Bulletproof Pragmatism


bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Bulletproof Pragmatism
Synopsis Bella insists on accompanying Deckard on one of his Midtown forays.
Date October 2, 2010

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Late afternoon in the midst of Midtown: The sun is smothered into a frigid smear through unbroken cloud cover, grey blanketed in thick from horizon to horizon. Here there are few birds to blot out black against the weather, even if scrubby grass has had some months since the overlong winter to push up green and brown through cracked streets and rusted out busses.

Burnt out shells of old apartments and delis and offices razor up in shades of iron red and black against either sidewalk, with the odd collapse spilled vomit-like and irregular across broken concrete. Taller structures rise out of the haze ahead, some more intact than others. The wind howls shrill through empty windows and tangled powerlines, alternately higher and lower than the steady crunch of Flint's boots or the scuff of his jacket through aging decay.

His pace is slower here than it is most places. More comfortable. Occasionally he pauses to squint after movement stirring ahead or after some length or lump of detritus indistinguishable from the rest, but he's been this way often enough to recognize junk he's inspected before.

He doesn't seem outwardly bothered by the fact that he has company. He just isn't doing a whole lot of talking, either.

What perverse urge drove Bella to insist on her accompanying him on one of his habitual forays into irradiated ruin, she doesn't know. Part of her honestly thinks she's just keeping an eye on him, both as an overseer and as a collector of data. Observing the Wild Flint in its natural habitat. Or one of its natural habitats that aren't bars, strip clubs or sitting on the apartment couch with a gallon of ice cream. The rest of her is simply uncertain. It seems, now, like not so much her brightest idea.

He said to bring 'sensible' shoes, which Bella translated as 'thick and hard wearing'. The closest thing she has are her winter boots, complete with faux-fur lining. If only she had the hiking boots she bought when she was an intern and dated that guy who was into hiking. Though, really, that horrible memory is stored safely at her parents house. She does still have the pair of gortex pants from that same experience, but as it was her feet that hurt so badly after the scramble up those rocks, the pants are free from hatred. And these pants are what she wears.

Which makes her sort of hot, the sweater she brought (for no good reason save for this strange association between 'expedition' and 'coldness' - she blames that PBS special on Scott and Amundsen), is tied around her waist like she's an aged yuppy, and there are dark circles of sweat marking her work-out tanktop. Her hair is coming free of her scrunchy (apparently trying to construct a full ensemble of anachronisms), plastering to her temples, perspiration tinting it red a shade or two darker.

"You do this… for how long?" Bella inquires, the break in her speech not really strictly necessary. She's not actually out of breath. She's just performing a sort of gestalt fatigue. Maybe for Flint's benefit? Lucky man, with the free show.

If this is Flint's natural habitat, he blends in well — camoflaged to an uncanny degree in grey-dusted scruff and neutral clothing. Hard edges and long angles define the landscape and his eyes only stand out against lapses of shadow that spill out from the bases of buildings that look and sound like they could cave in at any second; the deeper they get, the more distinct the architecture's creaking resonance is through soft tissue when it shifts.

A glance back over his shoulder takes in boots and sweat and sweater and scrunchy for the first time in a while once it's sunk in that Bella's asked a question, and there's a non-judgmental blandness to his answer when he gives it.

"Until I don't want to be here," isn't complicated or embarrassing or otherwise off-limits. It just is. Kind of like the rest of him. He does stop, though, hands tucked down into his jacket pockets when he nudges at a naked canine femur with one boot toe. "Are you ready to go back?"

For all that it might serve as flippant, Bella doesn't seem to take his answer that way. She stares at him with a squint-eyed expression that suggest she's got sunglare in them… but this may again just be a sort of 'outdoorsy' type performance, relevant in no way to the actual necessities of the situation. The stare is not skeptical, or irritated. It's interested. Looking to see him.

