bella_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif

Scene Title Cohabitation
Synopsis Turns out it's as awkward as it sounds like it should be.
Date August 09, 2010

Bella and Deckard's Apartment

The moving guys were lean, young and eastern European. They weren't accredited or anything - it's likely Bella hired them off craigslist or something. There is, for someone of her breeding, something of a thrill from using uncertain and unreliable help. Her mother would be mortified. She'd be convinced they'd steal something. Steal what, exactly? The IKEA furniture? The crappy DVD player? The cable box that has no working hookup? Bella's got a pretty nice stereo, I guess, but really… its fenceable value would hardly cover the rental of the truck these guys likely own and maintain. Scamwise, it would make no sense. Right?

Scam or no, the stereo now sits comfortably in the living room, next to a Billy bookcase that is currently bare of literature. The couch rests in front of a TV, a CRT Bella has had since undergrad and refused to replace because she's got a skin-flinty streak her father bred into her. It's off. The stereo is on, and from the speakers plays the rhythm and blues sounds of Van 'The Man' Morrison. It's a marvelous night for a moondance, he maintains. All the night is magic. Though on the breeze blows less leaves and more smoke, as Dr. Isabella Sheridan self medicates, sitting on the couch in sweat pants and a ratty t-shirt with the faded words 'Camp Pinebrook - C.I.T' on the front. On the back are more faded words, but she's sitting too low for them to be made out. A bong in one hand, lighter in the other, she peers hard at the single picture she's taken from the cardboard boxes that line one wall. It hangs, the painted image of a man and a woman locked in a kiss, both heads faces wrapped in shrouds. Her eyes, narrow and bloodshot, consider the print with suspicion.

It's a relatively cool summer night outside, streets all industrial shades of orange under a sluggish breeze and just enough electricity to maintain the status quo. Flint shouldn't be smoking but he is, affection for tobacco and thready nicotine rush more easily recalled than his place of birth or his last five addresses or the precise circumstances under which he was transferred out of prison and into Company care.

He hesitates outside the apartment door, poised to flick his cigarette down the hall when his stare catches on furniture and slouch and bong. The sound of the stereo is slower to sink in through hard wood and paint and the number 9 in brass. Once it does, he pushes the stub of his smoke back into the corner of his mouth and turns the key.

Deckard is Deckard upon entry as he was upon exit however many hours ago. Worn out jacket, jeans and brutish buzz. The furniture's given a suspicious once over while he crosses from entry to living area — his own contribution so far limited to the folding cot braced in his bedroom — but he doesn't look displeased. A couch is a couch. Is a couch.

He stops behind the one in here to better suss out what she's up to, on the more stable side of sober himself.

"Doesn't look like the ones you had in your old place."

"I was told to stay home from work," is Bella's immediate, guilt driven, and totally unsolicited reply. She sounds almost exactly like a kid getting caught by a hall monitor, digging in their pocket for their signed note from Mr. Dinkle the history teacher with the pervy mustache. She's silent for a moment, and during that silence what Deckard actually said sinks in and she takes a further pause to figure out an answer. "What ones what?" she asks, slyly. Dodging what she is sure is a trick question. Or a joke at her expense. Or something. Mostly she just wants clarification.

He can answer her at his leisure, probably, because Bella's eyes go right back to the single hanging picture. She sits up, arm going out to offer the water pipe to Deckard automatically, establishing sacred rotation now that there is someone to establish it with. The words on the back of her shirt become visible to the unaided eye. 'Summer of '96 - Itza Bella' in the same red lettering as the front.

"I keep thinking it's hanging crooked, but I don't know. It's bugging the hell out of me," Bella confides, "every time I adjust it, of course it still just looks crooked when I sit back down. I think I'm freaking myself out," she looks up at Flint, "Help a girl out. You're good at looking at things, right?"

"Okay." says Flint, indifferent to his wiry core. They told her to stay home from work.

Left hand traced light against the couch back, he breathes smoke, leaving oily white to suspend itself thick in the air at his side while he gives the room another sweep and finally gestures vaguely to the painting. "I thought you had some art in your old place. Waiting room prints." Flattering assessment of her former digs thusly conveyed, he touches cigarette to mouth again to shrug out've his jacket as he meanders away off towards the bathroom. The jacket gets dropped off on whatever jumble of furniture happens to be convenient along the way. "Maybe I misremembered. Or assumed. Based on context clues."

