Book Forts


bella_icon.gif deckard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Book Forts
Synopsis Bella visits Deckard's new digs; still a cell, just bigger.
Date April 3, 2010

Fort Hero

Deckard's temporary containment apartment.

When Deckard's new apartment was furnished — and carefully, sparsely so — Corbin Ayers saw to it that the bookshelves were filled chockablock with dusty old volumes ticketed and re-ticketed, re-purchased, sold and bought back still again. With no television, no radio, no computer, no pornography and a door that only locks from the outside, there are only so many ways for him to occupy himself. And so many books.

So he's made them into a lopsided castle near the foot of his bed, asymmetry catalogued nearly to his chest at its highest point, where thickly bound encyclopedias make up the base and dog-eared paperbacks teeter at the top. Various cameras hidden in the walls from most everyone but the apartment's occupant documented its cluttered rise from start to finish as well as three full or partial collapses. He'd squat, hold his head, vanish for an hour or two to wander around or shower, then come back again and start over.

He's been doing a lot of showering lately. It's the only corner of his quarters cut off from cameras 100%. Humidity still lingers from curtain to bathroom entry minutes after the most recent one and so does he, shoulders sloped at an obtuse angle under a blue oxford and feet bare at the bottom of dark slacks. He's staring at himself in the mirror.

It's always nice when your suggestions are taken seriously. The weight of her opinion within the Company was something Bella had lately been unsure about, so when she inquires and discovers Flint Deckard has been moved to a less penal-looking setting, she takes it as an affirmation of her still-good standing. She doesn't think much more on it, about what else or who else might be involved. She takes her ego boosts where she can these days.

So she can afford to be genuinely cheerful, of a kind, though she tones down her self-satisfaction to a polite level, trying to reroute it into a simple appearance of good will and sympathy, her 'Rogerian' technique. She knocks again, the same knock, announcing her arrive before unlocking the door and stepping inside. "Flint?" she speaks into the room, not seeing him. Her eyes scan the room, and catch on the ghostly veil of post-shower mist just barely clinging to its ephemeral existence, aided by the glow of the light within. Ah! Of course.

"I can wait outside if you need a moment," she says, voice directed towards the bathroom, "It's Bella," she adds. As if he couldn't tell from listening. Or looking, come to think of it.

The patina of ovine vacancy frosted dull across Deckard's eyes finally clears away at the sound of his name in close proximity. Some of the dryness in his mouth goes with it, velcro tongue peeled from the palate and too-warm air drawn into sinuses already clagged with humidity.

Recognition is near instant, calculating for the splintery delay it takes his brain to lurch out of its idle. He doesn't need to look but he does anyway, glare cut sideways through the wall and one last time to the mirror before he scuffs a hand towel over his head and steps just a pace or two, leaving the rest of the room between them.

She's had her requests honored and so has he: at least so far as personal hygiene is concerned. The increasingly wiry grey brown bristle of his hair has been trimmed into near professionally decent order, the formerly perpetual scruff of his beard acknowledged in the form of a goatee buzzed in clean around his mouth.

"I think it makes me look more nefarious," is what he has to say for it by way of explanation, left hand gestured vaguely after his face. Then his eyes are casting elsewhere, less subtle than they could be in their probe for big men in suits just outside who will rush in and make him eat his teeth if he touches her.

Bella's arrival seems to require no noticeable increase in security. Maybe they gave the guy who watch the monitors a double shot of espresso, told him to keep an eye on her. For all perceivable intents and purposes, she's come here without an ace up her sleeve or a knife in her boot. Unless she's carrying something diabolical in the metal cigar case she has stashed in her inner jacket pocket, or has had some Company Q knockoff rig the accompanying lighter with napalm instead of butane. You never do know…

The shrink is dressed in business casual, with a blazer over a blouse and well cut but hardly dressy slacks. She's also walking without a crutch, though her limp is still pronounced, and a blood test would reveal a level of pain suppressant medication that probably makes her ineligible for operating heavy machinery. Here's to hoping a jackhammer won't be needed to get at the contents of Deckard's skull.

The goatee is regarded with unalloyed skepticism; it catches her eye in the way only a sudden change in familiar features can. "I realize you now have, in total, less hair," Bella comments, "But somehow it feels like you have more facial hair when it's shaped like that." Her eyes pull away from his beard and up to his eyes. "Well… as promised," she spreads her arms, indicating the room around them, "Though I think they should install a sunlamp. Seasonal affective disorder has an appropriate acronym."

Diabolical or no, the cigar case gets a squinty linger on the return. Then she's sizing him up and he's sizing her up and he starts off with the kind of silence that defined their very first session. That is to say, it's an unconsciously belligerent, unsure kind of withdrawal, clearly marked by the way his brow furrows and the way he has to think too hard about keeping his spine clear of tension.

