bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Cliché
Synopsis Ethics are complicated. Also, the government might be kind of pissed at Bella now so Flint takes off before they can find him in her sock drawer.
Date January 15, 2010

Bella and Deckard's Apartment

Deckard has found his cat.

The freezing weather made it easy. The abandoned house he used to occupy on Staten is still abandoned. The windows are still broken. There is still a nest of tatty blankets and pillows and cat hair in a closet propped open out of the wind.

So he found the cat and now the cat is here, with him, ginger stripes and white paws picking delicately across the same kitchen counter Flint is making a sandwich on. It has messy fur and only has one eye, curved claws splintered and split harsh against slippery linoleum while it sniffs and noses at flakes of lettuce. Scars criss-cross its hide in pink and grey lines of velvety cat skin.

The television is on in the background somewhere, volume dulled to a muffle to accompany flashes of white and blue and every other color bold across the living area. The news is on. Was on. Before he realized he was hungry.

The top of Bella's beret is dusted white by the snow, resembling a nonpareil, white scattered evenly over a gentle slope of black. The slow descent of the snow from a muted black sky further frosts her head and shoulders as she makes her way, light-booted, over the curb of her block. The trek from the bus seems to get shorter every time, though she remains too nervous to sport earbuds or headphones. As if she weren't already a mugging target.

During the ascent to the apartment, she draws her hat off, dusting off her shoulders with it before striking the beret itself with a sweeping open palm. Leaving a rapidly melting residue by her boots as she trudges up the stairs. Arrival is heralded by the jangle of keys, and then she's inside, and she's at the kitchen door and-

"You are very lucky I'm not allergic," isn't the cleverest thing she could say, but it's all she can think of off the top of her head. Bella views the mangy, battle-scarred tom with respectful wariness that she would like to have come off as casually dominant, but doesn't.

Flint's less armored up than usual in an unevenly off-white dress shirt (that used to be just — white) and jeans, overlarge feet pressed bare to cool wood flooring when he turns from slicing the block of his sandwich neatly in half to squint at her over his shoulder. Even with The Cat present in the intervening space, clear evidence of misbehavior on his part, the way the bioluminescent ring of his iris slivers narrow into the corner of his eye in the kitchen's low light is keenly suspicious.

Shoulders hitched around a steady push of breath through his sinuses, he turns back to finish raking knife over cutting board, left hand run over the bridged back of his cat before both halves are dropped flip. flop. onto a paper towel.

"At least I don't shed."

Her coat comes off, buttons popping free of their holes with a few levering pushes of her thumb. Bella drapes the coat, still a bit damp around the shoulders, over the arm of the couch, glancing at the television, registering what is playing, and then quickly forgetting as she makes her way back to the kitchen.

The Cat has taken one side, so Bella takes a arching trajectory to flank Flint on the other. She leans over to deposit a kiss on his jaw, then tips back onto both feet, leaning back to get a look at the cat on the counter. "I know I'm supposed to respect the independent spirits of cats. Their aloofness or whatever. But I feel like- why wouldn't you want the animal running free in your house to be mindlessly loyal?" she narrows her eyes at the cat, "though I guess a cat like this isn't going to need much taking care of. Unless it can't hunt anymore, thanks to not having depth perception."

Bella looks up at Flint. "Do you like how scarred it is?" she asks, sounding genuinely if inexplicably curious.

Flint — doesn't kiss back. But he rarely does, and there's a conditioned nudging shift of his weight sideways into her that is familiar and affectionate in the same way that dogs and horses sometimes are. Speaking of mindlessly loyal animals that live in the house.

Disinterested in the potential for parallels along that track, Deckard takes a bite of sandwich and offers the other half out to her. Turkey and mustard and lettuce that crunches between his molars while he looks down sideways at her like he intends to say something but he isn't sure what yet. Despite having all this time to think about it.

The cat has stepped halfway down into the sink, meanwhile. As cats do.

"I dunno," he says, once he's (mostly) finished chewing. "He's my cat." Then: "The other night, when you were asking about how I make rent."

Bella reaches out to snag the sliced bread, peering inside to make sure there aren't just heels left. Three respectable pieces remain, and Bella fishes out two, slipping both into the toaster oven, its plug shifted to a working outlet some time ago, out of simple necessity. Peanut butter is acquired as a matter of efficiency, complete with a knife set atop the cap, before she turns back towards Flint.

He's bringing this up again?

