Corporal Punishment


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Scene Title Corporal Punishment
Synopsis Other reunions might involve hugs. Or muffins.
Date April 18, 2011

Central Park

It's getting late when Calvin finally sinks himself onto a wrought iron bench in the big C P, collar turned out and tie wrung loose about his neck. The sun's sunk low behind the gaptoothed horizon, leaving the sky to lose the last of its dusky blush and dying purple smudged across the flare of his shirt and one sleeve near black in a wash of fading oranges and blues. He looks as though he has just finished up having wicked sex in a dark alleyway somewhere and smells like it too, tobacco and alchohol combo not quite enough to stifle stale sweat and. Less stale sweat.

The long tail of his coat drags soft in the wind while he waits, knees set wide and cigarette mostly smoking itself. A vacant brush of his free hand sorts his fresh-trimmed mane back into some sense of order.

He's hard to miss.

Ambulation. Perambulation. Peregrination. A sequence of synonyms, matching the pace of their first referent, walking. Which is what you do in a park. Which is what Isabella does in this park. Central park. Of the Emerald Necklace. The biggest, grandest. The Cullinan.

Living in the moment is a kind of meditative mental illness. Eyes focused on the paving just before the tapered points of her shoes, which glitters in the white electric lamplight. Is it wind against her fingers, or just the quickness of her tread? Are the leaves moving?

There's a fleck of orange, out of season in spring. And then everything returns and Bella is here to meet someone and that someone is right there. Her pace slows, has she been seen? She doesn't want to be seen until she's ready to be seen. And when will she be ready? Never sounds reasonable. She would prefer not to.

But she must. Back up to speed. Clasping her purse before her like a ward, her coat is long, but not long enough to cover the hem of her slacks. She's come suited, you see. Ready for battle, complete with merciless black beret. Eyes narrowed, words primed in the avid whirl of her forebrain.

"This took long enough."

Calvin appears to be entirely unguarded in lazy turn, familiar black coat worn tatty about the seams over the crisper rumple of his dress shirt. Waistcoat. Jeans. Makeup. He is comfortable in the April breeze, alone on his bench with a cigarette and the composite stink he drifts around in like a painting these days. Acrid metal bite not the least of his signature stench, he has arranged for the dubious(?) courtesy of vaguely grape-scented swisher smoke to buff the edge off of what he's been up to in the last hour or so.

Should she opt to alight next to him. Which —

he looks her over

— does not seem likely.

"Five days? Six?" He seems unapologetic, unpromisingly, cigarillo paused partway through a drag that he finishes with a very deliberate kind of procrastination.

"A lot shorter than the eight and a half months I could've made you wait to meet me."

She doesn't sit.

"One thing," Bella wishes to make abundantly clear, "you may be my son, under strictly biological criteria. But I am not your mother," the precision of her words both suggests rehearsal, and that she is too on edge to hide it, "the fact that you have left whatever-" the ghost of a grimace, "timeline you are from, and the changes you've made, are manifest proof of that."

She'd like to close her eyes, but she's not about to break eye contact for more than a blink. Her fear is strange, its restrictions superstitiously arbitrary, but she is not about to argue with herself right now. She needs to ally her disparate components. "You've caused me a lot of grief. You've frightened me. And now- this," a swish of a hand, back and forth between them, "leaves me with a lot of questions. I'd like you to answer them. I think that is pretty reasonable."

Are you then, Bella puts to Calvin, a reasonable person?

Calvin grins at her. A little show of teeth hyena white cast up at the necessary angle to compensate for her reluctance to join him on his bench, which he's (generously) only occupying a third of at most. She wouldn't have to touch him if she sat. But he doesn't press the issue. Past that initial look up and down, he doesn't even acknowledge it, content to lounge and smoke and hear her out without actually listening.

There is an air about him, naked as it is insidious in the glassy glint in his eye and the crook of his smile, that he feels he's being courteous by giving her this time to stare him down and tell him the way things are. A happy splay of his toes in his boots goes unseen in all but the subtlest squeeze at his shoulders. An invisible self hug. He is enjoying himself.

His silence, meanwhile, is clearly meant to be taken for inquiring agreement. An unspoken go ahead, then while he drags, eyes wide with exaggerated curiosity.