He does not look impressed by frowny face acronyms or talk of sunlamps, but glances to the door again instead. Technically, this is His Space. Also, the first time she's been inside of it.

"You have the same amount of hair," he points out finally, insufficient effort after too long. Probably aware of as much, he thinks on it a few seconds and starts to meander away, off to his castle.

"I try to keep it within a certain standard deviation," Bella agrees, hand lifting to brush back red mass in question. It's on the long side of its pendulum swing, nearing the time when she'll get her next cut. For right now, however, weather being as it is, more hair is good hair. Plus her salon isn't open.

"Have they discussed returning you to active duty?" The word 'they' is said with just a bit of a slant towards suggesting an 'us'. She's on his side! "Any talk of phasing you back into your job? I'd like to say I could find this all out myself, but I'm more than half civvie in a fair bit of the organization's eyes. I'm often on the 'need to know' end of things, which is a pretty short end."

Before he can answer, she interjects with the swiftness of a higher priority, "Also, may I sit somewhere? I'm still… finding my feet."



A flinch of something like guilt draws Deckard's profile once around the room in its entirety. Books, castle and unmade bed, its left side all ajumble with tossed sheets and the right unscathed save for the occasional wrinkle. "Bed's fine," allowed aloud, he hooks his thumb around one of the castle's upper levels and pushes. Predictably, it collapses thud, thud whunk with less noise than it could, covers sort of tripping and slithering over each other in a muffled heap.

"I think they want to know whether or not I'm going to flay anyone else, first," said down to the pile, he nudges one with his foot and rankles his nose at the laminated cover, cheap plastic yellow with age.
"Probably for insurance purposes."

His joke is probably the kind that isn't looking for a laugh, so Bella doesn't supply one. At most she gives him a look, acknowledging the gallows-style bon mot, as she moves to the bed and takes a seat at its corner. She nudges a fallen tome with the tip of a toe, the leather of her low-heeled pumps looking almost vital and cow-like next to the dingy cover of the book,

"First planes, now… fortresses?" Bella notes, looking up from the ruins to Deckard, "I don't wish to make too much of this, but… any reason in particular? Other than boredom, of course." It's not an idle question. She's got that look on, like she's listening so very hard, like what he'll say will matter.

Annoyance shutters at Flint's pupils and pulls faint through the lines around his flat mouth, vexation at the expense of her head shrinking subtle save for the fact that he's eyeing her a little too hard and a little too sideways. Not for long, though. He bumps another book aside and steps away only as far as the opposite foot of the bed, where he sinks into a sit of his own. Less prim to go with creased shirt and tousled sheets.

"I don't feel like reading," is a pretty simple answer. Dismissive. "There's nothing metaphorical about it."

The back of his hand scuffed under his chin, he fidgits with his sleeve cuff, pale button turned over cornflower blue. Thinking, maybe. Or missing his prior all pajamas all the time existence. "I want to know how you feel about the stuff I did."

"Classically," Bella says, "It's not metaphors that really matter. It's metonyms. Even most Freudians forget that part of Freud." Fun fact for the day, one has to suppose. "And I don't need barriers of books to tell me you'd like large numbers of people to fuck off. I just want to make sure I'm not yet one of them." The profanity is handled lightly, in tune with an idiom and meant to smooth out communication, not punctuate it or shock the listener.

She leans over and lift a book into her hands. It's a second-hand copy of 'David Copperfield', the second most second-handed book after copies of 'War and Peace' people buy just to have on their shelves. She wrinkles her nose as she discerns the title. "Well, this I don't blame you for not reading," she says. Bella is not an appreciator of fine Victorian literature, apparently. She sets the book on the patch of mattress behind her.

Deckard gets another of Bella's considering looks when he asks this last question. It doesn't last too long, however. Whatever his motives, her answer is what it is: "I feel disappointed in myself for not helping prevent it," she says, "You trusted me, and were entrusted to me… and I failed you. What you did… what you actually did…" her brow furrows, "I have to admit, it doesn't seem real to me. I'm sure that I ought to be horrified, to be frightened. But that would be worse than unjust of me - since I am in no position to claim a moral high ground; it would be pointless. My being scared or disturbed would help no one, least of all you."

Deckard doesn't know what she means and doesn't really pretend to, the look he gives her as suspicious as it is decidedly blank at her dissection of his meaning, intended or otherwise. Then it's back to staring sullenly elsewhere. Copper wires in the walls and the shudder and twitch of cameras like cockroaches and David Copperfield, who is probably not a magician.
He can feel her considering look more than he bothers with seeing it, mattress creaking under a subtle shift in weight when he shifts one knee wider out from the other. He listens, though, more patient than most know him to be with giving her the time without hard looks or simple distraction. There isn't a whole lot in here to be distracted by if he isn't looking at her to start.