"No," she says, shaking her head, gaze moving away from the angles of his features to the slants of loose windows, of twisted girders, of scorched telephone poles… or what's left of them. "I want to see what you see out here. I mean, I think I know what it is you see, to some extent. But I want to see if I can, myself, see it. What you see. Out here." Clarifications added like post scripts, with unspoken telegraphic 'STOP's.

Doubt might be read into the silence that follows on Flint's end, but none shows on his long face. He's trying to be polite, maybe. And the effort takes concentration. Or at least some lengthier thought. In the end he nods the same way he usually does, accepting without necessarily understanding as he turns to set himself back into forward motion.

There's a police station around here somewhere — cinderblock construction heavy enough to withstand the initial blast for all that the ensuing firestorm charred out most of the inside beyond easy recognition. He has to lift his feet high and duck through the partially slagged and rest-of-the-way-shattered rotating door that marks one entrance once he's reached it, chilly stare brighter within than without. Only a few pale squares fade light into the lobby, marble tiling littered with pigeon shit and ash past the silent loom of metal detectors at the door and an x-ray conveyer beyond that.

There's nobody standing guard, but they aren't the first to have been back in here. File cabinets stand open an empty here and there; red and blue spray paint sprawls out a crude RIP PIGS across the gloom of the back wall. "The guns are all gone," doesn't really need saying, but it's awfully quiet at the line to the front desk otherwise. A plastic Please have Driver's License Ready sign is still mostly legible. There aren't any bodies.

The streets, at least, with the sky above and the strange, half-formed, half crumbled buttresses of the shatter buildings that frame both, had a kind of grandeur to them. Desolation, as descriptive as a poem and as mute as a mountain. But entering a ruined building… this makes Bella feel suddenly ghoulish. And this sepulchral sense doesn't fade. Porcine epitaph hanging lurid on the wall, if Midtown is a graveyard, this is a mausoleum, and they are treading in the halls of the dead.

Gothic prose meant, really, to evoke Bella's case of the rather howlingest of fantods, rather that describe precisely what goes through the psychiatrist's mind. While her process of perception is couched in different internal terms, the end result is the same. She feels creeped the fuck out. And she hangs by the entrance, within the swath of the light that sweeps in, setting herself in backlit silhouette.

"Is it always scavenging, then? Or is that the ostensible reason?" Bella asks. If Deckard is tired of being asked questions about his motives and actions, he really shouldn't have chosen to retain his connection with Dr. Sheridan. Old habits die hard, and for lack of other terms of conversation, they will invariably end back in session. 'Why did you do that?' 'How does that make you feel?' and more leading ones, 'Have you considered that maybe..?'

Flint's footfalls scuff resiliently on, deeper into more oppressive gloom even once it's apparent that Bella maybe isn't as keen on seeing this particular slice of what he sees as she might've thought. There's a shushed, whispery echo where his tread stirs over papers dry as death broken up by the odd crunch of shattered glass. Somewhere a tatty-looking pigeon flushes up to resettle like a feathery clod of dirt in an empty window. Everything is grey.

Increasingly far enough away that he could likely pretend not to've heard her prying behind him, Deckard shrugs unhelpfully on his way off further still. Testing his tether, maybe. How long before she commits herself to forward movement or calls him back.

This could go one of two ways. Bella can feel herself at a cusp. She could allow herself to be freaked out, thoroughly so, making entering after Flint impossible. The most immature, and sadly quite powerful, part of her wants to do it this way. The part of her that wants to get her way just for the sake of getting it, not because it actually will do her any good. She could, alternately, suck it up. And it almost certainly won't be as bad as she can work herself into thinking it might be. This would be the adult thing to do.

But Bella loves to have it both ways. She decides to feel smugly, immaturely superior for being the adult in this interpersonal relationship. And she plunges in, walking pretty briskly after Flint until she catches up and, speaking of tethers, snags his arm.

"I asked you a question," is said with more tease than scold, which maybe is weird, but generally would be considered preferable.

It is weird.

