Communication Breakdown


benji_icon.gif calvin_icon.gif

Scene Title Communication Breakdown
Synopsis Calvin shows up with wine. Benji makes sure he leaves with it.
Date May 21, 2011

Benji's Place

It's small. Cosy, optimistically, with a winding staircase up to the door above a shop that's gone out of business, with FOR LEASE signs taped to the windows and garbage collecting in the gutters. The evening is both humid and dry, and inside the apartment, there's only one light on, a shaded lamp, with the light of the half-crippled city shafting through parted curtains. When there's a knock at the door, Benji pauses what she's doing — which is scraping catfood from a tin into a bowl, with the tuxedo-patterned feline winding around her legs in claiming insistence. With a tap tap of fork against the side of the can, it's tossed into the garbage can beneath the sink, the food placed down, and water run swiftly over hands to rid them on the smell of fish and whatever else goes into distinctly unappetising food that Selina is immediately wolfing down.

Moving through the living area is a bit of a winding chore, with the sofa taken up as someone's sleeping pad as opposed to somewhere to sit down, a low coffee table, a blanket spread out as makeshift rug on the floor kept clean with bare feet leaving indents in the soft surface as she makes for the door. It's a good enough place to be oneself, and the woolen blend of blue skirt is comfortable, heavy, a few inches above bare ankles. The grey sweater is soft, round necked, the St. Jude pendant on its chain worn for safekeeping as opposed to impressing anyone.

It could be any number of people on the other side of the door. Benji half expects it to be Rue Lancaster, or Kincaid Russo. Maybe Hannah has forgotten her keys. The handle is twisted, the portal opened by a hand's length of inches.

Calvin is casually dressed down in a black field jacket and dark jeans, bare, bony feet splayed and clawed draconic against the cement stoop that he is standing on. Because he is who is on the other side, left hand flattened pre-emptively to the open door to stay any sudden impulse there might be to slam it shut in his face. The right wields a bottle of wine.


His mane's been shorn off short near the shoulder, cleaner cut and better cared for; the arrogant arcs and angles of his already haughty cheek and brow and jaw lines are better defined. His anchor beard is finely trimmed and his focus is clear and he is looking



hard at Benji from within the circles bruised in dark around his eyes.

Benji's hands compulsively lock rigid on where they handle the door, and Calvin feels the automatic pressure of it pushing closed, only to stall at the sense of push back. This is given up on quick enough, guiltily enough, and ice blue eyes sweep a stare up and down the man at the door. But there is nothing much more disturbing there than the hard stare Benji is getting, which is equally hard to meet. But manages okay at it, even as she shrinks against the door, letting it shield at least some of her, and even as she blanches pale beneath scattered freckles.

She also isn't inviting Calvin inside.

Lucid in a kind of terrible way, Calvin measures shrink back and blanch alike without blinking. Irises flick and contract to account for relevant minutae in body language and color, everything else about him still for a brittle, splintery moment where it seems like he might fall upon Benji like one've the animals he takes after.

The muscle in his bicep belts and buckles down against increased pressure, there. Going nowhere. The door is open, now. It's too late.

"You look nice," he says, finally, once he's confident that words will come out of him the way he intends for them to. Mostly. His grip on wine's slender neck bites bloodless after a beat. "May I come in?"

Down the same vein, Benji seems prepared to act in much the same way, only more prey, as if she could leap aside and take off running given half a chance. But Calvin is in the way and the hallways is narrow, claustraphobic in low, sloping ceiling, the shallow stairs. Frozen in place instead, she darts a look to the wine, back up again. "You too," is offered, crisper than she means it to come out. She withdraws from the door, leaving it open for Calvin to enter through and close again as he may, and starts making her way up the stairs, not many in these cramped floors, to where it opens up into her modest, usually shared apartment.

Usually. She makes her way up, steps careful and measured, at first. Then picking up some pace, imagining locked doors, medicine cabinets, cellphones, fire escapes. And former alliances, too. A hand gripping heavy wool-blend skirt so as not to trip, she moves, stepstepstep, and paranoid of the man at her back — visible in the tense set of shoulders.