"Jesus fucking Christ, you're honestly going to make me ask you every single question?" Bella's voice grows strained, nearly asthmatic, at the peak of her emphasis, "you choose now to go taciturn?" Her mouth draws into a taut line. She's restraining herself. Barely.

When, she wonders, did it get this hard to keep her temper? A question she ought to try and hold on to, for later. If she remembers. If.

"Explain, in detail sufficient to satisfy my curiosity, why you are here, and why - exactly - you wanted to avert your own conception." The first bullet point, suggesting a list of demands.

"Well — yes," says Calvin, who is at least 'surprised' enough to look convincingly incredulous when her first question is about the manner in which questions are generally posed. Via asking. "That's how questions work for us non-psychic dregs, I think."

Ha ha.


He doesn't laugh, just parts his teeth where one might go and fills them with the filter of his smoke instead, one long leg lifted and crossed carefully over the other while he watches her temper fray further still.

"Mmmmy goodness. I feel like I'm trying to get back into school all over again," clashes a bit defensively with the agreement to answer her that might've been implicit in his (previously) inviting silence. He's closing in on the end of his cigarillo too, papers drawn back nearly to the aforementioned filter when he spills smoke out through his sinuses one last time and stifles the remainder into his arm rest. "Well, assuming you haven't got pencil and paper in your purse, I'll summarize by saying I am here to make the world a better place for my kind," his kind, "and that I averted my existence because you are my mother," one last little dab of ash is brushed off into the wind before he lays his arm back across the rest, "and I love you."

In a use now archaic, 'to compose' involved a monarchal act of settlement, the cessation of a dispute via authoritative intervention. And with faith that such a position within oneself can even exist, naive though such a supposition might be, Bella calls for - if not and 'inner peace' - at least an inner ceasefire.

In short, she composes herself.

So then, if not a psychic - "What precisely is it that you do? And what precisely are you doing-" no, she thinks better of it, "what do precisely to you mean men you say 'a better place'? And what kind of love is it that motivated you to keep this from me for however long you've been here working for the benefit of 'your kind'?" scare quotes distance due to distaste, "whatever that means."

And about his assumption? Bella reaches into her purse and pulls out a spiral bound pad of paper and a fine pen, beetle sheen green and brass. Both are offered in a single hand, extended with locked elbow and bent back. "I am sure you have the time to explain properly - or you ought to make it, seeing as it's taken you this long."

"And, please, write legibly."

Oh. Look.

She does — have. Pencil and paper. Okay, so, then, Calvin reaches to take them as offered, corrected as he stands (sits). Accomodating. Following directions, at least insofar as the pad is concerned: after being sure to brush his hand to hers in the transaction, he flops it open to a blank sheet and promptly tips the leading edge back to where she cannot see what he is writing. And he is.


Coarse hair tossed light in the evening wind, brow turned down in concentration. "I was asked not to come forward despite petitioning repeatedly for outright honesty," he says after etching out a few scratchy lines of god-knows-what, persistently unruffled by her love affair with empty imperatives. "You love your parents, don't you? I know you aren't a complete psychopath, despite all demonstrative efforts to the contrary."

The brush of his hand against hers earns a slight tightening at the corners of her mouth and nothing more. He wants to get a rise out of her, this Bella believes by now, but she also believes that it is not a threat. Or need not be experienced as such. If she is to him, on some active emotion level, his mother, than this not intimidation. This is insolence.

Or so she can suppose, imagining what he must see, seeing her- but she can't, not really, imagine it. Just guess, extrapolating a life-long relationship with someone she doesn't know. Bad science.

"And did you love my parents?" not dignifying, since she's the one asking the questions, "did you know them? You know everything about everything that I don't. A brief chronology would, at least, let me know just whose future shadow I'm living under."

"Asked by whom?" Bella presses, further. Before she forgets, really. Before the opportunity to chase after that - pointedly sparse! - inference disappears.

"I'd like to've known them better," says Calvin, who is almost certainly sketching rather than writing, now. "I spent a lot've time out of town?" You know? Bella's pen hatches back and forth quick quick across unseen canvas to an unseen (but determined) end.

"Maybe I'll pay them a visit."

Can't help it — the thought makes him grin again. A small one this time. Leering and private. Really meant to be shared only with the notepad, for all that she's exposed to it on the sidelines anyway.