It is also preferable. Deckard thinks. Even if he doesn't look 100% sure — he tips a sideways look down after her at his arm, more laid back than any sane person has a right to be where and when they are, with their respective boots leaving shiny smears off-white across dusty marble.

"I like it here," sounds like honesty. His favorite kind: as vague as possible.

There isn't much to see in the lobby. A couple of charred flags and a stairwell that leads to less stable flooring. Beneath the main stairwell (past defunct elevator shafts) is the door to a women's restroom, and that seems to be what he's aiming for now. He hooks his free hand around a broomstick leaned against the wall on the way. "Ever had sex on government property?"

"Yes, but why?" Bella asks, her tone insinuating that he's being pointedly obtuse which maybe should go without saying but… "the less you tell me, the more I'll guess, and the more I guess the more I'll try and find ways to prove my hypotheses and I'm trying to stay on the wagon, experiment-wise so… for my sake, Flint, please," she gives his arm a small shake, "just tell me."

She's come to see him, and to maybe see what he sees, but this means she first looks to him before checking to see what he's looking at. That means there's a slight delay before she notices their trajectory. She has to sidestep a creepy sort of melted thing that looks moist but probably isn't but about which Bella takes no chances, before she can take the time to make out the round sign and the faint outline of a skirted figure. She might be tempted to ask about the destination's relevance, or at very least she'd be thinking about it, but…

"Um…" Bella has to think about Flint's question. She doesn't look abashed. Instead she's reflective. Looking inwards to try and figure out… that time? Maybe. Maybe that time? Not sure… No time is spent on sussing out the implications of his question. Those seem pretty fucking obvious, pardon my French. Bella shrugs. "I don't know, for certain."

"There aren't any people," seems obvious. To Flint, at least — his next sideways look is more direct after the shake. Skeptical, maybe, that she hadn't thought as far on her own. Few people, fewer rules. No cops or librarians or crosswalks or electricity. Crappy cell phone reception.

He's still looking at her when he leans to nudge the door open with the blunt end of his broom, heavy hinges forced the rest of the way open with a stiff push to the side. Spiderwebs stretch and drape limp with the sudden motion, dislodged debris skittering like gravel down the door's flanks. It's dark inside. Which, as ever, presents more of a problem for her than for him. His frigid stare stands out in sharp relief but provides no additional light. She'll have to hold the door open after them if she wants to see.

The fact that she has to think about whether or not she has or hasn't deters some of his own energy from the thought. Also, he's become distracted by squinting up at the ceiling tiles, broom still in hand, so. "It's probably more fun when there's actual risk involved," agreed, sort of, with her absence of enthusiasm, he pushes at a loose tile with the broom's butt and immediately flinches against a second miniature cascade of brittle tile and dust.

"That's all? I was hoping at least for a more poetic misanthropy," Bella says, and she's joking, she has to be, her slight smile says as much. She'd be a real dope, really in need of a skeptical look, if she had expected Flint to whip out some free verse. Even a haiku is well in excess of his usual word per speech-event limit.

Bella does sort of want a little visibility, so her free arm reaches out to hold the door open, letting light stream into this space. Free of urinals, all the more room for stalls, plus a very courteous little tampon machine in the corner. A sight unseen for many of Flint's kind, though one can't be sure there's much Flint hasn't seen, given the necessary proximity, and basic building standards (i.e. no lead paint).

But, you know what? Bella has seen this sort of thing before. And a bathroom in neglect is actually not much more exciting than a bathroom in good repair. So when Bella follows after Flint, she lets the door slide close, plunging them into a swift-falling darkness. He can see, so let him be her eyes. She draws close to him. Running her own little experiment. His fault, really. Shouldn't be so reticent.

"Poets are people." Given Flint's apparent affection for bathrooms fallen into neglect, it may not come as a surprise to her that he's been in this one before. That there's nothing to be afraid of is a given, at least for anyone who doesn't have a reason to be afraid of him — even the arachnids that haunt empty ceramic bowls and cracked sinks aren't all that poisonous.