Calvin closes the door after himself as is polite, lock felt over and turned after a second's thought that leaves him half a step further behind than he should be. Giving her space, one way or another, to scale up as she will ahead of him after a wooden bat or canister of mace stashed close round the corner.

He even meters his step when it seems like he might gain on her, slowing his pace when she nears the crest.

It would be good, not to panic, and to think clearly. But there seem to be only a few seconds to work with regarding what to do next, even with the delay that Calvin is giving her — a gesture Benji doesn't even notice as she reaches the top of the stairs and disappears into the apartment. She veers off left, out of sight.

A black woolen coat is quiet target of perusal after a darting glance for a hanging gun harness proves it to be empty. A hand dips into empty pocket, tries to silently turn it over to delve into the other in however many fleeting seconds she has.

Only Benji would forget where she put her firearm in the middle of having her castle stormed.

This, Calvin reflects to himself upon reaching the top of the stairs, which he has to do sooner or later. Inexorably. There's no reason to go back down. The door is closed. He locked it.

Eye makeup applied with a smeary, charcoal thickness that does more to contribute to shadows than it does detract, he watches the search's shuffling tail end heavy-lidded and quiet. Courteously waiting for her to find it or succumb to embarrassment.

There is no gun.

That may be a good thing for either person in the room.

There is a private wince for the sound of creaking footstep on the floor before Benji is fully ready for it, the small item slipped up into a sleeve in tiny, demure movements of fingers rather than arms, stepping back from the coat with hands clasped together. Embarrassment, as predicted, could possibly be read of the bow of her head, and the small glance backwards that follows the turn of her body. The cling of wool is too fine and firm for anything like a pistol to be hidden, and blanch pale is being replaced by creeping pink.

"What do you want?"

A lean that might've rolled on into an advance stays itself when Calvin's eyes catch glittery pale on clasped hands. Something in the gesture or. The air it carries with it. He hesitates, hackles twitched and stayed despite the way his stare lingers slantily down and the wine bottle weighs at his shoulder. He should set it down somewhere.

So he does. Plonk. Plants it on the first piece of furniture within reach of the top of the stairs where he is standing.

He doesn't answer immediately.

And when he does, it's not much of an answer at all.

"You could've said 'no.'" Touch. He touches at the corked bottle's mouth, eyes drifting sideways after it. "'No Calvin you may not come into my home.'"


Moving away from the coat and the door, drifting farther into the apartment, Benji keeps hands folded in demure gesture and posture. She hasn't cut her hair since arriving in 2010, save for small maintenance snips, and by now brushes an inch or two above her shoulders in inkier rat-tail waves. Healthier than she was when on the island — all of her is, in fact, skin and attentiveness and cleanliness. "But if I did that, then you might obey and leave, disappear, and then where would we be?"

Arms at her sides again, a loose grip on over-long sleeves, and a sharp stare is meant to drill home her prior question.

"Having a coffee," Calvin answers earnestly for his half, leaner and meaner than memory implies he should be. He's never been hollow in the face, softness and roundness stripped away now to leave hatred and hunger laid bare down the sheer dropoff of his cheek. No combination of inside voice and casually slack shoulders can completely mask restless, violent ambition the way a touch of extra weight might have in months past.

Idle hands touch after the wine bottle a third time until he finally catches his own fidget and rankles away, right hand worked in upon itself and silvery eyes turned elsewhere. "You know what I want."

A glance tracks after fidget as well, and the evasive stare, and the differences laid starker in plain light. Benji shakes her head, to silently deny that she knows anything of the kind.

"An apology? Or vice versa?" The guess is spoken lightly, but there's a waver in its lift, the same way the smile that goes with it is weak. Steeling herself, she completes the arc she was pacing, veering it for him in slow and tentative steps, until she's close enough that she can touch a fingertip to the wine bottle where he'd been reaching after it just prior. It's his throat her eyes settle on, before gaze skitters up his profile. "A glass?"