And, after a pause and a scratch at an itch buried somewhere in his bristly dreads, he snares the page he's been scribbling on out of its binding, crumples it in his fist and casts it carelessly aside to start again. "Clark Kent," is not a very helpful answer. The only hint contained therein is buried in a bitter turn in tone of voice while he resumes his work.

Since her idyllically figured childhood, Bella has resented when things are discussed beyond her reach. Adult conversation, carrying on at its casuo-serious register of reference and connotation, presented itself as the most bald faced and insulting of secrets - the public one. Indignant as only a only girl child can be, a then-oranger head would frown up at faces above. Demand in each simple, clean line of her expression, each inflection of five intrusive words. 'What are you talking about?' Because to the tiny solipsist, the only truthful answer is 'you'.

Similarly, her adult dislike of lapses into, say, French. Or grins she can only and immediately imagine are spread at her expense. These things do not deplete her patience, so much as circumvent it entirely.

Her eyes track the arc of the crumpled paper, all the way down to its resting place on the ground, in the province of neglect. And now, with less fluster, more implicit warning. "Do you intend to do anything besides waste my time?"

"I donno," says Calvin, who produces a pair of hard-edged glasses from the depths of his coat and sets them on his nose for long enough to resemble her more closely in the depths of his artistic expression. He's more serious with them on, either via optical illusion or because she's finally wearing on his already thin patience enough for it to show in crow's feet and osprey eyes.

"Do you intend to do anything besides list demands you know I won't comply with?"

There's a taut stretch of silence while he scratches pen to paper with a touch of excess force, and then, reasonably:

"You're nice to Amadeus."

It's of no particular strategic value to upset him. Bella's motivations are on a much lower, and much higher level - it is a matter of simple retaliation, both vengeance and principle. And nothing about his lineage suggests a serene temper.

"Trust me," Bella's voice has experienced a cold snap, "I had no idea you'd be so-" but what he is, she can't produce a word for. A series of inadequate adjectives rotate around an unfillable spot. A species of obstinacy named Calvin.

So she jumps to another name. "Amadeus is a nitwit!" as if this explains everything, "He's easy to handle. You-" she jabs her finger, "have much better genes."

"My DNA is adequate," Calvin 'agrees,' in the plainest terms possible, charm off like a lamp in the face of cold snap and self-flattery alike, "for what I intend to accomplish." It's getting dark to be drawing, but a street lamp has switched on along a walk somewhere in his periphery and he tilts the pad to take advantage of it. Focused.

He's more closed and quiet than he has been, tangentally or as a result of the abrasive path of their conversation so far. Hard to tell. There are a couple of little lines bit in between his brows that have more to say, but without decent frame of reference, the overall theme is best translated as distaste. Or more generalized unhappiness.

Or unhappy distaste.

"And might I at least know what you mean by that? In terms that might actually satisfy my curiosity?" Bella remains rather insensitive of Calvin's feelings, not dignifying what she has designated a pout, or some pout-equivalent. She is of a mind to be ruthless, as tends to be the case when she is unhappy.

She wonders, briefly, if the lines she is drawing on her face trace paths that would become familiar to him, and well settled.

"Why would you ever do this to yourself?" is less strident than it is astounding. She takes a single step closer, eyes lunging maybe a little prematurely towards the page he's drawing upon.

"You'll learn when everyone else does, I imagine."

Sooner if she pays close enough attention and is of a suitably suspicious mind towards the media. Which he declines to specify, obviously, notepad tilted back in towards himself to correct for whatever degrees are gained by her advance. However slight.

A speculative glance measures out whether or not she'll be able to peep if he continues and determines that she won't, after a moment or two. He resumes his work. "Do what to myself?"

"All of this. You nearly witnessed your own conception for Christ's sake! You evidently have issues regarding- whoever it is you remember me as. You're not a stupid man. Why subject yourself to that? To any of this?" Bella's brows lift, expression prettily piteous, "why subject me to this?"

She can only just barely forgive herself for what she says next, and Bella is nothing if not self-magnanimous. "If you love me, why are you hurting me?"

"Were you anyone else, I might doubt your capacity to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the favor I've done you," says Calvin, who pushes smoothly and suddenly to his feet to address her from a more intimidating (insolent?) angle where he has a height advantage to press. His sordid sort of — miasma rises with him. Incriminating. He holds the notebook close to himself. Pen too. Physically defensive, in the feline, awayward angle of his shoulders and the wide set of his boots.