"Okay," is all he says once she's done, fingers splayed out long between his knees to measure against each other before they go slack again. More quiet, then: "What else do I talk about?"

"Right now?" Bella says, "What you want. What you would like to see happen, what you'd like to do. I understand not wanting to get your hopes up, but the best indication that you can handle the future is displaying a sense that you want one. And," she lifts a finger, "If you think you don't want one now, I need you to trust me on one thing," she turns to face Deckard directly, her hands folded in her lap, "What we want is subject to change. I can help affect that change. But…" she suddenly smiles, a little ruefully, "I know it's a cliche, but it bears repeating."

"I can't do it alone."

"I don't want anything," isn't the truth. It's just the first thing out of Flint's mouth after he's tried to make himself think about it only to have complex consideration slide off the subject like a dead squid.

A sandpapery scuff accompanies the push of his face into his shoulder, sketching after an itch that has equal parts to do with his shave and the sheer absence of angles in this room that aren't being watched. His shoulderblades poke sharper at the thought of suits leaning in to hear, tension creeping into the cross laid fresh into the scruff of his neck.

"I can't have what I want." Voice gravel shot and quiet, he makes this (at least passably rational) amendment nearly at a mutter and after he's spent a while hunching in on himself with his eyes bleached sickly pale against warm lights and pleasant furniture. "I shouldn't be alive. Having something to do would be a start."

"By what measure?" Bella asks, and then, in the interests of clarity, repeats, "By what measure should you not be alive? I'm not just saying that, I'm really asking. I need to know what you mean when you say that, Flint."

Such concern. She looks like she's really troubled by what he said, her brow creasing.

Deckard's far shoulder lifts into a shrug, indifferent without pretense. "I dunno." He exists on his corner of the bed like a piece of driftwood or a tumbleweed, bristly and dry and the product of his environment without agenda or commentary. "Common decency. Legally, Biblically."

He's say historically but for every guy who evades execution, gets life and is later beaten to death in prison, another is found not guilty or not found at all. And technically, he's already been both.

Ignorant of any need for suddenly exaggerated levels of concern, he looks back along the mattress edge at her and lifts his brows in a vague echo of the earlier shrug. The jut of that one tattoo from his collar aside, he appears to be remarkably normal looking back at her from that slight distance. Slouch, slacks, shirt and books littered helter skelter around veins netted thick over the bones in his feet. "It'd be wronger if it didn't bother me, don't you think? I'm not you."

"I'm going to sidestep that little remark," Bella says, archly, but with something like good humor, "Unless," she adds, "You really do want to talk about your concerns around me. I don't want to have things between us that aren't, at least, explicitly out in the open. All elephants should be identified."

It seems this is the next item on the docket, since Deckard has brought it up. She gazes at him patiently, looking ready for whatever he might throw at her… though the wispiness of her hair and her expression of general openness might dissaude true diatribe. I mean, who'd want to

It's at least remotely possible that even wiry Mr. Deckard is learning to be wary of pretty faces in high places. Unfortunately (mainly for him) it's not yet deeply instilled enough to completely preclude a retarded kind of fuzziness when he looks at her for too long and (predictably) he's the first to break his glare off. First sideways, then down at his hands clasped loose between his knees.

He tips his head into a slight shake, cooperatively dismissive while The Elephant leans its bristly forehead in a hair closer and huffs its impatience unacknowledged. But not unheard. Private irritation traces lines around his stare. Nevermind.

"Flint," Bella says, reaching out to touch his shoulder, very lightly, "I don't even know how much you remember. But I think it bears talking about. If… if things are bad enough, there are other therapists who can talk with you. Ones who haven't done what I've done. I asked to see you because we have a history, and because, well… because I wanted to try and make things right. If that was selfish of me, please, tell me. I am only interested in helping you."

"I don't want to start over with someone else." General quietude exchanged for a mutter, he glances to her hand at his shoulder and further back to the rest of her to scrape automatically after intent. This time he skips her face and goes straight to the bone branded white hot underneath. More specifically the pulse of her heart and muscle rigged fine across her back along her arm. Then he's back again — a mechanical matter of fine adjustments of focus and feel that end in the fraction of a second it takes him to blink.

"I know you're taking a risk, involving yourself. And no therapist is going to tell me I should be ashamed of who I am or what I've done. But it is a little weird being with one who isn't quietly, legitimately horrified."

Bella sniffs, "I don't buy it," she says, "The horror. It wouldn't be over the thing itself. It would be over some idea. Some idea that has nothing to do with you, and your process. They'd be horrified on principle. I can be horrified. I can be scared, and sad, and everything else. But I'm not going to make myself feel some way because it's the way I ought to feel. Emotions take energy. The only thing more exhausting is controlling them."