A huff of exasperated breath is remarkably subdued in the way of negative answers. The bizarreness of it, maybe, in the scheme of things, catches him off guard. Apologies hardly a shiver on the priority richter scale: the thought hadn't crossed his mind. That he might want one or that Benji might offer.

It's far enough from what he meant to evoke mild frustration in a downward twitch of his brows and a look still further away. His adjustment for her approach is near unconscious meanwhile — a widening of his stance and an angle of his shoulders that isn't quite open.


The hand placed against the wine bottle is lax — the one gripping closed her sleeve and the concealed syringe is much tenser, enough to create white points on her knuckles, tucked against her thigh, and the last physical manifestation of fear. Frustration is mirrored by frustration, Benji's head tipping as if to try and seek out eye contact, even though it had blazed openly downstairs. "Well, they're in the kitchen," she says, without moving to go retrieve them. That burned metal scent is something Calvin's carries over from dream to waking — the jasmine motif does as well but more like stale incense in the air than an instrinsic part of Benji.

Apology was the wrong thing to say, and she can see that enough in reaction, working fast to read him. It's the translation that's difficult. Real life is hard. "Calvin?"

That clinging, acrid stink is something Calvin's more than adjusted to at this point. The taste of it on the roof of his mouth hardly registers. He doesn't notice when it isn't there, or wonder after it thick in the heap of his clothes when he's doing laundry. Or paying someone else to do it for him.

Meanwhile well, they're in the kitchen, coaxes forth further well, why don't you go and get them irritation and a chilly look head on to go with it. Is he really so terrifying that she can't make herself turn her back for that long? Jeezus.

Shrill blue eye contact's slid away again slick by the time he finally fidgets with a sleeve and bites out an impatient, "What?" Tired. Threadbare. Off his game. The way people tend to get when they aren't sleeping well or often, for whatever reason.

Getting snapped at, most of the time, achieves submission. This time, it sparks rare temper — understated and more ice than fire, Benji's gaze taking on glacial sharpness. She's been mad at him before to the point of hands trembling, but not while he was in the same room, and she's all the way still at the moment. Disbelief exhales thinly through her nose. "You released a virus with a 90% mortality rate," she says, her voice quiet, as ever whispery to disguise the deeper tones it would otherwise naturally take — but no less edged. "You turned us into villains or at best, something to stop. You encourage the war. You tricked Delia into staying away from the one safe place in New York and now she lives in America's Warsaw.

"And I'm still here," and her smile isn't weak or fake, but exasperated, rueful, "hoping that you've come to make things better. Because I like you. Very much."

Yes. Calvin has done those things, and while there's nothing of pride to streamline the way he's looking unimpressed down his nose at her while charges are steeped against him, there's nothing that looks very much like shame either. Nothing on the list comes as a surprise to him. He doesn't flinch or recoil or cringe. He doesn't even tense when his eyes flicker down cool after the tendon showing white across the back of Benji's hand.

And back up again, smooth as before.

It is what it is.

"Everything I've done," he wagers evenly and at length, "has been reactionary. And necessary."

If the hood of his brow has gone a touch resentfully terse at implications of liking him very much — well. The timing is such that the turn of phrase at fault shouldn't be difficult to discern.

It's not surprising. Disappointingly. Sharp stare dulls in the event of seeing resentment at admission, unfocuses, then rolls before Benji tucks in her chin and says miserable nothing, that same anxiety that hasn't dwindled or spiked, only maintained, still simmering below the surface. "Really," is what does make it out. Fucking with each others' families seems unnecessary, distinctly. Dragging a look back to Calvin, head tilted loose on her neck.

The curl of former smile is still visible at the corner of her mouth, but fails to signify warmth. Left there from the last attempt. Eyes hooded enough to reduce stare to chilly, ice-water crescents. "Then no. I don't know." Besides the propofol-based concoction ready and waiting and too <adjective> to use it. Scared. Conflicted.