"I remember that, yes," Bella says, confirming what she figures is his quest for confirmation. Expectant now because how could she not be?

"I guess," says Flint, "I was wondering if you were really interested …or just projecting fear onto me because you knew you were going to announce that your employers are idiots on broadcast television."

He's still holding half of his sandwich for all that the way he is looking at her may imply that he's forgotten about it. But not the bits stuck in his teeth: a beat or two later, his tongue pushes up after his gumline and he works his jaw. Not blinking.

Those are… a lot of words strung together in a row. Bella is almost startled, close enough to it to need a moment to decode just what Flint has said, instead of being surprised that he said it, and that much of it. Piecemeal she reforms it. Wondering. Interested. Projecting. Announce. Idiots.


"I really was interested," Bella affirms, though she wavers between the first two words, doublechecking to make sure this is the truth rather than the just the 'right' answer. "I- didn't know I was going to be on the show, like really on it until, like, the day before?" Checking that against reality again. No, that's okay.

Her smile has a touch of just slightly manic nervousness that isn't super reassuring. "I tore into her, didn't I?" Proud of herself. Or wanting to be. Wanting him to be too, maybe.

Deckard is still in turn, exasperation subtle in some tightness through the lines etched in around his eyes. This isn't usually the way things work. He does the stupid thing and brings it home with him for her to see like a dead bird left on the welcome mat they don't have and she is annoyed or supportive or both as the situation requires.

So the only thing for him to do is to resume grinding at whatever he managed to dislodge from behind his teeth, the long line of his jaw working with a bovine kind of sluggishness once his eyes have flicked away and he's set to thinking of what to say next.

Why didn't you tell me? doesn't seem fair, somehow.

The entire cat is now in the sink, scrubbing his blind cheek against the arc of the faucet.

"It was hot," is too blankly honest to be intentionally condescending. Also he is distracted when he finally says so. "I should probably leave for a while."

Bella does that thing where she can't quite keep a straight face, which looks strange since she goes from slightly unsteady smiling, to forced straight, to a different kind of unsteady smiling, effecting a sin curve of affect. An anomaly, though, with the latter news. Bella's face falls, and into a not unfamiliar shape of mixed upset and slight petulance.

"Why?" sounds more like a protest than Bella'd like, and a stupider question that Bella would usually ask. Only she hadn't though about it, and it does dawn on her that while she may not be stupid, she's done something stupid.

"Oh, shit," a hand at her mouth, "you should probably get moving. Shit, I'm so sorry," genuine remorse, or a stunningly good copy, one that shifts again, almost into the register of pleading, however fruitless, "for how long?"

"I dunno." The honest version. As opposed to the 'I don't want to talk about it,' iteration of stubborn ignorance. Knee deep in sudden onset stupidity himself, Flint opens his mouth and lets it sink into a clamp again, uneasy and vaguely off balance and still holding half a sandwich.

"I can't take the cat."

Bella has one more weapon in her arsenal. The crumple of her features into poignant disappointment. Why would the world be so cruel to her personally? Unfortunately pathos is not necessarily revelation, and unless Flint can read some portent from her briefly pitiful expression it's not likely to be of much use.

"I'll take care of it." Bella, to the rescue, "until you get back." Let's remember this moment, the moment she made a meaningful offer of catsitting, rather than the one that necessitated his having to leave in the first place.

"How long until you- have to go?" comes the follow up, a little hesitant.

Great. Bella will take care of the cat. So that loose end is all. Tied up.

Appetite diminished, Flint notices that he is holding 40% of a sandwich and sets it down as if not sure what sandwiches are for or how it got into his hand to begin with.

"I already packed." He hasn't looked at her in a while, profile consistently angled at a slight away while he dusts off his fingers and pulls at the roll of his sleeve at his elbow. "You should probably wash the sheets. For. DNA evidence."

Attempted humor falls flat and hoods his brow in the same uneven trip off his tongue. As for how long: "I waited for you to get home." So, now.

Her legs form the hypotenuse of right triangle, counter to floor, floor to feet. A hand lifted to her brow to shadow her face, elbow jutting as a result, she's all at angles. Her mouth, most clearly visible of her features, forms a thin line.

"Fuck just- fuck, I'm such an idiot I-" a sharp, short intake of breath. Hand dropping from her brow, shaken vigorously at the wrist, eyes blinking back upset. "Okay- okay- this just needs to blow over," Bella says, "I can- maybe I should move somewhere else for a bit? A- I don't know, a hotel maybe. Just, keep their eyes off here." Only how do you keep a cat in a hotel, and what if they've already spied the place and…

"You have my number. Just, whenever you need to be picked up or- I don't know- if you just need anything, maybe we can discreetly meet, or-" Bella gives a sudden 'ugh' of disgust, self directed judging from her reiteration of 'idiot'.