"So far as I'm concerned I've fucking fixed the problem. You're the one pursuing me in search of deeper explanation. Or apology."

The latter in particular seems to evoke bitter bafflement in addition to extant aggravation.

"You don't treat people like this," Bella states, with the gravitas of an ethical maxim, staring up at him without budging so much as an inch, "I cannot imagine what was done to you to make you behave in such a way," the corners of her lips twitch, sourmouthed, but do not stick, "do you want an apology? You gave me that number; you waited long enough, but you're here. You must still want something."

She's been keeping it together, she thinks. All things considered in a totally fair and absolutely objective and non-judgmental light. Bella permits a spike of anger, expressed in what is just slower than a snatch at the notebook. "Give me that."

"No," Calvin does not want a fucking apology. He's indignant that she'd think so, frustration bitten deep into the bridge of his nose under his glasses. "How pathetic do you think I am?" he thinks (and demands aloud before he can further think not to), oddly, acridly emphatic and with a timely twist of his near shoulder to block her progress for the notebook with his arm.

"Jesus Christ." Coat re-settled with a restless shrug of his shoulders, he eyes her not-quite sideways. On the alert. Hardly blinking, lest she make a more aggressive snatch for her book while he preens at his lapels and collar in quiet turn. "I don't want anything from you. I was told you were upset so I returned your call, willingly delivering myself over into this fucking bullshit — interrogation," the bench at his back pulses dimly along with his temper, resonant hum low key and constant.

"You can't bully me. You can't do much've anything to anyone who can see your fucking strings."

Bella's smile, first of the evening, is hard and bright, and while it does not look forced or false, it does look maybe a little painful, the expression matching whatever weird and not wholly pleasant blend of neurotransmitters that currently govern the otherwise-invisible interactions of her brain.

"And I have no idea as to your pathos because I have no idea who you are beyond a second rate field agent and an insolent little shit. You broke into my home, transgressed every principle of privacy, subjected me to interrogation. You fucked my best friend. If anyone is being served by being here, it is you and whatever satisfaction it provides you to place me in discomfort, whatever particular fantasy of violation you seem intent on fulfilling today."

So no, "I don't find you pathetic. I feel no pity."

There's a beat where Calvin becomes very still and his face falls free of expression in a way that greatly resembles the mechanical deadbolt turn and lock of his (supposed) father's temper, where he has to check that he's heard her properly. Or that she's confident enough to stick to what she's said after seeing the look blank on his face.

Either way, it's a matter of precarious seconds before reason sprints to catch back up with impulse and he shows his teeth: acknowledgement of a near miss. Tired. Queerly congratulatory. Relieved, maybe, that he didn't lunge.

Whatever the case, after the touche, his next intake of breath is as sharp as it is privately dismissive.

"Fine," he says. "Great. Perfect. But I'll be keeping this," her notebook, "if you don't mind. I've been thinking've starting a diary anyway, seeing as it's worked so well for you."

"Please," Bella's tone hits decimal pH, spine ramrod straight as she tries to accentuate what meager height she's got, "consider it a gift. On the sole condition that you contact neither me nor anyone whom I care about again."

There is a giddy thrill that comes from issuing the ultimatum. There is a sharp pain behind Bella's eyes, and exultation. She feels a little sick. Her vision is sharp, though; her head is clear. She's fine.

"If you trouble my doorstep again, I will do what I must. I don't give a shit about how much DNA we share."

"No deal," says Calvin, seriously and with gravitas for all that it's after less than a minute's worth of not-very-careful thought. "I just finished fucking Odessa and I'll likely do it again, seeing as we haven't tried all of the holes out yet. Anyway. The list of people 'whom you care about' is short enough that it's hardly worth haggling over."

Which certainly doesn't stop him from shifting the notebook such that it'd be even harder for her to snatch if she happened to be so inclined.

"Do what you must. I'll see you soon."

This goes too far. By the time he's talking orifices, Bella's face is a drawn mask of anger. She doesn't sound terrifically fearsome, not at the octave she's quavering at, but her cry still cuts through the evening air like a tire smoking on asphalt. Her shoulders go into the swing she makes with her purse, suggesting an improbable weightiness.

