bella_icon.gif benji_icon.gif

Scene Title Bliss
Synopsis A heart to heart ensues.
Date August 20, 2011

Bay House

The Bay House hides like a hermit in the dimming hours before curfew, hemmed in by trees and cloaked in grasses, trying maybe a little too hard to keep itself under the agoraphobia inducing throb of the city lights.

And for the past half hour, Bella has been guarding the door. Each face that enters is treated with immediate suspicion, then dismissed with vague disappointment as each face persists in being familiar. What Bella knows is that she does not know who it is she's waiting for and, impatient, she demands of each comer a novelty they fail to produce.

She's being kept, generally, and is keeping herself, presently, in liquor. Claret in a glass, and it gives her teeth a faint purple stain when it's this dark. It's only been thirty minutes, but Bella feel exhausted from the waiting, the fire inside her needing the bellows of her lungs and - without a hot air target - denied them.

At least Benji is arriving adequately warned.

Which is why she arranged it this way — in a safehouse, emphasis on safe, without real ability for Bella to choose times and places, natural paranoid instincts that are probably a bit misplaced. Bella is not only not her son, but certainly doesn't wield his measure of power. This does about zero to reduce the nervousness that moving up on the doorsteps of the Bay House brings about, the weather warm and sky cloudy at this hour. Long legs clad in clinging denim, in contrast to a loose woolen jacket over grey cotton, all painfully neutral colours, with only the glimmer of a silver necklace, the pendant that hangs from it hidden beneath fabric, adding some shine.

Knock knock. It's a polite warning rather than permission to enter, Benji opening the door and stepping inside, hands coming to tangle behind her, the heels of ankle boots sounding loud to her ears as she moves further indoors.

Is it something new?

Bella presses the bell of her glass between her thumbs, knuckles blanching slightly as she flexes against the curve and surveys the announced arrival. Tallish. Youngish. Lean.

In her fixity, Bella commits a basic filtering error, one she will feel particularly embarrassed about. This laddy lad, however pretty, looks like no Jasmine to her.

In her suburbanity, she makes a further filtering error, but one she probably won't have to own up to. It's not just expected gender that fails to match, it's expected race.

Her attention dims and her expression says 'I was mistaken', and the lift of her brows as she takes another sip says, 'stop blocking the door'.

Oh hello.

No this is the meddling dreamwalker you are looking for, although Benji can't help but glance over a shoulder just to check that she isn't in the way of anyone, before focusing back on the redheaded woman. It is true that she has seen her more in dreams than real life, but even then, generally older, and there's always that little pause over the measure— or lack thereof— that people have changed or will be changing. Moving forward in mincing steps, Benji quickly scans around for a place to sit, and takes it, knees together and hands atop them, posture prim as if to contain nervousmess.

"Miss— oh, Doctor Sheridan? My name is Benji. I'm— mm. It's good to meet you. You wanted to talk to me…" Glance off to the side in consideration of words. "…in real life. And some of you I owe that much."

Personal growth is only positive evidence of a previously insufficient character.

"'Benji' isn't the name I was given," Bella instructs this- person, "I am not of a mind to be bullshitted. Explain yourself."

Of course, her interlocutor has inferred as much. 'Real life' being key here, as opposed to dreams, not fantasy realms or collective delusions. So this is the dream walker; unless they are really being duplicitous shitheels- but they wouldn't send this skinny, stammering thing to antagonize her.

At least she has someone to unload on, now.

"Some of us? How many of 'us' are there? And who don't you owe it to?"

Her posture draws up a little more — there are a bunch of women in her life, and former life, that would have Benji flinching at imperiousness and quick to mutter out answers, and Bella doesn't count among them, obviously. That doesn't stop warm red from beginning its usual rise up throat and cheeks. There are a lot of questions suddenly, and she takes a moment to draw in a breath and sigh it out again. "You were told 'Jasmine'. That's my name too," is how she simply puts it, shaking her head at any claim of anyone bullshitting Bella, fingers lacing together.