So preoccupied with the careful manuevering of that one ceiling tile via broom that he doesn't initially notice that she's let the door fall closed, he takes another solid bump or two upwards to recognize that she's drawn in close again. A shiver of less appropriate impulse smothered after a flick of his eyes down for her, he shutters them off for a full five or six seconds. Long enough for wide-drawn pupils to attempt to acclimate themselves (unsuccessfully) to total darkness.

It's also long enough to be slightly suspicious once they've ticked back on again in silence to match the setting. Rightfully so, perhaps, as a tilt in their angle coincides with the tickle of a few carefully broken broom bristles spider-like at the back of her neck.

Bella's not a true arachnophobe. They give her the willies, it's true, but she's trained herself to (mostly) fearlessly squish the bastards, though whether or not she does it with paper towel in hand or, instead, by hurling a book, is determined by the size. Okay, so, not a true arachnophobe, but she really doesn't like them. Who does? Creepy kids who listen to death metal and own terrariums, that's who.

And fear reactions tend to take place low in the brain hierarchy, down near the limbic system. The correlation between eye-shift and tiny-limbed tickle is not one this section of her cranium is equipped to process.

Her reaction is near-instantanious. Adrenaline is released, propelled through her bloodstream at an accelerated pace as her heart doubles its beats-per. Her muscle tense, including the ones that pull her vocal chords taut, pitching her voice a full octave higher as she gives a tiny scream of alarm. She clings to Flint with one arm, while the other rises to slap furiously at the back of the neck.

At which point, the jig is up. Her fingers find the plastic bristles, jump back at the unfamiliar, then experimentally paw at the… broom?

Her heart rate is already slowing, but the buzz of her fading alarm has left the full body equivalent of a ringing in her ear. Her fingers sink into the broom's brush and clutch before twisting.

"You son of a bitch…"

Deckard's teeth show out into a grin that's nothing short of malicious at her expense, pearly whites all but invisible in pitch black. A chuffed exhalation that is at least in the same phlyum as a laugh is more telling. Also the fact that he doesn't immediately rachet back on the broom handle, but actually allows her to wrench it out've his grip.

Possibly to beat him with.

She didn't expect him to let go, and so Bella finds the full weight of the broom's handle wobbling by her grip on the bristles. Not ideal for doing much of anything, beatings included. She's actually a bit too shaken up for a graceful shift of grip, plus it's dark, with only the glare off his shit eating grin to see by. Which doesn't do much. She tries keeping the broom steady for a second or two before deciding just to get rid of the offending implement and tossing it behind her unceremoniously. It clatters rather loudly against the polished metal of the glassless mirror, then somewhat less loudly against the porcelain of the sinks, where it comes to awkward rest, lying at a shallow angle, the bristles caught up against a faucet.

If he bothers to check, she's scowling furious up at him through the darkness. She's also closing her now-free hand into a fist. It's not a bad fist, actually. She's taken her self defense courses, the sort designed to deter unsavory characters when one happens to meet them. Or live with them, as the case may be. The fist just hangs there, at her side. Too many seconds for her to act on sudden angry impulse.

Which means, when she punches Flint in the kidney, it's after she thought about it.

Bella is Bella is Bella, which furious scowl or no, gives Deckard little reason to fear the presentation of her fist. He just stands there leering at her, waiting for her to burn herself out and stomp her feet, coyote eyeshine marking his position out perfectly while the broom topples and clatters and all manner of other onomatopoeia.

He's not expecting the sudden fire of muscle that drives her knuckles into his kidney — singular!! — or the sudden, automatic expulsion of air from his lungs that results. Not a laugh until maybe he's had a belated chance to snatch at her wrist with his left hand so that he can straighten himself out again with the right free. You know. Just in case. Especially since his inevitable (gravelled) riposte sounds like, "You hit like a girl."

