Can't Say No


b_deckard_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif

Scene Title Can't Say No
Synopsis Rhys appears to fill Flint in on the real reason he's been asked to keep his enemy close.
Date January 3, 1999

England, London: Brixton

The condemned dwelling Deckard has holed himself up in a ways down and across the street from the Logan household should've been torn down months ago.

Carpet's long gone, architectural guts laid open to bare concrete and weakened plaster. Furniture is scarce; the ceilings sag and a fire in the fireplace is the real only source of light between slants of more industrial stuff filtered sallow through boarded up windows.

Flint's used his '90s money and possibly also his fists to accumulate enough tatty old blanketing to make for a passably comfortable rat's nest up off the frigid slate of the living room floor. He's seated there now close to the ember-orange skeleton of a kitchen chair eating peach slices out've a can, knit cap and sunglasses and worn out coat not quiet enough to keep out the cold. His breath still fogs while he eats, the guthook on his knife hooked delicately down after a particularly slippery bit of picked fruit.

John's house is a dismal ghost on the far fringes of his vision, only one slender skeleton cooped up inside. Asleep.

The streets around that house are a different story, even at night. It's not entirely dissimilar from New York in that respect. The distant and muted suggestion of pedestrian traffic outside of both buildings is sparse enough not to be worrisome, each jangling series of bones disconnected enough from a human face to be easier to deal with, all things considered. The cognitive dissonance of being in another time isn't exactly as jarring when not confronted by the differences of one era from another. Looking this deeply, everyone and every time looks basically the same. Less cell phones shining bright and metallic in a pocket.

No amount of distance from the fact of time-travel can easily explain away the abrupt appearance of a skeletal structure where there was none before, though. Outside of Flint's shelter, a wholly formed skeleton just manifests out of thin air like a last minute addition to a movie reel, spliced in. It's small boned, short, narrow enough pelvis not to be a woman but carries himself like one in swagger. Young, from the looks of things, and the gleam of metal on X-Ray vision shines three notches tall in his right leg where a few surgical pins are still in place.

This abrupt skeleton also seems to be making a rather direct path around the building towards the front door.

Adrenaline flushes through Deckard's rickety system like a fresh feed of diesel, stiffing out the base of his spine and bleaching bony knuckles around the grip of his knife. The human skeleton is capable of all sorts of interesting things. Generally appearing randomly out've thin air isn't one of them.

Peach juice drips sloppily down the edge of his knife while he watches, orangey thick back into the can and onto the floor around it. A scrub of sleeve to chin clears away whatever residue might've tarred itself into the bristle there; his breath snorts out into a heavier stream and he abandons his dinner to push slowly, quietly to his feet, a slouchy black golem of a bladed shadow poised before the fire.

It doesn't make him gay that he can't help but steer his stare dubiously after the pelvis before he looks at anything else. Probably.

Up the short flight of concrete steps to the door of the row house that Deckard has holed himself up in, that unfamiliar skeleton comes face to face with the entrance and arrests his forward movement. One hand lifts up, batting knuckles against the wooden frame before even trying to the doorknob. Apparently, wherever this particular skeleton is from it's polite to knock before intruding on squatters.

"Mister Deckard?" isn't exactly the first thing Flint probably expected to hear coming from a somewhat nasally youth with an effeminite voice on the other side of the door. "Now I'm really hoping that Hiro's aim wasn't entirely off, because I don't much feel like waiting God knows how many hours to have him come pick me up if you're not still here…"

Rubbish fire crackling merrily at his back, Deckard holds his post at a wary slant and lean for several seconds. Voice, demeanor, build. Knowledge of the little guy with the sword.

At length, Flint finds himself opposite the block of the door without clearly remembering crossing quietly over for it, left hand cranking once around the knob while the right remains conspicuously out've frame, glistening buck knife held out at his side at a wide angle.

The two-inch sliver of him that fills the crack he pushes himself to make hulks ill-washed and ill-tempered. Scrubby, scruffy, broad across the shoulders and neck but narrow through the jaw. He smells like whiskey and canned peaches. Also, like he hasn't showered in a few days.

From the way Rhys' skeletal frame jerks back from the door, he probably notices the boquet of Deckard's aroma.

"Oh— well," there's a hitch of his voice as Rhys tries to swallow, one hand coming up to cover his mouth as his heels threaten the edge of the concrete step he's standing on. "Ah, mister… Deckard?" That frail skeleton jerks to one side, hand covering his mouth sweeps up over the top of his head and through what's likely his hair from the motion.

"I noticed you seemed to have landed a little off-target, so— I thought you might…" Rhys trails off, his hand dragging past his hair to land at the back of his neck, rubbing awkwardly. "I work for Hiro, my name's Rhys. Does it smell like that everywhere in there, or just here by the door because I'm perfeclty fine having this discussion on the front stoop if you are."