"So let's talk about about that. What you did, and what you feel about it now," the psychiatrist presses on, "Because it is over. And we need to get you to the point where you believe that as well."

Flint doesn't follow. It shows on his face as blank doubt. Horror is horror; something horrible is something horrible. Even accounting for variations in taste, poking around in defenseless victims with knives is the kind of thing likely to provoke recoil reflexes in average human beings. He doesn't press it though. He doesn't all that often anyway, allowing her whatever rationalization now that he's at least said his thing and had her turn it over somehow.

"It is what it is. Details are scattered. Non-linear. Fifty-two pickup with murder."

"Nothing is what it is," Bella says, straight face and all, "It starts that way. Out there," she gestures at… the room? Perhaps the world, "But as soon as it hits us, as soon as we perceive it, it becomes something else. That is the biggest mistake people make when they talk about mental illness… they think it's a defect in perception.

"Perception is the defect. My job turns into optics. I need to give you a perspective that will improve your vision, help you get a better view on things. So… it's a mess. A scattering of impressions. What upsets you about that? About it all? What are you upset about?"

"I dunno." Reflex. Back straightened out of its lump enough for something to ratchet and resettle with a pop at the base of his spine, he keeps himself bolstered up with a long drawn breath that he holds while he feels blandly over the latest hole Teo put in him under his shirt.

"I didn't stop, I guess. When they begged." Kicked, sobbed, writhed, resisted, lay gasping, bubbling like crabs crushed in their shells. "I think I backed off once but it was already too late. She was afraid." A stark beat of silence later, Flint hitches into an awkward scoff at himself, sniffs and pushes restlessly back along the bed to lay himself out supine.

Bella scoots over to give Deckard a little more leg room, though she can't shift too much, perched on the corner as she is. She listens to his admission with care. Each word, after all, might reveal some nuance, some key to the motivating pathology. This is why it is so useful not to be touched by the nightmarish reality of the deeds themselves. Such preoccupations only detract from the process. And she is a professional. Dammit.

"What did you feel about her?"

"I'd gone to her before. She remembered my name." Feelings, feelings. Toes curled and splayed long, Flint says nothing for a span that probably isn't surprising given than he is prone to such silences even when he isn't talking about murdering hookers. Or his feelings.

He sizes up the ceiling with a work of his jaw, molars ground down like gears while he mucks about in memory and unpleasantness disjointed enough to disorient.

"I felt like I'd been caught. She knew who I was and what I was doing. Then the guilt. I couldn't call anyone to help or they'd know too."

"It isn't that way any longer," Bella says, softly, "Whatever happens and whatever you do, you can tell me." A slight pause. The colossal triteness of the comment cannot be entirely covered over by the earnestness of her tone. She cracks a smile, despite herself. "Okay, that sounded stupid. I'm sorry. I guess I'm out of witticisms and 'straight talk'. But do you believe me when I say that?"

"When I say you can tell me."

Rustle, shift and pop. Knuckles this time, one two with restless tension before Deckard breathes out like he'd forgotten air was locked in to begin with.

"I believe I can tell you," is distantly honest enough for all that he answers (relatively) quickly and without deflecting. He swallows against the thickness in his throat and the push of his left hand over his neck meanwhile, untidy bristle down there sheered clean off for the first time in months. "I won't pretend to know what you're going to do with what I say, or that our relationship involves any guarantees."

From what he's said so far, theoretically he deserves anything terrible that should happen as a result of disclosure anyway.

Bella's smile is sad. He's much too right, poor boy. It'd be so much better for him if he wasn't. "This job has placed us both in places I doubt we expected to be in. But at least if we're warped a similar way, our distortions should match up." She gets to her feet, limps over to his side, looks down at him, "I will promise you this, though, regardless of what happens, and what's asked of us. I will do what I can to make you better. I will do right by you, whatever the means."

No such promise is offered in return. No jokes about lining up their ~distortions~ once he's off of 24/7 surveillance either. Limp taken in with a sideways look that can't even hope for subtlety with them in their respective positions, Flint rides it on up roundabouts her face and slants off half a smile that does her the courtesy of reaching his eyes before it fades out. "I promise not to shoot you in the leg again."

"Aww… how sweet," Bella says, voice as sweet as the latest cutting edge sweetener. Her lips twitch into a momentary smirk, her clipboard clasped in both arms, to her chest. Then she turns, walking out of the room. It's not so bad, the limp. She certainly seems to be getting better.

Flint tips his head up enough to watch her go, because some things don't change. It's a long time before he rolls over, though. Longer still before he drags himself up off the side of the bed and vanishes into the confines of his closet to stare at his clothes some more.

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