Calvin does Benji the dubious courtesy of thinking on it a moment, path of destruction traced back mentally however many steps until he's certain his original posit is correct. Reactionary and necessary.

Check and check.

Although there's some persistent doubt as to whether or not he's made enough of an impression re: that bit about families.

If Delia is in Eltingville that should make her easy to find.

He tips his head, answering yes, really and acknowledging a gap in comprehension or understanding in the same slow shift of his weight back and aside into a promise of imminent departure.

Calvin takes a step back.

So Benji takes two steps forward.

A hand flies out to cling onto the hem just beneath the lapel of Calvin's coat, a wait caught in her throat without actually manifesting fully. It's a problem. In good conscience, she can't let the man just walk out, not with his righteousness, his ambitions, his certainty that mass murder is somehow the way to work. It wars with the desire to let him make his point and leave her alone, to dial in a phonecall to someone who won't get here fast enough, but it's not like she didn't. Try. The grip is one of those that could be as dislodged as easy as a clinging vine, physicality not being something that comes natural.

The plastic cap of the needle doesn't hit the ground before sharp tip is coming up, a decent inch of length with the intent to sink through wool, cotton, flesh of the meat in Calvin's upper arm, the motion as precise as it is almost casual in its swiftness. Benji doesn't look at what she's doing, favouring eye contact.

For all that it's eye contact and the free hand that initiate assault, Calvin passes both by with drilled precision to snatch across himself after the needle-wielding wrist instead. He's lazily graceful in his way — a lot of women have been trying to surprise slap the stuffing out've him lately for some reason, seems like — shoulder flexed back in the same motion that nails wrist to wall overhead and the rest of her soon-as his left hand's snared itself up nice in the front of her sweater and shoved. One-two, thonk-thunk, wrist and then back and him hot against her, bony pelvis fitted to — bony pelvis.

Dust stirs free of the ceiling.

Breathing a little too hard through his nose to look as bored as he'd like, he resumes osprey eye contact at uncomfortably close range, grip not yet rough enough to bruise. "But mum," he grates, quietly and through his teeth, "I'm not tired."

Silent until her back finds the wall, then comes a shock of a squeak and a wince that shows ivory white teeth. Benji's hand grips a tight fist around the needle biting nothing but air, the sedative still fully loaded despite a tense rest if thumb against plunger in too-late preparation. Her free hand lands splayed against his shoulder, eyes squeezed closed against close range stare as her heart kicks up its thunder, breathing coming thin through her nose, jaw taut. Body language is felt rather than seen, predictably tense, favouring shrinking back into the wall rather than the weight that keeps her there.

Eyes snap open again when words rumble beneath Benji's hand, heard. Fingers clench into Calvin's coat.

"Really," she says, again. That tone of voice where she doesn't think so. Also tight between sharp, shallow breaths. "You look very tired." Arm tenses its angle, hand pushing Calvin, the other wrist twisting to free itself.

Partway into something that bears suspicious resemblance to a nuzzle, Calvin stiffens out again when she tenses and wrests against him, steely Deckard muscle and iron Sheridan will. Too close and too heavy for a shot at his nads, if that's what she'd been thinking — the thought crosses his mind anyway, and he grinds harder into her more business-like than sexy-like, checking himself before he wrecks himself with a fleeting glance down after that roaming hand to make sure.

There is a gun under his coat, counter-intuitively. She can probably feel that too, for all that he hasn't reached for it. Traveling prepared. His muffled, "S'not nice to tell people that," sounds distracted in the midst of their wrestling. It takes him a solid beat or two of relative stillness to feel secure, her arm and wrist and syringe twisted up over her head enough to ache at the joints without wrenching anything out've wack.

"Now," he says. Very reasonably, he feels. Nnnow. "If you were me, in my position," in case there's any confusion, "what do you think I would do with you?"