Deckard sniffs. Just once — nose rankled against a short snuff of air that doesn't taste any different than the stuff he's been breathing since he got here.

He is Mister Deckard, though. At least in the sense that he doesn't say he isn't and fits even the scantiest description that might be attributed to him from skullcap pulled low to long limbs to cowboy boots. The matte black of his glasses is no more telling than the hard line of his mouth, save for maybe that he doesn't seem all that happy to be here.

"Rhys is a stupid name," he judges at length, making no move to step out onto the stoop or withdraw deeper into his hovel. "What do you want?"

The shoulders-crooked, hand on one hip head cocked to the side posture might be better sassy with the proper facial expressions connected, but the lack of much in the line of soft tissue instead makes Rhys look like a particularly affronted Halloween decoration. Admittedly, if Deckard could see what he was wearing it might not be entirely far from the truth.

"Well I want to give you a big slap across the mouth but somehow I don't think that that's going to change much of anything." All imperious tones aside, Rhys' posture relaxes some from that initial bristling. "I'm here to tell you that the plan's changed. One of the people working for the man trying to screw the pooch on history managed to save— John," that hitch is a bit awkward, "from what was supposed to happen to him."

The long, awkward pause between the status update and what comes next implies that while Rhys may be comfortable explaining things on the row house stoop, he's still not comfortable with what he actually has to say.

"You need to make it happen," Rhys explainswith a nervous haste to his cadence of speech. "The accident he was involved in made it impossible for him to pursue a career in football, took his dreams away from him and…" Rhys' skeletal head dips down slowly, jaw works from side to side. "If you weren't who you are, I wouldn't ask you to do this. But I think there's maybe a little justice in this, or irony. I was never really good at remembering the right definition of that."

Rhys looks back up, if only in telling by the angle of his skull towards Deckard. "You need to make sure John gets hit by a car, enough to bust his leg but not enough to kill him."

Boxy rib cage contracted and splayed wide against knotted stitches and fresh scar tissue, Flint idles like an old engine, exhaust furled warm in a slow push through his sinuses. His grip on the knife adjusts so that he can swipe the flat of it against his jeans. One side and then the other, stainless steel flicked briefly into clear view while he's forced to mentally masticate what he's just been told.

On the street level, a pair of passers by glance their way, not used to seeing this particular stack of house occupied by anything larger than the average rat. He watches them in turn, focus hardened over the pretty muss of Rhys's skull until they've long since faded past the far fringes of his ability and he says, "No."

More indistinct and ghostly in Deckard's foreground now that his radioactive stare is focused beyond him, Rhys seems momentarily blank-faced as he stands there to stare slack-jawed at the far taller man. "Wh— " is a little abortive as his head jerks to the side, as if he'd tasted something bad. "You— you can't say no. This isn't an elective, this is pass/fail!"

Exasperatedly waving both hands in the air, Rhys takes a careless step forward towards the door, only further making him a murky blur in Deckard's field of vision. "If John Logan doesn't get hit by that car than you're going to be stuck here and there is no telling what sort of future that change would make. You would be participating in the murder of— " Rhys' voice cuts off as he turns his growing shout into a hoarsr whisper.

"You will do what you need to do Flint Deckard or the lives of everyone you know might as well be forefeit." That he may know about Flint Deckard in the way someone knows about George Washington — second hand information gleaned like in reading a book — Rhys Bluthner may not be aware of just how much like a scrapyard dog Flint can be.

Able to feel Rhys' breath on him from — apparently — the kid being up in his face, the volume of the argument may have dropped by the sharpness of Rhys' tone has only taken more of an edge. "You came back here to make sure this happened and now you're getting cold feet? You don't get to say no!"

"A better one."

Flint's already doing the math and ignoring most everything els, chilly eyes distant behind the calculated screen of his Ray-Bans. More convinced by his own righteousness with every flat beat of his battered heart. "He's not a psychopath, I have both of my eyes. Abby has her tongue." Utilizing only ideal variables it seems like a no-brainer. He even shrugs, one shoulder suspended into a sluggish lift. Being stuck in the 90s doesn't seem like such a steep price to pay. He's not a fugitive here. Bella's legal, somewhere. He could find her.

It's like letting a deranged little kid pick out his own clothes. It all fits together because he wants it to, logic examined and passed over without more than vague acknowledgement that someone else might disagree.

Probably because the Someone Else in this equation is shorter, prettier and more slightly built than him. A twitch of thought along those lines and a brush of warm breath pull Rhys back into focus closer than Deckard remembers, which is convenient for an automatic bind of the older man's knuckles into the front of whatever he happens to be wearing, fabric bunched thick between sternum and throat. "Maybe you're one of them."