"You put her in her place." That's not being an idiot. It's just — what it is. With a side of mandatory estrangement. The latter thought ends in a struggle not to let his eyes drift for the ceiling when his breath sifts out at a protracted sigh, muddling blindly around for reassurance in the hollow bank vault of his skull. "You did the right thing."

This is just what that tends to feel like, lately. A rapid, avalanchesque descent into panicky realization of reality.

Satisfied that he is doing The Right Thing in turn, Flint gives his sandwich one last look before disengaging from it and the counter at his back to meet her instead. "I'll be okay. You need to be careful."

"Really?" Bella says, eyes swinging briefly out of the handshadow of self pity, up to his face, trying to gauge sincerity, "I didn't think doing the right thing would be that exciting." She drops her eyes low again. "I'm acting like a crazy person. Mentally disordered," she self corrects, "whatever."

Her hand drops, and she turns her head to face Flint, if tilted at a Dutch angle. "I don't know how safe I'll feel out here. I'll- find some hotel. I have the money, that's not a problem. Somewhere nice, but discreet. I'll- should I send you the information, or..?"

Questions, as ever. At least these ones aren't personal.

"You probably shouldn't call me." Awkward. Not reassuring. But Flint looks a little sick now that he's closer, resolve weathered around the edges while he thinks his way through. Being mentally disordered isn't so bad, for all that the clutter is slowing him down some now. "Unless it's an emergency," is slightly better. He has Ferrymen training rattling around in there somewhere. Quarters in a can of dimes.

"Maybe from a landline." It's hard to read him because he isn't looking at her, deliberately inscrutable through the hard slant of his profile. "They may talk to the landlord."

"I'll bribe him," Bella says, problem solving with a haste, as if decisiveness were a substitute for experience, "how much is considered standard? To keep him quiet?" Referring to Flint as the Criminal Protocol Omnibus in this situation.

The cat is viewed with an initial distaste that fades into resignation. "Do I let it out to shit?" Bella asks, resentment maybe inflecting the profanity, but a fair question all the same, "I don't think it's house trained, is it?"

"If you let him out he probably won't come back." Which doesn't actually sound like a warning so much as bland statement of fact. Considering the tom in question, Flint stands rooted upright where he is for an odd beat longer before he moves on past her, towards the living area. "I put a catbox in the bathroom. He'll shit in there."

The bribe thing is put out of his mind for a minute. More thinking. His stuff is in his bedroom.

For a moment, the cat is the sole center of attention. A creature of the wild world out there, it maybe doesn't bask in this as much as a house cat might. Bella is wondering if Flint has just given her permission to lose it. Bella is wondering if that very permission is a test. Bella is thinking about hiding a cat in a hotel room with a box of shit.

"I'll try to keep ahold of him," Bella says, pulling her eyes off of the cat and watching him until he slides out of the frame of her vision, into other space. A moment later and she's chased him to the doorway between kitchen and living area. "If you'd like me to."

"He'll be okay." Regardless. And if not. He's just a cat. There are a lot of cats. Most of them aren't sitting in their sink licking mustard off of perfectly good silverware.

Deckard's only in the living room for as long as it takes him to cross it into the shadowy block of his doorway. A few strides in a few seconds, electric blue showing in flickers and starts while he sweeps his coat on and stoops after his backpack and duffel bag full of guns. The last is slung out onto the floor like a sack of lead. Which. It kind of is.

"Don't trust the landlord. Even with a bribe."

She doesn't follow him into the dark of his bedroom. Bella still doesn't really nose around in there too much. Not after last time. She felt badly and she doesn't care much for feeling badly. And he needs his privacy. She supposes.

"Just get back as soon as it's safe," Bella asks, "I'll be okay," said more for her own benefit than his, "just. Yes." Her words peter out.

Though not for terribly long. "Thank you for waiting. For me. I appreciate that." Said resolutely, or trying for it.


Straightforward enough.

Shoulders resettled against the weight of thick straps already biting in coarse through the wool of his coat, Flint is still awkward when he reappears at the entrance to his hidey hole. Awkward and distant, distant and awkward. And hangdog in his reticence, maybe, or something like it for all that he doesn't shy off hoisting the guns up against his side for long.

