Caliginous Junk


deckard_icon.gif leah_icon.gif niles_icon.gif

Scene Title Caliginous Junk
Synopsis Not far from the Hotel California, one Deckard in search of another teeters on the edge of business she'd proooobably actually rather not be involved in. Once Niles has retreated, brother and sister trade status reports as vaguely and awkwardly as possible.
Date May 19, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

Everyone loves a campfire.

There's one burning in Midtown now, warm light sheltered out of easy sight from afar by the low lying shambles of collapsed buildings on either side as the sun sinks low on the broken horizon. The flames burn just a little too fast and too hot to be entirely safe in the midst of all this wreckage, but they did a decent job clearing things out before spraying on kerosine and tossing in a match. It hasn't spread beyond the cluttered tangle of chairs and rotting office furniture it is now.

Cigar in mouth, cell phone in left hand, long, twisted piece of blackish metal in the other, Deckard is not paying excessive amounts of attention to the hotdog pierced by the sharp end over the rubbish fire. Camping! With Flint! He could have his own TV show.

For those on the approach, his head and shoulders are scruffily familiar over the nearest pile of disjointed crap. His overcoat, clean for a day, is already faded grey with a fresh coat of dust, and while his sunglasses mask evidence of a hangover, he's in dire need of a shave.

His young charge is nursing a hangover too. But when you're the tough kid who gets locked away from booze and cigarettes for six weeks, well, it's easy to overindulge. Especially when there's little else to do in Deckard's company except things that are bad for him.

Niles has the stub of a cigarette pinched between his lips and is perpetually squinting, as if the light of the fire was much brighter than it actually is. One side of the hot dog is singed, and the other side is starting to bubble too. He doesn't seem to care. Either that or he thinks that's the way campfire dogs are supposed to be cooked. Hell, he's a city boy. This is the first fire he's ever sat by. "Cheeto?" He offers the bag over.

Scrape, click. Scrape, click. Scrape, click.

This is the steady rhythm of Leah's heels, marking her measured pace over jagged sidewalk and ruined street. She picks a cautious path, with all she's packing buried beneath the sweep of a long coat that it is getting too warm to wear. Her hair is pulled back from her face in a loose tail, rather than cascading about her shoulders, and she is also wearing a pair of sunglasses, cheap plastic slightly at odds with the pricetag that once adorned the boots she wears. It's okay, though. She didn't pay for them.

As she draws nearer, she pushes the sunglasses up atop her head, squinting slightly at the very familiar back of Flint's head with a slight quirk of her mouth at one corner. If she is hung over, the effects have receded enough not to be visibly apparent; she looks fresh and clear-eyed.

Mmm. Cheetos. The glow of Brian's cell phone screen clacks shut so that the increasingly battered device can be dipped down into his pocket (the same one with the spent casings and the spare nails and the fifty seven cents he has leftover from the twenty he broke at the grocery place) so that he can reach over to nab a few out of the offered bag…once the cigar has been swapped over to balance in the fingers not occupied by makeshif shis-ke-bob. He doesn't bother to close his mouth once they're in there. He's hungry. And it's the middle of Midtown. Who cares?

"I think yours is done," observed at a wry mutter, Deckard follows up Cheetos with the damp rear end of his stogie so that he can pull his own dog out and squint at it. It's kind of like. On fire. He waves it around a little.

It's still on fire.

Unfortunately, Leah chooses this time to scrape into audible range and he turns his head sharply around to zero in on her. The sun's low glare is harsh off the black of equally cheap lenses, but as if the raggedy back of his head wasn't indicative enough — it's definitely him.

"You sure I'm not simply injecting an already questionable tube of meat with radioactive material by cooking it over debris in a fallout zone?" Niles withdraws the stick and hot dog and pokes at one of the hot blisters. He makes a face, then fishes around for a bun.

Leah's approach brings his attention. There's no sign he's on-edge, not yet. "Friend of yours?"