That almost earns Deckard a knee to the genitals, the kind of blow that exceeds even a very wide and generous definition of affectionate violence. Instead he gets a much, much milder sentence as, forced to abandon her first, groin-directed idea, Bella flounders momentarily and, unable to think of how else to hurt him just enough, lets go of his arm and uses her unrestrained hand to slap him in the face. Open handed, which is actually just confirming precisely what he said, vis a vis gendered assault techniques.

"Shitheel!" Bella growls through clenched teeth.


Flint flinches like a dog from a rolled newspaper — too late. Again. Almost like her hesitation is what's throwing him off. A five-fingered mark sears its way across the side of his face and super-effectively snuffs the assholery off his mug for all of two seconds before it starts creeping back. More mildly, this time. "Vache," he grunts back — not all that creatively, but he's having to sniff to stifle an involuntary sting at his sinuses.

He hasn't let go of her, either.

She may be too concentrated on him to pay attention to their positioning. Or maybe she just has a certain breed of fearlessness. Like she simply doesn't imagine him as ever really hurting her. Which is a real vote of confidence (in whom, though?) considering she knows his background, in violence, violence against women and violence against her specifically.

"What was that?" Bella says, rising to winter-booted tiptoes to get all up in his recently slapped grill. "Repeat that. In English." If Flint has something to share with the class…

"Vache," says Deckard, who fearlessly (and/or foolishly) in turn leans in near enough to nearly meet her, "means cow."

Language lesson thus delivered, he releases her wrist all at once, like the end of a magic trick.

"I…" Bella begins, about to make some prediction of her behavior, but, uncertain as to what she actually will do next (an uncertainty she's suffered from this whole time, a lag that, sadly for Deckard, only sets him off beat when it could give him some advantage. "I…" she tries again, and this time she at least finds a way to complete a thought, if not the kind she was originally hoping for, "cannot believe I put up with you."

The flat line of his mouth twitched up again at the corner, Flint lingers a beat, too close, then settles into enough of a retreat to retrieve the broom from its precarious rest across the sinks. No comment on whether or not he believes himself to be worth tolerating and to what degree; he gives the aforementioned ceiling tile a thorough enough poke that kevlar on the far side is loosened into a tumble and then a heavy flap onto the floorspace between them. "Tada," intoned with only the barest bones of enthusiasm, he stoops to give the vest a stiff shake, then tosses it to Bella, mercilessly ignorant of how much or how little she can actually see.

The shake is really the warning she gets. Its from that sound that the sound of its being tossed can be extrapolated, leading to a split second flinch in which she almost tries to shield herself from it like a real dodgeball loser, but then tries to catch it just barely in time, the combined darkness and bad timing almost making her fumble it. Plus it's heavy. Shit.

"What the… is this… what is this?" Bella hefts the vest, then starts to paw across it, trying to figure out just what the hell Flint's 'tada'ing over. "Some kind of… wait…" Apparently someone around here doesn't know a bulletproof vest by touch.

Watching someone blindly feel their way around an awkwardly designed piece of bullet-resistant cloth in the dark isn't as much fun as it sounds like. Flint watches without helping anyway, outwardly immune to her groping efforts. More than the slightest bit sadistic that way.

Eventually she'll find an arm hole. Or both of them. In the meanwhile he stands there with the broom, not yet moving to collect the twin pair of handcuffs or taser that fell with everything else. "Bon anniversaire."

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

This will not be the last time she says these words. Right now, though, she's talking about the vest. Which she has just figured out is a vest, which is the minimum prerequisite for finding an armhole and actually understanding that it is an armhole, to be used as such. Bella does not, then, use this knowledge to put it on. She holds it, awkwardly, and a little bit out from her self, as if it were dirty laundry - someone else's, in particular.

"I really hope that I don't need this. Do you think I need this? I don't…" she gives a small laugh, slightly nervous, maybe? "I don't think this matches my wardrobe." The joke is hackneyed, and she says it with an inflection like she knows it is. Which may not help much. But there it is.

