible through indefinitely coloured grey wool. All grey, actually, as with the sweater beneath it and warm pants, only a step up, really, from what he's been wearing for the past two months.

"Hey. For me?" At the very least, he's not stop-start stammering this time, dark eyes flicking towards the gun behind Deckard's shoulder and then back on over towards the pale eyes set brightly into shadowed features. "You shouldn't have." Attention paid to any staring is mostly subtle enough to be like Joseph ignoring it, though he does duck his head enough as if to will light to slide down past him rather than spotlight on details.

He presses a hand to his door, shoving it open an inch in offer, as much as going back in there isn't something he's leaping to do. But Southern hospitality doesn't get discarded that easy.

"Unless you have someone else laid up in there you're willing to share with." Oblivious to any reluctance to go into the room proper despite his own crippling aversion to cages, Flint sweeps the heavy door the rest of the way open with a shove of his boot and shoulders in without waiting for further invitation.

He seems pretty okay, despite recent events. Bruising is clouded oddly up one side of his neck, likely periphery damage from impact further down. That and he sounds kind of stuffy, like he might be bringing Joseph a cold in addition to what's in the bag. "They can make you sleep through the worst of it," is oddly conversational for the context and setting, "if they get the right drugs." A sweeping glance across the near wall locates a rickety wooden chair and he slings it carelessly over closer to the bed and himself down after it. "I dunno if anyone's offered." He's not a doctor.

Bag in his lap one leg bent up underneath and the other stretched out long, he sizes Joseph up again sidelong, expression lended more of its old inscrutability by the flat affect of all-seeing eyes. "I brought cheetos."

Following Deckard inside, Joseph closes the door enough to bar off most of the world save for a sliver of grimy light, and shuffles on after the other man. He takes up perch on the side of his bed, absently dragging another blanket on over his lap to let it spill down towards his feet, and from there, lets the first one just rest over his shoulders without bundling, hands freed and up to rub over pallid features. In a sense, the Grand Central Terminal had been perfect after Humanis First. Now it's just.

Everywhere. Everywhere you look, even up, there it is. "Okay," is a tired reply to news of cheetos, one hand dropping back into his lap and the other rested at the nape of his neck, and the beginnings of an apologetic glance upwards cut off—

And manages not to ask Deckard to put his eyes away or something, just steers a look off to the side rather than meeting the unsettling points of contact that are glowing blue. "They've been feedin' us doses of Refrain to stave the worst off," he says, his voice neutral. "Or, uh. Or trying to, last I heard."

"…Huh," says Deckard to the idea of slow and miserable weaning off of highly addictive substances that he has somehow still not tried, having perhaps decided he is already at capacity for self-destructive passtimes. It sounds unpleasant. Not that his various experiences with the big cold turkey have him champing at the bit to try again.

Rifle leaned and slung carefully down into a vertical rest against the near wall, he sniffs and delves that same hand into his grocery bag to draw out a…bag of crunchy cheetos! "I had to guess on those. I thought it would be stupid to call and wake you up about chips." Kindly, rather than throw it at Joseph, he tosses it onto the mass of blankets next to him and resumes fishing for…a magazine! Pupils yawning wide and black, he manages to turn the thing over right side up and cover inward before he flexes it into a U and turns it around for Joseph to appreciate in what little light in available. BAD HABIT is the name. Mostly-naked nuns with big bouncy titties is equal parts inexplicably and inextricably the game.

The snake-eyed smile he slants out from behind it is nothing short of nefarious. Evidently he is proud of his selection.

"I also got you breath mints."

Light enough to show off the glossy face of the magazine and then the highlight of pink blushing through pale, too-cool skin as Joseph blinks from it and then up to Deckard's face in unguarded bewilderment. Now would come disapproval, but instead, it's scattered by a somewhat crooked smile, amusement and exasperation written there. "That'll— that'll go great under the mattress, never t'be seen again," and he directs his hands towards the crinkling bag of cheetos instead. These will look just as great coming back up, too, but it's been a long two months.

And a handful never killed nobody. The shaking has gone out of his hands, which had trembled like winter branches in the breeze all through the trip from Midtown to here just a day ago, something blue and luminous given enough to smooth out his nerves. For now, anyway. The mouth of the bag is carefully peeled apart.

"Thanks," he thinks to say, with a glance up. "Never missed out on Christmas before." He angles the bag for Deckard to take from first, back of his other hand up to rub against his forehead, eyes squinching shut and opening again with a deliberate blink-blink.

"I've already glanced over it," confessed without shame, Deckard tosses BAD HABIT over next, and the mints. Altoids in a metal tin. "You should give it a chance. There are articles too. You might learn something." He can't see blushing, but even if he could, the odds are pretty solid that he wouldn't be deterred by it. The last thing out of the sack is a bible. A musty, old, weakly bound King James with a cover worn ash grey and water spotting on the pages therein.

"I found this in a hotel. I wasn't sure if you'd already bullied someone into bringing you one." Flomp. It lands more heavily on the mattress than the nudey nuns it was previously bumping and grinding around the bag with.