"Oh, many. I don't think I have a number. And I guess I don't owe it to those who don't ask. Were you curious about something specifically?"

"Jasmine- that's some sort of stage name, then?" There is something of common meanness in Bella's voice, and it does not become her. She's probably smarter than this - at the very least she should know better - but she finds herself really going in swinging. That temper.

She considers very briefly trying to curb it.

The result of this consideration is a set of words, thrumming with unexpressed affect.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?"

Hn is the resulting sound that is both incredulity at Bella's response and something close to mirth, or seems it on the surface in a smirk that doesn't make it all the way and obscured even then with a glance away. So it is going to be this kind of conversation, and Benji sinks back to sit comfortably on her perch, returning a stare back to Bella that holds a little less deference. "I don't think I can answer that accurately without understanding— what your misgiving it. But I know I'm not an enemy," she offers.

"Of course. My apologies. Let me be clear.


A finger directed at the sanctified self.

"-have never given birth to a child

"I have never suffered the beautiful tragedy of being a mother, of raising a creature so that it can someday have the wherewithal to leave you and not look back. All due fucking respect to those who do it and do it well, but I am not of their number."

She lifts a hand and flips Benji off with her ring finger.

"I have never been engaged.

"Yet now- when I sleep, I remember these things. Things that never happened, things I haven't done. And I wake up- still remembering them. Still feeling as if they had happened. When they have not. Not to me.

"And you think- that that's okay? I don't know every last detail, but I know you left your shithole timeline and gatecrashed ours. And you think the thing to do is to bring all it's pain and privation and drop it on us?

"Once more:" with feeling, "who the fuck do you think you are?"

Slow blink. Benji listens, a little frozen in place and brows drawing together. Warier, now, on treading on any kind of verbal landmine, but the territory is fairly rife with them, and her shoulders slacken in a show of resignation.

"Dreams aren't real," she says, simply. "No matter how much it tricks you at the time. I can promise you that if you experienced the bad things— and the good things— you see when you go to bed at night, you would feel them tenfold. There's no escape. You don't think you'll change your actions remotely to influence your future?" Shaped eyebrows raise to make that query sincere, even if a pale stare back communicates that Benji believes she knows the answer already.

"That's not the point! Even skimming over the question as to how you have access to these memories in the first place- what you're doing- it's fucked up and wrong-"

The moral high ground stretches out before her, elevated road built broad for her rhetorical comfort. This is how she went at Nora, albeit with more venom. And that gained her-

This. But now this is what she has. There is a change of her tack, as invisible as the shifting of the wind that demands it.

"This is a tactic- your teenaged cohort confessed as much. But you're dabbling in rank demagoguery. Granting even that we can trust these dreams as one hundred percent unedited and genuine- it wouldn't matter! You took snippets, edited through selection if nothing else. You fed me a fucking highlights reel.

"You can't do that! You can't abridge a human life! And you can't hand the abridgment to their twin and just say 'BEWARE!'

"I don't know who else is duped by this, but I will not be Ebenezer Scrooged quite so fucking easily.

Benji's hands go up at one point, fingers splayed and palms open as if to try and stem the vitriol coming her way, but it's probably not going to be of any use. And so hands go back down in order to lever herself back up to stand, somewhere around those last few words, looking a little flushed and anxious but not necessarily cowering so much as ducking for cover.

"Is that what you think this is?" she asks, keeping her voice both deliberately and naturally gentle, quiet. It usually borders on breathy in deep-seated self-consciousness of even talking at all, but at times comes in handy — forces people to listen, or sets up a constrast just as this one. "Duping? I— I can't give you all of the thirty years, only the parts that remained with you, that— edited themselves. Important things. I'm not forcing you to see value, doctor, but— "

That this is vaguely upsetting finally shows itself in a brisk headshake. "It's either changing things for you or letting you see for yourself. Your son— " She stops, aware that's probably not the way to say it. "Calvin would do that. Decide what's best."