And now he's speaking in French again, which is weird. And what he says in French sounds like maybe… wait, does he mean..?

Here it comes…

"No… no, no."

Wait for it…

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

Somehow the repetition really grinds it in, Mortar and pestle against the base of Flint's neck enough for him to flinch. Or wince. To her it's little more than an uneven blink. The kind wild animals give you when you grouse at them about getting mud all over your fuzzy boots in the middle of the woods.

Some time after she's finished holding it out at the ends of her fingers and having words fall out've her mouth, he pushes the handle-end of the broom after one set of cuffs. It clicks once. Unsure.

"When you… when this," she shakes the vest, "is what you think of, what you decide on… what is it that you are feeling at that moment? What's your intent?" Bella's voice has a slight strain to it. Drawn a little too tight. She sounds on the verge of some kind of upset, but without making it clear what kind of upset. This is a protean emotional state. "What, exactly, is on your mind in that moment?"


The fact that Deckard answers at all (and with only a few beats of recalcitrant resistance) is amazing enough that, in his head, compliance may outweigh the short and vague nature of his speech. His unholy eyes roll ceilingwards after that, brows lifted while he endeavors to pick out the delicate, barely-there twitches of spidery movement that constitute the ass end of the circle of life, here. The broomstick maintains uneven contact with the ground near his feet.

Bella looks down at the vest, or at least in the vent's general direction, a darkness within darkness she thinks she's not just seeing. Then up at him, easily, with those eyes giving off their creepy radiation. Out in the ruins of Midtown with this guy (whom you slept with). Happy birthday, Bellbell. This is absolutely what her years in medical school were for.

"Come here," she says. Defused, from the sounds of it. More tired than irritated. But rather clear that she wants him to comply. Make her life easier.

Bella wins the prize for biggest student loan and slave labor payoff, it's true.

Too muddily self-aware and invasively perceptive not to know, on some level, what's probably going through her head, Flint shuffles forth, dragging the broom as he goes. Useful end up, so that the butt etches a dubiously clean line into the gritty layer of dust they've been stirring around in.

Bella lets him come to her. Hence 'come here' and not 'come towards me so I can meet you midway'. When he gets a little bit further than within arm's reach, she extends the vest to him.

"Help me put it on."

Flint's uneasy again. It's tell-tale in his hesitations and silences. How long he goes before reaching to take up the offered vest so that he can turn it around and shake it out again. He has to work at some of the straps before he can lower it down over her head, broom abandoned to better lend him use of both hands.

After that it's mostly rebuckling things or. Tightening the side straps with enough force to make her tip sideways if she isn't centered.

She does tip, and pretty hard, not being a terribly substantial creature at the end of the day. Without any light to even know where his hand is going, where the next tug will be, she can't predict much less prepare for these adjustments. She reaches out to use Flint for stability, hands pressing against the ridges of his ribs. When it's done, she stays still. Not sure if there might be some last stage.

It's a little too big. But not as bad as it could be — with the straps all shored up and. Yeah. With the straps all shored up.

Task completed, rather than risk another tada, he lets her come to the inevitable conclusion of finishedness on her own. If she wants to keep her hands on him in the mean time that's okay; he looks down and then sideways into a desolated toilet stall, stringy muscle drawn stiff across ribs that poke less than they used to.

This gets him about five to seven seconds of extra contact, but not one followed by a cessation of contact. Bella's hands slide around Flint, propelled by arms that, strangely enough, seem to be forming into a hug. Yes, it becomes more and more apparent that the now-kevlared Bella is hugging Flint, her head turned to face the opposite direction his gaze is turned in, resting lightly on his chest.

"Thank you," she says, and it doesn't sound forced - it sounds, actually, like it's a relief for her to say it, "I really hope I don't have to ever need it, but… thank you. I appreciate it."


A twee jump in the bump of Flint's pulse through his neck at a slithery increase in contact isn't quite quick enough to spur him into some kind of smooth retreat — a sincere hug is already happening. He can't push or shove or sidestep without incurring suspicion. Or her wrath. So.