"Your food is on fire," Leah tells Flint, her stride lengthening just slightly as she gets close enough for conversation. Restless tension marks the set of her shoulders and spine as she arches a look over the campfire and the guy she doesn't know, but her expression retains a semblance of cheerful good nature anyway — which, if anyone knows that's a lie, it's Deckard, but never mind. Her brows slide high towards her hair. "Who's your date?"

Deckard isn't worried either. Not once he's pieced the jumble of Leah's moving bones into something familiar and turned back to the fire. "I've never gotten sick." He conveniently declines to mention that he's never gotten sick from the x-ray tube in his head either. Instead, he tacks on a muttered and muffled, "Whiner," while he tries to scrape his hotdog off on the ground. It's almost the same thing.

"So?" is raised up to include Leah. Maybe he meant to set the first dog on fire. Even if he did, it's harder to pretend that he is intentionally failing to scrape the damn thing off the end of his metal stick — fat and grease snapping angrily at the thick tread of his boot when he finally thinks to step on it. "His name's Booboo. Long story. Booboo, this is my sister, Leah." And that's about as formal an introduction as they're likely to get out of him, as he's busy trying to shank another hotdog out of the open bag.

"It's Niles," says the young Brit. There's a bit of irritation in his tone. He doesn't get the Yogi reference and therefore it feels more like an insult than a potential term of endearment. Maybe he and Deckard have just been spending too much time together. "Your sister? Mmmm." Hard to say what that means. "So is she here for a family dinner?" He holds up the charred hot dog on a stick, then inhales the last of the stubby cigarette. The butt gets tossed into the fire.

"Hi, Booboo." Leah settles her weight on her heels, which, in the boots, elevate her height by a couple of inches. "I'm not in the mood for charcoal, thanks." Humor warms her low voice, and she paces forward a few more steps to squat before the fire, dark skirt flaring over her boots. "Maybe some other time." Habit buys them some no questions. Leah does not ask for clarification or explanation, although there is a hint of puzzlement in the slide of her pale gaze toward her brother and his culinary exercise.

"Pssst, kid," says Deckard out of the non-stogie bearing corner of his mouth, fresh hotdog leveled out over the fire for attempt two, "when you're hiding from mysterious bad people, for future fugitive knowledge, don't tell strangers your real name. Especially not strangers wearing heels in the middle of Midtown." Careful to keep his back turned to Leah for maximum abrasiveness, he sweeps his dog in and out of the crackling fire a few more times before he caves enough to squint at her over his shoulder. Why is she here?

"But she's your sister. Are you telling me I can't trust your sister who just walked right up to where we're camped?" Niles motions towards Leah, but addresses Deckard. "And if you want me to give a fake name, introduce me with less stupid nicknames." Yes, he's getting grumpy. But wouldn't you be if you'd spent days in Deckard's company with no TV? With no roof?

"No," Leah says, with a beatific smile flashing wide and bright across her expression, "don't trust his sister. You don't know where I've been." She hooks the fold of her arms against her thighs, squatting at the fire as though she belongs there. Why is she here? That's a good question. She meets the gaze of Deckard's sunglasses, smile still on her lips, though a little sharper with a flicker of aggravation in her eyes. "I know where to find him — or a place to find him anyway — and I came looking. That's reassuring, huh?"

"Just a helpful hint. Batman." Grumpiness is absorbed and deflected in coarse kind. For all that Flint is trying to be on his best behavior, he's used to having the place to himself. Niles's nerves aren't the only ones starting to wear a little thin in this picture.

He's more timely with the unspiking of his weeny this time, dog grabbed off with a bun used like an oven mitt. No fire. Just some charring and ash, the latter of which he blows off with a cough once he's dropped his cigar down into a hubcap next to Leah's squat, aggravation met with a bland lift of his brows. What?

Niles can sense a little tension. Or maybe he's just tired of sparring with Flint. Or looking at his face. Or any of the above. Either way, it makes him stand and straighten his shirt. "Well. Pleasure to meet you. I'm going back into that," He nods towards the building. He doesn't bother making up an excuse for why. He doesn't have the imagination right now.