His standing there with all his crap may read as a silent can you get the door.

And read it is, in decent time. Bella steps over to the door with apologetic acceleration. Sorry for whatever delay, caught in an automatic courtesy routine in absence of other protocols to deal with a situation like this. Which she never has. Dealt with. This.

The door swings open and inwards, Bella just barely in the shadow it casts. She rubs lightly at her nose with the back of her free hand, then looks up across the intervening space at Flint. "I'll see you in a little bit." Stating hope as fact, words crisp if not quite starched.

Similarly bereft of prior experience in the realm of whatever "this" is, Deckard hesitates before the threshold between apartment and hallway. The gun tote is heavy enough to make cords stand out in the side of his neck and he still just kind of stands there and looks at her with his mouth partway open. Like he expects she should have a better idea of what to do or say, what with her as the better adjusted of the pair of them. Theoretically.

Unless I'll see you soon is it. He realizes this only after wasting an unwieldy amount of time thinking about it and glances aside before taking off at a creaky lean and step.

She has to swing around the door in order to get ahold of one of the bag straps, catching with just the tip of her fingers and leaning forward to get the last inch of clearance and grip. One tug, light, not an attempt to drag him back. A 'stop requested' wire pull.

Flint grunts to a halt, even a light tug enough to draw him off balance such that he has to put a bend in his knees to keep from losing his balance. Backwards. As things are he's steady enough to glance back to see if he's caught on the door.

He isn't.

Still using the strap as a handhold, Bella pulls herself up to closer his height, snags his jaw in one hand and exacts a kiss from him. Quick, given like she's making a point, though it's unclear to whom, she still closes her eyes for it, before easing back down and letting go of both him and his burden. Back on her two feet she backs up against the door, halting its slow swing closed, resuming her previous job. Eyes on him, for once she doesn't say something.

The kiss is strained on Flint's end until he can slither the bag off his shoulder to hit wood flooring at his side with a dead body thump and clatter, the grip she has on him all hedgehog prickle and sandpaper. Warmer from there. He doesn't push further than what she's aiming for, though, still on his side of the door when she resumes her post and he — watches her, clear gaze scoping at a sketchy veer around her person until he can lock himself into uneasy eye contact. So that, "I love you," can fall coarse and kind of dim out of his mouth.

His words send her eyes skidding off to one side, bouncing back in curving ricochet before she crosses her vision's periphery. It's with careful shepherding that Bella leads her gaze back up to him. Her mouth has, in the meantime, gathered itself into a steady line.

"You were a client," she informs him, as if this might be another hole in his memory, "this is a cliche." Reproach. For both of them, but primarily herself. "I love you too."

Slightly narrowed eyes. "I reserve the right to change my mind about that if you get yourself killed."

Flint's relief at her response is tangible through the kick of a held breath and some fuzziness eased through the lines around his mouth. His eyes don't light up. He doesn't grin. Just kind've easy. Great. Whew. That could've been really awkward.

Unfortunately, like everything else, relief slows his progress for the exit even further and it takes him some time to return to terms with the fact that he is leaving now and not in fifteen minutes or an hour. Or in the morning. So he stoops to hoist the bag up again, clickety clack.

"Same. If you get me killed, I mean."

Bella's lower lip has adopted a very slight tremble, and she lifts thumb and index finger, pinching the bridge of her nose. Give her a moment. Eyes squeeze close, reopen with lashes just a little dewy.

"That- seems fair," delivered with the barest falter, and a somewhat tentative smile. Behind her, her hand clasps her wrist, squeezes. "You should go."



"Not seriously," amended too late after the fact, Flint detects the presence of trembling and dampness with all the enthusiasm he might detect a bomb in a briefcase with. It's a joke. Because. Dead people can't change their minds!!

Also because he's way more likely to get himself killed.

Another mild, "Okay," could stand to be exchanged for something more comforting, but it will have to suffice for the time being. Both of his bags are up, and with a final, fidgety look backwards, he trudges off down the hall.

Bella leans out into the hallway, fingertips supporting her against the doorframe. She watches his back recede along the lines of her perspective, his looming height diminishing with each step. When he can fit between her thumb and forefinger, she withdraws, back into the apartment. It takes her a moment to close the door. Another to lock it. Another to leave it and cross to the couch, on which she reclines. Knees slightly bent, palms pressed to eyelids, she lies there. Mind restless, unsettled, but with little in the way of clear thought.

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