He's left to hope the extra buffer of the vest she's wearing is enough to keep pressured contact from calling attention to the fact that he has maybe (possibly) had time to get a little excited. Potentially.

"Okay," gravelled in distracted (hopefully sincere sounding?) agreement, he stands carefully still.

No princess and the pea is she. Nor princess and the… you know what, we'll skip the vegetable metaphor. The kevlar safely conceals Flint's condition, at least long enough for Bella to disengage, pushing off a little from him before regaining total balance. The vest still feels ungainly to her. Bulky where it's not heavy.

"But I want you to do something more," Bella adds, the conditional clause slithering in, deceitful as all such fine print is, "I'd like really good chinese take out and a cake. And ice cream. But not an ice cream cake, I ODed on those in elementary school."

"Okay," assured again with a slow exhale that, with any luck, doesn't sound like relief, Flint swallows some of the dryness out of his mouth and fidgets with the collar of his jacket. He nearly forgets to stoop after a pair of the cuffs — the other is slung lazily back up into the ceiling, followed by the taser. "Chinese it is." Do 7-Elevens sell cake? He's never seen any there.

Maybe Bella will be wise and tell him where the nearest Rosies is. Maybe she will leave it up to him and reap what she sews. In either case, she seems content for the moment. Whence this contentment comes from, it's hard even for Bella to say. It may be another rising pathology, and their may yet be some price to pay, but for the moment, she'll take what reprieve she can. Bella reaches out to try and snag Flint's hand, fingers first feeling across his sleeve before making their way to his knuckles, his thumb, then finally grasping. And tugging.

"Let's go," she says, resolution made, committee in agreement, "you need to guide me, at least until I can see something properly."

More mutely inscrutible than content, Flint twitches automatically away from the search of her hand until his brain has caught up with the nerve endings tehre and he resolves to let her fingers wind in uncontested. From there, he takes his time in picking his way for the door. Everything one step at a time until his free hand is planted against the handle and light slices inward at an arc that's likely a lot less grey than she remembers.

The light seems just about right, in tinge and in luminescence, the latter growing as they approach the exit, the former changing too slowly for notice. Bella's not wasting time; her pace becomes brisk once she can see where to set her feet, and soon she is leading him, winter boots crackling over dust and gravel. She looks over her shoulder at him, slowing down for a moment and falling in at his side. "I won't ask to come out here with you any more," she says, "I think you may need this space to yourself," and seeing as 'this space' is all of Midtown, that's a pretty generous personal bubble, "if you'd like me to come with you some time, though, I will." Just ForHisInformation.

As blind to the sun as he is an utter absence of its influence, Flint is as disaffected by the increasing glare as any blind man. Dirtier coming out than he went in, he trails along at his own pace until she turns and he turns too, back to squint at the police station already fading near intangible at the far fringes of his perception.

"We may have to live out here for a little while if they find out." About him. And her. Or just him. Or about some of the things she gets up to without him. Delivery dusty as the rest of him, he scuffs at the bridge of his nose when he looks back to her. Just ForHerInformation.

"Fine," Bella says, and she can't really be thinking about it too hard if she can play it off so easily, "whatever's necessary. All the more incentive to enjoy the lap of luxury while we have it, no?" She's keeping ahold of him. Ready to apply some leverage if necessary. Despite her aversion to using canine simile, it's not unlike tugging a reluctant dog back homewards after a walk.

It's been a long time since Flint's been this way. Months. Maybe a year. The police station was one of the first landmarks he went to work on and the longer he stands where he is, the more curious he is about whether or not his other stuff is still there. And whether or not anyone else has hidden anything there.

Curiosity trying to gnaw its way out from the inside of his ribs isn't a subtle process. But he eventually gives to a subtle increase in the weight balanced against his palm, one boot scuffed slow past the other. Time to go home for Chinese food and cake.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License