The latest twist given suspended arm has Benji's stilling again, head bumping back against the wall as the fight drains away or at least is postponed. As established, she has no gun. No wooden bat or even shoes on her feet to stomp, only a silver necklace and a syringe above her head leaking a droplet of sedative. She should empty it, but hope springs eternal, stubborn. The corners of her eyes are taking on water, too, threatening to blur out the details she can see this closer, spurs her to look away, twisting a look aside and head tucked against the arm pinned against the wall, the crook of her elbow.

There's a harsh, near voiceless huff of a laugh at the question. "So now he wants my instruction," she says, voice at a flutter in her throat, betraying fear, bristling anger. "Better later than never. I suppose, Mister Sheridan, that depends on what you're afraid of."

Again, after a stir of frustration lying latent beneath the muscles in his face, Calvin gives some thought before he answers, breathing settled into a softer holding pattern in the intervening space. Firm. Not relaxed, necessarily, but less dangerously tense in his restraint.

"You," is earnest as it is succinct, brows canted in half-apology after further thought fails to come up with much've anything else and his eyes veer back onto her. Everything else is just —

There's an implied shrug in the ingenuousness that's cast itself blank through the long planes of his face.

Tension lessens in kind — pinning Benji in place is a little less like holding onto a squirming feline ready to scratch at the tiniest allowance, leaning against the wall. Lacking relaxation, all the same, couldn't force herself to do that if she tried. There's a warm glow of colour flushing slow and high from jaw to cheekbone. It's in her best interest not to answer that honestly. It's also dangerous to drop needles, but that's what she does after a few counts of a pause — a flick of fingers has the syringe flung from her hand, skittering on solid floor and rolling off to snug up against where the wall meets the ground.

Hand empty, it slackens, fingers loose in a curl to palm, and Benji blinks hard before looking back at Calvin, head rested on wall, still breathing shallow, heart still thudding away. The answer of what she might do in Calvin's position will have to be inferred.

The syringe's flight is rewarded with a glance down after its trajectory and a slack at his grip up high. Enough for her twist out and slap him easily while he catches the last of his breath.

Considering his various inclinations leaving his options open-ended or to the imagination might seem unwise, but he seems on the verge of collecting himself to go again, eyes ringed unholy blue for as long as it takes him to sweep around for backup needles god-knows-where. If she has one…

She probably has more. Stashed somewhere. But not in easy reach.

For a couple of short, wavery breaths, Benji watches him look around with tension hiking back up as readily coiled as a mouse trap, study both watery and needling. A pause, before her arm is pulled back down, slides free of slack grip, and as if frightened by her own audacity, shoving is renewed. Hands plant against Calvin's shoulder and chest, a panicky push away to lever herself from between him and the wall, half-stumbling, and making no move for the dropped syringe. Or the bottle of wine.

Calvin lists back from pushing escape with another glance down and a rankle, bare toes curled in and spine straight. That's all. No further pursuit, though — he does crouch after needle and cap to connect and pocket them both as if for later, left hand hooked in under his jacket to adjust the sit of his holster there.

The shirt underneath says PRIMAL in blocky grey print, lettering scuffed and cracked from the number of washings it's survived since they came back.

From there, short of being tackled and placed in a headlock, leaving is as simple a matter as wandering windingly for the stairs and then down them.

He is allowed to go in peace, Benji disinclined to call out anything after him — only the click of the door that seals off the stairwell from the apartment, locked with metal. A weekend project might be exploring more wooden options. It isn't raining, once outdoors. At least, not conventionally.

Far enough that it isn't deadly, it may be startling when the bottle of shiraz he'd brought with him is reintroduced once he's stepped out into the open — it's flung from somewhere up above and hits the curb, splitting into a million glittering pieces and a splash of deep scarlet alcohol that froths in its spatter, rushing into gutter and reduced to wet and glass shards. There's the whine of window hinges, the click of it shutting, and the swoosh of curtains before ~whoever~ threw the thing can be seen guilty.

Calvin flinches like a dog biting at its own back, shoulders hunched and bared teeth twisted around at attempted assault and insult alike. But he doesn't stop and he doesn't come back, either. He is leaving, progress down the sidewalk stuttered but not stayed. Back to Midtown.

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