He does her the courtesy of raising the coarse level of his voice enough to reach her before he nudges the door closed with his heel and does his thing. Zip, pissy sizzle and smoke dropped down into the flush after a last drag. Then he's out again, probably on his way straight through to the kitchen until he pauses again instead. "It looks fine."

"Don't smoke in the house," Bella says with near-automation, sounding stone sober for an instant, her words cut and pasted from some deeply ingrained personal verbal routine. And a fine thing to say when her arm is still holding the bong out to Flint. Her arm gets tired, and she brings the water pipe back into her lap, cradling it there. She doesn't need to know that the cigarette's disposal had nothing to do with her household rule. Her sense of authority, such as it is, is gratified.

"It's from college," Bella says, seeming to take no offense at Deckard's aspersions on her decorating, "Not even mine. My roommate left it. It's… Magritte, I think? I thought it was pretentious. And creepy. I still do. But I like how creepy it is. Maybe that's what makes me think its crooked. It's just me freaking out and… attributing. Mistaking emotional with spatial. Like the feeling the walls are closing in."

Bloodshot eyes find Flint mid-migration. "Does that mean you like it?"


Chilly eyes having ticked only briefly to her bong at the directive to not smoke in the house, Flint pays it about as much heed as he does the general state of her. He does abandon his press for the kitchen after a moment's insolent reluctance, though — course scrapped and plotted back towards the couch so that he can sink down onto it instead.

Not quite next to her. There's a space. A span that borders upon conscientiously respectful (or something). Even with his knees wide apart and his shoulders slouched, they're in no danger of touching when he tilts his head back aside into the cushion to better regard the painting from something nearer her vantage point.

"It's creepy," agreed without prejudice, he has to think before he can decide whether or not he likes it. For some reason his experience with art criticism is limited.

The established space does not go unnoticed. Bella consciously and quite obviously (and blearily) considers the space. Whatever she may think about it, it must be something like approval, because she maintains it. Though she does extend her arm over it, pipe offered once more, even wiggled this time, as if movement will make it more enticing. Peeeeeer pressure.

"Yeah, I know," Bella states, trying to catch his eyes, impatient with his 'thinking' and 'considering', "But do you like it?"


Peer pressure elicits an answer before it coaxes forth a mild shake of his head when he looks to the pipe again. No dice. Not interested. Likely still buzzy from whatever old block of wood he's been slithering around under. He rubs at his eye before he really looks back over at her, long face long and scruff decently kempt. "I don't think you're supposed to."

"Okay…" Bella says, sounding unsatisfied despite the total straightness of his answer. The pipe is retracted, then set down on the ground next to the couch where any careless foot might knock it over, sending stinky water spilling out over the hardwood floors. Sooner or later. "Should I take it down?" There's an air of testing to this question, like there's more or less going on in it than determining whether or not she should put it back in the box from whence it came.

Flint shakes his head, 'No,' again, this time without benefit of added elaboration. He doesn't usually see on a wavelength where he has to look at it, or it suits her. A few nights ago he came in blind drunk and slept in the bathroom but he seems okay now, more or less. Rested, even. A week in the life of Flint Deckard. "Want something to drink?"

Good. Because she wasn't going to take it down. Okay, maybe she was, but she'd have resented having to. If only because of the grief it gave her, making her think it was crooked. Bella test, whatever it possible outcomes and purpose, is passed. Or close enough. As for a drink…

"Uuuh…" Bella seems to think this question requires very serious thought. "…yes? Yes. Yes please." She gives him a sunny smile, augmenting her politeness. It fades pretty quickly. No extended exposure. "Where were you today?" It sounds more nosey that she means it to. Not necessarily more nosey than she means it. But more nosey than she means it to sound.

"Staten Island." Noseyness is rewarded vaguely at best and Flint, who isn't sure whether he wanted her to say yes or no, is forced to lean himself up off of the couch again to continue back towards the kitchen.

There, he finds matching glasses and ice from the refrigerator and last of all whiskey, which is probably his by virtue of being Crown for all that he hasn't made much of an effort to document what belongs to who. He should probably ask where she's been but. It's self-evident enough he's content to focus on pouring until both glasses have approximately the same number of fingers.

His t-shirt (dark grey) has no print or text to break up the flat of it. One of the original Company-funded items he found in his closet upon waking up to discover that he had one. It smells like smoke and a little like sweat when he sinks down next to her again, less cautious about personal space by necessity in the process of offering one glass over.