Improbable, that is, if you didn't expect there to be a brick inside of it.

It's Calvin's curiosity that gets the better of him. Also: his arrogance. She makes a noise and he squints, holding his ground, already drawn up to be cruel about it at her expense even when the purse swings into its dread arc and he laughs. A simple scoff that's cut off at the first chuff by the impact of a purse-buffered brick against his skull.

It loosens teeth and rings in his ears: to his credit, he manages to stay on foot for a few sketchy milliseconds, like a rifle-struck deer before one of his knees goes crooked and he topples in a staggered heap.

To her credit(?), Bella doesn't lose her fury until Calvin's knee gives out. When he hits the ground, however, the color drains from her face. Her horror is absolute, hands losing their grip on her bludgeon, letting it fall with a sharp clahk! on the pavement. They rise, closed fingered and trembling, to cover her mouth while wide eyes search in terror for some fatal sign, a too-swift spreading dark pool beneath his head.

The next thing she does is as much due to her medical training as her compassion, or regret. On her knees, she reaches out to touch her fingers to his carotid, feeling for the steady ebb of life. Because she isn't- really sure.

But he's alive. So- yes. That- that's probably a good thing.

Bella must avoid going tharn, that she knows. She understands what she's capable of- this is evidence of it. She just needs to keep a. level. head.

Fingers sink into the bag - she hasn't broken her phone has she? Its smooth plastic case felt over, fingertips seeking for new imperfections. When she lifts it out the non-word 'talonesque' enters her head. She flips the phone open, rising to a stand as she dials a number. Something bitter about the tackiness of the 'family reunion' as an idea, as a tradition, as aspect of zietgeist, a snide comment never fully assembled.

She watches him closely, though least raptor-eyed of their nucleus. The slightest stirring will demand immediate action, at least until reinforcements arrive.

Human beings and pinatas have a lot in common when it comes to blunt force trauma: it's hard to tell sometimes how much of an impact will ruin one or the other, but a persistent pounding is almost guaranteed to eventually sort've. Cave things in and make a horrifying mess.

In this case, a mere one blow in, it doesn't take long at all for Calvin to come to, so far as a slack murmur into struggling shoots of grass can be considered as consciousness. His brain sparks into a reset and he swallows, eyes squeezed shut all the harder against pain that hasn't actually registered as itself yet.

He's dropped the notebook, obviously. It's somewhere, aptly, beneath himself.

"Hey," Flint's voice gravels opposite Bella's dialed phone, level and plain. "Everything okay?"

"Oh thank God," Bella starts, "I need your help-" Relief at hearing Flint pick up billows open in the free psychic space created by Calvin's unconsciousness. The immediate problem has been simplified if not yet dealt with, but that's why she's calling in the first pl-

"Oh- oh shit. Shit, he's waking up," lets Flint know he's joining an episode already in progress. Bella's legs tighten with a readiness to do no single thing she can be sure of. "I need your help," is repeated, wasting time, but Bella needs to restart her train of thought over from the beginning after Calvin's stirring derails her, "help with- with a- with moving someone."

But right this moment? "He's on the ground- how can I knock him out again without killing him?" Bella's professional training gives her insight only into the latter half of the injury process; primum non nocere depends on ante nocitum es.

That doesn't mean she can't make educated guesses, though. Bella winds up and delivers a kick to Calvin's stomach, a hard-toed jam of the foot, a technique she hasn't used since elementary school girl's soccer. At which she was quite good, she'll have you know.

Bella grits her teeth as she flexes her toes in her shoe. That hurt more than she had expected. "I'm in Central Park," not terrible specific, but it's certainly a start, "please hurry."

"…," says Flint, who sits up out of his recline across the couch at least enough to prop himself up on an elbow. There's some coarse rustling and a slow push of breath that sounds like a sigh. Or an effort to wake up the rest of the way. What time is it? Why did he fall asleep on the couch? Less important questions manifest in stiffness through the stock of his spine and a sore neck. "Are you hurt?" He scrubs groggily at his eyes and under his nose. Trying to think. Trying to think ~responsibly~. "Where in Central Park?"

Up the rest of the way, feet pressed flat to the floor one after the other. His blanket slithers after them and he stoops automatically to hook it back onto the couch in a grey puddle on his way across the gloomy living room. Halfass conditioning. She doesn't sound hurt.