Leah tips her head back, watching Niles rise with a slight smile lingering at the curve of her mouth. "Nice meeting you, Booboo," she says, cheerful in her obnoxiousness. She lifts a hand to tip two fingers by her temple in a weird approximation of a salute, and then drops her hand again, canting her glance back towards Flint. Her eyebrows are up again. What, what?

"Met a friend of yours the other day," Leah observes to Flint in a mild tone, either obscure to further her obnoxiousness, or because Niles has not yet fully made his escape.

Deckard watches Niles go in silence that falls just short of stony while he chews. Rubbery, singed and maybe slightly radioactive, the hotdog tastes fine to him. Also, it gives him an excuse not to answer Leah immediately while he turns to find something semi-flat to sit on that still elevates him slightly above her level.

Once settled, he twists to check on Niles's progress over his shoulder before he makes himself focus back on her. Warily. He doesn't actually have that many friends. Enemies who ironically refer to themselves as such seem far more likely culprits, here. "Oh yeah?"

Leah stands straight and lets her arms fold loosely over her stomach, head tipping down with the roll of her shoulders as she puffs a low snort through her nose. "Abby," she clarifies at the delay of a long pause. "Tried to give me bread. Asked me about that thing the other day, so, y'know, if there's a newsletter that goes out about dumb shit you do—"

"Delilah probably squealed." You know, as if he'd called her names or pulled her hair as opposed to like. Breaking her arm. Unconscious resentment rankles at Deckard's nose. Rather than focus on Leah, he keeps his attention turned to the prod of his increasingly sooty stick through the ember-strewn base of his fire, which is altogether less likely to give him looks. Annoyed, patronizing or otherwise. "Was she pissed?"

"She seemed resigned. It's like she knows you." Leah pauses for a moment without speaking, and instead paces in a slow circle around the glow of the campfire. She prowls, felinely, as though with purpose, as she burns off some of the endless restless energy that cords through her lean frame.
Finally Leah stops, and looks down at her seated brother with narrowed eyes, her hands fallen to brace palms against her hips. "You know what else," she says.

Somehow Leah's answer fails to inspire anything along the lines of reassurance or ease in the slope of Flint's shoulders. Resigned. Like she knows you. The furrow between his brows hoods a little deeper; he pokes hard enough at a section of broken chair that part of the fire's structure collapses in on itself in a belch of flighty sparks and hot air. He declines to acknowledge whatever else it is that he might not already know, operating under the assumption that he's probably going to hear it anyway.

As assumptions go, that one is a pretty safe bet. Leah settles her weight back on her heels and continues to eye him. The pause extends, for the length of a long inhalation. Where Flint fails to play by the guessing game rules of conversation, the pause is an awkward, unwieldy thing, sitting heavily on the quiet air. She shakes her head slightly, closed mouth thinning, and then says, "Thanked me for saving your ass."

"She has nice manners," Deckard observes, apparently no longer interested in his only half eaten hot dog, which I just recalled is actually two words. He tosses it into the fire, bun and all, and manages to sit introspective with nothing to do with his hands for a whole…ten seconds or so before he leans back over after his cigar.

"Unreal," Leah returns. She sits down, then, nominally beside him, folding her legs beneath her and tugging at her skirt to assure herself of sufficient coverage. Drumming her fingertips against the square heel of one boot, she studies the fire as it swiftly devours the hot dog. Which is, indeed, two words. At length, she says, "So. What's with Booboo?"

"One of those things I can't talk about." A few quick, dragging puffs see the cigar back to life again, heavy smoke quick to lose itself on the whip of a low lying breeze. "You can't either." Just in case that wasn't already brick-to-the-head obvious. Sunglasses dragged off his face in a rare kind of unlikely courtesy now that Niles is gone, Flint glances Leah over at a vague distance, eyes clear for all that his hangover has shaded in the hollow space around them. "Everything been okay with you?"