In the brief space of time during which Flint gets up to fix them drinks, Bella has gotten to her feet, failed to knock over her bong, and dragged over a box which, when opened, reveal the covers of books, stacked high, hiding what must be books below. A brief survey: 'One Hundred Years of Solitude', 'Breaking the Spell', 'White Noise', 'Blink'. She is digging a pit into the literary sediment, stacking displaced books to one side, piling them on the floor.

"That's where I work," Bella comments, offhandedly and indiscreetly, poking around, clearly looking for something in particular. When Flint returns, she abandons her excavation and takes the glass, lifting it in the offer of a toast. "To… I don't know. You think of something."

That's where she works. Flint lifts his brows and blinks hard, kind of like he's trying to manually score what she just said out of his brain.

"To impending unemployment," isn't exactly the most positive spin he could've put on a related sentiment once he's settled, but he jags his hand the necessary inches to clink his glass sharply to hers before takebacks can be demanded or otherwise asserted. Probably not a difficult task given her current state of distraction.

He's quick to swallow off the rim too, teeth shown against the burn of it down the back of his throat as he settles in to watch her shuffle. "Wanna make out?"

That's actually perfect. Bella's smile is one of total appreciation. She was asked to stay home from work today. That means things must be progressing very nicely for the people who she imagines are less likely to kill her. She wishes them the best of luck in not killing her. If that means killing her co-workers… well…

She at least hopes Dema will be okay. And little Ms. Lin. And Juliet. If not, though… it's not like she's likely to find out either way so, why worry? Bella considers her attitude healthy. At least insofar as it contributes to her happiness. Insofar as this liquor contributes to her happiness, she'll call it healthy too. So she takes her medicine. Her full-facial wince reveals her as not much of a straight liquor drinker.

She's only mid-dip towards her excavation site when his question reaches her ears. She pauses and looks across at him, just barely over her shoulder. Squint squint. "I did my share of babysitting. I've read 'If You Give a Moose a Muffin'. I know how this goes."

Arguably, Flint bears enough of a superficial resemblance to the ungulate in question that the comparison is apt for all he gives her an unappreciative sideways look for it.

There's also the fact that she's right, so.

He drinks again — a longer swallow this time — enough to sketch at crow's feet through the process of trying to think of a halfway intelligent way to twist a not-quite-no to his advantage somehow. Harder than it seems like it should be all distracted and not sure whether he's read it or not. In the end he decides 'not' and with brows hooded, is left to hazard at a logical deadpan: "If you give a moose a muffin… it'll try to have sex with you."

"Exactly!" Bella says, one hand emerging from the book pit and brandishing a book at him in an affirmative way. "Goddamn mooses." she sounds… almost serious? Which is an indicator of how genuinely altered she is, though some parts of her remain very much… her. She could pass a Turing test, we swear.

She examines the book. "Here it is. Have you read this?" Bella tosses the book into his lap. It's white and medium-thick, with the words in red 'Catch-22' high on the cover, an angular blue man daubed below. A classic. "Sometimes you remind me of a somewhat less fruity, less whimsical Yossarian. I mean that as a compliment." Bella leans back into the couch. Distance maintained, effectively unaltered, though she doesn't look like she's actively observing it. "You could ask me out, you know," she says, having zip to do with the book, but not entirely out of the blue.

Book-to-lap flop tolerated with a look nearly as flat as the gravel-shot pavement that lines his throat, Flint glances over the front cover for just long enough to register the color splashed there before he flips it onto its back, and then more carefully open. To the flap. Any flap. Something that may give him some indication of what a less moderately whimsical and fruity Yossarian consists of.

"I've heard of it," isn't promising. The fact that he doesn't fling it right back at her might be moreso — after a moment's critical inspection, he folds it closed again, draws in a long breath and sets it onto the armrest at his side. "I could."

"You should read it, it brings pleasure without asking you to be happy. That sounds like it might work for you," Bella says, which is rather 'honest' thing to say, but that's part of 'trust', right? 'Honesty'. She nurses her drink, wincing even after the smallest sips. Someone needs a cosmo. "Yes," she carries on, resuming the second conversation, the line of thought running parallel, almost unrelated, "and although it's a weak sort of sham of a ritual, kind of sexist, there is a certain charm to it. If done right." As if the discussion were not only hypothetical, but theoretical.

"I will," says Deckard. He sounds like he intends to, even, thumb raked past the flat of paper's near edge in a lazy estimation of the book's length while he tips his glass back and cleans out most of the amber swamped through thinning ice. Not too bad. He hasn't been reading lately, either.