Up on his toes as is expected when in a position like this, Rhys lets out a sharp breath and chokes on his words. The noise he makes is somewhere between a yelp and a squeak, eyes saucer-wide in the vague suggestion of their shape Deckard can see in his radioactive sight. "I— " am not one of them might be too convenient of an answer. "This is— this is exactly the kind of thing they're doing, don't— " It's hard to argue with someone who both has a knife and feels like he's twice your height.

"Flint," is softer, maybe in some attempt to appeal to a sense of reason that Rhys expects to be there. "Flint you're already here. There's already a you, and you don't belong here. Hiro won't let you stay here and keep messing things up. You'll be killing the people from your time, it just— they'll just cease to exist, a gun to the head of every person you've known. Flint you— "came back here to stop that suddenly seems like too optimistic an assessment.

Maybe Flint is one of them, even if indirectly.

The awkward silence is a bit too long, following.

A shuddery breath blasts Rhys with stale whiskey and smoke and maybe a damp fleck of sodden peach residue here and there. Flint is having a bad week. He hurts. He's alone. He's off his pills. He's in London.

To his (limited) credit, he's trying to listen. Even with the point of his knife nosing carelessly into the dip of a navel he doesn't know. It's just hard. Point in fact: "That doesn't make sense," is the first thing he can think to mutter back, brow furrowed into a tilt that's nearly pleading. Under different circumstances it'd be slightly pathetic. Like, ones where he wasn't holding someone's fairy god mother hostage. "What would anyone stand to gain from erasing existence?"

Huffing out a shuddering breath in both desire to blow away the whiskey stink and also out of an understandable amount of fear, Rhys' throat works up and down in a slow swallow. "I— I don't know. Maybe to start over? Maybe— some people are just crazy," and that much is exhaled as a whisper as if he were saying some sort of racial epithet.

"I don't know why he's doing what he's doing, des— desperate people do desperate things," is perhaps conveniently said as Rhys feels the tickle of that knife probing around too close to an exposed stomach. "Don't do this, Flint," is just as quiet as the word crazy had been. "Don't— do this again. Please," is more shakily offered than before, and the boy is losing his composure.

"Look at me, with your eyes, Flint. See— see a person, not some skeleton. I'm telling you the truth, it— it's terrible but it needs to happen, or I won't exist." If there's nothing else that can be construed as honesty, it's people who have selfish motivations. Not wanting to die is a good one, not wanting to be written out of existance like an excised scene from a trimmed down movie is another.

Again is a penetrating kind of word, given the context. Most of the people who know how familiar this feels are dead — whiskey breath on their necks, cold steel in their bowels.

Flint's grip winds tighter still, indecision hard throught the long line of his jaw while he works it all over one more time.

It feels like a long time before he finally wrests his weight around behind a stiff shove. Enough to take Rhys back off the first step if not all of them, blunt anger packing force enough to wrench at the ball and socket of his shoulder.

That he clears the steps and lands flat on his back on the walkway is something Rhys will be thankful for. It turns what could have been a broken tailbone into an embarrassingly large bruise instead. Sprawled out there on the concrete walkway at the bottom of the stairs, Rhys is both breathless and speechless. Hindsight is, as Rhys can attest, 20/20 and in this case he's ruefully lamenting his choice of words.

"If you don't do it someone else will," is as much of a warning as Rhys can give now, "think about it, Flint. Why'd you even come here?" The last bit is a little too sharply clipped for his own good, for the sake of the argument. Damage done is damage done, though, and for all that Rhys slowly tugs himself to his feet and brushes the dust off of clothing Flint can't see the dirt on he knows he isn't going back up those steps.

"One of these days that attitude of yours is going to— "

And just like that, Flint is saved from a lecture by someone half his age who sorta' knows some things about him indirectly. Just as abruptly as he was there, Rhys is gone in mid-sentence, yanked out of the time-stream by invisible fish-hook to whenever and wherever Hiro Nakamura needs him.

Unwanted guests usually come without being invited, but it's more often than not a struggle to get rid of them. The disappearance is at least a minor victory, even if Flint himself wasn't taken with him. Apparently they're giving him time to change his mind.

"I was left here." There's a hint of a growl to gravel through quaking anger, still venomously quiet for all that he's having to concentrate to keep the volume down. He wasn't asked or paid or even coerced. He was told.

Bitter dislike cleaves hard edges out along his profile when he turns his face back towards John o'clock, teeth bared to the bicuspids. The more Rhys goes on, the more Deckard looks like he might be ready to come down the stairs after him, tension twitching up one calf into a false start that sees the boy vanished without so much as a pop of displaced air.

Flint's left to thump his fist into the open door instead — once, twice and again until it jounces on its hinges and brackish red smears fresh over battered wood.

After a while he falls quiet and slides down into a sit, bloodied right hand cradled by the left, knees bent up at the cloud cover.

Hoping nobody called the police.

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