Leah rubs at the side of her face with two fingertips, studying her brother's face with the thoughtful slide of her gaze. "Yeah," she says. "I guess. You know. Same old shit." She almost says something else, words almost shaping themselves in her mouth, and stops with the tip of her tongue caught in her teeth. She looks away again, and breathes out in a slightly sharp snort. Gaze slanted down and left hand still drumming lightly against her shoe, she says, "What about you? You okay?"

"No." Not ok. Not really. The way Flint says it almost makes it a thoughtful 'No,' as opposed to a more characteristically cynical abuse of honesty while they're alone. He tugs the cigar away, ash tapped thick from the blunt tip while the fire swirls on and he studies her face in turn. "I dunno what's wrong with me anymore." Still bland in a hopeless kind of way, he takes up the cigar again, brows lifted. "I've been trying to be better. What were you going to say?"

Leah turns her head, surprise reflecting in the slight widening of her eyes. "Nothing, really," she says. Her hands lace together in her lap, and she turns them upward, palms toward the sky. "I don't know what you're mixed up in," she says, "or what's been happening to you. I keep half expecting your little Italian buddy to turn up at my door again and tell me…" She trails off. Half a smile pulls at her mouth. It isn't a smile that suggests anything funny. "Anything. It could be anything and I don't think I'd be surprised. Aliens. Wild dogs. Evolved mafia."

"I got mixed up in a bad crowd. Idealistic young people." Gross. Destroying the world one rickety alocholic at a time. When they aren't saving the rest of it. Sometimes while they are! Cigar smoke winds away more carelessly than Flint feels like it should, following blacker smoke from the fire's unsteady rise in tenuous kind. "I guess I'd rather die tomorrow knowing…that…" he trails off, maybe a little self-consciously. "I don't know. I don't care about the when so much anymore. At least you'll get a story to tell out of it. The brother that was eaten by wild dogs."

Curling one of her hands around the heel of her shoe, Leah looks troubled. The crease at her brow and the set of her jaw combined begin to show her age, particularly with the weary casting of the rest of the expression, in her eyes. "I care, you asshole," she says, her tone low and lacking in heat. It sounds more like an admission than anything, however it may be couched as accusation. She shifts, pushing herself to her knees and turning to face him with her palms flattened against her thighs.

The furrow of her brow deepens, a crinkle scrunching her nose as she looks at him. "Who the fuck do you think I'm telling these dead Deckard anecdotes to, by the way? The stoners or the trippers?" This is obviously the wrong point to be fixing on. C'mon, Leah.

There's a tilt to Deckard's brows he can't quite suppress against said admission. Skepticism. Mild, but extant all the same. "You've been fine without me before. Just…close your eyes and imagine I blew up another barn." Aware of his own callousness in the face of mounting discomfort, he scrub a hand up to scratch at his temple, effectively excusing himself from eye contact for a few seconds. A week ago a ragged scar was forming there at his brow. Now it's gone.

"I don't know. Either. Both? You could talk to other people. Not everyone in the city is a fucking idiot."

"Not really the point," Leah says, dryly. "I'm fine and I can take care of myself. So? That's not new. Done it for decades." Her hands curl into fists, knuckles braced against her legs. Brows pulling down in a scowl, she goes on: "I don't stick my neck out for just anybody, pal, and I would be pretty pissed if you wasted my effort."

"I'm not waisting it." His chin lifts to the dilapidated office building Niles vanished into, grizzled bristle variably brown and warm silver against fading sun and fire light. "I lived long enough to help this kid. Maybe I can…do other things." Oh god, they got it on him. They got some on him. Like sulferic acid, or mad cow disease burrowing a network of spongy tunnels through already dubious decision-making skills. Self-conscious avoidance persists in the way he's no longer interested in looking at her or dragging on the cigar in his mouth. Okay, so, he killed a few innocent people first. He's trying real hard now. :(

Leah rubs her eyes with thumb and middle finger, mouth twisting in a grimace. Looking out for number one is her creed and calling. Looking out for blood relations is a bad habit, like a nervous tic she can't get rid of — sisterly affection, like a cancerous growth in the chestal region, or maybe somewhere further south, where hormones combine in a weird alchemy of maternal instinct. What Flint has, though, that just makes no sense.