Bella goes from anger to scorn in a second flat. "Jesus Fuck, what does that mean?" Benji's very gentleness offends her ferocity, being neither resistance or submission. "If I don't know what it is- then explain what it is to me. I'm a smart woman, I imagine I can comprehend the mechanism at work here. Metaphorize if you need to. Just make me understand if there's genuinely something I'm missing. You want me to decide? Help me make a choice with my informed consent." Her arms cross, combative, crossbar over her glass. She doesn't sound reasonable, so much as cruelly expectant. Like 'this should be good…'

The burden of proof always weighs on the other guy.

"It means you consider truth and make your own decisions instead of release a murdering virus," Benji replies, quite blandly, but happy to do so. "Calvin wanted to rush in with fire and fury. I prefer giving you the choice, whatever that may be, whatever it has to be. This isn't my time, it's yours. And— " There's a nervous smile, then, the kind she does when she honestly doesn't know what else to do, brows still knit with tension and taking a step back.

She lifts a shoulder. "I'm not going to stop."

Honest and forthright. Unrepentant, even. Bella at least knows what she's dealing with. Further reasoning, questioning and assorted badgering will profit her aught. Some people are just too pig-headed. Talks have broken down.

Bella stands up and moves around, wordlessly entering the circumference of Benji's personal space.

She swings her hand to slap Benji, open palmed, upside the head. Again and again - each blow meant to punctuate a sharp, demanding syllable.

"Stay- out- of- my- head!"



Benji gives a squeak somewhere between the first and second blow, slouching right down and hands up to try and fend off the slaps. It doesn't actually cross her mind to hit back or anything. It is not a natural instinct, and when you're brought up a boy, you're not meant to hit girls. Promptly making with clumsy retreat instead until that circumference has widened, not desperate enough to leave the house but certainly in the doorway of the room, a hand out in a sort of surrender and inky, greasy hair wilder than it was just prior. "Ignorance isn't bliss Doctor Sheridan!" comes out at a rush. "You'll see that sometime — tomorrow, ten years from now, there's a lot of time to change your mind."

Bella's hand remains uplifted, a hanging threat from under whose shadow she speaks. She's ruddy haired, pale faced and furious in that way only the indignant can get, white hot and heedless. Mighty rightly.

"I don't want bliss, you presumptuous little shit! I want my privacy. I want my fucking life. And I already gave up everything your Christmas Future had to offer for those two things! I fucking chose, so give them back."

There's a trace of sympathy, there, which is a feat in and of itself — it is probable that Benji has intruded on many mindscapes when she was unwanted, and so is mostly immune to the sentiment, especially when held against her belief in what she is trying to do. But there's a crack in her resolve, submissive hand lowering a little with a wary glance given to the one Bella continues to hold up in warning. That, and, well. Human empathy is a simple thing. She knows how she felt when she attacked Calvin in almost exactly this same manner, and it wasn't very nice.

"I'm sorry," she offers, finally, letting out a pent up breath. "I can… pull back. I didn't mean to— " Another sigh, hissing out almost as a whine. "This wasn't the idea."

Like with Nora, Bella finds herself dealing with someone driven. Someone with a commitment that excuses, justifies and even demands that they not stop. So much more difficult to deal with than ignorance or malice is purpose.

Apology is something, though. Concession something more. And it bolsters her resolve to ask for more. To at least dare to ask, while she may still have the leverage.

"Then what was the idea, and who's shining inspiration stands responsible for its glorious conception?"

"A lady who never made it back with us," Benji says, shoulders slackening a little. It's not an easy thing to discuss. Her hand lowers, drops, but she doesn't move out of the doorway. "Or— there was a man who came to our time, and told us what we could do to fix it, make it that the war doesn't happen, all those people dying. One of ours, a post-cog, he said it was possible. We're just trying to change things, and my method— the idea was to show you and let you do it yourselves. Not to invade your privacy, or make you feel threatened. The others I've talked to have— um. I guess they've found it enlightening."