"You could drug him," falls muffled somewhere around the region of too late, seeing as she's already put her shoe into gut.

Closer by, Calvin clenches and goes slack again, air pushed clean out've his lungs at a blood-speckled onfhsh or something of that nature. His glasses are broken and he's getting grass stains on his coat. Life is hard.

"Search him for weapons. Tie him up if you can. I'm on my way."

She's taken to replaying Calvin's pre-concussion words like a nightmare mantra in her head. Like a pump driving up her bile, each revolution of the 'awful things Calvin said' helps her reaffirm her previous assertion: no pity.

Pitiless, then, Bella stands over the wilting of Calvin's weakly blooming consciousness. Her foot hurts. Her ears are ringing and she's not sure exactly why. Life is hard for a Sheridan in the city.

"I don't have any drugs," Bella replies, much sharper than she had intended; it's just that he needs to give her useful advice, okay? "Nothing that will work at least." Emergency midol and the joint in the purse's lining - which she will later find, badly mangled by the corner of the brick - will alleviate rather than aggrieve.

"I'm-" a quick proximity check, "somewhere in-" looking for landmarks and- "I'm- I'm- I think it's west of the ice rink?" And when she's answered this question, she's forced to think about implementing his advice. Looking down at Calvin. Search for weapons. Tie up. If she can. Can she?

"Just hurry," sounds more thankful than the words alone would suggest, sighingly so. She ends the call, closing that attention-releasing aperture. Turning her mind to the task on hand.

The belt of her coat secure his wrists behind his back, while Bella's own weight pins his shoulders to the ground - a pressure she eases occasionally just to make sure he can breath, in the (unlikely) case that kick did some diaphragmatic damage - as she perches to draw the knot tight.

It's a little creepy, perhaps, how the tendon-bound talons of Calvin's hands are familiar, half-curled and forced across each other behind his back as they are. Softened, of course, by genetic blending and lighter labor: the left has recent scarring slashed across the palm in addition to a scattering of pale nicks about his knuckles.

In any case, he makes no effort to wrest away, corpus shifted beneath her only as her weight allows. After a time his breathing takes a shallower turn and his eyes slice open and he simply lies there. Resigned.

When she is quite sure that his hands will be up to no mischief, Bella turns in place, keeping herself as a weight on his back, heels lining up before her, bent knees jutting perpendicular to Calvin's recumbent axis. She stares out into the swelling umbra of night, feeling the jut of Calvin's elbows in her backside. It is all more than a little creepy, and she'd rather not think too hard about it. So she talks instead, addressing him without looking at him.

"You're going to be quiet when he gets here. You're going to let me explain. If you don't, I will hit you again," one arm straightens, indicating the brick specifically, the purse generally, one sitting within the other, just a lean and reach away, "with that."

Enough of her shock ebbs for her to add: "I trust these are- demands you will comply with?"

Privately, Calvin is wondering how other reunions are going around the city. They might involve hugs. Or muffins. Sympathy, understanding, intrigue.

"I'm a time traveller from the future and my mother is on top of me with a brick her purse," he tells the ground, ignoring her as well as he can while feeling very much like a twenty-five cent mechanical pony ride at a convenience store. Blood wells from a cut across the side of his nose, split glasses agleam in the grass nearby.

"She hasn't told m'father yet but I don't think he'll mind."

"Thank you for the plot summary," Bella says, further descending from the vaporous heights, precipitating back into the situation with some assistance from those beneath her, "I think you're on to something with that prediction." She reaches up to knead her temples. That pain behind her eyes has returned, now without the cotton cushion of her disconnection.

So she distracts herself. "Why did you major in- whatever it is you majored in? Or did you? Are you actually a forensic anything? Whatever- lie if you'd like. It's hardly relevant." Dismissal doesn't quite hide the sullen hue of resentment, the evidential display of her uncaring.

We do not stand for sentimental horseshit in this family. That is not the Sheridan way.

"Sociology," Calvin answers at length. Similarly sullen. He sounds honest, at least in that he doesn't sound like he is lying to bait her. Granted, any special inflection he might manage is impeded by the fact that she's sitting on him.

"I wasn't allowed to do art."

His fingers twitch and one wrist turns, discomfort wrung in pins and needles up the wires strung through his forearm.