Ongoing talk of dating and all associated thinly-vieled shenanigans doesn't do much to hold his attention for all that he appears to be making some effort to listen, meanwhile. His focus pulls up from the book just long enough for him to summon a skeptical look, clear blue eyes all cold confidence that there's no way in hell he's asking her out for dinner regardless of the consequences.

Bella's chin lifts, a touch of that imperious spoiledness peeking out. Not a particularly attractive quality, but certain true to her state of mind. She'd have to be a derangedly canny operator to fake an unpleasant affect as part of some extensive scheme. Or maybe just a bad schemer. "Fine, be a prick," she states, "Freeish country. We're cohabitating for Christ's sake. At least let's make dinner together or something. Have something resembling an interaction that's not based on… on crisis. Or pretend at least."

She scowls, and all she'd really need to do now to complete the picture is stick her lower lip out. "You said you liked me. Act like it a little. I could use a friend, goddammit."

Can Flint cook? Signs point to 'no,' short of certain breakfast staples and cans easily heated over a camp stove. Skepticism persists into a blanker version of the same sentiment, like it's been some time since he's spent enough time around anyone (other than Logan) with such femanine — insistences. Upon things like dinner. And how it should be done.

Upon the realization that he's been caught slightly off guard here, Deckard glances towards the kitchen and adjusts his grip on his glass. Still cold. Now mostly watery backwash and slivered ice. "I made you a drink," pointed out at a cautious delay, he scuffs the side of his hand across his chin, back to eyeing her again. "And I asked you if you wanted to make out."

The 'You said no,' is somehow more pointed in its unspokeness.

"Let's say I want to," Bella says, folding her hands on in her lap and getting suddenly, unfair, earnest. No longer petulant. Much too clear. "Is this the product of desperation? Of a need for human contact, and something like compassion? That would be a sort of sad thing to learn. It would make it rather tawdry. And maybe I don't want something tawdry. Even if… even understanding our situation and personalities and outlooks sort of untraditional, maybe I'd like to know that I want to for the right reasons. Healthier ones. Better ones. Do you see what I mean? I'm sorry if this sounds asinine to you, but being clever hasn't really done either of us much good, now has it?"

Deckard remains remarkably still through this protracted line of doubt, pupils constricted at the back of his otherwise unblinking stare. It's probably true that most of the women he's asked the same question of in recent years have been drunk or certain refusals. Hard up strippers and wealthy socialites at crosswalks — always one cry of rape away from a night in the pen.


It takes him time to pick it apart and what he picks out isn't particularly flattering. Par for the course. Filter for the negative. His brows knit more steeply than before, maybe a touch resentfully until he reminds himself of who he is and also that life is hard and also also that he would do well to do a better job of keeping both factors more constantly in mind.

Which all, of course, culminates in a mild, "Okay."

"So…" Bella says, the word sounding sudden, spoken too soon, no matter how long she waits after Deckard's reply. She covers this with a drink from her glass, a larger one, which she immediately regrets. "What… uh… what should we do?" A very general question that can be answered generally, approached with as much vagueness or specificity has one likes. A softball sort of question. Which is nice of Bella, right? Deckard's gotta love those.

"We could paint our toenails." All suggestioned-out, Deckard stretches one leg long and then the other, near-empty glass balanced on the couch's armrest near the book he's already placed there. "Braid each other's hair." One of his knees pops and he doesn't quite wince, long profile faced forward. Back at the kitchen again.

Bella looks a little deflated at this. A bit defeated. What was she expecting, exactly? For Deckard to seize the moment. What would that even entail? What would she want that to mean? She feels self-defeated, then, for the vagueness and ineffectuality of her desire. Or whatever it is. She sets her almost finished glass down, next to the bong glass tinging against glass, and then reaches down to the book pile, tugging out one of their number. 'The Crying of Lot 49'. Pynchon. It's a dogeared, well worn copy. She's probably read it before.

She scoots back to rest her back against the opposing arm, legs stuck across, out in Deckard's direction. She opens the book, finds the first page. Reads.

Van Morrison thinks it feels like a brand new day. But there are some hours left to go.

Tense with ill-disguised frustration despite himself, Flint watches her do her thing in his peripheral vision. Dogeared book and the nearness of tarsals, metatarsals and phalanges. The bong's probably never been in greater danger of spilling it's stank all over their nice wood flooring.

Second and third suggestions as failed as the first, it's only a matter of time before he scrubs at his face and reaches to reacquire the book she picked out for him. Some dry, paper shuffling later, he's managed to find the first page.

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