"You are becoming a paragon of virtue and self-sacrifice," she says, voice measured in aggravation, "and you make fun of my shoes?"

"I am not." Jesus, when she says it like that. Self-conscious irritation filters out into an embarrassed, incredulous knife of a half-smile, almost a grimace. He leans away at the same time, withdrawing from the accusation like he might the heat of the blistering fire ahead of them if he ventured any closer. "You're the one who's been running around playing super hero. All the way down to all high heels all the time."

"Flint…" Leah says his name like she's going to laugh or cry or something in between, and flips her loose ponytail back with her hand. "I don't have a cape," she says, on the end of a long breath. Her mouth twists again. "And I don't think superheroes are usually as limited as I am." That is, rescuing one person over and over. Right?

"I dunno. You don't have a cape. I'm probably not pretty enough to qualify for damsel in distress benefits." Rather than pretend he's interested in finishing off the cigar, he flicks the stump of it into the fire after his uneaten hotdog. They are crappy superheroes and super rescuees, maybe. Avoidant in a myriad of interesting ways now that he's been relieved of all of his immediate distractions, he falls back to searching over the default that is the nearby fire.

For a long moment following, Leah says nothing at all. She studies the ground in front of her for a moment, and then lifts her gaze to the fire, and then slowly lets it slide back to her brother. "Well," she says. She swallows, and another beat's silence passes. "If you need help. You know where I am and what I can do."

The fire crackles and sputters, twisted plastic popping and snapping to life at the far edge. Deckard's eyes flicker after the sound, pale blue and decidedly human even in the fast fading light sinking red through the ruins. "I have x-ray vision," is offered off hand after a delay. "I can't remember if I ever actually said. So if you need to know how a guy's package measures up before you take him home with you…"

"Yeah, I'll bet you'd love me to call you to measure up crotches for me," Leah says, closing her eyes. Her mouth curves in a smile, slightly off-center in its slant, as she cants her head. She snorts, nostrils flaring with the escape of the breath. "I bet between the two of us we could make one hell of a killing at any bank you'd care to name." Doesn't really fall under that altruism umbrella, though, does it?

"It's the least I can do. Also the most I can do, but." Deckard's brows tilt up, mock helpless. He's already caught enough shit about the ineffectual nature of his gift to well past offense. Also, contrary to popular assumption, he enjoys having it. …Not that lightening hands wouldn't be nice every once and a while. Or something.

A sigh lifts steep at his chest, filtered out through his sinuses with a hint of a wheezing whistle when he finally looks back over at her. "Name the time and the place and I'll try to keep an open space in my schedule." Who says it's all about altruism?

Grin crooked as her plan, Leah arches her eyebrows at him. "It'll be a wild night on the town," she says. Although it would be really helpful to have an invisibility cloak or some other way to deal with security measures like cameras

Scratching at the side of her nose with the slide of her thumbnail, she looks back at the fire for a moment, and then drops her hands to her knees, palms flattened against her skirt. Eventually, she asks, "Do you need anything?"

"Nothing the wizard can't set me up with." Whenever he gets around to paying him a visit. Left hand scrubbed up over his face, Deckard braces up off his knees to stand first, escaping awkward questions by way of height advantage. "You can stay the night, if you want. Shouldn't hurt anything. There are spare cots upstairs and we still have two bottles of vodka."

Leah looks up at him from the ground for a moment, and then drags herself to her feet as well, letting her hands fall to her hips with a slight hesitation. She glances around the ruin of Midtown around them. "Okay," she says. "Your buddy's not a rapist, huh?"

"If he is, I'll shoot him." The Deckards are pretty good problem solvers. One of many things they have in common! There's still the fire though, belching smoke and sparks and god knows what else up into the smothering fall of night. Flint gives it one last caveman stare before he turns to pick his way for a decent-sized basin full of dirty runoff to put it out with. It'd be a shame to have the building burn down after they all pass out in it after all.

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