A shoulder lifts in demure, shy shrug — it'd probably look affected if not for the fact that everything Benji does tends to and is probably— not conscious.

This is more of an explanation than Bella has come to expect, and she seems temporarily if not profoundly mollified. Her arms form a barricade, a tower rampart over which she can hurl verbal missiles. But she holds her fire.

"It's not your aim, it's your method to which I object," she clarifies, "vivid dreams, unexplained, shared by people? And this infiltrating our places of business, our lives-" having sex with surrogate parents, in some unsettling cases, "the whole thing stinks of duplicity and duress - if you were being honest, why weren't your forthright?

"I mean Jesus, ask me up front if I want to help prevent World War Three, and what do you think I'm going to say? 'Fuck off'?"

"Mm. I think it's more likely than you believe, yes," Benji states coolly, chin lifting. There's more light in her eyes, now, almost verging on anger, if not necessarily for Bella. "Because by the time thirty years have passed, enough prophecy, signal and repeated sentiment, heroism and warning apparently were not enough to change anything at all. So forgive me if I felt that yes, you needed to touch it, see it, and taste it before we had a hope of steering any of you on the right path. Some of us left everything to be here, is how bad it gets." She takes a whispery breath, there, slightly shaky, and rakes dark hair out of her eyesin restless gesture.

Hands place on skinny hips. "We're not leaving it at duplicity. I've talked to my connections, here. I'm sorry yours is a little less manageable."

"I don't have any fucking connections," Bella replies, with a brief spurt of renewed ferocity, "don't ascribe ownership, association or agency based on shit from your defunct timeline. You're guests here- really you're freeloaders and meddlers.

"And you've got some fucking confidence thinking that just because you can see how things go, you know how to stop yourself from going.. Every day of my professional life I saw with people who - for all you told them, for all they knew - stubbornly marched towards the same shitty consequences, over and over…"

There's a quiver of carefully handled emotion in her voice as she forms her words with a disavowed care. "You just don't realize that touching, seeing and tasting the worst might just fuck up what little is still good here and now."

"There is so much good here," Benji insists, the corner of her mouth taking on the remnant of a smile. "And so much worth protecting. I'm sorry you feel the way you do." Apologising how someone feels isn't the same as apologising for the actions that caused it. Benji knows. She isn't correcting it. Nor promising she will be stopping any time soon.

She does, instead, mince a step back, making motions of retreat.

"That good is not my good," Bella contends, "and I didn't ask you to protect anything for me. So lay the fuck off - or you will trample what small blessings you managed to bestow. I live my life day to day, kid. And so does the rest of the non-Evolved populace, thanks to what you brought with you. My good is what makes waking up each morning feel like more than rolling a boulder uphill. Now you've got it so I'm afraid even just to sleep."

She's retreating? Very well. Bella tracks Benji with a steady glare, but the words she tosses have a touch of parting shot to them. "It's easy enough for you to talk about the good you see 'here', tourist."

It would be convenient and peace-keeping if Benji could feel sympathy, in a deep and fundamental way. But it isn't there, in her look back towards Bella, blankly unyielding even as she tips her head as if shying back from the venom in the redhead's words. Rock and a hard place — she obviously doesn't want to continue this conversation, but she can't honestly say anything to end it that wouldn't be compromising in her beliefs, her feelings.

So that would leave her with—


Two apologies laid down in concession will just have to be enough. "I know," she concedes, but there is something in her tone that suggests that this isn't a negative in her argument. Putting it to words seems unwise, so she gives Bella an uncertain, finger-waggle wave that is possibly more infuriating than she intends, and turns on a heel. Ceding territory if nothing else.

To be fair to Benji, it doesn't take much to infuriate Bella these days. But there is no last volley or explosion of rage, no demand for respect or recompense. Bella lets Benji go, not that she could do much to stop her, really - shorter, at a hormonal disadvantage, and this time she wouldn't have the benefit of surprise.

Rather she sets her fingers to the stem of her wine glass, and slowly pushes it over the counter, to the edge where it-



and breaks apart-

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