Only once he's tossed it does the thing about Christmas register. Blankly ignorant of the offer of cheetos while his soul blanches and rolls in over itself in his chest like a lightly salted slug, he slouches a little deeper back into his seat and scuffs a hand across the bristle of his chin.

The cheetos are still offered in an absent, neglected kind of way as Joseph tracks the progression of the Bible with a dulled interest, but interest nonetheless. His other hand moves towards it, gravitational or magnetic attraction, but doesn't pick it up. Fingers splay across its faded front, thumb lifting along the pages and letting them fall back into place with a blur of silk-fine spotted paper. The action is careful. "Thanks," he says, again, not much different to the one previous except this time he didn't have to think before he said it. "No, I hadn't."

His instinct would be to stack the gifts and set them aside, but somehow placing Bible upon porn is fundamentally wrong enough that the magazine and mints are put upon the small table set near the bed head, avoiding a half-emptied glass of water. Cheetos, also — offer remembered and retracted. The Bible, he finally drags into his lap, fingers caged over its spine.

Glowing eyes always look like they should hurt you. Joseph's own are dark enough that mild mydrasis is almost hard to detect, especially in low light. Winter, too, can disguise the chills, but none so effective as X-ray vision. "They picked me up out front an anonymous group," he feels moved to say, mostly to lead it into— "I was trying."

Still quiet and still slouched, Flint acknowledges thanks and attempted explanation alike with a slight lift at his chin and a certain amount of uncomfortable distance. The paradox of which never quite meshes with the unfaltering directness of his glare, which passes black eyes by to rake around the back of their dry sockets instead. Looking at people is way easier when you can't see them looking back. Or the looks on their faces. Or the unhealthy pallor of their skin.

"I know," isn't quite a lie. He had assumed Joseph was trying, and that he hadn't somehow brought this on himself via backalley transaction gone awry. It's almost like trust, or something, in strength of good will over addiction if not strictly the morality of another human being. "I shouldn't have left."

Even maybe seems like the wrong thing to say, written though it is on an expression Deckard is sparing himself from. Hesitation, though, might say it loud and clear, and Joseph's skeleton ducks his skull downwards to steer empty sockets where his still hands lay over the good book — free of highlight white metal of rings, as with the thumb-nail size usually ever present crucifix on its chain. "Things weren't so bad, when you did. In this city. With Humanis First outta our hair and main worries bein' where Kaylee was puttin' her TV." Crinkle crinkle, taking out exactly two crisps and crunching them down. It's nice to taste something, despite a birdish appetite.

He drags wool tighter around him. The next time he speaks, his voice sounds deceptively anxious. Strained and frayed. "You staying put now?"

"…Up until you were kidnapped and forced into involuntary product testing, you mean," droned out without any trace of humor or self-pity to make it anything less than matter-of-fact, Flint draws out to the swell of living lung and the pump of heart muscle beating thickly against itself. Hm.

He has to think about whether or not he's staying put, having possibly avoided the subject up until now. Pump bump, pump bump, meanwhile. It feels more distracting than it used to be. Organs resettling wetly against muscle, mesentery and bone just so with every minute shift in angle or incline.

"I dunno. Probably. For now." Other qualifiers may apply, but he opts to keep the list reasonably short for the time being, dismissing the rest with a half shrug and a vaguely apologetic twitch at the corner of his mouth. "Did they torture you?"

Yeah up until then. Joseph's mouth pulls in a frown designed to communicate that that's not exactly what he meant, Flint, but he doesn't have words to back it up, hesitantly meeting ice-fire eyes with great uncertainty. Manifests in the slight loosening of the hinge of his jaw, shoulders curved in, and a hand goes up to scrub over his face. "We were patients. You don't do as you're told, you get put in your room for however many days without a word. Grounded. I made one— I tried to get away once, early in, and she knocked me out even after I gave up. After that— dunno. She had a way of makin' you feel petty or selfish for puttin' up a fight. Or weak.

"I dunno if any of this counts as torture. It was just a really long time." His voice skitters out from a dry throat at these last words, fingers lacing together with his forehead coming to rest against it. Almost praying, except not, elbows rested against his knees. The muttered, "sorry," isn't explained.

"She?" Flint's brow's knit with exaggerated curiosity, as if this is the first he's heard of female involvement in Joseph's excellent adventure. But he's a salesman, not an actor, and what little talent he has (or had) in the art of deception has been negligible of late. The tension hollowed into his jaw feels angry if it feels like anything, and though his ears can't physically lie back flat against his skull, the lock of his teeth that barely allows dialogue to escape at all and the hood of his brow provide a similar impression.

It takes him longer than it should to negate his own grinding interest with a milder, "We can talk about something else." As for what, he is evidently unblinkingly, scowlingly short on ideas.