"Or science."

Hard science, he must mean, with beakers and test tubes and people locked up in warehouses with needles in their arms. "Forensic analysis is an easy con with a basic understanding of terminology, chemistry and the preparation of evidence. Also, crime."

Bella accepts 'science' without modifier. Even psychologists don't consider sociology a science. That said, they are decidedly more politically conscious than most research psychologists, those drab cognitivists whose only truck is with the normal and normative. A brief wonder - did this opinion of hers last long enough to be repeated to Calvin? If she made this observation aloud, would it sound familiar?

This little insight, delivered with the indignity of truth, draws Bella's eyes over to his face, or at least to his cranio-facial region. "Did you want to do art? To be an -artist-?" The emphasis isn't contemptuous, but rather specific. Since he brought it up, and all. Doing a quick, automatic check for evidence to support such a hypothetical preference, Bella suddenly remembers the notebook playing pea to her perching princess. It's trapped beneath them both right now. Nothing to be done about it.

Only that reminds her of the piece of paper he crumpled and discarded. It rests on ground, a little too far for Bella to reach without getting up off Calvin. She eyes it, trying to judge how much her weight would have to shift if she were to try snagging it with her foot- a calculation wisdom would suggest ought to remain idle.

"I donno," sounds a lot like 'I don't want to talk about this with you,' somehow. Somehow. He presses his cheek deeper into cool earth, mane bristled with bits of grass and dirt beneath her. The park's humidly polluted smell does little to distract from Calvin's less earthly stink, but such are the consequences of hitting a man with a brick and then bouncing around on him. Her shifting even minorly in calculation in regard to his paper is enough to coax an unflattering grunt out of him.

Boredom is a great danger to the intelligent. Calvin's assumed curtain of ignorance cuts off that avenue of engagement, so Bella is left with a rather ferocious need to distract herself, lest her mind fix on things she'd rather not set to work on. She secures her bag-and-bludgeon in one hand, insurance should this operation go south, and then extends one leg, heel clawing at the pavement as she tries to catch and drag Calvin's litter. The benefit of the procedure is that she ends up leaning back more than forward, center of gravity still poised mostly over - let's just call a spade a spade - her captive.

A couple tries and she's got it, knee bending as she pulls the paper back towards herself. The heel of her shoe has doubtless torn it a little, but it was hardly in fine shape to begin with. She straightens back to a more sustainable sit, and tugs the sketch free. Unwrinkling it one-handed, remaining armed, she squints to discern through the chaos of crinkles.

It's a sketch. Rough if not too badly drawn, for all that he didn't put in much time or effort. Two men with their backs to the observer: one with familiar crest of dreads and long coat, the other buzzed clean and sharp, shoulders squared with muscle and feet wide apart. They appear to be standing before a large fire. Or pit of fire.

"I saw a painting," he confesses before she can ask, once she's finished rustling around and making his ribs bend in ways it feels like they shouldn't. His head aches. Worse when he tucks his scruffy chin under, backlit eyes raking slow around in search of her weaponized handbag. "I think it was of me."

"And you decided to reproduce it?" while they were speaking no less - okay, when she was grilling him to no effect. Bella tries to pull the paper's surface taut, to render the image a little better, in case some key detail has been otherwise obliterated.

"A mediated precognition, then," she decides, since what the hell else would it be given the terms of the discussion, given his suspicion and it's necessary companion, doubt, "who's this other man?" The answer may be, truthful or not, another 'I dunno'. But it's certainly worth a try. The odds of a satisfactory reply certainly seem to have gone up since she sat down.

The handbag's straps are still held in Bella's fingers, though now more just because that's where they happen to be - they form nothing that could reasonably be called a clutch.

"A comrade," says Calvin, who has moved on from the purse to watching Bella watching the paper.

There are no greater details because he finished quickly and even carelessly, details rendered lazily at best. A few errant bits of line just from the fire like bones while a sort of ambiant heat begins to radiate itself warm across Bella's right flank and the stink of acrid iron Calvin carries with him sharpens into more of a concentrated pick and prickle at her eyes and sinuses.