The word catches on the tail end of Flint's show of kindness, as if defiant. No, we can talk about this, enough to answer the question, even if a shaky pause extends out between the over-curious query and the attempt to change the subject. "Never did catch her name. I called her ma'am. She hid everything— her face, her voice. 's all I know." Sniff. Fingers grind against eye sockets as if sleepy, before Joseph's hands fall back down and his head lifts up.

"I imagined gettin' out, but— thought about goin' further. Maybe going back home for a while. Did it help?" Even without the directness of wide pupils and a ring of additional black focuses blearily, watery on Deckard's blue, he can probably sense a direct stare when it's on him. "Gettin' away."

Still inconclusive. Doubt niggles like a hagfish knotting itself against the flaccid corpse of a fresh-dead whale, shuddering through loose muscle and rotted blubber without real force of impact. Flint continues to stare ahead, at Joseph and maybe all the way through him. His narrow jaw hinges into a sideways jut, mulling over whatever unfathomable bullshit goes on in his brain while through processes drag themselves out've briny mud and gore on their way to Other Subjects.

Like the one of leaving.

To which the answer is definitely, "No."

Oh. :/

Somehow, there is enough optimism flickering like a faulty light for that answer to surprise him. It wouldn't have explained why Flint even came back, but, not even a little? Joseph's brow tips in consternation, eyes tracking down towards the ground. Mexico and Tennessee are kind of different, contain different things, but. He nods, tension setting in that has little to do with the conversation, just a reaction to straining muscles pulling in fire hot cramps some more. This is lame.

Then; "I'm sorry to hear that, by the way. But I'm— real glad you came back," he says, words carrying on a small flutter of rueful laughter. "But I mean, besides the— the raid. That too, though."

"It was okay until New York started to creep back in." Joseph, having spent the last couple of months locked up with a mad scientist that Flint's had many opportunities to interrogate and kill, maybe deserves clarification. It could be argued that there are people like Teo (who has risked his life for him and tolerated indiscretions from cowardice to murder and mutilation) and Abigail (who has told him she loves him) who are equally deserving of such honesty. But they aren't here and he is either more guilty about Joseph or cares less about what he thinks or believes him to be more forgiving somehow. Or some unflattering and retarded mixture of all of the above.

"I think once you…commit…to whatever this is. The cause or the. Future. I dunno. But it bleeds into you. Infects or assimilates, and you can't ever really get away from it unless you get out early." Having finished counting bones in Joseph's near foot, he ticks his eyes up back around the region of his teddybear face. Which he can't actually see. "I'm glad we got you out."

Call it Deckard's choice of wording, but that's certainly a bleak notion. It could be prettied up, but right now, the idea of not being able to get away— from the Ferry through to Refrain and back round again to this whole miserable, hateful city— is a stifling concept best meditated on a day when he can physically test such a thing. And either Joseph doesn't remember how little (and much) Flint can see with his eyes on, or it's genuine, the mildly crooked smile all this bitterness gets in return. "Is what it is," is a barely audible mumble, before he clears his throat as if to encourage his voice to be something that isn't a miserable thing hiding in his throat. Nods back at the sentiment, feels another smile shape itself in front of a beaming skull.

"Yeah," says Deckard. It is. One eye narrowed in stark reflective consideration of his failure as a bedside counselor, he lingers an awkward moment and then pushes to his feet, right hand reached over to recover his rifle in the process. "I'll leave you alone. You should make someone move a TV in here. Or some music." It's depressing — the dank press of walls in on every side and the steady drip of water somewhere unseen.

Making people awkward is not something Joseph wants to do, even as he's aware he's doing it. Lines at his eyes deepen in a rueful wince, but apart from a small glimmer of regret, he can't summon up much more than that — or even find how to correct it apart from letting Deckard go. "Might do," he concedes, with a lazy kind of agreement, a roll of his eyes to take in the room that is probably incorrect for as long as it has four walls and a door. "Look—

"I'm holdin' out for things to get easier. Or better." Something. He isn't getting up to show Deckard how, just tilts a look up at him, easing back from the edge of the mattress. "But y'can— come by again before it does, or I'll see you when I'm better company anyhow. Take care of yourself?"

Flint grunts, non-committal as ever to the idea of a tomorrow brighter than today. Long face downturned after the rifle stock bumping against his ribs on its way into a proper sling across his shoulder, he makes sure it's good and straight — and that chilly contempt is clear of his eyes and the lines around his mouth — before he looks up again to nod.

"I have some personal business to take care of. Then I'll be around. If you want more porn or more cheetos, my phone number hasn't changed."

"Me too," Joseph says, with an absent twist of a smile, before he's steering his legs up onto his coat, cheetos set aside for whenever he's feeling daring or remotely hungry. He's already said a few thank yous, some half-hearted and some clumsy around actually meaning them, so this time he lets Flint go without one — a splayed hand, complicated bones aligning into a simple wave, before they flop down onto the jut of a knee.

Gifts and gloomy forecast thusly delivered, Flint lets himself out, stiff shoulders briefly obscuring the band of sallow light the open door allows in before his bootfalls set into a scraping retreat towards larger and grander tunnels.

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