Also: the wrought iron bench he started out sitting on has taken to glowing violently at its core, volcanic orange to matte black wavering under its own heat when he rolls stiffly under her weight and wrenches it apart. Warped metal shrieks and moans in turn, resonant thrum chattering clenched teeth when the misshapen Thing its become has plowed (or corralled, calculating for the influences of adrenaline and fear reflex respectively) her off of him.

The smell Bella had made nothing of. Just the ill humors of the night, clamoring as humors like to. But when she finds her eyes tearing, her nostrils flaring in unbidden protest, that's when she's forced to consider what it might mean.

Not that this takes very much work. Her suddenly unsettled seating gives her reason enough to look around, to see the faint gleam in his eyes and- oh no. He never did tell her what he did, did he? And she never bothered to try and deduce.

Again, the real legwork here is already done for her, coming at her with all the subtlety of a red hot iron mongery monster. Most of her adrenaline expended, fear reflex serves her as it has before - very well indeed. For a second time, Bella's cry spikes the night air into sharp compressions, though this time it marks her retreat, scrambling away on hands and feet at first, drawing still grasped between fingers, if more or less forgotten for the moment.

The bench doesn't sprout clawed feet and spring into pursuit, rather — the wreckage plows a steaming furrow into park turf and holds like an anchor while Calvin works dimly up onto one knee. Off balance with his hands bound and his head bowed, he isn't making the progress he'd imagined he might make. The higher off the ground he struggles to get the dizzier he feels and he hasn't quite rocked up onto his feet when he tumbles back onto his side like an idiot animal.

His anger is a tangible presence: frustration shivering hot through zippers and buttons, fillings and the bench and a nearby lamp. Water stirs unsettled in a manmade pond nearby and slower than before, he sets to trying again.

Had Bella not decided - in a surprisingly well maintained fit of neo-second-waver resolution - to eschew earrings for all but specially appointed occasions, it's likely she'd be clawing at her ears right this moment, trying to pry free her studs or danglies or hoops or whatever she'd have deemed appropriate in that - some other life. As it is, she's given time to look on in pointless shock and alarm before she figures she maybe ought to do something about this. She hasn't set a very high bar for what constitutes dialogue.

The paper falls free as Bella makes a lunge for her purse, reaching to snag its handles, making another go at Calvin while - forgive her - he's still weak. The purse itself exudes an unsettling warmth, loose change radiating where it rests, at the bottom of the bag. It's unclear whether it's concern, squeamishness or simple inaccuracy that makes her aim for his body rather than his head, her sideways swing otherwise a mirror image of her previous attack. Sans shriek, this time, just a growl of exertion.


She catches him flat across the back wih the brick's full weight, effectively slapping the air out of him in a misty poff of exasperation and defeat that has him lying very still while he concentrates on breathing without hurting. His eyes dim and so does the smoldering bench, and after a full minute spent funneling his breaths small and careful through his nose, he asks, "Please," politely, "don't do that again."

"Oh- oh- you don't want me to do that?" has a manic edge, the senselessness of the phrase foggy in contract to the intensity of her sarcasm, and the way her fists tighten around the purse straps bodes very poorly for a grim second before her muscles slack visibly. Emotional exhaustion prickles deep in her CNS - too much activity for such a short span of time.

She has to consciously command her jaw muscles to unclench, but they obey. Her shoulders start to slack, but this is judged too much a concession. She squares her shoulders and steps forward, stopping with about eleven inches of sparkling paving between her shoetips and his face.

She addresses him from ever bit of height she possesses:

"I do not want to hurt you," is said like she believes it, which suggests either selective memory or some very acrobatic rationalizations, "and while you may not respect me, nor - evidently - do you respect Odessa, you will treat her with respect."

Bella closes the gap, bringing the point of her shoes within two inches of his nose. The purse's contents jostle around the brick, suspended from hands that, without sign of strain or definite purpose, still hold the bag squarely over Calvin's head.

"And at the very least we can correct whatever chronic misperception you suffered, growing up, leading you to believe your mother is someone to be fucked with."

There's a quiver through his next breath that has less to do with fear than it does his temper, but ultimately, Calvin is able to control himself. He lies still and watches her shoes approach and the shadow of her bag hanging heavy over his skull. If a tired roll of his eyes is difficult to detect from their respective angles, it's probably to his benefit.

He says nothing.

And likely won't until Flint arrives to sling him into the trunk of whatever vehicle he's managed to commandeer to that end.

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